Though social radicals blather on and on about it, they are almost complete phonies about dialogue. For them, dialogue either means radicals talking to the more radical, or radicals hassling bishops over women’s ordination or some such nonsense. It is a way for the left to stall the socially sane, to keep them talking so that nothing ever happens. I just returned from the World Congress of Families in
We were surprised when a small Dutch group applied to host the 2009 event, which generally attracts between 1,000 and 4,000 social traditionalists from around the world. The
The host committee made it clear from the beginning that they live in a different atmosphere than do American social conservatives. They are a minority in a culture dominated by social radicals. Therefore, they wanted to reach out to those of good will on the other side, those who support the family, to participate, even to speak at the Congress and generally enter into dialogue.
The program they put together was certainly not like Congresses from years past. One member of the organizing committee said it was the first “peace and justice” World Congress of Families. There were panels on families with HIV/AIDS, migration, and gender issues. There was even a speaker from the United Nations promoting
So nervous were the Dutch hosts that they asked various speakers to tone down their talks. Mostly they were concerned over strong language about homosexuals, a very powerful Dutch lobby. I was asked to edit my talk on the United Nations. In the peroration, I called upon the listeners to “defeat our opponents in the courts, in the parliaments, in the academy” and so on. The local committee told me that talk of “defeating” our opponents would be offensive to Dutch ears.
I took my puzzlement to Jan Peeters, a sharp Dutch journalist, who explained to me that the Dutch are raised to believe in dialogue above all. He said there are never any strikes in
Yet even with all this outreach, the social radicals in
Even so, the newspapers in
Now, this may not seem like dialogue to you. The Dutch committee worked very hard to reach out to its opponents. And rather than dialoguing, those same opponents stomped all over the Congress and the local committee.
A very conservative member of the Dutch parliament underscored the phoniness of dialogue with such radicals. He said that whenever homosexual issues are debated in the parliament only homosexual groups are allowed to testify.
In the end I did change my talk. Instead of “defeating our opponents in the courts etc” I said we must “meet” them. It was still a strong speech and the crowd gave me a standing ovation, one of only three at the entire Congress. My talk was picked up and reprinted the day after by the largest Protestant daily newspaper in the country.
There is such a thing as dialogue but there is also such a thing as raising the flag and letting your friends know where the battle is. No one rallies around dialogue but plenty will gather around a raised flag.
In the end, the Congress was a success. The locals tell me that we moved the Dutch public discourse a couple of ticks in the right direction. I am told the young Dutch committee learned many valuable lessons about the ends of dialogue, and one conservative Dutch journalist said, “I think we gave the Devil a bloody nose.” Not very dialogic that, but God bless him for it.
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washinton, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy.
(c) 2009 The Catholic Thing. All right reserved. For reprint rights write to: info at thecatholicthing dot org
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.