Good Old Garrigou-Lagrange: Way of Gentleness

It is commonly alleged that Garrigou-Lagrange was some horrible miscreant, some devilish power monger. These are quite false depictions.

Sanctity can be discerned, although indeed the man’s mind was as acute as any theologian in the 20th century, among the very best.

Gently does he persuade his reader to adopt the sweet yoke of Christ. For instance, in speaking of Purgatory, in justifying its existence dogmatically from Scripture and Tradition, he refers to St. Paul’s marvelous line in 1 Cor 3, wherein Paul states that if one builds on the foundation (remains in the Charity of Christ), then one shall survive, though some of one’s works are burnt up.

Garrigou-Lagrange comments:

“These works which will be devoured are, for example, good works done in vanity, good accomplished in order to advance oneself, or by a spirit of opposition to adversaries, rather than by love of truth and of God.”

Note how here he takes all those zealous souls, who really love God and his Holy Church, and who dedicate their lives to the defense of the faith, and gently encourages them to do so indeed for love of God, and not for the love of competition or victory or recognition. It is easy for a successful soldier of Christ to suddenly admire his own success. One must be on one’s guard, for that leads to a bad form of self-love, which cools charity and eventually kills it. Let one’s own good be as rubbish, St. Paul himself says. Let us only yearn for Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas himself wanted only this, and yet This is All!

Good old Garrigou-Lagrange: Hell is Forever

Garrigou-Lagrange continues. It is commonly argued today that punishment is evil. If one accepts that punishment is necessary, one says, “It is a necessary evil.”

This is a very lamentable set of theses. First, not all punishment is evil; some punishment is just. And justice is good. Ergo, some punishment is good, and not to punish in such cases is evil. Let us offer the argument in a moment.

Second, there is no such thing as a “necessary evil” if by evil we mean moral evil. It is never licit (morally right) to commit an evil act. It is always evil to commit evil. Ergo, if punishment were morally evil, it could not be “necessary”. What a sad pickle one is in if one thinks punishment a necessary evil, for one will punish — and rightly so, at least sometimes — and yet hate oneself in the process — wrongly so, at least some times.

Why is punishment sometimes necessary? Well, sin is a disturbance of Right Order. Right Order, such as that of a family or city or state, has a certain “being.” Now, things want to preserve themselves in being. Disturbances threaten the existence of the order. Just as a lion will defend itself when attacked, so a society will. Whereas the lion’s action is instinctual, society’s ought to be governed by reason. It is rational to defend a society against unjust attack. We are defining the disturbance as unjust. So, disturbances ought to be put down.

This is what we call punishment. The primary aim of the punishment, then, is the restoration of order to the society. This aim is achieved if the offender is punished. The offender might benefit from the punishment, and amend his ways and so contribute to societal order after his liberation. Or he might never repent. His repentance or not bears on him, not on the just society itself. In this sense: Even should he not repent, if he is adequately punished, the societal order stands. The act of punishment can be already just in itself, even before / apart from his repentance.

Punishment can be medicinal for the criminal; that is the outcome to hope for. But medicinal change is NOT the justification for punishment. It is already just and necessary apart from that possible outcome, provided that the medicinal change is hoped for and made possible in those situations in which it is not impossible.

Well, then, Hell is a just punishment, although it is not medicinal for the criminal. It’s existence is, however, salutary for the living, since, fearing damnation, they might repent before it is too late. See Rom 2.

No Squirming out of Hell into Non-Existence (Part 2)

Dr. Paul Griffiths contends that his thesis does not contradict the Church’s teaching.

In my opinion, good believers will know that the thesis that hell is impossible contradicts what their devout Mommas told them. And that should count for something. The sensus fidei should find the thesis of the impossibility of hell abhorrent.

But, given the confusion of our age, it may be fitting to cite some Magisterial Authorities, which simply echo the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ that “their worm dies not.” Now, what was the implication of our Lord’s discourse?

Surely, he was not talking about a physical worm but about the worm of conscience. Now, the worm of conscience cannot exist except ‘within’ an existing rational agent. Therefore, if the worm dies not, the rational agent must still exist. If the worm never dies, so must the rational agent. But the speech here is quite figurative (worm, teeth, etc.). So, let us turn to Magisterial declarations.

Here D and SCD are teachings from Sources of Catholic Dogma. DSF is from Denzinger (Ignatius Press edition, 2010). What we see in Magisterial texts through the ages is the affirmation of “burning / being tormented / being tortured, etc.” without end. The subject that burns forever is the rational agent who did evil. But one cannot burn unless one exists. So, one cannot burn forever unless one exists forever. Ergo, the Church teaches that those who die in mortal sin shall exist forever, in the state of burning. Even if the “burning” be taken figuratively, for some kind of punishment (pain of loss or of sense or both), the inference stands.

          • Pope Pelagius I: “The wicked, however, remaining by choice of their own with vessels of wrath fit for destruction, who either did not know the way of the Lord, or knowing it left it when seized by various transgressions, He will give over by a very just judgment to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire, that they may burn without end.” D 228a (DS 443).
          • Innocent III at D 410: “The punishment of original sin is the loss of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is to be tortured everlastingly in hell,” (my trans.). “Poena originalis peccati est carentia visionis Dei, actualis vero poena peccati est gehennae perpetuae cruciatus”
          • Lateran IV: “[he will return] to render to each according to his works, to the reprobate as well as to the elect…. [They shall arise] to receive according to their works, whether these have been good or evil, the ones perpetual punishment (poenam perpetuam) with the devil and the others everlasting glory (gloriam sempiternam) with Christ” (DSF 801, D429).
          • Lyons 1: “If anyone without repentance dies in mortal sin, without a doubt he is tortured forever by the flames of eternal hell” (D 457).
          • Again, The Second Council of Lyons declares, “The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only … immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments” (SCD 464). disparibus
          • Pope John XXII teaches, “the souls … of those who die in mortal sin, or with only original sin descend immediately into hell; however, to be punished with different penalties and in different places” (D, 493a, published A.D. 1321).
          • Finally, Benedict XII teaches more directly a torture by temporal punishments A.D. 1336, writing, “we declare that according to the common arrangement of God, the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin immediately after their death descend to hell where they are tortured by infernal punishments, and that nevertheless on the day of judgment all men with their bodies will make themselves ready to render an account of their own deeds before the tribunal of Christ…” (SCD, 531).
          • Florence, D 693: mox in infernum descendere, poenis tamen disparibus puniendas (punished w/ diverse pains). This is an identical citation of Lyons II at D 464.
          • Catechism of Trent: “The divine justice deservedly pursues them with every species of malediction, once they have been banished. The next words, into everlasting fire, express another sort of punishment [besides poena damni], which is called by theologians the pain of sense, because, like lashes, stripes or other more severe chastisements, among which fire, no doubt, produces the most intense pain, it is felt through the organs of sense” (85f).

I’d like to repeat one of these teachings, after a few more reports about Griffiths’s article. His article starts with the cautious “Perhaps some people can annihilate themselves.” But already the seeds are sewn for the conclusion, “On this argument, none can be damned,” and that conclusion is explicitly drawn by the end. So, the rhetoric is polished.

One of Griffiths’s ways of dealing with the Magisterial teachings is this: Benedict XII, he submits, speaks of 2 categories, the damned and the blessed. Benedict XII does not, Griffiths contends, necessarily exclude the possibility that some are annihilated. Benedict envisions only two possibilities, but Griffiths adds a third. So, there is no contradiction, according to Griffiths.

Sed Contra. Let us look at the following statement from an earlier era, but also authoritative:

  • Lyons 1: “If anyone without repentance dies in mortal sin, without a doubt he is tortured forever by the flames of eternal hell” (D 457).

This is a simply a teaching, “If you die in unrepented mortal sin, you go to hell forever.” This statement does not allow for the annihilation of anyone in the category of the wicked. But those in the category of the good would not want to annihilate themselves. Ergo, theological reasoning concludes with a sententia certa: None are annihilated.

Further, I would contend that these Magisterial teachings on the end really do put forward only 2 categories, the good and the wicked. The good are blessed and the wicked are punished. There is no room for a person who acted freely to be ‘neither wicked nor good’. Theology has considered there to be room for one who never acted freely to be neither wicked nor good. Such a place would be limbo. That would be a place for those who never acted with freedom and who never received the grace of Baptism. The old limbus puerorum. That is a discussion for a different day, but suffice it to say, it is not a non-place of non-existent things that have left only their traces, but a real place peopled by real people, if it exists.

Squirming Out of Hell into Non-Existence?

Dr. Paul Griffiths of Duke University has argued that hell must be empty. Not that it might be empty. But that it must be empty. The article first came out in Pro ecclesia 16 (2007) and was subsequently published as chap. 4 in Liberal Faith.

