Is Reality Superior to Ideas?
by Christopher A. Ferrara
September 23, 2015
Pope Francis is now in the midst of his worse-than-useless vanity tour of Cuba and the Washington-New York corridor, during which the mass murderers Raul Castro and Barack (partial birth abortion) Obama are utilizing the First Merciful Pope as their personal prop. A week before his departure, Francis expounded yet again one of the obsessive themes that has made him the toast of the powers that be: denouncing “religious fundamentalism.”
In one of his innumerable off-the-cuff media interviews, Francis declared: “Our God is a God who is close, who accompanies. Fundamentalists keep God away from accompanying his people, they divert their minds from him and transform him into an ideology. So in the name of this ideological god, they kill, they attack, destroy, slander. Practically speaking, they transform that God into a Baal, an idol.”
Boo. Hiss. No need, of course, to define exactly what one means by “fundamentalists” or exactly whom Francis is talking about. The skillful demagogue knows to avoid being too specific about those he is attacking, lest he inspire self-defense on the part of the targets of his demagoguery. It suffices that Francis wink and nod in the direction of the approving worldly powers who love this kind of thing, for they know just whom he means: traditional Catholics.
“No religion is immune from its own fundamentalisms,” said Francis, archly. Get it? There are fundamentalist Catholics too. And one must loathe them! Because, says Francis: “In every religion there will be a small group of fundamentalists whose work is to destroy for the sake of an idea, and not reality. And reality is superior to ideas.”
“Reality is superior to ideas.” Francis has been repeating this curious phrase since he first unveiled it in the Philippines as the reason he would not read his prepared speech. There is, of course, no opposition between reality and ideas, between words on paper and the realities they express. Ideas are realities, which, if they correctly reflect the world of being, are known as truth, but which, if they do not correctly reflect being, are known as error. Reality, therefore, is not “superior” to ideas. Rather, ideas rightly formed are precisely the result of the mind’s encounter with reality.
The real and the idea of the real come together in the act of perception as the mind adequates — equalizes itself — with the reality it perceives through the senses. This is the moderate realism of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who gave us the perennial philosophy of the Church of which Francis makes a shambles every time he declares: “reality is superior to ideas.” One might as well say: “The color red is superior to our perception of red.” The statement is gibberish.
But there is a method to Francis’ gibberish. What he is really saying is that the “ideas” represented by the Catholic doctrines are not as important as “reality.” For example, for Francis the dogma of the indissolubility of marriage — a mere “idea” — is not as important as the “reality” of the supposed suffering of all the unfortunates who have been denied the easy annulments he has just made possible, thereby ending their cruel oppression by the mere “idea” that marriage is indissoluble.
In short, for Francis the doctrines of the faith must yield to “reality.” In his opinion — which is, quite frankly, that of a Modernist — the two can often be opposed. Francis has openly declared as much in claiming that Vatican II sought “to overcome this divorce between theology and pastoral ministry, between faith and life.”
So this is what Francis means when he says: “In every religion there will be a small group of fundamentalists whose work is to destroy for the sake of an idea, and not reality.” For him, Catholic “fundamentalists” are those who insist that “faith and life” can never be opposed, because life must always and everywhere, without exception, conform itself to faith as the content of the “ideas” God Himself has communicated to us in the words of His revelation, which we receive by hearing. For example: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
One commentator has raised the question whether Francis is “a menace to society and his Church” or simply a “farcical dupe.” The answer does not really matter. What matters is the objective signification of the strange ideas that come out of Francis’ mouth. Ideas have consequences. That is precisely what makes them realities.