Summer 2004

The Culture of Death, the Ontology of Boredom, and the Resistance of Joy

Michael Hanby

“Love and joy by their very act and existence make a radical ontological affirmation, and yet this affirmation is finally only intelligible if the world is created in the Father’s loving delight for the Son.”

When Pope John Paul II first denounced the modern West as a “culture of death” in the 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae, he managed simultaneously to provoke scandal and sighs of complacency from a secular public largely satisfied with the comforts this society has afforded. While such sharp remonstration certainly came as an affront to a culture giddy with its triumph over communism and brimming with optimism over the new world order ushered in by the victory of the free market, the encyclical’s characteristic concern for the aged, the unborn, and the souls of a people who increasingly see both as obstacles to be sacrificed on the altar of expediency or overcome through technological manipulation made it possible for those unconcerned with the piritual and ontological basis of the Pope’s moral critique to dismiss the “culture of death” as the hyperbolic rant of yet one more conservative moralist.

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