Many believers did not approve of President Obama being awarded an honorary law degree from Notre Dame because of his support for reproductive rights. The Catholic protesters have shown that they are part of the backlash against modernity affecting many of the world’s religions as they perceive that their influence and traditions are being threatened and eroded.
Whether this indicates a rise in fundamentalist-minded Catholicism remains to be seen, but certainly popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have paved the way for a ghastly conservative faith by appointing Church leaders, who both take a more traditionalist, rigid interpretation of Catholic doctrines and are more strident apologists for these dogmas.
Further rejection of pluralism, modernity, and open-ended conversation could dwindle the ranks of moderate and liberal Catholics, make the Church more extremist, alienate the Church from public life, and render the Church irrelevant to the issues it seeks to influence. Prior to the Enlightenment, Thomas Aquinas set the Catholic Church free from being only faith-driven, but will today’s Catholics blinker the faith completely by abandoning the use of reason?
If so, then it is not the time, as Obama said in his speech, for people who are becoming increasingly radicalized “to bring their ideas” into the public debate on social matters. Presenting either evidence or a water-tight argument to believers will not change their minds; it may actually make them feel more validated in their belief.
That is obviously the nature of faith itself: to believe in spite of poor, non-existent, or even contradictory evidence. Faith enables someone to think that they are being reasonable while foresaking reason. The problems civilization faces will neither be solved by ratifying all opinions as equally valid and true, nor by unctuously preserving the moral barriers that balkanize us into separate moral communities. As Thomas Paine wrote, “The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason.”