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I have been a professor of theology at the undergraduate and graduate levels for 13 years and counting. I am married to Flory, and we have five children. I am committed to the communication and defense of the Catholic Tradition for the salvation of souls and the true nourishment of culture.

Bruno Forte: God in Motion?

I’ve been reading Archbishop Bruno Forte’s The Trinity as History. The title itself is certainly provocative.

Archbishop Forte has had some interesting things to say lately about dogma and moral teaching. Some have understood him to imply that mortal teachings can evolve away from the prior doctrine. Evolution, in short, not organic development. Organic development is the refined articulation of organism. Evolution is the jettisoning of the old and the creation of the new.

As a matter of Catholic Dogma: Dogmas do not evolve. They are refined articulations of the already revealed. Thus, nothing about a dogma is false. Exactly what was once declared one must forever hold. Never to be watered down or diluted, much less altered or denied. (But these are the same errors in the end.)

If the above reading of Abp. Forte is correct, it is not surprising, given his Trinitarian theology. He writes, “Christian monotheism is not one among many but is Trinitarian monotheism!” Caution: That sounds great. But in fact, it often constitutes a jettisoning of reason and prior dogma. That seems true here. He continues: “It is this aspect that the development of thought, esp. in the West, has left in the shadows.”

What development? Do you mean by “west” the Catholic Dogma that God has one divine essence, numerically identical? If so, you think we need to get beyond, to evolve past, to jettison, that dogma?

Forte: “Divine unity in this approach [namely, Forte’s approach] is considered not as static essence but as dynamism, process, life, as the history of Trinitarian love.” (All the above, p. 148).

Would it be a surprise, then, to find a theologian — who thinks that God is moving, in process, developing a love relationship — also thinking that dogmas evolve and change? Would it be a surprise to find such a theologian laboring for change in moral doctrine?

Catholic Teaching in Contradiction to Penal Substitution

From Yesterday’s Liturgy, Preface of Palm Sunday:

For, though innocent, he suffered willingly for sinners and accepted unjust condemnation to save the guilty.

From Leo’s Tome:

“What was taken from the mother of the Lord was the nature without the guilt” (adsumpta est de matre domini natura, non culpa) Leo’s tome, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, 1.79

John IV, pointing to what is true in Pope Honorius’s infelicitous words:

“[The Son] Assumed all that is ours without bearing any guilt of the sin arising from the inheritance of the transgression…. There was no sin at all in him when he was born and lived….” (DH 496, Ignatius Press edition).

Vatican II,

    • Gaudium et Spes, 22: “As an innocent Lamb, freely shedding his blood, he merited life for us.”

Un-Catholic to set “Mercy” in opposition to Law: Part 1

A prominent Rabbi has just complained that rhetoric coming out of the Vatican is, as he hears it, anti-Jewish. A link to his open letter is here.

It is very good that this Rabbi knows of the difference between personal opinions spoken by men who happen to be Catholic authorities and the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church herself. In the Church’s history, popes have spoken in two ways: Sometimes as pope and sometimes as a private person. We must not confuse these. Only words spoke as pope, only papal words, can be authoritative. Mere words of a man who happens to be pope are not authoritative.

So, most importantly, what is the Catholic view of the Law? The Rabbi’s open letter calls for clear presentation, not of personal whim, but of the truth, of true Catholic Dogma which no man has authority over.

Well, first, let us consider the gravest heresy of all regarding the law, Marcionism. Marcionism holds that the God of the Law has nothing to do with the God of the Gospel. They are, Marcion believed, enemies. 

For Marcion (excommunicated in AD 144), the God of the Law is only just, not merciful; only a law-giver not a grace-giver; only a judge, not a forgiver; only a commander, not a promiser. Few would jump for joy at such a God!

By contrast, the God of Marcion’s heretical Gospel is: only merciful, not just; only a grace-giver, not a law-giver; a law-abolisher not a law-enhancer; only a forgiver not a judge; only a promiser not a commander. 

Marcion’s heresy no one today believes as he taught it. However, its family resemblances are tempting. Today, and since Luther’s revolt, it is the sin of presumption. It presumes that God’s mercy will ill-befit his justice. It presumes, against St. Paul (Romans 2) that God’s mercy indulges human sin. The conclusion of heresy: “Therefore, sin boldly, that God may indulge the more!” NO SAINT EVER SAID THAT. ALL WHO HOLD THAT HOLD HERESY, DEFY REVELATION, AND PORTRAY GOD IN A FALSE LIGHT. ERGO, ALL SUCH ARE FALSE MESSENGERS OF THE GOSPEL.

It is interesting that a notable scholar relates that Luther thought that Marcion got Paul mostly right, excepting that the 2 Gods are just one God, who can act in 2 ways towards us. Whereas Marcion banished the evil God, Luther kept the “merely just” attitude of God close at hand, to be considered in dialectical tension with the “merely merciful” aspect of God.


From My Book on Lutheran – Catholic Notions of Justification

In my book Engrafted into Christ, I refute the notion that the Catholic Dogma and the official Lutheran notion of justification are compatible. There has to this date been no competent refutation of my refutation. One of the major issues is a question to Lutherans concerning God’s power and goodness. Is or is not God powerful enough to transform us now so that we may obey his laws? Clearly, he is powerful enough. Second, is or is not God willing to do so? Catholic dogma mandates: Indeed, he is. But the Lutheran answer implies that he is not. So, the questions that follow, from the end of Chapter 4 of my book, available on Amazon. I would note that although I cite Balthasar in this passage, I have come, each day more and more, to find grave fault with much of his work. Even his reading of Therese seems to me wanting. However, there is rhetorical usefulness in calling on the Balthasarians to assist in the now seemingly Herculean task of insisting on Catholic dogma:

Finally, I must ask the Finns a question that von Balthasar once posed to Karl Barth. If at the end of time those who truly believe in Christ are transformed into vessels fitted for God’s triune love, could not this transformation take place now, in a satisfactory albeit not yet eschatologically perfected manner?88 Granted that definitive peace shall dawn only after every just person has been raised and all tears have been washed away, granted too that before death even the greatest saint is able to sin (posse peccare) and does sin venially, still, must sinners await until death the reception of the grace that will cleanse them from the inner darkness of damnable sin and constitute them as living branches of the true vine? Must the earthly spouse remain a harlot her life long, chasing after foreign gods? If she with simplicity pines for her divine lover’s glance, can she be said truly to be an adulteress, even though she could await him more steadfastly and vigorously? If in the heavenly kingdom even the most righteous person could not think of boasting in inhering righteousness and if the guarantee of this proper humility is located not in the non-attainment or only partial attainment of righteousness but simply in trusting love of God, in humility, then why must all justified believers be sentenced to labor under the burden of still-remnant, damnable sin? Is it so inconceivable that a saintly person, washed with the blood of Christ, could dedicate herself wholly to God’s glory and, while not guilty of any mortal sin her entire life, could cry out, “It is not because God, in His anticipating Mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I go to Him with confidence and love”?89 And yet this same saint wished to “give the lie” to those who interpret Jesus’ saying “It is those who are forgiven much who can love much” (Lk 7:47) to mean that one must first sin much in order to love much. She writes, “I have heard it said that one cannot meet a pure soul who loves more than a repentant soul; ah! how I would wish to give the lie to this statement!”90 Hans Urs von Balthasar praised this humbly audacious saint, Thérèse of Lisieux, as the “Catholic answer” to the Lutheran question.91 His prognosis is well-taken, if one consider the genuine piety of Lutherans. Much of her life is readily imbibed by Lutherans. Still, a well-balanced assessment of her “little way” must include her distinctly Catholic exclamation: “Ah! Since the happy day, it seems to me that Love penetrates and surrounds me, that at each moment this Merciful Love renews me, purifying my soul and leaving no trace of sin within it, and I need have no fear of purgatory.”92 Thérèse recognizes her poverty and confesses that she cannot merit anything of herself without God; however, she does not let this inhibit a bold confession of the really efficacious power of God’s sanctifying love.


Peura is right to perceive that the Finnish reading of Luther invites Catholics and Lutherans closer together, but his vehement denial of the Catholic teaching on faith formed by charity exposes the remnant gulf between Catholic and Finnish-Lutheran thought on justification. The Finnish reading has not provided the fundamental breakthrough necessary for Catholics and Lutherans to achieve a consensus, even a legitimately differentiated consensus, in basic truths.