He contends his thesis does not necessarily contradict the faith, that it is possibly compatible with the faith. Interesting. Let us see the argument and examine it….

One of Griffiths’s arguments runs thus. That is annihilated which loses any feature it needs to have in order to exist. This point is well taken and suggests he takes each thing to be an irreducible whole, not just a locus of parts. He goes on, however, to add slyly that “being able to repent” is such a feature of being a man. Ergo, whoever can no longer repent cannot be a man. At this point, he can simply conclude to the non-existence of hell. Why? Hell is the ‘where’ (either qua state or qua locus or both) of the damned. But the supposedly-eternally-damned are not able to repent. That is a property of being damned. Ergo, Griffiths concludes, neither are they men. Poof! They have gone. Transmorphed. If they are damned, they are not men! What happened? They  “poofed” themselves out of existence!

Wow! How awesome! So, I can eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow I shall poof myself out of existence. No damnation. No everlasting fire. Oh wait: Maybe there is an everlasting fire, … but alas for it, I have escaped its wrath.

If we attend to this argument carefully, we shall see that the Church’s teaching — that there is a hell of the angels and that hell for men is possible — is contradicted. Why? Hell is in its chief essence a state of a rational being. Namely, that state of permanent alienation from God, without capacity for repentance. But Griffiths has just asserted that to lose the capacity to repent is to cease to be the rational substance you once were. So, the Church teaches that a rational being can exist in a state in which repentance is impossible, but Griffiths submits that no rational being can exist in such a state. On Griffiths’s thesis, hell is not a possibility. How is this not a contradiction?

Confusions abound in Dr. Paul Griffiths’s article. As he rightly notes, sin diminishes the human person. He wrongly concludes that one can therefore sin unto annihilation. (If I can diminish myself a little, why not a little more, why not all the way?) This is to confuse being-a-substance with reaching-one’s-end. It is to confuse substantial being and operation. I am a man, that’s what I am substantially. Perhaps I grow or develop; that is I reach my potential, chiefly, union with God. Or on the contrary, perhaps I shrink and shrivel; that is, I fail to reach my end, namely, I suffer temporary or even eternal loss of God. We have here distinction of substance and operation, essence and action. But Griffiths collapses the two and imagines that the permanent failure to reach one’s end must be the permanent failure to be. Or he imagines that if I can fail in various degrees with regard to operation, and diminish myself in operation, I can therefore diminish my substantial being.

Most interesting is this. He seems to recognize that the Church teaches that there is an everlasting punishment. He tries to incorporate this into his proposal. He suggests that one can be “eternally punished” when annihilated. How? He runs to the definition of punishment as a “loss of a good.” He then notes that the non-existent surely lack a good, namely, union with God. Ergo, they are punished. And since they shall never have this good, they are punished forever. Well, now! A most interesting move! Let’s see if a dead man could be sickened by this definition of punishment. Let’s work it out with “sickness,” for as punishment involves evil so sickness involves evil. And Griffiths uses “loss” or “lack” to pinpoint the general character of evil. Ok: Let “To be sick” be “to lack health.” Now, the dead lack health; therefore, the dead are sick. Wow! Why, then, aren’t doctors doctoring the dead?

What we have here is sophistry and sophistical definitions. Let’s return to a definition of punishment. A good definition would lead with something like “privation” rather than loss. Privation implies absence of a good in a subject apt for that good; hence, it implies the subject and the aptness for the good. Ergo, the non-existent cannot be punished, are not being punished.

Note that the air is not blind. “But it lacks sight” someone objects. Indeed, but it is not apt to see. We call something “blind” only if it is apt to see, and the reason is that “blindness” is a privation, not a simple absence.

Interestingly, the metaphysically obtuse usually reject the notion that evil is a “privation” precisely because they fear the sophistry of those who make evil poof out of existence. If evil were a “privation” in the sense of “mere absence” then indeed evil would not exist in the sense the metaphysically obtuse worry about. That is why some of the ‘Dramatists’ say “Evil is a reality; it is not nothing.” Griffiths won’t fall for that, thankfully. But, he errs the other way, falling short of marking the real genus of evil. Evil is a privation of a due good in a subject apt / born for that good; that is why evil is indeed most odious and dreadful. Scrooge is a man, not just a lack of generosity. But Oh how ugly the man who wants generosity. Now, then, if punishment is a privation, and a privation implies a subject, then everlasting punishment implies an everlasting subject.

