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The Pope as conqueror of prejudice

On the face of it, these pro-homosexualists who don’t like “prejudice” have a point: Mixed message, and Two speeches, two days apart. If it’s true, as the Pope supposedly said, that we should all strive to “overcome preconceived ideas and prejudices, tear down barriers and eliminate contrasts that divide … so as to build together a world of justice and peace,” then it’s not clear why we should accept sexual distinctions rather than struggle against them, with gays heroically leading the way. To be more specific, here’s the way people today understand such statements:

  • Getting rid of “preconceived ideas and prejudices” sounds a lot like emptying our minds of traditional understandings and accepting whatever accredited experts tell us.
  • “Tear[ing] down barriers and eliminat[ing] contrasts that divide” sounds like abolishing social order of any kind, since social order involves differentiated relationships. It can’t literally mean that though, so presumably it means abolition of all distinctions except the minimum clearly needed for rational social functioning—money, bureaucratic position, contract, and certified expertise.
  • “A world of justice and peace” sounds like a world in which the foregoing has been perfectly carried into effect. Such a world would be just because it’s rational and equal, and peaceful because everybody accepts the established order. It would also be a world with no place or function for marriage as traditionally conceived. Marriage can’t work without preconceived ideas and prejudices as well as contrasts that distinguish men from women and thus divide them.

I haven’t found the original talk. I’m convinced though that the Pope, if he was awake, can’t possibly have meant what his words seem to suggest. His way of speaking though presents a mystery. Why do high churchmen maintain the habit of speaking as if they accept the radical secular utopianism that has become the primary enemy of religion and indeed humanity? I would think that if you want to speak to the present world you have to show what you have in common with it, but also how you differ. I often get the impression that the bizarre optimism of the postwar period that culminated in Vatican II and the other events of the ’60s lingers on, so it’s still not clear even to the most intelligent how radical the established order has become.

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“Why do high churchmen maintain the habit of speaking as if they accept the radical secular utopianism that has become the primary enemy of religion and indeed humanity?”

Maybe its because Christianity itself gave birth to these ideas. Evola and Spengler both teach that Judeo-Christainity was the origin of many “liberal” ideas - and as such, Christians are always going to have a hard time resisting the way their kittens grow into cats.

Jesus was seen by the Romans as a threat to the “social order” wasn’t he? Carl Schmitt has pointed to the way that all current political ideas are only the secularized ideas of theology.

“If the faith of the Christian Church has grown weary and has forfeited its worldly dominion, the dominance of its God has not yet disappeared. Rather, its form has been disguised and its claims have hardened beyond recognition. In place of the authority of God and Church looms the authority of conscience, or the dominion of reason, or the God of historical progress, or the social instinct.”

- Martin Heidegger

If he’s correct, is it any wonder that “high churchmen maintain the habit” of speaking as if these were the new gods?

The point of Christianity is that the transcendent became incarnate. Obviously if you suppress one side or another of the resulting hypostatic union you’ll have problems. You’ll ether get all transcendence, that for some reason is supposed to have something to say to us (that is to say, you’ll get Islam), or you get all immanence, that somehow qualifies for treatment as divine (that is, secular utopianism).

If you’re a modern who thinks that we can reduce all reality to one single perspicuous principle, then of course either Islam or secular utopianism will look to you like a more genuine Christianity. You’ll either be the New York Times and think Christianity is the same as irrationalist fundamentalism or Katherine Jefferts Schori and think Christianity is the Millennium Development Goals.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

As I see it, the values you dislike in secular humanism were lurking latent in Judeo-Christianity waiting to be born. Objecting to secular humanism, in this sense, is like objecting to a kitten growing into a cat. Sooner or later, Christianity would turn into exactly the thing that Heidegger is describing. It’s still at the foundation of the humanism you dislike.

Was Jesus the only one allowed to be a social revolutionary? Didn’t he hang out with the “lower orders”? The liberal humanists still emulate the Christ’s Passion, but they pick different victims. I think Christians like you are stuck in the same sense that people like Paul Gottfried are stuck - you’re both nostalgic for a period in which the kitten was still a kitten and not yet a cat. He feels that way about basic bourgeois values from the 1800s - not seeing, in the same sense, that those very values were going to create the new, more radical values, he dislikes.

