Friday, February 19, 2010

Do the Orthodox have ecclesiastical or canonical problems with religious orders being placed under the direct jurisdiction of the pope?
James Chastek: Garrigou Lagrange-on discussing the Trinity
Insight Scoop: "In Memory of Ralph McInerny" by Charles E. Rice
Byzantine, Texas: Another report from the Met. Kallistos lecture tour

An important aspect of how authority is practiced in the Church, both in the East and the West, is the concept of “protos”, which means “first”. The Church is hierarchical, and therefore in every grouping in the Church, there must be a “protos”. For example, the bishop is the “protos” of his diocese. The Patriarch is “protos” among the bishops in his patriarchy. The pope is “protos” among all the bishops in the universal Church. Both Catholics and Orthodox accept this structure. But what does it mean to be “protos”? How is that role exercised? Metropolitan Kallistos pointed out Apostolic Canon 34 as a model for the role of “protos” in the Church. Apostolic Canon 34 states,
The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent…but neither let him (who is head) do anything without the consent of all.
It should be obvious that the problem arises from the second part of that Canon. In fact, this appears to be in direct conflict with Vatican I, which states that “definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable”. But Metropolitan Kallistos is hopeful that this Canon will be a way in which the Church can find a mutually agreeable means for the pope to practice universal primacy.
(Originally posted at the blog of Eric Sammons.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Let us assume the sedevacantist position is correct -- would the rest of the Catholic bishops, by recognizing a false bishop of Rome, be putting themselves outside of the Church? Most, if not all, sincerely believe that he is the pope, and there are ways to make sure he has been validly elected. (Maybe this is a moot point, since many sedevacantists believe that the Catholic bishops are outside of the Church because they are heretics?)

(I haven't had to think about sedevacantism too much or study the arguments of sedevacantists up until now, but I recently became acquainted with a sedevacantist through FB. I am not sure how to proceed with that relationship.)

Some Sedevantists:
Aquinas Catholic Website
Gerry Matatics
Traditional Latin Mass Resources

SSPX - Sedevacantism
Dominique Boulet, SSPX
Concerning a Sedevacantist Thesis
Br. André Marie of St. Benedict Center
Via Joe Carter at First Things -- Reno on Theology and Apologetics

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The archive for the CUA Philosophy lectures is missing. I tried to send a message informing those who manage the website of the error, but I think I got another error message instead. I hope this page is restored -- there is one lecture by Alasdair MacIntyre and another by John Wippel that I want to watch.
Metropolitan KALLISTOS Ware Salvation in Christ - The Orthodox Approach -Lecture
Is Belief in Free Will Unscientific “Vitalism?” by Wesley J. Smith

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

James Chastek, Determination by Habit:

Though this can be taken in more than one way, one literal reading is that “Servant of justice” is said only “because of the infirmity of your flesh”. Servitude is properly only of evil habits; good habits are precisely what constitute liberty and freedom. The fatal mistake of habits is to see the slavery and bondage of the habits we know best as characteristic of all human habits. This is yet another way in which we confuse what is most known to us with what is most knowable in itself.
Stephen M. Barr, The End of Intelligent Design?
(via Rod Dreher)

Monday, February 15, 2010

The latest issue of Living Tradition to be uploaded: Regarding Pope Benedict XVI's Address on Biblical Exegesis and Theology of 14 October 2008

Papal Address to Pontifical Academy for Life

Papal Address to Pontifical Academy for Life

"God Loves Every Human Being in a Unique and Profound Way"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday in an audience with members of the Pontifical Academy for Life who gathered in Rome for a general assembly on the topic of bioethics and natural law.

* * *

Dear brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Illustrious members of the "Pontificia Academia Pro Vita,"

Kind Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am glad to cordially welcome and greet you on the occasion of the general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called to reflect on themes pertaining to the relationship between bioethics and the natural moral law, which appear evermore relevant in the present context because of the continual development in the scientific sphere. I address a special greeting to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of this academy, thanking him for the courteous words that he wanted to address to me in the name of those present. I would also like to extend my personal thanks to each of you for the precious and irreplaceable work that you do on behalf of life in various contexts.

The issues that revolve around the theme of bioethics allow us to confirm how much these underlying questions in the first place pose the "anthropological question." As I state in my last encyclical letter, "Caritas in Veritate:" "A particularly crucial battleground in today's cultural struggle between the absolutism of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics, where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question. In this most delicate and critical area, the fundamental question asserts itself force-fully: is man the product of his own labors or does he depend on God? Scientific discoveries in this field and the possibilities of technological intervention seem so advanced as to force a choice between two types of reasoning: reason open to transcendence or reason closed within immanence" (no. 74).

