Letter: Civil discourse event a step in the right direction

Dear TM,

Pick your favorite: mine is “Tutugate.”

For at least five years, our university has been marred by frequent controversies pertaining to speakers sharing their views on campus. In such cases, the inability of opposing parties to effectively communicate and receive information with their intellectual opponents has brought the issue to a fever pitch. The blunt remarks of Ben Kessler at Spring Commencement seemed to open this rattlesnake’s cage in ‘06. And based on the recent Bulletin article “University launches effort to address society’s growing lack of civility,” it seems the snake is still slithering on the drafty tile of Aquinas Hall.

I use the snake illustration because I believe this issue has indeed snake-bit administrators into a position of what seems to be perpetual hesitation and damage control. Because these authorities must appear evenhanded, they are often forced to limit debate to issues that cause minimal discomfort to the status quo. Moreover, this response solicits the least criticism today and is therefore easy. As a result, we have significantly increased our propensity towards sterile discussions and debased debate.

But now we have reason to hope. I find the ostentatiously ambitious approach of administrators from the College of Arts and Sciences and Student Affairs to provide national leadership on this issue very commendable. Indeed, civil discourse is vital to the health of any university as it is the only base from which contentious parties may learn from each other. But like many things, the devil’s in the definition, and the meaning of “civil discourse” is itself subject to contention. If we are to move beyond the politically correct attitude that has lead to our current state, we must be clear in our future approach.

This approach must start with the recognition that each student, staff, and faculty member enjoys a challenge. We are confident in our beliefs because they are logical, researched, and consistent. We express them in a manner that is informative to the listener, and we invite criticism and objection from those who disagree. We are not embarrassed to alter our views when confronted by a superior argument because we know this leads to constructive compromise. Moreover, we believe this process benefits us immensely as an institution in the long run. It is inherently respectful and civil.

Perhaps more importantly, this approach must guarantee our individual rights as independent minds to listen to anyone we choose. We each contribute to the health of our university in some unique way, and our distribution of speaking facilities should reflect this to the greatest extent possible. In short, we have the right to say what we wish, and we have the right to hear what we wish. We recognize no issue is too taboo and we do not grow offended when we are exposed to conflicting evidence. This is because we know these demons will haunt us if they are not exercised from time to time.

Finally, this approach must encourage friendship and sportsmanship when our debates have ended. We recognize the humility in the human condition and our susceptibility to error- even in our well-intentioned pursuits. We laugh together more often than yell.

Although these seem like idealistic platitudes, they are attainable if we are committed to them. Their encouragement is a hallmark of western liberty and eastern integrity. If we follow a less libertarian track to civil discourse, it will be the wrong one. We will learn less from each other and from ourselves.

Brady Narloch, Senior

Finance and Economics major


34 Replies to “Letter: Civil discourse event a step in the right direction”

  1. I’m no econ major, but it seems to me that we can solve the civil discourse problem (at least insofar as it’s going to be solved) for rather less the $3,500,000 this new chair is reported to cost. I mean, 99% of Internet forums (which are actually pretty civil places for the most part) do it with a three-sentence rulebook and two moderators who go around and remind people (to quote rule 1), “Don’t be a jerk.” And that’s free! This, on the other hand, smacks of an expensive attempt to add another cute-but-vapid bullet point to our recruitment literature, at the cost of adding yet another non-liberal-arts requirement to our once-strictly liberal arts, now-cluttered core.

    $3,500,000 for an endowed chair in this silliness. That’s the equivalent of a $7,658.64 pay increase for all 457 of UST’s full-time faculty. Think about it.

    The one good thing to come out of this will be watching Jon Meacham hypocritically scorning tea-partiers for pulling the same partisan tricks his magazine used during the Bush years. Civility only ever seems to matter to the party in power.

  2. James,

    I’m no more surprised than you with the bureaucratic elements of this approach. It sounds to me like the million bucks was donated specifically for this purpose so it’s hard to refuse the cash. Also, I forgot to add in the article that UST needs to get past the ad hominem approach to discrediting speakers- thanks for pointing this out to me.

    By the way, Meacham’s Jackson bio was excellent.

  3. I haven’t read it. I believe you, though. More than once, I’ve discovered that people I consider entirely discreditable to be, strangely, *excellent* historians. You’re also right about the money’s restricted status, I think. I just wish that we had capital campaigns to fund pay raises instead of payroll expansions.

    Further point: one Terry Langan (presumably the Terence G. Langan who works in the office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences) sent an email to note that I was not correct to say that $3.5 million could fund a $7,658 pay increase for current full-time faculty. $3.5 million dollars could be divided and used for a $7,658 one-time bonus, but after that it would be gone, never to be renewed. Or (by Mr. Langan’s math, which I have no reason to doubt), it could be put into an endowment yielding (at the University’s standard rate of 4%) $140,000 per year. This works out to a pay increase of $306.35 per full-time faculty member per year. That’s not nothing, but it’s a whole lot less of something than the $7,000 figure I cited. Thank you, Mr. Langan.

    As a random fun fact (now that I’ve got my calculator out), shifting the *entire* Opening Doors goal for endowed chairs ($57 mil) to full-time faculty pay raises would raise all salaries by…

  4. Too bad the Archdioces doesn’t agree with you. They just came out with a new speaker policy last month. Whether this applies to UST has still yet to be seen. Although it does say it is for any Catholic institution in the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdioces.
    “To be considered for invitation, the person should be in good standing with the Roman Catholic Church. The speaker’s writings and previous public presentations must also be in harmony with the teaching and discipline of the church. A priest who left the ministerial priesthood without dispensation would not be eligible for consideration.

    Those in irregular marriages or those living a lifestyle at variance with church teaching would also not be eligible.”

  5. James,

    You may not be an econ major but you might make a decent finance major.


    It is too bad that Archdiocese disagrees with me.

  6. @Nick: I believe these guidelines were composed primarily for parishes and various centers that are directly funded and/or administered by the Archdiocese. We are a major university, which is a world of difference from Nativity of Our Lord parish up the street. Nativity’s job is to grow the parishoners as Catholics — to minister the sacraments, counsel the needy, serve the community, and, when any education happens, its main goal is to reinforce or confirm Catholic belief. It helps that Catholic belief is true, but the point is that it should be a fundamentally non-challenging atmosphere.

    As a university, we have a well-recognized responsibility to grow our students as complete persons in the liberal arts tradition. Disputation, dialogue, and just plain listening to the non- or even anti-Catholic culture is essential. To challenge the Faith is necessary, in this unique context, if it is to grow. That means John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae recognized this. I think Archbishop Nienstedt does, too.

    Now, if UST tried to give an *award* to an anti-Catholic thinker, as Notre Dame did this spring, I’m sure the Archbishop would (rightly) object, and the bit about SJV contemplates that. But I don’t think this policy is (mostly) pointed at us.

    I could, of course, be…

  7. James- the part in there about SJV is separate from the part about awarding honorary degrees- unless SJV grants honorary degrees, it looks like this is also directed at the university at large. On the other hand, that seems too absurd to be true.

  8. Modus ponens:
    If you are a pastors and administrators of any Catholic institution or organization in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, then you should follow that policy.

    The administrators of St. Thomas are administrators of a Catholic institution in the Archdiocese of St. Paul. (http://www.stthomas.edu/aboutust/history/default.html)

    Therefore, they should follow that policy.

    I’m not sure why anyone would think otherwise given this information.

    Also, James you are correct about John Paul II’s message, however, you’ll also find in Article 2, § 4, “Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected(46). Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.”

  9. Gee, I was really getting excited about the idea of this new endowed chair. I hope the principles of academic freedom prevail in this case, and our university community can begin to have real, substantive discussions (instead of walking on eggshells all the time) in which all points of view can be respectfully heard without being immediately cast aside.

  10. Brett- it certainly does seem that this is what the Archdiocese wants, I’m not certain it’s clear that we need to though. The same history page says we are not owned or governed by the Archdiocese, and our mission statement actually just says UST is inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition (http://www.stthomas.edu/aboutust/mission/default.html)…

    Beyond that, it seems a little intellectually dishonest to say we’re an educational institution, but we don’t want students to hear from speakers who aren’t in line with the Catholic Church. It’s like Brady said in his letter, discourse ultimately benefits students and the institution. I’m not sure how we could be taught to think critically if we aren’t open to hearing from those whose beliefs are opposed to our own. I can understand why they would think these guidelines are appropriate for churches, but with respect to the university, truthfully, it seems a little fascist.

