Sunday, December 27, 2009

MB recommended that I read this piece by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: Christ the Conqueror of Hell,
The Descent of Christ into Hades in Eastern and Western Theological Traditions
I found this old posts at De Unione Ecclesiarum:
Garrigues on the Father
Garrigues on Latin trinitarianism

Apparently Fr. Garrigues left the Dominicans for a while; he was attached to the Pontifical Theological Academy in 2007, but I do not know if he is still there now.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Steven Long has a new book coming out: Natura Pura: On the Recovery of Nature.

Benedict XVI's Address to University Students

Benedict XVI's Address to University Students

"Helping Others to See the True Face of God Is the First Form of Love"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the Dec. 17 address Benedict XVI gave after Vespers in St. Peter's Basilica in a traditional Christmas meeting with university students.

* * *

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What is this wisdom born in Bethlehem? I would like to ask myself and all of you this question during this traditional pre-Christmas meeting with the University world of Rome. Today, instead of Holy Mass, we are celebrating Vespers, and to mark the felicitous coincidence with the beginning of the Christmas novena we will soon be singing the first of the "Greater Antiphons": "O Wisdom from the mouth of the Most High, you fill the whole world. With strength and gentleness you order all things: come to teach us the way of prudence" (Liturgy of the Hours, Vespers of 17 December).

This wonderful invocation is addressed to "Wisdom", the central figure in the Books of Proverbs, Wisdom and Sirach. These are in fact called the "Sapiential" Books, and in them the Christian tradition discerns a prefiguration of Christ. This invocation becomes truly stimulating and even provocative when we find ourselves before the Nativity scene that is, before the paradox of a Wisdom that "from the mouth of the Most High" comes to lie in swaddling cloths in a manger (cf. Luke 2: 7, 12, 16).

Already we can anticipate the response to that initial question: the One born in Bethlehem is the Wisdom of God. St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, uses the phrase: "a hidden wisdom of God" (1 Cor 2: 7): in other words, a divine plan, which has long been kept hidden and that God himself has revealed in the history of salvation. In the fullness of time, this Wisdom took on a human Face, the Face of Jesus, who as recited in the Apostle's Creed "was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the God the Father Almighty; from hence he shall come to judge the living and the dead".

The Christian paradox consists precisely in the identification of divine Wisdom, that is the eternal Logos, with the man Jesus of Nazareth and with his story. A solution to this paradox cannot be found if not in the word "Love", which naturally in this case is written with a capital "L", in reference to a Love that infinitely exceeds human and historical dimensions. Therefore, the Wisdom that we invoke this evening is the Son of God, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. It is the Word who, as we read in John's prologue, "was in the beginning with God", or rather, "was God": who with the Father and the Holy Spirit created all things and who "became flesh" to reveal the God whom no one can ever see (cf. Jn 1: 2-3, 14, 18).

Dear friends, a Christian professor, or a young Christian student, carries within him a passionate love for this Wisdom! He reads everything in her light; he finds Wisdom's imprints in the elementary particles and in the verses of poets; in juridical codes and in the events of history; in works of art and in mathematic formulas. Without Wisdom not anything was made that was made (cf. Jn 1: 3) and therefore in every created reality one can see Wisdom reflected, clearly visible in different ways and degrees. Everything understood by human intelligence can be grasped because in some sense and to a certain extent it participates in creative Wisdom. Herein lies, in the last analysis, the very potential of study, of research, of scientific dialogue in every field of knowledge.

At this point I cannot omit to reflect on something a bit disquieting but nevertheless useful for us here who belong to the academic world. Let us ask ourselves: who was present on Christmas night at the grotto in Bethlehem? Who welcomed Wisdom when he was born? Who hurried to see him, to recognize him and adore him? They were not doctors of law, scribes or sages. There were Mary and Joseph, and then the shepherds. What does this mean?

Jesus was one day to say: "Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will" (Mt 11: 26); you revealed your mystery to the little ones (cf. Mt 11: 25). But then is there no use in studying? Or is it even harmful counterproductive in understanding the truth?

The two thousand-year-old history of Christianity excludes the latter hypothesis, and suggests to us the correct one: studying entails deepening one's knowledge while maintaining a spirit similar to the "little ones," an ever humble and simple spirit, like that of Mary, the "Seat of Wisdom". How often have we been afraid to draw near to the Grotto in Bethlehem for fear that doing so would be an obstacle to our critical sense and to our "modernity"!

Rather, in that Grotto, each of us can discover the truth about God and about humanity, about ourselves. In that Child, born of the Virgin, the two came together: mankind's longing for eternal life softened the heart of God, who was not ashamed to assume the human condition.

Dear friends, helping others to see the true Face of God is the first form of love, which for you takes on the role of intellectual charity. I was glad to learn that the diocesan university ministry's programme will have "The Eucharist and Intellectual Charity" as its theme this year: a demanding but appropriate choice. Indeed, in every Eucharistic Celebration God enters history in Jesus Christ in his Word and in his Body, giving himself in that love which enables us to serve humanity in its concrete existence.

The project "One culture for the city", then, offers a promising proposal of the Christian presence in the cultural sphere. As I express the hope that your itinerary may be fruitful, I cannot fail to invite all the Athenaeums to be places of formation for authentic workers of intellectual charity. The future of society depends largely on them, above all in drawing up a new humanistic synthesis and of a new vision for the future (cf. Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, n. 21).

I encourage all of the heads of academic institutions to continue to collaborate in the construction of a community in which all young people may develop into mature human beings who hold themselves responsible for the creation of a "civilization of love".
At the conclusion of this Celebration, the Australian university student delegation will consign the Icon of Mary Sedes Sapientiae to the delegation from Africa. Let us entrust to the Most Holy Virgin all university students on the African continent; following the Special Synod for Africa, the cooperative commitment has been developing in these months between the Athenaeums of Rome and those in Africa.

I renew my encouragement of this new prospect of collaboration, and I hope it may lead to the creation and growth of cultural projects capable of promoting a truly integral human development. May this Christmas, dear friends, bring joy and hope to you, your families and to the entire university environment, in Rome and throughout the whole world.

© L'Osservatore Romano

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Medieval Sourcebook: Bartolo of Sassoferrato, Treatise on City Government, c. 1330

I ask then, of the three bad forms of government, which is worse. In this matter all the philosophers says that a tyranny is the worst principate, and occupies the final degree of malice. And the same Aegidius in his book said, as has been said, that a government is called good insofar as it tends toward the common good. But under a tyranny the common good is looked to least: whence a tyranny is the worst principate. Whence if several are ruling, who are held to be wealthy and good, or the multitude rules, even if these rulers incline to their own good, which is indeed not of God, and thus it is a rule "of the bad" or "of a perverse populace," nevertheless it would not diverge much from the intention of the common good; because, since they are many, they know something about the nature of the common good. But if the tyrant is a single person then he does recede from the common good. Furthermore, since virtue united for a good thing is better, virtue united for a bad thing is worse.[70] That a tyrant is the worst is so obvious as to require no demonstration. and what was said above, that the rule of several bad men is not so bad as the rule of a single tyrant, should be understood to be true when the many tend to one purpose, and can do nothing except together: it is a different matter if each exercises his own tyranny, so that one cares not about the other, as I said above concerning the monstrous regime which now exists in Rome. Similarly when in one body there is a single corrupt humor which predominates and is bad; but if all the humors are corrupted they oppose each other etc., as has already

29 been said. Woe then to that city which has many tyrants with no common ground. This warning should be made, that the rule of several bad men or of a perverse people does not last long, but easily turns into a one-man tyranny; we often see this actually happen. This is God's own will, as it is written: "He who makes a hypocrite to rule, for the sins of the people," Job 34, [71] and because Italy today is full up with tyrants.

