Saturday, April 13, 2019

On the Violent and Incongruous Extension of Islam VS Christianity --Aquinas


[4] ...[T]hose who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to [the miraculous spread of the Christian faith], The point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be. seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.

[1] Those who place their faith in this truth, however, “for which the human reason offers no experimental evidence,” do not believe foolishly, as though “following artificial fables” (2 Peter 2:16).
For these “secrets of divine Wisdom” (Job 11:6) the divine Wisdom itself, which knows all things to the full, has deigned to reveal to men. It reveals its own presence, as well as the truth of its teaching and inspiration, by fitting arguments; and in order to confirm those truths that exceed natural knowledge, it gives visible manifestation to works that surpass the ability of all nature. Thus, there are the wonderful cures of illnesses, there is the raising of the dead, and the wonderful immutation in the heavenly bodies; and what is more wonderful, there is the inspiration given to human minds, so that simple and untutored persons, filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, come to possess instantaneously the highest wisdom and the readiest eloquence.
When these arguments were examined, through the efficacy of the above mentioned proof, and not the violent assault of arms or the promise of pleasure, and (what is most wonderful of all) in the midst of the tyranny of the persecutors, an innumerable throng of people, both simple and most learned, flocked to the Christian faith. In this faith there are truths preached that surpass every human intellect; the pleasures of the flesh are curbed; it is taught that the things of the world should be spurned. Now, for the minds of mortal men to assent to these things is the greatest of miracles, just as it is a manifest work of divine inspiration that, spurning visible things, men should seek only what is invisible.
Now, that this has happened neither without preparation nor by chance, but as a result of the disposition of God, is clear from the fact that through many pronouncements of the ancient prophets God had foretold that He would do this. The books of these prophets are held in veneration among us Christians, since they give witness to our faith.
[2] The manner of this confirmation is touched on by St. Paul: “Which,” that is, human salvation, “having begun to be declared by the Lord, was confirmed to us by them that hear Him: God also bearing them witness of signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and distributions of the Holy Spirit” (Heb. 7:3-4).
[3] This wonderful conversion of the world to the Christian faith is the clearest witness of the signs given in the past; so that it is not necessary that they should be further repeated, since they appear most clearly in their effect. For it would be truly more wonderful than all signs if the world had been led by simple and humble men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions, and to have such high hopes. Yet it is also a fact that, even in our own time, God does not cease to work miracles through His saints for the confirmation of the faith.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

"The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse" --Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2019 / 04:23 pm (CNA)

On February 21 to 24, at the invitation of Pope Francis, the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences gathered at the Vatican to discuss the current crisis of the faith and of the Church; a crisis experienced throughout the world after shocking revelations of clerical abuse perpetrated against minors.

The extent and gravity of the reported incidents has deeply distressed priests as well as laity, and has caused more than a few to call into question the very Faith of the Church. It was necessary to send out a strong message, and seek out a new beginning, so to make the Church again truly credible as a light among peoples and as a force in service against the powers of destruction.

Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as shepherd of the Church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, and during the run-up to it, I had to ask myself - even though, as emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible - what I could contribute to a new beginning.

Thus, after the meeting of the presidents of the bishops' conferences was announced, I compiled some notes by which I might contribute one or two remarks to assist in this difficult hour.

Having contacted the Secretary of State, Cardinal [Pietro] Parolin and the Holy Father [Pope Francis] himself, it seemed appropriate to publish this text in the Klerusblatt [ a monthly periodical for clergy in mostly Bavarian dioceses].

My work is divided into three parts.

In the first part, I aim to present briefly the wider social context of the question, without which the problem cannot be understood. I try to show that in the 1960s an egregious event occurred, on a scale unprecedented in history. It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose that has by now been the subject of laborious attempts at disruption.

In the second part, I aim to point out the effects of this situation on the formation of priests and on the lives of priests.

Finally, in the third part, I would like to develop some perspectives for a proper response on the part of the Church.


(1) The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality. In Germany, the then-Minister of Health, Ms. (Käte) Strobel, had a film made in which everything that had previously not been allowed to be shown publicly, including sexual intercourse, was now shown for the purpose of education. What at first was only intended for the sexual education of young people consequently was widely accepted as a feasible option.

Similar effects were achieved by the "Sexkoffer" published by the Austrian government [A controversial 'suitcase' of sex education materials used in Austrian schools in the late 1980s]. Sexual and pornographic movies then became a common occurrence, to the point that they were screened at newsreel theaters [Bahnhofskinos]. I still remember seeing, as I was walking through the city of Regensburg one day, crowds of people lining up in front of a large cinema, something we had previously only seen in times of war, when some special allocation was to be hoped for. I also remember arriving in the city on Good Friday in the year 1970 and seeing all the billboards plastered up with a large poster of two completely naked people in a close embrace.

Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.

The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers. And since the clothing of that time equally provoked aggression, school principals also made attempts at introducing school uniforms with a view to facilitating a climate of learning.

Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.

For the young people in the Church, but not only for them, this was in many ways a very difficult time. I have always wondered how young people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications. The extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were a consequence of all these developments.

(2) At the same time, independently of this development, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society. I will try to outline briefly the trajectory of this development.

Until the Second Vatican Council, Catholic moral theology was largely founded on natural law, while Sacred Scripture was only cited for background or substantiation. In the Council's struggle for a new understanding of Revelation, the natural law option was largely abandoned, and a moral theology based entirely on the Bible was demanded.

I still remember how the Jesuit faculty in Frankfurt trained a highly gifted young Father (Bruno Schüller) with the purpose of developing a morality based entirely on Scripture. Father Schüller's beautiful dissertation shows a first step towards building a morality based on Scripture. Father Schüller was then sent to America for further studies and came back with the realization that from the Bible alone morality could not be expressed systematically. He then attempted a more pragmatic moral theology, without being able to provide an answer to the crisis of morality.

In the end, it was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed. While the old phrase "the end justifies the means" was not confirmed in this crude form, its way of thinking had become definitive. Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; (there could be) only relative value judgments. There no longer was the (absolute) good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.

The crisis of the justification and presentation of Catholic morality reached dramatic proportions in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. On January 5, 1989, the "Cologne Declaration", signed by 15 Catholic professors of theology, was published. It focused on various crisis points in the relationship between the episcopal magisterium and the task of theology. (Reactions to) this text, which at first did not extend beyond the usual level of protests, very rapidly grew into an outcry against the Magisterium of the Church and mustered, audibly and visibly, the global protest potential against the expected doctrinal texts of John Paul II (cf. D. Mieth, Kölner Erklärung, LThK, VI3, p. 196) [LTHK is the Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, a German-language "Lexicon of Theology and the Church", whose editors included Karl Rahner and Cardinal Walter Kasper.]

Pope John Paul II, who knew very well the situation of moral theology and followed it closely, commissioned work on an encyclical that would set these things right again. It was published under the title Veritatis splendor on August 6, 1993, and it triggered vehement backlashes on the part of moral theologians. Before it, the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" already had persuasively presented, in a systematic fashion, morality as proclaimed by the Church.

I shall never forget how then-leading German moral theologian Franz Böckle, who, having returned to his native Switzerland after his retirement, announced in view of the possible decisions of the encyclical Veritatis splendor that if the encyclical should determine that there were actions which were always and under all circumstances to be classified as evil, he would challenge it with all the resources at his disposal.

It was God, the Merciful, that spared him from having to put his resolution into practice; Böckle died on July 8, 1991. The encyclical was published on August 6, 1993 and did indeed include the determination that there were actions that can never become good.

The pope was fully aware of the importance of this decision at that moment and for this part of his text, he had once again consulted leading specialists who did not take part in the editing of the encyclical. He knew that he must leave no doubt about the fact that the moral calculus involved in balancing goods must respect a final limit. There are goods that are never subject to trade-offs.

There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value and even surpass the preservation of physical life. There is martyrdom. God is (about) more than mere physical survival. A life that would be bought by the denial of God, a life that is based on a final lie, is a non-life.

Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence. The fact that martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the theory advocated by Böckle and many others shows that the very essence of Christianity is at stake here.

In moral theology, however, another question had meanwhile become pressing: The hypothesis that the Magisterium of the Church should have final competence [infallibility] only in matters concerning the faith itself gained widespread acceptance; (in this view) questions concerning morality should not fall within the scope of infallible decisions of the Magisterium of the Church. There is probably something right about this hypothesis that warrants further discussion. But there is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim to concrete life.

All this makes apparent just how fundamentally the authority of the Church in matters of morality is called into question. Those who deny the Church a final teaching competence in this area force her to remain silent precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake.

Independently of this question, in many circles of moral theology the hypothesis was expounded that the Church does not and cannot have her own morality. The argument being that all moral hypotheses would also know parallels in other religions and therefore a Christian property of morality could not exist. But the question of the unique nature of a biblical morality is not answered by the fact that for every single sentence somewhere, a parallel can also be found in other religions. Rather, it is about the whole of biblical morality, which as such is new and different from its individual parts.

The moral doctrine of Holy Scripture has its uniqueness ultimately predicated in its cleaving to the image of God, in faith in the one God who showed himself in Jesus Christ and who lived as a human being. The Decalogue is an application of the biblical faith in God to human life. The image of God and morality belong together and thus result in the particular change of the Christian attitude towards the world and human life. Moreover, Christianity has been described from the beginning with the word hodós [Greek for a road, in the New Testament often used in the sense of a path of progress].

Faith is a journey and a way of life. In the old Church, the catechumenate was created as a habitat against an increasingly demoralized culture, in which the distinctive and fresh aspects of the Christian way of life were practiced and at the same time protected from the common way of life. I think that even today something like catechumenal communities are necessary so that Christian life can assert itself in its own way.

II. Initial Ecclesial Reactions

(1) The long-prepared and ongoing process of dissolution of the Christian concept of morality was, as I have tried to show, marked by an unprecedented radicalism in the 1960s. This dissolution of the moral teaching authority of the Church necessarily had to have an effect on the diverse areas of the Church. In the context of the meeting of the presidents of the episcopal conferences from all over the world with Pope Francis, the question of priestly life, as well as that of seminaries, is of particular interest. As regards the problem of preparation for priestly ministry in seminaries, there is in fact a far-reaching breakdown of the previous form of this preparation.

In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries. In one seminary in southern Germany, candidates for the priesthood and candidates for the lay ministry of the pastoral specialist [Pastoralreferent] lived together. At the common meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and on occasion by their girlfriends. The climate in this seminary could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely. As a first step, an Apostolic Visitation was arranged of seminaries in the United States.

As the criteria for the selection and appointment of bishops had also been changed after the Second Vatican Council, the relationship of bishops to their seminaries was very different, too. Above all, a criterion for the appointment of new bishops was now their "conciliarity," which of course could be understood to mean rather different things.

Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the hitherto existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new, radically open relationship with the world. One bishop, who had previously been seminary rector, had arranged for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith.

There were — not only in the United States of America — individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern "Catholicity" in their dioceses. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.

The Visitation that now took place brought no new insights, apparently because various powers had joined forces to conceal the true situation. A second Visitation was ordered and brought considerably more insights, but on the whole failed to achieve any outcomes. Nonetheless, since the 1970s the situation in seminaries has generally improved. And yet, only isolated cases of a new strengthening of priestly vocations came about as the overall situation had taken a different turn.

(2) The question of pedophilia, as I recall, did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s. In the meantime, it had already become a public issue in the U.S., such that the bishops in Rome sought help, since canon law, as it is written in the new (1983) Code, did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures.

Rome and the Roman canonists at first had difficulty with these concerns; in their opinion the temporary suspension from priestly office had to be sufficient to bring about purification and clarification. This could not be accepted by the American bishops, because the priests thus remained in the service of the bishop, and thereby could be taken to be [still] directly associated with him. Only slowly, a renewal and deepening of the deliberately loosely constructed criminal law of the new Code began to take shape.

In addition, however, there was a fundamental problem in the perception of criminal law. Only so-called guarantorism, [a kind of procedural protectionism], was still regarded as "conciliar." This means that above all the rights of the accused had to be guaranteed, to an extent that factually excluded any conviction at all. As a counterweight against the often-inadequate defense options available to accused theologians, their right to defense by way of guarantorism was extended to such an extent that convictions were hardly possible.

Allow me a brief excursus at this point. In light of the scale of pedophilic misconduct, a word of Jesus has again come to attention which says: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea" (Mark 9:42).

The phrase "the little ones" in the language of Jesus means the common believers who can be confounded in their faith by the intellectual arrogance of those who think they are clever. So here Jesus protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment to those who do it harm.

The modern use of the sentence is not in itself wrong, but it must not obscure the original meaning. In that meaning, it becomes clear, contrary to any guarantorism, that it is not only the right of the accused that is important and requires a guarantee. Great goods such as the Faith are equally important.

A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus' message must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith, which is also an important legal asset. A properly formed canon law must therefore contain a double guarantee — legal protection of the accused, legal protection of the good at stake. If today one puts forward this inherently clear conception, one generally falls on deaf ears when it comes to the question of the protection of the Faith as a legal good. In the general awareness of the law, the Faith no longer appears to have the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the Church.

I would now like to add, to the brief notes on the situation of priestly formation at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, a few remarks regarding the development of canon law in this matter.

In principle, the Congregation of the Clergy is responsible for dealing with crimes committed by priests. But since guarantorism dominated the situation to a large extent at the time, I agreed with Pope John Paul II that it was appropriate to assign the competence for these offences to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the title Delicta maiora contra fidem.

This arrangement also made it possible to impose the maximum penalty, i.e., expulsion from the clergy, which could not have been imposed under other legal provisions. This was not a trick to be able to impose the maximum penalty, but is a consequence of the importance of the Faith for the Church. In fact, it is important to see that such misconduct by clerics ultimately damages the Faith.

Only where faith no longer determines the actions of man are such offenses possible.

The severity of the punishment, however, also presupposes a clear proof of the offense — this aspect of guarantorism remains in force.

In other words, in order to impose the maximum penalty lawfully, a genuine criminal process is required. But both the dioceses and the Holy See were overwhelmed by such a requirement. We therefore formulated a minimum level of criminal proceedings and left open the possibility that the Holy See itself would take over the trial where the diocese or the metropolitan administration is unable to do so. In each case, the trial would have to be reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to guarantee the rights of the accused. Finally, in the Feria IV (i.e., the assembly of the members of the Congregation), we established an appeal instance in order to provide for the possibility of an appeal.

Because all of this actually went beyond the capacities of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and because delays arose which had to be prevented owing to the nature of the matter, Pope Francis has undertaken further reforms.


(1) What must be done? Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed. Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way. So let us first try to understand anew and from within [ourselves] what the Lord wants, and has wanted with us.

First, I would suggest the following: If we really wanted to summarize very briefly the content of the Faith as laid down in the Bible, we might do so by saying that the Lord has initiated a narrative of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.

Let us now try to unpack this essential content of God's revelation a little more. We might then say that the first fundamental gift that Faith offers us is the certainty that God exists.

A world without God can only be a world without meaning. For where, then, does everything that is come from? In any case, it has no spiritual purpose. It is somehow simply there and has neither any goal nor any sense. Then there are no standards of good or evil. Then only what is stronger than the other can assert itself. Power is then the only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist. Only if things have a spiritual reason, are intended and conceived — only if there is a Creator God who is good and wants the good — can the life of man also have meaning.

That there is God as creator and as the measure of all things is first and foremost a primordial need.

But a God who would not express Himself at all, who would not make Himself known, would remain a presumption and could thus not determine the form [Gestalt] of our life. For God to be really God in this deliberate creation, we must look to Him to express Himself in some way. He has done so in many ways, but decisively in the call that went to Abraham and gave people in search of God the orientation that leads beyond all expectation: God Himself becomes creature, speaks as man with us human beings.

In this way the sentence "God is" ultimately turns into a truly joyous message, precisely because He is more than understanding, because He creates - and is - love. To once more make people aware of this is the first and fundamental task entrusted to us by the Lord.

A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure. In our day, the catchphrase of God's death was coined. When God does die in a society, it becomes free, we were assured. In reality, the death of God in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the purpose that provides orientation. And because the compass disappears that points us in the right direction by teaching us to distinguish good from evil. Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course.

That is the case with pedophilia. It was theorized only a short time ago as quite legitimate, but it has spread further and further. And now we realize with shock that things are happening to our children and young people that threaten to destroy them. The fact that this could also spread in the Church and among priests ought to disturb us in particular.

Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God. We Christians and priests also prefer not to talk about God, because this speech does not seem to be practical. After the upheaval of the Second World War, we in Germany had still expressly placed our Constitution under the responsibility to God as a guiding principle. Half a century later, it was no longer possible to include responsibility to God as a guiding principle in the European constitution. God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a whole. This decision reflects the situation in the West, where God has become the private affair of a minority.

A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase. I will never forget the warning that the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote to me on one of his letter cards. "Do not presuppose the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but present them!”

Indeed, in theology God is often taken for granted as a matter of course, but concretely one does not deal with Him. The theme of God seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us. And yet everything becomes different if one does not presuppose but present God. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as the center of our thoughts, words and actions.

(2) God became man for us. Man as His creature is so close to His heart that He has united himself with him and has thus entered human history in a very practical way. He speaks with us, He lives with us, He suffers with us and He took death upon Himself for us. We talk about this in detail in theology, with learned words and thoughts. But it is precisely in this way that we run the risk of becoming masters of faith instead of being renewed and mastered by the Faith.

Let us consider this with regard to a central issue, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern. The Second Vatican Council was rightly focused on returning this sacrament of the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the Presence of His Person, of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, to the center of Christian life and the very existence of the Church. In part, this really has come about, and we should be most grateful to the Lord for it.

And yet a rather different attitude is prevalent. What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ's death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery. The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.

The way people often simply receive the Holy Sacrament in communion as a matter of course shows that many see communion as a purely ceremonial gesture. Therefore, when thinking about what action is required first and foremost, it is rather obvious that we do not need another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.

In conversations with victims of pedophilia, I have been made acutely aware of this first and foremost requirement. A young woman who was a [former] altar server told me that the chaplain, her superior as an altar server, always introduced the sexual abuse he was committing against her with the words: "This is my body which will be given up for you."

It is obvious that this woman can no longer hear the very words of consecration without experiencing again all the horrific distress of her abuse. Yes, we must urgently implore the Lord for forgiveness, and first and foremost we must swear by Him and ask Him to teach us all anew to understand the greatness of His suffering, His sacrifice. And we must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.

(3) And finally, there is the Mystery of the Church. The sentence with which Romano Guardini, almost 100 years ago, expressed the joyful hope that was instilled in him and many others, remains unforgotten: "An event of incalculable importance has begun; the Church is awakening in souls."

He meant to say that no longer was the Church experienced and perceived as merely an external system entering our lives, as a kind of authority, but rather it began to be perceived as being present within people's hearts — as something not merely external, but internally moving us. About half a century later, in reconsidering this process and looking at what had been happening, I felt tempted to reverse the sentence: "The Church is dying in souls."

Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their conception of the church of tomorrow almost exclusively in political terms. The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope.

Jesus Himself compared the Church to a fishing net in which good and bad fish are ultimately separated by God Himself. There is also the parable of the Church as a field on which the good grain that God Himself has sown grows, but also the weeds that "an enemy" secretly sown onto it. Indeed, the weeds in God's field, the Church, are excessively visible, and the evil fish in the net also show their strength. Nevertheless, the field is still God's field and the net is God's fishing net. And at all times, there are not only the weeds and the evil fish, but also the crops of God and the good fish. To proclaim both with emphasis is not a false form of apologetics, but a necessary service to the Truth.

In this context it is necessary to refer to an important text in the Revelation of St. John. The devil is identified as the accuser who accuses our brothers before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). St. John’s Apocalypse thus takes up a thought from the center of the framing narrative in the Book of Job (Job 1 and 2, 10; 42:7-16). In that book, the devil sought to talk down the righteousness of Job before God as being merely external. And exactly this is what the Apocalypse has to say: The devil wants to prove that there are no righteous people; that all righteousness of people is only displayed on the outside. If one could hew closer to a person, then the appearance of his justice would quickly fall away.

The narrative in Job begins with a dispute between God and the devil, in which God had referred to Job as a truly righteous man. He is now to be used as an example to test who is right. Take away his possessions and you will see that nothing remains of his piety, the devil argues. God allows him this attempt, from which Job emerges positively. Now the devil pushes on and he says: "Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face." (Job 2:4f)

God grants the devil a second turn. He may also touch the skin of Job. Only killing Job is denied to him. For Christians it is clear that this Job, who stands before God as an example for all mankind, is Jesus Christ. In St. John’s Apocalypse the drama of humanity is presented to us in all its breadth.

The Creator God is confronted with the devil who speaks ill of all mankind and all creation. He says, not only to God but above all to people: Look at what this God has done. Supposedly a good creation, but in reality full of misery and disgust. That disparagement of creation is really a disparagement of God. It wants to prove that God Himself is not good, and thus to turn us away from Him.

The timeliness of what the Apocalypse is telling us here is obvious. Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us.

It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them.

The word martyr is taken from procedural law. In the trial against the devil, Jesus Christ is the first and actual witness for God, the first martyr, who has since been followed by countless others.

Today's Church is more than ever a "Church of the Martyrs" and thus a witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering. It is an inertia of the heart that leads us to not wish to recognize them. One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them.

I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.

At the end of my reflections I would like to thank Pope Francis for everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which has not disappeared, even today. Thank you, Holy Father!

--Benedict XVI

Translated by Anian Christoph Wimmer.
Quotes from Scripture use Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE).

Digital Inhumanity

"We are threatened with a flattening-out of emotions, a grasping for what is external, a claim made on existence that...destabilizes the human soul itself to its very foundations."

Images, with their power to relativize, "...induce a general skepticism. One has the impression that one knows everything and can pass judgment on everything. But this could mean the loss of the ability to perceive the deeper dimensions of existence."

Joseph Ratzinger, A Turning Point for Europe?, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994, 94.

"Without a friend one cannot live well, and if Jesus were not for you above all friends, you shall be sad and alone."  Imitation of Christ II, 8, 18.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Lent is Beginning Again

The purpose of to keep alive in our consciousness and our life the fact that being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew; that it is not an event now over and done with but a process requiring constant practice.

From "Lent" (originally published in 1970), in Joseph Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2005, 280.

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Man who Lives Against the Truth Lives also Against Nature --J. Ratzinger

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: The Folly of Faith [Part One of Six]

There are some fundamental human attitudes which are indispensable as presuppositions for the knowledge of God. Among them I would like to mention:

1) listening to the message which comes from our existence and from the world in general,

2) vigilant attention regarding the religious discoveries and experience of humanity,

3) a decisive and persevering commitment of our time and of our interior energies to this question, which concerns each one of us in first person.

Truth Denied

We should ask ourselves now, at this point, if there is an answer for man to such a question. In case of an affirmative answer, to what kind of certainty is it acknowledged to have arrived? In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul found himself facing exactly this problem, and he responded to it with a philosophical response based upon the facts presented by the history of religions. In the Roman megalopolis, the "Babylon" of the time, he stumbles upon such a moral decadence which comes from the total loss of tradition, deprived of that interior evidence which in other times was offered to man, from the beginning, through usages and customs. Nothing is taken for granted anymore! Everything becomes possible. Nothing is impossible, now. There is no longer any value able to sustain man. There are no longer any inviolable norms. What counts is only the "I" and the present instant. The traditional religions are nothing more than convenient facades without interiority. All that remains is cynicism, naked and raw.

To this metaphysical cynicism of a society in decline, dominated only by power, the Apostle offers a surprising response. He states that, in reality, it knows God very well. He writes "...[W]hat may be known about God is manifest to them." (Romans 1:19) And he grounds this claim saying that "Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible perfections can be contemplated with the intellect in the works accomplished by Him, like His power and divinity." And from here the Apostle draws the conclusion "...They are therefore inexcusable." (Romans 1:20-21) According to the Apostle, the truth is accessible to them but they do not want it because they reject the demands that it would place on them. The Apostle employs for that the formula "to hold the truth prisoner of injustice." Man resists the truth which would demand of him a submission which expresses itself in the act of giving God glory and thanksgiving. For Paul, the moral decadence of the society is nothing more than the logical consequence and the faithful reflection of this radical perversion. When man puts his egoism, his pride, and his comfort above the vindication of the truth, in the end everything cannot but find itself upside-down. That which comes to be adored is no longer God, to Whom alone adoration is owed. Image, appearance, current opinion take the upper hand on man. This general alteration then spreads to all of the areas of life. That which is contrary to nature becomes the norm. The man who lives against the truth lives also against nature. His creativity is no longer at the service of the good but becomes a genius and a refinement of evil. The bonds between man and woman, between parents and children, dissolve, and thus the sources of life themselves are blocked. That which reigns is no longer life but death. A civilization of death is asserted.

Saint Paul has thus sketched a description of a decadence which, by its actuality, truly shocks us modern readers. However, he is not content with simply describing these things as was commonly done at the time, a rather perverse type of moralism which, while expressing its judgment, ends by taking pleasure in the negative. On the contrary, the analysis of the Apostle leads to a diagnosis and is thus transformed into an appeal. Found at the origin of all that, according to Paul, is the denial of the truth in favor of the comfortable and of profit. As the point of departure, there is a resistance to the evidence of the Creator which is present on his heart like that of a being which looks at him and calls him. For Paul, atheism, or even agnosticism lived as atheism, is not at all an innocent posture. It always comes, according to him, from the rejection of a knowledge which is offered in itself to man but the conditions of which man refuses to accept. Man is not condemned to remain in uncertainty regarding God. He can see Him if he gives ear to the voice of His Being, to the voice of His creation, and if he lets himself be led by it. Paul does not admit the existence of a purely ideal atheist.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Inherent Secular Distraction of the Novus Ordo Missae

Misa versus populum itself is a terrible distraction, looking at a bunch of old men in the face is itself disagreeable, then with a huge blue banner backdrop reading "Seek Peace," then a ballerina to top it off. One of the comments in the comments box on YouTube said the Catholic Church needs another Santa Inquisición. But where will we find Worthy Judges for that Bench?

In any case, the Agnus Dei musical setting was very beautiful, and in Latin.

I would like to emphasize the point.

It makes sense to have a show if your liturgical outlook emphasizes the showing aspect of the Action rather than the Action Itself.

Ad orientem the emphasis is on what you don't see. The point is the opposite of the "show" of the Action. You're not looking at the backs and bald heads of the dozen old men on the stage. You are "looking toward" What cannot yet be seen face to face.

When the old men are facing you then you are distracted by them and by trying to see What in reality cannot be seen this side of eternity. Bring out the ballerinas!, because we want to see, and the show of what they are showing us is nothing to behold. They need a ballerina because they forgot to put a crucifix over the altar and to face it all themselves for the Holy Action of Calvary so that we could face It with them, that they might help us focus on the cross, our only salvation.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

On Listening and Truth

Listening is the first element in dialogue.

