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From Aleteia:




The Next William F. Buckley
There are no longer any real Catholic public intellectuals.
By Mark Judge



It could be due to the usual suspects: the dumbing down of culture. The partisanship of politics and cable television, which doesn’t make time for erudition and deep penetration into an issue. The dominance of secularism.

Those are all probably to blame for the fact that there are no longer any real Catholic public intellectuals. Note: I did not say Catholic intellectuals. I said Catholic public intellectuals. William F. Buckley. Richard John Neuhaus. Fulton Sheen.

These men were Catholic public intellectuals: they created popular magazines, hosted TV shows, wrote both fiction and nonfiction books. Their prose was literary, and they wrote about a variety of topics.

They were also able -- indeed, eager -- to engage the larger culture with something other than bromides. A few months ago James Poulos wrote an insightful piece about how conservative journalists are always reducing things to their pet hobbyhorses. He used the example of Ben Shapiro, a budding right-wing star who blames the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman on Hollywood liberalism.
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Quote: Interpreting Hoffman’s death as primarily ideological news prevents anyone -- even a credentialed member of the intellectual elite like Shapiro -- from undertaking a soulful reflection on fame, genius, addiction, or death -- in short, on our humanity. How would Socrates have thought about Hoffman’s death? Rather than setting out to clobber his political foes and their “lifestyle,” he might have turned our attention to where his always focused: how we choose to die. For Socrates, the puzzle of politics and “ideology” could not be unraveled without understanding what ruled human souls.
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Of course William F. Buckley and Richard Neuhaus would have had some biting things to say about Hollywood. But they would also go deeper and attempt to discover not the obvious thing to say about Hoffman’s death is, but also the wise insight. I’m not sure there are many Catholics in the public eye about whom you could say the same thing.

These days, it seems that there are two ways to be a Catholic and get in front of a popular audience. One, you can come up through the system of good schools and foundations and have a spotless record. Such people are often fine examples of moral behavior, but they also lack the humor and lived experience that can connect with broader audiences. Remember, Richard John Neuhaus dropped out of school at sixteen to run a gas station in Texas. William F. Buckley rode a scooter around Manhattan and was not afraid to get into a verbal street fight with Gore Vidal. I’m sorry, but complaining of long hours from your job at the White House is not exactly living with lepers.

The second way to be a Catholic public intellectual these days is to be loud and abrasive -- the Sean Hannitization of Catholicism. This is somewhat a product of the success the Right has had in creating it’s own media over the last ten years. Because liberals controlled the media for so many decades, the digital revolution was an intoxicating rush for many on the Right. All of a sudden, if a liberal journalist told a lie, it could be instantly rebutted on the web. Suddenly, we could interview our own heroes, and write our own stories. Yet because there was more money and hits to be had in boxing with the left rather than from introspection or producing artful long-form journalism, we had a glut of right-wing books and media attacking the left. Stars were made out of young right-wingers because of their skill in humiliating the left, not necessarily for their insight.

Liberals are for higher taxes, identity politics, abortion, gun control, and sexual decadence. These are things that should be opposed, indeed it is crucial and even fun to oppose them, but at some point the Catholic media is going to have to offer more. In his omnibus Athwart History, William F. Buckley writes about politics, of course. But he also writes about sailing, Beethoven, “what to do about sloppy dress,” the role of beauty in politics, skiing, rock and roll, and Catholicism. He did profiles of Malcolm Muggeridge, David Niven, John Dos Passos, Evelyn Waugh, Churchill, and Princess Grace, among others. Buckley could also push back against his own side, as when he criticizes Ann Coulter for what he saw as her excessive defense of Joseph McCarthy.

Vox Wrote:"The Catholic media"? What media is he talking about? There's EWTN and ... um, EWTN.

Several weeks ago, I came across a breathtaking poem, Every Riven Thing by Chris Wiman. Wiman is a Christian who was treated for cancer, and his poem is about God being everywhere, including the broken places in this world. It is a great work. I’m an amateur filmmaker, and wanted to do a short film shot in black and white at St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington, with a professional actor reciting the poem. The point was just to create a nice piece of art, a redemptive contemplation on finding God in our struggles. When I talked to some Catholics about it (including if there were any Catholic groups or foundations that might want to help hire the actor and host the video), many didn’t get it. All said no. Aren’t the secular Hollywood and New York liberals the ones who do that stuff?

Vox Wrote:Apparently. Our two thousand year History of "creating" the most formidable, beautiful, profound works of art (painting, sculpture, stained glass, illuminations) and architecture has been pissed away by a mere 50 years after the Council. We were once the greatest of the great when it came to the arts and literature; now we're marked by "churches in the round," bare walls, "Shine, Jesus, Shine," and other manifestations of vapidity. We sold our birthright for a rotten bowl of pottage. Good going!

