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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dutch pastor suspended after gross liturgical abuse in so-called "soccer mass"

I love soccer. But my love for soccer doesn't even come close to my love for the liturgy. It appears to me that this Dutch pastor lacks a proper understanding of the Divine Liturgy, as he attempts to make it into some sort of "World Cup" picnic event, contrary to the virtue of obedience and all that is holy.

The video below is heartbreaking, and just another reminder of the modernist heresy prevalent in the Catholic Church today. The faithful have a right to participate in the Holy Mass free from liturgical abuse. I pray that our priests understand more deeply the significance of our Divine Liturgy, and treat our liturgy with the solemn respect it deserves, with religious obedience to the liturgical norms universally binding within the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. To do otherwise is to force upon the faithful a caricature of Catholicism, which is profoundly disrepectful.

Many non-Catholics (and perhaps many Catholics) may wonder why the pastor's actions were so disrespectful, deserving of suspension. It is comparable to comedienne Rosanne Barr's offensive rendition of our National Anthem where she ended it by spitting and grabbing her crotch. The Holy Mass is the universal "anthem" sung by the faithful to God. It is a Divine anthem sung in the same manner by Latin Rite Catholics all over the world. Pastors do not have the authority to alter that holy anthem, and the faithful have a right to participate in the liturgy as presecribed by the Church.

According to Church's teaching in Inaestimable Donum:

"The faithful have a right to a true Liturgy, which means the Liturgy desired and laid down by the Church, which has in fact indicated where adaptations may be made as called for by pastoral requirements in different places or by different groups of people. Undue experimentation, changes and creativity bewilder the faithful. The use of unauthorized texts means loss of the necessary connection between the lex orandi ['law of prayer'] and the lex credendi ['law of belief']. The Second Vatican Council's admonition in this regard must be remembered: "No person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority" [Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 22, 3].

God bless,


Sunday, May 16, 2010

That they all may be one...that the world may believe

St. Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea ('The Golden Chain') presents the commentary from the early Church on the Gospels. In today's Mass, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the Gospel reading is from St. John's Gospel, ch. 17, verses 20-26.
Here's the Catena Aurea commentary for those verses [source]:
20. Neither pray I for these alone but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21. That they all may be one; as you, Father, is in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.

22. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

23. I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one: and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me.

AUG. When our Lord had prayed for His disciples, whom He named also Apostles, He added a prayer for all others who should believe on Him; Neither pray I for these alone, but for all others who shall believe of Me through their word.

CHRYS. Another ground of consolation to them, that they were to be the cause of the salvation of others.

AUG. All, i.e. not only those who were then alive, but those who were to be born; not those only who heard the Apostles themselves, but us who were born long after their death. We have all believed in Christ through their word: for they first heard that word from Christ, and then preached it to others, and so it has come down, and will go down to all posterity. We may see that in this prayer there are some disciples whom He does not pray for; for those,

i.e. who were neither with Him at the time, nor were about to believe on Him afterwards through the Apostles' word, but believed already.

Was Nathanael with Him then, or Joseph of Arimathea, and many others, who, John says, believed on Him? I do not mention old Simon, or Anna the prophetess, Zacharias, Elisabeth, or John the Baptist; for it might be answered that it was not necessary to pray for dead persons, such as these who departed with such rich merits. With respect to the former then we must understand that they did not yet believe in Him, as He wished, but that after His resurrection, when the Apostles were taught and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, they attained to a right faith.

The case of Paul however still remains, An Apostle not of men, or by men; and that of the robber, who believed when even the teachers themselves of the faith fell away. We must understand then, their word, to mean the word of faith itself which they preached to the world; it being called their word, because it was preached in the first instance and principally by them; for it was being preached by them, when Paul received it by revelation from Jesus Christ Himself. And in this sense the robber too believed their word. Wherefore in this prayer the Redeemer prays for all whom He redeemed, both present and to come.

And then follows the thing itself which He prays for, That they all may be one. He asks that for all, which he asked above for the disciples; that all both we and they may be one.

CHRYS. And with this prayer for unanimity, He concludes His prayer; and then begins a discourse on the same subject: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.

HILARY. And this unity is recommended by the great example of unity: As you, Father, are in Me, and I in you, that they also may be one in Us, i.e. that as the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father, so after the likeness of this unity, all may be one in the Father and in the Son.

CHRYS. This as again does not express perfect likeness, but only likeness as far as it was possible in men; as when He says, Be you merciful, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is merciful.

AUG. We must particularly observe here, that our Lord did not say, that we may be all one, but that they may be all one, as you, Father, in Me, and I in You, are one, understood. For the Father is so in the Son, that They are one, because They are of one substance; but we can be one in Them, but not with Them; because we and They are not of one substance. They are in us, and we in Them, so as that They are one in Their nature, we one in ours. They are in us, as God is in the temple; we in Them, as the creature is in its Creator. Wherefore He adds, in Us, to show, that our being made one by charity, is to be attributed to the grace of God, not to ourselves.

AUG. Or that in ourselves we cannot be one, severed from each other by diverse pleasures, and lusts, and the pollution of sin, from which we must be cleansed by a Mediator, in order to be one in Him.

HILARY. Heretics endeavoring to get over the words, I and My Father are one, as a proving unity of nature, and to reduce them to mean a unity simply of natural love, and agreement of will, bring forwards these words of our Lord's as an example of this kind of unity: That they may be all one, as You, Father, is in Me, and I in You.

But though impiety can cheat its own understanding, it cannot alter the meaning of the words themselves. For they who are born again of a nature that gives unity in life eternal, they cease to be one in will merely, acquiring the same nature by their regeneration: but the Father and Son alone are properly one, because God, only-begotten of God, can only exist in that nature from which He is derived.

AUG. But why does He say, That the world may believe that you have sent Me? Will the world believe when we shall all be one in the Father and the Son? Is not this unity that peace eternal, which is the reward of faith, rather than faith itself? For though in this life all of us who hold in the same common faith are one, yet even this unity is not a means to belief, but the consequence of it.

What means then, That all may be one, that the world may believe? He prays for the world when He says, Neither pray I for these alone, but for all those who shall believe on Me through their word. Whereby it appears that He does not make this unity the cause of the world believing, but prays that the world may believe, as He prays that they all may be one. The meaning will be clearer if we always put in the word ask; I ask that they all may be one; I ask. that they may be one in Us; I ask that the world may believe that you have sent Me.

HILARY. Or, the world will believe that the Son is sent from the Father, for that reason, viz. because all who believe in Him are one in the Father and the Son.

CHRYS. For there is no scandal so great as division, whereas unity amongst believers is a great argument for believing; as He said at the beginning of His discourse, By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another. For if they quarrel, they will not be looked on as the disciples of a peacemaking Master. And I, He says, not being a peacemaker, they will not acknowledge Me as sent from God.

AUG. Then our Savior, Who, by praying to the Father, showed Himself to be man, now shows that, being God with the Father, He does what He prays for: And the glory which you gave Me, I have given them. What glory, but immortality, which human nature was about to receive in Him? For that which was to be by unchangeable predestination, though future, He expresses by the past tense. That glory of immortality, which He says was given Him by the Father, we must understand He gave Himself also.

For when the Son is silent of His own cooperation in the Father's work, He shows His humility: when He is silent of the Father's cooperation in His work, He shows His equality. In this way here He neither disconnects Himself with the Father's work, when He says, The glory which you gave Me, nor the Father with His work, when He says, I have given them. But as He was pleased by prayer to the Father to obtain that all might be one, so now He is pleased to effect the same by His own gift; for He continues, That all may be one, even as We are one.

CHRYS. By glory, He means miracles, and doctrines and unity; which latter is the greater glory. For all who believed through the Apostles see one. If any separated, it was owing to men's own carelessness; not but that our Lord anticipates this happening.

HILARY. By this giving and receiving of honor, then, all are one. But I do not yet apprehend in what way this makes all one. Our Lord, however, explains the gradation and order in the consummating of this unity, when He adds, I in them, and You in Me; so that inasmuch as He was in the Father by His divine nature, we in Him by His incarnation, and He again in us by the mystery of the sacrament, a perfect union by means of a Mediator was established.

CHRYS. Elsewhere He says of Himself and the Father, We will come and make Our abode with Him; by the mention of two persons, stopping the mouths of the Sabellians. Here by saying that the Father comes to the disciples through Him, He refutes the notion of the Arians.

AUG. Nor is this said, however, as if to mean that the Father was not in us, or we in the Father. He only means to see, that He is Mediator between God and man. And what He adds, That they may be made perfect in one, shows that the reconciliation made by this Mediator, was carried on even to the enjoyment of everlasting blessedness. So what follows, That the world may know that you have sent Me, must not be taken to mean the same as the words just above.

That the world may believe. For as long as we believe what we do not see, we are not yet made perfect, as we shall be when we hare merited to see what we believe. So that when He speaks of their being made perfect, we are to understand such a knowledge as shall be by sight not such as is by faith. These that believe are the world, not a permanent enemy, my, but changed from an enemy to a friend; as it follows: And has loved them, as you has loved Me. The Father loves us in the Son, because He elected us in Him.

These words do not prove that we are equal to the Only-Begotten Son; for this mode of expression, as one thing so another, does not always signify equality. It sometimes only means, because cause one thing, therefore another. And this is its meaning here: You have loved them, as you have loved Me, i. e. You have loved them, because you have loved Me. There is no reason for God loving His members, but that He loves him, But since He hates nothing that He has made, who can adequately express how much He loves the members of His Only-Begotten Son, and still more the Only-Begotten Himself.
24. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25. O righteous Father, the world has not known you: but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me.

26. And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith you has loved me may be in them, and I in them,

CHRYS. After He has said that many should believe on Him through them, and that they should obtain great glory, He then speaks of the crowns in store for them; Father, 1 will that they also whom you have given Me, be with Me; where I am.

AUG. These are they whom He has received from the Father, whom He also chose out of the world; as He says at the beginning of this prayer, you have given Him power over all flesh, i.e. all mankind, That He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him. Wherein He shows that He had received power over all men, to deliver whom He would and to condemn whom He would. Wherefore it is to all His members that He promises this reward, that where He is they may be also. Nor can that but be done, which the Almighty Son says that He wishes to the Almighty Father: for the Father and the Son have one will, which, if weakness prevent us from comprehending, piety must believe. Where I am; so far as pertains to the creature, He w as made of the seed of David according to the flesh: He might say, Where I am, meaning where He was shortly to be, i.e. heaven. In heaven then, He promises us, we shall be. For there was the form of a servant raised, which He had taken from the Virgin, and there placed on the right hand of God.

GREG. What means then what the Truth says above, No man has ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. Yet here is no discrepancy for our Lord being the Head of His members, the reprobates excluded, He is alone with us. And therefore, we making one with Him, whence He came alone in Himself, there; He returns alone in us.

AUG. But as respects the form of God, wherein He is equal to the Father, if we understand these words, that they may he with Me where I am, with reference to that, then an away with all bodily ideas, and inquire, not where the Son, Who is equal to the Father, is: for no one has discovered where He is not. Wherefore it was not enough for Him to say, I will that they may be where I am, but He adds, with Me. For to be with Him is the great good: even the miserable can be where He is, but only the happy can be with Him. And as in the case of the visible though very different be whatever example we take, a blind man will serve for one, as a blind man though He is where the light is, yet is not himself with the light, but is absent from it in its presence, so not only the unbelieving, but the believing, though they cannot be where Christ is not, yet are not themselves with Christ by sight: by faith we cannot doubt but that a believer is with Christ. But here He is speaking of that sight wherein we shall see Him as He is; as He adds, That they may behold My glory, which you have given Me. That they may behold, He says, not, that they may believe. It is the reward of faith which He speaks of, not faith itself.

CHRYS. he says not, that they may partake of My glory, but, that they may behold, intimating that the rest there is to see the Son of God. The Father gave Him glory, when He begat Him.

AUG. When then we shall have seen the glory which the Father gave the Son, though by this glory we do not understand here, that which He gave to the equal Son when He begat Him, but that which He gave to the Son of man, after His crucifixion; then shall the judgment be, then shall the wicked be taken away, that he see not the glory of the Lord: what glory but that whereby He is God? If then we take their words, That they may be if with Me where I am, to be spoken by Him as Son of God, in that case they must have a higher meaning, viz. that we shall be in the Father with Christ. As He immediately adds, That they may see My glory which you have given Me; and then, Which you gave Me before the foundation of the world. For in Him He loved us before the foundation of the world, and then predestined what He should do at the end of the world.

BEDE. That which He calls glory then is the love wherewith He was loved with the Father before the foundation of the world. And in that glory He loved us too before the foundation of the world.

THEOPHYL. After then that He had prayed for believers, and promised them so many good things, another prayer follows worthy of His mercy and benignity: O righteous Father, the world has not known it you; as if to say, I would wish that all men obtained these good things, which I have asked for the believing. But inasmuch as they have not known you, they shall not obtain the glory and crown.

CHRYS. He says this as if He were troubled at the thought, that they should be unwilling to know One so just and good. And whereas the Jews had said, that they knew God, and He knew Him not: He on the contrary says, But I have known you, and these have known that you have sent Me, and I have declared to them your name, and will declare it, by giving them perfect knowledge through the Holy Ghost. When they have learned what you are, they will know that I am not separate from You, but You own Son greatly beloved, and joined to You. This I have e told them, that I might receive them, and that they who believe this aright, shall preserve their faith and love toward Me entire; and I will abide in them: That the love wherewith you have loved Me may be in them, and I in them.

AUG. Or thus; What is to know Him, but eternal life, which He gave not to a condemned but to a reconciled world? for this reason the world hath not known You; because you are just, and have punished the with this ignorance of You, in reward for their misdeeds. And for this reason the reconciled world knows You, because you are merciful, and have vouchsafed this knowledge, not in consequence of their merits, but of your grace. it follows: But I have known You. He is God the fountain of grace by nature, man of the Holy Ghost and Virgin by grace ineffable. Then because the grace of God is through Jesus Christ, He says, And they have known Me, i.e. the reconciled world have known Me, by grace, forasmuch as you have sent Me. And I have made known your name to them by faith, and will make it known by sight: that the love wherewith you have loved Me may be in them. The Apostle uses a like phrase, I have fought a good fight, by a good fight being the more common form. The love wherewith the Father loves the Son in us, can only be in us because we are His members, and we are loved in Him when He is loved wholly, i.e. both head and body. And therefore He adds, And I in them; He is in us, as in His temple, we in Him as our Head.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Aborted baby survives for two days

This is what an unborn child of 22-weeks looks like.

At this age...

The baby is about 7½ inches long and weighs about one pound.
The baby has fingerprints and perhaps some head and body hair.
The baby may suck its thumb and is more active.
The brain is growing very rapidly.
The baby's heartbeat can be easily heard.
The kidneys start to work.

