Traditions and Cultures

I pop in on the First Things blog every so often. I see they have a Fr Neuhaus speech reproduced in print. A few curious comments to comment upon in turn.

As a tradition at First Things, we will be running this speech every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

I don’t think traditions begin by fiat. Reproducing the text of a talk given six months ago and the intent to re-post it every year is a promise, not yet a tradition. The other thing I wonder about: don’t they have audio and video capability at FT? Posting the text of a speech is like reciting the Gloria at Mass, or singing a passage of canon law. Sure, you can do it. An extraordinary text or an extraordinary medium can even make that kind of thing work. But when you have musicians who can lead the people in singing the Gloria, why would you just speak the words? And if you have a major event, like the national RtL convention, why wouldn’t you post the audio when the technology permits it so easily?

The contention between the culture of life and the culture of death is not a battle of our own choosing.

Neuhaus mentions the culture war a few times in this speech. I think I’ve read of him being fairly consistent on the issue of torture, but for flawed human beings, there is always a choice involved in advocating for the holy and the good or supporting evil.

Most often, it is when we hold our tongues when we should speak (or in the parlance of the blogosphere, writing when we should probably withhold our words) that the once-clear lines between good and evil and blurred, and we fall into the gray area.

The exclusive focus on the unborn, important as that is, does not a culture make. Pro-life people are going to have to build something as wide as a real culture, and open up the advocacy–in general, not necessarily every person–to something as wide as a seamless garment approach. Given the reality that an Obama administration seems to be starting on the high road, I don’t think there’s much choice to stay rooted in the past. Tradition is great, but authentic tradition must have the legs to transcend what is dated and outdated.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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