Fr. Tim McCauley |


At first glance, it may seem that our culture presents only two options of the repressed Christian or the dissolute pagan, ignoring that in Christ there is a third option of the redeemed and transfigured human being. Katy Perry, her life writ large on the world stage of pop culture, offers a fascinating optic through which to view this issue, in part because she is the daughter of Christian missionaries, she has "Jesus" tattooed on her wrist, and has purchased as a residence a former convent in Los Angeles. Yet she remains manifestly ambivalent, to say the least, concerning Christian moral teaching. I would suggest that Christians can still learn something from her success, without in the least compromising our principles. And if the disappointment of her latest album (released June 9th) is any indication, she may yet have something to learn from the religion of her childhood, this faith which is the source of so many graces we tend to take for granted.

In some respects, it seems that she has been maturing as a person and evolving as an artist. She told Vogue magazine in an interview in April that her single "California Gurls" and other "fluffy stuff" is behind her: "(it) would be completely inauthentic to who I am now and what I've learned . . . if you have a voice you have a responsibility to use it now, more than ever." She continued, "I don't cure cancer or anything, but I know I can bring light and joy and happiness in tiny installments of three minutes and 30 seconds. That does something. That lifts spirits."

Her recent single "Chained to the Rhythm" was her first to capture my attention.
"Are we crazy? Living our lives through a lens
Trapped in our white-picket fence
Like ornaments
So comfortable, we live in a bubble, a bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, the trouble . . . . so put our rose-colored glasses on
And party on." 
I was impressed. Here's a pop song with an infectious beat issuing a cultural critique, while making an excellent philosophical point -- that the unexamined life is not worth living. All wrapped up in a package more attractive and perhaps more effective than many sermons.

Her 2016 song "Rise" has obvious Christian roots.
"When the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in
Think again
Don't be surprised
I will still rise."
Poetic imagery set to music evokes emotion and a personal response. How do we preachers communicate the truth of the Gospel? With abstract concepts and dry academic discourses on the "Paschal Mystery" that put people to sleep? Yes, we could learn a thing or two from popular singers like Katy Perry.

Perry began her music career as a Christian artist. For various reasons, she was not successful. Her re-invention as a secular singer seemed to give space for her spirit to breathe, allowing a fuller expression of her personality and her talents. We Christians need to be honest and admit that it is possible for the human personality to be oppressed by a cultural manifestation of Christendom that lacks the spirit of Christ, and amounts to a misinterpretation or even perversion of the Gospel.

Something went wrong in the evolution of Western Christendom. In our obsession with materialism and technology, we allowed the Spirit to die within. We completely forgot how the desires of our spirit can be purified, transfigured, redeemed and fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. Over time, when confronted with the surge of chaotic and conflicting desires within, our only recourse was repression. "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" Such a non-Christian attitude is reprimanded by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians, probably as a form of early Gnosticism. As St. Paul writes elsewhere, "That is not the way you learned Christ!" I wonder if we ever did learn this one essential aspect of the Gospel -- that Christ and Christianity do not teach repression, but redemption!

Young Christians of recent generations seem tempted to re-enact the sexual revolution, to revolt against Christian morality which seems to constrict their liberty and hamper the flowering of their personality. Yet in this rebellion they often trade repression for dissolution. Our culture promotes a naive and simplistic anthropology, that every desire that arises in the human heart is an unqualified good by virtue of the fact that the acting subject feels the desire, as if to say, "If I'm feeling it, it must be good." Applying such an impulsive and unreflective approach to life in general would lead us all to economic ruin in short order. Would we trust that every salesman that appears at our door is motivated by our highest good, so that we should immediately purchase a suitcase full of whatever he is selling? Then why would we give immediate consent to every desire that arises in our heart?

In life, our desires are like trails of breadcrumbs through a dark wood, leading to different destinations. Every time we act on a desire, we advance a step on that path, and form our identity. Unfortunately, original sin has in a sense split our personalities, so that we are divided within ourselves by divergent desires, in a civil war between what common sense and psychology would call the true and false self, and St. Paul in Colossians refers to as the old man (palaios anthropos) and the new man (neos anthropos).

In baptism, our salvation is achieved in seminal form. The old anthropos has died with Christ and the new human being is risen with Him. However, in saving us, Christ does not instantly assume us into heaven; rather, by His Spirit He gives us discernment to distinguish between desires leading to life or death, and He liberates our will, giving us grace to choose the good, the true, the beautiful. Our desires are neither repressed nor indulged, but redeemed. Our identity is neither oppressed nor dissolved, but transfigured.

Perry herself seems to be searching for an identity. The brash and bold girl is showing some signs of insecurity and uncertainty, trying too hard to be successful on her latest album, judged by most critics to be overproduced and uninspiring. Furthermore, while she professes interest in "purposeful pop" with a sense of social responsibility and cultural engagement, she continues to lend her talents to a media machine promoting the exploitation of the body and the commercialization of sex. Perhaps she needs to dig deeper for inspiration and return to her roots. Jesus is still tattooed on her wrist and imprinted on her soul in baptism -- an open invitation to seek the redemption that lies between repression and dissolution.

Perry tells stories from her youth of picketing concerts by Madonna and Marilyn Manson, and in one case handing out pamphlets entitled How to Find God. Are they binary opposites, Christians versus concert-goers? Are there but two options of repressed Christians who never commit a public sin, or dissolute pagans who never attend Church? There is a third way.

St. Philip Neri, (the "second apostle" of Rome) in the midst of the decadence of Renaissance Rome, realized he could not simply lecture young men on the necessity of avoiding the sinful excesses of the yearly Carnival, telling them "Do not handle! Do not touch!" He knew, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught so clearly, that if human beings are deprived of spiritual joys, we will seek carnal pleasures, for we cannot live without joy. Accordingly, he began a tradition on Sundays of outdoor Oratories, with excellent preaching to stir the spirit and professional musicians to refresh the soul. In 1553 he also instituted the pilgrimage to the Seven Churches, a time of pious reflection and recollection, but also of physical exercise and pure enjoyment of the beauty of nature around the city of Rome.

We need similarly innovative, joyful and life-affirming apostles today, to show the world that Christ is the fulfillment of the human person. In Him, we Christians are more human, not less. If we fail in this witness, frustration and futility will mark many of our efforts in the New Evangelization, and those raised in the green pastures of Christian homes will continue to be sorely tempted by what appears to be greener grass on the other side of the fence. If we succeed, we will save not only ourselves, but also our hearers, who will be drawn by a subtle but irresistible attraction, to adopt and imitate our way of life.
By Teresa Wong |


The following is a true story (not the author's story) originally written in Chinese and translated to English by The Cardinal Kung Foundation. It was originally published in a Christmas 1999 Newsletter.

I personally did not know this monk. I had never seen him before. I did not know where he came from. I did not even know his name. All I knew was that he was a Catholic priest; he was a person who tamed the prison; he was a glorious martyr; he was a hero who offered himself entirely for others, all because of love! He was also a trail blazer who showed us the way. I had given up my faith earlier on. But he led me back into the bosom of God.

Chiang was released from prison. This was during the end of the Cultural Revolution, but the unceasing red terror still haunted our daily lives. One day, Ming, a classmate of mine, invited me to his home in such jubilation tempered with a shroud of secrecy: his elder brother Chiang had returned from his imprisonment! I had long known the name of Chiang for he was the infamous hoodlum chief in our area. He was arrested during the Cultural Revolution and was imprisoned in the Heavenly Lake Farm in An-Hui Province. Heavenly Lake Farm was a terrifying labor camp. The mere mention of this labor camp would send chills down one’s spine.

Ming’s house was packed with people. Most of them were old followers of Chiang while he was the chief. The house was buzzing with greetings and small talk. When the people settled down, Chiang started talking, “I am going to tell you all the story of a monk, a Catholic monk.”

“A Catholic monk?” This caught my attention and I pricked up my ears even though I had given up my faith long since.

Everybody called him “Monk,” Chiang said. “Our prison cell had a total of forty-eight persons. A few were political prisoners. The rest were either thieves, robbers, rapists or heroes like me. The most respected person, however, in our cell was the monk. I was absolutely puzzled about this when I first moved in. A skinny old man, who knew neither kung-fu nor the art of boxing, was the most respected person? Was it because of imprisonment seniority? I heard that he had been in the camp since 1955.”

“1955?” I relived momentarily the night of September 8, 1955. It was a night of horror and the beginning of worse to come. 
(Editor’s note: September 8, 1955 was the day when Bishop Kung, the Bishop of Shanghai, was arrested together with over 300 priests and lay persons in one simultaneous sweep.)

Chiang continued, “The monk was a quiet person. His countenance was peaceful and calm. His eyes were bright and his gaze was sharp and piercing. Whenever we were in deep pain, or so enraged that we wanted to kill or to tear someone apart, our suffering and rage would subside and the atmosphere of hatred would gradually disappear so long as the monk was around, holding our hands and placing his right hand on our heads. There was a saying in the camp, ‘do not fear heaven, do not fear earth, fear only the danger of a wife asking for divorce.’ Whoever received such a letter of divorce from his wife, and one of these things would always happen, he would either cry his heart out or he would want to die and bang his head against the wall like the beating of a drum! All of us would watch this with a sense of indifference or ridicule. The monk was the only exception. He would embrace the person and hold his hands. Then he would place his right hand on the man’s head. I did not see the monk talking or chanting. Strangely enough, the man who was howling only a few moments ago would then calm down. Then the monk would talk softly to him for a short while.”

“Laying the right hand on his head? Oh..this must be an act of benediction!” I immediately realized.

Chiang continued, “During times of boredom, we were a lustful bunch and would gather around and crack dirty jokes. We would pass around our home-made pornographic drawings. The monk was the only one who would not listen, who would not read and who would not laugh with us during this entertainment. He would sit at the corner of the cell with his head bowed and eyes closed. In fact, he would sit in that fashion whenever he had nothing to do. He would sit for a long time, too. At the end of each working day, all of us had worked so hard that we would drop dead on our beds and be unable to move at all. The monk was the exception, and he would insist on sitting. One night, I woke up and saw him still sitting up. I asked him, “Aren’t you tired? Better go to sleep early.” He answered softly: “There is no better rest than this. He would give me strength.” “Who?” I asked. He raised his head and looked up momentarily. He did not answer my question. I looked up in the direction he looked. I saw a roof, nothing but the roof.”

