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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Islam is Beautiful, but Catholics Like to Torture

Just another day at the beach for us Catholics. 

I recently blogged about Molly Linehan.

Compare that blog entry with Prof. Robert Orsi, the Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University.

Two years ago, Prof. Orsi denounced the Catholic church as repressive and on the side of torture. See here. And here.

First Things Blogger RR Reno asks, "Can we imagine a chair of Jewish Studies who repeats simple-minded slanders against Jews: rootless cosmopolitans, money grubbing shysters, and other libels? Orsi’s comments operate at the same level."


In "Save Send Delete" I talk about what it's like to be a low-status college professor who also happens to be Catholic and Politically Incorrect. When I talk to my friends about what goes on on college campuses, I think, sometimes, they think I am making it all up. It's all too Alice-through-the-looking-glass for them.

You mean people – students, teachers – get punished for asking real questions? You mean people face prejudice because they are Catholic? You mean you are not allowed to mention the bad things that members of certain protected groups have done, from Communists to Muslims, without facing some backlash from a superior?

Yeah. A lot of the time, that's exactly what it's like.

Why is it that way? One big reason. The Golden Rule. He who has the gold, makes the rules.

The fight for funding in academia is slightly less decorous, slightly less competitive, than a school of sharks thrashing over chum. There are too many PhDs out there, and not anywhere near enough jobs or funding.

Political Correctness rules on campuses today, and those who tell you how "beautiful" Islam is and how torturous Catholics are receive endowed chairs and occupy velvet-lined chambers and alternate universes graced with job security and health insurance and paid sabbaticals that the rest of us toiling, sweating, low status galley slaves can only dream about.

I'm not blogging about this to protest criticisms of the Catholic Church. I've criticized the Catholic Church loudly enough and often enough to receive hate mail from those more loyal to Rome than I. I'm not here to tell you all Muslims are terrorists; I grew up with Muslims. My county in NJ has one of the US' highest populations of Muslims. As I talk about in "Save Send Delete," I've had Muslim friends, lovers, students, coworkers and bosses all my life. A Muslim man drew my blood the other day. (And he did a great job. I felt almost nothing and the needle prick has disappeared.) I was able to chat – VERY briefly – with him in Arabic, and commiserate with him about the dire fate of his loved ones in Homs.

Rather, I'm protesting this grotesque reality – to say, on a college campus, that there are some sound reasons for criticizing Islam, and there are some sound reasons for admiring some aspects of Catholicism, is a risky thing for a professor or a student to do.


  1. I think so many of the problems facing the Catholic church (and I speak as an ex-Catholic, now atheist) relate to a leadership that is not experienced in many ways of the lives people lead today. There are no women among church leaders, for example, not at the highest levels. I thought some of the responses to Orsi's criticisms were disingenuous. The Catholic Church did support Franco, and the idea that this was justifiable because otherwise Spain would be handed over to Stalin is - to put it kindly - a misrepresentation of the facts. Supporting Pinochet is possibly even harder to justify, and I would respect the Catholic hierarchy much more if they would agree the Church was wrong in these cases, rather than defending these policies as 'morally sound'.

    Similarly, 'reproductive rights' does not mean 'millions' being killed in the womb. That's just scaremongering. It means allowing access to all forms of contraception and respecting women enough to allow them to make their own choices about abortion.

    I admire some aspects of Catholicism 'in the field.' Some of the charitable work in excellent, and Catholicism seems to be producing some wonderfully independent and combative nuns (don't think the Vatican is delighted, though). As an ex-Catholic, and as someone who lives in a society that still mostly influenced by Christianity, I tend to direct my criticisms of religion towards Christian groups. I wish, for example, Anglicans could stop being so obsessed by the sex lives of consenting adults. This doesn't mean I believe other faiths have got it right. They manifestly haven't. To every person who tells me Islam is a peace-loving and promoting faith, I simply shrug and spread my hands. The evidence does not point to this at all. This may be - this is - the aspiration of many Muslims, but not, clearly, for all. Similarly Sikhs have resorted to violence and so have Hindus, all, apparently, in the name of their faith. All faiths, and the position of no faith, should be equally open to criticism and discussion - and they should welcome it.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    It's my understanding, which is limited, that Franco was fighting against people who were also not very attractive. Lesser of two evils. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Catholicism always chooses the torture chamber? Orsi can't be correct in that. Surely the issue is more complex.

    We agree on this:

    All faiths, and the position of no faith, should be equally open to criticism and discussion - and they should welcome it.

    But that is very much NOT the position on American college campuses today, and that applies not just to "liberal campuses," whatever that means, but to Catholic schools and endowed chairs of Catholic scholarship.

    American academia is a mess. From student loans that will never be repaid to schools that have sold their souls to truly evil football coaches like Joe Paterno to the funding of people like Orsi and Linehan.

  3. And, I hasten to add, I have nothing personal against either Orsi or Linehan. I'm sure they are both wonderful people I'd like as next door neighbors. I'm just focusing on public statements that I think are totally unsupportable, but representational of the kind of nonsense that gets huge funding on campuses today.