This pattern has become one of the many behaviors that show how far off the moral beam our society has gone. It seems as if we have an exception for calling immoral any and all human acts. Even in many of the Protestant Churches, we see a collapse moral principles like abortion even while science is proving that the fetus is clearly a living being. It seems as if millions of Catholics in the United States ignore the teachings of the church simply because they claim to ‘know better.’ Some even speak out against the church in their homes and in public while stating their loyalty to the faith. William May writes in his book, Introduction to Moral Theology, “The sinful choices of individuals, when tolerated and accepted by the society in which they live, soon become the practices of the society” (pg. 193).
So what has society been teaching us? We are taught that we not responsible for our behavior because either we can’t help ourselves, or, worst yet, that the act isn’t even wrong. God teaches us something much different. John Paul II writes, “Human acts are moral acts because they express and determine the goodness or evil of the individual who performs them” (Veritias Splendor no. 71). It’s not possible that all of us can have our own truth. We also don’t get to have our own moral truth either. And yet, we are not judged simply by one act. Although there are moral absolutes, our responsibility can be diminished based on more than just the act itself. In Veritatis Splendor John Paul explains it like this, “The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law, which has its intimate and living centre in the moral conscience, is manifested and realized in human acts” (no. 71). In another word, our actions do matter regardless of what society tells us.
One example: it is always wrong to lie. Yes, as I explained the other day to an 8th-grader, even when it is to save someone’s life. The act itself does not become good because of the person’s intentions. It certainly makes the act understandable, but not morally good. It can also be said that a person in this situation is under diress and therefore his or her responsbility for the sin is diminished. However, as Francis J. Connell writes in Human Acts, “To be truly good, an action must be good in object, circumstances, and end… (“Good is from the entire cause, evil is from any defect”)” (pg. 21). To volunteer so others will see you do good corrupts the act because of the end, or intentions of the person. Not much different than Jesus chastising the Pharisee’s for cleaning only the “outside of the cup or dish.”
People reject the idea of moral absolutes for many reasons. One idea is that moral “goodness” is derived from a person’s intentions. The behavior itself no longer is inherently good or bad but instead dependent on the person’s goodness. Dismissed is the idea behind an “objective moral evil” as John Paul II puts it. What is evil when I do it, is not neccesarily evil when you do it. This not only spits in the face of natural law but of Catholic moral teaching. It is in this type of thinking that as a society we have messed up the idea of judgement. Yes, it is true that I cannot truly judge what is in another’s heart, but I can judge the object or human act of the person. And I can judge those acts as right or wrong.
There is no better example than our sexual desires. C.S. Lewis writes that “Chasity is the most unpopular of the Chrsitian virtues” (Mere Christianity, pg. 85). Lewis goes on to explain how warped our sex lives are in society in a book first published in 1952. One priest said to me, “We Catholics love sex, but only in its proper place, marriage.” Our society said birth control would allow married couples to better plan their families. We were then told that it will cut down on unwanted pregnancies. After more time had gone by, we needed to protect ourselves and our children from all types of diseases, pregnancy had become the least of our problems. In the 90s we were sold on the idea that we can make abortions ‘rare.’ Where has that taken us? We have abandoned morality to the point of rationalizing an inherently evil act like abortion.
Yesterday I watched a video of Star Parker giving testimony in front of the Judiciary committee on the Heartbeat bill in Congress. A woman I have watched many times on television speak with confidence was raw and vulnerable when speaking about her our experiences with abortion. Her arguments were grounded and a strong testimony against the lies of the pro-choice movement. Parker invoked natural rights stating that they extend to the baby in the womb.
Jordan Aumann writes, “However, true Christians do not overreact against the world and brand all creation as evil, nor do they disdain anything that does not bear the label of Christian” (Spritiual Theology, pg. 248). Parker’s testimony met the world right where it is at and showed why moral absolutes are so vital to the Catholic faith. God wants us to remain free and wants us to be happy. We chase the darkness thinking that is where joy is hidden only to find ourselves slaves to the sins we commit. God not only has the answers but is the answer. Moral absolutes guide us leading us to want to clean the “inside of the cup.” Act our way into right thinking. It doesn’t work the other way around. Moral absolutes are like a compass directing the faithful to the joys of the Gospel and right into the arms of Jesus. St. Paul tells us we cannot separate the love of God from the commandments. Without the Church teachings, we are like lost sheep. We drift further and further away from God’s love until we can longer experience it at any level. We become like the five foolish virgins that are totally unprepared for the gifts God has waiting for us.
So I come full circle back to Kevin Spacey. I was heartbroken. Then I was angry. It was in prayer that I finally saw my own weaknesses, my own sins that broke a moral absolute grounded in love thy neighbor. I put my trust and faith in a man instead of God, breaking a commandment. I began to see Mr. Spacey in a different light. He was on top and now his life has been completely shattered. The truth always comes out. I also discovered compassion in the midst of my anger and heartbreak. And although his actions, like mine, can be measured in black and white, right or wrong, and good or evil, I can take comfort in the ability to forgive him, as Jesus tells Peter, “…not seven times, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22).