Archive for the ‘Rene Girard’ Category

A Philosopher of Science Explains the Importance of Scientific Consensus

August 3, 2013
Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo Pigliucci

by Doughlas Remy

I’ve been blogging on conservative Catholic websites for about as long as those sites have existed. Why I chose Catholic ones and not, say, Evangelical ones, has more to do with my early (i.e., post-graduate) literary interests than my religious background (Southern Baptist). I read Catholic authors because my specialty was French and Italian literature. Then a French literary critic, René Girard, captured my attention in the 70s, and for the next thirty years, I was reading and re-reading his books. From his reading of great European literature—especially the works of Cervantes, Stendhal, Flaubert, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Proust, he had developed and beautifully articulated a theory of mimetic desire, a theory that seemed to have vast implications for all the human sciences. I was enthralled, and I still am. But then something almost inexplicable happened: René Girard had a conversion experience and became folded back into Catholicism. I still do not understand his conversion, even in the light of his own writings, but his re-induction into the faith of his ancestors now had me wondering anew about the power of faith and about the anthropological role of Christianity in the evolution of human morality. Looking for conversation about this issue, I discovered Gil Bailie’s site (The Cornerstone Forum), and then other conservative Catholic sites. Though I was never Catholic myself, I became fascinated by the Church’s millennial struggles with the secularizing forces of Western civilization. I understood that Catholicism—quintessentially emblematic of the sacred in Western history for the last 2000 years—is now in steep decline. The laity is going its own way, ignoring Church teachings about homosexuality, contraception, and a host of other issues. Conservative Catholics know this and resist the trend by discounting every idea that does not either emanate from the Church or receive its stamp of approval. In many cases, as I have discovered, this resistance amounts to nothing less than a repudiation of the scientific understanding of the world that has been accumulating since the Renaissance. 

The topic that drew me into discussions on conservative Catholic sites  was almost invariably homosexuality—because I am gay, because it was a “hot” topic on the blogs, and because I could see that conservative Catholic opinion was flagrantly out of touch with scientific understanding about homosexuality.  And the homosexuality issue took on added significance because it was, and is, one of Catholicism’s current “flash-points” with secularism.

But other “hot” topics on these blogs, such as contraception and climate change, were too compelling to ignore, and so I diversified, but always with a view to offering secular perspectives and encouraging more empirical approaches to issues.

I cannot even count the number of times I’ve cited consensus scientific opinions about these issues, only to be told that these opinions don’t count. Never mind that  98 percent of climate scientists believe that climate change is caused by emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, because a certain university professor somewhere has published a peer-reviewed study claiming that the whole anthropogenic climate change theory is a conspiracy and a hoax! These denialist bloggers say they are only giving equal time to both sides of the question, but in fact they are ignoring consensus opinion on the matter while looking for confirmation of their biases. (Otherwise, they would give unequal time to the two sides of the question, at a ratio of 98 to 2.)

And never mind that all the major medical and social welfare associations in this country, as well as the World Health Organization, have unequivocally stated that homosexuality is not a disorder. The Church says that it is “intrinsically disordered,” and that’s that. Again, consensus opinion doesn’t matter, and if a veneer of scientific respectability is needed for the Church’s archaic stance on the issue, then any one of several socially conservative think tanks can be depended on to provide one.

With these frustrations roiling in the background, I came across a passage from Massimo Pigliucci’s “Answers for Aristotle” (2012), one of the best and most accessible guides I have found to understanding the roles of science and philosophy in modern life. Pigliucci, a philosopher of science at CUNY-Lehman College, has this to say:

Answers for AristotleScientific knowledge is both objective and subjective, because it results from a particular perspective (the human one) interacting with how the world really is. The result is that our scientific theories will always be tentative and to some extent wrong,… but will also capture to a smaller or greater extent some important aspect of how the world actually is. Science provides us with a perspective on the world, not with a God’s-eye view of things. It gives us an irreducibly human, and therefore to some extent subjective—yet certainly not arbitrary—view of the universe.

Now, why should any of this be of concern to the intelligent person interested in improving her or his well-being through the use of reason? Because a better understanding of how science actually works puts us in the position of the sophisticated skeptic, who is neither a person who rejects science as a matter of anti-intellectual attitude nor a person who accepts the pronouncements of scientists at face value, as if they were modern oracles whose opinions should never be questioned. Too often public debates about the sort of science that affects us all (climate change, vaccines and autism, and so on) are framed in terms of alleged conspiracies on the part of the scientific community on one side and of expert opinion beyond the reach of most people on the other side. Scientists are just like any other technical practitioners and in very fundamental ways are no different from car mechanics or brain surgeons. If your problem is that your car isn’t running properly, you go to a mechanic. If there is something wrong with your brain, you go to the neurosurgeon. If you want to find out about evolution, climate change, or the safety of vaccines, your best bet is to ask the relevant community of scientists.

Just as with car mechanics and brain surgeons, however, you will not necessarily find unanimity of opinion in this community, and sometimes you may want to seek a second or even a third opinion. Some of the practitioners will not be entirely honest (though this is pretty rare across the three categories I am considering), and you may need to inquire into their motives. Scientists are not objective, godlike entities, dispensing certain knowledge. They have a human perspective on things, including the field in which they are experts. But other things being equal, your best bet—particularly when the stakes are high—is to go with the expert consensus, and if a consensus is lacking, you’re better off going with the opinion of the majority of experts. Keeping in mind, of course, that they might, just might, be entirely wrong.

Another Purge, More Melodrama at The Cornerstone Forum

November 22, 2012

Not long ago, Gil Bailie was considering a run for public office. But voters beware. If he were to run an administration anything like he runs his Cornerstone Forum website and Facebook page, his periodic ideological purges would rival those of the Politburo.

The Cornerstone Forum is certainly no forum, if by “forum” we mean a place where ideas on a particular issue can be exchanged. Those who step up to the microphone must be prepared to parrot the prescribed line, or they’re out on their duffs. The ideological purity exacted from commenters is extreme and even extends to prohibitions against factual corrections.

Mr. Bailie’s bottom line is that the Catholic Church can do no wrong. She is the gold standard for all that is True and Good. She has never erred. Her teachings are not to be questioned. And in Mr. Bailie’s little empire, one does not question them. Or him.

Dorothy Jospin was the latest unwary visitor to Mr. Bailie’s Venus Flytrap. It all started when Mr. Bailie posted the photo shown to the right, with the following caption:

This is what we all looked like at 12 weeks in the womb. Legal to kill in all 50 states. Anyone think its not a person? Pass this along. It literally might save a life.

