Sunday, April 27, 2008

Faith and class ...

In an interview published recently in Narrative Magazine (which Dave Lull sent me a copy of), Richard Rodriguez makes a most interesting point:

I think the Catholic Church is brilliant as a Church of the poor and the rich, but
it’s not a middle-class Church. It’s a Church that understands a high tradition of
intellectual and musical life but also has a common ritual and pietistic life that is
almost completely connected to the lives of the poor. The middle class in America
seems to me to be much more logically Protestant.

This leaped out at me the moment I read it. I hail from a quite poor level of the working class in this country. My brother and I were raised by our mother and grandmother, both of whom worked in factories. And it always seemed to me that a lot of people raised Catholic abandon their faith for socio-economic reasons - to indicate to the more sophisticated circles they find themselves moving in that they have shaken off the superstitions of the people they grew up with.
This is hardly surprising. I have noticed that a lot of the ideas people subscribe to are not arrived at through any process of ratiocination, but are mere fashion statements. That is why, in certain social settings, you are likely to hear everybody echoing everybody else.
I am not, by the way, suggesting that my own ideas are all the product of profound and subtle reasoning (though I am definitely averse to adopting ideas because they are fashionable). There are, of course, a number of things I have thought long and hard about, but a good many of the notions I live by are grounded in attitudes I absorbed, as it were, growing up. For some reason I have never felt any urge to abandon them and in fact have always felt a distinct loyalty to them.
I have to confess as well that, when I encounter people of my background expressing contempt for things I was taught to believe in when I was growing up, I can't help feeling - rather disdainfully - that they are simply aping former "betters" who are now their "equals." As for academics bloviating about the working class, spare me, please.
It must be the Old Tory in me. But behind it lies the reason why Chesterton was right when he suggested that the only two reasonable political positions for a Catholic were monarchism and anarchism.


  1. Anonymous5:47 PM

    Chesterton was right. That's why I'm no longer a Catholic.

  2. Anonymous7:16 PM

    As very much raised within a Catholic tradition, I believe the proper step for a Catholic is to give up faith in the secular hierarchy, and instead become a Christian.

  3. Well, bully for both of you.

  4. Anonymous8:25 PM

    Is that sarcasm, Frank? That's not the Christian spirit surely. Though being vrey serious, I can't say I feel the slightest necessity for subservience to a Pope & his astonishingly wealthy empire.

  5. No one says you have to, Francis. And I trust I am free to do as I choose as well.
    As for Christianity, the best way to preach it is the way the saint we are both named after suggested: at every moment, using words only if necessary.

  6. Anonymous12:13 AM

    Your endorsement of Chesterton's opinion suggests that, as a Catholic, you must be either a monarchist or an anarchist, or, if neither, then simply unreasonable (check your own wording). If you're a monarchist or anarchist, why do you continue to live in a liberal democracy? For monarchy, try Saudi Arabia; for anarchy, try Somalia -- I've spent time in both and can recommend each as an exemplar of its type. Finding a Catholic church might be tough.

  7. Anonymous12:23 AM

    Mr. Rodriguez commits a grievous logical fallacy in the statement you cite, Frank. Not sure whether it's a fallacious observation because its author stands on shaky foundations or, more likely, it collapses beneath his feet when he asserts The Church understands high tradition while admitting of a participation with "common ritual and pietistic life."

    Personally, I think Marshall McLuhan summarily disposed of all such qualified assessments when he responded to a serious question put to him by one of his friends concerning whether he truly believed there was life after death: "Do you really believe there is any life before death?"

    The Mass is theatre, as McLuhan — who converted to Catholicism thanks largely to Chesterton's influence — noted, theatre of the first magnitude that involves (literally) its audience, demolishes the fourth wall, so to speak, and provides a vehicle for express transport that is both individual and universal. Fuelled by its majesty, one can only marvel at its central mystery (which resides beyond language and definition). Common? Hardly.

    (Thank God for God.)

  8. Anonymous5:11 AM

    I'm afraid from a substantial period of life spent experienceing the theatere of the Mass at first hand, if this is theatre of the first magnitude, then it's somewhat astonishing theatre exists at all. The audience participation was of a very pallid nature, dull repitition, & in terms of experience being of a spiritual magnitude, then of a very low order of that scale of experiential intensity. Which isn't to say that the ritual couldn't be of a much higher order, but I'm afraid, or actually probably glad to say I've found such experience very much outside the Church experience.

  9. Anonymous7:28 AM

    One other thought is the lack of desire to be in any way associated with an organisation within the Catholoc Church of immense power, wealth & the most dubious of historical character; this being of course the Jesuit Order, kicked out of countless countries through its history. The essence of spirituality is of course being attuned to reality in its deepest sense. Adherence to truth. With that in mind one of Ignatius Loyola's spiritual directives is more than telling:

    "Thirteenth Rule. To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed."

    From: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Translated from the Autograph by Father Elder Mullen, S.J. New York: P.J. Kennedy and Sons, 1914.

