Courage and Culture and Cluny’s Small Part

posted in: Culture, Political Thought | 0

Why start yet one more self-denominated boutique Catholic publisher, especially one focused on “preserving”, “recovering”, or just “celebrating” the Catholic intellectual tradition (isn’t that an awkward word these days)? Will Cluny be just another mistaken conflation of religious orthodoxy with political conservatism, both of which are in themselves vague and disputed notions? We hope not.


Dozens of other publishers, Catholic-oriented and otherwise, already offer myriads of compelling examples of clear thinking and vivid expressions of the values that should be motivating conduct and informing our culture. Despite possible appearances to the contrary, we have not started Cluny to compete with or duplicate those publishers’ products. Instead, Cluny’s sole focus is to support the work of the Front Line – what we unimaginatively call the people who battle the forces of evil and work to convert minds and hearts to a recognition that God exists, that He loves us, and that we are obligated in return to love Him and our neighbors. We are dedicated to bringing back even more great classics of our tradition than are currently available.


Cluny’s goal is to be a positive force, not just purveyor of gloom, doom, and carping. Unfortunately, spreading the good news often brings with it a keener appreciation for the outright evil that has infiltrated deep into the very fabric of how we govern ourselves, operate businesses, and treat our neighbors. A good example of what we wish to bring to the party is Nathaniel Rich’s wonderful essay in the January 10, 2016 New York Times Magazine, The Lawyer Who Became Dupont's Worst Nightmare. Mr. Rich profiles Rob Bilott, a Cincinnati lawyer who, inspired by an inherent sense of justice (the “right thing to do”), has devoted decades to seeking justice for farmers, workers, and other ordinary citizens seriously injured by water and air pollution. Mr. Bilott’s story is particularly meaningful because he dropped his practice as a corporate defense attorney to pursue some of America’s biggest corporations at huge personal cost to himself and his distinguished law firm.


Mr. Bilott and his firm are to be commended, and his story should be taken to heart by every law student. But more important for our purposes is that his courageous stands should cause each of us to question the culture that infects companies like DuPont and 3M, among far too many others. What is it that makes otherwise sensible people put corporate profits and their own careers so far above the common good that they can no longer see the evil in the way they conduct business and treat their neighbors? What is it about corporate (bureaucratic) culture that causes good people to inflict serious harm to their neighbors?  How can educated, hard-working Americans participate in the use and irresponsible disposal of extremely harmful chemicals despite their own awareness of the serious injuries that will result?


All people of goodwill must fight these abuses of rhetoric at every step and in every situation. But it is not enough just to see the lies. To prevail in this battle, we must be armed with the learning of the ages and be prepared to show how “the way things are” are not “the way things should be.”  It is Cluny’s mission to contribute to this fight by arming the Front Line with classics that are the fruits of Catholic intellectual tradition.