The Catholic Vision of World Affairs

What can Catholicism have to say about world affairs? How can a religion, perhaps for most people the paradigmatic example of a religion, a matter of prayer and sacraments, dogmas and mysteries, be connected with world affairs, which for most people means high politics and high finance, war and diplomacy? There are two widespread approaches to answering this question, which really amount to dismissing it. The first approach, which is common among liberal and progressive secularists, depicts Catholicism as something centralized, authoritarian, traditionalist, spiritual, abstract, and theoretical, and thus out of step with a world that is polycentric, democratic, innovative, material, concrete, and practical. To put the matter succinctly, Catholicism strikes many participants in world affairs as an element of an imaginary next world, hence irrelevant in the one and only “real world.” Alternatively, it can be seen as a survival from an earlier period of our civilization, an archaic element in society that has lost its ability to speak to our current concerns. This point can be made by secularists and skeptics who wish to dismiss religion from the realm of world affairs as well as by many who think of themselves as realists in discussions of foreign policy. In this first approach, the answer to the original question becomes, “Not much; and the less, the better.”

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