Monthly Archives: February 2014

Concerning “God is Not a Bachelor” Sermons

There is a certain popular sermon on the Trinity. It goes like this: God is not the great eternal bachelor. For he is not selfish. Therefore, he is the Holy Trinity.

Notice, the sermon does run, “Therefore.” With startling logical skill, the local priest has succeeded in overcoming all odds so as to prove the Trinity from the simple observation that “God is not a bachelor.” I call this “Evil Knievel Logic.” One stands astounded that Aristotle didn’t see the point. Or Muslims. Or Jews.

And that is my point. This sermon is offensive for interreligious dialogue. For what is a Jew to make of this sermon. That his God is “just a bachelor”? I recall a female Muslim student of mine remarking, after we had read a theological argument along the lines above, “This argument seems to presuppose a God who is less than God and therefore requires company.” To which, the only answer is, “You are exactly correct.” And how sad that a Muslim should have to encounter such a presentation of Our Most Holy Trinity. Rather than being one Almighty Pure Act, so she might conclude if that reading were the presentation of the Trinity for her, our God is a set of several none of whom is pure act. But no set of finites yields an infinite.

This sermon has got to stop.

Take another example. Some argue thus, “Every I needs a Thou. Therefore, God is Triune.” Again, one stands absolutely flabbergasted. In one fell swoop, the Highest of Mysteries Proven. QED. But this sermon / theological argument, too, must stop.

OR RATHER, each of these must be reconfigured. Each must be reconfigured so as to do justice both to the majesty of Christian faith and to the legitimate concerns of Muslims, Jews, and non-religious Theists. The core concern is that God needs no “help” to be perfect. We Christians share and endorse that concern. Our God is not “looking” for another “Thou” so that he can become God, be happy, be loving. Our God is essentially perfect. He lacks nothing in his substance. Yet, Our God is the Explosion of Pure Act from Pure Act. Our God is in Three Hypostases. The One essence is communicated and possessed in three distinct hypostases. This is what we add to the merely rational conception of deity. Thus, we take nothing away from philosophy or the Old Covenant revelation. Rather do we augment it. RATHER, Almighty God augments it by inviting us more close than Moses peered.

Now, then, if we reconfigure the above bad sermons into theological expositions which presuppose our faith, we can save them. We say that Pure Act in fact has power to generate and spirate. We say, to deny this power is to downplay Pure Act. And, with reference to God’s own being, possibility is necessity. Therefore, if it is possible for God to generate (his essential power), it is necessary that he do so. Thus, it is necessary that there are three persons in God. We praise the essence and multiply the hypostases. That is what we mean when we say that God is not a bachelor. We mean, as Bonaventure so astutely put it, God is not infecund! Bonaventure registered that remark so utterly carefully. For he knew that it is only faith which can judge that in God it is better to be fecund than not. Thus, neither do we trample on reason or the concerns of believers who believe God is only one person. Finally, we acknowledge that “Every I needs a Thou” because we believe. We do not arrive at a universal axiom by examining human persons and then running with this axiom straight up to God, as though we could size up what he can and cannot be. No, rather, we hear his Word and therefore proclaim that in fact Every I Needs a Thou.

Sins of Scandal are Worse than Sins of Weakness

All sins are not the same. Some are mortal, some are not. Some mortal sins are more grave than others. Sins of weakness are less grave than sins of spiritual pride, etc.

Now, the sin of deliberate scandal is worse than sins of weakness. It is this sin on which I wish to focus presently.

The sin of scandal is the sin of leading someone astray by one’s action or words or by the omission of what one ought to do or say. However, scandal can be deliberate or unintended. Now, sometimes our good actions lead another astray. For instance, Mother Teresa’s astounding charity was cause for Christopher Hitchens – may he rest in peace – to foment violently against God and Catholicism. However, in this Mother Teresa was not to blame. Rather, Hitchens, looking for an opportunity to deride the faith, took the good in her action as occasion for another act of rebellion against the Creator. Because those who seek a bad end will almost invariably read things, even good things, in a bad light, even good actions can cause someone to go astray. However, such actions are not properly speaking scandalous.

An action is scandalous if it is proximately disposed to cause others to go astray, even if this is not the intention. When an objectively good action is proximately disposed to causing moral confusion in another, it is a scandal. For instance, if there were a virulently pro-abort politician running for a national office, and a national religious figure were to greet him cordially, slap his back like a chum, laugh heartily and publicly joke with him like good old boys, entertain him and feed him, etc., all publicly, such actions would be proximately disposed to cause others to go astray. Why? Because they would cause moral confusion. They would so cloud over massively important issues – life and death – with the air of affection that they would lend the impression that such issues – life and death – are not really that significant after all. That we should all just “relax” a little and not get so hung up on 50 million innocent infants slaughtered in the womb of woman. They might even cause some to vote in favor of the politician. All this was against the intention of the religious figure. For he merely intended to show affection and present himself as a good sport. Prudent?

Scandal is worse if the objective action is itself not good. If a Bishop were to administer communion to a man publicly known to be living in sin, a man for instance who has divorced his wife and is living with another woman, that action is proximately disposed to lead others astray. Worse if that man is a radical pro-abort. Why scandal? Others might think, “Well, it is not so bad to commit adultery or fornication. One can also donate to the bishop or diocese and do these things. Therefore, it must not be so evil after all. Bad, yes, but not evil.” Or, “It is not so bad to be pro-choice. Let us move on with things.” Both actions cause moral confusion. These actions are twice bad, since the very person receiving communion is not disposed to receive the Eucharist. The judgment of the public forum must be held out in the situation: “You are living in sin; You are promoting access to murder.”

Now, to be clear, the aforesaid objectively scandalous actions – both the good show of affection and the evil sharing of communion with one known to be ill disposed – are well intentioned. Thus, the agent aims to accomplish some good – a show of affection to a wayward sinner, an offering of peace and grace to an adulterous fornicator, a chance for a murder’s aid to repent – but thereby causes others to be led astray. (Indeed, he causes even the very recipient of his human, all too human, affection to go astray. He sins not only against the flock, which he leads astray as sheep without a real shepherd, but against the very one whose hand he shakes. In the flames of hell or purgatory, the question asked may well be, “Why did you not correct me? Why did you let me go unwittingly to this end where I suffer in flames?” Addressed to one whose sin was perhaps worse and whose status also. For, to those to whom more is given….)

But worst of all, what of ill intentioned scandal? What of an action one commits so as to lead the flock astray? God forbid such should be committed. But the intention would be clear: To lead astray. And the one who wishes to lead astray par excellence is Satan. Thus, intended scandal is diabolical.

Now, those who commit sexual sins in weakness are to be treated with a pastor’s care. The Good Shepherd reaches out to them. They run the danger of hardening their hearts should they persist in such sins. Yet, we must also be aware of the great danger of every sin. Sins of weakness, being indulged, lead to acceptance of the sins. And acceptance of sins leads to hardness of heart. Hardness of heart leads to impenitence. And this leads to damnation. Thus, sins of weakness are no light matter. Their matter – we are speaking of sins of the flesh – is grave. However, they call for the gentle hand of the shepherd. Private counsel. Prayers.

But when a group, an agency, an institution, a city, a state, or a nation endorses sins of weakness as “natural and good,” it intends that people find such actions worthy of embrace. It intends that people not call such actions evil. This is a direct cause of scandal. It is a direct leading astray.

