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    Modern culture has cut out the highest part of the human soul, the part that longs for eternity and for spiritual transcendence
    of the here and now, the part that seeks the presence of the Incarnate God in worship and daily life and even hopes for a dim
    reflection of the city of God in social and political institutions.  Instead of focusing on eternal life, we have become absorbed
    in one-dimensional materialism, trivialized life and death, and learned to avoid thinking or talking about life after death.
        -Robert P. Kraynak, Christian Faith and Modern Democracy

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
        -William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming (1922)

First things first; let me state for the record that the review that follows will be prone to bias.  Mr. Kraynak was not only the best professor I ever had, he was also quite possibly the only one who was avowedly conservative, in either college or law school. I had him for a January course on Socrates and Nietzsche and for an American political theory course, in which we spent much time on The Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America.  At a time when the tide in academia was turning against dead white Western men, Mr. Kraynak was making their ideas come alive in the classroom.  For that, I, and every other student who's ever had the pleasure of studying with him, will be eternally grateful.  But, on to the business at hand...

This book grows out of the Frank M. Covey, Jr. Loyola Lectures in Political Analysis, that Mr. Kraynak delivered in 1998.  He takes note of the triumphalism with which liberal democracy has been proclaimed the end form of human government, and of the fact that even conservatism and Christianity have more or less embraced this notion, despite a long tradition of skepticism towards democracy on the part of conservatives in general and the Church in particular.    He then proceeds to a powerful argument that this embrace is a mistake, that Christians should keep some critical distance from democracy, and that they should realize that Christianity is more important to democracy than is democracy to Christianity.

This is the case because it is Christianity that provides the entire moral foundation upon which democracy is perilously perched.  It is, after all, Christianity that requires us to recognize that each individual has innate worth and dignity and it is this teaching that causes us to take each other into account.  He cites a wonderfully honest admission by the pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty, who refers to himself and other postmodern liberals as "freeloading atheists", because they wish to retain Christian morality but to jettison God, having found no philosophically coherent basis for a belief in human dignity in the absence God.  But, unfortunately for liberal democracy, Christianity does not consist of just a set of moral teaching and Christianity does not necessarily lead to nor require liberal democracy  :

    The difficulty is that modern democracy's need for a religious basis is no guarantee that one is readily available.  As disturbing
    as it might be for modern believers to admit, the critics of religion have a legitimate point: Christian faith is derived from a
    revealed book, the Bible, and from church traditions that are not necessarily liberal or democratic in their teachings.  The
    Christian notion of human dignity, for example, is derived from the biblical idea that human beings are made in the image
    and likeness of God.  But it is not clear if the Bible's idea of the divine image in man--the Imago Dei--entails political notions
    like democracy and human rights, in fact, many great theologians of the past understood it to be compatible with kingship,
    hierarchy, or authoritarian institutions.  The Christian view of human dignity is also qualified by a severe view of human
    sinfulness and by other difficult doctrines--such as, divine election, the hierarchical authority of the church, and the priority
    of duties to God and neighbor over individual rights.  These doctrines are not always easy to square with democratic norms
    of freedom and equality, nor are they easily discarded  without removing the core of Christian faith.

    Thus, we must face the disturbing dilemma that modern liberal democracy needs God, but God is not as liberal or as democratic
    as we would like Him to be.  [Italics in original]

What then is the appropriate stance for a Christian to take towards liberal democracy?  And what might a more fully and explicitly Christian political system look like?  These are the questions that this book seeks to answer.

Mr. Kraynak reiterates the classic conservative arguments against liberal democracy--those first stated by Edmund Burke and which Russell Kirk traced out as the consistent theme of conservative thought in the West--that it is too egalitarian, tending toward social and economic leveling; that it is too utilitarian, and has an insufficient moral basis; and that  it is based on a mistaken belief in Man's perfectibility.  But he also makes the specifically Christian argument that democracy simply sets its sights too low, that is it focuses upon the maximization of personal freedom and the satisfaction of material needs, rather than upon the achievement of a good and a Godly society :

    This is the illusion of modern humanism and progress--the illusion that human beings can redeem themselves through politics,
    technology, therapy, or social engineering.  This is a false hope for redemption because sin is too deep to be overcome by
    self-help methods; and death cannot be conquered by anything but an omnipotent God.

