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Written Word > Articles & Commentaries > May 2009 > The Fetishism of Dialogue
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The Fetishism of Dialogue

By Rev. Robert Barron

It was with a great deal of dismay that I listened to the speeches given last Sunday at Notre Dame by Fr. John Jenkins the President of the University and Barack Obama the President of the United States. Both are decent men and both are eloquent speakers, but both, I’m afraid to say, are confused in regard to some fundamental matters. Fr. Jenkins wrapped himself in the mantle of humility and open-mindedness, protesting that he was standing in the great Catholic intellectual tradition of dialogue and conversation, and President Obama cast himself in the role of reconciler and peace-maker, discoverer of “common ground” between people who radically disagree with one another. When protestors shouted out during his speech and Notre Dame students began to chant the Obama campaign slogan, “yes we can” in order to drown out the offending voices, the President calmly passed his hand over the crowd and said, “we’re alright; we’re alright.” He seemed to embody the very principle that he was articulating. So why was I dismayed at such humility and equanimity? 

It comes down to that slippery little word “dialogue.” I realize that to say that one is against dialogue is akin to saying that one is impatient with motherhood, patriotism, and sunny days. But the point is this: one should, in certain circumstances, be suspicious of dialogue. The great Canadian Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan laid out the four basic moves that characterize the action of a healthy mind. First, he said, a properly functioning mind ought to be attentive, that is to say, able to take in the facts, to see what is there to be seen. Second, it ought to be intelligent, by which he meant, able to see forms and patterns of meaning. In the scientific context, this corresponds to the formulation of hypotheses or likely theories. In more ordinary cognitional contexts, it means conversation, the sharing of ideas, dialogue. It is at this stage that open-mindedness is a great virtue, because sometimes the most outrageous theory turns out to be right. But the healthy mind cannot stop at this stage. It must move next to what Lonergan called reasonability. This stage of judgment, the moment when the mind, having surveyed a variety of possibilities and scenarios, having listened to a range of perspectives, finally decides what the truth is. Many people balk at judgment, precisely because it is painful. The word “decide” comes from the Latin term “scisere,” which means “to cut.” The same words stand at the root of “scissors” and “incision.” All judgments, all decisions, are bloody, because they cut off a whole range of rival points of view. Then finally, having judged, Lonergan says, the mind must move to responsibility; it must accept the implications, both intellectual and behavioral, of the judgment that it has made. 

What I sensed in both Jenkins’s and Obama’s speeches was a sort of fetishism of dialogue, an excessive valorization of the second stage of the cognitional process. The conversation, they seemed to imply, should remain always open-ended, the dialogue on-going, decision or judgment permanently delayed. But dialogue is a means to an end; it is valuable in the measure that it conduces toward judgment. G.K. Chesterton said that the mind should remain open, but only so that it might, in time, chomp down on something nourishing. The Church has come to the considered judgment that abortion is morally objectionable and that Roe v. Wade is terrible law, as bad as the laws that once protected the practices of slavery and segregation in our country. To suggest, therefore, that a Catholic university is a place where dialogue on this matter is still a desideratum is as ludicrous as suggesting that a Catholic university should be the setting for a discussion of the merits of slavery and Jim Crow laws. I would like, actually, to stay with these last examples. Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, the legendary retired President of Notre Dame, was mentioned several times in President Obama’s speech as a model of the dialogue and openness to conversation that he was extolling. Does anyone think for a moment that Fr. Hesburgh, at the height of the civil rights movement, would have invited, say, George Wallace to be the commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree at Notre Dame? Does anyone think that Fr. Hesburgh would have been open to a dialogue with Wallace about the merits of his unambiguously racist policies? For that matter, does anyone think that Dr. Martin Luther King would have sought out common ground with Wallace or Bull Connor in the hopes of hammering out a compromise on this pesky question of civil rights for blacks? The questions answer themselves. 

Then why in the world does anyone think that we should be less resolute in regard to the heinous practice of abortion which, since 1973, has taken the lives of 43 million children? Why does anyone think that further dialogue and conversation on this score is a good idea? I think those questions answer themselves too.
Posted: 5/20/2009 11:01:41 AM by Word On Fire Admin | with 51 comments
Filed under: BarackObama, CatholicUniversities, NotreDame


Comments
Sam
I'm always amazed when people call Obama a 'decent' man. He not only accepts but promotes in every way possible the extermination of human babies, those in the womb and those who survive abortion. AND he is not really open to dialogue...did he dialogue with Catholic leaders before appointing rabidly proabortion Catholics such as Sebelius to his administration? Obama is a very dangerous man, a modern version of the Pied Piper, who is winning over the hearts, souls and minds of the young, such as the young Catholic students at Notre Dame. He acts like a messiah, calling all to dialogue, peace,understanding, reconciliation...inferring that each position: anti life and pro life, are equally acceptable. Would we dialogue with child pornographers or child molesters to reach common ground? child killing is far worse, for more abominable, yet Obama convinces many because of his smooth glibness that he is lord of all, open to all, understanding of all...he is not a decent man; Hitler was not a decent man, but he was glib and charismatic as is Obama. Both advocated the killing of 'undesirables'...this is all so sad, so tragic and it's hard to stay in the battle for life when you see the bright faces of young students give standing ovations at Notre Dame to this death dealer and when you see Fr. Jenkins look up adoringly into the eyes of this deceiver president...evil often comes in the form of good...but Obama never pretended to be good...he laid out his plans to destroy as many human babies in the womb as possible and fund the killing with government money...all the while convincint people that he was pro life...but just caught in a bad situation...he lies and his lies are believed ... how long will we allow this to go on??? We need to pray and fast ... and hope and work towards building a civilization of life as Pope John Paul mandated us to do...
5/20/2009 3:00:47 PM
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Maria Aznar
Dear Fr Barron,

Thank you for your article. It is superb! You are absolutely right in saying that some issues, such as abortion, are not negotiable. They are evil in themselves and no middle ground is even desirable.

God bless you. +
5/20/2009 3:05:50 PM
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Greg Gibbons
Fr. Barron - I personally disagree with you on this issue and per a report on an artcle in the Vatican newspaper "L'Osservatore Romano," so does the Vatican. Please see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30812584/.

