Saturday, April 04, 2009

Anti-Obama fatigue

I used to love to hate Obama. Then the company started to stink. Count me in with the "disappointed but not outraged" sect of Catholics on the ND-Obama story. Podles, once again, sums up my ambivalence:
Both sides of the Obama controversy, however, demonstrate a Catholic tendency that does no good to the Church: the tendency to see everything in terms of will and obedience, that is, in the context of a voluntaristic approach to morality. Attempts to find a way in canon law to block the invitation are one sign of this attitude; but the defenses of Obama also demonstrate the influence of voluntarism.
If you're tired of the showboating, johnny-come-lately parade of bishops' letters and op-eds, you'll want to read the rest. Note that, once again, Podles is an orthodox Catholic who is not so naive to accept everything that "orthodox" or "conservative" Catholics do or say in the public square as marching orders. This skepticism has become a necessary disposition for all Catholics foolish enough to follow ecclesiastical politics.

The real battle for the soul of American Catholicism is not between the Commonweal/America and First Things/Crisis Catholics. Both need to fight themselves (agere contra) a lot more. Only in asceticism does the mind find a defense against the silliness of the public square, naked or not.

I used to believe that the problem with the academic ivory tower was that the "Life of the Mind" fantasia it worships is too disembodied and abstract. But I don't think that's it. To the contrary, it's not scornful of "the world" and "the flesh" enough. If ND wants to embody Catholic intellectualism, it would impress me far more if it abandoned the boringly superficial and moralistic ideologies of tolerance, diversity, dialogue, etc., and embraced the monastery as the archetype of the intellectual life.

Asceticism, Repentance, and Eucharist -- next to that, how do we let Tolerance, Diversity, and Dialogue dominate the horizon of Catholic academia? Therein lies ND's real problem. Pro-life crusader bishops run into the same contradiction when they gesticulate more outrage over this symbolic crisis than they do over the persistence of clerical sexual predators and bureaucratic coverups under their watch.