Something has changed. As the flurry of recent articles and books on liberalism and its discontents attests, the stability of the intellectual framework through which Catholics have for the past hundred years or so made sense of our place in modern society seems to have been lost. We find ourselves disoriented and look for stable ground, but discover on all sides simply more shifting sand. It is not an exaggeration, I think, to describe the situation as a crisis, and as is appropriate to such a moment, we are again asking fundamental questions surrounding the proper relationship between Church and State, between religious and secular pursuits, between morality and politics, and it seems that as far as potential answers go, just about everything is back on the table. Nevertheless, in the discussion up to this point the categories of liberal discourse have largely remained intact. We find ourselves arguing often about the boundaries between Church and State, but far less often do we consider the possibility that it is these categories themselves that are our problem. We talk a great deal about protecting religious liberty, but very little about the possibility that the modern concept of religion itself (not to mention that of “liberty”) is integral to Christianity’s diminution.
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