Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sandro Magister, Professor Rhonheimer Writes. And the Holy Office Agrees
Exclusive to www.chiesa, an open letter by the Swiss philosopher in defense of the "understanding and farsighted vision" of Benedict XVI on sexual morality. And to follow, the note released the same day by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is it impossible for God to allow for the generation of a hominid monster, one that resembles a human being but without a rational soul, and not only that, without any self-restraint. "Mad" it would be called, like a "mad" dog. Ferocious and quick to use violence to get what it wants?

A reader over at The Thinking Housewife links to this article: US scientists create mice from two fathers

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Bonald" comments (link via the Western Confucian) on the same article by Stephen Barr which I wrote on here: "The example he gives is the band structure in metals. This is certainly formal, although metals don’t have the intrinsic teleology or indivisible unity of biological substantial forms. What we need is a sort of weaker idea of form for this lower order of being, one without teleology."

Is a pure body of water, or a metal lattice a substance? Or just a group of individuals? Or something in between?  Associations other than substantial unities have form, but it is an accidental form, not a substantial form. But an accidental form will have some sort of teleology. But it should also be said that discerning the end of something can be difficult for us, especially if we are trying to determine remote ends rather than proximate ends. But I do not think that is the problem we have with electronic band structure, since we are looking at potencies and actualities of parts of a whole. How much can a part be actualized before it is no longer a part of that whole? It seems to me that electronic band structure is just the quantification of those actualities. (James Chastek has this relevant post: Quantitative and logical parts.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Zenit: Doctrinal Congregation's Note on Light of the World


"The Thought of the Pope Has Been Repeatedly Manipulated"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2010 ( Here is the note released today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "On the Trivialization of Sexuality: Regarding Certain Interpretations of 'Light of the World.'"

* * *

Following the publication of the interview-book Light of the World by Benedict XVI, a number of erroneous interpretations have emerged which have caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words -- a meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human sexuality is treated. The intention of the Holy Father is clear: To rediscover the beauty of the divine gift of human sexuality and, in this way, to avoid the cheapening of sexuality which is common today.

Some interpretations have presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive change and lamented by others as a cause of concern – as if his statements represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the Church’s stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope -- which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely prostitution (cf. "Light of the World," pp. 117-119) -- do not signify a change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.

As is clear from an attentive reading of the pages in question, the Holy Father was talking neither about conjugal morality nor about the moral norm concerning contraception. This norm belongs to the tradition of the Church and was summarized succinctly by Pope Paul VI in paragraph 14 of his encyclical letter "Humanae Vitae," when he wrote that "also to be excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation -- whether as an end or as a means." The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought. On this issue the Pope proposes instead – and also calls the pastors of the Church to propose more often and more effectively (cf. "Light of the World," p. 147) -- humanly and ethically acceptable ways of behaving which respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meaning of every conjugal act, through the possible use of natural family planning in view of responsible procreation.

On the pages in question, the Holy Father refers to the completely different case of prostitution, a type of behaviour which Christian morality has always considered gravely immoral (cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et spes," No. 27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2355). The response of the entire Christian tradition – and indeed not only of the Christian tradition – to the practice of prostitution can be summed up in the words of St. Paul: "Flee from fornication" (1 Cor 6:18). The practice of prostitution should be shunned, and it is the duty of the agencies of the Church, of civil society and of the State to do all they can to liberate those involved from this practice.

In this regard, it must be noted that the situation created by the spread of AIDS in many areas of the world has made the problem of prostitution even more serious. Those who know themselves to be infected with HIV and who therefore run the risk of infecting others, apart from committing a sin against the sixth commandment are also committing a sin against the fifth commandment – because they are consciously putting the lives of others at risk through behaviour which has repercussions on public health. In this situation, the Holy Father clearly affirms that the provision of condoms does not constitute "the real or moral solution" to the problem of AIDS and also that "the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality" in that it refuses to address the mistaken human behaviour which is the root cause of the spread of the virus. In this context, however, it cannot be denied that anyone who uses a condom in order to diminish the risk posed to another person is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity. In this sense the Holy Father points out that the use of a condom "with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality." This affirmation is clearly compatible with the Holy Father’s previous statement that this is "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection."

Some commentators have interpreted the words of Benedict XVI according to the so-called theory of the "lesser evil." This theory is, however, susceptible to proportionalistic misinterpretation (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Veritatis splendor," No. 75-77). An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed. The Holy Father did not say – as some people have claimed – that prostitution with the use of a condom can be chosen as a lesser evil. The Church teaches that prostitution is immoral and should be shunned. However, those involved in prostitution who are HIV positive and who seek to diminish the risk of contagion by the use of a condom may be taking the first step in respecting the life of another – even if the evil of prostitution remains in all its gravity. This understanding is in full conformity with the moral theological tradition of the Church.

In conclusion, in the battle against AIDS, the Catholic faithful and the agencies of the Catholic Church should be close to those affected, should care for the sick and should encourage all people to live abstinence before and fidelity within marriage. In this regard it is also important to condemn any behaviour which cheapens sexuality because, as the Pope says, such behaviour is the reason why so many people no longer see in sexuality an expression of their love: "This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being" ("Light of the World," p. 119).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Debate between Michael Behe and Stephen Barr

For ISI: Should Intelligent Design Be Taught as Science? mp3

Stephen M. Barr
Professor of Physics, University of Delaware

Michael Behe
Professor of Biochemistry, Lehigh University and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute

Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
First Things: The Ruins of Discontinuity
Looking for answers to the fragmentation of Catholic theology in America.
Reinhard Hütter

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chiesa: Sexual Ethics. Six Professors Discuss the Ratzinger Case
Luke Gormally, of the Pontifical Academy for Life, replies to Martin Rhonheimer, of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Then two Italian Catholic philosophers. And an Argentinian. And George Weigel... All started by something the pope said

Kreeft v. Spencer on Islam

Thomas More College
Lisa Graas
Patrick Madrid: Peter Kreeft and Robert Spencer Debate the merits and demerits of Islam

Stephen Barr on science and metaphysics

Stephen Barr, The Symbiosis of Science and Metaphysics (via Joe Carter).

The arrogance of scientists lecturing to philosophers on how they should do philosophy? That is what I thoght at first, especially when Naturally, John Farrell expressed his appreciation at First Things, especially of the closing:
In short, Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy has paid a heavy price for the two and a half centuries in which it largely ignored what was going on in the natural sciences. A sustained re-engagement with science would enrich its conceptual and linguistic resources. This re-engagement cannot simply be an attempt to translate statements of modern science into existing Aristotelian terms. That cannot be done in many cases. Rather, many more Aristotelian/ Thomistic metaphysicians than currently do must learn to listen to and understand science in its own native tongue.
But then I went ahead and read the rest of the essay.
Beyond directly theological issues, does modern physics have anything to say to metaphysics, and therefore indirectly to theology? Some might argue not, on the grounds that metaphysics speaks about such general features of reality - of being as being - that it cannot be affected by discoveries of particular contingent facts about the world. And yet, Aristotelian metaphysics, which has such an important place in Catholic thought, was not conceived in isolation from scientific investigation. Aristotle was himself a great scientist and both his metaphysics and science make use of the same technical apparatus of form, matter, substance, accident, potency, act, and so on. Indeed, it was largely as a theory of nature that Aristotelianism first commended itself to medieval Christian thinkers.