“The quietest moment in our cell was when mail parcels came and were opened,” Chiang recalled. “Stitch by stitch all of us watched the opening of the parcel. Absolute silence would permeate every corner of the cell. With the exception of the monk, there was anxiety, hunger, admiration, and jealousy in the forty-seven pairs of eyes that were glued to the opening of the parcels. He went his own way as if nothing was happening, or he would sit by a wall in the room with his eyes closed. It befits only a person with such calm and peace to be called a hero!”

“That was not just sitting by a wall. That was meditation and praying!” These words almost escaped me in an attempt to correct Chiang’s ignorance, but they did not. I did not have the courage to admit that I was a Catholic. Moreover, I had turned away from God for so many years that I was not sure whether I was still considered a Catholic.

“There was no mail parcel for the monk,” Chiang noted. “Nobody came to visit him. It seemed as if he had no family. Oh, no, I remember now. Once he did receive a parcel containing a winter jacket. He immediately gave that to Tzong who had no family. He kept the wrapping as a memento. According to the monk, he did not know who the sender was.”

“The monk did not understand medicine,” Chiang observed. “But every time one of us fell ill, the person that looked after the sick was always the monk. He would especially care for the dying. He would stay close to the dying at all times and would hold on tight to the hands of the sick person, accompanying him until he drew his last breath. At which time, he would close the eyelids of the dead person and make a sign of the cross on his forehead. You are truly exceptional, brother monk!” exclaimed Chiang. And he continued, “In the camp, the worst suffering was not hard labor, not being beaten while hanged. It was hunger! Imagine this: there was not a day that we had enough to eat, year after year! It was beyond description to express the feelings of hunger. At every meal, the monk would save two-thirds of his ration for others. He said, ‘I have a small appetite. You are all young and need more to fill your stomach.’ So we thought he was serious and took turns at sharing this. One day, Fung found the monk chewing and eating weeds in the bushes. When he saw Fung, he dropped the weeds hastily like a child being caught at some mischief. But Fung, with tears all over his face, dashed to the monk and grabbed his hands...”

“During his last year with us, the monk washed the heads of quite a few of us,” Chiang remembered. “Regardless of whether he was a counter-revolutionary element, a hoodlum lord, or a gangster, he would cry his heart out during the head washing. Cry they did, but their hearts were filled with joy!”

“That washing of heads! That was the rite of baptism!” My heart was pounding, but there were no words from my mouth!

“A strange thing happened to those whose heads were washed. They fought no more and cursed no more. They liked to help and care for others, just as the monk did,” Chiang said. “Last year, the monk died. He died of starvation. Liang, who was a doctor, could witness to that fact. In fact, we all knew quite well that he died of starvation. While he was seriously ill, we saw with our very own eyes that the stool he passed out were weeds!”

“After his death, the monk received the highest honor from us. Each one of us took out the best we had, the newest, the most precious or the most treasured. We dressed him with Whei's army cap, Ping's shirt, Ren's pants, Loong's socks, my shoes; and scarfed him with Fung's white towel. Although we dressed the monk haphazardly, he certainly had a new, clean and tidy look as opposed to the shabby look while he was still alive. He was ready for a formal dinner party. We also hung his only possession around his neck: it was a rope full of knots, a peculiar rope that for every ten knots there was a special single knot.”

“That was a rosary!” Waves of emotion were choking me, choking my chest.

Chiang’s narration continued, “In the camp, the most disgusting most punitive job was to bury the dead. Usually the dead were buried in a shallow dugout covered with a thin layer of soil. That would be the final destiny of the dead in the camp. Within a day or two, the grave would be unearthed by scavenging wild dogs. The dogs would wander around with severed limbs from the dead in their mouths. But for the monk, not only did we hasten to prepare the burial site, we also wanted to dig the deepest grave for him. Now, he is lying in a grave as deep as the height of two men, facing the rising sun. Every day, he would be the first to welcome the early rays of dawn and the first to watch the sun rising...”

I could not keep silent anymore. Abruptly, I stood up and said loudly, “He was no monk. He was a Catholic priest. I am a Catholic too...” I broke down and started to cry. My crying muffled all that I wanted to continue to say. Everybody in the house was stunned and stared at me with mouths wide open. The atmosphere froze. The air in the room seemed taut with tension.

Chiang was first to recover and to react. He said in a low, solemn, but commanding tone, “Whatever was said here shall stay within the four walls of this room.” Then he walked up to me and hugged me. He laid slowly his right hand on my head. Through tears in my eyes, I looked up at his face: a face full of peace and calm. I seemed to have seen the monk. “You! Was your head washed too?” I asked soberly. The hoodlum chief, Chiang, nodded in silence and held my hands ever more tightly... - End

Please Remember The Cardinal Kung Foundation Incorporated In Your Will. Thank You.
By Elishama |


For decades when statistics were presented as to the proportion of the male population of North America that was homosexual the percentage commonly and unquestioningly proffered was ten percent. This figure first arose from the groundbreaking 1948 report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, by Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956), an Indiana University entomologist (his expertise was gall wasps), and his colleagues Wardell Pomeroy, Clyde Martin, and W.B. Saunders. Kinsey is considered the father of sexology and a key player in the 20th century sexual revolution.

Kinsey’s report, which he began researching ten years earlier, actually said, “10 percent of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55, but that only four percent were exclusively homosexual throughout their lives, after the onset of adolescence” (Male, pp. 650-651). However, it claimed that as many as 37% of the male population had had at least one homosexual experience (to the point of orgasm) in their lifetime. The one-in-ten ratio became standard statistical propaganda for the remainder of the century. As recently as February 6, 1989, the head of the American Psychological Association, Bryant Welch, confidently testified that “in fact all the research supported the conclusion that homosexuality...is a sexual orientation found consistently in about ten percent of the male population and approximately 5 percent of the female population...research showed that across different historical eras and in totally different cultures the incidence of homosexuality remained the same irrespective of public attitudes and prohibitions.”

In reality “all the research” does not support that conclusion. According to University of Delaware sociology and criminal justice professor Joel Best, the incidence of homosexuality among adults is “between 1 and 3 percent.” Studies done since 1987 in England, France, Norway, Canada and the United States all put the incidence of exclusive homosexuality in the general population consistently between one and two percent of the male population and about half that for the female population.

Joel Best, the author of Damn Lies and Statistics (University of California Press, 2001), observes that gay and lesbian activists (and APA president Bryant Welch) preferred to use Kinsey’s long-discredited one-in-ten figure “because it suggests that homosexuals are a substantial minority group, roughly equal in number to African Americans – too large to be ignored.” Tom Stoddard, a leader in the gay rights movement, admitted as much to Newsweek in February 1993: “We used that figure (10 percent) when most gay people were entirely hidden to try to create an impression of our numerousness.” In other words it was a useful lie.

Even in Kinsey’s own day there were serious critics of the methodology by which he arrived at his numbers. They included such notables as Margaret Mead, Lewis Terman, Karl Menninger, Eric Fromm and past president of the American Statistical Association, W. Allen Wallis. Later investigation has confirmed Kinsey’s research was profoundly flawed. Kinsey claimed to base his conclusions on data collected from a sexually explicit questionnaire comprised of 350 questions. Rather than using randomly chosen participants Kinsey relied instead on “volunteers” to answer his questionnaire. He even advertised for them (volunteers made up about 75 percent of his male subjects), even though the problem of “volunteer bias” had been pointed out to him by Abraham Maslow (who would publish a critique, with James Sakoda, entitled “Volunteer-Error in the Kinsey Study”). According to Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman volunteers for sex studies tend to be two to four times more sexually active than non-volunteers.

Dr. Albert Hobbs, a sociologist and author at the University of Pennsylvania, accused Kinsey of violating three precepts necessary for sound scientific method and procedure. First, the researcher should not have any preconceived hypothesis so he may present only the facts. Hobbs noted “Kinsey actually had a two-pronged hypothesis. He vigorously promoted, juggling his figures to do so, a hedonistic, animalistic conception of sexual behavior, while at the same time he consistently denounced all biblical and conventional conceptions of sexual behavior.” Second, Kinsey refused to publish the basic data upon which his conclusions rested. Third, he refused to reveal the questionnaire upon which he based all of his facts.

Kinsey did not reveal at the time that the volunteers included, by his own admittance, “several hundred male prostitutes” (some put the number at about six hundred). For his 1953 report, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female, Kinsey could find so few average women willing to be interviewed that he actually redefined “married” to include any woman who had lived with a man for more than a year. This duplicitous change allowed him to add common-law volunteers to his “married” women category, hundreds of whom were female prostitutes, strippers or burlesque performers. He also included staff members and their wives. Such a methodology artificially inflated the statistics for pre-marital sex. It also expanded rates of adultery to one-half of the “married” males and one-fourth the “married” females. Kinsey claimed to find no ill effect from such behaviour. Coaching of volunteers was also common in collecting data; as was admitted in a 1972 book by one of his colleagues (Wardell Pomeroy, Dr. Kinsey And the Institute for Sex Research, 1972).

More disturbing was Kinsey’s heavy use of prison inmates: 1,400 of the possibly 5,300 final male subjects (twenty-six percent). The exact number of total participants in Kinsey’s study is not clear. Most of them were convicted sex offenders. Forty-four percent of these inmates had had homosexual experiences while in prison. As a Kinsey associate, Paul Gebhard, later confided, when gathering data in prisons Kinsey and his team would purposely seek out “sex offenders,” especially “the rare types.” This helped maximize the statistical magnitude in the general population of deviancy.

