Monday 22nd October 2018

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

A Book Review… The Moral Logic That Joins Christianity With Civil Liberty

November 28, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By JUDE DOUGHERTY

Siedentop, Larry. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2017. 448 pp.

In the opening pages of this book, historian Larry Siedentop, Emeritus Fellow of Keble College Oxford, asks, does it make sense to talk about the West? “People who live in the nations once described as part of Christendom — what many would call the post-Christian world — seem to have lost their bearings. Some may welcome this condition, seeing it as liberation from historical myths such as the biblical story of human sin and redemption or a belief in progress ‘guaranteed’ by developments in science.”
Siedentop is convinced that, like it or not, we are in a period of competing beliefs, and it behooves us in the West to understand who we are. The West is challenged on two major fronts, in Europe by Islamic fundamentalism — a world in which religious law excludes a secular sphere — and elsewhere by Marxist socialism, transformed into quasi-capitalism as in China. He then asks, “Can the West still be defined in terms of shared beliefs, ‘liberalism,’ for example?”
Liberalism, he believes, has come to stand for nonbelief, for indifference, for permissiveness, for decadence. If we are to understand ourselves, that is, understand the relationship between our beliefs and our social institutions, we must delve into the history to determine what made us what we are. Deep moral changes in belief, he acknowledges, can take centuries to develop and modify social institutions.
The book tells a fascinating story of how the “individual” became the organizing social principle in the West, and how moral equality became protected before the law. Many people in the West today describe themselves as Christian without going to church or having even a rudimentary knowledge of Christian doctrine. Forgotten is the origin of the moral logic that joins Christianity with civil liberty. Human equality is not decreed by nature, but by culture. The cultural and legal recognition of human equality is not simply told. Give the scope of this volume, a reviewer can only point to a few things that have elicited his interest and perhaps convey the tone of the volume.
In the first century after Christ, we find St. Paul teaching that the “Brotherhood of Mankind under the Fatherhood of God” entails seeing one’s self in others. Whereas men are not equally endowed by nature, they stand morally equal before God. By the second half of the third century, Christianity had become recognized as a component of the Roman Empire. Ambrose and Augustine had become major players. Augustine’s City of God became a template for an understanding of separate roles of civic and ecclesial authority. There were legacies from the past that had to be dealt with.
Siedentop insists that the ancient world was by no means secular. He identifies three inseparable customs inherited from pre-Roman antiquity: 1) domestic religion, 2) family, and 3) the right of property. Every family had its hearth, its ancestors, and its gods, i.e., gods only adored by the family, gods who protected it alone. There was a crucial distinction between public and domestic spheres. The family was everything, a world in which obligation, gods, and priesthood were exclusively domestic.
At the core of such ancient thinking, Siedentop finds an assumption of natural inequality. The ancients instinctively saw a hierarchy or pyramid. Different levels of social status reflected inherent differences in being. The paterfamilias, priest, or citizen did not have to justify his status. His superior status reflected his nature. Reason or logos provided the key, both in the natural and social order. Thought and being (or status) it was assumed were collateral.
Early chapters are devoted to the roles played by Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Gregory the Great, Benedict, and monasticism in the unification of Europe. Charlemagne was undoubtedly the most important. In a reign of nearly fifty years he established Frankish control over most of Western Europe. Given the fall of the Roman Empire and the chaos that remained, Charlemagne attempted to establish social order, create a defensible frontier, and suppress the ever barbarian threat.
Above all he wanted to establish a Christian empire and to propagate correct beliefs and practices which he regarded as the precondition for order and unity. To that end, with the help of Alcuin, he devoted resources to improving education for both the clergy and the people. In Siedentop’s judgment, “Charlemagne presided over the last gasp of antiquity and the foundation of Europe.”
The Council of Reims (1049) decreed the protection of the poor and the sanctity of marriage, condemned consanguinity, and limited the power of the paterfamilias. Europe at the prodding of the Church was acquiring a moral identity. Pope Urban II’s call to halt the spread of Islam revealed a Christian Europe. In Siedentop’s estimation, “The Crusades were a truly universal event, involving all strata of the population. They revealed a people with a shared identity.”
Liberalism as a coherent doctrine, Siedentop maintains, was not born effortlessly. As a political system it developed against the fiercest resistance of the Catholic Church. By the fifteenth century belief in moral equality, natural rights, representative government, and the importance of free enquiry had come to be accepted. They were employed against the Church’s claim to have a right to enforce Christian belief with the help of secular authorities. The Reformation put an end to confessional unity in Europe: Religion came to be looked upon as a private affair, a matter of conscience. Mounting opposition to the claims of the Church was fostered by the natural rights theory of Grotius and Hobbes, and by religious skepticism. Calls for toleration widened until it even included atheism. The only birthright recognized by the liberal tradition is individual freedom.
In the closing pages of the book, Siedentop asks, “Will Europeans come to understand the moral logic that joins Christianity with civil liberty?” It is a pertinent question. The freedoms Europeans take for granted are challenged as a result of the massive immigration of Muslims into Europe who desire to replace the laws of the states that received them with Sharia law. The old warfare between those of religious belief and “godless” secularism may have run its course. The religious camp eventually came to accept civil liberty and religious pluralism. The French anticlericals, with the exception of hard-line Marxists and writers like Richard Dawkins, have given up on their attempt to extirpate religious belief.
The new conflict between Christianity and Islam may be in principle irresolvable — a prospect that needs to be faced.
Siedentop has grounds to argue that, in its origin, “the liberal ideal” is Christianity’s gift to the world. That is, from the time of St. Paul, the belief that moral equality implies a private sphere distinct from the civic, one in which each individual is free to make his decisions apart from secular authorities. That sphere of conscience and free action, the joining of rights with duties, finds its expression in the doctrine we know as separation of church and state. Secularism in its ancient sense, Siedentop insists, does not mean nonbelief or indifference.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

