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The Assault on Truth

May 2, 2019

The late Fr. John Hardon, S.J., defined “truth” as “the conformity of the mind with reality.”  One would think that this would be a pretty non-controversial statement, but there are many who believe that truth doesn’t exist, or that it is unknowable, or that it can “evolve.”  Others say that there is “my truth” and “your truth,” or “my reality” and “your reality.” Still others say that truth applies only to the positive sciences, but not to what is religious, theological, ethical or aesthetic, or that it is determined by majority vote.

 

This debate about truth is as old as human history.  Historian Paul Johnson once wrote:  “The beginning of evil is the assault on the truth.  The first sin, of Adam, was preceded by the first lie, Satan’s, and its unthinking repetition by Eve.  The metaphor of Genesis teaches that anti-truth is the cause of active evil. Lying is the prolegomenon, the forward, to the encyclopedia of evil.”

 

The Sophists, Greek philosophers from the 5th century B.C., taught that it was impossible to know what was morally good or evil.  One Sophist, Protagoras (480-410 B.C), famously said “Man is the measure of all things…”  The Sophists’ teaching was countered by Socrates (470-399 B.C.), who taught that it was possible to know right and wrong, truth and falsity, justice and injustice.  Socrates was put on trial, and after a vote was taken, condemned to death.

 

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, He said “…I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” To which Pilate replied, “What is truth?”  After this, the crowd clamored--- one could say “the majority voted”--- for the death of Jesus and the release of Barabbas, a robber and murderer.

 

In our day, this assault on truth continues.  We are induced, in the words of Malcolm Muggeridge, “to see as an enlargement of our freedom and an enhancement of the quality of our living, the steady and ominous erosion of the moral standards on which our traditional way of life has been based.”  Who would have thought that in one lifetime, laws designed to protect marriage and the family--- laws regulating contraception, adultery, easy divorce, pornography, fornication, homosexual acts--- would be discarded, and those who insist that these were good laws would be now vilified as “intolerant” and “haters”?

 

For those who hate the truth, the truth is hate.  It is as Jesus said: “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake…” (Mat: 10:22)  He also said: “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6) and “If you abide in my word… you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31-32)  

 

Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, in the 1980’s said that “…sin is, in its essence, a renunciation of truth…. This means that human beings who deny the limitations imposed on them by good and evil, which are the inner standard of creation, deny the truth.  They are living in untruth and unreality.”  Now, as we see “three parent children,” “sex-change operations,” and nascent attempts to create human-animal chimeras, this untruth and unreality works itself out even more blatantly and ominously before our eyes.

 

The Church teaches, in the words of Pope John Paul II: “If something is true, then it must be true for all people and at all times… to believe it is possible to know a universally valid truth is in no way to encourage intolerance; on the contrary, it is the essential condition for sincere and authentic dialogue between persons… there can be no freedom apart from or in opposition to the truth...  Totalitarianism arises out of the denial of truth in the objective sense…”

 

How are we to respond to this?  Jesus tells us: “What I tell you in darkness, speak it in the light; and what you hear whispered, preach it on the housetops.  And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather be afraid of him who is able to able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Mat 10:27-28)

 

Each of us must strive to fulfill the opus Dei, the work of God, in our lives. We must speak the truth in love, with tact and charity; we must not be so afraid that we do not speak.  We should work to restore Catholic family life by encouraging openness to life and vocations; and by prayer, perhaps praying the Rosary and Divine Office daily.  We should make sure our children receive a solid Catholic education, by either sending them to an authentically Catholic school or through home education.

 

St. Michael Broadcasting is part of this evangelization.  The Vatican II document Inter Mirifica points out that the faithful, through the media, “may further the salvation and perfection of themselves and of the entire human family.”  We are exhorted “to maintain and assist Catholic… television stations… whose principal objective is to spread and defend the truth and foster Christian influence in human society.”  With this in mind, please support your station by offering to volunteer, by praying for its fidelity and success, by contributing if you are able, and by telling others.

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