Watering Down Immorality

I see a lot of posts that complain about lapsed/cafeteria Catholics always watering down Church morality. What about the other way around? How would you respond to someone watering down the teachings of a world view you deem immoral?

Take Machiavellian philosophy for example. Many in the Church will instantly get up in arms and boldly scream “THE ENDS DON’T JUSTIFY THE MEANS!”

But what if we water down Machiavelli and simply take it to mean you can’t always be choosy about how to achieve a particular goal? After all, it’s against common sense and practical reason to always be scrupulous about how you achieve something instead of actually, well, doing it.

Here’s a second example, the ‘virtue of selfishness’ espoused by the Ayn Rand camp. Water that down and you get something that’s remarkably similar to the commandments against coveting/stealing another man’s property.

Believe it or not, but I’ve actually found some Catholics who have gone to the fringe solely because they consider even the watered down version of a non-Christian world view as a form of ‘corruption’ to ‘pure Christian thought.’ What happened to teaching the faithful to find the good in other beliefs and rejecting the bad? :confused:

Hi! I haven’t said hello since we were “strenuously disagreeing” some weeks ago. :smiley:

I actually agree with you (perhaps strongly so!), at least if I understand your question correctly.

I’ve often posited that morality is often very complex, so much so that I have issues with those who want to reduce morality to certain neat maxims that break down when held up against complex real world problems. I think that may be what you’re saying, in which case I agree. If I’m misunderstanding…well, it won’t be the first time!

I also think that although morality is complex, there are some hard & fast rules as to what is always good and bad. For example, I believe - and I could be wrong, but I think that’s so - that Judaism has a concept that “any rule can be broken to save someone’s life.” The basic sacredness of life is probably all but the most messed up would agree with…but then again violence (even killing) is obviously allowable in certain instances…

What happened to teaching the faithful to find the good in other beliefs and rejecting the bad?

That is a valid point you make and it is indeed a very traditional Catholic view, properly understood.

Most Catholics are simply not going to be well-versed in world-views, religions, and philosophies that are not their own. You strike me as a person who is well read in a wide spectrum of views, but most people don’t have the breadth of diverse views that you have taken into your consciousness and are gifted with.

It’s an interesting question, you raise, though, but I have difficulty enough applying my A.D.D. brain to Catholic thought. It is probably going to be some time before I get around to reading, even is a cursory fashion, “Atlas Shrugged”. “The Prince” has a slightly better chance that I might get around to reading it at some point, but it’s far from certain.

Sometimes, I think, it’s better to sink one’s teeth into what one perceives to be the good and leave aside what one is less certain about. Additionally, people tend not to see the good in things and ideas if they perceive them to be in conflict with “the good” that they have appropriated for themselves.

I believe that it is probably best for most persons to stick with what they perceive to be the highest and most pure of “good things” and leave aside the rest. There is a risk as well as a balance to that strategy, as you likely know already. That is just my personal view. Some souls may be called to cast a somewhat wider glance upon the spectrum of human experience and thought, but for most persons, that is simply not their calling in life.

But it’s just my opinion, of course.

Hi Lost Wanderer,
My own theory is that there is no way people could put together any sort of system of thought that is both rational and completely contrary to natural law.

The reason I like Catholicism is that there is so much balance, so that the extremes are worked out. So Ayn Rand’s “selfishness” or extreme individualism when watered down sufficiently does fit into natural law, but the reason it had to be watered down is that it had gone too far in that direction.

In the same way, one could probably check out most any system and see where it had gone too far in one direction by ignoring the counterbalance.

I tend to disagree. Even if I believe, as I do, that Catholicism is best expression of what is true, there is no guarantee that I understand it perfectly. While I can obviously study it directly, and while that will certainly help, I find that honestly examining other views (that I think are wrong) can deepen my understanding even of what I already believe, and I think that this process is valuable to recommend to pretty much everyone. A wrong view tends to take a certain truth to an extreme at the expense of other truths (which may be related to what the OP meant by saying we can water down incorrect views to arrive at something true), and studying this can illuminate how they interplay with each other - seeing why an idea is wrong means understanding which truths were shortchanged in what way and why, which requires (and lends towards) understanding more about those truths involved.

Perhaps a particular person doesn’t have time to examine a particular view or to come to understand it or to use it to come to understand their own, but I think we should all always at least admit that that is possible and so that some value exists, even if we choose not access it at this time.

And that’s not even mentioning that it is helpful to find true common ground when engaging with others. Again, it may be that a particular person does not examine a particular view, but if we engage someone with whom we disagree, but we should recognize that such a common truth exists to be found.

Diverse learning is indeed good to those who are called to it, but in practice, we have a large number of Catholics who don’t even know their own faith with any accuracy, so it depends on whether we take a pragmatic view or an idealistic perspective on this issue.

St. Paul was educated and seemingly fairly well-versed in multiple world views, and perhaps that is why he was apostle to the Gentiles and well-equipped to be “all things to all men.”

I would say you can find truths in almost all world views (almost*) because we are all born in the image of our creator and instilled with the good virtues. The problem is when you take a certain philosophy to an extreme. The problem isn’t the philosophy itself as much as it is the ordering of virtues. Ayn Rand puts individualism as the highest virtue. Warrior culture put Honor as the highest virtue. Individualism is a good thing when understood in a Christian context. Honor is a good thing when put into a Christian context. So I think we can draw truths from other philosophies but we must understand our own Christian philosophy to be able to see what is good and what is not so good in other world views.

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