Related links:
Bartolo da Sassoferrato - Wikipedia
Bartolo's De Insigniis et Armis

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

30 Days: «If everything is grace, then grace is no more»

«The thing that seems most useful to me is the ability to distinguish,proper to the whole Thomist tradition. The refusal to distinguish what is distinct leads to confusion and denies maybe what one wanted to defend in the first place. If everything is grace, then grace is no more». An interview with Cardinal Georges Cottier, the Pope’s theologian

by Gianni Valente
Ressourcement Theology, Aggiornamento,and the Hermeneutics of Tradition by Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Public Discourse:
William Happer, December 01, 2009
In the wake of the “Climate-gate” controversy, a scientist at Princeton University argues for a sensible view on climate change and CO2.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The CCC on abortion:


2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

What the Catechism claims about the conceptum is quite clear. But is this de fide? Or a theological opinion presented in authoritative trappings? I have asked whether the Church has infallibly taught that human life begins at conception (with "human" being understood univocally, not equivocally). It seems that the Feast of the Annunciation also celebrates the conception of Christ, and the humanity of Christ at conception is affirmed as a part of Sacred Tradition. But is this sufficient evidence that the Church has always taught that all concepta are human beings or persons?

Some claim that we have unambiguous evidence that the conceptum is human; I will have to address this question in a later post, having already done so in some notes. As far as I know, nothing the Church has proclaimed in recent years contradicts the teaching of the Council of Vienne, which defined the soul as the substantial form of the body. It seems impossible that the Church could define the formal cause as something else, such as DNA. The question a Catholic physicist would ask, then, is whether we can know (with certainty) that the rational soul is infused at conception. If the activities of the conceptum can also explained by an animal soul, then it would seem that we cannot know with certainty that the conceptum is human, though we may believe it with the certitude of Faith, if this has been revealed by God.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

If even a republic is governed by a minority of the people who are its parts, and only these few can possess the requisite virtues, then can a liberal education ever be something that is "universal," provided and of benefit to all? If only a minority governs in any good regime, then can the culture it possess be anything but "elite" or limited with respect to the number of people who maintain it and pass it on?
To what sort of teacher do we owe the virtue of observance? One who truly possesses knowledge, especially scientia? Or to anyone who has some measure of "learning," even if that is only the result of memorization? If a "scholar" should be honored for being well-acquainted with the opinions of others (in his study of their works), then why shouldn't a Jeopardy winner be honored for his amassing of trivia? Even if we concede that a scholar as defined above has some measure of perfection that is lacking in the one who is ignorant, should he be given the same honor as the man who possesses widsom or scientia?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pope: No Justification for Anti-Personnel Mines

US Attends Conference for 1st Time, No Plans to Sign Convention

By Jesús Colina

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2009 ( There are no ethical arguments to defend the production and use of anti-personnel landmines, especially given that most victims are innocent civilians, a statement written on Benedict XVI's behalf is reiterating.

The Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, affirmed this in a note sent on the Holy Father's behalf to a six-day summit that concluded Dec. 4 in Cartagena, Colombia.

The Cartagena Summit was the second review conference on the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The convention is also known as the Ottawa Treaty.

The Holy See reiterated its appeal to all nations to join the 156 countries that have adopted this convention, which has been in force since 1999. China, India, the United States and Russia are the four most important states that have yet to sign it.

In the letter, the Holy See also appeals "to all states to recognize the deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines."

Cardinal Bertone wrote: "Experience shows that these weapons have caused more victims and damages among the civilian population, which should be defended, than they have served to defend states.

"The thousands of victims that they continue to bring remind us, in case it should still be necessary to repeat it, of the chimera of wanting to build peace and stability with an exclusively military vision."

The Holy Father's closest collaborator reiterated that "peace, security and stability cannot depend only on military security, but above all depend on the existence of all those conditions that allow for the full development of the human person, which so many times are impeded by the use and presence of anti-personnel mines."


The letter expressed Benedict XVI's closeness "to all the victims, their families and the affected countries."

"They all need will power and courage to undertake a process of rehabilitation, and they also need our help and human closeness," the cardinal wrote.

The papal statement reiterated "the Holy See's unconditional support to all those involved in the great task of freeing our world from anti-personnel mines."

The Cartagena Summit concluded with the resolution to give greater assistance to victims. It also noted that four countries -- Albania, Greece, Rwanda and Zambia -- have cleaned all their areas of these mines, in compliance with the treaty.

The Cartagena Action Plan to guide efforts between 2010 and 2014 pivots on two main goals: assistance to the victims of anti-personnel mines and the humanitarian clean-up of contaminated fields.

On behalf of the Pontiff, the letter thanked Norway's Susan Eckey, president of the conference, for her work.

Holding back and watching

During the closing of the event, Eckey pointed out that there has been success in efforts to support survivors and people who live with the risk of anti-personnel mines.

Twenty of the 39 countries that have not adhered to the Ottawa Treaty attended as observers. Among them -- for the first time -- was the United States, which announced a review of its anti-personnel mines policy, although for the time being there is no sign of intentions to adopt the convention.

In 2008 only the armies of Russia and Myanmar used anti-personnel mines. However, insurgents such as the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka utilize them.

1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction
International Humanitarian Law - Ottawa Treaty, 1997
Mine Action
James Chastek, Thought in algebra (or calculus, analytic geometry, trig, etc) (See his previous post on algebra.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Joe Carter, What Do Philosophers Think?


Edit. See Anthony Esolen's explanation of the findings.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

James Chastek, On the claim “science studies material and efficient causes”
Tyrant is usually reserved for the man who embodies the degenerate form of kingship. Would it nonetheless help us understand why the ancients thought democracy was so bad, if we were to call its citizens little "tyrants"? If not the meaning, then the emotional association with the word when it is used properly may prevent us from grasping the point, since we reasonably think that a tyrant is worse than a democracy with respect to the immediate effects of his rule.
Pope's Letter to Conference on the God Question

"When God Disappears From Man's Horizon, Humanity Loses Its Direction"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian episcopal conference, on the occasion of the three-day international congress taking place in Rome through Saturday titled "God Today: With Him or Without Him Everything Changes."

* * *

To the Venerated Brother
Lord Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
Metropolitan Archbishop of Genoa
President of the Italian Episcopal Conference

On the occasion of the Congress "God Today: With or Without Him Everything Changes," which is taking place in Rome from December 10-12, I wish to express to you, venerated Brother, to the Italian Episcopal Conference and, in particular, to the Committee for the Cultural Project, my profound appreciation for this important initiative, which addresses one of the great topics that has always fascinated and questioned the human spirit.

The question of God is also central in our time, in which man is often reduced to one dimension, the "horizontal," considering openness to the Transcendent as irrelevant for his life. The relationship with God, instead, is essential for humanity's journey and, as I have had the occasion to affirm many times, the Church and every Christian, in fact, have the task to make God present in this world, to attempt to open to men access to God.

