No Good Without God

Fatima Staff Report

January 9, 2018

The assumption that truth exists and is knowable is the bedrock of all thought and communication. And there is a corollary to this assumption: goodness is based on truth, just as evil is based on falsehood. What is the incessant media blather about if it is not about what is true and good?

Every attempt to fix fault refers, often unconsciously, to an absolute moral principle, as does every endorsement of a policy. Politics and moral theology are not separate, but the dependence of the former upon the latter is not usually recognized by the commentators who hold aloft their banner of righteousness, emblazoned with the marks of this or that ideology. But every ideology can only be an extrapolation from what is considered to be axiomatic truth, i.e. absolute good.

There is currently a media obsession with revelations of sexual misconduct by powerful men in show business, the media and politics. Accusations surface daily, usually brought forward by actresses, newswomen and the female staff that attend to the needs of the mighty. These claims of having been the victims of abuse, in most cases, involve incidents that are alleged to have happened years ago, even decades ago. Why the lapse between act and accusation?

It is clear that all these accounts are based on the presupposition that human beings should be respected, not used as objects for another’s gratification. To put the matter in more concrete language: it is wrong to use people. The aggrieved women say they were used as sex objects by the men who had control over their careers. This is often offered as the apologia for why they allowed the abuse and did not report it to police. To resist, to make a criminal complaint, would have to be paid for by the loss of a movie or TV role, a coveted position, advancement in the newsroom, etc. Ambition required they submit to being used and keep silent about it – until now. But why speak now? Because it is safe to do so. Ambition has been satisfied.

Once you have obtained what you wanted, you are free to complain about what you had to do to have your desire fulfilled, but you are not necessarily entitled to righteous indignation and the sympathy of others. If you confess to stealing, you cannot be absolved unless you make restitution. If you intend to keep the proceeds of theft, you cannot expect to receive forgiveness for it. The analogy is imperfect, as are all analogies, but you can hardly take the moral high ground over being sexually abused in the past when you have kept the advantages of having remained silent about it for many years. “Yes, I became a wealthy and famous actress, but, oh, how demeaning were the things I had to do for it all.”

Silence implies consent, as the maxim of the law maintains. By keeping quiet, these women consented to be treated in this way for the benefits that accrued to them. They also enabled their abusers to continue to operate in the manner they now find so terrible and soul-destroying.

If we want something so much we are willing to be abused to obtain it, we have victimized ourselves. We have invited those who are willing to exploit our ambition to use us as they will. And, in truth, we have also used our abusers. Beautiful women are well aware of their power to attract men. They can, if they choose, exploit the lust of powerful men for their own advantage. If this exploitation turns ugly, even violent, they can stop it then and there, or report it to police as soon as they are free to do so. But to wait years to register your complaint in the media spotlight gives grounds for doubting the depth of your moral outrage.

This is not to say that terrible things don’t happen to young women in Hollywood, in the media and in the business world. People use power to get what they want. Men use power to obtain, even force, sexual favors from their female subordinates. If a woman refuses, she may be fired, or her career may even be ended. But she will have said ‘no’ to evil – as it confronts her in the moment, not ten or fifteen years later.

To be good, one must be willing to surrender the benefits of committing or cooperating with evil. To be a virtuous woman, one must be willing to resist the advantages of submitting to sexual abuse. Many of these “victims” who are crying before the cameras imply that they had no choice: it was either permit indecency or sacrifice one’s ambition. Ambition is the apologia for allowing the abuse. To obtain the desired good, they were forced to cooperate with evil.

St. Augustine followed the Greek philosophers in distinguishing two types of good: the instrumental and the absolute. An instrumental good has value only to the extent that it advances us toward the absolute good. All that we do should move us closer to God. So, actions, in themselves, are instrumental goods, not absolute goods. God is the only absolute good.

If we put another good in God’s place, it can only be a relative good. To the extent that it moves us farther away from God, it is not a good at all, although it may seem to be so to an intellect darkened by worldly ambition. But we can never escape the truth. We can never escape God. He is our reference point, no matter where we find ourselves.

No doubt, some of these women detailing the harm they suffered from movie moguls and news anchors have experienced genuine suffering. They now appeal to our sense of the absolute good: to the realization that we are made in the image of God, in the image of the absolute good, and we are not to be used or abused. It would be helpful, indeed wonderfully enlightening, if someone in a position of moral authority were to point out that one cannot use God when it is convenient to do so, and ignore His commandments when it is advantageous to do so.

Moral clarity has been lost, both within and without the Church. Until it is regained, we are certain to witness moral confusion such as we are witnessing now in this cascade of accusations in which those who surrendered virtue now want to appeal to it. This morass of hypocrisy and mutual exploitation is but one more public manifestation of the diabolical disorientation that has overtaken our society. And there is only one way to turn ourselves in the right direction: obedience to Our Lady of Fatima.