It is a great problem that traditional Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics and modern science no longer speak the same language, as they did in the Middle Ages. Indeed, there are many terms and concepts in the language of each that are now almost untranslatable into the language of the other. Some argue that this is the fault of modern science, which restricted its attention to a limited range of questions having to do with the merely quantitative aspects of things and with efficient and material causes at the expense of formal and final causes. While there is some truth in this, it is only a part of the story. The language of Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics has changed very little since the advent of modern science and its vocabulary seems from a scientific perspective quite stilted and awkward for many purposes.

Physics has had enormous success in explaining why things happen as they do in the natural world, but its modes of explanation do not fit neatly into the four-fold classification of material, formal, efficient, and final causes. For example, when physicists explain the electrical conductivity of metals in terms of the "band structure" of the energy levels of the electrons in a crystal lattice of atoms, to which of the four causes does that correspond? As this example illustrates, explanation in modern physics is almost entirely in terms of mathematical structure and involves an enormously rich set of ideas about form. The fact that modern science is nonetheless typically accused by Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysicians of neglecting "formal cause" shows that they are working with a different notion of form than are contemporary physicists and mathematicians. In Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy, the ideas of formal causation and substantial form have a teleological thrust that is largely missing from the physicist's conception of form, which corresponds more to Lonergan's broader idea of form as "intelligible structure".

Another example of a linguistic/conceptual difference between Aristotelian thought and modern science is that the former usually envisions the action of one thing upon another (for example fire heating iron), whereas in modern physics the physical world is explained in terms of mutual "interactions". A third example is that the notions of "species" in Aristotelian philosophy and modern biology are not compatible. Aristotelian species are what mathematicians call "equivalence classes", so that if A is of the same species as B, and B is of the same species as C, then A must be of the same species as C. However, it does not appear possible in biology to define species in a way that always satisfies this condition. (The existence of "ring species", such as the Larus gulls, illustrates the problem, as indeed does "speciation" in evolution, whereby all animals are of the same species as their parents and offspring, but not as their remote ancestors or descendents.)

He makes some good point about Aristotle being a "scientist" and a "philosopher." But the rest...

Even if they are well-meaning, Catholic scientists who would seek to advance the credibility of the Church and the Catholic intellectual tradition should instead examine their starting points and assumptions, and check their reasoning. Those philosophers and theologians who would seek to have discussions with such scientists (as the River Forest School used to promote) should always check the logic (especially the definitions of terms).

Even now we still have some Dominicans of the River Forest School continuing the work of the school: Fr. William Wallace, especially. And then there is Anthony Rizzi, who was apparently influenced more by Maritain. Aristotelian-Thomists have no problems reviewing contemporary scientific literature -- what will irritate the Catholic scientists is when they do so critically. Philosophers and theologians of other schools may be more deficient in their training, so I would not suggest that they grapple with the literature right away--rather they should study logic, physics, and philosophy/history of science. Talking about the "mode of explanation" of Aristotelian physics shows that Barr has not gone far enough in a critical examination of what he believes. One does not evaluate what some philosophers have written with belief -- one must start off first by asking whether one has belief or true knowledge, and only then can one critique what others have said.

Aristotelian-Thomistic vocabulary begins with what we first know and it is used to understand what we come to know. We do not go in reverse, attempting to understand what is better-known through what is less-known, which is what contemporary scientists would have us do. If modern science is criticized as neglecting the formal cause, it is conjunction with critiques about its mathematical character and reductionism.

Barr concedes that physics almost entirely in terms of mathematical structure, and yet "involves an enormously rich set of ideas about form," using the example of electronic band structure, Claiming that is so does not make it so. What he neglects to examine is how one arrives at that mathematical structure in the first place -- quantity and measurement -- from what causal interactions are such measurements derived? Moreover, the avoidance of teleology does not make a causal (i.e. scientific) account of x wrong -- it merely makes it incomplete, and those who would maintain that this is a complete explanation (or the only one attainable) are therefore wrong.

As for species -- James Chastek has written something recently on this question, and I have yet to think about what he says. Is it necessary for an account using a more traditional notion of species ("kinds") to be reconciled with the modern biological notion? No. But that does not mean that it cannot be done, even if one can concede that species refer to populations of individuals that reproduce and are isolated from other populations (Ernst Mayr's definition). Talking about a group and its lineage of reproduction/descent does not exclude the possibility that there are natural limits to the variation of structure within that group/lineage.

Philosophy Lives
Why Stephen Hawking’s attempt to banish natural theology only shows why we need it.
John Haldane

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Canterbury Tales: Did Thomas Aquinas Deny the Immaculate Conception? (Garrigou-Lagrange) Migne on-line. All of it.
VFR: The Darwinian theory of evolution is a fraud—and it’s not Lawrence Auster who says that, it’s the Darwinian scientists who say it

The Plausibility of Life. Resolving Darwin's Dilemma (Google Books)

An interview with Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart by Greg Ross

Can you describe the new theory briefly?

Our theory addresses the most mysterious part of Darwin's theory of evolution, namely "variation." As you may recall, he postulated that small differences of form and function inexorably arise among individuals in any group of animals. One individual, bearing its variation, may be more fit than others of the group to survive and reproduce in the environment at hand. In time, its descendants out-reproduce the others and come to replace them.

About half a century ago, we learned that heritable variation does not occur without mutation. Any place in the genome can suffer mutation, which is a change of the local DNA sequence. It appears to strike at random, and rarely. Our theory of "facilitated variation" is meant to explain how rare and random mutation can lead to exquisite changes of form and function.

We give center place to the fundamental processes by which animals develop from the egg to the adult and by which they function as adults. These are the "conserved core processes." They make and operate the animal, and surprisingly they are pretty much the same whether we scrutinize a jellyfish or a human. There are a few hundred kinds of processes, each involving tens of active components. Each component is encoded by a gene of the animal's genome, thus using up the majority of the 20,000 genes possessed by complex animals such as frogs, mice and humans.

The components and genes are largely the same in all animals. Almost every exquisite innovation that one examines in animals, such as an eye, hand or beak, is developed and operated by various of these conserved core processes and components. This is a profound realization for the question of variation, because it says that the different and seemingly novel features of animals are made and run by various of the same core processes, just used in different combinations, at different times and places in the animal, and used to different extents of their output. Variation is not as hard to get as one might initially think. A Lego analogy is applicable: The same Lego parts can be stuck together to give a model of the Eiffel Tower or of a soccer ball.

If the core processes remain the same, what changes in evolution? We suggest that it is the regulation of these processes. Regulatory components determine the combinations and amounts of core processes to be used in all the special traits of the animal. Whereas components of the core processes do not change in evolution, regulatory components do, and they are the targets of random mutational change. Genes for regulatory components comprise a minority of the genome (under a quarter, as a rough estimate), fewer than genes for core processes, but still a lot of genes and a lot of regulatory DNA. The thrust of our argument is that rather few mutational changes, affecting regulatory components, are needed to generate complex innovation.

In summary, then, we posit that the conserved core processes greatly facilitate the animal's generation of complex variation by reducing the number and kind of regulatory changes needed and hence the number of random mutational changes needed in the genome. Facilitation comes from the great versatility and adaptability of the processes and their proneness to regulation.

Where then do the conserved core processes come from? How were the Lego blocks invented?

In our book we dwell mostly on the long period of animal evolution from the onset of the Cambrian epoch, over 540 million years ago, to the present, during which altered regulation, due to random mutation, brought core processes together in various combinations and amounts, producing the enormous variety of new anatomical and physiological traits of the diverse animal groups.