Dorothy responded:

This photo actually shows a plastic baby replica made by Mattel. It sells for $25, and you’ll find it on Mattel’s website.
For a photo of a real 12-week-old fetus (which looks nothing like this one), go to YouTube and find the video called “Week by week fetal development showing fetal development stages.”

At week 5 the fetus is the size of a poppy seed. At week 12, it is about two inches in length and weighs less than an ounce. It’s not until week 17 that it becomes the size of an orange.

The majority of abortions (88% to 92%) occur during the first trimester (the first 12 weeks), and the majority of those are well within the embryonic, pre-fetal stage of development. Most abortions occur sometime after the blastocyst attaches itself to the wall of the uterus.

The blastocyst has 70-100 cells (contrasted to a fruit fly, which has 100,000).

Mr. Bailie responded:

Quite literally, the devil is in such details. Poppy seed. Fruit fly. All these dismissive metaphors, and all the technical equivocations, so profoundly miss the essential point that it is hard not to assume that that is their purpose. Whatever the fetus looks like at 12 weeks – or 12 minutes – it remains perfectly clear to anyone who has not hardened himself against reality that abortion takes the very human life of the most innocent, powerless, and voiceless among us.

To which Dorothy had the effrontery to respond:

If the case against abortion is really compelling, then misrepresenting the facts makes it seem that the facts are not on the side of the pro-life movement. I believe it would be best to studiously avoid any tinkering with images or transparent attempts at propagandizing. They only discredit the movement.

At about the same time, Mr. Bailie posted a photo of German Lutheran pastors filing in front of Nazi officers, with the following caption:

This photo is a march of Lutheran pastors who allowed themselves to be useful idiots to the Nazis, and march under the banner of the deutsche Christians. Do they look like idiots today or what?

Dorothy responded, pointing out that the Catholic Church also collaborated with the Nazis, and not just the Nazis but with virtually every fascist regime of that era. The Church saw these regimes as bulwarks against Bolshevism and French anti-clericalism. Dorothy mentioned the 1933 Konkordat between Hitler and the Vatican. This is something that one must never mention on The Cornerstone Forum.

Mr. Bailie “clarified” by referring to Catholic and Lutheran “heroes” and conveniently ignoring the Vatican’s complicity as well as that of rank-and-file clergy of both confessions:

There were heroes among the Lutherans and Catholics in the face of Nazi thugs. But most of those who complain that the Church failed to stand up to savage oppression are cowered into submission by the threats of political correctness. It doesn’t inspire confidence that these same people would resist something far more threatening. More to the point, those who criticize the Church for not doing more to resist the mass murderers of yesteryear are the first and loudest to condemn it for resisting today’s mass murder of the unborn. You can’t have it both ways.

…Nor should Mr. Bailie. But that was it. Dorothy disappeared. Every trace of her. All that was left were Mr. Bailie’s responses, dangling like half an arch in the air.

At this point, Sophie Sommers, who must have been following the awkward exchange, spoke up to ask, “What happened to Dorothy??” and “Was that really a Mattel baby?” She reminded me of the gangster’s moll played by Mia Farrow in Woody Allen’s “Radio Days,” stumbling into a restaurant just as one of the diners—a Mafioso—has been gunned down at his table. She looks at the assassin, who is still holding his gun, and says in her shrill Brooklynese, “Oh my God! You KILLED Mr. Luciano! I SAW you shoot him!” (View clip here.)

As if that weren’t messy enough, Ben Boyce, a parishioner from St. Leo’s Parish in Sonoma, left this comment:

Oh, Gill [sic], what happened to you? You’ve drunk the Konservative Kool-Aide, and now you see the tepid centrists of the Obama Administration as some kind of anti-Christ threat to religious liberty in America. You might have known that this was ridiculous at one time, but now the logic of orthodoxy has backed you into defending this absurd thesis. The greatest blow to the last remnants of the moral authority of the Catholic bishops was delivered by their own unhinged attack on Obama and making common cause with the most reactionary elements in American society in the 2012 election. Thank God the Catholic laity had more sense than their bishops. When Bishop Jenky denounced Obama as a threat to America like Hitler and Obama, and not a single bishop had the courage to standup for decency and common sense to distinguish themselves from this outrageous comment, I knew that the American Catholic Church has hit bottom. Men of that caliber have no spiritual teaching worth listening to.

Whereupon Mr. Bailie brought out the big guns again:

It pains me, on the day before Thanksgiving, to have to repeat—once again— what I have said multiple times about this Page and our comments policy. But below is a word-for-word repetition of what I have said many times. Those who ignore this, and especially those who insist on slandering the Catholic Church or mock its teachings, should not be surprised to find that they are blocked from further comment.

Mr. Bailie then, for the fourth or fifth time, pastes in his entire speech about the purpose of The Cornerstone Forum.

Mr Boyce responds:

Apparently, my comments have precipitated this response. I do take exception to being described as some kind of random outsider who is coming in to stir up trouble on your Facebook page.I am a weekly Mass attendee at St. Leo’s parish in Sonoma, where you lived and worshipped for many years.I have listened to every audio tape you made over a twenty-year period, until you took a turn to the dark side by falling under the influence of the Religious Right. I have attended a number of your lectures and have always held you in high regard until this latest chapter in your career. You can ban me from the page, but that will not be because I am making inappropriate or offensive comments. Yes, I and my Catholic colleagues are directly challenging your assertion that you and your conservative Catholicism represent the gold standard.

Mia Farrow as "Sally" in Woody Allen's "Radio Days"

Mia Farrow as “Sally” in Woody Allen’s “Radio Days”

And Sophie again, in her best gangsta moll voice:

So THAT’s what happened to Dorothy! Was it her comment about the plastic baby? Or pointing out that the Lutherans weren’t the only ones who collaborated with the Nazis? These things are both true, aren’t they? Don’t you want to know when something you’ve shown or written on your Facebook is untrue? I always taught my children that truth was important–not just “Truth” with a capital T, but “truth” with a small one. The little truths all add up, and when you punish those who speak them, pretty soon you lose the big Truths, too. I know this, because I have family who lived in the DDR before Reunification.

I think you owe Dorothy and Ben Boyce an apology. But you’ll probably throw me off now, too. How many of us have there been?

