On Avoiding 'Moral Squint' or Tolerance
is quite contrary to the prophetic tradition which inspires Christianity. God tells the prophet Ezekiel: "If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death." (Ez. 3:18) We are obliged to speak moral truths.
"The lamp of the body is the eye," our Lord reminds us. "If your eye is single," in other words if our moral eye is not squinted, "your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad," if our moral eye is squinted, "your whole body will be in darkness." (Matt. 6:22-23)
Another word for "moral squint" is tolerance. Tolerance, of course, is touted by the secular liberals as the preeminent virtue. Secular liberals who are moral relativists would have all of us adopt "moral squint." If we are to be called benevolent, they would have us be blind to moral reality. If we are to be considered loving, they would have us be deaf to moral truths.
"Moral squint" allows us to overlook those wasps nests that are the conventions of the day such immodesty, contraception, premarital sex, abortion, homosexual marriage and regard them as honeycombs. If, instead, we see things without "moral squint," but with clear eye, and ring the Ezechielian hue and cry against these sins, we will be branded moral troglodytes, misogynists, bigots, unloving, judgmental.
In the play about St. Thomas More entitled A Man for All Seasons, the playwright Robert Bolt has the "man of the world" Cardinal Woolsey-a man of Chesterfieldian morality if there ever was one, whose life was one of "moral squint"-actually accuse the principled Thomas More of "moral squint."
"You're a constant regret to me, Thomas," the compromised and Machiavellian Churchman says. "If you could just see facts flat on, without that moral squint; with just a little common sense, you could have been a statesman."
A statesman? Perhaps. But not a saint.
The irony in Cardinal Woolsey's advice is that Thomas was seeing the world with eyes full open. St. Thomas More saw the "facts," at least the moral facts, "flat on." It was Cardinal Woolsey who was squinting and overlooked or suppressed the moral facts. Sure, More's morality-the absence of his moral squint-came at a heavy price: the cost of his head. But the irony is that Woolsey did not fare better for all his worldly wisdom.
As it turned out, St. Thomas More was both a statesman and a saint.
How do we avoid the "moral squint"?
In avoiding "moral squint," Catholics have a great advantage. They have a wonderful resource given to them by Jesus: the teaching Church, the Ecclesia docens. In speaking to his apostles, Jesus said, "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me." That truth continues with the apostolic successors, our bishops in communion with the Pope. (Luke 10:16)
Catholics who follow the guidance of the Magisterium in its moral teachings and in its social doctrine, both of which are built upon the objective natural moral law, can avoid the "moral squint" which the secular liberals would have us all adopt.
To follow the Magisterium is to follow the advice of the letter to the Hebrews, which tells us to "fix our eyes on Jesus." Jesus, being both God and man, had no moral squint: he could neither deceive nor be deceived. His eyes were whole and entire. And the Church he founded, and which is guided by the Holy Spirit, is true to the Lord's moral vision.
To the advice of the secular liberal, the moral relativist-the Chesterfields and Punches of the day-who would tell us that tolerance of all manner of evils is the better, easier way, we might remember that the way to perdition is broad. It is the harder, narrow way that leads to moral rectitude and, at the end of this short life, heaven. (Matt. 7:13-14). To their advice we might also quote Shakespeare: "The eye that told you so look'd but a-squint." (King Lear, V.iii.)
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: morality, magisterium, Church, relativism, moral squint
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