Christ in an Age of Technique | James Kalb | Catholic World Report
The emphasis on speaking to modern man using modern language has meant far less emphasis on speaking Catholic language to Catholics
It seems that Catholics have been getting nowhere in the public square lately. The problem is not just losing ground on this issue or that, but an increasing inability to get our issues recognized as real and legitimate. That’s true not only with moral issues, but also with more basic ones like the rationality of religion and the very existence of human nature.
That situation seems to be new. Paul found that Christ crucified was foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews, but he could quote Greek poets to the one and the Bible to the other, and with both he could appeal to the evidence of their hearts and the heavens. So he could start the discussion with a stock of common authorities and understandings.
Those are harder to find now. To make matters worse, Catholics share much of the incomprehension of their secular brothers. It’s not just nominal Catholics who often seem at a loss regarding the Church’s teachings and why they’re believable, but active laymen, educators, theologians, priests, and even bishops.
A basic part of the problem is the outlook that determines what is thought to make sense in public discussion today. Free speech doesn’t mean the best argument wins. If you say something that’s basically at odds with the attitudes and beliefs that animate a discussion you won’t be understood no matter what the merits. It will be as though you were speaking Etruscan, or trying to persuade a group of hunter-gatherers that they should go on a march to protest fat-shaming.
The problem grows with the size and diversity of the public. If the participants in a conversation are very numerous and different they aren’t likely to have much in common, and they won’t be able simply to say what’s on their mind and be confident of getting anywhere. Each will have to limit himself, and appeal to the few beliefs and concerns others can be counted on to share.
We learn what those are by looking at how public discussion is actually carried on.