Mr. Bailie responds:

I shared a post by my friend Jennifer Roback-Morse and the photograph she posted. I never said Lutherans were the only ones who collaborated with the Nazis. My gosh. What nonsense. I made my point clear in the follow-up. Who thought that the fetus in the palm of the hand was an actual fetus for goodness sake? Of course it was a replica —and of course it was not bloodied and covered with fetal fluid. My gosh. To make such a big deal out of that—all the while ignoring the real point—the systematic killing of millions of unborn babies in the womb—is simply amazing. You wonder why I’m uninterested in that kind of dialogue. I know it will be a badge you will wear proudly, but unless you can show some respect for the purpose of this Facebook page, you will be obliged to find another outlet for your positions. Don’t expect further response.

Sophie’s bold response:

I know you won’t like this, Mr. Bailie, but what you said about the Catholic and Lutheran heroes suggests that they were in opposition to their churches’ official positions, because both churches supported the Nazi regime. The Vatican was not heroic; it collaborated and cooperated with fascist regimes. If Catholic priests in Germany were heroic, it was because they spoke out not only against the Nazis but also against their own magisterium. This is what you don’t seem to be able to acknowledge, and I wonder why you can’t. It is the truth.

And an offline comment from Dean Hansen:

Golly Jeepers, Sophie!  Golly gosh!
Bullshit.  Thou dost protest too much. You fully believed the fetus was real:  “….This is what we all looked like at 12 weeks in the womb. Legal to kill in all 50 states. Anyone think its not a person? Pass this along. It literally might save a life.”  Why would you ask others if they thought it was a person unless you thought it one yourself?  If you knew it was plastic, it would cancel out the rhetorical assertion in your question. “Anyone think it’s not a person?”  (Well, you don’t of course, but will nevertheless use any kind of trickery to get a concession from your captive audience even if it means lying to yourself.)  I’m sure that once you Googled the images and realized your error, you had two options.  Come clean and acknowledge that you were fooled, or lie and pretend ignorance.  The second option seems to fit you well, but it makes you look no less foolish.  Why make a big deal out of that?  Because you have decided to make abortion your Waterloo; your rubicon.  When you use the word “killing” and “murder” indiscriminately to define what women do when they are pro-active in their own decisions, it is a big deal.  It’s a big deal because 1) You are barred from the actual experience of birth, and need to show some humility when it comes to other people’s plight.  2) Life actually begins before conception (sperm and ova are alive) but they don’t make babies, therefore, since life is a continuum, you draw the line at conception, which, along with birth, are both false thresholds.  At what point does a baby become a person?  Fertilized eggs, like the gametes that precede them, cannot live on their own, or think or feel.  They are biological life in the strict sense, but they are not human life.  Since they are not human, you are not guilty of murder if you abort them.  3)  Look beneath the heated passions on the surface and you will find there is a remarkable lack of polarization on the issue, save with old guard Catholics and picketers at abortion clinics with concealed handguns. Most people think that abortion should be allowed but not encouraged. That is the de facto reality.  And most people choose the first trimester as their own threshold because of what science, biology, nature, and common sense tell them.  It is why only 1% of abortions occur after week 20, and usually only when the life of the mother is in danger, or the fetus is damaged and not sustainable.  (Most women who waited 15 weeks or more to get an abortion did so because it was so hard to find a clinic where the operation could be performed, and not because they were resistant to basic information about gestation and pregnancy).

The Cornerstone Forum Silences Critics

October 11, 2012

Just beneath the calm surface of Gil Bailie’s Facebook page for The Cornerstone Forum (TCF), the waters are roiling. Bailie, a paleo-conservative Catholic whose life and career have become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the magisterium, uses TCF as a Gatling gun against all those perceived “enemies” of Catholicism gathered outside the walls: homosexuals, pro-choicers, secularists, and especially the more moderate Catholic voices, the voices of protest and reform. But he is attempting to insulate himself—on Facebook of all places—from any return fire. Bailie has built a fortress that also functions, as one visitor put it, as an echo-chamber and a hall of mirrors—a make-believe world where those who are faithful to the Church can go on pretending that the institution is eternal and that its teachings are unassailable.

Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum

Except that it’s not and they’re not. The make-believe world is under attack, most significantly and vocally by Catholics themselves. And Bailie is armed and ready for its defense. Those who disagree with the views expressed on TCF are enemies who must be wiped out, not through negotiation or reasoned argumentation but by making them simply … disappear, like the “desaparecidos” of Chile and Brazil under authoritarian regimes, or those fractious Politburo members whose images were erased from official photos. Bailie regularly purges the site of troublesome visitors. This year’s casualty count is now at around eight. These were all, with one or two exceptions, intelligent reform-minded Catholics. Others were of unknown or no faith affiliation but respectful and thoughtful in their comments. All had carefully crafted their objections to the tone and content of TCF and deserved to be heard, if only by each other.

The latest of the “desaparecidos” is S. Darrick Northington, in whose honor I am posting the conversation that occurred today regarding the HHS mandate:

(more…)

The Cornerstone Forum Once Again Refuses to be Confused by Facts, Alternative Opinions, Data, Evidence, Documentation, Reliable Information, or Scientific Studies.

June 13, 2012
“I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”  — Sir George Sitwell, English Eccentric

Since its inception, Gil Bailie’s Facebook page for The Cornerstone Forum has sought to interpret and respond to contemporary culture “from a Catholic perspective and in fidelity to the social teachings of the Church.” This is because Bailie sees Catholic faith and practice as increasingly caught “in the crossfire,” as he puts it. And he is a faithful son of the church.

Benedict XVI and Gil Bailie

But Bailie’s use of the “crossfire” metaphor is a mite disingenuous. It implicitly casts the Church in the role of an innocent bystander or a disinterested third party—despite all indications that it is not and has never been either of these. Just in recent months, Catholic institutions have sued the U.S. government over the HHS contraceptive coverage mandate, thrown their full weight behind anti-same-sex-marriage initiatives, chastised nuns for focusing on poverty and hunger rather than abortion and homosexuality, bullied the girl scouts over including a 7-year-old transgendered girl, excommunicated doctors and nuns for saving lives, and joined Republican efforts to restrict women’s access to abortions at the state level. Over the years, Church institutions have lied about contraceptives to poor Africans, obstructed patient access to accurate information and services in secular hospitals, and purged scholars who attempted to build bridges to other faiths. (For details on several of these points, see “8 Ugly Sins of the Catholic Church,” by Valerie Tarico on Alternet.)

