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In any discussion considering cultural morality, first, it must be recognized that Truth is the issue; it is always the real issue, and it should ultimately be the only issue. The problem is that we are distracted, often and easily, by rhetoric and scary Chicken Little stories from the Left, and we lose track of the truth. Keep your eye on the truth. As time goes on, The World seeks to destroy our ability to do good critical thinking, and thereby our ability to be good thinking Catholics.
Secularism - which, remember, is never neutral - is directly attacking Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. The attack is lead by the secular elite intelligentsia of this nation, and of others. At this moment the attack is focused against the most orthodox - Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and the most similar (orthodox) Protestant denominations - and, oddly enough, also against the least orthodox - Fundamentalists and some Evangelicals - because these two seemingly opposite ends of American Christianity are the most outspoken, uncompromising and unyielding on issues of morality.
Secularism is winning. How this conflict will be resolved in America is a crucial question for us all, and for the rest of the world. The problem is that most of us are unaware that the war has commenced, even as we all become a little more secular each day. The overwhelming majority of us are Christians, and our largest and most powerful minority is Jewish, which should indicate a fairly stable, predictable, moral population. But we can all see the moral slide, which used to make people sit up and take notice once a decade or so, but now brings us new shocks almost daily. We are becoming anesthetized to it. There is no question but that the attack on American morality comes from above.
Our intellectual elite - the people who deal professionally in ideas - is, in its majority, decidedly secular, and definitely Liberal, in the most modern sense of that term, which is Leftist. In America today, liberal no longer means what it used to mean, and neither does conservative; indeed they have traded places. Today liberalism means tending toward Socialism, egalitarianism, social-sameness, redistributionism, even statism; it no longer seeks the reduction of government, but the increase of it, and it no longer champions the rights of individuals against the leviathan state and giant corporations. It seeks to create the leviathan state. Worst of all, it no longer seeks objective truth, but frequently suppresses and distorts it. And in a similar manner conservatism no longer means staying the course, not rocking the boat, and the feeding and maintenance of government and corporations; it now leans toward libertarianism, social representation, and the increase - or even the return - of individual rights at the expense of power to the state.
What modern liberalism and conservatism primarily wrestle for is the “correct” settlement, in their respective views, of the contest between liberty and equality, two mutually-exclusive ideas. Liberty may only increase at the expense of equality, and equality may only increase at the expense of liberty. The only way we may all become absolutely equal in all things, including possessions, is to loose all liberty; to become slaves. And, of course, unlimited liberty must ultimately mean absolute, ruthless, bloody barbarity. All social organizations, obviously, must settle somewhere between the two extremes; liberalism favors equality at the expense of liberty, and conservatism favors liberty at the expense of equality. We cannot perfectly have both liberty and equality; there must be some compromise position.
But the overwhelming majority, not of the nation, but of the intellectual elite of the nation, the ones who put forth the major ideas in open discourse, publicize them, editorialize on them, put spin on them, debate them, write about them, popularize them and so forth are quite secular and quite liberal. Academia, journalism, virtually the entire electronic media, publishers, editors, upper levels of government, and the myriad bureaucrats, inspectors, regulators, and the many behind-the-scenes political assistants who invisibly go about their work of speech-writing and spin-doctoring and propagandizing. They even “legislate,” quite legally, invisibly and unaccountably, via bureaucratic regulations and rules with the full force of law. Talk-show hosts, TV personalities, big-time attorneys, almost the entire education profession.
Predominantly, those few who move in and around the rarefied atmospheres of places like Beverly Hills, show-biz studios in Hollywood and New York, the campuses of Ivy League universities, and Washington D.C. They are a tiny minority in the nation, but they are the Americans everyone see and hear the most; they are what all observers believe, wrongly, to be a true reflection of the nature, the values, the predominant thoughts, and the morality of the nation. And we, little by little, are becoming like them. As we shall see, being an intellectual - one who deals professionally in ideas - may often be seen as no particular mark of genius, or even much intelligence.
For many, perhaps even most, of the intellectual elite, dealing in ideas for a living is just another job, and one, like many others, that people sometimes happen to wind up doing. Certainly some mediocrity might be found among rocket scientists and brain surgeons; but, as we shall see, you don’t need to look too far to find lots of real mental mediocrity in the upper levels of our two major political parties, or the courts, or the upper strata of media journalism, and other branches of show-biz, and even in various fields of science.
At the core of the fight is secularism’s deadly attack on Western civilization, which is to say, Judeo-Christian civilization. Secularism now owns modern liberalism. And if there is one single thing that all brands and varieties of modern liberals have in common, it is a somewhat deranged, almost blind sense of pure hatred for all things Western.
America, since birth, is a Western nation, and is, both historically and currently, in binding alliance with other Western nations, and is and has been a, if not the, leading Western power. As we shall see, at the heart of modern American liberalism is pure hostility to and hatred for the West and all things Western, and the core mission of modern American liberalism is nothing less than the dissolution and destruction of Western culture and Western thinking.
Modern Socialism has learned, the hard way, that it cannot destroy capitalism and Western thought suddenly or by force, and so, to that end, it seeks mainly to prepare the ground and smooth the way. Liberalism attacks Western religion and morality and virtue and tradition at every opportunity. Liberalism seeks continuously to move power from representative bodies, such as legislatures, to unrepresentative ones, such as the courts, and they prove again and again that whatever the people or any legislative body can do, the courts can undo, with utter impunity; furthermore, they prove again and again that the courts now can and do initiate new unrepresentative law.
