Tag Archives: truth

Catholics don’t use ‘religion’ to discriminate – but natural law

Because the natural law is accessible to everyone through the power of reason, it tells each one of us what ought to be done or what should not be done. It does so in an absolute sense – no matter what, whether we like it or not, whether we feel it or not, whether others enforce it or not. In short, moral rights and moral duties are not just beliefs, but are objective truths rooted in a moral order.

Moral rights and moral duties are by their very nature not only absolute but also universal; if they were not, one could not claim that human rights are applicable to all humanity, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, religion, or political affiliation. Societies and governments that violate the natural law with their legal laws cannot last long because they go against the moral order. Just as we cannot violate the physical order – the physical law of gravity, for instance – without getting hurt, we cannot violate the moral order of the natural law – the moral law of respect for human life, for instance – without hurting ourselves and society

When Catholic doctors use religious reasons of conscience for not providing an abortion, or Catholic pharmacists use religious reasons of conscience for not providing certain pills, their actions are not a matter of “imposing beliefs” on others, but of following the natural law that we all have in common through the power of reason. So we are not dealing here with an exemption of the civil law based on beliefs, but rather with a universal moral right based on the natural law. This is not a matter of their having freedom to do what certain religious individuals or institutions want, based on personal opinions and beliefs, but instead a freedom to do what they must do, in accordance with the natural law. What secularists ask them to give up is not their personal beliefs but their fundamental rights.

…Can religion be an excuse for discrimination? The answer is yes and no. On the one hand, the answer is yes, depending on what discrimination means. If it just means “making a distinction,” then those who say Catholics discriminate are themselves discriminating against Catholics as well. But if discrimination is seen as something morally good or bad, then we need to face the fact that Catholics have valid reasons to discriminate, for their reasons are based on the natural law that we all share – Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

On the other hand the answer can also be no. Once we reduce religion to mere set of beliefs and opinions, untested by reason, anything can go under that banner – even white-supremacist beliefs that qualify as “religion.”

Excerpt by Gerard M, Verschuuren, Ph.D., from his latest book Forty Anti-Catholic Lies: A Myth-Busting Apologist Sets the Record Straight (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2018), from Chapter 39, “Catholics Use Religion to Discriminate,” pp. 315-322.

GERARD M. VERSCHUUREN is a human biologist, specialized in human genetics. He also holds a Ph.D. in philosophy of science, and is a renowned writer, speaker, and consultant on the interface of science and religion, faith, and reason. He has written over 10 books. Learn more at www.where-do-we-come-from.com.

Purity of heart heightens the mind

We study to see truth, and Truth Himself declared to us, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8). Only when our heart, our conscience, and our will are pure, free from the distractions of temptation and the stains of sin, can our intellects gaze clearly upon truth. Prudence is the virtue that guides the moral virtues of temperance, fortitude, and justice, but it also depends on them. It is through the exercise of virtues such as self-control and courage that we can discipline our minds to focus on what is truly important and then act to achieve it. Moral virtue strengthens and sharpens our powers of understanding so that they may better “penetrate into the heart of things.” We will not achieve the heights of intellectual virtue, of knowing the true in the manner of St. Thomas, without at the same time climbing and growing in the moral virtue of striving to seek only what is truly good.

St. Thomas was well aware of how temptations toward sexual impurity and other bodily sins can draw our hearts and minds away from the things that matter most. In writing about the “daughters” of the vice of acedia (or spiritual sloth) he declared, echoing the philosopher Aristotle, that “those who find no joy in spiritual pleasures have recourse to pleasures of the body.”

Indeed, when Thomas as a young man had dedicated his life to preaching and teaching Christ’s Gospel as a member of the new, humble Dominican Order, his biological brothers were so outraged that they captured him on the road to Paris and took him back to the family’s castle. There, his brothers explicitly endeavored to remove his mind from spiritual things through a powerful temptation to bodily pleasure. They introduced a beautiful young courtesan into his room, whereupon Thomas brandished a log from the fireplace and chased her out the door, making a sign of the cross on the door with the firebrand when he slammed it shut behind her! Pious legend reports that angels then came to his aid and gave him a girdle of chastity, whereupon he was never again tempted by sensual bodily pleasures, as he immersed himself totally in the joys of the intellect and the spirit.

