Sunday, June 15, 2003

Culture Wars III

That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight, receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; that prudence may be given to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— the wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.—Proverbs 1:2-6 (RSV)

Peter has written a comment to my Culture Wars II post; I am grateful for his thoughts. However, while he disagrees with the post I am afraid he has shown that he is the one who misses the point.

In his comments Peter seems to be saying that all they were hoping for from the Georgetown commencement speaker was a nice, uplifting, and meaningless little speech that would send them on their way feeling good about themselves. If this is the case, they should have invited someone from the cast of Saturday Night Live, not Cardinal Arinze. By inviting the Cardinal to speak, what did they think they were going to hear? If the commencement exercises of a major Catholic university are not the time or the place to hear the truth about matters of life and death, what is?

The events of this years commencement exercises demonstrate that one thing they did not want to hear was the teachings of the Church -- Truth. It seems these events highlight serious flaws within our universities, especially within our Catholic universities, that must be corrected if we are to survive as a civilization.

The fact of the matter is Truth is never inappropriate, no matter the occasion. The real problem with the Cardinal's speech was that it is more important to the faculty and students of Georgetown U to be “inclusive and uplifting” than to hear the Truth. I contend that Cardinal Arinze's speech would not have caused the furor it did were it not for the fact that, at Georgetown University, hearing the truth was painful. I suspect that the Cardinal's speech caused many on the Georgetown campus to feel less than good about themselves.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered the commencement address at Harvard University. I would like to quote from his introduction:

"Harvard's motto is 'Veritas.' Many of you have already found out and others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it. This is the source of much discord. Also, truth is seldom sweet; it is almost invariable bitter. A measure of bitter truth is included in my speech today, but I offer it as a friend, not as an adversary."

Anyone who would offer us truth is truly our friend; one who would hide the truth from us must be considered a mortal enemy. The central problem we face as a civilization today is that we have let our concentration flag in favor of a counterfeit ideology; we prefer the anesthesia of inclusivity and diversity to the scalpel of Truth. Cardinal Arinze did not come to the Georgetown campus as a heartless repressor of good feelings but as a friend and true truth teacher.

On the other hand, barbaric behavior is never acceptable in civilized society, no matter what the occasion.

The very idea of a university is that it should be a safe place for open intellectual discourse. Our universities, however, have become places completely intolerant of ideas contrary to the prevailing ideology. When ideas contrary to the accepted party line become intolerable we are in trouble as a civilization. It is well to remind ourselves, as Russell Kirk pointed out, that the Latin roots for ideology and idiocy are the same. When we refuse to grant another person the respect due him as a fellow human being by hearing him out we have sunk into a condition of barbarity.

One theology professor at Georgetown, by getting up and walking out on a Cardinal of the Church who was presenting the most basic teachings of the Church, gave one final instruction to the graduating students of Georgetown. I suspect she was trying to reinforce four years of such instruction.

First, she taught that is perfectly appropriate for a Catholic to be in open dissent from Church teachings, hardly a desirable point of view from someone aspiring to be a Catholic theologian. Second, she demonstrated that ideas contrary to modern, secular-humanist teachings are not to be tolerated on a university campus. Her actions make it abundantly clear that “diversity and inclusivity” have strict limits on the Georgetown campus. For a member of the faculty of a so-called Catholic University to walk off the dais when a Cardinal of the Church is speaking goes beyond rude; it displays real ignorance, as in, a lack of civilized knowledge. It demonstrated, and even worse, taught barbaric behavior. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew:

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

The scandal of her conduct is that she is in a position to be a teacher of the truth taught otherwise. Lets not forget that her actions were in support of those who openly engage in conduct considered gravely evil by the Church.

Peter, my post was not "a blind attack" on Georgetown University, (nor is this an attack on you). I do not have to be a member of the Georgetown University "community" to understand what went on its commencement ceremonies in May. The problems involve issues deeper than the good feelings of the faculty and students of Georgetown University; they involve issues of life and death – eternal life and death. On that day in May, Georgetown demonstrated that it has failed as a Catholic university and by so doing failed us all.

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