Wherein lies the Kingdom?

The German Jesuit Alfred Delp, who was executed by the Nazis, once wrote: "Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is fidelity and faithful adoration."

When this ordering of goods is no longer respected, but turned on its head, the result is not justice or concern for human suffering. The result is rather ruin and destruction even of material goods themselves. When God is regarded as a secondary matter that can be set aside temporarily or permanently on account of more important things, it is precisely these supposedly more important things that come to nothing.

It is not just the negative outcome of the Marxist experiment that proves this. The aid offered by the West to developing countries has been purely technically and materially based, and not only has left God out of the picture, but has driven men away from God. [p. 33]

* * *

Let us return to the third temptation. Its true content becomes apparent when throughout history we realize that it is constantly taking on new forms. The Christian empire attempted at an early stage to use faith in order to cement political unity. The Kingdom of Christ was not expected to take the form of a political kingdom and its splendour. The powerlessness of faith, the early powerlessness of Jesus Christ, was to be given the helping hand of political and military might. The temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again in varied forms throughout the centuries, and again and again faith has risked being suffocated in the embrace of power. The struggle for the freedom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus' Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century. For the fusion of faith and political power comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria. [p. 40]

If we had to choose today, would Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, the Son of the Father, have a chance? Do we really know Jesus at all? Do we understand him? Do we not have to perhaps make an effort, today as always, to get to know him all over again? The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for a reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes. Soloviev attributes to the AntiChrist a book entitled The Open Way to World Peace and Welfare. This book becomes something of a new bible, whose real message is the worshiop of well-being and rational planning. [p. 41]

-- Benedict XVI (Jesus of Nazareth

The Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity. In his preaching at Corinth, Paul initially wants to know nothing but the Cross, which "destroys the wisdom of the wise and wrecks the understanding of those who understand", which "is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles". But "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (I Cor 1:19, 23, 25).

Whoever removes the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament from the center, in order to replace it, for example, with the social commitment of Jesus to the oppressed as a new center, no longer stands in continuity with the apostolic faith. He does not see that God's commitment to the world is most absolute precisely at this point across a chasm.

-- Hans Urs von Balthasar ("The Cross - For Us" excerpt from A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen)

Recent Articles on Religion and Liberty, Catholicism and Liberalism

A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching, by Patrick J. Deneen. The American Conservative February 6, 2004. "The most interesting Roman split is over liberal democracy itself."

* * *

Illiberal Catholicism, by John Zmirack. Aleteia. 12/31/13. "Catholics used to be open to the lessons of freedom from the American experience. Are we forgetting those lessons?"

* * *

Unsustainable Liberalism, by Patrick J. Deneen. First Things

* * *

Murry's Mistake, by Michael Baxter. America 09/23/13. "The political divisions a theologian failed to foresee."

Dr. Samuel Gregg

Samuel Gregg
Dr. Samuel Gregg is director of research at the Acton Institute. He has written and spoken extensively on questions of political economy, economic history, ethics in finance, and natural law theory. He has an MA in political philosophy from the University of Melbourne, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in moral philosophy and political economy from the University of Oxford, where he worked under the supervision of Professor John Finnis. - Staff Profile (The Acton Institute).

Natural Law, Natural Rights and American Constitutionalism

Natural Law, Natural Rights and American Constitutionalism - brought to you by the Witherspoon Institute, "to create an online archive containing the seminal documents of these traditions with educational resources" -- made possible through the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and with direction from scholars associated with the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

Jacques Maritain (1882–1973)

Jacques Maritain
Jacques Maritain (1882–1973), French philosopher and political thinker, was one of the principal exponents of Thomism in the twentieth century and an influential interpreter of the thought of St Thomas Aquinas.

Relevant Readings

About Maritain:

By Maritain:

Dr. Gregory M. A. Gronbacher

Gregory M. A. Gronbacher
Dr. Gregory M. A. Gronbacher is the director of the Center for Economic Personalism, the academic research division of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, MI. He holds a Ph. D. in philosophy from the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Dublin, Ireland, where he also was a lecturer. Dr. Gronbacher researches and lectures on the synthesis of free market economic science and Christian personalism as well as political and social philosophy and Catholic social thought.

