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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What is On the FUMARE Christmas Book Wish List?

Cardinal Francis George is fond of reminding us in America that we are Calvinists at heart (in the “we” he includes Catholics). He tells us this, not because he thinks this is a nice thing, but rather to alert us to the depth and complexity of our call to evangelize and to be evangelized by the Gospel and the Sacred Deposit of the True Faith.

George said that U.S. citizens 'are culturally Calvinist, even those who profess
the Catholic faith.' American society, he said, 'is the civil counterpart of a
faith based on private interpretation of Scripture and private experience of
God.' He contrasted this kind of society with one based on the Catholic Church's
teaching of community and a vision of life greater than the individual. (from an article by
John Allen)

One may quibble that what Cardinal George is really on about is the issue of modernism (the set of philosophical ideas) and what is the authentic Catholic response to the more difficult problem of a culture of modernity (the complex ways that we are deeply formed in these ideas).

On FUMARE, there have been a number of debates which raise this theme – particularly the debates on capitalism and Catholicism (a very clear and distinct divide exists among serious Catholics on this issue). When boiled down, this debate has at its core the question of the Catholic response to the culture of modernity (the spirit of capitalism is enmeshed with modernity).

More then just a nice academic exercise, the question of how the Church engages modernity in turn tells us how we ought to worship at the Divine Liturgy, who we are as a people, how we ought to live as Catholics in America and the meaning of the choices we make.

It is my view that the Ave Maria University and Town project are doomed because the promoters and conceptual architects of the project are trying to build a "Catholic" university and town with a Calvinist ethos. They are trying to blend Catholicism with modernity in a novel way, but one which isn’t at heart Catholic. This is why we see the BoG, the Dean and TM acting as they do. Modernity permits pragmatism over principle.

So, for these reasons, this FUMARE blogger is putting Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II by Tracey Rowland at the top of my Christmas wish list.
(Thanks to a tip from The New Liturgical Movement, and Alcuin Reid's review.)

Noted as "an extremely important book" and "compelling," it critiques the inadequacy of Vatican II in addressing modernity - a gap which has left us reeling. But more than a critique, it examines the current landscape and the incompatible divisions between what she describes as "Whig Thomists" and "Postmodern Augustinian Thomists" - the two approaches available to serious Catholics today. The Whig Thomists are those who see in modernity goods which are compatible with Catholicism (e.g., liberal capitalism) and have faith in the "progress" of modernity's institutions. Michael Novak, First Things, Acton are among the Whig Thomists. The Postmodern Augustinian Thomists take a much more critical approach to modernity & the Enlightenment and see the Church in radical opposition to the culture (e.g., Culture of Death vs. Culture of Life). Among these we have David Schindler, Communio and Ratzinger.

FUMARISTS will be particularly interested in the chapter on the New Natural Law theorists.

The New Pantagruel has an excellent review of the book, well worth your time:

Rowland has provided a reliable guide to the ideas that have today created a
ferment of theologically informed cultural criticism, and in so doing she has
herself become an indispensable voice of postmodern Augustinian Thomism. That
school provides our best hope for escaping the morass of modern culture.
On this Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe - Star of the New Evangelization - let us renew our commitment to respond to that call in service to Our Lady.

What books are on your Christmas list this year?