Fight fiercely, bishops

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.





  1. says

    There cannot be a tie in this debate. Until this point in time, you have not acknowledged my authority to settle this question.

    Religion is just a technique for social control. Assess the actions of the religious elite in the context of a struggle for secular power and privilege and absolutely everything they do* makes perfect sense.

    (* except for their pathetic marketing; they never learned how to market their ideas – after the invention of hell they got lazy)

  2. screechymonkey says

    Far be it from me to defend “pro-interfaith atheists,” but there is an argument that this kind of thing is precisely why atheists should participate in interfaith groups.

    According to the USCCB site linked in your quote,

    In November 2012, the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs hosted a program called “Generations of Faith II,” attended by a representative group of leaders and young adults from the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Catholic traditions

    And none of the groups listed in the sidebar of that page (on Who We Talk To) are secular or atheist groups.

    It’s not an argument that I find persuasive, though. I doubt that the presence of a few atheists at such a conference would really dissuade the majority from pursuing an anti-secularism agenda. And I particularly doubt that the usual suspects such as Stedman would be the right people for that job even if it was doable.

  3. Cottonblimp says

    And none of the groups listed in the sidebar of that page (on Who We Talk To) are secular or atheist groups.

    I think they’re intentionally not invited. And like you sort of implied, the purpose of inviting a Stedman isn’t to listen to him, it’s to validate an anti-secular agenda.

  4. Sastra says

    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.

    I, too, see statements like this as the best reason for atheists to get themselves invited to interfaith conferences. Once we’re there, they have two choices. They can either stay completely off of the topic of “fighting secularization in America” … or they can spend all their time fighting the secularists at the conference. Either way is, I think, an improvement over a dreary series of ecumenical wankfests which bring the faithful together in order to whip up anti-atheist prejudice and come up with strategies against us.

    This assumes, of course, that the invited atheist will make a good-faith effort to represent atheists and not simply fall into the favored position of pissing and moaning about how horrible those atheists who don’t respect faith are.

  5. screechymonkey says

    Sastra, when you wrote “or they can spend all their time fighting the secularists at the conference”, did you mean “fighting the anti-secularists,” or “fighting for the secularists”? Because otherwise I can’t square that with your last paragraph.

  6. screechymonkey says

    Oh, wait, never mind. The “they” is not the atheists attending the conference, it’s the theists. I should have figured that out from the context.

  7. 'dirigible says

    “Oh so that’s what interfaith is for – fighting secularisation!”

    Which the soi disant social justice activists pushing the “atheism is a minority faith identity so atheists should join interfaith dialog” meme simply cannot afford to see.

  8. jonathangray says

    Take heart, O secularists. These sort of ecumenical gabfests aren’t a sign that the Catholic Church in America (aka ‘the American Catholic Church’) is about to spearhead an Interfaith Alliance Against Secularism. Ideas like this had a certain vogue during the latter years of JPII’s pontificate, when the Vatican sought UN voting alliances with Muslim countries and Catholic intellectuals bandied expressions like “ecumenical jihad”, culminating in such grotesque spectacles as the Pope publicly kissing a copy of the Koran and invoking St John the Baptist to “protect Islam”.

    It came to nothing of course. Interfaith dialogue is a sure sign of a weakening of Catholic faith and, consequently, of the capacity for effective Catholic action. There was a time not so long ago, within living memory, when it was unthinkable that faithful Catholics would engage in this sort of thing. Holy Mother Church possessed the one true Faith — what need had she of dialogue with false religions and heretical sects? A declaration by the 19th-century Archbishop of New York John Hughes exemplifies the attitude that prevailed until the 1950s:

    “Catholicism will convert all pagan nations, and all Protestant nations, even England with her proud Parliament. Everybody should know that we have for our mission to convert the world — including the inhabitants of the United States — the people of the cities, and the people of the country, the officers of the Navy and the Marines, the commander of the Army, the legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President and all.”

    Unsurprisingly, such a degree of militant self-belief meant Catholics could indeed form a powerful bloc to resist the forces of secularism and liberalism. The Church even exercised a formidable influence in US society, no mean feat in a country founded on the twin anti-Catholic pillars of Puritanism and the Enlightenment. Witness the Jesuit influence on the Hays Code, which held Hollywood in check for a time.

    Those days have gone and they’re not coming back in a hurry.

    It’s true that Catholic prelates generally still hold to positions (particularly in the area of sexual ethics) that folks here would regard as intolerably reactionary, but it’s important to note the terms in which these positions are defended. In preconciliar days, abortion, contraception, masturbation, homosexuality, euthanasia etc were condemned because they were contrary to God’s law. Flouting God’s law would cause human degradation, understood as the working out of God’s just wrath. Then Bishop Karol Wojtyla introduced his ‘personalist’ philosophy into the deliberations of Vatican II, which initiated a radical change of perspective. Postconciliar prelates still frequently condemn abortion and euthanasia (contraception less often, masturbation and homosexuality less often still), but do so because these things are primarily seen as being inimical to “the dignity of the human person”. God is basically there to underwrite humanity’s intrinsic awesomeness. In other words, reactionary castles have been erected on the shifting sands of humanism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *