Writing With Righteous Wrath


Convivium, 9 August 2018

Convivium’s Editor in Chief, Father Raymond de Souza, reflects on moments when anger is the justified response.

When is it good to write in anger? Not often, most certainly. But never? Certainly not.

I rarely get angry. My annoyance threshold is rather high. Indeed, if it were not for my writing, I would likely not get angry at all. My students at Queen’s and my parishioners on Wolfe Island blessedly do not provoke me; quite the contrary in fact. And the overwhelming majority of my readers seem to be pleased, or at least not upset enough to write. But there are a few who do, not in disagreement but for denunciation; anger provokes anger and I quickly set out a few lines of choice rejoinder in kind.

I never send it. Or at least in twenty years I can’t remember an instance. I hold myself to the well-known maxim that a letter written in anger should not be sent until at least the next day – and at least two days for email! By the morrow a cooler head prevails, and the angry response is not sent.
That is not exactly the prevailing wisdom today. Social media, reality television, professional wrestling and the president of the United States all push in the opposite direction. The sooner the better. The angrier the better. The daily New Yorker cartoon from earlier this week made the point: “Every time I feel like saying something I shouldn’t, I ask myself, ‘What would the President do?’ And then I go ahead and say it.”

I prefer to hold to the maxim of waiting. The same applies to column writing. Anger often can be a motivation to choose a topic, or to produce a draft that engages and entertains the reader. 

Column drafts cannot be held over for the morrow, but wise editors are at hand to remove the scorching lines. Anger brings more heat than light. Cool is more persuasive, if less spectacular.

So, I surprised myself a few weeks back in writing an angry column about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. The retired archbishop of Washington resigned from the College of Cardinals after revelations of predatory sexual behaviour with young men, including seminarians, and two allegations of such offenses with minors.

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