Post-Modernism and the Gospel

Doug McManaman
Copyright 2005
Reproduced with Permission

A post-modern society is envisioned fundamentally as a society of tolerance, where individual autonomy becomes in some ways the guiding norm of jurisprudence. Whether or not it can consistently live up to what is envisioned is another matter altogether, but its proponents clearly anticipate a society in which respect for diversity is firmly entrenched both in law and in the habits of its citizens. In theory, no one ideology is allowed to dominate over others or be imposed upon the rest. A post-modern society aims to be as inclusive in the widest possible sense, and all lifestyle decisions are to be regarded and held as equally valid[1] while individual rights are to be clearly delineated in a constitution.

This sounds very good and in fact constitutes a concise summary of the kind of society that many people envision for Canada. In this light, it is understandable that few see any incongruity between the conclusions of post-modernism and the fundamental principles of the gospel. But the incongruity is profound and it becomes especially obvious when one studies the origins of post-modernism, that is, the philosophical principles that account for these conclusions. What follows is a brief summary of the roots of post-modernism and an attempt to see how its premises measure up to Scripture.

A Brief Summary of the Roots of Post-Modernism

Post-modernism has its roots in the philosophies of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. For Hegel and Nietzsche, reality is in a pure state of becoming. Everything is founded upon this initial premise. According to Nietzsche, being is permanency (that which does not change). But nothing is permanent.[2] Reality is an ongoing dialectical evolution, for Hegel. Hence, there is no being as such, only becoming.[3] Everything is in a pure state of change, and for Neitzsche, it is only language that provides us with the illusion of permanency or being.[4]

A number of consequences follow from this, which have been clearly articulated by Nietzsche. If all is becoming, then it is impossible to know anything at all, at least according to the classical understanding of knowledge.[5] For one cannot know what lacks a stable intelligible structure (essence). In other words, if I know, I know something (being).[6] But if that something immediately ceases to be what it is, or never really is what it is, then there is 'no-thing' outside my mind to know or apprehend. And if knowledge is impossible, then all that passes for knowledge, such as science (from the Latin scire: 'to know') is nothing more or less than a human construct. Knowledge depends upon being, but being or permanency is merely an illusion, a fiction spun on the wheel of sound (language). In other words, reality in itself is unknowable. It is absurd andwithout meaning.[7] Its apparent intelligible character is imposed upon "it" (for there really is no "it") by man (Dasein) who speaks and by his word brings the world of meaning into being.

A number of things follow from this. Firstly, if knowledge is impossible because all is in a pure state of flux, then one cannot maintain the existence of an objective, universal, and enduring truth to which the intellect must conform.[8] What is true is only so within the context of the particular linguistic construct (a science, a culture, a particular way of expressing and thus creating the world, etc.)[9] Hence, there is really no such thing as a universal and natural moral law. In other words, there are no objective principles (standards) of good and evil in human action, that is, no objective moral norms that are valid everywhere and at all times, independently of a particular culture.[10] And so there are no permanent and universal standards in light of which certain lifestyle choices can be deemed morally deficient or inferior and thus validly and legally excluded.

It also follows that everyone has a right to his own opinion, for every opinion is just as valid as every other opinion, since there is no "truth" by which to measure its validity. What is true and good is merely an expression of will, in particular the will to power.[11] And power alone determines what is true and good, for it has always been the case that conflicts that could not be resolved through reason were ultimately resolved through force or power. But since reason has nothing beyond it that it can look to in order to measure it, reason is itself nothing more than an expression of the will to power.

There are no absolute moral demands or inherent obligations that make claims upon the conscience of an individual person [12]. Rather, I am my own plan.[13] As Sartre writes: "...all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him (God); there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness (God) to think it...Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to"[14].

And so the individual will is the measure of what is good.[15] The basic right of the individual is to become his own unique plan, subject to nothing above himself: "To be man means to reach toward being God. Or, if you prefer, man fundamentally is the desire to be God"[16]. The individual is only free to the extent that he can realize his plan, that is, design himself (determine his essence), make himself to be what he wills to be. In other words, he is free to the degree that he is not bound by duties or obligations imposed upon him by something other than his own will. That is why, according to Sartre, man is totally free. And so his freedom is linked to his right to realize the plan that he is by his own choice, and not to his supposed duty to realize a nature that is conceived and brought into being by God.

