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Sacredness down the slippery slope

By Fr Stephan Alexander

General Manager, CCSJ and AMMR


Have you ever experienced a bad fall? Most of us might say yes to that. I’ve had many slips, falls and tumbles in my time, especially when playing football in my younger days.

However, there’s one particularly memorable fall that now comes to mind. I was in Form 2 and a student at St Benedict’s College, La Romaine. The fall occurred when a group of students and I were walking through a ‘track’ on our way to play football at the school grounds, affectionately known as ‘The Commons’.

It rained earlier that day. The dirt track had a downward slope. It was muddy but we decided to go anyway. A few boys went before me. There were minor slips, but no one fell until yours truly.

At my turn, I slipped, fell on the seat of my pants, and slid straight down the track. It was difficult to control my action once I had slipped. Momentum meant that I continued sliding downhill.

This is a lesson taught in the study of ethics. It is usually referred to as the “slippery slope” principle. The concept suggests that we must be careful of the individual decisions we make because one seemingly minor decision today may lead to a potential trend in our decision making.

The effect springs from our rationalisation and/or justification of these small seemingly isolated decisions. We do something minor and harmless today and overlook the consequences.

Yet enough overlooking of those minor issues and we may find that a trend has started, which results in something currently unthinkable becoming easily accepted in the future.

Most of us are not bad people. We generally do not set out to do bad things yet after a sustained period of overlooking minor infringements it becomes easier to subconsciously ignore ethical issues when making decisions.

Actions such as driving illegally on the shoulder of the highway or paying an extra fee to get a driver’s licence don’t only have immediate consequences. They also condition us to be okay with or open to committing or overlooking similar and even more serious offenses.

As we progress down this slope, notice that our decisions become intentional and are no longer subconscious. We can move from a shrug of the shoulder and thinking ‘no one’s really getting hurt’ or ‘I can live with that’ to engaging in and openly postulating for realities that once seemed unthinkable.

Consider my slide down that muddy slope in the context of our apparent loss of respect for the sacred in Trinidad and Tobago.

During the period Wednesday, May 8, and Friday 10, it was reported in the local media that six murtis at the Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali in Curepe were destroyed by vandals.

Also, at approximately 1.45 a.m. on Friday 10, the Church of the Nativity at Crystal Stream, Diego Martin was broken into. As the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday highlighted in their article dated May 9, these are not isolated instances. There has been a trend of places of worship being attacked going back to 2023. I am aware that not all attacks on sacred spaces were reported and that similar attacks predate 2023.

In fact, in June 2018 in response to a series of break-ins at places of worship at that time, Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon stated the following;

I think it is that the secularisation of the city and of the country has meant that people no longer understand what is sacred. There was a time when you could leave your church, your temple, your mosque open and nobody would dare go in and do anything because they understood that this was a sacred space. Now that the sacredness of the country has gone or, in many people’s minds, there’s nothing sacred in our country anymore, it means that everything is up for grabs and that’s also part of the problem because that’s why we are having the crime and violence. If nothing is sacred, human life isn’t sacred, God isn’t sacred, the temple, the mosque, the church isn’t sacred, then we have this kind of breakdown that we now have. Until we can come back to a sense of the sacredness of all of life, then we’re going to have the problem that we are facing in our country. Secularity is not bringing us the solutions, it’s actually creating more of the problems that we are facing right now.


It’s interesting how Archbishop Jason connects the attack on sacred spaces to the lack of respect for life. That is, if life isn’t sacred, nothing else is. It’s also interesting that we didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that all life is no longer sacred.

Most Catholics would argue the opposite, yet our response to migrants, disabled persons, the mentally ill etc. suggests that some life is less sacred than others. This is why it’s essential to focus on human dignity and why my recent articles have served to bring this issue to the fore.

Remember, minor decisions can have major consequences. Until the sacredness of the human being is honoured, we will continue down that muddy slope.


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Photo by Francesco Califano on Unsplash