A Love Letter

Or at least a like letter.

Dear Catholic Right:

As I wrote in my last post, I really think your teachings and writings on alcohol are great, and can open the way to a better understanding of natural law and what it means to be human.  In a future post, I want to dig a little deeper into what that means. 

But for now, I want to offer a letter of unqualified praise, just to be nice.  I’ll try to leave out all the ifs and buts, and just concentrate on the things that I think you do well.

Here goes:

You teach well.  I’ve done two tours in your education system: high school and a Master’s degree from a Catholic university.  I’ve had great experiences there, with smart, broad-minded instructors—brothers, fathers, sisters, and lay teachers.

And I know the oppressive Catholic school is a cliché, but it doesn’t match the reality I’ve known.  Maybe it’s something about your certitude in your faith: a good teacher has to have a strong point of view and the confidence to accept challenges to that point of view.  And you’ve got that.

I remember that when I started teaching literature, in a public school, I felt uncomfortable every time the Bible came up in class—which was pretty frequently.  I had to talk about the Bible to explain allusions in Shakespeare or Chaucer, but I was sure that half the class would think I was disparaging the Bible while the other half would think I was pushing it on them.  It’s just impossible to talk about something like that with complete neutrality, and trying to do it made me insecure in my teaching.  And insecurity is one of the worst characteristics a teacher can have.

No one can accuse you of being insecure in your perspective.

You write well. I’m not just talking about Graham Greene, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor.  Your blogs and articles are often well crafted, with fresh, clear writing. 

Here’s a great example: Romanticizing History (Catholic Phoenix, May 11, 2011)

But I could link hundreds more.

There’s no need to get a big head about this (and sometimes you do).  There’s plenty of good writing on the web.  But one doesn’t normally find it in debates about abortion, contraception, or gay marriage.  But since you connect everything, it wouldn’t occur to you to separate your love of beauty from your political arguments.

You ask good questions.  Your starting point, even for practical, political questions, is What does it mean to be human? or What is human nature? 

That’s great. 

I don’t always (or often) agree with the ways you go about answering those questions, but I think your starting point is important.  (Shoot—I let a but into that last sentence.  Sorry!)

And sometimes it leads you in fascinating directions.  I have (conservative) Catholic friends, for example, who are experimenting with homemade shampoos and soaps because they think so deeply about what’s natural and what’s meant for us.  And I’ve read several Catholic bloggers who are starting to take back-to-the-land approaches in the midst of their modern, urban lives.  It all makes for very interesting reading.

 So there you go.  There’s more, too, but this is a start.  You frustrate me, so when these letters reflect that, I hope we can both keep this in mind: I actually like you.    

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