Integrity: Volume 1 – Book Review

 

A new term emerged in 1960s America: the “Counter Culture” heralding a milieu that would prove as transitory as it was shallow. For the hippies never succeeded in creating a genuine cultural alternative to the crass commercial civilisation they revolted against.

Either they became New Agers, often with a rampant commercialism of their own, or indeed full-blown capitalists themselves.

But there are Catholics who live, breathe and study their faith that have long been different.

True, they, too, find it difficult to withstand secular tyranny – who does not? – yet such Catholics are radical in the true sense of the word. They go to the roots of the modern secularism and they refuse to embrace those roots – roots that have so much to do with the Reformation and the rationalist, usurious climate it fostered.

This means they understand that an authentic cultural challenge cannot be based on shallow revolt, airy-fairy dreams and ultimately selling- out to the mainstream culture but a TOTAL approach that manifests a commitment to a Catholic worldview that predates the Calvinist and Capitalist matrix of modern America.

Now, I write these words as an American once steeped in that matrix.  I also write as something of a former hippy myself who, seeing the shallowness of his New Age dream, converted to Catholicism and came to appreciate a number of great European Catholic thinkers who stood apart from my American origins.  These include the English Chesterton, the Anglo-French Hilaire Belloc, the great Irish Father Edward Cahill, amongst others less known in the Protestant Anglosphere.

But for long years I remained unaware of a brilliant, passionate AMERICAN who I truly feel can stand besides these European luminaries. That woman is Carol Jackson Robinson and along with another noteworthy American Ed Willock she once ran a small magazine called Integrity

We are indebted to Arouca Press for re-introducing these American Catholic thinkers.  I have already raved (I could do no other) about Arouca’s first Robinson title here, which is, moreover, a very inexpensive “taster” volume.

But I am grateful to Arouca for this first volume of a series that means to reproduce the entire ten year run of Integrity. Robinson’s spirit shines throughout this magazine, filled with thoughtful, indeed profound, essays, revealing cartoons and even inspired doggerel.

Here is an example of the latter:

Mr. Business went to Mass.

He never missed a Sunday.

Mr. Business went to hell,

for what he did on Monday.

In a way, that little quatrain captures the essence of Integrity. The editors say a resounding “no” to a complacent Catholicism, that mechanically attends to the rhythm of Sunday Mass, whilst equally attending to the rhythms of corporate, consumerist “culture” the rest of the week.

But there is far more to Integrity than little ditties like this. Robinson’s essays, editorials and review reflect the original, searching, pious, gritty, acute thinker that she was. Earlier I suggested she was “profound”. The word was not used lightly.

Robinson was a woman on fire – whose fire, now being resurrected by Arouca, can, I think, provide a very special torch for Americans caught up in crass modernity.

But Willock and the other contributors are no slouches either! We have then a time capsule here of fascinating, inspired American Catholicism that dares to be really, truly Catholic. I cannot recommend Robinson and her Integrity enough …

***

To buy this book you can either find it here at Arouca Press or go to the American Capitalist colossus itself. (The editors of Integrity would not like that colossus very much I think, but I trust they would understand that Catholic small publishers like Arouca could not, alas, survive without it.)

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Video from Roger Buck

This video does not mention Integrity, Robinson or Willock. Still, it expands on the themes above, and can explain further I think why I think Arouca Press’s initiative is so important.

Or  . . . what happens when you mix Chesterton, Belloc, Charles de Gaulle, GAFA, Ireland, France with Margaret Thatcher’s devastation of Britain, the Jam and “A Town Called Malice” …

 

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