    Truth isn't truth. Truth is what the Church dictates. This is abhorrent to any understanding of Christ, and by extension one's own reality. With this statement, we are in the service of worldy power, not Truth. It is also esentially a summary of the goal to which all brain-washing processes are intended to lead, of which the intense Jesuit exercises could certainlybe said to be, involving the rbeak-down of the personality through imposed states of great tension. This in turn also the modus operandis of all brain-washing methods.
    I could of course give countless examples of these people's calumnies, but iff hand, Rupert Murdoch's being made a Knight of Malta by the Church. This a man responsible for beaming in pornography into millions of family homes through his Sky network. A man to be honoured.

  10. How odd. Here is what I have from Elder Mullen's translation:
    Thirteenth Rule. The thirteenth: Likewise, he acts as a licentious lover in wanting to be secret and not revealed. For, as the licentious man who, speaking for an evil purpose, solicits a daughter of a good father or a wife of a good husband, wants his words and persuasions to be secret, and the contrary displeases him much, when the daughter reveals to her father or the wife to her husband his licentious words and depraved intention, because he easily gathers that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun: in the same way, when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows his deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun.

  11. I would also suggest that Anonymous and Francis take another look at what I said in my post. I cited a passage from a Richard Rodriguez interview in which Richard suggested that Catholicism is not fundamentally middle class. Anonymous and Francis, instead of addressing that, have chosen to rant against the Church.
    Anonymous seems to have forgotten that Sweden and Great Britain, to name just two, are also monarchies. And he does not seem to know that anarchy and anarchism are not the same (see George Woodcock's Anarchism).
    Francis apparently subscribes to a host of conspiracy theories about the Vatican, the Knights of Malta and the Jesuits. I prefer not to go there.

  12. Anonymous7:16 PM

    I'm fully aware of the difference between anarchy and anarchism. I would suggest, however, that real-world application of the principles of anarchism would result in the Hobbesian world I witnessed in Somalia. The flaw in the political philosophy of anarchism is the assumption that human nature is benign. Roughly five thousand years of recorded history suggest that this is not true.

    Sweden and Great Britain are constitutional monarchies in which royalty has been reduced to a ceremonial role. They are not monarchies as properly understood, in which royalty exercises political power -- as in Saudi Arabia.

  13. Yes, but the point is that absolute monarchy is not the only model of monarchy. One can surely be a monarchist without subscribing to the divine right of kings. Nor is anarchism necessarily grounded in a belief in human goodness. It can just as easily be grounded in an appreciation of self-interest.

  14. "Mr. Rodriguez commits a grievous logical fallacy in the statement you cite, Frank."

    How'd you let that slip by you, Frank? I don't see the fallacy myself. Do you think it has one of those Latin names you've been known to use? Maybe knowing that would help me.

  15. Anonymous6:56 AM

    Whatever may or may not be odd, the piece quoted is genuine, and clearly cited. It's also not as if we can pretend this to be inimical to the nature of the Jesuits' nature, as has been more than widely known through time. See for example, Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. Also since this al began with the seeming logicality of a Catholic being a mix of monarchism and anarchist, then the military order of Jesuits are the perfect embodiment of such docrtine, determined to use all methods, however nefarious to further the monarchist aims of the Church.

  16. Anonymous7:24 AM

    I see the error you are making, Frank. You are quoting from the wrong extract. You have the correct book but are looking at the wrong section. The Spiritual Directives can be downloaded from teh Jesuits' own site here.
    Towards the very end of the document I quote from the Jesuits' own version of the Exercises:
    Let the following Rules be observed.
    Thirteenth Rule. To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that
    the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing
    that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is
    the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because
    by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy
    Mother the Church is directed and governed."

    You are looking at an earlier part titled:

    That should clear it all up. If the Church is intrinsically one with God who cannot but be absolute Truth, containing nothing of the lies of Satan- the Father of all lies, then it is inconceivable why black should be ever be anything but black, nor white white.

  17. Anonymous10:11 AM

    And what are your opinions on the Church honouring someone disseminating pornography into millions of family homes, Frank? What does this sa about the organisation as a seat of truth? Do you prefer not to got there either?
    How convenient the words conspiracy theories are, enabling one to flee from all undesired facts, such as the Church viewing a man effectively the greatest pornographer in history in terms of impact- reaching as he does into the very fabric of ordinary everyday life- as a geat servant of Christ. Lets not go there. Who knows what we might be forced to think.
    Instead the good servant of the Church, not God, is prepared to see black as white.

    Matthew 7:
    13. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
    14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

    Though Jesus was a conspiracy theorist who should not be taken seriously.
    "The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil."
    How wrong he was. Pornographers are good, and to think otherwise...we prefer not to go there.

  18. Hi Dave,
    I sent Cogito the whole RR interview, pointing out that in context she would see there was no contradiction - which, in an email, she acknowledged.

  19. Anonymous7:09 PM

    Did you ask RR why the Church honours pornographers, Frank?

  20. Anonymous7:18 PM

    That comment more in the way of mischief than seriousness.