Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A (gloomy) observation

Over the course of the last few days and weeks, consuming lots of (and contributing some) commentary in various forms about, e.g., the preventive-services mandate, the Bishops' religious-freedom statement, the Ryan budget and Catholic Social Thought, the Supreme Court arguments in the ACA and SB 1070, the presidential campaign and election, etc., I was struck by what seem to me to be some characteristics of our (and by "our" I'm thinking mainly of "reasonably engaged, informed, and formed Christian citizens) conversations about law, politics, policy, and faith. 

It seems to me that, generally speaking, the following are true:

(1)  People object indignantly to tu quoque, "so's your mother!", and "if only you were consistent . . ." arguments and charges, and to double-standards, and also deploy, and apply, them often.

(2) People assume that those who disagree with them are, at least in part, motivated by something undisclosed, or by ideological precommitments that overdetermine the content of their claims, while they themselves are candid and transparent, and able to transcend ideology in order to identify what the right answer really is.  

(3) People object to pronouncements by religious authorities about "political" matters selectively and strategically / tactically.

(4) People are clear-eyed about the weakness of guilt-by-association arguments, and also entirely happy to press them.

(5) People are sensitive to the important truth that there is (this side of Heaven) almost always room for reasonable disagreement among intelligent, faithful, reasonable people about how best to apply principles, standards, and rules to those facts that are known; and also to the reality that such people will also often disagree about what the "facts" (which include, I suppose, predictions about the effects of particular interventions or omissions) . . . except when they aren't.

(6) People say that we should assume the best of others and their arguments, and avoid a "hermeneutic of suspicion", but don't.

To be clear:  I am, I am sure, among these "people."  I am not claiming innocence.  Sure, the merits matter, and I tend to think (as we all do) that, basically, I'm right about those matters about which I disagree with other people (assuming we are talking about matters about which it's possible to be right).  But still -- I'm not pretending to have entirely clean hands.  (I guess I'm overcompensating, in anticipation of (1)).

So, a serious question:  Given (1)-(6), is there really any hope for productive, charitable, and enlightening conversation and argument (about these matters), among people who don't already (pretty much) agree, outside the context of close personal relationships where trust (and even love) can reduce the incidence of the phenomena described in (1)-(6)?

I very much want the answer to be "yes", but it strikes me that it might be "no."  Hence, the gloominess of my observation.

https://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2012/04/a-gloomy-observation.html

Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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Rick, I think the answer is more yes than no, and I hope it wasn't my Prawfs post that prompted your gloom! I've thought highly of the recent posts here.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 27, 2012 8:24:23 PM

Rick - In short, yes. I do think the circumstances of the argument/discussion have a lot to do with increasing/decreasing the chances of a reasonable meeting of the minds. A conversation in person, for example, is, in my experience, far more likely to result in constructive argument then anything exchanged by letter, which is itself more likely to be constructive than anything done on the internet. It's so much easier to give the other person the benefit of the doubt if you're actually looking at that person.

That doesn't mean that the internet is worthless for such things, just that we should realize the lower probability of success and adjust our expectations accordingly.

Posted by: Wallace | Apr 27, 2012 8:26:32 PM

As a teacher, it is one of my goals to teach people how to argue (and listen) intelligently. It's really hard, though, and therefore takes real commitment, and I think, truthfully, that the number of people in our society (and in the Church) who are committed to that will always be a minority, human nature being what it is. But those of us who belong to that minority (or at least try to!) can still talk amongst ourselves. :)

Posted by: Adam Rasmussen | Apr 27, 2012 8:33:15 PM

"Though I said to myself, “See, I have greatly increased my wisdom beyond all who were before me in Jerusalem, and my mind has broad experience of wisdom and knowledge,”
yet when I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly, I learned that this also is a chase after wind. For in much wisdom there is much sorrow;
whoever increases knowledge increases grief."

Sure. A slim hope ... for partial and intermittent connections. But if you don't argue, you can't even know where the disagreements over facts and intuitions arise, or whether the disagreement is over facts or intuitions. And, of course, there is a value in being reminded how often facts and intuitions shade into each other.

