Friday, December 20, 2013

The Real God Delusion

There are not many people who will come right out and say that they think that they are God. However, there are lots of people who will tell you that they think that they have the right to make up the moral rules by which they live, and then in an astonishing act of sheer arrogance, expect everyone else to respect their rules as if they were objective universal absolute moral laws. These people apparently think that they are God even if they do not say so in public.

The recent attacks on Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame illustrate this point exactly. Mr. Robertson stated his belief that homosexual acts are sinful based on what the Bible says and his intuitive grasp of the natural moral law. The reaction was swift and predicable in terms of the level of outrage and condemnation it expressed. But what is the basis for this reaction? Those who disagree so violently with Mr. Robertson must surely have some well thought out moral principles to justify their claim that homosexual acts are not sinful? As it turns out the entirety of their position is based on the claim that people should be allowed to do whatever they want in terms of their sexual activity as long as the are not directly hurting anyone else.

Interestingly enough this claim has such wide appeal that those who hold it see no need to back it up with anything more substantial. But is it true? Ethics and morality have historically been given the task of explaining to people why they should not do some of the things that they might be tempted to do. Certainly the harm that one’s action might do to others is one good reason for avoiding certain actions, but is it the only reason for accepting restrictions on what we do? Most certainly not.

Self-destructive behavior like drunkenness and gluttony are irrational and immoral and ought to be avoided. Individual acts of polluting the air or water may not directly harm anyone, but when many people do the same thing great harm can result. Hence polluting the physical or the social environment is unethical and immoral. This means that lying cheating and stealing are wrong even if no is directly harmed in any one particular case. In the same way the ethical principles that prohibited every form of sexual immorality are still sound, and they shall endure long after the current cultural milieu of decadent liberalism and moral relativism has passed away.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Will the Holy Spirit Choose the Next Pope?

The question as to whether the Holy Spirit will choose the next pope cannot be answered as simply as either yes or no. To paraphrase St. Thomas (Summa Theologica I Q. 22 aa. 3-4.) God wills contingent things to happen contingently. This means that the Holy Spirit can and in fact will choose the next pope, but will do so in such a way that fully respects the deliberations of the conclave. If the Cardinals are open to the Holy Spirit they will concur in that choice. If not, they will choose someone else and the Church will suffer, and yet it will survive. All of human history follows the pattern of God commanding or proposing the best course of action in every situation, with humans sometimes saying yes to God and sometimes saying no. Why should this situation be any different? I invite everyone to pray that like Mary the Cardinals say YES to God.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Moral Relativism

A common misunderstanding is that a moral relativist rejects morality. However, just because someone is a moral relativist does not mean that he or she cannot have strongly held moral values. A moral relativist believes that any society can create and enforce whatever  moral laws it needs in order to function and survive. So if  some people feel the need for a right to abortion, pornography, divorce, contraception, same sex marriage, etc. in order  to pursue life and happiness as they see it, without the inconvenience and unpleasantness of having to deal with criticism and restrictions from those who disagree with them, then they also believe it is their right to silence their critics by any means necessary to achieve their goals.

A nation that no longer respects Divine Law nor Natural Law is a nation in which there is no basis for any consensus as to what constitutes a good life or a good  person. So it is that in a relativistic society there is no basis for any agreement between left and right, progressive and conservative, or secular and religious. There is only power politics and the principle that in a relativistic society might makes right.

This is what Pope Benedict meant by the “dictatorship of relativism”.