Young Republicans: meet the new boss, same as the old boss...
This article reminded me of the sympathies I held as a 19 year old. I used to "believe" in the Republican party, in its apparent "goodness" in contrast the the abortion-supporting machinations of the Democratic party. Growing up during the Clintoned 90s aided that contrarian attitude. In college I read a lot of Kirk, and some Weaver and Nisbet. I had advanced to the position desired by the author of the above article: a youth animated by the original convictions of the conservative movement, particularly as envisioned by Kirk, beginning in Burke, having its "roots" in all good things stretching back to Israel. All the while however, there remained an itch: where was Christianity in all of this? In Kirk it was here and there, but fundamentally, it played more the role of an example of certain conservative principles. Not that there wasn't a concern for the protection and fundamental importance of the "religious sphere", but it seemed ethereal in the face of the immediate concerns of the temporal realm, concerns that for the political conservative--resistance to the welfare state, judicial constraint, the defense of the economic private sphere in property and the free market, the privilaged protection of Judeo-Christianity and its humanistic Anglo cultural extensions--remained paramount. Where did the New Evangelization fit in here, the proclamation of the Gospel--which on the contrary, the modern Popes and especially Vatican II, seemed to claim was of primary temporal importance?
It wasn't until I read David Schindler's Heart of the World, Center of the Church: Communo Ecclesiology, Liberalism, and Liberation, that the suspicians and intimations I had continued to acquire found their home in a systematic understanding of the whole: the vision of Gaudium et Spes and Pope John Paul, the vision that only in Jesus Christ revealing the Father and his love, only in the Incarnation is man fully revealed to himself, and only by the transformation of the world (and all of its cultural constitution) into the image of the Church, the Spouse of Christ, is liberation really achieved. In other words, there is no liberation, political or any other kind, none at all, than the liberation brought by the grace of Christ in the Church his Body. Liberalism in a nutshell consists in replacing this unequivocal Gospel vision of liberation with secular varities (and imitations), and consequently vanquishing the theological (that is, the explicit Gospel) to a "private sphere" where it eventually dies, having become entirely subordinate to the secular political order. And what I thought would escape this, American conservatism, I found was in fact just another version of this liberalism, particularly in its enthusiastic embrace of the free market and the separation of Church and state.
In no time I began to hear typical conservative rhetoric differently. Reading magazines like National Review took on a whole new character. The more I studied the culture-changing imperative of the Magisterium in the last fifty years, the more I undestood how inimical the two approaches are. And in reading the work at the root of modernity--Machiavelli, Hobbes, Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Kant, and even Whigs like Burke--I saw how neatly they all fit together, moving from a common lot of shared principles, wholly different and antagonistic to the ones that inspired the Medieval order which they sought to replace. And in reading authors like Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, G.K. Chesteron, Hilaire Belloc, and Alasdair MacIntyre, I saw for the first time a different approach, an approach beyond the categories of liberal-conservative, and in studying Aristotle, Augustine, St. Thomas, and the modern Popes in their social teaching, I grasped the principles of such an approach, principles that indeed make a quasi-comfortable alliance with modern liberals and conservatives (i.e. both liberals at root) difficult if not impossible. For in the end, we are working and fighting for different things:
The empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ." Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved." He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. "For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?" If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," we said, "excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation."Many years before William F. Buckley called for conservatives to stand athwart and shout, Dorothy Day continued to articulate Peter Maurin's great vision of a Catholic political order (The Catholic Worker, February 1940):
When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord's regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen's duty of obedience. It is for this reason that St. Paul, while bidding wives revere Christ in their husbands, and slaves respect Christ in their masters, warns them to give obedience to them not as men, but as the vicegerents of Christ; for it is not meet that men redeemed by Christ should serve their fellow-men. "You are bought with a price; be not made the bond-slaves of men." If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be a stable peace and tranquillity, for there will be no longer any cause of discontent. Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man. Peace and harmony, too, will result; for with the spread and the universal extent of the kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of the link that binds them together, and thus many conflicts will be either prevented entirely or at least their bitterness will be diminished.
If the kingdom of Christ, then, receives, as it should, all nations under its way, there seems no reason why we should despair of seeing that peace which the King of Peace came to bring on earth—he who came to reconcile all things, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister, who, though Lord of all, gave himself to us as a model of humility, and with his principal law united the precept of charity; who said also: "My yoke is sweet and my burden light." Oh, what happiness would be Ours if all men, individuals, families, and nations, would but let themselves be governed by Christ! "Then at length," to use the words addressed by our predecessor, Pope Leo XIII, twenty-five years ago to the bishops of the Universal Church, "then at length will many evils be cured; then will the law regain its former authority; peace with all its blessings be restored. Men will sheathe their swords and lay down their arms when all freely acknowledge and obey the authority of Christ, and every tongue confesses that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father." [Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas (On the Feast of Christ the King), n. 18-20.]
