Father Stanislaus Maudlin is a gentle, articulate, down-to-earth priest from rural South Dakota. He works among the American Indians. And he has been arguing a point with some social scientists lately that needs repeating—and remembering.

“The anthropologists and ethnologists are my friends,” he says, “but they don’t go far enough. They study man in the areas he has in common with the beasts—his nesting, his food gathering, his social system, his reproduction, his educational system. Yet, they overlook the only thing that really makes him a Man. Namely: his religion, his faith, his philosophy of life.”

This does not mean, as the Benedictine priest would agree, that the Church does not have much to learn from the empirical social sciences. Christ’s followers can never hope to reach others with a Christian witness unless they understand and sincerely care about their customs and social systems.

What it does mean is that the Christian must never stop at cultural and social ministries. God speaks most directly to man’s heart, to that inner wellspring from which issue all the sources of life. The Church, if it means what it says about redemption, must do the same.

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