…St. Thomas suggests that we turn our attention to the “universals” that only we humans can grasp through our God-given intellects. … St. Thomas was especially adept at practicing temperance because of his focus on the very highest of universals, the divine things of God.

…Regardless of the nature or intensity of our temptations, we also have access to the grace of God, the ultimate remedy for the bodily yearnings that pull us away from contemplation and spiritual joys.

Excerpt by Kevin Vost, Psy.D., from his latest book How to Think Like Aquinas: The Sure Way to Perfect Your Mental Powers (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2018), from Chapter Two, “The Power of Pure Prayer,” pp. 23-26.

KEVIN VOST, PSY.D. has taught psychology and gerontology at Aquinas College (Nashville), the University of Illinois at Springfield, MacMurray College, and Lincoln Land Community College. He is author of over a dozen books, has appeared on hundreds of Catholic radio and TV broadcasts, and travels internationally giving talks on the subjects of his work.

Faithfulness, beauty and truth draw souls, as bees to honey

In one of the many poignant moments in Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, Our Lord carries His Cross along the road to Calvary and looking toward His Mother, says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Renewed purpose, this month’s theme, conjures the idea of taking something old and giving it new purpose: in a word, renewal. Before Our Lord’s Incarnation, mankind groped about in the darkness, seeking for a God from whom Adam and Eve alienated our race. Throughout the Old Testament, we see many examples of God our Father renewing humanity, drawing people to Himself, gently preparing them for ultimate renewal.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to the Faith has been the inability of the bishops as a whole to deal with the sins of the past, the manner with which they were handled, and the exploitation of these sins by outside parties for their own agenda. Ultimately though, this is a symptom of a greater problem, the loss of identity and the influence of secularism. Pope Benedict XVI had repeatedly warned Catholics of the dangerous influence of secularism. Secularism’s pull on the Church and individual Catholics remains difficult to resist, but resist we must. So often political considerations and a false understanding of what it means to be pastoral or merciful mutes the voice of Truth. To overcome her present difficulties, the Church in America must find a renewed purpose by rediscovering and embracing her identity. She must be unabashedly Catholic, and stop trying to seek the approval of men.

Rome acted prudently in November by ordering the U.S. bishops to wait before voting on certain policies. As we saw with the Charter, policies made in haste for the sake of satiating the public are often bad policies with unhappy consequences down the road. Eventually, a solution will be found that is fair and just for all parties concerned. Our bishops should not care what politicians or the press think, so long as they are articulating the faith as Christ gave it to us and striving to live it as best they Can. Nor should priests censor the Gospel, especially when in the pulpit. Compromising the Faith for human respect is reprehensible.

What does this mean in practical terms for clergy and laity? Men need an ideal and a challenge, so reducing things to the least common denominator will not inspire seekers to embrace something masquerading as Catholicism. To quote Archbishop Charles Chaput, “If men and women are really made for heroism and glory, made to stand in the presence of the living God, they can never be satisfied with bourgeois, mediocre, feel-good religion. They’ll never be fed by ugly worship and shallow moralizing. But that’s what we too often give them.” Catholics must make Sunday Mass an absolute priority. Go to Penance at least monthly, more often if needed. Go to parish devotions; read the lives of the saints and other spiritual writers. Pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament. These things strengthen souls against the onslaught of secularism and worldly temptations. Faithfulness, the beauty of the Mass, and the sweetness of Catholic doctrine will attract souls as bees to honey.

Christ renews our purpose in His self-offering to the Father, where we find our nourishment and strength. He will fortify us, so that we shall not go astray. Indeed, Our Lord will make us new if we allow Him, for in Him we find our ultimate end and purpose which is nothing less than to know, love, and serve God in this life, that we may be happy with Him in the next.

HAROLD MCKALE, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is parochial vicar to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish (Doylestown, PA) and works with the Philadelphia Latin Mass community. He hold a B.S. in business from Millersville University, and M.Div. and M.A. from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Philadelphia).

Bitter herb of truth – we are all servants

There are times when food doesn’t lead to celebration, but feels more like chewing on bitter herbs of truth. 

The past news cycles have been hard to digest. We’ve swallowed a difficult pill called “truth.” The Catholic Church, though founded, sustained, and sanctified by Jesus Christ, is filled with flawed humans. Jesus chose as the first pope, the apostle who denied him three times.