Modern American liberalism also relentlessly works to move power from visible government to invisible government, to bureaucracy, to nameless, faceless regulators and inspectors, and to Leftist organizations such as the ACLU, the Legal Services Corporation and the Children’s Defense Fund, which are extremely popular among high placed, well intentioned but dim-witted liberals, and even to screwball foreign “powers” or entities such as the various periodic, idiotic UN “Conferences” on this or that. Symbiotic relationships exist between some of the most secular tax-supported institutions in America, such as the one between the ACLU and the courts, and the one between Planned Parenthood and the National Education Association. They feed each other even as they feed on each other. They might as well all be official government bureaucracies.
The tax-dependant ACLU files various suits opposing free public religious expression, or “friend of the court” briefs to that end, and the court dutifully helps the ACLU to grow and get more tax dollars, in exchange for their helping the courts to completely secularize the country. Planned Parenthood brings condoms and homosexual how-to lessons into the federally controlled tax-dependant local public school classroom, lessening the classical education workload of the teachers who are members of the tax-dependant NEA, and together they work to lower the chastity standards of America’s youth. The ACLU and the courts go after faith while Panned Parenthood and the NEA go after morality. And we’re paying them to do it.
Following is a brief description of some of the “Western” culture rules of order, as recognized by just about all Western societies, however imperfectly they may apply them.
The Equality-Liberty Question
Note well that the Socialist and the Capitalist mean two different things when they use the term equality. To the Capitalist, or the pro-Democracy - pro-Americanism person, the equality they seek to create, strengthen and defend is quite limited; they mean, very strictly, equality before the law. This means equal rights and protections and remedies under the civil law. Flowing from that form of equality comes equality of opportunity. But when the Socialist, i.e., Marxist, uses the term equality he means something very different. Equality under Socialism means equality of everything. Equality of income, housing, jobs, food, shelter - everything. It is this treatment of "Equality" that is being discussed here.
The famous battle cry of the French Revolution notwithstanding, Equality and liberty are mutually exclusive ideas; either one may advance only at the expense of the other. The rights of all individuals increase only at the expense of authority, and authority decreases only at the expense of order. Similarly, authority and order increase only at the expense of the rights of individuals. Total equality of all people can only be accomplished at the expense of all individual rights. Similarly total liberty of all people can only be accomplished at the expense of all authority and order. Reason leads us to the conclusion that society must settle somewhere between severe egalitarianism and barbarity.
In the Western view, and in the Western experience, liberty is given somewhat greater value than is equality. History shows that all grand social plans aimed at increasing equality fail, and most frequently they fail in such a way as to produce results opposite or nearly opposite of what was originally intended. When any group or race is chosen to be “uplifted” by state plan or edict, that group or race is always injured in some way, and in the end, rather than having lifted the target group up to nearer equality with the rest of society, the rest of society is lowered somewhat toward the level of the selected target group.
The Rule of Subsidiarity
Modern conservatism - opposition to modern liberalism - seeks to abide by the rule of subsidiary, which states that:
This rule is completely at odds with Socialism and modern liberalism, which seek complete centralization of power at the national or international level, and leave no autonomy at all to the lower levels of government, let alone the private sector. Indeed, there is no private sector in the absence of private property rights. Under the rule of subsidiary, orphanages, shelter and food for the destitute, child care for working mothers, public education, etc., should all be taken care of privately, by citizens, churches, charities or other private associations, businesses or institutions; only when this cannot be done should the successively higher levels of government become involved, beginning with the lowest. The federal government should probably never be involved in such problems.
The national government should concentrate its limited resources upon national defense, recognized and perceived threats to national security (intelligence), foreign affairs and diplomacy, disputes between states or between a state and the federal government, currency, taxes, the budget, protecting and preserving the constitution, making good law, and those rare problems that cannot be resolved at a lower level or by the private sector. Some of these problems, particularly taxes and the budget, would be greatly simplified and reduced to near elimination by the one expedient of dramatically reducing the scope of government and the existence of bureaucracy in all areas that interfere with either lower levels or private areas of potential responsibility.
Under subsidiary, the individual first, the family second, the Church third, the state last, are responsible for the maintenance of individual citizens. Individuals cannot take care of themselves or assume responsibility without rights, including but not limited to property rights. But man is a social being. The family is the lowest cell of social life, and is the natural cell of responsibility for education, and for care of the young, the aged, the handicapped, the widows, orphans, etc. for the immediate as well as the “extended” family, including cousins and those related only by marriage. It has worked very well, when not interfered with, for thousands of years.
No one may be counted on to love and care for us as do our own family members; nor may others be expected to feel as responsible for us. When families cannot meet their responsibilities and moral obligations to all their members, and when individuals have no families, larger social organizations or communities must be used to sustain or help sustain the individuals; however, these larger social organizations must not ever be allowed to, or become powerful enough to replace or interfere with the rights, responsibilities and prerogatives of the natural family unit, or with individual rights. In general, historically, strong families prosper; weak or nonexistent ones do not. No one should be surprised by that simple statement. Subsidiary gives most strength and rights and power to the individual and to the family.
The exact opposite of subsidiary is collectivization. When subsidiary dies completely, the state runs everything, and the people do the bidding of the state, and they do nothing more, and nothing less. Other terms that may be used for total collectivization are tyranny, slavery, total exploitation, and Communism. The first step on the path to collectivization is redistributionism, which means to take from those who have something in order to give it to others who do not have it. Before you may redistribute something, you must first take it from someone else. Therein lies the rub. Most Americans won’t put up with that.
