Tag Archives: truth

Priests who teach Truth do us a favor

Sin is the cause of endless misery today – and yet, most suffering from despondency never attribute it to immorality. Why would they? Most don’t practice faith in Christ, and of those who do, many no longer hear straight talk about sin. Catholic clarity is hard to come by now, and “right” and “wrong” seem relative. But when you hear a good shepherd who’s fearless in imparting Catholic teaching – even facets which cause squirming and discomfort – you don’t forget him. And you don’t soon forget his message.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

All around us people are harried, confused, and rattled … by viruses, scandals, elections, traffic, jobs, weather, stocks, you name it. There’s no shortage of legitimate ‘concerns’ apart from God’s. People have vacations to plan, budgets to review, wardrobes to update, social calendars to coordinate. Incessant angst, impatience, and competitiveness are part of the grind … yet the utter purpose of life gets totally forgotten.

But here’s a simple truth: when we love and worship God properly first, His laws and teachings come naturally – and in turn, He keeps us under His protection. We’re happier. But if we rebuff Him, we slide down the cool slope of sin, degree by degree – rationalizing it, seeing it as necessary, losing our horror of it. Before we know it, we’re okay with just about anything the world serves up – and we think we’re content – but we’re fighting an inner anxiety we can’t escape.

I remember that day in my life over 25 years ago. We were new in town, and a local priest invited me to a class he was teaching on the popes through history, and their key writings. His engaging homilies had gotten my attention in church, so I thought he’d be an interesting teacher. I was about to get the lesson of my life.

I was late to the first evening’s class, working for a large pharmaceutical client and finishing a project that afternoon. I hurried in still in my suit, and looked around seeing mothers feeding their babies, and a few veiled women holding rosaries. I wondered if I was in the wrong place. The priest motioned me to a seat in front of him. They were finishing up opening prayers – which I didn’t recognize.

Then the night’s papal-encyclical handout came around, called Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI. Huh, never heard of it.

Well, no matter. I was soon frozen by Father’s elucidations – on related sins, purpose of marriage, rearing children, birth control, bioethical issues, lots of stunning stuff. My eyeballs veered left and right, to see if others were as shocked. Everyone seemed fine except me. This was Catholic teaching? Since when? I was sweating, angry, and anxious for the coffee break so I could leave.

Running into our house, I grabbed the dusty Catechism and looked up the citations. It was all there. I’d never heard it.

But I had no excuse anymore. That weekend, I made the hardest Confession of my life, and it reset my course forever.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Truth needs beauty

In Aquinas’ extensive treatment on depression [in the Summa Theologica], he at one point suggests a number of remedies. One of them is simply the contemplation of truth, since that is “the greatest of all pleasures.”

. . . Knowing the truth is delightful. It’s beautiful. Why? Because we were made for truth, but also because the truth about things is really good. God has made a good world with a good story that will have a good ending. “And therefore in the midst of tribulations men rejoice in the contemplation of divine things and of future happiness [Aquinas].”

In other words, we can put transcendentals together by saying, “Truth is beautiful because being is good.” Because reality is so good, it’s delightful to think about and to know.

Tragically, the secular world increasingly looks for delight by trying to forget about truth, trying to disconnect the mind from reality. Just think of all the energy that has gone into the legalization of recreational marijuana and getting it into the mainstream. The whole marijuana movement – and ultimately all recreational drug use – makes sense only if reality isn’t delightful. Those who don’t see that reality is delightful seek to stimulate their passions independently of truth . . . they manipulate themselves.

So, it is of vital moral importance to highlight the beauty of reality – or, in other words, the delightfulness of truth.


First of all, to convince people that truth is the truth. People may not have any well-defined theory of the transcendentals, but they do have an instinctive, though usually unconscious, recognition that beauty and truth go together. Fr. Thomas Dubay wrote an influential book called The Evidential Power of Beauty, whose point is to show that beauty has the power to convince people of the truth. . . .

At the beginning of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, two college friends are talking about Catholicism. At one point in the exchange, we read this very fine bit of dialogue:
“I suppose they try and make you believe an awful lot of nonsense.”
“Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me.”
“But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”
“Can’t I?”
“I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”
“Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”
“But you can’t believe these things because they’re a lovely idea.”
“But I do. That’s how I believe.”

Showing the beauty of truth not only draws people to the truth; it makes believers happy. It causes the faithful, who accept the truth . . . to rejoice in the truth again and thank God for their Faith.

Excerpt by John-Mark L. Miravalle, from Beauty: What It Is and Why It Matters (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2019), from Chapter 4 “Truth and Beauty,” pp. 44-46. www.SophiaInstitute.com

JOHN-MARK L. MIRAVALLE is a professor of systematic and moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. He received his doctorate in sacred theology from the Regina Apostolorum in Rome.

Truth exists whether we like it or not

Repeatedly I hear someone being interviewed on radio or television answer the interviewer’s question with the exclamation, “Absolutely!” I find that quite amazing at a time when so many claim there is no absolute truth—only opinions about what is true, relative to one’s point of view. It’s a misconception called relativism. Can relativism be true? Many might shout, “Absolutely!” I would like to answer instead, “Absolutely not!”

