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The Truth of the Matter

It's all that matters.

March 2, 2023  0


The culture — in the Church and outside of it — is now engaged in truth wars, a literal battle over truth, meaning, its necessity. The best operating definition of truth is provided by St. Thomas Aquinas: Truth is that which conforms to reality.

And for centuries, the anti-Catholic crowd in every sphere and institution has tried to attack one side or the other of that equation, truth equals reality. Some so-called Enlightenment philosophers attacked the concept of reality: "We can't really know something, can we? How can we trust our senses?" — and on and on.

Others (more contemporary) went after the "truth" side of Aquinas' equation saying, in essence, since reality is different for everyone based on experience and circumstances, then you have your truth and I have my truth. No matter which side of that simple equation you attack successfully, the idea of truth is destroyed.

The crux of the matter is truth in itself. Let's take, for example, the theological debate within Christianity of Catholicism versus Protestantism. Catholics assert the Catholic Church, and She alone, possesses the fullness of truth because Christ Himself established Her and protects Her. Her origins are divine, even while Her administration is human (and often lacking).

Every Protestant calls "baloney" on that Catholic assertion and asserts the exact opposite: that the "church" is just the body of believers around the world who accept Christ in some manner. For the record, the war between and among Protestant sects is much more intense than the one between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Truth is that which conforms to reality.

That said, the Catholic assertion and the Protestant assertion cannot both be correct because they are contradictory (as opposed to just different ways or traditions or "flavors"). Truth, by its very nature of conforming to reality, cannot contain contradictions. 

Likewise, it is also the case that one (and only one) assertion is actually correct — meaning it cannot be the case that neither is correct because, between the two of them, they encompass all possibilities. Therefore, one is entirely correct and the other is not. One claim is true, the other is not.

The point of debate, discussion, etc., is to simply arrive at the truth, nothing else. So the intellectually honest thing to do is have each assertion defend itself based on facts (historical, theological, logical, philosophical, etc.) until the truth is arrived at and then embraced.

So the first point of debate is to decide what material constitutes a "fact." And remember, a fact is that which cannot be denied. As the saying goes, you get to have your own set of opinions, but you don't get to have your own set of facts.

So, within the world of theological debate, whose entire purpose, remember, is to arrive at truth, the first point of order is to agree upon what facts will be allowed to be considered. In a court of law, for example, much wrangling happens over what facts will actually be allowed into evidence (what will be considered).

In the theological world, that same principle holds true — what is accepted by both sides as fact? God is a Trinity, Jesus is divine, etc. But here is where the rubber hits the road: Depending on who the parties to the debate are, any sets of accepted facts will vary. This is where the battle lines are drawn. It's not what we agree on — which is where soft-minded men like to leave things and win accolades from other soft men, that they are peacemakers and unifiers — it's what we do not agree on where the axe falls.

And this is, after all, the very point of debate, discussion: to logically arrive at agreement and acceptance of each "fact" until the body of facts has been recognized. Once that is done, then the conclusion is arrived at and one assertion has been proven correct and the other disproven. Followers of Christ can claim "contradictory" positions about Him, His Will, His actions and so forth — but that is precisely what the situation is right now.

It's intolerable because we aren't talking about just a truthful proposition but about the very nature of Truth Himself: "I am the way, the truth ..." (John 14:6). Truth not only matters; it is all that matters. It's why Our Blessed Lord associated Himself with truth, declared Himself (His own divine being) to be Truth. From Truth — the Divine Person who is Truth — all else that is good flows.

Saint Paul tells us that, in the end, only three things abide: faith, hope and charity (the theological virtues) — because they have God Himself as their appointed ends. But even with the greatest of the virtues, they are not an end in themselves. They are the greatest means to the end — Truth. Without Christ, they are completely empty and meaningless.

You could even go as far as to say they would actually be a hindrance to human existence — if there is no Truth for those virtues to move toward, then what is their point? Who runs a race with no finish line? Truth matters more than anything else on earth. Nothing, not a single thing, matters as much as truth. Satan is not called "the father of hate," he is called "the father of lies" (John 8:44) because a lie is the opposite of truth. The demonic always knows where to point its guns, without fail.

Yet in this topsy-turvy world of ours, in the Church and out of the Church, even good people don't always like hearing the truth, so the messenger is the one who gets attacked — something we know a little bit about here at St. Michael's Media (Church Militant).

Nothing matters except the truth.

How the truth is presented is far less important than that the truth is presented. Some will always protest (make the subjective call), "That was mean or uncharitable, blah, blah ... ." They will be more upset about how you revealed an evil than the actual evil itself.

They refuse to engage with the truth about the evil because that truth is horrible — almost too much to bear — so they shift their psychologies to something much easier to attack: the messenger. The demonic understands this and plays on people, even "good" Catholics, who will masquerade their fear of the evil as piety:

Oh, we can't speak of the bishops in those terms. You mean the hundreds of men who abused their spiritual authority to help destroy the souls they were supposed to protect — those men? Yes, you don't talk about them nicely. It's uncharitable. It's OK to criticize — but in nicer terms.

That's absurd and it betokens an unwillingness to consider the magnitude of the evil — meaning, the truth. Yup, we are in a war over truth itself, its nature and then everything that falls from that nature. Where you stand in this war — denying the truth for a myriad of reasons, like what's being exposed is your own little agenda, or friend, or pet project or whatever, versus just the plain old truth — really points to a lot in your own spiritual life.

An unwillingness to completely engage with the fullness of the truth, sometimes in all its ugliness, speaks to the character of the man, or, in too many cases, the lack of character. Truth is what matters more than anything else. In fact, nothing matters except the truth because truth is what we are trying as Catholics to unite ourselves to for all eternity. How contradictory to avoid truth in this life and yet expect to be with Truth as a reward for eternity.

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