“The God of holy scripture has made slaves no less than their masters in the divine image and likeness. The Apostle Paul had declared that master and slave were equal in God’s sight. And in the book of Exodus, God had freed the ancient Hebrews from bondage in Egypt; the liberation of slaves had been God’s will. These were ideas at least as revolutionary as any Jeffersonian proposition.”

- Allen Dwight Callahan

Porphyry’s complaints about the Christians were not that different, in some respects, than your complaints about the liberal humanists. I see the connection and I think it points to the basic contradictions in Christianity.

Your kitten and cat language suggests that it’s history that you really believe in, and that you think you know how it’s definitively turned out. The point of Christianity though is that history is not ultimate. The ultimate is available to us in time through the Incarnation but is itself timeless. I talk about that in my most recent entry on the restoration of the Old Mass.

I suppose the point at issue is whether Christianity (like e.g. liberalism) can be reduced to abstract tendencies that work out their implications and thereby cause the whole system to degenerate because the principles didn’t capture enough of reality. I can see that in such a case some sort of historical inevitability might apply. The whole point of the Incarnation though is that Christianity can’t be reduced to abstract tendencies any more than you or I can but is based on a fully concrete and particular union of heaven and earth. So a Christian believes it has a sort of concrete self-restoring integrity that enables it to come back even when the greater part of it has fallen into disarray from a pragmatic standpoint.

The instances and arguments you put forward are quite consistent with a point with which I agree, that Christianity gives rise to something like secular utopianism if you suppress its transcendent aspects. I don’t see why that’s a problem for me. The fact truth becomes nontruth when you throw away the greater part of it says nothing against truth. I have water within me but that doesn’t make me a puddle. Ditto for Christianity and say human equality.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Then the question that appears seems to me to be: why has the Pope bailed on transcendence? He, of all people, should be addressing it and escaping from the fall into humanism. But, as you yourself note, he can’t. I want conservative Catholics like you, to explain to me why the Pope got into this position in the first place. That explanation may have historical features, but it would have to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing, wouldn’t it?

Catholics like you object to minority groups using “victim values” to advance their moral power and authority. But didn’t they learn to do this from Christianity itself? If “Christ as victim” held no transcendent power, then this tactic would not avail them, nor anyone else who tried to use it. I’d argue that the transcendence ascribed to Christ’s suffering as a victim is exactly the power they are tapping into in the first place. If it wasn’t, then claiming special status as a victim wouldn’t “work” for them in the way that it does, would it? Do you want Jesus to be the only “allowable” special victim? How can he be when he himself tells us to take up the cross? If we truly emulate Christ, how can we not do to our own social order what he did to his?

Christianity was attacked by the Romans for undermining the values and authority of their social order. However, you sound like the Romans when the Christian-derived humanists use their new –according to Heidegger disguised - version of Christian values to undermine a social order you feel invested in. Isn’t that ironic?

I don’t think the Pope or any pope has bailed on transcendence. Their views clearly differ radically from those of Dr. Jefferts Schori. There’s been no formal change in doctrine, and the momentum in the Church has shifted away from this-worldliness, which doesn’t wear well. I don’t think the worst tendencies of the past 40 years stand for the eternal fate of the Church.

Recent popes have tried to spearhead the post Vatican II effort to express doctrine in current categories. That’s supposed to make the message more accessible but in fact makes it inpenetrable (as the cited pro-gay weblogs indicate). A failed enterprise does not demonstrate that failure was the intention. In the case of the last two popes the problem has been exacerbated because they’ve been philosophers and theologians as well as churchmen, and in their youth were drawn into an effort to adapt modern philosophical tendencies to Catholic use. People compare the effort to the Thomist effort to Christianize Aristotle. Whether that effort will be successful in the end or not (to the extent modern philosophies are radically defective it won’t be) so far it’s caused a lot of confusion. Confusion is not necessarily permanent.

