Last month, in “Zmirak At It Again,” I made reference to a piece by Thomas Storck on the magisterial authority of Catholic Social Teaching. Perhaps because this is an issue many Catholics need frequent reminding on, Storck has returned with “What Authority Does Catholic Social Teaching Have?” over at Ethika Politika. Read it. No, read it twice.
There’s more to online life than this blog. I promise.
When Juan Donoso Cortes was busy making a name for himself all over Europe with his apocalyptic prognostications concerning the weakness of liberalism and the coming doom of socialism, a contemporary of his up in Denmark was busy penning books which would be read by a few hundred people and understood by even less. Within a few decades of their respective deaths, all of Europe — and eventually the world — would know the name Soren Kierkegaard. Few could recall that Cortes had ever existed at all.
Juan Donoso Cortes would likely have been lost to that most obscure sector of intellectual history, the one reserved for prophets of a doom that didn’t quite come to pass, had it not been for the terrorist attacks which transpired on 9/11/01. In the months, then years, after the tragedy, theorists of different stripes began mumbling something about the U.S. — if not the Western world — being in a “state of emergency” or an “exceptional state”; that’s when folks started remember, or discovering, Carl Schmitt. The intellectual banalization of the opening line of Schmitt’s Political Theology — “Sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception” — is worth 10,000 words, but it’s not my concern here. What is of concern is how Schmitt, a theorist of dictatorship and decisionism, reopened interest in Cortes, a man whose writings clearly influenced Schmitt enough to where the latter, in 1950, devoted an entire book to the former. Unlike Schmitt, who received a mixed, but mostly fair, hearing from the professional academic community, Cortes became a subject of pure opprobrium. As a Catholic reactionary who believed that history could only be understood through a theological lens, there wasn’t much room in the theoretician’s toolbags for what the Spanish diplomat had to say. Still, “Schmittians” of various stripes have, from time to time, felt compelled to say a word or two about Cortes. Perhaps it’s time for traditional Catholics to as well.
Tomorrow is the feast day of Blessed Gaspar Stangassinger, a 19th C. Redemptorist Father who dedicated his brief life to teaching and service. While I have gotten away from it on this iteration of Opus Publicum, I do plan to add more edifying content (even if only links) in line with the Redemptorist tradition. I suspect we could all stand to take a moment of our busy lives tomorrow and reflect on the following quote from Blessed Gaspar: “That which is important for me . . . are the simple eternal truths: the Incarnation, the Redemption and the Holy Eucharist.”
This is a minor matter in the grand scheme of things, but an online acquaintance of mine, in a discussion of the somewhat unedifying 2007 First Things debate between Alyssa Pickstick and Fr. Edward Oakes concerning the latter’s groundbreaking critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar (mentioned briefly here), came upon Fr. Oakes’s later commentary on the debate in which he tossed tar-and-feathers in Pickstick’s direction:
Allow me to make a bold, even wild, prediction: Should the officials at the Vatican grant canonical regularization to the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), there will still be a contingent of neo-Catholic gripers claiming that “regularization” does not mean “full communion.” If the Pope were to do the unlikely and, say, give Bishop Bernard Fellay the red hat, these same neo-Catholics would declare that being in the College of Cardinals does not entail being in “full communion” with the Bishop of Rome. And if the late, great Marcel Lefebvre were to be canonized a Saint in St. Peter’s Square, those indefatigable neo-Catholic naysayers would confidently assert that the archbishop remains an excommunicate who is, more likely than not, burning in hell.
A new chapter—or maybe just subchapter—has been opened in the historically fraught relations between the Vatican and Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). According to communiques from both Rome and the SSPX’s General House, a friendly meeting between Cardinal Gerhard Mueller (Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and Bishop Bernard Fellay (SSPX Superior General) took place earlier today. The SSPX’s press release states the following: “During this cordial meeting, doctrinal and canonical difficulties were discussed, and the current situation of the Church was mentioned. It was decided to continue the discussions in order to clarify the points of contention that remain.” That doesn’t say a whole lot, but that’s to be expected at this early stage in the game.
Since I mentioned Hans Urs von Balthasar in the previous post, I thought I would call attention to this singularly excellent expose on one of the most troubling “orthodox” theologians of the last century.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is being “exiled to Malta“; Blase Cupich, a “moderate,” will become Archbishop of Chicago in November; the Pope isn’t happy (or maybe he doesn’t care) about a new Ignatius Press book defending the Catholic doctrine of marriage from the theological machinations of Cardinal Walter Kasper; and the Synod on the Family, which many expect will make “modest changes to the annulment process” (thus rightly eliciting the incredulous smiles of the Eastern Orthodox), has been inopportunely scheduled to ruin postseason baseball. Are these not the darkest of times? Could things really get any worse? Is it not time to panic? The answer to all three overcharged queries is of course, “No.” That hasn’t stopped certain neo-Catholics from trying to paint the disappointment over these and other, lower level, events as proof that certain conservative and traditional Catholics are “nuts” to question the current direction of the Catholic Church. In fact, to raise almost any question over what has been transpiring as of late in Rome and other sectors of the Church is tantamount to rabid dissent and evidence of a crypto-Protestant (if not crypto-Lefebvrist) mentality.