Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fr. Rutler - February 23, 2014

February 23, 2014

by Fr. George W. Rutler
Dante's thought was so greatly shaped by Aristotle that he called him “The Philosopher” rather as it is customary to call Saint Paul “The Apostle.” He placed Aristotle in a sort of suburb of Heaven, for Aristotle's logical thought was a noble anticipation of Christ the Word, or Logos, as the litmus test for all logical thought. Aristotle applied his “Principle of Non-Contradiction” in several ways, but the third way, most pertinent to daily conversation, means that two statements that are opposite cannot both be true. Like all great truths, this seems so obvious that it should hardly need to be pointed out. But people contradict the principle of non-contradiction all the time. It is easy to slip into this mistake out of fuzzy courtesy—which in the extreme is a form of sentimentality—as when someone says, “That may be true for you, but it is not true for me,” or, “All religions are the same.” Pope Benedict XVI saw this as so great a danger to logical living that he spoke of it as a “dictatorship of relativism.” To propose that opposite assertions can be true is harshly to cancel out truth. In our grammar, two negatives make a positive, but to say that a negative and a positive make a positive would be to say that nothing is really positive. Then to say that Christ is and is not the Living Word is to say that the Word is just a word. This “dictatorship” inevitably tries to crush any assertion that there is such a thing as logic at all.

   This is not a matter just for the philosophy class. It has harsh consequences for justice. The “show trials” of Stalin and Hitler were held in a Humpty Dumpty world where a word means anything the judge wants it to mean. This reduces sense to sentimentality, and there is a fine line between sentimentality and cruelty, because it twists logic and explains why demagogues speak of caring for society even as they destroy every vestige of it, condoning unnatural acts as natural, and even offering to help children by killing them, as “lawmakers” in Brussels have recently done. Milton said, “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

   Christ did not contradict himself when he said that he fulfilled the Law, even while he was breaking some of the little laws. He was showing the logic of the law as expressive of the eternal Logos that orders all things. The Apostle, even wiser than The Prophet, spoke of a wisdom which “is not of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).    

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