Actions and Consequences
December 10, 2021
What happens when we reject moral absolutes? What happens when we say things are only wrong based on the circumstances? What happens when we are willing to do anything to change the world for what we think is the best? We find ourselves swimming against the current on the sea, slowly slipping more and more under the waves with exhaustion. A lie is told…’for the greater good.’ Property is stolen… ‘for the greater good.’ Truth is suppressed… ‘for the greater good.’ Unjust war is fought… ‘for the greater good.’ Innocents are exterminated… ‘for the greater good.’
Today we visited the Holocaust Museum, the Yad Vashem. Situated in Jerusalem, 20 minutes from the Old City, the museum punctures a hill next to a valley like a blade cutting into Israel. Though surrounded with nice gardens, the architecture seems to resemble something like a brutalist style, recalling the cold industrial efficiency of the Nazi concentration camps. Most of the seminarians, though familiar with the atrocities of the Holocaust, still were left quiet for sometime after leaving the museum.
Humanity has always been capable of great evil, yet it seems it took the 20th century for some of the greatest wickedness the world has ever seen. Yes, men steal, lie, take advantage of power, and kill as they always have. Yet now, as the centuries pass, it seems to increasingly flow quite directly from new ideologies. In a few short decades, oppression and killing quickly consumed untold millions, mostly in the name of novel belief systems. Whether it be the Sexual Revolution’s mass slaughter of infants, the Communist ‘Great Leap Forward,’ or the Nazi’s genocidal anti-Semitism, at root in all our recent atrocities is a willingness to reject long standing moral absolutes to chart some better tomorrow. As a result, the ‘better tomorrow’ is a taste of hell on earth.
The moral absolutes act as but what little driftwood we have on the great sea of time, being pulled quickly by the currents. Sure, we may abandon the driftwood and swim against the current, but we quickly will lose energy and drown beneath the chaos of the sea. The current is God’s will, and only following with it, constantly holding to His commands, do we make it to shore safely. Even if we have a hard time giving ourselves over to the current of Providence, at the least, hold on to that driftwood.
In truth, fighting against that current and trying to determine our own vision of goodness is always a fool’s game. We do not know the full consequences of any action. The wisest cannot see all ends. Even great geniuses can barely predict much of the future at all. Any single action causes effects that unpredictably ripple across the sea of reality until the end of time. To judge if it was the best action we would have to see the end of all things. One thing we can know, however, is to avoid evil actions regardless of the consequences. That is one thing we mortals can see: the morality of the act, here and now. The greatest nightmares would have been avoided if we did not compromise with these moral absolutes.
Deacon Ben Thomsen
Archdiocese of Atlanta