Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Faith and Reason Institute

I found this website which I thought I'd pass on...

Their Staff in impressive:

Robert Royal, Ph.D.President

Phillip LawlerNon-resident Research Fellow

Jason Boffetti, Ph.D. Civitas FellowResearch Associate in Education

Mary Zito Events Co-ordinator and Research Assistant

Advisory Board

Hadley Arkes, Amherst College
Martha Bayles, writer
Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard
Michael Crofton, The Philadelphia Trust Company
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Emory University
Robert P. George, Princeton University
Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard University
Mark Helprin, writer
The Honorable Paolo Janni, Avvenire
Joseph F. Johnston, Jr.Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP
Fr. Matthew Lamb, Boston College
Virgil Nemoianu, Catholic University of America
Dean L. Overman, Winston & Strawn
Peter Skerry, Claremont-McKenna College
Michael Uhlmann, Bradley Foundation
Thomas West, University of Dallas

Here's a paper that can be obtain from the site. Excellent topic.


The Present Position of Catholics in America:
Rights, Duties, Challenges
Robert Royal
First Annual St. Thomas More Lecture
Fairfield University, Center for Faith and Public Life
February 11, 2008

...All this I believe, is relatively clear to any fair-minded person. So that=s the easy part for a lecturer on the present position of Catholics in America. But I want to turn now to some questions that I am sure will be more difficult: What has the success of Catholics in American public life meant to the quality of Catholicism as a Faith in America, and does the Catholic Church still continue to exert a public influence in this country of the kind that it believes it must by its own self-understanding? A survey in Britain last year discovered that somewhere around 70 percent of Muslims in that country consider themselves Muslims first and British second. To many analysts, this indicated a high potential towards disloyal behavior, perhaps even towards terrorism. But when I read the survey, I immediately realized that I consider myself Catholic first and American second, though I don=t see these two categories as necessarily opposed to one another. But if you are lucky, you spend no more than eighty years in America. After that it=s eternity, and an American passport and American attitudes may or may not be the best things to travel with on that journey. Seriously, if you believe in a God at all and reflect even minimally, no matter what nation you are living in, certain elements of your national culture will accord with a Godly life and others will not. No earthly culture comes close to realizing the Kingdom of God. So while we owe loyalty to the nation in which we live, it is only simple realism to say with the great St. Thomas More: "The King's good servant, but God's first."

This kind of analysis gives rise to great divisions at a fundamental level. Let me be clear about what I mean: this is not a question of Catholics split between our two main political parties, which is how we usually think of being divided today. Traditional Catholics are often currently aligned with Republicans because the GOP opposes abortion, homosexual marriage, and troubling practices like physician-assisted suicide and embryonic stem-cell research, all of which contradict long-held and carefully thought out Catholic beliefs. By contrast, more liberal Catholics tend to favor the Democrats, despite their general support of abortion, because of their opposition to intolerance, inequality, and racism, values that may also to a certain degree be identified with classical Catholic beliefs. No. The discernment of spirits in our day is not between liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. It may look like that to people on the outside. For example, I expect that, as was true of John Paul II=s visits to the United States, Benedict XVI=s trip in April will largely be reported in political categories of liberal and conservative. But Catholics have a responsibility to see themselves and such things in a very different light. Much of what was good in the American Founding was and remains deeply compatible with the Faith. Indeed, as John Paul II and Benedict XVI have said, like other manifestation of the Enlightenment, it has heightened certain Christian values in modern societies that had been relatively neglected, particularly freedom, including freedom of religion. Still, many elements of American culture that have emerged, especially in the last half century or so, are not only contrary to the Catholic Faith, but pose a distinct challenge, perhaps even a threat, to traditional beliefs of all kinds in America. And that is the heart of what I want to discuss with you tonight.

What is the nature of this challenge or threat? It has multiple dimensions but perhaps the most serious one is that it seeks to denature, in my view, Catholicism itself as a price for being fully tolerated in the United States. Paradoxically, until a half century ago the problem was less pointed. Catholicism was embattled primarily in its relations with the overwhelming Protestant character of America, had to defend itself, and built up various institutions and practices to do so -- institutions like Fairfield University for example. There are almost 300 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, more than in the rest of the world combined. Our frugal immigrant forbears built up this system along with the Catholic primary and secondary schools when they were far poorer and discriminated against than we are because they knew that without places where Catholics could be educated in their beliefs as well as in secular subjects, it would be nearly impossible for Catholics to hold their own as Catholics in American society. Those institutions were not always on a par with the best secular or Protestant schools, but at least they produced graduates who had been exposed to Catholic thought, which is a complex, comprehensive, and in several ways diverse approach to the world. (My next door neighbor is a retired military officer who attended a small mid-Western Catholic college. Every now and then, when we=re out cutting the grass, we'll stop and he'll ask about Jacques Maritain or some theologian, because in his day distinctive Catholic philosophers and theologians shaped the experience of undergraduates on Catholic campuses, even those who did not study philosophy or theology.) Today, Catholics constitute a large percentage of the students at all the prestigious schools -- I myself went to an Ivy League campus from this area B and are far better educated than in the past. The problem is that we are better educated, but not necessarily better educated in Catholicism, even those of us who attended Catholic institutions. And that has left many Catholics uninstructed when they make choices between America and the Faith. Obviously, at times we should look to one or the other or both, since we have to live as Catholics in America. And the Church has learned from several good things in America. But it is worth looking more closely at this question because it reveals some opportunities, but some real challenges as well.

Sociologists and historians commonly cite three main reasons for the current position have studied the place of Catholics in America. First, there was the weakening or disappearance of the so-called Catholic Ghetto, the network of parishes, schools, unions, men=s clubs, sodalities, Knights of Labor, Knights of Columbus, and other intermediate associations that enveloped American Catholics in a rich social web that was simultaneously Catholic and embedded in American daily life. A watershed moment came when John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960. Clearly, a good deal of the visceral anti-Catholicism that existed from Colonial times had evaporated by then. Kennedy was handsome, brilliant, and charismatic, but he still had to make the case -- and did so before a meeting of Protestant clergy in Houston -- that the Vatican would not dictate policy through him. It was unfortunate that he even had to make this argument, and the way he did opened the door to later claims that religion should have no real influence in the public square at all. But Protestants by and large were prepared to believe him and he won. With this social acceptance, however, which had been fitfully underway ever since large numbers of Catholic immigrants started arriving in the nineteenth century, a crucial element in shielding Catholic identity disappeared. It probably had to at some point and in many ways it was a good thing. But because of several other developments, the disappearance of the Catholic ghetto also made the Church vulnerable to some new problems that require very careful attention to the differences between Catholic thought and American practice.

Confusions on this score arose from a second major factor: the huge influence of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which opened up the Church to the modern world, as it is often said. That is true, but not true in the way many people took it to mean after the Council. They thought the Church had decided to accommodate itself to modernity in the sense of becoming more like the modern world. There is nothing in the documents that the Council Fathers produced to suggest that this was their aim. By the way, two men who did not exactly have mediocre careers later, contributed to the Council: Karol Wojtyla, then a young and brilliant bishop, and Joseph Ratzinger, then a young and perhaps even more brilliant theologian. Both later confirmed that what they thought they were doing at the Council was very different than what became the common interpretation. In fact, it is probably truer to say that the Council was so confident of the position of the Church that it underestimated the challenges it would face in the task Pope John XXIII had really set for it: finding even more effective ways to evangelize the modern world. Instead, the world, including the American world, evangelized the Church more than the other way around. Earlier Americanist controversies had involved questions of whether Catholic should attend public schools, should have ethnic parishes, and could join unions (which in Europe were almost universally anti-Catholic), which is to say practical, not doctrinal questions. The aftermath of the Council in America threatened for a time to make Catholicism something entirely different on fundamental questions such as birth control and abortion, and even formerly uncontroversial points like Sunday Mass attendance and the authority of the Church=s teaching body, the Magisterium. Under the last two popes, that process has slowed and even reversed to a certain extent.

Finally, a third thing happened, the cultural revolution, including the sexual revolution, that erupted here and around the world in 1968, which is to say after the uncertainties introduced after the Council and the dismantling of the Catholic ghetto. Today, many people have grown accustomed to that revolution with its near total acceptance of sex outside marriage, widespread contraception, abortion, and divorce -- inevitable consequences of sexual liberation. On a fair reading, there is nothing in the Catholic tradition or the broader Judeo-Christian background that justifies these practices; they are wholly a product of American culture, and even a particularly radicalized form of American culture at that. The cultural revolution also questioned authority of all kinds, religious and secular, and put great emphasis on individual judgments as opposed to the fidelity to revealed truths and authoritative traditions. Some of these attitudes dissipated with the return to a more conservative political and moral outlook in the last quarter of the twentieth century and, within the Church, under one of the greatest of modern popes, John Paul II, beyond all doubt a great moral voice globally. Still, some of them persist within the Church itself, though more among inactive than active Catholics.

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