Pell’s new QuadRant is soooooo wrong
Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-08-09
After reviewing two QuadRant articles a few days back, it’s time to look at another from the Jul/Aug2008 edition, not written by an idiot like Nelson, nor worthy like Reist’s, but by Australia’s Red Menace, Cardinal Pell, who argues against codification of Human Rights by either Parliament or High/Supreme Courts.
How unsurprising for a bigwig in the CDF which took over from the Spanish Inquisition when it’s "brand" was tarnished.
Pell’s "Four Fictions: an argument against a Charter of Rights" makes me angrier than an earlier QuadRant article I reviewed (about Constantine "Pell’s QuadRant essay is sooooo wrong" – 2007-09-05). Like his earlier essay, the current one attempts to destroy the foundations of Western Civilization built up (and regularly torn down by Christian authoritarians in the line from Constantine to Pell and Ratzinger) since the middle of the first millenium BCE.
While I won’t write on it now, I’d encourage readers to consider the earlier and the current QuadRant articles together, note the common between-the-line threads, and recognize them as part of a rope Pell would use to strangle, or at least hobble, advancing civil societies.
Pell tries to muddy the motives and actions of politicians, lawyers (such as barristers) and the judiciary. He confuses the problematic legislation of Human Rights by a parliament (and the undeniable tendency of politicians to seek political advantage by appealing to vocal and monied minorities) with constitutional change interpreted by a High Court.
Does he even mention his preferred option, that ex cathedra (literally) dogma is the way to go? No, he is content to leave that unstated, happy enough to throw stones, and cause doubts among those too ready to accept the word of a Cardinal (I bet he can’t wait to pontificate!), or too stupid to delve deeply into his text. Mind you, most of his followers are in the intersect of both classes!
Nevertheless, I had to giggle when he criticized "ideological nostrums" (sic – "nostrums" as a plural grates on Latinate ears) as a means of improving Human Rights.
"The whole concept of human rights has become so massively dependent on imaginative interpretations of the law, for example from the right to privacy to the right to abortion, that there is little knowing where it might finish up."
Oh dear, as if the imaginative interpretations of the writings two millenia ago in a land that has never seen peace, and was then in the backwaters of the intellectual life of the civilized world, where the people were subject to the dogma of clergy who were either self-serving or fundamentalist, would be any better!
What is Pell’s alternative? He doesn’t say – probably because he daren’t. As I see it, legislation is better than nothing, and judicial deliberation with a large bench based on the UN declaration is better still.
Following on from Pell’s criticism as a "slender reed" the "deeply held and widespread moral belief" comes this:
"If moral consensus is the basis for human rights, then the manipulation and coercion of moral belief can produce new rights such as those to abortion, euthanasia, and the cloning and destruction of human life for research purposes."
As if threats of excommunication and eternal hellfire aren’t coercive against the moral beliefs of the credulous! As if right-wing Cardinals don’t push politicians in countries with significant Catholic populations to make contraception difficult to obtain, regardless of whether it is the pill, RU486, or condoms, regardless of HIV, regardless of the dangers of large families to the welfare of living, breathing, thinking humans.
He also states:
"Rights cannot be inviolable if they are only plastic." They cannot be inherent to the dignity of the person if they are also a stalking horse for a particular social and political agenda."
As I see it, our understanding of rights is plastic. A secular and well-educated civil society can improve on the legacy of the Enlightenment. We can apply our collective intelligence to let us extend the scope of human rights, improve our means of dealing with the necessary Gödelian uncertainties and conflicts that apply to Law even more than they apply to Mathematics, we can develop better mechanisms to protect them.
Plasticity does not equal invalidity. Indeed, rigidity, particularly when it is to something that is the product of those rightly considered ignorant even in ancient times, is a far more dangerous and far less valid stance to take.
Pell’s arguments are subtly drafted so that the "all cats have tails, Fido has a tail, therefore Fido is a cat" and similar errors are clouded, and he shies away from stating the results of success of his own agenda.
Human Rights in the Western World have only advanced during times where secularization and education have also advanced. The apparatus of dogmatic religion has always caused delay or regression of human welfare.
In Pell’s theology, even Purgatory, the resting place for virtuous pagans who didn’t deserve eternal torture, was removed from doctrine. Now it’s Hell for everyone but those who stay in line with his powerful political organization.
If the phrase from the gospels he considers holy, "by their fruits shall ye know them", is applied to Pell and his church, if human misery and ignorance are rotten fruit, and if there is a Hell, then Pell and his fellow-travellers are going there.
So, why did QuadRant publish this? Are QuadRant editors so subtle as to have published this merely to expose the author?
- Of course, do you expect Pell to be entirely honest, when there’s a simple way to show that the doctrine of the redemption by the self-sacrifice of Jeshua-Bar-Joseph makes no sense even in theological terms.