In the latest issue of Studies in Christian Ethics, I review of Marcia Pally’s book Commonwealth and Covenant: Economics, Politics, and Theologies of Relationality. The review can be read online at Sage Journals. It’s free at the moment, but will probably be behind a pay-wall later. Some excerpts from the review follow below. Continue reading
Over at The Josias I have a new piece on the distinction between radical (or hard) liberalism and moderate liberalism, and to what extent the American Founders can be called liberals. The header image, incidentally, is by N.C. Wyeth and depicts the Lord Advocate Prestongrange from R.L. Stevenson’s David Balfour.
Concerning the effeminates consecrated to the same Great Mother, in defiance of all the modesty which belongs to men and women, Varro has not wished to say anything, nor do I remember to have read anywhere anything concerning them. These effeminates, no later than yesterday, were going through the streets and places of Carthage with anointed hair, whitened faces, relaxed bodies, and feminine gait, exacting from the people the means of maintaining their ignominious lives. Nothing has been said concerning them. Interpretation failed, reason blushed, speech was silent. The Great Mother has surpassed all her sons, not in greatness of deity, but of crime. To this monster not even the monstrosity of Janus is to be compared. His deformity was only in his image; hers was the deformity of cruelty in her sacred rites. He has a redundancy of members in stone images; she inflicts the loss of members on men. This abomination is not surpassed by the licentious deeds of Jupiter, so many and so great. He, with all his seductions of women, only disgraced heaven with one Ganymede; she, with so many avowed and public effeminates, has both defiled the earth and outraged heaven. (Civ. Dei VII,26)
Over at the bloggingheads spinoff meaningoflife.tv I have a conversation with Aryeh Cohen-Wade, in which we discuss the Mortara case, debates about liberalism and integralism among Catholics, and finally the monastic life. The conversation was enjoyable, though I was a bit groggy from flu and flu medications.
We discussed an interesting essay by Nathan Shields at the Jewish magazine Mosaic, liberal propaganda about the wars of religion, and Gelasian Dyarchy (I’m afraid I forgot to mention The Josias, the integralist website for which I have written a number of pieces), and then a little about the monastic life and the practice of lectio divina.
The Empire thus fostered a deep-rooted, conservative ideal of freedom as local and particular, shared by members of corporate groups and incorporated communities. These were local and particular liberties, not abstract Liberty shared equally by all inhabitants… This [explains] why central Europeans remained so unreceptive to nineteenth-century liberalism… liberals discovered that ordinary people often did not want their version of liberty, because uniform equality conflicted with treasured corporate rights which appeared to offer superior safeguards against capitalist market exploitation. (Peter H. Wilson, Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire)
This made me laugh out loud:
… just focus on one figure: the Palaeolithic income of $1.10 a day. Where exactly does it come from? Presumably the calculations have something to do with the calorific value of daily food intake. But if we’re comparing this to daily incomes today, wouldn’t we also have to factor in all the other things Palaeolithic foragers got for free, but which we ourselves would expect to pay for: free security, free dispute resolution, free primary education, free care of the elderly, free medicine, not to mention entertainment costs, music, storytelling, and religious services? Even when it comes to food, we must consider quality: after all, we’re talking about 100% organic free-range produce here, washed down with purest natural spring water. (David Graeber and David Wengrow)
In a brilliant essay on the Social Kingship of Christ, Peter Kwasniewski discusses the effect that the organization of temporal political life has on the way in which the doctrine is received. He writes of,
the Catholic vision of society as a hierarchy in which lower is subordinated to higher, with the private sphere and the public sphere united in their acknowledgment of the rights of God and of His Church.
And he writes of how this vision is undermined by the modern, horizontal, secular conception of politics. He argues, quite rightly to my mind, that royal government has a peculiar suitability to communicating a hierarchical vision of social order, and the majesty of temporal kings is help in understanding Christ the King.
My favorite Catholic republican, Aelianus of Laodicea, has responded with a sharp attack on Prof. Kwasniewski’s piece. Aelianus points out that the question of the political recognition of the Social Kingship of Christ, is separate from the question of the best form of government. The Church has always been content to allow various forms of political rule— monarchical, aristocratic, democratic, or mixed— as long as they are “integralist” in the sense of recognizing the superiority of the spiritual power. Aelianus as is right as far as the argument goes. But he does not thereby disprove Kwasniewski’s point. Kwasniewski was not arguing that the Social Kingship of Christ demands a Christian monarchy as the form of temporal power, but rather that such a monarchy “lends itself most readily to collaboration and cooperation with the Church.” And this seems to be primarily because of the “image of sacred majesty” that it presents to the minds and hearts of its subjects. This image calls to mind the “wonderful resemblances” that according to Pope Leo XIII’s teaching in Diuturnum illud, are to be found in the different levels of authority that are all derived from the authority of the one God.
The Josias has started a podcast, in which I and two other Josias writers talk about ethics and politics and Catholic social teaching. In the first episode we discuss the common good— what it is, what it isn’t. The conversation touches on many things including the relation of practical and speculative virtue, Alexander the Great’s complaining of Aristotle’s publishing decisions, and an esoterically anti-Nazi book published by a German professor under the nose of the National Socialist censors.
The cover story of this week’s Catholic Herald is something that I wrote on Angela Merkel and Pope Francis (but more the former). I briefly refer to the influence of Jacques Maritain on post-war, European, Christian democracy. For a fuller account of the shift in Catholic politics that Maritain and others helped bring about I recommend a paper by Tom Pink, and Alan Fimister’s book.
I also have a book-review in the current issue of First Things of A.W. Jones’s brilliant Before Church and State. I mean to write more on Jones in future— right now I am working on something on his interpretation of St. Thomas’s account of law in the Summa.
On the very first evening I asked him why, in his book on “the concept of the political” he had not written a syllable about the bonum commune, since the whole meaning of politics surely lay in the realization of the common good. He retorted sharply: “Anyone who speaks of the bonum commune is intent on deception.” Of course it was no answer; but it had the effect of initially disarming his opponent. (From Josef Pieper’s autobiography, via Incudi Reddere)