As expected, in the comments pertaining to "America's British Culture", the obvious tension between Catholicism and our inherited British culture was noted by several readers. Those comments brought to mind the thoughts of John Senior on the subject, from his indispensable classic titled "The Restoration of Christian Culture" - another book I would like to review here unless some other contributor beats me to it. Dr. Senior writes:
For English-speaking Catholics there is a difficulty which would take a whole treatise to deal with adequately: English literature is substantially Protestant. It is all well and good to quote St. Paul that "whatever is true is from the Holy Ghost" and argue that this literature, whether Protestant, Jewish or Infidel, so long as it is true, is Catholic despite the persuasion of the authors. All well and good provided that literature were abstract science; a matter of two and two are four. But literature by definition is that paradoxical thing, the "concrete universal", imitating men in action in their actual affective and moral and spiritual struggles. And so Catholics have to live with a difficulty. The thousand good books which are the indispensable soil of the understanding of the Catholic Faith and indirectly requisite to the Kingdom of Heaven, are not Catholic but Protestant.
The recognition of this has led some well-meaning Catholic teachers to the recommendation of texts and reading lists of strictly Catholic authors, which can only be done by supplying large amounts of Latin, French, Italian and other foreign authors in translation along with those very few Englishmen who happened to be Catholic and alas, though by no means bad, are all second rate. No matter how you do it, the attempt is hopeless.
First, we are English-speaking people. Our language is English and if we are to learn it, we must absorb its own particular genius. If we are to have English Catholic authors or even readers, they must be schooled in the English language as it is, and not in even the best works of translators, who are not men of genius, no matter how great the works they are translating. Dorothy Sayers, for example, is a fine Christian lady, I am told, and the Italian Catholic Dante is one of only three candidates for the title of greatest poet who ever lived; but Dorothy Sayers' translation of the Divine Comedy is something of a comedy in another sense and not even remotely in a class of excellence with the Puritan Latin Secretary to the arch-heretic and murderer of Catholic Ireland, John Milton, or even with the atheist Irish sympathizer Shelley, whom Miss Sayers imitates in attempting - disastrously - Dante's terza rima. English literature is not an option; it is a fact. And it is Protestant; we are at once blest and stuck with it - blest because it is the finest literature in the world, and stuck because it cannot ever be done again ...
Having stated the facts first as a difficulty, I hasten to add that it is a difficulty we can live with and flourish under. First of all, insofar as the literature is Protestant, it is Biblical and Christian; the existence of God, the Divinity of Christ, the necessity of prayer and obedience to the commandments is its very strong stuff for the most part and there is little anywhere in direct violation of the Catholic Faith, though there is some overt, sometimes crude, sometimes true accusation. Since Protestantism stands in between its Catholic and Jewish antecedents in a link of Hebraic Christianity, at least in its Calvinist tendencies, its popular literature has been both anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish. Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho!, one of the best boys' books, is filled with outrageous lies about the Jesuits; and both Shakespeare and Dickens, with Shylock and Fagin, have exploited and exaggerated the avarice of the Jews. But what Chesterton said of Westward Ho! - "It's a lie, but a healthy one" - could be said of A Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist. It is the unhealthy pharisaical Catholic and Jew who resent the caricatures of themselves ... The fact is that Jesuits have sometimes been a scandal, despite the glorious company of their saints; and Jews have been conspicuous usurers, pornographers and Communists, despite their large courage in the face of unjust persecution and the smaller number of converted saints. Good Catholics and Jews can laugh and weep at once at the truth in these cartoons, just as a temperate Irishman - if you can find one - would laugh and weep at the stage Irish drunk, or an honest Italian at The Godfather.