Sunday 29th March 2015

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

The Destruction Of Morality

August 14, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By JOHN YOUNG

We are witnessing today, particularly in the Western world, the wholesale destruction of moral values. It is not just that people have gone astray in the application of true principles, while still accepting the principles.
For instance, if I engage in some petty pilfering from my employer this doesn’t necessarily imply that I think stealing is moral. I may be sure that stealing is wrong, but kid myself that I’m not really stealing in this case — perhaps I tell myself the boss is underpaying me, so I’m entitled to make up the difference.
What we are confronted with in modern society is a radical rejection of basic moral principles. And these are rejected because the very nature of reality is questioned or denied. God’s existence, or at least His involvement, is dismissed: which means the world is left unexplained, with no fundamental reason why things should be this way rather than that. All is assumed to be due to blind evolution.
So fixed principles rooted in an intelligible natural order are dissolved into a flow of ever-changing phenomena. There is no such thing, for example, as human nature with fixed laws of behavior. It makes no sense, in this scenario, to speak of marriage as a permanent institution embedded in human nature, or to say that sexual pleasure is only morally good when conformed to an unchanging and unchangeable standard based in the very essence of man, or to insist that abortion or euthanasia is always morally wrong.
From this denial of fixed natures it follows that there may be many “genders,” not just male and female. (Notice that the word gender has largely supplanted the word sex. From being a grammatical term, comprising masculine, feminine, and neuter, it has became a substitute for the word sex. So the message is subtly conveyed that this is a matter of custom and convention. Even many realists with acute awareness of language manipulation have fallen into the trap of speaking in this way.)
With intelligibility abolished, rationality is replaced by feeling and fixity by flux. Tolerance becomes the keynote, for everyone has a right to choose as he pleases.
But then comes the paradox. If you oppose this alleged freedom, its proponents will denounce you for your intolerance. If you claim that homosexual acts are evil, you will be branded a homophobe. If you say the preborn baby has an inalienable right to life, you will be condemned as an enemy of women.
The causes of the present malaise are complex, but I want to glance at its erroneous philosophical underpinnings. The French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) had a vital part, although he certainly didn’t intend what followed. But his methodical skepticism, intended to be a tool in the rebuilding of philosophy from its foundations, resulted in widespread confusion among thinkers who lacked an understanding of the perennial philosophy endorsed by the Catholic Church. After Descartes things went from bad to worse.
A key figure was David Hume (1711-1776), who thought we can’t know anything beyond what our senses convey to us. When we form what we regard as universal principles, this is only because our experience hasn’t found any exceptions. We have no more insight into causes and effects than dogs or cats have.
Morality was seen by Hume as a matter of taste and sentiment, not something objective and independent of our feelings. He defined virtue as: “Whatever mental action or quality gives to a spectator the pleasing sentiment of approbation”(An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, appendix one). He held the Epicurean belief that pleasure is the highest good. He states: “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” (A Treatise of Human Nature, book II, part 3, section 3).
Alleged proofs of God’s existence are invalid because our knowledge, for Hume, is confined to physical phenomena. He taught a pure phenomenalism: All we know is a stream of sensations and emotions and their further elaborations and combinations within us.
David Hume has had an enormous influence. So we find Bertrand Russell in the 20th century contending that “the difference between mind and matter is merely one of arrangement” (My Philosophical Development, p. 139).
In Europe in the 20th century, John-Paul Sartre fascinated many intellectuals with his atheistic existentialism. He argued that life has no meaning except such meaning as we choose to give it. There are no objective standards, no God from whom we can ask for help.
Today we have postmodernism, which exhibits a confusing variety of forms. In general it is skeptical about our capacity to attain truth. It denies that things have fixed natures and it asserts there are no firm grounds for saying we have a knowledge of the world.
Jacques Derrida, a leading figure in postmodernism, claims that words and ideas have meaning through their relation to other words and ideas, and these through relation to yet others, and the meanings are constantly shifting. We cannot attain a stable underlying reality upon which to ground our views.
The above paragraphs indicate briefly how false principles over the last few centuries have led to dangerous philosophies today. The effect has been to deprive the thinking of many people, especially the university educated, of any foundation in reality.
There’s no God; no objective meaning to the world (or if there is we can’t know it); no fixed moral principles; no permanent institutions such as marriage. All is assumed to be the result of blind evolution.
What is the solution? We must do our part to promote sanity, and an essential project here is the promotion of sound philosophy: the perennial philosophy whose greatest exponent is St Thomas Aquinas.
The very bankruptcy of so much modern thinking will surely bring a reaction — let us hope sooner rather than later. Similarly, as the deadly programs being pushed today are unmasked by their fruits, there is bound to be a revolt against them.
In the 18th century Immanuel Kant (who himself, despite his good intentions, shares some of the blame for the current confusion) was worried about the empiricism of Hume and the skepticism arising from it.
He wrote: “Whether with the terrible overthrow of the chief branches of knowledge, human reason will escape better, and will not rather become irrecoverably involved in this destruction of all knowledge, so that from the same principles a universal skepticism should follow (affecting, indeed, only the learned), this I will leave everyone to judge for himself” (Critique of Practical Reason, first part, book I, chapter 1, section 2).
Kant’s fears have been realized; and with the spread of education it affects all classes.

