A complex about being Catholic
It is difficult to get a full view of the influence of the social movements of 1968. It is also difficult to know if it was the movements that created these new cultural assumptions or if, in reality, the revolution was the result of something that had always been growing under the surface. In any case, one of the consequences of that period and of those cultural changes has been a kind of complex that makes us ashamed to say we are Catholic Christians. Times have changed, and thanks be to God. N now we can talk about Christ with our friends and not feel like every head in the room turns toward us when we mention something about our faith as if we were a cat in a dog kennel.
Of course, if during all these years we have suffered a kind of complex in relation to our faith, even among friends, it is much more difficult to bring the Gospel to the world of work. The result has been that in the world of work, people create a kind of parenthesis of God, as if God could not reach that world at all. This happens not only in businesses or organizations, but also in many cultural circles. I am amazed at how Hollywood movies that often present the life and customs of the American people, never seem to present a church or make any reference to God, when it is well known that the American people are deeply religious and that all of their cities and towns have churches. We are surely looking at a complex here.
Tolerance to the extreme
This complex is often explained by the supposed tolerance and respect for diversity. Some even invoke the separation between Church and State, as if that had something to do with it. It is a large and complex topic, so I will not be able to cover it adequately here. However, I will offer some points that can help us to understand what may be at the foundation of it all. Reading Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s book Truth, and Tolerance could also be helpful.
I think that it is very good to have tolerance and “respect for diversity.” We can all agree on this. I cannot impose my points of view on anyone, and I should respect them as persons and take their ideas into consideration. However, it is very important to clarify some aspects of this problem:
i) Before all else, civilized persons cannot fall into the assumptions of radical relativism. I have always marveled at how the modern world has reached such extreme precision in the definition of certain types of concepts, with which everyone is in agreement or is required to be in agreement, and yet, at the same time, has lost precision in some moral concepts. The fiscal world, for example, requires perfection in the declaration of income and no errors are permitted, because it assumes that an error is hiding a misdeed. It therefore demands perfect understanding; everyone must agree and accept these norms. The same could be said about some moral questions.
The scandals caused by financial operations carried out with insider knowledge are not accepted (this is called privileged information) because the whole world recognizes that it is not good to obtain a benefit in this way, even if it does not hurt anyone else. However, in some areas of morality, it seems like everyone can have their own point of view, and that there is nothing good or bad.
Human beings have a nature and a way of being, and there are things that help them to fulfill themselves on the physical level. So, we know that it is not good for us to eat too much fat and that we should choose healthy foods. We also know that we should avoid some toxic gases, etc., since otherwise we put our very survival at risk. However, man is not only a living being who needs to worry only about his physical life. He is also a spiritual being who must live up to a certain level in his moral life. There is something that is proper to him, and that’s why we speak of human rights; that’s why we all accept the truth that people cannot be used as instruments.
It is clear, then, that moral relativism does not uphold itself in its principles or in its consequences. The sad history of the 20th century is a witness to the horrors men are subject to when they lose the sense of objective good and evil.
ii) On the other hand, tolerance is not the end of civil coexistence, but –correctly understood—one of the aspects that makes it up. It happens that in the modern world, tolerance has overturned the ideal of the civilized world, and we all seek it as the end of our life and coexistence. It is an almost magical concept that is invoked for everything. The objective of civil coexistence is for everyone to live together in peace and freedom, seeking the common good.
In this way, what we should aim for is the common good; that is, we should aim for the whole ensemble of goods that help men freely achieve their human fulfillment in the most radical and complete way. Thus, as a society, we should make sure to avoid whatever damages us. In fact, we avoid pollution in the environment and we protect ourselves from the greenhouse effect that is supposedly causing global warming, etc. We protect ourselves also from other damaging things like child pornography and violent people, etc.
Thus, tolerance, in order to be well understood, must lead us to avoid whatever stands opposed to these goals, and it will also have certain limits. We cannot allow thieves and assassins in our society, and we cannot be in agreement with someone who has violent ideas, even if he never puts them into practice. We respect the people who deserve all of our consideration as sons of God, but we should express our disagreement and ensure that in public life, people who are dangerous for our peaceful coexistence or for the physical and moral well-being of others cannot put their ideas into practice. That’s what prison is for.
With what I have explained, I think we can all agree that tolerance is not the end goal of society and that it has limits; it cannot just be the mere acceptance of everything. In this sense, everyone will agree that it is good for groups in society to seek peaceful coexistence and freely work for the good of all through democratic and civil processes that are not specifically aligned with certain types of ideas that lead to dangerous or destructive physical or moral behaviors.
iii) Besides, there is no reason to think that by being religious, one is necessarily intolerant. In the religious field, something very strange happens: by some mental mechanism, it is as if religious manifestations were damaging or offensive to people of other religions. The religion that seems to offend most is Christianity. In countries with majorities of non-Christian religions, I have not seen citizens worrying that the expression of their religion might be offensive to people of other faiths. And if it is, they will tell you, “Too bad for them.” It seems that this is one more manifestation of that complex that we acquired back in 1968.
