Monday, May 30, 2011

Satan Attacks Traditional Bishop!!!

The title is sarcastic.

You've all heard this already, I assume. I just felt compelled to point it out because Bishop Finn is such a hero to conservative and traditionalist types:

The Bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese admitted that he mishandled a child porn investigation involving a metro priest.

Bishop Robert Finn admitted that he had not read the full letter from the principal of St. Patrick's Catholic School expressing her concerns about Father Shawn Ratigan and his behavior around children, even though the principal sent the letter a year ago.

In the letter, the principal pointed out a number of instances where parents and teachers found it inappropriate that Ratigan took so many pictures with kids and appeared to be a little too touchy feely with kids.

Ratigan, 45, is in the Clay County Jail on child pornography charges.

Bishop Finn says that his number two person read the letter and summarized it for him in May of 2010. In December, Finn says that he learned about disturbing images of a naked girl on Ratigan's computer, but he still didn't ask police to investigate until just a few weeks ago.

"In hindsight, we should have turned the pictures to police in December, we should've take the same action in December that we ended up taking in May," said Finn, who refused to say if he would resign and in fact left the room while reporters were still asking questions.

Finn did tell FOX 4 that he should have reported to police in December about Ratigan's suicide attempt at his Independence apartment, and his suicide note that expresses sorrow for any harm he caused children.

Finn says he now promises to change reporting procedures, even though that's what the church already promised to do in 2008 when it settled a sex abuse lawsuit.
So the guy is sent a letter by the principal of one of his parish schools, and apparently can't be bothered to read it personally (this isn't a huge archdiocese, mind you, it's a diocese of only 86 parishes!) But, apparently, a summary mentioning concerns about people getting a creepy vibe from a priest around dismissed as unconcerning.

So far, maybe forgivable. Can we really start investigating every case of someone "feeling" creepy? Maybe he's just trying to be sociable in an immature or bumbling way, though that itself raises questions about his competence to be a priest. You should still look into it somehow, have a talk with the guy at least, but with no concrete evidence there isn't much you can do and I'm not sure we can always make "weird vibes" the highest priority lest a witch-hunt emerge.

But. Any excuses fly out the window when, apparently, the guy attempts suicide in December, leaves a suicide note apologizing for any harm caused to children, and has images of girls on his computer...and none of this is reported to police!!! A suicide attempt is kept hushed-up "in the family" by the Church!?! And stuff involving references to harming children surrounding that suicide attempt is likewise not passed onto authorities for almost 6 months? WHAT!?!?!

Finn should resign. If he were a politician or an officer in any secular corporation, he'd have stepped down already.

But, of course, Fr. Z is encouraging everyone to pray for Bishop Finn to help him resist this attack by the liberal media and the forces of Satan. Because clearly everyone's real motive in acting outraged about this is anti-Catholic bigotry and to undermine traditional Catholic faith and liturgy. Calls for resignation are "rubbish." Actually, maybe I'm possessed by a demon myself right now, because my eyes are rolling father back into my head than that girl from The Exorcist...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Te Deum

In thanksgiving to God for an amazing year!

Mormons, the CDF, &c.

The CDF issued a decision some years back saying that Mormon baptisms were to be considered invalid because, even though they use the Trinitarian formula, Mormon teachings about God are so different that the terms can't even be considered to refer to the same realities.

Of course, many of the early heresies were of a Trinitarian nature too (Arianism, for example). But those who support the CDF decision
argued that,
"The differences are so great that one cannot even consider that this doctrine is a heresy [e.g. Arianism] which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine. The teaching of the Mormons has a completely different matrix."

To be honest, I'm not sure I buy this. They say the same words, they apply water, and they identify what they're doing with what Christ did. Unlike Anglican ordinations invalidated under the Edwardian ordinal, they didn't even change the formula for the purpose of intentionally expressing a rejection of the orthodox teaching (as the Edwardian ordinal did; though the words they changed it to, ironically, also must be recognized as potentially valid in-themselves if used with an intent that is orthodox, given how close they are to the Novus Ordo formula of ordination!)

I'm not sure we can or should say, "Little heresies don't invalidate baptism, big ones do" as if there is really a difference. If they don't express an intent to do something other than what Christ did through changing the formula itself, then I really see no reason to doubt them.

Now, I don't really have a horse in this race. I'm definitely fine with at least conditionally baptizing Mormon converts. But from a purely speculative theological position, I'd say I'd be inclined to the view that even their heresy is not so extreme as to invalidate a baptism that is by all externals correct, and which is identified with what Christ did.

Yes, it can be said that something like Arianism was a "a heresy which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine" whereas Mormonism is something with "a completely different matrix." But I think that's a rather modern/ecumenicist view of the early heresies; the orthodox alive at the time certainly weren't inclined to look upon Arianism as merely some sort of benign purely semantic "misunderstanding"! And are Mormonism's teachings really any weirder or more extreme than those of various branches of early Christian Gnosticism??

My opinion on this decision is thus inclined to be more like that about allowing non-olive-"oils" to be used in the Sacraments, or the one allowing Chaldean Catholics to receive communion at Assyrian liturgies without Words of Institution in their anaphora. I think none of these are definitive infallible acts, and in these cases I am doubtful if they have reached the correct conclusion. Frankly, sometimes it seems like almost every decision the institutional church makes in a manner not covered by wrong!

Anyway, say what you will about them, I have a certain sympathy for the Mormons. Mine is basically the "South Park" position: their teachings are nuts, but they're nice people, so let's not be too hard on them. Honestly, their ideas are sort of cool in a Gnosticky sort of way, and though nowhere near to being "sorted out" yet in some internally consistent systematic cohesion, I could see them evolving into something that is more cohesive given a few hundred years. In that regard, they're sort of like the early Christian church before Nicaea, I guess.

And there is something very cozy about a world where almost everyone is saved, where you're with family forever, where you populate your own planet, and where God was like us once too. And where you can convert people even after they're dead.

Which is something else I want to mention: I'm all for Mormons baptizing non-Mormons after we're dead. Why not? If Catholics can pray for or offer Mass for the dead (of any religion in life), why should all sorts of groups get offended when Mormons try to baptize their dead members? I think that's a big double-standard.

