On paper logic

My old friend George Jonas, now forcibly confined within the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, observed of the times:

“In the not too distant past, people who were illiterate could neither read nor write. These days they can, with disastrous results for the culture.”

He quoted his own old friend Stephen Vizinczey:

“No amount of learning can cure stupidity, and formal education positively fortifies it.”

On stupidity itself, I like to quote Robert Musil:

“If it were not so hard to distinguish stupidity from talent, progress, hope, or improvement, no one would want to be stupid.”

How often we revert to the dispersion from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, when craving for a little common sense.

Over here in Canada, where the last few surviving reactionaries sometimes meet for whisky and a smoke, I was glad to discover myself not the only gentle reader who noticed the connexion between my last two Idleposts.

Some — not Catholic, I noticed — took me to be subtly criticizing the bible-thumping impulse. This showed discernment, on their part. From Gospel-printing by the million in a thousand languages, to Bible “apps” on your “smart phone,” our common religion does not suffer from lack of texts. Let me say for the record, folks, that I have no objection to Scripture, per se, only to the glibness with which it is so commonly received.

Can people accurately interpret the original substance of works translated after thousands of years? And on one quick reading? On its face, this question answers itself. They cannot possibly, without much help, and a patient humility far beyond the normal.

But if Jesus is God, and if he really founded a Church as He said, and introduced the sacrifice of the Mass, with a liturgy formed and steeped in her Scriptures, there must be some way in. When Our Saviour told his Apostles to disseminate the Word to the ends of the earth, I frankly doubt he was anticipating either moveable or digital type.

Cor ad cor loquitur, as Saint John Henry Newman took for his motto, from Saint Francis de Sales and much older sources. It is a phrase that contains many dimensions, explanatory yet inexplicable as many Christian things. (Newman himself did not try to explain it.)

We are not distributing a text, although it is Holy Scripture — whether the part written before He came down from Heaven, or the part that was written after He returned — in the largest possible number of copies at the lowest possible price. This is not a commercial enterprise, with missionary salesmen. As an exercise in communication, it is conducted from heart to heart and is — miserable word — ineffable.

The function of our evangelism is not promotional nor statistical. There is no formula. Men are not converted by syllogisms, Newman said. We do not tell the story of Christ, except to children. We distribute Him.