The Public Square
“As society became more modern, it became more secular.” That sentence has about it a certain “of courseness.” It or its equivalent is to be found in numerous textbooks from grade school through graduate school. The connection between modernization and secularization is taken for granted. Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, challenges what everybody knows in an important new collection of essays by several sociologists and historians, The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life (University of California Press, 484 pages,, $60). The challenge is not novel with Smith. Social scientists who had long propounded “secularization theory,” Peter L. Berger very notably among them, have in recent years undergone a major change of mind. The contribution of Smith’s big book is in his detailed analysis of the dubious (sometimes contrary to fact) assumptions underlying the theory, and in the case studies he and his colleagues present showing how various interest groups have employed the theory in the service of their own quest for power, usually at the expense of religion and religious institutions.
There are, writes Smith, seven crucial and related defects in conventional secularization theory. Over-abstraction: the literature of the theorists routinely spoke of “differentiation,” “autonomization,” “privatization,” and other abstract, if not abstruse, dynamics disengaged from concrete factors of social change such as interests, ideologies, institutions, and power conflicts. Lack of human agency: the theory was big on process without protagonists. It depicted secularization without secularizers. According to the theory, secularization just happens. Overdeterministic inevitability: “Religion’s marginalization from public life is portrayed as a natural or inevitable process like cell mitosis or adolescent puberty.” Secularization theory reflects a view of linear social evolution in the tradition of Comte and Spencer. “If there is one truth that history teaches us beyond doubt,” wrote the great Durkheim, “it is that religion tends to embrace a smaller and smaller portion of social life.” Any questions, class?
Idealist intellectual history: here the history of ideas is determinative. Owen Chadwick’s The Secularization of the European Mind (note the focus on the mind) puts the primary explanatory emphasis on the philosophy of liberalism, evolutionary theory, Marxist ideology, and so forth. Smith writes, “Culture, philosophy, and intellectual systems certainly matter. But they cannot be abstracted from the real historical, social, political, legal, and institutional dynamics through which they worked and were worked upon.” Romanticized history: there was in the view of secularization theorists an “age of faith”—for instance, the thirteenth century—which was succeeded and displaced by the age of reason and modernity. Then everything was religious; now everything, or at least everything that matters in public, is secular. Against that view, anthropologist Mary Douglas writes: “Secularization is often treated as a modern trend. But the contrast of secular with religious has nothing whatsoever to do with the contrast of modern with traditional or primitive. The idea that primitive man is by nature deeply religious is nonsense. The truth is that all of the varieties of skepticism, materialism, and spiritual fervor are found in the range of tribal societies. They vary as much from one another on these lines as any chosen segment of London life.”
An overemphasis on religious self-destruction: Berger’s 1967 The Sacred Canopy suggested that the Judeo-Christian tradition “carried the seeds of secularization within itself.” Ancient Israel’s monotheism began the secularization process by historicizing and rationalizing ethics, a process which Catholicism temporarily restrained but which the Protestant Reformation returned to full force in bringing about a “disenchanted” (Weber) world. A host of theorists agreed that the Reformation and the cultural exhaustion following the “wars of religion” hastened the process of secularization. While not discounting such claims entirely, Smith writes, “What most versions of secularization theory overlook is the important role played by other, nonreligious and antireligious actors in the process of secularization. At the very least, our analytical framework should include room to account for all the players who may have been involved in a process of change.”
Seventh and finally, underspecified causal mechanisms: the influential Bryan Wilson, for example, simply asserted the incompatibility of modernity and religion: “The moral intimations of Christianity do not belong to a world ordered by conveyor belts, time-and-motion studies, and bureaucratic organizations. The very thought processes which these devices demand of men leave little place for the operation of the divine.” One is reminded of the “demythologizing” New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann and his dictum that a man who knows how to work a light switch cannot believe in divine causality. Again, it was Berger who wrote very persuasively, thirty and more years ago, about the powerful linkage between “social structure” and consciousness. To all this Smith responds: “But sociologists and historians give too little attention to explaining exactly how and why these social changes had their supposed detrimental effects on religion. Exactly why did urbanization or technological developments have to undermine religious authority? Exactly how did industrialization and immigration work to produce religious privatization? Why should we treat these as some kind of ‘great gears of history’ that inexorably grind their way toward religious privatization? Rather than all nodding our scholarly heads together in what could be premature analytical closure, we need to go back and force ourselves to answer these questions again.”
The seven defects specified by Smith in an older secularization theory—a theory, be it noted, still espoused by many—are sometimes overlapping, and one cannot lightly dismiss elements of truth, or at least of suggestiveness, in that older theory. But Smith is certainly right in warning against “premature analytical closure” and in directing our attention to other factors in the exclusion of religion from public life. He lists a number of questions calling for further exploration. Who, in fact, were the actors who agitated for a naked public square, and what were the grievances or desired benefits that drove their activism? What ideologies were employed, and what institutional and political circumstances favored their success? On what material resources did they draw, and how did they frame arguments in a manner that served their cause? What organizational structures provided them with an identity and moral community in furthering the secularization they sought?
Traditions and Delusions
Smith cites Edward Shils, who wrote that Western intellectuals have generally moved within one of four intellectual traditions: scientism, romanticism, apocalypticism, or populism. American intellectuals have worked mainly in the first two traditions. The meaning of scientism may seem self-evident, but Shils on the romantic tradition deserves a quotation at length:
The romantic tradition appears at first sight to be in irreconcilable opposition to the tradition of scientism. . . . In many important respects, however, they share fundamental features. Romanticism starts with the appreciation of the spontaneous manifestations of the essence of concrete individuality. Hence, it values originality, i.e., the unique, that which is produced from the genius of the individual, in contrast with the stereotyped and traditional action of the philistine. . . . Institutions which have rules and which prescribe the conduct of the individual members by conventions and commands are likewise viewed as life-destroying. The bourgeois family, mercantile activity, the market, indeed civil society in general, with its curb on enthusiasm and its sober acceptance of obligation, are repugnant to the romantic tradition—all are the enemies of spontaneity and genuineness; they impose a role on the individual and do not permit him to be himself. The affinities of the romantic tradition to the revolutionary criticism of the established order are obvious. It, too [along with scientism], is one of the most explosive antiauthoritarian powers of modern intellectual life.
In the early twentieth century, the aggressive secularizers found an important ally in the leaders of liberal Protestantism, says Smith. “Liberal Protestant clergy were important players in the secularization struggles. But the liberal Protestant capitulation was a response to something. It was a (not very successful) survival strategy in relation to an external challenge.” The secularizing activists would, in time, dispense with their liberal Protestant allies when they were no longer needed in advancing the cause. William James foresaw the new circumstance in a speech to a college audience in 1907: “We alumni and alumnae of the colleges are the only permanent presence [in America] that corresponds to the aristocracy in older countries. We have continuous traditions, as they have; our motto, too, is noblesse oblige; and, unlike them, we stand for ideal interests solely, for we have no corporate selfishness and wield no powers of corruption. We ought to have our own class-consciousness. Les Intellectuels! What prouder club name could there be than this one?” Almost a century later, as incredible as it may seem, that is precisely how many in the academy see themselves.
As I have had occasion to write elsewhere, even as liberal Protestantism was capitulating to the secularizers, it exhibited an overweening self-confidence about its cultural hegemony. Smith provides delicious quotes. Methodist Bishop Edward Thompson in 1870 told an audience that he foresaw in the not-too-distant future an America that would be “without an adulterer, or a swearer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or an ingrate, or an apostate, or a backslider, or a slanderer; hundreds of thousands of homes without a prodigal, a quarrel or heartburn, or a bitter tear.” Thirty years later, the head of the American Board for Foreign Missions declared that “Christianity is the religion of the dominant nations of the earth. Nor is it rash to prophesy that in due time it will be the only religion in the world.” Northern Baptist leader Samuel Batten wrote in 1909 that, of the three “great facts” of modern society—Christianity, the state, and democracy—Christianity was “the most potent force in our modern civilization.”And so it went. Even as aggressive secularizers were bringing the public potency of religion down around their ears, religious leaders were incapable of seeing what was happening. As I have also had occasion to write, in an exercise of cultural catch-up not a few Catholic leaders today seem incapable of understanding what is happening to Catholicism in this country. With serene self-confidence, they speak of making progressive accommodations as they progressively capitulate. But that is a story for another time.
In framing the public argument, says Smith, the secularizers succeeded brilliantly in defining religion as “sectarian.” “Having once been a tool in the hands of dominant Protestants to exclude versions of faith that did not serve their purposes, the term sectarian was commandeered by rising secularizers to expurgate religion per se from the public sphere.” In the past half century, one notes, the term “sectarian” has been regularly used by the courts to that end. The late John Rawls prescribed that “comprehensive accounts” of reality—e.g., religious accounts—are disqualified as legitimate “public discourse.” They are sectarian. Smith usefully describes how corporate capitalism and its related philanthropies were, in the first part of the twentieth century, employed very overtly to exclude religious institutions of higher education and to exclude religion from those that were not expressly religious. This supplements the thesis of James Burtchaell’s masterful The Dying of the Light, in which he carefully documents the often subtle ways in which religious leadership surrendered colleges and universities to secularist orthodoxy.