Posted by: william brennan | Apr 27, 2012 10:27:16 PM

A beautiful description of the difficulties. There is certainly much reason to be gloomy, particularly about the dialogue in public life. But I see room for hope, based primarily on the exceptional conversations experienced in conferences of law & religion professors. Perhaps few minds have been changed, but many have been illuminated, and have walked away much less likely to malign, and more likely to be willing and able to explain the perspective of the "other side" and so reduce hostilites. So, kudos to those who've organized such gatherings - including, of course, you, Rick!

Posted by: mj | Apr 28, 2012 12:41:54 AM

Hi, Rick. I sympathize with this post, and sometimes share this sense of gloom (I have sometimes talked about the overly optimistic assumption that discussion will overcome it as 'the talking cure').

But it might be the case that even if the gloominess is (sometimes) warranted, that discussion of this kind is nevertheless useful, because it sets out over many iterations, modifications, refinements, etc. a set of specific views. Those that disagree will then know with greater precision that which is their target, and will respond in turn by setting out their own views. And it will continue like this, in infinite patterns of repetition.

The aim of all of this is not so much to persuade anybody, and certainly not to reach agreement or a unified position. It's more to survey the field well, mark out the terrain and the boundaries, and plant the flag. Others will contest the territory with their own demarcations and their own take on the lay of the land. But maybe we will come to understand each other not by yielding up territory or by anything so ambitious as achieving universal understandings, but just by getting an increasingly better sense of who lives where on what is shared ground.

Marc

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Apr 28, 2012 12:42:55 AM

I must agree with Mark that staking out the specific grounds and limits of agreement and disagreement, not just focusing broadly and vaguely on conning ground, can be a necessary step in dialogue. Jeffrey Stout, in a decidedly unsour way, writes well on this point.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 28, 2012 8:11:26 AM

Excuse me: Marc!

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 28, 2012 8:11:47 AM

Paul, if more people (including me) were like you, then my lament would have a lot less traction. =-)

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Apr 28, 2012 11:57:38 AM

I will give an example. Twice now Susan Stabile has posted articles from a very liberal perspective. As soon as I posted something contrary she immediately closes the comments after taking a shot at me. That simply reinforces my view that those on the other side demand that I listen, but won't listen to anyone else themselves. I have encountered this frequently in academia. My side, the more conservative one, is demonized, denigrated, and marginalized. I am equally gloomy.

Posted by: Fr. J | Apr 28, 2012 12:49:11 PM

"Fr. J." -- a serious question: DO you listen, do you think?

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Apr 28, 2012 1:29:31 PM

This is a fascinating topic.

Kathryn Schulz, in her book Being Wrong, discusses how we regard people who disagree with us. First, she says, we assume they are ignorant, that they just don't have all the facts that we do, and when we enlighten them, they will agree with us. Second, when we realize that they know the facts as well as we do, we conclude that they must be idiots. They have all the information they need to come to the right conclusion, but they just can't connect the dots. Third, and finally, when we realize that they are actually smart enough to fit all the pieces together, yet don't admit to seeing things the way we do, we conclude that they are EVIL. They know perfectly well what the right conclusions are, but for some self-serving or malevolent reason, probably with ulterior motives, they stake out a false position and insist they believe it is true.

When we discover we have been mistaken about something important, we feel foolish and embarrassed, she says. But how did we feel about that belief *before* we discovered it was wrong? It seemed just as obviously correct as all our other beliefs. *Realizing* you are wrong is an unpleasant, painful experience. But *being* wrong (before you realize it) feels exactly the same as being right. "What does it feel like to be wrong?" she asks. "It feels like being right." We have no internal cue that tells us we are wrong. All of our own beliefs seem perfectly correct to us. And when we look inward, we see no biases, no ulterior motives, no reason why we would be deceitful enough to espouse a false position that we actually knew to be right for some ulterior motive. Consequently, it is extraordinarily tempting to conclude we are right and those who disagree with us are not just wrong, but pernicious.

Add to all of the above that we know our brains and minds are not geared toward arriving at "pure truth" but "practical truth." And we are not built to make clear-eyed, objectives of ourselves, but we are biased to think ourselves better than we are. Some might look at this as the damage done by "original sin," while others might see it as a generally positive, adaptive trait that is the result of evolution. To take a trivial example, the vast majority of people who drive cars rate themselves above-average drivers. Or to take another example, the failure rate for small businesses is 50% in five years. (Or that is the conventional wisdom, in any case.) But how many people who start small businesses actually expect to fail in five years? People who start businesses don't look at the odds and apply those odds to themselves. They are much more optimistic about their own chances of long-term success than they would be if they coldly and rationally looked at the odds and logically concluded they had a 50% chance of failure in five years. How many people would classify optimism as a bad trait? And yet in some real sense, it is a trick—one of a great many—our brain plays on us.

Compounding the problem on blogs, it seems to me, is that contributors tend to write posts that they believe to be not merely correct, but often to be setting people straight on some matter, taking a firm position on some controversy, lamenting a regrettable trend, and so on. It is much more rare to see a blog commenter write, "I've been thinking about this, I have some tentative thoughts, and wonder what others are thinking" than to write, "Here's the *real* truth about such and such!" Blog commenters (and I think I am pretty typical in this regard) may write a comment when we agree with something saying, "You are exactly right." But more often when I think a blog post is exactly write, I don't post a comment. I just recommend it to other people to read, or I quote it or link to it on another blog. In many ways, the more I agree with a blog post, the less likely I am to comment on it. But the more I disagree, the more likely I am to comment. (Think of the famous cartoon of someone madly typing away at his computer saying, "Someone is WRONG on the Internet!") So comments on blogs are much more likely contradict a post than to be in agreement.

Further compounding the problem is that all of this back-and-forth is taking place in an atmosphere where reasoned argument is not highly valued. In politics, a good issue, or theme, or line of argument is one that tests well with a focus group. In a political campaign, what is effective is more important than what is true. George Will on This Week with George Stephanopoulos remarked that it was unfair to hold Obama responsible for gas prices, since they are beyond the control of any American president. Yet of course Romney will use gas prices in any way he can if it is effective against Obama. Will also faulted Obama for not just saying, "Frankly, gas prices are beyond my control." It would be the truth, but Obama can't admit the truth, because it would make him look bad. He can't admit that there is something that is beyond his control as president. So whether you are a Romney supporter or an Obama supporter, if you want to support what your candidate says, you have to go along with the fiction that presidents can control oil prices. Take a look at the recent statements currently rated on Politifact. They are rated as follows:

True 1
Mostly True 2
Half True 11
Mostly False 3
False 1
Pants on Fire 3

It is a wonder, amidst all of this, that the discussions here on Mirror of Justice and in similar forums are on as high a level as they are. The candidates we are championing are not telling the truth. How can we be lovers of truth and defend them?

Also, I wonder how many of the questions we discuss, particularly when it comes to religion and politics, actually have "true" answers. For lack of a better way of putting it, the other day I asked if God could say whether or not something was constitutional. I would certainly not want to argue that constitutionality is a meaningless concept, and if you can just manage to get certain justices on the Supreme Court, and they vote a certain way, what they say is constitutional is, therefore, constitutional. But on the other hand, I wouldn't want to say that something is objectively constitutional, and even a 9-0 decision against it's constitutionality by a legitimate court doesn't mean anything.

One further thing I wonder is how rigorous we ought to be in defending truth. If someone on "my side" says something in an argument that I don't think is true, ought I to disagree, or ought I just gloss over, or ought I attempt to make the best case I can for that person's statement because he or she is under attack by people I think are much more often wrong? If I think my side is mostly right, should I criticize it in those cases when I think it is wrong?

Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 28, 2012 5:44:11 PM

Fr. J:

I closed comments on two posts.

