FAITH Magazine November – December 2011
In speaking to the Bundestag last 22 September Pope Benedict issued an "urgent invitation" to engage in "a public debate" on the cultural influence of positivistic philosophy (see our Road from Regensburg column). The Pope reemphasised a key theme of his last twelve months (which are movingly described by William Oddie in this issue) by calling the growing relativism of Europe a "dramatic situation which affects everyone". Two days later he told seminarians to sift the "enduring insights" from the "nonsense" of modern philosophy of science.
As ever in our magazine we want to foster such debate. In this issue we present different angles concerning whether and how modern science should influence our metaphysics. Fr Selman succinctly presents the prevalent view of neo-scholasticism concerning the policing role of metaphysics over experimental observation. We present a differing emphasis in our editor's review of Stephen Barr's generally excellent use of modern science to show the existence of God and the human soul. However, we argue that whilst Barr acknowledges the rise of philosophical materialism at the expense of the Catholic vision he does not give credible reasons for why this happened. We think it is partly explained by the influence of certain a priori affirmations ofneo-scholasticism.
Kathleen Sweeney historically roots the problem in the philosophy of nominalism and links it with the heart issue of the place of Christ in creation. What she very clearly does for the concept of 'nature' our editorial attempts to do for the related concept of 'authority'. The denial of both concepts with regard to the meaning of man is at the basis of modern individualism.
Our editorial takes up the Pope's own linking of the British riots to this "dramatic situation" in the world and the Church. It does not deny positive signs in the Church, such as those described in our Truth Will Set You Free column by Joanna Bogle and James Tolhurst. Yet, in terms of the failure to hand on authoritative revelation concerning human nature, our editor's piece on an EdExcel text book develops one of our editorial's examples: namely the symbolic and very worrying issue of sex education in Catholic schools. It is surely a "dramatic" situation that at the heart of our Catholic community we are pushing many, probably most, of our 14 year olds into the moral minefield of the current Religious Education GCSE.
Basic to this latter issue is the meaning of sex. We are then very pleased, as part of the debate strongly requested by the Pope, to have stirred up discussion, as exhibited on our Letters page, concerning one particular elephant in the room: namely the Church's traditional emphasis upon the primacy of the procreative end of the marital act.
The debate will continue in these pages because, as the Pope recently told the new British Ambassador to the Holy See, "it is too big to fail" (see p27).