By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Graham Greene's Monseñor Quixote Meets the Young Fr. Herrera from Salamanca

Monseñor Quixote is the protagonist in Graham Greene's novel of that name--a protagonist who is said to be descended from Don Quixote. In this scene, Monseñor Quixote meets his replacement as curate of a small village parish while the Monseñor takes a sabbatical of sorts. His replacement is the young Fr. Herrera, fresh from the university town of Salamanca with a doctorate in moral theology and fresh from his duties as secretary to a bishop.

Now, the dialogue, with the young Fr. Herrera speaking first:

"I see you have Father Heribert Jone on your shelf. A German. All the same, very sound on that subject [moral theology]."

"I am afraid I haven't read him for many years. Moral theology, as you can imagine, doesn't play a great part in parish work."

"I would have thought it essential. In the confessional."

"When the baker comes to me, or the garagist--it's not very often--their problems are usually very simple ones. Well, I trust to my instinct. I have no time to look their problems up in Jone."

"Instinct must have a sound basis, monsignor--I'm sorry--father." [Quixote had asked the young priest not to call him "monsignor."]

"Oh, yes, of course, a sound basis. Yes. But like my ancestor, perhaps, I put my trust most in old books written before Jone was born."

"But your ancestor's books were only ones of chivalry, surely? "

"Well, perhaps mine--in their way--are of chivalry too. Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa, Saint Francis de Sales. And the Gospels, father. 'Let us go up to Jerusalem and die with Him.' Don Quixote could not have put it better than Saint Thomas."

"Oh, of course, one accepts the Gospels, naturally," Father Herrera said in the tone of one who surrenders a small and unimportant point to his adversary. "All the same, Jone on moral theology is very sound, very sound. What's that you said, father? "

"Oh, nothing. A truism which I haven't the right to use. I was going to add that another sound base is God's love."

"Of course, of course. But we mustn't forget His justice either. You agree, monsignor?"

"Yes, well, yes, I suppose so."

"Jone makes a very clear distinction between love and justice."

Source: Graham Greene, Monseñor Quixote (N.Y.: Washington Square Press, 1982), pp. 37-8 (Ch. 2).

We say the real estate business is about "Location, location, location." As an interpreter of texts, I say "Context, context, context" (a type of location).

When it comes to Catholic Christianity, we can say: "Emphasis, emphasis, emphasis."

Where you place the emphasis makes all the difference in the world, as we have been reminded in the last few months. Context tells you what should be emphasized.

(Image under fair use doctrine)