Planned from this perspective is the international event of these days. The breadth of the approach to the important topic that characterizes the meeting, will make possible the sketching of a rich and articulated picture of the question of God, but above all it will be a stimulation for a profound reflection on God's place in the culture and life of our time.

On one hand, in fact, an attempt is being made to show the different ways that lead to affirming the truth about the existence of God, that God which humanity has always known in some way, even in the chiaroscuro of his history, and who revealed himself with the splendor of his face in the covenant with the people of Israel and, beyond that, in every measure and hope, in a full and definitive way, in Jesus Christ.

He is the Son of God, the Living who enters into the life and history of man to illumine him with his grace, with his presence. On the other hand, the desire is precisely to bring to light the essential importance that God has for us, for our personal and social life, for understanding ourselves and the world, for the hope that illumines our way, for the salvation that awaits us beyond death.

Directed to these objectives are the numerous interventions, according to the many points of view which will be the object of study and exchange: from philosophical and theological reflection on the witness of the great religions; from the impulse to God, which finds its expression in music, literature, the figurative arts, the cinema and television; to the development of the sciences, which attempt to read in depth the mechanisms of nature, fruit of the intelligent work of God the Creator; from the analysis of the personal experience of God to the consideration of the social and political dynamics of an already globalized world.

In a cultural and spiritual situation such as the one we are living in, where the tendency grows to relegate God to the private sphere, to consider him irrelevant and superfluous, or to reject him explicitly, it is my heartfelt hope that this event might at least contribute to disperse that semi-darkness that makes openness to God precarious and fearful for the men of our time, though he never ceases to knock on our door.

The experiences of the past, although not remote to us, teach us that when God disappears from man's horizon, humanity loses its direction and runs the risk of taking steps to its own destruction. Faith in God opens man to the horizon of certain hope, which does not disappoint; it indicates a solid foundation on which to base life without fear; it calls for abandoning oneself with confidence in the hands of the Love which sustains the world.

To you, cardinal, to all those who have contributed to prepare this congress, to the speakers and to all the participants I express my cordial greeting with the desire for the full success of the initiative. I support the works with prayer and with my apostolic blessing, propitiator of that light from on High, which makes us capable of finding God, our treasure and our hope.

In the Vatican, December 7, 2009

[Translation by ZENIT]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

James Chastek, Justice and Right

Political theories based on right can very easily dissolve justice into right. Such a dissolution involves saying that there is nothing to justice beyond preserving, delineating, and defending rights. Let’s stipulate that all accounts of justice are in fact rights- relative, that is, that every act of justice is inseparable from the reality that such and such is owed to someone by right. What problem is there in simply using “right” as a proxy for “justice”? Won’t we get exactly the same results?

Justice is the virtue of right operation to others. As a virtue, it is confers good on the one who has it, as giving right operation to others it confers some good on others. Notice that from one and the same action, good necessarily flows into a multitude: the one who acts and another. Right is not like this. Right captures the aspect of justice that speaks of “right operation to others”, but it prescinds from how such an operation needs to be perfective of the one from whom the operation flows. Right is a kind of abstraction in the mind that cannot be an abstraction in reality: the separation of “giving what is due” from the moral perfection of the giver. There is nothing wrong with these abstractions, and political thought needs to make them, but there is a blind side to the abstraction that we need to be aware of.

A full rights theory needs to recognize how the actuality of right- the satisfaction of right- is a good that is not limited to the one with the right, but it belongs both to the one who receives the good by right and the one who provides it to him. There is a single good which flows into two persons in different modes; but it flows in a higher mode into the one who acts or gives since it flows into him as virtue. A full rights theory would be a way of leading to a recognition of the superabundance of justice (where “superabundance” means “a good not limited to one nor diminished by being common”)

Notice that it is not enough to include a notion of “duty” as a correlative of right, though this is necessary. Neither right nor duty speaks to a superabundant good, flowing in diverse modes. Rights based theories must be perfected in one way by relating them to duties and in another way by relating them to justice.
A full rights theory can only be developed within ethics, or a political theory that is built upon "ethics" and the good. The problem is not with rights language, but with the ethical foundation that supports it.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

When I first saw the headline, without the body of the article, I thought perhaps someone was trying to present an alternative to the theologoumenon that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix. (Orthodox if understood correctly, but liable to be misunderstood by Protestants and maybe the Orthodox.)

Update on Defining Mary Spiritual Mother of Humanity

"Could Constitute a Historic Benefit of Grace and Blessing for All"

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, DEC. 8, 2009 ( Here is the letter sent today, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, by Cardinal Luis Aponte-Martinez, the retired archbishop of San Juan, to the cardinals and bishops of Latin America on the petition to define the "Blessed Virgin Mary as the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, under its threefold aspects of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate."

* * *

8 December 2009
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

My Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,

On January 1, 2008, five cardinals wrote to all bishops of the world to notify them of the petition made by an international group of cardinals and bishops assembled at Fatima to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, in humble request for the solemn definition of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, under its threefold aspects of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate. Already in the past, hundreds of bishops and millions of faithful have made this appeal. Again many bishops have recently responded. As one of those five cardinals who sent this global petition, I now wish to provide you with an update concerning this universal Church request.

Recently the Philippines submitted to His Holiness a petition for this solemn definition from Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Lagdameo, President of the Philippine Conference of Catholic Bishops, and several other archbishops and bishops. The petition was accompanied by a personal letter from Philippines President, Madame Gloria Arroyo, in which she strongly supported the request of the bishops.

Also representative groups of cardinals and bishops from India and nearby countries, including Cardinal Vithayathil, President of the National Conference of the Bishops of India, have submitted their own petition for this fifth Marian dogma to Pope Benedict XVI. A similar petition has been sent from Africa by Archbishop Felix Job, President of the Catholic Conference of the Bishops of Nigeria, and various other African bishops. Bishops from Eastern Europe, including Archbishop Kramberger of Slovenia, have likewise sent in their own petition for this Marian papal proclamation. Along with bishops from numerous countries from Latin America, I have sent in our own petition to Pope Benedict for the papal definition of Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood.

All over the world, lay faithful have joined their bishops. Numerous prayer days, conferences, individual prayers and petitions to the Holy Father from the laity constitute a positive manifestation for this potential Marian dogma from the sensus fidelium.

We all perceive a worldwide urgency for the greatest possible intercession of our heavenly Mother for the unprecedented crises of faith, family, society, and peace, which marks the present human condition. We see the papal definition of Holy Mary's Spiritual Motherhood of all peoples as an extraordinary remedy to these global crises which today threaten a great part of humanity. The more we freely acknowledge Mary’s intercessory power, the more she is able to exercise this power for the peoples of the world entrusted to her care at Calvary.

I therefore invite you, dear brother, to join your brother cardinals and bishops from throughout the world in this renewed petition to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, by sending in your own letter for his prayerful discernment of what might constitute a next positive step for the solemn proclamation of the Spiritual Motherhood of Mary. Thank you for your own prayerful discernment of this most important work in honour of Our Lady, which we believe could constitute a historic benefit of grace and blessing for all humanity.

