Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Herberg's review of Blanshard

Here (thanks to Francis Beckwith) is Will Herberg's 1949 review of Paul Blanshard's anti-Catholic (and hugely popular) screed, American Freedom and Catholic Power.  An interesting (and strikingly timely) read:

Mr. Blanshard's prejudices make it impossible for him to appreciate the deep concern that many religious people feel about an allegedly “neutral” school system that in fact indoctrinates the child and young person with an outlook on life in which man is held to be sufficient unto himself and God is treated as an outmoded irrelevance. This secularism, linked to an exaltation of the “social-welfare state” as an omnicompetent agency for the total control of social life, prevents Mr. Blanshard from understanding how people may seriously insist that since social, family, and educational problems are at bottom moral, they cannot be separated from one's religious faith, and if that faith is institutionalized in that form, from one's church.
His perfervid nationalism and statism make it hard for him to grasp how any person genuinely devoted to democracy can nevertheless contend that there is a higher law in the name of which the dictates of the state may be disallowed if these dictates are felt to come into conflict with obedience to God. Mr. Blanshard excoriates (pages 52-53) the Catholics for affirming that they would disobey a law outlawing parochial schools and compelling parents to send their children to the public schools. He thinks such an attitude outrageously undemocratic and a menace to American freedom. To me, on the contrary, this attitude seems not only intelligible but thoroughly in line with the best of democratic tradition, which has always rejected the pretensions of the state to a monopoly of social and cultural life.
I am not asserting that the Catholic answer to any of these questions is the right one. In fact, I think it is often seriously wrong. But Mr. Blanshard, by his bias, has rendered himself incapable of understanding what is really involved in the vital problems he himself raises. That is why his book, for all its information and documentation, is ultimately so unsatisfactory.


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