Let us consider how intimately this scandal works. For it works on the secret of man’s counsel – on the principle of his conscience. It aims at a reordering – a diabolical disorientation – of man’s grasp on the natural law.

In our moral decisions, we have as it were a “universal principle” about the law. This universal principle is a cause of the act of conscience, its root. For instance, “It is always wrong to cheat.” In the concrete, we encounter some opportunity to cheat (a great mathematics student is sitting in front of us in a tiered auditorium; the judge of the contest will never know). Our conscience for a moment condemns the action, for it violates the rule which is the principle of conscience. Yet, the attractive opportunity can dominate our attention, especially if we have assented to such attractions in the past. Now, when we decide to cheat, we do not thereby deny the universal rule. We may well still hold it. We may well reprove ourselves later, or certainly others if they copy our own intellectual labor. However, in the moment, we allowed the attraction to pull our minds away from the universal rule to which we ought to have attended. Therefore, we sinned.

Note how helpful is that universal rule. It is the immediate source for us to rebuke ourselves after sinning. It is the principle of the act of conscience. It reminds us that the way we have chosen is not the way that leads to the good to which the Author of Nature conducts us. Thus, we cannot be happy choosing this sin and clinging to the rule. We are divided! We are in battle. Who will take the upper hand? Will sin, which crouches? Will the law of God, which beckons and reproves? Peace of mind will not tolerate long this waffling. It is a dangerous state to be a repetitive sinner.

Recall the divisions of sins I noted at the beginning. Some sin in weakness, others are hardening their hearts, others have hardened their hearts in impenitence. Now, intended scandal is aimed at producing sinners of the worst kind, impenitent sinners. Intended scandal aims at getting sinners to embrace their sin. Joyce’s Dedalus loved his secret sin, as he continued to pray the Rosary. He was already in the arms of Satan. He had embraced the sin. Only the outward trappings remained for a time.

When a person or people approves unnatural sex as good or natural, it becomes qua such impenitent in this vice. The people or persons voice their heart’s approval of unnatural sex which, as the Catholic Catechism notes, cries to heaven for vengeance (CCC 1867). They thus formally cooperate in the actions of which they approve. Further, they aid and abet those who commit them. For instance, they wage war on the universal principle that forbids unnatural sex, etc. Psychologists who define masturbation as “normal” and not pathological wage war on the universal principle that all sexual action must be personal (i.e., open to the other of the opposite sex) and open to fecundity. Formerly, with no fault divorce, the state waged war against the universal law against adultery. All these movements oppose themselves to God directly. For they maintain that his law is wicked.

To do this is not kindness to weak sinners. It is, objectively, most harmful for the sinner. For it produces the City of Man Unto the Contempt of God. And when sinners are impenitent, it becomes less and less possible for them to repent.

Thus, predators who seek out confused young men to induce them into the way of death are no less than agents of Satan. All the worse, then, if, unlike Dedalus, they forever remain in the sheep’s clothing, so as to produce the City of Satan in the midst of the City of God.

Do Eastern Catholics Have to Believe that We are Conceived in the State of Original Sin?

Yes. Let’s hash this out.

All Catholics are Catholics. Some are eastern and some are western. But the Catholic Church is one. The Orthodox do not presently have full communion with the Catholic Church. So, by eastern Catholics we are referring to those Catholics in full communion with Rome, who enjoy the various beautiful eastern rites.

Now, all Catholics are bound to assent irrevocably to all infallible teachings of the Catholic Church. And the Council of Trent issues infallible teachings on original sin. Therefore, all Catholics, eastern and western, are bound to assent irrevocably to these teachings.

Some people are suggesting that eastern Catholics need to assent only to the teachings of the first seven ecumenical councils. This is false. All Catholics, eastern and western, must assent to the infallible teachings of all ecumenical councils, up to and including Vatican II. (Vatican II issued no new infallible teachings but did proclaim anew many infallible teachings.)

What did Trent teach on original sin? We must refer to Session V of that important council.

Denzinger # 789. Canon 2. If anyone asserts that the transgression of Adam has harmed him alone and not his posterity, and that the sanctity and justice, received from God, which he lost, he has lost for himself alone and not for us also; or that he having been defiled by the sin of disobedience has transfused only death “and the punishments of the body into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul,” let him be anathema, since he contradicts the Apostle who says: “By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” [Rom. 5:12; see n. 175].

My Comment: Adam’s sin harmed all of us. How? He lost for us sanctity and justice. He passes on to us not only punishments of the body but also sin.

Denzinger # 790. Canon 3. If anyone asserts that this sin of Adam, which is one in origin and transmitted to all is in each one as his own by propagation, not by imitation, is taken away either by the forces of human nature, or by any remedy other than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ [see n. 711], who has reconciled us to God in his own blood, “made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption” [1 Cor. 1:30]; or if he denies that that merit of Jesus Christ is applied to adults as well as to infants by the sacrament of baptism, rightly administered in the form of the Church: let him be anathema. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved . . .” [Acts 4:12]. Whence that word: “Behold the lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world” [John 1:29]. And that other: “As many of you as have been baptized, have put on Christ” [Gal. 3:27].

My Comment: The sin of Adam touches us precisely by propagation. Precisely by being begotten of Adam, we acquire this sin of origin. Each of us has it as his own. We do not acquire it by imitation. (Although bad example does also negatively affect us.)

Denzinger # 791. Canon 4. “If anyone denies that infants newly born from their mothers’ wombs are to be baptized,” even though they be born of baptized parents, “or says they are baptized indeed for the remission of sins, but that they derive nothing of original sin from Adam, which must be expiated by the laver of regeneration” for the attainment of life everlasting, whence it follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins is understood to be not true, but false: let him be anathema. For what the Apostle has said: “By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” [Rom. 5:12], is not to be understood otherwise than as the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For by reason of this rule of faith from a tradition of the apostles even infants, who could not as yet commit any sins of themselves, are for this reason truly baptized for the remission of sins, so that in them there may be washed away by regeneration, what they have contracted by generation, [see n. 102]. “For unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” [John 3:5].

My Comment: Even infants have this sin of origin from Adam. Hence, they are baptized for forgiveness of this sin.

Denzinger # 792. Canon 5. If anyone denies that by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away, but says that it is only touched in person or is not imputed, let him be anathema….

My Comment:  “This sin involves ‘guilt’.”

Without this teaching firmly in our minds, we fail to appreciate the depths of Christ’s act on the cross. We fail to diagnose the depths of our weakness before God and men. We cannot be Christian and deny original sin. This point is of course ultimately positive. It means we start from the faith that Christ has redeemed us from the curse. Thus, it is a note of joy, of gratitude. The joy cannot sound as it is unless the wailing of the valley of tears is understood for what it is by nature. By nature, children of wrath, says the Apostle. That is, as the Holy Church interprets, although created good and blessed with supernatural grace, Adam lost this blessing and thus brought death and sin to every man. (Unless God should save a man from it. As he did. Once. With a woman, Mary our Mother.)

Some eastern Catholics argue that the eastern fathers do not teach original sin and that therefore they are not bound now to assent to its existence. The conclusion is false. We have already shown the Magisterial teaching. This exercises authority over all Christians, and Catholics profess to recognize this authority and its teachings and are already canonically bound to recognize such.

The aforesaid points are the most important and establish directly that the case is closed. There are also implicit items to mention, which are worthy of note. Finally, there are indirect things to mention, though these are the least significant.

Of importance by implication is the Catholic dogma on the Immaculate Conception. This is an infallible teaching of the Extraordinary Magisterium and is therefore necessary to believe by all Catholics, eastern and western. (For there is no distinction.)

Pius IX proclaims, “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful” (Ineffabilis Deus)

My comment: Such preservation means nothing if there is no such thing as original sin. But clearly the pope meant to mean something. Again, such preservation is accomplished by a singular grace. The implication seems to be – what else could it be? – that Mary alone is so preserved. Hence, the rest of us are not so preserved and at least contract original sin.

Of indirect importance is what follows. It is true that Augustine brings out the notion of the inheritance of sin from Adam most clearly, and he is a western teacher. It is also true that the Holy Doctor John Chrysostom wrote some things that might seem at odds with Augustine. However, both Augustine and John are to be measured by Trent. If either spoke inaccurately about something, we nonetheless cling to the fides Ecclesiae (the faith of Holy Church).

It is interesting to note, however, that the foremost opponent of Augustine’s thesis original sin were the Pelagians. Bishop Julian fought Augustine on the matter. And it was the Pelagian Bishop Julian who cited John Chrysostom. However, Augustine countered by arguing, not unreasonably, that Julian misread the Holy Doctor. Julian pointed to a text in which John states that infants have no sins. Augustine pointed out that the plural was being used: sins. Original sin is but one. Only personal sins can be in the plural. Thus, concluded Augustine, John was not at odds with him (Augustine) on the matter. Further, a Catholic historian should always approach the holy doctors in the best possible light. Now, there is an error opposite Pelagian optimism. It is gnostic and Manichean pessimism. Thus, many of the sayings of the eastern fathers on sin which seem to bypass original sin can be understood, that is, the apparent omission can be understood in light of their battle with gnosticism and Manicheanism.

Another interesting thing to note is Gregory Nazianzen’s Oration on Baptism. In that oration, Gregory states that there are various reasons that one might not be baptized. Some have never heard of baptism and so do not sinfully reject it. Some put it off, because of fear that should they sin gravely they would have to endure a lengthy and arduous penitential practice. Thus, they wait, hoping that they shall be baptized before they die. (Augustine was one of those, before his conversion!) Finally, some totally reject it. The latter men sin most gravely of all; the men of the middle group sin gravely but less so than the previous, succumbing to sloth or something akin; the men of the first group do not commit sin. And among that first group are infants, who cannot act. However, notes Gregory, these infants who cannot freely act are stripped of the reward of innocence and grace. That reward is heavenly glory. Thus, infants dying without baptism, states Gregory, are stripped of that reward. However, neither do infants commit personal or actual sins. Hence, neither are they punished in the fires. They are neither rewarded nor punished. They are in a middle state. Such a state would be remarkably akin to the generic features of what is proposed in the theological thesis of limbus puerorum: The Limbo of the Infants. Now that is interesting.

Why should infants be stripped of glory? Because they lack the requisite holiness. What is the lack of the requisite holiness as such, in a son or daughter of Adam? Nothing else than original sin! Thus, Gregory implies original sin. And he is among the greatest of holy doctors in the east.

Finally, there is the Council of Ephesus to consider.  Cyril’s Third Letter to Nestorius, accepted, one can argue, at Ephesus, and certainly at Constantinople II: “[The incarnation] was not as though he needed necessarily or for his own nature a birth in time and in the last times of this age, but in order that he might bless the beginning of our existence, in order that seeing that it was a woman that had given birth to him, united to the flesh, the curse against the whole race should thereafter crease, which was consigning all our earthy bodies to death….” My comment: there is a curse against the whole race by reason of which we all die. Now, a curse befalls only the guilty. But infants commit no personal sin. Yet, they too die under a curse, as Cyril implies. Therefore, they are guilty of some sin other than personal. That can only be original.

Again, by Ephesus, Bishops were forbidden from holding the opinions of Celestius, the Pelagian. In fact, they were deposed. See D# 126; DS #268.

Recapitulation: The Bible in Catholic Narration

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, but in the beginning already was the Word of God, the Son of God, true God from true God. This Word is the wisdom of the Father. This Word is the Art in the Mind of the Father. Thus, through him, the Father made all things. Indeed, God “spoke” a word and things were made.

In a most special way, man and woman are made in the “image and likeness” of God. Thus, they reflect the Art that is the Eternal Word of the Father. The dignity of man and the dignity of woman in a sense, that is, as understood by the divine mind, pre-exist in the Word, without any defects or limitations, in a higher and loftier way. Man and woman therefore participate in the beauty of God.

Now, in growing after the likeness of this Divine Beauty, they grow in splendor. True human splendor is not in competition with God. True human glory takes nothing away from the glory of God. Rather, it is a reflection and participation in that glory. So, the glory of God is the human person fully alive!

Given that the human person is made to know the truth and to pursue the good in a beautiful way, the human person hungers for something ultimate, final, transcendent. God alone sufficiently fulfills this desire, for, as a saint once said, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in they, oh Lord.”

So far, I have pictured paradise. Yet, Genesis hints that God made another creature, a pure spirit, but a creature no less. Christians understand this pure spirit to be Lucifer, an angel made good but who chose darkness, gaining the names Satan, Devil, Serpent, Dragon Evil One. Totally dependent on God for his being and his goodness, this creature yet rebelled against his Maker, choosing his own private splendor as the ultimate good. Thus focused on himself, he lost his love for beauty itself. Having lost that love, he saw God as ugly, opposed to his own goodness. He thus lost fellowship with God forever. Since then, he waits for any way to strike back at his maker. Nor is he stupid. He cannot strike the maker. Only the creatures he makes. So, the malevolent spirit waits until the maker makes another creature! “Did God say you shall not eat from any tree in this wonderful garden? Is he such a tyrant, that he would forbid you the good?” We observe how he begins with a great conspiracy, making God seem a strict taskmaster. God demands a rigor to which one can scarcely measure up. God demands absolute perfection and blind obedience, even if it be against the very desires he instills in our nature. Such is the God this Devil portrays. (No wonder Nietzsche, perhaps thinking thus of God, rejected the Christian way.)

Christian faith confesses that the first human pair succumbed to the temptation of the Devil. Having disobeyed their all wise, all good, and all powerful maker, they lost that splendor in which they were created. They turned their hearts away from him and towards a lesser good as towards their ultimate end. Thus twisted away from the True Light for which they were made, they became darkened in intellect, hardened in heart, and disordered in body. Alienated from the communion of Father and Son and Holy Spirit, they became alienated from one another. They feared God and feared one another. Obscurity, alienation, lies, blaming, power struggles, murderous thoughts, lust, vengeance, drunkenness, masturbation, unnatural sex, strife, war, greed, trafficking, infidelity—these are the full flowered heritage of that fateful fall.

I would sum up paradise lost as follows: Man offended the infinite God, and so in justice owed God an infinite restitution. Man darkened his own intellect, and so needed a new infusion of wisdom. Man’s heart became hard and stony, and so needed to be softened by dew from above. Man’s body rebelled against his own darkened reason, and so his body too needed healing. Man fell into slavery to this Devil whom he obeyed, and so he needed to be ransomed from his captor. Man lost the splendor that made him shine, although he retained his intellect and his free will; in order to regain the splendor, he needed to be infused with light.

