Month: July 2015

Practical Distributism

Perhaps like me, some of you enjoyed the glory days of The Distributist Review (and/or its predecessor web-log). Now that the site has gone dormant, allow me to direct you to another excellent resource for contemporary distributist writing: David W. Cooney’s Practical Distributism.

For those looking to dive right in, let me suggest two ongoing series. The first, “Achieving Distributism,” by Cooney himself and the second, “Economic Law and Catholic Social Doctrine,” by Thomas Storck. You can find the subsequent installments of each series on the site. Needless to say, both deserve attentive reading.

Integralism is Not an “Option”

The “Options” phenomenon is quite out of control, and even Rod Dreher, progenitor of the so-called Benedict Option, seems to recognize it. In a recent American Conservative blog post, “Benedict and the Omnibus of Options,” Dreher attempts to defend “his option” (which he ultimately credits to Alasdair MacIntyre) against the plethora of others floating around out there. Devastated though I was to see no mention of my own comprehensive list of “Options” in Dreher’s post, that devastation quickly gave way to confusion over what exactly the Benedict Option is other than a call for Christians to retreat, set-up shop away from the world at large, and wait for the present storm to blow over. If that is what the Benedict Option is at its core, then it is an option set-up for a select few persons who have the means to relocate from their current jobs and find (or invent) new ones. Not everyone writes for a mainline conservative magazine after all, and very few these days have the agrarian or artisan chops to make it in one of the communities Dreher idealizes as embodying the Benedict Option.

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Going Along

I am embarking upon a fairly detailed writing endeavor. The wise man would say that I should cease all blogging activity until it is finished. Being that I am anything but wise, I do plan to continue updating Opus Publicum, only with posts that represent something like extended footnotes for the book I hope to complete no later than the end of this year. Some additional asides and commentaries on secondary sources are bound to make their way on here, which may or may not include critical responses to certain authors. Regardless, inter-ecclesial squabbling or, for that matter, intra-ecclesial squabbling will find no more quarter here. I have long maintained a strict “hands off” approach to my combox, but that policy is changing as of right now. I have no interest whatsoever in this blog becoming a lightning rod for Orthodox/Catholic polemics, nor do I believe it is prudent that my personal life — and personal choices — become the subject of gossip and innuendo. You may, of course, agree or disagree with my positions, and that is fine. I welcome thoughtful criticism.

I know that in my own life I have a great deal to sort out. I have struggled. I have stumbled. I have sinned. I know that I have not always treated my interlocutors with the degree of charity I desire out of them nor have I always approached positions and ideas with which I disagree with the appropriate amount of levity. For that I am sorry. I do hope and pray that the substantive work in which I am currently engaged will bear good fruit.

Your prayers have done far more for me over the years than most of you realize. I cannot thank you enough.

Fortitudo mea et laus mea Dominus et factus est mihi in salutem

Contra Beeler’s Gross Inaccuracies

I have never met nor had much communication with John Beeler (“The Young Fogey”). Sometimes I would glance at his web-log, A Conservative Blog for Peace, or peruse the comments he would make here on Opus Publicum, but that’s about it. So imagine my surprise when I noticed a trickle of traffic coming my way from a post which attempts to both make fun of me and criticize views I simply do not hold. Although I have endeavored to ignore the public commentary on Beeler’s moral and psychological shortcomings, I find it difficult to ignore his intellectual ones in this instance. For those uninterested in cross-blog arguments, feel free to ignore the rest of this post. However, aside from setting Beeler straight, I hope that it will clarify some of my views—views which I admit have been subject to revision, correction, and realignment over the years thanks to thoughtful and intelligent criticism from friends and strangers alike.

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On the Utility and Necessity of Prohibiting Harmful Books

The Josias

St. Alphonsus Liguori


To protect the faithful from pernicious ideas, Pope Paul IV established the Index of Prohibited Books, which remained in use as a safeguard for the protection of public morals from 1559 A.D. until the reorganization of the Holy Office under Bl. Pope Paul VI in 1966 A.D. The Index came under attack during the time of St. Alphonsus Liguori, and he chose to include a treatise defending it in an Appendix to the first book of his great Theologia Moralis. St. Alphonsus was named a Doctor of the Church by Bl. Pope Pius IX in 1871 A.D. 

