In the philosophical environment in which we live there is a conflict not between morality and immorality but between two competing moralities.
Dr John Owens, who is a priest of the Society of Mary and lectures in philosophy at Good Shepherd College, argued this was the source of the tension between Catholicism and the society in which we live.
‘We have had a category for things that are not only useful or valuable or precious, but are also holy,’ Dr Owens told the Palmerston North colloquium.
‘These are things in the world that show the beyond in some way, intruded into our lives, and ask a particular sort of respect of us as a result. The bible is like this.’
Hence the battle for credibility is a conflict of the notion of the Holy.
There is an intrusion of the beyond into our lives in the areas of moral goodness, truth and reality.
In the work of Nietzsche, he said, if we are not beholden to something beyond ourselves, that is, if God is dead, then a new basis of human life was necessary.
He also cited a more contemporary philosopher, Martha Nussbaum, who speaks about the fragility of goodness and finding our ethical basis within our experience of being human – not from beyond ourselves.
We use language to give things meaning, but then we put it into a framework of what we know.
The human task is to face up to what is truth – or is it just an internal realism, that is, how I perceive it.
Whose reality are we considering? Is there truth to which we are also beholden?
Finally Owens asked can we access the realm of being, the big thing to which we owe an allegiance?
The biggest tension between Catholicism and society was not that between faith and reason but between those who think we can access that which is holy and beyond us, and those who don’t.