Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Having taught moral theology for nearly two decades at the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago, I can’t help but reflect on the underlying moral system that generates particular actions. Unfortunately, what we see happening in our society has been more “the ends justify the means” than “a pursuit of what is right.” This is not the first time that actions have been justified on the basis that they will achieve a particular end. However, we can readily see the truth in the old adage, “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
The Church in Her wisdom throughout the ages has always held to moral absolutes. Some things can never be justified, such as the direct killing of the innocent. When we permit wrongs to continue, despite the rationalization those wrongs fester, eventually the poison of the wrongdoings affect the rest of society, as we have experienced in abortion, slavery and other examples.
The Church can hold us to the absolute standard, because there is a belief in God to whom we are ultimately responsible. I have always been consoled by the fact that anyone who commits a crime against one’s neighbor must eventually stand before God. But, if we don’t believe in God, then we must find another reason for our actions.
The substitutes might be the “state,” best described by the communist system which claims equality, but is far from it. Then, there is “political persuasion,” which often uses special or self-interest as a goal – rights for some, but not for all. It is almost whimsical. There is a type of utilitarianism which justifies whatever actions are useful for achieving the end, but abandons them when its usefulness ceases. It assesses which way the populace winds are blowing.
More than ever, we need the Christian perspective to hold us accountable to the Gospel and the Church’s teachings. This is the lens through which we must view our actions. It seeks to hold all accountable to God for our actions toward one another. It will never justify a wrongdoing. The objective standard vested in God pulls us out of our selfishness, and demands that we recognize the other as ourself.
We are at a crossroads within our society. I do not believe that we can move forward unless, as a people, we first recognize that God makes us one. His image, seen in all human life, will prevent us from attacking one another and force us to seek reasonable and peaceful solutions. Of course, the right way begins as we seek to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the June 9, 2020, "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.