Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

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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