Apr 8, 2021
Intellectual confusion resembling a smog of the mind has been a deadening presence in Catholicism in the years since Vatican Council II. But here and there amid the swirling mists of bad arguments and lame analogies, a small yet significant body of Catholic intellectuals has stood firm in defense of clear thinking and good sense.
For me at least, three stand out: Ralph McInerny, Germain Grisez, and Jude Dougherty. The news that Dougherty, longtime dean of the school of philosophy at the Catholic University of America, had died in early March moves me to pay tribute to them for their contributions to the Church they loved.
McInerny, who died in 2010 was probably the best known of them for writing the Father Dowling mysteries that served as basis for a popular TV series. Along with writing fiction, however, McInerny, a prodigious worker, also produced a score of serious books on philosophical and religious topics while being a consistent voice of courageous clarity in troubled times during his long career teaching philosophy at Notre Dame. (He also had a finely honed sense of humor, visible in the subtitle of his primer on St. Thomas Aquinas: A Handbook for Peeping Thomists.)
Grisez, a good friend with whom I was privileged to collaborate on several writing projects, died in 2018. He began his teaching career at Georgetown but spent his latter years at Mount Saint Mary’s University, where he taught seminarians and wrote his brilliant three-volume magnum opus of moral theology, The Way of the Lord Jesus. His contributions to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, though not publicly recognized, were enormous.
A deeply kind man to whose generosity toward honest inquirers many of his former students testify, he nevertheless was ferocious in spearing sloppy thinking from whatever source, no matter how highly placed.