I know that this is not the official word of Pope Benedict, however, I beleive if he did approve of the thought it would not be published. I thought Fr. Jenkin's speech was great and I think you are remiss in not noting in your commentary that he clearly said "President Obama has come to Notre Dame, though he knows well that we are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose his policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research." I believe Fr. Jenkins is helping to keep Catholics involved in shaping abortion and stem cell policy in America whereas the hard-line, and yes close-minded, approach you advocate will marginalize us in this vital effort.
5/20/2009 3:06:09 PM
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JMS
I thought President Obama gave a brilliant speech. So far the church has not been effective in convincing women they should have their babies. Maybe you need to dialogue about how to convince them. This is your role and responsibility. You aren't having much effect on moral grounds if women are still getting abortions. I don't blame the Pres. on this.
5/20/2009 3:09:22 PM
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Michael Jaffray King
Here Here!!
Absolutely hit the nail on the head. There can be no dialogue with regard to mass murder. There is nothing really to discuss except STOP!
God help us! Mary pray for us and all the saints in Heaven pray for us too. We need you so so so much to help remove the black eye patches from the Pro Chice agenda. The Pro Abortionist agenda. Lord, Thy Will Be Done!!!!
5/20/2009 3:14:47 PM
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Judith C Weaver
Thank you Fr.Barron for once again giving us clear comments on current events.I really enjoy all your postings,
5/20/2009 3:17:05 PM
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stewcarson
Absolutely brilliant! I couldn't agree more. I recall reading of 'The Horton-Popper Pre-emptive Strike Argument' that states the first group to brand the other group as intolerant wins. You show great courage to show the peril of Obama's visit to Notre Dame & risk the monicker of 'intolerant'. But we must stand for something or we'll stand for anyhting. Thus we get on the merry-go-round & are left with dialogue for dialogue sakes, a fetish that starves the mind & the soul.
5/20/2009 3:19:47 PM
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Stacey
Dialogue is good, and healthy, in so much as it opens the mind to new possibilities or progresses ones understanding. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Was this a corruption of morals or a progression of intellect?” Respecting life at every single stage of life seems to me common sense.
5/20/2009 3:24:35 PM
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Phil
Father,
Very insightful as always. Your point that President Obama is stuck at the dialogue stage is evidenced by his comment in the Saddleback Church interview that the issue of when life begins was above his paygrade. He refuses to progress to the judgment phase required for healthy thought.
5/20/2009 3:46:32 PM
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Stacey
Dialogue is good, and healthy, in so much as it opens the mind to new possibilities or progresses ones understanding. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Was this a corruption of morals or a progression of intellect?” Respecting life at every single stage of life seems to me common sense.
5/20/2009 3:46:45 PM
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David Riley
I think you misunderstand the the discussion about dialogue. The dialogue advocated is not about the morality of abortion. It is about the reality of politics in a pluralistic society. Politics is the "art of the possible" not the art of espousing moral absolutes and expecting to win the day. If we could see abortion as BOTH a moral disaster AND a social problem, we might be able to see the value of influencing womens' decisions, which after all,are the crux of the problem. I would argue that our moral outrage and refusal to talk with those with whom we cannot countenance only serves to make us feel good, but does little to effect the changes that would actually do some good. Our moral outrage is actually a way of avoiding the messiness of the terrible reality in which women end the life that is in them for reasons we as a church don't even want to get into. Being pro-life is not as simple as we would have it be.
5/20/2009 4:02:00 PM
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Ana
I do agree that dialogue is a means to an end. But what would you call a one sided dialogue? A monologue. Which is what we as a Church are doing. When we do not open ourselves to listening to what the other side has to say, how are we to convince them that we are right and they are wrong? How are we to overcome their objections, their misgivings, their misguided or aberrant notions if we don't even know what they are? Having said that, I don't think President Obama's speech was an actual dialogue. It was also a monologue. With such a divisive issue where both sides are unmovable as to what the right thing to do is, dialogue becomes impossible. That is when you must go to an all out war, which is what I believe is happening right now... the great abortion war of the 21st century.
5/20/2009 4:45:18 PM
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suzie quatro
He is not the only one who cannot progress to the judgment stage on this issue. Neither can millions of americans and a giant number of catholics. So let's bash Obama and by proxy bash everyone. That will not educate. That will not get the science out - plain and simple - the science that unequivocally tells young people - perhaps in some sort of science course! - that life starts at conception. Let's get that one planted and steam roll right over this wishy washy view of life and push Obama and lots of others against a wall. Bring them to the judgment phase through natural law,science and ethics. Educate our own catholics about living life appropriately armed with the deposit of faith and the moral laws of Christ which are a direct path to Him! not laws or rules - but a path of Love to the Burning Love of Christ.
5/20/2009 4:59:51 PM
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RTN
I agree with SAM in everything stated EXCEPT for Obama not being open to dialogue. When one listens to his rhetoric, know that he is speaking or dialoguing with a teleprompter and not the public. The truth is being given from the pulpit. There is only one argument against abortion; ONLY GOD creates life (with the physical assistance of a man and woman) and ONLY GOD should rescind that life! BLESSED BE GOD IN ALL HIS DESIGNS!
5/20/2009 5:43:00 PM
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Kell Brigan
Wow. This explains a lot. Every choice/judgment has an opportunity cost that has been "cut" away, therefore, someone stuck in Step 2 (well put, Phil) will always have ammunition for fighting any judgment. Hence, the endless round robins where endless straw men are set up. Endlessly.

I really need a class or ten in Catholic philosophy!
5/20/2009 6:26:30 PM
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Mike
I don’t think Fr. Barron is saying that dialogue is an unworthy exercise. Rather, I think he’s saying even if it is pursued with an “attentive” mind (which is certainly not always the case) it is a “necessary but not sufficient condition.” That is, it’s an interim step, not an end in itself.

This may seem like a rather obvious observation, but in today’s culture it needs to be emphasized because of the fashionable invocation of “dialogue” as a substantive solution.

I think Fr. Barron is saying that attentive “dialogue” which is not followed by “reasonability” and “responsibility” is a defective model for solving a problem like abortion.
5/20/2009 8:27:20 PM
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Sean Gallagher
Very good article, Fr. Barron. I admire your work and have done so for a while.

Seeing a reference to Longergan took me back to my days of studying theology. It almost gave me the kind of headache I had when I had to read him back then.

