EG 64: Developing Mature Moral Values

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis writes of the individualistic mentality some bring to Christianity. The lack of a communal orientation leads to this list of undesirable qualities:

64. The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism.

Some conservatives are eager to paint this as a list of liberal faults. But the truth is that they are as vulnerable to these traits, individually and in their collective ideologies, as anyone else.

These have led to a general sense of disorientation, especially in the periods of adolescence and young adulthood which are so vulnerable to change. As the bishops of the United States of America have rightly pointed out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid for everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray this teaching as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights. Such claims usually follow from a form of moral relativism that is joined, not without inconsistency, to a belief in the absolute rights of individuals. In this view, the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom”.[USCCB, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care (2006), 17]

A reference to a USCCB document.

We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.

Sometimes these two are seen as mutually exclusive. But critical thinking is indeed a need for a discerning adult. The society doesn’t form people in it. The media/corporation marriage which drives the public sphere is devoted to obedience and consumption. The Church, unfortunately, is only just emerging from a long period of programming people, not educating them so much.

Many challenges, to be sure. But none are insurmountable, if we are willing to part ways with more of the mainstream than a few of us might be comfortable with.

Evangelii Gaudium is online here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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