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The Godless Delusion

The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism.  By Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley.  Our Sunday Visitor, 2010.  Softcover.  $14.95.

Reviewed by Steven Schultz

There are only two options.  It is either one or the other.  There is no middle ground.  The issue at hand is the existence or non-existence of God.  God cannot partially exist – that position is utter nonsense which any rational person would reject.  Instead, we are left with only one choice or it’s opposite.  Either the theists are correct and God exists, or the atheists are correct and belief in God is a delusion.  In The Godless Delusion, Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley charge headlong into this debate to deliver a sounding blow to atheism by showing through rational argument the logic of the theist position over illogic of the atheist position.

The importance of this conflict cannot be overstated in light of today’s society.  Rejection of belief in a higher power and rejection of the notion man is held accountable for his actions on earth and will face final, individual, ultimate judgment based on those actions are at the heart of all of society’s ills.  The self-appointed intelligentsia tells us God doesn’t exist and that those who believe in such “delusions” are uneducated simpletons – and far, far too many of us accept this since the message comes from “science” and we all know “science” is irrefutable.  Mark my words, atheism will be the downfall of Western society.  As Madrid and Hensley point out, atheism inescapably leads to conclusions which result in the death of society – there is no escaping this reality.

To understand the true absurdity of the atheist position, we must first understand exactly what their position says.  Atheists base their argument for the non-existence of God on what they consider a rational application of the scientific method.  Yet, their argument hinges on a blatant misstep in logic.  Like a magician skillfully employing misdirection, they hope no one notices their leap of faith.  As Madrid and Hensley put it:

“They [atheists] begin with an undeniably true assertion: that the scientific method, if used correctly, has been demonstrated to be a precise and trustworthy method of gaining accurate information about the natural world – as evidenced by remarkable successes and innumerable stunning advances in the fields of medicine, engineering, manufacturing, and technology.  But where the ‘magic’ occurred is when they moved from this true assertion to one undeniably false: that science and naturalism are somehow essentially the same thing.  From this, they drew the preposterous conclusion that because science has been demonstrated as true, naturalism has also been demonstrated as true…In fact, the two are quite distinct.  Whereas science is a method for investigating the natural world, naturalism is a philosophy that says the natural world is all there is.”

In other words, for the atheist, the material word, naturalism, is all there is.  Nothing else exists.  Even our thought is simply a series of chemical and electrical reactions.  If it’s not physical, it’s not real says the atheist.  However, by doing so, he either argues for absurdity or traps himself in his own contradiction, as we shall see.

Some reviews have commented on the lack of specifically Catholic arguments for the existence of God in this work.  However, these reviewers neglect to understand Catholic theological arguments for the existence of God would fall on deaf ears with atheists.  You cannot argue from a theological standpoint with someone who does not accept theology as a basis of argument.  In order to enter into conversation with such a person, you must begin with arguments based on rational logic – which is exactly what Madrid and Hensley undertake in this book.

The authors systematically dissect the atheist position, showing how it leads to utter non-sense and reveals atheists living in a contradiction.  For example, the atheist denies the existence of natural law or absolute right and wrong, instead claiming “right” and “wrong” are merely relative, individual concepts brought about by chemical and electrical reactions in the human brain.  Yet, the same atheist complains of not being treated “fairly” when wronged.  If absolute “right” and “wrong” don’t exist, there can’t be legitimate appeal to being treated “unfairly.”  To claim “unfair” treatment implies the existence of some sort of universal sense of “right” and “wrong” – which also implies existence of something beyond the natural world or beyond mere matter since a universal truth cannot possibly exist as a physical object.  On the other hand, the theist position rationally accounts for the universal human concept of a fundamental and absolute right and wrong as part of natural law created by God.

In a similar vein, atheists are forced to either take an absurd position or to contradict themselves when commenting on the actions of people such as Hitler.  Again according to the logical conclusions of the atheist position, since “right” and “wrong” are merely relative, individual human concepts, there exists no basis on which to criticize the genocide committed by Hitler or people like him.  Hitler’s writings and speeches make it abundantly clear he believed he was perfectly justified in murdering millions of Jews – in fact, he believed he was operating for the “good” of his society.  In order to honestly hold to his position, an atheist must accept Hitler’s arguments and admit Hitler was perfectly justified since he operated within his individual concept of “right” and “wrong.”  Would any rational person hold such a belief?  Instead, most atheists admit Hitler’s mass murder of Jews was wrong.  However, to admit Hitler (or Stalin or Mao who murdered millions of their own countrymen in the name of atheism) was wrong is to admit to the existence of a universal notion of right and wrong (and its subsequent notion of the existence of more than mere physical things), which again reveals the contradiction in which an atheist must live in order to cling to his belief system.

The theist has no such problem of being forced to take an absurd position or to contradict himself.  Instead, the theist believes in existence of things beyond the material world, therefore he is able to unequivocally state actions of people such as Hitler are evil and unacceptable since they violate natural law — God’s law.  Once again, the theist position comes through as the logical, rational position which actually jives with the human experience.  Additionally, the theist position is the only position which consistently describes the human experience without having to resort to modification or compromise of its propositions.

It’s all fine and good to shout from the comfort of one’s living room or classroom, “God is dead!”  Where does it lead when this becomes more than an anti-establishment slogan, but a lived belief system?  As Jewish psychologist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl puts it:

“If we present man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him.  When we present him as an automation of reflexes, as a mind machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drive and reactions, as a mere project of heredity and environment, we see the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.  I became acquainted with the last stage of corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz.  The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment – or, as the Nazis like to say, ‘of blood and soil.’  I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”

To understand the true absurdity of atheism, and frankly, the true horror to which it leads, we must fully and honestly face its full implications.  One of the only atheists to ever fully and honestly embrace the totality and reality of atheism was Frederick Nietchie – and we’d do well to remember he died a broken and insane man.  When viewed with intellectual honesty there is no escaping the full evil and horror to which the religion of atheism ultimately leads.

In order for our society to survive, we must abandon the absurd notion that man is his own master.  Hitler, Stalin, Castro – our history is filled with the results of man believing in the absurdity of atheism.  The sooner we accept the fact we have a divine Master, who calls us in love to freely surrender our will to His, the sooner we can begin to right the ship of society.  Madrid and Hensley arm us with the rational arguments to show the absurdity of atheists clinging to a godless delusion.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Godless Delusion.  Also be sure to check out their great selection of Mary statues.

