Rorate Caeli

Book Notice: Thomas Storck, From Christendom to Americanism and Beyond

Rorate readers will be interested to know about this new book from Angelico Press, a publisher that has quickly established itself as one of the foremost presses for traditional Catholic thought today, with such books as The Memoirs of Louis BouyerH. J. A. Sire's Phoenix from the Ashes, Brian McCall's To Build the City of God, James Kalb's Against InclusivenessPeter Kwasniewski's Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, Montessori's The Mass Explained to Children, Fr. Michael Chaberek's Catholicism and Evolution, and many titles from Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Bd. Columba Marmion, Stratford Caldecott, and Wolfgang Smith. (Their full catalog is available here.)

The book, From Christendom to Americanism and Beyond: The Long, Jagged Trail to a Postmodern Void, is by noted expert and author on Catholic Social Teaching, Thomas Storck, whose articles have been appearing for decades in journals like Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Caelum & Terra, Faith & Reason, The Chesterton Review, and more recently online at Ethika Politika. This book gathers Storck's best writings on cultural and intellectual history, including new material and a foreword by Joseph Pearce. 

While reading this book, I kept feeling gratitude for the clarity with which Storck defines his terms and constructs his arguments. For example, his "Liberalism's Three Assaults" (pp. 22-33) offers the clearest discussion of the meaning of liberalism I've come across, along with the most succinct presentation of its logical ramifications. It would make an ideal handout for a class attempting to come to grips with the phenomenon of liberalism. 

"John Locke, Liberal Totalitarianism, and the Trivialization of Religion" (pp. 154-170) is a brilliant summary and critique of Locke's theory of religious toleration and governmental supremacy. Storck shows, again with marvelous clarity, how the purportedly neutral democracies of the modern West are founded on a systematic repression of the inherently public dimension of religion and its legitimate claims on man. 

When it comes to defining "modernity" and "postmodernity" -- concepts that are by no means easy to pin down -- Storck manages to collate the most pertinent features of the phenomena and bind them together with philosophical precision. He highlights the stark contrasts between the Catholic/Christian and the modern/postmodern worldviews, describes the steps by which the Western world moved from the former to the latter, and analyzes the pitfalls into which the leaders of the Church have fallen in their attempt to respond appropriately. 

Along the way, he has fascinating discussions of how these larger ideas played out in the United States of America in particular -- for example, ch. 14, "The Catholic Vocations of the Americas," ch. 17, "The Catholic Failure to Change America," and ch. 18, "The End of the New Deal Coalition and the Transformation of American Politics." Such chapters give the book a "feet-on-the-ground" feel that is a welcome complement to its more heady philosophical parts, such as the chapter on St. Thomas's definition of art and how it can help us understand the difference between a fruitful human creativity strongly embedded in the genuine needs of society and an arrogant grab for divine creativity that ends in utter futility and irrelevance.

In short, this book is highly recommended.