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Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 4.1 (2001) 5-9
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Flannery O'Connor in "Good Country People" presents us with a woman who feels herself to be enlightened because she believes in nothing (her intellectual stance bolstered by her reading of Heidegger's An Introduction to Metaphysics), but who is startled to discover at the end of the story that her commitment to nothingness masks a deep need to be recognized and loved by others within community. O'Connor merely implies the collapse of the woman's carefully constructed worldview, a view that is driven above all by resentment against Christianity, suggesting through the action of the literary imagination that the truth of Christianity will speak deeply to the human spirit once culturally constructed obstacles, illusions, and idols have been shattered or have collapsed because of their inherent flaws.
A homily delivered by the Rev. Arthur L. Kennedy at the funeral of O'Connor's friend and editor, Sally Fitzgerald, and printed in this issue of Logos, brought that scene to mind as I prepared this preface, and the scene offers a way of viewing the wide-ranging studies in the Catholic intellectual tradition found in the articles published in this issue. The articles in this issue show us how the powers of literary imagination, philosophical analysis, and theological insight, when grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition, illuminate the true nature of the human person and the deep value of human dignity on the basis of which human communities flourish. [End Page 5] The articles show us a variety of twentieth-century illusions concerning the nature of the human person and show us how careful reflection upon such illusions can contribute to their collapse and can prepare the way for Christian renewal, a renewal that touches individuals and transforms cultures.
Georges Bernanos and Graham Greene found their literary powers most fully activated when engaging the illusions of twentieth-century culture, as is well demonstrated by several articles in this issue, and a wide-ranging essay on "literary converts" in Great Britain opens up a broader context for viewing the Christian intellectual encounter with predominant aspects of twentieth-century British culture. Moreover, this issue indicates the richness of Catholic literature in the twentieth century by introducing readers to a Catholic poet whose work has not been recognized as fully as it deserves with an article on poet Robert Lax, who died in Olean, New York, at the age of eighty-four on September 26, 2000, while this issue was in preparation.
Readers will also find in this issue that philosophical analysis of the nature of human dignity and of the proper understanding of religious pluralism can demonstrate how contemporary culture in all of its complexity can flourish when grounded in "bedrock truths." This issue also offers theological reflections on the phenomenon of the flourishing Catholic Church in Africa, juxtaposed with the economic and political turmoil prominent on that continent, bringing to the surface dimensions of the Christian encounter with contemporary culture that are highlighted with particular clarity beyond the limits of the West. Theological reflection on the meaning of interreligious dialogue offered in this issue demonstrates a Catholic encounter with the relativist illusions that emerge understandably and inevitably from the fruitful friction of cultures in the contemporary situation of global awareness.
Adam Schwartz in a review essay of Literary Converts by Joseph Pearce and Catholic Converts: British and American Intellectuals Turn to [End Page 6] Rome by Patrick Allitt examines the variety of paths that led a number of prominent British writers and intellectuals to turn to Christianity as a result of their deep dissatisfaction with the predominant intellectual and spiritual views of twentieth-century western culture. "Orthodox Christianity's ability to attract such a large portion of these generations' leading minds into its ranks at a time when antithetical attitudes were at their apex is thus one of the central phenomena of twentieth-century British culture," Schwartz argues in this wide-ranging and insightful analysis.
The theological aesthetics of Hans Urs von Balthasar offers a rich resource for literary studies, and...