If you're willing to cut beyond ideology, consider other points of view, and have read thus far, that's great! As Socrates famously noted, most of what people believe is fact actually is a "wrong opinion tied down." People don't like having their wrong opinions exposed. Some retalliate with all sorts of name calling, insulting comments, and even offering a cup of hemlock. But, examining other points of view critically is crucial, as they may just tie down right opinion.
Consider the posting over at TheFederalist.com written by the arts, culture, religion blogger for First Things, Maureen Mullarkey. In this particular post, Mullarkey offers a critic's clear-eyed analysis of Pope Francis' recent encyclical, Laudato si, asking "Where Did Pope Francis' Exquisite Rant Come From?"
That's quite a title...one that's sure to offend some ideologues! Having read thus far, they've decided that they should have heeded the WARNING above. They've clicked away from The Motley Monk thinking "What a bunch of Mullarkey!" Not quite the liberal thinkers they believe themselves to be. Worse yet, they launch a clever, play-on-words ad hominem attack without having even considered the facts. Who's to be lamented more: An ideologue or someone articulating a wrong idea tied down?
Mullarkey's thesis is that Pope Francis has diverted the gospel into a series of ill-supported political pronouncements. Here's one snippet:
Propelled by the cult of feeling and Golden Age nostalgia--
enshrined in the myth of indigenous peoples as peaceable
ecologists—that elusive something picked up a tincture of
Teilhardian gnosticism as it grew. It bursts on us now as
“Laudato Si,” a malignant jumble of dubious science, policy
prescriptions, doomsday rhetoric, and what students of
Wordsworthian poetics call, in Keats’ derisive phrase, “the
The document’s catalogue of distortions and factual errors are
those of the climate-change establishment swallowed whole.
There is no scientific consensus on man-made global warming,
no consensus on the role of human activity in any of the
environmental phenomena cited.
Read the rest here where Mullarkey offers readers her "Short List of What’s Wrong with 'Laudato Si'."
More significant in The Motley Monk's opinion is Mullarkey's conclusion:
Intellectual and moral confusion of such magnitude is a
judgment on the ecclesial culture that produced it and the
popular culture that consents to it.
While Mullarkey has marshalled facts to support her conclusion, there's something more troubling that's going on with today's Zeitgeist. Both cultures about which Mularkey writes don't believe that words have meaning. Instead, they base their arguments upon the false premise--a wrong opinion tied down--that words are mere social constructs and whose meanings are both time-bound and multiple. What's important is not what's stated or written--what the one speaking or writing actually intends. No, what's absolutely crucial is how those who are hearing or reading those words feel about and interpret them today.
In short, there is no truth, just words uttered or written at some previous moment in time, all possessing a multiciplity of meanings.
For example, when Jesus said "Whoever would divorce his wife, except in the case of fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery. And whoever marries her who has been divorced commits adultery." This teaching--the truth, as in "right opinion tied down"--prohibiting divorce seems pretty clear. Unless, of course, Jesus was misinformed and needs to be understood differently, given post-enlightenment critical analysis which reveals that his was a "wrong opinion tied down." If that's true, like most human beings, even Jesus didn't get it correct all of the time. Oh well, some much for Jesus being the Son of God, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
Then, too, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States issued a majority opinion yesterday in King et al., v. Burwell. In that opinion, John Roberts noted that the word "state" as it was used in the contested statuted could mean either "the federal goverment" or the 50 "state" governments. To understand congressional intent, he opined, requires stepping back and reading the word as it's situated "in the larger context of the law." If that's true, any law and even the U.S. Constitution can be construed to mean just about anything. After all, what's being contested are time-bound words that have multiple meanings and need to be judged using today's standards.
What interests The Motley Monk is what the commentatoriate class on cable television has yet to opine about concerning Roberts' opinion: It turns Civics 101 completely on its head or, as Associate Justice Antonin Scalia opined in his dissent, "somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed...."
"Interpretive jiggery-pokery," Scalia called it. After all, when statutorial law is ambiguous, the Supreme Court isn't constitutionally charged with rewriting it. No, the Supreme Court must strike that statute down and refer the matter back to Congress for rewriting. Why? That power is constitutionally delegated to the Congress unless the phrase "delegation of powers" doesn't mean according powers to different branches of the federal government.
But then, Scalia's opinion must be a bunch of malarkey because words don't mean anything in a culture where "Intellectual and moral confusion of such magnitude is a judgment on the [educational] culture that produced it and the popular culture that consents to it."
For those of the political left or independents who have read thus far, you needn't agree. But, intellectual honesty does require being open minded enough to consider another point of view in its entirety. Namely, words have meaning in their original context. What's important is that the nation's educational system has been teaching the contrary for almost two generations.
"Interpretive jiggery-pokery" to subvert what words mean doesn't make for a more perfect union. Sort of like "It all depends upon what the word 'is' means."
Let the discussion begin...
To read Maureen Mullarkey's post, click on the following link:
To follow Maureen Mullarkey's excellent weblog over at First Things, click on the following link: