Batso for Ratzo

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The right-wing relativism parade for Pope Ratzinger continues apace. The Wall Street Journal's Danniel Henninger, who deems the Pope's absurd "dictatorship of relativism" comment "apt," finds the crucial missing link between the Vatican's theological thumbwrestling and the filibuster:

"The impression grew steadily," [Ratzinger] writes, "that nothing was now stable in the Church, that everything was open to revision"–by these scholars. This is not just some arcane dispute over how many angels dance on the head of a pin. It is precisely the fight over intellectual authority and daily application being fought right now in the U.S. Senate over the Bush judges and Constitutional interpretation. As Joseph Ratzinger put it, he opposes a "reality" that someone has "simply thought up." Sounds like a soul-brother of Antonin Scalia to me. Like the U.S., the Catholic Church is a huge, sprawling, complex institution, and there are real issues at stake here that affect long-term life on the streets and in the pews.

Precisely!…. But it's William Donohue who truly carpes the diem on the Ratzinger-was-a-Hitler-Youth-so-his-enemies-are-Nazis opportunity:

Ironically, it was Joseph Ratzinger's fellow Germans who gave us the diabolical idea that moral absolutes are nonsense—nihilists such as Nietzsche and Nazis such as Heidegger. French philosophers such as Foucault and Derrida then corrupted the faculty of reason with their postmodernist assault on truth.

Postmodernist thought is alive in many ideological isms: subjectivism, historicism, multiculturalism, deconstructionism, moral relativism and nihilism. It is the work of leftist academics at war with the Catholic concept of natural law. But others have promulgated this invidious idea.

"There is no such thing as truth, either in the moral or in the scientific sense." The author of this sentence was Adolf Hitler, although it could have been penned by any of today's postmodernist intellectuals.

Of course, if we're playing Hitler-coulda-said-it, I might nominate this one: "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? […] Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes."

NEXT: Darwin in Syria

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  1. Nietzsche

    Is Gaius Marius Latin for Bill Donahue?

  2. I like anal sex, but I don’t hate Christianity. I think it’s silly, but I don’t hate it.

  3. More bread and cirucses for the most educationally advanced of the Far-Righties: the ones who took 8 weeks of Intro to Philosophy before dropping out of the community college and read two NRA pamphlets about the second amendment and think they’re Laurence Tribe.

    How’s this for non-relativist thinking: it is just plain TRUE that far right social conservatives ARE just stupider than the people who are not.

    When’s it gonna dawn on them that when the smartest, most educated people in the country keep telling you you’re wrong; when the most accomplished legal scholars in America continue rebuffing your legal claims, that MAYBE, MAYBE you’re just wrong? Maybe its not a plot or an agenda or a conspiracy; maybe you just don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!

  4. So you’re either a Catholic, or else you don’t believe in truth.

    That’s nice to know. I was starting to get confused, having to choose between so many competing philosophies.

  5. “As Joseph Ratzinger put it, he opposes a “reality” that someone has “simply thought up.”

    You mean like the catechism? Because until someone can prove it’s God’s handiwork, it’s in the same category.

    The only alternative to grounding morals in an imaginary deity is deciding them based on persuasion , argument and experimentation. Which is in fact how they ARE decided, messy though it may be.

  6. Todd – don’t be bringing logic and science into this. Science came up with evolution, so we know what science’s agenda is.

    I want you to say 10 hail mary’s and think about what you’ve done.

  7. I was always under the impression that exclusivism (no other religion other than catholism can lead to salvation) was also devloped by a german? (Karl Barth IIRC)

  8. What’s truly sad is how formerly fiscal conservatives regularly grab their ankles for the faithful since the Mandate of 2004.

    Bill Dononue, like the late Andrea Dworkin, cheapens any discussion he choose to be part of.

  9. As Joseph Ratzinger put it, he opposes a “reality” that someone has “simply thought up”

    I agree with Todd. Even if you’re a believer, it seems the a great deal of church doctrine has been “simply thought up.” All of it, if you’re a non believer. Benedict 16 is really opposed to a reality built on one’s personal experiences, an d the lessons that they teach.

  10. Espacily when you consider that the teachings people get most up in arms about in catholicism, the banning of female priests, Celibacy, the teachings on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality, all come either papal bulls or the teachings of Augustine and Aquinas.

  11. veritatem et libertatem amaveratis, sed te absolvam. tamen absoluti esse necesse est ut cedatis sapientae meae.

  12. So, let’s see: we let everybody decide for themselves how they’re gonna live, provided they don’t hurt each other.

    All I can say is thank god that Ike and the boys nipped that in the bud back in the forties…

  13. Much of the theological and philosophical rationale for the Protestant Reformation was based in opposing a “reality” that someone(s) “just thought up” (i.e. papal indulgences, priestly celibacy, clerical hierarchies and privileges, etc.). Of course, the Protestant sects then proceded to think up their alternative and equally inflexible realities, but such is the way of the world, I guess . . .

  14. “As Joseph Ratzinger put it, he opposes a “reality” that someone has “simply thought up.”

    good stuff.

    though at the same time it’s sad because stuff like this brings out the worst in everyone involved in however close howling gets to dialogue.

  15. I think everyone should cut Benny 16 some slack. After all, if you went 78 years without gettin’ any, you’d be pretty cranky too!

  16. I can’t tell whether “Western Eltist” was a right-winger spoofing leftist attitudes… or just really dumb. Anyone have a guess?

  17. ?Why bother with the never ending, genuinely hopeless search for truth when a truth can be had so readily, all at once, in the form of an ideology or doctrine? Suddenly it is all so simple. Think of all the difficult questions which are answered in advance!?

    Vaclav Havel, 1985

  18. Johnny — One of my all-time favorite quotes.

  19. Hey, as Bill Donohue’s biggest fucked-up fan, I’ve gotta rally to his defense: His battle of the Bills with O’Reilly is the greatest Mick fight since The Quiet Man.

  20. Tim,
    Wow, he used “dissing it”. That’s outstanding!

  21. “We simply object when he crosses the line from criticizing the Catholic Church to dissing it.”

    he used diss in a sentence.

  22. Ironically, it was Joseph Ratzinger’s fellow Germans who gave us the diabolical idea that moral absolutes are nonsense — nihilists such as Nietzsche and Nazis such as Heidegger:

    Actually, the idea that there are no “moral absolutes” can easily be found in David Hume or Adam Smith. Morality ultimately rests on human sympathy for one another not on any type of reasoning. We should recognize that any system of morals are based on societal conventions that survive through time according to their overall social utility rather than from a set of ultimate truths from which all else is deduced.

  23. “After all, if you went 78 years without gettin’ any, you’d be pretty cranky too!”

    What? Really? He went 78 years? I thought he was a Catholic priest?!? Wow, you learn something new every day…

  24. Todd Fletcher wins the award for funniest post of the week.

  25. This post, and it’s links, have hereby caused Godwin’s head to explode.

  26. Aiding in murder is bad.

    Unless, of course, everybody around you is aiding in murder. Then it’s okay. If it weren’t, you might be murdered yourself. Then you could never become a pope campaigning against moral relativism.

  27. So are we going to see a sequel to piss-pope anytime soon? I mean with a name like Ratzinger, the possiblities are endless.

  28. “After all, if you went 78 years without gettin’ any, you’d be pretty cranky too!”

    Never assume!

  29. I don’t understand the furor over “moral relativism”. Without some degree of relativism, there is no margin to agonize over a tough decision, and understand why someone else decided differently.

  30. Sorry to ruin the echo chamber here, but…

    The law is not, and should not be, equivalent to a moral philosophy. Rather, the law is a tool with which society maintains order and protects the rights of its members. Thus, one can believe in moral absolutes and at the same time recognize that some of them should not be encoded into law, because doing so would inevitably disrupt order and/or violate rights.

    For instance, I’m sure that Benedict XVI believes that despair is a serious sin, but I doubt he supports laws against it. Thus, one can condemn moral relativism as a philosophy, without condemning the libertarian ideal of a state that only involves itself when one party attempts to coerce another.

    “Dictatorship of relativism” is indeed an oxymoron, but that’s because it describes the self-contradictory position of those who preach tolerance as the highest virtue, yet come down like a ton of bricks on anything they perceive as “intolerance.” For if they were really tolerant, they would tolerate intolerance as well.

