Category Archives: Pope

Cardinals Publicly Question Interpretations of Amoris Laetitia

I am very heartened by the charity of Four Cardinals who have brought forth publicly questions about Amoris Laetitia. This document has been causing great confusion among the faithful.

However, if we do not let our ears be tickled, we will not be deceived. The Church’s teaching does not change. It does not evolve. Organic development involves the complete affirmation of everything once taught, plus the addition of a new precision. This is not evolution, according to which one species (an old affirmation) dies out so that a new species (a newer affirmation, one that does not include the old affirmation) may be put in its place.

As these good cardinals know, the pope is custodian of these constant teachings. The papal authority does not extend to the point of denying divine revelation or altering those matters of discipline that are revealed.

Now, these teachings have to do with the Love of Sinners. The sinner cannot by his sin make his way to heaven. His sin takes him down a path of loss, despair, darkness, closedness, death. Hence, John the Baptist, who preaches against sin and wickedness, is an agent of love. He is not an agent of “rigidity”. He is an agent of peace and blessing. For one who clings to sin cannot be saved. One ignorant of sin should be awakened, so that he might be set free from sin. He should not be “coddled” in his ignorance. He should lovingly be shown the truth. He should lovingly be given the medicines of immortality: Penance and Eucharist.

I urge everyone to read this careful letter of these four cardinals. They asked the pope privately to disambiguate very strange locutions in his recent document. He did not respond to their request. Thus, as true shepherds lovingly concerned about the flock, they are asking him publicly to correct the minds of those who go astray from the true faith. May God bless them for their courage, love, and fidelity.

What is the Authentic Catholic Teaching on Love and True Dialogue?

Love is willing the good for one’s neighbor. But Jesus Christ is the only way to Salvation. Hence, the Catholic knows that true love demands that we will each neighbor to encounter Jesus Christ. This is fully done in the Catholic Church, with the whole truth and all the Sacraments. Hence, the Catholic knows that true love demands that we will each neighbor to enter the Catholic Church.

The means by which we put ourselves in the service of God’s call that this happen must differ in each case. In all cases, charity, prudence, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit must rule. Yet, in no case is this not the end one should intend. (In all cases, this is the end one should intend.)

These truths cannot be overruled by anyone, even by a pope. 

We find these truths beautifully stated in the Prayer of a pope who remained true to this vision, Pope Pius XI. His Prayer of Consecration calls on Jesus to bring the whole world into the Catholic Church. This intention is, incidentally, also echoed in Lumen Gentium, chap. 2.

Most sweet Jesus,
Redeemer of the human race,
look down upon us,
humbly prostrate before Thine altar.

We are Thine and Thine we wish to be;
but to be more surely united with Thee,
behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today
to Thy Most Sacred Heart.

Many, indeed, have never known Thee;
many, too, despising Thy precepts,
have rejected Thee.

Have mercy on them all,
most merciful Jesus,
and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart.

Be Thou King, O Lord,
not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee,
grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house,
lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions,
or whom discord keeps aloof
and call them back to the harbour of truth and unity of faith,
so that soon there may be but one flock and one shepherd.

Be Thou King of all those who even now sit in the shadow of idolatry or Islam,
and refuse not Thou to bring them into the light of Thy kingdom.
Look, finally, with eyes of pity upon the children of that race,
which was for so long a time Thy chosen people;
and let Thy Blood, which was once invoked upon them in vengeance,
now descend upon them also in a cleansing flood of redemption and eternal life.

Grant, O Lord,
to Thy Church,
assurance of freedom and immunity from harm;
give peace and order to all nations,
and make the earth resound
from pole to pole with one cry:
Praise to the Divine Heart
that wrought our salvation:
to it be glory
and honour forever.

Amen

Continued Lesson from Gregory XVI

The good pope continues in his Probe nostis to praise the efforts of Catholics to Evangelize, to spread the Catholic faith, to win converts to the true religion. Why? Because Catholicism is a good. It is the gift of God to the world. And who loves the people in the world, that sit in darkness, will want to give this gift to the world. For Christ comes to his people through his Church, in the Gospels and in the Sacramental Action. And again, Christ calls his followers into unity, the unity of his One Body. Thus, both in terms of source of grace and truth and in terms of end, the Catholic Church is  necessary for salvation. Spreading its reach, winning converts, is love for the poor at its best. It goes without saying that all of this must not be done as means to a political end, to private goals and goods. No. It is for the good of the sinner, which each of us is. Hence, the method of winning converts must be a method of love, not force; of invitation not embarrassment; of gift not gavel.

Let us hear the Pope’s praise for all those who wish to accomplish this loving mission:

6. We are thankful for the success of apostolic missions in America, the Indies, and other faithless lands. The indefatigable zeal of many apostolic men has led them abroad into those places. Relying not on wealth nor on any army, they are protected by the shield of faith alone. They fearlessly fight the Lord’s battles against heresy and unbelief by private and public speech and writings. They are inspired with a burning love and undeterred by rough roads and heavy toil. They search out those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to summon them to the light and life of the Catholic Religion. So, fearless in the face of every danger, they bravely enter the woods and caves of savages, gradually pacify them by Christian kindness, and prepare them for true faith and real virtue. At length they snatch them from the devil’s rule, by the bath of regeneration and promote them to the freedom of God’s adopted sons.

7. However, We are reduced to tears both of sorrow in Our detestation of cruel persecutors and executioners, and of consolation in beholding the heroic constancy of the confessors of the faith, as We recall here the glorious deeds of the new martyrs in the Far East. We have already praised them at length in an address to the consistory. Tonkin and Cochin are still wet with the blood of many bishops, priests, and faithful. They have repeated the achievement of the early Christian martyrs in facing a cruel death for Christ undismayed by torture. This is a major victory for the Church and for religion. It casts the persecutors into confusion when they see that even today the divine promises of unending protection and help are really fulfilled. This is the reason why, in the words of St. Leo: “the religion established by the sacrament of the Cross of Christ cannot be destroyed by any kind of cruelty.”[2]

8. These events bring consolation and glory to the Catholic religion. But there are other grounds of consolation for the Church. Pious organizations are developing for the good of religion and Christian society. Some of these assist the work of the holy apostolic missions. God, who ceaselessly protects His Church, raises up within it new societies as times, places, and circumstances require. Under the Church’s authority each society in its own ways devotes its full energy to works of charity, the instruction of the faithful, and the spread of the faith.

9. Likewise a source of joy to the Catholic world, and a wonder to nonCatholics, are the many widespread sodalities of pious women. Under the rule of St. Vincent de Paul or in association with other approved Institutes, they are remarkable in their practice of the Christian virtues. They devote themselves entirely either to saving women from the way of perdition, or to training girls in religion, solid piety and the tasks suited to their state in life, or to relieving the dire want of their neighbors with every assistance. No natural weakness of their sex or fear of any danger holds them back.

10. A similar cause of joy for Us and for all good men are those groups of the faithful who recently have begun to meet regularly in many cities, especially the larger ones. Their purpose is to combat bad books with good ones written by themselves or others, displaying purity of doctrine instead of foul forms of error and Christian gentleness and charity instead of insults and attacks.

11. Finally We must praise most highly the well known society which is constantly expanding, not alone in Catholic territories but even in the countries of non-Catholics and unbelievers. This society enables the faithful of every class to help the apostolic missions and to have a share themselves in the spiritual graces of these missions. We are referring, as you realize, to the famous Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

 

JPII Stressed Absolute Truth

John Paul II, and the entire Catholic Tradition, believed in Absolute Truth.

The marvelous encyclical of JPII, Veritatis splendor begins with this joyful remark of a philosopher:

“In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it.”

Now, that seems so true. Children want the truth, the real truth. This is part of what is good and right about children. It is that aspect of them we are called to imitate – lest we be told by the terrifying words, “Get away from me, you evil-doers, I (Truth) do not know you.” If “knowledge” is intimacy and if Jesus is Absolute Truth, I suppose we all are called to be fundamentalists of a sort.

Why would anyone be worried about claims to absolute truth? 1. If the claims are false (e.g. false religions, false despotisms). 2. If the claims are true but they are made with arrogance: We are the ones who own the truth.