The core processes had themselves evolved before the Cambrian, some even billions of years before. We envision four episodes, each separated from the next by a long interval during which life-forms diversified based on the varied use of those recently acquired processes, driven by regulatory change. First, as early bacteria-like cells evolved, the processes arose for synthetic and degradative (energy-producing) metabolism, for DNA synthesis and for gene expression, including protein synthesis. This innovation entailed the evolution of many hundreds of kinds of enzymes, proteins and genes that are found today in all life-forms—animals, plants, fungi, protists and bacteria.

The second episode occurred roughly two billion years ago, as the first eukaryotic cells evolved, perhaps coincident with the initial accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere. Eukaryotic cells are much more complicated in their organization and coordination of activities. Processes evolved for arranging components at different places and for moving them from place to place. Genomes got larger, a complex cell cycle arose culminating in mitosis and cell division, and the first sexual reproduction took place with meiosis and the fusion of two cells. These new processes entailed the evolution of many new proteins, which seem to have originated from old proteins of bacteria. They are used by all modern life-forms except the bacteria and have been conserved with little change from those first eukaryotic ancestors.

A third episode occurred at the time of the earliest multicellular animals, perhaps one billion years ago. These processes of multicellularity involve the means of cell-to-cell communication, of cells adhering to each other and to a blanket of materials that cells deposit around themselves, and specialized junctions connecting cells. The means evolved for developing a multicellular animal from a single-celled egg. Specialized cell types evolved, such as nerve and muscle. Some of the new proteins used in these processes look as if they were spliced together from pre-existing parts, and their genes were spliced together from pieces of old genes, in various combinations and numbers. Others arose through the duplication of genes and diversification of base sequences of the duplicates, yielding large "families" of slightly different genes and encoded proteins.

A final episode, discussed in the book, occurred just before the Cambrian period and involved the innovation of the body plans of animals. This innovation compartmentalized the embryo and allowed a large increase in the complexity of development—namely, the independent use of different combinations and amounts of core processes in each of the domains of the developing animal's body plan, to give the many anatomical and physiological innovations of the Cambrian period to the present.

What are the recent advances that have permitted the new insights behind your theory?

Key recent advances have revealed how a single-celled egg develops to a functional adult. These advances rest on breakthroughs in many other areas of biology concerning how genetic information is transmitted to the next generation, how this information is recovered to produce the active components of cells, how energy is obtained and used, what limited set of chemical building blocks makes up all cells, how particular kinds of cells like nerves and muscles accomplish their functions, and on and on. Few of these insights were known even three decades ago. Much of this basic research was pursued without reference to evolution, but rather concerned what is required for life itself. The insights were surprisingly general, holding across large groups of animals, in cases even all life-forms from bacteria to humans.

The public knows about these breakthroughs mostly by their medical implications, but ultimately they allowed the understanding of development and evolution. Evolutionary biologists increasingly realized in recent decades that the changes of animals in evolution reflect changes in development. Now, in the past decade, the analysis of development has burst open. Out of all this research came the recognition of conserved core processes—what they do and what their components are. Out of developmental biology came the realization of the widespread use of these processes, and genome sequencing has shown that genes are widely conserved across the animal kingdom. For example, roughly 15 percent of our genes are like those of bacteria, 25 percent are like those of single-celled fungi, 50 percent are like those of fruit flies, and 70 percent are like those of frogs.

How can animals be so different and yet so much the same? The resolution of the paradox is found in the use of the same versatile adaptable components in different combinations and amounts to different ends, to generate the different anatomies and physiologies of the diverse kinds of animals.

What questions remain to be answered?

The question is ongoing of what really occurs within the animal when it generates innovations. Our theory of facilitated variation is but a plausible sketch of how it might occur, and the theory reflects a direction in research, not a verdict reached.

Developmental biology is moving at a rapid pace, and the evolution of developmental mechanisms is a subject of high interest. For example, evolutionary biologists have long thought that the wings of birds are evolutionary modifications of the forelimbs of a reptile-like ancestor, which in turn are evolutionary modifications of the front fins of a lobe-fin fish-like ancestor. Now, every aspect of the development of fins, limbs and wings is under study to illuminate likenesses and differences down to the level of molecules and DNA sequences.

When a difference is found, the inquiry turns to the question: How different is it, really? What is new and what is old, at the level of molecules? What kinds of changes were needed to effect it? Similarly, the evolution of eyes is under intense study, as is the evolution of beaks of birds, or of segments, legs and wings of insects. Our main conclusion that evolutionary innovations involve very little that is really new, and that much innovation comes from the adaptive behavior of conserved processes, derives from these kinds of studies.

As a general direction in biology, the more we learn about how animals develop and function, the more we learn about how they have changed in evolution. While past variation will always be a subject for speculation and theory, the relevant research findings will increasingly clear our eyes and minds, and innovations will be produced in the laboratory, as is already under way to modest ends in agricultural animals. Presumably at that point, doubters would concede that maybe it's possible by natural causes.

The Authors:
Marc Kirschner
John Gerhart

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fr. Rhonheimer jumping to conclusions?

With respect to how he understands the "condom controversy":

Sandro Magister: On the Condom and AIDS, the Pope Has Come Down from the Cathedra
Usus Antiquior: A Theological Perspective on Church Music
Author: Nichols OP, Aidan

No explanation of why Fr. Alcuin Reid was replaced as editor; has his absence affected the quality of the journal and the number of subscriptions? I am among those who are boycotting...

Monday, December 13, 2010

A discussion of natural law

Constitutional Illusions
by Matthew O'Brien, November 15, 2010

The Particular Appeal of Universal Principles
Hadley Arkes, December 02, 2010
Responding to a review of his most recent book, Hadley Arkes asks some questions about the nature of natural law.

The Ambitions of Natural Law Ethics: A Reply to Arkes
Matthew O'Brien, December 03, 2010
What’s unnatural about the Kantian take on natural law.
William Carroll, Arsenic and the Meaning of Life

(via Godzdogz)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Incarnational Approach to Orthodoxy in Indonesia
An Interview with Fr.Dionysios (Rm.Dionisius Surya Halim)
and his presbytera Artemia Rita:

Fr George Dragas The Divine Liturgy


Part1 Fr George Dragas The Divine Liturgy from Fr Ted T on Vimeo.

Part 2

Part2 Fr George Dragas The Divine Liturgy from Fr Ted T on Vimeo.

EWTN Live - Dominican Life - Fr Mitch Pacwa, SJ w Fr Benedict, OP w Fr Nicanor, OP - 11-17-2010
Angelicum Newsletter: Master of the Order visits Angelicum Friars' Community

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pertinacious Papist: Seminarians create metaphysics video

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Michael Journal: discussion of social credit?

Monday, December 06, 2010

John Farrell takes on...

ID, of course.

Intelligent Design: Losing the Catholics

"For the Huffington Post? Really?" The criticism I don't mind as much, though there could be many reasons for ID papers not being accepted by peer-reviewed journals, but writing for websites that are generally hostile to tradition, for an audience that shares the same mindset... at best it seems futile. At worst, it can be a source of scandal.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Zenit: Orthodox Leader Stresses Unity in Truth

Zenit: Pontiff's Address to Theological Commission Members

Pontiff's Address to Theological Commission Members

"Rooted in Sacred Scripture ... Theology Can Be School of Sanctity"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience members of the International Theological Commission at the close of the commission's plenary assembly.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Illustrious Professors and Dear Collaborators!

I receive you with joy at the end of your annual plenary session. I would like first of all to express my heartfelt gratitude for the words of homage that, on behalf of all, Your Eminence, in his capacity of president of the International Theological Commission, addressed to me. The work of this eighth "quinquennium" of the commission, as you recalled, addresses the following very weighty topics: theology and its methodology; the question of the one God in relation to the three monotheistic religions; the integration of the social doctrine of the Church in the wider context of Christian doctrine.

"For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). How can we not make our own this beautiful reaction of the Apostle Paul to his encounter with the risen Christ? In fact this experience is at the root of the three important topics on which you reflected in your plenary session that has just ended.

Whoever has discovered in Christ the love of God, infused by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, wishes to know better the one who loves him and whom he loves. Knowledge and love sustain one another in turn. As the Fathers of the Church affirmed, whoever loves God is impelled to become, in a certain sense, a theologian, one who speaks with God, who thinks of God and seeks to think with God, while the professional work of the theologian is for some a vocation of great responsibility before Christ and before the Church. To be able to study God himself professionally and to be able to speak with him -- "contemplari et contemplata docere" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent., book 3 d. 35 q. 1 a.3 qc. 1 arg.3) -- is a great privilege. Your reflection on the Christian vision of God can be a valuable contribution both for the life of the faithful as well as for our dialogue with believers of other religions and also with nonbelievers.

In fact, the word itself "theo-logy" reveals this communicative aspect of your work -- in theology we seek to communicate, through the "logos," what we have seen and heard" (1 John 1:3). However, we know well that the word "logos" has a much wider meaning, which includes also the sense of "ratio," "reason." And this fact leads us to a second very important point. We can think of God and communicate what we think because he has gifted us with a reason in harmony with his nature. It is no accident that John's Gospel begins with the affirmation "In the beginning was the Word ... and the Word was God" (John 1:1). To receive this Logos -- this divine thought -- is in the end also a contribution to peace in the world. In fact, to know God in his true nature is also the sure way to ensure peace. A God who is not perceived as the source of forgiveness, justice and love, could not be light on the path of peace.

Just as man always tends to connect his knowledge with the knowledge of others, knowledge of God is also organized systematically. However, no theological system can subsist if it is not permeated by the love of its divine "Object," which in theology must necessarily be "Subject," who speaks to us and with whom we are in a relationship of love. Thus theology must always be nourished by dialogue with the divine Logos, Creator and Redeemer. Moreover, no theology is such if it is not integrated in the life and reflection of the Church through time and space. Yes, it is true that, to be scientific, theology must argue in a rational way, but it must also be faithful to the nature of the ecclesial faith; centered on God, rooted in prayer, in communion with the other disciples of the Lord guaranteed by communion with the Successor of Peter and the whole episcopal college.

This reception and transmission of the Logos also has as a consequence that the rationality itself of theology helps to purify human reason, freeing it from certain prejudices and ideas that can exercise a strong influence on the thought of every age. Moreover, it must be highlighted that theology always lives in continuity and in dialogue with believers and theologians who came before us; because ecclesial communion is diachronic, and so is theology. The theologian never begins from zero, but considers as teacher the fathers and theologians of the whole Christian tradition. Rooted in sacred Scripture, read with the fathers and doctors, theology can be school of sanctity, as attested by Blessed John Henry Newman. To discover the permanent value of the richness transmitted from the past is no small contribution of theology to the concert of the sciences.

Christ died for all, though not all know it and accept it. Having received the love of God, how can we not love those for whom Christ gave his live? "He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren" (1 John 3:16). All this leads us to service of others in the name of Christ; in other words, the social commitment of Christians stems necessarily from the manifestation of divine love. Contemplation of the revealed God and charity for our neighbor cannot be separated, even if they are lived according to different charisms. In a world that often appreciates many gifts of Christianity -- as, for example, the idea of democratic equality -- without understanding the roots of its ideals, it is particularly important to show that the fruits die if the roots of the tree are severed. Indeed there is no justice without truth, and justice does not develop fully if its horizon is limited to the material world. For us Christians social solidarity always has a perspective of eternity.

Dear theologian friends, our meeting today manifests in a beautiful and singular way the indispensable unity that must reign between theologians and pastors. One cannot be a theologian in solitude: Theologians have need of the ministry of the pastors of the Church, as the magisterium has need of theologians who thoroughly fulfill their service, with all the ascesis which that implies. Through your commission I wish therefore to thank all theologians and encourage them to have faith in the great value of their commitment. In expressing my best wishes for your work, I impart affectionately my blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010

Big Think Interview with Father Thomas Joseph White

Of course the unbelievers who leave comments to the video don't get it...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Papal Note to Bartholomew I on Feast of St. Andrew

Papal Note to Bartholomew I on Feast of St. Andrew

"We Need to Continue Our Progress ... Toward Full Communion"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2010 ( Here is the message Benedict XVI sent today to the Orthodox ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I, on the occasion of today's feast of St. Andrew, patron of that patriarchate.

The message was delivered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who led a delegation from the Holy See to participate in the celebrations in Istanbul.

* * *

To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

It is with great joy that I write this letter to you, to be delivered by my Venerable Brother Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, on the occasion of the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, brother of Saint Peter and Patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order to wish Your Holiness and the Members of the Holy Synod, the clergy, the monks and all the faithful an abundance of heavenly gifts and divine blessings.

On this joyful feast-day, in union with all my Catholic brothers and sisters, I join you in giving thanks to God for the wonders he has worked, in his infinite mercy, through the mission and martyrdom of Saint Andrew. By generously offering their lives in sacrifice for the Lord and for their brethren, the Apostles proved the credibility of the Good News that they proclaimed to the ends of the known world. The Feast of the Apostle, which falls on this day in the liturgical calendars of both East and West, issues a strong summons to all those who by God’s grace and through the gift of Baptism have accepted that message of salvation to renew their fidelity to the Apostolic teaching and to become tireless heralds of faith in Christ through their words and the witness of their lives.

In modern times, this summons is as urgent as ever and it applies to all Christians. In a world marked by growing interdependence and solidarity, we are called to proclaim with renewed conviction the truth of the Gospel and to present the Risen Lord as the answer to the deepest questions and spiritual aspirations of the men and women of our day.

If we are to succeed in this great task, we need to continue our progress along the path towards full communion, demonstrating that we have already united our efforts for a common witness to the Gospel before the people of our day. For this reason I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Your Holiness and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the generous hospitality offered last October on the island of Rhodes to the Delegates of the Catholic Episcopal Conferences of Europe who came together with representatives of the Orthodox Churches in Europe for the Second Catholic-Orthodox Forum on the theme "Church-State Relations: Theological and Historical Perspectives".

Your Holiness, I am following attentively your wise efforts for the good of Orthodoxy and for the promotion of Christian values in many international contexts. Assuring you of a remembrance in my prayers on this Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, I renew my good wishes for peace, well-being and abundant spiritual blessings to you and to all the faithful.

With sentiments of esteem and spiritual closeness, I gladly extend to you a fraternal embrace in the name of our one Lord Jesus Christ.

From the Vatican, 30 November 2010


© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe, O.P.

St. Benedict Press appears to have begun printing English translations of books by Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe, O.P. The first book is You Shall Worship One God: The Mystery of Loving Sacrifice in Salvation History. I hope they will continue this series. The American site for the Community of St. John has articles by Fr. Philippe. They also sell other books.

Mary, Mystery of Mercy

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Hermeneutic of Continuity: Anthony McCarthy on the condom debate

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Benedict XVI:

"... With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary's womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb…there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception."

