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Is democracy going down the drain?

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There is much discussion about the future of democracy, freedom and other aspects of liberal institutions. Mainly in the United States, under the pressure of a polarised public life. But also to a lesser extent in Australia, in the face of the evasive and authoritarian behaviour of governments and the manifest priority of winning elections over addressing the existential threats of global warming and gross inequality. The conversation, of course, is also generated by the rise of China with its unashamedly totalitarian institutions and consequent capacity for decisive government action.

These factors raise the question whether ideas like freedom, democracy, public service and public accountability have the force that they once had when they inspired a costly struggle against autocracy. They also prompt reflection on why they might have lost that force and how they might regain it. In my view it is inevitable that inspiring ideas and words are hollowed out by the human failure to embody them in practice. As a result they become tainted with hypocrisy. The language then becomes uninspiring and loses its force to unify people. It needs to be renewed by costly and conspicuous manifestations of virtue.

The fate of Christian words certainly reflect this process. One of the most sacred words to describe the Christian life is charity. In its origins it embodies the response to the warm, self-sacrificing, universal and astonishing love of God for each human being. Yet its evisceration can be seen in the popular saying, ‘She (or it) is as cold as charity. The origin of this phrase lies in Jesus’ prediction of a time when people’s charity will grow cold. But in its later usage the coldness is seen to mark charity itself. It characterises people who act out of duty but without feeling. They may speak of charity as their motivation but their behaviour reveals hypocrisy or brutality.

This corruption affects especially words originally denoting a tender care for people. Places that offered protection to people in need were called asylums. The word came to represent harsh places to which people were despatched in order to protect the general populace. Similarly, places for people who were mentally ill were named after Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born and cared for by angels. The word was shortened to bedlam, a place of disorder where devilish behaviour abounded. Mary Magdalene, the Biblical character, then considered to have been a repentant prostitute who wept over Jesus, became associated with sentimental tears and lives on in the word maudlin.

The same loss of a high and inspiring meaning and its corruption into something unattractive is more general. We may think of penitentiary, originally conceived as a place where people could turn their lives around, and now synonymous with a harsh and punitive prison. Other Christian words that have often taken on a pejorative connotation are conversion, discipline, pious, pure, correction, submission and humble.

In each of these cases values which were initially strong, positive and humanitarian were later perceived as insipid, authoritarian or even toxic. The change reflected the perception by others of the actual behaviour and attitudes of people and institutions who claimed the values embodied in the words. Penitentiaries and correction facilities became places of punishment in which forced conformity with regulation was identified with conversion. Pious became associated with immaturity, conversion with fanaticism, purity with fear of sexuality, and submission with enslavement. These associations, of course, reflected in part the prejudiced judgment by outsiders. They also reflected, however, the ways in which Christians’ actions contradicted their words. The force for good of the tradition was lost and its key words became stripped of their power to engage a community.

 

'It is easy to take for granted the representative framework of society, the equality and solidarity we enjoy relative to many nations, and the privilege of a relatively united nation.'

 

This history has implications for our current situation. When reflecting on the continuing hold of ideas like democracy, politics, patriotism, freedom and honour, we should ask first about the associations these words have come to have. Democracy is generally seen as an ideal to be praised, but in practice is identified with politics. This has a pejorative taint. It is associated with dissimulation, manipulation, back-room and sweetheart deals, remote from the national interest, public service and citizens’ daily lives. Freedom is also an ideal, but is often limited to individual freedom of choice with no entailment to the good of the society or a social bond. Patriotism is often identified with uncritical support for my country right or wrong and for national alliances and rituals.

Although these associations have not demolished the claims that the corresponding values have on society. they have weakened them by identifying them with venal, self-interested, sometimes corrupt, selfish and bombastic attitudes and behaviour. Appeal to them does not carry the urgency and purity which it had for those who fought for their embodiment in public life. As a result it is easy to take for granted the representative framework of society, the equality and solidarity we enjoy relative to many nations, and the privilege of a relatively united nation. When the words that enshrine implicit values are tainted by bad attitudes and behaviour, the result can be a cynicism and apathy which makes institutions vulnerable.

