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Civilizing Authority: Society, State, and Church Hardcover – October 5, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


An education and a delight, Civilizing Authority is like participating in a rich and provocative conversation, about questions that are both timely and timeless, among learned friends. (Richard Garnett, University of Notre Dame)

These elegant essays offer a bold and bracing new understanding of the province and power of authority in Scripture and tradition, conscience and community, church and state―as well as a sage rebuke of the growing numbers of authoritarians and antinomians among us. (John Witte Jr.)

In an era in which authority seems to be slipping away (or to be emerging in the pathological form of authoritarianism) this welcome volume gives us ten distinguished authors addressing from their distinct perspectives the nature of authority, its loss, and its perversion, topics that are crucial not only to the law, but to the legitimacy of the social order itself. (James Boyd White, University of Michigan)

About the Author

Patrick McKinley Brennan is professor of law and John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic legal studies at Villanova University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Lexington Books (October 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739118064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739118061
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,815,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter P. Fuchs on October 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I love it when reactionaries are given a comeuppance by their own Pope! What a pleasure! This guy is one of the cabal in the United States that is somehow trying to bring "Natural Law" theory bizarrely into American Constitutional discussions. Pure fantasy, of course. But now, poor sods, even the Pope is undercutting their jejune Finnis fantasies. And they of course are more Catholic than the Pope. How pathetic. First let us notice how they take aim at the Enlightenment in their own book description here:

"Voices of Enlightenment have long counseled modern men and women to flee authority {what a puerile overstatement, it's just incredible!!!], including authority claimed by the church. Aspiring to substitute rock-ribbed law [spare me, that rock-ribbed law was often just convenience for kings!] for human, or even divine, authority, today's legal minds pursue a "rule of law, not of men." Any possibility of authority is almost everywhere assimilated to the threat of authoritarian abuse.

Civilizing Authority counters the flight from authority with the claim that it is precisely authority itself that offers a barrier against authoritarianism. The book's authors share the insight that humans cannot increase, or even long survive, without authority, and they observe, from along a broad spectrum of perspectives, that all phases of our human living depend on authority. Families, churches, clubs, monasteries, unions, cities, and states -- human living would be unrecognizable without them, and they all depend upon authority and authorities.

Still, what is "the authority experience?" What are we obeying when when we give willing assent to authority?
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Civilizing Authority: Society, State, and Church
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