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What is Truth? By J. Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/09/07 at 9:11 AM

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the most brilliant philosopher-theologians in the history of the Catholic Church. His definition of truth, which is still valid today, is that truth is the conformity/agreement of the mind to reality. This means that objective truth lies outside of us, outside the human mind. The human mind discovers/learns/ finds truth; it does not invent it.

What arises in our own minds is opinion which may or may conform well to reality. It is the role of the human mind to seek objective truth. That is how God designed the mind. Some times it takes eons to discover a truth or set of truths. Ex. The laws of aerodynamics have existed probably since the beginning of time, but they were discovered only in the last century.

We live in a world in which too many believe that truth is manufactured by the human mind, that man does not discover truth, but determines it. This attitude is far more prevalent is matters of the spiritual and the intellectual spheres like religion, morality, ethics, education, government, etc. In these areas opinion, often the loudest, becomes “truth”.

But truth comes from God and when man dares to usurp that authority, the consequences can be disastrous. Frederick Hegel, a nineteenth century philosopher, when told that his theories did not fit the facts, said,  in effect, that was just too bad for the facts. He was one of the founders of Communism. As a result of this invented “truth,” millions of people were enslaved and worse for almost a century.

The theory of evolution is much in a news today. Honest scientists will admit that evolution is far from a proven theory. About 90-95% of contemporary scientists admit they are materialists and act as thought evolution were a fact.  If it’s not matter, it doesn’t matter.”

Materialism is a philosophy; it is not science, but scientists prefer pretending evolution is a fact because, as Thomas Huxley, an associate of Darwin, said that he liked the idea of evolution because if man were merely a high-grade monkey, he is not responsible for his actions, and, therefore,  he could continue to what do we call sin. In fact,  evolution has long since  passed from the realm of science and has become a quasi religion among many scientists. That’s why there is a kind of frenzy about protecting the theory of evolution against the inroads of logic or fact.

The ACLU is so vehemently anti-Christian that is quite willing to distort and manipulate facts to make the U.S. Constitution say whatever the organization wants it to say. The result has been constantly invented “truth” aimed at the Christian community.

If we do not live in the real world, must then live in a world of whim, fantasy, opinion, subjectivism, etc. Only by living in the real world can we even hope to live a fully human life.

In a world that denies objective truth in matters transcendental and spiritual, and tells us that opinion is a good substitute for truth, we have the words of Christ (Jn 14:5) that He and He alone is the embodiment of truth, that He is the only source of truth.  If we ignore that, we do so at great peril not only to out temporal life, but to our eternal life.

Remember this: an idea  is not true because we say it is or because we believe it is, or because the majority favors it is, an idea is true only if it conforms to objective reality.

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What Is Truth?

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/04/06 at 9:00 PM

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the most brilliant philosopher-theologians in the history of the Catholic Church. His definition of truth, which is still valid today, is that truth is the conformity/agreement of the mind to reality. This means that objective truth lies outside of us, outside the human mind. The human mind discovers/learns/ finds truth; it does not invent it.

What arises in our own minds is opinion which may or may conform well to reality. It is the role of the human mind to seek objective truth. That is how God designed the mind. Some times it takes eons to discover a truth or set of truths. Ex. The laws of aerodynamics have existed probably since the beginning of time, but they were discovered only in the last century.

We live in a world in which too many believe that truth is manufactured by the human mind, that man does not discover truth, but determines it. This attitude is far more prevalent is matters of the spiritual and the intellectual spheres like religion, morality, ethics, education, government, etc. In these areas opinion, often the loudest, becomes “truth”.

But truth comes from God and when man dares to usurp that authority, the consequences can be disastrous. Frederick Hegel, a nineteenth century philosopher, when told that his theories did not fit the facts, said,  in effect, that was just too bad for the facts. He was one of the founders of Communism. As a result of this invented “truth,” millions of people were enslaved and worse for almost a century.

The theory of evolution is much in a news today. Honest scientists will admit that evolution is far from a proven theory. About 90-95% of contemporary scientists admit they are materialists and act as thought evolution were a fact.  If it’s not matter, it doesn’t matter.”

Materialism is a philosophy; it is not science, but scientists prefer pretending evolution is a fact because, as Thomas Huxley, an associate of Darwin, said that he liked the idea of evolution because if man were merely a high-grade monkey, he is not responsible for his actions, and, therefore,  he could continue to what do we call sin. In fact,  evolution has long since  passed from the realm of science and has become a quasi religion among many scientists. That’s why there is a kind of frenzy about protecting the theory of evolution against the inroads of logic or fact.