Relevant Articles / Interviews

Relevant Articles

The 'Finn-Gronbacher Debate' 1998-2001

Eugene McCarraher

Eugene McCarraher
Dr. Eugene McCarraher [Academic Homepage] is Assistant Professor of Humanities and History at Villanova University and a 2006 fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. He received his Ph.D. in American History from Rutgers University, where he studied with Jackson Lears. He is the author of Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought. He has taught at Rutgers, the University of Delaware, and Princeton. In addition to articles for scholarly journals, he writes essays and reviews for Commonweal, Books and Culture, and In These Times. His current project is a cultural history of corporate business entitled The Enchantments of Mammon: Corporate Capitalism and the American Moral Imagination, which will be published in 2006.

Published Works (Relevant to the Discussion):

Articles about Eugene McCarraher


Articles by Eugene McCarraher

About McCarraher

David Schindler

David Schindler
David Schindler is Gagnon professor of fundamental theology at the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family in Washington, D.C., and editor of the North American edition of Communio, the international theological review. See also: David Schindler (Biographical entry in First Principles' journal by Jeremy Beer).

David Schindler v. Neoconservatism: A Symposium

PLEASE NOTE: As with my other websites, my references are by and large limited to what's available on the web -- regretfully, Communio hasn't yet followed the norm of other Catholic periodicals in making their contents available online to the general public (free or by subscription).

As representative of the "Augustinian Thomists" I appreciate Dr. Schindler's contributions to the debate, but as he is generally published in Communio he falls among those authors who aren't as accessible online. Fortunately, David of the Catholic blog la nouvelle théologie provides a list of "must-read" Communio articles from Dr. Schindler and company (including an exchange btw. Schindler and Weigel).

    Schindler, David L. "Editorial: On Being Catholic in America." 14, no. 3 (1987): 213-14.
    ---. "Is America Bourgeois?" 14, no. 3 (1987): 262-90.
    ---. "Once Again: George Weigel, Catholicism and American Culture." 15, no. 1 (1988): 92-121.
    ---. "The Church's 'Worldly' Mission: Neoconservatism and American Culture." 18, no. 3 (1991): 365-97.
    ---. "Response to Mark Lowery." 18, no. 3 (1991): 450-72.
    ---. "Religious Freedom, Truth, and American Liberalism: Another Look at John Courtney Murray." 21, no. 4 (1994): 696-741.
    ---. "Christological Aesthetics and Evangelium Vitae: Toward a Definition of Liberalism." 22, no. 2 (1995): 193-224.
    ---. "Christology and the Imago Dei: Interpreting Gaudium et Spes." 23, no. 1 (1996): 156-84.
    ---. "Modernity, Postmodernity, and the Problem of Atheism." 24, no. 3 (1997): 563-79.
    ---. "Reorienting the Church on the Eve of the Millennium: John Paul II's 'New Evangelization.'" 24, no. 4 (1997): 728-79.
    ---. "Luigi Giussani on the 'Religious Sense' and the Cultural Situation of Our Time." 25, no. 1 (1998): 141-150.
    ---. "'The Religious Sense' and American Culture." 25, no. 4 (1998): 679-699.
    ---. "Beauty, Transcendence, and the Face of the Other: Religion and Culture in America." 26, no. 4 (1999): 915 NC.
    ---. "Homelessness and the Modern Condition: The Family, Community, and the Global Economy." 27, no. 3 (2000): 411-30.
    ---. "Toward a Culture of Life: The Eucharist, the 'Restoration' of Creation, and the 'Worldy' Task of the Laity." 29, no. 4 (2002): 679-690.
    Weigel, George. "Is America Bourgeois?: A Response to David Schindler." 15, no. 1 (1988): 77-91.
    ---. "Response to Mark Lowery." 18, no. 3 (1991): 439-449.
    Lowery, Mark. "The Schindler/Weigel Debate: An Appraisal." 18, no. 3 (1991): 425-38.
    Wendell Berry, Lorenzo Albacete, Eric Perl, V. Bradley Lewis, and John Berkman. "A Conversation with Wendell Berry." 27, no. 1 (2000): 59-82.

