Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Towards a definition of Catholic fiction

MrsDarwin, I'm interested in your definition of Catholic fiction - perhaps we could work towards a group definition of what such a genre should contain, and then what works we think qualify and why.

I'll kick off with:

1. Catholic fiction upholds the dignity of the person.

2. Catholic fiction upholds the reality of the Moral Law.

Hmm, actually I'll stick my neck out and say that those two points comprise a definition, with the dramatic power of the fiction coming from the interaction between the Moral Law and the person.

If memory serves, though I haven't read it for many years, I'd say that Graham Greene's "The Heart of the Matter" most exemplifies this definition of Catholic fiction.


Betty Duffy said...

I agree with your definition, Otepoti. And I think Graham Greene gets it right most of the time. I'm trying to remember The Heart of the Matter too: Man stationed in foreign country (was it Africa or South America?) takes his wife out of her comfortable surroundings, then proceeds to visit brothels at the expense of his soul. I can't remember how it ends. Actually, it's all fuzzy to me--which isn't the case with The End of the Affair or the Power and the Glory. I wonder why that is--and why you would say it "most" exemplifies the definition of Catholic Fiction.

Otepoti said...

Ooh, er, you set me a poser, there, Elizabeth - I think I meant "well exemplifies" rather than "most exemplifies." And for another, I haven't read it for years and couldn't quite remember why I thought that.

Taking a quick flick through, it's because in Scobie we see a man who willingly, wrong-headedly damns his very soul for the sake of love. His (SPOILER ALERT! :-) ) eventual suicide is an act of love which in a strange way mirrors that of the atonement. In a crazy way, this death is easier for me to comprehend than Christ's own self-sacrifice.

So through this work of fiction, I understand (maybe) a little more about God's work, and that is what Catholic fiction ought to do. Distinctives between fiction evincing Catholic as opposed to Protestant ethoi (plural?) is something I think about sometimes, but would be the subject of a much longer post, to say the least!