Reading the president's speech reminded me of Cardinal George's account of his conversation with him, that the president likes to say a lot that he has a lot of common ground with you on abortion but you ultimately have to say, 'No, Mr. President, we don't agree on this.'
5/20/2009 9:03:18 PM
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George Parsons
Thanks for that. After listening to the speech's and how "Accepted" all that craziness seemed to be, I was beginning to wonder if I'm all alone in my convictions. Your right, there is a time to be Open Minded, and then theres a time to make a Decision and Choose to take a stand for Good or Evil.

It's a sad statement about the Catholic Church today though just how many can go to church, take communion and yet rationalize Legalizing Abortion and giving the Mother the "Freedom to Choose"....

Freedom to Choose What?
5/20/2009 9:11:21 PM
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Michael
Great job, Father. Keep up the fantastic work. The Church needs to hear more and more from you. You are balanced and fair with your answers, but most of all, you're not an arrogant academic *****. You are humble-- an attribute lacking in much of our clergy these days. Thank you for always being ready and prepared to stand up strong for The Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel. I commend you, Sir. Keep producing the tremendous youtube videos. They are nothing less than Heat! When is your next book coming out?
5/20/2009 10:21:38 PM
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JC
Mr. Gibbons,
Refer back to Father's analogy: what about those who took a "hard line" on slavery? What about those who took a "hard line" on segregation? As Fr. Pavone recently pointed out, the rejection of such analogies only proves that you do not feel abortion is as bad or worse than those previous social evils.

JMS,
Whether women are *having* abortoins is one thing. Whether abortion is illegal is quite another. They are really two separate issues.
One has to do with an individual sin. The other has to do with society's allowance of a grave offense against Natural Law, which harms society as such.

Should we engage in dialogue with rapists ? Should we engage in dialogue with drug dealers? Should we engage in dialogue with child molestors? Try to find "common ground"?

Again, if you are offended by that analogy, then you obviously do not think abortion is as evil as rape or child molestation (indeed, it is more evil).
5/21/2009 1:07:24 AM
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Robert
Great article, Fr. Barron. I agree with you on every account. The only problem is that not too many people know about the ideas and doctrines you and people like you teach and convey. Christians need to be more active in spreading the message that is RELEVANT to present-day concerns. I strongly urge you and others to keep on fighting this fight. Our Christian faith and our civilization are in peril. This is a matter of life and death.
5/21/2009 7:16:26 AM
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Litl Pup'r Doo Akron, Ohio
Obama would make Margaret Sanger proud. If you don't know who she is look it up.
5/21/2009 8:31:14 AM
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allan garry
I thought your comments with regard to the functioning of a healthy mind most interesting.
It cuts to the core issue. As I walk around in the great asylum
world what I am most aware of is how the unhealthy mind functions, and how little attention that reality recieves.
I recall that a jewish survivor of the holocaust was asked how a thing like that could have happened she replied"the world was collective ill then and it still is"
5/21/2009 11:20:19 AM
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RW
Fr. Barron, while i agree with your position on abortion. To equate President Obama to that of a blatent racist is just you bloviating. In the end, what is needed is not viseral hatred and venomous speaches aboutthe other side. With that type of dialog, you only talk past oneanother. What is needed is that we need to see where we can agree on issues and move in a positive direction with those issues and continue to dialog on the issues that we do not agree on. Then we can actually start to see real change and hopefully come to a time when abortion is no longer needed.

In Christ
RW
5/21/2009 11:26:38 AM
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Paul
For all that are blogging here, let's try and get one thing clear: There is a whole world of difference in the Catholic Church and the Catholic faith. There are tenets of the church which I have my personal disagreements with e. g., married priests, but the FAITH is pretty clear on the subject of human life. How can one, claiming to be a Roman Catholic, stand and Mass and recite the Apostle's Creed ("..Creator of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen..") and still accept abortion? Or, worst yet, be "Pro-Choice?" Pure and simple: You cannot possibly be Roman Catholic and be Pro-Choice!"
5/21/2009 2:45:39 PM
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Darel
Father, you will likely be interested in this quote from Stanley Fish (_The Trouble with Principle_, pp221, 223):

"fairness -- the impartial treatment of all points of view no matter what their substantive content -- is the liberal's virtue; it is liberals who wish to push conflict off the public stage in favor of a polite and endless conversation in which everyone has his or her say in the confidence that not very much, and certainly not anything really disturbing, will come of it. Strong believers, however, have another goal. They aren't concerned that the conversation continue and display the widest possible participation; they want to conversation to take a certain turn and stay there. They don't want to be fair, they want to be victorious, and they won't have a chance of victory if they spend their time fighting over title to their opponent's vocabulary.

To put the matter baldly, theory is the liberal's game (even if he or she, by my account, plays it badly); and even if antiliberals occasionally win it by showing that liberalism's theoretical claims of impartiality, openness, mutual respect cannot be cashed in, they will have lost by falling in with the assumption that those are the claims that count. Liberals don't have to win the theory game in order to win; all they have to do is get antiliberals to play it. . . .

every discourse, even one filled with words like 'fair' and 'impartial,' is an engine of exclusion and therefore a means of coercion. It follows that it is beside the point (unless it is a narrowly theoretical one) to prove that a particular discourse is coercive. Of course it is. The real question is 'Is this the coercion we want, or is it the coercion favored by our opponents?' . . . [one] should critique liberalism not because it excludes something but because it excludes something [one] believes to be good and true."
5/22/2009 4:23:09 PM
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Mike
Darel-

Your quote from Stanley Fish seems very relevant to me.

However, it seems to me important that the criticism be directed at the manner of "dialogue" Prof. Fish describes, and not at "liberals."

I don't say this to defend "liberals" or to suggest that Prof. Fish is necessarily wrong in ascribing to "liberals" this form of "dialogue."

Rather, my point is that it is important to focus on the merits (or lack thereof) of the model of "dialogue" that is being proposed—in this case, by President Obama—and to avoid stereotypes (however true they may be) which inevitably lead to the introduction of ad hominem tecniques.

As a culture, we rely far too much on ad hominem tecniques, and such tecniques are the death knell of any conversation that seeks to produce real results.

To be clear, I don't accuse you or Prof. Fish of ad hominem tecniques. I am simply arguing that they must be assiduously avoided if we are going to get anywhere.
5/22/2009 4:41:10 PM
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Darel
Mike, I think your concerns are spot on.

Something Fish does not point toward but which is also relevant to the claim of the high moral ground for "dialog" is the inherent support given by never-ending conversation to the status quo. The current abortion regime in the United States serves liberals (or whatever strategic term one should prefer) perfectly. The more "dialog" the better!

What all pro-life people -- Catholics and otherwise -- need to do is insist at every possible opportunity that the proper premise of dialog is NOT to reach "agreement" but instead to discern the truth. If our goal is only "common ground", then do not honor the interaction with the term "dialog". Call it what it is: politics.
5/22/2009 7:34:42 PM
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wk
Given what he says and does, isn't it obvious that Obama has long made his judgements and has reached stage four of accepting the implications. His talk about dialogue seems disingenuous at best. He is obviously not willing to change his mind on this matter.
5/23/2009 4:10:34 AM
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Paul
Father,

Thank you for such lucidity of thought.

Apparently some of your readers still don't get it.

Abortion is always a grave evil. There is no need to understand why women seek it anymore than we need to understand why slaveholders wanted to maintain the status quo. Evil is evil. No excuses.
5/23/2009 1:18:54 PM
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Mike
Darel-

As a Catholic, I certainly agree that the goal of dialogue is truth, not agreement.

However, as an American, I understand, reluctantly, that at least for now abortion is a legal issue. Indeed, before Roe was decided, abortion was a legal issue determined by each state individually, and that would also be the case if Roe were overturned.

So while as a Catholic, I do not consider abortion to a matter on which it is appropriate to reach "agreement," we are stuck with that goal because abortion is a legal issue, which requires resolution by the democratic process (though I recognize that, at present, Roe prevents that).

Of course, even legal issues are susceptible of "judgment." That is what voters and legislators do all the time: render judgment. At the end of a political campaign, citizens cast a vote, and legislators do the same at the end of legislative debate. The campaign and the debate are not ends in themselves.

On the question of abortion, it is my hope that the country can approach the issue with a "healthy mind," and not get see dialogue as an end in itself. The country does not now approach abortion with a healthy mind, and I am skeptical that President Obama will do anything but make the collective mind of the country more unhealthy.

