Thursday, February 23, 2017

Does Dialogue Achieve Anything?

I was watching this conversation between Andrew Sullivan (a liberal Catholic) and Ross Douthat (a conservative Catholic) from 2012. I found myself taking a certain pleasure in its geniality and lack of point-scoring.

However, the predictability and shallowness of Sullvan's arguments grated on me. Jesus rarely mentions sex, so Christians must have exaggerated its importance. (It doesn't seem to occur to him that the Gospels are short documents, and that Jesus is very emphatic when he does mention it.) The Church used its teaching throughout the centuries to bolster its power. (Then why was it so keen to preserve its doctrine? It could have easily cut its cloth to fit the demands of power at any given time.)

It's when the conversation turns to the subect of religion and politics, and when Sullivan says that his model of Christianity in politics is the civil rights movement, that a sense of utter weariness descends upon me.

Genial discussion can be very pleasant. It's nice to be nice. It's nice to be liked. But does it actually achieve anything? Does honey really catch more flies than vinegar? I'm not so sure that it does.

But I might be wrong, so I'm not saying it's not worth trying.


  1. What I can't understand is why Sullivan remains in the Catholic Church. Why not just join some liberal episcopalian "church". They'd probably make him a bishop.

    1. The very things they complain about, I think, are the things that keep them in the Catholic Church, or draw them to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church needs to be the Daddy. And Daddy can be loving, but he needs to be firm. I honestly think that's what everybody wants in their hearts, even the people who scream blue murder about the Church's patriarchal hierarchical obscurantist reactionary sexually repressive socially backward fascism.

    2. Ha, your probably right. With seminaries like Maynooth he's not in bad company in some quarters of the church. A priest I know, told me he wouldn't refuse an actively gay parishioner from receiving holy communion. Which in Ireland, isn't an extraordinary practice In many places I'd imagine.