Dr. Alice von HildebrandDiscrimination on trial

"Woe to those  who call evil good and good evil

Who put darkness for light

And light for darkness …" Isaiah  5:20

These words of the greatest prophet of the Old Testament should be the object of our daily meditation: Not only are they deadly serious, for the word "woe" is a very grave warning, but they are daily needed. Am I wrong in saying that living, as we do, in a world of lies, we  are  constantly  tempted  to follow the "crowd" for whom the word "truth"' is anathema?

One of the very valuable messages of Kierkegaard is that we should read the greatest of all books, namely the Bible, on our knees, otherwise the danger is great that we shall interpret it wearing the distorted   glasses of pride and arrogance.  That there are so many "sects" all claiming to be Christian, is a serious warning: which one is fully faithful to Christ's message? Moreover, in our society, the word truth is very un-popular, viewed  as  being by its very essence "narrow-minded", and "un-democratic". This was well expressed by one of my colleagues at Hunter: when I suggested that a key topic in teaching  introduction to philosophy should be "what is truth", he immediately interrupted me with the words: "Whose truth are you referring to?"  One of the dogmas in academia is that, apart from mathematics and empirical sciences,   everything else is up for grabs. In any "advanced" society each one is free to choose what is best adapted to his individual taste and lifestyle. Who is to tell me how I should live?

We should also keep in mind that, admirable as the human vocabulary is, it is rich in potential equivocations. Let us take the word "good". Aristotle, whom St. Thomas  calls "The Philosopher", tells us that it is "what all men desire".  This sounds reasonable enough, but the difficulty is to determine whether what they desire is by that very fact, essentially good. Whatever pleases us is called good, but does the fact that something satisfies us is necessarily beneficial to the one desiring it? Is the possession of gold truly "good" for the avaricious person? Or is hard liquor good for the alcoholic?  Or success good for the proud man?  In other words, is good a "univocal" term?  In his Ethics, Dietrich von Hildebrand has shed light on this crucial question. He tells us that  by "good", we can mean whatever gives us subjective satisfaction: we desire it for this very reason, but elementary wisdom teaches us that the fulfillment of such desires can be man's downfall.  Plato has seen this when he calls man his own worst enemy.

We can also call good  what  truly  benefits us: either materially or physically or intellectually, or spiritually.  There is clearly a hierarchy among "beneficial" goods for the person, and the wise man is the one who is aware of this hierarchy and respects it. Moreover a huge field opens up for what is "beneficial" for one person which might be harmful for another. Each single individual should develop his own talents and these talents differ from person to person; one medicine can be good for one patient, and deadly for another.

There  is, however, one domain where "good" is desirable for all persons , that which is good by its very essence, and for this reason it is necessarily good for all men. In Christian terms, it is to achieve union with God. This makes no sense whatsoever for atheists: what they would call "good" is to have their name remembered in history, or that they have achieved "self fulfillment" – whatever that means. How many of us truly grasp what it means to be a "human person" – for alas,  in their view man is just a more developed animal. Let me repeat: it is only for those who are ardent lovers of truth (as Socrates said; I want nothing but the truth) and those read the Bible on their knees that a new, magnificent horizon opens up.

When Isaiah refers to "Truth" and "Goodness", he clearly has in mind an objective reality, independent of the human mind, which calls for reverent endorsement.  Truth should be loved; goodness should be pursued. Such goods are  good  not because they benefit us but they benefit us because of their very goodness.

Woe indeed to those who purposely call truth error and error truth and woe to the person who refuse to "discriminate"  between them. Failure to do so is not only intellectually stupid, but morally wrong. This is what Isaiah is telling us, and we should listen to his message.

However, there are many domains where to make distinction is inevitable: between intelligent and stupid, between good looking and … not so good looking, between tall and short, between fat and thin, between black and white,  between oriental and occidental, between graceful and clumsy. I limit myself to a few, but their name is "legion". Obviously it is "better" to be intelligent rather than stupid, more desirable to be good looking that ugly, graceful than clumsy, etc.  We inevitably "discriminate" but this does not allow us to pass any  moral judgment on this basis. To be accepted as a ballet dancer one must be thin;  if a person is overweight, it is ridiculous to apply for the job. But thin people should not be called "good" and fat people "wicked". Our "talent" for making confusion is to use a word that usually implies a moral or intellectual judgment to differences which have no bearing whatever in these spheres. This is the cause of many prejudices and to pre-judge  is a sign of stupidity. To turn down someone highly qualified for a job because of his race or the color of his skin, is not only stupid, but also immoral. That unjust discriminations have taken place in our society – and I fear, will always take place under subtle forms  (because they are now laws prohibiting them), is a sad fact and it is sheer wishful thinking to assume that by multiplying laws we can, in the long run, create a perfect society.

