Opus Dei and Banned Books
As a poet who also happens to be a practicing Catholic I often find myself a minority in both the land of Catholics and the land of poets. Poets are normally not religious unless you include 'spiritualities' which are mostly creations of the artist sense of the world. Most poets apart from a few oddities find religion at best quaint. The same can be said of my Church. Since the 1980's or 90's the Catholic Church's leaders have chosen to expunge like Winston Smith in 1984 the Catholic intellectuals who once fed Catholics with their work; so poets, writers and novelists like Thomas Merton, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Jack Kerouac, Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Day, Edward Schillebeecx, Hans Kung, Leonardo Boff and Ernesto Cardenal are either vilified or ignored by Catholic leaders and the the work of these writers is marginalized.All of them considered themselves Catholic writers and they once had wide Catholic readerships. So as a poet and a Catholic I am often at a loss; time is spent listening to attacks on the Church for legitimate evils like the sex scandal which has destroyed the credibility of the church and the progressive Catholic tradition, embodied by people like Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Taize, and others have been marginalized for both of the communities of which I am a member. So to say that I was surprised to find out that the Magisterium's favorite group, Opus Dei (of da Vinci code fame) has a revised Index of Books made for a cold wind on a hot day. The Index for those not aware is a list of books that Catholics are not to read on pain of excommunication and damnation. This Index was done away with in 1965 but Opus Dei has their own to go with the flagellation and secrecy. God forbid the SuperCatholics of Opus Dei and the Supreme Court (Scalia, Alito and Roberts are members) should read a forbidden book! I spent some time with this list and to say I was sickened would be an understatement. The usual books by Henry Miller or Anais Nin are on the list as you would expect but so is Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton one of the finest works of Catholic journal writing of the 20th Century. All the novels of Flannery O'Connor are on the list, Rafael Alberti's book of Angel Poems is on the list, the children stories of Monteiro Lobato from Brazil about a children's plantation with Amazonian animals is for some reason rated as a dangerous book? All the poetry of Neruda, Pound, and Olson is on the list. All the books of writers as diverse as John Jakes (You remember the formula novels of the 1970's about America) Paulo Coelho, The works of Freud, Benjamin, Adorno, Teihard de Chardin (Jesuit Priest) are on the list. As I read this woeful list hoping to find my name and my book I came to realize that this is the problem with Catholicism and also with America. We are becoming a society that only reads, views and listens to ourselves. No one grows.So I listen to NPR, read the Economist, write poetry and read the Catholic Worker while those on the right watch Fox News (or Al Jazzera), read the Weekly Standard, and other media that reinforces their already formed worldview. The Muslims in the Middle East are reading only what reinforces their views and this leads to a lack of empathy that makes 9/11 and pedophilia possible. I was not raised that way and I choose to read it all and to consume it all and to remain what I am an engaged Poet and a Catholic but if you want to know why we are are at war in Iraq or why children have been abused by priests (and Rabbis, teachers, and ministers) all you have to do is look at the fact that people are not critical and they are not reading opinions that oppose their's . Obedience is not what the society needs. Our society needs to ask questions and until satisfaction is attained we should continue and that means reading the Nation and National Review that means watching Fox and whatever is left on the Left on TV and that means making our own decisions Authority be damned. Empathy is what is save people from death. Imagine if the Israelis could empathize with the Palestinians? Would that make a difference in the Mideast? Imagine if people in Dallas could really empathize with people in New York? Like they did after 9/11? That kind of empathy comes from reading each other's books.