By Fr. George Welzbacher
December 11, 2011
There is evidence aplenty that for hours, sometimes even days, before an earthquake strikes, animals sense in the earth beneath them the ominous approach of disaster. This might serve as a metaphor for today's society; there is a widely shared sense that the moral ground beneath our feet is shifting and that a catastrophe of some kind or other may be on its way.
When I was a young priest, back in the 1950's, the Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, Earl Warren, evoked a nationwide storm of indignation when he stated in public: "There are no absolutes!", a dictum that was itself, of course, the formulation of an absolute. It was for this and other accumulating reasons that for several years signs were sprouting all across the land: "Impeach Earl Warren!"
Today, for important sectors of our society, Justice Warren's postulate, far from eliciting scorn, would be hailed as coin of the realm. This would be especially true of those whose thinking has been shaped by an educational system governed for more than a quarter of a century by the basic premise of "multiculturalism", to wit, that there are NO UNIVERSAL MORAL TRUTHS. That such a state of mind prevails today particularly among many of America's young is troubling, troubling in the extreme, because a widespread apprehension that there are no moral absolutes is a symptom of approaching disaster, since as a society's moral consensus disintegrates, its internal coherence unravels as well, after which all that it will take to bring a society down is a sudden massive shock. This arrogant dismissal of the natural moral law, this repudiation of the set of imperatives that, rooted in the very NATURE of man, is binding on ALL of mankind at ALL times and places, is, as Pope Benedict has repeatedly warned, a major threat to the salvation of souls as well as a poison lethal to any society in which it becomes the norm. This is what Benjamin Franklin had in mind when he warned that the survival of our Republic would depend. on a virtuous citizenry, with the further proviso that a virtuous society presupposes a religious society, since, for the bulk of mankind, it is religion alone that can underwrite and inspire the widely held conviction on which productive self-discipline, with the willingness to make even the ULTIMATE sacrifice for the SAKE OF THE COMMON GOOD, depends.
Ben Franklin would therefore have been dismayed had he been faced with the widespread "squashiness" on moral issues that is an emerging reality in America today. Today's more thoughtful commentators are similarly concerned, among whom should be ranked syndicated columnist Mona Charen. May I share with you her views on this troubling harbinger of ills to come.
* * * * *Judge Not Any Culture (Except Western Civilization)
The Washington Times, Monday, November 14, 2011
My high school sophomore son was grumbling as he read his world history textbook. He pointed me to this paragraph about the encounter between European and Mesoamerican civilizations.
"The American Indian societies had many religious ideas and practices that shocked Christian observers, and aspects of their social and familial arrangements clashed with European sensibilities..."
The text, World Civilizations: The Global Experience by Peter N. Steams et al, was a little oblique about the nature of those ideas and practices. It mentioned human sacrifice but then rushed to add that "Many of those who most condemned human sacrifice, polygamy or the despotism of Indian rulers were also those who tried to justify European conquest and control, mass violence and theft on a continental scale."
The authors clearly wish to avoid the unpleasant details of Indian practices in their rush to condemn European depredations. A curious student would have to discover on his own that the Aztecs themselves claimed to have ritually sacrificed 80,400 people OVER THE COURSE OF FOUR DAYS at the rededication of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487. While this was probably bragging, historian Victor Davis Hansen estimates that at least 20,000 victims were sacrificed YEARLY. Most were slaves, criminals, debtors, children and prisoners of war (the Aztecs fought to capture, not kill, so as to provide a steady stream of sacrifices). The affair was a bloody and brutal mess, and it consisted of slicing open the chest and pulling the still beating heart from the victim's body.
When the topic of human sacrifice was broached in the classroom, my son reported that NOT ONE of his classmates was comfortable CONDEMNING the practice as immoral. "It was their CULTURE," his classmates said. And it's "wrong" to impose YOUR values on someone ELSE'S culture.
This is not a fluke. In Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, Christian Smith and his co-authors recount the results of their decade-long study of a representative sample of Americans aged 18-23. Through in-depth interviews, they examined their subjects' lives and concluded that an alarming percentage of young people are highly materialistic, commitment-averse, disengaged from political and civic life, sexually irresponsible, often heavily intoxicated and morally confused. In fact, the authors contend, they lack the vocabulary even to THINK in MORAL terms.
The products of a culture that dares not condemn even human sacrifice for fear of transgressing multicultural taboos, these young people are morally adrift.
Six out of 10 told the authors that morality is a "personal choice," like preferring long or short hair. "Moral rights and wrongs are essentially matters of individual opinion." One young woman, a student at an Ivy League College, explained that while she doesn't cheat, she is loath to judge others who do. "I guess that's a decision that everyone is entitled to make for themselves. I'm a proponent of NOT telling OTHER people what to do." A young man offered that .... a lot of the time it's personal. It changes from person to person . "What YOU may think is right may not necessarily be right for ME, understand? So it's all individual." Forty-seven percent of the cohort agreed that "morals are relative, there are NOT definite rights and wrongs for EVERYbody."
It goes beyond cheating or failing to give to charity. One young man who stressed "everyone's right to choose," was pressed about whether MURDER would be such a choice? He wasn't sure. "I mean, in today's society, sure, like to murder someone is just ridiculous. I don't know. In SOME societies, back in time [perhaps as far back as January, 1942? at the Wannsee Conference in Greater Berlin? when the decision was made by the Nazis to murder ALL of the Jews in the areas that the Nazis controlled?] maybe it's a GOOD thing?"
The irony is that this supposed reluctance to make moral judgments is itself a moral posture. The young people in the study, like the authors of my son's textbook, and much of the American establishment, believe that it is morally "WRONG" TO JUDGE people harshly. (Unless, perhaps, it's Western civilization you're condemning)....
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