Tuesday 15 January 2019

Self-Expression vs Contribution

I am feeling rather less embarrassed about this rudderless blog now that I have read a few Patheos articles. Apparently there are writers on Patheos using the site simply as a public diary, as I discovered when one of them weighed in on the Steubenville scandal and I clicked around to see what else she had to say. Whereas I ponder anew the prudence of making intimate thoughts so public, I now feel a little better about have a blog with no clear theme. "Seraphic Singles" had a clear theme. Financial Investment for Early Retirement blogs have a clear theme. How to Learn Polish blogs have a clear theme.

Themed blogs take a lot of time and energy, though. One thing about being a full-time journalist is that I no longer have time to blog. Major questions of the day also absorb time I could be spending on  housework, Polish, and German. Also, I've been sick off-and-on since Boxing Day.

That said, I managed to keep all the plates spinning until the Franciscan U. Blasphemy Scandal, which has obsessed me ever since it broke. It reminds me so much of the Mohammad Cartoon Crisis, except that nothing has been set on fire and no-one has been killed. Also, it is confined to a sliver of the world: those who think Franciscan University of Steubenville is important.

FUS is clearly important to Church Militant media, and Church Militant is clearly important to FUS. If FUS didn't know the media habits of its base last Wednesday, it sure knows them now. I think the most poignant part of the scandal was a potty-mouthed FUS graduate writing that her (hated) father had wanted her to grow up to be Christine Niles. The poor girl, whose struggles are on Patheos for all to read, then encouraged the venerable Niles, probably the most famous woman in American Catholic broadcasting, to become like her.

Sad, really. And I really, really, do not think that students should be forced to read Rabelais as part of a Roman Catholic Great Books program. One of the things I learned from reading and thinking about the Mohammad Cartoon Crisis is that the ability to take blasphemy in one's stride is not cool or sophisticated, it's cowardly and lazy. And one of the things that I have learned from being edited by American Catholic publishers is that American Catholics really dislike profanity.

This hatred of profanity is something American Catholic converts and foreign Catholics have got to understand about American Catholics if they want to assume any kind of leadership in American Catholic circles. It is also useful to know that American Catholics will not tolerate in Catholics many things they tolerate in non-Catholics.

Anyway, I am hoping today to pull my brain away from the grip of the Franciscan U. Blasphemy Scandal. If you read the comments box for the original LifeSiteNews story, you can read my advanced thoughts on the topic. I hope they are real contributions to understanding the issues involved.  And I hope I have not erred by giving the professor every benefit of the doubt. If there are influential adults at Franciscan University trying to subvert, rather than develop, Catholic virtue in highly impressionable teenagers--by, for example, telling them that interest in erotica is a mark of sophistication and a necessary part of a truly Catholic enjoyment of life--then that needs to be dealt with.


  1. I'm glad of your blog and that you have any time to write it.

    As to this controversy, I'm of two minds. I've been rather trying to avoid it, but finally gave in and read the Guardian review of the book. From that description, it does sound like it could be influential in some ways, and needs to be examined and rebuffed. And to do that, it actually needs to be read. I think forcing students to read it would be bad, but when you're in your fourth year in a seminar class, you chose to be there. It's not as if, and we haven't it him being accused of it, that the prof mandated they had to read the pornographic bits.
    The reality is, someone needs to read the books. Even back in the days of the Index, someone still read these. It's the same as people need to be garbage collectors, or police vice squad or similar: they've got to deal with some rather unpleasant stuff, but if they don't the rot in society just gets worse.
    Being a Catholic university, the students should have the maturity to say, no this is an (near) occasion of sin for me and either, I won't read it, or I'll drop the course. They had options.
    What rather riles me, especially in some of the threads, was commenters praising Shakespeare and Chaucer as if they were beacons of morality. Clearly, these commenters are not always understanding what they're reading, because both authors said scandalous and sometimes downright lewd things. Further, those who put forward these authors as replacements, often said things like, well at least Shakespeare was not approving of the conduct. But the thing is, it's like reading Maria Monk. Anti-Catholic readers could get their cheap thrills on it while keeping the guise of reading it for informational purposes.

    Finally, an overtone of many of these comments is almost a fetishistic level of concern about students' "innocence." I get that many of these students were probably home-schooled. But the fact remains, that whether they were in sciences or humanities, they cannot be sheltered from the facts of life(I mean farm kids used to know about the birds and the bees and every other critter too.) I know what you mean about losing innocence being a sad thing: I will always remember the look of one of my catechism students when another student said something a bit imprudent. So it is galling when this loss of innocence affects chastity, but there is losing the innocence about the world in many ways, too. My students learn about some of the horrors in the world: conditions of slavery, what sort of sex assault laws use to be on the books, cases of forced sterilization against women. And this horrifies them, and also makes them lose a little more innocence. But I think the distinction is the purpose and way it occurs: the trade off between losing innocence for good reasons, that students may be aware of the world as it is and how it ought to be (or ought not). Educators such not choose these sorts of literature or presentations 'just because', or to get a sense of their own higher sophistication over their students. But innocence itself is not a virtue, chastity, temperance, and prudence are. And finally, having had to read many distasteful things as a student, none of them were titillating. Reading them was the job that had to be done.

    I think I might be ranted out now; thanks for giving the space for that.

    1. You're welcome! Yes, Chaucer was not a beacon of morality, that's for sure. At least Shakespeare was never charged with rape. I would argue for Shakespeare and Chaucer against Rabelais because they are important for English-speaking countries like the USA and Rabelais just isn't. But since it would be culturally impoverishing to know nothing about French literature, however, why not "The Romance of the Rose"? Now that was influential. And of course Moliere and Racine are more important than Rabelais, whom I have just discovered Orwell didn't admire, calling him "an exceptionally perverse, morbid writer, a case for psychoanalysis". Hee hee!

      Yes, the innocence of 17-21 year old students. The thing is, you know, is that knowledge-innocence is supposed to be replaced by something better: zeal to serve one's fellow man, or an increased ability to think logically. The sad FUS grad/RBW acolyte asked someone on Twitter if he/she had read Rabelais, as if somehow reading Rabelais sets one off from the common herd. The point of a Great Books course is surely not to produce students who think they're all that and a bag of chips because they took a Great Books course.

      I suppose the big question (especially for parents) is what kind of adults does FUS produce? Since FUS is a small community, focused on faith, this is perhaps not as ridiculous a question as it would have been for my massive university, or even my big Catholic college.