Book Reviews – November 2022

Faith of Our Fathers: A History of True England. By Joseph Pearce. Reviewed by K.E. Colombini. (skip to review)

The WillPower Advantage: Building Habits For Lasting Happiness. By Tom Peterson and Ryan Hanning. Reviewed by Mary R. Schneider. (skip to review)

Everywhen: God, Symmetry, and Time. By Thomas P. Sheahen. Reviewed by Gerard Verschuuren. (skip to review)

Our Life of Service: The Handbook for Catholic Deacons. By Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers. Reviewed by Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony. (skip to review)

Natural Law – Australian Style: A Study in Disputation Focusing on the Work of Peter Singer, John Finnis and Tracey Rowland. By Donald G. Boland. Reviewed by Francis Etheredge. (skip to review)

Natural Law and Human Rights: Toward a Recovery of Practical Reason. By Pierre Manent. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

Faith of Our Fathers – Joseph Pearce

Pearce, Joseph. Faith of Our Fathers: A History of True England. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2022. 384 pages.

Reviewed by K.E. Colombini.

Joseph Pearce’s new history tells the story of three Englands over time. There was Merry Old England where Catholicism held sway and monarchs like Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor were saints (the former considered so unofficially, and the latter canonized in 1161). This was followed, thanks to Henry VIII, by what we could call Unmerry England, where the Church suffered and monarchs created many martyrs over nearly three centuries. Finally, there is the third England, where the saints worked to rebuild True England, which is, in Pearce’s masterful telling, Catholic England.

If Hilaire Belloc, in a fervent expression of Europe’s Catholic identity, once declared that “Europe is the Faith,” Pearce proudly proclaims it of his home country, an island nation once unified by its Catholicism and the great men and women who brought it all together. It’s also Mary’s Dowry, according to ancient custom, with devotion to her as deep as the fields are green, and Pearce’s adept summary — histories of England are known to go on for multiple volumes — clearly delineates the impact Catholics had in creating the England we all know and love, and the remarkable recovery the Faith made since persecution eased in the late eighteenth century. Who would have imagined a pope traveling to England to beatify a British cardinal, as Benedict XVI did in 2010 with John Henry Newman? Or that Prince Charles, the successor to the throne, would travel to the Vatican nine years later for Newman’s canonization?

Newman is the obvious example of the nineteenth-century “Second Spring” Catholic resurgence in England. Another is the architect Augustus Pugin, who restored the Gothic look to Christian architecture and was responsible for the Houses of Parliament and the tower of Big Ben that neatly symbolize the capital city. In a brief section, Pearce discusses Pugin’s work on Alton Towers, the once-magnificent country estate of the Catholic Lord Shrewsbury in Staffordshire, so well designed and thought of it was hailed in a novel by future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

We have, perhaps, arrived these days at something a little sorrowful in the history of England, or of all of what was once known as Christendom, a post-Christian era. The fabled lands of Alton Towers are now home to an amusement park, one of Britain’s largest. The estate home lies primarily in ruins, surrounded by roller coasters and food stands.

Pearce does not discuss this fact, but his remarkable story of the Catholic resurgence led by men like Pugin, Newman and so many others, with the tolerance and even perhaps quiet blessing of the more modern monarchs, makes us wonder at the future of Christendom in England. The Church in nations such as his not only endured persecution (think also of Japan and Mexico), but the blood of their martyrs became the seed for something great. Perhaps we can see reason for hope in this post-Christian time. Two-thirds of the way through the book, Pearce quotes his beloved Chesterton: “Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.” In thinking of True England, we have reason to hope that Christendom can rise again — there and everywhere else. But it will take more saints.

A former journalist, St. Louis-based writer K.E. Colombini has been published in First Things, National Catholic Register, the American Conservative and elsewhere.

The WillPower Advantage – Tom Peterson and Ryan Hanning

Peterson, Tom and Ryan Hanning. The WillPower Advantage: Building Habits for Lasting Happiness. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2020. 272 pages.

Reviewed by Mary R. Schneider.

