Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Peace and the Scriptures

“PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU, MY PEACE I GIVE YOU," said Our Lord before his Ascension. "Not as the world gives do I give it to you." (John 14:27) The Kingdom of God which is something brought to us in Christ, St. Paul says to the Romans, is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 14:17) What God gives, God must first have. Therefore, the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church begins its treatment of war and peace with the statement that "[b]efore being God's gift to man and a human project in conformity with the divine plan, peace is in the first place a basic attribute of God." (Compendium, No. 488)

Violence--the very opposite of peace--is something extraneous to Creation. It was something injected into the divine order, something which "altered the divine order" in the Creation which as "a reflection of the divine glory, aspires to peace." (Compendium, No. 488) As something foreign to the divine order, violence shows itself in both interpersonal relationships and social relationships. "Peace and violence cannot dwell together, and where there is violence, God cannot be present." Ubi Deus, ubi Christus, ibi pax.

The Biblical notion of peace is a positive concept, not a negative concept. Peace is more than mere absence of war, though the existence of war precludes it.  Peace is "one of the greatest gifts that God offers to all men and women, and involves obedience to the divine plan." This peace, which St. Augustine defines as the tranquility of order, is the basis of innumerable blessings which come in its train, including fruitfulness, well-being, prosperity, absence of fear, and joy.* (Compendium, No. 489)

Peace is therefore something within man and something without man.  The peace that resides in a just soul is reflected in ordering of the world about him, in his relationship with others.  Peace is one of the twelve traditional fruits of the Spirit.**   We are commanded try to bring the peace that is within us externally manifest in our relationship with others.  "If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men." (Rom. 12:18)  Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour. "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love," begins the Prayer of St. Francis.***  "Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount. (Matt. 5:9), for they are the "children of God."

In this world, peace seems to be elusive.  And yet peace is something to which we are drawn, to which we look forward in the final consummation of the world.  Peace in God is the end of our journey and the bourne of all mankind:

Peace is the goal of life in society, as is made extraordinarily clear in the messianic vision of peace: when all peoples will go up to the Lord's house, and he will teach them his ways and they will walk along the ways of peace (cf. Is 2:2-5). A new world of peace that embraces all of nature is the promise of the messianic age (cf. Is 11:6-9), and the Messiah himself is called "Prince of peace." (Is 9:5) Wherever his peace reigns, wherever it is present even in part, no longer will anyone be able to make the people of God fearful (cf. Zeph 3:13). It is then that peace will be lasting, because when the king rules according to God's justice, righteousness flourishes and peace abounds "till the moon be no more." (Ps 72:7) God longs to give peace to his people: "he will speak of peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts." (Ps 85:9) Listening to what God has to say to his people about peace, the Psalmist hears these words: "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss." (Ps 85:11)

(Compendium, No.490)

Christ is virtually synonymous with peace.  The messianic promises of the Old Testament--promises which are draped with the word peace--find their fulfillment in Christ, the Prince of Peace who is our peace.  (Is. 9:5; Eph. 2:14). "Peace, in fact, is the messianic attribute par excellence, in which all other beneficial effects of salvation are include."  (Compendium, No. 491)  "The Hebrew word "shalom" expresses this fullness of meaning in its etymological sense of "completeness."  It in fact is linked to the name of God himself in the altar that Gideon built.  "The Lord is peace."  Yahweh shalom.  (Jud. 6:24)

The Biblical vision of peace, therefore, is principally the reconciliation of man with God the Father, a reconciliation effected by Jesus on the Cross.  The reconciliation of God and man then flows over into the reconciliation of man and man.  "With this twofold reconciliation Christians can become peacemakers and therefore participate in the Kingdom of God, in accordance with what Jesus himself proclaims in the Beatitudes: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.'"  (Compendium, No. 492)

The Christian obligation to work for peace, however, is not to be divided from the proclamation of the Gospel, the proclamation of Christ crucified, Christ risen, and Christ to come again.  It is a fool's errand to expect peace where the Gospel is not sown.
Working for peace can never be separated from announcing the Gospel, which is in fact the "good news of peace" (Acts 10:36; cf. Eph 6:15) addressed to all men and women. At the center of "the gospel of peace" (Eph 6:15) remains the mystery of the cross, because peace is born of Christ's sacrifice (cf. Is 53:5) — "Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we were healed." The crucified Jesus has overcome divisions, re-establishing peace and reconciliation, precisely through the cross, "thereby bringing the hostility to an end" (Eph 2:16) and bringing the salvation of the Resurrection to mankind.

(Compendium, No. 493)

Christus pax nostra!

Pax Nostra Christus by Heinrich Aldegrever (ca. 1558)  

Quam pulchri super montes pedes adnuntiantis et praedicantis pacem adnuntiantis bonum praedicantis salutem dicentis Sion regnavit Deus tuus!  "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, 'Your God is King!'" (Isaiah 52:7)
*The Compendium cites to Is. 48:19, 48:18, 54:13, Lev. 26:6, and Pr. 12:20.
**Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1832 "The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."  (Cf. Gal. 5:22-23)
***The prayer, while fitting well with Franciscan spirituality, is attributed to St. Francis, but is not in any of his writings.  According to the French professor, historian, and peace activist Christian Renoux, the prayer in the form we have it appears to have been written around World War I.  It appears in its originally French form in the French magazine "La Clochette."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Protection of the Environment

IN THE LAST TWO POSTINGS, we have reflected upon the Scriptural view of nature and the problems that occur when man exploits nature, when, heedless of moral norms, he puts nature to the rack or through the grist mill. Though the Church is not opposed to science and technology, it is opposed to what we might call scientism or technologism, i.e., the use of science and technology unbounded by the moral law and heedless of nature as a whole or human nature in particular.

