The other day we were sent the review of a new book about the Church.
The review, from an academic who is described as an “intellectual historian,” was hostile and started out with some unforgettable verbiage.
“It is hard to know where to begin a review, since discussing the book is rather like pointing out the absurdity of a crazy relative who always has an answer to every objection, pulled out of a world that exists only in his head,” this review said. “The fundamental stupidity of the book arises from the author’s felt need to explain the normal human condition in terms of a series of conspiracies….”
Others say it is the author of the book who is harsh and arrogant.
We take no view on the book itself. We have not read it. Perhaps some of the flaws highlighted by the reviewer (who went so far as to attack the book’s publisher) are correct incisive observations. Perhaps many are. No doubt, this is a learned historian, with valuable knowledge. But the point here is harshness: where are we as a Church when there is discourse such as this? Where is the charity? And in all the rehashing (at times rather impressive) of Church history, how can it be that the very central message of Jesus and the Church — the message of charity and love — can be missed? Better asked: what good is knowledge without redemption?
The same week, Pope Francis lamented what he called today’s “culture of insults” in the world. In his homily during Pentecost Mass Sunday, he decried that “the more we use social media, the less social we are becoming,” warning of the temptation to cling to “our little group, to the things and people we like,” saying it’s only a “small step from a nest to a sect, even within the Church.” The Pope said that “nowadays it is fashionable to hurl adjectives” in what’s tantamount to “a culture of insults.” He recommended responding to malice “with goodness.”
One must be careful about equating of eidetic historical recall with wisdom. For between the two can be a wide and deep gulf. We all can fall into this, and we all should recall the Scripture ( 2 Timothy 3:7 ) that says: “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”