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The Mists of Political Economy

“Of course it’s complicated,” continued Arthur, “but when you come to look into it it comes out clear enough. It is one of the instances of the omnipotence of capital. Parliament can do such a thing, not because it has any creative power of its own, but because it has the command of unlimited capital.” Mr. Wharton looked at him, sighing inwardly as he reflected that unrequited love should have brought a clear-headed young barrister into mists so thick and labyrinths so mazy as these. (Trollope, The Prime Minister)

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Aelianus, Vicus in the De RegnoLaodicea.

Artur Rosman, Alt-Right Bête Noire Milo Yiannopoulos is an Aquinas-quoting Catholic Cosmos the in Lost.

Bre Payton, A Disabled Lawmaker Speaks Out About Abortion: ‘People Like Me’ Are Facing ExtinctionThe Federalist.

Matthew Schmitz, Waiting For a Young PopeFirst Things.

Rick Yoder, The Young Pope: The Second Coming of Brideshead Revisited? Cosmos the in Lost.

Swapna Krishna, Thieves Rappelled Into a London Warehouse in Rare Book Heist ReadThe Smithsonian: «…investigators theorize that a wealthy collector known as “The Astronomer” may have hired the thieves to steal the books for him.»

Classic

20o2: Chris Charles, Nostradamus: It’s EnglandBBC Sport Online: «Nostradamus was very serious about the World Cup. As far as England’s group games go, the great man suggests Eriksson will feel torn between his adopted country and the nation of his birth, but will eventually lead his new team to glory against Sweden. And here’s what he actually said: “Pope of Rome, be careful about coming close to the city that two rivers shall water. “There you have come to spit your blood. Thou and thine when the rose shall flower.” Pope of Rome, of course, translates as former Lazio boss, the two rivers represent England and Sweden and the flowering rose symbolises an English victory.»

2008: Richard Whittall, Confessions of a Guardian Football Weekly Podcast AddictThe Run of Play.

2015: Helen Andrews, AA EnvyThe Hedgehog Review.

Sancrucensia

2010: Per Evangelica Dicta.

 

 

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Anti-Acknowledgments

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From Steven Moore’s The Novel, An Alternative History: 1600-1800

Steven Moore’s anti-acknowledgements remind me of something Belloc writes in the incomparable Preface to The Path to Rome:

Now there is another thing book writers do in their Prefaces, which is to introduce a mass of nincompoops of whom no one ever heard, and to say ‘my thanks are due to such and such’ all in a litany, as though any one cared a farthing for the rats! If I omit this believe me it is but on account of the multitude and splendour of those who have attended at the production of this volume.

Yves Simon’s Correspondence with Charles de Koninck and Jacques Maritain on the Common Good

My last post reminded me of a correspondence between Yves Simon and both de Koninck and Maritain on the common good that my father translated some years ago. So I got permission from my father to post it at The Charles De Koninck Project. It’s a fascinating correspondence, and gives a lot of details about the controversy over de Koninck’s book. Consider, for example, this description of a party at Simon’s house in South Bend:

After the lecture there was a party at my house. I had told W[aldemar Gurian] to open fire. He didn’t delay. Hardly had De Koninck sat down when he got the fatal question right in the solar plexus: Who are these personalists? De K[oninck] hesitated visibly and showed a little less Belgian good nature and a little more reserve. He mentioned a Californian review (do you remember, The Personalist, which Mounier discovered four or five years after launching Esprit); Adler and Farrel; Garrigou-Lagrange (with insistence), Fr. Schwalm, the author of lessons in social philosophy. As for Esprit—he did not know it; Maritain—he did not know him. When we insisted that the whole world believed Primacy of the Common Good was directed against you, he asked if the ideas of Maritain are such that one could recognize them in the personalism he described: the common good as mere instrument, etc. We insisted that many readers have the impression that you shared these idiocies. In private conversation I told De K[oninck] twice that, whatever his intentions may have been his book was being exploited “as an instrument of defamation,” that I would not want to have this on my conscience, and that he should publish an article or a note to put an end to this. His objection: “But then I would have to read Maritain! I don’t have the time.” Gurian could not believe that he has not read you. As for me, I believe it readily.

