Irish Theological Quarterly Review Article: Is Catholic Social Teaching a Communitarian Ethic?: A Discussion of Michael Schuck's That They Be One
John Murray Irish Theological Quarterly 2003; 68; 379 DOI: 10.1177/002114000306800406 The online version of this article can be found at:

Published by:

On behalf of:

Pontifical University, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland

Additional services and information for Irish Theological Quarterly can be found at: Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions:

Downloaded from by Ilie Chiscari on November 30, 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

All rights reserved. political life. Schuck wishes to situate the conventionally designated social encyclicals in their full encyclical context. in all: 248 letters by 17 popes. Michael J. He goes so far as to claim that conventional interpretation of the papal encyclicals has been ’skewed’ by the neglect of the pre-Leonine letters. They May michael M thought-provoking interpretation That Be One/ contains an original. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. about economic matters (cf. However. He wants. takes into account all three periods. unless otherwise specified. D. K.sagepub. he offers a pointed critique of the usual interpretations of CST. His interpretation. described by him as a kind of ’theological communitarianism’. to avoid the notion that CST is exclusively. economic life. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. foundational themes. Charles. pp.: Paulist.REVIEW ARTICLE John Murray Is Catholic Social Teaching Communitarian Ethic? a A Discussion of Michael Schuck’s That They Be One Catholic Social Teaching. and post-Leonine (1958-1989)./Mahweh. or even mainly. to the others. should include the papal encyclicals issued before as well as after Rerum Novarum. Viewed from this perspective. 1991). according to Schuck. .: Georgetown University Press. if any. By taking into account all the encyclicals. Responses to 101Questions on Catholic Social Teaching (N. An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching (San Francisco: Ignatius. That They May Be One: The Social Teaching of the Papal Encyclicals 1740-1989 (Washington. Leonine (1878-1958).C. Roman numerals refer to his introduction. How persuasive is this claim? Schuck’s book. and focuses on the specifically ’social’ encyclicals with only slight reference.J. Himes. 2.Y. R. an error he sets out to correct by distinguishing three encyclical periods: pre-Leonine (1741-1878). political and economic society. from the first issued in 1741 down to the last before the book was published in 1989. of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). 379 Downloaded from http://itq. Schuck.2 By beginning at 1741 rather than by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. and specific concerns. All page references in the text will be to That They May Be One. he includes all encyclicals. N. divides his exposition of the teaching into three areas: civil. 3. Schuck’s emphasis on the wide scope of CST is valuable (though not unique). iX_X). which grant privilege to the ’Leonine’ letters (1878-1958). the Church’s social doctrine is seen to be part of a particular theological framework and to be based on a communitarian ethic normally neglected by commentators. in particular. Schuck is not the only writer on CST who divides up the teaching into categories wider than the economic and/or political. 1999).3 The full scope of this teaching is examined under five headings: 1. 2001) considers ecclesiological issues. Schuck accords the letters written before Rerum Novarum an important place in CST’s development. He confines himself to an examination of papal encyclicals only. This distinguishes his approach from the usual study of CST. which starts with Rerum Novarum in 1891. international life.

therefore. no doubt inadvertently. 6. The author demonstrates that CST is essentially practical in its focus. for example. . Downloaded from http://itq. widens his analysis to include thinkers other than the popes. It helps to avoid another related mistake about CST. Of course. Minn. All rights reserved. or study 4. political life. not Schuck’s. He emphasizes that social concerns are at the heart of all papal teaching and are not to be relegated. in response to many requests from Catholics for a considered treatment of the social question of that time. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. will focus on papal teaching. CST is not confined to papal teaching. Schuck’s article on ’Modem Catholic Social Thought’ in J. family life. given the amount of material available. Leo XIII was not starting from scratch. namely the assumption that it is a mainly. or even exclusively. by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. The main change from his earlier work is Schuck’s inclusion of liberation theologians’ thought in the analysis. CST’ involves diagnosing the causes of social problems and then suggesting solutions (under the five headings). In this. The division of CST into three periods is interesting and helps to avoid a strong but false impression created. economic life.). secular concern. so to speak. It would be a mistake to see CST as the Church interfering in economics. but this does not change his overall approach or his communitarian interpretation of CST.’ Another example is John Paul 11’s recent analysis of the world situation after the events of 1989 in Centesimus Annus. and cultural life. the impression that CST began ex nihilo with Rerum Novarum in 1891. 31 ). Pius XI’s description of the context in which Rerum Novarum came about in Quadragesimo Anno. Schuck reminds us that popes were treating of social issues from the very beginning of the encyclical tradition. Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum. the workers’ question. It is also clear from Schuck’s schema that religion is included in CST. The Church is concerned about the many interrelated issues involved in living in society.380 religious life. and then offer practical guidelines to deal with the social erosion caused by the problems (c£ p. The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought (Collegeville. These are my own terms and interpretation. and not mere gloomy criticism of sinful society or vague hopes for improvements in morals. According to Schuck. Schuck’s inclusion of all the encyclicals in his survey is important here. This later work of his does not change my assessment here. are only one aspect of CST. or in politics for that matter.: The Liturgical Press. 1994) 611-32. then. This paper. Dwyer (ed. by other studies on the subject. By starting at 1741. 5. he reflects accurately the fact that CST has developed in response to the historically specific needs of society in various areas of social life.sagepub. to particular ’secular’ letters His concise but comprehensive listing of social problems and social recommendations gets across the fact that CST is not a set of pious generalizations with little connection to the real. 6-7. This is a very valuable insight. specific issues of society. namely. Schuck’s study is. Economic matters. This he calls a ’double-pulsed’ approach: the popes first critique the inadequate ideas and practices of society. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. any practical course on.

whose index is at http://www. .’ (Even Schuck has narrowed his focus by limiting himself to papal encyclicals! ) Still. All rights reserved. Firstly. 372. Also worth noting is the status given Rerum Novarum in Centesimus Annus: ’Although the commemoration at hand is meant to honour Rerum Novarum. UK: Gracewing. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences. Vol. 371-2.sagepub.. This applies even to Roger Charles’s substantial two-volume study of the Church’s social teaching.~ Even a superficial examination of the twentieth-century ’social’ encyclicals makes clear that the popes consider Rerum Novarum to be a significant ’beginning’.vatican. 2 (Herefordshire.. 100. He sees the pre-Leonine-period encyclicals as 7. All quotations from papal encyclicals are taken from the official Vatican web-site. as on a foundation.381 of. does he give an appropriate ’status’ to Rerum Novarum? Or does his approach serve to unfairly ’relativize’ it? One author comments: [Schuck] is somewhat disingenuous in suggesting that the corpus of 77 such encyclicals issued before 1878 are in any way comparable in their importance and impact to those which have followed. it also honours those encyclicals and other documents of my predecessors which have helped to make Pope Leo’s encyclical present and alive in history. produced for the first time nations whose people were overwhelmingly urbanized in modem cities in economies dominated by capitalism. of many of the papal letters implies that Rerum Novarum is the foundational document for the modern tradition of CST. The timing. See also his recommendation of Schuck’s book in Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching. which therefore takes its essential character from the previous period to a large extent. Christian Social Witness and Teaching. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. Vol. characterization of the three periods. Downloaded from http://itq. Schuck’s division raises by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. it cannot be rash to say that Leo’s Encyclical has proved itself the Magna Carta upon which all Christian activity in the social field ought to be based. Schuck proposes an interesting. 1. Charles makes the point that Schuck’s analysis from 1874 is ’essential to a fuller understanding of the development of the modem teaching’. 1 and Vol. and they bear an importance for the life of the Church and of mankind which far outweighs any pub8 lished before 1 89 1 . with volume two treating the developments since Leo. #2). "social teaching" or even "social magisterium"’ (Centesimus Annus. and the corresponding titles. See R. 1998). 8. thus constituting what would come to be called the Church’s "social doctrine". This is explicitly stated in Quadragesimo Anno #39: ’On the basis of the long period of experience.. but not fully convincing. which still affect every aspect of the everyday lives of the whole of mankind. the Church’s social teaching will have to be selective to some degree. and the wealth they have created.htm [accessed 27th Sept 03].’9 It loses this status in Schuck’s scheme and becomes part of a longer timeframe. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. The series of encyclicals beginning with that of Leo XIII have since been issued in response to this Revolution. the factory and the ibid. which begins with the Old Testament and covers the whole tradition until Leo XIII in volume one. 9. Charles. Charles.