Based on such revelations one can concur with British anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer that Kinsey’s milestone reports were simply propaganda masquerading as science. Because Kinsey’s landmark studies were widely advertised and used by radical social reformers and homosexual activists as evidence of the unrealistic and hypocritical nature of American sexual conventions it is worthwhile to examine just what might have motivated him to advance such disingenuous research.

In April 2004, after five years of study, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a bipartisan conservative membership association of 2,400 lawmakers from 50 states, concluded that the work of Kinsey was a fraud and contained “manufactured statistics.” The report outlined the influence these bogus numbers had on the weakening of 52 sex laws that once protected women, children and marriage.

In 1998 James H. Jones, professor of history at the University of Arkansas, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his biography Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life (W.W. Norton, 1997). Jones spent over twenty-five years researching his subject. Through his research be came to recognize that Alfred Kinsey was not a disinterested scientist. He was probably, as long suspected, a homosexual, but also a masochist, a voyeur and a group-sex aficionado. Jones interprets Kinsey's life as an unrelenting struggle to free himself from his own religious upbringing and the sexual guilt he knew as a boy. His father, Alfred Sr., was a staunch, no-nonsense Protestant who ran the household with an iron fist. Young Alfred hid his sexual tendencies from his father, and the contradiction between his outward moral uprightness and his inward, hidden sexual distortions caused him great anxiety. By the time he went to graduate school Kinsey was determined to use science to eliminate this anxiety by eliminating the distinction between natural and unnatural in regard to sexuality. He wanted to use science to “prove” that every sexual desire, no matter how bizarre, is natural. Kinsey’s goal was to discredit and demolish contemporary sexual taboos by use of seemingly scientific data.

Jones points out that Kinsey long believed that human beings were naturally “pansexual,” that is, they had no natural goal–such as heterosexuality–but if left to themselves in a kind of state of nature would satisfy their sexual desires in whatever way happened to strike their fancies. Society restricts this natural pansexuality, causing individuals all kinds of anxiety. Kinsey therefore believed that while we assume that people follow society’s sexual rules, they secretly want to act upon their natural pansexuality, and very often do. This deviation from social sexual rules–be it in adultery or homosexuality–is really not a deviation at all, but our natural, pansexuality reasserting itself.

Jones reveals that another important motive in Kinsey’s research was finding sexual opportunities for himself. He claims Kinsey had many homosexual lovers, some of whom were his graduate students, and that Kinsey encouraged his wife, Clara, to have sex with other men (the couple remained married for 35 years). According to the book, Kinsey also prompted his wife, closest associates, and staff members to have sex for his observation. This was often filmed on the Indiana university campus and in Kinsey’s own attic (Jones, pp. 605-614, 669-684, 755). Among the things recorded were masturbation, homosexual and sado-masochistic acts. He further encouraged them to engage in group-sex. Hidden behind the closed doors of his Institute for Sex Research, “Kinsey decreed that within the inner circle men could have sex with each other, wives would be swapped freely, and wives, too, would be free to embrace whichever sexual partners they liked” (Jones, p. 603).

As he got older Kinsey’s perverse sexual appetites became increasingly uncontrollable. He brought in outsiders when he became bored with his colleagues and had himself and others filmed in sexual acts for “research” purposes (including Kinsey himself being filmed from the torso down masturbating and inserting objects into his urethra).

An even more devastating critique of Kinsey’s research methods and personal character is found in the books Kinsey, Sex, and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People (Vital Issues Press, 1990) and Kinsey: Crimes & Consequences (Institute of Media Education, 1998) by Dr. Judith Reisman. In the earlier book (which she co-authored) she and her colleagues decried Kinsey’s intentional misrepresentation of rapists, homosexuals, prostitutes, sadists, masochists, and the like as average Americans. Probably most controversial is their accusation that Kinsey used information gathered from child molesters in his study.

Using the Kinsey Institute’s own documents Reisman claimed that the gall-wasp-expert-turned-sexologist used information on childhood “sexuality” gathered from pedophiles who sexually abused at least 317 pre-adolescent minors (and possibly as many as 2,035) to prove that children are sexually responsive. “Some of the victims were only two months old, and some were subjected to more than 24 hours of nonstop sexual atrocities,” says Reisman. While the Kinsey Institute has threatened to sue her for libel (as well as then television hosts Pat Buchanan and Phil Donahue for hosting her) they never carried through with any of their threats. Reisman in turn has accused the Kinsey Institute of a defamation campaign against her.

As extravagant as Reisman’s claims may seem, they are not without warrant. In Kinsey’s 1948 report he recounted using nine men to “observe” the sexual responses of children for his research (p. 177). “Some of these adults,” Kinsey wrote, “are technically trained persons who have kept diaries or other records which have been put at our disposal.” He included a chart that indicated that these “trained” adults were inducing sexual “orgasms” in babies as young as five months of age. One four-year-old is reported to have had 26 “orgasms” in 24 hours. An 11 month-old baby had 14 “orgasms” in 38 minutes. In his 1953 report the sexual data was mainly taken from “adult partners” of 609 pre-adolescent girls. Kinsey called these molestations “play” and claimed them harmless. A passing statement even makes one wonder if he might have had some personal involvement. Kinsey reported “observations which we have just recorded” on “4 cases of females under one year of age coming to orgasm” (Female, p. 105, italics added).

And just how were children and infants judged to be having orgasms? Kinsey looked for several behaviors: violent convulsions, groaning, “an abundance of tears” (i.e. sobbing), extreme trembling and fainting. In other words, what any normal adult would view as a child’s severe reactions to trauma Kinsey interpreted as children enjoying themselves. In Kinsey’s analysis, “it is difficult to understand why a child…should be disturbed by having its genitalia touched…[or by even] more specific sexual contacts” (Male, p. 121). One wonders how such disclosure did not result in public outrage and criminal charges. Did his persona as a man of science put him beyond reproach? Kinsey’s public image was carefully thought out and posed. He intentionally marketed a look of stodgy middle-American conservatism.

Reisman’s child-abuse charges appear validated by several Kinsey-research eyewitnesses interviewed in the 1998 British television documentary, Secret Histories: Kinsey’s Paedophiles. The program was never shown in the United States. Biographer James Jones counters, “There is just no evidence of which I am aware” that Kinsey trained and directed pedophiles to collect data. He believes the pedophile charges against Kinsey are “not credible” and tends to support the Kinsey Institute’s version of the story. In 1995, the institute’s director explained to the public that Kinsey had based this data on the diaries of one anonymous pedophile who had kept detailed records of his sexual abuse of 317 children from 1917 to 1948. According to Jones this man, whom Kinsey called “Mr. X,” was sixty-three years old when they met.

Yet this claim to there being only one pedophile whose activities occurred independent of Kinsey’s research seems to conflict with Kinsey’s own self-disclosure and the 1991 admittance of a close colleague, Clarence A. Tripp, who commented on Reisman’s accusations: “[She is] talking about data that came from pedophiles, that he [Kinsey] would listen only to pedophiles who were very careful, used stopwatches, knew how to record their thing, did careful surveys....[T]hey were trained observers.”

Perhaps the most widely publicized connection between Kinsey and a known pedophile took place in Germany a year after Kinsey's death. Notorious Nazi pedophile Dr. Fritz Von Balluseck was on trial for the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl when correspondence from Kinsey was found in his possession. Kinsey was encouraging the doctor to continue sending him “data” from his crimes and even urged him to “be careful” in one letter. These details appear in the British documentary film.

Ideologically speaking Alfred Kinsey’s goal now appears quite evident. Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker articulate it in The Architects of the Culture of Death (Ignatius, 2004). While veiling his agenda behind imposing charts and high scientific tones, “Kinsey reported all sexual behavior as if he were merely a neutral, scientific observer, never making distinctions between normal and abnormal, natural and unnatural, good and evil. Then he would declare that, since all kinds of hitherto taboo sexual acts actually occur far more often than readers had been aware, they could not be considered abnormal, because whatever occurs frequently must really be quite normal. What is normal must also be natural, and what is natural cannot be bad. Therefore, all sexual activities, whatever previous generations have thought of them, must be good. Science, therefore, can free us from the irrational prejudices of previous generations, for ‘there is no scientific reason for considering particular types of sexual activity as intrinsically, in their biologic origins, normal or abnormal’ (Kinsey, et al., Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male).” To drive home the pressing need for changes in social attitudes Kinsey claimed 95 percent of American men had committed acts that violated existing sex-crime laws that could land them in jail.

Kinsey not only claimed sexual abnormality to be statistically normal but that many pillars of society engaged in behaviors society unfairly labeled deviant and yet are “well adjusted” individuals. Indeed “most of the complications which are observable in sexual histories are the result of society’s reactions when it obtains knowledge of an individual’s behavior, or the individual’s fear of how society would react if he were discovered” (Male, p. 202). Kinsey was rationalizing the naturalness and therefore normalcy of homosexual acts, as well as pedophilia and bestiality. He was an outspoken advocate of adult-child sex. In each of these cases Kinsey saw the problem not as the behaviour itself but in society’s negative reaction to it. To Kinsey a female doctor who said she cautioned her patients that masturbation could become obsessive and harmful was an “inhibited old maid” while a molester of possibly 800 children was a “soft-spoken, self-effacing…gentleman” (Wardell Pomeroy, Kinsey and The Institute for Sex Research, New York, 1972, p. 122).

To overcome moral prohibitions Kinsey used his skewered data but also skewered language. He used terms that presented human sexual behaviour as purely a physiological “animal” response. Throughout his books he continually referred to the “human animal.” In his volume about women he likened an orgasm to sneezing. All sexual outlets were equally acceptable. As even the libertarian anthropologist Margaret Mead accurately observed, in Kinsey’s view there was no moral difference between a man having sex with a woman – or a sheep. For Kinsey human sexuality differed from animals only when it came to procreation. Animals instinctively have sex in order to reproduce. On the other hand, human procreation got little notice from Kinsey. In his entire 842-page volume on female sexuality motherhood was not mentioned once.

