Apologia pro vita blogger
Rex Stultorum (sic) over at Let's be Reasonable has posed some thoughtful questions about a few seeming contradictions in my self-designation as a conservative/Catholic -- that whole thing.
In light of the Welborn protocol (in which any comments or emails are public fodder unless requested otherwise) the best way to enlarge opon my worldview, so that Seize the Dei readers may navigate my brain more easily, is to answer Rex point by point. Rex piggypacks on a complaint from a Mick (a name, I gather, not the derogatory term for the Irish) about whether it was appropriate to joke about religious stuff like the current French plague of locust and drought:
Now I, personally, think that you were making a joke, but a joke that is "informed by" your overall position on politics. That's fine; and I think that a person CAN be a devout Catholic and be willing to make jokes that have a religious theme -- even if those jokes actually BORDER on being a little irreverent. (I guess I mean that the joke would have to be such that only an irrational or hyper-critical person would suppose that the person making the joke were intending to denigrate what is considered sacred.)
I heartily recommend to Rex and to Mick to lighten up. I wrote it to work in a reference to frogs...oh, forget it. The point is, my sense of humor runs toward the puerile, the black, and the inappropriate. Fact. I am 100% sure some of it will be found offensive by some, or at least a source of scandal. For both I am sincerely sorry. While I do support the right to complain, if one is badly allergic to all forms of irreverence, better blogs for you are only a click away.
On the other hand, who knows -- it may be an occasion of grace for some thoughtful heathen to stumble on the blog and find that you don't have to check your edgy sense of humor at the church door when you become a Catholic. I leave it to the Good Lord to work out this particular calculus. While I never post to shock the reader or drum up controversy for its own sake, I do think some sacred cows cry out to be ground into hamburgers. If you recoil at the sight of precious oxes being gored, this is not the blog for you.
Oh, dear. Do I really have to explain that I do not in any way wish actual evil upon the French people, nor wish to make light of anyone's actual suffering? Or do I have to apologize for being viscerally annoyed with many aspects of what the French call culture? Start the list with their militant -- 'ow you zay? -- secularism, i.e., forbidding Muslims to don Islamic headwear in public schools. (Note to self -- a future blog idea...."why the French annoy," hmmmm.)
Ironically, France used to be called the Eldest Daughter of the Church. Scores of saints were bred in her picturesque towns and hamlets. One of my heroes is the French Canadian Jean Vanier who now lives in Trosly-Breuil, France. I've been to the country (mainly Paris and Marseilles), and it's an exercise in melancholy to see the shell of a once-robust Catholic culture. Cathedrals to take your breath away: ornate, sublime, empty. The sacramental husk seems to have been filled in by the spirit of Robespierre and the Jacobin impulse to stifle true religion. Hell, these people revere Jerry Lewis! Is this thing on?
But I think when the whole thrust of your blog is that you are conservative AND Catholic, but Catholic BEFORE conservative, the post does kind of raise questions like Mick's -- or rather a "sense" that in fact the "order" is the reverse.
I should have led with this, but since I'm chasing Rex, it'll have to go here. Being a good Canadian, I've tended to flee the conservative label, and not just because I didn't want my CBC/NPR/New York Times betters to think bad things about me. The more precise term, with respect to my being a Catholic, is orthodoxy. Ah, si, mis amigos, the great romance of orthodoxy. I could rhapsodize all day. Briefly, I accept the teaching authority of the Catholic Church as it comes to us from Jesus Christ through the apostolic Church, to the present day under, and with, Peter (currently, thanks be to God, Pope Benedict XVI). The word is from the Greek meaning correct or right belief. I believe that -- for all the sinfulness of many of her members (beginning with me), for all the crappy things Catholics sometimes say and do -- the Catholic Church is the prime repository of the Christian faith. To
My point is, "conservative" is a mainly political adjective, and it fails to capture what I believe a faithful Catholic ought to be, which is simply Catholic -- minus trendy appendages. I accept the c-word label when I think it's meant to suggest orthodoxy, but otherwise it's unhelpful, or rather, redundant. Yes, of course there is a sense in which the truths of the depositum fidei that are "conserved" through the ages by the Holy Spirit. But while Christian doctrine can and does develop over time, becoming more and more explicit and "wider," none of it can ever pretzel itself over time into a flat contradiction. Hence the Church is inherently progressive in the sense that she is open to all legitimate development -- deepened specificity -- of Christian doctrine.
It is reasonable to assume that your post reflects on your part a judgment against the French. It is reasonable to assume that your judgment against the French is rooted in your conservative stance -- most notably a support for O.I.F. Pope John Paul II was MORE opposed to O.I.F. than anyone in the French government. So perhaps it might be said that your post, for those reasons, seems to suggest that you'll toss out the Catholic, when the conservative demands it.
Nice try, Rex. Close, but no hand-rolled Cohiba. First, we need to tone down the supercharged language a bit. I don't sit around getting frothy at the mouth because of some big Judgment Against the French. I almost never think of them, except, say, when one of them sucker-punches a non-French Tour de France racer.
