Thursday, April 01, 2010
Of Philosophers and Pedophiles
Marcello Pera is a rather distinguished Italian philosopher. He is also a politician who was President of the Italian Senate from 2001 to 2006. There is much more of the latter than the former in this piece, "Paedophile priests and the pope":
The recent uproar in Germany about paedophile and homosexual priests is an attack on the pope. It would be a serious mistake to think that it is too monstrously daring to harm him.
There is a war on. It is not openly against the pope in person as it would be impossibile on this ground. Benedict XVI is proof against any such thing; his serene calm, transparence (sic), firmness and doctrine make him unassailable. His gentle smile is enough to scatter a whole host of adversaries.
A few days ago a secularist casually revealed their real thinking: "The extent of the problem of child abuse by priests undermines the right of the Catholic Church to educate the very young." No matter that this sentence contains no evidence as "the extent of the problem..." is carefully concealed. Are the paedophiles one per cent of the priesthood? Ten per cent? All of them ? No matter that the sentence lacks logic: it would be enough to substitute the word "priests" with "teachers" or "politicians" or "journalists" to undermine the legitimacy of state schools, of parliaments and of the press.
This kind of screed would not be complete without a Godwin:
This war against Christianity is a total war. One has to look back to nazi (sic) rule or communism to find anything like it.
It is incredibile (sic) that Germany, once again a democratic country, still beating her breast in memory of the sacrifice she inflicted on the rest of Europe, should forget and not understand that her democracy would be lost if Christianity were vanquished again.
Pera has apparently done some good work against post-modernism but his disdain for "cultural relativism" has more than a whiff of racism or, at least, imperialism:
[O]nce Christianity is vanquished, we would be left with multiculturalism, which claims that each group has a right to its own culture [and] with relativism, which claims that every culture is as good as any other ...
That might come as a surprise to the 50 % of Germans who are either atheists or believe in a "spirit or life force" but not in the Christian God (or any other god, for that matter).
Does that mean that Germany is only half democratic?
I'd also like to know, how comes that Germany's democracy somehow depends on Christianity while the dictatorship of the Nazis apparently had nothing to do with Christianity although a lot more Germans were Christians during that time than now.
Because Gott Mitt Uns now, rather than before?
Including, (dare I say it?) Hitler.
Hitler's philosophy was at least as bound up with his belief in a god as it was in any Nietzschean philosophy. His view of the role of churches was a rather pragmatic one (as a way of persuading the masses to do what Hitler wanted), but he certainly made more references to his god being on his side than a secularist would have. Plus, as JLT says, Christians didn't seem to be a force in opposition to Hitler. Saying that Christianity prevents such things is pretty wrong on the face of it.
A note on the question of racism - I don't necessarily know whether it's correct in this specific instance, but I think disagreeing with another's cultural norms can appear to be racist while not actually being racist.
The obvious example I like to give concerns female genetal mutilation - not practiced much by Caucasians so if you went solely on the criteria of race one could question the motivations behind the criticism.
So there is a point in the priest's screed that I'm potentially sympathetic to, even if it's buried under a pile of rubbish.
Multiculturalism doesn't mean all the details of respect and compatibility have already been worked out - witness the problems of head scarves in France and cartoons in Denmark.
Of course you're right. No one could rationally start out with the premise that all cultures are equal. But neither can you start out with the premise that one culture is superior.