Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Catholic Sociobiology: Fraternity as a Political Category—will Latin America be the source Church?

by David Pence

There is a significant intellectual movement in Europe and South America to transcend the liberty and equality preoccupations of liberal political discourse. It seeks to reintroduce "the forgotten principle" of the French Revolution’s triptych—FRATERNITY as a political concept. The deep human bonds that unite cities, nations and political communities cannot be reduced to an administrative state regulating autonomous individuals asserting their rights. The publication (2006) in Argentina of Italian Antonio Baggio’s edited series of essays, The Forgotten Principle: Fraternity in Politics and Law, is considered a seminal event in launching seminars, other anthologies, and a University Network for the Study of Fraternity (RUEF) in South America. The movement has captured the attention of more than the laity. The Argentine Pope Francis made fraternity the chief theme of the Day for Peace in 2014.
Juan Perón (1895 - 1974)

Dr. Rodrigo Mardones of Chile seems to be the organizing force in South America. He has written a good review of the movement, as well as a more particular study of fraternity in Catholic Social Teaching (LOGOS journal, spring 2016). This movement is dealing with the same problem that Russell Hittinger addresses as the theology-polity problem in Catholic Social Teaching. Political community must have a deeper dimension of solidarity and social bonds to truly manifest the Trinitarian social nature of man. Hittinger directly addresses the animus toward fraternity in much of 19th-century Catholic thought. This was highlighted in the anti-Masonic sentiments of the Vatican, but the anti-fraternal thinking has deeper roots than that.

Unfortunately, almost all of this revival literature shares a distressing similarity to The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood by Pope Benedict XVI. There is no discussion of fraternity as a particularly masculine public kind of covenant. The present movement is influenced by the worldview of Chiara Lubich (d. 2008). She was a Catholic laywoman and founder of the Focolare Movement, which aimed for peace and unity through radical communitarian lives of men and women in service to others. Her movement began as a group of laywomen during the bombing of northern Italy by Americans during WWII. It has had a globalist, multi-religious, and pacifist sensibility. There is a separation of sexes in tasks, but the leadership is female. Unity is considered its chief charism, and love its greatest weapon.

The most important civic manifestation of fraternity is the territorial nation, but there is only one mention by Baggio of the national bond, with a quick warning it may devolve into "discrimination and hate for the foreigner." There is little historic appreciation for the fraternal movement toward universal male suffrage, nor the masculine understanding of citizenship that accompanied all the great republican movements arrayed against monarchy. There is no sense of male groups, no mention of police stations and fire departments or shared military protective duty as a fraternal bond. Neither is there an analogical reflection on the masculine apostolic bond, which gave the Church her name as Brethren. There seems no remembrance of the fraternity of male citizens who comprised the Grande Armee that defended Lady Liberty in real-life republican France, as well as Delacroix’s famous painting of 1830. Simon Bolivar had a much more masculine and military set of mind. His idea of American Unity was a "confederation of republics" with republics maintaining their "national" identities. His military was much darker skinned than the whole peoples he freed. The republican idea was a body of men bound fraternally by law and duty. This bond of male adults was the republican relationship that replaced the unnatural hereditary relations in which a man might be subservient to a boy king or a teen age noble.     

In our own essays we have often called masculine fraternity the missing icon in understanding the public nature of both ecclesial and political communio. We hope someday to have a good dialogue with those who seek a return to the fraternal roots of political life. But for now there seems something exhausted, something very academic, and something very politically correct about the discussion. Let the Latinos bring some Latin to the table. Machismo should be baptized, not suppressed! A source Church should not apologize for maintaining sexual distinctions in an age of gender confusion and death. Both Pope Benedict and the Aparecida statement of Caribbean and Latin American bishops have hinted at a need for a deeper anthropology of men as men to truly evangelize our age and its social crisis. The synodal movement in church governance of Vatican II revitalized by  Pope Francis is an  expression of trust in the fraternal relationships of brother bishops. Pope Francis has urged bishops to avoid pressure groups and writing campaigns and rely on manly dialogue. Multiple times he has urged bishops to speak and disagree, but "act like men... face to face."

Any adequate anthropology of men, as men, will observe the unique human capacity for wide-radius male agreement. Territorial fraternity is a sociobiological characteristic of humans developed in a qualitatively more profound manner than in any other animal group. Bounded territorial communities need not be interpreted as a Darwinist prescription for endless war. Christ ordered his apostles (a band of brothers from Galilee) to baptize the nations, not dismiss them as hopeless instruments of division and war. It is both a residue of Marxism and a peculiar post-WWII European bias to ascribe such a negative character to the civic form that transforms kinship and tribal identities into territorial commonwealths.

The political form of the fraternal nation resonates deeply with the biblical narrative of men recovering from the fratricide of Cain and Abel. They must pass through the fraternal trial/bond of circumcision. and become the twelve reconciled sons of Israel before culminating in the Apostolic Fraternity of the Church. Humanity is restored by a maturation of protective community under Christ. Aristotle tells us that man (and he meant males) is only perfected in the super-familial egalitarian relationship of the polis. Saint Paul tells us we will only be perfected in Christ as his Body, and it is a sacred brotherhood that is the foundation of that Church Body. All of this has profound implications suggesting fraternity (male civic friendship) as a principal political category forming nations. It is a godless cynicism which imagines only perpetual war for nations. The Church is the super organism of patriarchal fraternity. She establishes a separate sphere of authority encouraging bridging agreement among the nations which does not obliterate their spiritual identities. Just as the concept of fraternity must be brought out of the dustbin to articulate this vision, so new men of more theocentric and territorial  personalities must emerge to forge fraternity in public life. They will be neither trapped in the ideology of class warfare, nor atomized by the libertine atheism of modern capitalism. Their biographies will more likely be as soldiers, athletes, or builders than as academics or party organizers. They will not look for careerist feminists to lead them.

As Pope Benedict told the bishops at Aparecida: "This being a continent of baptized Christians, it is time to overcome the notable absence—in the political sphere, in the world of the media, and in the universities—of the voices and initiatives of Catholic leaders with strong personalities and generous dedication, who are coherent in their ethical and religious convictions." We have seen Castro and Chavez. We have suffered through Ms. Fernandez de Kirchner and Ms. Rousseff. Now let us meet a Catholic Bolívar who could awaken the men of a continent to a new political order through piety to God, protective authority amidst his countrymen, and solidarity among the nations.

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