A friend of mine sent me this article titled Five Questions before You Leave the Catholic Church. I find it interesting on several levels, perhaps mostly because of the irony that it presents to evangelical readers. On one level, Protestants will differ in our perspective on the reason for being Catholic. Our doctrinal commitments will naturally lead us in a different direction from Rome. However, the conviction of this author in standing upon absolute truth with intellectual honesty is spot on. The author’s fifth point is particularly insightful. Here it is:
At the end of the NPR interview, Quindlen says, "I’ve never really gotten past that quote from Anne Frank in her diary, where she says that people are really good at heart." I too have always been touched by that quote, and I think it’s worth putting some serious thought into. Because if it’s true that people are ultimately good at heart…then that means that the staff who worked at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, lining up children in front of the gas chambers, overseeing Anne Frank and her family in slave labor, were good at heart too. How on earth, then, could normal, good people participate in something so evil?
The answer is chillingly simple: Through the power of human rationalization.
To look at the smiling faces of the employees in these pictures of an on-site staff retreat at Auschwitz is to understand that they had all rationalized their behavior. Nobody ever wakes up and says, "I’m going to do something evil today!", not even the staffers at Auschwitz. The only way evil ever works through us is when we convince ourselves that what we’re doing is actually good. The most dangerous force in the world is the human capacity for rationalization.
I think that some folks reject the concept of the Church’s divinely-inspired moral code because they don’t see why it would even be necessary. Why would God even care to institute something like that? Why can’t each person just get in touch with the spiritual realms and find what’s good and true for him- or herself? The answer to that question can be found in the smiles on the Auschwitz’s employees faces.
Though the individual members of the Catholic Church have made plenty of mistakes, sometimes gravely serious ones, its doctrines have always been a bulwark that protects human life. To a healthy American adult this may seem like an insignificant concept, since the only life that is devalued in our time and place is that of the severely disabled, the unborn, and others who literally do not have a voice. But that could change. The zeitgeist could shift, just as it did in Europe in the 1930s, and new groups of people may suddenly be seen as inconvenient and expendable. And one day the life that the Catholic Church stands up for may be your own.