A society grounded on post-modern premises does not have to conform to any universal norm. It is an evolving society (since all is becoming), and what it is currently is based on the consensus of the individuals who make it up. A critical stage in its evolution will be the institution of its characteristic "virtues". In order to move society past the stage of a more classical orientation, the principle of universal respect for individual autonomy will have to be firmly established.[17] To do this, the institutionalization of tolerance as the principal social virtue will be necessary.

Tolerance as well as respect for individual autonomy and diversity have always been seen as positive characteristics, but within a post-modern mind frame, these terms acquire a radically new meaning with less clearly defined boundaries. Since there is no natural moral law, respect for diversity cannot be limited to respect for diverse cultures, but ought to extend to include the acceptance of diverse and conflicting moralities (moral pluralism) and lifestyle choices that at one time might have been regarded as immoral. Inclusivity and tolerance become the new buzzwords that help distinguish those who belong to the new orthodoxy from those who choose to remain behind, that is, who choose to conserve the principles of an "outdated" worldview (conservatives).

Religion, of course, is simply reduced to being nothing more than one "paradigm" alongside others, one particular way of giving meaning to this otherwise meaningless and unintelligible universe that we have unwittingly found ourselves thrown into. The only problem with certain religious paradigms (i.e., Catholicism), according to the typical post-modernist, is that they mistake the part for the whole, the many for the one, or the private for the public. They fall into this "mistake" because at the roots of their religion is the acknowledgment of truth as a property of what is real and which measures the mind of man. But according to post-modernism, reality is not one, but many, because reality, being, or meaning is determined by man, and there are many individual men.[18] There are as many realities as there are individuals.

Consequently, the separation of Church and state is paramount. But the doctrine of "separation" is also re-interpreted and acquires a radically different meaning than it had previously. Separation of Church and state originally meant that no secular prince can rightly usurp ecclesiastical office, and that no bishop could hold political office -- for that would destroy the "universal" nature of the Church. Separation of Church and state was a principle that aimed to protect the Church so that it can flourish, and in the minds of the American founders, a flourishing Church makes good citizens, who in turn make good government possible.[19]

Within the context of post-modernism, however, separation of Church and state has come to mean the "separation of state and religion". It is currently interpreted to mean that the state cannot impose the moral conclusions of the Catholic faith, for example, on the citizens at large (i.e., regarding abortion, euthanasia, marriage, etc.). "Separation" is nothing but the relegation of religion to the realm of the private. It means that the decisions of the state must not be influenced by the doctrines of a particular religion, for this would amount to a failure to regard all paradigms or perspectives as equally valid, and it would involve the imposition of one perspective upon the rest. It would amount to a violation of the right of the individual to be the plan that he is by virtue of his own will.[20] In short, allowing political decisions to be influenced by religious dogma would amount to a violation of the principle of autonomy.

Furthermore, morality and religion have been conflated; since there are no enduring intelligible structures (essences), a moral perspective, like a religion, is merely one construct alongside others. It is nothing more than a formulated system of expectations that have meaning only within the context of a particular paradigm that in turn is an expression of a will to power -- either that of an individual or group. Political and legal notions, accordingly, are public, and so they are to be free of all contact with notions of a more private nature, that is, religious ideas and the particular moralities they generate.

This in turn leads to a re-interpretation of the nature of democracy. Formerly, democracy meant government of the people, by the people, for the people. A democracy was a nation under God (Lincoln). It was founded upon very definite principles about the nature of man and his relation to the state and to God, in particular the principle that the state is not the final arbiter and ultimate source of man's rights, that God is prior to the state, and that the state is bound by obligations that are rooted in the natural moral law.[21]

The new democracy is a democratic nihilism. God is identified with religion, and religion and morality are relegated to the realm of the private. And so, once again, the state stands alone and independent, subject to no law other than its own inherent drive (will) to become a dominant center of power.

It is very possible to thoroughly refute the arguments of post-modernism from a purely philosophical perspective. Post-modernism is in large part a rich blend of irony and self-refuting propositions (i.e., all knowledge is a construct, there is no truth, tolerance and respect for autonomy are absolute requirements, etc.,.). But at this time I would like to attempt to highlight the profound inconsistency that exists between the premises and conclusions of post-modernism and the fundamental principles of the gospel. The reason is that it is relatively easy to be deceived about their compatibility. Without an awareness of the philosophical roots of post-modernism and with only a vague familiarity with Sacred Scripture, it is easy to be led to believe that the overall perspective of post-modern politics is perfectly in accordance with and possibly even demanded by the principles of the gospel as found in the New Testament.

