On the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops 2014 – Part 11

Art. 54 has a very important point to make:

“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

This is a citation of a very good CDF document written under the guidance of the Prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The message is absolutely clear: There is no resemblance at all between marriage and sodomite unions. The indissolubility of marriage is good because the union of man and woman ordered to procreation is good. If there were a band of ruffians who vowed to be united “indissolubly,” their indissolubility would not be good but evil, as their band’s very unity is evil. Sure, there are abstractly “good elements” in the band, in that they have a code of conduct, look out for each other, feed themselves, etc. But their end is evil and the end defines the union. Similarly, if sodomy is evil, then a vow to bond two men precisely as committed to this act is itself evil. If the bond is evil, so is its indissolubility. It follows with inexorable precision from Catholic teaching that so-called homosexual marriage is an evil thing; hence, it bears no analogy to true marriage. The CDF continues:

Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The document goes on to declare “the immoral nature of these unions” (art. 5), calling them simply “evil”.

I cannot recommend highly enough this CDF document. It is an important antidote to the Synod on the Family. For sake of edification, I must cite it here at length.

It states:

Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity… (cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (art. 4).

Although the inclination itself, qua not a product of freely chosen acts (of commission or omission), is not a sin, since only free acts are sins, nevertheless, this inclination to what is intrinsically evil is therefore a “disordered” inclination. Not sin but a disordered inclination. The acts are sin, but not the inclination, qua not free.

What do we mean by “disordered”? Aren’t those men who lust after women also disordered? Isn’t their inclination also a “disorder”?

We can speak loosely or technically. Loosely, any sin is a disorder, and any inclination to sin is a disorder. But when we speak technically, only those inclinations are “disordered” (technical sense) whose object abstractly considered is evil. Since a man having sex with a woman is not an evil object, the inclination to desire such is not disordered. (It is, to be sure, concupiscent and thus wayward since the woman of which we speak is not his wife, but the tendency is not technically dis-ordered. It is wayward because this is not the right woman, or the desire is not measured; etc. These are real problems, to act on which would be to sin. Yet, the very object [a man's desire for sex-with-woman] is – abstractly considered – not evil.) But in the case of same-sex attraction, the object is always evil.  A woman is a proper object for a man’s sexual desire. Hence, that a man is inclined sexually towards a woman is not a disorder but an order. However, a virtuous man will have this inclination only habitually. That is, it will not be stirred up within him upon seeing any woman go by. It will be excited only when he sees his wife, or if he happens to be caught off guard by some attractive woman suddenly put into his presence. But then virtue will set to work to moderate the desire; he will change his thoughts to Mozart or the Rangers. (If he doesn’t, then his “concupiscence” can turn to sin, if he fails to do what he can and should.) But the homosexual inclination has an object that is in all cases evil. It is never the case that – even abstractly considered – a man can licitly engage sexually another man. Hence, the very inclination to this object is disordered, even if it is not sinful when no free act (of commission or omission) occasions it. Thus “disordered” means that the very object of the inclination is per se evil: Sex with someone of the same sex. Similarly, the inclination to malign others’ characters would be a “disorder,” for in all cases to will such destruction of reputation is evil.

When it comes to civil unions of gay couples, the CDF states very firmly that such unions are an evil on society. If society is so far gone from the natural order that it finds it cannot but tolerate such unions, the following directives apply:

Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defenses and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. (art. 5).

These directives apply simply for the “toleration” of homosexual unions, say, in one’s neighborhood. The case is more serious if a society legislates in favor of such unions. It is even worse if it legislates “equality” between such unions and real marriage:

Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection (art. 5)

What the CDF is saying inexorably implies is that the US Supreme Court Decision of June 26 is Null and Void in the Eyes of God!

And it is Null and Void not only before the bar of faith but before the bar of right reason.

Therefore, anyone who rightly thinks concerning this issue is free to treat it as though it does not exist, for it has no force of law. The only “force” it has is that of a band of thieves and brigands with weapons and penal sanctions that can extort behavior out of those who cannot bear the load. (See Augustine, City of God.)

What will we Christians do with regard to this null and void law? Will we bear the load? Will we capitulate? Will we truly love our neighbor? Will we truly have mercy on the poor? Will we go after the several sheep that are wandering towards the cliff and conversing with wolves? That is, will we share with them the full truth of the Gospel? That sodomite acts destroy the human heart, twist one’s ability to befriend and relate, enmesh one in disorder, fail to be fruitful, thus fail to pronounce hope to a fallen world, and thus are evil and sound the soul’s marriage to death? This on the one hand. And on the other hand, a message that cannot be understood unless this former message is thoroughly understood: That Jesus shed his blood so that each of us might be freed from our enslavement to sin, repent, and receive his forgiving grace, imbibe his living Spirit, and journey in peace to the Heavenly Homeland?

On the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops 2014 – Part 10

(Continuing from where we left off….) The final Relatio of 2014, in art. 52, states:

52. Some synod fathers maintained that divorced and remarried persons or those living together can have fruitful recourse to a spiritual communion.

This really sounds great. Who could be against it? But we must examine the matter more closely. A true spiritual communion involves uniting our hearts to the Lord in the Eucharist. When we rightly receive him sacramentally or bodily, he increases his presence in our hearts by granting us a greater share in sanctifying graces, forgives our venial sins and takes away some of our debt for sins past. Some of these benefits can accrue to us through a spiritual communion, namely, a greater share in sanctifying graces and the indwelling of Christ in our hearts.

