April 9, 2013

Political Hit Jobs and the Tyranny of “Tolerance”

(Photo credit: Blogpost)

(Photo credit: Blogpost)

By Kieran Raval

“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Fr. Greg Shaffer, Catholic chaplain at George Washington University, posted this on his blog ostensibly in response to the current firestorm of controversy surrounding him. One commenter on Fr. Shaffer’s blog quipped, “Sometimes, they do.”

Fr. Shaffer is being hauled before the court of political correctness by two openly gay GW students, Damian Legacy and Blake Bergen, in what can only be described as a sensationalist politically driven hit job. The charge? Doing his job as a Catholic priest, that is to say, preaching the well-known tenants of Catholicism, quoting scripture (Paul’s letter to the Romans, to be exact), counseling against sin, and calling people to conversion. These particular students are not content with disagreeing with the Church (it is, of course, therein, rather than with Fr. Shaffer, that their dispute lies). They must drag this priest, his good name, and the congregation he serves through the mud according to their political agenda.

Several observations immediately occur to the rational observer, irrespective of his or her views on homosexuality. Catholicism’s teachings on homosexuality are no secret but they are often misunderstood. The article in the GW Hatchet detailing this saga claims that Fr. Shaffer told Legacy that, as a gay man, he was intrinsically disordered. This is highly implausible because, in addition to Fr. Shaffer’s reputation as a very compassionate cleric who, by all accounts, would not say something so pastorally insensitive, the Church does not teach that persons are disordered, but rather that inclinations are disordered.

Furthermore, the rational observer might scrutinize Legacy’s actions and come to the conclusion that he and his fellow inquisitors are not motivated by honest intentions. If Fr. Shaffer had said something in a pastorally insensitive or uncharitable way, and if Legacy was operating from a pure intention he would have communicated his concerns directly to Fr. Shaffer, and, if necessary, to the Archdiocese. Instead, Legacy’s attempt at thinly veiled political character assassination, censorship, and intimidation, smacks of the utter absence of purity of intention. Furthermore, Legacy’s case is not helped by the fact that, in a somewhat bizarre move, he left the Roman Catholic Church to be ‘ordained’ as a ‘priest’ in the “Old Catholic Church,” an obscure schismatic sect originating in 19th century Germany.

Nevertheless, much is at stake in this situation: the place of religious freedom and freedom of speech in the academy and the wider culture, the future of GW’s vibrant Catholic chaplaincy, and the rights of Catholics and any Christians or religious groups that espouse views not in line with the prevailing tenants of secular progressivism. Perhaps most importantly, this situation will demonstrate whether the gay lobby has achieved a victory arguably more important than anything being argued in the Supreme Court: the ability to completely and nearly effortlessly silence anyone who would dare to challenge their cultural orthodoxy by putting forward any moral teaching on homosexuality. Those driving the radical liberal agenda in American have made it very clear that supposed “rights” of sexual license must trump the rights of free speech and religious freedom that hitherto have been fundamental cornerstones of the American political, social, and legal landscape.

It seems that these students indeed know exactly what they are doing. They are undertaking a coordinated plan of attack against Fr. Shaffer, all under the guise of tolerance and diversity: Sympathetic feature articles in the campus newspaper, a video of students airing grievances against Fr. Shaffer, and angry letters to administrators, the university president, and the Archdiocese of Washington. It would not be surprising if it came to light that they were being aided by one or more agenda-driven organization from without the university. This has all of the signs of a carefully orchestrated operation. The main story in the GW Hatchet is very telling in some of its language: the disgruntled students are launching a “campaign” to “inflame” university administrators to “force” Fr. Shaffer out. (Incidentally, Fr. Shaffer receives no compensation from the university. GW funds the student group “GW Catholics” which is only tangentially associated with the Newman Center that Fr. Shaffer oversees.)

The reality is that, at a non-sectarian university, Legacy, Bergen, and their supporters cannot admit and tolerate a legitimate diversity and pluralism of viewpoints and ideas. Evidently, not even the great liberal and utilitarian John Stuart Mill—with his emphasis on freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas—would have a place in their system of radicalized “diversity”, and “pluralism”, the net result of which is anything but diverse or pluralistic, but rather tyrannical. The supposed neutral stance of secular liberalism reveals itself, in the likes of Legacy and Bergen, as setting up its own rigid worldview, which is becoming increasingly tyrannical for anyone who dares to challenge it. Those who been having beat the drum of “tolerance” reveal themselves as fundamentally intolerant.


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  • http://notesfromthepastorsoffice.wordpress.com Chris Tiedeman

    I’ve only been paying attention to you folks for a couple of years, but I’m pretty sure that – since your beginnings as a “watchdog” against imaginary ideologies in United Methodist agencies – you’ve turned the world you see into a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, you’ve always taught this “intolerant tolerance,” and you see it everywhere.

