Friday, July 13, 2012

Culture Wars: The Sad Story of Thomism in America

Florian Michel, La pensée catholique en Amérique du Nord: Réseaux intellectuels et échanges culturels entre l'Europe, le Canada et les Etats-Unis (Desclée de Brouwer Paris, 2010).

Reviewed by Joseph Filipowicz

The book itself might be worth reading; the review is ok, though it does not talk much about De Koninck. But at the end the reviewer slips into the a rather extreme "traditionalism" in how he views the American founding:

And what is the response of the other Catholic leaders? It is to continue the project of Maritain, with the Hispanics of the 2010s playing the role that the Polish played in the 1930s-1970s. We are told that there are two traditions present in the United States, that of the Protestant Puritans and that of the Catholic Hispanics. Both of the traditions are good leading to the highest development of democratic freedom, and, in the end, the tradition of democratic freedom stems from the same font, the wisdom of Aquinas. Once both of them figure this out, American will become good and whole again. 
This position, which descends from the thought of Maritain, should now be seen for what it truly is, namely, preposterous. The Protestant Puritans were radicals who were rebelling against a group of rebels that were rebelling against the Catholic Faith. The American Founding Fathers were a new set of rebels who had descended from the Puritan rebels. The American Protestants and Jewish elites that came together to form higher Judeo-Protestant American Culture at the end of the 20th Century were together forming a new form of subversive and revolutionary culture. The likes of Dewey, Wirth, Blanshard, and their leftist and neoconservative progeny do not see any possibility of compromise with Catholic culture unless the Catholics are willing to change their system of morals so that they would embrace birth control, war, individualism, capitalism or any other of the modern materialist ideologies stemming from the 18th Century.

I do think Maritain may have been too optimistic and misjudged how reconcilable liberalism and "modern liberal democracy" are with Catholicism. Part of this is probably due to erroneous assumptions concerning the modern nation-state and whether it is at the proper scale to bring about the common good, even if we abstract from historical considerations about how it came to be and the forces that were at work. He probably accepted the Yankee narrative and its understanding of the Constitution, too.