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This Treasure We Have: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition

The Catholic intellectual tradition is the richest, broadest, deepest, and longest-standing in the entire world, and perhaps in all of human history. It addresses all the fields we think of as “intellectual”: theology, philosophy, literature, the arts, history, politics, anthropology, psychology, astronomy, and more—even as it remains a powerful inspiration to ordinary people. If we’re concerned (as we should be) with what we need now, I’m prepared to say that what we need more than anything is the tradition’s full and balanced and sane set of truths and practices.

In America, Catholicism has sometimes been classified with evangelicalism as a kind of fundamentalism. That characterization can’t withstand the barest acquaintance with what the Church has absorbed and fostered over two millennia, while surviving massive changes in culture and politics, and the rise and fall of entire civilizations. The sturdy life of the tradition is obvious from the historical record, where it’s fairly examined. It’s so large and living that no one can know it all or describe it in its fullness. My book on the Catholic intellectual tradition, A Deeper Vision, was 600+ pages on just the 20th century and even then, had to leave out a great deal.

So though in a way it’s an impossible task to speak comprehensively about “the tradition,” let’s try to get you a sense of its general shape by touching on several key points, beginning with a dimension often overlooked. Because even as the Church was engaging the world at the very highest cultural level, we also know that it touches the lives of ordinary people, people who would never be called intellectuals, and quite deeply because the moral and spiritual sanity of the Church has a power that is for everyone—the “universal call to holiness,” as Vatican II formulated it. And that changed the whole course of Western history and social life.

Read more at What We Need Now 

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