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Anything but God

by Steven Schultz

The “enlightened” atheist camp recently made the headlines again with Stephen Hawking’s claim in his latest book, The Grand Design, that the universe was not created by an outside force, but instead created itself.  This is an interesting hypothesis considering we have yet to find a single material thing which created itself out of nothingness.  Instead, every material object ever encountered in known human history has something else as the author of its existence.  In fact, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, the changing nature of the created world itself demands an unchanging cause outside of time and the material world for its existence – the “uncaused cause.”  However, according to intellectual atheists, such as Hawking, we’re to buy their nonsense based solely on their word as “academics,” since they can offer us not a single shred of evidence as proof of their claims that the universe somehow created itself from nothing.

Hawking claims the laws of gravity are responsible for the creation of the universe.  As with most atheist theories which claim “anything but God” for the creation of the universe, he fails to tell us what caused the laws of gravity.  We’re to believe they just happened and then poof (or bang), the universe came to be.  Stephen, no matter how you slice it, my friend, you eventually reach a point where you are forced to admit, if you’re intellectually honest, that an immaterial cause caused material existence to come into being.  Even if we go with Richard Dawkins’ explanation that “intelligent alien design” (i.e. extraterrestrials – little green men) are responsible for creating life on earth, a “theory” which he describes to Ben Stein in the documentary Expelled, Dawkins must still eventually account for the existence of the space aliens.  To do anything other than this leaves us with a “poof, there it is” explanation for the creation of the universe.  We’ll come back to this point shortly.

Yet another chink in the armor of the atheist’s “it all just happened by random chance” theory is the fact the universe obeys certain natural laws (including the laws of gravity which Hawking cites).  Not only does the universe obey certain natural laws, man is able to use his reason to discover and explain these laws.  If it’s all random chance, why is there such natural order?  If it’s all random chance, why did man just happen to receive the reasoning ability to discover, understand and explain these natural laws?  Are we honestly to believe the universe not only randomly formed, but randomly formed with ordered laws and human beings who just happen to posses the right kind of minds to discover these laws instead of believing a Creator caused the existence of an ordered universe and created man in His image with the capacity to discover these natural laws and thereby come to know something more about his Creator?  As we consider these facts, we come to see just who is actually making an incredible leap of faith to hold onto his belief system.

The Catholic Church has never held that Genesis is a factual account of creation.  Instead, the Church has always taught that Genesis is an allegorical story and its main point is not to explain the how of creation, but to explain the why of creation: an infinite, all-powerful, all-loving God who created as an act of His own free will; not out of necessity, but because He chose to do so.  Belief in the “Big Bang” theory is not at all inconsistent with Catholic theology.  It becomes inconsistent though when one claims the Big Bang created itself.

Atheists reject creationism (here meaning a fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis as a “blow-by-blow” account of creation – again, this is not the position on Genesis held by the Catholic Church) as nonsense, but then cling to their own version of creationism.  There’s no difference in believing God made everything “magically” appear in the form it’s in now and believing the universe “magically” created itself out of nothing.  Both “theories,” for anyone who takes the time to look at the facts, are nonsense.  The theist position is the only one which accounts for all the facts of the universe’s existence in a consistent manner.

Seeing that the atheist position is such nonsense, we must ask why so many believe in anything but God.  For the vast majority of non-academic, secularized people (including those who nominally claim to be religious, but live their lives as agnostics or practical atheists), I believe they like the idea of there being no God (or at least not one which has any real impact on reality) since it frees them to rationalize every sort of deviant, self-destructive behavior in which they chose to participate.  If there’s no God, there’s no ultimate Truth – and certainly no ultimate judgment; everything’s relative, so let’s party!

What about the academic and intellectual atheists?  For most of these people, I believe it comes down to simply vanity.  They believe they are the most educated, most important people on the face of the planet.  They see themselves as gods on earth – the power holders, the deal makers.  To admit God exists it to admit the existence of a power higher (and more intelligent) than themselves.  Such a notion is anathema to these people.  Such a notion would mean they are not the ultimate judges of right and wrong, life and death.  I honestly believe most of these people are so full of themselves, they simply cannot fathom such an “outlandish” and “quaint” notion as God.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter since the preponderance of evidence, which can be arrived at by the use of natural reason alone (as so superbly demonstrated by St. Thomas Aquinas), overwhelmingly points to the existence of a Creator who stands outside of time as a non-material being and the uncaused cause.  But take heart, atheists, as Antony Flew demonstrated, God continues to offer Himself to you; all you need to do is accept His invitation.

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©2010 By Steven Schultz. All Rights Reserved. May Not be Reproduced or Reposted in Any Form without Permission.

     For centuries, faith and reason enjoyed a close, complimentary, mutually supportive relationship.  However, the rise of modern philosophy, with its bad metaphysics, resulted in a growing rift in this relationship.  Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, called for a return to unity in the relationship between faith and reason, and offered his thoughts on how this reunion might be achieved.

     Early Christianity found a ready ally in ancient Greek philosophy, particularly the thought of Plato.  The reason for this alliance rested on the commons goals of Christianity and ancient Greek philosophy, namely a quest for understanding of being.  Both sought to understand ultimate purposes.  Because man’s ultimate purpose is fulfilled in God’s plan of salvation, both streams flowed toward the same final source.  The Greeks did not have perfect answers; however their quest for ultimate understanding and truth at least guided them in the right direction.  The Greek focus on seeking truth allowed early Christians to adopt Greek thought in giving fuller understanding to the message of Jesus and the salvation of mankind.[i]

     This unity of faith and reason reached its zenith with St. Thomas Aquinas.  St. Thomas synthesized the philosophy of Aristotle into Christian theology, providing the best demonstration before or since of the great unity between faith and reason.  As Pope Benedict XVI recently put it:

            In short, Thomas Aquinas showed there is a natural harmony between Christian faith and reason. And this was the great work of Thomas, who in that moment of encounter between two cultures — that moment in which it seemed that faith should surrender before reason — showed that they go together, that what seemed to be reason incompatible with faith was not reason, and what seemed to be faith was not faith, in so far as it was opposed to true rationality; thus he created a new synthesis, which shaped   the culture of the following centuries.[ii]

For a brief, shining moment, thanks to St. Thomas’s insightful demonstration of unity between faith and reason, harmony between theology and philosophy reigned supreme.  Unfortunately, this was not to last.

