Fratelli Tutti 275: Conscience, Its Loss, and the Dismissal of Religion

275. It should be acknowledged that “among the most important causes of the crises of the modern world are a desensitized human conscience, a distancing from religious values and the prevailing individualism accompanied by materialistic philosophies that deify the human person and introduce worldly and material values in place of supreme and transcendental principles”. [Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, Abu Dhabi (4 February 2019): L’Osservatore Romano, 4-5 February 2019, p. 6]

It is important to diagnose why this happens. Individuals believe that their conscientiousness no longer matters. The powerful hold sway and in order to keep heads above water people must swim with the current. Our age is not unique. Christian conscience was desensitized certainly to the suffering of slaves. It was a necessity, some thought, to preserve a way of life perceived as “good” and “Christian” and “patriotic nation-building.” People who abuse loved ones–today and all through the ages–show this tendency as well.

It is wrong when the only voices to be heard in public debate are those of the powerful and “experts”.

The scare quotes on “experts” is helpful. Some experts are worth listening to: saints, holy bishops, theologians, justice advocates, parents, etc.. Experts can take care to teach, accompany, and dialogue with people outside their expertise. But counting a businessperson as an “expert” because she or he has made a lot of money is short-sighted. Obviously. How are the other aspects of what makes a successful business? Employee relations. Community connections. Is it a specialized production or does a quantity of skill and knowledge go into the effort? 

Room needs to be made for reflections born of religious traditions that are the repository of centuries of experience and wisdom. For “religious classics can prove meaningful in every age; they have an enduring power [to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and the heart]”. Yet often they are viewed with disdain as a result of “the myopia of a certain rationalism”.[Evangelii Gaudium 256]

This last bit is certainly true these days. Sometimes the moral witness of religion is discounted. Consider how many Western Christians view Islam with disdain. If we discredit their monotheism, virtues, and traditions that align with Christianity, are we not setting the example for those who discredit us for the Crusades, Galileo, the Inquisition, misogyny, sex abuse and its cover-up, and other self-inflicted wounds?

All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

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