with a broken moral compass

Martin Luther King once wrote “So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is wrong, or even more, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.”[1] What Dr. King was referring to of course were the unjust segregation laws in place throughout much of the United States at the time and especially in most of the states within the southeastern portion of the country. If you haven’t read his letter, written while sitting in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, I would strongly encourage you to do so.

Moral Compass

Moral Compass

Arthur Hippler points out that “If we are going to look at these things and say, ‘This is an unjust law,’ if we are going to try people for things like ‘crimes against humanity,’ there has got to be some kind of law that is above and beyond the man-made law. As Dr. King points out[2], everything that Hitler did in Germany was legal. And everything the Hungarian Communists did in Hungary was legal. But the reason we admire the freedom fighters of Hungary and the people who helped the Jews escape the Nazis is because we know those laws were wrong.[3] What is important to understand is the absolute necessity for law established above and beyond the constructs of man-made law; law that is outside the arbitrary and thus malleable purview of human concern; law that is built-in, innate, and immutable.

Ask university students to describe what they consider to be morally wrong and most will respond that if it causes physical harm it is wrong but if not then no matter how taboo or obscene it might be it is not. Ask less affluent, less educated people the same question and you will get radically different results. The students are reacting from the principle of “do no harm” while the second group is reacting from the principle of good and evil.[4]

No matter how you look at the world—and many of us like to claim the title of moral relativists—there is always a stopping point, a limit to just how far one is willing to go before shouting “hold on, stop, that is just plain wrong.” Hippler uses in his classes the example of honor killings, specifically two true-life cases subsequently made into movies (Death of a Princess and The Stoning of Soraya M.) And he writes that when you give these kinds of examples to a room full of 16-year-old girls, their perspective on moral relativism changes about as quickly as the latest fashion statement.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that our moral compass has become skewed, we have become morally confused by what is right and wrong. Students and parents alike have lost their need for reconciliation. “God loves them, he will always love them, and although they may be wounded or broken, they’re not sinners, because the very notion implies that they’re guilty of some sort of crime.”[5]


[1] Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Negro Is Your Brother: Letter from Birmingham Jail, Atlantic Monthly, August 1963, Volume 212, No. 2, pp. 78-88.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Dr. Arthur M. Hippler, How to Attack Moral Confusion, Catholic Answers Magazine, Sept-Oct 2015, pp. 16-21.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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