Expelling 'Private Beliefs' from Public Square Creates Tyranny of Relativism

Expelling 'Private Beliefs' from Public Square Creates Tyranny of Relativism

By John Mallon

The day before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger gave a beautiful homily in which he mentioned several of the evils of our day. In particular he mentioned a certain "Dictatorship of Relativism."

What did he mean?

Moral relativism is a view which says "there is no right or wrong only what works for you." This view has become widely accepted in the West, and has even become legal precedent in one case.

It happened in 1992 when the United States Supreme Court ruled on Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Catholic, wrote, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."

No one is asking these matters be defined by the state, as they traditionally have been the province of religion. Nevertheless, the state does make and enforce laws against murder, and did indeed make determinations about personhood in Roe v. Wade, choosing not to err on the side of life.

But there are those who seek to remove the influence of religion in society rendering it a merely "private matter" as though one's private beliefs can be separated from one's civic duties. The Dred Scott decision that said black slaves were only three fifths human was overturned when that erroneous determination was overturned by the state, informed by moral conscience.

Ultimately, it was religiously formed consciences which abolished state sanctioned slavery, and, 100 years later demanded civil rights for the descendants of slaves. It was personal consciences which were outraged by the revelation of the Nazi Holocaust. Should the voice of personal conscience now be silenced?

This disastrous court decision is a ticking time bomb which not only undercuts the basis of all law, but opens the way for tyranny, the seeds of which are starting to sprout.

Justice Kennedy's fatal mistake was enshrining relativism in law. The fact is that at the heart of liberty is the right to live in accord with reality, in adherence to it and not to fabricate it. Truth and reality exist independently of us, and to say each person dreams it up on their own is a formula for madness. It removes all standards.

Under this ruling what is to stop a mini-Hitler from inventing a universe where he is free from laws preventing him from carrying out a genocide, if, in his concept of reality he deems it necessary to do so? In fact that is precisely what Hitler did do. He invented a mythical reality complete with it's own regalia which scapegoated the Jews for all the evils in the world. He replaced the Judeo-Christian ethos with an imaginary Teutonic paganism, writing the rules to suit himself and millions of people died. Wherever paganism appears, human sacrifice is not far behind.

The same thing has happened in the current day. There are those seeking to replace Judeo-Christian ethics, which are the basis of Western Civilization, with feminist paganism which has resulted in the deaths of 45 million unborn children, yet it is widely rationalized, just as Hitler's mythos was in 1930s Germany. This could not be done without a weakening of the objective standard of right and wrong laid down in the Judeo-Christian ethic, summarized in the Ten Commandments.

Now we see the Ten Commandments being deemed "offensive," symbolic of an "imposition of The 

morality," with shrill demands that they be banned from public view. Who could be offended by the Ten Commandments except someone who wants to violate or disregard them?

A repressed conscience holds a lot of volatile energy which is bound to explode if not reconciled with moral reality. This is especially true when one has to construct an entire false belief system in order to live with something they have done, especially something traumatic like an abortion.

Ever since the election of 2004 there has been hysterical rhetoric about the "danger" posed by Christians to the republic as though forced conversions and inquisitions were about to break out. This, of course, ignores that the Founders were predominantly deists, if not confessing Christians, and the republic has prospered over the last 200 plus years with a predominantly Christian populace, with people free to worship or not worship as they pleased, and the sky hasn't fallen.

But this balance has been maintained because of the predominance of Judeo-Christian ethics with its implicit tolerance, as the generally agreed upon moral code.

Alternative ideologies tend not to be so tolerant, as National Socialism, Marxism and radical feminism have shown, despite rhetoric to the contrary. It's a long way from "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," to "Dutschland über alles!" and "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries."

It is the difference between a stable, tolerant society and a dictatorship of relativism which requires that some members of society be disposed of as a condition for its existence.

Mallon is contributing editor for Inside the Vatican magazine.