Monday, August 24, 2020

American Catholics Read Thomas Aquinas Again --Ratzinger

American Catholicism has nowadays become one of the determinative factors in the universal Church. The Church in America is very dynamic. She is, of course, also characterized by tensions. On one hand, there are groups who are critical of the Church and advocate a more rational and more democratic Christianity. But above all else there are quite new and vital religious manifestations, new religious communities are being formed who quite consciously aim at a complete fulfillment of the demands of religious life. They live this out of a great joy in their faith, also particularly intending to read again the Fathers and Thomas Aquinas, and to form their lives on what they read. This is a Church that is very strongly bringing to bear the vital element of religion: the courage to give one's life to and out of faith, in the service of faith. This is a Church that takes great responsibility in society through her considerable system of education and through her hospitals...

Nowadays...America, on one hand, provides secular fashions and slogans that spread throughout the world yet, on the other hand, also offers ecclesiastical models. What is certainly surprising about this is that these models do away with a Christianity that is seemingly modern but at the same time too rationalistic, insufficiently saturated with faith, and replace it with genuine impulses of faith and also typical forms of the life of faith...

I believe that it is particularly in the American sphere that people are taking up Catholicism as a whole and trying to relate it anew to the modern world.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2002, 447-449.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Deficiencies of the Church --Newman


"[Newman's] indictment of the Church of England is primarily a moral one, and he sums it up under the following heads:

'1. Absence of all system of moral discipline for the poor.

 2. Absence of all system of moral discipline for the rich.

 3. Our Church's total neglect of her duties as guardian and witness to morality.

 4. Our Church's total neglect of her duties as witness and teacher or orthodoxy [and the concomitant banalization of the liturgy].

 5. Powerlessness of our Church to perform her other duties, especially in helping and protecting the poor, while those are neglected.

 6. Rationalism prevalent in our Church.'"

Christopher Dawson, The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, London: Sheed &Ward, 1945, 108.

Though Saint John Henry Newman was referring to the heretical "Church" of England, his remarks should serve as an examination of conscience for the pastors of the Catholic Church. Our strength and relevance are in direct proportion to our promotion of the Truth, Jesus Christ: true faith and true morality.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Oración de Barsanufio de Gaza

Señor, guádame de todo mal, y dame la fuerza para soportar como a Job, la gracia como a José, la mansedumbre como a Moisés, el valor en los combates como a Josué, el hijo de Nun, el dominio de los pensamientos como a los jueces, el sometimiento de los enemigos como a los reyes David y Salomón, la fertilidad de la tierra como a los israelitas. Concédeme el perdón de mis pecados con la curación del cuerpo como al paralítico. Sálvame de las olas como a Pedro, sácame de la tribulación como a Pablo y a los demás apóstoles. Guárdame de todo mal, como a tus verdaderos hijos y concédeme lo que en tu nombre te pido de corazón para el bien del alma y del cuerpo. Amén.

Protect me, Lord, from every evil and give me strength to endure as to Job, give me grace as to Joseph, meekness as to Moses and valor in battle as to Joshua, the son of Nun, mastery of thought as to the judges, victory over enemies as to King David and King Solomon, fertility of the land as to the Israelites. Grant me forgiveness of my sins with the bodily healing as to the paralytic. Save me from the waves as Peter and snatch me from troubles as Paul and the other Apostles. Protect me from every evil as your true children, and grant my heart's desire in your name, for the advantage of soul and body. Amen

Cf. Barsanufio y Juan de Gaza, "Epistolario", 194: "Collana di Testi Pastrici", XCIII, Roma 1991, 235-236, citado por el Papa Benedicto XVI en la Audiencia General del 4 mayo 2005: "El Señor te guarde de todo mal."

Monday, August 17, 2020

Condom Degrades Man --Ratzinger

 ...[M]isery is not produced by people who bring up children to learn faithfulness and love, respect for life and self-restraint, but by those who try to talk us out of morality and who see man only in a mechanistic way: the condom seems to them more effective than morality, but when they think you can replace the moral dignity of man with condoms, so as to make his freedom no longer a danger to him, then they have stripped man of all dignity, down to his most basic self, and have produced exactly what they claim to be preventing: a selfish society in which everyone lives his own life and is responsible for nothing and no one. Misery comes from demoralizing society, not from moralizing it, and the condom propaganda is an essential part of this demoralizing, the expression of an attitude that despises people and that in any case thinks people capable of nothing good whatsoever.

Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2002, 430.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Doctus Doctorem docendo docet!

A Doctor is Doctored by Doctoring A Doctor

The Master Learns by Teaching (by making a master of the student)

"No disciple is above his teacher; but when perfected, everyone will be like his teacher." Luke 6:40

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Traditionalists are Treated Like Lepers --Ratzinger

We need a new liturgical consciousness, to be rid of [the] spirit of arbitrary fabrication... For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is...important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church's whole past. How can one trust her present if things are that way? I must say, quite openly, that I don't understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliation within the Church.

Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2002, 415-416.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Covid-19 Response Diminishing our Humanity

French philosopher decries corona ‘madness’

Bernard-Henri Lévy believes that our response is diminishing our humanity.
by Michael Cook

Earlier this year the coronavirus pandemic caught Bernard-Henri Lévy, France’s rock-star public intellectual, overseas. He was reporting on the plight of Lesbos, the Aegean island crowded with refugees from Syria, and then of Bangladesh, which was attempting to cope not only with Covid-19 but also Islamic extremism, hundreds of thousands of Royhingya refugees, climate calamities and extreme poverty. 

