'First Things' vs. 'Communio', "Murrayites" and "MacIntyrians"; The Paradox of the "Catholic Libertarian" and Another Kind of Illiberal Catholicism -- A roundup of relevant reading in 2014

  • A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching, by Patrick J. Deneen. American Conservative 02/06/14, on the ongoing debate between the school of John Courtney Murray (as expounded by First Things' George Weigel, Michael Novak and the late Richard J. Neuhaus) and the "Communio" school of Alasdair Macintyre, David Schindler, William T. Cavanaugh, and John Medaille.

  • Opus Publicum on The Other Illiberal Catholicism. 07/04/14:
    Deneen’s portrait of illiberal Catholicism is helpful, but incomplete. Though hardly uniform in thought and orientation, the illiberal (or “radical”) Catholics Deneen mentions tend to take their bearings from the post-Second Vatican Council theology that developed in the pages of Communio and, to a more limited extent, the re-castings of St. Thomas Aquinas that occurred in various pockets of the Catholic intellectual world over the course of the 20th Century. For several reasons, these Catholic thinkers share some affinities with non-Catholics who are skeptical of liberalism, such as the Oxbridge “Radical Orthodoxy” school, though the former maintain a tighter hold on the Catholic Church’s magisterium. But beyond those mentioned by Deneen in The American Conservative is a brigade of illiberal Catholics with roots that run far deeper than intellectual trends which began to form during the latter half of the last century. These illiberal Catholics take their first bearings from the great socio-ecclesial encyclicals of the 19th and early 20th Centuries: Gregory XVI’s Mirari Vos; Blessed Pius IX’s Quanta Cura and Syllabus Errorum; Leo XIII’s Immortale Dei and Rerum Novarum; St. Pius X’s Quanta Cura and E Supremi Apostolatus; and Pius XI’s Quas Primas and Quadragesimo Anno. Rather than looking toward (post)modern academic currents for additional intellectual ammunition, these illiberal Catholics seek grounding in the timeless wisdom of the Angelic Doctor and the tradition which emerged from his teachings.

  • Integralism - a wide-ranging essay initially responding to Zmirak's charges of "illiberal Catholicism", but touching as well on on David Schindler's Critique of Liberalism; the question of religious liberty; the natura pura debate (contra Henri de Lubac); "On the Difference Between Just Being and Being Good: Why Rights Are Not the First Principles of Political Life"; and the "Integralist thesis."

  • [An] Illiberal Catholic Manifesto - being a sermon elivered by Dom Gérard, Abbot of Le Barroux, In Chartres Cathedral, Pentecost, 1985.

  • Mark DeForrest (The Imaginative Conservative) asks: Can Catholicism and Libertarianism Co-Exist? (07/06/14) and concludes:
    There is space within Catholicism to take libertarian arguments seriously, not to agree with them in every instance, but to look at them as a helpful perspective and corrective approach to understanding the dangers of government overreach at the expense of individual initiative and responsibility. By so doing, thinkers who work within the framework of Catholic social teaching can both better understand the libertarian critique of government power as well as aspects of Catholic social thought that have been eclipsed in recent decades. Just as Catholicism had nothing to fear from Aristotle or the Greek philosophers, it has nothing to fear from Friedrich Hayek and other libertarian thinkers and from the true if incomplete insights that they bring to questions involving the use of government power.
    However, Opus Publicum explains why Catholic libertarianism still gets it wrong ("their instincts are usually in the right place, but that’s no excuse for the conscious discharge of authentically Catholic social principles").

  • Michael Novak on On Being and Staying Catholic in the Modern World, an address delivered June 7, 2014 to the graduating class of St. Michael the Archangel High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

  • George Weigel pens a tribute to his friend in "American and Catholic": Michael Novak's achievement City Journal Winter 2014.

