Right and wrong for all?

Our regular contributor, Nektarios, has made a comment on “Three into one don’t go” which I summarise here:

We have not touched on Christian ethics or the fact that over the last fifty years these have been largely abandoned by the medical profession, and replaced with secular ethics. Most contributors to the Blog respond in terms of Christian ethics but the Church seems reluctant and effete when faced with the secular ethics applied by scientists in the medical and other professions.

And he finishes “We can of course be thankful for the many advances in treatments over the years, but many of them, unethical in my view, have led and continue to lead mankind into moral and destructive behaviour which in some cases threaten the very cohesion and fabric of society.” (His full comment can be found in “Three into one won’t go.”)

This raises in my mind issues which we might usefully discuss.

Are Christian ethics different from secular ethics? One could argue that, since Christian ethics are based on the nature of man (natural law) they should be the same. And that would mean that the rational arguments we use to defend natural law should be acceptable to all.

On the other hand we might expect that since the Christian Church starts from the belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and has an eternal destiny, in certain respects its ethics would reflect this. For example, the dignity of man created by God might well inform our attitude towards mitochondrial transfer. However we could not reasonably expect non-believers to accept these assumptions nor the ethics which depend on them.

We might also want to consider the responses to the consultation preparing for the Synod. These show very clearly that, in matters concerning marriage and sexuality, the Catholic Church has failed to convince many of its own members. Can we then expect them to convince non-believers?

This is by no means only concerned with sexual matters. How about our attitudes to war, or to the just distribution of resources in our society? Do our public figures respect the obligation to speak the truth? Are our politicians more concerned with winning elections than the common good? Are the Media casual about destroying reputations? And so on.

Can we give some thought to how Christian ethics might be argued in a way which could make them acceptable to all?

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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39 Responses to Right and wrong for all?

  1. Brendan says:

    God gave the world The Ten Commandments. The letter of the Law was later expressed, in its fulfillment, through the life of God Incarnate – Jesus Christ. Through his example of Love and Service – re: the Beatitudes – He showed the consequential rewards of the right/ ethical way to interpret His Law ( Natural Law ). … “.. written and engraved in the soul of each and every man.”, CCC. Pope Leo X111… to those who listen and heed the voice of their Creator.
    I agree with Nektarios, and like most ‘ right-thinking ‘ people feel a terrible foreboding of impending catastrophe sometimes when one matches ones own ethical practices’ in the light of Christs’ example and consequently the Church’s Teaching Authority, against the appalling decisions that our fellow citizens , individually or collectively make.
    One can only keep fighting ones corner through example and by arguing from these First Principles as a Christian people in pointing out the folly of a particular course of action – the ‘ Catholic ‘ component giving an added dimension of course – that our fellow citizens , sooner or later will accept the full significance of our Q.E. D. when it is sometimes blindingly obvious. For this I am coming around to Pope Francis’ example of heavy reliance on The Holy Spirit which speaks more to the human heart rather than finding philosophical convergence between atheists and believers which by reason alone would never be enough. Saint Augustine’s ( paraphrase ) “… our hearts are restless until they rest in You. “

    • milliganp says:

      I think it is important that we admit that revelation has formed our understanding of the natural law “written in our hearts”. To be a Christian is to be formed and informed by the Gospel. Thus we start off with the same “core values” as secular ethicists but the light of the Gospel forms our development. The natural law alone does not cause us to “walk the extra mile” or turn the other cheek.

  2. milliganp says:

    As a singular example, the Maria Miller expense story has shown a significant gap between what “ordinary people” and politicians see as acceptable financial probity. It has also shown a gap between senior members of the government and the general mood of parliament.

  3. Nektarios says:

    Morality and ethics, though variable in different parts of the world,supply motives for conduct.
    Without such morality and ethics, how can we live useful and happy lives?
    There is the morality of the ideal and that of the actual. The ideal is to love one another, not to kill, not to exploit and so on.
    But in actuality, the natural man, that is `fallen mankind’, even Christians’, are based on a different conception.
    The ethics of our everyday existence, the morality of our social contacts,is based fundamentally on egotism, on acquisitiveness, on fear and on self-protectiveness.

