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Is Love Really All You Need?

GUEST COLUMN

By John A. Perricone | April 2017
Fr. John A. Perricone is Professor of Philosophy at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, New York. His articles have appeared in St. John's Law Review, The Latin Mass, and The Journal of Catholic Legal Studies.

Fifty years is a long time to beat up a word. Love is the word, and after all these years of battering, it hardly looks itself. Its luster has dulled. Repeated blows have so flattened its majesty that it can mean anything, and thus means nothing.

Its emasculation plunged to new depths recently. After the terrorist massacre at the Orlando Pulse nightclub last summer, disparate groups arose hysterically chanting “love” as the solution to that barbaric act. Really? Now, I am as desirous as the next guy of a world brimming with love, but this remedy gives cognitive dissonance a new dimension. Imagine groups in 1943 reacting to Auschwitz and Dachau by joining in marches with banners emblazoned, “All You Need Is Love.” Hardly a solution to the Final Solution. In the end, this gauzy antinomianism leads only to more death. If this be love, let us have no part of it.

Such mindless groupthink, a witch’s brew of leftist ideology and therapeutic couture, profoundly eviscerates love, and it is profoundly dangerous to the welfare of society. The Catholic Church will have none of it because she alone shows the world the truth about love, for her Bridegroom is Love incarnate. And herein lies the real, dual answer: You need both love and truth.

All the virtues are regulated, guided, and ordered by truth. So it is that the cardinal virtues take their lead from prudence, an act of the intellect that applies truth to the exercise of all the rest. (Of all the virtues, St. Thomas Aquinas devoted the most time to prudence, citing no less than eight integral parts.) Without truth, a virtue is like a spinning wheel unhinged from its axis; it takes a pell-mell course. The virtue of love is no exception; truth bridles love’s formidable power. The ancient Greeks recognized its fearsome wildness in plays like Euripides’s The Bacchae. Their revered Oracle at Delphi not only warned ancient Greeks to know thyself, it delivered the oft-forgotten yet no less important mandate nothing to excess. Aristotle’s in medio stat virtus (virtue stands in the middle) essentially bowed to truth alone to know the path to the good, thus raising virtue to the impressive heights of arête (excellence).

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