Sunday, January 7, 2018

Catholicism and the State

From The Catholic Herald:
In this hope that a stable equilibrium of accommodation between Catholicism and the liberal state can be preserved, if only by a benevolent proconsul, Douthat is hardly alone. Even Catholics who self-identify as “trad(itionalist)” often yearn for accommodation and co-existence between Catholicism and the liberal state. In a striking number of cases, as in Douthat’s, this takes the form of longing for some past era. (Whether the qualities attributed to that era are in fact accurate is tangential to my points here).

The historical benchmark varies. The Paris Statement, a recent declaration by philosophers (some of them Catholic) harks back to a postwar Europe of Christian liberal democracy, before the conflicts among Christianity, liberalism and democracy became painfully apparent. For Commentary’s Sohrab Ahmari, one possible benchmark era is the later 1980s and early 1990s. In those years St John Paul II (the “Apostle of Human Freedom”, as Ahmari calls him), Reagan and Thatcher bestrode the world stage, defeating Communism and ushering in an era of neoconservative (one might say neoliberal) governance, centring on “free” markets and the promotion of “freedom” globally. To his credit, Ahmari acknowledges that liberals face major questions which they may be unable to answer (and he forcefully rejects theological liberalism). But he nevertheless seems to hanker for a time when liberal democracy and Christianity were at peace. 

Others do not explicitly identify a preferred historical era, but nevertheless try to preserve some pre-existing truce between Christianity and liberalism. Rusty Reno, the editor of First Things, would like to distinguish “liberalism as creed”, on the one hand, from “liberalism as tradition” on the other, and adhere to the latter even while abjuring the former. Reno would like to keep certain liberal customs and institutions while avoiding all the disruption that occurs when liberalism imposes its ideological views on recalcitrant populations. (Read more.)

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