Yes, my work is an attempt to accept with great sadness the fact of Western culture. Dawson has a passage where he says that the Church is Europe and Europe is the Church, and I say yes! Corruptio optimi quae est pessima. Through the attempt to insure, to guarantee, to Regulate Revelation, the best becomes the worst. And yet at any moment we might still recognize, even when we are Palestinians, that there is a Jew lying in the ditch whom I can take in my arms and embrace.
I live also with a profound sense of ambiguity. I can't do without tradition, but I have to recognize that its institutionalization is the root of an evil deeper than any evil I could have known with my unaided eyes and mind. This is what I would call the West. By studying and accepting the West as the perversion of Revelation, I become increasingly tentative, but also more curious and totally engaged in searching for its origin, which is the voice of him who speaks. It's as simple as that…childish if you want, childlike, I hope.
(from Ivan Illich: In Conversation, pp.242-3) 1
Ivan Illich, iconoclastic historian and social critic, has worked as parish priest, university administrator and professor, centre director, lecturer and author. He is best known in educational circles for the work that he did in the late 1960s and 1970s, particularly his second book, Deschooling Society.2 When Illich speaks of 'the West as the perversion of Revelation', one could easily conclude that his theological beliefs have driven his social criticisms. It would be unlikely, however, for students of educational thought to arrive at this same conclusion if they limited their reading of Illich to Deschooling Society. Driven by his belief that any form of secular power or social activism lay beyond the specific mission of the Church, Illich declared, in an