But are there any conditions for God dwelling in our hearts? It might sound neat and cool to say,  “No! Because God loves us unconditionally.” But the answer would be heresy. It seems that a post refuting Protestantizing heresies is way overdue. Our age of “mercy without law” or “mercy opposed to the law” or “mercy in dialectical tension with law” is precisely a Protestant Heresy. (A future post on that.) Thus, together with a godless, paganizing de-mystificaiton of our religion there is a Protestantization going on. A synthesis of heresies! But a synthesis of dialectically opposed errors does not a truth make! Summarily, God’s presence in me is not a change in God – lest he fail to be God! Rather, it is his opening my heart and mind to him – may he be Blessed and Praised for opening once hardened, and ever-weak, hearts! That “opening” is the faith by which we believe, the hope by which we trust and lean, and the charity by which we cleave with our whole soul to God above All. Hence, if I have not charity, though I have all faith and all the cardinal virtues, I am a noisy gong and a clanging symbol.

Wisdom Flees an Evil Soul! (Wis 1). Where the soul has not charity, God dwells not! He is preparing to dwell in the pilgrim who does not have charity; he is calling such a pilgrim home; but the pilgrim has not yet allowed God to soften his heart of stone. Hence, God as yet dwells not in this heart of stone. So, there most certainly is a condition for the indwelling. That means there is a condition for true spiritual communion. Spiritual communion can take place only when true charity exists in the soul.

But true charity cannot exist in any soul that is committed to mortal sins. Now, those who are living together but not married, or are married but are living with someone not their spouse, are by their very lifestyle committed to commit gravely evil acts. They are so committed with deliberation. Hence, they will these acts to which they commit their lives; thus, these acts are imputable to them (CCC 1736). It is not likely that they are ignorant of God’s law in this matter. Did they forget the “I do” of their youth? Are they riddled with Down’s Syndrome? Are they drugged up constantly? Were they brainwashed? Hardly likely. They may be faint of mind and hazy about the law. This is something to consider and may well constitute the kind of fog of today, a fog that seems to mitigate culpability.

However, another thing to consider, precisely with respect to such a fog, is the First Precept of Natural Law: DO GOOD, SHUN EVIL. That precept is pretty generic. Anyone who wishes to follow through on it will ask himself, “What good must I do? What evil must I shun?” The ignorance one feels within oneself immediately calls for a formation of conscience. One must seek out the True Religion. There are seekers out there who have not yet found. Thus, there are inculpable people out there regarding some of these issues. However, they are probably not many. It seems more likely that many people are not seeking God at all. They are contented with the pleasures and plans of the day. They even shun thoughtfulness. How few were the philosophers in Socrates’s day. How few are those who examine life these days! But the unexamined life is refuse. It is not “inculpable”. Hardly. It is culpable in the very first framework of its liver’s choice: Me!

Hence, most people are quite aware of the law and of what they are doing. Which is why they don’t enjoy the company of John the Baptist.

The result: Those who are living in sin cannot make a spiritual communion. They can assist at Holy Mass in their state of confusion and inner disturbance. Such assistance can assist them if they allow themselves to be disturbed out of their slumber. But what if such assistance were allowed to create a false “equanimity” of self-acceptance of their sin? What if pastors were to tell the person living in an objective state of sin that this state could be a permanent solution, a permanent resting place in his pilgrimage? The person would then be left to remain in his sins! This would not be to shepherd him to happiness, but to leave him in death.

But, “Let the dead bury their dead,” says the Lord, and “He who turns his back is not worthy of me!”

In short, to encourage their assistance at the Holy Sacrifice is not to carve out a long term solution for these people. If it were, it would surely be the spiritual death of them and of those who would attempt to carve out this place of transition as though it were a lasting home. What is required is great pastoral balance with a clear direction. But I fail to see the compass rightly aligned in a consistent manner in this document.

On the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops 2014 – Part 9

(Continuing from where we left off….) The final Relatio of 2014 has problems at art. 51. I quote in full:

51. The synod father also considered the possibility of giving the divorced and remarried access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Various synod fathers insisted on maintaining the present discipline, because of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church as well as her teaching on the indissoluble character of marriage. Others proposed a more individualized approach, permitting access in certain situations and with certain well-defined conditions, primarily in irreversible situations and those involving moral obligations towards children who would have to endure unjust suffering. Access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice, determined by the diocesan bishop. The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735).

This paragraph has problems. First, it describes certain objectively immoral situations as “irreversible”. This smacks of despair, though it may be ambiguous.

So “sinful situation” is “irreversible” for the simple reason that no sin is inevitable. One can always avoid sins. However, what are the Fathers after? The text should make the very clear distinction between (a) a falsely married couple that plans to continue having adulterous sex, and (b) a falsely married couple, with children, which couple jointly makes a firm resolution not to commit adultery again and yet to continue raising their children. Such a decision is painful and difficult, this is no doubt true. Yet it is the Cross; it is the path of salvation at this point. It is the divinely appointed path of salvation for those who have freely travelled to their current situation. Even with such a heroic path to trod, this couple must take every effort not to cause scandal or even to reduce scandal, however this is not completely in their control. As much as possible, it should be known that this man and woman are living as brother and sister. This is the kind of distinction that can rightly guide souls in difficult situations.

Second, the Church’s insistence that those in an objectively grave situation not receive Eucharist is described in the Synod as a “discipline,” as though it were variable at the decision of prelates. But whether or not Sacrilege is permitted is not under the power of ecclesiastical law. And it is Sacrilege for a person in the state of sin to receive the Eucharist. Further, living in an objectively evil situation, or “living in sin,” is living in such a way that one is committed to acts gravely evil. So living is thus diametrically opposed to that kind of firm resolution of amendment required to receive the grace of forgiveness. Hence, if it is Sacrilege to receive the Eucharist after having committed a random act of adultery without having thereafter honestly repented with a firm purpose of amendment and received valid absolution in Confession, a fortiori is it Sacrilege to receive the Eucharist when committing oneself to a life of gravely evil acts.

