Snow in New York

There could be no mercy, were there nothing to forgive. This is why Confession precedes Absolution. I’m sure the pope knows this — for he has said as much in his new book, The Name of God is Mercy, a conversation with the liberal Vaticanista, Andrea Tornielli. And it shouldn’t be necessary to point it out, to anyone who has been exposed to Catholic teaching, and/or logic. But it is lost on some.

Plenty of sound Catholic teaching to be found, between the lines of this new book. I have not read it through, but in what I perused, I found nothing to disagree with strongly. Questions of emphasis arise, but these will always do in a religion that cannot be reduced to a single tweet, or curt either/or, though it has inspired thousands of millions of them. You see, God is simpler than a tweet, but also infinitely larger.

People read tweets and do not read books: this is a problem I am perhaps not the first to call to gentle reader’s attention. Moreover, I cannot think of a tweet that will make them change their ways. I have just, for instance, read a review of the pope’s new book in a “nice” liberal organ, that could be reduced to, “the pope is wagging his finger at people who wag their fingers,” and thinks this all for the best. The writer seems blissfully unaware that she spends the whole review wagging her finger — albeit in harmony with the pope’s finger. I think they are wagging at people like me, and as it were, goading us to wag right back. Then we can be got for wagging our fingers at the pope.

John Podhoretz, incidentally not a Catholic, is a masterful tweeter. I spent nearly half an hour, yesterday morning — “time I will never have back,” as they say — reading nearly a hundred of his tweets, as they were being generated, sometimes a little faster than I could read them. He had put his neck out, as he loves to do, criticizing the Mayor, for telling the wusses of New York to stay in from the snow. Podhoretz is very tired of these Nanny State pronouncements, to people of small if rapid brain. (So am I.) In the time, he very wittily deflected dozens upon dozens of insults directed at him. I read them because they were so amusing; but regret that such a clever man is wasting his time on fools. (For he can also write very witty essays.)

Perhaps we might call it “the culture of New York.” Or even more grandly, “the culture of cities,” which by their nature reward quick thinking, but tend to neglect the profound. Indeed, at a dinner, recently, my hostess expressed her shock at the decision of a younger couple, also at table, to move out of the inner city entirely, to a rather distant small town, in the hope of raising their children properly.

“But they will grow up as dolts!” she expostulated.

Then apologized, saying, that while she granted rural people the right to life (she is very conservative by city standards), they are slow and, you know, rather drooling. You should see how they drive in the city, she added. I dragged my own knuckles into the debate, in defence of slowness and drool.

And, I insisted, consecutive reasoning. I am a great fan of the linear, and of thinking “inside the box” of custom. Also, I advocate lip-reading to my students, to enjoy the aesthetic dimension of those works intended as “literature.” Country people would know what I mean.