Blog Template Theology of the Body: April 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On the other side of the analogia entis question

Dr. Ayala is an evolutionary geneticist at McGill University in Montreal who has a new book out. The book is called Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion. Here are the interesting bits liberally quoted from the New York Times:

Dr. Ayala, a former Dominican priest, said . . . that evolution is a well-corroborated scientific theory, but also that belief in evolution does not rule out belief in God. In fact, he said, evolution “is more consistent with belief in a personal god than intelligent design. If God has designed organisms, he has a lot to account for.”

Consider, he said, that at least 20 percent of pregnancies are known to end in spontaneous abortion. If that results from divinely inspired anatomy, Dr. Ayala said, “God is the greatest abortionist of them all.”

Or consider, he said, the “sadism” in parasites that live by devouring their hosts, or the mating habits of insects like female midges, tiny flies that fertilize their eggs by consuming their mates’ genitals, along with all their other parts.

[. . .]

“Science and religion concern nonoverlapping realms of knowledge,” he writes in the new book. “It is only when assertions are made beyond their legitimate boundaries that evolutionary theory and religious belief appear to be antithetical.”

[. . .]

Nevertheless, Dr. Ayala will not say whether he remains a religious believer.

“I don’t want to be tagged,” he said. “By one side or the other.”

Its still hard for me to see how one can believe in a theory of "pure" evolution and not be an athiest. If I had to venture a guess, I know how I'd "tag" him. . . .

Pope Announces Economic Stimulus Package!

I copied this for my dissertation.

ROME - Pope Benedict XVI announced that a round of indulgences will be granted Monday, earlier than previously announced, and should help Catholics cope with temporal consequences of the rise of opportunities for daily sins, such as usury and the lies associated with election seasons, as well as aid a slumping salvific economy. Critics said they were glad the remissions were about to go out, but suggested that multinational, corporately-backed structures of sin stood to benefit through the indulgences from an easing of conscience, making a trickle-down effect to the average layperson in the pew unlikely.
The salvation-economy stimulus package includes indulgences of 300 to 600 days, to be issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary to all faithful who made their Easter Duty by April 15. Those with lower numbers on their baptismal certificates will receive the indulgences first, reported analysts. "The indulgences are going to help Catholics offset the increasing proximate occasions to sin we're seeing in hectic daily life, from children's tantrums at the grocery store to violations of the second commandment at the gas pump, and also to give the unfolding realization of the eschaton within our midst a boost to help us pull out of the recent uptick in secularism," explained Archbishop Qualcuno Italiano.
Archbishop Italiano has suggested the indulgences could trigger a piety spree. "When the remissions reach the Catholic people, we expect they will use it to boost Mass attendance, the offering-up of daily annoyances, and the production of spiritual bouquets," he said last month. The salvific economy—burdened by the sluggish vocations, the abuse scandal, and now rising interest in second-rate atheistic literature—grew at 0.0093 percent from 2002 to 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
They're Just kidding.

St. Irenaeus on the Eucharist, AD 200

When, therefore, the mingled cup and the bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which flesh is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?--even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that "we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones."

He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh; but he refers to that dispensation by which the Lord became an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones, that flesh which is nourished by the cup which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread which is His body.
And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a corn of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time, the Word of God granting them resurrection to the glory of God, even the Father, who freely gives to this mortal immortality, and to this corruptible incorruption, because the strength of God is made perfect in weakness, in order that we may never become puffed up, as if we had life from ourselves, and exalted against God, our minds becoming ungrateful; but learning by experience that we possess eternal duration from the excelling power of this Being, not from our own nature, we may neither undervalue that glory which surrounds God as He is, nor be ignorant of our own nature, but that we may know what God can effect, and what benefits man receives, and thus never wander from the true comprehension of things as they are, that is, both with regard to God and with regard to man.

And might it not be the case, perhaps, as I have already observed, that for this purpose God permitted our resolution into the common dust of mortality, that we, being instructed by every mode, may be accurate in all things for the future, being ignorant neither of God
nor of ourselves?

Against the Heresies, Book V.2.3.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Blessed John Henry Newman

Vatican City, April 23 (CNA).-The Vatican has approved the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the English convert and theologian who has had immense influence upon English-speaking Catholicism, the Birmingham Mail reports.

John Henry Newman was born in 1801. As an Anglican priest, he led the Oxford Movement that sought to return the Church of England to its Catholic roots.

His conversion to Catholicism in 1845 rocked Victorian England. After becoming an Oratorian priest, he was involved in the establishment of the Birmingham Oratory. He died in 1890 and is buried at the oratory country house Rednall Hill.

The Catholic Church has accepted as miraculous the cure of an American deacon's crippling spinal disorder. The deacon, Jack Sullivan of Marshfield, Massachusetts, prayed for John Henry Newsman's intercession. At his beatification ceremony later this year, John Henry Newman will receive the title "Blessed."

He will need one more recognized miracle to be canonized. The case of a 17-year-old New Hampshire boy who survived serious head injuries from a car crash is being investigated as a possible second miracle. MM, for her part, is offering requests for the conversion of several beloved Episcopalians.

"The Papacy was the only power which lay not entirely and absolutely prostrate before the disasters of the times—a power which had an inherent strength, and might resume its majesty. It was this power which was most imperatively required preserve all which was to survive out of the crumbling wreck of Roman civilization. To Western Christianity was absolutely necessary a centre, standing alone, strong in traditionary reverence, and in acknowledged claims to supremacy. Even the perfect organization of the Christian hierarchy might in all human probability have fallen to pieces in perpetual conflict: it might have degenerated into a half-secular feudal caste, with hereditary benefices more and more entirely subservient to the civil authority, a priesthood of each nation or each tribe, gradually sinking to the intellectual or religious level of the nation or tribe. On the rise of a power both controlling and conservative hung, humanly speaking, the life and death of Christianity—of Christianity as a permanent, aggressive, expansive, and, to a certain extent, uniform system."

Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk. I. 1, 3.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Sorry for the pun. Tonight at Mass, our priest encouraged us to get out the good word in re: the Good News with this website, Catholics Come Home. It's an interesting and rather capacious resource for dragging the recalcitrant to fullness of communion with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it's chock full of videos and links to other resources for living as a Catholic Christian. For instance, worry no more about arguments with atheists about the existence of God with these handy philosophical proofs. Enjoy!

