Posts Tagged ‘Relativism’

St. Ireneaus and the Knowledge of God by Rev. Robert A. Connor

In 07 Observations on 2013/06/14 at 12:00 AM

St. Irenaeus (130 -200 a.d.) is important for his works defending the Catholic faith against the errors of the Gnostics. He is also epistemologically important for our consideration today because he introduces us into an experiential knowledge of God. In the reading of today’s breviary, he says, “The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.

“Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for him coming….


“The Word… revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.” 


With the “dictatorship of relativism” that obtains today because of the hegemony of only one level of experience – sensation – , God cannot be known intellectually because he cannot be sensed. Or, if we can know Him, the knowledge is trivial and irrelevant as in “abstract.” John Paul II had affirmed that God can be known on another level of experience – i.e. on the level of the being of the “I” in the moral moment of self-determination. This moral act is the act of faith or any act in which the self is given to another in love. Importantly, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger commented:“God in Karol Wojtyla is not only thought but also experienced. The pope expressly opposes the limitation of the concept of experience which occurred in Empiricism; he points out that the form of experience elaborated in the natural sciences are no less real and important: moral experience, human experience, religious experience (34). But this experience is, of course, also reflected upon and verified in its rational content…. The central core of Wojtyla’s philosophy lies in the fact that he does not accept the separation of thought and existence which typifies the modern era. Descartes, says the pope, severed thinking from existing and identified this isolated thought with reason itself: I think, therefore I am. But is not thought which determines existence, but existence which determines thought (38).”

To experience being on this level of the subject is to experience being as imaging God as a triple self-transcendence, i.e., being like God. Hence, the remarks of Irenaeus connecting life and knowledge. Self-transcendence is to live, and self-transcendence is to know.


Posted by Rev. Robert A. Connor




The Unexpected Debate by Linda Granzow

In 07 Observations on 2012/04/26 at 9:11 AM

Up until the 21st century, no reasonable human being, of faith or not, would have ever deemed it possible that the definition and understanding of marriage could be the subject of a statewide vote to either protect it or to redefine and reinvent it as something other, something less than what it has always been. The ever increasing relativism and disregard for absolute truths based on natural law in our society has put us at an unimaginable crossroads at this moment in history. This is a country founded and fought for, where religious liberty (freedom of religion, not freedom from religion) and true freedom would form the ideal society—true freedom, not to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what is right.

In the midst of desensitization, through the media, targeted especially toward the younger generations to unprecedented violence, pornography, divorce and homosexual activity, there appears a trend toward indifference to this critical issue of what constitutes marriage and even growing support for radical negation of an undeniable truth. Many say, “What’s the big deal? I don’t have to approve of their lifestyle. If they want to get married, who cares?” It is a lack of understanding and an exaggerated expression of tolerance for any desire, urge, want, or fashionable cause that is automatically presumed to be a “right,” even if it goes against the very nature of what it means to be a man or woman, violates the natural law and ultimately corrupts and devolves the society into chaos.

Biology Lesson & Common Sense 

Males and females are physically different and are so obviously meant to join together like two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly. Further, when they join together in that beautifully perfect way, the physical reality often results in a chain of events that actually creates a new male or female.

Take for example the classic children’s toy, Tinker Toys. The inventor of Tinker Toys created simple wooden wheels with holes, and sticks which would fit perfectly into the holes. As these individual pieces are connected together, a fantastic building process takes place, limited only by the number of pieces in the set and the child’s imagination. But if one were to take all of the wheels by themselves and try to build something, the best would be to build a tower or perhaps a pyramid, which would be easily knocked down. So too, the sticks by themselves do not have the ability to build anything. It is only through the joining of the wheels and the sticks that something wonderful and structurally stable can be built.

In the same way, neither females by themselves nor males by themselves can build a wonderful and structurally stable family, community or society. In fact, the species would die out! So the primary biological purpose of sexuality for animals and humans is to procreate to ensure the species’ survival. The United States Supreme Court agreed when it said that marriage is “fundamental to the very existence and survival of the (human) race.”  In the human species, because of the added element of the soul, sexuality takes on a much deeper meaning and purpose. We are wired not only to perpetuate our community, but also to love and protect others within that community. We do this through different bonds of love depending upon our relationship to another person.

Friendship and Beyond 

We are all born capable of loving and being loved, and in fact, we need it. There are many forms that love can take, for example, the love between a mother and her child, the love between two friends, the love between a child and his dog, and the love between a man and a woman. Between two human beings, married love is the fullest expression of love. This has been true throughout human history because it requires a lifelong, faithful commitment between a man and a woman, usually witnessed by others in the community, to love and protect each other and to love and protect the children who are created out of their sexual union. This definition of marriage “has served as the very cornerstone of civilization and culture from the start.” (Archbishop Timothy Dolan)

Although we could say that a great bond of love exists between a mother and her child, we would never say that the two could be married. We could admire the bond of love between a child and his dog, but we would never say that the two could be married. In these instances, the nature of the bond of love does not fit the reality of what marriage is. Two men or two women could be great friends and enjoy each other’s company and they may have a logical expectation that they will have a lifelong friendship. But their bond of friendship love will never fit the reality of what marriage is by definition.

