December 14, 2005

Give Me An A-D H-O-M-I-N-E-M

What's that spell? Ad hominem. As in, attack.

As some of our longtime readers have probably noticed, many of our comments end up being a one-on-one dialogue with one or more of the bloggers from Catholics in the Public Square, usually David Schrader (Catholics for Bush). Although the Catholics in the Public Square folks and I disagree on just about everything when it comes to politics and social justice, I like to think that we have nevertheless formed at the very least a civil relationship with one another. Sometimes this relationship does degenerate into something that's less-than-civil, and usually it's my fault. But by and large, I think we keep it pretty civil and stick to the issues.

It's a shame, then, that some others can't do that.

I'm referring to an article that will appear soon in Culture Wars, partially quoted by Stephen Hand on his weblog, TCRNews Musings. Part of the article reads:

These days there is a clique of young Catholic conservatives who like to talk about Catholics in the Public Square. In fact that is the name of one of their web sites although it really is little-more than cheer-leading for another vengeful warmongering Texan in the White House and his Catholic servants in Congress like Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum.

This is not the first time that the editors of Catholics in the Public Square have been attacked by Culture Wars. Christopher Blosser (Against the Grain) and his family were accused of being "rabid supporters of the current occupation of Iraq," followed by some reference to "the Jewish 'tribe'," insisting that our own "Catholic 'tribe'" is somehow at war with the Jewish tribe. Go figure.

But let's take some of this apart, shall we?

First, we have the accusation that Catholics in the Public Square is participating in "cheer-leading for another vengeful warmongering Texan in the White House." I assume this is supposed to be President Bush, but Culture Wars can feel free to correct me if they're talking about Laura. Does this accusation have any basis in reality? As of this writing, there are fifteen posts on the main page of Catholics in the Public Square, and none of the bloggers there even mention President Bush, except for once in passing. The closest they come to even discussing anything having to do with President Bush is their discussion of his nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito. This is not surprising given that Judge Alito is... a Catholic... in the public square. How about the war? How often is that discussed? There is one very brief post dedicated to the war, written a month ago by Oswald Sobrino, discussing Sen. Joseph Lieberman's (D-CT) support for the Iraq War. Perhaps Sen. Lieberman is part of that "Jewish 'tribe'" we're supposed to be at war with? It seems that this particular accusation doesn't have much of a basis in reality.

Of course, discussion of President Bush was a bit more elevated during the election year of 2004. That's to be expected, especially when one considers that President Bush's opponent was Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)... a Catholic... in the public square. In order to thoroughly discuss Sen. Kerry's candidacy, it would have been impossible for the editors of Catholics in the Public Square to simply ignore the views of his opponent. And so what does Catholics in the Public Square stand accused of? Participating in an election, as is their right and duty as American citizens? Gosh, I suppose they are guilty as charged.

What about the other charge, made earlier, that Christopher Blosser and his family are guilty of being "rabid supporters of the current American occupation of Iraq"? First of all, as Christopher pointed out, he and his father (and perhaps his brother Jamie?) are the only ones on record as supporting the Iraq War, so it is somewhat disingenuous to accuse his whole family of this "rabid" support. But what about that "rabid" support? Is Christopher himself guilty?

It is true that Christopher Blosser has blogged in support of the Iraq War, and that he maintains a section of his Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club website dedicated to the just war debate. Is this support "rabid"? You be the judge. Yes, it is true that Christopher provides a forum for the voices of conservatives such as Dan Darling, Robert George, Stephen Hayes, Deal Hudson, James Johnson, Fr. Richard Neuhaus, Michael Novak, Fr. James Schall, Russel Shaw, and George Weigel, all of whom were supportive of the war. But it is also true that he provides a forum for the voices of progressives like the late Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI (then-Cardinal Ratzinger), Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Archbishop Renato Martino, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Cardinal Pio Laghi, and Mark and Louise Zwick, all of whom were opposed to the war. Does Christopher Blosser support the war? Yah! You betcha! And I disagree with him profoundly. But is his support rabid? Only if by "rabid" you mean giving equal time to both sides of the debate, and presenting his view only after weighing both. And we all know that such a balanced approach is the antithesis of rabid.

To conclude, both Stephen Hand, who has also launched attack after attack against Blosser and other Catholic conservatives, and Culture Wars, have done a disservice to the Catholic Church in general and the Catholic liberal movement in particular. The weakest arguments are always those characterized by ad hominem attacks, and it seems that such attacks are all that Mr. Hand and the folks at Culture Wars have left. And they make it seem as if that's all the entire Catholic liberal movement has left. As Catholic liberals, let us feel free to disagree with the Iraq War and continue to oppose it. We have the support of this pope and his predecessor in that. But let us do so with charity and civility, now sorely lacking, and let us do so from rational arguments which tackle the issues rather than irrational arguments which attack our opponents. And let us remember the ancient Christian axiom: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."