Thursday, July 24, 2014

Memo: Implications of Post-Industrial Age on Catholic Faith Formation

The following are reflections to be pursued perhaps at another time.

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How has/does the industrial and post-industrial age influence the formation of the Catholic faith?

If school education is primarily based on mass-production, industrial flattening, enforcing obedience through fear, and diminishing initiative and experimentation, let's substitute the following:

1. School = Church
2. Principal = Pope
3. Teachers = Bishops/priests
4. Good grades = Following precepts
5. Tests = Judgment
6. Failure = Excommunication & hell
7. Lessons = Dogma/doctrine
8. Classes = Sunday Mass

Consider, then, viewing dissidence less as a sign of disobedience and more as the natural fruit of resistance to a religion filtered by a culture that no longer applies. My meaning must be very clear here:

It is not religion in itself but as it has been inculcated in an industrial/post-industrial culture.

Questioning the purpose of the multiple-choice test and its fruitfulness for today's economy and culture is analogous to questioning the receptivity of the average man to Church teaching in relation to common living.

The A+ student is the student who can memorize answers the best, not the one who experiments and finds out why the answer is the way it is. But there is a cognitive dissonance in today's cultural mindset: uniformity contrasted with individual initiative.

Even the cultural revolution of the '60s didn't change how schooling was done, how the economy was run. Clearly it affected how parishes were run, how the liturgy was celebrated. Is it possible that Catholicism today is unconsciously viewed with the same lens through which the rest of the post-industrial economy is viewed? Is it possible that reluctance to submit to authority may be partially fueled by the perception of a religious culture that inculcates fear and squashes curiosity?

Finally, what are the implications for the formation of the faith in such circumstances? What are the implications for an educational institution to call itself "Catholic"?

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This question touches upon the nature of the relation between faith and reason itself. Faith accepts God's revelation as a gift, a given; one cannot "experiment" one's way to it. The very nature of reason is dialectical and experimental; reason likes to dig into the mud of reality to discover its nature.

But people forget that reason is the interaction of the mind with being itself, which gives itself. Reason experiments with givens, the fundamental given being being itself. Being is given to reason to examine. Revelation is given to faith to accept, but reason can take revelation and examine it and draw proper conclusions.

Here it is absolutely necessary for a proper guide and custodian of revelation to keep reason from erring. St. Thomas Aquinas noted at the beginning of his Summa Theologi√¶ that revelation was necessary to make the truth known to man, who otherwise could have come to a knowledge of it only slowly, through much argumentation, and with the admixture of many errors.

Revelation and faith pick up where reason leaves off and make accessible that Being that transcends the created being that is within the normal purview of reason. This transcendence of faith causes darkness in reason, an obscurity because of the object accepted, God Himself.

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Our culture, then, seems stuck in a schizophrenia between: 1) scientific reductionism and industrial reasoning; 2) independent initiative and experimentation that often violates the very nature of the industrial mindset. Yet both poles feed each other—experimentation is tainted by the reductionistic worldview and limits the scope of results and their interpretation. Experimentation is ultimately not free to follow reason where reason ought to lead anyway.

Givenness also requires an attitude of receptivity, and receptivity to givens leads most directly to gratitude. These are attitudes that are often lacking in an industrial/post-industrial/reductionistic society as well as a society that elevates the individual.

The "connection economy" or emphasis on the relative and on what connects us to each other may be a possible aid in relating faith organically to basic social living and learning: liberal learning through a dedication to being or what is. A dedication to being leads inevitably to truth, which is liberating, and all being relates to all being; relation is fundamental to being itself.

Faith formation and Catholic schools, then—those that uphold cura personalis—must embrace the twofold task of 1) fostering the independent and strong use of reason and 2) relating reason within a coherent understanding of reason's place in created being and hence revelation and faith's role in reasonable and free living. But relating reason back to this coherent understanding must be guided by an authority, which is the Magisterium.

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