In 2008, 5 of 41 babies born prematurely at 22 weeks survived.

A 22-week baby boy recently died in Italy, after surviving an attempted abortion. This was one tough kid. I can only imagine what astonishing gifts this child may have offered to the world, if only we nurtured his growth rather than choosing to kill him. Could he have become another Mozart? Perhaps he may have become a brilliant doctor who discovered a cure for breast cancer? We will never know.

The boy spent his first day of life under a sheet, presumed dead. A chaplain praying for the baby noticed movement under the sheet and called for help. A pediatrician arrived and observed the baby was still breathing, still moving, and his heart was still beating despite the previous attempt to kill him. The baby died in an incubator in the intensive neonatal therapy unit at a second hospital in nearby Cosenza the next day.

It is astonishing to me that anyone would hire someone to kill their own son, and that this is called in today's perverted vernacular, "pro-choice."

Eternal Father, we offer you the body, blood, soul and divinity of your dearly Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world. For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and all the whole world.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Prayer - our relationship with Christ

"It is necessary to enter into real friendship with Jesus in a personal relationship with him and not to know who Jesus is only from others or from books, but to live an ever deeper personal relationship with Jesus, where we can begin to understand what he is asking of us." -- Pope Benedict XVI, 6 Apr 2006

"This mystery [of faith], then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer." -- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), no. 2558

“We have spoken of faith as an encounter with the One who is Truth and Love. We have also seen that this is an encounter which is both communitarian and personal, and must take place in all the dimensions of our lives through the exercise of our intelligence, the choices of freedom, the service of love. A privileged place exists, however, where this encoutner takes place more directly. Here it is reinforced and deepened and thus can truly permeate and mark the whole o f life: this space is prayer” -- Pope Benedict XVI, 5 Jun 2006

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ecumenism Without Compromise, by Peter Kreeft

An audio lecture from Prof. Peter Kreeft of Boston College on Ecumenism can be listened to here:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pope Benedict: Easter Vigil Homily

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

An ancient Jewish legend from the apocryphal book "The life of Adam and Eve" recounts that, in his final illness, Adam sent his son Seth together with Eve into the region of Paradise to fetch the oil of mercy, so that he could be anointed with it and healed. The two of them went in search of the tree of life, and after much praying and weeping on their part, the Archangel Michael appeared to them, and told them they would not obtain the oil of the tree of mercy and that Adam would have to die. Subsequently, Christian readers added a word of consolation to the Archangel's message, to the effect that after 5,500 years the loving King, Christ, would come, the Son of God who would anoint all those who believe in him with the oil of his mercy. "The oil of mercy from eternity to eternity will be given to those who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. Then the Son of God, Christ, abounding in love, will descend into the depths of the earth and will lead your father into Paradise, to the tree of mercy."

This legend lays bare the whole of humanity's anguish at the destiny of illness, pain and death that has been imposed upon us. Man's resistance to death becomes evident: somewhere – people have constantly thought – there must be some cure for death. Sooner or later it should be possible to find the remedy not only for this or that illness, but for our ultimate destiny – for death itself. Surely the medicine of immortality must exist. Today too, the search for a source of healing continues. Modern medical science strives, if not exactly to exclude death, at least to eliminate as many as possible of its causes, to postpone it further and further, to prolong life more and more. But let us reflect for a moment: what would it really be like if we were to succeed, perhaps not in excluding death totally, but in postponing it indefinitely, in reaching an age of several hundred years? Would that be a good thing? Humanity would become extraordinarily old, there would be no more room for youth. Capacity for innovation would die, and endless life would be no paradise, if anything a condemnation. The true cure for death must be different. It cannot lead simply to an indefinite prolongation of this current life. It would have to transform our lives from within. It would need to create a new life within us, truly fit for eternity: it would need to transform us in such a way as not to come to an end with death, but only then to begin in fullness. What is new and exciting in the Christian message, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was and is that we are told: yes indeed, this cure for death, this true medicine of immortality, does exist. It has been found. It is within our reach. In baptism, this medicine is given to us. A new life begins in us, a life that matures in faith and is not extinguished by the death of the old life, but is only then fully revealed.

To this some, perhaps many, will respond: I certainly hear the message, but I lack faith. And even those who want to believe will ask: but is it really so? How are we to picture it to ourselves? How does this transformation of the old life come about, so as to give birth to the new life that knows no death? Once again, an ancient Jewish text can help us form an idea of the mysterious process that begins in us at baptism. There it is recounted how the patriarch Enoch was taken up to the throne of God. But he was filled with fear in the presence of the glorious angelic powers, and in his human weakness he could not contemplate the face of God. "Then God said to Michael," to quote from the book of Enoch, "'Take Enoch and remove his earthly clothing. Anoint him with sweet oil and vest him in the robes of glory!' And Michael took off my garments, anointed me with sweet oil, and this oil was more than a radiant light … its splendour was like the rays of the sun. When I looked at myself, I saw that I was like one of the glorious beings" (Ph. Rech, Inbild des Kosmos, II 524).

Precisely this – being reclothed in the new garment of God – is what happens in baptism, so the Christian faith tells us. To be sure, this changing of garments is something that continues for the whole of life. What happens in baptism is the beginning of a process that embraces the whole of our life – it makes us fit for eternity, in such a way that, robed in the garment of light of Jesus Christ, we can appear before the face of God and live with him for ever.

In the rite of baptism there are two elements in which this event is expressed and made visible in a way that demands commitment for the rest of our lives. There is first of all the rite of renunciation and the promises. In the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the west, the symbol of darkness, sunset, death and hence the dominion of sin. The one to be baptized turned in that direction and pronounced a threefold "no": to the devil, to his pomp and to sin. The strange word "pomp", that is to say the devil's glamour, referred to the splendour of the ancient cult of the gods and of the ancient theatre, in which it was considered entertaining to watch people being torn limb from limb by wild beasts. What was being renounced was a type of culture that ensnared man in the adoration of power, in the world of greed, in lies, in cruelty. It was an act of liberation from the imposition of a form of life that was presented as pleasure and yet hastened the destruction of all that was best in man. This renunciation – albeit in less dramatic form – remains an essential part of baptism today. We remove the "old garments", which we cannot wear in God's presence. Or better put: we begin to remove them. This renunciation is actually a promise in which we hold out our hand to Christ, so that he may guide us and reclothe us. What these "garments" are that we take off, what the promise is that we make, becomes clear when we see in the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Galatians what Paul calls "works of the flesh" – a term that refers precisely to the old garments that we remove. Paul designates them thus: "fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like" (Gal 5:19ff.). These are the garments that we remove: the garments of death.
Then, in the practice of the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the east – the symbol of light, the symbol of the newly rising sun of history, the symbol of Christ. The candidate for baptism determines the new direction of his life: faith in the Trinitarian God to whom he entrusts himself. Thus it is God who clothes us in the garment of light, the garment of life. Paul calls these new "garments" "fruits of the spirit", and he describes them as follows: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22).

In the early Church, the candidate for baptism was then truly stripped of his garments. He descended into the baptismal font and was immersed three times – a symbol of death that expresses all the radicality of this removal and change of garments. His former death-bound life the candidate consigns to death with Christ, and he lets himself be drawn up by and with Christ into the new life that transforms him for eternity. Then, emerging from the waters of baptism the neophytes were clothed in the white garment, the garment of God's light, and they received the lighted candle as a sign of the new life in the light that God himself had lit within them. They knew that they had received the medicine of immortality, which was fully realized at the moment of receiving holy communion. In this sacrament we receive the body of the risen Lord and we ourselves are drawn into this body, firmly held by the One who has conquered death and who carries us through death.