On one I explained that I closed comments because the none of the comments (neither by you nor the person with whom you were in dialogue) addressed the point I was trying to make in the post. My action was no more directed at you than to the person with whom you were arguing. Perhaps I should have continued to allow you and David (I believe it was) a forum for your argument, but I thought it detracted from the point I had been trying to make.

On the other, I closed them only after you repeated your first comment, ignoring my effort to explain that I was not making the point you seemed to think I was making. If your comment had suggested that you had listened to my response, I would not have closed the comments.

Posted by: Susan Stabile | Apr 29, 2012 2:35:03 PM

PS - By the way, Fr. J., I don't really think it is accurate to characterize either of the two posts of which you speak as having been written from a "very liberal perspective."

The first was a criticism of anyone - liberal or conservative - for trying to exclude others. (What prompted it was my criticism of a "progressive" Catholic for the way she framed her anger at the CDF.

The second was a suggestion that we all in our dialogue try to speak in a manner other people can hear.

Posted by: Susan Stabile | Apr 29, 2012 2:43:27 PM

Rick, of course. In many classes I had to listen. I had to think especially when refuting what I heard that was false. The question is do those on the other side listen? Do they think? I see little evidence for example that they listen to Pope Benedict or think about what he says. How can they ask me to listen if they don't themselves? I realize I am a bit of a gadfly here, but maybe that is a necessary roll to get them to think. Don't you think? I actually agree with most of your post.

Susan, I did respond to your posts. Just not the way that you would have liked. I repeat my point about the other side "listening." I also, having looked at your blog, find if very hard to believe that you don't write from a liberal perspective. Who is kidding who? I make no bones about my point of view and don't try to hide it.

Posted by: Fr. J | Apr 29, 2012 2:56:19 PM

Fr J,

I think if you look back at Susan Stabile's post and the comments you and I made following it, she is correct that we were not discussing the issue she raised (for which I apologize).

I really don't think it can be argued that conservative viewpoints are underrepresented on Mirror of Justice.

Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 29, 2012 3:14:59 PM

Wow, this post really hits home for me, as I've found myself thinking this same (gloomy) question a lot lately. In fact, the longer I've pondered it, the gloomier I've become at the prospect of "dialogue," and have leaned for some time toward simply stopping my visits to certain blogs, for my own good.

Unfortunately, I've found that Catholic blogs tend to mirror and at times outdo secular blogs in their ideological narrowness and snippiness. this is compounded by (in my view) commentary policies that seem to be somewhat inconsistently applied (i.e. say what what you want about this Bishops, Vatican, Pope etc., but for God sake, don't say something snippy about the President). I started actively commenting on blogs a little over a year, primarily on Catholic outlets like American, dotCommonweal and First Things, with the idea of presenting a few "contrary" thoughts that might challenge the prevailing posts, and add to the overall dialogue. What I've consistenly encountered has been outright hostility, dismissiveness and general snark, and have unfortunately found myself increasingly falling into the same patterns. And things have only seemed to have gotten worse since the HHS mandate, LCWR, etc.

Fortunately, I have encountered oases in this desert - Mirror of Justice, of course, but also Reihan Salam's Agenda, Megan McArdle's blog at the Atlantic Monthly, and (for a liberal view) Ezra Klein's Wonkbook. I've generally found reading them not only clarifies my own views, but more importantly clarifies the views of the OTHER side in helpful ways.

So, Professor Garnett, I guess I would say - keep up the good work here! It's a small ripple of positivity in an ocean - but a ripple becomes a wave.

Posted by: Josh | Apr 29, 2012 4:31:36 PM

Fr. J: "Twice now Susan Stabile has posted articles from a very liberal perspective."

Susan: "I don't really think it is accurate to characterize either of the two posts of which you speak as having been written from a "very liberal perspective." [followed by explanation]

Fr. J: "I also, having looked at your blog, find if very hard to believe that you don't write from a liberal perspective. Who is kidding who? I make no bones about my point of view and don't try to hide it."

