Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Pope, the state, and freedom: Part 1

The recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI was a state visit to the United Kingdom, and so it is not surprising that the Pope did not merely address the faithful, but also spoke to political leaders at Westminster Hall. And, it seems to me, if we are interested in the Pope’s views on matters of state, it is to his address at this meeting that we need to look. Here are some of my thoughts.

The third paragraph set the tone:
This country’s Parliamentary tradition owes much to the national instinct for moderation, to the desire to achieve a genuine balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it. While decisive steps have been taken at several points in your history to place limits on the exercise of power, the nation’s political institutions have been able to evolve with a remarkable degree of stability. In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.
In his third paragraph, the Pope considers the limits of state power, and says that “decisive steps have been taken at several points in [Britain’s] history to place limits on the exercise of power,” and this is something that he seems to approve of - as do libertarians, of course. There is more common ground with libertarians here: the Pope used the word “freedom” twice in this paragraph - and freedom was to be a major theme in the address, as he was to use the word a further five times. He spoke of Britain as “as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law.” That sums up our political tradition well, and this is something that libertarians are happy with.

The Pope also said “While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.” The interesting word here is ‘much.’ Catholic social teaching has ‘much’ in common with the British tradition - but how much? He didn’t say - but his comment about using different language is interesting. The most important features of Catholic social teaching would appear, from the Pope’s words, to be ‘safeguarding the unique dignity of every human person’ and ‘fostering the common good’ - rather than safeguarding freedom and the rule of law. So how do we safeguard the unique dignity of every human person? How do we foster the common good? One suspects that the Pope would agree that the rule of law, the equality of everyone before the law, and freedom of speech are important - but how important?

In paragraphs 5 and 6, the Pope spoke of the importance of ethics in public life.
There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence” (Caritas in Veritate, 37), so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore. A positive illustration of this is found in one of the British Parliament’s particularly notable achievements – the abolition of the slave trade. The campaign that led to this landmark legislation was built upon firm ethical principles, rooted in the natural law, and it has made a contribution to civilization of which this nation may be justly proud.”
It is about what we believe is right and wrong. And I suppose nobody is going to disagree. All political philosophy follows from beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. Libertarians, or example, believe that it is wrong for the state to deny people certain basic freedoms. Slavery, which the Pope mentioned, is an example of something that libertarians believe is wrong.

What about economics? The Pope said “There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world.” So - to what extent was the credit crunch caused by dishonesty? No doubt some Rothbardian will rush in and say that the Pope is quite right - that fractional reserve banking is fraud - but I don’t pretend to know about these things! Some people will say that it was caused to a large extent by greed, but greed is somewhat difficult to define. And to what extent was it caused by selfishness - i.e. a lack of care and concern for other people? If any economists are reading this, feel free to share your thoughts.

And so the Pope asked “Where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found?”, and replied that the answer is ‘reason’: “The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.” And the Pope went on to say that where we had religion without the corrective of reason or reason without the corrective of religion, things tended to go wrong - in both the political and religious sphere. “Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation.

This begs the question “Which religion?” Because they don’t all say the same things. Christianity, Islam, and Aztec religion all have rather different things to say. But it also raises further questions in my mind. Is the Pope basically suggesting that legislators, even though they may be basically secular people, need to listen more to the pronouncements of the Catholic Bishops, and the General Synod, and the Chief Rabbi, and other religious groups?

Because if that is what he is saying, it sounds very different to what I find in the Bible. The Bible tells of Old Testament prophets speaking to kings, and (perhaps more relevantly for our day) it tells us of the apostle Paul speaking to individuals in the political realm - such as Sergius Paulus, Festus and Felix (all of whom were Roman governors) and King Agrippa. I simply cannot imagine that the apostle Paul would have said to Sergius Paulus “You need to listen to what the priests at the temple of Aphrodite, and the rabbis of the synagogues, and the presbyters of the churches, and hear what they are saying.” Paul did not encourage rulers who were secularly minded people to listen to faith communities - he encouraged them to become Christians - presumably with the expectation that they would try to govern in accordance with the teaching of Jesus. It seems to me that the Pope’s approach is quite different.