The ACLU is so vehemently anti-Christian that is quite willing to distort and manipulate facts to make the U.S. Constitution say whatever the organization wants it to say. The result has been constantly invented “truth” aimed at the Christian community.

If we do not live in the real world, must then live in a world of whim, fantasy, opinion, subjectivism, etc. Only by living in the real world can we even hope to live a fully human life.

In a world that denies objective truth in matters transcendental and spiritual, and tells us that opinion is a good substitute for truth, we have the words of Christ (Jn 14:5) that He and He alone is the embodiment of truth, that He is the only source of truth.  If we ignore that, we do so at great peril not only to out temporal life, but to our eternal life.

Remember this: an idea  is not true because we say it is or because we believe it is, or because the majority favors it is, an idea is true only if it conforms to objective reality.

Peter Saw the Truth

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/06/26 at 12:00 AM

 

In our Gospel today our Lord asks His disciples a question about identity. He wants to know if the world around Him recognizes Him for Who He Is. The answers given by the disciples reveal that many people recognize at least aspects of Jesus’ identity.
Like John the Baptist, Jesus did come to call people to repentance. Like Elijah, Jesus did come to preach and defend the truth about God. But these are only aspects of Jesus’ identity and mission and not the full story.
Only St. Peter, the leader of the nascent Church, gets the answer correct. He knows that Jesus is more than a prophet, greater even than John the Baptist. Peter sees the truth that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the One Who will save us from our sins.
Perhaps we are a bit scandalized that so many of the Jews of Jesus’ day did not recognize His divinity. How many people does one need to heal, how many demons does one need to drive out, and how many miracles does one need to perform to prove one’s divinity?
But we mustn’t be scandalized or hold the Jews of Jesus’ day in any more contempt than we hold modern man, for even now – 2000 years later – can we say with any certainty that mankind truly recognizes the full truth about Jesus, even those who profess a Christian faith?
While many people in this world may profess belief that Jesus is the Son of God, the Word- Made-Flesh, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, our Savior and our Redeemer, so many of us fail to live our lives in a way that provides validity to our belief.
Living our lives in a way that provides validity to our belief that Jesus is both God and man is not to say that we must live perfectly sinless lives, but it does mean that we must be at least striving for perfection.
It means that we must be sorry for our sins and confess them, that we must live prayerful lives – adoring Christ and giving thanks to Him – and it means that we must try to follow His teachings, which are given voice in the teachings and traditions of the Church He founded.
Most importantly, if we profess belief in Jesus Christ, then we must seek to imitate Him in all ways, to identify with Him, to be as much like Him as possible.
Ultimately, it means that we must be willing to suffer and die with Him and for Him, for it is in our Lord’s suffering and death that we see our Lord’s identity most clearly.
In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul mentions today that through the Sacrament of Baptism we clothe ourselves in Christ. Just as a bride takes on the name of her bridegroom at the time of their marriage, so too do we take on the name of our Lord at baptism.
Baptism makes us Christians. Once we are baptized, our Christianity becomes our primary identity…so much so that St. Paul says that: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female.”
And so if we have been baptized, we must learn to think of ourselves first and foremost as Christians. It matters little what country we come from, what job we hold or profession we practice, or what color our skin is.
Nothing that the world says is important should truly define our identity, for nothing the world says is important will give us a better chance of being saved.
But being a Catholic does, for within the warm embrace of Holy Mother Church we find not only the fullness of Truth, but also an abundance of sanctifying grace, by which alone man is saved!
Yet if we wish to enjoy the sanctifying grace given to us and strengthened within us by the Sacraments, we must live out our identity as Christians, most especially in our willingness to suffer and die to self. This is the hard part about being a Catholic, and it’s often the reason why some people leave the Church: they simply don’t want to change their lives in the ways the Church demands.
Let’s face it: it’s hard to be a Catholic with integrity. And when we really take the Church and Her teachings at face value, what we find is that the Catholic Church is perhaps the only institution in the entire world that demands the transformation and ultimate perfection of every person and even of this fallen world.
If we live our faith well, as it’s meant to be lived, we find that our lives as Catholics are one long uphill battle against our vices and imperfections, but as well a battle against the evil we find in this world.
While we are called to forgive sin and to be understanding with the weaknesses of others, we mustn’t ever compromise with sin or come to a truce with it – most especially the sin within ourselves.
It is for this reason that our Lord tells us today that if anyone wishes to follow Him, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily! The follower of Christ must lose his life in order to save it!
That we must die to self so that we might live is one of the great paradoxes of our Faith, but as paradoxical as it may sound it is nonetheless true!
What does it mean to die to self? It means, my dear brothers and sisters, that we must live for God and God alone. All that is not of God: sin, attachments to worldly goods, desires for fame or fortune, must find no safe harbor within us.
We must be so convinced of the infinite goodness, loveliness, and beauty of God that glorifying Him becomes the soul purpose of our lives. And anything that hinders us from this joyful task of glorifying God in every aspect of our lives must be cut out.
St. John of the Cross teaches that, on that steep and rocky path through the narrow gate of Heaven, “there is room only for self-denial and the cross” (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, 7.7).
But he goes on to say that: “The cross is a supporting staff and greatly lightens and eases the journey, [for] if individuals resolutely submit to the carrying of the cross, if they decidedly want to find and endure trial in all things for God, they will discover in all of them great relief and sweetness” (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, 7.7).
In other words the cross – while causing pain – becomes a source of joy for those who carry it because the act of embracing and carrying the cross transforms us into an image of Christ, which is our goal as Christians! This is another great paradox of our faith.
The saints show us that suffering freely embraced and endured with faith, hope, and charity transforms us. The freer we are to embrace and endure the cross, and the greater our faith, hope, and charity, the more transforming our suffering becomes.
Brothers and sisters, we are given a hard Gospel today. Our blessed Lord calls us to recognize Him as the Christ and to follow Him. This means we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and be willing to lose our lives if we hope to save them for eternity. There is no shortcut to Heaven.
But while we will have to undergo the pain of dying to self, we will find much joy in doing so.
May we each resolutely strive to cut from our lives all that hinders us from denying ourselves and carrying our crosses.
• Through the intercession of our Lady and all the saints, may we each embrace our identity as Christians and die to self so that we may live solely for our Lord.