Second, please provide chapter and verse from speeches, recorded off the cuff remarks, or any published documents that prove that Pope John Paul II was MORE (sic) opposed to the US liberation of Iraq than anyone in the French government. (Hint, don't waste your time.) This is a favorite liberal ploy, and I mean that as a description, not an indictment. Pope John Paul the Great took a principled stance against the American intervention. That is true. And believe me, I didn't arrive at any conclusions without keeping this Big Fact before me at all times. But here is the part that's hard for
The rape rooms are gone; 50 million people can now vote; the torture and humiliation of Iraqi atheletes is over; the Batthist thugs no longer show up at 2 am for tea; Iraq's weaker neighbours no longer cower; a tyrant and his sadistic offspring are finished. There are challenges ahead and democracy will not easily sprout in a people who've lived under a boot heel for 30 years. But I'm grateful to God for the liberation. So is the courageous Catholic Bishop of Baghdad.
This papal-Iraq disagreement is not the same as good ol' leftist dissent from authentic Catholic doctrine. Liberals love to crow, "See, scratch Mr. Conservative and you'll find a dissenter!" But the two cases are not equivalent. According to the Catechism (2309) says, "The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good." How on earth can any Pope correctly discern the myriad intelligence reports (some of which, admittedly, seem to have been inaccurate), the historical and real-time elements of threat to Iraq's neighbours, Saddam Hussein's notorious penchant for sadism against enemies of the state, and all the manifold ingredients that went into a strategic military decision?
Don't forget, the late Holy Father also had spiritual responsibility for millions of Catholics living dangerously in Muslim lands. It would have been grossly imprudent of him to jump up and shout "go team" for any western (read Crusader) action in the Islamosphere. Meaning no disrespect, but if I was shot at close range by a Muslim, I'd be shy to stare down the rest of his fellow fanatics, too. (It's not unreasonable to conclude that John Paul II's rather soft stance on Islamofacism stemmed partly from his being a victim of Mehmet Ali Aga's terrorism.) One more thing: keep in mind that the "official stance of the Holy See," or of a papal spokeman, or of Euroweenie Curia members who get interviewed on CNN aren't to be confused with binding Catholic teaching.
On the matter of a Pope's explicit disagreement with any given war, I offer you the words of a certain Bavarian prelate now living in Rome. These were written in June 2004 in a memo to Cardinal McCarrick, and later made public:
3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
This is the mind of Benedict XVI about the mind of John Paul II. Re-reading that last sentence of His Holiness is warmly recommended.
Now Patrick, I realize that the "case" I just offered above is FULL of ASSUMPTIONS, and claims to "reasonableness." An assumption can be reasonable and still be incorrect. Are any of those assumptions incorrect? If so, then which? And as for my allegations of "reasonableness," I would maintain the it's the avowedly conservative character of your blog that gives those assumptions their reasonableness. That is, when one says "I'm a conservative," I think it's reasonable to infer that they support President Bush's policies, including O.I.F. Do you think this inference is unreasonable? If so, then why?
The short answer is, you lost me. On President Bush, no, I do not "support his policies," if by "his policies" you mean all his policies. To take one example, while I find a lot to admire about the man and his courage, I think he's out-to-lunch on the porous US/Mexican border issue. Don't get me started. I also wish he'd stop saying things like, "there will be no litmus test with respect to my nominatons for Supreme Court." Yeah, as if. But Rex, by using terms like "avowedly conservative" you make it sound like I have this allegiance-born need to "keep conservative no matter what" as if some weird set of Rush Limbaugh-colored glasses blind me to see the world as it is. On the contrary, I'm just a person who, coming from a decidedly liberal background, looks out on the world armed with personal experience, knowledge of logic, and ongoing study of theology and philosophy, and above all with his faith in Jesus Christ -- a faith that was jumpstarted in a conversion from Catholicism Lite of the 1960s and 70s catechetical ethos. To quote someone I can't quite remember, I got mugged by reality. And seduced by the grace of God poured out in Christ Jesus.
But I prefer the term "Progressive" to the term "Liberal."
Yeah, when I was a liberal I preferred progressive, too. It's nicer. More dialogish and forward-sounding, as opposed to the staid 'n stodgy dogmatism of the past, eh. But the term "progressive," while grabbing frantically for the moral high ground of appearing enlightened, open-minded and tolerant, is not nearly as honest as "liberal." To me, "permissive" covers both.
All I want to be is a Catholic; adjectives be hanged. I pray to be at the Lord's disposal and consider it a great grace to live in the bosom of the Church -- from the heart of the Body of Christ -- and to do my little bit in happy obedience to the authority of Christ and His Church. I happen to accept all that the Church teaches because of the glory of Him -- perfect Truth and Life -- who suffered and died to found, sustain, and protect her (in matters of faith and morals) from all error.
Sorry, but the cafeteria model of Catholicism is nothing more than the embarrassing hangover that lingers from the drinking binge that was the 1960s. It produces no vocations, no permanent marriages, no bracing adventure to undertake; and it gave us feminist nuns, the gay priest scandal, weakened bishops, vapid liturgies, and offered the evil of abortion a nice place to lie down and rest.
In Peter Kreeft's memorable turn of phrase, the Church is our Mother, not the lunch lady.
I hope this helps clarify the intersection between Catholic and conservative here at Seize the Dei.