Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hedonism: Two From Grisez

I don't claim to be an expert on Germain Grisez, nor a disciple. I have reservations about the "New Natural Law" approach, and my default is always going to tend towards a neo-Thomism just because I've become most familiar with the framework.

And because it is something of the philosophical lingua franca in the modern Western Church (as disasterously as it was discarded in the late 20th-century in favor of various zeitgeists). I would not make scholasticism the be-all or end-all of philosophy, but I do think it has the ability to ground in a metaphysical precision what can otherwise become a pseudo-mystical or even purely literary or poetic venture that might wind up far from practical or analytical.

However, I do find this selection from Grisez's The Way of the Lord Jesus (about the virtue of temperance, basically) enlightening when it comes to the question of intelligible good as the basis of morality (and thus holistic human fulfillment and happiness), which I do think is a strong-point in terms of the emphases of the New Natural Law school:

The third mode is this: One should not choose to satisfy an emotional desire except as part of one’s pursuit and/or attainment of an intelligible good other than the satisfaction of the desire itself. Violations occur when a person deliberately chooses to act upon impulse, habit, or fixation on a particular goal. The proposal one adopts in making such a choice appeals by promising some sense of inner harmony through tension-reduction. Thus, one’s reason for acting is the very satisfaction of the emotional desire rather than some intelligible good whose instance has features which arouse the desire. A choice to act on this basis sets aside whatever reason there was for restraint, and the action at least wastes time and energy one might otherwise use for the pursuit of goods in line with upright commitments. In deliberately settling for mere emotional satisfaction, one’s choice is not that of a will toward integral human fulfillment.

A person sometimes is aware that his or her desire, instead of pointing to some reason to choose to satisfy it, offers only its own satisfaction as a reason for choosing. Yet one can be drawn—and perhaps almost driven—to choose, for example, by a quasi-compulsive desire, by habitual routine, or by a particular goal on which one’s heart is fixed. (It sometimes happens that goals which were reasonable at the outset lose their point with the passage of time yet retain their emotional appeal.) This is not the same as the situation in which one spontaneously does reasonable things without having reasoned about them. Nor is it the same as cases in which one acts for an intelligible good and gains emotional satisfaction in its concrete, sensibly pleasant aspects.

And, while I would question many of Grisez's specific conclusions regarding the "taxonomy" of sexual immorality (tending to lean, myself, more towards a categorical schema more like the old moral manuals), this one on chastity specifically is also, in itself, I think spot-on:

Sexual intercourse cannot be a communion of persons if it is little more than the juxtaposition of instruments used by isolated self-conscious subjects to reach individual and incommunicable enjoyable sensations.
This idea is reminiscent of this article by Alexander Pruss which I've also found very helpful in defending the Church's beliefs, which specifically demonstrates that intersubjective psycho-emotional "union" in either desire/pleasure or the abstract concept of union itself...cannot be considered a transcendent good in-itself on pain of completely self-enclosed circularity ("The pleasure of what? Of unity. Unity in what? Pleasure. But, the pleasure of what?!? Unity!" etc ad infinitum). To speak of communion in communion or ecstasy in to avoid the question entirely.

This is useful considering that many people mistakenly believe the Church now identifies a "unitive" end in sex essentially separate from the procreative, and take that as referring to this intersubjective sort of "unity." When really, as the article explains, it refers very objectively to the organic biophysical union (and thus cannot be separated conceptually from the procreative end even if actual reproduction does not always result), not some sort of sentimentalist psycho-emotional intimacy (or illusion of intimacy.)

"Sharing the experience" (however intense) of using each other's bodies (or even, as Sartre would seem to suggest, the abstract notion of the other's very consciousness and desire itself) as, essentially, a drug or masturbatory aid...cannot be considered an intelligible good merely on account of the social nature of that cooperation or sharing if the experience shared is not itself intelligibly good. There can only be true relationship and communion of persons in the Good, and the ends cannot justify the means.

This leads me to the question of hedonism, which I've taken to seeing as essentially about a separation of signifier from signified, of a view of the good which would locate it in its fragments or reflections rather than in that which is reflected. As the Pruss article says:

Pleasure thus has an intentionality in it, a signifying of a good, much like the quale of green signifies a green thing. Pleasure, like any other mental representation, derives its significance from what it represents. The good of pleasure thus derives from it being a representation, a perceiving, of something good. (This also shows that there are cases of pleasure that are not good: these are the non-veridical pleasures, pleasures that are representations of goods that are not real.) At the pain of circularity, the pleasure considered as such, must be notionally distinct from that good. Hence, pleasure should not be an end in itself, since its good is derivative from that good which is represented by it. That good could be an end, but not the pleasure itself. Without the good that the pleasure represents, the pleasure has no truth or goodness in itself but only an illusory semblance of a good.
The hedonistic view of life, however, would admit no necessity of a concomitant objective good to subjective enjoyments. This view, so prevalent today, would reduce man to basically just an animal whose last end is to be found in satiating desires, many of them arbitrary or at least now vestigial, enjoying that satiation-of-desire for satiation-of-desire's own sake (and, perhaps, in nursing desires exactly so we can satiate them) until we die, with no particular purpose, conscious experiences being like a shell gutted of meaning. Perhaps there never was a meaning!