A Biblical Response to the Principles of Post-Modernism

The Supremacy of God

Firstly, the idea that religion and morals are to be relegated to the private realm and that public decisions are to be free of any kind of contamination resulting from contact with a particular religion might appear to have biblical support. Jesus said to the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians who came to set a trap for him: "...give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and to God what belongs to God" (Mt 22: 21). Thus, it would appear that the political and religious realms are separate. And since we have a duty to pay the tribute of our obedience and property to the government, yet no one can rightly be compelled to be religious, it would seem that the political realm constitutes the sphere of the public while religion belongs within the realm of the private.

But this is nothing more than a post-modern interpretation of that text. Indeed, we must give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God, but Jesus knew that everything belongs to God, because God is the author of all that is (Gn 1: 1-31). Everything that Caesar has and is belongs to God, namely his authority, the state he governs, and his very existence, and even the good free choices that he makes. That is why St. Paul can say: "...Since all government comes from God, the civil authorities were appointed by God" (Rm 13: 1). Of course, this does not mean that tyrants are appointed by God to be tyrants. Rather, it means that the authority they were given by God is to be exercised in the service of God. Hence, "the state is there to serve God for your benefit" (Rm 13: 4), and "...all government officials are God's officers" (Rm 13: 6).

According to Scripture, government officials rule rightly as servants of something higher and prior to themselves. The will of monarchs and princes is not the rule and measure of just law -- not to mention the will of a majority. Rather, "by me monarchs rule and princes issue just laws; by me rulers govern, and the great impose justice on the world" (Pr 8, 15-16).

"Give back to Caesar" underscores the debt human persons have to the civil community and that they are bound by the demands of general justice. Thus, human persons are more than isolated individual subjects of rights without responsibilities. "Give back to God what belongs to God" reveals that religion is a part of the virtue of justice and that there exists a claim (debt) upon all that to which God's generosity extends. But His generosity embraces everything, both the realm of the public as well as the private. A state that fails to acknowledge the debt it owes to God and refuses to rule by God and issue laws in accordance with divine law, that is, according to the precepts of natural law which is grasped by the natural light of human reason, is an unjust state.

The anger of God is being revealed from heaven against all the impiety and depravity of men who keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness. For what can be known about God is perfectly plain to them since God himself has made it plain. Ever since God created the world his everlasting power and deity -- however invisible -- have been there for the mind to see in the things he has made. That is why such people are without excuse: they knew God and yet they refused to honour him as God and thank him; instead, they made nonsense out of logic and their empty minds were darkened. (Rm 1, 18-21)

The authority that belongs to Christ does not merely extend to the private souls of individual believers. Rather, as he says: "All authority in heaven, and on earth has been given to me" (Mt 28: 18). His authority is fully extensive, unlike any government. That is why he can commission the eleven to "Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you" (Mt 28, 19-20). No ordinary person or government can conceivably issue such a charge. Unlike any other king, Christ has authority over all nations. Religion cannot get any more public than that.

Christ does not commission the eleven to assume political office and govern as monarchs or princes. Rather, he commissions them to teach and sanctify. Here lies the boundary line separating Church and state. The Church teaches, that is, clarifies and explicates the requirements of the divine law with the authority of Christ (Jn 14: 16; 16: 13), and she provides others, including Caesar, with the internal means by which to fulfill those requirements. And so it is not possible to rule justly unless one allows oneself to be influenced by the precepts of religion. This is a very different picture than that provided by post-modernism, but one far more in accordance with traditional western democracy than the democratic nihilism of contemporary politics.

Being, Human Nature, and Tolerance

As was said above, post-modernism is rooted in the metaphysics of pure becoming, which leads to the contradictory notion that the universe is absurd and unknowable, and that it receives intelligibility through man (Dasein: the reified Question Questioning, which both is and is not there). But from a biblical perspective, this is not the case. God is "he who is" (Ex 3, 13-15), eternal and unchanging (Mal 3: 6), and He is the creator of all that is: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gn 1, 1). Only a being can become, and to become is to "come to be". There is no change without permanency, and no becoming without being. What God brings into existence in creating anything are beings of a determinate nature (essence, species): "Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees on earth, bearing fruit with their seed inside, each corresponding to its own species...God created great sea-monsters and all the creatures that glide and teem in the waters in their own species, and winged birds in their own species" (Gn 1, 11, 22).

