Category Archives: Public-Personal

Wholly me, not wholly mine.

On Good Students

Chapter Twelve: Concerning Discipline

A certain wise man, when asked concerning the method and form of study, declared: A humble mind, eagerness to inquire, a quiet life, Silent scrutiny, poverty, a foreign soil. These, for many, unlock the hidden places of learning. He had heard, I should judge, the saying, “Morals equip learning.” Therefore he joined rules for living to rules for study, in order that the student might know both the standard of his life and the nature of his study. Unpraiseworthy is learning stained by a shameless life. Therefore, let him who would seek learning take care above all that he not neglect discipline.

Chapter Thirteen: Concerning Humility

Now the beginning of discipline is humility. Although the lessons of humility are many, the three which follow are of especial importance for the student: first, that he hold no knowledge and no writing in contempt; second, that he blush to learn from no man; and third, that when he has attained learning himself, he not look down upon everyone else. Many are deceived by the desire to appear wise before their time. They therefore break out in a certain swollen importance and begin to simulate what they are not and to be ashamed of what they are; and they slip all the farther from wisdom in proportion as they think, not of being wise, but of being thought so.

I have known many of this sort who, although they still lacked the very rudiments of learning, yet deigned to concern themselves only with the highest problems, and they supposed that they themselves were well on the road to greatness simply because they had read the writings or heard the words of great and wise men. “We,” they say, “have seen them. We have studied under them. They often used to talk to us. Those great ones, those famous men, they know us.” Ah, would that no one knew me and that I but knew all things! You glory in having seen, not in having understood, Plato. As a matter of fact, I should think it not good enough for you to listen to me. I am not Plato. I have not deserved to see him.[ . . . ] There is no one to whom it is given to know all things, no one who has not received his special gift from nature. The wise student, therefore, gladly hears all, reads all, and looks down upon no writing, no person, no teaching. From all indifferently he seeks what he sees he lacks, and he considers not how much he knows, but of how much he is ignorant. For this reason men repeat Plato’s saying: “I would rather learn with modesty what another man says than shamelessly push forward my own ideas.” Why do you blush to be taught, and yet not blush at your ignorance? The latter is a greater shame than the former. Or why should you affect the heights when you are still lying in the depths? Consider, rather, what your powers will at present permit: the man who proceeds stage by stage moves along best. Certain fellows, wishing to make a great leap of progress, sprawl headlong.

Do not hurry too much, therefore; in this way you will come more quickly to wisdom. Gladly learn from all what you do not know, for humility can make you a sharer in the special gift which natural endowment has given to every man. You will be wiser than all if you are willing to learn from all. Finally, hold no learning in contempt, for all learning is good. Do not scorn at least to read a book, if you have the time. If you gain nothing from it, neither do you lose anything; especially since there is, in my judgment, no book which does not set forth something worth looking for, if that book is taken up at the right place and time; or which does not possess something even special to itself which the diligent scrutineer of its contents, having found it nowhere else, seizes upon gladly in proportion as it is the more rare.

Nothing, however, is good if it eliminates a better thing. If you are not able to read everything, read those things which are more useful. Even if you should be able to read them all, however, you should not expend the same labor upon all. Some things are to be read that we may know them, but others that we may at least have heard of them, for sometimes we think that things of which we have not heard are of greater worth than they are, and we estimate more readily a thing whose fruit is known to us. You can now see how necessary to you is that humility which will prompt you to hold no knowledge in contempt and to learn gladly from all.

Similarly, it is fitting for you that when you have begun to know something, you not look down upon everyone else. For the vice of an inflated ego attacks some men because they pay too much fond attention to their own knowledge, and when they seem to themselves to have become something, they think that others whom they do not even know can neither be nor become as great. So it is that in our days certain peddlers of trifles come fuming forth; glorying in I know not what, they accuse our forefathers of simplicity and suppose that wisdom, having been born with themselves, with themselves will die. They say that the divine utterances have such a simple way of speaking that no one has to study them under masters, but can sufficiently penetrate to the hidden treasures of Truth by his own mental acumen. They wrinkle their noses and purse their lips at lecturers in divinity and do not understand that they themselves give offense to God, whose words they preach—words simple to be sure in their verbal beauty, but lacking savor when given a distorted sense. It is not my advice that you imitate men of this kind.

The good student, then, ought to be humble and docile, free alike from vain cares and from sensual indulgences, diligent and zealous to learn willingly from all, to presume never upon his own knowledge, to shun the authors of perverse doctrine as if they were poison, to consider a matter thoroughly and at length before judging of it, to seek to be learned rather than merely to seem so, to love such words of the wise as he has grasped, and ever to hold those words before his gaze as the very mirror of his countenance. And if some things, by chance rather obscure, have not allowed him to understand them, let him not at once break out in angry condemnation and think that nothing is good but what he himself can understand. This is the humility proper to a student’s discipline.

Chapter Fourteen: Concerning Eagerness to Inquire

Eagerness to inquire relates to practice and in it the student needs encouragement rather than instruction. Whoever wishes to inspect earnestly what the ancients in their love of wisdom have handed down to us, and how deserving of posterity’s remembrance are the monuments which they left of their virtue, will see how inferior his own earnestness is to theirs. Some of them scorned honors, others cast aside riches, others rejoiced in injuries received, others despised hardships, and still others, deserting the meeting places of men for the farthest withdrawn spots and secret haunts of solitude, gave themselves over to philosophy alone, that they might have greater freedom for undisturbed contemplation insofar as they subjected their minds to none of the desires which usually obstruct the path of virtue. We read that the philosopher Parmenides dwelt on a rock in Egypt for fifteen years. And Prometheus, for his unrestrained love of thinking, is recorded to have been exposed to the attacks of a vulture on Mount Caucasus. For they knew that the true good lies not in the esteem of men but is hidden in a pure conscience and that those are not truly men who, clinging to things destined to perish, do not recognize their own good.

Therefore, seeing that they differed in mind and understanding from all the rest of men, they displayed this fact in the very far removal of their dwelling places, so that one community might not hold men not associated by the same objectives. A certain man retorted to a philosopher, saying, “Do you not see that men are laughing at you?” To which the philosopher replied, “They laugh at me, and the asses bray at them.” Think if you can how much he valued the praise of those men whose vituperation, even, he did not fear. Of another man we read that after studying all the disciplines and attaining the very peaks of all the arts he turned to the potter’s trade. Again, the disciples of a certain other man, when they exalted their master with praises, gloried in the fact that among all his other accomplishments he even possessed that of being a shoemaker.

I could wish that our students possessed such earnestness that wisdom would never grow old in them.

(source: Didascalicon, Hugh of St. Victor)

Do Not Be Confused

Abstaining from any further comment, but remaining confident that I was right to sign this 2015 letter and hopeful that any corrections needed to this new (scary) move will be carried out with still deeper humility and with due regard for truth and will conduce to charity, I simply say that I do not see how any Christian formed in Catholic doctrine could affirm any of these statements, and I hope none who may have stumbled near them will persist in them:

Some likely errors of our times (from the translation of the Latin core of the recent document linked above):

  • ‘A justified person has not the strength with God’s grace to carry out the objective demands of the divine law, as though any of the commandments of God are impossible for the justified; or as meaning that God’s grace, when it produces justification in an individual, does not invariably and of its nature produce conversion from all serious sin, or is not sufficient for conversion from all serious sin.’
  • ‘Christians who have obtained a civil divorce from the spouse to whom they are validly married and have contracted a civil marriage with some other person during the lifetime of their spouse, who live more uxorio with their civil partner, and who choose to remain in this state with full knowledge of the nature of their act and full consent of the will to that act, are not necessarily in a state of mortal sin, and can receive sanctifying grace and grow in charity.’
  • ‘A Christian believer can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin as a result of this action.’
  • ‘A person is able, while he obeys a divine prohibition, to sin against God by that very act of obedience.’
  • ‘Conscience can truly and rightly judge that sexual acts between persons who have contracted a civil marriage with each other, although one or both of them is sacramentally married to another person, can sometimes be morally right or requested or even commanded by God.’
  • ‘Moral principles and moral truths contained in divine revelation and in the natural law do not include negative prohibitions that absolutely forbid particular kinds of action, inasmuch as these are always gravely unlawful on account of their object.’
  • ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ wills that the Church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it.’

veritas liberabit vos

Archbishop Chaput has just put out an important column. Read the whole thing.

Jesus comes to reveal to man his true dignity. He sets man free with the truth of the Gospel, free to become by grace what God calls humanity to be: adopted daughters and sons in the joy of his love.

This is why John Paul placed such stress on truth, especially the truth about man and his vocation, a vocation to lasting happiness in friendship with God. In the Gospel, Jesus gives us a new commandment, the new law of love. This new law does not abolish the Mosaic Law and the Old Testament commandments. It does not override the natural law written on every person’s heart. Rather, it fulfills them and helps us live them in a more perfect way. Jesus teaches us the truth about right and wrong, and this truth does not diminish our liberty: “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32).

As a result, John Paul II called for a deep renewal of Catholic moral theology, and also of the ways in which Christian moral teachings are presented to the faithful and to the world. He wanted the Church to recover her zeal in affirming that no richer life exists than one lived in the fullness of truth.

It’s precisely here—how the Church presents her moral guidance—that we still face serious challenges. Ironically, legalism is very much alive in the Church, even though it no longer looks like the rigorist, “conservative” legalism of the past. Legalist minimalism is just as deadly to the life of faith as legalist maximalism.

Many of today’s confusions about Catholic moral teaching stem from a one-dimensional morality of obligation.

(source: The Splendor of Truth in 2017 by Charles J. Chaput)

Thank You, Senator Feinstein!

Courtesy of the well-spoken, intelligent, long-lived, and utterly reprehensible Senatorial bigot Dianne Feinstein, we have a new and beautiful motto for Christians in these United States–a gift just in time for my birthday, which I was delighted to discover when I became Catholic was also the feast of the Birth of Mary, the God-Bearer, author of the Magnificat, whose unborn Dogma caused John the Baptist to leap in Elizabeth’s womb. May it truly be said of all of us, “the dogma lives loudly in you”!

Here, buy a shirt that says it and make my day by Tweeting a pic with it!

Get a load of the look on judicial nominee Barrett’s face when the Secular Inquisition comes to town:

UPDATE: I made another one.

FURTHER UPDATE: I made more stuff. Lots more, actually, look around my shop.

It Takes Both

Since, then, the habits of the speculative intellect do not perfect the appetitive part, nor affect it in any way, but only the intellective part; they may indeed be called virtues in so far as they confer aptness for a good work, viz. the consideration of truth (since this is the good work of the intellect): yet they are not called virtues in the second way, as though they conferred the right use of a power or habit. For if a man possess a habit of speculative science, it does not follow that he is inclined to make use of it, but he is made able to consider the truth in those matters of which he has scientific knowledge: that he make use of the knowledge which he has, is due to the motion of his will. Consequently a virtue which perfects the will, as charity or justice, confers the right use of these speculative habits. And in this way too there can be merit in the acts of these habits, if they be done out of charity: thus Gregory says (Moral. vi) that the “contemplative life has greater merit than the active life.”

(source: Summa Theologica II.I.57.1)

Viva Chesterton!

This is the most enormous and at the same time the most secret of the modern tyrannies of materialism. In theory the thing ought to be simple enough. A really human human being would always put the spiritual things first. A walking and speaking statue of God finds himself at one particular moment employed as a shop assistant. He has in himself a power of terrible love, a promise of paternity, a thirst for some loyalty that shall unify life, and in the ordinary course of things he asks himself, “How far do the existing conditions of those assisting in shops fit in with my evident and epic destiny in the matter of love and marriage?” But here, as I have said, comes in the quiet and crushing power of modern materialism. It prevents him rising in rebellion, as he would otherwise do. By perpetually talking about environment and visible things, by perpetually talking about economics and physical necessity, painting and keeping repainted a perpetual picture of iron machinery and merciless engines, of rails of steel, and of towers of stone, modern materialism at last produces this tremendous impression in which the truth is stated upside down. At last the result is achieved. The man does not say as he ought to have said, “Should married men endure being modern shop assistants?” The man says, “Should shop assistants marry?” Triumph has completed the immense illusion of materialism. The slave does not say, “Are these chains worthy of me?” The slave says scientifically and contentedly, “Am I even worthy of these chains?”

(source: Tremendous Trifles)

Seas Threaten Vainly to Capsize

We should not be ignorant of the harm done to many who do end up lost at sea or marooned when teachers are derelict, but good teachers show us clearly what good habits of thought look like. (Emphasis added.)

How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An “adult” faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith–only faith–that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

(source: Mass «Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice»: Homily of Card. Joseph Ratzinger)

More Rubbish from Spadaro and Figueroa

OK, I’ve had to explain and defend my decision to enter into full communion with the Church that Jesus Christ founded to plenty of dear Christian brothers and sisters–including my literal family as well as “friends like brothers” and earnest co-religionists–whose tradition is properly called Fundamentalist or evangelical.

Now, for reasons Fr. Longenecker is well-situated to observe, the malicious and ignorant writing of certain low persons permitted to hang about high places in the Vatican has made explaining and defending Fundamentalism and evangelicalism an expression of Catholic faith:

An ignorant person can be educated. An arrogant person can be lowered, but a person who is ignorant and arrogant is unassailable. The recent article by Fr Spadaro and Figueroa is a perfect example. They pontificate in lofty intellectual, generalized terms about America and Americans and don’t have the faintest idea of what they’re talking about and what makes is it worse is that they don’t have the faintest idea that they don’t have the faintest idea.

