Fratelli Tutti 13: Forgetting History? Perhaps Not

Sections 13 and 14 of Fratelli Tutti are titled, “The end of historical consciousness.” Have human beings ever had a colnsciousness of history? If so, it’s partial and something recent in history. I’m not sure I totally agree with Pope Francis on this first bit:

As a result, there is a growing loss of the sense of history, which leads to even further breakup. A kind of “deconstructionism”, whereby human freedom claims to create everything starting from zero, is making headway in today’s culture.

One thing driving this is perhaps a recognition of widespread sidelining of women and people of color. White men (among others) lament a “passing” of so-called Western Civilization. While it might have been the West (in terms of a single continent) it hasn’t always been civilized. I’m of the thinking we remember the shadow side of our culture. But in museums. With explanations. And counter-witnesses.

The one thing it leaves in its wake is the drive to limitless consumption and expressions of empty individualism. Concern about this led me to offer the young some advice. “If someone tells young people to ignore their history, to reject the experiences of their elders, to look down on the past and to look forward to a future that he himself holds out, doesn’t it then become easy to draw them along so that they only do what he tells them? He needs the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful, so that they can trust only in his promises and act according to his plans. That is how various ideologies operate: they destroy (or deconstruct) all differences so that they can reign unopposed. To do so, however, they need young people who have no use for history, who spurn the spiritual and human riches inherited from past generations, and are ignorant of everything that came before them”.[Christus vivit 181]

This I think is a useful corrective. Histories of families and communities are important. As for what is rejected in the past, I’d say that certain things like misogyny, slavery, racism, colonialism should be rejected. Not forgotten, lest we repeat these sins. But criticized for what they were. If we want to be truthful, we may also need to criticize our elders for being complicit in past sins, if not directly responsible. We stand as critics, but we are careful to move forward and build anew when old ways have failed us.

If you want to go directly to Fratelli Tutti, click here. All citations here are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana




About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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