There can no longer be any doubt either that the Church has a horse in the race or, in the case of Gil Bailie’s unfortunate metaphor, that the king has no clothes: the Church is not “caught in the crossfire.” It is firing mortars at its enemies.

Bailie’s attempt to propagate an essentially hermetic and authoritarian ideology via the Internet was a tricky proposition from the start. The Internet is by design an open, expansive, inclusive, and anti-authoritarian medium—a “real” forum, unlike the “gated” one Bailie would like to cordon off within it. People come and go, expressing all kinds of opinions willy-nilly, in a real marketplace of ideas. It’s like a Turkish souk alive with chatter and dissension. You can buy anything there, but you’ll have to negotiate—sometimes loudly.

So, The Cornerstone Forum has indeed had visitors from all kinds of people from all parts of the world—England, Austria, China, Italy, and Australia, to name a few—and, surprise!—not all of them have expressed views that perfectly match Bailie’s own. Some of their voices have been more strident than his. Some of them have been highly articulate and even argumentative, as if they had no idea of the gravitas of The Cornerstone Forum’s founder or the unassailability of his views.

Flat earth orbited by sun and moon

A large part of the disputation at The Cornerstone Forum has concerned issues of truth. The thread I have reproduced below is typical: Bailie informs his readers that the earth’s population is in precipitous freefall, and then he seems genuinely offended that they don’t buy it. (Well, actually, some do.) At that point, facts and logical arguments are offered—always by readers, virtually never by Bailie—and he ignores or dismisses them with smug little retorts like, “We’ll see.” A few weeks later, he puts up another post informing his readers that the earth’s population is in precipitous freefall.

This has been the pattern during the many years that I have visited The Cornerstone Forum’s pages, where we’ve learned that climate change is a hoax, homosexuality is gravely disordered, same-sex marriage will cause civilizational collapse, religious freedom is under attack, the Obama presidency is precipitating totalitarianism, the Muslims are taking over Europe, and secularism is to blame for everything that is wrong with the world.

About a month ago, Bailie reacted to the growing chorus of dissent by issuing a warning similar to the one you will find in the thread below. When it was not heeded, he issued a second one and expelled one of the most insightful and articulate of his critics, George Dunn. All traces of Dunn immediately disappeared, and dozens of threads no longer made sense without his voice. If you’ve ever seen photos of Stalin’s politburo with purged officials airbrushed out, you’ll get the picture.

Today, Bailie issued a third warning. This time, the one expelled was I. Here is the conversation:

Gil Bailie:

I am currently researching the worldwide demographic decline and its enormous consequences. The evidence for the decline is overwhelming, but so are the studies that trace it and the data confirming the researchers’ conclusions. I cannot claim to have a complete grasp of the problem, but I have arrived at a preliminary hypothesis:

Whereas some animals don’t breed when in captivity, humans apparently don’t breed when in metaphysical despondency, regardless of how unacknowledged and embedded in material prosperity that despondency might be.

Doughlas Remy:

There is no “worldwide demographic decline.” However, there are declining birth rates in certain countries, such as Japan and some countries of Europe. The world’s population, now slightly over 7 billion, is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. That’s really rapid growth, so rest assured there’s no lack of breeding going on.

I’m not sure how you measure “metaphysical despondency” or whether there is in fact such a thing. But surely people in certain high-growth societies (e.g., in parts of Africa and East Asia) have much more reason to experience metaphysical despair than Europeans and Japanese, and it is not slowing them down.

Birth rates in Europe and Japan are falling because women are now better educated and have more options. And yes, low birth rates can pose social challenges, but so can high ones, as we discussed earlier. See my article about this on The Bent Angle.

Darrick Northington:

This seems like an impossible argument to make. I echo Doughlas, given that every human belongs to some demographic and earth’s human population is in fact growing rather than declining, the claim that we’re experiencing some kind of “global demographic decline” is false.

Gil Bailie:

We’ll see.

Doughlas Remy:

@Darrick: I’m surprised The Cornerstone Forum is again making this bizarre claim after the earlier discussion we had, where so many facts were laid out. And these facts are incontrovertible. Population growth, fertility rates, and youth/elder bubbles can all be measured. We’re talking hard data here.

It’s like one of those strange experiences where somebody points up to the blue sky and tells you it is green. You say, “No, it is blue, and my spectrograph will back me up on that.” And they say, “No, to me it’s green. And what’s a spectrograph?”

Patrick Daoust: 

The Economist recently published a book called Megachange, the world in 2050. I’m currently reading the chapter on demography. Mr Remy’s numbers fit with data in the book.

This said, we must ask ourselves why so much of Europe has such a low fertility rate – I think it’s about 1.3 in Spain and Italy. This is quite a problem for policy makers to deal with. My intuition is that in modern western societies the freedoms normally associated with men are seen as more desirable. A lot of feminist movements fight for equal rights with regards to salary, women in high profile jobs, etc. As a whole, our society seems to have stripped away all pride in motherhood.

Darrick Northington:

‎@ Patrick, it sounds like you think mothers have to be second-class citizens. In my opinion, motherhood and fatherhood are both consistent w/ equality, and any definition that necessarily subordinates one to the other is wrong. To suggest that our society doesn’t take pride is wrong, too. I think this kind of talk has more to do with white male dominance than motherhood…the kind of thinking that says a woman’s place is in the home, in the kitchen, and a man’s place is king.

By the way, birthrates in Spain have increased every year for the last 12 years.

Doughlas Remy:

@Patrick. In connection with your final sentence, about society stripping away all pride in motherhood, here is an interesting opinion from Gail Collins of the NYT:

If you look back on what’s happened to women over the last half-century – how the world has opened up for them to have adventures, pursue careers, make choices about the kind of lives they want to live – it all goes back to effective contraception. Before the birth control pill came along, a woman who wanted to pursue a life that involved a lot of education, or a long climb up a career ladder, pretty much had to be willing to devote herself to perpetual celibacy. That’s what contraception means to women.

Iron Woman. Photoshop rendering by Dean Hansen

So, maybe other life paths are simply more attractive to women. Motherhood, after all, is damned hard work, it’s unpaid and under-appreciated, and raising a child is more expensive than ever. Yearly tuition at state universities in Washington State, where I live, is now over $12,000.

