Today at Crisis, the esteemed Anthony Esolen offers us some gold. After Our election, We shall appoint him as Plenipotentiary Extraordinary Minister for the Implementation of Ex corde Ecclesiae.
A sample from his latest with my patented emphases and comments:
Buying the Right Toys from Faiths R Us
A couple of weeks ago I was staying at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., as a guest speaker for a symposium on the role of Dominicans in the life of the intellect. The eastern province is flush with vocations, as we at Providence College know well, having in recent years sent to the Dominican brothers and sisters some of our most devout and brilliant students, one of whom I caught up with there, along with several Dominican priests who had been my colleagues in Rhode Island. The province has had to build a new wing to accommodate the numbers of young men, who are all of them notable for their orthodoxy, their bold and happy faith, and their being immersed in the intellectual life. [And yet this week I heard of that in the archdiocese of a major metropolitan region – not famous for conservative bishops – not a single man will enter their seminary.]
It was not supposed to be this way, of course. The Church of the Future was going to be utterly different from the ignorant old Church of the Dark Ages, those medieval times of contrition, chastity, intact families, straightforward catechism, the building of hundreds of thousands of schools and hospitals and orphanages and old folks’ homes all over the world, Lenten fasts, and May crownings, which ended at around 1959, followed by the Renaissance, which ended in 1978 with the election of Karol Wojtyla to the papacy. Then came the Great Backsliding into orthodoxy again, so that if any priest now said that prayer was out of date or that Jesus was an inferior version of Buddha, he would be subject to public ridicule.
“Oh,” says the religion consumer, looking at a table covered with religious paraphernalia—icons, rosaries, Ganesha the elephant, a “Coexist” sign, a menorah, a prayer carpet, miniatures of the Easter Island megaliths, and cards reading Angels Are Everywhere—“oh, if only there was one church that would do the work of all these religions!”
At which a very fat bishop barges through the door, stage left, [Fatty McButterpants? Bp. of Libville?] holding up a copy of National Catholic Reporter. “Oh my,” exclaims the religion consumer, “pray tell, who are you?”
“Hamahamaha Church of the Future!” he stutters, staring at the television camera.
“Are you the Church of the Future? And can you do the work of all these religions?”
“Hamahamaha Church of the Future!”
I am thinking about these things because, while I was at the House of Studies, I picked up and took home with me a free book that, in its cultural analysis, could have been written yesterday, but was published all the way back in 1979, when the rage for the Church of the Future was still storming. It is Catholicism and Modernity: Confrontation or Capitulation?, by my estimable colleague at Touchstone, James Hitchcock. Every page is stocked with diamonds. One of the most perspicacious assertions that Hitchcock makes throughout the book, and especially in a chapter with the provocative title, “The Illusion of Pluralism,” is that when Catholics cut themselves adrift from their own past, they do not thereby become profound thinkers, ready to confront with a new and distinctively Catholic voice the modern world in all its possibilities and its dangers. They become prey to advertising, in the broadest sense of the word. Or they themselves join the media, and become hucksters par excellence. Join us by midnight tonight!
“The media’s alleged commitment to pluralism,” says Hitchcock, “is at base a kind of hoax. The banner of pluralism is raised in order to win toleration for new ideas as yet unacceptable to the majority. Once toleration has been achieved, public opinion is systematically manipulated first to enforce a status of equality between the old and the new, then to assert the superiority of the new over the old. A final stage is often the total discrediting, even sometimes the banning, of what had previously been orthodox.” Hitchcock quotes T.S. Eliot, who put the matter most bluntly: “Paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space.”
Do read the rest there!
Fr. Z kudos.
Also, check out his translation of the Divine Comedy, one of the most important things every penned by man. If you have read Dante then… well…. pffffft.
You could start with Esolen (Part 1, Inferno HERE – UK HERE) or perhaps with Dorothy Sayer’s fine version (Part 1, Inferno, HERE). There are many renderings to choose from. I would very much like to teach on Dante someday. Maybe it’ll happen.
When you make the excellent choice to read the Divine Comedy, here are a couple tips. First and foremost, make the decision that you will read the whole thing. Don’t read just the Inferno. The really great stuff comes in Purgatorio and Paradiso. Also, read through a canto to get the line of thought and story and then go back over it looking at the notes in your edition. Sayers has good notes. Dante was, I think, the last guy who knew everything. Each Canto is dense with references. You will need notes to help with the history, philosophy, cosmology, poetic theory, politics, theology, etc.