Jesuit Mark S. Massa, argues change is the companion of theological truth

Jesuit Mark S. Massa, argues change is the companion of theological truth

The preacher’s carriage “was built in such a logical way / It ran a hundred years to a day” but then “went to pieces all at once, / All at once and nothing first, / Just as bubbles do when they burst.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Structure of Theological Revolutions: How the Fight Over Birth Control Transformed American Catholicism

By Mark S. Massa, SJ 232 pages; Oxford University Press

Jesuit Fr. Mark Massa opens his new book, The Structure of Theological Revolutions: How the Fight Over Birth Control Transformed American Catholicism, with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem “The Deacon’s Masterpiece: Or the Wonderful ‘One-Hoss Shay’: A Logical Story” first published in 1858. The preacher’s carriage “was built in such a logical way / It ran a hundred years to a day” but then “went to pieces all at once, / All at once and nothing first, / Just as bubbles do when they burst.”

The poem is, of course, a metaphor, and the destruction of the one-horse carriage Holmes is describing represents the sudden destruction of Calvinism as the essential cultural framework for New England society.

“The American Catholic community experienced a very similar, and seemingly equally quick, disappearance of a revered theological system after 1968,” Massa writes. “What passed from the scene was, as in the earlier case, a rigorously systematic, even logical, theological system, which has been traditionally labeled ‘neo-scholastic natural law.’ “

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