Saturday, October 12, 2019

Oscar Wilde's Secret

From The National Catholic Register:
The first thing we need to know about Wilde is that he was at war with himself. Wilde the would-be saint and Wilde the woeful sinner were in deadly conflict, one with the other. In this he was no different from the rest of us. Throughout his life, even at those times that he was at his most “decadent,” he retained a deep love for the Person of Christ and a lasting reverence for the Catholic Church. Indeed, he spent much of his life flirting with Catholicism. He almost converted as an undergraduate at Trinity College in Dublin, and was on the brink of conversion a year or so later as an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford. There were no doctrinal differences preventing him from being received into the Church. He believed everything the Church believed and even spoke eloquently and wittily in defense of Catholic dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception. The only reason he failed to follow the logic of his Catholic convictions was a fear of being disinherited by his father if he did so. Years later, after his fall from favor following the scandal surrounding his homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, he spoke wistfully of his reluctant decision to turn his back on the Church. “Much of my moral obliquity is due to the fact that my father would not allow me to become a Catholic,” he confided to a journalist. “The artistic side of the Church would have cured my degeneracies. I intend to be received before long.” In the event, he was finally received into the Church shortly before his death in 1900.
Needless to say, Wilde’s Christianity informed the moral dimension of his work. His poetry exhibits either a selfless love for Christ or, at its darkest, a deep self-loathing in the face of the ugliness of his own sinfulness. His short stories are almost always animated by a deep Christian morality, with “The Selfish Giant” deserving a timeless accolade as one of the finest Christian fairy stories ever written. His plays are more than merely comedies or tragedies; they are morality plays in which virtue is vindicated and vice vanquished. And The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde’s only novel and a true masterpiece of Victorian fiction, is a cautionary tale in which a man destroys himself and those with whom he comes into contact in his insane desire to escape from the constraints of morality and the dictates of his conscience.
This is shocking enough, and warrants the censorship of Wilde’s puritanical modern admirers, but it’s only a small part of the whole shocking story. It is not only Wilde who succumbed to the love that dare not speak its name. Most of the other Decadents who influenced Wilde or with whom he fraternized also fell in love with Christ and His Church. Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Joris Karl Huysmans, the leading lights of the French Decadence, were all received into the Catholic Church, the last of whom spending the last years of his life attached to a monastery. Even more shocking is the fact that Wilde approved of Huysmans seeking solace at the monastery, expressing a desire to do the same. Needless to say, there was no mention of this in the Paris exhibition, its being hidden away in the safely locked closet. (Read more.)

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