Two Stones of Liberal Society and
Contemporary Catholic Identity
The previous chapters of this book have emphasized how much the Church has to contribute to liberal societies in order to assist them to tell their better story: in chapter two, through a theology of Church, Kingdom, and secularity; in chapter three, through a Christian theology of the virtues of noninstrumental relationships; and in chapter four, through the theology of hope and the Eucharist. In this final chapter I will be considering the effect of the Church's relationship to the two stories of liberal society on its own life. How does its relationship to liberal society affect the Church's own process of identityformation in the contemporary world? Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been involved in a profound and often painful process of reforming its identity in relation to the world, and much of that process has to do with its relationship to liberal societies.
Contemporary concern about the meaning and shape of Catholic identity reveals both an anxiety about the possible loss of identity, but also, more positively, a recognition that the Catholic tradition can be embodied in and through different sociocultural delineations, aspirations, and achievements in response to changing historical circumstances and challenges. These changes in historical identity are not, for Catholic faith, changes in the theological identity of the Church, which springs from the once-and-for-all character of revelation and the fidelity of the Spirit; but they are, nevertheless, changes in the ways in which the Church addresses itself to the world and thereby in the ways in which it expresses or crystallizes dimensions of Christian life that are implicit in the tradition. In different historical periods, the