(via Rorate Caeli)

The Feast of the Annunciation -- the Church's proof that the soul is infused at conception? Except this is not what the Holy Father seems to be saying here, just that contemporary embryology maintains that human life begins at conception. Nothing about the infusion of the rational soul.
Theology may not be necessary for the salvation of an individual, but as a form of acquired wisdom, it is indispensable for those who are charged with instructing others (bishops and priests). While a Christian witness may lead others to Christ, in this providential order it is not sufficient for the conversion of all. A role has been given to some of us to lead others to Christ through words, and not just deeds.

The application of human reason to [understanding and relating] the truths of the faith can be considered theology. But if our ability to reason about Faith admits of different degrees of excellence, and can be perfected through an intellectual habit, then we should not reject outright the claim that theology is a science (as understood by Aristotle).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some comments by Patrick S. O'Donnell to Patrick Deneen's In Defense of Culture:

The characterization of "liberalism" here is a complete caricature and well-worn strawman (much like that found in the work of Alasdair MacIntyre) and utterly unrecognizable to anyone who has deeply immersed themselves in its literature. It is Liberalism which is (and has historically proven to be) a prerequisite to individual flourishing and the equal freedom to flourish within and through cultures. "Ways of life" require political preconditions of toleration and mutual forbearance, and a legal system that sets the conditions for the equal recognition of rights and liberties, duties and obligations, the very sort of legal system legitimated and justified by works in the Liberal tradition of political philosophy, a tradition that draws upon ideas from Aristotle and the Stoics through Republican thought and even, in some measure, Christianity (especially the Natural Law tradition). Many of its foremost theorists and exponents were Christians (including Hobbes).
Because of its commitment to moral autonomy in the loosely Kantian sense, Liberals are not shy about reflecting upon those aspects of "culture" that may infringe upon or violate our equal liberties, our conceptions of human dignity, and our various cognitive, affective and practical capabilities, hence, culture is not immune or exempt from "critique," in other words, it is a conditional and not absolute good and subject to individual and collective rational appraisal and moral assessment. Indeed, were that not the case, women would not have the right to vote, slavery and segregation would still be with us, and workers would be mere instruments of capital and labor instead of flesh and blood human beings worthy of dignity and respect as minimally enshrined in the law.

The anxiety about "a globalized anti-cultural monoculture, a homogenous way of life that exists in profound contradiction to the basic elements of culture that were once the assumed way of life" should focus on the economic system that is the principal vehicle of globalization, namely, capitalism, be it turbo-capitalism, finance capitalism, post-Fordist capitalism, what have you, as well as the technological dynamic that is its very marrow. To be sure, "capitalist democracy" in some measure has the blessings of Liberalism yet Rawls, among others, has shown how democracy is importantly distinguishable from capitalism as an economic system and there are more than a few conceptual resources in the Liberal tradition that encourage us to imagine alternatives to the current socio-economic system, one that, after all, has veto power over the democratic poltiical system (via private investment decisions, the exercise of capital strikes, etc.). It is Liberalism that prompts us to be individually and collectively reflective about such matters.

Of course much more can be said, and so I hope to reply in more detail in the near future at either (or both) the Ratio Juris or (and) ReligiousLeftLaw blogs.


In addition to Holmes, cogent critiques of MacIntryre's philosophical and historical characterization of Liberalism are also made by Stephen Macedo and William Galston.

Incidentally, or not, MacIntyre rightly argues against moral relativism and for the possibility of the rational evaluation of traditions (at least in his later writings), while at the same time passionately claiming that moral reasoning can take place only within traditions. Perhaps the only way one might make coherent or consistent sense of the three arguments in toto is to appreciate the fact that it is philosophers within the Liberal tradition who provide us with the moral and conceptual resources against (moral) relativism and for the rational assessment (critique) of particular traditions.


While it is no doubt true that some forms of Liberalism, and perhaps most egregiously in its French incarnation (for peculiar historical reasons) are often seen as “privatizing” religious expression and identity, I don’t think this is an accurate description of what canonical Liberals from John Stuart Mill to John Rawls were up to. With regard to “neutrality” I would agree that its pretensions are often unavailing and its meaning too ambiguous to be helpful (in the case perhaps of both Dworkin and Nagel?) but at the same time I think precisely what this has meant in legal terms is not the same as its ambitious philosophical rendering. In any case, not all Liberals are committed to “neutrality,” as we see for instance in the case of Mill, who wrote in Considerations of Representative Government that “The first element of good government being the virtue and intelligence of the human beings composing the community, the most important point of excellence which any form of government can possess is to promote the virtue and intelligence of the people themselves” (for a pellucid discussion of Mill on this score see Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Ethics of Identity, 2005) The currents of “perfectionism” in the Liberal tradition (on which see Thomas Hurka’s book) while not always explicit, are certainly adverse to “neutralism,” and we see vigorous defenses of a “non-neutralist” account of Liberalism in the works of avowed Liberals like William Galston and George Sher. And I think Peter Berkowitz ‘s Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism (1999) is sufficient evidence, by implication at least, that the more philosophically ambitious “neutralist” theories identified with Liberalism lack historical warrant.

Obviously if one believes in multiculturalism and wants it to work, one has to appeal to the goods that liberalism promotes and its theoretical justification (rights and an erroneous notion of equality). Still, a liberal can also admit that true multiculturalism, in which one culture conflicts with another (or liberalism's core values) is possible -- and that there must be a core that overrides the rest. So tolerance only goes so far, and other cultures that conflict with liberalism must inevitably be suppressed, in the name of "tolerance."

But the ideologically blind do not see the greater point being made about liberalism and its pretensions of being "rationally superior" and beyond tradition. It is not rationally superior -- it just has different starting points which may appeal to fallen (sinful) man more than the truth.

Ratio Jruis blog
Religious Left Law

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Zenit: Pope's Address on Romano Guardini

Pope's Address on Romano Guardini

"He Aspired to the Truth of God and to the Truth About Man"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 2010 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address, which he gave last month upon receiving in audience members of the "Romano Guardini" Foundation of Berlin, who were in Rome for a congress dedicated to the memory of the theologian, who was a teacher of Joseph Ratzinger himself.

* * *

Most Illustrious President Professor von Pufendorf,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

It is a joy for me to be able to welcome all of you here, in the Apostolic Palace, who have come to Rome on the occasion of the congress of the Guardini Foundation on the theme "Spiritual and Intellectual Heritage of Romano Guardini." In particular, I thank dear Professor von Pufendorf, for the cordial words he addressed to me at the beginning of this meeting, in which he expressed all the present "struggle" that unites us to Guardini and, at the same time, calls us to carry forward his life's work.

In the thanksgiving address on the occasion of the celebration of his 80th birthday, in February 1965, at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Guardini described his life's task, as he understood it, as a way "of questioning oneself, in a continuous spiritual exchange, which means a Christian Weltanschauung" (Stationen und Ruckblicke, S. 41). The view, this joint look over the world, for Guardini was not a look from outside as a mere object of research. Nor did he pretend to the perspective of the history of the spirit, which examines and ponders what others have said or written on the religious way of an age. All these points of view were insufficient according to Guardini.

In notes on his life, he said: "What interested me immediately was not what someone said about Christian truth but what is true" (Berichte uber mein Leben, S. 24). And it was this approach of his teaching which impressed us young people, because we did not want to know the "pyrotechnic spectacle" of existing opinions in and outside of Christianity: We wanted to know what "is". And here there was one who without fear and, at the same time, with all the seriousness of critical thought, posed this question and helped us to think together.

