Thursday, 10 March 2011

Islamaphobia or realism?

Cath News' opinion piece of the day is entitled 'Why Catholics must speak out about Islamophobia'.  It is taken from the US National (a)Catholic Reporter, and is by Sr Jeanne Clark.

Isn't investigation of Islamic radicalisation appropriate? 

The prompt to her article is the decision of the US Congress to hold hearings into the radicalisation of Islam in that country.

I won't bother to address her arguments, which positively strain the credulity in the face of a number of recent attacks or attempted attacks in that country by 'home grown' terrorists.

Nor is my main preoccupation today yet another attack on anyone who even dares question the bona fides of Islamists, though I do find it particularly ironic though, that in a country that claims to prize democracy, the right of elected representatives to even discuss this subject is attacked!  And of course in this country, part of the Government's multiculturalism Mark II pitch was an explicit commitment to tackle Islamic radicalisation (though given the virulence of the reaction in the US, which mirrors similar events locally such as when Senator Humphries tabled a petition questioning Australia's immigration policy recently, it will be interesting to see just how real that commitment proves to be!) .

Timing!  And when is a 'phobia' not a phobia?!

No, I'm rather asking what on earth Cath News was thinking putting this article up on the very day that it is reported in the local media that:
  • Christians struggle to be allowed to worship in Indonesia in the face of violent Islamic attacks;
  • a US man who had set up a tv network in the US to promote 'moderate Islam' was found guilty of beheading his wife after she attempted to divorce him (SMH);
  • a mob in Egypt reportedly attacked women marching for International Women's Day on the grounds that equality and participation in ruling is incompatible with Islamic tradition;
  • the SMH article also mentions in passing that ten people were killed and 110 wounded in clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Cairo.
Now perhaps the opinion pieces are chosen somewhat in advance of the days news - but let's face it, it has been a disastrous few weeks for Islamic apologists - the assassination (and likely to be judged martyrdom) of Pakistan's only Catholic Cabinet Minister, ongoing major conflicts between Copts and Christians in Egypt and much more.

And oh yes, yesterday, the Oz reported that in New South Wales alone, police are currently investigating twelve cases of Islamic terrorist threats.

Yup, it's all just a phobia...And excellent timing to prove it Cath News.


Tony said...

Boy, you really don't like CathNews do you?

Now you're bothered because of timing, even though you acknowlege that 'perhaps the opinion pieces are chosen somewhat in advance of the days news'?

Oh and in the spirit of 'contextualising', here is the story you're commenting on.

Tito Edwards said...

The (U.S.) National Catholic Reporter is a dissident Catholic newspaper that promotes disobedience and sows confusion among the faithful.

It's not worth the time and effort to waste precious brain cells on.

Just my two cents worth!


Kate said...

Agreed Tito - That is why it is so disappointing that our 'Catholic' news clippng service continues to choose to include these kind of articles in its offerings.

And Tony, I deliberately left out the link from my post because I don't recommend reading it to my readers.

This blog represents my personal opinions.

And unlike Cath News, I do make a continuing commitment to providing sound, orthodox commentary that carefully contextualises dissent and what I consider to be misguided or erroneous opinions rather than promotes them!

This blog is not meant to be a quasi-objective clipping service as Cath News purports to be.

I gave enough information for readers to go find it if they really wanted to (there are even links to my top three third least favourite Australian websites, with appropriate warnings in some cases, in the right hand column).

So please, restrain youself! I'm happy to have the debate on Cath News and its style of reporting, or on alleged Islamophobia.

But please respect the fact that this is my space.

Tony said...

But Kate, you were the one who talked about 'contextualising' and the context was an article in CathNews that you objected to even though, on the day before, there was a counter argument.

If you can respectfully suggest that CathNews 'contextualise' its articles, how is it disrespectful for me to suggest the same?

I'm just trying to work out the ground-rules here.

Kate said...

Yes it is Tony! You provided a link that I deliberately left out. I let it go this time, but really, think before you post!

I've explained why cath news should include links (and not just to dissenting material, I'm sure Rome alreacy has all it needs on Bishop Power!) - it is a quasi-official Catholic news clipping service, so I think it should put dissenting material in context.

My 'contextualisation' here was by way of my own commentary and the decision not to link to the article in question directly!

My point, since you don't seem to get it, is that Cath News needs to exercise more judgment in the selection of these kinds of items.

Tony said...

Yikes! OK Kate. I don't really understand your rationale but I'll try to be more careful!

Back to the broader issue.

Assuming CathNews was more in keeping with your way of doing things, how would it determine what is 'dissent' and what is not?

In my experience, it seems to be one of those terms that is very hard to pin down and often is code for 'opinions different from mine'.

Kate said...

I don't think it's that hard really.

There are three broad categories of things which I think require care:

1. Doctrinal issues - this is where the word 'dissent' applies strictly speaking. And the test is mostly going to be, does it align with the Catechism/Magisterial definitions. Pretty straightforward in most cases (ie women's ordiantion supporters are dissenters or worse!), albeit with the odd area of legitimate/genuine theological debate (the recent AIDS/condom debate perhaps?).

