By DONALD DeMARCO
A great gap exists between “imposing” and “proposing.” The former operates through some form of physical or psychological pressure; the latter relies on enlightenment. Imposing does not take “no” for an answer; proposing accepts either “yes” or “no.” The Church, as Blessed John Paul II has reiterated, never “imposes,” but only “proposes.”
The terrorist operates without patience or regard for the freedom of the other. The evangelist, by contrast, must be patient and careful not to interfere with the freedom of the other. The terrorist wants to conquer; the evangelist wants to convince.
On April 3, 2014, two events occurred thousands of miles from each other that graphically illustrate the immense gap that separates terrorism from evangelization. The first instance took place at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., where a group of 30 or so students occupied the president’s office and presented him with a string of 72 non-negotiable demands. Identifying themselves by the sesquipedalian title, “Concerned Asian, Black, Latina, Native, Undocumented, Queer, and Differently Abled students,” the “little tyrants,” as The Wall Street Journal preferred to call them (April 4, 2014), proceeded to berate the Dartmouth president for his “micro-aggressions,” a term incomprehensible to anyone who has not be exposed to the right political training.
Since they “demand body and gender self-determination,” they insisted on the availability of free sex-change operations and “gender-neutral bathrooms in every building on campus.” For those oppressed “undocumented” students, they demanded free legal assistance and financial aid for them. All professors must be trained in “cultural competence.” At least one “queer studies class” must be incorporated into each department, and every Dartmouth student must be taught and made aware that the land on which they reside is Abenaki homeland.
To show their sensitive to the feelings of others, they demand that all offensive words be stricken from the library catalogue. They are resolutely opposed to offending people, though not necessarily from terrorizing them.
All of this, the editorial in The Wall Street Journal stated, sounds more like Syria than Hanover, N.H. Consequently, it advised that the students should have been given an hour to leave the premises or “be arrested for trespassing and expelled.” Terrorism sound not be met with capitulation.
On that very same day, Pope Francis elevated two beatified missionaries from Quebec City to the status of saints. These missionaries, Marie of the Incarnation and Bishop Laval, brought the Catholic faith to what is now Canada. They were hardly terrorists imposing a list of nonnegotiable demands, but evangelists who were proposing the word of God.
And they were not insensitive to the aboriginal people who preceded them. St. Marie mastered the local languages and composed dictionaries in Algonquin and Iroquois, together with a sacred history in Algonquin and a catechism in Iroquois. She also familiarized herself with the Huron language. St. Laval introduced whatever people he met to the Christian faith. He traveled long distances on foot across his immense diocese, wearing snowshoes in the winter. When the ice melted, he navigated by canoe.
These two saints were evangelists, bringing the Good News to the New World. Had they been positioned at Dartmouth College in 2014, no doubt they would have been accused of “imposing” their values if not of terrorism. One “Catholic” theologian has accused Blessed John Paul II of instituting a “reign of terror.”
But the real terrorists are the students who have little respect for the poor, bedraggled president, the school’s tradition, rules of common decency, or the rights of other tuition-paying students. Their passion is for power; their concern is for abstractions, not people. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is a purely voluntary organization and fully respects the freedom and dignity of all.
On April 3, 2014, Pope Francis canonized two evangelists who, through love and hard work, succeeded in bringing the word of God to New France. On that same day, a group of disgruntled and misguided students occupied the president’s office and demanded that he capitulate to terrorism. The striking difference between evangelization and terrorism can hardly be more transparent. And yet, in this strange era, the difference between these two modes of communication needs to be explained and clarified.
+ + +
(Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International’s Truth & Charity Forum.)