Oh so that’s what interfaith is for – fighting secularization! There I was half-convinced it was for dialogue and bridge-building and working together to do things. Ok no I wasn’t, I wasn’t even quarter-convinced, but I was at least aware that that was the advertising slogan. But it appears that not everyone got the memo.
Well of course not. Lots of faith people don’t want secularism, after all – they want their particular dogma imposed on everyone else. And if there’s anybody who not only wants that but has the power to make it happen, it’s the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The National Catholic Register was there.
WASHINGTON — Participants at a recent interfaith conference in the nation’s capital discussed how interreligious dialogue can play an important role in establishing peace and fighting secularization in America.
Dialogue between faiths “can serve our nation and the world in ways that professional diplomats cannot,” said auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout of Washington, who delivered the keynote address at the event.
He explained that a shared “commitment to an authentic and robust dialogue will foster understanding and peaceful coexistence.”
Held Nov. 10 at St. Paul’s College in Washington, the “Generations of Faith” conference was the second of its kind sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Hey, Bishop Barry, you and the rest of your gang want to fight secularization (and secularism) because you want to be able to force Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortions even to save the woman’s life. You want to be able to make it harder and more expensive for women to use contraception. You want to bully and punish and exclude nuns whom you consider (or pretend to consider) “radical feminists.” You want to fuck everything up in the name of a nonexistent but nasty god.
And what you mean by “dialogue” isn’t actually dialogue. Don’t you remember what the bishop of Phoenix told St Joseph’s Hospital? I’ll just refresh your memory.
In effect, you would have me believe that we will merely have to agree to disagree. But this resolution is unacceptable because it disregards my authority and responsibility to interpret the moral law and to teach the Catholic faith as a Successor of the Apostles…Thus far, you have insisted that you are not doing anything wrong, but that your interpretation (of the USCCB’s directives on Catholic health care) simply differs from my own. According to Catholic teaching, though, there cannot be a “tie” so to speak in this debate.
Until this time, you have not acknowledged my authority to settle this question, but have only provided the opinions of ethicists that agree with your opinion and disagree with mine.
If actions speak louder than words, your actions communicate to me that you do not respect my authority to authentically teach and interpret the moral law in this diocese.
It’s not about dialogue. It’s about obedience. Bishops have authority, and when they tell you to obey, the dialogue is over; they get to settle the questions. They’re not the right kind of people, in the right kind of institution, to blather about dialogue. Blathering about it as a way to combat secularization is just insultingly dishonest. Secularism (whose goal is secularization) is a precondition for dialogue. Secularism takes us out of the realm of magic invisible beings who bestow absolute authority on certain human beings, and into the realm of fallible uncertain all-on-the-same-footing people. To fight it is to fight dialogue and free inquiry and free thought.
The secular response to religious diversity is to push all religious beliefs out of public life, Bishop Knestout warned. But while this approach has become prominent in the modern era, it is dangerous to all religious beliefs and fails to respect “the reality of the spiritual dimension of life.”
Interreligious dialogue that builds and maintains relationships among different faith traditions is therefore even more important in protecting the role of religion from the secularism that threatens it, he explained.
Authoritarians of all stripes unite against secularism, and then when that fight is won, the bishops can fight religious diversity. Baby steps.