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Friday, 22 May 2009

God and Emily Post

Probably not the best title -- it implies the post will be facetious, which it is not.
Fr Rutler has a wonderful essay, at Inside Catholic, (I myself am a bit of an Outside Catholic, at least in trying to bloom where I am currently planted....;oP) entitled Manners Makyth Man
"Evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor 15:33).
Real manners are more than etiquette, for they indicate a philosophy of human dignity. [emphasis supplied] The Romans, not in their best years, were threatened by the graceful conviviality of the "followers of Christus" in their refrigeria, which were free of the vulgarity and sadism that the post-republican empire had come to equate with fun. [I know equating current society with Romans before the empire's fall is a cliche, but come one, people -- can we not acknowledge the justice of the comparison? and feel the reproach inherent in it?]The early Christians proclaimed the Resurrection surrounded by a Culture of Death that, like our own, could only cultivate morbid manners.

Loss of reverence for life corrupts the mannerly behavior of any age, and what was golden decays into gaudy excess. No social rank has a patent on manners. A Yankee Doodle farmer, conscious of the noblest classical virtues, could laugh at the Macaroni dandy whose dress hid a pox. Dr. Johnson said Lord Chesterton had the manners of a dancing-master and the morals of a whore, but he meant form rather than real manners. When deviancy from the ethos becomes the ethos, calling virtue bourgeois, the servant is deprived of his royal dignity as a child of God, and the king is absolved of his duty to revere those he governs. ...

The way people dress and speak and treat one another signals their self-perception. I have seen enough undershirts worn as dress shirts emblazoned with scatological curses, and have heard enough four-letter Elizabethanisms from the mouths of debutantes, and have been to enough receptions with ear-shattering rock music, to know that we are not in a golden age, or even a reduced gilded age, of manners.
John Henry Cardinal Newman defined the gentleman, and perforce the lady, in cadences which have become almost as incomprehensible as the terms "gentleman" and "lady" themselves. "It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain."

And it is a very good thing to have a double standard: Eve is supposed to civilize Adam, and when a woman is vulgar she shows her man the exit from paradise. In speaking of pain inflicted, Newman speaks of moral care for the consciences of others. The gentleman puts others at ease and "makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring."...

[Office holder, celebrities and Arbiters of the Done Thing nowadays join] in harsh laughter and added sexual innuendos. Like the Vandals who ridiculed the archaic Roman senators, they mocked abstinence from vice and dissected virtue as weakness. The cynicism matched Oscar Wilde saying that a gentleman is one who never inflicts pain unintentionally.

Drawing on the fifth-century Psychomachia of Prudentius, medieval writers charted kindness among the "heavenly virtues" as a cure for envy, which is a motive for cruelty, and as an antidote to pride, which is the alchemy of disdain. Newman knew, with St. Paul, that classical kindness is only aesthetical moral furniture without the virtue of love (cf. 2 Cor 6:6). But he also knew that uncourtly behavior courts blaspheming the Holy Spirit. [Emphasis supplied]
My posting this is not Pot/Kettle stuff.
The rebuke is directed at much at myself as anyone.

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