Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Very good from Cardinal Pell

One of my favorites in the College of Cardinals is Cardinal Pell of Syndey, Australia. Recently he addressed the (Australian) National Press Club with an address on moral/religious relativism. The text has been published on Zenit, and I highly reccomend it. Some especially choice bits:

Relativism is powerful in Western life, evidenced in many areas from the decline in the study of history and English literature, through to the triumph of subjective values and conscience over moral truth and the downgrading of heterosexual marriage. None of this is entirely new: Relativism is an antique theory. The great thinker and father of history Heraclitus [History 3, 38] noted that different cultures differ in their basic beliefs and customs, and at the dawn of our philosophical tradition the Greek philosopher Protagoras challenged the religious and moral wisdom of his day, arguing that each individual's own opinions are the measure of truth [see Plato Theaetetus 151eff].

This theory has so far received no official sanction -- usually because wise men and women have seen that either relativism is the real truth about the universe, in which case relativism is wrong since there is a real truth, or relativism is not the real truth, in which case we should all stop thinking about it. The danger today is that people do not even think this far to see the inconsistencies. Hence Pope Benedict's warning.

One reason for optimism is that no one believes deep down in relativism. People may express their skepticism about truth and morality in lecture rooms or in print, but afterwards, they will go on to sip a cappuccino, pay the mortgage, drive home on the left side of the road, and presumably avoid acts of murder and cannibalism throughout their evening. People, unless insane, do not live as relativists. They care about truth and follow clear-cut rules.
"Presumably avoid acts of murder and cannibalism," indeed! Again, the Cardinal is speaking in Australia, where they do drive on the left side of the road :)

Full piece (long but good).


  1. Noooo Lauren is booooring, unless this is Lyndsey, in which case Lyndsey is booooring