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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Universal Ethic-Introduction 2

6. To explain the ethical foundation of the rights of the man, some, through the effort of dialogue between cultures and religions, have endeavored to formulate a "world ethic." The "world ethic" touts an ensemble of fundamental and obligatory values that for centuries have formed the treasury of human experience. These are found in all the great religious and philosophical traditions.(5) Such a worthwhile endeavor is an expression of the current need of an ethic that has universal and global validity. But can this purely inductive sort of search for a minimal consensus already existing, based upon a parliamentary model, satisfy the requirements for rights based on an absolute basis? Besides, doesn’t such a minimal ethic lead perhaps to the relativization of the strong ethical exigence one finds in every religion or particular wisdom?

7. For many decades the question of the ethical foundations of rights and of politics was put aside in some areas of the contemporary culture. Based upon the pretext that every demand for an objective and universal truth has been the source of intolerance and of violence, and that only relativism is able to safeguard pluralism of values and democracy, legal positivism, which refuses to refer to an objective and ontological criterion of what is just, has defended itself. From its perspective, the determinant of the right and of moral norms is the law then in place, which is considered right by definition since it is the expression of the will of the lawgiver. But the result of this is to open the road to the will of power, to the dictatorship of the arithmetic majority, and to ideological manipulation, all to detriment of the common good. "In ethics and in the present philosophy of right, the claims of legal positivism are largely present. The result is that legislation often becomes only a compromise between different interests; it tends to transform itself into the right of interests or private desires which oppose themselves to being derived from social responsibility."(6) But legal positivism is notoriously insufficient, since the legislator can work legitimately only within the specific limits that are derived from the dignity of the human person and to the service of the development of what is authentically human. Now, the legislator cannot leave the determination of what is human to extrinsic and superficial criteria, as it would do if, for example, it legitimized all that is feasible in the field of biotechnology. In short, the legislator should perform its task in an ethically responsible manner. Politics cannot ignore the ethical; nor can the the civil law and the legal order ignore the existence of a superior moral law.

8. In such context, in which the reference to objective values absolute and universally recognized became problematic, some, desiring to provide a rational base to common ethical decisions, have recommended an "ethics of conversation" along the lines of an understanding moral "dialogue." The ethics of this conversation consists in the use, during the course of any ethical debate, of only the rules able to be agreed to by all of the interested parties, and it requires the renouncing of any “strategic” behaviors designed to impose an actual point of view. In this fashion, the participants are able to determine if a rule of conduct, and of action, or a behavior is moral, since, leaving aside the cultural and historical contingencies, the principles of this ethical conversation offer a guarantee of universality and of rationality. The ethic of the conversation is interested above all in the methodology with which, through the means of this conversation, the principles and the ethical rules are able to be put to the test and to become obligatory for all of the participants. It is essentially a procedure to test the value of any proposed norms, but it cannot produce new substantial content. The ethic of the discussion is therefore a purely formal ethic, one than does not reach basic moral foundations. It runs also the risk of limiting itself to a search for compromise. Certainly, conversation and debate are always necessary to obtain a a workable accord on the concrete application of the moral rules in a given situation, but not at the expense of casting out moral conscience. A true discussion is not a substitute for personal moral convictions, but supposes them and enriches them.

9. Aware of the present state of affairs, in this document we intend to invite all those who question the basic foundations of ethics, as well as those of the legal and political order, to consider the resources that may be contained in a renewed presentation of the doctrine of the natural law. This doctrine affirms in substance that the persons and the human community are capable, with the light of reason, of recognizing the fundamental orientation of a moral act, as one which conforms to the very nature of the human subject, and one which is able to express it in normative manner in the form of precepts or of commandments. Such fundamental precepts, objective and universal, are considered to be the base and foundation of all subsequent moral determinations, legal and political, that regulate the life of the men and of the society. These constitute themselves as a permanent critical standard, and ensure the dignity of the human person confronting the fluctuation of ideology. In the course of history, in the elaboration of its own ethical tradition, the Christian community, guided by the Spirit of Jesus Christ and in critical dialogue with the traditions of wisdom which it has encountered, has proposed, refined and developed the teachings on the natural law so as to make it its fundamental ethical standard. But Christianity does not have a monopoly on the natural law. In fact, given that it is based on on the common reason of all of human beings, it is the basis of collaboration between all of the men of good will, regardless of their religious convictions.

(5) In 1993, some representatives of the Parliament of the Religions of the World proposed a public Declaration for a Global Ethic, that affirms that there "exists already between the religions a a consensus capable of founding a global ethic; a minimal consensus that pertains obligatory values, irrevocable norms, and essential moral tendencies." This Declaration contains four principles: 1) "No new world order without world ethics," 2) "Every human person is to be treated humanely." The principle behind the consideration of human dignity is that each human being is to be considered as an end in itself. Such a principle is a re-presentation of the "golden rule" that is present many religious traditions. 3) The Declaration formulates four irrevocable moral directives: non-violence and respect for life; solidarity; tolerance and truth; equality of man and woman. 4) With respect to the problems of humanity, a change in mentality is necessary, so that each person take conscience of the actual urgent responsibility. It is it up to the religions to cultivate such responsibility, to deepen it, and to transmit it to the future generations.
(6) Benedict XVI, Speech of February 12, 2007, to the International Congress Regarding the Natural Moral Law, Organized by the Pontifical Lateran University, in AAS 99 (2007) 244.

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