Thursday, September 19, 2013
I'm currently in Rome, where I have the privilege of participating in a conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Union of Catholic Jurists, and funded by Priests for Life, on "The Rights of the Family and the Challenges of the Contemporary World." The Conference was organized to consider the continued relevance of the Charter of the Rights of the Family, promulgated by the Pontifical Council for the Family 30 years ago. One of today's highlights was an excellent presentation by our own Fr. Araujo, who managed (despite having his time cut from 30 minutes to 15) to give a splendid summary of work I hope he's planning on publishing somewhere on "Totalitarian Democracy and Defending the Meaning of Marriage and the Family." He describes the work of Israeli professor of modern history Jacob Talmon (developed as well by Christopher Dawson) on how superficially democratic political philosophies can devolve into totaliarian regimes, and suggests that the Casey decision's definition of liberty is turning out to be "a revolutionary exercise of the present day totalitarian democracy."
Today's agenda for the conference involved formal presentations of similar quality, but I suspect things will get even more interesting the next two days, as the entire group separates into discussion groups on a host of topics, from "work, family and economic challenges", to "pluralism, human relationships and lifestyles", to "family in the immigration experience". International conferences like this can be true tonic for the battle-weary Catholic soul, especially when held at the Vatican. Masses where the readings are done in English, French, Spanish, and Italian, with the universal Latin shared by all binding us together in worship, are potent reminders of the universality of our faith. Already today, in the breaks and meal conversations, and the question and answer sessions, intriguing similarities and differences are emerging. I've had conversations in German with Austrian lawyers, and in English with Spanish law professors, about how Catholic high schools and universities in our respective countries are doing in educating our Catholic youth. A law professor from Japan taught me that the Japanese penal code started as a Chinese system, which was supplanted by the Napoleonic Code, which was in turn replaced by the German penal code, which was in turn replaced by an American system after World War II. (Try teaching THAT, Rick and Marc!) She also expressed amazement at the discussions of same-sex marriage debates raised in many of the presentations today, saying that these debates were not taking place in Japan, she speculated, "because children are so important to us."
It's good to be reminded sometimes of how big the world is, how parochial our own political battles are, and how some things are simply universal truths.