Guardini did not want to know one or many things. He aspired to the truth of God and to the truth about man. For him the instrument to approach this truth was the Weltanschauung -- as it was called at the time -- which takes place in a lively exchange with the world and with men. What is specifically Christian consists in the fact that man knows himself in a relationship with God who precedes him and from whom he cannot subtract himself. Our thinking is not the principle that establishes the measure of things, but God who surpasses our measure and who cannot be reduced to any entity created by us.

God reveals himself as the truth, but the latter is not abstract, but on the contrary, is found in the concrete-living, in fine, in the form of Jesus Christ. However, whoever wishes to see Jesus, the truth, must "reverse his direction," must come out of the autonomy of arbitrary thought to the disposition to listen, which accepts what is. And this reversal, which he carried out in his conversion, molded all his thought and life as a continuous going out of autonomy to listening, to receiving. However, even in a genuine relationship with God, man does not always understand what God says. He needs a corrective, and this consists in the exchange with others, which in the living Church of all times has found its reliable form, which unites all with one another.

Guardini was a man of dialogue. His works arose, almost without exception, from a conversation, at least interior. The lessons of the professor of the philosophy of religion and of Christian Weltanschauung at the University of Berlin in the 20s represented above all meetings with personalities of the history of thought. Guardini read the works of these authors, listened to them, learned how they saw the world and entered into dialogue with them to develop, in conversation with them, what he, in so far as Catholic thinker, had to say to their thought. He continued this custom in Munich, and, in fact, it was also the peculiarity of the style of his lessons, being in dialogue with the Thinkers. His key word was "look," because he wanted to lead us to "see" and he himself was in a common interior dialogue with his listeners.

This was the novelty in regard to the rhetoric of old times: that he, in fact, did not seek any rhetoric, but spoke in a totally simple way with us and, at the same time, spoke with truth and induced us to dialogue with truth. And this was a wide spectrum of "dialogues" with authors such as Socrates, Saint Augustine or Pascal, with Dante, Holderlin, Morike, Rilke and Dostoyevsky. In them he saw living mediators, who discover the present in one word of the past, enabling one to see and live it in a new way. These give us a strength which can lead us back to ourselves.

From man's opening to truth issues, for Guardini, an ethos, a base for our moral behavior towards our neighbor, as an exigency of our existence. Given that man can find God, he can also act well. True for him is this primacy of ontology over ethos, of the being, of the very being of God correctly understood and heard, from which follows correct action. He said: "A genuine praxis, that is, correct action, arises from truth and must fight for it" (Ibid., S. 111).

Such yearning for truth and the tending toward what is original and essential, Guardini observed, above all, in young people. In his talks with youth, particularly in Rothenfels Castle, which at the time, thanks to Guardini, had become a center of the Catholic youth movement, the priest and educator carried forward the ideals of the youth movement such as self-determination, personal responsibility and the interior disposition to truth: he purified and deepened them.

Liberty, yes, but only he is free -- he told us -- who is "completely what he must be according to his nature. [...] Liberty is truth" (Auf dem Wege, S. 20). For Guardini the truth of man is essentialness and conformity to being. The path leads to truth when man exercises "the obedience of our being in regard to the being of God" (Ibid., S. 21). This happens ultimately in adoration, which for Guardini belongs to the realm of thought.

In supporting youth, Guardini also sought a new access to the liturgy. The rediscovery of the liturgy was for him a rediscovery of the unity between spirit and body in the totality of the unique human being, as the liturgical act is always at the same time a corporal and spiritual act. Prayer is dilated through corporal and community action, and thus reveals the unity of the whole of reality. The liturgy is symbolic acting. The symbol as quintessence of the unity between the spiritual and the material is lost when both are separated, when the world is fragmented in a dualistic way in spirit and body, in subject and object. Guardini was profoundly convinced that man is spirit in body and body in spirit and that, therefore, the liturgy and the symbol lead him to the essence of himself, in a word, lead him through adoration to the truth.

Among the great themes of Guardini's life, the relationship between faith and the world is of permanent timeliness. Guardini saw above all in the University the place of the search for truth. The University can be so, however, only when it is free of all instrumentalization and advantages for political ends or of another type. Today, in a world of globalization and fragmentation, it is even more necessary to carry this proposal forward, a proposal that is very important for the Guardini Foundation, and for whose realization the Guardini chair has been created.

Again I express my cordial gratitude to all those present for having come. May appealing frequently to Guardini's work refine sensibility to the Christian foundations of our culture and society. I impart willingly to you all the apostolic blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Would it be inaccurate to say that Guardini had a big influence on Joseph Ratzinger?

Zenit: Archbishop Fisichella's Words on "Light of the World"

It isn't the first time that a curial official has held a press conference for the publication of a book by the pope. But how should we understand this? Is a book by the pope written by him as a private individual or theologian? Or as pope? (In the case of Jesus of Nazareth, it seems to be the expression of Joseph Ratzinger, the theologian?) Even if the interview is of the pope, are the opinions that he expresses "private" or "magisterial"? We have to look at the context and at the content to determine the level of authority? (See The Hermeneutic of Continuity: Molotov cocktail of planetary magnitude.)

Archbishop Fisichella's Words on "Light of the World"

"Condensed Here Is His Thought, His Preoccupations and Sufferings"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the statement made by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, at the press conference to present German journalist Peter Seewald's book-interview with Benedict XVI titled "Light of the World," which was released today in English by Ignatius Press.

* * *

Licht der Welt. Light of the world. The Pope's handwriting is unmistakable and to find it printed on the first page of the volume has a certain effect. He himself, with utmost probability, chose the title and this is significant. Assumed in an interview is that the one interviewed is entitled to the central role; however, in this case, it is not so. The title chosen does not allow one to pause on the person of the Pope, but goes beyond, to the one who still after 2,000 years illumines history, because he said he was the "light of the world." Protagonist of these pages, hence, appears immediately the Church. The many questions that make up the conversation, do no more than evidence the nature of the Church, her presence in history, the service that the Pope is called to carry out and, not something secondary, the mission that still today he must continue in order to be faithful to his Lord.

"We really are in an age in which a new evangelization is needed; in which the one gospel has to be proclaimed both in its great, enduring rationality and in its power that transcends rationality, so that it can reenter our thinking and understanding in a new way. [...] It is important to understand this and so to conceive the Church, not as an organization that is supposed to perform every possible function -- the organization is part of the larger picture, but it has to remain limited -- but as a living organism that comes from Christ himself" (pp. 136-137).
In the light of this reference, it is easy to perceive the objective which marks these years of the pontificate, which tends to show what is decisive for the man of today to be able to accept the presence of God in his life to be able to respond in a free way -- this, in fact, entails the continuous stressing of rationality -- to the qualifying question on the meaning of one's existence. The course of action that this interview follows is vast, it seems that nothing escapes the curiosity of Seewald, who wants to enter the folds of the Pope's personal life, in the great questions that mark the theology of the present, the different political ups and downs that have forever accompanied the relations between different countries and, finally, the questions that often occupy a great part of the public debate.
We are before a Pope who does not exempt himself from any question, who wishes to clarify everything with simple language, but not because of this less profoundly, and who accepts with benevolence the provocations that so many questions pose. However, to reduce the whole interview to a phrase extrapolated from the whole of the thought of Benedict XVI would be an offense to the Pope's intelligence and a gratuitous instrumentalization of his words.

