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        After Intractable Moral Disagreement The Catholic Roots of an Ethic of Political Reconciliation Daniel Philpott Moral disagreement is at its most intractable when it descends into interstate war, genocide, civil war, dictatorship politics, massacres, bombings, torture, rape, unlawful detentions, and ethnic cleansing.Such descents abounded in the twentieth century and have not abated in the twenty-first. Their global profile has evolved gradually, from grand ideological struggles between liberal democracy and fascism and communism to wars fought between ethnic, national, and religious groups over territory, minority rights, and religion’s role in politics.1 At the end of the past century and the beginning of this one, a wave of these episodes came to an end.A“third wave”of democratization terminated dictatorships—Communist, right-wing military, and apartheid—in more than forty countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and East Asia—and a wave of peace settlements has  05 Cunningham Ch5 1/27/09 11:17 AM Page 167  | Daniel Philpott ended civil wars around the world.2 After the violence associated with intractable moral disagreement comes to an end, a common task arises: to construct a stable and just peace in a landscape strewn with wounds, bodily, emotional, spiritual, psychological, political, economic , and cultural. Common dilemmas attend the task. Should elections and free markets be established immediately or only after stability and consensus has been achieved? Should war criminals receive amnesty in return for their assent to a peace agreement? What sort of punishment do human rights violators merit? May heads of state or political factions apologize on behalf of their people? Do living representatives of dead victims merit reparations? Can states practice forgiveness? Ought anyone to practice forgiveness? Common solutions have sprouted: international peacekeeping and reconstruction forces; monitored elections; schemes for demobilization, disarmament , and reintegration of armed troops; truth commissions; international tribunals;apermanentinternationalcriminalcourt;reparations schemes; official apologies; dramatic statements of forgiveness; museums ; memorials; and sundry seminars, forums, and initiatives conducted by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations. But common answers are still lacking. National politicians and international officials, citizens and activists, scholars and lawyers still disagree deeply over the ethics of peacebuilding. Much is at stake, for failed peacebuilding begets further intractable moraldisagreementand perhaps further descents into violence.Where to turn? Alasdair MacIntyre’s lifetime of scholarship and his essay that opens this volume have taught me the importance of traditions for thinking about politics, ethics, and philosophy. Like MacIntyre, I am convinced that the Catholic tradition offers answers to contemporary problems that are both distinct from other traditions—Kantian, utilitarian, others—and intellectually and morally satisfying. In MacIntyre ’s present essay, what the Catholic tradition, particularly the Thomist natural law tradition, offers is a set of precepts that make 05 Cunningham Ch5 1/27/09 11:17 AM Page 168 possible shared rational enquiry into solutions to moral disagreements (p. ). He is skeptical, though, that members of rival traditions will agree to these precepts, at least insofar as they continue to adhere to their tradition’s own standards of practical rationality. In just this spirit, I want to argue that the Catholic tradition offers the building materials for an ethic of peacebuilding in the aftermath of massive political violence—one that is distinct from and, I argue, improves upon the“liberal peace”paradigm that is grounded in the Enlightenment and that now dominates the thinking of the United Nations, Western governments, international organizations such as the World Bank, and many NGOs involved in peacebuilding.3 Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, along with other Catholic as well as Protestant theologians, have laid the foundations for such an ethic in their teachings on the political significance of forgiveness and reconciliation . But more is needed: a development of the tradition. Catholic thought has offered little guidance through the difficult moral dilemmas that political reconciliation and forgiveness typically involve.4 No pope has written an encyclical about peacebuilding in the wake of massive violence and injustice. I devote most of this essay to an outline of an ethic for peacebuilding , at least its key ideas and its broad contours, and seek to show how it can be grounded in the Catholic tradition. Its unifying concept is reconciliation. Its foundations are the two main sources of Catholic social thought: natural law and the Bible, a source that has only robustly reentered Catholic social thought in recent decades but which is crucial for the concept of reconciliation.5 To tap the Scriptures is to pursue just the...


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