Saturday, October 03, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

Papal Address to Netherlands Envoy

"Globalization Needs to Be Steered Towards the Goal of Integral Human Development"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2009 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to Baroness Henriette Johanna Cornelia Maria van Lynden-Leijten, the new ambassador from the Netherlands to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from Queen Beatrix. For my part, please convey to Her Majesty my cordial greetings and assure her of my continuing prayers for all the people of your nation.

In a world that is ever more closely interconnected, the Holy See's diplomatic relations with individual states afford many opportunities for cooperation on important global issues. In this light, the Holy See values its links with the Netherlands and looks forward to strengthening them further in years to come. Your country, as a founder member of the European Economic Community and home to several international juridical institutions, has long been at the forefront of moves to strengthen international cooperation for the greater good of the human family. Hence the mission on which you are about to embark is rich in opportunities for joint action to promote peace and prosperity in the light of the desire that both the Holy See and the Netherlands have, to help the human person.

The defence and promotion of freedom is a key element in humanitarian engagement of this kind, and it is one to which both the Holy See and the Kingdom of the Netherlands frequently draw attention. It must be understood, though, that freedom needs to be anchored in truth -- the truth of the nature of the human person -- and it needs to be directed towards the good of individuals and of society. In the financial crisis of the past twelve months, the whole world has been able to observe the consequences of exaggerated individualism that tends to favour single-minded pursuit of perceived personal advantage to the exclusion of other goods. There has been much reflection on the need for a sound ethical approach to the processes of economic and political integration, and more people are coming to recognize that globalization needs to be steered towards the goal of integral human development of individuals, communities and peoples -- shaped not by mechanical or deterministic forces but by humanitarian values that are open to transcendence (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 42). Our world needs to "reappropriate the true meaning of freedom, which is not an intoxication with total autonomy, but a response to the call of being" (ibid., 70). Hence the Holy See's conviction regarding the irreplaceable role of faith communities in public life and in public debate.

While some of the Dutch population would declare itself agnostic or even atheist, more than half of it professes Christianity, and the growing numbers of immigrants who follow other religious traditions make it more necessary than ever for civil authorities to acknowledge the place of religion in Dutch society. An indication that your Government does so is the fact that faith schools receive state support in your country, and rightly so, since such institutions are called to make a significant contribution to mutual understanding and social cohesion by transmitting the values that are rooted in a transcendent vision of human dignity.

Even more basic than schools in this regard are families built on the foundation of a stable and fruitful marriage between a man and a woman. Nothing can equal or replace the formative value of growing up in a secure family environment, learning to respect and foster the personal dignity of others, acquiring the capacity for "acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity" (Familiaris Consortio, 43; cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 221) -- in short, learning to love. A society, on the other hand, which encourages alternative models of domestic life for the sake of a supposed diversity, is likely to store up social consequences that are not conducive to integral human development (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 44, 51). The Catholic Church in your country is eager to play its part in supporting and promoting stable family life, as the Dutch Bishops' Conference stated in its recent document on the pastoral care of young people and the family. It is my earnest hope that the Catholic contribution to ethical debate will be heard and heeded by all sectors of Dutch society, so that the noble culture that has distinguished your country for centuries may continue to be known for its solidarity with the poor and the vulnerable, its promotion of authentic freedom and its respect for the dignity and inestimable value of every human life.

Your Excellency, in offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Holy See on UN Reform

"Rights Always Exist Inseparably From Responsibilities and Duties"

NEW YORK, SEPT. 29, 2009 ( Here is the address given today by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, to the general debate of the 64th session of the U.N. general assembly.

* * *

Mr. President,

As you assume the presidency of this 64th session of the General Assembly, my delegation wishes you all the best in your endeavors and looks forward to working with you in order to address the many challenges facing the global community.

Every year anticipation surrounds the General Assembly in the hope that governments will be able to find points of agreement on the persisting problems that afflict humanity and adopt common direction for resolving them in a peaceful manner for the well-being of all.

Understandably, the deliberations of the preceding session of the General Assembly were dominated by preoccupation with the world financial and economic crisis. It is only fitting that this year delegations have been asked to focus on effective responses to global crises: strengthening multilateralism and dialogue among civilizations for international peace, security and development.

