the iron fist of liberalism

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 14, 2007

The UK Tablet continues its crusade for Brokeback Montanism, most recently by means of a curiously argued essay urging the Church toward a Vichy-style capitulation that acknowledges the de facto coercive power of sexual Leftism:

Liberal society is leavened through with toughness: it has plenty of state powers to resist subversion from within as well as from without; it has a whole cohort of laws punishing hate speech and other kinds of unacceptable talk. It now has anti-discrimination laws to prohibit not all kinds of discrimination but rather only those that offend against its model of tolerance and broad-mindedness -- like refusing to accept same-sex couples for adoption, for example. In the post-socialist age, non-faith-based progressives are deadly serious about imposing their liberalism, as the Catholic hierarchy has now found to its cost.

Liberalism -- the author stops short of saying -- is intrinsically illiberal. Note his highly paradoxical use of the terms "toughness" and "subversion." Far from seeing this radical incoherence as a sign that liberalism's promises of freedom are promises it cannot deliver, the author urges the Church to make a virtue of necessity. Whereas earlier liberals urged Catholics to bend over backwards to accommodate the counter-Christian citizenry, today's Tablet urges us to bend over forwards. The counter-Christians, after all, are in a position to take by force what is not offered freely.

How should the Church react to the challenge of this liberal vision of society? It should recognise, first, that it is much better than the rampant capitalist world of competing selfish individuals that might otherwise be on view, and second, that it seeks a much better world than one in which all are allowed to discriminate to their heart's content. And finally, with one large exception, the liberal vision of society is very close to that of the Church, with progressives and Catholics being almost always on the same side on such key issues as esteem, dignity and opportunity for all. The one exception, the radically different approach taken to sexuality, is often more to the fore among the senior church leadership that it is on the ground at parish level.

The last sentence above shows the author is familiar neither with senior church leadership (and their triathletes-in-waiting) nor with the attitudes of parishioners "on the ground." Still, he confidently exhorts us to seize on the solicited, er, partnership:

The liberal vision of a tolerant society based on mutual respect but also on a rejection of intolerance is not one to be feared. Rather, it is an offer of partnership that the Church should joyfully seize. But first it has to work out how on earth to manoeuvre itself out of the cul-de-sac of sexuality into which its universality has forced it. Liberal society knows exactly where it is going; does the Church?

The historical naiveté of this conspectus -- in suggesting that "the radically different approach taken to sexuality" is the Church's innovation -- is stunning. It's the European sexual anarchism (which the author misleadingly labels "liberalism") that has departed from the traditions of moral discourse, that has failed to explain itself publicly, and that has crawled into a cul-de-sac that is demographic as well as philosophical. No matter how "liberal" its rhetorical piety, a future built on Andrew Sullivan's grand-daughters will find liberty in short supply at the ‘Abd Khaled al-Mash’al Museum of Infidel History (earlier known as Oxford University).

The Tablet essay does, however, make one excellent point that needed to be foregrounded earlier, viz., the doctrinal inconsistency in the English bishops' plea for an opt-out in the gay adoption ruse:

The Church's stand left many questions to be answered. Are homosexual acts a "grave depravity", as the Vatican says, if within the context of a loving, monogamous relationship. And if so, why are the bishops so apparently relaxed about allowing referrals of such couples to other adoption agencies?

Point taken -- even if the upshot is the opposite of what the author intended: depravity is depravity no matter how heartfelt the valentines on the mantelpiece. Whence the bishops should make it clear that the key moral offense is not simply Catholic "brokerage" of adoption by gays, but the consignment of the innocent (to use the traditional Italian term) to households in which nuptial love is excluded as a matter of principle -- irrespective of the agency that expedites the transaction. The children -- the pawns in the social experiment -- have done no wrong. Do we want to put them in a family where both mommies think like Peter Tatchell? Do we want to find them in a ménage where their "daddies" take in the Tablet?

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 15, 2007 2:15 PM ET USA

    One person's intolerance is another man's morality. Being tolerant requires no real thought and action. Morality requires not only thought and action, but self reflection in the light of men and God.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 8:40 PM ET USA

    Basically, what they're saying is, "I want to be able to have sex whenever I want with whomever I can get to go along, and I want everyone else to want that too." Never have so many done so much for 10 seconds of "bliss." Eternity lasts so much longer.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 7:36 PM ET USA

    The article is a fairly typical conflation of predelictions with "rights" and "justice," and the author's fine academic background only underscores that even the best minds cannot formulate a coherent rationale for "liberal" cant. The sentiments he expresses are easy and the opposite of "toughness," which is why so many bishops and priests embrace them to the extent they can without jeopardizing their cozy, uninspired lives. To be Catholic today is countercultural and much, much tougher.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 7:12 PM ET USA

    Missing from the Tablet's diatribe is the big "or else". Now what could that be? I do think it worth mentioning that in England, "Freedom of Speech" is not protected.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 5:57 PM ET USA

    Anybody who is just figuring out that what we today call liberalism is the direct opposite of what it was in the 18th century---and clear into the 20th till it began to triumph---hasn't been paying attention.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 5:32 PM ET USA

    Elsewhere today there is a web eulogy for Fr. Drinan. Here the Liberal gentry parade their up-town sensibilities for all to see. You can practically hear the keening of the bagpipes and the muffled ... ok, not so muffled ...sobs of who's really who. Among them is the editor of, you guessed it, Tablet. Also represented ... Slate. Also represented ... USCCB.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 4:13 PM ET USA

    Now, now Uncle Di. Aren't you forgetting the lesson of 1 Corinthians 13? "So there abide esteem, dignity and opportunity for all, these three; but the greatest of these is?" Hmmm ... your guess is as good as mine.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 2:18 PM ET USA

    "Brokeback Montanism" - Hehehe, can I quote you? "... today's Tablet urges us to bend over forwards." This is not the first time society has collapsed around the Church. As the Roman Empire collapsed around it, the Church did not "bend over." Rather it bent its knees and thus was born the monastic movement. We see signs here and there of monastic revival but what is needed is a great Saint to lead us.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 1:03 PM ET USA

    Uncle Di is his usual elegant self in reviewing the table article. Let me see if I can translate into rust-belt-ese. The author of the article is basically restating the Bobby Knight doctrine "If you know you are going to get raped you might as well relax and enjoy it". However he adds the corollary "you might actually like it" as it may be better than other alternative and you really don't know that it may actually be good for you. Hmmm!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 12:47 PM ET USA

    The Holy Catholic Apostolic Church will never partnership with the out and right Wicked. The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. Please smell the coffee and wake-up!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 10:34 AM ET USA

    Too little too late, as far as the English Catholic adoption agencies (and the Bishops are concerned). They've been placing children with "single gay parents" for some time: to dig in their heels now looks not just discriminatory but hypocritical. Our bishops are trying to acquire some backbone, but forty years of accommodating liberal sensibilities means that their newly-grown spines resemble a spiral staircase.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 9:29 AM ET USA

    "The liberal vision of a tolerant society .... is an offer of partnership that the Church should joyfully seize." Is this offer of partnership coming from the same state that is "leavened with toughness" and "deadly serious about imposing liberalism"? It would appear the Church must joyfully accept the coercive power of sexual Leftism. How can this state of affairs be "joyfully seized"?