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    Ah yes, but . . .

You know, Brian, another of the things I learnt on the weekend (I am not very familiar with Chesterton), is that he always began a retort by focussing on where his adversary was quite right. "I object to a quarrel because it always interrupts an argument." I think I'll follow his example.

I absolute agree that my last post categorised and simplified and could infer, quite absurdly, that only two interests influenced Vatican II and its aftermath. However, I am unwilling to concede that this is innately "reactionary", nor do I apologise for it.

The Concilium -- Communio dialogue persists in the ethereal world of theoretical philosophy, which does not seek to simplify, but rather refine our thinking of, the real world, even "real" intellectual trends. This is not unique to reactionary and conservative schools, but is universally true of high intellectualism. Take the utopianism of anarchism, or Marx's too-cute class warfare theory as examples from the progressive (regressive?) left.

Of course, even these claims are simple and too general. I don't mean to suggest that philosophy is dualist, separating "Truth" from the truth. Marx makes many good points, and similarly, I think the communio position is grounded in historical reality.

I am just finishing my undergraduate degree in philosophy. In the past few years I have especially drawn on Raimond Gaita, author of Good and Evil and A Common Humanity. Gaita is a great example of a deep and sincere secular humanist. One of his stated aims in Common Humanity is to express the ethical value of the human person without drawing on religious language. Thus:

How can we justify our respect for Nazi war criminals like Rommel? Many would sooner claim he is a monster than a person like us. Gaita says we can see Rommel's humanity by conceiving that someone with whom we can identify -- perhaps his mother -- does love him. He is infinitely precious to someone, which should inspire us to show him the respect and just treatment all human beings deserve.

I don't want to dismiss the secular humanist project of reconciling Christian ethics with our post-Christian (or at least pluralist) age. These attempts can deepen the Christian's understanding of Jesus' paradoxical commandment to love. In this regard, Gaita's analysis is very helpful. But, I really do believe that the project itself is doomed to fail. It's all there in Augustine's City of God (which I confess I haven't read). We can try to mimic God's city, but since all good comes from him, we can't succeed. Simone Weil recognised this. After years of political activism in anarchist and communist circles, her mystical experiences helped her realise that true justice is supernatural. A just regime is born out of its member's participation in divine love. There is no escaping the Pope's claim that it is only in the Incarnation that man can recognise himself.

Of course, I do not wish to claim that within 20 years we will live in some sort of Orwellian society with dashes of Nietzshe and Hiterlism for good measure. I don't think McIntyre thinks either. "Nihilism" can be adopted in degrees. I do claim that positions like Singer's will continue to multiply. There's no doubt in my mind: the sanctity of life is under attack, and only a Christian ethic can show us the value of the newborn child suffering from spina bifida, causing tremendous grief for her parents, and vainly struggling to draw each breath.

Brian, what is your understanding of modern culture? I believe it is "post-Christian" in a very deep sense. Its intellectual foundation is in the Enlightenment, which was a violent rebellion against Christendom. This sounds pessimistic, but I do not mean it to. There is hope for the future, but no good can come from "baptising contemporary culture". The Anti-Christ will not be baptised.

~ Raphael.

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