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Monday, March 15, 2010



This is hilarious in a way. Beware the theology! To me it sounds like sour grapes.

Read is walking on the dissenter's turf, using fiction to promote a particular theology, which is what dissenters routinely do (as well as many out-and-out anti-Catholics). How dare anyone use their own methods to promote orthodoxy!

Ed Peters

So, “controversial” is good if it slams the Church, a la Da Vinci Code, and it’s bad when it supports the Church, a la Ignatius Press.

Sandra Miesel

At least IP wasn't called "notorious."

I'm not out to defend anti-Catholics, that much should be clear, but, for what it's worth, I think the reviewer here makes a point worth noting.

Particularly, while Read acknowledges his role as a Catholic author, it is worth nothing that writing "orthodox"ly does not necessarily make one a good Catholic author.

A Catholic author is in a unique position, for the truths about man have been made clear to him by the teachings of his Church. He needn't stumble upon them by chance or be a lifelong philosopher of human nature; rather he merely needs to pray and understand what he has already been taught and what he is being taught in Scripture and through the Church.

I would argue further that a Catholic author which can understand the truths of the faith vis-a-vis their role in creation/salvation and apart from their earthly source can be even more insightful in his writing. (Even I, a faithful and orthodox Catholic, grew tired by that bit of Read's work as quoted. It is overtly proselytizing.) For, since an author "writes what he knows," a Catholic author can compose remarkably insightful works that, as Read suggests, pays no attention to Catholicism, per se. Rather, a masterpiece work will present the truths about man in a way that everyone can understand--that illustrate man's sinfulness, his capacity for greatness, and his potential for redemption by our God.

Has Read's book succeeded in this respect? I do not know. But a criticism of the literature of Read's book, in short, can be well-justified. Higgin's point is not completely without merit.

Carl E. Olson

Higgin's point is not completely without merit.

Which is why I wrote, "Higgins actually brings up an important and compelling topic, which is—to put it rather simply—the proper relationship between apologetics and art." But it seems quite clear that Higgins uses this valid point as a means of misdirection, a Trojan Horse by which he actually attacks his real object of disdain: orthodoxy. How else to interpret his conclusion: "Just beware the theology. It is not good for your health"? If he was just concerned that Read's work was too apologetic or overtly "theological," he wouldn't have attacked "the theology," but would have stayed focused on the (allegedly) poor handling of theology within a work of literature. I've read quite a bit of poor or mediocre fiction/poetry written by very devout Catholics, and I've never been tempted to blame the flaws in their writing on their theological beliefs, but recognize that good Catholics can write bad fiction, just as bad Catholics can write good fiction. But, again, in the end that is not Higgins' primary concern. Oddly enough, Higgins actually commits a sin similar to what he accuses Read of committing: letting his ideological biases overshadow or skew his art (in this case, the art of the book review).

Point well taken. Thank you for explicating that further.

Carl E. Olson

Point well taken. Thank you for explicating that further.

You're welcome. I don't disagree at all, by the way, with your first comment. Good Catholics are quite prone to pushing and praising literature and art that is second-rate (or even worse) simply because the author or artist is a serious Catholic with a good heart and fine intentions. But piety and good intentions don't produce great art, although they can help--if (a big "if") the author or artist has the skills necessary to create great art. For my money, Flannery O'Connor's book, Mystery and Manners, is one of the best things written about this issue.

Dr John James

Sometimes maybe not such "good Catholics" can also produce inspiring art. Though it was controversial, I have always thought Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, sublime in its insights and presentation.
I have a real soft spot for Gibson, though I appreciate his personal situation is not ideal.
He spent a large part of his life living here in Sydney, and is a graduate of NIDA ( National Institue of Dramatic Art ). He has been very generous with NIDA and that has allowed other young Australian actors to pursue their dream.

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