+Luis Cardinal Aponte Martinez
San Juan, Puerto Rico,

The Fifth Marian Dogma: Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate
Mother of All Peoples - Home - Petition for the Fifth Marian Dogma
Catholic Culture : Library : A New Marian Dogma?
Voice of the People for Mary Mediatrix
Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate by Mark I Miravale, S.T.D., Chapter 3
Dr. Mark Miravalle - The Official Home Page
The Western Confucian: We All Know Christmas Was First a Pagan Holiday, Right? \

I have earlier speculated that there is insufficient witness within Sacred Tradition to the humanity or personhood of the conceptum. But, if Christ was acknowledged as being fully human at His conception, might not that be an argument for human personhood? (Unless one wants to argue that Christ was an exception to normal human development.)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Dr. Peter Gilbert: The Filioque: a very basic introduction (via Eirenikon)

The Theses of Christoph von Mettenheim

Thesis No. 1: The special theory of relativity rests on the premise that the velocity of light in a vacuum will be constant and cannot be influenced by the velocity of the source from which the light is coming. From this premise Einstein concluded that time itself must be relative.

Thesis No. 2: In everyday language the concept of ‘velocity’ will designate the relation of distance and time. This concept of everyday language has never been called into question in the theory of relativity. It implies, and presupposes, a concept of ‘time’.

Thesis No. 3: If velocity is to be constant, then this concept of ‘time’ must not change on the distance observed. In the terminology of the theory of relativity it must therefore be ‘absolute’.

Thesis No. 4: Special relativity therefore presupposes in the premise of the constant
spreading velocity of light that time is absolute, and infers from this that time is not absolute. It therefore includes a logical contradiction.

Thesis No. 5: The formulae of special relativity were regarded by Einstein, and are still being regarded today, as practicable approximations to the formulae of general relativity for circular and elliptical motions.

Thesis No. 6: Whenever observations (experiments) were considered to be confirmations of a relativistic time dilation it was always a presupposed interpretation that the formulae of special relativity can be used as approximations to establish relativistic time dilation.

Thesis No. 7: Any application of the special theory of relativity to facts occurring in reality, in particular to measurements of a relativistic time dilation, presupposes some unit of measurement which must first be defined.

Thesis No. 8: Einstein and the adherents of the theory of relativity have never defined units of ‘relative time’ differing from conventional units of time. Where they make exact calculations, they employ ‘hours’, or ‘minutes’ or ‘seconds’, or units derived from these.

Thesis No. 9: ‘Hours’, and ‘minutes’ and ‘seconds’ have been derived from the conventional standard given by the Earth’s rotation.

Thesis No. 10: Any application of the formulae of special relativity in connection with the time units of ‘hours’, or ‘minutes’ or ‘seconds’ for calculating the relativistic time dilations of circular or elliptical motions will lead to logical contradictions.

Thesis No. 11: The same logical contradictions will arise from the application of other standards of measurement (e.g. caesium beam clocks), provided they are employed consistently.

Thesis No. 12: Hence, the mathematical formulae of special relativity are inadequate to establish the relativity of time. They are, however, logically consistent, and can therefore be employed to refute the original hypothesis that the velocity of light in a vacuum will be constant and cannot be influenced by the velocity of the source from which the light is coming.

Q. E. D.

Christoph von Mettenhem ALBERT EINSTEIN oder Der Irrtum eines Jahrhunderts
The hermeneutic of continuity: Statue of Galileo

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Is the public good the same as the common good?

I believe "public good" is used in Dignitatis Humanae rather than the "common good." Can it be identified with the classical notion of the common good, or is it a subordinate good, akin to peace? One could argue that peace is an instantiation of the common good, in so far as it is not merely the absence of strife and violence (and injustice), but caused by the members of a community abstaining from such acts. On the part of the majority, such acts may not result from virtue, but from the fear of punishment--nonetheless, it would be the barest instantiation of the common good, as it is understood in Aristotle and Aquinas, since it can only come about through the compliance of the members with the laws, and the enforcement of the law by the public authorities.

I'm going to have to read Finnis again on the instrumental common good and see how he explains it.
Mark Shea posts this Zenit article: Scholars Aim to Disprove Darwin. Abstracts of the presentations. In the comments to Mr. Shea's post there is this message from Hugh Owen of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation:

Pax Christi!

As we reach the end of the Church year, I would like to thank you for your prayers and gestures of support which have opened so many doors for our apostolate during the past twelve months. In this letter, I would like to summarize some of the highlights of the past year, and introduce you to some new books that would make ideal Christmas presents for your friends and loved ones.

Thanks to your prayers and support, Pope Pius XII’s plea to Catholic scholars in his encyclical Humani generis (in 1950) to examine the evidence for and against the evolutionary hypothesis was finally answered when Catholic scholars gathered at four major academic centers in Europe during the “year of Darwin” to present the evidence against the evolutionary hypothesis. During the past 59 years, there has been no shortage of conferences in support of evolution, but now, for the first time, Catholic experts in natural science and philosophy have presented what a recent conference at Villanova University called “the untold story”—the fatal weaknesses of the evolutionary hypothesis. Perhaps more important than the actual conferences has been the publication of the conference proceedings. In the spring, the proceedings of the conference “A Scientific Critique of Evolution” were published by Sapienza University in Rome and, two weeks ago, the proceedings of a conference on evolution at the National Research Council in Rome were published by a major Italian publishing house, Cantagalli, under the title Evolution: The Decline of an Hypothesis.

In September, natural scientists and philosophers gathered at Gustav Siewerth Akademie, a Catholic university in Germany founded with the help of then-Bishop Josef Ratzinger, to present arguments from natural science and philosophy against evolutionary theory. In a letter to the Rector of the Akademie, through the Vatican Secretariat of State, Pope Benedict XVI gave his blessing to the conference. In the words of the correspondent:

Pope Benedict XVI has attentively taken note of the program and of the publication. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may your scientific discussions during your event lead you to a deeper knowledge of Creation and of its divine plan.

In the near future, the proceedings of the Akademie conference will also be published in English. Finally, on November 9, 2009. the conference “The Scientific Impossibility of Evolution” was held at St. Pius V University in Rome to an audience including quite a few priests and seminarians studying at various Pontifical universities.

As Christmas approaches, I would like to draw your attention to several important new publications that will greatly enrich the holiday season for your friends and loved ones. For those interested in the scientific evidence against the evolutionary hypothesis, the proceedings of the Sapienza University conference “A Scientific Critique of Evolution” are now available in English for a suggested donation of only $10.00.
Thanks to the generosity of several benefactors, we have also been able to publish a second edition of Fr. Victor Warkulwiz’s masterpiece The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11. If you are looking for a Christmas gift for a priest or educated layman, this is a reference book that changes lives—now reduced from $32.95 to a suggested donation of $19.95, and available on a special website of its own

For those who would like a clear, readable introduction to the origins controversy from a Catholic perspective, an experienced director of religious education from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, Olivia McFadden, has written just such a book. Entitled A Bird in Hand, Mrs. McFadden’s little book provides an excellent summary of the case for the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation—available for a suggested donation of $15.00.