Aliza Shvartz and the Breakdown at Yale... all in a day's work

There have been some unspeakable things going on at Yale in the past week. See "For Senior, Abortion a Medium for Art, Political Discourse." (Please note that this is really not for those who are very sensitive or squeamish.) The perpetrator explained herself here.

(Yes, there are some Catholic women in the academy)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Welcome Baby James

One of my best girl friends coordinates Spanish Masses for emigrant workers in south Texas, and authors museum entries for exhibits on St. Mary the Theotokos; in between finishing her dissertation on 16th Century Jesuit missionary art for Harvard's Art History department, she and her husband gave to the world her best gift yet, baby James, born yesterday. Oh, I just love all aspects of the New Evangelization. Welcome, sweet baby James.

Ecumenical Acumen Excursus Cont'd.

From Pope Benedict's homily at St. Joseph's Parish in Yorkville
Friday, April 18 2008

Right at the heart of the matter:

Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called "prophetic actions" that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of "local options." Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic koinonia - communion with the Church in every age - is lost, just at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:18-23).

"I pray that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me..." John 17
So. Why remain in schism?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

C. S. Lewis Among Ye Stars

David Brooks has a worthy op-ed piece in the New York Times this week:

I have kept a short essay, which I stare at longingly from time to time. It’s an essay about how people in the Middle Ages viewed the night sky, and it’s about a mentality so totally removed from the campaign mentality that it’s like a refreshing dip in a cool and cleansing pool.

The essay, which appeared in Books & Culture, is called “C. S. Lewis and the Star of Bethlehem,” by Michael Ward, a chaplain at Peterhouse College at Cambridge. It points out that while we moderns see space as a black, cold, mostly empty vastness, with planets and stars propelled by gravitational and other forces, Europeans in the Middle Ages saw a more intimate and magical place. The heavens, to them, were a ceiling of moving spheres, rippling with signs and symbols, and moved by the love of God. The medieval universe, Lewis wrote, “was tingling with anthropomorphic life, dancing, ceremonial, a festival not a machine.”

Et voila!

And have you heard about the new book by Joseph Pearce being published by Ignatius Press? In it Pearce argues that the Bard was a secret Catholic. I for one find that to be very exciting. I trust it's a credible argument, although I feel reasonably sure one that will not be readily accepted by the academic establishment.

Et voici!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

St. Irenaeus on the Eucharist, AD 200

But vain in every respect are they who despise the entire dispensation of God, and disallow the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption. But if this indeed do not attain salvation, then neither did the Lord redeem us with His blood, nor is the cup of the Eucharist the communion of His blood, nor the bread which we break the communion of His body. For blood can only come from veins and flesh, and whatsoever else makes up the substance of man, such as the Word of God was actually made. By His own blood he redeemed us, as also His apostle declares, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins." And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation, and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills. He has acknowledged the cup, which is a part of the creation, as His own blood, from which He bedews our blood; and the bread, also a part of the creation, He has established as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Saint Peter, Servant of his Brothers

Canterbury Tales offers a good summary of the Scriptural reasons for Catholics in the USA getting so excited about greeting their Holy Father in the faith last week, and the reasons why our allegiance follows him- as the inheritor of the Petrine ministry which Christ instituted for the Church- back to Rome:

"An investigation of the New Testament reveals that Peter is not just another apostle. Nor is he merely prima inter pares - first among equals. Rather, he is deeply conformed to the work and mission of Christ. He is, as we say, the vicar of Christ.

Peter’s name is mentioned 195 times in the New Testament – more than all the other Apostles combined."

Mt 16:18 – Jesus: "on this rock (Peter) I will build my Church."
Mt 16:19 – Jesus: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom…whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven."
Lk 22:32 – Jesus: Peter’s faith will strengthen his brethren
Jn 21:17 – Jesus: Peter is Christ’s chief shepherd who “feeds the sheep.”

Lk 24:34 – Peter is first apostle to see resurrected Christ
Mk 16:7 – angel sent to announce resurrection to Peter
Acts 1:13-26 – Peter oversees the election of Matthias
Acts 2:14 – Peter preaches the first apostolic sermon
Acts 3:6-7 – Peter performs the first apostolic miracle
Acts 8:21 – Peter excommunicates the first heretic
Acts 10:44-46 – Peter baptizes the first Gentile
Acts 15:7 – Peter presides over the first apostolic council
Acts 15:19 – Peter pronounces the first apostolic dogma
Gal 1:18 – Paul submits himself to Peter after his conversion

This family is always growing...join us! :)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pope Benedict Tidbits

...The spot for following the Pope's visit to the US seems to be here, at the blog Christ Our Hope: Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Journey to the United States. Awesome.

...I was moved to hear about the Holy Father's quietly planned meeting with victims of abuse yesterday. That paternal gesture is exactly what is needed for the real restoration of those who have been injured; the civil law of torts can offer nothing like it. As we have discussed before, the law of the land rightly reserves the right of self-adjudication to the hierarchical, sovereign body of the Church, and it is in light of this kind of prerogative that the Church can do what needs to be done to remedy the wrongs of some of her members.
Albert Mohler and +James Stanton offer Protestant reflections on the Papal visit here and here, respectively.

...And finally, overheard in Systematics last week:

UMC Prof: "Come on- what's really at stake for Catholics in accepting papal infallability?"

Catholic Prof: "... well... what's really at stake for Protestants in rejecting it?"

Pope Benedict On...

Address to Educators
Remarks by Pope Benedict XVI
The Catholic University of America
April 17, 2008
Your Eminences, Dear Brother Bishops, Distinguished Professors, Teachers and Educators,"How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news" (Rom 10:15-17).

With these words of Isaiah quoted by Saint Paul, I warmly greet each of you - bearers of wisdom - and through you the staff, students and families of the many and varied institutions of learning that you represent. It is my great pleasure to meet you and to share with you some thoughts regarding the nature and identity of Catholic education today. I especially wish to thank Father David O'Connell, President and Rector of the Catholic University of America. Your kind words of welcome are much appreciated. Please extend my heartfelt gratitude to the entire community - faculty, staff and students - of this University.

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord's disciples, the Church.

