Sunday, July 02, 2006

The New York Times and "Recovering Catholics"

From On the Square
...Michael Tomasky’s review aside, haven’t the book reviews in the New York Times gotten more and more annoying? There’s something so mechanical about the counterintuitiveness with which the newspaper’s reviews are assigned. The notion of picking someone inappropriate as the reviewer starts out as clever, but it quickly descends into a mere automatic trick of taking a book and getting the most opposite person the editors know to review it—particularly when the universe of people the editors know is so small...

...The same impulse produces my old acquaintance Norah Vincent’s review of Seminary Boy by John Cornwell. The book is, by most accounts (I haven’t yet read it), an interesting report on the author’s Catholicism as a child and a seminarian—not, apparently, the kind of rage against the Church that produced from Cornwell the diatribe of Hitler’s Pope. And, for Vincent, that’s exactly the problem: A self-described “recovering Catholic,” she’s outraged that the book doesn’t go far enough in demolishing the faith... This isn’t serious book reviewing. It’s treating the life of ideas and prose as a ping-pong game: The author serves up a book, and the reviewer tries to smash it back...

Full post.
Good point about The New York Times Book Review. It's too bad to see such ostensibly talented editors (I don't regularly read their paper so I can't judge their general output) reduced to such gimicks.

The point of this post, though, is that I have to say that the phrase "recovering Catholic" has to be one of the most annoying, offensive phrases on the face of the planet, at least, obviously, to a practicing Catholic. I'm so sorry that some people disagree with the Church or have had bad experiences with her, but I must insist that Catholicism is manifestly not a hideous disease or addiction from which one "recovers." It is not cancer, alcoholism, etc. Rather it is a powerful force in which the encounter with Truth (that is, with Jesus Christ) in the Word of God, in the teaching of the Church and in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, utterly transforms people.

It would amuse/disgust me to see the whole range of possible phrases developed: "My Catholicism is in remission," "The doctors say his Catholicism is terminal." "I'm afraid he fell off the wagon and went back to the sacraments." I would perhaps accuse the individuals who are fond of these phrases of "terminal liberalism" except that no one is "spiritually terminal" and beyond the healing grace of God until after death. Dum spiro, spero, while I breathe, I hope! It's never too late!

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