More semantics (was Re: [percy-l] gay marriage)

Mike Frentz mfrentz at
Wed Aug 13 09:43:41 EDT 2003

At 05:16 PM 8/12/2003 -0400, Phil wrote:
>I think Percy would be totally against gay marriage. But that's why I'm 
>glad I don't walk around wearing a "WWPD?" wrist band. I think he was 
>definitely a product of his time and place, and his later novels 
>particularly illustrate his out-of-place feeling in the 1970's. And didn't 
>it seem like he became more conservative and doctrinaire as he grew older? 
>It's been a while since I've read Percy, but I remember The Thanatos 
>Syndrome being a lot more "preachy" than his early novels...

Dear Phil & list,

Another area of semantics that I have problems with these days are the 
words "conservative" and "liberal", which at this point have decayed to 
just labels (or epithets) rather than qualifying as descriptors 
anymore.  This use seems especially abused when it comes to Catholic 
understanding (and most especially in the sound bite environment of mass 
media). There is really no such thing as a conservative or a liberal 
Catholic --  fervent and lukewarm are the more apt qualifiers in this 
area.  The Church is extremely "liberal" in certain areas (e.g. workers 
rights, rights of the poor, death penalty) and very "conservative" in 
others (e.g. right to life, homosexuality as a disorder).  I think it is 
clear that Percy became more Catholic as he matured, I wouldn't necessarily 
say more "conservative", whatever that word means both now and then (JFK 
also sounds Republican if you play back his inaugural speech today).

I heard an interesting show the other night (The World Over, EWTN) that was 
discussing a book on Anti-Catholicism (The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last 
Acceptable Prejudice, written by a Protestant professor, Philip Jenkins, I 
think at Vanderbilt..).  He made the very astute point that thirty or forty 
years ago, anti-Catholicism came almost exclusively from the "right", 
whereas today, anti-Catholicism is almost entirely from the "left".  It 
hasn't been the Church that changed significantly in its teachings over 
that time, but rather the perspectives of the respective political camps.


>----- Original Message -----
>From: <mailto:piat1 at>James Piat
>To: <mailto:percy-l at>Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical 
>Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 5:09 PM
>Subject: Re: [percy-l] gay marriage
>Dear Steve, Folks-
>I don't think the meaning of words is fixed or assigned to them by some 
>sort of word police, the Church or any other single or supreme arbiter of 
>politically correct semantics. I think the meaning of words evolves based 
>upon common use reflecting societies' ever changing understanding of 
>reality.  I think Percy's essay on Metaphor as Mistake suggests at least 
>some sympathy for this view  -- or at least some sympathy for the view 
>that there is some play or freedom between a symbol and its referent.  But 
>as to the matter of homosexual marriages  -- I'm all for 'em myself and 
>would like to believe that Percy would have practiced his customary 
>charity and humility in judging the behavior of others,  though how he 
>would have come down on the morality of the issue I've no guess.
>Jim Piat
>I'm merely defending the word, which apparently hasn't any serious public 
>champions. The lexicon already has too many casualties....they have been 
>hijacked and/or run through.
>Steve Parlin
>An archive of all list discussion is available at 
>Visit the Walker Percy Project at
>An archive of all list discussion is available at 
>Visit the Walker Percy Project at
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