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E.J. Dionne on Souled Out, Part 1

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HH: If you recall last year, in February and March, I spent eight weeks talking one hour a week with Thomas P.M. Barnett, the author of The Pentagon’s New Map. I did so because it was a very important book, it was very well written, and because I disagreed with Thomas Barnett, Dr. Barnett, on many, many subjects. But you the audience loved that. You said do it again. It’s hard to find the right book to do that with, but I found it. And E.J. Dionne is the author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith And Politics After The Religious Right. Of course, he’s a Washington Post columnist. He and I won’t agree on very much, except that the book is provocative. E.J., welcome, it’s going to be fun doing this with you.

EJD: I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for doing it.

HH: By the way, let’s…

EJD: I say that now, of course, Hugh, but you are a skilled polemicist and thinker, so I have to worry.

HH: Well, you’re very kind, and no setting me, no getting my guard down that way. The first time we start this, I like to do a little bio and a little overview, so people who have not yet gone out and gotten Souled Out realize what they’re getting into, and decide to get out there and read along with us. It’s got seven chapters, but we’ve got an introductory chapter, and that’s where I want to start, E.J. Let’s tell people a little bit about first, where you’re from, and how you ended up being a columnist for the Washington Post.

EJD: Sure. Interrupt me with more questions so I don’t go on and on…

HH: You bet.

EJD: …about where I came from. I grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts, which is a factory town about fifty miles south of Boston. It was your classic white working-class town, heavily Catholic, Irish French-Canadian, which is what I, where my people came from, Portuguese, a large Portuguese population, Italian, about five percent Jewish, about ten percent Yankee Protestant. It was like many of those towns. All the immigrants came to work in the mills. Unfortunately for us, a lot of those mills moved south, and then offshore over the years. But it was a great place to grow up, and I love my hometown. My parents were serious Catholics. I am, you know, I’m the second generation to go to college, not the first. My dad partly worked at a mill so he could go to college, and help set us up, his kids, and my mom was…he was a dentist, my mom was a teacher and a librarian. And as I write in the introduction, I think our attitude toward faith and toward religion is very much shaped by our experiences as kids. And you know, I think that’s true of believers, and it’s also true of non-believers.

HH: Now E.J., did you got to Catholic schools through the whole time?

EJD: I did. I had twelve years of Catholic education. I went to St. Matthews Parochial School, and then I went to a great place called Portsmouth Priory then, now Portsmouth Abbey School, Benedictines, a Benedictine school. And in fact, among the people I dedicate the book to are the Sisters of St. Joseph, who taught me in Fall River, and the Monks, the Benedict Monks at Portsmouth who taught me there. I should probably say all these people tried to teach me.

HH: And how old are you, E.J.?

EJD: I am 55.

HH: So you’re almost a…well, you are a pre-Vatican II altar boy, if you were an altar boy.

EJD: Exactly. I learned the Mass in Latin as an altar boy. It still comes back to me, although for those who are Catholic, who were altar boys out there, I have trouble getting beyond the first sort of five, six lines of the Suscipiat, which was the tongue twister that we all used to challenge each other…

HH: Well, I can still say mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. And I attended the Tridentine Mass at the Oratory in London this past weekend. And it was really quite a walk backwards in time. Do you go to Latin Mass anymore, E.J?

EJD: I don’t. I must say my views on Latin Mass are sort of characteristically mixed, which is on the one hand, I like the Latin Mass, partly because I grew up with it, partly because it has great beauty, and I like the sound of the Latin. In principle, I believe Vatican II was right to move to the vernacular, turn the priest around from facing the altar to facing the people and the like. You know, the Church has recently brought back the Latin Mass, and you know, at some level, if one is in a broad sense a liberal, one probably should say that if Catholics, if there are Catholics who get spiritual sustenance out of the Latin Mass, why should we be against it? There are questions about some of the theology in some of the old text of the Latin Mass. You know, Jews, I think, have some legitimate beefs about some of the language in the Mass. There’s been a controversy around that.

HH: So should that mean…

EJD: But I couldn’t argue, I never argue with any of my conservative friends about whether the old Latin Mass is beautiful, because I did find it beautiful, and still do.

HH: So you came through the pre-Vatican II Church, and you must be graduated from high school around ’69 or ’70, as…

EJD: ’69, exactly right.

