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[Nowadays the devil has made such a mess of everything in the system of life on earth that the world will presently become uninhabitable for anybody but Saints. The rest will drag their lives out in despair or fall below the level of man. The antinomies if human life are too exasperated, the burden of matter too oppressive; merely to exist, one has to expose oneself to many snares. Christian heroism will one day become the sole solution for the problems of life. —Jacques Maritain]

1. A Culture of Monsters

Pro-life intellectuals and activists have accurately characterized our culture as a culture of death, following the late, great John Paul II, but perhaps it is time to update our terminology. I propose a new term, “anti-culture,” borrowing from the sociological lexicon of the late, great Philip Rieff, the brilliant and prophetic Jewish sociologist and author of the classic Triumph of the Therapeutic. An anti-culture is worse than a culture of death, for it works to render its devotees, both those witting and unwitting, both incapable of knowing the truth, and incapable of loving the truth if by chance they ever came to know it. I shall try to illustrate the suitability of this new term with a couple of examples.

The Virginia Tech massacre of April, 2007 is the most recent, well-known, and shocking illustrations of our sick culture, though we must remember that such murderous violence, both in intensity and in scope, is an almost daily occurrence in Iraq. There can be hardly anything more horrific than indiscriminate, cold blooded murder, and the obvious connection between this man’s insane acts and the pervasive cultural poisons of pornography and violent video games is undeniable. However, I think there is another example that even more effectively confirms the aforementioned quotes. In October 2006, a teenage girl in Atlanta desired an unnatural relationship with another teenage girl, but the desire wasn’t mutual. As a consequence, the girl tried to kill herself by driving head-on into another car. The girl survived, but the driver in the other car did not. The driver who died was a mother of three children, one of them a six-year-old girl.

It only takes a moment of reflection to recognize the profound evil of this crime: The senselessness of it, its utter banality, its absurdity—words can’t accurately describe it—even the word evil seems wanting. If revenge is the motive, how does killing oneself, as well as a perfect stranger, obtain it, especially if the person on whom one is attempting to exact revenge could care less about you? And why risk the life of an absolute stranger when suicide and revenge is the aim—why not just jump off a bridge? This seems beyond ordinary wickedness. Murdering other human beings from a motive of uncontrollable rage, envy, hatred, fear, or insanity is at least intelligible, though of course not excusable. But killing another person, a mother with young children for that matter, for apparently no motive whatsoever, not even the passion of hate, seems to me to be the very essence of evil. The diabolical Marquis de Sade once suggested that evil done from a motive of complete apathy is the purest of evil, since having a passion for anything, including the hateful passion for murder, indicates a lack of autonomy and self-possession. The Marquis would be proud of his twenty-first century spiritual daughter from Atlanta.

The exquisite disdain for and indifference towards human life evinced in these two seemingly unrelated and isolated criminal acts is, I submit, a symptom and manifestation of something much more fundamental and sinister than merely the wickedness of two individuals, on the one hand, or the wickedness of the “culture” on the other. Of course, the perpetrators were, as individuals, quite evil, and our violence and sex-soaked media culture did play a significant causal role in both of the crimes. But to achieve the profound level of depravity and inhumanness that these crimes evince, I submit, requires deliberate and systematic cultivation, something outside the capacity of individuals, however wicked, or the culture, however necrophillic. Rather, such exquisite cultivation is the earmark of something more sophisticated than brute evil or an anarchic cultural milieu. It presupposes a very particular social, cultural, and political milieu in which such acts can become imaginable, let alone desirable. In short, such exquisite acts of evil require a tradition for both conception and birth.

What I am trying to express with these graphic illustrations is the fact that Catholic, pro-life intellectuals are not contending merely with formidable anti-life ideas, but a systematic and coherent body of such ideas, united by a historical and publicly-authoritative narrative, and embodied in well-entrenched and concrete habits, attitudes, customs, rituals, institutions, and practices—a full-fledged, anti-life—and anti-cultural—tradition. And though not every devotee of this anti-life tradition will become an actual murderer or suicide, the most logical of its devotees will—and the implicit logic of this anti-culture is becoming more and more explicit. Archbishop Martinez makes the point well in a remarkable essay entitled “Beyond Secular Reason”:

Nihilism is today not a philosophy, it is above all a practice, and a practice of suicide even if is a soft suicide. It is the suicide of the depressed. It is also a practice of violence. The secular society lives in daily violence, violence with reality. This violence shows that nihilism cannot and does not correspond to our being. But it shows also, in a very concrete way, how the secular society annihilates itself by engendering the very monsters that terrify it most and that it itself hates most.

