Saturday, September 12, 2009

The History of American Secularism - Charles Taylor

Does he get it right?
2009 Alasdair MacIntyre Newman Lecture PT1.

For part 2 and the rest, click here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Photo: Butterfly Nebula

The Butterfly Nebula from Upgraded Hubble

Related Links:
STScI/HST Pictures
Hubble Heritage Gallery of Images
NASA - Hubble Space Telescope
Main Hubble Page
SEDS: Best of HST
The European Homepage For The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope
Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

Huffington Post
Standmickey: The “innocence” argument and the Consistent Life Ethic

It is important to remember that Catholic teaching on the dignity of man is not contingent on the degree of innocence or guilt with which a soul is burdened. In a literal sense, none of us is “innocent”; even the unborn carry the stain of original sin that must be washed away by the waters of Baptism, and obviously the rest of us have to answer for a multitude of personal sins. Every human being, the unborn child as much as the mass murderer as much as you or I, is in need of redemption.

Literal sense? Yes, someone has thus reinforced the belief of some American Orthodox that the Romans subscribe to some belief of "inherited guilt," which they correctly find repulsive. Innocent/and guilt, used with respect to original sin, cannot be used but equivocally.

My point in saying this is not that abortion, torture, capital punishment, and the like are justifiable by virtue of the guilt that we all share (nor is it my intention, obviously, to pass any kind of judgment on the fate of the souls of unbaptized aborted children, a question that is best left to God in His mercy). My point is exactly the opposite: the Church teaches, based on the example of the life of Christ, that human dignity is not earned, either by good deeds that we have committed or evil deeds that we have not committed (i.e. crimes that have been committed by prisoners but not by unborn children). Nor does an individual forfeit his or her human dignity by the commission of evil acts. Rather, such dignity is intrinsic to every human being and shared equally by all individuals, because every individual is created by the Father, redeemed (or has the potential to be redeemed) by the Son, and sanctified (or has the potential to be sanctified) by the Holy Spirit.

Of course human dignity is unearned -- any gift from God that is given without our cooperation is unearned. Here we see how problematic "dignity" can be, when it is used not only to affirm that those who are guilty of a crime should not be punished beyond what they deserve, but that certain punishments which were formerly deemed to be proportional to their defense are no longer so, all in the name of protecting human "dignity".

And when we look at this larger principle, it becomes clear that it is not licit for a anyone, particularly a Catholic, to call himself pro-life while supporting (either explicitly or by a failure to condemn) torture, capital punishment, and unjust war. For in the end, the belief in which this hypocrisy is rooted– the belief that victims of such atrocities are “less innocent” than victims of the atrocity that is abortion–is simply not valid.

Once again, "innocence" is used but equivocally. Does anyone "deserve" God's mercy, strictly speaking? No. Should we be merciful to those who have injured us, in certain situations? Probably. But that does not mean that God's mercy overrides the demands of justice, or redefines the notion of justice.

Poor reasoning once again at work at that blog.
Vox Nova: Tillard on the role of the local church of Rome
[T]he catholic Church of God is the koinonia of local churches mutually recognizing themselves as churches of God. This mutual recognition we think is essential. The Latin West concealed this in its desire to make everythng depend upon the relationship with the Church of Rome and its bishop. The catholic communion was seen as a totality of local churches all in communion with the sedes of Rome, without it being made clear that this necessary relationship with Rome is in the service of the mutual koinonia of local churches throughout time and space. In the gospel of God, which expresses the divine plan to reconcile all the human blocs shredded by sin, this mutual relationship is what counts more than anything else. What good would it be for them all to be in communion with Rome if the local churches remained water-tight compartments, shut up in their differences, as portrayed in a book for children which shows the Church as a great sun radiating around Rome, with the rays only converging. In the Holy Spirit and by the power of the Eucharist, it is mutual recognition that forms the concrete fabric of koinonia.


The function of the local church of Rome and of its bishop must be understood in this perspective. It seems to us above all to be a ministry of recognition. Its principal task is that of ensuring the mutual recognition of the churches and basically the maintenance in each of them of the traits of the Church of Pentecost. Thus it is the guardian of communion, a communion which is realized in and by the local churches themselves, not imposed by some authority that transcends them. For communion is not realized around Rome, but thanks to Rome.

