Archive for the ‘Secular liberalism’ Category

From intrinsically disordered to intrinsically odious

by Doughlas Remy

After more than a week of testy exchanges with friends and other respondents on The Cornerstone Forum’s Facebook page, Gil Bailie expresses his exasperation in an untitled post on 6/28/13. I believe his post clarifies his position very ably, and I will respond to it in detail. First, however, a little background:

Mr. Bailie believes we are in the midst of a cultural crisis. So do I. The one that he sees and the one that I see are same, but our perspectives on it are very different.

Though hardly a utopian, I see our cultural stresses in a mostly positive light, for I believe they are signs of a creative unfolding of the better parts of our human nature. I am hopeful, but not always optimistic, that this unfolding will continue, because time is running out and the worsening condition of our planet is creating environmental stresses that could warp or reverse these positive tendencies.

Mr. Bailie’s view, on the other hand, is apocalyptic: the worst impulses of our fallen natures are in the ascendency, and only those who are faithful to the teachings of the Church will resist being swept away by the currents of cultural change.

The “crisis” results from the opposing movements of two great tectonic plates: modernism and religion. Modernism is associated with the European Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and, more recently, the scientific and communications revolutions. It is fundamentally consequentialist and pragmatic, secular and naturalistic, progressive, democratic, and egalitarian. Religion (including the political religions of Communism and Nazism) is associated with resistance to all of the above. It is supernaturalist, conservative/regressive, authoritarian, and anti-scientific when contradicted by science. It tends to distrust and even abhor the expansion of knowledge and the free exchange of information and ideas.

The Cornerstone Forum’s Facebook page is a microcosm of the cultural clashes that I have just described. This accounts for my longstanding interest in it. One can’t do a longitudinal study of a cultural petrie dish without somehow staying in the lab and collecting data.

So, I found Mr. Bailie’s post very enlightening and will respond to it here as best I can. He begins:

A few critics seem to think that opinions expressed on this Facebook page are so alien to common decency as to be intrinsically odious.

Notes from the UndergroundThe term “intrinsically odious” cannot fail to remind us of the Catechism’s description of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered.” Is this just a coincidence, or is it a reverberation? Several of Mr. Bailie’s critics and one of his supporters have already commented on the mimetic doubling effects that have become apparent, both in Mr. Bailie’s responses and my own project of “mirroring” TCF on this site. I believe there is considerable truth in these observations, and I am willing to own that truth for my part. Resentment has indeed driven many of my responses to Mr. Bailie’s incessant disparagement of homosexuals over the years. Why do I continue reading his homophobic comments? It’s not because I enjoy being demeaned. Rather, it is because Mr. Bailie’s treatment of me and other LGBTs makes me angry, and I believe I can both own that anger and put it to good use in the service of others. (I realize this holds the promise of a fruitful discussion about the merits of righteous anger from a Girardian perspective: How can one be certain that one’s anger is righteous, and what if it is not?)

An additional reason for my returning again and again to track Mr. Bailie’s shabby treatment of homosexuals is that I am witnessing the fascinating spectacle of a mimetic reversal in progress. In recent years, those who were once so virulent in their denunciations of all things gay have begun to worry that the tables are being turned on them and that they will become as marginalized for their bigotry as LGBTs have been for their sexual orientation. We have heard this from Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of NOM, and from virtually every other media opponent of same-sex marriage. In fact, it has become one of the major talking-points of the opposition. Just last week we heard it in Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion on the DOMA case, where, unaware of the irony of his remarks, he made the very same complaints that we have heard from homosexuals for years, i.e., we are being condemned, demeaned, and humiliated; we do not wish to be adjudged “hostes humani generis” (enemies of the human race). This is the language of the victim and of the powerless, and I do not believe Justice Scalia was shamming for the sake of effect. There was emotion in his words, and that emotion was fear mixed with anger and resentment.

I sensed that same trepidation in Mr. Bailie’s opening sentence for the post in question: “A few critics seem to think that opinions expressed on this Facebook page are so alien to common decency as to be intrinsically odious.”

