Ethics and law in a democracy: Cardinal Ruini proposes a solution

In the combox of a recent entry, Perigrinus pointed out the natural tension for a Catholic in a democratic society between “community consensus” and “objective moral law” as the foundation for determining what is lawful.

Cardinal Ruini recently made the following proposal to the priests of the diocese of Rome addressing this dilema which, I think, is in fact the way to go:

I would like to advance a proposal that may sound rather obvious, but has the merit of overcoming, on the practical level, the stalemate generated by the opposition between the supporters and opponents of the relativistic approach in the matter of public ethics, without obliging either side to withdraw from acting according to its convictions.

This proposal is for the reliance, in these areas as well, on the free exchange of ideas, respecting the democratic results of this even when we cannot agree with them.

In essence, this is fortunately what happens already in a democratic country like Italy, but it would be good for all of us to become more keenly aware of this, in order to defuse the atmosphere of confrontation that is likely to endure for a fairly long time, continually fostered by new issues.

The proponents of relativism will continue to think that in certain cases the ‘rights of liberty’ have been violated, while the proponents of an approach linked to the nature of man will continue to maintain that in other cases the rights founded upon nature, which therefore take precedence over any human decision, have been violated, but there will be no reason to accuse each other of anti-democratic extremism.

So, is it a truce then?

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