Sunday, December 18, 2005

Kevin Tierney on Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum

Kevin Tierney has published a six-part commentary on Leo XIII's social encyclical Rerum Novarum:

In many respects, this was the Catholic Churches answer to socialism.  While it had been touched in various fashions before now, it was here Leo XIII provided a point by point rebuttal to the socialists on the issues of private property, class distinctions, and the role and nature of government.  After doing this, he broke new ground in treating at length the way the Catholic Church views the relationship between capital and labor, employee and employer.  There are few works in the Church that have had as profound an impact as Rerum Novarum.  So profound is this impact, in 3 instances various Popes paid tribute to this specific work.  On the 25 year anniversary of the encyclical Pius XI released Quadragesimo Anno, John XXIII paid glowing tribute to it in Mater et Magistra, and finally on the 100th anniversary of the work, John Paul II released Centesimus Annus.  Despite the fears of Leo XIII on the nature of some labor unions (in that they were subtly Masonic or blatantly Anti-Catholic) he endorsed the principle of labor unions, and if a good lot for workers could be achieved through them, he favored it. Unfortunately, today his teaching is not received by the Church.  In all too many areas, the "social justice" movements that have come into being, in many ways, are no different than the socialism Leo XIII condemned with his eloquence.  Calling this to mind, I have attempted to offer a commentary on Rerum Novarum that sets the record straight on social concerns.  The following will be that commentary.
Rerum Novarum, Part I
Rerum Novarum, Part II
Rerum Novarum, Part III
Rerum Novarum, Part IV
Rerum Novarum, Part V
Rerum Novarum, Part VI

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I. Shawn McElhinney on John Carroll, Freemasonry and the American Founding

"On the Subject of America's Founding With Christopher Blosser and David Jones" -- Part I; Part II; Part III -- by I. Shawn McElhinney. Rerum-Novarum.

Shawn revisits (and critiques) the thread How Charles Carroll Influenced U.S. Founding Fathers on David Jones' La Nouvelle Theologie Nov. 2, 2005 -- a two-part interview with Scott McDermott on the Catholic Signer of Declaration of Independence , which evolved into a debate over the alleged Masonic membership of the Carroll family (including Daniel Carroll and his brother, John Carroll, appointed first bishop of the United States by Pope Pius VI on 6 November, 1789.

See also John Carroll and the American Founding, another collection of links at Religion & Liberty Nov. 6, 2005.

McElhinney calls into question David Jones' line of reasoning that Bishop Carroll's "resistance to apply this automatic excommunication in the United States is evidence of the close relationship Masonry had with the Carroll family. It would have resulted in his own brother being excommunicated," which he believes to be a rather uncharitable reading of events in light of the historical account of how they occurred.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Latest Archived Issue of Journal of Markets & Morality Vol. 7, No. 2

The contents of the Vol. 7, No. 2, Fall 2004 issue of the Acton Institute's Journal of Markets & Morality have been made available on their website, including much which may be of interest to our readers:

  • "The Influence of Kant on Christian Theology: A Debate About Human Dignity and Christian Personalism", an exchange between Derek S. Jeffreys and Robert Kraynak concerning his critique of liberalism, with special attention to Kraynak's use of "Kantianism to caricature and undermine personalism."
  • Reviews of Wealth, Poverty and Human Destiny, edited by Doug Bandow and David Schindler; On Ordered Liberty: A Treatise on the Free Society, by Dr. Samuel Gregg;
  • "Is There Only Secular Democracy? Imagining Other Possibilities for the Third Millennium", by George Cardinal Pell, an abbreviated version of an address given to the Acton Institute on October 12, 2004.

View the full contents of Vol. 7, No. 2; view the contents of the current issue (available to subscribers). Thanks to Jordan Ballor for the update.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Prayer for Government, by Bishop John Carroll

A Prayer for Government, by Bishop John Carroll (circa 1791-1798). (Posted to Rerum Novarum by I. Shawn McElhinnney.

