“For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.' What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.” Acts. 17:23
In a recent episode of Blue Bloods, NYC Police Commissioner and patriarch of New York City's police family, Frank Reagan (played by Tom Selleck), suggests his beloved Catholic Church needs to "get with the times" where it concerns gay “marriage.”Ironically, the great service this episode offers of humanizing one group (those with same-sex attraction) is done at the expense of another (Catholics). “Catholicism" was caricaturized by a merely acquiescent Cardinal, and a gay nun. These particular examples of the familiar "straw man Catholic" didn't need to be dusted off by writer Ian Biederman. It's a favorite, perhaps even required, desk-pet of pop media and culture.
This article is not about gay marriage per se, it’s about something much more foundational: pop media and culture’s great belief in Ought.
What’s Ought? Ought is the presumed, albeit undefined, basis for asserting a supreme set of values everyone should be required to observe. In the present instance, pop media and culture maintain that all ought to accept gay “marriage.” Even Catholicism ought to bow.
What might we understand about pop media and culture’s belief in Ought? It seems to be absolute and universal. There’s no tolerance for what is deemed intolerant. Disagree and you’re branded discriminatory, or hateful… or penalized. Even put behind bars.
Note that we’re not speaking about respecting individual, private conceptions of Ought. Same genders have always been free to live together. We’re speaking about a legal Ought, imposed upon all, granting special privileges to a few, compelling our financial support through tax benefits, and expecting adherence whether or not it accords with our right to determine our identities.
Of course, this imposition by the hands of an unelected, unaccountable, all-powerful few smacks of tyranny.
Let’s just state it. There will be Oughts. It is our nature to have Oughts. The once-atheist C.S. Lewis noted that a person’s subordination to an abstraction such as a law betrays their regard for a value greater than him/herself, without which such adherence would be absurd. As the argument goes, something as simple as stopping at a stop sign betrays one’s practical belief in a higher Ought, by one’s subordination to it.
Absence of definition of a particular Ought does not diminish its existence. By the same token, having a particular definition of a specific Ought should not exclude it from participation in the marketplace of ideas, even determinations of law.
Whether or not one chooses to regard or name their Ought, I choose to call mine God; and I understand my God to be most fully, logically, historically and experientially anchored and articulated through Catholicism.
We don’t just “believe” our God is real and relevant; He has indeed become flesh, with the undeniable, evident impact benefitting all of society: Catholicism has been the agent of unprecedented advancement in education, medicine, law, government, architecture, art, music, science and just about every other area of human advancement.
More than just leaving Ought undefined, Catholics profess with the framers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution that Oughts are anchored in an immovable God, for the self-evident, demonstrable good of every human person.
We maintain that while there must always be adaptation to “the times,” the fundamental principles do not change. It will neverbe the case that another’s liberty and pursuit of happiness is more valuable than your life. That this does not “change with the times” is a very good thing.
If what Catholics profess is a function of popularity and public opinion, to subjective whim and inclination, to ever-changing times, God is either a schizophrenic, or He changes His mind. If we’re honest, more accurately that god is something we’ve made in our own image. In which case, “to each, his own.” There’s no basis for condemnation or judgement by anyone, for anything. Ever. Anything goes. All is absurd. We are adrift. Isolated. There is nothing binding us all together. “Prayer” and “faith” and “religion” are really just shared illusions.
Let’s put it directly, if our fundamental principles can “change with the times” we’re really just worshiping ourselves in the name of God.
Of course, the good news for every human person is that this Ought is a fabrication. We recognize in the lives of every person who ever lived a Truth we did not shape, but Who is shaping us. A Truth one can not so much break, but only be broken against.
Amidst the ever-changing tides of 2000 years of history we have in the Catholic Church a steadfast Anchor holding us fast; a Compass guiding us toward our greatest, ultimate and eternal good, on earth as it is in heaven.
It doesn’t so much matter if you believe in God; He believes in you. He has fashioned you for a purpose that can only be found in Him, through a life of worshipping Him. You ought to see this Truth. It will make all the difference in the world. But that is up to you.