A handful of Catholic American intellectuals—notably but not exclusively Michael Novak, George Weigel, and Richard John Neuhaus—selectively and often purposefully distorted magisterial teaching in the decades preceding the 2013 papal conclave. Massimo Borghesi, professor of moral philosophy at the University of Perugia, in his new book Catholic Discordance: Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francisrefers to the brand of Catholicism produced by these men as the “American model.” Borghesi demonstrates that these neoconservative intellectuals see the world, and most emphatically the church, in “political-religious Manichaean” terms, unable to recognize nuance. Francis, in a pastoral and theological continuation of the three previous papacies, uses a dialectic lens of polarity that sees fruitful production in opposites: “Life is opposition, and opposition is fruitful.” When Francis’s dialectic social philosophy is married with Catholic social teaching in the vein of the Second Vatican Council— including the very social teachings of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI distorted by these Novak and company—the strife in the American Church becomes entirely understandable.
Catholic Discordance is an essential read to comprehending the Catholic Church in America and a neoconservative trend within it that rejects certain magisterial teachings.
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