Man has a specific nature of which he is not the author. He exists as a being created in the image and likeness of God, in the image of mind and heart: "Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves,...God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them" (Gn 1, 26-27). Existence does not precede essence, and man is not an existent minus an essence which he is totally free to create according to his own will. He is already more than the animals but less than the angels: "...what are human beings that you spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, you have crowned him with glory and beauty, made him lord of the works of your hands, put all things under his feet, sheep and cattle, all of them,..." (Ps 8, 4-7). Man is a rational animal.

And so he is not his plan. Rather, a plan has been laid out before him, and it is his obligation to fulfill that plan and achieve the end for which he was created. If he fails to build according to that blueprint, he will bring disaster upon himself:

See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of Yahweh your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love Yahweh your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish...I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, in the love of Yahweh your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists (Dt 30, 15-20).

Moreover, man is not the source of meaning, the one who speaks being and intelligibility into the universe of unintelligible flux, thus bringing a world into being. Rather, God is. Being depends not on man's words, but on God's: "By the words of the Lord his works come into being and all creation obeys his will" (Si 42: 15. Cf. Jn 1: 1-3). Thus, reality is not many, but one, for it proceeds from one source, namely God, and the many human beings who have the ability to apprehend the natures of things are all of one common nature, namely, a sentient and rational nature (human). Thus, science is not a fiction, but the ongoing and ever expanding apprehension of the order of nature: "He has imposed an order on the magnificent works of his wisdom...Many mysteries remain even greater than these, for we have seen only a few of his works" (Si 42: 21, 32). Indeed, reality is much larger than any one individual perspective is able to contain: " eyes do not look too high. I am not concerned with great affairs or marvels beyond my scope" (Ps. 131, 1). But the criterion for the truth and validity of an individual perspective is the real, the order of being, the real natures of things that exist independently of our knowing them. Hence, rather than speaking of individual paradigms, it is more accurate to speak of a weltanschauung, a specific attitude of life (worldview) that is rooted in a vision of reality, and which is true to the degree that it corresponds to what is real.

It follows that not all choices and lifestyles are equally valid. God is the measure of what is good, not my own private will, and so the goodness of a lifestyle choice, which embraces a number of other choices within itself -- depends upon the degree to which it conforms to the will of God and the real order (which obeys His will): "Opposite evil stands good, opposite death, life; so too, opposite the devout man stands the sinner" (Si 33: 14). The goodness of a particular lifestyle choice is entirely dependent upon its ability to lead us to our common destiny, which is eternal union with God: "I want to urge you in the name of the Lord, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that pagans live. Intellectually they are in the dark, and they are estranged from the life of God, without knowledge because they have shut their hearts to it. Their sense of right and wrong once dulled, they have abandoned themselves to sexuality and eagerly pursue a career of indecency of every kind" (Eph 4: 17-20).

Where post-modernism denies that there is any such thing as truth, or that human persons can know it with certitude, and that any claim to possess it amounts to arrogance, Scripture says: "Now that is hardly the way you have learnt from Christ, unless you failed to hear him properly when you were taught what the truth is in Jesus" (Eph 4: 2). There are certain modes of behaviour that are simply incompatible with man's destiny of eternal salvation, and the road to eternal life begins by giving them up: "You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God's way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth" (Eph 4: 22-24).

There is not so much a right to our own opinion as there is a duty to think rightly, to seek the truth and conform to it: "Then we shall not be children any longer, or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit. If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ" (Eph 4: 14-15).

We are not free to the degree that we are free from moral demands imposed upon us from outside our own will. Rather, the truth alone sets us free: "If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8: 12). The Individualist notion of freedom, on the other hand, is identical to the biblical notion of slavery: "When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery...My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence...If you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions" (Col 5: 1, 13, 16-17).

It follows that there is no requirement to unqualified tolerance. In fact, there is a great deal that Jesus refused totolerate: "Jesus then went into the Temple and drove out all those who were selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling pigeons" (Mt 21: 1-12). That is why Jesus was not out-and-out inclusive: "It is not those who say to me, 'Lord, Lord', who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Mt 7: 21). In fact, discrimination is part and parcel of final judgment: "The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Mt 13: 41-43).

Nowhere in the New Testament do we see Jesus preaching the specifically post-modern dogma of unqualified tolerance and acceptance for the sake of peaceful co-existence: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies will be those of his own household. Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worhty of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me (Mt 10: 13-38).

In fact, those who maintain that there is no objective and universal standard by which to judge the morality of human action simply do not have the option of being tolerant. For tolerance presupposes there is something objectively bad to tolerate in order to avoid greater evil. Hence, one of the many ironies of post-modernism. Its insistence on tolerance is really nothing but a mask that hides its absolute indifference to moral evil.

It is true that Jesus counsels tolerance. His tolerance, however, is qualified: "'Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?' 'Some enemy has done this' he answered. And the servants said, 'Do you want us to go and weed it out?' But he said, 'No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn" (Mt 13: 27-30).

The new covenant is an international covenant. Thus, it is an inclusive covenant, open to the widest possible diversity. But there is a distinction between cultural pluralism and moral pluralism. The latter is simiply a fiction, an impossibility, and historically unheard of.[22] From a biblical point of view, it is a conflation of the highest and most devious kind: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds (emphasis mine). When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use" (Mt 13: 47-49).

A truly just man does not tolerate what is unjust, like John the Baptist in regard to Herod's choice of bride: "It is against the Law for you to have her" (Mt 14: 4), or towards the Pharisees and Sadducees: "Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentent, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire" (Mt. 1: 8-10).

The evolution of a culture and its mores is not itself the norm of human behaviour, as it is in a post-modern frame of mind with its emphasis upon historicity to the exclusion and dismissal of transhistorical precepts. On the contrary, Scripture distinguishes between progress and regress not on the basis of what is current, but on the basis of divine law, which is eternal and everlasting: "They said to him, 'Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?', 'It was because you were so unteachable' he said, 'that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning" (Mt 19: 7-9).

It is human understanding that is historical, not truth, because the human person exercises a material and temporal existence. But God is not temporal, neither is His Law: "Lasting to eternity, your word, Yahweh, unchanging in the heavens" (Ps. 119: 89. Cf. Is 40: 8; Pr. 8: 22f; Mt 24: 35). The eternal law has indeed entered into history and as a result demands the application of a careful hermeneutics that has many elements in common with a hermeneutics bearing upon other historical literature. But because it is the eternal word that is uttered in history, a proper biblical hermeneutics will require certain conditions that are not required by a hermeneutics bearing upon secular literature, and these conditions are the theological virtue of faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The reason is that this word, eternal and unchanging, is supernatural, and so only the supernatural virtue of faith will enable us to discern it and assent to it.

Finally, there is no absolute and unqualified requirement to respect individual autonomy. The desire for absolute autonomy is the essence of Original Sin (Gn 3, 1-7). The only autonomy that is rightly ours and that needs to be respected, especially by the state, is the autonomy to be the persons God intends for us to be.

Summary Remarks

The political picture that post-modernists paint is highly misleading. This is obvious when we discover that it is just as much an imposition on the citizenry as would be any other dominant ideology or non ideological political doctrine. Moreover, it breeds intolerance to the same degree as would any other dominant mode of thinking. The only relevant question is whether those things which it chooses to tolerate and not tolerate are rightly tolerated or not. Post-modernism has no way of answering that question. In short, post-modern politics (democratic nihilism) is not quite as neutral as many are led to believe. And it is precisely this very specific nihilism that is behind the American Law Institute's Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution (2002) and the Law Commission of Canada's Beyond Conjugality: Recognizing and Supporting Close Personal Adult Relationships (2001), not to mention many decisions of Supreme Court judges since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Post-modernism has come to permeate Canada's national institutions.

Its emphasis on openness to diversity and its relagation of religion to the private sphere lends the appearance that post-modern politics is the only framework in which democracy can be what it is intended to be. But this is only appearance. Post-modern orthodoxy is imposed on everyone whether they realize it or not -- and most people do not, which is why it is far more insidious than the totalitarianism of old. There is nothing wrong with "imposition" as such; good laws are imposed for the sake of the common good. The problem with post-modernism is that there is no guiding notion of the common good, since what is good is a private matter, and so the criterion of good law becomes something far less principled.[23]

But in terms of religion, Catholicism and post-modernism cannot peacefully co-exist. Contrary to its own premises, Catholicism is one religion that a post-modern culture cannot tolerate, unless it becomes so private and watered down that it virtually has no influence on others outside the doors of the Church. But this cannot and will not happen: "A city build on a hill-top cannot be hidden" (Mt 5: 14). Everything the Church stands for is a threat to post-modernism, for Catholic principles eat away at its foundation like termites. It cannot help but persecute the Church, but it can only do so covertly, for otherwise it risks blowing its cover.

As for the Church, she only needs to remember that she is at war, and that she has always been at war: "...because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you...If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too" (Jn 15: 19-20; Cf. Eph 6, 10ff). The Church has everything she needs to win every minor battle that comes her way throughout the centuries: truth, faith, salvation, the word of God, and the eagerness to spread the good news of the gospel (Eph 6: 14-17). She need not plot, scheme, lie, or employ devious and underhanded means of achieving her end. The war was won on Good Friday, and triumph in the end is assured (Rv 22: 10-15). In the meantime, all we need to do is stay awake, pray, and serve up the very potent and exhilarating wine of the gospel without adding water, and the Lord will do the rest.


1  Recently, there has been a move toward the creation of a new status, often called registered partnership (or Registered Domestic Partnership or RDP). A domestic partnership scheme was first adopted in Denmark in 1989, and since then has been adopted in other European countries, Hawaii and Vermont. Often RDPs were introduced as a means of recognizing same-sex relationships. However, as these schemes developed in other jurisdictions, they have been extended to also allow opposite-sex couples to register their relationships....

The objective of these registration schemes is to provide an alternative way for the state to recognize and support close personal relationships. When people register their relationships, they are then included within a range of rights and responsibilities often similar to marriage. It is a regime that has begun to develop as a parallel to marriage, in which the state is promoting a similar set of objectives in the recognition and support of personal relationships. Like marriage, registrations have the characteristics of voluntariness, stability, certainty and publicity. They provide an orderly framework in which people can express their commitment to each other, receive public recognition and support, and voluntarily assume a range of legal rights and obligations. These regimes also provide for an orderly and equitable resolution of the registrantsf affairs if their relationships break down. These are the advantages to a registration scheme. Such schemes allow individuals to express their commitment publicly and voluntarily choose to be included within a range of legal rights and responsibilities. These schemes affirm the basic principles and values that ought to guide the regulation of personal adult relationships, including equality and respect for diversity on one hand, and autonomy and freedom of choice on the other.

First, a registration scheme is worthy of consideration because it would enable a broader range of relationships to be recognized. It would therefore provide both conjugal and non-conjugal unions with a way to formalize their relationship and to voluntarily assume rights and responsibilities toward each other. In this way, a registration system would promote the equality of non-conjugal relationships. The second major advantage of a registration scheme is that it affirms the autonomy and choices of Canadians in their close personal relationships. There is value in encouraging people to make their relationship commitments clear and in recognizing the choices that people make in their close personal relationships. A registration scheme provides a way in which a broad range of relationships, including non-conjugal relationships, can be recognized, while also promoting and respecting the value of autonomy. A registration scheme has a number of advantages specifically related to the value of autonomy and choice. Law Commission of Canada, Beyond Conjugality: Recognizing and Supporting Close Personal Adult Relationships (Ottawa: Law Commission of Canada, 2001), pp. 141-142. [Back]

2 "The character of the world in a state of becoming as incapable of formulation, as "false," as "self-contradictory." Knowledge and becoming exclude one another. Consequently, "knowledge" must be something else: there must first of all be a will to make knowable, a kind of becoming must itself create the deception of beings...Continual transition forbids us to speak of "individuals," etc; the "number" of beings is itself in flux." Friedrich Nietzsche. The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. (New York: Vintage Books. 1968) 517, 520. [Back]

3 For Hegel, becoming is the result of the dialectic between being and non-being. Being and non-being are in some ways identical, according to Hegel. Consider that as we think about the idea of being, we realize that it is empty, the emptiest of all concepts. In other words, being is virtually nothing. As we think of the concept of being, our thoughts move back and forth, from being to non-being. And since what goes on within the mind is indicative of what goes on outside the mind, being and non-being are engaged, on the most fundamental level of reality, in a constant dialectic. It is this dialectic, this tension back and forth, that gives rise to "becoming" or change. Ultimately, being is nothing (empty), and nothing is being, and this dialectic is "becoming". [Back]

4 "Now we read harmonies and problems into things because we think only in the form of language-and thus believe in the "eternal truth" of "reason" (e.g., subject, attribute, etc.). We cease to think when we refuse to do so under the constraint of language; we barely reach the doubt that sees this limitation as a limitation. Rational thought is interpretation according to a scheme that we cannot throw off." The Will to Power., 522. [Back]

5 "A world in a state of becoming could not, in a strict sense, be "comprehended" or "known"; only to the extent that the "comprehending" and "knowing" intellect encounters a coarse, already-created world, fabricated out of mere appearances but become firm to the extent that this kind of appearance has preserved life -- only to this extent is there anything like "knowledge"; i.e., a measuring of earlier and later errors by one another". Ibid., 520. [Back]

