instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The disputant of my disputant

Reginald the Tiger Quoll says:

Commenting on the post below on HLI's letter to Rep. Pelosi, someone wrote:
The real scandal here is that she and other like her (Kerry, Kennedy, Cuomo) aren’t disabused of their ability to abuse the Faith by publicly calling themselves catholic.
When I answered, "And spare me your 'real scandal' grandstanding," he replied:
Aren't you at all concerned about the actual damage done to the pro-life efforts caused by individuals like Pelosi, Kerry, Kennedy, Cuomo? And in comparison to the less than positive effects on the pro-life efforts in the US doesn't your reaction to Father's letter seem a bit like grandstanding?
To which I must reply,

Of course my reaction is grandstanding!

A personal weblog is a grandstand. Everyone is invited to come, have a seat, and read my opinions. Most everyone is also invited to offer their own opinions.

The "Aren't you at all concerned?" question is related, I think, to a comment Elena made:
What most of the commenters seems to forget is that these 48 legislators support the slaughter of tiny babies in their mother's womb and use their positions accordingly.
Both seem to misunderstand the nature of this blog -- and it's a misunderstanding I've seen expressed before, which is why I'm pulling these comments out.

Generally speaking, my posts are not intended to be comprehensive monographs. I am not particularly concerned about recording every thought I have on a subject*, in large part because I don't think Disputations is a stand-alone product. Most of the current event posts are inspired by something I read elsewhere, and I suspect most Disputations readers read at least some of that elsewhere as well.

So when I'm asked a question like, "Aren't you at all concerned about the actual damage done to the pro-life efforts caused by individuals like Pelosi, Kerry, Kennedy, Cuomo?," I wonder what the asker expects me to do. Replicate the denunciations anyone can find in a thousand other places? Replicate my own denunciations?

These "the real scandal" sort of comments not only miss the nature of this blog -- of course I've got better things to do that criticize a letter from HLI... and you've got better things to do than read my criticism, and there's no benefit at all for either of us in my writing criticism tailored to your taste... but in this post, that's what I'm doing. I think they demonstrate a too cavalier approach to the true and the good. A criticism of an invalid position can itself be invalid. An argument against an evil opinion can itself be evil.

An invalid criticism or an evil opinion should not be accepted, much less celebrated, simply because it opposes, or even overthrows, an invalid criticism or an evil opinion. If we can't understand or won't acknowledge where our own arguments fail, what makes us think we'll be able to understand any other argument, and how can we persuade others to accept our conclusions?

So yes, theologically ignorant, pro-abortion Catholic politicians may be a greater scandal than theologically ignorant, pro-life Catholic priests, but to speak of "the" real scandal is to propose a false dilemma. A scandal is no less real for being less, and when I see that scandal accepted and even celebrated, I may well dispute it without at the same time disputing a greater scandal, particularly when I don't see that one celebrated around me.

* Yes, yes. "You coulda fooled me!" Very witty.