The Charles Ramsey story went from viral to vile very quickly. The rescuer of three kidnapped Cleveland women is himself a former wife-beater and deadbeat. Do these details somehow tarnish his heroism? Why would they?
They make it all the better. They remind us that even assholes can do the good. For example, my grandfather (R.I.P.) was a one man life-wrecking crew who was capable of just enough astounding and gratuitous good to disarm his victims.
And so I hereby declare myself a Rabelaisian Catholic, because the taint of the Puritan untainted makes me feel dirty. Let me go even further: all those Catholics (and others) who complain about the compromised bishops, big crisis of the church, the cabal of the clergy, and so on (ad nauseaum) are anathema to me. I embrace my historical continuity with bad Catholics of all stripes, times and ages.
It would feel extremely uncomfortable (like in the back of a Volkswagen) if everyone were as unalloyed as both the New York Times Catholics and Neo-Conservative Catholics make themselves out to be.
Observance in the breach deserves our admiration much more than untroubled dissent.
I’m with Joseph Brodsky who says in an old New York Times (!) article recently unearthed by Cynthia Haven:
“If one is to call conventions and make resolutions, the first resolution we should make is that we are all good-for-nothings, that there is a murderer in every one of us, that only chance circumstances save us, sitting in this hypothetical chamber, from being divided into murderers and their victims. What ought to be done first of all is to rewrite all of the history textbooks, throwing out all the heroes, generals, leaders and so forth. The first thing that should be written in the textbook is that man is radically bad.”
Brodsky knows that the question of evil is the wrong question, “The possibilities for compassion are extremely limited, far inferior to the possibilities for evil.” What’s astounding is that we ever get around to doing the good. The good is the real mystery of our world. Give it some time and humor not only your own sins, but the sins of others with the help of Max von Sydow:
[Thanks for the inspiration Justin Tse.]