We Hold These Truths
by Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you."
The art of practical politics, of course, has its place. Through the give and take of practical politics, for example, highways and universities are built in one area of a state rather than in another area. But political maneuvering has – or should have – strict limits. When political scheming violates just laws, it becomes ugly cronyism. When it violates the norms of justice and Christian principle it becomes outright moral corruption. Then again in many circumstances there should be no role for political manipulation at all.
But what is the alternative, and where do we find it?
The demands of practical politics should do no violence to the rights that are derived from self-evident truths of man’s dignity. The Declaration of Independence attempts to enumerate such truths: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As Catholics, we may add an adjective here and there for purposes of clarity (such as “correctly morally ordered” liberty). Though our founding fathers accepted the premise of self-evident truths, that definition is being eroded and “reinvented” in our day by political means. But it is dangerous to tamper with self-evident truths.
By denying self-evident or received truths in favor of demands of political interests of the day, our culture has become, to a large extent schizophrenic, even psychopathic. A true moral monster in Cleveland is ostracized for alleged kidnapping, rape and forced abortion. But politicians at the highest levels of government – some of whom are professed Catholics – are rewarded with our votes for promoting abortion on demand, even infanticide (commonly defined as killing a baby after birth) in the event of botched abortions. Apparently, for many, the right to life is not so self-evident after all.
As a result of political pressure widespread acceptance is claimed for “gay marriage,” a concept that just a few decades ago would have been considered preposterously incongruous. Meanwhile, proponents of traditional marriage are demonized for unjustly – and presumably, in the future, illegally – “excluding” others from the equal “right” to marriage. The inability to recognize self-evident truths results in a moral obtuseness that becomes extremely difficult to challenge. Defending traditional marriage presents the same difficulties as defending any other “self-evident truth.” Try to “defend” the law of gravity, for example.
Ironically our obsession with using politics to define moral truths eliminates any possibility of attaining those truths with satisfaction and certainty. In his dialog with Christ, Pontius Pilate invoked his political power. “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and have authority to crucify you?” (Jn 19:10). With Truth Incarnate standing before him Pilate wasted his unique opportunity to “know the truth” and to be “set free” (Jn 8:32). His politics blinded him. All he could mutter in his hubris and political skepticism was, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38).
reveals Himself to hearts that receive, not through argument or position of
power, but in humility – to hearts that desire to receive (not define) the
truth. When the Ten Commandments are received in humility and faith, we
discover with delight, along with St. Paul, that these laws have already been
inscribed onto our hearts. (2 Cor 3:3). Mary truly received the revelation of
the Incarnation with a humility that included the loving and truth-seeking
question, “How will this be?” (Lk 1:34). Her reward was immediate: “And the
Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Mary’s example of openness and
humility is foundational to every theological method and the key to grasping
This Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, one God in three persons. The mystery is foundational to our Christian faith and, when accepted with docility, allows us to peer into the infinite and firmly grasp otherwise unattainable truths that direct and lead us to happiness. Our acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity directs our attention to truths that open doors to the proper understanding of God, our selves, marriage and even the just ordering of society. We discover that all the authentic human covenants ought to reflect this mysterious and perfect “covenant of love’ within God Himself. The blessed Trinity is a mysterious covenant of perfect love, life, liberty and happiness. Indeed in contemplation we may even come to see more clearly the dogma of the blessed Trinity as the basis for all “self-evident truths” because all men are imprinted with God’s image.
When seeking the truths of our faith, the truths of salvation, and truths of our very existence, we need not employ the art of practical politics. We need a greater resolve to receive in humility and contemplate with reverence the mysteries of God proclaimed by the church.
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