Before such questions, which touch in such a decisive manner human life in its perennial tension between immanence and transcendence, and which have great relevance for the culture of future generations, it is necessary to create a holistic pedagogical project that permits us to confront these issues in a positive, balanced and constructive vision, above all in the relationship between faith and reason. The questions of bioethics often place the reminder of the dignity of the person in the foreground. This dignity is a fundamental principle that the faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen has always defended, above all when it is ignored in regard to the humblest and most vulnerable persons: God loves every human being in a unique and profound way. Bioethics, like every discipline, needs a reminder able to guarantee a consistent understanding of ethical questions that, inevitably, emerge before possible interpretive conflicts. In such a space a normative recall to the natural moral law presents itself. The recognition of human dignity, in fact, as an inalienable right first finds its basis in that law not written by human hand but inscribed by God the Creator in the heart of man. Every juridical order is called to recognize this right as inviolable and every single person must respect and promote it (cf. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," nos. 1954-1960).

Without the foundational principle of human dignity it would be difficult to find a source for the rights of the person and the impossible to arrive at an ethical judgment if the face of the conquests of science that intervene directly in human life. It is thus necessary to repeat with firmness that an understanding of human dignity does not depend on scientific progress, the gradual formation of human life or facile pietism before exceptional situations. When respect for the dignity of the person is invoked it is fundamental that it be complete, total and with no strings attached, except for those of understanding oneself to be before a human life. Of course, there is development in human life and the horizon of the investigation of science and bioethics is open, but it must be reaffirmed that when it is a matter of areas relating to the human being, scientists can never think that what they have is only inanimate matter capable of manipulation in their hands. Indeed, from the very first moment, the life of man is characterized as "human life" and therefore always a bearer -- everywhere and despite everything -- of its own dignity (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Instruction 'Dignitas Personae' on Certain Bioethical Questions," no. 5). Without this understanding, we would always be in danger of an instrumental use of science with the inevitable consequence of easily ceding to the arbitrary, to discrimination and to the strongest economic interest.

Joining bioethics and natural moral law permits the best confirmation of the necessary and unavoidable reminder of the dignity that human life intrinsically possesses from its first instant to its natural end. But in the contemporary context, while a just reminder about the rights that guarantee dignity to the person is emerging with ever greater insistence, one notes that such rights are not always recognized in the natural development of human life and in the stages of its greatest fragility. A similar contradiction makes evident the task to be assumed in different spheres of society and culture to ensure that human life always be seen as the inalienable subject of rights and never as an object subjugated to the will of the strongest.

History has shown us how dangerous and deleterious a state can be that proceeds to legislate on questions that touch the person and society while pretending itself to be the source and principle of ethics. Without universal principles that permit a common denominator for the whole of humanity the danger of a relativistic drift at the legislative level is not at all something should be underestimated (cf. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," no. 1959). The natural moral law, strong in its universal character, allows us to avert such a danger and above all offers to the legislator the guarantee for an authentic respect of both the person and the entire created order. It is the catalyzing source of consensus among persons of different cultures and religions and allows them to transcend their differences since it affirms the existence of an order impressed in nature by the Creator and recognized as an instance of true rational ethical judgment to pursue good and avoid evil. The natural moral law "belongs to the great heritage of human wisdom. Revelation, with its light, has contributed to further purifying and developing it" (John Paul II, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, February 6, 2004).

Illustrious members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, in the present context your task appears more and more delicate and difficult, but the growing sensitivity in regard to human life is an encouragement to continue, with ever greater spirit and courage, in this important service to life and the education of future generations in the evangelical values. I hope that all of you will continue to study and research so that the work of promoting and defending life be ever more effective and fruitful. I accompany you with the apostolic blessing, which I gladly extend to those who share this daily task with you.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fr. Rhonheimer persists.

From The Tablet:

The truth about condoms
Martin Rhonheimer

Church leaders have caused a furore by suggesting that even the HIV-infected should avoid condoms. But this is not church teaching, says a leading moral philosopher

Most people are convinced that an HIV-infected person who has sex should use a condom to protect his partner from infection. Whatever one may think about a promiscuous lifestyle, about homosexual acts or prostitution, that person acts at least with a sense of responsibility in trying to avoid transmitting his infection to others.

It is commonly believed that the Catholic Church does not support such a view. As a BBC Panorama programme recently suggested, the Church is thought to teach that sexually active homosexuals and prostitutes should refrain from condoms because condoms are ?intrinsically evil? (The Tablet, 26 June). Many Catholics also believe this. One of them is Hugh Henry, education officer of the Linacre Centre in London, who told Austen Ivereigh in last week?s Tablet that the use of a condom, even exclusively to prevent infection of one?s sexual partner, ?fails to honour the fertile structure that marital acts must have, cannot constitute mutual and complete personal self-giving and thus violates the Sixth Commandment?.

But this is not a teaching of the Catholic Church. There is no official magisterial teaching either about condoms, or about anti-ovulatory pills or diaphragms. Condoms cannot be intrinsically evil, only human acts; condoms are not human acts, but things. What the Catholic Church has clearly taught to be ?intrinsically evil? is a specific kind of human act, defined by Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, and later included in No. 2370 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as an ?action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible?.

Contraception, as a specific kind of human act, includes two elements: the will to engage in sexual acts and the intention of rendering procreation impossible. A contraceptive act therefore embodies a contraceptive choice. As I put it in an article in the Linacre Quarterly in 1989, ?a contraceptive choice is the choice of an act that prevents freely consented performances of sexual intercourse, which are foreseen to have procreative consequences, from having these consequences, and which is a choice made just for this reason.?

