CNS photo/Cathal McNaughton, Reuters

Dictating relativism

  • May 28, 2015

Of all the rhetoric that followed Ireland’s referendum that legalized same-sex marriage, none was more absurd than the Toronto Star declaring the vote revealed “21st-century Ireland as a model of inclusivity and tolerance.” Nonsense.

The May 2 vote in favour of blowing up the traditional definition of marriage “revealed” no such thing. It was already well established that Ireland is a tolerant and inclusive nation. Even as many Irish left the Church following revelations of priestly sexual abuse, they retained their capacity for generosity and compassion. None of that needed affirmation, or had to be revealed, by a vote on same-sex marriage.

No, the Irish referendum was not about inclusivity and tolerance. Ireland’s same-sex couples were already accepted members of civil society by virtue of laws that guarantee their equality with married couples in every significant legal respect. In terms of rights, redefining the definition of marriage changes little.

What the referendum did affirm, however, is the prophetic wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI. He saw this coming. Perhaps not the Irish referendum, per se, but the sea change in human attitudes that made this regrettable outcome inevitable.  

The former pope called this development the dictatorship of relativism. By that he meant a society that invokes with dictatorial vigour a philosophy that claims there is no single truth. Instead, it fiercely advocates that truth is subjective based on an individual’s circumstances and fuelled by their “own ego and desires.”

Relativism, Benedict warned, seeks to subordinate religion to what he called the “super-dogma of relativism.” It relies on political correctness to “present itself as the only way to think and speak” and it fosters intolerance towards opponents.

In Ireland’s case, the established truth in jeopardy was not just the institution of marriage but the definition of family.  

As the Irish Catholic summarized, at heart this debate was about whether society still believes in the family, believes that children are best raised by a mom and dad in marriage.

That argument proved unwinnable against the relativist insistence that marriage and parenting are individual, gender-neutral choices — that any two adults can do the job of a mother and a father. Nor could it contend with opinion swayed by anger at the Church but perhaps more influenced by a culture beguiled by the politically correct, relativist assertion that if same-sex couples believe marriage and gender-neutral parenting is worthy then society should make it happen.

Benedict foresaw the world heading this way. He also correctly predicted this dictatorship of relativism would breed intolerance towards those who dared oppose it. In Ireland, defenders of traditional marriage and family were branded homophobes and bigots. Sadly, Benedict got that right, too.

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