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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The rather-larger-than-asserted competence of "the state"

Rick is surely right when he reports that the Kingship of Christ is a theological doctrine that Catholic preachers by and large don't know how to handle.  Even many of those who grant that Christ reigns now as King take the position, implicitly or occasionally explicitly, that, like Elizabeth II, Christ reigns but does not rule. Some defend the proposition that there are zones that are not ruled by Christ, on the ground that sometimes secularity is "healthy."  As I was saying the other day at the marvelous conference on "Radical Emancipation: Confronting the Challenge of Secularism" sponsored by Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture," however, the absence of the Gospel is never a good.  To be absolutely clear, non-Christians must never be forced to embrace the Christian religion, but this does not entail that socio-political life should not be blessed by the leaven of the Gospel.  The penetration of civil society by the principles of the Gospel is a good to be pursued -- and it is, indeed, a good that Christ the King commands. Here is what Card. Ratzinger said in 1984 on the question of the basis on which the state should be formed and shaped:  "The state must recognize that a funadmental system of values based on Christianity is the precondition for its existence."  (Church, Ecumenism & Politics, 207, emphasis added).  It's a worthy question why the Holy Father recently said something rather less to the Bundestag.

Many leading American Catholic neo-cons are embarrassed by the doctrine of the social Kingship of Christ.  If you have any doubt about that, listen to the silly things George Weigel, Jodi Bottum, and Raymond Arroyo say (and observe the awkward body language and snark on their faces) in this discussion on EWTN .  Weigel concludes by asserting that "The state does not have the capacity to make the judgment that Christ is King."  But this is patently absurd, at least taken as a statement about states as such.  As I've argued before, surely a group of Catholics founding a state would be competent to install leaders who would be competent to recognize what their installers recognize, viz., the Kingship of Christ.  To be sure, many states, including our own, are contingently incompetent to recognize the Kingship of Christ and its social consequences, but the fulfillment of such an unfortunate contingency does not lay a finger on the traditional Catholic teaching that Christ is King over political society.  Nor does the Second Vatican Council alter that teaching.  See Par. 2105 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  How could it?  Jodi Bottum claims in the video that "Christ is king of we [sic] as individuals."  It is by nature (and supernature) that we associate, however, and I cannot understand the claim that, when we do in fact associate in political society to achieve the natural common good, Christ pro tanto loses his jurisdiction.  Bottum is right that this is an "unAmerican idea," but that's hardly a fatal condition.        


Brennan, Patrick | Permalink

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