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  1. February 3, 2011 2:31 pm

    I respectfully disagree that we need to bring “an independently good argument”. I think the texts give us all we need to shape and mold both the discussion as well as the politics that result from it.

    I say this because I believe the texts point all of us the way of demonstrating through teaching both by words, and through allowing others to examine closely how we ourselves behave in our daily lives.

    Personally I think all of the time and energy we have devoted to direct political action (and this can be monumental) have taken away the hours we could have used to educate others on the life and teachings of Christ as well as the time we could have spent demonstrating through our own actions how to properly love each other.

    If one man who lived 2000 years ago could still hold such a powerful influence today without ever once having picked up a sword or collecting signatures for a new ballot initiative, then imagine what millions of people could achieve today.

    • Kyle R. Cupp permalink
      February 3, 2011 5:50 pm

      Quoting the scriptures or a papal encyclical may be sufficient to convince Catholics of a particular political course of action, but it hardly suffices as a persuasive argument for people who do not hold those texts to be sacred or authoritative.

      • February 3, 2011 7:52 pm

        1st amendment my friend. You can see my comments on that to Thaddeus Kozinski on the Pluralism and the Confessional State piece. I am still waiting for him to respond.

        Basically there is no “there” there.

        Unless of course you support the “benevolent dictatorship” ideal. It is time to stand up and be counted. Which ever way you go.

  2. February 3, 2011 3:28 pm

    Caputo’s last passage above amounts to a repetition, though in a different key, of the Courtney Murray project of arguing for Christian theses in abstraction from the truths of Christianity itself, instead relying upon the “natural law” or, in Caputo’s formulation: “an independently good argument.”

    But the ridiculousness of this position, especially when articulated by Caputo, is clearly evident when you reflect upon the fact that there *are* no “independently good argument[s]” leading to the conclusions entailed by a Christian anthropology. This is simply because a Christian anthropology is grounded in the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection–that is to say, in a sequence of historical events which Christians believe must forever change the way we understand the human. There is no independent path to this anthropology, and to the possible politics that issues from it, precisely because it is simply, by definition, unavailable to human reason.

    Caputo, despite flashing his credentials as a radical deconstructionist, ends by calling Christians to make public arguments that are not reliant upon the truths of Christianity themselves, but that are “independent.” This is similar to the (in my view, disastrous) attempts by Robert George and John Finnis to construct a Christian sexual ethics in absentia from Christianity.

    So while I agree with the general tenor of Caputo’s claims–and thanks to Kyle for continuing this important topic–it seems to me that his closing call for an “independent argument” is simply more of the same liberalism he purportedly is thinking beyond.

    • Kyle R. Cupp permalink
      February 3, 2011 6:01 pm

      I agree there are fundamental aspects of Christian anthropology that cannot be reached by an argument that isn’t premised on certain Christian beliefs, but some of the concrete political actions to which a Christian anthropology would call us may be argued for independent of Christianity. One needn’t believe in Christ to see reason in outlawing abortion or instituting a living wage or striving to eliminate war. On the other hand, I think religious believers have an obligation in our pluralist society to offer more than strictly religious arguments for their policy proposals.

  3. Thaddeus Kozinski permalink
    February 3, 2011 5:22 pm


    Excellent! You have described well the thesis of my book, that there is no tradition-independent political philosophy, for one’s prescriptions for organizing politics cannot be neutral to the political ramifications of the Incarnation and the Catholic Church.

    • Kyle R. Cupp permalink
      February 3, 2011 6:06 pm

      In the sense that any philosophy arises in time and place, thought and given expression by people situated in one tradition or another (or many), there can be no tradition-independent political philosophy.

      • Ronald King permalink
        February 3, 2011 6:47 pm

        If we are attentive to the Incarnation then the Church has strayed far from the ramifications of the Incarnation in that we are told by Jesus in order to be a disciple of His we must give up everything?
        What does that mean to you? Does it mean the development of a confessional state?

  4. Ronald King permalink
    February 3, 2011 6:03 pm

    Catholic identity, although we hear it leaders focus on the mysteries of the faith, seems to be grounded in the materialistic world of thought and reason. So any movement towards freeing ourselves from our enmeshment in this materialistic relationship must begin with the Vatican. This is so because we mirror what the Vatican does and we are trapped within the acceptance or rejection of what they say or do.
    Where to begin? Jesus.
    He tells us he did not have a home of his own. The vow of poverty. No material possessions. His authority began when he went on the road and healed the people first and then he taught his message. He then subjected himself to the cross stripped of everything. Before he died he appointed Peter as the leader and Peter did the same thing. He gave up everything for Jesus just as the other apostles and true disciples of Christ. He said that if we are his disciples we must give up everything for Him.
    The Vatican must give up its status as a state. It must remove itself from this materialistic structure because it corrupts the faith by giving the illusion that this is how the Church must operate in a materialistic world. The Vatican must give up its wealth of art and the clothes it wears to distinguish itself as special-dress as Christ did. It must become poor in spirit and look the part, at least to begin with.
    The pope must leave the building and the vacation home and set up something for the poor. The pope must start pilgrimages in every country to live with the poorest of the poor to give an example of what is expected from all of us, just as Christ did and while he is at it raise money for the treatment of the poor in that country and not leave until a program is in place.
    The pope must stop writing encyclicals and books because that is what he has done his entire life. He must give up that addiction that gives him pleasure. The pope must suffer the way Our Lord suffered and still suffers today, I imagine, because of what He observes in the Vatican.
    Our faith begins with the mystery of God’s Love. Christ gave up everything for us. The Pope must show us how to live like Christ. After all, we are sheep and will follow what he does. Look where it’s gotten us.
    There is no need for a confessional state. There is the need to give up everything and let God take care of us.
    Can you imagine what would happen?

    • Nate Wildermuth permalink
      February 3, 2011 6:13 pm

      Ronald, I don’t think we’ll have to imagine (for very long) a new Papacy devoid of riches, power, or honor.

      • Ronald King permalink
        February 3, 2011 6:42 pm

        Nate, what I imagine is a papacy that is truly honorable with the power of the Holy Spirit and a simplicity that resonates with the message of the Gospel. People are influenced by what they experience with the senses. Does modern man have the courage to live the Gospel just as Jesus did?
        Are you a pessimist? Does the papacy have honor now? Its power is political and inept. Its riches make it look gluttoness.

        • Nate Wildermuth permalink
          February 3, 2011 6:53 pm

          I’m not a pessimist, but rather optimistic that the Church will find release from the weight of power, riches, and worldly honor it posses (or desires to possess).

  5. Nate Wildermuth permalink
    February 3, 2011 6:06 pm

    The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches that “The goal which believers must put before themselves is that of establishing community relationships among people.”

    But as long as people believe they need rulers, no community will be possible. A real community has no need of rulers, but only brothers and sisters.

    “Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough to be able to settle a case between brothers? But rather brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers? Now indeed (then) it is, in any case, a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another. Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?” (1 Cor 6)

  6. February 3, 2011 7:36 pm

    “A real community has no need of rulers, but only brothers and sisters.”

    This cannot be true. God the Father is the ruler of Heaven, and he surely is part of a community.

  7. David Raber permalink
    February 3, 2011 9:59 pm

    Ronald, I like your gospel zeal, but the picture is not like you paint it. The Pope and his minions are a bunch of bad rich guys because why? They have those big beautiful Churches to work in, and great art to look at? All that stuff belongs to me and the rest of us fish-eaters (i.e., a community) as much as it does to them–even more. The Renaissance is over; the Church has been reformed. No more high-priced call girls running all over the Vatican (as far as I know!) and Popes granting high office to their “nephews” and leading troops against other Italian city-states. You sound like St. Martha urging Jesus to tell Mary to stop worshipping at his feet and get in that kitchen and start cooking for the poor. I’ll bet more Church money goes to the poor by 100 to one or better as compared to what is spent on the Pope’s and Cardinals’ high living, anyhow. How about some prespective seasoning your zeal?

    • Ronald King permalink
      February 4, 2011 8:11 am

      David, I know what you are saying, but the reality is the materialism that surrounds the Church. Christ said to give up everything to follow him. He was not kidding. When we die do we take anything with us? We must die to our attachments and the attachments of the Church are glaring indications that the Church is holding on to things and ideas it is afraid of letting go. If the leaders are afraid of letting go then the members will do the same.
      I am talking about the behavior of the leaders rather than how much money they get or do not get. Money is easy to give and it is insufficient. They need to go among the poor and set the behavioral example like Christ did.
      By the way, you took Martha and Mary out of context.

  8. David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
    February 4, 2011 2:23 pm

    I am sorry I missed the opening part of this thread, but eating Tapas in Avila had much greater call on my attention!

    Anyway: I think that any discussion of the confessional state versus the pluralist state would do well to look at the Syllabus of Errors. For instance, we have the following proposition condemned:

    77: In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.

    The context appears to be a liberalizing drive in Spain (then a “confessional state”).

    History suggests that previous attempts at a confessional state have failed, and failed miserably. It is worth remembering that much of the American Catholic commitment to religious pluralism (which evolved from the “heresy” of Americanism to become the backbone of Vatican II’s declaration on religious freedom) comes from our experience as a religious minority. We made pluralism work because it was in our advantage to make it work. I think we need to keep exploring how to live in fidelity to our Catholic identity while still working within this ideological framework. It is not perfect, but it seems better than the mess that 19th century Europe got itself into.

  9. February 4, 2011 7:22 pm

    Kyle writes, “If a Catholic confessional state uses the strength of political power to give preference to Catholicism, a politics that listens to the voice issuing from the Crucified God resounds with the weakness of God and gives preference to the powerless, to those forgotten, ignored, or exiled by the boundaries of law and order and the exercises of political power.”

    I wonder whose voice the Catholic Church listens to?

    ““The papal social encyclicals are a model of Christian economics, of bringing the spirit of the gospels to bear on modern economic realities.” ”

    And are not the papal (specifically Leonine) political encyclicals models of Christian politics?

    • Kyle R. Cupp permalink
      February 4, 2011 8:06 pm

      I wonder whose voice the Catholic Church listens to?

      God, one hopes.

      And are not the papal (specifically Leonine) political encyclicals models of Christian politics?

      Models in development, sure. Or, to put it another way, deconstructable models. The same is true for the social encyclicals as well, of course.

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