What Caused the Cause?

“What caused the cause?” is a common question asked by problem solvers and there is a relating concept in problem solving theory known as Toyota’s Five Whys. The “five” in the name represents how far one may need to dig to get to the root of a matter, although it’s not always five.

My car won’t start…
Why? – The battery is dead (1st why)
Why? – The alternator is not functioning (2nd why)
Why? – The alternator belt is broken (3rd why)
Why? – The alternator belt was worn beyond its limits (4th why)
Why? – The vehicle was not maintained per the service schedule (5th why—root cause)

An average mechanic might stop after answering the 3rd why and then take action. Once a broken belt is observed, it can be replaced and you’re back on the road. An exceptional mechanic, however, will ask more questions. Why did the belt break? Was it the wrong kind of belt? Was it the right belt, but installed incorrectly? Did other parts of the vehicle, like the alternator pulley, cause the belt to wear prematurely? What other belts are about to break on this car?

Of course, we can continue to ask why beyond the root cause noted above. Why wasn’t the vehicle maintained according to the service schedule? Are parts not readily available? Is it too expensive to maintain for the customer? Is the customer just lazy? These are all good questions, but not for the mechanic to answer. The maintenance questions should be directed to the customer or maybe the design team.

In terms of our Catholic faith, we can talk about dissent from Catholic teaching as a general problem, but more specifically, the bulk of the rebellion involves something to do with human sexuality. Abortion (infanticide), homosexuality, pornography, contraception, women’s ordination, fornication, marriage confusion, divorce and remarriage all have some aspect of sexuality about them.

The year 1960 might as well be marked as the official kick-off for “the cause”, since this is when the FDA approved the first birth control pill and the sexual revolution began, or at least gained a lot of speed. The sexual revolution greatly increased dissent from Church teaching, but this article from “The Catholic Thing” gets into “What caused the cause?” by citing some specifics about a broader revolution that occurred before 1960.

The article suggests that rejecting God as our moral authority and replacing Him with ourselves is the venom that festers behind the sexual revolution. Now, rejecting God is nothing new in the history of mankind, but moral relativism picked-up steam in decades before 1960 with people like Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead promoting a kind of secular “doctrine” that says morality is a human social construct.

Per the article, many college professors of anthropology or sociology would assign books by Benedict and Mead as required reading. A young college crowd, particularly interested in justifying sexual freedom, would provide fertile ground for an idea like cultural relativism to take root. And we can push the idea further still. Why stop at rejecting God as the source of our moral authority when we can reject the surrounding culture as well.

Today, absolute autonomy is a key “dogma” which has slithered its way into modern thinking. This relates to the belief that no deity, church, person or society can tell you what is right or wrong (for you); you need to figure that out for yourself, and thus make your own meaning to life, and thus be your own god. Live your truth, or follow your conscience as some might say…not knowing what a well-formed conscience would even be like.

“… the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5)

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  1. Root Cause Analysis helped me 20 years ago move: from unbelief to belief and from the Pill to NFP.
    I often wonder that if I was not an engineer and liked to question, if I’d have figured it out. Especially when all the priests I knew said otherwise.

  2. – i should also mention that the best Root Cause Analyst is a small child questioning… “why this?..&. why that?.. ”
    and so it is:
    “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it”

  3. King David : That soldier who laid his hands on the Ark – he was only trying to be helpful.

    Nathan : It is not for us to question the ways of the Lord.

    King David : I question nothing, yet the sun was hot that day, the man had been drinking wine, all were excited when the ark began to fall. Is it not possible that the man might have died naturally from other causes?

    Nathan : All causes are from God!

    David and Bathsheba (1951)

  4. God the Father: “David, have you ALWAYS questioned?? ”
    Me: (No,, No,,)
    God the Father: “but I KNOW you’re Really.. Like That David.. “

  5. “… the snake said to the woman: . . . . God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5)

    So, self-will and gnosis caused the cause.

  6. @ David WS,
    Children can ask very good objective questions since they have fewer preconceived notions.
    I knew a guy who wanting to learn about a topic, of which he knew little or nothing, would go to the library and look for children’s books on the subject because these books tend to get to the point and assume you have no preconceive notions about it.

  7. What caused the cause? Atheism and atheism imposed by our government on the people in violation of our First Amendment anti establishment clause. No God, no soul, no personhood, no sovereignty, no freedom.
    “We, the people” are being treated as subjects, slaves, a tribe, a pack, a herd, anything and everything that makes our masters more equal than the equal. How do the elected officials represent their constituents if they have no acknowledged soul for them and for us?

  8. Paul VI’s all too public, all too lengthy, “investigation into the possible legitimacy of the pill didn’t help matters, Just as Francis’s accompanying, walking with and pastoral care giving communion to improper second marriage, and unrepentant Catholics will ever strengthen anyone’s faith, never mind save them from Hades..

  9. Dear Faithless Generation,
    Why do people contracept? – because they want to have sex without children. Is NFP hard? -no, it’s really about awareness and fasting typically for 10 days. Why do people abort children? – because they want to get rid of the conception that should not have happened. Why do people divorce? -because they never quite gave themselves to the other, possibly because they had sex with others. Do couples who use NFP have a lower divorce rate? -yes, 0.5 percent. What is contraceptive sex? -it’s an act against the beginning -anti life and makes sex nothing more than mutual masturbation. Has the Church always Taught against contraception? -yes, in fact prior to 1930 all Christian Churches taught against contraception. Now only the Church Founded by Christ remains. Why are children living in poverty? – the main course is divorce and single parents. Why are there so many mothers as single parents? -these are the children that were not aborted. Why do people believe less in what the Church Teaches more today? – they’ve been told for 50 years that “you really don’t need to follow what Christ Teaches through the Church.” Why has homosexual sexual acts been accepted? -because contraception leads directly to that. Why are there so many scandals in the Church? – because salt loosing it’s flavor is trampled and because not believing in what Christ Teaches, and thinking that sexual abstinence is impossible, and becoming your own god has it’s effects.

  10. I would say the root problem was identified by Miss Anscombe in her 1958 essay, Modern Moral Philosophy: “In present-day philosophy an explanation is required how an unjust man is a bad man, or an unjust action a bad one; to give such an explanation belongs to ethics; but it cannot even be begun until we are equipped with a sound philosophy of psychology. For the proof that an unjust man is a bad man would require a positive account of justice as a “virtue.” This part of the subject-matter of ethics, is however, completely closed to us until we have an account of what type of characteristic a virtue is – a problem, not of ethics, but of conceptual analysis – and how it relates to the actions in which it is instanced: a matter which I think Aristotle did not succeed in really making clear. “

    Are we much further forward?

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