Friday, September 13, 2013
"Murray's Mistake" is the title of this essay, by my friend and former colleague, Mike Baxter, who now teaches in Catholic Studies department at DePaul. A former Hauerwas student, and a longtime critic of liberalism generally and the "Murray project" specifically, argues that:
[A] schism has arisen within the Catholic community in the United States over the proper attitude toward the established polity. The schism is between those Catholics in the United States who identify with liberal politics and those who identify with conservative politics in the secular sphere. The division is pervasive and deep, and it is tearing the U.S. Catholic community apart.
The division between these groups of Catholics is a consequence of Catholics’ performing the role Father Murray assigned to them. . . .
[These divisions] are generated by the national policy agenda that he urged Catholics to pursue. The problem is that in setting out to transform politics in the United States, Catholics have been transformed by it. . . .
The lesson to be learned is this: those who set out to manage the modern state get managed by the modern state. In heeding this lesson, Father Murray’s story of Catholicism and America will have to be revised. . . .
As it happens, Mike also discusses in the paper Murray's "dualistic political theory" and his use of Pope Gelasius's "Two There Are" formulation, both of which have had a great deal of influence on my own thinking. In fact, my paper on "The Freedom of the Church" was first presented at a Villanova conference, on Murray, at which Mike Baxter also presented. Time flies . . .
Anyway . . . read the whole thing for Baxter's concluding suggestions (spoiler: MacIntyre and Aquinas are key). For my own part, I think almost everything Baxter says is correct, and cannot avoid the force of what I take to be his implicit challenge to folks (like me) who think that Murray's "dualistic" theory regarding religious and political authority still has a lot to offer. That said, and agreeing entirely with Baxter (and MacIntyre) that the hard work of building authentic human communities has to focus on non-state and / or local and / or pre-political associations, spaces, and activities, I do not see it as a plausible alternative for Catholics to simply walk away from engagement with the modern state (even if Murray was overly optimistic about our place in the "consensus" about how that state should operate).