If these values are important, as they are, and their hold on society needs to be renewed, it will not be enough to repeat the words that name them, to heighten the rhetoric and to impose the symbols associated with them. That will only focus attention on the gap between the rhetoric and the tainted behaviour associated with them. It will seed further cynicism. It is better to commend such values by seeking simple words that commend them, while exposing the behaviour and attitudes that taint them and demanding coherence between rhetoric and behaviour. This reknitting of good relationships and the words that describe them is a slow and painstaking process, as the Catholics among us are finding on many fronts with our language.  

It is also important to identify and celebrate actions that represent the coherence between claimed values and consequent behaviour. Politicians, church ministers and others in public life who take responsibility for behaviour inconsistent with their positions, apologise simply and without reservation, and resign their positions if appropriate, should be commended for their commitment to the values. They should not be regarded as mugs, ostracised for their sins or mocked for their failure to tough it out. Conscientious objectors and whistle blowers who call out behaviour by behaviour by representatives of government inconsistent with values should also be protected and praised, not prosecuted. They embody patriotism and democracy and purify the language that their critics taint.

Democracy is not going down the drain. But it is always at risk of being chucked into the gutter.

 

 

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image:  Australians Protest As Part Of 'World Wide Rally For Freedom' Against Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines. (Darrian Traynor / Getty Images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, democracy, totalitaianism, polarisation, values

 

 

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Existing comments

Very well said and eloquently.


Betnard Broughton | 25 November 2021  

I'm inclined to think that far from going "down the drain" democracy is more like a blocked up sink; at first the wastewater drains away a bit slowly when you pull the plug but after a while it's just a sink full of grimy gunk going nowhere and useless for washing anything clean. Stretching metaphor and analogy, the situation won't improve until you clear the s-bend. Too many political figures appear to have corrupt or questionable dealings; today we've heard our PM try to exhonorate someone from the ICAC (who he might just fancy as Federal candy) while trying to dismiss his election promise of an investigation commission. I suspect the motive to avoid investigation is to disallow questions being asked to be answered; lots of them, methinks too many for comfort. Today, the PM seems to have forgotten the "boyfriend" he alluded carries the guilt was also a Liberal until fiercely independent for a month, and that being "done over" is also being accountable in my thesaurus. It seems akin to seeing how long you can tip dripping, oil and fat down the plughole... and hoping it will all just vanish. Impeccable timing, last week of the sitting year before an election year.


ray | 25 November 2021  

Deeply, deeply touching, Andy, and it shines a light on many areas of public and interpersonal life. Ray addresses the former aspects exquisitely, as only another gifted wordsmith ever can; yet aren't there also slivers of revealing - and healing! - torchlight on offer in your piece for some like me (and him, and us)?


Michael Furtado | 26 November 2021  
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Well said yourself, Michael. ‘Deeply touching’ exactly describes Andy’s beautifully written piece.


Joan Seymour | 01 December 2021  

Surely, Fr Andrew, democracy which the modern world has been tossing into the gutter (or into the toilet bowl to borrow Ray's apt analogy) for the 30 or so years is well and truly on its way down the drain.


john frawley | 26 November 2021  

Democracy began to fade when the economy started to be seen as the ultimate end in itself. Thus, "it's the economy, stupid" might well be understood to exemplify the banality and potentially civilisation-destroying shallowness of the spreadsheet. As my old programming lecturer would often repeat: garbage in, garbage out, and it is unexamined class prejudices (such as a universe in which there are only compliant cogs: isolated customers, and service providers), imported into the assumptions of ecomometric models, that are eroding our human relationship. It is the latter mechanism, not Facebook's simulacrum of community, that festers at the bottom of the bog of self-aggrandising opportunism that the modern political sphere appears to have become. Gregory Dix, writing in 1945, concludes "The Shape of the Liturgy" by noting that "a mystique of technical and scientific mastery of man's environment... is swiftly replacing the old materialism as the prevalent anti-christianity of the twentieth century. In this subtler form it will more secretly but even more terribly oppress the human spirit." This was seventy-six years ago. We are still not listening.


