Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 19 April |
Saint of the Day: Pope Saint Leo IX
home iconNews
line break icon

Breaking Open the Liberal Echo Chamber


Mark Gordon - published on 01/22/14

Here’s what Dignitatis Humanæ did: it confirmed that the state, on its own authority, has no right to limit religious practice or compel belief. However, the Council also reaffirmed that the Church herself does retain a coercive authority, especially over the baptized, and that in a Catholic polity, that authority may be exercised by the state on the Church’s behalf and on her sole authority. That is a far cry from the liberal notion of religious liberty as an absolute right, or that the Council somehow elevated the American Bill of Rights to the status of a fifth Gospel.

Dignitatis humanæ has often been seen, both by celebrants and by detractors, as a text in which the Catholic Church finally absorbed and internalized the Enlightenment – as a marriage deed between Catholicism and liberalism,” writes Thomas Pink, who has done extensive work on the declaration, “And certainly the declaration's description of the human person in relation to the state is profoundly marked by the outlook of the Enlightenment. But it is a gross mistake to see the declaration as anything even approaching a marriage with modern liberalism.”

The writer Christopher Ferrara, author of Liberty, The God That Failed, has written that “Liberalism is in thought (or philosophy), rationalism; in politics, secularism; in economics, greed; and in religion, indifferentism." There is today a growing body of concerned Catholics who recognize that this simply isn’t good enough. These critics of liberalism – people like Patrick DeneenJohn MédailleArtur RosmanDaniel Schwindt, and others – are not hide-bound rad-trads, eager to “kickstart the engine of the Inquisition” and roll back Vatican II. Those sorts of intemperate imprecations only reveal the angry illiberalism lurking at the core of liberal ideology. No, the critics of liberalism are ordinary, faithful Catholics who look around, ask, “What’s gone wrong?” and try to supply an answer. This, of course, is both the privilege and responsibility of Christians, who are called to “put everything to the test; retain what is good.”  

The political philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre observed that, “contemporary debates within modern political systems are almost exclusively between conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals. There is little place in such political systems for the criticism of the system itself – that is, for putting liberalism in question.” Thoughtful Catholics are taking up MacIntyre’s challenge, busting open the liberal echo chamber and putting the system in question. And it is high time.

Mark Gordon is a partner at PathTree, a consulting firm focused on organizational resilience and strategy. He also serves as president of both the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Diocese of Providence, and a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen. Mark is the author of Forty Days, Forty Graces: Essays By a Grateful Pilgrim. He and his wife Camila have been married for 30 years and they have two adult children.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Religious Freedom
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
Philip Kosloski
5 Fascinating facts about Jesus in the Eucharist
Philip Kosloski
5 Essential things used at Mass and their symbolism
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Cerith Gardiner
7 Joys to be had from a lengthy marriage
Brett Salkeld
How to vaccinate like a Catholic
Cerith Gardiner
The lasting lesson from the late Prince Philip
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.