And at this point, the Pope comes to one of his main points - the marginalization of religion:
In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.”
By the way, living, as I do, in a country where Christmas was not a public holiday until 1958, I can’t see why any Christian would be worried about whether or not we publicly celebrate Christmas. Scotland was at least as Christian in the first half of the 20th century as it is today.

And this brings us to two more of the Pope’s seven references to freedom.
“And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square.”
I’m not quite sure what the Pope meant when he spoke of Christians in public roles being required at times to act against their conscience. What does he mean by “acting against their conscience?” I suspect that he doesn’t mean doing something illegal or dishonest - but rather something that a Christian might believe is wrong, but that would be regarded by most people in Britain as quite acceptable. Employers have rights, too - and that should include the right to dismiss people who are not doing their job properly. A Christian who doesn’t like it should find alternative work. The problem arises when it is difficult to find alternative work - because one employer has a virtual monopoly in certain fields. And that situation most often arises when the employer is the state. If the roll of the state in modern Britain was rolled back, discrimination against Christians would cease to be a problem - and freedom would be extended.

(To be continued)

39 comments:

indigomyth said...

Glad to have you writing at length again.

I broadly agree with the sentiment of your post. However, I always find it interesting that certain types of Christians complain loudly about discriminated against, while at the same time claiming that their institutions, businesses etc, ought to be able to discriminate.

Case in point: The Christian sacked from BA, and the gay couple turned away from the BnB. In the former case, the Christian (of a certain kind) complains that the Christian has a legitimate right to employment, in the latter case, the gay couple have no right to be served. In the former case, discrimination is impermissible, in the latter case it is entirely just. Of course one could argue vice versa for certain homosexual activists. Both are such stupid positions.

Cranmer is back, and talks about the "persecution" of Christians being sacked from their jobs. And yet, by that logic, it must be the case the a homosexual fired from their job working for the Catholic church, must also have been "Persecuted".

Why are people so stupid?

indigomyth said...

Oh and from my limited knowledge (gathered from wikipedia), it would seem that Rothbard is correct, and fractional reserve banking is fraudulent.

(though I would trust most of Rothbard's conclusions about most things)

Young Mr. Brown said...

Indigomyth,

Basically, I agree with you.

However, I would make a distinction between the freedom that a private individual or body has with regard to what they can do, and the freedom that the state has.

As such, I believe that private employers and citizens should be free to discriminate however they like. If you want to ensure that no Christian or Chinese person works for your organisation, then that should be your right. It's your business and your business's money. For this reason I'm not sure if there should be any such thing as "unfair dismissal" from employment by a private sector employer.

However, I take the view that the state, using tax-payers' money, has no such freedom to discriminate - and that state sector employers should be liable for unfair dismissal. And this I take to be the view that most libertarians hold.

For that reason, I take the view that the case of Duke Amachree, (see also here) which Cranmer mentions, is, on the face of it, a case where a state body has acted in a way which appears to be unfair. While he may not have been discriminated against for being a Christian, I don't think that his dismissal was reasonable. And I don't think a state organisation should be allowed to behave that way.

Albert said...

Isn't the Pope's point to open up discussion? I suspect what he wants us to think about is whether equality legislation can really operate without resulting in discrimination, and since it is discrimination that it seeks to avoid, the point is that nothing can proceed from such a premiss without resulting in contraduiction. Instead, we need a metaphysical framework to help us distinguish between just and unjust discrimination.

It's when that question is raised that secularism begins to look embarrassed because it has carefully removed the metaphysical categories necessary for responding to that question. Indeed, the more aggressive secularism wishes to exclude those voices which appeal to precisely those metaphysical categories their own secular voices really need.

Regarding other religions, I think that the Holy Father simply means that in our pluralistic society, everyone has a just right to speak and to be heard on public matters, not only those who have secular views. It would be hard to see that scripture disagrees with this, given the many comments it makes about the just claims of rulers who are not Christians.

indigomyth said...