As the world continues its economic development, care for the environment presents itself as a challenge for all humankind.  Our earthly environment "is a matter of a common and universal duty," it is one that truly involves the common good of humanity.  No one is free to disregard the moral use of nature and its resources.  In the words of John Paul II quoted by the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, it is our common obligation to prevent "anyone from using 'with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate--animals, plants, the natural elements--simply as one wishes, according to one's own economic needs.'"

Whether we like it or not, this presents itself as an international problem requiring international solutions.  What good is it for the United States to place strict emission standards on its own manufacturing plants to our own economic disadvantage while China's plants belch out foul poisons into earth's atmosphere?   What good is it for us to restrict the harvest of our forests, while we watch the Amazon's forests denuded?

One must also not forget that the use of the world and its resources today, affects the life of those who come after us.  If we are irresponsible now,  "After-comers" will not be able to "guess the beauty been."

Since the problems regarding the environment are global, they require global solutions.

As the Compendium notes:
Responsibility for the environment, the common heritage of mankind, extends not only to present needs but also to those of the future. "We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries: for this reason we have obligations towards all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us, to enlarge the human family." This is a responsibility that present generations have towards those of the future, a responsibility that also concerns individual States and the international community.
(Compendium, No. 467) (quoting Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 266)

The problem can only be handled through some sort of juridical construct, while it cannot be limited to that.  Perhaps as important as relying upon juridical means is the need to inculcate a "sense of responsibility as well as an effective change of mentality and lifestyle" that is more in keeping with environmental or ecological sensitivity.  (Compendium, No. 468)

Market forces are in a considerable degree inadequate to handle the problem. The reason for this is that economic interests are to a great degree opposed to environmental interests.  They live in tension. 
An economy respectful of the environment will not have the maximization of profits as its only objective, because environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits. The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.[993] Every country, in particular developed countries, must be aware of the urgent obligation to reconsider the way that natural goods are being used. Seeking innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of production and consumption of goods should be effectively encouraged.
(Compendium, No. 470)

While the juridical construct does not necessarily require a global juridical institution--a global EPA in fact sounds positively frightening--it does require, at minimum, some sort of global or international cooperation and recognition of the problem and its commonality.  
It is important that the international community draw up uniform rules that will allow States to exercise more effective control over the various activities that have negative effects on the environment and to protect ecosystems by preventing the risk of accidents.
(Compendium, No. 468).  At the very minimum, the various states should actively endeavor within their own territories "to prevent destruction of the atmosphere and biosphere, by carefully monitoring, among other things, the impact of new technological or scientific advances . . . [and] insuring that its citizens are not exposed to dangerous pollutants or toxic wastes."  (Compendium, No. 468) (quoting JPII, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace)

Though addressing environmental issues is a responsibility that cannot be shirked, it presents a complex problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach, one which invokes sciences of all kinds, industries of all kinds, government, and ecological groups.  Decisions must sometimes be made when the data are not clear, when there is a state of uncertainty as to the data's interpretation.  An example that may be cited is whether there is global warming, and, if so, whether it is natural or man made, and, if man made, how much of it is attributable to controllable human causes.  Sometimes the scientific data and the interpretation of that data are complicated by hidden agendas, by irresponsible propaganda, by self-interest and self-regard.

In the light of uncertainty or probabilities, a "precautionary principle" may be adopted as a guide to practical, yet prudent, action:

The authorities called to make decisions concerning health and environmental risks sometimes find themselves facing a situation in which available scientific data are contradictory or quantitatively scarce. It may then be appropriate to base evaluations on the “precautionary principle”, which does not mean applying rules but certain guidelines aimed at managing the situation of uncertainty. This shows the need for making temporary decisions that may be modified on the basis of new facts that eventually become known. Such decisions must be proportional with respect to provisions already taken for other risks. Prudent policies, based on the precautionary principle require that decisions be based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives, including the decision not to intervene. This precautionary approach is connected with the need to encourage every effort for acquiring more thorough knowledge, in the full awareness that science is not able to come to quick conclusions about the absence of risk. The circumstances of uncertainty and provisional solutions make it particularly important that the decision-making process be transparent.

(Compendium, No. 469)

The problem requires rational solutions, solutions based upon dispassionate assessment of the environmental problem, of its causes, of possible cures.  It must take into consider a variety of factors, including: nature itself, the kind of resource involved (whether renewable or non-renewable), economic and market factors, industrial interests, cultural idiosyncrasies,* the just imposition of costs associated with environmental restrictions, the divergence between rich nations and the poor, with the urgency of developing the wealth of the latter, alternatives that may be available, the current state of science or technology.

*The Compendium has the following to say:
The relationship of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources deserves particular attention, since it is a fundamental expression of their identity. Due to powerful agro-industrial interests or the powerful processes of assimilation and urbanization, many of these peoples have already lost or risk losing the lands on which they live, lands tied to the very meaning of their existence. The rights of indigenous peoples must be appropriately protected. These peoples offer an example of a life lived in harmony with the environment that they have come to know well and to preserve.[1000] Their extraordinary experience, which is an irreplaceable resource for all humanity, runs the risk of being lost together with the environment from which they originate.
(Compendium, No. 471) Sometimes the "beauty been" involves the life of indigenous peoples whose tie to the land and appreciation of nature is something that warrants preservation.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Theological Ecology

WHILE IN THE BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE MAN is given dominion over all things, it is a "pretension" to think that this is an "unconditional dominion" that may be "heedless of any moral considerations." All human activity, including that activity that relates to how man deals with his environment, is subject to moral consideration. There is no realm in which man can act without regard to morality.

There is without doubt a tendency in man to use, or perhaps better, exploit those natural resources over which he gains control. This tendency has been exacerbated, even institutionalized, as the result of historical and cultural process. Necessarily, this can affect his environment, as he leaves the detritus as it were of his exploitation.

Modernly, as a result of both the increase in the population of man and his ability better to exploit the natural world through technology, we confront a serious threat to our environment, even a "critical point" in our history which mandates action. (Compendium, No. 461) "Nature appears as an instrument in the hands of man, a reality that he must constantly manipulate, especially by means of technology." (Compendium, No. 462)

Particularly during the Industrial Revolution, man's dominion over nature was given a "reductionist conception," one largely predicated upon a false supposition that "an infinite quantity of energy and resources [were] available," that it was "possible to renew them quickly," and that "negative effects of the exploitation [could] be easily absorbed." (Compendium, No. 462)  We were blinded to the effects of the constant "strokes of havoc," our constant hacking and racking on, hewing on and delving into, the environment, not unlike those who felled Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Binsey Poplars":
MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew --
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being só slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc únselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.
Perhaps one of the most egregious instances of this reckless neglect of nature, one typical of what the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is referring to, is related by Donald Culross Peattie in his book, A Natural History of North American Trees, when he describes the exploitation of the beautiful pecan trees of Texas:
Until almost the turn of the last century, pecans reached the market largely from wild trees. The harvesting methods in early times consisted in nothing less heroic and criminal than cutting down gigantic specimens--the bigger the better--and setting boys to gather the nuts from the branches of the fallen giants. It seemed to the pioneer then, as it did to every American, that the forests of this country were inexhaustible. Thus it came about that the wild Pecan tree had become rare before men began to realize how much was lost.*
 Underlying this reckless attitude was the mechanistic view of nature ushered in by the Enlightenment, a utilitarian ethic which measured everything in terms of cost and benefit, and the consumerism mentality which modernly has reached absurd proportions.  Through both these philosophical, historical, cultural, and individual attitudes, we have alienated ourselves from our environment.  "Primacy is given to doing and having rather to being, and this causes serious forms of human alienation."  (Compendium, No. 462).

The problem is not science or technology itself; it is rather what the Church in the Compendium calls "scientism and technocratic ideologies" that cause the problem of man's alienation from his environment and the lack of prudence, indeed even reckless irresponsibility, in exploiting the goods of the earth.

While recognizing the serious environmental problems confronting man, the Church warns us of going overboard in our reactions.  We see this attitude in many environmentalists, in many intellectual leaders of the "green" parties and "New Agers." In addressing the problem, there is a line we ought not to cross.  We must not "absolutize nature and place it above the dignity of the human person himself."   Indeed, there is a notable tendency in many ecologically-concerned groups to "divinize nature or the earth."  (Compendium, No. 463)

As the Compendium puts it:
The Magisterium finds the motivation for its opposition to a concept of the environment based on ecocentrism and biocentrism in the fact that "it is being proposed that the ontological and axiological difference between men and other living beings be eliminated, since the biosphere is considered a biotic unity of undifferentiated value. Thus man's superior responsibility can be eliminated in favor of the egalitarian consideration of the 'dignity' of all living beings."**
(Compendium, No. 463)  Unless moderated, the reaction to the past exploitation of nature may be as foolish and as detrimental as the exploitation itself.  In a fool's bargain, we will be trading one foolishness for another foolishness.

What is worse is the modern tendency to address this problem without reference to God.  The loss in a belief in the doctrine of Creation will lead to confusion and errors in judgment.

A vision of man and things that is sundered from any reference to the transcendent has led to the rejection of the concept of creation and to the attribution of a completely independent existence to man and nature. The bonds that unite the world to God have thus been broken. This rupture has also resulted in separating man from the world and, more radically, has impoverished man's very identity. Human beings find themselves thinking that they are foreign to the environmental context in which they live. The consequences resulting from this are all too clear: "it is the relationship man has with God that determines his relationship with his fellow men and with his environment. This is why Christian culture has always recognized the creatures that surround man as also gifts of God to be nurtured and safeguarded with a sense of gratitude to the Creator. Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality in particular has witnessed to this sort of kinship of man with his creaturely environment, fostering in him an attitude of respect for every reality of the surrounding world." There is a need to place ever greater emphasis on the intimate connection between environmental ecology and "human ecology."***

(Compendium, No. 464)**

While the Church warns of philosophical and ideological errors in the matter of man and his environment, she also quite strongly advocates efforts at re-injecting a moral component into our use and exploitation of natural resources so that their use may be responsible and may accord with principles of just use
The Magisterium underscores human responsibility for the preservation of a sound and healthy environment for all. "If humanity today succeeds in combining the new scientific capacities with a strong ethical dimension, it will certainly be able to promote the environment as a home and a resource for man and for all men, and will be able to eliminate the causes of pollution and to guarantee adequate conditions of hygiene and health for small groups as well as for vast human settlements. Technology that pollutes can also cleanse, production that amasses can also distribute justly, on condition that the ethic of respect for life and human dignity, for the rights of today's generations and those to come, prevails."**
(Compendium, No. 465)

