At one point in this bloated, interminable essay, meandering hither and yon, Bottum allows as how the authors of the Manhattan Declaration were chiefly thinkers and not writers. Never was it more obvious that the reverse is true of Bottum.Dreher's joy is a little unseemly but he does make a good point or two:
Again, I agree with Jody Bottum that Catholics and other traditionalists are probably going to lose this fight, and I agree with Bottum’s analysis of why we're going to lose. That's why I have been arguing for the past few years that conservatives should rethink our strategy for prudential reasons, orienting ourselves around protecting religious freedom in the face of the inevitable. I still believe that. What I don't believe, and don't understand how any conservative can take seriously, is the hope that giving up the fight will buy the Church any goodwill, or will give the Church new credibility to speak its truths to modern people. This is wishful thinking. Ask liberal Protestants how their churches have fared since liberalizing and accepting same-sex marriage as good — a stance that is more radical than even Bottum calls for. Ask Anglican Bishop Tengatenga how much goodwill his about-face on gay marriage bought him. At least the Catholic bishops, for all their sins and failings, are going down fighting for principle instead of reaching a de facto concordat with a new order that the Church teaches is profoundly immoral.
A pretty funny comment from Rorate Caeli:
Commonweal: First Things' confessional. http://t.co/meixMb0cHs
— Rorate Caeli (@RorateCaeli) August 23, 2013
And, just for fun, here is Bottum most himself as a "writer":
What passes in the human heart is known to God alone, and the private spiritual life of T. S. Eliot may have been rich and full. But Eliot's publicly presented spirituality--the spirituality in the Four Quartets, Murder in the Cathedral, and The Rock--seems merely weak and strange. Not all spirituality is exuberant or bright, of course. There exists a real spirituality, like John Henry Newman's, that spends itself in the mad, dry attempt to make our inexact words say the exact things of faith exactly, just as there exists a real spirituality, like Gerard Manley Hopkins', that seeks the light of God most strongly in the darkness of His absence. Eliot's spirituality, however, is not precisely dry and not precisely dark; it is instead something like an exotic hothouse plant forced to a small, unlikely bloom-over-cultivated, over-nursed, and over-watched [...]
And the mistake originates in the philosophical moves Eliot makes in "The Hollow Men" and extends in "Ash-Wednesday." The failure of modernity rests on the misguided attempt to found philosophical certainty on the self's consciousness of itself, and Eliot rightly sees modernity's failure. But his answer is to force himself to rise to consciousness of his self-consciousness-and then, when he finds that selflessness is not found there, to force himself to rise to consciousness of his self-consciousness of his self-consciousness-and then, when he finds that selflessness is not found there, to force himself to rise . . .-and then. . . . St. Augustine walked this path in the Confessions, and it drove him mad. The notion seems to be that, because we are finite, we cannot (in the real psychology of thought) follow self-consciousness to its apparent infinity; we cannot be infinitely self-conscious. Eventually, at the limit of our thought, we must arrive at a consciousness of which we cannot be self-conscious. Eventually we must arrive at a pure, selfless act of thought that may thereby think the true philosophical foundation of the self.