(source: On European Ignorance and Arrogance)

The article really is full of so much rubbish that one has almost to finish destroying one sentence before one can even begin to read the next–it is a tissue of lies and folly.  It is far too wholly dishonest and stupid to thoroughly refute.

I’ll limit myself to just a few specifics which, if you find the relevant paragraphs, will either set you sputtering or reveal your ignorance of Anglo-American religious history.  I’ll quote just one relevant passage (and you’ll just have to search the Internet yourself if you want to vex your soul by reading this garbage more thoroughly):

The term “evangelical fundamentalist” can today be assimilated to the “evangelical right” or “theoconservatism” and has its origins in the years 1910-1915. In that period a South Californian millionaire, Lyman Stewart, published the 12-volume work The Fundamentals. The author wanted to respond to the threat of modernist ideas of the time. He summarized the thought of authors whose doctrinal support he appreciated. He exemplified the moral, social, collective and individual aspects of the evangelical faith. His admirers include many politicians and even two recent presidents: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Fundamentalism does claim to be historically evangelical, but ever since the “New Evangelicals” began the attempt to articulate a conservative evangelicalism that was not tangled up in Fundamentalist separatism (for good and for ill), “evangelicalism” as a movement has not willingly or ostensibly contained “fundamentalism.” And no one uses the term “evangelical fundamentalism,” nor is it clear what the modified phrase would refer to among Anglo-American low church Protestant groups.

Lyman Stewart is indeed the publisher of The Fundamentals, but the individual volumes are not his summaries of, but actual works by, the authors included.

Here, try reading Wikipedia if this is too hard: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fundamentals

It is unlikely that most Fundamentalists today, let alone many evangelicals, let alone someone like Reagan or Bush, would even know who James Orr (whose works are well-represented in The Fundamentals, which I years ago studied quite thoroughly in its 12-volume edition) is–much less who Lyman Stewart was, or what that publisher had to say (considering he didn’t write The Fundamentals).

Then there’s the utterly silly notion that Reagan would have been interested in Stewart or The Fundamentals, as Reagan was by no means particularly conservative in religion, though a practicing PCUSA Presbyterian (i.e., mainline, not low church “evangelical,” nor anywhere near Fundamentalist).

The younger Bush actually moves a bit closer to evangelical by moving from Episcopalian to Methodist, but remains well within the mainline nonetheless. I find it ridiculous to think he knows James Orr from B. B. Warfield, or either of them from Lyman Stewart.

It goes on and on and on like this. Irresponsible, diabolical, divisive rubbish.

Emphasis Added

Go read the whole thing, of course!

No one better exemplifies the spiritual trajectory of our time than Arthur Conan Doyle, an advocate of scientific rigor who started life as a devout Catholic and ended it as the world’s most prominent spiritualist.

While studying with the Jesuits at Stonyhurst, Doyle made his first communion. He wrote to his mother: “Oh mama, I cannot express the joy that I felt on the happy day to receive my creator into my breast. I shall never though I live a hundred years, I shall never forget that day.” He was enrolled in the sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Arthurus Doyle, servus perpetuus BVM.

His promises were soon forgotten. In adulthood, Doyle championed broad-minded inquiry and rejected the Catholic faith. “I regard hard-and-fast dogma of every kind as an unjustifiable and essentially irreligious thing,” he wrote. He admired Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose skeptical, scientific outlook would be immortally embodied in Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street.

Rigorous skepticism may work for storybook characters, but it cannot satisfy man. When spiritualist mediums brought automatic writing and table-rapping into Victorian parlors, Doyle was taken in. He became the most outspoken defender of spiritualism, accusing Harry Houdini of being a pawn of Rome when the magician exposed Doyle’s heroes as frauds. Like the people I joined in Brooklyn, Doyle wanted a nonjudgmental faith that welcomed all spirits. But in rejecting dogma, he opened himself to impostors, not excluding the greatest impostor of all.

We may be tempted simply to have an urbane laugh at the follies of the superstitious, but that would be a mistake. They see something the great and good cannot: We live in a world full of spirits. Agnostic indifference to this fact may be possible for a time, but very few men are capable of sustained and thoroughgoing unbelief. This is why no superstition is more ridiculous than the pretense of secularism, and anyone who thinks Christianity will give way to atheism is a far greater fool than the most credulous ghost hunter.