Interestingly, the main collectivization proponents from America and the West in general, who Stalin once referred to as his “useful idiots” and who now must be recognized as useless idiots, are always among the richest and most powerful, with the most to loose. And not just the obvious ones, like Occidental’s Armand Hammer, and Hollywood’s Jane Fonda, but most if not all of the filthy rich rock stars. Try this little thought experiment: Imagine a Beetle, any Beetle, with no possessions. I wonder if you can. Another line went, imagine no religion; we don’t have to; we all got a good look at Socialism, both National and International variants, up close and personal. And there was a whole lot of killing and dying involved in it and instigated by it.
Toward finding some universal criteria for determining cultural morality
There are over two billion Christians in the world, of which half, or over one billion, profess to be Roman Catholic. Still, the world population is only one third Christian, and so we cannot use the rules of Christianity alone to determine whether a group or nation is moral or immoral. That the Roman Catholic Church is easily the largest single religion of any kind on Earth is clear and obvious, and the moral effect that Catholicism has had on the non-Catholic world is similarly clear and obvious; however, the world today remains two-thirds non-Christian, and the Christian world remains one-half non-Catholic.
We cannot therefore, in good judgment, use solely the clear Catholic moral criteria – the Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the Parables, etc. – to determine the “goodness” or “badness” of non-Catholic or non-Christian people. The Church consistently professes moral absolutes; the “world” consistently denies the existence of any moral absolutes. So then how are we to determine this thing we all commonly call morality?
What is needed is some criteria that could be used to examine all existing and historic cultures, including Catholic culture, by which detached, objective observers might come to a judgment of whether the moral standard is neutral, good or bad, or mostly good, or mostly bad. I propose that one way to determine whether any nation or culture or religion or belief system is moral or immoral is what that nation or culture or religion or belief system teaches, and how an overwhelming preponderance of the members might respond to broad questions regarding three issues:
First, how do they value and treat truth.
Second, how do they value and treat human life.
Third, what value do they assign to the spiritual as opposed to the worldly? Here we must recognize the fact that some very small minority belief systems such as atheism reject the notion of spirituality, and so another way of asking this last, third question might be, is there anything at all in their value system to which they might assign an equal or greater value than the hard, cold, physical facts of material reality?
In looking at these three broad areas, Catholics must remember that, since Genesis, man is by nature fallen; if there were no sinners among us, there would be no need for a Church on Earth. The Church herself contains and has contained from the very beginning high ranking ecclesiastics, beginning with Judas Iscariot, who are and were among the worst of sinners, and if that fact cannot condemn the whole Church as immoral, then neither can the presence of similar historical “sinners” among other cultures condemn those whole cultures as immoral.
The idea is to strive to get at what the culture teaches, rather than how well all of its members behave. It is always hoped that the majority will follow the main plan of the larger culture. Whenever that is not the case, it may then be seen that that culture has broken down, and that the culture is being or has been displaced by chaos, or by some other culture.
It must also be always recognized that the values of the dominant religion of a society are often operating in tension with, and sometimes in opposition to, the values of the civil government of that same society, and that two separate sets of moral rules, ecclesial and civil, might even be operating against each other. This becomes increasingly true among the less representative forms of government, where and as government exists less and less to serve the people, and people exist more and more to serve the government. For the outside observer, it is sometimes hard to remember that an evil government might well be ruling a basically moral people, when the state speaks loud and often but the people are seldom heard.
The first question: regarding value of truth
Truth is agreement with reality; conformity with “fact;” correctness; the verity of a statement or thought. Objective truth is the truth that comes from “without,” meaning outside of us, and is verifiable by observable evidences, and is readily available to all observers. Objective truth describes worldly reality, genuineness, and actual or empirical existence. Subjective truth is the truth that comes from “within” and is associated with personal feelings rather than observable evidences, and is not available to all observers, but only to the one discerning or sensing the “feeling” of the subjective truth.
Pure science, which demands empiricism, accepts only objective truth, and rejects (in theory) subjective truth. The empiricist relies solely upon experiment, observation and verifiable proofs, and therefore rejects, out of hand, subjectivity. If a theory cannot be independently verified by others, then it cannot be accepted as “truth” by the pure scientist. Objectivity rules science.
The so-called “hard” sciences – mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology and so forth depend very heavily upon external, or objective, truth. The so-called “soft” sciences – psychology, sociology, social studies of all sorts, depend very heavily upon internal, or subjective, truth. There are those fields of study which I call the “middle” sciences, because they involve both objective and subjective truth; some of these are history, archaeology, anthropology, and any other science in which there is required to be a higher than normal degree of interpretation of the available information. I create this group of sciences because it is so very difficult to be purely objective while interpreting something, interpretation being such a naturally subjective thing.
In general, these “middle” sciences need more than the others to rely upon some sort of scholarly consensus as a standard from which to judge interpretation. A new mathematical rule, if it is correct, cares nothing about consensus; empirical evidence will prove it. A very solid historical point, however, still cares quite a bit about consensus, not so much about the point’s verifiable existence as about its interpretation by recognized imminent historians. Few if any psychological rules or points are other than purely subjective.
