Fall 2008

Introduction: Natural Law

In continuity with Schindler’s argument about the nonneutrality of the political order, Thomas Rourke’s “Fundamental Politics: What We Must Learn From the Social Thought of Benedict XVI” shows how for Benedict XVI “the state’s openness to God, far from leading to theocracy, is actually the only thing that enables the state to distinguish itself properly from the Church, and thus to resist the twin temptations of utopianism and totalitarianism.”

In “Homosexuality: The Semblance of Intimacy,” José Noriega reflects on the moral significance of intimacy, “which expresses the space that is generated within a person when he discovers the presence of another, which prompts him to receive the other and to promote the other’s good.” “Intimacy,” Noriega argues, “demands the acceptance . . . of the person in his entirety . . . [including] in his sexual identity.” By implicitly denying that sexual difference is a constitutive element of personal identity, homosexual acts instrumentalize the body and provide only a semblance of intimacy.

In honor of the memory of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died in August of 2008, we include two essays by the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann. In “On Solzhenitsyn,” Schmemann suggests that Solzhenitsyn is the first great Russian writer of the Soviet period “precisely because he accepted the ‘Soviet’ as the inalienable fate of his art, as the chalice which he could not leave unemptied, as that experience which art is obliged to embody, reveal, and illumine with the light of truth.” In his review of The Gulag Archipelago, Schmemann extends this reflection by highlighting Solzhenitsyn’s profound understanding of the vocation of the artist in light of the unity of goodness, truth, and beauty. Although Solzhenitsyn wrote “almost exclusively of darkness and sin, of crime and suffering, there always comes from his writings a mysterious light. This light has a content—a very ancient and eternal one: faith, love, hope.”

In Notes and Comments William L. Portier offers a review essay on Fergus Kerr’s book Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians:From Neoscholasticism to Nuptial Mysticism (Blackwell Publishing, 2007). Portier situates Kerr’s book in the context of a growing Thomist resurgence whose central claim is that “Henri de Lubac, and by implication, Pope John Paul II, have ruptured and destabilized Catholic theology.” While welcoming Kerr’s contribution to the ongoing debate about nature and grace and about nuptial theology, Portier recalls the suggestion of David Schindler that any alternative proposal to de Lubac’s on the relation of nature and grace “must show how it can better account for the double burden presented by the Gospel, of an utterly gratuitous gift on God’s part coupled with the human person’s profound—non-arbitrary—desire for this gift.”

The final essay of the issue returns to the theme of natural law. In “Natural Law and Divine Law,” Rémi Brague argues that “[w]ithout an exterior point of reference, without someone who is capable of affirming, as God does in the first account of creation, that the human is ‘very good’ (Gn 1:31), we cannot know whether the existence on this earth of the species homo sapiens is or is not a good thing.”