In the face of all these obstacles, we have in this country a political party that wants to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids. These cuts are part of a larger proposal to cut social services block grants to the tune of $17 billion over ten years. These grants support Meals on Wheels, child welfare, and day care for children. State legislatures are also unable to raise revenues in the face of anti-tax initiatives.

Child-bearing may also about to become riskier to women if hospitals are allowed to let a woman die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

Because of the work that I do, I’ve had countless more-or-less unstructured conversations with Japanese mid-career professionals over the years, and we always talk about Japan’s birth dearth. They say raising a child is just too expensive. They value quality education and would feel shamed if they couldn’t give their children access to one.

I think there are ways women can be incentivized to have children, but governments like our own seem intent on disincentivizing them. Banning contraception is not, of course, an option, and it shouldn’t be. Women’s need for choice in these matters is paramount. The demographic problems will take care of themselves as we begin to think creatively about them.

Gil Bailie:

Let me try once again to explain why this Facebook page exists. It exists to offer encouragement to those who share its point of view. It does not exist to argue with those who don’t.

This is not a bulletin board or campus kiosk. It is a Cornerstone Forum page, and its purpose is that of the Forum, namely: to encourage and, with God’s grace, occasionally to inspire, those who share our vision and concern. The Forum and this Page exist to give an account of the contemporary cultural and moral crisis from a Catholic perspective and in fidelity to Magisterium and the social teachings of the Church, and to do so, when appropriate, by drawing on the extraordinary anthropological insights of René Girard and the theological riches of Benedict XVI, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar and others. It is also our purpose here to bring these perspectives to bear on the sundry cultural and moral issues we now face, paying special attention to what we regard as the gravest moral and civil rights issue of our age – abortion – and the gravest anthropological blunder – the evisceration of the meaning of marriage and the demise of the traditional family.

“Censer,” by Dean Hansen

We are not surprised to find that many do not share these concerns, and we offer our best wishes to those who don’t, but we will no longer allow this Facebook page to become an outlet for points of view that are wearily familiar to us, the refutation of which would be as tedious an exercise for us as it would be entirely unconvincing to our naysayers.

To those more sympathetic to our efforts, we are grateful for your interest, and we will continue to try to be as useful and encouraging as possible. If we occasionally point to certain unhappy developments in our cultural life, it will only be for the purpose of encouraging resistance to them for the sake of our children’s children.

Doughlas Remy:

Gil, I think your only option may be to “de-friend” those who do not share your point of view, as you did to George Dunn about a month ago. The Cornerstone Forum will no longer be an open forum, but at least you will have an echo chamber where you can get validation from your supporters and carry out your mission of channeling the church’s (and dare I say, the GOP’s) talking points on issues of the day. I hope you will be fair with your visitors, however: Let them know up front that they will be de-friended if their opinions diverge too much from your own.

As I said in an article on my own blogsite, it’s obvious you don’t value the time and thought that your readers devote to responding to your posts. That is a shame, and it is why I hope to provide a truly open forum on The Bent Angle for some of the issues that you raise. As you will notice, I have already begun to port some of the discussions over there, for fear they will suddenly disappear from TCF. So far, the idea hasn’t caught on with your visitors, and it may not, but I’ll continue the mirroring effort, as I think it is important.

I continue to maintain that truth is important and that none of us has a lock on it, or exclusive rights to it. We reach the truth through dialog.

Reading a Text of Persecution: William Tucker’s Defense of Bullying

May 20, 2012

Gil Bailie

Or: How to Create a Major Dust-up at The Cornerstone Forum

Sometimes a social networking conversation can develop into something truly revelatory. The following conversation occurred last week on Gil Bailie’s Facebook page for The Cornerstone Forum. What set it going was Bailie’s posting—and endorsement—of an article by William Tucker in The Spectator. Titled “The Battle of the Sexes (All Four of Them),” it weaves together several themes and issues that have been in the news lately: same-sex marriage, bullying, and, specifically, testimony from former classmates of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney that he bullied and forcibly cut the hair of a somewhat effeminate younger student while a senior at an elite prep school.

The article evoked a strong reaction from visitors to The Cornerstone Forum. Their remarks so irritated Gil Bailie that he eventually deleted the entire thread, including even the few comments offered by his supporters. I had copied everything before he did this, and I reprint it here now. A lot of thought went into the posted comments and I believe they are worth preserving. More important, they—and Gil Bailie’s reaction to them—speak volumes about the ultra-conservative Catholicism that Gil Bailie represents.

René Girard

Before reading the conversation below, you will want to carefully read William Tucker’s article. Also, please be aware that Gil Bailie claims his own thinking is guided and inspired by that of René Girard, an anthropologist and literary critic who has written extensively about mimetic rivalry and scapegoating and whose ideas are collectively known as “mimetic theory.” The principal contributors to the conversation reproduced here are familiar with Girard’s work and will allude to it at times.

Gil Bailie begins the conversation:

Gil Bailie:

Not that I’m interested in stirring up more trouble on the same-sex marriage question, but this link is to an article by William Tucker which I think hits exactly the right note. I can’t hope to bring all my friends to agreement on this issue, but Tucker comes as close as anybody to putting the matter in its proper perspective. [emphasis mine]

Doughlas Remy:

Gil, offering students of Girard a text like this one and extolling it as you do is bizarre in the extreme. I realize you were distracted while in Berkeley, but really! Did you read the text carefully?

Mitt Romney and classmates

Tucker frames his point about same-sex marriage with the following personal story:

A group of college boys (described by Tucker as a “gang” and a “mob”) converges on a dormitory and “taunts” its only resident, described as a “huge” football player. After an exchange of insults and threats, the group wrestles the football player to the ground and forcibly cuts his hair down to the scalp, using scissors that someone in the group has brought along. Many years later, this event is recounted not by the football player, nor by a bystander, but by one of boys in the group. He denies that his behavior was bullying. He describes it as an “outpouring of exuberance,” “boys being boys,” and “traditional male behavior.”

This is not the story told by Romney’s former classmates. It is William Tucker’s recollection about his own part in a similar incident that occurred during his college years. He is using the incident to express his solidarity with Romney.

The cultural proximity of his story may obscure its underlying structure, so let’s strip out some of the cultural elements:

Trophies

A mob of young adult males decide to raid a neighboring village. When they reach the village, weapons in hand, they find only one man there, whom they encircle and taunt viciously. He threatens them, but to no avail. He is outnumbered, and the mob attacks him, delivering one blow after another until he finally collapses. They cut off his head and his genitals to carry home as trophies, and then they place his body in a tree for birds to devour. When the young men return to their village, they proudly display their trophies and recount their exploits to the others. To make themselves seem more heroic, they describe their victim as a giant. Years later, the perpetrators remember the event as an exhilarating and deeply meaningful rite of passage that created deep and lasting bonds between them.

