Saturday, October 07, 2006

Catholic Philistines?

"And then there are all the Catholic figures who have emerged in the various worlds of public discourse over the past twenty years. At the political magazines, at the think tanks, in the law schools, in the judiciary, on the television talk shows, on the book circuit, across the nation there's a way Catholics have of recognizing one another: a wink and a nod, a figurative handshake that declares joint membership in a particular intellectual culture."
-Jody Bottum, When the Swallows Return to Capistrano

Claes Ryn has attacked movement conservatives for having been politics-centered philistines, "political intellectuals [drawing] attention and respect away from efforts whose relevance to politics was not immediately obvious."

Bottom's essay sometimes exhibits this political philistinism, over-focused on politics at the expense of cultural and theological concerns. Note how his examples of the "revival" are either in the punditry or in law. Where are the fabulists, artists, and musicians? Mel Gibson, probably a schismatic, is the only notable Catholic in Hollywood. I know Bottum is working to rectify this sorry cultural situation, but the focus of his piece seems to compound the problem.

I am unsure how much this philistinism is his and his colleagues' fault and how much the fault of the activists to whom they are reacting. The radical, or even the liberal Catholics he describes themselves often eschewed cultural concerns in favor of political action--indeed, they often presented iconoclasm and talentless egalitarian aesthetics as necessary for their revolution against the bad old days.

Perhaps it is not surprising that conservatives mirror their opponents in this respect, but it is sad.

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