16 Ottobre 2018

L’Europa riparte dalla “Speranza”

La “European Society for Moral Philosophy” torna a sfidare culturalmente l’Europa partendo dal tema della “Speranza”. Dal 18 al 20 a Varsavia il Secondo Congresso Internazionale


Due anni fa il primo convegno internazionale dedicato al tema del “Bene”. Oggi la “European Society for Moral Philosophy” torna a sfidare culturalmente l’Europa partendo dal tema della “Speranza”. Sarà infatti questo il tema al centro del Secondo Congresso Internazionale, che si terrà dal 18 al 20 ottobre presso la Cardinal Wyszynski University di Varsavia.

Moltissimi i relatori, una trentina, provenienti da diversi atenei di differenti parti nel mondo, filosofi, storici e politici. Solo per citarne alcuni: Juan Manuel Burgos (fondatore e Presidente dell'Associazione spagnola sul personalismo, docente presso l'Università San Pablo CEU di Madrid), Chantal Delsol (tra i primi firmatari dello Paris Statement), Dominic Farrell (dell’Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolarum, vincitore del Premio Bellarmine ed esperto di tomismo), Ryszard Legutko (europarlamentare polacco, autore di “The Demon in Democracy”), Margarita Mauri Alvarez (docente di etica presso l'Università di Barcelona e direttrice del gruppo di ricerca internazionale “Stágeira. Aristotelian Studies of Practical Philosophy”), Martyna Koszka?o (dell’Università di Gda?sk esperta di filosofia medioevale e di storia dell’etica), Joseph Rice (della Seton Hall University, noto esperto di tomismo, fenomenologia e del pensiero di Karol Wojtyla), Oliver Roy (dello European University Institute, noto intellettuale), Josef Seifert (allievo diretto di Dietrich Von Hildebrand e direttore del Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute of Philosophy and Realist Phenomenological Research presso la Gustav Siewerth Akademie, Bierbronnen), Manfred Spieker (docente presso la Osnabrueck e membro del Pontificio Consiglio Giustizia e Pace). 

Il convegno è patrocinato dall'Istituto di Scienze politiche della Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, il cui referente è il Professor Piotr Mazurkiewicz (autore dei volumi "Chiesa e democrazia" e "L'europeizzazione dell'Europa. L'identità culturale dell'Europa nel contesto dei processi di integrazione") che interverrà con una relazione dal tema: "Può la politica portare una qualche speranza?". Il convegno è organizzato da Elisa Grimi, Executive Director della ESMP, e dal professor Michal Gierycz della Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University. A questo indirizzo è disponibile il programma:


Anticipiamo qui il testo della relazione di Manfred Spieker, dal titolo “Witness of hope? The Social Teaching of the Church between guarantees and limitations of liberty”.


Can the social teaching of the Catholic Church be understood as a witness of hope? Hope for the bonum commune and man's ability to build it? Or is the social teaching of the Catholic Church rather a testimony of scepticism towards man and the ambivalence of his nature? A nature that swings back and forth between the establishment of bonum commune and its destruction? The social doctrine of the Catholic Church sees itself as social ethics. Social ethics primarily asks about the structures and institutions that are suitable for securing bonum commune. They do not focus on virtues, but on constitutional orders, structures and institutions. The alternative virtue ethics - structural ethics, however, is slightly misleading. In the development of the social teaching of the Catholic Church since Rerum Novarum (1891) it can be shown that although the social teaching always asks for the right structures of the political order, it is carried by trust in the personal nature of man, which is able to choose the good in freedom and to establish the bonum commune. In this respect, it is a testimony of hope. “The right state of human affairs, the moral well-being of the world”, writes Benedict XVI in his encyclical Spes Salvi 2007, “can never be guaranteed simply through structures alone, however good they are. Such structures are not only important, but necessary; yet they cannot and must not marginalize human freedom. Even the best structures function only when the community is animated by convictions capable of motivating people to assent freely to the social order”(24). In the social doctrine of the Catholic Church restrictions of freedom are therefore always at the service to secure freedom. She trusts that the person can establish the bonum commune. It assumes that it is the subject and the goal of all social institutions (GS 25) and that the common good is the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment (GS 26).


Liberty and its limitations have been a topic of the Catholic social teaching since the first social encyclical Rerum Novarum on the labour question in 1891. Whoever takes a close look at the development of this doctrine during the past one hundred and twenty-five years, may first gain the impression that it emphasizes more the restrictions of liberty than the guarantees of liberty. And indeed, you find restrictions of liberty in all social encyclicals after Rerum Novarum, but the opposite observation, that in all social encyclicals the guarantees of liberty always play a great role is not less correct. To understand this “on the one hand – on the other hand” of limitations and guarantees of liberty, you have to turn your view beyond the state and politics to the subject of liberty, to the person living in different dimensions or tensions: between individuality and sociality, between liberty and responsibility and between God-likeness and ambivalence. All those tensions have got consequences on the order of society and the state. But for the dialectic of guarantees and limitations of liberty especially the last tension mentioned here is decisive: God-likeness and ambivalence. God-likeness means that the human, as a unity of body and spirit, blessed with reason and free will, created by God and destined for God, is charged and able to dominate the world. Ambivalence of human nature means that he is able to use his liberty for a successful life and for a failed life as well. He is able to act in a constructive, but also in a destructive manner. The social teaching of the Catholic Church reacts to this ambivalence not only by appealing to the improvement of the human character, to repentance and virtues, but also by several structural and institutional measures in order to restrict the political power: the horizontal and vertical separation of powers, the democratic constitution, the temporary regimen, the accountability of the political representatives and fundamental rights of the citizens. Their purpose is to avoid the abuse of political power and, where this is not avoidable, to limit its harmful consequences. The ambivalence of human nature forces the social teaching of the church to find a balance between the protection and the limitation of human liberty.


Whereas the first social encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891 dealt with that balance, with regard to the economic order, the labour conditions and with the role of the state, Quadragesimo Anno, forty years later, deals with the liberty and justice concerning the entire order of society and state. Against the background of political developments like the Soviet communism, the Italian fascism and the National Socialism appearing at the horizon, which all were establishing totalitarian respectively authoritarian systems of power in their countries, in 1931, Pius XI. formulates a freedom protecting principle of limited power, the principle of subsidiarity: “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.” (79)


The principle of subsidiarity is not only justified from the sociological point of view but also from an anthropological view. It is the consequence resulting from the personal conception of man: The human being is origin, subject and purpose of all social institutions. State, social and economic institutions have to contribute to a successful human life. But they can only contribute to a successful life if they consider that this success first of all depends on the readiness and the ability of the person to take initiatives, to shoulder efforts, to take risks and to perform well. The independent accomplishment of an own work produces pleasure, causes appreciation and encourages further, greater actions. That is why constitutions of state, social or economic institutions which paralyze the initiatives of the people, which make their efforts more difficult and punish their performance, hinder the development and therefore the success of human life. They do not only violate the principle of subsidiarity but also the human dignity. If the principle of subsidiarity wants to secure the room for initiatives and actions of the human being, on the one hand with and by the state, on the other hand against the state, it becomes clear that this assumes an independent and active citizen and not a passive subject who needs to be taken care of. The image of man underlying the principle of subsidiarity does not consider man first and foremost a deficient being who constructs the state in order to balance his deficits respectively to satisfy his needs, but a reasonable being, created in the image of God who, despite his inherent imperfection and ambivalence, is capable of contributing to the common good and of enriching a community, but who nevertheless needs the state to achieve and to protect the common good. Every person is beggar and patron, debtor and creditor at the same time. Subsidiarity, as Benedict XVI. wrote in 2009 in Caritas in Veritate, “respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others“. That is why it is “the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state“ (57).


For the Catholic social teaching, the sixties are the years that emphasized freedom. This concerns the Second Vatican Council and its pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes (1965) and the two social encyclicals of John XXIII., Mater et Magistra (1961) und Pacem in Terris (1963), as well. Against the background of the Cold War and the confrontations with the communism these three documents all underline the relationship between freedom and human dignity and the liberty securing character of the Catholic social teaching. In Mater et Magistra, the emphasis entirely is the liberty of the economy. Like hammer blows, the encyclical enumerates the statements on the priority of private initiatives over state interventions. In Pacem in Terris, the political order is in the focus – within the state and between states. It deals with the conditions of a constitution that secures liberty: The understanding of the law, the respect of the human rights and democracy with the separation of powers (68) and with regular elections (73, 74). Decisive here is the understanding of the law. Laws can only oblige to be obeyed, that means that they can only be legitimated, if they are justified in the moral order resulting from human’s nature (6) which is in accordance with the right reason (51) and which for the Christians has God in its origin (47). The understanding of the law in Pacem in Terris means is substantiated in natural law. It is not the will of the majority that is the final source of law, nor it is the Holy Bible, but the order inscribed by God in the human nature, that order from which result rights and at the same time duties. That source of law, withdrawn from any arbitrariness, is the central condition of securing and protecting liberty.


The Second Vatican Council resumes the understanding of law of Pacem in Terris. Gaudium et Spes does not leave any doubt concerning the preference of democracy. The participation in forming the political will is the necessary consequence of the person’s dignity. But Gaudium et Spes is more than just a Vademecum of political ethics. It is a positioning of the human being in modern society, which is quite characterized by the emphasis of the sixties on freedom. The freedom of the person is a guideline of the Council – not only in Gaudium et Spes. “Only in freedom can man direct himself toward goodness”, seek his creator and come to perfection (17). The freedom for is the reason of the freedom from: The freedom for the good which corresponds to his vocation is the reason of freedom from oppression, especially from external pressures which violate his dignity, and from the “captivity to passion” (17). That is why the Council, apart from Gaudium et Spes, has adopted the declaration on freedom of worship, “Dignitatis Humanae”, too. But the Council does not harbour illusions about the intrinsic endangering of freedom because of the ambivalence of human nature, to which number 13 of Gaudium et Spes is dedicated: “Therefore man is split within himself”, and his whole life, “whether individual or collective”, is “a dramatic struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness” (13). The freedom of man remains being dependent on God’s grace (17).


Highlights concerning the balancing of protecting and limiting liberty in the history of the Catholic social teaching are the encyclicals written by John Paul II., Laborem Exercens (1981), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1988), Centesimus Annus (1991) and, last but not least, Evangelium Vitae (1995). John Paul II. himself, by his pontificate, by his journeys into his Polish home country, by his standing up for human dignity and for freedom of worship, had contributed in essential manner to liberate Central and Eastern Europe from communist oppression. Besides, his courage, his bravery and his apostolate developed liberating effects in numerous other dictatorial systems of power. But he has also reminded the free societies of the West of the limits of liberty resulting from the person’s dignity (CA 40). The integral ecology became the centre of his social preaching.


The encyclicals of John Paul II. reject the widespread opinion that a constitutional order must not prefer values, for the sake of freedom, and must instead be developed on the basis of an agnosticism or sceptical relativism (CA 46 and EV 69). The ceterum censeo of the whole pontificate of John Paul II. and Benedict XVI., too, is the admonition that “freedom which refused to be bound to the truth would fall into arbitrariness and end up (...) to the point of self-destruction” (CA 4, 17, 41, 44, 46). The first value of a human society a democratic legislator has to respect is the human life. The prohibition of killing innocents is the basis of a constitutional order and of a constitutional state that protects freedom. For John Paul II., the disregard of this prohibition is the most important social-ethic challenge of his pontificate. The church’s mission of giving a voice to the voiceless that referred to the workers at the end of the nineteenth century, referred now, at the end of the twentieth century, to the unborn children (EV 5). Already in Centesimus Annus and even more in Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II. talks about the culture of death where the self-destruction of a boundless freedom becomes visible (EV 24, 26, 28, 50, 64, 87, 95).


Culture of death is an unwieldy term. It describes behaviour on the one hand and social and legal structures on the other hand which strive for their objective to make the killing socially acceptable, by camouflaging it as a medical service or a social help. The culture of death wants to liberate the killing from the crime’s curse. By legalizing abortion in many Western states in the seventies, followed at the beginning of the twenty-first century by legalizing euthanasia in the Benelux countries, in several federal states of the USA and recently in Canada, the subjects of life protection have become a, well, the most important social ethical problem. There is no “true freedom where life is not welcomed and loved” (EV 96) and there is no democracy without accepting the right to life (EV 70, 72). So, the field of biomedicine is not only a problem of the moral theology but of the social ethics.


The consequences of biomedical developments are also a central topic of the encyclical of Benedict XVI., Caritas in Veritate (2009) which in public is mostly reduced to the problems of globalization. As John Paul II. already did, Benedict XVI. discusses the dramatic alternative between the culture of life and the culture of death. The church “forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics” (15). “A particularly crucial battleground in today's cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics, where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question. (...) We are presented with a clear either/or” (74). In addition to the widespread tragic plague of the abortion, in the future there might be a systematic eugenic birth planning and a mens euthanasica (CIV 75). Laudato Sí and Amoris Laetitia also join the battle of Centesimus Annus, Evangelium Vitae and Caritas in Veritate, for a culture of life and for an integral ecology. Francis compares the power communicated by biotechnology, according to his special inclination to powerful illustrations, with the atomic bomb (LS 104). He criticizes the environmentalist movement because they believe that it is possible to combine the defence of nature with the killing of unborn children by abortion (LS 120, 136), and he criticizes the gender movement because they refuse to accept the own body as a gift of God or as a gift of nature. An “authentic human ecology” makes it necessary to accept the own body, in its femininity or masculinity, in order to recognize himself or herself by encountering the other. As Benedict XVI. already did, Francis reproaches the gender movement with practicing the manipulation of their own nature, of themselves, a manipulation they deplored so often with regard to the environment (LS 155 and AL 285).


Where is the social teaching of the church located, one hundred and twenty-five years after Rerum Novarum? Its considerations with regard to the order of society, state and international relations fasten on the person. It remains characteristic of the integral ecology to “think big” of man and to “talk big” about him, because he has a great origin and a great destination. The decisive political and life-practical meaning of this insight consists in the statement that no human being must earn his right to life or his human dignity by his abilities or performances, but that they are given to him together with his existence. This is especially valid for the new field of biomedicine. But it remains characteristic of the Catholic social teaching to keep the ambivalence of the human person in sight. The realism with regard to this ambivalence saves it from regarding only the constructive or only the destructive possibilities of human action. That is why the dialectic of protecting freedom and limiting freedom that characterized its documents during the last 125 years will characterize the documents also in the future.


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Organo di informazione dell'Associazione culturale "Civitas"