Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lumen Fidei: Does truth matter?

Like his predecessors, Pope Francis acknowledges that one of the signs of our times is a kind of reluctance to accept any truth that dares present itself as absolute, as true no matter the time of day, the season of the year, or the person who considers it. In his encyclical on faith (#25), Francis writes:

"In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology...truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable. Nowadays this appears as the only truth that is certain, the only truth that can be shared...."

When it comes to truths closer to the human heart, we allow for "your" truth or "my" truth, and we admire the person who is faithful to his or her own convictions, but, Pope Francis comments,
"these are truths valid only for that individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to serve the common good."

To this split between material, mathematical truth (with its risk of subordinating persons to profits or other material goals) and personal, interior truth that cannot be universalized (and therefore that is ultimately isolating), Pope Francis offers a remedy:

"The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is...and thus the meaning of our common path."

Faith, Francis wants us to realize, can never be private or personal. It always comes by means of a relationship ("Faith comes from hearing"), leads into relationship with God, puts us in relationship with other believers, and bubbles out from us to draw others into the relationship. (It is more of a life-form than we may realize!)

On the other hand, relativism (the belief--and it is a belief!--that "I have my truth; you have yours" and that no one has the right to "impose" their truth on anyone else, much less expect to see it enshrined in society's norms or laws) is by its nature isolating. It is as if Francis is hinting: don't expect a hands-off, relativistic culture to yield fruits of peace, while writing off faith as a threat to the human family. It's quite the opposite! (And really, don't we see this at work in the intolerant demands for tolerance that are come from the rejection of truth and its authority or even validity?)


Anonymous said...

So true...and relativism disguised as ecumenism is one of my pet peeves. We need to speak the truth, whether in defending the Church against false impressions others may have of her as well as outright lies, we need to speak the truth in order to bring those outside of the Church, whether through schism, apostasy or ignorance back home. Love and truth are inseparable, salvation and eternity are forever. Jesus saves, but we have our own part to play in the salvation narrative.- Jean

Barbara Hosbach said...

Yes, the truth is the truth and it doesn't change, but speaking and living the truth in love the way Jesus did is not the same as "imposing" it or seeing it "enshrined" as the law of the land. After the Holy Spirit was given to the first believers, God's power and loved bubbled over and people joined them because they were attracted to the quality of their lives, not because the apostles started imposing their beliefs on others. When we open ourselves to God's grace, we are changed and the Holy Spirit can touch hearts through us.