The Repressive Logic of Liberal Rights

The Repressive Logic of Liberal Rights July 3, 2012

Following on yesterday’s Quote, and in response to both the USCCB, which is making “religious liberty” the centerpiece of its opposition to the HHS mandate, and those who believe “liberty” means merely “the freedom to do what you want” – in other words, license – here’s a great piece by David L. Schindler that appeared in the spring edition of Communio, the journal that he has edited since 1982:

The Repressive Logic of Liberal Rights: Religious Freedom, Contraception, and the “Phony” Argument of the New York Times



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  • Peter Paul Fuchs


    I just gave a first general read to that piece you linked to. Thank you, I was sincerely impressed. One of the things I have found so depressing about surveying the current conservative Catholic attempts to relate its views to our essentially Enlightenment-based society, is that they seem mostly based on conceptual sleights-of-hand. This piece was not, and so I am going to read more throughly later, because, unlike the others it is apparently really worth reading throughly. So thanks.

    It does argue coherently, that is the parts relate on a basic level to other parts, which a lot of those writing in the “Natural Law” vibe lately simply do not. They make huge jumps, which only they seem to understand. Yet in fact part of the reason that they may not want to argue coherently is that it makes it MORE clear where the problem is in the thinking.

    To wit, when Schindler quotes the French philosopher Manent it is very significant that it was Protestant Christianity (!!) not just Christianity (which he leaves vague) generally that produced the notions of freedom and rights that we enjoy today. This is a point that is made massively clear in Taylor’s The Secular Age, and I remind you that Taylor is a Catholic. This is crucial to seeing the limits of the rest of his argument. His whole idea that the tradition based on Locke’s notion contain a “deception” (harsh, loaded word by the way) by choosing a non-metaphysical basis for everything says much more that Schindler seems to realize.

    I am afraid that Catholic authors still — some 500 years after the Reformation– have not grasped that Protestant ideation in general is NOT metaphysically minded. And further that they have developed a grand, non-licentious tradition mostly NOT beholden to metaphysics! I am not talking about a belief here. No one blames Catholics for continuing to believe that they are the only ones. That is part of their make-up, and they are free to have at it in a pluralistic world. But to the extent that you are going to talk to others you have to relate to what they actually are. And this is the one sense that this article does seem to be ulitimately ( but not proximally) incoherent. It does not address the simple fact that in in the Protestant Christian tradition one can be quite moral and free and NOT be metaphysically structured. this is something so basic, that it is amazing to me that a manifestly smart author can not deal with this basic fact.

    This is a crucial trouble for the type of thinking you are putting forth. This country was founded by Protestants. Therefore, if you are going to invoke historical precedent to argue your ideas (you all generally I mean) then the fact that your metaphysical demands are simply beside the point conceptually has to be correspondingly dealt with .

    • Jimmy Mac

      “No one blames Catholics for continuing to believe that they are the only ones. That is part of their make-up, ”

      I do blame those Catholic who hold that nonsense. I used to be one myself. And it IS nonsense.