6 "In order to think and infer it is necessary to assume beings: logic handles only formulas for what remains the same." Ibid., 517. [Back]

7 "Not "to know" but to schematize-to impose upon chaos as much regularity and form as our practical needs require. In the formation of reason, logic, the categories, it was need that was authoritative: the need, not to "know," but to subsume, to schematize, for the purpose of intelligibility and calculation." Ibid., 515. [Back]

8  "How does one know that the real nature of things stands in this relation to our intellect?- Could it not be otherwise? that it is the hypothesis that gives the intellect the greatest feeling of power and security, that is most preferred, valued and consequently characterized as true?- The intellect posits its freest and strongest capacity and capability as criterion of the most, valuable, consequently of the true

Thus it is the highest degrees of performance that awaken belief in the "truth," that is to say reality, of the object. The feeling of strength, of struggle, of resistance convinces us that there is something that is here being resisted." Ibid., 533. [Back]

9 "That things possess a constitution in themselves quite apart from interpretation and subjectivity, is a quite idle hypothesis: it presupposes that interpretation and subjectivity are not essential, that a thing freed from all relationships would still be a thing." Ibid., 560. [Back]

10 "Thus the beautiful and the ugly are recognized as relative to our most fundamental values of preservation. It is senseless to want to posit anything as beautiful or ugly apart from this. The beautiful exists just as little as does the good, or the true. In every case it is a question of the conditions of preservation of a certain type of man: thus the herd man will experience the value feeling of the beautiful in the presence of different things than will the exeptional or over-man." Ibid., 804. Elsewhere Nietzsche writes: "The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, "what is harmful to me is harmful in itself"; it knows itself to be that which first accords honor to things; it is value-creating." Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. (New York: Vintage Books. 1966) p. 205, sec. 260. [Back]

11 "The criterion of truth resides in the enhancement of the feeling of power." Will to Power., 534. "Truth" is therefore not something there, that might be found or discovered -- but something that must be created and that gives a name to a process, or rather to a will to overcome that has in itself no end -- introducing truth, as a processus in infinitum, an active determining -- not a becoming-conscious of something that is in itself firm and dtermined. It is a word for the "will to power". Ibid., 552 [Back]

12 "The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain kind of secular ethics which would like to abolish God with the least possible expense. About 1880, some French teachers tried to set up a secular ethics which went something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis; we are discarding it; but, meanwhile, in order for there to be an ethics, a society, a civilization, it is essential that certain values be taken seriously and that they be considered as having an a priori existence. It must be obligatory, a priori, to be honest, not to lie, not to beat your wife, to have children, etc., etc. So we're going to try a little device which will make it possible to show that values exist all the same, inscribed in a heaven of ideas, though otherwise God not exist...The existentialist, on the contrary, thinks it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men. Dostoievsky said, "If God didn't exist, everything would be possible," That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to. He can't start making excuses for himself." Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism and Human Emotions. (New Jersey: Citadel Press, Inc.1985) pp. 21-22. [Back]

13 "If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be. Thus, there is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is also only what he wills himself to be after this thrust toward existence... Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Such is the first principle of existentialism...Man is at the start a plan which is aware of itself, rather than a patch of moss, a piece of garbage, or a cauliflower; nothing exists prior to this plan; there is nothing in heaven; man will be what he will have planned to be." Ibid., pp. 15-16. [Back]

14 Ibid., pp. 21-22. [Back]

15 "To choose to be this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose, because we can never choose evil. We always choose the good, and nothing can be good for us without being good for all." Ibid., p. 17. [Back]

16 Ibid., p. 63. [Back]

17  "We begin by suggesting that the state does indeed have a role in creating legal mechanisms for people to express their commitments to one another. Such a role must be carried out in light of the plurality of relationships that exist in Canadian society as well as the values of equality and autonomy that should characterize governmental action. How can the state adequately respond to the variety of needs that people have in organizing their personal relationships? How can it ensure that the values of autonomy are respected while ensuring that the risks of exploitation are minimized?

Many people long for stability and certainty in their personal relationships just as they do in other areas of their lives, at work or in business. The state does have a role in providing legal mechanisms for people to be able to achieve such private understandings. It must provide an orderly framework in which people can express their commitment to each other and voluntarily assume a range of legal rights and obligations.

In attempting to provide for adequate legal structures or mechanisms that may support the relationships that people develop, the state must respect the values that we outlined earlier: equality, autonomy and choice.

