All over for Rowan – II

Anne Applebaum, writing in the Washington Post:

Many explanations for the archbishop’s statements have already been proffered: the weakness of the Church of England, the paganism of the British, the feebleness of Williams’s intellect, the decline of the West. At base, though, his beliefs are merely an elaborate, intellectualized version of a commonly held, and deeply offensive, Western prejudice: Alone among all of the world’s many religious groups, Muslims living in Western countries cannot be expected to conform to Western law — or perhaps do not deserve to be treated as legal equals of their non-Muslim neighbors.

Every time police shrug their shoulders when a Muslim woman complains that she has been forced to marry against her will, every time a Western doctor tries not to notice the female circumcisions being carried out in his hospital, they are acting in the spirit of the archbishop of Canterbury. So is the social worker who dismisses the plight of an illiterate, house-bound woman, removed from her village and sent across the world to marry a man she has never met, on the grounds that her religion prohibits interference. That’s why — if there is to be war between the British tabloids and the archbishop — I’m on the side of the Sun.

Archbishop’s Public Blunder

Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury has finally put his foot in it in a momentous way – with a truly outrageous statement. Via the BBC:

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK “seems unavoidable”.

Dr Rowan Williams told Radio 4’s World at One that the UK has to “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.

Hat tip: Leopoldo

Under the thumb

The New York Times expresses scepticism about the arrests in the inquiry into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya:

There’s just too much of the “usual suspects” here, and Russia’s criminal justice system is too blatantly under the thumb of President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, for us to accept at face value that due process of law is at work.

The Flesh

The idealist is bound in the end to substitute himself for the Mind and then we have an individual to deal with. Let us confront him with the (as he thinks) shocking spectacle of a Christian astronomer. How can an astronomer believe in the Incarnation or go to Mass? The idealist’s only hope is to put up a distinction. As an astronomer, this monster (or rather this amphibian) is a man of the twentieth century and the idealist can greet him as a contemporary. As a man who believes in the Incarnation, however, and goes to Mass, he is behaving like a mediaeval or a child; and this is a pity. When we ask the philosopher to justify his extraordinary dichotomy, he may call upon Reason and Mind till he is black in the face, but he will not convince us; especially when we see that he does not scruple to use psychological and even sociological arguments to account for these survivals in the astronomer, while he absolutely forbids us turn such arguments or analyses upon himself. He is a man of 1930 from top to toe. And yet he is still invoking an eternal Mind, but a Mind which has none the less been born; who Its next incarnation will be, Heaven only knows. Frankly, I find all this extremely incoherent. If a Marxist, for example, were to tackle the idealist and tell him plainly that his Mind was a purely bourgeois product begotten of economic leisure, the idealist would have to take refuge in the realm of completely bloodless abstractions. I think myself that idealism of this kind cannot help being cornered, with concrete religious philosophy hemming it in on one side, and historical materialism on the other. For it is in fact impotent when confronted with history any real history, even if it is just the history of a single life. It has no feeling for tragedy, and (what is worse) no feeling for flesh and blood either. Personally, I think that people who substitute the Cartesian concept of matter for the richly confused idea of the flesh which is embedded in all Christian philosophy are doing anything but progressing in their metaphysics. There is an almost untouched task here, and pure metaphysicians would do well to focus all their attention upon it, or so I think: the task of describing the evolution and progressive confusion of the notions of flesh and fleshly existence in the history of philosophical thought.At bottom, this idealism is a purely professorial doctrine, and falls directly under Schopenhauer’s partially unjust criticism of the academic philosophers of his day. (It was partially unjust, because there is a real feeling for concreteness and human drama in such writers as Schelling and Hegel.) In point of fact, philosophical idealism would very likely have had no appreciable effect upon the development of human thought, had it not found a redoubtable ally in all forms of applied science. I believe that the spirit of applied science is really in itself the most serious obstacle, for many perfectly candid minds, to the acceptance of the notion of religious life, or rather religious truth.

(from: Gabriel Marcel: Some Remarks on the Irreligion of Today, 1930)


I was thinking, too, that the credibility of miracles is positively demonstrated by such facts as the conversion of Claudel or Maritain. That these events can be believed in, is absolutely undeniable. Now nobody can think that these men believed without adequate facts to go upon. So taking their belief as a base, we must ask on what conditions it is possible, we must rise from the fact to the conditions on which it depends. This is the best and only way for genuine religious reflection to take.

Deep down beneath the critical attitude to the Gospel stories, is the implicit assertion ‘It oughtn’t to have happened like that.’ In other words, we inwardly sketch the idea with really paralysing presumption and folly of what revelation ought to have been like. And I have a very strong suspicion that in this criticism there is always the idea ‘this can’t be true,’ so that of course one must be able to pick holes, find contradictions, etc. It seems to me that this laying down of law by the individual consciousness ought to be rejected in principle. The Gospel words, in fact: ‘become as little children.’ Glorious words, but quite unintelligible to anyone who believes that there is an intrinsic value in maturity.

Gabriel Marcel, A Metaphysical Diary (1928-1933), tr. Katharine Farrer (1949)