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Modern sacrilege

Most people would consider the modern “unforgivable sin” to be that of intolerance.  As certainly true as that may be I believe there is another sin in the modern imagination that is even more unforgivable: hypocrisy.  You see, intolerance will always have a certain amount of relativity in its assessment and relativity is the lifeblood of modern philosophy.  There are some things which even the most hardened relativist will consider beyond the pale – say perhaps theft or more certainly murder – so even relativists understand that some level of intolerance is necessary for any society to function although they only but rarely admit to this fact.

The beauty, however, of relativisim is that a relativist can almost never be accused of hypocrisy so long as he avoids theft and murder.  To be declared a hypocrite one must first have a defined and absolute rule which he then breaks.  So now the hypocrite has doubly failed:  first in asserting an absolute, which immediately runs against what a relativist holds dear; next this hypocrite does something contrary to the absolute rule he had just asserted.  There is, in the modern imagination, no room for error, mistake or weakness on the part of anyone who wants to offer any rule as an absolute.  Tolerance, it would seem, is not for those who dare suggest even the barest of absolutes.

I want to go just a little bit further into this because the charge of hypocrisy seems to be one that most people aren’t even willing to defend against these days.  What is a hypocrite exactly?  The dictionary definition of a hypocrite is “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs”.  It seems the modern accusation of hypocrisy against anyone who for any reason does not follow a belief he has stated does indeed deserve the title of hypocrite.  There is, however, one critical word in this definition that is either ignored or assumed to be true without need of proof – “pretends”.  The modern assertion is that anyone who acts against a stated belief could not possibly have actually truly held that belief.  The second you act against your stated beliefs you are not a confused person, not a sinner in need of redemption, not a fallen human suffering the effects of concupiscence, you are a hypocrite – there is no need for evidence to be presented, no need for a trial; the finding is sure and the sentence is a foregone conclusion, nothing you have thus far held to be true can ever hold weight again.

This tactic is used again and again against the Church and perhaps no more frequently than in the modern times when in reference to the clergy abuse crisis.  No matter on what topic she speaks, due to the failure of some of her members to live up to her most cherished standards nothing else can be held as true or holding any weight as genuine and true.  This whole argument however relies on the unfounded assumption that the Church only pretends to hold what she teaches to be true and that her real beliefs are shown in these acts completely contrary to everything she espouses publicly.  The accusation of hypocrisy need not be feared however – remember that even Paul talked about being the “least of the apostles” and “one untimely born” but did not allow this to deter his proclamation of the truth.  The Church as the Bride and Body of Christ will always proclaim the truth and, sadly, some of her members will not live up to this truth.  This does not make either the Church or her members hypocrites for none of of these beliefs are pretended but rather held close to the heart and no one who truly believes what he proclaims can ever be a hypocrite but only one who is on the way towards the perfection which cannot be attained on this side of the mortal coil.

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