- Murray’s Mistake, by Michael Baxter. America 09/23/13:
‘It has been a greatly providential blessing,” John Courtney Murray, S.J., observed in We Hold These Truths, “that the American Republic never put to the Catholic conscience the questions raised, for instance, by the Third Republic. There has never been a schism within the American Catholic community, as there was among Catholics in France, over the right attitude to adopt toward the established polity.”
However much this statement was true in 1960, it is not true today. Now the politics of the American Republic does raise questions of conscience for Catholics. Now a schism has arisen within the Catholic community in the United States over the proper attitude toward the established polity. The schism is between those Catholics in the United States who identify with liberal politics and those who identify with conservative politics in the secular sphere. The division is pervasive and deep, and it is tearing the U.S. Catholic community apart.
- Response by Rick Garnett Mirror of Justice 09/13/13:
For my own part, I think almost everything Baxter says is correct, and cannot avoid the force of what I take to be his implicit challenge to folks (like me) who think that Murray’s “dualistic” theory regarding religious and political authority still has a lot to offer. That said, and agreeing entirely with Baxter (and MacIntyre) that the hard work of building authentic human communities has to focus on non-state and / or local and / or pre-political associations, spaces, and activities, I do not see it as a plausible alternative for Catholics to simply walk away from engagement with the modern state (even if Murray was overly optimistic about our place in the “consensus” about how that state should operate).