As I shall try to show in the remainder of this paper, what pro-life Catholics require to vanquish these monsters, or better, to prevent their conception and birth, are not only credible and coherent, pro-life philosophies and theologies, but also attractive and accessible, pro-life philosophical and theological practices. They must be attractive to invite salvific gazes from spiritually diseased onlookers, and accessible to enable and sustain willing and active participation. There is an intrinsic and extricable relationship between theoria and praxis, and practices embodying natural and supernatural ideas, more than the ideas themselves, are indispensable for both genuine spiritual conversion and effective intellectual refutation. Unless our pro-life philosophical and theological ideas be incarnated in integrally Catholic social, cultural—and political—practices, our ideas, however true and well articulated, will be as ineffective in convincing and converting the ordinary person as they would the monsters described at the outset.

II. Liberalism: The Tradition of the Psychopath

Liberalism, it must be admitted, is the established tradition in western culture. As MacIntyre has famously observed, “The contemporary debates within modern political systems are almost exclusively between conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals.” Yet, is the cultural soil of liberalism truly capable of germinating the kind of monsters I have been describing? Have not psychotic murders been present throughout human history Is not liberalism, at least in its classical variety, nothing more than the establishment of a level political and economic, even cultural, playing field where good and evil can freely fight it out?

The liberal claim was to provide a political, legal, and economic framework in which assent to one and the same set of rationally justifiable principles would enable those who espouse widely different and incompatible conceptions of the good life for human beings to live together peaceably within the same society. Every individual is to be equally free to propose and to live by whatever theory or tradition he or she may adhere to.

Seems quite harmless, does it not? Here, MacIntyre revises his description of liberalism’s self image:

Liberalism in the name of freedom imposes a certain kind of unacknowledged domination, and one which in the long run tends to dissolve traditional human ties and to impoverish social and cultural relationships. Liberalism, while imposing through state power regimes that declare everyone free to pursue whatever they take to be their own good, deprives most people of the possibility of understanding their lives as a quest for the discovery and achievement of the good, especially by the way in which it attempts to discredit those traditional forms of human community within which this project has to be embodied.

It only takes a few logical steps to realize that if the established, hegemonic tradition is one that “discredits traditional forms of human community,” such as family and church, and deprives “most people” of knowing their true good, disastrous consequences must follow. If we cannot know our good, then how can we love it? If we can not know or love our good, then how can we love ourselves and others? MacIntyre goes on:

To be educated into the culture of a liberal social order is, therefore, characteristically to become the kind of person to whom it appears normal that a variety of goods should be pursued, each appropriate to its own sphere, with no overall good supplying any overall unity to life.

If there is no overall and antecedent good or unity to my life, then my life is inherently meaningless—and so is everybody else’s. I might choose to create meaning for my life and others, or I might not. What is the upshot of this? Jim Kalb provides a very startling answer:

Since it is choice itself that makes something good, one does not choose things for their goodness but simply because one chooses them. Choices thus become arbitrary, and human actions essentially non-rational. On such a view, the rational component of morality is reduced to the therapeutic task of clarifying choices and the technical task of securing their satisfaction efficiently and equally… It is the outlook of a psychopath.

“I want what I want.” As Benedict XVI warns: “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”

III: Beyond Secular Reason

Liberalism, that ideology defined precisely by its rejection of and claim to transcend tradition, has transformed into a tradition itself, and it is not the tolerant and inclusive one it pretends to be, as MacIntyre suggests here:

Liberalism is often successful in preempting the debate… so that [objections to it] appear to have become debates within liberalism… There is little place in such political systems for the criticism of the system itself, that is, for putting liberalism in question.

There was once a time when liberals would decry even the suggestion of its potential for establishment as a betrayal of liberalism, a reversal of the Enlightenment, a corruption of the universally accessible reason it is founded upon by a regressive admixture of exclusivist, irrational belief. However, things have changed. To use the phrase of Archbishop Javier Martinez of Granada, we have moved “beyond secular reason.” The era of Enlightenment, modern, foundationalist, universalist, idealist liberalism has been displaced by post-Enlightenment, post-modern, anti-foundationalist, particularist, pragmatic liberalism. Many of today’s liberal theorists, such as Richard Rorty, Jeffrey Stout, and Gary Gutting, have not only admitted liberalism’s traditionalist identity and hegemony, but have defended it precisely as such. Tom Bridges summarizes the raison d’etre of the traditionalist liberal project:

If liberalism is to survive the collapse of Enlightenment culture, liberals must now attempt to de-universalize or contextualize their political language, to learn to explain and advocate liberal democratic moral ideals in a vocabulary that can express the particularism of liberal political norms without thereby invalidating them.

