Poor Protesting Etiquette

I'm not opposed to protests. In fact, in many cases I am a big supporter. Protests have been the basis of many good social developments over the course of human history. Small groups working in unison can make a difference in the world at large. Nevertheless, the fundamental principle of any protest, though, should not be the devaluation of the party being protested against, but rather the positive promotion of a value or truth currently unrealized by the majority group. Negative tactics cannot bring about positive truth.

With that in mind, I've found a scenario which appears to go precisely contrary to the form of 'good protesting': demonstrators handing out condoms to youth attending a Mass at this year's World Youth Day. The seemingly-loving-yet-pompous battle cry of the "NoToPope Coalition," antagonists at this summer's demonstration: "We don't want to condemn Catholic youth for being Catholics. We want to condemn the pope for being homophobic and anti-condom."

To the modern ear, such a line seems downright logical; "We can condemn one man for being something, and leave the entire group he is in charge of untouched. Clearly, what Catholics believe en masse has nothing to do with the theocratic egoism of the one who claims to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth. That's just pompous." On the other hand, though, and for the more astute listener, the fallacy hidden in the reasoning becomes ever more apparent; "How can one 'condemn the pope' and not 'condemn Catholic youth for being Catholic?'" This is perhaps more degrading than simply condemning the youth flat out. In this way, since they admit to being in line with the pope's teaching, they are assumed either to be irreconcilably obsequious or completely unaware of the faith they profess. Either reality seems far worse than being 'condemned.'

I have a suggestion for those self-assumedly gentle protesters in the NoToPope Coalition: condemn the kids too.

Why leave unscathed a myriad of young people who clearly disagree with those 'values' the NoToPope people are seeking to promote? Why not touch the fact that the innocent and supposedly indoctrinated Catholic youth present at this papal Mass will understand all too well the lie that "the pope's teachings contributed to 67,000 women dying every year from backyard abortions." What about the contribution made by pro-abortionists to the death of millions of babies each year? Why not call a spade a spade? Why not at least venture to posit some truth in the midst of clearly biased and uneducated slander? The protesters themselves admit to this bias by their manifest aggression toward one man and not toward a contested understanding of truth. They admit their unwillingness to fight on the grounds of reality, and their desire to remain confined to the sphere of idealizations and 21st century sophistry.

While 'good' protests depend on the positive articulation of truth, the witness of the Catholic faith depends on this principle even more. To witness to the faith means to express with one's entire life the positive reality of Christ in the world; the positive presence of the Truth among men. If profane society seeks to show the world the truth, let them begin by demonstrating that truth. But if they fail at that, let them at least begin by attacking well the Truth which the Church possesses. "All men, by nature, desire to know," writes Aristotle. It is, then, part of our very vocation to holiness as Catholics and Christians to give evidence of the Truth to be known via this desiderium naturale by the example and testimony of our entire lives.