Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two Books for the New Year

Having read one and just begun another of two modern American biographical classics, largely set in New York, I thought I might recommend them to my readers. I have known of them both for over twenty five years and only now gotten around to reading them. The Seven Storey Mountain by Father Thomas Merton and Witness by Whittacker Chambers.

Both works are intensely Catholic in their focus because they are blatant accounts of each man's personal quest for God and each one finding Him in the modern world even among the highest and most corrupt levels of society. Merton became a Trappist monk and Chambers became a Quaker and a top journalist exposing Communist espionage in the U.S. government.

There is a connection between Merton and Chambers in the person of Henry R. Luce (Time magazine's founder). In 1949 the Luces donated the property for Mepkin Abbey, a daughter monastery to Merton's Gethsemani, where Henry Luce himself is buried, and of which his wife Clare Boothe Luce continues to be a great benefactress. Chambers was hired to work for Time during his toughest years after his break with communism and became it's chief editor, with Luce's full support.

Take either book with you for your Christmas travels and you will have no time for direct TV!

There is a Whittacker Chambers blog.

Another great Catholic (Chambers was not Catholic but should have been, given his honesty and insight: his self-effacing integrity was most Catholic) American author which I am recently discovering (and was thoroughly Catholic like neither Merton nor Chambers was) is William Thomas Walsh. He produced the greatest Spanish historical biographies in the English language: e.g. Philip II.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Treatise on the Immaculate Conception

Here is an definitive introduction to the dogma and history of the dogma of the immaculate conception. It is by Frederick G. Holweck and is taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition. It contains an extensive historical survey of the feast and the dogma which is most illuminating and appears to be quite thorough.

Immaculate Conception
The doctrine
In the Constitution “Ineffabilis Deus” of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ , the Saviour of the human race , was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

"The Blessed Virgin Mary..."
The subject of this immunity from original sin is the person of Mary at the moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into her body.

" the first instance of her conception..."
The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body. Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.

"...was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin..."
The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul. Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin, the state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.

" a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race."
The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptism. Mary needed the redeeming Saviour to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ's redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.

Such is the meaning of the term "Immaculate Conception."

Proof from Scripture
Genesis 3:15
No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture. But the first scriptural passage which contains the promise of the redemption, mentions also the Mother of the Redeemer. The sentence against the first parents was accompanied by the Earliest Gospel (Proto-evangelium), which put enmity between the serpent and the woman: "and I will put enmity between thee and the woman and her seed; she (he) shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her (his) heel" (Genesis 3:15). The translation "she" of the Vulgate is interpretative; it originated after the fourth century, and cannot be defended critically. The conqueror from the seed of the woman, who should crush the serpent's head, is Christ; the woman at enmity with the serpent is Mary. God puts enmity between her and Satan in the same manner and measure, as there is enmity between Christ and the seed of the serpent. Mary was ever to be in that exalted state of soul which the serpent had destroyed in man, i.e. in sanctifying grace. Only the continual union of Mary with grace explains sufficiently the enmity between her and Satan. The Proto-evangelium, therefore, in the original text contains a direct promise of the Redeemer, and in conjunction therewith the manifestation of the masterpiece of His Redemption, the perfect preservation of His virginal Mother from original sin.

Luke 1:28
The salutation of the angel Gabriel -- chaire kecharitomene , Hail, full of grace (Luke 1:28) indicates a unique abundance of grace, a supernatural, godlike state of soul, which finds its explanation only in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. But the term kecharitomene (full of grace) serves only as an illustration, not as a proof of the dogma.

Other texts
From the texts Proverbs 8 and Ecclesiasticus 24 (which exalt the Wisdom of God and which in the liturgy are applied to Mary, the most beautiful work of God's Wisdom), or from the Canticle of Canticles ( 4:7 , "Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee"), no theological conclusion can be drawn. These passages, applied to the Mother of God, may be readily understood by those who know the privilege of Mary, but do not avail to prove the doctrine dogmatically, and are therefore omitted from the Constitution "Ineffabilis Deus". For the theologian it is a matter of conscience not to take an extreme position by applying to a creature texts which might imply the prerogatives of God.

Proof from Tradition
In regard to the sinlessness of Mary the older Fathers are very cautious: some of them even seem to have been in error on this matter.

•Origen, although he ascribed to Mary high spiritual prerogatives, thought that, at the time of Christ's passion, the sword of disbelief pierced Mary's soul ; that she was struck by the poniard of doubt ; and that for her sins also Christ died (Origen, "In Luc. hom. xvii").
•In the same manner St. Basil writes in the fourth century: he sees in the sword, of which Simeon speaks, the doubt which pierced Mary's soul (Epistle 259).
•St. Chrysostom accuses her of ambition, and of putting herself forward unduly when she sought to speak to Jesus at Capharnaum ( Matthew 12:46 ; Chrysostom, Hom. xliv; cf. also "In Matt.", hom. 4).
But these stray private opinions merely serve to show that theology is a progressive science. If we were to attempt to set forth the full doctrine of the Fathers on the sanctity of the Blessed Virgin, which includes particularly the implicit belief in the immaculateness of her conception, we should be forced to transcribe a multitude of passages. In the testimony of the Fathers two points are insisted upon: her absolute purity and her position as the second Eve (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22 ).

Mary as the second Eve
This celebrated comparison between Eve, while yet immaculate and incorrupt -- that is to say, not subject to original sin -- and the Blessed Virgin is developed by:

•Justin (Dialog. cum Tryphone, 100),
•Irenaeus (Contra Haereses, III, xxii, 4),
•Tertullian (De carne Christi, xvii),
•Julius Firmicus Maternus (De errore profan. relig xxvi),
•Cyril of Jerusalem (Catecheses, xii, 29),
•Epiphanius (Hæres., lxxviii, 18),
•Theodotus of Ancyra (Or. in S. Deip n. 11), and
•Sedulius (Carmen paschale, II, 28).
The absolute purity of Mary
Patristic writings on Mary's purity abound.

•The Fathers call Mary the tabernacle exempt from defilement and corruption (Hippolytus, "Ontt. in illud, Dominus pascit me");
•Origen calls her worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, most complete sanctity, perfect justice, neither deceived by the persuasion of the serpent, nor infected with his poisonous breathings ("Hom. i in diversa");
•Ambrose says she is incorrupt, a virgin immune through grace from every stain of sin ("Sermo xxii in Ps. cxviii);
•Maximus of Turin calls her a dwelling fit for Christ, not because of her habit of body, but because of original grace ("Nom. viii de Natali Domini");
•Theodotus of Ancyra terms her a virgin innocent, without spot, void of culpability, holy in body and in soul, a lily springing among thorns, untaught the ills of Eve, nor was there any communion in her of light with darkness, and, when not yet born, she was consecrated to God ("Orat. in S. Dei Genitr.").
•In refuting Pelagius St. Augustine declares that all the just have truly known of sin "except the Holy Virgin Mary, of whom, for the honour of the Lord, I will have no question whatever where sin is concerned" (De naturâ et gratiâ 36).
•Mary was pledged to Christ (Peter Chrysologus, "Sermo cxl de Annunt. B.M.V.");
•it is evident and notorious that she was pure from eternity, exempt from every defect (Typicon S. Sabae);
•she was formed without any stain (St. Proclus, "Laudatio in S. Dei Gen. ort.", I, 3);
•she was created in a condition more sublime and glorious than all other natures (Theodorus of Jerusalem in Mansi, XII, 1140);
•when the Virgin Mother of God was to be born of Anne, nature did not dare to anticipate the germ of grace, but remained devoid of fruit ( John Damascene, "Hom. i in B. V. Nativ.", ii).
•The Syrian Fathers never tire of extolling the sinlessness of Mary. St. Ephraem considers no terms of eulogy too high to describe the excellence of Mary's grace and sanctity : "Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity ...., alone made in thy entirety the home of all the graces of the Most Holy Spirit, and hence exceeding beyond all compare even the angelic virtues in purity and sanctity of soul and body . . . . my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate spotless robe of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment . ... flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate" ("Precationes ad Deiparam" in Opp. Graec. Lat., III, 524-37).
•To St. Ephraem she was as innocent as Eve before her fall, a virgin most estranged from every stain of sin, more holy than the Seraphim, the sealed fountain of the Holy Ghost, the pure seed of God, ever in body and in mind intact and immaculate ("Carmina Nisibena").
•Jacob of Sarug says that "the very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary ; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary ". It seems, however, that Jacob of Sarug, if he had any clear idea of the doctrine of sin, held that Mary was perfectly pure from original sin ("the sentence against Adam and Eve ") at the Annunciation.
St. John Damascene (Or. i Nativ. Deip., n. 2) esteems the supernatural influence of God at the generation of Mary to be so comprehensive that he extends it also to her parents. He says of them that, during the generation, they were filled and purified by the Holy Ghost, and freed from sexual concupiscence. Consequently according to the Damascene, even the human element of her origin, the material of which she was formed, was pure and holy. This opinion of an immaculate active generation and the sanctity of the "conceptio carnis" was taken up by some Western authors; it was put forward by Petrus Comestor in his treatise against St. Bernard and by others. Some writers even taught that Mary was born of a virgin and that she was conceived in a miraculous manner when Joachim and Anne met at the golden gate of the temple (Trombelli, "Mari SS. Vita", Sect. V, ii, 8; Summa aurea, II, 948. Cf. also the "Revelations" of Catherine Emmerich which contain the entire apocryphal legend of the miraculous conception of Mary.

