Wednesday, January 20, 2021
I don't think this piece, in America, is actually about what is in the title. I am, to be sure, a fan of John Courtney Murray's work, and I agree with the piece's author, Prof. Massimo Faggioli (Villanova) that:
One of Murray’s most important contributions . . . is the principle of the distinction between state and society, and the conviction that the state is limited in its role toward society. “State is distinct from society,” he asserted, and “government submits itself to judgment by the truth of society; it is not itself a judge of the truth in society.”
Faggioli goes on to say that "[i]n the present moment, Murray’s assumption must be revised: Our societies have become more pluralistic and more secular, while political identities have often become more strongly linked to religious belief." I'm not sure what this means. That is, it's not clear to me why these observations about our "societies" and "identifies" have any implications for Murray's emphasis on the aforementioned "distinction."
In any event, the distinction matters. Faggioli, strangely, seems to think that the threat to this distinction is (again) "the culture wars" or the asserted emphasis by "culture war[riors]" on "non-negotiables." In fact, though, the most potent challenges to this distinction, and all that it protects and facilitates, are coming (and will increasingly come) from "progressives" who believe that the state should insist on, and use its various tools to bring about, congruence between (a) the egalitarian rules that constrain state action and (b) the practices, norms, and commitments of non-state communities and institutions. In other words, the "healthy secularity" that Murray supported never meant, for Murray, that the Church should welcome being re-made by licensing and funding conditions.