//However, I take the view that the state, using tax-payers' money, has no such freedom to discriminate - and that state sector employers should be liable for unfair dismissal. And this I take to be the view that most libertarians hold.//

Well, yes I agree, obviously. But then, the State has no rights as such. SO obviously, the State has the same duty to protect the Rights of Christians as those of homosexuals. But then, the ideal State is one so minute that it would not matter if it was Christian, Communist, Nazi, Islamist etc etc.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

Glad to hear from you again! I have to say, I have been thinking about you during this time of Pope visitation. Did you go along? Did you think it went well?

//Instead, we need a metaphysical framework to help us distinguish between just and unjust discrimination. //

Or we could do away with the whole business, and say that all discrimination (by private companies and individuals) is entirely permissible. This applies as much for the BNP with black people, for the Catholic adoption agencies and homosexuals, Gay businesses and Christians, or any other factor.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Hello Albert,

I'm glad to have your thoughts on this matter.

"I suspect what he wants us to think about is whether equality legislation can really operate without resulting in discrimination, and since it is discrimination that it seeks to avoid, the point is that nothing can proceed from such a premiss without resulting in contraduiction. Instead, we need a metaphysical framework to help us distinguish between just and unjust discrimination."

Yes, I'm sure that is what the Pope has in mind.

"Regarding other religions, I think that the Holy Father simply means that in our pluralistic society, everyone has a just right to speak and to be heard on public matters, not only those who have secular views. It would be hard to see that scripture disagrees with this, given the many comments it makes about the just claims of rulers who are not Christians."

Again, I don't disagree with you. I do feel that in Britain at the moment, everyone (well, almost everyone) does have a right to be heard on public matters. Ann Widdecombe, for example, speaks with a very non-secular perspective - something that cannot be said for Tony Blair, but we'll let that pass . . . .


Christians will be listened to if they are engaging with the terms of the debate - which involves establishing philosophical common ground with others in the public square.

Sometimes that isn't easy, and some Christians trying to engage in debate sound a bit like Richard Dawkins at a meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference trying to engage in theological debate! Ann Widdecombe, it seems to me, is fairly effective.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Indigomyth,

"But then, the ideal State is one so minute that it would not matter if it was Christian, Communist, Nazi, Islamist etc etc."

Exactly.

"Or we could do away with the whole business, and say that all discrimination (by private companies and individuals) is entirely permissible."

But we'll still need the metaphysical framework to decide whether discrimination by the state is just or unjust - because it will be a long, long time before the state gets so minute that cases of state discrimination disappear.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Thanks for thinking of me during the Papal visit. I did go, got very close to the Holy Father - one of the great moments of my life. It was a huge success because whereas the media had built him up to some authoritarian rabid fundamentalist, what people found was a rather grandfatherly figure talking softly about reason.

Regarding your position on doing away with discrimination - that would certainly be more coherent than what we endure which seems random and therefore unjust. The trouble is, that (following YMB) we still need a moral framework to decide what is acceptable, and that I think requires metaphysic, which more or less means we need to give up the present secular model in favour of one that doesn't foreclose the discussion in one direction.

YMB,

Christians will be listened to if they are engaging with the terms of the debate - which involves establishing philosophical common ground with others in the public square.

The Holy Father would be proud of you! With your understanding of faith and reason, I sometimes wonder why you're not a Catholic!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Thanks for thinking of me during the Papal visit. //

Well, you are one of the most intelligent communicators that I have talked with on the internet.

//we still need a moral framework to decide what is acceptable, and that I think requires metaphysic, which more or less means we need to give up the present secular model in favour of one that doesn't foreclose the discussion in one direction.//

It depends what you mean by "metaphysic" - if all discussion of morality (which would encompass Human Rights) then I would agree.

Having considered your previous enquiries regarding my personal ethical system, after some reading and research I think that rational ethical egoism is one that appeals to me, and seems to most accurately describe the ethical system I work within.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Well, you are one of the most intelligent communicators that I have talked with on the internet.

Thanks for that, I have the same opinion of you.

