The always astute Mr. Douthat preaches the eulogy here .

This, of course, is bad news for FIRST THINGS, seeing as the brand “Catholic moment” was coined by Father Neuhaus. And it’s a brand I’ve always believed in trying to restore or inaugurate the idea of indigenous American Thomism found in Orestes Brownson, John Courtney Murray, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor. The Catholic moment, of course, is about chastening the promiscuous LIBERTARIANISM on both the left and the right, as it has been about opposing various forms of THE TOTALITARIAN TEMPTATION.

A big reason, as Ross says, for both parties losing interest in the INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH is SCANDAL. The GOING MY WAY view of the parish priest as virtuous “role model” is, if not obliterated, at least obscured by too many facts on the ground. Too many Americans now think of the church as as rotten as it was on, say, the eve of the REFORMATION or THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. That’s why our government can now oppose itself to the Catholic idea that the true purpose of our FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE is to protect religion as an organized body of thought and action. One point of the Catholic moment as to correct an ANTI-ECCLESIASTICAL prejudice that really is a part of our founding tradition, although, we say, not the only or dominant part. The Catholic view is that the American ideas of liberty and equality are completed by respect for the “transpolitical” relational life of the church as corresponding the true understanding of who each of us.

But a bigger reason still for both parties losing interest in Catholic thought is their LIBERTARIANISM.

The Republican party embraces a too-oligarchic or “individualistic” view of human liberty. Catholic thought in America has been friendly to unions, the family wage, and indispensable social (including governmental) safety nets. And Catholics have never said the New Deal is unconstitutional. Too many Republican theorists and donors, at least, think that the Catholic idea of “social justice” is simply an oxymoron.

The Democratic party embraces a too-permissive or “individualistic” view of personal liberty on issues such as marriage, the family, abortion, children, and the place of relational virtue in general in the public square. The Democratic party, until the mid-Sixties, was, I can remember, actually the more pro-family or pro-“solidarity” party.

And the Catholics, of course, have always been seeing the connection between excessive individualism—or atomization—and the omnicompetent despotism of “totalitarian democracy.”

There’s a lot more, but that’s enough for a Sunday morning.

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Articles by Peter Lawler

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