American Catholic intellectuals are pathetic!

Is this the best we’ve got?

The Catholic Hall of Fame’s Greatest American Catholic intellectuals, in the order of their birth:

  1. Orestes Brownson (1803–1876)
  2. John Courtney Murray (1904-1967)
  3. John Senior (1923-1999)
  4. Avery Dulles (1918-2008)
  5. James Schall (1928-)
  6. Ralph McInerny (1929-2010)
  7. Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)
  8. Mary Anne Glendon (1938-)
  9. George Weigel (1951-)
  10. Robert P. George (1955-)

Of the above, Brownson is the only one I would call a thinker of any importance.  I admit that R. J. Neuhaus had great writing style and a talent for organization, but George Weigel?  That’s just embarrassing.  Can’t we come up with a better list of names?

Maybe not.  Actually, it’s not clear to me that a top ten list of American intellectuals of any religion would be much more impressive.  This is, after all, the country that regards John Dewey as its great philosopher.

13 Responses

  1. Aren’t there Catholic writers from the fifties who would have fit the bill? Or are the majority of them from other countries? Perhaps I should be ashamed to say it, but I haven’t heard of any one of them except John Senior (whose son I am proud to have known as a friend).

  2. Bwhahaha, someone actually put on the comment section that Andrew Greeley should be included in there! Wow.

  3. and what exactly is meant by “intellectuals”? in regards to the poll I think of it as meaning those who have contributed significantly to the intellectual development of the Catholic perspective, mostly dealing with those things which are not expressly revolving around theology.

  4. Pat Buchanan

  5. The most valuable service a ‘catholic intellectual’ can do is probably to present traditional truths in a form accessible to modern generations – so the model (for English speakers) would be GK Chesterton.

    On that basis, the US currently has Peter Kreeft (from the retired generation) and Ed Feser (up and coming) – a pretty good showing I think!

  6. Brownson is, as you say, a fair nomination; but only the old, gloomy, reactionary Brownson. The young transcendentalist-Universalist-free thinking Brownson may, indeed, have done more damage than lugubrious Brownson was able to repair. George is good to have on our side, but he’s not primarily a religious thinker. I’m not familiar with everyone on this list, but those I do know lead me to think that Catholic intellectuals have spent too much energy trying to prove that Protestant democrats have nothing to fear from the Roman Catholic Church. Trying to interpret the Constitution (or Declaration of Independence) and Catechism in such a way that there is no apparent contradiction cannot be good for the brain.

  7. I was actually thinking both those men; it was Kreeft who turned me on to the mystical side of Catholicism and Feser who turned me on to the rational side of it. Both men have my gratitude for affecting my conversion — and, I suspect, the gratitude of many others. Not to mention that Feser’s ongoing efforts to expose the insanity and idiocy of high-profile atheists deserves a lot more credit than it’s currently getting.

  8. I heard on Catholic Radio this morning that there are more practicing Muslims in France than there are practicing Catholics in France. Yikes. Why is Catholicism so pathetic in Europe?

  9. just in Europe?

  10. Ralph McInerny seems like a pretty good Thomist philosopher from what little I have read of him.

    Schall also isn’t a horrible choice, I suppose, but he has never struck me as a really deep thinker, so I’m not sure that he fits on a list like this very well. Then again, this is a list that includes George Weigel.

  11. Plenty of room for a group of like-minded reactionary bloggers on that list!

  12. Why take this list so seriously? It’s obviously just a bit of self-promotion over at First Things.

  13. Hi Stephen,

    Actually, it does seem pretty much like a Catholic First Things contributers’ list, doesn’t it? It hadn’t occured to me that they would be that shameless.

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