Things as they are

Consider the following words from this article about John Senior:

“Dr. Senior was a man rooted in reality. The starting point of any conversation with him (and its arché sustaining the talk throughout) was things as they are.”

Things as they are. We are perhaps too accustomed to thinking of traditionalist social doctrine as being about “things as they ought to be”. But the Catholic Faith starts with reality, with things as they are. For the Catholic, “things as they ought to be” must never be considered apart from the present reality and legitimate means of change. In other words, if the present reality contains certain elements that cannot be changed by morally licit means, then “things as they ought to be” are perhaps not what we thought they were.

A particular goal might be good in itself, but unattainable due to the constraints of reality. Attempting to acquire this good can therefore become an evil act. Even agitating or campaigning for this good can become an evil act if: a) it inspires men to adopt immoral attitudes and illicit means of change; b) the good is presented as the only possible alternative when in fact there are other legitimate options. Keeping this in mind will prevent us from confusing “things as they ought to be” with “things as they might have been”. 

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