Friday, November 11, 2005

Get Schooled

"Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge... Hear, my son, and be wise: and guide your heart in the way." Proverbs 23:12, 19

The ability to think and make decisions for one's self are prominent attributes of the inner life of a human person. Every person is capable by nature of determining his own aims (Love & Responsibility 27). If we treat a person as a means to an end then we are violating their natural right to decide their own aims. Is it therefore wrong to seek to mold your children into godly men and women? Is it a violation of someone's natural rights to try to convince them of the immorality/morality of certain actions when they hold a differing opinion?

JPII notes that we must demand that every thinking indvidual seek genuinely good ends. In fact, "the pursuit of evil ends is contrary to the rational nature of the person" (27). Both the education of a child and mutal education between adults revolves around the seeking of real goods (true ends) and helping one another to realize those ends. In "Person and Act", JPII observes that freedom is not found in " absolute independence" but rather in "a self-dependence comprising dependence on the truth" (162) The function of the human conscience "consists in making action dependent on truth" (163).

In any activity where another person is the object, including education, we "may not treat that perons as only the means to an end, as an instrument, but must allow for the fact that he or she, too, has, or at least should have, distinct personal ends" (28). So, we should not go so far in seeking to persuade, educate, or mold a person in godliness that we are actually forcing them to act according to our wishes. This is a violation of their conscience, their personhood. Of course, this is a general statement; it is okay if a parent "forces" his child to clean his room by refusing to let the child stay the night with a friend unless he finishes his chore. This is in fact part of the parent's duty in disciplining the child and teaching him to be responsible. And, if a man were going to shoot someone on the street, there would be no moral violation of personhood in disarming him by reasonable force.

God Himself does not use human beings as means to an end. (My Calvinist friends are gonna love that ;-D) The late Holy Father has written:
"On the part of God, indeed, it is totally out of the question, since, by giving man an intelligent and free nature, he has thereby ordained that each man alone will decide for himself the ends of his activity, and not be a blind tool of someone else's ends. Therefore, if God intends to direct man towards certain goals, he allows him to begin with to know those goals, so that he may make them his own and strive towards them independently. In this amongst other things resides the most profound logic of revelation: God allows man to learn His supernatural ends, but the decision to strive towards an end, the choice of course, is left to man's free will. God does not redeem man against his will" (27)

The Catholic view of the Annunciation (when Gabriel anncounced that Mary would conceive the son of God) is that God was not forcing Mary to bear the Christ child. Rather, God's message to her was one that came with a choice. She gave her assent, her fiat, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word." She is the second Eve, as Christ is the second Adam. Through Adam sin entered the world, but through the one man, Jesus Christ, the world was redeemed. Eve exerted her freedom of choice, her will, in disobeying God (presumably because she disbelieved in His good intentions towards her in forbidding her to eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil). Eve is the woman who said, "Yes" and became the doorway to salvation. God did not merely use her as a means to clothe himself in flesh, but He loves her and invites us all to call her our mother. Don't you want to have a mother who teaches you by her example to say "Yes, be it done unto me according to Your will, Lord"?

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