Thursday, October 25, 2007

The exoneration of the Knights Templar, or more tendentiousness from Broadcasting House

The Holy See has lately produced a facsimile edition of primary documents relating to the trial and subsequent suppression of the Knights Templar in the early fourteenth century.

The BBC took up this story of course, as it offers excellent scope for spin detrimental to the Catholic Church.

The BBC made much of how difficult it is for scholars to gain access to the material stored in the secret archives. Melancholicus was not impressed by this attempt to paint the Vatican archives as a sinister and secretive institution, since as a textual scholar, he knows at first hand how jealously EVERY library and repository guards their priceless manuscript sources.

Furthermore, the fact that this documentation can be consulted by serious researchers and — contrary to popular belief — is not sequestered away in some top-secret vault to which no one is granted access does indicate that the archives are not quite as ‘secret’ as the BBC would like us to believe.

The forthcoming publication of the Chinon parchment was featured this morning on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

Melancholicus has observed a curious phenomenon in contemporary journalism. Most journalists seem to engage in this practice, and those who work for the BBC are no exception.

The contemporary journalist cannot simply report on the facts of the matter and leave it at that. Instead, every news story must be subjected to the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis; reporters seem to imagine that unless their coverage is tinged with this Hegelian hue, they have failed to be impartial and objective. That they would think so proceeds from a false understanding of the nature of truth, and ultimately of reality. This false understanding in turn proceeds from relativism. There is no middle ground between truth and falsehood; no ‘synthesis’ is possible between what is true and what is not. Yet the doyens of professional journalism in our time seem to be incapable of affirming any proposition without immediately setting forth its contrary. This they consider to be characteristic of objectivity; whereas it is actually a characteristic of mediocrity, as the reverend and esteemed Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange reminds us:

The truly mediocre man admires everything a little and nothing with warmth ... He considers every affirmation insolent, because every affirmation excludes the contradictory proposition. But if you are slightly friendly and slightly hostile to all things, he will consider you wise and reserved. The mediocre man says there is good and evil in all things, and that we must not be absolute in our judgments. If you strongly affirm the truth, the mediocre man will say that you have too much confidence in yourself. The mediocre man regrets that the Christian religion has dogmas. He would like it to teach only ethics, and if you tell him that its code of morals comes from its dogmas as the consequence comes from the principle, he will answer that you exaggerate ... if the word ‘exaggeration’ did not exist, the mediocre man would invent it.

The mediocre man appears habitually modest. He cannot be humble, or he would cease to be mediocre. The humble man scorns all lies, even were they glorified by the whole earth, and he bows the knee before every truth. (Ernest Hello, L’homme, bk. I chap. 8, cited by Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, vol. I, p. 201)

This approach of pro and contra is not restricted to questions of opinion, of which there can be many sides, each of which may be legitimately considered. It is even brought to bear in questions of fact, such that all things are subject to this sophistry — all things with but a single exception: the ‘rights’ claimed for themselves by minority interest groups, to which no contrary position is permitted to be expressed. Such sophism completely destroys not only knowledge, but even the possibility of knowledge.

End of philosophical digression, and back to the BBC. It was not sufficient for the good people on the Today programme to announce the publication of the Chinon parchment and set forth the significance of this document; they had to muddy the waters by introducing the fables of Dan Brown and his ilk. By bringing forth fairy tales into a discourse on an historical subject, the wretched interviewer (probably the same fool who interviewed Cormac Murphy O’Connor yesterday morning) served only to introduce confusion in the minds of his listeners, who as a consequence do not know what is true and what is false. This man was even interviewing a professional historian about the document and the Knights Templar. If she was irritated on being impeded from a scholarly discussion of the facts by the introduction of this enormous red herring, she didn’t show it, preferring instead to render a non-committal answer. Melancholicus, however, lying abed, was exasperated and punched his pillow.

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