2. Pastoral decisions of Rome/bishops - more grey area here, but generally speaking again I don't think it is that hard.

If Rome has made a final decision on an issue that has been much ventilated (such as the missal), or indicated that no further discussion is appropriate at this time (priestly celibacy), then really we should be seeing articles that seek to understand the decision and help implement it rather than continue to debate the toss.

If on the other hand the issue is still open to some degree, or a suitable amount of time has passed (or actual hard evidence has come to light) to suggest that an evaluation of a policy is appropriate, then maybe it can probably be discussed by those with some expertise at least.

On the odd occasion it is possible that Rome or a bishop has made a very bad decision, and it is legitimate to ask for it to be rethought. But the case needs to be more than 'I don't like it', or 'it doesn't feel right'. A good example of legitimate debate might be where a bishop makes a decision that seems to run counter to what the Pope is saying or how he has legislated, or that seems to undermine doctrine/practice.

3. Areas where it is possible to hold quite different opinions (such as attitudes to the rise of Islam).

In my ideal world, an organization like Cath News would see itself as an instrument for Mission/the New Evangelization, so would put much more emphasis on articles that promote the recovery of a Catholic culture and orthopraxis, and assist Catholics in responding at the water cooler to the stories that come up in the secular media and so forth, rather than just seeking to inform us of the existence of such stories.

But that would require a pretty big shift in editorial policy, away from the current, let's find fuel that feeds the spirit of Vatican II agenda, instead of promoting a hermaneutic of continuity. Still, that is what I think Cath News should be.

In relation to Islam, for example, the Church has traditionally recognized that this is a case of a clash of civilizations, of two irreconciliable agendas, and really that is pretty much what the Pope has said. We can try and help Muslims seek the real truth; we can try and navigate a peaceful path (even while knowing that wars such as Afghanistan may be unavoidable). But in my view any hope of peaceful co-existence depends on Islam making a fairly fundamental shift in attitude to conversion, the practice of Christianity in Islamic countries, and to what is a desirable system of government, and all the signs are that it is hardening in the opposite direction...

Tony said...

A lot there, Kate, thanks.

Perhaps a comment in the context of your CathNews Watch.

If I'm reading you right, you claim that CathNews is a source of dissent and, not only that, dissent presented in a way that is unacceptable.

You may call it quasi-official but the reality is that CathNews would not exist if the Bishops didn't want it to OR they could exercise more control, maybe over a period of time, about what is and what is not acceptable.

That leads to what I think is the reasonable conclusion, that the Bishops of Australia regard some amount of 'dissent' in a medium like CathNews as tolerable.

So, does it therefore follow that your beef is not with CathNews, but with the Bishops?

Kate said...

That is rather a long bow you have drawn there Tony on a couple of fronts. You've implied far more for Cath News than I have actually claimed. And as for your link to the bishops, the short answer is, no!

Cath Resources has its own board. And organisations inevitably have their own agendas. Whether those agendas align to a greater or lesser degree with those of their nominal sponsors depends on a whole lot of complex issues.

And as I think we are all well aware, the bishops have very different views themselves on most issues in any case. Some I suspect will tend to agree with me on this, others not!

The reality is that after a period of loss of direction, the Pope is leading us to recover our sense of being catholics. But there is a good deal of work to be done!

Having said that, the very fact that you could attempt to draw such a conclusion is an argument for tougher action against dissent in general on the part of the bishops.

But they have to juggle some balls on these kind of issues (perhaps even including issues such as, if I take action against x will our sorry financial state get worse before it gets better, and so can I afford to act!), including on how far and fast to go. I'm just hoping that I'm making it a little easier for those who would like to see the issues addressed, to do so...

And of course looking forward to Mr Mullins' next effort next Monday (not!).

Now if only I could head up to Sydney tomorrow and get a recharge of the batteries by hearing/seeing Cardinal Burke. But alas, I can't make it...

Anonymous said...

Well some are missing the point here. It was about the Congressional examination of Muslims in the USA. Yes? Right.
But what has also been missed totally is the fact that the man who is chairing this investigation is an acknowledged IRA supporter. Yes indeed. last night on NBC nightly news, the man, Peter King, was seen in pics with Gerry Adams and he acknowledged his links with the IRA, Then he had the gall to state openly that he supported the IRA as it had never attacked the USA.
Just amazing. And it was the IRA who up to 1997 were still attacking London and people were being killed in England by them. Yes the IRA is and was a terrorist organisation and we all know what they did. I for one, have seen the results of their bloody attacks. And now this Congressman is investigating Muslims. This type of hypocrisy which is being brough out in the US now, shows that many of these people need to have their lives, their real motives exposed.
You can't support any terrorist organisation and claim to be whiter than white.
Let's see all sides of a story and be objective - that's what Truth demands.

Kate said...

