Letters to the Editor: February 2008

Ref: Coverage of Erich Wolfgang Korngold,

(VR,  Dec 07 – Jan 08)

To the Editor, 

I’ve just returned to Vienna and found a copy of The Vienna Review waiting for me. What can I say? I’m very grateful to Dardis McNamee and Matthias Wurz for taking such an interest in our exhibition and the related concerts. We’ve had some very good press coverage and I’m delighted to see that it even extends beyond the borders of Austria.

Nobody, but NOBODY has written with the detail and factual solidity of The Vienna Review. As happy as I am with the press reports, all of them show up with errors here and there. Congratulations on some marvelous journalism and again, many thanks for taking an interest.

 

Michael Haas 

Music Curator

Jewish Museum Vienna

 

Ref: “Benedikt in Vienna, Prodigal Priesthood,” (VR Oct. 2007)

To the Editor,

I am thankful to the author for the response to my points regarding her article, “Prodigal Priesthood,” and I am pleased to contribute a follow-up.

First, I never meant to imply that one is “obliged” to see the Church as it sees itself (in the strong sense of that term). I merely suggested that if one is truly seeking explanation for Church policy and practices, then one obviously must also take into account its culture, traditions and belief system. Why that is “silly” is beyond my comprehension. I teach political science and any political scientist who – out of hand – would discount an organization’s culture, tradition, precepts, etc. as motivating factors in its policies or behaviors would be subject to almost certain academic ridicule. Max Weber – arguably the founder of modern sociology – clearly took religion’s precepts seriously in his sociology of religion, a classic and still widely read series of studies of the effects of religious belief on social and political life.

Second, the author’s comparison of religion to theatre is less insulting then baffling. Theater, after all, is – self-admittedly – in the realm of pure symbolism. Religion makes a completely different claim – a truth claim – albeit a spiritual one (not an empirically verifiable one). This in no sense implies that it is anti-rational. There are many things in life that are taken for granted that are not subject to direct empirical observation, yet have a basis in rationality when based on other prior assumptions: the realities of being and time, existence of unobserved galaxies, magnetic fields, as well as intangibles such as loyalty or self sacrifice. So to with the existence of God, whom Aristotle posited as a “prime mover” or first cause, and whom Jefferson based all human rights upon. Other spiritual “mysteries,” are admittedly more challenging and require the acceptance of prior spiritual assumptions, as well as a healthy dose of faith. But so what? Doesn’t any friendship require as much in everyday life?

Yet my original aim was not about convincing anyone of “my truth,” or intruding on the author’s “realities.” Rather the argument is that to discount the seriousness with which the Church is motivated by the precepts of its own faith, and to substitute for it a kind of cartoon image based on conspiracies of power and male domination strikes me as somewhat immature, and ironically – in light of the author’s stated preference for realities – unrealistic. It also utterly fails to explain why some of the Academy’s most respected scholars and authors (e.g. Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Erasmus, Pascal, Edith Stein, Chesterton, Dante, Lewis, Sayers, Waugh, Graham Greene, etc.) – individuals we have our students reading – could possibly have fallen for such “a story,” and a “theater.”

 

David Reichardt, 

Vienna

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