It depends what you mean by "metaphysic" - if all discussion of morality (which would encompass Human Rights) then I would agree.

I do meant that, though I would want to extend it further. I think, that we need to move away from banal scientism. We cannot test moral claims in a laboratory. In short, we need to recover a sense of human nature, without which all our moral thinking will be building castles in the sky.

I think that rational ethical egoism is one that appeals to me, and seems to most accurately describe the ethical system I work within.

Does that mean you've altered your position somewhat?

Albert said...

If I may add, I think that Pope Benedict exemplifies all that is best in Catholic thought - the proper balance of faith and reason. What he said in Westminster Hall was fantastic. Deo gratias!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//We cannot test moral claims in a laboratory. In short, we need to recover a sense of human nature, without which all our moral thinking will be building castles in the sky.//

I agree absolutely with the first part of your comment, but I find it conflicts with the second part of your comment. Surely we can test human nature in a laboratory - examining psychology, biochemistry, neurology etc. Then we can turn to our examining of history, and corroborate our theories with observations of human history.

Given my pessimistic view of human nature, and my appreciation of the barbaric and violent impulses in mankind, I would be hesitant to secure morality too firmly in "Human nature", because at least part of human nature (at times I think the bulk), consists of nothing more than bestial urges and base desires.

I think, if we take too much allowance of human nature, then our moral system (regarding human rights) will become too flexible, too accommodating of the violent natures that plague us all. Though, of course, were we to not have those violent natures, it would not be necessary to enact any legislation guarding such rights.


//Does that mean you've altered your position somewhat?//

No, not a jot of it. My political position is still firmly libertarian, however now I have a firmer grasp of my personal philosophy. Egoism and libertarianism work quite well together, hence Ayn Rand.


//If I may add, I think that Pope Benedict exemplifies all that is best in Catholic thought - the proper balance of faith and reason. What he said in Westminster Hall was fantastic. Deo Albert,

//We cannot test moral claims in a laboratory. In short, we need to recover a sense of human nature, without which all our moral thinking will be building castles in the sky.//

I agree absolutely with the first part of your comment, but I find it conflicts with the second part of your comment. Surely we can test human nature in a laboratory - examining psychology, biochemistry, neurology etc. Then we can turn to our examining of history, and corroborate our theories with observations of human history.

Given my pessimistic view of human nature, and my appreciation of the barbaric and violent impulses in mankind, I would be hesitant to secure morality too firmly in "Human nature", because at least part of human nature (at times I think the bulk), consists of nothing more than bestial urges and base desires.

I think, if we take too much allowance of human nature, than our moral system (regarding human rights) will become too flexible, too accommodating of violent natures that plague us all. Though, of course, were we to not have those violent natures, it would not be necessary to enact any legislation guarding such rights.

//Does that mean you've altered your position somewhat?//

No, not a jot of it. My political position is still firmly libertarian, however now I have a firmer grasp of my personal philosophy. Egoism and libertarianism work quite well together, hence Ayn Rand.


//If I may add, I think that Pope Benedict exemplifies all that is best in Catholic thought - the proper balance of faith and reason. What he said in Westminster Hall was fantastic. Deo gratias!//

I still of course disagree with him fundamentally on many different things, as is to be expected, however he did come across as the sharp scalpel to the atheists blunt hammer.

I have to say though, I do not believe his visit will alter the political or social vista of the country one bit, so I am a bit perplexed about what the exact aim of his visit was? I understand that the Catholic church works on a different time-scale to most other human institutions, so perhaps he sees this as a seed that will grow with time?

indigomyth said...
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indigomyth said...
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indigomyth said...

Indeed, on further reflection, given that human rights are universal, pure, and incorruptible, I would say that we are bound to build a sky castle.

Albert said...

Surely we can test human nature in a laboratory - examining psychology, biochemistry, neurology etc...I would be hesitant to secure morality too firmly in "Human nature", because at least part of human nature (at times I think the bulk), consists of nothing more than bestial urges and base desires.

Yes and no. I think you are talking about testing some parts of human nature - but I am talking about the whole thing. We are not on my account reducible to passions and appetites.

