Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Of Dionne, Sullivan, and hypocrisy, or, Why I am a Catholic

Am I evil?Yes I am.
Am I evil?I am man, yes I am.

E.J. Dionne – excuse me for a minute <hack, hack>, man I can’t seem to shake this cough.  Must be the cigars.  To start again, E. J. Dionne <hack, hack, hack>.  Damn, really got to stick with Monte Cristos. Anyway, Dionne is up to his usual tricks:
The contrast between these two accounts explains why economic conservatives currently hold the upper hand in America's political debate. The conservatives have a single, coherent story and stick to it: economic change is good for everyone, especially for consumers who get better stuff at lower prices. The fact that ``producer groups'' (such as those unions) are losing their ``monopolies'' and their capacity for ``rent seeking'' is cheered as progress. If you don't like creative destruction, they say, move to North Korea where there is plenty of destruction of the uncreative sort.

The left's narrative is less compelling not only because there is no single story, but also because few on the left attack the current system with the same gusto the right brings to defending it. Gone, for good reason, is the time when significant parts of the left called for ``government ownership of the means of production.'' Much of the left accepts a certain amount of creative destruction because, in Margaret Thatcher's famous phrase, there is no alternative.
Yes, I have heard this all before.  It’s not really about the issues, but instead it’s about the narratives.  Yadda yadda yadda.  If only the left can stick to a narrative they’d be able to convince the folks in the sticks to vote for them.  The left likes to engage in this fairy tale bit of analysis that they don’t really lose on the issues, but only that the co-opted the message and effectively spun the story to their favor.  It’s a favorite delusion of the Kossaks and many others within the blogosphere.  This usually falls in line with a bit of psycho-analysis that tries to argue that conservatives don’t really believe the things they say, but only say them to appease the masses.  

What never seems to dawn on these modern-day Freudians is the possibility that, after all, the public actually agrees with the principles involved, or that conservatives are earnest when they promote policy x.  It is inconceivable to them that they are pushing an agenda that the majority of people find repugnant, or is simply wrong.  No, they’d rather find some alternative “narrative” to explain their constant failures at the polls and in the realm of political discourse.

This completely disingenuous line of argumentation reached a fever pitch today over at Southern Appeal.  Feddie was all over excitable Andy’s objections to certain Church developments today.  In short, the Pope Benedict XVI has had the temerity to uphold 2,000 years of Church tradition, and dapper Andy (whose freak-out advisory seems stuck on “Filled with heart-ache at such Godsmacking vileness”) has lashed out at this affront to the catechism according to Sullivan.  While I can understand Andy’s lament that the Catholic Church has not bent its teachings to conform wholly to Andrew Sullivan’s personal beliefs, more than a few readers have suggested that there is an alternative for those Christians who dislike hierarchy.  Something tells me the Episcopalian Church would have no problem embracing Sully with open arms.

Rather than accept the fact that our beef with excitable Andy is his defiance of clear Church doctrine, Publius has read into our objections a more subtle and malicious motivation.  He offers his helpful psychoanalysis here:
put another way, I think we should stop pretending this is about "sin." It's about other things (both political and psychological). Birth control is apparently a "sin" and no one cares.

And here.
Of course, Publius also relies on the old liberal standby: the red herring.  Not content to argue about point a, he must bring up point z.  Though point a and point z have nothing to do with each other, somewhere in the fevered pitch of the leftist imagination it points up some perceived hypocrisy where none exist.  But hey, what’s the fun of arguing the point directly when doing so might lead one to argue an indefensible position.  

Nowhere in these comments is consideration given to the fact that those making arguments on behalf of the Church might – GASP – be actually making an argument that has to do with religion.  Oh no, it’s all about some subliminal urge to keep the gay man down.  

I’ll put it this way.  When a large group of men advocating a position that contravenes the Church’s position on birth control attempt to join the seminary, I’ll wager that the Vatican will become motivated to throw a penalty flag.  Similarly, the Church does not look too kindly on prospective priests who work for Planned Parenthood, or who regularly pay visits to prostitutes.  

It may pain certain individuals that the Church holds these positions – but guess what: you don’t have to be a Catholic.  The Inquisition is over, thus you are free to join any Church you want.  But somehow some individuals have gotten it into their heads that the Catholic Church must bend over backwards to placate their beliefs.  Sorry amigo, it doesn’t work like that.

None of this is to say that I am somehow holier or more devout than anyone else.  Believe me, I stand in awe of our own Unconfirmable and his bedrock faith and devotion.  I am a sinner, just like every other mortal man.  But I do not expect the Church to change its doctrine just in order to relieve my guilt.  

The beautiful thing about the Church, and the reason I remain a Catholic, is its tradition.  I also stand in awe of people like Jimmy Akin, Mark Shea, Steven Dillard (a.k.a. Feddie).  They are all converts, and it always seems that converts are the most devout members of any religion.  But I was born a Catholic, have remained a Catholic, and have never really wavered.  So what keeps me going to Church on Sunday?

A couple of years ago I attended my first Latin Mass.  It was Novus Ordo, but most of it was in Latin.  I’ve recited the Creed a million times, give or take, but as soon as the choir started “Credo in unum Deum,” I melted.  It was as though I were transported back through time.

And then I went to my first Tridentine Mass.  Again, it was as though I was there at the Passion.  I truly felt the presence of God.  And even though I feel the Novus Ordo fails to convey that same spiritual oneness, the Church in general makes me feel a connectedness that no other denomination can make me feel.  And the reason for that is that the Church has maintained so much of what it was at the time of Peter.  This is not a blind acceptance of all things old, but merely an awareness that there is an eternal presence that the Church conveys and upholds.  It has changed when the Holy Spirit has so moved it, but that sense of connectedness remains.

It is not a plebiscitary democracy.  It doesn’t change because a majority of its adherents think its dogma too burdensome.  I applaud that and cherish it.


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