Catholicism is Also a Manner

CATHOLICISM is not only a matter: a truth to be told; it is also a manner: a way of telling it. Manner makes meaning quite as much as matter does. To say what Christ said, but not in the way He said it, (that is to say: without enthusiasm, determination, excitement, wonder, challenge, indignation, summons and alarm) is an evasion and an apostasy. The Christian Gospel is good news, but with an emphasis on the news. It is exciting enough to have had the Heavens open at Our Lord’s birth for its sake, and to have had angels in the sky shouting and singing it to shepherds.

There is also a Protestant manner. If it cannot be defined or described, at least it may be identified. It is the manner in which it is utterly impossible to profess any clear or vital Christian certitude. Its credentials in academic circles (which will vouch for its kindred behavior everywhere) are: the subdued voice, the indefinite reference, the qualified statement, the sustained smile. There is not a single Scripture Text that can survive on the support of such a symposium.

The Protestant manner in religious discussion never has anything revelational to disclose, only something unrevealed to protect. Its cult is that of personal integrity. In the midst of controversy, when it is not saying, “Please don’t argue!”, its constant incantation is: “I hope you do not think I am insincere!”

The Protestant manner has no dogma to disclose, but it is capable of a liturgy of sorts. Its liturgical urges range all the way from the static repose of the Quaker to the dynamic ubiquity of the Holy Roller. The happy mean between these extremes in contemplative and active performance, is the unhappy Anglo-Catholic: the superstitious Protestant with good taste.

What worries me most about the Protestant manner is that it is infecting Catholics more and more every day. I hope in a future article to discuss in detail this horrid influence. It has a direct tie-up with inhumanism, and a slumbering aversion to flesh and blood. Take two examples, staring at me as I write. What could be more detestably inhuman than the outstanding – and totally unattacked – heresies of Boston, Mass.? They are Unitariansim, which disdains the incarnation of God, and Christian Science, which disdains the incarnation of man.

(This article was originally published in From the Housetops, Volume I, No.3, dating to the late 1940s.)