Culture wars

Election fever hasn’t really hit Scotland yet. After the Referendum, when democracy was on the table, I just don’t know anyone who’s excited about it. Not that there isn’t a political process going on, among the grassroots, but no-one seems to be in love with the parties. A brief survey from a voter who, like so many, doesn’t attend rallies and doesn’t even listen to political spin, but does have a vote:

No-one loves a Tory. Nuff said. The peg-on-the-nose school of New Labour tactical voting have forgotten that we’ve heard it all before. Do I really need to even mention the LibDems? The SNP were riding high but their support of the Named Person policy is alienating their heartland from conservative families to radicals concerned for civil liberty. The Greens would do better if they came across as Scottish, in touch (at all) with the working class (Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, you were morning star of hope, why did you fall so far?) and actually embraced the diversity they’re always banging on about. Disdain of cherished values is never attractive to voters (PH isn’t even trying to win hearts and minds for the Assisted Suicide Bill among the faith community) and they were latecomers to the campaign Independence. No, we really don’t like being compared to an English county, thank-you, even a big one. Everyone else is either a nutter or a fascist.

So what’s my vote? Probably SNP (we don’t know that the Greens can actually govern and their flakey arrogance doesn’t help) but with a peg-on-my-nose. Meanwhile, here’s my contribution to some resolution on the ‘culture wars’, which govern American elections and are a major (and largely unheeded) factor over here:


  • Abortion is the most divisive issue in the ‘culture wars’ and one way or another it affects us all yet no-one is listening in this debate that is not worthy of the name
  • Good women on both sides are being pushed into the front line in this conflict by obsessive men aware only of their extreme ideology
  • In the name of feminism and in the name of religion, women’s human expressions of ambiguity are being censored by both sides
  • Under the old patriarchal tactic of ‘divine and conquer’, man-made ideological divisions are preventing the solidarity of women on common ground:
    1. resistance to (sex-based) forced abortion
    2. resistance to (class/ ethnicity-based) forced sterilisation
  • Men are utilising both pro-life and pro-choice stances to leave pregnant women in difficult circumstances to do all the ethical heavy lifting and to cope with the physical and emotional aftermath of birth or abortion alone
  • Rather than focusing solely on changing the law, Life Choice encourages women to find common ground in the material and emotional support of women who want to give birth but are under economic and social pressure to change this choice
  • Rather than braying their disdain of any women who does not agree with their absolutist ideology, Life Choice challenges men on both sides to shut up, to stop confusing the issue with non-related topics, and to support women by dismantling misogyny
  • This little book is inspired by the Sabine women who dramatically presented an alternative to conflict, by affirming the relationships we already have with one another, no matter what side we are on
  • Life Choice imagines mixed groups of pro-choice and pro-life women collaborating for better choices and campaigning for workplace crèche facilities, for equal pay and opportunity, supporting breastfeeding in public, for a ‘revolving cradle’ policy in maternity hospitals so that mothers in fear of their lives do not have to give birth on park benches but may do so in anonymity   

When we, as a society, as a species, ask women to give birth to our young, we are asking for an act of heroism. Some women, in some circumstances, refuse that act. Some wish they had and some wish they had not. Instead of vilifying or coercing women in regard to their choices, would it not, squeaky clean ideology aside, make more sense to provide women with better choices?


‘War Hero Memorial’ by Tammy Sue released to Public Domain


Pope Frances: “Be stewards of the Earth, in solidarity”

Pope’s Speech to (Italian) National Confederation of Farmers, on their 70th anniversary of foundation.

Vatican City, 31st January 2015. Unofficial translation by Alan McManus from the Italian original, given below. Translator’s note follows. 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.

I welcome you on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the National Confederation of Farmers (Confederazione Nazionale dei Coltivatori Diretti). I thank your President for the kind words addressed to me on behalf of all. I extend my greetings to the national and regional ecclesiastical Advisors present here, a sign of the special attention that the Church reserves for your business.

The term “farmers” (coltivatori diretti) refers to “cultivation”, which is an activity typically human and fundamental. In the work of farmers is, in fact, the acceptance of the precious gift of land that comes from God, but there is also its valorisation of labour equally valuable for men and women who are called to respond with courage and creativity to the commandment always given to humankind, the cultivation and stewardship of the land (cf. Gen 2:15). The verb “to cultivate” brings to mind the care that farmers for their land because it bears fruit, and this is shared: how much passion, how much attention, how much dedication in all this! That family relationship is created and the earth becomes “Sister” Earth.

In reality there is no humanity without cultivation of the earth; there is no good life without the food it produces for the men and women of every continent. Agriculture shows, therefore, its central role.

The work of those who cultivate the land, generously devoting time and energy, presents itself as a true vocation. It deserves to be recognized and properly valued, in concrete political and economic choices also. This is to eliminate the obstacles that penalize such a valuable activity and often make appear unattractive to new generations, even though statistics show an increase in the number of students in Agricultural schools and colleges, which suggests an increase in employment in agriculture. We also need to pay due attention to the already far too widespread removal of land from agricultural use to redirect it to other activities, perhaps seemingly more profitable (cf. Message for Thanksgiving Day, November 9, 2014). Here also dominates the god Mammon! This is like those people who do not have feelings, who sell their family, sell their mother, but here is the temptation to sell our Mother Earth.

