The Christian's responsibility is that of being what have known, what has become art of their mind and heart. So we are responsible for being what we are, what we have been called to by Jesus in baptism and in the encounter that made it blossom. Our responsibility is that of being friends according to the encounter we have had. And this friendship cannot fail to have its effect on the relationships that are formed in the family, at work, and in social and political life. So we see the present-day relevance of what Alasdair MacIntyre said of the situation in Europe in the late Roman Empire:
"A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead - often not recognising fully what they were doing - was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness"
The friendship of those called by Jesus in baptism is the beginning of the community Macintyre speaks of, the beginning of a new culture, a new understanding of society and state, and of the world. In this way new human communities were born, which, to sue the words of John Paul II, are the only possible means for overcoming the desolation of much of modern society.The MANIFICAT meditation stopped there, but the original text continued to include the words of Pope John Paul II being referred to:
"The re-awakening of the Christian people to a greater awareness of the Church, building living communities in which the following of Christ becomes concrete, affects the relationships of which the day is made and embraces the dimensions of life: this is the only adequate answer to the secularising culture that threatens Christian principles and the moral values of society".There is a resonance to Pope Benedict XVI's remarks on the relationship between religion and politics when he spoke in Westminster Hall:
The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? 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.As I have read through, albeit rather quickly, the manifestos of major political parties as they were launched earlier this week, I have wondered about this task of purifying and shedding light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. What might such a purification make of:
The Liberal Democrats proposal to legalise prostitution, which seems to assume that sex is an industry just like any other, and doesn't even seem to work at a pragmatic level : "(we will) Decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex, and the management of sex work – reducing harm, defending sex workers’ human rights, and focusing police time and resources on those groomed, forced, or trafficked into the sex industry. We would provide additional support for those wishing to leave sex work."
The Liberal Democrats proposal to allow cohabiting couples the same rights as married couples and couples in a civil partnership: "(we will) Strengthen legal rights and obligations for couples by introducing mixed sex civil partnerships and extending rights to cohabiting couples".
The Labour Party's proposals for significant nationalisation of industries such as water supply, electricity supply and the railways (and a comparable proposal for the railways in the Green Party Guarantee). From an ethical perspective, the principle of subsidiarity would indicate that provision should be made at the lowest level in society at which it can be successfully made to achieve the good of persons in society. Only where collaboration between partners, or a degree of regulation is required, to achieve the common good of persons is there a role for organisations in society and of government, and, ultimately, for the state ownership of enterprises. The manifesto reflects a degree of subsidiarity in proposing regional publically owned companies, and it states: "Public ownership will benefit consumers, ensuring that their interests are put first and that there is democratic accountability for the service." But if what we are being told is in reality left wing ideology and not considered subsidiarity .... the story is rather different, and the warnings of the command economies of the past have relevance.
The Labour Party's proposals on equality: "... we will ensure that the new guidance for relationships and sex education is LGBT inclusive." Or: " Labour will continue to ensure a woman’s right to choose a safe, legal abortion – and we will work with the Assembly to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland." [Fact check: UK law does not recognise that a woman has a right to choose an abortion - it allows abortion on the mainland under certain circumstances and if two doctors in good faith indicate that those circumstances apply. A right to choose it is not!]I do find interesting, though, that aspect of the proposals with regard to a National Education Service that would make education, at all levels, free at the point of delivery. This has some basis in, for example, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 26. My hesitation, though, is with regard to its possible implication of single state control of the content of the educational enterprise.
If we return to the meditation that has prompted this post. Where does the lack of ethical reference in the electoral proposals before us leave a Catholic in exercising their vote? How can we set about creating places of community in the larger political society that allow the living of a life that still has even the idea of an objective morality at its heart?