HH: All right, so there’s this upheaval underway because of Vatican II in the 60’s as well. But at the same time, were St. Matthews and Portsmouth Priory very conservative places in the traditionalist Catholic sense?

EJD: You know, in one sense yes, and in one sense, no. I think that they were both very traditional. My parish was a working class, largely French-Canadian parish. Some of my Nuns actually spoke better French than they spoke English. Not all, but the older ones spoke better French than they spoke English. And in many ways, the theology was old fashioned. But we had a wonderful, young priest called Father Tom Morrissey, who’s another of the people I mentioned in the dedication of the book, who when we were in seventh grade, starting coming in once a week to talk to us about difficult theological questions, difficult in a way that seventh graders could understand. And I won’t go into it now, but he, I still recall his explanation of the Church’s attitude toward evolution, and why Catholics did not have problems with evolution in principle. And it was a very intelligent explanation. It sort of made me look at all these new controversies surrounding evolution, and asking what the fuss it about. But that is a Catholic view. And Father Morrissey was not a radical liberal, or even a liberal as far as I know, but he was a very open, he was a very open person, and very much a priest of the time of Vatican II.

HH: Now when I’ve had Rudy on the program, when he was still actively seeking the presidency, he talked about the brothers who basically brought him up with the back of their hand in Brooklyn, often directing Rudy’s wayward path via a good application of the swatter. Was that the ethic of…

EJD: No, I had almost none of that. I can’t recall…I may have had my knuckles rapped once, but I know Catholics, Catholics have a whole bunch of stories that I, just are not party of my Catholic past. I have, in general, and maybe this is because I am a bit of a, what a friend called a feliciopath. But I tend, I do not…

HH: (laughing)

EJD: I do not recall, you know, nuns being anything but kind of interesting. There were some who were more severe, some who were warmer, but I’ve always said that anti-nunism is the sexism of the liberals, to go with that old line that anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the liberals, that I found nuns extraordinary people. And I think in many ways, nuns were sort of the proto-feminists, because as you recall, if you were in the Church when the nuns were really strong, I mean, in many fundamental ways, they ran the church. They ran the schools. They ran the hospitals. They were very, very strong people. And similarly, my monks were not into capital punishment. I’m sorry, they weren’t into capital punishment, but they weren’t into corporal punishment, either.

HH: Yeah, I’m sorry. My nun, Sister Timothy and Sister Alouicious, these were paradigms of liberation and confidence and competence. And I’m sure you had the same thing. I want to go backwards. A feliciopath? Does that mean you’re always happy, regardless of circumstances?

EJD: This was coined by my dear friend, Peggy Steinfels, who argued that I was, this may be too generous to me, even though it was a criticism, that I am inclined to see too much good in people, even when it’s not there, I think, and be excessively optimistic about the possibilities of things. It’s why my favorite Barack Obama line in his speech is when he says ah, they’re attacking me, they’re accusing me of being a hope-monger. And I guess I probably have some of that in me.

HH: Well, how un-Catholic. I mean, this is not the fallen Catholic, confession-going world. You must have skipped those parts.

EJD: No, on the contrary, I always argue that I am a, maybe a psychological optimist, because I’m an intellectual pessimist, which is I, Reinhold Niebuhr, the great theologian, once said that original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian Church…

HH: (laughing)

EJD: …meaning that human failure is around us everywhere, to see every day. And so I tend not to be surprised and disappointed when people do something wrong. I tend to be kind of happy and pleased that on balance, people are better than you might expect them to be.

HH: All right, so we’re back in Catholic…

EJD: I suppose the other way of putting this, and probably not someone you quote all the time, Eugene Debs, a great American socialist…

HH: Richard Dreyfuss’ mother was his secretary, by the way. That’s a little known fact.

EJD: I do like Richard Dreyfuss. But Eugene Debs once said there should be an extra beatitude, which would go blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed. So I have a fairly sunny view, precisely because I guess I really did take on the Catholic view that human nature is flawed.

HH: All right, we’ve got a minute to the break, we’re talking with E.J. Dionne, author of the brand new book, Souled Out. It’s linked at this afternoon. So E.J., you’re off to Harvard. You must have been, what, the Johnny Good Student who just did it all, and got it all done?

EJD: Well, I guess I was a pretty good student, I guess. I’ll admit to that. And my mom was a teacher, and she was sort of good at being sure my sister and I did what we were supposed to do. And I was interested in a lot of stuff. I was interested in politics from the time I was about eight years old. And my dark secret, though I’ve let it out in the past, is that I was a conservative. And I grew up in a conservative family.

