Betty Duffy

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Bone to Pick with Modern Catholic Writers

I've been thinking about a definition of Catholic Fiction. What is it? Where is it, and who's writing it today? Whether it's the authoress of the "Perfect Catholic Family Blog" or Bud MacFarlane, I get irritated with a lot of what passes for Catholic Literature these days.

We have a well-intentioned desire not to throw our pearls to the swine. This desire leads us to pretend that "happily ever after" begins once our protagonist accepts the Catholic faith and amends her life. As anyone who has been Catholic for longer than the duration of a weekend retreat knows, for many of us, initial conversion is exactly where a lot of our problems begin. We have family members who don't understand, relationships torn asunder, or worse, relationships are no longer possible with certain people. There are moral conflicts with jobs, temptations, and times when we fail to live up to our creed.

These circumstances can leave us feeling like smoke in a bag--trying to drift upward towards God, but captured in this material cage of life, who we are, and what our lives look like. If we try to change, and no one else is in the game, who are we playing with? We feel isolated within our faith, and without it.

As writers, we want to attract people to our faith by blatantly evangelizing readers or presenting a pretty picture. But when we fail to give up the conflicts that comprise our Orthodox Catholic lives, we also give up the stories that are uniquely ours.

When we write with a mission, we give our readers subtle inferences that we find them unintelligent. We insult them with characters who seem too perfect, and manipulate our plot lines to prove a point.

The best Catholic authors seem to say, "Yes, God is present, but you will have to find your own way to him." They can give you hints, weave a little story that enigmatically points to God, a lamb in wolf's clothing, but stop short of saying, "I'll take you to him."

Leave that job for the clergy. It's what they're trained to do. There have been bold and holy people in my life who said in the bluntest most unveiled ways, "I will lead you to God." But I was also ready to be led. I was asking for it. Begging for it.

The most effective Catholic literature when I did not yet know that God was what I needed, did nothing more than suggest that there is an alternative.


Anonymous said...

Ah, but the problem is that the writers who write as you suggest are then: excommunicated; condemned; eviscerated;exiled;gossiped the "orthodox."

Y'all are vicious.

BettyDuffy said...

I hope you're not including me in that "Ya'll."

It makes me sad to read Catholic blogs and find Christians doing exactly as you say, over very insignificant things.

I say, let the vultures rip one another apart. Pursue your stories without fear. I'll read them.

BettyDuffy said...

Or I suppose another solution is to not wear your faith on your sleeve at publication, and let your readers discover that you're a practicing Catholic after the fact. They always get excited about those things.