We are all weak sinners, this goes without saying (I should hope). But to live in a situation geared towards the commission of sin is not simply a matter of weakness.

Someone interjects: You speak of the objective situation, but you cannot judge the subjective guilt. Response: The matter is not so simple. As John Paul II made clear in Veritatis splendor, the very commission of gravely evil acts is often called, and rightly, by the Church and theologians mortal sin. Reason: Such clear public pronouncements set the compass correctly for the poor souls who might labor in ignorance. For those who are “invincibly” ignorant that adultery is evil – what a sad state of affairs if this is even possible in our degenerate society – the response is to reveal the fullness of the truth ASAP, so that they can abandon their sad ways of living that cannot bring lasting happiness and will bring real grief.

Thus, it is quite unfortunate that the Synod would go on to speak of culpability as follows: “The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished.” Why is this so problematic? Because the Catechism is stating a matter of possibility in the static order regarding the past: It may be the case that person X has been invincibly ignorant about sin Y. This static point is not an Archimedean principle whereby to repel the Gospel truth and power! It is a simple consideration which should be utterly secondary with respect to the actual preaching of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – so help us O God!

Static and secondary! Why? Because the Son of God came, and comes, with truth and the power of grace. The point of Almighty God sending Jesus Christ into the world was not to leave the world statically in its sins. The point was to give the real and redeeming help, together with the real fullness of the truth, to those who lived in ignorance and darkness. But now the Relatio’s implication seems to be that that truth need not be promulgated, or that it is not urgent to promulgate it.

We need to lift a finger to help these people with their heavy burden. Sin is a great burden. The commission of gravely evil acts is a great burden. Bodily action that contravenes God’s law is a great burden. It is heavy. We sinners labor much. It is mercy to direct us in the path of peace; it is mercy, the first mercy: Instruction of the ignorant.

O Wicked Silence! Why do you let the lamb go off, wandering waywardly by the wolves and the waters beneath stone cliffs?

On the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops 2014 – Part 8

(Continuing from where we left off….) The final Relatio of 2014 then turns to healing wounded marriages. It states:

The pastoral work of charity and mercy seeks to help persons recover and restore relationships. Experience shows that with proper assistance and acts of reconciliation, though grace, a great percentage of troubled marriages find a solution in a satisfying manner (art. 43)

That many wounded marriages recover through human labor in response to God’s grace is an aid to our hope. We need not despair over any wounded marriage. When I say “not despair” I by no means mean we can or should be ever “optimistic”. Sometimes one partner is so set on not repairing the relationship that restoration of the original relationship is practically impossible. But here is where we must not despair. Because the marriage, if ever it was valid, remains valid until the death of one of the spouses. It cannot be dissolved. This is the teaching of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is why so much human effort, in response to God’s grace (hence, prayer and mortification above all), is required. Even if one’s spouse deserts and it appears would never return, one must remain faithful to one’s vows. In this chastity is one’s own healing. In this suffering, the heart that cries to God wins grace from God that one day, before death, the wayward spouse might repent of the evil, embrace God and flee the sin. Witness St. Catherine of Genoa, whose unfaithful husband eventually became a devout Catholic.

The labor for this repentance – this also means return in the Greek (metanoia) – requires neighborly love. The Synod cites Pope Francis:

“The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this ‘art of accompaniment’, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting a closeness and compassion which, at the same time, heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 169)

This metaphor of taking off the sandals points to the fact that God wants each person to be with him in heaven. God wants to dwell within each person. Thus, each person is at least potentially a Temple of God. Hence the image. Our worship, however, goes to God alone.

Art. 46 rightly stresses that primary pastoral concern belongs to those unjustly suffering. Those who have been abandoned by an unfaithful spouse. And esp. the children, in each case victims.

Art. 47 broaches the issue of annulments. Many fathers called for a streamlining of the process. There may be particular cases that would make such streamlining attractive and suitable, but as a rule of law there may well be great repercussions for such a change. A few summary words on annulments. Recall that it is not a divorce. It is a mere “declaration” that there never was a bond.

Further, here are some key considerations: 1) They are not infallible declarations; hence, the care of the process is very important; for, every effort must be taken to make sure a mistake is not made, lest  people go on to live in objectively problematic situations because of a false ruling by a hasty ecclesiastical judge. 2) Those approaching a judge for nullity must examine their consciences and speak the whole truth. They shall be judged if they concoct evidence in the favor of nullity. God is not mocked nor deceived. 3) A declaration of nullity can be appealed by one of the spouses.

Finally, another word about annulments should be said. It is notorious that some chancery offices bend over backwards to make sure that any nullity case goes through successfully. My wife heard an official say something to the effect of, “We will find a way to find it null.” This is not reassuring that cases are being handled objectively.

Art. 48 goes on to speak of diocesan “counselors” available to speak with couples about whether or not their marriages are valid. This is troubling. If one is being highly abstract and idealistic, one might see this as a no problem idea. But if we put on our practical thinking caps, we can see that getting a bunch of lay people out there to be “counselors” to people who are struggling in their marriages – and looking for solutions – is dangerous. What lay people will do this task? Will they be those who love the Church and embrace all her teachings? Or Or those who are very loosely loyal to the Church and want to see annulments speed up and practically equal divorce? Once again, we see a kind of “idealism” in this synod falling short of sobriety.

Art. 49 praises the divorced who have not gotten remarried for witnessing to the fidelity due to the bond. (Actually, I put this stronger, but that’s what the paragraph is getting at.)

But art. 50 turns round to those who do get “remarried” and states:

Language or behavior that might make them feel an object of discrimination should be avoided, all the while encouraging them to participate in the life of the community.

