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The Risks and Benefits of Naming Names

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Dec 15, 2008

In my recent weekly column, Health Care, Catholic Health Care, and Catholic Culture, I talked about the essentially limited and concrete character of culture. The corollary of this point is that it is impossible to have a thorough discussion of Catholic culture without exploring its very specific manifestations and features—that is, without identifying various particular situations as representing successful or unsuccessful microcosms of Catholic culture. In other words, it eventually becomes necessary to name names.

Thus, for example, I named Northern Virginia as an “oasis,” I named Christendom College and Seton School, and I named Tepeyac Family Center. It is important to remember that when we commend something as a good example of Catholic culture at work, we do not intend to argue that this “something” has no flaws. Similarly, we may at times point to other initiatives in a very critical manner, suggesting that, in fact, they are examples of culture that a full and authentic Faith would never produce. At such times, we would be very foolish indeed to maintain that there can be nothing whatsoever good about them in consequence.

The inevitably provisional nature of these concrete discussions in which examples are cited—in which names are named—should always be kept in mind, lest we forget how imperfect are all of us who are struggling to do good in the world. That said, however, I am pleased that some users have written in with suggestions about other initiatives and other communities which ought to bear scrutiny as positive examples of what we are seeking.

Let’s not be put off by the fact that nothing is perfect. Please let me know the organizations, institutions, groups, geographical regions, and so on, where you see authentic Catholic culture beginning to form. In this request I do not mean to focus on individual activities, but on those larger efforts which have become catalysts and centers of Catholic community or Catholic culture among a wider group of people. My essay mentioned specific examples of this in schools and medical care. There are many more examples in these and other areas. Let us know about them.

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