So, if it is necessary for us to redeem ourselves before God, and politics does not suffice to let us do so, then politics, political systems, and political institutions can only be means towards a higher end.  Liberal democracy can not be an end in itself, though it may, perhaps, be a useful means of approaching nearer to our desired ends.  Mr. Kraynak describes the legitimate ends that the great theologians, like Saint Augustine, thought the state could lead towards as follows :

    (1) civil peace or tranquility of order, meaning the basic good of preservation or security in a stable political regime;
    (2) moral virtue or moral order, meaning the higher good of justice, understood as the common good in which all parts of
    society receive their due, along with other moral virtues, such as courage, moderation, and prudence as well as civic friendship
    and some degree of political participation; and (3) Christian piety, meaning the highest good of recognizing God as the
    source of all earthly authority and more specifically of Christian faith by defending orthodoxy and punishing heresy as the
    church defined them.

Order, virtue, and piety are not exactly the ends towards which modern liberal democracy seems to be leading us, so how has it come to pass that modern Christianity has come to associate itself so closely with liberal democracy?  Mr. Kraynak explores  a number of movements in Western thought that have contributed to this development; they are :

    (1) Medieval constitutional ideas, such as representation and higher law; (2) The Protestant Reformation and its notions
    of individual conscience and covenanting communities; (3) Neoscholastic ideas of popular sovereignty...; (4) The role
    of the Enlightenment and liberalism in producing religions of reason and God-given natural rights; (5) The struggles of
    Christian churches against colonialism, slavery, and the industrial exploitation of workers; and (6) The Christian response
    to totalitarianism in the twentieth century.

But most important of all, he cites the influence of "Immanuel Kant's philosophy of freedom and his notion of the human person as a possessor of inalienable rights."  What Kant chiefly did was to come up with an appealing, though not ultimately convincing, way to free the idea of human dignity from strict dependence on Man having been created by God.  In Mr. Kraynak's estimation, Kant formulated :

    ...the ethical principles of human dignity that now shape Christian politics--namely, the infinite and absolute worth of every
    human being, the unconditional duty to treat everyone as an end not merely as a means..., and the moral imperative to respect
    the rights of persons in a liberal democratic political order.

If one accepts the Kantian formulation, as Mr. Kraynak convincingly argues that modern Christians have, then liberal democracy itself becomes a moral imperative, because it is the most effective way to vindicate these universal rights of all persons.

Yet, Mr. Kraynak argues that Christianity is rather hostile to this brand of unlimited human rights :

    In the first place, Christianity places duties to God and duties to one's neighbor before individual rights and cannot easily
    accept the proposition that people have the right to pursue happiness as they see fit, especially if that right leads to societies
    that are indifferent to God.  Second, Christianity's foundation on divine revelation implies a duty to accept transcendent truth
    as well as authoritative pronouncements about truth by a hierarchical church rather than to accept the dictates of individual
    conscience wherever they might lead.  Third, the Christian notion of original sin implies distrust of weak and fallible human
    beings to use rights properly; it instills a keen sense of how freedom can go awry and ultimately must view political freedom
    as a conditional rather than an absolute good.  Fourth, Christianity puts the common good above the rights of individuals,
    and its emphasis on the family and man's social nature conflicts with the individualism and privacy of rights.  Fifth, the
    Christian teaching about charity--whose essence is sacrificial love--makes the whole notion of rights seem selfish, as if
    the world owes something to me when I declare, 'I have my rights!'  Ultimately, of course, Christians cannot accept the
    premise of human autonomy or the natural freedom of the autonomous self that underlies most doctrines of rights.

Where Kant's philosophy places its emphasis on the individual and the rights that each individual asserts against the whole world, Christianity is concerned with a much broader picture, with the individual as he relates to God, family, society, and other individuals.  It can come as little surprise then that the triumph of Kant's vision has given us an utterly atomized political regime, in which individualism is so rampant that the society barely coheres any longer and there seems to be no greater concern for most people than the material well being of the self.  For almost two centuries there was a sufficient residue of Christian morality to hold things together, and the 20th century struggle with totalitarianism gave us the illusion that liberal democracy still served an elevated purpose, but particularly in the 1990s we saw how hollow our society had become, how materialistic, how demoralized.

And yet, even with all these criticisms, there is something undeniably attractive about liberal democracy, even, or especially, for a Christian.  For all its faults, liberal democracy has generally delivered a culture in which human suffering is alleviated more efficiently than in any other system and where human dignity is more fully recognized, whatever its basis.  What more is it that Christians have a right, even an obligation, to demand from politics?  It is here that Mr. Kraynak really challenges not just liberals and libertarians, who are well aware of the conservative critique of their philosophies, but conservatives and Christians as well, asking them to reimagine what kind of political regime we might have.

The most important assertion that Mr. Kraynak makes is that we must return to an Augustinian view of the world, as divided into the City of God, on the one hand, and the City of Man, on the other.  Separating the world into these two separate realms, one spiritual, the other material, allows for a Christian constitutionalism :

    On the one side, the spiritual realm consists of the church, the family, and the organizations and activities of Christian charity
    that are not merely private-voluntary associations (as liberalism would have us believe) nor "mediating structures" (as
    neoconservatives prefer to call them) but corporate spheres of spiritual authority derived from divine law.  They are part of
    God's created order, existing prior to, and independently of, the state and often outranking the state in moral worth even though
    they may be subject to the jurisdiction of the state in certain external respects.  Moreover, the spheres of spiritual authority are not
    inherently governed by principles of democratic consent or majority rule but have their own internal ordering principles from
    God's law that give them supernatural authority and mystical beauty.  In addition to upholding spheres of spiritual authority,
    Christian constitutionalism upholds spheres of temporal authority, which exist as a consequence of the Fall and of man's social
    and rational nature.  The latter make up the political regime in the broad sense, including the state, the economy, social classes,
    and the military.  These institutions are not specifically determined by divine law and are allowed greater latitude than spiritual
    matters; they are left to prudence or practical applications of natural law which seek to establish the best possible means to
    temporal happiness in accordance with the fallen but rational nature of man.

We can see then how dividing the world into the two cities serves to protect divinely ordained structures from interference by the state, practically removes them from the political sphere, while leaving less important topics to be dealt with politically, though still in accord with Christian prudence.

Mr. Kraynak discusses at some length the idea of Christian prudence, and how a return to such prudence will allow us to move away from the kind of Kantian view that makes it seem as if liberal democracy is a moral imperative, and away from the kind of pragmatism that a Richard Rorty espouses :

    Christian prudence in the precise sense is choosing the best means to temporal happiness in the conditions of the fallen world;
    and this approach is superior to uncompromising ethical idealism or unprincipled expedience.

This will allow us to choose something like liberal democracy (one assumes it would first have to be tempered by Christian constitutional principles),  if we determine that it is the best means of achieving material ends, but frees us from the illusion that it is a necessary end in itself.  Even someone who supports much of what Mr. Kraynak has to say will be taken aback by where the invocation of Christian prudence has historically led Christian thinkers :

    What, then, does prudence recommend as the best form of government in the temporal realm?  The answer may come as
    a surprise to those living in the present age: The best regime on the grounds of Christian prudence is not liberal democracy
    but a mixed regime, with the best choice being 'constitutional monarchy under God.'

But, to his credit, he does not shy away from the logic of his own arguments.  To the question of whether this is still the best choice, he answers :

    The answer, I think, is yes.  The movements to transform Christian politics in a democratic direction over the past several
    centuries have corrected some of the excesses of an authoritarian past and given greater attention to the material well-being
    of the great majority of people than the regimes of the past.  But the democratic movements have become too one-sided or
    one-dimensional themselves, tying Christianity too closely to liberal democracy and associated structures, such as capitalism,
    that are not always hospitable to Christian spiritual and moral life and that are not necessarily the best choice for the temporal
    realm.  What has been lost in the democratic age is respect for the hierarchical principle of authority and its beneficial effects
    in ordering and elevating the human soul.

Of course, one suspects that he harbors little hope, and no realistic expectation, that America will anytime soon adopt such a regime, but in his discussion of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, he shows that there is still much justification for such a system and that nations that are still in the process of establishing orderly government might do well to take this option seriously.

Lest the reader think this is all pie in the sky theorizing, Mr. Kraynak lays out some concrete proposals for how we could remoralize our own political realm, make it more of a reflection of the City of God, however dim, and protect the spiritual realm from further degradation :

    The legislative and judicial bodies of the modern democratic state need to lower the wall separating church and state in order
    to permit the traditional practices of nondenominational prayer in public schools, graduation ceremonies, official state events,
    courtrooms, military parades and funerals, as well as permitting faith-based prison chaplaincies and welfare programs.  The state
    also needs to protect the Christian family by promoting profamily legislation--such as the Defense of Marriage Act passed by
    the U. S. Congress in 1996, defending monogamous heterosexual marriage as the norm for official state purposes.  It should
    promote prolife legislation in order to protect the sanctity of innocent human life; and it should make divorce extremely difficult
    or nearly impossible in order to protect the union of male and female and to encourage the procreation and proper rearing of children.
    Protecting the family would also mean some curbs on contemporary feminism to ensure that the divinely ordained and natural
    distinctions between men and women are not lost in today's unisex society.  This would mean, for example, opposing the military
    experiment of gender-integrated training and permitting women in combat.  And it would entail reeducating modern citizens to
    reject the unnatural and unspiritual idea that men and women are simply interchangeable and that motherhood and homemaking
    are unworthy tasks of modern educated women.