My comment quoted above responded directly to Fr. J's comment preceding it - i.e., a characterization of two particular posts.

Based on that comment, Fr. J accuses me in his next comment of trying to hide my point of view. I will leave others to judge whether that is a fair accusation. I don't think it is.

Posted by: Susan Stabile | Apr 29, 2012 5:01:26 PM

David, I don't think it is 50-50.

Susan, if you are claiming that you do not reflect a more liberal point of view then you are trying to hide it. I am in agreement with this particular article and am gloomy about the prospects of fruitful argument. One of the reasons is that those on the "Left" who demand I listen have never shown any interest in listening to those on the "Right." I see that as one of the major problems in academia today. Rick asked if I listened and thought. He has not asked that of those on the other side. DO you listen, do you think?

Posted by: Fr. J | Apr 29, 2012 9:46:44 PM

Fr. J,

If your diagnosis is that the right has all the answers, and the left doesn't listen to the right and additionally argues in bad faith, then I think you are contributing to the problem rather than looking for a solution.

Your conclusion is that when Susan Stabile won't agree with your characterization of her posts, she is up to something underhanded. She's trying to hide something. Point 6 of Rick's post is as follows: "People say that we should assume the best of others and their arguments, and avoid a 'hermeneutic of suspicion', but don't." You claim to be in agreement with Rick, but in refusing to assume the best of Susan Stabile and her arguments, you are doing exactly what Rick criticizes. Not only do you fail to acknowledge that she could be right and you could be wrong. You don't even seem to consider the possibility that you could be right and she could be mistaken. You believe yourself to be so obviously right, if she claims to disagree with you, she's being disingenuous. You owe her an apology.

Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 30, 2012 10:24:08 AM

You're not alone: http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=5053

I suppose I'm lucky in that I can take a break from Catholic commentary when it gets too much for me, and people like Prof. Garnett and Fr. Martin cannot, as they are important voices in the Church.

When I do, I am reminded how many good people our Church is filled with, and the tremendous good work they are doing, and that I can be a part of.

Most of these aren't overly concerned with whatever subject is claiming the attention of the Catholic blogs on any given day. Most are simply ministering and serving the people in front of them, doing their best to live according to Jesus's teachings, and bring the Good News to them.

And we will continue to do so, regardless of what health care mandates are passed, regardless of the relationships between orders of religious and the Vatican, regardless of what words are used in the liturgy, regardless of whether the bishops are harder on one political party than the other.

I do not mean to understate the importance of the issues that confront us, and being on the right side of them and working for justice. But to also note that the work of the Church continues, and will continue in good people of all political persuasions, and no particular persuasion at all.

Posted by: JohnMcG | Apr 30, 2012 11:36:40 AM

David, in a sense you are correct. I do think my side is right. You believe the same for your side. But I think it is bad faith for those on the "Left" to demand that I listen when they demonize people like me and have not listened in decades. They utilize the 'hermeneutic of suspicion' constantly. I have never ever heard any "liberal" apologize for anything that they have done in the Church since Vatican II. I could give you a litany of what I have endured. So when you demand that I apologize it simply reinforces my perception that you don't listen. This is why I am gloomily in agreement with the article. Tell you what though, let me start hearing liberals apologize first and show a bit of humility and then I may be more open to dialogue.

Posted by: Fr. J | Apr 30, 2012 12:12:08 PM

Rather than dealing in broad categories, let's try dealing individually with each other:

Fr. J, your original comment on this post that I reacted to was a complaint that I closed comments on two of my posts. As to that:

First, I explained my reasons, but I acknowledge that perhaps I should have left the posts open to allow further conversation. For not doing so, I apologize.

Second, I did not intend my last comments on either of those posts before closing them to further comments as a "shot" at you. However, the fact that you perceived them as such means I was inarticulate/careless in how I framed my explanation. For that, I apologize.

I offer both of those apologies are without any demand, or even request, that you apologize for anything.

I fully accept that I do not always succeed in this, but my desire it to further greater dialogue, in being a force that diminishes polarization and alienation rather than contribute to them.