The impossibility of hell is wishful thinking. The faith teaches us that it is nonsense.

Hell Saves: What?

That’s right, hell saves. The doctrine of hell, that is, saves many souls. So argues Garrigou-Lagrange.

I cite from his little book Everlasting Life, p. 97:

There is today an unwillingness to preach [about hell], and therefore people often forget revealed truth that is very salutary. They do not give attention to the truth that the fear of hell is the beginning of wisdom and the beginning of conversion. They forget that, in this sense, hell has saved many souls.

Someone might object: But that is negative. We should be positive. Start with the positive. And doesn’t perfect love cast out all fear? So, isn’t all fear of punishment evil? Isn’t it selfish?

Let us calmly reason. First, to love one’s own life is not “selfish” but just natural. And good. And God gives us this love of self in giving us life. Hence, his commandment to love neighbor is premised on love of self: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” So, let us get this clear and very clear. Recent heretics reject love of self, and then they prey on your inveterate love of self to make you hate yourself. (It is what certain “leaders” are doing with nations, when they say that all efforts to protect borders are evil.) This is very perverse and we must return to it in another post. Second, to fear what opposes your good is itself good. If I don’t fear the lion, I do not love myself. I am thus unnatural, sick. Third, hell indeed opposes my good. So, I should fear it. Fourth, whoever is not yet justified, not yet holy, does not have charity for God above all things. When you are reaching out to this person, you cannot appeal to the charity they do not have. You have to appeal to something they love naturally. They naturally love their own good and what they think will constitute their happiness. So, you can argue it out with them that none of these things will deliver. And further, if they believe in God and his providence, you can remind them of his coming judgment and the possibility of hell. Fear of hell can motivate them to stop sinning. This is not yet love of God, but it is better not to fornicate than to fornicate. It is a step in the right direction in this sense: It is to stop stepping in the wrong direction. Fifth, so many saints began their journeys this way. Teresa was shown hell. Ignatius begins the Exercises with mediation on hell. Dante teaches us by taking us down to hell. Newman – O Kindly Light – is very sober about true religion. True religion shows us hell before it shows us heaven. That is Newman. Newman! (See Grammar, chapter 10).

Lastly: Yes, the fear of hell is a sign that one is not yet perfect. But since we should accompany sinners, we should start where they are at. If they are not yet perfect saints, we should remind them of hell, or inform them of hell. “But in the proper context.” Yes, of course; this is obvious. It need not be stated. We get it. The context is important. Namely, One God, creator of all, freely made us and calls us, we sinned, he redeems; we balk, he calls; etc. BUT DO WE PRESUME ON THE GRACE OF HIS KINDNESS? DO WE NOT REALIZE THAT HIS KINDNESS IS MEANT FOR OUR REPENTANCE, SO THAT WE MIGHT STAND ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WHEN HE JUDGES THE SECRETS OF HEARTS? (ROMANS, CHAPTER 2)

A True PREPPER: Catherine of Genoa

Garrigou-Lagrange’s wonderful little book, Everlasting Life, continues to impress me. His appreciation of St. Catherine of Genoa is immense, so immense that he gives a chapter by chapter summary of her classical text on Purgatory. Her life’s story is also a wonder, a wonder of early zeal, slackness leading to a somewhat worldly life, and a deep and lasting conversion, a conversion which won over her violent and evil husband.

Garrigou-Lagrange brings up these stories of heroic saints, both classical saints who are canonized and also the anecdotal saints whom he encountered in his priestly ministry. All the better to spur on our own zeal, our own desire to be with Christ, leaving behind the rubbish of yesterday, the rubbish of the world.

He cites from chap. 17 of Catherine these marvelous words of exhortation, a true goad for us to prepare for the one life that lasts, the one foundation that endures, the one house that cannot fall, BEING IN GOD:



Ratzinger: Who Sows Confusion is Antichrist

As did the great Garrigou-Lagrange, so did Joseph Ratzinger write a book on eschatology. Ratzinger’s book has many strengths, though it has considerable and repeated weaknesses as well.

