How much of Catholic clergy are philosopher-theologians per se?


I say clergy b/c I don’t only mean priests;I’m not exempting monastics,nuns or monks on this one.

Here’s something I’ve been struggling and trying to come to terms with lately: the pastoral care that a clergy person gives is NOT out of neccesity always philosophical engagement, nor does it mean that the clergy person can always do philosophical engagement^1.

I’m starting to think that it might be better to say that when a clergy person gives pastoral care and attendance to a person it’s better to think of them as more akin to something along the lines of a “(quasi?) social worker-rite administrator” than a philosopher-theologian proper. One reason I think you can’t take ussually take your sentiments at odd(s) with a Church teaching to the confession booth frequently :rolleyes:.

Philosopher-theologian clergy ppl are more often found at more specific places,like the Vatican and certain monasteries plus it’s also a reason why we re-directed to info-resources like the internet and this forum.

In a negative light:it can hypothetically mean that clergy ppl (when their knowledge isn’t sufficient or adequate enough for articulation) can revert to a “it’s Church teaching” line .i.e. since high-profile Magisterium approved scholar clergy said so. Am I on to something on this ^~^ ?.

(I’m saying) not many clergy are scholars by default more than they are quasi-social worker-rite administrators;are they?.


Sidetrack, I believe that you have identified that clergy may be proficient in pastoral theology but less knowledgeable in dogmatic or moral theology, whence they defer to other experts.

Dogmatic theology considers articles of faith and relation to other dogmas. Moral theology, which presumes dogmatic theology, deals with the supernatural and the scope of moral theology is whatever people do through free will. Practical application of theology to care for souls is called pastoral theology.


To clarify: only deacons, priests, and bishops are clergy.

Monks or religious brothers who are not ordained are not clergy. Nuns or religious sisters are not clergy.

The next thing to define is who qualifies as a philosopher, or theologian. Are all clergy, as well as religious considered philosophers and/or theologians? Do they need a degree in one of those subjects to be considered as such?

Now to address the question at hand:
Philosophy is the “love of wisdom.” Theology is “talk of God.”

Now, priestly ministry is certainly not meant to just be a social work. Social work deals with immediate, physical problems, and their solutions. Although many priest are involved in things that qualify as social work (e.g.: managing food banks, or donations to homeless shelters), this is not the center of priestly ministry.

I wil use the common scenario of the confessional as an example. A penitent enters, and confesses to the priest. The priest then goes on to counsel the penitent.
In this, he ought to exercise his knowledge of theology. He does this by helping the penitent understand why something is a sin, and prescribing prayers or other spiritual remedies to do penance, and to help the penitent avoid future occasions of sin.
The priest also ought to exercise his knowledge of philosophy. He can do this by identifying the occasions of sins, and prescribing worldly remedies (e.g.: Perhaps you should not go to this location, where you frequently sin; perhaps you should stop associating yourself with these people). The priest may also use logical philosophy to help the penitent if they do not understand something (if …*then …; et c.).

Although many priests may not have the knowledge of philosophy or theology they ought to have, this can be remedied by their own study.

As for the deferral to the common answer “It is the Church’s teaching that…,” we have to remember that no Christian operates alone. When the priest does philosophy or theology in a pastoral setting, he is not expected to only use things he deduces himself, he has almost two thousand years of wisdom and learning to work from. In a way, a snarkier answer could be “I’m not sure, but hundreds of people more intelligent than you or I have thought long and hard about it, and have come up with this, which the Church teaches.”


I think it would be horrible to think of clergy in any way using terms like “social worker.” Not only because it’s not true, but because that can and will have an eventual psychological effect on people and clergy.

closed #5

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