In the course of the centuries, the symbols were simplified, but the essential content of baptism has remained the same. It is no mere cleansing, still less is it a somewhat complicated initiation into a new association. It is death and resurrection, rebirth to new life.

Indeed, the cure for death does exist. Christ is the tree of life, once more within our reach. If we remain close to him, then we have life. Hence, during this night of resurrection, with all our hearts we shall sing the alleluia, the song of joy that has no need of words. Hence, Paul can say to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil 4:4). Joy cannot be commanded. It can only be given. The risen Lord gives us joy: true life. We are already held for ever in the love of the One to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given (cf. Mt 28:18). In this way, confident of being heard, we make our own the Church's Prayer over the Gifts from the liturgy of this night: Accept the prayers and offerings of your people. With your help may this Easter mystery of our redemption bring to perfection the saving work you have begun in us. Amen.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday - Descent into Hades

In the Apostle's Creed, we profess that Christ "suffered, died, and was buried. He descended into hell (Gk hades, Latin inferos). On the third day, he rose again from the dead...."

The ancient Greek Fathers have a wonderful way of expressing this part of our creed in their homilies and in their icons.

The icon to the left is based upon
a fresco by Manuel Panselinos (ca. 13th or 14th century) in the Protaton Church at Karyes, Mt. Athos, Greece. It is called "The Resurrection" and also "Descent into Hades." I have a version of this icon hanging in my office at work.

The icon depicts Christ's triumphant descent into hades after His death on the Cross on Good Friday. We seen Him freeing those souls held in the bondage of death, and also bestowing freedom on those righteous souls who were as yet unable to enter Paradise. In this paschal icon these holy ones stand on either side of Christ, looking on in worshipful joy: King David, Solomon, Saint John the Baptist, Abel the Righteous, and the Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Raising them up the Savior brings them into Paradise and sets them free. He also raises Adam and Eve by the hands from their tombs, symbolizing the freeing of mankind from its imprisonment in fallen nature that was accomplished by the Resurrection. Christ stands on the fallen gates or doors of Hell and Lucifer lies chained and crushed beneath them, symbolizing the victory of the divine over evil. (source).

In the Divine Office (i.e. Liturgy of the Hours) for Holy Saturday, the Office of Readings has a ancient homily from the early days of the Church, taken from the Patrologia Graeca. It gives a wonderful description of what is depicted in the icon above. Here's an excerpt:
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you.... [source]
Have a blessed Easter!
God bless,


Monday, March 29, 2010

A Refutation of Moral Relativism by Dr. Peter Kreeft

C.S. Lewis wrote "[Relativism] will certainly end our species and damn our souls." (The Poison of Subjectivism). We see more and more of the effects of moral relativism all around us in the modern word, especially in schools and in the media. Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of Philosophy at Boston College. The following presentation is an audio lecture of his entitled A Refutation of Moral Relativism. In this 50 minute presentation, Dr. Kreeft does a fantastic job of describing the problems of relativism and refuting the claims of relativism.
You can listen to the lecture here:
A Refutation of Moral Relativism (audio lecture, approx. 50 min)
by Peter Kreeft

Or, you can read the transcript from the lecture below:
God bless,
Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day defined a good society as one that makes it easy for you to be good. Correlatively, a free society is one that makes it easy to be free. To be free, and to live freely, is to live spiritually, because only spirit is free—matter is not. To live spiritually is to live morally. The two essential properties of spirit that distinguish it from matter are intellect and will—the capacity for knowledge and moral choice. The ideals of truth and goodness. The most radical threat to living morally today is the loss of moral principles.
Relativism is the single most important issue of our age
Moral practice has always been difficult for fallen humanity, but at least there was always the lighthouse of moral principles, no matter how stormy the sea of moral practice got. But today, with the majority of our mind-molders, in formal education, or informal education—that is, media—the light is gone. Morality is a fog of feelings. That is why to them, as Chesterton said, "Morality is always dreadfully complicated to a man who has lost all his principles." Principles mean moral absolutes. Unchanging rocks beneath the changing waves of feelings and practices. Moral relativism is a philosophy that denies moral absolutes. That thought to me is the prime suspect—public enemy number one. The philosophy that has extinguished the light in the minds of our teachers, and then their students, and eventually, if not reversed, will extinguish our whole civilization. Therefore, I want not just to present a strong case against moral relativism, but to refute it, to unmask it, to strip it naked, to humiliate it, to shame it, to give it the wallop it deserves, as they say in Texas, America's good neighbor to the south.
How important is this issue? After all, it's just philosophy, and philosophy is just ideas. But ideas have consequences. Sometimes these consequences are as momentous as a holocaust, or a Hiroshima. Sometimes even more momentous. Philosophy is just thought, but sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. This is just as true for societies as it is for individuals.
How important is the issue? The issue of moral relativism is merely the single most important issue of our age, for no society in all of human history has ever survived without rejecting the philosophy that I am about to refute. There has never been a society of relativists. Therefore, our society will do one of three things: either disprove one of the most universally established laws of all history; or repent of its relativism and survive; or persist in its relativism and perish.
How important is the issue? C.S. Lewis says, in The Poison of Subjectivism, that relativism "will certainly end our species and damn our souls." Please remember that Oxonians are not given to exaggeration. Why does he say "damn our souls?" Because Lewis is a Christian, and he does not disagree with the fundamental teaching of his master, Christ, and all the prophets in the Jewish tradition, that salvation presupposes repentance, and repentance presupposes an objectively real moral law. Moral relativism eliminates that law, thus trivializes repentance, thus imperils salvation.
Ideas have consequences
Why does he say, "end our species," and not just modern Western civilization? Because the entire human species is becoming increasingly Westernized and relativized. It is ironic that America, the primary source of relativism in the world today, is also the world's most religious nation. This is ironic because religion is to relativism what Dr. Van Helsing is to Count Dracula. Within America, the strongest opposition to relativism comes from the churches. Yet a still further irony, according to the most recent polls, Catholics are as relativistic, both in behavior and in belief, as non-Catholics. Sixty-two percent of Evangelicals say they disbelieve in any absolute or unchanging truths, and American Jews are significantly more relativistic and more secular than Gentiles. Only Orthodox Jews, the Eastern Orthodox, and Fundamentalists seem to be resisting the culture, but not by converting it, but by withdrawing from it. And that includes most Muslims, except for the tiny minority who terrorize it. When Pat Buchanan told us in 1992 that we were in a culture war, all the media laughed, sneered, and barked at him. Today, everyone knows he was right, and the culture war is most essentially about this issue.
We must define our terms when we begin. Moral relativism usually includes three claims: That morality is first of all changeable; secondly, subjective; and third, individual. That it is relative first to changing times; you can't turn back the clock. Secondly, to what we subjectively think or feel; there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so. And thirdly, to individuals; different strokes for different folks. Moral absolutism claims that there are moral principles that are unchangeable, objective, and universal.
We should examine the arguments for moral relativism first, and refute them, to clear the way for the arguments against it.So first, I will refute each of the common arguments for relativism, and then relativism itself.

