I have not read, nor do I think I will bother to read, the book. I troubled to read the review, considering it an act of friendship towards my puckish professor friend, and learned little from it beyond a few more techniques in the art of faint praise and stylish damning. Several weeks ago I had happened on some other person’s appraisal of P’s work, more blunt and dismissive of his effort than R.’s was. I gleaned from the previous review that P. had delivered of himself the written theological equivalent of a well cooked bowl of oatmeal; stir-about my grandmother called it, an undistinguished and sticky mess. The first review reminded me of the Rev. Anthony Rubsys’, may God have mercy on his kind soul. He had made a pronouncement on a paper I had written about Nietzsche; something to the effect that I had wasted my time on garbage when there was Truth to be had.
I don’t know, neither do I care, how much time either R. or P. spent on their respective efforts. I think both have been a waste of that limited resource, and the time I took to read what was sent me a similar, almost sinful, squandering. Except for the obligation I believed friendship imposed on me it may have been, indeed, what is now called a serious sin; one compounded equally of pride and sloth, pride that I was better at seeing the truth than two tenured professors and sloth in that I read something which did me no good when I could have been about more uplifting pursuits. If there was, beyond that obligation, anything fruitful in the effort..I do not count honing one’s talent for expressing scorn and contempt a fruit..it is that I have been allowed to think about these gentlemen, their chosen way of life and the “institution” they serve: Higher Education, indeed the very notion of education today, particularly education in the Truth, about the Good and towards producing Beauty.
What I conclude about my effort is that the subject is every bit as appealing as thinking about the progress of a fatal disease through one’s body. You are entitled to wonder how I got from that (A) to this (B); assuming you have read this far.
Let me try to explain myself. I had a conversation one evening recently with a lady in the Parish. She told me that she had no real understanding of her Catholic faith…not in so many words mind you. Simply relating her experiences growing up gave me that information. She did not go to a Catholic school. She had no real preparation for the Sacraments. At one point, while awaiting the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation, she met with a Polish priest in a church with four or five other teens and listened to him ramble disconnectedly about Catholicism for several weeks. In that, briefly, consisted her exposure to two thousand years of the Faith, its history, its meaning, its culture, its place in her life, its place in the life of our civilization.
Yet, as a married woman, she found herself volunteering one day, and being accepted without a question, to teach little children in a Catholic Parish each Sunday about Jesus. She continued doing this for a number of years with no more experience than presence. She is past 70, now, and has been involved in this activity for nearly three generations. She smiled, rather pleased with her service. I listened with growing mixture of dismay and horror.
As she spoke I remembered another conversation that I had with another lady whose effort to talk about sins against the Ten Commandments with children studying for one of the Sacraments had caused a fire storm of indignation among their parents, and confronted her with the abyss of ignorance about moral matters which separates people of a certain age from so many others; and, I do not simply speak of sexual morality. She learned that everyone knows it is a terrible thing to kill baby seals and whales, and everyone also knows that one cannot violate the Sixth Commandment unless one is married. Beyond that, everything is up for grabs, no pun intended. Especially is one to rely on the dictates of conscience in , erm, “interpersonal” matters.
Oh, it’s only one book, by one egg head in one place, you may be thinking. Why should it get you in such a twist. So be it. But we have here a many degreed fellow who takes the time to write a book whose argument is that God is (insert descriptive adjective) you wish to think (insert a pronoun) is. And, the corollary to that thesis is that Truth, Good and Beauty are the same; to be plain, anything one decides they are. The book is reviewed by another many degreed person ( R. could be Ruth or Rolf, hence “person”) who finds nothing to argue against that, essentially, except for the fact that the book is mis-titled. According to R., P.’s argument is that God IS one, and P. doesn’t make it obvious that any way one chooses to “work out one’s salvation” is just as good as any other; as long as you wind up united with Her (God is, for R., a She).
What has that to do at all with my misery? I maintain that it’s a symptom of a much larger disease, relativism, and what a little German fellow calls its dictatorship. Hand in hand with another disease, secularism…which is the vector of the other I amn’t smart enough to figure…it has brought us, I think, to the current state of affairs in the wide, wide world.
Simply pulling things out of the air, here, on the one hand we have a Harvard professor (Dr. Marc Hauser, the author of “Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong”) telling us with a straight face we will soon learn, from experiments with monkeys, that they are moral beings; the implication of that being that either they, too, have souls or we do not. One finds empirical evidence for the latter conclusion, or the fact that souls and all that means for Man don’t any longer figure in the equation, during any stay of more that ten minutes at any mall in the country, or in any number of high school corridors or lunch rooms, any corridor in any government building, or any court rooms and not a few church buildings, parsonages, rectories and chancellerys. A conversation with some of the people in any of these sample populations may convince the listener that the company and culture of monkeys is far to be preferred. (The irony of the matter is that the professor, a self proclaimed atheist, has falsified his research. He is, not to put too fine a point on it, a liar.)
And why? What has produced all of this? I simply return to the two men, and their colleagues at every level of the process and the “gospel” they preach, the good news of relativism and tolerance.
And, on the other hand I glanced through an article in another journal recently. The authors criticize the theories and operating assumptions of those in charge of the economic policy of the country which caused the current mess we are in; well not only the country, but the whole dang world. May God have mercy on their souls, they’re economists; the mere thought of which word puts me into a van Winkleish stupor. They mention a couple of things in their article which caught my eye. Ireland is now about to implode unless a paltry few billions of something called the Euro are sent there PDQ. Literally tons of the same have been dumped into Greece and some other places over there. Interestingly, this article notes in passing that the Greeks lied to the EU when asked about the worth of their country allowing them to receive much more than they were capable of re-paying.. So did the Hungarians. Their numbers amounted to “little more than statistical illusions” according to the authors. And, the Italians started doing it in 1987. Who else?
Well, us. You Scoff? You Splutter? That’s what the whole foreclosure mess is about, us in the form of the millions of mortgage loans made to folks who were encouraged to lie to get them, the “overseers” who knew it was happening, and the nice men and women down in the SOG who should have but didn’t oversee the overseers. The well developed morals of the Great Ape, did we accept the Harvard Doctor’s doctored evidence, would not allow such things. But we, educated to believe that what pleases is what is most pleasing and good, we not only allow and codify, we pursue it with devotion on the way to being all we can be.
So, you ask, what has this to do with education? What has this to do with God? If you have not been asleep for the past several dozen years you will have noticed that there has been a steady erosion, more than that a washing away, of all that can be said is connected to any notion that there is something called universal truth. The place once occupied by this notion, and its related notions of our radical dependency, the existence of good and evil and all that implies has been taken by a celebration, and exaltation of the self. In one of his Father Brown stories G.K. Chesterton has his character say: “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything: ‘And a dog is an omen and a cat is a mystery.’” In other words, “Whatever” has become the deity, and “Whatever” is the truth, and “Whatever” is the law.
Unless there had been a decision that these things should not be taught, could not be taught, a decision made at the highest levels and against all commonsense and history, this would not have happened I have no doubt. Of course no one would ever admit to something like that. It would be too much like telling the truth, and might make someone feel bad.