Pope Francis warns Catholic educators against false traditionalism

By Michael Sean Winters, 16 June 2022
A screenshot of Pope Francis during the General Audience on 9 February 2022. Image: Vatican News/YouTube


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the danger of ideology to synodality, and gave some thoughts about how we Catholics can create an authentically Catholic worldview without that worldview degenerating into an ideology.

As if on cue, the Holy Father gave a talk to an international conference of educators on June 1 that evidenced both my concern and pointed to some remedies appropriate to the field of education but which also have a wide application.

The pope spoke of our time as one of crisis and recalled the figure of Aeneas as he fled the burning city of Troy, carrying his aged father Anchises over his shoulder and holding his son Ascanius by the hand. (The story was immortalized by Bernini in a magnificent sculpture in the Borghese Gallery in Rome.) “Aeneas saves himself, but not by himself,” the pope said. “He brings with him his father, who represents his past, and his son, who represents the future. And so he moves forward.” This sets the framework for the pope’s address.

A mistaken understanding of tradition is the first source of ideology, ignoring the future by fixating on the past in an anachronistic way. Francis said, “… there is the fashion — in every age, but in this age in the Church’s life I consider it dangerous — that instead of drawing from the roots in order to move forward — meaning fine traditions – we ‘step back’, not going up or down, but backwards. This ‘back-stepping’ makes us a sect; it makes you ‘closed’ and cuts off your horizons. Those people call themselves guardians of traditions, but of dead traditions.”

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Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.

With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.


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