Our response. 1. Catholic dogmas are absolutely true. 2. True conclusions of philosophy are absolutely true. What is true is absolutely true. 2. It is not that we “have” the truth as though we were its Masters, its Creators. That would in fact make truth a product of will!  We know that it is Truth whom we embrace, for whom we die, before whom we kneel, whom we serve, for whose sake we serve our neighbor, to whom we come for real forgiveness, having accepted his gift of repentance that leads us to hate and leave the sin.

The encyclical continues:

“Today, however, it seems necessary to reflect on the whole of the Church’s moral teaching, with the precise goal of recalling certain fundamental truths of Catholic doctrine which, in the present circumstances, risk being distorted or denied” (art. 4).

There are certain “fundamental truths”? Really? Absolute certainties? And why was the pope recalling them? Because these were at risk today of being distorted.

The text continues:

In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church’s moral teachings. It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions. At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth. Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church’s moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to “exhort consciences” and to “propose values”, in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices. (art 4)

Values without truth. That is relativism, and relativism is heresy (or vegetation of the mind).

Let’s pivot from these initial remarks to some clear indications that we can and are bound to attain absolute certainty in certain matters of truth.

Doesn’t St. Paul teach us also that God wants to answer that “fundamental thirst” for “absolute truth”? I think he does:

“God wills that all be saved, and come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).

Doesn’t HOLY MOTHER CHURCH teach dogmatically, the following:

“Therefore we define that every assertion contrary to the truth of enlightened faith is totally false.” (Vatican I, Dei Filius.)

And aren’t we all as Catholics – every single one who is Catholic, without exception, have to give absolute and irrevocable assent to that declaration?

Doesn’t the same HOLY MOTHER CHURCH, who genuinely loves us in her dogmas, teach:

“9. Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the Church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth.”

Absolute. Bound. Errors. Strong words. Are they from mean old grumpy Catholics? No. They are from loving pastors who want to shepherd souls away from the absolute destruction of Satan’s plan, to lead people along the high and narrow way, the way that is hard but rewarding, to defend them from wolves.

And then, in Pastor Aeternus, does not the same Holy Mother Church teach:

“4. This is the teaching of the Catholic truth, and no one can depart from it without endangering his faith and salvation”?

In Fides et Ratio, JPII consoles us that our thirst for knowledge has an absolute answer: Revelation!

“The truth communicated in Christ’s Revelation is therefore no longer confined to a particular place or culture, but is offered to every man and woman who would welcome it as the word which is the absolutely valid source of meaning for human life” (art. 12). A little later, in art. 15, he writes, “The truth of Christian Revelation, found in Jesus of Nazareth, enables all men and women to embrace the “mystery” of their own life. As absolute truth, it summons human beings to be open to the transcendent, whilst respecting both their autonomy as creatures and their freedom.”

But I think the best refutation of the false idea that a “fundamentalist” is one “who thinks he has absolute truth” is the words a little later in that very good encyclical Fides et Ratio, art. 27. The context: Man’s search for truth.

27. No-one can avoid this questioning, neither the philosopher nor the ordinary person. The answer we give will determine whether or not we think it possible to attain universal and absolute truth; and this is a decisive moment of the search. Every truth—if it really is truth—presents itself as universal, even if it is not the whole truth. If something is true, then it must be true for all people and at all times. Beyond this universality, however, people seek an absolute which might give to all their searching a meaning and an answer—something ultimate, which might serve as the ground of all things. In other words, they seek a final explanation, a supreme value, which refers to nothing beyond itself and which puts an end to all questioning. Hypotheses may fascinate, but they do not satisfy. Whether we admit it or not, there comes for everyone the moment when personal existence must be anchored to a truth recognized as final, a truth which confers a certitude no longer open to doubt.

JPII promotes absolute truth.

We should do the same.