The existentialist answer is for us to create one ourselves, though this can only ever be finite, and can never take us outside ourselves as only the Absolute can. But, the vast majority of regular people, under such a regime...just won't care to undertake such an existentialist project. They will be more than happy to plug into the Matrix of unchaste sex or drugs or decadent escapist hedonism generally, having an understanding of the Good (even in those things which are of themselves Reasonable) that is little more than masturbatory and self-enclosed, like they're just rats in a Skinner box.

Someone once pointed out to me once that Orwell predicted a dystopia where people were controlled by force and pain, but Huxley predicted a totalitarianism of meaningless pleasure and apathy; I think it's becoming clear, the latter is indeed much more of a threat .

But then, we live in a world whose standard for morality is basically "why not?" rather than "why?" so it is unsurprising that people give no particular consideration to the intelligibility of goods, or mistakenly identify them in experiences which are ultimately circular and solipsistic, when making judgments. So of course we see people alienate and instrumentalize their own bodies and the bodies of others, not only in the form of unchastity but also in hard drugs (not to mention economic exploitation and consumerism).

Even when more "noble" justifications of the humanistic variety are trumped up, they are something much less than transcendent. Because, as that article also wisely says, "Even if a billion people were to unite in striving for some closed end, say for the pleasure of this billion, the people would be united in loneliness, for even though they would be together, still taken as a whole they would be alone." And without God as transcendent end, that's all even humanity-as-a-whole can ever be in our value: alone together.

When the nature of reality is reduced, in practice, to a relativistic subjectivism, and when morality is reduced in turn to only a minimal "rights" based ethics of justice combined with a base sentimentalism, then it is inevitable that questions of virtue, integral human fulfillment, and the all-important question of transcendent meaning for that venture...will be ignored or else have tortured answers counterfeited by (usually academic) philosophical charlatans, and people will settle for merely fragmentary or apparent goods, rather than for the whole and final Good.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


So, since we've been discussing crazy-nuts trad insanity on internet forums lately, this thread filled with blatant racism (of admittedly troubling provenance) was pointed out to me by a reader. Just...disgusting. There are no words.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Swing Low

Thanks to a reader for sharing this with me! My favorite kind of music!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Death Star Explodes!!!!

Some of you may be familiar with the website Fisheaters. It has actually got a lot of good resources for traditional Catholicism. But its discussion another question entirely. It may be the "most sane" trad forum on the internet, really I don't know as I've never spent much time on any others, but even that statement would of course be incredibly meaningless; trads are nuts!!!!

It is from the Fisheaters forums that I realized this fact about the insanity of trads, but also where I met some of my oldest "renegade trad" friends, readers, and allies. I haven't really visited there for years, since I started this blog really. Don't bother going digging (I used to be a bit more crazy too!) but I was actually the first person banned for "modernism" (in what is still one of their Top 10 most replied and most viewed threads!) because I suggested mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests should be opposed, and because I think I got on their nerves as a "renegade" gadfly generally.

Anyway, a friend invites me to visit the forum again this week because all sorts of crazy shit was going down. I think we should pray for all involved, of course, because it seems some real mental illness might be part of it (as well as all sorts of personal and relationship issues on the part of many parties). I can't claim to understand everything (fake deaths, backstabbing, denied annulments, multiple personalities, blackmail!?), because I (officially speaking) wasn't there to watch it all unfold. But from the bizarreness of even just these two seems Bedlam has finally been busted open. [Update: they actually got rid of that really juicy thread that officially shut things down the first time, but it's still on Google cache, and more official explanations have emerged.]

We'll see how long the "bring down" lasts; there are often resurrections of these sorts of things under reformed management or when everyone cools down, so I expect it to be up and running again soon enough. But I must say, I find this little coup fascinating, like a train wreck one can't keep one's eyes off. I sort of "wish" I had been there to watch it all play out rather than just being able to glean what I can from those final threads and the stories told by friends. (Or, if you like traddie conspiracy theories, maybe I actually was behind orchestrating the whole elaborate charade all along. "Maybe.")

It's all rather endearing. Everything sounds like a dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless, and if people have been able to invest that much time and emotion into an internet community and forum relationships...well, good for them. Though, from what I can tell, such dynamics really just become cesspools of uncharity, increasingly polarized extremism, and mischief (and, possibly, opportunities for manipulative revenge from modernists, served very cold indeed...)

