|"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
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.
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:
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
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
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
5. disorder in forming lines,
6. dress code violations,
Whereas, in 1990:
1. drug abuse,
2. alcohol abuse,
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.”
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
Furthermore, authentic ecumenism should be promoted, for Christianity’s enemy is
secularization, not other Christian denominations.
Questions for Personal Reflection or Group
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?