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Although the statement, “The Church must abandon the ghetto in which she has imprisoned herself for so long,” is a very effective slogan (as are most slogans), in reality it contains many grave and primitive errors (as do most slogans). It would be an interesting philosophical task to investigate the nature of the slogan as such and to show the basis of that illegitimate effectiveness which is characteristic of it. In The Trojan Horse I have already referred to this, but it would be worth the trouble to say more about this dangerous intellectual weapon and its insidious effectiveness. It is astonishing how naively and gullibly slogans are accepted — and how easily they can vilify even very good things. Unfortunately we cannot here analyze the nature of the slogan as such, but we can analyze the various dangerous errors which are contained in the catchword “Catholic ghetto.”
If by “ghetto” one means the glorious fortress of truth which the Church has been for two thousand years in withstanding all errors of the times and heresies, then the word is used in a distinctly foolish and stupid way. A ghetto was an area in which Jews, more or less against their will, had to live separated from the rest of the world. This original notion of ghetto has led today to the negative connotation of being severed from the rest of the world, of being narrow-minded, and intellectually and spiritually primitive.
Of course there is a certain narrowness which has sometimes characterized Catholics, for instance in philosophy. Many Catholic philosophers have thought that they could philosophize only as strict Thomists. Instead of asking whether something is true, they have asked where it fits in the Thomist system. I have dealt with this narrowness in many of my writings, and most recently in The Trojan Horse, Chapter 6 — while at the same time always emphasizing that not just any philosophy is compatible with Christianity, that many philosophies are destructive of Christianity. And then there is the very different kind of narrowness which has sometimes characterized Catholics and which I have opposed all my life in many writings — a false supernaturalism which fails to understand the God-given mission of natural goods and tends to see them in the light of merely worldly goods. But the progressivists who call the Church a ghetto do not have these forms of narrowness in mind, for the secularization and this-worldliness which they also advocate in no way correct this narrowness, as we have shown. No, they are in reality comparing the Church with a ghetto because she has been impenetrable by heresy, gloriously sealed off from all error. Now this use of the catchword “ghetto” betrays a host of grave and foolish errors.
Truth is the source of all real breadth and universality. Error is a prison of the spirit, and it radiates an oppressive narrowness. True breadth and openness of spirit in the realm of philosophy or religion does not lie in pluralism but in clearly recognizing and being grounded in the exclusiveness of truth. Just as it is no sign of breadth or openness of mind when one fails to distinguish clearly between good and evil, and when one relativizes all morality, so it is no sign of openness of mind to fail to grasp the exclusiveness of truth.
Relativism and openness of mind exclude one another. Just as stubbornness betrays narrowness of spirit because of its lack of objectivity and its pseudo-security, which is not grounded in real reasons, so relativism is a catastrophic self-deception for failing to submit to the call of reality, for feeling superior, free, and independent in this lack of objectivity. Relativism is specifically narrow because of its lack of objectivity, and it imprisons itself in itself in a special way by cutting itself off from the “logos” of being. It must be said once and for all: it is self-contradictory to be open-minded to error. It is like praising a susceptibility for disease as a particular sign of health. No, only the truth makes us free and lets us participate in real universality. It is a special sign of this freedom and universality, and of openmindedness, to be immune to error, especially to philosophical and metaphysical error, and pre-eminently to heresy, to any teaching incompatible with the divine Revelation of Christ. This is precisely the unique universality of the Church — and catholic means universal — and this is why she is the protector of the divine Revelation, why she is immune to any heresy, why she is a fortress of truth with impenetrable walls. She is the very antithesis to the countless real ghettoes of the spirit, such as the ghetto of error, of prejudice, of lack of objectivity, of immanentism, of relativism, of the spirit of the times, of fashion, of nationalism, etc.