A few comments. First, the advice is true, but almost a truism. Why? Because of course everyone should at all times be loved with charity. At all times. If I were to look at a divorced and remarried person with disgust, if I were to look at an immodestly dressed person at Mass (or wherever) with disgust at his/her person, I should testify to the absence of charity in my heart. I should testify to myself even as murderer. Yes we have to put it this harshly. The neighbor and I are both heading to hell.

What alternative do I have? Only to be chummy with such people? Never to mention the problem with their situation? Never to show them the fullness of truth? Only bury this fullness under the bushel of my own “tenderness” towards them?

All this nonsense would be yet again another act of murder. Because in this way, I say to them secretly: “You are incapable of reform. So, you’re going to hell. But meanwhile, let’s have an espresso and you tell me some of those hilarious drinking stories that make me laugh.” In this case, once again, we are both on our way to hell.

But these are not the only alternatives. The right alternative is to proclaim with charity the truth, the fullness of the truth, so that this person can emend his life, repent, and receive the life of grace. Was John the Baptist violating Arr. 50 of the Synod when he denounced Herod and Herodias for their wicked adultery?

But someone will say: You need to unfold the truth gradually, so their dim eyes can adjust.

You have a point. However, note the WORLD-CIRCUMSTANCE. The WORLD-CIRCUMSTANCE is the situation of massive ecclesial silence in which we live. The Gospel in its fullness is not preached, for the Gospel is never preached when the Law is not preached also. And now the Law is hardly preached fully (o, bits and pieces are, but not the whole law, not the fullness of the law, esp. not the natural law as it touches people in the hobbit-sized issues with which they can immediately and personally deal now; the social issues of just and unjust structures are, while not negligible, not readily implementable in ways that are clearly black and white, unlike adultery and masturbation and sodomy, which are all cut and dry gravely and per se evil). In this WORLD-CIRCUMSTANCE few people’s consciences have any right bearing. All have gone astray. All call good evil and evil good. Witness the celebrations over the June 26 Supreme Court travesty. People are celebrating this as a victory for “Love”. They are even proclaiming Pope Francis their hero. I have already said that if one uses the words of Pope Francis in order to come to this conclusion, one is showing that one does not know the Tradition that Pope Francis is called to serve. One is ignorant and blind of the truth of Catholic faith. And ambiguous words used to “defend” one’s errant conscience will be of no use on the final judgment, when God reads the law according to its full truth and not according to human sympathies.

IN such a WORLD-CIRCUMSTANCE, we have need of John the Baptist clarity. Please Bring clarity, O Lord, before it is too late, and we perish in the flood as did the people at Noah’s time (on some Jewish interpretations of the causes of God’s judgment before the flood, see this Jewish commentary on the flood, at p. 213, and 2nd Enoch chap. 34.). Presently, we are languishing in moral turpitude, sleepy, too sleepy to wake up, we violate the very first precept of natural law – Do Good – because we are not serious and do not seek to know “What is the good that I must do, so as to be righteous in your sight?”. We are thus swimming in immorality at the very first precept of the natural law. (Perhaps he shall not see me. Perhaps he shall not judge me. Meanwhile, this little bit of pleasure is my One and my All.) John the Baptist, come once again and wake us up to repentance.

Merely Human Government and Laws on Marriage Itself: Not a Catholic Combination!

Pius XI – A Great Pope of Immortal Memory – presents the infallible dogma of the Church that marriage, whether sacramental or merely natural, is a divine institution in his masterful Casti connubii:

“5. And to begin with that same Encyclical [i.e., Arcanum, of the Great Pope Leo XIII], which is wholly concerned in vindicating the divine institution of matrimony, its sacramental dignity, and its perpetual stability, let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was redeemed…”

The result? No merely human authority – not even the state – has any legislative or judicial authority whatsoever over the bond of marriage! Period. Thus states the Pontiff:

“and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves. This is the doctrine of Holy Scripture;[2] this is the constant tradition of the Universal Church; this the solemn definition of the sacred Council of Trent, which declares and establishes from the words of Holy Writ itself that God is the Author of the perpetual stability of the marriage bond, its unity and its firmness.[3]“

Nor are the spouses themselves free to construe the bond as they will. Their freedom concerns their entry or non-entry into this covenant. Once they enter it, they have no freedom whatsoever to break it or manipulate it. Their freedom within the horizon of the bond is to grow in love, to give themselves to each other, to actualize (by God’s grace) a unique societal unity that can never be repeated. Each marriage is a world of beauty if lived well. The pope:

This freedom, however, regards only the question whether the contracting parties really wish to enter upon matrimony or to marry this particular person; but the nature of matrimony is entirely independent of the free will of man, so that if one has once contracted matrimony he is thereby subject to its divinely made laws and its essential properties (art. 6).

That the state has no authority over the bond does not, however, prevent the state from forbidding false notions of the bond, those that contravene either nature itself or also the divine positive law of the King of the Universe, Jesus Christ:

8. From this it is clear that legitimately constituted authority has the right and therefore the duty to restrict, to prevent, and to punish those base unions which are opposed to reason and to nature….

Catholics distinguish sacramental marriage – any valid marriage between validly baptized Christians – and natural marriage: any valid marriage between partners at least one of whom is not baptized. (There is no possibility of a merely natural marriage for partners both of whom are baptized. A marriage between the baptized is either valid or invalid. If valid, it is sacramental.) This distinction involves a hierarchy. The natural marriage is, while intrinsically indissoluble, extrinsically dissoluble. That is, by divine appointment, an authority can be given the power to dissolve it. We say “extrinsic” because no couple has authority to break its own bond (i.e. every bond is “intrinsically [by the partners] indissoluble”).