(Psychology studies the mind as opposed to the physical brain which is studied by medicine. When we speak of the mind we are not speaking of the nerve plexus that controls the movement of a toe, or the process of breathing, or metabolism and so forth, but rather, the orderliness or disorderliness of thinking. The mind cannot be seen or touched; it involves ideas, memories, plans, and other thought processes. It can only be thought about by itself or by other minds; the mind has some difficulty, therefore, in trying to study itself objectively.)
As a general rule, a psychological “fact” cannot be based solely upon material, empirical evidence, and relies almost totally upon interpretation and consensus. All individuals use both objectivity and subjectivity; individuals, being unique, use or emphasize one over the other in a constantly changing and incalculable range of possible mixture. Different groups and organizations and institutions emphasize, consciously or otherwise, one type of truth over the other, and the emphasis noted today may not be the same as it might be next Wednesday, or when addressing some other subject.
But there exists such a thing as pure objective truth which is completely independent of the mind of man. This is a point that needs emphasis, because so few men think about that very simple fact very much, or at all, these days.
Tomorrow morning, the Sun will rise in the East.
That statement is an example of an objective truth which is completely independent of the mind of man. It doesn’t matter what or how or even if you think about it, the sun will still rise in the East tomorrow morning. You can get all emotional about it, you can feel that it isn’t going to happen, you can believe that it isn’t going to happen, but the sun is still going to rise in the East tomorrow morning. You can train a million people, or many millions, to think otherwise about it, or to feel or sense or believe that it isn’t going to happen, but, guess what, the sun is still going to rise in the East tomorrow morning. Everyone who opens his eyes will see it.
Objective truth is very un-democratic, and, you might say, quite inconsiderate. It doesn’t care what we think or how we feel; it simply remains objective truth, and it does not change. Lest this point seem overly simple to you, it is the beginning point of all real knowledge. Just knowing that objective truth exists, and that objective truth is independent of the mind of man, is, for many, the beginning of a quest. In studying cause and effect, this is the beginning point for finding causes of causes, relentlessly driving it down toward the ultimate primal cause: the first cause of all causes.
There are “truths” that cross or straddle the line and are a little more difficult to define than objective and subjective truth. Religious truths, for instance. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. These are fundamental “truths” of Christianity. For some, who have had or who claim to have had deep or profound religious experiences, these truths are more subjective than objective; but for others, who have delved deeply into the vast history surrounding the life of Jesus Christ, they are more objective than subjective. The field of mathematics is a rather precise, exact science, and many mathematical formulae are accepted on face value by multiple diverse cultures worldwide, and not solely because of available empirical evidences and proofs of their truth, but also because over the ages these formulae have been proven and re-proven, again and again, and are now simply taught to younger generations.
In a similar manner, many millions of Christians are taught, or simply read the Bible, and believe it; they grow up in a culture imbued, simultaneously, with principles of Christianity and of mathematics. Even the calendar marks time, both ways, from the birth of Christ. There simply is no other set of events and no other character, in all of history, so thoroughly studied, challenged, written and spoken about.
This is not to say that Christianity is purely objective truth, comparable to the truth behind mathematics, but that Christianity is not purely subjective; history proves that Christianity is based upon actual historical events that are searchable today, and one does not have to arrive at “belief” by subjective experience alone. If it is possible for multiple, independent, honest, objective researchers to arrive at Christian belief through purely empirical research, then it may not be said that Christianity is purely a subjective thing.
As I said, between subjectivity and objectivity, sometimes the lines are blurred. How do we know about the nature of the singularity that theoretically exists at the center of a black hole? How do we even know what goes on beyond the event horizon of a black hole? We “know” because mathematics, which we have learned to trust, the most precise of our sciences, tells us that those things must happen beyond the event horizon in a black hole. And even though the math blows up right there, and all beyond that point is mathematically in-calculable, we still trust the math that led us that far and suggests what happens farther, where we cannot go, from where nothing, not even light, may ever return or escape.
Material or Scientific Mystery
The question of whether we collectively know these things objectively or subjectively does not have a black and white answer. Sooner or later, the secular scientist, like the theologian, must recognize and bow before mystery. Mystery is something about which we may know only part, not all, no matter how hard we try or what tools we apply.
There are some differences between the worldly or “scientific” mysteries, and the “revealed” mysteries of Judeo-Christian teaching. The “worldly” position assumes a material explanation for everything, if not available now, then available eventually, when “we” know more. The “we” here generally means mankind. (The notion makes me tremble, for SAT scores are going down, not up; as time goes on “we” are being dumbed-down, not enlightened.)
Modern science has worked and still works hard to divorce itself completely from religion, spirituality and all things other-worldly. The strictly worldly mysteries entertained by modern science generally involve the incalculable and the unobservable. The exact nature of a black hole and its contents involve mystery, because we cannot possibly know all there is to know about them. Any measuring or observing instruments we send into a black hole – assuming we could do that – would be not only destroyed, but irretrievably lost into the black hole, with no possibility of even sending any sort of message or information back out of it.
This is, of course, an un-testable theory, and every good scientist knows that an un-testable theory is not scientific at all, because it is purely and exclusively subjective. Regarding strictly material explanations, there exists no good one regarding the existence of matter itself; this is a mystery. We can talk about many specific sorts and kinds of matter, where it fits in the periodic table, its specific gravity, weight, mass, density, how it behaves and so forth, but we cannot discuss what exactly it is, or where it came from, or what it’s doing here. The questions “what exactly is matter” and “why is there matter that exists instead of nothing” have no material answer. There is and can be no material explanation for matter itself.
The same can be said of gravity. We know how it works, we can measure it, we use it all the time; but we cannot explain in a material way exactly what it is. Nor can we materially explain magnetism. Or the weak atomic force, or the strong atomic force. Materially speaking, we can only describe what these things do, not what they are or how they came to be.
The real biggee for modern science involves, of course, life itself, what it is, and how it works. We can stop it, but we cannot ever start it. We can observe all kinds and varieties of life, but we can not materially explain the process of living. And not from want of trying. Man has never produced life out of non-living matter, and man has tried to do precisely that many, many times, and in many, many ways. It has never been done, and it cannot be done.
If you ever find verifiable empirical evidence of someone having done it, please let me know about it; I will not hold my breath until then. We can catalogue and categorize wild variety in life forms, but we cannot even begin to materially explain how something – anything – that is not alive might come to be alive. Every single material theory you ever heard or read from science regarding how life began was based solely and exclusively upon un-empirical, un-testable, un-observable, purely subjective as opposed to objective, “stories.”
These stories came out of imagination and imagination alone, and there is nothing whatsoever “scientific” about them. They cannot ever be elevated above the level of beginning point hypothesis. Men who fervently believe these stories may be considered to be very superstitious fellows, because their strong belief is not based on any objective truth, i.e., on anything in the observable material world. Before a successful experiment may be duplicated or verified by others, it must be done in the first place; this experiment (or observation) has never even been done. The “primordial ooze” beginning of life theory must be recognized at this late date as nothing more than a weak, completely un-verifiable beginning-point hypothesis, and for those who very strongly hold to it, it is nothing more than a very silly superstition, with absolutely no material evidence to back it up.
If modern science, which, rather religiously, divorces itself from the other-worldly, entertains solely those “mysteries” involving incalculable and unobservable phenomena of the material world, then what, precisely, do the religious mysteries of Judeo-Christianity involve? While the secular scientist peers into the black hole, where is the theologian looking?
The revealed mysteries of Judeo-Christianity have a different complexion than the mysteries of worldly science, and from the mysteries of all other religions. Before we may discuss the different views of mystery between the Church and the secular world, we must first discuss the different views of mystery between the Church and other religions.
Judaism and Christianity represent the only “revealed” and permanently fixed religions on Earth. This is not to say that Judaism and Christianity have not changed over the centuries, but that, so far as the most orthodox of the Jews and the most orthodox of the Catholics (which is to say, the champions and guardians of orthodoxy) are concerned, the core teaching has never changed, although it has received more detailed development, “wrapping” and nuance to properly communicate it to newer generations.
Some Jewish “denominations,” if that’s a correct term, and, of course, Protestantism, in all its variety, have invented and developed all sorts of new teachings and dogmas (Sola Scriptura; Sola Fides, etc.) that never existed in apostolic times, and do not historically exist at all beyond modern history, which is to say, beyond the Reformation, at least for the Protestant doctrines. And all other major religions similarly “evolve” and are not fixed forever, and rather than involving God revealing Himself to man, they involve man searching for and finding god, or gods, or achieving “enlightenment,” or something similar.
If you study them historically, you find that over the centuries they change rather dramatically, even until modern versions are not even similar to ancient ones. In some cases dramatic changes occur in as little as one century or less. The most significant difference between Judeo-Christianity and other religions involves, of course, historicity: Judaism and Christianity are historical religions as opposed to not-so-well maintained and passed on legends involving gods or spirits or other-worldly events.
In point of fact, there is nothing more recorded in all of history than Jewish and Christian religious events. No one, in all of history, is more written about than the Palestinian Jew, Jesus Christ, Who is recognized by all imminent scholars as the center point of all Western history, the point from which we even mark time in our calendars. The major events of Judeo-Christian revelation are all major events that happened in time and were recorded in history. This is a truly singular characteristic of Judeo-Christianity.
I suppose that orthodox Jews probably see Catholics in much the same light as orthodox Catholics see Protestants, or heterodox Catholics. But the only real question between Jews and Catholics involves whether Jesus Christ, a Jew, was Who He said He was. If He was, then everything changed; if He wasn’t, then the largest single religion on Earth is based on fallacy, and Protestantism split off from – nothing. Orthodox Jews are not necessarily the easiest people on Earth to convince of something new. Yet twelve orthodox Jews – the apostles – believed it firmly enough to be hunted, pursued, hounded, persecuted, tortured, whipped, and horribly killed, with ample opportunity to save themselves, simply by renouncing Jesus Christ.
But they wouldn’t renounce Him. It was unanimous. Because they saw the risen Christ, right among them, and they saw His ascension into Heaven, right in front of them. Twelve hard-headed orthodox Jews were convinced enough to become flat-out zealots, and suffer mightily, and die horribly. (Except for John, who, it is theorized, died quietly in exile/imprisonment on the island of Patmos.)
We may look at orthodox Christian teaching and heterodox Christian teaching, and do surveys and take polls and so forth, and hold that so many say this, and so many believe that. But the bottom line is that the Good News is not supposed to change. To be orthodox is to hold right or correct opinions which are recognized by some standard. Heterodoxy opposes orthodoxy; to be heterodox is to hold opinions which are wrong and incorrect, or even heretical, as recognized by some standard.