For a long time, the state has focused on marriage as the vehicle of choice for adults to express their commitment. Marriage provides parties with the ability to state publicly and officially their intentions toward one another. It is entered voluntarily. It also provides for certainty and stability since the marriage cannot be terminated without legal procedures. Marriage as a legal tool demonstrates characteristics of voluntariness, stability, certainty and publicity that made it attractive as a model to regulate relationships.

But it is no longer a sufficient model to respond to the variety of relationships that exist in Canada today. Whether we look at older people living with their adult children, adults with disabilities living with their caregivers, or siblings cohabiting in the same residence, the marriage model is inadequate. Some of these other relationships are also characterized by emotional and economic interdependence, mutual care and concern and the expectation of some duration. All of these personal adult relationships could also benefit from legal frameworks to support peoplefs need for certainty and stability." Law Commission of Canada, Beyond Conjugality: Recognizing and Supporting Close Personal Adult Relationships (Ottawa: Law Commission of Canada, 2001), pp. 137. Also: "A registration system may also promote the values of equality and autonomy within relationships without compromising the value of privacy. The ascription model described above, if it were to use more functional definitions, would require that governments examine individual relationships to decide whether they fit the definition. It is an approach that necessarily involves some degree of invasion of privacy. A registration scheme, on the other hand, by leaving the choice entirely up to the individuals within relationships and then respecting that choice, provides a way of recognizing conjugal and non-conjugal relationships without compromising the values of autonomy or privacy. Within a registration scheme there would be no uncertainty about the legal status of the close personal relationship and no reason for the government to subject the relationship to scrutiny. Ascription, however, should continue to be used where there is evidence of exploitation." Ibid., p.142 [Back]

18  "Every center of force adopts a perspective toward the entire remainder, i.e., its own particular valuation, mode of action, and mode of resistance. The "apparent world," therefore, is reduced to a specific mode of action on the world, emanating from a center.

Now there is no other mode of action whatever; and the "world" is only a word for the totality of these actions. Reality consists precisely in this particular action and reaction of every individual part towards the whole -- " Will to Power. 567. [Back]

19 "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education should forever be encouraged." The Northwest Ordinance: An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio. (July 13, 1787). Constitutional legal scholar Gerard V. Bradley writes: "The Northwest Ordinance was not some idle wish list of platitudes. Historians tell us that Congress made concrete provision to bring the benefits of religion, morality, and knowledge to the territories. One lot in each township was reserved for schools, another for religion, usually for the congregation which first offered to actually build a church edifice. This was a clear-cut government gift of land to religious bodies for religious purposes. Query: is this aid to religion, so common at and after the founding, consistent with the Court's strict separationist reading of the history? The Court says that religion is a private matter which should be invisible to government, no more to be valued or encouraged by the government than atheism or irreligion." "The Bishops and the Court: Two Tales of Church and State"$FILE/mfchurchstate.html (July 27, 2005). [Back]

20 "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). [Back]

21  "When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies. In Congress. July 4, 1776. [Back]

22  "I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. ... for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of doublecrossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to-whether it was only your own family, of your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining "It's not fair" before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was in unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong -- in other words, if there is no Law of Nature -- what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?" C. S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. "The Law of Human Nature" (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1953). pp. 5-6. [Back]

23 Robert Ivan Martin, professor of law, writes: "Despite the fact that, every year, judgments of the Supreme Court take up thousands of pages in the law reports, it is difficult to continue describing the court's annual production as "law." I would not be so presumptuous or foolish as to attempt a comprehensive definition of "law," even assuming such a thing were possible. Recognizing this, it is still possible to assert that law has certain fundamental characteristics. Law must involve the articulation of established principles, as well as their application in a coherent and consistent fashion to new situations which arise. I am not attempting to suggest that law is a collection of hard and fast rules which can easily be ascertained and applied. But law is neither whimsical nor arbitrary....It is in its constitutional decisions that one can see most clearly the Supreme Court's abandonment of principle. The Supreme Court, as I understand its decisions, prefers, instead, to talk of values. The notion of principles implies that the law exists prior to the judge and is something more than a function of the subjectivity of the individual judge. In contrast, values are utterly amorphous and subjective, and more appropriate to the thinking of adolescents than to the thought of senior members of what still chooses to call itself a learned profession. "Values" are routinely manipulated by judges in order to achieve results which accord with their personal social preferences." Robert Ivan Martin. The Most Dangerous Branch: How the Supreme Court of Canada Has Undermined Our Law and Our Democracy. Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003. pp. 29-30. [Back]