Saturday, March 31, 2007

Classical Liberalism blog

here

St. Thomas on the three kinds of obedience

II II 104, 6

Ad tertium dicendum quod religiosi obedientiam profitentur quantum ad reuglarem conversationem, secundum quam suis praelatis subduntur. Et ideo quantum ad illa sola obedire tenentur quae possunt ad regularem conversationem pertinere; et haec est obedientia sufficiens ad salutem. Si autem etiam in aliis obedire voluerint, hoc pertinebit ad cumulum perfectionis, dum tamen illa non sint contra Deum aut contra professionem regulae, quia talis obedientia esset illicita.

Sic ergo potest triplex obedientia distingui: una sufficiens ad salutem, quae scilicet obedit in his ad quae obligatur; alia perfecta, quae obedit in omnibus licitis; alia indiscreta, quae etiam in illicitis obedit.

So where does Jesuit obedience fall? Same blame the Jesuits for bringing upon Catholics a culture of "slavish and unquestioning obedience"; others blame voluntarism, while some make a connection between the two. Because of "slavish and unquestioning obedience" the disastrous liturgical reform of the 60s and 70s were implemented without much protest from the laity. (See, for example, Geoffrey Hull, The Banished Heart.) Still, I wonder if this is a fair charge to lay at St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuit Constitutions.

Christian Order article that mentions The Banished Heart
Dr. Hull's Essay, The Proto-History of the Roman Liturgical Reform
Some links

Miscellaneous
Nicholas Wilton Sacred Choral Music
Dominicanus

Friday, March 30, 2007

Holy See to U.N. on Religious Freedom

Holy See to U.N. on Religious Freedom

"A Fundamental Element of the Common Good"

GENEVA, MARCH 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the March 22 address which Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations at Geneva, delivered to the Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council on the theme of religious freedom.

* * *

Mr. President,

1. The notable increase of interest in religion for its impact on the lives of individuals and of societies around the world is a phenomenon that finds -- rightly so -- an echo also in the Human Rights Council.

Abuse of rights of believers, even outright violence against them, state restrictions, undue impositions and persecution, public insult to religious feelings, unfortunately persist and call for remedy.

The delegation of the Holy See appreciates and fully supports the openness of the new council to uphold a universal vision of human rights protection.

A major contribution of the council is an approach that is inclusive and consistent with existing provisions in human rights instruments and declarations that clearly support, among other rights, freedom of religion, of expression, of conscience, of worship in private and in public, and respect of religious convictions for believers of all faiths and for nonbelievers alike.

2. The Holy See delegation observes with preoccupation the emergence of an apparent dilemma between respect due to religions and the right to religious freedom as if they were incompatible and mutually exclusive aspects. On the contrary, they are complementary values that cannot stand one without the other.

The religious dimension of the human person, his attitude before transcendence and the consequent ethical demands, make up a concrete and fundamental manifestation of his or her capacity of free auto-determination. It is a basic reference point of personal and social behavior. Religions can offer, and in fact do offer, a solid foundation for the defense of the values of personal and social justice, for respect of others and of nature.

3. In the course of history, there have been sad episodes of religious fanaticism with tragic social results. Yet religions are among those social factors that, together with science, have most contributed to the progress of humanity through the promotion of cultural, artistic, social and humanitarian values. Therefore any religion that preaches or condones violence, intolerance and hatred renders itself unworthy of the name.

On the other hand, we cannot avoid noticing that besides pseudo-religious fanaticism there is evidence on occasions of a certain anti-religious fanaticism that denigrates religion or, generally, the faithful of a religion, by attributing to them responsibility for violent actions done today or in the past by some members of that religion.

The legitimate criticism of certain forms of behavior of followers of a religion should not turn into insult or unjust defamation nor into offensive mockery of its revered persons, practices, rites or symbols. Respect for the rights and dignity of others should mark the limit of any right, even that of the free expression and manifestation of one's opinions, religious ones included.

4. Respect for the human person and his or her dignity implies respect for his freedom in religious matters to profess, practice and publicly manifest one's religion without being mocked, injured or discriminated against. Respect for religion means respect of those who have chosen to follow it and practice it in a free and pacific way, in private and in public, individually or collectively.

Offense to a religion, especially when it is that of a minority, brings about some coercion against its followers that will make it more difficult to profess, practice and manifest this religion in public.