At the practical and sub-dogmatic level, these things have led to loose talk and downright silliness, especially in the case of issues like “prejudice” that haven’t been discussed intelligently recently and political matters where churchmen are dependent on theoreticians and analysts outside the Church because that’s where the political action is. For all that recent popes have often said very sensible things—JP II’s Veritatis Splendor and this pope’s Regenburg address and his December 22, 2005 address to the Curia on interpretation of Vatican II come to mind. They’ve also been the only ones to hold the line on basic issues like the transcendent implications of sex and gender.

As for “victim values,” the phrase can mean a lot of things. The Aesir were all going to die in a losing battle, and that I suppose made them victims-to-be, but their acceptance of their fate also gave them nobility. Odin got his wisdom by hanging on a tree 9 days, losing an eye in the process. Does that mean Norse mythology promoted victim values? Somehow one must deal with the fact that, to put it crudely, bad things happen to good people. So far as I see the Church is the only institution that says that this-worldly suffering is not the worst thing that exists. If you’re worried about victim values that ought to be a good thing.

As to Christianity and the social order, it seems to me there has to be something that relativizes the social order to something higher. It seems to me simple-minded to view that as undermining the social order. Do you think Constantine showed he was a political incompetent when he made Christianity in effect the state religion?

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

I’d look, as I said, at the reactions of the Romans to Christianity (Porphyry in particular) to see how the Romans viewed the early church. As far as I can tell, many of their objections to it look like your objections to the influence of modern secular humanism. In addition, these same pagans would not have had too much respect for modern liberal humanism either. I think, if anything, their antipathy provides more evidence for the shared roots of liberal humanism and Christianity.

Alain de Benoist’s study of paganism points out many of the salient differences between paganism and Christianity - as to the positive influence pagan values had on early Christianity, I’d read The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity by James Russell. Constantine may have made a mistake if he wanted to preserve classical pagan culture - but it was on the wane at that point anyway. he may have been as co-opted (or as far gone) as many Catholics are today - when it comes to defending their transcedent beliefs and highest values.

You discussion about Popes seeking to explain Catholic values in terms of modern philosophy seems to suggest that these Catholics do not understand the marked inferiority of what they are trying to marry their theology to. If that’s the case, how well can they be said to have truly understood their own transcendent truths? Why mix fine wine with swill? And why expect a positive result if you do it? Rene Guenon would have been appalled at the prospect of this sort of “adaptation” idea. It’s hard for me to think that he had a better grasp on the ultimate reality than the Popes!

Thanks for the references.

Catholicism doesn’t have a cyclical theory of history and so is less likely to reject the modern simply as modern than Guenon. The constant concrete presence of the absolutely transcendent makes it possible to relativize cultures, philosophies, forms of government, etc. and so see them as genuine but partial expressions of the good and true that all stand in need of something further. That means that the apparent deficiencies of a philosophy don’t foreclose an attempt to work with it. To the extent its deficiencies really are insuperable that will become apparent and something will be learned in the process.

I think something of the sort was behind the decision at Vatican II to abandon the Church’s somewhat categorical rejection of modernity. That plus various human weaknesses and illusions. None of that has cosmic significance for me since I expect the Church to revert to type. An institution doesn’t last 2000 years without being resilient.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

I appreciate your thoughts on these matters.

“The Church used to absolve sinners; today it has the gall to absolve sins.”

“The punishment of the idealist consists in the triumph of his cause.”

- Nicolás Gómez Dávila

My thought is that it’s particuarly dangerous for the Church to work with any philosophy that’s a Christian-spawned heresy. The philosophy will speak in language similar to that of the Church. This makes the philosophy a lot like an enemy within the gates.

And I think the Church is more likely to feel the need to “compete” with such a philosophy for the moral high ground.

May I jump into this interesting conversation to offer further response to Keith?

Catholics like you object to minority groups using “victim values” to advance their moral power and authority. But didn’t they learn to do this from Christianity itself? If “Christ as victim” held no transcendent power, then this tactic would not avail them, nor anyone else who tried to use it. I’d argue that the transcendence ascribed to Christ’s suffering as a victim is exactly the power they are tapping into in the first place. If it wasn’t, then claiming special status as a victim wouldn’t “work” for them in the way that it does, would it? Do you want Jesus to be the only “allowable” special victim? How can he be when he himself tells us to take up the cross? If we truly emulate Christ, how can we not do to our own social order what he did to his?

All victims, seen as such, hold transcendent power but this wasn’t entirely Christ’s discovery. Every pagan who ever turned a sacrificial victim into a God already “knew” this on some pragmatic level, if not with a fully conscious understanding of the process involved. Surely what Jesus did was to make our understanding of victimization more explicit and to offer himself, by way of an unveiling, as the last victim of a mythic age, of the age that could not yet interpret the foundations of its myth as based in a victimary process.

To the degree that we forget the Christian story, we revert to the age of human sacrifice, and it is indeed possible to interpret the victimary politics of our time accordingly (though it is not a simple reversal as it does involve some further revelation into the possible evils of institutionalized inequality - on the model of the Holocaust). The professional players of today’s victimary game are not emulating Christ in unveiling how transcendence through victimization is our original sin; they are not choosing simply to renew the transcendent order through acts of love or just and necessary war; rather, they are promoting victims (themselves or others) in order to participate in a sacrificial feast.

Christianity does create challenges for social order in the sense that Christianity is readily eroded by the gnostic heresies that are typical of it. But so what? Do we give up on something because it is hard, because many mistake? What other choice (other than possibly Judaism) do we have if our goal is to provide a faith vehicle for people both to understand and faithfuly perform (with the minimum of an inevitable degree of violence) the anthropological truth implicit in the assimilation of God and man in the figure of Christ, a revelation that we men continue to have a role in renewing the transcendent order yet in a way that is not reducible to some Darwinian or utilitarian logic: even in the most secular of interpretations, such as that provided by Generative Anthropology, the realization of transcendence from immanence remains to some degree an irreducibly mysterious process beyond rational explanation.

Could you explain your comment further? I would interpret this one of two ways (or both):

1. Suppression of the transcendent/metaphysical aspects of Christianity results in a hypertrophied version of Christian morality.

2. Suppression of the transcendent/metaphysical aspects of Christianity produces a condition where we’re still guilty but can’t be forgiven.

If 1 is correct, I’d note that only particular aspects of Christian morality hypertrophied and ultimately triumphed (say equality and anti-racism rather than traditional sexual morality). Do you think that the former were the ones that hypertrophied because of something inherent in Christianity or do you think that this is historically circumstantial?

The thought was that if the transcendent is done away with, then the divinization of man through the Incarnation becomes the divinization of man simply as he is, man’s equality before God becomes a demand for man’s immediate factual equality, and the coming of the Kingdom becomes the construction of a secular utopia in which man’s actual desires, now treated as divine, can be satisfied to the maximum equal extent. In other words, you get advanced liberalism.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality (Hardcover)
by Walter Benn Michaels

Our diversity obsession — preoccupied as it is with race — “perpetuates the very concepts it congratulates itself on having escaped.”
In his snide and occasionally incisive book, Michaels, a self-described man of the left, insists that fighting over race and gender is not an outgrowth of leftist egalitarianism but an alternative to it, a kind of progressives’ consolation prize, “at best a distraction and at worst an essentially reactionary position.” The real problem the left ought to be dealing with is what Michaels calls “class,” by which he means inequalities of income and wealth.

Diverse societies do appear less able, or less inclined, to redistribute money than homogeneous ones. Diversity can be a powerful tool of self-legitimation for the rich. “A society free not only of racism but of sexism and of heterosexism,” he writes, “is a neoliberal utopia where all the irrelevant(sic) grounds for inequality (your identity) have been eliminated and whatever inequalities are left are therefore legitimated.”
He describes various defenders of the diversity ideal as a “police force” for, the “human resources department” of and the “research and development division” of capitalism and the right.

