Theology at the barricades

Catholic scholars
have taken the dynamite
of the church,
have wrapped it up
in nice phraseology,
placed it in an hermetic container
and sat on the lid.
It is about time
to blow the lid off...
-Peter Maurin

Few today can imagine that Catholic social thought has the pyrotechnic promise that Peter Maurin identified in his "easy essay," "Blowing the Dynamite." However idiosyncratic, the Catholic Workers’ coupling of doctrinal orthodoxy and radical politics epitomized a faith in the church as an exemplary form of human community, an imperfect but anticipatory effort, in the words of the Catholic sociologist Paul Hanly Furfey, "to reproduce heaven on earth."

Among contemporary Catholics of all political stripes there seems little desire to recreate this radical ecclesial and political imagination. In short, the lid seems firmly sealed. Can it ever be pried loose again? A new movement of intellectual, ecclesial, and political regeneration calling itself "radical orthodoxy" offers some hope that the dynamite can still be ignited. These flamboyant advocates of change have already made the pages of Time and the Chronicle of Higher Education. That’s not surprising given some of their virtuoso intellectual performances. Michael Budde’s well-...

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About the Author

Eugene McCarraher is associate professor of humanities and history at Villanova University. He is completing The Enchantments of Mammon: Corporate Capitalism and the American Moral Imagination.