Thursday, May 10, 2012

St. Bonaventure, Benedict XVI, and the New Evangelization by William L. Patenaude
For Benedict XVI, evangelization is what takes place when revelation slips through history.
The Key to the Christian Life BY LORENZO ALBACETE

According to Cardinal Ratzinger, today’s Man is someone for whom Christianity is a past that does not concern him. It is not that the Christian faith’s contribution to history is not acknowledged (approvingly or disapprovingly). Many still see the Christian faith as an important source of values, ethical behavior, and religious or artistic inspiration.

What is seen as irrelevant or as unnecessary is the point of departure that defines and specifies the Christian reality, namely, the historical events of the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. These are considered “ways” of expressing Christian spirituality and ethics that have essentially been surpassed by other, more credible ways of saying the same thing. The key word here is concern. The historical events at the origin of the Christian claim are no longer of concern.

When something happens that shows how true it is that we live in such a post-Christian world (in spite of surviving and even impressive manifestations of Christian “folklorism”), we are tempted by two possibilities. Some insist on the need to promote or recapture Christian doctrinal orthodoxy, that is, the need to emphasize and teach the intellectual convictions that properly proclaim the Christian faith. For others, what matters is promoting and defending Christian morality as an ethical orientation (“liberal” or “conservative”), a system of “moral values” to guide our behavior. From this perspective, the relationship between the Christian faith and contemporary culture is seen as a culture war to be won, or a cultural contribution to be made by looking for a common point of departure for dialogue. Both “tactics” are in fact useless.

As Father Giussani has written, Christian evangelization is destroyed when we embrace the illusion that a non-Christian culture (where Christianity’s originating events are of no concern) should be confronted and overcome by a Christian culture (cf Dal temperamento un metodo, p 53). This, he says, is a deadly “fundamental error” that can tempt us, but which must be firmly rejected.
We cannot place our hopes on the creation of a “Christian culture,” and even less on going back to an idyllic past where Christianity maintained cultural hegemony. Such historical developments are not for us to design or plan. We do not know and will never know the “time plan” which the Father has for human history.

Instead, we must place our hope not on cultural proposals but on the event of Christ, on something that has already happened. Evangelization is to give witness to the fact–to the verifiable fact–that this event can and does still happen today because it has happened to us as something unforeseen, something amazing that surprises us, something that is not the result of our efforts or our particular ethical and spiritual predispositions. It is this that gives rise to concern, because an event is something that touches the heart, that changes us, that gives us a new vision of life’s possibilities.

Evangelization within a non-Christian culture is a matter of what St Augustine, writing about his own conversion, calls confession. Augustine wonders why God “made him” read the books of Plato (cf Confessions, VII, 20, 26). He concludes that the reason was so that after his conversion he could tell the difference inter praesumptionem et confessionem, between presumption and confession. To believe that one becomes a Christian through the proper philosophy, theology, spirituality, morality, or cultural project, is a presumption; it is to see our efforts as the cause of our belonging to Christ. Instead, we become Christians because the Incarnation happened in history, because the Paschal Mystery happened, because Pentecost happened, and because those events continue to happen in the world today. They happen now because they happened then and because the Church exists in the world as the life of a communion of persons created by these events, and making them present today through the sacraments. They happen because Christ has risen from the dead and can be encountered today with exactly the same results experienced by Andrew, James, John, Peter, Mary Magdalen, the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, Zaccheus, and the criminal at the cross next to His. Something happened to them. It was an event. The key to the Christian life, the point of departure, is not an intellectual or cultural proposal. It is this event. This is what creates the concern which post-Christian man has so tragically lost. Evangelization is to give witness of our amazement at this unimaginable event. Evangelization is confession.
Liturgy, Anthropology, Economics and Work by David Clayton (via Insight Scoop)

The part of the essay dealing with the liturgy is good. The anthropological (or political) part seems to be more liberal than Catholic, even though it attempts to appropriate classical political theory or Catholic political theology. The influence of the Acton Institute?

In the excellent introductory lectures the speakers described how economics is a reflection of network of social interractions. And the nature of these interractions derives from our understanding of the human person, which in turn comes from Catholic social teaching.

In our use of the terms here, a human person is distinct from an ‘individual’ (although in common language the two are often used interchangebly). A human person is always in relation with others, starting from birth. No one by choice disengages from society altogether (not even a hermit) and is happy. Indeed, we know who we are by the way we relate to others. If for example you ask people to talk about themselves they will talk about the relationships they have in order to describe who they are: where they work, the community where they grew up, the nature of their immediate family and so on.

