Humility in Pride Month

Yes, we counter falsehoods with truth, and we should do so with humility

Topics

Virtue

There are decent politicians, and one whom I admire just won a nomination which he merited. In accepting it, he said “I am humbled by this honor.” He wasn’t virtue signaling, so I don’t suspect him of “false humility.” Still, we’d be gobsmacked were he to say that he was “humiliated” by such an honor or that now he’d have to eat “humble pie.” Well, then, what’s going on with the concept of humility?

Received opinion has it that humility is knowing the truth about oneself. Socrates taught that we are to know ourselves; doing so is the core of the philosopher’s quest for truth—indeed, nothing less than truth! Harvard’s motto uses the language of saints and scholars: “Veritas.” Still, don’t expect a university to choose “Humilitas” as its watchword. Critics of the received view of humility are more likely to agree with David Hume’s dismissal of it as “a monkish virtue.”

In my opinion (not to beg the question by calling it humble), in mapping the virtues we do well to consult Aquinas. For the Common Doctor, humility involves both the intellect and the will. So, humility, he says, shows the “tempering and restraining” of reason. “Reverence toward God” prevents us claiming more than God gives. Thus humility “implies most of all man’s subjection to God.” It’s no surprise that in a secular society, in which people live as if God did not exist, humility becomes a self-serving rhetorical strategy. But humility, in fact, regards others as well as self. As Thomas says, “In respect to that which is his own, each ought to defer to that which is God’s in anyone.”

Decent politicians and citizens alike need to hear St. Augustine’s patristic question, one that Thomas later took to heart: “Do you propose to raise the great fabric of high virtue? Then attend first to the foundation of humility.” Augustine, we recall, posed his question in the context of moral and political collapse.

Fast forward to our own ethical chaos. An example? Cultural influencers tell us that this month is “Pride Month.” Yes, we are to celebrate homosexuality and its characteristic expressions as bold achievements on the path to human liberation. Parades are the order of the day, and pandering is de rigueur. Hurrah for hubris, humility be damned!

Reason goes by the board. Sexual intercourse is rightly and reasonably ordered to the good of life, and that life requires the nurturing stability to which marriage commits itself.

Children are gifts, not products, of sexual intercourse. Such intercourse is a basic intrinsic good. The Christian, to be sure, sees still more: marriage images the faithful relation of God and the Church.

In stark contrast, non-marital sex acts, and homosexual acts are such, are “for” some supposed further end, for example, pleasure and the expression of feeling. But such acts instrumentalize persons in their sexuality, a central dimension of the human person. Such merely instrumental sex acts are wrong. Their glorification in Pride Month is abject folly.

The zeitgeist of sexual disorder is gathering force. Of late we even hear a confused Cardinal announce that the Church’s rejection of homosexual acts is itself a mistake. To support his charge, he makes a bizarre appeal to science. (One might name him in a footnote, but this genre doesn’t allow for it.)

How then should we counter this zeitgeist of folly? We should name things by name and counter falsehoods with truth. And we should do so with humility. Aquinas, citing St. Gregory the Great, teaches that “There is nothing great in being humble toward those who treat us with regard, for even worldly people do this, but we should especially be humble toward those who make us suffer.”

Uganda’s St. Charles Lwanga and his companions suffered far beyond anything we have experienced. The Church celebrates their feast on June 3rd. They died at the command of a sexual predator, in this case homosexual, who ruled his nation with absolute power. All you holy martyrs, pray for us!

 

Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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