William F. Buckley would have gotten it. As would Richard John Neuhaus. It has been years after their deaths and we’re still far from replacing them.



Quote:It could be due to the usual suspects: the dumbing down of culture. The partisanship of politics and cable television, which doesn’t make time for erudition and deep penetration into an issue. The dominance of secularism.

I think that, while these factors contributed, it is primarily due to the diversification and Balkanization of media.  Catholic intellectuals have their audiences.  They are just smaller and more focused.
(06-07-2014, 09:59 PM)Clare Brigid Wrote: [ -> ]
Quote:It could be due to the usual suspects: the dumbing down of culture. The partisanship of politics and cable television, which doesn’t make time for erudition and deep penetration into an issue. The dominance of secularism.

I think that, while these factors contributed, it is primarily due to the diversification and Balkanization of media.  Catholic intellectuals have their audiences.  They are just smaller and more focused.

The "Balkanization" of the media (nice term; I dig it!) is an interesting phenomenon, isn't it? On the one hand, it's nice to be able to find a little niche that suits one's pretty specific interests -- but we've lost a lot because of it, too. Back in the day, as an example, everyone loved Lucy and knew the show and all that provided a shared experience, something to talk about to pretty much anyone, shared jokes and references ("we were like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory trying to keep up!"). Now that sort of shared experience is gone.

The "Great Books" used to provide all that, too. The stories from the Bible, Aesop's Fables, fairy tales, Greek/Roman mythology, the lives of the Saints, etc. All that's been thrown overboard, outside of homeschooling. It's really sad and feeds into the anomie out there. Aside from the ever-present "Catcher in the Rye" and "To Kill a Mockingbird," there are no books that pretty much anyone who was raised in the US is familiar with.

As to Catholic intellectuals, it seems that they've been replaced by "pundits" --  folks like Sean Hannity (a self-proclaimed Catholic who throws out a lot of Church teaching) and the Fr. McBriens of the world, who always get called up to provide "the Catholic opinion" on things even though they, too, don't accept a lot what the Church teaches. It's pretty sad. I think the closest we've got, in terms of people you might actually see on TV, are Pat Buchanan, Scalia, and Napoitano.

I dislike the term intellectual, because to me it connotate a person who lives in an ivory tower, and comes up with the solution but never understands the problem or mistakes the woods for the tree.  As smart as I am (indeed I am smart enough to proclaim that I know nothing), I consider it insulting to be called an intellectual.  To me, a lot of the issues we face goes back to the debate between science and religion.  Evolutionists and the anti-Evolutionists (at least the good ones) are arguing from two different points of view, empirical and ontological.  We have a society that is so empirical driven, that if we can't feel it, see it, hear it, it ain't there unless of course it is trendy to be "spiritual" in which you become your own deity.  Throw into the mix, that we are slogan driven society (which has roots in Soviet and Nazis propaganda), where the loudest, most boisterous wins often times with no substance (i.e. your "Hope and Change").  And that's how you have a society where it is difficult to have a real conversation about the issues.  Plus, people are just mean today, it is all about passion and if passion ain't satisfy then you are miserable.  Really, it is interesting how our thought has been transformed really beginning with Descartes down to the modern day. 
(06-08-2014, 02:47 AM)AntoniusMaximus Wrote: [ -> ]I dislike the term intellectual, because to me it connotate a person who lives in an ivory tower, and comes up with the solution but never understands the problem or mistakes the woods for the tree.  As smart as I am (indeed I am smart enough to proclaim that I know nothing), I consider it insulting to be called an intellectual.  To me, a lot of the issues we face goes back to the debate between science and religion.  Evolutionists and the anti-Evolutionists (at least the good ones) are arguing from two different points of view, empirical and ontological.  We have a society that is so empirical driven, that if we can't feel it, see it, hear it, it ain't there unless of course it is trendy to be "spiritual" in which you become your own deity.  Throw into the mix, that we are slogan driven society (which has roots in Soviet and Nazis propaganda), where the loudest, most boisterous wins often times with no substance (i.e. your "Hope and Change").  And that's how you have a society where it is difficult to have a real conversation about the issues.  Plus, people are just mean today, it is all about passion and if passion ain't satisfy then you are miserable.  Really, it is interesting how our thought has been transformed really beginning with Descartes down to the modern day. 

You got it totally straight about our sound-byte-driven, dumbed-down world that runs on platitudes and has the intellectual depth of a teaspoon. If it were up to me, kids would be learning about Logic starting in Kindergarten. And they'd be exposed to "The Great Books" and big concepts -- with the big concepts also starting in Kindergarten.  But it's not up to me; it's up to Bill and Melinda Gates, apparently.