Posted by: Susan Stabile | Apr 30, 2012 12:40:49 PM

Yes. You can see Mark Shields & David Brooks do it most Friday nights on The PBS NewsHour. Sometimes they mess up, but mostly they're pretty good. That should cheer you up. (E.J. Dionne is pretty good, too.)

Posted by: Margaret | Apr 30, 2012 11:36:18 PM

Margaret, I am afraid Dionne these days exemplifies what makes me depressed. A shame. Raylin Givens, on the other hand . . .

Posted by: Rick Garnett | May 1, 2012 7:13:47 AM

Susan, I accept your apologies. They are about the first ones I have ever seen from your side. I can explain in a personal manner why these kinds of things drive me up the wall. Way back when I was in seminary those of us who were a bit more "traditional", not necessarily Latin Mass types, were subject to persecution. I had a friend who was actually hounded out of seminary because he prayed the rosary before Mass. He was Hispanic and that was normal where he came from. God help you if they found the Summa hidden in your room. They were pretty tolerant of certain kinds of moral laxity though, you know what I mean. Then in my first parish the extremely liberal pastor and staff made my life hell. They had no tolerance for anyone who was more "traditional" and would not allow dissent from their dissent. I watched as they plotted how to get their way and make it look like it was coming from the parishioners. Two of the staff were lesbian ex-nuns who were using their position to undermine Church teaching and they did it gleefully. I was marginalized and treated with contempt, as was anyone in the parish like me. So when I am told to "listen" by those on the liberal/dissenters side I tend to lose it. I believe it is their turn to listen. It is time for them to do some introspection and ask themselves if they listen, if they think, if they are really right, and just maybe admit that men like Pope Benedict have a point. Hopefully, this helps you understand my actions and words.

Posted by: Fr. J | May 1, 2012 12:49:37 PM

Fr. J, Thanks for sharing. I understand your frustrations.

What I would hope, however, is that we could avoid, when we are dealing with each other, is labels like "your side." (Especially since the only side I want to be on is Jesus' and I know the same is true of you....I was reflecting on this in my morning prayer, during which I was praying with 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.)

Obviously there are issues as to which you and I come to very different conclusions. But, clearly not all - and "your side" and "my side" risks masking that. For example, to use one of your examples of "traditional," I not only pray the rosary myself, but I have given retreat programs that include reflections on the mysteries of the rosary. The Lent Retreat in Daily Living I gave last year (2011) used, almost exclusively, "traditional" prayer forms - the rosary, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, the Stations. I also have plenty of Aquinas on my bookshelf (not hidden) as well as Pope Benedict and others (and perhaps some people you wouldn't have on yours).

I also know that it is very easy when dealing with others whose views are different from our own to speak in ways that are less than charitable. I think ALL of us (whatever our leanings and our positions) have to try to do a better job of (a) listening more charitably to each other and (b) thinking about how we are speaking to each other. By the second I don't mean just that we should be nice to each other - although we do need to remember we are talking to our sisters and brothers. But, if we don't speak in a way that the other person can hear us, we are not ever going to be able to communicate effectively.

Such are my thoughts.


Posted by: Susan Stabile | May 1, 2012 1:39:22 PM

Fr. J,

I think you are doing yourself a disservice to dismiss Prof.(?) Stabile's writings a coming from the same "side" as those who made life difficult for you and other more traditionally-minded priests.

Posted by: JohnMcG | May 1, 2012 3:46:49 PM

Susan, my experiences are not just about me. Many traditional Catholics have suffered similar things. Those who are more liberal need to understand that they have hurt a lot of people over the last few decades. That should shape how they respond.

John, having viewed her blog I can assure you that she would be considered quite liberal. I think you should read again what I wrote. I think you do me a disservice by dismissing my perspective. Let's face it, traditional Catholicism is making a very strong comeback. Orthodoxy is reasserting itself. By ignoring people like me and our experiences you set yourself up to be marginalized in your turn. Blessed John Paul talked about "purification of memory." I think that might be fruitful for you. If you want me to listen you are going to have to listen to me and those like me.