What emerges from the complex picture of these pages, instead, is the vision of a Church called to be light of the world, sign of unity of the whole human race -- to use a famous expression of the Second Vatican Council -- and instrument to understand the essentials of life. Even if it seems to our eyes a Church that gives scandal, which does not want to adapt herself to the behavior in vogue, which appears incomprehensible in her teachings and which, perhaps, lets one perceive possible internal conspiracies of men that darken her holiness. In any case, the teaching of the Master "light of the world," city placed on the mountain to be seen by all, sign of contradiction which has the mission to maintain alive in the course of the centuries faith in the Risen Lord until his return.

"We are looking ahead to the coming of Christ. That consequently the One who has come is also, even more so, the One who is to come and that, from this perspective, we should live out our faith toward the future" (p. 63).

Licht der Welt, obviously, is not a volume written by Benedict XVI; yet condensed here is his thought, his preoccupations and sufferings of these years, his pastoral program and his expectations for the future. The impression one gets is that of an optimistic Pope on the life of the Church, despite the difficulties she has always had.

"[The Church] is growing and thriving, she is quite dynamic. The number of new priests worldwide has increased in recent years, also the number of seminarians" (p. 12).

It's as if to say: the Church cannot be identified only in the fragment of a geographic area; she is a whole that founds, embraces and surpasses every part. A Church made up also of sinners; yet, without minimizing the evil, the Pope can rightly affirm that "It would lead to a collapse of entire sectors of social life if [the Church] were no longer there" (p. 31), because the good she does is before everyone's eyes, despite the frequent desire to turn one's gaze elsewhere.

Noted page after page is the patience of wishing to respond with clarity to every question that is posed. Benedict XVI opens the heart of his daily life, just as he expressed with the due "parresia" the problems that appear in the history of these years. If, on one hand, he seems to make one enter in his apartment, sharing with the reader the rhythms of his day, on the other he evokes images that describe well the state of mind of the past months.

"Yes, it is a great crisis, we have to say that. It was upsetting for all of us. Suddenly so much filth. It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything" (p. 23).

The simple tone of his answers is made forceful by the plasticity of the images that often appear, enabling one to understand fully the drama of some events. Yet, from the calm of the answers and the development of his argument, what emerges in a clear way is above all the spirituality that characterizes his life so much so as to make one fall silent.

"Even at the moment when it hit me, all I was able to say to the Lord was simply: 'What are you doing with me? Now the responsibility is yours. You must lead me! I can’t do it. If you wanted me, then you must also help me!'" (p. 4).

Whoever reads this gives in. Either one accepts the vision of faith as a true surrender to God who takes one where he wishes, or one lets oneself follow the most fanciful interpretations that have often characterized clerical talk. However, the truth is in all those words. If one wishes to understand Benedict XVI, his life and his pontificate, it is necessary to return to this expression. Condensed here is the vocation to the priesthood as a call to follow; here one understands the why of a trajectory which cannot be modified in its vision of the world and of the action of the Church; here one gathers the prospect through which it is possible to enter into the depth of his thought and the interpretation of some of his actions.

There is a term in German that synthesizes all this: "Gelassenheit," namely confident abandonment "usque ad cadaver." This expresses the decisive choice of liberty as a radical emptying of self to let oneself be molded and led where the Lord wishes; in sum, the Pope identifies himself more than all the others as "a simple beggar before God" (p. 17). The Christocentric spirituality, which many times is recalled, nourished by a profound bond with the liturgy, enables one to understand the conduct of Benedict XVI. Moreover, he himself affirms it when, responding to the question on the power that a Pope possesses.

"Standing there as a glorious ruler is not part of being Pope, but rather giving witness to the One who was crucified and to the fact that he himself is ready also to exercise his office in this way, in union with him" (p. 9-10).
From this point of view, it becomes almost paradoxical to read the subsequent expression which seems to contradict what he just affirmed whereas, instead, he places it in his coherent horizon of understanding.

"That Christianity gives joy and breadth is also a thread that runs through my whole life" (p. 11).

In sum, a Pope who continues to be optimistic; not in the first place by the objective dynamism of the Church made evident by so many forces of spirituality, but above all in the strength of love which molds everything and conquers everything.

It is an interview which in many ways becomes a provocation to carry out a serious examination of conscience within and outside the Church to attain a genuine conversion of the heart and mind. The conditions of life, of society, of ecology, of sexuality, of economy and finance, of the Church herself are all topics that require a particular effort to verify the cultural direction of today's world and the prospects that open for the future. Benedict XVI does not let himself become fearful by the numbers of surveys, because the truth possesses well other criteria.

"Statistics do not suffice as a criterion for morality" (p. 146).

He is aware that we are before a "poisoning of thought, which in advance leads us into false perspectives" (p. 48), because of this he advocates undertaking the necessary path to truth, to be able to offer genuine progress to today's world. These pages, nevertheless, allow one to perceive with clarity the thought of the Pope and some will have to change their mind for the rash descriptions they gave in the past of the Pope being an obscurantist man and enemy of modernity.

"It is important for us to try to live Christianity and to think as Christians in such a way that it incorporates what is good and right about modernity" (p. 56).


"So there are by nature many issues in which, so to speak, morality suits modernity. The modern world, after all, is not built solely out of the negative. If that were the case, it could not exist for long. It bears within itself great moral values, which also come precisely from Christianity, which through Christianity first emerged as values in the consciousness of mankind. Where they are supported -- and they must be supported by the Pope -- there is agreement in broad areas" (p. 20).

These claims make one perceive why the Pope often thinks thus on the topic of the new evangelization to reach all those who are in the condition of being "children" of modernity, having taken only some aspects of the phenomenon -- not always the most positive -- while forgetting the necessary search for truth and, above all, the exigency to turn their life to a unitary vision and not the opposite. This turns out to be one of his programmatic tasks which we will be called to address.

"We must summon fresh energy for tackling the problem of how to announce the gospel anew in such a way that this world can receive it, and we must muster all of our energies to do this. This is one of the points of the program that I have received as my task" (p. 130).

Benedict XVI often returns in these pages to the relationship between modernity and Christianity. A relationship that cannot and must not be lived in parallel, but combining in a correct way faith and reason, individual rights and social responsibility. In a word, "That God is the first thing necessary" (p. 61) to contradict a great part of the culture of passed decades which has focused on demonstrating as superfluous the "God hypothesis" (p. 134).

This is the conversation that Benedict XVI asks of Christians and of all those who wish to hear his voice.

"I think that our major task now, after a few fundamental questions are clarified, is first of all to bring to light God's priority again. The important thing today is to see that God exists, that God matters to us, and that he answers us. And, conversely, that if he is omitted, everything else might be as clever as can be -- yet man then loses his dignity and his authentic humanity and, thus, the essential thing breaks down. That is why, I think, as a new emphasis we have to give priority to the question about God" (p. 65).

This is the task that the Pope sets for his pontificate and, honestly, one cannot deny how arduous it seems.

"Now it is a matter of continuing this and grasping the drama of the time, holding fast in that drama to the Word of God as the decisive word -- and at the same time giving Christianity that simplicity and depth without which it cannot be effective" (p. 66).

Familiarity, confidences, irony, in some moments sarcasm but, above all, simplicity and truth are the characteristic traits of the conversation chosen by Benedict XVI to make the greater public share in his thought, in his way of being and his way of conceiving the mission that has been entrusted to him. An enterprise that is not easy in the age of communication that often tends to stress only some fragments and leaves globalism in the shade. A volume to be read or to be meditated to understand once again in what way the Church can be in the world herald of beautiful news that brings joy and serenity.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chiesa: The Pope on the Pope. A Preview


I must say that from the first day of my theological studies, the profound unity between the Old and New Testament, between the two parts of our Sacred Scripture, was somehow clear to me. I had realized that we could read the New Testament only together with what had preceded it, otherwise we would not understand it. Then naturally what happened in the Third Reich struck us as Germans, and drove us all the more to look at the people of Israel with humility, shame, and love.

