Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Ceasefire? -- Hardly, but it's a start.

In the April 1999 issue of First Things, Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus notes a symposium published in the The Catholic Social Science Review on "David Schindler vs. Neoconservatism". One of the contributors, Mark Lowry of the University of Dallas, offered an overview of the controversy and "concludes with a list of propositions to which he thinks all parties -- Schindler, Novak, Neuhaus and Weigel -- could agree":

a. While the Church respects the proper autonomy of the temporal order and never favors any one particular political regime in principle, the liberal state is compatible, in practice, with Catholicism, as articulated in Dignitatis Humanae.

b. The extent to which the liberal political order is a good setting for the Catholic faith is a legitimate matter for continued discussion. The "Catholic Moment" theory ought not be construed in such a way as to suggest that the liberal regime is necessarily the ideal home for the Catholic faith in this world, even if it is the best available home at the present time.

c. The liberal state is something of an indeterminate and, hence, vulnerable entity. While in its current American manifestation it is less than promising, it contains a capacity for improvement. Liberal ideology need not accompany liberal institutions.

d. Concretely speaking, the liberal regime, for all its vulnerabilities, is the best political option currently available. This is not to say that the Church endorses it (a strategic alliance) as her favored choice of all conceivable political regimes, which would violate the Church's principle regarding the proper autonomy of the temporal order.

e. The liberal state in America will never totally harmonize with the richness of the Catholic onto-logic (nor could any temporal regime); still, the cultural dimension of a liberal regime (as well as the economic and political dimensions insofar as they are affected by the cultural dimension) can participate in that logic. While shunning a strategic alliance with liberalism, we can make varying kinds of tactical alliances with it.

f. The degree of that participation, and the ways in which such participation might be increased, is an important matter for continued discussion. Varying kinds of tactical alliances can and should exist side by side. Undoubtedly, a Protestant ethos pervades much of American life, but even that ethos can and does participate in Catholic truth, and can be nourished by contact with the Catholic tradition.

g. Catholics should strive to bring the fullness of their faith to their engagement in the temporal order, even though the temporal order never will echo perfectly that fullness (the "eschatological principle" in Catholic social thought).

h. Because that faith is so much under siege, we must be especially dedicated to work in harmony with one another, nourished by a theological and pastoral magnanimity within the parameters of the authentic Catholic faith.

Neuhaus remarks: "I might have an editorial quibble with a phrase or two, but sign me on. I haven't checked with Novak or Weigel, but would be surprised if they did not agree."

I could easily envision the so-called "neoconservatives" nodding their agreement to this list of nuanced propositions. Based on what I've read -- and haven't read a great deal, although I hope to remedy that during the remainder of this summer -- I have a difficult time envisioning David Schindler or Tracy Rowland giving their consent. But it's something worth discussing.


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