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‘Dictatorship of relativism’

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Rev. Fr. Russell Bantiles

Cogito

THE words of German psychologist and philosopher Karl Jaspers were prophetic when he said, “If I suppress something that I consider absolute, automatically, another absolute takes its place” (Jaspers, K., Filosofía, I, p. 385, English translation mine). Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned us, in a homily that he delivered on the eve of the conclave that elected him Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, against the “dictatorship of relativism” that characterizes our age.

            I don’t want to sound like a prophet of doom but I simply wish to call our attention on this dangerous phenomenon because “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”.

            But when you hear news like these: “US Supreme Court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional”; “Pro-family leaders: Expect ‘persecution from the government’ over gay ‘marriage’; and “Traditional marriage supporters in short supply at US Supreme Court”, you will surely begin to understand Jaspers and Card. Ratzinger.

            Once you suppress the absolute moral truths on marriage (as the sacramental union between man and woman), on life (as a gift from God that we should protect from womb to tomb), and on human sexuality (as designed by the Creator as naturally to be male and female, hence, are not within the arbitrary choice of any human person), another treacherous “absolute” will take its place: the “absolute dictatorship of relativism”.

            Curiously, relativism, whether moral (that what is good or evil depends on one’s opinion or personal situation) or epistemological (that truth is relative), is self-destructive; hence, it is difficult to sustain. For instance, if you say that we have to respect everybody’s opinion on the morality of same-sex marriage for the sake of moral pluralism and peaceful coexistence, naturally we may have peace. But we don’t have truth because everybody’s subjective but different opinions—including the contradicting ones—will be all true.

            As the motto of DC Herald says, “In truth, peace”. Peace without truth is superficial and momentary. Within a pluralistic and relativistic society, anyone who would affirm the existence of absolute moral truth would be suppressed and would be considered a threat to this fickle peaceful situation. Intolerance would be the name of the game. Relativism becomes its rule. Those who would defend the absolute moral truth would face persecution from those who claim that “moral truth is relative”.

            Here’s the twist: Those who claim that “truth is relative” must admit that this claim is absolute. Otherwise, it would not be true. For if “moral truth is relative” is a subjective affirmation, then, the claim is not true to everybody. However, if the claim “moral truth is relative” is a true absolute assertion, then, truth is not relative but absolute. Thus, we see that relativism is self-contradictory and is impossible to defend.

            But a relativist person is like an alcoholic: she is not aware of it, nor admits it. Here lies the danger of relativism: she may not know it, a relativist person has already done havoc to the moral fiber of the society.

            Oftentimes, the cure to this ill comes with rigorous awareness of one’s relativist mentality. In order to help our young people avoid this danger, sound doctrinal formation is a must. Parent and educators may begin by explaining to young minds the absurdity and the danger of the “dictatorship of relativism”.


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