The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-ll llama,
He's a beast.
And I’ll bet
A silk pyjama,
There isn’t any
Three-lll llama.
–Ogden Nash


by Edwin Faust
September 14, 2012

There is a much misunderstood statement to the effect that we create our own reality. It gained currency in the 1960s, when Eastern thought was imported to the West without warning labels.

Ontology, which deals with being, was confused with epistemology, which deals with perception, and the notion arose that the physical structure of the world is somehow dependent upon the conceptual content of individual minds. In Shakespeare’s phrase, confusion made its masterpiece.

The notion lingers in some quarters that we can think our way to the world as we would like it to appear. Not simply mind over matter, but mind into matter. But even when this absurdity is dismissed, another remains: that we can determine how we think and feel.

We exercise some control over our minds and emotions, but the degree and extent of that control involves the interplay between free will and Providence, a profoundly difficult question. In the words of the great theologian, Father Garrigou-LaGrange, the question resolves itself into “God determining, or God determined”.

To elaborate that wonderfully concise phrase: Do human actions affect the will of God, or do human actions conform to the will of God? Insightful readers at this point may already have surmised that the consideration of this question involves the great mystery of time and eternity, as well.

And Providence encompasses several factors of enormous complexity, such as genetics, environmental influences, biochemistry, etc. The nature of cause and effect, the chain of determinism, must also be thrown into the mix. And then there is moral theology, i.e. the degree of human culpability for any given action.

So it seems prudent at this point to retreat from the abyss opening at my feet and restrict myself to a modest appraisal of the practical effects of the notion that the world is in some significant way the product of our thought. And such effects abound.

A government official in the Sao Paolo District of Brazil made international headlines recently by issuing a marriage license to three people, i.e. one license to legally join three people in a single union, in this case, a man and two women. The official said in her defense that society simply has to acknowledge reality, i.e. the way things are.

We will doubtless be seeing more of this sort of thing, either following or alongside the international campaign for homosexual marriage. Any combination of three or more people — same sex or mixed sexes — is possible and marriage licenses in the future may be both gender-neutral and expandable. And let's not forget our dumb chums, who may also become legal partners.

The mindset that grants legitimacy to such aberrant notions is rooted in the premise that reality is largely malleable. Now, certain social conventions are malleable: agreements subject to change based upon general consensus. But there are aspects of our minds and bodies and the physical universe that cannot be changed and any attempt to do so will have unpleasant consequences, to say the least.

Most every school child is now having it dinned into his impressionable head that he/she can be “anything you want to be”. The unspoken corollary to this is that he/she can do “anything you want to do”. To teach children these terrible lies is to set them up for much suffering as the world will then have to administer the harsh corrective of the truth: You are a creature with talents and limitations you did not create or choose; you can only do that for which you have been given the capacity; we live in a world of fixed rules that operate impersonally, with no regard for personal desire or political correctness; this is a moral universe in which every action has its consequence.

The Church has the obligation to speak these truths, in season and out of season. We are presently out of season for the truth, but that is all the more reason to insist upon it as loudly and publicly as possible.

The Catholic bishops in the United States have recently taken a stand (of sorts) against the contraceptive mandate in President Obama’s healthcare plan, claiming the provision violates religious liberty. Religious liberty is a secondary issue. Why not take on the main issue?

The bishops now have an opportunity to explain to the nation why contraception is wrong. While they are about it, they might also make the case against homosexual marriage and abortion. And they could do this by explaining that we are creatures with a God-given nature; that we are not free to do as we please.

The bishops have an opportunity to take on the fundamental error of the age: that we create our own reality. Until they do this, they will be fighting a rear-guard action with inferior weapons, and they will continue to lose ground in a land with a growing number of three-lll lllamas — and worse.

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