Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cardinal Newman and Hugh Grant

The following section from the extract we read last class of John Henry, Cardinal Newman's The Idea of a University is a salient example of his the relevancy, characteristic of the nineteenth Century, to present-day culture, easily sepearable from its contemporary context: in Newman's case, his religious tone, substance and intent.

The section was brought to my mind when reading a recent media reflection (online here, from Britain's The Independent) of the American prostitute with whom the English actor Hugh Grant was caught by the police. Read it for yourselves and see if it is not a perfect illustration of Newman's prediction, drawn from his insight into ...."the ethical temperament of a civilized age," that " is detection, not the sin, which is the crime."
But, if we will make light of what is deepest within us, nothing is left but to pay homage to what is more upon the surface. To seem becomes to be; what looks fair will be good, what causes offence will be evil; virtue will be what pleases, vice what pains. As well may we measure virtue by utility as by such a rule. Nor is this an imaginary apprehension; we all must recollect the celebrated sentiment into which a great and wise man was betrayed, in the glowing eloquence of his valediction to the spirit of chivalry. "It is gone," cries Mr. Burke; "that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour which felt a stain like a wound; which inspired courage, while it mitigated ferocity; which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice lost half its evil by losing all its grossness." In the last clause of this beautiful sentence we have too apt an illustration of the ethical temperament of a civilized age. It is detection, not the sin, which is the crime; private life is sacred, and inquiry into it is intolerable; and decency is virtue. Scandals, vulgarities, whatever shocks, whatever disgusts, are offences of the first order. Drinking and swearing, squalid poverty, improvidence, laziness, slovenly disorder, make up the idea of profligacy: poets may say any thing, however wicked, with impunity; works of genius may be read without danger or shame, whatever their principles; fashion, celebrity, the beautiful, the heroic, will suffice to force any evil upon the community.
And of course, any number of public persons (Paris Hilton the apotheosis and pure gift to the pedagogue) prove his remarks on celebrity and wicked behavior, the acceptance of.

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