Much of this will seem like merely the familiar litany of conservative social legislative proposals, but Mr. Kraynak makes it clear that these are not simply political positions that need to fight it out with other coequal alternatives, but moral necessities that must precede the rough and tumble of mere political skirmishing.  The legislation produced by the political process--the city of Man--must serve the end of trying to create something approaching a city of God, else Christians are obligated to question the legitimacy of the system.  And the issue that this invokes for people of every political and religious persuasion is that if liberal democracy, instead of leading towards the city of God, is actually leading away from it, if liberal democracy has become antithetical to the very Christianity that provides its moral support, then how can democracy survive in the long run?  And if it can not survive this self-inflicted damage, then shouldn't we all take a more skeptical look at liberal democracy and examine some alternatives?

Conservatives have been warning about the inherent contradictions of liberal democracy for two hundred years now, but the institution has proven relatively durable and has served humanity fairly well; so why heed the warnings now?  Well, last year the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that Britain had become a post-Christian nation.  This kind of statement is disheartening enough by itself, but even more worrisome is that no one seems to have seriously disagreed, nor do many seem to have cared over much.  But if Mr. Kraynak's analysis is correct, then surely Britain is also on its way to becoming a post-democratic nation.  If Christian morality is a necessary predicate of liberal democracy, then how long can democracy limp along after this moral basis is discarded?  America is surely not as far down this troublesome trail as is Britain, or the rest of Europe, but the experience of recent years holds some scary lessons.  The American 1990s were a time of unprecedented prosperity in world history, yet who did not sense that something had gone fundamentally wrong with our society?  For all our material wealth, what larger purpose did we serve as a people during that decade?  What did it say about us as a nation that we were willing to tolerate : Bill Clinton as president; the portrayal of "alternative" lifestyles in tv and movies; abortion on demand; easy Internet access to even the most abhorrent forms of pornography; and all the other myriad social ills with which we are so familiar, but towards which we often tried to turn a blind eye.  Having largely surrendered to a kind of self-loathing multiculturalism, the 90s were a time when it became bad form to seek to vindicate Christian values and the inheritance of Western Civilization. It seemed for a good long while there as if we were headed to the point that the great conservative critic Albert Jay Nock predicted,  where :

    [H]ere may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself.  Economism can build a society which is rich,
    prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being.  It can not build one which is
    lovely, one which has savour and depth, and which exercises the irresistible attraction that loveliness wields.  Perhaps by the
    time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored by its own hideousness, and may
    despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.

Some will say this goes too far, that it is too dismissive of the good that has been accomplished by the raising of people's living standards, but who, on September 11th, did not welcome the chance to leave behind the atomized, demoralized, utterly empty culture we were becoming.  Surely the eagerness with which the entire society embraced the notion that everything had changed suggests that we were just waiting for a change to come, suggests a monumental dissatisfaction with what we had become.  And though his advisors backed him off to a more politically correct position, one can not fail to realize that the aspect of the President's summons to arms that has really resonated with Americans is the way in which he has cast this as a crusade, a war of Christianity and Western values against an enemy who opposes both.  One can hardly have failed to notice that the events of September 11th unleashed a torrent of God-talk and a public reaffirmation of Christian belief that stunned the rationalist/atheist/leftist intellectual elites into a discombobulated silence and that completely changed the tone of American political discussion.  This radical return to a more morally and religiously centered political discourse may well prove to be short lived; it may be little more than the last gasp of religious belief in the West.  But it might, on the other hand, mark a turning point, a first shaky step on a path back towards a politics that seeks to create that dim reflection of the city of God.  If, by chance, this latter scenario is possible, then Mr. Kraynak has laid out a compelling vision for how we might salvage the city of Man.  If the former is true, if  America too is to become a post-Christian nation, then Mr. Kraynak has offered a warning that those who welcome this eventuality would do well to take seriously.  If, in the eagerness to be done with the restraints of Christianity, liberalism end up destroying liberal democracy too, will it have served humanity well here in the material realm?  And suppose, just suppose for a second, that Christianity represents transcendent truth and that Man's Fall, our sinful and mortal natures, can only be redeemed by omnipotent God, then mustn't we owe Him a greater obligation than to tend to our own selfish desires?

