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A New Name for the Husks Thrown to the Swine Or: How to Progress Away From Morality

The repeated use of the word “crisis” in reference to morals is interesting, for it reveals a tendency on the part of many modern writers to blame the abstract when the concrete is really at fault. They speak, for example, of the problem of crime, rather than of the criminal; of the problem of poverty, rather than of the poor; and of the “crisis in morals,” when really the crisis is amongst men who are not living morally. The crisis is not in ethics but in the unethical. The failure is not in the law, but the law-breakers. The truth of this observation is borne out by the failure of such writers to distinguish between the problem of making men conform to standards and that of making standards conform to men. Instead of urging men to pass the test, they alter the test. Instead of inspiring them to hold to their ideals, they change the ideals. In accordance with this logic, they urge that morals be changed to suit those who cannot live morally, and that ethics be changed to please those who cannot live ethically.

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This kind of philosophy would never have permitted the Prodigal Son to return to his father’s house. It would have settled the “crisis” by finding a new and handsome name for the husks he was throwing to the swine, and called it “progress away from the antiquated modes of morality.”

——from Old Errors and New Labels by Fulton Sheen, in the chapter: Ethics for the Unethical

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