Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Mystery and Manners...
Poorly written novels - no matter how pious and edifying the behavior of the characters - are not good in themselves and are therefore not really edifying. Now a statement like that causes problems. An individual may be highly edified by a sorry novel because he doesn't know any better. We have plenty of examples in this world of poor things being used for good purposes. God can make any indifferent thing, as well as evil itself, an instrument for good; but I submit that to do this is the business of God and not of any human being.
I have found that people outside the Church like to suppose that the Church acts as a restraint on the creativity of the Catholic writer and that she keeps him from reaching his full development. These people point to the fact that there are not many Catholic artists and writers, at least in this country, and that those who do achieve anything in a creative way are usually converts. This is a criticism that we can't shy away from. I feel that it is a valid criticism of the way Catholicismis often applied by our Catholic educational system, or from the pulpit, or ignorantly practiced by ourselves; but that is, of course, no valid criticism of the religion itself.
Christian dogma is about the only thing left in the world that surely guards and respects mystery...The Catholic fiction writer is entirely free to observe. He feels no call to take on the duties of God or to create a new universe. He feels no need to apologize for the ways of God to man or to avoid looking at the ways of man to God. For him, to 'tidy up reality' is certainly to succumb to the sin of pride. Open and free observation is founded on our ultimate faith that the universe is meaningful, as the Church teaches.
And when we look at the serious fiction written by Catholics in these times, we do find a striking preoccupation with what is seedy and evil and violent. The pious argument against such novels goes something like this: if you believe in the Redemption, your ultimate vision is one of hope, so in what you see you must be true to this ultimate vision...The beginning of an answer to this is that though the good is the ultimate reality, the ultimate reality has been weakened in human beings as a result of the Fall, and it is this weakened life we see. And it is wrong, moreover, to assume that the writer chooses what he will see and what he will not see.
Posted by TS at 1:15 PM