Monday, March 11, 2013

James Kalb on What Are Catholics To Do?

Catholic World Report

That’s what’s happened in our public life. Everybody who matters is a secularist today, and the situation has far-reaching implications. One is that educated and well-placed people now believe that the institutions on which social order is based should be technically expert, economically rational, morally nonjudgmental, and universal in their reach. So the world should be ordered comprehensively by global markets and expert regulatory bureaucracies, together with subsidiary institutions such as universities, think tanks, media organizations, and various NGOs that serve or try to influence government and business. That, it is thought, is the uniquely rational way of organizing society, and whatever threatens it, or attempts to limit it or introduce other authorities, is irrational, disruptive, and a threat to humanity.

That’s why the people who run things in Europe have rejected Christianity and adopted the EU as their religion. For those committed to it, the European Union is not really a practical contrivance to be judged by its visible or likely effects. It is a supreme principle that must forever expand and deepen in its application without regard to practical considerations or the outlook or well-being of the people the governments involved supposedly represent. Anything else would violate the vision of the secular development of the human world into an ordered and beneficent cosmos. That, it is thought, would be the triumph of chaos, irrationality, and violence.

The problem is that the society aimed at has no room for man as he is. It treats him as fundamentally a careerist and consumer, with no natural particularities, and no higher aspiration or destiny than the perfection of the system that enables him and his fellows to get what they want. Any qualities that go beyond that are disruptive, and must be eradicated or neutralized by confining them to a purely private sphere where they won’t influence anything.

For that reason it has no place for the attachments that have always formed human life and to which we have always given our deepest loyalties: family, religion, specific community, particular people and culture, ultimate truth. Such things become private, sentimental matters with no special definition and therefore no serious public function. They are not permitted to make a difference, because when they do the kind of rational, transparent society at which liberal modernity aims becomes impossible. So to the extent they retain a connection to aspects of how people live, it’s a problem to be dealt with under the rubrics of equality, tolerance, and inclusion.

The vision is utopian, which means that it does violence to human nature by trying to root out things that make us human. To make matters worse, the situation can’t be discussed intelligently because the abolition of ultimate truth leads to the abolition of truth as such. Truth becomes first a matter of what is useful, then what is comfortable and pleasing, and finally what helps the teller get what he wants. Integrity disappears from commerce, politics become spin and optics, and even scholars present truth as something constructed for other purposes. When such tendencies join with the view that common sense doesn’t count, and we should only pay attention to what experts say, the result is a tendency to ignore the obvious in favor of the assertions of those who have social authority and claim special insight. For examples, consider contemporary architecture and educational theory. People hate the one, and the other notoriously doesn’t work, but nothing can be done about either.

So the problem with present-day life is that it’s short on truth and reason. Our job as Catholics is to stand for those things, so if (to pick a prominent example) the truth of marriage and the sexes is rejected, then we need to say what it is and work toward it.

I don't see the American Church extricating itself easily from feminism (or, in practice, sex egalitarianism).

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