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In the Middle of the Journey

My latest column at Catholic World Report goes into various flip-flops in the Catholic Church's attitude toward secular powers. There are no perfect answers, but clear-headedness is good, and maybe the Church is righting herself from the extreme optimism of the post-Vatican II period.

Comments

Very useful, as always.

A couple of quibbles.

I don't think it will work for Catholics to ask for religious freedom to run their own affairs. The Liberal ascendancy believes it knows what is *right*, what is virtuous - and they therefore have no reason to allow self-defined groups of people the 'freedom' to do otherwise.

Of course the compulsion to comply with Liberal rules is relaxed for favoured groups - but Christians are the opposite of favoured.

Christians can only fight their corner on the basis of right and wrong - so instead of asking for freedom to be guided by conscience, Christians would have to insist on doing ABD and refuse to do XYZ - regardless of rules and regulations; and should make clear that this is what they will and will not do, regardless of rules and regulations.

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"If it also harbors the technocratic desire to turn the social world into an efficient rational machine for achieving its goals, it will become quite intolerant of religions like Catholicism. "

I know exactly what you mean by desiring to turn the world into an efficient rational machine: I worked for a year and a half in the National Health Service management bureaucracy (the biggest in Europe, and I worked for the man who later became the senior medical administrator in the UK). But that 'desire' to be efficient and rational is very partial and constrained. It is, indeed, very frequently over-ridden by Leftist ethical imperatives; and this happens without any argument, simply because people insist upon it.

At the time I was very 'rational' and was always having my rational and efficient analysis and ideas ignored because senior people trumped them with 'ethical' considerations. For example, there was (supposedly) a major drive to save money by cutting services, and I suggested fertility treatments could be cut because 1. they were not done for medical/ health reasons and 2. private services were easily affordable. But this was squashed on the grounds that infertility was miserable and fertility treatment made people happy. 'Therefore' the services 'ought' to be provided at public expense.

But again and again it was clear that there was no genuine impulse to be rational and efficient, it always took second or third place to 'values' based on political correctness.

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Many other examples come from universities which supposedly want to save money, but never try to cut bloated administrations, never evaluate their own 'money-making' activities to see whether they really do make money, and consistently charge sub-market fees.

The liberal state isn't a perfectly consistent system, and it likes to maintain the appearance of consent etc., so various attempts by the Church to maintain her freedom---that is, her ability to act toward her own ends using her own means in her own way---are likely to have some success. If that freedom is denied her as a legal matter, she should of course continue to exercise it, since it's simply a matter of doing what by her nature she should be doing.

Fertility treatment is an interesting example. What it shows I think is that (not surprisingly) technology, the reduction of the world into a system whose only nature is to be a collection of resources and techniques to be used to further human will, is more valued as a religious principle than one that provides practical benefits. It's outrageous that something as important as human reproduction should be limited by nature, so that the particular body someone has can limit the ability to choose parenthood. For that reason assisted reproduction is a necessity as part of the overall effort to get rid of servitude to the natural.

The examples from universities sound partly like further efforts to deny natural necessity in activities (in this case education) that are thought to relate to how people become what they are, partly ordinary human self-seeking.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.