The purpose of The WillPower Advantage is to help readers train their wills to habitually choose to do what is good so that they can become happy, holy, and the persons God wants them to be. Tom Peterson and Ryan Hanning, Ph.D., are both active in Catholic apostolates and are thought leaders in the Church’s New Evangelization movement. However, this book is not a traditional Catholic exposition on moral theology and spiritual growth. It is a manual that blends a Scripture-based, Christian moral theology with an analysis of personality types, or temperaments, and proposes a detailed program, the WillPower Advantage, designed to help readers grow in virtue. The program is based on the idea that there are four different temperaments that dispose people to have certain natural strengths and weaknesses which, in turn, reveal the virtues and vices they are likely to have. Knowing one’s temperament is the key to knowing which virtues one needs to develop and how to practice these.

In Part 1 Peterson and Hanning discuss the intellect, the will, and the appetite and then present the “Spiritual Audit” readers must complete to gain the self-knowledge they need for the program’s “lifestyle reboot.” The audit requires readers to rate their strengths and weaknesses and identify their primary and secondary temperaments from the following four types: choleric (focused on action), sanguine (focused on people and relationships), phlegmatic (focused on peace), and melancholic (focused on ideas).

In Part 2, the authors examine the power of the will and then discuss the thirteen “core” virtues they believe are essential for Christian discipleship: compassion, prudence, justice, self-control, courage, humility, obedience, generosity, honor, greatheartedness, gratitude, wonder, and cooperation. They devote a chapter to each virtue in which they describe it; cite Scripture passages, including a Beatitude, illustrating it; show how the different temperaments manifest or fail to manifest the virtue; and list concrete ways readers can practice it.

In Part 3 Peterson and Hanning ask readers to integrate the results of their spiritual audits with what they learned about the virtues and then choose a customized “action plan with God” based on their primary and secondary temperaments, which will lead them to happiness and holiness. Readers must answer several questions and write down the specific steps they will take, which include identifying the virtues they need, setting deadlines for developing these, and listing the ways they will change their behavior.

Although The WillPower Advantage gives readers a good, basic understanding of the intellect, the will, virtue, and vice and offers them practical advice on exercising virtue, it is flawed. The program is too complicated. Some readers may not be willing or able to identify their weaknesses and vices and/or their temperaments. Many people can readily point to their strengths, even ones they don’t have, but not their weaknesses and sins. Others may not want to complete the spiritual audit or the action plan, but if they do not, they are not following the program and will not benefit from it. Also, the program is based on a premise that is open to dispute, namely that people can be classified according to the four temperaments. Psychologists and other scholars disagree on this issue and the Church has no opinion on it. Moreover, readers do not need to identify their temperaments to attain self-knowledge; they can do this through self-reflection and prayer.

The book does not appear to be targeted specifically to Catholics — the authors address readers as Christians, not Catholics — and it does not draw sufficiently from the Church’s treasury of moral theology and spirituality. Although Peterson and Hanning frequently cite Scripture, mention the saints, and remind readers to ask God for help, they make few references to the Mass and the Sacraments and do not emphasize that these along with daily prayer are the indispensable sources of grace that enable one to perform the individual good works that comprise habits of virtue and that make one holy. The book’s reliance on readers knowing their temperaments and executing this program as the conditions of advancing in virtue imposes an unnecessary burden on them. In addition, its failure to stress the importance of the Sacraments and the Mass leaves readers without the means of rooting out vices or of practicing virtues on a supernatural as opposed to a natural level. The WillPower Advantage may help some readers, but others will not be able to complete its program. In the end, the book’s promise to help readers become happy and holy is too ambitious and it cannot deliver on it.

Mary Schneider is a retired technical writer and communications specialist. She and her husband have six children and two grandchildren and live in Ohio.

Everywhen – Thomas P. Sheahen

Sheahen, Thomas P. Everywhen: God, Symmetry, and Time. St. Louis, MO: En Route Books and Media, 2021. 240 pages.

Reviewed by Gerard Verschuuren.

Why should a journal called Homiletic & Pastoral Review have a review of a book that deals with physics and time? The answer has something to do with the fact that many young people are leaving the Church in increasing numbers. In polls, they mention “science” as the reason they do no longer believe in religious teachings. It is often described by them as if there is a conflict between science and faith.

In fact, the problem is on both sides of the presumed conflict. We need to ask critical questions. On the one side, do these people really know what science tells us? That problem probably requires better instruction by science teachers. On the other side, do these people really know how the Church deals with science? That problem concerns priests, deacons, and other pastoral workers. That also calls for better instruction.

