instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, December 15, 2003


While I think I understand, and even to an extent sympathize with, the motivation behind something like St. Linus Review, I have to wonder about writer's guidelines that include the requirement:
Those submitting works to be considered for publication should be in full communion with the Pope.
I mean, everyone should be in full communion with the Pope, in my judgment, but what does that have to do with the quality of someone's poetry? To me, this requirement sounds like something from the guidelines for Pieties: A Catholic Ghetto.

I have no reason to think the editors have any intention of producing a review of bad Catholic poetry, but I do think wearing your fidelity on your sleeve like that is going to cost you something in quality. It goes back to the side I take in the art vs. prudence discussion, that a work of art can be well-made without being morally good. Not that I would want a poetry magazine to run morally evil poems, but that art (right reasoning about something to be made) is not subservient to prudence (right reasoning about something to be done). It's the job of the editor, not the poet, to be prudent, and I think the guidelines for St. Linus Review push prudence on the contributor too hard. (And doesn't "content which could be considered a near occasion of sin for readers," which "will also not be accepted," cover pretty much every human experience?)

I have a similar reaction to the many websites that proclaim, "We are 100% faithful to the Magisterium," or some such formula. It suggests a certain naivite regarding the relationship between the Church's teaching authority and the Christian faithful. Is anyone 87% faithful to the Magisterium? What does it mean to be "faithful to the Magisterium," anyway, and why should I care how faithful someone is to the Magisterium? If he's repeating what the Magisterium said, I can get that information straight from the Magisterium; if he's not, then his faithfulness is somewhat beside the point.

(Not entirely beside the point; believing what the Church teaches is evidence of wisdom and prudence. But as anyone who has spent much time on the Internet talking Catholicism knows, it's not very strong evidence.)

All that said, we're still months away from the first issue of St. Linus Review. I'm reacting to a paragraph of guidelines for contributors, not the finished product. The final quality of the review will depend on the quality of the submissions.

And I might also admit I know nothing about poetry.