For the sake of new readers, for the sake of men on our breadlines, for the sake of the employed and unemployed, the organized and unorganized workers, and also for the sake of ourselves, we must reiterate again and again what are our aims and purposes.
Together with the Works of Mercy, feeding, clothing and sheltering our brothers, we must indoctrinate. We must "give reason for the faith that is in us." Otherwise we are scattered members of the Body of Christ, we are not "all members one of another." Otherwise, our religion is an opiate, for ourselves alone, for our comfort or for our individual safety or indifferent custom.
We cannot live alone. We cannot go to Heaven alone. Otherwise, as Péguy said, God will say to us, "Where are the others?" (This is in one sense only as, of course, we believe that we must be what we would have the other fellow be. We must look to ourselves, our own lives first.)
If we do not keep indoctrinating, we lose the vision. And if we lose the vision, we become merely philanthropists, doling out palliatives.
The vision is this. We are working for "a new heaven and a new earth, wherein justice dwelleth." We are trying to say with action, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We are working for a Christian social order.
We believe in the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God. This teaching, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, involves today the issue of unions (where men call each other brothers); it involves the racial question; it involves cooperatives, credit unions, crafts; it involves Houses of Hospitality and Farming Communes. It is with all these means that we can live as though we believed indeed that we are all members one of another, knowing that when "the health of one member suffers, the health of the whole body is lowered."
This work of ours toward a new heaven and a new earth shows a correlation between the material and the spiritual, and, of course, recognizes the primacy of the spiritual. Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. Hence the leaders of the work, and as many as we can induce to join us, must go daily to Mass, to receive food for the soul. And as our perceptions are quickened, and as we pray that our faith be increased, we will see Christ in each other, and we will not lose faith in those around us, no matter how stumbling their progress is. It is easier to have faith that God will support each House of Hospitality and Farming Commune and supply our needs in the way of food and money to pay bills, than it is to keep a strong, hearty, living faith in each individual around us - to see Christ in him. If we lose faith, if we stop the work of indoctrinating, we are in a way denying Christ again.
We must practice the presence of God. He said that when two or three are gathered together, there He is in the midst of them. He is with us in our kitchens, at our tables, on our breadlines, with our visitors, on our farms. When we pray for our material needs, it brings us close to His humanity. He, too, needed food and shelter. He, too, warmed His hands at a fire and lay down in a boat to sleep.
When we have spiritual reading at meals, when we have the rosary at night, when we have study groups, forums, when we go out to distribute literature at meetings, or sell it on the street corners, Christ is there with us. What we do is very little. But it is like the little boy with a few loaves and fishes. Christ took that little and increased it. He will do the rest. What we do is so little we may seem to be constantly failing. But so did He fail. He met with apparent failure on the Cross. But unless the seed fall into the earth and die, there is no harvest.
And why must we see results? Our work is to sow. Another generation will be reaping the harvest.
When we write in these terms, we are writing not only for our fellow workers in thirty other Houses, to other groups of Catholic Workers who are meeting for discussion, but to every reader of the paper. We hold with the motto of the National Maritime Union, that every member is an organizer. We are upholding the ideal of personal responsibility. You can work as you are bumming around the country on freights, if you are working in a factory or a field or a shipyard or a filling station. You do not depend on any organization which means only paper figures, which means only the labor of the few. We are not speaking of mass action, pressure groups (fearful potential for evil as well as good). We are addressing each individual reader of The Catholic Worker.
The work grows with each month, the circulation increases, letters come in from all over the world, articles are written about the movement in many countries.
Statesmen watch the work, scholars study it, workers feel its attraction, those who are in need flock to us and stay to participate. It is a new way of life. But though we grow in numbers and reach far-off corners of the earth, essentially the work depends on each one of us, on our way of life, the little works we do.
"Where are the others?" God will say. Let us not deny Him in those about us. Even here, right now, we can have that new earth, wherein justice dwelleth!
Top Books That Have Influenced Me
20. Thomas Dubay, Fire Within.
Started me on a journey almost ten years ago now, and convicted me deeply of what theology ultimately is all about.
19. Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ.
Kasper's Jesus the Christ might be his greatest work for its threshing magnificence, but this work is the best concise theology of God in print. His treatment of Trinitarian theology is second to none. It brought a lot together for me.
18. Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity.
