Friday, June 8, 2012

Portrait: Stephen's Catechism?

I'm not sure what to say about the rest of section three of this book. There is a significant quote at the end of the book where a friend of Stephen's asks him why he doesn't become a Protestant if he is so unhappy with the Catholic church. Stephen's answer is,
I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?
Here is the problem: Stephen's Catholicism is illogical, incoherent and at odds with actual church teaching. Most importantly, his understanding of the role of Christ in human redemption is off and he seems to have been very poorly catechized.

As I say, I'm not sure what to make of this. For example, while Stephen's understanding of Catholic teaching is wrong it's far from uniquely wrong. One of his more significant errors is to cast Christ as stern and forbidding and Mary as more easily accessible as if we needed some sort of go between between us as sinners and Christ. You really could not get Christ more wrong than that.

But maybe that was what young James Joyce was taught. There are few branches of the Catholic church quite as messed up as the Irish church and perhaps this is a reflection of that.

I guess the question is this: Does Stephen get it wrong because Joyce himself got it wrong or does Stephen get it wrong because Joyce intentionally made Stephen that way? Either way, I have never seen criticism handling the issue.

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