Faith, Society and Justice.


Happy New Year to you all!

A great blogging start to the year I have to say.

Credit where credit is due; @PartTimePilgrim drew my attention to these great posts yesterday morning. So good, I felt I had to share some sort of conspectus with my own readers.

First off, you must read this post by CCFather. It is concise, yet contains all the main historical, social and philosophical developmental points of the argument. CCFather correctly identifies that what is missing in broader society is any real concept of what marriage really is. We must address this fundamental point before we can begin to be heard on issues like same sex marriage.

It is extremely valuable that he has placed the currently position squarely in its correct temporal context, i.e. that it is not first step 'on a path that we shouldn't take, but rather because..[it constitutes] a further step on a path we have already gone too far along'.

@PartTimePilgrim suggests the penultimate paragraph of Ben's blog presents us with a comprehensive manifesto:
If our society is to have any hope of surviving as a civilised society, we need to re-discover the true meaning of marriage and of human sexual intimacy, and along with that the importance (and possibility) of chastity. We need to re-establish life-long commitment and fidelity as the norm, to remove the concept of recreational sex (including from our entertainment and media) and re-balance society so that it is normative for children to grow up in stable, functional, nuclear families.
Over on That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill, there is a similar note struck, although, possibly in even more stark relief, embedded with personal experience, Laurence dares to suggest that:
the sexual liberation and liberal attitudes towards drugs has worked well for those who can adopt a libertine lifestyle with wealth and impunity, but not so well for those who embrace the lifestyle and who live in poverty - on the ever-scanning radar of social services and the health authorities - or even those who just want to have a family and struggle by because, let's face it, everything is in the 'best interests of the child'.
He paints a scary picture which might seem hard to recognise for those of us who seldom mingle with those close to the poverty line in our society, but is at the same time all too familiar for those that do.
We say of this generation that it is 'anything goes', but it really isn't that. It is 'anything goes' for the rich and 'anything but' for the poor. When the poor do what the rich do, the rich are horrified and strip them of their rights, while refusing to amend their own lives.
This is something I recognise and regularly comes up in my weekly meetings with my brother-in-law, who is a surgeon, at the local curry house. We are both reasonably successful, affluent and educated, although both of us come from a background firmly grounded in council estates and the 'working classes'. This means we have a tendency to pontificate on this sort of issue. The changes we recognise in where we came from and our concerns for society at large. Laurence goes on to propose:
Of course, it won't stop with the poor, but the mentally ill, the others deemed 'unfit' and presumably, if the Royal Society's Richard Dawkins and all his Royal Society mates gets his and their way, the religious types, too. That was certainly the implication of what Dawkins was saying when he said that being brought up Catholic was 'worse than child abuse'.
...which of course alludes to Dawkins' comment I blogged about here and continues his theme of a correlation between societies direction freed from the moral constraints of faith.
@PartTimePilgrim wonders if the suffering of the poor is more of an unintended consequence than the planned outcome (which caused me to think of Mt 26:11). But @Michael_Merrick provides this interesting conspectus of thought through the ages (which confirms Jesus' words).

Michael posts thus:

This from the Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens,
A new elite, wealthy and comfortable beyond the fantasies of any previous generation, abandons penal codes (especially against the possession of narcotics) and abolishes marital fidelity so as to licence its own comfortable indulgence. And so it permits the same freedoms to the poor, who suffer far more from this dangerous liberty than do the rich.
Compare this with Chesterton, writing in Utopia of Usurers,
Modern broad-mindedness benefits the rich; and benefits nobody else. It was meant to benefit the rich; and meant to benefit nobody else.
Also, see Edmund Burke, who in A Vindication of Natural Society wrote,
so heavy is the Aristocratick Yoke, that the Nobles have been obliged to enervate the Spirit of their Subjects by every sort of Debauchery; they have denied them the Liberty of Reason, and they have made them amends, by what a base Soul will think a more valuable Liberty, by not only allowing, but encouraging them to corrupt themselves in the most scandalous Manner. They consider their Subjects as the Farmer does the Hog he keeps to feast upon. He holds him fast in his Stye, but allows him to Wallow as much as he pleases in his beloved Filth and Gluttony.
And then Hilaire Belloc, writing in Europe and the Faith,
For it is always to the advantage of the wealthy to deny general conceptions of right and wrong, to question a popular philosophy and to weaken the drastic and immediate power of the human will, organised throughout the whole community. It is always in the nature of great wealth… to push on to more and more domination over the bodies of men – and they do so best by attacking fixed social constraints’
And lastly Tacitus, writing in the Agricola (Book 1:21)
Inde etiam habitus nostri honor et frequens toga; paulatimque discessum ad delenimenta vitiorum, porticus et balinea et conviviorum elegantiam. Idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset.  [ Step by step they (the native Britons) were led to things which dispose to vice, the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance, they called civilization, when it was but a part of their servitude.]
And to think, modern day ‘liberals’ claim it is only they who are the champions of ‘freedom’. If you set much store by any of these words, then you might be inclined to think this a complete inversion of the truth.

And indeed, I think Michael has a very good point. I recently commented on the fact that some modern thinkers have just stumbled on the wisdom of the Church's social teaching, some 119 years after Pope Leo XIII used Rerum Novarum to speak about the need for a moral approach to social thinking, balancing on one hand compassion for the poor and respect for the dignity of labour and, on the other hand, for respect for property and the family—all held together by the core idea of the common good.

More recently, Blessed John Paul II has given us the great gift of Fides et ratio which argues that faith without reason leads to superstition. Meanwhile reason without faith leads to nihilism and relativism. He writes:
Through philosophy's work, the ability to speculate which is proper to the human intellect produces a rigorous mode of thought; and then in turn, through the logical coherence of the affirmations made and the organic unity of their content, it produces a systematic body of knowledge.... [T]his has brought with it the temptation to identify one single stream with the whole of philosophy. In such cases, we are clearly dealing with a "philosophical pride" which seeks to present its own partial and imperfect view as the complete reading of all reality.... (§4)
Although reason creates a "systematic body of knowledge," the Pope avers, its completeness is illusory:
Yet the positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them. Sundered from that truth, individuals are at the mercy of caprice, and their state as person ends up being judged by pragmatic criteria based essentially upon experimental data, in the mistaken belief that technology must dominate all. It has happened therefore that reason, rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the human capacity to know the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned. (§5)
Without a grounding in spiritual truth, he continues, reason has:
...given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread scepticism. Recent times have seen the rise to prominence of various doctrines which tend to devalue even the truths which had been judged certain. A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today's most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth. Even certain conceptions of life coming from the East betray this lack of confidence, denying truth its exclusive character and assuming that truth reveals itself equally in different doctrines, even if they contradict one another. On this understanding, everything is reduced to opinion; and there is a sense of being adrift. While, on the one hand, philosophical thinking has succeeded in coming closer to the reality of human life and its forms of expression, it has also tended to pursue issues—existential, hermeneutical or linguistic—which ignore the radical question of the truth about personal existence, about being and about God. Hence we see among the men and women of our time, and not just in some philosophers, attitudes of widespread distrust of the human being's great capacity for knowledge. With a false modesty, people rest content with partial and provisional truths, no longer seeking to ask radical questions about the meaning and ultimate foundation of human, personal and social existence. In short, the hope that philosophy might be able to provide definitive answers to these questions has dwindled. (§5)
How prophetic his words appear in the light of the discussion outlined above?

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