In view of a political and cultural dialogue oriented toward the harmonious evolving of the world economy and international relations we would do well to revisit the preamble of the Charter of the United Nations where it affirms: "We the peoples of the United Nations reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small...."

The various world crises that intertwined in the last months bring to the discussion presuppositions of thought and principles of individual, social and international behavior, which extend well beyond the financial or economic field. The idea of producing resources and assets, i.e., the economy, and strategically managing them, i.e., politics, without wanting together with the same actions, to carry out also the good, i.e., ethics, has been proven to be a naïve or cynical and fatal delusion. A more solid and profound contribution that the General Assembly must give to the solution of the international problems lies in promoting the principles contained in the preamble and in article 1 of the Charter of this Organization, in a manner that such high human and spiritual values serve to renovate the international order from within, where the real crisis lies.

A first element of truth is found exactly in the "We the peoples of the United Nations." The theme of peace and development, in fact, coincides with that of the relational inclusion of all peoples in the unique community of the human family that is constructed in solidarity.

Evident in the diverse G8, G20, regional and international meetings, held in parallel with the work of the preceding General Assembly, was the necessity to give legitimacy to the political commitments assumed, confronting them with the thought and needs of the entire international Community, so that the devised solutions would be able to reflect the points of view and the expectations of the populations of all the continents. That is why efficacious modes must be found to connect the decisions of the various groupings of Countries to those of the UN, where every nation, with its political and economic weight, can legitimately explain itself in a situation of equality with others. [Some elaboration of what was proposed in Caritas in Veritate?]

Mr. President,

It is in this context of truth and sincerity that the recent appeal of Pope Benedict XVI is put in perspective. As he notes in his Encyclical, Charity in Truth, "in the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession," for an urgent "reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth." Such reform is urgent "to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making" (n. 67).

Admittedly, the duty to build the United Nations as a true center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends is an extremely difficult task. The more the interdependence of peoples increases, the more the necessity of the United Nations becomes evident. The need to have an organization capable of responding to the obstacles and increasing complexity of the relations between peoples and nations thus becomes paramount. [Can the march towards interdependence be turned back? And should it?]

The United Nations will advance toward the formation of a true family of nations to the extent that it assumes the truth of the inevitable interdependence among peoples, and to the extent that it takes up the truth about the human person, in accordance with its Charter.

Mr. President,

As we consider the nature of development and the role of donor and recipient countries, we must always remember that true development necessarily involves an integral respect for human life which cannot be disconnected from the development of peoples. Unfortunately in some parts of the world today, development aid seems to be tied rather to the recipient countries' willingness to adopt programs which discourage demographic growth of certain populations by methods and practices disrespectful of human dignity and rights. In this regard, it is both cynical and unfortunate that frequent attempts continue to be made to export such a mentality to developing countries as if it were a form of cultural progress or advancement. Yet such a practice is by its nature not one of reciprocity but imposition, and to predicate the decision to give development aid on the acceptance of such policies constitutes an abuse of power.

Every human being has the right to good governance, that is, all social actions, at the national and international level, contribute directly or indirectly, to guarantee for all persons a free and dignified life. [Fortunately the Church does not teach that there is a right to democratic government.] At the same time, it is an essential part of that dignity that everyone takes responsibility for his actions and actively respects the dignity of others. Rights always exist inseparably from responsibilities and duties. This applies to individual men and women and analogically to States, whose true progress and affirmation depends on their capacity to establish and maintain responsible relations with other States and to express a shared responsibility for world problems.

At the origin of many of the current global crises is the pretense of States and of individual persons that only they have rights and their reluctance to take responsibility for their own and other people's integral development. Often in the activity of international organisms is reflected an inconsistency already widespread in the more developed societies: on the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted by public entities, while, on the other hand, fundamental and basic rights, already explicit in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world. The rights and duties of Nations do not only depend upon agreements, treaties and resolutions of the international organisms, but find their ultimate foundation in the equal dignity of every individual man and woman, be they citizens or aliens. [But do aliens and citizens have equal rights across the board?] Ultimately, true multilateralism and dialogue among cultures must be based on assuming the duty of commitment for the development of all human beings. We must not forget that the sharing of reciprocal duties is a more powerful incentive to action than the mere assertion of rights.

In this light, the equity of the international commercial system and world financial architecture will be measured by the creation of permanent sources of jobs, stability of work, the just retribution of local production and the availability of public and private credit for production and work, especially in the poorest countries and regions. Thus, the effects of the inevitable economic cycles will be buffered, preventing them from becoming new and more serious global crises. [Inevitable? How so?]

The implementation of the principle of the "responsibility to protect," as formulated at the 2005 World Summit and approved by unanimous consensus of all UN Member States, becomes a touchstone of the two enunciated principles of truth in international relations and of global governance. The recognition of the core objective and indispensability of the dignity of every man and woman, ensures that the governments always undertake with every means at their disposal to prevent and combat crimes of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and any other crimes against humanity. Thus, recognizing their interconnected responsibility to protect, States will realize the importance of accepting the collaboration of the international community as a means of fulfilling their role of providing responsible sovereignty.

The mechanisms of the United Nations for addressing common security and the prevention of conflicts were developed in response to the threat of total war and nuclear destruction in the second half of the last century and for this reason alone they deserve perennial historical remembrance. Moreover, the works of peacekeepers have ended and stabilized innumerable local conflicts and have made reconstruction possible. Nevertheless, it is well known that the number of conflicts that the United Nations has not been able to resolve remains high and that many of these conflicts have become occasions of serious crimes against humanity. That is why the acceptance of the principle of the responsibility to protect and of the underlying truths which guide responsible sovereignty can be the catalyst for the reform of the mechanisms, procedures and representativeness of the Security Council.

In this context, Mr. President, my delegation would like to remember here the Honduran people who continue to undergo suffering, frustration and hardships from the already too long political upheaval. Once more, the Holy See urges the concerned parties to make every effort to find a prompt solution in view of the good of the people of Honduras. [No Vatican recognition of the legitimacy of the current Honduran government?]

Mr. President, this session of the General Assembly began with a special Summit on climate change and will soon hold the Copenhagen Climate Conference (8-16 December 2009). The protection of the environment continues to be at the forefront of multilateral activities, because it involves in cohesive form the destiny of all the Nations and the future of every individual man and woman. Recognition of the double truth of interdependence and personal dignity also requires that environmental issues are taken as a moral imperative and translated into legal rules, capable of protecting our planet and ensuring to future generations a healthy and safe environment.

In closing, Mr. President, in these changing times the international community - "we the peoples" - has the unique chance and responsibility to ensure full implementation of the UN Charter and thus greater peace and understanding among the Nations.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pope's Discourse to Academic World

Pope's Discourse to Academic World

"The Idea of an Integrated Education ... Must Be Regained"

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 27, 2009 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today at a meeting in Prague with representatives of the world of academia and culture.

* * *

Mr President,
Distinguished Rectors and Professors,
Dear Students and Friends,

Our meeting this evening gives me a welcome opportunity to express my esteem for the indispensable role in society of universities and institutions of higher learning. I thank the student who has kindly greeted me in your name, the members of the university choir for their fine performance, and the distinguished Rector of Charles University, Professor Václav Hampl, for his thoughtful presentation. The service of academia, upholding and contributing to the cultural and spiritual values of society, enriches the nation's intellectual patrimony and strengthens the foundations of its future development. The great changes which swept Czech society twenty years ago were precipitated not least by movements of reform which originated in university and student circles. That quest for freedom has continued to guide the work of scholars whose diakonia of truth is indispensable to any nation's well-being.

I address you as one who has been a professor, solicitous of the right to academic freedom and the responsibility for the authentic use of reason, and is now the Pope who, in his role as Shepherd, is recognized as a voice for the ethical reasoning of humanity. While some argue that the questions raised by religion, faith and ethics have no place within the purview of collective reason, that view is by no means axiomatic. The freedom that underlies the exercise of reason - be it in a university or in the Church - has a purpose: it is directed to the pursuit of truth, and as such gives expression to a tenet of Christianity which in fact gave rise to the university. Indeed, man's thirst for knowledge prompts every generation to broaden the concept of reason and to drink at the wellsprings of faith. It was precisely the rich heritage of classical wisdom, assimilated and placed at the service of the Gospel, which the first Christian missionaries brought to these lands and established as the basis of a spiritual and cultural unity which endures to this day. The same spirit led my predecessor Pope Clement VI to establish the famed Charles University in 1347, which continues to make an important contribution to wider European academic, religious and cultural circles.

