This sermon was originally given in AD 2003,
"Cáritas congáudet veritáte -- Charity rejoices in the truth"1
If I say anything this morning that sounds harsh by modern standards, please understand it in the light of the maxim that we must love the sinner, but ought to hate his sin.
The human soul is said to have two general "faculties" or capabilities. We say that, in general terms, a human being is capable of acts of the intellect and acts of the will. Both of these capabilities can be used for great good, but when they go awry they can be the source of great evil. By acts of the will, we may understand the attraction or repulsion that we have for things and people around us. Correctly ordered, the will directs us away from bad things and draws us toward things which are good for us. The highest act of the will of which man is capable is the one so beautifully exalted in today's Epistle -- the act of "cáritas --charity" which is best translated as "altruistic love" in our English language. Understood in this way, it is the virtue of love for God, and, because we love God, the virtue of loving our fellow men. Charity is so important that we call one of the "theological virtues," which is to say that it is essential to our relationship with God. Saint Paul even goes so far as to say that it is the most important: "there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
It is important to note, however, that these three virtues can in no way contradict one another. That should surprise no one, for they all come from God, in Whom there obviously can be no contradiction. We can talk about the virtue of hope at a future time -- let it suffice to say today that it is the virtue by which we trust in God to provide the graces which are necessary for us to cooperate with in order to gain our salvation. It is neither the presumption that God will save us no matter how rotten we may choose to be -- nor the despair of one who feels he can never do right no matter how much he tries. Hope clearly does not contradict the Charity of a loving God, nor does it go against the virtue of Faith, having been revealed to us by God Himself.
And that is a fairly good definition of the virtue Faith: Belief in the things God has chosen to reveal to us. And, please do recall that our Lord indicated the absolute necessity of taking God at his word, for "those who do not believe will be condemned."2 Even if He had not said so, one has to draw that conclusion from all of the effort God put into educating His people with the truth of His revelation. Pick up any edition of the Bible -- its probably the thickest book most people own -- and it is thick precisely because God had so much to tell us about Himself and the way in which He expects us to behave. In the New Testament, our Lord puts it on an even more personal basis: not only will he enable you to "know the truth , and the truth will make you free"; not only must you "believe [the truth] and be baptized"; but our Lord tells us that He is the truth -- which He equates with "the way, and the life."3
Saint Paul tells us that "charity ... rejoices in the truth." Not only does Faith not contradict Charity -- not only does the intellect not contradict the will -- but the one positively rejoices in the other. Not surprisingly, of course, for the idea of a man with only intellect and no will, or a man with only will and no intellect is quite preposterous. All human endeavor, all civilization is based on this idea of striving for the truth. Not just Western civilization, and not just Christendom, but any successful civilization must be built on the primacy of the truth. Why? It should be so obvious that no one would ask! Because falsehoods describe the world in a way that is inaccurate, and cause men to operate in ways that are doomed to failure. Imagine taking a trip and using a map that is only fifty percent accurate -- or driving a car with brakes that work four times out of five -- or flying an airplane with ninety percent of it parts in order! In these mechanical examples the need for truth is pretty obvious -- but the rest of human affairs are no different.
Yet, our century has seen the strange turn of events in which truth has been reduced to a second class importance. In the name of Charity, modern men often fail to speak the truth for fear that it will offend those who do not believe. Understand please, that this goes far beyond any respect that one might ought to have for another person's point of view in polite society. It goes well beyond any question of opinion about issues that cannot be clearly decided. It often goes to the point of supporting ideologies that are hostile to God, to Christendom, and to Western Civilization. And all of this hostility in the name of Charity.
Someone gave me a newspaper clipping in which a minister tried to claim that all religions are right, no matter how different their points of view, just as long as they have a small piece of the truth. It would be nice if we could just dismiss him by putting him on the airplane that works thirty percent of the time -- but unfortunately, he is just one voice among many who think it more important that "we all just get along" than that we know the truth.
Pope Pius XII warned us about this over fifty years ago in his encyclical Humani generis:
When Pope Pius wrote in 1950, the world had already seen how the Communist regimes had conscripted truth for political power -- actually re-writing the science books and the history books to make their bankrupt ideology seem valid. But Pope Pius was concerned with an even more insidious threat: that good and well meaning people would distort the truth simply to avoid conflict, out of a misguided sense of Charity. Pius XII knew what many had forgotten, that "Charity rejoices in the truth."
Pope Pius' warning went almost completely unnoticed. Many of the evils he predicted came to pass almost as soon as his body grew cold in the grave. His encyclical is well worth reading -- too bad it was ignored in 1950 -- the media gave most people the impression that it dealt only with the theory of evolution! And look at what we have today, in both Church and state:
►We have relatively orthodox bishops who would rather be identified as heretics than insult their drinking buddies who have abandoned the Faith.
►We have men entrusted with the infallible teaching of God's divine revelation who can do no better than attend seminars and workshops to "dialogue" with those steeped in all manner of falsehood and immorality -- even to the point of kissing their unholy books and participating in their pagan worship.
►We have bishops who will shelter lawbreaking perverts rather than deal with the reality that they have allowed much of the Church (and in some cases themselves) to sink to the depths of perversion.
►We have high court judges who think that the first amendment guarantees not only freedom from religion, but the banishment of God altogether from the public scene.
►For the first time in history we have diseases with civil rights; and we have the unmarried and the unmarriable, living in unholy union, and demanding to be recognized by society as though they were lawful husbands and wives.
►We have politicians and clergymen who insist , in spite of the written evidence in the Koran and 1300 years of history, that "Islam is a religion of peace."
►These are by and large the same men who will not even entertain the possibility that our support and many billions of our dollars given to a regime that displaces and kills Christians and Moslems might also be a threat to stability in the Middle East.
►They are the same folks who cannot figure out how to close the boarders to invaders, or keep track of those here on visas -- who feel they have done their duty by strip searching pregnant American women and make them drink their bottled breast milk -- those who would solve the problem of illegals by simply granting them amnesty and making them "legal."
"Charity rejoices in the truth." But more and more we find that our society has abandoned the truth, even when it is clearly known, in favor of a false Charity -- one that worries only about not disturbing the feelings of identifiable groups, and not at all about what is true in the mind of God, or about what He has revealed to us, or what we have come to know with certainty through human wisdom.
I've been speaking, for the most part, in terms of Church and state -- in terms of society at large. But the virtues of Faith and Charity -- of love and truth -- are virtues that mmust be practiced by each of us as individuals. If the truth is to make us free -- if the truth is to show us the way and the life -- we must carefully discern that truth, relying not on hack-politicians, faithless-clergymen, or those who distort the nightly news. That will take some effort but it is not impossible. The truths of the Faith and God given morality are centuries old, and we must learn to ignore modern notions that contradict them, and to refuse support for those who do the contradicting. Likewise as citizens with the right to vote, we have an obligation to know something about the founding philosophy of our nation and its history, in order to distinguish the truth tellers from the liars in politics and in the media.
Being thus "politically incorrect" may not be popular with our friends who think that "everybody should just get along." Yet civilization depends on it, and God demands it. Thousands of years ago the Psalmist discussed this choice between following the ways of God or seeking the approval of the ignorant and the false:
"Better is one day in Thy courts [O God] above thousands.