But I continue to have hope. And all of us should continue to fight. And pray.
5/24/2009 2:08:15 PM
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Michael Jaffray King
Mike prayer is the answer. The Hurting World is in such a mess. It is hard to know where to turn. The Holy Spirit has to persuade The Obamas and the Clintons of this world that Abortion is a very serious social evil. Some force from within a person has to operate. Hope? Yes! In the Holy Spirit's persuasion and really that means conversion? Yes!
5/24/2009 2:21:47 PM
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Chris C.
Fr. Bob,

As St. James wrote,"Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves" As you know, I stand with you as a brother & applaud your article. As Christians, the road we follow is not the most popular or friendly, but thank you for all that you do. In summary, I believe in what St. Paul shared related to this type of situation, "Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; covince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will ac*****ulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all cir*****stances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry....I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith".
5/26/2009 9:28:08 PM
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John
Great post Fr. Barron.

Now to all those who feel we must endlessly dialogue on the issue of abortion I must ask, do you also accept endless dialogue on the Iraq War, the Death Penalty, Welfare, Immigration, Universal Healthcare etc? Or is that settled debate to which you accuse those who disagree on certain particulars of those issues of being hating, uncaring, single issue conservative or right wing zealots?
5/27/2009 9:13:42 PM
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TQ
"JMS -
I thought President Obama gave a brilliant speech. So far the church has not been effective in convincing women they should have their babies. Maybe you need to dialogue about how to convince them. This is your role and responsibility. You aren't having much effect on moral grounds if women are still getting abortions. I don't blame the Pres. on this. "

Are you suggesting that the Dr. King and other black leaders should have tried to convince the pro-slavery to abolish slavery themselves instead of blaming on the US government for not having laws against slavery?!! Would that work for the oppressive black people?
5/28/2009 12:07:54 PM
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George Casson
Father's article provides an excellent insight in relating Lonergan's analysis of the thought processes of the healthy mind to the debate about the morality of abortion. But, I do not think that Lonergan would suggest that the church's teaching on abortion should represent the end of dialogue on the subject. I say this as someone who fully accepts the truth of the church's teaching on abortion.

Lonergan's analysis reminds me of what I have been taught about the development of mature faith in God. Even though we believe that the Church's teachings about God (e.g., the Trinity, the Resurrection) are true, every mature believer will go through a process of doubt, questionning, and investigation before becoming intellectually and spiritually comfortable with his personal faith. The same is true with respect to moral truths such as the sanctity of human life. Every individual with a healthy mind will engage in a personal inquiry before giving his personal assent to a position espoused by someone else, even the Church.

Thus, I think that Lonergan would expect that such dialogue, even on accepted truth, will continue indefinitely because every developing mind must undertake its own healthy process of determining what is true. Educators, especially Catholic institutions, have a role to play in this process. While not denying intellectual, scientific, and moral truths, the educator assists the student in making the inquiries necessary for the student to arrive at and accept the truth himself. This will involve dialogue because it is necessary to the process.

I think that continuing dialogue also is appropriate with those who do not accept my beliefs. This is part of a healthy process of spreading the faith, a form of evangelization.
5/29/2009 6:12:15 PM
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KC
Why most Catholics are so firm on anti-abortion and anti- stem-cell research but not so firm on stopping wars -- is killing humans (even if they are "enemies") less immoral than killing human cells? Fr. Barron, where is your voice when innocent people are killed in the name of war on terrorism?
5/31/2009 5:09:40 PM
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kbrigan
Dialogue, fine. But, the fight isn't over abortion, it's over which mind set gets to prevail until the matter is settled (i.e. never). They're assuming (and, actually, so our we), that abortion must remain legal until it is outlawed. Our job is to argue and prove that abortion must remain illegal until (i.e. never) it is proved harmless. The fight is over whether we give the benefit of the doubt to death or to life. The debate can always go on, but the first question is do we require that people be able to speak, fight, move independently of another person's body or assistance, or vote, or communicate in traditional ways (sorry, all you speech board users) before we assume they're human, or do we assume they're human until we're absolutely certain they're dead (preferably from natural causes)?
5/31/2009 6:00:48 PM
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Michael Jaffray King
I am sure that Father is equally against war until one has to defend ones country state or family. When we have to lay down our lives to defend our sheep, then we have to fight. Loose or win we have to fight to defend the helpless.
6/1/2009 11:27:41 AM
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kbrigan
To KC:

1) Fighting abortion and fighting to stop unjust wars are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there are many, many ways in which the casual acceptance of abortion supports the casual use of war. To fight abortion is to also simultaneously fight the overall Culture of Death.