The proper autonomy of a university, or indeed any educational institution, finds meaning in its accountability to the authority of truth. Nevertheless, that autonomy can be thwarted in a variety of ways. The great formative tradition, open to the transcendent, which stands at the base of universities across Europe, was in this land, and others, systematically subverted by the reductive ideology of materialism, the repression of religion and the suppression of the human spirit. In 1989, however, the world witnessed in dramatic ways the overthrow of a failed totalitarian ideology and the triumph of the human spirit. The yearning for freedom and truth is inalienably part of our common humanity. It can never be eliminated; and, as history has shown, it is denied at humanity's own peril. It is to this yearning that religious faith, the various arts, philosophy, theology and other scientific disciplines, each with its own method, seek to respond, both on the level of disciplined reflection and on the level of a sound praxis.

Distinguished Rectors and Professors, together with your research there is a further essential aspect of the mission of the university in which you are engaged, namely the responsibility for enlightening the minds and hearts of the young men and women of today. This grave duty is of course not new. From the time of Plato, education has been not merely the accumulation of knowledge or skills, butpaideia, human formation in the treasures of an intellectual tradition directed to a virtuous life. While the great universities springing up throughout Europe during the middle ages aimed with confidence at the ideal of a synthesis of all knowledge, it was always in the service of an authentic humanitas, the perfection of the individual within the unity of a well-ordered society. And likewise today: once young people's understanding of the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, they relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of how they ought to be and what they ought to do.

The idea of an integrated education, based on the unity of knowledge grounded in truth, must be regained. It serves to counteract the tendency, so evident in contemporary society, towards a fragmentation of knowledge. With the massive growth in information and technology there comes the temptation to detach reason from the pursuit of truth. Sundered from the fundamental human orientation towards truth, however, reason begins to lose direction: it withers, either under the guise of modesty, resting content with the merely partial or provisional, or under the guise of certainty, insisting on capitulation to the demands of those who indiscriminately give equal value to practically everything. The relativism that ensues provides a dense camouflage behind which new threats to the autonomy of academic institutions can lurk. While the period of interference from political totalitarianism has passed, is it not the case that frequently, across the globe, the exercise of reason and academic research are - subtly and not so subtly - constrained to bow to the pressures of ideological interest groups and the lure of short-term utilitarian or pragmatic goals? What will happen if our culture builds itself only on fashionable arguments, with little reference to a genuine historical intellectual tradition, or on the viewpoints that are most vociferously promoted and most heavily funded? What will happen if in its anxiety to preserve a radical secularism, it detaches itself from its life-giving roots? Our societies will not become more reasonable or tolerant or adaptable but rather more brittle and less inclusive, and they will increasingly struggle to recognize what is true, noble and good.

Dear friends, I wish to encourage you in all that you do to meet the idealism and generosity of young people today not only with programmes of study which assist them to excel, but also by an experience of shared ideals and mutual support in the great enterprise of learning. The skills of analysis and those required to generate a hypothesis, combined with the prudent art of discernment, offer an effective antidote to the attitudes of self-absorption, disengagement and even alienation which are sometimes found in our prosperous societies, and which can particularly affect the young. In this context of an eminently humanistic vision of the mission of the university, I would like briefly to mention the mending of the breach between science and religion which was a central concern of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II. He, as you know, promoted a fuller understanding of the relationship between faith and reason as the two wings by which the human spirit is lifted to the contemplation of truth (cf. Fides et Ratio, Proemium). Each supports the other and each has its own scope of action (cf.ibid., 17), yet still there are those who would detach one from the other. Not only do the proponents of this positivistic exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason negate what is one of the most profound convictions of religious believers, they also thwart the very dialogue of cultures which they themselves propose. An understanding of reason that is deaf to the divine and which relegates religions into the realm of subcultures, is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures that our world so urgently needs. In the end, "fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom" (Caritas in Veritate, 9). This confidence in the human ability to seek truth, to find truth and to live by the truth led to the foundation of the great European universities. Surely we must reaffirm this today in order to bring courage to the intellectual forces necessary for the development of a future of authentic human flourishing, a future truly worthy of man.