The dynamic between personal encounter, knowledge and Christian witness is integral to the diakonia of truth which the Church exercises in the midst of humanity. God's revelation offers every generation the opportunity to discover the ultimate truth about its own life and the goal of history. This task is never easy; it involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God's truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve. In this way, Christ's Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). Set against personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.

Dear friends, the history of this nation includes many examples of the Church's commitment in this regard. The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. Some, like Saint Katharine Drexel, devoted their lives to educating those whom others had neglected - in her case, African Americans and Native Americans. Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

Some today question the Church's involvement in education, wondering whether her resources might be better placed elsewhere. Certainly in a nation such as this, the State provides ample opportunities for education and attracts committed and generous men and women to this honorable profession. It is timely, then, to reflect on what is particular to our Catholic institutions. How do they contribute to the good of society through the Church's primary mission of evangelization?

All the Church's activities stem from her awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself: in his goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal himself and to make known the hidden purpose of his will (cf. Eph 1:9; Dei Verbum, 2). God's desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provide the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life. This unique encounter is sustained within our Christian community: the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio, 31). It can be described as a move from "I" to "we", leading the individual to be numbered among God's people.

This same dynamic of communal identity - to whom do I belong? - vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school's Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction - do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self - intellect and will, mind and heart - to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God's creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.

From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary "crisis of truth" is rooted in a "crisis of faith". Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God's testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in - a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church.

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God's active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ's "being for others" (cf. ibid., 28).

The Church's primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with a nation's fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person's dignity. At times, however, the value of the Church's contribution to the public forum is questioned. It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another (cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, IV: DS 3017; St. Augustine, Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43). The Church's mission, in fact, involves her in humanity's struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis. Far from undermining the tolerance of legitimate diversity, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus attainable, and helps to keep public debate rational, honest and accountable. Similarly the Church never tires of upholding the essential moral categories of right and wrong, without which hope could only wither, giving way to cold pragmatic calculations of utility which render the person little more than a pawn on some ideological chess-board.

With regard to the educational forum, the diakonia of truth takes on a heightened significance in societies where secularist ideology drives a wedge between truth and faith. This division has led to a tendency to equate truth with knowledge and to adopt a positivistic mentality which, in rejecting metaphysics, denies the foundations of faith and rejects the need for a moral vision. Truth means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her the entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being. This optimistic vision is found in our Christian faith because such faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, God's creative Reason, which in the Incarnation, is revealed as Goodness itself. Far from being just a communication of factual data - "informative" - the loving truth of the Gospel is creative and life-changing - "performative" (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). With confidence, Christian educators can liberate the young from the limits of positivism and awaken receptivity to the truth, to God and his goodness. In this way you will also help to form their conscience which, enriched by faith, opens a sure path to inner peace and to respect for others.

It comes as no surprise, then, that not just our own ecclesial communities but society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators. This places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity. More and more people - parents in particular - recognize the need for excellence in the human formation of their children. As Mater et Magistra, the Church shares their concern. When nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive, the ultimate criterion of judgment becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individual's immediate wishes. The objectivity and perspective, which can only come through a recognition of the essential transcendent dimension of the human person, can be lost. Within such a relativistic horizon the goals of education are inevitably curtailed. Slowly, a lowering of standards occurs. We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of 'risk', bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.

How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call "intellectual charity". This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. Indeed, the dignity of education lies in fostering the true perfection and happiness of those to be educated. In practice "intellectual charity" upholds the essential unity of knowledge against the fragmentation which ensues when reason is detached from the pursuit of truth. It guides the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do. Here they will experience "in what" and "in whom" it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.

Dear friends, I wish to conclude by focusing our attention specifically on the paramount importance of your own professionalism and witness within our Catholic universities and schools. First, let me thank you for your dedication and generosity. I know from my own days as a professor, and I have heard from your Bishops and officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education, that the reputation of Catholic institutes of learning in this country is largely due to yourselves and your predecessors. Your selfless contributions - from outstanding research to the dedication of those working in inner-city schools - serve both your country and the Church. For this I express my profound gratitude.

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution's life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.

I wish also to express a particular word of encouragement to both lay and Religious teachers of catechesis who strive to ensure that young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith. Religious education is a challenging apostolate, yet there are many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and practice it with vigor. If this awakening is to grow, teachers require a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. They must also be ready to lead the commitment made by the entire school community to assist our young people, and their families, to experience the harmony between faith, life and culture.

Here I wish to make a special appeal to Religious Brothers, Sisters and Priests: do not abandon the school apostolate; indeed, renew your commitment to schools especially those in poorer areas. In places where there are many hollow promises which lure young people away from the path of truth and genuine freedom, the consecrated person's witness to the evangelical counsels is an irreplaceable gift. I encourage the Religious present to bring renewed enthusiasm to the promotion of vocations. Know that your witness to the ideal of consecration and mission among the young is a source of great inspiration in faith for them and their families.

To all of you I say: bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy. With Saint Augustine, let us say: "we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher" (Sermons, 23:2). With these sentiments of communion, I gladly impart to you, your colleagues and students, and to your families, my Apostolic Blessing.

Pope Benedict On...