US-JUSTICE-GAY-MARRIAGEThe DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, added to the state legislative victories of recent months and years and the same-sex marriage legalizations happening in Europe and Latin America, have rattled the political right. There can be no mistaking that. Cultural crises are always about paradigm shifts and usually entail redistributions of power. But the long arc of equality and justice in our consitutional democracies should ensure that no one has anything to fear when these changes occur.

There’s much more in Mr. Bailie’s post to chew on, and I will continue doing so tomorrow.

Critics Take Gil Bailie to Task (Part 1)

SlanderThe following is a transcription of a discussion that occurred beginning 6/16/13 on Gil Bailie’s The Cornerstone Forum Facebook Page:

The Cornerstone Forum (Gil Bailie)

A friend alerted me to this. It apparently comes from Bill O’Reilly’s message board. It’s about the last presidential election, and the figures appear to be accurate.

As each state reported their final election details, the evidence of voter fraud is astounding. Massive voter fraud has been reported in areas of OH and FL, with PA, WI and VA, all are deploying personnel to investigate election results.

Here are just a few examples of what has surfaced with much more to come.

  • In 59 voting districts in the Philadelphia region, Obama received 100% of the votes with not even a single vote recorded for Romney. (A mathematical and statistical impossibility).
  • In 21 districts in Wood County Ohio, Obama received 100% of the votes where GOP inspectors were illegally removed from their polling locations – and not one single vote was recorded for Romney. (Another statistical impossibility).
  • In Wood County Ohio, 106,258 voted in a county with only 98,213 eligible voters.
  • In St. Lucie County, FL, there were 175,574 registered eligible voters but 247,713 votes were cast.
  • The National SEAL Museum, a polling location in St. Lucie County, FL had a 158% voter turnout.
  • Palm Beach County, FL had a 141% voter turnout.
  • In Ohio County, Obama won by 108% of the total number of eligible voters.

NOTE: Obama won in every state that did not require a Photo ID and lost in every state that did require a Photo ID in order to vote.

Jim Daly responds:

I love and respect you, Gil, but it really makes you look bad when you post scurrilous rumors. It tends to discredit the many other true and helpful things you post. I have no idea why you say that the figures are accurate. In fact, just a little fact checking shows them to be false. Here is a link to the snopes.com page that refutes these claims.

The Cornerstone Forum: 

statue1Jim, thanks for passing this along. Everyone is welcome to take a look and come to a decision. If I had more confidence in this administration, I would have been less
credulous. I remain skeptical. But, everyone is welcome to take a look and come to his or her on conclusion.

Sophie Sommers:

Gil, one way to avoid propagating scurrilous rumors is to do some careful fact checking before you post anything of this sort. Stories like the one above do unjustified damage to people’s reputations, and that is wrong by any moral standard. Your distrust of Obama and your faith in people like Bill O’Reilly could lead you down some dangerous paths. Please give everyone the benefit of the doubt and speak no evil of anyone without really solid evidence of wrongdoing. You know as well as I do that the Internet is full of false reporting about everything that’s going on in government and society. There are a number of fact-checking resources. Jim Daly mentioned Snopes.com. There are others, all mostly reliable. (Just avoid the ones that are funded by groups with ideological agendas.)

Jim Daly:

Trust meGil, when you say that you remain “skeptical,” do you mean that you doubt Snopes.com’s debunking of these ludicrous claims? Could you explain why? Is it simply because your dislike of so many of the Obama administration’s policies inclines you to believe the worst about the President? That’s understandable. But recognizing your biases should give you the incentive to be extra diligent about verifying the things you post, so you don’t end up committing the sin of slandering your neighbor and discrediting the many true and helpful things you post.

The Cornerstone Forum:

My skepticism of the present administration and the Chicago politics it represents is such that I find stories like the one my friend highlighted believable. Whatever the validity of the article in question, my skepticism remains.

Jim Swenson:

scandal2There are clearly a lot of people in this country who will believe anything about Obama and his policies as long as it is bad. This is very unhealthy for our democracy, because we are seeing unprecedented infusions of misinformation into the media to satisfy these people’s need for scandal. Willfully passing along false and libelous information is, according to the Catholic catechism, a very serious sin for which penance is required. It’s so serious, in fact, that it is mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

To make responsible decisions, citizens need accurate information. Responsible citizens will do their part to ensure that the media don’t contaminate and distort the political process. When we put up Facebook pages and blog sites, the “Media ‘R’ Us.” Let’s keep it clean!

Jim Daly:

TruthPerhaps you found it “believable,” in the sense of being at least plausible, but that doesn’t make it true. And since we as Christians have an overriding responsibility to the truth, especially when what’s at stake is the reputation of our neighbors who may be innocent of the accusations brought against them, don’t we have a responsibility to check our facts before we post something that turns out to be a scurrilous fabrication? You’ve rightly complained about the decline of journalistic integrity, as journalists sacrifice their traditional commitment to the truth and allow themselves to be used as mouthpieces to promote an ideological agenda. But your credibility on this and many other points vanishes if you do the very same thing you complain about when it’s done by others. That’s what your concerned friends on this thread are trying to help you see.

The Cornerstone Forum:

For what it’s worth, I find Bill O’Reilly to be insufferable. The things I quoted from his message board seemed to me plausible, for reasons that most people might recognize. I’m done with this post. Carry on if it seems worth your while.

Ben Boyce:

So that proves it! Not only is Obama not a citizen, but five million votes were manufactured to install the Anti-Christ as president. (That’s the problem with the right-wing Republicans; they not only have their own opinions but they make their own facts). It has come to this. It must be hard to breathe in that bubble, what with all the noxious fumes being emitted.

Jim Daly:

Shame2I do understand why you found the figures to be plausible, despite their untrustworthy source. But plausible doesn’t mean true and, when what’s at stake is the possibility of unjustly sullying the reputations of so many dedicated poll workers, it’s morally imperative to verify your claims to avoid promulgating the sort of falsehoods found in your post. Earlier today, you posted a beautiful sentiment about how heavenly it would be to have the opportunity to seek forgiveness from all those whom we have wronged. But, of course, before we can seek forgiveness, there must first be an admission of wrongdoing. That may actually be the hardest part, because our desire to get right with God and our neighbor meets all kinds of resistance from that proud part of ourselves that is loath to admit our mistakes. That’s why the person who can admit error is so deserving of our respect. It would be wonderful if you could stop hiding behind the excuse that it’s alright to spread calumny as long as it strikes our biased ears as initially “plausible.” There is no shame in admitting a mistake. To the contrary! The shame lies in refusing to do so.

Critics Take Gil Bailie to Task (Part 2)

Image6/18/13: Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum posts the following:

THE NEW MORAL CAUSE: Freedom from Moral Constraints

What does the average man of today expect when he cries out for freedom and liberation? Approximately what Marx gave as a vision of full freedom: ‘hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon … and criticizing as suits my pleasure after dinner.’ By ‘freedom’ one generally understands today the possibility of doing everything one wants and of doing only what one would like. Thus understood, freedom is arbitrariness. … According to this vision, freedom would be complete if there were no longer any rule or any obligation to other persons or things, but only the unlimited arbitrariness of each individual who has everything he wants at his disposal and who can do everything he likes. In this view, liberation consists in throwing off all obligations. Every obligation appears as a fetter that restricts freedom; every obligation one eliminates means progress in freedom.— Joseph Ratzinger

Alas, however, where does one who has fallen for this trivialized anthropology look for help in freeing his shoulders from unwanted obligations? He looks to the state. If enough of his contemporaries can be coaxed into adopting his liberationist anthropology—for this purpose, the ideological takeover of educational institutions will be necessary—many of the obligations once associated with family, faith, church and community can be transferred to the state, even as the state can be made the arbiter of new lifestyle rights, and the enforcer these rights, when necessary, at the expense of rights traditionally understood—religious freedom, conscience, and so on. Thus the adolescent interpretation of freedom eventually requires the paternalistic, authoritarian state as its enabler and champion. Perpetual childhood in a walled prison.

Timothy Brock responds:

Certainly, “throwing off all obligations” can only lead to toxic levels of “liberation.” At such levels, we find only sociopaths.

People who are considered “healthy” in their outlook and habits usually know how to manage their obligations. This means not taking on too many, or too few, but it also means selecting them carefully. “Liberation,” then, might just mean having the freedom to manage one’s own obligations to an optimal degree under given sets of circumstances.