With these reflections, dear friends, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for your demanding work. I pray that it will always be inspired and directed by a human wisdom which genuinely seeks the truth which sets us free (cf. Jn 8:28). Upon you and your families I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, September 27, 2009

An Interview with Fr. Hugh Barbour

I need to find his short article on probabilism. Edit. Looks like that article is no longer available.

From his review of Morality of Everyday Life:

Another error that is more to the point regards the characterization of Saint Alphonsus’ moral teaching as “probabilism.” Quite precisely, his theory is called “aequiprobabilism.” This school of casuistry holds that the opinion favoring liberty over law may be followed if it is intrinsically probable, all things being equal. This last condition means that, in cases where there is question of the cessation of a law that has already been in force, the opinion favors the law even if the other opinion has probability, but, when there is question of the law having yet come into force, the opinion favors liberty. The simple probabilist holds that any truly probable opinion may be followed, even if an opposing opinion may be more probable. An aequiprobabilist holds the same view but gives greater weight to laws already presumably in force. In casuistic practice, however, these views are merely useful for persuading the penitent, because the confessor may not impose his theory’s resolution of the moral case in question on the penitent, if there exists another view not condemned by authority. In reality, the only two systems of moral evaluation condemned have been rigorism (as in the case of the Jansenists) and laxism (as in the case of some Jesuits), so all the others are practically probable and certainly licit. The Q.E.D. is that the probabilist view wins out, if the penitent wants it to and the confessor keeps within the bounds of his authority. The Thomist Dominic Pruemmer explains in his classic Vademecum:

If one prescinds from rigorism and laxism, each of the systems described is tolerated by the Church, and so the confessor has no right to impose his system on the penitent, or strictly require anything of the penitent which he is not bound to do according to the approach of another legitimate system. Thus the confessor may prudently counsel safer or more probable opinions, but he cannot strictly impose them (that is, in preference to merely probable ones). In practice let him choose those opinions which, considering all the circumstances, he foresees will produce the best fruit for the spiritual health of the penitent.

Thus, Dr. Fleming’s intuition is fundamentally sound: Probabilism, which favors liberty because of a respect for circumstances, is the default system of classical Roman Catholic casuistry. Even so, it is not Roman Catholic casuistry he is promoting but rather a return to any casuistic system at all (including Talmudic or Caroline) within the traditions that have made up our society, for such systems by their very nature harmonize with life as it is actually lived and use morality to preserve and strengthen rather than to break down and overturn ties of blood and soil and common endeavor. Apart from those few things one may never do under any circumstances—such as blaspheme, murder the innocent, commit unnatural acts, or steal from a man poorer than oneself—it is almost impossible to indicate specific acts that must always be done regardless of circumstances. For this reason, then, there must be casuistry, since the possibilities for doing good are literally infinite.

For every manual of casuistry, there needs to be a speculative presentation of general principles. Otherwise, the ethics inculcated may be merely a kind of positivistic integralism, a “this is the way its always been, so don’t ask questions” attitude, unable to defend itself from the critical and revolutionary spirit. This companion volume to The Morality of Everyday Life has yet to be written, but here the reviewer dares to present a suggestion as to what its overarching, unifying insight should be. The exposition of nominalism in the sixth chapter points in the direction of the deepest level of moral reasoning. Whereas Dr. Fleming’s interpretation and application of the genesis of the notion of individualism is not one to which I would subscribe, this is the one place in the book where he brushes up against the larger philosophical issue underlying any account of the morality of human acts and transcending any given instance of moral reasoning.

But is the speculative presentation of general principles by St. Alphonsus the same as that of St. Thomas Aquinas? Apparently not, according to Fr. Pinckaers...

Fr. Pinckaers on St. Thomas and St. Alphonsus Liguori

"Dominican Moral Theology in the 20th Century," The Pinckaers Reader, 77-8.

