The Last Guinness
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Catholics and the Culture of Hate

I want to express my agreement with this piece by Dawn Eden and William Doino decrying the hatred so often on display in the intra-Catholic debate. Here’s a key passage:

But while it is no secret that American Catholics have been publicly bickering with one another since the end of Vatican II (and well before then, if one reads a little history), what we are seeing now is more disturbing than a simple clash of ideologies.

It is a culture war — but not the broader, endlessly discussed “culture war” between blue- and red-state America. Rather, it is a more specific, more intense, intramural Catholic culture war. It is not pretty and, more importantly, its viciousness serves only to confirm to those outside the Church that, while we call ourselves Christians, we are unable to live out the most basic precepts of Christian compassion and charity.

Sometimes it can be very difficult or even impossible to tell the truth without giving offense. Sometimes it can be difficult to state an unwelcome truth in such a way that it is not also an act of malice, especially concerning a topic on which one has strong emotions. For myself, I find that one useful guideline is to ask myself whether I’m going to take pleasure in what I say and if so what sort of pleasure. Have I said something which gives me particular enjoyment because it makes my opponent appear ridiculous? Am I pleased by the thought that I’m inflicting a wound? If so, that part probably needs to go. For instance, I left a sarcastic comment on Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in another thread a little while ago. Need I have said that thing? Well, to take note the facts was justifiable. But in that way, and with that note of personal scorn? Probably not.

Some while back Daniel suggested that perhaps my exposure to liberal Catholics (liberal in both ecclesiastical and political senses) at the Jesuit school where I work had caused me to become more consciously conservative. Actually the effect has been quite different: it has caused me to become more consciously “liberal” in the sense of tolerant. It has not moved me at all in the direction of embracing liberal opinions but it has had some effect in helping me see Catholics with whom I have important disagreements as serious and honest and as much deserving of respect as anyone who is (regrettable term) on my side.

Yes, it’s true that the prophets spoke quite harshly, as did our Lord himself on certain occasions. But the prophets were chosen clearly by God and operating under his direct orders. We ought to be fearful of assuming such authority for ourselves. And as for the invective used by Jesus against certain Pharisees and others: well, it seems pretty clear that commandments such as those about loving our enemies and doing as we would be done by describe what ought to be our presumptive attitude, and the one we should struggle to maintain.



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