Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I remember an occasion from my childhood when I was engaged in an ethical discussion with my father. As a premise for my position, I mentioned that the Church teaches that all men are created equal. My father was quick to point out that I was confusing American political philosophy with Catholic doctrine. At the time I was shocked into silence. I couldn't imagine that the Church would omit such a fundamental truth from Her repertoire. It was only in exploring the omission that I discovered that the assumption of equality is not a universal prerequisite for justice. We do not need to believe that all men are created equal in order to treat each and every person with equal respect. As a matter of fact, this belief might even handicap us in our attempts to treat every person justly. Flesh and blood human beings differ from one to the other and yet, if we truly believe that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, we will treat each person with the greatest of deference while retaining the knowledge that we are incompetent to adequately honor the least of men.

The assumption that all men are created equal has been a useful legal and political construct. Possibly it’s a necessary construct for a full democracy or for a just democratic republic. It might even be true … although I doubt that it is self-evident. Regardless of this, as Americans, we have agreed to give our assent to this construct.

This unexamined assent to an unexamined assertion is one of the factors that has allowed our culture to be manipulated into a parody of justice. I suspect that the time is coming when we will be forced to either clearly define and prove this assertion or find an alternate basis for asserting the rights and obligations of men. Consider this. We no longer live in a world of shared assumptions. On one hand, we are facing a dystopian lust for power from secularists who deny the very basis on which this claim was built. On the other hand, we are seeking to coexist with a religion that asserts that some people are more equal than others. In the gripping hand, we have the Truth of Christ. We need to find viable ways of translating this truth.

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