Is there a real necessity to know everything? Do we have a right to know everything? Can constantly seeking info cause disquiet for our souls?
At the beginning of this new year, we re-offer here for the spiritual benefit of our readers this short piece originally published for the first Sunday of Advent in December 2012.
Vice may show itself as an inordinateness in the craving and eagerness to learn the truth. This may be in four ways. One way is when this eagerness withdraws a person from another pursuit, which is his bounden duty. In another way, when one is eager to learn from an unlawful source. The third way is when one seeks to learn the truth about creatures without reference to the due end, which is the knowledge of God. A fourth way is inasmuch as one is eager to know that truth which lies above his knowledge; for thereby men easily fall into errors." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Ethicus)
We often criticize the entertainment world for turning away souls from their duties and especially from God. Chief among these distractions which ensnare souls are the continually-changing landscape of digital media (such as blogs, social networking tools, YouTube, apps, texting, Internet newsfeeds, etc.) which perhaps comprise today’s greatest means of distraction.
These technological means—with their temptations towards distraction and most especially towards that curiosity St. Thomas warned us about earlier—are often used in a way that undermine authority, whether in the family, business, city, state, or even religion.
This is usually the consequence of a modern day falsehood which we could call the “democratization of knowledge”. This common liberal error stems from the false ideology of democracy, that authority is “of the people and by the people”, rather than “there is no authority except from God.” (Rom. 13, 1). Through this falsehood, modern man believes he has the right to knowledge of all things and considers himself responsible for all decisions. Ultimately this democratic way of thinking lapses into deceptive pride and even practical atheism: because no longer having confidence or hope in God, one no longer considers oneself beholden to His Providence.
The mindset that I have a right to all knowledge regardless of duty of state or position in life, originates in the liberal perspective, and feeds itself from the tremendous amount of information circulating worldwide and at the dizzying speed of the Internet. But this attitude is motivated more by the spirit of envy and revenge (that is, a liberal sense of “justice”) than by the love of Truth. Thus this mentality seeks to free itself from any bonds of authority, while seeking to destroy any distinction amongst men—even daring to equate man to God. And so feeling threatened by any authority than himself, this person views any manifestation of external authority as an injustice to his individual will.
Ultimately from this modern spirit of an unbalanced desire for information and an insistence on a “right to know”, souls will be led away from Christ’s peace—a peace which worldly things cannot give. It will also imbue the mind to question and criticize everything and according to its own reasoning. Another more subtle effect of this false ideology is to focus blame on an individual—e.g., a “scapegoat complex”—when expectations (sometimes unreasonable) of “informational transparency” are not fulfilled.
Unfortunately, examples of such defects were witnessed amongst even traditionally-minded Catholics concerning recent events affecting the Society of St. Pius X—with the legitimate exercising of authority being the preferred target. But how could this occur with Catholics who adhere to the True Mass, the True Sacraments, and the True Faith?
Precisely because the underlying spirit of those disturbed was one of a lack of submission to authority, fed by an incessant “need” to know, and a “need” to be informed about all information, regardless of their state (e.g., non-SSPX members do not have a strict right to be kept informed about the internal affairs of the SSPX, which is a religious congregation).
The inability to obtain the information they “needed” and which they felt they had a “right” to, led to resentment and thence the scapegoating of persons (authority) from who they felt slighted by, through misunderstandings, buzz, rumors, suspicions, detractions, half-truths, and calumnies—and then fed upon by other disenchanted “I must know!” information-seekers.
We must beware of this diabolical tendency that perpetuates Lucifer’s “I will not serve”, which leads to a loathing of obedience and respect to authority, particularly when it does not yield to opinions, either of the world or from subordinates. Such a mentality is disastrous to the spiritual life—let alone Catholic; cue to the destruction wrought by Martin Luther and the Protestant revolution.
Those who adhere to such an attitude reveal a lack of fortitude and constancy—obsessed by security, they see danger everywhere, every time. Their prudence is frequently faulty in counsel, judgment and action. Justice is blinded by a great moral confusion. Concern for truth is more or less restricted to an abstract field—so long as that “truth” fits their pre-conceived notion. This in turn leads to practically adopting the error that the end justifies the means.
In the end, through the person’s ever-growing bitterness (which Archbishop Lefebvre specifically warned traditionalists about), the person develops an obsessive mind thereby losing his balance of temperance not only in his social life—but in the use of his time, devices and even creatures. The worst effect though is his terrible lack of trust in God and His grace which endangers the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.
Archbishop Lefebvre once remarked that all of us in this modern age have been affected in some way or another by the errors of liberalism and thus must make a close examination of ourselves to see where. The “need” (nay, addiction) for information—continually and instantly—is just one practical aspect of liberal ideology that we can be prone to.
But with purified minds infused by the Catholic principles, we can continue to steadily advance in the way of perfection and sanctity to Heaven, where all things will ultimately be revealed.