Either way, Fisheaters was a major online incubator of trad identity, one way or the other, and was a major node in a web of related social networks among young traditionalists (including, as I said, the original "core" of this blog's following.) If any sociologist was bothering to study our subculture, the events there, I think, would be incredibly relevant. Or, at least, just good entertainment.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chicago Changes

As I've said in some earlier posts, we're going to have some sort of gathering for readers and allies in Chicago later this summer. We were thinking late July/early August, but it now may be late August based on some people's schedules. Email me if you're interested:

Whether or not you can come, I'd still always love to hear from Chicagoland readers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

No Altar Girls

Looking back through the recent archives of Vox Nova, I finally wrote something better answering the post asking trads for substantive reasons why altar girls (and, by extension, things like communion on the hand) can't or shouldn't be allowed at the Old Rite liturgy nowadays, given that these things were not specified in the rubrics of the Missal itself but rather by canon law, which has now changed. I posted it as a comment there, but given that it is such an old post, I have my doubts about whether it will be approved and so might as well post something similar here.

The post there basically was a suggestion that this could only make sense because trads want to "turn back the clock" (not that this would be a bad thing aesthetically speaking!) and that the recent decision by Ecclesia Dei clarifying (thank God) that this isn't allowed is merely reactionary. As a devotee of the traditional liturgy, of course, I think this is just absurd and shows both the ignorance and sheer political agenda with which liberals view and approach the traditional liturgy.

I think anyone who would suggest that females could act as servers in the Old Rite simply because canon law for the West now said this was okay (with the New Rite in mind) shows a disturbing legalism which has crept into the attitude toward liturgy in the West whereby it is not an organic tradition, but simply a fact of positive legislation (for all his extremism, Patricius of Liturgiae Causa is right on the money when it comes to this complaint).

In that sense, the distinction between traditionalists and either conservatives or liberals is one not merely of disagreeing about which form of the liturgy is better, but a fundamentally different understanding regarding tradition itself. I've often said that if two millennia of organic tradition had produced the Novus Ordo, as opposed to being engineered bureaucratically, I'd probably be just fine with it (though whether it ever would have is another question).

One of the biggest problems for trads is the uneasy "crystallization" at and after Trent of organic tradition in the form of positive legislation (in order to "protect" it from a cultural situation that would otherwise have probably corrupted it). So many trads really do construct themselves as just "yesterday's conservatives" (in other words, reactionaries) in terms of wanting authoritarianism and Roman hyper-centralization and micromanagement of the liturgy, rather than appreciating the actual dynamics of tradition. The irony is that these things are actually what allowed, even led to, the creation of the Novus Ordo in the first place.

When it comes to opposing things like altar girls or communion on the hand at the old liturgy, some trads may indeed be basically just reactionary in their attitude. But, then again, so is their attitude toward the old Missal itself, so acting as if there is some logic to appeasing them by letting them "turn back the clock" when it comes to the Missal itself, but not these adjunct issues...makes no sense. For these people, they are just engaged in a sort of historical recreationism (which may indeed produce superior aesthetics!) so allowing them to use the old Missal but expecting them to have altar girls and EMHCs and all that is just counter-intuitive.

But for those of us whose preference for the traditional liturgy is more than just reactionary, it is still absurd to suggest having altar girls or communion on the hand. Anyone with any sort of familiarity with the ethos of the Old Rite would know that even if these things were not in the rubrics of the Missal themselves, they were part-and-parcel with the liturgy itself. These things would have just been assumed in the inner-logic of the traditional liturgy. If they were later institutionalized in positive canon law, it was only because of that unfortunate creeping legalism or to protect the traditions against a hostile culture. I mean, even the rubrics themselves were not always there, but were set down much later to encode tradition permanently.

There is perhaps a danger of ossification in this process, and I've often pondered the question of how exactly this could be escaped and organic growth allowed to continue. But, regardless, it is clear that there are some things that would have been considered in the Old Rite to be essential to the rite itself, and others which likely would have been recognized as accidental and potentially changeable by positive law, or at least outside the realm of liturgy strictly so-called. We must obey the spirit of the law, not the letter, and altar girls and communion on the hand are clearly against the spirit of the traditional liturgy.

There are some things, on the other hand, which I would argue are not intrinsic to the old liturgy itself and which thus would conform to modern law. Namely, things that go on "outside the sanctuary," things which were always more a matter of positive obligation. The rules about how long to fast would clearly conform to modern practice, as would the question of Holy Days of Obligation. These are laws enforced on people as subjects of the Church, not the rite itself. Likewise the question of women veiling. Though this practice goes back to Paul and is mandated in Scripture itself (which might suggest it should be maintained!) it is clearly external to the question of the ritual of Mass itself (ie, no one ever claimed that women's head-coverings were vestments). So too style of art or architecture or music.

One also might think of the question (sometimes floated in trad circles) of married deacons serving as deacons or subdeacons in the Old Mass. While there might be some argument, within the context of the Old Mass, that married deacons abstaining from the marriage bed the night before is a ceremonial concern (as a "ritual purity" question similar to the issue of who can handle sacred vessels) the end a deacon is a deacon is a deacon, and a discipline external to the liturgy itself (like clerical celibacy) cannot be imposed except where it might touch on the essence of the liturgical ritual.