23 June 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

 

How Is Truth Like a Rambutan?

In 16 Deacon Ruben Tamayo on 2014/12/12 at 12:12 AM

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While preparing to preach on the Mass readings for November 20th a few weeks back, my first encounter with a rambutan in Bangkok many years ago came to mind.

Many of you may be wondering (or already Googling) what a rambutan is. A rambutan is a fairly common fruit in many parts of Asia which is pretty off-putting on the outside if you don’t know what it is – they looked pretty “hairy and scary” to me when I found a bowl full of them in my hotel room. Fortunately, one of the locals explained that it was an edible fruit and showed me how to crack open the intimidating exterior to get to the succulent and delicious pearly white fruit within.

So what does the Rabutan have to do with the Mass readings from November 20th? At one level, the joyful psalm (the delicious fruit) is surrounded by a disquieting first reading where John weeps because no one has been found worthy to “open the scroll and break its seals” and the Gospel in which Jesus also weeps about the impending destruction of Jerusalem. Both the first reading and Gospel reminded me of the exterior of the rambutan.

At a deeper level, we find that John is longing for the truth that is contained within the scroll that only the lamb, Jesus, can open for us. Jesus on the other hand is weeping because He is the “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and His people bring ruin upon themselves by rejecting Him and His Word, which is the truth which will set them free.

So why did those who heard Jesus reject the truth? Well, here is where the rambutan comes in. The truth is often disquieting at first because it forces us to confront our faults, weaknesses, and sinful habits; it challenges us to allow God to make us into a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) by letting go of whatever separates us from Him. Letting go of our sinful attachments can be “hairy and scary” like the outside of the rambutan but doing so allows us to savor the sweetness of the truth and the love of our Lord which give us a taste of Heaven!

Reflection based on the Thursday readings, 33rd week of Ordinary Time, Cycle 2: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112014.cfm

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Truth to Ponder International

In 07 Observations on 2014/03/13 at 8:20 AM

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Essential Truths

In 07 Observations on 2014/02/21 at 12:00 AM

Detailed notes taken by Aida Tamayo on Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism Series