I do not believe his visit will alter the political or social vista of the country one bit

I'm not so sure. The immediate response was the PM telling the Holy Father how religious we all were! But look, I don't think the Holy Father was looking to make Britain Catholic, he was wishing to point out some of the flaws and contradictions in the more aggressive kinds of secularism. We seem between the three of us here, to have reached a measure of agreement on this, and I think the question of what our morality is based on has been heard. We shall see.

given that human rights are universal, pure, and incorruptible, I would say that we are bound to build a sky castle.

I would have thought that if they have those characteristics, it is impossible to believe in them on the secular model.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//I would have thought that if they have those characteristics, it is impossible to believe in them on the secular model.//

Well, depends on the model of secularism that we use. However, we have to avoid the conflation of "secularism" and "relativism". The former (in its true sense) is good, the latter is evil. True relativism says that the mutilation of girls, the stoning of woman, the execution of Christians, is all a matter of "culture" or "social norms", and ought to be respected in its own right. Pah!

I was thinking on this, and I was wondering if we could consider a state of pure political anarchy, or anarcho-capitalism, as "secular". That it would have no overarching personal moral philosophy to impose on individuals, is sure. Or does "anarchy" exist on a separate spectrum to the secular - theocratic line. Your thoughts?

indigomyth said...

Oh and a further question, if you don't mind, re the Pope's visit.

To what extent do you think the visit was deliberately intended to attract or encourage disgruntled Anglicans to "swim the Tiber"? That the Vatican would have been aware of these factors seems certain, but how far would they have designed the visit to appeal, or would it have been a case of "we will do it the Catholic way, and if it appeals to some, then so be it"?

Albert said...

Thanks Indigomyth,

Well, depends on the model of secularism that we use.

You are absolutely right to pick me up on that - I was writing in haste. I don't meant the kind of secularism that allows all voices a say. That kind of secularism I agree with, and so does the Pope. I mean the kind of secularism that is a metaphyscial ideology - imposing a view of the world as merely matter and restricting the voices of those who refuse such nihilistic reductionism. In such a context, I think moral views are excluded, because moral views are not material or about material things. The former view of secularism is not relatavistic, the latter is by itself.

Regarding anarchy, I think it depends on how closely you want to define it. In general terms, it could go in either category (secular or theocratic). It certainly fits in the secular line, as I have said, but if one believed in a deity which was capricious then that too would be anarchic.

To what extent do you think the visit was deliberately intended to attract or encourage disgruntled Anglicans to "swim the Tiber"?

Clearly it wasn't so designed from the outset - since the timing is all wrong: the Vatican needed to wait for HMG to invite the holy Father. I don't think the visit myself had much to do with that. I can't see any particular content to it that flags up that kind of concern - though I haven't looked closely. I think he wanted to encourage Catholics and challenge the secularist elements in the state. And I think he succeeded in this.

But also - and contrary to what the media want us to think - the Catholic Church has simply been responding to those Anglicans (bishops in the first instance) who approached the Holy See and asked for a warm welcome. There is no "plot" on the part of the Vatican to poach, just a generous response to a plea from those in a tradition that this particular Pope already had a high regard for.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//just a generous response to a plea from those in a tradition that this particular Pope already had a high regard for.//

Hmm, but as far as I am aware (and cribbing something from the latest post over at Cranmer):

//In 1998, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), issued a commentary which listed Leo XIII’s declaration in Apostolicæ Curæ that Anglican orders are ‘absolutely null and utterly void’ //

Is this in conflict with his "high regard"?

//I meant the kind of secularism that allows all voices a say.//

Hmmm, perhaps. As I have mentioned before, I find the idea of any "majority" deciding what I can and cannot do, say or worship, whether it is an atheist, Christian or Muslim, to be highly uncomfortable. But I think this is more to do with a suspicion of democracy as a whole, rather than secularism particularly.

indigomyth said...

NB: Regarding the Apostolicæ Curæ. Granted it was something he had to do for Leo 13, however, since he became Pope, he has not retracted or altered it, so my question stands.

