What should change, what must change and what cannot change.

Hubris and the fate of Icarus

Maria Steen, one of Ireland’s most stalwart defenders of truth and life, reflected on the meaning and importance of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland last weekend in an Irish Times article this week.

As well as being a hopeful sign that her recent and relatively frequent columns in that paper might suggest that this dreadfully biased medium might be beginning to serve the reading public more honestly, her article was a reading of the Pope’s visit which took us deeper than most.

Read the entire article to get its full value. Her concluding remarks on the “hubris of our age” and the struggle now going on among all those who consider themselves Catholic over what reform of the Church should mean are particularly apt:

The hope of change that those calling for doctrinal reform seek is not personal change, but rather that the church deny fundamental truths to accommodate their ways of living. This is an old project.

St Paul wrote: “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

In Utopia, St Thomas More talked of how men would rather not change to conform to Christ’s rule, but instead prefer to bend it, as if it were a leaden yardstick, to suit themselves. Both he and St John Fisher – the only bishop in England to remain faithful to church teaching on marriage in the face of the persecution of Henry VIII – felt just how unaccommodating those who seek to accommodate Christ’s teaching to the way they live can be.

The hubris of our age is the idea that moral progress has tracked technological progress, so that our behaviour becomes the criterion by reference to which church teaching is to be judged, rather than the other way around.

Those who, in their arrogance and pride, believe themselves to be above God’s law are never far from abuse. This is what allowed abuses – clearly contrary to the law of the church – to be perpetrated and facilitated in the past.

Instead, the Christian is called to humility – which involves sacrificing oneself and one’s immediate desires to a greater cause. In a materialistic “throwaway” age, this message is a hard sell. How many really want to sacrifice immediate personal gratification for someone else or something greater?

And yet that is the message at the heart of the Christian family: duty, sacrifice and, above all, love.

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