***

Prof. Robert Hepp, Multa non multum: Kulturkritische Anmerkungen zur “multikulturellen Gesellschaft”

[4] Bei soviel Begriffsverwirrung (**) ist es nicht verwunderlich, daß Diskussionen über das Thema allemal in einverständliches Aneinandervorbeireden münden. Da sich im Laufe der Zeit mannigfache Einwände gegen den Slogan angesammelt haben, die übrigens nicht nur von der rechten Seite des politischen Spektrums, sondern auch von der Linken kamen,4 ist auch unter den Propagandisten der MKG eine gewisse Verunsicherung zu registrieren. Zum Beispiel Schulze, B., Das multikulturelle Nichts, in: Links. Sozialistische Zeitung, 1989, S. 8-12.

[90] Im Sozialistischen Machtbereich war das Schicksal des Konzepts [Die “Kulturautonomie”] besiegelt, nachdem sich Lenin (Über die nationale und die koloniale Frage, Berlin-Ost 1960, S. 118-122) dagegen ausgesprochen hatte, weil er nicht auf die “Kulturhoheit” des Staates verzichten wollte.

Here is what I found, after a quick search, to validate this:

* Die Arbeiterklasse tritt ein für Frieden und Völkerverständigung, für Gleichberechtigung und nationale Selbstbestimmung aller Völker, für die Souveränität aller Staaten. Sie erkennt die wahren nationalen Interessen des eigenen Volkes, die andere sind als die des “bürgerlichen” Nationalismus, der die Interessen der herrschenden Klasse mit denjenigen der Nation identifiziert.” (Lenin, “Ursprünglicher Entwurf der Thesen zur nationalen und kolonialen Frage”, 1920, in AW Bd. II,

* “Kautsky arrived at the conclusion that Otto Bauer “underestimates the strength of the urge towards a national state” (p. 23 of the pamphlet).” (…) To this we must add Kautsky’s still more precise concluding remark that states of mixed national composition (known as multi national states, as distinct from national states) are “always those whose internal constitution has for some reason or other remained abnormal or underdeveloped” (backward) - Lenin The Right of Nations to Self-Determination [ Collected Works Vol. 20 p. 395

* The old Economists, who made a caricature of Marxism, told the workers that “only the economic” was of importance to Marxists. The new Economists seem to think either that the democratic state of victorious socialism will exist without FRONTIERS (like a “complex of sensations” without matter) or that frontiers will be delineated “only” in accordance with the needs of production. In actual fact its frontiers will be delineated democratically, i.e., in accordance with the will and “sympathies” of the population.” - Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 22, p. 324

* “Socialism cannot be reduced to economics alone. A foundation - socialist production - is essential for the abolition of national oppression, but this foundation must also carry a democratically organised state, a democratic army, etc. By transforming capitalism into socialism the proletariat creates the possibility of abolishing national oppression; the possibility becomes reality “only”-“only”!-with the establishment of full democracy in all spheres, including the delineation of state FRONTIERS in accordance with the “sympathies” of the population, including complete freedom to secede. And this, in turn, will serve as a basis for developing the practical elimination of even the slightest national friction and the least national mistrust, for an accelerated drawing together and fusion of nations that will be completed when the state withers away. - Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 22, p.

PS bold faces added by me

(**) The word “multiculturalism” means different things to different people.

1/ Assimilation entails relinquishing one’s cultural identity and moving into the larger society (and in so far resembles the adjustment form of adaptation). Integration [also termed multiculturalisrn (!)], implies the retention of the cultural identity of the group, as well as the movement to become an integral part of the wider society (that is, some adjustment). - John Berry

2/ The alternative to multiculturalism is Integration. - Joanna Fomina

3/ Integration has outlived its usefulness; a multicultural society ought to be the goal. - Sarah W. Oelberg

4/ “Assimilation, American Style” implies that immigrants are free to retain or discard as much or as little of their homeland cultures as they wish without compromising their assimilation. Assimilation does NOT mean that immigrants must give up their ethnic culture; to think so is to confuse assimilation with acculturation.
The three most crucial institutions of assimilation - the English language, liberal democratic capitalism, and the Protestant work ethic - is absolutely necessary to the success of any new immigrant group. - Peter Salins

