In light of the comments made by Milbank about Benedict’s UK visit, I decided to pick up again The Future of Love.  There Milbank offers a response to Deus Caritas Est, “The Future of Love: A Reading of Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.” I think there might be something to the fact that the concluding essay on Benedict carries the very title of his book.

 

Milbank rightly notes that Benedict stands in the linage of the nouvelle theologie.  “The only true mysticism,” writes Milbank, “is Eucharistic.”  He goes on to state, reminiscent of Henri de Lubac, that “we encounter God only within the social body, only insofar as we also encounter the neighbor – an in the context of celebratory foretaste of the heavenly banquet rather than in a context of benefaction” (366).  Within this Eucharistic context, Milbank finds a radically orthodox pope; one who navigates between the market and bureaucratic state.  Yet it’s not entirely some element of the via media that Benedict is proposing.  Rather, the Church, according to what Milbank has been on about for some time, is the fulfilment of human society:

“With and yet beyond justice the Church is the place of the exercise of charity.  State agencies can never displace ecclesial ones, because what the human person needs is direct attention and appreciation of his uniqueness beyond the mere just granting of him his due… Moreover, Benedict suggests that even secular projects of justice will only reach fruition if they are infused by a grace-given sense of charity – by the sense that through the Eucharist, and in Christ, we are becoming at one with an infinite and all-powerful love.  In practical terms this implies an increased role for “civil society” as opposed to either the sheerly profit-seeking market of the bureaucratic state” (369).

In this brief section, Milbank has brilliantly brought together 1) the radical and personalist philosophy of Dorothy Day: “state agencies can never displace ecclesial ones”; 2) elements, I think of Alasdair MacIntyre’s genealogy of the modern nation state’s meeting out desert based upon fact/value distinctions and bureaucratic managerialism; 3) the Eucharist cosmology of de Lubac; and finally, 4) the Distributistism of Chesteron and Belloc with the appeal to what is beyond the market or centralized state.

Presenting such a picture of the vicar of Peter, it easy to see why Milbank can get behind Benedict.

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