Fall 2001

Introduction: Faith, Metaphysics, and the Sciences

Adrian J. Walker

In "Fundamentalism in North America: A Modern Anti-Modernism," William L. Portier focuses on fundamentalism in the strict sense by tracing the historical fortunes of twentieth century American Protestant anti-modernism in order to highlight the paradox that "[f]undamentalists dwell in a pluralist North America as a partially unassimilable 'old time religion' that always wears a glossy new face." The complexity of this American Christian "modern anti-modernism" suggests the equal complexity of the "allegorization" of fundamentalism. "Even when they do not share" the theology that undergirds the Catholic Church's affirmation of religious freedom, "fundamentalists in the allegorical sense are noteworthy for their protest against a framework in which it can only be an ideology."

Peter Henrici sorts out an analogous complexity in answering the question "Is There Such a Thing as Catholic Fundamentalism?." Having clarified that "Protestant fundamentalism and Catholicism have very mcuh in common with regard to the content of the truths of faith," but that "they differ from each other methodologically in how they receive the sources of the faith, and therefore also in the way they interpret these sources," Henrici goes on to argue that there is a Catholic parallel to Protestant fundamentalism—but that the integral profession of Catholic faith is not, as some claim, ipso facto "fundamentalist." "The symptoms of fundamentalism in the Catholic Church . . . are indeed a cause for concern; but what is perhaps more troubling still is the undifferentiated use of the word even in 'enlightened' Catholic circles, since such a use betrays a misunderstanding of religion itself."

Retrieving the Tradition features an essay on "Thinking About Technology" by distinguished Canadian philosopher George Grant (1918–1988). Grant's essay complements and deepens the reflection on "Faith, Metaphysics, and the Sciences." Modern science, Grant argues, is essentially technological. Technology is not so much a repertory of neutral instruments as it is a conception of the relation between making and knowing, between means and ends, that inclines us to see technology precisely as a set of neutral tools to which purposes can be added in a second moment. Technology in this sense is so pervasively the form of our thinking that it conditions how we think about technology itself. "We have bought a package deal of far more fundamental novelness than simply a set of instruments under our control. It is a destiny which enfolds us in its own conceptions of instrumentality, neutrality, and purposiveness . . . technology is the ontology of the age."

In Notes and Comments, Konrad Repgen, noted historian of the Church's role during World War II, writing in the spirit of friendly dialogue indicated by Roch Kereszty, lays out the facts surrounding a recent debate about access to Vatican archives concerning Pius XII and the Jews in "New Background of a Controversy: The Breakdown of the Jewish-Catholic Historical Commission on the Role of Pius XII."