I will pick up on the current theme of Evangelical Catholicism and the Renewal of the Church with the Renewal of Religious Life and I am anxious to get back to our history of the Church of England (though I am a bit bedraggled by the research morass the next few entries require), but I want to divert for just this one entry to a current situation that on the surface is more political than religious but which beneath the surface is pivotal to our Catholic cultural heritage. Yesterday I heard a commentator from the New York Times say in regard to the just-released report on the CIA and torture that the report raises the question of “whether or not such torture is right or wrong and the even more fundamental questions of whether it is effective.” Forget the answers to the questions; the answers are beside the point. What I want to know is how did the questions get put in this profoundly evil priority. The ultimate question is not whether or not the tortures our Government used were effective; the root question is “are the methods of torture our government used on terror suspects moral?” Effective or not, if they are immoral, fundamentally and essentially wrong, they are a stain on our national character, and a stain for which each of us must take our share of moral responsibility. Now I read that most Americans favored torture methods of interrogation of terrorist suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I understand that instinct both for revenge and in hopes of securing information to prevent further attacks, but the question still remains: is it moral? If we want to choose an immoral solution to the challenge of security, that is one thing but if we don’t know that we are making an immoral choice or we don’t care that we are making an immoral choice, that is a sign of gross moral deterioration in our society. The problem that I am writing of, however is deeper and the problem—from a Catholic perspective is this: it is entirely possible to get a college education in country, and indeed to get graduate degrees out the ying-yang without every taking a single course in philosophy. We are creating a society of amoral technocrats because we so stress science, technology, mathematics, business, economics etc and have forgotten the basic role of education as that of character formation which is rooted in philosophic reflection. Our society sees that which is right and good is that which is useful for the achievement of my goals regardless of how they impact others or conform to any objective moral standard. In fact the only moral standard for too many Americans today is success. Success validates every choice. We need to make sure that philosophy—a discipline which our Church has long supported as the foundation of theology and thus the foundation of Christian life—is a required study for every student in Catholic Secondary and University/College education. We are losing our national integrity because too many of us—including (obviously) people at the top levels of government—have no grounding in basic ethics and this is the most serous flaw in our educational system.
It is the same lack of a philosophical foundation that permits people to make life choices without serious ethical consideration that is responsible for the reprehensible undermining of the sanctity of human life on the left end of the spectrum and callous indifference to socio-economic injustices in our nation and world on the right end of the spectrum. If we as Catholics are to be a voice for the poor and underprivileged as Pope Francis is calling us to be, we need to reprioritize our educational institutions—and the educational programs of our youth who are not enrolled in our institutions—to set Philosophy in its proper place as key to a truly educated person.