Relativism contains a dogmatism of its own: this position is so sure of itself that it must be imposed even on those who disagree with it… if the majority, as in the case of Pilate, is always right, then what truly is right must be trampled upon…
Values in a Time of Upheaval, 62
Reflection – When I excerpt a brief passage like this from Joseph Ratzinger, I have to make it clear from the outset that he doesn’t just throw these observations out there in a void. This statement about relativism is part of a lengthy and well-thought-out analysis. The book it is from is one I highly recommend: short, to the point, and deeply relevant to our times.
Our times… you know, I really prefer not to discuss controversies and the affairs of the day on this blog. I don’t actually enjoy those kinds of conversations. I would rather talk about prayer or maybe philosophical analysis of this or that point. I really don’t like discussing the world and its problems—to be honest, I find the state of Canadian society incredibly sad and painful. I am a loyal Canadian who loves his country, and I am at a loss about what to do about what I see.
But events this week here in
have been almost a picture perfect illustration of the dictatorship of relativism Ratzinger has described above and in many other places in his writings. So, a word is in order. Ontario
For those who are not from
, a brief synopsis: last year, a gay teenager in Ontario committed suicide after being bullied in his high school. This prompted the Ottawa provincial government to pass an anti-bullying law whose purported aim was to eliminate bullying in schools. Ontario
One section of the law called for high schools to form clubs called GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) where self-identifed ‘gay’ students could bond together with sympathetic straight students to promote a gay-friendly environment in the school.
has a publicly funded Catholic school system, alongside its ‘public’ (aka secular) system (it’s a long story why this is the case). Since GSAs are, besides being anti-bullying, essentially advocacy groups for the acceptance of homosexual orientation and activity as equivalent to heterosexual, the Catholic Church and the school board objected to this part of the legislation. We made a counter-proposal to establish clubs that would tackle the anti-bullying agenda from a Catholic point of view, promoting respect for every human being and an ethos of compassion and acceptance of the other, without the ideological overlay of GSAs. Ontario
This counter-proposal was met with derision and scorn, and the
government passed the law this week. As one of the more anti-Catholic newspapers in Ontario trumpeted in its banner headline: “McGuinty [the premier] tells Catholic Church He’s in Charge!” There have been newspaper columns appearing in Canadian papers in recent weeks containing anti-Catholic and anti-clerical bigotry reminiscent of the German kulturkampf and the rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s a strange time to be a Catholic in Toronto , in other words. Ontario
Anyhow, sorry for the ‘brief’ synopsis (that’s as brief as I could get it). Leaving aside the fact that students are bullied for all sorts of reasons, sexual orientation not even cracking the top five, according to a Toronto study, and leaving aside the wisdom of GSAs which impel students as young as 13 to identify themselves according to their emerging and (as we all remember) somewhat chaotic sexuality, and leaving aside the very probably question of whether this self-identification will actually encourage bullying and bigotry—leaving aside all this, there is a deeper question.
Namely, is there room in
for more than one perspective? Is there room in a pluralistic society for more than one way of tackling a problem? Is there room in a (supposedly) tolerant society for different approaches to an issue? Ontario
According to the
government, apparently not. The dictatorship of relativism has now arrived in Ontario , from being a de facto situation to a de jure one. The government of Ontario has, to be perfectly clear, passed a law that Catholic schools, paid for by Catholic taxpayers who want their children to receive a Catholic education, cannot present a consistent Catholic view of reality to their students. Ontario
Relativism ‘is so sure of itself that it must be imposed even on those who disagree with it’ – that’s what is happening in this neck of the woods, folks. So to my largely American readership and others, pray for us Catholics in
. It’s a very strange time for us, very confusing. We don’t appear to be welcome here anymore, at least according to the elected government. Ontario
And for my
readers, what are we to do? I wish I knew. Sorry to be of so little help. We certainly need to pray. We certainly need to be as clear as we can about the facts of the matter – the rhetoric is a bit muddled right now. You who are parents have a special duty to help your children make sense of all this—I realize it’s a heavy burden on you in particular. Maybe this blog post is of some help to you. Ontario
Above all, we need to persevere in presenting Catholic teaching in the most loving, clear way we can: the infinite value and beauty of each human person, the reality of human brokenness and disorder which affects all of us, the hope of healing and restoration in Christ, and the call to be part of this restoration by loving one another as Christ loved us.
This is the heart of Catholic teaching. That homosexual acts are one species among many of human disorder, that human sexuality is a gift to be expressed in marriage of man and woman ordered towards procreation in loving union, that all are called to chastity according to their state of life—all these are vital truths that we cannot deny without denying Christ, but they are secondary to the heart of the matter, which is the mercy and love of God poured out in Jesus Christ.