Fred Green | 26 November 2021  

Many, outside of the Church see the Church as a worldly organization manipulating the Truth for its own ends, many none believers look at it and from within their hearts ridicule its hypocrisy, and in so doing can easily justify their own self-serving actions. In the West, we talk about our democracy but the reality is that many “Leaders” in all walks of life serve themselves as they have their own hidden agendas and appease their own Circle ..V.. of influence; they survive through fear and self-interest. To step outside of the group, you run the risk of becoming a victim, and to do this takes courage and integrity.

Where can mankind look to see integrity at play, the Truth being served?
If it cannot be seen in the Vatican and by implication Pope Francis, where?
If the leaders of our Church cannot do this what HOPE is there for mankind?
Our church is stale the fundamental teaching that God’s Word is inviolate has been compromised (The Divine Mercy Image). The Church needs to regain her moral authority but to do this she would have to humble herself, is it beyond the leaders of the Church to acknowledge their own failings with honesty before mankind?
We need a more spiritual/humble Church dedicated to serving the Truth, if a new dawn is to break within the Church.

The essence of Love is Truth, and those who serve the Truth on the spiritual plain feed the hungry “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” Clothes (Protects) the naked “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me”. Visit those hearts ensnared (Imprisoned) by evil, in setting the captive free.

The serving of the Truth overlaps on to the worldly plain as it protects the weak and vulnerable from exploitation in opposing oppression, misery, and inhumanity, to serve the Truth is to love one’s neighbor as oneself, it cannot be faked as it always involves carrying one’s cross. A church for the poor is not enough (although good in itself) as it sidesteps the full spectrum of Truth which confronts evil on both the spiritual plain and worldly plain.

The thought of Jesus Christ needs to be permutated within the hearts of mankind that fulfill all His yearnings, including that of global warming (Pollution), we need fresh hope, in that His life, death, and victory has brought all of mankind to a higher and completely new stage. Then mankind will see the real cause for not dealing with global warming is because of the pollution (Evil) that resides in men’s hearts.

We need to see UNITY OF PURPOSE from our Shepherds in holding the bright lamp of Truth high, giving HOPE to all of mankind in seeing the Truth of the Gospels actually working, and then in this hope, mankind may just find the courage to face the reality of his own nature and deal honestly with global warming.

Jesus speaks to all of us in these His last Words before His crucifixion
“Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed. ‘” Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, ‘FALL ON US,’ AND TO THE HILLS, ‘COVER US for if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry”

We are not to weep for Him, but weep for our own sins, and the sins of our children, which caused his death; and weep for fear of the miseries we shall bring upon ourselves, if we slight his love, and reject his teachings.

kevin your brother
In Christ


Kevin Walters | 26 November 2021  
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Fine words Kevin, but Christians in positions of power are no better than the rest. And in any case, the populations of the largest democracies are not predominately Christian in persuasion.


Ginger Meggs | 29 November 2021  

'The serving of the Truth . . . protects the weak and vulnerable from exploitation in opposing oppression, misery and inhumanity." Indeed it does, Kevin, when Word and deed are integrated, as in Christ and those who, receptive to his grace and teachings, follow in his Way. The current cultural and cognitive shift in emphasis to image and number, repudiating "logocentricity", can at best complement the word, but never replace its role and influence in articulating truth, divine and human.


John RD | 12 December 2021  

How true, John
kevin your brother
In Christ


Kevin Walters | 13 December 2021  

One would also suggest that different anti-democracy elements of what we witness now, had simply been in hibernation and lacking opportunity for traction, and not palatable to the mainstream i.e. eugenics, radical right libertarian, economics and adopting non mainstream Evangelical Christians for a GOP conservative voter block (apparently it's the latter cohort with the wellness movement targeted for Covid denialism).

