Monthly Archives: April 2016

Up and Down

When I was young, I thought like a child, acted like a child. But when I became a man, I put off childish things.

These words of Paul are haunting to me. I sometimes think how children see everything as either up or down, black or white. Then they wade into the ocean of “shades” in between. In our day and age, it can get dizzying. Confusing. And our world, our times, are confused. There really is no up or down, is there? That is how we end up thinking. We see that there is no fixed place in the universe. It is all relative.

Why, O Lord, have you made a world without a fixed point?

But then again, there are fixed points. I suppose — presuming the current narrative of the universe — that the reason God did not make a fixed center is that he is not able to be determined vis-a-vis the world. His infinity makes him totally not locatable by reference to the world. Otherwise, he would be finite.

And yet, the whole universe is as it were “down” in the most important sense of the word, and He is “up” in the most important sense of the word. On him we depend; he depends not on us. Our truths speak his truth. And our reason can discern real truths. Everything is not gray.

God’s Law is NOT a Mere “Ideal”

The normal meaning of the word “ideal” is simply a goal, an aim. If you tell someone that it would be “ideal” if he did XYZ, he will realize that you really want him to do these things, but that doing all of them is not absolutely necessary.

Now, the Divine Law is necessary. The negative moral precepts bind always and everywhere, such that to violate a negative moral precept is always a grave evil. Period.

Hence, the Divine Law is not a mere “ideal”. It is not a mere goal, to which it is best that we live up to it, but the adequate doing of which is not absolutely necessary for salvation.

To the contrary: The adequate adherence to the Divine Law in the form of doing what one is commanded positively to do when the circumstances allow and avoiding what one is commanded never to do is necessary for salvation.

Therefore, to present the Law of God as an “ideal” is to confuse this very important teaching, which is the faith of the Church. Why would one want to present the Law as but an “ideal”? Because, perhaps, one does not think that God offers sufficient grace to every free actor? But that thought, too, is contrary to the faith of the Church. And if one despairs of this over oneself, one is doing just that despairing.

But we should not be afraid. Not be fearful. Not read our faith in fear that God is not our Shepherd, does not care for us and supply for us. Not us not understand God’s mercy as his “not judging us because he never supplied for us.” That would be doubly desperate and doubly false. He does supply and he does judge. He judges us according to our works.

Let us listen to words that truly are full of hope, words that don’t cast us down in spirit, words that don’t console us with a false understanding of mercy and judgment but that indicate the truth of God’s mercy: God’s mercy enables true obedience.

Let us listen to John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, art. 103:

“It would be a very serious error to conclude… that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a “balancing of the goods in question”. But what are the “concrete possibilities of man”? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: thereality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit”.

These are words that bind us, words that bind Catholics magisterially. These are words consonant with Sacred traditions and with the Holy Scriptures.

Does Blind Mercy Truly Love Man? NO

Blind Mercy is something like a mercy divorced from justice.

One version of it is the downplaying of the very real possibility that one can reject God and go to hell. To downplay this possibility does no service whatsoever to man.

Why not?

Well, let’s just examine what our life is worth, the why of our life, if all go to heaven anyway. It means that your actions are not really acutalizations of your self. Your free actions are just ‘frames’ of juxtaposition of you-and-this-choice and you-and-the-next-choice. Just frames. As in a classical movie. Picture frames. No relation one to another except succession. So it is just the succession of various juxtapositions. You don’t really engage anything when you act. It is all an ‘act’ in the most superficial sense of acting. You cannot really commit yourself. You cannot really give yourself, relate, choose a friend, etc.

You just kind of go through the motions. And then, at the end of the day, you go to heaven.

Is this how the ‘experts’ like Balthasar propose their theories? Of course not. However, is this the kind of ‘rubber hits the road’ of the theology of universalism? Yes it is.

I recall an undergrad remarking: If we all go to heaven just for having faith, and no sin can damn us, why don’t we commit suicide now, and jump into the vision? After all, life has its burdens.

Her question was right on the money. Rather than producing love of life, true and proportionate love of life — of life as the preparation for the final consummation of heaven — the idea of Blind Mercy produces spite for this world. What a terrible God would drag us through all these years of pain, mixed with joys, and only then give us true happiness. Why not right now? That is the question anyone hearing the drivel of practically universal salvation should raise.

On Amoris Laetitia

One sound principle – practically a truism for Catholics – is that no Catholic whatsoever has any grounds whatsoever for holding X when X has already been proscribed infallibly. Further, no Catholic has any grounds whatsoever for not holding Q when Q has already been taught infallibly. All are under this obedience of faith, including members of the hierarchy. These principles cannot be brooked by anyone.

Now, some are concerned about whether or not doctrine has been overturned, directly or indirectly, by the recent papal document Amoris laetitia.

In addressing questions such as this, I call the above unquestionable principles to mind. No one will disagree with that principle, however they choose to address this question concretely But, in order to retain this non-negotiable principle, different people facing an apparent difficulty are drawing up different strategies.

One strategy is that of Cardinal Burke. Burke suggests the following in the National Catholic Register:

The only key to the correct interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is the constant teaching of the Church and her discipline that safeguards and fosters this teaching.

His counsel is wisely ordered to the clear retention of the actual teaching of Holy Mother Church. Thus, he is wisely shepherding souls. Confusion is harmful to souls. It takes the wind out of the spirit’s sails, and thus hinders our pursuit of God. It alienates and frustrates. It obscures the truth from those who might be good willed and are trying to seek it, but are tempted by near comforts and habits of sin. The weak – those weak sheep who most need our love – can be tempted to remain astray if the path of return is not clearly announced and laid out.

And so, we come back to Burke’s advice. We must read the Tradition to know what it states and what it forbids. What does Holy Mother Church teach?

The Church teaches that the Laws of God are not suggestions, not “ideals” that cannot be lived. Rather, they are true laws, universal commandments. Further, the Church teaches that grace is actually offered so that God does not command the impossible but indeed gives what he commands, as that Glorious St. Augustine said long ago.

“It would be a very serious error to conclude… that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a “balancing of the goods in question”. But what are the “concrete possibilities of man” ? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: thereality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit”. Veritatis splendor, art. 103, by John Paul II

Indeed, as John Paul II reiterates, it is heresy to suggest that the laws of God cannot be obeyed. Obedience can be agonizing at times, truly trying, life-taking. But God gives what he commands:

Keeping God’s law in particular situations can be difficult, extremely difficult, but it is never impossible. This is the constant teaching of the Church’s tradition, and was expressed by the Council of Trent: “But no one, however much justified, ought to consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments, nor should he employ that rash statement, forbidden by the Fathers under anathema, that the commandments of God are impossible of observance by one who is justified. For God does not command the impossible, but in commanding he admonishes you to do what you can and to pray for what you cannot, and he gives his aid to enable you. His commandments are not burdensome (cf. 1 Jn 5:3); his yoke is easy and his burden light (cf. Mt 11:30)”, art. 102

Cardinal Brandmüller reminds us of a particular law of God, the indissolubility of marriage:

It is the Catholic Church’s teaching (Dogma) that a validly contracted and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any power on earth – also not by the Church. Jesus says: ‘What God has bound, man may not separate.

No one on earth can dissolve a valid and consummated sacramental marriage. This is the law of God. This brings solace. This is a boon, not merely a burden. This indissolubility is a firm rock on which to rely. It anchors society. It is stability. It is life-giving. Thank God for his wisdom and goodness in shepherding us in so many ways with wise laws and abundant grace. Help us, Lord, in our weakness.

What is Scandal?

Cheeky people will sometimes say, “You could read this, but you might find it scandalous.” This is a condescending remark. It is as though to say, “I’m man enough to take it, but I think you have a weak stomach.”

Scandal is not a threat to an effeminate man or weak-kneed woman. Scandal is occasion of sin. For an alcoholic to surround himself with drinkers is likely scandal, an occasion of sin for him. A seductive book or picture or person is a scandal for men because it can occasion thoughts not appropriate for them.

Scandal leads another, or self, to sin. The sin of scandal is very serious. It is mimicry of demonic leadership.