Someone asked me yesterday why so many of the Catholic priests he has known have been such weak preachers. “They never seem to say much at all,” he complained. “Just watered down ‘do-gooder’ type stuff. We never hear about the real issues or hear anything red blooded about the battles that are going on in our society and in our families and what we should do about it.”

I replied that it seemed to me that this was one of the fruits of modernist Biblical scholarship and priestly formation. It works like this: the basic assumption of the modernist is that the Bible is an inspired book in the way that, say, William Shakespeare is inspired. It is certainly not the uniquely inspired Word of God. It is a human book–a document of its times of certain historical, cultural, liturgical and theological interest, to be sure. It is even a unique testament to Christian history and thought, but it is certainly not the infallible Word of God.

The same approach then attaches to the authority of the Church. The Pope is seen as ane elected leader like many elected leaders (even if his manner of election is non representative and archaic) He becomes one who is merely ‘the mouthpiece of the people of God.’ He exercises an “authority of love and service” which is code for, “if he doesn’t say what I love and serve my special interest I won’t listen to him.” Like the Scriptures, the church’s authority is merely one of historical interest and cultural significance. It is a voice of authority among many voices of authority, but there is certainly nothing supernatural or transcendent about it.

If priests have been formed with these views as the basic assumptions, then how could they possibly speak with any authority at all? Their views are merely opinions like anyone else’s. All they would be able to say is, “I think, perhaps, it could be said that, in a manner of speaking it is possible to assert, but on the other hand, it is also true to say…”

The result is preaching that is pusillanimous, leadership that is lax and a ministry that is all sweetness and no light.