Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Friday, August 24, 2007
Laud and Jindal. Credit goes to Henry of Crooked Timber, a left winger, who defends Bobby Jindal, a candidate for governor of Louisiana, against claims that he is a Catholic bigot. Jindal, born a Hindu, is a convert to Catholicism and twelve years ago wrote a defence of Catholicism for a religious publication. This piece of writing is being quoted against him now by his political opponents. Henry writes:
... the ‘Jindal on Religion’ website and accompanying TV ad, put up by Louisiana’s Democratic Party, are actively dishonest. The website says that Jindal argues that

Jindal states non-Catholics are burdened with “utterly depraved minds” and calls individuals who ignore the teachings of the Catholic church intellectually dishonest.

The actual quotes in their proper context are:

the alternative is to trust individual Christians, burdened with, as Calvin termed it, their “utterly depraved” minds, to overcome their tendency to rationalize, their selfish desires, and other effects of original sin.


I trust I have provided enough evidence to indicate that the Catholic Church deserves a careful examination by non-Catholics. It is not intellectually honest to ignore an institution with such a long and distinguished history and with such an impressively global reach.

The first rather obviously isn’t a claim that non-Catholics are utterly depraved. It’s a mildly clumsy attempt to hoist Protestants on their own petard, building on earlier discussion of how Reformation Protestants believed people to be depraved, and saying that it’s a bit odd then that Protestants should trust them to interpret religion on their own. The second is a claim that it’s intellectually dishonest to ignore the Catholic Church, and that Protestants should consider converting to it very carefully. This manifestly isn’t a claim that those who don’t follow the Catholic church’s teachings (which is the everyday meaning of “those who ignore the teachings”) are ipso facto intellectually dishonest.

I don’t know very much about Jindal’s politics, and I imagine that there’s a lot that I would disagree with. He may indeed have taken political stances that I would find absolutely reprehensible. That doesn’t change the fact that this is an obviously dishonest attack.
I wonder how this will play out. The parallel is not exact, but it reminded me of the mistake Prynne made in publishing Archbishop Laud's diary. (A more accurate account of my mental processes is that it reminded me of the mistake Thingy made in publishing Bishop Wasitlaud's diary. Google and my husband helped out.)

They played for keeps in those days. Laud had Prynne fined, imprisoned and mutilated. Years later the tables were turned, and Laud was in the Tower on trial for his life, with Prynne prosecuting in a trial so blatantly unfair that one actually feels sorry for Laud. Prynne got hold of Laud's private diary in which he agonised about his lusts and other sins and had all the juiciest bits published in order to discredit him with the Puritans. However, Prynne had been so long a lawyer and a pamphleteer that he had forgotten how the rest of his fellow Puritans thought. It was not enough to save Laud, but that tactic backfired:
One of Prynne's greatest blunders was to publish Laud's diary in the Civil War in order to destroy him. It had the opposite effect: Puritans like Walwyn and Robinson were surprised to find how much common ground they shared with him. When Laud, for instance, confessed that he had dreamed of taking the Duke of Buckingham to bed with him, he seemed to Prynne at his most contemptible, whereas to less coarse-grained Puritans, who knew what it was to con­fide to diaries their temptations to sin, he seemed at his mosttouchingly vulnerable.
Now, Catholic apologetics and fantasies about Dukes are very different things, but I wonder if Jindal's writings on Catholicism might, like the diary, far from infuriating Protestant readers, impress them with how seriously he takes his religion - even if they think it's the wrong one.