Two sides switch places in debating issue
By Tony Staley
The beatification this month of Pope Pius IX raised an issue
that we all need to consider.
The 19th century pope's accomplishments include proclaiming
the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; convoking the First
Vatican Council, which approved the doctrines of papal
primacy and papal infallibility; and condemning many modern
political and philosophical ideas. In 1858, he also
sanctioned the seizing of a Jewish boy - who allegedly had
been baptized by a maid - from his family over their
protests and ordered that he be raised as a Catholic.
Critics of the beatification have been particularly upset by
Pius' treatment of Jews. Defenders have argued that it's not
appropriate to judge behavior of more than 100 years ago
based on today's standards.
That's the issue. There's the rub.
On one side, there is an argument for well-defined,
unchanging moral absolutes and truths. On the other is an
argument for evolving - the other side might even say
relativistic - standards of morality. The difficulty, in
this case (and numerous others, including Christopher
Columbus and the colonizing of the Americas, and the
Crusades), is that the two sides have switched - that is,
the defenders of Pius IX are the ones who commonly insist on
moral absolutes and the critics are the ones who normally
demand moral flexibility.
One thing can be said for inconsistency though: It keeps us