Practical relativism [122 – 123]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora and will add my comments over time. Pappa francescos 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

122. A misguided anthropocentrism leads to
a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation
Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical
relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous
than doctrinal relativism”.99 When human
beings place themselves at the centre, they
give absolute priority to immediate convenience
and all else becomes relative. Hence we should
not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the
omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult

97 Id., Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009),
28: AAS 101 (2009), 663.
98 Cf. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium Primum, ch. 23:
PL 50, 688: “Ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore,
sublimetur aetate”.
99 No. 80: AAS 105 (2013), 1053.

of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism
which sees everything as irrelevant unless it
serves one’s own immediate interests. There is a
logic in all this whereby different attitudes can
feed on one another, leading to environmental
degradation and social decay.

123. The culture of relativism is the same disorder
which drives one person to take advantage of
another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing
forced labour on them or enslaving them to
pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads
to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment
of the elderly who no longer serve our
interests. It is also the mindset of those who say:
Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to
regulate the economy, and consider their impact
on society and nature as collateral damage. In the
absence of objective truths or sound principles
other than the satisfaction of our own desires
and immediate needs, what limits can be placed
on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug
trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur
of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic
logic which justifies buying the organs of
the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or
eliminating children because they are not what
their parents wanted? This same “use and throw
away” logic generates so much waste, because
of the disordered desire to consume more than
what is really necessary. We should not think that
political efforts or the force of law will be
sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment
because, when the culture itself is corrupt
and objective truth and universally valid principles
are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen
as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.


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