  11. I think there are too many unanswered questions here for me to comment further (except to mention, regarding Ex Corde, that I very much doubt that inviting a speaker would consitute an “official action or commitment” on the part of the university). What we really need here is some kind of official comment from the Archbishop. We need clarification about what the document itself means, how it is supposed to apply to UST, how binding it is, and perhaps an explanation of the reasoning behind some of the more potentially-controversial passages.

    TommieMedia, I think this is a mission for your crack reporting squad. Are you up to the task.

  12. I don’t believe the rigid policy advocated by the Archdiocese would be beneficial for UST. As Kathryn said, I think a distinction should be made between parishes (elementary schools, etc.) and universities like our own.

    Question for my fellow Catholics who disagree with me on this: what does the Church and its faithful stand to lose through being exposed to its opponents arguments in a live setting? Would it not nourish the ideas it seeks to promote?

  13. At the moment, Brady, I don’t think there’s anyone — Catholic or otherwise — on this thread who thinks the policy should apply to us.

    In fact, it so happens I’m spending this semester in Rome with 29 Catholic Studies study abroad students (including 14 of SJV’s finest seminarians), the hardest core of the hardest Catholic core on campus (in my humble opinion). I just took a quick poll on this with the four CS majors in the computer room with me, and opinion is unanimous: a university is a place where people should be exposed to ideas, including opposing ones, because that nourishes learning and free thought.

    So right now we’re standing at zero who want this policy to apply to UST. If His Excellency *does* intend for the policy to apply to UST, he’s going to stun a great many of his most fervent supporters. He would also be opposing (so it would seem) great Catholic thinkers from Newman to JPII. It just seems very unlikely. The rules make good sense for a rebel parish like St. Joan of Arc. They make *no* sense for a Catholic institution of higher learning.

    In any event, even in the worst-case, the policy could be only advisory and non-binding for UST, which is not under the bishop’s direct administrative authority.

  14. I have heard the argument that churches do not want to introduce anything that will “challenge” the established beliefs.  However, as Brady pointed out, what does a Catholic collegiate institution have to lose from allowing dissenting or different viewpoints to be known?  After all, this is a university, which is supposed to be a place of rigorous academic thinking, which means considering all viewpoints.  The question of whether it would challenge the faith/beliefs of the church should not be a factor…if one can have a complete change of belief and faith from one encounter with an opposing viewpoint, that does not sound like a very well established, well thought out faith to me.

    -Stefan Wolf-

  15. Stefan,
    Amen to the last part of your comment. I was actually having the same conversation with a friend today and we arrived.

    I don’t want to re-hash an old “controversy” from the past, but if we recall the common text from Fall 2007, there was a hubbub raised over the selection of that book because it was not in line with Catholic teaching. I cannot say how small a minority was protesting the selection of this text, but it was significant enough to get some attention.

    It’s interesting that the comment/discussion has drifted in this direction, since the whole point of the Endowed Chair for Civil Discourse is to engage students in critical thought by taking them out their comfort zones in order to get to the heart of issues that of real concern to many people with thoughtful, tactful, and fruitful discussions. By sheltering students from “real” issues the university is doing graduates a great disservice.

  16. As a Catholic and an alumnus of UST, I fully support the Archbishop’s policy, and, should he choose to extend that policy to St. Thomas, I would fully support that. I don’t feel that the policy unduly infringes on academic freedom at all. Plus, as stated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, article 5 section 2, “Each Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic Universities in his diocese and has the right and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character. If problems should arise conceming this Catholic character, the local Bishop is to take the initiatives necessary to resolve the matter, working with the competent university authorities in accordance with established procedures(52) and, if necessary, with the help of the Holy See”. If His Excellency decides to apply this policy to St. Thomas, and will help safeguard the Catholic identity of St. Thomas, who am I to question his judgment? Archbishop Nienstedt is the chief teacher of the faith in this archdiocese, and, unless he is doing something contrary to what the Church teaches or what the Holy Father wishes, we as Catholics are to defer to his judgment. It is clear from how much time he spends here that the Archbishop cares deeply about UST, and He knows what’s best for…

  17. Michael,

    I have to respectfully disagree. (See what we can do here? We can have a “civil discourse.”) I don’t see how such a heavy-handed policy does not directly interfere with the principles of academic freedom by severely limiting the amount of viewpoints that exist. Just because there are certain views that exist that the Church may not want people to here doesn’t mean they do not exist, and preventing exposure does nothing to strengthen the Church’s viewpoint.

