Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lord, Save Us From the Relativists


Recently a Pro-Life activist, Austin Ruse (which for who knows how long this writer read as “Astin Rose”) wrote an article claiming that the “purists” were undermining the Pro-Life movement with their rigidity, especially in Ireland.  It’s all in this article in Crisis magazine.

We can sympathize with Mr. Ruse . . . up to a point.  We, too, have run up against Pro-Life supporters and advocates who claim that Capital Homesteading presented as a possible “Pro-Life economic agenda” is a bundle of unacceptable compromises.

Ironically, some of the worst critics of “Capital Homesteading” have themselves equivocated on the issue and become less "rigid" . . . in selected areas.  Faced with the presumed necessity of State support, they compromise on the natural rights to liberty, property, and, yes, life itself in order to curry favor with the political powers-that-be in order to secure higher wages, benefits, and welfare.

One particularly virulent critic of our proposal that would vest every child, woman, and man with economic (and thus political) power through direct ownership of capital actually claimed that the Pro-Life movement was spending too much effort trying to end abortion when wages were too low, benefits were inadequate, welfare was in danger, there was an unjust war being waged, and politicians were lying.

Politicians lying?  Stop the presses!  That’s certainly reason enough to continue legalized killing of children.  Until we can stop those damned politicians from lying, nothing else, not even the death of innocent people, matters one bit.

Clearly what we have here is a fundamental inability to distinguish between a principle (an absolute), and the application of a principle, which is necessarily "relative" to circumstances.  Austin Ruse essentially shoots himself in the foot over this concept by promoting relativism instead of distinguishing between a principle and the application of a principle.  We made this point in yet another book, In Defense of Human Dignity (2008), when we explained that both the “liberals” and the “conservatives” are making this same mistake.

Not only that, it's the same thing we see every day with respect to all natural rights.  A large segment of people in society, even in the Catholic Church, are absolutely convinced that there are no absolutes, except what their faith teaches them . . . which naturally cannot be proved through the use of reason.

Thus, rather than assert that, e.g., the rights to life, liberty, and property are absolute, however necessarily limited in their exercise (the rights of life, liberty, and property), they confuse the right to, and the rights of something.  They then claim (correctly) that because use or exercise of any right cannot by its nature be absolute, but then conclude (incorrectly) that the rights to be alive, to be free, and to own are also not absolute.

This takes the natural law away from the realm of reason (lex ratio), and puts it firmly under private belief or will (lex voluntas).  We are supposed to do something not because it is inherently right as proved by “human reason by its own natural force and light” (Humani Generis, § 2), but because something we accept as God or a god-substitute (such as the State) said so.  "Right" and "wrong" become matters of faith, not reason.

Followed to its logical conclusion, this would mean that there are no absolutes.  This, in turn, means that whoever has the biggest club determines right and wrong, with the results we see around us today.  As Fulton Sheen pointed out 70 years ago,

“The human heart must have an absolute. As Voltaire has said: ‘If man had no God, he would make a God for himself.’ Deny man the right to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of a saint, and in fifty years he will be making pilgrimages to a tank factory. Deny man a God Incarnate, and in a few generations he will adore the emperor as the incarnation of a sun god; deny man the right to worship one who rose from a tomb, and in a decade he will try to immortalize a corpse. The totalitarian powers have convinced us that man cannot live without a religion, a faith and an absolute. The question no longer is: whether we will or will not have an absolute; the only question is which absolute will we have?” ~ Fulton J. Sheen, Philosophies at War, 1943 (p 164-165).

#30#

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