From this summary it appears that the belief in Mary's immunity from sin in her conception was prevalent amongst the Fathers, especially those of the Greek Church. The rhetorical character, however, of many of these and similar passages prevents us from laying too much stress on them, and interpreting them in a strictly literal sense. The Greek Fathers never formally or explicitly discussed the question of the Immaculate Conception.

The Conception of St. John the Baptist
A comparison with the conception of Christ and that of St. John may serve to light both on the dogma and on the reasons which led the Greeks to celebrate at an early date the Feast of the Conception of Mary.

•The conception of the Mother of God was beyond all comparison more noble than that of St. John the Baptist, whilst it was immeasurably beneath that of her Divine Son.
•The soul of the precursor was not preserved immaculate at its union with the body, but was sanctified either shortly after conception from a previous state of sin, or through the presence of Jesus at the Visitation.
•Our Lord, being conceived by the Holy Ghost, was, by virtue of his miraculous conception, ipso facto free from the taint of original sin.
Of these three conceptions the Church celebrates feasts. The Orientals have a Feast of the Conception of St. John the Baptist (23 September), which dates back to the fifth century; it is thus older than the Feast of the Conception of Mary, and, during the Middle Ages, was kept also by many Western dioceses on 24 September. The Conception of Mary is celebrated by the Latins on 8 December; by the Orientals on 9 December; the Conception of Christ has its feast in the universal calendar on 25 March. In celebrating the feast of Mary's Conception the Greeks of old did not consider the theological distinction of the active and the passive conceptions, which was indeed unknown to them. They did not think it absurd to celebrate a conception which was not immaculate, as we see from the Feast of the Conception of St. John. They solemnized the Conception of Mary, perhaps because, according to the "Proto-evangelium" of St. James, it was preceded by miraculous events (the apparition of an angel to Joachim, etc.), similar to those which preceded the conception of St. John , and that of our Lord Himself. Their object was less the purity of the conception than the holiness and heavenly mission of the person conceived. In the Office of 9 December, however, Mary, from the time of her conception, is called beautiful, pure, holy, just, etc., terms never used in the Office of 23 September (sc. of St. John the Baptist ). The analogy of St. John's sanctification may have given rise to the Feast of the Conception of Mary. If it was necessary that the precursor of the Lord should be so pure and "filled with the Holy Ghost " even from his mother's womb, such a purity was assuredly not less befitting His Mother. The moment of St. John's sanctification is by later writers thought to be the Visitation ("the infant leaped in her womb"), but the angel's words ( Luke 1:15 ) seem to indicate a sanctification at the conception. This would render the origin of Mary more similar to that of John. And if the Conception of John had its feast, why not that of Mary ?

Proof from Reason
There is an incongruity in the supposition that the flesh, from which the flesh of the Son of God was to be formed, should ever have belonged to one who was the slave of that arch-enemy, whose power He came on earth to destroy. Hence the axiom of Pseudo-Anselmus (Eadmer) developed by Duns Scotus, Decuit, potuit, ergo fecit , it was becoming that the Mother of the Redeemer should have been free from the power of sin and from the first moment of her existence ; God could give her this privilege, therefore He gave it to her. Again it is remarked that a peculiar privilege was granted to the prophet Jeremiah and to St. John the Baptist. They were sanctified in their mother's womb, because by their preaching they had a special share in the work of preparing the way for Christ. Consequently some much higher prerogative is due to Mary. (A treatise of P. Marchant, claiming for St. Joseph also the privilege of St. John, was placed on the Index in 1833.) Scotus says that "the perfect Mediator must, in some one case, have done the work of mediation most perfectly, which would not be unless there was some one person at least, in whose regard the wrath of God was anticipated and not merely appeased."

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
The older feast of the Conception of Mary (Conception of St. Anne), which originated in the monasteries of Palestine at least as early as the seventh century, and the modern feast of the Immaculate Conception are not identical in their object.

Originally the Church celebrated only the Feast of the Conception of Mary, as she kept the Feast of St. John's conception, not discussing the sinlessness. This feast in the course of centuries became the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, as dogmatical argumentation brought about precise and correct ideas, and as the thesis of the theological schools regarding the preservation of Mary from all stain of original sin gained strength. Even after the dogma had been universally accepted in the Latin Church, and had gained authoritative support through diocesan decrees and papal decisions, the old term remained, and before 1854 the term "Immaculata Conceptio" is nowhere found in the liturgical books, except in the invitatorium of the Votive Office of the Conception. The Greeks, Syrians, etc. call it the Conception of St. Anne (Eullepsis tes hagias kai theoprometoros Annas , "the Conception of St. Anne, the ancestress of God").

Passaglia in his "De Immaculato Deiparae Conceptu," basing his opinion upon the "Typicon" of St. Sabas: which was substantially composed in the fifth century, believes that the reference to the feast forms part of the authentic original, and that consequently it was celebrated in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the fifth century (III, n. 1604). But the Typicon was interpolated by the Damascene, Sophronius, and others, and, from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, many new feasts and offices were added.

To determine the origin of this feast we must take into account the genuine documents we possess, the oldest of which is the canon of the feast, composed by St. Andrew of Crete, who wrote his liturgical hymns in the second half of the seventh century, when a monk at the monastery of St. Sabas near Jerusalem (d. Archbishop of Crete about 720). But the solemnity cannot then have been generally accepted throughout the Orient, for John, first monk and later bishop in the Isle of Euboea, about 750 in a sermon, speaking in favour of the propagation of this feast, says that it was not yet known to all the faithful (ei kai me para tois pasi gnorizetai ; P. G., XCVI, 1499). But a century later George of Nicomedia, made metropolitan by Photius in 860, could say that the solemnity was not of recent origin (P. G., C, 1335). It is therefore, safe to affirm that the feast of the Conception of St. Anne appears in the Orient not earlier than the end of the seventh or the beginning of the eighth century.

As in other cases of the same kind the feast originated in the monastic communities. The monks, who arranged the psalmody and composed the various poetical pieces for the office, also selected the date, 9 December, which was always retained in the Oriental calendars. Gradually the solemnity emerged from the cloister, entered into the cathedrals, was glorified by preachers and poets, and eventually became a fixed feast of the calendar, approved by Church and State.

It is registered in the calendar of Basil II (976-1025) and by the Constitution of Emperor Manuel I Comnenus on the days of the year which are half or entire holidays, promulgated in 1166, it is numbered among the days which have full sabbath rest. Up to the time of Basil II, Lower Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia still belonged to the Byzantine Empire; the city of Naples was not lost to the Greeks until 1127, when Roger II conquered the city. The influence of Constantinople was consequently strong in the Neapolitan Church, and, as early as the ninth century, the Feast of the Conception was doubtlessly kept there, as elsewhere in Lower Italy on 9 December, as indeed appears from the marble calendar found in 1742 in the Church of S. Giorgio Maggiore at Naples.

Today the Conception of St. Anne is in the Greek Church one of the minor feasts of the year. The lesson in Matins contains allusions to the apocryphal "Proto-evangelium" of St. James, which dates from the second half of the second century (see SAINT ANNE ). To the Greek Orthodox of our days, however, the feast means very little; they continue to call it "Conception of St. Anne", indicating unintentionally, perhaps, the active conception which was certainly not immaculate. In the Menaea of 9 December this feast holds only the second place, the first canon being sung in commemoration of the dedication of the Church of the Resurrection at Constantinople. The Russian hagiographer Muraview and several other Orthodox authors even loudly declaimed against the dogma after its promulgation, although their own preachers formerly taught the Immaculate Conception in their writings long before the definition of 1854.

In the Western Church the feast appeared (8 December), when in the Orient its development had come to a standstill. The timid beginnings of the new feast in some Anglo-Saxon monasteries in the eleventh century, partly smothered by the Norman conquest, were followed by its reception in some chapters and dioceses by the Anglo-Norman clergy. But the attempts to introduce it officially provoked contradiction and theoretical discussion, bearing upon its legitimacy and its meaning, which were continued for centuries and were not definitively settled before 1854. The "Martyrology of Tallaght" compiled about 790 and the "Feilire" of St. Aengus (800) register the Conception of Mary on 3 May. It is doubtful, however, if an actual feast corresponded to this rubric of the learned monk St. Aengus. This Irish feast certainly stands alone and outside the line of liturgical development. It is a mere isolated appearance, not a living germ. The Scholiast adds, in the lower margin of the "Feilire", that the conception (Inceptio) took place in February, since Mary was born after seven months -- a singular notion found also in some Greek authors. The first definite and reliable knowledge of the feast in the West comes from England ; it is found in a calendar of Old Minster, Winchester (Conceptio S'ce Dei Genetricis Mariae), dating from about 1030, and in another calendar of New Minster, Winchester, written between 1035 and 1056; a pontifical of Exeter of the eleventh century (assigned to 1046-1072) contains a "benedictio in Conceptione S. Mariae "; a similar benediction is found in a Canterbury pontifical written probably in the first half of the eleventh century, certainly before the Conquest. These episcopal benedictions show that the feast not only commended itself to the devotion of individuals, but that it was recognized by authority and was observed by the Saxon monks with considerable solemnity. The existing evidence goes to show that the establishment of the feast in England was due to the monks of Winchester before the Conquest (1066).

