The moral compass

a Parish Priest, 03/07/2016

Whether we have destroyed our moral compass or are just ignoring it, I am unsure, however I do think that we are in great need of finding one because there is in our society so much talk about rights and the freedom of the individual that we have reached a stage in our progression that the only value we seem to uphold is that of each person determining their own value of what is right and wrong what is good and bad for them, in other words it is becoming a value free society and as Michael Polyani argued, that is a society that is undermining its own justification for existence. Maybe that is why our society seems to be disintegrating on so many different fronts: it can no longer find any reason for itself to exist.


What has caused such a rant you may ask? Well, I read in the news the other day that judges in the court of appeal ruled that a 60 year old woman may use her daughter’s frozen eggs to give birth to her own grandchild. I am sure that the woman is doing all this out of love. This was something her daughter who died of cancer asked her to do. She wants to have her grandchildren from her daughter, whether it is because her daughter wanted to have children but didn’t, and her mother wants to honour that or for whatever reason, love is at the root of it. But this serves to show that love of itself is not always the best of moral compasses. There is much that many would regard as evil taking place in poor world that others justify on the basis of love. Terrorism is one easy example that springs to mind. We need something more than just our love for someone to guide us and help us decide what is right and wrong. Love will always be a contributing factor, but it is not enough, love is never enough and despite all the novels and films that tell us that love can conquer anything, the truth is it can’t and we have to wake up to that fact in our life. We cannot reduce everything to our subjective feelings or choices which is what we seem to be doing. Some label it as human rights, but the human rights label is now only another way to say an individual’s rights to be and do what they feel like at a particular point in time, which can change at a later date. And in this age of Political correctness we are all afraid to suggest the emperor has no clothes on.


We need something more objective, we need to realise that values such as truth, justice, and beauty, are objective, but we also have to acknowledge that they transcend our ability to wholly capture them, otherwise we reduce them to something under our control and so reduce them to a subjective reality rather than an objective one. That means that we have to have the humility to say not just that our knowledge is limited, but also that what we can know is limited, a statement that is anathema to positivist thinking and to the current view that says man is absolute.


Perhaps one reason why it is anathema is that it opens the door to God and giving him back an influential place in our life and in our public sphere and that limits us and what we can claim as good and true. It takes the moral compass out of our devising and control and tells us we have to live within limits, otherwise we destroy not only ourselves but our whole civilisation and maybe even our world. But that is just scaremongering. Isn’t it?


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