Virginia based segregation inspired 'public choice' economic theory of Buchanan which is central to the Koch &/or Atlas Network (think tanks) radical right libertarian ideology; as is 'freedom & liberty' and avoidance of climate/Covid science; Nancy MacLean covers in 'Democracy in Chains' ('long game') and Jane Mayer too in 'Dark Money'.

Eugenics or 'great replacement' of original ZPG with Paul 'Population Bomb' Ehrlich as promoted by Tanton Networks (he was muse of Steve Bannon) and turbocharged by Fox/NewsCorp media doing the PR, agitprop and comms; ADL has been 'corresponding' with Lachlan Murdoch complaining that Fox/Tucker Carlson is promoting the 'great replacement', denied by Murdoch.

Also in the '70s Paul Weyrich of Heritage Foundation (later part of Koch Atlas network) liaised with Hungarian Nazi Laszlo Pasztor, and it's where Tony Abbott has presented in recent years (on record elsewhere using colourful language round descriptions of migrants).

Weyrich saw his role as, 'to litter the world with right wing think tanks', and used Jerry Falwell Snr. to create a Christian and anti-abortion alliance, dominated by Evangelicals and used to engage Catholics*.

Coincidentally we see all elements with the 'World Wide Freedom' protests, strong whiff of astroturfing, Tea Party, Capitol Hill and the usual suspects above; website in English based in Kassel Germany..... top referral link is Fox.

Hopefully coincidental, but too many links, hence, re-reading Martin Lee's 1997 book, 'The Beast Reawakens'* (from Good Reads):

'If you thought Nazism died with Hitler, think again. In The Beast Reawakens, journalist Martin A. Lee traces the resurgence of fascist ideals from the prominent Nazis who escaped prosecution following World War II to the present-day incidents of right-wing violence in Europe and America'.

Remember, this was written 25 years ago.....


Andrew J. Smith | 27 November 2021  

So well said, Andrew


Sheelah Egan | 27 November 2021  

Andrew's analysis touched off a reminiscence of another thinker who gave much thought to the ever present perils which threaten democracy in action.

Ralf Dahrendorf wasn't just a political analyst; his theory engaged with the major political thinkers of the 20th Century, he taught in Germany and in England and, unusually, served in the parliaments of both countries. He survived the experience of being sentenced, twice, to concentration camps for anti Nazi activism during WWII. Those dark days sharpened his appreciation of how loose affiliations of people can withdraw their assent from the prevailing authority structure and endorse the emergence of an alternate model – in spite of contemporary warnings of political whirlwinds and calamities. Readers may wish to review an accessible introduction to his thought and values – Dahrendorf's 1974 BBC Reith lectures would repay revisiting, not only for his observations, but also for the lesson he offers in civilised discourse which grapples with thorny issues and stops, here and there, for some nourishing humour.


Bill Burke | 27 November 2021  
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‘loose affiliations of people can withdraw their assent from the prevailing authority structure and endorse the emergence of an alternate model – in spite of contemporary warnings of political whirlwinds and calamities.’


Sometimes, it’s difficult to see or feel the calamity even when it’s around you. After all, for ‘Christianity’, it’s been a few years now since the Orthodox Rebellion of 1054 or the Reformation after 1517 and nobody in the club is feeling especially uncomfortable. Even though, if we accept Christianity to be a rational philosophy, it is unlikely that Christ would have approved of the amputations within his Church.


Some day we may find out that God’s permissive will permitted Buddhism and Islam, among other religions, to fractionate not because division is natural to intellect and free will but because he did not want his People in their multiple worship spaces to look especially stupid to other believers in a spiritual universe.


