Father Scalia, Moral Relativism and Cowardice
By Laurie Higgins, Director of IFI's DSA -Illinois Family Institute
Father Paul Scalia
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's son Paul Scalia is an ordained Roman Catholic priest. Here is an excerpt from a blog post by Hadley Arkes, Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College, writing about one of Father Scalia's homilies:
The Rev. Paul Scalia focused...his homily, on the moment when Pontius Pilate confronted Jesus:
Did he affect really to be the King of the Jews? Jesus would not affirm that account rendered by another. He answered obliquely that his kingdom was not "of this world," that he had come to "bear witness to the truth." To which Pilate responded, "What is truth?"
Fr. Scalia took Pilate to reflect the...relativism in our own day: the eroding conviction that reason [can] grasp moral truths, because we increasingly doubt our faculty for knowing truths of any kind.
But in the moral domain, the erosion [is] devastating: Held back in doubt, people...recede from judgment--and from facing their responsibility to judge. And doubt soon...beget[s] cowardice, as it begot, in Pilate, the willingness to wash his hands and let the responsibility for judging fall to someone else.
But then...Fr. Scalia completed the story:
It falls now to the "body of the Church," for those assembled here, and in the vast reach of this communion, to stand in place of Jesus in taking on the mission. The body of the Church must bear "witness to the truth."
What truth? In our own day, most pressingly, the truth about marriage, set against the wave moving toward same-sex marriage, and the truth of "the human person," set against the culture of death and the denigration of life, nascent and aged.
I share Fr. Scalia and Prof. Arkes' concern about the critical importance of bearing witness to the truth. I am continually disappointed and frustrated with the cowardice displayed by those who hold conservative views on the nature and morality of homosexual acts. When talking to them about the efforts of educators to use public education to normalize homosexuality, Christians will tell me that when confronting administrators or faculty members about offensive texts, they will not address homosexuality. They may talk to friends, neighbors, teachers, administrators, or school board members about graphic sex or obscene language, but they refuse to address homosexuality.
If I meet with a concerned community member in a public place like a coffee shop or restaurant to discuss the problem of pro-homosexual advocacy in public schools, they will lower their voices and look anxiously around as if our conversation was something of which to feel ashamed.
Whenever opposition to resources that affirm homosexuality being used in public schools arises, the situation is always the same: a few courageous parents step forward to endure the hostility that inevitably results from taking a public stand. And if they're successful, other parents will benefit from their lonely and difficult efforts.
I have had community members explain their silence with the following rationalizations:
- We homeschool our children, so we have no right to speak out.
- We homeschool our children and therefore try not to draw attention to ourselves.
- We're too busy.
- I hate conflict.
- I don't know what to say.
- I'm afraid I'll be labeled a "hater."
- My children are out of school.
- My children aren't yet in school.
- I don't have children.
- My children are in school, and I'm afraid that if I speak out, my children will experience repercussions.
- I work in the school, and I'm afraid I'll experience personal or professional repercussions.
Well, that covers just about everybody, so who, pray tell, remains to fight for children, parental rights, freedom of conscience, religious liberty, intellectual diversity--and truth. I guess for the fortunate communities, it's the one or two mothers or fathers (usually mothers) who are willing to suffer for truth.
Imagine that the issue were not the use of public education to legitimize homosexuality, but rather the use of public education to promote abortion, racism, adult consensual incest, or polyamory. Would we engage in similar cowardly, shamefaced behavior? Would we self-censor? Would we allow those who promote these evil ideas to children with our money to speak without challenge? Would we try to find indirect ways to end such pernicious efforts--ways that conceal from others the true nature of our beliefs?
Through our silence or obliquity, we communicate the false and dangerous impression that our beliefs are shameful. And by example, we teach our children to be cowardly conformists.
Those who claim the name of Christ must assume their obligation to bear witness to the truth, and in so doing resist the impulse toward a cowardly refusal to judge between moral and immoral acts.
There is no guarantee that courageous cultural engagement will be comfortable. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I guarantee that it will be intensely uncomfortable, but that's no excuse for cowardly acquiescence.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5: 10-11)