EXISTENCE OF GOD
St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas present a strong case for the existence of God, using math, reason, and logic. Aquinas developed 5 arguments.  Contingency.  Things come into being and they pass out of being.  They don’t carry within themselves the reason for their own existence; there is an extrinsic cause that brought them into being- a cause outside of them…  A flower opens up and withers, a dog is born and dies, a cloud develops and passes away, even the planets are contingent and will end one day.  We haven’t explained the existence of any of it.  We must come finally to some reality which does exist through itself, to some necessary being whose very nature it is to BE.  This is GOD.  Keep this in mind and remember the answer Moses got when he asked God its name: I am who AM. Not a being among many, but the one whose very nature it is to BE.  The theological language is meant to change us spiritually in relation to God.  God is the one I can never control.  Through a sheer act of generous non-violent love, He creates all from nothing.  Personally, I don’t question God’s existence, just His Will when it comes to me.  Working in Faith Formation, with a temperament for reflection, and with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament next door, I have the opportunity to experience God daily, and I need no other proof of God’s existence.  I see Him acting everywhere and to me His existence is palpable.

MYSTERY OF GOD – HE WHO IS
This is a reality – Psalm 139 tells us that we cannot grasp God in his transcendence, and we cannot hide from him either.  Adam and Eve learned this hard lesson having tried to do both. We just need to Love Him.  Augustine said:  If you think you understand God, then it is not God.  St. Augustine also knew that our souls are searching for eternal satisfaction and it is not to be found in any terrestrial thing.  Jesus also revealed to us the Trinity: The lover, the beloved, and shared love (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

THE QUESTION OF EVIL
If God is benevolent why does he permits evil?  I used to ask myself that same questions until one day I gazed upon the body of Christ on the cross above the tabernacle.  I got it, this is the greatest evil ever committed in the history of humanity:  The killing of Goodness Himself by His own creation, in the most horrible way possible.  We are not talking about sinful men killing sinful men.  We are talking about sinful men killing the One who sustains them, the One in front of whom they should have been prostrated in adoration.  Even after Jesus in His humanity asked the Father to take this cup from him, He still surrendered to the Will of the Father and so this most hideous evil occurred.  Why did God the Father willed that the Son submit to evil? There are a few lessons here.  I finally realized…this has to do with free will, choices, and consequences and God’s perfect balance of justice and mercy… and yes, our place in the order of Creation.

LESSON FROM THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE SON
1. Good over Evil – God allows an evil to occur to bring about a greater good.  (For example, Christ’s death and resurrection).  On the cross the darkness of the human condition met the fullness of divine love and found itself transfigured into light making even death itself a place of hope.  Good and evil meet. Justice and mercy flow. His justice flows from His holiness, His mercy flows from His love. Thus the Suffering Servant.

2. The Suffering Servant – Jesus suffered for our inequities (justice) so that turning to Him we can find mercy.

3. Underserved Suffering – What about evil that befalls us causing underserved suffering like it did Jesus?  Let’s take Job from Old Testament, a righteous and faithful servant who saw everything taken from him.  When Job challenged God on this question, God took Job on a tour of the cosmos, showing Job all the patterns of His designs and how the event of Job’s life is but a dot in the great canvas of God’s Creation.  God looking from eternity has a perfect view of all events and he is always bringing goodness out into existence. Job saw his suffering was not wasted and at the end greater goodness came about in his life.  We lack holiness to offer sufferings directly to the Father for reparation but can join our suffering (deserved or underserved) to Jesus’ suffering to help others.  When we look at our lives, we must include eternity in our range for this to make sense.

FREEWILL, CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES –

The Church teaches that when God created humanity He gave it a touch of divinity by creating a soul in his image with faculties to reason (intellect), to choose (will), and capacity to remember (memory).  Unlike God the Son who was begotten not created of the same nature as the Father, we are just a creation with limitations and lacking the attributes of the creator.  Our perfection and goodness is tied to our union with God by freely choosing love and fidelity to Him. The moment we take our eyes off God and contemplated ourselves as God’s equal we opened the door for evil.  God cannot commit evil because his essence is love and goodness.  He is the source of Goodness.  If we separate from the source, then our goodness fades away.  What remains is evil.  Evil does not have an origin as does goodness, it is the lack of goodness.

We are made in God’s Image, but we are NOT His equal.  Every time we make a choice there a consequence that will bring us closer to God or set us apart from Him.  Evil in the world is the result of choices humans have made throughout humanity’s existence that negates the goodness of God, because the choice goes against one of God’s laws, whether it is physical, moral, or natural laws.  God is always acting to bring goodness out of evil but if He gave us the freedom to choose, He will respect our choices, thus the suffering.  If more people were making good choices we would see goodness overtaking evil.

Messenger of the Truth

In 13 History on 2013/06/19 at 1:36 PM

JERZYFINAL_Small

Messenger of the Truth is a remarkable true story of a Solidarity era martyr,
Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko. This film is a must see documentary for all who
believe in the rights of Religious Liberty, the dignity of the human person,
and those who are lovers of freedom and defenders of the truth.”
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York

Teaser_6-12-13_Vimeo Quality.mp4

Here is the website link (http://www.messengerofthetruth.com) so that those of you who are interested in the film may have a direct link from this blog to more information.

Paul Hensler: Writer/Producer

Jerzy – Messenger of the Truth

Living within the Truth – Part III

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2011/09/04 at 1:11 AM

Let me sum up what I’ve been saying.

My first point is this: Ideas have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. Today we are living in a world that is under the sway of some very destructive ideas, the worst being that men and women can live as if God does not matter and as if the Son of God never walked this earth. As a result of these bad ideas, the Church’s freedom to exercise her mission is under attack. We need to understand why that is, and we need to do something about it.

My second point is simply this: We can no longer afford to treat the debate over secularization — which really means cauterizing Christianity out of our cultural memory — as if it’s a problem for Church professionals. The emergence of a “new Europe” and a “next America” rooted in something other than the real facts of our Christian-shaped history will have damaging consequences for every serious believer.

We need not and should not abandon the hard work of honest dialogue. Far from it. The Church always needs to seek friendships, areas of agreement, and ways to make positive, reasoned arguments in the public square. But it’s foolish to expect gratitude or even respect from our governing and cultural leadership classes today. Naïve imprudence is not an evangelical virtue.

The temptation in every age of the Church is to try to get along with Caesar. And it’s very true: Scripture tells us to respect and pray for our leaders. We need to have a healthy love for the countries we call home. But we can never render unto Caesar what belongs to God. We need to obey God first; the obligations of political authority always come second. We cannot collaborate with evil without gradually becoming evil ourselves. This is one of the most vividly harsh lessons of the 20th century. And it’s a lesson that I hope we have learned.

That brings me to my third and final point today: We live in a time when the Church is called to be a believing community of resistance. We need to call things by their true names. We need to fight the evils we see. And most importantly, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that by going along with the voices of secularism and de-Christianization we can somehow mitigate or change things. Only the Truth can set men free. We need to be apostles of Jesus Christ and the Truth he incarnates.

So what does this mean for us as individual disciples? Let me offer a few suggestions by way of a conclusion.

My first suggestion comes again from the great witness against the paganism of the Third Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The renewal of the Western world lies solely in the divine renewal of the Church, which leads her to the fellowship of the risen and living Jesus Christ.”

The world urgently needs a re-awakening of the Church in our actions and in our public and private witness. The world needs each of us to come to a deeper experience of our Risen Lord in the company of our fellow believers. The renewal of the West depends overwhelmingly on our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his Church.

We need to really believe what we say we believe. Then we need to prove it by the witness of our lives. We need to be so convinced of the truths of the Creed that we are on fire to live by these truths, to love by these truths, and to defend these truths, even to the point of our own discomfort and suffering.

We are ambassadors of the living God to a world that is on the verge of forgetting him. Our work is to make God real; to be the face of his love; to propose once more to the men and women of our day, the dialogue of salvation.

The lesson of the 20th century is that there is no cheap grace. This God whom we believe in, this God who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to suffer and die for it, demands that we live the same bold, sacrificial pattern of life shown to us by Jesus Christ.

The form of the Church, and the form of every Christian life, is the form of the cross. Our lives must become a liturgy, a self-offering that embodies the love of God and the renewal of the world.

The great Slovak martyrs of the past knew this. And they kept this truth alive when the bitter weight of hatred and totalitarianism pressed upon your people. I’m thinking especially right now of your heroic bishops, Blessed Vasil Hopko and Pavel Gojdic, and the heroic sister, Blessed Zdenka Schelingová.

We need to keep this beautiful mandate of Sister Zdenka close to our hearts:

“My sacrifice, my holy Mass, begins in daily life. From the altar of the Lord I go to the altar of my work. I must be able to continue the sacrifice of the altar in every situation. … It is Christ whom we must proclaim through our lives, to him we offer the sacrifice of our own will.”

Let us preach Jesus Christ with all the energy of our lives. And let us support each other — whatever the cost — so that when we make our accounting to the Lord, we will be numbered among the faithful and courageous, and not the cowardly or the evasive, or those who compromised until there was nothing left of their convictions; or those who were silent when they should have spoken the right word at the right time. Thank you. And God bless all of you.

