Currently on the scene, in every major city, ingrained in seemingly every liberal school of thought, is an interesting notion; A nihilistic, indifferent, or belittling ideal that molds and reshapes the understanding of morality, and religion for that matter, into something akin to a favorite food or movie; the idea that, for all intents and purposes, morality and religion are not necessarily true or false.
Sure, it’s a nice thought for some. It opens the door for countless possibilities. If this is true, after all, then there’s no need for a life change. More than that, there’s no need for a change of heart. And if that’s true, Christ may have died so that we might be saved or Mohammad really was a prophet who spoke the real words of God, or the pagan gods of Greek, Norse, Roman, and Egyptian mythology aren’t myths at all. All bets are off! Anything goes! Pick your poison. Because it is a poison, right? Anything, any god or religion or theological idea is simply a distraction; an evil, violent, twisted distraction that prevents you from living a full, meaningful and happy life. In that sense, it’s all futile and equally true…right?
Of course not! These ideas are enough to make even the most lukewarm Catholic cringe. Why? Because it’s an ignorant position to take. From a logical standpoint alone, ask yourself, “Does it make sense to assume that two conflicting things can be totally true at the same time?” Can a rock be both a rock and not a rock at the same time? No. Simply, absolutely and totally not! That’s absurd. If somebody suggested otherwise, you’d have a hard time holding back your explosive laughter.
This understanding is a big, giant misunderstanding of what is actually true. In fact, it would be wrong to assume that the Catholic Church is the only church (or religion, or philosophy for that matter) that has some aspect of the truth. It would be equally wrong, however, to deny that the Catholic Church is the only Church (or religion, or… you get it) on earth that contains the fullness of that truth. “But how can this be?” you may ask. It’s quite simple.
Our Heavenly Father, the God of All Creation, is wise. So clever in his creation, so beautiful in his ways, that he instilled within us, all of us, the gift of the truth, and he placed it within our hearts (2 John 1:2). He gave to us the pure, unrefined, and unshaped truth. What we do with that truth however… well, that’s up to us. Luckily, by the gift of free will, we have the freedom to mold that simple truth into something far greater, or, in some cases, far worse. We can reshape and reform it into beautiful, full truths, half-truths, partial truths, even deceptive truths. Heck, Satan himself uses scripture, the truth, to tempt Our Lord! Imagine the evils that we can do with it.
In the same way, then, we are very capable, without proper guidance, of swaying our own hearts to the wrong side of the aisle. The fact remains: Everyone has the truth on their hearts. Think about this: Imagine all of the different religions of the world. Consider what they believe for a moment. Most of them share similar stories, or aspects of stories, that seem to point to a common historical event! Crazy, I know, but bear with me.
In the secular eye, it would appear as though these stories are proof that there is no truth. Be it Norse mythology, Greek mythology, Egyptian mythology, or Roman mythology, stories of Christ-like figures, born of virgins or destined to die for the sake of man, or even the stories of the great flood (very much like Noah’s flood) have been present in human storytelling for millennia. I certainly understand the position of the secularist, to be sure. On the surface, it could appear as though all of these stories were simply made up in their own time, for their own purpose, to explain some aspect of our miserable, pointless, and futile lives. Boohoo. But I ask you, what makes more sense? If you take a step back and look at the “big picture,” would you see evidence for a bunch of made-up stories, or would you determine that these tales have simply remained as a result of some archaic game of telephone? To me, the latter looks far more promising.
A lot can change over thousands of years; stories, culture, theological understanding. It doesn’t seem so farfetched to assume that the truth, the root of the event, was transcribed onto our hearts, made available to us by our heritage and as creatures of God. Once you arrive at that conclusion, it becomes easier to see relativism for what it really is: a distraction.
This past weekend, as I had mentioned in my last post, I was blessed to have the opportunity, and, in some ways was given the cross, of attending the 2017 Religious Education Congress for the Diocese of Los Angeles. Over the next several days, I will be posting about some of the most controversial workshops that they offered.
Interestingly, I was already well underway working on this post, with regard to moral relativism and the dangers of indifference, when it hit me! (Or perhaps the Holy Spirit hit me). Not only was I supposed to attend the RE Congress, but I should really be focusing on the mass market (see what I did there?). I realized that if there was indeed an agenda that would be pushed (as there had been for years), I should be attending the classes in the largest room, with the biggest stage; the Arena. It was by no coincidence that I was “graced” with my first workshop, one having to do with “Conscience and Adult Conscience Formation,” with Fr. Bryan Massingale, a notoriously persistent proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement, a supporter of Trans “rights,” and a big fan of Amoris Laetitia, the encyclical by Pope Francis, calling it “magisterial,” which it is not.
Throughout the talk, Massingale covered a whole mess of quazi-related topics ranging from Conscience (what the talk was supposed to be about) to Moral Relativism (what it was actually about). Constantly, he referenced Catholics who were living in “irregular” situations, painting them as victims of the “law” (presumably the Catholic teachings in general), who were “abandoned” by the Church, and who needed to be understood. Serving as an example of this “irregular” Catholic, he invited the crowd to imagine a poor, sad, miserable Catholic guy who, by no fault of his own, civilly divorced his wife after they had borne children. To make matters worse for the poor bloke, we were instructed to imagine that he accidentally falls in love with another woman! He has no choice in the matter, after all! Men are only the sum of their carnal desires, you know. He can’t possibly be expected to live out his life as a chaste, faithful man of God! Think of the children! The children for Pete’s sake!
As fantastical as it may seem, your eyes are not deceiving you. This was, for the most part, one of his many examples of an “irregular” Catholic life. He goes on to mention the extremely powerful obligation of every Catholic person to observe the “Primacy of Conscience,” a solid Catholic teaching that affirms the value of our conscience as discerning Catholic people. There’s only one problem… Massingale’s “Primacy of Conscience” orders us as Catholics to throw Catholic teaching by the wayside if it conflicts with our deepest, most intimate calling as peopl
e of God. He continues that we are obliged to simply do “the best we can with what we’ve got.” We can’t be faulted for what we don’t know.
I suppose the most frustrating thing, though, is that these teachings are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves. They are, however, a distortion of the truth; those pesky half-truths, partial truths and deceptive truths. You see, the Primacy of Conscience is a real concept that holds real value for the Church. We really are called to do the best we can with what we’ve got, and serious discernment is necessary to make these decisions in many cases. But what is not true is the idea that Catholic morality and teaching can be disposed of. They can’t, in any case…ever.
Another example of this distortion, or distraction, of the truth is the idea that there are many right ways to do something, or that what is “right for right now might not be right later.” Who came up with that? That sounds eerily similar to moral relativity, am I right? It never ceases to amaze me what the shepherds of our Catholic faith are permitted to spew from their mouths. Real, actual dissent from the Church is happening all around us, all the time. And this was just workshop number one.