Edward Feser demonstrates, with genuine argumentation and patience, that Critical Race Theory’s reality-denying world view is inevitably at war with Catholic thought and belief.All One in Christ is a meticulous, temperate response to Critical Race Theory – Catholic World Report
Widespread riots and violence were not the only consequences following the death of George Floyd in police custody in 2020. In our intellectual life, as Edward Feser observes in his taut, riveting new book All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory, Floyd’s death led to “Critical Race Theory’s [CRT] sudden and unprecedented publicity and influence.”
And the tiresome obsession with race dressed up in this new ideological garb is now central to American life. The intense preoccupation with such superstitions as “white supremacy,” “implicit bias,” “microaggressions” has permeated every nook and cranny of academia, corporations, government agencies, and so on. Reasonable Catholic citizens wonder how to think about this ferocious moral condemnation of their society that confronts them throughout all of American life.
Feser’s book provides the necessary critical thinking on this regnant set of ideas. A professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College, Feser is the author of many well-received books, including Five Proofs of the Existence of God and (with Joseph Bessette) By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.
He begins his critique here with a brief survey of the Church’s historical view of racism. As summarized in the Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et Spes, despite the fact that men differ in physical, intellectual, and moral attainments, they share a radical equality before God: “[W]ith respect to fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.”
With his chapter “Scholastics and Early Modern Popes against Slavery,” Feser explains that the Church has never endorsed chattel slavery. Quite the contrary. Again adverting to Gaudium et Spes, Feser concludes that the document’s condemnation of slavery is rooted not in a novel understanding but in teaching that is over five-hundred-years old. Moreover, he devotes a thoughtful chapter to the issue of the regulation of immigration, finding that the Church’s teaching appropriately navigates between the legitimate love of country and culture with the dangers of racism and xenophobia. It is, Feser demonstrates, a delicate balance to be maintained by prudential political judgments.
Among its many virtues, All One in Christ is a work of genuine argumentation. Meticulous and temperate in stating the case he is critiquing, Feser dismantles CRT with his characteristic rigor. He selects the books of its most prominent practitioners to evaluate — namely, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. The problem, in short, is that Kendi and White’s hair-trigger antiwhite racial obsession (comparable to the Marxist concentration on class) is untethered to any grounding in empirical reality.
Feser is masterly at identifying a host of fallacies (the ad hominem fallacy, the genetic fallacy, fallacies of presumption, and the like) and contradictions that are at the core of CRT. “It is no exaggeration to say,” he concludes, “that if all the elementary logical fallacies were removed from the books of writers such as Kendi and DiAngelo, there would be hardly any argumentation left to support their claims.”
A common false assumption of CRT – and this false assumption predominates in all contemporary public thinking on race — is described by Feser as follows:
Critical Race Theory assumes that the default position in human affairs is that all racial and ethnic groups will be at parity with respect to economic prosperity, proportional representation in various fields of endeavor, and so on, and that where there are disparities it must be because racial discrimination has prevented groups from achieving this parity.
However, the world does not work this way, though saying so out loud can be, and is for many, costly. Feser relies for support on this matter on the thought of the intellectual Thomas Sowell, who has been utterly fearless is stating, in numerous books and essays, how the world works with respect to race. As Sowell has argued in meticulous detail, economic parity along racial lines is not the default position anywhere.
In fact, understanding economic life and its disparate results requires that CRT’s dog-with-a-bone fixation on race must be jettisoned. Feser cogently argues for the primacy of culture in this analysis, and the vital cultural factor is family stability. The crisis of fatherlessness, not white supremacy or microaggressions, is the source of black dysfunction. Feser states the point with admirable directness:
Fatherlessness and having children out of wedlock generate these bad effects whatever the race of those involved. But the proportion of single-parent families among black Americans is larger than the proportion among whites, and the proportion among whites is larger than the proportion among Asian Americans. This fact affords an obvious cultural explanation of the economic and other disparities that hold between these groups. Yet writers like Kendi not only dogmatically prefer to attribute such disparities to racism, but into the bargain attribute the alternative explanation to ‘racist patriarchs’ whose call for a renewal of black fatherhood is ‘sexist.’ This is simply to double down on ideological ad hominem distractions from uncomfortable empirical evidence.
With its reality-denying world view, CRT is inevitably at war with Catholic thought and belief. As Feser summarizes: “CRT’s basic vision of human nature and social life reflects a radical egalitarianism that is deeply contrary to natural law and Catholic moral theology.” And he recognizes that the only way to implement CRT, with its “paranoid, bitter, and vengeful spirit,” is through totalitarian methods that are inimical to both liberty and social cohesion.
Even with the advanced decadence of our intellectual culture, especially on the subject of race, most readers will recognize that Feser has made the Catholic case against CRT with lucidity and authority. This ideology must be opposed by Catholics for the racist tripe that Feser has conclusively and intrepidly shown it to be. That American Catholics are concerned about questions of race is natural. The answers, however, are nowhere to be found in CRT. Catholic social teaching is the more excellent way and Feser’s book is a pithy, invaluable guide.
All One in Christ: A Catholic Critique of Racism and Critical Race Theory
By Edward Feser
Ignatius Press, 2022
Paperback, 163 pages