The Normans on their arrival in England were disposed to treat in a contemptuous fashion English liturgical observances; to them this feast must have appeared specifically English, a product of insular simplicity and ignorance. Doubtless its public celebration was abolished at Winchester and Canterbury, but it did not die out of the hearts of individuals, and on the first favourable opportunity the feast was restored in the monasteries. At Canterbury however, it was not re-established before 1328. Several documents state that in Norman times it began at Ramsey, pursuant to a vision vouchsafed to Helsin or Æthelsige, Abbot of Ramsey on his journey back from Denmark, whither he had been sent by William I about 1070. An angel appeared to him during a severe gale and saved the ship after the abbot had promised to establish the Feast of the Conception in his monastery. However we may consider the supernatural feature of the legend, it must be admitted that the sending of Helsin to Denmark is an historical fact. The account of the vision has found its way into many breviaries, even into the Roman Breviary of 1473. The Council of Canterbury (1325) attributes the re-establishment of the feast in England to St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1109). But although this great doctor wrote a special treatise "De Conceptu virginali et originali peccato", by which he laid down the principles of the Immaculate Conception, it is certain that he did not introduce the feast anywhere. The letter ascribed to him, which contains the Helsin narrative, is spurious. The principal propagator of the feast after the Conquest was Anselm, the nephew of St. Anselm. He was educated at Canterbury where he may have known some Saxon monks who remembered the solemnity in former days; after 1109 he was for a time Abbot of St. Sabas at Rome, where the Divine Offices were celebrated according to the Greek calendar. When in 1121 he was appointed Abbot of Bury St. Edmund's he established the feast there; partly at least through his efforts other monasteries also adopted it, like Reading, St. Albans, Worcester, Gloucester, and Winchcombe.

But a number of others decried its observance as hitherto unheard of and absurd, the old Oriental feast being unknown to them. Two bishops, Roger of Salisbury and Bernard of St. Davids, declared that the festival was forbidden by a council, and that the observance must be stopped. And when, during the vacancy of the See of London, Osbert de Clare, Prior of Westminster, undertook to introduce the feast at Westminster (8 December, 1127), a number of monks arose against him in the choir and said that the feast must not be kept, for its establishment had not the authority of Rome (cf. Osbert's letter to Anselm in Bishop, p. 24). Whereupon the matter was brought before the Council of London in 1129. The synod decided in favour of the feast, and Bishop Gilbert of London adopted it for his diocese. Thereafter the feast spread in England, but for a time retained its private character, the Synod of Oxford (1222) having refused to raise it to the rank of a holiday of obligation.

In Normandy at the time of Bishop Rotric (1165-83) the Conception of Mary, in the Archdiocese of Rouen and its six suffragan dioceses, was a feast of precept equal in dignity to the Annunciation. At the same time the Norman students at the University of Paris chose it as their patronal feast. Owing to the close connection of Normandy with England, it may have been imported from the latter country into Normandy, or the Norman barons and clergy may have brought it home from their wars in Lower Italy, it was universally solemnised by the Greek inhabitants. During the Middle Ages the Feast of the Conception of Mary was commonly called the "Feast of the Norman nation", which shows that it was celebrated in Normandy with great splendour and that it spread from there over Western Europe. Passaglia contends (III, 1755) that the feast was celebrated in Spain in the seventh century. Bishop Ullathorne also (p. 161) finds this opinion acceptable. If this be true, it is difficult to understand why it should have entirely disappeared from Spain later on, for neither does the genuine Mozarabic Liturgy contain it, nor the tenth century calendar of Toledo edited by Morin. The two proofs given by Passaglia are futile: the life of St. Isidore, falsely attributed to St. Ildephonsus , which mentions the feast, is interpolated, while, in the Visigoth lawbook, the expression "Conceptio S. Mariae" is to be understood of the Annunciation.

The controversy
No controversy arose over the Immaculate Conception on the European continent before the twelfth century. The Norman clergy abolished the feast in some monasteries of England where it had been established by the Anglo-Saxon monks. But towards the end of the eleventh century, through the efforts of Anselm the Younger, it was taken up again in several Anglo-Norman establishments. That St. Anselm the Elder re-established the feast in England is highly improbable, although it was not new to him. He had been made familiar with it as well by the Saxon monks of Canterbury, as by the Greeks with whom he came in contact during exile in Campania and Apulin (1098-9). The treatise "De Conceptu virginali" usually ascribed to him, was composed by his friend and disciple, the Saxon monk Eadmer of Canterbury . When the canons of the cathedral of Lyons, who no doubt knew Anselm the Younger Abbot of Bury St. Edmund's, personally introduced the feast into their choir after the death of their bishop in 1240, St. Bernard deemed it his duty to publish a protest against this new way of honouring Mary. He addressed to the canons a vehement letter (Epist. 174), in which he reproved them for taking the step upon their own authority and before they had consulted the Holy See. Not knowing that the feast had been celebrated with the rich tradition of the Greek and Syrian Churches regarding the sinlessness of Mary, he asserted that the feast was foreign to the old tradition of the Church. Yet it is evident from the tenor of his language that he had in mind only the active conception or the formation of the flesh, and that the distinction between the active conception, the formation of the body, and its animation by the soul had not yet been drawn. No doubt, when the feast was introduced in England and Normandy, the axiom "decuit, potuit, ergo fecit", the childlike piety and enthusiasm of the simplices building upon revelations and apocryphal legends, had the upper hand. The object of the feast was not clearly determined, no positive theological reasons had been placed in evidence.

St. Bernard was perfectly justified when he demanded a careful inquiry into the reasons for observing the feast. Not adverting to the possibility of sanctification at the time of the infusion of the soul, he writes that there can be question only of sanctification after conception, which would render holy the nativity, not the conception itself (Scheeben, "Dogmatik", III, p. 550). Hence Albert the Great observes: "We say that the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified before animation, and the affirmative contrary to this is the heresy condemned by St. Bernard in his epistle to the canons of Lyons" (III Sent., dist. iii, p. I, ad 1, Q. i).

St. Bernard was at once answered in a treatise written by either Richard of St. Victor or Peter Comestor. In this treatise appeal is made to a feast which had been established to commemorate an insupportable tradition. It maintained that the flesh of Mary needed no purification; that it was sanctified before the conception. Some writers of those times entertained the fantastic idea that before Adam fell, a portion of his flesh had been reserved by God and transmitted from generation to generation, and that out of this flesh the body of Mary was formed (Scheeben, op. cit., III, 551), and this formation they commemorated by a feast. The letter of St. Bernard did not prevent the extension of the feast, for in 1154 it was observed all over France, until in 1275, through the efforts of the Paris University, it was abolished in Paris and other dioceses.

After the saint's death the controversy arose anew between Nicholas of St. Albans, an English monk who defended the festival as established in England, and Peter Cellensis, the celebrated Bishop of Chartres. Nicholas remarks that the soul of Mary was pierced twice by the sword, i.e. at the foot of the cross and when St. Bernard wrote his letter against her feast ( Scheeben, III, 551). The point continued to be debated throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and illustrious names appeared on each side. St. Peter Damian, Peter the Lombard, Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, and Albert the Great are quoted as opposing it.

St. Thomas at first pronounced in favour of the doctrine in his treatise on the "Sentences" (in I. Sent. c. 44, q. I ad 3), yet in his "Summa Theologica" he concluded against it. Much discussion has arisen as to whether St. Thomas did or did not deny that the Blessed Virgin was immaculate at the instant of her animation, and learned books have been written to vindicate him from having actually drawn the negative conclusion. Yet it is hard to say that St. Thomas did not require an instant at least, after the animation of Mary, before her sanctification. His great difficulty appears to have arisen from the doubt as to how she could have been redeemed if she had not sinned. This difficulty he raised in no fewer than ten passages in his writings (see, e.g., Summa III:27:2, ad 2). But while St. Thomas thus held back from the essential point of the doctrine, he himself laid down the principles which, after they had been drawn together and worked out, enabled other minds to furnish the true solution of this difficulty from his own premises.

In the thirteenth century the opposition was largely due to a want of clear insight into the subject in dispute. The word "conception" was used in different senses, which had not been separated by careful definition. If St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and other theologians had known the doctrine in the sense of the definition of 1854, they would have been its strongest defenders instead of being its opponents.

We may formulate the question discussed by them in two propositions, both of which are against the sense of the dogma of 1854:

•the sanctification of Mary took place before the infusion of the soul into the flesh, so that the immunity of the soul was a consequence of the sanctification of the flesh and there was no liability on the part of the soul to contract original sin. This would approach the opinion of the Damascene concerning the holiness of the active conception.
•The sanctification took place after the infusion of the soul by redemption from the servitude of sin, into which the soul had been drawn by its union with the unsanctified flesh. This form of the thesis excluded an immaculate conception.
The theologians forgot that between sanctification before infusion, and sanctification after infusion, there was a medium: sanctification of the soul at the moment of its infusion. To them the idea seemed strange that what was subsequent in the order of nature could be simultaneous in point of time. Speculatively taken, the soul must be created before it can be infused and sanctified but in reality, the soul is created and sanctified at the very moment of its infusion into the body. Their principal difficulty was the declaration of St. Paul (Romans 5:12) that all men have sinned in Adam. The purpose of this Pauline declaration, however, is to insist on the need which all men have of redemption by Christ. Our Lady was no exception to this rule. A second difficulty was the silence of the earlier Fathers. But the divines of those times were distinguished not so much for their knowledge of the Fathers or of history, as for their exercise of the power of reasoning. They read the Western Fathers more than those of the Eastern Church, who exhibit in far greater completeness the tradition of the Immaculate Conception. And many works of the Fathers which had then been lost sight of have since been brought to light.

The famous Duns Scotus (d. 1308) at last (in III Sent., dist. iii, in both commentaries) laid the foundations of the true doctrine so solidly and dispelled the objections in a manner so satisfactory, that from that time onward the doctrine prevailed. He showed that the sanctification after animation -- sanctificatio post animationem -- demanded that it should follow in the order of nature (naturae) not of time (temporis); he removed the great difficulty of St. Thomas showing that, so far from being excluded from redemption, the Blessed Virgin obtained of her Divine Son the greatest of redemptions through the mystery of her preservation from all sin. He also brought forward, by way of illustration, the somewhat dangerous and doubtful argument of Eadmer (S. Anselm) "decuit, potuit, ergo fecit."

From the time of Scotus not only did the doctrine become the common opinion at the universities, but the feast spread widely to those countries where it had not been previously adopted. With the exception of the Dominicans, all or nearly all, of the religious orders took it up: The Franciscans at the general chapter at Pisa in 1263 adopted the Feast of the Conception of Mary for the entire order; this, however, does not mean that they professed at that time the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Following in the footsteps of their own Duns Scotus, the learned Petrus Aureolus and Franciscus de Mayronis became the most fervent champions of the doctrine, although their older teachers (St. Bonaventure included) had been opposed to it. The controversy continued, but the defenders of the opposing opinion were almost entirely confined to the members of the Dominican Order. In 1439 the dispute was brought before the Council of Basle where the University of Paris, formerly opposed to the doctrine, proved to be its most ardent advocate, asking for a dogmatical definition. The two referees at the council were John of Segovia and John Turrecremata (Torquemada). After it had been discussed for the space of two years before that assemblage, the bishops declared the Immaculate Conception to be a doctrine which was pious, consonant with Catholic worship, Catholic faith, right reason, and Holy Scripture; nor, said they, was it henceforth allowable to preach or declare to the contrary (Mansi, XXXIX, 182). The Fathers of the Council say that the Church of Rome was celebrating the feast. This is true only in a certain sense. It was kept in a number of churches of Rome, especially in those of the religious orders, but it was not received in the official calendar. As the council at the time was not ecumenical, it could not pronounce with authority. The memorandum of the Dominican Torquemada formed the armoury for all attacks upon the doctrine made by St. Antoninus of Florence (d. 1459), and by the Dominicans Bandelli and Spina.

By a Decree of 28 February, 1476, Sixtus IV at last adopted the feast for the entire Latin Church and granted an indulgence to all who would assist at the Divine Offices of the solemnity (Denzinger, 734). The Office adopted by Sixtus IV was composed by Leonard de Nogarolis, whilst the Franciscans, since 1480, used a very beautiful Office from the pen of Bernardine dei Busti (Sicut Lilium), which was granted also to others (e.g. to Spain, 1761), and was chanted by the Franciscans up to the second half of the nineteenth century. As the public acknowledgment of the feast of Sixtus IV did not prove sufficient to appease the conflict, he published in 1483 a constitution in which he punished with excommunication all those of either opinion who charged the opposite opinion with heresy (Grave nimis, 4 Sept., 1483; Denzinger, 735). In 1546 the Council of Trent, when the question was touched upon, declared that "it was not the intention of this Holy Synod to include in the decree which concerns original sin the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary Mother of God" (Sess. V, De peccato originali, v, in Denzinger, 792). Since, however, this decree did not define the doctrine, the theological opponents of the mystery, though more and more reduced in numbers, did not yield. St. Pius V not only condemned proposition 73 of Baius that "no one but Christ was without original sin, and that therefore the Blessed Virgin had died because of the sin contracted in Adam, and had endured afilictions in this life, like the rest of the just, as punishment of actual and original sin" (Denzinger, 1073) but he also issued a constitution in which he forbade all public discussion of the subject. Finally he inserted a new and simplified Office of the Conception in the liturgical books ("Super speculam", Dec., 1570; "Superni omnipotentis", March, 1571; "Bullarium Marianum", pp. 72, 75).

Whilst these disputes went on, the great universities and almost all the great orders had become so many bulwarks for the defense of the dogma. In 1497 the University of Paris decreed that henceforward no one should be admitted a member of the university, who did not swear that he would do the utmost to defend and assert the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Toulouse followed the example; in Italy, Bologna and Naples; in the German Empire, Cologne, Maine, and Vienna; in Belgium, Louvain; in England before the Reformation. Oxford and Cambridge; in Spain Salamanca, Toledo, Seville, and Valencia; in Portugal, Coimbra and Evora; in America, Mexico and Lima. The Friars Minor confirmed in 1621 the election of the Immaculate Mother as patron of the order, and bound themselves by oath to teach the mystery in public and in private. The Dominicans, however, were under special obligation to follow the doctrines of St. Thomas, and the common conclusion was that St. Thomas was opposed to the Immaculate Conception. Therefore the Dominicans asserted that the doctrine was an error against faith (John of Montesono, 1373); although they adopted the feast, they termed it persistently "Sanctificatio B.M.V." not "Conceptio", until in 1622 Gregory XV abolished the term "sanctificatio". Paul V (1617) decreed that no one should dare to teach publicly that Mary was conceived in original sin, and Gregory XV (1622) imposed absolute silence (in scriptis et sermonibus etiam privatis) upon the adversaries of the doctrine until the Holy See should define the question. To put an end to all further cavilling, Alexander VII promulgated on 8 December 1661, the famous constitution "Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum", defining the true sense of the word conceptio, and forbidding all further discussion against the common and pious sentiment of the Church. He declared that the immunity of Mary from original sin in the first moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into the body was the object of the feast (Densinger, 1100).

Explicit universal acceptance

Since the time of Alexander VII, long before the final definition, there was no doubt on the part of theologians that the privilege was amongst the truths revealed by God. Wherefore Pius IX, surrounded by a splendid throng of cardinals and bishops, 8 December 1854, promulgated the dogma. A new Office was prescribed for the entire Latin Church by Pius IX (25 December, 1863), by which decree all the other Offices in use were abolished, including the old Office Sicut lilium of the Franciscans, and the Office composed by Passaglia (approved 2 Feb., 1849).

In 1904 the golden jubilee of the definition of the dogma was celebrated with great splendour (Pius X, Enc., 2 Feb., 1904). Clement IX added to the feast an octave for the dioceses within the temporal possessions of the pope (1667). Innocent XII (1693) raised it to a double of the second class with an octave for the universal Church, which rank had been already given to it in 1664 for Spain, in 1665 for Tuscany and Savoy, in 1667 for the Society of Jesus, the Hermits of St. Augustine, etc., Clement XI decreed on 6 Dec., 1708, that the feast should be a holiday of obligation throughout the entire Church. At last Leo XIII, 30 Nov 1879, raised the feast to a double of the first class with a vigil, a dignity which had long before been granted to Sicily (1739), to Spain (1760) and to the United States (1847). A Votive Office of the Conception of Mary, which is now recited in almost the entire Latin Church on free Saturdays, was granted first to the Benedictine nuns of St. Anne at Rome in 1603, to the Franciscans in 1609, to the Conventuals in 1612, etc. The Syrian and Chaldean Churches celebrate this feast with the Greeks on 9 December; in Armenia it is one of the few immovable feasts of the year (9 December); the schismatic Abyssinians and Copts keep it on 7 August whilst they celebrate the Nativity of Mary on 1 May; the Catholic Copts, however, have transferred the feast to 10 December (Nativity, 10 September). The Eastern Catholics have since 1854 changed the name of the feast in accordance with the dogma to the "Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary."

The Archdiocese of Palermo solemnizes a Commemoration of the Immaculate Conception on 1 September to give thanks for the preservation of the city on occasion of the earthquake, 1 September, 1726. A similar commemoration is held on 14 January at Catania (earthquake, 11 Jan., 1693); and by the Oblate Fathers on 17 Feb., because their rule was approved 17 Feb., 1826. Between 20 September 1839, and 7 May 1847, the privilege of adding to the Litany of Loretto the invocation, "Queen conceived without original sin", had been granted to 300 dioceses and religious communities. The Immaculate Conception was declared on 8 November, 1760, principal patron of all the possessions of the crown of Spain, including those in America. The decree of the First Council of Baltimore (1846) electing Mary in her Immaculate Conception principal Patron of the United States, was confirmed on 7 February, 1847.