This morning, Cardinal Burke is pictured after holy Mass at the church of Santa Trinity, in Rome,. He visits with the children from the catechism class for first communion and preparation for confirmation. Imagine: a bishop teaching catechism and teaching the Faith!

Question for church of Accompaniment crowd. Is the Way the Church is handling the McCarrick case an example of how we accompany the sinner?

Load More...

Twitter locks LifeSite out of account for ‘hate’: fact-based post on rise in gay STDs

October 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Twitter has just locked LifeSiteNews out of our Twitter account over an article we posted four years ago that provided expert analysis on the rise in sexually-transmitted diseases among homosexuals. The 2014 piece by Dr. Gerard M.…Continue Reading

Ave Maria U president who criticized Cdl. Burke, Archbishop Viganò announces resignation

AVE MARIA, Florida, October 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Just six weeks after he issued a statement criticizing Vatican whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Vigano, Ave Maria University (AMU) announced its president Jim Towey will step down in June 2020. Vigano’s 11-page testimony…Continue Reading

‘Just glad we ruined Kavanaugh’s life’: Pro-abortion Left responds to Supreme Court defeat

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the left-wing forces who pulled out all the stops to defeat him show no signs of cooling down anytime soon. The Senate voted 50-48 on…Continue Reading

Pope selects youth from pro-gay Vatican consultant’s media org to attend Synod

October 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The four young people from Canada now at the Vatican synod on youth are all from Salt and Light Media. The Toronto-based media outlet is run by Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who is also on…Continue Reading

Youth Synod Archbishop apologizes to young Catholics for sex abuse, ‘unbeautiful liturgies’

ROME, October 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia, has issued an extensive mea culpa at the Vatican Youth Synod for all the ways in which the hierarchy and members of the Church have failed young people — whether…Continue Reading

Michigan AG seizes Catholic dioceses’ records in sex abuse investigation

(CNN)Michigan authorities have seized records from every Catholic diocese in the state as part of an investigation into possible sexual abuse by clergy, the dioceses said in separate statements released Wednesday. The Archdiocese of Detroit, and dioceses in Gaylord, Grand…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal reproves US archbishop for criticizing Youth Synod’s working doc

VATICAN CITY, October 1, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A second prominent cardinal has publicly rebuked Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput for publishing last week a letter critical of the controversial working document being used at the upcoming Youth Synod in Rome. At a press conference at the Vatican…Continue Reading

Catholic lay leaders: We were wrong about Church, McCarrick on sex abuse crisis

In 2004, Anne Burke went before the City Club of Chicago to say the Catholic Church was beginning “to set things right” by appointing a lay board — which Burke chaired — to address the sex abuse crisis then embroiling…Continue Reading

Protesters demand resignation of Catholic University professor over Kavanaugh tweets

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Demonstrators at the Catholic University of America are calling for the resignation of a dean over tweets he published criticizing a woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. In addition, some demonstrators insisted…Continue Reading

Catholic Magazine Rescinds Endorsement of Brett Kavanaugh to Supreme Court

America, a weekly Roman Catholic magazine published by members of the Jesuit religious order, on Thursday rescinded its endorsement of Brett Kavanaugh after the Senate hearing on an attempted sexual assault accusation leveled against him by Christine Blasey Ford. “Even…Continue Reading

Pedophilia Isn’t The Main Problem With Catholic Priests, Homosexuality Is

The editorial board of the New York Times declared it had identified the source of “The Catholic Church’s Unholy Stain.” It names pedophilia and asks: “How have so many pedophiles been allowed into the priesthood?” The question was purely rhetorical…Continue Reading

A Persecuted Priest Speaks Out

Here is a link to a 10-minute on-camera Church Militant interview with Father Paul Kalchik, the Chicago priest who is now in hiding after being tossed from his parish by Cardinal Blase Cupich. Kalchik lost his position after presiding over…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

Viganò issues third testimony, refutes accusations of Cardinal Ouellet

ROME, October 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò today has issued a third explosive testimony, in response to an open letter from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Here below we publish the official English text of Archbishop Viganò’s third testimony, dated October 19, the liturgical Feast of the North American Martyrs. To bear witness to corruption in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church was a painful decision for me, and remains so. But I am…Continue Reading

