“You may not be interested in the dialectic…”

“…but the dialectic is interested in you.”

So said Leon Trotsky, although the quotation is often misattributed to him as “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” I discovered that misattributed quotation when I saw it in a recent column by Pat Buchanan, and wanted to find a proper bibliographical citation. Buchanan writes:

…His Holiness seeks to move the Catholic Church to a stance of non-belligerence, if not neutrality, in the culture war for the soul of the West.

There is a small problem with neutrality. As Trotsky observed, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” For the church to absent itself from the culture war is to not to end that war, but to lose it.

I am not nitpicking Buchanan for using the pseudo-Trotsky quotation about war, since I think the actual quotation supports Buchanan’s point just as well. Indeed, I have noted on numerous occasions (10/8, 10/19, 10/21, 10/26) how dialectical thinking crops up repeatedly in Francis’s papal witness. Buchanan again:

Did those legendary Jesuits like St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs* make a mistake proselytizing and baptizing, when they could have been working on youth unemployment among the Mohawks? …

While Pope Francis has not altered any Catholic doctrines in his interviews and disquisitions, he is sowing seeds of confusion among the faithful, a high price to pay, even for “skyrocketing” poll numbers.

If memory serves, the Lord said, “Feed my sheep,” not “get the smell of the sheep.” And he did not mean soup kitchens, but more importantly the spiritual food essential for eternal life.

I think Buchanan covers most of the points that justify disquiet about Pope Francis’s missionary strategy, but one recent encounter between Pope Francis and Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, puts Buchanan’s concerns in living color.

That The Bones offers a trenchant analysis of the encounter (with a HT to Rorate), so I’ll just embed the video here for viewing ease. Notice how Napolitano basically seems to be rearranging the pope’s own words into a soothing melange of buzzwords and bromides, and how the pope’s remarks afterwards strike much the same doughy chord.


“The Church is not an NGO.”

Finally, consider Michael Voris’s recent segment in which he faults the sentimental irrealism (“babbling on about joy… poverty and immigration”) of the Church over the past few decades. A key point he makes is that, while you can ignore reality, you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality. That hard truth ties back into Buchanan’s reminder from Trotsky: you may ignore the insidious nature of peddling the Catholic faith as one opinion among many others, as one social action plan among other grand “visions”, but you cannot ignore the deleterious consequences of such peddling as the trivializing of the absolute necessity and unchanging truth of the faith.

As always, the red herring is to retort that Pope Francis “hasn’t changed any official teaching,” but, once again, the point is not to worry if Pope Francis will square the Catholic circle, but rather to take seriously whom his erratic, Buddy Jesus witness to Catholic truthiness is feeding and galvanizing–the bullshitters or the martyrs?

 * [ADDED A COUPLE DAYS LATER: My impression of Buchanan’s essay is that he had been accumulating impressions of and reactions to the Pope’s various “interview encounters” over the past few weeks. His column runs through a lot of issues very succinctly, and as far as the North American Jesuit martyrs are concerned, Steve Skojec got there first.]

North American Jesuit Martyrdom Solemn Nonsense

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About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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28 Responses to “You may not be interested in the dialectic…”

  1. Crude says:

    I think Buchanan is incorrect in regarding the Pope as trying to push the church towards ‘neutrality’, and the talk of ‘non-belligerence’ has to be heavily qualified.

    I think ‘belligerence’ is a key reason why we’ve lost as much ground as we have in certain areas, particularly with regards to gay marriage. We’ve made some mistakes in terms of communication, not at all in teaching and content. I mean, that is a live option, right?

  2. You know a lot more about that angle than I do, so by all means, feel free to elaborate. I just don’t see there being as much light between culturally perceived “belligerence” and simply preaching the Word in season and out of season, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. The world is constitutionally opposed to the reign of Christ, and those committed to the world are pitted against His Church. The Gospel should convict and inspire the lost, but I don’t see any basis for saying that it should tickle them pink.

    Was Bp. Paprocki being belligerent, by your lights?

    And wasn’t Pope Francis being a bit belligerent by calling ours a throwaway culture and wishing the corrupt be drowned by the neck?

  3. Crude says:

    What Paprocki incident did you have in mind? Give me a link and I’ll have a read, then give my input.

    The problem here it’s a question of subtlety, truth and effectiveness. I think a big mistake has been to treat ‘gays’ and ‘lesbians’ as some monolithic group, such that ‘gays support gay marriage’ or ‘gays want to indoctrinate our children’ or… etc. When the fact is, that is a subset – admittedly, a large subset, most likely – of homosexuals, namely LGBT advocates, and so on. When social conservatives decided to make this issue into ‘it’s us against the gays, and gays means anyone with same sex attraction’, they walked into a trap where they would look like bullies no matter what they did or said, because the world treats ‘gay’ as ‘something you are born as, beyond your control’.

