Friday, April 24, 2015
Patrick Brennan follows Michael's reflection on Francis with "Problematics of Catholic Legal Theory under the Roman Regime of Novelty (since 1965 or so)." How does it happen, Patrick asks, that (a) we have a Pope who is enormously popular and that (b) serious observers like Ross Douthat are asking if we are in a crisis, and if "Pope Francis will break the Church"? Patrick agrees that the Church is in crisis -- "autodemolition of the Church through relentless novelty" -- and understanding this crisis-context is essential to understanding, and doing, the Catholic Legal Theory project.
Many deny, or ignore, this crisis-context, in various ways and with various untenable explanations, rationalizations, or "spurious optimism." Patrick bracingly presses the group to see, and understand, this context and to confront more clear-eyedly its implications and roots. Or, quoting Pope Paul VI . . . "Enough!" The novel "worship of dialogue" is a grave threat, Patrick warns, and can only distract and undermine Catholic Legal Theory (and much else). The call, instead, is to evangelize and to "make disciples of all nations"; that is, to teach and to do so with authority.
In Patrick's view, the social and other problems that Catholic Legal Theory purports or aims to address can only be addressed constructively if those engaged in the project look back before the Second Vatican Council avoid the distortions of novelty. The church-state and religious-liberty debates provide, he says, a good example of a context where such looking-back is seriously needed. The world does need Catholic Legal Theory -- and the Church -- more than ever.