Father Deman, who succeeded Father Ramirez from 1945 to 1954, is of special interest to us because of his lengthy and excellent article on probabilism, which appeared in 1936.(1) There he makes a penetrating critical and systematic study of moral casuistry. He describes the controversy which had centered on probabilism since the seventeenth century in response to the problem of a doubtful conscience in the application of the law, and which ended in the recommendation of the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. The latter became the patron saint of moral theologians because of his balance, which avoids the laxity of the casuists and the rigor of the Jansenists. However, Father Deman concludes his study on St. Alphonsus and on the concept of moral theology, of which he is the eminent representative, in these words:

Between St. Alphonsus and St. Thomas there remains the lack of harmony of two irreconcilable systems. Every attempt at reconciliation is doomed to concordism, that is to say, to artifice, that is to say, to failure. The historical reality of their misunderstanding cannot be denied.(2)
This judgement seems to me entirely justified. Between St. Thomas and St. Alphonsus and the authors of the manuals, even when they follow the Thomistic school, it is certainly possible to find some partial agreements, but there is always a fundamental lack of harmony at the level of systematization, all the more difficult to resolve when it is not perceived. In St. Thomas we are dealing with a morality of beatitude and the virtues, centering around charity and prudence, and with our modern moralists, with commandments and legal obligations, focusing on conscience and sins.

1. "Probabilisme," Dictionnaire de la theologie catholique, vol. 13 (1936), col. 417-619.
2. Ibid., col. 590.

Can the two systems of moral theology be harmonized? Not fully, according to Fr. Pinckaers. The precepts of the modern moralists, the casuistry and development of conscience, might be able to be integrated into a more "classical" system of moral theology, but its foundations or presuppositions about the Christian moral life cannot be.

Conscience, as it is understood by moderns, is not the same as prudence, and it cannot replace prudence, but is it a "part" of prudence? Does the development of conscience in accordance with the modern manuals truncate the development of prudence, and by extension, the Christian spiritual life? It seems to me that Fr. Pinckaers would agree with this conclusion, though I have to read what he writes about "modern" conscience.

Fr. Corapi on femininity

Fr. Corapi, in one of his EWTN episodes (I don't know which one -- I was listening to the audio version on a Catholic radio station) claimed that he was a true Catholic feminist, in that he affirmed the value of femininity and its difference from masculinity, and recognized that men and women have differences which impact their lives (and vocations). I don't know if he was using the Von Hildebrands as a source, but he went on to explain that women are by their nature "receptive." (I mention the Von Hildebrands, especially Alice Von Hildebrand, because the first time I heard someone talk about receptivity it was from Alice Von Hildebrand, who was contradistinguishing it from passivity.) As a result, they are more receptive to the divine -- hence, there were more women to be seen in Church.

It seems to me that the complete definition of female must refer to the male, even if only implicitly, since male and female are complementary with respect to the sex act, first of all. It also seems to me that all other roles and differences are founded upon this fundamental difference in function.

Women are receptive with respect to the activity of men (specifically their husbands, but also with respect to their fathers) -- being led and reassured, and so on. Women also reach out to others, including their husbands, but not quite in the same way. Women have both active potentialities and passive potentialities in their relationships with men, but in a healthy relationship they are not the same or identical to the potentialities that men have. (When men and women have the same set of potentialities, or if they are reversed, with women having what is proper to men and vice versa, problems arise.)

I think it is problematic to say that women are "receptive" by their very nature, as if other creatures are not receptive -- after all, all creatures have some potentiality, and all intellectual creatures have the obediential potency to the Beatific Vision. Angels are receptive just as human beings are, in this respect. Men are just as receptive as women to grace and the infused gifts. Men can be as "spritual" as women, since all are dependent upon God.

Is yin-yang "theory" wrong, abstracting what belongs to male and female, essentializing these characteristics, turn then into cosmic principles? While there may be opposition in the universe, even opposition that is reducible to a fundamental pair of forces or elements, it seems to me that yin-yang theory is too univocal in ascribing to everything shares in a "masculine" and a "feminine" principle. Is it possible that even asexual things can be called "masculine" or "feminine" by analogy?

Now with respect to the spiritual life and Christian education, are girls more docile than boys? Are they able to benefit more from guidance by others, the frail human instruments of God's Providence? Is it the case that boys cannot be taught as well, or that men do not benefit as much from religious education when they are young and undisciplined and have not learned how to master their energy? Are there other obstacles to the spiritual formation of men that are not present for women generally? (For example, bad liturgical music and a lot of emphasis on feelings in spirituality and worship?)

Begun on September 15, 2009.