The Cornerstone Forum Announces Housekeeping

From The Cornerstone Forum, April 17, 2012 (My response follows at the end.)


In the next few days, in addition to whatever posts that arise from my daily survey of the ever-shifting sands of the faith-and-culture nexus, I will be posting a number of things that we hope will re-frame the purpose of the Cornerstone Forum’s Facebook page. In advance of these posts, however, we can say at least this: our Facebook page is an extension of the Cornerstone Forum mission, which is to foster an intellectually compelling and theologically orthodox Christian response to the contemporary cultural and spiritual crisis. The question is: to whom are we addressing our efforts? In the first instance, the answer is: to those most likely to be receptive to it, to find it helpful, and to draw encouragement from it. We welcome those who may disagree with our project and its underlying assumptions, even as we hope that they may find at least some portion of what we post on this site to be useful. But we are here on Facebook to offer encouragement to the former and not to engage in protracted debate with the latter.

Disagreements among those who share our overall objective will doubtless arise, but they will differ markedly from the unproductive back and forth that can sometimes occur when visitors to our site are philosophically or theologically or morally at odds with our overall mission. Even when it is perfectly obvious that the disagreements are too foundational to be resolved on Facebook, the mimetic temptation to enter into these little operatic contretemps is powerful. And even when we summon the strength to resist them, we face a housekeeping problem: We host a Facebook page, hoping to be of use to those who share: 1) our fidelity to traditional Christianity as safeguarded by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church; 2) our conviction that René Girard’s anthropological discoveries are indispensable to the recovery of an intellectually cogent and wholehearted affirmation of Christian truth, and 3) our belief that contributing to this recovery is the greatest challenge of our age.

As hosts of a site that has this purpose, we face a dilemma. There are, and will always be, disagreements between and among those who share our basic premises, and we welcome an opportunity to learn from people with different points of view. But there are visitors who have fundamental differences with us on many of the cultural, theological, and moral issues of our time. Engaging in debates about these matters is not without merit, but the debates themselves are essentially endless precisely because they are based on radically different worldviews. One is faced with two options, neither of which is appealing: either go back and forth with critics, scorning points or being bested, as the case may be, but in either case accomplishing little, or leave critical comments unanswered, giving the last word to critics, even when a perfectly adequate response is ready at hand. Whichever of these alternatives we might choose, on any given day new visitors to our page who are sympathetic to our goals may find what appears to be a shouting match or a string of unanswered criticisms, neither of which seems very inviting.

My concern about this has on a few rare occasions led me to delete items from the comment section of some posts, deleting some of my own comments in the process. To date, however, I have not barred anyone from posting, and I hope that will never be necessary, but I do want to ask our visitors to bear in mind what kind of conversation we are hoping to foster. As best we can, we want to provide encouragement, theological sustenance, anthropological substantiation, and moral reinforcement to those who are sympathetic with the broad outlines of our mission. We welcome those who do not share our perspective, but we hope they will bear in mind that our first obligation is to those who do.

And my response:

Thanks for clarifying your intentions, Gil. You have been surprisingly patient during the eight-or-so years that I’ve been buzzing around your head like a horsefly. I do hope my critiques have sometimes challenged you to think more carefully about some of the issues you’ve raised.

I have always valued The Cornerstone Forum as an aggregator of news and opinion representing conservative Catholic viewpoints. I will of course continue to drop by, but I’ll take my comments to my own site, TheBentAngle. If you should ever decide you miss the old robust but irritating debates, you may find them happening there. And you are, of course, more than welcome to join them.

Response from George Dunn:

(@Gil Bailie of the Cornerstone Forum): Allow me to request a clarification on one point: Given that I wholeheartedly support at least one aspect of your mission, viz., your promotion of the anthropology of Rene Girard, will you allow me to continue to call you to task for your own scapegoating proclivities when they bode forth? My aim is never to kindle that “mimetic temptation to enter into . . . little operatic contretemps” that flares up in you from time to time, but rather to encourage serious self-examination and perhaps even repentance on your part. Do you have any objection to that? I take it as a good sign that you are now publicly admitting that your own susceptibility to “mimetic temptation” is the real cause of many of your cross words toward me and others.

The Cornerstone Forum Shuts the Door on Doughlas Remy and George Dunn:


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