    Also, I would like to know dow you would respond to Brady’s most recent question and Stefan’s view. By being exposed to multiple viewpoints a person’s own views only stand to be strengthened.

  18. Corey, Stefan, Brady, James, et. al, I understand where you’re coming from, really I do. I feel that students should learn arguments contrary to what the Church teaches. However, there are several ways this can take place: such as the classroom. I would argue that there is more exposure to non-Catholic ideas at UST in the classroom than Catholic ideas in every department except Catholic Studies and Philosophy. Exposure to non-Catholic ideas can occcur without hosting non-Catholic speakers on campus. I’m not against exposing Catholics to attacks on Catholicism, However, I think one must have a proper knowledge of their Catholic faith first before looking at some of those arguments, and most Catholics our age, I would argue, do not have that knowledge. Also, some people present ideas as Catholic teaching when, in fact, such views are not in line with the Magisterium. I think one of the reasons this policy was implemented was to prevent that from happening. That’s also why Ex Corde Ecclesiae requires that Catholic theologians need permission from their Archbishop to teach Catholic theology at universities, but that’s followed by only a fraction of Catholic colleges. St. Thomas, for instance, does not follow Ex Corde Ecclesiae in that respect.

  19. Also, to reply to Brady, Corey, James, and Stefan, I think many people forget that Catholic universities must be first and foremost Catholic, and faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Part of their mission is to assist the Church with evangelization. If exposing students at a Catholic university that express views inconsistent with what the Church teaches would cause students to leave the faith rather than embrace it, then that should not be allowed. Given the crisis of poor faith formation these past forty years or so in the Church, I think that such a scenario is possible. Exposure to different ideas can occur in the classroom, but I see no necessity to hosting non-Catholic speakers on campus. I think it’s a nice thing to have, if done properly, but if it leads my fellow Catholics to leave the Church, and if doing so means giving a platform to people who hate the Catholic Church and her teachings, then I don’t think it should be allowed. Good can come from exposure to certain ideas, but so can evil, and I think that people oftentimes forget the latter.

  20. When Pope Benedict came to the US a few years ago, he talked a lot about Catholic education, especially Catholic universities. He said in an address to Catholic university presidents, “A Catholic education demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith.” I keep this on my computer desktop as a reminder. As a Catholic, I am called to live my life as a testament to God. To be strong in my faith, I must learn to defend what I believe. I have come to St. Thomas in the hopes that it might encourage my growth as a believer, a defender, and a person. In the same address, Pope Benedict said, “The more we ourselves are permeated with the presense of the living God, the more we can bring him to others… we live by these words”

  21. Elizabeth, I completely agree with what you said. That’s a very fine passage from His Holiness’ address to Catholic educators. I remember reading that address last year and how much I loved it. Thanks for sharing that passage with us!

  22. I’m not Catholic, so maybe my opinion doesn’t count for much on this, but it seems to me like the best way to learn how to defend your faith is to be exposed to alternative view points- I don’t think you can defend anything unless you truly understand what you’re defending it against.

    Beyond that, this policy isn’t just addressing what speakers can talk about- if this were applicable to UST it would limit who would be able to come speak, regardless of their speaking topic. Hypothetically, if the best speaker in the business field happened to have written a pro-choice op-ed 10 years ago, then bringing them to speak wouldn’t conform to these guidelines.

  23. I must *enthusiastically* disagree with my good friend Mike Blissenbach. Mike makes two arguments: first, that the bishop *should* extend this policy to UST because he *can* extend this policy to UST. Further, should the bishop so extend it, it must not be evaluated by any of us in any way, but only defended by all good Catholics, because “who are we to question” his holy office? Second, that this policy may be appropriate for UST because some students would succumb to the strength of anti-Catholic arguments. The remainder of his post replies to objections.

    The first argument bespeaks a perverse understanding of the office of the bishop. Neither the legislative power of the bishop nor his holy office make the exercise of that power free from gross error. We see this everywhere in history, but perhaps most obviously in Archbishop Nienstedt’s most recent predecessor, Abp. Flynn, who, in his final legislative acts regarding UST, showed himself a capricious and destructive tyrant if ever there was one. Catholics SOMETIMES must defer to the authority of a bishop’s prudential judgment, but they USUALLY are free to say, “Hey, bish, that was both stupid and evil.” Catholics NEVER need to concede that said episcopal judgment is correct merely by virtue of the office.