    Jim Walsh,

    The Nazis, like all totalitarian ideologies, were indeed moral relativists par excellence as far as the actions of the state were concerned. Pure moral relativism drops the part about nobody hurting each other.

  31. Matt Welch,

    Where exactly did Donahue say that since Ratzinger was a Hitler Youth, his enemies are Nazis? Not only a gross misrepresentation on your part, but a gratuitous triggering of Godwin’s Law…

  32. Moral relativism strikes me as a fairly obvious position to hold. As ‘was’ mentioned, Hume was pretty explicit that I can’t reason my way into accepting a paper cut, even if doing so would save the whole world from destruction.

    Broad philosophical relativism I find much more annoying. Suffice it to say that I am glad we are mostly living in a post post modern world. That whole thing got old real quick. Some propositions are just self refuting.

  33. Wait it gets better:

    ———————————-

    Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost.

    ———————————-

    Libertinism? He says it like it’s a dirty word. Hey! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, you priggish sheep.

  34. “Aiding in murder is bad. Unless, of course, everybody around you is aiding in murder. Then it’s okay. If it weren’t, you might be murdered yourself. Then you could never become a pope campaigning against moral relativism.”

    Given that Benedict XVI’s military service reportedly consisted of serving in an AA unit (which would have been tasked with shooting down military aircraft, particularly bombers), that would seem to be more analogous to self-defense, rather than murder. The Catholic Church does not prohibit people from using lethal force to defend themselves.

  35. Given that Benedict XVI’s military service reportedly consisted of serving in an AA unit (which would have been tasked with shooting down military aircraft, particularly bombers),

    Specifically, shooting down American bombers. This is supposed to make me like him better?

    The more you defend Ratzinger’s wartime past, the worse he’s going to look. Let it go.

  36. Hollywood is controlled by Jews and they do tend to hate traditional Christiantiy. Witness the uproar over Mel Gibson’s movie by the Hollywood elite.

  37. go to http://www.JohnTheBaptist.us and repent of your sins.
    convert to the Catholic Church and abjure your heresies. Philip of JMJ ps the last pope died in 1951 JMJ

  38. Jason, how dead can postmodernism be, when people like you are writing “Some propositions are self refuting?”

  39. Damn, that “John the Baptist” website is a trip. It’s like a map of the inside of the brain of one of those guys handing out “You’re going to hell” flyers.

    Apparently, it is a greivous sin to deny the authority of the pope, except for all of the popes since Vatican II, and a select number of other popes. And that’s just for starters. Also, the various heresies one can be guilty of come with convenient anagrams. Collect the all!

  40. crimethink:

    re: your comments:
    “The Nazis, like all totalitarian ideologies, were indeed moral relativists par excellence as far as the actions of the state were concerned. Pure moral relativism drops the part about nobody hurting each other.”

    You’re right of course, and I do understand the distinction between “pure” relativism and what we may call “libertarian” relativism. I just wonder if Donohoe et al get said distinction, or if (as I suspect) they’re just down on anybody who’s not absolute and in this case, Catholic…

  41. Tim,

    It’s the age-old damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t problem: if you respond, you imply that it’s worthy of response; but if you don’t, those who trade in lies and misrepresentation will make it look like you have no response.

    Which is why character assassination is such a rewarding venture for those whose consciences are weak enough to allow it.

  42. Tim Cavanaugh wrote: “Specifically, shooting down American bombers. This is supposed to make me like him better?”

    Aren’t people just as entitled to defend themselves when being attacked by Americans as when they’re being attacked by someone else?

  43. Interesting post, Matt.

    As to the statement authored by the dude above — alias “was” — David Hume and Adam Smith were not moral relativists (i.e. so far as I can tell), since their theory of moral sentiments was rooted in an understanding of a fixed human nature. Whatever the differences among Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, they nonetheless each espoused a doctrine of a moral “6th” sense inherent to all human beings. So, yes, it’s rooted in sentiment, not reason (which I grant you, already makes thinks much squishier), but this is not relativism (so far as I can tell).

