Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Two Images of Social Order

Although the prominence of churches throughout the city of Rome, and in most medieval or older cities, may be understood less now than in earlier times, one can still perceive a profound symbolic sense of the hierarchical superiority which the Church possesses over the temporal order, in a Christian society. In many of the traditional cities, the town centers are marked by churches; the space before the church was the place of gathering of the citizens. The church was not engulfed in the secular market; they were kept distinct, yet the Church ruled over all. The temporal order was not contravened by the spiritual, though it was harmoniously subordinated to it in a single, integral society. This was a Christian kingdom, the City of God.

Fr. Francis Duffy
By contrast, in Times Square, there is a single statue of a cross, almost invisible, engulfed by the looming, sky-scraping symbols of consumerism and secularism (towers of Babel?). This cross is actually the back-side of a monument to Father Francis Duffy, whose image is sculpted on the other side. Father Duffy was a Catholic priest and chaplain in the military, and the highly decorated military cleric in U.S. history. Incidentally, he was also the ghost-author of a letter by Alfred Smith, a Catholic who was running for President in 1927. In this letter, Duffy (in the voice of Smith) pays high tribute to the notion of religious liberty, in defense of Smith's campaign, assuring his reader that "I should be a poor American and a poor Catholic alike if I injected religious discussion into a political campaign." (Source

These are two images of social order: one, the integralist, in which the spiritual reigns over the temporal order, and they work together in hierarchic harmony towards the salvation of men, the "business of the peace and the faith"; another, the liberal, in which the spiritual is demoted to the status of merely one among many individualistic options, swamped in an ocean of pickers-and-choosers - mere private consumers - all at the mercy of the sovereign State.

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