By GEORGE A. KENDALL
The Church has made some moves in recent years toward a restoration of Catholic tradition and orthodox teaching, but it strikes me that there is a bullet she has yet to bite — namely, open and uncompromising teaching in areas where Catholic teaching is widely rejected and hated, especially sexual ethics — contraception, abortion, and homosexuality in particular.
These issues are regarded as matters not to be touched with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Even generally quite orthodox bishops are afraid to tell their priests to preach against these things. That is understandable, since a lot of the priests would refuse to obey and many might even leave the Church. And where these matters were preached on, many of the laity might leave, given that so many practice or have practiced them. Yet a bishop who, out of cowardice, fails to take this step is likely to have a lot of explaining to do when Judgment Day comes for him.
Everyone is afraid that the Church will lose members if she clearly teaches Catholic doctrine, particularly in this sexual area, and they are right to be afraid. The problem is that a drastic shrinkage of membership in the Church, at least in the short run, is probably inevitable. There are two ways this can happen:
1) The Church teaches what she has to teach without compromise, and the Catholics who are not really Catholics leave. The Church gets a lot smaller but those who remain will in general have deep roots in the faith and will be better equipped to bear witness to the Catholic truth in their communities — to be a leaven in the world. They will also have bigger families. Because of both of these, the Church should begin to grow again in time.
2) She continues to evolve in many regions into a liberal Protestant church. People won’t leave this church because they are offended by what it teaches, but they will leave. They will drift away as they find this kind of religiosity profoundly unsatisfying, failing to answer their questions about the meaning of their existence. If you are going to live a meaningless, self-absorbed life, you might as well live it without the inconvenience of getting up for church on Sunday mornings.
If we choose the second alternative rather than the first, Catholicism will disappear in the Western world, as it already nearly has in Western Europe. The Church’s only chance of surviving in the West is to go with the first option. But I’m not optimistic. So many of our bishops, like the scribes and Pharisees, seem totally unable to read the signs of the times. Not to mention being gutless.
Of course, for the Church, this is an age-old dilemma. Christ came to save all mankind, hence her mission is universal, hence she cannot become narrow and sectarian without compromising her mission. On the other hand, she has a Deposit of Truth to safeguard, and if she compromises that, then she loses the truth which is the basis for her universal mission to mankind. So she walks a tightrope. She has an obligation to be there for mankind, including those who reject her, to love them, to pray for them, to try to carry on some sort of dialogue with them, but that always has to be on Christ’s, and the Church’s, terms, not on theirs, with no concession to the legitimacy of their unbelief. A good trick, if you can do it.
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At the moment, we are in the midst of a renewed push for universal pre-school. At first sight, that seems obviously irrational, considering that programs like Head Start, which are supposed to get kids from disadvantaged homes some early education to prevent them from falling behind, have been studied over and over again since the 1960s, and have invariably been found to provide no permanent benefits.
Is this just a case of the triumph of ideology over the facts, along with the usual inability of governments to ever admit making a mistake, or is there something more going on here? I find that an easy question to answer. The educational establishment is not really interested in educating people, at least not in the way that those of us who were educated before the onset of the dark ages think of education. Their goal is first of all to indoctrinate, to brainwash the young to be passive and compliant pawns of the total state. To achieve this they have to minimize the influence of families on children.
Preschool programs substantially reduce the amount of time very young children, at the most formative time in their lives, spend with their parents and their families. The same thing is behind the push for year-round schooling. Summer vacation means three months when the indoctrinators lose access to the kids, who may actually end up spending time with their parents, and even worse, grandparents. Those people could do unspeakable things to the children’s minds. They might even teach them Christianity, maybe even (gasp!) Catholicism. That must be nipped in the bud.
So when are we going to put an end to totalitarian “education” by getting rid of government schools?
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A note connected to the dictatorship of relativism: Relativism is incompatible with the idea of the common good. Under relativism, there can be no such thing as truth, hence no such thing as a truth common to all, a truth regarding order and meaning and goodness in reality, an order in which we can all participate. Another way of putting this would be to say that truth and goodness are one, being both aspects of being, transcendental attributes of being. If there is no truth there can be no good, hence no common good.
Once this is gone, the only basis for governing, for holding a society together is force. Hence, with relativism comes the total state.
A society characterized by diversity can work only as long as, underlying the diversity, there is some kind of commitment to a shared truth which could be a basis for the idea of a shared good — i.e., a common good. That is what made America work through much of her history. In the beginning, Christianity, of a generic kind, to be sure, held us together, then later, some kind of Judeo-Christianity, which united us to some degree in spite of all our conflicts and the multiplicity of ethnic groups which made up our society.
Today, as we descend into the abyss of relativism with its denial that there is truth at all, the only thing that will be able to hold us together at all will be a state that governs by force alone.
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The expression “counterintuitive” has been showing up a lot in public discourse in recent years: As in, “It seems counterintuitive, but. . . .” This often prefaces an assertion that most of us would, in fact see as rather far out there, flying in the face of common sense.
During the Terri Schiavo controversy, Fox News interviewed a doctor who claimed that, while it might seem counterintuitive, people who are starved and dehydrated to death don’t suffer.
I remember thinking at the time that if I had been there I would have said, “It’s counterintuitive because it isn’t true,” though I would have been tempted to put it more bluntly.
This is a variation on “contrary to popular opinion. . . .” Its purpose is to denigrate what most people have thought about things like murdering babies, homosexuality, and, yes, starving and dehydrating people to death. It is a way of saying that, while the common people have their simplistic views on things like that, their prejudices, I, who am telling you this, belong to an elite class of people who know better — who are privy to esoteric knowledge about such things, who are “in the know.” There is no one our egalitarian elites (an interesting expression) despise more than the common people.
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(© 2014 George A. Kendall)