Madness masquerading as Catholicism

Madness masquerading as Catholicism

In a recent article for Catholic Vote, a Georgetown alumna, Amber Athey, called upon the university to commit itself more clearly to the Catholic faith. That would seem to be like urging an athlete to eat healthy food and to get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Or rather it would be like urging someone who advertises himself as an exemplar of physical culture to be, actually, an exemplar of physical culture.

That would not be controversial, unless the athlete had strong personal reasons not to be an athlete anymore: if, more than he wanted to be an athlete, he wanted to be a glutton, a drunk, a lay-about, a chain smoker, or one who indulges in some other bone-riddling and blood-corrupting vice. Such is the case, as Athey shows.

In 2016, she says, Georgetown invited the president of Planned Predators, I mean Parenthood, Cecile Richards, to speak on campus. The students at Georgetown have learned their lessons well, giving her “a standing ovation at the beginning and end of the event.” It was “a cloaked abortion rally.”

I don’t think we would have a cloaked cannibalism rally. That is because few people in our time are cannibals. But everybody is a trick of the will away from abortion, because everybody wears clothes that can be taken off. It really amounts to no more than that. If the child-making thing were onerous and unpleasant, I doubt there would be anyone in the world so eager to say that the child in the womb was not a child in the womb, nor would people be so quick to agree to its being killed. They would say, “If you did not want a child, why did you go through all of those unpleasant preliminaries?” If ever we needed an example of how lust makes you blind, this is it.

And that is what warmed the hearts of the students, as the head of the Predators, I mean Parenthood, “compared herself and her organization, which aborts hundreds of thousands of unborn babies a year, to civil rights activists as the event organizers hugged and fawned over their apparent hero.” Not to be outdone in evil sentimentality, the Georgetown official in charge of funding the event “proudly proclaimed to the audience that God is ‘pro-choice’ and claimed that hosting an abortion provider was ‘in the spirit of a Jesuit university.’” Oh, it certainly was. Not perhaps in the spirit of the Jesuit university that was founded 200 years ago, but in the spirit of Jesuit universities such as we know them now—secular, with a slight oily film of Catholic sentiment, using the “Catholic” for advertising, a token Jesus now and again to loosen still-Catholic alumni from their money.

I will hear now that at a Jesuit university, all matters are open to discussion, because after all we live in a pluralistic society, and all voices need to be heard, and surely we are big enough to listen, and so forth; we have heard the rhetoric so often we may ourselves speak it in our sleep. My first objection to it is not that I do not believe it. It is that the people who talk in this way do not believe it. They do not believe that cannibalism, chattel slavery, cheating the poor, lying on your income tax, and molesting children are open to discussion, because after all we live in a pluralistic society, and cannibal voices need to be heard once they have finished gulping down their enemies’ blood, and surely we are big enough to listen. The openness has only to do with sex. Such is the hedonism of our time: so petty, so disappointing.

But let me now put it to the Georgetowns of the world. Truth is not a limitation. It is a potency. If it settles one matter, it broaches 10 more; truth builds upon truth. We learn about the movement of electrons, and that opens up to us the sciences of electromagnetism and electrodynamics. We learn about the fission of the radioactive atom, and that opens for us the possibility of unleashing its power. We do not have conferences on whether the moon is made of green cheese. We do not invite to campus speakers from the Phlogiston Society. We are about truth.

Two objections here may be filed. One is that we do not actually know whether it is good or wicked to snuff out the life of the child in the womb—the child whose existence is owing to someone’s voluntary action, because children do not happen by accident, nor do you catch a child by being near a pregnant woman when she sneezes. The other is that in moral matters, or—recall again our petty and disappointing hedonism—in consensual sexual matters, there is no such thing as good and bad, but only what you choose, what you imagine it to be. How pretty it is to think so. To put it more plainly, the first objection is that the Church is wrong. The second objection is that there is no right or wrong in any case.

If you believe that the Church is wrong about so important and fundamental a matter as whether we can intentionally kill an innocent human life, and especially one that has a claim on those who want it out of the way, you cannot call yourself, simpliciter, a Catholic. You may be a hedonist who likes to go to Mass, or a secular libertarian, or a sentimentalist of the autonomous self. You may be, you probably are, in a muddle. You may be attempting to reserve a portion of yourself for yourself and not Christ. But you are not whole. We can grant to a person some forbearance because of confusion, even stupidity. Not to an institution. The institution that cannot or will not profess that teaching is not Catholic. A poorly informed man may believe that the space between the planets is filled with ether. Your department of physics cannot profess such a thing and still be what it claims to be.

If, however, you believe that there is no truth to be discerned regarding such a moral question, then you are not merely heretical. You do not have an open mind. You have no mind. In the first case, you cannot call yourself Catholic. In the second, you cannot call yourself a university.

The university is in the pursuit of truth. If, outside of quantitative analysis, there is no truth to pursue, why should we commit to it one dime of our money? It would be like funding a think-tank regarding the relative merits of things in whose existence no one believes. What is the point?

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