There are cases which are more subtle: let us take the case of music. That there is a huge scale of perfection in the most sublime of all arts, cannot be challenged. When we think of the masterpieces of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven to mention some of the most prominent, should  we  throw out of court those which do not achieve such a degree of perfection? The answer is definitely NO.  Not every writer can claim to be a Shakespeare or a Dante, but there are very many, very talented writers who deserve our praise. Strauss's Rosenkavalier, does not have the sublimity of Beethoven's Fidelio, but nevertheless deserves the success that it has enjoyed since it was produced. 

But here we face a crucial question: should any "sound" produced by instruments or by the human voice  be qualified as "music"?  Should we not pay attention to Plato's warning in Book IV of The Republic that moral decadence begins with music? Can we call "poetry" any written word?   Socrates – the wisest man of Greece that Plato calls "the best man  he ever met" – warns us (Phaedrus) that there is a monster sleeping in us, and that there are sounds and rhythms, which definitely wake it up which once awakened are difficult to tame.  Am I wrong in claiming that any youth whose soul has been fed on Rock and Roll will inevitably be unprotected from certain moral temptations?  Blessed are those who drink Gregorian chant or Mozart's sublime music with their mother's milk!   

The answer to the question just raised is definitely NO. There is a type of "music" (should it be called music?) and a so-called literature which is nothing but "filth". That such perverse productions should be prohibited, or at least, called by their right name, is the strict obligation of any person in a position of authority,  just as one prohibits poison, or puts a label of skull and bones on certain products,  one should  prohibit whatever will inevitably bring a society to utter moral decay. This is the noble and incredibly difficult mission of educators:  evil must be opposed but should be opposed wisely – and this is not an easy task. Historians will tell us that the tragic decadence of powerful states, i.e.(those that have become very rich) is usually triggered by moral decay.  Let us never forget that "the enemy is within".  The great educator is the one who, with God's grace, has educated himself. 

Why does someone value Rock and Roll more than Mozart? Some psychologists will tell you that it is  precisely  because  this vulgarity and coarseness echo their own inner life. "Tell me what you love; I will tell you who you are" are deeply meaningful words. We are here not dealing  with a "lack of artistic taste and sensitivity" but, alas, an affinity with this world which appeals to what is in all of us, namely original sin, and can only be defeated by grace. One of the great dangers today is to forget it has marked all of us except the Holy Virgin, and that – to quote St. Francis of Sales – pride dies fifteen minutes after our demise. 

Up to recent times, the word "discriminate" was mostly used  as a compliment: to call a person "discriminating" was meant as a praise,  to someone  who made "intelligent distinctions" as opposed to the flat-footed person who puts everything on the same level, and claims that it is "un-democratic" to  assume that there is such a thing as a hierarchy of values and disvalues. Who is to tell? 

It must be said, however, that human beings being inclined as they are to error and confusion, now often use discrimination in a totally unwarranted and illegitimate way and this is the clear expression of a mind that has derailed. A couple of examples should make this clear:  the distinction between black and white people. Obviously when a person comes into the room, we shall immediately notice the color of his skin. It is easy to tell whether a person comes from a Nordic country, or whether he is a southerner, or whether he is European or Chinese. The differences between races is obvious, but to make prejudicial judgments on this basis is plainly stupid – the word is not too strong. This is the very nature of anti-Semitism to Hitler: to be Jewish meant to "be evil, a deadly enemy of the great German state. Down with the Jews"; "once  this vermin is eliminated, the earth will breathe fresh air". The idiocy of such a position does not even deserve a refutation; there is no  race on earth deprived of good and bad qualities. Mediocrity is a universal sickness and alas, it is contagious. In other words, this type of discrimination should be opposed with every possible means, even though having lived long, I became convinced – to quote Schilller – that it is hopeless battle for " Against stupidity, even the gods contend in vain".

More in Dr. Alice von Hildebrand

What we have said so far might be summarized as follows. There are clearly cases in which to discriminate is a strict moral obligation between truth and error, between morally good and morally evil;   there are cases in which to discriminate is desirable; between beauty, mediocrity, ugliness,  grace,  coarseness, etc. but we are not thereby entitled  to condemn those who lack these talents, or these sensitivities  if they have no responsibility for these "blind spots". There  are  cases when to "discriminate" is inevitable: black or white, tall or short  heavy or slender: for it is immediately perceptible, but  it would be nonsensical to pass judgment on people on this basis: "I refuse to rent an apartment to fat people'"  or to Irish people, or to black people. Would it not be wiser in such cases, to avoid confusion, to use the word  differentiate or distinguish instead?

But our concern in this article to is draw attention to a phenomenon which has developed in the course of the last fifty years which should be a source of great concern to all of us because in a very subtle way, the word is now used to condemn as "evil discriminations", lifestyle and behaviors, which by their very essence, call for rejection and condemnation.  Let me repeat emphatically: we should make a distinction between moral and immoral, between true and false, between just and unjust between  pure and impure.  Let us add: we should make a distinction between "natural" and "unnatural". This used to be taken for granted, but we are living in a world where moral decadence is no longer viewed as a grave going "morally downhill", but rather as a "liberation" from old taboos and old fashioned ideas which are not compatible with our "brave new world".  

 The question is: what do we mean by nature? Answering this question is of crucial importance in a society which willfully confuses these two radically different concepts. When we refer to nature, we clearly mean things as they were "meant to be" – an "incarnation" of their "real" being. 
It is natural for human beings to walk on two legs. Even though they could  possibly manage to walk on all fours,  if badly disabled,  it would be unnatural. It is natural for human beings to speak, that is, to form articulated sounds that have meaning. Men can imitate the barking of dogs but to do so is against their nature. It is natural for human beings to bring food to their mouth, as opposed to dogs and cats that bend down to gulp down their food. It is natural for men and women when embracing each other to be face to face, eye to eye. It is worth noting that liars and guilty people carefully avoid a face to face confrontation with their accuser. When Adam and Eve sinned they hid themselves (Genesis 3:8).  They dreaded a confrontation with God. This "eye to eye",  "face to face" is of crucial importance as expression of the dignity of persons. Any other posture sins against this dignity.  "Noblesse oblige".  In other words, it is crucial to keep in mind that even though human beings are the only persons that have a body, it is  precisely their human mission to "elevate" this body  so that it becomes an adequate physical expression of his nobility as person. Their body language reveals the abyss that separates them from animals.

What is crucial in our context is reproduction which in academia is a proof of the identical nature of man and mammal. I recall that years ago, after a talk that I gave in Oregon, I was interviewed on television.  The anchor who was present at my talk challenged me for having said that there was a radical difference between man and animals.  His  question to me was "Could you name one essential difference between them?" With French speed, I answered: "yes, the sexual sphere".  The anchor  was speechless. Clearly, he has never heard anything like that. I had the feeling that he was challenging my sanity.  

But soon after their creation Adam and Eve were commanded to be fruitful and "reproduce" themselves.   Animals were not given this order, but following the laws of their nature, they instinctively did so. Why is man "told" to have a  progeny? Because it is precisely a domain in which  man's dignity as a person expresses itself.  Hints might suffice to make my point:  animals are driven by an instinct that is so powerful that they do not hesitate to risk their lives in the process. They are slaves of their biological nature.  Human beings being persons are commanded to reproduce  themselves  because as  persons they are invited by the Creator Himself to increase the number of the human race. But two crucial things must be mentioned: in human persons, reproduction, as meant by God, cannot be separated from the divine action – a close collaboration between God and man for He alone can create the soul. Moreover, according to the divine intention, the frontal embrace between human persons should be  an expression of their  intentio unionis, for love desires union and is by its very nature fruitful. Hence the face to face encounter of two  persons embracing the beloved,  gratefully conscious that a new human person might be the fruit of this union. To put it plainly, the powerful sexual instinct must be baptized and therefore worthy of persons. Moreover whereas both animals and human being must eat, drink and have a minimum of sleep in order to survive (with the very rare exceptions of some mystics) reproduction is in no way necessary for survival. Let us imagine  how ludicrous  it  would be if an apparently very healthy man, would suddenly drop dead. According to law, an autopsy is required.  How ridiculous if would be if the doctor came out of his office declaring "virginity" to be the case of his demise. A high percentage of human beings  do not have a "sex life":  widows, widowers, badly disabled people, very many sick people, those that are paralyzed, those who while wishing to get married never found someone willing to marry them, such people – and their name is legion – can lead a beautiful and holy life.  I am sure that  millions and millions of people are in this category. Alas, we live in a society in which "sex"  and  self-fulfillment are identified.  Let us think of the millions of people who devote themselves to others, do an  enormous  amount  of  good  for humanity and are unmarried or have chosen a consecrated  life. Only  morally decadent societies  view "having sex"' as a necessity.  Am I wrong in claiming that this Weltanschauung makes it impossible for such a society to have the proper understanding of the beautiful words of God "be fruitful and multiply".

This leads me back to the meaning of  "nature".  Plato whom the Fathers of the Church, called "a preparer of  Christianity", was much concerned with ethical questions. In his last work, Laws – often shockingly overlooked in text books, he refers to homosexuality in Books I, III and VIII.  He tells us that it is triggered by "unbridled lust", (Laws 636) that it is a threat to the welfare of any nation, that it should be opposed in every possible way for it is "against nature"  (ibid), i.e. as things are "meant" to be. But Plato  is conscious that a total uprooting of this vice is not possible, but  urges the state to strongly recommend that it should be kept secret. He lived in the 4th and 5th century before Christ, but obedient to the natural moral law, he perceived the perversion which is linked to this unfortunate tendency.  In other words,   contra naturam  means what is clearly against the very dignity of human persons.  No details are necessary but one thing is luminous: it is not as "things were meant to be", and not only because of  its  inevitable sterility but by its very structure. The last I heard from a medical doctor – a friend of mine is that thanks to scientists, now working on this "noble" project  sooner or later, homosexuals will be able to reproduce themselves. The glorious future of humanity is that one day, sexual fulfillment should be radically severed from procreation: this domain being confided to scientific progress.

It is a very grave moral question that should concern all educators  and moralists.  Detestable as homosexual acts are, we should, following St. Augustine, love the erring person while detesting the error – its own worst enemy.  This is a noble task and as always, desperately needs God's grace and assistance.   Granted that  practicing homosexuals have often not been given the love owed to all human beings, that they have been rejected, while not offered the help to which they were entitled. This is a most regrettable error that is now being corrected by the admirable organization started by Father Harvey called Courage.  This  noble  apostolate is now being taken over by his successor Father Paul Check. Saints alone, because they are "transformed in Christ"  are true lovers of the sinners, but this severe lack in many of us does not justify the new grave error which is gaining currency in our society: namely to justify the practice of homosexuality, as being now recognized to be "perfectly normal" – being another legitimate lifestyle, and deserving the same recognition as what up to now was limited to heterosexuality.  "It was high time to see what in fact an obvious truth, obscured until now by mediaeval taboos.  Thank to "advanced social sciences", we know now that it is just as acceptable as the traditional way. Clearly, only a developed society like ours perceives this truth, up to now veiled by "old taboos and prejudice".

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This "conviction" explains why gay people now proudly advertise their lifestyle. They publicize it as Father Charamsa did recently; one should "proudly" endorse this tendency that God himself has placed in some people's nature. Last but not least, the Catholic Church should publicly apologize for the suffering that she has, over the ages, inflicted upon people whose way to God was homosexuality.

This is probably the greatest moral revolution that has ever taken place in human society and in the Catholic church: the canonization of a perversion.

This is the world in which we now live. The Church has always been attacked. She has always had sinners in her bosom, but it is probably true that never has the situation been so threatening:  we have entered apocalyptic time: as announced by St. Matthew (ch. 24) and also St Luke (ch. 20).  

Never before is it more urgent to recall the blessed words of Christ: "the gates of hell shall not prevail" and take refuge in the blessed magisterium of the Church. Let us close our ears to the eloquence of false prophets, and as St. Paul recommends in his Epistle to the Thessalonians, "pray without ceasing".  Let us pray the rosary and turn to our Mother – the blessed one so hated by Satan because she gave life to the one who proclaims to be LIFE itself.

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