HH: Oh, no. We’ll find out what happened to E.J. Dionne when we return.

– – – –

HH: Before we go back to the actual stuff in the book, E.J, so you are of the generation, as I was, I think, you did your first confession and communion in second grade, and confirmation in third grade, correct?

EJD: Hugh, I don’t remember what year…I thought I was older when I did my confirmation, but I honestly don’t remember what year I did it, how old I was.

HH: Okay, that was my experience. And what’s your confirmation name?

EJD: Do you know, this is the most shocking thing, is I don’t remember, because I think we all had to take the same confirmation name. We did not go through this selection. I know my son picked Anthony when he was confirmed, partly because he occasionally loses things, and there is that old dedication to St. Anthony who helps you find stuff.

HH: Yup.

EJD: You remember that.

HH: Yup.

EJD: And my thirteen year old daughter is picking the name of a saint whom my mother in law loves, and I’ve got to remember what it is. It’s a very pretty name. I think it’s St. Elizabeth of something. She’s being confirmed in May.

HH: And in those days, you had to fast three hours before communion…

EJD: Yup.

HH: You have to take your breakfast to Church, or to school, so that you could go to Mass once in a while. Were you also part of the rhythms of the stations of the Cross? I mean, you’re very much a 50’s and 60’s cultural Catholic then.

EJD: Well, in fact, you know, one of the, this priest, Tom Morrissey, I talked about, was also the guy in charge of liturgy in our parish. And I’ve never had quite the same spiritual experience, and maybe some people, you know, if you’re an atheist, you probably say ah, that’s kids’ stuff, but you know, when he did the liturgies around Holy Week, you know, I never felt so much like I was actually at the foot of the Cross than when Father Tom Morrissey organized his liturgies in those moments on Good Friday when Christ died, or that great moment in the Mass when the bells haven’t rung, and all of a sudden the lights go on at Easter to mark the resurrection of Jesus. You know, those were amazing moments, and I still have very strong and positive memories of that, and I’ve gone to great, you know, I’ve covered the Vatican. I’ve gone to great liturgies in my life. But this was, you know, these were just powerful moments.

HH: And are you still a cradle Catholic, E.J?

EJD: I would say yes. I mean, you and I might have some, as we go on here, we might have some arguments about this or that, but I belong to Blessed Sacrament Parish here in D.C., but often stop by the Church near our house, where the Little Flower, the Church of the Little Flower, where the pastor is the guy who converted Bob Novak.

HH: Ah.

EJD: He is a Republican, and he and I love to argue about politics.

HH: And Blessed Sacrament’s my old parish from D.C. days, and so it’s a wonderful Church.

EJD: What was your parish?

HH: Blessed Sacrament when I lived there, Father Donald Warsh, but he’s moved on.

EJD: Oh, yeah, it’s a great parish. It was Pat Buchanan’s parish.

HH: Yup.

EJD: It was Cokie Roberts’ parish. It was a tremendous parish.

HH: Bill Casey would be in the back pew some days, and that was always kind of bracing in the early 80’s. Now E.J, when you went to Harvard, what happened? I mean, did people accept your robust Catholicism? Or were you marginalized in the late 60’s, early 70’s?

EJD: No, I never felt marginalized, but I always told people that I may have stayed Catholic in part because I went to Harvard instead of Notre Dame or B.C., or a Catholic school, because it struck me as more rebellious to stay in the Church than to leave the Church. And so I stayed. And they’re a very interesting time, where there were many different liturgies available, and there was a kind of radical liturgy with a very activist priest. There was a very traditional Mass at the parish, St. Paul’s parish near Harvard. And I was very fond of, still am, the radical priest. But I never was completely comfortable with the radical liturgy, because I felt it was sort of consciously apart from the old working-class part of the Church. And you know, I always say one of the reasons I think I stayed is because it struck me as a form of class traitorhood to either leave the Church one generation, you know, a couple of generations back, you’d be a class traitor by becoming Episcopalian. In my era, you probably became a class traitor by becoming a kind of upscale secularist. And so I didn’t like the idea of separating from the mainstream of the Church. And there was a perfect Mass for me at 5:00 in the afternoon. I called it, you know, there was a radical Mass, a conservative Mass. This was the liberal Mass said by graduate students who gave very good, people who were graduate students in all sorts of things, who also happened to be priests. And it was a very warm and friendly kind of thing to do in the afternoon, and they gave very smart, very intelligent sermons. And that was the Mass I would go to at Harvard.

HH: And so when you got done with Harvard, were you still believing the same things you had believed when you began?

EJD: Well, I think at some level, I think the answer is yes. I learned more things. I mean, one of the important, and it turned out quite useful, things I did at Harvard, I was there the first, you know, in the first years when they allowed students to cross-register at the Harvard Divinity School. And a friend and I, I believe, were the first two students to cross-register. And I took a course from a wonderful liberal theologian called Harvey Cox.

HH: Oh, you bet.

EJD: And I always tell my students who ask me about what courses are useful to take in college, well, one of the most useful courses I took in college was Harvey’s course called Eschatology And Politics. It’s my favorite course on my transcript. One of the things Harvey had us read, or one of the areas, were all these liberation theologians from Latin America. He’d sometimes get them in mimeograph. Nobody remembers mimeograph. And of course, fifteen years later, I found myself at the Vatican covering the condemnation of Gustavo Gutierrez and Leonardo Boff, and these are folks that Harvey had us reading. The other thing about my undergraduate education, I mention this in the book, is I’ve always been interested in the intersection of religion and politics. And you know, the kinds of papers I ended up writing in college reflected this preoccupation. So I took a great course on the Soviet Union, and wrote about the relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church with Stalin’s government during World War II, when Stalin softened the restrictions for opportunistic reasons, or how Catholics who were split about Joe McCarthy. I actually compared to dioceses and papers. I hitchhiked to Brooklyn to read The Pilot, which was a famously right-wing Catholic paper, and I compared it to the…not The Pilot, The Tablet in Brooklyn, and The Pilot in Boston. So these subjects were on my mind the whole time I was there.

HH: And did you, you couldn’t have majored in religion, although you might have taken…did you ever take George McRae?

EJD: I did not.

HH: Okay, I had George a couple of times. He was a great liberal theologian at the Divinity School as well. My question is what did you major in? What did they let you…

EJD: I majored…I started out in government, and there was this great program called social studies…

HH: Sure.

EJD: …where the core, where you could, it was almost like a politics-philosophy-economics at Oxford, where you could put together a curriculum. But there was a very rigorous year of social theory, where we read Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Tocqueville, Freud. And it was a great department. People in it, my thesis advisor was Nathan Glazer, the great sociologist. Marty Peretz was the head tutor, Michael Walser, the great philosopher, was the head of the department.

HH: You stayed away from the Straussians, no doubt.

– – – –

HH: E.J, we’re still doing the biography. You’re also a Crimson guy when you’re an undergraduate. Are you the only, or one of few religious believers on the Crimson?

EJD: No, actually, there were some others. I used to write, I wrote a lot of book reviews, and a couple of the books I reviewed for the Crimson, one I wrote a review of Gary Wills’ rather well-known book, Bare Ruined Choirs, which even if you don’t agree with Gary Wills, has the most beautiful description of a Catholic boyhood. If you’re interested, you should read that, Hugh. But I did it with a guy who’s now a conservative writer, called George Sim Johnston. And we did it together, and we were both interested in this. I actually gave a positive review to a very conservative book called The Decline And Fall Of Liberal Catholicism by James Hitchcock, who’s a scholar at St. Louis. And I was fascinated by the way he thought, even though I didn’t agree with him. And there were other books. And so I wrote something about religion for the Crimson as well. And there weren’t a lot of people preoccupied with such things at the time, it’s true, but there were always people around. I mean, I think I’ve sort of, in the course of my life, I’ve enjoyed uncloseting religious people. In the media, for example, there are many, many more Churchgoers, or people who feel very much part of a tradition than is often recognized.

HH: Now it has been my experience among intellectual Catholics that they share a disdain for Evangelicals. And I don’t think you do. You mentioned George Marsden and Mark Knoll in the introduction for your book, for example. But nevertheless, you’ve got to realize that that’s out there among Catholic intellectuals.