The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI:
An assault upon relativism
The materialist humanists are winning — or have, perhaps, already won — the battle for possession of the moral conscience of the modern western world. The issues involved should have been brought into focus by public debate over the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, but in reality all the debate has done is to demonstrate how little understanding there is, how insensitive the modern world has become to attitudes to human life that posit the existence of external standards of judgment or of non-material values. The materialist humanists are winning — or have, perhaps, already won — the battle for possession of the moral conscience of the modern western world. The issues involved should have been brought into focus by public debate over the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, but in reality all the debate has done is to demonstrate how little understanding there is, how insensitive the modern world has become to attitudes to human life that posit the existence of external standards of judgment or of non-material values.
The Catholic Church is now conventionally referred to as a kind of obscurantist block to enlightenment and progressive advance; the Anglicans in general seem silent on the major issues, either out of internal incoherence or a disinclination to become enveloped in controversy — and actually acquiesce in the various projects of the secular humanists through the governmental ‘ethical’ committees to which they have access. Modern morality is utilitarian: the highest good that can be imagined is calculated according to what men and women, and ‘expert opinion’, most judge conducive to material welfare and security. It is emphatically the ends which justify the means. Into this darkening world, in which pleasure has replaced serious purpose as the goal of social being, it seems to be the papacy which persists in referring, still, to truly transcendent values. So, as it happens, does non-westernised Islam — and it is therefore no surprise that the present Pope places a priority on seeking to open the way to exploration of common beliefs between Catholic Christianity and Islamic religious culture.
Professor Rowland’s study of Benedict XVI’s thought, drawn from his addresses and writings, is an important, notably intelligent and stimulating introduction. It is not as ‘accessible’ as Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, declares in his foreword, for the simple reason that non-theologians will find this quite a tough read, especially when it comes to exposition of differing interpretations of Aquinas. There are few concessions to the modern penchant for instant comprehension. The study is at its most accessible, however, in showing the continuities and differences between John Paul II and Benedict. Both men recognise the extent of moral and spiritual decline — the individualising of religion, the material welfare priorities, the false ‘spirituality’ derived by representing private emotional sensation as the substance of faith, the replacement of objective moral law by self-gratification, the pagan indulgence of sexual practice as an end in itself.
Reading this account of Ratzinger’s assault upon the relativism of the modern world is like recognising the materials of a new Syllabus of Errors, and like the 19th-century original it is likely that his penetrating insights will be dismissed by modern commentators (many of them, unhappily, inside the Christian churches) as simply a measure of what it is like to be left behind in the march of intellect. There will be no meeting of minds. This is nowhere more lucidly demonstrated than in what he has to say about human sexuality. Traditional Christian teaching had always upheld the dignity and meaning of sexual commission, but the instruction children are given today is all about avoiding unwanted pregnancies. It is humans who are demeaned in the process, and when individuals treat sexuality as merely an occasion for pleasure, men and women themselves become less and less acquainted with higher purpose — ‘the increasingly vacuous entertainments of leisure-time society’.
Ratzinger exhorts liberal élites to recognise that the rule of law must itself be based on solid foundations, not on the will of the people’. Modern society, however, is moving at a frightening speed in the opposite direction. Electronic technology has enabled a push-button instant populism which is at its most scaring in the area of moral perception. The people want welfare and security, and politicians assist them in defining those ends without recourse to serious moral purpose.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I, for one, wouldn't have noticed

Um . . . Did anyone even know that PM Gordon Brown was also visiting the United States this week?
(Does anyone care?)

Pope Benedict On...II

The Holy Father will be addressing Catholic theologians, academic faculty, and heads of Catholic universities today, so here are some academic prospects that make this theologian's mouth water:

"The Pope is planning to rehabilitate Martin Luther - whose actions instigated the Protestant Reformation – by arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity but only to purge the Church of corrupt practices.

Benedict XVI will issue his findings on the 16th-century German theologian after discussing him at the papal summer residence, Castelgandolfo, during his annual seminar of 40 fellow theologians, the Ratzinger Schülerkreis.

Luther was and condemned for heresy and excommunicated in 1521 by Pope Leo X, who had initially dismissed him as “a drunken German” and predicted he would “change his mind when sober”.

Vatican insiders say the 80-year-old Pope - himself born in Germany - will argue that his countryman was not a heretic after all."

More here. And here.

HT Texanglican.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope Benedict's On... Day I

A Report from the Family Research Council:

Pope Benedict XVI spent his first full day in Washington, D.C. today with intense media coverage, commentary and protests, some of it depressingly familiar. The Huffington Post published an obscure history professor's diatribe titled "Pope Should Start 'Spiritual Renewal' with Bisexual God." Pollsters built up to the Papal visit with their usual reports suggesting that U.S. Catholics differ with their church on such issues as abortion and civil unions for homosexuals. Noisy protests on D.C. streets heaped scorn on the Pope because of the child sexual abuse scandals, which have taken a heavy toll on the victims and provided opponents of the Catholic Church's moral voice with a new means to cudgel it into silence.

In the former Cardinal Ratzinger, the critics have a target whose career has been as closely identified as possible with that moral voice; it is highly unlikely that he will be quiet now, and this is clearly what worries the critics most.

Even before his plane touched down at Andrews Air Force Base yesterday, Benedict XVI spoke of the "shame" occasioned by the sex abuse scandals in America and his resolve that they will not recur. Greeted by President Bush and a massive crowd at the White House this morning, the Pope heard a chorus of Happy Birthday as he celebrates his 81st. That music must have been sweet to his ears, but even sweeter must have been President Bush's hopeful words about human life, as he told the nation, "In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred and that each of us is willed, each of us is loved, and each of us is necessary."


More Fun: Some hopeful faculty at an obscure little place called Milksap College (?) has forayed outside of his field again, and without doing his rant the honor of linking to it, I give you the best that the critics have got so far... or so it seems?

"On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI asked the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray that his first visit to the United States as pontiff this week would "be a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans." Surely spiritual renewal would be beneficial to all of us -- not least the pope and his Church.

Benedict's visit is an appropriate time for American Catholics to call upon him to recognize that spiritual renewal, like charity, begins at home. The pope must take action to revive a Church in desperate need of revolutionary renewal by pushing significant reform in the area of its largest failings: policies concerning women and sex. Faced in recent years with what may be its greatest crisis since the abuses of the Renaissance papacy five hundred years ago stimulated the Protestant Reformation, the Church has to seize the opportunity to reverse two thousand years of misguided views on women.

This pope's history offers little hope that he will do so. He was, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the principal author of the Vatican's 2004 letter to bishops, "On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World." In that document the Church once more chose to blame the victim rather than to examine its own major role in the problem.

Modern feminism is the trouble, the old men who cling to power in Rome contend. "Faced with the abuse of power," the Vatican letter complained of feminism, "the answer for women is to seek power." Well, yes. And if the men of the Church--and men more generally--had not been abusing power for thousands of years, there would be no need for women to seek ways to redress the balance.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the homily Cardinal Ratzinger gave on the day before the convening of the conclave that selected him as pope. He denounced a "dictatorship of relativism" that, he contended, threatens to undermine the fundamental teachings of Christianity. What Benedict XVI and other anti-progressive Catholics fail to realize is that the current teachings of the Church on a host of interrelated issues -- women priests, clerical celibacy, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, and, most basic of all, the sex of God -- are themselves the result of the Church at various times in the past having been, in Ratzinger's words the day before he became pope, "tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching" to conform to the practices and prejudices of societies now long gone.