Finally. linked with God the Son. therefore. their conscience utters its own testimony [Rom 2:15]. with just as many respective duties. pp. p. it is written in non-technical terms for everyone to understand . indeed. All this is undoubtedly true and in harmony with Schuck’s characterization of the post-Leonine period. respectively). 33). 154 and 180). 91). And how could it be otherwise? For whatever God has made shows forth His infinite wisdom. however. . It rightly points us towards the specifically theological thinking behind the practical social suggestions. God the Father. Similar concerns are found in Dignitatis Humanae and virtually all of Humanae Vitae (published before Schuck’s 10. but the two passages quoted above. and echoes the UN Declaration of 1948. and it is manifested more clearly in the things which have greater perfection [cf. however. it is about basic human rights. respectively. on conscience and objective truth. One could be misled. a very useful. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. and many more. p. Both quotations are from Pacem in Terris (## 5 and 28. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. Ps 18:8-11]. however. It is true. their sustenance and their inviolability in the natural law which grants or enjoins them. more immediately. and rights as well as duties find their source. Downloaded from http://itq. It is addressed to all people. it was composed in the shadow of the arms race and. All rights reserved. and God the Holy Spirit. into thinking that the three theological approaches are entirely separate both in nature and in by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. This is an original reading of the encyclicals. of course. The three periods are. Consider the following: But the Creator of the world has imprinted in man’s heart an order which his conscience reveals to him and enjoins him to obey: This shows that the obligations of the law are written in their hearts. that the encyclical is in dialogue with the world and its problems&dquo. necessary insight of Schuck’s.sagepub. Other documents betray a similar concern. According to Schuck’s scheme. display a distinct ’natural law’ reasoning and language that would seem to contradicts Schuck’s scheme. ##159-160). in the very person who is their subject. the Cuban missile crisis. this encyclical is part of the post-Leonine period characterized by a distinct move away from natural law thinking to dialogic thinking. The natural rights with which We have been dealing are. inseparably connected.382 characterized by the metaphor of God as a Shepherd and the Church as his flock living in the world seen as a pasture (cf. The Leonine period encyclicals are characterized by the metaphor of God as the Creative cosmic designer and the human race as a people living within a universal design of natural law (cf. it is more open than previous encyclicals to Catholics working with socialists on justice and peace issues (cf. the post-Leonine period encyclicals are characterized by God as the dialogical Spirit and the Church is seen as a community in dialogue with modern history on a journey down an unmarked path (cf. Consider Gaudium et Spes ##16-17.

and humanity. the world. naturalistic. which recommends various practices to combat the Downloaded from http://itq. or significant parts of them. and of religious faith and community (rationalism. the natural law thinking of more recent documents is more open to the historical and the contingent than some previous versions of ’natural law theory’ were. 154). 31 ). we might call it the Divine passion for unity (mindful of the richness of the term ’passion’). This is not to say that there hasn’t been development of the tradition during this period. familial. 157). too. He emphasises that the central concern of the popes in each period was social cohesion. relativism). These Enlightenment errors ’generate the destructive spirit of liberalism’ (p. Thus. Further. All rights reserved.383 note. p. . the threats to it. From liberalism come the social ory. ix). He claims that CST is concerned with the creation and sustenance of the community Jesus willed and with the wider communal responsibility of Christians in the realms of political. He sums up his thesis thus: book). is characterized by both natural law thinking and a more dialogical approach.). Admittedly. Behind the breakdown of social unity lie several faulty concepts arising from the Enlightenment: false understandings of God ( by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. a social ethic acknowledging the communitarian quality of the self and society and open to the religious dimension of human life would find linkages with papal thought. The Catechism of the Catholic Church. as already shown. The title of his book encapsulates what Schuck believes is at the heart of all CST: the Divine concern for unity. agnosticism). It is the argument of the present work that the papal encyclicals have persistently offered a communitarian ethic linked to a critique of certain Enlightenment-based notions of God. Schuck sees CST as a theological social ethic. And yet all are written in the post-Leonine period. These documents. Schuck refers to Jesus’ great prayer in John 17: ’that they may all be one. 91. economic and cultural life (ibid. In fact. as described by Schuck. or rationalistic grounds would run counter to the encyclical tradition (p. subjectivism. cannot be harmonized in a document or series of documents. or in CST as a whole. problems threatening the Church and society at large. and the solutions to these threats (cf. deism. Conversely. including socio-political issues. 31. are thoroughly imbued with a natural law way of thinking about moral issues. Schuck is firmly committed to harmonizing the three periods. of the world (naturalism). and Evangelium Vitae (published after it).sagepub. even as we are one’ (cf. it is hard to see why all three ways of doing theology. a social ethic denying the communitarian character of self and society on atheistic. of the human person and community (social contract the- utilitarianism). Veritatis Splendor. pp. strongly critical of the liberalism of the Enlightenment and the destructive social practices springing from it. Pacem in Terris. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Yet. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly.

