The Catholic Thing
A Very Personal Relativism Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Friday, 01 February 2013

Ray Lewis is a great football player – surely among the best linebackers ever to play in the National Football League. After the plea deal that dismissed the murder charge he faced in the January 31, 2000 death of a man at a bar in Atlanta, Mr. Lewis found faith in Jesus Christ, which he loudly proclaims in pre- and post-game speeches, even quoting Scripture, although some of his citations seem interpolated.

On the Tuesday before Sunday’s Super Bowl, in which Lewis’s Baltimore Ravens will face the San Francisco 49ers, Sports Illustrated broke the story that during rehab this season for a torn triceps muscle Lewis took a spray supplement derived from deer-antler velvet – essentially a steroidal substance banned by the League. The magazine says its story is based in part on a (recorded) telephone conversation between Mr. Lewis and the head of the “lab” that provided the supplement. (As of this writing, that recording has not been publicly aired.)

Ray Lewis is adamant that he has never taken a banned substance. And he has never failed a drug test.

And on that same day, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez was accused – again – of using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), an assertion he denies, as he had when such charges were leveled a few years ago and to which he subsequently confessed guilt.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti T’eo, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, admitted recently that he knew some weeks before the story broke that his much publicized love affair with a young woman, Lennay Kekua, who allegedly died just hours after T’eo received news of his grandmother’s death, was actually a hoax perpetrated by a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Mr. Tuiasosopo, a fledgling actor, has given interviews in which he swears to have been the voice of Ms. Kekua, although audio experts say the voice in messages left by Kekua on T’eo’s voicemail definitely belongs to a woman.

And we cannot leave out the recent revelations about and from cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose past lies about doping went to far as to destroy the careers and reputations of those who dared to tell the truth.

Quick recourse to denial has become the default posture of public figures who find themselves exposed in a new world in which electronic media capture their weak moments and in which the suppression of truth has become ever more difficult.

While it is true that Ray Lewis has been accused by a prestigious journal of taking a banned substance, it’s one for which the NFL has no test, and no action is pending against Mr. Lewis.

          Ray Lewis: a Raven full of passion

Of his taunting of Mr. T’eo, Mr. Tuiasosopo explained his decision to end the affair by killing off Ms. Kekua:

They would break up, and then something would bring them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or something going in Lennay’s life – in this case, in my life. I wanted to end it, because after everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move on with my life.

There is in that statement (made to TV’s Dr. Phil McGraw) indications of some sort of sociopathic rationalization, but there is no remorse for having perpetuated a fraud. There is as well a less than subtle claim of virtue for having ended the “affair” . . . after all Tuiasosopo “had gone through.” (It’s interesting to note that Dr. Phil has said Tuiasosopo admitted to being homosexual. How much more convoluted can this story get?)

And watching Mr. Armstrong speak with Oprah Winfrey about his past sins, one had the unsettling impression of a man speaking about an entirely different person. (This was true too of A-Rod’s 2009 confession about PEDs.)

Whether it’s a president or a legislator angrily denying illicit sexual liaisons, baseball players steadfastly denying steroid use in testimony before Congress, a football player spinning tales about a soul mate he never laid eyes on, or a cyclist making a third-person confession to America’s high priestess, there is an increasing tendency (common throughout society) to a very personal kind of relativism. Relativism isn’t just a cultural phenomenon; not just the result of substandard education or poor catechesis. It’s Original Sin.

It’s okay to lie, if the lie is true for you. After all, your actions – which are justified by your needs – will only be misunderstood by others if spoken of truthfully. This is often reinforced by enablers. How many times did we hear Bill Clinton’s defenders assert that the president’s lies were justified, because the matter under consideration was “just sex”?

In some sense, it has ever been thus. When Yahweh gave the enumerated tablets to Moses, number nine was the prohibition against false witness. Or, as it is expressed in Proverbs (6:16-19), God hates: “a false witness who breathes out lies . . .”

But in a subjective media age, the Ninth Eighth Commandment has taken on a whole new relevance. Depending upon who is judging, one man’s sin is another’s righteousness. What matters is passion not probity. The attitude of the liar when exposed isnt shame but megalomaniacal sulking.

Ray Lewis may be innocent of doping, and utterly sincere when he says, as he did at the Super Bowl media day, “My only purpose in life is to find different ways to help people and encourage people and make our world a better place.” However, if more evidence comes out and Lewis is caught in a lie, he’ll still insist he’s not culpable, because he has convinced himself that, because the deer-antler extract is undetectable, and because he judged it essential to his recovery, which itself was necessary to fulfill his God-ordained gridiron destiny, using PEDs cannot be a violation of his personal covenant with God.

