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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dante Catholics

I have always been a fan of Dante. Here is a guy who knew his philosophy, theology and classics, and who possessed a certain natural ingenium that Divine Providence is pleased to grant to some. The celebrated Poet is not only a model of literary style and beauty, but is also a model of what it means to be a man of common sense. He called a spade a spade. If even the Pope was doing something wrong, he did not shy away from proclaiming the fact. This did not diminish his respect for the Pope or the awesome office that he holds as Vicar of Christ, or the claims of that office to infallibility in the areas of faith and morals. He displayed the proper obsequium religiosum that all Catholics should. Historians can argue about the justness of the causes of the Guelphs and the Ghibbellines and the niceties of Florentine and Papal politics, but there is no doubt that Dante stands as an example of a man who was not afraid to speak out when something was objectively wrong.

My colleagues will recall that I have on more than one occasion lamented the fact that there are very few of what I style "Dante Catholics." (Generally the discussion has been where the best discussions begin--over a scotch and under plumes of some sort of tobacco smoke.) I purposefully use the term "Dante Catholics" as opposed to "Catholic Dantes" because I consider the "Catholic" part to be that which is essential and the "Dante" part to be "accidental." (I would never use the term "American Catholics," however, as it should properly be "Catholics in America." But I digress.) The point is that one essentially should be Catholic--in his manners, morals, theology and outlook. But in our current cultural climate we need to cultivate Catholics of the "Dante School." What is the "Dante School?" Common sense speaking individuals who desire to take up arms and do battle for the truth. This is a clarion call for a candid and common sense response by Catholics to the idiocy that goes on in the world and even in the Church. This is not a call to be disrespectful or to slash and burn, rather it is summons to intelligent and forthright action to speak the truth. The starting point is humility which is nothing other than admitting that we are "dust and unto dust we shall return." That humility then allows us to see reality and act accordingly.

Sometimes that means saying to a Catholic bishop or even a billionaire philanthropist:

"You, Sir, are an ass."

and to everyone else:

" Questa lor tracotanza non e nuova." - Inferno (VIII, 124)