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Monday, April 09, 2007

Once again, James Carroll decided to give up Catholicism for Lent.

And Easter.

And Ordinary Time.

And Advent....

OK--why waste pixels on the guy?

Simple--first, he has a high-profile pedestal from which to fling offal at his erstwhile co-religionists, all the while hiding behind his baptism and the laughable self-coronation as a "thinking Catholic." In his hands, it is an oxymoron of biblical proportions, given that he never lets his nominal faith get in the way of his hard leftist creed. Ever. Sadly enough, he is emblematic of a type of Catholic ever-willing to parrot secular leftist criticism of the Church. But as is always the case with "thinking Catholics," they wouldn't dream of turning a skeptical eye toward their secular comrades in arms. All that thinking gets tiring, I suppose. That, and Rome wasn't burnt in a day, either.

Second, he's a classic pseud. So classic, in fact, I'd like to do a Crow-like CGI and put Carroll into Good Will Hunting. Specifically, as the pretentious Harvard student who gets exposed and rhetorically annihilated by Damon's character at the pub, ending with the line "How do you like them apples?"

Typically-rancid Carroll in this one from March 19 (I guess I gave up fisking for Lent):

NEARLY A decade and a half ago, this condemnation of fundamentalism was issued: "The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life . . . instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. . . . Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations." This robust denunciation came from the Vatican, in a 1993 document entitled "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church."

So much utter crap, I'm going to have to bring in the backhoe. And a respirator. First, um--uh, er--t'wasn't a "condemnation of fundamentalism." The document discusses questions of biblical interpretation, and is not a full-blown analysis of the much-larger phenomenon of fundamentalism overall. But that's never stopped a master cherry-picker like our man in Boston.
[As an aside, it seems odd that a fellow who routinely gets the vapors about the Vatican "condemning" stuff is squealing like those Japanese girls in Live at Budokan at the Vatican in Bl. Pius IX mode. But that's easily explained: almost all progressive Catholics of his generation are clericalists to the bone. They have no problem with the iron-fisted deployment of clerical fiat, per se--so long as it's wielded in their favor.]

Next problem: I hate to break this to Mr. Carroll, but as the Preface to Interpretation states (and please note the author--it's important for later), the Pontifical Biblical Commission is not an official teaching office of the Church. It's an advisory board, rather like that commission that said "Trojans are A-OK" back in the '60s.

And finally, the document also warns about the dangers of the historical-critical method being divorced from faith, but--whoops! The blind spots of a "thinking Catholic"!

The phenomenon of "fundamentalism" has made an extraordinary impact on the world. But what is it? The scholar Gabriel A. Almond defines fundamentalism as "religious militance by which self-styled 'true-believers' attempt to arrest the erosion of religious identity, fortify the borders of the religious community, and create viable alternatives to secular institutions and behaviors."

Brace for pseud impact. We have caught our intrepid columnist red-handed under the blossoming cherry tree this time. How so? Simple, my dear Watson: anyone who was truly familiar with work of the person he is citing, as opposed to Google quote farming, would know such trivial details as the fact that Prof. Almond passed away Christmas 2002.

That's right--he's dead, Jim.

Genuinely informed people would know and acknowledge that--"the late scholar Gabriel A. Almond," or something similar. Pseuds relying on the Quote-o-matic wouldn't and won't.

That, and the definition strikes me as a little truncated and slanted, sounding too much like the columnist himself. Methinks there was some critical context which escaped the Maraschino Master.

Some fundamentalists pursue openly political agendas (Northern Ireland, Israel, Iran).

And people say I use a meat axe. Please note the following: he may have written "Constantine's Sword," but Mr. Carroll has far less sympathy with Jews post-1948. (1) They can't be used as a cudgel against Catholicism, and (2) real leftists won't be caught dead sympathizing with Israel.

Some are apolitical (Latin American Pentecostalism). In war zones (Sudan, Afghanistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka), fundamentalism is energizing conflict. Most notably, the warring groups in Iraq have jelled around fundamentalist religion.