familial. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. as Schuck levels this kind of criticism at Roger Charles (cf. an individual detached from any community. His point is that concern for community is not to be taken for granted: it must be claimed and embodied and fought for against the rival ’liberal’ concem for autonomy and individualism. All rights reserved. But is it Catholic Social Teaching? Is it. 187).’ (p. as Schuck claims? Schuck is doing more than making the rather tautological claim that Catholic Social Teaching is about social matters. p. the communitarian approach that Schuck sees embodied in the encyclical tradition holds a very different view of the self and society. communal through and through. the specific terminology of ’communitarianism’ is not to be found there. with other selves&dquo. not an individualistic philosophy or way of life. It is because we are essentially social beings that the teaching of the popes. Schuck does well to highlight it and to point to sources in the papal tradition that support it. Schuck’s reluctance to select only the ’social’ encyclicals for his study: all the papal letters are social encyclicals! The Catholic faith is a social faith. especially in the preLeonine period. particularly. Liberalism includes centrally a misunderstanding of the self as an autonomous chooser of ends. so to speak.religious. This is an inspiring vision of the self and society. the individual ’invariably & by Ilie Chiscari on November 30.defined by the totality of its relations with other beings. .384 social disunity caused by the spirit of liberalism (in the five areas of social life mentioned above). This emphasis on the community dimension of CST is well supported in Church documents. freely choosing to do this or that without anything binding him/her to the community (cf. and cultural . and. It falsely understands society as constituted by a social contract. 176) and David Hollenbach (cf. Society is seen as characterized by the mutuality of embedded selves. with a ’radically unencumbered self’ floating from one area to another. according to Schuck. p. 187. the one and only unifying factor in CST. Schuck’s main argument in favour of a ’communitarian’ core for CST. There has been an attack of sorts on the very idea that society is ‘real’. is essentially social teaching. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. whereby one is obligated towards others only because one chooses to be for one’s own self-interest (cf. This attack comes from the Enlightenment liberal view of the individual as an isolated atom and not an essentially social being. however. and so neither can form a coherence theory for CST. more particularly. 179). However. This interest in mutual aid is reflected in all five realms of human interaction . economic. p. even though specific terms are not used and specific recommendations change over Downloaded from http://itq. Hence. seems to be that communitarianism lies behind the varying terminology with their theological and practical approaches. the giving and receiving of mutual aid is a natural and fulfilling part of one’s social living. By way of contrast. arguing that ’natural law theory’ and ’human dignity’ terms are not to be found in the papal letters. This is somewhat ironic. political. Thus. quoting Unger).sagepub. 187). The self is seen as ’embedded’ in society. avoiding a segregation of social life into separate areas.

In this encyclical. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. or even above. the self subsumed by its social roles and the disappearance of the ’I’ into the ’we’. Downloaded from http://itq. is a correct view of the human person and of the person’s unique value’ (#11). All rights reserved. Documents in the Leonine and post-Leonine periods show a pronounced concern with community. Mater et Magistra (#219) is a good example: ’This teaching [CST] rests on one basic principle: individual human beings are the foundation. It is very clearly stressed in Centesimus Annus. the guiding principle of Pope Leo’s encyclical. as also the fact that they are raised in the plan of Providence to an order of reality which is above nature. However. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. or even prohibit.’ This paragraph supports Schuck’s point that CST does not see human persons as isolated atoms or society as merely a social contract. is the principle which inspires the Church’s social doctrine’ (#53). but there is also an increasing concern with individuality. There is a danger.sagepub. There is a need. Later. for members of society to criticize their society for its and this implies an ability to stand outside. for men are by nature social beings.385 Might not the same be said about ’natural law’ and ’human dignity’? It seems to me that CST often describes its central point in language that unites the three themes of community. the way traced out by Christ himself. CST is not focused exclusively on the communal. in addition. This. in a certain sense. human dignity and natural law. Pope John Paul II claims that ’the main thread and. it suggests more than an exclusively communitarian approach by highlighting other themes. He quotes from modem communitarian thinkers but not from popes. quoting from his first encyclical. and of all of the Church’s social doctrine. and by emphasizing the transcendence of the human person as the central issue in CST. such necessary criticism of the community. This fact must be recognized. We have thus arrived at a central and highly controversial point in the shortcomings. It is not surprising. the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption&dquo. There is a kind of ’polar’ approach in CST where the individual and the communal dimensions of human life get strong emphases. [Redemptoris Hominis. not the human community exclusively..‘this human person is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission . That is necessarily so. The transcendence of the human person as the central point of CST is emphasized in John Paul 11’s development of the tradition. therefore. I think. by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. he writes &dquo. The human person is emphasized.. the cause time. that too great a concern with community and the social nature of the human person might lead to a downplaying of the individual. An overemphasis on the communal might inhibit. and the end of every social institution. but neither eliminates the other. rather than exclusively relying on a communitarian approach. #14]. . and this alone. one’s society in some way. that Schuck does not quote passages from the papal documents to support his claim that exclusively ’communitarian’ understandings of the self and society are embodied in the encyclical tradition as a whole.