Andrew Delbanco, who TIME magazine named America's best social critic has said that :

    Whether we welcome or mourn this loss, it is the central and irreversible fact of modern history that we no longer inhabit
    a world of transcendence.

Yet, in his book, The Death of Satan, he writes that Man can not exist without a belief in evil and when interviewed by Bill Moyers on September 12th he said :

    I don't see how anyone can have experienced even indirectly as you and I sitting here have the events of the last day and
    not take seriously the existence of evil.

Having denied the existence of transcendent truth, this poor benighted secular humanist has no recourse but to reach out to it to explain the world around him.  Meanwhile, in a recent issue of The Prospect, Edward Skidelsky has written that :

    [T]he fate of liberalism is-in the precise sense the word-tragic. A tragic fate is one that proceeds not from external and accidental
    causes, but according to an inexorable internal logic. This is precisely the situation of liberalism. It must sever itself from its
    historical roots in Christianity, yet in doing so it severs itself from the source of its own life. Liberalism must follow a course
    that leads directly to its own atrophy. It must extirpate itself.

In these authors, and in others, we see an emerging strain of thought on the Left that liberalism is untenable without religion, specifically without Christianity, and yet it is intolerable to the Left to accept Christianity.  These folks seem content to turn liberal democracy into some kind of suicide pact, rather than reexamine their hostility to religious beliefs.  What Mr. Kraynak has done here is to demonstrate that Christians need not play a docile Thelma to liberalism's Louise and take this plunge over the precipice, but can, indeed must, instead recognize that liberal democracy is not an end in itself, but merely a means, and perhaps not the best one, to achieve more important ends.  In so doing, he has written a truly fascinating book, one that I fear too few people will ever be forced to grapple with.  One can only hope that a mass market edition of the book will one day be forthcoming and reach the wide audience it warrants.


Grade: (A)


Robert Kraynak Links:
    -Robert Kraynak : Professor of Political Science (1978) (Colgate University) (
    -BOOK SITE : Christian Faith and Modern Democracy God and Politics in the Fallen World by Robert Kraynak (University of Notre Dame Press)
-ESSAY: The American Founders and Their Relevance Today: (Robert P. Kraynak, June 17, 2015, Modern Age)
    -ESSAY: Conservative Critics of Modernity: Can They Turn Back the Clock? (Robert P. Kraynak, Fall 2001, Intercollegiate Review) (PDF)
    -ESSAY: Tocqueville's Constitutionalism (Robert P. Kraynak, December 1987, The American Political Science Review)
    -ESSAY: Hobbes on Barbarism and Civilization (Robert P. Kraynak, February 1983, The Journal of Politics)
    -ESSAY: Hobbes's Behemoth and the Argument for Absolutism (Robert P. Kraynak, December 1982, The American Political Science Review)
    -ESSAY: John Locke: From Absolutism to Toleration (Robert P. Kraynak, March 1980, The American Political Science Review)
    -ESSAY : Robert P. Kraynak. "Catholicism and The Declaration of Independence: Principled Harmony or Prudent Alliance?" (Paper prepared for delivery at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, August 30-September 2, 2001)
    -ESSAY : The New and the Old Law : How John Finnis reads Thomas Aquinas (Robert P. Kraynak, Claremont Institute, APSA Annual Meeting Program 2000)
    -ESSAY : Generational politics in the '96 election (Robert Kraynak, September 1996, Colgate Scene)
    -REVIEW : of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn by Daniel J. Mahoney (Robert P. Kraynak, First Things)
    -REVIEW: Aquinas for the Democratic Age: a review of Liberty, Wisdom, and Grace: Thomism and Democratic Political Theory, by John P. Hittinger (Robert Kraynak, Spring 2004, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of God and Man in the Law: The Foundations of Anglo-American Constitutionalism by Robert Lowry Clinton (Robert P. Kraynak, The American Political Science Review)
    -REVIEW: of After Ideology: Recovering the Spiritual Foundations of Freedom by David Walsh (Robert P. Kraynak, The American Political Science Review)
    -SIGNATORY : Don't Let the President Lie with Impunity (Wall Street Journal, December 1998)
    -Grant Data Matrix : Colgate University (Media Transparency)
    -ARTICLE : Wagner And Kraynak Debate Conservatism Vs. Liberalism (Erika Miller, March 1999,  Maroon-News)
    -REVIEW: of The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit by A.J. Conyers (David Gordon, The Mises Review)
    -ESSAY: Jaffa Versus Mansfield: Does America Have A Constitutional or A "Declaration of Independence" Soul? (Thomas G. West, November 29, 2002, The Claremont Institute)
    -ARCHIVES: "robert p. kraynak" (Find Articles)
    -INTERVIEW: Church-State Relations in America and Europe: Robert Kraynak on America's Civil Religion (ZENIT, 25 MARCH 2005)
    -INTERVIEW: Church-State Relations in America and Europe (Part 2): Robert Kraynak on the Different Paths of Development (MARCH 26, 2005,
    -INTERVIEW: Church-State Relations in America and Europe (Part 3): Robert Kraynak on Catholicism and Americanism (MARCH 27, 2005,
    -REVIEW: Aquinas for the Democratic Age: A review of Liberty, Wisdom, and Grace: Thomism and Democratic Political Theory, by John P. Hittinger (Robert Kraynak, Spring 2004, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World by Robert P. Kraynak (Damon Linker, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World By Robert P. Kraynak (Ken Masugi, Religion & Liberty)
    -REVIEW: of Christian Faith and Modern Democracy (Robert F. Drinan, America)
    -REVIEW: of Christian Faith and Modern Democracy (Patrick J. Deneen, Commonweal)
    -REVIEW: of Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World by Robert P. Kraynak (Douglas A. Ollivant, Markets & Morality)
    -REVIEW: of History and Modernity in the Thought of Thomas Hobbes by Robert P. Kraynak (Joshua Mitchell, The American Political Science Review)
    -REVIEW: of Educating the Prince: Essays in Honor of Harvey Mansfield, edited by Mark Blitz and William Kristol (Damon Linker, National Review)