5. The subject of religion and the subject of freedom is always the human person, whose dignity is at the origin of fundamental rights. The respect for any religion is based in the end on the respect that is due to all those who, in the exercise of their freedom, follow and practice it.

Of course, such respect cannot imply contempt or attacks on the rights of people who do not follow the same religion or follow other convictions. In this way, the issue of respect due to religions should find its explicit foundation in the rights of religious freedom and freedom of expression.

Consequently, the promotion of respect for the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of expression should not leave aside the respect for concrete religions, beliefs and opinions in which such rights are realized.

One cannot consider the ridicule of the sacred as a right of freedom. In the full respect of the right of expression, mechanisms or instruments need to be developed, coherent with the human rights provisions that would defend the message of religious communities from manipulation and would avoid a disrespectful presentation of their members.

Mr. President,

6. In conclusion, a really democratic state values religious freedom as a fundamental element of the common good, worthy of respect and protection, and creates the conditions that allow its citizens to live and act freely. If the discussion focuses only on religious tolerance and defamation of religion, it limits the range of rights and the contribution that religions offer.

In fact, the impression could develop that religion is tolerated on the base of cultural, ethnic, political circumstances, that could change or even turn into forms of coercion, and is not recognized as a fundamental human right inherent in every human person.

A comprehensive approach, that sees respect of religion rooted in the freedom that every human person is entitled to enjoy in a balance of rights with others and with society, appears as the reasonable way forward.

Thank you, Mr. President.

[Original text in English; text adapted]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pope's Study of Church Fathers Not Just for Catholics

Pope's Study of Church Fathers Not Just for Catholics

Interview With Theologian David Warner

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia, MARCH 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's Wednesday-audience series on the Apostolic Fathers can give us hope for unity among Christians, says a Catholic theologian who was once an evangelical Protestant minister.

In this interview with ZENIT, David Warner discusses how reading Church Fathers led to his return to the Catholic Church and offers some reflections on the Pope's teachings.

Warner is now a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, and an adjunct professor for the University of Sacramento, California.

Q: How have the early Church Fathers been influential in your own life, first as a Protestant minister and later as a Catholic?

Warner: I left the Catholic Church during my high school years. A far-ranging search led me away from the Church and toward a Christianity of my own invention.

After three years of wandering, I re-embraced Trinitarian theology and had an evangelical conversion to the divinity and lordship of Jesus Christ. This was the beginning of what turned out to be a rediscovery of, and return to, what the Nicene Creed calls the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church."

Again and again during my 18-year sojourn through various streams of Protestantism, I kept coming back to study the early centuries of Christianity.

While teaching a survey course in Church history, I became convinced that I was incompletely joined to the one Church directly established by Christ and witnessed to by the Fathers.

Reading the Apostolic Fathers and the second-century apologists forced me to come to grips with the thoroughly "Catholic" elements of early Christianity.

There was no escaping the fact that already in the first generations, Christians believed, for example, in a sacramental theology, a hierarchy led by bishops who were appointed by the first apostles, and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

As a Catholic, my Christian formation was corrected and enriched by studying for three university degrees in Catholic theology. My favorite studies related to patristics.

Whether I was researching biblical, systematic, moral, historical, or pastoral theology; Catholic education or ecumenism; a common point of integration was to discover what the earliest theologians and pastors taught and practiced.

My doctoral studies centered on the 19th-century English convert, Cardinal Newman, who, like so many recent evangelical ministers including myself, returned to the fullness of the ancient Church largely through the influence of the Fathers.

Q: Why would non-Catholic Christians be any more interested in the Fathers of the first couple of centuries than in later saints and doctors of the Church?

Warner: In the Apostolic Fathers and the earliest bishops and apologists, we have the earliest links in the chain that connects today's Christians with the Twelve.

Quoting a second-century bishop, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Benedict XVI reminded us that St. Clement, the third bishop of Rome in succession from St. Peter, had the first apostles' "preaching in his ears, and their tradition before his eyes."

Pope Clement had no qualms about asserting his extra-local apostolic authority, teaching and correcting the Church of Corinth, in distant Greece.

Other great bishops whom Benedict XVI explores, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Polycarp died as martyrs for the truth they knew they had received directly from the original apostles who had taught them.

I remember reasoning while still a Protestant minister, that if Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and Irenaeus could not get it right after just one or two generations, then what hope did I have for believing that Jesus was who the New Testament claimed he was, or that he had founded a Church that would kick in the gates of hell, and be led by the Spirit of truth until his return?

In the end, I wearied of trying to be my own pope, and returned to the Church of the Fathers.

Q: How do you think non-Catholic Christians and others will view Benedict XVI's catechesis on the Fathers of the early Church?

Warner: It is unlikely that many of them will, in fact, come across these teachings directly. But for those who do, their reactions will be influenced by their preconceived ideas and present convictions.

Those who are of a more sociohistorical revisionist persuasion will tend to categorize Benedict's teachings as being nothing more than a repetition of "history as told by the victors" in the ancient battles for orthodoxy.

For them, a seemingly endless stream of "lost gospels" and "new discoveries" are at least complementary to, if not equal or superior to, sacred Scripture and the orthodox writings of the early bishops and saints.

It is a case study for what Cardinal Ratzinger warned of in his homily just before the papal conclave: "Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. … We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain."

We have become accustomed, for example, to being bombarded through the media every Christmas and Easter with wild theories regarding Jesus and the varieties of early Christian belief, appealing to so-called suppressed writings.

Typically, these were written by pseudonymous authors claiming to be one of the apostles or their companions. Many of these manuscripts promoted Gnostic teachings that were already being warned against by the New Testament authors in the first century.

They were rejected by the early bishops as being unfaithful to the teachings of Christ, as passed down through the apostles and their successors.

One encouraging sign is the growing interest among some Protestant scholars and pastors who are fascinated with the project of rediscovering and adapting the unique worldview, theology and spirituality of the Fathers.

Seeking to become more "Catholic" without necessarily becoming "Roman," many evangelical theologians and publishers are producing serious studies on the biblical theology of the Fathers.

This is a promising path of potential convergence that could serve Benedict XVI's own ecumenical commitments. I think these brothers and sisters in Christ might find food for thought and an expansion of their religious imagination by the Pope's patristic reflections.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on why Benedict XVI would choose to teach on these early Christian Fathers just now?

Warner: The present Wednesday-audience series on the Fathers began on March 7, 2007. It is a continuation of the Pope's catechesis on the mystery of the Church that began a year ago in March 2006, with weekly meditations on each of the Twelve Apostles.

By October, he was ready to draw our attention to St. Paul and his collaborators: apostolic men like Timothy and Titus -- early bishops, and lay leaders in the Church like the married couple, Aquila and Priscilla.

Benedict XVI is trying to follow Our Lord's command to Peter to "feed my sheep." The food he has chosen to provide us during this series is the tremendous heritage of holy men and women who lived and died as witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Church during the first centuries of the Christian era.

From their witness, we can better understand the mystery of the Church as the "presence of Christ among men."

For Catholics, salvation history is the drama of God's unfolding plan for his people. This story can be read in the pages of sacred Scripture and Church history. Benedict XVI's reflections are designed to cause us to reconsider the essential nature and mission of the Church in the context of salvation history.

Q: What common ground can Christians find in the Fathers, and how might this help ecumenical efforts?

Warner: The Fathers can inform and challenge Christians of every description. Protestants can rediscover their forgotten roots. This in turn often results in an increased appreciation for Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other episcopal and liturgical traditions.

In other cases, openness to the Fathers becomes a steppingstone toward embracing what we believe to be the fullness of Christian faith and practice found within the Catholic Church.

Catholics can and should rediscover some of the patristic priorities that modern evangelicals are noted for, including: living in and for Christ; reverencing and studying the Bible as the unique, authoritative written word of God; and becoming better informed and enthusiastic witnesses to Jesus Christ, the one and only savior of the world.

We can reaffirm our Catholic tradition of promoting all of the gifts of the Spirit -- including the charismatic and hierarchical gifts -- toward the end of Christian maturity and unity. All of these distinctive traits are clearly taught and modeled in the Fathers.

We can relearn how to "breathe with both lungs," a phrase Pope John Paul II often used to refer to drawing from both the Western and Eastern Christian traditions of theology and spirituality.

Many of the earliest Fathers were in fact "Eastern"; they lived in the Near East or Northeast Africa, and wrote in Greek and other non-Latin tongues. Our Eastern Orthodox brothers have the highest regard for the same figures the Pope is holding up for our example and instruction.

Benedict XVI gives us hope for Christian unity by directing us to Ignatius of Antioch who was "truly a doctor of unity." He taught the unity of the Trinity, the unity of the Incarnate Logos, and the unity of the Church in the bonds of love.

Ignatius' prescription for authentic spirituality and ecumenism was "a progressive synthesis between configuration to Christ -- union with him, life in him -- and dedication to his Church -- union with the bishop, generous service to the community and the world."

The Second Vatican Council taught that authentic ecumenism begins with individual, interior repentance and renewal. This can lead to a broader institutional humility and renewal, and docility toward the lessons of history.

Through the Fathers' writings, all Christians may learn from these privileged witnesses to the sacred deposit of faith entrusted by Our Lord to the first apostles. The first- and second-century Fathers and apologists serve as windows into the mystery of the Church as "one, holy, catholic and apostolic."

On St. Irenaeus of Lyons

On St. Irenaeus of Lyons

"The First Great Theologian of the Church"


VATICAN CITY, MARCH 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the general audience today in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on St. Irenaeus of Lyons.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In the catechesis on the great figures of the Church during the first centuries, today we reach the figure of an eminent personality, Irenaeus of Lyons. His biographical information comes from his own testimony, sent down to us by Eusebius in the fifth book of the "Storia Ecclesiastica."

Irenaeus was most probably born in Smyrna (today Izmir, in Turkey) between the years 135 and 140. There, while still a youth, he attended the school of Bishop Polycarp, for his part, a disciple of the apostle John. We do not know when he moved from Asia Minor to Gaul, but the move must have coincided with the first developments of the Christian community in Lyons: There, in 177, we find Irenaeus mentioned among the college of presbyters.

That year he was sent to Rome, bearer of a letter from the community of Lyons to Pope Eleutherius. The Roman mission took Irenaeus away from the persecution by Marcus Aurelius, in which at least 48 martyrs died, among them the bishop of Lyons himself, the 90-year-old Pothinus, who died of mistreatment in jail. Thus, on his return, Irenaeus was elected bishop of the city. The new pastor dedicated himself entirely to his episcopal ministry, which ended around 202-203, perhaps by martyrdom.

Irenaeus is above all a man of faith and a pastor. Like the Good Shepherd, he has prudence, a richness of doctrine, and missionary zeal. As a writer, he aims for a twofold objective: to defend true doctrine from the attacks of the heretics, and to clearly expound the truth of the faith. His two works still in existence correspond exactly to the fulfillment of these two objectives: the five books "Against Heresies," and the "Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching" (which could be called the oldest "catechism of Christian doctrine"). Without a doubt, Irenaeus is the champion in the fight against heresies.

The Church of the second century was threatened by so-called gnosticism, a doctrine which claimed that the faith taught by the Church was nothing more than symbolism for the simpleminded, those unable to grasp more difficult things. Instead, the initiated, the intellectuals -- they called themselves gnostics -- could understand what was behind the symbolism, and thus would form an elite, intellectual Christianity.

Obviously, this intellectual Christianity became more and more fragmented with different currents of thought, often strange and extravagant, yet attractive to many. A common element within these various currents was dualism, that is, a denial of faith in the only God, Father of all, creator and savior of humanity and of the world. To explain the evil in the world, they asserted the existence of a negative principle, next to the good God. This negative principle had created matter, material things.

Firmly rooted in the biblical doctrine of Creation, Irenaeus refuted dualism and the gnostic pessimism that devalued corporal realities. He decisively affirmed the original holiness of matter, of the body, of the flesh, as well as of the spirit. But his work goes far beyond the refutation of heresies: In fact, one can say that he presents himself as the first great theologian of the Church, who established systematic theology. He himself speaks about the system of theology, that is, the internal coherence of the faith.

The question of the "rule of faith" and its transmission lies at the heart of his doctrine. For Irenaeus, the "rule of faith" coincides in practice with the Apostles' Creed, and gives us the key to interpret the Gospel, to interpret the creed in light of the Gospel. The apostolic symbol, a sort of synthesis of the Gospel, helps us understand what the Gospel means, how we must read the Gospel itself.

In fact, the Gospel preached by St. Irenaeus is the one he received from Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and the Gospel of Polycarp goes back to the apostle John, Polycarp having been John's disciple. Thus, the true teaching is not that invented by the intellectuals, rising above the simple faith of the Church. The true Gospel is preached by the bishops who have received it thanks to an uninterrupted chain from the apostles.

These men have taught nothing but the simple faith, which is also the true depth of the revelation of God. Thus, says Irenaeus, there is no secret doctrine behind the common creed of the Church. There is no superior Christianity for intellectuals. The faith publicly professed by the Church is the faith common to all. Only this faith is apostolic, coming from the apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God.

To adhere to this faith publicly taught by the apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what the bishops say. They must specifically consider the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and ancient. This Church, because of its age, has the greatest apostolicity; in fact its origins come from the columns of the apostolic college, Peter and Paul. All the Churches must be in harmony with the Church of Rome, recognizing in it the measure of the true apostolic tradition and the only faith common to the Church.

With these arguments, very briefly summarized here, Irenaeus refutes the very foundation of the aims of the gnostics, of these intellectuals: First of all, they do not possess a truth that would be superior to the common faith, given that what they say is not of apostolic origin, but invented by them. Second, truth and salvation are not a privilege monopolized by a few, but something that everyone can reach through the preaching of the apostles' successors, and, above all, that of the Bishop of Rome.

By taking issue with the "secret" character of the gnostic tradition and by contesting its multiple intrinsic contradictions, Irenaeus concerns himself with illustrating the genuine concept of Apostolic Tradition, that we could summarize in three points.

a) The Apostolic Tradition is "public," not private or secret. For Irenaeus, there is no doubt that the content of the faith transmitted by the Church is that received from the apostles and from Jesus, the Son of God. There is no teaching aside from this. Therefore, for one who wishes to know the true doctrine, it is enough to know "the Tradition that comes from the Apostles and the faith announced to men": tradition and faith that "have reached us through the succession of bishops" ("Adv. Haer." 3,3,3-4). Thus, the succession of bishops, personal principle, Apostolic Tradition, and doctrinal principle all coincide.

b) The Apostolic Tradition is "one." While gnosticism is divided into many sects, the Church's Tradition is one in its fundamental contents, which -- as we have seen -- Irenaeus calls "regula fidei" or "veritatis." And given that it is one, it creates unity among peoples, different cultures and different communities. It has a common content like that of truth, despite different languages and cultures.

There is a beautiful expression that Irenaeus uses in the book "Against Heresies": "The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points (of doctrine) just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world."

We can already see at this time -- we are in the year 200 -- the universality of the Church, its catholicity and the unifying force of truth, which unites these so-very-different realities, from Germany, to Spain, to Italy, to Egypt, to Libya, in the common truth revealed to us by Christ.

c) Finally, the Apostolic Tradition is, as he says in Greek, the language in which he wrote his book, "pneumatic," that is, spiritual, led by the Holy Spirit. In Greek, spirit is "pneuma." It is not a transmission entrusted to the abilities of more or less educated men, but the Spirit of God who guarantees faithfulness in the transmission of the faith.

This is the "life" of the Church, that which makes the Church always young, that is, fruitful with many charisms. Church and Spirit are inseparable for Irenaeus. This faith, we read in the third book of "Against Heresies," "which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth, as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also. … For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace" (3,24,1).

As we can see, Irenaeus does not stop at defining the concept of Tradition. His tradition, uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always internally vivified by the Holy Spirit, which makes it alive again, allows it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church.

According to his teaching, the Church's faith must be preached in such a way that it appears as it must appear, that is "public," "one," "pneumatic," "spiritual." From each of these characteristics, one can glean a fruitful discernment of the authentic transmission of the faith in the Church of today.

More generally, in the doctrine of Irenaeus, human dignity, body and soul, is firmly rooted in Divine Creation, in the image of Christ and in the permanent work of sanctification of the Spirit. This doctrine is like the "main road" to clarify to all people of good will, the object and the limits of dialogue on values, and to give an ever new impulse to the missionary activities of the Church, to the strength of truth which is the source of all the true values in the world.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, Benedict XVI greeted visitors in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on the Church Fathers, we turn now to Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, a great theologian and bishop at the end of the second century. In his writings, Irenaeus clearly sets forth the contents of the apostolic faith and appeals to the Church's living tradition in order to defend that faith from false teachings. He thus emphasizes the regula fidei: the "rule of faith" contained in the Apostles' Creed and in the Gospel proclaimed by the Church's Bishops. The Gospel Irenaeus preached was the Gospel preached by his teacher Polycarp, who in turn received it from the Apostle John in an unbroken line of succession going back to Christ himself. Irenaeus also writes of the unique authority of the Church of Rome as founded on the Apostles. This zealous pastor illustrates for us three important characteristics of the Apostolic Tradition: it is "public", because it is available to all through the teaching of the Bishops; it is "one", because its content remains the same despite the variety of languages and cultures; and it is "pneumatic", because, through it, the Holy Spirit continues to enliven and renew the Church even today.

