The Western world is increasingly succumbing to the prejudice of "political correctness". More and more we live in a time and situation where pluralism and tolerance are, irreconcilable with absolute truth, the highest values. Laws are constantly being changed or newly introduced in order to satisfy the will of citizens in lieu of and without respect for the "natural moral law". This can only lead to anarchy.
It is not possible here to present philosophical proofs for the existence of God. Nonetheless, by way of simple logic, when we speak of something like the world in terms of its richness or plurality we also affirm the existence of the world; the "many" presupposes the "one". By similar arguments one can deduce that there must also be universal concepts of "being", "truth"and "good".
The universal good cannot be something ambiguous without also being relative. If it is relative one might justifiably speak, as did Heinrich Himmler, of the altruistic morals of the Nazi regime which is nonsense. The very fact that we discuss the common good proves that a criterion for the "good" ought to exist. We see that virtually all families accept as "good" the concepts of fidelity, gratitude, honesty while viewing acts of betrayal, ingratitude, falsehood as bad. It is clear then that a universal approach toward good and evil is necessary.
For the relativist, however, there is only tolerance. But why should tolerance count for anything unless it has as its foundation some other value. Such a tolerance that is "blind" ends up becoming a form of intolerance for that which actually gives tolerance its true value: convictions. Similarly, one's convictions would have no value unless they were oriented toward a higher good. Upon this reference to truth is based the dignity of the human person.
The relativist admits to no supreme criterion that would allow him to distinguish between a good and bad conscience. For him, individual and societal actions are subject only to free will. The result is anarchy - the law of the jungle - which is no law at all. Recall that St. Robert Bellarmine pointed out that "unjust laws are law at all." When such are railroaded into law then domination and manipulation become the rule. In the 20th century we have seen two World Wars and the proliferation of terrorism. We are also witnessing the growing acceptance of evils such as contraception, in-vitro fertilization, euthanasia, homosexuality and abortion. Human Cloning and perhaps even World War III are lurking on the horizon. Such tyranny - man's inhumanity to man - is the inevitable result when there is no lawful consensus regarding the true nature of the human being.
The Greek philosopher Plato has already said that God alone has supreme authority over man. Christ also confirmed to Pilate: "you would have no power over Me unless it had been given to you from above" (St. John 19,11). Both the limits and legitimacy of man's power come from God and are expressed in the natural moral law which is engraved in every human heart and established by reason. Even when that voice has been silenced by so many alternative views of life in our highly secular and materialistic world, it continues to echo in our hearts.
When a government or any democratic majority approves a law that contradicts this order, and in doing so marginalizes some resisting minority as being "fundamentalists", it is the duty of every human being to oppose it. While claiming to be respecting of one's freedom of choice, such lawmakers are really only leading people away from the true freedom which the natural law provides.
If the dignity of the will is to replace the dignity of the human person it will even be possible to imagine, in the words of Dr. Robert Spaemann, "breeding slaves, by genetic manipulation, who are fully in agreement with their condition as slaves." Far-fetched? Spaemann mentions that only recently it became known that a cannibal found an accomplice via the internet who was willing to have himself killed and eaten. This took place according to mutual agreement and without any outside interference. He makes the important distinction that for the relativist this is not a crime.
Is this not a time for us all, especially lawyers and politicians, to reflect on the concept of the natural moral law? If not now, when? When it's too late?
In answer to the above, if not now, when? When it's too late? It's later than we think and we are desparately lacking in true moralists to follow today. In fact, today's world desperately needs authentic heroes and heroines - not the kind that live in Hollywood and who find it fashionable to promote themselves and their own ideologies, but the kind like the holy saints in Heaven, who allow us, by their very lives, to catch a glimpse of the true greatness and holiness to which we are all called.
From the beginning men and women have been filled with a desire to be like God and to attain, with His help, the heights of Heaven. Unfortunately, the gravitational force of individual and communal sin in our hedonistic society has produced a new kind of secular hero that denies God. These heroes are plentiful and are found in all walks of life especially in the sports and entertainment industry.
Unlike the heroes of old whose love for God sought to transform the world, today's heroes are morally flawed and leave us so empty. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is a classic example. Who you ask? You might better know her or better yet if you don't, as Lady Gaga. Unfortunately, she is an idol to millions of people. She feeds off of her adoring fans. Her recent album "Born This Way" is a narcissistic exercise in self absorption that never really attempts to answer the core question elicited by the title as to what it really means to be authentically human. For Gaga, the mantra "born this way" is nothing more than a convenient slogan to justify anarchy and sexual permissiveness. From the self centered costumes she wears to the artificial self-esteem she exudes in song, Lady Gaga stands for everything that is wrong in society. Her self-proclaimed name elicits an empty-headed euphoria, inviting one to be silly, crazy and self-absorbed. Sad, isn't it, that one named after four saints chose gaga, which proves the empty headedness of a baby in a crib crying "ga-ga".
