31 March 2006

Human rights groups call for restoration of blood feud

A recent article in The Guardian includes the following:
Pope urged to apologise for Vatican castrations

Rory Carroll in Rome
Tuesday August 14, 2001


Revelations that the Vatican encouraged the castration of choir boys in the name of art for hundreds of years have prompted calls for a papal apology. Human rights groups, historians and Italian commentators said the Pope, a singer himself, should ask forgiveness for his predecessors' role in the mutilation of castrati singers.
and concluded with:
Pope Sisto V, aware that the public craved the "voice of angels", sanctioned their presence in the Vatican by a papal bull in 1589. Audiences fainted and wept during performances and groupies wore medallions of their favourites, but in the 18th century the practice was gradually acknowledged to be grotesque.

This prompts several questions:
  1. Why, if the practice was acknowledged to be grotesque in the 18th century, is an "apology" needed in the 21st century?
  2. Why are these things describes as "revelations"? Such things are common knowledge and can be found in musical and other encyclopedias.
  3. Why are "human rights groups" apparently adopting a principle that is itself a flagrant violation of human rights -- the principle of the blood feud or vendetta?
One of the basic principles of human rights, and protections of human rights, is the legal principle of the rule of law. Private vengeance should be replaced by trial by an impartial court, and people cannot be held responsible for someone else's actions. The principle of the blood feud or vendetta (such as was practised in tribal Albania down to the early 20th century, and in other tribal societies) is that if someone kills a member of my family, I have a duty to kill a member of their family, even if that person was absolutely innocent of the killing.

Of course this does not apply in quite the same way to juristic persons, which includes institutions like churches, governments and companies. There is a continuity in the institution even if the personnel change. So, for example, it is in accordance with justice that those who suffered from, say, asbestos poisoning as a result of the negligence of an asbestos mining company should have the right to sue the company for compensation even if the company is run by an entirely different set of people. A man who was left paralysed after being shot by the police of the Lebowa "homeland" is now sueing the Minister of Safety and Security of South Africa, even though the Lebowa homeland government no longer exists.

But pushing such things to ridiculous lengths encourages the principle of the blood feud, and the notion that one can hold people responsible for things that their ancestors did.

At the time of the wars of the Yugoslav succession, one of the common cliches in the media was that these wars were caused by "ancient hatreds". But Dr Tarek Mitri, an Orthodox theologian of the Patriarchate of Antioch, who had experienced the civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s, has pointed out that that it is not "ancestral hatred" that causes war, but war that causes "ancestral hatred".

In this case, it seems that "human rights groups" are trying to stir up "ancestral hatred", even though the castrati have no descendants to whom an apology could be made.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails