Barbaric Fragmentation: John Courtney Murray Foresaw the U.S. United in Confusion | Crisis Magazine


Voting patterns of this last election give ample support to the notion of the divided country, and it is now virtually obligatory to bemoan polarization while calling for unity in our fragmented polis.

As obvious as our polarization seems, perhaps disunity is not the real problem; instead, perhaps we already have a unity, just of a barbaric sort rendering reasonable life and speech fragmentary, incoherent, and truncated.

Over fifty years ago, John Courtney Murray, perhaps the leading Catholic political theorist of the last century, wrote that it is quite impossible for a society to operate “without some spiritual bond of unity,” without “some concept of a doctrine that is sacred.” The question and problem facing us, Fr. Murray suggested, is “not whether we shall have a national unity—of course we shall! The only question is: what kind of unity and quality of unity shall we have? And on what will it be based, and what ends will it serve and pursue?” He continued, “American culture is not pluralistic. American culture is unitary. American culture is uniform, and it is tending always to become more and more unitary and uniform.”

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