12 September 2005

Fr. Schall on Catholic political philosophy

Zenit carries a two-part interview with Fr. James Schall, a professor in the department of government at Georgetown University, on the occasion of the release of his latest book, Roman Catholic Political Philosophy. So what is distinctive about Catholic political philosophy? Schall answers:

Since Catholicism is not a political movement, it frees political things to be political things. It does not encourage them, as so often happens in modernity, to be confused with religion or metaphysics, or become, in effect, substitutes for them. . . . If politics is not limited to what it is, it tends to claim to be itself the highest thing. It finds itself claiming to define and to establish the whole of the human good on its own terms.

This, of course, is hardly limited to politics, but extends to anything in God’s good creation capable of being deified, that is, virtually everything. I’ve not yet seen Schall’s book, so he may rectify this omission in its pages, but one cannot help noting that justice makes no appearance in the interview. Justice is, of course, of more than incidental significance to a normative understanding of politics and its place in God’s world.

By contrast, if this address by Cardinal Renato Martino is any indication, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church released last year is filled with references to justice. One wonders what this says about the distinction Fr. Schall draws between Catholic political philosophy and Catholic social thought.

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