Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Counter-institution

Excerpt from Faith and Freedom by Barbara Ward, 1954

“Man is not the master of the universe because he can split the atom. He has split the atom because he has first believed in his own unique mastery. Faith led to the material achievement, not the achievement to faith. In fact, now that they means of mastering the environment, of building- physically –a better world, are more complete than ever before, it is a paradox that the faith is slackening…

Reduce man to a creature of his environment, projected from the fatality of birth by anonymous forces on to the fatality of death –then he is ready to surrender his freedom, his rights, his greatness. He is ready for dictatorship and the slave state…

Few deny the historical role of Christianity in creating a double order of reality and division of power out of which the possibility of freedom has grown…

The state is by nature so powerful and compelling and voracious an institution that the citizen, standing alone against it, is all but powerless. He needs counter-institutions, above all the counter-institution of the Church, which of all organized bodies alone can look to Caesar in the face and claim a higher loyalty.”

Sky View comments:

This counter-institution, namely, the Church, has for its rival, not only the all-powerful State but the very instrument that brings about an all-powerful State. This instrument is none other than America’s public education school system. It effectively teaches children they are a mere creature of their environment, invested with no higher dignity than animals, endowed with no immortal soul and purposed with no higher destiny. Since the State teaches the greater majority, it is the greater majority that will inevitably look to the State for help and guidance. It would seem, therefore, that the Catholic Church in America ought to seriously consider the public school system, that is, State-run education, as a real undermining force of its New Evangelization.

St. Paul (a bishop) wrote to St. Titus (a bishop) and exhorted him to “be open to every good enterprise.” But he also wrote to the Ephesians, “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them.” (5:11) Hence, great Catholic missions of yesterday, especially those that were culture-changing, were two-pronged in that they affirmed the good and dispensed with the bad. There were some things that could be adapted to the Catholic Faith and the common good and other things that had to be dug up from the very depths of its roots and dispensed with.

Even today, there are some institutions that have proven to be so inconsistent with both the Gospel and the common good that the counter-institutional role of the Church must once again come into play if America is to be re-Christianized. After all, freedom and progress is but the fruit of the soul being saved. But as Barbara Ward said, “Faith will not be restored in the West because people it to be useful. It will return only when they find that it is true.” Unfortunately, the one impregnable obstacle of Americans knowing the truth of Christianity is State-run education.