10 January 2007

What's Next? St. Oscar (Wilde)?

I hear Catholics warning others about one author or another, some condemned by the church or some who have written things opposed to Church teaching. Take for example Fr. Anthony DeMellow S.J., whose books and lectures were banned from local Catholic bookstores a few years ago. Too Eastern in his thought, the Vatican judged.

What about the "poet, playwright, gay icon and deathbed convert to Catholicism," who " has been paid a rare tribute by the Vatican"?

"Wilde [as in Oscar] (1854-1900) had long been regarded with distaste by the Vatican — a dissolute and disgraced homosexual who was sentenced for acts of gross indecency over his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas." And now, one of the pope's closest aids has included quotations from Wilde in a new book. "Father Sapienza said that he had devoted the lion’s share of Provocations: Aphorisms for an Anti-conformist Christianity to Wilde because he was a 'writer who lived perilously and somewhat scandalously but who has left us some razor-sharp maxims with a moral.'"

In contrast, the congragation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned Fr. DeMello, stating, "But already in certain passages in these early works and to a greater degree in his later publications, one notices a progressive distancing from the essential contents of the Christian faith."

The final statement of the documet regarding Fr. De Mello warns: "With the present Notification, in order to protect the good of the Christian faithful, this Congregation declares that the above-mentioned positions are incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm." Have they read Fr. Sapienza's new book? Have they read any biography of Oscar Wilde?

Mr. Wilde was, however, not a Jesuit. And we all know how dangerous those Ignation warriors can be. While the Church later lifted the ban on Fr. De Mello's work, they did issue a word of caution to readers who may not understand the full context of his lectures and teachings. And now they have lightened their opinion of dear Oscar, a gay rascal, albeit a deathbed Catholic.

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