Pacifism and the Cult of Life

As Friday evening goes on, the conservative Catholic gnostics at What’s Wrong with the World continue to gnash their teeth at my unanswerable description of them as pacifists in all but name.

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Josh writes:

Isn’t a pacifist just another name for a universal pro-lifer? And isn’t a universal pro-lifer really just a modern liberal?

LA replies:

That’s a fantastic insight. Yes. Once opposition to abortion becomes, not just a correct and important moral stance against a terrible social evil, but the very paradigm of Catholic morality, then the avoidance of any harm or any death to anyone becomes the main substance of Catholic morality. This derailment of the Christian religion into the protection of persons from physical harm (which, after all, is supposed to be the business of the state, not the Church) is connected with John Paul II’s “Culture of Life,” or should we call it the “Cult of Life,” in which the maintenance, promotion, and protection of biological life and the individual human self (“the human person”) and its rights becomes the main object of the Catholic faith rather than eternal life, life in God, the kingdom of heaven. Further, as Josh indicates, this Cult of Life makes the Catholics very much like liberals, who, because they don’t believe in God, treat the individual self and its desires as their highest value. Since the individual self is their highest value, the liberals are virtual pacifists, just as JPII was; they oppose capital punishment, just as JPII did; and they make openness to and inclusion of all human selves their highest ideal, particularly in the demand for open borders, just as JPII did.

The conservative Catholics at 4W vary from the above liberal pattern in that they support immigration restrictions (and I don’t know where they stand on capital punishment). But in their pacifism-in-all-but-name, and in their axiomatic belief that avoiding the wrongful killing of an innocent is a transcendent foundation of all morality, even at the cost of letting millions of other innocent people be killed by some third party, in other words, in their exclusive focus on the moral purity of their own actions regardless of real-world consequences, they are very much like liberals.

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Hannon writes:

Part of what you said here seems to indicate that, in effect, the Christian churches have co-opted secularism as a modern and possibly desparate response to the loss of appeal of the metaphysical and the divine. The ever more brief attention span of average citizens and the overwhelming onslaught of liberalism and the god of science apparently require straying from traditional characteristics of religion.

Assuming there is substantive truth in this, does anyone appear to be concerned about it?

LA replies:

The idea, that the Church has appropriated secular functions such as the protection of innocent life and the protection of rights, thus abandoning its own principal vocation which is the salvation of the soul, occurred to me for the first time as I was writing this. I have no idea if there is general awareness of or concern about it.

Tom S. writes:

I find it interesting that JPII’s functional pacifism was not really let loose until after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Amid all of the “Culture of Life” and “Seamless Garment” stuff that popped up in the 1990s, it’s hard to remember that back in 1982, the Pope made what was essentially an endorsement of nuclear deterrence (!) which was limited, but far stronger than anything the U.S. Catholic Bishops were willing to offer. This makes sense. After all, the Pope had lived under Communism, seen its evil up close, recognized what a disaster it was for all concerned, and knew that it had to be opposed. But once the Soviet Union collapsed, he seemed to come to believe two things; first, that peaceful “moral force” alone had brought down the USSR (ignoring the role of NATO and the U.S. nuclear deterrent), and that, with the collapse of the USSR, wars would no longer be necessary. This seems pretty absurd today, but I can well remember all of the “End of History” nonsense that was around in the early 1990s, and the Pope was certainly no more wrong than say, Francis Fukuyama; but he was wrong. JPII was always an optimist, who wanted to believe the best about his fellow human beings; let’s just say, in his later years, this optimism slipped a little (sometimes more than a little) out of hand.

Tom S. continues:

By the way, just in case you might think that ALL Catholics are functional pacifists, here’s an interesting link. This guy is a Catholic apologist who believes and argues that dropping the a-bomb was the moral thing to do. I don’t agree with all of his arguments, but let’s just say that he makes more sense than the gang over at W4.

Mark A. writes:

Great entry. It reminded me of this:

Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 24, 2007 08:04 PM | Send

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