The snake eats its own tail

The old image of the snake eating its own tail has descended into reality. Starting with a media mogul, rifling through Capitol Hill, and landing on the doorstep of The Today Show with NBC’s firing Matt Lauer, this fall’s outrage has landed relativism and sexual mores on the front burner of the news cycle. Alabama elections, the NFL network, and rap producers are keeping the burner lit well into the winter.

Shock! Outrage! Men! My friends who work in Hollywood are almost at a loss of words for the pretend outrage that was expressed over the harassment that occurred in Tinsel Town. [Author’s note: Not all in “the industry,” as we call it here, are depraved. There are many excellent Catholic folks making their mark, too.] Everyone knows it happens and has been happening for decades. Now, these same people who have promoted sexual promiscuity and moral aberrations in movie after movie after movie clamor to tweet their outrage. The sane people are genuinely outraged at the others’ pretend outrage.

Then there are the pols and their loose morals—or is it their enemies who are casting false aspersions and just want to topple them? It is happening on both sides of the aisle, so it appears there is plenty of blame to go around. This sector of slime even has the major news media slapping themselves on the wrist for not holding former President Clinton to a higher standard—maybe a standard of common decency?

The NFL has battled this for some years now. Then there are all the other abuses that keep coming into the light of day.

Why should we be surprised? Should we not share the outrage of my friends in Hollywood, that is the righteous outrage at the fake outrage? We should! We must! This should find its way into our conversations, in our letters to editors, in our forming our children in morality and decency, and in our Catholic schools.

For over 50 years, we have battled such relativistic thinking in the education system at large. Our Catholic schools, sadly, were not immune to it. Some decades ago in my Catholic high school, all the rage in religion courses was “situation ethics.” Morality was largely determined by our feelings, and thus our consciences were being formed subjectively, in the vein of relativism. It was just one symptom of a deeper cultural problem.

We saw it too with the demise of the Immaculate Heart nuns in Los Angeles who saw their order decimated in less than five years due to the experimental psychology of Carl Rogers rocking the foundation of their self-gift to serve Christ and His Church. We have seen columns in this Journal shining a light on some of these battles happening today, but we have also seen good news of it being countered.

The snake of modernism is eating its own tail. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI warned us of the dictatorship of relativism, and the dictator is starting to destroy its innermost circle of trusted cohorts. C.S. Lewis’ prognostication was that modern educational theories on the subjectivity of knowledge and moral relativism would give us people lacking in character. We have that in spades! All the accusations that assail us in the news cycle are simply the logical, natural consequences of several generations of the destruction of traditional morality, genuine decency, and simple common sense. The modernist culture has worked so hard to mock and tear down traditional values, and they succeeded. And now they are aghast? Poppycock! They are simply reaping what they have sown for generations now. What right have they to complain?

Well, truth be told, they have every right, because we all have a calling to convert at every moment, should we open our ears to hear. Think of Mary Magdalen and her simple and devout cry to our Lord, “Rabonni (Teacher).”

As bad as things have been, we still have God’s law written on our hearts. Sooner or later false ideas must come back to haunt us. Evil will sting us, eventually. The snake must, finally, eat its own tail when it runs out of other things to devour. And then we wake up! The outrage we are hearing, even from those who propagate so much of the gutter culture, is because what is happening is just wrong. By every measure, sexual harassment and lewd behavior is wrong and should not be tolerated. Might the outrage we are hearing about be a glimmer of hope?

Hence, we arrive at the Catholic Education Moment. Allow me to offer that, at least to us in Catholic education, it is a huge opportunity. If the world is ready for direction, answers, and the freedom that comes with God’s law, then we have the answer.

Our schools, in hearkening back to our intellectual and moral tradition can offer a deeply desirable and satisfying refuge from the insanity. If we boldly proclaim our stance, our mission, our heritage, we will attract the increasingly scared parents who may not be sure exactly what is wrong, but they know the solution must be different than marching along the same path we are on. Progress is not progress if we are heading in the wrong direction, and that is precisely where progressives get it wrong!

So, let the snake eat its tail. For the rest, come join us at the feast of the bridegroom!

MICHAEL J. VAN HECKE, M.Ed., a seasoned headmaster and educational speaker, is also the founder and president of The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and the Catholic Textbook Project. In their spare time, he and his wife farm avocados.

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