Catechesis in Contemporary Culture: Progressivism

Authored by Brian Pizzalato in Issue #32.1 of The Sower

‘A progressivist…is by definition an unhappy person, one who is unhappy with what is. It is only for that reason that he wants to change it…A conservative is someone who thinks happiness consists first of all in enjoying the good things we already have. A progressivist is one who sees happiness first of all in hoping to enjoy the things we do not yet have… the Devil himself was the first progressivist. The other angels were happy with God and His will, but the Devil wanted to progress to something better.’[i]

The philosopher Plato wrote, ‘Any change whatever except from evil is the most dangerous of all things.’[ii] In trying to proclaim the Gospel we live in a culture that frequently is obsessed with what is new and novel, with a correlating disdain for tradition. This is the mindset called progressivism, which in essence is a false theory of progress. Peter Kreeft defines progressivism this way: ‘Progressivism, or “chronological snobbery,” confuses “new” with “true.” It also confuses facts with values, by using a factual chronological term to carry a value meaning. Hence, something “modern,” “contemporary,” or “current” is “truer,” “better,” or “more reliable.”’[iii] Progressivism confuses change with progress. Just because something is new, or because something has been changed, it does not mean that is true or good.

Progressivism affects the work of catechesis in different ways.

First, it makes it difficult to teach the absolute truths of the faith since there is a rejection of the wisdom of the past. We know that what we teach is an inheritance of the precious deposit of faith given to us by Christ through the Apostles. As Kreeft points out, ‘Progressivism clearly contradicts the very idea of a divine revelation. If there is such a revelation, Progressivism corrects it, corrects God Himself, and arrogates to itself the right to edit rather than deliver the divine mail, evaluating it by dating its postmark.’[iv]

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This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

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