In the modern project, human beings are autonomous centers of consciousness whose choices and decisions bring about their self-actualization. I will explain:
We are autonomous centers of consciousness. My identity is rooted in the fact that I am conscious and aware. It is the center of my self and belongs to me alone. I may choose to share with others and make common cause with others – but I am defined only by myself. This is the heart of individualism.
Our choices and decisions bring about our self-actualization. Who I am in the world is a product of my experiences and the choices and decisions I make. Those decisions create my identity – they are my means of actualization. My decisions and choices are what determine the meaning of my life. I am who Ichoose to be.
When you look at these critical ideas, it is easy to understand why the primary driving force of modern history is freedom. This definition of what it means to be human makes a certain version of freedom the most essential part of life. Anything that restricts freedom becomes an enemy of individual existence and self-actualization. Only if I am free to choose am I able to properly exist as a self-actualized individual.This is in contrast to the classical Christian understanding of reality:
In the Classical understanding we are not autonomous individuals. We are contingent beings whose existence is a gift with purpose, meaning and direction given by God. We have value as persons, not because of our choices or our ability to choose, but because we are created in the image of God. Thus the least of us, including the incompetent and the vegetative, have true worth and dignity.
We are not defined by our choices and decisions. Who we are is the gift of God – it is a given. Its identity is a matter of revelation and transformation in the Christian life and not a private work of self-construction. Our choices and decisions are not unimportant, but they only have relative merit or power. In the end, we are God’s creation and our decisions only have meaning in relationship to Him.
The civilizational clash is perhaps most poignant at the places where modern choice and classical givenness most contradict one another. The most common points have been on the level of biology and relationships. The instincts of Classical Christianity are to treat biology and relationships as givens. Gender is not a choice. Family is biological rather than associational. Sexual relationships serve a given order rather than private needs. The instincts of the Modern Project are to maximize freedom and choice. Biology is real, but not necessarily determinative (thus some today self-identify their gender). Family is increasingly defined as a set of choices – relationships that we prefer. The givenness of blood-ties with inherent responsibilities are largely disappearing in current jurisprudence. Thus we have the “accident of birth,” which cannot begin to compete with “freedom of choice.”
The often maligned popular version of relativism (“if it’s true for you”) is simply an expression that maximizes choice. Truth that is not chosen is experienced in the modern world as oppressive. The Classical Christian world of doctrine and dogma is thus endangered as a set of extremely inconvenient truths. Why would it be wrong for us to re-imagine God?American Catholics, by and large, have political, social, and moral practices that make them indistinguishable from the heathen population at large. The cynic in me would say that means most American Catholics are bad Catholics. For example, Americans make up 6% of all Catholics in the world, but we are number one in annulments, responsible for 60% of all annulments granted world wide. USA! USA!
The question of allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion is a thorny, perennial issue of pastoral practice. Well, it is in the West anyway. Christ himself was clear on the matter: he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery, and he who divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery. Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are living in a state of public and notorious adultery, and therefore giving them the Eucharist would cause grave scandal at best, be sacrilege at worst. They are welcome to attend Mass but not receive communion until their situation is resolved.
But you know, the Modernist and the "pastoral" Catholic will say, they really, really want to receive the Eucharist. The Eucharist is for eating, not staring at. Your pharisaical emphasis on the law will drive them away. You're being too mean and kicking hurting people when they're down. You're the kind of religious zealot Christ condemned so strongly, etc.
Considering Christ himself is the one who explicitly said that the divorced and remarried are adulterers, somehow I doubt that.
The point here is that the liberal Modernist can't abide the notion that there are unchosen, unchanging realities of existence. Ironically, they attribute much more power to the pope than he has in reality. They believe the Church is the manufacturer of truth, instead of an infallible guide to the truth. They're angry over the Church's moral teachings because they don't actually believe in an objective unchanging moral standard. In their minds, the Church could usher in a new golden age of married transgender lesbian priestesses shuttling back and forth between euthanizing the sick and blessing abortions tomorrow if she really wanted to. In their minds, the Church doesn't do this because those mean old men in Rome are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic bigots.
For the liberal Modernist, it's well and good to think of traditional Christianity as just one equally valid choice among a world of equally valid choices. The traditional Christian crosses the line when he asserts that no, it's not just a choice that's good for me and not for you, it's the way reality actually is. Christianity is true, and its truth has implications even for those who do not believe. My godless heathen friends have difficulty grasping the notion that I believe in God like I believe the sun will rise tomorrow; it's so obvious that you'd have to be willfully obstinate to deny it.
The Modern Project consists of liberating the free and equal superman from the oppressive shackles of unchosen realities. Things like religion, metaphysics, sex, family, country, and so on should only matter insofar as the superman wills them to matter. The utopia of freedom and choice would be here already if it weren't for the subhuman trolls who are still slaves to tradition. These untermenschen oppressors argue for the reality of the supernatural, of gender roles, of particular peoples and cultures, and that just won't do. For the government composed of liberal ubermenschen, existentially there must always be an oppressor troll to overcome as the purpose of government is to tell people what to do good and hard. Who are these subhumans who stand for tyranny and oppression? Well, if you've ever nodded your head in agreement with anything I've ever written here, then the subhuman oppressor is you.