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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Barron on the Use and Misuse of "Culture Warrior"

I recommend this short post by Bishop Robert Barron, "'Culture Warrior' and the Fallacy of Misplaced Correctness."  It opens with this:

One of the least illuminating descriptors that makes its way around the Catholic commentariat is “culture warrior.” 

Barron is, in my view, correct.  One encounters this descriptor -- "culture warrior" -- all too often in Catholic commentary, and it is almost always used by more "progressive" Catholics as a way to express disapproval of things that more "conservative" Catholics say and do.  As Barron describes, the label is, often, unhelpfully contrasted with dialogue, mercy, humility, and accompaniment.  As I noted a few years ago, in this post:

There is, to be sure, a lot to regret about the reality of the "culture wars" and the way they've distorted politics and harmed discourse -- among those things, in my view, is the common but unhelpful practice of labeling those with whom one disagrees politically as "culture warriors" -- although it seems to me that regret will not change the reality.  It is simply the case -- and it does not make one a "culture warrior" who is "obsessed" to notice it -- that there are determined, well-funded, and increasingly powerful institutions, actors, and forces at work in the culture, in politics, in the law, and in the academy (for example) that oppose strongly the moral vision, commitments, and witness of the Catholic Church and that are doing what they can -- and they can do a lot -- to marginalize the Church, her teachings, and her institutions in public life.

As Barron notes:

[C]onsider the abstraction “culture warrior” as used . . . as a negative characterization of his opponent. [It] can’t possibly name anything real, since the accuser is every bit as much a culture warrior as the accused. It therefore functions as a smokescreen for what the accuser really wants to say, and I can think of at least two possibilities: either he doesn’t think that the issues his opponent is criticizing should in fact be criticized, or perhaps he feels that the way his opponent is characterizing the issue is unfair. In either case, the real matter is obscured, and the use of the term doesn’t move anyone even a bit closer to the truth. Infinitely preferable to trading in insulting abstractions that apply as much to oneself as to one’s opponent is to engage in the tough work of authentic argument.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink