Spreading the Disease

June 2002

There is a sickness in social discourse spreading throughout the body politic of Western culture. It is a contagion that is infecting our language, our logic, and ultimately our Faith.

The first step in combating a disease is to identify its symptoms. Theodore Dalrymple has done just that in an article titled "Just Your Average Shoe-Bomber" in National Review (Jan. 28). Therein he studies the seemingly simplistic reaction of the father of alleged shoe-bomber Richard Reid upon learning that his son was accused of engaging in Islamic terrorist activity: "He's not a bad lad." What an unlikely description, Dalrymple suggests, of a young man who allegedly graduated from a youthful career of petty crime into one of mass murder. Unlikely yes, but not so simplistic, for the elder Reid is vocalizing, albeit in a limited fashion, a pervasive modern sentiment according to Dalrymple: "The goodness of a person has no connection with how he conducts himself...." It follows, says Dalrymple, that "each person has an inalienable right to be considered good, however he behaves." Indeed, Reid laid the blame for his son's predicament not on his son, but on the group with whom he had gotten involved ("a bunch of Islamic fundamentalists"). Distilled to its barest essence, this sentiment can be summed up, says Dalrymple, as "The act exists independently of the actor."

This sentiment is quickly becoming a guiding principle in social discourse, a guiding principle that exhibits the characteristics of a social disease. And it is becoming pandemic; infection, it seems, is indiscriminate. We didn't have to look too far ourselves to see how it is being spread.

Back in March your Deputy Editor visited the Catholic parish of St. Vincent Ferrer (which pertains to the Diocese of Sacramento), in Vallejo, California. Prior to the Introductory Rite of the Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Richard Garcia was introduced. He reported to the congregation that Bishop William Weigand recommended and then accepted the resignation of St. Vincent's pastor, Edward Lewis. Bishop Garcia explained that a "complaint of sexual misconduct" with a woman had been brought against Fr. Lewis and that the complaint was "under investigation" (he also assured parishioners that the complaint "did not involve children or minors"). Bishop Garcia extended Fr. Lewis's farewell to the congregation, amid much head-shaking and muffled murmuring.

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New Oxford Notes: June 2002

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