  4. tim says:

    Well.

    Nektarios, I don’t see how you can say that. Unless you are taking ‘ethics’ to mean how we actually behave, rather than how we think we ought to behave. Even then…

    CS Lewis (peace be upon him) argues that there is a common Tao, which all societies agree on, up to a point. The qualification is a fairly serious one, though. Tom Stoppard (I haven’t checked the reference) says that ‘Honour thy father and thy mother” is common to primitive and developed societies, though the former may do it by eating their corpses, while the latter may prefer to buy them a retirement bungalow on the South Coast.

    I think we can only convince others of the superiority of Christian ethics by demonstrating them in practice – ie, by becoming saints. A tall order – but may not be optional.

    • Nektarios says:

      Tim
      I am not concerned about the superiority of anything, least of all what passes as Christian Ethics today.
      But, as you say, Tim, to` convince others of the superiority of Christian ethics, demonstrating them in practice – ie, by becoming saints. A tall order – but may not be optional.’
      Well, what stops us becoming such Saints? What is in the way? Is the idea of Saints we have in our heads different from that which Scriptures calls saints? What is such a saint?
      How do such Saints live?

      • milliganp says:

        I think it is vitally important to not give up on the idea of everyday sainthood. A mixture of simple piety and genuine compassion and concern for others is within the reach of all. It’s so easy to be distracted from but I know enough good people to know it’s not impossible.

  5. Vincent says:

    I think that there are several potential differences between Christin ethics and secular ethics. The Enlightenment philosopher, David Hume, claimed that there was no such thing as moral ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. What we have is an inherited “beneficial” emotion. While this thankfully remains a minority position, his argument has never been answered. And it is certainly difficult to defend the source of morality without accepting that we are creatures of God’s creation.

    Then there are several examples. One which is currently in the news is “assisted suicide”. For the secularist there is no basis for rejecting this. After all we are no more than an outcome of chance evolution. Similarly there is no reason to condemn abortion. Why should the loss of a foetus be a matter of concern, any more than crushing an acorn? As for sexual intercourse, being confined to the committed state of marriage…you must be joking!

    I don’t argue that all non-believers accept these ideas. But, when they oppose them, they must fall back on practical arguments.

    • Alan says:

      “I don’t argue that all non-believers accept these ideas. But, when they oppose them, they must fall back on practical arguments.”

      Absolutely. But this is what makes me wonder how the alternative differs. In other comments above we see examples of where people see a departure between Christian values and those of secular society. In each case there is the view that this will lead to some degree of “catastrophe” or harm. Not problems brewing just for an afterlife but also for our time on this earth. To me this suggests a practical argument too – or at least a practical element. Christian values are believed, by almost everyone I have ever heard advocating them, to have very real benefits. Abortion, euthanasia, sex outside of marriage … who opposed to these things doesn’t imagine there are real world risks involved? Even turning the other cheek, going that extra mile … wouldn’t the world be a better place if these were more widely or universally adopted?

      All fairly practical it seems to me.

      • Vincent says:

        What you say, Alan, is absolutely correct. But John L, below, gives an example of ethical judgment. He does not, I take it, say that he criticises Miller because what she is doing is damaging, but because what she is doing is wrong. That is, she offends against justice by using taxpayer money for her personal advantage.

        I think we would expect the effect of breaking the moral law to be damaging (directly or indirectly) because the moral law is deduced from man’s nature. The Christian (and other denominations) say that we must act in a way which accords with our nature because God created our nature. But it follows that, if we go against our nature, damage is likely to be involved. Therefore to offend against justice is wrong in itself, and not merely because damage will often be the outcome. It is that something is wrong, or right, in itself which is at the heart of moral obligation.

      • John L says:

        “That is, she offends against justice by using taxpayer money for her personal advantage.” points out Vincent. I go no further than to say “That is, she is stealing from the taxpayer”. In my book, that is an offence against any Ethical standard, and need not be restricted to religious viewpoints or commandments unless one of our correspondents identifies an ethical system that justifies theft.
        I agree with Alan in that the measure of when we do wrong is the degree to which we do harm.

