In my recent catch-all pile for the ever controversial Codgitator, I tried to make one thing clear: an inane move on the part of a cardinal (or a pope) doesn't somehow become a really great idea just because you call it 'ecumenism' or 'reaching out.' There are such things as bad acts done in the name of ecumenism, and I think Cardinal O'Malley's recent decision to perform a co-ritual with female clergy is a great example of a rotten idea. It's also a great example of why 'dialogue' and 'ecumenism' have gotten an increasingly bad rap with conservatives and traditionalists over the years - eventually they notice that every time someone talks about the importance of ecumenism, it involves selling out the conservative or traditional positions in exchange for some jackass getting a pat on the head and momentary praise by The People Who Matter.
Now, I can go on about this very topic for a while - how on the one hand it is important to truly approach non-Catholics and non-Christians and the irreligious and the rest in a proper way, a sincere way, a reasonably measured way. I can go on about how difficult it's become to even discuss that, since there is a social liberal tendency to hijack such movements immediately and treat respectful dialogue as a means by which to manipulate a surrender or a scaling back of the values they detest but will pay lip service to anyway. Important stuff, truly. But instead, I want to talk about a modern plague - the Tyranny of the Aggrieved.
There is a modern idea that goes like this: how a person should be treated, how much leeway they should get in a conversation or even a negotiation, is heavily proportional to - in essence - how absolutely goddamn insane they are, how willing they are to scream and rant, how irrational they are willing to demonstrate they are. Ben more or less brings this up in the previous thread, justifying the actions of Cardinal O'Malley because, hey, feminists have wound up a lot of women for decades, screaming how if they aren't allowed to be priests then that's equivalent to saying that they're not equal to men at all and misogyny and patriarchy and all the rest. They're very emotionally wound up, you see, so you have to pretty much get on your knees and try to do whatever will make them happy and feel valued, because they are - put bluntly - THAT fucked up.
I'd understand at some point if some people would figure my reaction would be to agree with Ben. I've gotten into it with social conservatives over gay issues, talking about how the SoCon approach typically sucks - they treat 'gays' as a monolithic group, instead of targeting LGBT organizations, etc. I stress the need to be civil, to not make enemies unnecessarily, to speak clearly, to 'reach out'. But the fact is, I reject this kind of thinking completely. Not every woman, not even every feminist, takes this approach - but for the ones that do (and many, sadly, do), I do not recommend or endorse pacification. If a feminist has reached the point where a male-exclusive clergy drives her up the wall and the only thing that will satisfy her is some sign of capitulation on that point - some gesture, however initially small, that a female clergy may not be a COMPLETELY bad idea... at that point, you are not dealing with someone you can speak with, and you move on. Better yet, you - and I say this a lot - speak at them, not with them. Maybe some will listen. Maybe not.
But you do not succumb to the Tyranny of the Aggrieved.
You do not let the least rational person in a dialogue dictate the terms on which a conversation will be had, or whether or not a conversation will be had at all. You do not look at the person who has the mentality of a lunatic and try to figure out the magical gesture that will momentarily pacify them, because - among many other reasons - that this is the reaction many will have is already accounted for. Do not make the mistake of thinking that a ranting, raving group of people is always or even often a spontaneous thing that 'just happened', borne out of the wellspring of their hearts. You can find this right in the Bible itself. Christ was not condemned by a dispassionate jury of His peers, moved by the force of intellectual argument that He had committed a crime, even with the argument being ultimately and subtly flawed. There was a lunatic crowd screaming for his head and - this is key - Pilate attempted pacification. And Pilate knew that what the crowd demanded was wrong! He was, in his view, trying to find some way to get Christ out of the jam He was in. And ultimately, when Christ refused to play along - and why should He, intellectually or morally speaking, play along? - the decision was to sell out Christ. This wasn't lost on the Pharisees, by the way - they were riling up the crowds with an eye on a particular result.
I'm not making a major theological point here - I am making a practical one. Irrational reactions are, believe it or not, often tactical and strategic. They are not the basis for any ecumenism worth having, and the fact that a person is emotionally worked up does not - I repeat, does not - make their demands a hair more justifiable, or their actions more forgivable, outside of the most strictly qualified situations.
I am in favor of ecumenism. I am in favor of a more reasonable, calm, respectful dialogue with everyone from people with same-sex attraction to divorced couples to more. But I will never favor capitulation as dialogue. I will never endorse succumbing to the Tyranny of the Aggrieved. And those Christians who do are not proving themselves to be the more mature, humble participants in the conversation, showing the world how grown up they are by finding some way, any way, to pacify either a frantic single individual or a lunatic mob. More often than not, they're just playing out Pilate's role on a different scale.