In addition.ll Unfortunately. 192-193).the refuge and support (perhaps the only one) of the person. in addition. Downloaded from http://itq. . whereas today’s world gives primacy to the community over the person &mdash. This development came into its own at the Second Vatican Council. Liberals and Communitarians (Oxford: Blackwell. such as Alasdair by Ilie Chiscari on November 30.liberal’ debate. But he might also have clarified what exactly ’communitarianism’ is. Whilst emphasizing the necessity of community. it is good that Schuck mentions this. these documents highlight the human person and his or her conscience. Is the picture of liberalism that Schuck paints. a ’straw man’? Is it truly fair to liberal thinking to see it as advocating an understanding of the human person as a totally unattached atom? Is there not. presumably) and such secular thinkers. 2001).bless Her . a highly interesting and significant disagreement. With Leo XIII. and 362-9. fifth edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Charles Taylor. All rights reserved. for example. Mulhall and A. 232-3. Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Childress. He does mention at the very end of the book that several secular communitarian analyses and critiques ’possess an uncanny relationship with encyclical teachings’. Smith. 51-52). gives primacy to the person over the community [note omitted]. It could be argued that Rerum Novarum was the beginning of a new appreciation by the Church of the ’world’ and its historical problems. This is no doubt true and such a dialogue necessary and welcome. In our age of civilisation. mentioning several of the most well-known communitarians.386 ‘communitarian . or situate his interpretation of papal teaching within its context. Its most ’social’ documents are Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes. and discussed various issues in the debate between it and ’liberalism’. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. a new beginning occurred. During the reign of Pius IX. the Church. 1992) for a survey and analysis of the debate. See S. and Michael Walzer (pp. It is interesting in this regard to read Maritain’s comments in The Peasant of the Garonne (London: Geoffrey Chapman. ibid. the Church will increasingly become . 12 11. Those unfortunate clerics who do not see that would do well to reread the Pastoral Constitution’ (51). Michael Sandel. He sees this relationship or resemblance as an opportunity for dialogue between the religious social teaching of the popes (and the Church as a whole. the Church had been extremely negative towards secular developments and took on a kind of ’siege mentality’. and an attempt to apply the Gospel in the context of concrete social questions. Schuck does not advert clearly to this debate. communitarian approach to CST will highlight the elements of the tradition that are most critical of the dangers of liberalism whilst missing the elements that are more positive about its possibilities? It might be a mistake to read the papal encyclicals as wholly an attack on the Enlightenment and liberalism. he laments the misuse of his phrase ’personalist communitarianism’ emphasizing the communal over the personalist (cf. A concise discussion of it can be found in T. which orientated the Church and its teaching towards the ’world’ in a much more definite and positive way. 1968) on Gaudium et Spes: ’In that community of persons which is a society. two of the most important documents in the modern development of CST. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.sagepub. the Church began to stop seeing all liberalism as evil. in keeping with the demands of truth. a danger that an exclusively. These comments anticipate much of my argument here. 12. Beauchamp and J.