    And that is a group that, like it or not, we cannot and should not treat as the enemy. It’s not biblical, it’s not Catholic. But there’s a sliver of ‘culture warrior’ misstep.

  4. “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”
    “To be strong like the bear, the bear must be strong in you”
    “When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you”
    etc…
    etc…

    Not being a fan of Trotsky, if I heard Trotsky saying that I would quote James Downy from the movie “Billy Madison”.

    “…what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

  5. Ha! Maybe that’s why Lenin 86’d him!

  6. Crude says:

    Actually, I just saw what you had to mean re: Paprocki.

    I think saying ‘Same-sex marriage comes from the devil!’ gets us nowhere, and if this is an example of something some social conservatives want to hear and think needs to be said, then I think it illustrates the problem. The only thing communicated by that is ‘Paprocki REALLY doesn’t like same sex marriage, and thinks it is terrible because it is a sin.’ To anyone who questions whether it is a sin, no ground is gained.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. You tell me what you think is accomplished by Paprocki putting out that statement. The closest I can see is ‘clarity of position’, as stated above.

  7. I think you have in mind an even more recent incident involving Paprocki. I’m referring to this one (at the bottom of the post): https://ebougis.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/hagan-lio/

    Since I’m about to post on Paprocki’s latest news anyway, I’ll kind of reply to you in that post.

    As for Paprocki’s action against the Rainbow Sash, canon 1210 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4G.HTM) plainly states that a church, much less a cathedral, is not to be used for profance purposes. Yet Pope Francis goes on about how “closed churches” are bad.

  8. Crude says:

    As for Paprocki’s action against the Rainbow Sash, canon 1210 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4G.HTM) plainly states that a church is not to be used for profance purposes, much less a cathedral. Yet Pope Francis goes on about how “closed churches” are bad.

    They are bad. You’re writing as if these two statements are in conflict. But how are they?

    There is a difference between welcoming, say… a same-sex attracted person into the church, allowing them to take part, even if they’ve screwed up in the past or will screw up later (that’s what confession is for), and telling someone ‘Okay, come in and act as if all of your sins aren’t really sins, and you celebrate and promote them as good.’

    That seems to be what goes on with LGBT sorts. ‘Oh, you welcome people with SSA to the church? Great! I’ll put up all the pro gay marriage posters and denouncing anyone who condemns sodomy as a hateful bigot. What that’s not allowed? YOU JUST TOLD ME that people with SSA are welcome! You can’t welcome me while disapproving of gay sex and gay sexual relationships!’ Well, actually we can.

  9. I appreciate the footnote. Old man Buchanan stealing from me again. Next time I see him at the communion rail, the two of us are going to have words… 😉

  10. I’m lying, I never talk to him. He intimidates the hell out of me in virtue of being so damned much smarter than I am.

  11. I figured as much, which made the image all the awesomer.

  12. Well, I managed to find a further reference to the quotation in Weigel in _Pontiffs: Popes Who Shaped History_ by John J. Hughes, p. 11, so I’ll need to dig there now.

  13. I know I sound psychotic, but I’m in my Codgitator mode now, and unfortunately I only find another rabbit hole in the online preview of Hughe’s Pontiffs book: http://www.amazon.com/Pontiffs-Popes-Who-Shaped-History/dp/0879734795/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t. The citation from Weigel cited Hughes’s p. 11, which falls in the latter’s book’s introduction. On page 297 the only references are to Gustav Thils’ _L’infallibilité pontificale_, p. 81, and Yves Congar’s article “Dominicans and Worker Priests”, p. 127.

  14. Pingback: Looks like somebody forgot to take his meds… | FideCogitActio : "Omnis per gratiam," etiam sub patrocinio S. Ignatii Loyolae et Francisci Salesii. C.S.S.M.L. + N.D.S.M.D. + V.R.S. N.S.M.V. S.M.Q.L. I.V.B.

  15. Pingback: How dare they! | FideCogitActio : "Omnis per gratiam," etiam sub patrocinio S. Ignatii Loyolae et Francisci Salesii. C.S.S.M.L. + N.D.S.M.D. + V.R.S. N.S.M.V. S.M.Q.L. I.V.B.

  16. Joe Bagadonotti says:

    The quote seems certainly to be from Cano’s de locis theologicis, but it is not exact. Parts have been taken out and it has been rearranged. Here it is with some context:

    Quibus rebus expositis, primum, secundum ac tertium argumentum facile refelluntur. Nam quae de postremo disputari possunt, illa nobis alio tempore atque ad aliud institutum, si facultas erit, explicabuntur. Nunc illud breviter dici potest, qui summi Pontificis omne de re quacumque iudicium temere ac sine delectu defendunt, hos sedis apostolicae auctoritatem labefactare, non fovere; evertere, non firmare. Nam ut ea praetereamus, quae paulo ante in hoc capite explicata sunt, quid tandem adversum haereticos disputando ille proficiet, quem viderint non iudicio, sed affectu patrocinium auctoritatis pontificiae suscipere, nec id agere, ut dispositionis suae vi lucem ac veritatem eliciat, sed ut se ad alterius sensum voluntatemque convertat? Non eget Petrus mendacio nostro, nostra adulatione non eget.