When Alfred Kinsey died in 1956 the press had only praise for the man. The New York Times declared he was “first, last and always a scientist.” In 2004 a movie was released called Kinsey. It starred Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. Gay writer-director Bill Condon did present something of the lead character’s sexual vices, in a subdued fashion, but kept intact the myth of Kinsey as man of science – who forced a sexually repressed America to look honestly at their sex lives. The film was critically well received – with the movie, Neeson and Linney being nominated for Golden Globe Awards and Linney for an Oscar. As one reviewer stated: “For a movie so frank and explicit, ‘Kinsey’ has a soft spirit. Violins swell. The warmth of the Kinsey's unconventional marriage shines through….‘Kinsey’ is a celebration of diversity; it’s about the solace knowledge can bring.”

While the film was a financial flop the ideas Kinsey promoted have been largely a success; becoming a reality in law and polity in the decades since his death. The boundaries of acceptable sexual behaviour have radically shifted and are still fluid. Promiscuity and deviancy have been normalized in Western society.
By Elishama |


Continued from my previous article, Objective Truth is the New Hate Speech, autonomy is the fourth of the four "Cardinal Virtues of Secularism" discussed here.

Philosophically speaking freedom is the capacity of the human will to choose to act or not to act. Modern thought extends this understanding of freedom to include the right to act or not to act as we see fit or prefer, without any external compulsion or restraint. In other words we equate freedom with personal autonomy.

Politically and culturally our concept of freedom is increasingly formed by a radically individualistic viewpoint – by the idea that the individual should be allowed to shape his or her own destiny, without interference from external sources such as government, religion, family or community.

“Freedom no longer means the ability to choose (or reject) what is right and proper,” says F. F. Centore, “it now means simply doing whatever you want to do or whatever you feel like doing. Freedom is absolutized; it's no longer a means to the end of justice but an end in itself. Being able to choose (regardless of what is chosen) is the only thing that's ultimately valuable; that's good in itself.” (“Will the Truly Prejudice Person Please Stand Up! An Essay in Social Philosophy,” 1991)

Philosopher Alastair MacIntyre noted the consequences of the modern marriage of individualism and subjectivism in After Virtue: "We have – very largely, if not entirely – lost our comprehension, both theoretical and practical, of morality." Morality has been replaced by what he calls 'emotivism': "The doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are moral or evaluative in character."

He speaks of what this emotivism entails:
  • There is the imperial self, who stands in judgment of all – and is frequently not amused.
  • There is the autonomous self who will not allow anyone else's “values” to be “imposed” upon oneself.
  • There is the egalitarian self who has a voracious appetite for “rights,” that knows virtually no limits, and is offended by all disparities, real or perceived.
Consequently, as Allan Bloom concluded in his book, The Closing of the American Mind, "in modern political regimes where rights precede duties, freedom definitely has primacy over community, family and even nature."

True liberty, as G.K. Chesterton so profoundly observed, "is the power of a thing to be itself." True human freedom should help us realize the fullness of our humanity (perfect our rationality, our ability to love, our moral and spiritual character). False freedom undermines our true humanity. It makes us rationalizers (trying to falsify reality in order to validate our choices) and self-centred.

We are free to choose what we are to do and in this way determine ourselves to be the person we are. But we are not free to make what we choose to do to be morally good or morally bad. It is what it is. We know this from experience, for we know that at times we have freely chosen to do things that we knew, at the very moment we chose to do them, were morally bad. We can, in short, choose badly or well. This means our choices need to be guided by truth, and it likewise means that we can come to know the truth prior to choice. For God, the author of human existence, has not made the moral law out of arbitrarily decrees legalistically imposed upon us in order to restrict our freedom, but written them into our very being as the means by which to perfect our nature and achieve the end for which we were created.

And here is exposed the weight of our choices. Human actions (i.e. free, intelligible actions) are not simply physical events in the material world that come and go, like the falling of rain or the turning of the pages. Human actions are not things that merely “happen” to a person. They are, rather, the outward expression of a person’s inner choice, the disclosure or revelation of that person’s moral identity. When we knowingly and freely choose to do something good or bad it determines us as the type of person who does this particular type of action. In other words, it is in and through the actions we freely choose to do that we give to ourselves our identity as moral beings. This identity abides in us until we make other, contradictory kinds of choices.

People intrinsically know that their actions bespeak their inner selves and we all want to be comfortable with our actions and see ourselves in a sympathetic light. So when we choose evil we also begin an intellectual process of rationalization. For we are averse to seeing ourselves as evildoers. We deny the evil actions implications upon our character by refusing to see it as evil (portraying the action as either a good thing in itself or made good by circumstances), by denying our free choice (becoming “victims” of greater forces), by refusing to examine fully the injury done, or by declaring the injured party deserving of it. We also assail any person or institution that tweaks our conscience as regards the nature of our action.

“Human acts are moral acts because they express and determine the goodness or evil of the individual who performs them. They do not produce a change merely in the states of affairs outside of man, but, to the extent that they are deliberate choices, they give moral definition to the very person who performs them, determining his profound spiritual traits.” Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 71.

“Whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart… It is what comes out of a person that defiles.” -- Jesus Christ, Gospel of Mark.

True Freedom: Liberty

True freedom is to take moral responsibility for our own life. Insofar as it is compatible with objective morality and the common good people should be allowed liberty to choose how they want to live. For example, it is good for a person to choose their job rather than be forced into one. It benefits him and the community.

But freedom and license must not be confused. Freedom embraces responsibility and is guided by objective norms, right reason and virtue; license is choice without restraint.

"Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong." -- John Diefenbaker

False Freedom: License

License is what many confuse with freedom in their conversations and moral deliberations as to what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. License it the throwing off of responsibility. It is carte blanche to do as we feel or wish. It flows from the denial of objective moral principles by which one must guide one’s actions.

It is the misidentification of freedom with the absence of legal restriction or moral restraint. Hence legal restriction, community censorship, and obedience to institutional authority (i.e. parents, Church, state) are all shrieked down as destructive to individual “rights” and liberties. There is a confusion of freedom within the law from freedom from the law.

“Liberty not only means that the individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice; it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions... Liberty and responsibility are inseparable.” -- Friedrich von Hayek

“None can love freedom heartily but good men; the rest love not freedom but license.” -- John Milton

External Freedom

External freedom is the absence of external restraint and force. External freedom is lost through a police state or a totalitarian regime or institutional slavery (e.g. in Communist China, Nazi Germany, fundamentalist Iran and the Sudan). It is a "freedom from" external compulsion.

Internal Freedom

Internal freedom is the absence of subjective restraints or compulsions that might inhibit one from acting according to what one knows to be good. Internal freedom is necessary for the perfection of character. It is a "freedom to" do what one knows is right.

Internal freedom is diminished by the inability or unwillingness to control one's passions, impulses, or emotions. We then act like passive riders on a coach pulled by the wild horses of lust, anger, sorrow, fear, greed, gluttony, etc. These can have undo influence in dictating the direction we go. 'Addiction' is a polite word for the loss of internal freedom.

“Men are qualified for their civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." -- Edmund Burke

Conclusion

Having examined the so-called virtues emphasized in our society let us now return to our list of controversial Catholic beliefs and find which modern presupposition causes people to reflexively and negatively react to each. Of course a particular Catholic doctrine may strike up against several of these secular virtues but we shall limit ourselves to one each.
  1. There is only one true God, the God the Church teaches and worships (pluralism).
  2. Jesus Christ is the one and only saviour of mankind (pluralism).
  3. The Catholic faith is the only completely true religion (equality).
  4. All of us are subject to Original Sin and its consequences and so in need of God’s forgiveness and grace (tolerance).
  5. All salvation comes from Christ and, directly or indirectly, through His Church (pluralism).
  6. There is an everlasting Hell to which unrepentant sinners will be consigned (tolerance).
  7. The hierarchy of the Church has a religious and moral authority given to it by Christ Himself to which all believers must submit (autonomy).
  8. The Church teaches objective moral norms that are true and certain for all people (pluralism).
  9. The pope under special circumstances can speak on matters of faith and morals with infallibility (pluralism).
  10. Ordination to the sacramental priesthood is possible only for males (equality).
  11. Holy Communion in the Catholic Church is typically forbidden to non-Catholics (tolerance).
  12. All mortal sins must ordinarily be confessed to a priest in order to receive God’s forgiveness (autonomy).
  13. A true sacramental marriage is a permanent bond that divorce cannot end thus making remarriage while one’s spouse is still alive immoral (autonomy).
  14. The use of artificial contraception is immoral (autonomy).
  15. Homosexual acts are immoral (tolerance).
  16. Premarital sex and cohabitation are immoral (autonomy).
  17. In vitro fertilization is immoral (autonomy).
  18. Abortion is immoral (autonomy).
  19. Fetal stem cell research is immoral (autonomy).
  20. Euthanasia is immoral (autonomy).
It must be emphasized that, beyond all the intellectual indolence and confusion that makes the soft virtues of secularism so attractive and hard to dethrone today, there is a major moral reason for their popularity. These “virtues” give permission for the individual to live his life on his own terms, according to his own whims and desires. It is a warping of social standards in order to please oneself. Its origins are in the will more than in the intellect. No credence is given to an objective moral order (such as that recognized by the Church) by which one's actions can be judged and regulated. Claiming other peoples’ “values” are just as personal and subjective as one's own you look tolerantly on their behaviour and expect them to reciprocate. It's a "live and let live" – or more accurately a sin and let sin – attitude. It is no coincidence that it came into vogue with the economic boon and sexual revolution of the sixties. It is all very convenient and self-serving.

Such an attitude is about feeling good without necessarily being good. It is about avoiding condemnation by refusing to condemn in return. If others do fault-find they are severely scrutinized and denounced as "judgmental hypocrites." Since Catholic beliefs themselves establish criteria of evaluation the Church and any Catholic believer comes under this severe scrutiny and denunciation. As columnist David Warren notes of his own profession: “Our media have – whether usefully or not – a special standard of perfection for any professing Catholic or other believing Christian, set well beyond the human, and make it their business to trash, whether justly or unjustly, anyone who might fall short.” (“The backstop,” Sunday Spectator, May 20, 2007). As it is with the media, so it also is with many ordinary Canadian citizens.

