As (some) others see us

What orthodox Catholicism looks like from the standpoint of liberalism: The Crusaders. The author (a staffer at the Boston Globe) is a clever writer and doesn’t adhere to the sterner demands of honesty, but the piece is substantive enough to be useful.

Some interesting points:

  • The author seems to have no idea of principle or truth. Everything is a matter of conflicting desires and power. To propose orthodoxy is simply to “defend traditional prerogatives of the institutional church.” To say that one would leave the Church if (per impossibile) a future Pope said abortion is good, or there are five divine persons and not just three, is not to say what it means for the Church to be the Church. It is to be your own kind of cafeteria Catholic. To be otherwise, after all, would be to give total obedience to what a particular bunch of guys say from time to time simply because they’re saying it.
  • Since there is no such thing as principle or truth, the only conceivable reason orthodoxy could be influential in the Church is that it supports the interests of hierarchs and is being pushed by well-placed crazies and right-wing foundations under the patronage of a Pope with bizarre ideas.
  • Liberals do have principles, but of a specialized kind. Given that there is no truth in morality, so that the only thing that can have authority for us is our own desires, liberals think the basic problem of human life is construction of social arrangements that advance all human desires equally in an orderly way. Only such arrangements can be recognized as authoritative by self-seeking men. The author is characteristically liberal in that regard.
  • The issue of violence—of rudimentary social order—is therefore at the center of the piece, even though violence by orthodox Catholic minorities as Catholic minorities has rarely been a problem anywhere. The reason is that from the liberal standpoint rejection of liberalism is intrinsically violent and irrational. To reject the view that all human desires are equally to be accommodated is to accept the view that the desires of some people should override the desires of others by force and thus to embrace oppression and violence. Further, people basically act to get what they want, in the liberal view, so if they don’t see the liberal state as the vehicle of their desires, but rather reject it, they can have no reason to obey its laws.
  • Since people who reject liberalism are by definition irrational and violent, full adherence to liberalism defines the mainstream and therefore the limits of legitimate political discussion. The author thus adheres to his own variety of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, and sees no possibility of basic compromise with heretics and infidels. Their positions, after all, are all of a piece:

    “McCloskey is the cold stone at the heart of all the paradoxes about American Catholicism. His positions are the sharp, logical end of what Hudson believes about Voice of the Faithful and of all the philosophical filigree with which Robert George surrounds his opinions about Leon Panetta. McCloskey is the id of everything that was discussed at the Cosmos Club. He is the gleaming rock on which it’s built.”

    The author thus agrees with Father McClosley that it is unlikely that those who adhere to Catholic orthodoxy and those who adhere to liberal orthodoxy can live together indefinitely in peace.

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