     The upheaval brought about by the Protestant Reformation introduced a spark of doubt which steadily grew into the full-fledged conflagration of modern thought.  René Descartes, with his institutionalization of doubt, became the father of modern philosophy.  Descartes began with the notion that certitude does not come from knowledge obtained through sense data, but only through innate ideas.  Cogito Ergo Sum – the only thing we know with certitude is our own thought.  This “turn to the subject” led to greater skepticism and deconstructionism and has permeated all modern philosophy since.[iii]

     Immanuel Kant developed idealism in an attempt to save natural science and the validity of human reason.  As a spiritualist, he claimed that while we cannot know the material world through sense data, we can form hypotheses which meet our experiences.  In other words, Kant argued truth is merely the consistency of the model of reality which our mind creates.  Our sense experience tells us nothing about absolute truth, so “truth” becomes more about consistency and is therefore completely subjective.[iv]

     Likewise building on Descartes, David Hume adopted an extreme empiricist position.  Hume’s radical skepticism reduced knowledge to nothing more than sense description.  His extreme position even rejected the notion of causality as understood in natural scenes.  Hume claimed we only know one thing happens after the other, which, according to Hume, does not mean one thing caused the other.[v]

     As modern philosophy stopped concentrating on being and instead focused on human knowing, a growing rift developed between theology and philosophy.  Instead of pondering the human capacity for knowing, modern philosophy has emphasized the ways in which it is limited and conditioned.  Modern philosophy’s rejection of meaningfulness of being has led to a general conception of nihilism and a rejection of all objective truth.  Theology’s insistence on the existence of the greatest absolute Truth places it in direct conflict with modern philosophy.[vi]

     However, Pope John Paul II tells us faith and reason cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of man to know himself, the world and God in an appropriate way.  Since theology engages philosophy to help man know the truth, the study of philosophy is fundamental and indispensable to the study of theology.  While there should be no barriers to dialogue, there should also not be indiscriminate acceptance of any kind of philosophy.  Consequently, the Magisterium has a right and a duty to discern and promote philosophy not at odds with the faith.[vii]

     In Fides et Ratio, the Pope outlines three requirements.  First, to be consonant with the Word of God, philosophy must return to its classical roots as a method of searching for the ultimate and overarching meaning of life.  Second, philosophy must “verify the human capacity to know the truth, to come to a knowledge which can reach objective truth by means of that adaequatio rei et intellectus to which the Scholastic Doctors referred.”  Consequently, radically phenomenologist or relativist philosophies are ill-adapted to help with deeper exploration of the riches found in the Word of God.  Third, philosophy needs a “genuinely metaphysical range, capable…of transcending empirical data in order to attain something absolute, ultimate and foundational in its search for the truth.”[viii]

      Through this method, philosophy, as “the mirror which reflects the culture of a people,” can serve the new evangelization in its ability “to explore more comprehensively the dimensions of the true, the good and the beautiful to which the word of God gives access…Reflecting in the light of reason and in keeping with its rules, guided always by the deeper understanding given them by the word of God, Christian philosophers can develop a reflection which will be both comprehensible and appealing to those who do not yet grasp the full truth which divine revelation declares;” thereby returning unity to faith and reason.[ix]


Endnotes

[i] P. De Letter, “Theology, Influence of Greek Philosophy On,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, Volume 13 (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2003), 918.

[ii] Pope Benedict XVI, On St. Thomas Aquinas, Zenit.org, http://www.zenit.org/article-29447?l=english, accessed 3 July 2010.

[iii] Benedict M. Ashley, OP, “Lecture 3: Why Theology Has Difficulty with Modern Philosophy,” Philosophy for Theologians, DVD, International Catholic University, 2005; Benedict M. Ashley, OP, “Lesson 3: The Intellectual Ambiguities of Contemporary Culture,” Philosophy for Theologians, Lecture Notes, International Catholic University, http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02803.htm, accessed 10 May 2010.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (Boston, MA: Pauline, 1998), 14, 111.

[vii] Ibid., 30, 49, 81, 82.

[viii] Ibid., 102-104.

[ix] Ibid., 125-126.

Bibliography

Ashley, Benedict M.  “Lecture 3: Why Theology Has Difficulty with Modern Philosophy,” Philosophy for Theologians, DVD, International Catholic University, 2005.

——.  “Lesson 3: The Intellectual Ambiguities of Contemporary Culture,” Philosophy for Theologians, Lecture Notes, International Catholic University, http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02803.htm, accessed 10 May 2010.

Benedict XVI, On St. Thomas Aquinas, Zenit.org, http://www.zenit.org/article-29447?l=english, accessed 2 June 2010.

De Letter, P.  “Theology, Influence of Greek Philosophy On.”  New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, Volume 13.  Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2003.

John Paul II.  Fides et Ratio.  Boston, MA: Pauline, 1998.

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Photo: FreeFoto.com

In response to my re-posting of Archbishop Carlson’s article, “Before the Cross: Good Catholics cannot be Pro-Choice,” which, quite correctly, states that one cannot hold positions in opposition to fundamental Catholic teaching and still remain Catholic, I received the following comment from Dave, who seems to be exactly the type of  “Catholic” the Archbishop addressed:

“Most Catholics disagree with you on this. Just because the priests are with you doesn’t mean anything. Look who they are.”

While the comment is sadly uninformed and misguided, it unfortunately represents the view of many “Catholics” today who’ve been indoctrinated by a small, but vocal, group of dissenting theologians, Bishops and priests who worked (and unfortunately, a few still work) to undermine the true Church by claiming a false “Spirit of Vatican II” for the authority of their “teaching,” which wrongly claims Vatican II called for a complete break with established Tradition.  As a result, many “Catholics” today have been lead to the false belief that Catholicism is merely one religious sect among many, no better and no worse than any other, and that man determines the “doctrine of the day” by nothing more than a majority opinion poll on a certain topic at a certain time – further they believe that doctrine can (and must) change whenever the whims of man decide so.

Such false positions of relativism are very dangerous as they put one’s soul on the path to eternal damnation.  Consequently it becomes very important to counter these dissenting beliefs and, God willing, do something to help get these people back on the “small and narrow” path which leads to eternal salvation.  Instead of having my response buried in the comments, I decided to highlight this comment and my response in a post of its own.