When I finally read this, Ratzinger's best work, it came more as a confirmation of my own theological development: the possibility of relevance, historical consciousness, doctrinal sensibility, and systematic creativity, all within the absolutely fundamental locus of the event of Jesus Christ.
17. Dorothy Day, Selected Writings.
The more I read of her the more I believe she should be the next Doctor of the Church.
16. Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, vol. I.
Helped me see Rahner in a more positive light, and find a more generous hermeneutic for reading his later works. Really remarkable stuff here.
15. Roch Keretszy, Jesus Christ.
The systematic fourth part is still the definitive compendium of the best of theological development in Christology. A book I turn back to again and again.
14. Louis Dupre, Passage to Modernity.
An incredible analysis of the real undercurrent in the history of the West, and the real elan that has brought us to this post-modern age.
13. Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island.
12. Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation.
Merton has continued to provide an immense influence; I am still amazed at his insights, his originality and clarifying vision.
11. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis.
Will probably end up being the most important Church document written after Vatican II, giving the Church its definitive hermeneutic as well as concretely setting the agenda for the New Evangelization. Programmatic, and a wellspring.
10. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible.
A wonderful and beautiful summary of his project.
9. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Razing the Bastions.
The greatest anticipation and justification for the true spirit of Vatican II I have ever read. And a still-refreshing source for renewal today.
8. David Burrell, Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions.
Burrell is the best reader of St. Thomas I have found (Brian Shanley is up there too, and Brian Davies has been quite helpful). You get the best of Gilson, Fabro-W.N. Clarke-Te Velde participation metaphysics, Lonergan's grasp of transendence and method, and Wittgensteinean grammar, all in a broad historical sympathy. This and Knowing the Unknowable God are the best commentaries (in a broad sense) on the first 26 questions of the Summa. They are also a superlative model of theological method.
7. Henri de Lubac, The Mystery of the Supernatural.
A still seminal work that revealed a fundamental divide in theological method to me, despite any imprecision or incompleteness on de Lubac's part.
6. Robert Barron. I can't really pick one book: it is more the overall direction of his thought that continues to affect me deeply since I had him as a teacher five years ago.
5. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology, Vol. I.
A great example of how much Balthasar can bring to theological method. Several essays in here almost run like soundtracks in the back of my head. At root: the utter and irreducible newness of Jesus Christ, who reveals the great previously unknown thing, that God is love.
4. David Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church.
In a way, no book was a greater impetus to my theological orientation as a whole than this collection of Schindler's critiques of integralism and liberalism. The introduction alone is worth the purchase of the book: it gave me an introduction and still indispensible foundation for appreciating the call of Vatican II (and as seen through de Lubac, Balthasar, Ratzinger, and the communio school) for the transformation of the world and culture, particularly in its radical Christocentrism,(by means of GS 22), and understanding of the Church as given over for the life of the world toward the final and total cosmic recapitulation of the marriage between Christ and the world. This work started me thinking critically about capitalism and the free market (i.e. liberalism). In fact, it started me thinking about so many things.
3. Bernard Lonergan, Grace and Freedom: Operative Grace in the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.
I have only got into Lonergan these last couple years, but I have been thoroughly surprised by how much he brings to the table. The clarity he offers to theological reasoning is outright astounding and very attractive. This work in particular is a sort of secret gem: those who have spent the time going through it know it belongs at the top of any list of the greatest theological works of the 20th century, especially since it anticipated the greatest advances of Thomistic scholarship, as well as cutting the Gordian knot of the Banezian-Molinist divide in one fell swoop, by retrieving the all important "insight" of Thomas's, God's transcendent relation to creation, long forgotten by the (de facto) Scotist-Suarezian neo-Scholastics. I don't know if I can say enough about this book. If you look warily at Lonergan because of his later Method in Theology, don't be dissuaded. Many others who do as well still hold Grace and Freedom to be magisterial (e.g. Romanus Cessario, Brian Shanley, Avery Dulles).
2. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae.
I may not always agree with him, but he has taught me so much. Having gone through most of the Summa over two years at the ITI is a lode I will mine for the rest of my life. So many hidden treasures inside. And I have to say, anyone who has not intimately gone through it and learned what Thomas has to offer (quite a lot) is indeed deficient, full stop.
1. St. Ignatius, The Spiritual Exercises.
In my humble opinion, Ignatius began a theological revolution with this work. Don't expect explicit conclusions. Not a work of theology, but rather (besides an excellent guidebook for a retreat) a movement of principles containing implicitly some of the most foundational theological developments of the last five hundred years. If explicit Christocentric theology is the solution, the Exercises are the impetus. E.g. If no Exercises, then: no ressourcement theology, no Vatican II, no John Paul II.