On Just Discrimination

 

DISCRIMINATION is evil, right? But, in truth, we discriminate against each other every day…

I was in a hurry one day and found a parking spot right in front of the post office. As I lined up my car, I glimpsed a sign that read, “For pregnant mothers only.” I was singled out from that convenient spot for not being pregnant. As I drove away, I encountered all kinds of other discriminations. Even though I’m a good driver, I was forced to stop at an intersection, even though there wasn’t a car in sight. Nor in my hurry could I speed, even though the freeway was clear.   

When I worked in television, I remember applying for a reporter position. But the producer told me that they were looking for a female, preferably someone with a disability, even though they knew I was qualified for the job.  

And then there are parents who won’t allow their teenager to go over to another teen’s house because they know it would be a very bad influence. [1]“Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Cor 15:33 There are amusement parks that won’t let kids of a certain height on their rides; theaters that won’t let you keep your cellphone on during the show; doctors who won’t allow you to drive if you’re too old or your sight is too poor; banks who won’t loan to you if your credit is poor, even if you’ve straightened out your finances; airports that force you through different scanners than others; governments that insist you pay taxes above a certain income; and lawmakers who forbid you to steal when you’re broke, or kill when you’re angry.

So you see, we discriminate against each other’s behavior every day in order to safeguard the common good, to benefit the less advantaged, to respect the dignity of others, to protect ones privacy and property, and to keep civil order. All of these discriminations are imposed with a sense of moral responsibility for oneself and the other. But, until recent times, these moral imperatives didn’t come into being from thin air or mere feelings….

 

THE NATURAL LAW

From the dawn of creation, man has gauged his affairs, more or less, upon systems of law derived from the “natural law”, insofar as he has followed the light of reason. This law is called “natural,” not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because of reason, which decrees it as properly belonging to human nature:

Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth?… The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation. —St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. præc. I; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1955

But that light of understanding can be obscured by sin: avarice, lust, anger, bitterness, ambition, and so forth. As such, fallen man must constantly seek that higher light of reason that God himself has engraved in the human heart by submitting again to “the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie.” [2]CCC, n. 1954 

And this is the primary role of Divine Revelation, given through the prophets, passed on through the patriarchs, fully unveiled in the life, words, and works of Jesus Christ, and entrusted to the Church. Thus, the Church’s mission, in part, is to provide…

…grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known “by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error.” —Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3876; cf. Dei Filius 2: DS 3005; CCC, n. 1960

 

THE CROSSROADS

At a recent conference in Alberta, Canada, Archbishop Richard Smith said that, despite the advances, beauty, and freedom that the country has enjoyed thus far, it has arrived at a “crossroads.” Indeed, all of humanity stands at this intersection before a “tsunami of change,” as he put. [3]cf. The Moral Tsunami and The Spiritual Tsunami The “redefinition of marriage,” introduction of “gender fluidity”, “euthanasia” etc. are aspects that he highlighted where the natural law is being ignored and undermined. As the famous Roman Orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero, put it:

…there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense… To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely. Rep. III,22,33; CCC, n. 1956

When the Church raises her voice to say that this or that action is immoral or inconsistent with our natures, she is making a just discrimination rooted in both the natural and moral law. She is saying that individual emotions or reasoning can never objectively call “good” that which contradicts the absolutes that the natural moral law provide as an infallible guide.

The “tsunami of change” that is sweeping through the world has to do with the core foundational issues of our existence: marriage, sexuality, and human dignity. Marriage, the Church teaches, can only be defined as the union between a man and woman precisely because human reason, rooted in biological and anthropological facts, tells us so, as does Scripture. 

Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Matt 19:4-5)

Indeed, if you take the cells of any person and put them under a microscope—far from the social conditioning, parental influence, social engineering, indoctrination, and educational systems of society—you will find that they have only X-Y chromosomes if they are a male, or X-X chromosomes if they are a female. Science and Scripture confirm one another—fides et ratio

Thus lawmakers, and those judges charged with upholding the praxis of the law, cannot override the natural law through self-driven ideology or even majority opinion. 

…civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience. Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person.Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons; 6.

Pope Francis summarizes here the crux of the crisis. 

The complementarity of man and woman, summit of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the “image and likeness” of God. Without mutual self-giving, neither one can understand the other in depth. The Sacrament of Marriage is a sign of the love of God for humanity and of Christ’s giving himself for his Bride, the Church. —POPE FRANCIS, address to Puerto Rican Bishops, Vatican City, June 08, 2015

But we have moved at an extraordinary pace to not only create out of “thin air” civil laws that oppose right reason, but which do so in the name of “freedom” and “tolerance.” But as John Paul II warned:

Freedom is not the ability to do anything we want, whenever we want. Rather, freedom is the ability to live responsibly the truth of our relationship with God and with one another. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, St. Louis, 1999

The irony is that those who say there are no absolutes are making an absolute conclusion; those who say that the moral laws proposed by the Church are obsolete are, in fact, making a moral judgment, if not an entirely new moral code. With ideological judges and politicians to enforce their relativistic views…

…an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom—for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 52

 

TRUE INDEPENDENCE

That which is responsible, which is good, which is right, is not an arbitrary standard. It is derived from that consensus guided by the light of reason and Divine Revelation: the natural moral law.barbed-wire-freedom On this July 4th, as my American neighbours celebrate Independence Day, there is another “independence” asserting itself at this hour. It is an independence from God, religion, and authority. It is a revolt against common sense, logic, and true reason. And with it, tragic consequences continue to unfold before us—but without mankind seeming to recognize the connection between the two. 

Only if there is such a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function. This fundamental consensus derived from the Christian heritage is at risk… In reality, this makes reason blind to what is essential. To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, December 20th, 2010

When he met the bishops of America in an Ad Limina visit in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI warned of an “extreme individualism” that not only directly opposes the “core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but [is] increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.” He called the Church “in season and out of season” to continue “to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering.” [4]POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bishops of the United States of America, Ad Limina, January 19th, 2012; vatican.va  

Brothers and sisters, don’t be afraid to be this proclaimer. Even if the world threatens your freedom of speech and religion; even if they label you as intolerant, homophobic, and hateful; even if they threaten your very life… never forget that truth is not just the light of reason, but it is a Person. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” [5]John 14:6 Just as music is a language unto itself that transcends cultures, so too, the natural law is a language that penetrates the heart and mind, calling every human being to the “law of love” that governs creation. When you speak the truth, you are speaking “Jesus” into the midst of the other. Have faith. Do your part, and let God do His. In the end, Truth will prevail…

I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. (John 16:33)

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bishops of the United States of America, Ad Limina, January 19th, 2012; vatican.va

 

RELATED READING

On Gay Marriage

Human Sexuality and Freedom

The Eclipse of Reason

The Moral Tsunami

The Spiritual Tsunami

 

  
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1. “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Cor 15:33
2. CCC, n. 1954
3. cf. The Moral Tsunami and The Spiritual Tsunami
4. POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bishops of the United States of America, Ad Limina, January 19th, 2012; vatican.va
5. John 14:6
Posted in HOME, FAITH AND MORALS, ALL.