God the Father loved his creation and in this great love, could not allow his creation to fall to complete ruin. He wished to bring man and woman back to himself. Therefore, he determined to send his only-begotten Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the fire of Divine Love, to redeem man from the grave, to ransom him from the captor, to infuse the splendor into him, to heal his wayward flesh, to illuminate his faltering reason, to soften his hardened heart, and to pay the debt that mortal man could not pay.

God sent his Son to become truly human. As Word and Wisdom of the Father, the Son could illuminate the minds of the darkened. As the very Son of the Father, he could  restore humans to a splendid sonship towards God. As one perfectly obedient in his full humanity, the Son submitted to the weight of the cross and blasphemy and ridicule and torture and sadness, bearing all things with his charity and grace—of which he was full, even as man. He bore our very curse. So that by his great love and faithful obedience, he might restore the balance and pay the debt man owed due to sin. Thus, the curse embraced brings peace and salvation.

In this kind way, God combined condescension to man with the most remarkable tact: For his Son took upon himself our very nature. Nor did he take this nature from heaven. He took this nature from earth, from a woman, from one lowly woman in his own country. Having been graced by God with a measure of fullness, she herself conceived and bore the very Son of God. Thus, one of the human race is Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer, herself opposed to that Devil which deceived Eve. Another of the human race is the Son of God, true God from true God, yet fully human.

This one God-man trampled upon the Devil, not succumbing to his temptations in the beginning of his mission and not succumbing even unto the end. He thus undertook to die for us, paying our penalty. Together with him, his loyal Mother, without any stain of sin herself, perfectly obedient to his word, offered him up on the Cross for the redemption of the whole world. Thus, this new pair, Christ and his Mother, reversed the disobedience of the first pair. Jesus Christ, and participating in his mission his own Mother, opened the way to eternal salvation for the entire human race.

But what is “salvation”? It is chiefly a living relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is not chiefly freedom from punishment. It is freedom for the truth, for hope, for beauty, and for love. Thus, Jesus Christ won for the human race the threefold gift of faith, hope, and love, and it is by these very gifts that our minds are illuminated, our likeness restored, and our hearts set afire with divine love. By these gifts, humans are no longer aliens; no longer mortal sinners; but children and friends of God, participating in the divine beauty.

Humans made new by grace are thus set on a trajectory of salvation. Through faith and through love, humans can cooperate with God and grow towards their final end, so as to be immersed in divine love and beauty without end. Thus, God binds up what fell apart and accomplishes our salvation and his glory. Amen.

Notes Concerning a Recent Address by a Cardinal of the Church

Somewhat recently, a Cardinal of the Holy Catholic Church gave an address. There were good points in the address. Such as the importance of adequate care, protection, and provisions for the poor, the powerless, the victims, etc. As we know from the discourse in Mt 25, we shall be judged by our involvement of non-involvement in love of neighbor.

There were, nevertheless, a number of statements which might cause an issue. That is, a listener might come away, from having heard certain statements, thinking that “X” is the case, when in fact “Not X” is the case. Or the listener might think “Not Q” is the case but “Q” is the case. Of course, should a listener come away with erroneous beliefs, this would be a tragedy. We are speaking about our Divine Faith, which no man has any authority to brook.

Thus, the focus of this entry is on what the various erroneous beliefs might be and on what the correct beliefs are.

The statement that “The Church is Rising” is not in itself harmful. However, one might erroneously think that this means the Church was dead or corrupt before. Again, one might think that the Church has been newly “inaugurated,” as though created with a foundationally new identity only 50 years ago. That she does not have a 2000 year life, instituted not by human persons gathering together but by a Divine Legislator, our Holy Lord Jesus Christ. But this is all False. It is false to think the Church began at Vatican II. She is the same Church, the same “Ecclesial Subject” to use Pope Benedict’s terminology. Amen.

Also, a statement seemed to run as follows: Vatican II brought about an end of hostilities to modernism, which Vatican I condemned. Let us examine this contention. First, if Vatican I condemned anything, then it is Eternally Condemned by the glory of the thunder of the council. And then no man can “undo” it, no authority whatsoever. Let us take solace that a dogma once proclaimed is eternally enshrined in the Archives of Being. We need not be troubled. (I recall my classes at Notre Dame making me wonder whether any week a change in dogma will happen. As I have said, I used to nourish these hopes / worries.) But such rabble rousing is a political move by theologians seeking power. But theologians have no permission to tyrannize over souls. Rather, he who does not accept that dogma is eternal is no theologian.

Second, Vatican II did not embrace modernism. Modernism is a heresy. (See the immortal encyclical of the watchful shepherd Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi.) Now, we can speak of “modernity” in a light that is not simply negative. Many benefits to humanity have come from “modernity”. These we cannot deny. And Vatican II indeed speaks positively of these benefits. However, Vatican II does not simply endorse everything technological. Rather, the council teaches that ethical and Gospel norms must govern technology. Essentially, this is simply to balance faith and reason. And this balancing act is nothing new! It was declared infallibly by Vatican I. And it is the long teaching of the Church that nature / intellect was not totally corrupted by the fall.

Someone might come to think that Jesus rules only by dying. Someone might think that Jesus is not also a “King”. But this is false. He is also a king. On this, see Pius XI. We know that when Jesus comes again, he comes in Glory. Of course, we know that he established the hierarchical priesthood, the sacrificing priesthood, not to seek its own glorification. The Cardinal rightly stated this. The ministry is for the good of souls. It is a ministry. Note, however, that it is a sacred ministry. It is not ordained to serve in soup kitchens. It is ordained to serve at Holy Mass. Further, it is indeed a “hierarchical” priesthood. This means that it is not subordinate to the community. The reverse. Its authority is to serve, and its service is to be authority. If no one guards, the sheep will be devoured. If no one rules, the sheep will go wild. If no one preaches, the sheep will not know the way. Thus, Christ appointed some to rule, to guard, the guide, and to sanctify.

Someone might come away thinking, “The Church used to be a society of unequals” but that “this disappears.” If one were to think this, one would think Vatican II was a rupture, a break from tradition. But Vatican II was not adding new dogmas. Nor was it denying any dogmas. Rather, it was reforming the Church in the continuity of the tradition. No rupture. Therefore, no one ought to think of a “pre” conciliar and a “post” conciliar Church. Indeed, various practices of the Church can and do change. We can speak of practices. And whether such changes are good or bad is not guaranteed. Good things, inestimably good things, can be lost. (See, e.g., Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, chap. 1.) Indeed, that is the very premise of Vatican II’s ressourcement: That some good things, somehow lost, should be restored!

Just what is meant by a “society of unequals”? Inequity is sin, but not inequality. Inequity is the unjust distribution of goods. Inequality is a difference of goods. Not all inequality is inequity. Indeed, some inequality may be inequity. Similarly, some equality may be and indeed is inequity.

But of itself, most inequality is simply a fact of the rich diversity of gifts, callings, etc. of the order of nature. That diversity also obtains in the order of grace (1 Cor 12).

Let us be perfectly clear: If my goal is the elimination of inequality, my goal is the elimination of God’s universe! It is nothing less than diabolical to wish the leveling of difference, of inequality. That is inequity – the mystery of sin. Mary is greatest among saints. Presumably, then Joseph. Etc. We do not wish to “level” them down. We glory in their transcendence. We do not wish the Gothic Cathedral became a Marxist style cubic dwelling. We wish it to exceed our reach. This lifts us up. SO TOO THE POOR. The poor want to be fed. They do not want all in society to possess the exact same amount. Unless they are viciously envious. Envy is not Christ’s program. And if we attempted to make all possess the same amount, each would have such a paltry amount that all would be equally miserable. Inequity.

Now, all are equally “Christian”. All are equally “human”. These equalities of substance and membership in Christ we proclaim. But the diversity of talents and achievements is the very design of Almighty God, and it is through a rightly ordered diversity that a just distribution of goods can come about. Economics 101. (Unless the author is a Marxist.)

Now, It is true: Wealthy bankers seem to be strangling the poor. They did this in the past. (See the prophets.) They are doing it now. Something must be done about this. This much is true.

However, Marxist revolution cannot solve the problem. And the Church condemns Marxism. One cannot be a Marxist and a Christian, for one will either serve the one and hate the other or serve the other and hate the one.

And so, there is indeed a ministry that is above the dignity of the universal priesthood. It is the hierarchical priesthood. The judgments, decisions, intercessions, etc., of the hierarchical priesthood have power superior to the universal priesthood. Thanks be to God! For I am but a man, and have no competence to approach Almighty God with confidence. Temerity that I should think I could. Thus, I need a priest, a sacrificing priest, a hierarchical priest. And he too needs a priest, namely, the bishop. And he needs a priest, namely our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ changed the Old Covenant priesthood into his own everlasting priesthood. Thereby, he in no way abolished the sacrificing priesthood. He re-established it on higher grounds! He realized the type that was the old. So, Christ abolished the Old Law. In its place, supersedes the New Law with a New Priesthood. Vatican II reaffirms the real qualitative difference between the universal and the ordained priesthood.

Again, Jesus was not a “layman”. It is simply absurd to call him a “layman”. It is a category mistake.

Again, someone coming away from the address might think that the Church is not necessary for salvation. Or that salvation does not come through the Church. Now, the truth is that God Almighty is the author of salvation. And he needs no help. However, he chooses to save man not individually but, as Vatican II says, through a Church. Thus, through our Savior Jesus Christ, he instituted the Catholic Church. And the actions of the Catholic Church are salvific actions. How did I come to be in the grace of God? When my parents took me to the holy waters of Baptism and the priest pronounced the saving sentence. That is when I received the grace of salvation. So, it was indeed through the Church that I received salvation. Does this compete with Jesus? Not in the least. Jesus was such a Shepherd as not to leave us orphans. He gave us Holy Mother Church to guide us, guard us, sanctify us, and lead us to heaven. Not to embrace the Church is not to embrace Jesus Christ!

Many today think that that the Church is wrong to issue “anathemas”. However, Jesus himself gave her this authority in the person of Peter and his Successors and all the Bishops in union with him (Mt 16). These anathemas save lives. They guide us away from what is contradictory or inimical to the faith. We need them. Sheltered by the Church, we may journey with confidence to God.

Indeed, these anathemas indicate one of the foremost activities of a true shepherd. To proclaim the Full Truth, Without Ambiguity and Without Confusion. Anything less is scandal. Anything other is scandal. Scandal is leading others to sin! Why is this her foremost activity? Because her foremost goal is heavenly salvation. Her foremost goal is not social justice. Her foremost goal is to reunite sinners with the Holy Trinity. How can she do this unless she has “infallible certitude”. She needs this. We sinners need this.

Again, The Church will not and cannot change her moral teachings. She will not and cannot recognize “second marriage”. If a validly married man attempts to marry again while his wife lives, he utter fails in this attempt. It is simply a failure. Any man who stands in the way of this infallible teaching stands in opposition to God. And any man who teaches that this teaching is false or needs to be changed is leading souls astray. Sins of weakness call for tenderness. Sins of false teaching call for grave censure. For it is diabolical to lead a soul to think the good to be evil, and the evil to be good. A sin of weakness is not pre-meditated. False teachings are scandal and the cause of sin.

We should not come away thinking that the Church has renounced a monopoly on the truth. This again is a total category mistake. The Church never claimed a “monopoly” on all truth. She did not discover DNA. She did not send men to the moon. The suggestion that she once thought she was the source of all our knowledge is absurd. She is the recipient of divine revelation. Vatican I teaches that the Scriptures were authored by God as primary author. The Church did not author Scripture. She receives Scripture. And she is the sole authentic custodian of Scripture. Thus, when it comes to revealed knowledge, the Catholic Church is the sole authority. She treasures all revealed knowledge and she alone can teach on it. That is why she pontificates – To save souls! It is called, less pejoratively, “communication”. She preaches. She protects. She lovingly warns. Yes, and since the stakes are high – salvation and damnation – she issues “anathemas”.

What to Do with Bad Counsel? Bad Example?

A good person can through his goodness turn a mistaken bit of advice to good. A bad person can through his wickedness turns a bit of good advice to his own evil ends.

How, then, will a bad person take bad advice? How will he model himself on a bad example? He will make it twice the evil it was and plunge into ruin. Thus, to offer ambiguous words to one who is himself lost, or to a world of people who are lost and floundering like sheep…, this is to lead them astray.

For instance, consider someone’s saying that whatever we do, we are still loved by God and that therefore, nothing in the universe – not an angel nor a demon, not money nor poverty, … not a good act nor even a wicked act – can keep us from the love of God. (This last inference is of course a false reading of Rom 8. For we know by divine faith that every wicked act separates us from the love of God. Every wicked act casts out grace and charity. We pilgrims remain the objects of God’s love. The damned in hell do not. However, we pilgrims are not, after mortal sin, sharers in the divine love. And whoever is not a sharer in divine love is in the state of mortal sin. And whoever is in mortal sin is fit for eternal damnation in hell. Hence, repent whilst you live and before your last breath escapes you.) –

Now, if someone says that whatever we do, we remain in God’s love, implying that we remain sharers in divine love no matter what we do, even should we sin, this person has spoken falsity. He has spoken something false. He has spoken evil. Even if with good intentions. Distinguish the intention of the speaker and the objectively disordered fact of what was spoken. So, if he advises you on this basis, he gives you evil advice. Again, even if with good intentions.

Now, here is the key: WHAT does a wicked man do with such advice, such “kind words”? A wicked man has his heart set on anything but God. When he hears such advice, he rejoices. If the advice is true, he can enjoy his immediate goods – pleasure, comfort, a nice day at the club, etc. – without ordering them to God and yet, after his tired body gives way and he dies, he will end up with the true good, God. “Wow! Win Win! I can enjoy my idols now, and the True God later.” Thus spaketh the evil man, but it is not so.

The holy prophets condemned all attitudes such as this. The hypocrites put money in the coffers for sacrifices, precisely so that they could keep pursuing their wicked ends presently. Thus, the hypocrites “covered” their bets. Thus, Isaiah and all the other prophets reject this hypocrisy. What we have here is no love of God but love of self unto the contempt of God’s will, of his law, and hence of Him who gives the law. And the prophets also condemned the priests for not preaching to the people the truth of Moses’s law. The priests enjoyed the revenue. Their coffers remained full. For if they confronted lovers of Ba’al with the Mosaic Law, their coffers would dry up – so they thought. God would not save them – so they thought. And so there was an evil alliance between the priests and the people. The people made clear that the money would come in only if the preaching were remote, distant, and “not the whole truth”.

What about today? What if someone should offer advice that is objectively mixed or ambiguous? What if someone should give an example that is objectively mixed or ambiguous? Or worse?

What if, for instance, an important religious figure should drink the drink of a chalice in a pagan sacrifice? Now, pagan religions are false religions; none of them are instituted by God. Yes, there are some “elements” of truth in some pagan religions. More in some, less in others. Probably truth in all of them. But all these truths serve the total religion. Taken in isolation, they can benefit. But taken as serving that total religion, they lead to something false. For instance, it is true that “something is wrong with us”. Pagan religions that sacrifice humans because “something is wrong with us” thus give witness to a truth, yet they bend that entire witness to something wholly evil, human sacrifice. Now, when one embraces a pagan sacrifice by drinking its cup, one is objectively saying that the sacrifice is ok, acceptable. That the god (who is no god) worshiped is a true god. That the way of worship is divinely willed. That this is acceptable and good. Perhaps interiorly the non-pagan who drinks from the cup is saying “yes” only to the search that pagan practitioners might be engaging, the search for the one true God. Interiorly, he is well intentioned.  Perhaps he hopes that he is doing something like St. Paul, who in Athens (Acts 17) points out a pagan temple “To the Unknown God.” However, St. Paul simply pointed out the temple. He did not pray its prayers. He did not drink its cup. He thus clearly remained distinct from its celebration. A Christian can have no share with a pagan ritual. This is Paul’s very clear teaching. Thus, it is objectively evil to participate in a pagan ceremony. And if an important leader does it – even with a good interior intention – he misleads those who look to him as leader. They can begin to think, falsely, that maybe other religions are indeed ways to God. They can begin to think, falsely, that there is not “one true religion.”

Or again, for instance, if an important figure should obscurely imply that one goes to hell only if one is full of absolute malice, that figure has misled those who look to him. If he has spoken imprecisely, it is better he clarifies his imprecision. For it is not only by pure malice that one goes to hell. One goes to hell for any single mortal sin for which one does not repent. When a man sees an attractive woman, is attracted, and wishes to be with her here and now, he does not wish an pure hatred. He does not absolutely destroy his desire for truth and love. He does not make all things a lie. He does not live for destruction. He does not suppress all love. No. He simply wishes a warm, pleasurable embrace with an attractive woman. And yet, and yet – he has done grave evil, for she is not his wife.

Pope John Paul II teaches authoritatively the constant dogma of the Church that any mortal sin merits eternal damnation:

In point of fact, man does not suffer perdition only by being unfaithful to that fundamental option whereby he has made a ‘free self-commitment to God.’ With every freely committed mortal sin, he offends God as the giver of the law and as a result becomes guilty with regard to the entire law (cf. Jas 2:8–11); even if he perseveres in faith, he loses ‘sanctifying grace,’ ‘charity’ and ‘eternal happiness.’ (John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, art. 68)

Thus, our trepidation that many are on the road to damnation – which is the teaching of our Lord and Savior – should not be mitigated because we seldom find someone who is incarnate evil, a Scrooge or a Hitler, a Woman Trafficker, etc. No, we should take no solace in the false notion that only absolute malice merits hell. Rather, we should fear that there is a myriad who are lukewarm, ready to be spewed out of our Lord’s mouth. These are they who are kind to their neighbor but really idolaters, who wish to embrace sexually now though they are not married and to pursue the truth later. Who wish to have comfort now and pursue true goodness later. A teacup here and there, parting the hair beyond, wearing white trousers and walking upon the beach on Sunday, not going to Mass. Not with malice. With indifference, for the inconvenience. But this too is evil.

Again, what if an important figure should say something like, “God doesn’t need the Eucharist.” What kind of saying is that? It is absurdly beside the point. It is a category mistake. It’s like saying, “God is not religious.” This is absurd, a category mistake. God needs nothing. However, He does will that WE need things. He wills that we need baptism, e.g. He wills that we receive the very body He assumed in becoming man. He wills these things. Thus, saying “God doesn’t need the Eucharist” is a completely inane comment. It has no point. However, it tends objectively to mislead people. It leads people quite naturally to think that the Eucharist is no longer necessary. It is like saying that God is not a member of the one true Church. True, but this is a totally beside the point and objectively misleading statement. For membership in the one true Church is objectively necessary for salvation.

Again, what if an important figure should say something like, “Yes any two fornicators are living together, but you cannot judge them.” This too is an inane comment. No, we cannot judge the heart of anyone. We have not the capacity to do so with accuracy. Nor have we the permission. The heart is the sanctuary of man with God. However, we can and indeed we must judge actions. Two fornicators are committing a gravely evil act. John Paul II teaches that it is perfectly traditional to call this “mortal sin” (see Veritatis splendor). We must not judge, or try to establish the degree of culpability. However, we know that this is an evil act. And we know that whoever knows that sex is for marriage and who has the use of free will and really embraces that act is sinning. We know this. And we know that every Catholic should know and is responsible to know this teaching. And we know that those who consider themselves adults also consider they have the use of free will. They are not severely handicapped. Nor are they slumbering, only dreaming. They are awake, making plans to meet and fornicate. Everything hear points to trepidation. Hence, we must pray for these.

What to do with evil advice?

Every man must seek the good and avoid the evil. A Catholic benefits here immediately. A Catholic has Holy Mother Church to teach him. “Lord, what good must I do so as to attain eternal life?” Our Lord gave us the Church to teach us. And the Church teaches very clearly that unnatural sex acts are gravely sinful; they are mortal sins. For instance, masturbation is gravely evil. Unnatural sex acts the Church teaches are of greater evil than fornication. For they are unnatural, counter natural. Holy Mother Church in her actual Magisterial teaching – this is where a Catholic should go for sound counsel! And if any counsel opposes these teachings, that counsel is evil. If any example counters these teachings, that example is evil. No matter how well intended.

Now, since the good seek the good, the good, when they witness bad examples, find some ingredients that are true in them. The good who hear bad counsel take opportunity for the good. When David was wrongly rebuked by some heckler, he took good occasion to humble himself. The good will turn evil examples and bad advice to the good. For they are anchored in True Teachings. In the Infallible and Eternal teachings of Holy Mother Church.

But the wicked seek their own idols. Perhaps some of them are “full of hatred”. But most of them are the lukewarm whom Christ shall spew out should they not take up the saving grace he offers them. Most of them simply want that warm embrace tonight, or that unnatural activity in the dark. And these will take wicked advice to be approval. These will take bad example, bad counsel, as another reason to continue in their sin, and perhaps to make progress in it. Thus, bad advice leads bad people to hell. Sheep who are floundering need solid advice, clear advice, unambiguous advice.

God forbid if good people should be confused by bad advice, objectively bad counsel, bad example. Scandal is sin. Deliberate scandal is diabolical.

Let us put off the clouds of darkness. Let us drink from the actual Teachings of Holy Mother Church and not from the confusions and paganisms of the day. Let us reject all ambiguous example, bad counsel, misleading words. Let us cling to what is truly taught. How shall we discern the difference? We must know what constitutes a Magisterial teaching and what is simply opinion, personal opinion or comment. We must know the Tradition. Know the Magisterial Teachings. And we best begin with the Infallible and highest teachings.

What is a Reactionary?

One hears this term quite often – reactionary. What does it mean?

Wikipedia offers this definition: “A reactionary is a person who holds political viewpoints that favor a return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society”. The entry goes on to indicate the origin of the English word in the French. From the time of the French Revolution, this word made its way into English and has been at play since. Related terms are “conservative” and “right”.

We must reflect whether the above definition is good, or perhaps rather whether the term is good to begin with, or perhaps whether it should be used as it is currently being used (as a bludgeon that condemns a position on account of a perceived or alleged emotional or character flaw).

What does it mean to wish a “return” to a previous state? The definition is relative to what “previous” means; it is relative to what the current state of affairs is. Thus, the term is simply relative and temporally bound. It should indicate nothing but what is relative. In practice, of course, we know this is far from the case. The term is a pejorative label used to dismiss the labeled.

If the current state of affairs is such that those in power operate out of Marxist principles, reactionary means a return to what preceded this. In such case, some kind of free market system? But in the time of such a free market system, especially one utterly untouched by (or much less touched by) regulation, a reactionary would be what? An agrarian or a guild theorist who desired a return to what preceded? Those who hold for, say, a Distributist economic arrangement and any attendant political arrangements would be “reactionary” in an age of unfettered free markets. But what would they be in an age of Marxism? Twice reactionary? Let us say that a wave of freedom for markets is breathed back into the system again. Let us take, for example, the common understanding of what happened under Reagan. (Whatever actually happened is irrelevant to the point about the term “reactionary” I am driving home.) What would be a “reactionary” in this case? According to the first entry of the definition, it would be the socialist who wanted a return to the tax rates of the 70’s. The same would be true if a wave of market freedom followed Obama’s presidency. Those who would bemoan such fate would be “reactionaries”. Now isn’t that awkward.

So, the value judgment that has had tenacity with this term will not always happily coincide with the temporal and relative targeting ingredient in the name. That is, those who want to damn a position with which they do not agree and who use a term that indicates an emotional or character deficit in order to accomplish this damning, cannot do so consistently. I submit, then, that the term as defined is unfortunate.

But this reflection is not a legal political one. It is a religious one. I wish to apply it to the field of Catholic faith. Nowadays in the Church one hears the label “reactionary” being thrown around. I wish to ask again, just what is meant here? Let us go back to the birth of the word, at least in English and certainly to the minting of its current use in French. The time was the French revolution. Existing citizens who enjoyed one form of government and alliance of Church and state wished its preservation. Hence, “conservative”. The term “conservative” is also relative and temporal. The term “conservative” lacks some of the pejorative ring of “reactionary,” however. I shall return to that. Now, “conservative” works for a person in this situation, who existed under one regime and wishes its preservation or a return thereto in another regime.

But what about someone who grows up under the well established machinery of the new regime? What is the “establishment” for him?

Politically, what is that establishment? Marxism? Socialism? Anti-Catholicism?

Turning to the current situation in the Church, what is the situation for someone growing up entirely after the Second Vatican Council? Even after the Novus Ordo is set in place? What is the “establishment” for this person? Anti-Traditional Catholicism? Catholicism which rejects its Tradition? Discontinuous Catholicism? Catholicism which thinks that everyone is going to heaven, regardless? Catholicism that fears offending and thus fails to preach, to convert, to pray for the conversion of wicked sinners, and the return to the one true faith? Obviously, not in all cases. In many cases, there is simply the good and true Catholicism that is ever the same, though expressed anew. So, we are not speaking of these many cases of true Catholicism, which does not read “rupture” into the Second Vatican Council, but takes the documents as Magisterial documents teaching the true faith anew.

However, in some cases there is a reading of the Council that is antithetical to the Tradition. In some cases, the reading is “rupture”. I recall my education at Notre Dame (BA 1992). Not all profs, but some profs scoffed at the possibility that any of us in class could commit mortal sin. “You’re not smart enough to do so,” said one. I recall being puzzled that IQ is the condition for mortal sin. But I didn’t mind being told that – hey, you can’t sin that bad kid! In another class, a female student was coughing and sneezing during a presentation on Pascendi (by Pope St. Pius X) and the professor, wearing clerics (or was he? … At any rate, he was a priest) said, “Congratulations, you have an allergy to Vatican documents.” I recall being struck by this. I said to myself, “I agree with the teacher [back then, I did], but why don’t we read Pascendi, instead of slamming it? After all, we are ‘liberals’. Open minded ‘liberals’. We want to assess things objectively, not emotively. Haven’t we read MacIntyre on our own. We know a false argument. We know ’emotivism’. We know it is not a high way, not a human way, to reject a position.” I think I was flung towards orthodoxy by that statement. (That, and many a rosary with a good friend.)

Although it makes sense to call “conservative” someone who grows up with the old regime and bemoans its departure, it does not make sense to continue wielding this term when the old regime is practically unknown, is almost completely disappeared. Nor, I submit, does the term “reactionary” have a place here. For “reactionary” and avant-garde seem poor bedfellows. Yet, the young man who is raised in an environment of pseudo Catholicism that rejects Vatican I and Trent – however subtly – but who wishes to participate a real Catholicism and not a makeshift, rebellious Catholicism, and who seeks the full truth of the faith and therefore discovers the wider Tradition and discerns the faulty notions and conclusions of Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar… this young man is avant-garde. Yes, the cutting edge of Catholicism is that which embraces the whole Tradition and rejects the rejection, negates the negation. This is the cutting edge of Catholicism. This is what is Rising in the Church. And may it do so with humility and piety. May it do so with obedience and service. Without judgment and accusation.

But is this movement reactionary? Well, let us say that this cutting edge indeed gains ground. Let us say that vocations were to abound in groups of men such as I have narrated above. Let us say that bishops were ordained out of these men. That the vocations of dioceses that reject such men were to shrivel up, that seminaries that reject such men with such views were to whither. Let us say that at some point the beauty of the whole Tradition were to shine again, undimmed and not persecuted. And then some group wished to negate this. Let us say some group then wished to return to the 1970’s. What would this group that wishes a return to the 1970’s be? Would it be Reactionary? Isn’t that awkward.

Because the term “reactionary” is relative and temporal, its use is rather fluid, or ought to be fluid. However, in the religious sphere, we find that the term with its same old evaluative connotation is continually flung at whoever wishes for to embrace the whole Tradition. But this is to denounce a position on account of an alleged emotional or character deficit of its proponents. However, anyone may have an emotional or character deficit. So, the current use of the term is an abuse.

There can be a use for the term. What is the emotional deficit or, worse, that character deficit that the term also targets? It is the “tending to respond in an unprincipled and / or unreasonable manner.” Now, so defined, reactionary can be a useful term. Note that it would then no longer have any temporal or relative implication. It would no longer target any particular position. It would target a character flaw. And a flaw that character is – that is true.

We have seen the rub. It can happen that one who wants a “return” to a past he argues is wiser – which vis-à-vis today’s Forgetfulness of Tradition could be called an avant-garde approach and forward thinking – tends to get emotional and unduly passionate about, say, what he argues is the expressive superiority of the Extraordinary Form. When questioned about his preferences, he cannot answer with decorum and sound reasons. Is he a reactionary? Yes. Is this a flaw? Yes.

But what if there is some young man making a new career in ministry who wishes to return to the 1970’s. He may have been born in 1980. Or in the 1970’s. When asked why he promotes Eucharistic ministers in his parish even when there are only so many who attend Mass and the priest and deacon could themselves easily distribute to everyone within five minutes or so, he gets all upset and claims that the laity must be empowered. A gentle voice, not judging, indicates that there are various callings and roles within the one Church. He contends that this voice is out for power for the clergy and a “clericalist.” The voice maintains that the laity have their unique dignity and do not need to pretend to be priests or usurp properly priestly acts, nor those properly a deacon’s, in order to achieve or claim that dignity. He cannot give any answers but claims that the voice is just a “Tridentine” Catholic. The voice responds that Vatican II teaches the real and qualitative diversity of priesthoods, the universal and the hierarchical. He is dumbfounded. Is he a reactionary? Yes. Is this a flaw? Yes.

What about their respective positions? THAT is what needs discussing. But we have dismissed them both out of hand because they are “reactionaries”. (Well, actually, anyone calling the second person a reactionary would be laughed off stage in our day.)

I suggest, then, that the usual usage of this term is unhelpful. However, if we use the term simply to indicate the way in which a person responds, unreasonably instead of reasonably, it can be useful.

Let us conclude on one key final note. For the Truth is what needs discussing. The Positions are what need discussing. This is where the real “reasonable” will take place.

Now, the source of our Tradition is not human persons. It is God. The God-man. Jesus Christ. Our Lord. He alone established the Church. He alone is the fountain of her teachings. Therefore, those who are Catholic must cling to what he established, the hierarchy he established and as he established it. None of this is reactionary. It is definitional. Faith is not a product of human reasoning. It is the acceptance of God’s gift, trusting his words. Whereas political society has a certain amplitude of options which theoretical and practical reason must determine — and good men can disagree with regard to many a detail — the divine society is not such. Thus, whereas one can be a good citizen and hold this or that opinion about how society should be constituted (although some positions are indeed condemned), one cannot be Catholic and hold this or that opinion about the divine foundations and teachings of the faith. No new “form” of hierarchy can be established by man to overthrow the constant and universal Tradition he established. Certainly, ad hoc arrangements can be used for a time. These have no permanent place in the Church, although for a time they can have a place and even a (papally endorsed) authority.

Therefore, the young man who wishes to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to hear all of the infallible de fide proclamations of the Church with divine faith is a man who has reasons. His position is objectively reasonable. (Reasonable for a believer.) Perhaps he cannot tell you why Karl Rahner’s notion of sacramental causality strikes him as contrary to the faith. But his love of the Church and his instinctus fidei tells him. He is in a good way, although it were better if he could grasp his faith with greater understanding, with intellectual rigor. And it would behoove him to be patient with the rebels who force feed him the theological garbage of the rebellion. He must be patient and loving. Then he will prove that to cling to faith even in the face of confrontation by those who wield diabolical tactics to pervert young minds into the way of death by an errant theology dressed up and obscured at the same time… that his clinging to faith is by no means reactionary and “stifling” but is the way of truth and life, the breath of the Spirit.

Now, let us say we have two who are not reactionaries. One desires a return to the 1970s Catholic expressive life. The other desires a renewal and reform in the continuity of the great Tradition. Both, however, offer reasons. The one hot on the 70s claims that we need active participation in the liturgy (and he interprets ‘actuosa’ as meaning ‘physically and vocally involved as much as possible’), that we need to progress beyond old mindsets (and he means that the perennial philosophy and theology are false in our context, he means there are no first principles ever true), that we must be aware of the signs of the times (and he means by this that we must accommodate our doctrines to the receptive capacity of today’s man), that changing times require changing formulations even changing dogmas, that everything must be filtered through interpretation (so that we should not read Vatican II but rather theologians who write about Vatican II), etc. The second claims that yes we can progress forward, but only on the solid foundation that is established (the perennial philosophy is ever true and always able to develop); that yes actual participation (a more faithful translation of the Latin) is desired and that this is most deeply accomplished in the interior; that, well, yes that interior action indeed calls for an embodiment, so that perhaps we could speak of ways in which the liturgy of old might offer more space for embodied expression without however denying what is fundamental in action (interior) and the necessity of ORGANIC development; that although the intellectual milieu changes human nature and reason do not and the perennial philosophy (which can make progress, on an established foundation) bears within it certain insights that are not able to be overthrown; and that the Magisterium is the key filter, not human whim. Neither of these men is reactionary. Both have offered reasons. Whose reasons are stronger? Whose reasons will endure the test of time? Whose reasons have the testimony of time already? Whose reasons reach up to the heights of heaven, which has offered, and plumb the lowest regions in a sober fear of hell and judgment? Whose reasons, while not products of panic, nonetheless accept the dire truth of the Apostolic warning that there will come men who cleave not to God but to some false end and who wish to tickle the ears of willing followers? Whose reasons hear these warnings and cast an eye over the signs of the times? Whose reasons see the signs of the times precisely as indicators of humanity’s health or illness? Whose reasons do not pervert this “signs of the times” into an idolatrous acceptance of passing fads and luxury, of American “dream life” (be it the porn life, the NFL watching passive entertainment life, the greed and get ahead life, the punish spanking parents but save cancerous poodles life, the exhaling is sin life, the rights without duties life) but remain steadfast in the vision of the Good indicated by our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, and therefore evaluate these passing goods accordingly? Let the 1970s die its death. We look forward, not backward. We look for a better future. Rather, we look for truth and excellence, whether it is forward or backward. We disregard the forward and the backward. We look upward, as at the heights of a Gothic Cathedral.

Now, “garbage”, “rebel”, “rebellion,” etc.: Strong words, no reasons given. Just like that cleric at Notre Dame! Points are well taken. Reasons for these labels shall be given in other posts. Feel free to replace the theologian’s names above with some descriptive label, such as “bad theologian”, so that we can carry on with the actual argument being given here. That argument presumed that the teachings of the faith are untouchable and that therefore those who touch them – “bad theologians” – are rebels, whether well intentioned or no. But we can establish who these are in a less rhetorical manner elsewhere. For, we must not be unfair to Karl Rahner. We must represent the position accurately. A post on this to follow sometime relatively soon.

Catholic Understanding of the General Truths of the Eucharist (Part IV)

How about the Fathers? Do they believe in the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ’s body and blood? If we ask the Gnostics, the answer is “no”. The gnostics thought the world was evil, the product of a fallen God. Hence, they naturally deny that the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ’s body. After all, they could quote, “The flesh is of no avail.”

The docetists held the same. (In fact, they are an earlier heretical movement.) The docetists believed that Jesus was only a spirit. He was not flesh. They denied that the Word became flesh. So, there is no “body of Christ” for the bread to become. Thus, the docetists kept away from the Eucharist.

But neither Gnostic nor docetist is Christian. For whoever does not confess that the Word was made flesh, that the Christ came in the flesh, is antichrist!

In fact, there is no Christian who denies the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist until several centuries, six or more, after Christ departed this earth.


Let me cite a few texts from Ignatius of Antioch (dead AD 110):

“I take no pleasure in corruptible food or the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ who is of the seed of David; and for drink I want his blood, which is incorruptible love” (Holmes edition, 1989, p. 105).

“They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by his goodness raised up,” 112

“Take care, therefore, to participate in one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup which leads to unity through his blood; there is one altar, just as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow servants), in order that whatever you do, you do in accordance with God” (107).

Why the Eucharist? It is “the medicine of immortality, the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ” (p. 93.). He is speaking of eternal life, not of perpetual life on earth. Yet, he is also speaking of resurrection – bodily resurrection. Those early Christians who disdained the body – gnostics, docetists – had no concern for the Eucharist. Those early Christians who loved it in its proper place cherished the Eucharist.