    The Word from Rome: The pope�s too liberal; down on American culture; champion of •dynamic orthodoxy�; Disowning •primacy of conscience�; hubbub in Holland; hot, hot, hot; some brief notes (JOHN L. ALLEN JR., 8/22/03, National Catholic Reporter)
Although the movement has largely flown under media radar, John Paul faces a growing conservative opposition to this embrace of liberalism, understood in the classic sense.

–I wish the Pope were right,” said Catholic thinker Robert Kraynak of Colgate University, –but I don�t think it�s working out the way he expected. Human rights are not being used to serve the whole truth about God and man, despite the Pope�s continuous reminders.”

Who are these critics? In addition to Kraynak, they include influential Anglo-Saxon Catholic intellectuals such as Alasdair MacIntyre, David Schindler, and Tracey Rowland, whose works are fast becoming required reading in conservative Catholic circles, even if they represent, for now, a minority view. Most Anglo-Saxon Catholics, as creatures of Western culture, tend to take its compatibility with their religious beliefs for granted. [...]

Kraynak, in his 2001 book Christian Faith and Modern Democracy, lists five reasons why Christianity should be resistant to the ideology of human rights:

--Duties to God and neighbor come before one�s own rights.

--Pronouncements of a hierarchically structured church grounded in divine revelation take precedence over individual conscience.

--Original sin implies distrust of weak and fallible human beings.

--The common good must come before individuals.

--Charity and sacrificial love are higher goods than the potentially selfish assertion of rights.

Some of these thinkers believe the concept of human rights can be –redeemed” by giving it a Christian content, which is John Paul�s project. Others, such as Kraynak and MacIntyre, believe it would be better to abandon the language of –rights” altogether. [...]

I reached Kraynak by telephone at Colgate to discuss this negative judgment about Western, especially American, culture.

–I share that to a large degree,” Kraynak said. –The whole Enlightenment underlay is the problem.”

Kraynak argued, in fact, that the sexual abuse scandals in the American Church have their roots here.

–I trace the scandals to the corrosive effect of American culture on the Church,” Kraynak said. –It started with the sexual revolution, plus the unwillingness of the hierarchy to assert its authority in the proper way. They more or less concluded that we share with liberalism a concern for social justice, so sexual ethics aren�t so important.” [...]

I asked Kraynak which figures in the American hierarchy he felt were most sympathetic to his concerns. He named Cardinals Francis George and Avery Dulles, along with Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska.

–They are keenly aware of the tensions between Catholicism and American culture, but they are in a minority, as far as I can tell.”

Obviously many Catholics would have reservations about the way Kraynak sizes things up, but he represents an important current of opinion, raising serious questions about the spiritual and moral dangers of consumer culture. This is a familiar discourse from the left; what is intriguing about this movement is that its energy and center of gravity is on the right, seeking to combine doctrinal orthodoxy with a strong counter-cultural impulse.