Posted by: Fr. J | May 1, 2012 7:08:46 PM

Fr. J, I understand that you are concerned beyond yourself for the suffering of other traditional Catholics. But I can only answer for my own actions to those with whom I interact.

My point was simply that labels can be dangerous and misleading. In many ways I am unquestionably "quite liberal" (as you characterize me to John)...in others I am more traditional than many...and (to the point) more traditional than you might think.

I think we have probably gone as far as we can in this comment thread on this post, but I, in all humility, extend to you this invitation: You have twice referenced my blog. I have posted daily reflections on my blog for four years and have additionally now posted on the blog almost 120 podcasts of various talks I have given over the last three or four years (some of which have been given in the presence of conservative as well as liberal priests). Leaving aside labels of "liberal" and "conservative", if there are things I have said in any of my talks or posts that you believe are inconsistent with the teachings of the Church, I would be enormously grateful to have those pointed out to me. (I believe that all I have said and written is consistent with Church teaching and would take very seriously any claim that that is not the case.) My e-mail, to save you looking it up, is [email protected]

Posted by: Susan Stabile | May 1, 2012 8:41:07 PM

"Raylin Givens, on the other hand[.]"

He's a theist, you know.

Posted by: Mike | May 1, 2012 11:38:14 PM

Susan, I don't care for the political labels either, but the alternative is orthodox and heterodox and I doubt many would enjoy using those. I will take a closer look at your blog if you truly wish, assuming I have time of course.

I would challenge you, and all the professors, on this blog: how do you treat those with whom you disagree? If you are "liberal" how do you deal with a student who is "conservative?" How does the grading go? Do you dismiss his or her ideas? Do you enforce your own point of view and not permit any others? When you tell stories of the "bad old day" of nuns who hit you with a ruler do you consider those of us who remember the "bad old days" where a nun in a pantsuit threatened us with not being ordained because we didn't use inclusive language? If your idea of Catholicism is the Call To Action conference and the National Catholic Reporter how do you treat those of us who find such things appalling?

I have recently been reading the book Bad Religion and some here might find it interesting.

Posted by: Fr. J | May 2, 2012 1:47:42 PM

I am not ignoring you; I am saying I think it would be unwise to dismiss Prof. Stabile's perspective, and put her in the same category as those you experienced in the seminary and your early days as a priest simply because she has expressed some opinions associated with the political left.

Nor do I think expressing opinions on the political left means you must answer for every bad thing done by others who share that perspective any more than pro-life means one must answer for every wrong thing done in defense of the unborn. Prof. Stabile may share some political opinions with those who treated you and other young men badly, but I have seen no evidence that she shares their fondness for the tactics you describe.

And, no, shutting down a comment thread is not the same type of tactic. We are guests here of the contributors, and they are entitled to shut down a discussion when it is going in a direction they would not prefer.

I think my response demonstrated that I had listened to you and your description of how you and other more traditionalist men were treated as seminarians and newly ordained priests.

If the actions of more liberal Catholics when they were in power were so hurtful, I would hope that if it is true that more traditionalist Catholics are gaining power, that they will not repeat these mistakes.

Prof. Stabile provided you an unsolicited apology. It may be time to take "yes" for an answer, so we can all work on more important matters.

Posted by: JohnMcG | May 2, 2012 2:28:26 PM

It seems to me that judging "one of them" by the way "they" treated you is very much what bigotry is all about.

Posted by: David Nickol | May 2, 2012 4:36:41 PM

Father J., with all due respect, since it is true that being in communion is not a matter of degree (Catholic Canon 750), it is not accurate to refer to traditional and liberal Catholics, but rather those who are in communion with His Church and those who are not. We are One Body, One Spirit, in Christ.

Posted by: N.D. | May 2, 2012 6:46:09 PM

After reading this article i do thinks the same thing that in some points he is right while in some other he is wrong.

Posted by: mole remover | May 7, 2012 6:55:30 AM