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Saturday, 21 March 2015

New Bishop of Arundel and Brighton

Bishop Richard Moth, Bishop of the Forces, has been bishop for about five and a half years over the armed forces.

Pray for him. He will be installed in late May.

Hatred of the Truth

Some Muslim scholars claims that the Jews and Catholics took ideas from the Koran in order to write the Talmud and the Bible. Of course, we know this is bogus history. But, in order to prove this point, ancient Catholic sites are being systematically destroyed to remove evidence of the true history, that Mohammed got his ideas from himself, the Talmud and the Bible.

If one destroys physical evidence of truth, it is much harder to convert people to Catholicism, and much easier to convert people to Islam.

Simple. Blow up the monasteries. Destroy Jewish and Christian sites that defy revisionist history.

Today's Gospel

Today's Gospel deals with the authority of Christ.  A few bullet points.

  • Christ came on the scene from the outside of the establishment. This irritated those in the Sanhedrin as they had no power over Him.
  • All Jewish men knew their Scripture, and could point to Galilee as not the home of the Messiah. But, did anyone bother to ask Christ were He had been born?
  • Christ did not have the "credentials" to teach and preach. Neither did John the Baptist, but because they taught with authority, those who heard them were moved.
  • Envy and the fear of the loss of power caused those in the Sanhedrin to be afraid of Christ. And, as He was speaking the Truth and they had compromised the spirit of the Law and the Prophets, these men were on the defensive
  • Does this not remind us of so many chancery offices, and ministries in the Church which demand certifications for people to work who may have gifts from God without such certs?
  • Authority comes from God first, men second. 
  • Nicodemus tried, as one of two who were trying to support Christ, to stem this tide of bigotry Of course, because of God's plan for salvation, Nicodemus failed. The harden wills of the Sanhedrin turned against their own God.

John 7:40-52Douay-Rheims 

40 Of that multitude therefore, when they had heard these words of his, some said: This is the prophet indeed.
41 Others said: This is the Christ. But some said: Doth the Christ come out of Galilee?
42 Doth not the scripture say: That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem the town where David was?
43 So there arose a dissension among the people because of him.
44 And some of them would have apprehended him: but no man laid hands on him.
45 The ministers therefore came to the chief priests and the Pharisees. And they said to them: Why have you not brought him?
46 The ministers answered: Never did man speak like this man.
47 The Pharisees therefore answered them: Are you also seduced?
48 Hath any one of the rulers believed in him, or of the Pharisees?
49 But this multitude, that knoweth not the law, are accursed.
50 Nicodemus said to them, (he that came to him by night, who was one of them:)
51 Doth our law judge any man, unless it first hear him, and know what he doth?
52 They answered, and said to him: Art thou also a Galilean? Search the scriptures, and see, that out of Galilee a prophet riseth not

Detachment Again

A long time ago, I wrote in the perfection series about detachment.

When one truly becomes detached from one's own desires and no longer prefers something to something else, one can finally hear God.

People ask me, "How can I hear God."  I answer, "Become totally detached from everything."

In fact, imperfect love can be a distraction and is a sign of the lack of detachment. One can only truly love a person when one loves that person for the sake of Christ. One has to become detached from affections. One reason why so many marriages fail is the lack of detachment which allows one to love the other in the marriage freely.

This scares people, as they think that detachment means unlove. On the contrary, one is capable of real love, sacrificial love once one is detached. One loves more like God loves.

Too often, people cannot discern, (see my series on discerment), because they are too attached to people, things, places.

How can one know God's Will if one cannot determine what is from God and what is from the flesh, the world, or the devil? One learns how to determine God's working in one's life through detachment.

I write this for four men who are friends of mine and who are struggling with detachment. Not all of them read this blog, but I pray for them and ask that you do as well. They do not mind me referring to them in a general way, as it will help other men discern reality in their lives. These men are called to move on in their faith in a huge and demanding way. Without detachment, they cannot go on to the next stage of holiness to which God is calling them.

The same is true for each one of us. Without detachment even from our own desires, one cannot see what it is that God desires for our lives.