This understanding of the human person has a profound effect on how we view what society is. A relationship of the sort we are now envisioning, when properly ordered (and of course it can be disordered) is always between two subjects ie two people freely cooperating as moral agents (freedom is as important a component here as morality). This is termed covenantal and is based upon mutual self-sacrifice (love) on behalf of the other. This freedom to respond as a person is one of the essential elements of society. Society therefore is the vector sum of the relationships within it. It is not a collective of self-contained individuals and their actions.

Covenantal relationships are founded on properly ordered love. When they occur God is present because God is Love. This Love always bears fruit and is creative: in a family for example the fruit of marriage is children. In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict used the term ‘superabundant’ to describe this creativity because it means something created out of nothing. Even in what we might view as less important relationships the same principles apply. In business, for example, a transacation properly ordered for the good of the other is creative too. It creates wealth. Although we don’t normally associated love with business transactions, the Pope describes how this mutual interest in the other, which is what love is, is the source of the creative component in business.

Contractual relationships, in contrast to covenantal relationships, are founded on the alignment of self-interest. this is not to say they are worthless. In this fallen world, only a fool would attempt to run a business without contracts: but in practice the actual transactions will usually involve a mixture of the contractual and the covenantal activity. Even if bolstered by signed contracts, very few have absolutely no interest in the good of the other when doing business with them, even if it is only to try to consider how to make a product more valuable to a customer by suiting his needs better. Also, there must be a basic trust and mutual respect otherwise, for all the legal protection in the world, no business would be done. What the Pope tells us is that it is the covenantal aspect that is the wealth creating superabundant part. Presumably, therefore, if one wishes to maximise the creation of wealth this is the aspect upon which we should focus. I have written about this more here.

Freedom of exercise or freedom of specification? This makes a big difference to the implications of what is written above. A slave or someone who is under someone else's authority may not have the freedom of specification but they still possess freedom of exercise. The fact that they do not have freedom of specification does not mean that they cannot act in love of him who holds authority, and vice versa. (Those who hold to an exaggerated notion of autonomy would hold that no one can be in the state of subjection without his human dignity being harmed.)

More of the liberal streak at the end of the essay:

What would an economy based upon a liturgical view of the anthropology look like? I have no idea. I am not an economist. My guess is that we don’t have to specify it. To the degree that the liturgical transformation of man occurs it will happen organically as each personal relationship becomes more ordered and shines with the glory of God. If there is a role for the government here it is not so much and active one where it tries to direct human economic activity, but rather passive – to protect personal freedom so that each unique person can relate to others in the way that is natural to them. Through God’s grace the creativity of man is boundless. The government, an institution, is less likely to be inspired in its actions, its seems to me, than some, at least, individuals; given that there are so many individuals and just one government. Therefore, the more the government takes an active role, rather than passive, the effect is likely to be that in promoting the one course of action that it favours, it will stifle the almost limitless variety of individual actions that do not correspond to it. This reduces the chance of a solution being found in any situation from high to virtually negligible.
(1) Pointing to some form of "central planning" as one sort of government action in the economic sphere.
(2) Protecting personal freedom. ("Non-interference" tied to the "no harm" principle.)

And yet, aren't these two extremes? Can there not be laws that fall in the "middle"?
Rorate Caeli: Mons. Gherardini's new book: Vatican II: at the roots of a misunsderstanding
Aquinas and the Big Bang by WILLIAM E. CARROLL

Adhering to the traditional reading of Genesis and the doctrinal proclamation of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), Aquinas believed that the universe had a temporal beginning. Aristotle, he thought, was wrong to think otherwise. But Aquinas argued that, on the basis of reason alone, one could not know whether the universe is eternal. Furthermore, if there were an eternal universe it still would be a created universe. To affirm, on the basis of faith, that the universe has a temporal beginning involves no contradiction with what the natural sciences can proclaim, since on their own they leave this question unresolved. Hawking's denial of an absolute beginning to time, while also affirming a finite past, involves complicated speculation about quantum gravity, which itself remains not fully worked out. Regardless of the intelligibility of Hawking's scientific claims, the conclusions about creation he and others draw from them are false.

The Big Bang described by modern cosmologists is a change, not a creation; the natural sciences do not themselves provide an account for the ultimate origin of all things. Apologists for the Christian doctrine of creation ought not to think that the initial "singularity" of traditional Big Bang cosmology offers scientific confirmation of their view. Nor ought those who reject the doctrine of creation think that recent variations in Big Bang cosmology support their view. Even if the universe were the result of the fluctuation of a primal vacuum, it would not be a self-creating universe. The need to explain the existence of things does not disappear. Contrary to the claim that the universe described by contemporary cosmology leaves nothing for a creator to do, were a creator not causing all that is, there would be nothing done.
Rome Reports: Benedict XVI officially declares Hildegard of Bingen a Saint

Rome Reports: A tribute to Jean Daniélou: A French Cardinal, Theologian from Vatican II