The National Catholic Review

As I write this, I am en route to Belgium for three days of meetings on the thought of Rene Girard, the French-American historian, literary critic and philosopher of the social sciences. Girard is receiving more and more attention these days from theologians, among many others, for his insights into the nature of human desire and violence. It is heady stuff. I am not a Girardian, per se, nor do I agree with every bit of his theory, but his ideas have influenced a number of notable Christian thinkers, including Rowan Williams. Girard himself is a faithful Catholic, having found his faith again after reading Dostoevsky, among others. In any case, you can check out Girard’s work at http://www.imitatio.com/. His thoughts on the mimetic nature of desire and human conflict are perhaps particularly relevant in an election cycle. More on that, perhaps, in a later post.

 

Comments

Anonymous | 10/22/2010 - 8:05pm
Dear Fr. Malone: Once you read Girard and re-visit Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity"pages on the topic, it is almost irrational to adhere to Anselm's reading of the murdering of Jesus as an act of satisfaction geared to win the Father's forgiveness on behalf of humanity. Consequently, it is impossible not to review the Letter to the Hebrews idea of ministerial priesthood, especially in chapter 5. Then, what the Bishops of the Church are doing today to relocate ministerial priesthood at the center of the life of the community seems quite confusing or inconsistent. Could you write something about the renewal of the role of the priest in the community? Is there any way to escape from the idea of the priest as a power broker in the terms of the prophets and patriarcks, judges, etc. of the OT? Will priests be free of a vocation to martyrdom whether bloody or blodless following on Christ footsteps for the sake of Justice? I wish I could have known how to write to you without publishing my comment/request but I did not know how. Thanks. GP  
JANICE JOHNSON | 10/22/2010 - 4:16pm
As you said, Fr. Malone, Girard's insights are heady stuff, but I think well worth exploring.  I'm looking forward to your reports.  A few years ago I was introduced to Girard through a series of lectures given by Gil Bailie, a Catholic layman, friend and follower of Girard.  I'm currently reading Gil's book:  "Violence Unveiled:  Humanity at the Crossroads" which has a foreward by Girard.  Published by Crossroad in 1995, it is also heady stuff but I think a very good way to be introduced to the ideas of these brilliant Catholc laymen.  I have barely scratched the surface of their thinking.  I can say, though, you will never look at the Crucifixion in the same way once you begin to understand mimetic desire  and scapegoating and sacrifical violence.
Anonymous | 10/22/2010 - 11:12am
Look forward to your report!
Anonymous | 10/22/2010 - 11:11am
His book, "Deceit, desire and the novel," is an amazing look at the metaphysical aspects of desire as found in Proust, Stendhal, Dostoevsky, and Cervantes.

And "I see Satan fall like lightening" is really a breakthrough in terms of theological anthropology which dovetails quite amazingly with the pope's opening speech at the Mideast synod:

"God is among gods - they are still considered as gods in Israel. In this Psalm, in a great concentration, in a prophetic vision, we can see the power taken from the gods. Those who seemed to be gods are not gods and lose their divine characteristics, and fall to earth.  Dii estsis et moriemini sicut nomine (cf. Psa 81:6-7): the wresting of power, the fall of divinities."
Anonymous | 10/22/2010 - 10:33am
I never heard of the term "mimetic desire," but I found an excerpt from one of Girard's works that I found fascinating, not too long, and a relatively easy read on the subject.  It starts with the seemingly simple ten commandments and takes off from there.  Check it out:

http://girardianlectionary.net/res/iss_1-scandal.htm