At the very heart, and in oversimplified form, this is what
I see as the fundamental difference between the political
and non-political frames of reference that are in competition
Both postulate, or assume, that there is such a thing as
"Absolute Truth". They would also both postulate,
or assume, that such a thing comes to us, or is the Creation
of, the One who created everything. In other words, God
is the author of the Absolute Truths that we all seek.
Where, I submit, they begin to radically differ is in their
understanding of both where this Absolute Truth resides
and how we access it as the flawed human beings that we
I re-iterate again: what I am writing now is over-simplified
and exaggerated to bring out the differences. Those in the
political frame of reference tend to see this "Absolute
Truth" as something akin to a big block of concrete
or blocks of stone that is immutable. It was created at
the beginning of time by God and is slowly being revealed
to us. It is revealed to us through agencies such as the
Church. Fundamentally, it is envisioned as basically a set
of rules or formulae. How we access Absolute Truth is by
learning those rules and formulae and then by becoming obedient
to them. The vision is "political" because it
tends to characterise people as either "in" or
"out" they are prepared to accept their
particular political interpretation of what those rules/formulae
are, and how they are to be obeyed, or they are not and
therefore they are "outside" the chosen elite.
Those in the non-political frame of reference do not see
things in that Newtonian, quite "black or white/right
or wrong/us and them never-twain-should-meet"
frame of reference and reject it.
They would tend to envisage the "Absolute Truth"
as not being something akin to blocks of concrete but something
altogether more amorphous that resides essentially in the
Mystery that is God. The "Absolute Truth" is in
fact part of the Mystery indeed, most probably, the actual
core of the Mystery of the Divine. The human condition is
that we catch imperfect glimpses of this Mystery through
the agency of gifted individuals and the Institution of
the Church. The "Absolute Truth" though is not
something that is unchangeable in the sense that it was
created at the beginning of time and remains immutable throughout
time. This is hard to understand but is similar to the Mystery
of a concept such as Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle
in modern Quantum Physics where something is perceived to
be both Absolute and Non-Absolute at one and the same time.
In other words Absolute Truth has a paradoxical quality.
Such an understanding is very hard to grasp for a person
in the political/Newtonian science frame of reference. They
simply have no "hand-rails" or frame of reference
within their paradigm through which to be able to grasp
The great difference between the two frames of reference
though is connected with how we make ourselves obedient
to this Absolute Truth. Those in the political frame of
reference, I submit, see it as something akin to a hoop-jumping
exercise. The rules are there and the essential task of
life is to learn what they are and to learn how to jump
through all these obstacles until we fully grasp what that
truth is and can, in a sense, "touch" it. If we've
been good girls and boys at the end of the whole process
God will "let us in on the full secret" and we'll
find ourselves in heaven.
The non-political frame of reference does not see it that
way at all. It sees the very purpose of life as being one
of seeking to enter that "Absolute Truth" or Mystery.
It is not a long, gradual process of seeking to conform
to something immutable. It is not a hoop-jumping exercise.
It is a whole process of learning to think like the Divine
a long process of becoming more "holy"
or "whole". It is the process of becoming whole
or holy that gives us access to this Absolute Truth which
is not something that is immutable but which is something
that is Mysterious and not fully graspable within our x,
y, z, t, Cartesian frame of rational/scientific/political
reference. Gifted individuals and the institution are perceived
as guides towards the truth rather than as possessors of
the Mystery and the Absolute itself or even a partial understanding
of the Absolute.
In my recent experience I think one of the best places
where this difference was brought out in a dramatic way
was in Archbishop Pell's proposition last year that the
Church should overturn its teaching on the Primacy of Conscience.
He saw it is as "confusing" to ordinary people.
The impression I have is that the Cardinal got rolled on
that issue and is probably doing a lot of thinking in his
spare time wondering what nuclear explosion he set off and
trying to get his head around it all (hopefully not to come
back for another dose*).
The Cardinal is one whose frame of reference is overtly
political. He puts forward a hoop-jumping vision of what
Catholicism or the Christian imperative/quest is about.
There are a set of rules out there we have to learn and
then conform to. That is not how others in the non-political
frame of reference see the Christian or Catholic imperative
or quest. Our quest is primarily to journey into the Mystery.
It is by the very journey into the Mystery that we gradually
access this "Absolute Truth" that lies as the
shared joint objective of our search. Our prime quest is
obedience to the will of God and through that, and our personal
growth in "holiness/wholeness", that it will be
gradually revealed to us what the "Absolute Truth"
is. Those in the political frame of reference would seem
to suggest that our prime obedience is to the institution
and it is through our obedience to the institution that
the "Absolute Truth" will be gradually revealed
to us and through that we will gradually get to know God
and, hopefully, eventually get to heaven.
*From information that has reached me on
the weekend, I suspect the Cardinal is coming in for another
session of personal reflection as it seems two significant
Conferences of Bishops in the world have expressed significant
misgivings about the work of his Vox Clara Committee on
the English translation of the Mass. It's going to be interesting
to see what the Bishops of North America have to say as