  • A City Upon a Hill: Augustine, John Winthrop and the Soul of the American Experiment Today, by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Address at the St. Anselm Institute, University of Virginia in Charlottesville on February 18, 2014:
    MacIntyre is not exactly a sunny source of hope when it comes to liberal democracy. And I don’t think we should give up – at least not yet – on the possibilities for good that still reside in our system of public life. ...

  • Neoconservatism and Conceptual Clarity Opus Publicum 07/28/14:
    Last week Artur Rosman published a very informative interview with Patrick Deneen at Ethika Politika entitled “The Neo-Conservative Imagination.” In it, Deneen discusses, among other things, the disconnect that exists within what he calls “neoconservative Catholics,” specifically their orthodox view on sexuality morality and their heterodox view on Catholic Social Teaching (CST). While I have no disagreement with him that there is a disconnect, I think the interview — and a lot of critical writing on what I will broadly call economic liberalism within Catholicism — could have taken more care to be conceptually clear. Let me see if I can sort it out. ...

  • Acton and Lee: A Conversation on Liberty, by Stephen Klugewicz and Veronica Mueller The Imaginative Conservative (08/02/14):
    It is interesting to note that Lord Acton corresponded with General Robert E. Lee after the conclusion of the American Civil War. Sympathetic to the Confederate cause, Lord Acton considered America’s Constitution as imperfect and “saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will.” In his letter of November 4, 1866, Lord Acton told General Lee that “secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy,” and expressed his belief that General Lee had been “fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization.”

  • Recovering the Catholic Doctrine of Private Property, Part I: On Property Rights, Subjective and Objective, Human and Natural; Part II: A Critical Examination of Catholic Social Teaching on the Question of Private Property, by W. Bradford Littlejohn. Calvinist International 08/13/14.

  • Ghosts of Colson & Neuhaus, by Rod Dreher. The American Conservative 10/01/14:
    I spent all day yesterday with a good group at the office of First Things magazine in New York City. It was a seminar put together by editor Rusty Reno to discuss the future of religion in the public square in what everybody agrees is a meaningfully different era from the one in which the ministries of the late Richard John Neuhaus and Chuck Colson rose to prominence. It was hard to be in that room today and not feel the presence of those two men, if only because their passing came at the end of a hopeful era for socially conservative Christians. ...

  • Thomas Storck on the question: What Authority Does Catholic Social Teaching Have? Ethika Politika. 09/29/14.

  • George Weigel: (HT: Truths Still Held? John Courtney Murray’s “American Proposition,” Fifty Years Later (Thank you: Rick Garnett, Mirror of Justice). 10/13/14.

  • Conservatives, America, and Natural Law, by Samuel Gregg. Public Discourse 10/22/14. On the debate between the "Murrayites" and the "MacIntyrians"; What's wrong with "The Benedict Option", and Natural Law and the American Founding:
    For conservatives, a retreat into self-imposed isolation isn’t a responsible option. We need more conservatives publicly witnessing that humans are wired to know and freely choose truth, and that this has implications for the political order.

  • Revisiting Pope Leo XIII and Reclaiming Catholic Social Doctrine, by Gregory J. Sullivan. Catholic World Report 12/01/14. A review of Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, by Anthony Esolen. (Sophia Institute Press, Oct. 2014).

  • What’s Really at Stake in the Catholic Showdown?, by Thomas Storck. Ethika Politika 12/04/14:
    What exactly is that controversy? In a nutshell, it is over whether the liberal capitalist socio-political order is really compatible with a Catholic view of the state, of society, and even of the human person; whether the condemnations of liberalism made by so many popes and Catholic writers are suddenly out-of-date, passé, made obsolete by the triumph of the new world order represented by the Lockean polity that was fully realized in the United States; and whether, in fact, Catholics can perceive that just as communism posed a deadly threat to a Christian social order and to the very life of the Church, so the bourgeois liberalism of the capitalist world represents a threat of another sort, but in the end one that is just as dangerous.