88    See Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Theology of Karl Barth: Exposition and Interpretation, trans. John Drury (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), esp. pp. 271­76. See the discussion of this work in Hampson, Christian Contradictions, pp. 124­26. Hampson’s incisive critique of Catholic readings of Lutheran theology cannot be easily dismissed. I should like to note that the “already/not-yet” duality that requires the covering of the grace of Christ is not simply a Finnish misreading of Luther. Luther himself in his 1535 (1531) Lectures on Galatians defended the necessity of faith as trust because of which God does not impute still-present sin unto damnation. Luther claims that faith is necessary now because of this still-present sin but that faith will not be necessary in the heavenly kingdom because the saints shall love God purely and perfectly (Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians [1535]: Chapters 5­6, trans. Jaroslav Pelikan, vol. 27, Luther’s Works, pp. 1­149, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963], p. 64 [LW 27: 64]; see also Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians [1519], trans. Richard Jungkuntz, vol. 27, Luther’s Works, pp. 151­410, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963], p. 363 [LW 27: 363]).

89    St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, trans. John Clarke, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1996), p. 259. See also ibid., pp. 149­50, in which she relates her discovery that she had not committed any mortal sin her entire life.

90    St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, p. 84.

91    See Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Thérèse of Lisieux,” trans. Donald Nichols and Anne England Nash, in Two Sisters in the Spirit: Thérèse of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity, pp. 13­362 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992); see esp. pp. 256, 259, and 283­84.

92    St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, p. 181.

Dogmatic Theology 1.10: Modernism Part 2

I complete my treatment of Pius X’s portrait and condemnation of Modernism.

Again, this is a portrait gathered from many elements. He is not saying that anyone exactly matches the portrait. He is arguing that there is a coherent logic in the thing portrayed. So, sundry instantiations of this portrait are possible. Many “family resemblances.” And, lo and behold, this seems true enough, as I suggest.

Dogmatic Theology 1.9: Pius X and Modernism Part 1

This is the first of 2 podcasts on Pius X’s portrait of Modernism. It is a coherent portrait of the disparate elements of modernism wrapped up in one.

It is not that any thinker exactly instantiates this portrait. Rather, the various elements suggest this converging view on the various matters of theology. I suggest that there are indeed theologies of recent memory that have, to greater and lesser degrees, “family resemblances” to this portrait. Pius X is to be commended for drawing up the portrait. Family resemblances of this great heresy are, alas, still with us. Worse: Their proponents are secretive. It is an “occult heresy.”

Fr. Chad Ripperger: Special Prayer to Preserve Chastity

Fr. Ripperger has publicly stated that men and women who struggle with chastity have solid and effective results if they pray Lauds and Vespers faithfully, every day, in the Extraordinary Form. He attests these results. Of course, this is not magic. He is very clear that one must fulfill one’s duties in life and avoid the near occasions of sin.

The link is here.

Irenaeus Tries to Convert Others

The great and glorious St. Irenaeus, Doctor of the Church, makes every effort, bends his mind constantly, towards the goal of winning converts to the True Christ. Why? Out of love:

We do indeed pray that these men may not remain in the pit which they themselves have dug, but separate themselves from a Mother of this nature, and depart from Bythus, and stand away from the void, and relinquish the shadow; and that they, being converted to the Church of God, may be lawfully begotten, and that Christ may be formed in them, and that they may know the Framer and Maker of this universe, the only true God and Lord of all. We pray for these things on their behalf, loving them better than they seem to love themselves. For our love, inasmuch as it is true, is salutary to them, if they will but receive it. It may be compared to a severe remedy, extirpating the proud and sloughing flesh of a wound; for it puts an end to their pride and haughtiness. Wherefore it shall not weary us, to endeavour with all our might to stretch out the hand unto them. Over and above what has been already stated, I have deferred to the following book, to adduce the words of the Lord; if, by convincing some among them, through means of the very instruction of Christ, I may succeed in persuading them to abandon such error, and to cease from blaspheming their Creator, who is both God alone, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Against the Faith III.25, ANF, vol. 1, p. 460)