Concerned - I certainly find this background interesting, though unsurprising (American insularism has long been notorious right? And private American funding of dubious causes around the world, including the IRA, equally so - after all, England was the old enemy at the foundation of their country!).

But none of that affects whether or not Islamic radicalization is a serious domestic threat there or here, or just a mere phobia that we have been deluded into believing in. Or whether it is appropriate for our elected reps to worry about on our behalves.

So no, I don't think we are missing anything here.

Tony said...

The bow is not that long, Kate, and it is very much reflected in your own term: quasi-official.

Church Resources, who run CathNews, are linked to the ACBC via the Bishops Commission for Administration and Information which 'keeps informed of the activity of the Church and its agencies in the following areas ... Catholic Resources Limited ...'.

While this doesn't mean the Bishops micro-manage and approve the content in detail, given that CathNews has been around doing what it has doing for over 10 years, it's safer to assume that it reflects, or at worst doesn't offend, what the Bishops think is a reasonable discourse.

The CathNews disclaimer states:
The editor-in-chief and the editors are charged with reflecting what the world is saying about Catholics and the Catholic religion. They distil the essence of the stories they choose with clarity and brevity and provide a link to the website upon which the story originally appeared. They do not editorialise, merely present the news and views of other news services around the globe.

The bottom line is that there is no authoritative evidence that the concerns you express about CathNews represent offences against 'orthodoxy'.

Don't get me wrong, I am not for one nano-second suggesting you are not entitled to your opinion -- on the contrary I celebrate it! -- but a claim to represent 'orthodoxy' surely has to be shown by more than an individual opinion.

Ultimately, the Bishops in Australia are the arbiters of orthodoxy and for over a decade they have allowed CathNews to grow and prosper. CathNews, like it or not, operates on it's own guidelines and, I'd suggest, can only be legitimately criticised when it offends those guidelines.

If the guidelines are wrong, then surely that's an issue for the Bishops?

Anonymous said...

Well, I think there was a veering off at a tangent.
I should also have said that many Americans of irish descent support/ed the IRA. They had blinkered eyes, especially Ted Kennedy who openly supported Adams and IRA/Sinn Fein.
But whilst they may want to go back to England and Ireland in 19th century and the English in america in 18th century, we all have to move on. After all, the Northern Ireland situation is built on going back to hatreds of previous centuries. The battle of the Boygne (?) and all that. The past is the past.
Most recently in Glasgow you have crazy attacks on the pitch between Rangers and Celtic - it still goes on, these infantile sectarian hatreds that run deep FROM THE PAST.
The Gospel is needed more than ever it was. Love has not conquered.

Kate said...

Anon - This is indeed a tangent - no more please, and please use a pseudonym or something so we can keep track of who is saying what!

Kate said...

Tony - I can't see any good reason why the guidelines Cath News operates under, or its adherence to them, shouldn't be matters of debate amongst catholics. It's most definitely in my third category of issues, no questns of dissent or obedience involved!

Nor can we argue that because a state of affiars exists, it is what those in charge desire!

And once more trying to put words into my mouth - I think perhaps we are jsut repeating ourselves, and should leave some space for anyoone else interested to have a say...

But to come back to the central point, the reality is that Cath News can and does 'editorialise' in many ways - through the selection of articles, the headlines they are given, the selection of the extract placed on the webpage, the approach to the acceptance of comments on them and much more.

Tony said...

Maybe end on at least some points of agreement.

I agree and as I mentioned, I celebrate, our right to comment on and critically examine what CathNews does.

What concerns me is when that criticism perports to represent 'orthodoxy'. That is taking it beyond a personal opinion and, I think, can't be claimed easily.

I take your point that we can't '... argue that because a state of affiars exists, it is what those in charge desire!'. I think that is a very sound principle.

On the other hand, the very existence of CathNews for well over a decade makes the argument that the Bishops don't support it less safe.

I certainly haven't mean to put words into your mouth.

On your final 'central' point, I completely agree!

Kate said...

Tony - Pretty sure the bishops (or the majority of them anyway) aren't comfortable with a lot of things that have existed for the last decade - the priest shortage, the existence of abuser priests, dissenting priests and much more!

And I'm sure all of Cath News' consumers, bishops or otherwise, prefer to have such a service than not. Whether they regard the current form of the service as idela or not, and how much of a priority it is to take on that fight could be an entirely differnet matter (though in fact there are some signs that some are fighting the good fight on this one, directly and indirectly according to the acatholicas at least!).

As for your struggle to understand what constitutes orthodoxy, that is unsurprising in an era of poor catechesis and shephards only to ready to lead their flocks astray.

I'd strongly recommend taking out the Catechism of the Cathoic Church this Lent, and giving it a good thorough read.

Tony said...

Just as a point of clarification and in the spirit of not wanting put words in people's mouths, Kate, I don't have a 'struggle to understand what constitutes orthodoxy'.

I do have a concern for those who frame personal opinions -- which they have every right to express! -- as orthodoxy.