In our on-going considerations of underlying presumptions and preoccupations of contemporary culture and catechesis I want to consider the thought of a wonderful Catholic thinker, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and what he has to say in an essay entitled ‘Efficiency and Holiness’ (The New Tower of Babel, 1977) In this essay, he discusses what he calls the ‘heresy of efficiency.’ What he says there has deep relevance for our catechesis. Von Hildebrand goes into three different ways this heresy of efficiency can be understood. We will explore aspects of this heresy in this and in the following issue of The Sower.
One way to understand the heresy of efficiency is that it is rooted in an idolatry of man’s achievements. Achieving great things is considered to be man’s greatest value. With this man’s center of gravity has shifted away from what man is to what he does. This idolatry of achievement not only affects the ways in which we judge one another, but also how we judge ourselves. We replace the authentic ideal of holiness with the mere accomplishment of ‘great things’.