Fr. Z had another diatribe on his blog on Saturday regarding the National Catholic Reporter’s article, “Military archdiocese collection muddies nonviolence message, detractors say.” Catholics Against Militarism was interviewed for the article.
He referred to us as Liberals and Leftists, writing: “Liberals are the experts at division. This is a Leftist idea and tactic.” Again, he labeled our initiative as an “attack.”
Fr. Z, in case you venture over to our neck of the woods here, we must point out: We do not consider ourselves to be “Leftists.” Both of us are libertarian-leaning and agree with you on many theological issues. One of us is a regular follower of your blog, and not even in a “What’s this loon going to say next?” kind of way. One of us follows your blog out of general respect for your views and sincere interest in your commentary. (The other of us never heard of you until this weekend.)
Fr. Z has a very 1960s mentality. The Left/Right mentality no longer applies to people, at least not in our generation. You can’t simply attribute antiwar and noninterventionist sentiment to the Left anymore. Things have changed since Vietnam.
Also, classifying people as “Right” or “Left,” based on one opinion or idea, as a way to dismiss that opinion or idea, is an example of argumentum ad hominem (attacking the traits of an opponent as a means to invalidate their arguments). In our opinion, that kind of attack is responsible for far more division in the Catholic Church than what we’re doing! How can Catholics have any kind of dialogue about important issues, if Catholics are making snap judgments about other Catholics and engaging in abusive ad hominem?
We don’t want to be derided and dismissed as “Leftists,” “liberals,” “pacifists,” “traitors,” “isolationists,” “anti-American,” or “unpatriotic,” just as we believe Fr. Z and his readers do not want to be derided and dismissed by being labeled “fascists,” “neocons,” “chickenhawks,” “warmongers,” “Constantinian Christians,” “baby killers,” or “bloodthirsty heathen idolaters.”
As Christopher Dawson wrote in his famous “Essay on War”:
“There is no subject on which rational discussion is more difficult than war and peace. In time of war, of course, rational thought is practically suspended and passion becomes a virtue, as we saw during the last war (World War I, 1914-18). Then the remotest suggestion that there was anything to be said on the other side, or that the enemy was capable of the smallest degree of human behavior, was regarded as a kind of immoral madness. Nor is this unreasonableness confined to the war-mongers. In time of peace, at any rate, the pacifist is often passionate and more irrational than the militarist, and it is usually easier to carry on rational discussion with a staff officer than with a professional pacifist. Moreover, the pacifists are far from agreed among themselves, and it is useless to argue about pacifism in the abstract when we are ignorant of the particular school of pacifism to which our opponent happens to belong.”
Believe it or not, we happen to be much more interested in dialogue and rational discussion than creating controversy and inciting comments threads wars on the Internet. To this end, we think that doing a series of podcasts with people who both do and do not agree with us might be a better way of fostering dialogue and minimizing divisiveness than almost anything else. To that end, Fr. Z, we would like to invite you to be a guest. We see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we disagree on just enough to make it interesting. If you read this and if you’re interested, let us know.
Here is our first response to Fr. Z.