Why shouldn’t we look to the state for help in doing this? I don’t regard the “state” as something completely alien to myself. Ideally, it empowers me to join with others in deciding what our mutual obligations are, and it is an arena of negotiation. Where else would you want to conduct these negotiations? Sectarian institutions are too narrow, and they lack the power to make and enforce binding laws. Family is sometimes too constrictive, imposing obligations that we may properly deem unreasonable. Faith may deprive us of the autonomy that we need for the work of managing our obligations.

Family, faith, church, and community are important, even essential, in getting our balance right. But anthropologically, they are at the level of the tribe, which has long since been superseded by the nation state, and—now—the community of nations. We don’t abandon the tribe just because the tribe has been folded into the state, but we get strength and meaning from each of them. There’s no going back to life in the little duchy bounded by mountains and lakes, impervious to events outside its borders. We are all connected, and no tribe is ever going to expand to fill the space occupied by the secular state. It’s just not going to happen, at least not here.

Authoritarianism is a separate issue. There’s no reason why the secular state should be authoritarian. It may be democratic and constitutional. On the other hand, church, community, and family may be highly authoritarian. The Catholic hierarchy is not exactly a democracy, you know…

Ben Boyce:

Well said, Timothy! There is an unsettling insurrectionist tone in American conservatives, now that they do not control all the branches of government. The Southern accent that is the tone of the Republican Party tells me that the Civil War never really ended. That, coupled with the worship of the gun in their sub-culture, is cause for concern.

Criticism isThe Cornerstone Forum:

Ben and Timothy, you may want to get into email communication. This page will not long be a posting board for rants against the Church, etc.

Sophie Sommers:

Easy, Gil. This is an interesting discussion. You got it started. Now just listen.

Implicit in the idea of a “transfer” to the state of “obligations once associated with family, faith, church, and community” is the notion that the state is somehow antithetical to family, faith, etc. But is it really? Or must it be? Maybe the state is—or can be—an expression and an extension of community values.

If the state is the “arbiter” of rights, perhaps it is well suited for that role. What other entity can match the impartiality of the state or its accountability to all stakeholders? What other entity can balance competing claims of religious liberty and conscience?

The state’s enforcement of rights should not be confused with authoritarianism. The rights of Americans have been elaborated over the past two centuries through legislation and judicial decision. This is the antithesis of authoritarianism, which establishes rights and obligations through edict.

Jim Daly:

I’m also interested in hearing the discussion, Gil. I think it’s an important topic. And, as far as I can tell, no one is engaging in a rant against the Church. Ben said nothing about the Church and Timothy merely noted that the Church hierarchy is not democratic, which is an indisputable fact. I think you would agree that the Church ought not to be a democratic institution. In this respect, it’s unlike the state, which needs to be democratic in order to ensure that the interests and rights of everyone are protected, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of same. The Church has a different responsibility: to safeguard and promulgate the deposit of faith. To fulfill this obligation, the Church counts on the continued protection of its rights by the liberal state. Viewed in this way, rights and obligations aren’t at odds with each other. They’re mutually supportive.

Ben Boyce:

Just to be clear, I’m not “ranting.” Nor am I taking the Catholic Church to task. What I am reacting to is the conflation of the Catholic Church with right-wing American politics. This is not an academic issue, because I experience it in parish life. I find it alarming that anyone who is associated with progressive politics is openly questioned as a “real Catholic.” This was demonstrated vividly for me when a member of my parish told a friend that he had a hard time “hearing the Word of God from a socialist,” after my turn as a lector, apparently in reference to a monthly column I write for the Sonoma Sun, entitled “Progressive Majority Coalition”, which makes the case for what I believe to be a social justice perspective that seems more compatible with the Gospel concern with lifting up the poor and fashioning a society that asks for mutual responsibility from all classes, including the wealthy and powerful. I never use theological justifications for my positions, because that would seem presumptuous, even though I do believe that my Christian social democratic views are closer to the spirit of Christ than the mean spirited social darwinism that is the core of contemporary American conservatism.

Sophie Sommers:

Jim, a lot of the anti-statism that we’re hearing is from entities that would like to override and supplant the powers of the democratic state. These entities are mostly corporations and religious institutions that want unfettered power for themselves. Anti-statist religious groups have made provisional alliances that would not survive long after the disappearance of the state, if that were ever to happen. Then it would again be Catholics against Protestants, Jews against Christians, Christians against Muslims, Baptists against Methodists, and so on down the line. The state holds all these forces in tension and, far from starving it, as Grover Norquist would like to do, I think we need to cultivate it.

Ben Boyce:

Dead-EndAdditionally, the reason that you are provoking these kinds of responses is that you keep throwing out highly politicized positions that reflect the views of the American Religious Right as if they represented the Magisterium of the Church. I feel as though I have the right to comment on this page based on my having listened to every tape and CD you produced from the beginning of your career until around 2008. I have been dismayed to see how you have thrown in your lot with the intellectually and morally bankrupt enterprise of the right-wing forces, who seem so seized with their own conviction, based on a very narrow bandwidth of moral issues, that they really do believe that God is on their side and any other orientation is not just a political difference but an affront to God and the Church. The lesson for me is to avoid the logic of orthodoxy, which can lead even intelligent and educated people like yourself into an intellectual dead-end which squeezes out mercy and charity for the sake of rigid conformity to a hard-line doctrine. The attempt to impose hard and fast categories on the messy fluidity of the human experience is yet another road to tyranny, as history can attest. We can be grounded in the absolute revealed truth of Christ and still retain a sense of humility about our limits as flawed humans. I don’t object to you expressing your personal views on culture and politics (since I do it all the time myself!) but I do resist your implicit assertion that your views are cloaked in the majesty of the teachings of the Church.

Ben Boyce:

Finally, since this will be my last chance to address this concern in a public forum, I would ask you to rethink how you use your Facebook page as a means of communicating your mission. You can choose to continue along the same trajectory and ruthlessly edit out unflattering comments by banning individual users and quickly removing content that does not reflect well on your message, or you can re-evaluate whether the mission of the Forum is served by taking so many nakedly partisan positions on political issues. I am not interested in having one-to-one e-mail exchanges on your public positions, because that does not accomplish the goal of getting your audience to look at alternative perspectives. I don’t think that I have been a pernicious poster, although I have started to mock some of the more outrageous claims as a way of waking you up to just how it sounds to folks outside of the conservative media bubble. I do hope that you will examine the role that you have adopted in the last few years, because it is distracting from a very deep core message that should be heard by the culture. OK, fini!

Sophie Sommers

The Emperor's New ClothesIn memoriam: Dorothy Jospin, Thomas Hostomsky, Frank Lozera, Ernest Karam, George Dunn, and several others whose names I cannot recall. [Editor’s Note: These are the names of the “fallen,” i.e., those who have been thrown off The Cornerstone Forum Facebook Page for taking issue with Gil Bailie’s positions.]

Jim Daly:

Reading Gil Bailie’s book, Violence Unveiled, was a turning point in my spiritual and intellectual development. Since then, I’ve listened to many of Gil’s recorded lectures (I hope it’s okay for me to use your first name, Gil), which have been a rich resource for me in reflecting on the meaning of the gospel. In short, I hold Gil Bailie in very high esteem. This is why I’m also disappointed and concerned about how Gil has been letting his partisan loyalties get in the way of what is of truly enduring value, his brilliant interpretation of the revelation given to us in Jesus Christ. It seems that these partisan loyalties are even preventing Gil from dealing in a truly ethical and Christian way, that is, both charitably and fairly, with those with whom he disagrees. A particularly troubling case in point is his repost of false information about the election, taken from Bill Reilly’s website, though there are other examples I could give.

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, let me explain that politically, I’m neither a doctrinaire liberal nor a doctrinaire conservative. I hold views that are strongly pro-life, but I’m also concerned about the poor and other social justices issues more traditionally associated with the left. My social justice concerns, however, don’t mean that I necessarily support every initiative put forward by those calling themselves “progressives.” Sadly, many programs intended to help the least well off have backfired or generated new, unanticipated problems. What we need is both wisdom and compassion, a combination rarely encountered these days anywhere on the political spectrum.

