Archbishop Raymond Burke, Sheryl Crow, and Ideological Tribalism

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More than once in this space, I have bemoaned what I see as a national march toward ideological tribalism. It is the splintering of our citizenry into subsets of people who identify themselves completely with one or another social or political agenda, while refusing or being unable to dialogue reasonably with outsiders.

The face of this tribalism is superficial discourse and its root, in my opinion, is bad philosophy. Our postmodern world view tells us the only thing we can know for certain is that nothing is necessarily true.

Ironically, this new philosophy has pushed us into the very dogmatism it is trying so hard to avoid. Its proponents say moral absolutes don’t exist and anyone who believes otherwise is absolutely wrong. The result is intellectual intransigence of the worst kind.

Ideological tribalism should not be confused with the normal state of imperfect human affairs, including reasonable people coming to very different conclusions and defending them with vigor and valor. It should not be confused with a healthy pluralism of political and social platforms.
Ideological tribalism is the defense of my point of view because it is my point of view and I don’t want to lose the benefits it provides. It is discourse without reason.

This morning, I saw in the papers of what I consider a shining example of tribal mentality. So perfect was the picture, so important the point, it made me postpone my original plan to comment on your reactions to my recent article on immigration reform.

Raymond Burke, the archbishop of St. Louis, Mo., resigned yesterday as chairman of the board of Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation. He severed ties with the board after the foundation dismissed his concerns over their invitation to Sheryl Crow to be a featured entertainer at their benefit event. Ms. Crow is an outspoken supporter of abortion and a public advocate for embryonic stem cell research.

Her positions are well known to Missourians as she appeared in television advertisements last year asking voters to approve an initiative that enshrined the right to conduct all forms of stem cell research, including human cloning, in the state constitution.

I can think of no more perfectly predictable and logical scenario than a Catholic archbishop having concerns about featuring someone at his own Catholic event who publicly and locally advocates against core Catholic teaching.

In a less tribal America, even people who disagreed with the Catholic position on abortion would see the logic and rectitude of Archbishop Burke’s stance and subsequent action. He is saying a Catholic institution should be Catholic and if it refuses to be, in good conscience, he cannot allow his own involvement to give it a false stamp of legitimacy.

It seems that kind of logic is too clear for postmodern minds.

Event organizer Allen Allread told the Associated Press that the other board members did not honor Burke's request “because they did not want to play politics with performers at the annual event”.

"This is not an event that's about ideology; this is about helping kids," he said.

Bob Costas, a prominent television sportscaster and host of the event, released this statement: "I have never applied a litmus test, Catholic or otherwise, concerning the politics or religious beliefs of any of the generous performers who have come to St. Louis to help this worthy cause, nor do I intend to.”

The implication here is that the Catholic board should have no moral criterion for who they will feature at their events.

Archbishop Burke is not policing Sheryl Crow’s personal views. He is saying that because she has chosen to be a very public advocate against Church teaching in his Archdiocese, her platform should not be a Catholic event, run by a Catholic foundation, for a Catholic hospital … all of which he oversees as pastor.

Am I missing something? Why is this so hard to understand?

I think it has a lot to do with our national march toward ideological tribalism, the loss of reasonable discourse.

God bless, Father Jonathan
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