The Nick Lezard controversy... new developments
18 minutes ago
To read the history of the Catholic Church in the United States as a centuries-long struggle for assimilation and acceptance certainly sheds light on one dynamic in the development of the Church in America. Yet too close a focus on the question, “Is it possible to be a good Catholic and a good American?” is to argue the question of Catholicism and America on the other guy’s turf. Once, the “other guy” challenging Catholics’ patriotic credentials was militant Protestantism; now, the other guy is militant secularism. To play on the other guy’s turf, however, is to concede at the outset that the other guy sets the terms of debate: “We (militant Protestants/militant secularists) know what it means to be a good American; you (Catholics) have to prove yourselves to us.”
That’s not the game, however. It wasn’t really the game from 1776 through the 1960 presidential campaign—when militant Protestantism was the aggressor—and it isn’t the game today. The real game involves different, deeper questions: “Who best understands the nature of the American experiment in ordered liberty, and who can best give a persuasive defense of the first liberty, which is religious freedom?”
The nineteenth-century U.S. bishops and intellectuals whose enthusiasm for American democracy Russell Shaw now views skeptically (and, yes, they did go over the top on occasion) did get one crucial point right: the American founders “built better than they knew,” i.e., the founders designed a democratic republic for which they couldn’t provide a durable moral and philosophical defense. But the long-despised (and now despised-again) Catholics could: Catholics could (and can) give a robust, compelling account of American democracy and its commitments to ordered liberty.
Mid–twentieth-century Catholic scholars like historian Theodore Maynard and theologian John Courtney Murray picked up this theme and made it central to their reading of U.S. Catholic history. Murray presciently warned that, if Catholicism didn’t fill the cultural vacuum being created by a dying mainline Protestantism, the “noble, many-storied mansion of democracy [may] be dismantled, leveled to the dimensions of a flat majoritarianism, which is no mansion but a barn, perhaps even a tool shed in which the weapons of tyranny may be forged.”
I do not say all Scouting leaders are of this type, but I will say that I do not much trust grown men who want to spend time with boys. In some cases, of course, fathers in a community accept such positions as one of their obligations, and if they have woodcraft, they enjoy sharing their skills with their sons and with the sons of their friends. Otherwise, such people tend to be at best of the social worker/youth pastor type: people who get a kick out of bossing the young and vulnerable.
I understand and agree with the ideals of the early Scouting leaders. We have to be good barbarians before we can become civilized, and spending time outdoors is a great antidote to the corruption of urban life. But, whenever possible, these ideals should be communicated by families and by friends of the family, not by do-gooders who give out medals to boys who help their mothers around the house.
But man is the image of God! Because of this it is a profound crisis! In this moment of crisis we can't be concerned only about ourselves, shut ourselves in solitude, in discouragement, in the sense of impotence in face of the problems. Don't shut yourselves in, please! This is a danger: if we shut ourselves in in the parish, with friends, in the movement, with those with whom we think the same things … do you know what happens? When the Church becomes closed, she gets sick, she gets sick. Think of a closed room for a year; when you go in, there's a smell of dampness, there are so many things that are not on. A closed Church is the same thing: it is a sick Church. The Church must come out of herself. Where? To the existential peripheries, whatever they are, but go out. Jesus says to us: "Go into all the world! Go! Preach! Give witness of the Gospel!" (cf. Mark 16:15). But what happens when one comes out of oneself? What can happen is what might happen to all those who leave home and go out to the street: an accident. But I say to you: I prefer a thousand times an 'incidentata' Church, involved in an accident, than a sick Church because she is closed! Go outside, go out! Think also of what Revelation says. It says a beautiful thing: that Jesus is at the door and knocks, he knocks to come in to our heart (cf. Revelation 3:20). This is the meaning of Revelation. But ask yourselves this question: how many times is Jesus inside and knocks on the door to go out, to go outside, and we don't let Him go out, because of our securities, because so many times we are in obsolete structures, which only serve to make us slaves, and not free children of God? In this "exit" it is important to go to the encounter; this word is very important for me: encounter with others. Why? Because the faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do the same thing that Jesus does: encounter others. We live a culture of clash, a culture of fragmentation, a culture in which what isn't of use to me I throw away, the culture of rejection! But we should go to an encounter and with our faith we must create a "culture of encounter," a culture of friendship, a culture where we find brothers, where we can speak also with those who don't think like we do, also with those who have another faith, who don't have the same faith. All have something in common with us: they are images of God, they are children of God. We must go out to meet everyone, without negotiating our membership.
Word of the Day: stupid
It’s hard not to like our only word that rhymes with Cupid, and actually ought to do so, so foolish are we when the bold boy shoots us with the arrows.
The brilliant and urbane and wicked Emperor Frederick II, ruling from his palaces in Sicily and Cosenza, was called, or had himself called Stupor Mundi. He didn’t mean, Stupidity of the World. He meant that his glory would strike the beholder dumb with wonder. It would, literally, stupefy the beholder; the stupor then, is active and passive in sense at once, referring to the world’s reaction and to Frederick’s causing it. Dante admired Frederick and put him in Hell with the materialist heretics. He admired a second cousin of Frederick a lot more – the man who really ought to have been called the Wonder of the World, then and still now: Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Over the course of the centuries, the word stupor lost its sense of marvel, and, retaining its sense of speechlessness, slud over to kinda mean being reely dum. That sense, though, always was lurking in the wings, waiting to take over. The Latin suffix –idus almost always refers to something at least faintly unpleasant or feeble or ugly. The pejorative nuances survive in English: putrid, pallid, horrid, flaccid, lurid, viscid, acid, acrid, stolid, rabid, torrid, humid, tumid, vapid, timid, rancid, fetid, torpid. Some are neutral: solid. A few are words of praise: lucid, valid.
When I was young, our English textbooks advised us to pronounce the vowel in stupid as a diphthong, just as in Cupid: styoopid. But in northeastern Pennsylvania, that diphthong in such words has all but disappeared if it follows any consonant other than c, f, m, p. So we said stoopid; and the university in North Carolina is Dook, and the lies paraded on television are called the noos, and you listen to toons at the dance hall. It may have been stoopid, but so it was.
Defenders of a true human liberty need at once to "get bigger" and "get smaller." Rather than embrace the false universalism of "globalism," a true universality - under God - shows us the infinite narrowness of "globalization" and points us to the true nature of transcendence. And the only appropriate way to live in and through this transcendent is in the loci of the particular, those places which do not aspire to dim the light of the eternal City.
We need rather to attend to our States and localities, our communities and neighbourhoods, our families and our Church, making them viable alternatives and counterpoints to the monopolization of individual and State in our time, and thus to relearn the ancient virtue of self-government, and true liberty itself.
In medieval times, the monasteries were the center of culture. Wherever a monastery was built a town grew up around it. The monks provided the focus of faith, which always has practical implications that are seen in art, craftsmanship, education, and simple economic stability. Interestingly enough, Catholic families have already started to settle around the edge of Clear Creek Monastery. This is where they want to raise their children. It is the medieval model working perfectly, a place done right, right from the start. Chesterton predicted: “Whenever monks come back, marriages will come back.”
The monastery must be the center, not a satellite, in a thriving Catholic community. The Houston Catholic Worker house also does things right, but in a place where everything has gone wrong, because it went wrong almost from the start. The Zwicks are dealing with one soul at a time in a place where people are cold statistics. Their hospitality cannot solve the large problems that plague huge cities, but it can treat each of the problems that show up at their door each day. Their source of strength and love is their faith. Each house has a chapel. Jesus is always present, both in the souls of the poor and in the Blessed Sacrament.