As a Catholic, I don’t feel compelled (right now) to offer an intervention on what has turned out to be a fascinating exchange between Fr. Stephen Freeman (Orthodox Church in America) and several Orthodox critics on the topic of “moral Christianity.” Freeman’s posts are linked below. You can find links to his critics from there.
Addendum: Because I have already received one iMessage from a perplexed reader, let me be clear that I do not endorse a good deal of what Freeman says; though I believe his writing accurately reflects a certain type of thinking which is prevalent in contemporary Orthodoxy. Also, anytime “the West” is mentioned in a discussion among Orthodox, my eyes roll automatically.
Catholic Social Teaching (CST), though rooted in centuries of reflection supplied by some of the Church’s greatest theologians, is often thought to have begun in 1891 with Pope Leo XIII’s ground-breaking encyclical Rerum Novarum. While there is a loud ring of truth to this, traditional Catholics should be well aware that the Church’s modern social magisterium began to emerge following the violent rise of liberalism in France in 1789 and the revolutionary upheavals which rocked Europe throughout the 1800s. With the early decades of the 20th century delivering further global unrest through two cataclysmic wars, a worldwide economic depression, and the rise of racialist fascism and atheistic communism, the holders of St. Peter’s Chair issued further encyclicals reminding the world that neither socialism nor unfettered capitalism were just economic options, and that all political authority comes from God.
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Yesterday I linked to the Society of St. Pius X’s story that Bishop Bernard Fellay had been invited to the Parliament of the European Union to bless its Nativity scene. Maybe you missed it. During the blessing, Bishop Fellay took a moment to quote Cardinal Pie’s words to Napoleon III: “If the time has not come for Jesus Christ to reign, then the time has not come for governments to last.”
If only that quote could be put on placards to be hung in not only Brussels, but Washington, London, Paris, and even the Vatican. Let us not forget that we are awaiting the Nativity of our Lord and King, one who possesses the right to rule over all the nations of the earth. How quickly we forget that truth amidst the secular mentality we, faithful Catholics, are expected to cozy up to. Thankfully there are still priests and bishops of the Church willing to resist such madness.
Christmas is less than a week away; do you still have some shopping to do? Or, come the 26th, will you find yourself fretting over where to dispose the loot given by friends and family who had grown weary trying to figure out what gift to get you? Never fear; some suggestions are here.
Papa Stronsay Calendar– I have said it numerous times before, and I’ll say it again: this is the single best traditional Catholic wall calendar around. If you don’t believe me, click the link, watch the video, and then order it.
The Angelus Magazine – Do you know what would go great with a beautiful traditional wall calendar? A year’s subscription to a wonderful traditional magazine. I can’t say enough good things about The Angelus; and it remains an honor for me to be published in it.
Ordo Recitandi 2015– The St. Lawrence Press Ordo is the only one available which follows the traditional Roman Rite as it existed prior to the unfortunate reforms of the 1950s and 60s. Even if you rely on the 1962 Breviarium Romanum, there is still a lot to be gleaned from this fine publication.
Schola Sancta Caecelia, In Bethlehem – As I mentioned the other week, several talented young ladies from my parish have just released their second album of traditional chants and hymns. If you don’t own their first one, Stella Splendens, you can purchase that as well.
The Remnant Newspaper – The good folks over at The Remnant are offering an array of subscription specials this holiday season; go take advantage of one.
Thomas Storck has been keeping up a lively debate with Ryan Shinkel over at Ethika Politika, one which helpfully demarcates the border between authentic Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and liberalism. Storck’s most recent entry, “Markets, Liberalism, and G.K. Chesterton,” throws a bucket of cold water on the idea—often touted by Catholics intoxicated with economic liberalism—that individual good will and private initiative are sufficient for checking capitalism. Storck asks:
Why should economic activity be handed over to Satan while the health of society is guarded merely by good will and private initiative? We must indeed erect buffers against human greed; this is done not simply by private institutions and good morals, but by the way in which we structure and regulate economic life.
David Mills continues to write thoughtfully on “the shift” in in contemporary Catholic thinking on capitalism and economics. His latest, “The New Catholic Economics,” is well worth reading, and not just because he gives mention to my modest efforts to both clarify Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and critique various attempts by socialist and libertarian ideologues to hijack that teaching. Although I had some minor quibbles with Mills’s earlier piece on this topic (see here), I wholeheartedly endorse his belief that the anti-capitalist turn is a real, though disaggregated and diverse, phenomenon. Still, it’s important to not forget that there still numerous Catholic/semi-Catholic institutes, publications, and forums dedicated to aligning CST with economic liberalism of various stripes. We are not out of the free-market woods yet.
I had set out to put something concentrated together for the three Ember Days of Advent, but two pending writing commitments won’t allow that, at least not this year. If you have never heard of the Ember Days, or are only vaguely aware of them because you accidentally opened to their propers when you were flipping to find the right Sunday in your hand missal just prior to the solitary Tridentine Mass the diocese so “graciously” and “pastorally” provides its neo-Pelagians, there is, or used to be, something about fasting and prayer associated with them; no more, of course. No more of that “stuff,” that “rigidity” which proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you possess a disturbing lack of faith, failing, as you perpetually do, to allow a Construct-of-Surprises to knock at your heart.
I enjoy, even at times love, Terrence Malick’s films. There. I said it, and I won’t apologize for it either. Knight of Cups, his seventh, is due in theaters early next year — a shocker given that To The Wonder came out less than three years ago. Under the usual Malick time horizon, one would expect a decade — maybe two — to go by first, but since 2011’s Tree of Life, he seems intent on getting his projects wrapped up sooner rather than later.
Although I am not deaf to thoughtful criticism of Malick’s work, I believe David Bentley Hart did a fine job lampooning a great deal of anti-Malick sentiment with his “Seven Characters in Search of a Nihil Obstat.” It seems that too many want to approach Malick as a “religious filmmaker” which, in their minds, means he has to be a “Christian filmmaker” with a clear confessional bent. People are understandably uncomfortable with what I would call the “natural theology” of The Thin Red Line; there are Gnostic undertones to the cryptic spirituality which emerges from attempting to comprehend the darkness which relentlessly attempts to engulf the light.
Knight of Cups, based on the trailer, looks surprisingly straightforward film: a life of excess called into question by rediscovering love. If the theme is truly that simple, would it be so bad?
It’s not my business to defend neoliberal/libertarian approaches to law and economics; there are whole institutions dedicated to that enterprise. I believe, however, that it is incumbent upon those who wish to promote Catholic Social Teaching (CST) to properly understand those approaches if they are to be taken seriously. That’s easier said than done.