Bishop Barron says that Catholic moral understanding is against the atheist claim that wise, compassionate people can—on their own—discover “the good” or moral truths without God. While there is certainly a moral capacity within all persons, and great Christian teachers from St. Paul to Pope Francis have pointed out that a non-believer can be a good person or have good intentions, Bishop Barron joins with the perspective of our faith in maintaining that, eventually, detaching God as a necessary component in morality will erode the moral fiber of a person, community or society. If, in the end, what is good is not rooted in objective truth but rather if the good is only determined by what I decide—or we decide—is good, in the end moral relativism will emerge (my morality—which is different from yours—is just as good as your morality) and people and society will drift away from what is objectively and truly good…what is moral. Without a connection to God, how can morality be determined solely by human minds and hearts that are afflicted by sin?
That Bishop Barron and our Catholic moral tradition is absolutely right about this can be easily confirmed by looking at what is going on in our society that appears to want to drift further and further away from God. Just consider a partial list: the erosion of married and family life, the growing legalization of euthanasia in the western world, the libertine approach to drug use, the celebration, normalization and focus on a variety of lifestyles that were previously not considered to be ideal, the continued assault on life in the womb, the growth of terror around the world…etc.
This past week was the March for Life in Washington, D. C. Even amidst heavy snow and very cold weather, hundreds of thousands of people from across our nation gave public witness to the essential value of life and the moral imperative to promote and protect it. As I have written in the past, the Church and its allies in the pro-life movement have made great progress in turning around the thinking of many people in our nation about abortion. We are winning the argument, even if there is a lot of work still to be done. There is hope! In the face of our society’s trend toward immorality and detachment from God, the Evil One would have us react with hopelessness, resignation and passivity. But to be rooted in God is to have hope; our connection to the Lord should inspire us to action: learn more about the Church’s moral thinking and teaching, enter into informed conversation about these things with others…pray…find more joy in goodness than fear in the face of faithlessness.
The learning part is important. St. Catherine of Siena said, “The one who knows more, loves more.” If we cannot create morality in our own minds, then it is important that we learn the truth given to us by the One who is the source and expression of all goodness and truth. Ignorance in the face of secularism is a sure recipe for surrender. How can we outwit the compelling logic of our godless age if we do not understand the reasons for our teaching? Join our Adult Formation classes to learn more! (Tuesdays, Hoven at 7:00 pm and/or Thursdays, Bowdle at 7:00 pm).