Monday, January 27, 2020

Cardinal Sarah Responds to His Critics

NCReg: Cardinal Sarah Calls For End to ‘Sterile Controversy’ Over Celibacy Book by Edward Pentin
The Vatican cardinal urges the faithful to cease discussing ‘ridiculous side issues’ over the book and to read the ‘essential question’ it covers instead.

Related: Looking East: Book on celibacy barely acknowledges Eastern tradition

David Bentley Hart's Objection to the Existence of Hell

Al Kimel summarizes in Apprehending Apokatastasis: The Incoherence of Everlasting Perdition:

1) The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo asserts the absolute liberty of the Creator in all of his acts. As the infinite plenitude of Being, God did not need to create the cosmos to fill some­thing that was lacking in his life (remember—no passive potency) and having created it he does not find that his happiness and bliss have been increased. Moreover, not only does God enjoy absolute freedom to create, or not create, the cosmos; but he also enjoys absolute freedom in what kind of cosmos to create. He is not subject to constraints outside himself.

Nothing remarkable so far. This is just the classical doctrine of divine aseity which Hart has so ably presented in The Experience of God.

2) God eternally wills himself as the Good, and his willing of the cosmos is encompassed within this eternal self-willing. The purpose, telos, goal, consummation, and end of the divine act of creation is the Good; or to put it in the language of Aristotle, God is the final cause of creation. The cosmos is created by Love out of Love toward consummation in Love.

In the background we hear the voices of St Gregory of Nyssa and St Maximus the Confessor, as well as Dionysius the Areopagite and St Thomas Aquinas.

3) God does not create evil. Only goodness flows from God. For this reason the classical theologians of the Christian tradition have understood evil as a privation of being, a defect, lack, surd, nothingness. The presence of evil within God’s good creation urgently raises the question of theodicy. The question cannot be banished with a mere wave of a philosoph­ical wand. Evil will always be the greatest challenge to faith, both intellectually and existen­tially. It’s one thing to acknowledge, and suffer, evil’s presence in the temporal order; it’s quite another thing to assert its eschatological perdurance.

4) The eschaton, therefore, necessarily and definitively reveals the character and identity of the Creator. The conclusion of the story can neither surprise nor disappoint him, for the conclusion is willed in the initial act of creation. Hence the presence of evil in the eschaton is quite impossible. In Hart’s words: “He could not be the creator of anything substantially evil without evil also being part of the definition of who he essentially is.” Here is the cru­cial Hartian claim: if everlasting perdition belongs to the climax of the cosmic narrative, then it was so intended by God from the beginning. Every free act is teleologically directed and therefore defined by its final cause. The inference cannot be avoided. After all, nothing compelled God to create this particular universe with this particular eschaton, and the omnipo­tence–omniscience combo precludes divine failure. If hell was intended, then it is good and inheres in the Good; if hell is intended, then hell becomes God.

To summarize: in his goodness the triune God creates the cosmos for consummation in his infinite goodness. All comes from Love and returns to Love. The Creator is both material cause and final cause. The eschaton, therefore, is not simply the climax of a story. It is the final revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the fullness of their lordship and glory. In the words of the Apostle:
And, when all things have been subordinated to him, then will the Son himself also be subordinated to the one who has subordinated all things to him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:28)
God will be all in all. This is the eschatological promise. How then hell everlasting?

The above reasoning leads Hart to the conclu­sion that a pernicious incoherence lies deep within the theological tradition. For the past 1500 years the Church has asserted three claims:
  • God freely created the cosmos ex nihilo.
  • God is the Good and wills only the good.
  • God will condemn a portion of his rational creatures to everlasting torment.
Two of these propositions may be rationally held without contradiction, argues Hart, but not all three simultaneously.

And Apprehending Apokatastasis: Revealing the God Behind the Curtain

Interview with Fr. Cajetan Cuddy, O.P.

CWR: The fundamental crisis of contemporary culture and the wisdom of St. Thomas
“The division between the mind and reality,” says Fr. Cajetan Cuddy, O.P., “and the project of self-creation, has sparked the disunity between us and all others.”

CWR: How would you define “Thomism”?
Fr. Cajetan: I recently had the honor of answering a form of this question in a video interview (“Thomism and Intellectual Monasticism”) conducted by iAquinas. Several additional points, however, come to mind.

The person of Thomas Aquinas: Thomism is more than the repetition of Thomas’s words and phrases or the imitation of his literary style. Thomas did not posit himself as the goal of Christian thought. Although he gave intellectual shape to the tradition that bears his name, the object of his teaching resides outside of Thomas’s person. In his writings, Thomas largely ignored himself because he found reality to be far more interesting. Were he to speak to us today, he would undoubtedly discourage students from embarking on something like a “Quest for the Historical Thomas” if this were to distract them from taking up Thomas’s own project: the quest for truth. A Thomistic gaze is not so much oriented to Thomas himself as it is to what Thomas knew (and whom he loved). Therefore, Thomism is a way of thinking that searches with Thomas for the truth about reality (and, ultimately, the truth about God).

Wisdom: Consequently, Thomas Aquinas hands on (“traditions”) to his students something much more precious than a collection of erudite books. Thomas’s true gift—and the essence of Thomism—is a way of wise thinking governed by first principles. And it is here that we distinguish wisdom from the memorization of facts. Wisdom and native intelligence are not the same thing. Smart people can formulate stimulating ideas in their minds. Wise people allow their minds to be formed by the most fundamental truths. Wisdom enables us to recognize—and to promote—order. The contemporary world is dominated by an overwhelming amount of information. Not all information is created equal, however. And, as a wise teacher, Thomas identifies the most important truths – the “first truths” (or “first principles”) that configure all knowledge in all contexts. Chief among the first truths is this: being and nothingness are really distinct. Thomas recognized that all other truths proceed from this foundational principle. His graced genius enabled him to see profound depths in – and to recognize the universal implications of – the nature of being. Therefore, Thomism approaches all of reality in light of the “first truths” that underlie everything that exists – everything from a blade of grass, to the squirrel, to the newborn baby, to marriage, to the Church, to God. “Thomism” receives its name from Thomas because he is the one who identified which principles are absolutely primordial. And “Thomists” see how these first truths permeate all aspects of thought and life.

Intellectual Monasticism”: Interestingly, amidst the noise and chaos of contemporary life, there has been a renewed interest in monasticism and contemplation. (See, for example, Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Optionand Cardinal Robert Sarah’s The Power of Silence.) Everyone pines for “peace of mind.” This is unsurprising. Tranquility and thought are essential parts of human experience. All of the most important elements of our lives involve rational reflection—the kind of career we pursue, whom we choose to marry, how we raise our children, what our political affiliations will be, etc. Thomas Aquinas offers an ordered way of thinking that shapes the intellect just as a monastic rule shapes the rhythms of human living. I like to describe Thomism as an intellectual monasticism. Monasticism orders all aspects of human life around God—time, work, recreation, and even the very architecture of the monastery are God-directed. Thomism orders all aspects of human thought around the highest truths. Each of Thomas’s “first truths” serve as the “building blocks” upon which the “intellectual monastery” is constructed in the soul of the Thomist.

To summarize: Thomism is a wise – ordered – way of thought that reflects Thomas’s consecration to the truth. The truth alone enables one to find abiding peace, authentic freedom, and real happiness. And only the truth has grace.

Roberto de Mattei on Acies Ordinate

Rorate Caeli: “La Verit√†” Newspaper interviews Professor Roberto de Mattei

Fr. Dominic Legge on Rights

SCL 2020