Tune in to “The World Over” on EWTN tomorrow night at 8PM Eastern when the Papal Posse (host Raymond Arroyo and TCT’s Robert Royal and Fr. Gerald Murray) will once again meet to discuss the latest news in the Church, including the reinstatement of Chicago’s Fr. Michael Pfleger following abuse allegations and the similar charges against Jesuit artist Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik. Consult your local listings for broadcast times. (Segments are also usually available for viewing, shortly after their first appearance, on EWTN’s YouTube channel.)
Since the 1960s, progressive Catholics have promoted a new morality to replace older, normative approaches that they believe foster guilt and exclusion. Prominent cardinals and bishops have embraced this “New Paradigm” and are using the international synodal process to spread it throughout the Church. They insist the change is required by “science” and a better understanding of both the human condition and Jesus. In reality, it’s based on misrepresentations that can’t lead to the abundant life Christ offers us.
The Progressives misrepresent science’s purpose and scope. The physical and human sciences focus solely on the empirically discernable operations and interactions of the cosmos and human beings. Consequently, they don’t (and can’t) examine the relation of our spatial-temporal and sociological existence to any transcendent origin, meaning, or goal.
For example, science can verify that an embryo belongs to the species homo sapiens, but can’t establish the rights of the embryo (or mother) regarding an abortion. Such judgments require ethical considerations that lie outside of empirical analysis.
Ethics evaluates human intentions and actions, and rightly takes into account empirical information about humanity. Ethics acknowledges, for example, that people can innocently act wrongly through ignorance or lack of freedom. So, it’s necessary to consider from a scientific perspective how knowledge and choice can be influenced physically (e.g. by genetics and bio-chemistry), psychologically (e.g. by trauma or dysfunction), and socially (e.g. by socio-economic and cultural conditions).
There’s no doubt that for Christians empirical knowledge provides a crucial context for understanding why people think and act as they do and, hence, for guiding the evangelical work of accompanying them from error and sin to sharing the abundant life of God’s children. Those insights help us to deal patiently and properly with diverse stages of personal development, uninformed or compulsive behaviors, the struggle with selfishness and sin, and the on-going purification of mind and heart that Jesus desires for everyone.
Nevertheless, science can’t determine ethics and so its findings must be interpreted and used in ethical matters with great care. Caution is needed because, after the Fall, we aren’t fully the human beings God created us to be. “What is” often isn’t “what ought to be.” This means that empirical observations can find certain inclinations, ideas, or actions statistically normal and apparently beneficial when, in fact, they’re ethically inauthentic and harmful.
Given science’s limitations, the claim that “following the science” requires a new morality is a red herring. After all, most traditional moralists accept contemporary science without having to change paradigms.The Catholic Thing