Monthly Archives: April 2016

Great Chesterton excerpt on the relationship of history to economics

The truth is that the mere economic motive would never have produced anything like what we call the history of men; even if it produced something like the history of mice. Even if we merely think that men have behaved too much like mice, we shall in fact find that some notion of moral order was behind their action; was behind even their inaction. We may think we can prove their inaction to be servile, to be superstitious; the one thing we cannot prove it to be is materialistic; or even economic.

(source: History Is Humanity)

Cultivate, cultivate, cultivate

Is it not true that what we call “nature” in a cosmic sense has its origin in “a plan of love and truth”? The world “is not the product of any necessity whatsoever, nor of blind fate or chance… The world proceeds from the free will of God; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, in his intelligence, and in his goodness.”[ix] The Book of Genesis, in its very first pages, points to the wise design of the cosmos: it comes forth from God’s mind and finds its culmination in man and woman, made in the image and likeness of the Creator to “fill the earth” and to “have dominion over” it as “stewards” of God himself (cf. Gen 1:28). The harmony between the Creator, mankind and the created world, as described by Sacred Scripture, was disrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve, by man and woman, who wanted to take the place of God and refused to acknowledge that they were his creatures. As a result, the work of “exercising dominion” over the earth, “tilling it and keeping it,” was also disrupted, and conflict arose within and between mankind and the rest of creation (cf. Gen 3:17‒19). Human beings let themselves be mastered by selfishness; they misunderstood the meaning of God’s command and exploited creation out of a desire to exercise absolute domination over it. But the true meaning of God’s original command, as the Book of Genesis clearly shows, was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility. The wisdom of the ancients had recognized that nature is not at our disposal as “a heap of scattered refuse.”[x] Biblical Revelation made us see that nature is a gift of the Creator, who gave it an inbuilt order and enabled man to draw from it the principles needed to “till it and keep it” (cf. Gen. 2:15).[xi] Everything that exists belongs to God, who has entrusted it to man, albeit not for his arbitrary use. Once man, instead of acting as God’s co-worker, sets himself up in place of God, he ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, “which is more tyrannized than governed by him.”[xii] Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it.[xiii]

(source: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation | Humanum Review)

Thoughtful and carefully written

This program includes formation of the whole human person. We cannot disaggregate our efforts or offer our formation a la carte, because: “In the Catholic school’s educational project, there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom,” according to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. The Congregation also emphasizes that everything in a Catholic school is Catholic, and the faith is everywhere:

What makes the Catholic school distinctive is its religious dimension, and that this is to be found in a) the educational climate, b) the personal development of each student, c) the relationship established between culture and the Gospel, d) the illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith.

A student or family may not like every part of the complete educational project, but they should be expected to participate in the complete mission, to the fullest extent possible for their state of life, and never do anything that works against the mission, or protests it. Surely those whose religious practices and beliefs run counter to Church teaching might experience conflicts as the school maintains mission integrity. Sincere questioning of the practices and traditions of the Catholic faith, in order to more deeply understand them, ought to be welcome, but openly hostile and public defiance of Catholic truths or morality are signs that a student may not be a good fit for a Catholic school’s primary evangelical mission and, therefore, may be denied admission.

(source: Serving LGBT Students in Catholic Schools)

Another from GKC on our Thomas

For on one preliminary point, this position must not be misunderstood. When we praise the practical value of the Aristotelian Revolution, and the originality of Aquinas in leading it, we do not mean that the Scholastic philosophers before him had not been philosophers, or had not been highly philosophical, or had not been in touch with ancient philosophy. In so far as there was ever a bad break in philosophical history, it was not before St. Thomas, or at the beginning of medieval history; it was after St. Thomas and at the beginning of modern history. The great intellectual tradition that comes down to us from Pythagoras and Plato was never interrupted or lost through such trifles as the sack of Rome, the triumph of Attila or all the barbarian invasions of the Dark Ages. It was only lost after the introduction of printing, the discovery of America, the founding of the Royal Society and all the enlightenment of the Renaissance and the modern world. It was there, if anywhere, that there was lost or impatiently snapped the long thin delicate thread that had descended from distant antiquity; the thread of that unusual human hobby; the habit of thinking. This is proved by the fact that the printed books of this later period largely had to wait for the eighteenth century, or the end of the seventeenth century, to find even the names of the new philosophers; who were at the best a new kind of philosophers. But the decline of the Empire, the Dark Ages and the early Middle Ages, though too much tempted to neglect what was opposed to Platonic philosophy, had never neglected philosophy. In that sense St. Thomas, like most other very original men, has a long and clear pedigree. He himself is constantly referring back to the authorities from St. Augustine to St. Anselm, and from St. Anselm to St. Albert, and even when he differs, he also defers.