Albert said...

Indigomyth

Is this in conflict with his "high regard"?

Fair question. That's the paradox of Anglicanism. In some respects Anglicans retained much that is of value from a Catholic point of view. On the other hand they also did some pretty terrible things. They mangled their orders, abolished monasteries, burnt images and relics etc. Having a high regard for Anglicanism doesn't mean one signs up to all that. It means one respects the history of Anglican patristic scholarship, it's liturgical worship, pastoral ministry. Moreover, in speaking of a tradition he has a high regard for, I was referring mainly to the Anglo-Catholics, who, as their name implies have retained more that is of value from our point of view than (say) the Evangelicals or the liberals. But at the same time, I could say I have a high regard for evangelicals, while obviously having serious concerns about a number of aspects.

I find the idea of any "majority" deciding what I can and cannot do, say or worship, whether it is an atheist, Christian or Muslim, to be highly
uncomfortable.


Like YMB, you sometimes sound so Catholic. Consider this line from one Joseph Ratzinger: "Truth is not determined by majority vote". Let me be clearer, by good secularism, I mean one that does not exclude a voice simply because of its religious stance. How one deals with the dissonance is another matter.

Albert said...

Re Leo XIII. The papal decree was "irreformable", therefore, it probably isn't within the power of the HF to change it now. In the very least, he would have to make clear that Leo's document was correct at the time, but that Anglican orders had become valid subsequently (e.g. by the participation of validly ordained bishops in Anglican ordinations subsequent to 1896 - the so-called "Dutch touch"). But that would be a very complicated and very likely, unfruitful exercise. Moreover, the validity of Anglican orders has arguably been further compromised by women's ordination, which implies Anglicans are not intending to ordain to the same Catholic priesthood as Catholics ordain to.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Joseph Ratzinger: "Truth is not determined by majority vote".//

Yes, that is an excellent expression, perfectly summing up a libertarian position. If I were to have a t-shirt, then that would be a perfect slogan on it (after the Rothbard quotes, obviously).

Anyway, Albert, thank you for providing an excellent Catholic voice and perspective on these matters. Given that the only other Catholic who I (occasionally) read is the utterly useless Damian Thompson, you make a refreshing and enlightening break. But, I suppose Damian's tittle-tattle, and wafer-thin (no pun intended) "Catholo-gossip" appeals more to the general Catholic population than the thoughtful and measured perspective that you have.

Out of curiosity, are you officially involved with the Catholic church? Or are you just a keen supporter, as it were?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

If I were to have a t-shirt, then that would be a perfect slogan on it

Well you can buy one here!

Yes, Damien Thompson is good for laugh, and sometimes good for news, but there are clearly problems.

Yes, I am officially involved in the Catholic Church being (with Pope Benedict) "a humble worker in the Lord's vineyard".

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Yes, I am officially involved in the Catholic Church being (with Pope Benedict) "a humble worker in the Lord's vineyard".//

It does not surprise me, given the level of knowledge and depth of understanding that you have of Catholic doctrine. Have you perhaps been fortunate enough to study at the English College in Rome?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Have you perhaps been fortunate enough to study at the English College in Rome?

Alas, no. Do you know it?

It does not surprise me, given the level of knowledge and depth of understanding that you have of Catholic doctrine.

Being a convert helps even more - I had to think so hard in order to be able to overcome my natural English suspicion of the Catholic Church. This of course makes it easier for me to explain the Catholic faith to others - I had to explain it to myself first!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Alas, no. Do you know it?//

I only know of it. I was reading up on Vincent Nichols, and that is where he went to study before becoming an archbishop. I thought you might have come from a similar line.

//Being a convert helps even more - I had to think so hard in order to be able to overcome my natural English suspicion of the Catholic Church. This of course makes it easier for me to explain the Catholic faith to others - I had to explain it to myself first!//

Indeed, that can help. When I converted to libertarianism, I had to go through a process of learning. It was strange having to get rid of the neo-liberal tendencies that I had.

