Let us take the latest example of an exceptionally articulated act of truthful leadership from the mouth of non-other than our very own Toronto Archbishop, Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic. His most recent pastoral letter, Religion and Gain, is arriving in Toronto households this week and speaks directly to the abuse of the word values in today’s society:
The reason for my negative reaction seems to lie in the fact that the talk of values strikes me as very neutral. The word admits that for someone else my value may be quite valueless. The term communicates, in fact, our acceptance that what we take as valuable may be quite meaningless in somebody else's eyes. In other words, I react negatively to the word simply because it contains a possibility of relativism and meaninglessness. …There is the attitude that the dialogue takes place without any attempt to change anyone's mind. All discussion of values is useless. Any attempt to change anyone's mind is, in fact, unacceptable and even unecumenical.
His Eminence is just getting warmed up, however, for a full-frontal assault on today’s big lie – that there are no set morals or values which are true for all people in all times, and which ought to be obeyed. I share the Cardinal’s view that we are living in a time where nothing is true, and the greatest virtue is the pursuit of new truths we create for ourselves:
It seems that the only value that is universal in our society is that of the glorified ego. The notion predominates that all our views must be measured by our sovereign likes and dislikes. This notion seems to be at the basis of our democratic conviction and practice; my ego is thought to be the only authority which counts. There is no truth and value apart from what I like or dislike. The difficulty is, however, that this sovereign ego is not a neutral value -- just because it is generally accepted. It is, clearly, a one-sided myth.
This, of course, has very practical consequences for all of us and the society in which we live – and die:
If we wish to have proof of the mythical quality of our sovereign ego, it lies in the fact that it is quickly becoming something else, that is to say, a productive ego, a unit of economic utility. It is this productive human being whose "value" is beginning to fray at both ends of the life spectrum. Our society has already accepted the principle of abortion, and there is a growing number of people defending euthanasia. Whatever the reasons proclaimed by them, children learning from this type of society will get rid of their old people as soon as they become economically unproductive.
Cardinal Ambrozic pulls no punches – his next target is another sacred cow of western civilization – democracy, or more particularly the perversion of it into an instrument of selfishness:
The notion very much at home in some of our media and the programmes of some political parties, seems to be basic and unquestioned, though it can hardly be said to be neutral, that the well-fed, fully employed and economically secure individual will remain honest and democratic. However, this self-seeking and self-justifying individual, seeking his own economic advantage, will hardly proclaim the values of honesty and respect for others. The point we must stress again and again is that our society is basing itself on an ideologically un-neutral notion of the sovereign individual. …Before I feel that I must be honest, I must be convinced that there is a God who demands that honesty. God is greater and far more important than democracy and financial honesty. Should democracy become an end in itself, should we have no reason whatever apart from our "social" obligation to be honest and non-violent, self-controlled and tolerant, then we become victims of our own prejudices and predilections. The only way for democracy to survive is to accept the two great commandments which Jesus has given us, the love of God first, and the love of neighbour. It is only if we know that God is greater than us, that God is greater than anything else in the world, that we can then accept His commands, whether they serve us or not, whether they are useful to us or not, that we shall live in true freedom and democracy.
It is said that in today’s world, mass communications should be written at a grade six reading level. I’m told that most major dailies follow this plain language rule, and it is refreshing that our local Ordinary feels no such compunction. He consistently produces homilies and pastoral letters of the highest, truthful character that if followed would make this City one of the best places in the world.
Dominus Vobiscum Cardinal