Catholicism and James Joyce

Any scholar that gets near anything about Joyce takes for granted that Joyce broke up with Christianity, period
A glorious exception is found at the book James Joyce and the Burden of Disease, by Dr. Kathleen Ferris, which although centered around the kind of Syphilis Joyce had, hit the mark when she said about his catholic relinquishing: (page 8 - Prologue)

"Ellmann was of Jewish background and was, I imagine, an enlightened humanist, whereas I, like Joyce, am a renegade Catholic. Undoubtedly my portrait of Joyce will also reflect something of my own cultural background. Where Ellmann saw Joyce's break with Christianity as total and final, I believe that no matter how completely a person separates himself from his Catholic origins, the world view, the sense of the sacredness of life, the moral values and the fears that a child acquires as part of his early religious training are likely to remain with the adult throughout his life. Catholic guilt is not easily escaped; or is the Catholic impulse to confess. Hence I disagree with the assertion that became what Ellmann called a "secular artist" who used religious imagery simply as a metaphor for his art (JJ 66) Instead, I see his art as a means (to borrow a phrase from T.S.Eliot) of projecting and ordering the complex emotional material of his life, as a means of purging himself of the guilt that ensued from violating taboo imposed by the religion of his childhood Joyce's brother Stanislaus recognized that emotional needs prompted Jim's writing: "I think he wrote to make things clear to himself... my brother used patterns in his later work because he found a pattern even in the disorder of his own life, being an artist and not a philosopher... he made this personal experience the informing spirit of his later work"(MBK 54,225). an undated letter from Joyce to his daughter Lucia (c.1935) corroborates this notion: "I am slow O Yes 8 years to write a book and 18 for its successor . But I will understand in the end".; (Ltrs. I : 377) The desire to impose the order of art over the chaos of experience is one impulse that lies behind the writing of autobiographical and confessional literature. I will argue (pace Mort Z Levitt) that Joyce's later works are both autobiographical and confessional in nature."

Prof. James S Atherton already pointed out (The Books at Wake, the structural books, page 53)

IV. Theology. (Vico, Bruno, Budge's notes to The Book of the Dead)

a. Original sin was committed by God. It is simply the act of creation.
b. 'Each civilization has its own Jove.' (Vico.)
c. Each Jove commits again, in a new way, to commence his cycle, the Original sin on which creation depends.

Same book, page 29-34 From Vico

The Thunder was the Voice of God and first men were mute, communicating through gesture. To utter sound, like God, was perhaps blasphemous, because was an imitation of the voice of the thunder. At the beginning they stutter and so Joyce does when emulating that. There is an elaborate theory connecting stuttering with consciousness of guilty and basically it is a symbol for the fall from paradise in Genesis, which has equivalent stories elsewhere.

The fall and an Angry God Shouting at the sinner is a recurrent constellation in Joyce's work and I would dare to say if it was psychoanalysis it is his problem state.Joyce evem made God stutter in a clear attempt to simulate a God which is conscious of having committed a sin! The idea of atribution of the Original Sin to God is one of the basic axioms of Finnegans Wake. The Original Sin is a poor explanation to the existence of Evil as it is well known, but it is the oficial catholic solution to the problem. It is not absurd as it seems, because as Prof Atherton puts so well, and I quote:

In every small boy's household when the father of the family is enraged. And serenely behind the outraged father there rests-in Joyce's version - the mother-figure, Anna Livia. She is always calm, and always right. It is, indeed, to be regretted that her neighbours tell strange stories about her; but unlike her husband, who is constantly stuttering his apologies, she is aware of her virtue. This is a typical situation. It is not the autobiographical details that concern us here but the structural formulae. And from what has been said so far it can, I think, be laid down that the following axioms from Vico apply to Finnegans Wake.

The Bible

As we can see at page 189, chapter 8, from James S Atherton the Books at the Wake:

The Old Testament
'Old dustamount' (359.II)

I have already suggested that the basic axiom underlying Finnegans Wake is that the artist is the God of his creation.1 Joyce seems to have gone a step further than that and considered that the work on which he was engaged was itself a new sacred book. 'I go', he wrote in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 'to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.'2 Finnegans Wake was to be the fulfillment of this promise. It was to contain within itself all the sacred books which had ever been written. The method which Joyce adopted to make his book subsume all others was his customary one of selecting fragments from all he could find and distributing the fragments in his own pages. Its success depended on the skill with which the fragments were selected, transformed, and redistributed; and Joyce wrote, 'I am quite content to go down to posterity as a scissors and paste man for that seems to me a harsh but not unjust description.'3 He was, in fact, aware of his own defects and chose his methods with deliberation.
But it is impossible to say whether or not Joyce really set out to include references to all the world's sacred books in the Wake. Since he usually aimed at completeness the probability seems to be that he tried to fit them all in. But the number of books which have at one time and place or another been considered sacred is so large, and the obscurity of many of these books so great, that it would require an enormous amount of research to say with any precision what proportion of the whole is mentioned in Finnegans Wake. There are, for example, the forty-nine volumes edited by Max Müller with the general title The Sacred Books of the East, and the hundred and thirty-six volumes of the Theravada Canon which have been published by the Pali Text Society in English translation: and in both cases the editors point out that the
1 See above: 'The Structural Books', p. 27.
2A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Travelers' Library ed., p. 238.
3Letters, p. 297. Letter to George Antheil, dated '3 January 1931'.
books translated are not the entire body of works that could have been included but just a selection. It therefore appears that Joyce's 'ideal reader' must possess not only an 'ideal insomnia' but an ideal library. Furthermore he must be able to read the books for Joyce sometimes quotes from them in the original language, as will be seen later in this chapter. He is known to have asked for words in eastern languages - presumably so as to include them in his book.