Who Determines Right and Wrong?

In our country where we believe in democratic principles, laws are passed by the majority vote of elected representatives (who were elected by getting the largest share of the vote – not necessarily a majority if there were more than two candidates).  So, “majority rule” sets the tone in our country.

Does that mean that the ‘majority’ determines right and wrong?  It seems that is the direction things are headed.  While many people still hold onto some spirituality, relativism is spreading.  Relativism says you can believe whatever you want as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else.  Thus, relativism says there is no universal truth.  This can lead to a minimalist approach to laws.  Since there is no one truth for everyone, people should be able to do whatever they want as long as no one else is hurt.  So, laws are passed only to stop people hurting others.

Yet that isn’t what is happening.  In fact, governments are now passing laws that say people can do something (such as with legislation concerning same sex marriage) rather than just what they can’t do to protect others.  (These people tend not to include affects on the good of society as arguments for how our actions affect others).

People also seem to think that if psychology or genetics can explain some human behaviors, then it is OK.  For those who do believe in God, the genetic argument can become “God made me this way, it must be OK.”  If you believe God is involved in our individual lives in that way, the argument sees to carry some merit.  Does that mean it is OK to be an alcoholic if alcoholism is caused by genetics?  By this reasoning, God made them that way.

Please don’t take the last paragraph too literally.  It is an oversimplification of an argument that I use only to make a point.  In fact, when we look to determine right and wrong, it is God who we must turn to.  God is the only one who is all-knowing.  God is the only one who can see how it all fits together.  We cannot foresee all the consequences of our actions.  So, we turn to God as the one who determines what is right and wrong.

The challenge we face is to know God’s Will.  It comes from scripture, tradition, and the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and right judgment from the Holy Spirit help us apply to the events of our lives.  God’s Will is not determined by a majority vote.  May we always trust in God as the one who knows what is right.


Fr. Jeff

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