‘The Triumph of Religion: Preceded by Discourse to Catholics’ by Jacques Lacan

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Bruce Fink has provided us with a first-rate translation of two transcripts which many of us in the English world have not had the luxury of reading from Jacques Lacan. The first transcription, entitled “Discourse to Catholics”, was extracted from a short talk that was “open[ed] to the public” and given on March 9th and 10th of 1960 in Brussels. Among other things, the talk discussed, in a rather curious way, the relevance of the Freudian discovery—the Freudian “Thing” and its relation to the ethics of psychoanalysis—for religious practitioners. Lacan noted, as if to elicit a longing of interest in the topic, that those devoutly religious members of the audience ought to judge the value of his talk by how it strikes their minds at the end, rather than by how it immediately presents itself to their ears. It was as if to displace their conclusions on the topic, so as to keep them in the time for thinking, that he confessed in his final few remarks that it was prudence which kept him from speaking any further on the matter.

The second transcription, entitled “The Triumph of Religion”, was an interview conducted between some Italian journalists and Jacques Lacan in Rome on October 29th, 1974. The elocution is muddy and the discussants appear to be at odds with one another. One detects a latent hostility within the conversation and perhaps even some sarcasm on the part of Lacan. The point is that the questions were asked with such opacity and with such deep seated conviction (conviction that, for example, answers are necessarily forthcoming) that one ought not reproach Lacan for taking liberties with his responses. As we now know, every question has within itself the seeds of an answer and, therefore, a question about the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion seems to me to be at the heart of the religious question itself.


‘I am the product of priests’, Lacan once said of himself. Educated by the Marist Brothers (or Little Brothers of Mary), he was a pious child and acquired considerable, personal knowledge of the torments and cunning of Christian spirituality. He was wonderfully able to speak to Catholics and to bring them around to psychoanalysis. Jesuits flocked to his school.Freud, an old-style Enlightenment optimist, believed religion was merely an illusion that the progress of the scientific spirit would dissipate in the future. Lacan did not share this belief in the slightest: he thought, on the contrary, that the true religion, Roman Catholicism, would take in everyone in the end, pouring bucketsful of meaning over the ever more insistent and unbearable real that we, in our times, owe to science.

— Jacques-Alain Miller

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