Reasoned Loyalty; the Tuesday Column

My Tuesday Column is up, wherein I wonder about whether an adult and fully-formed faith should rest upon reason or loyalty, and decide that, well…it requires both:

Reasonable Catholicism is reasoned loyalty, or sometimes even loyalty with gritted teeth; it is loyalty that insists upon the application of reason lest its value be questioned. By the same token, intellectualism that is not tempered with loyalty ends up pickling itself in its own ego. Either one, by itself, is incomplete. Both are required.

I was pleasantly surprised to see it linked here.

Speaking of reason and intellectualism, reader “Barra” sends along this atheist-penned, very sharp and insightful look at Benedict’s fidelity to both adulthood and reason in the face of his perpetually adolescent, and reason-challenged critics. This is a humdinger of a piece, and difficult to excerpt, but here is a taste of the smackdown:

The only way to dispute Ratzinger’s stature as a major intellect is to refuse to listen to anything he has to say; the only way to deny that his view of modern society’s ills is cogent and valid is to deny his central thesis, and cling to the ‘everything is wonderful in our secular paradise’ mantra that Dawkins and all the rest so shamefully endorse.
Ratzinger is a bigger thinker, a better thinker, because he starts from the premise that there is something deeply wrong: the grown-up’s premise.

To merely accept this as a starting base takes courage, but without doing so nothing can be achieved. A world view – still more one that assumes entitlement to authority – that does not begin from this base is dangerous, cowardly and irrelevant.

If, like me, you don’t like some of Ratzinger’s answers then great – let the civilised adult debate begin. But if you’d rather attach condoms to an umbrella and parade through London with a bunch of dipsticks you rule yourself out of all serious consideration. Ratzinger is asking for a debate on some big subjects, and the best these supposed intellectual heavyweights can do is call him names, ignore the questions, and congratulate each other as the waters rise around their ugly necks.

I suggest you read all of it. I think I’ll be bookmarking Venerable Beads.

Reading that, and Bead’s impatience with stupid charges that the Pope is responsible for AIDS in Africa, reminds me that this absurd argument has been around for a long time:

I’ve always found it interesting that people who have no intention of following church teaching on chastity will DEMAND that the church change its teaching on condoms. It’s not like they’re actually paying attention to anything the church is saying; gay men are not carousing in bath houses or at the meat racks of Fire Island while thinking…”wait…the Catholic church says Condoms are Bad, and I don’t want to be separate from the church, so I guess I’ll just have to chance it and go bareback, because there is no way I’m not partying tonight!!”

For that matter, promiscuous heterosexuals, uninterested in monogamy and unconcerned about their souls, are also quite unlikely to worry about what the church thinks about condoms as they pursue their pleasure.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…

Do you remember the story of CBS News’ Barry Petersen and the tragedy of his wife’s early-onset Alzheimers and how Petersen seemed to be advocating a restructuring of marriage in an age of relativism? You can read about a husband who made choices very different from Petersen’s in this remarkable piece from PBS, on Professor Arthur Kleinman and his stricken wife:

BOB ABERNETHY, correspondent: At Harvard University, Arthur Kleinman is a medical doctor, a professor of both psychiatry and anthropology, and the director of Harvard’s Asia Center. Until 2003, life had treated him well. He was widely respected professionally, and he and his wife, Joan, a China scholar, had a happy marriage, with grown children and grandchildren—and then calamity. Joan Kleinman developed a form of Alzheimer’s disease that brought both dementia and blindness. Arthur Kleinman became her caregiver.

PROFESSOR ARTHUR KLEINMAN: It is love. It’s about the fact that you are there. This was the deal you made when you got married. The deal was to be there for that person, them for you. I helped her bathe, helped her dress, helped with feeding, and the feeling I had, I would say, was generally one of empowerment, to my—which was remarkable especially at the onset, that I just felt that as I learned to do the things and did them I felt a hell of a lot better, and I felt I was really contributing. I also felt it was self-strengthening in some way. It reaffirmed my love and my commitment to her, and over time, though, I think it drains you emotionally and physically as the requirements get greater, as you have to help your spouse out of bed, take them to the bath, make sure that they are safe in getting into the bath, getting out. You are constrained as the other person really begins to disintegrate in front of you, so my wife’s dementia led to a delirium in which not only didn’t she recognize me and the like, but she would be at times incoherent, flailing wildly, very paranoid about me and others because of the sense she couldn’t see and couldn’t understand what was happening.