One also could say the same for the question of what clerics wear outside liturgy, or the
courtly ceremony of papal and episcopal courts which is extrinsic to liturgy strictly so called (even if it sometimes imposed itself on the liturgy in various ways). And no one sane would insist that only priests ordained (or churches or vessels or hosts consecrated) in the Old Rite be used in the old liturgy (after all, clerics ordained in Eastern Rites sometimes even used to participate in the traditional Roman liturgy).

However, it would be absurd to think that limiting the ministers to males, or giving communion only on the tongue, is one of these matters extrinsic to liturgy itself. To allow altar girls or communion on the hand in the Old Rite would alter what goes on and is seen "in the sanctuary" itself, touches on questions of essential gesture and symbol intrinsic to the internal holism of the tradition of the rite itself. To think otherwise shows simply a total ignorance of the essence of the old rite and perhaps tradition itself, and can only possibly be a deliberately political argument.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Index 2.0

Given that I've surpassed 600 posts now, I thought it would be helpful to do a new "Index" post given that the last one was eight months ago and there have been about 60 more posts I feel should be indexed for easy access by new readers.

I've tried to sort out the more important posts for getting an understanding of my philosophy, weeding out all the ones that are basically just repetitive, recommendations (or even whole-cloth quotations) of outside articles, videos, visual gags, or personal esoterica. As such, I've narrowed the 0ver 600 total posts down to about 175 that I feel constitute the real body of my original essayism and encapsulate my vision for the Church.

I've organized them into a few categories for people. Many are cross-referenced in several of the different categories. Posts that I feel "go together," either which are in a series, or which serve as elaborations or evolutions of previous concepts I've addressed, or which serve as contrasts or "bookends" for each other, I've listed together. The posts tend to go in reverse chronological order (so the newest are often near the top of the lists...):

One Year
An Explanation
A Litmus Test?
A Thankless Task...

Holy Week Liturgies
Clerical Cosplay
Can't We Sit Down?
All Hats are Silly
Vestments and Liturgy
Encouraging Without Requiring
Question on Consecration
I Like the Big Pallium
Obligation for the Liturgy, Not Liturgy for the Obligation
Chant for Matins
Simple Low Mass
Questions About High Mass
Matins at Midnight
More of My Liturgical OCD
Breviary Appendices
Feasts of Apostles: West vs. East
All Saints  
Chart Finished
Breviary Ideas
Talking Points for Ending Communion in the Hand
On "Apostolic Traditions"
Fasting Proposal
Re-examining "Partial Abstinence"
Glorious Interruption
A Confession
Re-Attempt the Reform
The Language Barrier is THE Issue
Look to Ethiopia for Inspiration
Reinfusing the Latin Rite with the Spirit of the East
They should have kept Epiphany instead...
Lay Readers and Liturgical Politics
Traditionalism NOT merely an Alternate Globalism

Reform of the Clergy
Auxiliary Bishops and Confirmation
Maritain on Clericalism
The Lay Clergy
Slowing Down
Lay Readers and Liturgical Politics
Western Rite Orthodox Catholicism?
Uproar? Open Revolt? I Doubt It.
Clothing and Caste
The Dangers of Monopoly
Newman's Model
Orthodox Primacy and Ecclesiology
The Root of All Evil
Lies Vs. Wrong Interpretation
Particular Friendships
A Three-Point Plan
My Twisted Fantasies
Call No Man Father
On "Apostolic Traditions"
Difference in Degree, Not Nature
Casting a Wide Net on the Net
It's a Question of Loyalties...
Disappointed, but Not Surprised...
Is a Coup in Our Future?
Falling in Love and the Creepiness of Institutional Seminaries
A Providential Find?
Secular Institutes: The Vocation of the Third Millennium?  
A Sad Truth: The Utter Facade of Mandatory Celibacy
Article on "No Organizations"

Vatican II
The CD
Every So Often...
A Plea to Move On
Just as Authoritarian as Ever
More Vatican II Dialogue
Vatican II: Deconstructing Certain Notions
True Religious Freedom
Talking Points for Ending Communion in the Hand
On "Apostolic Traditions"
Fasting Proposal
Is a Coup in Our Future?
Traditionalism NOT merely an Alternate Globalism

Mormons, the CDF, &c.
J,E,P, and D
They Need a Better Editor
Auxiliary Bishops and Confirmation
Old News: Thoughts on "Life of the Mother"
Further Thoughts on Life Ethics
God Loves Some More Than Others
Inquiry for Readers on Religious Orders
Canon Law and Sacred Bonds: Vows and Oaths in Consecrated Life
On the Head of a Pin: Some Very Speculative Theology
On Monogenism
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam: On Moral Foundations
Something Else For You To Oppose
The Breaking of the Light
Images of the Father
The Unjust Steward and Indulgences
The (Long) Hard Problem of Consciousness
Another Common Misunderstanding
A Codicil
True Religious Freedom
The Other Secularism
A Common Misunderstanding
Olive Oil
New Answers to Old Questions

