Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Times are changing

I was so pleased that Archbishop Nichols himself presented Caritas in Veritate at a press conference yesterday and the website for the Bishop's of England and Wales had a brief commentary and link up and running last night.


Laurence England said...


dillydaydream said...

From the website "Christian humanism" is mentioned - not something I have seen before.

I associate "humanism" (as opposed to "humanity") with thinly disguised atheism (and I know an aggressively anti-christian humanist minister who is an apostate Catholic).

I also thought the website rather cherry-picked the parts of the encyclical in a way that de-emphasised the masterly even-handedness of the whole. Your summary, Fr Blake, was imho, better balanced in this respect

Anyone else vaguely disturbed by this, or am I being picky?

Adamz said...

It's about time the term "Christian humanism" was brought back into common currency. It ought not be a source of anxiety, after all, were not Ss John Fisher, Thomas More et al, Christian humanists?

The "secular humanists" have monopolised the term "humanist" for far too long. I have worked with folks from the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society and I find that, from an anthropological or sociological perspective, they operate like an aggressive and militant religious sect (with axes to grind). They don't come across as happy people at all in my experience. You wouldn't believe just how keen they are to participate in religious forums, where they don't ever hesitate to proselytise, usually by ridiculing theists. I have my ways of dealing with them - what I find grossly offensive is their appropriation of Confucius as a proto-secular humanist, which is twaddle (the secular humanist case is based on a defective mid-20th-century reading of Chinese antiquity which doesn't stand up to serious academic scrutiny today).

At best, all the secular humanists can offer is a form of truncated humanism, which falls short of what, say Christians or Muslims, understand as authentic humanism (i.e. one which is open to the transcendent - which they regard as non-rational or even irrational).

By re-appropriating the term "humanist" the secular humanists can be deprived of their control over religious discourse. Recently I read an article by Angelo Scola, the patriarch of Venice, who puts secular "humanism" in inverted commas, to make this very point. I have encountered so many students who think that secular "humanism" is a neutral world view,when in fact it is a vampire which feeds on, and sucks the life out of an authentic Christian humanism.

Adamz said...

Another point, all the so-called Catholic "hot button issues", i.e. gender, sexuality, human life, are ultimately related to the question of what it means to be fully human. I don't think Catholics can make much headway on these issues today until the hegemonic (and supposedly "neutral") secular humanist discourse is contested.

One might think I am exaggerating the influence of secular humanism. What worries me profoundly is that many Catholics (such as the Blair couple) who openly dissent from the faith of the Church on these "hot button issues" have effectively capitulated to the secular narrative, whether they know it or not.

dillydaydream said...

Thank you Adamz - some very good explanations and ammunition. Right - I'm off now to annoy some secular humanists

Adamz said...

Perhaps it's not my place to say, but is "annoy" the best way to approach to take? Observe, for example, how Papa Ratzinger engages with secularists: he identifies the problems with the secular world view but he never indulges in "bashing secularism" and is anxious to engage in an authentic dialogue (see, for example, the book which he coauthored with the Neo-Marxist Jurgen Habermas - no violence in his language, no triumphalism, yet no compromise in upholding the Catholic position).

The secular humanists whom I have encountered have hardly been a good advertisement for their "creed". They talk endlessly about humanism, but to me they appear as misanthropes, bitter and resentful, at least where Catholicism is concerned. Invariably they rant against the so-called hot-button issues, but as I said previously, until there is a proper discussion about what it means to be human, the Catholic position on these contested matters will remain unintelligible to the masses (including secularised Catholics). How many secular humanists know that Papa Ratzinger is an elected member of the Institut de France, the most prestigious secular learned society in France? Why is it that secular French intellectuals can admit to their elite circle bishops and cardinals of the Holy Roman Church?

Incidentally, the essay by Angelo Scola, which I mentioned in a previous post, can be found in 'Restoring Faith in Reason' (ed Laurence Paul Hemming and Susan Frank Parsons, SCM, 2002).

There is no need to go out and buy any of the books which I have mentioned. Catholics really should make a concerted effort to request their local libraries to buy them - we pay our taxes after all. What annoys me is that my local library service has something like twelve copies of 'Hitler's Pope' (to name one infamous title - the range of anti-Catholic publications is quite comprehensive) but only two or three books by Ratzinger in total, all of which were published long before his election to the Chair of Peter. Alternatively, perhaps parishes might set up reading rooms of their own.