The spiritual/temporal distinction within the Campaign for Human Development: A theological and philosophical analysis

Lawrence John Engel, Marquette University


The traditional Catholic spiritual/temporal distinction lies at the center of the Campaign for Human Development's (CHD) authorizing resolutions, "Christians are concerned not only with man's eternal destiny but also with his temporal well being." Prior to Vatican Council II, the distinction was sharply defined in reaction against the naturalistic and anthropocentric excesses of the Enlightenment. At Vatican II, with the collapse of the Aeterni Patris movement and a constructive turn toward modernity, the meaning of the distinction shifted with a deeper integration of the spiritual within the temporal. The precise nature of that shift and its theoretical meaning remains an unresolved challenge to scholars. This challenge goes right to the core of the postconciliar theological enterprise and probes the impact of historical consciousness, theory-praxis relations, and hermeneutics upon traditional Catholic self-understanding. CHD provides and American Catholic and American Pragmatic opportunity for spiritual/temporal integration within a democratic context. As will be shown, CHD initiates that project through an alliance among a North American option for the poor, the spiritual interpreted in practice as a "realized drive" within historical agency, and a temporal praxis-orientation toward relational power. The argument begins by establishing the influence of Saul Alinsky upon the origins of CHD. Alinsky's American Pragmatic rejection of the distinction is brought into dialogue with John Courtney Murray's Neo-Thomistic embrace of the distinction. The either/or antinomy between the two is resolved by locating their convergence in CHD within the contemporary movement beyond objectivism and relativism, a movement propelled by Vatican II's rapprochement with modernity and evidenced within CHD itself. The movement beyond recognizes that within the "postconciliar" and "postmodern" era, a new metaphor for democratic public life is necessary which moves beyond the outdated antinomies of foundationalism. Within the "new constellation," CHD is unmistakably shown to be a unique theological locus for the development of a North American theology, a locus wherein the mutually corrective projects of Alinsky and Murray converge to address the postconciliar challenge of spiritual/temporal integration.

Recommended Citation

Engel, Lawrence John, "The spiritual/temporal distinction within the Campaign for Human Development: A theological and philosophical analysis" (1998). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9842430.