But only divine appointment allows for the dissolution of a consummated merely natural marriage. Moses and the Old Testament priests served that function when the covenant functioned before Christ. Now that the covenant functions only in the Catholic Church, the keeper of the One True Religion, it is only the Catholic Church that has any authority over the dissolution of a natural bond. Pius XI:

35. And if this stability seems to be open to exception, however rare the exception may be, as in the case of certain natural marriages between unbelievers, or amongst Christians in the case of those marriages which though valid have not been consummated, that exception does not depend on the will of men nor on that of any merely human power, but on divine law, of which the only guardian and interpreter is the Church of Christ.

But this authority, the Catholic Church, has absolute no power to break a consummated sacramental bond. She is not God but his servant!:

However, not even this power can ever affect for any cause whatsoever a Christian marriage which is valid and has been consummated, for as it is plain that here the marriage contract has its full completion, so, by the will of God, there is also the greatest firmness and indissolubility which may not be destroyed by any human authority (art. 35).

The upshot of the infallible Catholic teaching on marriage: No other union than that of one man and one woman, for life!, is a marriage. All other so-called unions are shams. No laws but God’s laws are valid concerning the bond. And no laws attempting to create a new bond have any validity of law whatsoever. Instead, all laws that contravene the divine institution are the hot air of deluded minds. God help us all.

Should Catholics Labor and Pray, in Charity, So that Jews Convert to Catholicism?

Without any question whatsoever, the answer is an absolute yes. But there are those who refrain from this evangelization. They shrink from evangelization by calling anything that involves proclamation of the one true faith and way to salvation as “proselytism.” A word study on the history of that word needs to be undertaken.

But suffice it to say that the firm teaching of the Second Vatican Council gives us an absolute “yes” to this question. Moreover, those who say that because of the the Council they hold a “no” or a “not necessarily” to this question put themselves (and the Council-as-they-read-it) diametrically in opposition to the Sacred Tradition.

“Everyone, therefore, ought to be converted to Christ” (Ad Gentes, 7).

That is every last person. No one is excepted. What then impels Catholics to engage in missionary activity?

“The charity with which they love God and by which they desire to share with all men in the spiritual goods of this life and the life to come” (ibid).

The goal of the Catholic Church is that

“the whole human race might become one people of God, … one body of Christ” (ibid.)

And the People of God is simply the Catholic Church. The Body of Christ is simply the Catholic Church.

Again, “Thus the Church prays and likewise labors so that into the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, may pass the fullness of the whole world, and that in Christ, the head of all things, all honor and glory may be rendered to the Creator, the Father of the universe” (Lumen gentium, 17).

Someone will bring in a nifty objection: But Vatican II does not identify the Catholic Church with the People of God!

False. First, Vatican II does identify the Catholic Church with the Church of Christ. I have demonstrated this beyond all reasonable doubt in my “Subsistit in: Nonexclusive Identity or Full Identity?” The Thomist, vol. 72 (2008):1–44. Furthermore, the Church’s constant and universal magisterium before the Council taught definitively that the Catholic Church is the one and only Church that Christ founded. Therefore, it is an infallible teaching that can be challenged only at the cost of divine heresy. End of story.

Now, then, Vatican II further identifies the Church with the People of God: “The Church or People of God” (Lumen gentium, art. 13). As Ratzinger stated, astutely, about this Second Chapter of Lumen gentium: It concerns the whole Church, not just the laity. In fact, this term “people” is as it were the biblical original of the later, quite precise sociologically, ecclesial term “Society”, also a term used in the Council.

Further, it is clearly stated:

“All men are called to belong to the new People of God” (LG, art. 13).

And then various ways of belonging or relation to the Church are spelled out. First, there are those who are “incorporated” (art. 14). These are simply and only Catholics: Baptized persons who accept the hierarchy, all the sacramental actions of the Church, and the full confession of the faith. Then, there are those who are joined in various ways to the Church. Some by an explicit desire (catechumens, art. 14). Some by baptism (art. 15). Lastly, all the rest are “related to the People of God” (LG, art. 16, emphasis mine). Note that these are relations precisely to the Catholic Roman Apostolic Church. They are not vague relations but precise relations, not to a vague church but to a precise Church, that of Rome. Therefore, note too, that in this art. 16 the council simply uses “People of God” here as synonym for the Catholic Church.

I was edified to see the interview of Dr. Alice von Hildebrand concerning the intelligent grief of her husband about the enemies of the Church. They have penetrated her borders, swamped her offices, convoluted her message, etc. The enemies are no longer merely outside. They are within, as Pius X lamented. And how have they multiplied since his holy reign!

Back to the topic. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand relates this marvelous story about her husband, whose love for the Jews led him precisely to will, to pray for, and to labor for their conversion to Jesus Christ in his One and Only Catholic Church.

And such is only reasonable for a true Catholic. Why? To love is to will the good. But the only good is God. And the Catholic confesses with the mouth because he believes with the heart (UNLESS his faith is weakened by his love of human praise, more than the praise of God! See Jn 12:41ff) that God’s new and definitive covenant, outside of which no one can be saved (dogma), is in Jesus Christ, in his blood. The old covenant continues precisely in this new covenant. Otherwise and outside, it is abolished. Hence, to love the Jewish brother is to will, to labor, and to pray that he convert. This is charity. This is brotherly love coming down from heaven, like oil upon the head, falling down upon the beard, so that all may be one and brothers.

She states:

AVH:: Let me relate an incident that caused my husband grief. It was 1946, just after the war. My husband was teaching at Fordham, and there appeared in one of his classes a Jewish student who had been a naval officer during the war. He would eventually tell my husband about a particularly stunning sunset in the Pacific and how it had led him to the quest for the truth about God. He first went to Columbia to study philosophy, and he knew that this was not what he was looking for. A friend suggested he try philosophy at Fordham and mentioned the name Dietrich von Hildebrand. After just one class with my husband, he knew he had found what he was looking for. One day after class my husband and this student went for a walk. He told my husband during this time that he was surprised at the fact that several professors, after discovering he was Jewish, assured him that they would not try to convert him to Catholicism. My husband, stunned, stopped, turned to him and said, “They said what?!” He repeated the story and my husband told him, “I would walk to the ends of the earth to make you a Catholic.” To make a long story short, the young man became a Catholic, was ordained a Carthusian priest, and went on to enter the only Charter House in the United States (in Vermont)!

You can read the full text here. The Rorate piece is here.

Cursory Reflections on Laudato Si – Part 5

In Laudato Si, art. 53, the pope draws an analogy between oppression of the poor and extreme misuse of the environment. As the former is a sin that cries to heaven (for vengeance), so in its own way is the latter:

53. These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course.

Although many in the world recognize that there is a problem and that things cannot go on the way they are, without serious environmental debts to be paid in the future, few if any act, change. Art. 55:

People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.

What on earth can we do, then? Tear down our houses and start again? But that would of course cost quite a bit. Obviously, solutions will be difficult, and painful, to identify and implement. One thing the pope points to is the use of Air Conditioning. The implication of his mention of it seems to be the call, in the spirit of detachment, at least to lessen our use of it.

He contends, art. 57, that if men do not change their habits and curb their passion for acquisition, wars may erupt:

57. It is foreseeable that, once certain resources have been depleted, the scene will be set for new wars, albeit under the guise of noble claims.

This thought is biblical:

What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war (Ja 4:1-2).

What causes such passions? Friendship with the world. The irony! True love of the environment places it in its place, with man as steward who has an everlasting end and with the things of the world as signs of God’s bounteous beauty and gifts for man’s prudent and just use. So what is “friendship with the world”? It is to set one’s end on the things of the world, to pursue pleasure at the cost of justice, to indulge in luxury at the expense of temperance, to grow soft with delicacies at the expense of fortitude, to measure the good by my pleasure, at the expense of prudence. It is the rot of the moral life. Pollution as its sign, Pollution as its sacrament.

Such “friendship” with the world, or lust of the flesh, leads men to seek the means to gratify it. It leads to that kind of love of money which is greed. The love of money is the root of sin because the possession of it enables one to act sinfully, as one perversely desires. Hence, those who fattened themselves in this life, are sewing their own judgment:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten…. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter (Ja 5:1-2, 4-5).

The pope’s call to simplicity is not unlike James’s. Nor is it unlike the final judgment scene, the terrifying scene in Mt 25, where the poor and downtrodden are those by the neglect of whom neglect we neglected Jesus Christ our God.

Nor is this analysis of the pope unlike the preaching of the great Doctor and Saint, John Chrysostom. In meditating on the “Rich young man” episode, John demonstrates that the love of wealth is its own punishment. For the poor man who loves wealth but cannot obtain, is therefore in a state of dissatisfaction. The rich man can never slake his thirst, for if the thirst is for wealth, more can always be desired. If the cake is what I desire, its possession is its consumption, its destruction. Once I recover from satiety, I shall rise again to desire. But next time, more, and more. Unless I am chastened by moderation. Covetousness is endless. It grows pointlessly, pointlessly grows. He concludes:

“Therefore that we may not have superfluous sorrows, let us forsake the love of money that is ever paining, and never endures to hold its peace.”

Yet, John does not simply give us a negative. Nor does he simply – in Epicurean fashion – bid us be moderate vis-a-vis the things of the world. No. He bids us convert and turn to the True God, to the One Who Alone is Good. The One in whom alone we can have happiness, for whom our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord: Your Great Doctor bids us turn to You, My God!

“Let us remove ourselves to another love, which both makes us happy, and hath great facility, and let us long after the treasures above.”

It would be fruitless to counsel someone to moderation without pointing him to the True God and the one true way to the true God, Jesus Christ and the religion he inaugurated. Short of this, preaching could be moralizing, as has been insightfully noted in a comment box. Just as no wise counselor would instruct a porn-addicted teen to “just not open the magazine.” One needs to give the teen things to do, alternatives. Similarly, we can’t just “not eat the second ice-cream cone”. We have to do so for a reason. We have to devote ourselves to other activities. Ultimately, we need to love our true and only Final End.

This brings St. John to another point: The love of the world – of pleasures disordered in themselves or ordered but immoderately pursued, of goods evaluated perversely (God as second, God in a corner of my life) – is its own hell, before the final hell that it deserves:

“Besides hell, and before that hell, even here it [love of wealth] casts thee into a more grievous punishment. For many houses hath this lust overthrown, and fierce wars hath it stirred up, and compelled men to end their lives by a violent death; and before these dangers it ruins the nobleness of the soul, and is wont often to make him that hath it cowardly, and unmanly, and rash, and false, and calumnious, and ravenous, and over-reaching, and all the worst things.” (Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew LXIII; Nicene-Post Nicene Series, p. 390).

Cursory Reflections on Laudato Si – Part 4

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis registers a critique of badly thought out City Planning together with an “enclavish” mentality:

45. In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty. In others, “ecological” neighbourhoods have been created which are closed to outsiders in order to ensure an artificial tranquillity. Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live.