Revolutions and Counterrevolutions
The Secular Revolution includes chapters by various authors on the success of the secularizers in public schools, in turning back the politics of moral reform, in shaping jurisprudence, and in the ascendancy of a self-consciously secular media. On the last, Richard Flory nicely documents the ways in which journalistic “professionalization” went hand in hand with secularization. According to the doctrine of the professionalizers, journalism was uniquely essential to civilization; the evolution from primitive to professional journalism was inevitable; journalism was the “educator” of the masses; religion was reduced to morality and ethics, and all religions were to be treated equally; professional journalism was the functional equivalent of and successor to religion. As Flory shows, journalists were very explicitly instructed in these doctrines, and he illustrates the effectiveness of the instruction in the treatment of religion in the New York Times over the past century.
The several chapters are of uneven quality, some claiming to prove too much and others missing obvious instances that support their argument. Not all the other authors are as astute as Christian Smith in recognizing that the secularizing activists did have legitimate grievances against the liberal Protestant hegemony. My impression is that Smith understands that this “revolution,” like most revolutions, sometimes had commendable goals which were perverted by the obtuseness of the establishment against which it was revolting.
The Secular Revolution is of great value for two reasons. It effectively debunks secularization theories based upon abstract and impersonal forces that presumably make the triumph of secularism inevitable. And it restores the human dimension of secularization. It returns the subject of secularization to history, with all its conflicts, rivalries, ambitions, grievances, and political strategies. Secularization did not just happen. The naked public square was not predetermined. The naked public square is precisely what many people in positions of influence wanted, and it is what they largely achieved. Successful revolutions are vulnerable to, and sometimes provoke, counterrevolutions. Whether the counterrevolution is now underway is also a question for another time.
Speaking About the Unspeakable
Don’t talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we make it seem normal. That is one view of the matter. The subject is torture. It is a subject that keeps cropping up in the news in connection with U.S. treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo. Then there is the practice of “renditions” in which the CIA apparently sends suspected terrorists to countries that are not so squeamish about the techniques of “enhanced interrogation.” They, it is reported, do the dirty work for us. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School kicked off a new discussion of torture by advocating that it be brought under legal jurisdiction by requiring a bench warrant for torturing suspects in extraordinary circumstances. Dershowitz is not advocating torture. He simply notes that it is practiced in the great majority of countries of the world, and he is proposing a way by which he thinks the practice could be reduced by careful regulation.
Now Sanford Levinson who teaches law at the University of Texas has edited a book from Oxford University Press, Torture, with sixteen reflections on the subject. They range from the don’t-talk-about-it school to the talk-about-it-only-to-condemn-it view, to a variety of discussions of when torture is permissible and impermissible. The book includes an older essay by Princeton’s Michael Walzer advancing the inescapable connection between political action and “dirty hands.” The essay reflects an un-Jewish skepticism about the reach of morality and law; indeed it is almost Lutheran in its view of simul iustus et peccator, popularly translated into the maxim, “Sin boldly.” Among the more interesting contributions is one by Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Posner notes that “torture” lacks a clear definition in international agreements and American law. “Almost all official interrogation is coercive, yet not all coercive interrogation would be called ‘torture’ by any competent user of the English language, so that what is involved in using the word is picking out the point along a continuum at which the observer’s queasiness turns to revulsion.”
There is also, one notes, a continuum of circumstances in which most people, rightly or wrongly, would make an exception to the general prohibition of torture. The most commonly cited exception is that of “the ticking bomb” in which there is reason to believe that a suspect knows the location of a nuclear weapon planted in a large city which, if it explodes, will kill thousands of people. In this book and elsewhere, almost all the parties to this discussion feel compelled to address “the ticking bomb” circumstance. Posner says he agrees with Dershowitz that “if the stakes are high enough, torture is permissible.” He adds, “No one who doubts that should be in a position of responsibility.” He suggests that Dershowitz is naïve, however, in thinking that the involvement of judges and warrants would not quickly become corrupted, resulting in the routinizing of an odious practice.
A Law of Necessity
Posner draws a comparison with Lincoln’s unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. “Lincoln did it anyway and was probably right to do so—the Union was in desperate straits, and its survival was more important than complying with every provision of the Constitution, since, had the rebellion succeeded, the Constitution would have gone by the boards. It does not follow that the Constitution should be amended to authorize the president to suspend habeas corpus; for he might be inclined to test the scope of that authority.” It is important, says Posner, that Lincoln knew that what he was doing was illegal. The comparison is weakened, however, because Lincoln’s circumstance was sui generis, while the practice of torture is widespread and ongoing. In these discussions, reference is frequently made to Israeli laws aimed at prohibiting torture in the interrogation of terrorist suspects. The regulations distinguishing legitimate interrogation techniques from torture are quite precise, but allowance is made for ex post facto pardons in the use of torture when the appeal is to “the law of necessity.” We are again back to the ticking bomb scenario.
In all this, I am struck by the paucity of serious discussions by Christian moral theologians and ethicists. In these pages I have said, “We dare not trust ourselves to torture.” I believe that but acknowledge that it is not sufficient. How do we address these questions of what in fact is happening in circumstances in which conscientious Christians seek moral guidance, and how can we do this without falling into the pits of relativism, proportionalism, consequentialism, and related errors? In the ticking bomb instance, does the duty to protect thousands of innocents override the duty not to torture? There is a related development that has also not received the attention it would seem to deserve. It is a generally accepted moral maxim that it is always wrong to deliberately take innocent human life. Yet after September 11 it is the policy of our government to shoot down hijacked airplanes, thus killing the innocent passengers, if there is reason to believe that, as in the case of the World Trade Center, the hijackers intend to use the plane as a weapon. One can, of course, stretch the rule of “double effect”—the distinction between what is directly willed and what is only indirectly willed—but it is a stretch that teeters on the edge of simplistic intentionalism.
The instance of hijacked planes is relatively rare; the instance of torture is common, and, it would seem, becoming more common. Christian ethicists have in recent years moved away from “quandary ethics” to “virtue ethics,” and that is in many ways a good thing. But quandaries persist. Casuistry has a bad reputation, but the careful study of cases and the moral rules that apply to them is inevitably part of serious moral reflection. I, too, earnestly wish that we could not talk about torture. But the reality and the discussion of the reality will not go away. One cannot help but think that the discussion would benefit from the contributions of Christian and Jewish thinkers informed by the wisdom of biblical sources and their own traditions.
Helping Troubled Adolescents
In 2003 City Journal, the influential publication of the Manhattan Institute, ran a much-discussed article on the widespread promotion (promotion is the necessary word) of homosexuality in public schools (see Marjorie King, “Queering the Schools,” Spring 2003). Pro-gay advocacy is of course advanced in the name of inclusiveness and justice. That this problem is not limited to public schools is evident in “Gay Adolescents in Catholic Schools,” a long two-part article in Momentum, the official publication of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), by Father Robert Mattingly, S.J., of Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.
That some adolescents in Catholic schools experience homosexual desires and that this is frequently the occasion of confusion and pain cannot be denied. The confusion and pain are no doubt very real and deserve honest discussion among educators. Such students are entitled to caring attention by teachers and counselors. Fr. Mattingly’s analysis and recommendations, however, follow the line of gay advocacy organizations that have in recent years exercised such a great influence in our culture. Along the way, he seriously misrepresents the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. He writes: “In 1986 the Church described homosexuality as ‘intrinsically disordered’ (CDF, Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons). Phrases such as this may not sound pleasing to the ear, but must be seen as precise philosophical terms. The term ‘intrinsic’ confirms that this orientation is not chosen and that it is not changeable (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 566).” Wrong. In fact, the statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) says “homosexual acts” are “intrinsically disordered.” The precise meaning of “intrinsic” is that the act is wrong in itself, quite apart from context, intention, or consequence. Nowhere in Catholic teaching—not in the CDF statement, nor in the Catechism, nor even in the much controverted and subsequently amended 1997 statement of the U.S. bishops, “Always Our Children”—is it taught that homosexual desires are unchangeable or represent, as Mattingly says, an “inborn disposition.” (The pertinent sections of the Catechism unfortunately misrepresented by Fr. Mattingly are §§ 2357–2359.) Nor, it should be added, are Fr. Mattingly’s claims warranted by scientific evidence.
Throughout his article, the author confuses homosexual desire with a gay “identity” that is to be publicly asserted and affirmed. His elaborate footnotes draw heavily and uncritically on “gay-friendly” research and advocacy literature. He stresses that gay adolescents need gay friends and suggests that, at least at first, such relationships not be sexual. “This is not to say,” he adds, “that research holds that sexual relationships are always unhelpful, but if they occur they should come after the establishment of self-esteem-building friendships.” “This position,” he asserts, “does not contradict church teaching.” Church teaching, by way of sharpest contrast, is this: “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection” (Catechism § 2359).
