Monthly Archives: September 2015

Lessons from the Holy Office

A most lucid and clear, and far-sighted, Instruction was issued by the Holy Office on Dec. 20, 1949.

It regarded ecumenism. It consists in a set of instructions and principles for authentic Catholic involvement in the ecumenical movement.

How greatly we need to re-receive this Instruction. Each and every Catholic should listen to the wisdom taught herein.

I paste a lengthy excerpt from EWTN’s translation, but also refer you to their site for more:

As regards <the manner and method of proceeding in this work>, the Bishops themselves will make regulations as to what is to be done and what is to be avoided, and shall see that these are observed by all. They shall also be on guard lest, on the false pretext that more attention should be paid to the points on which we agree than to those on which we differ, a dangerous indifferentism be encouraged, especially among persons whose training in theology is not deep and whose practice of their faith is not very strong. For care must be taken lest, in the so-called “irenic” spirit of today, through comparative study and the vain desire for a progressively closer mutual approach among the various professions of faith, Catholic doctrine-either in its; dogmas or in the truths which are connected with them-be so conformed or in a way adapted to the doctrines of dissident sects, that the purity of Catholic doctrine be impaired, or its genuine and certain meaning be obscured.

Also they must restrain that dangerous manner of speaking which generates false opinions and fallacious hopes incapable of realization; for example, to the effect that the teachings of the Encyclicals of the Roman Pontiffs on the return of dissidents to the Church, on the constitution of the Church, on the Mystical Body of Christ, should not be given too much importance seeing that they are not all matters of faith, or, what is worse, that in matters of dogma even the Catholic Church has not yet attained the fullness of Christ, but can still be perfected from outside. They shall take particular care and shall firmly insist that, in going over the history of the Reformation and the Reformers the defects of Catholics be not so exaggerated and the faults of the Reformers be so dissimulated, or that things which are rather accidental be not so emphasized, that what is most essential, namely the defection from the Catholic faith, be scarcely any longer seen or felt. Finally, they shall take precautions lest, through an excessive and false external activity, or through imprudence and an excited manner of proceeding, the end in view be rather harmed than served.

Therefore the <whole> and <entire> Catholic doctrine is to be presented and explained: by no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth regarding the nature and way of justification, the constitution of the Church, the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, and the only true union by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ. It should be made clear to them that, in returning to the Church, they will lose nothing of that good which by the grace of God has hitherto been implanted in them, but that it will rather be supplemented and completed by their return. However, one should not speak of this in such a way that they will imagine that in returning to the Church they are bringing to it something substantial which it has hitherto lacked. It will be necessary to say these things clearly and openly, first because it is the truth that they themselves are seeking, and moreover because outside the truth no true union can ever be attained.

Good Old German Bishops: Pope Not Absolute Monarch

After Vatican I, Bismarck took opportunity to complain about the Church, only he falsified her teachings. He complained that she arrogated to the Pope the power of an absolute and unfettered sovereign.

The German Bishops – good old German Bishops – responded with a correct reading of Vatican I. The Council never taught an absolute power for the pope. Supreme, but not absolute, power. I cite the choicest section of the document:

“The decisions of the Vatican Council [Vatican I] offer no basis for the assertion that the pope, because of them, has become an absolute master and, indeed, because of his infallibility, ‘enjoys absolute authority, more than any absolute monarch in the world.’ First of all, the area covered by the ecclesiastical authority of the pope is essentially different from that over which the earthly power of a sovereign monarch extends, and Catholics do not challenge in any way the sovereignty of kings and princes over civil matters. But prescinding from that, the application of the term ‘absolute monarch’ tot he pope in reference to ecclesiastical affairs is not correct because he is subject to divine laws and is bound by the directives given by Christ for his Church. The pope cannot change the constitution given to the Church by her divine Founder, as an earthly ruler can change the constitution of a State. In all essential points the constitution of the Church is based on divine directives and is therefore not subject to human arbitrariness.” (DSF 3115).

Pope Pius IX publicly lauded the document and stated that it is the correct interpretation of Vatican I. The pope is bound by Revelation and by the essential foundation of the Church, and by every last infallible decree ever uttered – in its entirety, and with the same meaning and judgment as that with which it was originally taught.

Leo XIII: Lessons on Nature and Grace

Nature is the foundation on which grace builds, the potential that grace actualizes. Thus, nature is more “inalienable” than grace. It is primordial and foundational.

On the other hand, grace is more excellent. Rather, the man with grace is what God wants; it is the man fully alive. (It is not “grace” that God wants, but the man graced.)

There are natural virtues and supernatural virtues. Some so extol the natural virtues that the supernatural virtues seem to be left aside, not to have a home, to be ancillary, secondary – afterthoughts. This is all wrong.

Pope Leo XIII condemns them in his Testem benevolentiae“It is hard to understand that those who are imbued with Christian wisdom could prefer natural virtues to supernatural ones and ascribe to them a greater efficacy and fruitfulness” (DS 3343).

Related to this perverse esteem for natural over supernatural virtues is the esteem for “active” over contemplative virtues. The pope continues: “From this kind of contempt for the evangelical virtues, wrongly called passive, it was likely to follow that a disregard for the religious life would also gradually pervade minds. And that this is commonly the case with the champions of the new opinions, we gather from some of their sayings about the vows that are pronounced in religious orders. For they say that these vows are very remote from the spirit of our time inasmuch as they restrict the field of liberty; that they are suited to weak souls rather than to strong ones; and that they have absolutely no value to foster Christian perfection and the good of human society, but are rather an obstacle and a hindrance to both.” DS 3345.

The pope condemns this “Americanist” ideology.

It is great that people want to cultivate natural virtues. “But there is one thing that is necessary, Martha, and Mary has chosen the better part.” Our Lord decidedly favors the supernatural virtues and the contemplative over the active. The Holy Church decidedly esteems the religious life over other forms of life. The Holy Church decidedly esteems the monastic life over the active religious life.

Do we need a variety of callings in the Church? Without question. Yet, there is a greater rank in terms of finality and excellence in the contemplative religious traditions. If we lose sight of this, we will set our compasses wrong and follow out a trajectory of “workaholism”. Too much work. Not enough prayer.

Society today thinks it has no use for monks. So did the so-called Reformation. But in fact we need the monks and the nuns. We need those who live seemingly useless lives, dedicated solely to God. We need to see that this life is but a passing act of preparation for the final act of consummation. Here we have no lasting home. What are we doing, carving out heaven on earth? So perverse. So short-sighted. We want heaven on earth and heaven after earth. Thus, our minds are divided. We are not simple of heart. We go on consuming, eating, journeying, … and banking on God forever. What about contempt for the world and love of God? What about “zeal for your house will consume me”? What about “the single of heart”?

Lessons from Leo XIII on Making Accommodations for the World

From Leo XIII’s Testem benevolentiae

“The basis of the opinions [which Leo is about to reject] that we have mentioned is established as essentially this: In order that those who dissent may more easily be brought over to Catholic wisdom, the Church should come closer to the humanity of a more mature age and, relaxing her old severity, manifest indulgence toward the beliefs and opinions of the people that have recently been introduced. Moreover, many think that this should be done not only with regard to the standard of living, but even with regard to the doctrines in which the deposit of faith is contained. For, they contend, that it is opportune, to win over those who are in disagreement, if certain topics of doctrine are passed over as of lesser importance or are so softened that they do not retain the same sense as the Church has always held. Now: There is no need of a long discussion… to show with what reprehensible purpose this has been thought out, if only the character and origin of the teaching that the Church hands down are considered.”

Pope Leo XIII rejects the recommendation and notes that the truth the Church hands on is always relevant and that in matters changeable there has always been room for change. Neither doctrine nor morals change!

Withholding Communion – for Love of the Sinner

(I published this a while ago, but it seemed timely to reissue.)

Some advocate that Communion should be withheld from public sinners. Others argue against this. I favor the former. But let’s briefly state the positions.

Some contend that we should not withhold communion. First, we cannot judge anyone, because our Lord forbids it. Second, if we withhold it for pro-abort politicians, why not for all those who endorse military action? Or the death penalty? Or gun rights? Third, it is a political act, and the Church should only be involved in sacred acts and loving justice. Fourth, where will you draw the line? What about those who publicly acknowledge that they are having premarital sex? Or those who publicly acknowledge they are using their sexual faculties in unnatural ways, such as masturbation or unnatural acts with others? Should all these be deprived of that Blessed Gift unless or until they repent? And that brings up, Fifth, that the Eucharist alone is the source of life. Thus, if we have any hope of their conversion, we must give them the Eucharist.

Without responding point for point with regard to these considerations, I wish to present considerations for the other case. I hope that the overall argument surmounts the considerations above in terms of the general thesis of the objector. (The objector claims that it would in no case be good to withhold Communion. I hold the contradictory of this.)

First, Abortion is in every case evil. Military action is sometimes justified.

Second, Abortion takes millions of lives. Now, I grant that one can argue, quite reasonably, that the US military action of late has been unjust. That would involve another post. But the argument can indeed be made. And John Paul II made the argument. Ratzinger supported his claims. Good men are increasingly of opinion that the US foreign policy has numerous wicked elements. Now, these wars of late have taken hundreds of thousands, and perhaps a million or more lives. This is grossly evil. Not to mention the consequent poverty, familial breakdown, homelessness, political vacuum, refugee crisis, destitution, etc. etc. These evils cry out to heaven for vengeance. (As does that of abortion.) Both are horrible evils – abortion and the unjust wars. However, once again, in every case the aborted baby is innocent. It is not necessarily the case that the targeted victims of war are innocent. Some are. Some are not. Further, abortion has taken more millions. It is unequivocally the single greatest evil against life that is taking place today. (Other evils, such as blasphemy and sacrilege are another matter and of a different degree of malice.)

Third, it is not also so easy to judge a given military action or campaign.

Fourth, the death penalty is NOT per se evil. It can be justified. This is the teaching of Evangelium Vitae. See also the Catechism (CCC). The Waldensians were heretics who denied that capital punishment could be done without mortal sin. The Church rejected their thesis and gave them the following Profession of Faith: “With regard to the secular power, we affirm that it can exercise a judgment of blood without mortal sin provided that in carrying out the punishment it proceeds, not out of hatred, but judiciously, not in a precipitous manner, but with caution” (Denzinger-S, Ignatius Press, #795). The possibility that capital punishment can morally be done is the constant teaching of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

Now, John Paul II made two contributions to this teaching. First, he made very clear that the conditions for the just use of the death penalty are strict. In doing so, he reaffirmed that the Death Penalty is not per se evil. He added one key condition for its just use: it must be the only way to defend the common good of society. The interpretations of this “defense of the common good” are very wide ranging. I will leave that to the experts.

However, I would note that if it truly is a penalty, it must be inflicted on account of a previous wrongdoing. One cannot be “punished” who is not guilty. You can kill someone about to murder you. This is not to punish him but to defend yourself. Self-defense is not punishment.

Further, the guilty should be punished in accordance with their guilt. Thus, is it not the case that the death penalty is a state execution inflicted on account of some previous criminal action? If so, it does not seem that “self-defense” should be understood by analogy with an individual acting to defend himself from a present aggressor. If I stop a present aggressor with lethal force, I am not punishing him but defending myself. If society is punishing a criminal, this punishment is for some past wrongdoing. Well – this is a caveat. I know that solid theologians might reject what I have just said. But none can reject this: That the death penalty is not per se evil. We can argue about whether its concrete practice is just or not, racist or not, favoring the rich or not, prudentially called for or not: But we cannot argue this key principle.

John Paul II’s second contribution was a suggestion in the order of prudence. That is, he proposed a prudential judgment that today the circumstances are practically non-existent. This prudential judgment is not a doctrinal pronouncement.

Next: how many does the death penalty take these days? Hundreds per year? Thousands since its civil legalization?How does that compare to abortion?

And are those executed innocent? No; they are guilty of heinous crimes.

There is simply no comparison with abortion. Thus, to attempt to put these actions (abortion and death penalty) into one continuous cloth is to abort the pro-life movement at the very foundation, killing it, cutting off its legs, strangling it, leaving it to die along with the millions of always innocent infants. A sound went up, Rachel weeping.

Fifth, We must indeed judge “character” though we do not have competence to judge the interior soul. Character is a public manifestation of virtue or vice. If the same LORD said, “Throw your pearls not before swine,” he gave us license to judge character. Thus, the priest is in position to judge character and to determine whether or not someone is a notorious public sinner. Else, why does canon law stipulate anything?

Sixth, Another way of putting this is similar, though it may go a bit deeper. What does it mean, we cannot judge the interior? It does NOT NECESSARILY mean we have no competence in making reasonable conjecture about the general state of a soul. Of course, we are fallible judges in these matters who have only the exterior as evidence. And of course, there are those without the use of reason – teenage people with severe retardation, e.g. –who might, e.g.,  masturbate and we cannot judge them. Their actions are probably not free. But the normal teenage boy who has been instructed knows masturbation is evil. Thus, if he tells us this is what he is doing and that he is buying porn, we can make a reasonable conjecture about state of his soul. However, we can Not judge the ‘degree’ to which he is culpable. We cannot know whether or not he may have already repented. There may be some past history. Perhaps he built up a habit and continually attempts to be freed. Perhaps he was abused earlier in life. Etc. This is why our conjectural sense as to the state of the person’s soul is very tenuous. We can, and indeed we must judge character, the manifestation of virtue or vice through action, and yet we must leave judgment of the interior to God, all the while not being so foolish as to think that everybody is probably just fine, regardless of what they are doing. It is an insult to another to consider that his every act is not free. So, we might have some kind of conjectural concern that a friend shacking up with a lover is not only engaging in objectively grave sin – that we can judge with certainty – but indeed committing a mortal sin because he knows the truth and is doing this with free will. However, the degree of his guilt, whether he may have repented, etc., are totally beyond our competence. Conjectural inference that falls short of assigning to oneself authority and certainty is what the Priest is called to have in confession.

Now, Seventh, Withholding communion has to do with judgment of character, not conjectural guesses regarding the interior forum. Withholding communion is a public act, yes, regarding a public act. Those who manifest evil character unrepentantly can and should be judged in the public forum by the priest who, as do a good number of others, knows of this situation. We are talking public sinners. This act of withholding communion does not indicate a judgment of vision regarding the internal forum.

But WHY? Why withhold communion? For the following reason. It is terribly harmful for someone who is not in union with Christ to receive the sacrament of union. It is like kissing your wife if you have quarreled and not made up. It is like greeting a friend with the normal familiarity after you have betrayed him and before being reconciled. When we sin, we know in our gut something is wrong. Nor are we disposed to celebrate.

The Eucharist is a time of joy and delight, of consummation. It is not a time of mortal sorrow. One indeed is sorrowful for having committed venial sins, and for one’s past mortal sins. However, one comes forward with the joy that Christ has washed the head in baptism and the feet in confession. One thus comes to embrace the Lord.

However, whoever sins is in sorrow – necessarily. If he does not “feel” the sorrow, he is so much the more dead in heart. If he does feel sorrow he is much more likely to draw life from God in the future.

Why in sorrow? Because he is violating God’s law, and human reason. Human reason, which has a share in God’s law, rebukes him for his crime. His conscience eats away at his secrete thoughts and heart, rebuking him in his own home. He cannot flee from himself; he cannot flee from this lashing, this internal laceration, this domestic dispute. His own home is a house divided.

Further, if society has a stake in the matter – murder, greed, false “unions”, etc. – a just society (or whatever is just in society) casts shame on him by its very being. Conversely, the sinner whose sin notably concerns society scorns a just society. This is why Herodias the adulteress murdered John the Baptist. For John embodied the just society, explicitly and by name rebuking the adulteress and the adulterer Herod. This in fact was for their good. This was almighty God reaching out to them with his sufficient grace, that they might convert and so be saved. But alas – they plunged more deeply into sin and murdered him. Human respect. Hatred of justice. Pusillanimity. Sexual lust. Incest. Ruthless. Heartless. And so God gave them up to unnatural lusts.

The rebuke of conscience, too, is meant for one’s salvation. But if one fails to repent, he carries this rebuke with him, as an internal torture amidst the eternal fires. Damned sinners – their worm dies not. They are a constant rebuke to themselves. Wave upon wave of time beats upon them, ceaselessly, relentlessly. Tomorrow is only another horror. To awaken to horror, their only prospect. Their home – their own heart – always divided. Scorning and scorned – the same man. And yet, they awaken not. For they sleep not. The criminal on earth has a few hours peace each day – at night. But the criminal in life after death, who sleeps not nor slumbers, is tortured day and night without respite.

Finally, we come to the rebuke of Almighty God, who is infinitely Holy. God threatens the sinner with the fires of everlasting torment, with an eternal divorce from the human soul. For Wisdom departs an unholy spirit (Wis 1). This is a definitive end of the pilgrim’s being courted. “Never again shall I preach in your town. Depart from me, you Accursed Thief of your own soul’s life. You suicide!” Thus they descend into the raging fires of blood and hatred, with all their like, and with the unfathomable malice and power of the demons, whose slaves they have become. The divine rebuke during life is meant for the repentance of the sinner. But the sinner who repents not incurs nothing but divine wrath. The punishment in hell is only retributive, not medicinal. And their smoke goes up forever and ever.

As the English Medieval Christmas Carol pronounces, “Therefore, Repent.

If this is the prospect of those who fail to repent, what would we be doing by administering the Eucharist knowingly to public sinners? We would be making their lives on earth an objective torture. We would be muffling their cries, exiling them from the place of real weeping, whereby alone their true joy can dawn. We would be making their wedding feast a place of woe. This is to hate them, to despise them.

Instead, we must insist that they repent so that their Eucharist might be spousal, beautiful. Do we love the sinner if we speak not of his blight? He is heading over the cliff? Will we love only his respect? He is committing unnatural sexual sins. Will we only comment on the nice decor, how he is at dinner? Blind leading the blind! And both will perish.

Yes, both shall perish and more with them. And this brings up the final reason for withholding. It teaches the flock, who are hungry and weary and have needing a true and bold shepherding act of love, that sin kills the soul and incapacitates one for the wedding feast. And the common good of this flock is of greater weight than the honor of the individual who has already brought shame upon himself, in the light of a just society, by public sin.

Lessons from Gregory the Great

What a great way for St. Gregory, the Great, to begin his pontificate: With a letter unambiguously proclaiming his submission to Tradition. After proclaiming his submission to Nicaea, Constantinople I, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and Constantinople II, he goes on to write,

“I reject as well all the people whom the aforesaid venerable councils rejected; and those they venerate, I accept; since they are founded on a universal consent, whoever presumes to loose what the councils have bound or to bind what they have loosed destroys himself and not these (councils). Whoever, therefore, thinks otherwise, let him be anathema.”

A number of popes at that time took oaths such as this. In a way, this is not surprising. There were some troubling bishops who became heretics at the time. Some popes back then were troubling as well. Vigilius waffled before defending the truth of Christ on a very important point. Liberius signed a watered down, perhaps even problematic, creed under political pressure. I believe it is Marcellinus committed some infamous act as well; it may have been burning incense in the pagan way.

But Gregory and others forthrightly proclaimed that they were but humble servants of the Tradition. With authority, yes, but one that is itself subject to Tradition because subject to the Gospel, which is Christ’s Alone.

But Gregory was also a meek lamb, a holy man, of tender heart. Some rabble-rousing Catholics, in mistaken zeal (or perhaps worse), were disturbing the Jews as they celebrated their various ceremonies near Naples. Their reason was that only the Catholic religion is presently appointed by God, so that Jewish worship — according to ceremonies that expect the coming of the Messiah and thus implicitly deny that he has come — does not enjoy present divine worship.

When Gregory learned of their rough and disturbing activity of Jewish worship, he rebuked them:

“Some people have unreasonably sought to prevent them from celebrating some of their solemn feast days…. If such is the case, these men [the disturbers] seem to be engaged in a useless pursuit…. This, then is the agendum: by being encouraged more by reason and gentleness, they are to wish to follow, not flee, from us, so that by showing them what we affirm from their Scriptures, we may be able with God’s help to convert them to the bosom of Mother Church.”

He urges the local bishop to evangelize the Jews and call them to conversion to the one true faith, but also to leave them in peace to worship as they have for centuries upon centuries.

“Those who sincerely desire to bring those outside the Christian religion to the correct faith should be earnestly engaged in displays of courtesy, not harshness, lest hostility drive far away those whose minds a clear thought out reason could challenge. FOR WHOEVER ACTS OTHERWISE, AND WANTS TO KEEP THEM AWAY FROM TEHIR CUSTOMARY PRACTICE OF RITES UNDER THIS PRETEXT, IS SHOWN TO BE MORE CONCERNED WITH HIS OWN INTERESTS THAN WITH THOSE OF GOD.” (DS, 43rd edition trans. into English by Ignatius Press, #487

O God, through the intercession of Pope St. Gregory the Great, grant that we both submit to the Entire Tradition with clear and unambiguous words and gestures and that we also, meek as lambs, invite welcomingly to the Table of Truth all those whose hearts hunger until they feed on Thy Bread.

Video on This Present Crisis

This video speaks quite well to some very difficult to face, but nonetheless terribly real, problems afflicting our Church. The must-read Scripture text here is Jesus going into the boat, with his disciples following. Jesus falls asleep, the storm comes. The disciples cry out in great fear. We must have faith in Our Lord, Sovereign King, who shall come to judge the quick and the dead, who shall reveal what is hidden, exposing the darkness of plots and treachery, casting down the mighty and lifting up the lowly. He has ruled, shall rule, and rules His Church.


The Evel Knievel Logic of some Recent Theology

Imagine the great Jewish thinker Martin Buber hearing,

“The living God can therefore be thought of only as Father and Son, while a non-trinitarian, purely monotheistic God would in fact have to be declared dead.”

Now, imagine him discovering that these are words of a high-ranking Catholic prelate devoted to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, Walter Cardinal Kasper. Finally, imagine Buber unearthing the following thesis as the prelate’s founding premise:

“An I without a thou is unthinkable” (Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, 1992, pp. 188, 241 [GJC]).

If Buber’s light unveils all personal being, was he too timid to shine it through the vault of the firmament? Or was His Eminence mounting up as Icarus?

Walter Kasper of course would say that he never tried to proved the Trinity to be true. But let’s look at his actual words:

If God is not to be understood as a solitary narcissistic being who (to put it paradoxically) would be highly imperfect by reason of his very perfection and would inevitably suffer from his own completeness, then God can only be conceived as co-existent (GJC, 306).

Well, let’s see whether a conclusion could be drawn from the first premise if we suppose the conditional enunciates a correct inference. Well, let’s see, last I checked, God is probably not a narcissistic being. Voilà! Therefore, he must be The Holy Trinity.

This is what I call Evel Knievel logic. Only, instead of 24 automobiles, the Cardinal has rocketed beyond all finite being to the very essence of God… all by a simple premise!

Chances are, something went wrong in the logic. After all, the Holy Trinity is a mystery of faith. But Vatican I is clear about mysteries: Human reason can never demonstrate their truth. Not today, not back in Isaiah’s time, not in the future. Never. Hence, the appearance of a demonstration – which surfaces again and again in they systematic portions of Kasper’s God of Jesus Christ, is problematic. Whatever he might say in words against this is edifying, indeed, but contradicts the performance. Lonergan called such things “performative contradictions”.

Why pursue this matter? Because Kasper’s is no isolated thesis. Scores of Christians have been subjected to homiletic spinoffs of the core argument, such as the “God is Not a Bachelor” sermon. Terse is the logic however rhetorically embellished: “Since God is not a bachelor, he is the Holy Trinity.” What should one do in face of the iron wit of this inference? Laugh hysterically—laugh at the Evel Knievel logic, all the while bewailing the caricature of a premise. What actually happens? Faithful crowds howl in laughter at “mere monotheists” who reject the premise, somnolently nodding in awe of an argument that must be sound because its conclusion is true. The sermon succeeds by the preacher’s rhetorical mastery and the good will of the laughing stock.

But scientific theology does not proceed with Evel Knievel logic. It attempts to state clearly its first principles and to work from and (where possible) towards these. It sometimes leaves us hungering for more to be said. This is the invitation to prayer, not the invitation to invent theological fictions—as has often been done since the rebellious usurping of scientific theology by the poets—that escape condemnation perhaps only because they are poetical.

True vs. False Shepherds

Gregory the Great on Jn 10:10, as reported by the great commentator, Cornelius a Lapide:

The thief and robber of the sheep, who does not enter the sheepfold of the Church through the door, that is, through Me [Christ], but breaks in secretly some other way, as for instance a heretic or schismatic, a scribe or Pharisee, or especially a false-Christ, who passes himself off as the Messias… comes not to protect and save the sheep, but to steal them and to snatch them from God and the Church, whose property they are, and to bring them into their own gathering, the synagogue of Satan, and there slaughter them by heresy and sin, and lead them to their destruction in hell.”

[By contrast, the good shepherd] drives away wolves, serpents, and everything that is harmful to the sheep; so let the pastor drive away all heretics and harmful persons. And let him feed his flock with doctrine and the sacraments, and not fatten himself on the milk and wool of his flock. Let him not be mercenary, seeking his own profit and honors….

In a time of tranquility very often the hireling, as well as the true shepherd, keeps watch over the flock. But the approach of the wolf shows the temper of mind with which each one was standing guard over the flock. The wolf attacks the sheep when the unjust man and the robber oppress those who are faithful and humble. But he who seemed to be a shepherd and was not, leaves the sheep and runs away, because he fears that some harm will come to himself from them, he does not venture to withstand their injustice…. He flies because he saw injustice and remained silent: He flies, because he conceals himself by silence….

The wolf, first, is the heretic; second, any wicked man, who strives to snatch and pervert the faithful by word or example….”

A Lapide comments: Hence, Christ leaves it to be gathered by contrast that the good shepherd, when he sees the wolf coming, neither flies nor forsakes his sheep, but stands up for them and fights even to death, and in this way lays down his life for them.

Would that a Lapide were read by many and all. You can purchase his 4 volume commentary on the Gospels, the best commentary available, in English through Amazon.

A Bite in de Lubac’s theory on Nature and Grace? Part 12

Question: What About Vatican II?

  • Vatican II teaches: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of him who was to come, namely, Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear,” Gaudium et spes, art. 22.
  • This is no explicit declaration, in unambiguous words, that human nature has an essential desire for beatific vision. Although some have taken it to be such, de Lubac knew better.
  • And, as is argued above at length, if it were such a declaration, then Vatican II would imply that a meaningless world is possible. This is hardly a likely outcome of Vatican II.
  • In fact, the Church has already condemned the notion that there is an exigence for beatific vision rooted in human nature itself (Pascendi, art. 37). Further, the Church teaching implies that affirming the gratuity of grace depends on affirming a merely natural order (Humani generis at DS 3018).
  • A key principle of magisterial interpretation is that clearer, unambiguous statements help us interpret unclear, ambiguous statements. The prior tradition is clear and unambiguous, and Vatican II is not. Ergo, we read Vatican II in light of the former clarity.
  • A few textual observations as well.
    • Vatican II is clearly speaking of the historical order of things: first Adam, last Adam. But this order includes not only nature but also grace.
    • I, the concrete man, am not just a bare essence, untouched by grace. Under God’s providential care, I am a resultant complexity. However, there are principles to that complexity. To assign a causal root in nature to the resultant complexity may be premature. For example: concrete me, I am a theology professor. This is indicate who I am. I am married to a lovely woman. This is indicate who I am. However, to say that I was born with an essential desire to be a theologian would be far fetched. In fact, there would lurk here a logical fallacy: If X is true of the whole, then X is true of the part. [Response: Not necessarily! Hence, not valid.] X is the team; therefore, I, who am part of the team, am the team. [Response: Nonsense.]
    • Concerning the issue at hand: Because God’s grace has so subtly penetrated every fiber of my being, arousing in me inevitably a desire that cannot be slaked unless I find Him, does not mean that my desire for beatific union with Him is an essential desire, that is, a desire caused simply by my nature. It lies deep within me. This is because his grace awakens it. He is capable of awakening love!
    • Vatican II is teaching an item of crucial existential import that has to do with my concrete existence now in all its complexity. It is not contradicting the Tradition.