1. Argument for Relativism: Psychological

The first argument is psychological. In practice, psychological reasons—that is, psychological becauses, subjective personal motives—are usually a more powerful source of moral relativism than logical becauses—that is, objective logical arguments. So we should ask, what is the main motive for preferring relativism? Since our deepest desire is for happiness, and since fears correspond to desires, it is probably the fear that moral absolutism would make us unhappy by making us feel guilty. So we call moral absolutism unloving, or uncompassionate. Turned into argument, it looks like this: Good morality has good consequences, bad morality has bad consequences. Feelings of unhappiness and guilt are bad consequences, while feelings of happiness and self-esteem are good consequences. Moral absolutism produces the bad feelings of guilt and unhappiness, while moral relativism produces the good feelings of self-esteem and happiness. Therefore, moral absolutism is bad, and moral relativism is good.
Moral laws maximize happiness
The answer to this argument is first of all that absolute moral law exists not to minimize, but to maximize human happiness, and therefore it is maximally loving and compassionate, like labels, or roadmaps. You're not happy if you eat poison or drive off a cliff. But what about guilt? Removing moral absolutes does indeed remove the sense of guilt, and this sense obviously does not make you happy in the short run. But guilt, like physical pain, may be necessary to avoid greater unhappiness in the long run, if it is realistic, that is, in tune with reality and not pathological. So the question is, does reality include objective moral laws? If it does not, guilt is an experience as pointless as paranoia. But if it does, it is as proper as pain, and for a similar reason: to prevent harm. Guilt is a warning in the soul, analogous to pain as a warning in the body.
The relativist's argument also has a question-begging assumption. It assumes that feelings are the standard for judging morality. But the claim in traditional morality is exactly the opposite: that morality is the standard for judging feelings. Finally, if the argument from self-esteem versus guilt is correct, it logically follows that if rapists, cannibalists, terrorists, or tyrants feel self-esteem, they are better persons than if they feel guilty. That Hitler's problem was a lack of self-confidence. Some ideas are beyond the need for refutation, except in universities.

2. Argument for Relativism: Cultural Influence

A second argument for relativism is the argument from cultural relativism. This argument seems impregnable. The claim is that anthropologists and sociologists have discovered moral relativism to be not a theory but an empirical fact. Different cultures and societies, like different individuals, simply do, in fact, have very different moral values. In Eskimo culture, and in Holland, killing old people is right. In America, east of Oregon, it's wrong. In contemporary culture, fornication is right; in Christian cultures, it's wrong, and so forth.
Descartes noted in A Discourse On Method that "there is no idea so strange that some philosopher has not seriously taught it." Similarly, there is no practice so strange that some society has not legitimized it; for instance, genocide, or cannibalism. Or, so innocent that some group has not forbidden it; for instance, entering a temple with a hat on, or without one. So anyone who thinks values are not relative to cultures is simply ignorant of the facts, so goes the argument.
It is not always right to obey the culture
To see the logical fallacy in this apparently impregnable argument, we need to look at its unspoken assumption—which is that moral rightness is a matter of obedience to cultural values. That it is right to obey your culture's values. Always. Only if we combine that hidden premise with the stated premise—that values differ with cultures—can we get to the conclusion that moral rightness differs with cultures. That what is wrong in one culture is right in another. But surely, this hidden premise begs the question. It presupposes the very moral relativism it is supposed to prove. The absolutist denies that it is always right to obey your culture's values. He has a trans-cultural standard by which he can criticize a whole culture's values. That is why he could be a progressive and a radical, while the relativist can only be a status-quo conservative, having no higher standard than his culture. My country, right or wrong. Only massive, media, big-lie propaganda could so confuse people's minds that they spontaneously think the opposite. But in fact it is only the believer in the old-fashioned natural moral law who could be a social radical and a progressive. He alone can say to a Hitler, or a Saddam Hussein, "You and your whole social order are wrong and wicked and deserve to be destroyed." The relativist could only say, "Different strokes for different folks, and I happen to hate your strokes and prefer mine, that's all."
We must distinguish subjective value opinions
from objective values
The second logical weakness of the argument about cultural relativism is its equivocation on the term "values." The moral absolutist distinguishes subjective opinions about values from objectively true values. Just as he distinguishes objective truth from subjective opinions about God, or about life after death, or about happiness, or about numbers, or about beauty, just to take 5 other non-empirical things. It may be difficult, or even impossible, to prove these things, or to attain certainty about them, or even to know them at all. But that does not mean they are unreal. Even if these things could not be known, it does not follow that they are unreal. And even if they could not be known with certainty, it does not follow that they could not be known at all by right opinion. And even if they could not be proved, it does not follow that they could not be known with certainty. And even if they could not be proved by the scientific method, it does not follow that they cannot be proved at all. They could be real, even if unknown; known, even if not certainly known; certainly known, even if not proved; and proved, even if not scientifically proved.
The basic equivocation in the cultural relativist's argument is between values and value opinions. Different cultures may have different opinions about what is morally valuable, just as they may have different opinions about what happens after death. But this does not entail the conclusion that what is really right in one culture is really wrong in another, any more than different opinions about life after death entails the conclusion that different things really happen after death, depending on cultural beliefs. Just because I may believe there is no Hell does not prove that there is none and that I will not go there. If it did, a simple and infallible way of salvation would be simply to stop believing in Hell. Similarly, just because a good Nazi thinks genocide is right does not prove it is, unless there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. But that is the relativist's conclusion. It cannot also be his premise without begging the question.
Cultures do not differ totally
There is still another error in the cultural relativist's argument. It seems that just about everything that can possibly go wrong with an argument goes wrong with this one. The argument from facts doesn't even have its facts right. Cultures do not, in fact, differ totally about values, even if the term values is taken to mean merely value opinions. No culture has ever existed which believed and taught what Nietzsche called for: a transvaluation of all values. There have been differences in emphasis, for instance, our ancestors valued courage more than we do, while we value compassion more than they did. But there has never been anything like the relativism of opinions about values that the relativist teaches as factual history.
Just imagine what that would be like. Try to imagine a society where justice, honesty, courage, wisdom, hope, and self-control were deemed morally evil. And unrestricted selfishness, cowardice, lying, betrayal, addiction, and despair were deemed morally good. Such a society is never found on Earth. If it exists anywhere, it is only in Hell and its colonies. Only Satan and his worshippers say "evil be thou my good." There are indeed important disagreements about values between cultures. But beneath about all disagreements about lesser values, there always lies an agreement about more basic ones. Beneath all disagreements about applying values to situations—for instance, should we have capital punishment or not—always lies agreement about values—for instance, murder is evil since human life is good. Moral disagreements between cultures as well as between individuals would be impossible unless there were some deeper moral agreements, some common moral premises. Moral values are to a culture's laws something like what concepts are to words. When you visit a foreign country, you experience initial shock. The language sounds totally different. But then beneath the different words you find common concepts. And this is what makes translation from one language to another possible. Analogously, beneath different social laws, we find common human moral laws. We find similar morals, beneath different mores. The moral agreement among Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Socrates, Solomon, Jesus, Cicero, Mohammad, Zoraster, and Hammurabbi is far greater than their moral differences.