2) Most Catholics, including the folks who vett the Catechism, believe there is such a thing as a just war. There is, however, no just form of abortion. (Note: surgical procedures required to save a woman's life which by coincidence also can cause a miscarriage (i.e. removal of a cancerous ovary while a woman is pregnant) are not considered "abortion" because the death of the child is not the purpose of the procedure.)

3) This argument has nothing to do with the core question -- whether to grant the benefit of the doubt to life or to death. You're changing the subject, not making a legitimate argument.
6/1/2009 12:23:19 PM
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Jack
First my biases; I am a life long Catholic and expect to be one for the rest of my life. I believe that abortion is morally wrong.

With all due respect President Obama was not invited to Notre Dame to "dialogue about ... the merits" of abortion. President Obama has clearly stated that he does not favor abortion. He does favor doing whatever is possible to reduce the incidence of abortion. As president, he is responsible for upholding the law. The law of the land currently states that moral decisions about aborting belong to the woman and her physician. The is framed as a medical decision. Most people in our culture accept this framework. Only dialogue can reframe the decision. Until the medical community rejects abortion, the law will never change. The medical community is nowhere near rejecting abortion as a medical option. And if we do not continue to dialogue, the law and culture will not change.

I think you have unfairly characterized the positions of Presidents Obama and Jenkins.
6/5/2009 10:59:37 PM
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Michael Jaffray King
Jack I see clearly the point you are making but supposing that the medical profession and the law decided to euthanise all over the age of 70. Would you recommend dialogue in those cir*****stances? This surmise is not so far fetched as might seem at firsts glance. After all 3 score years and 10 is a biblical injunction is it not?
6/6/2009 2:33:18 AM
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Kris
Jack, President Obama may say that he does not favor it, but by rejecting the Mexico City policy, advocating FOCA and seeking to restrict conscience rights for health care workers, he seems to think the best way to reduce abortions is by expanding access to them. Orwellian doublespeak at its finest.
6/9/2009 4:19:38 PM
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Michael Jaffray King
What ever we think let us all remember this President like all Presidents and in fact all of us desperately needs prayer. Prayer is powerful. Say some Hail Maries for him. He needs it. The world needs it. Darkness is everywhere!! We have the light especially in Prayer. Light extinguishes gross darkness. We have a Word on Fire and there is plenty of light in that fire!
6/9/2009 11:53:31 PM
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Kell Brigan
I see some interesting relationships between the fight over abortion and over suicide prevention. (And euthanasia, and all those other Life issues...) Data clearly indicate that, for instance, if a suicide barrier is put up on a bridge, the suicide rate goes down absolutely. Because bridge suicides are overwhelmingly impulsive acts (especially when compared to other suicide methods), when that method is not avaiable, the impulse passes without the vulnerable person being able to act on it. (And, well over 90% of people who are stopped in the middle of a jumping attempt do NOT go on to attempt suicide.) I've no doubt there's a similar effect with abortion -- when it's not available, people deal with the consequences in other ways. Life goes on. Yet, the Liberal mind set, in a bizarre worship of a false "freedom", demands that all people not only have immediate access to ways to kill themselves (the Left is vehement in it's hatred of the upcoming suicide barrier on the Golden Gate -- jokes about building "diving boards" are common), they must also have immediate access to abortion. The self-deception is that people's behavior is not influenced by their surroundings, or by what society allows. And, granted, it is a fine line. I don't want to see major "public health [sic.]" nanny statism (especially when Nanny is so incredibly, dangerously wrong about medical controversies like the use of statins, or worshipping weight "loss" that causes weight gain in 99% of people, etc.) If Obama were pouring money and attention into abstinence education, the restoration of the family, fighting gay "marriage", providing services to unmarried mothers, etc., he would be working to end, or lessen, abortion even if he left existing laws in place. That he's doing none of the above, that his assumption, with the rest of the Left, is that premarital and extramarital sex at its current artificially high levels is inevitable, and that extramarital pregnancy at its current artificially high level are both somehow univeral and inevitable, means that he's doing nothing whatsoever to end abortion. In a same way, people who argue for increased mental health services (which have no impact on impulse suicides -- usually involving people outside the public health culture) while leaving death bridges up without barriers are also doing nothing in reality to prevent suicide. Or, people who claim all women at risk for heart disease should be on statins when statins have no record whatsoever of preventing illness or death in women are actually doing nothing to prevent heart disease. People telling anyone to "lose" weight to improve their health is, in reality, telling that person to gain weight 99% of the time, but that reality must never be brought up to those who worship the Gods of Weight "Loss." Etc. Etc. Same story in all cases -- people so in love with their assumptions, their bigotries, their sins that mere data, proof, tangible results never interfere with their decisions (let alone religious or ethical considerations). Secular, tangible data are more than enough to refute Obama here. Making abortions more readily avaiable does not reduce their incidence. But, the truth must not interfere with the worship of Abortion as sacrament. To him, to the Left, "abortion" equals "freedom" and they refuse to hear anything else.
6/10/2009 8:36:10 AM
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Daniel Kelly
Dear Fr. Barron,

Thank you so much for concritizing the many issues that surround this whole incident at Notre Dame. I couldn't agree with you more. How, in the name of God, can we as dialogue about the issues of abortion as if there are many sides to the coin, so to speak. I think what we have been taught by this incident at Notre Dame is that holding on to the authentic faith is probably the hardest work we will ever have to do. When people that "we" have elected and deemed as worthy of leadership challenge the authentic basis on which we have built our faith, then we have truly lost a teachable moment.

I am truly grateful for your ministry, Fr. Barron.

Daniel Kelly
6/10/2009 3:49:11 PM
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John Young
I Just wonder how much Obama had changed in the stance toward the unborns after this event.

Everytime I listen to this person speak I feel sickening, while reflecting his policy in human life and abortion.

When it is a matter of an innocent human life, how can we consider a "CHOICE". THERE IS NO CHOICE.

Amount of all innocent, the most innocent are those resulted from rape and incest.

John
6/12/2009 1:04:06 PM
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Francisco
Ive read and watched all the videos and articles that Fr. Barron has posted on this website. I admire this this very much. However, I'm a bit confused by this article. I agree that abortion is a non negotiable absolute. I believe that Fr. Barron calls it an "absolute end" in his criticism of Pres. Obama's book. How are we Catholics suppose to evangelize an atheist or agnostic woman who doesn't believe our beliefs? by booing them?, cursing at them? condemning them to hell? Inflicting violence? I would hope that this is not what St Augustine meant by making a concession to sin. Dont worry about Obama. Worry about your neighbors and fellow citizens who think abortion is ok. Inspire them to think/believe its not. Then maybe in the next election they will vote in life's favor. Lastly, im dismayed by the lack of courtesy to the President(even though I did not vote for him). I saw now such thing when Pres. Obama visited Pope BenedictXVI. Where the Pope cordially received him and the 1st Lady; and gave him a copy of his latest encyclical. Maybe we Catholics could follow the Holy Fathers example and not act like these hateful and stuck up "holier than thou" Catholics. I hear Mel Gibson is recruiting more parishioners.:)
Fr Barron beware of the followers you are creating and the violence you might be inciting them to. They don't all have a S.T.D.'s And you are a very powerful speaker.
9/23/2009 5:06:10 PM
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Jack
Francisco,
Your comments really hit the mark and I hope Fr. Barron heeds your sober warning.

The President does not have the power or authority to change the law of the land. Nor can he change the culture. I reprise my earlier comment, that, until the medical community rejects abortion as a medically necesary and appropriate procedure, the culture will not change. Folks who are or want to be activists on the abortion issue should be directing their efforts to influence the medical community. Talk to your doctors about this every time you visit. You might also ask your doctor to declare his or her position. If you chose not to go to a doctor who sees abortion as justifiable under certain condtions, you might have a very hard time finding a doctor to treat you.
9/23/2009 10:43:36 PM
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Kevin
My fear with this is that we are reducing President Obama to only consider his stance on Abortion. We can't say that abortion is not significantly important, but there are certainly aspects of Obama's positions that are more in-line with Catholic teaching than previous administrations. Dialogue needs to be about bringing all Catholic ideologies to the center of discussion, even those that aren't our personal passions.
1/25/2011 11:38:51 AM
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Anne
Well, this hits the mark precisely.
5/22/2012 12:21:35 AM
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