blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Catholic psychology

I've been re-reading a novel by David Lodge that I bought in a shopping mall in Hangzhou, of all places, four years ago; it is wittily entitled Deaf Sentence, because its main character (and the author for that matter) is hard of hearing. Looking up David Lodge on the internet I discovered he is a Catholic and that Catholicism influenced his writing, as did the writing of Graham Greene, another Catholic. I've recently re-read Greene's The Power and the Glory too.

The leaders of the Catholic church are clever psychologists who respond (either in a positive or detrimental way, depending on your point of view) to people's fundamental needs, one of which is the undeniable need, sooner or later, to tell all. In The Power and the Glory it's the priest himself who is desperate to do this before he dies and a harrowing chapter describes his failure to find a confessor.

It is often people in their 70s who start writing their memoirs––while they still can––admittedly not always confessions, sometimes deliberate concealment.

I imagine that shy or introverted people feel the need to divulge their secrets all the more strongly, because of their repressions. Hence the vast amount of autobiographical fiction like Deaf Sentence, ultra confessional poetry like the poems by Ted Hughes, Tony Harrison and company, much of that well nigh unbearable to read. If you're a musician you might express yourself in music instead of words, as Smetana did in the string quartet he called "From my Life":

Another thing that struck me in Deaf Sentence was the reference to committing a shameful act for a virtuous cause. Towards the end of the book the main character painfully admits to his second wife (a Catholic) that he had helped his first wife, with the collusion of her doctor, to die. He is comforted by her understanding.
She invoked some abstruse Catholic casuistry about 'double effect' –– if you did something with a good reason but a bad side effect then it wasn't a sin, something like that. I wasn't sure how it fitted my case, but I was grateful for her support.
Such instances are not just fictional. I myself was once the close observer of a Catholic family who closed ranks and chose to act in a harmful way so that good might eventually come of it.

Anyway, that's what got me thinking, not for the first time, about ends and means, which led to the comment that started my previous blogpost.

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