(The Mediator Descends) Notes on “Roman Catholicism and Political Form” (Carl Schmitt)

baroque

After working through material on the politics of the Bavli, I’m now cleaning up my files and decided to dump these reading notes here at the blog for further reference and for the general interest of anyone out there invested, one way or not, in this kind of stuff. I do so in the spirit of theological and political ecumenicism. You can read here and in full Carl Schmitt, Roman Catholicism and Political Form, translated and annotated by G.L. Ullman. This slender volume includes the titular essay and “The Visibility of the Catholic Church.” It has nothing in common with Judaism.

“Roman Catholicism and Political Form”

Schmitt contended that something peculiar to Catholicism allowed it to “make present” the true essence of something by “representing” it. Because “the idea of representation is so completely governed by conceptions of personal authority that the representative as well as the person represented must maintain a personal dignity-it is not a materialist concept. To represent in an eminent sense can only be done by a person…an authoritative person or an idea which, if represented, also becomes personified.”” Roman Catholicism and Political Form (21, 17)

The political power of Catholicism rests neither on economic nor on military means but rather on the absolute realization of authority (18).

The Catholic Church  is  the sole surviving contemporary example of the medieval capacity to create representative figures-the pope, the emperor, the monk, the knight, the merchant.” Representation disappears in modern period (19)

“[T]the idea of representation is so completely governed by conceptions of personal authority that the representative as well as the person represented must maintain a personal dignity-it is not a  materialist concept…Once the state becomes a leviathan, it disappears from the world of representations” (21).

 

“The Visibility of the Church: A Scholastic Consideration”

Note the loneliness of “man” who is nothing before God and the vast and terrible aloneness of God in Schmitt’s theological conception (48) Mouth of God as source of lawful authority and mundane authority (50-1)

“The visibility of the Church is based on something invisible. The concept of the visible Church is itself something invisible. Like all reality, it loses its actuality in relation to God because God is the only true reality. Thus the true visibility of the Church is invisible. There is no invisible Church that is not visible and no visible Church that is not invisible. Thus the Church can be in but not of this world. An arrangement making the invisible visible must be rooted in the invisible and appear in the visible. The mediator descends, because the mediation can only proceed from above, not from below. Salvation lies in that God becomes man (not that man becomes God). Just as Christ had a real body, so must the Church have a real body” (51-2).

“The visibility of the Church derives from its essence, which is mediation. But mediation remains a task that must be regenerated constantly.” (53)

 

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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