There is a lot of lost time man must make up for.  "Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures . . . "

*Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of North American Trees (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007), 181.
**The Compendium here quotes from John Paul II, Address to participants in a convention on "The Environment and Health" dated March 24, 1997.
*** The term "human ecology" is derived from John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus Annus, 38.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Moral Use of Science and Technology

SCIENCE AND ITS PRACTICAL SISTER technology perhaps more than anything else color the modern world and affect its thinking, its concept of the possible, its activity, and its communication. There are things today we think of--the genome, a black hole, quarks, leptons, and bosons--that man could not have thought of before. There are things that are possible--in vitro fertilization, in utero surgery, cloning, nanochips--that were but the stuff of novels. Communications--the Internet and its media--have radically affected how man deals with other men and how man deals with his problem. Often dazzled by the products of his ingenuity, man views technology as the summum bonum. He fails to see or properly assess the negatives that come with some technological change. As a result, there is a danger that instead of technology freeing man, man could be enslaving himself to it. As Georges Bernanos wrote in his Last Essays, modernity confronts a new man deeply affected by technology:

[I]n a fabulously short time, by the single miracle of technology and of all techniques, including that which not only allows the control of worldwide opinion but also the making of it, it has created a civilization in the image of a prodigiously diminished and shrunken man, a man no longer made in the image of God, but in the image of the speculator . . . .

It is this danger of science of technology, and technology's products (which Bernanos comprehends with the term "machine" understood broadly) which must be addressed. It is not a question of ridding the world of science, technology, and machines, but of assuring that man's spiritual nature, his moral stature, grows in a manner commensurate with his scientific and technological acumen.

As Bernanos put it: "No, it is not a question of destroying machines but of elevating man, of restoring in him faith in the freedom of his soul and an awareness of his dignity." Unless we are aware of the problem, we do not perceive the threat. And it is a threat that is very real, since ultimately, it is a question of "knowing who will win, technology or man."* Homo faber must also be homo sapiens.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church briefly addresses the issue of science and technology and man. "The results of science and technology are, in themselves, positive." Science and technology are viewed as a participation in God's creative activity. Quoting Vatican II's Gaudium et spes, the Compendium states without reserve: "Far from thinking that works produced by man's own talent and energy are in opposition to God's power, and that the rational creature exists as a a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God's grace and the flowering of His own mysterious design." (Compendium, No. 457)  "[T]he Catholic Church is in no way opposed to progress, rather she considers 'science and technology are the wonderful product of a God-given human creativity, since they have provided us with wonderful possibilities, and we all gratefully benefit from them.'"  (Compendium, No. 457)

 But science and technology, for all their good, are not something that are ungoverned by moral law. We should not fall into the moral morass of believing that just be we can do something we ought to do something. This would be to fall into a sort of Humean fallacy. For this reason, the Church--without detracting from the positive good that science and technology bring us--also observes that "the greater man's power becomes" as a result of scientific and technological progress, "the farther his individual and community responsibility extends," and the more obligation there is to assure that it "correspond, according to the design and will of God, to humanity's true good." (Compendium, No. 457)   To assure that science and technology are at the service of man, and not at the service of only a small faction of men, the moral law must govern its use:
It is important, however, to repeat the concept of 'proper application,' for 'we know that this potential is not neutral: it can be used either for man's progress or for his degradation.' For this reason, 'it is necessary to maintain an attitude of prudence and attentively sift out the nature, end, and means of the various forms of applied technology. Scientists, therefore, must 'truly use their research and technical sill in the service of humanity,' being able to subordinate them 'to moral principles and values, which respect and realize in its fullness the dignity of man.'"
Ultimately, science and technology must see themselves as cooperating with nature, not setting up a reality that contradicts or nullifies nature.  Any applied technology--particularly those dealing with genetic or biological manipulation--"must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system."

The Church is drawing from common sense.  For example, we see the same concern for nature and its harmonious interaction as providing moral compass in the Meditations of the Stoic Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius:

In the series of things those which follow are always aptly fitted to those which have gone before; for this series is not like a mere enumeration of disjointed things, which has only a necessary sequence, but is a rational connection: and as all existing things are arranged together harmoniously, so things which come into existence exhibit no mere succession, but a certain wonderful relationship.**

It is within this sound tradition that the Church puts science and technology:
Man, then, must never forget that "his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work ... is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are." He must not "make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray." When he acts in this way, "instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him." If man intervenes in nature without abusing it or damaging it, we can say that he "intervenes not in order to modify nature but to foster its development in its own life, that of the creation that God intended. While working in this obviously delicate area, the researcher adheres to the design of God. God willed that man be the king of creation." In the end, it is God himself who offers to men and women the honor of cooperating with the full force of their intelligence in the work of creation
(Compendium, No. 460) (quotes are from JPII, Centesimus annus, 37)

In short, we must remember that we are creatures, and that we--like all of nature--have been made by God.  We must remember that he has made us in our inward parts, that he wove us in our mother's womb, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that all of nature with us.   