Much to his surprise, Lévy did not receive a pat on the back and a cheery “well done” for highlighting these crises. (He expected them — Lévy is not renowned for his modesty.) Instead he felt, at first, “icy indifference” and then the hot breath of critics on social media who savaged him for not sheltering in place in solidarity.

There is something mad about this pandemic, Lévy thought, if “solidarity” fails to extend as far as Bangladesh. It shows, he writes in his provocative little book, The Virus in the Age of Madness, that jabber about global solidarity is just “emissions of goodness gases purporting to crown the planet with a halo of sacrifice and abnegation”.

Even in an English translation, Lévy comes across as a bit of a blowhard, a geyser of name-dropping, run-on sentences, news clips and rhetorical excess. But he is an intelligent blowhard and he asks the question that we should all be asking: is the coronavirus changing our culture for the worse? He believes that it is.

First of all, it is hardening us to the woes of others. Lévy tried a simple experiment. He surveyed the media from a single week in April. It was the absence of news which was amazing. Migrants had disappeared; global warming had disappeared; deforestation of the Amazon had disappeared; the war in Yemen had disappeared; ISIS suicide bombings were ignored; the persecution of Uyghurs was ignored. Nothing mattered except the virus.

“The coronavirus had this virtue: that of sparing us from uninteresting, unimportant information,” writes Lévy, “and relieving us of the burdens of following the vicissitudes of history, which had mercifully gone into hibernation.”

World leaders had entered a state of “psychotic delirium”, terrified of being summoned to a “Corona Nuremburg” for having failed to eliminate the disease.

(This includes, by the way, ISIS, which declared Europe a risk zone for its foot soldiers and directed them to wage jihad in “safer” areas like Egypt, the Sahel and Indonesia – so Macron, Johnson, Trump and Merkel are in good company.)

Second, it is making us more selfish. What disturbs Lévy the most is not the inconvenience of lockdowns and the restrictions on individual freedoms that les Americains complain about. It is isolation.

The New York Times is full of lifestyle articles promoting the idea, as Lévy observes, “that confinement is the now-or-never opportunity to do one’s internal housekeeping and rediscover the self-to-self relationship that is supposedly the richest of all human relationships.” This is absurdly narcissistic, he says. On the contrary, isolation drains life of all that is worthwhile. As Aristotle observed, man is a political animal; he is not meant to stay cooped up in a flat for weeks on end.

Lévy is a follower of the French existentialist Emmanuel Levinas (1906-95) who emphasised the fundamental importance of face-to-face dialogue for being fully human, “an ethic not of interiority but of faces”. If we are all wearing masks and isolating in place, what does this do to our humanity? What kind of life is this for a human being?

Lévy describes it in a characteristically bombastic but perceptive paragraph:

“The life that we are being urged to save by staying home and resisting the temptation of reopening. That life is a bare one. A life drained and depleted, as in the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. A life terrified of itself, gone to ground in its Kafkaesque burrow, which has become a penal colony. A life that, in return for an assurance of survival, was ready to give up all the rest—prayer, honoring the dead, freedoms, balconies and windows from which our neighbors, once they had finished applauding the caregivers, could spy on us. A life in which one accepts, with enthusiasm or resignation, the transformation of the welfare state into the surveillance state, with health replacing security, a life in which one consents to this slippery slope: no longer the old social contract (where you cede a bit of your individual will to gain the general will) but a new life contract (where you abdicate a little, or a lot, of your core freedoms, in return for an antivirus guarantee, an ‘immunity passport,’ a ‘risk-free certificate,’ or a new kind of get-out-of-jail-free card, one that lets you transfer to another cell).”

He recalls a touching incident in the career of Charles de Gaulle – not a figure famed for tenderness. In the mid-50s he was visiting Tahiti and his limousine was blocked by a crowd of lepers. Instead of shunning them, de Gaulle emerged, shook their hands, cradled a child in his arms, hugged the organiser and went on his way. He said nothing. It was spontaneous demonstration of genuine solidarity, not a photo op.

Have we seen a remotely similar gesture by a single world leader? Boris Johnson or Donald Trump hugging a coronavirus-stricken 80-year-old clad in PPE? No way.

Third, it is making us surrender our sovereignty to an iatrocracy, a state run by doctors. Reaching back into his philosophical armoury, Lévy recalls that Plato considered this in his dialogue The Statesman and discarded it:

“Politics, [Socrates] says, is an art that, since the retreat of the gods, deals with a chaotic, changing world, swept by storms and rudderless. But, in a storm, what is the point of a Hippocratic nosology of ‘cases’? Do not the difficult times call instead for citizen-guardians possessing the audacity and strength to think through, carve into stone, and proclaim legal ‘codes’?”

In other words, it is not epidemiologists who should run the state, but statesmen. If our politicians are not statesman, so much the worse for us. But the doctors would be worse.

“listening to the ones who know, if we are indeed talking about scientists, is tantamount to listening to a nonstop quarrel and, if the listener is a government, to inviting Fireworks and Chaos to sit at the king’s table. In any case, ‘those who know’ should be regarded with the same caution that we would exercise in the case of any other professional—that is, not blindly.”

Lévy offers no policy prescriptions for combatting the virus. But he makes an eloquent plea for a humane approach to policy – one which privileges solidarity and government by men, not by algorithms. The Virus in the Age of Madness is well worth reading (and mercifully short).

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