Saturday, May 26, 2012

Truth and love are inseparable

While looking for something else I stumbled across a 1991 editorial  by Richard John Neuhaus in First Things which contained the following fascinating paragraph:
In the last twenty years a number of small Catholic colleges have been established to provide a “traditionalist” alternative to mainstream Catholic higher education. Gregory Wolfe taught in one of these schools for three years and is greatly disillusioned. Writing in Crisis (“Killing the Spirit?” September), Wolfe deplores the infighting among faculty and students who are out to demonstrate that they are more orthodox than thou. He continues: “Perhaps the most significant tension within the alternative college is over the nature of education itself. Though publicly these schools tend to laud [John Henry Cardinal] Newman's ‘philosophical habit of mind,' in practice they are closer to Dickens' Gradgrind (‘Just the facts, ma'am'). In other words, students get the impression that they are going to spend four years stocking up on the Truth, which consists of a body of doctrines and propositions (or even ‘great books'). The emphasis is on acquiring correct opinions, not on learning how to think more clearly and imagine more deeply. A substantial percentage of these young men and women think of the alternative college as a munitions depot: when they emerge, they will be laden with ‘smart bombs' that they can fire at the heretics and pagans. All too often, they start by shooting them at each other.”
Neuhaus points out these problems may also be present in Protestant colleges!
He suggests the problem is not too much "orthodoxy" but too little, emphasising that in true orthodoxy truth cannot be separated from love:
Smelly, sectarian, little orthodoxies can only be effectively combatted by a greater orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is a grand, capacious, multi-splendored thing, as G. K. Chesterton argued so grandly. When truth is turned into “smart bombs” it is no longer truth. It bas become a weapon, an instrument of intimidation. It coercively violates the human freedom without which the truth cannot be apprehended. It is Christian truth itself that requires the rejection of narrow, stagnant, stifling pseudo-orthodoxies that produce nothing but toeing the line and browbeating those who deviate from the line. ..... 
The appeal for love can sometimes obscure the truth. But the absence of love always destroys the truth. Those who are capable of loving only the truth understand neither love nor truth. They are anything but orthodox.

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