“Enclaves” where the rich have their homes sealed from others by walls and guards are not – abstractly considered – blights and problems. After all, the King should have his gardens. But how many kings there are! And note a problem. Whereas in fact there are no kings in this country of the USA, and all are citizens (more or less) of the same, yet these enclaves involve separation from common areas. They involve – or are concomitant with – the loss of recreational spaces of public good. There are still some parks. What justifies them? The common public good. A place for many to meet, to rub shoulders, to bump into one another. It is good in the major cities to have such places, accessible to all. But with the money being poured into enclaves, is there sufficient strength left, capital, to keep up the infrastructure of places of common public good? My own city, Irving, TX, has its enclaves. And without doubt that is where much of the tax money comes from. Yet, where is the money being spent? In the south part of town, where the Latinos and blacks live? Not so much. These parts of town are slowly languishing.

 

Art. 48 registers a truth most crucial to the success of the Pope’s effort to alleviate the problem of our treatment of the environment:

48. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.

However, the pope does not, at least here in this part of the letter, deliver. As readers have rightly noted, a juncture such as this demands the believer’s lament. We must return to the Great pope Leo XIII in his Au Milieu des Sollicitudes, art. 6:

Now, morality, in man, by the mere fact that it should establish harmony among so many dissimilar rights and duties, since it enters as an element into every human act, necessarily supposes God, and with God, religion, that sacred bond whose privilege is to unite, anteriorly to all other bonds, man to God.

Why is God at the basis of all morality?

The idea of morality signifies, above all, an order of dependence in regard to truth which is the light of the mind; in regard to good which is the object of the will; and without truth and good there is no morality worthy of the name. And what is the principal and essential truth, that from which all truth is derived? It is God. What, therefore, is the supreme good from which all other good proceeds? God. Finally, who is the creator and guardian of our reason, our will, our whole being, as well as the end of our life? God; always God.

And now the Great Pope Leo XIII turns to the matter of religion, which is crucial to the relationship with God.

Since, therefore, religion is the interior and exterior expression of the dependence which, in justice, we owe to God, there follows a grave obligation. All citizens are bound to unite in maintaining in the nation true religious sentiment, and to defend it in case of need, if ever, despite the protestations of nature and of history, an atheistical school should set about banishing God from society, thereby surely annihilating the moral sense even in the depths of the human conscience. Among men who have not lost all notion of integrity there can exist no difference of opinion on this point.

And not just the individual but the state must acknowledge the One True Religion, as he states in Immortale Dei, art. 6:

Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its reaching and practice—not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion—it is a public crime to act as though there were noGod.

So, if we are to take care of the environment, as but part of our moral obligation to live a responsible life, and we are so to do, we must do so with God as our final end and the True Religion as our way to God and guide to what is and is not in accordance with nature. If we were to try to map our way in nature – regarding some segment of natural law, say, the environment – and to do so without God as our guiding light, we would necessarily enter a path to perdition. Rather, we would steer from one path to perdition (exploitation, greed, belching out fumes of unnatural reactions) to another path (godless contemplation of natural cycles, etc.).

Pope Francis makes a good point when he notes that often the poor themselves are not really known by the thinkers and decision makers. The experience of the poor is often not known. The remedy would be real encounter. I recall the testament I heard in Church of a Catholic who went to live for a week in Haiti. His speech was truly moving. The people there live lives of utter destitution, unimaginable for us in the affluent areas. But should we become like that man, and live even for a little way (an afternoon) with some who are even remotely like those in Haiti, we might think differently. Our “human ecology” might mature:

This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality (art. 49.

The pope rejects the calls of anti-life people to seize control of population growth. These have missed the mark in their diagnosis. Interestingly, these people uphold precisely the immoderate sense of consumerism that is partial culprit in the environmental problem:

To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption (art. 50).

The pope means: The response to these people is not to say that everyone should consume the way we westerners are currently consuming. Just universalize the American lifestyle! That is not the solution. The solution must include our simplification of lifestyle. We must stop living as we have been in many ways. Will this be uncomfortable? Will this cost us? This is our cross of responsibility. I know a very good woman, a mother of five, who for instance has taken up a cross. A small one to be sure, in the greater scheme of things, but a real one. A manageable one, though one that could be found “disgusting” and “oh how gross!” But it is not really all that bad: CLOTH DIAPERS. Cloth diapers vs. the Ever Increasing Mounds of Disposable Diapers. That is one very concrete, often readily implementable lifestyle change that people can achieve. And what people? Precisely those who are – according to godless atheists – having too many children. Another thing about big families: They are often schools of moderation. No, there is only 2 pounds of meat tonight kids. That’s for everyone. First eat your rice and beans and veggies. Then have a burger. You’ll be full then. This is a school of moderation. A simple, pro-life school.

It was stated in a Comment Box that the Third World is often worse in polluting than the First World. I will not contest that statement, but I will note a relevant remark by Pope Francis:

The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development. The poorest areas and countries are less capable of adopting new models for reducing environmental impact because they lack the wherewithal to develop the necessary processes and to cover their costs (art. 52).

The rich have the responsibility to help form the mentality of the third world with regard to these issues. Further, to help the third world deal better with these issues. They must “get off the ground” and they need help to do this. A question might be – not how a 1st World company compares with a 3rd World company on pollution in the 3rd World – but how the same 1st World company would cover its ecological tracks if it were in the 1st World vs. how it actually covers its tracks in the 3rd World. That is the more salient question. We are all tempted to “get away” with things.

Cursory Reflections on Laudato Si – Part 3

Art. 30 registers a Magisterial teaching on the right of access to water. This teaching is by no means something one can “dodge” because the Pope isn’t a scientist:

Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.

But someone will object: If this were true, our infrastructure and laws would have to change. Exactly!

Art. 33 laments the human-induced loss of species:

The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

Amen! The “book of nature” is, as St. Bonaventure taught, the first revelation of God to man. We are enabled to read the “Book of Scripture” only because we first have access to the “book of nature” written both on the tablets of our hearts and also in the face of the world.

