instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, January 16, 2004

Not the official organ of conservative American Catholics

Mark Shea laments
the ascendancy of "Mammon First" Conservatism over "Family First" Conservatism at [National Review Online].
NRO's Ramesh Ponnuru responds on NRO's blog The Corner, in a post titled "Attack of the Social Conservatives":
But I would remind these guys that National Review editorializes consistently and runs articles regularly against gay marriage, abortion, cloning, euthanasia, illegitimacy, divorce, day care, and gender integration in the military. Do social conservatives control so many editorial offices that it is wise of them to attack those allies they have?
I'll point out just two things from just these two sentences in a much longer post.

First, notice the list of things NR editorializes and runs articles against. The first four are gay marriage, abortion, cloning, and euthanasia. The last four are illegitimacy, divorce, day care, and gender integration in the military. Do you notice a certain disparity in the enormities represented by the two groups? On the one hand, cloning and euthanasia. On the other hand, day care and gender integration in the military. I suppose the latter group represents issues "social conservatives" get het up about -- Ramesh Ponnuru ought to know better than I about that -- but I don't really think running anti-day care articles excuses running pro-pornography articles. That aside, I think this list illustrates, both by what is on it and what is not, that a distinction can be made between "social conservativism" as NR (or at least Ramesh Ponnuru) understands it and the "social Catholicism" through which the Church has called the faithful to social and political action.

Second, notice the language used: "Attack of the Social Conservatives." " is wise of them to attack those allies they have?" This is the language of war. From NRO's perspective, as I perceive it, there is very little room for discussion. There's a war going on, and any criticism from an "ally" is an "attack" that distracts from the war effort.

Well, that's not entirely true. There is room for disagreement between some conservatives on some issues, but evidently not for pointing out that there's more room for disagreement on family issues than on military issues.

A result of this war mentality, this habit of belligerence, is that an otherwise-sensible person finds himself asking, "Do you think that's wise?" when someone else argues his priorities may not be properly ordered.

Kathryn Lopez, NRO's editor, gives her take on its editorial posture:
I wanna make sure we educate the choir, but I also want to evangelize. We might have to show a little leg sometimes to do that.
Notice, though, that the evangelizing she wants to do with NRO is not Christian, per se, but conservative. Recognizing that distinction, it's to be expected that NRO's editorial decisions will not always coincide with Christian prudence.