Lesson from Pius IX on Pastoral Duty

From his marvelous Qui pluribus:

25. When ministers are ignorant or neglectful of their duty, then the morals of the people also immediately decline, Christian discipline grows slack, the practice of religion is dislodged and cast aside, and every vice and corruption is easily introduced into the Church. The word of God, which was uttered for the salvation of souls, is living, efficacious and more piercing than a two-edged sword.[24] So that it may not prove to be unfruitful through the fault of its ministers, never cease, venerable brothers, from encouraging the preachers of this divine word to carry out most religiously the ministry of the Gospel. This should not be carried out by the persuasive words of human wisdom, nor by the profane seductive guise of empty and ambitious eloquence, but rather as a demonstration of the spirit and power.

26. Consequently, by presenting the word of truth properly and by preaching not themselves but Christ crucified, they should clearly proclaim in their preaching the tenets and precepts of our most holy religion in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church and the Fathers. They should explain precisely the particular duties of individuals, frighten them from vice, and inspire them with a love of piety. In this way the faithful will avoid all vices and pursue virtues, and so, will be able to escape eternal punishment and gain heavenly glory.

Even the Early Ratzinger Causes One to Lament

Part I.

These days, one is bound to find people nostalgic for the good old days of 30 years ago, or 10 years ago. Indeed, one can sympathize with this.

However, one should take note that difficult times have been with us for some while. Josef Ratzinger was “peritus” at the Second Vatican Council. His input was crucial on certain matters. He even teamed up with Fr. Karl Rahner, who afterwards went even more wrong than before. Ratzinger, thankfully, got better. However, it is important to know, when assessing today, that his early theology had notable problems.

Case in point: His Mariology.

He wrote, at the time of the Council, “The idea of Mary as ‘co-redemptrix’ is gone now, as is the idea of Mary as ‘mediatrix of all graces’” (Theological Highlights of Vatican II [New York: Paulist Press, 1966], p. 93). He even held such a negative view as late as the end of John Paul II’s pontificate. See Ratzinger, God and the World (Ignatius, 2002), p. 306.

Is this a problem? Yes, a big problem. Why? Because Mary as Mediatrix is part of the ordinary and universal teaching of the Church for many centuries. Also, the notion of Mary as CoRedemptrix is also doctrine, for at least a century of Magisterial teaching. But to deny doctrine, established doctrine, is not a good act. Further, to see Vatican II’s silence as a repudiation of the doctrine is perhaps worse.

Now, it is one thing to get Mary wrong before the Church teaches, again and again, on a matter. E.g. Aquinas. It is quite another to ignore that teaching. Sadly, that is what Ratzinger did for quite a while. Fortunately, he died to his own opinion when he became pope. He allowed the grace of state to increase and his own theological mind to decrease. Hence, he actually proclaimed Mary’s mediating role in every grace. Thank God.

A Condemnable Pope Condemned? Yes

Issue: Whether Jesus Christ – the Word Incarnate – has two wills and two acts of will, one for each will?

Dogmatic Answer: Yes.

Pope Honorius (d. AD 638) failed to have that answer. In words, at least, he professed “not two wills” and “not two operations”. He was reluctant to answer the question. There were factions and battles. The empire was being ripped asunder. The Church, torn here and there. Infidels threatened from the East and South to wipe out large swaths of Christianity. It seemed best to compromise, not to lead, not to defend the truth. Thus the woeful weakness of that Pope.

But the Church survived his inaction that effectively constituted objective treachery (or, worse, as it seems some thought: his complicit treachery). The Holy Church survived and in her teaching members came to her senses: Under the reigns of Honorius’s successors, she condemned the heresy that denies two wills and two acts of will; she also condemned Pope Honorius.

Ecumenical Council Constantinople III: “After having investigated the teachings by Sergius … and the letter written in reply by … Honorius, and after having discovered that these are entirely alien to the apostolic teachings and to the decisions of the holy councils and to all the eminent holy Fathers but instead follow the false teachings of the heretics, these we entirely reject and loathe as soul-destroying” (DS 550). “… We have seen fit to banish from the holy Church of God and to anathematize also Honorius, the former pope of the elder Rome because we have discovered in the letters written by him to Sergius that he followed in everything the opinion of that one and confirmed his impious teaching” (DS 552).

Pope Agatho (NPNF II):

“Woe is me, if I cover over with silence the truth which I am bidden to give…. What shall I say in the future examination by Christ himself, if I blush (God forbid!) to preach here the truth of his words? What satisfaction shall I be able to give for myself, what for the souls committed to me, when he demands a strict account of the office I have received?”