Alphonsus’s magisterial moral manual, which was praised by Pope Benedict XIV as being “of great profit for the salvation of souls”, has never yet been translated into English. Here we are pleased to present a translation of one chapter of Alphonsus’s Treatise on the Just Prohibition and Destruction of Dangerous Books, for the first time…

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A Comment on “Unia”

Strange I never saw it before, but a friend directed me to an apparently defunct blog, The Holy Unia. The title pretty much gives away the game in terms of its orientation and, to be frank, much of the content isn’t terribly inspiring. Although the blog disclaims any affiliation with the Society of St. Pius X or its eastern affiliate, the Society of Josaphat, the tone is similar—which is fine. What’s less fine, or at least less clear, is what, if anything, is to be made of the site’s “mission.” It seems that there is still an inclination on the part of some to see “Uniatism,” that is, the incremental reunification of Eastern churches through the establishment of parallel sees, as the only acceptable model of bringing Catholicism and Orthodoxy (Eastern or Oriental) together. That hasn’t exactly been the way of things for some time now. No, the Balamand Statement does not carry much (or any) magisterial heft for Catholics, but as a “policy paper” it effectively put an end to “Uniatism.” So what then is the next step? If one follows the line proposed by Fr. Robert Taft to its logical conclusion, it would seem that what the Catholic Church “should do” is simply recognize the Orthodox Church as a true, particular church; offer full reciprocal communion to any local Orthodox church that will accept it; and lay aside almost every substantive theological disagreement the two parties have (or at least think they have). It’s a radical vision, and not one likely to come into being any time soon. Not only are most local Orthodox churches unlikely to accept such an offer, but Roman chauvinism isn’t dead—just ask the Eastern Catholics.

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Further Remarks on Integralism and Symphonia

Symphonia, as a theological-political concept, is practically dead in our times. Maybe, just maybe, a few glimmers exist in contemporary Russia, though a large body of critics, including political scientists and churchmen, think otherwise. What may look something like symphonia at first blush is merely a (post)modern form of caesaropapism, with the Russian Orthodox Church serving as the handmaid of the Russian state. The Moscow Patriarchate’s “Russian World” ecclesial ideology fits snugly with secular Russia’s larger international ambitions—ambitions that have made themselves violently felt in places like Georgia and Ukraine over the past several years. In other parts of the so-called Orthodox world nothing like sympahonia exists. It certainly does not exist in the Middle East nor in Greece, where the state finds its future crushed on the heel of the European Union while the Orthodox Church remains almost powerless to provide firm moral guidance under seemingly impossible conditions. Integralism, which has become a rallying cry for a small (but dedicated) band of Catholics, is certainly not dead, but it remains, at best, a theory and, at worst, a concept without teeth. There are more than a few of those floating around right now. May we forever be spared the suggestion of a coming “Integralist Option” or, for the symphonia crowd, a “Justinian Option.”

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Two Comments on Synodality and Such

There is no getting around it: I have never been particularly impressed by the idea that the Roman Catholic Church should adopt an Eastern-style “Synodal Model” of governance — a position I discussed in detail over at Crisis last year. The Orthodox Church’s modern experience with synodality has been, at best, a mixed bag, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better anytime soon. Preparations for next year’s “Great and Holy Council” have not been running smoothly as of late, as evidenced by the Russian Orthodox Church’s recent decision to reject one of the Council’s preparatory documents (H/T Byzantine Texas). The document in question, “The Orthodox Church’s Contribution to the Triumph of Peace, Justice, Freedom, Brotherhood and Love among Nations and to the Elimination of Racial and Other Forms of Discrimination,” sounds like a parody of something produced by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (or perhaps it sounds exactly like something produced by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace). Why the Russian Church rejected it remains a mystery. The cynic in me suspects it has something to do with ensuring that the Moscow Patriarchate’s “Blood-and-Soil Ecclesiology” remains unscathed. The optimist hopes that the Russians may have seen such a statement as sowing the seeds of indifferentism and emptyheaded ecumenism and decided to put a stop to it.

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