Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Totalitarianism of Equality

Even though I have differed in some conclusions from the late Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J. in discussing the life of the Church in the context of the United States, I have always agreed with his proper framing of the question:
The question is sometimes raised, whether Catholicism is compatible with American democracy.  The question is invalid as well as impertinent; for the manner of its position inverts the order of values.  It must, of course, be turned round to read, whether American democracy is compatible with Catholicism.  (We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, ix-x.)
I would change Fr. Murray’s words to be slightly more precise in the parlance of our day and replace “Catholicism” with “The Church” or “The Catholic Church.”  Certainly, this is what Fr. Murray meant; but I do this because, in this age of religious and theological ignorance, I wish not to give the impression that “Catholicism” is one of the many “-isms” out there, vying for some sort of dominance in the arena of ideas.  No. The Church, in Belloc’s words, is “the exponent of reality.”   Thus, when addressing the current American public philosophy, we would do well to embrace the whole of the Catholic tradition on the subject of authority and the state in conjunction with the great political heritage of the West.  Indeed, one must also have what Solzhenitsyn lamented, in his famous 1978 Harvard Address, as tremendously absent in the West: courage.  Courage to go beyond the media and elite’s defined parameters of debate; courage to read the works of older authors; and, most especially, courage to embrace Christ, His Church and her teaching whole and entire from all the centuries.  (more...)

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