It’s critically important for Catholics to understand Church authorities do not just “make up” doctrine as they go along.  Church doctrine, Church teachings and the authority of the Magisterium do not come from man.  Instead, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Catechism and centuries worth of ecumenical councils and papal encyclicals all very clearly state that what the Church teaches infallibly (which includes teachings on faith and morals) comes from the divine revelation of God, not from man, and is therefore Truth not subject to the changing whims of man.  Individuals might not like the Truth, yet it remains the Truth to which we are called and to which we are held accountable, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, when “Catholics” dissent from fundamental Church teaching, they no longer freely and obediently submit their will to the will of God – they are no longer in unity or communion with the Trinity through Jesus Christ and thereby no longer members of His Church, which means they are no longer Catholics no matter how loudly they might proclaim otherwise.  To claim you’re a member of a certain group and to then reject the fundamental teachings of that group is an absurdity.

May God have mercy on your soul for believing in and propagating such rubbish!  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  If you reject the Magisterium of the Church because you don’t like what the Catholic Church teaches and you find yourself incapable of surrendering your will to the will of God since you believe you know better what’s best for your soul than does God (which is what it means when you refuse to freely submit yourself to Church teaching), you are completely free to leave the Church and “worship” whatever you chose.  Donum Veritatis (On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian), issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 24, 1990, states the Church has always held “nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will.”  You do in fact, thanks to the infinite love of the Father, have the complete free will to absolutely reject His gift of salvation and instead chose the path of eternal damnation.

The Church has been quite clear from the time of Jesus to the present day that rejecting the defense of life is to choose death.  Just like the prodigal son, the Father gives you complete freedom to walk away from everything He lovingly offers you.  As Jesus tells us in His parable, the Father stands ready to joyfully welcome you back into the fold, but He will not go looking for you.  It’s up to you to return to Him of your own free will or to remain on the path of destruction.  “Catholics” who reject the Magisterium reject the Lord and thereby choose their own path and their own judgment.

Finally, your comment implies condemnation of the entire priesthood based on the heinous actions of a few (who, by the way, would not have been ordained to the priesthood had orthodox Catholic teaching been followed regarding the unsuitability of actively homosexual men to the priesthood – Ordination is a privilege, not a “right” – however that’s another blog post – funny how following the Magisterium can keep us on the right path and out of trouble).  While even one case of sexual abuse is unacceptable, in reality of the tens of thousands of active priests from the 1950s to today, only 1% have been accused of sexual abuse (in fact, children are one hundred times more likely to be abused at the hands of a public school employee than a Catholic priest).  In addition, in many cases, accusations are only coming out years after the accused died, which makes it rather difficult for the accused to present his side of the story.  Along with that, the vast majority of abuse cases in the United States are being filed by one attorney, who has a record of going on “fishing expeditions” in order to find “victims.”  While there are certainly legitimate cases which need to be severally dealt with (and the post-Vatican II Church is far from innocent in not taking the issue seriously – however, I suspect many complaining about Rome today would have accused it of acting “harshly” has it done what it should, when it had should), the fact remains that the vast majority of priests and Bishops stand accused of nothing and more importantly most of them are good, honorable and holy men.

Additionally, Ordination does not create saints.  It creates an instrument, the priest’s hands, through which God works by way of the Holy Spirit to being you the sanctifying grace of the Sacraments.  It’s our job to take care of our priests.  If you know a priest who needs help, it’s your job as a faithful Catholic to help that man.  You will be held accountable by God for doing nothing and will be judged even more harshly for loudly complaining and libeling the entire priesthood.  My friend, I must warn you, as a Christian concerned about the salvation of your soul, your comments give me great concern regarding the path you’re on.

Any Catholic who takes such issue with the entire priesthood needs to enter into serious prayerful reflection instead of condemning the entire priesthood in the “court of public opinion!”  Only God knows what’s in the hearts of these men and it’s up to Him to judge their souls.  St. Peter denied Jesus, his very savior, three times, yet Jesus forgave him – and not only forgave St. Peter, but built His entire Church upon the “rock” of St. Peter, telling us that even the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.  Instead of looking for ways to dissent from the Truth, I suggest you instead prayerfully seek God’s grace to help you freely surrender your will to His will and seek to live a life of Christian perfection through Jesus Christ in unity with His Church.

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On the Function of the Theologian

© 2010 by Steven Schultz

     The theologian’s vocation fulfills a critically important role within the life of the Church.  Pope John Paul II taught, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…”  By helping provide reason for faith, the theologian assists the People of God, again as John Paul II put it, “…so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”  One of the most important documents explaining the role of the theologian is Donum Veritatis.  We shall use this document as our guide in exploring the function of the theologian, as well as showing how dissent from the Magisterium impedes the true function of the theologian.[1]

An important point to contemplate at the outset is the fact, in Donum Veritatis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith teaches that the role of theologian is a vocation.[2]  The work of a theologian is not simply a “job” or ordinary labor.  Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia defines vocation thus: “In the Christian life, the divine calling to follow a certain course of action in life…”[3]  By evoking the term vocation, the Congregation sets apart the work of a theologian as something special.

Donum Veritatis teaches us that “the truth which sets us free is a gift of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 8:32).  Man’s nature calls him to seek the truth while ignorance keeps him in a condition of servitude… In the Christian faith, knowledge and life, truth and existence are intrinsically connected.  Assuredly, the truth given in God’s revelation exceeds the capacity of human knowledge, but it is not opposed to human reason.”[4]  The Sacrament of Baptism serves as the initiation into the mystery of Christ and sets the believer on a search for deeper understanding, or as St. Paul puts it, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18).[5]  Theology is the method by which believers “search for an understanding of the faith” and “is therefore something indispensable for the Church.”[6]

This indispensable role of theology has always been important for the Church, particularly “in times of great spiritual and cultural change,” so that She may carry out God’s plan, “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).  In this mission, theology is exposed to risks “since it must strive to ‘abide’ in the truth (cf. Jn 8:31), while at the same time taking into account the new problems which confront the human spirit.”  As we shall see, these risks are greatest when theologians dissent from the Magisterium, but mitigated when theologians operate with reverence and respect for the Magisterium.[7]