I must say, I would not have you down as a convert. You do not really write like a convert - converts tend to be overzealous, extreme, dismissive (from my admittedly limited experience of evangelicals, and the "born-again"). The balance and evenness which you write with, I would have pinned more on a born-Catholic.

Young Mr. Brown said...

"//Joseph Ratzinger: "Truth is not determined by majority vote".//

Yes, that is an excellent expression, perfectly summing up a libertarian position. If I were to have a t-shirt, then that would be a perfect slogan on it"


It's a slogan that I like as well.

Out of idle curiosity, and being a very nosy young bear, might I be allowed to ask how long it is since you swam the Tiber, Albert?

Albert said...

To you both,

converts tend to be overzealous, extreme, dismissive

I think I'm more joyful than zealous (the distinction is small but important) and so confident in the truth of Catholicism that I have no need to be dismissive. Moreover, Catholicism is quite unlike Evangelicalism in many respects. We are taught to rejoice in truth and goodness wherever it is found. It comes from the emphasis on nature/reason etc. that makes Catholicism so interested in philosophy.

might I be allowed to ask how long it is since you swam the Tiber

Fairly recently. I wasn't among the 1990s group that swam after the ordination of women.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

Somewhat late, and no doubt boring you with my constant reference to him, but thought this passage in the Ethics of Liberty would appeal to you:

//Murder is murder, theft is theft, whether undertaken by one man against another, or by a group, or even by the majority of people within a given territorial area. The fact that a majority might support or condone an act of theft does not diminish the criminal essence of the act or its grave injustice.//

M.N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, page 164

Albert said...

Thanks Indigomyth,

Yes, it's a good quotation - though he's not as pithy as the Holy Father!

I'll get a T-shirt with that on, if you get one from the Cardinal Ratzinger fan club!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//I'll get a T-shirt with that on, if you get one from the Cardinal Ratzinger fan club!//

Indeed. They do look like good T-shirts. I am a bit uncertain about the "fan of pop Benedict" bit, so may have to wear it back to front.

Albert said...

I am a bit uncertain about the "fan of pop Benedict" bit, so may have to wear it back to front

Good point. I think having a T-shirt with M.N. Rothbard on it may raise some eye-brows for me too!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Good point. I think having a T-shirt with M.N. Rothbard on it may raise some eye-brows for me too!//

Nah, you would have to be a pretty extreme politics wonk to know who Rothbard is.

Young Mr. Brown said...

"converts tend to be overzealous, extreme, dismissive"

I've been reflecting on that one.

In my opinion, it is difficult to generalise about "converts" because converts fall into different categories.

A Christian who moves from one theological tradition to another, or from one ecclesiastical tradition to another (often fairly gradually) - is a very different animal from someone who comes to Christian faith from outside - especially if, for the latter, it involves major and dramatic changes of outlook.

One can use the word "convert" to describe them both - but you are really talking about two different things.

My experience, by the way, is that the most overzealous, extreme and dismissive people are people who have spent their whole life within one idealogical tradition, whether it is evangelicalism, Catholicism, Islam, atheism, socialism, or whatever.

Young Mr. Brown said...

"you would have to be a pretty extreme politics wonk to know who Rothbard is."

Rubbish. Everybody knows that Rothbard is the author of Mozart was a Red.

;-)

indigomyth said...

YMB,

//One can use the word "convert" to describe them both - but you are really talking about two different things.//

Yes this is true. The picture is undoubtedly more complex then I was portraying it.

//My experience, by the way, is that the most overzealous, extreme and dismissive people are people who have spent their whole life within one idealogical tradition, whether it is evangelicalism, Catholicism, Islam, atheism, socialism, or whatever.//

Hmmm, I think we shall have to chalk this up to personal experience, because I have the opposite experience.

But your thoughts on the degree of ideological movement that the convert has experienced, are entirely correct, and that probably does have a significant influence on the level of zeal.

//Rubbish. Everybody knows that Rothbard is the author of Mozart was a Red.//

lol, I didn't until you just mentioned it. Oh to have been in the room when Rothbard met Rand!