Sullivan’s Shrieking Rant

Andrew Sullivan is continuing his long descent from astute and intelligent thinker to shrieking Dowd-esque hack. How else can one describe his inane and hysterical slurs against Pope Benedict VXI?

Sullivan makes the patently ridiculous argument that Pope Benedict “all but declared a war on modernity, liberalism (meaning modern liberal democracy of all stripes) and freedom of thought and conscience.” Such an argument is patently ridiculous and abjectly hateful. Cardinal Ratzinger believes in certain eternal truths. To slur the Pope’s positions in such an infantile way is a sign of how singleminded Sullivan has become.

Catholicism stands for nothing if it does not stand for the eternal truths that have shaped and guided the faith for centuries. As the former Cardinal once noted:

“Today’s man,” he writes, is “inclined to recognize himself in the Buddhist parable of the blind men and the elephant”: A king summoned all the blind men in his city to have them feel different parts of an elephant, and naturally the blind men disagreed about the nature of the creature they were touching — and eventually came to blows, as each contended that his own generalization from the part he was touching was the fundamental truth about the elephant. Is this not, modern man asserts, an apt metaphor for mankind in its religious quest?

No, says Ratzinger: “Someone who is born blind knows that he was not born to be blind . . . Man’s resignation to the verdict that, when it comes to what is essential, that on which his life ultimately depends, he was born blind is merely apparent. . . . Man cannot come to terms with being born blind, and remaining blind, where essential things are concerned. The farewell to truth can never be final.” The thirst for truth is innate, whether that truth makes itself available through the natural reason, or through divine revelation, or through both. All people have dignity in the eyes of God, and should be treated with respect, but not all truth claims are equal. “For Christian faith,” Ratzinger writes, “the history of religions is not a circle of what is endlessly the same, never touching the essential thing, which itself ever remains outside of history; rather, the Christian holds the history of religions to be a genuine history, to be a path whose direction we call progress and whose attitude we call hope.”

Sullivan was best when he was fighting moral nihilism in the war on terror. That Andrew Sullivan was a perceptive thinker who stood firm behind the essential values of a civilization under siege. Now, he appears to have let his personal feelings cloud his judgment. I agree with Professor Bainbridge – for Sullivan, it’s all about sex. Sullivan wants Catholicism Lite, a faith stripped of its essential values and teachings, that embraces wherever the prevailing winds may take it. Pope Benedict stands for keeping Catholicism firmly anchored in the essential beliefs that have shaped it for millennia. As he put it:

Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism… Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching,’ looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards.

We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

Ratzinger is correct, relativism fuels totalitarianism. When people lose sight of the essential truths of human existence, evil flourishes. Ratzinger personally saw the evils of totalitarianism, a government that twisted and distorted the truth to serve a temporal and horrible agenda. Sullivan himself should know better. As he once eloquently wrote:

This negativism matters. When you have a movement based on resentment, when you have a political style that is as bitter as it is angry, when your rhetoric focuses not on those who are murdering partiers in Bali or workers in Manhattan, but on those democratic powers trying to defend and protect them, then your fate is cast. A politics of resentment is a poisonous creature that slowly embitters itself.

Sadly, Sullivan has become exactly that which he decried.

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