Po­lit­i­cal Au­gus­tini­an­ism

Malta Independent - - LETTERS -

In the past days I re­ceived a per­sonal in­vi­ta­tion from the Au­gus­tinian In­sti­tute in Pi­età, the Mal­tese Au­gus­tinian Prov­ince, the Fac­ulty of The­ol­ogy of the Uni­ver­sity of Malta and the Malta Arch­dioce­san Foun­da­tion for The­o­log­i­cal Stud­ies to at­tend the 20th An­nual St Au­gus­tine Lec­ture 2016 on Po­lit­i­cal Au­gus­tini­an­ism. This year’s lec­ture will be de­liv­ered by Rev. Pro­fes­sor Dr Michael Bruno STD, Pro­fes­sor of The­ol­ogy at St Joseph’s Sem­i­nary New York, USA.

Fr Bruno ob­tained a Doc­tor­ate in Sa­cred The­ol­ogy (summa cum laude) from the Pon­tif­i­cal Lat­eran Uni­ver­sity, Vat­i­can City, with a the­sis en­ti­tled “‘Po­lit­i­cal Au­gus­tini­an­ism’: A Study of the In­ter­pre­ta­tions of Au­gus­tine’s Po­lit­i­cal Thought from 1900 to the Present” (Fortress Press, 2014)

He lec­tures on the History of the Catholic Church in the United States, In­tro­duc­tion to Church History, In­tro­duc­tion to The­ol­ogy, The Church in the Mod­ern World (Trent to Vat­i­can II), Holy Or­ders and Min­istry, and the The­ol­ogy of the Eucharist. What is Po­lit­i­cal Au­gus­tini­an­ism? In his the­sis Fr Bruno ar­gues that be­sides St Thomas Aquinas, St Au­gus­tine’s phi­los­o­phy is one of the main prin­ci­pal sources not merely of the­ol­ogy but also of Western so­cial and po­lit­i­cal the­ory. In the last cen­tury, par­tic­u­larly, the Bishop of Hippo has been de­ci­sive to the evo­lu­tion of mod­ern con­tem­po­rary po­lit­i­cal and so­cial struc­ture. Var­i­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tions of ‘Au­gus­tini­an­ism’ mush­roomed, es­pe­cially in French, Ger­man and English con­texts. Th­ese var­i­ous schools of in­ter­pre­ta­tion dis­puted cru­cial top­ics con­cern­ing the rap­port be­tween church and state, war, jus­tice, ethics, virtue and the life of cit­i­zen­ship, seen from an Au­gus­tinian per­spec­tive.

Among the lead­ing ex­po­nents of th­ese schools one finds the valu­able con­tri­bu­tions of H.I. Mar­rou and H.X. Arquil­lière, Niebuhr and the “sec­u­lar­ist” in­ter­pre­ta­tion of RA Markus, Robert Do­daro, Eric Gre­gory, John Mil­bank, Rowan Wil­liams, and Oliver O’Dono­van.

Bruno writes that “Arquil­lière be­lieved that for Au­gus­tine this led to the ab­sorp­tion of nat­u­ral law into the realm of su­per­nat­u­ral jus­tice, ‘the right of the State into that of the Church’”. In this view Au­gus­tine con­sid­ers Chris­tian­ity as a trans­for­ma­tive po­lit­i­cal force ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing a theo­cratic or­der. Markus dis­agrees. He sees Au­gus­tine as the fore­run­ner of lib­eral plu­ral­ism. There­fore, “the Church makes no claim to dom­i­nate or ex­ert power over civil so­ci­ety; in­deed it can re­pu­di­ate such claims as in­com­pat­i­ble with the na­ture of its re­la­tion­ship to earthly pow­ers. The Gospel is to be me­di­ated through preach­ing its mes­sage and sus­tained pub­lic de­bate, with­out threat­en­ing the au­ton­omy of the sec­u­lar or­der.”

In Christ and the Just So­ci­ety in the Thought of Au­gus­tine, Robert Do­daro, ex­plains that “Au­gus­tine is far less in­ter­ested than his in­ter­preters in dis­cussing the re­spec­tive mer­its of a Chris­tian or sec­u­lar state.” Do­daro di­verts from the “pes­simistic” and sec­u­lar un­der­stand­ing of Au­gus­tine. For him, “Chris­tians in pub­lic life can de­velop the ca­pac­ity for moral rea­son­ing, aided by grace, in which their prac­tice of civic virtues is trans­formed by their prac­tice of Chris­tian faith, hope, and love.”

Fur­ther­more, Do­daro strength­ens his as­tute in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Au­gus­tine when he as­serts: “For Au­gus­tine, faith, hope, and char­ity are alone ca­pa­ble of draw­ing the Chris­tian states­man be­yond the lim­ited, tem­po­ral per­spec­tives of the earthly city into a deeper love of God, and there­fore into the eter­nal re­al­ity of the heav­enly city. Au­gus­tine be­lieves that the the­o­log­i­cal virtues ac­com­plish this be­cause they al­ter the way the states­man un­der­stands and prac­tises the po­lit­i­cal virtues in the per­for­mance of his pub­lic du­ties. When Au­gus­tine con­grat­u­lates Mace­do­nius for gov­ern­ing in the earthly city ‘with his mind fixed on the heav­enly city’, he is ac­knowl­edg­ing the ef­fects of th­ese three virtues on the im­pe­rial vicar... the the­o­log­i­cal virtues al­ter the Chris­tian states­man’s prac­tice of the po­lit­i­cal virtues.”

Po­lit­i­cal Au­gus­tini­an­ism is the­o­ret­i­cally fas­ci­nat­ing and re­ally chal­leng­ing. The Au­gus­tinian lec­ture will be de­liv­ered on Monday 21st Novem­ber at 6.15pm in St Au­gus­tine’s Hall of the Au­gus­tinian In­sti­tute, Pi­età. Prof. Bruno will dis­cuss the theme Seek­ing Au­gus­tinian In­sights on the Chris­tian in Pub­lic Life To­day. Prof. Al­bert Fenech will chair the fol­low­ing dis­cus­sion. Am­ple park­ing space pro­vided.

On Tues­day, 22nd Novem­ber at 7pm at the Uni­ver­sity of Malta, Gate­Way Hall E, Prof. Bruno will dis­cuss Redis­cov­er­ing Au­gus­tine’s Saecu­lum and the State of Con­tem­po­rary Au­gus­tinian Hermeneu­tics. Chair­ing the fol­low­ing dis­cus­sion will be Prof. Joe Frig­gieri.

Fr Mario At­tard OFM Cap Paola

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.