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Catholic Culture News

can't we all just get along?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 09, 2004

Good news from this week's America: the editors are calling for a return to "charity in intellectual life." When the playground bully starts pleading for Queensbury Rules, he fears he's in for a thrashing. Check this out:

The ferment produced by the Second Vatican Council has been stilled. Perhaps the last great Catholic contribution to American culture came with the bishops' pastoral letters of the 1980's. The Challenge of Peace, in particular, had significant impact on the wider society, educating the public and politicians to debate issues of peace and war in a disciplined way.

Sorry, lads, but anyone who believes The Challenge of Peace had "significant impact" on anyone outside of the bishops' print-shop is delusional, and seriously so. Exactly whose mind was changed -- changed in favor of Catholic teaching, I mean -- by this document? Of course it may well have been a high-water mark for the Jesuits of 56th Street, when the bishops and the Catholic academy were safe and snug in the embrace of the Democratic Party, but things began to slip soon thereafter:

In the intervening years, deep fissures have appeared in the U.S. church. On the public side of American Catholic intellectual life, charity has become hard to find. Intellectual exchange has fallen victim to petty name-calling, ad hominem arguments and a "gotcha" politics of denunciation. As Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis wrote last month, "This uncharitable, biased and reckless substitute for what formerly was fair-minded commentary and fact-based dialogue has found its venomous way into our Catholic family."

Translation: "Having been shielded from criticism for our entire adult lives by the enjoyment of a virtual monopoly on communications media, we now find ourselves obliged to operate on what is nearly a level playing field, where we find our noses rubbed in the same stuff we have heretofore dished out to our adversaries with impunity. It is unpleasant." Since when is the "gotcha-politics of denunciation" foul play? Since when are ad hominem arguments out of court? Remember Rembert Weakland's crack (cited in a fawning New Yorker profile), that prolifers "basically need a hug and a laxative"? Did America ever rebuke the archbishop for petty name-calling? Did Harry Flynn take him to task for his reckless substitute for fact-based dialogue? They did not. Why bother? After all, anyone with such poor breeding as to find Weakland's quip uncharitable was in no position to make his complaint heard anyway, and besides, Susan Sarandon is calling on Line 3.

It is characteristic of moral imbeciles to be incapable of seeing things from the other man's point of view. Hannah Arendt tells how Adolf Eichmann, after his capture, lamented the fact that he advanced in the SS no further than Lieutenant Colonel, expecting his Israeli interrogators to sympathize with his hard luck. In the same way it argues for shocking obtuseness on the part of America in imagining that Catholic conflicts, until recently, were marked by equilateral charity. The fact that the alarm should be sounded today is a recognition, however confused, that the old order is coming to an end.

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