“Einstein’s relativity theory properly concerns the physical cosmos. But it seems to me to describe exactly the situation of the intellectual and spiritual world of our time. Relativity theory states that there are no fixed systems of reference in the universe. When we declare a system to be a reference point from which we try to measure the whole, it is we who do the determining.” Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI “Faith and Politics”
In the growing -isms of our society, a particular one undergirds them all: relativism. The notion that there is no universal truth independent of the individual, has led to the creation of millions and millions of self-made little tyrants. Ironically, this has been done in the name of freedom from tyrannical oppression. Pilate, who asked the right question to the right Person (“What is truth?” John 18:38), made the mistake of seeking the final answer by democratic vote (the mob), a dark reminder that crucifying Truth with “I’m personally against this injustice, but will not impose my view on the people”, leads not to justice, but to death.
With the hope of avoiding the immediate labelling and bias found in today’s political and religious discourse, I will attempt a journey into the more mundane world of everyday life, in an effort to open a window with a different view angle. It is amazing to see how the most hardened moral relativists are often deeply non relativistic in their own lives. Let’s look at a few examples:
Income earnings: 374 employees at Halton Catholic School Board made over 100K in 2021 totalling over 42MM dollars. The director of education led the way with 200K. The CEO of United Way at one point “earned” over 1.2MM. In 2016, both CEOs of the Ontario Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (think of what we are allowed to do to humans) and Kids Help Phone, each earned over $250,000. Their truth: we need to be paid based on the size of the organization and in comparison to similar roles in private sector. Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (D.I.E.) department of truth: this is not inclusive and equitable towards clerks and meritocracy is white supremacy. Rather, let’s propose these CEOs work for nothing and be happy.
Public Transportation: Overcrowded buses and trains, that may or may not reach their destination on time, and may or may not let you in. Their truth: seating based on first come basis and no one should drive their own car (but if you get a special pass…)/ my truth: the last shall be first.
Health: Their truth: Everyone has the right to kill themselves, but you cannot ask us to kill you unless you have the covid jab. In fact, you cannot ask us anything. D.I.E. department of truth: This is offensive and non inclusive of the rights of executioners. Any doctor should be able to kill whether with a jab or not. Millions of unborn have been eliminated this way, and they never said anything.
Retirement planning: Senior economists repeatedly tell us we have too many old people, who live too long, and cost too much. Working a mere 43 years does not guarantee a pension. Their truth: we either keep people working longer, increase taxes on the few still working, decrease government pensions (not to be confused with government employee pensions), or even better, do all three. There is a fourth final solution… D.I.E department of truth: Equity does not mean equal treatment or opportunity. Unless you have a union pension, workers and non-workers should unite and accept the same type of old age security. There is also the question of the growing number of 20 year olds that identify as 65 year old retired persons.
Road travelling: Rules are for fascists! Their truth: you cannot park your truck on the street I live or work, and you must obey all road signs and travel mandates. D.I.E. department of truth: We need to include the colourblind, a natural condition found predominantly in men, that lead to them to see no difference between red and green. This often leads to a sort of fragility which causes a self-denial of the condition.
Diet: Insects have been found to be rich in protein, and carry a footprint that is literally and environmentally, smaller than that of hormone-laced mammals. Their truth: dogs deserve to eat food made with real meat. My truth: our hot dogs deserve to be made with real meat.
As these examples clearly illustrate, giving everyone the apple of knowledge, results not in freedom but in slavery and insanity. The temptation is the same, namely to become like gods (Gen 3:5), the only difference being that the shiny fruit was replaced by a shinier device. I purposely included my own “truths”, because unless they are rooted in Christ Jesus, they too are nothing but noises captured in letters.
We should certainly be able to have different dietary or musical preferences, to enjoy a particular sport over another, to make choices on what we choose to study, to wear, etc based on individual criteria. G. K. Chesterton famously used the example of a fence around a playground sitting at the top of a cliff. The fence did not act as a form of prison, but rather was the necessary condition to let the children play freely and not fall over the edge. Likewise, the road signs are the necessary condition to allow us to travel anywhere. Apply these rules unjustly, and you end up with drivers driving at 105 on a 100 zone punished with heavy fines and licenses revoked. Remove all the rules, and you end up with a pile of cars to tow, and lots of suffering people. It would make driving to soccer practice even more of a death-defying activity, and nearly impossible for anyone to reach any chosen destination. In other words, in both scenarios (unjust rule or no rules), we would lose our freedom to travel and be condemned to a fixed location.
If we then need rules/laws to help us navigate the physical world, how much more so in the spiritual world? Rules or laws in moral matters, were not revealed by God so as to hinder our freedom, but precisely to provide us the necessary conditions for people to be free and live joyfully. St Paul goes as far as saying that even good choices require the two greatest commandments in order to be of any real value, and that “love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth” (1 Cor 13:1-6). Not his truth or our truth, but the truth, which is not found on an idea or system, but on a Person, “I Am the Way, I Am Truth and Life” (Jn 14:6). For this reason, Pope Benedict XVI insisted that “truth is not a product of politics (the majority) but is antecedent to political activity and sheds light on it” (Faith and Politics, pg 135). He masterfully contrasted an example of a state rooted in truth and worthy of our obedience, and that of a state in which truth is uprooted and made relative to itself:
“We should always bear two scriptural texts in mind, Romans 13 and Revelations 13, which are only apparently antithetical. The Letter to the Romans describes the state in its ordered form, a state that keeps to its own proper boundaries and does present itself as the source of truth and law. Paul envisages the state as the faithful custodian of good order, enabling people to live well as individuals and as a community. We must obey this state: obedience to the law does not prevent freedom but rather makes freedom possible. The Apocalypse paints a different picture: here, the state declares itself to be a god and determines autonomously what is to be counted as righteous and true. Such a state destroys man by denying his true being. It has therefore lost its claim on our obedience.” (Faith and Politics, pg 138)
Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last British governor, noted in his book, The Hong Kong Diaries, that “one of the Chinese negotiators’ more surreal tactics is to decline to explain what something means unless we offer a concession on our side. In other words, openness, accuracy and transparency are themselves regarded as Chinese concessions.” A dialogue without truth is simply two or more people, or states, uttering incomprehensible Babellian sounds, until the hold farce comes crashing down to the one that can punch harder.
Einstein’s theory of relativity failed to account for what could be shown to be an expanding universe. This was largely due to Einstein’s metaphysics: he had faith in an eternal universe with no beginning or purpose. Enter, a certain Fr Georges Lemaitre, who studied at Cambridge, Harvard and MIT, and later became a professor at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, while serving as a priest. Fr Lemaitre said that if the universe was growing, then it must’ve been a smaller form earlier. He called it a “cosmic egg”. In 1927, he shared his theory that this “egg” suddenly had a giant explosion and the universe quickly spread out, which accounted for this expansion. The universe thus had a beginning and continues to grow freely according to a number of natural laws (gravity, magnetism, etc). Humans also had a beginning and can also grow freely according to a number of unchangeable laws. The universe started with a Big Bang. So did we… relatively speaking.
St Joseph: Pray for us
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