Catholicism: the Most Progressive Way of Life

Catholicism: the Most Progressive Way of Life 

Bevil Bramwell OMI: Catholicism is not progressive in the modern sense, but in promoting the union of human beings with God and each other.
In our culture, there are many abused terms, but perhaps the most abused is “progress.” The word comes originally from the Latin for “going forward.” The Renaissance gave the word a distinctly subjective meaning – new ideas about person and government that preceded their application in concrete terms, for example. The Industrial Revolution added the expectation that technology was going to solve the world’s problems. It did not, of course; it just created a world of machines, without the necessary human moral development. 

            Historically, the greatest misuse of the word started when progress began to be understood simply in terms of ideas. When this or that elite constructs an idea of progress, their visions may or may not have anything to do with reality. Karl Marx, for example, may have been moved by the harsh conditions of workers, but all he proposed were alternative ideas about ownership and government. And not very good ones as it turned out, as we can see quite well in the 200th anniversary of his birth this year.


Solidarity: Gdansk, Poland 1980

There was no guarantee (except in his mind) that Marx’s ideas would lead to the “progress” that he envisaged. Forcing the complex dynamics of the world to fit his ideas caused the deaths of tens of millions. That is a verifiable fact – and does not constitute progress. Yet surveys show that many philosophy departments in America still teach Marxism as a serious subject.

The Church has long shown the flaws in ersatz “progressive” ideologies – Leo XIII already knew where socialism would go in 1891 – which is why those who embrace such ideologies hate the Church.

But let’s consider progress and the Church more closely. Joseph Ratzinger reminded us, decades ago, that our faith in the Divine Trinity comes out of the concrete historical experiences of Jews and Christians.

God’s covenant with the Jewish People started with a little bit of heaven in the Ten Commandments. Then, in the land of those commandments, a real living person is born who constitutes the New Covenant, Jesus Christ.

Belief in – and a covenenat with – a person possessing both a divine nature and a human nature, that is progress. As is knowing the truth about the Creator and his Creation. That is why Catholic teachings constantly refer to concrete reality, either from the Old Covenant or the New. Christian minds are regulated by our direct experience of the world, a world created by God. Such experiences do not lead to unreal ideologies, but to a world that images the divine – and that can be grasped by our thinking.

This is the best use of the human minds, to go back to the sensible world to check out whether our concepts have validity. As Aquinas put it: “Although the intellect is superior to the senses, nevertheless in a manner it receives from the senses, and its first and principal objects are founded in sensible things.” It is real progress to help human minds to develop in a consistent way and to keep them intellectually grounded in the world around them.

Click here to read the rest of Father Bramwell’s column . . .

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