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Faith and Culture: The 'Ratzingerian Marxists' and the 'Anthropological Emergency'
By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
November 25th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Perhaps Americans can learn from the "Anthropological Emergency" manifesto and the efforts of the "Ratzingerian Marxists" Barcellona and Paolo. God knows that our fractured society has lost the ability to communicate sensibly on those things which ought to guide our life in common and our political life. The right and the left seem to yell past each other.CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Karl Marx and Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) would seem to little in common. Between a materialist atheist who believed in economic determinism and a man who believes in God and in moral freedom (and who was the bane of liberation theology) there would seem to be too large a no-man's-land for these two and their disciples to meet.
But faith is not so easily suppressed, and it sometimes finds admission and flowering in the least likely of souls. Recent events in Italy seem to prove this. It is an odd phenomenon, but some of the Italian communist party, including such notables as Pietro Barcellona and Paolo Sorbi, have appeared to have abandoned Marxism and entered into the Catholic fold.
The reason? Well, of course, God-who alone moves human hearts and gives the grace of faith. But God also uses human instruments, and in this case the human instrument appears to have been Pope Benedict XVI. For this reason, these Marxist converts to the faith have been called "Ratzingerian Marxists." Perhaps a better name would be "Ratzingerian Ex-Marxists."
Pietro Barcellona, formerly a professor of Philosophy of Law and the University of Catania, and a former member of the Italian Communist party (PCI), was known as an avid exponent of Marxist atheistic materialism. But in 2010, he stirred up quite a controversy when he announced his conversion to Catholicism. Apparently, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the staunch communist, materialist, and evolutionist walls that Barcellona had installed in his heart to keep out faith fell also.
At first, philosophical nihilism seized him, but the non-God of materialistic evolution gives no comfort to the soul. Life, and life's work become meaningless in a world which could just as well have done without you because it does not know you. "The coming into the world of a human being has no meaning in the evolutionary sequence," Barcellona has said.
Something else had to be found to give meaning to his life. God, of course, would make the cosmos friendly, since there would be a God behind the cosmos. But Barcellona distrusted religion, as he saw it as a sort of "pure psychological projection," a comforting opiate perhaps, but no more.
Eventually, however, Barcellona came to see that this cannot be said about Christianity. "I was struck emotionally by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The birth of Christ, in fact, is an epochal rupture in the traditional way of seeing the relationship between God and the world, between what is divine and what is human. It presents an absolute discontinuity with respect to all hypotheses regarding the understanding of God in all other religions."
Christ is the "zero point" of history: God and man met in one person. Jesus is a historical fact, and not any psychological projection or dream induced by opiates.
In 2010, Barcellona wrote about his experience in a book entitled Encounter with Jesus.
Paolo Sorbi, former professor of sociology, is also a former Marxist and former member of the Italian Communist party and convert to the Catholic faith. He currently heads up the Pro-Life office of the Archdiocese of Milan, and is the program manager of the Italian Catholic radio station, Radio Maria.
Barcellona and Sorbi, along with two other post-Marxist thinkers, the professor of history, Giuseppe Vacca, a philosopher and political scientist, Mario Tronti, joined forces in publishing a manifesto directed to the Italian left entitled "Anthropological Emergency: Towards a New Alliance Between Believers and Non-Believers." It was published in the Avvenire magazine on October 16, 2011, and it created a tremendous stir on the left.
The focus of the manifesto is on the serious threat to humanity based upon the technological manipulation of life through genetic manipulation and artificial conception. It stresses the need for the left to take seriously the threat to mankind by these technologies, to dialogue with the Catholic Church and seriously consider the the anthropological and bioethical teachings of Benedict XVI, especially those with which he was responsible while Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, such as Donum vitae, and Dignitas personae.
"The manipulation of life" the manifesto begins, "originating in the developments of technology and of the violence inherent in the processes of globalization in the absence of a new international order, puts us in the presence of an unprecedented anthropological emergency. This appears to us to be the most serious manifestation and at the same time the deepest root of the crisis of democracy. It germinates challenges that demand a new alliance between men and women, believers and nonbelievers, religion and politics."
The manifesto calls for a new definition of secularism, one that is less hostile to religious values, recognizes the important public role of the Catholic Church and other religious bodies, and suggests for a greater balance of both faith and reason in the public arena.
It suggests that the Church's social doctrine, which is founded on authentic human values, ought to be an inspiration to political parties, and can help bring some sort of commonality between all political parties so that debates are less polarizing.
While the manifesto recognizes the autonomy of the political sphere vis-à-vis the Church, that autonomy should not be construed as hostile to religious values or amoral. The Church should be a partner in the development of society.
The manifesto proclaims the need to guard against the danger of the "radical culture" of an overemphasized individualism which appears heedless to the truths and the good of social institutions and relationships, and results in a sort of tyranny of uncontrolled desire and uncontrolled application of technology as the only good.
It stresses the need to reject ethical relativism and to recognize that there are some values that are simply non-negotiable.
The rejection of ethical relativism, the manifesto stresses, does not mean that the values of cultural pluralism need be rejected. What it does require, however, is the rejection of morally nihilistic visions of modernity espoused by a minority of radical intellectuals. Such moral nihilism can never be the basis for a democratic life.
Recognition of non-negotiable moral realities-one of which is the "freedom and dignity of the human person from the first moment of conception"-does not discriminate between believers and non-believers. The authors of the manifesto frankly concede that this is the most criticized passage of the letter, and yet they view it as among one of the most important.
"To this end," the manifesto concludes "we believe that the Democratic Party should promote a public dialogue with the Catholic Church and other religious denominations operating in Italy and which are "ethically sensible," to the end that it might attend more strictly to the actual risks of the Italian nation: the state of its unity, and the "ethical substance" of the democratic regime."
The manifesto, along with a fourteen separate essays commenting on the manifesto, has recently been published by the Italian publisher Guerini & Associates.
The authors of the manifesto have also announced a major conference that will include both Catholics and non-believers that will discuss the manifesto in 2013, and which will focus on the anthropological vision of Benedict XVI.
Perhaps Americans can learn from the "Anthropological Emergency" manifesto and the efforts of the "Ratzingerian Marxists" Barcellona and Paolo. God knows that our fractured society has lost the ability to communicate sensibly on those things which ought to guide our life in common and our political life. The right and the left seem to yell past each other.
Our society has become overly secularized and increasingly heedless to and even hostile to religious values. The government seems intent on limiting religious freedom to freedom of worship and seems hostile to a broader, traditional view of religious freedom as including not only worship, but also public works of mercy.
All too often, we have adopted relativistic view of life, where "whatever floats your boat" is to be allowed, and where there are no such things as non-negotiables. Our country would be better served if the Catholic Social Doctrine was better-known by our politicians, whether they be Catholic or not.
We have, moreover, trampled over some of those non-negotiables, most obviously that great non-negotiable that the "freedom and dignity of the human person from the first moment of conception" ought to be respected.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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