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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

"[I]f burning incense to the Founders will help us advance our cause today, I'm fine with it."

Strike two for Sohrab Amari? Actually, just another wild pitch. First the beanball at David French, now a heater inside and low for Mark David Hall. Who is on whose team here?

Screenshot 2019-11-13 09.38.50

Fortunately, Ahmari has already walked back any idolatry-accusing implication of his "burning incense" tweet. Ahmari didn't mean to say Hall was an idolater, he clarified, but that he was willing to join Hall in paying civic reverence. 

Screenshot 2019-11-13 09.36.32

This clarification in place, we can think about a hard question surrounding a stance on which Ahmari, French, Hall, and many others agree. That stance is that it is appropriate to pay some civic reference to the Founders. A hard question about it: How do we establish and maintain appropriate boundaries around this civic reverence?

Suppose, for example, you are as anti-Jefferson as Ahmari and I are. It only makes sense that you would make your anti-Jeffersonian case by reference to Alexander Hamilton (as Ahmari has) or John Marshall (as I have). One might even try to rally people around a symbol of one aspect of our current constitutional order in which one set of powerful American Catholics  is positioned over the next decade or so to repair damage done by other powerful American Catholics in the past several decades.

We all need to make sure, though, that whatever-the-word-is-for-appropriate-filiopietism does not slip into idolatry. Civic reverence must be subordinated to reverence for the one true God. And it is here that things can be exceedingly tricky in a polity in which "law is king." With that function spoken for in the realm of civic orthodoxy, what about priest and prophet?

To simplify, perhaps oversimplify, Ahmari's exercise of a prophetic function appeared to cast Hall in the role of priest for an idolatrous cult of the Founders. Ahmari then clarified that he meant paying reverence of a different sort. This is very challenging. How, if at all, can we maintain a prophetic stance from the point of view of true reverence, while also performing and policing priestly functions in the subordinate realm of maintaining civic orthodoxy?

https://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2019/11/if-burning-incense-to-the-founders-will-help-us-advance-our-cause-today-im-fine-with-it.html

Walsh, Kevin | Permalink

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