Why today’s secular culture is anti-Catholic
What ever became of that visitation of American women religious?
I often find it interesting to look back at old articles written when the Internet was still quite young. This is mainly to see if the intelligent folk back then got it right or if we are any the wiser now. How good were they at diagnosis and prognosis?
This edited version of an address by James Hitchcock, now emeritus professor of history at Saint Louis University, was published in 2001.
If readers can think of any more “why’s” to add, please do so in the comment box. Even Toad or Mr Fisher.
I must say I particularly liked this:
In our post-modern secular culture certain people now control the media, academia and other avenues of influence and use their positions in these to impose their “truth” on us.
Dr Hitchcock’s 2001 address in Brisbane on AD2000.
Please find many more articles by the prolific Dr Hitchcock here.
To a large extent, it is self-evident that today’s Western culture has become anti-religious in general and anti-Catholic in particular.
In this regard, there is a great deal of discussion among historians and others about “modernity”. Modernity itself is a modern idea. We talk about the ancient world but, of course, if one had asked Julius Caesar “what period of history is this?”, he would not have said “ancient times.” Nor would St Thomas Aquinas have called the period in which he lived “the Middle Ages”.
It is modern times as we understand it today that for the first time in history has a sense of itself as being “modern” and defines itself in contrast to what went before. The tendency in earlier cultures was to stress continuity with the past and to venerate tradition.
The tendency of modernity has been to emphasise the degree of split or break so that in our culture to say that something is new or original is to give it high praise for the most part. To say that something is old or outmoded is precisely the opposite.
This, in and of itself, creates difficulties for religion because the Catholic Faith rests upon Scripture and Tradition. The Tradition of the Church is authority-centred and we look back always to an event which happened 2000 years ago in history which will never happen again; and we look back to that particular episode in history as it is encapsulated for us in the Scriptures and Tradition as providing us with sure guidance for everything which has come later.
That does not mean that in certain ways things will not change. It does not mean that we do not have – in every age – to wrestle again with the question of how the perennial truth of the Gospel applies in our age. But we will never reach the point as believing Christians where we conclude that because certain events happened a long time ago they no longer have anything to say to us.
But many of our contemporaries believe otherwise . . .
There is much debate about when modernity, as modern people talk about it, exactly began.
One can point to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century as splitting the religious unity of the Western world and perhaps – not intentionally – giving rise to a belief on the part of many people that religion is a purely personal and private thing between oneself and God, and oneself and the Bible – that there is no single authority or Church which can pronounce the truths of Christianity. That it is, in fact, an individual thing.
In many respects, more important was the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Initially, to a great extent, it was a French movement in which, for the first time since the days of ancient Rome, people became openly sceptical of Christianity itself and of the idea of divine revelation.
The Enlightenment view, put succinctly, claimed that human reason is the only sure guide to truth, and any claim of divine revelation – that some truth comes down to us from on high, which we ourselves are not capable of discovering on our own – has to be rejected as demeaning of human beings.
Ever since that time a struggle has been going on for the soul of Western civilisation.
The influence of Christianity – which was the single most important formative influence in making Western civilisation what it is – is still very strong. But, at the same time, the Enlightenment tradition of scepticism and doubt has become more militant and aggressive, attacking religious faith not only as invalid, but also pernicious.
This battle has been going on for the past 300 years.