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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sirico and I Correspond

Fahter Sirico has responded online to my two blogs. His entire response is in italics below. My reply to him is beneath.

Sir: At least twice you refer to my essay as a 'defense' of Rand. It clearly is no such thing - so your entire premise is mistaken from the outset because you did not carefully read the article. To offer a hermeneutic of someone's thought is not to necessarily agree with him - merely to offer an understanding of his thought and in Rand's case, where it went wrong, which is what I did. Besides, in addition to First Things and my own essay, there is a much longer conservative line of criticism of Rand going back to Whittaker Chambers' review of Atlas Shrugged in National Review in 1958, Russell Kirk's criticisms of her, and even Chuck Colson's more recent entry into the conversation. So, in addition to reading my work superficially you appear to have a thin knowledge of the history of conservative reaction to Rand.

Sorry I do not have the time to get tied down to responding to your equally superficial analysis of my concerns about Notre Dame. I would hope to have charity toward Rand, Obama and you for that matter - which always involved telling the truth as I honesty see it.

Really, Father? That is all you have to say in reply? I clearly noted in the blogs where you criticized her (I wrote: "Sirico concedes an enormous amount to her critics—acknowledging, for instance, that “she was the antithesis of Mother Teresa” and that “people who reverence Western Civilization must reject” her.) I said you were offering a charitable understanding of her underlying hermeneutic, but my main point was the political context you framed your essay in and the contrast with your treatment of Obama. Those points are not superficial and your refusal to address them under the guise of a critique of my limited knowledge of Rand, which I acknowledge in my essay, demonstrates a limited reading of my blogs. You can continue to dig yourself deeper, or you can acknowledge that you framed your essay in a narrow way that clouded the true nature of the current debate and that you are showing Rand a much more empathetic hearing than you did towards Obama and the Catholics who invited him to speak. Charity in truth also involves an attitude shaped by a willingness to listen, engage and speak with humility. My main point still stands—when Ayn Rand is under hyperbolic assault, you defend her, when Obama is under hyperbolic assault, you lead the way and fan the flames. This is obvious to anyone who does a cursory reading of your work.


  1. Congrats, Greg - you've engaged a big fish in Father Sirico....my thoughts below. Keep up the good work!


    Oh please, Mr. Metzger -You are comparing apples and oranges. Clearly this is no defense of Rand. Quote after quote after quote. Re-read the article. Father Sirico, acknowledges Rand's short-comings and even suggests a raison d' tre for Rand's creation of John Galt...her search for that ideal, the God-Man, that her institutionalized "religion" snuffed out. Maybe true, maybe not.

    What is true is that Rand is an author, not President of the United States. Rand is dead, not alive and well. Our President on the other hand (thank God) is alive and well. Unfortunately, the collection of his words and actions as a believer are ambiguous at best - as it relates to his Christian faith. He's a significant "funder" of abortion, but won't significantly fund it's alternatives. He's a "defender" of Marriage but won't defend marriage....and on and on it goes. President Obama impacts our lives more significantly in a single week than Ayn Rand will in a lifetime. We can't afford the "charity" you suggest until the President is at least willing to offer the balance that suggests, at a minimum that he is representing "we the people". His current policies suggest an ethereal belief in one thing, while at the same time he supports and funds it's antithesis. Someone needs to engage him (or at least the culture) on that point.

  2. Thanks Positive Trends for the kind words. In terms of your criticisms:
    1. I don't think I have mischaracterized his essay at all. I quoted the most damning words he said about Rand. What I criticized was the political context he put the essay in and the failure to show the same empathy to Obama.
    2. He and you have every right to disagree with Obama on key social issues like abortion and gay marriage, and I really do need to do a lengthier post on abortion, but you misunderstand my point. If you read Sirico and listen to him as I have, you will see a sharp difference in his willingness to assume the worst about Obama while assuming good for Rand. Just beacuse Obama is alive does not mean that in our speech, particularly speech of a priest, that we are free to use any type of hyperbole or "McCarthyesque" descriptions. Yet I would argue that Sirico has been an active participant in that type of discourse at crucial points in the Obama administration.

  3. I'm with you Gregm!