More Mencken

I started thinking about Sarah’s comment on the last post, so while the house is quiet I decided to respond.

Well that’s the danger of quoting Mencken — you don’t get anything free from harsh judgment of *someone*! I will have to quote some more to give more context. To me it is not so much about liturgy — Mencken would have been appalled by the vernacular mass, while I can’t imagine life without it — but religion itself. Once you start to simplify it and reduce it to a logical exercise, you are on the road to something very different from what you started with. It would be like confusing a fascinating analysis of the interaction of gender politics and Milton’s view of the Restoration in Paradise Lost with Paradise Lost itself. The analysis is not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a great danger of forgetting that not only does it comprehend only a part of the poem, but also that it is not the poem itself, not at all. (I say this as one who often enjoys reading analysis more than reading the thing itself.)

Also, just to be clear, I’m not quoting Mencken because I agree with his assessment of Protestantism, which is largely tongue in cheek, and I don’t think in the end he had more respect for Catholics either, Protestants just make a handy butt of the joke in this instance. Here is some of the next graf:

Preaching is not an essential part of the Latin ceremonial. It was very little employed in the early church, and I am convinced that good effects would flow from abandoning it today, or, at all events, reducing it to a few sentences, more a less formal. In the United States the Latin brethern have been seduced by the example of the Protestants, who commonly transform an act of worship into an act of puerile intellectual exercise; instead of approaching God in fear and wonder these Protestants settle back in their pews, cross their legs, and listen to an ignoramus try to prove that he is a better theologian than the Pope. This folly the Romans now slide into. Their clergy begin to grow argumentative, doctrinaire, ridiculous. It is a pity. A bishop in his robes, playing his part in the solemn ceremonial of the mass, is a dignified spectacle, even though he may sweat freely; the same bishop, bawling against Darwin half an hour later, is seen to be simply an elderly Irishman with a bald head, the son of a respectable saloon-keeper in South Bend, Ind.

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1 Comment

Filed under I'm Catholic Why?

One response to “More Mencken

  1. I am like you, I far prefer reading analysis to the thing being analysed.

    And now you have given me the opportunity to revisit this subject without further acting like a puerile Protestant 😉 I must say I actually agree with him.

    I’ll also say that, on the occasions I’ve attended Catholic Mass, the preaching seemed so far out of the mood and atmosphere of the Mass that it lost any power it might have had when the priest wrote it down on paper.

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