Mirabilia opera tua et anima mea novit nimis.  "Wonderful all your works, and my soul knows it very well."  (Ps. 139 [138]: 14)  This is the prayer that ought to be on the lips and in mind of the scientist and the purveyor of technology.
*The Last Essays of Georges Bernanos, (Joan and Barry Ulanov, trans.) (Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1955)
**Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (George Long, trans.), IV.45.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Safeguarding the Environment, Biblical Underpinnings

GOD, WHOSE ESSENCE IS TO BE, is radically different from the created world, whose being is contingent and utterly reliant both for its existence and its continued existence on God.* God is the beginning and end of all things outside of himself; he is therefore the first cause and their final cause. The entire world, including man which is a part of it, looks to God for its existence and its purpose. God is its creator and its provider.

Our radical dependence upon God helps us see all creation as a gift, as a gift that is governed by God in his providence. Nature is therefore, more or less, a reflection of God's nature. From the lowest (God is my rock, tsur, צוּר, e.g., Psalm 18:2) to the highest (man is God's "image," the tzelem elohim, צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים‎‎). Creation therefore participates in God's Logos, his ratio. Man, who participates in God's ratio in a preeminent degree, is able to see nature as "the word of God's creative action," and not "as a dangerous adversary." It is not man against nature, but man in nature.

Man, who is made in God's image in a manner entirely distinct from the rest of nature, therefore has a special responsibility to it. Indeed, Christians believe that the Lord "entrusted all of creation to [man's] responsibility, charging [man] to care for its harmony and development. (Cf. 1:26-30)." (Compendium, No. 451) We are therefore trustees, and we hold the world in trust, answerable for its use to God and to our fellows.

The world is good, even very good. (Cf. Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). This is so fundamental that Christianity is incomprehensible without this notion. And man is placed at the summit of the good which is creation, so that men and women share in a particularly striking and unique way in God's ratio, his goodness. There is reason outside man and reason within man, both of which reflect the eternal ratio of God.

Man has therefore responsibility to this great good, this great gift. While he has been given dominion over it, it is not a dominion that may be exercised recklessly, negligently, without regard to the God who gave him such dominion. He is therefore more akin to a custodian or caretaker over nature than a tyrannous Lord over it. The world is used "in dialogue with God," not independent from God. (Compendium, No. 452.)

Only in dialogue with God does the human being find his truth, from which he draws inspiration and norms to make plans for the future of the world, which is the garden that God has given him to keep and till (cf. Gen 2: 15). Not even sin could remove this duty, although it weighed down this exalted work with pain and suffering (cf. Gen 3:17-19).

(Compendium, No. 452)

Creation is therefore in a serious way sacred to man. It is a reflection of God's goodness. It is a gift given to man. It is one over which God has a sacred duty. For this reason, creation is always seen as something which manifests, indeed induces praise, to God. It is something which God himself does not spurn, and indeed brought into himself in Christ. It is something which God has used as a vehicle, a medium of the supernatural life in the sacraments. It is something which He has redeemed through his Cross, and which seeks fulfillment in Christ's second coming.

A Christian, in particular, must take a sacramental view of nature. Jesus, we believe, is God incarnate in man, and so God himself has assumed into His very heart, through the Son, man, who is the apex, and so custodian and representative of all nature. "Nature, which was created in the Word, is, by the same Word made flesh, reconciled to God and given new peace." (Compendium, No. 454)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven.
(Col. 1:15-20)

For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
(Rom. 8:19-23)

For the believer, "[t]he whole of creation participates in the renewal flowing from the Lord's Paschal Mystery," so that "nothing stands outside this salvation." (Compendium, No. 455)

The Biblical view of nature, therefore, is radically different from the scientific "put-nature-on-the-rack" attitude. Similarly, it is radically different from the exploitative view of the capitalist, for whom nature is but so much raw material which begs for exploitation. While the Biblical view does not spurn human efforts at scientific study of nature or exploitation of nature for man's sake, it does suggest limits upon or rules that should order such efforts. It is neither obscurantist nor wed to nature worship.**

As the Compendium puts it:
The biblical vision inspires the behavior of Christians in relation to their use of the earth, and also with regard to the advances of science and technology. The Second Vatican Council affirmed that man "judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind." The Council Fathers recognized the progress made thanks to the tireless application of human genius down the centuries, whether in the empirical sciences, the technological disciplines or the liberal arts. Today, "especially with the help of science and technology, man has extended his mastery over nearly the whole of nature and continues to do so."
(Compendium, No. 456)

The Church is therefore hardly negative to science or to proper development and use of the world's resources; however, she emphasizes that the use of the world's resources and the application of his mind and his hands must be done responsibly: under God and with view to the common good of mankind:

For man, "created in God's image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all that it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness, a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to him who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. Thus, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth. [The Council teaches that] throughout the course of the centuries, men have labored to better the circumstances of their lives through a monumental amount of individual and collective effort. To believers, this point is settled: considered in itself, this human activity accords with God's will."

(Compendium, No. 456) (quoting VII, GS, 34)
*Deus est ens per essentiam suam, quia est ipsum esse, omne antem aliud ens est ens per particpationem; quia ens, quod sit suum esse, non potest esse nisis unum. Contra gentiles, 1,2, c. 15.
**E.g., the notion that animals or nature have "rights" in the strict sense of the term is absurd. Only a rational being can have rights in the strict sense. One might point to the efforts to have a "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth" as a theologically and philosophically perverse venture.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The International Community, Organization

THE CHURCH IN GENERAL views the role of international intergovernmental organizations (such as the United Nations) in a positive manner, since these seek to apply law or reason to the resolution of international conflicts or problems relating to the common good of all nations and peoples. But to a certain extent, the Church is the "loyal opposition" of those intergovernmental organizations. She has deep-seated "reservations," expressions of which she does not withhold, when these intergovernmental organizations "address problems incorrectly" by contradicting the natural moral law, infringing upon authentic human rights and human dignity, or infringing upon the rights of the Church and its propagation of the Gospel. She hammers the following truths:

[T]he Holy See seeks to focus attention on certain basic truths: that each and every person - regardless of age, sex, religion or national background - has a dignity and worth that is unconditional and inalienable; that human life itself from conception to natural death is sacred; that human rights are innate and transcend any constitutional order; and that the fundamental unity of the human race demands that everyone be committed to building a community which is free from injustice and which strives to promote and protect the common good. . . . . It is in the light of authentic human values - recognized by peoples of diverse cultures, religious and national backgrounds across the globe - that all policy choices must be evaluated. No goal or policy will bring positive results for people if it does not respect the unique dignity and objective needs of those same people.

JP II, Letter to Mafis Sadik, March 18, 1994 (re. 1994 International Conference on Population and Development)

United Nations Headquarters, N.Y., N.Y.

It is not might, but right that ought to govern relations between peoples and nations, and this is the underlying reason behind the Church's general if conditional support for continued development of intergovernmental organizations and international agencies.
Concern for an ordered and peaceful coexistence within the human family prompts the Magisterium to insist on the need to establish "some universal public authority acknowledged as such by all and endowed with effective power to safeguard, on the behalf of all, security, regard for justice, and respect for rights."
(Compendium, No. 441)(quoting VII, GS No. 82)

International relations will either operate under the rule of reason, i.e, the rule of law, or some rule outside of reason, i.e., exlex. There is no exercise of power or authority or influence, however, that may be said to be outside law, in particular the natural moral law. Natural law does not come from heaven ready-made, and man is obliged to implement its basic principles in determinations in the here-and-now. For this reason:

Political authority exercised at the level of international community must be regulated by law, ordered to the common good, and respectful of the principle of subsidiarity.

(Compendium, No.441)

It is important that this rule of law grow naturally from the relations between nations and peoples; that it be endogenous and not be exogenous.
[I]t is essential that such an authority arise from mutual agreement and that it not be imposed, nor must it be understood as a kind of "global super-State."
(Compendium, No. 441)

Whatever develops in the future (if it develops)* must respect the sovereignty of the nation states and of peoples, respecting further, the principle of subsidiarity: Quoting John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in terris, the Compendium observes:
"The public authority of the world community is not intended to limit the sphere of action of the public authority of the individual political community, much less to take its place. On the contrary, its purpose is to create, on a world basis, an environment in which the public authorities of each political community, their citizens and intermediate associations can carry out their tasks, fulfill their duties and exercise their rights with greater security."
(Compendium, No. 441)

To a certain extent, the international organizations and institutions have been captured or manipulated so that they work against their very purpose, which is not the benefit of one group over another, but the common good. To a certain degree, the international organizations and agencies have shrugged off the moral limits under which they ought to operated:

The Magisterium recognizes that the interdependence among men and nations takes on a moral dimension and is the determining factor for relations in the modern world in the economic, cultural, political and religious sense. In this context it is hoped that there will be a revision of international organizations, a process that "presupposes the overcoming of political rivalries and the renouncing of all desire to manipulate these organizations, which exist solely for the common good," for the purpose of achieving "a greater degree of international ordering."

(Compendium, No. 442) (quoting JP II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, No. 43)

This "revision" is particularly important in the economic sphere. Political power tends to follow economic power. Moreover, the economic sphere clearly extends beyond the political spheres of the nation states. It is, in fact, inter-national in scope. For this reason:
[I]ntergovernmental structures must effectively perform their functions of control and guidance in the economic field because the attainment of the common good has become a goal that is beyond the reach of individual States, even if they are dominant in terms of power, wealth, and political strength. International agencies must moreover guarantee the attainment of that equality which is the basis of the right of all to participate in the process of full development, duly respecting legitimate differences.
(Compendium, No. 442) (citations omitted)

Some of the more significant players in the international scene are the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). Properly ordered, the NGOs can enjoy an independence from national or economic chauvinism, and so they tend to be a counterweight to political or economic self-regard.

The Magisterium positively evaluates the associations that have formed in civil society in order to shape public opinion in its awareness of the various aspects of international life, with particular attention paid to the respect of human rights, as seen in "the number of recently established private associations, some worldwide in membership, almost all of them devoted to monitoring with great care and commendable objectivity what is happening internationally in this sensitive field."

Governments should feel encouraged by such commitments, which seek to put into practice the ideals underlying the international community, "particularly through the practical gestures of solidarity and peace made by the many individuals also involved in Non-Governmental Organizations and in Movements for human rights."

(Compendium, No. 443) (quoting JP II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 26 and 2004 World Day of Peace Message, 7)

*There are some real impediments to the development of an international political authority. Perhaps most patent (representing the elephant in the global room) is Islam. Islam's divine positivism rejects the notion of human rights built upon natural law, since it views these as limited by, or defined by, Shari'a. Islam's dual ethic does not mesh well, if at all, with the universal ethic of Christianity which provides the basis of the Church's vision. Its unjustified chauvinism is not conducive to dialogue. Finally, its advocacy of violence and end-justifies-the-means morality is a severe impediment to world peace. Perhaps Islam more than materialistic secularism presents the greatest threat to international peace.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The International Community, The Natural Law and International Law

THERE ARE MANY VOICES in the international stage, and the voice of the Church is often confused with them or is drowned out in the din of competing voices. As we discussed in the prior post, the Church's vision of international relations between nations recognizes the importance of nations states and peoples, yet also does not absolutize them. The latter (absolutization of peoples or of nation-states) is a form of idolatry, and frequently leads to the oppression of minority peoples, whether they be racial, cultural, or religious. As extreme examples of the latter, we might point to the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Dersim Kurds, the German genocide of the Jews and the Slavs.

The Church is not in the business of advocating a one-world-government based upon false values. And she carefully distinguishes between international government and international order. There can be an international order without an international government.

What the Church seeks is that international relations be seasoned with the salt of the natural moral law, a law which is universal in scope, and which comprehends all men bar none.

To bring about and consolidate an international order that effectively guarantees peaceful mutual relations among peoples, the same moral law that governs the life of men must also regulate relations among States: 'a moral law the observance of which should be inculcated and promoted by the public opinion of all nations and of all the States with such a unanimity of voice and force that no one would dare to call it into question or to attenuate its binding force.'

(Compendium, No. 436) (quoting Pius XI, Radio Address Dec. 24, 1941)

Underlying any international order, then, must be the recognition of a Law above all law, a God above all nations. "The universal moral law written on the human heart, must be considered effective and indelible as the living expression of the shared conscience of humanity, a 'grammar' on which to build the future of the world." (Compendium, No. 436)

Cumaean Sybil, Michaelangelo (Sistine Chapel)

The Church is therefore an opponent of any international order, and even more of a one-world government, that does not recognize the universal moral law. She would oppose making a bunch of Leviathans into one great Leviathan. She seeks to tame the Leviathans of the world with moral suasion. She seeks to have law, which is to say reason, not force govern relations among nations.
Universal respect of the principles underlying 'a legal structure in conformity with the moral order' is a necessary condition for the stability of international life. The quest for such stability has led to the gradual elaboration of a 'right of nations' (ius gentium), which can be considered as 'the ancestor of international law.'
(Compendium, No. 437) (citations omitted)

The Church's emphasis on the natural moral law as being the cement for any authentic international order relies on both faith and reason:

Juridical and theological reflection, firmly based on natural law, has formulated 'universal principles which are prior to and superior to the internal law of States,' such as the unity of the human race, the equal dignity of every people, the rejection of war as a means for resolving disputes, the obligation to cooperate for attaining the common good and the need to be faithful to agreements undertaken (pacta sunt servanda). This last principle should be especially emphasized in order to avoid 'temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law.'
(Compendium, No. 437) (citations omitted)

Might does not make right, and this is as true within nations as among them. And the Church knows that it is preferable to have law govern the relations among nations than to invoke the bloody principle of war, which is to bring in the rule of the dice or the rule of the powerful and to pay obeisance to the rule of irrationality. Inter arma enim silent leges.*

The Church is mother of all mankind, and, to quote the Roman poet Horace, bella detesta matribus.** And so, as mother, she would with remind all men with Virgil's words placed in the mouth of the pagan Cumean Sybil, who the Middle Ages believed had also prophesied the birth of Christ: Bella, horrida bella.*** The Church therefore always urges another option to war if it be possible.
To resolve the tensions that arise among different political communities and can compromise the stability of nations and international security, it is indispensable to make use of common rules in a commitment to negotiation and to reject definitively the idea that justice can be sought through recourse to war. "If war can end without winners or losers in a suicide of humanity, then we must repudiate the logic which leads to it: the idea that the effort to destroy the enemy, confrontation and war itself are factors of progress and historical advancement."†
(Compendium, No. 438) (citations omitted)

If war is to be avoided, but right still rule, then something else must take its place to solve disputes between nations. The only other something that exists is law. And so the Church seeks to have a "primacy of law," as distinguished from a primacy of force or violence, to govern relations among nations. Within the confines of her vision--which is based upon Christian truth and the natural moral law--the Church advocates some sort of "reformulation" of international organs so that it is not recourse to war, to violence, or even the threat of violence that resolves disputes, which often is the law of the more powerful against the weaker without regard to truth or justice, but the rule of law.

In order to consolidate the primacy of law, the principle of mutual confidence is of the utmost importance. In this perspective, normative instruments for the peaceful resolution of controversies must be reformulated so as to strengthen their scope and binding force. Processes of negotiation, mediation, conciliation and arbitration that are provided for in international law must be supported with the creation of "a totally effective juridical authority in a peaceful world."

(Compendium, No. 439) The Church simply extends here the model we take for granted within states (the rule of law, rather than the rule of the mob or the rule of tyranny) to relationships between states.
Progress in this direction will allow the international community to be seen no longer as a simple aggregation of States in various moments of their existence, but as a structure in which conflicts can be peacefully resolved. "As in the internal life of individual States ... a system of private vendetta and reprisal has given way to the rule of law, so too a similar step forward is now urgently needed in the international community." In short, "international law must ensure that the law of the more powerful does not prevail."
(Compendium, No. 439) (citations omitted)
*Cf. Cicero, Pro Milone ("Silent enim leges inter arma") IV.10.
**Cf. Horace Ode 1 ("
bellaque matribus detestata")
***Cf. Virgil,
Aeneid, 6.86 (so says the Cumaean Sybil in her prophecy) "Wars, grim wars, I see, and the Tiber foaming with streams of blood." (trans. H. R. Fairclough) (bella, horrida bella / et Thybrim multo spumantem sanguine cerno)
†Obviously, this language is hortatory and invokes an ideal. The Church is no fool, and she knows that, in a world where sin all-to-often gains the upper hand, sometimes recourse to war is a moral necessity. In fact, in the very Compendium where these anti-war sentiments are expressed, we find express treatment of the Christian just war theory. See Compendium No. 500.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The International Community, The Nation State and International Law

GIVEN HER UNIVERSAL MISSION by her Lord, one extended to all mankind without exclusion, the Church believes she "has the mission of restoring the unity of the human family lost at the tower of Babel."* That unity is not based upon some false, secular, materialistic notion of forced unity. Rather, the unity of nations and cultures sought by the Church is one brought "in Christ," and "through the Church, morality, and law."** Clearly, the unity of mankind in Christ, through the Church, morality, and law "is not yet becoming a reality."*** (Compendium, No. 433). There is much that impedes it.