EJD: Oh, and one of the reasons I wrote this book, you know, you said at the break that most of your listeners won’t agree with me, and that’s probably right. I mean, I won’t claim that they will agree with a lot of it. But there is, I think, one argument in the book that they will agree with. One of the reasons I’ve been preoccupied about this all these years is because I don’t think a liberal should be prejudiced against people because of their beliefs, and that I don’t think they should look down their noses at Evangelicals. And they shouldn’t look down their noses at Evangelicals, because there is a rich, intellectual tradition connected to Evangelicalism. As I mentioned in the book, there are some extremely wise Evangelical writers, Mark Knoll, referred to perhaps inappropriately as the Pope of the Evangelicals. You know, people like George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, this is an amazing group of people. So this book very much argues against liberal prejudice against religion, which I think is destructive politically. But worse, it’s against any notion I have of what a liberal ought to be. It’s why one you probably noticed, a column I wrote, I wrote in defense of Romney’s Mormonism…

HH: Yup.

EJD: Because I can’t see how anyone who belongs to a religious minority can support discrimination against someone because of their religious faith. I don’t agree with Mitt Romney on a lot of things, but I did not like, do not like anti-Mormon prejudice any more than I like anti-Evangelical prejudice.

HH: At some point, you had to have begun to unmoor, though, from sort of the conservative Catholic hierarchy in the United States, especially with its regards to views on issues of abortion rights, et cetera. When did that happen? Was that as an undergrad? Or was that later in your life?

EJD: Well you see, I’ve never fully unmoored from any of that. I mean, you know, on abortion, which is, you know, one of the most neuralgic issues, I wouldn’t really want the Church to change its view on abortion. I think that there sure is an awfully good case to be made that life does begin at conception. I mean, I’ve always thought the best pro-life argument is, it’s not a rigorous argument, but it’s an argument from intuition, that when someone is carrying a child that they want to bring in the world, you don’t hear that person or the dad of the child referring to it as a fetus. You talk about the baby. And so I think everybody knows that this is a very, very serious thing. My argument in the book is that I think that this long…I also believe, by the way, believe Roe was a mistake. And I think we’d be in better shape if we had argued abortion out through the abortion process. As you know, Ronald Reagan signed a very liberal, one of the most liberal abortion laws in the country when he was governor.

HH: At its time. It wouldn’t be liberal today.

EJD: At its time, yes, and that this would have been a better issue to fight out in the political process than to be decided by the courts. But at this stage, I do not think that the United States will make abortion illegal. That is to say if Roe fell, there would be a few states that might make abortion illegal. But abortion is not going to be illegal in the United States. And what I suggest in the book…

HH: Wait, hold that thought. We’ll be right back.

– – – –

HH: E.J, when we went to break, you were talking about abortion. And I don’t want to foreshadow where we’re going. This is more of the introductory hour. But it does remain the one about which Catholic bishops in America are most often in conflict with Catholic politicians, and I would argue, Catholic intellectuals who they warn bring scandal upon the Church when they don’t make fully known the Church’s teaching that at all times in all places, abortion is mortal sin. Isn’t that their position?

EJD: Right, but of course, there are mortal sins that are legal.

HH: Yes.

EJD: …that they’re not proposing to make all mortal sins illegal. God knows where we would be if that happened. But what…I just want to finish the point I was making, which is that if…our country is not going to make abortion illegal on a broad scale anytime soon, even if Roe V. Wade falls. And what I suggest in the book is that there could be some agreement across these very difficult lines that substantially reducing the number of abortions would be a very good thing. It would be, we could save a lot of fetal lives. And there are two sides to this, one, which given the Church’s view of contraception, obviously, is not something the Church will promote. But I do think there is something to be done on the whole idea of sexual responsibility and family planning or contraception. But on the other side, how many, the abortion rate is much higher among poor women than it is among well off women. And if someone wants to choose life, wants to bring a child in the world who is poor, should we not give that woman real support? And I mean this support through government. There are obviously rescue missions and the like that try to give such women support. But I think someone who has a decent shot at raising, at having health care and being able to provide economically for the child, is more likely to choose life, and that we’ve already seen the abortion rate drop substantially in the last ten, twelve, fifteen years. And I think we could push it down further, and that ought to be a goal that could unify us. I find, personally, abortion…

HH: I agree with that, but E.J, do you, to get to the religious roots of the book, though, do you believe that it is sinful to engage in abortion?

EJD: Yes, I believe it is sinful, but that’s a different question…

HH: Sure it is.