Tracey Rowland

Tracey Rowland
Dr. Tracy Rowland is the Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family based in Melbourne, and a Permanent Fellow of the Institute of Political Philosophy and Continental Theology. She holds degrees in Law, Politics and Philosophy from the Universities of Queensland and Melbourne and a Doctorate from the Divinity School of the University of Cambridge. She is a member of the editorial board of the international Catholic journal, Communio, and a member of the Commission for Australian Catholic women. Her current research interests include Theological Anthropology, The Philosophy of Language and it relevance to the New Evangelisation, The Thomist Tradition, Theological Critiques of the Political Philosophy of Liberalism, Genealogies of Modernity and Post-Modernity, Communio Ecclisiology and interpretations of Vatican II.

Relevant Articles / Interviews

Thomas Storck

Thomas Storck

Mr. Storck has taught history at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, and philosophy at Mt. Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania and Catonsville Community College in Catonsville, Maryland. He holds an undergraduate degree in English literature from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio and an M.A. from St. John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico, with additional studies in history at Bluffton College and in economics at the USDA Graduate School in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Storck served as a contributing editor for Caelum et Terra from 1991 until the magazine closed in 1996 and the New Oxford Review from 1996 to 2006. Since 1998 he has been a member of the editorial board of The Chesterton Review.

He is the author of three books, The Catholic Milieu (Christendom Press, 1987), Foundations of a Catholic Political Order (Four Faces Press, 1998) and Christendom and the West (Four Faces Press, 2000).

Political foundations of the social order

America and Americanism

Thomas Storck has written extensively on economics and distributism -- you can find some of his writings on our page devoted to the Libertarian-Distributist debate. For a full list of Storck's writings on distributism and economic matters see ThomasStorck.org.

Joseph A. Varacalli

Joseph A. Varacalli
Dr. Varacalli is Professor of Sociology and newly appointed Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Nassau Community College. In 1992, he co-founded (with Stephen M. Krason) the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He is the author of Bright Promise, Failed Community: Catholics and the American Public Order (2001) and The Catholic Experience in America (The American Religious Experience) (2005).


Published Works (Relevant to the Discussion):

Relevant Articles

George Weigel

George Weigel
George Weigel is Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II.

An online archive of Michael Novak's writings can be found here.

Relevant Articles / Interviews

Michael Novak

Michael Novak
Michael Novak holds the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. His research focuses on the three systems of the free society--the free polity, the free economy, and the culture of liberty--and their springs in religion and philosophy. Twice the U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission, and once to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He directs social and political studies for the AEI and is the author of twenty-five influential books published in every major Western language (as well as Bengali, Korean, Japanese). He is the recipient of the 1994 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion; the Antony Fisher Prize for The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism presented by Margaret Thatcher; the Weber Award for contributions to Catholic Social Thought in Essen, Germany; the Cezanne Medal from the City of Provence, and the Catholic Culture Medal of Bassano del Grappa in Italy; the highest civilian award from the Slovak Republic in 1996; the Masaryk Medal, presented by Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, in 2000.

An online archive of Michael Novak's writings can be found here.

Relevant Articles / Interviews

Understanding Novak: Introductory Resources

On Democracy, Religion & 'The American Experiment'

Michael Novak on the "Hunger for Liberty" -- an interview with Zenit.org. May 11, 2005.

  1. Part 1: On the Need for Morality to Safeguard Freedom
  2. Part 2: The Clash of Civilizations
  3. Part 3: On Europe's Lost Desire for Freedom

On Economics & Social Thought

See Also:

Relevant Writings

John Courtney Murray, SJ (1904-1967)

John Courtney Murray, SJ (1904-1967)
John Courtney Murray (September 12, 1904 – August 16, 1967), was an American Jesuit priest and theologian, who was especially known for his efforts to reconcile Catholicism and religious pluralism, particularly focusing on the relationship between religious freedom and the institutions of a democratically structured modern state.

During the Second Vatican Council, he played a key role in persuading the assembly of the Catholic bishops to adopt the Council's ground-breaking Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae.

Articles by John Courtney Murray

Excerpts from Books

On the thought of John Courtney Murray

Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus (1936-2009)

Richard J. Neuhaus
(May 14, 1936 – January 8, 2009) was a prominent Christian cleric (first as a Lutheran pastor and later as a Roman Catholic priest) and writer. Born in Canada, Neuhaus moved to the United States where he became a naturalized United States citizen. He was the founder and editor of the monthly journal First Things (popular among readers for his monthly column "The Public Square") and the author of several books, including The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America (1984), The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World (1987), and Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth (2006). Fr. Neuhaus passed away on January 8, 2009; an online archive of his writings can be found here.

