Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lucifer's Letter on Gary Gutting and the New York Times

I find it impossible these days to think of Gary Gutting, philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame, without being reminded of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters.  I imagine a letter from Lucifer to his nephew Snipe, the agent in charge of undermining Catholic education, something like the following.
My dear Snipe,
I have been watching with growing admiration your recent activities.  Even though the media and comboxes, even a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, denigrate the Catholic Church daily to good effect, there is nothing like the sophisticated musings and pronouncements of a professor at a prestigious Catholic university to sow confusion among the faithful.  It is very helpful to perpetuate - above all in centers of Catholic learning - the idea that orthodoxy is for simple folk, people like fishermen and tax collectors and much beneath the cultured elite.  So your work in fostering dissent and cynicism in philosophy and theology departments at places like Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Boston College is greatly appreciated.
It is very good to see how one of my favorite professors, Gary Gutting of Notre Dame’s philosophy department, is writing regularly for the New York Times to undermine the teaching authority of the Catholic Church as well as the teachings themselves.
I was amused to see Gutting’s comment in the New York Times that “the immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.”  He based this astonishing but welcome news on the fact that so many Catholics ignore Church teaching on the matter.  What I especially enjoyed was his response to those like EWTN and Professor William E. May of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America who pointed out that God’s Son gave the authority to speak in his name only to a designated body.  “This was, and is,” said May, “Saint Peter, the Apostles and their successors.”  They alone “have the authority to speak, in the name of Jesus Christ, the truths that are necessary for our salvation.”  
Professor May even cited the teaching of Vatican II that Catholics “may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.”  He cites another document of Vatican II on the duty of Catholics to accept and submit to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff.”  These are dangerous arguments, drawing as they do on the authority of Christ himself and Vatican II, a council to which dissidents like to appeal. No worries - we know that the NYT looks to my followers, not the bishops, to speak for Catholics, and Gutting did a wonderful job of appealing to the “spirit” of Vatican II against what that Council’s documents actually say. 
But here our dear Professor Gutting surpasses himself.  He rejects the relativist view of the unsophisticated undergraduate that there is no objectively correct view, but asks how we can decide who’s right.  “We can’t appeal to the bishops to decide the matter, since what’s in question is their authority. So obviously, Catholics have to answer this question on their own, by their own best lights. That’s what I mean by saying it’s up to individual Catholics.”
That is brilliant!  He asserts as a matter of fact that the immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church.  He admits that his assertion is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church as promulgated by the pope and bishops, but then says it’s up to individual Catholics to decide what authority those clerics have anyway.  Be sure to have our dear professor explain to the New York Times that the Church no longer teaches the Real Presence either and use this same argument to justify his position if challenged.  This is the way to go, a sure path to our ultimate goal, dissolution of the Church.
Now in a column in the esteemed NYT our friend goes further and questions God’s authority too, on the grounds that even if he exists he may be up to no good as far as humans are concerned and anyway it doesn’t matter what people believe.  Doesn’t he do a good job of turning God’s answer to Job--about the limitations of human understanding in relation to the omniscience of God (Job 38)--into an argument against (or for the irrelevance of) belief in God at all?  Mere mortals, as he says, have no idea what he is up to or whether it’s for the benefit of humans.  
This is all very good.  He not only undermines religious faith, but also attacks the very foundations of Christianity without firing a shot.  In becoming one of them, God confronted humans with a Fact, an inescapable truth claim that becomes for them the most important and inescapable question imaginable.  Either God became man or he didn’t. People accept or reject the claim.  It is, as we know, absurd to say that it doesn’t matter.  But this is exactly what Gutting does, with such sleight of hand that he appears sophisticated and intelligent while making those who think truth matters look ignorant and not too bright.  Admirable!
I want to conclude with an admonition.  Departments of philosophy and theology at major Catholic universities play a crucial role in undermining the faith.  So many intelligent young people come to professors like Gutting as faithful Catholics and lose their faith in just a few years under their skillful instruction.  That parents spend tens of thousands of dollars on the ruin of their children’s souls is an added bonus.
But there are challenges and we must maintain our vigilance.  We have had two strong popes in a row determined to stop the rot we are trying to spread.  Sadly, there is a new spirit of orthodoxy and enthusiasm among the young and the newer priests and religious.  Old dissident orders and seminaries are dying out or being closed down.  How to reverse these damaging trends?
First, it is necessary to criticize the Church and the bishops publicly whenever they come into conflict with the state.  Fortunately, you can count on the mainstream media to turn to our people as if they had equal authority to speak for Catholics.  People like our dear professor must always be on hand to explain that the Church no longer teaches what she teaches.
But now many seminaries and religious orders are again admitting young men and women who are orthodox and devout.  The work of keeping or driving them out as “rigid” is faltering.  Pious, good men are once again becoming priests and joyful, holy women are joining new orders, all wearing their clerical clothes and habits openly with pride.
That is very bad and you must see that this sort of thing does not happen in the prestigious Catholic universities you oversee.  You must make sure that orthodox, faithful Catholics are never hired as faculty in philosophy and theology departments and that students of that kind are given as hard a time as possible.  They must come to see the error of their ways or suffer the consequences of their obduracy.  Your people have only a few years to do their work with these impressionable young people.  They know not to teach the self-refuting claim that all truth is relative but don’t forget Gutting’s excellent alternative - it may be objective but what that truth is and who has authority to decide is just a matter of opinion. 
Remind our collaborators in the elite Catholic faculties of our slogan.  In religion you can say anything you like as long as you don’t claim that it’s true.  The only heresy is orthodoxy.  Drum this into students and the battle is half won.
Your affectionate uncle,

1 comment:

  1. Very good! Just read Guttings musings on why the bishops have it wrong on conscience protection. but at least some of Notre Dame's law profs have taken the lead on that issue.