MAR 23, 2016
When Excess Is A Virtue by Paul Johnson
[This story appears in the April 19, 2016 issue of Forbes]
THE MENTAL INFECTION known as “political correctness” is one of the most dangerous intellectual afflictions ever to attack mankind. The fact that we began by laughing at it—and to some extent, still do—doesn’t diminish its venom one bit.
PC has an enormous appeal to the semi-educated, one reason that it’s struck roots among overseas students at minor colleges. But it also appeals to pseudo-intellectuals everywhere, since it evokes the strong streak of cowardice notable among those wielding academic authority nowadays. Any empty-headed student with a powerful voice can claim someone (never specified) will be “hurt” by a hitherto harmless term, object or activity and be reasonably assured that the dons and professors in charge will show a white feather and do as the student demands. Thus, there isn’t a university campus on either side of the Atlantic that’s not in danger of censorship. The brutal young don’t even need to impose it themselves; their trembling elders will do it for them.
The insidious thing about PC is that it wasn’t—and isn’t—the creation of anyone in particular. It’s usually the anonymous work of such Kafkaesque figures as civil servants, municipal librarians, post office sorters and employees at similar levels. It penetrates the interstices of society, especially those where the hierarchies of privilege and property are growing. To a great extent PC is the revenge of the resentful underdog.
In response to an aversion to self-congratulatory hymns songs, we are told they are perfectly fine because they make you 'feel good'. Balderdash! In reality, popes, cardinals, bishops and priests have frequently weighed in about proper disposition and decorum. In his book, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) famously said,
"Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment." (Spirit of the Liturgy p. 198)
This wasn’t some off-the-cuff remark that should be viewed lightly. The point was that he wanted the people in the pews to remember that worship is not horizontal (people to people) but is, in fact, vertical (people to God). When we sing songs about ourselves and how important we are, if a priest ad-libs the prayer that is Heaven on Earth (the Mass), or the faithful come dressed for the beach instead of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb – then they are giving priority to the Jesus is my friend idea and forgetting that Jesus is also the King.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.