Finally, thanks to the hard work of Fr. Victor Warkulwiz and the excellent scholarship of translator Craig Toth, the Kolbe Center is pleased to announce the publication of the first ever English translation of St. Lawrence of Brindisi’s Commentary on the first three chapters of Genesis. Named a Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1959, St. Lawrence was perhaps the most eminent commentator on the Bible of the past 500 years. A master of all of the Biblical languages, St. Lawrence is said to have known the entire text of the Bible by heart. His commentary on Genesis 1-3 firmly upholds the traditional, Catholic doctrine of creation, and answers many of the principal objections to that doctrine which had already been raised before his time. With the help of Fr. Victor’s footnotes, you will find this work by a great Doctor of the Church a rich source of wisdom and spiritual insight—available this Advent for the first time, for a suggested donation of $20.00
Many of you have noted that our recent conference “The Scientific Impossibility of Evolution” received favorable coverage from secular and Catholic news outlets and blogs all over the world, including Zenit News and EWTN news. With the help of your prayers and sacrifices, we are determined not to slacken our efforts, but to seize every opportunity to further expose the scientific bankruptcy of the evolutionary hypothesis and to defend the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation, which is the foundation of the Gospel. As a major new initiative, several Kolbe advisors have spent countless hours designing a new website for our apostolate, one which will undoubtedly attract many new visitors and greatly extend our influence throughout the world. Please keep their sacrificial labors in your prayers.

In the final analysis, the primary purpose of our apostolate is the salvation and sanctification of souls, and the protection of souls from evolutionary errors that weaken and often extinguish the Faith. On my recent trip to Estonia on the western border of Russia, one of my hosts told me of a young Catholic boy at a local school who had just announced to his mother that he was not going to go to church any longer—he had studied enough evolutionary “science” to know that the Christian account of creation and the Fall was a “fairy tale”! How sad it is that all over the world, millions of young people renounce the “sacred history” of Genesis, for what the great philosopher and critic of evolution Larry Azar rightly called “a fairy tale for adults.” But how beautiful it is to see the faith renewed in souls who rediscover the truth of the traditional doctrine of creation and who regain an unshakable confidence in the perfect goodness of God!

If you have contact with any contemplative communities in your area, please ask them to pray for our apostolate, and please unite your prayers with theirs for the success of our mission. If you are in a position to become a regular financial contributor, please do that, too. By the grace of God, our little apostolate has accomplished a great many things with modest financial resources. But we could accomplish much more, if we had more monthly contributors.

As we enter the holy season of Advent, let us keep our eyes fixed on Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word and the Lord of history, who is faithful and true.

Yours in Christ, through the Holy Theotokos,

Hugh Owen

Friday, December 04, 2009

Thursday, December 03, 2009

On the editor's intro on the back of The Mystery of Joseph, by Fr. Philippe, OP, it is written that St. Joseph is "the greatest of saints, after Mary." I thought that position was held by St. John the Baptist? But he was put in the Roman Canon after the BVM by John XXXIII...

Zenit: Adding St. Joseph to the Eucharistic Prayer
Thomas Hibbs reviews The Modern Philosophical Revolution: The Luminosity of Existence by David Walsh

More bad intellectual history?

A review at NDPR.

Dr. Hibbs has his own website now.
If the voters merely vote what is in their own private best interest (especially financially), then the form of government which they comprise is a bad regime. It is easy to forget this when dealing with contemporary politics, in which the rhetoric of freedom is bandied about. Nonetheless, democracy is excoriated by Plato and Aristotle for good reason. For many American voters, the ultimate criterion for deciding how to vote is how a proposed law or a politician's platform will affect one's bank accounts.

How would Aristotle judge the beliefs of personalists and proponents of the NNLT that the common good is an instrumental good, ordered to the good of the individual (or of the family)? How is that any different from a society in which the good of the family is privileged over that of society? One could argue that in the former, if it is corrupt, some sort of injustice is being committed against others or society at large by those in power for the benefit of their families. However, in a personalist society, there are laws which punish these sorts of acts.

Is it possible that the legislation produced by a personalist understanding of the common good could turn out to be the same as one produced by an adherent of the classical understanding? Perhaps the "instrumental" common good is not the same as the "classical" or "holistic" common good.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The latest issue of Living Tradition: TWENTY-THREE YEARS OF NEO-PATRISTIC ACTIVITY
Some notes by James Chastek on creation and generation (and evolution).
The more I think about it, the more I think that subsidiarity is emphasized within Catholic Social Teaching not only because it is a sound political principle, but as a reminder to the secular rulers that they should be prudent and not over-extend themselves in their legislation. It is a more pragmatic approach to over-sized polities, to the world as it is, rather than focusing on claims of justice and rights, which may be true but will nonetheless be ineffectual, given who has power and the inertia of political culture.

Is it true that the Church would sympathize with those who aspire to a more humane political arrangement, appealing to rights or self-determination or secession? Where is the balance between obedience to a legitimate authority (poorly exercised) and political reform (or even dissolution) to be found? In the impact upon the common good.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

James Chastek, Experimental physics and first physics

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Zenit: Pope's Address to Assembly of Catholic Universities

Pope's Address to Assembly of Catholic Universities

"Be an Instrument of the Evangelical Proclamation"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 19, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today to the participants in the 23rd general assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities. The audience took place in the Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Illustrious Rectors, Academic Authorities and Professors,
Dear Students, Brothers and Sisters,

I receive you with joy and thank you for having come "ad Petri Sedem," to be confirmed in your important and committed duty of teaching, study and research at the service of the Church and of the whole of society. I cordially thank Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski for the words he addressed to me on presenting this meeting, in which we recall two particular anniversaries, the 30th of the apostolic constitution "Sapientia Christiana," promulgated on April 15, 1979, by the Servant of God John Paul II, and the 60th anniversary of the recognition by the Holy See of the Statute of the Federation Internationale des Universites Catholiques (FIUC).

I am happy to recall with you these significant anniversaries, which offer me the possibility to manifest once again the indispensable role of ecclesiastical faculties and Catholic universities in the Church and in society. The Second Vatican Council underlined it clearly in the declaration "Gravissimum Educationis" when it exhorted ecclesiastical faculties to deepen their knowledge in the various sectors of the sacred sciences, to have an ever more profound knowledge of revelation, to explore the treasure of Christian wisdom, foster ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and respond to the problems that are arising in the cultural realm (cfr No. 11).

The same conciliar document recommend the promotion of Catholic universities, distributing them in the various regions of the world and, above all, taking care of their qualitative level to form persons versed in learning, prepared to give witness to their faith in the world and to carry out tasks of responsibility in society (cfr No. 10).

The council's invitation found a vast echo in the Church. Today there are, in fact, more than 1,300 Catholic universities and almost 400 ecclesiastical faculties, spread over the five continents, many of which have arisen in the last decades, in testimony of a growing attention of local Churches to the formation of ecclesiastics and laity in culture and research.

The apostolic constitution "Sapientia Christiana," from its first expressions, shows the urgency, still present, to overcome the existing breach between faith and culture, inviting to a greater commitment of evangelization, in the firm conviction that Christian revelation is a transforming force, destined to permeate ways of thinking, criteria of judgment, and norms of behavior. It is able to illumine, purify and renew the customs of men and their cultures (cfr Proemio, I), and must constitute the central point of teaching and research, in addition to the horizon that illumines nature and the objects of every ecclesiastical faculty.

From this perspective, while underlining the duty of the cultivators of the sacred disciplines to attain, with theological research, a more profound knowledge of the truth revealed, encouraged at the same time are contacts with the other fields of learning for a fruitful dialogue, above all for the purpose of offering a precious contribution to the mission that the Church is called to carry out in the world.

After 30 years, the basic lines of the apostolic constitution "Sapientia Christiana" still keep all their current importance. What is more, in today's society, where knowledge is increasingly specialized and sectorial, but which is increasingly marked by relativism, it is even more necessary to be open to the wisdom that comes from the Gospel. Man, in fact, is incapable of understanding himself fully and the world without Jesus Christ: Only he illumines his true dignity, his vocation, his ultimate destiny and opens the heart to a solid and lasting hope.

Dear friends, your commitment to serve the truth that God has revealed shares in the evangelizing mission of the Church: It is an ecclesial service. "Sapientia Christiana" quotes, in this regard, the conclusion of the Gospel according to Matthew: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).

It is important for everyone, professors and students, never to lose sight of the end pursued -- to be an instrument of the evangelical proclamation. The years of the higher ecclesiastical studies can be compared with the experience that the apostles lived with Jesus: Being with him, they learned the truth, to become later heralds everywhere.

At the same time it is important to remember that the study of the sacred sciences must never be separated from prayer, from union with God, from contemplation -- as I reminded in the recent catechesis on Medieval monastic theology -- otherwise reflections on divine mysteries run the risk of becoming a vain intellectual exercise. Every sacred science, in the end, appeals to the "science of the saints," to their intuition of the mysteries of the living God, to wisdom, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit and which is the soul of "fides quaerens intellectum" (cfr general audience, Oct. 21, 2009).

The International Federation of Catholic Universities (FIUC) was born in 1924 by the initiative of some rectors and was recognized 25 years later by the Holy See. Dear rectors of Catholic universities, the 60th anniversary of the canonical erection of your federation is a most propitious occasion to evaluate the activity carried out and to outline future commitments.

To celebrate an anniversary is to thank God who has guided our steps, but it is also to take from one's own history a further impetus to renew the will to serve the Church. In this connection, your motto is also a program for the future of the federation: "Sciat ut Serviat" -- to know in order to serve.

In a culture that manifests a "lack of wisdom, of reflection, of thought capable of operating a guiding synthesis" ("Caritas in Veritate," 31), Catholic universities, faithful to their own identity that considers Christian inspiration as valid, are called to promote a "new humanistic synthesis" (ibid., 21), a learning that is "wisdom capable of guiding man in the light of its first principles and of its ultimate ends" (ibid., 30), a learning illumined by faith.

Dear friends, the service you carry out is valuable for the mission of the Church. While I express to all of you sincere wishes for the academic year initiated a short while ago and for the full success of the FIUC's Congress, I entrust each one of you and the institutions you represent to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Seat of Wisdom, and am pleased to impart to all the apostolic blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Zenit: Benedict XVI's Address to Artists
"You Are the Custodians of Beauty"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Grace in the spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva," by Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catholic Answers Live: The Theology of the Body Controversy, Guest: Christopher West (rm and mp3)
Michaël de Verteuil, On Michael Cerularius

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Practical truth

"My aim is true." Are analytics and others trying to understand Aquinas' notion of practical truth -- unfamiliar with these other uses of "true" in normal everyday English? I am thinking specifically of these meanings.

One online dictionary has the following meanings for "true":

8. Exactly conforming to a rule, standard, or pattern: trying to sing true
9. Accurately shaped or fitted: a true wheel.
10. Accurately placed,
delivered, or thrown.
The Longman English Dictionary Online:

11 straight/level[not before noun] technical fitted, placed, or formed in a way that is perfectly flat, straight, correct etc:
If the door's not true, it won't close properly.
12 somebody's aim is trueif your aim is true, you hit the thing that you were throwing or shooting at


5 a : that is fitted or formed or that functions accurately b : conformable to a standard or pattern : accurate
Not only does my action bring about a result that is intended, but the intended result is what is appropriate or in accordance with a standard or rule. So in the case of firing an arrow at a target -- my aim is true when it, coupled with my technique of drawing the bow and releasing it, leads to the arrow hitting the target.

While we may understand truth as it is defined with respect to products of art, truth as it is defined with respect to morality may be more difficult. But is it so hard for people to understand and re-present Aquinas's account of practical truth correctly? Perhaps it is the interplay between appetite and reason that trips people up.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Zenit: A "Green" Thomism?
Conference Sows Seeds of Catholic Environmentalism

Many other notable philosophers and theologians including Dominican Father Charles Morerod, Janet Smith, Steven Long, Christopher Blum and Stratford Caldecott focused their papers on providing a firm intellectual foundation for a renewed Catholic response to questions of creation and stewardship. Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, literary historian Joseph Pearce, and Dale Ahlquist of the American Chesterton Society delivered the keynote addresses.
James Chastek, An Aristotelian view of logic vs. an Analytic view

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Zenit: On Theology of the Heart or the Mind
"To Make Truth Triumph in Charity"

Enrico Maria Radaelli

Sandro Magister, "Most Holy Father, in This Era of Irrational Barbarism..."

[Enrico Maria] Radaelli, a disciple of the great Catholic philosopher and philologist Romano Amerio, is a sophisticated scholar of theological aesthetics. His masterpiece is: "Ingresso alla bellezza [Entryway to beauty]," released in 2008, a magnificent introduction into the mystery of God through his "Imago," which is Christ. Beauty as the manifestation of the truth.
(via NLM)

Accademia Aurea Domus / Enrico Maria Radaelli

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sandro Magister, The Theology That Suits the Pope Theologian

It is that of the monasteries and cathedrals of the medieval golden age. Benedict XVI has unveiled its marvels to the pilgrims who flock to the general audience. But he also means to give a lesson to the theologians of today

[Does the method of doing theology for the monastic theologians really differ from that of the scholastics? Do they not both start with the same sources, and reflection upon both? What sort of authorities do the monastic theologians incorporate into their writings? Would it be accurate to say that the major contribution of scholastic theologians is the use of logic? Do any of the monastic theologians incorporate the philosophy of the ancients into their speculation? Do they do any speculation, or is their theology more expository, a fruit of their reflection upon Sacred Scripture?]

James V. Schall, S.J., Last Things: Aquinas’s Oysters

Monday, November 02, 2009

Fr. Michael Sherwin, O.P. alerts us to this video of Cardinal Journet.
A friend and I were talking tonight, and the question arose, to whom do we have a greater obligation, a Catholic or a non-Catholic? This may not necessarily be the same question as, "Whom should we love more?" but I this is the question I will address here. If we accept what Aquinas says about the order of charity, it seems that it may be difficult to know whether a Catholic is actually closer to God than a non-Catholic. (We can certainly imagine that it is possible for a non-Catholic to be holier than a Catholic.) Nonetheless, on the basis of who is closer to us, it seems we should love a Catholic more than a non-Catholic, all other things being equal.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Papal Address to Astronomy Congress

"True Knowledge Is Always Directed to Wisdom"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2009 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today when he addressed a group celebrating the International Year of Astronomy with a two-day congress. The International Year of Astronomy was convoked by UNESCO in memory of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope.

* **

Your Eminence,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet this assembly of distinguished astronomers from throughout the world meeting in the Vatican for the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, and I thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo for his kind words of introduction. This celebration, which marks the four hundredth anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first observations of the heavens by telescope, invites us to consider the immense progress of scientific knowledge in the modern age and, in a particular way, to turn our gaze anew to the heavens in a spirit of wonder, contemplation and commitment to the pursuit of truth, wherever it is to be found.

Your meeting also coincides with the inauguration of the new facilities of the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo. As you know, the history of the Observatory is in a very real way linked to the figure of Galileo, the controversies which surrounded his research, and the Church’s attempt to attain a correct and fruitful understanding of the relationship between science and religion. I take this occasion to express my gratitude not only for the careful studies which have clarified the precise historical context of Galileo’s condemnation, but also for the efforts of all those committed to ongoing dialogue and reflection on the complementarity of faith and reason in the service of an integral understanding of man and his place in the universe. I am particularly grateful to the staff of the Observatory, and to the friends and benefactors of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, for their efforts to promote research, educational opportunities and dialogue between the Church and the world of science.

The International Year of Astronomy is meant not least to recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the sixteenth century. I think, for example, of the exultation felt by the scientists of the Roman College who just a few steps from here carried out the observations and calculations which led to the worldwide adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science. Who can deny that responsibility for the future of humanity, and indeed respect for nature and the world around us, demand -- today as much as ever -- the careful observation, critical judgement, patience and discipline which are essential to the modern scientific method? At the same time, the great scientists of the age of discovery remind us also that true knowledge is always directed to wisdom, and, rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, it invites us to lift our gaze to the higher realm of the spirit.

Knowledge, in a word, must be understood and pursued in all its liberating breadth. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, yet if it aspires to be wisdom, capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be committed to the pursuit of that ultimate truth which, while ever beyond our complete grasp, is nonetheless the key to our authentic happiness and freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), the measure of our true humanity, and the criterion for a just relationship with the physical world and with our brothers and sisters in the great human family.

Dear friends, modern cosmology has shown us that neither we, nor the earth we stand on, is the centre of our universe, composed of billions of galaxies, each of them with myriads of stars and planets. Yet, as we seek to respond to the challenge of this Year -- to lift up our eyes to the heavens in order to rediscover our place in the universe -- how can we not be caught up in the marvel expressed by the Psalmist so long ago? Contemplating the starry sky, he cried out with wonder to the Lord: "When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place, what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him?" (Ps 8:4-5). It is my hope that the wonder and exaltation which are meant to be the fruits of this International Year of Astronomy will lead beyond the contemplation of the marvels of creation to the contemplation of the Creator, and of that Love which is the underlying motive of his creation -- the Love which, in the words of Dante Alighieri, "moves the sun and the other stars" (Paradiso XXXIII, 145). Revelation tells us that, in the fullness of time, the Word through whom all things were made came to dwell among us. In Christ, the new Adam, we acknowledge the true centre of the universe and all history, and in him, the incarnate Logos, we see the fullest measure of our grandeur as human beings, endowed with reason and called to an eternal destiny.

With these reflections, dear friends, I greet all of you with respect and esteem, and I offer prayerful good wishes for your research and teaching. Upon you, your families and dear ones I cordially invoke Almighty God’s blessings of wisdom, joy, and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Holy See on Human Rights

"No Religion on the Planet ... Is Free From Discrimination"

NEW YORK, OCT. 27, 2009 ( Here is the statement Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, delivered Monday before the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly on the promotion and protection of human rights.

* * *

Mr Chairman,

As we take up the promotion and protection of human rights, we know that the dignity of the human person is what motivates our desire to commit ourselves to work for the gradual realization of all human rights.

For some time now the United Nations has examined the notion of freedom of conscience with regard to religion and freedom of its expression. This has manifested itself especially in the context of the promotion and protection of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural diversity, and the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance in the world.

The right to religious freedom, despite being repeatedly proclaimed by the international community and specified in international instruments as well as in the Constitution of most States, continues to be widely violated today. There is unfortunately no religion on the planet which is free from discrimination. Acts of intolerance, and violations of religious freedom, continue to be perpetrated in many forms. In fact, more and more cases are brought to the attention of the courts or international human rights bodies.

With the increase of religious intolerance in the world, it is well documented that Christians are the religious group most discriminated against as there may well be more than 200 million of them, of different confessions, who are in situations of difficulty because of legal and cultural structures that lead to their discrimination.

Over the past months some Asian and Middle Eastern countries have seen Christian communities attacked, leaving many injured and others killed. Their churches and homes were also burned down. Such actions were committed by extremists in response to accusations against individuals, perceived –according to anti-blasphemy laws– as being in some way disrespectful of the beliefs of others. In this context, my delegation welcomes and supports the promise of the government of Pakistan to review and amend such laws.

Blasphemy laws have too easily become opportunities for extremists to persecute those who freely choose to follow the belief system of a different faith tradition. Such laws have been used to foster injustice, sectarian violence and violence between religions. Governments must address the root causes of religious intolerance and repeal such laws that serve as instruments of abuse.

Legislation which restricts freedom of expression cannot change attitudes. Instead, what is needed is the will to change. This can most effectively be achieved by raising the consciousness of individuals, bringing them to a greater understanding of the need to respect all persons regardless of their faith or cultural background. States should refrain from adopting restrictions on freedom of expression which have often led to abuse by the authorities and to the silencing of dissenting voices, particularly those of individuals belonging to ethnic and religious minorities. Authentic freedom of expression can contribute to a greater respect for all people as it can provide the opportunity to speak out against violations such as religious intolerance and racism and promote the equal dignity of all persons.

The advocacy of hatred and violence towards specific religions which persists in various places suggests a state of mind characterized by intolerance. For this reason it is imperative that the people of the various faith traditions work together in order to grow in mutual understanding. Here there is need for an authentic change of minds and hearts. This can be done best through education, beginning with children and young people, on the importance of tolerance and respect for cultural and religious diversity.

Cooperation among religions is a prerequisite for the transformation of society and must lead to a change of minds and hearts so that a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence among peoples can truly be built.

This Organization has for many years provided the international community with benchmarks for what countries need to do in order to make concrete advancements in respecting human rights. A key to this lies in adhering to the foundational instruments of the United Nations and in faithfully applying the principles enshrined therein, so that all people regardless of their beliefs will be accorded full respect in keeping with their dignity as members of the human community.

Thank you Mr Chairman.
Papal Address to Pontifical Biblical Institute

"Continue on Your Way With Renewed Determination"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today on receiving in audience professors, students and staff of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, on the centenary of its foundation.

* * *

Most Reverend Superior-General of the Society of Jesus,
Illustrious Rector,
Illustrious Professors and Beloved Students of the Pontifical Biblical Institute

I am delighted to meet with you on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of your Institute, desired by my holy predecessor Pius X, in order to establish in the city of Rome a center of specialized studies on sacred Scripture and related disciplines.

I greet with deference Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, whom I thank for the courteous words he addressed to me on your behalf. I likewise greet the superior-general, Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, and I am happy to take the opportunity given to me to express my sincere gratitude to the Society of Jesus, which, not without notable effort, deploys financial investments and human resources in the management of the faculty of the Ancient East, the Biblical faculty here in Rome, and the headquarters of the Institute in Jerusalem.