I am pleased to welcome the many English-speaking pilgrims present. In a special way, I offer cordial greetings to the priests from the Institute for Continuing Theological Education and to the students of the NATO Defense College. Upon all of you I invoke God's blessings of peace and joy.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

José Ortega y Gasset





Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dr. Pakaluk on the virtus controversy

Thi manlynesse [L. humanitatem tuam] shewid to alle men

Robert Kaster's review of Myles McDonnell, Roman Manliness: Virtus and the Roman Republic.
Myles McDonnell's reply

In the end though, how many people care about the historical account of how equivocal uses of a word came about, and what those uses are? After all, naming is flexible, and a word can come to have as many meanings or definitions as the mind sees fit. Those who fail to recognize this may argue that naming must be purely univocal but it is an unreasonable demand.

(This is not to say that definitions for a specific thing are equally good--just that a name can be applied to different things, and it is not necessary for it to be applied to one thing only.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Atheistic Delusion

The Atheistic Delusion

Religion's Critics Taken to Task

By Father John Flynn

ROME, MARCH 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The spate of recent attacks on God and religion has not gone unanswered. Among the replies to last year's book "The God Delusion," by Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, is the just-published book by Alister McGrath, "The Dawkins Delusion?" (SPCK). McGrath is a professor of historical theology at Oxford.

In the introduction to the book he co-authored, McGrath admits that in the 1960s he was, as Dawkins is now, an atheist. Dawkins is an expert in evolutionary biology; similarly, McGrath started out in science, earning a doctorate in molecular biophysics.

But he then switched to theology and, as he explains: "I subsequently found myself persuaded that Christianity was a much more interesting and intellectually exciting world view than atheism."

McGrath declares himself disappointed with the level of argument in Dawkins' book, which he describes as "the atheist equivalent of slick hellfire preaching, substituting turbo-charged rhetoric and highly selective manipulation of facts for careful, evidence-based thinking." He adds: "Dawkins preaches to his god-hating choirs," relying on pseudoscientific speculation and aggregating convenient factoids.

A delusion?

McGrath devotes a chapter to explaining why God is not a delusion, as Dawkins maintained. He observes that the definitions used by Dawkins to describe faith, such as a "process of non-thinking," are foreign to a Christian definition of faith.

Dawkins is correct in arguing that we need to examine our beliefs, McGrath acknowledges. To that end children need to receive a true and accurate instruction in Christianity. It would be far more damaging, he contends, for them to have their heads filled with the superficial and erroneous arguments that Dawkins uses.

Most of us, McGrath points out, hold many beliefs we cannot prove to be true, but they are, nevertheless, reasonable to entertain. Thus, these beliefs are justifiable, without being absolutely proven in an empirical sense. This situation occurs not only in the area of religion, but also in science, where there are many theories that have not reached the status of being conclusively proved.

McGrath also cites what some prominent scientists, such as Stephen Jay Gould, a biologist in the United States, and Sir Martin Rees, president of the British Royal Society, had said about religion. Both of them admitted the limits of science and accepted that science and religion are not by their nature mutually exclusive.

Moreover, many of the great questions about life, McGrath points out, can be explained by a number of theories and there is no absolute scientific proof available. In addition, there are questions that lie beyond the scope of the scientific method, such as deciding whether there is purpose within nature.

Another prominent scientist, Sir Peter Medawar, who was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work in immunology, dealt with this subject in his book "The Limits of Science." McGrath explains that Medawar distinguished between transcendent questions, which are better left to religion and metaphysics, and inquiries into the organization and structure of the material universe.

A further demonstration that Dawkins is not representative of scientific thought is the fact that in 2006, the year "The God Delusion" appeared, three leading research scientists published books that admitted the validity of a space for the divine in the universe. They were: Owen Gingerich, "God's Universe"; Francis Collins, "The Language of God"; and Paul Davies, "The Goldilocks Enigma."

"Dawkins is forced," McGrath concludes, "to contend with the highly awkward fact that his view that the natural sciences are an intellectual superhighway to atheism is rejected by most scientists, irrespective of their religious views."

Being evil

Another argument used by Dawkins is that God and religion are evil, being responsible for all sorts of violence and abuses in mankind's history. McGrath readily admits that violence which draws its inspiration from religion is clearly something to be rejected.

McGrath, who grew up in Northern Ireland, had plenty of experience with religious violence. Nevertheless, he points out that it is an entirely different proposition to argue that violence is an inherent element of religion. Dawkins also errs in making out atheism to be a universally benign influence. A look at 20th-century history readily provides abundant examples of politically motivated violence, not least of which was that committed by the atheistic regime of the Soviet Union.

Clearly, people are capable of both violence and moral excellence, McGrath points out, and both of these qualities may be provoked by worldviews, religious or otherwise. It is true that religion can turn human conflicts into battles of good and evil. At the same time, a society that rejects God then tends to hold up as an absolute other realities or concepts. Thus, the French Revolution in its effort to replace Christianity with secular ideals carried out violent repression as it sought to impose its principles.

Another book, from 2006, also dealt with the question of violence and replied to criticisms made against religion. Keith Ward, professor of divinity at Gresham College, London, in "Is Religion Dangerous?" (Lion Hudson), argues that the world would be a lot worse off without religion.

Ward admits that there are examples of religiously inspired violence, but that a lack of faith can also lead to destructive impulses and evil. It is true that religious texts such as the Bible can be misused for unjust purposes. But this is achieved only when vital precepts, such as love of God and neighbor are ignored, and when the texts are taken out of context.

Seeking good

All human beings, Ward argues, are susceptible to the temptation of evil, whether they be religious or not. How to guard against this? One of the best ways, he suggests, is a set of beliefs that teaches principles of right and wrong and motivates us to repentance and to seek goodness.

Instead of making generic charges about "religion being dangerous," we should be asking whether a particular religion in its specific context might be dangerous, Ward contends. The answer to this question will vary according to the circumstances. In general, he continues, most of the time religion is one of the forces making both for social stability and for morally serious debate and reform.

Certainly, the threat of Islamic terrorism has led to concerns over religiously inspired violence. But, this is just one way in which Islam has been interpreted. A number of other social and political factors, not religious in nature, have also played a role in promoting this violence. And while the media give much attention to religious violence, a lot of the strife in today's world has little to do with religion. Moreover, when religion does promote violence it is often in a situation where religion has become blended with political institutions, and it is then used in an instrumental way to justify the use of force.

We should also recall all the positive contributions made by religion, Ward explains in one chapter. The example of charity left to us by Jesus has inspired people over the centuries to follow a life of loving others. Christianity also has inspired countless hospitals, schools and universities, as well as great works of art, literature and music.

Christian faith also encouraged rational enquiry into the material world and gave rise to modern science. The Christian belief in the dignity of human life played a crucial role in developing ideals of human rights. Religion, Ward concludes, can be one of the most positive forces for good in human life.


The Fragility of the Human Body

What is the explanation from evolution why human beings are not like other apes? Not having fur, and so on?

To complete the argument, I would have to look at the necessity of shoes for protection. There are various peoples who still do not wear shoes and can manage without footware--but can they handle the same wear and tear that other apes can handle? Or are humans more vulnerable to injury in comparison to them? Perhaps the human body is not as fragile as we who live in rather pampered societies might think. Still, one wonders if it is easier to injure the human foot than it is to injure, say, the foot of a gorilla?

Nature equips us with a fragile body? Very little protection against the elements? Why not keep a more ape-like body, with more hair and fur, tougher skin and feet, etc.?

On the other hand, humans would not need protection if it came from another source? (From God, in the form of a preternatural gift.) If in comparison to the other apes we are weak and vulnerable, these facts, coupled with a proper argument for the wisdom and goodness of Divine Providence, might signal to the non-believer to some event like original sin.

Might it also be an argument against evolution? After all, if having a hairy body is still a benefit, what is the advantage of losing fur? It is not clear to me that hair would significantly impede the application of reason to various tasks, or confer a reproductive advantage. (Unless one wants to argue that humans who are less hairy are somewhat more sexually attractive, but if this is solely due to perception and does not involve a chemical signal, what is the mechanism? Those who have less hair would be at a disadvantage in colder climates, but in warmer climates... one can survive despite having a lot of body hair? How is hairiness selected for or against? And what causes thickness of hair? And the density of hair follicles?)

An argument against this might be that humans have intellects which enable them to fashion tools with which they can compensate for what they lack by nature (see Aristotle). But why should they lack the protective features other animals/apes have in the first place? Does it spur intellectual development? Create an incentive for the acquisition of some compensating benefit?

In science fiction one often sees a manifestation of the gnostic tendency coupled to evolutionary theory -- as humans become more "intellectual," or more evolutionary advanced, the weaker the body the becomes-- the mind becomes everything, the body nothing. (For example, the first sequel to the original Planet of the Apes.)

Is Scholastic sacramental theology responsible?

For the loss of a proper understanding of the liturgy? Or could we not point fingers at the fact that the liturgy was in a dead language instead?

Cardinal Ratzinger, How Should We Worship,
(print-friendly)

It is important, in this connection, to interpret the "substantial continuity" correctly. The author expressly warns us against the wrong path up which we might be led by a Neoscholastic sacramental theology that is disconnected from the living form of the Liturgy. On that basis, people might reduce the "substance" to the matter and form of the sacrament and say: Bread and wine are the matter of the sacrament; the words of institution are its form. Only these two things are really necessary; everything else is changeable. At this point modernists and traditionalists are in agreement: As long as the material gifts are there, and the words of institution are spoken, then everything else is freely disposable. Many priests today, unfortunately, act in accordance with this motto; and the theories of many liturgists are unfortunately moving in the same direction. They want to overcome the limits of the rite, as being something fixed and immovable, and construct the products of their fantasy, which are supposedly "pastoral", around this remnant, this core that has been spared and that is thus either relegated to the realm of magic or loses any meaning whatever. The Liturgical Movement had in fact been attempting to overcome this reductionism, the product of an abstract sacramental theology, and to teach us to understand the Liturgy as a living network of Tradition that had taken concrete form, that cannot be torn apart into little pieces but that has to be seen and experienced as a living whole. Anyone who, like me, was moved by this perception at the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.
This is potentially an example of the problem of using facile historical explanations that seek a root in some simple "intellectual" cause to explain some practice or development. Fortunately, it takes the form of a waning--do not adopt a simplistic understanding of the liturgy and disregard its organic development over time. Still, it would not surprise me if there are polemicists who seek to put the blame of everything that is wrong in the Church on scholasticism and neo-scholasticism, including the Church's liturgical problems.

The problem is not the analysis, but rather the deficiencies in catechesis of the one studying scholastic theology.

Similarly, some have criticized the causal analysis of the sacraments offered by scholastic theologians as being too narrow or inadequate.

The Anaphora of Addai and Mari
Guidelines on Eucharist Between Chaldean and Assyrian Churches (Vatican.va)
The East Syrian Liturgical Tradition
Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the ...
SYRIAC SOURCES AND RESOURCES FOR BYZANTINISTS Sebastian Brock ...

Fr. Taft, S.J. comments on the decision regarding the Anaphora of Addai and Mari:
Mass Without the Consecration?
A reaction from the SSPX

doc

John Allen reports:

Taft calls the agreement “the most remarkable Catholic magisterial document since Vatican II.” He believes that by treating consecration as something accomplished by the entire liturgical prayer, and not by an isolated set of “magic words,” the Vatican has repudiated a quasi-mechanistic understanding that “seriously warped popular Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.”
Rome Diary #48
Fr. McBrien
On Studying the Liturgy
By Father Allyne Smith, Th.D.

Anaphoren ohne „direkte“ Wandlungsworte bereits unter Pius XI. (1922-1939)
Ein Beitrag zu einer aktuellen Diskussion
von P. Martin Lugmayr FSSP

Potpourri pdf

Still, I wonder if the ruling on the anaphora is the last word from Rome on the matter, or whether the case put forward by certain scholars that the words of consecration were originally present in the liturgy but were gradually removed from the texts has any water. Is it not a legitimate question to ask when Christ becomes sacramentally present? Either He is present or He is not--there is no middle ground (otherwise one violates the principle of non-contradiction.) And if He is present, what is the formal cause of the sacrament? (As I think about it, perhaps formal cause is not the right way to explain it--after all, is not the formal cause of Christ being present in the Sacred Species something else? I guess I'll have to study more Thomistic sacramental theology.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What to do about illegal drugs?

1. Massive public education program on the effects of drug use, particularly the negative effects on health, self-control/real freedom and responsibility. (Prevent sellers from having the excuse that they didn't know how bad the product is, they're just meeting the demands of the market. In actuality they are taking advantage of human weakness and exploiting others in order to make a living.)

2. Increase of economic opportunities that will provide a decent alternative to selling drugs.

3. After the first two steps have been taken and some time has passed--the introduction of harsher penalties, including possibly the death penalty for those at the top of the pyramid?