    -ESSAY: Anthropological and Ethical Thoughts on Whether Domestic Partnerships Should Have Same Legal Status as the Family (Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, September 30, 1998, L'Osservatore Romano)
    -ESSAY: Ten Rules on Resisting Satan (Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi)
    -ESSAY: Cardinal damned for reviving Satan: Frontrunner for Pope writes 10 rules to resist temptation (Rory Carroll, March 5, 2001, The Guardian )
    -PROFILE: Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi (Daily Catholic, 12/22/99)
    -ESSAY: Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi poised to be the next Pope (Finbarr Slatery, August 08, 2002 , The Kingdom)
    -ESSAY: 21st Century Pope: Papal succession is a hot - but whispered - topic among Catholics of all ranks. Here's a tip sheet on the strongest candidates (JEFF ISRAELY, 12/16/02, TIME Europe)
    -ESSAY: Betting on the Next Pope (Peter Gould, 12/05/02, BBC)

    -Avery Cardinal Dulles: Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society (Fordham University)
    -Avery Dulles, S.J. (Reflections in Jesuit Ministry)
    -Cardinal Avery Dulles Online (Christopher Blosser)
    -EXCERPT: Models of the Church (Avery Dulles)
    -ESSAY: The Papacy for a Global Church (Avery Dulles, S.J., July 15, 2000, AMERICA)
    -ESSAY: Two Languages of Salvation: The Lutheran/Catholic Joint Declaration (Avery Dulles, December 1999, First Things)
    -ESSAY: True and False Reform (Avery Cardinal Dulles, August/September 2003, First Things)
    -ESSAY: The Population of Hell (Avery Cardinal Dulles, May 2003, First Things)
    -ESSAY: Religious Freedom: Innovation and Development (Avery Cardinal Dulles, December 2001, First Things)
    -ESSAY: Enjoying and Making Use of a Responsible Freedom (Rev. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Sep/Oct 2001, Religion & Liberty)
    -ESSAY: Catholicism & Capital Punishment (Avery Cardinal Dulles, April 2001, First Things)
    -ESSAY: Can Philosophy Be Christian? (Avery Dulles, April 2000, First Things)
    -ESSAY: Are We Speaking the Same Language?: What Catholics really believe about justification--and why defining our terms makes all the difference. (Donald Bloesch and Father Avery Dulles, 11/01/99, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY: Should the Church Repent? (Avery Dulles, December 1998, First Things)
    -ESSAY: The Ways We Worship (Avery Dulles, March 1998, First Things)
    -ESSAY: Evangelizing Theology (Avery Dulles, March 1996, First Things)
    -ESSAY: John Paul II and the Truth about Freedom (Avery Dulles, August/September 1995, First Things)
    -ESSAY: The Challenge of the Catechism (Avery Dulles, January 1995, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. By George Weigel (Avery Dulles, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity. By John R. Quinn (Avery Dulles, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. By Miroslav Volf (Avery Dulles, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism. By Carl E. Braaten (Avery Dulles, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits. By Peter McDonough and Eugene C. Bianchi (Avery Dulles, First Things)
    -INTERVIEW: God's Gift of Freedom Must Be Used to Choose the Good (Religion & Liberty, May/June 1999)
    -INTERVIEW: Reason, Faith, and Theology: An Interview with Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. (James Martin, S.J., Mar. 5, 2001, America)
    -PROFILE: Avery Dulles�s Long Road to Rome (Robert Royal, July/August 2001, Crisis)
    -ARTICLE: ALL DRESSED IN SCARLET : Avery Dulles goes to college (Joseph A. Komonchak, Feb 23, 2001, Commonweal)
    -ARCHIVES: "avery dulles" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of The Splendor of Faith: The Theological Vision of Pope John Paul II by Avery Dulles (Michel Therrian, Religion & Liberty)
    -REVIEW: of The Assurance of Things Hoped For: A Theology of Christian Faith. By Avery Dulles, S.J. (David F. Wells, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of 'The Holocaust, Never To Be Forgotten', Avery Dulles SJ, Rabbi Leon Klenicki (Anthony Cappello, AD2000)

    -LECTURE: Globalisation: Who's in Control? (Text of Cardinal Francis George�s Caritas Helder Camara Lecture, May 2000)
    -ESSAY: One Lord and One Church For One World (Cardinal Francis George, February 8, 2001, Catholic News Service)
    -ARCHIVES: The Cardinal's Colum (Catholic New World)

    -Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (Diocese of Lincoln, NE)
    -ESSAY: Homosexuality & Catholic Doctrine: FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD IS ULTIMATELY WHAT IT'S ABOUT (Fabian Bruskewitz, March 2001, New Oxford Review)
    -ESSAY: Unspeakable Abomination (Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, April 18, 2002, The Wanderer)
    -STATEMENT: Statement of Bishop Bruskewitz Excommunicating Certain Groups (Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, March 22, 1996, Southern Nebraska Register)
    -INTERVIEW: An Interview With Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (Paul Likoudis, April 18, 1996, The Wanderer)

Book-related and General Links:
    -ESSAY: The Monarchy and the Economy (Mauro F. Guillén, June 16, 2021, Cato Unbound)
    Recovering (from) Enlightenment? (Steven D. Smith, Fall 2003, Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper Series)
    Human Dignity, Human Rights and Moral Responsibility (Cardinal George Pell, Paper presented to the John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology Symposium on Catholic Moral Teaching in the Pontificate of John Paul II, St Charles Borromeo Seminary, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 4 October 2003)

    -ESSAY : St. Augustine on the Problem of Evil (Enchiridion, 10-12)
    -ETEXT : The Rule of St. Augustine
    -ETEXT : The Confessions of St. Augustine
    -Catholic Encyclopedia >  Life of St. Augustine of Hippo
    -Catholic Encyclopedia >  Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo
    -Augustine [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
    -The Philosophy of St. Augustine (The Radical Academy)
    -Island of Freedom - St. Augustine
    -AUGUSTINE of Hippo (Patron Saints Index, Catholic Forum)
    -ESSAY : The Scriptural Roots of St. Augustine's Spirituality (Stephen N. Filippo, sacred Scripture)
    -ESSAY : Augustine, The City of God (R.J. Kilcullen, Macquarie University)
    -REVIEW : of Augustine and the Limits of Politics by Jean Bethke Elshtain (Mary Ann Glendon, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of Love and Saint Augustine. By Hannah Arendt. Edited and with an Interpretive Essay by Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott and Judith Chelius Stark. (George McKenna, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, AD 200-1000 by Peter Brown (James J. O'Donnell, Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
    -REVIEW: of Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World by John Von Heyking (Kate L. Forhan, The Journal of Politics)

    -Christian Faith and Postmodernity : An Index of WWW Resources
    --Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Library of Congress)
    -ETEXT: Faith & Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty (Benjamin Hart, A publication of the Christian Defense Fund)
    -ESSAY: Behind Jefferson's Wall (Michael Knox Beran, Spring 2003, City Journal)
    Christian community in the shadow of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Fukuyama (Peter Sellick, 2/10/03, Online Opinion)
    -REVIEW: of The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit by A.J. Conyers (David Gordon, The Mises Review)
    More Than Fire and Brimstone: a review of Mark A. Noll's "America's God" (STEPHEN PROTHERO, December 17, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe (David Gordon, Mises Review)
    -INTERVIEW : One Nation Under . . .: A Q&A with Michael Novak on God & U.S. (Kathryn Jean Lopez, December 15-16, 2001, National Review)
    -ESSAY : Why America Can't Do Without Religion : the Founding Fathers had no intention of writing God out of the American order (William E. Simon Jr, the Crisis) Against the Egalitarian Heresy (Jeff Culbreath, March 2002, The Journeyman)
    -REVIEW : of The Politics of Revelation and Reason: Religion and Civic Life in the New Nation by John G. West, Jr. (Matthew Spaulding, The Crisis)
    -REVIEW : of In Good Company: The Church as Polis by Stanley Hauerwas (Francis Canavan, The Crisis)
    -REVIEW : of The Godless Constitution by Isaac Krannick and R. Laurence Moore (William Bentley Ball, the Crisis)
    -ESSAY :  The Gift of Dignity : Where would civilization be today without Christian notions of compassion and solidarity?  (Michael Novak, Christianity Today, December 6, 1999)
    -ESSAY : Democracy at Century's End (Jean Bethke Elshtain, Ideas)
    -ESSAY : A liberal tragedy : By cutting itself off from its Christian roots, liberalism has become shrill and dogmatic. But there is no other way (Edward Skidelsky, January 2002, The Prospect uk)
    -ESSAY: Tocqueville's Puritans: Christianity and the American Founding (Sanford Kessler, August 1992, The Journal of Politics)
    -ESSAY: Why Gods Should Matter in Social Science (RODNEY STARK, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -REVIEW: of God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics By Paul Marshall (Robert Monahan, America)