The vocation of the theologian is “to pursue in particular way ever deeper understanding of the Word of God found in Sacred Scriptures and handed on by the living Tradition of the Church.”  Fr. Aidan Nichols sums up this function by stating, “The task of theology is the disciplined exploration of what is contained in revelation.”[8]  In order to fulfill their vocation, theologians must operate in communion with the Magisterium, which has the responsibility to safeguard the deposit of faith.  In providing a deeper understanding of the faith, the theologian also “aids the People of God in fulfilling the Apostle’s command (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) to give an accounting for their hope to those who ask it.”[9]

Theology “seeks ‘reasons of faith’ and offers these reasons as a response to those seeking them.”  Through this process, theology becomes obedient to Christ’s command to make “disciples” of all nations and teach them, “for men cannot become disciples if the truth found in the word of faith is not presented to them (cf. Rom 10:14f).”  Theology contributes to the faith by enabling it to be communicated.  By the act of faith, man begins to love God.  This love leads him to seek deeper understanding of the beloved – theology helps satisfy this desire.[10]

The theologian is called to a high standard.  “Since the object of theology is the Truth, which is the living God and His plan for salvation revealed in Jesus Christ, the theologian is called to deepen his own life of faith and continuously unite his scientific research with prayer.”[11]  Similarly, while theology has developed into a true and proper science, and must hold to rigorous critical standards, it must not succumb to a critical spirit of feeling or prejudice.  Commitment to theology requires a spiritual effort to grow in virtue and holiness.[12]  Theologians must also recognize the human ability to know truth.  Divine revelation evaluates other sciences, not vice versa.[13]

A theologian must remember he is part of the People of God and must show respect for them by presenting only “teaching which in no way does harm to the doctrine of the faith” — which is Truth.[14]  Likewise, “the freedom proper to a theological research is exercised within the Church’s faith.”[15]  Consequently, theology, rightly done, “entails in essence an objective discussion, a fraternal dialogue, an openness and willingness to modify one’s own opinions.”[16]  While enjoying academic freedom, the theologian must accept as principles the object of theology as being given by divine Revelation, handed on and interpreted in the Church under the authority of the Magisterium.[17]

The Magisterium has a pastoral role of vigilance over the Faith.  “It seeks to ensure the People of God remain in the truth which sets free.”[18]  Theologians must understand this “proper mission of the Magisterium and collaborate with it.”[19]  The nature of the task to religiously guard and loyally teach the faith (Revelation) “implies the Magisterium can make pronouncements ‘in a definitive way’ on propositions which, even if not contained among the truths of the faith,” derive necessarily from Revelation itself.[20]  Therefore, morality can also be an object of the authentic Magisterium.  “Moral teachings [contained in Revelation] which per se could be known by natural reason” can be infallibly taught by the Magisterium.[21]

The Magisterium and theology “while having different gifts and functions, ultimately share the same goal: preserving the People of God in the Truth which sets free and thereby making them ‘a light to the nations’.”[22]  The Magisterium authentically teaches the doctrine of Jesus and the Apostles; theology provides a deeper meaning to this doctrine.[23]  In obedience to the faith, whatever the Magisterium proclaims, even if not infallible, must be firmly accepted and held.[24]  With this in mind, the theologian is charged with aiding future understanding of the Magisterium’s pronouncements, not refuting them.

Dissent is public opposition to the Magisterium.  Among the factors fostering dissent is growth of the ideology of philosophical liberalism, which places greater credence on individual thought than authority of tradition.  Dissent also comes about when public opinion is manipulated by “mass media” and people are pressured to conform.  However, we must remember the Church has always held “nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will.”[25]

Some believe theologians are not bound to any Magisterial teaching unless it is proclaimed infallibly, especially with regard to specific moral norms, believing it’s largely up to the individual to accept or reject teachings as he sees fit.[26]  Two arguments are often put forth to defend dissent.  The first is a hermeneutical argument which claims the Magisterium is nothing more than debatable theology.  The second is a theological pluralism/relativism which calls the integrity of the faith into question.[27]  Another form of dissent says “truth” is determined only by a majority opinion of a large number of Christians at a particular time on a particular issue.[28]

However, “the freedom of the act of faith cannot justify dissent.”[29]  It is a voluntary act to live in the faith and submit one’s will to the will of God.  Being subjects to the Law of God, we cannot appeal to the rights of man in order to oppose the Magisterium.[30]  Likewise, appealing to the so-called “obligation” to follow one’s conscience is not a justification for dissent since “conscience is not an independent and infallible faculty.”[31]

The mission and responsibility of the Magisterium with regards the Word of God gives it the power to pronounce against the work of theologians who harm the faith.   The Church is organized on a hierarchical structure instituted by Christ; not a democracy or poll for consensus of public opinion.  Therefore, theologians must operate in a spirit of communion to build Christ’s Body in unity and truth.[32]  As Cardinal Avery Dulles writes, “room must be made for responsible dissent [disagreement] in the Church, but dissent must not be glorified as though church authorities were generally ignorant, self-serving, and narrow-minded.”[33]

Bishops and theologians must remember “Christ is the definitive Word of the Father (cf. Heb 1:2)…He is the Truth who sets us free (cf. Jn 8:36; 14:6).”[34]  Consequently, our response to His Word is one of selfless, willing obedience.  The Virgin Mary, in her free and complete surrender of her will to the will of God, serves as our model of accepting and serving the Word of God.[35]

This article is copyright and may not be reporduced or reposted in any form without express written permission of the author.


Endnotes

[1] Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (Boston, MA: Pauline, 1998), 7.

[2] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Veritatis – On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian (May 24, 1990), 6.

[3] Rev Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ed., Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia, Revised Edition (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1998), 996.

[4] Donum Veritatis (DV), 1.

[5] DV, 1

[6] DV, 1.

[7] DV, 1.

[8] Aidan Nichols, The Shape of Catholic Theology (Collegville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 32.

[9] DV, 6.

[10] DV, 7.

[11] DV, 8.

[12] DV, 9.

[13] DV, 10.

[14] DV, 11.

[15] DV, 11.

[16] DV, 11.

[17] DV, 12.

[18] DV, 20.

[19] DV, 20.

[20] DV, 16.

[21] DV, 16.

[22] DV, 21.

[23] DV, 21.

[24] DV, 23.

[25] DV, 32.

[26] DV, 33.

[27] DV, 34.

[28] DV, 35.

[29] DV, 36.

[30] DV, 36.

[31] DV, 38.

[32] DV, 37, 39, 40.

[33] Avery Dulles, Craft of Theology (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 14.

[34] DV, 41.

[35] DV, 42.

Bibliography

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Donum Veritatis – On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.  May 24, 1990.

Dulles, Avery.  The Craft of Theology.  New York: Crossroad, 1992.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, New Testament, Second Catholic Edition RSV.  San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2010.

John Paul II.  Fides et Ratio.  Boston, MA: Pauline, 1998.

Nichols, Aidan.  The Shape of Catholic Theology.  Collegville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991.

Stravinskas, Rev Peter M. J., Ed.  Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia, Revised Edition.  Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1998.

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[The following article from Archbishop Carlson is very clear — you cannot support abortion and still claim to be a Catholic.]

Before the Cross | Good Catholics cannot be pro-choice; The Fifth Commandment demands respect for life as God’s most precious gift

By Archbishop Robert J. Carlson
Mugshot

God’s law in the Old Testament is clear and unambiguous: You shall not kill. Jesus is even more demanding: Every one who is angry is liable to judgment.

Sins against the Fifth Commandment are easy to commit. Any time we think, speak or act out of anger or hatred or jealousy or revenge, we abuse God’s commandment that we respect His most precious gift, the gift of life — especially human life.

Human life is sacred because, from its beginning until its natural end, it involves the creative action of God. The Fifth Commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. God alone is the Lord of life. No one has the right to end arbitrarily what God has begun, and sustained, through the gift of His love.

In the account of Abel’s murder by Cain (Genesis 4:8-12), Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in humankind, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of recorded history. God declares this as wicked, and He asks the question to be answered over the ages: “What have you done?” Today this question is asked not only of those who kill someone, but also of those responsible for violence, anger, hatred and vengeance in any form.

It is a shame that there are so many violent words expressed between members of the same family day in and day out. Anger and intolerance are also pervasive in our Church and in society. Such attitudes are destructive and sinful. They are of the Evil One and not of God.

The Fifth Commandment does not stop someone from self defense, because someone who defends his or her own life is not guilty of murder. Legitimate defense can be not only a right but also a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or the security of a nation. We risk our lives to protect ourselves and others because we value human life and freedom so dearly. They are gifts from God that we are bound to cherish and defend.

Since the first century, the Church has addressed the moral evil of abortion and the killing of a defenseless baby in the womb. People who are casual about the sin of abortion and who choose to view it as a political issue rather than the serious moral issue that it is are guilty of violating the Fifth Commandment. You cannot be “pro-choice” (pro-abortion) and remain a Catholic in good standing. That’s why the Church asks those who maintain this position not to receive holy Communion. We are not being mean or judgmental, we are simply acknowledging the fact that such a stance is objectively and seriously sinful and is radically inconsistent with the Christian way of life.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said, “God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and human life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: Abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (“Gaudium et Spes,” No. 51.3). That’s why formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life (see canons 1398,1314, and 1323-1324).

The Fifth Commandment also directs us to work for justice and peace — avoiding war whenever possible — and to limit the use of capital punishment to the most extreme (and rare) circumstances required to protect human life. Only God has the right to take the life of another human being. When we take that action into our own hands — in self-defense or in defense of others — we had better be sure that all other options have been exhausted!

In addition, euthanasia or deliberately taking of the life of someone who is sick, dying, disabled or mentally ill is morally unacceptable. The Church calls for the ordinary care owed to a sick person, but medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous or extraordinary are not necessary. If you are unsure about the moral implications of health care procedures that are being proposed for someone you love, contact your pastor or the archdiocese’s Respect Life Apostolate. They will be happy to help you consider approaches that are in accordance with our Church’s teaching about care for those who are sick or dying.

Taking proper care of our health, respecting others and showing respect for the dead are all matters covered by the Fifth Commandment’s demand that we reverence God’s most precious gift — human life.

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A wonderful and thoughtful post from the Archdiocese of Washington blog:
 
May24

Adore the Lord in Holy Attire – On Proper Dress for Mass

By: Msgr. Charles Pope

Last week we had a discussion on the women wearing veils in Church. One of the themes that emerged in the comments was that the discussions about what to wear in Church should be broader than just a veil. More specifically BOTH men and women should consider how they dress when going into God’s house. Hence I would like to explore some background issues and  enunciate some principles. You of course will be able to add to them.

1. Scripture – There is very little in Scripture that seems to spell out the proper way to dress for sacred worship. There is the general directive to Adore the Lord in holy attire (Psalm 96:9; Ps 29:2) But this seems more an allusion to holiness (God’s and ours) more than to clothing per se. There are directives for the Passover meal that one should have staff in hand, with loins girt and sandals on their feet (Ex 12:11). But this seems a specific rule for the Passover meal only and hardly something that would done in the synagogue or temple. To gird one’s loins meant to pull up the lower part of one’s outer garment and tighten the belt. This exposed the lower legs and allowed greater mobility for them. It was a sign of being flight or of being at work. It is the ancient equivalent of “roll up your sleeves.”  (more HERE). As a general rule Jewish people would not show their legs unless circumstances strongly required it. They would surely not come to the synagogue or the Temple in this manner. Scripture also speaks of Phylacteries and Prayer Shawls. But these sorts of clothing and accessories seem to have come under some critique in the New Testament (Matt 23:5) and their use was not continued in the New Testament Church worship.

2. Church norms and rules – There are no official and specific Church norms or requirement for lay persons who attend Mass mentioned in Canon Law or the Sacramentary. Surely for priests and other clergy there are many rules and norms but I am unaware of any currently binding norms for the laity. Although the veils were once required for women, the 1917 Code of Canon Law was abrogated and the current code is silent on any requirement.

3. Hence it seems that Culture supplies most of the norms regarding what is considered appropriate attire for Church. And, alas our culture is currently quite unhelpful to us in this regard. Here in America we have become extremely casual about the way we dress for just about everything. It seems we almost never dress up anymore. This has changed somewhat dramatically in my own life time of just less than 50 years. “Sneakers” or “tennis shoes” as we called them were for sports or running around and playing in the neighborhood. But we would never even think of wearing them to school and certainly not to Church. I remember having a special set of shoes just for church. In the 1960s, it was also expected that I would go to Church in formal, pressed trousers, a button down shirt, and, except in the hottest months, a tie and even a suit jacket in winter. My sister and mother always wore a dress. Pants would not even have been considered for them. For the younger girls a skirt and a blouse might be OK but preferably a dress with a hat or veil.

But things changed dramatically around 1970. The photo above right was taken in 1969 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton, Massachusetts. It was the end of an era. Within five years neckties were lost and jeans and a t-shirts came to be the norm. Most of the women as we discussed lost the veil, and dresses gave way to more casual pants suits and then also to other more casual things like jeans etc. Shorts for men and women, unthinkable in previous years also began to appear in church as did tank tops and other beach attire. Within ten years the culture of dressing up for Church was almost wholly abandoned. Now  wearing a tie to Church would seem stuffy and formal.

But this is where our culture has gone. It is not just Church. Years ago when my family went out to eat we almost always dressed up. Maybe it wasn’t a full neck tie but at least trousers and a button down shirt. Maybe not a formal dress for mom and sis, but at least a skirt and blouse. A restaurant was considered a semi-formal outing. School was also considered a place where things like jeans and informal t-shirts were out of place. Going down town to shop meant we changed out of shorts and put on something appropriate. Shorts were basically for running around the house, playing in the yard and such. But you just didn’t go out to more public settings wearing shorts and flip flops or even sneakers.

Pardon me for sounding like and old fud but I am not really that old. My point is that culture has changed,  and changed rather quickly. This has affected the Church as well. What were fighting is a strong cultural swing to the extremely informal. Most people don’t even think of dressing up for most things any more let alone Church.

4. Hence at the cost of seeming old and stuffy I might like to suggest a few norms and I hope you’ll supply your own as well:

  1. Men should wear formal shoes to Church. We used to call these hard shoes (because they were) but today many formal shoes are actually quite comfortable.
  2. Men should wear trousers (not jeans).
  3. Men should never wear shorts to Church.
  4. Men should wear a decent shirt, preferably a button down shirt. If it is a pullover shirt it should include a collar. Wearing a plain t-shirt without a collar is too informal.
  5. Men should consider wearing a tie to Church and in cooler weather, a suit coat. Some may consider this a bit too stuffy and formal but who knows, you might be a trend setter!
  6. Now as I talk about women I know I’ll get in some trouble!
  7. Women should wear decent shoes to Church. Flip flops, beach sandals etc. seem inappropriate.
  8. Women should not wear shorts to Church.
  9. Women, if they wear pants, should never wear jeans to Church. Some nice slacks that are not too tight can be fine.
  10. Women should consider wearing a dress or at least a skirt in preference to pants. It just looks a bit more formal than pants.
  11. Women should wear a nice blouse (if they are not wearing a full dress). The blouse or shirt they wear should not be too tight.
  12. Sleeveless garments are pushing it a bit but can be acceptable.
  13. Women should never wear tank tops, tube tops, spaghetti straps, or bare midriffs to Church.
  14. Well, you may have at this list. Add or subtract as you will.

A final thought: Clothes say something about what we think, what we value. They also influence how we behave and feel. That our culture has become so casual about everything says something about us. I cannot exactly articulate it but it seems to say, “nothing is really all that important.” But that is not true. Going to God’s house IS  important. Being ministered to by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is astounding. Casual attire in these circumstances is simply inappropriate if we really think about what we are doing, where we are going and who it is we will meet. It does not necessarily follow that we must wear tuxedos and formal gowns. But decent semi-formal attire seems wholly appropriate. Sunday is special, God’s House is special. Somethings really ARE important and our clothing and demeanor ought to reflect this truth.

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The Fathers: Vol II

The Fathers: Volume II.  By Pope Benedict XVI.  Our Sunday Visitor, 2010.  170 pages, hardcover.  $14.95

The Fathers: Volume II is a companion to Pope Benedict’s 2008 work, The Fathers, also published by Our Sunday Visitor.  These books cover a series of catechesis on the early Church fathers during his weekly general audiences.  The first volume comprises talks from March 2007 to January 2008 and covers the lives of twenty-six fathers during the third to fifth centuries.  Volume II picks up with talks from March 2008 to October 2009 and the lives of twenty-five fathers through the twelfth century.

Those who have not read Pope Benedict are in for a treat.  While possessing a highly developed intellect, the Pope never-the-less presents these teachings in an easy to understand manner.  Both books consist of a series of brief sketches on important fathers of the Church.

The Pope not only provides us interesting biographical sketches, but also works in an important theological concept with each brief.  For example, while learning about the life of St. Leo the Great, we also learn about his role in the Council of Chalcedon.  From this, we learn how the Council reacted against the heresy of Eutyches, who denied the true human nature of Jesus, to pronounce the orthodoxy of the person of Jesus as fully human and fully divine.

The short nature of these sketches encourages you to read them whenever you have time.  The book may be read cover-to-cover or you can read any chapter which catches your eye.  This makes it an excellent “nightstand book” or a book to carry with you whenever you might have few minutes to spare.

My criticisms of both books are very slight.  First, Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) provides no introduction to these audiences.  Instead, the books jumps right into the sketches.  I believe OSV could have produced an even better product by providing an introduction to help “set the stage” for these sketches and help set them in the fuller context of Pope Benedict’s teachings.  Also, OSV could have made the books even more useful by providing an index.  Finally, I wish OSV would have included some suggestions for further reading on the lives of the fathers covered.  Again, these are relatively minor concerns compared to the overall quality and content of these books.

Catholics who take the time to read even a small portion of the wonderful works our Church provides find great reward.  While offering us the opportunity to learn more about the fathers during the major formative centuries of the Church, these volumes also give us a wonderful introduction to the teachings and thought of Pope Benedict XVI.

This review was written as part of the Catholic books reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Fathers Volume II .

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Pope John Paul II

It is unfortunate so few Catholics read the Church’s own writings.  This is especially true in our age of great confusion and crisis of identity within the Church.  Far too many rely on what they think they know about the Church, which often comes from a childhood Catechism class, dimly remembered.  It is time to turn once again to the wealth of materials the Church presents us in order to truly know our faith and thereby come to love it even more.

Considering Pope Benedict XVI’s recent address on St. Thomas Aquinas and the harmony between faith and reason, it is particularly fitting to consider Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio.  Released on September 14, 1998, this encyclical on the relationship between faith and reason was directed primarily toward the Bishops, philosophers, scientists and theologians, but is very profitable for any Catholic who desires to better understand his faith.