There are so many ways this story could be told—as a fairy tale, a myth, a historical account, pulp fiction—with a variety of settings and characters. What they must all have in common, however, is the “all-against-one” violence which is later remembered by its perpetrators as foundational. Does any of it sound familiar?

What is even more interesting, from a Girardian perspective, is that the author of this article, William Tucker, uses this “text of persecution” (Girard’s term) as a frame for his remarks about homosexuality and marriage equality. This would be very insightful if his purpose were to denounce the bullying and unjust treatment that GLBTs have to endure. But his purpose is in fact the opposite. If he had read Girard, he would appreciate the profound irony of this.

Now that we have the irony and the frame, let’s look further at what Tucker says.

Having identified himself as one of the mob who held down a fellow student and forcibly cut his hair, Tucker is unapologetic, even proud. He dismisses those who “believe they were socially abused while young.” He describes childhood as “a jungle,” but makes no suggestions for civilizing it, as if to say, “This is the way it has always been and will always be.”

And then he digs himself in deeper with another personal story of victimage, and once again, he is not the victim in the story. He is in the crowd of victimizers. The victim is a schoolgirl who is said to have cooties and pees like a boy. He doesn’t say how she was treated, but I think we can imagine. At the very least, she was taunted and ostracized. Again, Tucker shows no remorse. Nor does he suggest any measures for helping the victims of bullying.

So if Tucker neither adopts the victim’s perspective nor apologies for his part in her mistreatment, why does he include this story? For the answer, we must go to the end of his article, where he writes,

“So yes, let’s forget about the economy for a while and conduct an election campaign over whether tradition sex roles can be defended—whether boys can be boys or whether candidates should be ostracized for exhibiting traditional male behavior in their youth. It’s probably more important anyway. [emphasis mine]”

“Ostracized?” Yes, he actually claims victim status for Romney and—by extension, I suppose—for himself as one whose behavior was almost identical to Romney’s. The victimizers are actually the victims, didn’t you know?

Tucker’s purpose is to claim for himself and his schoolmates the right to bully others. It is within this frame that he opens the issue of same-sex marriage and of homosexuality in general.

Gil, I am simply at a loss for words to express how odious this is.

J. Darrick Northington:

Does Tucker actually make a reference to welfare queens in the fourth paragraph from the end of the essay?! You ought to be ashamed, Gil. I can only assume you share Tucker’s ideas, given that you’ve chosen him to speak for you. Shameful.

When I read this stuff, I can’t help but be reminded of (pseudo-) scientific racism. it strikes me as the same kind of logic. Scientific racism was used to provide an intellectual narrative or rationale for racism. Consider this from Tucker:

“Sexual ambiguity is something that has always frightened children and primitive societies. Tribal cultures usually have elaborate taboos about what men and women can do, which building they can enter, even what they are allowed to touch. Such societies have elaborate initiation ceremonies to make sure young people assume the proper sexual roles as they reach maturity. It was Margaret Mead who in a moment of weakness once said, “The most stable societies are those that make the clearest distinction between men and women.”

Now consider this from Robert Knox (1850):

“All we know is that since the beginning of history, the dark races have been the slaves of those lighter skinned. What is that due to? ‘I feel disposed to think that there must be a physical and consequentially, a psychological inferiority in the dark races generally.’ This is perhaps not due to lack of size in the brain but rather a lack of quality in it.”

See how the bigotry is dressed in bullshit science in an attempt to verify and explain itself? [It’s the] same hateful logic just applied to different groups.

I think Gil’s use of history is strange. setting aside the historical inaccuracies, what do the kinds of historical appeals in the Tucker article buy you? how do they support the argument being made? Even if the history Tucker constructs were real, appealing to the way something has “always” been isn’t an argument for why things should stay the same. Many moments in history teach us that, right? the long history of white supremacy (not just groups like the KKK, but also white dominance in terms of systemic power) in America isn’t an argument and justification in favor of white supremacy, is it?

Given how easily your homophobic observations leave your fingers, I’m intentionally using race-based examples not only to draw a parallel that clearly demonstrates right and wrong, but also because I doubt you will be so quick to make similar observations about black and brown people. Why? because it would be clearly racist. Now you might say you’re talking about marriage, not race, but I’m happy to post dozens of examples of how whites defined certain words in ways to exclude non-whites. Absurd and vague appeals to history were prominent, [as well as] often strange moral appeals about how blackness pollutes and is dangerous for society. In my opinion, the only difference between the examples I’m talking about and what you’re saying here is that you can still get away with public homophobia.

Gil Bailie:

(quoting Tucker)

‎”Altogether, the progressiveness of a society can probably be measured by its ability to tolerate sexual ambiguity and grant flexibility in sexual roles. We are probably as tolerant as any society has ever been in this regard. But putting homosexual marriage on a par with traditional marriage is an entirely different thing. Marriage is a ceremony designed to bind the two halves of humanity together. Homosexual marriage leaves them further apart and isolated. Few societies have ever granted it, yet alone celebrated it, as we appear to be on the verge of doing.”

That is the point.

George Dunn:

How exactly does marriage equality leave men and women “farther apart and isolated?” Tucker’s specific claim is that it will somehow encourage more single parent households, while at the same time legitimating polygamy. As I asked before, where is the evidence for this?

It’s obvious that neither William Tucker nor Gil Bailie have ever been victims of bullying or have any comprehension of how terrifying it is to find yourself on the receiving end of the “exuberance” of a violent mob. I have and I do. To laugh off this sort of brutality as no big deal, just boys being boys, is indeed odious. Furious opposition to marriage equality has apparently turned the author of Violence Unveiled into an apologist for mob violence. That should give us pause.

Doughlas Remy:

@George Dunn: In answer to your question, “Where’s the evidence?” I can provide the answer: There is none. If there were, NOM and other anti-equality organizations would be using it. Some of these organizations have abandoned the overt use of the religious objection because they saw that it didn’t fly very well. Notice that Tucker doesn’t use it. Instead, he resorts to a pseudo-scientific claim concocted out of his own very inadequate understanding of history, anthropology, and biology, with a dash of Margaret Mead and Edward Carpenter thrown in to make it sound authoritative. The few points that he does get right are bent to his purpose of drawing the line at same-sex marriage and staking out some space for further ostracism of gays and lesbians.

“Marriage,” he writes, “is designed to bind the two halves of humanity together.” The word “designed” is key, and it gives away the religious underpinnings of his argument. Since Tucker is so keen on history and anthropology, why doesn’t he know that marriage was until very recently about property and legal responsibility, not about anything so lofty as “binding the two halves of humanity together.” Where does he get this stuff? (OK, OK, I know where he gets it.)

And what does he expect homosexuals to do—marry persons of the opposite sex? Tucker seems so concerned that gay marriage will leave the two halves of humanity “further apart and isolated,” but what would he do, then—require everyone to enter into a traditional marriage? How grotesque!

And would he have us (GLBTs) separate from our partners and abandon all claims to equality? He cannot designate social isolation as a problem while attacking gay unions.

Given that there are millions of gay unions throughout the world, where would Tucker have us go from there? Gays and lesbians will no longer accept being treated as an underclass or excluded from the conversation about what marriage is.

William Tucker

Tucker’s article is easy to pick apart because he is so confused and so clueless that he can’t even successfully dissemble. A psychologist would have a field day with his fears of matriarchy, male dependence/infantilization, feminism, and sexual deviance. (all in just paragraphs 10-12)

BTW, that is a FABULOUS scarf he’s wearing in his photo!

Gil Bailie:

A month ago or so I posted a housekeeping message, but it obviously bears repeating.

For whom does this Facebook page exist? To whom are we trying to communicate? The answer is 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 as indispensable to the recovery of an intellectually cogent and wholehearted affirmation of Christian truth as they are to an understanding of the overall cultural crisis in the midst of which we are living, and 3) our belief that the healthiest response to this crisis to resist the winds of fashion and to turn again instead to the moral and intellectual resources—and the historical experience—of our tradition.

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 to our Page who have fundamental differences with us on many of the cultural, theological, and moral issues of our time. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the patience required to respond to those with whom an ongoing give-and-take argument would be as endless as it is fruitless—precisely because of the diametrically opposed principles involved.

There are literally millions of venues for the airing of views antithetical to the ones for which we stand, but this Facebook page isn’t one of them. This Page is not a bulletin board or campus kiosk for the posting of angry disquisitions at odds with the three simple principles mentioned above. With no ill feeling, we encourage those who want to champion causes incompatible with our own to find other and better venues for doing so.

Again, we are here to be useful to those who are trying to respond to the deepening cultural and moral crisis of our civilization by rediscovering, reaffirming, and bearing witness to the truths on which that civilization is founded and without which it cannot survive. 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 and only obligation is to those who do.

Ian Callaghan:

I’d be in way over my head if I tried to seriously engage the comments that have been made on this thread thus far, so I won’t. But I can say this: it seems clear to me that while Facebook certainly is quite open, it is also designed from the ground up to encourage self-selection and affirmation, not serious debate. That’s why there will never be a dislike button! (Not that that would ever be a marker of serious debate.) Anyway, I think Gil is just asking for the space to allow this page to be what Facebook is, for better or worse, designed to be: a place where you primarily share with the people with whom you are mostly in agreement. Does that make it a bit more shallow? Maybe—but I come to Facebook for bite-size content, not steak.

Doughlas Remy:

@Ian Callahan: As one who has often been accused of using objects in ways for which they were not intended, I am all for the plasticity and adaptability of Facebook. Believe me, it’s there to be anything we want it to be within the bounds of its own design limitations. The fact that the majority of people leave friendly bite-size content on Facebook may signify nothing more than short attention spans or minds incapable of in-depth discussion of issues. I am certain that Mark Zuckerberg would have no objection to our having a serious debate.

George Dunn:

@Gil Bailie: Some of the recent comments to which you object are, in my mind at least, quite in keeping with your mission, since they bring to light the elements of violence and scapegoating in your own posts and do so from a perspective that is fully informed by the insights of Rene Girard. Doughlas Remy, for example, highlighted how similar the anecdotes in your William Tucker article are to the classic texts of persecution that Girard discusses in many places in his writings. Meanwhile, I took issue with your abuse of Saul Alinsky, a good man who has been scapegoated by many on the right but whose program had direct affinities with the moral and intellectual tradition that you want to promote. My point was that your readiness to jump on the anti-Alinsky bandwagon displays those very mimetic tendencies against which Girard has warned us to be on guard, especially in ourselves. You’ll recall that when you posted your earlier “housekeeping message,” I explicitly asked whether you objected to me calling attention to the scapegoating tendencies that you frequently exhibit in your posts. You didn’t express any objection at that time and, until you say otherwise, I’ll just assume that you welcome the sort of criticisms that Doughlas and I offer, even if you may not always enjoy hearing them. Believe it or not, I am not only very sympathetic to much of your mission, but also want nothing but the very best for you personally. But for you to achieve your best, you need to start examining and overcoming your proclivity to scapegoat, sneer at, and invent calumny against those with whom you disagree. I have faith that you can do this.

James Hernandez:

George, you can’t play the scapegoating card every time Gil posts something that you think is wrong. It is just as easy to say that you, and definitely Doughlas, scapegoat the “right,” and more specifically those [who] align their view with Orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless, Gil’s point is simply that the differences between your worldview and his are wide. Thus, when you argue from fundamentally different premises than he, the two of you will simply be speaking past each other instead of having an actual dialogue. Hence, this is why Gil usually does not respond. It seems both of you continuously respond to his posts because you get some type of catharsis out of beating up Gil’s point of view. So, in accordance with your Girardian point of view, maybe this isn’t the best thing for you. I think that unless you try to actually understand where Gil is coming from, then your comments will never bear fruit.

George Dunn:

James, let me conclude by reassuring you that, first, I don’t bring these things up for the sake of some “catharsis” or purgative effect, since I usually feel just the opposite of “cleansed” when I come away from this forum, and, second, that I do make an effort to understand Gil’s point of view. On numerous occasions, I’ve sought clarification from him on some point he’s made (most recently concerning his conception of “personhood”), only to have my questions completely ignored, not even acknowledged. Despite his failings, Gil possesses a sharp mind and has much to teach. I only wish he would be charitable enough to enter into the sort of dialogue that would allow people like me to learn from him.

