Several recent off-blog inquiries have asked whether or not I setting off in a fundamentally new direction with this, Opus Publicum 2.0, since hitting the reset button just over a month ago. (For more on that, see “Rebegin.”) Given that the last couple of weeks has, with the exception of a single post on “Latinizations” in the Eastern Catholic churches, been dedicated to matters concerning international law and politics, it might seem to some that the previous blog’s concerns with intra-ecclesial affairs from a traditional Catholic perspective has faded away in favor of more neutral engagements on socio-political topics. I assure you that’s not the case, or at least not entirely.
One of the purposes of this blog’s reset was to declaw it. In the past Opus Publicum became a hub for Catholic/Orthodox quarrels and various traditionalist polemics concerning liturgy, doctrine, and even the Pope. While I do not deny that there is a real crisis in the Catholic Church and that this crisis is often exacerbated, rather than addressed, by far too many of her priests and bishops, there are numerous other blogs and websites with far more experience reporting and commenting on those issues for faithful Catholics to turn to. (If you really can’t find any, just ask.) At most, Opus Publicum can dedicate space to one aspect of this crisis, namely the widespread dissent from the Church’s authentic and continuous social magisterium—a magisterium which is comprised not just of a few passages from Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus or Benedict XVI’s Caritas et Veritate, but includes, for example, Gregory XIV’s Mirari Vos, Blessed Pius XI’s Quanta Cura, Leo XIII’s Immortale Dei, St. Pius X’s Notre Charge Apostolique, and Pius XI’s Quas Primas. Further guiding light on this magisterium is provided not by the artful proof-texting of the Acton Institute nor the “ignore-and-proceed” antics of Tom Woods and the more extreme wings of Catholic libertarianism, but by authoritative expositions such as Fr. Edward Cahill’s The Framework of a Christian State and Fr. Denis Fahey’s The Mystical Body of Christ and the Reorganization of Society.
In other words, Opus Publicum is, through faithful adherence to the Church, aligned with that broad and still somewhat ill-defined “movement” which has come to be known as “illiberal Catholicism.” However, as I discussed in two earlier posts here and here, there is not simply one “brand” of illiberal Catholicism out there. In fact, despite the apparent novelty of the anti-liberal writings found on excellent websites such as Ethika Politika, anti-liberalism was the common creed of the Catholic Church up until the mid-20th C., though many Catholics, particularly in the United States, have long tried to downplay that reality. Some have identified the iteration of illiberal Catholicism associated with Ethika Politika and its regular contributors as “left wing.” If that’s true—and it may not be—then I suppose that would make Opus Publicum and the illiberal Catholic writings published or reprinted by outlets such as IHS Press, Angelus Press, and The Remnant “right wing” insofar as they remain more at home with the Thomistic tradition that was alive and well in the Church until the mid-1950s and the directives of the Popes rather than contemporary academic currents. Such left/right lines cannot be drawn neatly, of course. After all, “right wing” illiberal Catholic Christopher Ferrara’s Liberty: The God That Failed received endorsements from “Radical Orthodox” theologians John Milbank and Graham Ward.
The reason I stress where Opus Publicum comes down in all of this is not for the purpose of trying to set up a rival camp to other anti-liberal projects but rather to make known the fact that current Catholic pushback against liberalism is not a monolithic project. In fact, it is one which has, through fits and starts, been ongoing since the 18th C. And while it is true that there remains clear areas of disagreement between those who might generally be called “left wing” illiberal Catholics and the movement’s “right wing” (natura pura comes to mind), at this juncture both “sides” should be more focused on where they converge rather than differ. That’s not a call for absolute silence, mind you. “Right wing” illiberal Catholics might, after all, have a thing or two to say about certain disparagements of “Throne and Altar” positions found among the “left wing.” However, whatever is to be said should be delivered in a spirit of charity and correction, not strife. Both “wings” have a great deal to learn from each other.