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If your child asks for bread, will you give him a stone?


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You are a devout Catholic, and the father of a family. You are delighted because you have just been offered a wonderful new job, which involves a promotion and new responsibilities. However, as you learn more about the job, you wonder whether you can accept it.

First, this job requires that you live apart from your family: you’ll be able to see them for a few days only, on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and at some indeterminate date in the spring, maybe not the same week as Easter. Meanwhile, you’ll live in dormitories designed for fellow employees.

This is bad enough, but add to this that most of the employees staying in the dormitories are single. Moreover, it is well known that they have very loose morals. They “hook up” with other employees on a regular basis. The few who try to remain aloof from this are placed under tremendous pressure to give in, and (it is also known) nearly all of them capitulate in the end. This holds for the married as well as single employees.

No matter how serious beforehand their intentions to avoid the well-known promiscuity which marks the corporate culture at this company, hardly anyone succeeds in staying free from it.

Even worse than this is that the dormitories where the employees stay are co-ed. Men and women live together in the same hallways, even in the same suites, and they share the same bathrooms.

If you took a job at this company, it’s virtually certain that on a regular basis you’ll see attractive women, who befriend you in other circumstances, parading around in bath towels, or coming out of the shower as you use the bathroom to shave in the morning.

These facts alone would lead any sensible person to turn down this job offer, no matter how wonderful an opportunity it represented.

But then you find out other disturbing truths about this company. It has a corporate culture which is hostile to the Catholic faith. The management of the company are confirmed atheists, who go on record as regarding Catholics as bigots, and Catholicism as a benighted religion which only less talented and less ambitious people believe.

In their talks to employees, they regularly attack Catholicism. Any employee who openly acknowledges his Catholic faith is likely to be discriminated against in raises and promotions; and he is almost certain to be shunned by those up-and-coming, most successful employees in the firm, who aim some day to join management themselves.

Among employees in their free hours, it’s not that the truth of Catholicism is ever openly and fairly debated. If it were, it might very well prevail. Rather, all topics that might tend to imply the truth of Catholicism are scrupulously avoided. The employees tacitly presume, and take for granted in every discussion, that Christianity is an illusion, which only a fool would believe.

In matters of faith as well as sexual morality, it proves impossible in practice for employees to resist the prevailing culture. It is well known that, whatever their good intentions going in --ideas about “remaining true to the religion of their home,” or “converting the company to Christianity,” and so on -- 95 percent of those who are Christians when they join the company, report that they have lost their faith within two years of working there.

This clinches the case for you. Your faith, and your relationship to your wife and family, are much too precious to place at risk by accepting such a job offer. You prudently accept instead a lower-paying and less prestigious job with a local firm which has a good culture.

Actually, as you dwell on the nightmare existence which is life at this firm, you wonder at how anyone would willingly accept a job there. Yes, it pays very well, and it is extremely prestigious, but clearly some things are much more valuable than that.

The day after you make this sensible decision, your daughter comes to you with the tremendous news that she has been accepted to an Ivy League college! You celebrate the happy day, as this represents the culmination of many years of preparatory education. You are just about to sign the form and make the deposit to reserve a place for her there.

But then your wife pulls you aside and points out that, at this university, your daughter would stay in coed dormitories where a “hook up” culture of promiscuity is the norm, among students who have already been living that way for years.

The professors at this university regularly attack Christianity in lectures where they are immune from being answered by equally informed peers.

The university’s administration promotes policies which seem designed to undermine any vestiges of Christian faith.

The students -- even at this “great” university -- talk largely about trivialities or vulgarities at the dinner table, but otherwise studiously avoid serious discussions about the truth of Christianity, while implicitly presuming that Christianity is foolishness.

You wouldn’t choose something similar for yourself. You wouldn’t risk higher goods for transient goods.

And so you apply the Golden Rule. You do unto your daughter, as you would do for yourself in comparable circumstances. You tell her that the only colleges you could sensibly agree to send her to are any of the handful of institutions which today are like the great historic Catholic universities of the past.

Michael Pakaluk is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Integrative Research at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences.

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