Passaglia, De Immac. Conceptu. B.M.V. (3 vols., Rome, 1855); Ballerini, Sylloge monumentorum ad myster. Immac. Conc. Pectantium (Rome, 1854-6); Scheeben, Dogmatik III, 279 sq.; Idem in Kirchenlexicon, s.v. Empfangnis unbefleckte; Roskovany, De b. Virginie Maria in suo conceptu immaculate (13 vols., Budapest, 1873-1892); Le Bachelet, L’Immac. Conc. (Paris, 1903); J. and P. Hobeika, Temoignage de l’Eglise Syro-maronite en faveur de l’Imm. Conc. Et l’Eglise de Paris (Paris, 1905); Sardi, La solenne Definizione etc. (2 vols., Rome, 1904); Petrides, L’Imm. Conc. Et les Grecs modernes in Echos d’Orient (1905), 275 sqq.; Kellner, Heortologie, 174 sqq. (2nd ed., Freiburg, 1906, Eng. Tr. London, 1908); Preuss, Zum Lobe der unbefl. Empf. (Freiburg, 1879); Bishop, On the Origins of the Feast of the Conc. B.M.V. (London, 1904); De Meester, La Festa della Conc. Di Maria SS. Nella Chiesa Greca (Rome, 1904); Ullathorne, The Imm. Conc. Of the Mother of God (Westminster, 1905); Livius, The Bl. V.M. in the Fathers of the first six centuries (London, 1893); Toscani and Cozza, De Imm. Deip. Conc. Hymnologia Graecorum (Rome 1862); Holweck, Fasti Mariani (Freiburg, 1892); Bourasse, Bullarium Marianum in Summa Aurea, VII (Paris, 1866); Waterson, Pietas Mariana Britannica (London, 1879); Schutz, Summa Mariana (2 vols., Paderborn, 1903-9); Coleridge, The Mother of the King (New London, 1890); Hunter, Outlines of Dogmatic Theology (New York, 1894); Kosters in Buchberger, Kirchliches Handlexikon, s.v. Empfangnis Maria, Unbefleckte; Berington, Kirk and Waterworth, The Faith of Catholics (St. Louis), 433 sqq.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Plenary Indulgences

The 1968 Enchiridion Indulgentiarum is the official catalogue of indulgences granted by the Holy See. Here and below I provide the plenary indulgences listed in that book with their respective number in the list. Please note that there are many other plenary indulgences available at privileged altars, etc. which are not listed in the Enchiridion.

Only one plenary indulgence can be obtained per day (except at the moment of death), and it is applicable to one's own soul or to the souls in purgatory, with the normal conditions for a plenary indulgence (again except in articulo mortis): Sacramental Confession, Communion, and Prayer for the intention of the Holy Father, all to be performed within eight days of the indulgenced work. Under those conditions, the first four listed below may be obtained anytime.

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament at least 1/2 hour. (3)

Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a Church or in the family. (48)

Bible, devout prayerful reading of at least 1/2 hour. (50)

Via Crucis, devoutly exercised (going from station to station with at least some mental prayer on the Passion and Death of the Lord at each station). When done in a group it suffices that at least the leader go from station to station. Those "impeded" can gain the same indulgence with at least 1/2 hour pious reading and meditation on the Lord's Passion and Death. (63)

Roman Major Basilicas, devout visit to any of the four reciting there a Pater and Credo, on the titular feast, on any holyday of obligation, or once a year on any day. (11)

Urbi et Orbi Papal Blessing devoutly received, even via live broadcast. (12)

Cemetery visit devoutly praying (at least mentally) for the departed during the Octave of all Souls: 1-8 November, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory. (13)

Veneration of the cross of Good Friday during that service. (17)

"Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus..." prayer after receiving Holy Communion, any Friday of Lent, before an image of Christ crucified. (22)

Eucharistic Congress, participation in the closing Liturgy. (23)

Retreat (spiritual exercises) of at least three whole days. (25)

Sacred Heart Solemnity, publicly saying The Act of Reparation--"Most Sweet Jesus...". (26)

Christ the King Solemnity, publicly saying The Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King. (27)

In Articulo Mortis (at the moment of death), for the faithful who habitually recited some prayers during their lifetime, even if unable to be assisted by a priest and the sacraments. (28)

Saints Peter and Paul Solemnity (29 June) pious use of an object blessed by a bishop or the Pope saying the Creed. (35)

Parish Mission, hearing some of the sermons and participating in the solemn closing thereof. (41)

First Holy Communion, one's own or that of others. (42)

Solemn First Mass, one's own or that of others. (43)

Priestly anniversary upon 25, 50, 60 anniversary renewing his faithful purpose, and the faithful who assist at that solemn Mass. (49)

Station Church (Lent in Rome) visited on the proper day and attending a sacred function. (56)

Diocesan Synod devoutly visiting the Church thereof and saying a Pater and Credo. (58)

Tantum Ergo solemnly recited on Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi. (59)

Te Deum publicly recited on the last day of the year. (60)

Veni Creator publicly recited on the first day of the year and Pentecost. (61)

Parish church titular feast visit, or on the "Portiuncula" (2 August) saying a Pater and Credo. (65)

Church or altar on the day of its consecration, visit saying a Pater and Credo. (66)

All Souls Day visit a church or oratory, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, saying a Pater and Credo. (67)

Feast of the canonized Founder (of an Order), visit a church or oratory of the Order saying a Pater and Credo. (68)

Pastoral Visitation, attending a sacred function thereof to be obtained only once during the visitation. (69)

Renewal of Baptismal vows during the Easter Vigil or the anniversary of one's baptism. (70)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Playmobil Nativity Sets

The German toy maker Playmobil is offering a line of high-quality Nativity sets this Christmas for children 4-10 years old. Check them out. They are not for children under 3 years because the small figures may be a choking hazard. They are wonderful for grade school!

Nativity Manger with Stable 4884 $29.99

Nativity Scene With Stable 5958 $19.99

Nativity Scene 4885 $10.99

Three Wise Kings 4886 $10.99

Saint Nicholas and Angel 4887 $4.99

Monday, November 7, 2011

Southern Tridentine Monastery

This past Divine Mercy Sunday (1 May 2011) Christ the King, a small and quaint SSPX Abbey in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama reconciled with Rome. It is in Cullman, an hour north of EWTN, and just an half hour north of Mother Angelica's Hanceville Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament/Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. The newly reconciled extraordinary form monastery is just another reason to visit that increasingly Catholic part of our beloved South! All of this is two hours west of Atlanta.

For flying there the Birmingham airport is just minutes away from the Irondale studios of EWTN. I'll see about making my annual retreat at the Cullman Abbey.

If you like Conyers you should love Cullman!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Psalter Saint

14 October 1060 was the holy death of Saint Dominic Loricatus, whom we could call "The Psalter Saint." He prayed the entire psalter every day and often various times in one day, while flagellating himself, doing penance to make up for corrupt clergy and all of the sins of the world.

I think about him especially now that I have taken up the 1962 breviary, which is more demanding than the reformed breviary. The previous breviary did the whole psalter every week while the new one does the entire psalter monthly (in four weeks). Saint Dominic said the whole psalter by dawn every day!

Saint Dominic Loricatus pray for the penitence of today's clergymen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Maternitatis Beatae Mariae Virginis

In 1931 Pope Pius XI, in commemoration of the 1500 anniversary of the conclusion of the Council of Ephesus, declared 11 October the feast of The Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Blessed Pope John XXIII chose this same feast in 1962 to begin the Second Vatican Council under the patronage of the Theotokos with these words: "Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned when--under the auspices of the virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is commemorated on this feast--the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is solemnly opened beside Saint Peter's tomb."

A week earlier he had concluded his last pre-Council general audience with these words of extreme affection. "Only a week separates us from the Council: and the first thought turns naturally to the Most Holy Mother of Jesus and our Mother, Mary, who represents for the light of our eyes and the beating of our hearts all that is most tender and most dear in our families."

It is a bit ironic that the revised Roman Calander took this feast off the calendar and now it is the feast of Blessed Pope John XXIII! I'm sure he is not happy with that. This is iconic for the confusion, liturgical and otherwise, that continues to reign in the post-conciliar Church. Let me give just one other timely example of the ongoing confusion in the Reform of the Reform.

The newly translated Roman Missals have just arrived, to be implemented the first Sunday of Advent. The translation is a great improvement from the 1970 disaster. However, the greatest part of the previous edition was excised--the Latin appendix! The new addition has no Latin! Here is another great post-Conciliar irony with which Blessed Pope John cannot be happy. The new edition of the English Missal--with its countless improvements--has no trace of Latin (or Greek [e.g. Kyrie]) anywhere! I would have expected, after all we have been through, the Latin option in the text, especially for the silent prayers of the priest during the Mass. So that I have to see this as another transitional Missal! Simultaneous Latin in the text should be normative for all translations, if it is to be truly an option!

