“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet)
Recently I was at a large gathering out of state when the conversation suddenly turned to the subjectivity of life. A certain person impressed upon me that life was subjective to the core, each and every person seeing things differently, even uniquely, from his or her own particular vantage point. I pointed out to this man that if his opinion was ultimately or exclusively true that none of the hundreds of people who had driven to the gathering we were attending would have made it safely to their destination, but because they did there must have been some objective way of looking at roads and highways and traffic lights that they all shared in common. I also raised the question whether he would be willing to get on a plane if the pilot held to his pure subjectivity point of view. A person might even hold that the world is imaginary, but the objectivity of things is such that he will still make a substantial effort to avoid stepping into a pile of dog crap. The world is more real than we think.
It is with these points in mind that I turn to Pope Francis. While the Pope is quite aware of the subjective dimension of life, and thus the mitigating factors affecting guilt, he nevertheless strongly understands that we must call evil what it is, namely, evil. And although Jesus warns us not to judge, he also preached of an uncompromising moral law. More recently, Pope Francis stated that Christians have an obligation to judge objective evil. Pope Francis made this point clear in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, where he said:
“The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15)….” (no. 172 of Pope Francis).
If we were not able to recognize objective evil, we would not be able to live a moral life or lead others to the truth. We must not get lost in a world of excessive subjectivity, or we most certainly will get lost and may never arrive at our exalted destination. Speaking once in his role as Pope, Saint John Paul II emphasized the profound universality and unchangeableness of the moral law, stating:
“Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical [on the splendor of truth] and which is today being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuals but also for the whole of society, with the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts” (paragraph 115 of The Splendor of the Truth)
The Gospel of Life, the Gospel of God who has life in Himself, is a Gospel of truth.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
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