Dives in Misericordiae 12d: Moral Permissiveness

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4This last paragraph of section 12 sums up much of what we have discussed recently:

The Church, having before her eyes the picture of the generation to which we belong, shares the uneasiness of so many of the people of our time. Moreover, one cannot fail to be worried by the decline of many fundamental values, which constitute an unquestionable good not only for Christian morality but simply for human morality, for moral culture: these values include respect for human life from the moment of conception, respect for marriage in its indissoluble unity, and respect for the stability of the family. Moral permissiveness strikes especially at this most sensitive sphere of life and society.

Events in the years after this have also shown us that permissiveness, or perhaps blindness, has also struck at the ecclesiastical culture. This is not a matter of clergy pointing fingers at laity, or lay people decrying the moral lapses of their spiritual leaders. The complete picture is difficult, but true: all fall short of perfection, virtue, and morality. We can do better to help one another, rather than conducting a dialogue of the deaf that only serves to frustrate everyone.

Do our interpersonal relationships root in honesty? This condemnation has afflicted us no less than immorality:

Hand in hand with this go the crisis of truth in human relationships, lack of responsibility for what one says, the purely utilitarian relationship between individual and individual, the loss of a sense of the authentic common good and the ease with which this good is alienated.

And this:

Finally, there is the “desacralization” that often turns into “dehumanization”: the individual and the society for whom nothing is “sacred” suffer moral decay, in spite of appearances.

I’m not sure what the point is on this last one. I do agree that a lack or loss of respect for the sacred also harms human beings. Perhaps the psalmist’s lament that the evil that flourishes thumbs its nose at God too easily. I think it is necessary to carefully discern where “desacralization” is more about religious leaders than about the Deity. When justified, a lack of respect for human authority is biblical. The real test is the respect for God in context of the poor and the needy among us. When they are trampled, God is often mocked by such actions.

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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