Another matter brought up by the local liturgists is how many times to strike the breast during the Confiteor. They say once! contrary to the constant and long standing tradition and contrary to the usage in the other translations (e.g. Spanish) where the people have always done the three stikes. The rubrics are not clear saying "striking" but not specifying the number of times. Here again the anti-traditional and wrong-headed interpretation of the "experts" continue to be a tug-of-war resisting the continual Reform of the Reform. We will strike three times!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Christopher Columbus Brought the Immaculate Conception to America

On 11 October 1492 the sailors sang the Salve on sighting land, thus bringing the patronage of the Immaculate Conception to our hemisphere. The ship that brought Columbus was Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Spanish Catholics have had a clear and unrelenting devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary for at least five hundred years.

Just thirty nine years later Our Lady herself from Guadalupe converted millions in New Spain to faith in Jesus Christ. There were countless tireless and very effective Spanish missionaries in the first century of the evangelization of America, including the Apostle of South America. It is no accident that the patroness of USA, therefore, is The Immaculate Conception. She was brought here on Columbus Day!

It is noteworthy that the official US patronage of the Immaculate Conception (1846) came eight years before the dogmatic definition. This request for a patronage so dear to the Spanish shows a great international sense of the faith and unity of spirit among the bishops, transcending national borders. Below is a great article from 1954 (the dogmatic centenary) on the whole issue.

Marion A. Habig, O.F.M.

In the year 1846, on May 10, the Fourth Sunday after Easter, Archbishop Samuel Eccleston and twenty-two bishops of the United States were gathered in the city of Baltimore, in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady, for the opening of the First Session of the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore.
Archbishop Eccleston offered up a Solemn Holy Mass, and Bishop Purcell of Cincinnati preached an appropriate sermon.

The ecclesiastical province of Baltimore at this time comprised the whole United States, and hence the Sixth Provincial Council was able to issue decrees for the entire country.

On May 13 the bishops of the United States who were gathered in the residence of the Archbishop and under his chairmanship for the third private meeting of the Council, which began at nine in the morning, adopted a decree by which they chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, as Patroness of the United States.

This decree, translated from the Latin into English, is as follows:

With enthusiastic acclaim and with unanimous approval and consent, the Fathers [of the Council] have chosen the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, as the Patroness of the United States of America; without, however, adding the obligation of hearing Mass and abstaining from servile work on the feast of the Conception of Blessed Mary. And, therefore, they decided that the Supreme Pontiff be humbly asked to transfer the solemnity, unless the feast fall on a Sunday, to the nearest Sunday, on which both private and solemn Masses may be celebrated of the feast thus transferred, and the vesper office of the same feast may be recited.

Shea tells us that it was "to gratify a pious desire pervading the whole United States," that "the Fathers of the Council petitioned the Sovereign Pontiff to ratify their choice of the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, as Patroness of the United States, and to transfer the solemnization of the feast to the following Sunday."1

In the fourth private meeting of the Council, held on May 15, same time and same place, the bishops of the United States agreed to ask the Holy See for permission, in all the dioceses of the country, to add the word "Immaculate" in the orations and preface of the divine office and Mass of the Conception of Mary; and also to add in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin the invocation: "Queen, conceived without sin, pray for us."

The latter favors were granted first, by Pope Pius IX, in an audience on Sept. 13, 1846, and announced by the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda (to which the Church in the United States was subject at that time) in a decree published two days later. When the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore met the ruling Pontiff was Gregory XVI. He died on June 1 of that year, and was succeeded by Pius IX on June 16.

The choice of Our Lady in her Immaculate Conception as Patroness of the United States was approved by Pope Pius IX in an audience on Feb. 7, 1847; and this approval was announced in a decree of Propaganda dated July 2, the same year. Both of these decrees of Propaganda have the signature of Cardinal Fransoni.

Two more decrees, issued by the Congregation of Sacred Rites on April 10, 1848, answered questions which had arisen. (1) The Mass of the Immaculate Conception, transferred to Sunday, has the Gloria and Credo and the Gospel of the Sunday at the end; and, if the Mass is sung, it has a commemoration only of the Sunday; if it is a private Mass, it has commemorations also of other feasts observed on that day. (2) The obligation of reciting the vespers of the divine office is satisfied by attendance at the vespers of the Immaculate Conception on the Sunday to which the feast is transferred.

It will be of interest to list the bishops who signed the decree by which the Immaculate Conception was chosen Patroness of the United States. The first was, of course, that of Archbishop Samuel Eccleston of Baltimore, the chairman of the Council. Then followed the signatures of twenty-two bishops, three of whom were coadjutor bishops (Louisville, New York, and Boston), one an administrator (Detroit), and one a vicar apostolic (Texas). The twenty-two bishops signed their names in the following order:

(1) Michael Portier, Bishop of Mobile
(2) Francis Patrick Kenrick, Bishop of Philadelphia
(3) John Baptist Purcell, Bishop of Cincinnati
(4) Guido Ignatius Chabrat, Coadjutor of Louisville
(5) Anthony Blanc, Bishop of New Orleans
(6) Matthias Loras, Bishop of Dubuque
(7) John Hughes, Bishop of New York
(8) Richard Pius Miles, Bishop of Nashville
(9) Celestine Rene Lawrence Guynemer de la Hailandiere, Bishop of Vincennes
(10) John Joseph Chanche, Bishop of Natchez
(11) Richard Vincent Whelan, Bishop of Richmond
(12) Peter Paul Lefevere, Administrator of Detroit
(13) Peter Richard Kenrick, Bishop of Saint Louis
(14) John Mary Odin, Vicar Apostolic of Texas
(15) Michael O'Connor, Bishop of Pittsburgh
(16) Andrew Byrne, Bishop of Little Rock
(17) William Quarter, Bishop of Chicago
(18) John McCloskey, Coadjutor of New York
(19) William Tyler, Bishop of Hartford
(20) Ignatius Aloysius Reynolds, Bishop of Charleston
(21) John Henni, Bishop of Milwaukee
(22) John Bernard Fitzpatrick, Coadjutor of Boston

The request of the American bishops for permission to add the word "Immaculate" in the orations and preface for the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin requires some explanation. The feast of the Conception of Mary was celebrated in some places already in the thirteenth century; however, it did not clearly teach the Immaculate Conception. That was done in the Office "Sicut Lilium" and the Mass "Egredimini" of Leonard of Nogarolis, which was approved in 1477 by Sixtus IV; in fact, these had the same oration we have today for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. When Pius V revised the Roman Breviary in 1568, though the Franciscans were allowed to retain the Office and Mass of Nogarolis, this office was dropped for the rest of the Church and the office of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin was substituted, the word "Conception" being substituted for "Nativity."

When the American bishops asked for permission to add the word "Immaculate," they anticipated and perhaps influenced a step taken by Pope Pius IX a year after he had granted the petition of the American bishops. On Sept. 30, 1847, this Pope authorized for the diocese of Rome a new office and Mass proper to the feast of the Immaculate Conception and clearly teaching the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception; and, two years later, he extended the new office and Mass to the universal Church.

On Dec. 8, 1854, eight years and four months after the American bishops had chosen Mary Immaculate as the Patroness of the United States, Pope Pius IX solemnly declared the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be an article of faith. Numerous petitions for the definition of this doctrine had poured in during the preceding years; and Pope Pius IX had written the encyclical Ubi primum in which he asked the bishops of the world (1) how great the devotion of the faithful was toward the Immaculate Conception and how great their desire for the definition of this doctrine; and (2) what was the opinion and desire of the bishops themselves.

The American bishops, assembled in the Seventh Provincial Council of Baltimore, May 5-13, 1849, had given a favorable reply to both questions (in decrees I and II, on May 12), informing the Holy Father that the faithful in the United States were animated with a great devotion to the Immaculate Conception, and that they the bishops, would be pleased if the Holy Father declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception an article of faith.

The documents in which are recorded all of the facts mentioned concerning the Sixth and Seventh Councils of Baltimore are contained in volume three of the so-called Collectio Lacensis, containing the acts and decrees of the Councils of the bishops of North America and Great Britain from 1789 to 1869, and published by Herder at Freiburg in Breisgau in 1875.

It is interesting to note that among these documents there is one which tells us that Bishop Carroll had chosen the Blessed Virgin as patroness of the diocese of Baltimore at the time he was made bishop. The document in question is the minutes of the fifth session, on November 10, of the Diocesan Synod of Baltimore held in 1791, which was really the first national synod of the United States.

Long before the American bishops, in 1846, chose the Immaculate Conception as Patroness of the United States, a large portion of our country, namely that which has been called "Our Spanish Borderlands," had been placed under the patronage of Mary Immaculate.

It was in 1760 that Pope Clement XIII approved of the choice of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the principal and universal Patroness of Spain and its possessions; and that included Our Spanish Borderlands-the states of Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Long before that, however, the Spaniards, both in their homeland and in their world-wide colonies, excelled all other nations and countries in their love and veneration of Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion. The flagship of Christopher Columbus on his epoch-making voyage across the Atlantic in 1492 was named not merely Santa Maria, but according to some historians Santa Maria de Concepcion. To the second island he found in the New World, Columbus gave the name of La Concepcion after he had named the first San Salvador. From that time on, countless rivers, lakes, towns, missions in Hispanic America were named for and placed under the tutelage of La Purisima Concepcion.

