Twenty years ago, Notre Dame awarded the Laetare Medal to the great Catholic novelist Walker Percy. In his acceptance speech, which can be seen in full here, Percy said:
The motto of the Laetare Medal is, I understand, ‘Magna est veritas et prevalebit,’ ‘Truth is mighty and shall prevail.’ I like to think that it applies even to the humble vocation of a novelist.
In my last novel, The Thanatos Syndrome, I tried to show how, while truth should prevail, it is a disaster when only one kind of truth prevails at the expense of another. If only one kind of truth prevails, the abstract and technical truth of science, then nothing stands in the way of a demeaning of and a destruction of human life for what would appear to be reasonable short-term goals.
It’s no accident that I think that German science, as great as it was, ended in the destruction of the Holocaust.
The novelist likes to irritate people by pointing this out. It’s his pleasure and vocation to reveal, with his own elusive and indirect way, man’s need of and openings to other than scientific propositions.
The novelist, I think, has a special calling to truth these days. The world into which you are graduating is a deranged world. It is his task to show the derangement.
Twenty years later, Notre Dame has invited President Barak Obama, not only the most pro-abortion President in history, but a guy who tells us that his administration will “make scientific decisions based on facts and not ideology.”
Deranged world, indeed!