Category Archives: New Evangelization

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: Its Intellectual & Moral Bankruptcy (trois sur trois)

Is there objective truth?  Is there a proper way to live?  Is there right and wrong?  Beginning with Socrates who answered “yes”, and witnessed to his philosophical convictions and what he taught with his life.  We might call what Socrates witnessed to “ethics”, but what if the requirement were/is stronger?  The antithesis of a belief in objective truth is relativism.

There are no facts, only interpretations.

—Friedrich Nietzsche,
The Will to Power

If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and [for] men who claim to be bearers of an external objective truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascist attitudes.
Benito Mussolini, Il Duce

As a rule, only very learned and clever men deny what is obviously true. Common men have less brains, but more sense.
—William T. Stace

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“What is truth?”, Pilate asked.  -Jn 18:38

Whether you know it or not, you have a philosophy.  No, really.  Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, you do. I do.  Everyone does.  As the maxim goes, “Actions do speak louder than words.”  Our every action, our every choice, our every thought, our anxieties, our fears, our dilemmas, what we rejoice in, what we cry over, what we love, what we despise, all reveal our most intimate philosophy each of us has internalized and adopted, consciously or unconsciously.  Really.  Honestly.  Pardon, or don’t, the expression, “God’s honest truth!” or, popular too, “And that’s the Gospel truth!”, when we really want someone to believe us.  Funny, no?

Relativism is deemed necessary to preserve peace and equality in our diverse world.  It’s widely accepted because it is rarely scrutinized.  It is simply assumed to be true, since it’s cheap, and it’s easy; certainly easier than thinking, seeking the more profound, the truth.  I have a thing about cheap…and easy.  You truly do reap no more than what you sow in this life, at least.  Truly.  Cheap love, cheap faith, cheap grace, cheap hope, cheap relationships, etc.  I have a thing about cheap.  Relativism sounds good – like free money.  Just one teensy-weensy problem.  You knew that was coming, didn’t you.  Didn’t you?  It doesn’t work.  Relativism is intellectual alcoholism or drug abuse.  It is easier, at least it seems initially, to anesthetize than to live life soberly, or in the case of relativism to look the Truth dead in the eye…and deal.  As you may know, I have a problem with the Truth.  I like it too much.

The one dogma of Relativism is that it is absolutely true for everyone.  And, there we go.  It contradicts itself from the beginning.  Ooops.  Problem.  Think.  Think.  Think.  Quick, think.  Think fast!  But what about science?  Relativism says, “ONLY scientifically verifiable statements are true!”  (Whew!  Almost got caught there!)  Except, the previous statement is scientifically unverifiable.  Think about it.  Science never claims ONLY what can be proven through repetitive experiment is true.  Where would that leave new, yet undiscovered knowledge?  False?  Never.  That would be a fantastic and ludicrous scientific statement, take it from a professional applied scientist.  Science says what can be proven through repeatable experiment MUST be true.  Science DOES NOT claim the contrary.  Anyone telling you differently is lying to you.  Trust me.  I studied this stuff and practice it every single day.  Trust me.  In fact, science leaves completely to mystery the more important questions in life, much more important.

People say, “Show me God!”  I say in return, “Show me love.  Give me a pound of love.  Show me hope.  What is its volume?  Show me trust.  What is its mass?”  Why is an ineffable God such a stretch?  People live in and through, literally, Hell (on earth).  Why is a metaphysical Hell so far fetched?  What’s the great leap of faith on that one, seeing constantly around us physical Hells through pain, suffering, disease, discrimination, violence, injustice, etc.?  

I have a theory, and some of my saint friends would seem to support me.  I think Heaven or Hell begins in this life.  Just whiffs, but through the mystery of free will (I am fascinated by the theological implications of man’s free will and God’s gift of it, the questions seem to ALWAYS come back to it) we do start to choose here in this life Heaven or Hell.  God does not sentence us.  No, if truth be told, as Matt defines truth, God help us all, in this life we choose our own eternal disposition, or at least we begin to.  Beginning here and now, in this life.  Not sure if that is theologically sound, or if that would merit a Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur, but as a Catholic expressing a personal opinion, neither do I require either.  Trust me, I checked.

So, if Relativism, albeit intellectually and certainly morally is easy and cheap and untrue, then, logic goes, there MUST be something true?  I love Pilate’s question.  I have spent quite a bit of time meditating on that one over the last couple of years.  Quite a bit of time.  That passage of scripture calls to me.  It calls to me.  

