Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the problematic nature of moral relativism (MoRe) on several occasions, including the effect that such thinking, which he calls a “dictatorship of relativism,” has had on young people across the world.
This argument is mirrored by a recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll. Speaking of that survey while in Rome, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said, “Catholic Millennials support Church teaching in a wide variety of areas, including contentious issues like abortion and euthanasia. In other areas, the cultural relativism that Pope Benedict XVI has spoken so much about is very evident, and it confirms the wisdom of his attention to this question as central to the New Evangelization.”
Such comments remind me of a Celebrate Life magazine article published in the year 2000 and written by then ALL executive director Andrew Daub. In his article, “No MoRe Lies,” Daub spelled it out very clearly when he said, “A better way to describe moral relativism is moral apathy—the absence of truth, interest, emotion, feeling or concern in regard to morals. It’s feeling blah about right or wrong—too lazy or uninterested to make a decision.”
Using three examples, Daub exposed the nature of how moral relativism can affect daily life, each of which remains relevant today.
Slavery – Some people thought it was okay to have slaves. By MoRe’s standards, they’re entitled to their opinion. Who are we to say that slavery is right or wrong? Maybe they had a good reason at the time. Maybe they felt slaves weren’t persons and had no rights—including liberty.
The Holocaust – Hitler and his pals thought it was okay to kill Jews. Maybe he was really upset. Maybe the Jewish boy down the block beat him up when he was little and Adolph was scarred for life. Maybe, just maybe, Hitler didn’t think the Jews were persons, so we can’t really call it murder.
Abortion – Abortion should be legal because it’s all about the right to privacy, isn’t it? We shouldn’t intrude. Maybe there’s a really good reason to kill that little child. Maybe, just maybe, everyone should decide for himself or herself when life begins. If they don’t believe that a child in the womb is a person, then abortion is okay. After all, they’re entitled to their opinion and their “choice.”
Daub’s point carries forward to this very day, including the Supreme Court decision of this past Thursday. Why? Because not unlike other examples of moral relativism, folks on both sides of the aisle are finding reasons to make Chief Justice Roberts the culprit rather than looking within to see whether or not it might be possible that their personal political involvement in past elections and their choices not to get involved in crucial congressional battles laid the groundwork for the horrendous healthcare law. Perhaps the current situation is merely the result of wrong-headed judges with misguided perceptions. Perhaps Justice Roberts and his fellow Supreme Court judges have single-handedly led our nation to the current tragic situation of taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand, death panels, and worse. Or is no one responsible?
Considering these options, I wonder: Is it actually the case that each of us carries responsibility for what we do and that we must bear the consequences of the actions we take or choose not to take? Of course this is so, but many people are not willing to accept this responsibility. Many people are happy to blame others and live as if they have the right to be happy doing anything that makes them feel good—no matter the consequences. Understanding this, Daub’s closing insights are worth taking to heart:
We have to shout from the rooftops that there is a universal truth, there are universal morals, and there is right and wrong (the Ten Commandments are a good place to start if you’re looking for a timeless guide). Reponses like We’re both right, Let’s agree to disagree, or We just look at the situation differently don’t cut it if we’re truly concerned about the protection of human life and the welfare of other people. We can’t ignore the truth. We can’t bend it to fit our preferences. And we can’t be afraid to stand up for it.
So when it comes to choosing leaders for our nation—an obligation everyone has—Daub’s recommendations ring true and are just: “We want leadership by example, genuine concern for our physical and mental well-being, unfettered opposition to abortion, sex education, birth control, euthanasia, etc. We want heroes who say what they mean and mean what they say. And, we don’t want any MoRe!”
Note: Andrew Daub’s complete article from the September-October 2000 issue of Celebrate Life is available online at http://www.clmagazine.org/article/index/id/MTA2MzM/.
A PERSONAL FOOTNOTE: I am pleased to explain that Andrew is also my son-in-law and continues to be a very wise young man.