      • Vincent says:

        Yet one may behave justly and still do harm. In fact we often do because our choices tend to be complicated. The actual harm we may do cannot be the final criterion by which we measure our justice for, in any one instance, the harm is accidental. The key is always justice, of which stealing is one negative example.

  6. John L says:

    Milliganp raises the Maria Miller expense story.
    I knew a man who was all for getting anything “back” from the Government albeit expenses or tax evasion and the like. I found many shared his views to a greater or lesser extent. The odd thing was that he was (I hope) a “good” Catholic, and he would have been mortally offended if he were accused of theft. The problem was simply that “fiddling” just wasn’t regarded as theft.
    It seems to me that at the root of the whole problem there might be a question of education, Catholic or otherwise. It is good to be able to discuss lofty notions of Ethics, but unless they are applied to life at a basic level, they are meaningless.
    The Parliamentary fiddler excuse is always, “I did nothing wrong – I acted within the rules”. This may even be superficially true, but I wonder if the concept of Ethics has even been considered in that context.

    • milliganp says:

      I know a similar example, but I won’t quote it as someone who posts on the blog also knows the man; a very devout and upright Catholic who could not see fiddling tax as even mildly immoral, it’s strange the way we fool ourselves. So as not to be a hypocrite, I used to work for an international sales company and several times took my wife out to dinner as a “customer”. We all have different boundaries. At the time I thought it was OK, today I would recognise it as pure theft.

  7. Nektarios says:

    Obviously, there is a clear blue water between Christian and secular ethics. One follows the golden
    rule, Love thy neighbour as yourself; the other follows the rule of loving Self.
    Descending into particulars of Ethics without delineating in this case the boundries ( if there is one)
    between the Christian and the secular view on Ethics, seems a little premature in this discussion
    don’t you think? It seems to me the idea of morality and ethics are very mixed up in this world.
    Is that because we are mixed up about such issues? Perhaps we are mixed up a bit on Christian and secular ethics on account of our spiritual weakness or worldliness?
    We have to live in this world, but not after the spirit of it – which essentially is Christian ethics and morality. Secular ethics don’t live after that, but as I outlined at the beginning. Hence the mixture
    among Christians today of lives that are compartmentalized, sometimes living the Christian ethics and morality, and sometimes living after the manner of this world which many see as right, wonderful, pleasant and helpful, but the state of this world among men, is one of a world that is fragmenting. living after the flesh and of the mind and deny both God and the spiritual life.

    • milliganp says:

      Karen Armstrong argues that all major faith systems reduce to a common set of moral values -with the golden rule as core common ground. These are obviously different from secular ethics which still, because of history, have a strong Christian underpinning. To date we have thrown away all concept of sexual ethics and seem to also have abandoned truth -at least in public life (Tony Blair’s contribution to the Iraq enquiry perhaps setting a new nadir in this regard) and general probity – name any bank (sadly including the Co-Op).

  8. johnbunting says:

    I don’t like to appear discouraging, Quentin, but I fear that ‘arguing’ Christian ethics in a way to be acceptable to all would be about as likely as arguing the existence of God in a way to make belief possible for all. However, most people have some working code of ethics, so we probably have a few allies out there somewhere. And, of course, a few enemies closer to home.
    Moral codes vary so much that words don’t mean trhe same everywhere. ‘Honour’ to us here probably means, among other things, honesty, courtesy, and courage in adversity. For the Mafia, the so-called ‘honoured society’, it means having the whip-hand over other people, by any means necessary. For some people in the middle east and the Indian sub-continent it means upholding the good name of the family, even if it costs the life of a family member: hence ‘honour killings’. ‘Martyrdom’ is another example: it can have very different meanings for Christians and Moslems.
    With migration and the mixing of cultures, and the absence of a commonly accepted moral code, these differences within one population are bound to cause trouble. We are already seeing problems with the attempted introduction of sharia law here.
    I believe that Christian ethical principles are at least equal, and probably superior, to any others on offer, although often more honoured in the breach than in the observance. All we can do is follow them as closely as we can, trust in God, and hope to show that they do actually work in practice.