I only bring up my own politics so no one will think that my criticisms of Gil stem from a doctrinaire allegiance to the political positions he sometimes excoriates. I’d like to think that my politics are informed by my understanding of the gospel and, as I’ve already said, I owe much of that understanding to the brilliant insights of Gil Bailie. That’s why it saddens me so to see Gil deal with others in ways that seem to me to be so antithetical to the spirit of Christ.

Gil Bailie responds to all:

There are, and will always be, disagreements between and among those who share our basic premises, and we welcome an opportunity to learn from people who share our basic principles, but who may have a different understanding of their implications. But there are visitors to our Page who have fundamental disagreements with us on first principles and on many of the cultural, theological, and moral issues of our time. Our clear and unapologetic intention is to be useful as we can be to those who share our fidelity to the Church and to the moral realism rooted in the Catholic anthropology. There are countless people who disagree with us on these and other matters. We wish them well, but we will not let the comments box of this Page be turned into a soapbox for carping about the Catholic Church or the moral tradition it represents. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the patience required to respond to those with whom an incessant exchange of opinion would accomplish precisely nothing except to turn this Page into both a full-time job and a shouting match.

There are literally millions of venues for the airing of views antithetical to the ones for which we stand, but this Facebook Page isn’t one of them. This Page is not a bulletin board or a blog or campus kiosk for the posting of angry disquisitions at odds with the three simple principles mentioned above. With no ill feeling, we encourage those who want to champion causes incompatible with our own to find other venues for doing so.

Rick Boone:

Your position is elegantly and graciously stated. Anyone who has a problem with it (and I wasn’t aware there might be those about who did) reveals himself morally and intellectually unworthy to participate in the Forum.

Jim Daly:

Gil, I honestly think you’re misinterpreting many of the responses on this page. I haven’t read anything that would constitute carping, angry or otherwise, against the Catholic Church. You also seem to have deliberately chosen words that denigrate the contributions of those who express views with which you may not agree. Impugning Christian brothers and sisters in this way is neither fair nor charitable.

Mind made upFar from “carping” against the Church, several participants in this forum who share your commitment to the Christian faith have expressed concerns about whether you may be letting your partisan political loyalties get in the way of effectively representing and advancing the mission of the Cornerstone Forum. An example of this is your readiness to post scurrilous attacks on poll workers that two minutes of research would have shown to be malicious fabrications. That someone as bright and well-intentioned as you could fall prey to such a sin only underscores how important it is for even the best of us to have friends who will alert us when we go astray and help us to overcome our powerful predilections for self-deception. It is through your writings and those of Girard that I have come to understand how robust and insidious the human capacity for self-deception really is.

Again, to voice these concerns isn’t the same as criticizing the Church or its moral traditions. To the contrary, they are a reminder of how prone we all are to confuse fidelity to the gospel with blind allegiance to some partisan political cause of the moment. We all need to guard against this tendency, lest it lead us inadvertently to betray the gospel in both our words and our deeds.

Jim Swenson:

Mr. Bailie (as I now know you prefer to be called), I just caught up with these discussions, or should I say “shock waves,” starting with the flap over your handling of the Bill O’Reilly slanders and rippling through a couple of other posts. Frankly, I am just aghast, but I also feel privileged to have witnessed what has happened here, because it is so emblematic of the crisis in the Church. This crisis amounts to a schism of historic proportions, one that will probably continue unfolding for many years to come. In intellectual history, or “anthropologically speaking,” as you would be fond of saying, everything that is said or written in these pages holds clues that can lead us to the truth.

Mr. Bailie, you are in some sense the face of modern hard-line conservative Catholicism, which brooks no criticism and makes no apologies for its bad behavior. It is so persuaded of its rightness, its absolute God-given mission, and its unassailable moral rectitude that it has no remaining scruples about silencing critics, trampling inquiry, and expelling anyone who dares, however meekly, to raise an objection.

How can you possibly denounce authoritarianism? You are authoritarian to the core. How can you possibly critique scapegoating when you have so thoroughly mastered and deployed its techniques? And how can you throw around the word “anthropology,” when you haven’t a clue how scientists think?

You are a fraud and a phony who would like nothing better than to attract a loyal following of sycophants who hang on your every word. You don’t want to worship God. You want to BE worshipped, and so you have become the false prophet “par excellence.”

Your shabby behavior when you were confronted with your slanders is key to understanding your character. Instead of admitting your error, you looked for some little infraction of your rules that would justify warning everyone to be silent. To shut up. And then you pretended that Ben Boyce’s exposure of you had nothing to do with your fit of pique.

Just so you know, the Cornerstone Forum has a shadow site, operated by one of those unfortunate individuals who made the mistake of thinking you were some kind of intellectual force, only to be thrown off for actually trying to converse with you without at the same time genuflecting. The shadow site is called “The Cornerstone Forum Samizdat,” and it is at https://thecornerstoneforumsamizdat.wordpress.com/.

Cheers, and farewell.

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

Sophie Sommers:

Uh, oh, time for another purge. This time, I’m putting my bets on Jim Swenson, Ben Boyce, Jim Daly, Tim Brock, and, of course, myself. But I will pass the flame onto someone else.

Editor:

Within a couple of hours of Sophie’s final comment, three of the individuals she listed had “disappeared” from The Cornerstone Forum Facebook page. Only Jim Daly and Tim Brock remained.

Requiescant in pace.

Catholicism and Secular Liberalism: Who’s off the Reservation?

Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church in Detroit

Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church in Detroit

by Doughlas Remy

In a post from last Thursday (5/23), Gil Bailie opines about the challenges conservative Catholics face as they attempt to move freely about in a society that is “thoroughly suffused with and monitored by secular liberalism’s worldview and presuppositions.” 

This is a telling admission about the dilemma of modern Catholicism. Bailie himself seems pained by the idea that the Catholic worldview has been marginalized to the point that most educated people find it foreign, unintelligible, and at times shocking: “… liberal opinions are expressed breezily, as though those who might dissent from such views live far, far away—maybe in Kansas, wherever that is.” When one voices views informed by Catholic teaching, he writes, “one is immediately thought beyond the pale of decency.”

As if this is almost too much to contemplate, Bailie briefly engages in wishful thinking. It is the secular liberals who are marginalized: “Many secular liberals have lived most or all of their lives on these intellectual and moral reservations,” he writes. But let’s get real. Bailie is not visiting the reservations; he’s visiting from the reservation. 

Émile Durkheim correctly saw that God is the community. Monotheism’s requirement that there be a single community and a single law accounts for its expansionist and universalizing tendencies, as expressed in the Catholic teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church. Retrenchment of the sort we’re seeing in modern Catholicism creates just the kinds of dilemmas that Bailie experiences in his own dealings with the world. Catholic ideology is no longer universal, widely understood, or necessarily considered legitimate. The “default” worldview has long since become unmoored from Catholic teaching. Quel chagrin!

Take up thy crossWhat to do? Retreat? (hard for a schmoozer like Bailie) Play along? (and deny Christ?) Evangelize? (And be thought beyond the pale of decency?) These are difficult choices when one is, after all, unsure whether one really intends to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. 

Below, I’ve included Gil Bailie’s post, followed by Timothy Brock’s response, and then by Dean Hansen’s:

Gil Bailie writes:

Many of us live and move and have our precarious being inside a social network thoroughly suffused with and monitored by secular liberalism’s worldview and presuppositions. Many secular liberals have lived most or all of their lives on these intellectual and moral reservations, whose unexamined presuppositions they share. Among the pre-conscious but widely held assumptions is that everyone who is intelligent and educated is a secular liberal. If an intelligent and educated person happens to have a religious hobby or two that is not particularly held against him or her, as long as this religious interest is attenuated enough and is deferential to secular liberalism’s various sacred cows.

When one meets people in such settings, it is so confidently assumed that intelligence and education correlate positively with the degree of one’s liberal outlook, that liberal opinions are expressed breezily, as though those who might dissent from such views live far, far away —maybe in Kansas, wherever that is.

laughin_henry_gibsonOne is then faced with either playing along, just to be polite, or voicing one’s views, which—in these settings—are so shocking to the locals that friendships may well not survive the shock. One is immediately thought beyond the pale of decency. And the very worst part is that—in the interest of salvaging the moment and possibly a friendship—one feels the need to insert little liberal sentiments into the ensuing conversation in order to reassure one’s interrogators that one is not, in fact, a Nazi or a George Wallace admirer. It’s a strange, self-enclosed world, and self-reinforced world. 

One does one’s best.

Timothy Brock responds:

Gil, what you’ve written offers a truly fascinating perspective into a conservative Catholic’s experience of a society from which he feels increasingly alienated. I gather from what you’ve revealed about yourself that you move about in the world. You give lectures, you go to conferences, and you meet a lot of people. You’re hardly reclusive or introverted, and the cloistered life would not appeal to you. Retreat is not an option. Obviously, however, your outer-directedness and your sense of calling are increasingly at odds with the world in which you move. It is becoming harder for you to get traction in the world of secular liberalism. Certain values are “assumed,” especially on the West Coast where you live, and they are a strong current to swim against. 

A real and urgent civilizational crisis

A real and urgent civilizational crisis

Our modern world is in many ways in “crisis,” as you say, but perhaps not for the reasons that you think. Even more obvious to me, however, is that the Catholic Church is in crisis, and your musings about your difficulties finding traction in secular settings is one of the symptoms of that crisis.

You are aware of the widening gap between secular society and the teachings of the Church. Sometime in the late 19th century, the Church emphatically rejected modernism. Unfortunately, that entailed a rejection of much that is good about modernism, especially the efflorescence of scientific inquiry. Today, the Church is going its own way, drifting ever farther from the mainstream. In fact, “mainstream” has become a dirty word. It is ridiculed as the “fashion du jour” when in fact outcomes sometimes show that it is coursing in the right direction.

I believe the Church’s blanket repudiation of modernism has contributed mightily to the growing alienation that conservative Catholics feel with regard to their ambient culture. 

Where there is alienation, there is little or no engagement. And yet you have committed yourself to engage with the culture and change it. I think you’ve got an uphill struggle in front of you—and a very frustrating one. Your faith will no doubt give you courage for the task.

Dean Hansen responds with his own translation of Gil Bailie’s post:

Translation:

Not-pleasantJesus (who loves everyone) has nevertheless told me to be wary of people that he loves because they are probably “secular liberals,” and we know that Jesus has no truck with sek’lar libruls. Of course, they’re not quite as bad as ni**ers, kikes, faggots and abortion doctors, but Lordy, Lordy, they’re bad enough!  I know this because I know that Jesus is angry at them since they think for themselves and arrive at conclusions based on rational sense about how the world works. In short, they refuse to live in the same hermetically-sealed, biblically-sterilized world that I do. Now, ironically, I’m tempted to agree with them from time to time, because they make a lot of sense, and I really have to fight the impulse to join with them, which is overpowering at times. I became aware of this tendency on those rare occasions when I doubted my own convictions, when I would be confronted with a profound sense of fatigue, and a corresponding feeling of emptiness. But fortunately, I was able to interpret these feelings correctly: Loss of essence.  Of course, secular liberals sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid liberals, dear friends in Jesus, but I do deny them my essence.  Since I don’t want Jesus to hate me, which he would probably do if I were like them, I have spent my entire life resisting the impulse to be human and share myself with those who would otherwise be my friends.  Bastards!

Peter Sellars and Sterling HaydenThe Bible has provided me with a template which has to be spray painted on everything to test it for reliability. If the conclusions reached by others fall outside the lines of that template, they must be rejected along with the people who hold them, because God is a stickler for accuracy and perfection. Since I am obsessed with doing things correctly and never making mistakes which would result if I actually thought for myself, I will allow myself to be completely blinded by my own presuppositions, because otherwise, I would fall under the sway of my own judgment, and then I would explode. I will do my best therefore to make it sound as though others have rejected me, because I enjoy the illusion of difference that identifies me as being distinct from everyone else. How else can God be on my side unless he’s against everyone else? Being a contrarian about everything is hard, because it goes against the better angels of my nature, but I don’t want to be cast out forever, so I’ll make life hell for myself now and will then be better equipped to enjoy the beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly while being permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell as the special reward granted to the conservative libertarians of God.