Thank God, this latter problem has recently been addressed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops when it launched its new Program of Priestly Formation in which it says about seminarians: “As a result of his studies during this stage of formation, the seminarian has the ability to understand the issues surrounding the intersection of faith and modern science, as well as the ability to articulate how faith and science can support one another.”

Who or what is going to help them with this challenge? I think there is a new book on the market that could be a helpful tool in this endeavor: Everywhen: God, Symmetry, and Time by Dr. Thomas P. Sheahen. The title is probably a challenge in itself, until the reader realizes that “Everywhen” refers to God’s omnipresence, which applies to space as well as to time: every-where and every-when. God is present to all places and present to all time.

To begin with, the author explains over and over again that there is no conflict between science and faith. As a lifelong Catholic and an expert physicist, not only does he have the competence to do this, but he also does so very compellingly. But perhaps the most interesting part of the book is his focus on the question of what God has to do with time and in what way. He explains that St. Augustine had already figured out that God created space and time together. That is what faith tells us. And then there is what physics tells us: time is a dimension in addition to the three dimensions of space. We live in a four-dimensional space-time continuum — a cornerstone of Einstein’s relativity theory.

Combining these insights has quite some consequences, as Sheahen extensively explains. God is not within time, dealing with time sequentially like we do — in terms of before, during, and after. God is outside time; He is, in fact, the Creator of time. Therefore, we cannot ask what God was doing before the creation, for there is no “before” until space and time had been created. In other words, God is not subject to time, but time is subject to God. Therefore, Sheahen sees it as his task to “reassert God’s dominion over time.”

Through advances in astronomy and quantum mechanics, we have discovered how much bigger and smaller things are than we thought and how much longer it took some of them to emerge than we thought. Let Sheahen expertly explain this to you. He also tells us about the Big Bang Theory, which was launched by Fr. Georges Lemaître and which we now accept as the best theory on the origin of the universe. However, when Pope Pius XII heard about this, he wanted to declare Fr. Georges Lemaître’s Big Bang Theory a doctrine of faith, because it coincided so nicely with the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. Lo and behold, Fr. Lemaître talked him out of it with the argument that no theory in science is truly final. Later on, Pope John Paul would give us a famous warning: “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” Even the Big Bang theory can become an absolute. Sheahen uses great examples to show how to avoid idolatry and false absolutes, especially in science.

At one point, he refers to the well-known statement in Genesis, “Let there be light.” Then he explains how important this is, for in physics it is the speed of light that makes time different from space. In his own words, “It is only because there is light that ‘space’ differs from ‘time.’” But, again, God is not in time — we are. Because we are, we are used to dealing with time-related events in religion. Examples are plenty: prayer for healing, slowing down biological time, determining the beginning of human life, the prospect of an afterlife, the existence of hell. Sheahen has some fascinating reflections on these subjects. And he uses good images and comparisons to make his point.

Let me only mention one of these cases as an example of how Sheahen deals with this, just to give you a foretaste of what you are in for. If heaven is not a place, as faith tells us, then it must have no time either, so we tend to visualize this as “time standing still.” Thinking that way makes life in heaven as something in which time passes just like it did on earth. How can heaven be without time? Well, it can, the author suggests, if we consider eternal life to be a life in other dimensions, where time is not a factor. So, it is not an after-life but a full-life — a relationship with God uncoupled from time or space. Of course, you don’t have to accept the author’s solution(s), for that would be another case of idolatry and absolutes. But the main point is, again, that time is a problematic concept when applied to God.

Seen in this light, many questions people bring up may make no longer sense. Why did it take God so long — 13.8 billion years — to create the world we see? That question doesn’t seem right once we realize that there is no “long” or “short” in God’s creation, for God does not exist within time. For these and other questions, read Dr. Tom Sheahen’s new book — and hopefully help others to see what is at stake.

Dr. Gerard Verschuuren is a biologist, writer, speaker, and consultant working at the interface of science, philosophy, and religion.

Our Life of Service – Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

Burke-Sivers, Deacon Harold. Our Life of Service: The Handbook for Catholic Deacons. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2021. 192 pages.

Reviewed by Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony.