    • Quentin says:

      John, I wonder if we can take a leaf out of the Catholic Voices book. They call the method “re-framing”. It means, I understand, putting an issue into another context — that is, a context which highlights a value which your questioner is more likely to respect. For example, someone who is arguing for co-habitation is probably thinking in terms of the alleged interests of the couple. So we might change the frame into the interests of the children. Once there, it is possible to show how the instability of co-habitation leads frequently to the harm of the children.

      Or, in a discussion on faith schools, we might sidestep questions like unfair advantages, and explore what rights the parents have in bringing up their own children. One might even naughtily mention that making the state the only decider of children’s education is the mark of a dictatorship rather than a free democracy.

      By the way, congrats on your strong letter in the CH last week.

      • johnbunting says:

        Thanks, Quentin. Regarding ‘re-framing’, yes, one has to engage with an opponent or sceptic on their ground, not on one’s own. For example, not to engage a scientist in specifically Christian terms, but to show, where possible, that he is just speculating or stepping outside the boundary of natural science: slipping from physics into metaphysics! Rene Girard makes a similar point in his approach to mimetic rivalry, conflict, and religion: it has to make sense in terms of anthropology and social dynamics, applicable to any society.

    • RAHNER says:

      “I don’t like to appear discouraging, Quentin, but I fear that ‘arguing’ Christian ethics in a way to be acceptable to all would be about as likely as arguing the existence of God in a way to make belief possible for all.”

      I agree. We just have to accept that there are some moral judgements for which there are no compelling reasons in every circumstance for or against and so these judgements are going to remain controversial in the secular, public forum.

  9. Nektarios says:

    Christian morality and ethics has its eye and listens to God. Secular morality and ethics has its eye on Self. Mankind before God are all human beings, irrespective of culture, class, nationality or religion.
    Such is the confusion when it comes to morality and ethics in these days, I fear we may well be in the days written of in the book of Revelation.
    Have we reached such a day as described here about such confusion and Self-will on morals and ethics?
    Revelation 21: 10-11 ” And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.”
    v.11. “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; He who is righteous, let him be righteous still; (That is moral), he that is holy, let him be holy still. ( that is true ethics of a spiritual person).

  10. Ignatius says:

    “Karen Armstrong argues that all major faith systems reduce to a common set of moral values -with the golden rule as core common ground. These are obviously different from secular ethics which still, because of history, have a strong Christian underpinning…”

    Karen Armstrong is a good writer in my view. I have several copies of her “The Case for God” which I lend out to sceptical friends or patients as the occasion arises. The idea that secular and Christian ethics are separate has no basis in the Catholic world view as far as I can see – nor do I find any resonance for it in my own life seen as a process of encountering others. What I do notice, quite strikingly, is the prevalence of a kind of Old Testament belief in which individuals I talk to have a deep to the point of instinctive sense of right and wrong which tends to feed into a sense of grievance and blaming others to avoid blaming self. This seems perfectly natural to me since the secular mind (if it exists) has only a hazy idea of mercy and as such needs to strongly defend itself.

    I am also of the belief that the sexual mores held by many re contraception, cohabitation etc are not as sloppy as we here tend to think, often there is the genuine belief that the above practices are ethical and right and the correct way to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering. Far more fruitful in my view is to search for the congruence of belief and then build upon it; this is where everyday piety plays its trump card in demonstrating its own appeal and its relative success as a means of living.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ignatius
      So what is the Catholic World view?
      It is self evident that there is a Secular morality and ethics in all fields within society today.
      I agree with you that there is a Christian morality and ethics which are little understood
      or even cared about by many in the Church.
      It seems there is a pick and mix attitude to morality and ethics and only taken seriously when it comes to there front door to shame them, or effects one of their family or themselves, or guilt comes. Fear or being exposed and so on.

      Karen Amstrong, the theologian is so liberal in many respects. I have listened to and read some of her work, and find it lightweight. Even so, if one is not careful, because she is a fairly good communicator, one could be lulled to sleep in her easy style believism.

