Monthly Archives: June 2014

Augustine on Receiving the Eucharist

Augustine stresses the importance of believing inwardly what we receive outwardly, of embracing inwardly, with charity and obedience to the commandments, what we eat outwardly. If we do not, then in vain do we receive the Sacrament. Thus, Christ’s message in Jn 6: “The flesh is of no avail” without the Spirit, i.e., Sacramental reception without existing in the Spirit of Christ, is of no avail; indeed, it is to our condemnation. Let us go to Confession, be reconciled, before approaching the Holy Eucharist.

From the celebration of Corpus Christi in the Extraordinary Form, the following is from Augustine, in the 8th reading of Matins (cited from that excellent website Divinum Officium):

“He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.” To dwell in Christ, therefore, and to have Him dwelling in us, is to “eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup,” 1 Cor. xi. 28, and he which dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, without all doubt doth not spiritually eat His Flesh nor drink His Blood, although he do carnally and visibly press the Sacrament with his teeth but, contrariwise, he “eateth and drinketh damnation to himself,” because he dareth to draw nigh filthy to that secret and holy thing of Christ, whereunto none draweth nigh worthily, save he which is pure, even he which is of them concerning whom it is said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Augustine is simply repeating what Paul said in 1 Cor 11. Paul spoke of those who became ill or died because of unworthy reception of the Eucharist. Augustine, in his magisterial City of God, speaks of remarkable scourges some of his parishioners suffered because of unworthy reception of the Eucharist.

All these lessons from Tradition should be instructive for those deliberating at the upcoming Synod on the Family. Let us pray their deliberations not only are guided by the Holy Spirit but issue in prudent judgment. Let us pray that some sort of very distorted moral analysis of those who are living in sin does not blind them to such prudent judgment. It is just such a moral analysis that we are in the midst of expounding on this blog, the 16 part series on Fr. Rahner.

A Source for the Gnosticization of Morality: Fr. Karl Rahner (Part 3)

Let us enter, then, you and I. Let us enter the labyrinth of human action in the quasi-Kantian analysis of Fr. Karl Rahner. Thus he asserts: Whenever I have a concept, I as it were “judge the finitude” of a thing. I say, “That is a Labrador.” In doing this, I take the item in front of me and “put it in a category.” I say, “It is a Labrador.” Thus, I master it. I move beyond it. For I know the particular by something universal. I thus pass beyond the particular.

But look at how much is implicit in that simple claim, “It is a Labrador” says Rahner. Look at how much more I have said. For if it is a Labrador, it is also a “dog.” It is one kind of dog, no other kind of dog. And if it is a dog, it is an animal and a bodily thing, but no other kind of animal, and not any kind of non-living thing. Thus, it is “Not a cat” and “Not a shot of gin” and “Not my girlfriend” (hopefully), and “Not an eraser” and “Not sunshine”. In labeling this individual “A Labrador” or “This Labrador” I put it in a category and differentiate it from other types of things.

Look now, how I am racing by all things, says Rahner. I jump from one category to another and say it is not this nor that. My mind is racing now, differentiating the particular Labrador from all other things. However, as I race through these various things, I also see that each of them “is”. That is, I race through various possible “ways of being” and differentiate this particular Labrador from all these other kinds of things and indeed from every other individual. And yet each of these others is at least a “possible” way of being. Even “Unicorn” is hypothetically possible. I have differentiated this thing in front of my, with its wagging tail, from all possible things.

A Source for the Gnosticization of Morality: Fr. Karl Rahner (Part 2)

The second realm, that realm of activity about which you are not conceptually conscious, is what they call the “transcendental realm.” This is the realm in which alone, they allege, you contact God. You do not contact God in the first realm, they allege, because that realm deals with concepts, and concepts, they allege, can regard only finite things. Because God is transcendent (as all agree), they conclude that you cannot contact God directly in the first realm of activity.

Now, this second realm is decidedly different than the previous realm. This realm we cannot “see” clearly. For if we could, we could have a concept about it. But we cannot have a concept about it. Therefore, it eludes our attention.

Or rather, we must “glimpse” it out of the corner of our eye, so to speak. How shall we find it? These moralists tell us that we should wade towards our glimpse of this realm by a deeper appreciation of the conceptually conscious realm. Their analysis here is subtle, engaging, and seductive. They are certain “onto” something. They are “onto” many truths. Many truths. And yet, where does the analysis lead? In a nutshell: It leads to the evisceration of all conceptual content from authentic religion. That means, consequently, all dogma and all liturgical precision are bracketed, set aside, reduced to the level of the “first realm”. No longer do you really encounter God through the catechism, through prayers, through your liturgical gestures. God no longer has a face for you.