Downloaded from http://itq. to critique the received traditions and the flawed status quo. adjust. 15. Sacks acknowledges the Enlightenment’s achievements (though he sees them as only partial and seriously flawed). a dominant feature of modemity. note omitted. serious errors in the Enlightenment...’13 There might be a way of combining both the individual and the communal: ’A more accurate picture is that we inherit social roles and goals. especially chapter 19 on ’Politics and the art of balance’. especially the atheistic and naturalistic aspects of its by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. 2000). and sometimes even replace traditions with new conceptions that adjust and foster community values. The liberal view is quite dominant in the Western world. risks. There was a need to emphasize the individual and his or her autonomy. Individuals and groups alike progressively interpret. such an alienation of liberal thought and thinkers is undesirable. However. the Church to attempt to reconcile personal autonomy with communal responsibility rather than reject the individual in favour of the community. of course. certainly. and (2) either we protect radical autonomy in decision-making or we protect communal determination of social goals against the individual. Must all modern liberals view CST as entirely alien to them? Surely. . All rights reserved. This book also provides a fine bibliography for those who might wish to further explore the whole communitarian debate. This liberal outlook is entirely compatible with communal interests. seem inaccurate to interpret CST as a total rejection of the Enlightenment and the modern world it led to.15 This is particularly evident in recent Church teaching. but it is necessary that we continue to try to find one. the Church seems to be taking a more dialogical approach to the world (as Schuck admits). Second edition (London: Vintage. Schuck claims. 14. and he is critical of MacIntyre’s negative approach to modernity. See Sacks.’14 Finding a compatibility will surely not be easy. . Perhaps Schuck has here fallen into a particular ’trap’ faced by communitarianism : ’Communitarians present us with two false dichotomies: (1) either liberal accounts of rights and justice have priority or the communal good has priority. and the utilitarian and social contract aspects of its social ethics. Ibid. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. The Politics of Hope. then.387 There were. We then critique. Might there not have been some truth in the emphasis and some wisdom in the questioning? It would. But surely there were real issues that needed to be addressed at the time. Since the time of John XXIII. and mistakes. 368. namely pluralism. revise. is fostering the unity of community. and it would seem to be contrary to the attempt of the Church to reach out to the modem world. Principles of Biomedical Ethics.sagepub. and attempt to improve our beliefs over time through free discussion and collective arrangements. It is instructive to contrast the communitarian thought of Jonathan Sacks with that of Schuck. We would expect. communitarian sees this as a debate between liberal autonomy and dependence. The central concern of CST. modernity is hardly likely to just disappear. 13. 294. though the process is far from complete and not without problems. Schuck is correct to note how CST criticizes these. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. therefore. Liberals and Communitarians.

pluralist democracy and the more demanding requirements of conscience before God as a member of the Church. one to concern! 19. In fact. by his simplification of the community issue. He tends to elide the distinction between the religious. one’s family.he is not the first Charles distinguishes several natural law theories. All rights reserved. in its turn. as he claims is the thesis of Roger Charles (pp. is highly complex. Downloaded from http://itq. The Social Teaching of Vatican II (Oxford: Plater/San Francisco: Ignatius. which base their ’moral recommendations’ on ’an eclectic assortment of scriptural statements. requires that one make a clear distinction between the kind of civil freedom appropriate in a modern constitutional. McLaren. Something of this distinction is suggested by Dignitatis Humanae. overlapping. the political and the social. .sagepub. and individuals in community. one’s nation. therefore. and customary practices’ (p. One way of finding common ethical ground between the earthly and the heavenly cities. Charles with D. My belonging to the Church is not the same as my belonging to the nation. in a community of communities. as defined by the Council. is through ’natural law’. 18. The civil community. in that it implies that one belongs to a single community with these five aspects having equal importance. Understanding the true nature of religious freedom. at least partially. As individuals we belong to several different. This terminology is a salutary reminder that these issues are not an exclusively modern to confuse natural law theory with natural law itself . one’s Church. holding different views of life and morality. and this complexity should be respected by CST.16 It is not a simple matter of the individual versus the community. Schuck sees this as a radical contradiction of past papal ’teachings’ or ’principles’ (cf. 64-71.17 Matters are complicated further by our belonging to two ’cities’. The reality is much more complicated. economic and cultural realms may be misleading. as do my communal responsibilities to each. is made up of several communities.&dquo. but his difficulty with it might well be caused. 17. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. which declared the right of all to religious freedom. for example. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. This notion of a ’community of communities’ is a central feature in the communitarianism of Sacks. for example. Schuck can find no evidence for it in the pre-Leonine letters. The question of unity. Why exclude natural law from being understood and expressed in 16. This is a puzzling argument. Schuck seems do so. 176). p. patristic teachings. it is a matter of the individual.’ is a common element unifying CST. Consequently. This point is clearly made by John Courtney Murray in his commentary on the Declaration (Dignitatis Humanae) in the Abbott translation of the Vatican II documents. the City of Man and the City of God. 144). between secular and religious communities. Schuck seems to have a rather negative attitude towards natural law.388 is not dealt with though often adequately. between the world and the Church. familial. He firmly rej ects the idea that ’natural law theory&dquo. political. communities. 174-80). the identities ’given’ to me by these two communities differ. 1982).com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. Schuck’s constant listing of religious. R. cf.

