Now here’s a puzzle for you. I’m setting up an interview with Anne Rice for various publications I write for. Some Catholics are worried that she may publicly dissent from Church teachings on matters like homosexuality, abortion and women’s ordination.
If an artist dissents from church teachings what should we do with their art? Should a novel, which is in itself, orthodox, beautiful and true, not be promoted because the novelist is not totally orthodox, beautiful and true? What if the artist does not dissent to church teaching, but dissents from Christian morality by living an immoral life? Shall we criticize their art by their morality?
This is tricky because we acknowledge that the holiness of a person’s life may influence his art for the better. Tolkien’s work, for example, is infused with a light and beauty that must come from his devout Catholicism. Is the inverse also true? Can the depravity or sinfulness of a person’s life or opinions be detrimental to their art? I believe the artist Caravaggio was a terrible scoundrel, but his art was sublime. Do we rubbish his paintings because of the rubbish of his moral life?
What are we to make, on the other hand, of the devout and holy and perfectly orthodox believer, who sadly, produces poor art? Shall we praise the mediocre because the artist is pious? Clearly those who pray well do not necessarily paint well. The person who is good on his knees may not be good as a novelist.
What do my readers think? If it turns out that Anne Rice supports, let us say, women’s ordination, shall we burn her books?