I submit that there is but one standard, for there is but one revelation. A heterodox Gospel cannot be properly held or preached. In February 1878, John Henry Cardinal Newman’s final publication of his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine was printed. In this monumental scholarly work, he took “orthodox” doctrines of the Church back a century to see if the same thing was taught by the Church at that time. And then another century, and another, and he kept going all the way back to apostolic times. What he historically proved was that, through history right up to apostolic times, no core doctrine of the Church ever came into being or was substantially modified at any period.
The teachings were the same, from the very beginning. He went all the way back into the first century A. D., which is to say, apostolic times. That historical trail still exists and can still be traversed. Traversing it made Henry into a Catholic; he began his objective and scholarly historical quest as an Anglican priest. To objectively immerse oneself in history is to become Catholic. In his famous essay, Henry showed, even before documenting the history of the doctrine of papal infallibility, that the very existence in the world of one revealed Gospel message logically demands the ongoing existence of some infallible authority to preserve and properly teach it. In his own words:
“The most obvious answer, then, to the question, why we yield to the authority of the Church in the questions and developments of faith, is, that some authority there must be if there is a revelation given, and other authority there is none but she. A revelation is not given, if there be no authority to decide what it is that is given. In the words of St. Peter to her Divine Master and Lord, “To whom shall we go?” Nor must it be forgotten in confirmation, that Scripture expressly calls the Church “the pillar and ground of the Truth,” and promises her as by covenant that “the Spirit of the Lord that is upon her, and His words which He has put in her mouth shall not depart out of her mouth, nor out of the mouth of her seed, nor out of the mouth of her seed’s seed, from henceforth and for ever.”
In Judaism, God revealed Himself to Abraham, and to Moses, and to others, and He gave us, through His chosen people Israel, His “revelation,” or revealed truths. Some of them regarded His nature and will, and some regarded laws and a strong moral code to live by. In Christianity, born of Judaism, God came to Earth and became incarnate in Jesus Christ, Who was born of a virgin, “went about doing good,” was eventually crucified and killed, and then rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. During His ministry, He gathered disciples, selected His apostles, established His Church, and passed on His teaching – more of what we call “revelation” – by His divine will, modifying and adding to what He had revealed before in Judaism. The Church calls this collection of sacred revelation the Depositum Fidei, or, the Deposit of Faith; it represents the core teaching of God, through His servant Israel, as we see in the Old Testament, and through His Son Jesus Christ and His chosen apostles, as we see in the New Testament.
All of this is called “public” revelation; it involves the core teachings of the Church, the teachings that may not ever change, lest the Church eventually preach more than one, or a different, Gospel message. The Church teaches that all public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. Since then, there can be no new revelation added to the deposit of faith, and nothing in the deposit of faith may ever be changed or removed. So it has been for two thousand years. The purpose of the Church is to preach the Gospel good-news message to all nations, and to not ever let that one and only Gospel message change. It is therefore an unmistakable characteristic of the Church that, by design and by purpose, she tends to resist change. A major part of her mission is to protect and preserve the sacred deposit of faith; the world may change mightily as it has and as it will, but the revealed truth does not ever change. The Church protects, properly proclaims and teaches the Gospel under the guidance of the pope, and the Roman papacy is the oldest uninterrupted, continuously existing institution on Earth, by an exceptionally wide margin. That one fact alone speaks volumes.
There is such a thing as private revelation, distinct and separate from public revelation. Apparitions such as those at Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe and so forth are regarded as private revelations. It normally takes a number of years for the Church to formally approve or disapprove one of these revelations; the first test is always whether it in any way contradicts any part of the fixed deposit of faith. Even when approved, these private revelations may not be added to the deposit of faith; they cannot ever be made part of public revelation. Church approval of a private revelation means that Catholics are free to believe it, that it does not represent teaching objectionable to the faith, and that belief or special devotions related to the private revelation may be beneficial. Catholics are not required to believe in approved private revelations, although some come very highly recommended, including even recommendations by multiple popes. But no private revelation has ever been added to the deposit of faith, which Catholics are required to hold.
Revealed truth is regarded by obedient Catholics to be in the same class as objective truth, although seen in a different light than objective truth regarding worldly matters, or, material. This necessarily includes many miracles with no material explanation; it becomes a matter of acceptance and belief, or rejection and disbelief. The miracles of revelation involve Catholics in mystery in a way similar to how the event horizon of a black hole involves the secular physicist in mystery: we can understand a part of it, but not all, and we cannot, in this life, hope to fully understand, and yet – we know that it is real. Our Lord does not call us to understand it, but to accept it. We cannot understand such things as a virgin birth, for instance; there is no way that we could ever work out the biological mechanics of how such a thing might be made possible. But we accept that it happened. Again and again our Lord tells us to accept what He teaches without question.
Jesus repeatedly referred to the difference between that which is of the flesh – the world – and that which is of the spirit – the kingdom of God – which could not be comprehended, but must be accepted. Whatever is of the flesh – the world – will eventually die; whatever is of the spirit – the kingdom – will never die. What is most obvious, apparent and worldly is of least real value; what we cannot see, touch or understand but is revealed is of the greatest real value. In the spiritual rebirth-through-baptism discourse between our Lord and Nicodemus in John 3, our Lord tells Nicodemus to not wonder at this; that unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Nicodemus was not required to understand it, but to accept it, and be baptized. There are many similar examples, but perhaps the best one is in John 6.
In the Eucharistic discourse in John 6, beginning at verse 30, our Lord describes Himself as “manna” from Heaven, Bread, food and drink, sent down from Heaven, and speaks of his disciples eating His flesh and drinking His blood, twelve times, in ever increasing forcefulness. And the more they question it, the stronger His words become. He describes His flesh as real food and His blood as real drink, and He tells them that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood, they will not have life in them; and if they do eat His flesh and drink His blood, then He will raise them up on the last day. Again, caught in the crucible between the flesh and the spirit, many – perhaps most – leave Him, to follow Him no more, and He turns to His chosen twelve, and offers the stinging challenge: Will you leave me too? And, poor Peter, responded, Lord, to whom shall we go; only You have the words of eternal life. Peter didn’t say that he understood the Lord’s Eucharistic teaching, but he knew Who it was Who was speaking, and he accepted what was said on that basis alone, even without understanding. Mystery is not ours to understand. The Twelve did not leave Him. We are free to wonder mightily about the nature of black holes, but we are called to accept the Words of the Lord without question, on our faith in the Speaker. How could we ever hope to understand such a materially impossible thing? And yet – He said it. Do we accept it, or reject it?
Acceptance involves a certain transcendence beyond the subjective and objective to another plateau, which is faith. Faith is belief; trust; reliance; confidence. No secular scientist would ever openly admit to believing in, say, Darwinist macro-evolution (i.e., between species, as opposed to strictly within species) based solely on faith, although, as we shall see, there is nothing material to base such a belief on. On the other hand, few devout Christians would ever openly admit to acceptance of Jesus Christ based on anything other than faith. Yet there are secular scientists who secretly or quietly question Darwin’s macro theories, just as there are Christians who, while lacking faith, or holding an imperfect faith, still somehow “know” at their core that Christ is real. Neither the imperfect secular scientist nor the imperfect Christian are ready to abandon the position that they subjectively feel is most right.
Subjectivity and objectivity are at work in all of us. Only religion demands faith; only secularism – the direct opposition to spirituality – seeks, rather unsuccessfully, to prohibit faith. Faith is neither objective nor subjective; faith is, at its core, a free will decision. Faith demands acceptance, and, in this material world of ours, rejection is always much easier than acceptance. At first. But the “big” questions of life, involving material existence itself, what we’re doing here, where everything came from, where everything will end up, our purpose for being, the purpose for everything, are and will always be devoid of material answers. The world cannot answer these questions. But the Truth has been revealed to us, and stands before us, and will not go away.
From the unique vantage point of faith in Jesus Christ, it is certainly much easier to look at mystery, in all its many glorious flavors.
The second question: regarding
value of human life
This one is considerably easier to nail down than is the treatment of truth. History is replete with examples of how various cultures treated human life. We have the cold, remorseless and completely utilitarian “worker – resource” treatment that came from the various Marxist-Socialist examples in recent history and in other cultures going back as far as the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt. We have the glaring examples of Japanese behavior in Word War 2 and before showing how that culture treated their neighbors and how they valued the lives of each other and even themselves. We have the special treatment reserved for different races exemplified by Fascism and the German variant of Marxism in National Socialism.
Today we have many who value the lives of whales or trees or particular animals as equal to or more valuable than human beings. In fact, some have carried these truly loony notions so far that they consider the best thing that could happen to the world might involve the mass elimination of whole populations of human beings, for the benefit of the planet. For the most part, they are not quite bright enough to consider the fact that someone somewhere else might be contemplating exactly the same thing about them, personally, and the population and the environment they are a part of.
Adolph Hitler, who said that Christianity was the worst thing that ever happened to humanity, and that it was the tool of the Bolsheviks and the spawn of the Jew, showed us all exactly how direct opposition to Christianity values human life.
Joseph Stalin, who asked how many divisions the pope could put in the field, just like Hitler, showed us how Communism values human life.
The Rape of Nan King is instructional. Japanese soldiers invented a new game of “catch” there, in which they would toss a baby or a little child high in the air to be caught on a bayonet, and then re-tossed, and re-tossed, and so on. They took particular delight in gang raping nuns, and then using them for bayonet practice. In the Bataan Death March, they killed prisoners of war just in order to practice sword strokes. There was nothing in the Code of Bushido to save their victims or call the perpetrators to repentance. There was nothing in the Shinto faith, or in Buddhism, or Zen, any other Eastern cult, philosophy or religion common to Japan that could possibly save their victims.
I submit for your consideration the opinion that, to whatever degree the Japanese people are a “moral” people today, it is exactly to the same degree that they have adopted our “Western” morality, and that if they had not lost the war, they would still be a basically immoral people, as all the world recognizes and interprets that term today. All the world has massively recorded their incredible levels of sadism, cruelty and inhumanity, although these things, I understand, are strictly censored in Japan, particularly in education.
There is simply nothing out there in the world today that, in word and in practice, places as high a value on human life than does Christianity and Judaism.
The third question: regarding the value of spiritual versus the worldly “truths”
The single thing, the glue, that links freedom from crime, economic freedom, and that quality which we all call human decency, into one recognizable behavior system is the Ten Commandments. The first ones deal with our personal and collective relationship with God, or our faith; the rest deal with our relationship with each other in society, or our works; which is to say, our morality. If our faith is right in the first place, our good works will naturally follow, almost on auto-pilot. Each social commandment carries with it strong implications of certain attitudes and rights, which bear strong similarities to those promoted by ideals of Democracy, and free markets, and the American ideal. It is on these rules of morality that the civil law and the ecclesiastical law must agree if society is to live harmoniously.
