Tradition Versus Revitalisation of Religion

George Tyrrell advocated a reorganisation of Catholicism. He wanted it to get away from rigid dogmas and to return to its essential message of religion as life-affirming, spiritual and mystical. Tradition was greatly valuable but the truths embedded within tradition had to be sifted from accidental accretions. As Ellen Leonard comments:

“Tyrrell had a deep appreciation for the rich Catholic tradition, although he seems to have preferred to refer to it as ‘life’ rather than as ‘tradition’. He was convinced that the new had to be made out of the old, and yet the past should not be imposed as a dead burden on the present. It must constantly be criticized in order to retain what is essential and to discard what is accidental. Tyrrell opposed any theory which would accept tradition en bloc. Tradition contains truth of all sorts, as gold in the ore. It must be continually sifted and corrected. He insisted that “… the attitude of the Modernists, however critical, is one of attachment to, not detachment from, the Church’s tradition’ “.

[George Tyrrell and the Catholic Tradition, pp.77-78]

A number of important twentieth century commentators expressed similar views. I deal with them in my forthcoming book Intellectuals and the Decline of Religion.

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