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Catechesis in Contemporary Culture: Pragmatism
This series that examines key features of contemporary culture that characterizes the ‘field’ into which the Word is sown by catechists today. The soil into which we wish to sow the seed of the Word of God in catechesis is radically influenced by the philosophical mindset of pragmatism, which makes the soil a bit rocky, or even thorny. Pragmatism is a perilous way of thinking. In his encyclical letter on faith and reason, Pope John Paul II makes this clear, describing pragmatism as ‘dangerous’. He says, ‘No less dangerous is pragmatism, an attitude of mind which, in making its choices, precludes theoretical consideration or judgments based on ethical principles.’ (Fides ET Ratio 89) This way of thinking, then, neglects truth for the sake of what appears to be practical. Pope Benedict relates this way of thinking to the narrative of the Passion: ‘In Christ’s passion narrative we find Pilate’s question: “What is truth?” (Jn 18: 38). It is the question of a skeptic who asks: “But, you say you are the truth, but what is the truth?” And thus, with truth being unrecognizable, Pilate lets it be understood: we act according to what is most practical, what is most successful and not seeking the truth. He then condemns Jesus to death because he follows pragmatism…’ Here the Holy Father reveals the evil consequences of living according to pragmatic ways of thinking, in which we are willing to ignore larger questions of truth: it results in the death of God the Son.