Implicit in Honor Thy father and Thy mother is the sacredness of the normative family, and the presumptive right of parents to first authority over their own children, and to special social protections for the family.
Implicit in Thou shalt not kill is the inalienable right of all innocent men to continue to live.
Implicit in Thou shalt not commit adultery is the sanctity and inviolability and protected nature of the marriage covenant, and, again, the sanctity and protected nature of the family.
Implicit in Thou shalt not steal is the inalienable right to private property: the right of an individual to actually own something.
Implicit in Thou shalt not bear false witness is the protected and sacred nature of truth, and the moral requirement to protect it and to profess it fully and without distortion.
Implicit in Thou shalt not covet is, again, the sanctity of marriage, and, again, the protected right to own private property.
For thousands of years the world has recognized that these Commandments represent what is known as those “wise restraints that make men free.” When any of them are weakened, so is freedom weakened. Only so long as we all agree to adhere to these reasonable rules can we trust each other and cooperate together. When that is no longer the general case, we begin the decline into barbarism. Even in the absence of faith, these wise restraints remain the best rules for human conduct ever written, and they remain the best possible foundational basis for civil law. This is what all the world knows as morality.
Any other standard that claims to be moral must be judged against this moral standard, and, for that reason, the only basis that I recognize for morality is the Decalogue. As far as I’m concerned, anything else is something else; something other than morality. You may talk about values, and you may talk about ethics, and you may talk about rules, but, in dialogue with me, you may not talk about any morals that are not based upon and rooted in the Holy Scriptures, because if they come from somewhere else, then, as all the world knows, they are not morals; they are something else.
The word ethics is sometimes used as a synonym for morals, but probably more often it is used to denote manners. We all know people with admirable manners, but questionable morals. Morals pertain to more than mere manners; morals describe the practical rules of conduct of men in relation to one another, with direct reference to a correct sense of right and wrong, and of virtue and vice, and of justice and injustice. A moral is something that, in a strictly voluntary manner, controls the conduct of men and their relations as social beings whose actions have a bearing on each other’s rights and happiness. A moral describes an action as right or wrong, virtuous or vicious, just or unjust.
The original source of early conformity to morality came from the motive of obedience to Divine will; unfortunately, much of that original motive is lost in America today, at least in civil law, although much of the morality remains, even if only a residue in civil law. Even in many pagan nations, you will find today direct application of “our” morality, because it is so widely recognized as natural law, as practical, and as very nearly indispensable for the predictable and peaceful conduct of men as social beings.
It is important to note that our morality, meaning monotheistic morality, has evolved. Each step along the evolutionary trail involved a covenant with God. The Lord gives us the rules we are ready for; He meets us where we are, and He calls us forward, one step at a time. Authentic monotheism is not an abstract belief in one God, rather than many gods, somewhere “up there,” but rather a solid confidence in one God, “down here,” Who is with us, Who makes covenants with us, and Who offers us real salvation, as opposed the many, or any, false gods who can offer us nothing.
First, there was a very simple covenant, involving only one rule regarding the forbidden fruit of one tree. Then, there was Abraham’s “close walk” with the Lord. Then, there were the Commandments, and then the Mosaic Law. The book of Joshua illustrates an early stage in the slow and sometimes painful evolutionary growth in our understanding of where the Lord was, and still is, leading us. When Joshua conquered Canaan, each city and town he conquered was put “under a ban,” that is, they were consecrated to the Lord and offered in sacrifice. The cities were burned to the ground, and all of the people were put to the sword, including women and children, and including even cattle and sheep, and all other animals.
Immoral? Brutal? Revolting? Not in accordance with the just war theory of St. Augustine, or with principles of nonviolence? In point of fact, in that place and time, it was a major step forward in morality, away from looting, plunder, rape, torture and enslavement. From that point on, war time rape, torture, pillage and plunder increasingly became anathema in monotheistic morality, which was unique in that respect in all the world. This is not to say that there were no violations, but that, whenever they occurred, they were recognized as exactly that: violations. Until Joshua, loss of a war was too horrible to contemplate. Soldiers previously sought and gained wealth through plunder and slaves and herds and flocks taken from the enemy; sometimes, the mere availability of such wealth could lead to war. Plunder is tempting.
There were other “rules” given us by God. The Beatitudes; the standards by which we will be judged, based upon what we have done or not done unto the least of His brethren. Through history, each religion of monotheism felt that God was with them alone, and not with any others, and therefore, at some points in history, Jews and Christians viewed each other as heretics, and therefore as enemies. After the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants viewed each other as heretics, and therefore as enemies. More recently the Lord has led us beyond those more primitive stages of faith, and He is leading Christians beyond that initial narrowness to see each other as brothers and sisters in the Christ Jesus, and to see Jews as the spiritual Elder Brothers of Christians.
In every era, including this one, there have been sinners and immoral acts and opposition to morality from within the ranks of monotheism; but that is not to say that monotheism in itself is immoral; far from it. In every era, including this one, monotheistic morality has been the best example of decent human behavior in existence. Today, the great threat to monotheistic morality “from within” comes from the infiltration of secularism, always disguised as religion-neutral positions, into monotheism.
The main cultural battle is with secularism; it not only holds no faith, but seeks to destroy faith wherever it finds faith. Secularism has no moral norm, as we all know moral norms to be. To secularize a society is to make that society immoral, or amoral.
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Date: Mon Oct 13 2014
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