3. Argument for Relativism: Social Conditioning

A third argument for relativism is similar to the second, but is more psychological than anthropological. This argument is also supposedly based on scientifically verifiable fact. The fact is that society conditions values in us. If we had been brought up in a Hindu society, we would have had Hindu values. The origin of values thus seems to be human minds themselves, parents and teachers, rather than something objective to human minds. And what comes from human subjects is, of course, subjective, like the rules of baseball, even though they may be public and universally agreed to. This argument, like the previous one, also confuses values with value opinions. Perhaps society conditions value opinions in us, but that does not mean society conditions values in us, unless values are nothing but value opinions, which is precisely the point at issue, the conclusion. So the argument again begs the question.
Society conditions opinions,
but not objective values
There is also a false assumption in this argument. The assumption is that whatever we learn from society must be subjective. That is not true. We learn the rules of baseball from society, but we also learn the rules of multiplication. The rules of baseball are subjective and manmade. The rules of multiplication are not. Of course, the language systems in which we express any rules are always manmade. But the human mind creates, rather than discovers, the rules of baseball, but the mind discovers, rather than creates, the rules of multiplication. So the fact that we learn any given law or value from our society does not prove that it is subjective. Finally, even the express premise of this argument is not fully true. Not all value opinions are the result of social conditioning. For if they were, then there could be no non-conformity to society based on moral values. There could only be rebellions of force, rather than principle. But, in fact, there are many principle non-conformists. These people did not derive their values wholly from their society, since they disagree with their society about values. So the existence of moral non-conformists is empirical proof of the presence of some trans-social origin of values.

4. Argument for Relativism: Freedom

A fourth argument is that moral relativism alone guarantees freedom, while moral absolutism threatens freedom. People often wonder how they can be truly free if they are not free to create their own values. Indeed, our own Supreme Court has declared that we have a fundamental right to define the meaning of existence. This is either the most fundamental of all rights if it is right, or the most fundamental of all follies if it is wrong. This is either the wisest or the stupidest thing the court has ever writ. This was the casing decision. Please remember what Casey did in Casey At The Bat.
Freedom cannot create values,
because freedom presupposes objective values
The most effective reply to this argument is often an "ad hominem." Say to the person who demands the right to be free to create his own values that you too demand that right. And that the value system that you choose to create is one in which his opinions have no value at all. Or, a system in which you are God, and rightly demand total obedience from everyone else. He will quickly protest in the name of truth and justice, thus showing that he really does believe in these two objective values after all. If he does not do this, if he protests merely in the name of his alternative value system, which he has created, then his protest against your selfishness and megalomania is no better than your protest against his justice and truth. And then the argument can only come down to brute force. And that is hardly a situation that guarantees freedom.
A second refutation of the relativist's argument from freedom is that freedom cannot create values, because freedom presupposes values. Why does freedom presuppose values? Well, first because the relativist's argument that relativism guarantees freedom must assume freedom is really valuable, thus assuming at least that one objective value. Second, if freedom is really good, it must be freedom from something really bad, thus assuming some objective good and bad. And third, the advocate of freedom will almost always insist that freedom be granted to all, not just some, thus presupposing the real value of equality, or the Golden Rule.
But the simplest refutation of the argument about freedom is experience. Experience teaches us that we are free to create alternative mores, like socially acceptable rules for speech, or clothing, or eating, or driving. But it also teaches us that we are not, in fact, free to create alternative morals. Like making murder, or rape, or treason right. Or making charity or justice wrong. We can no more create a new fundamental moral value than we can create a new primary color, or a new arithmetic, or a new universe. Never happened, never will. And if we could, if we could create new values, they would no longer be moral values. They would be just arbitrarily invented rules of the game. We would not feel bound in conscience by them, or guilty when we transgressed them. If we were free to create "Thou shalt murder" or "Thou shalt not murder" as we are free to create "Thou shalt play nine innings" or "Thou shalt play only six innings," then we would feel no more guilty about murder than about playing six innings.
As a matter of fact, we all do feel bound by some fundamental moral values, like justice, the Golden Rule. We experience our freedom of will to choose to obey or disobey them, but we also experience our lack of freedom to change them into their opposites. We cannot creatively make hate good, or love evil. Try it, you just can't do it. All you can do is refuse the whole moral order. You cannot make another one. You can choose to rape, but you cannot experience a moral obligation to rape.

5. Argument for Relativism: Tolerance

A fifth argument, equally common today, is that moral relativism is tolerant, while absolutism is intolerant. Tolerance is one of the few non-controversial values today. Nearly everyone in our society accepts it. So it is a powerful selling point for any theory or practice that can claim it. What of relativism's claim to tolerance? Well, I see no less than eight fallacies in this popular argument.
  • First, let us be clear what we mean by tolerance. Tolerance is a quality of people, not of ideas. Ideas can be confused, or fuzzy, or ill defined, but that does not make them tolerant, or intolerant, any more than clarity or exactness could make them intolerant. If a carpenter tolerates 3/16 of an inch deviation from plane, he is three times more tolerant than one who tolerates only 1/16 of an inch, but he is no less clear. One teacher may tolerate no dissent from his fuzzy and ill-defined views—a Marxist, let's say—while another, say Socrates, may tolerate much dissent from his clearly defined views.
  • Second, the relativist's claim is that absolutism, belief in universal, objective, and unchanging moral laws, fosters intolerance of alternative views. But in the sciences, nothing like this has been the case. The sciences have certainly benefited and progressed remarkably because of tolerance of diverse and heretical views. Yet science is not about subjective truths, but about objective truths. Therefore, objectivism does not necessarily cause intolerance.
  • Third, the relativist may further argue that absolutes are hard and unyielding and therefore the defender of them will also be hard and unyielding. But this is another non-sequitor. One may teach hard facts in a soft way, or soft opinions in a hard way.
  • Fourth, the simplest refutation of the tolerance argument is its very premise. It assumes that tolerance is really, objectively, universally, absolutely good. If the relativist replied that he is not presupposing the objective value of tolerance, then all he is doing is demanding the imposition of his subjective personal preference for tolerance. That is surely more intolerant than the appeal to an objective, universal, impersonal, moral law. If no moral values are absolute, neither is tolerance. The absolutist can take tolerance far more seriously than the relativist. It is absolutism, not relativism, that fosters tolerance.
  • Fifth fallacy: It is relativism that fosters intolerance. Why not be intolerant? He has no answer to this. Because tolerance feels better? Or because it is the popular consensus? Well suppose it no longer feels better. Suppose it ceases to be popular. The relativist can appeal to no moral law as a dam against the flood of intolerance. We desperately need such a dam, because societies, like individuals, are fickle and fallen. What else will deter a humane and humanistic Germany from turning to an inhumane, Nazi philosophy of racial superiority? Or, a now-tolerant America from turning to a future intolerance against any group it decides to disenfranchise. It is unborn babies today, born babies tomorrow. Homophobes today, perhaps homosexuals tomorrow. The same absolutism that homosexuals usually fear because it is not tolerant of their behavior is their only secure protection against intolerance of their persons.
  • Sixth fallacy. Examination of the essential meaning of the concept of tolerance reveals a presupposition of moral objectivism, for we do not tolerate goods. We only tolerate evils in order to prevent worse evils. The patient will tolerate the nausea brought on by chemotherapy in order to prevent death by cancer. And a society will tolerate bad things like smoking in order to preserve good things like privacy and freedom.
  • Seventh, the advocate of tolerance faces a dilemma when it comes to cross-cultural tolerance. Most cultures throughout history have not put a high value on tolerance. In fact, some have even thought it a moral weakness. Should we tolerate this intolerance? If so, if we should tolerate intolerance, then the tolerance objectivist had better stop bad-mouthing the Spanish Inquisition. But if we should not tolerate intolerance, why not? Because tolerance is really good, and the Inquisition was really evil? In that case, we are presupposing a universal and objective trans-cultural value. What if instead, he says it is only because of our consensus for tolerance? But his history's consensus is against it. Why impose on ours? Is that not culturally intolerant?
  • Eighth, finally, there is a logical non-sequitor in the relativist argument too. Even if the belief in absolute moral values did cause intolerance, it does not follow that such values are not real. The belief that the cop on the beat is sleeping may cause a mugger to be intolerant to his victims, but it does not follow that the cop is not asleep. Thus, there are no less than eight weaknesses in the tolerance argument.