    The last sentence above is the first of the quote: Non eget Petrus mendacio nostro, nostra adulatione non eget.

    And this sentence minus the first clause is the second of the quote: Nunc illud breviter dici potest, qui summi Pontificis omne de re quacumque iudicium temere ac sine delectu defendunt, hos sedis apostolicae auctoritatem labefactare, non fovere; evertere, non firmare.

    The pdf is here: http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/1509-1560,_Cano_Melchior,_De_Locis_Theologicis,_LT.pdf

  17. Pingback: Thou art Peter… | FideCogitActio : "Omnis per gratiam," etiam sub patrocinio S. Ignatii Loyolae et Francisci Salesii. C.S.S.M.L. + N.D.S.M.D. + V.R.S. N.S.M.V. S.M.Q.L. I.V.B.

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  19. vermontcrank1 says:

    Did those legendary Jesuits like St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs* make a mistake proselytizing and baptizing, when they could have been working on youth unemployment among the Mohawks? …

    IANS and a few men from our Trad Study group in Portland, Maine walked out of Mass after the Pastor of the Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception said just that (absent the economics) in a sermon in the 1970s.

    Some may criticise such an action as rebarbative and disruptive but in my defense IANS notes that he used no universal hand signal during the exit.

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  22. wiseoldude says:

    The Pope is a scientist and a scholar and he is from Argentina where the Dialectic is relentless. I’m pretty certain that he knows EXACTLY how effectively “The Man Du Jour”, whether he is a communist, capitalist, royalist, papist or any other materialist, uses the dialectic to effectively manipulate the common man, regardless of his religion or beliefs, to serve the interests and purposes of “The Man”.

    I am sure Pope Francis is quite conversant with the concept of dialectical materialism and knows how far back it goes in use as a philosophy and strategy of control. The ancient Greeks certainly knew of it. Machiavelli was a master of it. Engels merely gave it a fancy marketing name. I feel the Pope knows very well that when men are painfully inculcated with the material; that nothing is more senior nor more valuable than the material; indeed, there is nothing other than the material, and their attention is constantly and forcefully mired in the survival dialectic between the material interests, his spiritual nature is relegated to the utter subordination of mere hope or even non-existence; The Kingdom Of Heaven of which Jesus spoke, beyond his realm of comprehension, often his belief, and most certainly beyond his personal responsibility.

    Trotsky delineated the focus of the problem correctly. Pat Buchanan is a devout materialist. He has served The Gods Of Materialism very well for most of his life. He wears his sheep’s cloak of Catholicism adroitly. He knew exactly what he was doing when he altered Trotsky’s words. War is the ultimate extreme of the dialectic; alarming even when threatened. It is the day to day, subtle or overt, mundane chants of the dialectic that enchant Man from attention to his spiritual salvation. The Pope knows that if Man is eased from the burdens and struggles and dialectic of the material, he may more easily be inclined to look BEYOND the material. The Pope is a very wise man.

  23. I’m glad you feel these things but in light of the ecological immanentism of Laudato Si, I find it amusing that you think Francis is a master of transcending materialism.

  24. As an amateur surgeon interested in dialectics and dianetics, IANS is prolly the onliest man in Florida who has built a working model / replica of Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxio car constructed solely out of Avocados and Palm Tree fronds, IANS is also intensively involved in such matters as involve his vocation as a peace and justice anti-racialist tikkun olan pop-art pop-tart, where’s Waldo imitator give-peace-a-chance earth warrior

    As an amateur surgeon interested in dialectics and dianetics, IANS is prolly the onliest man in Florida who has built a working model / replica of Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxio car constructed solely out of Avocados and Palm Tree fronds,; IANS is also intensely, not to say, insanely, involved in such matters as involve his vocation as a peace and justice anti-racialist tikkun olan pop-art pop-tart, Where’s Waldo imitator who is always intellectually and spiritually armed to act as a give-peace-a-chance earth ninja warrior.

    So, yeah, IANS says to wise old dude

  25. O, IANS posted the same paragraph twice. Well, that just goes to show you that white man privilege has not only had a deleterious effect on Rachel Dolezal who is black ,like IANS, and yet IANS looks just like the son Obama would have had had he not been a Mulatto married to an apparent transvestite.

    O,and the Saint francis misrepresented by the Pope is nothing like the actual Saint but that doesn’t matter because ..ultimate truth.

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