On Relativism, Morality and Communication
Interview With Director of a Pontifical Academy
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ROME, FEB. 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A positive understanding of morality needs to be restored, says Father Sabatino Majorano.
The Redemptorist priest, director of Rome's Pontifical Academy Alphonsianum, discusses morality, relativism and media in this interview with ZENIT.
Q: In light of widespread relativism, what is understood today by morality?
Father Majorano: Morality indicates the fully human quality of our living and our deciding: a quality that does not favor one or another dimension of our lives, neglecting the others, but which tends to put into play the totality of the person in solidarity with others.
If we succeed in giving back to morality this positive and global meaning, I think that we can again rediscover its important significance.
Q: Has there been an evolution of Catholic morality or should one say that values have not changed with time and only their form has been modified?
Father Majorano: In the encyclical "Veritatis Splendor," John Paul II himself stresses that there is a permanency, a continuity in the understanding of morality on the part of the Church, but also a deepening and an attempt to re-express values in the realm of situations, of contexts and of new data.
This novelty and continuity is present at the same time in several areas of moral teaching. If we look at the development of social morality, it appears immediately with much clarity.
Q: Taking into account the controversies that, especially in Italy, have touched the Church because it is accused of meddling, such as in assisted fertilization or in de facto unions, do you think there is a religious authority other than the Pope's moral authority?
Father Majorano: When the Pope speaks of moral problems to believers, he speaks as a religious authority and therefore uses the principles of faith. When he addresses men of good will, his argumentation is always founded on the dignity of the person and the possibility of the future of humanity and of the person himself.
I think these are the two pillars of the moral reasoning that the Church uses, including with nonbelievers. In this effort, of course, she always allows herself to be enriched by the light of the faith.
Q: In his message for the 41st World Communications Day, Benedict XVI called for the correct use of media for the moral and spiritual development of children. How can this appeal be answered and implemented?
Father Majorano: There are several elements to take into account.
The first should be a greater deontology for those involved in social communication, keeping in mind that it is an attempt to promote human growth through correct and true information inscribed in an effort of human promotion.
The second element should be a strong formation of individuals to work in the specific context of social communication.
In this way, the feedback between those who communicate and those who receive the communication can develop in a positive way.
Finally, I believe that formative agencies have an important role. Therefore, the family, school and Church must support personal maturity so as to be able to live constructively in a context in which social communication plays an increasingly important role.
Q: In November, the Pope sent a message to the Istanbul Conference on "Peace and Tolerance," with the theme "Dialogue and Understanding in the Southeast of Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia." On that occasion, he condemned "moral relativism which weakens the effects of democracy." How can the moral base be built and reinforced, which the Holy Father indicates as necessary for maintaining a stable peace?
Father Majorano: In Benedict XVI's vision itself, it seems that the right way is that of dialogue, confrontation, not giving in to the verification of diversity.
Through more profound reading, it is possible to see what is behind diversities: a common and permanent human background which is capable of being a valuable point of reference for all.
The labored history of human rights charters is in this regard a valuable page to continue developing.