5/ America is desegregating. What television has done is to give white Americans the sensation of having meaningful, repeated contact with blacks without actually having it. We call this phenomenon virtual integration. - Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs-Brown

6/ Upholding integration must mean a clean break with multiculturalism. It would mean teaching British culture and values in schools; it would mean refusing to alter this country’s fundamental laws and traditions to accommodate special pleading by minorities. - Melanie Phillips

7/ Integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely bringing a racial minority into the majority culture. - Wikipedia

8/ a) Pluralistic multiculturalism views each culture or subculture in a society as contributing unique and valuable cultural aspects to the whole culture. b)Particularist multiculturalism is more concerned with preserving the distinctions between cultures.- Diane Ravitch

9/ Multiculturalism means different things to different people. If I had to identify a common ground that unites all self-proclaimed multiculturalists, it would come down to two points. First, all cultures are equal in value and have an equal right to flourish free from external constraints; and second, the greater good of humanity - defined in terms of peace, love and understanding - is best served by people living within or directly experiencing as many different cultures. The irony or contradiction within this ideal of diversity lies in the historical reality that all of the traditional cultures celebrated in the multiculturalist literature were able to flourish and develop their unique beauty precisely because of a degree of isolation now judged to be the incubator of intolerance. - Christopher Shannon

10/ The term multicultural means the general things to do with cultural diversity such as cuisine, dress, and media, that might add to a quality and diversity of life. Such a diverse society [for which Rob Imre prefers the term Integralist multiculturalism], means that there is an acceptance of things multicultural and a great skepticism and even rejection of multiculturalism.
The term multiculturalism than, is an ideological position that advocates a particular set of policies that actively promotes this diversity and support the preservation and development of migrant/ethnic groups and cultures. - C.W. Watson

11/ Multiculturalism is a slippery ideology, in that there is a myriad of variations to the concept. This wealth of definitions is actually a great advantage to the supporters of multiculturalism, as it is easy for them to deflect any attacks upon their viewpoint, by saying “Oh no, that’s not the kind of multiculturalism that I’m talking about”; they can swap, merge, and confuse definitions, and therefore dodge valid arguments by avoiding “being pinned down” to one definition.- Cameron McKenzie

12/ There is a difference between Soft Multiculturalism - the idea that minorities should not face discrimination and that the customs of different people should be tolerated, and which he describes as a ‘benign force’ - and Hard Multiculturalism, which insists no culture is better than another, and which believes society should not only tolerate difference but promote it. - Patrick West

13/ One of the largest difficulties with multiculturalism is that it is not well defined, a point made evident by the entry on it in the Wikipedia where at least four different definitions are mentioned.- http://asteroid.divnull.com/?p=99

14/ According to sociologist Ruby Jo Reeves Kennedy [American Journal of Sociology 49 (1944):331-339], a crucial indicator of assimilation, is intermarriage. After the 1924 legislation (that effectively ended mass immigration for the next four decades), European-origin ethnic groups experienced considerable cultural and structural assimilation. But even then, religion began to replace ethnicity as a barrier to intermarriage! http://hirr.hartsem.edu/ency/ethnicity.htm

15/ Throughout the past century, assimilation has been the hegemonic theory of ethnic group relations in sociology, and Robert E. Park is generally considered to be the key figure associated with the articulation of assimilation’s canonical formulation. Based on a careful reading of Park’s main essays on assimilation, Krivisto Peter argues that those who associate his position with the melting pot (with its assumption of the eradication of ethnic traits and ties misconstrue his views. -http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=15694640

CONCLUSION: Multiculturalism is a term that has never had a stable meaning. It has been both attacked and stalwartly defended by critics at all points on the political spectrum.

PS Most of these sentences are paraphrased.

The Pope’s talk is here.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Thanks for the link. The continued attempts by the Catholic church to hijack the Germanic traditions of yuletide are fairing badly as of late. Even the federal courts have declared Christmas a secular holiday!

I can’t imagine that the pope’s weird invocations of Marianism are going to garner his appeals much traction with Protestants either. And they took a very dim view of Christmas to begin with as they correctly recognized it for the pagan celebration that it is.