I greet the rector and professors, who have consecrated their life to study and inquiry in constant listening to the Word of God. I greet and thank the staff, employees and workers for their appreciated collaboration, as also the benefactors who have made available and continue to make available the necessary resources for maintaining the structures and activities of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. I greet the former students united spiritually to us at this moment, and I greet you especially, beloved students, who come from every part of the world.

One hundred years have gone by since the birth of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. In the course of this century, it has certainly increased interest in the Bible and, thanks to Vatican Council II, especially the dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" -- of whose elaboration I was a direct witness, participating as theologian in the discussions that preceded its approval -- there is much greater awareness of the importance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

This has fostered in Christian communities a genuine spiritual and pastoral renewal, which above all has affected preaching, catechesis, the study of theology and ecumenical dialogue. Your Pontifical Institute has made its own significant contribution to this renewal with scientific biblical research, the teaching of biblical disciplines and the publication of qualified studies and specialized journals. In the course of the decades several generations of illustrious professors have succeeded one another -- I would like to remember, among others, Cardinal Bea -- who formed more than 7,000 professors of sacred Scripture and promoters of biblical groups, as also many experts now present in an array of ecclesiastical services, in every region of the world.

Let us thank the Lord for this activity of yours that is dedicated to interpreting the biblical texts in the spirit in which they were written (cfr "Dei Verbum," 12), and that opens to dialogue with the other disciplines, and with many cultures and religions. Although it has known moments of difficulty, it has continued in constant fidelity to the magisterium according to the objectives themselves of your institute, which arose in fact "ut in Urbe Roma altiorum studiorum ad Libros sacros pertinentium habeatur centrum, quod efficaciore, quo liceat, modo doctrinam biblicam et studia omnia eidem adiuncta, sensu Ecclesiae catholicae promoveat" (Pius PP. X, Litt. Ap. Vinea electa (May 7, 1909): AAS 1 (1909), 447-448).

Dear friends, the celebration of the centenary is an end, and at the same time a point of reference. Enriched by the experience of the past, continue on your way with renewed determination, aware of the service to the Church required of you, to bring the Bible closer to the life of the People of God, so that it will be able to address in an adequate way the unheard of challenges that modern times pose to the new evangelization. It is the common desire that sacred Scripture become in this secularized world, not only the soul of theology, but also the source of spirituality and vigor of the faith of all believers in Christ.

May the Pontifical Biblical Institute continue, therefore, growing as a high quality ecclesial center of study in the realm of biblical research, making use of modern methodologies and in collaboration with specialists in dogmatic theology and in other theological areas; may it ensure a careful formation in sacred Scripture to future priests so that, making use of the biblical languages and of the various exegetical methodologies, they will be able to have direct access to biblical texts.

In this regard, the already mentioned dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" has stressed the legitimacy and necessity of the historical-critical method, reducing it to three essential elements: attention to literary genres; study of the historical context; examination of what is usually called Sitz im Leben. The conciliar document maintains firm at the same time the theological character of exegesis, indicating the strong points of the theological method in the interpretation of the text. This is so because the foundation on which theological understanding of the Bible rests is the unity of Scripture, and this assumption corresponds, as methodological way, to the analogy of the faith, that is, to the understanding of the individual texts from the whole.

The conciliar text adds a further methodological indication. Scripture being only one thing starting from the one People of God, which has been its bearer throughout history, consequently to read Scripture as a unit means to read it from the Church as from its vital place, and to regard the faith of the Church as the real key to interpretation. If exegesis also wishes to be theology, it must acknowledge that the faith of the Church is that form of "sim-patia" without which the Bible remains as a sealed book: Tradition does not close access to Scripture, but rather opens it; on the other hand, the decisive word in the interpretation of Scripture corresponds to the Church, in her institutional organizations. It is the Church, in fact, which has been entrusted with the task of interpreting authentically the Word of God written and transmitted, exercising her authority in the name of Jesus Christ (cfr "Dei Verbum," 10).

Dear brothers and sisters, while thanking you for your pleasant visit, I encourage you to continue your ecclesial service, in constant adherence to the magisterium of the Church and assure each one of you the support of prayer, imparting to you from my heart, as pledge of divine favors, the apostolic blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Zenit: Religious Liberty a Fundamental Right, Says Pontiff
Receives Iran's New Envoy to Holy See

(see Benedict XVI's Address to Iranian Envoy)
Debating Beauty: Jacques Maritain and Dietrich von Hildebrand, by Alice von Hildebrand
(h/t to Jeff Culbreath)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What are the Orthodox arguments against the validity of the Council of Florence?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Zenit: On Theology in the 12th Century
"Knowledge Grows Only if It Loves Truth"
Dietrich Von Hildebrand Legacy Project

On EWTN Live today:
John Henry Crosby & Dr. Alice von Hildebrand
The Dietrich von Hildebrand Spiritual Legacy Project

The audio should be archived shortly.

Related links:
Growing Up with Dietrich: A Conversation with John Henry Crosby

Friday, October 23, 2009

Zenit: Orthodox-Catholic Commission Studies Primacy of Peter

Orthodox-Catholic Commission Studies Primacy of Peter

Concludes 11th Plenary Session in Paphos

By Jesús Colina

PAPHOS, Cyprus, OCT. 23, 2009 ( The International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has progressed in its reflection on the role of the bishop of Rome.

The commission issued a joint communiqué reporting on its progress at the end of its 11th plenary session, ended today in Paphos. The document in question is titled "The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium."

The document is based on a draft prepared by an Orthodox-Catholic committee, which met in Crete last year. At present, the commission is reflecting on the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium -- before the Great Schism of 1054.

The current work of the commission responds to the appeal made by Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" on the "ecumenical commitment," in which he proposed "finding a way to exercise the primacy that, without giving up in any way what is essential to its mission, opens to a new situation."

This is possible, he added, as "for a millennium Christians were united by the fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life, the See of Rome being, by common consent, the moderator when disagreements arose among them on matters of faith or discipline."

John Paul II himself invited both sides to seek "naturally together, the ways with which this ministry can carry out a service of faith and love recognized by one another."

Still working

"During this plenary meeting, the Commission analyzed with great care and amended the draft of the Mixed Coordination Committee, and decided to complete its work on the text next year, calling a new meeting of the Mixed Commission," the communiqué reported.

The meeting was attended by 20 Catholic members; all Orthodox Churches were represented, with the exception of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria.

The commission worked under the guidance of two co-presidents: the Catholic representative was Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; and the Orthodox representative was Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamum.

On Saturday, the co-presidents and other participants, among whom was Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, were received in the presidential palace by Demitris Christofias, president of Cyprus, who placed his hope "in this important dialogue for a world still divided."

The president "expressed his best wishes for progress in communion between the two Churches in the future," the communiqué reported.

Protests of radical Orthodox opposed to dialogue with the Catholic Church interrupted the work of the weeklong meeting. The country's police arrested four citizens and two monks of the monastery of Stavrovunio, confirmed

The Orthodox representatives called the protests "totally unjustifiable and unacceptable, as they present false information which creates confusion," the communiqué stated. "All the Orthodox members of the commission re-affirmed that the dialogue continues with the decision of all the Orthodox Churches and advances with fidelity to the truth and to the Tradition of the Church."

The mixed commission was established by John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I in Istanbul on Nov. 30, 1979, on the feast of St. Andrew (Patron of the Church of Constantinople).