"Proposing Democracy Anew", a three-part series from his monthly column "The Public Square":

Other Articles by R.J. Neuhaus

Robert P. Kraynak

Robert P. Kraynak
Robert P. Kraynak came to Colgate in 1978 from Harvard University, where he received his PhD in government. He teaches courses in the fields of political philosophy and general education, including courses on American political thought, the history of Western political philosophy, natural law, religion and politics, and conservative political thought. He received the Colgate Alumni Corporation "Distinguished Teaching Award" in 2006, and he directs Colgate's Center for Freedom and Western Civilization.

Among his published works are Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World (Notre Dame Press, 2001); In Defense of Human Dignity, edited with Glenn Tinder (Notre Dame Press, 2003): and Reason, Faith, and Politics, edited with Arthur M. Melzer (Lexington, 2008). He also contributed to Human Dignity and Bioethics, published by the President's Council on Bioethics (2008).

Church-State Relations in America and Europe - Interview w. Zenit News Service.

From Journal of Markets & Morality Volume 7, Number 2. Fall 2004:

Christian Faith and Modern Democracy - A Symposium - Catholic Social Science Review Volume IX (2004) - [NOTE: all articles in Adobe .pdf format]:

Joe Hargrave

Joe Hargrave
Joe Hargrave is an adjunct professor of political science at Rio Salado Community College in Tempe, Arizona.

From Crisis Magazine.

From The American Catholic

Edward Feser on "Austrian Economics and Catholic Social Teaching"

In Social Justice Reconsidered: Austrian Economics and Catholic Social Teaching, the Hayek Memorial Lecture delivered at the 2005 Austrian Scholars Conference in Auburn, AL, Dr. Edward Feser critically engages F.A. Hayek and Murray Rothbard, outlining the differences between the two theorists in the tradition of Austrian economics and that of the Catholic natural law tradition:
The point of these opening remarks is not merely to show appropriate courtesy to my hosts. It is also to set the proper context for what I want to speak about today. Other Austrian-influenced scholars have argued for the compatibility of Austrian economics and Catholic social thought. Thomas Woods has made the case eloquently in his important new book The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy and I recommend that work to anyone with a serious interest in these matters. But my aim today is not to explore further the many positive contributions the Austrian tradition might make to Catholic social thought. You might say that I want instead to accentuate the negative. For while the Austrian tradition certainly has many strengths from a Catholic point of view, it seems to me that it also has certain weaknesses. In particular, I would argue that the work of Austrian thinkers, including Hayek and Rothbard, has been deficient where it has strayed from economics per se and forayed into the realm of moral theory. My critique is an internal one, though, a friendly challenge to Austrian sympathizers from someone who shares their sympathy. The suggestion I want to develop today is that while Catholic social theorists do indeed have much to learn from Austrian economists, Austrian economists – or at least those Austrian economists already sympathetic to Catholicism and/or to the natural law approach to moral theory associated with Catholic thought – ought to consider the possibility that they might have much to learn from Catholic social thought. My broader aim is to clear away some obstacles standing in the way of the construction of an adequate synthesis of free market economics and natural law ethics. [Read more]
You can listen to the same lecture here.

Edward Feser has a regular blog of his own, and of his many books is best known for Aquinas (A Beginner's Guide) (2009) and The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (2009), and is also editor of The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006).

John Courtney’s Murray’s We Hold These Truths at 50

Symposium: John Courtney’s Murray’s We Hold These Truths at 50

The Catholic Social Science Review Vol. XVI (2011)
  • Kenneth L. Grasso: Introduction

  • John F. Quinn: The Enduring Influence of We Hold These Truths:
    John Courtney Murray’s landmark work, We Hold These Truths, was conceived and brought into being by the editors of Sheed & Ward, who wanted to bring Murray’s work to a broad cross-section of America. When it first appeared, the book was reviewed favorably in both religious and secular journals. Political conservatives were particularly enthusiastic about its defense of natural law principles and its opposition to secularism. By the late 1960s, liberal Catholics interested in legalizing abortion began citing its distinctions between public and private morality. In the 1980s, neoconservative Catholic thinkers embraced the book for much the same reason that conservatives had endorsed it in 1960. While many other Catholic thinkers on both the left and right have grown more critical of the work in recent years, neoconservatives have remained its most dedicated adherents.

