Even in a relativistic culture we like to think categorically about a lot of things. Is a person good or bad? Is an idea liberal or conservative? Are we a divided nation or a united one?
Truth be told, we are all a mixed bag, individually and collectively. God alone is wholly good. Even in the midst of our struggles and flaws there still lurks something good, something true and beautiful. There are also many times when we must frankly admit that some things are true and some are false, some are right and some are wrong.
The genius of Catholicism, often not appreciated by our opponents, is that careful distinctions are a hallmark of our Sacred Tradition and teachings. We insist that there are absolute and immutable truths, but we also hold that some teachings are not absolute and admit of distinctions or need to be balanced by other truths. For example, Jesus said that He came to give us peace (Jn 14:27), but He also said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mat 10:36). Thus, context and distinctions are often important, but they are in service of an absolute truth. In this case, the absolute truth is that no real or lasting peace can exist apart from the Truth, which is Jesus Christ, for He says, “I am the Truth” (Jn 14:6).
As we navigate an increasingly tense and divided world, our insistence on absolute truths as well as distinctions becomes more important. When are discussions fruitful and when are they not? What can we tolerate and what must we refuse to tolerate? What is the distinction between acceptance and approval?
The questions could go on, but the point is that we must be very thoughtful in such matters. Knee-jerk reactions must give way to reflection and careful consideration.
The following video does a good job of reminding us of the complexity of division and unity.