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We were able to affirm that true tradition is by no means concerned only with the past but is intimately connected also with the future. We come now to a further point. Tradition, which is by nature the foundation of man’s humanness, is everywhere mingled with those things that deprive him of his humanity. The basis of man’s humanness—tradition—is contaminated. It bears simultaneously within itself both itself and, for this very reason, the seeds of antihumanism. Its source and its destruction are inextricably intermingled—that is the real tragedy of mankind. Man must hold fast to tradition if he is to hold fast to his humanness, but in doing so, he inevitably holds fast also to the forces of alienation. The simple statement with which we began acquires thereby a strange ambiguity, for we must expand it into the statement: Tradition is the precondition of man’s humanness, but it is also its peril. Whoever destroys tradition destroys man (…) But even he who would preserve tradition falls likewise into the danger of destroying it.

(…)

A nation must be assiduous in purifying its own traditions; the Church must do likewise.

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Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

(future Pope Benedict XVI)

Principles of Catholic theology, p. 89-90


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