    Every once in a while, you have a valid point. It sounds like you have one here. But if I’ve learned anything in my time as an observer of your particular brand of intolerance (always with the dog-whistle name calling from you people), it’s that you are typically wrong. If not in fact, definitely in the spirit with which you approach other creatures of sacred worth.

    As I always tell my congregations around election time – and you should spread around to your interns and other “minions” – “that person has someone who hangs their picture on their wall, too.”

    • http://raybnnstr.wordpress.com raybnnstr

      Is that the best you can do, counter the statements in the article by telling us it’s all “imaginary”? Looks to me like there’s a load of hard data in the article, but no “name calling.” We “minions,” as you call us from your perch of liberal condescension, aren’t imagining anything, nor are we stupid enough to let things like this slide because human beings are “creatures of sacred worth.” The simple fact is, Mr Liberal, is that episodes like this article reports are rather clear evidence of blatant hypocrisy on the left, and the left doesn’t like that pointed out – after all, your self-worth is bound up with this image of being “tolerant” and “caring,” but the facts don’t fit the words.

      If you want to put yourself in a better mood, pastor a church that isn’t in decline instead of bashing the people who understand the reasons for the decline. Hit that New Testament once in awhile, especially that verse about “they practice not what they preach.” LOTS of verses on hypocrisy in the NT.

      • http://boardsailor.wordpress.com cleareyedtruthmeister

        One might expect a pastor to exhibit a little more intelligence and maturity, but this is a movie we’re seeing more and more in the UMC, so rational, adult discourse is probably too much to hope for.

        When leftists talk about “intolerance” they are usually just talking about opinions they disagree with or truths which they deny. (Another fingerprint we see here of the comtemporary left: use of the the term “dog-whistle”…they use it at every opportunity…must be some new rite of passage in the liberal hierarchy…use it a certain number of times and you move to the next level?).

        The sanctimonious, emotional reaction of Mr. Tiede(off)man is typical of modern liberals: a smattering of truth mixed with a boatload of bull.

  • http://boardsailor.wordpress.com cleareyedtruthmeister

    One might expect a pastor to exhibit a little more intelligence and maturity, but this is a movie we’re seeing more and more in the UMC, so rational, adult discourse is probably too much to hope for.

    When leftists talk about “intolerance” they are usually just talking about opinions they disagree with or truths which they deny. (Another fingerprint we see here of the comtemporary left: use of the the term “dog-whistle”…they use it at every opportunity…must be some new rite of passage in the liberal hierarchy…use it a certain number of times and you move to the next level?).

    The sanctimonious, emotional reaction of Mr. Tiede(off)man is typical of modern liberals: a smattering of truth mixed with a boatload of bull.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kay.glines.3 Kay Glines

    Mr. Tideman, allow me to say I pity any congregation you serve. You don’t even make the slightest attempt to disguise your contempt for Christians, yet the religious left gets all misty-eyed over “interfaith dialogue” with Muslims. If I heard a pastor speaking with such malice as yours from the pulpit, I would head for the door immediately, which makes me think your parishioners must harbor as much hate for Christians as you do, so instead of being a faith fellowship, what binds you together is contempt for another group of people. What kind of theology do you subscribe to? Do you dismiss all of Jesus’ words about being held accountable for the words we speak? are you a universalist, so you think no matter how much hatred you spread, you’ll make it to heaven anyway?

    You are the antithesis of tolerance, and your spiteful comments much illustrate the article’s theme, the deep vein of hypocrisy of the left. If you cannot extend tolerance to people that you ought to regard as fellow believers, you are truly a sorry excuse for clergy, and I pity any denomination that even allows its pastors to be so publicly malicious.

    Incidentally, I’m not anyone’s “minion,” I’m an adult with a graduate degree and a mind that functions very well on its own. In fact, I’m what you call a “creature of sacred worth,” even if you don’t choose to believe that we “minions” can fit that category.

  • http://notesfromthepastorsoffice.wordpress.com Chris Tiedeman

    These responses only work to further my point. It wasn’t about what I said, it was about how I’m a “liberal” or a “leftist” – in the same fashion as Rush Limbaugh (fellow UM) does – and how that automatically means I serve a church that’s in decline.

    If this is the job the IRD hoped to do, they nailed it.

    • http://boardsailor.wordpress.com cleareyedtruthmeister

      No, Mr. Tiedeman, it’s very much about what you have said, not just about this essay but about other IRD articles, including some of the juvenile commentary on your website.

      • http://notesfromthepastorsoffice.wordpress.com Chris Tiedeman

        Yes, Mr. Meister, it was.

        Thanks for reading my blog!

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