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In a conversation with Dionysiusdecordealcis on an unrelated thread, this article was mentioned. It is a starting point to discuss the degree to which Catholicism is compatible with the modern state, or with the ideals of constitutional republic, from whuich the modern state has devolved.

As an opening statement I will quote Dionysius's post from the other thread:

I don't quite understand your animus [toward democracy]. Surely the democratic state can be the servant of society. The demos can be virtuous--if we truly had genuine Catholics it would be. The problem is that the demos rarely or never has been. But it surely could be and ought to be. And exactly the same applies to kings or oligarchs. They ought to be virtuous. Few have ever been so. But that doesn't mean that they cannot ever be.

There's nothing intrinsically incompatible between Catholicism and a democratic society. (We're using the term here, of course, meaning representative republic, I hope--I'm sure that's how Neuhaus was using it.) It would be better to use the term republic. But even a democracy could be the servant of society if its members were honest, just, virtuous. If they aren't, all bets are off.

It's just harder to accomplish a virtuous demos than virtuous representives in a republic and that makes a representative republic superior to a true demo-cracy. But Neuhaus wasn't referring to strict democracy anyway.

Granted, the American experiment in republican virtue did not last. But I would caution you very strongly against assuming that the record of kings or oligarchies or noble republics (the old Polish commonwealth of the 1600s, for example) is any better--more kings have been non-virtuous than virtuous, and that includes Catholic kings. And the record of oligarchies is, well, worse. Perhaps the noble constitutional republic would be best but it's been tried extremely rarely in history and the American republic was the closest to it in many ways. I'd beware of nostalgia for feudal kingship.

The quote from Neuhaus (*), as far as I can see, accords fully with JPII on culture being prior to the state and the state being the servant of culture. I really don't see the problem. It's not naive, assuming that he's giving a prescription of how things ought to be. He's not saying that this in fact is the way things are, is he? You've pulled this out of context.

(*) The quote from Neuhaus that provoked my derision is

the [democratic] state is the servant of society, which is prior to the state

And now I am going to write a response to Dionysius's thoughtful post.

1 posted on 12/02/2005 5:46:58 PM PST by annalex
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To: annalex

We all understand that no one is defending pure democracy as mob rule, but rather the system of a constitutional republic in which democratic elements are embedded.

I have no animus to the constitutional republic of the Founding Fathers; but I think that the American Project contained the seeds of its present demise from the beginning. I see that seed in the inability of the Founding Fathers to draw a wall of separation where it really belongs, -- between moral law and the democratic process. I think it is a deeply flawed thing to put issues of moral law to the voter, either directly in a referendum, or indirectly through electoral politics, or even less directly through the judicial nominations controlled by elected senatorial elite. Why? Because things are morally right or wrong regardless of the popular opinion. Let us recall that the choice between Jesus and Barabbas was decided in an election. The abortion regime of today is a firmly entrenched legal system because of a democratic process that worked as designed.

I don't think the Founding Fathers understood subsidiarity. They designed a system where subsidiarity prevailes in issues of economics or administration, such as our system of cascading federal state and local government, and constitutional protections for the individual. But subsidiarity has another dimension, and that is the immutability of moral law, which is derived top-down from Christ the King and is not taken to a vote. I believe that the dual background of the Founding Fathers in Protestantism and Enlightenment allowed them to think that either the democratic politics would not invade the moral sphere (and of course they did nearly from the start), or that a bottom-up political process of independent Christian communities reaching a moral consensus would not produce a starkly un-Christian outcomes. On these counts they were wrong.

Comparing immoral democratic force to an immoral king is comparing apples and oranges. A democratic force, unless limited to mundane administration such as traffic rules, is intrinsically immoral, as it is a mechanism by which a majority dictates economic or, worse, moral decisions to a minority. The thinking that a decision is good simply because it is arrived at democratically replaces serious ethics. A king, on the other hand is an owner of real estate, -- of the public space. If he mismanages it, due to immorality or ineptitude, the effects are limited to his property. In this environment the Church has a chance to project her teaching from her own property. Further, a king has no interest in expanding his reach beyond his royal property line, because with such expansion comes a need for larger government from which a threat to his dynasty might emerge. A king has no institutional need to sell his services to the people, -- if he leaves them alone they will leave him alone; an elected politician must sell the government service on a 4-year cycle. Monarchies tend to act defensively and republics -- expansively. But since expansion into the economic sphere punishes the government rather quickly with decreased economic output, the expansion invades the moral sphere. Which is precisely where the state does not belong.

The Church cannot mount and effective defense of her sovereignty over the moral sphere unless she stops endorsing the democratic institutions of modern state.

2 posted on 12/02/2005 6:26:22 PM PST by annalex
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To: Dumb_Ox; Kolokotronis; bobjam; MACVSOG68

You expressed views on monarchy or on the relationship between church and state recently, and I thought you might be curious about this.

26 posted on 12/03/2005 1:43:29 PM PST by annalex
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To: 2ndMostConservativeBrdMember; afraidfortherepublic; Alas; al_c; american colleen; annalex; ...

43 posted on 07/26/2006 1:12:31 PM PDT by Coleus (Roe v. Wade and Endangered Species Act both passed in 1973, Murder Babies/save trees, birds, algae)
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To: Kermit the Frog Does theWatusi
These kinds of analytical arguments and discussions depart from reality. The problem with modern culture is a lot deeper than the academic interpretations of capitalism and modern democracy from such journals. They might as well debate whether the Pope should come out for cutting the capital gains tax by 20%, 15%, or 10% as if one vs. the other would cure the liberal depravity of the culture of death. [irony alert]

Throwing holy water on the Hollyweird crowd and the Democrats might be a better place to start.

45 posted on 07/26/2006 3:58:38 PM PDT by HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
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