Ong agrees with Doyle that Catholic art and literature is, for the most part, derivative, and he sees this tendency as a somewhat negative quality, especially in art and literature, for he believes that what makes "good" art is the artist's ability to create something original (or at least incorporate what has come before to transform tradition). But unlike Doyle, who believes that the reason Catholic art and literature is derivative is because Catholics already know the truth and do not need to spend time questioning the world as artists and writers do, Ong offers another reason for the derivative quality of Catholic art and literature.
Ong believes that, in addition to derivativeness being a general attribute found in the majority of all kinds of art and literature (not just Catholic art and literature), Catholic art and literature is derivative because Catholic artists and writers have always been on the defensive, more directly focused on their enemies than on expressing the truth. Ong also believes, however, that the time has come for Catholic art and literature to be less derivative, and he encourages the development of a strong Catholic intellectual "front" that will shape the course of art and literature in the United States. For this to happen, Ong asserts, leaders of the church (and colleges and universities, since they are often the sites of much intellectual development) must provide an atmosphere in which creative thought can flourish.
Ong's response to Doyle's article is typical of the way which he formats
many of his short, early journalistic pieces, picking out one section of
a previous article (from the the same publication or another publication)
and elaborating on that particular section. This article reveals
how the short, popular culture-oriented format used by Ong in his America
articles presented the opportunity to incorporate, in very summarized form,
some of the ideas Ong writes about at length in some of his more scholarly
publications. For example, when he writes of most Catholic art and
literature, "It does not convert any raw experiential material direct from
reality into its own substance," he reminds the reader of his detailed
discussions of the tension between abstract ideas and the material realm
in "The Meaning of the 'New Criticism'"
and "Newman's Essay on Development in
Its Intellectual Milieu."