The other day a well-known writer, otherwise quite well-informed, said that the Catholic Church is always the enemy of new ideas. It probably did not occur to him that his own remark was not exactly in the nature of a new idea. …Nevertheless, the man who made that remark about Catholics meant something….What he meant was that, in the modern world, the Catholic Church is in fact the enemy of many influential fashions; most of which … claim to be new. [But] nine out of ten of what we call new ideas, are simply old mistakes.
The Catholic Church has for one of her chief duties that of preventing people from making those old mistakes; from making them over and over again forever, as people always do if they are left to themselves….There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and nearly all errors.
The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them. On this map of the mind the errors are marked…[but] the greater part of it consists of playgrounds and happy hunting-fields, where the mind may have as much liberty as it likes. But [the Church] does definitely take the responsibility of marking certain roads as leading nowhere or leading to destruction…
By this means, it does prevent men from wasting their time or losing their lives upon paths that have been found futile or disastrous again and again in the past, but which might otherwise entrap travelers again and again in the future.
The Church does make herself responsible for warning her people against these; she does dogmatically defend humanity from its worst foes… Now all false issues have a way of looking quite fresh, especially to a fresh generation. ..[But] we must have something that will hold the four corners of the world still, while we make our social experiments or build our Utopias. (From Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creeds (1926). Reprinted in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Vol. 3 Ignatius Press 1990)