We must be detached so that we can hear God speaking to us in the quiet of prayer, and in the daily movements of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Hints from the Jesuits

Look at the last video on this page. The explanation of the examen is superb.

Something we can all do.

In case you missed this on Monday

An Aside in The Middle of A Series

The walk through Fides et Ratio is half-way accomplished. Caritas in Veritate comes next.

In the days gone by, encyclicals were read from the pulpit. With the coming of the printing press, encyclicals were made into pamphlets or little booklets and sold. This continued down to the present day, with one exception.

Many of the older encyclicals are out-of-print. I remember phoning a famous religious Catholic publishing house years ago for a copy of a 19th century encyclical and was told the house would no longer be printing that one, or any before the mid-20th century.

I was shocked, to be honest, that the one publishing company which had kept so many encyclicals in print was no longer committed to doing so.

Now, one has to look carefully for some encyclicals, all of which are infallible, of course, and not all of them are easily found online.

But here is a link to this excellent site, which I have used for this blog in the past.

If you are a homeschooling mom or dad, this site would be an important part of your curriculum sourcing. Other papal and Vatican documents may be found here as well.

The other great source on this superb site is the list of councils and the canons of these councils.

If there are any infallible or interesting teachings you want to know, please go to this site.

Church Councils
 1. The First General Council of Nicaea, 325
 2. The First General Council of Constantinople, 381
 3. The General Council of Ephesus, 431
 4. The General Council of Chalcedon, 451
 5. The Second General Council of Constantinople, 553
 6. The Third General Council of Constantinople, 680-681
 7. The Second General Council of Nicaea, 787
 8. The Fourth General Council of Constantinople, 869-70
 9. The First General Council of the Lateran, 1123
 10. The Second General Council of the Lateran, 1139
 11. The Third General Council of the Lateran, 1179
 12. The Fourth General Council of the Lateran, 1215
 13. The First General Council of Lyons, 1245
 14. The Second General Council of Lyons, 1274
 15. The General Council of Vienne, 1311-12
 16. The General Council of Constance, 1414-18
 17. The General Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence, 1431-45
 18. The Fifth General Council of the Lateran, 1512-17
 19. The General Council of Trent, 1545-63
 20. The First General Council of the Vatican, 1869-70
 21.Vatican II - 1962-1965

Knowledge of Divine Things Nineteen Fides et Ratio Eleven

The Church, like a good mother, has watched over the forms of philosophy, especially in this modern era of mega-confusion. St. John Paul II points out that at the First Vatican Council, the relationship between reason and faith was stated clearly in the Catholic context.

It is not only in recent times that the Magisterium of the Church has intervened to make its mind known with regard to particular philosophical teachings. It is enough to recall, by way of example, the pronouncements made through the centuries concerning theories which argued in favour of the pre-existence of the soul,56 or concerning the different forms of idolatry and esoteric superstition found in astrological speculations,57 without forgetting the more systematic pronouncements against certain claims of Latin Averroism which were incompatible with the Christian faith.58
If the Magisterium has spoken out more frequently since the middle of the last century, it is because in that period not a few Catholics felt it their duty to counter various streams of modern thought with a philosophy of their own. At this point, the Magisterium of the Church was obliged to be vigilant lest these philosophies developed in ways which were themselves erroneous and negative. The censures were delivered even-handedly: on the one hand,fideism 59 and radical traditionalism,60 for their distrust of reason's natural capacities, and, on the other, rationalism 61 and ontologism 62 because they attributed to natural reason a knowledge which only the light of faith could confer. The positive elements of this debate were assembled in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, in which for the first time an Ecumenical Council—in this case, the First Vatican Council—pronounced solemnly on the relationship between reason and faith. The teaching contained in this document strongly and positively marked the philosophical research of many believers and remains today a standard reference-point for correct and coherent Christian thinking in this regard.

To stray from Rome into pseudo-philosophies not based on Revelation or Tradition is to invite confusion. We see this in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the long list of "isms". And, yet, as adult Catholics, we need to learn how to argue these "isms" by recognizing why they include fallacious thinking.

