In the modern world, especially the hyper-technological and progressive West, truth has been relegated to the subjective viewpoint – “be true to yourself” – for truth is considered only that which speaks to your experiences, your beliefs, and your desires. Students are taught that there is only one virtue, tolerance, and that each person’s beliefs are just as true as everyone else’s.
The modern dictatorship’s promotion of tolerance can be viewed as twofold: it offers universalism along with its handmaiden, indifferentism. If all truth is relative and all end up in the same place (either universal salvation or universal annihilation), then it doesn’t matter what beliefs a person holds, since all are paths to the same ultimate destiny. While many great minds have explored this topic, Professor David Carlin strikes to the heart of its uniquely American manifestation in what he describes as the “denominational mentality.”
The denominational mentality, as defined by Professor Carlin, can be summed as follows:
[N]o religion could claim a monopoly on truth; in fact, it would be arrogant to make such a claim … [that] there [are] many routes to religious truth, many versions of the same ultimate truth … [that] none is completely perfect, but all possess some degree of perfection. Thus, religions must be tolerant of one another. Indeed … they should be positively friendly; they should cooperate with one another.1
This seems to be nothing other than the dictatorship of relativism, which then-cardinal Ratzinger so emphatically spoke out against when he warned, “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
What, then, are the dogmas that must once again be proclaimed to the modern world, which labors under the rule of such a jealous tyrant? The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and reality of mortal sin come to mind, along with countless other truths many have abandoned in all but name. But in this age of the New Evangelization, one specific dogma is sorely needed: the proclamation that the Catholic Church is the One, True Church established by Jesus Christ outside of which there is no salvation.
This dogma, which has been affirmed time and time again by the Catholic Church down through the ages by pope and council alike, has been abandoned in large part because it does not conform to the “optimistic” and “inclusive” tolerance that allows each person to determine truth for himself. To move forward with “new ardor, methods, and expression” as the New Evangelization calls for, the Church must remain grounded in the truth that moved missionaries to spread the Gospel to all ends of the earth. As Professor Carlin notes, a religion with a denominational mentality will not seek to convert others, nor will it even retain members, because it has no truth claim worth fighting for. If we accept the dictatorship of relativism, it becomes just a matter of preference to remain a Catholic, and not as it truly is – an issue of salvation.
To boldly proclaim Jesus Christ crucified is to pick up one’s own cross and the worldly martyrdom that comes with it. To truly assent means “the absolute acceptance of a proposition without any condition,”2 according to Blessed Cardinal Newman. As the Catholic faith claims absolutely what must be assented to, one cannot avoid her dogma without departing from Truth and putting his own salvation in jeopardy.
It is indeed difficult for even the most learned man to intellectually grasp all that the Church teaches, yet “[s]he makes it imperitive on every one, priest and layman, to profess as revealed truth all the canons of the Councils, and innumerable decisions of Popes, propositions so various, so notional, that but few can know them, and fewer can understand them.”3
Our very egos rebel against such a thing – termed “blind faith” especially in this enlightened age, where the ego is the viewed as the ultimate judge of truth and where everyone is free to decide for themselves what he is willing to believe. Even in the midst of a relativistic dictatorship the likes of which has never ruled so universally and seduced so many souls, one must admit there has always been a temptation “to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” even from the first days of Eden. This is why, in her most charitable and understanding care of her children, Mother Church has, from the earliest days, given clear guidance for even the simplest believer.
Cardinal Newman explains:
But it is not the necessary result of unity of profession, nor is it the fact, that the Church imposes dogmatic statements on the interior assent of the those who cannot apprehend them. The difficulty is removed by the dogma of the Church’s infallibility, and of the consequent duty of ‘implicit faith’ in her word. The ‘One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’ is an article of the Creed, and an article, which, inclusive of her infallibility, all men, high and low, can easily master and accept with a real and operative assent. It stands in the place of all abstruse propositions in a Catholic’s mind, for to believe in her word is virtually to believe in them all. Even what he cannot understand, at least he can believe to be true; and he believes it to be true because he believes in the Church.4
Of course, one is free to shackle himself and willfully take on the chains of disbelief, but that does not change the objective reality – that the dogmas of the Catholic Church are true, not of her merit alone, but of the merit of her bridegroom, Jesus Christ Himself, who promised He would never depart from her (cf. Mt 28:20).
Again, what difficult truth has the Church always claimed, but today omitted and forgotten precisely when the world most needs it? That man is a sinner and, of his own means, can only end up utterly divorced from God in the fires of Hell. That God Himself became man, offered Himself as a willing sacrifice for our sins, and satisfied justice. That, with His grace working within us, we can walk the narrow path to salvation for which His Church — the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church — is necessary and outside which no one can be saved.
I make Pope Pius IX’s words my own (emphasis added):
Far be it from Us, Venerable Brethren, to presume on the limits of the divine mercy which is infinite; far from Us, to wish to scrutinize the hidden counsel and ‘judgments of God[.] ‘ … But, [it] is Our Apostolic duty … to drive from the mind of men that impious and equally fatal opinion, namely that the way of eternal salvation can be found in any religions whatsoever[.] … [I]t must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance be invincible, are not stained by any guilt in this manner in the eyes in God.5
This truth, which drove Christ’s disciples to the farthest reaches of the globe, often only to face disbelief and gruesome martyrdom, must be proclaimed boldly and loudly. We must embrace this difficult truth and humbly proclaim to a proud world not our words, but Christ’s: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7:13-14). We must embrace the cross and be willing to be martyred for this truth. We must hold it not as an intellectual conclusion that requires nothing of our will, but as a dogma of the One True faith that requires everything of us. We must put our wealth, our reputation, our prestige, and our very lives at the service of Christ. We must proclaim again to a world who has long ignored Him that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and that he established one Church, that Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation.
It is an inconvenient truth, one that any reasonable person would hesitate in giving his assent to. This bold claim has always separated souls into two camps (cf. Mt 10:34-39), and even Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, was rejected for His claim to absolute truth (cf. John 6). Yet, knowing that His disciples would be treated as their Master was treated (cf. John 15:18-20), He still sent them forth to “make disciples of all nations,” (Mt 28:19) bearing witness to the Truth (cf. John 18:37). If we are to be His disciples, we must act upon His mandate and proclaim His Gospel to all the world, even, inconveniently, to those closest to us – our family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors with whom we have developed such a comfortable silence about the necessity of Christ and His Church for each and every person’s salvation.
1 Carlin, David. The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America. 2003. Sophia Institute Press: Manchester, NH. p.163.
2 Newman, John Henry. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. p.7
3 Newman, John Henry. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. p. 68
4 Newman, John Henry. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. p.70
v Denzinger. The Sources of Catholic Dogma. 1646-1647.