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brain dead

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 04, 2007

Sydney's Cardinal George Pell plans to ask principals of Catholic schools to make a "religious submission of intellect and will" to the teachings of the Church. The squeals of protest are already audible as far as the Yukon. To require a man who receives a salary for promoting Catholic doctrine to believe what he teaches is, so it appears, a sin against the freedom of the human spirit.



The cartoon above, by Cathy Wilcox of the Brisbane Times, is a good specimen of its kind. The Pell figure commands the poor layman to ash-can his mind and commit papal dicta to memory. In fact one would need quite a sturdy intellect to perform that particular feat, but the point we're meant to grasp is that to commit to dogma as dogma is a kind of mental hara-kiri.

The British critic Bernard Levin used to say that many people pass their entire lives under the false impression that they have read Das Kapital. In same way, many Catholics congratulate themselves as "Thinking Catholics" under the false impression that they have devoted actual thought to the Church's theology. The vast majority have simply followed the line of least cultural resistance by adapting themselves to the fashion that disdains Catholic orthodoxy as a kind of boot camp of working class muscular moralism. Since it's so terribly un-chic, you never have to get around to showing that it's false. And because style-setters like Bertrand Russell and Susan Sontag were intellectuals, today's heterodox trendies reflexively award themselves the same dignity -- whether or not they've read three words from Denzinger.

Cardinal Pell himself has a DPhil degree from Oxford University. That doesn't prove he's intelligent, but it shows that he has the capacity for, and sees the value of, something besides grunt memorization and regurgitation. Still, because he esteems the thought of Joseph Ratzinger more than that of Whoopi Goldberg, no one cares whether he got past the third grade. And since he values the axioms of Catholic faith more than the thought of either, he will inevitably be viewed as an enemy of the intellect. For a real bishop today, that caricature comes with the job -- in fact it's a symptom, if not a criterion, that he's doing it right.

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Show 13 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2007 9:13 PM ET USA

    One could easily make a quick reverse: Secular Media Mogul handing out newspapers to Joe Q Public: "Place your brains in the meatgrinder and stuff your skull with this fishwrap." Little can beat city newspapers for sheer brainlessness and outright nagging and preaching and bellyaching about utter nonsense. Except maybe the evening news on the telly. Or government schools.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2007 3:00 PM ET USA

    Democracy in religion? Catholics do not get to go down the cafeteria line of doctrine picking one belief over another or accepting one belief and rejecting another. That is not the way it works accroding to scripture. Democracy in religion is a silly concept. Even in the political arena it hardly fits or works in some cultures. A benelovent despot is the best form of government according to an old history teacher of mine- one of the old time Jesuits. Sounds like the Pope could fill the bill.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2007 1:43 PM ET USA

    True conversion is never easy... but it is ;the only kind that counts... and is "most worth it." JP

  • Posted by: - Jun. 05, 2007 6:37 PM ET USA

    I wish it were as easy as the Wilcox cartoon. Alas, my conversion continues a struggle.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 05, 2007 7:34 AM ET USA

    In response the Pseudodioynisius I think that the guy on the right has some sort of Roman Collar on. Not that the Heads of Catholic schools in Australia are priests! No! No! But for caricatures, nuns still have to be depicted as wearing habits and wimples. The film "Sister Act" showed that! Surely? The same goes for anything to do with the Catholic Church. Traditional garb is in - especially in Brisbane. The tradition must be attacked as well as the current situation!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 05, 2007 12:28 AM ET USA

    "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." ...not... You shall know the truth and throw your brains into the garbage... Perhaps these "scholars" should review the more literal translation of the Hebrew term "Gehenna..." The only elements in danger of being thrown into the "trash heap" are their souls... which apparently unbeknownst to them Cardinal Pell is trying to save.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2007 7:34 PM ET USA

    In the cartoon, is the guy on the right wearing a sweater?

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2007 5:40 PM ET USA

    Thank God for Cardinal Pell! Finally someone is taking a stand against these wolves leading the sheep who most Catholics agree shouldn't have been allowed to be principals unless they are true blue Catholics in the first place!!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2007 5:40 PM ET USA

    Thank God for Cardinal Pell! Finally someone is taking a stand against these wolves leading the sheep who most Catholics agree shouldn't have been allowed to be principals unless they are true blue Catholics in the first place!!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2007 3:11 PM ET USA

    In order to enter any discussion, one must at some point make a submission of will in order to understand the depth to what is being argued on both sides. This is one way we determine what is truth and what is not. Those who fight the Church with their knee jerk reaction are not interested in joining the dicussion, but beating down the opposition.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2007 3:10 PM ET USA

    Di, this is the exact problem we fight. Under the banner of intellectual freedom we allow anyone to say anything and still present themselves as Catholic. In fact they have no idea what the church teaches or even why they want to belong. For that we have to blame the last 40 years and the Bishops for not standing up to the secular community.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2007 12:34 PM ET USA

    "For a real bishop today, that caricature comes with the job -- in fact it's a symptom, if not a criterion, that he's doing it right." True. of course. The tragedy is that so few of his brethren need suffer the caricature.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2007 12:30 PM ET USA

    Think of the goods that could come from the stewardship of truly donating our hearts and minds to the Church and th ewill of God. Cardinal Pell, our prayers are with you. The world needs the words of truth from a true shepherd. Teach, good and faithful son. We listen, even from afar.

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