All "isms" which seem so popular are based on either a faulty view of who man is or what the goal of man is. Materialism, for example, denies the spiritual life entirely, emphasizing that the here and now is all there is-only the material is real, not the spiritual, which simply does not exist for the materialists.

Remember that encyclicals are written for the entire Church, not just clerics. The popes speak to us in all of these words. St. John Paul II notes the progress of the First and Second Vatican Councils in dealing with questions of philosophy, with the happy resurgence of Thomism and Scholasticism form the pre-Thomist, Anselm, called the Father of Scholasticism.

...Pope Leo XIII with his Encyclical Letter Æterni Patris took a step of historic importance for the life of the Church, since it remains to this day the one papal document of such authority devoted entirely to philosophy. The great Pope revisited and developed the First Vatican Council's teaching on the relationship between faith and reason, showing how philosophical thinking contributes in fundamental ways to faith and theological learning.78More than a century later, many of the insights of his Encyclical Letter have lost none of their interest from either a practical or pedagogical point of view—most particularly, his insistence upon the incomparable value of the philosophy of Saint Thomas. A renewed insistence upon the thought of the Angelic Doctor seemed to Pope Leo XIII the best way to recover the practice of a philosophy consonant with the demands of faith. “Just when Saint Thomas distinguishes perfectly between faith and reason”, the Pope writes, “he unites them in bonds of mutual friendship, conceding to each its specific rights and to each its specific dignity”.79
58. The positive results of the papal summons are well known. Studies of the thought of Saint Thomas and other Scholastic writers received new impetus. Historical studies flourished, resulting in a rediscovery of the riches of Medieval thought, which until then had been largely unknown; and there emerged new Thomistic schools. With the use of historical method, knowledge of the works of Saint Thomas increased greatly, and many scholars had courage enough to introduce the Thomistic tradition into the philosophical and theological discussions of the day. The most influential Catholic theologians of the present century, to whose thinking and research the Second Vatican Council was much indebted, were products of this revival of Thomistic philosophy. Throughout the twentieth century, the Church has been served by a powerful array of thinkers formed in the school of the Angelic Doctor.

We know that St. John Paul II had a soft spot in his heart for phenomenology, but he uses Thomas actually more, even in this encyclical. The point is that the tradition of reason and faith moving together into the 21st century is a good sign of life in the Church. 

But, what happened, one might ask, between this encyclical written in 1998, and so full of optimism, and 2015? The saint encouraged philosophy in the seminaries, but I know of one seminary in which th studies of Aquinas are an option, not a requirement. 

59. Yet the Thomistic and neo-Thomistic revival was not the only sign of a resurgence of philosophical thought in culture of Christian inspiration. Earlier still, and parallel to Pope Leo's call, there had emerged a number of Catholic philosophers who, adopting more recent currents of thought and according to a specific method, produced philosophical works of great influence and lasting value. Some devised syntheses so remarkable that they stood comparison with the great systems of idealism. Others established the epistemological foundations for a new consideration of faith in the light of a renewed understanding of moral consciousness; others again produced a philosophy which, starting with an analysis of immanence, opened the way to the transcendent; and there were finally those who sought to combine the demands of faith with the perspective of phenomenological method. From different quarters, then, modes of philosophical speculation have continued to emerge and have sought to keep alive the great tradition of Christian thought which unites faith and reason.

...This idea of philosophy as an important basis for theological studies is not a new one in the Church-merely forgotten. I am happy to see that John Paul II mentions Suarez, who I like very much.  Sadly, real thinkers are still not being formed in the seminaries, and the previous lack of such a discipline was obvious last October on the synod floor.

I wish to repeat clearly that the study of philosophy is fundamental and indispensable to the structure of theological studies and to the formation of candidates for the priesthood. It is not by chance that the curriculum of theological studies is preceded by a time of special study of philosophy. This decision, confirmed by the Fifth Lateran Council,87 is rooted in the experience which matured through the Middle Ages, when the importance of a constructive harmony of philosophical and theological learning emerged. This ordering of studies influenced, promoted and enabled much of the development of modern philosophy, albeit indirectly. One telling example of this is the influence of the Disputationes Metaphysicae of Francisco Suárez, which found its way even into the Lutheran universities of Germany. Conversely, the dismantling of this arrangement has created serious gaps in both priestly formation and theological research. Consider, for instance, the disregard of modern thought and culture which has led either to a refusal of any kind of dialogue or to an indiscriminate acceptance of any kind of philosophy.