This is why contraception, regarded as a human act qualified as ?intrinsically evil? or disordered, is not determined by what is happening on the physical level; it makes no difference whether one prevents sexual intercourse from being fertile by taking the Pill or by interrupting it in an onanistic way. The above definition also disregards the differentiation between ?doing? and ?refraining from doing?, because coitus interruptus is a kind of ? at least partial ? refraining.

The definition of the contraceptive act does not therefore apply to using contraceptives to prevent possible procreative consequences of foreseen rape; in that circumstance the raped person does not choose to engage in sexual intercourse or to prevent a possible consequence of her own sexual behaviour but is simply defending herself from an aggression on her own body and its undesirable consequences. A woman athlete taking part in the Olympic Games who takes an anti-ovulatory pill to prevent menstruation is not doing ?contraception? either, because there is no simultaneous intention of engaging in sexual intercourse.

The teaching of the Church is not about condoms or similar physical or chemical devices, but about marital love and the essentially marital meaning of human sexuality. It affirms that, if married people have a serious reason not to have children, they should modify their sexual behaviour by ? at least periodic ? abstinence from sexual acts. To avoid destroying both the unitive and the procreative meaning of sexual acts and therefore the fullness of mutual self-giving, they must not prevent the sexual act from being fertile while carrying on having sex.

But what of promiscuous people, sexually active homosexuals, and prostitutes? What the Catholic Church teaches them is simply that they should not be promiscuous, but faithful to one single sexual partner; that prostitution is a behaviour which gravely violates human dignity, mainly the dignity of the woman, and therefore should not be engaged in; and that homosexuals, as all other people, are children of God and loved by him as everybody else is, but that they should live in continence like any other unmarried person.

But if they ignore this teaching, and are at risk from HIV, should they use condoms to prevent infection? The moral norm condemning contraception as intrinsically evil does not apply to these cases. Nor can there be church teaching about this; it would be simply nonsensical to establish moral norms for intrinsically immoral types of behaviour. Should the Church teach that a rapist must never use a condom because otherwise he would additionally to the sin of rape fail to respect ?mutual and complete personal self-giving and thus violate the Sixth Commandment?? Of course not.

What do I, as a Catholic priest, tell Aids-infected promiscuous people or homosex-uals who are using condoms? I will try to help them to live an upright and well-ordered sexual life. But I will not tell them not to use condoms. I simply will not talk to them about this and assume that if they choose to have sex they will at least keep a sense of responsibility. With such an attitude I fully respect the Catholic Church?s teaching on contraception.

This is not a plea for ?exceptions? to the norm prohibiting contraception. The norm about contraception applies without exception; the contraceptive choice is intrinsically evil. But it obviously applies only to contraceptive acts, as defined by Humanae Vitae, which embody a contraceptive choice. Not every act in which a device is used which from a purely physical point of view is ?contraceptive?, is from a moral point of view a contraceptive act falling under the norm taught by Humanae Vitae.

Equally, a married man who is HIV-infected and uses the condom to protect his wife from infection is not acting to render procreation impossible, but to prevent infection. If conception is prevented, this will be an ? unintentional ? side-effect and will not therefore shape the moral meaning of the act as a contraceptive act. There may be other reasons to warn against the use of a condom in such a case, or to advise total continence, but these will not be because of the Church?s teaching on contraception but for pastoral or simply prudential reasons ? the risk, for example, of the condom not working. Of course, this last argument does not apply to promiscuous people, because even if condoms do not always work, their use will help to reduce the evil consequences of morally evil behaviour.

Stopping the worldwide Aids epidemic is not a question about the morality of using condoms, but about how to effectively prevent people from causing the disastrous consequences of their immoral sexual behaviour. Pope John Paul II has repeatedly urged that the promotion of the use of condoms is not a solution to this problem because he holds that it does not resolve the moral problem of promiscuity. Whether, generally, campaigns promoting condoms encourage risky behaviour and make the Aids pandemic worse is a question of statistical evidence which is not yet easily available. That it reduces transmission rates, in the short term, among highly infective groups like prostitutes and homosexuals is impossible to deny. Whether it may decrease infection rates among ?sexually liberated? promiscuous populations or, on the contrary, encourage risky behaviour, depends on many factors.

In African countries condom-based anti-Aids campaigns are generally ineffective, partly because for an African man his manliness is expressed by making as many children as possible. For him, condoms convert sex into a meaningless activity. Which is why ? and this is strong evidence in favour of the Pope?s argument ? among the few effective programmes in Africa has been the Ugandan one. Although it does not exclude condoms, it encourages a positive change in sexual behaviour (fidelity and abstinence), unlike condom campaigns, which contribute to obscuring or even destroying the meaning of human love.

Campaigns to promote abstinence and fidelity are certainly and ultimately the only effective long-term remedy to combat Aids. So there is no reason for the Church to consider the campaigns promoting condoms as helpful for the future of human society. But nor can the Church possibly teach that people engaged in immoral lifestyles should avoid them.

He hasn't changed his mind--when will a Dominican give a response. See this post for a link to Fr. Rhonheimer's previous piece for The Tablet.