What You Learn at the University of Nutting

Allow me to vent—though I am doing so with the names of places and people changed to protect them from embarrassment—an embarrassment they wouldn’t feel anyway, even though they should.

I am in Anytown, USA, somewhere on the East Coast, visiting a friend and his wife, whom I’ll call Bob and Sue. My wife Karen is with me.

Sue is a cradle Catholic, and for the past few years she’s been studying at Nutting University down the road. It’s a small liberal arts Catholic college, affiliated with the diocese up here in some way. Sue is 70-something, so these are adult ed classes she’s taking for fun, but…

What on earth are they teaching? What on earth is Sue learning? At her kitchen table today, she talked about how it’s important to have the Faith not only in your heart but also in your head (true enough), but it seems the head does not fare well at Nutting University. The school disparages both the head of the Church (Christ), as well as the head on our own bodies (rational thought itself). At one point, Sue exclaimed, “There is no right or wrong!” She actually said that. That’s what they’re teaching her—and others—for thousands of dollars a year at this so-called Catholic so-called college.

My wife Karen popped right up with, “Sue, how can you say that?”

Well, she quickly retracted—sort of, but then she kept insisting that all religions are equal and all of them can get you to God—except (apparently) orthodox Catholicism. She made the valid point that people come to God from many different angles, which is true enough, but it’s a truth that needs correction and limitation, and so I brought up, “No one comes to the Father except by me” (quoting Christ, John 14:6), and she countered with the fact that the priest in charge of theology at Nutting U. says that Jesus really didn’t say this; Jesus said just the opposite of this, something to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter what you do.”

And, of course, it follows that any examination of what we do or what others do is “judgmental.” To which I replied, “Well, we can’t judge anyone, as Our Lord says. We don’t know how people approach God. We can’t read their souls—and we don’t know how God values the efforts of Jews or Muslims to serve Him, though the Church teaches that, in effect, anyone trying to be good and true is approaching the Father through Christ, whether they know it or not. But the Catholic Church teaches the most complete revelation of God, and so people outside of the Church are outside of a living access to the presence of Christ and God’s most complete revelation concerning Himself and concerning the meaning of life.”

“Well, that’s true for you. But it may not be true for others!” Sue said. Chesterton calls this sort of thinking—this denial of what truth actually is—the suicide of thought. Belloc says simply that if you don’t believe in truth, you don’t believe in God, because “God is truth.” I say simply…

“No, the fullness of Catholic revelation is true. It’s objectively true.”

Sadly, it’s come to that in our day. You have to modify the word “true” with the word “objective” in order to discuss what is true—in order to discuss what is—in order to discuss anything. I went on, “If true to you and true to me are different things, then either one or both of us is wrong, and not in accord with what is; either that, or we are discussing matters of mere taste. And if that’s all religion is—‘I like brussels sprouts but you like green beans’—then why study it? Why follow it? Why even talk about it?”

Sue became indignant. “Oh no! You can’t say that anything about God is objectively true!”

“Sue,” I said, “God is one and He is real and therefore we can know something about Him, and the most we know about Him comes to us from the Catholic Faith.”

“Maybe for you, but not for everybody!”

“No. It’s like physics. Newton taught a physics that was true, but not complete. Einstein taught a physics that included Newton’s but that went beyond Newton’s and that was more comprehensive. If someone says, ‘I accept Newton but not Einstein! Einstein’s physics is true for you but not for me!’ then that person is cut off from a fuller understanding of the physical world—from reality, from what exists, from what is true.”

Well, we got nowhere and not long after that, I took a walk and prayed and I thought, “Belloc is right. For these people, God is not real. He is just some fantasy that makes you feel good. Therefore nothing definite can be said about Him, because He Himself is not definite. He is vague, a blur, a passing good feeling like passing gas. Nothing more. He is just a handy tool, a fancy, a fiction.”

Later, in the car on the way home from dinner, Sue and I were in the backseat while Karen was driving, and Sue started up again. She bragged about how the priest who runs the theology department at Nutting gave communion to a Jewish woman—knowing she was Jewish—who was sad because her mother died. She bragged about how he supports all of the transsexuals who are “transitioning” at the college, about how proud the priest is that a woman who is now a “man” has gone from being Amy to being Peter! “How wonderful that she took the name of Peter now that she’s a man!” was what Father So-and-So said, according to Sue.

I said nothing.

Karen my wife looked at me in the rear-view mirror, for I was sitting beside Sue. Karen’s eyes told me she was thinking I should speak up. But I was not going to speak up. You can’t argue with someone who rejects reason—and with someone whose house you’re staying at. And Sue went on and on about how this priest who’s in charge of theology, this priest who desecrates communion, this priest who refuses to acknowledge the law of non-contradiction, this priest who invalidates thought itself—she went on and on about how this priest is a great man, a really great man.

“He’s a wonderful priest!” Sue exclaimed.

“Too bad he’s not Catholic,” Karen replied.

The conversation ended there.

Oh, and one other thing. This priest has been rewarded by his bishop. This priest has been appointed director of the diaconate for his diocese. All the deacons who are formed in Anytown are formed under the formlessness of Fr. So-and-So.

I am not making any of this up.

This was disturbing to me, a real eye-opener. Sue is over 70. I don’t normally sit down with a 70-year-old cradle Catholic who does not believe in truth. I thought all old ladies watched EWTN. I was wrong.

We leave here tomorrow and I will go back to my circle of friends, who are devout Catholics and who get on my nerves—as I’m sure I get on their nerves, for we are all people, all fallen men and women in need of a savior. And we all resist grace in various ways—but to see resistance to grace enshrined in a system, not only in a Catholic college but in a Catholic diocese, to see antichristian Christians putting words into Christ’s mouth and denying any act of definition, to see priests and professors refusing to recognize reality’s structure, to see them deny reason itself—to see this is to see that such people are more than mere goofballs and sinners like the rest of us. Such people object to the logos itself, to the Logos Incarnate Himself. They object to the very fact that existence is comprehensible and not of our own making.

And they call themselves teachers.

Kevin O’Brien is the founder and artistic director of the Theater of the Word Incorporated. His book, An Actor Bows: Show Biz, God and the Meaning of Life, will be published this summer by ACS Press.

Copyright © 2018 The Cardinal Newman Society. Permission to reprint without modification to text, with attribution to author and to The Cardinal Newman Society, and (if published online) hyperlinked to the article on the Newman Society’s website. The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Cardinal Newman Society.