[percy-l] Retaining My Amateur Status

Jonathan Potter jdp at scn.org
Mon Feb 16 02:44:37 EST 2004

Fellow (Semi)Pro/Ams et al:

I've enjoyed this thread and would only add a bibliographic note.  There is
a 1986 interview with Percy from the National Catholic Register in which
Percy comments directly on Vatican II, politics, and the state of the
Church.  The interview is included in More Conversations with Walker Percy,
p 113-26.

The interviewer asks Percy questions that stray from the usual Percy fare
and the results are amazing.  (At least I remember being amazed at the time
the interview originally appeared.)  Percy drops his usual novelist's
circumspection and irony to really speak directly about politics and the
Church.  I'd recommend you get your hands on it and read or reread the whole
thing, but here's a sample from p. 116 (starting in the middle of Percy's
comments on angry nuns, to give some context to what follows):

      Percy:  .... This will irritate no end of people, but it occurs to me
that it might be a question of maturity.  I will be happy when the American
Catholic Church grows up.  After all, we're still only two generations past
an immigrant Church.  We're just a few years past Mother Cabrini and the
Italians, the Irish, and Germans and so on.  And, without denigrating the
virtues of feminism, which I certainly defend as a proper cause, we're
seeing radical, even bizarre, manifestations of it.
     .... It may be that some of the women who are the most vocal -- whom I
won't name -- some of the signers of the notorious advertisement in the New
York Times and the Sister who shook her finger at the Holy Father -- I
sometimes wonder if there aren't more psychological than theological reasons
for their protest.  It seems obvious to me that they are sexists, but not in
the way *they* mean sexist.  What I mean is the dislike of men.  The way
they talk about the Holy Father is nothing less than termagant hatred.  I
can see that nun shaking her finger at John Paul II.  Poor fellow.  It is
more than doctrine and politics.
     It's almost saying, "Only if I stand up against you and tell you off am
I a woman in my own right."
     Take another nun, Mother Teresa.  I don't think that it's even crossed
her mind that she is being persecuted by a male, monarchical Church or the
Holy Father.  She has better things to do.
     It's a question of maturity, of being more concerned with service, love
of God, love of your fellow man, love of the wretched of the earth.
      Register:  Is this turnaround among Religious simply because some were
caricatures of virtues like submission and obedience and now all these
pent-up things are coming out?
      Percy:  Well, what else?  Of course, some people will blame Vatican
II.  But I don't think there's anything wrong with Vatican II.  I'm not a
student of Vatican II, but at the same time I don't remember reading in any
of the institutes or publications anything I disagreed with.  I do remember
the openness of John XXII, his ideas, what he wanted to achieve for the
Church, what he *did* achieve.  That was all to the good.  People often
forget that John emphasized all through the council that these things are
necessary for the life and health of the Church.  But don't forget that he
insisted on preserving "the sacred deposit of faith," as he called it.
     I know many old-style Catholics who were scandalized by the Church's
giving up Latin.  I know Catholics who think that all the trouble started
when Latin was dropped.  But that's not part of the sacred deposit of the
faith.  Some very intellectual, high falutin' Catholics talk about the
trivialization of the liturgy.  Well, that's probably true too....
     Beautiful liturgy is all very well.  We have a Benedictine abbey here
that's very high on liturgy, and that's wonderful.  I'm all for it.  I love
to go out and hear plainsong at Vespers.  But that's not integral to the
unity and integrity of the faith.

And another sample from p. 125:
     Register:  And what do you think about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger?
     Percy:  I haven't read the famous interview yet.  I've only read about
him.  But since he's being reviled by so many people whom I have no use for,
I may send off to get the interview and see what he said.  I like what he
wants the synod to be -- to rescue the Church not from Vatican II but from
the excesses which followed Vatican II.  Considering some of his enemies, I
suspect he's probably on the right track.

Jonathan Potter
Spokane WA

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mike Frentz" <mfrentz_2 at comcast.net>
To: "Percy-L at happyhouse.metalab.unc.edu :Literary and Philosophical
Discussion" <percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 15, 2004 8:35 PM
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Retaining My Amateur Status

> Chuck,
> Also speaking as an amateur I'd like to make the following comment: I
> don't know of any changes in *theology*, per se, resulting from V2,
> only in the practice.  V2 has a very bad name in some circles, very
> good in others -- but both often for the wrong reasons -- primarily due
> to an overabundance of zeal in carrying out unjustified mandates
> corresponding to misinterpretations of the spirit and letter of the
> Council.  It was wrongly perceived as a license to do things that were
> never intended by the magisterium and we've still much cleanup to do as
> a result (especially among the misguided and woefully catechized
> apparatchik hangers-oners at the diocesan levels who continue to do
> more harm than good wrt effective catechesis, in my personal
> experience).
> I believe that V2 was very good, timely, and *needed* in bringing the
> practice of the Church into the 20th century (e.g. the active role of
> the laity, especially given a high percentage of college-educated
> congregration compared with all previous generations), but that V2's
> continuing wide misinterpretation continues to cause problems.  EWTN is
> fixing some of this slowly (but surely among those that bother to watch
> it).
> One thing I've seen of late (and it was predicted to me by a priest
> four or five years ago at the Eucharistic Congress in Washington..) is
> that the new priests coming out of the seminary are *excellent* (4 for
> 4, by my personal experience since that prediction).  These priests are
> anachronistically "traditional" (in the warped view of V2
> misinterpreters, I would guess), but are actually quite true to the
> *true* spirit of V2 IMHO -- i.e. they are "post-V2 priests", but
> well-catechized and quite effective in their apostolate.  Not at all
> allergic to (nor addicted to..) to Latin.  We're seeing turnarounds in
> vocations in our parish already due to this properly nurtured and
> well-kindled zeal.
> As for Percy, you've got me on specifics -- I've never seen any
> indication in any of the things of his that I've read (for better or
> worse, only his nonfiction I'm ashamed to admit) that would indicate
> that he had heartburn with the essence of V2.  At the essence level,
> it's hard to object if your beliefs are orthodox.  V2 was beautiful.
> But separating the essence from the artifacts in this area is very
> problematic (your mileage may vary..).
> Mike Frentz
> P.S.  Karey, I saw your note.  I hope things are going well.  I'll try
> to regroup my thoughts and respond tomorrow.
> On Feb 15, 2004, at 7:24 AM, marcus at loyno.edu wrote:
> >
> > Chuck,
> >
> > That's a good question!  You at least deserve to reclassify
> > yourself into semi-pro status!
> >
> > I want to think about it for a couple of days before
> > venturing any thought out answers.  Also, I'd like to hear
> > some responses from others with other information.  But I do
> > not recall WP ever being scornful about any V2 changes.
> >
> > Also, I'm not sure what a "true" V2 Catholic is, anymore
> > than I am sure what a "true" pre-V2 Catholic was.
> >
> > Percy might have said he was a "bad Catholic" before V2 and
> > remained a "bad Catholic" afterwards, meaning both
> > ironically, of course, as a sidestep into a peculiar act of
> > personal humility, and then, if it happened to be a Friday,
> > head over to a restaurant on the Lake in Mandeville for a
> > Jack Daniel's followed by some salad, good bread, and a
> > plate of Trout Almondine.
> >
> > But this is all speculation.
> >
> > Marcus Smith
> >
> > ----- Original Message Follows -----
> > From: chaslow53 at aol.com
> > To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
> > Subject: [percy-l] Retaining My Amateur Status
> > Date: Sat, 14 Feb 2004 22:51:07 EST
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Unlike many of you on this list, I neither knew Walker
> >> Percy nor am able to  study his work for extended periods
> >> in an academic setting.  I am what Kieran  Quinlan
> >> characterized in The Last Catholic Novelist as a
> >> nettlesome amateur, or  what the Victorians more kindly
> >> called a "general reader."
> >>
> >> Here is my observation, which leads to a question: WP
> >> obviously was an  advocate of a pre-Vatican II theology,
> >> both in terms of the articles of belief  themselves and in
> >> the way that those articles were taught and held.  He
> >> makes that  clear in essay after essay directly, and in
> >> the novels indirectly.  His views  on dissenting clergy,
> >> liberation theology, etc., expressed in the decades  after
> >> the Vatican Council, could just as easily have been
> >> regarded as common  before the Council.
> >>
> >> The question, then, is this: is there any indication of
> >> what he thought of  some of the day-to-day changes made
> >> following the Council?  Was he sorry to see  the Latin
> >> Mass go?  Did he rush to trade fish for hamburgers on
> >> Friday?  Did  he abandon the Rosary or any other of those
> >> devotional elements that were  widespread at the time of
> >> his conversion but which are now much rarer?
> >>
> >> Father Samway, in his biography, makes the very specific
> >> assertion that WP  was a true Vatican II Catholic.  I just
> >> haven't seen much evidence of it, and I  thought that
> >> maybe others on the list could offer insight.
> >>
> >> Thanks.  I would be grateful for any insight forwarded to
> >> the list or any  private responses.  Apologies to any on
> >> the list who are not particularly  interested in this type
> >> of question.
> >>
> >> Chuck Lowry
> >> Brooklyn, New York
> >>
> >>
> >> --
> >>
> >> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> >> http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/hypermail
> >>
> >> Visit the Walker Percy Project at
> >> http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
> >>
> > --
> >
> > An archive of all list discussion is available at
> > http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/hypermail
> >
> > Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
> >
> --
> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy

More information about the Percy-L mailing list