But among the strengths is his identification of some of the characteristics of the Antichrist. He notes the clear teaching of Scripture that there are many antichrists. He obliquely acknowledges that there is perhaps a crescendo of this at the end of time. (Newman does a much better job drawing all this out in his essay on Antichrist in Discussions and Arguments.) At any rate, he cites from a medieval figure on the character of antichrist. The figure is Gerhoh of Reichersberg. It is a chilling quote:

Everyone who is Christo Filio Dei contrarius (against the Christ, the Son of God) deserves this name…. In other words, anyone who destroys ordo (order) and furthers confusio (confusion) is an antichrist (Ratzinger, Eschatology, 200).

Oh Lord, preserve your faithful in the Truth. Have mercy on us, for we are hungry, scattered, and wanting for direction. Without Truth, we cannot Love aright. In the Name of Love, then, Clarify for us Your Truth.

Garrigou-Lagrange 2

The book I referenced last post, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s Everlasting Life, continues to impress me. Simple, and written to be read widely and by anyone 15 or over, it is profound and accurate. I will be citing from it in the days to come.

Today: The Last Judgment. Each of us is judged at the moment he dies. Either heaven, hell, or purgatory. Why, then, a judgment at the end of time? Why shall Christ come “to judge the living and the dead,” as we confess in the creed?

Among the reasons is the setting to rights all the false impressions people have of other people. Say I grab a gun from the suicide-murderer’s hand and thus get my prints and the blood of the murder and his victims on my skin. Then the police find me. Then the courts charge me with guilt. But it was all false. Likewise, suppose all praise me for this or that pseudo-accomplishment. All speak well of me. Few contradict me. The world embraces me. But it was all false; I am a sham and no man.

Well, the last judgment shall set to rights all these false impressions. Let us read:

“Dead men live in the memory of men on earth and are often judged contrary to truth. Spirits, strong and false, like Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel, are judged as if they were great philosophers. False prophets and heresiarchs, such as Luther and Calvin, are considered by many to be masters of religious thought, whereas great saints and doctors are profoundly ignored” (p. 82).

Indeed, we are living in days when the good is called evil, and the evil is called good. When the truly profound and interesting is disregarded as boring, and the titillating and dangerous is breathed in like air and invited home to one’s bed. Evil days be ours. But let us not fear. For God is near, even at the very door.

Good Old Garrigou-Lagrange

For the past 60 years, people have loved to hate Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

Largely, this hatred is based on ignorance. The man’s writings are a marvelous exercising in the full ambit of systematic and spiritual theology. Great erudition, a keen mind, prudent judgment, utter orthodoxy. He is clearly one of the greatest of the twentieth century theologians.

I would like to cite from his book Everlasting Life, a passage that speaks his immense charity. The quotation is so appropriate today, when there is no hope at all of the state supporting religion in a good way. (No imminent hope, that is. There is always hope in God that men’s hearts be converted. And it is precisely to this that GL speaks, conversion of hearts.) Notice how great his love of man is. For each man is a universe, he says. A Universe longing for God:

What will reconvert the world today? Only a constellation of saints can lead the masses back to Christ and the Church. Mere democratic aspirations, as conceived by Lamennais and many others, are not sufficient. There is need of the love of a Vincent de Paul if we would reach the depths of the modern soul. Everlasting life must again become, not a mere word, but an experienced reality (Tan, p. 36).

Amen. Highly recommend this book, which is easily read but whose depths are supported by precise and accurate theological judgment, together with great piety.

Whether to Make a Sign of the Cross at the Penitential Rite in the Novus Ordo?

Some people make a sign of the Cross at the end of the Penitential Rite in the Novus Ordo, when the priest says, “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to life everlasting.”

I used to do this but have recently stopped doing so. Why?

In the Extraordinary form, the rubrics include a sign of the cross, but at what is clearly and explicitly a prayer of absolution. The priest prays for all, including himself, this prayer of absolution. He makes the sign of cross over us actively; we make it over ourselves receptively.

But the Novus Ordo has no prayer that is clearly and explicitly one of absolution. The EF in fact has both a prayer similar to the Novus Ordo prayer of petition. But the EF adds what the Novus Ordo does not have, an explicit and clear prayer of absolution. The rubrics at this very point call for a sign of the cross.

I have no settled opinion on the issue raised in the title of this post. However, I lean towards no sign of the cross. I do not believe that the rubrics of the Novus Ordo call for a sign of the cross. And I take it that the absence of a clear and explicit prayer of absolution is the absence of absolution. Here, I may be wrong. It may be that the priest is supposed to intend, and thus convey, an absolution with the words he does state. I incline to think he is not supposed to intend and convey this but simply to petition for it.