    [The fact that] present-day positivism deviates from Hume is indicated by the fact that Hume was still a political philosopher. More particularly, he still taught that there are universally valid rules of justice and that those rules are not improperly called Laws of Nature. This means that “he thought and wrote before the rise of anthropology and allied sciences” [John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct, Modern Library Edition, p. vii], or, more precisely stated, before “the discovery of History.” Hume still viewed human things in the light of man’s unchangeable nature; he did not yet conceive of man as an essentially historical being. Present-day positivism believes it can evade the problem raised by “the discovery of History” by the same device by which it frees itself from Hume’s or any other psychology: Through the Kantian distinction between validity and genesis. Yet Kant was enabled to transcend psychology because he recognized an a priori; and an a priori does not have a genesis, at least not an empirical genesis. Logical positivism rejects the a priori. Hence it cannot avoid becoming involved in psychology, in the question of the empirical genesis of science out of what precedes science. Once cannot stop at simply trying to answer the question, What is science? One cannot avoid raising the question, Why science? or, What is the meaning of science? Since positivism denies that there is a “pure reason” or a “pure mind”, it can answer the question, Why science? only in terms of “the human organism.” [i.e. naturalism] It must understand science as an activity fulfilling an important function in the life of that kind of organism. In brief, man is an organism that cannot live, or live well, without being able to predict, and the most efficient form of prediction is science.

    This way of accounting for science has become extremely questionable.

    –Leo Strauss

    (who else would I quote?)

  44. It’s the age-old damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t problem: if you respond, you imply that it’s worthy of response; but if you don’t, those who trade in lies and misrepresentation will make it look like you have no response.

    Then they should shut up and take their lumps like good Catholics. Suffering is good for the soul. And these are not lies or misrepresentations: The Pope is a former Hitler Youth, and anybody who doesn’t think that is a pretty striking biographical detail should have his head examined.

  45. Tim,

    When I mentioned lies and misrepresentations, I’m not talking about people merely stating the undeniable fact that he was a member of Hitler Youth. I’m talking about people insinuating that he therefore must have been a Nazi, which is what makes this particular biographical detail so interesting. Despite the fact that he shares it with virtually all German men his age.

    And btw, standing idly by while others suffer unjustly is NOT good for one’s soul.

  46. SR said: “Given that Benedict XVI’s military service reportedly consisted of serving in an AA unit (which would have been tasked with shooting down military aircraft, particularly bombers)”

    Tim Cavanaugh said: “Specifically, shooting down American bombers. This is supposed to make me like him better?”

    Is defense immoral when defending against Americans? Since when did you go all jingoistic on us, Tim?

    Why do you hate non-America?

  47. And btw, standing idly by while others suffer unjustly is NOT good for one’s soul.

    The reference to suffering was a joke, but since you bring it up: Who, precisely, is suffering? Has the pope eaten an ounce less food, given up a single piece of jewelry, or missed a single meeting with a ring-kissing foreign dignitary? The ADL practically herniated itself preemptively coming to his defense. Maybe our definitions of martyrdom differ, but I have a hard time thinking of a guy who lives in a palace, commands universal and fawning media attention without ever having to sit for a press conference, and is subject to only one corporal mortification-which he has freely chosen and which he can now do away with any time he pleases-as suffering.

  48. “The Pope is a former Hitler Youth, and anybody who doesn’t think that is a pretty striking biographical detail should have his head examined.”

    I suppose it is significant had the had first hand experience at living under a totalitarian dictatoriship. It’s an interesting biographical detail, and one that may shed some light on his make up and motivations.

    But it’s not terribly “striking” to find out that a kid who came of age under Hitler joined the Hitler Youth.

  49. In the linked essay, William Donohue neither argues nor even suggests anything remotely like
    “Ratzinger-was-a-Hitler-Youth-so-his-enemies-are-Nazis.”

    When did stupid, hateful and dishonest Catholic-bashing become a part of libertarian ideology?