“The Integrists in Quebec”

In the midst of the controversy over Charles de Koninck’s book, On the Primacy of the Common Good: Against the Personalists, Jacques Maritain dismissed de Koninck and those who followed him as reactionary intégristes, unable to meet the true challenges of the age:

I was deeply touched by the article of Fr. Eschman in The Modern Schoolman. He has masterfully exploded Koninck, and we can now enjoy entering a fine period of scholastic controversy worthy of the Baroque age. While the world is in its agony, and Monsieur Sartre offers to the intellectuals an existentialism of nothingness, the integrists of Quebec will doubtless raise the cry of alarm in the presbyteries of the New World against the Neo-Liberalism, Neo-Individualism, and, as our good friends at the Tablet call it, Neo-Pelagianism menacing the Holy Church.

J ’ai été profondément touché par l’article du Pére Eschmann dans The Modern Schoolman. Il a mouché Koninck de main de maître et nous aurons la joie d’entrer ainsi dans une belle période de controverses scolastiques dignes de l’age baroque. Pendant que le monde agonise et que M. Sartre propose aux intellectuels l’existentialisme du néant, les intégristes de Québec vont sans doute jeter dans les presbytères du nouveau continent le cri d’alarme contre le néolibéralisme, le néo-individualisme et, comme disent nos bons amis du Tablet, le néopélagianisme qui menacent la sainte Église. (Jacques Maritain to Etienne Gilson, November 15, 1945; via Francesca Aran Murphy, to whom I owe part of the translation)

And yet, seven decades later, de Koninck’s book, and those who used it to combat certain forms of “personalism” seem remarkably prescient. There was indeed in the thought of certain Catholic intellectuals eager to speak to the concerns of the age a danger of neo-liberalism, neo-individualism, and, neo-Pelagianism. The effects of it are ever more apparent.

Christian Roy has argued that de Koninck’s book was,

in some ways… a prophetic warning of a notable drift towards hedonistic secular individualism, which progressive Christian personalism unwittingly helped usher in Catholic societies such as Quebec.

That is, it was a warning that the attempt of a certain kind of attempt by Catholic intellectuals to, as it were, co-opt or subvert the spirit of the age was counter productive, and led to the opposite result of that hoped. Instead of a reversal of secularization there was a huge acceleration. But it was also a warning that even among those who remained in the Church a new liberalism and a new Pelagianism would take hold. A candid examination of debates within the Church in the past few decades— especially in Western Europe— show just how prophetic such warnings were. This is one reason, why, to the great annoyance of a certain relation of mine, I have tried to reclaim the (to his mind sinister) term integrist/integralist to name my own approach to thinking about the common good as a Catholic in the modern world.

The Needy Immigrant, Nationalism, Globalism, and the Universal Destination of Goods

The Josias

The current debates on immigration between liberal globalists on the one hand and populist nationalists on the other raise fundamental questions about the nature of political community and solidarity. Neither side offers satisfactory answers to these questions. Immigration naturally raises such fundamental questions, since the extent to which new members are admitted to a community varies widely depending on how that community understands and sustains its own internal unity. Thus a nomadic tribe, living in easily breachable tents, and depending on close bonds of trust will approach the integration of strangers differently than a city-state with stone houses, locking doors, speculative philosophy, and law courts.

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Nieto on politics and nature and the dependence of the city on the village

We’ve published another Nieto paper at The Josias: Nature and Art in the Village.” It was originally read at a conference. It’s worth watching video of Nieto reading it, embedded above, to get a sense of his style. At the end he reads out a section of one of his poems. This lecture is about the way in which the Cartesian/Baconian project of the domination of nature through technology has estranged man from nature, including his own nature, and the necessity of recovering the sort of life in proximity to nature that used to be lived in villages for the revival of true political (i.e. “city” ) life.

Nieto on Right and Left

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John Francis Nieto

Over at The Josias we have posted a brilliant essay on the inadequacy of thinking of politics in terms of right and left by John Francis Nieto. He goes right to the heart of the matter: man’s natural inclination toward the common good. He argues that the modern right and left share a fundamental misunderstanding of the common good that deeply mares their whole approach to politics. And that therefore when in our attempts to combat specific political problems we implicitly accept the reigning framework we give up something essential.

Nieto was a tutor of mine at Thomas Aquinas College, and I learned much from him— and not only in the classroom. He is a truly hospitable man, and often used to invite us students over for magnificent feasts of his own cooking and truly philosophical conversations that would last till far into the night. He is an accomplished poet as well as a philosopher and theologian, and has a marvelous capacity for communicating his love of beauty and goodness and truth to others.

We have another one of his essays lined up for publication at The Josias soon.

Liturgy as Court Ritual

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Pontifical High Mass at the Throne in the Usus Antiquior

Peter Kwasniewski has a wonderful post up at The New Liturgical Movement defending the liturgy as ‘Court Ritual’. He argues that especially in our democratic times it is necessary to emphasize that the Sacred Liturgy is a the court ritual of Christ the King as well as the oblation of Christ the Priest:

Monarchy or princedom, the oldest and arguably the most natural form of political organization, has been a far more consistent part of the human experience and of the formation of Christian culture than the democratic/egalitarian ideology of “self-evident truths” of which we have persuaded ourselves in modernity. Regardless of whether we think democracy can be made to work or not, in the realm of supernatural mysteries, Christianity is purely and entirely monarchical. Against the backdrop of the Old Testament revelation of God as the (one and only) great King over all the earth, and of the people of Israel as a kingly, priestly people ruled by prophets, judges, and ultimately the Davidic dynasty, we profess that Christ is our King, the Lord of heaven and earth, of all times, past, present, and to come, of this world and of the next; that His angels and saints are His royal court; that He deigns to call us His friends and brethren, yes, but such that we know that we never cease to be His servants. We long for His courts and tabernacles. The thick “politicism” of the imagery points to the real, sovereign polity of the Mystical Body, subsisting in the Roman Catholic Church as a societas perfecta and altogether perfected in the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the great King. Our ecclesial sacrifice, the Most Holy Eucharist, is a kingly and high-priestly oblation.

Consequently, the modern fixation on democracy, as if it were the best or the only good form of government, not only does not abolish our need for the language of kingship and courtliness, but makes it far more needed than ever before, in order to impress on our minds the way things really stand in the definitive reality of the kingdom of God. All of our democratic and egalitarian experiments will fall away at the end of time, as the glorious reign of Christ the King is revealed to all the nations, and those who have submitted to His gentle yoke will be raised to eternal life in glorified flesh while those who have rejected Him will wail and gnash their teeth, condemned to eternal fire in unending torment. The liturgy should reflect the truth of God — His absolute monarchy, His paternal rule, His hierarchical court in the unspeakable splendor of the heavenly Jerusalem — and not the passing truths of our modern provisional political organizations, or, in other words, that continual redesign of the liturgy, in language and ceremonies and ministers, for which the noveltymongers are agitating.

Yes, yes, yes! A thousand times yes!

Many years ago, in my undergraduate thesis, I made a similar point (though with much less eloquence):

The principle of active participation, which the Second Vatican Council was so right to insist on, has been nearly everywhere misunderstood and misapplied. This is because in modern democracy participation in the political order is understood in terms of being one of the rulers. We see this understanding of participation taken over so that active participation in the life of the Parish or Diocese is understood as participation in “pastoral councils” and similar tom-foolery. In the Sacred Liturgy active participation is taken to mandate all kinds of laypeople messing around in the sanctuary as lectors, ‘introducers,’ extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, etc. This banal caricature of true active participation and the priesthood of the faithful persists despite all efforts of the Magisterium to correct it. The problem is that when political government ceases to be what it should be the “wonderful resemblance” that it bears to God’s government, of which Pope Leo XIII speaks, is destroyed. But grace builds on nature and men ought to be disposed to the higher by the lower. (p. 36)

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M.W. Lucik, A Radical Politics of Solidarity in the Age of AbortionTradinista! «Abortion and euthanasia are fundamentally a refusal to acknowledge the infant in the womb or the elderly or dying person as a person, “to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God” (Sollicitudo rei socialis no. 39). They are, in this sense, contrary to true solidarity, as John Paul outlined it for us. But recall that John Paul taught that solidarity and care for the common good are inextricably linked; they are, in fact, the same thing. Thus, anything contrary to true solidarity is contrary to the common good. The force, then, of Benedict’s argument is manifest. When a polity “moves toward the denial or suppression of life,” it moves toward a negation of the common good expressed as solidarity.» Continue reading