Handbooks are texts that you should carry with you. Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers’ Handbook for Catholic Deacons lives up to its title. In this page-turner of information, the author covers a wide range of topics with great wisdom, insight, and authenticity. Although the book is a must-have for deacons, their wives, children, pastors, and all who work with deacons can benefit from this book as well. The set-up of the book makes it easy to follow allowing the audience to soak up knowledge in each chapter. Each chapter has a reflection on one of the eight services of the deacon, then another clergyman’s perspective, and self-evaluation questions. After reviewing the self-evaluation questions, the author challenges the reader to set goals and ends with a prayer.

Deacon Burke-Sivers tackles eight aspects of diaconal service starting with service to the spiritual life since a deacon cannot give what he does not have. The other topics of service he examines are: the mission and structure of the Church, the Word, wife, children, parish, wider community, and ongoing formation. He speaks of real-life diaconal struggles pertaining to these topics such as sharing how to set up boundaries to balance family life and diaconal service so one will avoid burnout as well as things to look out for to build relationships in diverse parishes. Deacon Harold dynamically gives advice about topics such as dealing with the tension of clergy who are not fans of the restored diaconate along with strategies to talk to your pastor when your diaconal time is taking away too much family time. He also writes a tremendously powerful chapter on the deacon being servant to his children, which is a topic all deacon dads should reflect upon in an age which fatherhood needs support.

In tackling the tough topics, Deacon Burke-Sivers also gives many theological nuggets about the diaconate. He speaks of the significance of the bishop and deacon both having their ordinations connected to the Gospel. He notes the deacon’s service can be found in Genesis and in the life-example of Jesus. Thus, the deacons are icons of Christ both in Matrimony and in Holy Orders. In this, he expounds on how the deacon must be deacon of the domestic Church and the parish in the chapters for wives and children. This was an exceptionally powerful section of the book.

The diamond in this Handbook crown is the practical pastoral theology. The deacon gives practical tips on preparing homilies and preaching on difficult themes, resolving conflicts amidst your ministry team, as well how to serve those who are in pain. As a deacon, I see the need for clergy to be trained in conflict resolution and trauma management. This book is a good start in this type of preparation as it brings up the topic and gives great action-items pertaining to these situations. Deacon Harold also makes sure to mention the importance of praying for our parishioners which is something simple, but often forgotten in helping our ministries and apostolates bear good fruit for the Lord.

Speaking of bearing good fruit, Deacon Harold makes a very compelling case about the role of diaconal preaching. He gives canonical support for deacon homiletics, but notes that deacons imitate Christ in a compelling way when they speak outside the Church walls to the poor, abandoned, and forgotten.

In conclusion, the deacon brings the Gospel to the forgotten, but this book by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers is a goldmine of wisdom that should never be forgotten. It is something all deacons need to carry in their hands in addition to a much-needed contribution to the Church as she looks at the restored Order of Deacon. It gives a blueprint for the deacon from Scripture but then builds upon it in eight powerful chapters which will help the reader to understand the blessing of the restoration of the permanent deacon. It also motivates deacons as they read to go deeper into their diaconate while being molded into the image of Christ the Servant of which they are sacramental signs. I highly recommend this book for all deacons, their families, and all those who help in their formation. This book is rightly named as it speaks of a life of service and is a service which will inspire all who read it.

Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony is a deacon of the Diocese of Arlington.

Natural Law – Australian Style – Donald G. Boland

Boland, Donald G. Natural Law – Australian Style: A Study in Disputation Focusing on the Work of Peter Singer, John Finnis and Tracey Rowland. St. Louis, MO: En Route Books and Media, 2022. 359 pages.

Reviewed by Francis Etheredge.

Donald Boland’s study is as specific as he says in the title and, therefore, either one engages with his work according to the title and those with whom he argues, as it were, about natural law, or the reader responds from a point of general interest and, perhaps, some knowledge of the ground that Boland traverses. In my case, then, I am one of those who have responded to what he has written because of gravitating to the same view, namely, that neglecting metaphysics has undermined our capacity to understand both human nature and the ethical norms which rationally flow “from” and “through” our natural inclinations. Thus, in our time, we are seeing the disintegration of the grasp of human nature as a whole and end up with division after division of what, naturally, belongs together: families and their members; natural life and death; male and female in marriage; marriage and spousal love; spousal love and conception.

Boland’s thesis, then, is that we cannot understand what constitutes true and just laws if we do not understand what natural law is: that natural law expresses that there is a God-given, rationally knowable content to human nature’s inclinations, which are of benefit to us all, the first ethical principle of which is: “do good and avoid evil.” There are two ways to misconstrue natural law if what is thought to be natural law is not understood to express the inherent inclinations of human nature and the first principle of practical action, “do good avoid evil.” Then he discusses a third problem, which I shall call “justificationism.”

The first weakness of an “unrooted” natural law is the “disconnect” between human nature and an exponent of natural law, which is somewhat struggling to reconcile legal positivism, an understanding of law which is, as it were, self-referential and simply obtains its authority because it is published by a legislature. In other words, the attempt to remedy the deficiency of “legal positivism,” without re-establishing a relationship to a rational grasp of human nature, is equivalent to propping up a building, the foundations of which are not properly in place. Thus properly promulgated laws could express a relationship to true law but it may well be as a kind of vestige of the past rather than a living relationship in the present; and, therefore, whatever good is found in these laws is, rather, on an unstable foundation and simply vulnerable to being overturned. Moreover, without having recourse to a sound metaphysics, it may be that a person ends up in the contradictory position of justifying what are not in fact just laws.

The second weakness he discusses, albeit with the help of another author, is that an inadequate recognition of the rational foundations of natural law in human nature leads to a too ready adoption of what is uniquely derived from Christian Revelation, namely, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity: that there are three persons in One God. In other words, while the principle of “relationship” could be a rational understanding of how the Revelation of the mystery of God as trinitarian could assist us in recognizing that natural law entails more than has hitherto been properly identified, a too readily theological grasp of natural law may obscure, as it were, its accessibility to rational inquiry and, therefore, the possibility of natural law being a “common good” among the peoples of the earth.

The third problem, then, of “justificationism” is that it is an ethical theory which amounts to a kind of “permissionism.” In other words, without a reflection on what is good, either generally or in specific instances, this type of ethical theory endorses whatever a person wants to do; and, for obvious reasons, whatever a person wants to do is not bound by any norm other than giving a reason for doing it — which rapidly leads to the decriminalization of almost every evil. What is ironic, too, is that even what seems to be the limit of this gratuitous theory, namely, of declaring that the rich need to help the poor, is simply vulnerable to its own argument: that if the rich can justify their exclusive possession of the earth’s resources or rewards then, according to this theory, they are justified in ignoring the needs of others.

In the course of this book there are numerous points of interest, particularly the argument that the rational recognition of moral norms entails the command “do this, shun that” and is therefore “free” of the problem of passing from a statement of fact to a moral obligation. In other words, moral norms proceed as “commands” from the first principle of “do good and avoid evil.” At the same time, however, there are innumerable excellent and often extensive quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict XVI and others on natural law as rationally arising out of our human nature.

Finally, if I think this work has a limitation, it is in rather being too closely allied to the view that the human being is a kind of animal and rational unity when, in modern times, we can see that personalism has encompassed the whole of human personhood to the extent that it is necessary to see that even the inclinations that we “so call” share with animals, like reproduction, are so transcendentally different in view of the whole nature of human personhood being orientated to relationship, that we need to reflect more fully on the “difference” that being human makes to all our human activities, but especially and particularly to the dignity of spousal union and procreation.

Francis Etheredge is a Catholic husband, father of 11 (3 of whom are in heaven), and author of 13 books, including The Family on Pilgrimage: God Leads Through Dead Ends (En Route Books and Media, 2018) and, more recently, Reaching for the Resurrection: A Pastoral Bioethics (En Route Books and Media, 2022).

Natural Law and Human Rights – Pierre Manent

Manent, Pierre. Natural Law and Human Rights: Toward a Recovery of Practical Reason. Translated by Ralph C. Hancock. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2020. 149 pages.

Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

As a hyperpartisan world faces a crescendoing cacophony of rights assertions, noted political philosopher Pierre Manent proposes a recovery of the classical-cum-Christian notion of natural law by means of a restoration of virtue, particularly the cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence. Manent maintains that modern ethicists, beginning with such early modern thinkers as Machiavelli and Hobbes, drove a wedge between empirical knowledge and final causality (teloi), thus inventing the is-ought fallacy and paving the way for contemporary society’s inability to achieve moral consensus. He rejects the notion that one can analyze humanity in a so-called state of nature and then reduce ethics to a form of social contract theory. Manent, instead, proposes a recovery of the Aristotelian notion of practical reasoning (praxis) by means of a renewed “rule of action” in order to emerge from the predominating confusion of moral relativism.

Manent begins with a cri-de-coeur in favor of the importance of natural law in moral reasoning, which he — echoing Aristotle — refers to as “practical reasoning.” Manent insists that the classical notion of natural rights (ius naturale) as derivative of the natural moral law is more highly preferable as a rationale for moral decision-making than the modern conceptualization of human rights. He reproaches early modern thinkers such as Machiavelli, Luther, Rousseau, and especially Hobbes, for eroding a sense of the objective nature of moral norms and undermining moral reasoning rooted in the cultivation of virtue. Manent contends that modern ethical systems utterly fail to provide an adequate means of moral reasoning because, by eschewing the Platonic pursuit of the good-in-itself, they are limited to subjective codes of conduct, thus creating a toxic circle that fails to address the great question “What is the good?” and reducing true liberty-under-law to a voluntarism whose moral boundaries know no limits (4–6). The unctuous modern maxim “laissez-faire, laissez-passez” belies an apathy toward seeking the Good (86–88).

Manent, moreover, contends that modernity has abandoned the pursuit of the common good (bonum commune) in favor of mere coexistence. The modern State, in a quasi-tyrannical fashion, has reduced active moral agents into passive subjects (84–86). He bemoans “the language of unlimited rights,” which opens the door to virtually any action provided that it meets the terms of the social contract. Human rights are so occlusive as a means of moral calculus that Manent fears a decline in the ability to truly know oneself (100).

Manent argues that all people, even in modernity, seek some combination of the pleasant, the useful, and the honorable in their moral reasoning, which he holds to be three objective ends that transcend the variety of human cultures. “We might seek these goods in different ways,” he writes, “but the seeking of these goods is universal to the human experience” (102–103). As such, Manent contends that these three goods can be employed as objective criteria for assessing the extent to which a given society is oriented toward the natural moral law. Manent concludes on an optimistic note, comforting the reader with the neo-Thomistic promise that natural law will always “prevail” against the forces of subjectivization, for we have tested the Cartesian project of mastering Nature to its very limits (123).

Manent’s thorough skepticism toward the modern conceptualization of human rights rests rather uncomfortably with the embrace of human rights by other natural law theorists (e.g., Maritain, Gilson, MacIntyre), the magisterial teachings of Saint Pope John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the widespread consensus of contemporary society that the adoption of universal human rights was a monumental victory for human dignity and moral progress. Manent does eruditely expose how rights claims often devolve into platitudes or contradictions. He persuasively argues that rights claims are too often equivocations (128). He is, no doubt, correct that people can speak misleadingly — even absurdly — by donning the language of rights; however, the equivocation should be targeted, not the very concept of human rights jettisoned entirely. Loudly absent is any mention of the United Nations (UN) Charter on Human Rights. Indeed, one of the most renowned natural law theorists, the neo-Thomist Jacques Maritain, wrote in support of the Charter, though he did note that human rights must be understood in their metaphysical foundation.

Manent himself acknowledges briefly that human rights can lead to salutary advances. Unfortunately, he relegates one of the most important examples of human rights in modern times — namely, the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s — to a single footnote (134). This is quite problematic because he offers the Civil Rights Movement as an example of rights theory based on social contract that happened to lead to salutary change when it was in fact a strong example of the unremitting persistence of natural moral law. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. directly cited Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and embraced natural law by boldly invoking the maxim “Lex iniusta non est lex.” The Civil Rights Movement, along with related victories for human rights such as women’s suffrage, abolitionism, and the Geneva Conventions, point to the continuing perseverance of natural law in the modern world rather than the denial of natural law as prescribed by Hobbes and the progenitors of the Enlightenment. Although Manent criticizes the endless listing of rights (111), some attention to the UN Charter of Human Rights would enhance this work.

This thought-provoking series of essays critiquing the modern project’s vision of rights issues a challenge to transcend platitudes of mere tolerance and build a society that truly seeks individual and communal flourishing. This valuable contribution to the question of rights theory and its relationship to natural moral law will be of interest to scholars and students of political philosophy.

Christopher Siuzdak is a canonist in the Tribunal of the Diocese of Portland.

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