What is Truth? by Monsignor Ferrarese

I was talking to a friend recently who said that he stopped reading newspapers. In this digital age, this is not very noteworthy. But he also said that he stopped searching for news on the Internet, and has entirely given up on trying to find out what happens in the world. As an avid reader of newspapers, and someone who likes to be kept in the-know about the world, I asked him why? He said that every organ of information seemed tainted by subjective biases. Sometimes from the right and sometimes from the left, the media has given up hiding these tendencies. My friend feels manipulated. These means of communication are all suspect for him.

This is what happens when people surrender themselves to their own biases. So many in the media have unconsciously (or in some cases consciously!) accepted social and political stances that have caused them to abandon the search for truth. They have even subscribed to a subtle and underlying belief that there is no objective truth to find, that everything is subjective. In fact, one can go further: One can define reality by the way one chooses to perceive it.

Take the issue of the abortion of the human fetus. Is it a human being or not? If on Monday the parents seek the best of prenatal care, then yes it is human. But if on Thursday they decide, due to medical or economic reasons, that they do not want the pregnancy, then it suddenly becomes, in a few short days, a disposable appendage! All this happens because of the meaning that the parents give it, not that the child has any reality outside the parents’ wishes!

We see this rampant subjectivism in academia as well: That reality exists independently of what we make of it is now considered a subversive thought! That reality is not just there to be appropriated and manipulated, but is a ‘creation’ with its own intrinsic, inherent meaning and purpose. This is seen by many to be an offensive thought!

In addition, in an apparent desperate attempt to preserve the chaos of this self-contradictory understanding of reality, society has initiated a form of inquisition to punish all those who do not agree with this philosophy and declare them ‘heretics’ and ‘witches’ of non-inclusivism. They seek to marshal the forces of law and its coercion to punish, if not by prison then by shame through exposure in the various forms of media, these individuals (usually religious) who dare to challenge this modern rearrangement of reality. But the Emperor still has no clothes!

A key passage in this regard is the dialogue between Christ and Pontius Pilate in St. John’s Gospel. Jesus is on trial and Pilate is questioning Him. Christ says to him that those who are in truth hear his voice. To this Pilate responds: “Quid est Veritas?” or “What is Truth?” In his skepticism, Pilate is blinded to the reality of the Truth Who is standing before him. He betrays an exhausted despondency, perhaps due to his vain search for ultimate answers in his life. This is a scene of masterful irony. Jesus could set Pilate’s heart on fire if he were only open to a truth outside of himself and his vain questioning. Caught up in his solitary subjectivism, he couldn’t see the Truth Who stands before him. He had this extraordinary opportunity seldom given in such clarity and he drops the ball! Pilate is emblematic of our age, which says the words, “What is Truth?” with the negative response already at the tip of the tongue.

There is a sense in the modern mind that anything is possible if it can be practically done and there is a purpose to it. The moral dimensions of an issue are only debated as a secondary thing. And even that debate has no recognizable parameters since it begins with the premise that there is no such thing as a God. One particularly sees this in the realm of biological research. Why can’t parents choose the details in the kind of child they want? Why can’t they have a son and not a daughter, a blond and not a dark-haired child? While the eradication of disease through genetics sounds like a laudable goal, where do the cells come from? An aborted fetus? How is it that we are so careful to avoid unnecessary pain or injury to animals but have no thought at all to the pain and injury of a human child developing in the womb? Is it purely the intention of the doer? If a chimp has independent reality that must be respected, why does the human child have no such protection? If animals have rights, does not a developing human child in the womb have them as well? Why the difference? Is it simply a matter of how humans see it at that moment?

For us believers, this is all very illogical. Something or someone exists independently of the beholder. There is truth and fact objectively outside of myself. This is a given. Given by whom? For us, there is only one answer: God. God has created a world in which there is meaning and coherence, and in which we have a privileged place since we are made in His image and likeness. We discover meaning and not make it. We meet and greet the Truth that is in and through all that exists. In a word: Christ.

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