We can only escape the prison of moral relativism through accepting natural moral law – Pope Benedict

In his papal message for world peace 2012 Pope Benedict appeals to men and women to escape the self-constructed prison of moral relativism through acceptance of the natural moral law written within their hearts and consciences by their Creator:

Moral relativism as a prison

‘Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own self. With such a relativistic horizon, therefore, real education is not possible without the light of the truth; sooner or later, every person is in fact condemned to doubting the goodness of his or her own life and the relationships of which it consists, the validity of his or her commitment to build with others something in common”

True freedom through the natural moral law

‘In order to exercise his freedom, then, man must move beyond the relativistic horizon and come to know the truth about himself and the truth about good and evil. Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law that he did not lay upon himself, but which he must obey. Its voice calls him to love and to do what is good, to avoid evil and to take responsibility for the good he does and the evil he commits(5). Thus, the exercise of freedom is intimately linked to the natural moral law, which is universal in character, expresses the dignity of every person and forms the basis of fundamental human rights and duties’.

Simon Caldwell writing in the Daily Telegraph  comments:

‘His words represent another severe criticism of moral relativism, the humanistic creed that holds there can be no objective standard on which to base morality.

They come just months after the Pope told Nigel Baker, Britain’s Ambassador to the Holy See, that the spread of the ideology was to blame for the riots that convulsed British cities over four days in August, saying it produced “frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others”.’

‘Pope Benedict has taught the significance of the natural moral law throughout his seven-year pontificate.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this law is considered natural because it is part of the nature of a person, inscribed on every human heart enabling people to discern by reason good and evil, and truth from falsehood.’

Protect the Pope comment: Pope Benedict has rightly identified the question of freedom as being at the heart of the moral and social crisis devastating western civilization. How many families are entering into the New Year wrecked by a husband, wife or teenage child acting on the mistaken understanding of freedom as acting on one’s desires irrespective of its consequence on others?  How many fathers and mothers have walked out on their families because they seek the illusory freedom to ‘find themselves’?

Only through the obedience of love of God and others, the service of love that leads to self-forgetfulness can we, paradoxically, find self-fulfillment. This law of love is written in every human heart and expressed through the Ten Commandments.





3 comments to We can only escape the prison of moral relativism through accepting natural moral law – Pope Benedict

  • Bob Hayes

    The Holy Father is, as always, thoughtful and measured in his analysis and commentary. To use a modern cliché, he is pointing out the ‘elephant in the room’ that is the inevitably destructive consequence of moral relativism, but will people heed his words? Let us pray that they do.

    Deacon Nick, your comment is also very pertinent, with its illustration of the often devastating consequences that unfold when the pursuit of self-interest rips apart families. As you observe, only the natural moral law of God gives us the opportunity and hope of real fulfilment.

  • Thanks for this excellent post. The Holy Father’s words need to be ‘shouted from the roof-tops’.

  • Karla

    The Pope’s words always inspire me :)

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