And Jeffrey Stout, perhaps the most sophisticated spokesman of postmodern liberalism, writes:

There is much to be gained by abandoning the image of democracy as essentially opposed to tradition, as a negative force that tends by its nature to undermine culture and the cultivation of virtue. Democracy is a culture, a tradition, in its own right. It has an ethical life of its own, which philosophers would do well to articulate. Pragmatism is best viewed as an attempt to bring the notions of democratic deliberation and tradition together in a single philosophical vision. To put the point aphoristically and paradoxically, pragmatism is democratic traditionalism.[1]

What liberals have awoken to, and what many orthodox Catholics thinkers, unfortunately, have not, is that the Enlightenment is over. As Jurgen Habermas stated in his remarkable 2004 exchange with the former Cardinal Ratzinger, Western culture is now “post-secular.” Liberalism has finally recognized and accepted the contingent, particularist, historically and culturally conditioned, non-necessary, non-self-evident (pace Thomas Jefferson), and eminently debatable character of its first principles. The post-modern, traditionalist liberal no longer has to bear the impossible burden of identifying his philosophical system with reason itself, and, now that it has become firmly established as a living tradition, where before it was only an abstract system of thought, he can defend liberalism in the same manner as Catholics defend Catholicism, as both our tradition, and as the best tradition, as both good for us and for others, as historical and limited in origin and embodiment, but timeless and universal in scope and significance.

IV. We’re All Traditionalists Now

This traditionalist turn in liberalism necessitates a radical change in strategy for pro-life, orthodox, traditionalist Catholics—and all Catholics are traditionalists by definition. Unlike the liberal Catholic, we endorse wholeheartedly integrally Catholic practices and discourse; yet we limit the participation in and scope of these to the in-house crowd, as it were. For those outside our tradition, and for the secular public sphere in general, we have pursued a program of translation. We urge ourselves to speak only the language of universal public reason to strangers, thereby secularizing, moralizing, and politicizing what is distinctly theological and spiritual in our tradition, both in doctrine and in practice, so as to render it intelligible to non-Catholics and practically effective for secular society.

However, this strategy presupposes two fundamental ideas that in light of the traditionalist turn need to be reexamined. The first is that there is such a thing as the “secular,” that is, an ideologically neutral, universal, public world accessible to and based upon a universal public reason, abstracted from the practical and speculative particularities of tradition. If there is no objective, public reason, then all we are left with, this idea fears, are the postmodernist hermeneutics of suspicion, where any affirmation of true or good are unmasked as wither mere idiosyncrasy or the will to dominate. The second idea that must be reconsidered is the easy separability of theoria and praxis, the confidence that one can effectively strain out from the concrete practices and particularist discourse of one’s tradition a secular, universally accessible remainder intelligible to all regardless of traditional allegiance.

Regarding the existence of a secular reason or public space neutral to any particular tradition, MacIntyre writes:

Either reason is thus impersonal, universal, and disinterested or it is the unwitting representative of particular interests, masking their drive to power by its false pretensions to neutrality and disinterestedness. What this alternative conceals from view is a third possibility, the possibility that reason can only move towards being genuinely universal and impersonal insofar as it is neither neutral nor disinterested, that membership in a particular type of moral community, one from which fundamental dissent has to be excluded, is a condition for genuinely rational enquiry and more especially for moral and theological enquiry.

For MacIntyre, it is only through active participation in particular authentic traditions that men are rendered capable of discovering and achieving their ultimate good. For it is always through a particular tradition that we ascend to universal truth. Indeed, without tradition we are unable to make any sense of reality at all, because our bodies, minds, and souls are, largely, products of tradition themselves. As body and soul composites, our encounters with reality are mediated by bodies, which are themselves mediated by history and culture. Even the words and concepts we use to interpret and make sense of the brute facts of reality originate and develop in what MacIntyre calls “traditions of rationality.” All men are necessarily habituated into a particular tradition, even if it is an incoherent and considerably defective one like the tradition of liberalism. Outside of tradition coherent knowledge and discovery of the good is practically impossible. We are, in MacIntyre’s improvement on Aristotle’s classic definition, “tradition-dependent rational animals.” As Paul Griffiths puts it:

To be confessional is simply to be open about one’s historical and religious locatedness, one’s specificity, and openness that is essential for serious theological work and indeed for any serious intellectual work that is not in thrall to the myth of the disembodied and unlocated scholarly intellect.

Regarding the capacity to translate particular religious truth into non-religious public reason, MacIntyre articulates what can be called the traditionalist dilemma:

The theologian begins from orthodoxy, but the orthodoxy which has been learnt from Kierkegaard and Barth becomes too easily a closed circle, in which believer speaks only to believer, in which all human content is concealed. Turning aside from this arid in-group theology, the most perceptive theologians wish to translate what they have to say to an atheistic world. But they are doomed to one of two failures. Either [a] they succeed in their translation: in which case what they find themselves saying has been turned into the atheism of their hearers. Or [b] they fail in their translation: in which case no one hears what they have to say but themselves.

