Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

1/6/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The goal of cultural apologetics is to defend oneself against a culture filled with toxins and to establish within the culture an effective Christian voice that can hold its own with all the cultural icons of the present age.

I have often heard the lament about the loss of "Catholic culture" and the need to "restore" it.  In fact, I have sung that lament myself, and deemed it valuable to reclaim some of the great artifacts from the Catholic culture of the past, from its poetry and music to its philosophy and apologetics.But I have had second thoughts about using "Catholic culture" as a rallying cry.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/6/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: culture, faith and culture, apologetics, catholic culture, cultural apologetics, politics, theatre, music, evangelization, Deal W Hudson



WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - I have often heard the lament about the loss of "Catholic culture" and the need to "restore" it.  In fact, I have sung that lament myself, and deemed it valuable to reclaim some of the great artifacts from the Catholic culture of the past, from its poetry and music to its philosophy and apologetics. 

But I have had second thoughts about using "Catholic culture" as a rallying cry. It's neither clear to me what we really want nor what Catholic culture is in the first place.  Let's start with what is meant when we refer to there being a specific form of culture that is Catholic.  Certainly such a wish includes the restoration of the liturgy, not necessarily in Latin but in its music and its majestic beauty.  Along with that, there is the architecture of our parish churches which went through a decade or so of circular designs, entirely unsuitable to the enactment of our liturgy. Then there are the great writers, both those of fiction and poetry, as well as the philosophers, theologians, historians, and scientists. 

Behind all this, I believe, is the desire for a unified culture, a culture that witnesses to a Christian worldview and morality. This is where the problem lies. No doubt we should reaffirm the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, Michelangelo, Raphael, Palestrina, Lassus, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Newman, and Undset in every generation. But was there ever a period in Western civilization with a unified, Christian worldview, and, if so, would we really want to return to such an age?

The so-called Christian Europe of the Middle Ages was a time when reading and learning were confined to a very few, including much of the clergy but not the common laity. It's doubtful that a serf serving his feudal lord really shared the same culture in any meaningful way.  It was also a time when state power and Church power were often combined in a way that resulted in religious wars, enforced abuse of religious liberty, and a Church leadership more interested in protecting its political power than saving souls.

The call for the restoration of Christian culture can also become another occasion to slap down the modern age, the age that began with Darwin and developed through the psychoanalysis of Freud, the existentialism of Nietzsche, and the collectivism of Karl Marx. One distinguished writer on Christian culture, the late Prof. John Senior, in The Death of Christian Culture, spilled a great deal of ink on James Joyce's novel, Ulysses, as if it was an affront to all the literature and civilization that preceded its publication. Did Dr. Senior believe that his diatribe against Ulysses was going to have any restorative effect on the world of arts and letters? Did he believe that a good Catholic should never even attempt to read - what is in fact almost unreadable - the novel? Such verbal assaults on already established literary reputations and works of art might be insightful in themselves, but they are hardly doing the task that Senior addresses in his other book, The Restoration of Christian Culture.

In my opinion, it would have been far more helpful for Prof. Senior to compare  Joyce's work, written between 1918 to 1920, to the Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset's masterwork, the novel Kristin Lavransdatter, 1920-1922.  Undset, who became a Catholic in 1924, had established her modernist credentials with her early novels such as Fru Marta Aulie (1921) which begins with the line, "I have been unfaithful to my husband." Both Ulysses and Kristin attempt to portray an entire worldview, Joyce's with one day in the Dublin life of Leopold Bloom, Undset's through the whole lifetime of its heroine in medieval Norway.

Joyce was a cradle Catholic, deeply read in Catholic theology, who produced some of the best short stories in the English language in his Dubliners published in 1914.  But his gradual loss of faith was reflected in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (1916), a work chock full of theological reflection, and Ulysses (1922), but especially his last work, Finnegan's Wake (1938), although sections were being published as early as 1924.  His contrast with Undset would have been instructive because she began her early adulthood as a suffragette and "liberated woman" in the years after World War I. But as she moved towards the Church, her work experimented less but probed much deeper into the human condition. 

Giving thoughtful readers a sympathetic though critical understanding of Joyce's struggle with the faith of his parents and the impact of that struggle on his creative imagination, would have made Senior's contribution more substantial and lasting.  If he had sustained a comparison and contrast with the best Catholic novelist of the same generation, Sigrid Undset, his book would be sought after now and for years to come.