Living within the Truth – Part II

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2011/09/03 at 1:11 AM

Before I talk about these two falsehoods, we should pause a moment to think about the meaning of history.

History is not simply about learning facts. History is a form of memory, and memory is a foundation stone of self-identity. Facts are useless without a context of meaning. The unique genius and meaning of Western civilization cannot be understood without the 20 centuries of Christian context in which they developed. A people who do not know their history, do not know themselves. They are a people doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past because they cannot see what the present — which always flowers out of the past — requires of them.

People who forget who they are can be much more easily manipulated. This was dramatized famously in Orwell’s image of the “memory hole” in his novel 1984. Today, the history of the Church and the legacy of Western Christianity are being pushed down the memory hole. This is the first lie that we need to face.

Downplaying the West’s Christian past is sometimes done with the best intentions, from a desire to promote peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic society. But more frequently it’s done to marginalize Christians and to neutralize the Church’s public witness.

The Church needs to name and fight this lie. To be a European or an American is to be heir to a profound Christian synthesis of Greek philosophy and art, Roman law, and biblical truth. This synthesis gave rise to the Christian humanism that undergirds all of Western civilization.

On this point, we might remember the German Lutheran scholar and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He wrote these words in the months leading up to his arrest by the Gestapo in 1943: “The unity of the West is not an idea but a historical reality, of which the sole foundation is Christ.”

Our societies in the West are Christian by birth, and their survival depends on the endurance of Christian values. Our core principles and political institutions are based, in large measure, on the morality of the Gospel and the Christian vision of man and government. We are talking here not only about Christian theology or religious ideas. We are talking about the moorings of our societies — representative government and the separation of powers; freedom of religion and conscience; and most importantly, the dignity of the human person.

This truth about the essential unity of the West has a corollary, as Bonhoeffer also observed: Take away Christ and you remove the only reliable foundation for our values, institutions and way of life.

That means we cannot dispense with our history out of some superficial concern over offending our non-Christian neighbors. Notwithstanding the chatter of the “new atheists” there is no risk that Christianity will ever be forced upon people anywhere in the West. The only “confessional states” in the world today are those ruled by Islamist or atheist dictatorships — regimes that have rejected the Christian West’s belief in individual rights and the balance of powers.

I would argue that the defense of Western ideals is the only protection that we and our neighbors have against a descent into new forms of repression — whether it might be at the hands of extremist Islam or secularist technocrats.

But indifference to our Christian past contributes to indifference about defending our values and institutions in the present. And this brings me to the second big lie by which we live today — the lie that there is no unchanging truth.

Relativism is now the civil religion and public philosophy of the West. Again, the arguments made for this viewpoint can seem persuasive. Given the pluralism of the modern world, it might seem to make sense that society should want to affirm that no one individual or group has a monopoly on truth; that what one person considers to be good and desirable another may not; and that all cultures and religions should be respected as equally valid.

In practice, however, we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism. In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruelest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of “live and let live” justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.

This diagnosis helps us understand one of the foundational injustices in the West today — the crime of abortion.

I realize that the abortion license is a matter of current law in almost every nation in the West. In some cases, this license reflects the will of the majority and is enforced through legal and democratic means. And I’m aware that many people, even in the Church, find it strange that we Catholics in America still make the sanctity of unborn life so central to our public witness.

Let me tell you why I believe abortion is the crucial issue of our age.

First, because abortion, too, is about living within the truth. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. If that right is not inviolate, then no right can be guaranteed.

Or to put it more bluntly: Homicide is homicide, no matter how small the victim.

Here’s another truth that many persons in the Church have not yet fully reckoned: The defense of newborn and preborn life has been a central element of Catholic identity since the Apostolic Age.

I’ll say that again: From the earliest days of the Church, to be Catholic has meant refusing in any way to participate in the crime of abortion — either by seeking an abortion, performing one, or making this crime possible through actions or inactions in the political or judicial realm. More than that, being Catholic has meant crying out against all that offends the sanctity and dignity of life as it has been revealed by Jesus Christ.

The evidence can be found in the earliest documents of Church history. In our day — when the sanctity of life is threatened not only by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, but also by embryonic research and eugenic temptations to eliminate the weak, the disabled and the infirm elderly — this aspect of Catholic identity becomes even more vital to our discipleship.

