Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Timeless Scholarship or Same Old, Same Old?

About the time Google announced it was going to "euthanize" its famous "Reader", I began a search to help me keep my internet reading in order and on track. Before finding "Feedly", which performs to my satisfaction and without a couple of Reader's long-term glitches, I explored the "Twitter" option and got hooked on something which serves a somewhat different purpose, but which also puts me in touch with some things I am glad to have read. Both platforms have the advantage of allowing me choose what I want to follow. "Unfollowing" is always just a click away and something I don't hesitate to do (It somehow seems less judgmental than "Unfriending" someone as is done on another platform).

On "Twitter" I follow a certain, small number of "vaticanisti", some in English and some in Italian. One of them just summarized a German contribution to the discussion on Curial reform, which put me on to an Italian publishing house's blog with a translation of the whole article by somebody named André Zünd. At this point in the process, I was still under the impression that the original must have come out some time since last February when Pope Benedict announced his retirement. I was also surprised that it had been published originally in "Stimmen der Zeit", which I discovered has not gone belly-up. A search of the Jesuit German magazine's webpage revealed that the article had appeared back in May 2000, a quick read proved to me that it was indeed the same André Zünd who had shared the thoughts which Queriniana was trotting out just now in Italian translation on its blog.

Now to my way of thinking, the classic authors, like the Church Fathers and Doctors, like certain philosophers, historians and even niche writers, are indeed "classic" and of timeless quality because even if the paper they are printed on yellows and deteriorates, they don't. The classic authors keep on giving and their ideas remain fresh. The same cannot be said of all authors and their great projects. There are lots of populists whose writings age faster than the paper they are printed on (I cannot exclude the possibility that I might just be one of them!). In the case of this particular proposal for Curial reform, I would have thought Queriniana might have been a bit concerned about the text being 13 years old. In 2000, the Church in Germany had ample financial resources: that has changed, if for no other reason because of a financial "bubble" which burst in 2008 sending shock waves, yes even through the Church in Germany. Our author's boundless scenario for creative things to do with the Roman Curia needs to be radically redimensioned. I'm not picking a bone with an old article, but with those who pulled it out of the file and paid someone to translate it into Italian. No attempt was made to deal with the reasonable suspicion that such an article appearing in a periodical just might have a label on it stating "best used before a certain date".

I found out the other day that it pays to be even more wary of what is put out there in cyberspace. A while back, it seemed that Cardinal Marx (one of the Pope's eight advisers on Curial reform) had offered the Holy Father the services of the McKinsey Group, which had been advising some German bishops and the conference over the last couple decades. Curious I picked up and read the protagonist's own book:
Thomas von Mitschke-Collande 
Schafft sich die katholische Kirche ab? 
Analysen und Fakten eines Unternehmensberaters 
Mit einem Vorwort von Kardinal Karl Lehmann
Random House DE. 2012 Kindle Edition. 
The book is a disaster, raking up folly at every turn. It got dumped as it deserved. Come to find out, once again from somebody's reference on the Internet: Cardinal Marx did not recommend the guy or offer his services to the Pope. Live and learn, as they say.

With automobiles, shoes and clothing, Dad was always of the opinion that you spent what you could afford, so as to have something durable and dependable: better a superior make in a well-researched used car than something cheap and new. For reading and thought, I guess that even on the contemporary scene we need to go with approved authors and not just pick up indiscriminately on "feeded and twitted" fare.

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