FEDERAL GOV’T LAUNCHES CRIMINAL PROBE INTO CATHOLIC CHURCH IN PA

WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) – The federal government has issued subpoenas to multiple Pennsylvania dioceses in a criminal probe into sex abuse cover-up. The subpoenas were served last week, but news of the investigation only broke Thursday. So far, seven out of eight Pennsylvania dioceses — Erie, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh and Greensburgh — have confirmed they have received subpoenas, some stating they will cooperate with the investigation. Two Easter

Youth Synod group calls Church to attend to ‘realities’ of gay ‘marriage’, surrogacy, adoption

VATICAN CITY, October 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A group at the Vatican’s Youth Synod has called for the Catholic Church to pay more attention to homosexuals and the “realities” they face, specifically mentioning “marriage,” surrogate pregnancy, and adoption. “[…]There is the issue of what to do and how to act with homosexuals, which cannot remain outside of our pastoral activity and other realities such as marriages between homosexuals, wombs for rent, adoption on the part…Continue Reading

Cardinal Wuerl blasts Viganò testimony as ‘not faithful to the facts’

October 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Donald Wuerl had a few choice words to say regarding Archbishop Carlo Viganò when he was interviewed by a liberal Catholic magazine yesterday. In a long and laudatory article published by America magazine today, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C. – and its apostolic administrator until his replacement is named – denied Viganò’s allegation

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl from the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. By Christopher Wells Cardinal Wuerl had submitted his resignation three years ago, when he turned 75, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law (can. 401 §1). In September, the Cardinal met with Pope Francis and requested that his resignation be accepted. At the time, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. said…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Inheritance And Transmission

By DONALD DeMARCO The notions of inheritance and transmission are, in a certain sense, opposites. Inheritance, such as our biological endowment, comes to us naturally and without any effort on our part. But what we inherit is undeveloped. The great lessons of history that we would like to transmit to the next generation represent highly…Continue Reading

U.S. Congressional Report… Documents “Dire Human Rights Situation” In China

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNA) — A new congressional report slams China’s Communist Party for increasing its repressive control over many aspects of Chinese society, and for its numerous extreme and unprecedented human rights violations that may constitute crimes against humanity. The report states that it “highlights the dire human rights situation inside China and the continued…Continue Reading

Pope Francis . . . Laicizes Two Chilean Bishops For Sexual Abuse Of Minors

VATICAN CITY (CNA) — Pope Francis has officially expelled two Chilean bishops from the clerical state. Both men were accused of sexual abuse of minors. The decision was issued without the possibility to appeal, the Vatican announced on Saturday, October 13. The Vatican announced that Francisco José Cox Huneeus, 84, archbishop emeritus of La Serena,…Continue Reading

Pope Orders Investigation Of Vatican’s McCarrick Files

By J.D. FLYNN VATICAN CITY (CNA) — The Vatican announced Saturday, October 6 that it would review its files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused in recent months of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually coercing and assaulting priests and seminarians…Continue Reading

After Holy See-China Agreement… Persecution Continues In Wenzhou, Henan, Hubei

ROME (AsiaNews) — The “provisional” agreement between China and the Holy See, signed on September 22, does not seem to have stopped persecution and violence against Catholics. The morning of October 11 in Lingkun, in the district of Yongqiang, the cross that stood on the bell tower of the Catholic church was torn down; the…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Sacrament Of Holy Orders… The Priesthood Of Jesus Christ

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 1 This sacrament was instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, when He commanded the apostles to “Do this in memory of me,” and later on, after the Resurrection, He gave them the power to forgive sins through the Holy Spirit. It has never ceased to amaze me that a mere…Continue Reading

Virtues Related To Fortitude

By DON FIER How often in the day-to-day trials associated with trying to live an authentically Christian life do we experience sentiments that mirror those of the psalmist when he proclaimed: “I was pushed hard, so that I was falling” (Psalm 118:13a)? Yet, we can always have confidence based on what immediately follows: “But the Lord helped me. The Lord…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. How many times can you receive Communion in one day? I have had priests tell me once and twice. Which is it? — J.S., Massachusetts. A. Twice a day. Canon 917 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law says that “a person who has received the Most Holy Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only during…Continue Reading

“St. Michael The Archangel, Pray for Us!”

By FR. SHENAN J. BOQUET (Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with permission of Human Life International, www.hli.org. It first appeared at www.hli.org on October 8. Fr. Boquet is the president of HLI.) + + + “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able…Continue Reading

Our High Priest Sacrificed Himself

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Ninth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11 Heb. 4:14-16 Mark 10:35-45 In the second reading St. Paul says we are to hold fast to our confession because we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God. In this statement St. Paul summarizes our reason for…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Luke

By CAROLE BRESLIN Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — these are the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels. There is a children’s prayer that many have learned to say before bed with a variety of versions, but who are these men? Actually, little is known about them except what is in the Bible. There are some other traditions handed down…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Alexander Sauli

By CAROLE BRESLIN After the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church was blessed with many saints including a lesser known but deeply loved man, Fr. Alexander Sauli, who labored in a little-known order, the Barnabites. Alexander was born of a wealthy and highly regarded family of Lombard on February 15, 1534. His father, Dominic, was the Marquis of…Continue Reading