      • milliganp says:

        Nectarios, Karen Armstrong has never presented herself as a Catholic Theologian, she is an ex- Catholic who teaches comparative religion. What she does is highlight the many similarities in moral principals between highly disparate religious traditions; This can be presented as an argument for “natural law”.
        If we were to believe solely in revelation, other faiths would be of no interest, but as we proclaim that the law of God is written in the hearts of all we must allow ourselves to be open to the experience and beliefs of other faiths.

  11. milliganp says:

    We tend to drift off- topic. Nektarios original point principally related to medical ethics. There is little doubt that the abandonment of “God” based values is at its greatest in the scientific community, and in this community any reference To God is seen as counter-scientific. Since medicine is a branch of science it should be unsurprising that current medical ethics reflects so little of our society’s Christian roots.
    Nektarios second point is that the Church (or Christians in general) have failed to challenge this development. I might suggest that our total focus on contraception and abortion has given us the reputation of a siren voice. People expect us to contradict what most see as progress and therefore we are ignored and our contributions rejected out of hand.
    Finally, and this is a personal hobby horse, the church has not invested in creating adult Catholics with the necessary intellectual tool kits to challenge the world. We need 20 Catholic Voices in every parish and we need something more than 5mins of platitudinous homiletics on Sunday.

    • Peter Foster says:

      This conversation has been vague as to the differences between Christian and secular ethics and their specific underlying principles. Would it advance understanding to make lists of examples with the opposing principles? To make the Christian outlook intelligible to secular society it would have to be explained without using the phrase “Natural Law”.

      • Nektarios says:

        Peter Foster
        I provided that for us. See April 11 3:07at the beginning of this topic. Without using the term, `Natural Law’, The last sentence there provides not only what it is and how it operates and how belonging to a fallen nature cannot provide Christian ethics or morality.
        One has to be given something – I new life, a different principle to operate out of, and that is the life of Christ in us the true morality and God-pleasing ethics.

    • Alan says:

      Given what a few people have said about the differences between Christian and secular ethics I think it would be an interesting list to see. I’d also like to understand, since they are making the comparison, how people are identifying them as being secular. Particular cases of corruption and “fiddling” expenses have been mentioned. Are they given as examples of what secular values should find acceptable?

      • Nektarios says:

        Alan,
        Is there any comparison between secular and Christian ethics? Will comparison and reason, your five senses lead you to it? I think not. Comparison only leads to frustration -
        I am this, I should be that; I have this, I want that.
        If in medical ethics and other disiplines, one sees the same secular lines being drawn
        sometime with Christian ethic reservations by some which is not ethics at ll but fear.
        Descending to making a list is to miss the point, the list could be endless almost, it is the principle out of which we operate that will determine the secular or the true Christian ethic
        action. See my reply to Peter Foster above.

      • Nektarios says:

        Alan,
        By way of after-thoughts to what I posted below:
        Morality comes from a fear of disorder. Intellectually, in the realm of ideas, ethics comes from the same source, a fear of disorder.
        So order as some see it, has to be imposed on others because it fears the consequences of such disorder.
        The same thing applies in religion, they impose morality and ethics on their memberships. But this is little more than the old nature(Natural Law in its fallen sinful state) modified religiously. The same thing happens in Politics, Law, Medicine Business, The Armed Forces. Education, and in the Home in every area of this life. But to call it Christian ethics and morality, is only to put a religious slant on it, for it is not that, it is simply the old nature modified religiously.

        One needs a totally different, holy, pristine, principle in our life, as I say below, without which, one cannot change, one is still, lifeless, blind and helpless, spiritually dead.
        Please also note, this many sided so-called order man has imposed on others, it has usually led only to further disorder, and worse disorder further down the line. Those who impose their moral order and ethics, are equally disordered. Can that which is disordered bring about order?

        We still want to, or think we can reform the old nature. It is presumed that this can be done by influence, by force, by punishment, producing fear, but despite all that force the person is far from being reformed – conditioned, brain-washed, re-educated into their imposed order of society perhaps,but that old man, that old nature, is still there, fear is still and so is disorder.
        A Christian is not an old nature patched up, but a totally new creature altogether; in this world, but not of it.
        Much more can be said of course, but I had better stop there.