EJD: …from the legality, and that I find myself terribly torn about this. And I’m torn because I find the idea, the Church’s concept of life beginning at conception not only a defensible concept, but in some ways, an attractive concept. At the same time, I look around the world, and look at countries where abortion is illegal, and I see an awful lot of abortions being performed, and I see them threatening the lives of women who have those abortions. And that’s why I find it very difficult to see how we could ever outlaw abortion, particularly in the first trimester, where I think there is genuine moral, there is such a deep moral argument about the status of the fetus in the first trimester, that I think it would be very difficult to ban abortion in the first trimester.

HH: And that will be an entire hour as we move through the book. But before we run out of time with our one and a half segments left, I want to get to the introduction and two points you make in it. One, you say your book is a brief against arrogance where faith is concerned, and I’m all for being against arrogance where faith is concerned. But you also write, “It’s about faith can be loyalty, it can be aesthetic judgment, it can be pragmatic choice, it can be a psychological comfort. First and foremost, ought faith not to be about truth, E.J. Dionne?

EJD: Well, faith should be about truth. One of the reasons that I welcome the argument sort of pushed by the neo-atheists, even though I criticize them in the book, and I don’t like dogmatism, and I find some of the neo-atheists as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn…

HH: You bet.

EJD: But at least they are pushing us to argue about the central fact, which is all this stuff true or not? Is there a God or isn’t there a God? I once wrote a column on this, that I borrowed openly from The New Republic, the headline was God Bless Atheists. And atheists forced believers to confront the core question, which is, you know, is what they say they believe true? I also tried to be very honest in the book about entertaining doubt. I mean, it is conceivable to me that I am wrong about all these things. It is conceivable to me, I understand why people believe there is no God. And I’ve had moments of doubt, but one is comforted by the fact that Mother Teresa had a long period of doubt. I love the line which I quote from Peter Berger, the great sociologist, who said all the believers must live with the burden of God’s silence. And so I do believe truth matters. But what I was trying to say in that section is, again being candid, that believers and non-believers should face the fact that there are all of these other factors that go into whether one decides one is a believer or not, or whether one feels like a believer or not. I quote Mike Novak, a conservative, who’s written very powerfully on the whole question. He wrote a book in the 60’s called Belief And Unbelief, which I think is a very honest effort to come to terms with the question of faith itself.

HH: Now E.J, because I want people to get the book between now and when we start into chapters, I want them to understand you really are kind of an Orthodox Christian. You believe that Jesus Christ is real, entered into human history, was crucified, was dead, did rise from the dead, and did ascend, correct?

EJD: Yes. Again, I always want to be candid. Does is happen, do I sit here at moments and do I read, for example, the Biblical critics, some of whom say well, we’re not sure of this or that, trying to make sense of what the Scriptures mean, yes. I constantly struggle with this. But deep down inside, that is what I believe.

HH: And do you believe Mary enters into human history at places like Medjugorje and Lourdes and communicates with people?

EJD: I honestly have, I love Marian devotion in one sense. Harvey Cox, my old liberal theology professor, was fascinated by Mary and the devotion to Mary. My mother in law is very deeply devoted to Mary. I have not even been one of those Catholics who is terribly into Marian devotion. I mean, I honor Mary, obviously, and understand the doctrine. But I don’t pretend to be as Marialogical as, say, Pope John Paul II was.

HH: But that’s a different question, and when we get the short segment when we come back, I’m going to press you for the answer, because it’s hard to be a Catholic and not believe that she does enter into human history that way. Otherwise, I think my friend Hitchens would say you want the best, and want to reject the hard.

– – – –

HH: E.J, there’s so much I wanted to talk about and didn’t get to, and including small world stuff like the fact that you know Monsignor Otellini as I do, and we never knew that. But I want to close with the idea that the Catholic Church, of which you are a part, and from which intellectual tradition you are arguing in part, requires that its participants believe a lot of things, including the assumption of Mary, the infallibility of the Pope when he proclaims it. And does E.J. Dionne sign on for the whole voyage, or do you find yourself getting off on a life raft every now and then?

EJD: Well, no, I think the answer, first of all, as I tried to say at the break, I knew this would be an inquisition from a friendly radio inquisitor. But I think the honest answer on my part is that I struggle to believe the whole thing. But there are things I struggle with more than other things. You know, the Doctrine of Infallibility itself, for example, was declared at a very political moment in the 1870’s. The Church has struggled with that. There were many opponents of the idea of papal infallibility at the time it was declared. And there are sort of, I think, more contingent doctrines and less contingent doctrines.


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