Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

6/6/2014 (7 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Relativism undermines the purpose of the human intellect, which is to seek, find and know the truth, most especially the ultimate Truth: God. Consequently, it is not only an affront to human dignity but also damages individuals and society, and labors to prevent people from attaining their destiny.

At the foundation of relativism is the notion that it matters little what one believes, so long as it works for you. It's the conviction against all convictions; the claim that absolute truth is nonsense, which is itself a truth claim-albeit a false, ridiculous and poisonous one.

Highlights

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/6/2014 (7 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: relativism, truth, seeking the truth, human dignity, homosexual sex acts, homosexual tendencies, institution of marriage, purpose of sex, meaning of sex, Deacon F. K. Bartels


GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) -- Pope Benedict XVI often warned of the dangers of relativism in contemporary western society. So widespread is its negative influence, he noted, that it affects people on a subliminal level. People often unconsciously ascribe to relativism without fully understanding what it is or even knowing the meaning of the word because it has become the "normal" way to think and act. Consequently, few people remain untouched by this insidious enemy of the truth that is hard at work undercutting the fabric of society.

Termed by Benedict XVI as the "dictatorship of relativism" in order to emphasize the way in which some politicians, educators and others in leadership roles force relativistic views and policies on others, relativism has leeched its way into numerous aspects of society, especially those involving abstract thought and moral concepts. Examples include religion, human sexuality, the institution of marriage, the sanctity and dignity of human life, artificial birth control, and euthanasia, to name a few.

At the foundation of relativism is the notion that it matters little what one believes, so long as it works for you. It's the conviction against all convictions; the claim that absolute truth is nonsense, which is itself a truth claim--albeit a false and ridiculous one. 

While relativism is poisonous for a number of reasons, it is important to point out that it undermines the very purpose of the human intellect, which is to seek, find, know and embrace the truth, most especially the ultimate Truth: God. To be human is to long for the truth. The human person is created for eternal communion with God; he is, then, created to love the truth because his Creator is Truth Itself. Each person's origin, life, destiny and end is inseparably bound up in the ancient and ever-beautiful Truth who established and ordered the universe, the Truth who we call God. To deny the importance of the truth is to deny the wisdom, goodness and unsurpassable magnificence of the Creator.

It's like the pot saying to the Potter: "I despise you." It's also like the pot saying of itself: "I despise you too."

To treat the truth as plastic, something pliable that can be shaped and discarded at whim, is an affront to human dignity. Created in the image and likeness of God, redeemed by Christ and destined to eternal communion with the Father-these constitute our dignity as human persons. But relativism seeks to relegate this dignity, the meaning and order and beauty of the human person, to a fantasy, circus-like realm where little or nothing remains meaningful and important because the truth about the human person--also truth itself--is no longer sacred.

Such a place is a place where human reason is cast to the wind; a chaotic place where no one is safe. In the wake of bending truth to suit every ill-conceived ideology is not simply a few minor difficulties here and there but found such horrors as the intentional destruction of human life itself in the name of convenience.

Relativism is a deadly poison. One man insists he has absolute power over the weak; another insists such an idea is evil; relativism insists there can be no correct answer to the question, every man is entitled to his opinion, everyone is right and nobody is wrong. Meanwhile, the weak go on losing. Social institutions and structures go on crumbling.

Given its importance, to be a diligent student of the truth is integral to living an authentic and fruitful human life. It is impossible to overemphasize the crucial necessity of becoming a "truth seeker," for to seek the truth and fall in love with it is to fall in love with God. Loving God is incompatible with thumbing one's nose at the truth.

Nevertheless, the advance of relativism continues. While a number of social ills are feeding into its growth, the influence of Satan must not be overlooked. Think for a moment about the diabolical cleverness of the "father of lies" (Jn 8:44), the most cunning of creatures (Gen 3:1). Satan is an ancient and highly intelligent student of human nature, as we learn from the Book of Genesis, whose favorite tactic is to seduce his enemy, humankind, by way of making something terrifying appear appealing, reasonable, desirable, even pleasurable. When we read the story of Adam and Eve situated in Edenic Paradise, we find that Satan, represented by the symbol of the serpent, urged Eve to deny her creatureliness.

The devil enticed Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit by promising her that she would become a god without God, saying, "your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil" (Gen 3:5). Tragically, Eve found this idea pleasing, and saw the tree as "desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it" (Gen 3:6).