In my theological formation, these things were interwoven, and marked the pathway of my theological thought. So it was clear to me – and here again in absolute continuity with John Paul II – that in my proclamation of the Christian faith there had to be a central place for this new interweaving, with love and understanding, of Israel and the Church, based on respect for each one's way of being and respective mission [. . .]

A change also seemed necessary to me in the ancient liturgy. In fact, the formula was such as to truly wound the Jews, and it certainly did not express in a positive way the great, profound unity between Old and New Testament. For this reason, I thought that a modification was necessary in the ancient liturgy, in particular in reference to our relationship with our Jewish friends. I modified it in such a way that it contained our faith, that Christ is salvation for all. That there do not exist two ways of salvation, and that therefore Christ is also the savior of the Jews, and not only of the pagans. But also in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, but that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united. For this reason, the arguments used polemically against me by a series of theologians are rash, and do not do justice to what was done.

Rorate Caeli: Overlooked in the fray: the Pope on Judaism and the prayer for Jews
It ad Thomam: Pope Benedict's Confused Opinion on the Jews

Should the public prayer of the Church include a petition for the conversion of the Jews? What if it causes offense or is a scandal? Is it offensive to tell someone that they are wrong about who Jesus Christ is? Or that one can only be united with God through Christ? Why even mention the Jews then, why not group them with the rest of the non-Christians?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fr. Brian Harrison changes his mind regarding the state of the question about torture

From Mark Shea:

ADDENDUM (to Living Tradition, #119)

After the above article was published, Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech of 6 September 2007 on Catholic prisons ministry, personally endorsed a statement against torture found in the 2005 Vatican Compendium of the Church's Social Teaching. Citing article 404 of this document, the Holy Father said, "In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture 'cannot be contravened under any circumstances'".

In the above article I have already cited and discussed, in my section A13 and endnote 27, this article 404 of the Compendium, which is a publication of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace. I have pointed out that this and other statements authored by the Commission itself - as distinct from the statements of Popes and Councils which it cites abundantly throughout the Compendium - does not possess magisterial authority; for the various Vatican commissions, unlike the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are not in themselves arms of the Church's magisterium (teaching authority). However, now that Pope Benedict himself has personally reiterated this particular statement of the Compendium, I wish to state that I accept the Holy Father's judgement on this matter, and so no longer hold that Catholics can ever legitimately defend the use of torture - not even in extreme circumstances to gain potentially life-saving information from known terrorists. Accordingly, the last sentence of the above article, regarding "the present status quaestionis" on torture, should now be taken as withdrawn.

If torture is the unjust attack on the person of another (for the sake of eliciting his cooperation), then the very fact that it is unjust would make it wrong. But if torture is defined as the punishment given for non-compliance, it would be different. I do not think torture, defined thusly, has been addressed. I still think that even if this form of punishment is licit, it may not be effective in obtaining the ultimate goal (getting cooperation, information, etc.).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some thoughts on health care as a right.

MJ Andrew, Access to Adequate Medical Care is a Right  (along with Darwin Catholic's Thoughts on Health Care as a Right.)

I would argue that a right pertains to the virtue of justice, and not to charity. Is a physician bound to treat another due to charity or to justice? Is health care a common good that is distributed? Health is a good that is common by predication, not by cause. How can it be argued then that it is common because there is common ownership? Do we have common ownership (or a claim) over the services of a physician?

(See also Mr. Andrew's Locke on the Law of Nature: Breaking with Tradition.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scott Cairns, Lost Christian Language for Repairing the Person (via Fr. Maximos)

Monday, November 15, 2010

James Chastek, A closer look at “do good and avoid evil”

“Do good and avoid evil” seems like a vacuous platitude that cannot illumine anything about moral action. But it deserves a second look. In saying “do good and avoid evil, we don’t mean to be indifferent about whether should be done perfectly or imperfectly, but that it should be done perfectly. But ”perfect operation” just is pleasure – what else could it be when all our faculties are working as they ought with no defect, impediment, or injury in their operation? Again, perfect doing is only of the most perfect of objects, since the object also is a measure of the operation.

So “do good and avoid evil” has more teeth than might first appear, for we mean perfect action. Satisfying the axiom involves us doing the most perfect good, with no hesitation, and with perfect enjoyment. But who can say that he is in this state now? But if “do good and avoid evil” must be true of all moral action, but the full force of the axiom is only in attaining supreme happiness, then this is the supreme happiness of life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Insight Scoop: Rev. Louis Bouyer: A Theological Giant | An Interview with Dr. Keith Lemna

Ignatius Insight: What are some aspects of Fr. Bouyer's work that are deserving of more study and consideration?

Dr. Lemna: Because there has been scant attention paid to Bouyer's work in secondary literature, I would say that every aspect of his work deserves more study and consideration. Bouyer is the least studied of the eminent Catholic theologians of the twentieth century.

Zordan published an 800 page book on Bouyer's theology in France a couple of years ago, and hopefully that will break the ice. But Bouyer's work is immense in its scope and implications, and there should be conferences and scholarly societies dedicated to promulgating his theology.

I think that the biggest obstacle to furthering his thought is that Bouyer wrote in a very polemical style at times, in a way that was off-putting to both "traditionalist" and "progressivist" camps in theology. But the old battles that fueled those polemics are largely a thing of the past by now, and most of the participants in those battles are dead. Bouyer could be equally sharp toward neo-Thomists, Rahnerians, and toward theologians influenced to a great extent by liberal Protestantism. Zordan notes an "anti-Augustinian attitude" in his writing at times. He definitely had, like Newman (as Ian Kerr, the pre-eminent Newman scholar in our day, has shown), a preference for the manner of theology practiced in the Christian East and for the Western monastic theology embodied in the works of a figure such as William of Saint Thierry (12th century). At the same time, as his Dictionary of Theology demonstrates, he saw the central importance of Saint Thomas for Catholic theology. Despite his penchant for polemics, his overall vision of the unity of Catholic doctrine, of the connection between theology and Christian life, and his unrivalled sense of the central importance of sacred liturgy for theology and for the existence of the Church stands out over and beyond all of the heated disputes. Cardinal Lustiger had said that Bouyer was perceived as "untimely" and "unwelcome" to the "very generations" to whom he was "providentially sent." But perhaps in our time we can begin to see more clearly precisely how lucid and comprehensive—and, one might even say, "forward-looking"—was Bouyer's vision of Catholic theology.

Perhaps the most fruitful terrain for future study of his thought at this point would be in comparing his work with Newman, say, or with that of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Balthasar, near the end of his life, placed his own thought in the "school" of Bouyer and the biblical scholars Heinz Schürmann and Heinrich Schlier. He distinguished this "school," all of whose adherents were rooted in biblical theology, from Henri de Lubac's ressourcement theology, with which Balthasar has generally been associated. The coherence between Bouyer's thinking and Newman's is worthy of its own special study. Moreover, only Pope Benedict XVI rivals Bouyer in being both a theologian and a scholar of liturgy. There is much that needs to be said regarding the uniquely liturgical theologies of both of these great men of the Church.

In sum, I would reiterate that Bouyer was one of the major figures in twentieth century Catholic theology. His work needs only to be first acknowledged in its depth and scope in order to be made the object of future study.