What Pope Benedict XVI should, but almost certainly will not, do is call a council of the Church to address these intertwined issues and to recognize that the Church's positions on them are not based on the teachings of Jesus. The Church established from the time of St. Paul onward was set up as a No-Woman's Land. The general views on the inferiority of women come from Paul's interpretation of the literally incredible story of the creation of Eve from Adam, a story that men had made up to overcome their feelings of inferiority because of women's capacity to give birth. The ban on women priests also emanates from Paul's reliance on Genesis and from the Early Church Fathers' rejection of the role of women around Jesus and particularly the centrality of Mary Magdalene as one equal to St. Peter.

Priestly celibacy was not established as a requirement until the Middle Ages and was based on the belief that women are unclean because they menstruate (another indication of the envy of female capacities that is the root of all the restrictions men place on women). When Thomas Aquinas declared in the thirteenth century that "woman is defective and misbegotten," he was echoing Paul, Genesis, and Aristotle -- not Jesus.

The Church's opposition to birth control and to abortion even early in pregnancy is largely an outgrowth of its all-male composition and those males' attempts to degrade women's physical powers by asserting that women and the intercourse into which they putatively tempt men are necessary evils ("It is well for a man not to touch a woman," Paul instructed the Christians of Corinth), the only purpose of which is procreation. The condemnation of homosexuals is based entirely on Old Testament rules established by men who feared anything that placed in question their insistence on the polarity of the sexes.

The idea that God is solely male is the work of the Church Fathers who chose which gospel accounts to include in the official New Testament and excluded all the Gnostic Gospels that contain references to an androgynous God, and of the bishops who met at Constantinople in 381 and modified the Creed to say that the Holy Spirit is male. The idea that a Creator could be of only one sex is absurd on its face. Yet this nonsensical belief, which actually diminishes God, has been one of the main bases for the subordination of women and values associated with them -- precisely the values taught by Jesus -- throughout the history of the Church.

The bottom line is that none of the Church's positions on women and sex come from the teachings of Jesus. All of them are the products of the very relativism that the current pope decries. The relativism of an earlier day has become the dogma of today.

A popular hymn asserts that the Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ. The truth, however, is that since the early centuries of the religion that took up the name of Christianity, the Church's one foundation has been male insecurity and its consequent subordination of women. Peter may have been the rock upon which Jesus sought to build his Church, but the rock upon which those who built Christianity in the early centuries after Jesus was the misogyny of their societies. Benedict XVI needs to lead the Church in a true revolution: a circling back to the actual teachings of Jesus and away from the perversions of those teachings by the early Church Fathers and their successors.

During the second week of his papacy in 1978, John Paul I sensibly declared that God "is a Mother as well as a Father." Eighteen days later John Paul I was dead, only 33 days after his election. Despite that unfortunate example and his own stance against desperately needed reform, Benedict XVI owes it to Catholics to take the bold steps needed to break the hold on the Church of earlier flings with relativism and to bring the institution he heads into line both with the needs of the modern world and with the teachings of Jesus."

Ugh. Milksap College.

Pope Benedict On... I.

While the Holy Father is stateside, I think I just might devote posting here to reflections on Benedict XVI and his predecessors. I'll be drawing from older posts as well as from other blogs to highlight some themes in this Pope's pastoral theology, so feel free to email us with suggestions.

Pope Benedict on Marriage:
Key to World Peace

A new analysis entitled "Pope Benedict XVI on Marriage: A Compendium" and published by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy on the eve of Benedict's historic U.S. visit, finds that in less than three years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken publicly about marriage on 111 occasions, connecting marriage to such overarching themes as human rights, world peace, and the conversation between faith and reason.

"Over and over again he has made it clear that the marriage and family debate is central--not peripheral--to understanding the human person, and defending our human dignity," says Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

For example, when receiving the credentials of the new U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for America's recognition of the important of a dialogue of faith and faiths in the public square and linked this to respect not only for religious freedom but for marriage as the union of husband and wife:

"I cannot fail to note with gratitude the importance which the United States has attributed to interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a positive force for peacemaking. . . . The American people's historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse and in shedding light on the inherent moral dimension of social issues-a role at times contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life and public discourse-is reflected in the efforts of so many of your fellow-citizens and government leaders to ensure legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death, and the safeguarding of the institution of marriage, acknowledged as a stable union between a man and a woman, and that of the family."

Pope Benedict devoted about half of his message for the January 1 World Day of Peace to the significance of marriage in developing a culture of peace:

Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace. This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.

Marriage essential to world peace? This may strike American ears as an oddity. If so, Benedict has made clear it is not an unintentional one. On September21, 2007, in an address to participants in a conference of the Executive Committee of Centrist Democratic International, Pope Benedict prefigured the same theme:

"There are those who maintain that human reason is incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore of pursuing the good that corresponds to personal dignity. There are some who believe that it is legitimate to destroy human life in its earliest or final stages. Equally troubling is the growing crisis of the family, which is the fundamental nucleus of society based on the indissoluble bond of marriage between a man and a woman. Experience has shown that when the truth about man is subverted or the foundation of the family undermined, peace itself is threatened and the rule of law is compromised, leading inevitably to forms of injustice and violence."

-"The short pontificate of Benedict XVI is already a standing rebuke to those voices of our time who seek to make us ashamed or embarrassed of caring about marriage and sexual issues, who try to get us to view the contemporary marriage debate as merely a distraction from more important issues," notes Gallagher. "Pope Benedict clearly connects life and marriage, the human person in the human family, with the most fundamental international issues of peace and human rights facing our times."

More here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

...The hagiography goes that when the mighty and entrancing Lucifer rose up to call an army against the glory of God, he was countered by one archangel who led the elect angels to victory. And although this archangel is depicted grandly, as a warrior who defeats dragons, there is a lovely tradition that recounts that Michael was only a small angel, who defeated the evil one not by might, but by the word of his testimony. When Lucifer called, Michael countered with his own name, the Hebrew phrase micha-el: who is like the Lord? And this was the battle cry that won.