  50. DOGGED BY CONTROVERSY!
    Puppy Pope Rex Rover II Was Member of ‘Pitbull Youth’

    The current Puppy Pope, Rex Rover II, was born in Germanshepherdland and came of age during the reign of Germanshepherdland’s pitbull dictator, Adolf Pitler. When the Puppy Pope was nearly one year old (roughly the equivalent of 14 in dog years), he began his mandatory membership in the Pitler’s “Pitbull Youth” — an uncomfortable fact that, to this day, remains a bone of contention for the Puppy Pope’s critics.

  51. crimethink —

    “Dictatorship of relativism” is indeed an oxymoron, but that’s because it describes the self-contradictory position of those who preach tolerance as the highest virtue, yet come down like a ton of bricks on anything they perceive as “intolerance.” For if they were really tolerant, they would tolerate intolerance as well.

    In the real world, and for its sophisticated advocates, “tolerance” isn’t a restrictive rule that says, “don’t restrict anything”. Rather, it’s a complex virtue based in curiosity, empathy, and “chillin” (i.e., not going around letting every little surprise be a bee in your bonnet). In general, a tolerant attitude (legally and socially) toward homosexuals, polyamorists, black golfers, wine snobs, white rappers, clumsy waitresses, admirers of seemingly mediocre music, drunken schmoozers, Capri pants, etc, follows naturally from a disposition to be receptive toward the myriad lessons you might draw from unexpected sources, and not to go through your every day building up bile and spewing it. Hence, when the tolerant person encounters someone really spewing bile unneccesarily, and/or frightening others into being less open to the world, I don’t see a paradox in wanting to kick that person’s ass out of a sense of tolerance. (I probably don’t need to add this here, but, no, of course the orthodox American left is as a whole not characterized by a high degree of tolerance.)

  52. Stevo-

    Don’t you find it at all relevant that when he was drafted into Germanshepherdland’s pawed forces at the age of 16 months, Rex Rover II tossed away his dog tags and deserted?

  53. Also, Rex Rover II was appointed to a responsible position by Pope Rufus XIV, a Polish Lowland Sheepdog who suffered under the occupation of Pitler’s forces. If Rex Rover II wasn’t thoroughly repentant I’m sure that Rufus XIV would have kept Rex on a short leash.

  54. Of course Ratzinger is a hypocrite. If he’s a believing and practicing Catholic, he knows that he’s going to heaven. Thus, instead of joining the Hitler Youth (admittedly by being forced to), he could have made an effort to stand up to the Nazis. Sure, he would have likely been killed, but death should be no problem for a practicing/believing Catholic, since you know you’re going to heaven.

    I’m not saying that I would have done things any differently if I were a 14-year old boy in the same situation. But, I’m not in the running for being the Pope and this background is not good public relations for the spiritual leader of an organization with 1.1 billion members that has a sad history with respect to the Holocaust and its own persecution of other religions. And since the Holy Spirit that guided the cardinal’s conclave seemed not to mind about this item on Ratzinger’s resume, I guess the Holy Spirit also didn’t care about, oh, I don’t know, let’s say … PREVENTING THE NAZIS AND THE HOLOCAUST FROM HAPPENING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

  55. joe:

    Probably dead thread, but I just saw your comment. If we incorporate post modern deconstruction to actually apply to the axioms of post modernism, then, yes, I agree that post modernism isn’t dead. It is just nonsense.

    The method of deconstruciton is just a skepticism of assumptions, and that policy can apply equally well to axioms asserting that there is never a There There.

  56. Jarod, I’m going to set you straight on a few things.

    First, when my boy Ratzinger was just 14, he didn’t know he was going to be in the running for pope. Also, how do you know his faith was as strong then as it is today?

    Second, it’s not My job to stop Holocausts. That’s your job. That’s why I gave you free will. So you could be something more than unconscious clockwork automata. So you would be something more worth creating. I’m sick of you blaming Me whenever you Homo saps use your gift of free will to do something bad. Ungrateful brats. Sometimes I have half a mind to smite thee…

    Second, what you don’t know is that if I’d intervened to prevent the Nazis and their Holocaust it would have, through a complex chain of events, made the 2014 Pandoran Strike much worse, killing 4 billion people instead of the few thousand it’s going to. You’ll understand this better when you’re older. Meanwhile, here’s a tip: In May 2014, stay out of the subway, and don’t eat anything that looks like red Jello.

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