Auntie Fatcat's

Sit down, have a cookie, and chat for a spell.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Dictatorship of Relativism

So they have a new pope. Quickly and unsurprisingly, the College of Cardinals has elected former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to be Pope Benedict XVI. I'm mildly disappointed to see that the new pope is a hard-line conservative: strongly opposed to divorce, birth control, liberation theology, women or married men in the priesthood, and homosexuality anywhere. I was kinda hoping they would notice the huge Catholic population in Latin America and choose someone who would focus his ministry, as Jesus did, on the needs of the poor, the sick, and the oppressed. That would take the Church back to its biblical ideals of love and compassion while putting the pope in a great political position to enthuse and activate the most faithful and massive of Catholicism's faithful masses. Instead, they've chosen to fixate on the relatively petty concern of micromanaging people's bedroom activity. Okay then.

That said, I do agree with the new pope on one thing. At a mass shortly before the papal election conclave began, Cardinal Ratzinger said that modern society is creating "a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. . . . Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism." Take out the part about the creed of the church, and I'm there.

Like most liberals, I dislike and distrust fundamentalism of any stripe for its rigid insistence on imposing a comprehensive, one-size-fits-all set of rules on everyone. But I think its opposite number--the belief that there are no rules, or that everyone has the right to pick their own rules--is almost as bad. When I took management training back in my Wizards of the Coast days, we were taught that good managers impose as much structure as needed and no more, allowing employees as much room to innovate as possible while retaining clarity of roles and responsibilities. I think the same is true of morality; there must be a few universal rules, but only the minimum you need to clarify rights and responsibilities. After that, do what ye will.

I'm guessing that most people would agree with that general position, and come to blows mainly in arguing what the few rules should be. Healthy moral debate is a good thing, particularly if we can stick to persuading and keep away from demonizing and fisticuffs. Just keep in mind, while we debate, that there's a difference between being a jerk and being immoral, that sins aren't always crimes and virtues aren't always requirements, and that all beliefs are not created equal. And however high the bar may be for setting universal moral rules, the bar for turning those rules into enforced laws is higher still.


Blogger janXknits said...

Well said Beverly. I couldn't agree with you more. (Even if I did disagree with you, it was still well said).

I'm enjoying your blog. Know Mike and I know what you are up too since we always seem to ask you, "What do you do with your time?"

Keep blogging!

5:11 PM  
Blogger janXknits said...

Sorry, it should be "Now Mike and and I..." not know. I do KNOW the difference between the two.

5:12 PM  

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