In our own Spanish Borderlands no less than ten missions were dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, four in Florida, two in Texas, two in New Mexico, and two in California. The two in New Mexico, at Hawikuh and Quarai, were the first; and one of those in Texas, Mission La Purisima Concepcion near San Antonio, still stands today as it did when completed in 1762-the oldest church of the Immaculate Conception in the United States. The church adjoining the Franciscan friary at St. Augustine, Florida, founded in 1584 and dedicated to Mary Immaculate, was the first church of the Immaculate Conception in territory now a part of the United States.

As early as 1644 Pope Innocent X permitted the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin to be made a holy day of obligation in Spain and its possessions, while it was only in 1708, under Clement XI, that the feast of the Conception of Mary became such for the whole Church.

In 1761, the year after the choice of the Immaculate Conception as Patroness of Spain had been approved by Clement XIII, Spain and its possessions also received permission to make use of the office and Mass of the Immaculate Conception, which was then in use among the Franciscans and which clearly taught and praised Mary's singular privilege of the Immaculate Conception.

A further concession was made to Spain and its possessions in 1767, when this office and Mass of the Immaculate Conception were permitted, not merely on December 8, but on every Saturday of the year except during Advent and Lent.

A symbol as well as instance of Spain's devotion to Mary Immaculate are the beautiful paintings of the Immaculate Conception by the great Spanish artist, Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-82). El Maestro, as Murillo is called, painted numerous pictures of the Immaculate Conception, the most famous of which is in the Louvre. It represents the Blessed Virgin surrounded by cherubs and standing upon the crescent, her hands folded on her breast and her eyes turned upwards. Similar to it is his famous painting of the Assumption, also in the Louvre.

The spirit of Murillo is indicated by the fact that he never began a religious painting without prayer and penance, and also by the practice of the pupils of the art school which he founded, who met with the salutation: "Praised be the Most Holy Sacrament and the pure Conception of Our Lady!"

The latter became, in fact, a favorite greeting and aspiration among Spaniards everywhere, particularly in the following form: "Alabado sea el Santisimo Sacramento del Altar! Bendita sea la Limpia y Purisima Concepcion de Nuestra Senora Maria Santisima sin mancha de pecado original!-Praised be the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar! Blessed be the stainless and most pure Conception of Our Lady Mary Most Holy without the taint of original sin!"

In all the missions of Our Spanish Borderlands the Indians were taught to sing the beautiful Alabado at services in the church, similarly as we sing the Psalm Laudate after Benediction, and also at other times. The first verse of the Alabado praised the Blessed Sacrament; the second, the Immaculate Conception; and the third, St. Joseph. The first two verses are as follows:

Alabado y ensalzado
Sea el Divino Sacramento,
En quien Dios oculto asiste,
De las Almas el sustento.

Y la limpia Concepcion
De la Reina de los Cielos,
Que quedando Virgen Pura,
Es Madre del Verbo Eterno.

The following is a literal translation:

"Praised and exalted be the Sacrament Divine in which God is present in a hidden manner and offers Himself as the food of souls! Praised also be the Immaculate Conception of the Queen of Heaven, who while remaining a pure virgin, became the Mother of the Eternal Word!"

Fr. Owen da Silva's book, Mission Music of California, has the following version in verse:

Lift your heart in joy and exalt Him
In the Blessed Sacrament all Holy,
Where the Lord, His glory veiling,
Comforts souls true and lowly.

Laud the glorious Conception
Of the Queen in God's Kingdom supernal,
Who remaining Virgin stainless,
Bore for men the Word eternal.

There is another form of the Alabado which combines these two verses into one:

Alabado sea el Santisimo
Sacramento del altar,
Y la Virgen concebida
Sin pecado original.

And this followed by:

Ave, Ave,
Ave Maria!
Ave, Ave,
Ave Maria!

In 1846, therefore, when the bishops of the United States dedicated our land in a special manner to the Immaculate Conception, choosing the Blessed Virgin under this title as the special Patroness of our country, it was a re-dedication as far as that part was concerned which had once belonged to Spain-Our Spanish Borderlands, which were placed under the patronage of Mary Immaculate already in 1760.

In his History of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in North America, MacLeod tells us that in 1862, of more than eight hundred churches in North America which were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, 145 were named for the Immaculate Conception. Another count made by Fr. Maynard Geiger, O.F.M., in 1943, shows that out of 4,817 churches and institutions in the United States dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 637 honor the Immaculate Conception.

The United States of America is indeed the land of Mary Immaculate. Very fittingly the beloved poet-priest of the South, Fr. Abram J. Ryan, wrote one of his most beautiful poems in Baltimore on the night of Dec. 8, 1880, opening with these verses:

Fell the snow on the festival's vigil
And surpliced the city in white;
I wonder who wove the pure flakelets?
Ask the Virgin, or God, or the night.

It fitted the Feast: 'twas a symbol,
And earth wore the surplice at morn,
As pure as the vale's stainless lily
For Mary, the sinlessly born;

For Mary, conceived in all sinlessness;
And the sun, thro' the clouds of the East,
With the brightest and fairest of flashes,
Fringed the surplice of white for the Feast.

And round the horizon hung cloudless,
Pure stoles to be worn by the Feast;
While the earth and the heavens were waiting
For the beautiful Mass of the priest.



1 John Gilmary Shea, History of the Catholic Church in the United States (New York, 1886-92), IV, 28-30.
Franciscan Friary
St. Louis, Missouri

Taken from the June 1954 issue of "The American Ecclesiastical Review."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

San Luis Beltran (Saint Louis Bertrand)

Today is the feast of yet another great Spanish Saint who has been largely neglected. A Dominican from Valencia he was related to Saint Vincent Ferrer and ordained priest by the Archbishop of Valencia, Santo Tomas de Villanova.

San Luis is the "Apostle of South America", baptizing tens of thousands of natives. Even before he went to the missions he attracted throngs with his incisive preaching in Valencia. He was one of the persons consulted by Saint Teresa about her projects of reform in the Carmelite Order and occasionally was consulted by government officials in the affairs of Spain.

"In demeanor he was grave, and apparently without any sense of humor, yet withal possessed of a gentle and sweet disposition that greatly endeared him to those with whom he came in contact." Catholic Encylopedia 1913

"Saint Louis was one of the earliest missionaries to raise his voice against the rapacity and bad example in general of his countrymen in America."

He died on this day 420 years ago (1581) at the age of 55.

Viva la Espana Catolica!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Modus Operandi Sanctorum

During last week's parish mission, the wise old missionary priest (Father Angelus Shaughnessy, OFM, National Executive Director of the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers) gave me the following advice, quoting from Blessed Pope John XXIII's Journal of a Soul:

See everything.

Say little.

Overlook much.

Besides being the standard for diplomatic conduct and the basic manners of any gentleman, that is a sure recipe for spreading holiness when it is done for Christ's sake by his saints.

In this regard I have in mind His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's supreme graciousness, humility, brevity and clarity before his potentially hostile hearers at the German Parliament. They loved him because he is a thoroughly Christian gentleman, and fellow Teuton, sympathetically calling them to overcome their barbaric tendencies by digging into the treasures of their great Christian heritage!

Would that all men of God should acquire the virtue of saying the good things men need to hear briefly, clearly and sympathetically. In a word: tact! It is most fitting for and very effectively exercised by our Supreme Cooperator Veritatis. Viva il Papa Ratzinger!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pope Benedict Address to the German Parliament 22 September 2011

Here is the unedited historic discourse (with a little glitch in the middle) on the need for true justice in politicians and in politics and the indispensable role of Christianity in ensuring the integrity of our claims of truth and justice by promoting the right relationship between faith and reason. The origin of our culture comes from the relationship between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome: the harmony between faith in the one true God, the highest achievements of human reason and philosophy and the proper ordering of society with civil law. We need God to regain our bearings and certainty regarding our nature and dignity, and our consequent responsibility to respect that same nature. The "is" and the "ought" need to be brought together again and they can be authoritatively joined only by the living God: that man is made in the image and likeness of the Truth Himself. We have the capacity to know the truth about ourselves and have duties consequent upon that reasonable knowledge because God is true. Because the Absolute exists and we exist in relationship to him. Without God everything is relative and government becomes the rule of the most clever crooks. "Man is mind and will but he is also nature!" God alone guarantee's it.

Above is the video in German. Below is the complete English translation text.

We could say that this discourse is a particular application of what was called for in the Regensburg Address: a cultural re-birth established upon our necessary Christian-Hellenic cradle!

22-25 SEPTEMBER 2011



Reichstag Building, Berlin
Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Listening Heart
Reflections on the Foundations of Law

Mr President of the Federal Republic,
Mr President of the Bundestag,
Madam Chancellor,
Madam President of the Bundesrat,
Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the House,

It is an honour and a joy for me to speak before this distinguished house, before the Parliament of my native Germany, that meets here as a democratically elected representation of the people, in order to work for the good of the Federal Republic of Germany. I should like to thank the President of the Bundestag both for his invitation to deliver this address and for the kind words of greeting and appreciation with which he has welcomed me. At this moment I turn to you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, not least as your fellow-countryman who for all his life has been conscious of close links to his origins, and has followed the affairs of his native Germany with keen interest. But the invitation to give this address was extended to me as Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, who bears the highest responsibility for Catholic Christianity. In issuing this invitation you are acknowledging the role that the Holy See plays as a partner within the community of peoples and states. Setting out from this international responsibility that I hold, I should like to propose to you some thoughts on the foundations of a free state of law.

Allow me to begin my reflections on the foundations of law [Recht] with a brief story from sacred Scripture. In the First Book of the Kings, it is recounted that God invited the young King Solomon, on his accession to the throne, to make a request. What will the young ruler ask for at this important moment? Success – wealth – long life – destruction of his enemies? He chooses none of these things. Instead, he asks for a listening heart so that he may govern God’s people, and discern between good and evil (cf. 1 Kg 3:9). Through this story, the Bible wants to tell us what should ultimately matter for a politician. His fundamental criterion and the motivation for his work as a politician must not be success, and certainly not material gain. Politics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace. Naturally a politician will seek success, without which he would have no opportunity for effective political action at all. Yet success is subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right, and to the understanding of what is right. Success can also be seductive and thus can open up the path towards the falsification of what is right, towards the destruction of justice. “Without justice – what else is the State but a great band of robbers?”, as Saint Augustine once said. We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty spectre. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right – a highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss. To serve right and to fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician. At a moment in history when man has acquired previously inconceivable power, this task takes on a particular urgency. Man can destroy the world. He can manipulate himself. He can, so to speak, make human beings and he can deny them their humanity. How do we recognize what is right? How can we discern between good and evil, between what is truly right and what may appear right? Even now, Solomon’s request remains the decisive issue facing politicians and politics today.

For most of the matters that need to be regulated by law, the support of the majority can serve as a sufficient criterion. Yet it is evident that for the fundamental issues of law, in which the dignity of man and of humanity is at stake, the majority principle is not enough: everyone in a position of responsibility must personally seek out the criteria to be followed when framing laws. In the third century, the great theologian Origen provided the following explanation for the resistance of Christians to certain legal systems: “Suppose that a man were living among the Scythians, whose laws are contrary to the divine law, and was compelled to live among them ... such a man for the sake of the true law, though illegal among the Scythians, would rightly form associations with like-minded people contrary to the laws of the Scythians.”[1]

This conviction was what motivated resistance movements to act against the Nazi regime and other totalitarian regimes, thereby doing a great service to justice and to humanity as a whole. For these people, it was indisputably evident that the law in force was actually unlawful. Yet when it comes to the decisions of a democratic politician, the question of what now corresponds to the law of truth, what is actually right and may be enacted as law, is less obvious. In terms of the underlying anthropological issues, what is right and may be given the force of law is in no way simply self-evident today. The question of how to recognize what is truly right and thus to serve justice when framing laws has never been simple, and today in view of the vast extent of our knowledge and our capacity, it has become still harder.

How do we recognize what is right? In history, systems of law have almost always been based on religion: decisions regarding what was to be lawful among men were taken with reference to the divinity. Unlike other great religions, Christianity has never proposed a revealed law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. Instead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law – and to the harmony of objective and subjective reason, which naturally presupposes that both spheres are rooted in the creative reason of God. Christian theologians thereby aligned themselves with a philosophical and juridical movement that began to take shape in the second century B.C. In the first half of that century, the social natural law developed by the Stoic philosophers came into contact with leading teachers of Roman Law.[2] Through this encounter, the juridical culture of the West was born, which was and is of key significance for the juridical culture of mankind. This pre-Christian marriage between law and philosophy opened up the path that led via the Christian Middle Ages and the juridical developments of the Age of Enlightenment all the way to the Declaration of Human Rights and to our German Basic Law of 1949, with which our nation committed itself to “inviolable and inalienable human rights as the foundation of every human community, and of peace and justice in the world”.

For the development of law and for the development of humanity, it was highly significant that Christian theologians aligned themselves against the religious law associated with polytheism and on the side of philosophy, and that they acknowledged reason and nature in their interrelation as the universally valid source of law. This step had already been taken by Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans, when he said: “When Gentiles who have not the Law [the Torah of Israel] do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves ... they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness ...” (Rom 2:14f.). Here we see the two fundamental concepts of nature and conscience, where conscience is nothing other than Solomon’s listening heart, reason that is open to the language of being. If this seemed to offer a clear explanation of the foundations of legislation up to the time of the Enlightenment, up to the time of the Declaration on Human Rights after the Second World War and the framing of our Basic Law, there has been a dramatic shift in the situation in the last half-century. The idea of natural law is today viewed as a specifically Catholic doctrine, not worth bringing into the discussion in a non-Catholic environment, so that one feels almost ashamed even to mention the term. Let me outline briefly how this situation arose. Fundamentally it is because of the idea that an unbridgeable gulf exists between “is” and “ought”. An “ought” can never follow from an “is”, because the two are situated on completely different planes. The reason for this is that in the meantime, the positivist understanding of nature has come to be almost universally accepted. If nature – in the words of Hans Kelsen – is viewed as “an aggregate of objective data linked together in terms of cause and effect”, then indeed no ethical indication of any kind can be derived from it.[3] A positivist conception of nature as purely functional, as the natural sciences consider it to be, is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law, but once again yields only functional answers. The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding that is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason strictly understood. Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field, and they remain extraneous to the realm of reason in the strict sense of the word. Where positivist reason dominates the field to the exclusion of all else – and that is broadly the case in our public mindset – then the classical sources of knowledge for ethics and law are excluded. This is a dramatic situation which affects everyone, and on which a public debate is necessary. Indeed, an essential goal of this address is to issue an urgent invitation to launch one.

The positivist approach to nature and reason, the positivist world view in general, is a most important dimension of human knowledge and capacity that we may in no way dispense with. But in and of itself it is not a sufficient culture corresponding to the full breadth of the human condition. Where positivist reason considers itself the only sufficient culture and banishes all other cultural realities to the status of subcultures, it diminishes man, indeed it threatens his humanity. I say this with Europe specifically in mind, where there are concerted efforts to recognize only positivism as a common culture and a common basis for law-making, reducing all the other insights and values of our culture to the level of subculture, with the result that Europe vis-à-vis other world cultures is left in a state of culturelessness and at the same time extremist and radical movements emerge to fill the vacuum. In its self-proclaimed exclusivity, the positivist reason which recognizes nothing beyond mere functionality resembles a concrete bunker with no windows, in which we ourselves provide lighting and atmospheric conditions, being no longer willing to obtain either from God’s wide world. And yet we cannot hide from ourselves the fact that even in this artificial world, we are still covertly drawing upon God’s raw materials, which we refashion into our own products. The windows must be flung open again, we must see the wide world, the sky and the earth once more and learn to make proper use of all this.

But how are we to do this? How do we find our way out into the wide world, into the big picture? How can reason rediscover its true greatness, without being sidetracked into irrationality? How can nature reassert itself in its true depth, with all its demands, with all its directives? I would like to recall one of the developments in recent political history, hoping that I will neither be misunderstood, nor provoke too many one-sided polemics. I would say that the emergence of the ecological movement in German politics since the 1970s, while it has not exactly flung open the windows, nevertheless was and continues to be a cry for fresh air which must not be ignored or pushed aside, just because too much of it is seen to be irrational. Young people had come to realize that something is wrong in our relationship with nature, that matter is not just raw material for us to shape at will, but that the earth has a dignity of its own and that we must follow its directives. In saying this, I am clearly not promoting any particular political party – nothing could be further from my mind. If something is wrong in our relationship with reality, then we must all reflect seriously on the whole situation and we are all prompted to question the very foundations of our culture. Allow me to dwell a little longer on this point. The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.

Let us come back to the fundamental concepts of nature and reason, from which we set out. The great proponent of legal positivism, Kelsen, at the age of 84 – in 1965 – abandoned the dualism of “is” and “ought”. (I find it comforting that rational thought is evidently still possible at the age of 84!) Previously he had said that norms can only come from the will. Nature therefore could only contain norms, he adds, if a will had put them there. But this, he says, would presuppose a Creator God, whose will had entered into nature. “Any attempt to discuss the truth of this belief is utterly futile”, he observed.[4] Is it really? – I find myself asking. Is it really pointless to wonder whether the objective reason that manifests itself in nature does not presuppose a creative reason, a Creator Spiritus?

At this point Europe’s cultural heritage ought to come to our assistance. The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.

As he assumed the mantle of office, the young King Solomon was invited to make a request. How would it be if we, the law-makers of today, were invited to make a request? What would we ask for? I think that, even today, there is ultimately nothing else we could wish for but a listening heart – the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace. I thank you for your attention!


[1] Contra Celsum, Book 1, Chapter 1. Cf. A. Fürst, “Monotheismus und Monarchie. Zum Zusammenhang von Heil und Herrschaft in der Antike”, Theol.Phil. 81 (2006), pp. 321-338, quoted on p. 336; cf. also J. Ratzinger, Die Einheit der Nationen. Eine Vision der Kirchenväter (Salzburg and Munich, 1971), p. 60.

[2] Cf. W. Waldstein, Ins Herz geschrieben. Das Naturrecht als Fundament einer menschlichen Gesellschaft (Augsburg, 2010), pp. 11ff., 31-61.

[3] Cf. Waldstein, op. cit., pp. 15-21.

[4] Cf. Waldstein, op. cit., p. 19.

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