Sunday, January 11, 2009

Anthony Esolen, at Inside Catholic:

"History is bunk," said Henry Ford, as he set about destroying a way of life that rewarded craftsmanship and thrift. "Education," said the great American flattener of our schools, John Dewey, "[must] undermine and destroy the accumulated and self-perpetuating prejudices of long ages," including, as far as he was concerned, the hoary old prejudices of religion. Neither Ford nor Dewey was much of a thinker. But we did not need them to tell us that we owed nothing to the past. We required no encouragement to forget. We have been doing that ever since Eve forgot the multitudinous blessings of God and ate of the single forbidden fruit.


Take Ford's quote, and replace "history" with "tradition," or "the faith expressed in the first creeds," or "the piety of past ages of Catholics," and you express the sentiment of any number of Catholics, lay and clergy. Do something similar with Dewey's challenge: Tack on the name of a chancery director of religious education, and see if the result raises an eyebrow. So thoroughly have we committed ourselves to amnesia that we now hug ourselves for our betrayal of our heritage, as if it were a virtue.


So too, without memory, you have no Church. You may have thousands thronging the coffee shops at Willow Creek, in the market for the latest therapeutic Jesus promo. You may have 20 people in a little niche chapel in the country, where Pastor Joanne turns Christianity into chicken soup for old ladies. But you have no Church.