Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lies in the Service of Neo-Liberal Villainy

Led by the Associated Press and the New York Times, the American-sourced media, continues its anti-Catholic kulturkampf by creating false and spurious news. The AP blared:

“Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called abortion and same sex marriage some of the most "insidious and dangerous" threats facing the world today...”

Actually not. Speaking to assembled Catholic charity workers what the Pope said was,

“Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.”
Nowhere did Benedict make the absurd statement that gay marriage represented one of the “most” dangerous threats to the world.

The AP’s twisted logic went like this:

1. The phrase “indissoluble marriage between man and woman” is “the Vatican's way of expressing its opposition to divorce and same-sex unions.”
2. Thus, what the Pope really urged was initiatives aimed at protecting against abortion [sic] and gay marriage, and
3. Therefore, the word “some” in the last phrase refers to gay marriage.

The New York Times didn’t quite have the heart to explicate this ratio decidendi. Instead, it simply proclaimed as a Fiat from Forty Second Street that “Pope Decries Gay Marriage in Portugal Visit”. Nonsense.


There is no question that Catholic moral teaching decries abortion and divorce. There is also no question that the Church is opposed to same-sex marriage. But that does not equate with calling gay-marriage the greatest threat to civilization. If name-calling is to be wrung from the statement, it would have to be that the greatest threat to “indissoluble” marriage is “divorce”. But “Pope Decries Divorce” hardly makes for “news” -- much less a bold headline.

The AP, the Times, and the entire gaggle of western media that feed from their troughs, had simply re-arranged words and conjured up codes, to suit their own nefarious purposes.

They do this in order to obscure and if possible obliterate the more challenging aspects of Benedict’s address which was more concerned with the source and calibration of the Church’s charitable activities in a world whose dominant political-economy is fundamentally opposed to Catholic spirituality.

Taking his theme from the parable of the Good Samaritan, Benedict stressed that “The unconditional love of Jesus which has healed us must now become a love bestowed freely and generously, through justice and charity, if we want to live with a good Samaritan's heart.”

This, he said, was a task with “a variety of faces, all one in concern for social issues and, above all, in showing compassion to the poor, the infirm, prisoners, the lonely and abandoned, the disabled,children and the elderly, migrants, the unemployed and all those who experience needs which compromise personal dignity and freedom.”

One might have thought that if the Pope had “decried” anything it was the existence of poverty, loneliness, infirmity and helplessness. You know, all those Jeremiah thingies. But such a headline would hardly have colour coordinated with a New York Times, whose front page (web edition) included articles entitled “What half a million will get you in Austria...”

From a Catholic point of view, Benedict’s evocation of the Option for the Poor, was less a striking call than a long accepted and well understood sine qua non. Of greater concern to Benedict was how this option is to be carried out. His address broke this down into two subsidiary issues: (1) the Church vis a vis itself and (2) the Church vis a vis Society.

With respect to the first question, Benedict expressed the view that,

“In its social and political dimension, this service of charity is the proper realm of the lay faithful, who are called to promote organically justice and the common good, and to configure social life correctly.”

In other words, while it may be the job of priests to consercrate bread, it is the job of the laity to do the other half of Christ’s work by healing the wounds of the poor with “the oil of consolation and the wine of hope."

In Benedict’s view, this division of labour (or more precisely, this division of liturgies) correlated with a division of intuitions. Catholics accept that the formal contours of doctrine are, ultimately, the province of the clergy; and, as Catholics know, Pope Benedict recently published his encyclical on social justice (Veritas in Caritate). That doctrine provides the guidelines for charity-in-action. But, in Benedict's view, guidance is not a one way street because that social doctrine itself “takes charity as its principal strength and guide.” In other words, as Truth is found in Charity, true Charity is found in Truth.

Thus, the Pope went on to stress that lay participation in the work of charity “is not simply a matter of intellectual knowledge, but of a wisdom which can provide creativity, a sort of flavour and seasoning, to the intellectual and practical approaches aimed at meeting this broad and complex crisis.” In so saying, Benedict echoed the theme he expressed the day before, at mass, when he said, “Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programmes, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavour?”

In other words, the Church's Good Samaritan mission contains a dynamic between objective doctrine and subjective seasoning; between clerical guidance and grass-roots shaping. Objective formalism and structures are only half the picture, the other half is the “salt of the earth” -- case by case application guided by subjective wisdom.

This dynamic in turn reflects the second problem; namely the often tense relationship between the Church as a whole and society. Those who have been following Benedict will not surprised to hear that he did not begin his discussion of this question in structural and institutional terms. No. More subtly, he began at the level of “how we think about things.”

“[I]t is not easy to arrive at a satisfactory synthesis between spiritual life and apostolic activity. The pressure exerted by the prevailing culture, which constantly holds up a lifestyle based on the law of the stronger, on easy and attractive gain, ends up influencing our ways of thinking, our projects and the goals of our service, and risks emptying them of the motivation of faith and Christian hope which had originally inspired them. The many pressing requests which we receive for support and assistance from the poor and marginalized of society impel us to look for solutions which correspond to the logic of efficiency, quantifiable effects and publicity.”

Throughout his career Ratzinger has warned against seeing the Church as simply another social-service agency. In his view, the Church doesn’t simply deliver services, it offers salvation. Speaking to social workers in Portugal, Benedict warned that both the sheer volume of desperate cases as well as a society which has, on the whole, espoused a culture of neo-liberal hedonism and power undermine the spiritual and catholic nature of liturgical charity. Once we begin to think like scientists, managers, and PR consultants we become indistinguishable from any other state or secular organ. Worse yet, we loose our Christian subjectivity and become ensared in what a Marxist would call the Fetish of the Commodity -- the mindset that explains and reduces everything to material and market-value terms.

From this intellectual differentiation, it followed that, on an institutional and structural level, it was necessary to “ensure that Christian charitable activity is granted autonomy and independence from politics and ideologies even while cooperating with state agencies in the pursuit of common goals.” But it was by now typical Benedict that this rather commonplace call for institutional autonomy was almost an aside to the more fundamental call for spiritual and intellectual freedom from the dominant secular mode of thought. It was in this context that Benedict alerted to the insidious threats to the “common good”, viz:

"The services you provide, and your educational and charitable activities, must all be crowned by projects of freedom whose goal is human promotion and universal fraternity. Here we can locate the urgent commitment of Christians in defence of human rights, with concern for the totality of the human person in its various dimensions. ... Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good. Such initiatives represent, alongside numerous other forms of commitment, essential elements in the building of the civilization of love.”

There is no question that Benedict located the core of Catholic freedom in the primary values of life and heterosexual unions. After all, it is hardly a novel proposition that strong and loving families are the essential "building block" of harmonious and flourishing societies. But it is clear, in context, that the “insidious and dangerous threats” he was referring to was not “gay marriage” or even “divorce” per se, but rather “a culture, which constantly holds up a lifestyle based on the law of the stronger, on easy and attractive gain...” In fact, the culture and ideology espoused by the New York Times itself

Let there be no mistake about it. The Times is a neo-liberal bastion and bacillus. It daily promotes a culture based on individuation in pursuit of glittery and toney “style”. But that is simply the pogey bait for the well heeled and would-be heeled. Behind the glitter and “What a cool half million will get you in Austria” is the grinding mechanism of a political economy based on unfettered social irresponsibility and the exploitation of man, beast and rock for profit -- all excused with some noxious mantra of “market freedom”.

Is it any surprise that the propaganda organs of this devouring Saturnian system would turn their spew and wrath on a man who assails their villany?


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