6. Argument for Relativism: Situationalism

A sixth and final argument for relativism is that situations are so diverse and complex that is seems unreasonable and unrealistic to hold them to universal moral norms. Even killing can be good if war is necessary for peace. Even theft can be good if you steal a weapon from a madman. Even lying can be good if you're a Dutchman lying to the Nazis about where you're hiding the Jews. The argument is essentially this: Morality is determined by situations, and situations are relative; therefore, morality is relative. A closely related argument can be considered together with this one that morality is relative because it is determined by motive. We all blame someone for trying to murder another, even though the deed is not successfully accomplished, simply because its motive is bad. But we do not hold someone morally guilty of murder for accidentally killing another. For instance, like giving sugary candy to a child he has no way of knowing is seriously diabetic. So the argument is essentially that morality is determined by motive, and motive is subjective, therefore morality is subjective.
Morality is partly, but not wholly, determined by situations
So both the situationist and the motivationist conclude against moral absolutes. The situationist because he finds all morality relative to the situation, the motivationist because he finds all morality relative to the motive. We reply with a common-sense distinction. Morality is indeed conditioned, or partly determined, by both situations and motives, but it is not wholly determined by situations or motives. Traditional common sense morality involves three moral determinants, three factors that influence whether a specific act is morally good or bad. The nature of the act itself, the situation, and the motive. Or, what you do; when, where, and how you do it; and why you do it. It is true that doing the right thing in the wrong situation, or for the wrong motive, is not good. Making love to your wife is a good deed, but doing so when it is medically dangerous is not. The deed is good, but not in that situation. Giving money to the poor is a good deed, but doing it just to show off is not. The deed is good, but the motive is not.
However, there must first be a deed before it can be qualified by subjective motives or relative situations, and that is surely a morally relevant factor too. The good life is like a good work of art. A good work of art requires all its essential elements to be good. For instance, a good story must have a good plot, and good characters, and a good theme. So a good life requires you do the right thing, the act itself; and have a right reason or motive; and that you do it in the right way, the situation. Furthermore, situations, though relative, are objective, not subjective. And motives, though subjective, come under moral absolutes. They can be recognized as intrinsically and universally good or evil. The will to help is always good, the will to harm is always evil. So even situationism is an objective morality, and even motivationism or subjectivism is a universal morality.
The fact that the same principles must be applied differently to different situations presupposes the validity of those principles. Moral absolutists need not be absolutistic about applications to situations. They can be flexible. But a flexible application of the standard presupposes not just a standard, but a rigid standard. If the standard is as flexible as the situation it is no standard at all. If the yardstick with which to measure the length of a twisting alligator is as twisting as the alligator, you cannot measure with it. Yardsticks have to be rigid. And moral absolutists need not be judgmental about motives, only about deeds. When Jesus said, "Judge not that ye not be judged," he surely meant "Do not claim to judge hearts and motives, which only God can know." He certainly did not mean, "Do not claim to judge deeds. Do not morally discriminate bullying from defending, killing from healing, robbery from charity." In fact, it is only the moral absolutist, and not the relativist, who can condemn judgmentalism of motive, since he alone can condemn intolerance. The relativist can condemn only moral absolutism.

But merely refuting the most popular arguments for relativism does not refute relativism itself. We need positive arguments for absolutism as well. Here are five simple ones.

7. Argument for Absolutism: Consequences

First the pragmatic argument from consequences. If the relativist argues against absolutism from its supposed consequences of intolerance, we can argue against relativism from its real consequences. Consequences are, at least, a relative indicator. They are clues. Good morality should have good consequences, and bad morality should have bad ones. Well, it's exceedingly obvious that the main consequence of moral relativism is the removal of moral deterrents. Just as the consequences of "do the right thing" are doing the right thing, so the consequences of "if it feels good, do it" are doing whatever feels good. Takes no PhD to see that. In fact, it takes a PhD to miss it.
Moral societies last
All immoral deeds and attitudes, with the possible exception of envy feel good. That's the main reason we do them. If sin didn't seem like fun, we'd all be saints. Relativism has never produced a saint. That is the pragmatic refutation of relativists. The same goes for societies. Relativism has never produced a good society, only a bad one. Compare the stability, longevity, and happiness of societies founded on the principles of moral relativists like Mussolini, and Mau Tse Tung, with societies founded on the principles of moral absolutists like Moses and Confucius. A society of moral relativists usually lasts one generation. Hitler's thousand-year Reich lasted not even that long.
I think the following quotation should be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ACLU, the National Teacher's Association, Hollywood, and all network TV executives:
Everything I have said and done is these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism.
— Benito Mussolini

8. Argument for Absolutism: Tradition

Second, the argument from tradition. This argument should appeal to egalitarians who argue against absolutism because they think it is somehow connected with snobbery. It is exactly the opposite. Absolutism is traditional morality, and tradition is egalitarianism extended into history. Chesterton called it "the democracy of the dead, the extension of the franchise to that most powerless of classes, those disenfranchised not by accident of birth but by accident of death. Tradition counters a small and arrogant oligarchy of the living, those who just happen to be walking around the planet today.
Absolutism is the norm in human history
To be a relativist, you must be a snob, at least on this centrally important issue. For you stand in a tiny minority, almost totally concentrated in one culture: the modern west; that is, white, democratic, industrialized, urbanized, university-educated, secularized, apostate, post-Christian society. To be a relativist, you must believe that nearly all human beings in history have ordered their lives by an illusion. Even societies like ours that are dominated by relativistic experts' popular opinion still tends to moral absolutism. Like the Communists, relativists pretend to be the party of the people, while in fact scorning the peoples' philosophy. In fact, for a generation now, a minority of relativistic elitists who have gained the power of the media have been relentlessly imposing their elitist relativism on popular opinion by accusing popular opinion—that is, traditional morality—of elitism.

9. Argument for Absolutism: Moral Experience

Third, there is the argument from moral experience. This is the simplest and, I think, strongest argument for moral absolutism. In fact, it is so strong that it seems like an unnatural strain to put it into the form of an argument at all—it is more like primary data. The first and foundational moral experience is always absolutistic. Only later in the life of the individual or the society does sophistication sometimes suggest moral relativism. Every one of us remembers from early childhood experience what it feels like to be morally obligated. To bump up against an unyielding moral wall. This memory is enshrined in the words "ought," "should," "right," and "wrong."
Everyone experiences moral obligation
Moral absolutism is certainly based on experience. For instance, let's say last night you promised your friend you would help them at 8:00 this morning. Let's say he has to move his furniture before noon. But you were up 'til 3:00 am. And when the alarm rings at 7:00, you are very tired. You experience two things—the desire to sleep, and the obligation to get up. The two are generically different. You experience no obligation to sleep, and no desire to get up. You are moved, in one way, by your own desire for sleep, and you are moved in a very different way by what you think you ought to do. Your feelings appear from the inside out, so to speak, while your conscience appears from the outside in. Within you is the desire to sleep, and this may move you to the external deed of shutting off the alarm and creeping back to bad. But, if instead you get up to fulfill your promise to your friend, it will be because you chose to respond to a very different kind of thing: the perceived moral quality of the deed of fulfilling your promise, as opposed to the perceived moral quality of the deed of refusing to fulfill it. What you perceive as right, or obligatory—getting up—pulls you from without, from itself, from its own nature. But the desires you feel as attractive—going back to sleep—push you from within, from yourself, from your own nature. The moral obligation moves you as an end, as a final cause, from above and ahead, so to speak. Your desires move you as a source, as an efficient cause, from below, or behind, so to speak.
All this is primary data, fundamental moral experience. It can be denied, but only as some strange philosophies might deny the reality immediately perceived by our senses. Moral relativism is to moral experience what teaching of Christian Science is to the experience of pain and sickness and death. It tells us these experiences are illusions to be overcome by faith. Moral absolutism is empirical. Moral relativism is a dogma of faith.

