Universitas, Number 10, November 2001
In the previous issue of this journal we published a short piece by Dr Woodbury on the reconciliation of the existence of evil in the world with a God who is perfectly good. (In this edition also there is an article by John Ziegler on the problem of evil). We could not have known how timely its publication was to be in the light of the events of September 11 just a few days afterwards. Of all the evils in recent times has any event made more of an impact on the world than the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington? When so many have commented on the devastation what has a publication such as Universitas to say about what has happened?
My thoughts as editor are these. First, whatever grievances people may have there can be no justification for the direct killing of innocent human life. Therefore the attacks deserve the utter condemnation they have received. We pray for those who have lost loved ones, for those injured and for the souls of those who died.
Secondly, we may note what a huge psychological effect this has had on the world, particularly on Western countries which have enjoyed relative prosperity and security. This is continuing because the threat of further terrorist attacks, in many forms, remains. Fear of this is quite sobering. It is impossible not to contemplate on one's own mortality. Suddenly the attractions of Hollywood, consumerism and Western materialism in general have lost some of their charm. The crisis, particularly because it is ongoing, may focus our minds on those realities of ultimate importance: why were we created and what is our destiny after death?
Thirdly, and this is particularly applicable to the work of the Centre, we may consider those principles which are the basis for a happy and just society. The recipe for social happiness is in the social teaching of the Church. This teaching is based on the natural moral law and divine revelation. Pivotal to it is a respect for the dignity of the human person - this means everyone, whether rich or poor, old or young, fit or frail, from the moment of conception until natural death. The Pope has written extensively on the nature and dignity of the human person and has noted that a society which claims to be just must respect this. (No nation which aborts a percentage of its unborn citizens can find true and lasting peace.) All ideas have consequences and the world has never been in greater need of sound principles of social action. We are indebted to Don Boland who has written two important articles on such principles in this edition.
Finally, the Pope wishes to remind the West, and his address on The Back Page is an example, of its social and cultural roots. He reminds us of the Christian foundation for Western civilization and of the important contribution made by the philosophy of the Greeks, especially Plato and Aristotle. He speaks to societies which were once Christian but which now condone many practices against the moral law and seem to have forgotten their origin and heritage. As we go to print at the time of the feast of Christ the King, we may recall that Pius XI instituted the feast to promote the social kingship of Christ. He is to reign in societies as well as in hearts. Christendom has been eroded by enemies from without and from within. Although many would like to extinguish what remains of Christian civilization, it is vital for a just and free society that Christian principles be understood and promoted. The neo-pagan world regards Christianity as a threat to human rights and freedom, yet ironically the values it espouses (when convenient) such as equal rights, tolerance, free speech, affirmative action for minorities, special help for the disabled, preferential option for the poor and so on are all the result of Christian influence on society. That is the difference between pagan and neo-pagan. The pagan world knew nothing of such ideals. The neo-pagans have them today only because they have taken them from Christian principles on which Western civilization was founded and modified them for their agenda. There is a battle of ideas but we are the Church militant. Perhaps we can all have a part in helping sow the seeds of a new Christendom.
Andrew Nimmo is a lecturer at the Centre for Thomistic Studies, in Sydney, Australia.
This article posted November 2001. It was published in
Universitas, No. 10 (2001).
Permission is granted to copy or quote from this article, provided that full credit is given to the author and to the
Centre for Thomistic Studies, Sydney, Australia.
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