Monday, 29 March 2010

The Cure for Pain and Death

The erudite Anglican priest Fr. Hunwicke* today has a post pertinent to this blog, due to its connection with the Scripture verse from which the title of the blog is taken:

"Ancient Jewish tradition held that the tree of life standing in the midst of the garden of Eden was an Olive, from which came the oil of mercy that cured both pain and death. That is why patristic sources insistently associate the Chrism [oil for anointing] of Confirmation with immortality and resurrection.

There is evidence that for the 'hippolytan' writings, the tree from which this oil flows is the tree of the Cross. It seems to me that here the images of scripture and tradition merge and mingle. The Cross, the New Tree in the New Garden, is the true tree of life, and the Anointing (Chrisma) which makes and marks us as Christians unto everlasting life flows from that tree. And it is the tree of which Venantius Fortunatus in his Pange lingua teaches us that it is itself soaked, anointed, through and through, with the blood of the lamb (...quem sacer cruor perunxit fusus agni corpore) [hymn for the Adoration of the Cross, Good Friday].

A pre-Christian Jewish writing pictures Adam begging to be given of the oil that flows from the tree in garden. He is given for anwer: 'It shall not be thine now, but at the end of the times. Then shall all flesh be raised up and God will give them of the tree of life'. Praise be to God, who, here in the end-time, gives us to be marked with the anointing of eternity."

(*Caveat for observant Catholics: Fr. Hunwicke is one of the few Anglican priests I have no problem calling "Father", since he is in fact an impeccably orthodox Catholic Christian who just happens to labour under the factual error that the Anglican Church is a schismatical church rather than a heretical sect and has valid Holy Orders.)

Thursday, 11 March 2010

State Morality and the Myth of Moral Relativism

From time to time I slip into 'blog apathy' and simply can't bring myself to write posts, which is why I haven't posted since November. Things have also been rather hectic in my life recently (nothing sinister, merely purely professional challenges that I am quite happy to tackle). But the world is moving fast and lots of things are going on. No time to comment on them all, but an issue that has been addressed more and more frequently in the British Catholic blogosphere is the government's bill to teach sex education to children as young as five - including information on contraception from eight years of age and on abortion from 11 years. Initially these provisions were made mandatory also for 'faith schools' - such as Catholic schools which absolutely could not in good conscience teach a curriculum that said contraception and especially abortion were perfectly legitimate options. After much consternation, including a sharp comment from Pope Benedict, an amendment was introduced that opened up for such schools to be able to present the views of the denominations they are affiliated with - but they would still be required to present opposing views in addition to their own, including providing information to little girls about how they can have sex without getting pregnant and how they can have their babies killed if it happens anyway!!

Though the government will deny it, what it is doing is passing moral judgments in the manner of religious authorities. It is not possible to divorce sex & relationship education from morality: no matter whether you teach that abortion is acceptable or unacceptable, you are expounding a particular morality. Even if you desire to remain 'neutral' by presenting both sides of the argument and leave it to the pupils to decide you are still sending the message that both are legitimate options in their own right. This shows the flaw of Moral Relativism - though it purports to be 'neutral' and 'balanced', by arguing for the moral equivalence of multiple paths of moral reasoning, it is itself passing a moral judgment that it is perfectly legitimate for a person to abitrarily select one such path or the other. As such the very concept of Moral Relativism is self-contradictory, because it itself presupposes the existence of the very Absolutist principles it claims do not exist (it is readily demonstrable that the statement "Everything is relative" is self-contradictory because it is Absolutist - as long as one believes in logic).

(Interestingly, secular schools are not required - or even allowed - to present more than one side of the arguments on S&R issues. This does not seem particularly 'pluralist'. Indeed, most contemporary Western governments do not even base their policies upon moral relativist reasoning intended to represent a genuine plurality of viewpoints, but rather increasingly upon an agressive 'secularism' which embodies a distinctive morality of its own that a priori excludes the legitimacy of other viewpoints. Thus the 'secular' view that contraception and abortion are legitimate options is made the norm, and the 'religious' view that they are not is merely tolerated, and then only to a certain degree. This 'secularism' is thus an ideology in itself that seeks to exclude and destroy opposing ideologies and as such it is irrational to tout it as a common platform for all of society.)