Mattingly acknowledges the perils encountered by gay adolescents and cites familiar findings: the suicide rate is five times higher for such adolescents; their suicide attempts are much more lethal; 40 percent of homeless teens are homosexual, many of them engaged in prostitution; homosexual teens are three times as likely to engage in alcohol and drug abuse, and account for 60 percent of new HIV cases among fifteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds. Why is the gay life so grim? Without a hint of nuance, Mattingly asserts the standard line: “Self-destructive behaviors are not intrinsic to being homosexual but they flow from the external negative reaction to it, which then becomes internalized.” In other words, whatever is wrong with homosexuality is the fault of those who think there is something wrong with homosexuality.
There is nothing original in Fr. Mattingly’s article. The arguments advanced and research cited are those to be found in the literature and on the websites of dozens of advocacy organizations. Except, of course, for the claim that the viewpoint is consistent with Catholic teaching, although that, too, is standard in gay-friendly Catholic advocacy. The noteworthy thing is that this position is promoted in the official journal of the NCEA. Adolescents caught up in the ambiguities of sexual desire need loving guidance and support—and clear moral teaching. It is an extreme act of cruelty to teach an adolescent boy or girl that one’s disordered desires define one’s identity, and thereby encourage young people to enter a grim gay world in the hope that, if enough do so, it will somehow abolish “the external negative reaction” to homosexuality.
This is a sure way to place children at risk in a sociological gamble that will almost certainly fail. To be sure, people have become more “accepting,” or at least less publicly censorious, of homosexuals and homosexuality in recent years. But it is true of almost all parents that they do not want their children to be gay, and they do not want teachers encouraging them to assume a gay identity. That will almost certainly not change, and for very good reasons, including their conviction that homosexual acts are morally wrong, the hope that their children will be spared the miseries attending a gay lifestyle, and their desire for grandchildren. The second part of Fr. Mattingly’s article offers practical suggestions for creating a gay-friendly school. They are, in effect, suggestions for doing an end run around parents, clergy, and counselors who may not have an “appropriate” attitude toward homosexuality. (The issue of Momentum in which the second part of the article appears carries, oddly enough, another long article on “accountability” in Catholic education.) The editors appear to recognize that the Mattingly article is provocative and they invite responses from readers. Provocations can play an important part in stimulating discussions. Mendacity, however, is not a legitimate form of provocation. Fr. Mattingly’s article, in its misrepresentation both of the homosexual condition and of the Church’s teaching, is a deeply misleading exercise in advocacy. Catholic educators, one would like to think, place a high premium on honesty.
The Church in World Politics
The Merton Lecture at Columbia University honors Thomas Merton, the monk-poet best remembered for The Seven Storey Mountain, the account of his discovery of Christ and the Church. This year the Merton Lecture was given by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who is the Holy See’s representative, or nuncio, to the United Nations. His lecture is titled “The Catholic Church and International Politics in the Twenty-First Century.” Migliore noted that the Holy See currently has formally accredited diplomatic representation with 174 of the 191 member states of the UN, and underscored that such representation “personifies the government of the pope.” Therein lies an interesting little story.
When the UN was formed after World War II, a number of states had the status of “permanent observer.” One by one they became member states until only Switzerland and the Holy See were left. When Switzerland became a member state, there was fear in Rome that, as the only remaining permanent observer, the Holy See might be in a weakened position. Indeed, an unsuccessful effort was made, led by pro-abortion groups in the U.S., to terminate the Holy See’s representation at the U.N. In Rome, consideration was given to changing the relationship by having the tiny Vatican City become a member state. After widespread consultation, that idea was rejected, and last July the Holy See and the UN refined and ratified the now unique status as permanent observer.
This arrangement, the Archbishop noted, is in continuity with the beginnings of the Holy See’s diplomatic activity when, in the fourth century, the imperial government was moved to Constantinople and it was necessary for the pope to protect the interests of the Church by having a nuntius, or messenger, at the imperial court. So today the nuncios represent the Holy See, meaning the pope, and not Vatican City, which is, as Migliore says, simply “a base from which to exercise his sovereignty over the Catholic Church, independent and autonomous of any earthly authority.” The diplomatic activity has been growing. When John Paul II became pope in 1978, the Holy See was accredited to only eighty states. The purpose of such diplomacy is, of course, to represent the interests of the Catholic Church in various countries, but also, increasingly, to be an advocate for human rights—most particularly, for religious freedom for all believers, Rome being rightly convinced that religious freedom is the most important foundation of all human, civil, and political rights.
Although lacking economic or military power, Migliore notes, the Holy See is energetically engaged in helping to resolve problems among nations and working for international “solidarity.” He recalled Stalin’s scornful question, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” The answer was given decades later when, beginning with Poland, the moral authority of John Paul II was crucial to the dismantling of what Ronald Reagan called “the evil empire.” Today, Migliore said, stealing a phrase from George W. Bush, “faith-based” diplomacy is more and more important in a world in which religion and morality are increasingly assertive in politics among nations. He also describes this as “track-two diplomacy,” in which the Holy See seeks to guide the development of globalization and work against the resort to war.
Market economics and globalization are facts of life; the question is what this means for the peoples of the world, and especially the millions upon millions who are poor. Migliore said: “In the early 1990s, the Pope affirmed in his encyclical Centesimus Annus that, after the fall of communism, it was not enough to say that the opposite system, capitalism, had won and had proven itself to be a better system. Instead, John Paul expressed the hope that capitalism could reform itself and urged that it be remodeled into a socio-economic market based on an ethical-political synthesis of human rights and duties. He proposed a new, universal social contract based on a strong ethic of solidarity. . . . The leitmotif of the Pope’s vision of globalization is that it needs to be governed.”
As for war, the Holy See favors “a presupposition in favor of nonviolent alternatives.” Migliore elaborates: “It is in this sense that the Pope is faithful to the inspiration that comes from the Word of God, from tradition, and from the Church’s social teaching, and stays above any dangerous ambiguity or pacificism-at-all-costs attitude. At the same time, however, Pope John Paul II insists that the world needs a new international order that lessens the need for war as a solution for disputes, with the final goal of making war useless and outmoded.”
These ambitious goals are not without their conceptual and practical difficulties. Many scholars read Centesimus Annus in a way much more sympathetic to market economies than Archbishop Migliore suggests. The accent of the encyclical is on expanding the circle of productivity and exchange, not on establishing a “social market,” which is a phrase favored by democratic socialists in Europe and elsewhere. And one cannot help but wonder if it is helpful to say that globalization “needs to be governed,” if that means that market exchanges are to be governed by individual states or states acting collectively. A governed economy is at least in tension with the free economy so strongly affirmed by Centesimus Annus. If, on the other hand, the Archbishop means to say that economic decisions are very often also moral decisions, and that those making such decisions are morally responsible for their consequences, it is a quite different matter. That is a truth clearly grounded in Centesimus Annus and the entirety of the Church’s social doctrine. The World Trade Organization, for instance, in which the Holy See participates, may be seen as a form of economic governing, but it is governing aimed precisely at enhancing the freedom of the market economy.
Migliore affirms “the final goal of making war useless and outmoded.” That is an interesting formulation. In October 1965, Paul VI declared to the UN general assembly, “No more war, war never again,” and John Paul II has said that war is always “a defeat for humanity.” It is difficult to disagree with such sentiments, but some contend that Catholic social doctrine is moving toward a position of pacifism, if not, as Migliore says, “pacifism-at-all-costs.” Rome’s opposition to the Gulf War of 1991 and to the current action of the American-led coalition in Iraq is well known. The reasons for that opposition have been muddied by the anti-American tone of statements by some curial officials. It would seem that the Catholic Church cannot become pacifist of any sort without repudiating 1,500 years of doctrine regarding just and unjust warfare, and the “rule of faith” by which the Church is governed would seem to preclude the possibility of any such repudiation.
Just war, as carefully defined by the tradition, is understood as an instrument of statecraft. It is very hard to know what is meant by “the final goal of making war useless and outmoded.” It is not “useless” so long as states deem war, whether just or unjust, useful to achieving their ends. And it is not “outmoded” so long as it is the modality chosen to achieve such ends. In short, war will not be useless and outmoded until coercion, including military coercion, is no longer a factor in world politics. In 1991, Saddam Hussein deemed it useful to his purposes to seize Kuwait and assert his dominance in the Middle East. Other nations deemed it very useful, indeed imperative, to foil his ambitions. Likewise in the case of Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, Chairman Mao in Korea, the current regime in Sudan, and hundreds of lesser aggressors in the last half century. Certainly war is to be avoided if morally possible, and certainly the Church must strive to ameliorate the evil to which human beings are prone, and certainly the Church must proclaim the promise of the Peaceable Kingdom in which nations “learn war no more.” But to adopt, even as a goal, the proposition that war should be judged “useless and outmoded” is, in history short of that Kingdom, to reinforce a pacifist sentiment that weakens the resolve to resist evil and redress injustice, if necessary by resort to just war.