The fundamental theme of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical is the deep connection between faith and reason.  As the Pope puts it: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Throughout human history, we find all cultures share a fundamental desire to seek answers to ultimate questions about existence and purpose.  We also find the more people know reality and the world, the more they know themselves in their uniqueness with the question of the meaning of things and their very existence becoming ever more pressing.  In other words, we are “programmed” to seek the truth.  This innate desire to discover the truth of things is one of the greatest aspects which define us as human beings. (1)

In Pope John Paul II’s first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, he told us: “We have become sharers in this mission of the prophet Christ, and in virtue of that mission we together with him are serving divine truth in the Church.  Being responsible for the truth also means loving it and seeking the most exact understanding of it, in order to bring it closer to ourselves and others in all its saving power, its splendor and its profundity joined with simplicity.”

Philosophy, as the love of wisdom, shares with theology the search for answers to the ultimate questions of human existence and purpose.  From the early Church fathers to the present day, the Church has held philosophy in high regard as a means of increasing our knowledge of God and aiding in our understanding of divine Revelation.  Indeed, the Pope tells us, “She [the Church] sees in philosophy the way to come to know fundamental truths of human life.  At the same time, the Church considers philosophy an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of faith and for communicating the truth of the Gospel to those who don’t yet know it” (5).

The reason the Church so strongly supports philosophy is because philosophy (rightly done) and theology are mutually supportive endeavors.  Since both arrive at the truth, they cannot contradict one another.  As the First Vatican Council tells us, the truth obtained by philosophy and the truth of revelation are neither identical nor mutually exclusive. (9)

The problem arises, the Pope tells us, due to the state of modern philosophy:  “Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing” (5).  Modern philosophy no longer ponders people’s ability for knowing the truth and instead emphasizes ways this ability is limited and conditioned.  Modern philosophy makes the fundamental error of assuming all positions are equally valid, a position which leads to agnosticism and relativism.

As various schools of modern philosophy have rejected the meaningfulness of being, this has led to society to a general, and dangerous, attitude of nihilism (90).  Nihilism is both a denial of all foundations and a negation of all objective truth.  Not only does Nihilism conflict with the demands and content of God’s word, it also denies humanity and the very identity of what it means to be human.

The Pope warns us, “Is should never be forgotten that the neglect of being inevitably leads to losing touch with objective truth and therefore with the very ground of human dignity.  This in turn makes it possible to erases from countenance of man and woman the marks of their likeness to God, and thus to lead them little by little either to a destructive will to power or to a solitude without hope.  Once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try to set them free.  Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.” (90)

We see signs of this illusionary freedom all around us, from abortion as a “right” to science gone mad, and even, quite fearfully, in modern democracy.  The “scientism” school of philosophical thought claims only knowledge derived from the positive sciences is acceptable and says all thought from religion, theology, ethics and aesthetics is mere fantasy (88).  This leads to the belief we see today that if something is technically possible, it’s morally acceptable.  Yet if technology is not ordered towards a higher good, but only utilitarian ends, it can quickly become inhuman and even a potential destroyer of the human race (81).  Similar pragmatic thinking infects modern democracy, which rejects any sort of reference to unchanging values, but instead believes any course of action is acceptable if determined so by majority vote (89).

In Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul II says that “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32) is at once a fundamental requirement and a warning.  On one hand, the words define an honest relationship with truth as a condition for authentic freedom.  However, they are also a warning “to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world.”

The solution, the Pope says, is for philosophy and theology to rediscover one another (101).  While the Church does not endorse any particular school of philosophy, the Magisterium does have the right and duty “to respond clearly and strongly when controversial philosophical opinions threaten right understanding of what has been revealed, and when false and partial theories which sow the seed of serious error, confusing the pure and simple faith of the People of God, begin to spread more widely” (49).  Therefore it becomes the Magisterium’s duty to discern and promote philosophy not at odds with the faith (63).

While reemphasizing that the study of philosophy is “fundamental and indispensable” to the study of theology (62) and that it must be carried out in light of valid philosophical tradition (106), the Pope lists three requirements of philosophy (81-83).  First, philosophy must recover as its primary purpose the search for “ultimate and overarching meaning of life.”  Second, philosophy must verify the human capacity to know the truth and the ability to arrive at objective truth by reasonable use of the intellect in the tradition of the Scholastic doctors.  Third, philosophy must regain its genuine metaphysical range “capable … of transcending empirical date in order something absolute, ultimate and foundational in its search for the truth” (83).

This reunion of philosophy and theology is vital, for as the Pope puts is: “Philosophical inquiry can help greatly to clarify the relationship between truth and life, between event and doctrinal truth, and above all between transcendent truth and humanly comprehensible language.  This involves a reciprocity between the theological disciplines and the insights drawn from the various strands of philosophy; and such a reciprocity can prove genuinely fruitful for the communication and deeper understanding of the faith.” (99)

Different philosophical systems have deceived man into believing he is his own master.  However, it is entering into true Wisdom that we find authentic freedom and full knowledge of God (107).  Consequently, we see much harmony between the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and the vocation of philosophy (108).

The early holy monks called Mary “the table at which faith sits in thought.”  Likewise, the Pope turns our final thoughts toward Mary: “May Mary, Seat of Wisdom, be a sure haven for all who devote their lives to the search for wisdom.  May their journey into wisdom, sure and final goal of all true knowledge, be freed of every hindrance by the intercession of the one who, in giving birth to the Truth and treasuring it in her heart, has shared it forever with all the world.” (108)

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From the Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962:

This season begins with the Feast of the Blessed Trinity and is the longest of the Liturgical Year.  It may comprise from twenty-four to twenty-eight weeks and differs considerably from the other liturgical seasons.

In the Liturgical Year there is a historical progression, beginning in Advent with the waiting for the coming of the Messias, followed by His birth at Christmas.  During the Sundays after Epiphany, the Holy Childhood is commemorated, while during Lent we are reminded of the fasting in the desert and the Passion of our Lord.  The sacred cycle is completed at Eastertide, and the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles.

In this last part of the ecclesiastical year, the Church, guided by the Holy Ghost, continues the work of the Redemption, realized during the preceding part of the Liturgical Year.

“The Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind whatsoever I shall have said to you.”

This last season of the Liturgical Year is filled with feasts of major importance: those of the Blessed Trinity, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart, the Assumption and Nativity of our Lady, All Saints, and All Souls.

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