(source: “My Shamanic Healing” by Matthew Schmitz)

Making Distinctions, Marking Consequences

Ed Peters helps us to make the distinctions necessary to understand Bishop Paprocki’s clear restatement of canonical norms in light of novel variants of permanent human problems:

Paprocki knows, for example, that the CLSA New Commentary (2001) discussing Canon 1184 at p. 1412, understands one in “manifest sin” as one “publicly known to be living in a state of grave sin”. That’s a far cry from Shine’s rhetorical jab, delivered as if it were the coup de grace to Paprocki’s position, “Who among us, including Bishop Paprocki, does not publicly sin at different moments?” Hardly anyone, I would venture, and so would Paprocki. But the law is not directed at those who, from time to time, commit sin, even a public sin; it is concerned about those who make an objectively sinful state their way of life. Fumble that distinction, as Shine does, and one’s chances of correctly reading Canon 1184 drop to, well, zero.

[…]

I want to end these remarks by highlighting a much more important point: Paprocki’s decree is not aimed at a category of persons (homosexuals, lesbians, LGBT, etc., words that do not even appear in his document) but rather, it is concerned with an act, a public act, an act that creates a civilly-recognized status, namely, the act of entering into a ‘same-sex marriage’. That public act most certainly has public consequences, some civil and some canonical.

(source: Bp Paprocki’s norms on ‘same-sex marriage’ | In the Light of the Law)

I think that last paragraph, especially, bears considering.

We are all sinners. That has consequences. We all also take public acts that really do, or really purport to, mark us with permanent characters or create permanent relationships. Those public acts have well-known implications, and the consequences need to be equally well-known and well-considered.

We too often think of “consequences” as threats designed to modify behavior by anticipation. But consequences are basically facts, and ordering the canonical response to those facts so as to make those real consequences clear and the responses prudent is an act of great mercy–the kind that does justice and then goes beyond.

Readings for Summer Seminar, Session Two

One of the points of interest in our Summer Seminar has been to get a basic understanding of the philosophical drift of Modern Western Philosophy.  Some of us are engaged with contemporary literary theory, and need to see how Foucault ended up where he did.  Others keep hearing “Enlightenment” and “nominalism” thrown around, and want to pin it down.

In any case, for a starter we’re going to just look at what Descartes did that launched the whole project.  I’ve prepared a list of philosophical primary texts and handy discussions & notes, themed on treatments of and responses to the basic Cartesian cogito that should help anyone (with some patience with jargon, and some resistance to intellectual intoxication) to build the “spine” for further exploration.

If you have to be selective, I’d say read the Descartes, then SEP articles, then Hegel on Descartes, and then as much Husserl as you can manage.  The rest of what you’re likely to want to know can be fitted around these.

Teachers, Universities, Colleges, Neighborhoods

The University should teach the teachers.

The teachers should live among the families in the neighborhoods, and serve them freely.

The families in the neighborhoods should feed the teachers, and send their most apt pupils to the University.

The University should be organized on a scale and in a manner that permits it to thrive on what the neighborhoods send to support the apt pupils and the faculty who instruct them.

This means the University needs colleges (room-and-board facilities for faculty and students) and libraries that are in cities that are mutually supporting–where tradesmen and merchants can have their living enhanced by offering services to the colleges, and where the faculty and students provide benefits worthy of subsidy to the city.

A city should be composed of neighborhoods, and on a scale that permits detached neighborhoods away from the city (the villages) to flourish.

Such a situation would permit both local and aggregated use of resources.

It is both unimaginably difficult to conceive in terms of current structures, and unimaginably simple to conceive if enough of us were to decide, together, to do it differently.

What is lacking is imagination and consensus, linked to the practical know-how that is often kept too busy and too distracted to apply itself to these matters.

We can make these things happen. Wake each other up and start organizing on better principles, friends.

Read Them for Yourself

Herewith, a list of links I have generated as background for a summer project.  If you don’t know any of these, familiarize yourself!  If you do, glance again!

Caesar’s Image Is God’s First

Caesar’s image is stamped on the coin, marking the coin as his.

Caesar, the Pharisee, the Herodian, the disciples, you, me, all human creatures are stamped with the image of God.

The world is not divided between Caesar’s realm and God’s; Caesar and his realm belong to God, and only insofar as God relegates matters to Caesar can they belong to him.

The image Caesar stamps on his coins is the shadow of the image of God, who permits Caesar to stamp his coins.

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent
to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech.
They came and said to him,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.
You do not regard a person’s status
but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?
Should we pay or should we not pay?”
Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them,
“Why are you testing me?
Bring me a denarius to look at.”
They brought one to him and he said to them,
“Whose image and inscription is this?”
They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
They were utterly amazed at him.

USCCB Daily Readings