Apr19 2010

Being Hypocritical About Hypocrisy


Once again, the Catholic Church is in the news and, once again, it involves allegations of priests within the Church sexually abusing minors.  As would be expected, it has been a feeding frenzy for the media, with each news outlet rushing to outdo the other when it comes to breaking the big story.  There’s really nothing unusual about the media jumping all over a sensational story- we’ve come to expect that.  What I do find unusual is that they seem to get a certain pleasure out of covering any sort of scandal, particularly those that involve the Church, religious leaders, televangelists, and the like.  I suppose it is because the media and, in fact, most people in our culture today have expressed a real disgust for hypocrisy.  But while most people today feel that ‘hypocrisy’ is a term that applies only to those within the religious community who act inappropriately, the truth of the matter is that the term ‘hypocrite’ actually applies to anyone and everyone who behaves in a way that is inconsistent with their particular worldview.  As a result of this misunderstanding, what is often overlooked is the hypocrisy of those outside of the Church who are quick to condemn the hypocrisy of those within the Church.

Keep in mind that, according to recent surveys, the majority of the big players in the media proudly admit that they are humanists, atheists, or agnostics.  Given that they are looking at the world through the “lens” of atheism, etc., it logically follows that most of them would view matters of truth and morality as being “relative”.  Therein lies their hypocrisy.  For example, think for a moment how all of this relates to their reporting of the recent Church scandals.  The very same media that is so quick to tell us how wrong it is to judge others, find themselves doing exactly that-  passing judgment on the Catholic Church.  Secondly, the same media that claims that there is no such thing as absolute truth, end up contradicting themselves by accusing the Church of covering up the scandals through deception and lies.  Perhaps someone should point out to the media that a lie, by definition, is the denial of something that is absolutely true!  Lastly, the very same editors, writers, and news anchors who insist that it’s wrong to force your morality on others, find themselves in the position of forcing their morality on the Church by condemning the immorality of its sex offenders as well as condemning the Church for its hypocrisy.

I don’t want anyone to miss the main point here.  I am not, in any way, making excuses for those within the Catholic Church who have committed these terrible offenses.  It is imperative that the truth is pursued and that the offenders be brought to justice just like anyone else.  Still, there is a lesson in this for all of us.  For those within the Church, it is a painful reminder that actions really do speak louder than words.  Jesus reserved his strongest condemnation for religious leaders who acted hypocritically.  That alone should be enough to motivate any Christian to live consistently with their message.  But there is also a message in all of this for those outside of the Church- you can’t have it both ways.  If you’re going to insist that there is no truth, that it’s wrong to judge others, and that it’s wrong for someone to impose their morality on someone else, then you must remain silent on this issue, because to do otherwise would be hypocritical on your part… and I know how much you hate hypocrisy.



2 Responses to “Being Hypocritical About Hypocrisy”

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  1. Dale says:

    Marty, to be fair here, the issue is that you can call me a hypocrite if I engage in behavior which *I* condemn, regardless of whether *you* condemn it. The Catholic Church strongly condemns homosexual behavior, even between consenting adults. When it's between a man and a boy (who cannot legally give consent, and is generally morally incapable of consent as well), and the Church actively covers it up, even to the extent of transferring the guilty party to another country to inhibit prosecution, well, that is the height of hypocrisy. The media is not imposing the media's morality on the Catholic Church, they are imposing the Church's own morality on the Church.

  2. marty says:

    Hi Dale, Thank you for your comments. You are absolutely correct in stating that many leaders within the Catholic Church have been hypocritical with regard to the manner in which they've covered up the sex abuse cases- I agree with you on that point. However, I must disagree with you regarding the media. The fact remains that they are, indeed, imposing their morality on the Catholic Church. Let me try to explain it another way for clarification. As I said, many, if not most, within the media have acknowledged that they are moral relativists. That is, most within the media hold the view that right and wrong are "up to the INDIVIDUAL to decide." This is important to keep in mind! Obviously, they ran this story in order to condemn the Church's hypocrisy. (They certainly did not run this story to show their approval of the Church's hypocrisy). Now follow me closely here: For illustration, let's suppose that the newspaper staff member who wrote the editorial is named "Jim". So, if Jim believes that right and wrong are "up to the individual", and if Jim PERSONALLY feels that hypocrisy is wrong, then Jim (as a moral relativist) can only say that hypocrisy is wrong "for HIM", but he can NEVER say that hypocrisy is wrong for OTHERS. Once he does, he is no longer a moral relativist. In other words, the moment Jim condemns OTHERS for wrongdoing, he's being a hypocrite because he claims to believe that others should be allowed to decide FOR THEMSELVES what's right or wrong! In this particular case, Jim IS imposing his morality regarding hypocrisy. For further information on the point I'm making here, please see my July 16th, 2011 post; "An Inconvenient Truth About Morality."

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