Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Times: Values must be solidly anchored

Tuesday, 17th November 2009 by James A. Marples, Longview, Texas, US

I enjoyed the editorial in The Times, Values Cannot Be Taken For Granted (November 14), which points to a recent University survey indicating that students in Malta tend to have changing values which fluctuate with changing cultural norms and popular trends. The article noted how traditional values can no longer be taken for granted and how they have to be "fathomed, analysed and made our own". That sounds perfectly logical. But, I would ask: "How?"

I am a Roman Catholic myself and I agree with the vast majority of Church's teachings. I have encountered good priests and also seen some who were obviously bad priests. I know several good bishops whom I consider friends. I interact with them and learn a great deal from their spiritual guidance and immense wisdom. Not everyone is blessed with such a slate of "living reference guides" to consult on theological matters. Having said that - I think that different human beings are entitled to differing points of view. Not everyone needs to walk in perfect lockstep as clones. No one needs to be condemned as a heretic merely because of differing human perceptions. Even former Popes throughout history have misjudged others erroneously. The astronomer Galileo Galilei was condemned by a Church tribunal for his theories in physics. Over 300 years later, the late Pope John Paul II expressed regret and apologised for the errors made by the Church tribunal. So, even "traditional values" espoused by the Church can be blurred by overzealous clerics who make wild pronouncements. I find that the Church hierarchy, as well as individual parishioners need to periodically re-examine what values they champion for clarity, accuracy and reliability.

I greatly respect and revere my Church. On matters of faith which are solidly grounded by The Holy Bible, I believe the Church does quite well in outlining how the commandments of Almighty God instil the ultimate guidebook for "honourable family values". I believe the key for the successful transmission of good values onto the next generations is for society to stop using generic euphemisms and mishmashes of politically-correct terms. A "marriage" shouldn't be lumped together as a "living arrangement" or described as a statistical "relationship".

Relationships come and relationships go - but a marriage should be elevated properly as a institution: a sacrament created and ordained by Almighty God. If the authentic terminology of "Holy Matrimony" is used, our young people will see the holy permanence which makes it a centerpiece of traditional family values. Homosexuals have tried to counterfeit their own type of marriage - but they have no ability to seize Holy Matrimony by hijacking the terminology via piracy. Young people will only fathom what they themselves cherish or hold dear. Harsh dogmas, pestering and nagging won't prompt them to change their behaviours. Casual contraception, abortion and even divorce are partially due to a mindset of "living for today while ignoring the ramifications thereafter". I don't believe that young people necessarily wish to rebel; but rather, they can't learn some things second-hand. Some are destined or doomed to get burned even if told the stove is hot. The best course of action is for the Catholic Church to continue to provide solid spiritual counselling as part of the ritual of worship; but also have a kind and compassionate safety-net for one-on-one reconciliation for those in despair. Secondly, families must learn to talk openly, frankly and invitingly on every issue with everyone in their family.

Family values shouldn't be trumpeted solely because our ancestors practised them - but rather because they provide a solid roadmap for smooth civilised living with the least amount of conflict, anguish and heartache. Tenets of faith must be viewed as fundamentals of upright conduct as well as pillars of principled survival. Values must be anchored and your heart must be in the right place in order for such values to take root and be tied to your life.

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

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