Such reflection on the centrality of agricultural labour brings our attention to two critical areas: the first is that of poverty and hunger, which unfortunately still affects a large part of humanity. The Second Vatican Council recalled the universal end purpose of the goods of the earth (cf. Const. Past. Gaudium et Spes, 69), but in fact the dominant economic system excludes many from their just flourishing. Totalising of market rules, a throwaway culture of waste that in the case of food has unacceptable proportions, together with other factors, cause material misery and suffering for many families. The system of production and distribution of food must be rethought, in depth. As we were taught by our grandparents, we shouldn’t play with bread! I remember, as a child, whenever a piece of bread fell, we were taught to take it and kiss it and return it to the table. Bread partakes in some way of the sacredness of human life, and therefore cannot be treated merely as a commodity (cf. ibid., N. Evangelii gaudium, 52-60).

But – to come to the second critical area – it is equally important to remember that the book of Genesis, chapter 2, verse 15, speaks of human beings called not only to cultivate the land, but also to exercise stewardship. The two are indeed closely linked: every farmer knows how it has become more difficult to cultivate the land in a time of accelerated climate change when extreme weather events are becoming more common. How is it possible to keep producing good food for the life of all when climate stability is at risk, when the air, the water and the soil itself lose their purity because of pollution? In truth, we realize the importance of timely action to care for creation; it is really urgent that Nations are able to work together to this fundamental purpose.

The challenge is: how to make agriculture environmentally friendly? How to make sure that our cultivation of the land is also stewardship? Only thus, may future generations continue to live on the land and cultivate it.

Faced with these questions, I would like to extend an invitation and a proposal. The invitation is to rediscover the love of the Earth as “mother” – as St. Francis would say – from which we derived and are called to return constantly. And from here also comes the proposal: be stewards of the land, in solidarity with it, so that it can continue to be, as God desires, the source of life for the entire human family. This goes against the exploitation of the earth, as if it had no relationship to us – no longer our mother – and then letting it weaken and abandoning it because it is not useful.

It is the story of this solidarity that your tradition embodies every day: the story of social agriculture with a human face, made of solid, viable relationships between human beings and the Earth: vital relationships: the Earth gives us its fruit but also the Earth has a quality for us: the land preserves our health, the Earth is sister and mother that cures and gives health. The ethical inspiration which motivates and supports your action in the light of Catholic social doctrine, approximates from the beginning the mission of cultivation to that of the Church, and their collaboration has provided so much good fruit to Italian society as a whole.

Dear friends, I pray that your work to till and keep the land is properly considered and valued; and I invite you to always give primacy to the ethical demands with which Christians face the problems and challenges of your activities.

And, please, I ask you to pray for me and with all my heart I bless you.


Pope Francis, for all his narrow-mindedness on other issues, speaks here with lyrical passion in an earthy Italian full of Classical and Biblical agricultural allusion impossible to adequately translate. For example, the word I translate as solidarity is ‘allianza’ which can mean ‘alliance’ but is also ‘wedding ring’.


“Custodire la terra, facendo alleanza con essa”

Discorso del Papa ai Dirigenti della Confederazione Nazionale Coldiretti

Citta’ del Vaticano, 31 Gennaio 2015 ( Redazione 

Riprendiamo di seguito il testo del discorso rivolto questa mattina da papa Francesco ai Dirigenti della Confederazione Nazionale dei Coltivatori Diretti (Italia) in occasione del 70° di fondazione.


Cari fratelli e sorelle, buongiorno.

Vi do il benvenuto in occasione del settantesimo anniversario di fondazione della Confederazione Nazionale dei Coltivatori Diretti. Ringrazio il vostro Presidente per le cortesi parole che mi ha rivolto a nome di tutti. Estendo il mio saluto al Consigliere ecclesiastico nazionale e a quelli regionali qui presenti, segno della speciale attenzione che la Chiesa riserva alla vostra attività.

Il nome “coltivatori diretti” fa riferimento al “coltivare“, che è un’attività tipicamente umana e fondamentale. Nel lavoro degli agricoltori c’è, infatti, l’accoglienza del prezioso dono della terra che ci viene da Dio, ma c’è anche la sua valorizzazione nell’operare altrettanto prezioso di uomini e donne, chiamati a rispondere con audacia e creatività al mandato consegnato da sempre all’uomo, quello di coltivare e custodire la terra (cfr Gen 2,15). Il verbo “coltivare” richiama alla mente la cura che l’agricoltore ha per la sua terra perché dia frutto ed esso sia condiviso: quanta passione, quanta attenzione, quanta dedizione in tutto questo! Si crea quel rapporto familiare e la terra diventa la “sorella” terra.

Davvero non c’è umanità senza coltivazione della terra; non c’è vita buona senza il cibo che essa produce per gli uomini e le donne di ogni continente. L’agricoltura mostra, dunque, il proprio ruolo centrale.

L’opera di quanti coltivano la terra, dedicando generosamente tempo ed energie, si presenta come una vera e propria vocazione. Essa merita di venire riconosciuta e adeguatamente valorizzata, anche nelle concrete scelte politiche ed economiche. Si tratta di eliminare quegli ostacoli che penalizzano un’attività così preziosa e che spesso la fanno apparire poco appetibile alle nuove generazioni, anche se le statistiche registrano una crescita del numero di studenti nelle scuole e negli istituti di Agraria, che lascia prevedere un aumento degli occupati nel settore agricolo. Nello stesso tempo occorre prestare la dovuta attenzione alla fin già troppo diffusa sottrazione di terra all’agricoltura per destinarla ad altre attività, magari apparentemente più redditizie (cfr Messaggio per la Giornata del Ringraziamento, 9 novembre 2014). Anche qui domina il dio denaro! E’ come di quelle persone che non hanno sentimenti, che vendono la famiglia, vendono la madre, ma qui è la tentazione di vendere la madre terra.

Tale riflessione sulla centralità del lavoro agricolo porta il nostro sguardo su due aree critiche: la prima è quella della povertà e della fame, che ancora interessa purtroppo una vasta parte dell’umanità. Il Concilio Vaticano II ha ricordato la destinazione universale dei beni della terra (cfr Cost. past. Gaudium et spes, 69), ma in realtà il sistema economico dominante esclude molti dalla loro giusta fruizione. L’assolutizzazione delle regole del mercato, una cultura dello scarto e dello spreco che nel caso del cibo ha proporzioni inaccettabili, insieme con altri fattori, determinano miseria e sofferenza per tante famiglie. Va quindi ripensato a fondo il sistema di produzione e distribuzione del cibo. Come ci hanno insegnato i nostri nonni, con il pane non si scherza! Io ricordo che, da bambino, quando cadeva il pane, ci insegnavano a prenderlo e baciarlo e a riportarlo sul tavolo. Il pane partecipa in qualche modo della sacralità della vita umana, e perciò non può essere trattato soltanto come una merce (cfr Esort. ap. Evangelii gaudium, 52-60).

Ma – per venire alla seconda area critica – altrettanto importante è ricordare che nel libro della Genesi, capitolo 2, versetto 15, si parla della chiamata dell’uomo non solo a coltivare la terra, ma anche a custodirla. Le due cose sono del resto strettamente collegate: ogni agricoltore sa bene quanto sia diventato più difficile coltivare la terra in un tempo di accelerati mutamenti climatici e di eventi meteorologici estremi sempre più diffusi. Come continuare a produrre buon cibo per la vita di tutti quando la stabilità climatica è a rischio, quando l’aria, l’acqua e il suolo stesso perdono la loro purezza a causa dell’inquinamento? Davvero ci accorgiamo dell’importanza di una puntuale azione di custodia del creato; davvero è urgente che le Nazioni riescano a collaborare per questo scopo fondamentale.

La sfida è: come realizzare un’agricoltura a basso impatto ambientale? Come fare in modo che il nostro coltivare la terra sia al tempo stesso anche un custodirla? Solo così, infatti, le future generazioni potranno continuare ad abitarla e a coltivarla.

Di fronte a questi interrogativi, vorrei rivolgere un invito e una proposta. L’invito è quello di ritrovare l’amore per la terra come “madre” – direbbe san Francesco – dalla quale siamo tratti e a cui siamo chiamati a tornare costantemente. E da qui viene anche la proposta: custodire la terra, facendo alleanza con essa, affinché possa continuare ad essere, come Dio la vuole, fonte di vita per l’intera famiglia umana. Questo va contro lo sfruttamento della terra, come se fosse una cosa senza rapporto con noi – non più la madre -, e poi lasciarla indebolire e abbandonarla perché non serve a niente.

È proprio la storia di questa alleanza che la vostra tradizione incarna quotidianamente: la storia di un’agricoltura sociale dal volto umano, fatta di relazioni solide e vitali tra l’uomo e la terra: relazioni vitali: la terra ci dà il frutto ma anche la terra ha una qualità per noi: la terra custodisce la nostra salute, la terra è sorella e madre che cura e che sana. L’ispirazione etica, che motiva e sostiene la vostra azione alla luce della dottrina sociale cattolica, avvicina fin dalle origini la missione della Coldiretti a quella della Chiesa, e la loro collaborazione ha portato tanti buoni frutti all’intera società italiana.

Cari amici, auspico che il vostro lavoro per coltivare e custodire la terra sia adeguatamente considerato e valorizzato; e vi invito a dare sempre il primato alle istanze etiche con cui da cristiani affrontate i problemi e le sfide delle vostre attività.

E, per favore, vi chiedo di pregare per me e di cuore vi benedico.

© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Planet Earth Dawn Hudson

Photo: Dawn Hudson