Sunday, November 14, 2004

Cardinal: let's imagine an alternative

Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, recently made a criticism of modern Western democracy. He said that it was a failure of the imagination to believe that,

Democracy can only be what it is now: a constant series of "breakthroughs" against social taboo in pursuit of the individual's absolute autonomy.

This is an insightful criticism of modern political culture by the cardinal. It gets right to the core of what is wrong with liberal politics. Liberals believe that we are fully human when we are self-created by our own individual will and reason. This means, though, that liberals can't accept anything important to who we are or what we do which we haven't chosen for ourselves.

Over time, this has led liberals to seek to break through not only social taboos, but also traditional understandings of gender, of ethnic identity, and of family life, all in the name of individual autonomy (as we don't get to choose for ourselves our sex, our ethnicity, our role within the traditional family etc).

Cardinal Pell rightly points out some of the negative consequences of breaking through social taboos, including marriage breakdown and family dysfunction, and a de-sanctifying of human life represented by high rates of abortion, the destruction of human embryos for research and legalisaton of euthanasia.

The cardinal goes on to argue that there are possible alternatives to the secular democracy of today. He proposes as an alternative what he calls "democratic personalism".

Interestingly, he warns that if secular democracy continues the long-term future might belong to Islam. He believes that Islam has the potential to attract alienated Westerners (and he might also have pointed to demographic changes in Western countries favouring the growth of Islam).

(Which makes me wonder, that if senior church leaders understand the potential for "dhimmitude" in the West, why haven't they taken more of a stand against open borders immigration policies?)

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