The Fallacy of Catholic Relativism

Judie Brown
November 16, 2012
Reproduced with Permission

The past several months have given us a bird's-eye view of the many ways in which the word "Catholic" is both used and abused in the public square. As a Sycamore Trust writer pointed out in diagnosing the problems at the "Catholic" University of Notre Dame, the "hollowness at the core of the university" resounds in every corner. Yet many alumni choose to ignore the obvious and promote the university as a grand old Catholic bastion of higher learning.

While it would be easy to suggest that this is simply a problem at some Catholic universities, the fact is that such moral blindness pervades much of what is said and done among Catholics throughout the nation.

When Brooklyn's bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, analyzed the reasons why the Obama contraceptive mandate is so badly understood among Catholics, he wrote, "The reality is that we as a Church have failed to teach the truths of the faith in a clear and convincing manner to the Catholic faithful. However, the issue is not what we as a Church believe but whether or not we ought to be obligated to act in a manner contrary to our own belief."

He courageously echoed Bishop Daniel Jenky's example, telling his flock that, "Roman Catholics who support abortion rights and vote for a candidate because of those policies, place him/herself outside of the life of the Church. In so doing, they also place themselves in moral danger."

What this suggests is that a huge number of Catholics are sitting in the danger zone.

Shortly after Obama's reelection, San Diego's coadjutor bishop, Cirilo Flores, celebrated San Diego's first White Mass - a Mass that honored those in the medical profession. Bishop Flores explained, "Our religious liberty must be protected when we walk out the [church] doors, so that we can live our faith without compromising our religious convictions."

Thanks to this event and the tireless work of Catholic organizations, such as the Saint Gianna Physician's Guild, there is a growing number of Catholic medical professionals willing to defend their faith - and the Church - by living their faith in every aspect of their lives.

Sadly, these actions are not what we find in the majority of situations involving Catholics in public life, and we must ask ourselves why.

How can it be that we have some Catholic bishops ready to defy Obama's mandate and other bishops, like Bishop Robert McManus, who promote dissidents in the diocese and have little to say about the crisis confronting the Church?

Where is the disconnect?

Is it, as Papal Nuncio Carlo Maria Vigano suggested, because Catholics are not first and foremost disciples of Christ, but political activists who strive to divide the Church by supporting candidates who embrace intrinsic evils?

Is it, as Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently said, because the premier answer to the question, "What is wrong with the world" is to admit, "I am"?

Or is it something far more fundamental? In a recent review of Professor Brad Gregory's book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, Archbishop Charles Chaput invites us to put our shoulders to the wheel of faith:

The Church is still here, still calling us to repentance, still summoning us to the sacraments. In this Year of Faith, she invites Catholics to a great new evangelization - not against fellow Christians from other traditions, but in friendship with them as brothers. Our ambition must be to repair a culture of unbelief and to heal the inhuman politics that flows from it. And if we can't achieve that in concert with our fellow Christians, then we can at least live the Gospel more faithfully ourselves. It's time, and long past time, to close the gap between our words and our actions; our preaching and our practice.

Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, in the same spirit of putting faith first, writes, "The overall scope of this battle does not depend primarily on Republican or Democratic victories, just as the victories of one party over the other across the past fifty years and more have made no significant difference to the dominant trend. Any party war here is tangential to the war for souls. We need to reject the fashionable world's rules of engagement."

Indeed, we must live by Christ's rules of engagement.

As Catholics, we are called to reject Catholic moral relativism and stand with Christ - publicly and without apology. Let us resolve to do our best to help others see Christ at work in us, to defy what the world expects, and to reply to Him with total surrender and abiding faith.

Only then will miracles happen.