J. M. R. Tillard, “The Local Church Within Catholicity.” The Jurist 52 (1992): 448–54.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Zenit: Vatican Letter on Catholic Education
"Religious Education in Schools Fits Into the Evangelizing Mission of the Church"

Papal Address at Bonaventure's Birthplace

Papal Address at Bonaventure's Birthplace

"The Universe Itself Can Again Be the Voice That Speaks of God"

BAGNOREGGIO, Italy, SEPT. 7, 2009 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Sunday at Bagnoreggio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

This morning's solemn Eucharistic celebration in Viterbo opened my pastoral visit to your diocesan community, and this meeting here in Bagnoreggio practically closes it. I greet you all with affection: religious, civil and military authorities, priests, men and women religious, pastoral agents, young people and families, and I thank you for your cordial welcome. I renew my gratitude first of all to your bishop for his affectionate words, which referred to my link with St. Bonaventure. And I respectfully greet the mayor of Bagnoreggio, grateful for the courteous welcome he gave me in the name of the whole city.

Giovanni Fidanza, who later became Friar Bonaventure, joins his name to that of Bagnoreggio in the well-known presentation that he makes of himself in the Divine Comedy. On saying: "I am the soul of Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio, who in exalted tasks put to one side erroneous endeavors" (Dante, Paradise XII, 127-129), which underscores how, in the important tasks that he had to undertake in the Church, he always postponed attention to temporal realities -- "erroneous endeavors" -- in favor of the spiritual good of souls. Here, in Bagnoreggio, he spent his childhood and adolescence; then he followed St. Francis, for whom he manifested special gratitude because, as he wrote, when he was a child he "snatched him from the jaws of death" (Legenda Maior, Prologus, 3,3) and predicted "bona venture," as your mayor recalled recently. He was able to establish a profound and lasting bond with the poor man of Assisi, drawing from him ascetic inspiration and ecclesial genius. You jealously guard the famous relic of the "holy arm" of this illustrious fellow-citizen, keep alive his memory and reflect deeply on his doctrine, especially through the Center of Bonaventure Studies, founded by Bonaventure Tecchi, which every year promotes special study conferences dedicated to him.

It is not easy to summarize the extensive philosophical, theological and mystical doctrine that St. Bonaventure left us. In this Year for Priests, I would like to invite priests especially to listen to this great doctor of the Church and to reflect more profoundly on his teaching of wisdom rooted in Christ. He directs every step of his speculation and mystical tension to wisdom that flowers in holiness, passing through the degrees that range from what he calls "uniform wisdom," which concerns the essential principles of knowledge, to "multiform wisdom," which consists of the mysterious language of the Bible, and then to "omni-form wisdom," which recognizes in the whole of created reality the reflection of the Creator, to "informed wisdom," that is, the experience of profound mystical contact with God, wherewith man's intellect knows the infinite Mystery in silence (cf. J. Ratzinger, St. Bonaventure and the Theology of History, Porziuncola publishers, 2006, pp. 92ff). On remembering this profound researcher and lover of wisdom, I would also like to express my encouragement and appreciation for the service that theologians are called to give, in the ecclesial community, of that faith that seeks understanding, that faith which is a "friend of intelligence" and which becomes a new life according to God's plan.

From St. Bonaventure's rich cultural and mystical patrimony I limit myself, this afternoon, to consider a "path" of reflection that might be useful for your diocesan community's pastoral journey. He was, in the first place, a tireless seeker of God, from the time of his studies in Paris until his death. He indicates in his writings the path to be followed. "Given that God is on High," he wrote, "the mind must ascend to him with all its strength" (De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, No. 25).

In this way, he traces a committed path of faith, in which it is not enough "to read without unction, to speculate without devotion, to do research without admiration, to be circumspect without joy, to be expert without piety, to know without charity, to be intelligent without humility, to study without divine grace, to speak without wisdom inspired by God" (Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, Prologue 4). This journey of purification involves the whole person striving, through Christ, to the transforming love of the Trinity. And, given that Christ, forever God and man forever, effects in the faithful a new creation with his grace, the exploration of the divine presence becomes contemplation of him in the soul "where he dwells with the gifts of his uncontainable love" (ibid. IV, 4), to be finally transported in him. Hence, faith is the perfection of our cognitive capacities and participation in the knowledge that God has of himself and of the world; we experience hope as preparation for our encounter with the Lord, who will constitute the fulfillment of that friendship that already unites us to him. And charity introduces us to divine life, making us see all people as brothers, according to the will of our common heavenly Father.

In addition to being a seeker of God, St. Bonaventure was a seraphic singer of creation who, following St. Francis, learned to "praise God in all and through all creatures," in which "shines the omnipotence, wisdom and goodness of the Creator" (ibid. I, 10). St. Bonaventure presents a positive vision of the world, gift of God's love to men: He recognizes in it the reflection of the highest Goodness and Beauty that, following St. Augustine and St. Francis, assures us that it is God himself. God has given it all to us. From him, as original source, flow truth, goodness and beauty. To God, as on the steps of a stairway, one ascends until arriving and almost attaining the highest Good and in him we find our joy and peace. How useful it would be if also today we rediscovered the beauty and value of creation in the light of divine goodness and beauty! In Christ, observed St. Bonaventure, the universe itself can again be the voice that speaks of God and leads us to explore his presence; exhorts us to honor and glorify him in everything (Cf. Ibid. I, 15). Herein we perceive the spirit of St. Francis, with whom our saint shared love for all creatures.

St. Bonaventure was a messenger of hope. We find a beautiful image of hope in one of his Advent homilies, where he compares the movement of hope to the flight of a bird, which spreads its wings as far as possible, and employs all its energies to move them. In a certain sense, it make its whole being a movement to rise and fly. To hope is to fly, says St. Bonaventure. But hope exacts movement from all our members and our projection to the authentic stature of our being, to God's promises. He who hopes, he affirms, "must lift his head, directing his thoughts on high, to the height of our existence, that is, to God" (Sermo XVI, Dominica I Adv., Opera Omnia, IX, 40a).

In his address, the Lord Mayor posed a question: "What will Bagnoreggio be tomorrow?" In truth, we all wonder about our future and that of the world, and this question has much to do with hope, for which every human heart is thirsty. In the encyclical "Spe Salvi," I wrote that not just any hope is sufficient to address and overcome the difficulties of the present: a "certain hope" is indispensable which, giving us the certainty of attaining a "great" goal," justifies the effort of the journey" (cf. No. 1). Only this "great hope-certainty" assures us that, despite the failures of our personal life and the contradictions of history as a whole, we are always protected by the "indestructible power of Love."

When we are sustained by such hope we never run the risk of losing the courage to contribute, as the saints did, to the salvation of humanity, and "we can open ourselves and open the world so that God will enter, God, who is truth, love and goodness" (cf. No. 35). May St. Bonaventure help us to "spread the wings" of hope, which drives us to be, as he was, incessant seekers of God, singers of the beauties of creation and witnesses of that Love and Beauty that "moves everything."

Thank you, dear friends, once again, for your hospitality. While I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I impart to you, through the intercession of St. Bonaventure and especially of Mary, faithful Virgin and Star of Hope, a special apostolic blessing, which I extend with pleasure to all the inhabitants of this beautiful land, rich in saints.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Society of Scholastics blog. I'm not sure if they are going to create a new website, or update the old one.
James Chastek, The equivocation of analogous terms, pt. I

Monday, September 07, 2009

On Practical Reason

The advocates of the New Natural Law Theory and the so-called "neo-Thomists" (like Ralph McInerny) are divided on the question of whether practical reason is "pre-moral" and therefore must be further specified in order to be moral reasoning.

Without reviewing the literature, I'd like to first write down some thoughts.

Practical reasoning deals with both doing and making. Is making therefore a morally neutral activity? Taken in the abstract, it might be. But does anyone proceed to make anything without considering whether it is good or not? Perhaps those who are unflective or those who have not attained the full use of reason. But in the concrete, all individual acts are either morally good or morally evil, even if one does not sufficiently reflect upon whether they should be doing it or not.

Would it be accurate to say that moral reasoning is a form of practical reasoning according to the proponents of the NNLT? That is to say, moral reasoning is practical reasoning plus certain foundational moral principles to guide that reasoning?