As to a new international order, Archbishop Migliore is a representative to the UN and so it may be assumed he has that institution very much in mind. In the Merton Lecture and elsewhere he speaks of the need for a reformed and restructured UN. At this time, and not only because of the Food-for-Oil scandal involving billions of dollars in smuggling and bribery, the UN is held in very low esteem, and not only in this country. Although here, for the first time in many years, influential voices are urging that the UN should be allowed to go the way of the League of Nations. It is generally admitted that the UN is corrupt and ineffectual. Even UN-sponsored studies do not attempt to deny that. In thinking about international order, it is not sufficient to speak in rather vague terms of human solidarity. Human solidarity is a moral truth to which the Church must bear witness. But “international order” suggests an institutional embodiment of that solidarity. If such an embodiment is to be consonant with the freedom that the Church teaches is essential to human dignity, it must not stifle the sometimes disorderly variety of cultural, political, and economic dynamics essential to human creativity. More specifically, Catholic teaching must address the continuing role of the nation-state and national sovereignty in securing human goods. One curial prelate, assuming the sovereignty of the UN over that of nation-states, repeatedly asserts, “The force of law, not the law of force.” That is a slogan, not an argument.
The ideas set forth in the Merton Lecture are deserving of close attention. Archbishop Migliore is a man of great intelligence and devotion, and is, not incidentally, a very affable interlocutor. The diplomatic corps of the Holy See renders important service in protecting the interests of the Church, coordinating humanitarian assistance, and advancing human rights, especially religious freedom, around the world. It is good that the permanent observer status of the Holy See at the UN has been clarified and secured. If, however, pronouncements on economics, globalization, war and peace, and international order are to rise to the dignity associated with doctrine, much more scholarly work and much more deliberation, along with much more time, will be required. Generalized dispositions, sentiments, intuitions, and even slogans in reaction to controverted current events do not constitute the mind of the Church, and are less than helpful to the many Catholics who devoutly desire sentire cum ecclesia—to think with the Church.
While We’re At It
• There are these advertisements in the Times Literary Supplement for T-shirts inscribed with the words of those described as the wise men. Albert Camus, for instance: “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.” Followed by Jean-Paul Sartre: “In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.” I suppose, although at the moment I have neither time nor inclination to check it out, that the latter may be related to “Hell is other people.” Camus, by way of contrast, was, all in all, a wise man.
• “Follow your conscience.” Too often that counsel is understood to mean that we’re free to do what we want to do. Conscience, however, is a gift of God for discerning the truth, and the truth is to be obeyed. This is among a host of questions concisely and winsomely addressed by Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, in a pastoral letter, “You Will Know the Truth and the Truth Will Set You Free.” The letter includes this: “I urge the clergy, catechists, and laity of the Diocese of Fargo to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church to understand the true meaning of conscience. In order to facilitate this understanding, I am mandating today that every priest or deacon who preaches on the first two Sundays in Lent of 2005 is to present a catechetical homily on conscience. The section on conscience of the Catechism is to be distributed to every Catholic in the pew on the First Sunday of Lent. Homily outlines will be provided to the clergy to assist them in their preparation.” One hopes that other bishops may pick up on this. It is not necessary to wait until next Lent.
• Facing a barrage of pro-gay advocacy ranging in subtlety from the seductive to the sledgehammer, readers ask about books that critically engage the conventional views while offering alternative perspectives. Here are a few recommended by knowledgeable people. The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon) by Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is a thorough and widely respected study. Homosexuality and American Public Life, edited by Christopher Wolfe (Spence), addresses the cultural and political dimensions of gay advocacy. Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth by Jeffrey Satinover (Baker) is a psychiatrist’s incisive critique. The Truth About Homosexuality (Ignatius) is by John F. Harvey, the priest founder of “Courage,” an organization that helps people with same-sex attractions to live chastely. There is also A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (InterVarsity) by Joseph and Linda Nicolosi, a couple who have had extensive experience in working with children and parents. Straight and Narrow? (InterVarsity) by Thomas E. Schmidt reflects an informed evangelical Protestant perspective. Also of continuing pertinence, I should like to think, is the statement of the Ramsey Colloquium, “The Homosexual Movement” (FT March 1994).
• When at the Second Vatican Council subsistit in replaced the former est, the Catholic Church made a decisive and irrevocable commitment to the quest for full communion among all Christians. This is a point underscored by Walter Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at a conference marking the fortieth anniversary of the Council’s decree on ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio). The Church of Jesus Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is not simply, exclusively, and without remainder the Church of Jesus Christ. Already in the 1943 encyclical Mystici Corporis, it was recognized that there are those who are not baptized but yet belong to the Catholic Church by their desire to belong. This was commonly called “baptism by desire.” In the 1940s, Father Leonard Feeney of Boston precipitated a famous controversy by insisting that extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church no salvation) means that only Catholics could be saved. His interpretation of that venerable formulation was explicitly rejected by the Holy See in 1949, and Feeney’s persistence in his error later led to his excommunication. In his address, Kasper notes that with subsistit in there was a “qualitative leap” from recognizing individual Christians outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church to recognizing “churches and ecclesial communities which, while not in full communion, belong rightfully to the one Church and are a means of salvation for their members.” Subsistit in means that Christ’s Church has its “concrete place” in the Catholic Church. . . . It is here that she is to be concretely found.” Full communion requires unity in faith, in sacraments, and in apostolic ministry. The schism between East and West, usually dated from 1054, is very different from the divisions in the Church of the West beginning in the sixteenth century. They are, says Kasper, “different kinds of schisms.” While the division between East and West has many political, cultural, and other sources, “the crux of the problem is the issue of the Petrine ministry.”In his great encyclical on Christian unity, Ut Unum Sint (“That They May Be One”), John Paul II called for fraternal dialogue on how the Petrine ministry exercised by the Bishop of Rome might better serve the cause of unity. The divisions in the West, however, result from the Reformation efforts to establish “another type of church.” In various ways, they “conceive of the church as a creatura verbi whose point of departure is the word of God and not the Eucharist.” A Catholic and eucharistic ecclesiology, by contrast, holds together faith, sacraments, and apostolic ministry—the third being necessary to the second. The 2000 declaration Dominus Iesus, Kasper notes, provoked “harsh criticism on the part of Protestant Christians.” (Kasper, too, one notes in passing, criticized the declaration.) Dominus Iesus recognizes, Kasper says, that “Protestants do not want to be church in the way the Catholic Church desires herself to be; they represent another kind of church and for this reason, according to the criterion of Catholic identity, they are not a church in the proper sense.” Therefore the Protestant communities are not “sister churches” in the way that the Orthodox are. Catholicism and Orthodoxy claim to be Church in the same way. It is not a matter of Catholicism denying to Protestant communities an ecclesial dignity that they claim. They expressly do not claim or desire to be Church in the way that Catholicism and Orthodoxy do. The irrevocable commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenism, says Kasper, is dialogical, pneumatological, and eschatological. That is to say, it is relentlessly open and engaged with other Christian communities, eager to receive the gifts they have cultivated. It is pneumatological in that it recognizes unity is the work of the Holy Spirit, which is not under our control. And it is eschatological in that it is radically dependent upon the promise that Our Lord’s prayer for unity among his disciples will be fulfilled. Kasper’s address concludes with the final words of the decree on ecumenism, “And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5).”
• Since Paul Martin replaced Jean Chrétien as prime minister, anti-Americanism in Canada has been less petulantly vulgar, at least at the official level. Last fall President Bush visited Ottawa, the national capital, and, with a self-deprecating smile, expressed his appreciation of the crowds that greeted him “waving all five fingers.” The eighty percent of Canadians who live within eighty miles of the giant to the south understandably spend more time thinking about the giant than the giant does thinking about them. Uneasiness about the U.S. goes way back, as we are reminded by Claire Hoy’s new book, Canadians in the Civil War (McArthur & Company). On May 30, 1867, seven thousand of Toronto’s 45,000 residents turned out to cheer Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy. Shortly before he assassinated Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth met with Confederate agents in Montreal. And in Chatham, Ontario, John Brown planned his 1859 attack on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Hoy calls it “one of the most famous—or infamous—excursions in American history.” The reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement criticizes Hoy for giving “the impression that the men Brown opposed have a point of view that should be given a hearing.” Leading an armed insurrection, Brown seized not only the military arsenal but the entire town of men, women, and children. People who have been captured by a rebel force don’t have a point of view that should be given a hearing? But my point in mentioning the book is to indicate that Canadian uneasiness with us goes way back. Long before the Civil War, there was the War of Independence, plus 1814 and all that. While Canadian school children are today taught that their nation’s history began with Pierre Trudeau’s 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian memories, including a deep ambivalence toward the U.S., are much more deeply entrenched. Although the welcoming crowds were not huge, the five-fingered greeting may be viewed as progress.
• The New York Sun reviews Father John O’Malley’s Four Cultures of the West (Belknap). There is, says O’Malley, the prophetic culture, the academic/intellectual culture, the humanistic culture, and the artistic culture. The book, while providing a suggestive take on Western history, is much given to the rhetoric of the academic study of rhetoric. The Sun reviewer writes, “He claims that the eleventh-century Council of Trent, with its sloganeering and denunciations, belongs to the prophetic tradition, whereas Vatican II, with its metaphorical language and calls for dialogue, is humanistic.” Ah yes, the reviewer’s discovery of the eleventh-century Council of Trent. It was so strident that many prefer to pretend that it never happened. As it happens, Fr. O’Malley and Avery Cardinal Dulles have gone back and forth in print on whether Vatican II is marked chiefly by continuity or by discontinuity. Dulles comes down on the side of continuity, and in my judgment has the better of the argument. O’Malley is right about the strikingly different rhetoric of Vatican II, but rhetoric, while it is never mere rhetoric, is still to be distinguished from substance. Saying that, I suppose, puts me squarely in the academic/intellectual culture rather than the humanistic culture preferred by O’Malley. At least I’m not in the sloganeering and denunciatory tradition of that awful First Council of Trent. The Second Council of Trent, in the sixteenth century, is, of course, an entirely different matter.