It is about alleviating the guilt of one's conscience without repentance or the conversion of one's character. It is the easy road to self-righteousness. It elevates one's self-esteem by marginalizing or dismissing the virtues one lacks while exaggerating the significance of virtues, or more accurately pseudo-virtues, one possesses. This is facilitated by a selective understanding and application of moral principles according to one’s self-interests. Privileged amongst these are the Four Cardinal Virtues of Secularism.

In a recent book, Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation (Henry Holt, 2002), caustic essayist Joe Queenan seems to have come to a partial realization of the underlying self-conceit in contemporary attitudes. He describes how venal and self-centred is much of modern (i.e. “baby-boomer”) culture. Being “a prototypical product of the Me Decade, I only knew how to respond to the world insofar as the world responded to Moi.” While he believes his generation began with some promise they quickly decided to replace their social conscience with a general, and ill-founded, feeling of superiority. Queenan seems quite surprised and appalled to discover just how self-absorbed he and his peers have been and the effect it has had on our culture. I might add the effect it has had on our children.

“To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats- we know it not.” -- Eric Hoffer

Queenan’s limited insight touches on a point that T. S. Eliot more profoundly observed and eloquently enunciated decades ago in his play, The Cocktail Party:
Half the harm that is done in this world
is due to people who want to feel important.
They don't mean to do harm – but the harm does
      not interest them,
or they do not see it, or they justify it
because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
to think well of themselves
. (Italics added)
The ideas we have investigated did not originate with the self-absorbed baby-boomers. But the baby-boomer generation was converted to them and became their ardent advocates. Measuring all things by themselves has allowed them to treat conflicting ideas and beliefs as equal, only in the sense of equally irrelevant to them. But when an idea or belief touches upon their own self-interest it is quickly and adamantly affirmed or denied accordingly. They complimented this contradiction, one might dare say hypocrisy, with the appellation ‘open-mindedness’ (ala pluralism).

As Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History And the Last Man has noted: “Postmodern elites have evolved beyond identities defined by religion and nation to what they regard as a superior place. But aside from their celebration of endless diversity and tolerance, they find it difficult to agree on the substance of the good life to which they aspire in common.” The concrete result of this “postmodern valuelessness…is that, apart from drinking beer and playing soccer (football), Europeans find it hard to define the virtues with which they identify” (“The Challenge of Positive Freedom,” NPQ, Spring 2007).

To a great extent this state of affairs is an unforeseen consequence of the West’s recent and incredible success in largely overcoming the historical constants of poverty, disease and war. There seems to be no great battles left to fight, no real dangers needing to be overcome. Without such clearly defined threats and profound struggles the regard for heroic self-sacrifice and the virtues that encouraged it have dissipated. The hard virtues of hard times have been replaced by softer ones. Unfortunately in an affluent and leisure oriented society these softer virtues appear compatible with, maybe even conducive to, very selfish and indulgent mores.

Our culture has absolutized the self and freedom at the cost of relativizing truth and goodness. The Cardinal Virtues of Secularism have stymied deep reflection while disordered and dissipated living has hardened hearts. The result is that true repentance and reform at the cultural level are now very unlikely and so the direction plotted out by unrestrained technology and egoism will probably run its course.

“Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the God within .... That Jones shall worship the God within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones.” -- G. K. Chesterton

C.S. Lewis, in his work The Abolition of Man, wrote:

“For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality (God) and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline and virtue. For the modern mind the cardinal problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men and the solution is a technique. The pursuit of happiness in the modern sense is therefore self indulgent. Man’s conquest of nature must always become man’s conquest of other men using nature as the means. But these powerful people no longer think of God and God’s laws as objective reality so they are controlled not by God’s supernatural ideals but by the natural forces of their own heredity and environment. Thus man’s conquest of nature turns out to be nature’s conquest of man.”

Neil Postman, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, contrasted the vision of the future found in Alduous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984:

"... Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacity to think... What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to egoism and passivity. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture... In 1984 ... people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure."

Aristotle said of living things that an immaterial principle (i.e. the soul) informs the matter to give it life and make it the type of living organism that it is. The soul orders the constituent elements into a unified whole we call the body. While united by the soul each element operates for the common good of the whole. The body cannot hold itself together however without the soul. So once the body looses that unifying principle and vivifying force, it breaks down into its constituent elements. Having no unifying principle these elements now seek their own good rather than the good of the whole. This we call death and decomposition. In a nutshell, that is the current state of the West. The soul of the West was Christianity. Viral elements within the body (secular intelligentsia, hedonistic individualists, rabid atheists, etc.) attacked its Christian soul, weakening it then finally eradicating it. We are simply watching the death and decomposition of Western Civilization as its present constituent populations, including special interest groups (capitalists, homosexuals, libertarians, Natives, "visible minorities," etc), are preoccupied with pursuing their own individual ends with little real interest in the common good. We describe this state of affairs in glowing terms as “diversity” and “pluralism” in a new "multicultural" society.

But unlike human bodies human civilizations are generally reinvigorated by a new force; a new soul so to speak. For rarely do advanced societies completely die, and never is there a complete cultural vacuum. In Europe the fight over the corpse of the West is between secularists (the most powerful being of the statist variety) and Islamicists. In Canada it is not yet clear who is on the ascendancy – too many tribes and no clearly dominant one: although here too, as in Europe, a secularist statism is currently quite powerful. In the United States it appears a dominantly Hispanic America is in the forming.

Demonizing the past, even if the past made possible all that we take for granted today (like the concept of human equality, a concern for the poor and vulnerable, an expectation of equality before the law, the technological and scientific revolution, general prosperity, etc), is a necessary part of justifying the destruction of the West and the establishment of a new order. It also gives those who live morally decadent lives grounds to feel superior to the old order and those that still embrace it. And amongst the many special interest groups who benefit from state largess it hides any sense of inferiority or envy while condoning their special privileges – by creating a sense of entitlement due one's victim status.

The question as to whether our civilization will survive and whether human dignity and the rights that flow from it will be preserved may very much depend on the answer we give to the role of religion, more specifically to the Christian religion, in it. Historians Will & Ariel Durant, who themselves wavered between atheism and agnosticism, once asked: "Does history warrant the conclusion that religion is necessary to morality – that a natural ethic is too weak to withstand the savagery that lurks under civilization and emerges in our dreams, crimes and wars? ... There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion."


By Elishama |



Continued from my previous article, Objective Truth is the New Hate Speech, equality is the third of four "Cardinal Virtues of Secularism" discussed here.

Belief in the equality of all human beings is one of the foundational principles of modern Western democracy. This is manifested in equality before the law and in the rights to which one can lay claim. Translation of this equality into a sense of civic duty and general applicability took time. Thus the suffragette movement of the early 1900s and the black civil rights movement of the 1950-60s.

Frank Sheed, in Society and Sanity, points out what is obvious but largely forgotten by the average na├»ve Westerner: “…the human race had no habit of seeing men as valuable simply by being men…. At first view, men do not look so very valuable – there are so many of us, and we are such a mess.”

Sheed goes on to note that “even as great a philosopher as Aristotle could think it proper for some men to be slaves and relegate them to a position not so very different from that of animals. Plato criticized the owner who was cruel to his slaves – on the grounds that the correct attitude was contempt. Politically and militarily dominant peoples did not think twice about disposing of other peoples as they wished, including enslavement, and even treated some of their own in similar manner.” (p. 40)

A change of attitude began to gradually take place in the West because, according to Sheed, “Christianity kept steadily hammering at the truth that no matter what a man looked like, he was the image of God, he had an immortal spirit, Christ died for him: every man was not only an object of value, but of eternal value….
          “This is, I say, the only view of man that makes man an object of respect. Indeed, it makes him an object of reverence. And man must be that or the social order will be inhuman; for men have shown only too clearly that what they do not reverence, they will profane. If they do not reverence man, they will profane man. They will profane other men, they will profane themselves. This is the profanity to which men are almost incurably addicted. You will not cure it by urging them to cease, but by giving them a reason for reverence.” (p. 40)

The problem, he observes, is that “clearly, men are not equal – not all men, not any two men – in any single human attribute. Men are not equally good or equally clever or equally handsome or equally industrious. What then does the phrase mean? Is it a pure legal fiction? Does it mean only that the law will not weight the scales against any man in favour of another man? If it is only a fiction, it will not survive. If we solemnly pretend that men are equal when we know they are not, a moment will come when the pretence will wear too thin.
          “The phrase has, of course, a meaning. The trouble is that too often the meaning has no meaning. It means that although men are unequal in all individual attributes, they are all equally men. I say that this meaning too often has no meaning: for it depends upon what we mean by being a man, which most people do not know or even ask. Is the fact of being a man, in which all men are equal, as important as the attributes in which men are unequal?…Does the fact of being a man, in which all are alike, outweigh the difference between genius and stupidity, energy and indolence?” Sheed answers, “Only if man matters. In the Christian view, being a man is itself so vast a thing, that the natural inequalities from one to the next are a trifle by comparison. In the Christian view, but in no other.” (p. 41)

Rightly understood the concept of equality means that all men are created equal in substance and as such they have certain inalienable rights given them by their Creator. But they are not equal, more properly one might say they are different, according to their accidental traits of talent, strength, intelligence, etc. True justice therefore requires that the equal dignity of all human beings, as human beings, be recognized but that individuals also be treated in accordance with their accidental differences.

Today the governments and courts of the West are prejudicing “rights” in favour of certain groups, or calling special privileges “rights” and bestowing them as they see fit – revealing that they are no longer cognizant or respectful of the nature of rights (because no longer cognizant of the nature of man). Dispensing “rights” in such a manner is to treat them as legal fictions. This is what the state is doing in redefining marriage (i.e. “common law” and “same-sex”) and in redefining human life (e.g. with abortion, euthanasia, and fetal experimentation). It will have profound consequences when genetic engineering makes the development and manipulation of human life possible and profitable.

