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The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9
INTERNATIONAL | NEWS | NEWS
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 17, 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 9 of the 10-part series is presented below.

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2. Enlighten the conscience with faith

We face a profound dilemma:  our conscience is the proximate norm for our deeds, and we must obey it.  Does this mean that the conscience is closed in on itself?  Does this mean there is no authority above us?  Is there no guilt?

Conscience is not a law or an authority in itself but it is the law’s “witness.”  It does not create good or evil but applies the law in concrete circumstances.  I cannot choose and determine an action to be good, but I can choose what I consider to be morally correct.

We have to understand that there are two levels of conscience.  One is the ability, the capacity to understand what is right (this is called synderesis in Latin and anamnesis in Greek).  It is a type of law written within us.  As Cicero wrote, “Non scripta, sed nata lex.”  The second level is the actual act whereby the conscience dictates what to do.

For the first level to come to the surface, some outside help is required.  One of the great needs for the Magisterium is precisely this:  to defend Christian conscience against subjectivity, conformism and relativism.  The second level also requires enlightenment, repentance and grace to act quickly and accurately.  Conscience, then, is the proximate norm but requires illumination.  If we pay attention only to our own subjectivity, we can really be slaves to ourselves and our passions.  Enlightenment comes, as I said, from the Magisterium but also from listening to the counsel of wise and prudent people, reading experienced authors, and so on.

Furthermore, our actions must have some consequences; there must be a sense of guilt when we do something wrong.  The lack of guilt brought humanity to its lowest point during the twentieth century when, in the name of who knows what dark principle, human beings were simply decimated.  And we are starting to repeat the same sad story today with the tragedy of abortion.

Is there such a thing as moral truth?  Relativism is widespread and provokes a lack of critical exercise which often makes people put others into categories:  conservative, liberal, and so on. And so it is that because we do not seek the truth, each one having his own, our minds simply atrophy and cease to think properly.  The weakening of critical thinking shows up in an incapacity for real dialogue. 

There must be a truth that can be known.  There are several reasons for this:  first, because a relativism that affirms that there are no absolute truths is a contradiction in itself.  If we all have our own truth, that at least is already an absolute truth.  Second, underlying culture and experience, there is always a human being whose nature is the same and contains a set of truths which are not only ontological but also moral.  And third, relativism leads us to use power as the sole criterion of truth such as, for example, the ideologies of the twentieth century with their horrible consequences.

Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
1. How have you seen some thinkers or writers invoke “freedom of conscience” but without acknowledging that the conscience needs to be rightly formed?
2. Is so-called “Catholic guilt” always such a bad thing?
3. How does relativism undermine our ability to think critically and with logical rigor?
4. Why are the categories of “liberal versus conservative” insufficient and superficial when it comes to questions about moral values?
5. Why is the relativist’s denial of absolute truth inherently contradictory?


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-10-17


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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