• Medical doctors are, all in all, quite seriously religious. This is reflected in a nationwide survey of more than a thousand physicians by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, directed by FT contributor Alan Mittleman. Seventy-four percent of doctors believe that miracles have occurred in the past and 73 percent believe they can occur today. Fifty-five percent say they have seen healings in their patients that defy medical explanation and that they consider miraculous. Fifty-nine percent say they pray for their patients. The report says physicians tend to be more religious than other professionals “perhaps because of their frequent involvement with matters of life and death.” That will often do it. Christian doctors are more open to miracles than Jewish doctors. It says here, “Such differences do not indicate that Christ-ians are more religious than Jews. They do indicate that Christians tend to be religious in a more traditional way, while Jews are religious in a liberal way.” I’m thinking about it.
• Recall the grisly case in Missouri in which Lisa Montgomery killed by strangulation a woman who was eight months pregnant. The Associated Press reported: “Authorities said Montgomery, 36, confessed to strangling Bobbie Joe Stinnett of Skidmore, Mo., on Thursday, cutting out the fetus and taking the baby back to Kansas.” What happened to the fetus? And where did Montgomery get a baby? Encapsulated in one sentence are the absurdities of thought and language that bedevil liberal talk about abortion.
• Stanley Fish is a very influential thinker who has been raising hackles, smashing icons, and opening windows for a long time, for years at Duke University and later as dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Now he writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the academy had better get ready for a radically new thing: the public and intellectual role of religion. Of course, he says, there have long been courses on religion in the university. “But it is one thing to take religion as an object of study and another to take religion seriously. To take religion seriously would be to regard it not as a phenomenon to be analyzed at arm’s length, but as a candidate for the truth. In liberal theory, however, the category of truth has been reserved for hypotheses that take their chances in the ‘marketplace of ideas.’” But now the notion of a neutral marketplace of ideas is being discredited. Fish writes: “Again the causes of this shift are many and would require volumes to explain, but some things seem obvious. The enormous effort of John Rawls to maintain the boundaries by elevating for public purposes one’s identity as a citizen above one’s identity as a believer has produced a vast counterliterature of its own, much of it opening up questions that the liberal academic establishment had thought long settled. The debate was joined from another perspective in 1984 when Richard John Neuhaus published his enormously influential The Naked Public Square, a passionate argument against the exclusion from the political process of religious discourse. Not long afterward, Neuhaus established the journal First Things, a subsidiary of the Institute on Religion and Public Life ‘whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.’ Many of the contributors to First Things are high-profile academics situated in our most distinguished private and public universities, and it is clear from their commentaries that they see no bright line dividing their religious lives from the lives they pursue as teachers and scholars. Following in the wake of Rawls and Neuhaus, any number of theologians, philosophers, historians, and political theorists have reexamined, debated, challenged, and at times rejected the premises of liberalism, whether in the name of religion, or communitarianism, or multiculturalism.” Intellectuals, writes Fish, need to brace themselves for a major adjustment. “To the extent that liberalism’s structures have been undermined or at least shaken by these analyses, the perspicuousness and usefulness of distinctions long assumed—reason as opposed to faith, evidence as opposed to revelation, inquiry as opposed to obedience, truth as opposed to belief—have been called into question. And finally (and to return to where we began), the geopolitical events of the past decade and of the past three years especially have re-alerted us to the fact that hundreds of millions of people in the world do not observe the distinction between the private and the public or between belief and knowledge, and that it is no longer possible for us to regard such persons as quaintly premodern or as the needy recipients of our saving (an ironic word) wisdom.” Is the academy ready for this very new circumstance? Fish answers: “We had better be, because that is now where the action is. When Jacques Derrida died I was called by a reporter who wanted to know what would succeed high theory and the triumvirate of race, gender, and class as the center of intellectual energy in the academy. I answered like a shot: religion.” Stanley Fish and I have had and, I assume, still do have serious differences about what counts as truth, and why (see FT February 1996). But I am grateful for his generous words, and I believe he is essentially (a non-ironic word) right about the changing academic climate with respect to religion.
• The British papers, as one might expect, have weighed in on the Windsor Report which tried to resolve conflicts provoked by the installation of a gay bishop in the American franchise of Anglicanism. The Independent observes, “By all accounts, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, holds enlightened views about the position of homosexuals within the Communion.” Unfortunately, however, he has failed to “project these views” effectively. “If Dr. Williams continues to value the unity of his church more than the principle of toleration, he will jeopardize his claim to be a voice of moral authority in modern Britain.” Apparently he must choose between being a moral authority in his church or a moral authority in modern Britain, which gives no more than a fig about his church. More interestingly, he must choose between toleration or unity. It might seem that unity involves tolerating everybody, except that there are those who think that not everybody and everything should be tolerated, and they certainly should not be tolerated since they offend against the principle of tolerance which conflicts with the principle of unity, or something like that. Anglicans, and Brits in general, are famous for muddling through, but this may be a muddle too far.
• Eyebrows of some Jewish leaders were raised by a finding that seemed to indicate declining Jewish support for Israel. In the 2004 annual American Jewish Committee survey, people were asked: Which one of the following qualities do you consider most important to your Jewish identity? Answers: Being part of the Jewish people (43 percent), Religious observance (14), Support for Israel (6), A commitment to social justice (20), Something else (16), Not sure (1). In the same survey, however, people are asked: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” Seventy-four percent agree and 25 percent disagree. Go figure. The survey, and the Jewish vote in the November election, reflect the continuing left-liberal predominance. Asked about anti-Semitism in America, 87 percent said it will remain the same or increase in the next several years. On the other hand, only 27 percent said anti-Semitism in America is a “very serious problem,” with 67 percent saying it is “somewhat of a problem,” and six percent believing it is “not a problem at all.”
• The director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, takes a Goldwater-like stance on protecting America from religion. “Extremism in the defense of the naked public square is no vice,” etc. Writing in the New York Sun, Foxman complains about Justice Antonin Scalia’s address on religion and the Constitution at a Manhattan synagogue. He accuses Scalia of “arguing that the ‘Founding Fathers never used the phrase “separation of church and state.”’” Scalia may have observed that, or noted that, or pointed out that, but I am sure he did not argue that. One does not “argue” a simple fact. Although one may have to point it out very forcefully to someone like Mr. Foxman who, blithely indifferent to fact, asserts that the Founders “constructed the constitutional wall between church and state.” The Founders adopted a First Amendment containing a religion clause that, in the service of the free exercise of religion, forbids the establishment of a national religion. What that means, as Justice Scalia rightly argues, is a matter of continuing democratic deliberation. Fortunately, and despite the ADL, that deliberation continues and is likely to intensify in the years ahead.
• Tyler Golson is an American in Damascus who teaches the children of the Syrian upper class. He is also a Democrat who supported John Kerry and was surprised to discover that his students were enthusiastically backing Bush. This despite the fact that the U.S. has placed sanctions on Syria and accused it of being part of the terror nexus. Bush is, the students said, a good man, a strong leader, and, most important, “a good Christian.” Golson reflects: “And thus I came to realize something that the Democrats could never admit: that there exists a support base for both the Republicans’ domestic and foreign agenda among the very people we thought most opposed current U.S. policy. The cultural background and value systems which inform many of these young Arabs’ outlook on the world mean they will always favor men like Bush over men like Kerry. The tenets of faith, family, and, yes, ‘moral issues’ determine the overall political leanings of a considerable number of the Middle East’s future leaders, in rejection of Democratic stump issues like increased liberalism, internationalism, and scientific progress. Though Democrats are often quick to criticize their opponents for seeing the issues in stark black and white, ‘us and them’ terms, perhaps they ought to step back from their own obsession with ‘red’ and ‘blue’ dichotomies and recognize this nuance of Middle Eastern reality. Having a truly even-handed and practical approach to peace in the Arab world means realizing that not everyone, and certainly not all of the elites in Arab society, sympathize with the anti-American movements taking place within their own ranks, and that these heartland Arabs could prove a valuable ally in future U.S.-Arab relations.”
• After the November election, I speculated that some pro-abortionists will start thinking about modifying their pitch, perhaps by coming out in support of some limits on partial birth abortion. They could then present themselves as “moderately pro-choice”or even, with some linguistic sleight of hand, “moderately pro-life.” Among the first out of the gate is Frances Kissling, founder and head of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFC), an organization that has received millions of dollars from Ford, Rockefeller, and other major foundations to counter the influence of the Catholic Church on the life questions. Kissling, who is sometimes referred to as Frances Quisling, has written a long article in Conscience, CFC’s magazine, “Is There Life After Roe? How to Think about the Fetus,” in which she warns pro-choicers that they are losing the battle because they come across as callous and unfeeling toward the fate of the baby who is killed. Pro-choicers should, she says, “present abortion as a complex issue that involves loss—and be saddened by that loss.” Eleanor Smeal, former head of NOW, is not persuaded. “I don’t hear her saying that there is joy sometimes. I think if an eleven-year-old is pregnant, it’s a great relief for her to have an abortion.” Not that Smeal is prepared to limit abortion to troubled eleven-year-olds or, for that matter, to limit it at all. Lynn Paltrow, director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a New York-based pro-abortion group, is somewhat more sympathetic to Kissling’s argument. “We definitely need a paradigm shift in the reproductive rights movement,” she says. “We’ve done a terrible job of articulating our beliefs in terms of values.” By values Paltrow means “protecting women from the consequences of being forced to carry unwanted pregnancies.” As best I can make it out, she’s saying that they’ve done a terrible job of articulating their support for abortion in terms of their support for abortion. In her article, Kissling says that pro-abortionists should not, for instance, reflexively fight the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require women to be told about the pain experienced by the child being aborted. Kissling says the bill is an opportunity “to show that people can support the right to abortion and care about the fetus at the same time.” They can “honor both law and morality [by] trying to change the legislation to say that fetal anesthesia should be respectfully offered as an option.” That is the consistent pro-choice position, giving the mother the choice of anesthetizing the baby before having the baby killed. As it happens, the worry of pro-abortionists about the perception that they are callous toward nascent human life is nothing new. The standard pro-abortion text on this is the 1977 book by Magda Denes, In Necessity and Sorrow. That was nearly thirty years ago, and over the years the delusion that an unlimited license to commit an unspeakable evil can be disguised or excused by a display of moral handwringing has become ever less convincing to ever more Americans.
• You have perhaps seen reviews of Philip Roth’s new novel The Plot Against America, in which Charles Lindbergh was elected president in 1940 and America cozied up to Nazi Germany, creating a very nasty circumstance for American Jews, including Philip Roth and his family in Newark, New Jersey. Ruth Wisse, who teaches Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, says the book has considerable literary merit, at least until the plot peters out at the end, but the whole enterprise is wrongheaded: “But if one does not want to oblige today’s American Jews to do anything about ‘a genuine anti-Semitic threat,’ why, then, write a novel explicitly aimed at exposing them to ‘the danger’? Why ratchet up the peril, raise the temperature of fear? The question, alas, answers itself. Many American Jews, including, it would seem, some of the most enthusiastic reviewers of this book, define their own Jewish consciousness and values not by means of religious worship, observance of commandments, community affiliation, or work on behalf of Israel, but through commemorations of the Holocaust. Behind The Plot Against America stretch the many years that American Jews have consecrated to Holocaust education and Holocaust simulation, activities based on the notion that there is moral and spiritual merit in the vicarious re-experiencing of so dire a past. But while the original impulse behind such commemoration was linked to the vow of Never Again!, implying a need to take effective political action on behalf of the Jewish people, Holocaust memorialization has increasingly slipped into little more than self-indulgent paranoia. For all Roth’s intelligence, and for all his sophistication in turning this tendency to literary advantage, his book also exemplifies it.” Wisse writes of Roth’s “nostalgia for a time when anti-Semitism was in flower.” Roth envisions an America under the “threat of becoming fascist,” but, says Wisse, the real threat today is anti-Israel, anti-American, and frequently anti-Semitic passions on the left of the ideological spectrum. “The danger [the book] points up is not the danger it describes; the danger it points up is of political infantilization.” And Philip Roth thought he was safe just because he had survived the American pogroms.
• The blogosphere is filled with letters and reports from soldiers in Iraq. Most of them speak about their satisfaction in doing something good and difficult, even noble. It doesn’t prove anything one way or another about the justice or wisdom of the war, but I question the humanity of anyone who is not more than a little moved by their testimony. Here is Sam Ross, a paratrooper wounded in Baghdad: “I lost my left leg, just below the knee. Lost my eyesight. . . . I have shrapnel in pretty much every part of my body. Got my finger blown off. . . . I had a hole blown through my right leg. . . . It hurts a lot, that’s about it. You know, not really anything major. Just little things. . . . It was the best experience of my life.” William James wrote about the search for a moral equivalent of war, and Jimmy Carter, by an impressive stretch of moral imagination, suggested we find that equivalent in cutting back on gas consumption. The phrase “band of brothers” was cheapened in the last presidential campaign, and King Henry perhaps exaggerated when he declared,
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
And yet, even while they may prefer to lie abed, there are those who cannot help but wonder, however self-indulgently, at what the Sam Rosses have come to know.
• The story is told of a nobleman who came to Mecca, curious about a new prophet then being much discussed. He was warned against the prophet’s magic tricks and was told to plug his ears if he encountered people reading his message, in Arabic, of course. He thought to himself: Why should I block my ears just because someone is reading a text? He listened to the reading, and then screamed, “By God, never before have I heard a word more beautiful!” He converted on the spot. Navid Kermani, a scholar of Islam who writes in German, says the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey could not have been more seductive. Today, however, radical Muslims, commonly called Islamists, such as Osama bin Laden, are imposing a stifling literalism upon the Qur’an that destroys the traditional accent on the text’s aesthetic appeal. Kermani writes: “The phenomenon of a conversion inspired—in the narrow sense—by an aesthetic experience, which forms a permanent motif in Islamic history, is found relatively seldom in Christianity. As far as we know from autobiographical testimonies, the legendary conversions and initiation events in Christ-ian history—Paul, Augustine, Pascal, or Luther, for example—were triggered by remarkable experiences, but not primarily aesthetic ones. This does not mean that the evolution and practice of Christianity—or any other religion—can be imagined without the aesthetic fascination of specific sites, texts, hymns, images, scents, actions, gestures, and garments. Protestantism would certainly never have spread so quickly in the German-speaking regions if it had not been for the rhetorical force of the Lutheran Bible. Yet in the portrayal of their past by the Christian, or more specifically, Protestant community, the aesthetic momentum is less significant, however relevant its role in religious practice. Few Christians would claim that the disciples followed Jesus because he was so handsome or spoke so eloquently, or suggest that the triumph of Christianity was due to the stylistic perfection of the Gospels. There were doubtless conversions to Christianity inspired by the beauty of the Scriptures, but these are not treated as a literary topos in the body of testimony to the propagation of Christianity. For Muslims, however, the aesthetic fascination with the Qur’an is an integral part of their religious tradition. It is this collective reflection on the aesthetics of the text which specifically defines the religious world of Islam. It is not the aesthetic experience as such—this seems to occur during the reception of any sacred texts. Rather it is the rationalization of aesthetic experience, culminating in a distinct theological doctrine of poetics, the i’jaz, based on the inimitability of the Qur’an. This line of reasoning—highly peculiar from a Christian perspective—involves believing in the Qur’an because the language is too perfect to have been composed by man.” Traditional Muslim scholars insist upon a “plenitude of interpretation,” says Kermani. “They know that if the Qur’an is listened to as a revelation and as a literary monument and body of sound, this will open up a whole cosmos of signs, meanings, and interpretations, and allow it to be read in a multitude of different ways. It is an approach diametrically opposed to the monopoly on interpretation advocated by Islamists. The intellectual conflict concerning the Qur’an that is being played out today in the Islamic world—and the violence that issues from it—turns out to be, inter alia, an argument about aesthetics. There is a danger that the knowledge of the tradition of plenitude, a sense of the wealth and beauty of the text, may be lost. I spoke earlier of the Sirenic effect of Qur’anic recitation. As Franz Kafka remarked, ‘Now the Sirens have an even more terrible weapon than singing: their silence.’”