I have to quibble about your use of the word "Evolution"  -- assuming the word refers to the effects of natural sellection, 'cause natural selection is a given. Trouble can come in if the word's used to refer to humans having evolved from lower primates, or if it involves the idea of an organism getting new, as opposed to altered, genetic information. I'm just wary about using the word in a totally derogagory manner -- but I'm pretty sure I think I know what you're referring to (the humans coming from lower primtates idea). I think we Christians need to come up with a word that pertains to just that, and another word for the idea that new/additional (as opposed to randomly mutated) genetic information can come from nowhere. I think the folks married to the idea that we're just glorified monkey meat will take us more seriously if we're really careful in how we talk about this stuff...

Me, I don't have any problem with the word "intellectual" -- except for the fact that it's applied to idiots most of the time LOL To my mind, there simply are "intellectuals" -- scholarly types who concern themselves with "The Great Questions," which most folks don't do. And that's fine and good, a sign of their having a gift from God in the smarts department. We need intellectuals. But if the great intellects aren't shaped by religion -- big heap trouble.

Anyway, what you have to say about Empiricism is dead-on.  It brings to mind this scene from the movie "Contact:":


The only person I can think of is Peter Kreeft. 
(06-08-2014, 02:47 AM)AntoniusMaximus Wrote: [ -> ]I dislike the term intellectual, because to me it connotate a person who lives in an ivory tower, and comes up with the solution but never understands the problem or mistakes the woods for the tree.  As smart as I am (indeed I am smart enough to proclaim that I know nothing), I consider it insulting to be called an intellectual.  To me, a lot of the issues we face goes back to the debate between science and religion.  Evolutionists and the anti-Evolutionists (at least the good ones) are arguing from two different points of view, empirical and ontological.  We have a society that is so empirical driven, that if we can't feel it, see it, hear it, it ain't there unless of course it is trendy to be "spiritual" in which you become your own deity.  Throw into the mix, that we are slogan driven society (which has roots in Soviet and Nazis propaganda), where the loudest, most boisterous wins often times with no substance (i.e. your "Hope and Change").  And that's how you have a society where it is difficult to have a real conversation about the issues.  Plus, people are just mean today, it is all about passion and if passion ain't satisfy then you are miserable.  Really, it is interesting how our thought has been transformed really beginning with Descartes down to the modern day. 

I dislike the term too. I remember attending  a history conference 7 years ago at Australian National U. The speakers were mind-numbingly pretentious. I prefer to think of myself as a "research worker" than an 'intellectual'.
(06-08-2014, 05:58 AM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: [ -> ]I have to quibble about your use of the word "Evolution"  -- assuming the word refers to the effects of natural sellection, 'cause natural selection is a given. Trouble can come in if the word's used to refer to humans having evolved from lower primates, or if it involves the idea of an organism getting new, as opposed to altered, genetic information. I'm just wary about using the word in a totally derogagory manner -- but I'm pretty sure I think I know what you're referring to (the humans coming from lower primtates idea). I think we Christians need to come up with a word that pertains to just that, and another word for the idea that new/additional (as opposed to randomly mutated) genetic information can come from nowhere. I think the folks married to the idea that we're just glorified monkey meat will take us more seriously if we're really careful in how we talk about this stuff...

I was speaking mostly from the debate standpoint.  For those who are not proponents (which I will just called the anti-evolutionist, just for arbitrary purposes) of evolution, the argument is often driven down to two points.  You have the literalist, who try to make observational science and the Bible work (as if the Bible is a science book), who create some of the most bizarre models to explain a young Earth.  Then you have the people who argue against evolution from a philosophical point of view, which I believe to be the more right way to go after all it makes little point driving home the Bible to people who don't believe in its authenticity to begin with, that is where reason will come in and be important.  Focusing on the illogicity in evolution, and really how weak many of the claims are (and there are a many), puts the evolutionists back on the defensive.  To me, that is the greatest need a Catholic intellectual, is someone who can put the enemies of Christ on the defensive and eventually crush them like Ivan Drago telling Rocky that he will crush him (except this time, we actually do crush them).  Today, our "intellectuals" are often what I call collaborator with the enemies, by giving validity to their point without tearing apart their weaknesses, it is a very shallow approach that satisfy neither the intellect or resolves any conflict.  They are cowards who couldn't win an argument with themselves.  In the recent past, it was very reactionary and defensive the intellectuals we had. 
I don't know, I see Christopher A Ferrara and Charles Columbe; as intellectuals.
Intellectuals? There are hardly any devout Catholics around.
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