Saturday, March 09, 2013

Is 'dialogue' between opposing sides in the 'culture wars' still possible?

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" (Assumption Grotto Church, March 3, 2013), raises a number of questions that made me sit up and take stock. Can members of opposing sides in the current 'Culture Wars' still meaningfully communicate at all? While one cannot discount the role of God's grace, the implications are staggering, for they raise questions about the very possibility of things like the "New Evangelization," which are close to the heart of many in the Church today.

Fr. Perrone addresses what he calls the "ever-growing problem of failure in attempts to dialogue with liberals, that is to say, leftists." Here is what he writes (my emphasis in bold):
You have no doubt noticed the difficulty, even with your relatives of a more freewheeling kind. As our culture (a euphemism here) becomes ever more unmoored from the Christian faith and even from the norms of right reason, we find ourselves confronted by people whose only creed is their own opinion. Discussions with them on topics such as abortion, contraception, cohabitation, assisted suicide and gay marriage on the one hand, and on religion, especially the Catholic Church, on the other, tend to become fruitless exercises, no matter how civil, how irenic the adopted tone. The thought occurs to us, Why can’t they see what’s so obviously reasonable? The problem is this: liberals have now actually got to thinking of themselves as conservatives. In their minds those who uphold moral norms, who pledge adherence to religious faith and Church, these are the dangerous ones, the radicals, while they are traditionalists. You protest this reversal instinctively. The ‘author’ of this grand deception can be none other than the Archdemon, the one our Lord referred to as the Deceiver.

Unless we come to realize that there has been this seismic shift of thought in many minds and thus in culture, efforts to win over those on the opposing side are going to be useless. They will not get it because ‘it’ cannot be comprehended by them. To such persons, it is we who are the radicals, the oppressors, the cause of human suffering, the intolerant ones, the unreasonable, the inhibitors of a happy and free society–we, the religious types, the moralists, who insist on Church, family, marriage, discipline, restraint, received rules and regulations. For liberals, life is whatever they wish it to be, and the meaning of life is determined solely by their passions and desires.

You may recall the early words of Pope Benedict’s pontificate to the effect that there is a growing “dictatorship of relativism” in world consensus. The formation of this new governance over life means that relativism has now the status of dogma. The result is that for liberals this new thinking is the right and ‘traditional’ one, a pragmaticism that’s irrefutable. The only recognized value for them is no value other than the limitless freedom to do anything at all that one pleases and by whatever means will ‘work.’ You say, “It’s like talking to a wall,” referring to your frustrating experience in dealing with such folks. You can’t really talk sense with them precisely because there is no ‘sense,’ that is to say that reasons or truth for them do not make for right. Now that’s a formidable, if not insurmountable problem in trying to ‘dialogue’ or discuss differences with people on the left. It’s a doomed enterprise.

I know this last statement is bleak, hopeless, but I don’t know a way out for such closed minds apart from a special illumination from above. But, come to think of it, there might yet be another way, though I tremble to mention it. The way back to sanity and faith may have to come through suffering. Acute suffering alone may be able to reawaken reason. There is a danger in this, however, that if suffering be not rightly bourne, it may quickly lead to despair–and despair, when complete, leads to self-annihilation. Such is the logical end of meaninglessness leftism.

The culture of death is now entrenched in our politics and we seem poorly able to change it. When people of faith and traditional morality become the enemy of the political powers, we know that we’re in serious trouble. If one asks, What can be done about this? I have no better answer than ask you to pray perseveringly for our country. Certainly it would be ironic for us to despair since that’s the very same final outcome of those committed to the left.

How much we need your rosaries, your holy hours in church, and the witness of your good lives in public. God is not through with us. Neither then should we be hopeless. I wrote for you what is here only to motivate you so much the more to fruitful spiritual action and to try to explain to you why you may have been having such rotten luck in your efforts to evangelize and reason with your wrong-headed friends.
One thing I remember from my debates about "presuppositionalism" back at Westminster many years ago, is the insight that even where epistemological common ground fails with those who do not share our faith, ontological common ground persists insofar as all of us share a common human nature and are created by God in His own image. While that has to count for something, it's slim pickings for 'dialogue.'


Anonymous said...

"You say, “It’s like talking to a wall,” referring to your frustrating experience in dealing with such folks. You can’t really talk sense with them precisely because there is no ‘sense,’ that is to say that reasons or truth for them do not make for right. Now that’s a formidable, if not insurmountable problem in trying to ‘dialogue’ or discuss differences with people on the left. It’s a doomed enterprise. "

That is exactly what the people on the other side of the culture war feel as well. But I think both sides have given up recently. Culture war is a minority concern.

JM said...

Newman's words are most evidently true:

"...What must be the face-to-face antagonist, by which to withstand and baffle the fierce energy of passion and the all-corroding, all-dissolving scepticism of the intellect in religious inquiries? I have no intention at all of denying, that truth is the real object of our reason, and that, if it does not attain to truth, either the premiss or the process is in fault; but I am not speaking here of right reason, but of *** reason as it acts in fact and concretely in fallen man. I know that even the unaided reason, when correctly exercised, leads to a belief in God, in the immortality of the soul, and in a future retribution; but I am considering the faculty of reason actually and historically; and in this point of view, I do not think I am wrong in saying that its tendency is towards a simple unbelief in matters of religion. *** No truth, however sacred, can stand against it, in the long run; and hence it is that in the pagan world, when our Lord came, the last traces of the religious knowledge of former times were all but disappearing from those portions of the world in which the intellect had been active and had had a career."

LJC said...

This is why the new evangelization, like the old one, has to be about becoming saints and martyrs, not engaging in endless dialogue.

Sheldon said...

Culture war is a "minority concern"? Then tell me why the Obama administration has, contrary to his promises, apparently polarized the American electorate more than any other previous president.

If you mean that "culture war" is not a major topic of discussion as such, that may be one thing. But the reality denoted seems to underlie everything in the media, from Stewart's Daily Show to MSNBC.

Sheldon said...

Newman's words about "reason" are profound, as is LJC's sharply stated point.

There comes a time when "dialogue" with the end of "mutual understanding" is a waste of effort.

The Church's top priority then should be catechizing her own flock, and speaking the truth regardless of who is listening or who understands or cares.

Jesus did not say: "Go therefore and dialogue with all nations," but rather: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ... teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you."

We truly do need a "son of a bitch pope" after this conclave.

I am not Spartacus said...

Pope Pius XII Quanta Cura;

...From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an "insanity," viz., that "liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way." But, while they rashly affirm this, they do not think and consider that they are preaching "liberty of perdition;" and that "if human arguments are always allowed free room for discussion, there will never be wanting men who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the flowing speech of human wisdom; whereas we know, from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, how carefully Christian faith and wisdom should avoid this most injurious babbling.

And, since where religion has been removed from civil society, and the doctrine and authority of divine revelation repudiated, the genuine notion itself of justice and human right is darkened and lost, and the place of true justice and legitimate right is supplied by material force, thence it appears why it is that some, utterly neglecting and disregarding the surest principles of sound reason, dare to proclaim that "the people's will, manifested by what is called public opinion or in some other way, constitutes a supreme law, free from all divine and human control; and that in the political order accomplished facts, from the very circumstance that they are accomplished, have the force of right." But who, does not see and clearly perceive that human society, when set loose from the bonds of religion and true justice, can have, in truth, no other end than the purpose of obtaining and amassing wealth, and that (society under such circumstances) follows no other law in its actions, except the unchastened desire of ministering to its own pleasure and interests?"

He is describing America and its "ideals."

When the colonies successfully seceded from the English Crown it was the Judaised Calvinists who had political power and who labored to build a city on a hill (The Heaven on Earth of Talmudism) and from the get go there was a refusal of this new order to offer public worship to Our Triune God as was taught us by Our Lord and Saviour(and demanded by Holy Mother Church) with that worship being The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and so this new order, this new country, was doomed to failure from the beginning.

The new order of america refused to offer public worship to God and it refused to recognise the one true Faith as the religion of this new political order and so we get abortion and we are well on the way to solemnising sodomy as the new order's new sacrament.

When our puissant Prelates, Ireland and Gibbons, successfully labored to bring forth out of Catholicsm the bastid child, Americanism, their successful efforts were the toe-tag affixed to the Catholic Church in America.

It was over a long time ago and so dialogue with the devil that is the "american experiment" has always been doomed from the get go.

As it is true that we are a hierarchical church, it is mandatory that our Bishops cease dialoguing and begin teaching its flock that America must be reformed into a Catholic Confessional State or else all is lost..


I am not Spartacus said...

Immortale Dei - Pope Leo XIII

...As a consequence, the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him, since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose everbounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its teaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion -- it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will. All who rule, therefore, would hold in honor the holy name of God, and one of their chief duties must be to favor religion, to protect it, to shield it under the credit and sanction of the laws, and neither to organize nor enact any measure that may compromise its safety. This is the bounden duty of rulers to the people over whom they rule. For one and all are we destined by our birth and adoption to enjoy, when this frail and fleeting life is ended, a supreme and final good in heaven, and to the attainment of this every endeavor should be directed. Since, then, upon this depends the full and perfect happiness of mankind, the securing of this end should be of all imaginable interests the most urgent. Hence, civil society, established for the common welfare, should not only safeguard the wellbeing of the community, but have also at heart the interests of its individual members, in such mode as not in any way to hinder, but in every manner to render as easy as may be, the possession of that highest and unchangeable good for which all should seek. Wherefore, for this purpose, care must especially be taken to preserve unharmed and unimpeded the religion whereof the practice is the link connecting man with God.

Now, it cannot be difficult to find out which is the true religion, if only it be sought with an earnest and unbiased mind; for proofs are abundant and striking. We have, for example, the fulfillment of prophecies, miracles in great numbers, the rapid spread of the faith in the midst of enemies and in face of overwhelming obstacles, the witness of the martyrs, and the like. From all these it is evident that the only true religion is the one established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which He committed to His Church to protect and to propagate. . . . To exclude the Church, founded by God Himself, from the business of life, from the making of laws, from the education of youth, from domestic society is a grave and fatal error

Eve was the first to enter into dialogue with the other and we all know how well that worked out.

AmBishops are leading us astray by not telling us the truth about Catholicism and the State and trying to make friends with those who hate our guts.

The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church. ; such an evil idea was condemned in the Syllabus of Errors whereas it remains the Devil's Dogma of the antiCatholic political order.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I can give a little bit of hope. I came from standard American heathen culture. My friends and I all had dysfunctional homes. So we sought better living through chemistry; at one point we did not even believe that reality existed.

I did eventually come to understand that truth does exist. And God exists. And a while later the Person on the Cross loved me and did it for me. It took decades to get the the Catholic church; Catholic did not seem to share their faith much, but when the did it was to deride Protestants. But Charity unto death is what convinced me Jesus was real Love.