Monday, 28 September 2009

Times: Catholics and the question of compromise
Monday, 28th September 2009 by Jacqueline Calleja, Balzan

One of the lesser known aspects of the Nazi regime in Germany is the role played by the judiciary. Sadly, the behaviour which many judges pursued during those tragic years was anything but exemplary. In their majority, judges, instead of defending the rule of law they had previously sworn to uphold before Hitler came to power, went about aiding the Nazi leader and his collaborators in their thirst for dictatorship and oppression.

How could it have happened that well-educated men who surely were aware what Hitler's ultimate intentions were (anyone reading Mein Kampf would have been left with no doubt about this) went along helping him to fulfil his ambitions.

The answer can only be that, apart from a minority formed by avid Nazi supporters, the majority succumbed to the temptation that has haunted man since time immemorial - compromising with one's principles if circumstances at the time so dictate.

Earlier still, during the French revolution, members of the Roman Catholic clergy were asked to take the revolutionary oath to the Republic or face severe punishment. Many priests, unfortunately, could not bring themselves to abide by their vows and to refuse to swear allegiance to a murderous regime which persecuted and killed countless innocent human beings.

These priests perhaps found comfort in the thought that since the revolution had brought to an end a despotic regime where the poor were heavily oppressed through unjust taxes and human rights were non-existent, they could overlook the more unpleasant aspects of the Republic. In other words, either through fear or through a sort of pragmatic and calculated acceptance of existing circumstances, they thought they could go along with the flow. Therefore, principles were set aside and comprise prevailed.

Such manner of thinking even today, in less dramatic circumstances, is often cited as a practical approach to difficult social and political situations. Thus, in order to reconcile conflicting ideals we often hear that it is not right to paint the world in black and white hues and that various shades of grey exist.

One must be practical, it is oft repeated, and try to find "common ground" where one could meet half-way others whose views are diametrically opposite. This manner of thinking is indeed correct because there are areas, such as the political arena, the work-place and within the family where it is right and just to reach out to others and find convergent views in order to resolve certain difficult matters and situations.

However, this should never be at the expense of principles especially those pertaining to morality (and not only sexual morality) and basic human rights.

In such areas there can be no common ground and no comprise is possible. Can one imagine for a moment finding "common ground" with the Ku Klux Klan or with a rabid anti-Semite party? Can politicians, while calling themselves Catholic, support policies (non-negotiable ones as Pope Benedict often repeats - divorce, abortion, euthanasia and same-sex unions) which go against fundamental principles that the Church they belong to embraces? Can Catholics support these politicians and serenely go to receive the Eucharist as if it mattered not all? This is inconsistency at its best and living a lie at its worst! Sometimes one hears of theologians, bishops and even cardinals who would declare that one could do so.

These are, however, simply stating their own views which, since they deviate from what the Church officially teaches, can therefore be safely ignored. (One must not forget that all the bishops during the Reformation in England went along with Henry VIII in his struggle with the Catholic Church).

Unfortunately, when one tries to be all things to all men, when one tries to gloss over diametrically opposite views, presenting them as if they were almost equally valid, one risks firstly losing one's credibility.

Then, it should never be forgotten that to sup with the devil one needs a very long spoon and trying to have one foot each on different stools risks crashing down between them. Fidelity to one's Christian ideals and to the teaching authority of the Church, even if one risks being unpopular and even maligned, is the consequence that Catholics will increasingly be called upon to face in our post-Christian society. However, this should not discourage us, since as, I believe, Mother Teresa used to say - "God does not want us to be successful but to be faithful".

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

No comments:

Post a Comment