Open-mindedness, Catholic Church, and Relativism

We often hear many people, especially nowadays when men think of themselves learned, that the Catholic Church is not open-minded, not open-minded about almost everything, everything these people takes pleasure from for pleasure seems to be everthing to them, may it be masturbation, pre and extra-marital sex, contraception, abortion, divorce, polygamy, homosexuality, multiple-partner sexual relations, inter-generational sexual relations, inter-species sexual relations, euthanasia, cloning, religion without moral obligations, morality without God, etc. On the other hand, the Catholic Church is adamant that her service to humanity is a service to truth and of truth, a truth that is universal, therefore, inclusive of all and open to all, this truth that is God Himself, Jesus the Truth, The Way, and The Life.

The Anti-Catholic, who will live not more than 150 years in this world, is convinced beyond doubt, while doubting almost everything (i’m thinking of ‘postmodern’ mentality-philosophy for the most part) except perhaps the basis of his doubt (i’m thinking of ‘modern’ mentality-philosophy for the most part), that the Catholic Church which exists for more than two thousand years is lacking wisdom and knowledge and is a force against progress. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, who in her mystical constitution, cannot boast that her continued existence is due to human wisdom, has always looked upon her Spouse and Head, Jesus Christ, to keep her faithful, despite her members’ inadequacies and failures of which they must constantly repent, to her vocation from God of calling all men to truth and goodness, the source and purpose of progress.

We have here two irreducibly opposite positions both claiming ‘open-mindedness’. To affirm both positions as the truth would be self-contradiction. In this case, only one position is right and the other must be wrong. It is absolutely either/or situation. One cannot pretend to value both as true and remain in his right mind.

Our help in this situation of either/or is common sense logic that asks immediately “Do the Catholic and the anti-Catholic mean the same thing when they say ‘open-mindedness’? It is easy to agree, between a Catholic and an Anti-Catholic, on open-mindedness when it means the ‘ability to respect other people of different views from ours’, for this has become one of the mantras of anti-catholicsm, and Catholicism itself must follow the way of Charity. However, if it means ‘the ability to respect the opposite views of other people’, then the anti-catholic would almost immediately consider this second meaning as a corollary, if not the same, to the first meaning, that respecting the opposite views of others is a consequence of the respect given to people of opposing views. Whether this consequentiality of the two meaning is a logical one or an existential one or both is not clear. What is clear, however, is that it presupposes a certain idea of the value of truth. The Catholic, on the other hand, would see the two meanings as clearly logically distinct and existentially separate. The Catholic, if he is a truly practicing one, is able to respect the person of the opponent in a debate while not necessarily accepting the ideas of the opponent. When the ideas are found to be fallacious and erroneous according to the Catholic’s sincere search for truth, the Catholic is not bound by Charity to accept such fallacious opinions nor does he demand that the opponent accept his (the Catholic) opinions when that opponent finds the Catholic’s ideas to be fallacious and erroneous according to the opponent’s sincere search for truth. In both cases, the question of truth is presupposed and is presupposed differently.

Open-mindedness, then, can be interpreted in two irreducibly opposite ways depending on how the question of ‘truth’ is presupposed. If truth is interpreted to mean ‘relative’ to the individual, to the culture, to the flow of time, then open-mindedness, the open-mindedness of the relativist, would mean valuing other beliefs because they are ‘other’ beliefs. Truth for the relativist has no universal, objective, and absolute value. Truth for him means: ‘his own truth is not yours and your truth is not his’; ‘there is no such thing as The Truth on which we can all truly agree’; ‘truth change from time to time’; and ‘truth is not absolute’. This interpretation is the exact opposite of truth considered as universal or knowable by all, of truth considered as objective or independent of subjective and cultural conditionings, of truth considered as absolute or unchanging or valuable for its own sake. In the latter case, in the Catholic’s conception of truth as universal, objective, and absolute, open-mindedness would mean valuing other beliefs FOR THE TRUTH it may contain or respecting other people of different beliefs as fellow creatures measured by Truth.

Universal, objective, and absolute truth, because it is truth that confronts the human mind, admits of process not of truth itself but of human knowing. It is a knowing process of incremental discovery of universality until it reaches the Ultimately Universal Truth, of incremental discovery of objectivity until it reaches the Ultimately Objective Truth, of incremental discovery of the absolute until it reaches the Ultimately Absolute Truth. Paradoxically, since man by himself cannot attain such Truth, Truth Himself has come down to man to unite man to Himself through Jesus Christ, The Truth, The Way, and The Life, so that man endures the said process in theological hope.

On the other hand, individualsitic, subjectivistic, and relativistic truth, for all the tickle-inducing speech of the relativist, admits of no one Truth and, therefore, is absolutistic of only one proposition, that is that ‘there is no absolute truth (except this one)’. For this reason the relativist is intolerant of The Truth who is One and is friendly of errors which are many.