I trust most sincerely that these difficulties will be overcome by an intelligent philosophical and theological formation, which must never be lacking in the Church.

I suggest praying to this saint for the synod.

to be continued...

An Obvious Problem And An Obvious Choice: Knowledge of Divine Things Eighteen Fides et Ratio Ten

It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition. By the same token, reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio.

The very problem which I am addessing is exemplified by my readership in the past four days.

Sadly, readers of  the political posts outnumber readers to the philosophical ones 3:1, proving my point that people still want to put out brush fires instead of dealing with the forest fire. Also, it leaves those readers who are not interested in the basic questions to remain in lowly places of humility and complete obedience. This is the lay choice and always has been.

The laity has two choices: either be content to be lowly and not study, therefore not engaging in ministries of leadership, but remaining hidden and holy, in complete obedience in matters one does not understand, or tackling the studies necessary for an adult appropriation of the faith, reflecting, praying and still being obedient, but now in matters which one understands. One cannot act out of ignorance which one has allowed to be the norm because one does not want to pursue the hard questions.

The fact that the majority only wants to deal with action and not reflection highlights the weakness of the Church, especially in America, a land of "doers" not "be-ers".

Until reflection is preferred to action and until the ego is destroyed by humility in the knowledge of one's self, this problem will continue to exist and weaken the Church from within. Action follows knowledge and reflection and appropriation of knowledge, not before. Why do you think we are having the problems in the synod? Because too many of the clergy act without prayer, study, reflection...

And one cannot "cram" in the spiritual life of the intellect.

Where are the brilliant lay leaders in the Church who could be instructing our clerics at the synod on grace, sacramental theology, faith and reason?


Knowledge of Divine Things Part Seventeen Fides et Ratio Part Nine

No comment needed for this obvious section....

The drama of the separation of faith and reason45. With the rise of the first universities, theology came more directly into contact with other forms of learning and scientific research. Although they insisted upon the organic link between theology and philosophy, Saint Albert the Great and Saint Thomas were the first to recognize the autonomy which philosophy and the sciences needed if they were to perform well in their respective fields of research. From the late Medieval period onwards, however, the legitimate distinction between the two forms of learning became more and more a fateful separation. As a result of the exaggerated rationalism of certain thinkers, positions grew more radical and there emerged eventually a philosophy which was separate from and absolutely independent of the contents of faith. Another of the many consequences of this separation was an ever deeper mistrust with regard to reason itself. In a spirit both sceptical and agnostic, some began to voice a general mistrust, which led some to focus more on faith and others to deny its rationality altogether.In short, what for Patristic and Medieval thought was in both theory and practice a profound unity, producing knowledge capable of reaching the highest forms of speculation, was destroyed by systems which espoused the cause of rational knowledge sundered from faith and meant to take the place of faith.46. The more influential of these radical positions are well known and high in profile, especially in the history of the West. It is not too much to claim that the development of a good part of modern philosophy has seen it move further and further away from Christian Revelation, to the point of setting itself quite explicitly in opposition. This process reached its apogee in the last century. Some representatives of idealism sought in various ways to transform faith and its contents, even the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, into dialectical structures which could be grasped by reason. Opposed to this kind of thinking were various forms of atheistic humanism, expressed in philosophical terms, which regarded faith as alienating and damaging to the development of a full rationality. They did not hesitate to present themselves as new religions serving as a basis for projects which, on the political and social plane, gave rise to totalitarian systems which have been disastrous for humanity.In the field of scientific research, a positivistic mentality took hold which not only abandoned the Christian vision of the world, but more especially rejected every appeal to a metaphysical or moral vision. It follows that certain scientists, lacking any ethical point of reference, are in danger of putting at the centre of their concerns something other than the human person and the entirety of the person's life. Further still, some of these, sensing the opportunities of technological progress, seem to succumb not only to a market-based logic, but also to the temptation of a quasi-divine power over nature and even over the human being.As a result of the crisis of rationalism, what has appeared finally is nihilism. As a philosophy of nothingness, it has a certain attraction for people of our time. Its adherents claim that the search is an end in itself, without any hope or possibility of ever attaining the goal of truth. In the nihilist interpretation, life is no more than an occasion for sensations and experiences in which the ephemeral has pride of place. Nihilism is at the root of the widespread mentality which claims that a definitive commitment should no longer be made, because everything is fleeting and provisional.47. It should also be borne in mind that the role of philosophy itself has changed in modern culture. From universal wisdom and learning, it has been gradually reduced to one of the many fields of human knowing; indeed in some ways it has been consigned to a wholly marginal role. Other forms of rationality have acquired an ever higher profile, making philosophical learning appear all the more peripheral. These forms of rationality are directed not towards the contemplation of truth and the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of life; but instead, as “instrumental reason”, they are directed—actually or potentially—towards the promotion of utilitarian ends, towards enjoyment or power.

