Mysticism & The Benedict Option
31 minutes ago
It must be said that pugilism has a long history in Catholic culture: boxing in Catholic boys’ clubs, for instance. Given sufficient safeguards to minimize the risk of serious injury, pugilism and martial arts are compatible with Catholic morality.
Professional boxing and MMA, though, raise serious moral concerns. The fundamental goal in boxing is to degrade your opponent’s capacity to defend himself, either by battering him into an impaired state or, if possible, delivering a knockout blow. MMA adds grappling techniques and allows for other ways of winning, such as submission holds and tapouts, but incapacitating one’s opponent remains a highly desirable goal.
This is morally different, for instance, from injuries incurred in football, which may be serious enough to warrant moral concern but are not a direct goal of the game itself. In football, a tackle trying to prevent the quarterback from making a throw may have to knock down a guard to do it, or he may be able to dodge past him; either way, in principle what counts is whether or not the quarterback makes the throw, not who does or doesn’t get hurt in the process. (That’s not to say that players never directly try to harm one another, or that serious injuries don’t occur regardless of intentions — only that points aren’t awarded based on who has been harmed.)
In professional boxing and MMA, incapacitating your opponent means you win and he loses. I see no way to avoid the conclusion that this is repugnant to the Fifth Commandment and the obligations of charity, potentially gravely so, particularly when multiplied by the incessant punishment and harm that professional fighters endure over years of training and competition.
Though concessions to safety have been made in MMA’s development from the early days of Ultimate Fighting, there is still too much of the spirit of the Roman gladiatorial blood sport in both MMA and professional boxing. One can respect the skill and courage of the fighters, but the big winners are corporate bosses who grow wealthy on fighters, trading away their well-being for the entertainment of patrons whose money drives the whole machine.
I’ve never had much time for “peak oil” (the notion held with religious conviction by many on the left here, that world oil production either has or is about to top out – and will soon slide, plunging the world’s energy economies into disarray and traumatic change.) In fact there’s plenty of oil, as witness the vast new North Dakota oil shale fields, with the constraints as always being the costs of recovery. Oil “shortages” are contrivances by the oil companies and allied brokers and middlemen to run up the price.
There is a vast audience of people out there who, as I said, have never heard of Daniel Yergin, and who have never even heard the words "peak oil." The elected officials who guide our policy will do little to address peak oil and related issues until voters communicate that these are top priorities that will affect elections. Beyond this there is the issue of encouraging personal preparedness, something that is in large part outside the scope of government policy.
The reason for this seems to me to lie in the fact that the fathers of the Basic Law at that important moment were fully conscious of the need to find truly solid ground with which all citizens would be able to identify and which could serve as the supporting foundation for everyone, irrespective of their differences. In seeking this, mindful of human dignity and responsibility before God, they did not prescind from their own religious beliefs; indeed for many of them, the real source of inspiration was the Christian vision of man. But they knew that everyone has to engage with the followers of other religions and none: common ground for all was found in the recognition of some inalienable rights that are proper to human nature and precede every positive formulation.Some traditionalists might judge the Holy Father's attempt to ground certain natural rights in the "dignity of man" to be unsound. Perhaps he feels required by his office to protect the rights of Christians and other believers in secular countries, seeking to encourage dialogue with members of other faiths and to cooperate in preserving the place of faith in the public life of citizens. He may also be looking for some measure of reciprocity on the part of Muslims and how they treat Christians in predominantly Muslim countries. And there is also the argument that the Holy Father needs to prevent further radicalization of Muslims who feel excluded from Western societies.
In this way, a society which at that time was essentially homogenous laid the foundations that we today may consider valid for a markedly pluralistic era, foundations that actually point out the evident limits of pluralism: it is inconceivable, in fact, that a society could survive in the long term without consensus on fundamental ethical values.
Dear friends, on the basis of what I have outlined here, it seems to me that there can be fruitful collaboration between Christians and Muslims. In the process, we help to build a society that differs in many respects from what we brought with us from the past. As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society. I am thinking, for example, of the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice.
This is another reason why I think it important to hold a day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world, which as you know we plan to do on 27 October next in Assisi, twenty-five years after the historic meeting there led by my predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II. Through this gathering, we wish to express, with simplicity, that we believers have a special contribution to make towards building a better world, while acknowledging that if our actions are to be effective, we need to grow in dialogue and mutual esteem.
Words that have no place at Downton
I have finally forced myself to watch Downton Abbey. Oh dear. It’s the usual problem, of microscopic attention to cars and clothes and no attention at all to what people were really like. Edwardians did not use the phrase ‘as if’ to express scorn for a suggestion. Nor did they say ‘ta da!’ when they successfully baked cakes. As for the much trumpeted realism of the trenches (pictured right), I’ve seen children’s play areas in urban parks more menacing and squalid than these neat, dry diggings.
But at least Downton is entertaining. This cannot be said for the awful, miserable cadaver that is the new film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I have explained just how bad this film is, and why, on my blog. Anyone who has read the book or seen the Alec Guinness TV version will be deeply disappointed. And anyone who hasn’t will be baffled.