  24. To Mike’s second argument, I reply that we are a Catholic *university.* We are not a grade school, not a high school. The university stands in loco parentis, yes (and, yes, it too often forgets this), but the students it parents are now *adults.* It is not just an option but a *duty* this university to *treat* those adults as adults, and to count on the pre-collegiate Catholic school system to do its job and form good Catholics. It is UST’s *duty* to expose us to well-formed arguments and worldviews that directly oppose Catholic understandings of the world, and then its equal duty to present a well-formed Catholic response. This is how we create a generation of adults that can actually *teach* the next generation and break the cycle of poor formation. And, no, neither a hardcore Catholic philosophy professor like Dr. Heaney or Dr. Winter, nor some uncredentialed anti-Catholic ranter in the English department, can *credibly* expose students to well-formed arguments against Catholic doctrine. Precisely *because* of Ex Corde’s (excellent) restrictions on who can teach Theo and Phil, you *need* to bring in outside speakers to credibly present the opposition.

    To “protect” the university in this way would make us into something other than a university, Catholic or…

  25. “it seems to me like the best way to learn how to defend your faith is to be exposed to alternative view points- I don’t think you can defend anything unless you truly understand what you’re defending it against.”
    Kathryn, I agree that exposure to alternative viewpoints is important, but I also think a person must be well-formed in his/her faith before he/she explores such alternative viewpoints. One must first understand well what he/she is defending before one can credibly defend it. Both of these can and do happen in a classroom context.
    I was fortunate that during my time at St. Thomas, I gained a thorough understanding of who the Church is and what she teaches, as well as exposure to arguments and viewpoints contrary to what the Church teaches, and how, as a Catholic, to respond to those arguments and viewpoints.
    However, as postmodernism is by far the dominant viewpoint in the world today, it is very easy to gain a thorough understanding of it, just by living in the world. Since what the Catholic Church teaches is contrary to postmodernist doctrine, it is very hard outside of a Catholic university to gain exposure to the rich treasure of Catholic scholarship that has been handed down for ages. This is why it is crucial that Catholics should first be formed in…

  26. James,
    If you examine my earlier posts, I said that so long as the Archbishop is not teaching, preaching, or acting contrary to what the Church teaches or the wishes of the Holy Father, we should abide by his directives. Archbishop Nienstedt, I would argue, has done neither with this directive, and hence I acquiesce to His Excellency’s judgment on this matter.
    With regard to Board of Trustees’ decision in the Fall of 2007, that could be considered going against Ex Corde Ecclesiae, an authoritative Papal Encyclical, and that’s a different matter entirely.

  27. In response to the argument that opposing viewpoints can be taught in the classroom, I must respectfully disagree. As a future educator, I have learned that when something is taught in a classroom, it is taught in a sterile, controlled environment, much like a lab. This is all fine and dandy until one actually has to apply the knowledge. The most organic, truest form of education is through experience. If someone were to see an “anti Catholic” speaker (I say this in quotation because that itself can be a very hotly debated item), it would present them with an educational experience far greater than if someone were to simply talk about that person in the classroom. A teacher cannot teach and experience.

    Secondly, in response to the assertion that we, as Catholics, have a duty to do as the bishop says, I must also disagree. We have our free will and can choose to do something contrary if we believe it is the right thing. If a person tells me to do something that is against my set of values, etc., I don’t care who they are…my internal compass trumps outside influence.

    Finally, I must say, this civil discourse we are having here is quite nice, is it not? :)

  28. Also, James, until the renewal of the Catholic elementary and secondary education systems comes to fruition, I would be highly hesistant to rely on most of these institutions to form Catholic children in the faith. And, if we don’t form them in Catholic colleges, where else are they going to come to understand their Catholic faith? Wasn’t Catholic Studies itself founded in part in response to a new generation of Catholics seeking to grow deeper in their Catholic faith? That’s partly what drew me to switch to a Catholic Studies and Philosophy major from one in Biology.

  29. Mike,

    I *always* read your posts carefully. I ask only that you do the same.

    The fact that we may (rarely) have to defer to the judgment of a bishop does *not* mean that we must agree with his judgment, nor that we may not protest an unwise or unjust decision. Further, you assume that this policy already applies to UST. That is not at all clear. Further, I would argue that this policy, if extended here, would violate the long Catholic tradition of the university, worldwide and within this diocese, and would implicitly violate Ex Corde just as the Board of Trustees infamy did.