But she is not the first nor most likely not the last. Despite the sensual sounds of Elvis Presley, the Beatles were actually one of the first to make it fashionable to reinvent oneself over and over again by constantly changing their music, their clothes and even their ideas. When they found that this did not fulfill their deepest desires they escaped into a self-indulgent world of sex and drugs. Before their untimely deaths, Beatles John Lennon (God) and George Harrison (P2 Vatican Blues) renounced through song: God, the Bible, Jesus and the Catholic Church.
Today, the motion picture industry is riddled with false heroes. It is rare, for example, to find a major movie star who has not engaged in some form of screen nudity, violence, sexual activity or or profanity. Nor is it uncommon for movie stars to promote - on screen as well as off - adultery, drug addiction, homosexuality, euthanasia, and other forms of corruption and immorality. Rather than abhor such behaviour our youth have embraced these imposters, even to the extent of calling them "icons" as if to give them and their sordid behavior a certain religious status - though in reality this is merely a paean to the spirit of the Zeitgeist. Is it not ironic that Barack Obama turns to these immoral or perhaps amoral relativists to hype his candidacy when what he has promoted has cried to Heaven for vengeance?
False heroes also abound in the world of sports. Historically, sports was considered to be a virtue-making machine. The values that correspond with sports were considered to go hand in hand with those that go into being a person of integrity and faith. St. John Bosco is an excellent example of this. Today, however, sports is increasingly associated with violence, drugs, sex, racism and money. Sports heroes are worshipped today for the money they make, for their on-field violence, for their off-field partying, for their egos and bravado that includes celebratory dances, strutting and posturing. Ah, yes, pride goeth before the fall.
Certain technical and athletic aspects of various games like hockey and football have given way to steroid physiques and various forms of intimidation. At one time only sailors and bikers wore tattoos. Today our sports heroes and entertainers have helped bring these crude images of a decadent society into the mainstream. Our media helps promote and legitimize this mentality by glorifying athletic fighting and violence in a colorful and entertaining way. Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers football team, spoke for a generation when he said "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing". And this from a supposedly devout Catholic no less.
Our modern heroes have been trying to tell us that Heaven can wait, but they have been deceiving us. For two thousand years, the Son of God has been telling us to "repent and believe in the Gospel" as the Kingdom of God is at hand. Fatima, too, reminds us that Heaven cannot wait!
Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God's Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that His love is the motivating force of human history that drives the engine of every authentic human life.
The real "stars" are the saints who do not try to be regarded as heroes, or to shock or provoke.
They are people we can really turn to when something is lost or a situation seems hopeless; they are examples we can follow such that when we imitate their lives we too embark on the path of holiness. Just as salt gives flavor to food and light illumines the darkness, so too the holiness of the saints gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect God's glory.
Real heroes are sinners who have experienced God's mercy and forgiveness. They look at us, love us, embrace us, heal us and give us hope. They teach us not to be afraid. They show us how to live, how to love, how to forgive and how to die. They teach us how to embrace the Cross in the most excruciating moments of life, knowing that the Cross is not God's final answer.
True heroes are saints who live with God, relying totally on God's infinite divine mercy, going forward with God's strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving one's enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. Heroes give their flesh and blood to the Beatitudes throughout their entire life. They are the true reformers. After all, a saint is nothing more than a sinner striving to do God's will fully and freely.
But there are many, way too many, who balk at this and want to follow their own will. They look for the easy way out, the fastest way to accomplish something without having to exert much effort. Often times they cut corners and slough off hard work because they have become soft. We know that idleness is the devil's workshop and today that workshop is thriving with all the modern technology that has made so many lazy and apathetic.
" I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of My mouth." (Apocalypse 3: 15-16).
Sloth, often called acedia, is often described simply as the sin of laziness. However, while this is part of the manifestation of sloth, the central problem with sloth as a capital sin is spiritual laziness - which leads to lukewarmness. It is a process on the slippery road to hell that did not gain momentum over night, but rather over a period of time and behavior.
Sloth is connected with sensuality. It proceeds from a love of pleasure, inasmuch as it inclines us to avoid effort and hardship. There is in all of us a tendency to follow the line of least resistance, which paralyses or lessens our activity.
Sloth is an inclination to idleness or at least to aimlessness, to apathy in action. At times this is a morbid disposition due to poor condition of health. More frequently it is a disease of the will, which fears effort and recoils from it. The slothful person wants to escape all exertion, whatever might interfere with their comfort or involve fatigue. Like the real parasite, they live on others to whatever extent they can, becoming gruff and ill-tempered when one tries to rouse them from their inaction.
