In the mid-west, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference decided that Interfaith was being neglected down on the farm. The decision resulted in a union of the NCRLC with the non-Catholic Rural Life Association. From now on, the two groups will have one name (The National Committee on Religion and Rural Life) and one head — this year a Protestant, next year a Catholic.
This inter-creedal agriculturalism should produce some interesting religious hybrids. In such an arrangement, the opportunities for a new Luther Burbank are exceeded only by those for a new Martin (Luther).
When speaking infallibly, the Catholic Church tells Catholic mothers that their children who die without baptism can never go to Heaven.
When speaking interfaithfully, The Catholic World tells Jewish mothers that their unbaptized children can.
Speaking on the great dangers facing our United States culture, the Bishop, like a true orator, touched upon those concerns which were nearest the Hebrew hearts of his listeners — “the high cost of living, prices, wages, rents ... the entire economy.” Then, as any gentile must, when addressing a Jewish audience, Bishop Haas launched into an attack against “discrimination.”
His Excellency had the usual condemnations for those who “look down upon others.” Notably missing from Bishop Haas’ talk was any reference to the Divine Person Who, two thousand years ago, looked down upon B’nai B’rith’s ancestors, a howling Jerusalem mob who accepted the consequences of murdering God when they shouted, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
On June 19, Harvard College held its annual commencement exercises. On that day, the graduating class of 1952, having been presented with diplomas in testimony of four years of faithful discipleship, was spewed out into the world, to put into practice the lessons it had learned at Harvard.
A large part of this class of ’52, like all Harvard classes, will end up as alcoholics, drug-addicts, and suicides; but another large part, to some extent overlapping the first, will end up in the most influential positions in the country: as the officials and policy-makers in our government, as the writers of our books, and the editors of our newspapers, as the teachers of our children. All of these Harvard graduates, whoever and wherever they may be, can be relied upon to have this in common: they will all think, feel and act according to the prescribed Harvard pattern, which they will attempt to impose upon the rest of the world.
Harvard makes a great commotion about how it encourages freedom of opinions; and while it is true that Harvard allows its students the kind of freedom in choosing their intellectual diet that a farmer allows his hogs, still, no matter what variety of swill a student may feed his mind on during his four years, he comes out unmistakably branded with the same mark as every other Harvard student.
The reason for this is that Harvard is fundamentally mediocre. The only thing that distinguishes it from the rest of mediocrity is the influence it commands by reason of its wealth, power, and prestige. It is mediocrity organized and made effective. But it is mediocrity nonetheless. That is Harvard’s milieu, its climate, and it cannot get away from it. For the doctrines that Harvard has committed itself to teach are the doctrines that mediocrity has made and that it thrives on.
Whatever might lift a man out of the class of the mediocre Harvard teaches its students to avoid, by making it appear ridiculous or unimportant. It teaches them to be suspicious of greatness, fearful of courage, scornful of holiness. It teaches its students to revel in their second-rateness; it teaches them to be smug, complacent, and self-satisfied. It pretends to foster individuality, but the individuality of Harvard is the same in every individual. If a boy were ever to realize himself as a person, unique and to endure forever, he might revolt against this mediocrity, and so Harvard teaches him his insignificance. It tells him he is in existence by sheerest chance, helplessly determined by his environment, a descendant of apes, one of billions who have lived over billions of years on an unimportant planet of an unimportant universe, a structure of atoms accidentally gotten together, likely to be destroyed at any moment by the explosion of other atoms, and then to be gone forever.
Harvard is just as cheap and vulgar as any daily tabloid. It has a more refined vocabulary, but its interests are exactly the same. What the newspaper presents as a sensational bit of scandal, Harvard presents as a case history in psychology. As for Harvard’s pretenses to culture, they are as fraudulent as Hollywood’s. Harvard will teach its students to laugh at American millionaires who import castles from Italy in which to have their cocktail parties, or who hang Renaissance paintings on their walls to give their homes an air of refinement. But Harvard itself will import anything it has read about in history, in an effort to give the place a tone, and is blissfully unaware, as only an American bourgeois can be, of the grotesque contrasts that result. For instance, Soldier’s Field, where the Harvard band forms itself into big H’s while blaring “Wintergreen for President” and where the Harvard football team gets trounced by Yale, is modeled on the Roman Colosseum, where Christians once were martyred for their Faith.
The courses at Harvard, which the students refer to familiarly as ec, gov, phil, lit, etc., present either a hopelessly superficial survey of some subject, or else encourage the student to blind, intense specialization. “Sorry, that’s not my field,” is a frequently heard Harvard expression, offered as excuse for anything from not knowing the chemical structure of coal to not knowing that God has become man. The Harvard faculty includes such men as Pitirim Sorokin, a mad Russian who periodically, and in scarcely understandable English, assails the rest of the faculty and the world in general for their failure to adopt his sociological theories. Ernest Hooton is another Harvard teacher who receives great kudos. He is a somewhat simian anthropologist who, to amuse his friends, named his son Newton. Hooton’s task is to convince his students that all men originally descended from creatures like himself.
Probably the most representative of all Harvard teachers is the late F. O. Matthiessen, who was professor of History and Literature. He exemplified perfectly the kind of man Harvard likes to boast of and to hold up to its students for their admiration and imitation: he was literate, liberal, agnostic, and successful. But one night he took a room in a Boston hotel, wrote a note telling of his pique at the state of the world, and then stepped from his twelfth floor window.
Harvard had considered Matthiessen’s brains one of its most valuable assets, and it was upset to find them splashed vulgarly across a Boston pavement. To cover up for this disgrace, Harvard organized an association that would give perpetual honor to Matthiessen’s name and his ideas. The ultimate comment, however, the summing-up of both Matthiessen and Harvard, was provided by John Ciardi, an Italian apostate in the Harvard English department. Asked for a statement by the Boston newspapers the morning after Matthiessen’s suicide leap, Ciardi, striking a literary pose, remarked, “At times like these, one finds oneself on the edge of things.”
BY FATHER FEENEY
There is a Holy House of Bread
Where friends may feast and foes are fed,
And none is starved, none surfeited;
Where souls can relish the ideal
And bodies revel in the real
Where mind and mouth can make a meal;
Where simpletons who suck their thumbs
Can share the carvings and the crumbs
With Constantines and Chrysostoms.
Within this Fortress I was brought,
A little thing without a thought,
And given all for giving nought.
I was anointed with a Sign,
And someone’s promise, made for mine,
Attached my branch unto a Vine
Of Immortality and Love,
With Intimations from above
That Wordsworth was not thinking of.
Arriving at the age of two,
I found the faith I held as true
Enhanced my infant point of view.
I could believe a rubber ball,
Although somewhat phenomenal,
Would really bounce against a wall;
A jumping-jack when squeezed would squeak,
As though unwilling, so to speak,
To wait for reason’s pure critique.
When toys were trunked and school begun,
I was, among a many, one
Entrusted to a wimpled nun:
A virgin vestaled with three vows
Who had the Holy Ghost for spouse,
And tried devoutly to arouse
An aptitude for long divisions
Involving cerebral collisions
With theological precisions.
This gentle girl in cape and coif
With softest silver in her laugh,
Prepared me for my epitaph:
“Here lies a Lad whose sins were sins,
Not streptococcic orange skins;
Nor were his virtues vitamins.
He learned the rules and knew the game;
If Hell or Heaven hold the same —
Himself, not spinach, was to blame.”
(from Songs for Listeners, Macmillan)
The slightest acquaintance with Maritain’s history is sufficient to indicate how awry he must be in his Catholicism. He is a former Huguenot who married a Jewish girl named Raïssa. During their student days in Paris, both Jacques and Raïssa felt a double pull in the general direction of belief. Intellectually they were attracted to the religious self-sufficiency of a Jewish intuitionist named Henri Bergson. Sociologically they were attracted to the spurious Catholicism of Leon Bloy, a French exhibitionist who made a liturgy of his own crudeness and uncleaness and tried to attach it to the liturgy of the Church. At some point in their association with an unbaptized Bergson and an unwashed Bloy, the Maritains figured out that there was a promising future ahead of them in Catholicism.
Jacques Maritain is noted for his solemn-high, holier-than-thou appearance. For this reason, more than one priest reports that by the time a Maintain lecture is over, any priest who is present has been made to feel that the Roman collar is around the wrong neck and that perhaps he, the priest, ought to put on a necktie and kneel for Maritain’s blessing.
One explanation of Maritain’s distant expression is that he fancies himself to be the Drew Pearson of the Christian social order. Judging by Maritain’s passion for the abstract, the fulfillment of all his prophecies will come in an era when mothers can sing such songs as “Rock-a-bye Baby, on the Dendrological Zenith,” and children recite such bedtime prayers as “The Hail Mariology.”
Jacques Maritain prefers Thomism to Saint Thomas Aquinas and, similarly, he much prefers the notion of the papacy to the person of the Pope. He could not, however, turn down the prestige of an appointment as French ambassador to the Vatican. Maritain went to Rome, but he protected himself against over exposure to Italian faith by visits to Dr. George Santayana. In Maritain, Santayana recognized a brother, the kind of European intellectual cast-off that is annually being grabbed-up by American Universities.
That Jacques Maritain should now be found preaching at Princeton University is not so strange. It did not require too much insight on Princeton’s part to see that a Catholic who hates Franco, speaks at Jewish seminaries, and favors “theocentricity” in place of Jesus, would be a bizarre, but harmless, addition to anybody’s faculty club.
Perhaps Princeton realized also that a Catholic’s admirers are a good measure of his militancy. Among Maritain’s more prominent sympathizers are John Wild, Charles Malik and Mortimer Adler, who are, respectively, an Anglican, a Greek schismatic, and a Jew. Naturally Maritain could not insult intellectuals like these by telling them that although they are outside the Church they can get into Heaven because of their “invincible ignorance.” It was necessary that Maritain concoct a new way of getting around the dogma, “No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church.”
After a lot of abstract deliberation, Maritain decided that a man could be “invisibly, and by a motion of his heart, a member of the Church, and partake of her life, which is eternal life.” According to Maritain’s new covenant, the important salvation-actions in our world are no longer a head bowed to the waters of Baptism, a hand raised in Absolution, a tongue outstretched to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. “A motion of his heart,” says Maritain, is all that is required before a man may partake of eternal life.
The Sacred Heart might have saved Himself a lot of inconvenience had He only known this, one Friday afternoon on Calvary.