"What takes place here is an event of opening, of becoming open to the reality of other things and people. We need to realize what an art it is to be able to listen attentively. Listening is not a skill, like working a machine, but a capacity simply to be that puts in requisition the whole person.

"To listen means to know and to acknowledge another and to allow him to step into the realm of one's own 'I'. It is readiness to assimilate his word, and therein his being, into one's own reality as well as to assimilate oneself to him in corresponding fashion. Thus, after the act of listening, I am another man, my own being is enriched and deepened because it is united with the being of the other and, through it. with the being of the world... 182

"Men are capable of reciprocal comprehension because, far from being wholly separate islands of being, they communicate the same truth. ...[F]riends [are] capable of mutual listening and understanding because all of them together [heed] the interior master, the truth... The greater their inner contact with the one reality that unites them, namely, the truth, the greater their capacity to meet on common ground. Dialogue without this interior obedient listening to the truth would be nothing more that a discussion among the deaf.

"The capacity to reach a consensus presupposes the existence of a truth common to all. Consensus, however, must not try to pass itself off as a substitute for the truth... 183

"Truth is a becoming one of the 'I' and the world, it is consonance, it is being gifted and purified. To the extent that men allow themselves to be guided and cleansed by the truth, they find the way not only to their true selves but also to the human 'thou'. Truth, in fact, is the medium in which men make contact, whereas it is the absence of truth that closes them off from one another. Accordingly, movement toward the truth implies temperance. If the truth purifies man from egotism and from the illusion of absolute autonomy, if it makes him obedient and gives him the courage to be humble, it thereby also teaches him to see through producibility as a parody of freedom and to unmask undisciplined chatter as a parody of dialogue. It is victorious over the tendency to mistake the absence of all ties for freedom. Thus, the truth is fruitful precisely by being loved for its own sake... 188-189

"[T]he truth...subsists in itself and has more being than everything else;...[it] is the ground upon which I stand. To think through the essence of truth is to arrive at the notion of God. In the long run, it is impossible to maintain the unique identity of the truth, in other words, its dignity (which in turn is the basis of the dignity both of man and of the world), without learning to perceive in it the unique identity and dignity of the living God. Ultimately, therefore, reverence for the truth is inseparable from the disposition of veneration which we call adoration. Truth and worship stand in an indissociable relationship to each other; one cannot really flourish without the other, however often they have gone their separate ways in the course of history." 189-190

"...[A]narchic pseudo-freedom is at work behind every denial of the foundations of adoration, behind every refusal of the bond to the truth and of the demands it makes. These counterfeit freedoms, which predominate today, are the real menace to true freedom. To clarify the concept of freedom is one of the crucial tasks of the present day--if we care about the preservation of man and of the world." 191

June 27, 1982 Munich Lecture by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "Interpretation--Contemplation--Action: Reflections on the Mission of a Catholic Academy" in Joseph Ratzinger, Fundamental Speeches from Five Decades, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2012.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Blind Reason is Irrational and Therefore Uncivil

Medieval Market

"The ambivalence of the modern era is based on the fact that it obviously failed to appreciate the roots and the real-life basis of the idea of freedom and urged an emancipation of reason that intrinsically contradicts the nature of human reason (which is not divine) and therefore necessarily became unreasonable itself. The epitome of the modern era appears--wrongly, in the final analysis--to be that completely autonomous reason which no longer recognizes anything but itself and has thereby gone blind and, through the destruction of its own foundations, becomes inhumane and hostile to creation." 170

"[The] independence of reason has led in the modern era with increasing rapidity to its total emancipation and to an unlimited autonomy of reason. Reason thereby assumes the form of positive reason, as Auguste Comte understood it, which takes as its only standard what is experimentally verifiable. The radical consequence of this, however, is that the entire realm of values, the entire realm of what 'is above us', drops out of the sphere of reason, that the sole binding standard for reason and thus for man, politically as well as individually, becomes what 'is under him',  namely, the mechanical forces of nature that can be manipulated experimentally. Granted, God is not rejected absolutely, but he belongs to the realm of what is purely private and subjective... [T]he real revolution of 1789 [is that God's status was changed], the fact that God ceased to be the public summum bonum (highest good), that he was replaced first by the nation and then, from 1848 on, by the proletariat or else the world revolution... [O]ne would have to say about modern consumer society that its God is its belly." 162

"...[T]he things that constituted [society] as a spiritual reality have been abandoned. ...[T]oday's Western societies appear to me to be largely post-European societies..., which of course live on the aftereffects of the European heritage and to that extent are still European. The plurality of values that is legitimate and European is noticeably exaggerated into a pluralism that increasingly excludes every moral mainstay of law and every public embodiment of the sacred, of reverence for God as a value that is communal, too. Even to question this is considered, in most circles, an offense against tolerance and against the society founded on reason alone. But a society in which this is radically the case cannot, I am convinced, remain a society for long. It will open the door to tyranny when it is sufficiently weary of anarchy... 'An unchristian State is possible in principle, but not an atheistic State.' [Rudolf Bultmann]." 163

Four Necessary Principles for the Survival of Civilization

1. There is an intrinsic correlation between democracy and eunomia, laws that cannot be manipulated but are based on moral standards, on what is intrinsically right. cf. 171

2. "If eunomia is the prerequisite for the viability of democracy, as opposed to tyranny and mob rule, then the fundamental prerequisite for eunomia in turn is a common--and, for public law, obligatory--reverence for moral values and for God...

"This implies that God is by no means relegated to the private sphere but is recognized publicly also as the supreme value. This certainly includes--and I would like to emphasize this strongly--tolerance and a place for the atheist, and it must have nothing to do with coercion in matters of faith. It is just that, the way things are beginning to develop now, in many respects they should be the other way around: atheism is starting to be the fundamental public dogma, and faith is tolerated as a private opinion, yet this arrangement ultimately does not tolerate faith in its essence...

"I am convinced that in the long term the rule of law has no chance of survival in a State that is radically and dogmatically atheistic and that it is necessary to reconsider this question fundamentally--as a matter of survival. I likewise venture to declare that democracy is capable of functioning only when conscience is functioning and that the latter has nothing to say if it is not oriented to the validity of the fundamental moral values of Christianity, which can be put into action even without a Christian profession of faith, indeed, even in the context of a non-Christian religion." 172-173

3. "The rejection of the dogma of atheism as a prerequisite for public law and the formation of a State, along with a publicly recognized reverence for God as the basis for ethics and law, means rejecting both the nation and also the world revolution as the summum bonum." 173

4. "...[T]he recognition and the preservation of freedom of conscience, human rights, academic freedom, and hence of a free human society must be constitutive." 174

"Europe: A Heritage with Obligations for Christians" 1979 Strasbourg Lecture in Joseph Ratzinger, Fundamental Speeches from Five Decades, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2012.

Reason needs faith to free it from its blind spots.

"Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now. But this presupposes an even more radical question: what is justice? The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.

"Here politics and faith meet. Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God—an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. But it is also a purifying force for reason itself. From God's standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly. This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.

"The Church's social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being..."

Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, #28.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Ladder of Divine Ascent, First Book of America, 1537

On retreat last week at the traditional Priory of the Annunciation of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, Charles Town, West Virginia, the refectory reading was taken from Saint John Climacus (579-649), The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 2012.

It is important to note that a Spanish translation of this work, La escala de San Juan Climaco was the first book to be printed in The New World!

Here is an address of Pope Benedict XVI on Saint John Climacus and his book on the interior life.

BENEDICT XVI GENERAL AUDIENCE Paul VI Audience HallWednesday, 11 February 2009
John Climacus

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After 20 Catecheses dedicated to the Apostle Paul, today I would like to return to presenting the great writers of the Church of the East and of the West in the Middle Ages. And I am proposing the figure of John known as Climacus, a Latin transliteration of the Greek term klimakos, which means of the ladder (klimax). This is the title of his most important work in which he describes the ladder of human life ascending towards God. He was born in about 575 a.d. He lived, therefore, during the years in which Byzantium, the capital of the Roman Empire of the East, experienced the greatest crisis in its history. The geographical situation of the Empire suddenly changed and the torrent of barbarian invasions swept away all its structures. Only the structure of the Church withstood them, continuing in these difficult times to carry out her missionary, human, social and cultural action, especially through the network of monasteries in which great religious figures such as, precisely, John Climacus were active.

John lived and told of his spiritual experiences in the Mountains of Sinai, where Moses encountered God and Elijah heard his voice. Information on him has been preserved in a brief Life (PG 88, 596-608), written by a monk, Daniel of Raithu. At the age of 16, John, who had become a monk on Mount Sinai, made himself a disciple of Abba Martyr, an "elder", that is, a "wise man". At about 20 years of age, he chose to live as a hermit in a grotto at the foot of the mountain in the locality of Tola, eight kilometres from the present-day St Catherine's Monastery. Solitude, however, did not prevent him from meeting people eager for spiritual direction, or from paying visits to several monasteries near Alexandria. In fact, far from being an escape from the world and human reality, his eremitical retreat led to ardent love for others (Life, 5) and for God (ibid., 7). After 40 years of life as a hermit, lived in love for God and for neighbour years in which he wept, prayed and fought with demons he was appointed hegumen of the large monastery on Mount Sinai and thus returned to cenobitic life in a monastery. However, several years before his death, nostalgic for the eremitical life, he handed over the government of the community to his brother, a monk in the same monastery.
John died after the year 650. He lived his life between two mountains, Sinai and Tabor and one can truly say that he radiated the light which Moses saw on Sinai and which was contemplated by the three Apostles on Mount Tabor!

He became famous, as I have already said, through his work, entitled The Climax, in the West known as the Ladder of Divine Ascent (PG 88, 632-1164). Composed at the insistent request of the hegumen of the neighbouring Monastery of Raithu in Sinai, the Ladder is a complete treatise of spiritual life in which John describes the monk's journey from renunciation of the world to the perfection of love. This journey according to his book covers 30 steps, each one of which is linked to the next. The journey may be summarized in three consecutive stages: the first is expressed in renunciation of the world in order to return to a state of evangelical childhood. Thus, the essential is not the renunciation but rather the connection with what Jesus said, that is, the return to true childhood in the spiritual sense, becoming like children. John comments: "A good foundation of three layers and three pillars is: innocence, fasting and temperance. Let all babes in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3: 1) begin with these virtues, taking as their model the natural babes" (1, 20; 636). Voluntary detachment from beloved people and places permits the soul to enter into deeper communion with God. This renunciation leads to obedience which is the way to humility through humiliations which will never be absent on the part of the brethren. John comments: "Blessed is he who has mortified his will to the very end and has entrusted the care of himself to his teacher in the Lord: indeed he will be placed on the right hand of the Crucified One!" (4, 37; 704).

The second stage of the journey consists in spiritual combat against the passions. Every step of the ladder is linked to a principal passion that is defined and diagnosed, with an indication of the treatment and a proposal of the corresponding virtue. All together, these steps of the ladder undoubtedly constitute the most important treatise of spiritual strategy that we possess. The struggle against the passions, however, is steeped in the positive it does not remain as something negative thanks to the image of the "fire" of the Holy Spirit: that "all those who enter upon the good fight (cf. 1 Tm 6: 12), which is hard and narrow,... may realize that they must leap into the fire, if they really expect the celestial fire to dwell in them" (1,18; 636). The fire of the Holy Spirit is the fire of love and truth. The power of the Holy Spirit alone guarantees victory. However, according to John Climacus it is important to be aware that the passions are not evil in themselves; they become so through human freedom's wrong use of them. If they are purified, the passions reveal to man the path towards God with energy unified by ascesis and grace and, "if they have received from the Creator an order and a beginning..., the limit of virtue is boundless" (26/2, 37; 1068).

The last stage of the journey is Christian perfection that is developed in the last seven steps of the Ladder. These are the highest stages of spiritual life, which can be experienced by the "Hesychasts": the solitaries, those who have attained quiet and inner peace; but these stages are also accessible to the more fervent cenobites. Of the first three simplicity, humility and discernment John, in line with the Desert Fathers, considered the ability to discern, the most important. Every type of behaviour must be subject to discernment; everything, in fact, depends on one's deepest motivations, which need to be closely examined. Here one enters into the soul of the person and it is a question of reawakening in the hermit, in the Christian, spiritual sensitivity and a "feeling heart", which are gifts from God: "After God, we ought to follow our conscience as a rule and guide in everything," (26/1,5; 1013). In this way one reaches tranquillity of soul, hesychia, by means of which the soul may gaze upon the abyss of the divine mysteries.

The state of quiet, of inner peace, prepares the Hesychast for prayer which in John is twofold: "corporeal prayer" and "prayer of the heart". The former is proper to those who need the help of bodily movement: stretching out the hands, uttering groans, beating the breast, etc. (15, 26; 900). The latter is spontaneous, because it is an effect of the reawakening of spiritual sensitivity, a gift of God to those who devote themselves to corporeal prayer. In John this takes the name "Jesus prayer" (Iesou euche), and is constituted in the invocation of solely Jesus' name, an invocation that is continuous like breathing: "May your remembrance of Jesus become one with your breathing, and you will then know the usefulness of hesychia", inner peace (27/2, 26; 1112). At the end the prayer becomes very simple: the word "Jesus" simply becomes one with the breath.