ABERNETHY: But Kleinman says his wife’s essential personhood did not disappear.

October is “Respect Life” month. I can’t think of too many articles that so beautifully highlight what dignity and sacred personhood means in an age where life is held so cheap.

Lila Rose, writing in First Things, shares her experiences in fighting for that sacredness.

Other Must-Reads:

Writing on the death of Tyler Clementi, Fr. James Martin includes a personal prayer which may be of use to any of us who have been bullied and tormented by others. Bullies are not new, but as this editorial points out, they have new ways to destroy.

Instapundit and others wonder: Is the new SCOTUS “the most conservative court in Modern American History?.

No. But they want you to believe that, so when Obama nominates a far-leftist to the next open seat, they can tell you he/she will “bring balance to this very conservative court…”

The Anglican Rite and Rome: A Baltimore Episcopal Church begins the process of crossing the Tiber?

In a letter to parishioners, the Reverend Jason Cantania, rector of Mount Calvary Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, announced that the vestry of the parish had voted unanimously in favor of two resolutions. First, they have voted to leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) where they are a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, and, second, to become an Anglican Use parish in the Catholic Church through the new initiative from Rome – the Anglicorum Coetibus.

I made a prediction that I’m holding to…for now!

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Visits Don Bosco’s Blessing Arm at the National Shrine and raises goosebumps on my own arm as she writes about it.

Really, what’s the point of reality when some people court truthiness so devoutly.

Are the latest Obama polls reflecting racism?

“. . .black approval of President Clinton — who, by the way, was white — was extremely high. The vast majority of African-American support for Obama, then, can be explained without reference to his race. Furthermore, in the years since the Clinton administration, the African-American public has been treated to the constant refrain that Republicans and Republican policies are racist.

Protecting the Seal of the Confessional, at personal cost.

“Divorce is the Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience”. Yes, someday Christians of all stripes (and yes, Catholics, too) are going to have to come to terms with what Jesus said about it. It’s easy to tell other folks how to live their lives, but we need to take a gander at how we’re living our own.

Another Catholic News Site; competition for the indispensible New Advent? I don’t think so. The internet can support ‘em both, and New Advent is less politically-minded.

Ed Morrissey:
had a morning drive-time slot today. Big doings, in my book. Who knows what it might lead to? Meanwhile, did you see this?

Teatime in Vegas: I voted for Reid the same year I voted for Carter. And STILL I voted for Schumer the first time he ran. I learn slowly.

But I do eventually learn. Don’t forget to read my column!

See that? I learned nagging!

UPDATE: Finally…this I could not resist linking to:

At Patheos new page, Soul Secrets, someone wrote:

“If I admit that I totally do believe that the Eucharist is the Real Flesh of Christ, it will mean I’ll have to change how I live my life.”

This person understands what confessing Christ in the Eucharist means, and hesitates, because he understands the price.

How many of us really take it that seriously, and recognize our need to change our lives (or ask for the grace to change) to bring it into accord with what we profess to believe?

That’s certainly something to ponder. If the person who wrote that secret can ever bring himself (or herself) to take the plunge and embrace this belief which is currently held at bay, who knows what sort of astonishing changes will be undertaken, or how it might affect the world?

And what a challenge to the rest of us who confess this radical belief to live our lives in a radical way, for it!

That’s a great secret, someone shared.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Mutnodjmet

    Just voted for Capt. Ed’s Marriage Encounter program!