But here’s a prediction: If he ends up testifying before Congress, he won’t tearfully obey the Ninth Eighth Commandment; he’ll stoically invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Postscript: Readers may find a column by ESPN
s Bill Simmons, published after this one, of some interest.

Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing, senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA. He is the author of six books and is a former Literary Editor of National Review. The Compleat Gentleman, read by Christopher Lane, is available on audio.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (12)Add Comment
written by Michael, February 01, 2013
an excerpt from "The Second Coming" by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
written by Grump, February 01, 2013
The NFL only takes urine samples to test players, not blood, which is able to detect the presence of the deer antler spray. There will be no hard evidence. However, Lewis' bizarre and convoluted refusal to address his past by insisting it's "God's time" and otherwise rebuffing legitimate media questioning is proof enough of his guilt.

How is it that Americans seek their heroes among the ranks of pro athletes, politicians and celebrities? Even if they find them the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson apply: "Every hero becomes a bore at last."

written by anon, February 01, 2013
We worship sports. It is out of control. Is it surprising that these "athletes" take drugs, lie, and act immorally? Tens of thousands of people yell and cheer for them as if it were a religion. More than a religion in fact.

If we want better sports figures stop the worship by the fanatics who support them.
written by Walter, February 01, 2013
"It’s okay to lie, if the lie is true for you. After all, your actions – which are justified by your needs – will only be misunderstood by others if spoken of truthfully. This is often reinforced by enablers."

Particularly poignant, given the news about Cardinal Mahony today. Unfortunately, this type personal relativism (and sometimes, a mypoic institutional relativism) has infected many, including priests and bishops, who have scandalized the Church as the sex abuse scandals continue to unfold.
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., February 01, 2013
Thank you, Titus. For a moment there I was wondering what any of the infractions cited had to do with lust. It was just another RICA gap, perhaps. That was not as bad as the one I heard when a Catholic "Apologist" on the radio told a caller that the Novus Ordo was merely an exact English translation of the Tridentine Mass! He never answered by queriy, as I'm sure Dr. Miner will yours, Good Titus There's trouble in Tiber River City!
written by Brad Miner, February 01, 2013
Titus & Thomas: Thanks for the corrections. Mea culpa. -ABM
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., February 01, 2013
Thanks for coming through, Dr. Miner. I knew that you would! Yes, there really is a lot of relativism afoot that is truly connected with Old Number Nine, much of it related to resistance of Humani Vitae. It is not uncommon to hear members of parish ministires speak as if this is an optional teaching of the Church. Some of them might not be aquainted with heterodoxy. Last year a a major KofC event I was having a fraternal converstaion with a fellow who had graduated from a Jesuit college that was a tradtional rival of my own alma mater. When I lameneted that yet a third West Coast Catholic college was holding a gay-apprreciation week my fellow knight looked at me as if I'd advoacted the return of slavery and said "Where is your charity?" When I asked him if if he thought it charitable to confirm others in their mortal sins he demanded again with fire in eye his to know here my charity was. It was good thig that the beginning of the ceremony intervened; I'm sure on-lookers thought that we were about to draw swords. I pray that the new team of Bishops we have on the West coast will inform the faithful that this sort of relativism places one outsdie of full communion with the Chruch. Relativism is merely Nihilism's slightly more comely sister.
written by Brad Miner, February 01, 2013
@ Titus: I failed to address your question about the liar in the T'eo affair. As I wrote, T'eo knew of the fraud for some time before divulging it. That's more omission than commission, so we can chalk that up to a young man rather overwhelmed by bizarre circumstances. The true villain in the Kekua Affair is Tuiasosopo. That said, T'eo has admitted that he made rather more of his relationship with Kekua than was ever the case, although that may be second-guessing himself.
written by Tom, February 01, 2013
Pointless judgementalism.
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., February 01, 2013
@Tom: To your accusation of "pointelss judgementalism" I must respond that your charge itself consistutes quite purpseful indifferentism. None of us is being judgemental about the state of other mortals' souls. Those of us who are responsible for the nurturing of the young, whether they be our own offspring or those entrusted to us in either secular or religious education are bound to tell them the difference between good and evil. It is no act of charity to hand someone a serpent for an egg by telling him or her that the wisdom of Satan's world can be followed in instead of the Teachings of Christ just because one find the former more pleasing. Hm? Might you be the very Tom whom I heard tell people that that the Council of Jeruselem exmpepted Christians form Hebrew laws regarding secula purity? Do please forgive me if I have you confused with another.
written by dr pence, February 05, 2013
Detective question: Was brad miner raised a Protestant--9th commandment error
written by Brad Miner, February 05, 2013
@Dr. Pence: As readers who've been around The Catholic Thing for any length of time know, yes, I am a convert. I was raised in the Methodist church. Some habits (of mind) die hard. -ANM

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author