Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Bishop Felipe Estevez
“Men could not live with one another if there were not mutual trust that they were being truthful to one another…as a matter of honor, one man owes to another to manifest the truth.” — St. Thomas Aquinas
At times I wonder how society would function if we would always abide in the truth. It takes considerable courage to witness to the truth at all levels and all times.
To strive for this integrity one pays a price because social conventions encourage people to do what is “politically correct”, which demands tolerance at all costs, but not witness to the truth.
It has always been so from the times of Socrates. St. Justin saw his trial as a pre-figuring of the trial of Jesus. Theologian Jean Danielou states: “It was by no means only yesterday that truth became embarrassing. The witness of truth is the greatest stumbling to the powerful in their schemes of domination, and to the clever in their desire for self-sufficiency…but eventually the sense of the truth is crippled under so many assaults, rude or subtle, even in the souls of those who profess it. They allow themselves to be intimidated by the kind of interrogation which alternates mockery with menaces. They agree to relegate truth to the dark corners of their sacristies or to the hidden places in their hearts…at this precise moment of time—our times—nothing is more seriously ailing than intelligence, nothing is less loved than truth…” (The Scandal of Truth, 1-2).
As a pastor of communities, St. Paul was very aware of the struggle that this represents: “putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Eph 4, 25). We need to respect the reputation of others by avoiding rash judgment, detraction, and calumny. The common good requires this honor to one’s neighbor, who for his own peace needs to be protected from deceit, lies, flattery and adulation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in a most remarkable commentary on the eighth commandment: “Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation” (#2487).
One of the most serious matters affecting Catholic laity today lies with those who are serving in political life but refuse to witness to the truth of human life and other basic truths in order to keep their offices or to be in good graces with their parties’ leaders. Some even argue that they affirm these values at a personal level but their job entails representing the views of the majority of the population. I wonder if St. Thomas More or St. John Fisher would entertain such a sophism.
One of the most serious challenges for us as clergy is to welcome accountability and transparency in governing our parishes and institutions. The truth makes us free. There is nothing to be afraid of in giving an objective account of our administration.
St. John with amazement says that Jesus Christ is “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). He is the light. He is the Truth. He encourages the disciples to dwell in the truth and “let what you say be simply yes or no” (Mt 5:37)
At times I hear that Benedict XVI’s pontificate is affected by all kinds of alarming crises. No doubt, times are challenging in the whole world and even in his own city, where a university would “disinvite” him for fear of pressures. I am convinced that the pope is ready to confront the manipulations of the prince of evil head-on, without being intimidated by the scandal of truth, because he has the character, the intelligence and the wisdom to shine as a true servant of the Truth.
A poet said that truth is very scarce in our times. If so, there is a greater need to witness to it. The great Cuban thinker Father Felix Varela made it a permanent quest: “la caridad cristiana y la buena logica” — Christian charity and reason!