The war began and remains in the heavenlies with Lucifer. ‘Secular withdrawals of assent’ are either reminders of orthodoxy or assertions of heresy, being dim mirror reflections of the fundamental principle, since Lucifer’s claim of independence, that ‘orthodoxy’ is to be with God and ‘heresy against.


roy chen yee | 29 November 2021  

How refreshing (in a way) to gain a day's respite from the usual 'jumpestanis' who treat your articles like clickbait and generally leave after registering their political but also theocentric objections. (On second thoughts, one wonders where they are today and whether 'provocative engagement', in the finest tradition of the Jesuits, would be better than leaving the possum unstirred). Great also to see Dahrendorf cited here. His favourite tutorial at St Anthony's was his introduction to Daniel Bell's 'The Radical Right' and which he regarded as the best summative introduction to the Frankfurt School, including Adorno, Horkheimer and Habermas, all three of whom he worked with in either Germany or Columbia, and who are regularly pilloried by John RD, a committed conservative on every conceivable canon known to woman and man, who has made them the frequent object of his attack on all things democratic and modern in this forum. I am indebted in particular to Fred Green, Andrew Smith and Bill Burke for leading this discussion to the point that Dahrendorf got a mention. It was his work that opened up for me the existence of a radical right, whose major project is to extinguish the liberal democratic impulse.


Michael Furtado | 29 November 2021  
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‘theocentric’

Like ‘It’s the economy, stupid’, if one is a theist, one’s lense upon anything has to be ‘It’s the theology, stupid.’ After all, the logic of theism is that since all that is right and good comes from God, figuring out what is right and good without going past the borders of critical race theory or neo-liberalism or LGBTIQ*-ism or democratic socialism, etc. makes no sense.

Any practical philosophy which you fancy has to align with Scripture and Tradition.


roy chen yee | 30 November 2021  

I must object to your one-man kangaroo court decision that John RD is anti-democracy, Michael Furtardo. John RD has never, to my knowledge, posted any comment about his political beliefs. So they are unknown to us. His stance on religion is a perfectly acceptable conservative Catholic one. It is not my stance, but I respect both him and his views. You might, at some stage, like to cast your eye over the late, great Karl Popper's 'The Open Society and its Enemies'. He would stand comparison with any great modern political philosopher, bar none. BTW, I have seen no coherent theological or political stance on your part.


Edward Fido | 30 November 2021  
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While your fidelity impresses, Edward, it may not be enough to defend the conservative side of current affairs and theology, which provides but half the answers. Carried to extremes it attracts an entertaining if little more than resolute chorus of naysayers. Had you checked before writing, JohnRD, who, like you, is conservative but also careful about his posts, has regularly used references to the Frankfurt School, whose critical theoretical work underpins almost all the social democratic impulses that drive this Jesuit journal, to castigate rather than engage with those who publish. Ordinarily, such rough and tumble is to be expected when liberty and democracy become the touchstone of publication. However, in almost none of those who write in to object, whether from the right or left, and especially in one as obviously articulate as John, is there to be found a measure of even-handedness and balance that allows an exchange to become a conversation rather than a fight. Sure, an occasional release of flatulence relieves but whether it enlightens is sometimes doubtful. As for yourself, you inform but rarely reason and, instead, often assert. And since you insist on using my surname, please spell it correctly, as I do your's.


Michael Furtado | 01 December 2021  

Thank you, Edward. Michael Furtado once again objects to my criticism of the Frankfurt School and its influence, which, until recently in Australia, has had little exposure and scrutiny outside academia where it has steadily become, since the 1970s, the lingua franca of many Humanities departments. Although distinguishable from Marxist ideology in its emphasis on cultural rather than economic hegemony, for the Frankfurt School and its contemporary disciples belief in God remains an obstruction to human development, a blight on progress. Even Jurgen Habermas, who, as I've acknowledged previously in extended exchanges with MF on this issue, supports religion's right to a voice in public discourse, proceeds in his analysis of social and cultural reality by a self-described "methodological atheism" that he assumes secures investigative disinterest. Further, Frankfurt School-derived Critical Race and Gender Theory, manifest dramatically today in 'woke' ideology and its conflict model style of 'social justice' praxis, is not characterised by a theistic foundation - which must place claims for its influence as a "driver" of "Jesuit social democratic impulses" very near the top of MF's extravagances in "Eureka Street." You note correctly, Edward, my relatively sparing recourse to political terminology in postings, largely due to the restriction of theology only to its supposed political implications and even party alignments, and the exclusively secularist view of life it encourages. It's my understanding of the Ignatian spirituality all Jesuits are formed in that it leads to seeking and finding God in all things, together with promoting an explicitly personal Christocentric motivation and practical orientation posed directly in the questions: "What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ?" - responses to which are not exclusively identifiable with or solely confined to the political realm and secular ideologies.


John RD | 05 December 2021  

Thank you, John, for re-entering this discussion. You forget that this is not a theological journal in respect of which your theocentric position, while valued, restricts by your own implied admission, more as a matter of purism than sound application, the contributions you make; although I note that, as a theologian you know precious little about the contributions of some Frankfurt Scholars to religious discourse. One of these is consistently to refer to secularism as if it constitutes the bete noir of all religion and especially Catholicism. Well, John; have I got news for you! All this shows up in you are the limitations of the theology you espouse and which seem permanently to be mired within the mind-set of Pius IX. Were you to have read Acton, a great scholar and Catholic, you would have noted that secularism has at times been the saviour of Catholicism, especially in the Anglosphere, where it unshackled us from the discrimination we suffered for well nigh three centuries, until the Enlightenment, which I accept still atrophies your overview, intervened to influence the kind of liberal opinion that led, among other things, to Catholic Emancipation. Would that Edward, who cites this, recognised its implications.


Michael Furtado | 08 December 2021  

It is your excessively secularist claims for Jesuit motivation (1/12) disputed in my (5/12)post, Michael.


John RD | 09 December 2021  

MF: I can't say I share your benign view of atheism and its philanthropic legacy, deriving as you customarily present it from a bien pensant anthropology that negates the flawed nature of humanity manifest in history while simultaneously presupposing the possibility and efficacy of human enterprise in advancing the cause of progress without the assistance of God's grace. The sort of 'Christology' encouraged by this stance - if, indeed, Christ is acknowledged at all - is Arian, and its 'soteriology' Pelagian at root (terms that precede Pius IX and still have still traction and currency in Catholic theology). 'Evangelisation', in these terms, reduces the Christian narrative to just another story among others, (an indifferentist categorising rejected by post-Pius IX popes), and effectively regards its central figure, Christ our Lord, as disposable in the interests of a peace as the world knows it. Catholic doctrine and its vision of life characteristically recognize a fault-line in humanity related to a radical misuse of human freedom: a tragic flaw that requires Divine remedy in order for the "imago Dei", gravely impaired but not eradicated by the Fall, to be restored to its full purpose, capacity and potential with its Creator through the unique self-giving and merits of Christ, affirmed by St Paul as the "first fruits" of God's new creation in Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 20-23). This difference in our respective understandings, I believe, underlies the various disagreements expressed in this forum for several years, Michael. I wish you the joy and peace of Christ as once again we prepare to celebrate his coming and the promise it heralds and renews.


John RD | 10 December 2021  

I accept your good wishes, John, and wholeheartedly reciprocate them, noting that we should continue this conversation into 2022 if, for no other reason, to determine what exactly it is that you mean by 'renewal' (10/XII) and not the rejection of a Christ who is renewed in all that is authentically and fully human.


Michael Furtado | 10 December 2021  

Thank you, Michael (10/12). As circumstances may not permit regular postings by me in the New Year, I offer here as a starting point for reflection on "renewal" a recognition of the connection between repentance and faith as presented in the Gospels, and the metanoia this effects. As practical examples, I think of Augustine, Ignatius Loyola and Charles de Foucauld, the latter an inspiration for many 20th century Catholics, including Dorothy Day, Jacques Maritain and Madeleine Debrel. Charles' contact with Muslim believers in Morocco led to his regularly praying: "My God, if you exist, let me come to know you." On returning to France, he sought conversation with a priest who impressed on him the relevance and priority of repentance over the intellectual argumentation in which Charles' initially wished to engage. His re-connection with the Sacrament of Reconciliation marked a turning point in Charles' life, with him seeking to dedicate his life henceforth "to follow Jesus in his life at Nazareth." After seven years as a Trappist monk in Syria and then living as a hermit near a convent of the Poor Clares in Nazareth, he was ordained a priest and moved to the Algerian Sahara, deliberately seeking "the furthest removed, the most abandoned", and settling among the Taureg people. His fraternal and ecumenical disposition towards all favourably impressed all - except those who invaded his hermitage and assassinated him on 1st December, 1916. Charles strove to "... shout the Gospel with his life [not words only] and to live in such a way that would prompt those who encountered him to ask: 'If such is the servant, what must the Master be like?'" His personal fidelity to the following of Christ bore fruit in the founding of lay associations, religious communities and secular institutes of laity and priests. At his beatification in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI noted that Charles: "... put the Eucharist and the Gospel at the centre of his life. He discovered that Jesus who came to unite Himself to us in our humanity invites us to that universal brotherhood which he later experienced in the Sahara, and to that love of which Christ sets the example." Charles' frugal lifestyle practically exemplifies a counter-sign to consumerist excess and environmental irresponsibility, a commitment to payer and scholarship, a disposition of Christian fraternity essential to ecumenical progress, and a living testimony to the integration of repentance and faith in renewal, individually and communally. For these reasons I believe Charles de Foucauld will be a highly relevant figure for the contemporary Church and world when Pope Francis, as announced by the Vatican on 9th November this year, declares him a saint on 15th May in the New Year.


John RD | 12 December 2021  

Warm appreciation for your accolade to Charles de Foucault and sadness that you propose to leave us, if only for the reason that I had hoped to sever the connection, always contrived in my uncharitable view, between those who used you to further their own bizarre theologies, especially on the role of human sexuality, not your's. I want therefore to say this as a lasting encomium to your participation here. In his Introduction to 'Laudato si', +Francis states: '(The degradation of the social and natural environments) are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that man(sic) is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature.' Thus, there have been times, I felt, when you could have spoken up in favour of some of +Francis' more mellow inflections (on homosexuality, for instance), and did not, in consequence of which some who post here filled your vaccuum with homophobic invective. If I reacted to that by blaming you, I apologise for that precipitation, which I now resile from.


Michael Furtado | 12 December 2021  

Thank you, Michael. Bill Burke's citing of Newman's "Oremus pro invicem" on Andrew's recent "I remember, I remember" thread seems especially relevant. One conviction has deepened over the years: our prayers are not mere exhalings into a cold night wind; they're the breathings that received in Christ's heart call new dawning into life, with his possibility abounding. May all of us who contribute here pray for one another.


John RD | 14 December 2021  

As much of a Blessing and a Prayer that even the hard-nosed and ungracious among us would be hard-put to ignore at this time of the year. I remember the correspondence between you and Bill on Newman from this time last year. Bill's great gift is that he is a peace-maker who puts people before blooding. In the end that denies one an earthly victory but, I suppose, at the gain of a celestial one. I wish I had his equanimity and wisdom, but, sharing his view about your theological lucidity, I still look forward to pushing you beyond your canonical confines towards the newer and more urgent ecclesiological discussion that this journal encourages and which your posts almost universally contain. While perennially polite, they either demonstrate your dexterity for fence-sitting or your silence when contemporary ethical questions surface and you stage an entrance that says nothing. Granted there's an integrity in this, it grates that one who wears his conservative Catholic credentials on his sleeve should let those whose sparring is often demonstrably below the belt should regard one of your calibre as an ally and a tacitly silent supporter while the Gospels themselves are blown to bits. Since the Editor appears at this Advent juncture to look with favour on longish farewells, I might cite by way of contrast how Andy Hamilton recently referenced a young Anthony Fisher on the refugee question, when thirty years later, from the pulpit at St Mary's the same prelate commended those who shut the gates against them. Since its these tensions and contradictions that constitute the life-blood of ES, I urge you to return and help thaw and re-circulate its message outside a magisterial context that somehow manages, whether by intent or accident, to reduce its import to the point of interment.


