Saturday, July 02, 2011

Taking the Gloves Off

After a marvelous day spent with a brother Jesuit, I returned to Berkeley to find this charming message from a woman who trolls the blogs. Maria, whose great claim to fame among bloggers is that she has an uncanny ability to cut-and-past long tracts of Father John Hardon and use them as proof texts to substantiate the point she wants to make, wrote the following in response to my post about studying Latin:

My brother started Latin at Georgetown Prep in the 7th grade and took it every year right through his Senior year at Princeton, when he wrote his dissertation on the Roman army. Ten years of Latin. He also studied Greek. It is hard to imagine Jesuits in formation even in need of a class such as you describe. Sad. 
I deleted it from the post but, after giving it some thought, I feel it might be good to engage Maria here on the blog.

Maria, I'm glad your brother took so many years of Latin (and Greek). Surely, he must be a remarkable young man if by his senior year at Princeton he managed to write a dissertation. In my experience, dissertations are written when individuals earn the PhD. Surely, he must be a prodigy.

I, however, lack such abilities. My parents foolishly had me learn Spanish when I was in high school. I mean, who would ever want to study such a dead language as Spanish? I mean, my parents were real morons for anticipating that nearly 50% of American Catholics will, in twenty years, be Latino. Wait, Maria, did I get that right? Latino, not Latin?!?!

You know, I really now regret having spent those years of high school and college learning that useless language. When I baptized a dying baby whose parents spoke Spanish, surely it meant far less to them that I spoke in their native language than if I had baptized their child in Latin.

Maria, do you know why I am studying Latin? It's because I find it interesting. It is because through the hours I'm spending now as a motivated student, I am able to cover a full year of college-level Latin in a way that it is sticking. I also rather enjoy the logic and precision and beauty of it. I'm not doing it because I have the deluded belief that God hears prayers better if they are uttered in Latin. I would rather like to read Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure in the Latin so that when whackos try to tell me what either one said, I can go right to the source.

Maria, I loathe bullies. It seems to me that you are something of a bully. You like to drop your little comments and then back them up by citing supposed authorities (need we be reminded that Father Hardon was an advocate for a rather nefarious character?). It seems to me that the best way to deal with bullies, consequently, is to drag them out into the fresh air of honest discourse.

Now, some are going to write to ask if I am not being a bully. I don't think so: I'm just calling a spade a spade. I don't hide anything on this blog, for I try to be as real and as honest as I can be (within the limits of good taste). The culture, though, that permits women and men to behave obnoxiously or make outlandishly ignorant comments is not one I wish to be a part of. Since this is my website and I get to make the rules, I insist that we do things the right way: openly, honestly, and hopefully in a spirit of charity. Charity does not always mean nice or sweet.

When Saint Ignatius sent some of the early Jesuits off to Trent, one counsel he offered:
...on one night, let one of you ask the others to correct him in what he may have done amiss, and he who is corrected should make no answer unless he is asked to explain the matter about which he has been corrected. On another night, another will do the same. Thus each one in turn, so that all can be helped unto greater charity and to greater influence in all things.
Maria, it seems to me that for too long you have operated without being called to account for some of the things you post. Let it be known that I will not sit silently any longer and that, if you want to have a voice on my blog, you had better bring reason and charity rather than ignorance and malice. 
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