The Church invokes him now, as her defender, as the peacemaker who prohibits divisions, and as the consecrator of places to repent in.

An angellic hagiography bears some attention. First, the story serves a useful theodical purpose in the grammar of the faith, by reminding us that though evil is a personal force, it is no rival to the personal God; the Evil One is the antagonist of the holy angels merely, and poses no threat or claim against God almighty.

Secondly, the story of Michael's confession serves as a kind of primodial reference to the embodied life of the Church that Catholics honor; through God's prior and electing grace, combined with the cooperative obedience of the creature, God's will is enacted by a particular person, over and over again. The confession instantiates the confessor as God's own agent, and it is not so much the confession that is canonized, but the person who utters it: Michael's battle cry summons the armies of Heaven and identifies him as its general, Mary's fiat opens her womb for the incarnation of God, Peter's submission launches him into the shepherding authority anticipated by Adam, Moses, and David. Etc.

Most of all, Michael's submission makes him peacemaker and restorer. As the author of Ephesians sings, division and its attendent ilnesses are not the result of woundedness, but of rebellion; and Michael unites the host of Heaven by acting with the humility that is opposite Lucifer's pride and treason. Augustine describes the scene extensively in the City of God. All divions began in Heaven; the Fall occurs long before the creation of humanity, at the point where Satan envies God's authority. The result is deprivation: "Satan fell not from a state he had received, but from what he would have received had he chosen to submit to God." (Super Genesis xi.23) Thus the will of God, the freedom of the creature, and the rightful, flourishing unity that reflects the life of the Trinity is restored by nothing less than obedience, since unity and flourishing were first undone by rebellion. Is there something to the fact that the same pope promulgated an urgent prayer to this archangel and a decisive codification of Catholic instincts about schisms in the same decade? I sometimes think there is.

It's also interesting to me that Michael's submission is expressed in the Hebraism of an open-ended question: who is like the Lord? The rhetoric bespeaks the kind of obedience that preceeds understanding (anyone read At the Back of the North Wind lately?) In other words, the defender of the Church wins the day through one open-ended, trusting question that refutes the endless question-begging of the Evil One. Satan, it seems, will always be asking whether or not God really did say...

Michael shows us, simply, that the proper reply refers us not to a syllogism, but to God Himself- who is like the Lord?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Veni Creator

Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not appearing above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow
covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.
I am only a man: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church
lift its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
not me—after all I have some decency—
and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.

—Czeslaw Milosz, 1961

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

David Bentley Hart: Conclusions on the Analogia Entis

I'm pretty sure he accused Barth of being an Arian.

The thing about hearing Hart lecture is that you become transfixed; more of the serious theologians should earn their keep by becoming such masterful rhetoricians. But when I did brace myself to descend from the heights to which Hart took us, even though he was not at all feeling well, I was amazed by his suggestion that- rather than off-handedly deciding that the analogia entis is inessential- Hart urged us that rather, a robust construal of the possibilities for analogy between God and creatures is "synonomous" with Christianity..."an expression not of presumption but of delighted response to the revelation in Christ."

Hart first congratulated Bruce Marshall for pointing out that, as Aquinas understood it, an analogy is analogy is an analogy to the end: it's a matter of grammar and logic, while (of course) the ontological reality remains that God is utterly transcendent and alien to the common canopy of being that creatures inhabit, with all the distinctions and comparisons that we may use to describe it. There is no such God who falls within our universe; we would thus become an abyss to ourselves. Our own contingent essence lies beyond us, grounded in the Being who is beyond. Etc.

And yet, against fussy allegations that the analogia entis might seem to posit us in an Object:object relationship with the Creator, we recall that God remains utterly incarnate in Jesus, and that Being itself has thus been seriously disrupted.

This is Barth's emphasis, of course; Christ is the analogy between God and the creature. What Hart insisted is that the analogia entis that Barth wished to discard is necessary for the preservation of coherent intellectual obedience to Chalcedonian Christology- because really, the Incarnation has undone any sense of contradiction between God and the creature. Chalcedeon called the Church to worship a God so infinite that He could become Man without ceasing to be God, and without erasing the Man. Amen.

Here, Hart recalled Arianism- the heretical idea of a God that required the ancient metaphysics of the Logos as a secondary, subordinate divine principle, which was sent to connect the world below to God through itself. This would be a Being given to the limited creature by which the creature might overcome an infinite proportional difference, a kind of second moment of the real from the "first" really real Principle. This Logos reduced itself in scale to touch the finite and thereby translated divinity to humanity. The idea is full of a kind of benevolence, but recall that such a Logos was not worshipped as God proper, but was honored only as God with respect to the lower realities who needed its mediating function for the "diffusion" of the divinity in the world. God Himself, in this scheme, never actually touches the world.

...And so the world got a bland metaphysics that operated on an henology of the One: a Being beyond all that emanated into all things to give them being by annhialiting their creaturely particularities and overcoming the supposed rivalry between the finite and the infinite. As the creatures were supposed to re-approach Absolute Being through the mediating Logos, the goal was to return to the only One Being. And clearly, such a metaphysic does not admit of "analogy."

On the contrary, Nicene Christianity made some corrections. We've revised our grammar of the Logos to honor Him not as a subservient, mediating factor, but as very God from very God, who is essentially Himself in His manifestation and in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. The Incarnation of Christ has added new confidence to our joyful confession that the utterly transcendent God made creation to be, as the act which truly reflects His simple, eternal, abundant providence, such that the particularity of the creature is not to be seen as a tragic alienation to be overcome, but the joyful recollection that we were called to be from nothing, so that becoming what we are is to become more real, not less. The Word has been made flesh (as Barth would put it, in the body of this Man) and it's in Him that we, in our particularity, can be made one with God... so let the analogies roll.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Analogia Entis Anecdotes

1. Bruce Marshall stayed true to form and illustrated one of his points with reference to a late arrival-- poor guy.

2. Fr. Richard Schenk quipped that 1) the fear of Scholasticism is the sign of a false prophet and 2) that the analogia entis controversy launches us not so much into a paradigm of Protestant/Catholic divisions, but into a cooperative "fugue" (shades of Miroslav).