The Jews got Mormons to promise not to baptize holocaust victims. I have to say to all these people: mind your own business! You don't own "the idea of" your own dead members! Mormons can proxy-baptize us, and we can have Masses said for them. I'm all for it.

The Jews strong-arming the Mormons into not proxy-baptizing their own gets dangerously close to them demanding that Catholics stop praying for their conversion. Oh.
Wait. Seriously though, if a Mormon wants to proxy-baptize me once I'm dead, I think (considering their own beliefs) that's a very nice and caring gesture. The Jews should fuck off about this question. The minute you say something like,
"We do not ask for or want your love"...I have no sympathy for you. I'm all for the Mormons in that battle.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some Ballsy Passive-Aggression!

I've been surprised to find that several readers consider it one of their favorite statements of mine when I said that if I were elected Pope, I'd dig up all the intervening Popes who hadn't had a proper coronation and shockingly crown their rotting corpses before accepting my own coronation.

So, with that being re-emphasized, I don't know if you all saw this story in the blogosphere or on New Liturgical Movement.

Some German businessman commissioned some Bulgarian Orthodox firm to make a tiara for Pope Benedict and then presented it to him as a gift!

Unfortunately, he didn't try it on, though I'm sure that was the intent; to at least get a foot in the door for the tiara's normalization by taking the passive-aggressive approach.

As someone in the comments on the original post said:

Having seen photos of His Holiness put on several hats given him by various groups as gifts -- a policeman's hat, a fireman's hat, a baseball cap, an Alpine hat -- too bad he didn't try on the tiara!
It's sort of a double-standard, no, to wear all those and not wear one type of hat that would be appropriate on a Pope? As the Liturgical Pimpernel said:

It's not polite to accept a gift and never use it, is it? Especially not if it could cause ecumenical offense.
Again, getting the Orthodox involved and having an "ecumenical delegation" present it thus seems like a brilliant strategic move too in terms of passive-aggressive manipulation.

But, the Pope did not try it on "in the spur of the moment" so I doubt now, sadly, he ever will (a "spontaneous" photo-op was really the only chance we ever had).

Still, to even see this making an appearance, however marginalized or minor, is heartening.
It's a nice one too. Certainly better than that unworn tiara the Hungarians gave John Paul:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best Weekend Ever!

The meet-up in Toronto went smashingly, I think. There is something about meeting in person that really helps cement relationships and accelerate networking in a way that even months of corresponding in text (or even by phone or cam) can't achieve.

First, several of us met for a Saturday evening (Novus Ordo) Mass at the St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto, which is a beautiful gothic building:

We then stayed out till 3AM drinking, eating, talking, wandering around. There was really a lot of energy and bonding and candid sharing; I'd like to think a real meeting of minds and hearts (I'm in the blue):

Sunday morning a larger group went to Solemn Mass in the Old Rite at St. Vincent de Paul (Oratorian) church. I did not know it was going to be Solemn, so that was a nice surprise (given the ubiquity of the missa cantata):

Very nice choir too. After that we went for some lunch and drinks:

Some of us then basically spent the whole rest of the day together. We walked around and as evening fell went to Vespers/Benediction at another beautiful Oratorian church, Holy Family.

Then it was quite a marathon night with Ethiopian food for dinner, drinking, hookah/shisha (my first time!), more drinking, all until like 3AM again. Which meant that, from Saturday evening until early Monday morning...some of us basically spent, excluding a short break for sleep, over 36 hours straight together:

All in all, a great success. It was so nice to see old friends again and to meet others in person for the first time (and hopefully not the last!)

Allāhu Akbar: God is great!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Red Herring

Do they still not get it? Apparently.
Researchers commissioned by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops to analyze the pattern of clergy sex abuse have concluded that homosexuality, celibacy and an all-male priesthood did not cause the scandal.

The study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York instead said that the problem was largely the result of poor seminary training and insufficient emotional support for men ordained in the 1940s and 1950s, who were not able to withstand the social upheaval they confronted as pastors in the 1960s. Crime and other deviant behavior increased overall in the United States during this period, when the rate of abuse by priests was climbing.

"The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in society generally," the report's authors said. "Factors that were invariant during the time period addressed, such as celibacy, were not responsible for the increase or decline in abuse cases over this time."

Great. I think anyone with an ounce of thought already knew that. Celibacy, or the all-male nature of the priesthood, or homosexuality didn't cause the abuse. Duh.

What many of us would question, though, is whether the dynamics of an institutionalized world of celibate males did not cause the cover up and the absolutely negligent response to it all. Not the abuse itself; that just happens in our fallen world, sadly. But the scandal was really all the institutional self-preservation, and that I do think could be linked more to a celibate institutional world.

Which is to say, I agree with this:
Victims' groups dismissed the report as an attempt to focus blame for the scandal on priests, instead of on bishops who allowed offenders to stay in ministry without warning parents or police. "They want us to fixate on abusive priests, not callous bishops," the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement.
Only silly people believed that celibacy or the all-male nature of the priesthood or homosexuality could somehow cause child molestation to erupt in men after they're already adults.

The real question that this distracts from is whether entrenched institutional dynamics facilitated or led to all the cover-ups, lack of swift response, feet-dragging, denial, etc. I think people intuitively have an instinct that this is true (just like prisons, by nature, are going to breed all sorts of terrible things among both prisoners and guards).

Another article mentions the report saying, "
the problem grew worse when the church's hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims." And yet, don't they see how that is very likely a result of the dynamics of clerical institutional culture?! A culture in which celibate homosociality, power and authority, and the bizarre interpersonal values emphasized by "human formation" in institutionalized seminary living...are structural features.

But they're choosing to blame the 60's and 70's rather than asking the deep questions about structural institutional reform. They're applying palliatives (and even then only fumblingly and after intense popular pressure) in the form of enforcement policies that will hopefully treat the symptoms; a great development, in itself, which will protect children in the future. But it treats only this one issue, not the systematic institutional dysfunction and spiritual sickness of clericalism that led to the negligence in the first place. So while these policies will thankfully help mitigate the most egregious results of this sickness, I can only believe it will continue to fester and manifest itself in a million more petty ways.

So they still don't get what this is about! They still don't get why people are outraged. It's not really because child abuse happened (as outrageous as that is). That happens in our schools, community centers, other churches (and, unfortunately, homes). No, what people were and are so mad about was a pattern of response to it that demonstrated absolutely warped and perverted priorities among the clergy. About a strange and self-justifying clerical culture that enabled the abusers to get away with it for so long.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Faith

Thank God for Catholic Encyclopedia, really. It has always had the answers to all my questions (well, almost.) Sometimes it's just good to read through the articles. There are many little gems I always end up requoting, storing away in the card-catalog of my mind these little references which address very specific questions that come up in discussion.

But often the encyclopedic format means that no words are wasted and it's really just best to read whole articles; this is really how I've acquired my knowledge of all things Catholic, and sometimes I am amazed (and frustrated with myself) that I hadn't read an article earlier, realizing it could have saved me a lot of angst or confusion. Sometimes I wish I had the Encyclopedia in hard form so that I could write notes in the margins.

Today I found the article on "Faith" to be very illuminating, so much so that it's really hard to resist the temptation to not just post it in full. Instead, I'll just quote most of it, lol:

Now intellectual knowledge may be defined in a general way as the union between the intellect and an intelligible object. But a truth is intelligible to us only in so far as it is evident to us, and evidence is of different kinds; hence, according to the varying character of the evidence, we shall have varying kinds of knowledge. Thus a truth may be self-evident — e.g. the whole is greater than its part — in which case we are said to have intuitive knowledge of it; or the truth may not be self-evident, but deducible from premises in which it is contained — such knowledge is termed reasoned knowledge; or again a truth may be neither self-evident nor deducible from premises in which it is contained, yet the intellect may be obliged to assent to it because It would else have to reject some other universally accepted truth; lastly, the intellect may be induced to assent to a truth for none of the foregoing reasons, but solely because, though not evident in itself, this truth rests on grave authority — for example, we accept the statement that the sun is 90,000,000 miles distant from the earth because competent, veracious authorities vouch for the fact. This last kind of knowledge is termed faith, and is clearly necessary in daily life. If the authority upon which we base our assent is human and therefore fallible, we have human and fallible faith; if the authority is Divine, we have Divine and infallible faith. If to this be added the medium by which the Divine authority for certain statements is put before us, viz. the Catholic Church, we have Divine-Catholic Faith.

Again, evidence, whatever its source, may be of various degrees and so cause greater or less firmness of adhesion on the part of the mind which assents to a truth. Thus arguments or authorities for and against a truth may be either wanting or evenly balanced, in this case the intellect does not give in its adherence to the truth, but remains in a state of doubt or absolute suspension of judgment; or the arguments on one side may predominate; though not to the exclusion of those on the other side; in this case we have not complete adhesion of the intellect to the truth in question but only opinion. Lastly, the arguments or authorities brought forward may be so convincing that the mind gives its unqualified assent to the statement proposed and has no fear whatever lest it should not be true; this state of mind is termed certitude, and is the perfection of knowledge. Divine faith, then, is that form of knowledge which is derived from Divine authority, and which consequently begets absolute certitude in the mind of the recipient.

That such Divine faith is necessary, follows from the fact of Divine revelation. For revelation means that the Supreme Truth has spoken to man and revealed to him truths which are not in themselves evident to the human mind. We must, then, either reject revelation altogether, or accept it by faith; that is, we must submit our intellect to truths which we cannot understand, but which come to us on Divine authority.

And yet we assent to it by faith, consequently upon evidence which is extrinsic and not intrinsic to the truth we are accepting. But there can be no evidence commensurate with such a mystery save the Divine testimony itself, and this constitutes the motive for our assent to the mystery, and is, in scholastic language, the objectum formale quo of our assent. If then, we are asked why we believe with Divine faith any Divine truth, the only adequate answer must be because God has revealed it.

We may point out in this connexion the falsity of the prevalent notion that faith is blind. "We believe", says the Vatican Council (III, iii), "that revelation is true, not indeed because the intrinsic truth of the mysteries is clearly seen by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Who reveals them, for He can neither deceive nor be deceived." Thus, to return to the act of faith which we make in the Holy Trinity, we may formulate it in syllogistic fashion thus: Whatever God reveals is true but God has revealed the mystery of the Holy Trinity therefore this mystery is true. The major premise is indubitable and intrinsically evident to reason; the minor premise is also true because it is declared to us by the infallible Church, and also because, as the Vatican Council says, "in addition to the internal assistance of His Holy Spirit, it has pleased God to give us certain external proofs of His revelation, viz. certain Divine facts, especially miracles and prophecies, for since these latter clearly manifest God's omnipotence and infinite knowledge, they afford most certain proofs of His revelation and are suited to the capacity of all." Hence St. Thomas says: "A man would not believe unless he saw the things he had to believe, either by the evidence of miracles or of something similar" (II-II:1:4, ad 1). The saint is here speaking of the motives of credibility.


When we speak of the motives of credibility of revealed truth we mean the evidence that the things asserted are revealed truths. In other words, the credibility of the statements made is correlative with and proportionate to the credentials of the authority who makes them. Now the credentials of God are indubitable, for the very idea of God involves that of omniscience and of the Supreme Truth. Hence, what God says is supremely credible, though not necessarily supremely intelligible for us. Here, however, the real question is not as to the credentials of God or the credibility of what He says, but as to the credibility of the statement that God has spoken. In other words who or what is the authority for this statement, and what credentials does this authority show? What are the motives of credibility of the statement that God has revealed this or that?

These motives of credibility may be briefly stated as follows: in the Old Testament considered not as an inspired book, but merely as a book having historical value, we find detailed the marvellous dealings of God with a particular nation to whom He repeatedly reveals Himself; we read of miracles wrought in their favour and as proofs of the truth of the revelation He makes; we find the most sublime teaching and the repeated announcement of God's desire to save the world from sin and its consequences. And more than all we find throughout the pages of this book a series of hints, now obscure, now clear, of some wondrous person who is to come as the world's saviour; we find it asserted at one time that he is man, at others that he is God Himself. When we turn to the New Testament we find that it records the birth, life, and death of One Who, while clearly man, also claimed to be God, and Who proved the truth of His claim by His whole life, miracles, teachings, and death, and finally by His triumphant resurrection. We find, moreover, that He founded a Church which should, so He said, continue to the end of time, which should serve as the repository of His teaching, and should be the means of applying to all men the fruits of the redemption He had wrought. When we come to the subsequent history of this Church we find it speedily spreading everywhere, and this in spite of its humble origin, its unworldly teaching, and the cruel persecution which it meets at the hands of the rulers of this world. And as the centuries pass we find this Church battling against heresies schisms, and the sins of her own people—nay, of her own rulers—and yet continuing ever the same, promulgating ever the same doctrine, and putting before men the same mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of the world's Saviour, Who had, so she taught, gone before to prepare a home for those who while on earth should have believed in Him and fought the good fight. But if the history of the Church since New-Testament times thus wonderfully confirms the New Testament itself, and if the New Testament so marvellously completes the Old Testament, these books must really contain what they claim to contain, viz. Divine revelation. And more than all, that Person Whose life and death were so minutely foretold in the Old Testament, and Whose story, as told in the New Testament, so perfectly corresponds with its prophetic delineation in the Old Testament, must be what He claimed to be, viz. the Son of God. His work, therefore, must be Divine. The Church which He founded must also be Divine and the repository and guardian of His teaching. Indeed, we can truly say that for every truth of Christianity which we believe Christ Himself is our testimony, and we believe in Him because the Divinity He claimed rests upon the concurrent testimony of His miracles, His prophecies His personal character, the nature of His doctrine, the marvellous propagation of His teaching in spite of its running counter to flesh and blood, the united testimony of thousands of martyrs, the stories of countless saints who for His sake have led heroic lives, the history of the Church herself since the Crucifixion, and, perhaps more remarkable than any, the history of the papacy from St. Peter to Pius X.

These testimonies are unanimous; they all point in one direction, they are of every age, they are clear and simple, and are within the grasp of the humblest intelligence. And, as the Vatican Council has said, "the Church herself, is, by her marvellous propagation, her wondrous sanctity, her inexhaustible fruitfulness in good works, her Catholic unity, and her enduring stability, a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefragable witness to her Divine commission" (Const. Dei Filius) . "The Apostles", says St. Augustine, "saw the Head and believed in the Body; we see the Body let us believe in the Head" [Sermo ccxliii, 8 (al. cxliii), de temp., P.L., V 1143]. Every believer will echo the words of Richard of St. Victor, "Lord, if we are in error, by Thine own self we have been deceived—for these things have been confirmed by such signs and wonders in our midst as could only have been done by Thee!" (de Trinitate, 1, cap. ii).

But much misunderstanding exists regarding the meaning and office of the motives of credibility. In the first place, they afford us definite and certain knowledge of Divine revelation; but this knowledge precedes faith; it is not the final motive for our assent to the truths of faith—as St. Thomas says, "Faith has the character of a virtue, not because of the things it believes, for faith is of things that appear not, but because it adheres to the testimony of one in whom truth is infallibly found" (De Veritate, xiv, 8); this knowledge of revealed truth which precedes faith can only beget human faith it is not even the cause of Divine faith (cf. Francisco Suárez, be Fide disp. iii, 12), but is rather to be considered a remote disposition to it. We must insist upon this because in the minds of many faith is regarded as a more or less necessary consequence of a careful study of the motives of credibility, a view which the Vatican Council condemns expressly: "If anyone says that the assent of Christian faith is not free, but that it necessarily follows from the arguments which human reason can furnish in its favour; or if anyone says that God's grace is only necessary for that living faith which worketh through charity, let him be anathema" (Sess. IV). Nor can the motives of credibility make the mysteries of faith clear in themselves, for, as St. Thomas says, "the arguments which induce us to believe, e.g. miracles, do not prove the faith itself, but only the truthfulness of him who declares it to us, and consequently they do not beget knowledge of faith's mysteries, but only faith" (in Sent., III, xxiv, Q. i, art. 2, sol. 2, ad 4). On the other hand, we must not minimize the real probative force of the motives of credibility within their true sphere—"Reason declares that from the very outset the Gospel teaching was rendered conspicuous by signs and wonders which gave, as it were, definite proof of a definite truth" (Leo XIII, Æterni Patris).

The Church has twice condemned the view that faith ultimately rests on an accumulation of probabilities. Thus the proposition, "The assent of supernatural faith . . is consistent with merely probable knowledge of revelation" was condemned by Innocent XI in 1679 (cf. Denzinger, Enchiridion, 10th ed., no. 1171); and the Syllabus Lamentabili sane (July, 1907) condemns the proposition (XXV) that "the assent of faith rests ultimately on an accumulation of probabilities." But since the great name of Newman has been dragged into the controversy regarding this last proposition, we may point out that, in the Grammar of Assent (chap. x, sect. 2), Newman refers solely to the proof of faith afforded by the motives of credibility, and he rightly concludes that, since these are not demonstrative, this line of proof may be termed "an accumulation of probabilities". But it would be absurd to say that Newman therefore based the final assent of faith on this accumulation—as a matter of fact he is not here making an analysis of an act of faith, but only of the grounds for faith; the question of authority does not come into his argument (cf. McNabb, Oxford Conferences on Faith, pp. 121-122).


Again, it is evident that this "light of faith" is a supernatural gift and is not the necessary outcome of assent to the motives of credibility. No amount of study will win it, no intellectual conviction as to the credibility of revealed religion nor even of the claims of the Church to be our infallible guide in matters of faith, will produce this light in a man's mind. It is the free gift of God. Hence the Vatican Council (III, iii;) teaches that "faith is a supernatural virtue by which we with the inspiration and assistance of God's grace, believe those things to be true which He has revealed". The same decree goes on to say that "although the assent of faith is in no sense blind, yet no one can assent to the Gospel teaching in the way necessary for salvation without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, Who bestows on all a sweetness in believing and consenting to the truth". Thus, neither as regards the truth believed nor as regards the motives for believing, nor as regards the subjective principle by which we believe — viz. the infused light — can faith be considered blind.

The place of the will in an act of faith. — So far we have seen that faith is an act of the intellect assenting to a truth which is beyond its grasp, e.g. the mystery of the Holy Trinity. But to many it will seem almost as futile to ask the intellect to assent to a proposition which is not intrinsically evident as it would be to ask the eye to see a sound. It is clear, however, that the intellect can be moved by the will either to study or not to study a certain truth, though if the truth be a self-evident one — e.g., that the whole is greater than its part — the will cannot affect the intellect's adhesion to it, it can, however, move it to think of something else, and thus distract it from the contemplation of that particular truth. If, now, the will moves the intellect to consider some debatable point—e.g. the Copernican and Ptolemaic theories of the relationship between the sun and the earth — it is clear that the intellect can only assent to one of these views in proportion as it is convinced that the particular view is true. But neither view has, as far as we can know, more than probable truth, hence of itself the intellect can only give in its partial adherence to one of these views, it must always be precluded from absolute assent by the possibility that the other view may be right. The fact that men hold much more tenaciously to one of these than the arguments warrant can only be due to some extrinsic consideration, e.g. that it is absurd not to hold what the vast majority of men hold. And here it should be noted that, as St. Thomas says repeatedly, the intellect only assents to a statement for one of two reasons: either because that statement is immediately or mediately evident in itself — e.g. a first principle or a conclusion from premises — or because the will moves it to do so. Extrinsic evidence of course comes into play when intrinsic evidence is wanting, but though it would be absurd, without weighty evidence in its support, to assent to a truth which we do not grasp, yet no amount of such evidence can make us assent, it could only show that the statement in question was credible, our ultimate actual assent could only be due to the intrinsic evidence which the statement itself offered, or, failing that, due to the will. Hence it is that St. Thomas repeatedly defines the act of faith as the assent of the intellect determined by the will (De Veritate, xiv, 1; II-II, Q. ii, a. 1, ad 3; 2, c.; ibid., iv, 1, c., and ad 2). The reason, then, why men cling to certain beliefs more tenaciously than the arguments in their favour would warrant, is to be sought in the will rather than in the intellect. Authorities are to be found on both sides, the intrinsic evidence is not convincing, but something is to be gained by assenting to one view rather than the other, and this appeals to the will, which therefore determines the intellect to assent to the view which promises the most. Similarly, in Divine faith the credentials of the authority which tells us that God has made certain revelations are strong, but they are always extrinsic to the proposition, "God has revealed this or that", and consequently they cannot compel our assent; they merely show us that this statement is credible. When, then, we ask whether we are to give in our free assent to any particular statement or not, we feel that in the first place we cannot do so unless there be strong extrinsic evidence in its favour, for to believe a thing merely because we wished to do so would be absurd. Secondly, the proposition itself does not compel our assent, since it is not intrinsically evident, but there remains the fact that only on condition of our assent to it shall we have what the human soul naturally yearns for, viz., the possession of God, Who is, as both reason and authority declare, our ultimate end; "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved", and "Without faith it is impossible to please God." St. Thomas expresses this by saying: "The disposition of a believer is that of one who accepts another's word for some statement, because it seems fitting or useful to do so. In the same way we believe Divine revelation because the reward of eternal life is promised us for so doing. It is the will which is moved by the prospect of this reward to assent to what is said, even though the intellect is not moved by something which it understands. Hence St. Augustine says (Tract. xxvi in Joannem, 2): Cetera potest homo nolens, credere nonnisi volens' [i.e. other things a man can do against his will but to believe he must will]" (De Ver., xiv, 1).

But just as the intellect needed a new and special light in order to assent to the supernatural truths of faith, so also the will needs a special grace from God in order that it may tend to that supernatural good which is eternal life. The light of faith, then, illumines the understanding, though the truth still remains obscure, since it is beyond the intellect's grasp; but supernatural grace moves the will, which, having now a supernatural good put before it, moves the intellect to assent to what it does not understand. Hence it is that faith is described as "bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ"

The foregoing analyses will enable us to define an act of Divine supernatural faith as "the act of the intellect assenting to a Divine truth owing to the movement of the will, which is itself moved by the grace of God" (St. Thomas, II-II, Q. iv, a. 2). And just as the light of faith is a gift supernaturally bestowed upon the understanding, so also this Divine grace moving the will is, as its name implies, an equally supernatural and an absolutely gratuitous gift. Neither gift is due to previous study neither of them can be acquired by human efforts, but "Ask and ye shall receive."


temptations against faith are natural and inevitable and are in no sense contrary to faith, "since", says St. Thomas, "the assent of the intellect in faith is due to the will, and since the object to which the intellect thus assents is not its own proper object — for that is actual vision of an intelligible object — it follows that the intellect's attitude towards that object is not one of tranquillity, on the contrary it thinks and inquires about those things it believes, all the while that it assents to them unhesitatingly; for as far as it itself is concerned the intellect is not satisfied" (De Ver., xiv, 1).


And at the risk of repetition we must again draw attention to the distinction between faith as a purely intellectual habit, which as such is dry and barren, and faith resident, indeed, in the intellect, but motived by charity or love of God, Who is our beginning, our ultimate end, and our supernatural reward. "Every true motion of the will", says St. Augustine, "proceeds from true love" [...] If we regard faith precisely as an assent elicited by the intellect, then this bare faith is the same habit numerically as when the informing principle of charity is added to it, but it has not the true character of a moral virtue and is not a source of merit. If, then, charity be dead — if, in other words, a man be in mortal sin and so without the habitual sanctifying grace of God which alone gives to his will that due tendency to God as his supernatural end which is requisite for supernatural and meritorious acts — it is evident that there is no longer in the will that power by which it can, from supernatural motives, move the intellect to assent to supernatural truths. The intellectual and Divinely infused habit of faith remains, however, and when charity returns this habit acquires anew the character of "living" and meritorious faith.

Again, faith being a virtue, it follows that a man's promptitude in believing will make him love the truths he believes, and he will therefore study them, not indeed in the spirit of doubting inquiry, but in order the better to grasp them as far as human reason will allow. Such inquiry will be meritorious and will render his faith more robust, because, at the same time that he is brought face to face with the intellectual difficulties which are involved, he will necessarily exercise his faith and repeatedly "bring his intellect into submission". Thus St. Augustine says, "What can be the reward of faith, what can its very name mean if you wish to see now what you believe? You ought not to see in order to believe, you ought to believe in order to see; you ought to believe so long as you do not see, lest when you do see you may be put to the blush" (Sermo, xxxviii, 2, P.L., V, 236). And it is in this sense we must understand his oft-repeated words: "Crede ut intelligas" (Believe that you may understand).


Many receive their faith in their infancy, to others it comes later in life, and its genesis is often misunderstood. [...] we may describe the genesis of faith in the adult mind somewhat as follows: Man being endowed with reason, reasonable investigation must precede faith; now we can prove by reason the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the origin and destiny of man; but from these facts there follows the necessity of religion, and true religion must be the true worship of the true God not according to our ideas, but according to what He Himself has revealed. But can God reveal Himself to us? And, granting that He can, where is this revelation to be found? The Bible is said to contain it; does investigation confirm the Bible's claim? We will take but one point: the Old Testament looks forward, as we have already seen, to One Who is to come and Who is God; the New Testament shows us One Who claimed to be the fulfilment of the prophecies and to be God; this claim He confirmed by His life, death, and resurrection by His teaching, miracles, and prophecies. He further claimed to have founded a Church which should enshrine His revelation and should be the infallible guide for all who wished to carry out His will and save their souls. Which of the numerous existing Churches is His? It must have certain definite characteristics or notes. It must be One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, it must claim infallible teaching power. None but the Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church can claim these characteristics, and her history is an irrefragable proof of her Divine mission. If, then, she be the true Church, her teaching must be infallible and must be accepted.

Now what is the state of the inquirer who has come thus far? He has proceeded by pure reason, and, if on the grounds stated he makes his submission to the authority of the Catholic Church and believes her doctrines, he has only human, reasonable, fallible, faith. Later on he may see reason to question the various steps in his line of argument, he may hesitate at some truth taught by the Church, and he may withdraw the assent he has given to her teaching authority. In other words, he has not Divine faith at all. For Divine faith is supernatural both in the principle which elicits the acts and in the objects or truths upon which it falls. The principle which elicits assent to a truth which is beyond the grasp of the human mind must be that same mind illumined by a light superior to the light of reason, viz. the light of faith, and since, even with this light of faith, the intellect remains human, and the truth to be believed remains still obscure, the final assent of the intellect must come from the will assisted by Divine grace, as seen above. But both this Divine light and this Divine grace are pure gifts of God, and are consequently only bestowed at His good pleasure. It is here that the heroism of faith comes in; our reason will lead us to the door of faith but there it leaves us; and God asks of us that earnest wish to believe for the sake of the reward — "I am thy reward exceeding great" — which will allow us to repress the misgivings of the intellect and say, "I believe, Lord, help Thou my unbelief."

When this act of submission has been made, the light of faith floods the soul and is even reflected back upon those very motives which had to be so laboriously studied in our search after the truth; and even those preliminary truths which precede all investigation e.g. the very existence of God, become now the object of our faith.


From what has been said touching the absolutely supernatural character of the gift of faith, it is easy to understand what is meant by the loss of faith. God's gift is simply withdrawn. And this withdrawal must needs be punitive, "Non enim deseret opus suum, si ab opere suo non deseratur" (St. Augustine, Enarration on Psalm 145 — "He will not desert His own work, if He be not deserted by His own work"). And when the light of faith is withdrawn, there inevitably follows a darkening of the mind regarding even the very motives of credibility which before seemed so convincing. This may perhaps explain why those who have had the misfortune to apostatize from the faith are often the most virulent in their attacks upon the grounds of faith; "Vae homini illi", says St. Augustine, "nisi et ipsius fidem Dominus protegat", i.e. "Woe be to a man unless the Lord safeguard his faith"


Hence, for all who possess it, this faith constitutes an absolute and unchanging bond of union. The teachings of this faith develop, of course, with the needs of the ages, but the faith itself remains unchanged. Modern views are entirely destructive of such unity of belief because their root principle is the supremacy of the individual judgment.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Toronto Meet-Up

I've been trying to post this for the past day or so, but Blogger has been down.

I'm going to be in Toronto next weekend for Victoria Day visiting again a dear friend and fellow blogger.

That Sunday, May 22nd, there has been emerging a little get-together of "renegade trads" and various associates from our "circle." A friend and supporter from Montreal, who helped spruce up our formatting last year and started the facebook fanpage, will probably be joining us as well as a few other friends I've made in the area in the past year (give thanks to God, truly, for the Internet...)

Details are still evolving, but if any readers from the environs of whom I'm not yet aware (I see you guys all the time on StatCounter! Go Canada!) would like to join us for Mass (which, ironically, may be Novus Ordo), meal, drinks, Vespers & Benediction, any combination thereof, or have any additional ideas, please do contact me:

Networking like this is really one of the most important things any movement can do, and meeting in person always seems to have a much more cementing effect.

Some sort of similar convocation in Chicago this summer is also in the works; that's farther off, but if any readers in the Midwest have any thoughts or want to get in contact, I invite you to do so also.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Freedom and Hell

I very much liked this post on Vox Nova about the question of Hell and human freedom.

As I said early on in this blog, I am one who is inclined towards a soft universalism; I admit at least hope that all may be saved, though not presumption.

Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons over the past year or so, I have become more ambiguous on the question. "More ambiguous" in the direction of finding it more likely that many people do go to Hell.

I still hope they don't. I still hope Hell will be empty. But whereas there was a time when I was secretly suspecting this was likely even, given what I knew of God, what I know of humans (myself foremost) now inclines me to think this hope really is more of an improbable one (though, perhaps for that very reason, all the more triumphant if it be fulfilled.) I hope it's not true, but if I had to bet, I would now say that it is spiritually healthier to at least imagine that souls are falling into Hell like snowflakes than to vision it as empty.

One reason for the shift in my imagination (though not my hope!) is that I used to be very much inclined to excuse humanity on the grounds of human weakness, on hypothetical factors mitigating culpability, on moral "duress" or invincible ignorance. This was perhaps a point of intellectual cowardice for me; the three people I love most in this world seem obstinately set (in their own ways) on the path to Hell, and my own chances of salvation don't look great a lot of the time either! My own is really the only I should be making any such judgments on, of course, but in some ways the question of the damnation of others is scarier exactly because it isn't ultimately in my control, I can only do so much.

However, recently I've been somewhat less lenient (towards myself and others), taking on more of a stoic resignation to love in charity in spite of the "seemingly" (from a human perspective) "inevitable" damnation of the objects, in the hopes that this charity might save both them and myself somehow, even if I soon enough do need to shake the dust off my sandals on a personal level. Which is why I really find comfort in this Karl Rahner quote from the Vox Nova article:
Even if I could assume that the most abandoned criminals in world history, capable indeed of anything, are really miserable creatures made so by heredity and environment, even if I were to defend the whole world, I must be prepared to admit that there is one person who cannot be defended and that he knew, although he did not want to know, although he repressed it, although he had a thousand good excusing causes: and I must have the courage to be this one.
The World is not an excuse. It may seem merciful to try to excuse people because we imagine they "never" could be otherwise, but I think this is despairing of both human freedom and God's grace. God gives all sufficient grace for salvation; people make themselves who they are. If the latter sometimes seems almost reason enough to despair, the former is always more than reason enough to hope.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Babylon the Great

I was sent this article on the crisis of transnational capitalism. It's too long to quote in full and I really don't have time to quote from it selectively, but I recommend it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

St. Peter

So where to now St. Peter,
If it's true I'm in your hands?
I may not be a Christian,
But I've done all one man can.
I understand I'm on the road
Where all that was is gone.
So where to now St. Peter?
Show me which road I'm on...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Religious Liberty

Rorate Caeli has a post on the question of religious freedom arguing that some recent comments by the Pope favor their (and, frankly, my) favored interpretation to Vatican II's alleged "turn around" on this question: namely, that this was simply a prudential question of changing the pastoral/diplomatic approach to the issue based on the practical contingencies of our age and it's political situation, not a renunciation of any theoretical theological principles or of the possibility that the policies of a more hegemony-enforced Christendom were right in their own time and situation (a prudential judgment on which Catholics may legitimately disagree).

However, I find this claim a bit disingenuous. They spin the Pope's comments as meaning that:
the foundation for the conciliar position on Religious Freedom is anthropological - that is, its foundation is essentially not theological. It is pragmatic and practical, a response to what in French would be termed "les contingences du moment", the contingencies of the moment ("aware of the developments in culture and society") - and perfectly compatible with the Traditional doctrine of the Church, in order to protect true liberty of worship (see Libertas, 30, including a "moral obligation to seek the truth") and the full liberty of action of the Church.
However, this seems to be naive. I'm certain that the Pope's use of "anthropology" in this context refers to a branch of theology ("theological-anthropology") dealing with the question of human nature, not merely to the social science called "anthropology." As such, I think he probably does view the Council's teaching as in some sense "theological." If religious assent cannot, by nature, be coerced (and it can't), then there is a real question about whether the freedom of assent is diminished in a situation where forms of dissent are coercively repressed.

And I admit that even though I do personally believe that, under certain circumstances, for the good of the civil community, something like heresy could be punished or repressed by the State as a form of treason (and certainly the crime of spreading/advocating it). I think we moderns underestimate how much of a threat dissent posed to even the temporal order in Christendom. All societies are just networks of relationship, after all, and if one lives in a society of relationships based in the context of Church and Christ (as we think all relationships should be!)...things that threaten the fiber of this relational-fabric could obviously be seen as a threat to proper order, security, and peace.

Though I'm also very wary of immanentist attitudes; His Kingdom is not of this world, not even in the visible Church which is a human institution subject to the same institutional flaws as any temporal organization (and yet is also Divine; a tension I've been thinking about a lot lately).

But this is not even my real point in bringing up this post; quite the opposite actually. My real point is how myopic some of these crazy authoritarian trads are when considering this question. From the self-absorbed perspective of Westerners who can take their own religious freedom for granted, they seem to imagine that the Conciliar and post-Conciliar emphasis on religious liberty is directed at this past history in Christendom. That it is intended as a renunciation of Christian States in the European past or something like that.

I think this is incredibly naive and that their obsession with this question shows just what a fantasy world these people are living in. To me, it seems rather obvious that the declarations on religious freedom were/are directed at the situation of Christians facing repression in places like the Middle East and China!

The debate over this question by both trads and liberals in the West shows just how wrapped-up in their own little worlds and ideologies they are, when I'm pretty sure the Council first and foremost emphasized this to confront the situation of Christians under Communism (and yet, trads always insult the Council for "not condemning communism"). Today, the situation exists in both Red China and Muslim countries. Of course, demanding our freedom in these places would seem to require, practically at least, a reciprocity of religious or ideological tolerance in our own countries.

But basically, I have to say to people in the West who angst over this question in either a trad or a liberal manner: this wasn't about you.

I think it is delusional (on the part of both trads and liberals) to think of the recent advocacy for "religious freedom" as primarily about some sort of surrender to liberal-democratic secularist/pluralist values and renunciation of our own past teaching and history in light of these values.

There is, no doubt, a very troubling attitude these days ("What is really sacred is democracy, human rights, property, my rights as a (religious) consumer, and so on. That is the real religion, and we all follow it.")
of treating liberal-democracy and secularism/pluralism as if they constitute some sort of meta-value with reference to which even the Church's own values can be judged (instead of, as it should be, the other way around), and by which we (who have made all this "progress") can look down self-righteously, in our perverse decadence, on the "barbaric" Christian past of "evil intolerance." But I simply don't think that's what the talk of religious liberty is about. If it was meant as came 200 years too late!

Really, I'm pretty sure it's about speaking up for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in partibus infidelium. And, especially, those who are the very victims of Leftist regimes.

This idea held by trads (and liberals, I'll add) that, in making these pronouncements about "religious freedom," the bishops and Pope had or have in mind condemning the abstract hypothetical of a Christendom that hasn't existed for centuries and which is just completely impossible in our world today...strikes me as insane. That sort of historical recreationism and creative anachronism may be the fantasy thought-world of the trads (and, on the other hand, getting the Church to admit it was "wrong" in the past and surrender to liberal democratic secularist/pluralist values seems to be the self-justifying agenda of the liberals)...but really I think the Pope's thoughts on the matter were and are with his spiritual children bravely suffering in the Second and Third worlds, not with his neurotic spoiled teenagers in the First.


A lot of liberal-leaning Catholics get pretty uppity about the topic of torture. I've seen several articles or posts about this in the aftermath of the Bin Laden news.

I highly sympathize with this position. Just as I sympathize with (and have written before about) opposition to the death penalty and with opposition to war (even with total pacifism). Obviously, none of this is good or ideal, and no one should take any of these things lightly or with any sort of glee.

However, I don't think it can be reasonably argued that the State cannot inflict pain in certain cases. This just seems inconsistent to me. Though perhaps we must make the technical (but important!) distinction that "torture" is absolutely condemned just like "murder" (ie, choosing pain or death directly as part of the moral object or intent), but that not all inflicting-of-pain constitutes torture just as not all killing constitutes murder.

The Church traditionally conceives of the State under the analogy of a juridical person, as a collective "body," the natural social-body which fulfills the role as regards material existence and bodies that the Church does for the spiritual and souls. As the two "perfect societies" in terms of being internally self-sufficient, these two may be treated in some ways as coherent organisms.

If I admit an affection for the idea of at least figurehead monarchs, it is for this reason; it seems symbolically appropriate to me to have the Head of State embodying the nation in an individual (just as the Pope as visible head embodies the universal Church) treated with the pomp of State ceremonial (I'd even call it "liturgy") and reigning for life rather than being an interchangeable figure chosen by public whim for a few years at a time. The State needs to be crowned again (and thus renewed) every so often. Sovereignty should be organically embodied, ideally.

But, whatever my thoughts on the symbolically-appropriate (which I believe does have a huge psychological effect on the populace and its conceptions of political legitimacy!)...the point is, the Church always admitted, cautiously, that the State has the right to execute guilty members for the good of the whole (just as an individual person may remove individual bodily members to save the life of the whole). It can also act in self-defense against other State-Bodies (ie, the case of just war).

In these cases, the individuals involved act not as private persons but as "hands" of the State. The executioner doesn't need to be personally threatened by the criminal for the killing to be justified as defensive or "medically necessary" under the authority of the State-Body. Soldiers don't need to always be acting in a personally self-defensive manner if the war as a whole is defensive; there can be individually offensive campaigns as part of an overall defensive war. Just as, in fighting off an unjust aggressor on the personal level, I can punch him in the stomach even though the member of his stomach wasn't specifically threatening the member of my fist.

Now, of course, there are caveats; the analogy isn't perfect exactly because the "person" of the State exists only for the good of human persons, of individuals. The members of our individual bodies are not persons, the members of the State-Body are persons. Our members exist for the good of our whole person. The State-Body, on the other hand, is the other way around: it exists only for the good of the irreducible individual members. Therefore, States do not have an indiscriminate right to kill innocent civilians "for the common good" exactly because the common good consists only in the security of innocent individuals. The ultimate temporal good that the medieval mindset saw as to be secured by the State is peace.

However, the theoretical right to execute guilty parties who have, in that sense, forfeit their own lives before the Law...suggests to me that condemnations of "torture," however emphasized by recent bleeding-heart Popes, are far from actually dogmatically absolute when it comes to what public agents of the State can do (as opposed to private individuals). Not all infliction-of-pain should be considered the condemned moral-object of torture (which, it will be noted, can admit of degrees) anymore than all killing should be considered murder. If the State can, under certain circumstances, induce Death for the common good (and it can!)...I have to conclude that it can certainly induce Pain.

Any punishment the State can mete out is some form of pain, first of all, if only mental. Putting people in prison (and I am no fan of the prison-industrial complex!) is an infliction of a pain it's certainly not a pleasant or comfortable situation (nor can we claim that the only valid purpose of incarceration is "restraint"). Extracting a fine or requiring attendance at rehab or some other inconvenience is minor pain-infliction even.

Really, anything causing an experience of unpleasantness is, even if only emotional. I think the way that we privilege physical pain in our society, what another blog called "the modern perception of treating the body as a sacrosanct locus of individual rights," is ridiculous and bizarre. In reality, these various forms of pain or discomfort inflicted are different only in degree, not nature.

Condemning "torture" on the part of States so stridently is thus just a semantic game. If the State can justly inflict minor pain or discomfort in a way that would be a venial sin for a private individual, it can assuredly also inflict a more severe amount of pain that would be a mortal sin of torture in a private individual. Just as it can inflict death, even though this would constitute murder on the part of a private individual.

Frankly, if I were caught stealing (if I were ever caught!) I'd probably rather be lashed however many times and have it done with than sentenced to any number of months in prison; even while also finding the lashing a more effective punishment given its tangibility and immediacy as a deterrent.

Certainly, in a "ticking-bomb" scenario where some nuke was about to blow up a major city and they could extract information from the terrorist only through the State inflicting pain, I really have no problem with that, though I think it's sick to take an attitude of anything other than a Stoic resign to the tragic necessity.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guy Fawkes

Do I agree with the sentiments of this rhyme? Back then? Today? Do I shout hip hip hoorah? Am I a Guy Fawkes sympathizer? And, more importantly, am I a "Guy Fawkes" sympathizer? Or rather a party to "choke the Pope" attitudes? (Which sounds like some sort of slang masturbatory euphemism, now that I think about it). What would that even mean for me as a Catholic? Who knows. I do find it interesting:

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.

By God’s mercy he was catched
With a dark lantern and a lighted match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!