Opposing human actions are not equal in their moral significance:
  • Telling the truth and telling a lie are not morally equivalent.
  • Honesty and thievery are not equivalent.
  • Industriousness and indolence are not equivalent.
  • Fidelity and infidelity are not equivalent.
It is wrong not to treat morally significant differences as morally significant. It is to be indiscriminate.
Elishama |



Continued from my previous article, Objective Truth is the New Hate Speech, tolerance is the second of four "Cardinal Virtues of Secularism" discussed here.

Generically tolerance is the disposition to permit the existence of beliefs, practices or habits differing from one’s own. It is a requirement for people of radically differing views to peacefully coexist. Why should we tolerate those whom we consider mistaken? Arguments presented for toleration include the fallibility of our ideas and beliefs, the impossibility of coercing genuine religious or moral assent, respect for autonomy, the danger of civil strife, and the value of diversity.

Tolerance, in relation to matters of truth and morality, is a very much misunderstood and misapplied concept today. Fulton Sheen once explained the role tolerance plays in these areas:
“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience towards evil, and a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. But what is more important than the definition is the field of its application. The important point here is this: Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to truth. Intolerance applies only to truth, but never to persons. Tolerance applies to the erring; intolerance to the error.” -- Fulton Sheen
In other words one may tolerate an evil but must promote what is good; one may tolerate an error but must promote what is true. Further, one tolerates evil only in such circumstances as it is the morally just thing to do, in order to prevent a worse evil, not on account of the matter tolerated. Perhaps if we took a cue from Bishop Sheen and used the English word “forbearance” rather than the Latin “tolerance” we could keep distinctions a little clearer.

Let us examine some further distinctions.

Open-Mindedness

Open-mindedness is not the refusal to judge ideas but the refusal to pre-judge them. It is to give an idea a fair hearing. It refuses to reject ideas without good reason.

But it implies a fixed, objective standard of truth and morality. Otherwise one would have no measure with which to objectively judge an idea. Without a fixed standard one would simply be judging by subjective preference, prejudice or whim.

True open-mindedness implies a choice to engage in the lives & ideas of others. It involves effort and thoughtful consideration. It prevents my making arbitrary judgments about others that rule out the possibility of learning from them.

“Merely having an open mind is nothing” observed G.K. Chesterton, “the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” In the case of the mouth, nutritious food for the health of the body; in the case of the mind, truth for the health of the intellect. Arguing for open-mindedness for open-mindedness sake is like arguing for open-mouthedness for open-mouthedness sake.

Philosopher Floyd F. Centore spoke of the contemporary desire to identify “tolerance” with an “open-mindedness” that does not make any judgments or refuses to take a firm stand.
“Toleration no longer means strongly holding a firm position, but not using force to impose it on others; it now means a universal indifference to all objective standards. In fact, contrary to the unofficial state religion [i.e. secularism], only dogmatic people can be tolerant. People who can't or won't strongly hold firm positions lose the option of being tolerant. The most they can be is indifferent. Yet this indifference is now taken as the standard of proper behavior, and as the modern, orthodox definition of toleration.” --(“Will the Truly Prejudice Person Please Stand Up! An Essay in Social Philosophy", 1991).
Great minds have noted this before: G. K. Chesterton said of this type of “tolerance” that it "is the virtue of the man without convictions." And even novelist and homosexual W. Somerset Maugham could concur: "Tolerance is another name for indifference."

In fact many people who think themselves tolerant are actually very close-minded, even bigoted. They are not relativists about the absolute rightness of their own views and are intolerant of opposing ones. This is aptly brought out in William Watkins’ book, The New Absolutes (pp. 36-7):
"From all appearances, relativism has won the battle over absolutism. All that seems left to do is to carry out some mop-up operations to purge any stubborn absolutists from positions of power while marginalizing and converting the few remaining believers in absolute truth.

If this is true, if it is an accurate depiction of contemporary America, then we should see clear, undeniable signs of its presence nationwide. The problem is, we do not. What we see is the opposite of what we would rightly expect to find. The behavior of Americans betrays their real commitments, and relativism is not one of them. We can see this in a variety of areas.

The foundational virtue of relativism is what I call the new tolerance....The new tolerance is a natural corollary of the relativistic perspective. Since all truth and morals are up for grabs, the relativist must be a person committed to living out the new tolerance. This means she must be broad-minded, open to other beliefs, claims to truth, moral convictions, and different lifestyles. The tolerant person must make room for others to do as they wish, even if their behavior contradicts or even mocks her own. The authentic relativist would not become upset when facing opposition to her views, and she would never try to push her personal convictions on other people. Declaring anything right or wrong, true or false for anyone but herself would be unacceptable – dare I say, a moral evil? Everyone must be left to live as they see fit. Live and let live – that is the summary maxim of the new virtue of tolerance.

Is this live-and-let-live attitude characteristic of contemporary America? Not at all. In fact, the very groups that claim to be advocates of the new tolerance are not. The political correctness movement seeks to squelch what various groups view as offensive language, behavior, and perspectives. Multiculturalists seem bent on upholding the beliefs and practices of every other culture except those commended by Western civilization. Secularists are determined to keep religious expression out of the public arena. Pro-abortion and same-sex rights activists march on city halls, run for political office, and lobby to change or enact laws in order to gain legal and social sanction for their personal views." -- William Watkins

“‘Anti-discrimination’ has become the excuse for active discrimination against Catholics and others whose moral convictions ill-fit the relativist-secularist opinion mainstream.” -- George Weigel

Who Are You To Judge Others?

When then U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle said that T.V. character Murphy Brown giving birth to an illegitimate child was not a good role model for youth he was severely ridiculed as being judgmental and arrogant. How dare he tell others how to live!

Many critics of Christian moral positions quote against believers in Christ's own words:
“Do not judge or you too will be judged” (Mt 7:1).
They interpret these words to mean Christians who morally evaluate other people's behaviour are being disobedient to Christ! Yet, their interpretation easily falls apart on examination. For Jesus Himself directs His disciples to make judgments:
"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment" (Jn 7:24). 
Theologians have long interpreted Christ's criticism of judgmentalness as applying to those who make rash judgments of others or claim to know the state of the other’s soul before God (which only God Himself can truly know). Wrong judgment, then, would be to morally evaluate someone according to subjective standards or claiming to know his spiritual state. Right judgment is to morally evaluate a person's actions or expressed attitudes according to an objective standard.

Those who criticize Christian "judgmentalism" act just as arrogantly and judgmentally as those they accuse. If a Christian is denounced for being judgmental he can respond that his accuser is judging him!

There is always an obligation to pass judgment on the moral nature of one’s own actions, before performing them and afterwards. If we are going to act with conscience and knowledge all of our actions have to be preceded by a judgment even if it takes only a second. Only then can we determine whether a particular action is permissible to do. What we need in order to properly evaluate our actions is an external, objective moral standard. Otherwise we become a law unto ourselves. If that standard is simply what is acceptable in our society, it tells us nothing as to whether the society itself is condoning evil (e.g. human sacrifice, slavery, torture, abortion, racism, etc.). We need an objective moral standard based on something higher than mere social convention. What is higher than individuals or society? Our shared human nature and God. Reflecting rationally on our shared human nature – what it is, what type of actions perfect it, and what type of actions distort or disorder it – gives us a natural moral law by which we can objectively judge our own actions as well as those of others. God can also reveal the moral order that He has written into the heart of man. Since our human nature has its source in God His revelation would not contradict the natural moral law, only give us greater clarity and certainty in determining it.

Since we are not judging behaviour based on our own personal preferences or whims but by an objective standard it can be said that the standard itself is the judge, not us. We are simply its applicants. And since it is an objective moral standard it judges not only other people’s actions but our own as well. It is a universal standard based on our shared human nature. Failing to live up to that moral standard even though one propounds it does not, therefore, destroy or disprove it nor is it necessarily hypocritical. Rather it would be hypocritical to mold standards simply to suit oneself or deny standards solely because they condemn one’s own actions. With natural law we are not inventing moral standards but discovering them and recognizing their binding force even when we fail to live up to them.
“Four things belong to a judge: To hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.” -- Socrates

“In England the judges wear wigs in court, to show that it is the law which is passing judgment, and not their own personal views. This is done in recognition of the truth all men suspect – that there is something impudent in allowing even the wisest among us to engage in pigeonholing our friends or cataloging our enemies.” -- Fulton Sheen
By Elishama |


Continued from my previous article, Objective Truth is the New Hate Speech, pluralism is the first of four "Cardinal Virtues of Secularism" discussed here.

Pluralism is the doctrine that holds reality to be either unknowable or to have multiple forms (i.e. pluriform). If unknowable then all claims as to its nature and meaning are equally valid insofar as they are all unverifiable opinion. If pluriform then reality cannot be reduced to either one or two ultimate forms but is made up of many mutually irreducible ways of being. This outlook leads in ethics to the claim that there are many independent sources of “value.” In religion it assumes that all beliefs are equally valid. Culturally it emphasizes heterogeneity over hegemony. “Diversity” is a popular buzzword used to describe this mentality. It is treated as a self-evident good and something to be strived for. Politically this has established itself in the West as ideological “multiculturalism”.

Pluralism as an observable fact is obviously true. There are many different belief systems and ethical opinions out there. No one would deny that. Pluralism as a philosophical conclusion from this fact is not as obviously true. Just because there are differences of belief or opinion does not mean that all beliefs or opinions are equally true. In fact they cannot be. Opinions and beliefs that diametrically oppose each other (e.g. God exists vs. God does not exist; moral norms are absolute vs. moral norms are relative; the world is round vs. the world is flat) cannot both be true if they are speaking categorically of the same thing.

Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist of Indian Hindu background, observed:
“One of the most fallacious ideas ever spawned in Western attitudes toward truth is the oft-repeated pronouncement that exclusionary claims to truth are a Western way of thinking. The East, it is implied, accepts all religions as equally true. This is patently false. Every religion, without exception, has some foundational beliefs that are categorically nonnegotiable and exclude everything to the contrary. You see, truth by definition is exclusive. If truth were all-inclusive, nothing would be false. And if nothing were false, what would be the meaning of true? Furthermore, if nothing were false, would it be true to say that everything is false? It quickly becomes evident that nonsense would follow. “Even Buddhism, which is often held up as being the example of ‘religious tolerance,’ is not exempt from dogmatism. Buddhists forget or downplay the fact that Buddha was born a Hindu and rejected some of the fundamental precepts of Hinduism. Buddha’s own statement was that truth mattered more than conformity. What, therefore, takes place in popular thought is a reflection of the way culture has been engineered to deal with truth issues.” (“Living an Apologetic Life,” Just Thinking, October 2003)
“Pluralism,” in its popular contemporary usage is simply a euphemism for relativism and subjectivism.

Relativism and subjectivism are not new: Protagoras, the Greek sophist (c. 500 B.C), maintained that the individual was the standard of truth. Plato cited him as saying, "man is the measure of all things." Consequently, any given thing "is to me such as it appears to me, and is to you such as it appears to you" (Cratylus, 386a). Shakespeare quoted 16th century French essayist Montaigne to similar effect: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2).

Relativism says truth is not fixed by any outside (objective) reality but determined by one’s own (subjective) perception of it. Thus it holds that truth is not discovered but invented. Truth is not unchanging but ever changing.

This, of course, is self-contradicting. The contradiction lies in the fact that the subjectivist claims that truth really, objectively, is subjective; the one unchanging truth is that all truth is ever changing. The one discovered universal truth is that truth is not discovered or universal but manufactured by the individual or culture.

Let us critique relativism using some of the common cliches or slogans associated with it.

That's True For You But Not For Me

On the surface relativism sounds relaxed and easygoing – accepting of all viewpoints. But relativism has one absolute: This I know to be true, all truth is relative (a universal claim that there are no universal claims, and so self-falsifying.) On this point it is dogmatic and rejects out-of-hand any contrary claim.

One can ask someone who recites “true for you but not for me” that if my absolutist view is only true for me why isn't his relativist view only true for him? Does he want me to adopt his view? (Self-excepting fallacy: He is applying the statement to everyone but himself). If his position is true then why argue it? The most he can do is present it. And if others shrug their shoulders and ignore it they are only giving it the acknowledgment his claim implies it deserves. It’s true for him but not for them.

This view is based on a failure to distinguish between the subjectivity of our judgments and the objectivity of truth. The subjective aspect of truth lies in the claim a person makes about the veracity of his judgment. The objective aspect lies in the agreement between his judgment and the reality he is judging. The objective aspect is the primary one. The truth of a statement resides in its correlation to reality not in its relation to the individual judging it.

In an essay on “Truth” philosopher Mortimer Adler writes:
“But the ancient controversy in which Socrates engages with the sophists of his day, who were willing to regard as true whatever anyone wished to think, seems to differ not at all from Freud's quarrel with those whom he calls intellectual nihilists. They are the persons who say there is no such thing as truth or that it is only the product of our own needs and desires. They make it 'absolutely immaterial,' Freud writes, 'what views we accept. All of them are equally true and false. And no one has a right to accuse anyone else of error.' ... If all opinions are equally true or false, then why, Aristotle asks, does not the denier of truth walk 'into a well or over a precipice' instead of avoiding such things. 'If it were really a matter of indifference what we believed,' Freud similarly argues, 'then we might just as well build our bridges of cardboard as of stone, or inject a tenth of a gramme of morphia into a patient instead of a hundredth, or take tear-gas as a narcotic instead of ether. But,' he adds, 'the intellectual anarchists themselves would strongly repudiate such practical applications of their claim.”

But So Many Disagree, Relativism Must Be True


This is confusing the difficulty of discovering truth with the impossibility of finding it. It confuses the absoluteness of truth with the tentative knowledge we often have of it. No one is denying that truth can be elusive. No one said truth is easily known without effort, conflict, and possible error. The challenge is to struggle to discover it.

Likewise, the fact that individuals and cultures have differed as to whether particular actions are right or wrong does not make right and wrong subjective. The Aztecs believed human sacrifices right, Jews thought it wrong. This divergence does not mean it was okay for the Aztecs to sacrifice innocent people any more than it makes it right for the Southern slave owner to treat vulnerable human beings as property. What is culturally relative is opinions about what is right and wrong, not right and wrong itself.

Yet even opinions as to right and wrong are not wholly relative. No culture has ever existed which taught a totally different set of values. For example, honesty, justice, courage, wisdom, self-control were never all thought to be evil, and lying, theft, murder, cowardice, and selfishness were never all thought to be good. Disagreement is not over the existence of right or wrong, nor over the goodness of courage and badness of cowardice, but over what constitute right and wrong and what entails courage and cowardice. Moral principles are generally agreed upon (i.e. are transcultural), it is the particular content and application of these principles that causes disagreement and confusion.

Your Values Are Right For You But Not For Me

When someone told the great British essayist Dr. Samuel Johnson that one of his dinner guests believed that morality was a sham, Dr. Johnson responded, "Why, sir, if he really believes there is no distinction between virtue and vice, let us count our spoons before he leaves!"

Moral subjectivism has been conditioned into us by use of terms like “personal values” instead of terms like “moral laws” or “ethical principles.” The very word “law” suggests something more definite and objective. We do not speak of “subjective laws.”

Many people who claim to be relativists are not consistently so. We simply cannot function without a common moral standard of existence.

Paul Copan tells a story he claims true:
Throughout a course a student challenged one of his professors by claiming all morality is relative and so one cannot judge others by one's own standard. What is right for you is not necessarily wrong for me & vice versa. At end of the course the student handed in the final exam for which he had studied well. When his mark came in, instead of the “A” he expected there was an “F”. Shocked & infuriated he stormed into the professor’s office demanding an explanation. "This is unfair!" he exclaimed. "Did you say unfair?" responded the professor, "By who's moral standard, yours or mine?"
It has been said that a person tends to stop being liberal when it is his toes being stepped on. The same holds true of the relativist. Willis Player’s comment on “liberals” can be equally applied to relativists: “A liberal is a person whose interests aren't at stake at the moment.”

Do Whatever You Want So Long As You Don't Hurt Anyone

This is a common approach to the dilemma of pluralistic moral views. It has an air of legitimacy about it because it sounds similar to the most basic and commonsensical principle of morality, what is in fact the first precept of 'natural law' philosophy: “Do good and avoid evil.” However, as it stands the first proposition is erroneous and the second too ambiguous.

The first proposition, to “do whatever you want,” is a very subjective and selfish guideline. It is not the same thing as saying “Do good” or “Do what is right.” Doing “what you want” takes as its primary reference point one’s internal subjective disposition and desires. Doing what is “good” or “right” takes as its primary reference point an external objective criteria by which you judge the moral propriety of actions arising from internal dispositions and desires. What I “want” may sometimes coincide with what is “good” or “right” but not necessarily.

The second proposition, so long as you “don’t hurt anyone” is too ambiguous. What makes "hurting someone" an absolute value if all values are relative? It seems like an arbitrary sneaking in of an absolute moral principle where before all was said to be relative. Can one demonstrate its absolute character? And if one can then moral relativism is proven false.

Does the "not hurting anyone" norm have any exceptions (such as in cases of self-defense or law enforcement)? If it does what principle determines the exceptions? Is this like a personal game where one makes up his own rules and then makes exceptions to his rules? Why must I play the game by another person’s rules?

Also, elaborate on what exactly is meant by "hurt"? Is it being used narrowly here to mean only bodily injury? Or does it include emotional or psychological injury as well? Does it include injury to one's own or another person's moral character or reputation? Does it include harm done to one's own or another's spiritual life or soul? These types of injuries can often have profounder consequences than many physical injuries. If it includes all these then I can more willingly accept it since it encompasses a more complete understanding of human nature and its well-being. Unfortunately, used as a cliche such an understanding is rarely considered and I suspect not intended.


photo credit: Templestream Gump Meme - And then, for no particular reason, bad was good & good was bad via photopin (license)
By Elishama |


The first thing to be established is whether Catholic beliefs actually do upset many people? If they do not then this piece is misguided from the beginning. We know the misdeeds of professed Catholics – high and low, past and present – have upset many, including ourselves. But is it just the sins of the messenger that disturb or is it also the message itself? Do the doctrines and moral teachings of the Church, independent of the worthiness or unworthiness of their advocates, cause controversy, even hostility, with a large portion of the general population (including many Catholics)? I think they do and it is easy to demonstrate. One need only state directly, succinctly and without qualification certain Catholic teachings in order to elicit a negative visceral reaction from many individuals:
  • There is only one true God, the God the Church teaches and worships. 
  • Jesus Christ is the one and only Saviour of mankind. 
  • The Catholic faith is the only completely true religion. 
  • All of us are subject to Original Sin and its consequences and so in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. 
  • All salvation comes from Christ and, directly or indirectly, through His Church. 
  • There is an everlasting Hell to which unrepentant sinners will be consigned. 
  • The hierarchy of the Church has a religious and moral authority given to it by Christ Himself to which all believers must submit. 
  • The Church teaches objective moral norms that are true and certain for all people. 
  • The pope under special circumstances can speak on matters of faith and morals with infallibility. 
  • Ordination to the sacramental priesthood is possible only for males. 
  • Holy Communion in the Catholic Church is typically forbidden to non-Catholics. 
  • All mortal sins must ordinarily be confessed to a priest in order to receive God’s forgiveness. 
  • A true sacramental marriage is a permanent bond that divorce cannot end thus making remarriage while one’s spouse is still alive immoral. 
  • The use of artificial contraception is immoral. 
  • Homosexual acts are immoral.
  • Premarital sex and cohabitation are immoral.
  • In vitro fertilization is immoral.
  • Abortion is immoral.
  • Fetal stem cell research is immoral. 
  • Euthanasia is immoral.
Why do these teachings provoke in many an almost spontaneous negative reaction? Why do they elicit intellectual skepticism and emotional anger? Why can they put believing Catholics at the receiving end of harsh criticism and possible rejection from incredulous friends, colleagues, and family members?

