Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thoughts on Catholic polarization.

I think we need a science of the Catholic left-right split. This has already started, in part, by Mary Jo Weaver's books, "Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America" and "What's Left? Liberal American Catholics," both of which contain essays by various authors attempting to grasp the fundamental projects of conflicting theologies.

Either because I actually see fatal contradictions within liberal/feminist Catholicism, or just because I lack sufficient intellectual humility, I would delight to see the elements of liberal Catholicism that are hostile to orthodoxy thoroughly discreditted. But of course, that does not leave conservative Catholicism off the hook. Conservativism and Catholicism are not identical, even though they might share the essential component of the starting point of Tradition. Catholicism lives on pre-reflectively with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, but conservativism is still trying to hammer out, intellectually and ever more precisely, what the delimitations of "Tradition" are.

Part of the problem is that liberalism and conservativism are understood, even seemingly by scholars, as ends of a spectrum. Spectrum-thinking (or shall I qualify, misplaced spectrum-thinking) is deadly to analysis of human controversies. This is first because the controversialists tend to exclude radical rethinking of the entire plane of the debate; and more deadly, the differences between these two real thought-systems are often defined as opposite beliefs, when they are not. One of the most common and irritating mistakes made in reading past Church documents is a forgetfulness that a condemnation of a heresy is not an affirmation of the opposite of the heresy; nor does it condemn the values and motivations that led to the heresy in the first place.

Part of the key is that liberalism and conservatism ought not be thought of as ends of a spectrum, but as two distinct, autonomous philosophies, with different orders of values, arisen from a historical and ideological constellation of philosophical influences and concepts. In other words, I hypothesize that liberalism and conservativism may be as different as a human being and a plant--that is to say, different right down to the cellular and molecular biology, even though occupying a shared sphere of physical biology, superficial differences are easily noted. Note that a plant is not the opposite of a human being, yet neither are the differences negligible; if the question is which of these one would rather marry, the differences do not allow for neutrality or suspension of judgment.

To be sure, anything written by me on this subject is going to be an apologetic firmly against liberal Catholicism; but no less important a part of it would be a purification of Catholicism rooted in Tradition of all of the extraneous elements which led to the sprouting of liberalism in the first place. But this can only be done first by departing from all talk of liberalism and conservatism at all, and instead examining the history of ideas and evaluating the validity of their foundations, whether mindful reflection, immediate experience, reaction and critique, a clamor for justice, etc.

Expect more on this later.

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