Dean Hansen:

@Gil: You’re entitled to hold any view or position you wish on a wide and endless array of topics. But you’re not entitled to live in a vacuum.  So here’s an important reminder: You’re on the Internet. The Internet is a public place. Facebook is the most expansive, public and social environment of them all. It’s also a rowdy, wide-open place with millions upon millions of viewers and participants. The rules of etiquette and propriety which you imagine work in this environment don’t. Unless you have a password-protected site which automatically bans those who refuse to play by your arbitrary, overweening rules, then you can expect that people of every stripe and persuasion, including fellow Christians who don’t hold the same Vatican approved, Temenos protected views or narrow dogma you do, are going to come here and point out your unacknowledged and insufferable intolerance and narrow, fear-dominated version of reality.  Try waving a red flag in front of a bull and then demand to know why the bull didn’t play by your rules after it’s gored you a number of times.

If you’re going to live in a glass house and dispense endless, purposefully loaded, unrepentant provocations intended to shame an entire class of people, or to treat the environmental crisis of global warming as a liberal scare tactic, or denigrate the President for holding views about contraception and abortion which you reject while ignoring everything else he’s done, then you can expect to be bombarded with more of the posts you find so difficult to endure. You have the nasty habit of dropping bombs then scurrying away in the hopes that you can avoid the mess you’ve made without ever having to deal with it. You’re a coward. You can’t have a free exchange of ideas on your lofty terms, by closing your ears when things become unpleasant. Life doesn’t work that way. Try placing the shoe on the other foot for once: Think of all the heart-felt effort and considerable time devoted to encouraging you to consider legitimate and thoughtful alternatives to your unassailable fortress of magisterial truth, and ask why it generates such heat. Because you never listen and you never change course. This is what is killing Catholicism. An unbending, dogmatic, censorious refusal to adapt to the living body of Christ, whose name it bears and whose spirit it often despises. You can’t offer theological “sustenance” to one class of protected people while denying it to another or excluding them altogether when you find yourself vulnerable to legitimate criticism that undermines much of what you’re saying.

Jesus excluded no one, including a despised woman who wanted nothing more than to wash his feet with her hair. That’s the only measure of inclusion anyone who professes to be a Christian should have to abide by.  Everyone is welcomed. Can there be a civil discussion here? Only when you engage enough with the people who are urging to you have one to actually address the issues that you clamor to own.  If you start with the position that your views are sacrosanct and unmoving, you will get nowhere. The only effect that will have is to increase the heat and dissipate the light. If you make the default assumption that no light is coming in, you will soon find it extinguished at the other end.

You say you welcome those who don’t agree with your perspective?  Then stop complaining and whining when they do precisely that. Make up your mind, Gil. Either find a secluded, hermetically sealed venue in which you can postulate your version of reality, or expect to hear the sound of breaking glass as your temple falls around you. The only such venue I can think of that might apply is a seminary or a monastery, where you can renounce the world altogether and apply for the priesthood. It will be like returning to the factory at closing time when all the traffic is moving in the opposite direction. You’ll have a clear, empty road to follow. You’ll also have the illusion that you’re doing it right. After all, didn’t Jesus himself say that many are called and few are chosen? There! See? You were right all along.  Unless he was talking about cryogenics, of course.

Doughlas Remy:

What happened to all the comments? They’re all gone! There must have been a dozen of them.

Gil Bailie:

I deleted them all just to be fair. Thanks to those who said nice things. No hard feelings for those who didn’t. It’s just that the endless back and forth is useless. There are plenty of other places for expressing contrary points of view.

Dean Hansen:

Well, there you have it. “The endless back and forth,” to use Gil’s words, “is useless.” But the one-way misrepresentation of facts will continue,  thereby generating more criticism and by inference, more deletions and outright censorship of ideas. Sounds like a win-win situation, if entropy is the equivalent of winning. Gil is asking us not to make him think about things that trouble him. In a way, he has hamstrung himself with his own theology. He wants to be thought of as someone who is slow to anger, quick to forgive, and never eager to scandalize anyone by losing his temper or being in conflict with those who contradict his understanding of the way things work. Those promptings are commendable and lovely in and of themselves, because they’re part of the Gospel message, unless they make a habit of continuously aborting reality in the process. I think we may have found a form of abortion which Gil approves of. The question is, how will he defend his beliefs, if he shirks his responsibility to do so by simply suggesting the effort is useless?  There’s only one way:  Ignore any criticism he can’t refute.

When you consider how the Catholic church goes out of its way to shelter its own in the midst of an ongoing pedophile scandal, it’s not hard to see why Gil opts for a slash-and-burn policy with regard to his own perception of his reputation. To face the issues squarely by doing honest soul-searching requires a complete re-assessment of one’s life path and a willingness to make concessions and offer some modicum of contrition.  That re-assessment would tear down many of Gil’s treasured assumptions about the majesty and infallibility of the church triumphant. How he still manages to believe in the otherly-world nature of a church that sexually abuses children in this world, and psychologically brutalizes men and women because of their sexual nature requires a degree of self-delusion that most of us don’t possess, or would disown and redress quickly were it exposed.

I feel genuinely sorry for Gil, because his house of cards is too fragile to withstand the internal scrutiny that is required, either on a personal or an institutional level. We’ve backed him into a wall. Gil’s Masthead is “Faith in the Crossfire.” Yet he continuously fires the first round in the “fire fight,” and then ducks and covers during the return engagement. If that’s faith, it’s apparently the same kind Benedict has when he rides around in his bullet-proof popemobile. At least the masthead at Andrew Sullivan’s blog strives for honesty:  “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

You can’t see beyond your nose when you refuse to see what’s before you.

Mark Gordon:

Gil, I wholeheartedly endorse the three principles enunciated above. However, at least in practice there seems to be a fourth principle at work on this Facebook page, and it is this: that the Republican Party and the contemporary “conservative” movement are the bearers of the flame of authentic Christian civilization. This despite their devotion to neoliberalism, nationalist idolatry, militarism and cultural Calvinism, all of which are fundamentally at odds with the teaching of the Church. I spent much of my adult life wedded to that crowd, and it was only my exposure to someone named Gil Bailie that began to dislodge me from them. So you can imagine how disappointed I am to see you embrace those former companions of mine so fervently. The American Spectator? Daniel Pipes? The torture enthusiasts at The National Review? Lord, help us! So, after you read and delete this, know that I will no longer be following the Cornerstone page. It is yours to do with as you please. Sadly, you’ll be doing it without me. Still friends, I hope.