Pilate would fit perfectly in the 21st century, no?  A realist?  A cynic?  A secularist?  A man “with a future?”  One of “our kind of people!”  A company man?  You can see why he was hired, no?  But then again, you can see why the most notorious Nazis and Communists were hired, too, no?  I meet Pontius Pilates constantly, constantly.  Disinterested in anything but self-interest.  Too many of them.  Too few Christians.  Oh, they have the t-shirt, but love is more than a t-shirt you don’t know what it says or means.  You just wear it, cuz you’re “supposed to”.  Habit.  Constantly, constantly.

Since Relativism doesn’t work and is incapable of being consistent, I then find “selective relativists”.  Strongly pro or opposed to certain topics, but indifferent to other, morally related grave issues.  They like what they like, whether they know why or not, and damn it, that’s it!  Brilliant.  Just ‘effen brilliant.  Constantly, constantly.  There’s a joke I heard once about opinions.  They’re like (posterior orifice of the body, I cleaned it up), everybody’s got one and they all stink.  So, my thing is informed opinion.  My opinion is you are entitled to your opinion if it is rationally, not polemically, informed.  And, you better be able to back that up, at least around me.  Call me unreasonable.

My deeply Relativist friends stamp their feet in tantrum saying, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts!”  I say OK and show them the facts, which makes them furious.  Somehow, I’m the bad guy.  Somehow.  How such conclusions are reached in a mind with an intellectual darkness and confusion I, gratefully, do not believe I am burdened with?  Amazing.  Mystery. Mystery.  I know how.  Remove the facts which do not fit your predetermined conclusion, and “it’s all good!”  Stupid.  Insane.  But, that warm self-satisfied, hearing-what-you-want-to-hear feeling is a narcotic.  I like it, too.  Except, I believe I can sense the difference between cheap-and-easy and truth.  You can tell it’s the truth, because it’s harder.  The truth is always hard, no?  Usually, it’s the hardest answer to accept.  That’s how you know it’s the truth.  Because of what it asks of you.  We DO NOT WANT to hear that answer, trust me, but we MUST.  If we can accept the Truth, I hear, the rewards are not bad.  Even in this life…and, inevitably, in this life, the Cross, too.  Always.  Ultimately.  Inevitably.  If you are a disciple of the Truth.

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked.  -Jn 18:38

Jn 14:6

Love,
Matthew

“Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization”, 9/15-17/11, Wash, DC

by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND, Sr Editor, National Catholic Register, 09/21/2011
WASHINGTON — Seeking to reverse a generational breakdown in the transmission of faith, the U.S. bishops have targeted a potential ally — young theologians who have just begun to teach undergraduates at Catholic universities… 
…“The Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization,” a symposium held here at the Washington Court Hotel, provided a forum for 54 untenured theologians from across the country to engage with Church leaders and prominent theologians, including Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; John Cavadini, a top theologian at the University of Notre Dame; and Janet Smith, a moral theologian at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
In a homily that introduced a note of urgency, Cardinal Wuerl suggested that theology departments and religious-studies departments address both the needs of cradle Catholics who never learned “the essentials of the faith” and the disaffection of mainstream society, for whom “the Gospel has lost its taste, its freshness, its luster.”
Sounding a theme echoed in other presentations over the weekend, Cardinal Wuerl asked the young academics — most of whom had completed their doctorates within the past five years — to embrace their professional responsibilities as a spiritual calling, embodying the teachings they transmitted.
The symposium marked a renewed focus on the New Evangelization by Church leaders throughout the world.
“Vast horizons are opening to the announcement of the Gospel, while regions of ancient Christian tradition are called to rediscover the beauty of the faith,” stated Pope Benedict XVI in a Sunday Angelus address delivered Sept. 18.
At the symposium, Archbishop DiNoia explored related themes in an often passionate address. The work of a Catholic theologian “is not simply an academic vocation. It is an ecclesial vocation,” he stated. The task at hand required an affirmation of the “doctrinal core of the Catholic faith” and a concerted effort to address the “internal and external factors” that impede the New Evangelization.
He counseled his audience not to allow academic specialization and speculative work to lead them to ignore the fullness of the Church’s teaching.
Archbishop DiNoia, a member of the Order of Preachers, observed that St. Thomas Aquinas mastered every aspect of Catholic theology and would never have divided it up into patristics, systematic theology, bioethics and other areas of specialization.
The fragmentation of theological work has resulted in the weakening of the holistic vision and power of Revelation, he said. “You have to keep asking yourself: What does this have to do with … the central doctrines of the faith?” he said. “The part you specialize in relates to the whole.”
Archbishop DiNoia touched on the sensitive topic of episcopal oversight of theology departments at Catholic universities and colleges. While acknowledging that scholars “have an instinctive allergy with regard to any censorship of thought,” he insisted that the Church had an obligation to confront theological dissent.
Internal Secularization
He noted that the need for intervention by Church authorities has increased over time: “The more theologians are no longer reliably able to affirm what the doctrine means, the more the magisterium intervenes.”
A central obstacle to the New Evangelization, he asserted, was the “internal secularization of the Church. The enemy occupies our territory.” The steady advance of secularism has fueled doubts about the intelligibility of the faith, resulting in an “apologetic apologetics.”
In contrast, Blessed Pope John Paul II “muted nothing,” the archbishop said. And Pope Benedict XVI’s public witness reflects the conviction that Catholic teaching presented in its “entirety can’t fail to attract.” 
Janet Smith, a leading moral theologian and author who has emerged as a prominent exponent of Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body, examined how his emphasis on personalism contributed to the contemporary appeal of moral-law theology. The late Holy Father focused not only on general truths, but on challenging each person to realize that they need to live in accord with the truth.
She asked her audience to take a closer look at the late Pope’s emphasis on “lived experience.” In a world that expresses a “need for community but also an internal need for intimacy,” his message resonates with young people, leading them to reassess their relationships and learn self-mastery for the good of another person. 
Examination of Conscience
She likened her students’ encounter with Blessed John Paul II’s seminal work Love and Responsibility to an “examination of conscience.” The theology of the body “establishes that man can learn from the makeup of his own body and … that man is meant to be in a loving relationship of persons” imaging the communion of the Trinity.
Smith encouraged her audience to present the countercultural truths contained in Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth) in an engaging manner that would lead students to ask themselves: “Am I speaking the truth of the body with my acts?”
While Smith mined the theological legacy of a 20th-century Pope, John Cavadini, a leading American theologian who stepped down last year as the chairman of the University of Notre Dame’s theology department, focused on the enduring insights contained in ancient texts of Catholic apologetics.
Cavadini began his presentation with a quote from Contra Celsum by Origen, the leading theologian of the early Eastern Church: “Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ was silent when false witnesses spoke against him and answered nothing when he was accused; he was convinced that all his life and actions … were better than any speech in refutation of the false witness and superior to any words that he might say in reply to the accusations.”
Painting of an Icon
Origen’s insight provides worthy guidance for advancing the New Evangelization because it “lifts apologetics far beyond mere defensive tactics and into an offensive strategy that lays out a new vista for the theological imagination,” Cavadini suggested.
“Origen’s argumentation serves not to substitute for the peculiar power of the Gospel, but to make distinctions so that the way can be cleared for the weak Christian or the non-Christian to encounter and contemplate that power” on their own. He continued. “Origen’s apology is very aptly compared to the painting of an icon which is intended, in later Greek Christianity, to mediate an encounter with the Person of Christ.”
Cavadini asked his audience to “reread and study the great classical and medieval apologetic treatises, specifically with a mind towards discerning their apologetic strategy as a useful resource for today.” The recommended texts included: “Justin Martyr’s two Apologies, the Contra Celsum of Origen, the City of God of St. Augustine [and] the Summa Contra Gentiles of Thomas Aquinas.”
In an interview during a break in the proceedings, Cardinal Wuerl described the symposium as an opportunity for “building relationships among bishops and the theological community in an atmosphere of th
eological discussion. The New Evangelization is calling for us to take a look at how we re-propose the Gospel message to people who may feel they have already heard that message and it has nothing to say to them.”
Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of systematic theology at The Catholic University of America and the author of Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History, published in 2010, was among the invited participants who represent a new generation of theologians who are prepared to take the New Evangelization to heart.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, he said, during an interview, theologians sought to dislodge the doctrinal certainties that anchored the faith of their students and “open” them up to new insights.
But today, there is no longer a “sense that the Second Vatican Council constituted a break with the past. The intellectual task of the New Evangelization is to think through the continuity of evangelization.”
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/young-theologians-encouraged-to-confront-the-intellectual-tasks-of-the-new-/#ixzz1Z1KEBP5L