      • Peter Foster says:

        Nektarios, my suggestion to write lists and principles comes from a view that ethical arguments are attempts to find solutions to the problems which may confront the faithful in life, either directly or through their office, and that this requires concrete applications. There are many such problems:
        The spectrum of medical contraception to abortion procedures, together with sterilisation;
        Medical interventions in end of life situations.
        In vitro fertilisation.
        Genetic modification to achieve health ends.
        A “money grows on trees “syndrome in which, encouraged by the churches, we vote for governments to provide everyday expenses on the national credit card.
        The drugs culture.
        The breakdown of family life and the disaster for children where perhaps we should be able to argue strongly to influence the current ethos. (see “The fragmenting Family” by Brenda Almond; Clarendon Press, Oxford 2006)
        Etcetera.

  12. Nektarios says:

    God bless all fellow Secondsight blog.net bloggers and other readers – encouraging the readers only to join in too: And to wish everyone a
    HAPPY EASTER
    MAY THE JOY OF EASTER DESCEND UPON US ALL LIKE A BENEDICTION.

  13. Ignatius says:

    I completely agree with Peter and Alan. Almost nothing here tries to make the subject intelligible for a lay person, secular or otherwise. Just to have a go I would suggest that those ethics which proceed from a concept of the sanctity of life will probably differ from those which proceed from the rights of the individual. For example
    1) I am the arbiter of my fate and as such I should be allowed to choose the time of my own death: A whole system of ethical decisions will flow from this such as when does the individual cease to be compis mentis to decide, who and when will take this decision and how will it be done? How shall suicide be monitored and who wil be licensed to carry out euthanasia etc
    2) Counterposed with 1) above would be the concept that life is sacred and thus can only be given or taken by God. From this principle will flow another set of ethical decisions and actions as to the extension of care, at what point can death be considered inevitable and how much intervention is ethical.
    Another area of Catholic ethics will flow from the concept of sanctity and will involve the issues of fertility and behaviour around sexuality. If the concept of sanctity is taken away then the issues once again begin to generate an ethics based around individual responsibility.

    An area of interest in all this, to me, is to ask the question as to whether secular ethical behaviour is different than religious ethical behaviour in terms of worth. One person believes it is most appropriate to assist a friend to die and takes the brave step of assisting, another helps that same person through the difficulty of their death by being with them – believing this is the right thing to do. How does one weigh these acts inn the balance?

  14. Nektarios says:

    On the surface of this discussion, Peter, Alan and Ignatius appear to be speaking sense – all very sane sensible and rational. But several agonizing home truths come to the surface if one is going to have an extremely long or short list of problems that need sorting out.
    1. Apart from the problems thrown up by technological and medical advances and the dilemmas they throw up, the problems that mankind has, seems to have been with us since the Fall in the Garden of Eden.
    2. Down through the centuries Man has sought to solve his problems, but the external problems are not the main problem – what has gone wrong with man is the main problem. What does Man do? What he has always done, re-invents himself, his society, his nation, his morality, his ethics, his religion and so on, but the problem that is man, remains. That is the trouble with only dealing with the peripherals or externals of things.
    3. Man is clever, inventive, produced down through millenia proposed solutions to the externals
    of the external problems facing him in the world. But, governed by his old nature, following after his passions and pleasures, all his planning and actions amount to one big failure. And mankind is in a worse state, a more dangerous state now than he has ever been.
    4. To play the game of morality and ethics of this world seems by some to make a lot of sense. It has nothing to do with the spiritual life of a Christian at all, but everything to do with the natural man groping around in the dark, trying to make sense of his life and world around him; understand his problems and looking for solutions to his problems, which in the doing of it, puts his foot in it time after time and makes matters worse further down the line.
    5. If the Christian Church plays this world’s games, with its morality, ethics, it has departed from Christ and God’s solution for man. With the ever changing world scene such a church
    is ever-changing too. The depth of such a church is the depth of its civilization, which in our case today, is as thick as the tarmac on the road.
    6. When it comes to superiority of so-called Christian morals and ethics, so-called, because they are not Christian at all, just tweeked religiously. It is worldly too.Mankind is on the brink these days globally, and he really does need to listen to Christ, and turn and in many cases return to Him.
    Though much more needs to be said,this is too long already. I don’t want to spoil Quentin’s Easter, or yours.