Knowledge of Divine Things Part Sixteen Fides et Ratio Part Eight

Many people do not realize how, in this encyclical, and in other writings, St. John Paul II restored the eminence of St. Thomas Aquinas as the philosopher in the Catholic tradition. Beginning with the first scholastic, St. Anselm, John Paul II outlines the basic approaches to truth. I am quoting a long part of the encyclical as this is key to understanding how a Catholic thinks. Faith asks to be understood by reason.  Reason needs faith to be grounded in reality. 

In Scholastic theology, the role of philosophically trained reason becomes even more conspicuous under the impulse of Saint Anselm's interpretation of the intellectus fidei. For the saintly Archbishop of Canterbury the priority of faith is not in competition with the search which is proper to reason. Reason in fact is not asked to pass judgement on the contents of faith, something of which it would be incapable, since this is not its function. Its function is rather to find meaning, to discover explanations which might allow everyone to come to a certain understanding of the contents of faith. Saint Anselm underscores the fact that the intellect must seek that which it loves: the more it loves, the more it desires to know. Whoever lives for the truth is reaching for a form of knowledge which is fired more and more with love for what it knows, while having to admit that it has not yet attained what it desires: “To see you was I conceived; and I have yet to conceive that for which I was conceived (Ad te videndum factus sum; et nondum feci propter quod factus sum)”.42 The desire for truth, therefore, spurs reason always to go further; indeed, it is as if reason were overwhelmed to see that it can always go beyond what it has already achieved.

Love leads to work, We know this. We work at what we love. I love philosophy and theology, the mystic writers and heroes of the Church, and therefore work on these subjects. I love Christ, therefore I pray and read the Scriptures. I love the Church, therefore, I try to obey Her laws.

If we love Christ and His Church, we shall work to learn as much as possible about the basics. We start with asking who we are, what is our ultimate destiny, what does it mean to be human, and so on.

 It is at this point, though, that reason can learn where its path will lead in the end: “I think that whoever investigates something incomprehensible should be satisfied if, by way of reasoning, he reaches a quite certain perception of its reality, even if his intellect cannot penetrate its mode of being... But is there anything so incomprehensible and ineffable as that which is above all things? Therefore, if that which until now has been a matter of debate concerning the highest essence has been established on the basis of due reasoning, then the foundation of one's certainty is not shaken in the least if the intellect cannot penetrate it in a way that allows clear formulation. If prior thought has concluded rationally that one cannot comprehend (rationabiliter comprehendit incomprehensibile esse) how supernal wisdom knows its own accomplishments..., who then will explain how this same wisdom, of which the human being can know nothing or next to nothing, is to be known and expressed?”.43

If we cannot understand something, we wait, we pray, and we obey without understanding.

The fundamental harmony between the knowledge of faith and the knowledge of philosophy is once again confirmed. Faith asks that its object be understood with the help of reason; and at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents.