Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Bucking the trend of Catholic bashing typical of Catholic news stories since the scandal broke, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson tells us Catholicism is essential for the world. He writes:

Secularism has traditionally taught that human beings will eventually outgrow religious conviction and moral absolutism -- that skepticism is evidence of maturity. Benedict contends that modern men and women, unguided by reasoned moral beliefs, turn toward adolescent self-involvement. Their intellectual growth is stunted. In a world where all moral claims are seen as equally true and equally false -- the world, for example, of the modern university -- human conscience is reduced to biology or prejudice. Moral behavior may continue to ride in grooves of socialization or genetics, but moral assertions are fundamentally arbitrary -- always trumped by a two-word response: "Says you."...

...this is important for a very practical reason: because a belief in human rights is also a moral conviction. Catholicism teaches that relativism and a purely material view of man have disturbing social consequences. "The criterion of personal dignity," wrote Pope John Paul II, "which demands respect, generosity and service -- is replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they 'are,' but for what they 'have, do and produce.' This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak."

The point here is simple and radical: As the Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton argued, men and women are either created in "the image of God" or they are "a disease of the dust." If human beings are merely the sum of their physical attributes -- the meat and bones of materiality -- they are easier to treat as objects of exploitation. ...

An institution accused of superstition is now the world's most steadfast defender of rationality and human rights. It has not always lived up to its own standards, but where would those standards come from without it?

Read the column here.

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