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Catholics, History, and Tradition: Ends, Means, and Confusion

August 28, 2013

This piece makes a really important point. Namely, that some members of the Catholic community (hierarchy and laity) confuse tradition and history. It’s one thing to be positively hooked into a tradition to support one’s identity. But it’s another to understand and respect the historical record—with its complexity, context, objectivity, and subjectivity. Respecting tradition involves being clear-eyed about history.

Also, on a related note, it seems to me that theology and philosophy demand, or seek to create, principles that can be followed. History, however, often offers more complexity. History is therefore shunned when one wants to use theology or philosophy as a personal psychological crutch—or as support for a political ideology dealing with particular circumstances. Some won’t let the confusion of history obstruct the use of history as a means to an end. – TL

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One Comment
  1. Paul permalink

    It seems to me a “Uses and abuses of History” course should be required for all undergrads. It should be treated like the warnings that come with a new electric tool, “improper use of this tool could result in serious personal harm to yourself and others”. The Junto blog discusses a similar controversy pertaining to “The American Revolution Reborn” conference. This one has to do with the ever present ‘American exceptionalism’ bugaboo. Simplicity is the weapon of the demagogue and complexity the victim.

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