My point in mentioning abortion is this: Its widespread acceptance in the West shows us that without a grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against our own human dignity.

Our most cherished values cannot be defended by reason alone, or simply for their own sake. They have no self-sustaining or “internal” justification.

There is no inherently logical or utilitarian reason why society should respect the rights of the human person. There is even less reason for recognizing the rights of those whose lives impose burdens on others, as is the case with the child in the womb, the terminally ill, or the physically or mentally disabled.

If human rights do not come from God, then they devolve to the arbitrary conventions of men and women. The state exists to defend the rights of man and to promote his flourishing. The state can never be the source of those rights. When the state arrogates to itself that power, even a democracy can become totalitarian.

What is legalized abortion but a form of intimate violence that clothes itself in democracy? The will to power of the strong is given the force of law to kill the weak.

That is where we are heading in the West today. And we’ve been there before. Slovaks and many other Central and Eastern Europeans have lived through it.

I suggested earlier that the Church’s religious liberty is under assault today in ways not seen since the Nazi and Communist eras. I believe we are now in the position to better understand why.

Writing in the 1960s, Richard Weaver, an American scholar and social philosopher, said: “I am absolutely convinced that relativism must eventually lead to a regime of force.”

He was right. There is a kind of “inner logic” that leads relativism to repression.

This explains the paradox of how Western societies can preach tolerance and diversity while aggressively undermining and penalizing Catholic life. The dogma of tolerance cannot tolerate the Church’s belief that some ideas and behaviors should not be tolerated because they dehumanize us. The dogma that all truths are relative cannot allow the thought that some truths might not be.

The Catholic beliefs that most deeply irritate the orthodoxies of the West are those concerning abortion, sexuality and the marriage of man and woman. This is no accident. These Christian beliefs express the truth about human fertility, meaning and destiny.

These truths are subversive in a world that would have us believe that God is not necessary and that human life has no inherent nature or purpose. Thus the Church must be punished because, despite all the sins and weaknesses of her people, she is still the bride of Jesus Christ; still a source of beauty, meaning and hope that refuses to die — and still the most compelling and dangerous heretic of the world’s new order.

Living within the Truth – Part I

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2011/09/02 at 1:11 AM

With permission, I am reprinting the address given in Slovakia by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado because it is so very relevant to us today. I am dividing the “Living Within the Truth: Religious Liberty and Catholic Mission in the New Order of the World,” into three parts where it can be separated logical because of the length of the article.

Tertullian once famously said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. History has proven that to be true. And Slovakia is the perfect place for us to revisit his words today. Here, and throughout Central and Eastern Europe, Catholics suffered through 50 years of Nazi and Soviet murder regimes. So they know the real cost of Christian witness from bitter experience,…  and also, unfortunately, the cost of cowardice, collaboration and self-delusion in the face of evil.

I want to begin by suggesting that many Catholics in the United States and Western Europe today simply don’t understand those costs. Nor do they seem to care. As a result, many are indifferent to the process in our countries that social scientists like to call “secularization” — but which, in practice, involves repudiating the Christian roots and soul of our civilization.

American Catholics have no experience of the systematic repression so familiar to your Churches. It’s true that anti-Catholic prejudice has always played a role in American life. This bigotry came first from my country’s dominant Protestant culture, and now from its “post-Christian” leadership classes. But this is quite different from deliberate persecution. In general, Catholics have thrived in the United States. The reason is simple. America has always had a broadly Christian and religion-friendly moral foundation, and our public institutions were established as non-sectarian, not anti-religious.

At the heart of the American experience is an instinctive “biblical realism.” From our Protestant inheritance we have always — at least until now — understood two things at a deep level. First, sin is real, and men and women can be corrupted by power and prosperity. Second, the “city of God” is something very distinct from the “city of man.” And we are wary of ever confusing the two.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, wrote: “Despotism can do without faith, but liberty cannot … ” Therefore, “What is to be done with a people that is its own master, if it is not obedient to God?”

America’s founders were a diverse group of practicing Christians and Enlightenment deists. But nearly all were friendly to religious faith. They believed a free people cannot remain free without religious faith and the virtues that it fosters. They sought to keep Church and state separate and autonomous. But their motives were very different from the revolutionary agenda in Europe. The American founders did not confuse the state with civil society. They had no desire for a radically secularized public life. They had no intent to lock religion away from public affairs. On the contrary, they wanted to guarantee citizens the freedom to live their faith publicly and vigorously, and to bring their religious convictions to bear on the building of a just society.

