James Hitchcock, in his review of my Heart of the World, Center of the Church (“City of Man, City of God,” September), argues that the book is “the summing up of a controversy over a . . . specifically Catholic . . . view of politics” which pits me against certain neoconservative Catholics and, behind them, the Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray. But, as I say in its opening paragraph, the book is rather about the communio (communion) ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, with its new understanding of the Church-world relation. Hitchcock thus misses the fundamental purpose of the book: to clarify the meaning of liberation and liberalism in terms of the Council, as interpreted in the pontificate of John Paul II and in the work of theologians such as H. U. Von Balthasar, J. Ratzinger, and H. de Lubac.

Presuming that I agree “with those who think the United States was from its inception the child of the anti-religious Enlightenment,” Hitchcock thinks it odd that I do “not examine the nation’s founding documents and their subsequent interpretation.” But this is not odd at all, since my purpose was to consider how certain Catholic authors had appropriated the American founding. In fact, I grant that theism abounded in the United States at the time of its founding. I assume that the founding is religious, in the sense that Murray and his contemporary disciples say it is, but I also criticize that sense of positive religiosity as still unacceptably liberal given an authentic postconciliar anthropology.

My argument presupposes a distinction made in Will Herberg’s classic Protestant Catholic Jew. America is at once genuinely religious in its (subjective, explicit) intention, and secularist in its (objective, albeit largely unconscious) philosophy. I grant the genuinely religious intention of America’s liberal institutions, but I also maintain that the logic of these institutions inclines simultaneously toward secularism.

Hitchcock insists that the gulf between people’s beliefs and their actions is hardly unique to America. But this misses Herberg’s (and my) point: the peculiarity of the American situation is that the distinctive logic of American religiosity justifies this fragmentation of belief and behavior. Hitchcock claims evangelical Christianity as a second—and countervailing—force to secularism in America’s founding. But he overlooks the way in which these two strains—Enlightenment secularism and evangelical (i.e., Puritan) Christianity—reinforce each other in American history.

Hitchcock says that as a philosopher I appear to believe that “he who says A must say B, whereas a historian would reply that he who says A can then say just about anything he pleases.” Thus, the “problem with the first Amendment is not its implicit ideology,” for “whatever the intention of the Founding Fathers, the present civil-libertarian understanding of the Religion Clause was not simply determined from the beginning.” Hitchcock’s point is that history is rather more contingent than my emphasis on “logic” seems to allow. However, my argument is not that an implied theology or philosophy determines social and cultural history but that it inclines history in a definite direction. In the words of Richard M. Weaver, “ideas have consequences.” As far as I can tell, it is a nearly universal belief that one’s assumptions about the nature of man and God in some significant sense guide one’s behavior.

I claim that an insufficiently contemplative disposition toward God and neighbor, a disproportionate emphasis on “creativity” as distinct from “receptivity” in the basic structure of the human being, lies at the heart of America’s cultural problems. (Mary’s fiat expresses the ontological attitude of prayer, obedience, and love that is archetypical for human creatureliness.) This absence of a true sense of creatureliness takes extreme form in what John Paul II has termed our growing “culture of death.” The primary question regarding America’s “logic,” therefore, is whether the American founding reveals a theological anthropology which grounds creatureliness as required by this communzo-inspired vision.

I don’t believe it does. Hitchcock, of course, is welcome to answer differently, but he should first recognize the argument. Instead, Hitchcock says that a more obvious explanation for our present troubles is sin. Of course sin is the basic explanation, but I insist, as does Pope John Paul II, that we must distinguish sin in its subjective dimension from sin in its objective or external dimension, which “takes concrete form as the content of culture and civilization, as a philosophical system, an ideology, a programme for action and for the shaping of human behavior” (Dominum et Vivificantem). This “objective” dimension of sin lies at the heart of what the Pope calls a “structure of sin.” In my book, I concentrate on liberalism’s structural sin: namely, its inadequate notion of creatureliness.

Hitchcock also finds my criticism of the “neoconservatives” premature. Our quarrel, he says, should be first with the “leaders of American Catholicism, including most of its bishops, [who] are not neoconservatives but liberals.” But as Hitchcock knows, I argue in my book that we need to redefine the meaning of liberalism in light of Vatican II. From this perspective, most all of the recent dominant Catholic approaches to American culture embody an unacceptable liberalism.

Turning to my discussion of Father Theodore Hesburgh, Hitchcock is perplexed because “the American political tradition has little to do with the present state of academia.” Presumably, Hitchcock is confused by my comparison of Hesburgh’s approach to the “logic” of the academy with Murray’s approach to the “logic” of the First Amendment. But I simply point out the common theological-anthropological assumptions of Hesburgh and Murray. Hesburgh’s conception of a Catholic university precludes genuine integration of sanctity into the “logic” of intelligence, or of the academic disciplines. The substance of his university does not emerge ex corde ecclesiae.

Hitchcock’s review reveals how fully he shares the assumptions of the conservative liberalism of the dominant Catholic approaches in recent decades. (For example, like the conservative liberals, Hitchcock puts too much emphasis on the Supreme Court decisions of the last 50 years as the source of our current problems.) His criticisms illustrate the very confusion about postconciliar Catholicism and American liberalism that first prompted me to write my book.

        —David L. Schindler
Editor, Communio, Washington, D.C.