Regardless of one’s opinion of the Holy Father’s talk at Regensburg and how the reaction has been handled by the Holy See, two facts are undeniable:
- The reaction of the Islamic world to criticism of its violence and irrationality was violent and irrational.
- The reaction of Western secularists to the Pope’s praise for faith and reason was perfidious and unreasonable.
It seems as if the Holy Father’s critics drove both of his major points home to the world more completely than he himself possibly could, given that his address was limited to German academics.
The reference to Islam’s incapacity for reason was on target. The Holy Father has been criticized for citing a particular Islamic thinker, Ibn Hazm, who “went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.” However, where Islam actually did produce philosophers, such as the Aristotelian thinkers Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averoes), those scholars had a problem: The philosophical truth they saw with their reason was often in opposition to their religious beliefs. Thus they created the monstrosity that students of philosophy have known ever since as the “two-truth theory,” the idea that something can be true in the realm of philosophy but untrue in the realm of religion and vice-versa. This is one of the greatest indicators that the religion of “the Prophet,” is intrinsically unreasonable. In all its classical forms, it does not see faith and reason as ultimately compatible. All we can do is “submit” to the will of God, no matter how much violence it does to the human intellect.
The same cannot be said of Catholicism, which has always seen faith and reason as necessarily compatible. Hence, in the days of Christendom, theology flourished at the same time philosophy and the other natural sciences did. The university, let us never forget, is a Catholic thing from the “Dark Ages,” whose brightness blinds modern scientism just as much as it does ignorant fundamentalism.
Right now, the world is caught in a false dialectic between irrational militant Islam on one hand, and irrational militant secularism on the other. Both of these are enemies of the Church.
James Carroll: A Paulist Rerun
True to form and right on cue, one of the pundits who expressed sanctimonious outrage at the Holy Father’s insensitive remarks was James Carroll, the Boston Globe’s resident liberal-priest-turned-vituperative-critic-of-the-Church (the fellow about whom I wrote the ironically entitled piece Boston Globe Vindicates Father Feeney).
Carroll has a tragic personal history, one well documented by our friend and conference speaker C. J. Doyle in his piece “Vichy Catholic.”
What I would want to add to Mr. Doyle’s remarks is that Carroll and his attacks on the Church have not only a history, but a “pre-history.” If I didn’t reject reincarnation on religious grounds, I would be tempted to believe that he was William Sullivan come again in the flesh.
Who was William Sullivan? He was a Paulist who wrote The Priest, a novel in which the two main characters — one a priest, the other a Unitarian minister — jettison their religions to become social reformers. In 1908, Sullivan left the priesthood as a result of St. Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism. He would later write Letters to His Holiness Pope Pius X, a defiant statement of his position against the Church.
The comparisons are many. Both Carroll and Sullivan were Paulist priests of Irish extraction. They were ordained in 1969 and 1899 respectively.
Sullivan was a Bostonian, while Carroll, son of an Air Force General, was a Chicagoan who grew up in D.C. and Germany. Carroll chose to adopt Boston in his adulthood. Both were corrupted by liberal biblical criticism. Both became novelists when the priesthood left them flat. The two also have in common an visceral hatred for dogma, tradition, the papacy, and the Church’s “failure” to adopt herself to the modern world and science.
About the biggest difference between the two is that Sullivan had the moral integrity to declare himself a Unitarian, becoming a discontented Unitarian minister until his death in 1944. Carroll, on the other hand, disingenuously claims, “I am still a Catholic who cares very much about the Church,” as he bashes her on a routine basis.
Available: Hightlights CD from last year’s Festival.
One of the lighter moments of the pilgrimage was a talent night on Thursday. An act that brought the house down featured one of our sisters playing old time fiddle, accompanied by a guitar-playing graduate of IHM school. The sister, the graduate, and others, can be heard on the new CD from our annual festival.
As part of our effort to promote a wholesome Catholic culture here in rural New Hampshire, our school sponsors the Richmond Blueberry Fiddle Festival, an event featuring old-time, Celtic, and bluegrass music. Funds from the festival and the CD support our school.
If you are wondering why a doctrinaire, missionary, and educational Order sees fit to interest itself in popular culture, fiddles, and blueberries, you may want to read Christendom’s Building Blocks, where the question of Catholic communities and culture are discussed as important foundations for a future Christendom.
Catholics should have fun and recreate. St. Thomas defends recreation in the Summa (Whether there can be a virtue about games?) and speaks of the sinfulness of not recreating (“Whether there is a sin in lack of mirth?”).