Please note that the only fundies who get called out by name are Christians. Rosie O'Donnell would be so proud.

These varied manifestations resist being defined with one word, which is why it is better, as Almond suggests, to speak of "fundamentalisms."

He's dead, Jim!

But they all have something in common, and as the Vatican critique of biblical fundamentalism suggests, it is dangerous.

Which is why you get Pentecostals blowing themselves to Hell all. The. Time.

The impulse may begin with good intentions, the wish to affirm basic values and sources of meaning that seemed threatened. The term was born when conservative Protestants in early-20th-century America committed themselves to defend the five "fundamentals" of their faith -- the inerrancy of the Bible, virgin birth and deity of Jesus, doctrine of atonement, bodily resurrection of Jesus, and his imminent return.

And boy, were they right to start fighting early. See Episcopal Church, The.

That movement was a rejection, especially, of the historical-critical mode of biblical interpretation, and of Darwinian science. These characteristics still animate Protestant fundamentalism.

At this point, you'd expect Our Author to start cheering--after all, his church hasn't rejected the historical-critical study of scripture or evolution out of hand.

But if you thought that, you haven't read much Carroll.

But all fundamentalisms, rejecting a secular claim to have replaced the sacred as chief source of meaning, are skeptical of Enlightenment values, even as the Enlightenment project has begun to criticize itself. But now "old time religion" of whatever stripe faces a plethora of threats: new technologies, globalization, the market economy, rampant individualism, diversity, pluralism, mobility -- all that makes for 21st-century life. Fundamentalisms will especially thrive wherever there is violent conflict, and wherever there is stark poverty, simply because these religiously absolute movements promise meaning where there is no meaning.

Wha-?
No, really--this is non-sensical. So he's celebrating the globalist dislocations?

And just where have the proponents of the purely secular started to engage in self-criticism? Dick Dawkins and Sam Harris don't go much for that introspection thing.
Further, if one were really engaged in thought as opposed to mere "thinking," one would easily come to the conclusion that certain fundamentalisms "thrive wherever there is violent conflict" because they are so good at creating it. One might even be inclined to identify such a fundamentalism by name. Assuming, of course, one doesn't have a history of going into hormonal hysterics at the temerity of those who engage in such thought.
Oh, and Osama bin Laden is loaded, and every last one of the Saudi 19 on 9/11 was at least middle-class. So much for the poverty motive.

For all these reasons, fundamentalisms are everywhere.

But not all fundamentalisms are equally problematic. Blowsy septuginarians like everybody's favorite boogiepersons, Falwellrobertson, are irritating, and their religion is a bit judgmental about other folks' Thai p**n habits, but they don't do this:

Or this:


Giorgy Daurov, Age 2--Victim of the Beslan School Massacre.

Yet another blind spot for the "thinking Catholic."

Even in contemporary Roman Catholicism, with whose condemnation

Like I said--GIDDY.

of fundamentalism we began. Catholic fundamentalists are more likely to be called "traditionalists," and today the Vatican is their sponsor.

A young James Carroll, fighting the real enemy.


Oh, goody. Finally, our brave iconoclast mounts his hobbyhorse--trashing his hypothetical brothers and sisters. Let's put to the side the fact that these "fundamentalists" are neither violent nor mired in poverty, making a hash of the previous several hundred words of his argument, so-called. The real problem is that Carroll is appalled by Catholics who won't "think" as he does.

Instead of reading the Bible uncritically, in search of "ready answers to the problems of life," they read papal statements that way, finding in encyclicals the "false certitude" that the Vatican warns biblical literalists against.

So, to be a card-carrying, NCR-certified grade-A thinking Catholic, I should wipe my fanny with Deus Caritas Est?

And by the by, who's doing the uncritical reading of and proof-texting from Vatican documents to support his thesis here? Carroll's exegetical method would make Jack Chick say "Whoa--throttle it back a notch there, Sparky!" Not so by the way, here's the time to note the author of the Preface to the Interpretation document, one Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Now he's Pope Benedict the wild-eyed fundy? Got it.

The most recent case in point is Pope Benedict's "Apostolic Exhortation," issued last week. What begins as a contemplative appreciation of the Eucharist ends up as a manifesto designed to keep many Catholics from receiving Communion at Mass.

Yes--that's exactly what it was. A "manifesto designed to keep many Catholics from receiving Communion at Mass." Holy God, what a talentless, dishonest hack. Most charitable interpretation: he's someone who passed the Black Hole of Idiocy event horizon sometime in 1972. Here is the entirety of the "manifesto," contained in one paragraph (of 97), No. 83:

Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them.

It can't be easy to be such a consistent, dishonest fraud/ or brain-dead doofus--but I guess Carroll just has the touch.

The ticket to Communion is an uncritical acceptance of what the pope calls, in a striking echo, "fundamental values," which include defense of human life "from conception to natural death." The key declaration is that "these values are not negotiable."
But culture consists precisely in negotiation of values, and change in how values are understood is part of life.

Translation: Scissors aren't being jammed into James Carroll's skull, or the skulls of anyone he gives a crap about, so he's copacetic. When Soylent Green is "Carroll! It's Carroll!" wake him up.

Moral reasoning is not mere obedience, but lively interaction among principles, situations, and the "human limitations" referred to in the 1993 Vatican statement.

Who's worshipping before the Great Encyclical Idol again? He's stretching an advisory statement on biblical hermeneutics into a template for moral reasoning.

Moral of the story: when making an ass of yourself, go for broke.

Take "conception." The great Thomas Aquinas depended on 13th-century notions of biology, and did not believe that human life began at conception.

This will be the last time Thomas Aquinas is cited positively. And note it's for his embryology. Care to deploy the Angelic Doctor's discussion of sin? Naaaaaah.

Negotiation followed.

How did that turn out again? Never mind--Carroll disagrees, so watch the bunny! Watch the bunny!

Take "natural death." Disagreements over its meaning (including among Catholic bishops) were made vivid not long ago in the case of Terri Schiavo.

Guess he was delighted with how that one turned out. He does live in Pull-the-Plug's Paris' vicinity. And he did have Bp. Robert N. ["the 'N' stands for 'No-bid'"] Lynch on his side. What delightful company.

Negotiation followed.

And JPII said no--to the great dismay of health insurers and Catholic bioethicists everywhere.

The pope affirms universal and unchanging "values grounded in human nature," as if human nature is fixed, instead of evolving. One detects here, too, a suspicion of Darwin, an invitation to "intellectual suicide."

One can "detect" many things, especially with a slow radon leak in the residence. Whether the things are actually there is another question entirely.

The various fundamentalisms are all concerned with "fortifying borders," and that is a purpose of today's Vatican. The pope's exhortation concludes by referring to the Catholic people as the "flock" entrusted to bishops.

Actually, jackass, it ends with this:

97. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the same ardour experienced by the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) and renew our "eucharistic wonder" through the splendour and beauty radiating from the liturgical rite, the efficacious sign of the infinite beauty of the holy mystery of God. Those disciples arose and returned in haste to Jerusalem in order to share their joy with their brothers and sisters in the faith. True joy is found in recognizing that the Lord is still with us, our faithful companion along the way. The Eucharist makes us discover that Christ, risen from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his body. Of this mystery of love we have become witnesses. Let us encourage one another to walk joyfully, our hearts filled with wonder, towards our encounter with the Holy Eucharist, so that we may experience and proclaim to others the truth of the words with which Jesus took leave of his disciples: "Lo, I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Mt 28:20).

Did reading comprehension also go out with Vatican II?

Sheep stay inside the fence. But what happens when Catholics stop thinking of themselves as sheep?

You forget that you need the Good Shepherd, which means that (a) you either get eaten by wolves, or (b) far, far worse: everything above the brain stem dies a slow gibbering death and you end up sounding just like James Carroll, whose column appears regularly in the Boston Globe.

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