The waiting is over. On the last day of the term the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) released its opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, holding by a 5-4 decision (conservatives vs. liberals) that (certain?) privately held companies do not have to supply forms of contraception under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) which violate the owner(s)’s religious beliefs. Despite all of the hype surrounding the case, including many American Catholics holding it up as a grand showdown over religious liberty, I agree with Eric Posner’s pre-decision assessment in Slate that the case is pretty much a bore. (Posner has some further post-decision thoughts here.)
The other day I was chatting with an online acquaintance about Jean Ousset’s Action (IHS Press 2002). First serialized in French in 1966/67, the work represents Oussett’s pinnacle contribution to classic Catholic social thought and yet remains largely ignored by contemporary Catholics. Though Ousset was in no sense the last of Catholicism’s great counterrevolutionary thinkers, he was one of the last to direct the majority of his energy to problems outside the Church rather than the multitude of those metastasizing within her. Action was composed right at the point when liberalism tipped the balance of power within the Catholic Church, distorting doctrine, renovating the liturgy, and confusing (if not scandalizing) the faithful along the way. Since that time faithful Catholics concerned about the direction of the (post)modern world have contended themselves with refreshing our understanding of the principles of right order drawn from the time-honored teachings of the Church and her most steadfast theologians. As laudable as that work is, it is also true that it is not enough. Ousset recognized as much; he knew that firm principles, rooted in the truth, must be accompanied by action. Catholics are not allowed, according to Ousset, to sit back and wait for better times; they cannot tempt God into doing the work of restoration for us. Ousset, unlike many today, took St. Augustine’s following dictum with the utmost seriousness: “Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends on God.”
Since I wrote “1962” a week ago, Fr. John Hunwicke has offered a few posts — peppered with his trademark wryness — on the 1962 liturgical books and slavish adherence to them: “Leading By Example,” “Prefaces,” and “Today…” As usual I find it difficult to disagree with Fr. Hunwicke’s critiques of the 1962 missal and office. In fact, as I made clear in my earlier post, I am sympathetic to individual priests and fraternities gradually shifting back toward certain pre-1962 practices and texts, especially the pre-1955 order for Holy Week.
In his Essay on the Economic Effects of the Reformation (IHS Press 2003) (1923), the Irish historian and economist George O’Brien defined “the capitalist spirit” as the “distinctive point of view…[in which] the accumulation of wealth is looked on as a good in itself” and “economic activity and gain become ends in themselves and not merely means to an end.” From this “spirit” comes two overarching normative claims about economic life, both of which are antithetical to Christianity.
Prior to the imprudent liturgical changes instituted in the 1950s, yesterday was the Octave Day of the Feast of Corpus Christi which then led into today’s Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This celebration of Christ’s unyielding love for us, His fallible and petulant children, is accompanied by a spirit of reparation for all of the cruelties, insults, and neglect shown toward our Lord by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Christ, King of Heaven and Earth, is a benevolent ruler who calls His subjects to take up their crosses and follow Him so that we may come to the full knowledge of the truth and enjoy life everlasting. For centuries, since the fracturing of Western Christendom and the diabolical rise of enlightened individualism, we, as a society, no longer recognize Christ’s right to reign; we are no longer devoted to that Heart of infinite love which has revealed God’s precepts in order that we may have true freedom in this life and eternal happiness in the next.
Dear Readers: Opus Publicum is having its first — and perhaps only — blog contest to replace the bland grey banner above with something — anything — more eye-pleasing. The only rule I am putting in place is that the image should be original to you and not a scan from a book or something you found on Wikipedia. Submissions of images should be sent to the following e-mail address: venuleius at g mail dot com. The contest opens today and will run until Friday, July 4. The winner of the contest will be given a series of books to choose from and may pick one to be shipped to them free of charge. No, I don’t know which books yet but I will endeavor, to the best of my ability, to throw in some variety.
Also, if you read this blog regularly, please do what you can to spread the word about its new location. If you know of other blogs that used to link to this one and haven’t updated the link, please let them know. Your support and prayers are always appreciated.
The Acton Institute’s web-log has been serializing Jonathan Witt’s forthcoming chapter from a book on Christian critiques of capitalism. Today’s installment, “The Distributist Alternative,” purports to demonstrate that Distributism is just another highway to the hell of concentrated government authority over the economy — the sort which leads to “crony capitalism.” Without involving myself right now in an excurses on Distributism, let me point out what should be glaringly obvious to anyone who peruses Witt’s takedown with even a half-critical eye: He’s attacking a strawman. That’s nothing new for the Acton Institute and its cohorts. Just last week, during its so-called “university,” Acton offered a course on Distributism taught not by card-carrying Distributists such as John Medaille or Thomas Storck, but rather by an economic liberal, Todd Flanders.
The official website for the Fortnight for Freedom (FFF), established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has a number of resources available for the faithful, including a series of reflections on Dignitatis Humanae (DH). Each daily reflection takes a different section—or part of a section—from DH and expounds upon it. Curiously missing from this series is any reflection on the opening statement of DH that “it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and of societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.” This is not a throwaway passage, as Fr. John Hunwicke explained some months ago:
Traditional Catholics are often accused of being uncharitable and self-righteous when it comes to their brothers and sisters in Christ who do not fall within the traditionalist orbit. In fact, traditional Catholics are routinely accused by other traditional Catholics of being uncharitable and self-righteous when it comes to their brothers and sisters in Christ who do not happen to fall within some very specific traditionalist orbit. Certain folks claim that these divisions are all part of a divide-and-conquer strategy instituted by opponents of tradition. That charge, which isn’t very plausible to begin with, is undermined by the reality that traditionalists possess no shortage of reasons to generate their own divisions without outside assistance. Even the sedevacantists—the most “hardcore” wing of traditional Catholicism—can’t keep themselves together despite their miniscule numbers. It’s really no surprise then that the rest of the traditional Catholic world is fractured along any number of lines: liturgical, ecclesiological, spiritual, aesthetic, and so forth.