The Church and Secularity

Two Stories of Liberal Society

Robert Gascoigne

"Strongly recommend this cogent book for those trying to think through a principled and theologically grounded Catholic stance on public policy."
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Western liberal societies are characterized by two stories: a positive story of freedom of conscience and the recognition of community and human rights, and a negative story of unrestrained freedom that leads to self-centeredness, vacuity, and the destructive compromise of human values. Can the Catholic Church play a more meaningful role in assisting liberal societies in telling their better story?

Australian ethicist Robert Gascoigne thinks it can. In The Church and Secularity he considers the meaning of secularity as a shared space for all citizens and asks how the Church can contribute to a sensitivity to—and respect for—human dignity and human rights. Drawing on Augustine’s City of God and Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes, Gascoigne interprets the meaning of freedom in liberal societies through the lens of Augustine’s “two loves,” the love of God and neighbor and the love of self, and reveals how the two are connected to our contemporary experience.

The Church and Secularity argues that the Church can serve liberal societies in a positive way and that its own social identity, rooted in Eucharistic communities, must be bound up with the struggle for human rights and resistance to the commodification of the human in all its forms.

Table of Contents


1. Two Stories of Liberal Society

2. Church, Kingdom, and Secularity

3. The Virtues of Noninstrumental Relationships

4. Christian Hope and the Eucharist: Witness and Service

5. Two Stories of Liberal Society and Contemporary Catholic Identity


"Strongly recommend this cogent book for those trying to think through a principled and theologically grounded Catholic stance on public policy."—Theological Studies

"Gascoigne's treatment of Kingdom, Church and their relationship to secularity (culture and its various dimensions) is particularly insightful. His discussion of the human rights in the light of Christology is hard to better and offers a valuable contribution in what is, in many ways, an underdeveloped field."—Australasian Catholic Record

"An engaging vision of how the Christian community can help liberal modernity live up to its positive potential. By nurturing the virtues of humility, reverence, and hope among citizens, the church will contribute desperately needed support for human dignity and human rights. A valuable theological contribution to current debates in moral and political theory."—David Hollenbach, SJ, Boston College

"Gascoigne's engagement with contemporary liberal society is both challenging and generous. In a highly accessible and sympathetic way, he presents an interpretation of both the best and worst aspects of liberalism. Theologians may find some of their negative assessments of liberalism challenged by Gascoigne's robust theological vision; whilst those secularists who are keen to marginalize religious voices, should find the theological description of the ills of modern society uncomfortably illuminating."—Christopher Insole, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University UK


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Robert Gascoigne is a professor and head of the School of Theology at Australian Catholic University. He is the author of The Public Forum and Christian Ethics and Freedom and Purpose: An Introduction to Christian Ethics.

192 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

Sep 2009

192 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN: 978-1-58901-490-9
Sep 2009

192 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-725-2
Sep 2009

Moral Traditions series
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