Obviously, we need to remember that other big differences do exist between the American and European experiences. Europe has suffered some of the worst wars and violent regimes in human history. The United States has not seen a war on its soil in 150 years. Americans have no experience of bombed-out cities or social collapse, and little experience of poverty, ideological politics or hunger. As a result, the past has left many Europeans with a worldliness and a pessimism that seem very different from the optimism that marks American society. But these differences don’t change the fact that our paths into the future are now converging. Today, in an era of global interconnection, the challenges that confront Catholics in America are much the same as in Europe: We face an aggressively secular political vision and a consumerist economic model that result — in practice, if not in explicit intent — in a new kind of state-encouraged atheism.

To put it another way: The Enlightenment-derived worldview that gave rise to the great murder ideologies of the last century remains very much alive. Its language is softer, its intentions seem kinder, and its face is friendlier. But its underlying impulse hasn’t changed — i.e., the dream of building a society apart from God; a world where men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves, satisfying their needs and desires through their own ingenuity.

This vision presumes a frankly “post-Christian” world ruled by rationality, technology and good social engineering. Religion has a place in this worldview, but only as an individual lifestyle accessory. People are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and do not presume to intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on the workings of government, the economy, or culture.

Now, at first hearing, this might sound like a reasonable way to organize a modern society that includes a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural traditions, different philosophies of life and approaches to living.

But we’re immediately struck by two unpleasant details.

First, “freedom of worship” is not at all the same thing as “freedom of religion.” Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith. This is the classic understanding of a citizen’s right to the “free exercise” of his or her religion in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It’s also clearly implied in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In contrast, freedom of worship is a much smaller and more restrictive idea.

Second, how does the rhetoric of enlightened, secular tolerance square with the actual experience of faithful Catholics in Europe and North America in recent years?

In the United States, a nation that is still 80 percent Christian with a high degree of religious practice, government agencies now increasingly seek to dictate how Church ministries should operate, and to force them into practices that would destroy their Catholic identity. Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as “hate speech.” Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence.

In Europe, we see similar trends, although marked by a more open contempt for Christianity. Church leaders have been reviled in the media and even in the courts for simply expressing Catholic teaching. Some years ago, as many of you may recall, one of the leading Catholic politicians of our generation, Rocco Buttiglione, was denied a leadership post in the European Union because of his Catholic beliefs.

Earlier this summer we witnessed the kind of vindictive thuggery not seen on this continent since the days of Nazi and Soviet police methods: the Archbishop’s palace in Brussels raided by agents; bishops detained and interrogated for nine hours without due process; their private computers, cell phones, and files seized. Even the graves of the Church’s dead were violated in the raid. For most Americans, this sort of calculated, public humiliation of religious leaders would be an outrage and an abuse of state power. And this is not because of the virtues or the sins of the specific religious leaders involved, since we all have a duty to obey just laws. Rather, it’s an outrage because the civil authority, by its harshness, shows contempt for the beliefs and the believers whom the leaders represent.

My point is this: These are not the actions of governments that see the Catholic Church as a valued partner in their plans for the 21st century. Quite the opposite. These events suggest an emerging, systematic discrimination against the Church that now seems inevitable.

Today’s secularizers have learned from the past. They are more adroit in their bigotry; more elegant in their public relations; more intelligent in their work to exclude the Church and individual believers from influencing the moral life of society. Over the next several decades, Christianity will become a faith that can speak in the public square less and less freely. A society where faith is prevented from vigorous public expression is a society that has fashioned the state into an idol. And when the state becomes an idol, men and women become the sacrificial offering.

Cardinal Henri de Lubac once wrote that “It is not true … that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true, is that without God, [man] can ultimately only organize it against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.”

The West is now steadily moving in the direction of that new “inhuman humanism.” And if the Church is to respond faithfully, we need to draw upon the lessons that your Churches learned under totalitarianism.

A Catholicism of resistance must be based on trust in Christ’s words: “The truth will make you free.” This trust gave you insight into the nature of totalitarian regimes. It helped you articulate new ways of discipleship. Rereading the words of the Czech leader Václav Havel to prepare for this talk, I was struck by the profound Christian humanism of his idea of “living within the truth.” Catholics today need to see their discipleship and mission as precisely that: “living within the truth.”

Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.

Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

Two of the biggest lies in the world today are these: first, that Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West; and second, that Western values and institutions can be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles.