Daily Archives: May 11, 2007

No matter how carefully you say it…

you will still be misunderstood.

Not withstanding my comments in the previous blog, here is an example of a perfectly moderate, sane and clear argument and what the media made of it. The scene is Italy once more, the source is John L. Allen, and the speaker this time is Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, President of the Italian Bishops Conference:

When the correct, self-transcendent conception of the human person is lost, there are no longer any criteria for distinguishing good and evil. When the dominant criterion is public opinion, or democratic majorities – which can become anti-democratic and violent – then it becomes very difficult to say ‘no.’ Why say no to various forms of legally protected co-habitation, thereby creating alternative figures to the family? Why say no to incest, like in England where a brother and sister have children, live together and love one another? Why say no to the party of pedophiles in Holland, if we’re talking about two free people who come together? It’s important to remember these aberrations against common sense, which are already present in embryonic form. Today we’re scandalized, but if ethical criteria regarding human nature fall away, criteria which are given in nature and not created by culture, it’s difficult to say ‘no.’ If the highest criterion of good and evil is individual freedom, in the sense of self-determination, of free choice, then one, two, or more people can do what they like, because an objective criterion on the moral level no longer exists – a criterion which regards the human being not in terms of freedom of choice, but as a given of nature.

As Allen reports it, the Italian media reduced this reasoned argument to:

Bagnasco compares civil unions to incest and pedophilia.

“As a result”, says Allen, “Bagnasco was assigned a personal security detail, and precautionary measures were taken by police at the cathedral in Genoa.” AND he received a death threat in the mail in the form of a bullet wrapped in a picture of the archbishop with a swastika cut into it.

Nice. Ah well. I guess this is an instance of what Archbishop Chaput meant when he quoted Georges Bernanos as saying:

When trouble is looking for you, it’s primarily a question of facing it, since it would be still more dangerous to turn your back on it. In that case, prudence is only the alibi of the cowardly.

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Hey, I’m on a roll now…

The old bloggin’ fever has bitten me again!

Here at Sentire Cum Ecclesia we (I use the royal “we”) have some pretty strong views. And we like to argue them forcefully. But if I ever take up an arguement it is because I believe the opposing view has reasons for their opinions that are worthy of engagement. In other words, if you ever find one of your dearly cherished opinions attacked on this page, please take it as a compliment. And return the compliment, by leaving a comment pointing out my error. (If you want to read more in this vein, go to the First Things blog where Robert T. Miller says:

Whenever two people disagree, each is committed to saying that the other’s view is false and that his arguments are unsound; that’s just what disagreement means, and no one should be upset at this.

)At the same time, I do believe there are certain rules of engagement and respect that mean that if I really want to make my point, I have to make it in a balanced and sane manner without getting too hysterical. This point is made in the recent case reported by John L. Allen of Archbishop Angelo Amato’s rather intemperate

address to hospital chaplains in Italy in which he denounced abortion and euthanasia as forms of “terrorism with a human face” [and]…cited a series of contemporary evils, including abortion clinics, which he called “slaughterhouses of human beings,” euthanasia, and “parliaments of so-called civilized nations where laws contrary to the nature of the human being are being promulgated, such as the approval of marriage between people of the same sex.

Now I happen to agree with him, but when you are addressing people who don’t agree with you, you have to moderate your language a little to achieve the desired effect. This point is made perfectly by the Opus Dei numerary and member of the Italian Parliament Paola Binetti, who said in response to the adverse publicity generated by Amato’s outburst:

Today, we are all the children of a culture that makes language an element that’s often more important than the content of what one says… Paraphrasing [Marshall] McLuhan, we can say that ‘language is the message.’ In these cases, we have to pay careful attention to express our values in a way that people will receive them, so that we’re not just proposing them, so to speak, for the sake of proposing them. This is the great challenge that all of us Catholics face in this moment.

It is a challenge which we here at
Sentire Cum Ecclesia desire to take up on a daily basis.

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"You can’t trust those people…"

An interesting comment which I have now heard from both a Jewish Rabbi and a Catholic Priest. The Jewish Rabbi has changed his mind because he attended a JCMA conference and met some of “those people”. Hopefully too the Catholic Priest is in the process of revising his opinion–with my encouragement, of course!

“Those people” are, of course, the Muslims. And I can’t understand for the life of me how a full quarter of the world’s population can be dimissed as untrustworthy simply because of their religion. Of course there are some who can’t be trusted. Just as there are people all over the world of all religions (and none) to whom I wouldn’t trust with my lunch money let alone anything more valuable. But step one in building a better and more harmonious future is: Trust.

And the best way to build trust is to get to know “those people”. A trip to Turkey is a good way of doing this (where you may conclude that you can’t understand “those people”, but you will nevertheless make a lot of extremely trustworthy friends), but for the fiscally challenged there is always JCMA: The Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia. Our 4th Annual residential conference is coming up in July (2-5), and it is the single best way to mix with other Australian Christians, Jews and Muslims I know of. I’ve been to all three so far and can heartily recommend it. Check them out at their website and get your application in now!

And just in case you thought that Jews and Christians are the real target of militant Jihadists (ie. the one’s you really can’t trust), you might find this article by the Italian Muslim academic Khaled Fouad Allam (“A totalitarian Islam”) illuminating.

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Seven Stories of Seven Bishops

If I thought that Turkey was a strange and wondrous place, where the paradigms of the rest of the world failed to apply, it is as nothing compared to China.

For a quick and powerful glimpse at the state of the Catholic Church in China, you have only to go to Sandro Magister’s column “Seven Bishops Tell the Story of the Church in China”. In these seven short bios of seven living or recently decease bishops, you get a quick but penetrating introduction to all the issues facing Chinese Catholics.

Take the time to read it. You will not regret it.

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Catching up with the news

After being in Turkey for two weeks and in recovery mode for one week, I am finally catching up with the news. I have ploughed my way through about 150 pages of news and commentary, including the print outs of all your blogs (dear readers) which you have posted over the last three weeks. A rather monumental job.

From all this, I have gathered that

a) the Motu has not been released;
b) the Lineamenta for next years Synod has;
c) the world has not blown up.

Hopefully, therefore, before my readership metre descends to 20000 leagues under the sea, Sentire Cum Ecclesia will once again be in operative mode and you will be able to return here for the most insightful and humourous commentary on all sorts of ecclesiastical trivia.

Bottom line: Don’t stop visiting this page!

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