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The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8
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A reflection by Fr Luis Garza, LC, on how Catholics can take an effective stand in the culture war today.

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"Against the spirit of the world, the Church takes up anew each day a struggle that is none other than the struggle for the world’s soul" (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope).

October 10, 2011. The Catholic Church has been a builder of culture for over two millennia, and has faced different forms of “culture war” throughout its long and battle-scarred history. But perhaps never has the Church faced a challenge like the “battle for the soul of the world” in the 21st century.

For those with an interest in understanding the roots and consequences of the cultural battle underway in today’s world, we present The Battle for the Soul of the World, by Fr Luis Garza, LC. Originally presented as a series of lectures for university students attending a leadership conference, it is offered here as a formation resource for teams and individuals who will find the lecture notes to be thought-provoking material for reflection and discussion.

The complete text with study guide questions can be downloaded in PDF format here. Part 8 of the 10-part series is presented below, and the following parts will be published on the web site on Mondays.

***

1. Keep democracy alive

Remember what I mentioned above:  a majority vote does not determine the morality of a deed.  It is inappropriate to think that there is a kind of “collective intuition” of morality and that a majority vote will discover the truth about morality (a referendum on abortion, for example, will not necessarily reflect the moral value of the deed).

Therefore, it is necessary to give evidence of the truth and help individuals to choose it.  However, the objection is frequently raised that a democratic state can only secure freedom and cannot “impose” a truth.  So relativism would appear to be the basis of democracy and religious freedom. (I will explain more about this later on, but I do want to point out that this seemingly tolerant mindset has its own dogmatism:  it imposes the decision of the majority on others, even against their consciences.  An example of this is Marxism, which imposes on a country’s citizens a way of being happy.)

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that the essential condition for preserving the nation (referring to the United States) was the preservation of its fundamental moral conscience.  If we drift away from our moral and religious foundation, we will lead ourselves to historical and cultural suicide.  Pluralism does not mean indifference; it means committing ourselves to a respectful dialogue in pursuit of the truth.

Freedom is genuine when it respects the moral order (as mentioned above, this is not a question of a religious truth but of the natural law).  As we have already stated, John Paul II wrote in Veritatis Splendor that democracy without a moral basis can turn into the worst tyranny.  Colson, an American thinker, established a theory that contrasted and related the community and chaos with police and morality.  Morality is the internal shield that allows us to live together in peace.  If there is no morality, we fall into chaos and have to establish a militarized state.  Again, the examples of real communism and Nazism validate this theory.

If morality does not depend on a majority vote, where is the basis of morality?  In human rights.  Human rights are not and may not be subject to the machinations of the majority and minority.  The democratic state can only guarantee that basic right as a condition for freedom, but it must leave the task of seeking and finding human rights to society.

How then do we establish what human rights are?  Human rights are rights belonging to human nature, and we discover them through introspection and by analyzing the manifold forms of society and humankind throughout history.  Without attempting to cover everything, I think that the foundations of human rights could be the following:

1. The human person has infinite value.
2. The person is a unity of matter and spirit and therefore transcends mere matter.
3. Nothing may be imposed against conscience.
4. The human person is essentially free.
5. Man has the right to true goods (along with their responsibilities), not to his individual preferences.

To try to answer a question that is out there, one thing to highlight is that the term “human rights” cannot be applied to a group or pressure group:  “gay rights” are not human rights since the same rights, no more and no less, which pertain to all human beings also pertain to this category of persons.  The orientation (or any particular aspect) of the person does not engender a special right, except for what is unique to men and women as male and female, and what requires different treatment by nature.  For example, pregnancy only occurs in women.  That said, another problem involves responding to their claims for same-sex “marriages” or for the adoption of children by homosexual couples.  They say this right belongs to the person and, therefore, also to them.  I do not intend to respond to this sensitive issue exhaustively, but I will only say that the definition of marriage is the life-long union between two people of different sex.  The union between homosexuals cannot be called marriage.  The question, then, remains whether to legislate same-sex unions and for what reasons.  It seems appropriate, for example, for two unmarried sisters to live under the same roof in order to help each other, even with the intention of living this way for a lifetime, and for the state to recognize for purposes of fiscal advantage that it is not dealing with two independent persons.  I wonder, however, if homosexual orientation is a motive for accepting a civil union and, moreover, if homosexual orientation is a sufficient or adequate reason for granting benefits or rights.  I am not a lawyer, and I could be wrong, but whether the state considers homosexual behavior correct or not (there are states where sodomy is a crime), it is not a sufficient reason, since there is no evident basic motive for a union of this kind—radically dependent on personal decision and psychology—to produce a legal institution and tax or work benefits.  Doing so would oblige many others to request the same treatment, based on purely subjective elements outside the common good.  Remember that legal institutions are made on objective grounds.  Of course, if this door is opened to homosexuals, I think our religious congregations should ask fiscal benefits by virtue of the fact that we, too, live in communities.

Obviously, we cannot conceive of granting to a gay couple the possibility of adopting a child because the child’s right to live in a family with a father and a mother must be taken into account.

A very good compendium of human rights was created on the occasion of the Charter of the United Nations in 1948, and that is why this charter has been under so many attacks.  Certainly little can be done to change that charter, since in fact it is based on what belongs to human nature.  Since nothing can be changed, what they have been trying to do is diminish and relativize its importance by enacting other statutes and ordinances, such as the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which of course includes many of the “politically correct” rights.

Allow me a digression.  To tell the truth, it is impossible to describe human nature without at least an implicit reference to a cultural and religious context (in fact, what happened during the drafting of the Charter of the United Nations was that many of the countries which participated in the drafting process used the Ius Gentium—the law of nations—of our Christian and specifically Catholic heritage, not as something Catholic, but as something which actually reflects the greatest aspirations of humanity).  The Catholic faith provides a foundation of values without which no society can survive.  Of course, the Church should not take the place of the state, but it must do everything possible to see that moral values fly high and are honored by the state.  It must constantly direct our attention to eternal life, overcoming absolutism and tyranny.

Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
1. Why does a moral conscience based on universal truth stand at the foundations of democracy? What happens when that moral conscience is undermined by relativistic ideas?
2. “Pluralism does not mean indifference; it means committing ourselves to a respectful dialogue in pursuit of the truth.” What does this statement mean to you in your own concrete circumstances? How can you pursue this “respectful dialogue” among your own diverse group of friends and acquaintances?
3. Why is our common understanding of the term “human rights” so pivotal for shaping democracy in today’s world? How has the term been distorted, and with what consequences?
4. Why is the Catholic Church one of the greatest bulwarks against the reign of tyranny in the world?


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-10-10


The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part I - Article
The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 3 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 5 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 7 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 10 - Article
 

Related articles
- The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part I
- The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 3
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 5
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 7
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 10
 


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