Coffee, truth, and TV

my Trade Tripper column in the 21-22 August issue of BusinessWorld:

Found myself thinking over coffee of C.S. Lewis: “We [modern society] make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” And “a great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional... values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process.”

Indeed, the problem with modernity is that it itself cannot cope with modernity. By this we see people finding themselves disoriented, confused, lost. That with all the material and financial pleasures available, people find that such is never enough, that in worldly goods is not to be found true human flourishing.

Interestingly enough, not many realize that all this is connected to our constitutional and economic design of a free and democratic society choosing by its right judgment its leaders and the product and services it wants to advance. But this presupposes a well-formed citizenry, with a functioning system of judgment-making.

But today’s modernity (including, unfortunately, our judiciary) rejects the notion of a natural law, an objective standard of reason upon which our ethical system is based. And again, C.S. Lewis is prescient: “Natural law or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it’s rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world.”

Thus, Pope Francis was speaking of the necessity of speaking up for reasoned beliefs when (at the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications last September 2013) he said, “We talk about the Church behind closed doors. But this is more than a Church with open doors, it’s more! Finding ‘home’ together, building ‘home’, building the Church. It’s this: building the Church as we walk. A challenge! To lead to the rediscovery, through means of social communication as well as by personal contact, of the beauty which is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith, the beauty of the encounter with Christ.”

The foregoing poetic language, however, is necessarily balanced with the need for reasoned objective truth. Pope Benedict XVI correctly teaches: that without truth, charity becomes mere sentimentality; without truth, there is no social conscience.

It with this in mind that I am taken back to the days when, with collaborators like Edwin Lopez of EWTN and Fr. Ces Magsino of the Opus Dei, we broadcast in TV Maria the show Naturang Batas. It was simply made, with the sparest of resources. But it had the biggest of ambitions: to re-introduce to Filipinos the natural law, and its importance not only to sexual issues (such as contraception, same-sex ‘marriage’, divorce) but also to others extending to the whole range confronted by our citizens: national security, immigration and labor, education, and politics.

Shooting out of the Caritas compound in Manila, and working with the dedicated of Frs. Jopson and Buenafe, along with an unbelievably small but workaholic group of Kat, Angelyn, Roberto, Marla, Jiggo, and led by director Sharon, we managed to crop out two seasons, still shown on air, and slowly but surely putting natural law back in the national conversation.

Interestingly enough, exactly a week ago, TV Maria historically did its very first direct broadcasting via the internet; and the pioneer broadcast launched by no less than His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, DD: “Yan din po ang misyon ng social communication, social media sa loob ng simbahan hindi po tayo nakikipaglabanan sa ratings, hindi po tayo pumuporma lamang, hindi po tayo nagpapa-image-image. Ang TV Maria at ang buong apostulado ng simbahan sa pamamagitan ng social communication ay gawaing banal dahil ito ay pagtutuloy ng gawain ng Diyos na nakikipag-usap, nagpapakilala at nag-aanyaya tungo sa buhay na ganap sa piling nya.

But more than that is the need to proclaim vigorously fundamental moral truths. Not bizarre childish thinking like “don’t judge” or “love wins”. There is always the need to judge, the question is to ensure right judgment.

As C.S. Lewis reminds us: “An open mind about the ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical Reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth be at least shut. He can say nothing to the purpose. Outside the Tao [the Natural Law] there is no ground for criticizing the Tao or anything else.”

Indeed. Unfortunately, most of “progressive” media today gets it the other way around. And hence the task before all who still value reason and reality.