How to Deal with Secular and Catholic Left Intolerance

Two articles in Crisis in recent weeks provided an opportunity to witness the intolerance of the left—in both its secular and Catholic variants—toward those who challenge its most deeply held beliefs. In “When the LGBT Bullyboys Come Calling,” C-FAM’s Austin Ruse writes about how after he called out the Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading homosexualist advocacy organizations, for using its considerable power and largesse to promote its agenda in schools and to persecute Christians who oppose it, he got a letter from its legal counsel suggesting that what he said encouraged physical attacks on their organization. It even threatened to get the police and the FBI after Ruse. Maybe the HRC was especially miffed that Ruse referred to them as a “font of evil.” While some might be inclined to call that rhetorical excess, from the standpoint of sound ethics it’s accurate.

The homosexualist movement presents itself as defending a minority group who it claims, like Blacks in the Jim Crow era, have been oppressed for what they are. In fact, what it’s doing is defending people’s sexual behavior—a behavior which thwarts the rightful ends of human bodily faculties. As a solid Catholic ethics textbook written in the pre-Vatican II era says about deliberately frustrating the end of the human sexual faculty and reducing it just to some notion of pleasure: “If that is not evil, nothing is evil.”

My article “What Sexual Harassment ‘Crisis’?” received a savage response in Patheos from a writer on the Catholic left who’s a leader in the “New Pro-Life Movement.” Although not making threats, it used other typical leftist tactics to try to quash or discredit contrary views: refusing to engage the points made and distorting them, erecting straw men, demonization, and making charges that actually better fit the person making them. This began right from the Patheos article’s title: “Sexual Moral Relativism from the Religious Right?” A main focus of my article, as Crisis readers will remember, was that mere allegation of sexual harassment without providing proof has become tantamount to established fact.

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Does the Patheos writer think that concern about insuring that allegations are truthful before a person is ruined by them is moral relativism? It seems to me that imperviousness to truth is the real moral relativism. Indeed, she seemed to completely dismiss the possibility that any accuser could make false allegations or have malicious intent as she almost sneeringly dismissed my suggestion that doing such a thing involves such sins as calumny and detraction. The writer seemed to think that any accuser could be trusted to be correct about what happened decades ago, seeming to think herself wiser about such things than the whole tradition of Anglo-American law, which gave us statutes of limitation.

Or, worse yet, was she making the utilitarian suggestion as some secular feminists have that false allegations are alright if they call attention to the harassment “crisis”? Also, as is typical with the left, she resorted to name-calling. My dissenting from her ideological orthodoxy makes me a member of the “religious right,” a “religious fundamentalist,” “a right-wing writer” (I guess she didn’t check the name of my Crisis column), and a “victim blamer.” Her lack of an honest portrayal of the focus of the article and even the accuracy of its contents was seen in her saying that its aim was to “brush off entirely” sexual violence and abuse (it nowhere did that), that it was more concerned about damaging men’s careers than women’s lives (no, it was concerned that people’s reputations not be wrecked by false and unproven allegations), and that it asserted that rape started with the Sexual Revolution (it said no such thing).

She also claimed that in talking about Justice Roy Moore I asserted that sexual harassment of teenage girls was normal forty years ago when it clearly was referring to Moore’s seeking their attention and dates with them (and, I repeat again here, no sexual misconduct by Moore has ever been proven). The left is good at twisting the truth about things to promote their own ideological ends. What seemed apparent from the article is that the writer’s thinking has squarely been shaped by ideology: not just feminism, but contemporary leftism. The first casualty of ideology is truth. (Having written two books analyzing American liberalism and conservatism in light of Catholic social teaching, I’m hardly a “babe in the woods” about such matters.)

There was also the almost inevitable leftist claim that in all of this “privilege” is involved. The writer mentioned rich, white males and also “patriarchy.” She, of course, never bothered to define the latter term, or, for that matter, “sexual harassment.” The writer just ignored what I said about the danger of vague laws or standards of conduct. For one so concerned about protecting women, it was curious that she ignored what I said about how if everything becomes sexual harassment the whole matter becomes trivialized and the real cases after a while get ignored.

The writer apparently thinks of herself as a Christian feminist—whatever that is. Her spurning of the necessity of discerning the truth about allegations and seeming belief that somehow women don’t share the weaknesses of human nature and so can always be trusted to be honest and lacking in ulterior motives, however, signals that—whether she realizes it or not—the Christian part takes a back seat to the feminist part. Is this equality, or a new kind of superiority? I’m reminded, curiously, of the criticism that 1970s feminist Betty Friedan had of her compatriots Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug: that they were trying to forge a notion of the “super-woman.”

Another Patheos writer claimed that my article was “scandalous,” without of course saying why. I guess speaking up about people being falsely accused of wrongdoing is scandalous. As is par for the course with the left, in Orwellian fashion truth becomes falsehood and sound morality becomes relativism. It included a distortion even more extreme than those in the other article: that I had “provided a shocking apologia for rape culture.”

How does one counter the intolerant left? We need not just legal defense organizations like the Becket Fund to deal with the intimidation of outfits like the Human Rights Campaign that Ruse discussed and, say, the abortion clinic crowd who go after pro-life protesters. We also need other legal advocacy organizations geared to making a systematic, consistent offensive assault by suing them and their leadership for such torts as abuse of process and malicious prosecution and the public authorities who collaborate with them for civil rights violations.

As far as countering the rhetorical distortions of leftists like the Patheos pair and a multitude of others (secular and Catholic), there has to be an insistent and increasingly organized effort to face them down in print and the public forum at every opportunity with sound, temperate arguments that call out their errors and ideological biases and make the case for truth. The standard should always be: confront, educate, consistently, with prudence and charity. Nor should men be reluctant to challenge the left on “women’s issues.” Men are hardly irrelevant in the crucial civilizational question of male-female relationships, and the adherents of feminist ideology shouldn’t be allowed to be the arbiters of it.

  • Stephen M. Krason

    Stephen M. Krason is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.

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