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The Church and Secularity

Two Stories of Liberal Society

Robert Gascoigne

Publication Year: 2009

Western liberal societies are characterized by two stories: a positive story of freedom of conscience and the recognition of community and human rights, and a negative story of unrestrained freedom that leads to self-centeredness, vacuity, and the destructive compromise of human values. Can the Catholic Church play a more meaningful role in assisting liberal societies in telling their better story? Australian ethicist Robert Gascoigne thinks it can. In The Church and Secularity he considers the meaning of secularity as a shared space for all citizens and asks how the Church can contribute to a sensitivity toùand respect forùhuman dignity and human rights. Drawing on AugustineÆs City of God and Vatican IIÆs Gaudium et spes, Gascoigne interprets the meaning of freedom in liberal societies through the lens of AugustineÆs ôtwo loves,ö the love of God and neighbor and the love of self, and reveals how the two are connected to our contemporary experience. The Church and Secularity argues that the Church can serve liberal societies in a positive way and that its own social identity, rooted in Eucharistic communities, must be bound up with the struggle for human rights and resistance to the commodification of the human in all its forms.

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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pp. ix-x

It is a great pleasure to record my thanks to those who have assisted me in the development of this book. The book includes some previously published material, and I would like to thank the respective editors and publishers for their permission to republish this material. The articles and chapters gave me a valuable opportunity to develop the ideas ...

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pp. 1-6

This book is concerned with the relationship of the Catholic Church to contemporary liberal societies. It seeks to explore the meaning of secularity as a shared space for all citizens and to ask how the Church can contribute to sensitivity to and respect for human dignity within liberal societies. In particular, it considers the ambivalence of human ...

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ONE: Two Stories of Liberal Society

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pp. 7-36

A key characteristic of a liberal society is its ambivalence, its propensity to tell two stories. The first of these stories is of individual freedom as the source of creativity and diversity, as the warrant of critical reason to constantly reform social institutions for the sake of the common good; this story proclaims the right of even the most...

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TWO: Church, Kingdom, and Secularity

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pp. 37-75

I ended the last chapter by arguing that it is part of the Church’s mission in the contemporary world to assist liberal secular societies to tell their “better story.” In this chapter, I would like to consider the implications of this task for the Church itself and its own identity. How can this task of encouraging liberal society’s better story be at the same...

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THREE: The Virtues of Noninstrumental Relationships

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pp. 76-111

In the previous chapter, I considered the mode of relationship of the Church to liberal society. I now want to return to the question of the character of liberal society, especially its propensity to tell two stories. As I argued at the beginning of chapter one, the difference between these two stories reflects two fundamentally different approaches to the ...

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FOUR: Christian Hope and the Eucharist: Witness and Service

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pp. 112-142

In the previous chapter, I reflected on the virtues that enable a realization of the ethically positive potential of liberal societies, and on the ways in which these virtues are definitively embodied in Jesus Christ. The crucial role of these virtues emphasizes the fact that liberal society is an ethical project. Modernity in general is not necessarily an ethical ...

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FIVE: Two Stories of Liberal Society and Contemporary Catholic Identity

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pp. 143-168

The previous chapters of this book have emphasized how much the Church has to contribute to liberal societies in order to assist them to tell their better story: in chapter two, through a theology of Church, Kingdom, and secularity; in chapter three, through a Christian theology of the virtues of noninstrumental relationships; and in chapter ...


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pp. 169-179

E-ISBN-13: 9781589017252
E-ISBN-10: 1589017250
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589014909
Print-ISBN-10: 1589014901

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 638860201
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Church and Secularity

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Subject Headings

  • Liberty -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Liberalism -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Church and the world.
  • Vatican Council -- (2nd : -- 1962-1965). -- Constitutio pastoralis de ecclesia in mundo huius temporis.
  • Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo. De civitate Dei.
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