After that, humanity suffered the effects of this first, original sin. One of those effects is a darkened intellect. Since then, it is more difficult to acquire and know the truth, which is a perfect environment in which relativism can flourish. Satan remains at work this moment, laboring to convince humankind that truth is insignificant, that man has the power to manufacture truth, that God is unneeded, that we ought to eat the forbidden fruit and deny our creatureliness.

Of course there are plenty of other reasons for relativism's popularity. They are humanity's alone, and have little or nothing to do with the diabolical influences of Satan. Because human nature is wounded by original sin, it easy to sin. Humankind is attached to its stubbornness, egotism, pride, and opinions and habits and so forth. People can be indifferent to what is of paramount importance. Consequently, next year's vacation is often allotted more attention than the wonderful journey of discovering what is really true or not.

Relativistic notions are now presented as the "sensible way to think." Take for example the subject of homosexual sex acts. Before beginning, I want to cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which informs Christians that homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" (No. 2358). The dignity of every human person is to be honored and protected without exception. Nevertheless, persons who experience homosexual tendencies, which in itself is not a sin, are called to a life of chastity and holiness, as is every human person whether single or married.

Now, we often hear these types of comments: "What's the big deal with what two consenting adults do in private?" Or, "Who can deny two people the right to express their love?"

What makes these types of ideas insidious, is their apparent reasonableness, as if any kind and considerate person who respects others would most certainly agree with them. They are based on an appeal to sexual freedom, which, today, is thought of as not only the "sensible way to think" but an absolute human "right." There is the notion that, when it comes to sex and "love" between consenting adults, nobody can say what is right or wrong, moral or immoral. To do so is considered discriminatory, judgmental, harsh, bigoted.

But there is such a thing as right and wrong, good and evil. And opposing evil is called charity not bigotry. Further, what we believe matters because we are created in the image and likeness of God who is Truth. Therefore we are children of the Truth. The manner in which we utilize our intellect must reflect God, not oppose him. Stated another way, we are creatures and God gets to say what reality is, what truth is, not us.  Nevertheless, insisting that unbridled sexual freedom is a "good" thing or a "right" or "no big deal" is destructive to individuals and society.

For example, viewing homosexual sex acts as "normal" or "good" causes people's views on the institution of marriage erode over time. This is an inevitable byproduct of misunderstanding or rejecting the design and purpose of human sexuality. Once the idea takes hold that the purpose of human sexuality is strictly for pleasure, that sex is defined by pleasure and can be used as one pleases, it is reduced to a selfish act, which removes it from the ordered context of marriage, self-giving love and the generation of new life as God intended it.

Sex is, then, pushed outside of the context of marriage and family and children, which means marriage becomes something thought to be unnecessary, restrictive and burdensome. It gets in the way of sex. Also, if sex is purely for pleasure, and pregnancy is perceived as unpleasurable, then children are seen as foreign to the sexual union of man and woman, as if sex and children can't go together. Pleasure becomes the god; the generation of new life becomes the demon; artificial birth control becomes the strategy.

Some, with these disparaged views on sex, seek to redefine marriage to be nothing more than a commitment to a human relationship (or relationships) of some kind, which opens the door to radical, damaging possibilities.

Relativists will pose this question: "What's the big deal?" That is, why is marriage so important? It is important because the marital union of one man and one woman is the God-authored institution through which children are born and families, which are the "original cell of social life" (CCC 2207), are built and nourished. The "authority, stability, and life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society" (Ibid.).

Marriage is not only needed, it is integral to the future health of humanity. No marriage between man and woman equals no stable atmosphere in which children are born and families are nourished. The result is the collapse of society. This is indeed what we are witnessing in the U.S.

Relativising homosexual sex acts is but one example of the dangers of relativism. There are, of course, many others. I used that as an example in order to show how relativising one moral concept tends to distort understanding in other critical areas. The point is, adherence to relativism is inflicting serious harm on individuals and society.

What is the solution? Although the question is complex, we must first begin with Jesus Christ. In opening our hearts to Jesus and entering into a dynamic, self-giving relationship with him, we are changed, transformed by his Spirit. We notice that truth becomes something important to us, something by which we desire to live. We become a people of God who live the language of truth.

People will say, of course, that citing Jesus as the solution is a simplistic one. However, it is not. The Second Vatican Council noted that "In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). When we reflect on the fact that God became man in the Person of Jesus Christ, who is true God and true man, we gain insight into how the Word made flesh is himself the definitive answer to every pressing human question.

"Apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5), said Jesus. In giving ourselves over to Jesus and his teaching, we become intentional disciples of the truth. Strengthened by Christ, we then have the ability to fight diligently and effectively against relativism. It is in and through and with Christ that we not only change the world but live a fully human life as children of the Truth.

---

Deacon Fred Bartels serves the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado, as a member of the Catholic Clergy. He is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More Living Faith

Andrew M. Greenwell: St. Bonaventure and the Fear of the Lord Watch

Image of You want God's mercy?  Here is St. Bonaventure's advice: avoid sin and develop a healthy fear of the Lord.- Andrew Greenwell

By Andrew M. Greenwell

The Church teaches that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given us as part of sanctifying or habitual grace.  If we are in a state of grace, these gifts are present.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are similar to supernaturally-infused virtues in that they ... continue reading


The forgotten plight of Native Americans

Image of

By Tony Magliano

When it comes to the harsh difficulties many Native Americans face every day, the saying "out of sight, out mind" hits home. Many people have only a vague sense of the serious past and present injustices suffered by Native Americans.From the very beginning, starting ... continue reading


Mustard Seed Faith and Living as a Christian in the Real World Watch

Image of The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened. (Matt. 13: 31 - 33)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

All the images Jesus uses in these parables concern the spreading of the kingdom or reign of God. They are meant to bring home the new reality that comes when we choose to live our call to discipleship and truly begin to cooperate with grace in our daily lives. ... continue reading


VATICAN HELPS THE HOMELESS, plans to provide free showers, haircuts and shaves near St. Peter's Square Watch

Image of Rome's homeless can receive free haircuts, shaves and showers beginning February 16.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Vatican will begin providing homeless people in Rome a place to not only shower, but to also receive haircuts and shaves starting next month, according to Pope Francis' charity office. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - St Peter's Square will open with the ... continue reading


Play with your children, Pope Francis commands fathers Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While some of his comments have provoked controversy, Pope Francis in a private audience this week said something that very few people would argue with. The Pope commanded that all fathers take time to play with their children - and not be so absorbed with work ... continue reading


Archbishop reprimands Catholic lawmaker, says no true Catholic can dissent from church teaching on abortion Watch

Image of Archbishop Cordileone said in a written statement, that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a press conference on January 22 at the Capitol, was asked twice whether an unborn child 20 weeks into pregnancy is a human being. Pelosi finally replied that a woman has "the right" to abort her child. Archbishop ... continue reading


Religious persecution uniting Christians worldwide in 'Ecumenism of blood,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"In this moment of prayer for unity, I would also like to remember our martyrs, the martyrs of today," Pope Francis said as he was speaking to members of a number of Christian Churches. Gathered in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls this past weekend, ... continue reading


Andrew M. Greenwell: Jesus is the Heart and the Marvel of the Gospel Watch

Image of Since the incarnation of the Word, the

By Andrew M. Greenwell

If pursued, and pursued rightly (that is, without moral or intellectual prejudice), metaphysics leads us to a threshold, a threshold we might call the limina fidei, the threshold of faith.  Reason takes us to a place where we know God--that He is.  But ... continue reading


Who Are My Mother and Brothers? We are the Family of Jesus Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Through our Baptism, we are invited into the very family of God. When we choose to respond to grace and live in obedience to the will and the Word of God; we enter into an eternal relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We actually become a part of ... continue reading


St Francis DeSales Challenges Us to Live a Life of True Devotion Watch

Image of Today in our Liturgical calendar in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we remember St Francis DeSales (1567-1610). The Saints are all given as examples to emulate. They are our companions on the journey, men and women like us who responded to God's invitation to become like Jesus. They pray for us because we are joined with them in the eternal communion of love. They also put legs on the Gospel, showing us what holiness looks like.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
1 Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope ... Read More

Psalm, Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75
69 and he has established for us a saving power in ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 4:35-41
35 With the coming of evening that same day, he said ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 31st, 2015 Image

St. John Bosco
January 31: What do dreams have to with prayer? Aren't they just random ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter