Pluralism and the Confessional State
Humanities and philosophy professor Thaddeus Kozinski envisions a Catholic confessional state as the solution to the problem of political and religious pluralism. In an interview with Zenit, he explains how such a state could come about in the midst of the current plurality of competing, irreconcilable worldviews and why such a confessional state would succeed where the solutions offered by Rawls, Maritain, and MacIntyre are doomed to fail.
First, says Kozinski, there would need to be a consensus that the current pluralistic system isn’t the best way to run society. Second, a “minimal, provisional, natural-law consensus” would need to come about to set the groundwork for the “social reign of Christ the King.” Kozinski writes: “Politics should be about fostering the best social, legal, institutional, and cultural conditions for the communal discovery and consensual political establishment of the true religion, after it is has been recognized as such by the vast majority.” Third, with society now rooted in the natural law and aimed at the transcendent, the “state that desires the best for its citizens must privilege the freedom of the Catholic Church and formally cooperate with her mission, while also permitting and supporting the freedom of other religious communities insofar as they contribute to the common good and uphold public order.” In sum, “we are talking about a new Christendom.”
As a devout pluralist, I cannot get behind this new Christendom, and, just so we’re clear, I’d work against it if anyone seriously tried to implement it. It’s not that I think society shouldn’t be “cognizant of and obedient to the will of God,” but that any confessional state would at best be cognizant of and obedient to the interpretation of whoever (Catholic or otherwise) wields the most power. The state wouldn’t be ordered toward the divine will, but toward the dominant interpretation made official by the political-religious authority. That the dominant interpretation may at times correspond to the divine will is irrelevant: the exercise of political-religious power would be what establishes the interpretation as official and authoritative and dominant. The engine leading to the official interpretation would be fueled by a political process, not a scholarly one, not a free process of understanding and appropriately responding to a God who reveals. Power would decide the “best social, legal, institutional, and cultural conditions for the communal discovery and consensual political establishment of the true religion.”
I advocate pluralism not because it reconciles conceptions of the truth under a single system with which we can all live, but because the multiple ways we are cognizant of the truth cannot be reconciled into such a system. Ever. The state can never have a single conception of the truth to which it is ordered. It will always be fueled by debate and disagreement about what constitutes the good. No concept of justice reigns supreme in the holy of holies, out of reach of inquiry and critique. The state will always be disordered. The good will remain always a question. Consensus will always remain fluid. Pluralism isn’t, as I see it, a prescription for chaos and anarchy, but a commitment to keeping truth a matter of discernment, disclosure, and debate. A confessional state would, as I see it, make truth the product of political-religious power.