Unfortunately, problems we’ve put on the back burner have bubbled over, creating a real mess. Part of solution is for the entire Church — from pilgrim to Pope — to remember who we are: We are servants.

The scandals, crimes, and cover-ups stem from brokenness in human nature and unhealthy nurturing. We need to heal, or at least manage natural brokenness and vices through prayer, spiritual direction, counseling, and if necessary, medical intervention. If not, our sinful tendencies become actions. That’s why Jesus, the Divine Physician, through the Sacred Food of the Eucharist, seeks to unite with us, in order to heal us.

The “nurture” part of the problem — the environment where sin festers — is through clericalism. It leads to living above the law and luxuriously at the expense and obedience of the flock. Prelates abused their authority over innocent children or seminarians learning obedience. Clericalism makes ordained men forget that at their first ordination, they put on a deacon’s dalmatic (a liturgical apron).
Unfortunately, a small number of priests and bishops drank the “Kool-Aid” of clericalism, like the religious leaders in Jesus’ time succumbed to hypocrisy and Pharisee-ism. Again, it’s a small number, but we know what a few bad apples can do to an entire cart.

Part of the solution requires priests to renew their identity as selfless, suffering servants (Isaiah 53). Unfortunately, Church protection policies plus clericalism have created a mindset that separates priests from having authentically healthy relationships with those they’re called to serve. Priests should not be afraid to meet people in their homes, roll up sleeves and wash dishes, take care of their own housekeeping, and live a life connected with everyday reality.

Consider St. Paul’s hard labor with and for the people he sought to convert. The more “connected” priests are to reality, the less likely they’ll live in a clerical bubble. Get to know your priests and help them stay connected to the people they’re called to serve.

Please, don’t see priests as “janitors,” but as “custodians” of the faith. We are not slaves, but servants. Priests are sacramental ministers, but also spiritual fathers.

To be part of the solution to the problem, raise a holy family and make sure your priest is a part of it. Go ahead and invite him over to dinner, and make sure he helps out with the dishes.

 

Lobster Roll-Inspired Tuna Melt

The bitter herb of arugula brings great flavor to a simple, tasty dish that I connect to a need for penance. It’s easy and delicious, and sharable when you have your priest over for a meal.

Ingredients:

2 – 5oz. cans of tuna fish
Potato hot dog buns
1 tsp. minced shallot
1⁄2 tsp. minced garlic
Lemon zest
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 celery stalk
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
4 slices American cheese
4 oz. Arugula
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

Place tuna in strainer and drain. Mince shallot and garlic; add to lemon juice in a bowl, to mute flavor. Finely dice celery stalk. Add lemon zest to drained tuna fish.

Combine tuna, celery, shallot, garlic, and lemon juice with 2 tbsp. of mayo and mix, flaking tuna for a nice creamy texture. Heat cast-iron skillet and melt 1 tbsp. of butter. Place buns in pan and toast, then add cheese, lowering heat and adding tuna mixture. Cover to completely melt cheese and add a little arugula atop sandwich.

 

FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG IVDEI, is a priest, author, speaker, TV and radio host, founder of Plating Grace and The Table Foundation. Learn more at FatherLeoFeeds.Com

Catholicism – the greatest service in Truth

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the greatest service that we can offer our neighbor is to know the truth, to speak the truth. This passage is parallel to that of Plato which said that the worst thing we could have in our souls is a lie about what is. It sometimes seems that those who help the poor and sick are given the highest priority in the Gospels. Few dispute that service to the poor is a good of the highest order. But suppose that we ask: “What is the greatest service that a medical doctor can do for us?” The first answer is: “To know what medicine is and how to apply it where it belongs.”

It is a good thing to give a cup of drinking water to a thirsty man, but only if we are sure that the water is not polluted. It is a still greater thing to design, plan, and put into operation a fresh water system that serves many cities and many purposes, including the quenching of thirst. For example, the ancient Romans were famous for their vision of making fresh water available, and so began the widespread institutionalization of the aqueduct system (some of which is still functioning) and the care of entire populaces. In other words, the greatest service is truth, not only the truths of “know how,” but the truth of things, including human things. From this supposition, all other services flow.