Michael Furtado | 15 December 2021  

Edmund Burke thought the Fourth Estate indispensable for democracy.
“Democracy Dies in Darkness” adorns the masthead of The Washington Post (WaPo), owned by the world’s wealthiest man, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
WaPo promoted mail-in ballots during the 2020 presidential election, but vigorously opposed them when Amazon workers sought them for a unionization vote in Alabama. Amazon alleged only in-person voting would produce a “valid, fair and successful election.”
Over 4 years, WaPo ran 24,000 articles on Trump and Russia, the New York Times 18,000, and CNN 11,000. Yet when Russia/Trump collusion was proven false they simply moved on to the next smear campaign—Brett Kavanaugh, the Covington Catholic kids, etc.
Big Tech monopolies mouth platitudes about “responsibility” but censored the true story of what was on Hunter Biden’s laptop before the 2020 election.
White House spending sprees creating once out-of-reach trillions ex nihilo, with apparent media acquiescence, gives new meaning to the “land of the free.”
Perhaps the wealthy/woke believe democracy was embodied in the German Democratic Republic and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Small wonder only 29% of Americans trust their media.
Democracy may not be down the drain, but many of its inhabitants reside in the gutter.


Ross Howard | 30 November 2021  

The late Karl Popper, a refugee from Nazi Austria, was one of the best political philosophers of the 20th Century IMHO. He thought the problem with democracies post-WW 2 was the increasing and rigid party discipline which had not existed previously. That seems to be breaking down in Australia, which IMO is a thoroughly good thing. Popper also felt current parliamentary power was unchecked - look at what's happening in Victoria - and he felt there needed to be constitutional checks on this. I agree. Popper was not purely a theoretician, in that he was like Edmund Burke. He was also our contemporary, so he saw how things were going now. He was against both Fascism and Marxism, indeed all and every form of totalitarianism. We need to make sure young people in our schools get a real grasp of our parliamentary tradition and that entails people like Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and O'Connell. This is vital. The slaves would never have been freed nor Catholics emancipated without the British parliament. No other form of government comes within a cooee of ours. None.


Edward Fido | 01 December 2021  
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Thanks, Edward, for citing Popper. He is best-known for the principle of falsification, a means of distinguishing pseudo-scientific theories, like astrology and Freudian psychoanalysis, from genuine ones, like quantum mechanics and general relativity. The latter, Popper asserted, make predictions that can be empirically tested, but which can never prove a theory to be true because the next test might contradict all that preceded it. Observations can only disprove a theory, or falsify it. In 'The Open Society and Its Enemies' (1945), Popper asserted that politics, even more than science, must avoid dogmatism, which inevitably fosters repression. 'Open Society' has been invoked since 1945 by those Quadrant types concerned about 'the rise of anti-democratic forces'. Popper’s falsification principle has been used to attack string and multiverse theories, such as the endogamous nature of homosexuality, which cannot be empirically tested. Defenders of strings and multiverses deride critics as 'Popperazzi', who haven't read a thing since John Roskam at the IPA for fear that a new idea might tax them; and so regurgitate his conservative opinions as if the world, like their reading, stopped in 1945. Many of them are elderly Catholics from former working-class backgrounds who hate what 'Jesuitical' writers stand for.


Michael Furtado | 10 December 2021  

'Defenders of strings and multiverses deride critics as 'Popperazzi', who haven't read a thing since John Roskam at the IPA for fear that a new idea might tax them; and so regurgitate his conservative opinions as if the world, like their reading, stopped in 1945.'

How did their reading stop in 1945 when they read Roskam who wasn't born until 1968? To do that, they would have had not only to believe in but also to experience an actual physical multiverse, not the metaphorical ones to which you refer.


roy chen yee | 18 January 2022  

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