(source: gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100331.txt)

Do not miss the point

In short, most people, Christian or heathen, would now agree that the Franciscan sentiment was primarily a Christian sentiment, unfolded from within, out of an innocent (or, if you will, ignorant) faith in the Christian religion itself. Nobody, as I have said, says that St. Francis drew his primary inspiration from Ovid. It would be every bit as false to say that Aquinas drew his primary inspiration from Aristotle. The whole lesson of his life, especially of his early life, the whole story of his childhood and choice of a career, shows that he was supremely and directly devotional; and that he passionately loved the Catholic worship long before he found he had to fight for it. But there is also a special and clinching instance of this which once more connects St. Thomas with St. Francis. It seems to be strangely forgotten that both these saints were in actual fact imitating a Master, who was not Aristotle let alone Ovid, when they sanctified the senses or the simple things of nature; when St. Francis walked humbly among the beasts or St. Thomas debated courteously among the Gentiles.

Those who miss this, miss the point of the religion, even if it be a superstition; nay, they miss the very point they would call most superstitious. I mean the whole staggering story of the God-Man in the Gospels. A few even miss it touching St. Francis and his unmixed and unlearned appeal to the Gospels. They will talk of the readiness of St. Francis to learn from the flowers or the birds as something that can only point onward to the Pagan Renaissance. Whereas the fact stares them in the face; first, that it points backwards to the New Testament, and second that it points forward, if it points to anything, to the Aristotelian realism of the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. They vaguely imagine that anybody who is humanising divinity must be paganising divinity without seeing that the humanising of divinity is actually the strongest and starkest and most incredible dogma in the Creed. St. Francis was becoming more like Christ, and not merely more like Buddha, when he considered the lilies of the field or the fowls of the air; and St. Thomas was becoming more of a Christian, and not merely more of an Aristotelian, when he insisted that God and the image of God had come in contact through matter with a material world. These saints were, in the most exact sense of the term, Humanists; because they were insisting on the immense importance of the human being in the theological scheme of things. But they were not Humanists marching along a path of progress that leads to Modernism and general scepticism; for in their very Humanism they were affirming a dogma now often regarded as the most superstitious Superhumanism. They were strengthening that staggering doctrine of Incarnation, which the sceptics find it hardest to believe. There cannot be a stiffer piece of Christian divinity than the divinity of Christ.

This is a point that is here very much to the point; that these men became more orthodox, when they became more rational or natural. Only by being thus orthodox could they be thus rational and natural. In other words, what may really be called a liberal theology was unfolded from within, from out of the original mysteries of Catholicism. But that liberality had nothing to do with liberalism; in fact it cannot even now coexist with liberalism

(source: Chesterton)

How’s this for a book jacket blurb?

The best introduction to the spirit of St. Thomas is, to my mind, the small book by G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas. [10] This is not a scholarly work in the proper sense of the word; it might be called journalistic—for which reason I am somewhat chary about recommending it. Maisie Ward, co-owner of the British-American publishing firm which publishes the book, writes in her biography of Chesterton [11] that at the time her house published it, she was seized by a slight anxiety. However, she goes on to say, Étienne Gilson read it and commented: “Chesterton makes one despair. I have been studying St. Thomas all my life and I could never have written such a book.” Still troubled by the ambiguity of this comment, Maisie Ward asked Gilson once more for his verdict on the Chesterton book. This time he expressed himself in unmistakable terms: “I consider it as being, without possible comparison, the best book ever written on St. Thomas. . . . Everybody will no doubt admit that it is a ‘clever’ book, but the few readers who have spent twenty or thirty years in studying St. Thomas Aquinas, and who, perhaps, have themselves published two or three volumes on the subject, cannot fail to perceive that the so-called ‘wit’ of Chesterton has put their scholarship to shame. . . . He has said all that which they were more or less clumsily attempting to express in academic formulas.” Thus Gilson. I think this praise somewhat exaggerated; but at any rate I need feel no great embarrassment about recommending an “unscholarly” book.

(source: St. Thomas Aquinas and the Thirteenth Century | Josef Pieper)

Well Said, Cardinal Wuerl!