  • Kenneth L. Grasso: Getting Murray Right:
    This essay seeks to dispel two common misunderstandings of the argument of We Hold These Truths. Contrary to what is sometimes asserted, it argues, Murray does not turn the American founding into an expression of Thomistic political theory. Although he emphasizes the Christian and medieval roots of the American democratic experiment, Murray also recognizes—even if he does not explore the point systematically—the imprint left on the American founding by distinctively modern intellectual currents. Likewise, it maintains that although the rejection of the natural law tradition under the impact of Enlightenment rationalism figures prominently in Murray’s account of the crisis of the modern West, Murray’s account of the role of natural law in this crisis must be seen against the backdrop of a broader analysis whose focus is theological and spiritual in nature, and which sees the ultimate source of this crisis in modern culture’s rejection of Christian revelation.

  • William Gould: We Hold These Truths and the Pluralist Civilization
    This essay explores the project undertaken by Murray in We Hold These Truths and its relevance to contemporary America. When it first appeared in 1960, We Hold These Truths made a powerful case to the American public for the compatibility of Catholicism and American democracy and of the need for a renewal of America’s historic public consensus rooted in natural law. It also emphasized the role that the Catholic political tradition could play in this renewal. Although parts of its argument may be problematic, and vast changes in America’s cultural and religious landscape make it dated in some respects, five decades after its original publication, Murray’s book nevertheless remains highly relevant to our contemporary situation, both as a contribution to democratic theory and as a profound reflection on the nature of “the civilization of the pluralist society.”

  • Michael Novak: Holding These Truths Today:
    This essay explores “the metaphysics of American ideas” and the strengths and weaknesses of Murray’s argument in We Hold These Truths. The philosophical principles that animate the American founding, it argues, presuppose a particular understanding of the structure of being whose roots are biblical in inspiration. Murray’s account, it continues, calls our attention to the many links between the American founding and the Catholic tradition, suggests ways in which Catholic thought can give us a deeper understanding of the “truths” informing the Founding, and illuminates the gulf between contemporary America’s secular “superculture” and the many cultures of local America. Expressing some concerns about the conceptions of reason, nature, and grace that inform Murray’s thought, and of Murray’s engagement with the thought of the American founders, it concludes by attempting to extend We Hold These Truths’ argument by identifying three truths, over and above those identified by Murray, that are essential to a proper understanding of the American democratic experiment.

  • Gary D. Glenn: Murray After Fifty Years: Five Themes
    This essay explicates five themes from We Hold These Truths. Specifically, it seeks to: (1) compare Murray’s treatment of contemporary America’s loss of a public philosophy to similar arguments made by important non-Catholic journalists and political theorists in his day; (2) bring Murray’s account of the Christian roots of the liberal tradition into conversation with the view that the liberal tradition is specifically modern; (3) explore the significance of Murray’s famous interpretation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment as entirely practical “articles of peace”; (4) critically engage Murray’s account of the thought of the founders and explore the motivations underlying this account; and (5) relate Murray’s account of the natural law theory undergirding the American democratic experiment to the political theory informing the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln’s re-founding of the American regime.

  • Gerard V. Bradley: We Hold These Truths and the Problem of Public Morality
    This essay maintains that although We Hold These Truths represented an important milestone in Catholic reflection on the American regime, Murray’s analysis of public morality and the state’s role in its promotion and enforcement is notably weak and of little assistance to us today. More specifically, it argues that Murray’s analysis is insufficiently philosophical and too concerned with the pragmatic task of forging an approach widely acceptable in the America of his day; that it rests on an artificial distinction between “private” and “public” morality that fails to sufficiently appreciate the essential dependence of sound morals legislation upon the government’s recognition of moral truth; and that it too closely identifies the whole of law’s competence with the scope of its coercive jurisdiction, thus failing to appreciate the directive and educative properties of law and its role in the establishment of conditions conducive to human flourishing.