• The thing about my friend Midge Decter is that you never know where she stands. I joke, of course. In a recent speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan on gay activism, she acknowledged that some might think it impolite of her to point it out but “homosexual men are essentially no more like lesbians than heterosexual men are like the women whom they either merely pursue or marry.” She goes on to explain: “Female homosexuals who have achieved coupledom tend to approximate this arrangement far more closely than do male homosexuals—even those male homosexuals who remain together for life (and who are, by the way, many, many fewer in number). Why is this? Because, again, women are different from men. They wish—correction: need—to be monogamous and faithful; it is in their nature. Men, on the other hand, in the most elementary sense of the nature of males, have impulses to promiscuity. A woman says to her prospective mate, ‘Be faithful to me and I promise that I will make it worth your while.’ It is a bargain men who marry not only agree to but in a very important sense are saved by. Being women, lesbians are most often given to a facsimile of the same deal. Moreover, they can be, and often are, mothers and thus inclined to stability. Men who are sexually attracted to, and even truly love, other men have no such exchange to make. In an all-male society, promiscuity is thus the norm. And as things have grown easier and more comfortable for men to be openly, often flagrantly, homosexual in our ever more tolerant society, the promiscuity of the bathhouse and orgy has become ever more the norm. Hence, for example, the wildfire of HIV and AIDS (and now, I am told, certain even newer forms of venereal disease). That is why the right to marriage, fought for with every weapon at their command by homosexual men, would—or must I say ‘will’—be largely acted on by lesbians. Why, then, are these men fighting so hard for it? The answer is, the right to legal marriage that they are demanding is not about them—it is about the rest of us. It is, and is meant to be, a spit in the eye of the way we live. And whatever the variety of efforts to oppose it—another law or even a whole set of laws, let’s say, or a constitutional amendment—none of it will matter unless and until all the nice and decent people in America begin to understand that we are in a crisis, and it must be up to them to sustain, and with all good cheer defend, the way they lead their lives.” It is a mistake, she says, to trust politicians to fix our moral and social problems. Some of them are heroes, but all of them are dependent upon pleasing their constituencies and therefore naturally go for a compromise. But, says Decter, “It is not compromise that the homosexual rights movement is after. Nor do they even want the standing in the community that heterosexuals have. They are radicals. What they want is not a room of their own; they want to bring the whole damned house down.” Then for the peroration: “So if the lady tends to be against a constitutional amendment and opposes unequivocally the idea of civil union, what does she want? The answer is, I want us to stick up for ourselves and the way we live, be as mighty a force in the culture as we are entitled to be if nothing else by virtue of our sheer numbers. I want us to resist all attacks on the way we live, whether from our kids, our grandkids, their momentary culture heroes, or from the overpaid, mindless, sheep-like followers of fashion in the press and academic community who make so much noise in the world around us every day. In other words, let’s take back our country. Let us be decent, civil, and even loving to our homosexual fellow citizens; but draw the line on what they stand for and on everything else that makes light of our existence. For the privilege of living in the most nobly founded, the freest, and the richest country in the world we owe nothing less, not only to ourselves but also to the oncoming tide of generations. We are given the choice of leaving them with a blessing or a curse. Not so many people in the world have that choice. I hope we can go down in history as having deserved it.” Take my advice, you don’t want to mess with Midge Decter.
• Chalk up another one for the Becket Fund, that indomitable defender of religious liberty. The Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware, was not amused when a teacher signed an ad celebrating Roe v. Wade. She was fired. She sued the academy and the diocese. The academy and Bishop Michael Saltarelli went to the United States District Court, backed by the Becket Fund, and the suit was dismissed. The opinion by Judge Kent Jordan contains several memorable lines. There is this: “To test the Plaintiff’s theory would require an analysis of Catholic doctrine to determine whether the decision to employ a teacher of a different religious background constitutes an affront to the Catholic faith and, if so, whether it is an affront of at least the same seriousness as the Plaintiff’s repudiation of Catholic doctrine on when life begins. . . .” And then this: “It is not the place of this or any other court to say what system of beliefs constitutes ‘true’ Catholicism or makes for a ‘good’ Catholic. Ours is a system which, wonderfully, forbids any intrusion of the sort.” The academy and the bishop are to be commended for standing firm when it would have been easy to cave, or seek a convenient out by means of a financial settlement.
• The “moral values” factor in last November’s election will keep the analysts busy for a long time. Here is some trivia grist to add to the research mills. According to Brandweek, the advertising magazine, a survey of a thousand Americans reveals that 24 percent of Democratic voters but only 20 percent of Republicans admit to having stolen a towel from a hotel. But that difference may be within the margin of error, or maybe Republicans are not as honest in admitting their wrongdoing. More interesting is the finding that 23 percent of Republicans speak to their parents several times a week, compared with 14 percent of Democrats. Four percent of Democrats say they never speak to their parents, compared with only one percent of Republicans. Forty percent of Democrats say they are on “very unfriendly” terms with their ex-wives or husbands, while only 18 percent of Republicans are. Perhaps pertinent to the “pro-family” agenda, nine percent of Republicans have no brothers or sisters, while 14 percent of Democrats are without siblings. These are things I thought you might want to know.
• On several fronts, Protestant theologians continue to work at reappropriating dimensions of Christian faith and life that were abandoned during the tumultuous course of the divisions of the sixteenth century. This is true also with respect to thought and piety regarding Mary, as is addressed in a fine collection of essays edited by Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson, Mary, Mother of God (Eerdmans). In his essay, David Yeago, professor of systematic theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, examines the scriptural testimony about Mary in sympathetic conversation with John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Mater. A close reading of the biblical texts, Yeago persuasively argues, demonstrates not only that Mary is inseparable from the plan of salvation in the Word becoming flesh, which should be obvious, but that she has a continuing relationship with the Church as prototype, mother, and “archprophet.” To the Protestant objection that Mariology is not “necessary to salvation,” Yeago writes: “The goal of faith and theology is not to see how little of Scripture we can take seriously and still be saved; the goal is the maximum of integrity in taking seriously and holding together in our understanding the whole canon of testimony with which the Church has been provided by the Spirit. After all, the New Testament canon itself is superfluous to what is ‘necessary to salvation,’ since the foundational apostolic preaching went on without it. The question of ‘necessary for salvation’ arises when faith and mission have lost their way; [we are called], not to a reductionist purism, but rather to make distinctions within the totality of the biblical witness, in order to identify the chief point at which Scripture aims and to trace the ways in which its various aspects hang together to make that point.” “Mary’s paradigmatic role,” writes Yeago, “is different in kind from that of her Son: she is not the Redeemer but the prototype of the redeemed; she is not the one in whom we participate but the paradigm of that participation.” Mary, in the view of some, is but the contingent means for the accomplishment of the birth of the Messiah. She has no necessary role; any woman might have served that purpose. “Mary is a contingent phenomenon,” responds Yeago. “But if the gospel is true, then nothing in the economy of salvation, indeed nothing in creation nor creation itself, is ‘necessary’ in that sense. God’s love and freedom are prior to all necessity; all that is, and especially the mystery of salvation, is a meaningful concatenation of contingencies rooted in God’s free election. Mary, like Israel, like the form of the sacraments, like the make-up of the biblical canon, is simply one more such contingency.” It is not as though Mary, having played her part, is then moved off the stage of the continuing drama of the Church. Yeago quotes Martin Luther: “Therefore Mary is Christ’s Mother, and the Mother of us all, although he alone lies on her lap. . . . If he is ours, then we are to be in his place; where he is, there we also are to be, and everything he has is ours, and therefore his Mother is also our Mother.” Mary, Mother of God is a cautious probing by mainly Protestant thinkers who are keenly aware that most Protestants are inclined to assume that Mariology is synonymous with Mariolatry. There is an understandable anxiety to make clear that, by embracing lost dimensions of Catholic Christianity, one is not, as it is commonly put, “betraying the Reformation heritage.” Catholics are tempted to be impatient, thinking such anxiety and caution to be excessive. The temptation should be resisted. In a time when the prospect of ecclesial reconciliation—whether with Lutherans, Anglicans, or any other communities of Western Christianity—seems increasingly remote, theological explorations such as the essays in Mary, Mother of God should be welcomed as a necessary sowing of seeds that may bear fruit in a harvest of Christian unity at a time known only to God. We do not need to know. One is reminded of Jesus’ response to Peter when he wanted to know about the future of the apostle John: “If it is my will that he is to remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me.” Following Christ means, among many things, working for the fulfillment of his prayer that his disciples be one in a manner visible to the world. If it is his will that that happen a hundred or two hundred years from now, or not until the End Time, what is that to us? The quest for Christian unity, to which, as John Paul II has repeatedly said, the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed, needs no further justification other than that it is inescapably part of following Christ.
• We’ve been here before. Well, not precisely here, but at a place that bears striking similarities. Christopher Levenick reviews Richard Carwardine’s Lincoln, in the course of which he writes: “Northern Protestants were an indispensable part of the Republican coalition that swept Lincoln into power and stood steadfastly behind him through the darkest days of the Civil War. Carwardine, an Oxford don and leading expert on American religious history, is unusually attentive to the often neglected alignment of Northern evangelicals with the emerging Republican Party. Lincoln, he explains, grasped that within the United States the most potent source of political power was public opinion, and that the deepest resonances of American opinion were religious. Even if Lincoln’s personal beliefs never quite matched those of his supporters, he understood their faith intimately and spoke its language fluently. As a result, free-state Protestants, the heart and soul of the Republican coalition, clutched him to their collective bosom. (Indeed, complaints from Democrats about this alliance sound quaintly familiar; Republicans, they relentlessly complained, were ‘a religious Sect’ possessed of ‘a holy zeal for its one idea.’) ‘It is no overstatement,’ Carwardine writes, ‘to suppose that the combined religious engines of the Union—and the motor of evangelical Protestantism in particular—did more than any other single force to mobilize support’ for Lincoln in the antebellum peace, and for the Union in the hour of war.” Many scholars have admired or decried Lincoln’s subtleties in prudentially adjusting arguments for the moral legitimation of the war, beginning with saving the Union and ending with emancipation of the slaves. But there was, writes Levenick, another dimension to this rhetorical shift: “By harnessing the war effort to traditional evangelical themes of sin and atonement, bondage and liberation, Lincoln appealed directly to the heart of mainstream Protestant orthodoxy, the most potent source of American nationalism. A major (and neglected) aspect of Lincoln’s political prudence was thus his ability to channel the religious sensibilities of the Union. But here, as always, moderation tempered Lincoln’s rhetoric; the same man who summoned a crusading zeal would concede in the hour of victory that ‘the Almighty has His own purposes.’” In mid-life, says Carwardine, Lincoln’s religion was a mix of “rationalist, Universalist, Unitarian, fatalist,” and “residually Calvinist” elements. But, he suggests, his Christian convictions deepened as the challenges he faced became more severe. Quite apart from the endless debate over whether the South had a legal or moral right to secede, there is near-unanimous agreement that he was our most morally and, yes, theologically profound president. His belief that America is an “almost chosen people” (with the accent on the “almost”) is strikingly pertinent to today’s debates about America’s part in the purposes of the Almighty.
• Nigel Rees, the oft-quoted quotemaster, is not entirely satisfied that it is by William James. But the story is that James penned it late one night while experimenting, as he was wont to do, with various drugs.
Man is polygamous
In case you needed another argument for the defense of marriage.
• It is a good and necessary thing for Christians to be honest, even painfully honest, about their own history, including the terrible things that Christians have done to one another and to others, notably to Jews. This is part of “the purification of memories” for which John Paul II has called, and which he has so energetically practiced. We should avoid, however, acts of apparent contrition that are, in fact, acts of detraction against our forebears in the faith. In the Q&A following a recent campus lecture, a Catholic in the audience declared that a Catholic had no right to criticize any Jew in view of the fact that, until the Second Vatican Council, the Church conducted pogroms against Jews and held Jews guilty of killing Christ. Well, not quite. Pogrom is a Yiddish word referring to massacres in Russia. In the West, especially from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, there were very bloody and popular persecutions of Jews, who were accused not only of killing Christ but of desecrating the Host, poisoning the water supply, and murdering Christian children for their rituals. The persecutions were opposed and the charges repeatedly refuted by popes and leading churchmen such as Bernard of Clairvaux, but popular mania sometimes prevailed. Nonetheless, the claim that the Church held Jews uniquely responsible for the death of Christ until Vatican II is still commonly heard. Of course, some Catholics called Jews “Christ killers,” and probably some still do. Over the years, I have received vulgar and overtly anti-Semitic protests against my involvement in Jewish-Christian dialogue, some of them claiming that Jews have only gotten what they deserved because they killed Jesus. I expect there will always be people on the fringes who think that, and there were once influential figures in Christian history who thought that. But that is not the teaching of the Church, nor was the teaching recently changed at Vatican II. Here, for instance, is the sixteenth-century Catechism of the Council of Trent under the heading “Reasons Why Christ Suffered”: “Furthermore men of all ranks and conditions were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. Gentiles and Jews were the advisers, the authors, the ministers of his passion: Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, all the rest deserted him. . . . In this guilt are involved all those who fall frequently into sin; for, as our sins consigned Christ the Lord to the death of the cross, most certainly those who wallow in sin and iniquity crucify to themselves again the Son of God, as far as in them lies, and make a mockery of him. This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the ancient Jews, since according to the testimony of the same Apostle: if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; while we, on the contrary, professing to know him, yet denying him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on him.” Of course, it must be admitted that what the Church teaches, then and now, is not always received. Which gives all of us steady work in trying more effectively to set forth what the Church teaches.
• It’s fine and dandy for you to go through life blithely rejoicing in the good, the true, and the beautiful. You’re probably not a Calvinist and have never heard of TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints). Allen P. Rich ponders the Calvinistically complexified life in the Nicotine Theological Journal. Last October, Ichiro Suzuki, right fielder for the Seattle Mariners, broke the record for most hits in one season. After receiving congratulations, he walked over to shake the hand of Frances Sisler Drochelman, the eighty-one-year-old daughter of George Sisler who had set the earlier record in 1920. Rich says it was a moving and noble gesture, but can a Calvinist view it as a “good” act? According to the seventeenth-century Westminster Confession, the only good works are those that conform to God’s revealed will and stem from a “true and lively faith.” Since Suzuki is not a Christian, never mind a Calvinist, acts such as his may look good, “yet,” says Westminster, “because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful.” At the same time, the neglect of such good works “is more sinful and displeasing to God.” Allen Rich comments: “What they could have expressed possibly better was a conception of Total Depravity that encouraged acts of courage, generosity, loyalty, and graciousness.” Yes, Westminster does seem a bit weak on encouragement. Rich says, “The part of these deeds that displeases God should not obscure the pleasure they give to other men and women.” We need not be quite so grim as God is? The conclusion, according to Rich: “However Ichiro Suzuki did it, whether through a nonredemptive work of God upon his heart, or his own emulation of the goodness inherent in the created order, his was an act in which even the crustiest of Calvinists should delight.” May we applaud now? Permission granted. But not blithely!
• Although the subject is very technical, there was considerable publicity given to a discussion at the President’s Council on Bioethics meeting last December. The subject was a proposal on which Dr. William Hurlbut of Stanford University, and a member of the Council, had been working for some years. He proposed a way of getting embryonic stem cells without creating or destroying embryos. Some pro-lifers are unhappy with any attention paid embryonic stem cells, claiming that what is needed for research purposes, and what in fact is far more promising, is available from adults. Some scientists who insist on the need for embryonic stem cells are also unhappy with the Hurlbut proposal. There is reason to believe that at least some of them want no limitations on research at all and are committed to the development of “fetus farming,” meaning the creation and killing of human babies for experimentation and spare parts. In the Hurlbut proposal, called “altered nuclear transfer,” embryonic stem cells would be made available without creating embryos. A human embryo is any whole, living member of the species homo sapiens in the embryonic stage, which includes the stages of zygote, morula, and blastocyst. A human embryo is that which, barring natural failure or lethal intervention, will become what everybody recognizes as a baby. In “altered nuclear transfer” what is created never could and never would become a baby and, it therefore follows, is never a human being at any point. It is, so to speak, human material, as an amputated ear is human material. Otherwise it could not provide human stem cells. But it is not a human being. It is human life but it is not a human life. One may find any such experimentation with human life repugnant, but consider that the alternative is the wholesale creation and destruction of embryos that is now being carried out by Harvard and other universities, and is being encouraged and funded by states such as California and New Jersey. (President Bush’s limited ban is only on federally funded research.) The Hurlbut proposal does seem to hold a measure of promise. The very thoughtful Richard Doerflinger of the pro-life office of the Catholic bishops conference testified at the December meeting of the Council on Bioethics. While expressing his skepticism toward the claims made for the unique benefits of research on embryonic stem cells, he said: “I see no moral reason at this time to oppose the further exploration of this theory in an animal model so its feasibility can better be assessed. This gives scientists an opportunity to show that their real commitment is to scientific progress, not to the exploitation of the embryo, and gives organizations like mine an opportunity to show our concern is respect for human life, not a fear of scientific research.” That, it seems to me, gets it just about right.• Of the books one goes back to again and again, Augustine’s City of God is near the top of the list. I have it in mind to do a florilegium of quotes from that great work one of these months. Last summer I once again read it through up at the family cottage in Quebec and was struck as I had not been before by how much of a Roman Augustine was. The conventional notion is that Augustine was writing the book as the Empire was collapsing around his head and he was proposing the heavenly city as the alternative to the ruin of all temporal orders. It is not quite that simple. “The Roman Empire,” he wrote, “has been shaken rather than transformed, and that happened to it at other periods, before the preaching of Christ’s name; and it recovered. There is no need to despair of its recovery at this present time. Who knows what is God’s will in this matter?” While all temporal orders are marked by the lust for power and earthly glory, not all are equal. Augustine quotes approvingly a passage from the pagan historian Sallust that might put some readers in mind of another temporal order that some are now (mistakenly) calling an empire: “As soon as their power advanced, thanks to their laws, their moral standards, and the increase of their territory, and they were observed to be very flourishing and very powerful, then, as generally happens in human history, prosperity gave rise to envy. Neighboring kings and people therefore made trial of them in war: only a few of their friends came to their help: the rest, paralyzed with fear, kept well out of danger. But the Romans, alert both in peace and war, acted with energy, made their preparations, gave mutual encouragement, advanced to meet the enemy, and with their arms defended their liberty, their country, their parents. Then, when they had by their courage dispersed those perils, they brought help to their friends, and won friendship rather by rendering services than by receiving them.” Especially in the first half of City of God, the reader may be puzzled about why Augustine goes into such extraordinary detail in engaging and rebutting the myriad superstitions and wrongheaded philosophies of the pagan world. But then, when one recognizes how much of a Roman Augustine was, the puzzlement vanishes. These were his people, his peers, his fellow intellectuals; they were leading others astray and, in doing so, imperiling also the worldly good of their common life in the Empire. Augustine certainly had no delusions that any temporal order, including the Roman Empire, could provide the lasting peace of right order. Only the City of God could do that. But the City of God, on its journey through time from Abraham to the consummation of the kingdom of Christ, is not indifferent to questions of approximate justice in the city of man. Augustine’s is a perspective to be recommended to Christians of our time, and of all times until Our Lord returns in glory. I make no claim that the discovery of Augustine the Roman is original with me, but, in this rereading of City of God, it became more strikingly evident to me.
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