Cognitive Filters

While there are a number of venues for exploring this situation, I will look at a very important one that is largely ignored. It is ignored because it involves an implicit set of philosophical beliefs widely held in our society but rarely questioned. These philosophical assumptions determine the way we approach truth claims, moral positions, and ideas. They form a kind of cognitive filter through which ideas are sifted to determine their acceptability or unacceptability. These intellectual presuppositions may be reinforced by one’s personality, moral character and family background but they largely arise from the cultural milieu. Constant exposure and habitual use of them makes their influence nearly imperceptible. Yet they have a profound effect on the way we understand and judge.

When ideas or issues come to the fore that are perceived as having a bearing on one or more of these underlying presuppositions only those views conforming to them are evaluated positively. All others are either spontaneously rejected or held in suspicion and doubt. This includes Catholic beliefs. The presuppositions are never questioned. What is questioned is anything that is perceived as challenging or contravening them.
"Everybody has his filter which he takes about with him, through which from the indefinite mass of facts, he gathers in those suited to confirm his prejudices. ...Rare, very rare are those who check their filter." -- Henri de Lubac
In our modern “multicultural” society there are several interrelated moral presuppositions that have become so dominant that they are increasingly accepted as the norms by which other values and ideas are to be judged. Much of the media and political discussion that goes on today is filtered through them: whether that discussion be about legalizing marijuana, affirmative action, crime and punishment, social welfare, immigration policy, religious beliefs, homosexuality, abortion, public education, universal health care, or embryonic stem cell research. These presuppositions are brought to such debates and unquestioningly assumed by many to be the measure by which one discovers the right path for society to take. They are treated as if self-evidently true and good. In this sense they are analogous to the classic four Cardinal Virtues.

Plato's Four Classic Cardinal Virtues

A virtue is a moral habit ordered to what is good and exercised with a certain consistency and ease. As a habit it is like second nature to us, so much so that not to act accordingly becomes more difficult than to act on it. For example, a person possessing the virtue of honesty is disposed to telling the truth and does so with a consistency that makes him trustworthy in word and action. If such a person unpreparedly tells a lie often you can tell right away because he is so awkward and obvious at doing it. It is out of character. A dishonest person can spontaneously tell a lie without even flinching. He has developed it to a vice (i.e. a moral habit ordered to what is evil).

Plato first elucidated the four classic Cardinal Virtues. They are Courage, Temperance, Justice, and Prudence. As “cardinal” virtues they are the good actions or attitudes upon which other virtues are “hinged” or depend. For example, courage is the ability and willingness to deny oneself, even suffer, in order to realize a greater good. Courage is necessary if one is going to make much progress in the spiritual and moral life. We must be willing to stand up for what we know is right even if it causes others to oppose us; even if it costs us financially, in friendships or in family relations. We have to be willing to stand up to ourselves as well if we are to avoid being driven by our emotions, passions, and desires to the detriment of our character. If we do not gain the virtue of courage then we will not truly possess the virtues of chastity, honesty, industry, fidelity, love, etc. In fact neither will we truly possess the other cardinal virtues since they are interdependent.

Cardinal 'Virtues' of Secularism

I call the new moral presuppositions the “Cardinal Virtues of Secularism.” This is only by analogy to the classic cardinal virtues. What I am suggesting here is that moral standards have dramatically changed in recent decades and with that has come a new criterion of moral evaluation. Our moral judgments (which, despite protests to the contrary, all of us make) are now determined in relationship to other hinge "virtues.” These new “cardinal virtues,” like the earlier ones, are interrelated. Each is determined by and reinforces the others. They are considered fundamental attitudes necessary for all Canadians to possess in a "multicultural" secular society. Not to properly possess these qualities is judged reprehensible. They are thus civic virtues. These new "Cardinal Virtues" are:
  • Pluralism: A relativistic attitude toward truth, religion and morals.
  • Tolerance: A non-judgmental approach to contrary opinions and moral choices/lifestyles.
  • Equality: Giving equal value to personal and cultural differences.
  • Autonomy: Emphasis on individual freedom in moral decision- making.
Much of the reason why Catholic beliefs upset so many people is that these four presuppositions colour the way people look at them. They evaluate Catholic beliefs not by their truthfulness but by whether they meet the cultural norms of being non-absolute, tolerant of differing opinions and actions, in fact treating them as equally valid, and affirm the individual’s right to act as he sees fit. Virtually everyone in our secular society has been indoctrinated to some degree in these modern “virtues” – they are taught throughout our education system, propagated by the entertainment industry and news media, mandated by the government and courts, and praised by peers.

Truth is Relative?

In the Introduction of his bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind (1987), the late philosopher Allan Bloom well described this situation as he met it in the classroom:

"There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students' reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2 + 2 = 4. These are things you don't think about. The students' backgrounds are as various as America can provide. Some are religious, some atheists; some are to the Left, some to the Right; some intend to be scientists, some humanists or professionals or businessmen; some are poor, some rich. They are unified only in their relativism and in their allegiance to equality. And the two are related in a moral intention. The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so they see it. They have all been equipped with this framework early on, and it is the modern replacement for the inalienable natural rights that used to be the traditional American grounds for a free society. That it is a moral issue for students is revealed by the character of their response when challenged – a combination of disbelief and indignation: ‘Are you an absolutist?,’ the only alternative they know, uttered in the same tone as ‘Are you a monarchist?,’ or ‘Do you really believe in witches?’ The latter leads into the indignation, for someone who believes in witches might well be a witchhunter or a Salem judge. The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is not error but intolerance. Relativism is necessary to openness; and this is the virtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating. Openness – and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings – is the great insight of our times. The true believer is the real danger. The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.

“The students, of course, cannot defend their opinion. It is something with which they have been indoctrinated. The best they can do is point out all the opinions and cultures there are and have been. What right, they ask, do I or anyone else have to say one is better than the others? If I pose the routine questions designed to confute them and make them think, such as, ‘If you had been a British administrator in India, would you have let the natives under your governance burn the widow at the funeral of a man who had died?,’ they either remain silent or reply that the British should never have been there in the first place. It is not that they know very much about other nations, or about their own. The purpose of their education is not to make them scholars but to provide them with a moral virtue – openness." (pp. 25-6) -- Allan Bloom

"Men go by their sympathies, not by argument." -- John Henry Newman

"Most men, when they think they are thinking, are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- Knute Rockne
The prevalence of these new cardinal 'virtues' explains why, in our contemporary secular culture, defending Catholic belief, or simply upholding that there are objective moral norms and universal truths, has become controversial. It can bring down upon you hostility and rejection. The Catholic faith assumes that truth is objective: That reality is one and the same for all (though not equally recognized as such by all); that life’s experiences are only properly understood within the context of human life’s deeper meaning and purpose, and that decisions need to be made in light of this. The problem with this approach is that modern Western people do not just doubt the articles of Catholic faith, they doubt in principle that there is an objective truth or real and knowable purpose to life on which a faith or decisions can be based. They are skeptical of claims to a knowable objective truth, especially in the realm of morality.

It is not that objective morality and absolute truth have been demonstrated not to exist or to be unknowable. This is not a logical conclusion people have come to based on sufficient evidence. Rather it is a moral expedient and political stance made necessary by a social vision. Objective truths go contrary to the type of “inclusive pluralistic” society being promoted. In this new society one must be willing to assume, in principle, the equality of differing morals and ideas. This is a prerequisite attitude. Thus the denial of objective truth is more an act of the will than of the intellect; more a choice not to entertain any exclusivistic truth claims than a conclusion based on rational proof.

Rationalizing Verus Reasoning

“He who will not reason, is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not, is a slave.” -- William Drummond
The tendency to reach conclusions by rationalizing instead of reasoning has always existed. It is a universal human weakness. Professor Alice von Hildebrand noted its consequence in her philosophy classes:
“Thirty-seven years of teaching have taught me that convincing arguments will only carry the assent of those willing to accept the conclusion drawn. Numerous are those who will never be convinced because their will stands in the way: the conclusion is not to their taste. It is sadly true that false arguments will ‘convince’ those who welcome their conclusion.” -- Alice von Hildebrand
Often the implicit conclusion that the student is welcoming – and measuring all moral arguments by – is whether or not it supports, or at least accommodates, his/her desire to sleep with his/her girlfriend/boyfriend. Today such self-serving subjectivism has been promoted into a dominant and respected cultural ideology.

The virtues needed in our society that permit such a state of affairs are the four we shall discuss. They are the civic 'virtues' of our pluralistic secular culture. The average Canadian never thinks to question these secular virtues. Even if it came into his consciousness to do so I think he would be very hesitant. For to question them is to risk having to acknowledge certain ideas as true and other ideas as false; that some actions are good and other actions are bad; that some people can be in the right and others in the wrong. It will demand that he take a stand, and an unpopular one at that! This will threaten his peace and comfort. Moreover, it will label him (in the minds of others if not his own) as intolerant, bigoted, and arrogant. It may cost him friendships, family ties, and the esteem of his colleagues. So while intellectual confusion definitely exerts a strong influence in this matter, it is not alone. Conformism and cowardice are other factors.
“We will never know how many acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of appearing not sufficiently progressive.” -- Charles Peguy
As alluded to above, the unwillingness to admit there are absolute truths and objective moral norms can have a very personal basis. To admit the reality of such norms may force one to admit that he is living by falsehoods, has perpetrated evil, and that the one in the wrong may be oneself. Better to deny the existence of any objective truth or morality or, at least, that it is knowable. Easier to retreat into familiar and comfortable cliches that validate subjective choices rather than judge objectively. Better to deny reality than to violate the Cardinal Virtues of Secularism. For these soft and comfortable virtues can give one today the facade of being a good person and a good Canadian.
“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” -- Demosthenes

"It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen." -- Aristotle

“The people who are the most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.” -- G. K. Chesterton
In my next post I'll examine the Cardinal Virtues of Secularism in order to see what merit there is in them and how they are often misunderstood and misused.