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention The Anchoress | A First Things Blog -- Topsy.com

  • TomG

    Your “prediction” is everything that many of us would hope for. Tradition and transcendence should be accessible! (as much as I respect the Latin Mass)

  • DWiss

    Your comment on that provocative remark on Soul Secrets really hit a nerve. I agree completely that belief in the real presence demands a radically new life. But what should that life be, and how do we live it and still honor the obligations to family and employer? I think of St. Therese and her little way. I also think of St. Francis and his…not so little way.

    What follows me around like a dog nipping at my butt is the idea that I still must change in response to my faith, but I feel frozen in place knowing that any really radical change will tip over many things that are not expecting to be tipped over.

  • Stan

    “If I admit that I totally do believe that the Eucharist is the Real Flesh of Christ, it will mean I’ll have to change how I live my life.”

    I did and I am never going back.

  • Pingback: Reasoned Loyalty; the Tuesday Column

  • Joseph Marshall

    I must say that I find the conflation of “loyalty” with “faith” to be quite peculiar. Can anyone be “loyal” to a theological dogma? And what exactly does “loyalty” to institution of Christendom have to do with belief or unbelief in the notions it espouses? Except for the obvious observation that if you believe in the notions, you’re more likely to be loyal to the institution. Even in this case “loyalty” is clearly not a synonym for “faith”.

    The classic antithesis is Faith or Reason. I think you are confusing two separate dictionary definitions for “faith”. One is what we commonly use for issues such as this. The other makes Unfaithfulness a synonym for Disloyalty. These are clearly not the same thing.

    Benedict’s constant intellectual problem is the difficulty of refuting Kant’s Critique Of Pure Reason and its very powerful argument that reason cannot result in true knowledge of spiritual things. Reason, then, is condemned to a pure and perfect agnosticism.

    Now whatever Benedict may have to say about 21st Century life going to hell in a handcart [true, but tautologous, if the notion of Original Sin is correct. What century hasn't been?], it is surely irrelevant to the problem of whether reason can result in knowledge of spiritual truth.

    And whatever Benedict may have to say about committed Christian belief as the cure for our secular ills [conceivably true, but certainly true only if you already have faith in Christian dogma, and, therefore, circular reasoning], is also not more than incidental to the issue of Faith vs. Reason.

    And silly criticisms of him for spreading AIDS in Africa remain but silly criticisms–not “childish” as opposed to “adult”, but bad reasoning as opposed to good reasoning. Adults have no patent on good reasoning, nor are children only capable of bad reasoning.

    The issue, really, is this. Is Christianity “reasonable” if you have no faith in its dogmas? Kant would say no, because without faith there are no premises to reason from.

    Benedict has consistently made it his theological business to assert “yes” to that question. But, having read him, I remain unconvinced.

    Your faith [and your readers' faith] is both a wonderful thing and everything. Be content to reason from it as a premise, and don’t expect to reason to it from whatever ills the secular world may exhibit.

  • craig

    Joseph Marshall writes: “Benedict’s constant intellectual problem is the difficulty of refuting Kant’s Critique Of Pure Reason and its very powerful argument that reason cannot result in true knowledge of spiritual things. Reason, then, is condemned to a pure and perfect agnosticism.

    The issue, really, is this. Is Christianity “reasonable” if you have no faith in its dogmas? Kant would say no, because without faith there are no premises to reason from.”

    Christianity is “reasonable” — not something you can prove by reason alone, but something you can find consistent with reason — if you accept a natural law, a natural order to things which reason can help to explain. Mere observation provides inferences sufficient to develop premises sufficient for succeeding steps. The rest of it requires a revelatory tradition. This is Benedict’s line of thought, taken from Boethius/Aquinas/Erasmus, thinkers with whom modern philosophy has failed to engage.

    This was also the line of thought of most all scientists until the nineteenth (?) century, when it became scientific dogma that not only could non-material causes not be analyzed, they could not be considered even as agents directing material causes. When even the thoughts in a scientist’s head are merely the purely material by-products of random atomic motion, what faith can be placed in their conclusions?

    So Kant is not Benedict’s problem, but the problem of those seeking to have reason prevail when revelation has been extirpated from public life.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X