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Your ruminations about Catholicism/liberalism are much on Douthat's mind in his book as well. He argues that part of what Francis' papacy has showed is that the "conservative" (as opposed to traditionalist) consensus about Vatican II is, it seems, not as stable or convincing as conservatives had hoped, and is maybe, deep down, not totally coherent. He is not a "traddie", but he does do them the honour of noting that their views, whatever other problems they may have, have at least been consistent and readily comprehensible.

I'm going to take a listen to this prog-rock band. I've never heard of them until today.

I cannot find the cat.

I'll let her know. She will be overjoyed. She's pure white, and all her life she's been trying to hide in grass and shrubbery and dim places where she stands out like a light bulb. But now she's found an environment in which she can camouflage herself successfully. She's just to the left of the monkey grass at the base of the big sycamore tree. Her head is in the light and her tail in shadow. If you didn't enlarge the picture try that. She is pretty invisible in the smaller view.

Craig, it does seem possible that the traditionalists may have the last word. It's only fairly recently that I've come across that "conservative" vs. "traditionalist" distinction--I mean in the sense of treating them as very different things, not different points on a continuum.

I just read Douthat's 2015 Erasmus lecture (A Crisis of Conservative Catholicism), which seems to touch on some of what's in his latest book. Lots of interesting stuff in it, but this especially stood out for me:

In the pews, too, Western Catholicism remains a faith deeply divided. Conservatives complain, with some justification, that media polls showing high levels of dissent from church teaching often lump churchgoing Catholics together with the Christmas-and-Easter variety and the all-but-fully-lapsed. But in the United States, even frequent Mass-goers are split on the questions that conservatives consider part of the clear and unchangeable teaching of the Church.

Everyone is aware that only a minority of practicing Catholics accept Humanae Vitae’s teaching on artificial contraception. But it isn’t just birth control where dissent from the Church’s view of marriage is pervasive. To take the pressing issue of the moment, according to Pew Research Center, a mere 42 percent of American Catholics who attend Mass weekly think that the divorced and remarried should not be allowed to receive Communion. Only forty-eight percent think cohabiting Catholics should not be allowed to receive. That last number shouldn’t be surprising, since only 46 percent of weekly Mass attenders believe living together outside of wedlock is a sin at all.

So at the elite and grassroots levels alike, there remains a very large constituency for a different direction, a more liberal turn within the Church. And of course this constituency—as conservatives have always known—has the advantage of having many, many lapsed Catholics and non-Catholics on its side, particularly non-Catholics in the commanding heights of Western culture, where it is widely assumed that the Church will eventually, inevitably, imitate Episcopalianism, and where the champagne bottles sit iced and ready to celebrate that turn whenever it seems to be arriving.

The modern world is a mighty foe.

It really, really is. To quote myself:

"But I've come to the conclusion that even if the liturgy were always reverent and beautiful, and all the clergy and faithful were shining lights of truth and charity, the basic situation of the Church in the formerly Christian world would not be much different."


I have yet to see any proof that the "liberalizing" (not a good word, but you know what I mean) tendency under Francis is actually making a difference. As I also said:


Thank you for that link, Marianne. I just read the whole thing and am pretty close to 100% in agreement with it. I guess I'm going to end up reading Douthat's book.

I have Murray's book, We Hold These Truths, and I plan to read it this year. When I first saw a book by Murray advertised in a magazine somewhere, I wasn't sure that I would agree with his ideas, but was curious, so I picked this up when I found it at sale. I guess it might like reading an advertisement for the first voyage of the Titanic.


I'm not sure I have the mental energy for books like Dineen's and Douthat's anymore.


Understandable, but wouldn't Murray's be almost as bad?

"advertisement for the first voyage of the Titanic." Heh. I saw something or other by George Weigel the other day that made it sound like he hasn't given up.

Well, I have to try. I can quit after 50 pages if I can't stand it.


Good to make that deal with yourself before you start. It takes a massive effort or intense distaste for me not to finish a book. I'm working on that skill, though.

So far I haven't been able to quit.


Liberalism is inherently irreligious. I don't understand how Catholics can think there's any compatibility at all.

I've come to the point where I see Vatican 2 as a complete disaster

I think more people agree with you now than thirty years ago.

Well, I didn't agree with me 30 years ago!

That's the fallacy of drawing conclusions about the future based on the fact "today's young people believe..." or "want...". People use that to argue for some change usually assume that those young people will keep on thinking as they do. But today's young people are tomorrow's middle-aged people, and day-after-tomorrow's old people, and it's not exactly unheard of for people to change their views with time and experience.

So very true

The joy of language!

Paul Roche,a famous English poet, said that the fundamental characteristic of poetry is repetition. He also said that poetry is characterized by MUSIC--Mystery (or magic; it says more than it seems), understanding (insight), symbol, image, concept (it's not just pretty or about feelings, but has a higher intelligibility.).

My objection to these very qualitative and somewhat subjective definitions (I'm not just being argumentative :-)) is that (1) they imply that the word "poetry" only means "good poetry" and (2) they don't provide any distinction between poetry and prose, which is nevertheless an important distinction. They apply just as much to very well-written prose as to very well-written verse.

The only definition of that sort that I like at all is from Coleridge, if I remember correctly, which I may not. It's something to the effect that in poetry the language commands a degree of attention for its own sake that is not the case with prose. That pretty much explicitly repudiates any connection between "poetry" and form. It's the explicitness that makes it better to me. It allows the kinds of definitions you've quoted, but also allows them to be applied to prose. I'm sure we can all think of prose passages that are more "poetic" in a qualitative way than mediocre or bad poems. It still leaves us with "verse" as a more or less objective description of something. Though it leaves "prose" pretty subjective.

None of these distinctions are value judgments. There is excellent verse--as the article articulates. The definitions are trying to articulate a difference in purpose. There are, of course, other distinctions that can be made--such as between poetry and prose. They aren't complete definitions.

They sound pretty value-y to me. I haven't read that article, but I will do so sometime today. I don't think there is necessarily a difference in purpose between "poetry" and "verse", but maybe the article will change my mind.

Ok, I read the article. And by the way you jumped posts back there a bit--this discussion was happening on the Phyllis McGinley post. So in case anybody's reading this and wondering "what article?", here it is:


So, having read it, I disagree almost entirely with it. I don't think the distinction he makes between poetry and verse is valid. He's mainly talking about quality, separating better poetry from lesser and labeling the lesser as "verse." I see the difference, of course, I just disagree that "verse" applies to one and "poetry" to the other.

As things stand in the development of the language I just don't think there's much of a distinction between them. As far as I'm concerned "The Second Coming" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" are both poetry and both verse. If there's a distinction it's at the extremes: say if you put the instructions for assembling a gas grill into rhymed couplets, you might call that verse but not poetry. And you might call certain very fine passages of prose poetry but not verse. Maybe we will eventually use "verse" for verse, "prose" for prose, and "poetry" for imaginative-creative literature in either form.

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