Thursday, December 07, 2017



I have been struggling to write this for some time.

Then when I awoke early this morning this northern city was blanketed by such a thick fog and ice crystals you could not see across the street and I understood we are indeed as a civilization around the world, the whole human family, desperately trying to find our way, yes to do battle, in a fog of ideological war thicker even than we understand and even more poisonous than the smog which has engulfed Delhi for weeks now.

Ask most people what are, the greatest threats to civilization and at least part of their answer will include Islamist terrorists, economic stress, overall anxiety.

The greatest threat, is relativism, the child of poisonous philosophies dating back to the so-called Age of Enlightenment.

Relativism has so permeated civilization, even to a certain extent infected Christianity, that the danger to our cultural, intellectual, political, economic and faith lives is a clear and present danger.

Unpack any aspect of what has so many millions and millions of people stressed, fearful, virtually hopeless and you will find the destructive virus, the poisoning bacteria of relativism in its many variations.

 Some terms:

Fog of war is that fearful confusion and uncertainty experienced in the chaos of battle.

The roots of the current fog of war and chaos throughout human society, of the fear, anger, shouting which disables hearing other, let alone listening dispassionately to their point of view, which may change nothing but at least is honest communication, those roots are sourced deep, and millennia ago, reaching their culmination in the age of so-called enlightenment.

Enlightenment stresses individualism and human reason rather than tradition. The Achilles heal of this approach is it uproots us from the acquired wisdom of the past, opens the door to destructive philosophies such as utilitarianism, fragments family and society and leads to the current climate where the “I” as my rights, or my group’s, trump everyone else’s.

Flowing from the so-called age of enlightenment, comes liberalism, whose prime tenet is tolerance, but is applied in ways which lead to the radicalism of intolerance.

A prime aspect of the liberalism society: humanism which attaches primary importance to the so-called autonomous self. Liberalism, without even listening to counter argument/objective truth, asserts there is no place for the divine, that is the existence of God and His Law, thus humanists’ base everything on the conviction that the rational and autonomous self is ultimately the arbiter of everything, hence mantras such as: “That may be true for you but not for me!”

In the Renaissance period there were some scholars who attempted a form of Christian humanism, but this is self-contradictory for one is either a Christian, thus one who believes in the Divine and follows His Law, or one is a humanist who refuses to be bound by God or the things of God.

Erasmus tried to bridge the divide with his notion of via media, thereby irritating both sides! Via media means moderation, leading ultimately to compromise, in all thoughts and actions. Via media, the so-called middle way, had a certain popularity among some Christians until around the turn from the 19th to the 20th century and had a brief revival in the 1960’s.

Can there be, however, for faithful Christians any form of via media, one that is a non-compromising center?

Yes, and it is to be right there with Christ on the Cross, centered in Him.

If we are centered on and in Christ, rooted in the Gospel of life, we will neither fail to defend the sacredness of life, for example, from the womb to the tomb, nor deny compassionate understanding for those on either extreme of the issues at hand.

Compassion means a willingness to understand the pain of other, to dispassionately dialogue with them, to walk with them, as Jesus with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as long as is needed for conversion of heart to take place.

Then there is conservative/conservatism : the people who embrace conservative social, political, economic, religious ideals drive the liberal side absolutely nuts.

When the two groups encounter each other rarely is there a dispassionate conversation about ideas, in fact at its mildest the encounter results in each side trying to out scream the other, at its worst riots ensue.

An authentic conservative is a person with a deep understanding of the human person, of objective moral truth, compassion for the poor, understanding for those suffering any form of discrimination, is a person who exercises political and economic wisdom but who is portrayed by the liberal media and their fellow travelers as emotional Neanderthals, as the guilty party for every ill in human affairs since Adam was a little boy.

Conservatives understand history in its length, complexity, its unfolding. Liberals do too, unfortunately they are more likely to cherry pick and seek to re-write history, which is disingenuous at best, a type of ‘fake news’ at its worst, to sustain their so-called progressive agenda.

Both sides need to learn dispassionate communication/dialogue skills: the liberal mentality blames all human ills on Christianity, for example, and then goes apoplectic when a conservative wins an election; conservatives blame all absence of morals, societal ills, jobs losses on liberals and likewise go apoplectic when some liberal wins an election.

Blaming hurts, blaming angers, blaming closes the mind and heart to dialogue.

Both sides do it.

The chasm grows ever wider, ever deeper, the fog ever thicker.

There is also nihilism which at its core is the rejection of all principles, religious and moral, which leads to people living lives of not so quiet, but truly hopeless, materialist, hedonistic desperation.

Exhaustingly searching for meaning, a search flawed by its very nature, for the search is conducted within a maze of philosophical ideas, quick fix systems, wherein the individuals on this search are simultaneously bent towards themselves and split, as it were walking beside themselves, for unable to accept the splendid truth that they have neither self-created their beings, nor can self-sustain existence, they wander the maze of each day ever more distant from themselves and the splendour of truth, the fullness of life, existence, the inexhaustibility of experiencing the constancy of Love Himself who creates and sustains us, calls us to communion of love with Himself always seeking us, seeking leave to allow Him entry into our being as life itself, the way of life, as truth.

The very evil child spawned by all the others, a type of philosophical slurry permeating, poisoning, engulfing civilization, one human heart, one human soul, one human mind, one human will at a time until we find ourselves living in the darkness and death, the fearful confusion, the disintegrating of contemporary civilization, headed towards a catastrophe beyond imagining: Relativism: this notion/idea has morphed from mere philosophy into the dominate doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute!

Hence: cognitive, moral [ethical if you wish], situational, dogmatic relativism:

Cognitive relativism:   cognitive refers to relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering): based on or capable of being reduced to empirical factual knowledge. It should be noted there is a serious weakness therein:  “Cognitive dissonance”, a psychological term describing the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time; engaging in behavior that conflicts with one's beliefs, and is prevalent among our contemporaries: for example, those who profess they are Catholic YET go along with things society accepts but which contradict revealed, objective truth such as direct abortion, the evil of murdering a defenceless, pre-born human being.

This dissonance is the natural offspring of cognitive relativism, which affirms that all truth is relative to the individual person.

As this prevails within the mindset of a society no ‘system’ of truth can possibly be more authentic than any other, nor have more influence than any other, so inevitably society/civilization finds itself without any universal standard of truth and so what follows is, name any field: religion, politics, economics, philosophy, etc., etc., is the predominance of having no understanding of consequences/responsibility/ because the entitled/self-centered-self “I” dominates, devoid of any ability to understand “other” as one like myself. Ultimately then comes the denial of God who is Himself absolute truth and within that denial of God and of objective truth comes the complete loss of any understanding of the true self and our place within the human family, on this earth, in this cosmos.

Moral relativism: this reduces moral choices/ethical choices, to those relative to the consensus of the group, such as political parties or extremists of one hue or another, in which these choices are formed and found, hence moral relativism does not, indeed cannot, admit of any moral/ethical code or behaviour which could be accepted as universal in its principles or choices.

Situational Relativism: The rather over simplified definition of situational relativism/ethics declares it is the situation which determines the morality, the rightness or wrongness, of the choice a person makes. Existentialists, like Kierkegaard, as well as others like Sartre and Heidegger pushed this situational type of ethics and, frankly unfortunately as with humanism, presuming the best of intentions, some Christian scholars, such as Bultmann, Niebuhr, Bonhoeffer, asserting the priority of ‘agape’ as the litmus test for choice, suggest therefore a Christian form of situational relativism/ethics.

It is true Jesus gives us the Great Commandment, the summation and fullness of all commandants, that we are to love God, love one another, as we love ourselves, which means to love self as God loves me.

All true love is visible in action.

Situational ethicists, who claim to be Christian, claim situational relativism is justified by their appeal to the ancient tradition of agape.

Agape, from the Greek and adopted early in the life of Christianity as that highest of all forms of charity must, as is the reality of true love, be other directed: God’s love for us, our love for God, our love for one another, for love is self-gift to other.

Therefore, there must be, of necessity, a clear and immutable code/law of love which trumps every situation.

This means asking for the gifts of prudence, discernment, truth-thinking, from the Holy Spirit.

Finally, and a false theory which facilitates among Christians in particular, relativism in all it forms, there is dogmatic relativism:  Those who espouse this theory assert that all the dogmas of the Christian faith are time- and circumstance-conditioned as if God’s self-revelation was not completed in the age of the Apostles but somehow is ongoing and thus this theory completely negates the teaching authority of the Church.

Yes, there are potentially many things which threaten individuals, societies, civilization and the human family, from plagues to terrorism and wars and a plethora of others.

What, truly, is the greatest threat to us as individuals and as the community of nations, to civilization itself?

External threats, albeit with immense suffering, death, trauma, we human beings have shown, do show, an extraordinary capacity to deal with them, to come to the rescue of one another.

It is rather the internal threat, that is what threatens our capacity for rational thought, for wisdom in choice, for peace of mind, heart, soul, which poses the most pernicious, and difficult to confront danger.

It is, like an ever-thickening fog, ever deepening darkness, ever spreading wave of death, revealing how millions of people, indeed entire societies are either not confronting the evil or apparently are unaware/ chose to ignore this reality, because of not being open to the wisdom of God, exemplified in the person and teachings of Christ and the constant reiterating of His Person and teachings by the Church.

This dangerous threat clearly is relativism in all its forms for fundamentally relativism, including situational and dogmatic relativism is foundationally atheistic, diametrically opposed to Christianity.

Take the matter of the blasphemous use of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, a stable utterance for decades in innumerable films, television series, novels.

While the left is obsessed with its rather fluid concept of so-called Islamophobia, it allows for no such assertion about those who attack Christianity.

Ever wonder, why those same people never utter the name of Mohamed in such a way?

No doubt they are smart enough to know if they did so, they would likely, and quite literally, loose their heads.

So, how to we find our way, safely, through the fog, out of the poisonous darkness of the culture of death?

As a boy growing up in one of the major seaports of this world I was used to the sound of foghorns, the circling lights of the lighthouses when the fog was thick or the seas rougher than usual.

These guides for ships to keep them safely away from being smashed against rocky shores, or stranded, immobile, on a sand bar, serve as a reminder we, in the fog of war and the darkness of the culture of death, have beacons and a voice to guide us: Christ our Light Himself and His words, and the beacon of the Church and Her teachings.

From the treasury of the Gospels and the Church:

Jesus says: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” [Jn. 8:12]

Matthew 5: 1-16 is that part of the Sermon on the Mount which is the one side of the template for authentic agape, indeed St. Augustine says: “If any one will piously and soberly consider the sermon which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke on the mount, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life: and this we do not rashly venture to promise, but gather it from the very words of the Lord Himself. For the sermon itself is brought to a close in such a way, that it is clear there are in it all the precepts which go to mould the life. For thus He speaks: Therefore, whosoever hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that hears these words of mine, and does them not, I will liken unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Since, therefore, He has not simply said, Whosoever hears my words, but has made an addition, saying, Whosoever hears these words of mine, He has sufficiently indicated, as I think, that these sayings which He uttered on the mount so perfectly guide the life of those who may be willing to live according to them, that they may justly be compared to one building upon a rock. I have said this merely that it may be clear that the sermon before us is perfect in all the precepts by which the Christian life is moulded…..” {Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount}

The other side of the authentic agape template is found in Matthew 25:35-40, where Jesus tells us “I was hungry, etc. and you fed me….”

To appreciate what Jesus teaches us, to live it out, we also need to heed St. Paul, especially in our day and age: “See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.” [Col.2:8]

“Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22). This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging "the truth about God for a lie" (Rom 1:25). Man's capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and scepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself……. No one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil? The answer is only possible thanks to the splendour of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit, as the Psalmist bears witness: "There are many who say: 'O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord' " (Ps 4:6). The light of God's face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15), the "reflection of God's glory" (Heb 1:3), "full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). Christ is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man's questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself…..” [from the encyclical of St. John Paul: The Splendour of Truth]

“A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism”. When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests.” [excerpted from Laudatio Si by Pope Francis]

“How many winds of doctrine we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many fashions of thought? The small boat of thought of many Christians has often remained agitated by the waves, tossed from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, etc…..Every day new sects are born and we see realized what St. Paul says on the deception of men, on the cunning that tends to lead into error (cf. Ephesians 4:14). To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of “doctrine,” seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the “I” and its whims as the ultimate measure.” [excerpted from then Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily at the opening of the conclave which elected him as pope, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI]



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