Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cool Words for Catholic Intellectuals*

* Insert 'pseudo' somewhere in the above title.

There is a clique within the Church - basically all my friends are in it, as am I, I confess - a clique of conservative, Catholic intellectuals, or, intellectual-wanna-bees. This is my Church 90% of the time. We connect internationally via New Advent and the National Catholic Register; we read Ignatius Press books; our feast days include Our Lady of the Rosary (we can't get through an Oct. 7th without saying, "Lepanto"),  April 2nd, Corpus Christi, and the March for Life.

This clique would distinguish itself from that lower caste that only knows phrases like 'dictatorship of reletivism' and 'culture of death.' To the higher is First Things, as to the lower is EWTN. Cretins.
When I think of 'cool Catholic intellectuals'
I think of Jacques and Raissa Maritain.
Act and potency, baby!
Some things change, some things do not. The substance remains, only the dressing changes. In the 70s people like us said stuff like 'aggiornamento.' In an earlier time we talked about 'worker priests' and 'Catholic Action.' We were lame then and we didn't know it; we remain both lame and ignorant to this day.

A few years ago this clique was all a-buzz with the omni-useful term, 'zeitgeist' (meaning spirit of the age). I know you remember it. I know you remember how you felt when you first got the chance to use it in conversation. And I know you hesitate to use it now.

Now, it is the even more annoying term 'luddite' that has grabbed a-hold of this people. This term is used (always inappropriately) by people who spend most of their time on their laptops, reading blogs and sipping coffee (horror!), yet while imagining that there is some external force - certainly not their Christian will - that is responsible for this, for they are, mark - or so they tell anyone who will listen -opposed to distracting and unnatural things like technology - especially computers and television. At heart aren't we all Franciscans living in this world quite against our will?

'Luddite' is especially vexatious. But it is not, as in the case of the now outmoded zeitgeist, as if there is no appropriate use for this word. It is just that that appropriate time will not return again until the next ice age, or sometime thereabouts.

Catholic intellectuals, for as circumspect as they'd like to consider themselves, follow fads, just like everyone else.

But he is king who starts the fad. It was JP II who had this right for 25 years, and now it is B XVI. Others can join in too, to greater or lesser extent.

I want my turn. So I shall introduce a word or a phrase that shall catch on like wild, burn hot for two years, and then decline into the shame of silence soon enough thereafter. But what shall it be? It'll have to be a treasure dug out from Catholic Antiquity that we can all hasten to throw our allegiance behind, since we remember having been introduced to the term during our undergrads... Pedigree is everything, and what pedigree is not, exclusivity makes up for. Or, perhaps something from the East would be a good contender. Yet I can't see how one would mainstream a word like 'hesychasm.'

Rome was not built in a day, and fancy, fleeting phrases for Catholic intellectuals likewise take time to ripen.


  1. I've never come across, or maybe just never read an article of your through NewAdvent, but I did tonight and I'm GLAD I did! How our vocabularies change throughout the years...I'm now a stay-at-home mom who enjoys remembering her undergrad vocabulary (and even looking over her philosophy papers now and then, marveling that I understood such material once upon a time), but I wouldn't trade teaching my young sons about the Faith and hearing the words and phrases they pick up.

  2. ..for anything. Oops! Thanks for a great post!

  3. Substituting buzz words for an argument is always a temptation, but surely in large part today's clique of "Catholic intellectual wannabes" is better off than that of the last century, if only as a result of its espousal of the "hermeneutic of continuity" rather than the "hermeneutic of rupture."

    (See what I did there? They're buzz words, get it?)

    Stop by my blog, PopSophia.

  4. It's fun being esoteric, as long as we realize we are being this way, otherwise we run the risk of becoming completely estranged from our culture, so that we cannot shine the light of the Gospel upon it!


  5. Personally, I prefer the Pope's take on technology: it's use must be controled by us, not in control of all our time. Even the "simplicity" groups of Catholicism such as the Plain Catholics advocate the prudent use technology but they do not let it consume their time
    Here's a link to the Pope's homily to the Carthusians on "Anthropological Mutation". Great thoughts for the intellectuals to chew.

  6. I guess I'm both "high" and "low" because the things you say about the "high" people apply to me, but I also love EWTN! ANYWAY, the comment you made about Lepanto is HILARIOUS because just this Oct 7th I was reading some commentary about the feast day and noticed nothing was mentioned about the Battle of Lepanto, which irked me...and I said it out loud. So you are so right!! Thanks for a Catholic laugh!

  7. PS except I would never say "zeitgeist," then or now. I think this is a pompous word!!