    As for the ongoing malformation of the youth, the traditional church response has been to create new institutions to address new needs or reform broken ones — not to pervert and destroy those institutions already functioning more or less as they’re supposed to. We must address this problem, but the answer is *not* to turn our university into a sectisity.

    And, yes, the exploration of faith is ongoing, and the Catholic Studies program of which you and I are both members fills that need impressively. It is an important part of the university, and it makes UST special. But suppressing all that *opposes* CS on campus, as you suggest, would be just as destructive as suppressing CS itself.

  30. James,
    I’m curious, what section of Ex Corde Ecclesiae do you presume the directive would violate if extended to St. Thomas?
    Also, I am not advocating suppression of non-Catholic viewpoints on campus. There is plenty of exposure to non-Catholic viewpoints in UST classes. I read Kant, Nietzsche, Mill, and others in my philosophy classes, and one of my biology professors was an outspoken atheist.
    I had more than my fair share of exposure to secular arguments, and that was a good thing, but I didn’t need to attend non-Catholic speaker seminars in order to gain that exposure.
    We run the danger of scandalizing the faithful, oftentimes, when we host non-Catholic speakers at UST. Having a non-Catholic and a Catholic academic argue against each other in a debate on campus I would have no problem with. However, I don’t think hosting Debra Davis on campus was a prudent decision.

  31. Also, how would applying the Archbishop’s directive “pervert and destroy” UST? I don’t understand why you think that would happen. Unless I’m mistaken. I think Ave Maria University and the Catholic University of America have similar policies regarding speakers, and they’re doing just fine.
    Also, wouldn’t such a directive reverse the ongoing secularization of UST?

  32. Michael,

    I am not trying to engage in a debate about transgender issues, but since you mentioned Debra Davis, what is wrong with exposing students to a point of view expressed by a transgendered individual? There is a good chance that a graduate will encounter a transgendered person in the workplace, and without having some understanding of living as a transgendered person is like, that graduate will have no idea what to do. Part of civil discourse is to expose student to all or as many viewpoints as possible, not just pick-and-choose which viewpoints contrary to Church teachings are worth entertaining. Part of what the university should be doing is allowing students’ minds to extend beyond the comfort of the “St. Thomas bubble.”

    Stefan – This is a wonderful discourse. Participants are freely expressing their viewpoints without resorting to mudslinging or pointless attacks. Bravo, everyone.

  33. Corey, et.al.,
    I, too extend my thanks for the civil, intellectual manner of this discussion.
    I think that one of the dangers of inviting a speaker who expresses viewpoints contrary to Catholic doctine speaking at St. Thomas, or any Catholic institution for that matter, is the strong potential of scandalizing the faithful.
    The University of St. Thomas, as a Catholic university, is a clearly recognizable Catholic institution. As such, if it were to host a speaker espousing views contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches, unless that was as part of a debate/discussion where Catholic viewpoints on that topic were clearly articulated by another speaker, hosting the speaker with views not in line with Catholic teaching could give the impression that what the speaker in question said was in line with Catholic teaching.
    Hosting a speaker presenting viewpoints not in line with Catholic teachings in a context where Catholic teachings on the topic are not clearly articulated isn’t worth it if it will lead souls astray. Such an action would be the equivalent of a farmer letting a fox into his coup without warning the chickens that foxes are dangerous, knowing full well that the fox will likely drag off and kill at least one of his chickens.

  34. On “Catholic Identity v Freedom of Expression” at UST:
    I am not a postmodern relativist or any derivative thereof. Rather, I believe in a consistent standard of truth for all humans. However, I don’t believe any human possesses a masterful knowledge of this standard (especially me). This is because experience has shown me that I am not perfect (alas!) and am quite susceptible to be wrong under almost any circumstances (alas!). Moreover, I have strong reason to believe all living humans are the same boat as me. Therefore, I believe everyone must assume a position of humility and charity when sincerely discussing anything of even minor human significance if the goal should be truth.
    This does not mean we cannot hold or vigilantly express beliefs. Rather, it entails we must be equally vigilant in researching and challenging our views as we are in expressing or (gulp) enforcing them upon others. To do otherwise would violate the aforementioned tenant of humility. I should add that I never find an appeal to authority terminal in the examination process- we must think for ourselves in the end and trust our own God-given power of reason.
    So I believe our deepest held views should be fairly challenged. Would an able-bodied boxing champ retain his stature if he never fought again?…

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