It happens that in Catholicism and in various countries with a Christian tradition, there has been a strong campaign of indoctrination to lower the prestige of the Catholic religion and its history. Thus, the only thing that remains clear for many Catholics is that the Church has always sought power, even with violence, as demonstrated by the Crusades. The Church is out of touch with reality and is opposed to progress and to science, as shown by the Galilee case, for which the Pope himself asked forgiveness. The Church reacts neurotically to those who oppose her and even uses inhuman means. That is why she launched the Inquisition; she is still living in the Dark Ages and does nothing but block people’s freedom and restrain our aspirations to enjoy life. That is why she opposes contraception and abortion; and besides, all of the wars in humanity have been fought for religious reasons, etc.
I have even heard, although I doubt it was serious, that “at least the Enlightenment and the French Revolution came along, because that liberated Europe from the hindrances of Christianity and set forth the values of liberty, equality, and fraternity.” It seems to me that Someone else proposed the values of freedom, the equality of all human beings, and brotherhood in Christ about 1,800 years before the French Revolution. Besides, anyone who knows even a little bit of history knows how much the French Revolution, the daughter of the Enlightenment, trampled people and how much destruction it carried with it.
Because of this brainwashing, there is no security in one’s own faith. People are ashamed to belong to a Church that seems, they say, to be on its last legs, since only old people go to Mass anymore. We have become incapable of celebrating our own faith and of presenting our beliefs to the public; since we think that these beliefs were always imposed on others by violence, we assume that they feel offended. But presenting our faith to give others the opportunity to choose it if they feel attracted is not an imposition on anyone, just as it is not an imposition to someone when we offer them a product to buy.
In reality, if we think clearly and objectively, why is a Christmas crèche or a cross on public display going to offend anyone? It is as if it were somehow offensive for me to see a Buddha or a Menorah or the book of the Torah. It is not even reasonable to outlaw religious manifestations in public places as a celebration of the faith of the people. In fact, there are benefits to society when people live out their own religion with conviction, because it allows them to reach their human and spiritual fulfillment, and also ensures a peaceful coexistence among everyone. We should remember that faith is an inalienable dimension of the human person, and that impeding the expression of faith is really to suppress man himself. Marxist dictators understood this very well, and we should not be surprised that their countries have been (and where Marxism still exists, still are) so systematically against religion, both in its public expression and in personal practice. These states would not have been enemies of the faith if it were not a force for freedom and if it did not give the people an antidote to the massive brainwashing that they tried to carry out.
I think that if one’s own religion has some principles that go in agreement with everything we accept as principles of civil coexistence itself, there is no reason to suspect the goodness of having those religious convictions. It would be another thing to have a destructive religion, or one that manipulates consciences, against civil coexistence. We would have the obligation of opposing such a negative force.
On the other hand, Judaism, Christianity, and the so-called “western” world cannot be separated, because the foundation of principles and values that has given life to this world of ours comes from both religions. And I am not referring to merely external elements, but to the inmost core of the foundations of western society, such as the absolute value of the human person and his essential equality, freedom, the concept of the family as the basic nucleus of society, and the sphere where parents carry out their duty and right of educating their children, etc.
Taking all this into account, it is clear that tolerance, whether in the religious field or in the moral field, does not mean the absence of religion and morality, as some have wanted us to think. If there is insecurity and scorn for one’s own moral structure and religion, then people opt for the easy way out: a supposed tolerance that actually hides a complex about one’s own identity.
I think, therefore, that civil coexistence includes tolerance, properly understood, and for believers, it requires living one’s own religion with conviction, including its consequences in the moral field. If someone is not a believer, at least he should be in agreement with the basic principles of coexistence among men, such as the inalienable value of each human person and their essential equality, the almost sacred respect for the family, as well as the concept of freedom of speech and worship, without falling into libertine excesses or scorn for others’ rights.
The Enlightenment attempt to establish society as if God did not exist has failed, since it does not provide sufficiently solid certainties, and so we always run the risk of totalitarianism. History proves it. Today, in the consciences of many, including atheists, people are beginning to form the conviction that society should be based on principles that assume the existence of God without this imposing any loss of freedom on non-believers, since the faith is not imposed on them.
Although it is not a result of 1968, since it had already started to appear before then, there is no doubt that this social crisis of the 1960s was a particularly apt breeding ground for the development of the “New Age” movement. At the base of this pseudo-religious movement in which everyone can have his own truth, while each one lives in his own world without impinging on the lives of others. A very complete vision of this phenomenon is given in the document of the Pontifical Council for Culture, “Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on New Age.”
Thus, the error of relativism takes one step more and affirms that not only can each one have his own truth, but that all religions are actually equal, and that there is no one way to salvation, and that each one can walk the religious path of his own culture or country and be saved. In this way, Christ is not the only savior, and salvation is not found in the Catholic Church. In this way, the missionary spirit is rendered unnecessary and superfluous, because in the end, the important thing is for each one to live his own tradition according to his conscience. Let us not think that this way of thinking and living is not widespread. It has its manifestations, although these are not always recognized, in many sectors of the Church. It can be found where there is talk about not trying to convert anyone, and where there are efforts to find the “seeds of the Word” in various cultures and traditions—there is the saving presence of Christ—to the point that they no longer aim to value the richness of the sacraments and offer them to men. Here, a kind of complex comes into play again, since people think that the Catholic Church’s missionary effort throughout the ages was all done for power, and always with weapons and violence.
Without failing to recognize the mistakes, sins, and limitations of human endeavors, I think that these kinds of concepts forget the broad humanizing mission of the Church throughout the centuries.
It is evident that this aspect of New Age clashes head on with one of the fundamental principles of Catholicism, which is that we find salvation only in Christ. It is true that Christ, by his mercy, can act in the interior of men’s consciences when they have had no means of knowing him, and when they live out their own tradition in good faith. However, we do not do any good to our brothers and sisters if we do not offer them the great richness we have in Christ, and if we do not share God’s invitation with them so that they can freely choose to be followers of Christ.
To clarify how Christians should respond to these postulates, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the declaration Dominus Iesus on August 6, 2000 on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and of the Church. It reaffirmed the idea that salvation is found only in Christ and showed the role of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ and therefore, as the path that everyone, either directly or indirectly, must follow to reach salvation.
The declaration says in n. 20: “Above all else, it must be firmly believed that ‘the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door.’ This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); ‘it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation.’ […] For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, ‘salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit’; it has a relationship with the Church, which ‘according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.’”
On the other hand, “New Age” proposes that people take elements of each religious tradition according to what feels right to them. In this way, a kind of supra-religion is created, in which “feeling” holds sway. In reality, this practice empties religion of its content and reduces it to a vague spirituality that merely seeks to satisfy the thirst for transcendence that every human being has inside. The sad thing is that by proceeding in this way, the thirst for the eternal and the infinite is actually not satisfied, because a religion tailored to the measure of one’s own desires, and that denies our capacity for a relationship with a personal God, is simply an exercise of personal control and stress relief.
It is no wonder that eastern religions, especially those from India, are so popular in the western world. It is well known that Hinduism and Buddhism are not real religions in the sense of a relationship with a person or a transcendent being. Rather, they are mere ascetic exercises to achieve virtue. These traditions are like the ring on the finger of “New Age,” which assimilates many of them and proposes them as a basic substratum.
It is evident that this fallout from 1968 has greatly limited and continues to limit our capacity to bring God to the world of work, especially since New Age proposes to get rid of God altogether. Besides, it would be meaningless to express one’s own religion at work if one thought that there was no such thing as religious truth, and that symbols and celebrations did not matter because they were relative. Thus, whatever one believes has no true value. Lastly, as mentioned above, the widespread influence of New Age in our world hides a certain complex about belonging to the Christian or Catholic faith, which is perceived by Christians themselves as violent, corrupt, and power hungry.
The assumptions of New Age are highly dangerous for Christianity, of course, but also for modern societies and states. Charles Péguy said that man is either a believer or he will end up being superstitious. I wonder if the recent growth of witchcraft, Satanism, animism, etc. in the most rational and technified epoch of the history of humanity, is perhaps due precisely to the absence of a faith in a personal God. Superstition, that is, the lack of religious truths, makes us irrational and leads us to give an absolute value to our mental fabrications. In a depression of rationality, ideologies are capable of annihilating the reasoning capacity of entire human groups. From there, it takes only a few steps to fall into destructive sects, divinizing race and progress, and proceeding to eliminate millions of human beings under the influence of these ideas, like the Nazis and Communists did just a few years ago. History is a teacher of life, and those who remain ignorant of it are condemned to repeat it. Certainly, this is not a desirable perspective.
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|Published by: Frmartin Pina|
|Date: 2010-08-11 10:29:48|
|excellent reflection on what is truely going on in our society today. To many Catholics are ashame of their Christian Traditions. We need more articles like this.
God Bless YOu
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