I had to specify the immediate results of this seductive moral philosophy so that, after you have tried to see “with the eyes of Rahner” what he is getting at, you do not end up like Darth Vader, with a mask on that you cannot pull off. It is difficult enough to understand him. Those who make the effort to understand him often find that after they say, “I got it, I now understand what he is claiming,” they subsequently say, “It is therefore correct.” This is a logical fallacy. Understanding is not the same as affirmation. Essence is not existence.

You might understand some marvelous suggestion in physics. But that is not the same as verifying that it has the warrant to be affirmed. The paradigm in science can be understood without being affirmed. So too, in philosophy and theology: A suggestion can be understood without being affirmed. But in cases where verification and falsification is very difficult, the labor of coming to understand something so abstruse can often be taken to be the evidential testimony of the veracity of the claim. BUT WE KNOW THAT SUCH OUGHT NOT BE THE CASE. Thus, reader, I have sounded the warning in advance. Twelve years of experience teaching this stuff has given me the reason to sound this warning. Next post, we enter the jaws of this theory.

A Source for the Gnosticization of Morality: Fr. Karl Rahner (Part 1)

As indicated in my series on the Gnosticization of Morality, which begins here, some moral theologians postulate that human action occurs on two levels with regard to two realms. In one realm of activity, you are conceptually conscious of what you are doing. I call this the realm of “determinate consciousness”. In the other realm, you are not conceptually conscious of what you are doing. I call this the realm of “non-determinate consciousness”. I’ll explain each briefly.

In the first realm, of conceptual consciousness, you say to yourself, “She is in need of help. I will give her some food, and a coat, so that she might not freeze and starve tonight.” You call it an act of charity. Or, you say to yourself, “She is very attractive. Although she is not my wife, I think I will embrace her.” You admit it is an act of fornication or adultery. Or you say to yourself, “He needs some money to buy his flat screen TV. I am willing to take a chance and loan him some money. However, I will charge an exorbitant rate of interest. His car will be the collateral.” You admit it is usury. In each of these cases, we are dealing – so these moralists claim – with the first realm. This is the realm about which the “Catechism” and the “10 Commandments” speak. It is the realm of explicit or implicit (i.e., really but im-plicitly determinate) intentions, determinate actions, etc. It is the realm about which you can know, speak, judge, etc.

So these moralists maintain, you do not contact God in this first realm, because this realm deals with items about which you can have concepts. But, they claim, you can have concepts only about finite things. You cannot have concepts about the One who transcends all things. Therefore, the first realm is not the realm in which you really engage God. You might say to yourself, “I am a Catholic, and I worship the God who instituted Catholicism.” This is all well and true – these moralists might admit – but it is only a conceptual kind of activity. Since God cannot be expressed in a concept, your activity on this realm is not directly about God. It cannot be, they say, directly about God.

Can You have True Faith Without Works?

Yes, you can. Even though you lack charity, you can have faith. True faith. Divine faith. Faith infused from above. The gift of God. Not just a “surmised” or “guesswork” faith. Not just opinion. But true and divine faith.

This is a matter of Divine and Catholic faith. That is, it is dogma. Thus, it is heresy to deny it.

Source: Canon 28 of Trent, Session VI: “If anyone says that whenever grace is taken away through sin, faith is always also taken away, OR if anyone says that the faith which remains is not true faith even though it is not living, OR if anyone says the one who has faith without charity is not a true Christian, let him be anathema.”

Why this teaching? Well, given that it is taught, it is the truth. But what practical benefit is it? Truth is beneficial. But we can specify: It means that even if you commit a mortal sin, if it is not apostasy or heresy, you still have your faith. You believe in God. ANd this is good for you, since it reminds you of God’s Justice, his Judgment, and possible Damnation, as well as God’s Mercy, his Forgiveness, and possible salvation. Thus, it gives you the true map of life. God is calling you, and through your faith you are already following him in an important way.

Will your faith alone save you? No. Faith alone will not save you.

We really need to be precise. It is important for all Catholics to be precise whenever they speak and even whenever they think. This is our faith; these are our expressions. Faith alone cannot save me, but it remains true faith even if it is not living.

Papal Powers (Part 5)

Part the Last.

What other powers does the pope have? As part of his papal primacy, the pope also has the full authority of ecclesial teaching. That is, there is no ecclesial teaching authority that he does not have. Nor is there any teaching authority higher than his. (Contra Gallicanism.)

He has the power to teach infallibly on faith and morals and on what pertains to faith and morals (the so-called secondary objects of infallibility). He also has ordinary teaching authority.

As with all Magisterial teachings, one must read the latest pronouncements in the light of the foundation of the past. This is because the latest pope is bound by Tradition and Scripture and these have already authoritatively been interpreted and he and all the baptized are bound to adhere to these interpretations and to these Fonts of Revelation. (Contrary to the rumors of academics, Vatican II did not dispense with this expression ‘fonts of revelation’ even though it did not employ the expression. These are indeed the fonts of revelation when we speak of the articulated expression of the Person and Teachings of Jesus Christ. Where do we find these articulated expressions? In Tradition and Scripture. Thus, they are fonts. The rumors alluded to are red herrings rather unhelpful for the theological enterprise. What Vatican II left explicitly undecided – though it does implicitly teach in this matter – is whether or not Scripture contains everything found in Tradition. No explicit teaching in this regard. However, the implication is clear: No. Where? For instance, the Church gains her knowledge of what books belong in Scripture not from Scripture but from … Tradition! Thus spake Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 8).

Back from the digression. We must therefore situate all recent papal teachings of lesser authority in the context of the absolute truths already infallibly proclaimed. Further, we must situate all recent papal teachings of lesser authority in the context of all the long established papal teachings reiterated over the decades and centuries. Nor is silence of a matter, even prolonged silence, a reason not to hold an established, much less an infallible, teaching. It is also the case, of course, that an infallible teaching in the year 2015 would contextualize all less than infallible and earlier teachings. But antiquity is a key principle. Why? Because seldom are teachings issued infallibly. And it takes time to “establish” a teaching. Since more time is past than is present, already established papal teachings must be a firm anchor of context for almost all later teachings.

That said, I would add one final note. Pius XII lucidly stated that the living Magisterium is the proximate source of theology. What he means is that the living Magisterium, insofar as it voices authoritatively on a subject, provides the theologian with the living insight into past teachings. Thus statement should not be understood in a “dialectical” sense: I.e. it should not be read as meaning that later teachings can mitigate or water down earlier teachings. Rather, it should be understood in the sense that later teachings can help the current person focus on the key matters at stake today and on the meanings of ancient expressions. It is part and parcel of Pius XII’s message, also, that he understood the papal Magisterium to be bearer of a “perennial” mode of expression. Thus, the Magisterium in his time undertook the self-discipline to express itself in a language and thought long tried and true, very precise. So that one could clearly see the line of development leading up to the latest promulgation.

We really cannot say that this mode of expression has been preserved. And since it has not been preserved, many Catholics have thought that previous teachings have themselves been abandoned. That is an error. They have not. And since confusion reigns, I think it very salutary for people to go back and get good solid grounding in Magisterial texts from Pius IX through Pius XII and in the councils of Trent and Vatican I. These are foundational. They presuppose and clearly carry through the achievements of the early councils, which are also crucial: Nicaea through Constantinople III.

The “perennial” philosophy and theology as a very mighty weapon for the Church, to fight confusion and to dispel errors; a very lucid torch whereby to illuminate the world. Unfortunately, some people could not see the real meaning of this language and wanted something more “up to date” or “personally edifying”. Well, that is all fine; provided that one does not lose one’s bearings in the “personal” focus. Thus, some good combination of recent expressions, which bring out the personal, and the classic (which speak from the perennial philosophy) is probably the best recipe for success.

In a nutshell: The pope is servant of Christ, of the Church, of the Tradition, of Scitpure, and of the flock. And that is why he has his authority. If a pope were not to make use of his authority so to feed the flock, I suppose this would be possible. A pope could decide not to use this authority because its use might be taken to be un-ecumenical. However, whether such an action would be wise is a very different matter.

Christ Became Sin: Say Wha?

St. Paul writes, “God made him [Christ] who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Sadly, Luther took this passage as though it employed no literary device, as though it were in the “proper literal sense”.

A passage is  in the “proper literal sense” only when there is no “noteworthy” literary device. If there is a “noteworthy” literary device, it is in the “IM-proper literal sense”.

Why all these technicalities? Theology is no easy science! It is very demanding. And this is the lucid distinction carved out by the Tradition. The reason is this: Every last text in Scripture is literally true. So, those who say that it is wrong to take everything “literally” are in error. The Church teaches that the literal sense is always true. See Leo XIII in his magisterial Providentissimus Deus. There is no  such thing as a false passage of Scripture. What these people mean to say is that we should not take every passage as though it were in the proper literal sense. For many passages are in the improper literal sense.

Witness Jesus’ command: “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off….” Sadly, the master of allegory, Origen, took this one in the proper literal sense. He drew the conclusion and castrated himself. Ouch.

The lesson is clear: Some texts employ literary devices that are “noteworthy”. For example, “God was walking in the garden”. What, did he have legs? No. So he couldn’t walk. Then, the text means, as one who is intimate with another walks where he walks, and searches him out, so the Lord who generously invited Adam and Eve into fellowship with him and marital bliss with one another, so this our Lord sought to ask them, “Where are you?”

Back to our text. Luther took “Made him to be sin” in the proper literal sense. But this is blasphemy and heresy. We cannot say that our sins are in Jesus’ soul and body. This is to blaspheme God. What, can a sin jump from me to you like a flea jumps from one body to another? Nonsense.

The Muslims, and probably many Jewish thinkers, find those (heretical) Christian theses that suggest that guilt can “jump around” like a flea to be abhorrent. Good for them: They are abhorrent. We must reject the idea that Jesus “Became sin” in the proper literal sense.

Rather, Paul meant this: That just as the sacrifice for sin is called “sin” in the Old Testament, so Jesus became a sacrifice for our sins. In fact, the statement of Paul also contains another obvious literary device. For we do not become the very righteousness of God. God’s righteousness is God himself. We do not become God himself. We would explode. That would not be an act of union between persons but of domination: God crushing us with his infinity. Instead, we are made to participate in God. So too, Jesus was made to participate in the likeness of sinful flesh: Taking on real human flesh, except without sin.

Note on Genuine vs. False Ecumenism

In the year 1864, the Sacred Office wrote a letter to Bishops of England regarding a falsely ecumenical society. The society held the view that the Church of Jesus Christ consisted partly of Roman Catholic churches, partly of Greek Orthodox churches, and partly of Anglican (ecclesial communities). The Holy Office writes,

[NB: What follows is what the Holy Office condemns] “The foundation on which this society rests is of such a nature that it makes the divine establishment of the Church of no consequence. For, it is wholly in this: that it supposes the true Church of Jesus Christ to be composed partly of the Roman Church scattered and propagated throughout the whole world, partly, indeed, of the schism of Photius, and of the Anglican heresy, to which, as well as to the Roman Church, ‘There is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.’” [Condemned View]

The Holy Office condemned the society for this heretical view. Further, the Holy Office condemned Catholic members of the society for praying under the leadership of heretics and schismatics. Finally, the Holy Office declared the true dogma concerning the genuine Church of Christ:

 [The Holy Office declares this as the true view]: “The true Church of Jesus Christ was established by divine authority, and is known by a fourfold mark, which we assert in the Creed must be believed; and each one of these marks so clings to the others that it cannot be separated from them; hence it happens that the Church which truly is, and is called Catholic should at the same time shine with the prerogatives of unity, sanctity, and apostolic succession. Therefore, the Catholic Church alone is conspicuous and perfect in the unity of the whole world and of all nations, particularly in that unity whose beginning, root, and unfailing origin are that supreme authority and ‘higher principality’ of blessed Peter, the prince of the Apostles, and of his successors in the Roman Chair. No other Church is Catholic except the one which, founded on the one Peter, grows into one ‘body compacted and fitly joined together’ in the unity of faith and charity.”

If we combine this model of orthodox clarity with the true charity that reaches out to Christian non-Catholic churches and ecclesial communities, in hope and zeal inspired by God and in search of true unity, we have the ingredients for genuine ecumenism.

Yet, this is a very difficult path. One is tempted to “temper” orthodoxy with charity, or charity with orthodoxy. But the divine faith cannot be “tempered,” for it is divine. The commandment to love cannot be tempered, for it is of God and leads to God. Therefore, we must be extreme in faith and in charity. That is genuine ecumenism.