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Movies, mothers, Camus – and other reasons to be Catholic

Albert Camus (1913-1960), an 'jonest atheist', in 1959 (Getty)

In Peter Kreeft’s introduction to his Forty Reasons I Am a Catholic (2018, Sophia Institute Press), he writes, “Since I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and get bored very easily I believe books should be short.” All book reviewers would agree with him. Leaving aside the Summa, The Brothers Karamazov and a few others, most publications, particularly those of the last 100 years, could comfortably be shortened (or indeed thrown in the bin.)

Kreeft’s work is only 132 pages; this means each chapter is commendably brief: between one or two pages and in one case, four lines. As always, it is written in his pugnacious and jaunty style that can conceal his underlying seriousness of purpose and his learning.

Most dedications to books are to family or personal friends. This is natural. Kreeft’s is different: “Please pray for the eternal happiness of Brand Blanshard and Albert Camus, two honest atheists who helped me become a better Catholic.”

In these few words, the author reminds us that honest atheists may merit Paradise and that in our own spiritual pilgrimage we can be aided by the most unlikely companions. I had to look up Blanshard, whom I had not heard of: an American philosopher who defended reason, “he comported himself with courtesy and grace in philosophical controversies.” That tells us a great deal. Camus’ three (short) novels impressed me in my youth; indeed The Fall (La Chute) still haunts my imagination.

As Kreeft’s book is not sequential and his reasons are independent of each other, I allowed myself to indulge in a favourite vice: opening the book at random and reading, more or less, where it fell open.

The chapter “Because of cathedrals” reminds us of the glory of the great Gothic cathedrals built in the ages of faith and of which we have many in this country. Taking the train from London to Scotland you can see through the window Peterborough cathedral majestically dominating the surrounding bland landscape; later on, a breath-taking glimpse of Durham. Kreeft does not do political correctness, I am glad to say, informing us that “Protestants do not build them” – or if they do, they have borrowed the idea from Catholics.

Another reason is “because of my mother”: not just his human mother who loved him “100%”, but Mother Church and most especially Our Lady. As the old French proverb has it, “God loved mothers so much he decided to have one too.”

Yet another (intriguing) reason is “because of the movies.” As this chapter is only four lines long I will quote it in full: “Hollywood knows that the alternative to secularism and materialism and scepticism and agnosticism and atheism and nihilism is Catholicism. Whenever they make a serious movie and religion is in it, it is always a Catholic church and a Catholic priest that they use.”

Off the top of my head I recall films such as The Bells of St Mary’s, The Nun’s Story, The Scarlet and the Back, The Mission – and of course, probably most famously, The Exorcist. Thinking of the latter, Hollywood knows that the only force powerful enough to overcome evil is the Catholic Church.