Again, “Who, then, my most clement and most pious lords and sons, (I speak trembling and prostrate in spirit) would not be stirred by that admirable promise, which is made to the faithful:  “Whoever shall confess me before men, him also will I confess before my Father, who is in heaven”?  And which one even of the infidels shall not be terrified by that most severe threat, in which he protests that he will be full of wrath, and declares that “Whoever shall deny me before men, him also will I deny before my Father, who is in heaven”?  Whence also blessed Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, gives warning and says:  “But though we, or an angel from the heaven should preach to you any other Gospel from what we have evangelized to you, let him be anathema.”  Since, therefore, such an extremity of punishment overhangs the corruptors, or suppressors of truth by silence, would not any one flee from an attempt at curtailing the truth of the Lord’s faith?

Pope Leo II, in the year 682, a little under 50 years after the death of the notorious Honorius: “We in like manner anathematize … [list of heretics] and also Honorius, who did not purify this apostolic Church by the doctrine of the apostolic tradition, but rather attempted to subvert the immaculate faith by profane treason.” DS 563.

Profession of Faith in Rome: “The council Fathers have restrained under the bond of perpetual anathema the following authors of a truly novel doctrine: Sergius, … along with Honorius, who extended favor to their distorted assertions” (see Ignatius Press Denzinger, p. 681).

 

BUT YOU WILL OBJECT: THE POPE IS INFALLIBLE.

I RESPOND: STOP BEING AN ULTRA-MONTANEThe pope’s very action is itself formally infallible when and only when he is defining a matter of faith and morals. I say defining. Everyone who has any sense of fundamental theology knows that such events are rare. (Not as rare as some minimalists maintain, but rare nonetheless.)

Example to illustrate this point: John Paul II used very strong and final language in his declaration that the Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women. Let’s listen to the wording. He writes with the thunder of truth:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

This declaration comes millimeters away from being in itself formally infallible. Still, in itself it is not infallible. Rather, it gives well nigh infallible witness to the already infallible and hence irreversible teaching of the Church. The content taught is infallible, but this declaration is itself not infallible.

“Says who?” pokes the doubting Thomas. “Says Ratzinger himself as Prefect of the CDF!” That’s who.

“On what grounds?” On the grounds that the Canon Law on the books at this time stipulated that such definitions must explicitly state that they are irreformable. But JPII did not do that. Ergo.

Now for an aside: JPII was a pope that followed canon law. If he wanted not to follow it, or to make it stricter, he changed the law before acting out of turn.

On that note, we close with a few relevant though seemingly scattered (but once again relevant and linked) lines of thought.

Sure, the pope can “act out of turn” since no one can authoritatively judge him. There is no tribunal by which he can be prosecuted – except by a successor pope, of course. But Truth judges him. Truth and Genuine Love judge him. Genuine Love wills the good for the sinner. But sin is evil for the sinner. Ergo, genuine love wills the separation of sin from the sinner. Now, when mortal sin clings to a sinner (i.e. a sinner does not repent by a determinate free act of repentance, which includes firm purpose of amendment, which entails willing no longer to sin and willing to take the needed action) then such a sinner cannot receive the Eucharist happily. Only miserably. Truth shepherds the sinner towards repentance, towards a cleansing, before it invites him to dine in celebration. If a man commits adultery, God forbid, he must repent and seek God’s forgiveness, the Church’s, and his wife’s. Perhaps she forgives him. If so, perhaps in time he can come to her as in the days of his youth. But if he is still shacking up with his concubine, then his wife would retain her dignity only by refusing him. And the on-going adulterer (e.g. “divorced” and “remarried”) retains his sobriety only be abstaining from communion. Even if an Angel were to tell him to receive, or that it would be OK to receive, he should shun such advice as contrary to all faith and reason and good sense and decency. After all, if he still has faith (isn’t that still a requisite for receiving???) then he knows that to receive in a state of sin is sacrilege that merits greater punishment after death. But hey – no one thinks about punishment anymore. None about sacrilege.

God is become in the minds of many a Lawless Sugar Daddy.

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!