+    +    +

(John Young is a graduate of the Aquinas Academy in Sydney, Australia, and has taught philosophy in four seminaries. His book The Scope of Philosophy was published by Gracewing Publishers in England in 2010. He has been a frequent contributor to The Wanderer on theological issues since 1977.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Cardinal Burke says confusion spreading among Catholics ‘in an alarming way’

LifeSiteNews: Since the extraordinary synod on the family, we have entered a period of uncertainty and confusion over several “hot-button” issues: communion for divorced and “remarried” couples, a change of attitude towards homosexual unions and an apparent relaxing of attitudes…Continue Reading

Bishop backs Catholic school’s removal of teacher over pro-marriage Facebook comments: cites Pope Francis

SOMERVILLE, NJ, March 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Catholic school has decided not to rehire a theology teacher who rejected the argument in favor of gay “marriage” on her private Facebook page, her family has announced. The controversy began last…Continue Reading

Creepy Catholicism.

Martin O’Malley is the latest Catholic politician to come out as a duplicitous “Catholic.” Deacon Kandra posts an excerpt here from an interview in which O’Malley displays some amazingly twisted thinking to support homosexual marriage–even though he’s a Catholic. As far…Continue Reading

Polish Bishops’ Conference rejects Holy Communion for divorced and “remarried”

The Polish Bishops’ Conference has issued a communiqué firmly rejecting the proposals that divorced and “remarried” Catholics should be admitted to Holy Communion without amendment of life. The communiqué, published on 12th March, includes the following statement: “In view of the…Continue Reading

Celtic Catholic priest and friends pile on archbishop

On Monday March 16, KALW radio’s City Visions will host a program “Can Bay Area Catholics and Archbishop Cordileone find Common Ground?” Scheduled guests are the Reverend Vincent Pizzuto; Most Holy Redeemer parishioner and teachers’ union representative Ted DeSaulnier; and…Continue Reading

The Traditional Case for Capital Punishment

A group of Catholic publishers recently issued a joint statement urging an end to capital punishment. I have great respect for all of them – I have written for all of them at one point or another. I disagree with…Continue Reading

Cardinal Müller: Pope Is Not Above the Word of God and the Catholic Faith

Edit: Rorate tends to understate things.  They want a sober response.  We’d like to offer this translation of Giuseppe Nardi’s appreciation of their take on Cardinal Müller’s recent letter appearing in the Osservatore Romano and additional commentary from other important Italian…Continue Reading

Is the Synod Secretariat Stacking the Deck Again?

The Vatican today announced that the vice president of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family will be a consulter to the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Professor José Granados‘ appointment,…Continue Reading

Gay activist: Of course our goal is to ‘indoctrinate children into LGBTQ agenda’

TORONTO, March 13, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — A homosexual activist has candidly admitted that gay-themed materials and policies pushed in grade schools across North America are for the sake of “indoctrinating” children into an unquestioning acceptance of homosexuality. “I am here…Continue Reading

Pope . . . giving holy Communion to remarried divorcees “won’t solve anything”

On the second anniversary of his pontificate, the Holy Father gave a lengthy interview to a Mexican television journalist. – CNA/Bohumil Petrik VATICAN CITY — In a new, wide-ranging interview published Friday on the second anniversary of his election, Pope…Continue Reading

Cardinal rebukes head of German bishops: We can’t ignore Christ’s teaching on marriage

German Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, who headed the Papal Council Cor Unum until 2010 and was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, has publicly opposed the words and direction of the German Bishops’ Conference. In a Letter to the…Continue Reading

Catholic dissenters’ convention keynoter: A pornographic sex columnist?

Seattle, Wash., Mar 12, 2015 / 02:31 am (CNA).- Dan Savage coordinates an annual pornography festival. He has made obscene tirades about Pope Benedict XVI, denigrated the practice of monogamy, insulted high school students and publicly harassed politicians he opposes.…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  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 subscribe 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 145 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

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis: Palm Sunday Homily

pope742

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday – Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week, 2015. Please find, below, the official English translation of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks. ***************************** At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8).  Jesus’ humiliation. These words show us God’s way…Continue Reading

Pope: Life Of St Teresa Of Avila Can Help Renew Consecrated Life

st thera avila

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said the life of St Teresa of Avila, characterized by “total self-giving to God,” is a “great treasure” that can help to renew consecrated life today. The pope spoke of the witness of St Teresa in a letter, issued Saturday, to the Superior General of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Fr Xavier Cannistrà, to mark the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the saint’s birth. Listen to the report by Laura…Continue Reading

Mass at Santa Marta- Ode to joy

2015-03-26 L’Osservatore Romano Joy and hope are Christian traits. It is sad to find a believer who knows no joy, fearful in his attachment to cold doctrine. This was the very reason for Francis’ ode to joy during Mass at Santa Marta on Thursday, 26 March. At the beginning of Mass, the Pope acknowledged the Carmelite “Hour of Prayer for Peace”. “Dear brothers and sisters”, he said, “the day after tomorrow, 28 March, will be…Continue Reading

The exhibition of the Holy Shroud of Turin

pope741

(Vatican Radio/VIS) A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office on Wednesday to present the upcoming exhibition of the Holy Shroud of Turin (Turin, 19 April – 24 June 2015), on the occasion of the second centenary of the birth of St. John Bosco, which will be specially dedicated to the young and to those who suffer. The Pope will also make a pilgrimage to Turin from 21 to 22 June. The…Continue Reading

Transforming The St. Patrick’s Day Parades

By LAWRENCE P. GRAYSON St. Patrick’s Day, which is a holy day of obligation for Catholics in Ireland, has been corrupted in America by homosexual activists who flaunt their opposition to Catholic doctrine. Celebratory parades have been co-opted for dissident political purposes. Since the seventh century, St. Patrick has been revered as the patron saint…Continue Reading

How Far Can One Sink?

By DONALD DeMARCO “With [Premier] Wynne’s sex education curriculum, we have at last splashed down in a miasmal sewer in which it’s hard to sink any further.” So writes Harley Price, who has taught philosophy at a number of prestigious universities. Many, including outraged parents and indignant members of the medical establishment, agree with him.…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . A Spiritually Sound Approach To Depression

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY The Catholic Guide to Depression, by Aaron Kheriaty, MD, with Fr. John Cihak (Sophia Institute Press, 228 pages). Visit www.sophiainstitute.com or call 1-800-888-9344 for more information or for ordering. + + + This book has a lengthy introduction, and is then divided into two parts. The first is entitled “Understanding Depression,”…Continue Reading

What If Hillary Doesn’t Care?

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO What if Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked by foreign agents when she was the secretary of state? What if persons claiming to have done so are boasting about their alleged feats on Internet websites and in chat rooms traditionally associated with illegal or undercover activities? What if this is the sore…Continue Reading

In Defense Of Economic Freedom

By JOHN YOUNG I believe in complete economic freedom. An extreme position, it will be said, and one not only against Catholic social teaching, but also against common sense. It implies, surely, that I have a heartless disregard for the vulnerable, or at least a naive trust in capitalism — the unrestrained capitalism that Pope…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Message From Cardinal Burke

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Is Mary The Mother Of God… Or Only The Mother Of Jesus?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 Responding to a common misconception among separated brethren and ill-informed Catholics: What did the Early Christians believe about the Catholic doctrine on the divine Motherhood? Those men, women, and children who sacrificed everything for the true faith in Jesus — even their very own lives? They were imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Some were burned…Continue Reading

Divine Revelation: Gradual And Progressive

By DON FIER We left off last week reflecting on God’s motive for revealing Himself to us in a supernatural manner. In a word, His sole motive was that of boundless love for mankind. God gratuitously and unconditionally chose to “communicate His own divine life to the men He freely created, in order to adopt them as His sons in…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: As readers of this column know, we like to quote Fr. George Rutler from time to time because his weekly bulletin columns at the Church of St. Michael in New York City are sources of both information and inspiration. After starting his March 22 column by noting that history is “replete with the failures of famous figures,” such…Continue Reading

We Have Been Raised With Christ

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Easter Sunday (YR B) Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Col. 3:1-4 John 20:1-9 In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Peter and John entering the Lord’s grave after they had been informed by St. Mary Magdalen that Jesus had been taken away. We are told that when the Beloved Disciple saw the burial cloths there and…Continue Reading

Nothing To Toast Between China And The Vatican

By FR. BERNARDO CERVELLERA (Editor’s Note: Fr. Bernardo Cervellera is a member of PIME [Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere], a society of apostolic life. He is the editor-in-chief of AsiaNews, a news service of PIME. (In the essay below, Fr. Cervellera noted China’s willingness, at least in words, “to enter into dialogue with the Vatican,” but decried its refusal “to compromise…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Faustina And Divine Mercy

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Divine Mercy Chaplet had never been one of my favorite devotions until my aunt died. As she lay in the hospital during her final hours, I sat in the room, visiting with the endless stream of visitors who stopped in to see their fellow volunteer. By six o’clock, the room was quiet. I decided to read…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. John Of God

By CAROLE BRESLIN In our time, it is common to hear parents bemoan the fact that their child is impulsive, or strong-willed, or irresponsible. Even the Holy Family suffered when our Lord, at the age of twelve, stayed behind in the Temple. How Mary and Joseph must have agonized over the missing Child Jesus. How do you tell God you…Continue Reading