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Book Reviews

Ignazio Sanna, Emergenze umanistiche

Ignazio Sanna (editor), Emergenze umanistiche e fondamentalismi religiosi. Con quale dialogo? (What dialogue at a time of humanist emergencies and religious fundamentalisms?), Edizioni Studium, Rome 2008, pp. 204

In presenting this book, Ignazio Sanna, archbishop of Oristano and former vice-chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University, referred to the famous journal Science which, in order to celebrate its 125 years, short-listed 125 questions that still seemed to puzzle humankind, reducing them first to 25 and then five: What is the universe made of? What is the biological basis of consciousness? Why do humans have so few genes? How much can human life span be extended? Will Malthus continue to be wrong (i.e., Can the earth support population growth?)?

 

The anthropological question is implicit in such questions, which necessarily refers to the theological question. "With the crisis of metaphysics and the rise of Weak Thought, post-modernity undermined classical the metaphysical absolutes of 'God, man and the world.' The first consequence of the weakening of the concept of God has been the weakening of the concept of man (p.13)

 

Within the anthropological question dialogue and conflict between the Christian vision of man and various cultural and religious needs have been given great prominence.

 

This book, the third to come out of the Theology Philosophy Human Science research seminars organised by the 'Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose Ecclesia Mater' at the Lateran University, offers a number of contributions.

 

If Lorenzo Caselli (pp. 15-29) looks more broadly at globalisation as a sign of the times and as an open challenge for the humanisation of the various domains of social life, focusing in particular on Europe's role and on current economics, Ignazio Sanna (pp. 31-40) outlines on one hand an identity for modern man that is open to and in a fruitful exchange with tradition rather deaf to it, describing on the other (pp. 141-154) the decisive role played by religion when it works or is in conflict with other institutions engaged in public discussions in various contexts. Similarly, in conversation with his own text Sulla via della persona (On people's path) Nunzio Galantino sums up some of the most urgent issues that now crowd the anthropological agenda.

 

Giuseppe Lorizio's piece (pp. 113-139) is telling and crucial to the indicated path when he focuses on the philosophical-theological elements that come out of the comparison of foundation and fundamentalisms; the original upshot of doing this is to see in the figure of the martyr a non-fundamentalist testimonial tie to the foundation itself.

 

On such premises Gianni Amborsio, bishop of Piacenza-Bobbio, is able to define the link between the unity of the Christian faith and Christian universalism (pp. 155-166) on the one hand, and openness to the plurality of cultures on the other, without falling into relativism or negating a broad reference to the core evangelical message.

 

Giuseppe Della Torre (pp. 167-178) outlines a brief history of the controversial term of laicità (i.e. the separation between state and religion), stressing its contradictions in how liberalism applies tolerance, drawing again from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, especially the declaration Dignitatis Humanae and the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes. At the same time, Flavio Felice (pp. 179-195) looks into the responses found in the Church's social doctrine to the absolutist-totalitarian route taken by a certain kind of political modernity, integrating the whole with Benedict XVI's most recent teachings,

 

Finally two sets of contributions are dedicated to specific topics that are prominent in today's public discourse. The contributions by Maria Luisa Di Pietro and Manuela Sina (pp. 41-61) and by Anna Giuli (pp. 95-112) address key points in the 'gender war', which began with extremist feminist groups, and in the bioethical implications for the family of the leading biotechnological advances, especially when they relate to the beginning and the end of life.

 

For their part, Edmund Kowalski (pp. 63-78) and Mauro Cozzoli (pp. 79-93) push the envelope in the bioethical field. In asking What kind of life, man and ethics bioethics envisage, they bring together some assumptions about the quality and sacredness of life that are needed to recognise that behind the demand for better health lies a search for salvation, something which is implied in certain ethical needs expressed by certain fundamental moral principles, more specifically the principles of inviolability, unitotality, care, totality, proportionality, precaution and expendability.

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