Verbum Incarnatum: An Academic Journal of Social Justice


Protestant criticisms of Catholic social teaching have focused on the latter’s undue optimism and its insensitivity to the struggle and strife that characterizes life. This article traces the roots of this argument back to Augustine’s pessimistic political theory in The City of God and then as rearticulated by Reinhold Niebuhr in the twentieth century. As much as mid-twentieth century Thomists such as Yves Simon strive to counter this critique in their engagement of democracy, the Augustinian stress on radical plurality has resurfaced once again both in postmodernism and Samuel Huntington’s accent on the “clash between civilizations.” Therefore, this essay contends that Catholic social teaching by drawing upon the vibrant articulation of analogical spiritual imagination by David Tracy and the ethos of “crossing borders” stressed in U.S. Latino theology can illustrate how the disclosure of differences and the engagement between seemingly agonal alternatives can contribute to a greater universality.