Tuesday, April 19, 2005


And here I am agreeing with Andrew:


"How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves, thrown from one extreme to the other, from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to todays standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal ones own ego and one's own desires." Pope Benedict XVI, yesterday.

And what is the creed of the Church? That is for the Grand Inquisitor to decide. Everything else - especially faithful attempts to question and understand the faith itself - is "human trickery." It would be hard to over-state the radicalism of this decision. It's not simply a continuation of John Paul II. It's a full-scale attack on the reformist wing of the church. The swiftness of the decision and the polarizing nature of this selection foretell a coming civil war within Catholicism. The space for dissidence, previously tiny, is now extinct. And the attack on individual political freedom is just beginning.- 1:10:00 PM

THE FUNDAMENTALIST TRIUMPH: And so the Catholic church accelerates its turn toward authoritarianism, hostility to modernity, assertion of papal supremacy and quashing of internal debate and dissent. We are back to the nineteenth century. Maybe this is a necessary moment. Maybe pressing this movement to its logical conclusion will clarify things. But those of us who are struggling against what our Church is becoming, and the repressive priorities it is embracing, can only contemplate a form of despair. The Grand Inquisitor, who has essentially run the Church for the last few years, is now the public face. John Paul II will soon be seen as a liberal. The hard right has now cemented its complete control of the Catholic church. And so ... to prayer. What else do we now have?- 12:54:00 PM

NOVAK ON COMMUNISM: Michael Novak's attempt to buttress the notion that one either has to agree with Joseph Ratzinger or endorse complete moral relativism is less than persuasive. I won't address all its flaws. But here's an interesting digression. Novak wants to posit communism as a triumph of the post-Nietzschean relativism that Ratzinger is horrified by. Money quote:

Ratzinger experienced another set of loud shouters in the 1968 student revolution at Tubingen University, this time in the name of Marxist rather than Nazi will. Marxism as much as Nazism (though in a different way) depended on the relativization of all previous notions of ethics and morality and truth, bourgeois ideas, these were called. People who were called upon by the party to kill in the partys name had to develop a relativists conscience.

This is a big stretch. The philosophical appeal of Marxism was and is, for the handful of fools who still cling to it, its claim to absolute, scientific truth. Similarly, Nazism asserted as a scientific fact the superiority or inferiority of certain races. These totalitarian ideologies allowed for no dissent because the truth had been proven. You see precious little relativism in Communist or fascist regimes. They created absolute leaders to embody and enforce the maintenance of their truths. And they believed in the conflation of such truths with all political life, the abolition of autonomy and conscience. In structure, they were and are very close to the structure of a decayed version of Catholicism that asserts one version of the truth, suppresses any and all open discussion of such truths within its power, and elevates a cult-like leader and mass demonstrations to reinforce its propaganda. Querulous, brave and ornery dissent - dissent designed not to obscure the truth but to understand it better - is quashed.

FAITH VERSUS REASON? Now who in the current religious debate reminds you of that? Of course, the Church is not a state; it's a private, voluntary organization. So the analogy is not literal. The Pope does not have a police power. Ratzinger does not order his opponents murdered or imprisoned; he simply silences them or forces them out of the Church (and record numbers of theologians were silenced by the late Pope and record numbers of Catholics left the pews). But the structure of a blind, authoritarian and rigid Ratzingerian faith is very close to the blind, authoritarian and rigid secular totalitarianisms of the recent past. Which is why some former communists have now become the firmest supporters of a Ratzingerian-style faith. They have swapped public political totalitarianism for a private religious one. And like their totalist fellows, their inability to persuade others merely convinces them further of their own truth. Their references are never outside their own thought-system, and all fall conveniently back on the pronouncements of the supreme leader, who alone controls truth and thought. When pressed, they assert that history and nature will prove them right. "We will out-breed you!" they proclaim, in a horrifying echo of a eugenic mandate. Novak, I think, therefore gets things exactly the wrong way round. The alternative to relativism is the difficult process of reason, informed by faith. But that process cannot take place in Ratzinger's Catholic church, because free thought is forbidden. When the conclusions are already dictated, how can you inquire freely? And if you cannot inquire freely, how can Catholics actually believe their own faith with the aid of their own reason? We are, after all, told to understand our faith, not merely swallow it unthinkingly. But how can we understand if we cannot question? And how can we fully believe if even asking the questions is forbidden?

FIGHTING BACK AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM: Conservatives who believe in a strict separation of religion and politics and Christians who are saddened by the ascent of extremism and fundamentalism within their faith communities have options other than passivity. They have the blogosphere. Cardinal Ratzinger cannot silence us and the capitulation of the conservative media to fundamentalism also opens a space in the blogosphere for dissent. Here's a great response to Eric Cohen's attack on living wills in the Weekly Standard; and here's a liberal Catholic's responses to challenges from the Ratzingerian magazine Crisis. I should also recommend Bruce Bawer's classic case against the fundamentalist attack on the core priorities of the Gospel message. The book is called "Stealing Jesus." And how they have.

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