…Catholicism and Intelligence is based on two premises. First, what is peculiar or distinct about Catholicism is this: what the faith holds is intrinsically intelligible even if not always understood by given persons. And second, intelligence has its own structure or form that is rooted in the principle of contradiction – “Nothing can be and not be at the same time in the same way.” “Intelligences” or understandings that maintain that everything is true even if contradictory cannot stand. It follows that we live in a world in which some things are true, even though some valid point may be found in everything that is not true. This seeing what is true within error is why the major function of the human mind is to distinguish what is true from what is not true, what is right from what is not right, what can be held from what cannot be held. To respect the mind is to respect what is.

…We need to know what we think as well as what happens when we carry out what we think. Our dignity depends on our affirming the relation between what we know and intend to do and what we carry out into the world, and what happens as a result.

Excerpt from Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., from the Introduction, “The Greatest Service,” of his latest book Catholicism and Intelligence (Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), pp. xvii-xviii. www.stpaulcenter.com/emmaus-road-publishing

FR. JAMES V. SCHALL, S.J. is an American Jesuit Catholic priest who is one of the most prolific Catholic writers today. Author of over 30 books, he was professor at Georgetown University for 35 years. Among his recent books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, and Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught.

SCRIPTURE 101
The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2: 9-11

CATECHISM 101
Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2467

Know the marks of a worthwhile education

As the new school year gets underway, it’s a good time to be thinking about the quality of education that our children are getting, or in all too many cases the education that they are not getting.

The first test of what constitutes a good education is the way that one of the most important questions is asked and answered. It is Pilate’s famous question to Christ: Quid est veritas? What is truth? If the asking of this question is not at the heart of a school’s curriculum, it is not a school offering a true education. If, on the other hand, the question is asked but only with the tired indifference of the relativist who believes that it is a question that is unanswerable, the school is likewise failing to offer an authentic education. The question needs to be asked as one that needs to be answered and, furthermore, as one to which the answer is ultimately knowable and known.

As for the answer to the question, a school offering a good and true education will answer it in the words that Christ gave to His disciples when He told them that He is “the way, the truth and the life.” The way to truth can only come through Christ, which means that it can only come with an understanding of the Gospel and the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which is nothing less than the Mystical Body of Christ in the world. An education that sidelines Christ, or ignores Him, or which treats Christianity as only one of several equally valid religions is not a true education at all. How can it be? In denying Christ, it denies the way, the truth, and the life, without which, or whom, there is nothing ultimately but darkness.

Having established the centrality of Christ to all authentic education, the other essential element of a true education is an acceptance of the unbreakable bond between fides et ratio, the indissoluble marriage of faith and reason, which is at the heart of true Christian philosophy. At the heart of this rational path to truth is a proper understanding of “science.” The word science comes from the Latin word scientia, which simply means knowledge. It is for this reason that the Church has always taught that theology is the queen of the sciences. Theology is the knowledge of God, the first and most important of all the sciences. Another science that is often neglected is philosophy, which is the knowledge of reality to be discovered in the love of wisdom. It is the science of wisdom. History is the knowledge of reality to be discovered by understanding the past. It is the science of the past, or, to put it another way, it is the science of human experience. If an education is neglecting these crucial and authentic paths of knowledge in favor of the so-called “hard” sciences, the latter of which are encapsulated in the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), it is not an authentic or adequate education. These subjects are important, of course, but only as part of a wider knowledge, which includes the other sciences.

Last, but emphatically not least (indeed the last shall be first!), a good and true education must be an education that teaches what it means to be good. It must teach virtue, and it must teach the Christian understanding of love, the very heart of all virtue, which is the conscious choosing of the sacrifice of the self for others. Such an education, which teaches the good and the true, can be said to be truly beautiful.

 

JOSEPH PEARCE is a senior fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society and editor of its journal.

Real Catholic education yields a Truth-seeking thinker

I was a history major in college. One of my history professors loved to tell us that our job as students was to be our own historians. He meant we should not simply read a history book and then believe we understood the topic, without further exploration of what we had read. We should study other books on the same topic and compare what the different authors put forth as explanations. In short, we were to become informed, independent thinkers who made critical judgments of the ways facts were chronicled and evaluated. Just because something is in a book does not make it true. It may be true, or partially true, or totally false. It is up to each student/historian to exert the effort to discover what is reliable, accurate, and reasonable, against what is mere conjecture or outright falsehood.

The professor’s advice applies to more than just studying history. University students should realize that much of what they’ll be taught needs to be analyzed and considered in the light of other facts and approaches. They need to be aware that in many fields of knowledge there is enormous pressure to conform to one set of ideas that reflect the modern secularist outlook. That outlook rejects the notions of eternal truths and natural moral laws. Instead students are confronted with subjectivism. Robert Cardinal Sarah describes this problem in his book God or Nothing: “Subjectivism is one of the most significant traits of our time. Feelings and personal desires are the only norm. Often modern man regards traditional values as archaeological artifacts.” Thus a college student will be told that the reason he should agree with (or at least not criticize) a blatantly immoral lifestyle is that everyone gets to decide what is right or wrong for himself. Making a judgment that certain ways of thinking or acting are wrong and harmful is treated as a violent intellectual assault on someone else’s unquestionable right to do whatever he wants, free from any criticism or disapproval.

Cardinal Sarah continues: “Since the social revolution in the sixties and seventies, it has been common practice to pit individual liberty against authority. Within this context, even among the faithful, it may seem that personal experience becomes more important than the rules established by the Church. If the individual is the central point of reference, everyone can interpret the Church’s message in his own way, adapting it to his own ideas.”

To be a faithful Catholic, especially in today’s university setting, a student must be aware that being a truth-seeking thinker means treating Christ’s doctrine as the basis upon which to judge everything else. Going along with fashionable trends and drinking in politically correct relativism that admits no other way of thinking is a sure formula for drifting away from the Church’s teaching and demands of the Gospel. Going along to get along can easily lead one down the road to denying certain teachings of the Church in the illusory pursuit of showing love and respect to people who reject those teachings. True love and respect for others involves sharing with them the liberating truths of the Gospel as taught by the Church. If they refuse to hear you, you at least have made the effort to help them. They have had the perhaps unusual experience that someone out there does stand firm when the world wants him to be silent and capitulate to the coercive worldview of relativism.

My history professor was a wise man. Being your own historian is a good way to approach the rest of life. For the Catholic student, it means looking at everything we encounter with the mind of Christ and not caving into the demands of a relativistic spirit in which there is no truth, only opinions.

 

FATHER GERALD MURRAY is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY. He holds a Doctorate in Canon Law from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and appears as commentator on religious topics on TV and radio, including EWTN, Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC, NY1, Radio Maria, Relevant Radio, Fox News Radio, and the Voice of America. He writes a monthly column for The Catholic Thing website. He served in US Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps from 1994 to 2005.

When Truth is crucified

As America tries to assimilate another school shooting in Florida, the uncomfortable question is: why wouldn’t such things happen when education and social structures teach that truth and morality are fluid? Who dictates what is right, wrong, tolerated or not? Someone could claim logical reasons for it, such as anger, retaliation, depression, or under privilege.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

But killing people at random is wrong, we say. Says who?

Modernity has deemed it a choice to take certain lives – pre-born, defective, diseased, elderly, unproductive, or dying. Why not other lives?

Society is at its desperation point, because it cannot agree on truth anymore. What’s worse, there’s no consistent agreement on consequence when laws (once based on agreed-upon truth) are violated. Do perpetrators get punished — or affirmed?

“There is no love – no charity – without truth, just as there is no real mercy separated from a framework of justice informed and guided by truth,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia a few weeks ago in his CatholicPhilly.com column, “Charity, clarity, and their opposite.”

Truth is conformity of the mind with reality, St. Thomas Aquinas says in his SummaTheologica. Then who determines reality, and establishes norms for conformity and behavior, and delineations of infraction and injustice?

For order to reign interiorly and societally there must exist objective, unchangeable Truth in reality. And there Is.

But this Truth has long since been banished from some churches, schools (even certain Catholic ones), workplaces, family gatherings, and other settings. So why would people assent to it?

Pontius Pilate didn’t recognize Truth, either, even when it stood right in front of him. Against his own judgment, he permitted condemnation of an Innocent – to please the crowd (Mark 15:15).

Pilate capitulated to human respect and political ambition. He crucified Truth.

And so it goes. Truth is subjugated to man’s whim.

About 35 years ago in an early-morning college class, our elderly anthropology professor interrupted his lecture, commanding a student to “take the superstition off” around her neck. She dropped her pen and hesitated, as she fingered the gold crucifix. In disbelief she glared at him. “I mean it!” he screeched bizarrely. “None of that will be tolerated in this class!” And she complied.

My pulse raged as my throat burned. I wanted to defend her, but didn’t know how. An aspiring journalism student, and I couldn’t muster a word.