Father William Most and Theology
O Felix Culpa!!
The Paradox of the Jews
Jane Eyre and the Confessions of a Closet Universalist
"Living in Sin" and Double Standards
Contraception vs Sterilization
Jumping To Conclusions
Fornication and the Natural Law
Yes, Put a Damn Condom on Already!!!
The Arithmetic of Lesser Evils
The Arithmetic of The Pill
Trinitarianism and Orthodoxy
Orthodox Primacy and Ecclesiology
An Alternate Marriage Proposal from the East
Concrete Proposals vis a vis Orthodoxy: Remarriage
Concrete Proposals vis a vis Orthodoxy: Intro
A Canticle for Leibowitz and the Dormition
Merry Marymas!

Even More Thoughts on the State and Just Laws
New Point on the State and Just Laws
The State and Just Laws?
Individualism and Collectivism

Some Truths Are (Or Would Be) Useless
Sensitivity and Mascots
World Systems and Exploitation
Things To Make You Mad
Let He Who Is Without Sin...
Capital Punishment and Genocide
No More Exceptionalism!
The Paradox of the Jews
It Is Really Hard Sometimes...
Adam Smith on Slavery and the Middle Ages
True Religious Freedom
More Acadecadence
The Other Secularism
The Wine of the Wrath of her Fornication
A Sad Situation
Scary Statistics
Throwing Your Vote Away?
Lies Vs. Wrong Interpretation

What They Really Think...
Reactionaryism is Sophomoric
Gun Control: An Issue that Shouldn't be Ideological
On Politics
They Need to Learn Some Math
A Flaw...
A Long Introduction to Social Credit
I'm conflicted, re: Chinese Censorship vs US "Information Imperialism"

High Fructose Corn Syrup
Mauvaise Foi
Love and Charity
Institutionalism of the Mind
Cohabitation and Minding Your Own Business
Encouraging Without Requiring
Fear and Death
Roman Catholic
Humility as Reality
Intellectual Promiscuity
Encouraging Signs
Preaching to the Choir
"Living in Sin" and Double Standards
"Humanly Impossible Absolute Guarantees"
A Sad Situation
Contraception vs Sterilization
Further Thoughts on Homoeroticism
Testimonial (Sort Of) from a Gay Trad
Particular Friendships
Jumping To Conclusions
Why Do They Care?
Yes, Put a Damn Condom on Already!!!
The Arithmetic of Lesser Evils
The Arithmetic of The Pill
The Terrifying Power of Women
One has to Wonder...
Slowing Down
Dreams of Poverty
Reflections on a Bucket Bath
True Religious Freedom
Distinctions: Jealousy vs. Envy
Testimonial from a Black Catholic
Fasting Proposal
Sin vs. Hypocrisy
Give Up Guilt for Lent
Make It Easy For People
Why Can't More Priests Preach Like This?
You Can't Reach All of Them
Layer Upon Layer
On the true "Sense of Sin"
What good, then, is religion?

Eastern Christianity
Trinitarianism and Orthodoxy
Orthodox Primacy and Ecclesiology
An Alternate Marriage Proposal from the East
Concrete Proposals vis a vis Orthodoxy: Remarriage...
Concrete Proposals vis a vis Orthodoxy: Intro
All Saints
A Canticle for Leibowitz and the Dormition
Merry Marymas!
Feasts of Apostles: West vs. East
Western Rite Orthodox Catholicism?
On "Apostolic Traditions"
Fasting Proposal
Re-examining "Partial Abstinence"
Look to Ethiopia for Inspiration
Reinfusing the Latin Rite with the Spirit of the East
Traditionalism NOT merely an Alternate Globalism

Monday, July 18, 2011


Since Benedict has become Pope, we have seen two of the three "conditions" for the reconciliation/regularization of the SSPX met; namely, the liberation of the Old Rite such that it can be used by all priests without special permission, and the lifting of the excommunications of the SSPX bishops. What remains is to sort out the "doctrinal" questions which both sides seem to have with the other. I hope this occurs sooner rather than later.

Vox Nova had a post that I commented on a while back that posited the absurd (though there is a tiny chance it was tongue-in-cheek) theory that the Pope lifted the excommunications not to actually reconcile the SSPX, but to expose their radicalism, to"marginalize" them by taking away the excommunications as a point of contention they could "hide behind" by portraying the schism as "canonical rather than theological."

The insinuation here, of course, is that the SSPX is, in fact, in some sort of "theological schism" (which can ultimately only mean heresy), and this is absurd because the SSPX simply holds the positions mainstream in the Church up until the 20th-century. The Vox Nova post mentions "teachings" on ecumenism and religious liberty, but the implication of holding these positions to be "teachings" in the sense of that the Church was in heresy until the 20th-century or that Vatican II actually somehow "changed" or introduced new doctrine.

Of course, as I've discussed before, the truth is that neither "answer" to those "questions" is dogmatic. Vatican II's position on religious liberty is, fundamentally, a pastoral stance, a prudential diplomatic decision about how the institutional Church currently chooses to deal with other religions in the "political" sphere. Then again, so was the "old" more fortress-mentality outlook. Except for a few principles, like that belief in itself cannot be coerced (not "should not," mind you, but metaphysically cannot be) and that error in itself has no rights...I'm pretty sure this can only be a question of application of principles to contingent historical situations, not of principles in themselves.

Though the decisions of the Church can "narrow down" dogma where, previously, two opinions were both tolerated (I think of, for example, the Immaculate Conception), by solemnly defining that one or the other position is, in fact, in the deposit of faith...a position officially taught at the highest levels can never be reversed like this. At most, they can say that it was merely a prudential question, but the "older" opinion at that point must always remain considered at least tolerable, not positive heresy.

I think we may see the solution to the "doctrinal" discussions between the SSPX and the CDF based on this principle that there may not be one Revealed answer to all problems or questions, that some allow for multiple interpretations or tolerated theories to explain their application. Sometimes, it turns out, on questions where the magisterium has never taken an official stance (I think again, for example, of the disputes on grace and free will)...that one side may, someday, be determined to be explicit or at least implicit in the deposit of faith (and a previously tolerated opinion no longer admitted).

In other cases, though, it seems clear that two interpretations are both compatible with the deposit of faith, not merely due to a lack of theological clarity (that might someday be clarified) but simply a lack of data in Revelation itself (most clearly exampled, I'd think, when the magisterium itself has favored both interpretations at various points in history).

The case that comes to mind for me is how Cardinal Ratzinger dealt with certain so-called "Feeneyite" groups when he was head of the CDF regarding their interpretation of the doctrine "extra eccelsiam nulla salus" (outside the Church there is no salvation).

I'm not sure this exact formulation (phrased negatively) was ever promulgated by any Pope or Council, but (formulated positively) it was (and is) certainly formally taught that water baptism (and full communion with the Church and its Supreme Pontiff) is a necessity of means (and not merely precept) for salvation.

This has long troubled Catholics, and rightfully so. Even Trent, in its formulation of the dogma in several places, is sure to say something like "without baptism, or the desire for it" salvation is not possible. Some are inclined to see in this formulation an explicit promulgation of the teaching of "baptism of desire." I am less inclined, as there are at least two ways Trent can be read that don't imply this. The first is the fact that in framing an anathema, excluding something from condemnation is not necessarily the same as saying it is true. Saying, "If anyone says baptism, or [at least] the desire thereof, is not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema" is not the same as saying that desire for sure can effect salvation, merely that saying it might is not condemned.

Further, I've seen the interpretation that "or" (in this case, the Latin form "aut") means simply "or" and not "or else." If one says, "You cannot play baseball missing either a bat or a ball" you do not mean "without a bat or else a ball" as if the ball can substitute for the bat; rather, the point is that you cannot be missing one or the other, just as in baptism you cannot be missing either water or the spirit.

Nevertheless, though Trent is inconclusive, dogmatically speaking, on this question, it has certainly spawned a lot of speculative theology. It is a dogmatic principle, of course, that God's hands are not bound by the Sacraments in any strict sense, and theologians have long theorized about baptism of desire and of blood (the Holy Innocents have long been taken as an example of the latter, though as circumcized Jewish boys living during the Old Dispensation...I don't really think it would, in fact, apply). Later, around the 19th-century, complicated theories of "invincible ignorance" and "implicit desire" were invoked as means by which (perhaps) men of good will could be saved outside water baptism.

Of course, none of this touched on unbaptized infants, as even implicit desire was taught to involve a positive act of good will (and, thus, the use of reason). Even more "out there" theories of God enlightening the infant at the last moment to give him the choice to choose, or even somehow taking "parental desire" into account, began to appear.

In reaction against this inelegant cluttering of the theological playing field on this question (and it is inelegant and cluttered), followers of Fr. Leonard Feeney began teaching a simple rigorist interpretation of the question. They began promoting the idea that the dogma must be taken at face-value, that Revelation positively excludes the salvation of any but the water baptized, and that any of these other, less rigorist, interpretations were heresy. They were condemned by the Vatican.

However, there is some confusion, even now, about why. They were not condemned for rejection baptism of desire or the idea that God saves people outside water baptism. Rather, the reason for their condemnation was their assertion that such a position was itself dogmatic, that those who did accept baptism of desire or hope for salvation of others were heretics.

A subtle distinction, perhaps, but an important one. When Cardinal Ratzinger reconciled several Feeneyite groups to the Church as head of the CDF, the approach he took is instructive. He did not require them to accept the salvation of the non-water-baptized as a dogma, and they were allowed to continue personally holding that God didn't save any outside it. But they had to agree that their rigorist interpretation, while indeed tolerable, was not the only one tolerable. That while Revelation didn't positively include the salvation of any but the water-baptized, it also didn't positively exclude it either.

This, I think, is very elegant and gives the true sense of the deposit of faith on the question, I think; that water baptism is the only publicly revealed means of salvation, but that God's hands are not bound by the only means he has given us, and so we may hope (but not presume!) the salvation of others.

This also tidies up the theology quite a bit. Rather than trying to make Revelation say something it doesn't through looking for loopholes (like baptism of desire, blood, invincible ignorance, etc) it both allows a pretty much face-value reading of the dogma while also allowing hope that doesn't require speculation on specific means. In fact, it seems to me both superfluous and almost presumptuous to speculate on additional means when God obviously didn't publicly reveal them to us for a reason. His hands aren't tied, revealing only one means to us doesn't bind Him to not use other means (or no means at all!) so such speculation seems to be prying into business that is between Him and the individual.

And this seems to be the approach the Church has taken in its verbiage since, to simply distinguish between what has been revealed as guaranteeing a title to salvation according to God's promise, and what may be hoped for outside this. Between justice and mercy basically, the external and internal forum. For example, in the recent document on the salvation of unbaptized infants. The Church has always taught (and still teaches) that those who die with original sin on their souls, but not mortal sin, such as infants or good pagans, would go to a state lacking the beatific vision, but of at least perfect natural happiness (ie, Limbo). However, the question has boiled down to whether everyone who dies without water baptism really dies with original sin, or whether God gives some of them sanctifying grace at the last minute by other means. This is the source of all that inelegant speculation.

However, by making the distinction between what may be presumed by revelation, and what may be hoped for outside it, there is no longer any need to identify any particular means of salvation (and certainly no reason to imagine it has to involve a positive act of the will on the part of the person in question, anymore than infant baptism does) and so, in some sense, the question becomes whether we must believe God lets anyone die with original sin remaining who does not also have personal mortal sin.

The recent limbo document expresses this distinction between what Revelation contains and what it doesn't very elegantly by concluding,
"Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered above give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptised infants who die will be saved and enjoy the Beatific Vision. We emphasise that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge. There is much that simply has not been revealed to us (cf. Jn 16:12)."

It is this distinction that allows me to consider myself paradoxically both a "closet [soft] universalist" and a "Feeneyite" of sorts. I fully believe that water baptism is the only means of salvation, that there is no salvation outside the Church. But I take the dogma to be relative to the contents of the deposit of faith itself: water baptism is the only revealed means of salvation, there is no known salvation outside the Church.

I do not believe the deposit of faith speaks to what is beyond public revelation one way or another; I don't believe that the fact that water baptism is the only means we can find in the Deposit means that God won't use any other (unrevealed) means, but I also don't take it to mean that this is guaranteed either with the certainty of faith. I take it to mean we simply don't know, and so can hope after-the-fact (but not presume before; and so still, in our ignorance, must baptize just as urgently!) But I would also fully recognize the right of those (like the reconciled Feeneyites) to not hope (though why anyone would not want to hope where hope is allowed, I don't totally understand), to take God's silence on the matter as an indication that no one is saved beyond what he has explicitly revealed (as long as they recognize that this rigorist interpretation is not required by the data of Revelation and that my hope for the salvation of all is tolerable too).

Anyway, to bring this back to the starting point of this post, I am convinced that it is this sort of distinction that is needed to be clarified (this time, on the question of religious liberty, etc) to reconcile things with the SSPX and also to solve a lot of confusion in the Church over what some people perceive as a change (happily in the case of liberals, disturbingly in the case of trads) of teaching on this matter. It must be simply clarified that this is a prudential question, that public revelation doesn't contain any particular "political" answers on this (or other) questions and, while laying out what principles are essential and dogmatic, they should clarify that the SSPX's positions (being the "mainstream" position in the Church for hundreds of years) are completely tolerable, but that the new approach is also allowed by what the deposit of faith does contain. That like, with the question of salvation beyond water baptism...neither interpretation, more rigorist or more lenient, is dogmatic.

I think such clarity about the boundaries of intellectual freedom and diversity in the Church (and identifying them as separate from simply the current party-line) on such questions will help everyone to avoid extremes or fundamentalism, and be good for the whole Church, for "in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

One Day...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Still Angering

If you look at the archives of Renegade Trads from last spring, I did a ton of posts about the "new" (European) child abuse scandal that was bursting forth at that point. There were lots of articles to quote, lots of things to say, and lots of anger to vent. Since then, there has been a steady trickle of revelations (combined with a continued "stay the course" attitude on the part of most of the hierarchy) that has, I think, kept a sort of resentment seething and simmering among Catholics who follow the news, a suspicion of Church authority that is going to linger for a long time.

The other day one friend chastised another (both devout Catholics) for calling the modern institutional church "apparently the biggest child-raping machine in the world" after the revelations came out about Cloyne in Ireland. In truth, it was pointed out, maybe these "revelations" didn't amount to all that much, a lot of the accusations themselves happened well in the past and a lot of the complaints were "purely procedural" (though
procedural justice is sometimes all we can hope for!)

Certainly I think the case of Bishop Finn or in Philadelphia are much more enraging. But when conservative Catholics try to defend the institutional church in individual cases like this based on "the facts"...they may be technically correct on this are that point, but are forgetting that people's anger is cumulative, and that the bishops have really lost the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accusations of this nature. Anger can be perfectly justified by the situation as a whole even if the specific moment that triggers it doesn't seem proportionate on the surface.

I think the
recent post on Vox Nova, and the sentiments expressed in the comments section, capture this anger that hasn't gone away, and the urgency with which people feel a need for dramatic acts of reform and leadership. As I said there, people still want to see heads roll. Enough of this bureaucratic pussyfooting and intra-institutional deference to office. I want to see a Pope out on the balcony publicly issuing anathemas and public penances and curial sackings (and banishments to monasteries)!

He’s an absolute monarch for crying out loud! If they’re not going to actually use the power they insist so much on theoretically…we might as well toss that teaching (God knows it’s what is preventing reunion with all sorts of other churches and ecclesial communities). But, as someone who does believe in the Pope's immediate universal jurisdiction, I think he should just grow some testicles (didn't they used to check after a papal election?) and use his power to fix things!! When will this nightmare end?!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'd Probably Side With the "Dissidents"

This is weird. After all the scandal with the Legion of Christ, and all the revelations about creepy stuff deeply engrained in that organization...the Cardinal in charge of the "renewal" is now apparently condemning those within the Legion who say that the reforms don't go far enough:

A year after assuming duties as pontifical delegate for the Legion of Christ, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis gave a speech evaluating the current situation of the religious congregation. He sharply criticized “dissidents” within the order who create division and internal tensions.

“While it is true that in 2010 the institute suffered its greatest losses, it is also true that the exodus has been contained with regard to priests,” he said.

However, regarding the abandonment of the order by its youngest members, Cardinal De Paolis noted “the negative influence exercised by some companions who, upon entering the process of renewal, have adopted an absolutely critical attitude towards the path of renewal.”

“From the beginning, a group of members have joined together and has been described, by whom I don’t know, as ‘dissidents’,” the cardinal continued.

“In reality it is not a very large group, as there are very few people leading it. In emphasizing a ‘structural contamination’ of the congregation, they have manifested a radical lack of confidence in the continuation and renewal of the congregation. And in every way they have become antagonistic towards the legitimate superiors, seeing themselves almost as custodians of the orthodoxy of the road that must be traveled. They are using the internet extensively, with a network that extends to perhaps 200 or more people, including Legionaries, ex-Legionaries or friends of Legionaries with whom they usually meet,” Cardinal De Paolis stated.

The pontifical delegate said these “dissidents” act like “depositories of a prophetic mission in which some think they have a particular vocation to take the place of their superiors, to set themselves up as masters of the spiritual life and masters of sound doctrine.” They exercise negative influence on the youngest members.

"This kind of information for some is the reason why the youngest members abandon the Legion,” he continued.

“Some of the leaders of this group are unsure about their vocations and share their doubts with others for no good purpose,” he said.

“As they are stuck on the harm suffered by the congregation, they seem to enjoy looking at the wounds and continuously reopening them, instead of looking toward the future with greater depth and hope, working for true renewal and taking the true path of conversion,” he added.

“We do indeed need to recognize that we are sinners. But to stop there is death! If that is a time for realizing that we need God, then it is a grace, and grace is what comes to meet us,” the cardinal said.

“The community, or our group of interest, is not an instrument for venting our frustrations or finding justifications. Our community is a not a ‘spit bowl.’ And we should feel humiliated when we are used like this,” he said.
If there's one thing the Legion scandal should have taught them, it's that "dissident" voices within institutions should be welcomed and that speaking-out when it comes to internal practice should be encouraged. I don't know exactly what's going on here, talk of spit bowls and all this, but it sounds like the Cardinal is basically complaining that there are people within the Legion who don't believe the renewal has actually changed systematic institutional problems enough, and that they should just shut-up and accept things because otherwise they're encouraging younger members to leave by sharing their doubts.

His whole tone is bizarre. The vague references to secret networks and meetings with ex-Legionaries, his hysterical panic about "the internet," the idea that certain "information" should be withheld in order to retain young members, the idea that doubts should not be shared, the way he speaks of the harm suffered by the congregation rather than the harm inflicted by its structures, this idea that critical voices (exactly what we need!) are hindering the renewal, that everyone should just get on board and follow things quietly and without question (which was exactly the problem before, I thought...)

Very strange article, very strange words from the Cardinal here.