Comment

The Argentine Church must not be cowed by violent feminist attacks

Chubut Police photo of the firebomb attack on the town hall of Trelew, Argentina

Violence has broken out in Argentina, this magazine reports, as radical feminists have attacked a Catholic Church and other buildings in the city of Trelew with firebombs. This is not first time this sort of thing has happened, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have commented on this before.

That the abortion question leads to outbreaks like this is deeply dispiriting. Feminists, even radical ones, need to stay within the law. No one is above the law, and no one should be allowed to think they can break it with impunity. It is reassuring to see that several of the violent demonstrators in Trelew have been arrested.

Given that the Catholic Church is committed to dialogue with those who disagree with us, and committed to such dialogue for theological reasons rather than just pragmatic ones (after all, did not the Word of God Himself come on earth to initiate a conversation with humanity?), we still have to face the fact that commitment to dialogue is often one-sided. Radical feminists like the ones in Trelew seem not to wish to enter into dialogue with us. Their position is made clear by their acts of violence. They do not want to speak to us, they want to destroy us. In this, they are not alone. Even more dangerous are those who pose as interested in dialogue, hoping only to use this pose for their own advantage. At least with the feminists of Trelew, one knows where one stands; with others, and I would place the Chinese government in this category, one cannot be so sure.

This should alert us to an important theological fact. While an attitude of dialogue is not simply desirable, but also part of what we have inherited from Christ and therefore not up for negotiation, so too is our belief in proclamation. Jesus before Pilate and before the Sanhedrin was open to dialogue (even if Pilate and the Sanhedrin were not) and at the same time firm in his proclamation of the Good News. His conversations with both need to be read through this double lens. In fact, dialogue and proclamation have a close relationship which cannot be unravelled without destroying either. We dialogue because we believe.

Faced with the outbreak of violence in Trelew the Catholic Church needs to be courageous in continuing to proclaim the sanctity of life. This isn’t simply because we must not give in to intimidation, and must be true to ourselves, but also because we owe it to the world to tell the truth; and any dialogue we may eventually have with the radical feminists (who may one day see the futility of their ways) has to be based on truth.

Something like this is the point behind what Cardinal Sarah had to say in the Synod. No one is interested in watered down teaching. Only truth has authority and only truth attracts. We could go further: only truth provokes. That the radical feminists want to firebomb churches is a sort of backhanded compliment, as is often observed. They would not bother attacking a Church that did not proclaim to the pro-life message loud and clear. That they do is a sign to us all that we need to be courageous in continuing to proclaim that message.