For years, I carried the shame of my silence like a hot coal.

There’s a high price for asserting Truth— especially amid punishing opposition – but a higher price for remaining silent. Today’s confused society is living proof. “No truth can really exist apart from Christianity,” said Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman.

It comes down to whether we will accept the risk in persevering for that Truth.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

The demotion of truth

I recall listening to a lecture given by a university president, and it was clear to me that he was more interested in impressing his listeners with his virtue than enlightening them about his subject, which was the War Between the States. When he had presented his thesis to his mentor, he was told that there are many theories about the Civil War, and it may be that they are all wrong. The president rejoiced in this notion because of its spacious liberality. We can all be researchers without suffering the embarrassment of being more wrong than anyone else.

Dr. Donald DiMarco

I thought, in my apparent naiveté, that the Civil War actually took place and that the primary interest of a good researcher lay in discovering the truth of what happened. The truth of the matter, however, seemed to evaporate, yielding to the politically correct notion that we can all be tolerant of each other because nobody is right anyway. The truth is elusive. What is important is liberality, tolerance and a pluralism of ideas. A university president, I thought, should be made of sterner stuff.

My president would not have been as confident as he was if it were not for the fact that he knew that liberalism was in the air. He was not going to boast that his thesis was any better than anyone else’s. He was not going to impose his views on anyone. Nonetheless, he did make a concerted effort to convince the members of his audience of his liberality. I left the lecture hall disgruntled. Truth had been demoted; self-aggrandizement had been promoted.

There is a Latin adage about which most people are familiar: De gustibus non disputandum est (Concerning matters of taste, there is no dispute). The corollary adage, with which relatively few are familiar, is: De veritate disputandum est (Concerning matters of truth, there must be dispute). Truth is real. Its discovery confers broad benefits, including freeing us from the darkness of ignorance. We should not be complacent about our ignorance. We should dare to make the personal and collective journey toward truth. We are derelict if we do not, being content with but the illusion of liberality.

Pride is the most deadly of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is also the easiest to conceal from oneself. It manifests itself chiefly in three ways: 1) presumption, by which we attempt to do things beyond our strength; 2) ambition, by which we have an inordinate love of honors; 3) vanity, by which we crave the esteem of others. Vanity, in turn, is divided into three vices: boasting, ostentation and hypocrisy. The person who says, “I may be a lot of things, but I am not a hypocrite,” is really boasting, and therefore guilty of pride. The person who declines mentioning that he discovered any aspect of truth may believe himself to be humble, but is really craving the approval of others. Sundry vices ensnare us in the net of pride in so many subtle ways.

On the other hand, we need not be boastful if we state something that we know to be true. We know that truth is not of our own making. Its apprehension should stir in us a sense of gratitude, as well as humility. “It is truth, not ignorance,” as Jacques Maritain has stated, “which makes us humble, and gives us the sense of what remains unknown in our very knowledge.” Moreover, in sharing the truth with others, we are not seeking their praise, but attempting to enlighten their minds. It sometimes requires courage to tell the truth. It never requires courage to hide from it.

There are some Catholic apologists who believe that they would frighten students away if they presented them with the undiluted truth of what the Church teaches. But the essential attractiveness of the Church lies precisely in its truth which has, as Pope St. John Paul II avers, a certain luminescence or “splendor.”

C. S. Lewis was an immensely successful apologist for Christianity without having to dilute it. The British philosopher and selfpublicist C. E. M. Joad read C. S. Lewis. Although Joad was, at the time, an atheist, he praised Lewis, stating that “Mr. Lewis possesses the rare gift of making righteousness readable.” Joad, influenced by what he referred to as the “network of minds energising each other,” published The Recovery of Belief in which he stated his reasons for accepting the Christian faith.

Bishop Fulton Sheen’s success in bringing people into the Church is legendary. In no way did he adulterate the truth to make it appear more palatable. It is the truth, not its shadow, which makes us free. By contrast, the skepticism announced by Pontius Pilate—“What is truth”— does not epitomize the man of tolerance, but one who betrays truth.

DR. DONALD DEMARCO is a Senior Fellow of Human Life International, professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University (Waterloo, Ontario), adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College (Cromwell, CT), and regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His books, including latest work, How to Remain Sane in a World That is Going Mad, are available through Amazon.com.

Dealing with society’s four crises

The Acton Institute’s Michael Miller writes that the world is going through crises of reason, truth, freedom and beauty. The current financial and moral crises in our culture are symptoms of the four greater crises. He argues that Pope Benedict has been addressing these four major crises throughout his pontificate — and that there is hope . . .

Dr. Michael Miller

It seems that society is moving from one crisis to another lately — a breakdown of morality in business, an enormous financial crisis, social and familial breakdown, the scandal of abuse in the Church and an ever-growing government taking a bigger role in our lives.

Our time and its troubles are not unique. Every age has its crises. No perfect time has ever existed, and each generation is called to be stewards of their time. While the challenges I mentioned are serious, they are not the key problems of our time. They are manifestations of more significant civilizational crises that must be addressed if we’re going to see the current challenges clearly. Pope Benedict XVI has been addressing these deeper crises throughout his pontificate.

First is the crisis of reason. As the Pope discussed in his now famous Regensburg Address, we have limited our concept of reason to the empirical. Under this limited notion, anything that cannot be demonstrated empirically — by mathematical or scientific experiment — is not considered rational or reasonable. This means that all discussion of truth, goodness, beauty, right or wrong is relegated to the realm of emotion or opinion. Yet this position is untenable because it’s impossible to demonstrate empirically that reason should be limited to the empirical. As Benedict has argued, we must expand our concept of reason to include logical and moral reasoning. To limit it is irrational.

The second crisis is the rejection of truth — or what Benedict appropriately called a “dictatorship of relativism.” We’re all familiar with the person who argues that truth does not exist. Saint Thomas Aquinas dealt with this objection centuries ago. If a person says there’s no such thing as truth, we must ask a simple question: “Is that true?” To argue that truth doesn’t exist is a self-refuting proposition. Some may protest that that is the only truth, but that of course makes two truths!

The same applies to the person who says “The truth may exist, be we cannot know it.” “Really? Do you know that? If you do, then you know at least one truth.” This isn’t a word game. It’s the nature of reality. Truth, Aquinas wrote, is “conforming one’s mind to reality.” To reject the existence of truth is to ultimately reject the intelligibility of reality. Yet think what the limitation of reason and rejection of truth does to morality. If truth does not exist and all value judgments — right, wrong, just, fair, etc. — are non-rational, then how can we to expect people in government or businesses to be concerned with anything more than serving their own petty interests at the expense of others?

The third crisis flows from the first two: a crisis of freedom. Many people view freedom as merely the ability to exercise one’s will in whatever manner he likes. But as Benedict wrote: “An irrational will is not free.” If I start banging my head on the edge of a table or poking myself with a fork, no one would think, “Wow, that guy is so free!” No, they would think I had lost my mind, because freedom unhinged from truth and reason is not free. Think of all of the broken marriages, lying, stealing, abuse, harm and sadness that have come from this deceitful (and irrational) concept of freedom. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, we have created a tyranny of tolerance and the result is generations of damaged lives.

The fourth is a crisis of beauty. Beauty has been reduced to merely being “in the eye of the beholder.” We have taken a partial truth — that the unique nature of persons means that each individual is going to perceive a certain work of art, a landscape or piece of music differently, and thereby be able to contribute a new perspective to his fellow man — and turned it into the idea that beauty is merely a matter of opinion. We’ve turned the sublime into the banal.

This may not sound very important, but it has a host of serious consequences. One is that the grotesque, the ugly, the disgusting and the shocking are now placed on the same plane as the lovely, pretty, beautiful and sublime.

Plato believed that if we lost the ability to say what was beautiful in art and music, education itself would be compromised. Do we think that when St. Paul exhorted us in his letter to the Philippians to think about whatever is true, beautiful, noble, gracious, lovely and excellent, he was merely telling us to reflect on our own banal subjective feelings? No, he was calling us out of ourselves and into a life of excellence rooted upon the foundation of Christ.

What can we do? The ironic reality is that we as individuals cannot do much about the financial crisis, immorality on Wall Street and in Hollywood, or the growth of government. But we can do a lot about the civilizational crises. We can do a lot within ourselves, our families and communities to think clearly, to think like Christians, and to recreate a Christian culture. We can teach our children, and we can “renew our minds” in Christ. One person at a time, this will change the culture, business, politics, economics and the Church.

Michael Miller is the Director of Programs at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich.