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The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4
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A reflection by Fr Luis Garza, LC, on how Catholics can take an effective stand in the culture war today.

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"Against the spirit of the world, the Church takes up anew each day a struggle that is none other than the struggle for the world’s soul" (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope).

September 12, 2011. The Catholic Church has been a builder of culture for over two millennia, and has faced different forms of “culture war” throughout its long and battle-scarred history. But perhaps never has the Church faced a challenge like the “battle for the soul of the world” in the 21st century.

For those with an interest in understanding the roots and consequences of the cultural battle underway in today’s world, we present The Battle for the Soul of the World, by Fr Luis Garza, LC. Originally presented as a series of lectures for university students attending a leadership conference, it is offered here as a formation resource for teams and individuals who will find the lecture notes to be thought-provoking material for reflection and discussion.

The complete text with study guide questions can be downloaded in PDF format here. Part 4 of the 10-part series is presented below, and the following parts will be published on the web site on Mondays.

***

Chapter Three
Current Battle Fronts

At this point I will review the different areas that create culture and analyze what is happening and what can be done.  Before proceeding, we should take a few points into account:

- Culture, as noted above, is based on the behavior of individuals and communities.  To affect behavior, to make new ideas become culture, it is necessary to propose them and then go through a process: people have to receive the idea, accept it, assimilate it, practice it and pass it on.
- Western culture is based on some fundamental principles that emerge from human nature; Christian heritage, however, has made them easier to learn and live:
a) Each person has an absolute value.  The collectivity is not superior to the person.  The world has as its end the person.  Our absolute value does not hinder solidarity but rather promotes it.  Therefore, we must not fall into individualism.
b) People are to have the opportunity to develop.  We are to be free in our pursuit of good.
c) There are absolute truths that must be known.
d) We are not determined to be one way or another.  We can and must form ourselves to be good and virtuous.  While psychological and cultural conditioning clearly prompts us to behave a certain way, it does not deprive us of our ability to act otherwise.
e) The family is the basic unit of society and the natural environment where we learn unconditional love and solidarity towards others.  Parents have the right to educate their children with their own principles and convictions.

In each sector to be discussed, we must try to discover how we came to our present situation under the influence of ideological and operational strategies.  We must strive to move towards the fundamental principles of Western culture described above.  We have to retrace our steps to reverse the process that led to our present concrete situation.

1. Education

Let’s start with an overview of universities.  It is a demonstrable fact of history that liberal ideas have infiltrated colleges (for example, Fabianism, a branch of Marxist-socialist ideas, took control of British research centers).  These ideas caused the curriculum to be changed and the studies of Western culture to be abandoned.  It is not unusual to see how many faculties of prestigious universities have now become centers for anti-Western ideas, anti-Christianity, and so on.

The influence has been seen not only in universities but also in schools.  In schools in the Western world, virtue and values are no longer taught.  Rather, “value clarification” has been employed; that is, each one’s thoughts are allowed to surface, without showing anything to be right or wrong.  This approach is based on the psychological theories of Lawrence Kohlberg, popularized by Sidney Simon’s 1972 book, entitled Values Clarification.  According to this theory, there is no truth; anyone can have his or her own opinion.  Education must be “non-directive,” with less structure and discipline.

On November 4, 1946, Sir Julian Sorell Huxley, the first president and founder of UNESCO, an organization that promotes the culture and education of the UN, established the basic principles of this organization in a book called UNESCO: Its Purpose and Philosophy.  He wrote that any transcendent vision should be excluded from education, and an evolutionary view must be adopted (especially in morality, since there should be nothing perennial in ethics).  The book stated that anyone with rigid ethics is to be excluded from key positions, psychoanalysis is to be used in education, and the optimal number of people in the world is to be achieved.

There has also been a vigorous secularization in education, followed by what has been called deconstructionism (supposedly, we must discover the building blocks of certain ethical ideas in order to reduce them to their purely cultural elements and thus show them to be relative to culture or a way of thinking but without any deeper substratum): there is a desire to rewrite history, implement the homosexual agenda, ban religion (a good example is the Supreme Court decision which, in 1962 and 1963, banned reading the Bible or praying in schools, based on the separation of church and state), etc.

Even in the area of academic performance, there has been a desire to play down results (the idea is to give instruction without grades).  Obviously, this caused academic underachievement (SAT scores dropped 73 points between 1960 and 1993.)  In a geography competition sponsored by National Geographic, the United States finished last out of nine participating countries.  Likewise, out of all the nations examined in the 1989 “International Assessment of Educational Programs,” US students took last place in science.

Our own experience also confirms that catechesis is often defective, if not missing altogether.

This whole mix of actions has provoked a lack of true values and increased disciplinary problems.  For example, in November of 1993, U.S. News and World Report published an article entitled “Violence in Public Schools” as the result of an evaluation among public school teachers conducted in 1990.  The article compared this evaluation with responses from the same school in 1940.  The following list reports the worst disciplinary problems in 1940:

1. speaking out of turn,
2. chewing gum,
3. making noise,
4. running in the halls,
5. disorder in forming lines,
6. dress code violations,
7. littering.

Whereas, in 1990:
1. drug abuse,
2. alcohol abuse,
3. pregnancy,
4. suicide,
5. rape,
6. robbery,
7. assault.
So, what are we to do?

The Continental Congress of 1787 declared that “religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of humankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Public and private education has always been a hallmark and bedrock of America.  Convening in Baltimore in 1829, a council of bishops stated, “We judge it absolutely necessary that schools should be established in which the young may be taught the principles of faith and morality while being instructed in letters.”

Religious freedom and tolerance established by the Bill of Rights paved the way for the growth of Catholic schools.  I believe that Americans should try to recover what has been lost.

A former Secretary of Education under President Reagan said, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war..”

Although it is not the only solution, I believe we should promote the foundation and support of private schools:  Americans have to find a system which permits tax dollars to reach private schools.  I have to wonder if the situation we face in America is a coincidence when we read in the fifth Masonic principle: “the complete separation of Church and State, as well as the opposition to any attempt to appropriate public money—federal, state, or local—directly or indirectly, for the support of sectarian or private institutions.”

I suggest an effort to support Catholic schools and universities by means of commitment and funding.  This is not something that only religious orders should be doing (the average age of nuns in the US is 72, which means that many of them will soon be joining our Father in heaven).  In addition, Catholic schools and colleges have to be truly Catholic.  A Catholic institution steeped in the spirit of the world is harmful.  There are already plenty of secular colleges that offer a high academic level.

We also need to create or renew Catholic life on the college campus: students can create Catholic communities, join open forums and discussion groups, renew the practice of their Catholic faith, etc.  We should offer support to professors and researchers who defend and promote the truth.

Furthermore, authentic ecumenism should be promoted, for Christianity’s enemy is secularization, not other Christian denominations.

Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
1. Why does Catholic teaching emphasize the dignity and inviolability of the person as a foundation for culture? Why not just start with the community?
2. Why is a proper understanding of human freedom so central to the formation of a culture of values? Why is it crucial to true education?
3. How are secularization and de-emphasizing objective academic results related? What values do they both leave aside?
4. Is having an objective standard of values or of performance somehow a threat to the person’s dignity and worth?  Or does it allow the person to grow?
5. What do Catholic schools have to offer that no other institution can give?


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-09-12


The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part I - Article
The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 3 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 5 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 7 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 10 - Article
 

Related articles
- The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part I
- The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 3
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 5
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 7
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 10
 


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