“Master, we know that thou art a
true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth....”.
Ordinary of the Mass
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The Pharisees approached Jesus with
this phrase, but it should be obvious that they were not interested in
truth. In this particular case, they were trying to trap our Lord. They
hoped that He would make a statement against the Roman government, saying
that it was proper to resist the tax by foreigners--or that He would make a
statement that would offend the Jewish authorities, perhaps by being too
enthusiastic about Cæsar and the Romans. In any event they were not
interested in truth.
In many ways, the Pharisees were
like the Modernists of our time. As Saint Paul prophesied:: “in the last
times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and
doctrines of devils....”
For the Modernist, everything is relative. No two people can agree on
anything, for each sees from his own point of view and sees against a
slightly different background. The Modernist cannot bring himself to admit
that there is such a thing as objective truth. And, of course, if there is
no objective truth, there can be no objective morality either.
Indeed, it is quite possible that
the desire to avoid the Moral Law is what makes someone adopt the Modernist
philosophy. If I want to live a licentious life, I may just convince myself
that there are no objective standards of behavior. One would think that
this would be difficult for Catholics, for much of our Moral Law is
explicitly stated in the Sacred Scriptures. In fact, many of the behaviors
advocated by Modernists are proscribed by the Scriptures—and for many of
them the Scriptures prescribe the death penalty!
The Modernist will counter that the
Scriptures were written very long ago, and that the Moral Law has had all
these centuries to “evolve.” God may have said something three thousand
years ago, but society has had all that time to change, and the Moral Law
must change along with it. Often—without any evidence—these same people
will insist that the evolution taught by Charles Darwin is a fact rather
than a theory, for it gives credence to their flexible ideas about reality.
On some level Modernism tries to
place man above God. It does so because objective truth must surely exist
in the mind of God, who knows all things in their finest detail, and in
“whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.”
Modernism falsely appeals to “human dignity” as the reason why no behavior
should be looked down upon. It fails to recognize that a person falls from
dignity when he violates the Moral Law. One does not become more noble or
more dignified by committing murder or adultery, by lying or stealing.
The Modernist will also appeal,
falsely, to the concept of freedom. I say "falsely," because while man
does enjoy God-given freedom, that freedom is the right to do the things
that he ought to do. Man is free to earn a living, to
protect himself and his wife and children, and free to do all of the things
that age good for him under the Natural Moral Law. He is not to be coerced
to do things that are evil. Nor is he free to work evil by his own free
will. Saint James even refers to the Commandments as “the law of liberty.”
The Modernist may condemn objection
to evil behavior as being “judgmental,” and may even suggest that being
“judgmental” was condemned by our Lord: “judge not, and you shall not be
judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.”
But this “judging” which our Lord forbade went beyond condemning the sin to
condemning the sinner—as though one of us could sentence a soul to Hell!
Our Lord clearly distinguishes
judgment from fraternal correction:
Even so it is not the will of your Father, who is in
heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. But if thy
brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee
and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.
And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that
in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And
if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear
the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.
We should correct those who do
wrong—privately at first, publically if necessary. And ultimately, it is
the Church and Churchmen who must be the final arbiters of the Moral Law—and
the not people who make excuses for its violation.
But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones
that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should
be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth
of the sea.
There is objective truth and
objective morality. And it is not locked away in the mind of God—but,
rather, He has revealed it to us through Sacred Scripture. Indeed, the
thinking person can know it in the Natural Moral Law—for human society
simply does not work well if people feel free to beat and kill, to cheat,
steal, and lie. Those Catholics who go about finding excuses for immoral
behavior are at least as hypocritical as those Pharisees who approached our
Lord, saying: “Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and teachest
the way of God in truth....”
Like the Modernists, the Pharisees
knew that there was such a thing as truth—they just did not want to know
what it was—for fear that it might be too inconvenient.