There are various degrees of sloth. The indolent person takes up his task reluctantly, and indifferently; what he does, he does badly. The sluggard does not absolutely refuse to work, but he delays and postpones indefinitely the accepted task. Procrastination is his plan. The truly lazy person wants to do nothing that proves irksome and shows a distinct aversion to all real work, whether physical or mental. The idea of right living inspires in him not joy but disgust, because of its laboriousness.
When sloth is related to spiritual exercises it is called spiritual sloth. This consists in a certain dislike for things spiritual, which tends to make us negligent in the performance of our exercises of piety ( prayer, the sacraments, etc.), causes us to shorten them or to omit them altogether for vain excuses.
In order to understand the malice of sloth we have to remember that man was made to work. When God created Adam and Eve he placed them in the garden Eden "to cultivate and care for it" (Gen. 2:15). This is because man is not a perfect being, having many faculties which must act in order to be perfected. Hence, it is a necessity of man's nature that he should labor to cultivate his powers, to provide for his spiritual and physical wants and thus tend towards his heavenly goal. The law of work, therefore, precedes original sin. But because man sinned, work has become for him not merely a law of nature, but also a punishment, in the sense that work has become burdensome and a means of repairing sin: it is in the sweat of our face that we must get our bread to eat, the food of the mind as well as the body (Genesis 3: 19).
The slothful man sins more or less grievously according to the obligations and duties he neglects. When he shuns matters of importance in regards to his duties of state, or goes so far as to neglect religious duties necessary to his salvation or sanctification, he commits a grievous fault. A venial sin is committed when he fails in civil or religious duties of lesser moment.
Because of its harmful consequences, spiritual sloth constitutes one of the most serious obstacles to perfection. This is because it makes life more or less barren:
" I passed by the field of the slothful man,
by the vineyard of the man without sense;
And behold! It was all overgrown with thistles;
its surface was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall broken down.
And as I gazed at it, I reflected;
I saw and learned the lesson:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the arms to rest -
Then will poverty come upon you like a highwayman,
and want like an armed man" (Prov 24: 30-34).
Indeed. This is what one finds in the soul of the slothful man. Where there should be virtues and charity one finds vices alongside crumbling walls which mortification had raised to protect virtue. As a result, temptation soon becomes more persistent and assailing: "For idleness has taught much evil" (Sirach: 33: 29). It was idleness and pride that destroyed Sodom (Ezech. 16: 49).
Man's heart and mind cannot for long remain inactive. Unless they are engaged by study or other work they are soon filled with a host of fancies, thoughts, desires and emotions. Because of our fallen nature sensual, ambitious, proud and selfish thoughts then gain the upper hand exposing us to sin. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that, in addition to drinking, carousing, gambling and taking up with bad company sloth can eventually lead to despair since "sloth is a real sadness that casts the spirit down."
What is ultimately at stake is our eternal salvation. Apart from the sins into which idleness causes us to fall, the mere fact of failing to fulfill important duties incumbent on us is sufficient cause for reprobation. The barren tree, by the mere fact that it bears no fruit, deserves to be cut down and thrown into the fire: "Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire. (St. Matthew 3: 10).
To remedy sloth we need first of all to form in ourselves strong convictions concerning the necessity of work; to make ourselves understand that both the rich and the poor come under this law, and that its infringement may involve eternal damnation. This is the lesson given by Our Lord in His parable of the barren fig tree.
If a person is rich and not obliged to work for himself, he must do so for others. And indeed the opportunities are not lacking: how many poor need help, how many ignorant need instruction, how many broken hearts need mending, how many families need rearing to ensure, among other things, that the future of the children will be safeguarded!
Alongside convictions we also need to make sustained and intelligent efforts to train and strengthen the will. Since the slothful man instinctively shrinks from effort it is important to keep in mind that there is no one more wretched than the idle man. Not knowing how to manage his time, the idle man soon becomes a burden to himself and ultimately he becomes wearied of life itself. Is it not preferable to engage in useful work and secure some real contentment by striving to make those around us happy?
Among the slothful there are those who do expend a certain amount of excess activity at play, sports and worldly gatherings. These must be reminded of the serious side of life and that they should turn such activities into more useful and worthier fields of action. Christian marriage with its immediate obligations and duties often proves an excellent remedy for sloth. Parents realize the necessity of working for their offspring and the inadvisability of entrusting to strangers the care of their interests.
What better condemnation of the government controlling schools and young minds, not to mention dictating what we eat and drink, or say for the state has taken away the parents' role and responsibilities. It is time to reestablish the family as the source of learning and loving.
What we must constantly bear in mind are the last four things, death, judgment, Heaven or hell. We begin that process by realizing we are here on earth in order to attain, through work and virtue, a place in Heaven. We should want the same for our neighbor if we truly love him. What are we standing around for? It's time for action for God is ever addressing to us: "Why stand you here all the day idle...Go you also into My vineyard" (Matt. 20: 6-7).