The world is rent by divisions: of nation, of peoples, of cultures, of races, of religions, which--when viewed in non-personalistic, materialistic, ethnocentric, ideological, or chauvinistic ways--serve as a centripetal force that work against building an international community ordered toward the universal common good. It is as if nations and peoples are working at cross-purposes of humankind, and so we suffer from the evils of substantial injustice, violence, and war.

"The coexistence among nations," if it is to exist, must be "based on the same values that should guide relations among human beings: truth, justice, active solidarity and freedom." (Compendium, No. 433) There is not one morality for individuals, and another for nation states. All men and all nations are bound by their duties to God and to the natural moral law.

The Church insists in the ideal that the relations among "peoples and political communities be justly regulated according to the principles of reason, equity, law and negotiation," and that these should exclude "recourse to violence and war, as well as to forms of discrimination, intimidation, and deceit." (Compendium, No 433)

The relationship among political communities must not be lawless; rather, the relationship must conform with international law, the ius gentium or law of nations, a law which "becomes the guarantor of the international order." The sources of the international law are various and diverse, including from international customs, agreements, treaties, accords, charters, and protocols. Unique to international law, since there is no one governing or enforcing entity, international law is an endeavor largely voluntary. Nevertheless, because the relationship among nations is based upon law, it is a juridical community.

This international order should be distinguished from a one-world government, as the international order is one that seeks "coexistence among political communities," which is to say nations, each of which "seek individually to promote the common good of [its] citizens and strive collectively to guarantee that of all peoples." This sort of relationship, however, will be informed by the awareness that "the common good of a nation cannot be separated from the good of the entire human family." (Compendium, No. 434)

"The international community is a juridical community founded on the sovereignty of each member State, without bonds of subordination that deny or limit its independence." (Compendium, No. 434) There is no question of trying to establish an international community which violates this sovereignty, or which fails to recognize the "distinctive characteristics of each people." Indeed, the sovereignty of the nation states is an effort to give expression to such distinctive characteristics.

The Magisterium recognizes the importance of national sovereignty, understood above all as an expression of the freedom that must govern relations between States. Sovereignty represents the subjectivity of a nation, in the political, economic, social and even cultural sense. The cultural dimension takes on particular importance as a source of strength in resisting acts of aggression or forms of domination that have repercussions on a country's freedom. Culture constitutes the guarantee for the preservation of the identity of a people and expresses and promotes its spiritual sovereignty.

(Compendium, No. 435)

Though the Church supports the notion of national sovereignty as an essential component of the international order, it also insists that the nation-state, and the sovereignty which defines it, is not an absolute value.
National sovereignty is not, however, absolute. Nations can freely renounce the exercise of some of their rights in view of a common goal, in the awareness that they form a "family of nations" where mutual trust, support and respect must prevail. In this perspective, special attention should be given to the fact that there is still no international agreement that adequately addresses "the rights of nations," the preparation of which could profitably deal with questions concerning justice and freedom in today's world.
(Compendium, No. 435)

National sovereignty does not exist so that the mighty might reign. In the international order, where the natural law must reign, might does not make right. National sovereignty is therefore subordinate to the demands of justice, the principles of natural moral law, and, ultimately, to God to whom all mankind is ordered.

*J. Brian Benestad, Church, State, and Society: An Introduction to Catholic Social Doctrine (Catholic University of America: 2010), 381.
**Benestad, 381, 382.
***It is unfortunate that the Church in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church does not address the claims (increasingly truculent) of her rival in universality: Islam. Islam, at least in its traditional form, views the world in a markedly different way from the Church. Islam broadly divides the world into two: the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam, دار الإسلام‎) where Shari'a, a law against the natural moral law and human dignity in numerous particulars, is enforced and Islam is superior and the House of War (Dar al-Harb, دار الحرب). Some groups further seek the revival of a central governing authority, the caliphate or khalifa (خلافة). Islam, it hardly need be noted, is thoroughly anti-Christian in spirit in the sense that its foundational documents (the Qur'an, Ahadith) and law (the shari'a) roundly condemn central tenets of the Christian faith (Trinity, Christ as God, the crucifixion and redemptive death of Christ, the natural moral law (as distinguished from divine positive law) as indicating the will of God, the authority of the New Testament). Islam is also biased toward violence (e.g., the "Verse of the Sword," Surah 9 (at-Taubah), which abrogates any revelations to the contrary) in the imposition of its credo, which is largely one of submission to law. In comparing the two religions, one might point out the obvious: Christian flags typically bear the Cross, a symbol of suffering violence; Muslims flags sport the sabre, the sword, a symbol of wielding violence. There will be no workable international order as long as Islamic chauvinism exists.