My young friend LD told me about an Op-Ed piece by Maureen Dowd that made him very angry. And rightly so, if I may say. While waiting for his anger to boil down, so that he may write a circumstantial refutation, if he will still feel like it, I'll give it my try.
I have a blurred recollection of reading, more than thirty years ago, a book by John Courtney Murray, where he asked himself this question: do we live in a free society? Hard to reply, he said, as hard as giving a definition of what freedom is. Let's rather ask, he proposed, whether we live in a civilized society.
Let me rephrase the question with Stanley Cavell: do we live in a society which enables us to entertain a civil conversation?
Mrs Dowd seems concerned about freedom (hers? or whose else? women's? of all of us?) being impinged by a Pope who was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: the first Catholic censor, to be clear. So she maligns him with nasty insinuations coupling his youth in Nazi Germany with a reference to the nonsense uttered by a Lefevrite bishop concerning the shoa. And with other similar pleasantries.
Now, I leave aside the question raised about the threat that Pope Benedict's church might represent for a free society. Murray teaches. And I ask: is this an example of civil conversation?
Uncivil arguments call for uncivil retorts. So we could put the question: who is the real Nazi?
Abortion (which I am sure Mrs Dowd doesn't abhor) is a kind of racism of the living towards the unborn. Moreover, thanks to biological engineering, abortions is coming to be a moment of eugenics. And we all know who were the masters of eugenics in the first half of the Twentieth Century.
I could go on with such a retort, probably not very pleasant, for sure non civilized. But I won't.
I just wanted to say that things have quite changed since the times of Father Murray, and I don't feel like giving today the positive answer he then gave to the question he raised about civilized society.