In this two-part article, Ong responds to a piece published four months earlier in America by Louis F. Doyle ("Cruel to Be Kind," 28 April 1945:  76-77), in which Doyle criticizes Catholic art and literature for being "derivative," simply imitating the work of others; guilty of "false refinement," meaning a return to the politeness of the eighteenth century; and "propagandist," limiting writing only to the expression of religious doctrine.

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."
 

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