2014 Religious Trends
Three Questions in the Name of Love
2) When I love, what good I am seeking for my beloved? Simply proclaiming Catholic morality to adults who have a utilitarian, subjectivist, and materialist understanding of the human person—as most do in our Western culture—will achieve very little. The human person is made by God and made for God. Only in the perspective of our origin and finality can we recover a sense of our dignity and true good. If this is agreed, then the good of human persons is not merely physical, economic, emotional, social, and intellectual within the span of their life on earth. The good of the person is also spiritual and eternal. To love is to seek the good of my beloved at all these levels, and according to this hierarchy.
3) How am I to discern concretely what is good, so that I can truly love? Many will agree in theory with the two points above, but when it comes to concrete choices such as artificial contraception, "my conscience tells me there is nothing wrong with it." How often have these expressions of absolutist relativism fully shut down a discussion that was going rather well! The conscience is the recipient and interpreter of the law of God inscribed in our hearts. It is our own personal compass. Like any old compass, it can be broken. It can misread the law of God, which it does not devise but merely discerns. So the answer to that one is "I fully respect the decisions of your conscience, but have you considered that your conscience may be wrong?" Our consciences are inalienable—no one, not even God, can force us to do what we know is wrong or not to do what we know is right—but are they infallible? My first responsibility, if I intend to love anyone for real, is to begin forming my conscience in humility, looking to Jesus and his Church, to discern what is truly good.
There are serious anthropological foundations to be established before engaging in Catholic moral teaching, to ensure that the words we use are not implicitly hijacked by sentimentalism. Here we can always ponder the wise advice of the Supremes: "Stop! In the name of love … and think it over.