3. General Consensus? We recalled that everyone is just so tired of turning these considerations on 16th century questions. Read the Joint Declaration on Justification. As Ratzinger told us, we've got plenty of good answers to 16th century questions... but now people wonder whether there is a God at all. Or a Jesus. Or a Church. And regardless, feminists won't let us speak freely about them anyway.

4. Bruce McCormack got visibly steamed at a student's ambitious suggestion that Barth has neither an ecclesiology nor a sacramentology; Martin Bieler saved the day by recalling that Balthasar once told him personally that he (Balthasar) had written everything for Barth- as in "I wrote it all for Barth." Wow.

5. Lobbying: there seems to be a sort of synthesizing mood with regard to old distinctions between juridical and ontological realities; the delightful Olli- Pekka Vainio has just successfully defended Justification and Participation in Christ: The Development of the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification from Luther to the Formula of Concord, 1580.

Folks were also talking about K. Todd Billings' Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ. Awesome.

6. All hats off to Hart, who offered to sing Sinatra tunes in lieu of offering his (unfinished) presentation, on account of excruciating back pain and extensive medication... so his talk was pure gift.

7. Saints invoked: Maximus the Confessor, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Nicene Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa, and (in time) John Webster.

8. Speakers' Bios are here.

9. Yours truly was whisked off to Baltimore on Saturday morning with George Weigel and Cardinal William Henry Keeler for a tour of the Baltimore Basilica and a brief conversation on Anglican/Catholic dialogue... more about that later, maybe. Just had to brag a little.

10. Do you have Analogia Entis Anecdotes? Add them in the comments.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Analogia Entis Conference A.

For all of you who are awaiting promised updates from this weekend's conference at the Dominican House of Studies, my apologies! It turns out that there was just not that much of an internet connection for blogging at the little B&B where my friends and I were staying off the campus of Catholic University. Now that I'm back, I hope to be posting daily reflections from the conference and papers, beginning on Wednesday.

It was an incredible time- unlike any other, if you'll excuse the pun- and certainly one of the year's highlights in theological conversation. The tone was reverent and charitable, and climaxed with a breathtaking set of remarks by David Bentley Hart. Needless to say, Bruce Marshall's presentation was the best. And, Bruce McCormack indicated that he had changed his mind.

For today and tomorrow, a few notes from my trip, beginning with photos of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and the Dominican House of Studies...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Analogia Entis Continued

MM is off to the Analogy of Being Conference at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. As you can see, it's an all-star cast. Faith and Theology offers one of the best synopses of the issues available.

Millinerd explains a crux of Protestant versus Catholic understanding, here.

This is the notion that the very being (entis) of the created world offers an analogy by which we can (in a very limited way) comprehend God. For example, if you've looked at a sunset and wondered that perhaps God is similarly beautiful, you've intuitively employed what theologians call the analogia entis.

As Bonaventure puts it: "All created things of the sensible world lead the mind of the contemplator and wise man to eternal God... They are the shades, the resonances, the pictures of that efficient, exemplifying, and ordering art; they are the tracks, simulacra, and spectacles; they are divinely given signs set before us for the purpose of seeing God. They are exemplifications set before our still unrefined and sense-oriented minds, so that by the sensible things which they see they might be transferred to the intelligible which they cannot see, as if by signs to the signified" (Itinerarium mentis ad Deum, 2.11).

The analogia entis comes under severe Protestant attack. Why?

The 20th century Protestant theologian Karl Barth, in an overstatement that recalls Luther's remarks on the Mass below, called the analogia entis the "invention of the antichrist"(x). I imagine he did so because of its potential to obscure the mediating role that belongs to Christ alone. Instead Barth proposed the analogia fidei, (the "analogy of faith"), meaning the only link between ourselves and God is one of faith in Christ, recalling of course the Reformation's sola fide. In so doing, Barth burned all bridges but one, remembering that there is "one mediator" and "one foundation."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Prayer for the Feast of John Paul II

Papal biographer George Weigel, among others, has been promulgating this:

O Blessed Trinity, we thank You for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness of Your fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Spirit of love to shine through him. Trusting fully in your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he gave us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd and showed us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you. Grant us, by his intercession and according to your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.

Pope Benedict's Easter Sermon

MM's Note: I've skimmed this, and it's fabulous. It's fabulous because it's 1) a thorough synopsis of interior conversion to Jesus through the means of grace given to the Church, 2) which are very very well summarized here. Lux will find a lot of his favorite imagery if he reads it. Enjoy.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his farewell discourse, Jesus announced his imminent death and resurrection to his disciples with these mysterious words: "I go away, and I will come to you", he said (Jn 14:28). Dying is a "going away". Even if the body of the deceased remains behind, he himself has gone away into the unknown, and we cannot follow him (cf. Jn 13:36). Yet in Jesus’s case, there is something utterly new, which changes the world. In the case of our own death, the "going away" is definitive, there is no return. Jesus, on the other hand, says of his death: "I go away, and I will come to you." It is by going away that he comes. His going ushers in a completely new and greater way of being present. By dying he enters into the love of the Father. His dying is an act of love. Love, however, is immortal. Therefore, his going away is transformed into a new coming, into a form of presence which reaches deeper and does not come to an end. During his earthly life, Jesus, like all of us, was tied to the external conditions of bodily existence: to a determined place and a determined time. Bodiliness places limits on our existence. We cannot be simultaneously in two different places. Our time is destined to come to an end. And between the "I" and the "you" there is a wall of otherness. To be sure, through love we can somehow enter the other’s existence. Nevertheless, the insurmountable barrier of being different remains in place. Yet Jesus, who is now totally transformed through the act of love, is free from such barriers and limits. He is able not only to pass through closed doors in the outside world, as the Gospels recount (cf. Jn 20:19). He can pass through the interior door separating the "I" from the "you", the closed door between yesterday and today, between the past and the future. On the day of his solemn entry into Jerusalem, when some Greeks asked to see him, Jesus replied with the parable of the grain of wheat which has to pass through death in order to bear much fruit. In this way he foretold his own destiny: these words were not addressed simply to one or two Greeks in the space of a few minutes. Through his Cross, through his going away, through his dying like the grain of wheat, he would truly arrive among the Greeks, in such a way that they could see him and touch him through faith. His going away is transformed into a coming, in the Risen Lord’s universal manner of presence, in which he is there yesterday, today and for ever, in which he embraces all times and all places. Now he can even surmount the wall of otherness that separates the "I" from the "you". This happened with Paul, who describes the process of his conversion and his Baptism in these words: "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). Through the coming of the Risen One, Paul obtained a new identity. His closed "I" was opened. Now he lives in communion with Jesus Christ, in the great "I" of believers who have become – as he puts it – "one in Christ" (Gal 3:28).

So, dear friends, it is clear that, through Baptism, the mysterious words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper become present for you once more. In Baptism, the Lord enters your life through the door of your heart. We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another. He passes through all these doors. This is the reality of Baptism: he, the Risen One, comes; he comes to you and joins his life with yours, drawing you into the open fire of his love. You become one, one with him, and thus one among yourselves. At first this can sound rather abstract and unrealistic. But the more you live the life of the baptized, the more you can experience the truth of these words. Believers – the baptized – are never truly cut off from one another. Continents, cultures, social structures or even historical distances may separate us. But when we meet, we know one another on the basis of the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope, the same love, which form us. Then we experience that the foundation of our lives is the same. We experience that in our inmost depths we are anchored in the same identity, on the basis of which all our outward differences, however great they may be, become secondary. Believers are never totally cut off from one another. We are in communion because of our deepest identity: Christ within us. Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close (cf. Eph 2:13).

The Church expresses the inner reality of Baptism as the gift of a new identity through the tangible elements used in the administration of the sacrament. The fundamental element in Baptism is water; next, in second place, is light, which is used to great effect in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Let us take a brief look at these two elements. In the final chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, there is a statement about Christ which does not speak directly of water, but the Old Testament allusions nevertheless point clearly to the mystery of water and its symbolic meaning. Here we read: "The God of peace … brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant" (13:20). In this sentence, there is an echo of the prophecy of Isaiah, in which Moses is described as the shepherd whom the Lord brought up from the water, from the sea (cf. 63:11). Jesus appears as the new, definitive Shepherd who brings to fulfilment what Moses had done: he leads us out of the deadly waters of the sea, out of the waters of death. In this context we may recall that Moses’ mother placed him in a basket in the Nile. Then, through God’s providence, he was taken out of the water, carried from death to life, and thus – having himself been saved from the waters of death – he was able to lead others through the sea of death. Jesus descended for us into the dark waters of death. But through his blood, so the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, he was brought back from death: his love united itself to the Father’s love, and thus from the abyss of death he was able to rise to life. Now he raises us from death to true life. This is exactly what happens in Baptism: he draws us towards himself, he draws us into true life. He leads us through the often murky sea of history, where we are frequently in danger of sinking amid all the confusion and perils. In Baptism he takes us, as it were, by the hand, he leads us along the path that passes through the Red Sea of this life and introduces us to everlasting life, the true and upright life. Let us grasp his hand firmly! Whatever may happen, whatever may befall us, let us not lose hold of his hand! Let us walk along the path that leads to life.

In the second place, there is the symbol of light and fire. Gregory of Tours recounts a practice that in some places was preserved for a long time, of lighting the new fire for the celebration of the Easter Vigil directly from the sun, using a crystal. Light and fire, so to speak, were received anew from heaven, so that all the lights and fires of the year could be kindled from them. This is a symbol of what we are celebrating in the Easter Vigil. Through his radical love for us, in which the heart of God and the heart of man touched, Jesus Christ truly took light from heaven and brought it to the earth – the light of truth and the fire of love that transform man’s being. He brought the light, and now we know who God is and what God is like. Thus we also know what our own situation is: what we are, and for what purpose we exist. When we are baptized, the fire of this light is brought down deep within ourselves. Thus, in the early Church, Baptism was also called the Sacrament of Illumination: God’s light enters into us; thus we ourselves become children of light. We must not allow this light of truth, that shows us the path, to be extinguished. We must protect it from all the forces that seek to eliminate it so as to cast us back into darkness regarding God and ourselves. Darkness, at times, can seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. Yet we are not called to darkness, but to light. In our baptismal promises, we rekindle this light, so to speak, year by year. Yes, I believe that the world and my life are not the product of chance, but of eternal Reason and eternal Love, they are created by Almighty God. Yes, I believe that in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, in his Cross and resurrection, the face of God has been revealed; that in him, God is present in our midst, he unites us and leads us towards our goal, towards eternal Love. Yes, I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us the word of truth and enlightens our hearts; I believe that in the communion of the Church we all become one Body with the Lord, and thus we encounter his resurrection and eternal life. The Lord has granted us the light of truth. This light is also fire, a powerful force coming from God, a force that does not destroy, but seeks to transform our hearts, so that we truly become men of God, and so that his peace can become active in this world.

In the early Church there was a custom whereby the Bishop or the priest, after the homily, would cry out to the faithful: "Conversi ad Dominum" – turn now towards the Lord. This meant in the first place that they would turn towards the East, towards the rising sun, the sign of Christ returning, whom we go to meet when we celebrate the Eucharist. Where this was not possible, for some reason, they would at least turn towards
the image of Christ in the apse, or towards the Cross, so as to orient themselves inwardly towards the Lord. Fundamentally, this involved an interior event; conversion, the turning of our soul towards Jesus Christ and thus towards the living God, towards the true light. Linked with this, then, was the other exclamation that still today, before the Eucharistic Prayer, is addressed to the community of the faithful: "Sursum corda" – "Lift up your hearts", high above the tangled web of our concerns, desires, anxieties and thoughtlessness – "Lift up your hearts, your inner selves!" In both exclamations we are summoned, as it were, to a renewal of our Baptism: Conversi ad Dominum – we must distance ourselves ever anew from taking false paths, onto which we stray so often in our thoughts and actions. We must turn ever anew towards him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must be converted ever anew, turning with our whole life towards the Lord. And ever anew we must allow our hearts to be withdrawn from the force of gravity, which pulls them down, and inwardly we must raise them high: in truth and love. At this hour, let us thank the Lord, because through the power of his word and of the holy Sacraments, he points us in the right direction and draws our heart upwards. Let us pray to him in these words: Yes, Lord, make us Easter people, men and women of light, filled with the fire of your love. Amen.

There is some fun commentary here, and to the author of which I send a grateful HT.