By Anthony S. Layne
As far as I know, no one has paraphrased Mark Linn-Baker’s line in My Favorite Year: “Catholics know two things: guilt and where to find good Chinese food.”
(Too obscure? The original line was that Jews know “suffering and where to find good Chinese”.)
In many people’s minds, “Catholic” and “guilt” seem to go together like rama-lama-lama-ka-ding-a-da-ding-de-dong (though how that goes together has always escaped me). Alas, that association went away with mantillas and altar rails; the latter two are coming back, but Catholic guilt … not so much. However, my mother made sure I got my full share before inflicting me on the general public, for which I’m perversely grateful.
True Catholic guilt, though, is an intensely personal thing. You’re not guilty because you’re Catholic; you’re guilty because you have sinned in some way … even if you don’t know precisely how you transgressed God’s law. Proper Catholic guilt prompts and prods you into the confessional regularly without crippling your ability to make decisions; only when it fails to motivate good behavior — when you twistedly enjoy self-recrimination, and even deliberately sin to indulge your guilt — does it become truly unhealthy.
Psychiatrists and psychologists, however, tend to view all guilt as ipso facto unhealthy. Ever since Freud deemed religiosity a search for a “wish-father”, the mental-health profession has been trying to strip us of all sense of personal guilt. And they’ve largely succeeded … look how healthy a society we have.
This has created something of an awkward situation for liberals. By taking away a sense of personal guilt, the psychiatrists have taken away a valuable tool for social engineering. So in its place liberals have tried to create a sense of class guilt. They too have largely succeeded … among themselves.
This failure to program white, male, Christian and heterosexual conservatives to flinch and prostrate themselves at the mere utterance of words like “slavery”, “oppression”, “misogynist” or “bullying” hasn’t stopped liberal advocates from employing what I like to call the “ad culpam fallacy”: “You’re wrong because you’re the inheritors of racist, bigoted, sexist and homophobic forefathers; when you deny us our will, you show us you really want to put us back in chains/the kitchen/insane asylums/your local church.” That we might be satisfied with less drastic, authentically tolerant resolutions (as opposed to the “tolerance” that’s indistinguishable from approval) is no comfort.
Besides, they know we don’t really want a compromise; having put us all on the couch and discovered our true motivations, how can they be satisfied with such pathetic excuses? (See my post on right-wing incrementalism.)
Sometimes the satire just writes itself. And, y’know, I don’t feel bad for writing it.