Jaeger David M.A. ,
Antonianum, 82/4 (2007) p. 629-631
As Antonianum is going to press the former Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum, Father Umberto Betti, ofm, “is receiving the red hat,” as the popular expression has it. The honour conferred by the Sovereign Pontiff on this outstanding theologian is, of course, due to him personally, for his unique contribution to the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, to expouding it, to integrating it with the whole of Tradition, in the perspective of the “hermeneutics of continuity” (to borrow the term so felicitously used by Pope Benedict XVI to describe the proper reading of the latest Ecuemenical Council. Yet as his brethren in the Order of Friars Minor, his colleagues, friends and disciples at the Pontifical University “Antonianum,” we may be allowed, may we not, to bask a little in that glory too. As religious, as Friars Minor, our entire formation and our whole experience teach us to obey Jesus in confessing daily, “servi inutiles sumus.” Ecclesiastical preferments, promotions, honours are not part of our expected curriculum. This is why honours come to us always unexpected, and why we may be allowed to take in them an almost childish delight. Antonianum, together with our entire academic community, wishes His Eminence Umberto Cardinal Betti, ofm, much delight and abundant consolation in the coming days – and years!
One’s “good name” has always been regarded, and not only in Biblical cultures, as one’s most precious possession, the very last thing anyone would bear to lose. In any civilised society worthy of the name this is still the same today – or is it? “Privacy” as a concept and term is rather more recent. Awareness of it has grown exponentially in recent times. It is now understood to be no less essential a right than the right to the integrity of one’s physical person. It is that reserved “sphere” that surrounds one’s body, as it were, and that, like the body itself, is not to be invaded without grave injury to the God-given dignity of the human person as such. The improved conditions of modern life at first seemed to favour it hugely. To have a “room of one’s own” in the family home has become, no longer the privilege of the very few, but a widespread amenity, almost a necessity. Bathrooms en suite - once a rarity even in hotels – are now increasingly a feature even of religious houses. To cite but the simplest examples, which are yet crucial to the quality of privacy in daily life. Explicit legal protections for privacy have proliferated and are becoming more elaborate almost by the day.
And yet, paradoxically, it does sometimes appear that never have the right to one’s good name and the right to one’s privacy been more under assault – most often, togehter. Both “old” and “new” media relentlessly invade the privacy of more and more people, and destroy their good name at the same time. In certain legal systems, “public figures” do not even have much of a right to privacy and a good name, for the most part. A particularly horrifying example is the never-ending “media” assault on the reputations and privacy of members of Britain’s Royal Family. Their physical persons may enjoy better protection and care that that of anyone else, but otherwise they do not appear to be accorded by the “media” even minimally decent regard. Even much more powerfully, the rights to privacy and to a good name – to privacy, especially - appear to be almost routinely suspended by Governments and other powerful institutions. When I first opened a bank account as a young man, in England, it deeply impressed me that I was not even required to give my Christian names, only their initials. Nowadays data banks kept by the powers-that-be often seem to know and remember more about us than we know ourselves… Nor has the society of the Church been wholly immune to the rapid erosion of privacy – or as the canon law now happily calls it, propria intimitas – to the ever more voracious appetite of institutions to know absolutely everything about us, not only about our deeds, but also about our thoughts and dreams. Even when the present conceptualisation of “privacy” was not available, the Church was careful to respect it to a very high degree indeed, with her traditional ban on coercing any manifestatio conscientiae. Nowadays, however, with the right to propria initmitas properly conceptualised and safeguarded by positive ecclesiastical law, and notwithstanding periodic reminders of the traditional norm, both diocesan and religious superiors habitually require candidates for Holy Orders and religious life – and sometimes not only candidates - to submit precisely to such “manifestations of conscience”, i.e. a baring of their interior life, to all sorts of designated experts in the psyche of the human person. There are, of course, ostensibly unanswerable arguments for doing so, yet is not the whole point of affirming the right to privacy that the the moral inviolability of the person is no less binding a norm than respect for the person’s physical integrity? At which point, if ever, is privacy to be trumped by expediency, so to speak, is a question yet to be fully answered in this context.
Against this background, our Canon Law Faculty’s Dies Academicus 2007 (held in fruitful cooperation with German scholars) was opportunely dedicated to exploring, discussing, expounding the values, the rules, the consequences of the human, civil and ecclesial rights to a good name and to privacy. This issue of Antonianum is mostly dedicated to its “Acta.” It prefaces them though with an article specially commissioned for the occasion by the editorial team from Martín Carbajo Núñez, ofm, of the theology faculty, asked to examine and expose the philosophical and theological roots of privacy, precisely in relation to communication, which he has done here with his characteristic thoroughness. Mgr. Mariano Fazio, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, then expounds speicifically the teaching of the ecclesiastical Magisterium. Professor Eckart Klein and Dr. Norman Weiß follow with their explorations of relevant international and European law, as they deal with the in-built tension between the freedom of expression and the “safeguarding of the person.” There follows the paper by our own canon law lecturer, Jorge Horta, ofm, on the safeguarding of the right to propria intimitas in the current Codes for the Churches of East and West. Finally, as if to remind us all that the affirmation of rights may not have much practical value without means of enforcement, Claudio Papale, a lay canonist and a rising star in the Eternal City’s canonical firmament, adds to all the foregoing his treatment of such enforcement in he canonical legal system. All in all, Antonianum is grateful and proud to host this structured collection of outstanding contributions to a legal discourse that is becoming more significant by the day to both civil and ecclesiastical society, and to relate it amply to the rational and revealed sources and standards that must surely govern this on-going conversation.
Book reviews and “chronicles,” are followed by the customary indices for the entire year. Antonianum is now looking forward confidently to the next Year of the Lord 2008, for which we have already programmed a number of contributions that have caught our attention, and stimulated our intellects, as we hope and trust they will yours.