Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hypocrisy and the Grounds for Belief

Many (you can find examples all over the place if you're paying attention) remark that they will not come back to the Church, that they will leave the Church, etc., if the Church doesn't change its position on this or that issue. This attitude measures the grounds of faith against a political agenda, reducing faith to the natural from the supernatural. It is very similar to attributing to the demonic the works of the Holy Ghost (something Christ called an "unforgivable sin" (Mt 12:31-32; Mk 3:28-29)) because God Himself proposes to us faith as the means of salvation, and we must believe Him on His authority. Hence to reduce faith to anything else is to reject Him and His authority, at least implicitly (i.e. without full awareness of what one is rejecting or doing).

This basic reason of rejecting the faith also is used in relation to the sex-abuse scandal of the Church. It is claimed that because the (priests/bishops of the) Church has committed grievous evils not only in the abuse itself but also in its systematic cover-up, therefore faith is rendered impossible. This twist is interesting because it often mixes psychological reasons under an intellectual-political guise. Usually it is unclear what is impossible to accept—the object of faith, namely, God and all that He has revealed; or faith's corollaries, such as the dogmatic, teaching authority of the Church (usually this one especially and all that it applies to). Either way, faith is measured by man's standards, and not even man as man but man as fallen.

There is a certain incongruity in most peoples' minds between the claim to hold the fullness of God's self-revelation, the "fullness of truth" however it may apply but especially in the area of morality, and the fact that most in the Church do not live in accordance with that revealed fullness. But this was Plato's error, namely, that the cause of moral evil is ignorance and that once we know what is right and how to do it, we will do the right thing.

But what is there left to the intuition that people who claim to have the fullness of moral truth should at least live in a noticeably more morally-upright manner than those around them? I think that the intuition should point us not to the falsity of revelation but to the deep extent of sin's influence on the human condition, an influence far deeper than anyone usually suspects. It is why we are hardly ever really scandalized by the Crucifixion—sin has numbed and hardened our hearts to the point where what should be the most heart-wrenching sight possible in human experience is simply placed as decoration between women's breasts ("crucifix cleavage" is a sacrilege).

And this blindness to the depths of sin is to be expected, especially in first-world living, where daily comfort very conveniently hides the ugliness of the rest of the world and even the evil in our midst—in sports, politics, entertainment, academics, science, religion, etc.

Instead of thinking that this intuition proves the falsity of revelation or the falsity of the Church's claim to the fullness of truth or the nonexistence of moral absolutes or the impossibility of our being able to discover and know those moral principles, this intuition should rather remind us more and more clearly of the ease with which we deceive ourselves on a daily basis from the truth that is right in front of our faces most of the time.

Debate and contradiction on what is moral does not in itself prove that there are no moral absolutes nor that we cannot know them (to prove such should require much more philosophical argumentation than what can be condensed into a slogan supporting relativism). It simply proves that it's difficult for humans to adjudicate the false from the true when left to ourselves. St. Thomas Aquinas made this same point: divine revelation was necessary because without it, a few alone could come to a knowledge of the truth but only through great argument, over a long span of time, and with the admixture of many errors (cf. Summa Theologi√¶ 1.1.1).

Hypocrisy doesn't prove the falsity of (the object of) belief; it merely proves the falsity of adherence to that belief.

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