If you’ve liked anything I’ve said up to this point, prepare to be repelled. This is a Catholic examination of conscience based on the 10 Commandments (there are lots of good ones online). This is how the Church defines sin. People talk a big talk about what they don’t like about the Church, but I think what people really hate is that the Church condemns some of our favorite pastimes.
St. Paul said, “The wages of sin is death” Rom 6:23 (St. Paul got his information from Jesus’ apostles Peter and James.) and it really does seem to be true in the laboratory of the world. Those giant dots on the “Century of Death” were caused by people who just happened to ignore the 10 Commandments. Communist governments demanded atheism (you must be an atheist to be a party member in China even today) and tried to eliminate the Church. (violating Commandments I, II, III) Communism sought to destroy the family, and encouraged turning in family members who opposed the party line (IV). They falsely imprisoned those who opposed them and infiltrated seminaries to destroy the Church from the inside (VIII). The whole concept of class warfare is based on coveting what your neighbor has (IX, X), and redistribution is just a fancy name for stealing (VII). They didn’t become the most murderous, tyrannical force in history because they smoked, wore fur, ate trans-fats, set their thermostats too high, or committed any other secular sin, but by breaking the Commandments. The Church warned the world in advance about Communism, contraception, euthanasia and all the other subjects of this letter – that to go down those roads is to invite misery and death – and the Church has come up right every time.
I think we sometimes fooled into thinking that some people are so depraved that they don’t know the difference between right and wrong. When Allied troops marched in to liberate the concentration camps during WWII, the Nazi’s tried to burn the evidence before they arrived. If they really believed that building their master race was good and necessary, they should have been proud of it. Russian soldiers under Lenin mass murdered Polish soldiers execution style, and later committed suicide. If they really believed they did no wrong, their guilty consciences wouldn’t have driven them to despair. These evil men give away the fact that an inescapable moral code is written in their hearts. It’s why the KKK, bank robbers, and terrorists wear masks. No matter how much they protest that their cause is just, they know what they are doing is wrong and “hate the light” because their evil deeds will be exposed. John 3:20
Sin attacks the family, and an attack the family is an attack on freedom, happiness, mental health, and life itself. The Church’s commandments nurture and protect the family by forbidding adultery, abandonment, unrestrained anger, infanticide, and substance abuse. C.S. Lewis (atheist/Christian convert who wrote The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) once remarked that the Left’s agenda is to make pornography public and religion private. That’s because porn undermines families, while religion strengthens them. And families are the prime engine for creating citizens who are personally responsible for themselves and their loved ones. Strong families make it hard to sell the cradle-to-grave socialist society. The family is the basic unit of society and if it breaks down, man is naked against the state.
I thought the Catholic examination of conscience was outrageous until I tried to live it. What sounded like slavery on paper was freedom in practice. And for all the Commandments’ seeming restrictions, it’s perfectly moral within reason to smoke, drink, gamble, have sex, and eat chocolate cheesecake. These are all good things that God wants us to have. God’s not a killjoy. Even Jesus’ first miracle was just to keep the party going.
But of course, the 10 Commandments fly in the face of the most modern of virtues, tolerance. Modern tolerance is the creed that says we shouldn’t have creeds, that it is wrong to call something wrong, that is untrue to say that there is truth, and that we are sure that we can’t be sure of anything. The UN Declaration of Principles on Tolerance defines “tolerance”, absolutely and dogmatically, as “the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism.” To be tolerant, we must be intolerant of discrimination. As you can see, the declaration refutes itself. The UN has determined what it considers “good” and has decided to tolerate that good. No doubt the modern proponents of tolerance have no tolerance for smoking, gluttony, child abuse, torture, slavery, or the death penalty. It is impossible apply tolerance across the board when some ideas are mutually exclusive. The real question is not, “Will we be tolerant?” but “What shall we tolerate and why?” We can’t renege on our responsibility to “discriminate” between good and bad, sane or insane, lawful or criminal. In other words, to find truth and form dogmas so that we may achieve what is good and beautiful, which is what human beings do even though they are rarely aware of it. (The UNFPA, by the way, supports coercive sterilization and abortion in China, Vietnam, and Peru so obviously they need the “intolerant” Catholic Church out of their way.)
I imagine that sincere modern proponents of tolerance believe as Voltaire did that, “The less we have of dogma, the less dispute; the less we have of dispute, the less misery” and the primary source of these dividing dogmas is religion. If we’re tolerant, we’ll never fight. Tolerance, like all heresies, exaggerates one truth to the exclusion of other truths. True tolerance means were respect those who disagree with us, but not affirm falsehood or evil, or attempt to live in a mushy indifference. Modern tolerance is a downgrade of the Christian virtue of charity, otherwise known as love. I love the alcoholic, but I’m not going to affirm his drunkenness in a spirit of “live and let live” because, driving home from the bar, he may not let himself and pedestrians live. Christian shorthand for this is “love the sinner, hate the sin”. You can love a smoker or a homosexual without loving smoking or sodomy and this makes you neither a homophobe nor a smoke-o-phobe. A Christian is not just encouraged, but required, to love a murderer, but hate murder.
Indiscriminate tolerance of all behavior cannot lead to peace. The world is full of malicious people who will take advantage of your permissiveness. Evil must be identified, confronted, and fought and that means value judgments must be made. “Give peace a chance” is a nice refrain, but war and killing usually begin as evil ideas that go unopposed. Hans Kelsen, the leading legal positivist of the 20th century (“positive law” is created by man as opposed to “natural law” imposed by God), said that Auschwitz and the Soviet Gulags were valid law. He could not criticize them as unjust because “justice is an irrational ideal.” Kelsen claimed that relativism, the lack of dogmas, is the philosophy of democracy. John Paul II on the other hand said relativism leads to totalitarianism: “If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to … impose his own interests … with no regard for the rights of others.” It is the Commandments promoted by the Church that promote true religious freedom and tolerance.
The Commandments are just one more piece of the puzzle where I discovered that the Church is right and my emotions were wrong. There’s scene in the Bible when Ezra presents the Commandments to the people and they start to cry. I can understand why. There are some commandments that are real deal-breakers, but I’d be lying if is said I thought they were irrational. I can see the reasons for every one of them. I believe the lesson of history is that calling a sin a sin is necessary for all men to protect their mutually dependent freedom.