But Senior got lost in his diatribe, which is endemic among well-educated, earnest Catholics who lose patience with the adulation given to religious rebels, skeptics, and secularists because they confirm the modernist and postmodernist turn among our cultural elites in the university and the media. 

Summary:

1.    For cultural apologetics to be effective it must not pursue the mythical goal of restoring a Catholic culture.
2.    Cultural apologetics should never dismiss but practice the charity of taking the other's point of view long enough to sympathize with the road being traveled.
3.    The goal of cultural apologetics, as we have said, is to defend oneself against a culture filled with toxins and to establish within the culture an effective Christian voice that can hold its own with all the cultural icons of the present age.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D
-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, will begin broadcasting in February on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.



Comments


More U.S.

What is she hiding? Hillary Clinton refused to use government email address while Secretary of State Watch

Image of Hillary Clinton did not use an official government email address while she was Secretary of State, potentially violating a law regarding open and free access to official documents.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Potential 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton may have shot herself in the foot; it has been revealed that as Secretary of State, Clinton used a personal email address for official government business, which may be a crime. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Is your teenager in danger? 1 in 5 teen girls experience dating abuse in the U.S. Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It seems like teenagers nowadays have forgotten what "respect your partner" means. Oftentimes, teenage couples leave one battered and the other selfish. Some even find fulfillment in impeding the rights of other people, and American teenagers have fallen into the hands ... continue reading


The top 5 things you need to know about the United States' quickly changing religious landscape Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For many years, Protestants made up the majority of the United States' population. A recent report from America Values Atlas tells us that, as the United States demographically shifts, this is no longer the case. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The United States as ... continue reading


EMPTY! Is there any gold in Fort Knox? Government's denial of audit raises serious concerns Watch

Image of While the U.S. government claims that about 3% of all minted gold sits in Fort Knox, recent and troubling rumors say that this is not true.

By Al Wooltin (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

About 3 percent of the gold ever refined in the entire history of mankind sits in the vaults of the United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, equaling about 5,000 metric tons of gold. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At least this is what the government of ... continue reading


Billy the Kid's New Mexico hideout now up for sale Watch

Image of According to legend, Billy the Kid is said to have killed 21 men, but it is generally believed that he killed eight.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a beautiful home in New Mexico, spacious, with breathtaking mountain views. It's hard to believe that it at one time sheltered Billy the Kid, also known as William Bonney, one of the American Wild West's most notorious outlaws. It is now on the market for ... continue reading


Obama spends an alarming $3 billion on Obamacare WITHOUT Congressional approval Watch

Image of President Obama's administration is being accused of illegally spending money on Obamacare without Congressional approval.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Treasury Department may be moving forward with Obamacare regardless of Congressional concerns and a lack of funding, approving a $3 billion payment to health insurers despite the fact that Congress has not authorized any payments in annual ... continue reading


Obama Administration as Global Advocate for Radical LGBTI Agenda

Image of Randy Berry

By Keith A Fournier

Robert Reilly is right. The Obama administration is doing profound damage to the very understanding of human rights. We have fundamental human rights precisely because we are human persons. No-one should support the denial of truly fundamental human rights for ... continue reading


Climate change - WHERE IT HURTS: Scientists say warming will hit nation's agricultural heartland Watch

Image of The climate change panel's verdict came as a bit of a surprise: Greenhouse-gas emissions played a substantial role in Europe's misery, but not so much in California.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are very few positive things to result from climate change. Researchers now say that warmer temperatures will hit America where it counts: the nation's agricultural heartland. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers presented their latest findings ... continue reading


WITCHES ARE BACK: Witchcraft reappears in today's popular mainstream culture in unexpected ways Watch

Image of Witches are seen in both religion and as a feminist symbol.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The idea of the witch is making its rounds through history again. Females, both young and old, are embracing the power that comes with the feminist witch in today's society. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a recent twitter post, popular female rapper, Azealia ... continue reading


Alaska lights up as it become the third U.S. state to legalize marijuana Watch

Image of Twenty-three states still prohibit cannabis outright. The other U.S. states have either legalized medical marijuana or decriminalized marijuana possession.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The state of Alaska is lighting up in celebration... following Colorado's lead, Alaska has become the third U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Voters passed the Alaska Marijuana Legalization ballot measure last ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
10 Hear what Yahweh says, you rulers of Sodom; listen ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23
8 'It is not with your sacrifices that I find fault, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12
1 Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 3rd, 2015 Image

St. Katharine Drexel
March 3: Saint Katharine Drexel, Religious (Feast Day-March 3) Born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter