Father Thomas Baima (Vice Rector for Academic Affairs) spoke at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. Father Baima introduced the three-hour program “What is Truth?”
Concern is growing regarding adherence to truth telling in contemporary public discourse. Even the preliminary question of “What is truth?” seems up for debate.
The program used the 2016 feature film Denial, as a means to open a powerful conversation examining the importance of a culture having a shared notion of truth-telling in public dialogue and the peril of its opposite. Those participating watched the film, Denial, which is the story of Deborah E. Lipstadt an American academic and author’s defense against a 1996 lawsuit for libel brought against her by British historian and Holocaust denier David Irving.
The trial takes place in England, where, unlike the United States of America, the defendant in a libel case is guilty until proven innocent. Dr. Lipstadt is faced with the task of proving in a court of law that the Holocaust happened.
The public conversation today in these United States follows a similar story line where “fake news” does not have to justify itself, but historical fact does.
The panel discussion after the film, moderated by E. J. Dionne, Jr., features a conversation between Cardinal Blase Cupich and Rabbi Samuel Gordon. Jews and Catholics are well positioned for such a conversation, coming from religions where received interpretation is central to the apprehension of truth. Both communities in the United States also suffered similar challenges during their period of immigration one hundred years ago, when immigration policy was used as a tool to stop diversity.