Why is that? Well, first of all, claiming that there is no objective truth means you are insisting in your claim that what you say is objectively true—which cannot be true by its own verdict. The French philosopher Jacques Maritain said it rightly, “The sole philosophy open to those who doubt the possibility of truth is absolute silence— even mental.”

Second, if it’s true that the world is round, someone’s opposing opinion will not make it flat. Truth is truth, even if you do not accept it; and untruth is untruth, even if you claim it. If relativism were true, then there would no longer be any facts. And yet, almost everyone swears by the facts. Policy makers want facts, police reports are based on facts, courts require facts, science is in search of facts.

To cross a river, for instance, we need a bridge built by engineers with the right knowledge, not with mere beliefs, opinions, or convictions; and to get into heaven, we need faith based on the right knowledge, not on mere sentiments. G. K. Chesterton once firmly asserted “that truth exists whether we like it or not, and that it is for us to accommodate ourselves to it.”

Taken to its extreme, relativism would entail that something like gravity may be true for you, but not for me. Relativism promotes a sort of democratic ideal in matters of truth and knowledge. This viewpoint is certainly not new. Pontius Pilate expressed it with his legendary question, “What is truth?”

Yet, in the past, relativism was never really popular, but nowadays it is receiving lots of traction. One of the reasons for this is the misconception that the human mind is presumably nothing more than a machinery of neurons. Therefore, we have no way of really knowing what we think we know. There is no way anymore to distinguish fact from fiction, realities from illusions, opinions from truths, and beliefs from make-beliefs.

Relativism has managed to infiltrate many areas of our lives. It even has penetrated the domain of religion. The modern conception is that religion is a highly private issue. Some go as far as wondering if religion has anything to do with truth. Of course it does. Even in religion, we deal with facts and truth issues. Jesus’ resurrection is either true or false. Jesus coming again to judge the living and the dead is either true or false. More in general, the existence of God is a factual matter — God either exists or not. Believing that God does not exist doesn’t make Him disappear, as little as believing that the earth is flat would make the earth flat. God’s existence is not dependent on our belief in Him.

How do we learn truths like these? Just like we do in science by reading or listening to what others have discovered before us, so we do in religion by reading or listening to what the Bible and the Church reveal to us. Obviously that calls for good instruction about the truth—in the family, in our schools, and from the pulpit. The term for this is evangelization. It begins at home, but cannot and should not end there.

GERARD M. VERSCHUUREN is a human geneticist who writes on faith and reason, science and religion. His most recent book is Forty Anti-Catholic Lies: A Myth-Busting Apologist Sets the Record Straight (Sophia Institute Press).

Quandary of Teaching Truth

A lie is ‘saying the false in order to deceive,’ according to St. Thomas Aquinas. It’s become a modern-day life-art. Catholics are being cajoled into accepting the notion that ‘niceness’ and tolerance mandate silence or mitigating what they know as simple Catholic Truth. It’s a great acid test, and many of us get cut off at the pass in the guillotine of guile. It’s infected our workplaces, political banter, even many Catholic schools and parish programs. A few priests in our area who still preach unblemished truth are shunned, reported, and denied certain priestly assignments. What a cross they carry, but for love of Christ and His flock. But when these ‘unpopular’ padres say Mass, the Church is packed. That says something indeed.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

When we know the truth about Catholic teaching, we have a duty to proclaim it. But often when we do – as parents, teachers, writers, speakers, neighbors, even to families – we get a walk down a thorn-thicketed garden path. The ‘feelings police,’ and many running school and parish programs, will demand we retract ‘harshness’ and serve it afresh with ‘support’ of others and nice-guy compromise. Revisionist Catholicism has become the new golden calf.

About 10 years ago, I thought my mid-life calling might be to detox from communications deadlines and corporate crisis strategy and teach high school. My own kids were teenagers, and I applied to teach religion and English at an all-boys Catholic prep school. So when they hired me for the term as a substitute teacher, I was jazzed. It had to be right.

In a junior morality class, I was to teach formation of conscience. But as I studied the instructor materials, it was really the ol’ ‘I’m okay-you’re-okay’ values-clarification game. Nah. I decided to skip the facade, and tell them the truth on the moral situations we were to discuss. It was a critical time in their lives to be aware of – and hopefully embrace – Catholic truth. The stakes were already high.

The pivotal subject on a balmy Monday? Dating and marriage. Nice appetizer before lunch.

Suddenly, I had their rapt attention. These rammy 17-year-old guys, a week before their junior prom, all stared at me in shock as I explained church teaching on courtship and purpose of marriage, and what healthy dating should resemble. And the ringer – serious sin. I rained on their spring parade, but they didn’t move – they were engrossed. Arms shot up, with question after question. The discussion got loud and boisterous. They couldn’t get enough of what they’d somehow missed, when the Church had decided all these things, what Christ had to say … all of it.

“I never heard any of this stuff,” one bulky baseball player admitted. “Wow.” He had some thinking to do. When the bell rang, they still didn’t move.

On his way out into the hallway, another guy said, “This was amazing. I hope you get to teach here for good.”

But I didn’t. It was too much for the department head to take, such veritable Catholic talk. But it made a great difference, in just a short time.

 CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

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.


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


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.

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

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.