At the Limits of the Secular: Reflections on Faith and Public Life

At the Limits of the Secular: Reflections on Faith and Public Life

At the Limits of the Secular: Reflections on Faith and Public Life

At the Limits of the Secular: Reflections on Faith and Public Life


This volume presents an integrated collection of constructive essays by eminent Catholic scholars addressing the new challenges and opportunities facing religious believers under shifting conditions of secularity and "post-secularity."

Using an innovative "keywords" approach, At the Limits of the Secular is an interdisciplinary effort to think through the implications of secular consciousness for the role of religion in public affairs. The book responds in some ways to Charles Taylor's magnum opus, A Secular Age, although it also stands on its own. It features an original essay by David Tracy -- the most prominent American Catholic theologian writing today -- and groundbreaking contributions by influential younger theologians such as Peter Casarella, William Cavanaugh, and Vincent Miller.

William A. Barbieri Jr.
Peter Casarella
William T. Cavanaugh
Michele Dillon
Mary Doak
Anthony J. Godzieba
Slavica Jakelic
J. Paul Martin
Vincent J. Miller
Philip J. Rossi
Robert J. Schreiter
David Tracy


This very illuminating collection carries further a discussion which has already begun in many places in and alongside the Catholic Church. This concerns how our Church can be in and speak to our present age, which in the Western context can perhaps be described as “secular.”

Being in and speaking to any age is no simple matter for our Church. We have to hold in balanced tension two stances towards our world, the two kinds of catholicity which Robert Schreiter articulates in his essay: one concerned with reading the signs of the times and reaching out to our world in solidarity and communication — with particular concern for the poor and deprived in all dimensions; the other more focused inward and concerned with maintaining the full integrity of the deposit of the faith.

In a sense the context of Vatican ii might seem to have pushed us too one-sidedly into the first stance. in this it was reacting to the anti-modernism of the nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Church, which with Pius X reached close to absurd lengths. the inward gaze was becoming myopic and all-controlling. One of the strengths of the theologians who prepared the ground for Vatican ii was that they criticized this cramped “anti-modernism” through a deep recovery of Patristic sources. They showed in fact that “anti-modernism” was in the grip of certain narrow assumptions of the post-Reformation European world.

But they also showed that the best way to speak to one’s own era, and to read the signs of the times, is to be deeply rooted in the whole tradition of the Church, through many epochs and civilizations. This doesn’t make the task easy. Indeed, those great theologians may turn out to be a hard act to follow. in fact, certain tendencies in the contemporary world may . . .

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