History of Church book banning rips hole in Vinck's argument
Letter to the Editor
Yet again, I have finished another installment of Sean Vinck's column, and yet again, I am left shaking my head in disbelief. As usual, the self-styled Pat Buchanan of Notre Dame has once again reiterated his pro-Church, ultra-conservative dogma — this time in an article entitled "Limits of the free speech clause" (Sept. 28). And although I don't agree with his conclusions, I can see where Vinck gets the (false) impression that so-called "liberal" groups are indeed exercising their own form of censorship by demanding means through which to enforce "political correctness."
What I cannot understand, however, is how Vinck, a PLS major, can feel justified in making the following statement: "Our moral norms are determined by the magisterial pronouncements of the Mother Church. Therefore, those things that constitute a moral danger to individuals in the community or to the community as a whole ought to be prohibited."
Now, Mr. Vinck proudly proclaims that he is a PLS major, and to my knowledge, the Program of Liberal Studies is often considered the "Great Books" program of Notre Dame. In my humble, non-PLS opinion, "Great Books" would most likely include works by Rousseau, Hobbes and Dante. It might even involve discussion of thinkers such as Galileo, Luther, Copernicus and Thomas Paine. But here comes the shocker: At one time in history, compositions by all of these brilliant men were placed on the Church's "Index of Prohibited Books." Today, of course, the Church no longer issues an official list of banned books, but the mere fact that such an index once existed seems to open some very serious holes in Vinck's argument. If he truly believes that the Roman Catholic Church has the ultimate authority regarding the merits of literary pieces, does this mean Vinck feels that, in his eyes, the greatness of a work such as "Leviathan" was somehow nonexistent during the period in which this treatise was part of the "Index of Prohibited Books"? Does this mean Vinck believes the redeeming literary value of "Leviathan" somehow only bubbled to the surface after the Church sanctioned, or at least allowed its reading? Did Hobbes' work somehow "morph" from immoral to acceptable? Somehow, that Vinck could actually support such reasoning seems unlikely.
Of course, who am I to judge or even speculate upon his beliefs? I am, after all, a Protestant, and as an unenlightened heretic, what do I really know anyway?
September 30, 1999
All Viewpoint Stories for Friday, October 1, 1999