The last step of the ladder (30), suffused with "the sober inebriation of the spirit", is dedicated to the supreme "trinity of virtues": faith, hope and above all charity. John also speaks of charity as eros (human love), a symbol of the matrimonial union of the soul with God, and once again chooses the image of fire to express the fervour, light and purification of love for God. The power of human love can be reoriented to God, just as a cultivated olive may be grafted on to a wild olive tree (cf. Rm 11: 24) (cf. 15, 66; 893). John is convinced that an intense experience of this eros will help the soul to advance far more than the harsh struggle against the passions, because of its great power. Thus, in our journey, the positive aspect prevails. Yet charity is also seen in close relation to hope: "Hope is the power that drives love. Thanks to hope, we can look forward to the reward of charity.... Hope is the doorway of love.... The absence of hope destroys charity: our efforts are bound to it, our labours are sustained by it, and through it we are enveloped by the mercy of God" (30, 16; 1157). The conclusion of the Ladder contains the synthesis of the work in words that the author has God himself utter: "May this ladder teach you the spiritual disposition of the virtues. I am at the summit of the ladder, and as my great initiate (St Paul) said: "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love' (1 Cor 13: 13)!" (30, 18; 1160).

At this point, a last question must be asked: can the Ladder, a work written by a hermit monk who lived 1,400 years ago, say something to us today? Can the existential journey of a man who lived his entire life on Mount Sinai in such a distant time be relevant to us? At first glance it would seem that the answer must be "no", because John Climacus is too remote from us. But if we look a little closer, we see that the monastic life is only a great symbol of baptismal life, of Christian life. It shows, so to speak, in capital letters what we write day after day in small letters. It is a prophetic symbol that reveals what the life of the baptized person is, in communion with Christ, with his death and Resurrection. The fact that the top of the "ladder", the final steps, are at the same time the fundamental, initial and most simple virtues is particularly important to me: faith, hope and charity. These are not virtues accessible only to moral heroes; rather they are gifts of God to all the baptized: in them our life develops too. The beginning is also the end, the starting point is also the point of arrival: the whole journey towards an ever more radical realization of faith, hope and charity. The whole ascent is present in these virtues. Faith is fundamental, because this virtue implies that I renounce my arrogance, my thought, and the claim to judge by myself without entrusting myself to others. This journey towards humility, towards spiritual childhood is essential. It is necessary to overcome the attitude of arrogance that makes one say: I know better, in this my time of the 21st century, than what people could have known then. Instead, it is necessary to entrust oneself to Sacred Scripture alone, to the word of the Lord, to look out on the horizon of faith with humility, in order to enter into the enormous immensity of the universal world, of the world of God. In this way our soul grows, the sensitivity of the heart grows toward God. Rightly, John Climacus says that hope alone renders us capable of living charity; hope in which we transcend the things of every day, we do not expect success in our earthly days but we look forward to the revelation of God himself at last. It is only in this extension of our soul, in this self-transcendence, that our life becomes great and that we are able to bear the effort and disappointments of every day, that we can be kind to others without expecting any reward. Only if there is God, this great hope to which I aspire, can I take the small steps of my life and thus learn charity. The mystery of prayer, of the personal knowledge of Jesus, is concealed in charity: simple prayer that strives only to move the divine Teacher's heart. So it is that one's own heart opens, one learns from him his own kindness, his love. Let us therefore use this "ascent" of faith, hope and charity. In this way we will arrive at true life.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

False Philosophy and True Philosophy

Insipiens: Te facimus, fortuna, deam celoque locamus.
Sapiens: Fidite virtuti, fortuna fugatior undis.

Source of picture: Alois Dempf, Christiliche Philosophie, Regensburg: Pustet, 1938, 2.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


After decades of reading the Word in various modern and ancient languages, simultaneously eating and living the Word (cf. John 6), it occurs to me that it would be well to consider the Word in Hebrew, the Word learned and used by the Word Himself, Christ our blessed Lord. He gave it from heaven to His People which wrote it, and Himself benefited from it on earth and thereby revealed it and fulfilled it. Here is a video by John Kostik which will whet your appetite for the Hebrew Word. --Plinthos

Friday, March 15, 2019

Martyrs are the True Heroes

Martyrdom of Saint John Nepomucene

Heroes are those who die for the truth, for God, who is the truth itself, not those who accomplish feats with a pruritus for human glory. Augustine suggests this term for martyrs because they are heroes.

Father Jose Moran footnote in Obras de San Agustin, Tomo VI-XVII: La Ciudad de Dios, BAC, 1958, 710-711 n.64.

Cf. Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book X, Chapter 21.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The "Temptation" of Christ was not Tempting to Christ

Any tempting in question is merely on the part of the devil who toys with Christ. This "temptation" is tempting only in the sense of being a sin of irreligion as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is the sin of presuming to tell God what to do, of manipulating God, of treating Him as a hypothesis... "If,...if...if..." making Him the object of an experiment to be "proven" by the tempter. It's the typical sin of the non-believer who would presumes to dissect God as if he were an earthworm in a biology class.

CCC #2119 The sin of "[t]empting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act.(Cf. Lk. 4:9) Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: "You shall not put the LORD your God to the test."(Deut. 6:16) The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.(Cf. 1 Cor. 10:9; Ex. 17:2-7; Ps. 95:9)"

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Conscience is intelligent responsibility to the truth --Ratzinger

"And who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:29-37

"[Moral] concience is the capacity to be open to the call of truth, which is objective, universal, the same for all who can and must seek it.

"It is not isolation but communion: cum scire ('to know together with') in the truth concerning the good, which accompanies human beings in the intimacy of their spiritual nature. It is in this relationship with common and objective truth that continuing formation should occur.

"For the Christians, this naturally entails a sentire cum Ecclesia ('to think with the Church'), and so, an intrinsic reference to the authentic magisterium of the church."

The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, eds. Thornton and Varenne, New York: HarperOne, 2008, 287;
Report of Cardinal Ratzinger at the Consistory for the preparation of the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, April, 1991, IV.2.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Contraceptives Kill People!

Contraceptive Effects

Contraception is a mortal sin because it kills you spiritually.

Many contraceptives kill physically too.

Here is the latest on the fatality of contraceptives. Hundreds of young women die in the US every year from blood clots caused by contraception. Women need to know! Everyone needs to know!

Birth Control, Blood Clots, and Untimely Death: Time to Reconsider What We Tell Our Teens?

 The physical effects of sins often indicate the spiritual disorder thereof.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Every Man Must Fast, Natural Law of Creation

Memento homo...

As we approach the holy season of Lent it is good to recall that fasting, "the primal form of all asceticism," " a commandment of the natural moral law."

"On Fasting" in Joseph Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues, Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame University Press, 1966, 181, 182.

Because "fasting is useful as atoning for and preventing sin, and as raising the mind to spiritual things,...everyone is bound by the natural dictate of reason to practice fasting as far as it is necessary for these purposes.

"Wherefore fasting in general is a matter of precept of the natural law, while the fixing of the time and manner of fasting as becoming and profitable to the Christian people, is a matter of precept of positive law established by ecclesiastical authority:

the latter is the Church fast,
the former is the fast prescribed by nature."

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 147, a. 3, c.

Pieper explains the superior reason for fasting, "as raising the mind to spiritual things" to participate in the cross of Christ in order to glory with Him in his resurrection. Ibid. 183. Note that Aquinas mentions above three reasons fasting is necessary: 1) as atonement for sin, 2) as preventing sin, and 3) as raising the mind to spiritual things. Cf. Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 147, a. 1, c.

Note also the words of exhortation of the USCCB in the 1966 pastoral letter "On Penance and Abstinence," "[W]e hope that the observance of Lent as the principal season of penance in the Christian year will be intensified...Wherefore, we ask, urgently and prayerfully, that we, as people of God, make of the entire lenten season a period of special penitential observance... For all [the] weekdays of Lent [in addition to what is now required], we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting..."

The Traditional Lenten Fast

Ratio purgata: Self-denial Teaches Wisdom --Ratzinger

"...[T]he future of the Church, once again as always, will be re-shaped by the saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone a man's eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered..." 101-102

"...[T]he future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from

1) those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from

2) those who merely criticize others, and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from

3) those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves..." 101

"Only he who gives himself creates the future. The man who simply tries to instruct, who wants to change others, remains unfruitful." 99

Joseph Ratzinger, Faith and the Future, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1971.

Friday, March 1, 2019

“Zero Tolerance.” The Watchword of a Church Without Mercy

But you Tolerate what you Should Condemn!

There are two sinners for whom, in the preaching of Pope Francis, there has never been a shred of mercy: the corrupt and those guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.

Against these latter the watchword is “zero tolerance.” Francis, during the press conference on the way back from the journey to Chile and Peru, identified Benedict XVI as the first to adopt this formula. But in reality it does not appear in any document or discourse of pope Joseph Ratzinger and not even in the 2002 “Dallas Charter” of the bishops of the United States, while on the contrary it is continually proposed by the current pope as his pole star in the effort to combat abuse, most recently in the “letter to the people of God” of last August 20.

“Zero tolerance” - as explained at the February 12, 2015 consistory by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, whom Francis put at the head of the pontifical commission for the protection of minors - implies “the binding obligation that no member of the clergy who has abused a child will be allowed to continue in the ministry.” In practice, this means that someone who committed even one offense of this kind, perhaps decades ago, would be excluded forever from the exercise of the ministry, on a par with a serial abuser. And this even before the accusation would be confirmed by a regular canonical process.

The relentless pressure from public opinion against the Catholic Church explains this recourse to “zero tolerance.” The summit between the pope and the presidents of the whole world’s episcopal conferences, scheduled at the Vatican from February 21 to 24, will be the latest of many episodes in this siege. But this does not justify - in the judgment of many experts - the Church’s surrender to procedures that violate the fundamental rights of the accused and of the guilty themselves.

Since 2001 exclusive jurisdiction over crimes of pedophilia has been assigned to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. This implies that when a bishop finds himself facing a case of pedophilia, after a quick initial verification of the reliability of the accusation he must pass the case on to Rome.

Since then, several thousand cases have accumulated at the Vatican. But as reported by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, for many years a promoter of justice at the congregation, only two out of ten cases go through a genuine canonical process, judicial or more often administrative. All the other cases are resolved by extrajudicial means.

One sensational case of extrajudicial procedure concerned, for example, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel. The congregation for the doctrine of the faith simply questioned the authors of the accusations. After which, with the explicit approval of Pope Benedict XVI, on May 19 2006 it released a statement to “exhort the father to lead a discreet life of prayer and penance, giving up any public ministry.”

Another sensational case of hasty resolution concerned the sexual violence against minors imputed to the Peruvian Luis Figari, founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. Here is what was stated in this regard, in an interview in the latest issue of “Il Regno,” by Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno, archbishop of Huancayo and vice-president of the episcopal conference of Peru:

“The pope says that Figari received a heavy verdict, but we were not informed of the sentence. When we went to Rome and asked to talk about it, no one responded to us. And as the presidency of the CEP we made a terrible impression when they delivered to us a statement to make public: we thought it was talking about the sentence, but it was not.”

Getting to the present day, the reduction of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to the lay state was also the fruit not of a judicial process but only of an administrative one, in which the judge is also the prosecutor and decrees the fate of the guilty.

It is as if the phenomenon of pedophilia has been perceived in the Church as a permanent state of emergency, the obligatory reaction to which is held to be a body of rules also of an emergency nature, as inflexible as possible.

The United States is the country in which this intransigency is at the highest pitch, especially since the “Dallas Charter” of 2002.

During those years it was Avery Dulles, a cardinal and theologian of undisputed authoritativeness, who denounced the very high cost, in terms of the violation of the most basic rights, of the puritanical intolerance to which the Church in the United States was yielding.

He did so in a crystal-clear article for the June 21, 2004 issue of the magazine “America”:

Rights of Accused Priests: Toward a Revision of the Dallas Charter and the Essential Norms [Copied below]

In the opening of his piece, Dulles pointed out how just a few years before, in 2000, the bishops of the United States had criticized - in a document entitled “Responsibility and Rehabilitation” - the judicial system in effect in their country as being too rigid and vindictive, without prospects for a future readmission of the condemned into society.

But with the “Dallas Charter” - Dulles continued - the bishops were taking as their line of conduct exactly what they had rightly condemned in the civil justice system.

In particular, the cardinal showed how for one accused of sexual abuse the presumption of guilt replaced the presumption of innocence;

how the sanctions hit in the same way the perpetrator of a single act of abuse and the serial abuser, without any proportion between the fault and the penalty;

how the sanctions introduced in 2002 were applied, retroactively, to the actions of decades before, in substantially different contexts;

how the abolition of the statute of limitations engulfed the congregation for the doctrine of the faith with cases that were very difficult to verify because they took place so long ago;

how the reduction of the abuser to the lay state was a de facto exoneration of the Church from providing for his recovery and from monitoring his behavior toward potential victims;

how the reduction of an ordained minister to the lay state also raised objections from the theological point of view, given the indelible imprint conferred by the sacrament of orders;

how the outlawing of the guilty ruled out any sort of future conversion and reintegration into the ecclesial institution.

In short - Cardinal Dulles concluded - in the name of “zero tolerance” everything seemed to have been set up as someone who had committed sexual abuse against minors was no longer eligible for the parable of the prodigal son, not even if he repented and wanted to turn his life around.

Since the “Dallas Charter” 17 years have gone by, but the “dubia” raised at the time by Cardinal Dulles remain more relevant than ever. And at the summit of February 21-24 it will be seen to what extent the hierarchy of the Church will be capable of translating them into positive actions, in defense of victims but also of the accused.

On the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors, in fact, the Church’s very credibility is at stake. But in addressing this it cannot separate justice and forgiveness, because only by this means will it be able to remove it, and thereby make visible - as Benedict XVI said in a memorable discourse in Freiburg on September 25, 2011 - the first and true “skandalon” of the Christian faith, that of the Crucified and Risen One.
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