“Religion must affirm, in the clearest terms, that morality and ethical values are not mere decorative frills of personal opinion, not subjective superstructure, but intrinsic laws of the cosmos built into the heart of reality.” — Bhikku Bodhi
Though Bhikku Bodhi is a Buddhist, this is one of my favorite quotes, because in one simple sentence it accurately describes the intrinsic nature of morality while firmly declaring our mission in a world where relativism continues to gain influence.
Morality is not subjective. It is not the product of evolutionary psychology, nor does it come from anything else in the natural world. Our moral conscious is of divine nature, implanted in us by God alone. Because of free will, we can choose to let God guide that conscious, or we can refuse to acknowledge his presence all together and try to do it ourselves. In this instance, morality becomes warped and relative.
Moral relativity is one of the greatest threats to the structure of our society. It is the doorway for which sin passes through and takes root. It is a deceptive force that promotes itself to be the ideal way for a society to function. It celebrates the desires of the flesh as good and wholesome, and creates a culture of complacency and irresponsibility. Even the most devout Catholic can become subject to its influence, possibly even unknowingly.
It’s easy to think that we can live a good Catholic life from the sidelines, to look at something like abortion and say “I’m not making that choice, but I can’t make it for someone else.” It’s true, we can’t make decisions for other people, nor can we force them to live morally, but does that mean it’s okay to develop a relative attitude? Absolutely not. As followers of Christ, we have more than just a responsibility to ourselves. Part of being a witness to Christ’s message is building the moral foreground for which a society can flourish. A morally relative society cannot sustain itself. It will descend into chaos.
I won’t pretend like it’s easy to battle. Relativism carries a significant amount of appeal while lambasting the opposition as sexist, judgmental, homophobic, and oppressive. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve spent too much time in my life waving the “it’s not my business” flag. In today’s world, it’s difficult to step out of the neutral zone–especially when relativism has a way of using our own religion against us. There seems to be a growing belief that since Christians are supposed to love and not judge, then it’s wrong for us to merely point out immoral behavior in our society, much less attempt to correct it. It also doesn’t help that groups like the heretical Catholics for Choice and the Progressive Christian movement have adopted moral relativity as a Christian value. Yes, we are supposed to act with love and grace and be examples of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and it is especially important that we remain forever aware of our own sinful nature, but none of this is an excuse to turn a blind eye to immorality. Loving does not translate to enabling. Acceptance of a person does not mean accepting their immoral behavior.
Pope Francis has called for the Church to stand for what is right in the face of this “throw away” culture. We have to let go of the fear that keeps us quiet on the sidelines. We cannot be afraid of becoming judged or cast out. Our failure to act only allows relativism to spread, and it will infiltrate every new generation to come. As a unified Church, we have to be the witness, and show people that morality, like God, is real and ever present in our world.