Ideas have consequences. Their consequences may not be immediately evident but they will as surely as day follows night, invariably reveal themselves.
Many of us may not be aware that the modern world in which we live is a direct and logical consequence of a bad idea.
Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk who not only detested philosophy but also refuted the very notion of logic in theology, led a rebellion against the Church that split Christendom asunder. He rejected “reason as contrary to faith” and, in so doing, discarded the God-given means by which we discern what is good and what is evil. In short, he declared war on the natural law.
Luther’s rebellion, with its catch phrases sola fides (goodbye to reason), sola scriptura (goodbye to natural law), detached his followers from any exterior mediating authority (the Church) and transformed them into a spiritual and moral law unto themselves (each person becoming his own pope). And so were laid the philosophical foundations for the elevation of the human will and the autonomous self as the prime determinants of truth in all human affairs that is part and parcel of the modern world. Luther’s intellectual heirs, the ideologues of the so-called Enlightenment, also held a disdain for reason that was only surpassed by their hatred for God and man. How else does one explain their enthronement and worship in Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral of a prostitute as the goddess of reason?
Gaining momentum with secularism across the centuries, Luther’s legacy finally broke on our age like a tsunami. The defining moment was July 1968 when Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching of the inseparable bond between sex and procreation in the encyclical Humane Vitae. Tragically some highly placed dissenting theologians rejected Humane Vitae and so brought their mentor’s diabolic revolt against reason and the natural moral law to full flower. Even more tragically, the deafening Episcopal silence in the face of dissent effectively undermined the Church’s teaching authority on moral issues, at the very time it was most needed. Consequently, we find ourselves in a moral morass fuelled by the dual “sex-as-recreation” and “fertility-as-commodity” ethic. The moral law was seriously violated and Mother Nature retaliated: the contraceptive ethic spawned abortion, adultery, divorce, euthanasia, feminism, homosexuality, IVF and the medical, social and bio-genetic Frankensteins. Nature is unforgiving and we are now facing her coup de grace: demographic meltdown.
As noted by the Australian Peter McDonald contraception “reduces population size not in all ages but only among the young. Low fertility produces an age structure that creates a momentum for future population decline.” In his book The Death of the West, Patrick Buchanan writes that “At present birthrates, Europe must bring in 169 million immigrants by 2050 if it wishes to keep its population aged 15 to 64 at today’s level” and notes that eight times that figure is required in order to maintain the present ratio of 4.8 workers for every senior. Ideas have consequences.
At this point in history, the Catholic Church is the lone voice that offers a viable solution to the complex problems facing the human race and, in particular, the nations now standing on the brink of extinction. It must be stated unequivocally that the Church does not “teach” ideas but rather proclaims Christ who is the Truth and who teaches us what it is to be fully human. As Saint John Paul II explained in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor §44 “Christian faith immerses human beings in the order of grace, which enables them to share in the mystery of Christ, which in turn offers them a true and coherent knowledge of the Triune God. In Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, faith recognizes the ultimate appeal to humanity. This truth, which God reveals to us in Jesus Christ, is not opposed to the truths which philosophy perceives. On the contrary, the two modes of knowledge lead to truth in all its fullness. This unity of truth, natural and revealed, is embodied in a living and personal way in Christ, as the apostle reminds us: ‘Truth is in Jesus.’”.
The Church then in proclaiming Christ is also the essential interpreter of the application of the natural law to particular cases. In Humane Vitae §4, Paul VI made that point when he described his encyclical as “a teaching founded on the natural law, illumined and enriched by divine revelation. No believer will wish to deny that the teaching authority of the Church is competent to interpret even the natural moral law. It is, in fact, indisputable, … that Jesus Christ, when communicating to Peter and to the Apostles His divine authority and sending them to teach all nations His commandments, constituted them as guardians and authentic interpreters of all the moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel, but also of the natural law, which is also an expression of the will of God, the faithful fulfillment of which is equally necessary for salvation.”. The Pope also clearly outlined in §17 the consequences of violating the moral law, all of which were realized with astounding accuracy within a quarter century.
Martin Luther’s ideas have armed nature against us. The Church he attacked still stands by what she has always said: Nature reveals the mind of God and is not governed except by obeying its rules and ordinances. The modern world following the mind of Luther tells that to be happy we must overcome the prejudices inherited from tradition and free ourselves from every teaching authority. The Church tells us that to be happy we must put on the mind of Christ and live according to His law which is made known, even to unbelievers, through reason and the natural law (cf.Rom.1:20ff). Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we must pay for its counterfeit.
Let us then be neither disheartened nor discouraged by the continuing and increasing decadence of our society. Nature is taking its course and after this winter there will be a glorious spring for all who live the Gospel of Life.