Dignity and Rights 

Each human being is born with inherent goodness. Even someone born with a physical or mental disability is endowed with an inherent goodness and dignity and is entitled to certain rights to life and liberty. As such, a society or culture recognizes basic natural laws—laws that are instinctively known by each individual–that protect the dignity and rights to life and liberty of its individual members. For example, a natural law would be the instinctive knowledge that killing another human being takes away that person’s right to live. Therefore, it becomes “against the law” to kill another person.

Another natural law is in the area of sexuality. Instinctively, individuals know that they are physically made as a male or a female and know that they are made to fit together complementarily for procreation. In the same way that circumstances, environment and temperament can affect a person to the point where he no longer honors the natural law against killing and instead chooses to fulfill an errant desire to commit murder, these same elements can affect a person to the point where he no longer honors the natural law of sexuality and instead gives in to an errant desire to commit rape, incest, pedophilia or homosexual acts.

Although the dignity of the person who commits such acts must be respected, the behaviors themselves cannot be allowed to supersede the natural laws that exist for the good of other individuals and that of society as a whole.  As specifically related to the question of rights for homosexual individuals, Archbishop Timothy Dolan clarified that “the Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave, death benefits, insurance benefits, and the like. This is not about denying rights. It is about upholding a truth about the human condition.”  Logically, it is not about denying homosexual couples a “right” to marriage since, by the very definition of marriage, that “right” does not exist for them in the first place.

Real versus Counterfeit 

Over the last several years, a very small group of people in this country has been forcefully pushing an agenda to change our society’s view on homosexuality even to the point of demanding that homosexual couples be allowed to marry. Although it is easy to psychologically understand their overwhelming and desperate desire to have their unnatural sexual actions be accepted as “normal” and just another lifestyle choice among many, the reality is that it is a counterfeit of reality. The very fact that in discussions it is referred to as “gay marriage” openly acknowledges that it is not the real thing—the word “marriage” has to be qualified with the word “gay” because it is different and not the same. Think of the popular game Monopoly and Monopoly money. The qualifying word “Monopoly” reveals that it is different from the real money used in our country on which our whole economy is based. What would happen if our country decided to allow a counterfeit to commingle with reality?

Although both are made of paper, money from the game cannot be used to buy things in real life. Why can you not go into a store and buy a loaf of bread with Monopoly money? Is it because the paper itself is not good? No, it is because the value of the exchange of that paper is not backed by a tangible valuable asset such as gold.

Suppose a small group of people in this country decided to pool all of their Monopoly money and present it at a store to buy food. The store would refuse to sell, not because those presenting the money are not good people, but because the money they are trying to use is not real. Imagine the group presents a plea to the government saying they are trying to buy food and the store will not sell it to them. What would happen to the economy of that society if the government ruled that the store must accept Monopoly money from that group? Chaos and economic collapse would result because real and counterfeit money cannot be circulated at the same time.

In the same way, a small group of people who think they have a “right” to go to the government and say they want to have the ability to get “married” is proposing that it would be acceptable to have a counterfeit institution pass for the real thing. But the result for the society would also be collapse. In addition, once something counterfeit is forced to be accepted as the real thing, any entity that does not honor the counterfeit would be punished for discrimination. This is what would happen in our country to churches, businesses and individuals who, based on their faith, morals and ethical standards, refused to accept the counterfeit.

Protecting Marriage 

Although it seemed impossible that the integrity of the true meaning of marriage would someday need to be protected, that day is here. Thirty states have already passed an amendment to their state constitutions protecting the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. This is due to the current vulnerability of marriage as an institution, one which is the basic building block of a civilized and productive society, to be subject to activist judges and lawmakers who would impose decisions changing the real definition of marriage to allow its counterfeit “same-sex marriage.” Marriage is the logical, ideal and intended haven for the procreation, protection and raising of children. This is supported by an overwhelming body of social science evidence. Of course, for those who truly believe in the God who created man and woman and are still unsure, He has provided a most explicit and definitive answer to what the outcome of this unexpected debate should be.  (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:21-25, Leviticus 20:13, 18:22-24, Romans 1:24-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

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.

“The Pope on Pick-and-Choose Catholics” by Colleen Carroll Campbell

In 10 Colleen Carroll Campbell on 2011/06/02 at 10:05 PM

The Pope on Pick-and-Choose Catholics

By Colleen Carroll Campbell

Commentators seeking a shorthand way to characterize Pope Benedict frequently have resorted to depicting him as an ecclesiastical version of Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde. The “good” Benedict recognizes the longings of our spiritually hungry age and calls for compassion for immigrants and the poor. The “bad” Benedict emphasizes the importance of fidelity to Catholic moral teachings on such controversies as abortion and same-sex marriage while promoting the revival of traditional Catholic devotions.

The real Benedict is more interesting than the media caricature. And he proved it again in his address to U.S. bishops on Wednesday night, as he deftly wove together his concerns for answering the spiritual hunger and material needs of our society with his conviction that the best way Catholics can do that is by allowing their lives to be guided by Catholic moral teachings and grounded in the sacramental life of Catholic worship.

Read more: http://www.colleen-campbell.com/Misc_Columns/080417PapalBlogThree.htm  from her website: www.colleen-campbell.com.

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