10. Argument for Absolutism: Ad Hominem

We protest when treated immorally
Fourth, there is the ad hominem argument. Even the relativist always reacts with a moral protest when he is treated immorally. The man who appeals to the relativistic principle of "I gotta be me," who justified breaking his promise of fidelity to his own wife, whom he wants to leave for another woman, will then break his fidelity to his relativistic principle when his own wife uses that principle to justify leaving him for another man. This is not exceptional, but typical. It looks like the origin of relativism is more personal than philosophical. More in the hypocrisy than in the hypothesis. The contradiction between theory and practice is evident even in the relativist's act of teaching relativism. Why do relativists teach and write? To convince the world that relativism is right and absolutism wrong? Really right and really wrong? If so, then there is a real right and a real wrong. And if not, then there is nothing wrong with being an absolutist, and nothing right with being a relativist. So why do relativists write and teach? Really, for all the effort they've put into preaching their gospel of delivering humanity from the false and foolish repressions of absolutism, one would have thought they really believed this gospel.

11. Argument for Absolutism: Moral Language

Fifth, there's the argument from moral language. This is a very obvious argument, used by C.S. Lewis, at the very beginning of Mere Christianity. It is based on the observation that people quarrel. They do not merely fight, they argue about right and wrong. This is to act as if they believed in objectively real and universally binding moral principles. If nothing but subjective desires and passions were involved, it would be merely a contest of strength between competing persons. Or between competing passions within a person. If I'm more hungry than tired, I'll eat; if I'm more tired than hungry, I'll sleep. But we say things like, "That isn't fair." Or, "What right do you have to that?" If relativism were true, moral argument would be as stupid as arguing about feelings. "I feel great." "No, I feel terrible."
People live as if they believe morality is real
In fact, the moral language that everyone uses every day—language that praises, blames, counsels, or commands—would be strictly meaningless if relativism were true. We do not praise or blame non-moral agents like machines. When the Coke machine steals our money without delivering a Coke, we do not argue with it, call it a sinner, or tell it to go to confession. We kick it. So when some of our psychologists tell us that we are only very complex machines, they are telling us that morality is only very complex kicking. This is so absurd it hardly deserves an argument. I think it deserves a spanking, which is only practicing what they preach: kicking, but more honestly. The argument is simple. Moral language is meaningful, not meaningless. We all know that. We know how to use it, and we do. Relativism cannot explain that fact.

Postscript: Cause and Cure

Finally, most importantly of all, my postscript. What is the cause, and cure of moral relativism? The real source of moral relativism is not any argument at all, and therefore its cure is not any refutation of an argument. Neither philosophy nor science nor logic nor common sense nor experience have ever refuted traditional moral absolutism. It is not reason, but the abdication of reason that is the source of moral relativism. Relativism is not rational, it is rationalization. It is not the conclusion of a rational argument. It is the rationalization of a prior action. It is the repudiation of the principle that passions must be evaluated by reason and controlled by will. That is the virtue Plato and Aristotle called self-control. It is not just one of the cardinal virtues, but a necessary ingredient in every virtue. That classical assumption is almost the definition of civilization. But romanticists, existentialists, Freudians, and many others have convinced many people in our culture that it is oppressive and unhealthy and inauthentic. If we embrace the opposite principle, and let passion govern reason, rather than reason govern passion, there is little hope for morality or for civilization.
The cure requires more than an argument
Obviously, the strongest and most attractive of the passions is sexual passion. It is therefore also the most addictive and the most blinding. So, there could hardly be a more powerful undermining of our moral knowledge and our moral life than the sexual revolution. Already, the demand for sexual freedom has overridden one of nature's strongest instincts: motherhood. A million mothers a year in America alone pay hired killers, who are called healers or physicians, to kill their own unborn daughters and sons. How could this happen? Only because abortion is driven by sexual motives. For abortion is backup birth control, and birth control is the demand to have sex without having babies. If the stork brought babies, there'd be no Planned Parenthood.
Divorce is a second example of the power of the sexual revolution to undermine basic moral principles. Suppose there were some other practice, not connected with sex, which had these three documentable results. First, betraying the person you claim to love the most, the person you had pledged your life to, betraying your solemn promise to her or him. Second, thereby abusing the children you had procreated and promised to protect, scarring their souls more infinitely than anything else except direct violent physical abuse, and making it far more difficult for them ever to attain happy lives or marriages. And thirdly, thereby harming, undermining, and perhaps destroying your society's future. Would not such a practice be universally condemned? Yet, that is exactly what divorce is, and it is universally accepted. Betrayal is universally condemned unless it is sexual. Justice, honesty, not doing other harms—these moral principles are affirmed, unless they interfere with sex.
We are designed for joy
The rest of traditional morality is still very widely believed and taught, even in TV sitcoms, soap operas, and Hollywood movies. The driving force of moral relativism seems to be almost exclusively sexual. Why this should be, and what we should do about it, are two further questions that demand much more time and thought than we have available here and now. But if you want a very short guess at an answer to both, here is the best I can do. I think a secularist has only one substitute left for God, only one experience in a desacrilized world that still gives him something like the mystical, self-transcending thrill of ecstasy that God designed all souls to have forever, and to long for until they have it. Unless he is a surfer, that experience has to be sex. We're designed for more than happiness; we're designed for joy. Aquinas writes, with simple logic, "Man cannot live without joy. That is why one deprived of true spiritual joys must spill over to carnal pleasures."
Drugs and alcohol are attractive because they claim to feed the same need. The lack the ontological greatness of sex, but they provide the same semi-mystical thrill: the transcendence of reason and self-consciousness. I do not mean this merely as moral condemnation, but as psychological analysis. In fact, though they sound shocking, I think the addict is closer to the deepest truth than the mere moralist. He is looking for the very best thing in some of the very worst places. His demand for a state in which he transcends morality is very wrong, but it's also very right. For we are designed for something beyond morality, something in which morality will be transformed. Mystical union with God. Sex is a sign and appetizer of that. Moral absolutists must never forget that morality, though absolute, is not ultimate. It is not our Summum Bonum. Sinai is not the Promised Land; Jerusalem is. And in the New Jerusalem, what finally happens as the last chapter of human history is a wedding between the Lamb and His bride. Deprived of this Jerusalem, we must buy into Babylon. If we do not worship God, we will worship idols, for we are by nature worshippers.
Finally, what is the cure? It must be stronger medicine than philosophy, so I can give you only three words in answer to this last and most practical question of all. What we can do about it? What is the cure? These three words are totally unoriginal. They are not my philosophical argument, but God's biblical demands. Repent, fast, and pray. Confess, sacrifice, adore. I know of no other answer, and I can think of nothing else that can save this civilization except Saints.
Please be one.

For more on this see the book:
A Refutation of Moral Relativism