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Steyn on why they just don't get it

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 05, 2005

P.J. O'Rourke once noted the irony that, when you move from abstract rhetoric to concrete interest, liberals display a disappointingly toddler-like view of liberty: for them, it means the freedom to put absolutely anything into their mouth. Writing on liberal media's inability to understand the Pope, Mark Steyn argues that the defect is insuperable:

The Guardian thought Karol Wojtyla was "a doctrinaire, authoritarian pontiff". That "doctrinaire" at least suggests the inflexible authoritarian derived his inflexibility from some ancient operating manual -- he was dogmatic about his dogma -- unlike the New York Times and the Washington Post, which came close to implying that John Paul II had taken against abortion and gay marriage off the top of his head, principally to irk "liberal Catholics". The assumption is always that there's some middle ground that a less "doctrinaire" pope might have staked out: he might have supported abortion in the first trimester, say, or reciprocal partner benefits for gays in committed relationships.

The root of the Pope's thinking -- that there are eternal truths no one can change even if one wanted to -- is completely incomprehensible to the progressivist mindset. There are no absolute truths, everything's in play, and by "consensus" all we're really arguing is the rate of concession to the inevitable: abortion's here to stay, gay marriage will be here any day now, in a year or two it'll be something else -- it's all gonna happen anyway, man, so why be the last squaresville daddy-o on the block?

We live in a present-tense culture where novelty is its own virtue: the Guardian, for example, has already been touting the Nigerian Francis Arinze as "candidate for first black pope". This would be news to Pope St Victor, an African and pontiff from 189 to 199. Among his legacies: the celebration of Easter on a Sunday.

That's not what the Guardian had in mind, of course: it meant "the first black pope since the death of Elvis" -- or however far back our societal memory now goes. But, if you hold an office first held by St Peter, you can say "been there, done that" about pretty much everything the Guardian throws your way. John Paul's papacy was founded on what he called -- in the title of his encyclical -- Veritatis Splendor, and when you seek to find consensus between truth and lies you tarnish that splendour.

I'd need a lot more convincing that the African Pope Victor was in fact racially black, but Steyn's general point holds: without fixed standards of judgment, neither criticism nor approval can ever be more serious than opinions delivered at a fashion show

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