87. he looks for a unifying factor and finds it in communitarianism. This is. the least developed. Thomas. He allows the earliest period. This is a succinct description of the Catholic teaching on natural law. ironically. and this leads to him settling for a ’lowest common denominator’ type of coherence. Reclaiming the Tradition for Christian Ethics. an ahistorical approach that fails to realise how the richer. by Divine Wisdom which orders every being towards its end: this eternal law is known both by man’s natural reason (hence it is ’natural law’).com by Ilie Chiscari on November 30.2’The basic idea is that there are objective criteria for social ethics. on the Downloaded from http://itq. Of course. This good is established. Eerdmans Publishing Company. an optional theology or theory. . to have too much influence. 23. which.) Natural law is not something that began with St. 60-61 and 86-87. it would seem. Grand Rapids. and . and only recognizes it when neo-Thomistic or neo-scholastic terminology is used. Mich. 21. which guide the social recommendations of the Church. more developed documents of later periods can include and draw out explicitly the implicit insights of earlier teaching./Cambridge UK: William B. Schuck fails to include an adequate understanding of the historical development of doctrine in his analysis and evaluation of the three periods of papal encyclicals. and fails to account for chronological development. natural law is illuminated by Divine Revelation.389 scripture. as the eternal law. 79 and 63 . Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. A major papal treatment of natural law was published after Schuck’s book Veritatis Splendor. Ibid. Charles’s book that is the object of Schuck’s criticism is about the social teaching of Vatican II. all Christian doctrinal development and application is founded explicit and implicit richness of the earliest Christian period. (In practice. Ibid. 1999. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. See Jean Porter.23 20. patristic writings and customs?20 It would seem that Schuck has a narrow understanding of natural law. He treats the three periods as if they were contemporaneous. the Apostolic. the first papal encyclical devoted exclusively to fundamental moral theology. in principle accessible to human reason. Natural Law and Divine God’s supernatural Revelation (hence it is called ’divine law’). is how Schuck sees it. one which does not allow it to be treated as merely one way of approaching ethics. Here is what it says in #72 about the relationship of natural law and morality: specifically - The morality of acts is defined by the relationship of man’s freedom with the authentic good. and it is not confined to the Leonine period of papal encyclicals. After laying out the contents of the three sets of documents. in other words. 22.21 The passages Charles refers to in his exposition of the Council’s teaching on social ethics and natural law are mainly Dignitatis Humanae #14 and Gaudium et Spes ## 24.sagepub. All rights reserved. for an integral and perfect way .

is divided into two parts.sagepub. the other is the necessity to answer the changing needs of societies. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II. The teaching of the Church regarding our moral obligation to search for the truth is still as true as it always was. The periodical Catholic Dossier devoted an issue to the interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae in MarchApril 2000. The interplay between these two sets of considerations .permanent principles and their variable 24. 24 When one examines Schuck’s lists of changes/contradictions. et passim). It can happen that when concrete situations change. This does not square with the documents themselves. what has changed is the political situation and the make-up of society (pace Schuck). Schuck thus emphasizes. Everything is a matter of papal teaching and moral principle to Schuck. the second with applications to the modern historical situation (this is adverted to in #23. including particularly informative articles by Russell Hittinger and Kevin Flannery. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. It is a central feature of Catholic moral theology that not all moral matters are moral absolutes (though some are) and that application to concrete situations is needed. See also Pietro Pavan. nor with the central tradition of Catholic moral theology. one finds that many of them might be better understood as changes in emphasis or as variations in method or strategy. referred to in note 16 above. also ##43-44). mistakenly. III (London : Burns & by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. and applications to specific situations on the other. On this. cf. John Paul II distinguishes between definitive judgements and less authoritative commentary at the end of #3 of Centesimus Annus. Vol. 176-7. 1967). Gaudium et Spes. Here is how one commentator describes the correct way to understand CST and its ’changes’: The role of the Church in society is explained by two main consid. the first dealing with the more immutable truths.390 In order to attack Charles’s (supposed) reliance on natural law as the criterion for coherence in CST. situations that can include factual claims about contingent matters. Downloaded from http://itq. a ’teaching’ can change without contradicting the former ’teaching’. But Schuck fails to make the distinction between core moral principles on the one hand. All rights reserved. the many changes in CST. for example. ’Declaration on Religious Freedom’ in Herbert Vorgrimler (general editor). 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. This is what happened with the Church’s teaching on religious freedom and one’s right to search for the truth without being coerced by the State. . They are described as changes in papal ’teachings’ and in ’principles’ that from the point of view of natural law ought to be immutable (cf. pp. erations : one is the permanent conscience of the Church of having to announce the Gospel to all peoples. see the introduction to and commentary on Dignitatis Humanae by John Courtney Murray. This is the second reason why he rejects ’natural law theory’ as a principle of coherence for CST. Schuck considers some changes to be serious contradictions within the tradition. nor with the opinion of many commentators on CST. In fact.

original emphasis. for cross-cultural and cross-community moral agreement and co-operation. United nations and a universal declaration of human rights cannot exist except on the basis of a common humanity and a shared understanding of this common humanity. Again. There is a great richness in the tradition of CST. too. 28. Random House Trade Paperbacks. This approach emphasises the essential role of community tradition in mediating meaning. at least in its basic requirements. Cf.) Downloaded from http://itq.] "a bridge upon which we can meet and talk"’. made reference to the ’bridge’ metaphor in her comment about the UN in its earliest years: that ’until something better comes along. accessible apart from community. expressed in its natural law tradition.sagepub. and the search for agreement on the common good. we note the communitarian rejection of liberalism’s notion of the isolated individual who chooses the good by some non-historical.26 The problem is that the communitarian approach could end in ethical relativism. The natural law dimension. xix. and so rejects the theory.are the criteria that we will use the Church sees in examining the way its role in different social and historical contexts. 51. A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (New York. All rights reserved. Natural law thinking and dialogue can help provide this bridge. It encourages discussion and debate.&dquo. this is why I have not focused on it by Ilie Chiscari on November 30. (Natural law is treated explicitly. A communitarian focus can help the natural law dimension from becoming overly individualistic and ahistorical. 27. 2007 © 2003 Irish Theological Quarterly. H. at 149-50. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Schuck’s emphasis on the communitarian dimension of CST can be very useful. can help to highlight possibilities. 26. who played a major role in the origin of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Perhaps Schuck thinks of natural law as this abstract set of ahistorical truths. Schuck seems to want to divide them.. not least the isolation of different communities on their ’islands’ of meaning without any ’bridge’ to other communities. can be a positive approach to the problems of pluralism and the social challenges of modernity.&dquo. Schuck does not deal with Hollenbach in any detail. ’Intellectual Solidarity’. abstracted method. human rights. in its turn. This would have serious consequences. and the transcendence of the human person. human rights/dignity and natural law. it is [. 2001).27 Catholic ’faith in reason’. It encourages unity.391 applications . based on objective moral principles ’written into’ our common humanity. . Carrier. 2002). can a focus on human dignity. especially chapter 6. David Hollenbach. though somewhat generally. but only as long as it avoids being exclusive. Eleanor Roosevelt. The Common Good and Christian Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Why reduce it to one exclusive approach? 25. 1990). This seems to me to strongly suggest a necessary and valuable combination of the language and concerns of communitarianism.. The Social Doctrine of the Church Revisited: A Guide for Study (Vatican City: Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. quoted in Mary Ann Glendon. Why is Schuck so insistent that these are changes of such seriousness that they disprove the natural law coherence theory? Perhaps it is his communitarian approach. and attacks the idea that one can know the good independently of the specific communal tradition. Perhaps a similar reason grounds his rejection of the ’human dignity’ approach of Hollenbach: it leads to the delineation of human rights that transcend particular communities and situations. So.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful