Fr. Mankowski’s Pen
Diogenes, thou shouldst be alive at this time!
“Diogenes” was the pen name often used by the late Father Paul Mankowski, S.J., whose ever-timely article, “Jesus, Son of Humankind?” is being reprinted in this issue (see page 26). Father Mankowski probably never suspected the egregiously silly and unnatural things our commitment to the unnatural would prompt us to do to our language. For now we have pronouns that no longer do the work of pronouns, which is to refer, swiftly and easily, to another person without having to know anything more about him than is most obvious to the eye, the first thing we notice and the last thing we forget, which is whether he’s a he or she’s a she.
Meanwhile, the point he makes is amply proved by people themselves when their guard is down. The feminists who cheer women’s basketball talk about “man-to-man” defense, without the slightest sense of impropriety, because in fact there is no impropriety. We still refer to things as “man-made” rather than natural. And sure enough, right in our midst, women themselves have happily and easily gone along with a new generic masculine, “guys,” referring casually to people regardless of sex. A girl will come into a room where her friends are up to something, and will say, “What are you guys doing?” And no one misunderstands.
As for the farther point, that when we go to “inclusive language” we lose the sense of MAN as summed up in the individual, personal, concrete Adam, and then in the Second Adam, Christ, Father Mankowski saw it coming long ago, and indeed it has happened, in ways that he himself predicted, and in ways that no one could predict, because madness by its nature takes leave of reasoning. Show me a hymnal in which the truly inclusive word “man” is treated as an obscenity, and I will show you a parish or a church that is far along its way toward a vague unitarianism and irrelevance.
Anthony Esolen is a professor at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the author of many books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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