Literary Converts (1999)
[Escritores conversos]

PEARCE, Joseph
  •  Destacado


  • Moral assessment: (P-A2) Readers with basic Christian formation
  • Public: Generic
  • Keywords: Biographies.

Joseph Pearce works at the Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He specializes in the study of contemporary writers, his works demonstrating a high affinity for converts of the twentieth century. On this occasion his research brings together many figures from Britain in that period who, just as the author himself, coincide in having taken a path of conversion to Christianity. The fundamental aim of the book (cfr. Presentation, pp. 9 and 10) is to clarify the rich influences that this generation of established writers had on each other, causing a renaissance of Christian literature, and an encouraging response to the new threats that the century brought. The book is divided into 32 chapters. Following a chronological scheme, it runs throughout the twentieth century in line with the events of the lives of various writers, weaving friendships with their intellectual contacts. Some of them shine forth (due to the profound influence exerted on many of their contemporaries), and extensive references are made to them: such is the case with GK Chesterton, Ronald Knox, RH Benson and Evelyn Waugh. Others are not so famous, but all agree on having found their way to the Church in the midst of their work as writers. The author demonstrates a deep understanding of the cultural circumstances of those years, and also great skill in handling such volumes of work as large collections of letters, quotations of notes, novels and poems, interviews by many authors on other writers, journalistic accounts of those moments and compilations of conversations held with the writers' family members. The book is interesting in how it mixes life's dramas with experiences of conversion and the intellectual path followed during each historical and cultural situation. In general, it shows a very positive view of the path to the faith taken by these authors, knowing how to overcome the drama that emerges from certain situations in critical years, as were those of the Second World War, the advance of the communist threat in Europe and the flowering of hedonism and consumerism. Alongside the effort to bring together the lives of these authors, the book moves within very specific historical coordinates, which sometimes presupposes some knowledge of the social and political circumstances of England at the time. Moreover, the style can become somewhat bothersome: the mutual influence these authors had had on each other (sometimes more formal and stylistic than real), not always justifies the repeated references to each other. It recounts human relationships in some detail, to highlight the vital renewal that these characters experienced during their conversion. Towards the end, the book collects some of the unease of some authors caused by the reforms promoted by Vatican II, especially in liturgical matters and in the use of Latin. Although these are only isolated cases, and are intended to express the confusion of the moment, it is not very positive and lacks a broader perspective. A.D.S. (Italy, 2008)

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What do the moral assessments mean in relation to works of literature?

The assessments are divided into two groups, one for Literature (L) and the other for Thought (P). For Literature the assessments are as follows:

  •  L-A1: Nothing morally inappropriate.
  •  L-A2: Nothing morally inappropriate, although may be unsuitable for younger readers (e.g. because there are topics requiring a certain maturity on the part of the reader).
  •  L-B1: Some morally inappropriate content.
  •  L-B2: Contains significant sections contrary to faith or morals.
  •  L-C1: Contains some lurid passages, or presents a general ideological framework that could confuse those without much Christian formation.
  • L-C2: Contains several lurid passages, or presents an ideological framework that is contrary or foreign to Christian values.
  •  L-C3: Explicitly contradicts Catholic faith or morals, or is directed against the Church and its institutions.

What do the moral assessments mean in relation to non-fiction works?

Works of Thought (P) are assessed according to the degree of knowledge required to evaluate the implications of affirmations made with respect to the Christian faith.

  • P-A1 or P-A2: These books present doctrinal matters in accordance with the teaching of the Church as set out, for example, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They avoid complicated topics and subjects not yet theologically settled. They are grouped according to whether or not they require a certain minimum of Christian formation.
    •  P-A1: General readership.
    •  P-A2: Readers with general cultural or basic Christian formation.
  • P-B1 or P-B2: To appreciate how certain topics impinge on the faith, the reader requires a good cultural formation with respect to the matters dealt with (P-B1), or even university-level studies in these areas (P-B2). In particular, these books may take for granted certain widely-held opinions opposed to the faith, even though such ideas may not be central to their argument – and can be easily detected by readers with a certain amount of formation.
    •  P-B1: Requires prior general knowledge of the subject.
    •  P-B2: Readers with Christian formation and knowledgeable about the subject matter.
  • P-C1, P-C2 or P-C3: Because of the implications of the topics dealt with, or the need to be aware of the reasons why some of the theories set out in the book are invalid, it is always necessary for the reader to have very good formation in the area in question, whether university-level (P-C1) or specialist (e.g. a doctorate: P-C2). Hence the assessments place emphasis on the objective content of the book, rather than on its possible readership. The P-C3 assessment is reserved for those works which set out to contradict or deny certain aspects of the faith or the teachings of the Catholic Magisterium.
    •  P-C1: Contains doctrinal errors of some importance.
    •  P-C2: Whilst not being explicitly against the faith, the general approach or its main points are ambiguous or opposed to the Church’s teachings.
    •  P-C3: Incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

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