Is there a solution to this dilemma? If there is, the indispensable condition for its realization, I maintain, is the recognition of the illusory nature of pluralism. There is no such thing as state pluralism, only the domination of one tradition over another in the public sphere, and no such thing as liberalism, if this means a sphere of reason or action that escapes the particularism and exclusivity of tradition. And since traditions of rationality are distinguished by the particular way they grapple with matters of ultimate concern, all traditions are ultimately religious. In what I consider to be one of the most remarkable passages I have ever come across, in its simultaneous profundity, comprehensiveness, and terseness, David Schindler writes:

A nonconfessional state is not logically possible, in the one real order of history. The state cannot finally avoid affirming, in the matter of religion, a priority of either “freedom from” or “freedom for”—both of these priorities implying a theology.

If Catholics do not think, speak, and act distinctively as Catholics, bringing their intellectual, moral, and liturgical tradition wherever they go, as it were, in imitation of Socrates, whom Catherine Pickstock once declared a “walking liturgy,” then we stand no chance at converting the liberal traditionalists of the culture of death, traditionalists who have no qualms about communicating to themselves and others exclusively in their religious parlance of tolerance and diversity, and inviting all into their liturgical practices of abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. Indeed, they see themselves as the “true believers,” the only ones truly defending “life,” with us as the heretics, obsessed only with death and control, as H. Tristram Englehardt insightfully points out:

The new culture does not regard itself as a culture of death, but as a culture of life and liberation. Each culture is to the other a counter-culture, marking a profound break in our history, our self-understanding, and our appreciation of life and death.

How can these deluded devotees have any hope of ever renouncing their enslaving tradition unless they are made aware of its enslaving character? And how can they become aware unless they have some palpable experience of an alternative? The tradition they inhabit deprives them of the existential conditions required to see moral truths, let alone religious ones, as Englehardt points out:

In the grip of Enlightenment dispositions regarding religion, few are inclined to recognize that the moral life once disengaged from a culture of worship loses its grasp on the moral premises that rightly direct our lives and foreclose the culture of death.

I conclude with a quote from D. Stephen Long, who, though a non-Catholic, seems to understand the priority of tradition better than many of us. Notwithstanding the tradition-constituted nature of rationality, and the manifest superiority of the Augustinian-Thomist tradition over all others, those outside our tradition sometimes can perceive its character more clearly than those inside who are, perhaps, blinded by proximity:

Beginning with the flesh of Jesus and its presence in the church, theology alone can give due order to other social formations—family, market, and state. The goodness of God is discovered not in abstract speculation, but in a life oriented toward God that creates particular practices that require the privileging of certain social institutions above others. The goodness of God can be discovered only when the church is the social institution rendering intelligible our lives… For a Christian account of this good, the church is the social formation that orders all others. If the church is not the church, the state, the family, and the market will not know their own true nature.



Notes

[1] Jeffrey Stout, Democracy and Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 13.

Originally published in Life and Learning.

 

About the author: Dr. Thaddeus Kozinski

 

Dr. Thaddeus Kozinski teaches philosophy, theology, and humanities at Wyoming Catholic College, and is the author of The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism: And Why Philosophers Can’t Solve It (Lexington Books).

 

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45 Comments

  1. Stephen Borthwick

    There is stunning truth to this entire article; however, I can perceive in it one fault, which is that it presents as newly-discovered many things that Traditionalists both within and without the Roman Catholic milieu have known for almost a century, or at least since the 1920s.

    Oswald Spengler observed very early (1921 “Prussianism and Socialism”) that Liberalism is, as much as its Christian predecessor, an all-encompassing thing in which we are trapped as members of Western Civilisation. For Spengler, fatalism made it impossible for us to escape, but many of his contemporaries were more optimistic. They saw the opportunity to free themselves from Modern presuppositions by recognising that democracy, parliamentarianism, and all parties and ideologies that exist therein, would need to be swept fully aside; such a realisation led to many radical experimentations in ideology, among which may be counted both the untried Distributist experiment and the defeated Fascist experiment. Exemplary of efforts to express the anti-Liberal movement were the authors of the “Conservative Revolution” in Weimar Germany, but it was as alive in England and America, among Distributists and others who defy categorisation. Seward Collins’ attraction to the label “Fascist” despite his agreement with much of Chesterton’s Distributist ideas has something to do with this.

    I am nevertheless very pleased to see here a Distributist coming to the realisation that many Traditionalists have already reached; I hope that it will bring non-Distributist Traditionalists and truly Orthodox Conservatives together with Distributism in such a way that it might affect destruction of the evil establishment in which we are all forced to live. We might bear in mind Belloc here: “The Church is a perpetually defeated thing that always outlives her conquerers”.

    Even the might of Rome was brought to its knees (spiritually and physically) by the power of the Faith; it is not a vain hope, therefore, that the false religion of Liberalism will likewise be destroyed, and our society once again brought to the One Truth.

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  3. Thaddeus Kozinski

    I agree that this is not all new for Catholic traditionalists, but what is new is that the liberals are more self-conscious of it and admit it freely. What is also new is the effective deconstruction of “secular reason” by people like John Milbank and Alasdair MacIntyre and William Cavanaugh. No meta-narratives are now a priori dismissable, for it is seen that there can be no absence of such narratives, nor a narrative that automatically trumps all others by being somehow the standard of “reason” and thus more universal and objective. The Enlightenment myth is dead. So, Catholics are in a good position to defend their narrative as the best one, the true one, the salvific one, and they can do it without having to translate into some lingua franca of the Enlightenment. We’re back to the beginning, as it were.

    Nevertheless, while this new openness to radical orthodoxy is apparent in the intellectual milieu, what is also apparent is the most sophisticated and relentless use of psy-ops and thought control by the ruling classes that the world has ever known. Scapegoating through false-flags has become a mastered technology, and not many are able to escape from its diabolical energy with their souls intact.

  4. Not one of my favorite articles here. It was hard to get past the instance of someone committing suicide as if it were somehow an understood and willed act rather than a momentary decision made in the midst of despair, which seems a lot more likely.

  5. Great article, very hard to read for the common person, but I struggled through it. It would be nice to put it in more common language (12th grade?) More people need to realize what is going on. I love Wyoming Catholic College. Bill

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  8. I’m wondering why you didn’t see fit to mention two topics among your signature manifestations of our “culture of death”…war and the death penalty. It seems that if same-sex marriage, violent video games and pornography, which (other moral objections notwithstanding) typically do not involve directly and violently ending a human life, all make the cut, that these two, shall we say, more “traditional” affronts to God’s Law should, at least, be given a footnote. Likewise, nary a mention of our capitalist “culture of death” which degrades and exploits humans in that time frame *after* they’ve been saved from abortion, but *before* they need to be saved from euthenasia. Anyway (imho), cherrypicking hot-button traditionalist (i.e. conservative) causes while ignoring traditionalists’ own moral relativism does not make for a strong case.

  9. Thaddeus Kozinski

    See my article on this website on Occupy Wall Street, “Victims of Mammon” for a radical critique of capitalism. I think the war on terror is essentially a scapegoating psy-op.

  10. Pat:
    “It seems that if same-sex marriage, violent video games and pornography, which (other moral objections notwithstanding) typically do not involve directly and violently ending a human life, all make the cut, that these two, shall we say, more “traditional” affronts to God’s Law should, at least, be given a footnote. Likewise, nary a mention of our capitalist “culture of death” which degrades and exploits humans in that time frame *after* they’ve been saved from abortion, but *before* they need to be saved from euthenasia.”

    Sorry, Pat. Including war, torture, slavery, bigotry, exploiting children for labor and making women subservient to men doesn’t work for this vision. Because those things have been in the culture all along. Being traditional didn’t solve them. It’s all about the sex, you see.

  11. I really liked the article as a whole, but of all the immoral things in world you single out…..video games? really? nothing has ever been found to back that up, the closest thing to it, is that violent people are drawn to violent video games, nothing has been found that says they can make ordinary people violent. Things like school and work are the sources of far more violence that video games could ever hope of having. Violent video games in the end are barely a drop in the blood bath that is modern society.

    In closing I firmly agree with what this article is trying to say, but blaming video games, but not even mentioning school or the modern workplace is a little bit off.

  12. Thaddeus Kozinski

    Why you are singling out my very brief mention of violent video games and pornography as perhaps having an influence on the Virginia Tech killer, as if that were my thesis, is beyond me. Did you even read the rest of the article? You seem to miss the whole point of the article. But, since you mention it: video games’ simulated murder is not just for entertainment and making money of young people–it can be seen as a quite deliberate effort to change psyches. The military uses such games to desensitize soldiers to killing. It’s social engineering, to make people willing to kill for the state.

  13. Thaddeus Kozinski

    And the whole point of mentioning violent video games and pornography is to declare that such things are more symptoms than causes, symptoms of something more sinister and subtle. I had thought this was apparent.

  14. A remarkable piece–but doesn’t the work of Vatican II and C. S. Lewis offer a way towards a real pluralism, a real space for people to live even while they embrace different religious traditions? Take Weigel’s discussion in The Cube and the Cathedral of the Polish Constitution, where the Polish state commits itself to the good, the true and the beautiful, pointing all citizens towards these things, whether theist or atheist. Indeed, there are many lived experiences today of people from different faiths and of different convictions able to live amicably with each other, and it would seem that such true community would be the ideal place for the Catholic to offer Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of every desire of the human heart.

    Wouldn’t the language to break through the philosophical differences be the language of the transcendentals, desired by every human heart, especially as laid out by Father Robert Spitzer, SJ, in Healing the Culture? If every human heart truly does have that intrinsic longing for God, then no matter what has gotten in the way (traditions, sin, etc.), God can still break through, grace can still break through, truth and beauty and love and being and goodness can all draw humans like iron to a magnet? And isn’t a community where neighbor loves neighbor, no matter the religion of the other, the best place for a person to encounter God as these transcendentals?

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  16. The MacIntyre I recall reading is thus committed to ongoing rational debate between traditions and goes so far as to propose modeling universities on such debate in Three Rival Traditions of Moral Enquiry. The MacIntyre Kozinski presents us with despairs of rational debate; Kozinski’s MacIntyre seeks to shore up Catholic triumphalism via the equivalent of a reductio ad Hitlerum rather than seeking to test the Augustinian Thomist tradition against the strongest possible objections.

    For more on this, check out my post, which I’m afraid is quite critical of this post (without intending any disrespect):

    http://innocentsmithjournal.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/on-the-pitfalls-of-having-an-intellectual-hero/

  17. Dr. Kozinski, I did, I really did like this article. I did read the whole thing, and again to make sure I got it. Indeed that’s what I like about the Review is that you are almost required to read something multiple times, in other words you have to really think. My above comment was originally 8 times longer, but I thought the length of it, made the comment as a whole look hyper-critical so I cut most of it out, it touched on everything you mentioned in your comments, expect military training which hadn’t come to my mind, but again I thought the comment looked bad so I cut most of it. I don’t want to rewrite the first comment again, as it will likely sound worse than it does now. Lastly I said “a little bit off” because I really did think it was merely a little bit off, I am just a bad word smith I guess.
    Again I really did enjoy reading the article, thank you for taking the time to write it, and for replying to my above comment.

  18. In a secularized framework, there is no Satan causing the problem, only men, unfallen men who can save themselves by their own ingenuity – this isn’t “neutral” at all, but rather a serious heresy called “Conservatism”. As many traditionalist sources have pointed out, even joining forces with Protestantism is a disaster, because Protestants allow contraception (even abortion under certain “exceptions”), which is at the root of the sexual revolution. Without the authority of the One True Church, there is literally nobody out there to tell secularists and Protestants alike, “No!”.

    The ‘traditionalist’ response to all this is quite simply to publicly recognize that the Popes of the last 150 years have already warned and explained why such pluralism is illogical, going to flop, and against Christianity itself. Those opposed to telling it like it is are either ignorant, don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, or have ill motives towards Christ. There is no need to re-invent the wheel or turn to modern thinkers to tell us what the One True Church has already made very clear.

  19. Thaddeus Kozinski

    InnocentSmith:

    In my book, which includes about 120 pages on the work of MacIntyre, I give a more scholarly account, both expository and critical.

    Rene Girard has made it overwhelmingly clear that murderous scapegoating is the foundation of all non-Gospel-converted social orders, including liberalism. Abortion, the demonization of Muslims, and the hoax-like war on terror bear this out unmistakably.

  20. Thaddeus Kozinski

    Nick:

    Agreed! My book “The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism: And Why Philosopher’s Can’t Solve It” is a philosophical defense of the Catholic confessional state. I also argue that there is no way out of confessional political orders, the only question is which confession and whether there is freedom to opt out of one confessional order for another. We are seeing that the confessional order we are in, the therapeutic/scapegoating-occupying/consumerist/eroticist state-empire, opting out is pretty much forbidden now. It is illegal even to protest it.

  21. Dr. Kozinski,

    I enjoyed this article, but was wondering if I have your thesis right. From what I gather, you are suggesting that rather than trying to dialogue with secular (or perhaps now post-secular) persons by avoiding all references to faith, we simply ought to talk as the liberals talk: that the truths of our worldview are a given?

    I find this idea fascinating and wonderful if I understand it correctly, but my question is, how can we ever get around the inevitable comments: “Okay, yeah, but I don’t believe in God, so, your argument is nonsense to me.” In other words, how can we be taken seriously?

    The one response I can think of is pointing out the irrationality of the liberal worldview as you highlighted in this article, but perhaps you have a better suggestion for how one ought to lead others to the faith?

    Thank you.

  22. Nicholas,

    Catholic fideists who adopt Kozinski’s line of thinking *can’t* be taken seriously, for precisely the reason you mention: because of their unwillingness to accept reason as the common ground upon which philosophical alternatives are to be judged. Fortunately, Kozinski steers readers toward a far more viable option: the philosophical standpoint of Alasdair MacIntyre who, unlike Kozinski, *does* propose that the superiority of the Augustinian Thomist tradition can be rationally demonstrated.

    Dr. Kozinski,

    In response to your comment, how is it not “murderous scapegoating” to blame the Virginia Tech massacre on classical liberalism? In my view, “murderous scapegoating” is not unique to secularism; it is unique to human beings, and the view that only those blinded by a rival philosophical system are capable of scapegoating is itself a subtle form of scapegoating.

  23. Thaddeus Kozinski

    Of course, scapegoating is universal. But liberalism pretends to have overcome it without the Gospel, so its version of scapegoating is more insidious because tinged with warped-Christian overtones, such as PC’s alleged concern for victims (but only the official ones), while it persecutes others.

    Smith:

    Definitely not a fideist. I take Milbank to task in my book for his tendency to fideism. I am as fideist as Pope Benedict, which is to say, not at all. The Pope constantly talks about the limits of reason and all-important weapon of the Gospel.

    Being fully rational means accepting reason’s limits. Both rationalism and fideism are errors. MacIntyre himself discusses the limits of reason in his essays on Fides et Ratio as well as Veritatis Splendor. We need both MacIntyrean philosophy, to prepare the ground, and non-liberalized, non-scapegoating theology and liturgical practices to win the world for Christ.

    You’ll find much to chew on in my book regarding the ultimate inadequacy of even the best philosophy, alone, to defeat/convert the antichristian leviathan that is the contemporary “liberal” police-state.

  24. Thaddeus Kozinski

    “The one response I can think of is pointing out the irrationality of the liberal worldview as you highlighted in this article, but perhaps you have a better suggestion for how one ought to lead others to the faith?”

    E-mail me, Nick, if you want to talk more about this. tjkozinski@gmail.com

  25. Thanks for the clarification. I agree that an authentic, gospel inspired Catholic faith avoids scapegoating, asking us instead to look at our own faults. There is an anecdote about Chesterton reading an editorial on “what’s wrong with the world” and replying simply: “I am.” That is Christianity. Unfortunately, though, I think if we look historically, Catholicism isn’t always — or even often — self-correcting. Consider, for example, the scapegoating of the Jews, which is as old as Christianity. While the worst excesses came from laity, the Church itself played a role, as evidenced in, for example, the Jewish dress codes (e.g. the infamous “Jew badge”) proposed by the Fourth Lateran Council.

    As for faith and reason, I think this is well put: “We need both MacIntyrean philosophy, to prepare the ground, and non-liberalized, non-scapegoating theology and liturgical practices to win the world for Christ.”

  26. Scapegoating of Jews by the Church? Hardly. If anyone takes the time to study rabbinic Judaism, they would see it is a hate-filled religion. And Catholics in the Middle Ages were protected from their pernicious influence by the Popes because of the religion. It is protection from perversion that prompted the measures of the 4th Lateran Council, not “scapegoating.”

  27. Innocent Smith,

    Thaddeus’ position always incorporated the fact the Catholic position should be judged on “rational” grounds as should others. His thesis is that we cannot be deluded into thinking there is a ‘neutral’ starting point that we should default to (a la Enlightenment Rationalism-Naturalism) and that we can come together at this table and work everything out. One of the biggest problems to hit modern Catholicism is the false ecumenical effort of “endless dialogue,” thinking spending enough time at a fictitious “neutral” round-table will convince and convert, rather than present the more rational and coherent position and stick by it.

    As to your comment about Catholicism not being self-correcting, nothing could be further from the Truth. In fact, while empires and ideologies come and go, Catholicism has been the only consistent voice, self-correcting as often as Divine Providence decrees. The effortlessness by which Catholicism peacefully and solidly knocks down opposing views is nothing short of miraculousness. The Light known as Jesus is so bright that any and all errors are immediately exposed. It is so lop sided of a ‘debate’ with non-Catholic views that it almost makes Catholicism seem arrogant – and the only thing that stops that is the fact we all simply point to our predecessors and humbly admit we didn’t come up with it ourselves.

  28. Thaddeus,

    I’m VERY interested in reading your book!! Is there a reason why it costs $60?…I was hoping for more in the area of $30 and under (no offense intended at all). At the very least, I’d hope you make it part of your required reading for your class (since I’ve heard good stuff about WCC).
    I’m very glad that more books and blog posts are dedicated to addressing these subjects.

  29. Nick,

    If one truly holds a rational and coherent position, then one shouldn’t fear dialogue. Actually, it is precisely through dialogue — dialogue with Greco-Roman thought and culture, Judaism, modernity, and so on — that Catholicism has gained the depth and breadth that you and I both admire.

    The second half of your comment makes a series of unsupported assertions. I will only respond by saying that, if you think this kind of triumphalist rhetoric is a more effective means of converting the world, you are sadly mistaken.

    Thaddeus,

    I think Paul’s comment alone establishes my point that Catholics are not immune to scapegoating. As I understand Paul, he is absolving the medieval Church of its sins on the basis that, after all, the Jews *deserved* to be made second class citizens! Is scapegoating and its accompanying “ontology of violence” distinctly liberal? No, it is distinctly human and failure to realize this can only lead to harm.

  30. All I see you doing, Smith, is making apologies for the Jews, for their anti-Christ religion, not caring for the fact that it is a subversive religion. “Sins” of the medieval Church, indeed! Your comment only demonstrates your true ignorance of medieval society.

  31. I should add that the medieval Church protected Jews from harm, as a corollary to protecting Catholics from imbibing Judaic errors. Smith, you only see one side of a question in this case, and totally ignoring the other. We Catholics have a right to defend ourselves from error, particularly insidious errors of rabbinic Judaism. If you call this scapegoating, I can only tell you IMHO that you have been totally indoctrinated in liberal thinking.

  32. I think we might be speaking past each other here. We are not to “fear dialogue,” since many issues should be discussed when legislating, but this is not the same as starting from some imaginary neutral ‘square one’ each time an issue comes up. That turns the job of legislating into the job of philosophizing (based on an illogical philosophical premise as well). For a system to work, the legislators must come together on an established common ground, with the more incorporating of God’s law the better.

    The situation we are presently in is one in which law is more and more based simply on the shifting sands of popular opinion, where no longer is there ‘morality’ but foundationless statutes. This is why laws opposing traditional marriage are based strictly on grounds of the present fad called “fairness”, when in reality traditional marriage has nothing to do with “fairness”.

    All Thaddeus and traditional Catholicism are saying is that man is a religious being, including the secular nihilism that parades around as non-religious is a religion in its own way. In the religion of Secularism, man’s end is this life, and a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” is the Creed.

  33. Regarding “second-class” citizens – any group within a political community that is not devoted to the common good of that community or loyal to that community shouldn’t be citizens at all.

  34. T. Chan, from the discussion here, I would think that a lot of Catholics should be excluded from citizenship based on your rule of loyalty to the community.
    Viking

  35. That rule is in harmony with the apologia presented by Augustine in The City of God and the like. Now perhaps you may wish to flesh out your claim that those Catholics are not loyal.

  36. I thought my point pretty obvious, but apparently not, so here goes. Innocent Smith said that medieval Jews were made second-class citizens and scapegoats by the Catholic church, for which Paul rebuked him. Paul said that these measures were necessary because Judaism is an “anti-Christ” and “subversive” religion, adding that “Catholics have a right to defend ourselves from error”. If Jews are deemed to be disloyal for not agreeing with Catholicism in a Catholic state, then why should a liberal state not regard anti-liberal Catholics similarly? If conversely “traditionalist” Catholics can be regarded as loyal despite their disagreement, shouldn’t the same benefit of the doubt have been extended to medieval Jewry?
    Viking

  37. Paul can make his own case if he is still around, and I’m not that interested in making a claim about medieval European Jews.

  38. Though I should specify that disloyalty is not “disagreement” or “lack of belief” but a question of one’s desires and priorities with respect to the political community in which one lives.

  39. It is not about disagreeing with Catholicism that measures against Jews were made, but because in general, they were revolutionaries. Those Jews who converted sincerely were left alone. But if you would care to study European medieval history, you would see that the mob would frequently murder Jews, even innocent ones because of the general behavior of Jews in their hostility towards Christians, such as defrauding them and persuading other Christians to become apostates, among other things. Thus the Popes were obliged to make measures to both defend the Jews and at the same time, curb their poisonous errors. E. Michael Jones has a great overview of this in his book, “The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History,” Chapter 3.

  40. @Paul – I was going to write a long-winded and detailed response to your ravings, but I don’t think it’s worth a significant piece of my time on Earth. Suffice it to say that your apologia for the intolerance, looting and murder of Jews that typified Catholicism during the Middle Ages is vile and shameful. Thuggery is thuggery, whether “blessed” by a Pope or not. You can try to disguise the evils that were committed by the Church in a cloud of incense, but the stench of the rot remains.

  41. Your answer shows your ignorance of the Middle Ages, perhaps the best example in which God’s law was held more perfectly than any subsequent time. “Ravings” indeed! The times of the best saints, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure, St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi! You have no idea what the Popes did, in protecting the Jews from the mob, fueled to anger because of the vile practices of the Jews. You may have the last word if you want, but if you want to seem more educated, stop spouting off popular myths.

  42. And I don’t want to even start on the so-called holy book of the Jews, the Talmud.

  43. I would add just one last point before finishing here: you calumniate St. Louis IX when you equate his enforcement of the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council, especially concerning Jewish dress, with “thuggery” and “murder of Jews.”

  44. @Paul – It doesn’t take a scholar of medieval history to discern aggression, brutality and cupidity for what it is. Dress it up however you want – evil is evil (and moral relativism, quite clearly, is not confined to non-Catholics). If you choose to believe that this is the way Christ told us to act, then that’s inside you. My words are nothing. Bon chance.

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