NOTE: See also Tracking the Ever-Elusive Neocon, a two-part correspondence with a reader who responded to his inquiry on the subject.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Fr. Neuhaus & Caleb Stegall - A Brief Exchange

Natural Law, the Death Penalty, and Political Theology: An Editorial Response to First Things, by Caleb Stegall. The New Pantagruel Vol. 2, No. 3, Summer 2005. Analyzing the recent correspondence of First Things editor Jody Bottum and editor-in-chief Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, Caleb Stegall observes a disjuncture of positions:

So what’s going on at First Things? In sum, Bottum contends that accepting the modern state requires the abandonment of any political theology and the concurrent abandonment of natural law in favor of the positive law. Bottum does accept the modern state and therefore is compelled, by intellectual honesty, to abandon man’s experience under nature and within a cosmic narrative, at least in its political form. Neuhaus, on the other hand, contends that to abandon political theology altogether is social suicide, resulting in politics as naked power grabs and constant warfare by other means, and he prescribes as a remedy a renewed attention to natural law.

If it is true that a demythologized modern state has no room for political theology or natural law as Bottum says, and if it is true that a state without a political theology will devolve into raw power politics, either in the open or more likely hidden behind lip service paid to positive law, as Neuhaus says, then the sheer circularity of their contradictory conclusions is dizzying. The fact that Bottum and Neuhaus are so hung up in this intellectual feedback loop is useful for what it reveals: namely, that despite all the valiant efforts of the First Things crew over the years, the modern public square really is naked–which is to say, shorn of any real political theology or mythology–and will always remain so. Better to abandon the liberal project altogether, at which point a penitent, Christian, political theology will again be possible.

Fr. Neuhaus offers a rather curt response here:
Stegall’s is an interesting argument, and he raises a few questions deserving of detailed attention. But that is for another time. Very briefly, what he calls the demythologized modern state is not capable of bearing “the story of the world,” namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. No state is. That is the mission of the Church. I am not at all sure that we should want the kind of “political theology” that Mr. Stegall apparently has in mind. The goal, rather, is a secular state in a confessional society in which government is democratically held accountable to the moral truth to which the Church bears witness.

While Mr. Bottum and I decline the invitation to fight, it should be noted that the New Pantagruel, while not as Rabelaisian as the title may suggest, is a lively Internet quarterly well worth a look.

(Well, let's hope for more substantial engagements in the future).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Weigel on 'A Realist Sensibility' - Necessity & Caution

A realist sensibility is an essential component of the intellectual furniture of any Christian analyst or practicioner of international politics who would observe, in that dangerous arena, the first principle of sound medicine: first, do no harm. Idealism untethered to an Augustinian sense of the limits of human perfectability can erode into romanticism, and the bill, ultimately, will be paid in human lives and suffering. Neither the defeat of Nazi totalitarianism or the collapse of Marxism-Leninism has invalidated the enduring importance of the realist sensibility.

But realism absolutized carries its own dangers. It can lead to a prematurely foreshortened view of the possible. It can obscure the potential for good that arises from the ideas and activities of individuals and movements who work "off the headlines" of diplomacy and commerce, and whose impact cannnot be readily calculated according to the standard realist weights and measures of military power and economic capability. An absolutist form of realism can bifurcate the worlds of politics and morality by creating the false (and, in classic Catholic moral terms, unacceptable) image of international public life as an "amoral" arena. Finally, by minimizing the fact that, while it is certainly true that man sins, it is equally true that it is man who makes the judgement that he sins, absolute realism can blind itself to the opportunities for incremental improvement in the human condition that do exist because of the tug of conscience.

George Weigel, "Pacem In Terris: The Human Rights Revolution"
From Building a Free Society: Democracy, Capitalism and Catholic Social Teaching
edited by George Weigel, Robert Royal. Eerdmans Pub Co (October 1994).