This, friends, is what is sounds like when the Word of God is proclaimed pastorally:

Some of that Word is addressed explicitly to you, the young people, the university students who are at the heart of this University Mass for Life. God says to you as he did to the Prophet Jeremiah, “Do not say I am too young, I do not know how to speak.”

Do not say, I am not sure how I should voice my support for unborn children. Because the Lord says to the Prophet Jeremiah, “See I place my words in your mouth!” The second reading tells us why those words are so important. Saint Paul writing to the Romans, then and to us now, says, “Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Yes, there is a powerful political correctness movement, emphasis, perspective, environment and force all around us. It says to set aside such things as the value of human life and substitute the politically correct position that you should be free to choose to kill unborn children. But the Word of God comes to us to say, “Do not conform yourself to this age.”

(source: Archbishop of D.C.: Never Has Responsibility to Protect Life Been More Difficult Than in Our Day)

Turn, turn, turn….

The hagiographies of science are full of paeans to the self-correcting, self-healing nature of the enterprise. But if raw results are so often false, the filtering mechanisms so ineffective, and the self-correcting mechanisms so compromised and slow, then science’s approach to truth may not even be monotonic. That is, past theories, now “refuted” by evidence and replaced with new approaches, may be closer to the truth than what we think now. Such regress has happened before: In the nineteenth century, the (correct) vitamin C deficiency theory of scurvy was replaced by the false belief that scurvy was caused by proximity to spoiled foods. Many ancient astronomers believed the heliocentric model of the solar system before it was supplanted by the geocentric theory of Ptolemy. The Whiggish view of scientific history is so dominant today that this possibility is spoken of only in hushed whispers, but ours is a world in which things once known can be lost and buried.

(source: Scientific Regress by William A. Wilson)

Trying–sometimes very trying!

The defense of bad Christian artists is usually along the lines of, “they were trying to do a good thing. They entrust their work to the Holy Ghost. Imagine if it touched even one heart!” Consider what life would be like if this was how we judged other professions. Imagine if a bad trauma surgeon was defended with this excuse, after he’d punctured somebody’s heart. Imagine a second grade teacher who was illiterate but tried very hard, for Jesus. Imagine if Michellin-starred chefs suddenly started serving beanie weenies and trusting the Holy Ghost to move their patrons anywhere but the toilet– not the toilet-shaped chapel but the real one. This would be blasphemy. Yet artists somehow get a pass.

(source: I Am Very, Very Ashamed: The Problem With Bad Christian Art)

Yup.

The way April describes it, she and her older sister had a warm, playful relationship with its healthy give and take just as the Irving Berlin song describes. But then came school. Her sister was almost three years older. The elementary school put a three-year chasm between them as absolute as the one between Lazarus and the Rich Man in the afterlife. The lower and upper grades rarely mixed, and when they did, her sister treated April exactly the way she treated every other person in her grade: she ignored her. What had happened? School had happened.

(source: Why We (Still) Home School – Education – Aleteia.org – Worldwide Catholic Network Sharing Faith Resources for those seeking Truth – Aleteia.org)

The Key Point

And for some this will mean being able to take Communion. But, crucially, when discussing these situations and the huge scope for different circumstances, the Pope refers to two documents in particular, St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts’ Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried.

These documents both articulate the significance which individual circumstances can have, but also make it clear that only couples in irregular marriages who live a life of marital abstinence can receive Communion, and this is left absolutely intact by Francis.

(source: CatholicHerald.co.uk)

Timely Words

Let it be granted, then, as indisputable, that there are no two opinions so contrary to each other, but some form of words may be found vague enough to comprehend them both. The Pantheist will admit that there is a God, and the Humanitarian that Christ is God, if they are suffered to say so without explanation. But if this be so, it becomes the duty, as well as the evident policy of the Church, to interrogate them, before admitting them to her fellowship. If the Church be the pillar and ground of the truth, and bound to contend for the preservation of the faith once delivered to it; if we are answerable as ministers of Christ for the formation of one, and one only, character in the heart of man; and if the Scriptures are given us, as a means indeed towards that end, but inadequate to the office of interpreting themselves, except to such as live under the same Divine Influence which inspired them, and which is expressly sent down upon us that we may interpret them,—then, it is evidently our duty piously and cautiously to collect the sense of Scripture, and solemnly to promulgate it in such a form as is best suited, as far as it goes, to exclude the pride and unbelief of the world.

(source: Newman Reader – Arians of the 4th Century – Chapter 2-1)