Building Western Civilization

A homily by Fr. Matthew Habiger

Simon and Jude were two of the 12 whom Jesus personally selected to form his innermost circle of co-workers.  Jesus founded his Church upon Peter and the 12.  The 12 did their labor for their generation, and then passed the baton on to the next generation, who in turn passed it on to the next generation.

It is noteworthy to trace the influence of the Church not only upon spreading the Gospel of Jesus, but also its influence upon sharping the core values and institutions of the West and of the Americas.

Much research and writing has been done to retrieve recognition for the extraordinary contributions of the Catholic Church to Western Civilization.  Just read: 1) Thomas Wood’s How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, 2) Dinesh D’Sousa’s What’s So Great about Christianity, 3) Rodney Stark’s The Triumph of Christianity, and 4) Fr. Stanley Jaki’s Savior of Science.

Christianity is responsible for secular institutions such as democracy and science.  It has fostered in our civilization values such as respect for human dignity, human rights and human equality that even secular people cherish.  The Catholic Church did not merely contribute to Western civilization – the Church built that civilization.  Thomas Woods explains:

“The Church borrowed from the ancient world, to be sure, but she typically did so in a way that transformed the classical tradition for the better. There was hardly a human enterprise of the Early Middle Ages to which the monasteries did not contribute.  The Scientific Revolution took root in a Western Europe whose theological and philosophical foundations, Catholic at their very core, proved fertile soil for the development of the scientific enterprise.  The mature idea of international law emerged from the late Scholastics, as did concepts central to the emergence of economics as a distinct discipline.

“These latter two contributions emerged from the European universities, a creation of the High Middle Ages that occurred under the auspices of the Church. … The Catholic Scholastics’ eagerness to search for the truth, to study and employ a great diversity of sources, and treat objections to their positions with precision and care, endowed the medieval intellectual tradition – and by extension the universities in which that tradition developed and matured – with a vitality of which the West may rightly boast.

“All these areas: economic thought, international law, science, university life, charity, religious ideals, art and architecture, morality – these are the very foundations of a civilization, and in the West every single one of them emerged from the heart of the Catholic Church.”

The core values of our culture and Western Civilization have been shaped by the values of the Gospel, as the various generations of Christians struggled to relate the Gospel to the great issues of their times.

A secularist mind-set today wants to erase this memory and this legacy, and then replace it with their absolute autonomy and materialism.  Whether they are successful or not will depend upon how our generation carries out its task.  We should not allow our detractors to ignore the Catholic Church’s great contribution to science and astronomy, and reduce it to the Galileo episode.

Sts. Simon and Jude, and all the Apostles, pray for us.