    • Peter Foster says:

      Nektarios, when you say, “Apart from the problems thrown up by technological and medical advances …., the problems that mankind has, seems to have been with us since the Fall in the Garden of Eden.” I agree. Man does good through the grace of God.
      But you also say:…“following after his passions and pleasures, all his planning and actions amount to one big failure. And mankind is in a worse state, a more dangerous state now than he has ever been.”
      There were about 200 million people in Christ’s time with few Jews and Christians and now there are about 7 billion of which about 2 billion are Jews and Christians. Beyond that I have no idea how you would arrange the spiritual arithmetic?
      Both in absolute terms and in terms of percentages many would argue that the social and economic arithmetic has improved, at least for humans, although we have displaced many competing species.
      We always start out from where we are in time and place and surely we must embrace faith rather than pessimism:
      “In the world, you will find only tribulation; but take courage, I have overcome the world” (John ch.16: v.33)
      “And behold, I am with you all through the days that are coming, until the consummation of the world “(Matthew ch.28: v.20)

      You also say: “To play the game of morality and ethics of this world ……. has nothing to do with the spiritual life of a Christian at all,” To the CONTRARY, we live in the world with families, workplace, and political organisation and our spiritual relationship with God and our perception of God’s will should permeate our motives and actions.

      “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy whole mind. This is the greatest of the commandments and the first.” (Matthew ch.22: v.37).
      “And the second (commandment), its like, is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

      • Nektarios says:

        Yes, taking your last paragraph, do that and you will find that,
        if you do a little good, this world will hurt you a little,
        If you do more good, this word will hurt you a lot.
        If you fulfil the injunctions to fulfil the commandments,
        this world will crucify you, both within the Church, and by those outside.

        I know people do good deeds, but not always for right motives.
        We cannot but read Holy Scriptures to see that.
        The economic climate has not improved, when you consider that we in the West have 80% of this world’s wealth and resources. We fair better than those kept in slave labour conditions and near starvation, deprived of medicines &c., &c., &c.
        We could go on an on on this point, but we know all this, don’t we?

      • Ignatius says:

        “You also say: “To play the game of morality and ethics of this world ……. has nothing to do with the spiritual life of a Christian at all,” To the CONTRARY, we live in the world with families, workplace, and political organisation and our spiritual relationship with God and our perception of God’s will should permeate our motives and actions…”

        Yes I agree wholeheartedly with this, particularly at Easter we need to reflect on Jesus’ solidarity with the world not upon some mystical seperationism. God has committed himself irrevocably to the world and the ENTIRE human race. We simply need to love as much as we can, a love that displays itself in practical living. We need to give as much as we can of ourselves regardless of distinctions. Of course there is a difference between a person who is spiritually alive and one who is not. CS Lewis put it very well when he said that the difference between a person living the life of the spirit and one not doing so was the same difference as between a human being and a statue, but that should be a spur to prayer and action not a rationale for separation.

  15. milliganp says:

    Yesterday we heard of the death of a 2 day old child. The child was born with massive internal problems and had no possibility of suvival.
    The secular ethic said, 4+ months ago, you should terminate (abort), why go on with a needless pregnancy, why consume valuable medical resources on a hopeless case?
    For the Catholic family the child was born, named, baptised, held, acknowledged and mourned – all in the space of 48 hours.

  16. Ignatius says:

    Milliganp, yes this is exactly the sort of thing I mean. But the extra consideration (beyond the resource issue) might have been that the parents simply did not wish to inflict suffering on the child. It is so easy to forget that we all have hearts, not only ‘christians’ Then again given that resources are applied for the ‘good’ of all then the argument from resources is not without integrity in its own right.

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