Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 1. March 13, 1958
Rabble at Raumati
Rabble at Raumati
The Tenth Annual Congress of the University Catholic Society of New Zealand was its usual success. Over sixty students arrived from different parts of the country to spend a hectic weekend attending addresses, swimming and froth-blowing. Among those present were Mr. Harker, Mr. Keatin, M.P., Dr. Duggan, Rev. Father Simmonds and James K. Baxter. The speakers were His Grace, Archbishop McKeefry, James K. Baxter, Mr. Keating, Mr. Riddiford and Mr. Rafter, head of the division of nuclear physics of D.S.I.R.
Speaking on "Freedom and Religion", his Grace stressed the teleological nature of freedom—how it was inextricably interconnected with God, Creation and human destiny. He then went on to draw a distinction between what he termed natural freedom and moral freedom. Moral freedom was defined as lying in an act of the intellect upholding right judgment. It is the fulfilling of our moral obligations in accordance with our human destiny.
The basic theme of Mr. Baxter's address on the "Freedom of the Artist" was that there are illegitimate spheres of freedom even for the artist. He strongly condemned self-indulgence for the sake of art, dubbing it the "Bohemian heresy". So the speaker condemned that form of sexual portrayal in literature that is intended solely to arouse sexual passions. On the other hand he defended sexual portrayal where it was quite natural and was intended for healthy purposes. Mr. Baxter then dealt with what he termed the "Ascetic heresy" in literature. This is the literature of awe and majesty, the literature that places its emphasis, for example, on the beauty of a religious service, paying attention only to the trappings. The speaker also had some harsh words to say on the decadence of modern art, especially of Surrealism. In this context he stressed the decay of modern agnostic humanism which sought so vainly for some new idol as a substitute for God, finding it perhaps in Causality or some other notion. One cannot help thinking of those Russian poets who see in the factory not the degradation of the people but the source of the inspiration of the proletariat.
Talking on the theme of "Freedom in Politics", Mr. Keating first defined freedom as "a faculty of choosing means fitted for the ends proposed" (Pope Leo XIII in Libertas Romana). He then stressed that freedom presupposed the necessity of law. In the case of morality this prerequisite was satisfied by the Natural Law and in the case of polities by human law. Next the speaker moved on to a consideration of political life. Quoting freely from Aritsotle and Aquinas, he showed first that man is a political animal, that the family is the basic unit of society, and that the State exists to satisfy those needs which are beyond the scope of family life. Mr. Keating suggested an ethical standard by which we can determine whether the State is encroaching on the legitimate scope of individual freedom. This is the Principle of Subsidiarity which gives a higher form of organisation the right to perform only those functions which cannot be efficiently performed by a lesser one.
Mr. Riddiford, a well known Petone lawyer, spoke on "Freedom and the Law". First he outlined the history of the principles of freedom from arbitrary arrest, of trial by jury, and the independence of the judiciary. These he regarded as the features of our legal system that best preserve the freedom of the citizen. The speaker then referred to the principle of stare decissis—the practice of following earlier decisions. He outlined also the development of the two separate jurisdictions of common law and equity and their fusion by the Judicature Act. Moving on to the Welfare State, Mr. Riddiford showed how the laissez-faire notion of freedom of contract and the false liberal notion of freedom for the property owner gave way to State Paternalism. He then pointed out the dangers inherent in the many administrative tribunals that flourish under the Welfare State, suggesting that these be replaced by administrative courts on the French pattern. The rest of Mr. Riddiford's address was devoted to urging the adoption of a Second Chamber. Such a Chamber, he recommended, should have the right to delay the passage of ordinary legislation and should possess an absolute power of veto on constitutional matters.
Mr. Rafter, who spoke on the "Freedom of Science", divided his address into four sections, viz., freedom of speech, of thought, of scientific method and of choice of problems. On the subject of freedom of speech, Mr. Rafter opposed any frustration of scientific declaration in the interests of State policy. He pointed out that many Germans opposed the Relativitiy theory on the grounds that its formulator was Jewish. Concerning freedom of thought, the speaker drew a distinction between normative dogmatism and methodological dogmatism. On the freedom of scientific method he stated that the biggest threat is a monopolisation of method. We must be prepared to accept findings as conditional upon possible further explanation. Lastly he spoke on the, freedom of choice of problems. In this context he referred us to the outmoded genetical theories of the Russien "scientist" Lycenko, which were officially adopted by the Communist Party under Stalin and could not until recently be questioned by a Russian, even though they were contrary to all Western discoveries about genes and chromosomes.