Tuesday 17th July 2018

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

Moral Judgments — Facts Or Opinions?

September 17, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By ARTHUR HIPPLER

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Hippler is chairman of the religion department and teaches religion in the Upper School at Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.)

+ + +

Allan Bloom began his Closing of the American Mind with this memorable observation: “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” College education does not make these students relativists — they come to university that way. This is what I have seen myself from high school students for over the last ten years.
This becomes evident during an exercise I give to them in which they are asked to distinguish “facts” from “opinions.” I give them 20 statements, such as “Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa” and “Goodnight Moon is the best children’s book ever” and have them label these as one or the other. Among the 20 statements are three moral statements: “Sexual exploitation of minor children is immoral,” “it was unjust for the Nazis for persecute the Jews” and “human sacrifice should not be allowed as a form of religious freedom.” Overwhelmingly, students will label these as “opinions.”
Why? They consider statements “facts” which are provable by observation and experiment, and therefore carry widespread assent. Moral statements are to them disputable and unprovable. They are “intangible” or “emotional” or “cultural.” This makes them opinions. There is almost no crime so heinous — genocide or child molestation or ritual sacrifice — that they will not shrug and say, “but the people who were doing it thought it right.” For them, nothing offers a basis for argument or proof in moral questions. All views have equal weight.
In recent years, I have introduced statements such as “it is a violation of basic human rights for Muslim countries to execute homosexuals.” A minority of students will think that this is a “fact” because it appeals to “rights.” Why? They believe that there is widespread consensus on “rights.” After all, there is a UN Declaration of Human Rights. I then offer the following challenge — why is the United Nations belief in “rights” a fact, when traditional Muslim societies disagree with it? Why is the UN right and the Muslims wrong?
Students are puzzled by this, and some pipe up that those who called human rights “facts” are being inconsistent. “Human rights” is just another way of talking about “justice” which is merely another moral and hence “unprovable” belief.
It is a fair question to ask whether students can be broadminded about these forms of injustice because they are in fact well-to-do suburban kids surrounded by decency and prosperity. Questions of injustice by and large are remote from their lived experience. To put it bluntly, their moral relativism costs them nothing. One has all the comforts of a liberal and nonjudgmental outlook without their disturbing repercussions.
One way that I have tried to raise these issues more concretely is by having students read two articles on “honor killings.” This is the old world practice of killing a family member who has in some way disgraced the family; usually the victim is a young woman who has breached a strict code of purity and modesty. While the practice is old world, the stories take place in the new.
One girl, Noor al-Maleki, was killed by her father in Arizona, after she moved out of the home and adopted a more “Western” way of life. The second, Jessica Mokdad, was gunned down by her stepfather in Michigan for similar reasons. What happens when these different moral “opinions” are among us, not halfway across the planet?
Students are perplexed by what they see as a dilemma. On the one hand, they are of course horrified at teen girls being shot or run over for listening to Beyoncé and wearing blue jeans. These girls are not much older than my students. But on the other hand, they believe the fathers to be following their “culture” or “upbringing” and hence not accountable for their acts. They are uncomfortable with one group of people imposing their “morality” on another — yet they also accept the state’s right to imprison them for their murders.
At bottom, their moral relativism seems to flow from a hidden moral absolute: “Thou shalt not be judgmental.” If I say that my moral code is better than yours, then I am arrogant.
Bloom observed among his college students: “Relativism is necessary to openness, and this is the virtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating.”
In my case, the students do not receive this from their previous schooling, but largely from the society around them. They absorb it through their music and movies, through their television shows and social media. This often has, I am sorry to say, more impact than what happens in a classroom, for it shapes their emotional responses in ways that school learning does not.
At the same time, this formation in “tolerance” and “openness” can begin a conversation about the basis for those beliefs. For they treat these qualities as moral “facts” not as mere opinions. Indeed, some of the students who are the most dogmatic about relativism are the most indignant when that “openness” is violated. The attempt to cast out nature in place of changing “conventions” is in fact the most insidious of conventions.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter Elects New Superior General

LINCOLN, Neb. — The general chapter of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a society of apostolic life that celebrates the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, Monday elected Father Andrzej Komorowski as its next superior general. The July 9…Continue Reading

Catholic-heavy Supreme Court moves right as the church moves left

(RNS) — With his nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Trump has succeeded in doing for the judicial branch what he has often failed or neglected to do in his administration: acting efficiently…Continue Reading

Election of the Superior General . . . Society of Saint Pius X

Election of the Superior General On July 11, 2018, Father Davide Pagliarani was elected Superior General, for a mandate of 12 years, by the 4th General Chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X. The new Superior General is 47…Continue Reading

Paradoxes and indicators of Capella’s and McCarrick’s cases

These days we will find out whether Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella, the former advisor to the Washington nunciature that the Vatican sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for possession and distribution of “large quantities” of child pornography, will present an appeal…Continue Reading

Diocese led by pro-gay bishop says it’s ‘up to each parish’ whether to promote homosexuality

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, July 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic church in the heart of Appalachia has attracted media attention for the Gay Pride Month banner stretched across its front lawn. The local ordinary, Bishop John Stowe, has a record of collaborating with a…Continue Reading

Al Gore: Pope Francis a ‘moral force’ for solving climate crisis

(Vatican.news) Nobel Peace Prize Winner and former U.S. Vice President, Al Gore, is one of the world’s most vocal defenders of the environment. His 2007 documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, won an Oscar and his Climate Reality Project recently hosted…Continue Reading

Catholic bishops heading to border to tackle family separation issues

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — A delegation of Catholic bishops from across the country are heading to the border on Monday. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will lead the delegation in its visit to the…Continue Reading

Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality ‘evil’, McAleese says

The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality is “evil”, former president Mary McAleese has said. Speaking ahead of her inaugural participation in the Dublin Pride event on Saturday, where she will march with her son Justin and his husband, the former…Continue Reading

Senate Will Vote Before Elections on Replacing Pro-Abortion Justice Anthony Kennedy

The United States Senate will vote before the elections this November on a replacement for pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made that announcement today shortly after the surprising but welcome announcement that the longtime abortion…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke, Bishop Schneider respond to Pope Francis’ inflight intercommunion comments

ROME, June 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The reception of Holy Communion in the Catholic Church — even in exceptional cases — by a Protestant or other non-Catholic constitutes a “lie” that betrays the Apostolic tradition and the Church’s constant practice…Continue Reading

German Bishops Publish Intercommunion Handout with a Rhetorical Trick

Today, the German bishops have published their very controversial pastoral handout which allows Protestant spouses of Catholics, in certain cases, to receive Holy Communion. Since Pope Francis, on 21 June, objected to a national bishops’ conference publishing such an official text, the…Continue Reading

Vikings host ‘LGBTQ summit’ to promote ‘inclusion’ in sports

EAGAN, Minnesota, June 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Minnesota Vikings are hosting a conference and fundraiser today for “LGBTQ inclusion in sports,” the first of its kind in the National Football League (NFL). The event will include speeches, interviews, and…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

British pro-lifers say abortion clinic ‘buffer zones’ harm women and children

London, England, Jul 12, 2018 / 12:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a decision from the United Kingdom’s High Court, two women are attempting to overturn a ban on prayer and public discussion of abortion near a British abortion clinic. On July 2, the High Court of England and Wales upheld a “buffer zone” imposed by Ealing Council, west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, inc

Calligraphers face jail time for not promoting same-sex ‘weddings’

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Two Arizona calligraphy artists faced with fines and jail time for declining to take part in promoting gay “weddings” are asking the state’s Supreme Court to hear their challenge to the city of Phoenix’s law that compels them create artwork that violates their religious beliefs. Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, face up to six months in jail, $2,500 in fines, and three

Bishop Paprocki disagrees with US bishops’ support for unions that fund abortion, LGBT

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, July 11, 2018, (LifeSiteNews) – Hailed by free speech and religious liberty advocates alike, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled that public sector employees can no longer be required to pay mandatory fees to support unions which promote causes and political activities – including abortion – to which they are opposed. The ruling has also exposed a significant rift among the nation’s Catholic bishops. Despite public sector unions’ unabashe

Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 9, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Brett Kavanaugh is Donald Trump’s choice to succeed the pro-abortion, pro-gay Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court, the president announced Monday night. Trump praised Kavanaugh’s committment to “equal justice under the law” and called him a “brilliant jurist with a clear and effective writing style.” He is “universally regarded as…one of the finest legal minds of our time.” Kavanaugh formerly clerked for Kennedy. “Justice Kennedy devoted his career to…Continue Reading

Prof fired by Catholic university for defending marriage has huge court win

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, July 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The professor forced out by a Jesuit-run Catholic university for blogging about an undergrad student being assailed by his teacher for his having voiced defense of marriage has won in court. In a landmark decision Friday the Wisconsin Supreme Court said Marquette University violated John McAdams’ right to free speech when it suspended him for writing the blog post, and it ordered the University to restore McAdams immediately with his full rank,…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

A Book Review… What Man Does Not Reverence, He Will Profane

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN Society and Sanity, by Frank Sheed (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2013), 261 pp. $17.95. Available from www.ignatius.com or at 1-800-651-1531. This new edition of Sheed’s 1953 classic work of apologetics brings to mind the famous myth of Procrustes’ bed. The wicked king captures his victims then tortures them if their legs do…Continue Reading

How Vice Can Absorb Virtue

By DONALD DeMARCO Just as the Devil is at war with God, so too, vices are at war with virtue. The Devil wants people to believe that God does not exist. He also wants people to believe that neither does virtue exist. He would like to demolish virtue. One way of achieving this is to…Continue Reading

Henan, China… New Limits Imposed On The Religious Freedom Of Catholics

BEIJING (AsiaNews) — The Chinese government is approving increasingly restrictive measures against Catholics in the central province of Henan. As Eglises d’Asie reports, five new rules have been imposed which include the requirement of religious working in the province to collect data and information on their faithful. A priest from the Diocese of Zhengzhou reports…Continue Reading

A Book Review… Solzhenitsyn Remembered

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Congdon, Lee. Solzhenitsyn: The Historical-Spiritual Destinies of Russia and the West. DeKalb, Ill.: NIV Press, 2017; 163 pp. This book is descriptive of the prophetic voice of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), who was convinced that the West has set out on a road similar to that which “led Russia into the abyss.” Solzhenitsyn…Continue Reading

Where’s #MeToo For Women Killed By Botched Abortions?

By REY FLORES Women who die from botched abortions will never have the ability to do anything anymore, let alone use some stupid, trendy #MeToo hashtag on social media. Who speaks out against the abuse and death inflicted on women through abortion? Why aren’t the militant, pro-abortion feminists decrying one of the most heinous of…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . In Death The Church Gives Everything

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Funerals, as many priests have learned, can often be pastorally challenging and problematic episodes. Grieving family members who are not dealing with death on a regular basis by practicing their faith are suddenly confronted with its reality upon the passing of a parent or other family member. Parents who have to bury a child sometimes…Continue Reading

Martin Luther… The Man And The Myth

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 2 (Editor’s Note: As this October marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Raymond de Souza is taking a break from his usual apologetics to correct the popular image of Luther.) + + + In the last article, I quoted from…Continue Reading

The Anatomy Of A Moral Act

By DON FIER Last week, as we considered the role that human freedom plays in the economy of salvation, it was immediately acknowledged that “man’s freedom is limited and fallible” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], n. 1739). Free will, so wondrously bestowed upon man as an essential element of his great dignity of being created “in the image and…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. What can one say to a teenage daughter or granddaughter who wears skimpy bathing suits? I know that is the “style” these days, but it seems wrong for many reasons. — M.M., Virginia. A. When our five daughters were teens, my wife and I ruled out the wearing of skimpy bathing suits, as well as skin-tight jeans or shorts…Continue Reading

The Fourth Prophecy Of Humanae Vitae… When Self-Mastery Is Rejected

By FR. SHENAN BOQUET (Editor’s Note: Human Life International, which Fr. Shenan Boquet heads, first published this commentary on Humanae Vitae and LifeSiteNews reprinted it on July 2. Visit hli.org to read Fr. Boquet’s full series.) + + + “Birth Control is a name given to a succession of different expedients by which it is possible to filch the pleasure…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Veronica Giuliani

By CAROLE BRESLIN In July, the month of the Precious Blood, the Catholic Church remembers saints by the name of Veronica. On July 12, the memorial of Veronica (meaning “true image”), the saint from the first century who presented her veil to wipe the face of Jesus, is celebrated. Three days before that, on July 9, St. Veronica Giuliani is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

By CAROLE BRESLIN Our Lord had a special love for the poor when He walked this earth. At one time He rebuked one of the apostles, saying, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matt. 26:11). Rather than avoiding the destitute or shun the homeless, Christians are called to love them as we love ourselves. At the beginning of…Continue Reading