I hope good Catholics who may work at companies such as Monsanto will read and take to heart art. 34:

many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove harmful. We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

Does any of this have to do with moral teaching? Indeed it does. Art. 36:

We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.

The pope is indeed making a multi-faceted theological argument against all of this Big Corporation and greed based devastation of the environment. The first is that God gives things natures, so that each thing has its natural tendencies (ends) and its elemental constitution (atomic and molecular, etc., ingredients). When we “sculpt” these through our artistry, we must do so in such a way as to draw out, harmoniously with these natures, those possibilities that add beauty to the world and render service to us – the noblest creatures and those for whom the world was made. If we think very narrowly with our artistry, we might ignore these natures and bend certain properties to our seeming advantage, while in the end setting these things on a course of destruction. How much prudence must be exercised before any attempts at Genetic Modification is undertaken! And how little prudence actually is exercised. The second is that the multifarious hierarchies in the order of creation attest to the glory of God. They sing his praises. The biologist who catches a glimpse of these is invited to see God “through a mirror darkly,” as I (the layman) am invited to see God darkly in the Grand Canyon. Nor is human provision opposed to these two God-endowed marvels. The opposite. Good human grooming of the environment adds another dimension: For man, cooperating with God, brings the world to an even greater beauty. God, through man, renders glory to God in the gardens, in the farms well maintained (with proper bio-diversity and complementarity).

 

But someone objects: None of this has anything to do with the Gospel!

Response: On the Contrary! Christ cares about man. Christ came to give life to man, and the Glory of God is man fully alive. No that was not a modernist theologian. That was St. Irenaeus of Lyons! The pope teaches:

43. Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.

We have settled for this. We have settled into this. We are like frogs boiling in the stew of our own unwitting device. Yet we were not meant for this. WHO that has worked in a nature program, that has seen inner-city boys go out to a marvelous camp in Wisconsin or Wyoming or Colorado, and seen them de-stress, de-tox, grow calmer and more natural – I say WHO that has seen this can possibly contend with the pope when he protests:

We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature (art. 44).

Indeed, we were not! O Lord – a healthy world is not our salvation. And yet, a sick world is our devastation. It brings no glory to you to see a planet sooted with the greed of tyrants. And should one of them, should one of the CEO’s ruling a mega-corporation that has its footprint on this environment, like a boot to the neck of a poor, downtrodden man, should I say such a one read the pope’s prophetic lament: May he repent of his company’s ills, and take firm measure to change them!

Man-Centrism and Karl Rahner

Time to take a pause from the environment and to examine a theologian at the root of many contemporary ills. Fr. Karl Rahner. A quote:

“The tendency today to talk not about God, but about one’s neighbor, to preach not about the love of God, but about the love of neighbor, and to use not the term “God,” but “world” and “responsibility for the world” – we can see that this tendency has an absolutely solid foundation.” Foundations of Christian Faith (Crossroads, 64).

A very jarring statement. And a pious person’s first reaction to this – revulsion – is in the end the reaction with the greatest wisdom. This very difficult and subtle thinker, Fr. Karl Rahner, often strikes the pious – upon first impression – as impious. Whatever may have been his intentions, one is wise to be revolted. Yet, note that I said “first … in the end”. Reason: This very subtle thinker has some keen insight. Nor is it just “philosophical”. It is, rather, and very seriously, akin to the monastic insights. In short: He wants to be very clear that God is INFINITE. You cannot put God in a box, not even the box of your thought. That said, once again and in the end, we have to say that this is a comment to be found revolting.

And Rahner himself issues an immediate caution:

“HOWEVER, going to the extreme of banishing God and of being radically silent about him is and remains false and does violence to the true nature of Christianity” (ibid.).

In the end, Rahner will reduce God’s role in your life to a function of your own dynamic operations / tendencies. You are the kind of knower that puts labels on things, and in putting a label on, say, the Advil Pills, you transcend the individual; you also distinguish this kind of thing – Advil – from other kinds of things. So, for instance: Headache pills vs. Cold pills. Again, Medicine vs. Food. Again, Health Materials vs. Recreation. Again Things for Man’s good vs. Things just there (sun, stars). Again, possible things out there, etc. Ultimately, your mind is heading to BEING as SUCH – I.e., what is and what can be. Your mind has a vector like Toy Story: TO INFINITY AND BEYOND! (Sorry!).

How now can “GOD” come in the picture? Not as an object of focal concern. Why? Every object about which you can have focal concern is finite! But God is infinite. Hence, he cannot be that about which you can exercise focal concern. Instead, note that in having focal concern about any object, your mind goes beyond it towards … infinity. Hence, God must rather be the ultimate whither of your mind’s vector of transcending. That means, he cannot appear to you, show you his face, lest he cease to be God. This is the grounding anthropology of Rahner. To be sure, he squeezes grace and the beatific vision into this, but he will not let this determinative and determining foundation go. Hence, in the end, he gives us that about which we can have focal concern: NOT GOD!

The result is ironic: In preserving God’s transcendence, Rahner practically banishes God from man’s mind.

Indeed, this banishment is doubly ironic since, if we truly reflect on the “ultimate whither” of our mind as Rahner sees it, we note that it truly is POSSIBLE BEING. That is, ENS COMMUNE / THE SET OF POSSIBLE BEINGS OF FOCAL AWARENESS is really what constitutes the vector. That truly is infinite, for there is no limited range of what can be. But Possible Being is not Subsistent Being. Hence, the ultimate whither of my transcendental experience thus defined is not God but Possible Finite Beings.

This is far from “very good”. This is “not good”.