Pope Francis, in recent talks, appears to be picking up the mantra of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in challenging and addressing the current social evil of relativism. With its ugly twin, secularism, relativism shoves aside any sort of objective truth preferring a subjective presentation of one’s own version of what “truth” may be. It is interesting to note, even further, that this relativistic thinking extends itself into the revision of history and the fictional recreation of actual events so that a new story may be told. Usually the revised version of history excoriates the established version and unmasks villains who perpetrated crimes and social evils against generally unsuspecting and innocent victims.
At the epicenter of such thinking, we may generally find a “writing out” or a deletion of references to the Divine, or a judgment that makes the Church’s involvement in human history strangely suspect, ultimately meaningless, or often times cumbersome to human beings. Relativism makes it easier to forge a new society that sees itself as enlightened and less given to fairy tales and myths concerning deities and the institutions that promote them.
Speaking as a Catholic bishop, I am concerned how relativism and its greater manifestation in our age affects the Church of Jesus Christ as an institution. This thinking specifically affects Christ’s Faithful who, as individual believers, are exposed to a continual barrage of revised, made-up, contrived, untrue, and distorted versions of what may laughingly be called “truth.” Sadly, dear readers, the relativists and secularists are gaining valuable ground even among Catholics, who are seriously trying to “hold their own” against the gathering swells; but many Catholics are starting to “make it up as they go along.” The greater sadness in this approach is the disruption of unity and dissension among believers.
Many Catholics are seriously asking the bishops to take a stronger hand in the proclamation of authentic doctrine and the condemnation of those who oppose orthodoxy. The ravages of relativism among Catholics and the ascendency of the phenomenon of “cafeteria Catholics” among the faithful makes this an even more perplexing challenge for all of us.
I don’t think the answer is going to be found in calling names and drawing lines. I have always believed that knowing one’s Faith is the first step to living it. Several points can be made here for our consideration. First of all, faith comes through hearing. Daily reading of the Scriptures—maybe even reading out loud, if you have the time and space to do so—can bring great consolation and a deepening of faith through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, I urge you to read and study the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Part of the invitation to the Year of Faith is the celebration of the anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism. The Catechism is the definitive compendium of the essential elements necessary for belief by Catholics. It is a great gift for college graduation or for weddings. Don’t laugh—the only way to confront relativism is to promote the truth. We cannot simply sit back and tell the bishops and other Church leaders that they have to confront the current situation and do something; it is time for the Church to confront these misconceptions and distortions with the armor of the truth.
Finally, I encourage the prayer to Saint Michael, the Archangel. Saint Michael is our champion in this area. With his heavenly intercession, God’s truth, like country cream, will rise to the top.
O, yes, there is always Sunday Mass!