Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christ is Risen!

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!

Pope Francis, Urbi Et Orbi Easter 2014.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America"

An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, by Joseph Bottum. Image Books (February 11, 2014)

We live in a profoundly spiritual age--but in a very strange way, different from every other moment of our history. Huge swaths of American culture are driven by manic spiritual anxiety and relentless supernatural worry. Radicals and traditionalists, liberals and conservatives, together with politicians, artists, environmentalists, followers of food fads, and the chattering classes of television commentators: America is filled with people frantically seeking confirmation of their own essential goodness. We are a nation desperate to stand on the side of morality--to know that we are righteous and dwell in the light.

Or so Joseph Bottum argues in An Anxious Age, an account of modern America as a morality tale, formed by its spiritual disturbances. And the cause, he claims, is the most significant and least noticed historical fact of the last fifty years: the collapse of the Mainline Protestant churches that were the source of social consensus and cultural unity. Our dangerous spiritual anxieties, broken loose from the churches that once contained them, now madden everything in American life.

Updating The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber's sociological classic, An Anxious Age undertakes two case studies in contemporary social class, adrift in a nation without the religious understandings that gave it meaning. Looking at the college-educated elite he calls "The Poster Children," Bottum sees the post-Protestant heirs of the old Mainline Protestant domination of culture: dutiful descendants who claim the high social position of their Christian ancestors even while they reject their ancestors' Christianity. Turning to "The Swallows of Capistrano," the Catholics formed by the pontificate of John Paul II, Bottum evaluates the early victories--and later defeats--of the attempt to substitute Catholicism for the dying Mainline voice in public life.

Sweeping across American intellectual and cultural history, An Anxious Age traces the course of national religion and warns about the strange angels and even stranger demons with which we now wrestle. Insightful and contrarian, wise and unexpected, An Anxious Age ranks among the great modern accounts of American culture.

Interviews and Presentations

Reviews and Discussion

  • The Puritans Among Us, by Mary Eberstadt. National Review 04/21/14:
    An Anxious Age abounds in logic and clarification (and for that reason among others, it was derelict of the book’s publisher to omit footnotes and an index, both of which would have helped to signal its scholarly nature). Even so, it is the book’s metaphors that will haunt the reader after he puts it down. Who else would describe Protestantism in the United States as “our cultural Mississippi, rolling through the center of the American landscape”? Likely no one — but the image brings to vivid and unexpected life a thousand Pew Research reports on declining attendance and the rise in “nones.” Similarly, the author’s unspooling of the story of the swallows of San Juan Capistrano as a metaphor for explaining what has happened to Catholicism in America is not only arresting but convincing, succeeding both as religious sociology and as literary trope.
  • Book Review: An Anxious Age by Geraldo Russo. Washington Times 04/01/14. "As Tocqueville and others have recognized, American religion and American exceptionalism have proceeded together. Now that they have been sundered, other choices present themselves. “An Anxious Age” explains how we can make the best of what confronts us."

  • The Rise of Secular Religion, by David P. Goldman. The American Interest 03/17/14:
    This is a work of deep pessimism, albeit mitigated by faith in divine intervention, and its author reveals his innermost thoughts only in parable. It is a work of great importance that should be read, re-read and debated by the literate public, believers and non-believers alike. It is to be hoped that its dark tone will not discourage those who are more likely to seek encouragement than instruction.
  • An Anxious Author, by Greg Forster. The Public Discourse 03/31/14:
    Joseph Bottum’s An Anxious Age is a bad book with a good book trapped inside it, struggling to get out. Bottum offers insightful observations that challenge prevailing assumptions about the nature and history of secular progressivism in America. Unfortunately, his main arguments are underdeveloped and disorganized, and the book’s appeal is limited by its prejudice against Protestantism. But the greatest disappointment is Bottum’s failure to practice the Christian virtue of hope.
    • American Hope: Don’t Conflate Political Culture and Christianity, by Joseph Bottum. [Reply to Greg Forster] The Public Discourse 04/10/14. "... a forced smile and a Mrs. Rogers optimism about Americanist politics: I just don’t feel enough anxiety to fake it. A calm hope in Christ Jesus and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin seems enough to be going on with."

  • Rise of the Poster Children, by Geoffrey Kabaservice. The University Bookman Spring 2014:
    An Anxious Age incorporates a number of separately published articles and essays, and sometimes the seams are visible. The reader most likely will not mind the digressions and set pieces that don’t relate to the overall argument, however, since the writing is so marvelous. Bottum’s chapter on John Paul II positively glitters, and his conclusion that the Pope was “the freest man in the twentieth century” is both satisfying and earned. His side-by-side profile of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and William F. Buckley Jr. says more about both men in a dozen pages than some books manage to convey, and effectively underscores Bottum’s argument that today’s Catholic intellectuals are at a disadvantage without the culture that could be taken for granted in the past. The book’s detours into figures such as Rauschenbusch, Max Weber, James Pike, and Avery Dulles are also fascinating.
  • An Anxious Age—and an Antagonistic Future?, by Christopher White. Catholic World Report April 13, 2014:
    Bottum’s work is primarily descriptive in nature and does not offer any hard predictions for what the future might hold from here. There is indeed the possibility that we might hope to begin toreintegrate the public square with a religious language where the poster children of post-Protestant America are convinced by the Catholic converts—or are at least hospitable to their convictions. But that remains unresolved. Considering the widespread skepticism and even hostility in which religious expression is viewed in America, it’s seemingly unlikely. And if this, indeed, the future that awaits us, it’s highly probably that this anxious age in which we live will give rise to an antagonistic one to follow.
  • The End of Exceptionalism, by Eric Jackson. Thoughts and Ideas 3/28/14:
    As his book makes clear, Protestantism is gone, and—at present at least—Catholicism cannot fill the gap. America may have been exceptional in her religious composition, but it takes a considerable act of faith to see how she can remain so. Bottum is to be commended for the gentle way he leads the reader to this regrettable realization.
  • The Social Gospel Paradox Divest This:
    for those who embraced the message of the Social Gospel, simply fighting against bigotry or corruption was not enough. Rather, one had to incorporate into one’s belief system the existence of superhuman evil in the universe organized around the six social sins ["bigotry, arrogance of power, corruption of justice for personal gain, mob madness and violence, militarism and class contempt"]. In other words, during an era when rationalism was banishing Satan from set of beliefs one could hold as a person of reason, the Social Gospel provided those same reasoned men and women a new set of spirits (really demons) in which to believe.

    Rauschenbusch’s critics pointed out that a world in which man was responsible for aligning his soul against supernatural evil left little room for God and Christ. And while the original Social Gospel followers (all pious men and women) were able to deflect this criticism, it turns out that their children found it a bit easier to orient their faith around the fight against the Social Devil rather than belief in more traditional deities. And for their grandchildren and great grandchildren, it became easier and easier to abandon this or that doctrine – even the foundational beliefs of Christianity – so long as churches remained dedicated to the battle against bigotry, militarism and the other “genuine” spiritual evils in the world.

    An irony that Bottum points out is that it was the very choice to put politics (or, more accurately, a human-based and ultimately politicized re-definition of religion) before doctrine that eliminated Mainliners role in both the religious and political realm. For as church leaders have themselves bemoaned in recent decades, when was the last time you heard a Presbyterian minister on the Sunday morning talk shows proving moral guidance on the issues of the day?

  • Reviewed by Matt McCullough 9Marks 3/25/14:
    Two lessons seem especially important. First, those of us who hold a traditional Christian view of human sexuality and marriage must get comfortable being dismissed as bigots. If Bottum is right about the post-Protestant “redeemed personality,” there is a tremendous psychological reward for identifying bigotry and very little social cost to condemning it. In this climate, there is no incentive to consider the nuance by which one can love a person and disapprove of their behavior, disapprove even because you love them and want to see them flourish.

    Second, we’ve got to be willing to accept our status as outcasts from the power centers of American society before we’ll be of any use to American society. According to Bottum, Protestant Christianity was most influential in public life when Protestants were more interested in theological faithfulness than public usefulness. As he puts it, “religion actually works to ground the American experiment because we take religion more seriously than the American experiment” (291). The decline of Mainline Protestantism is a powerful cautionary tale. If we assume the gospel while we aim for cultural renewal—if we redefine it in the name of cultural relevance—we’ll end up irrelevant anyway.

  • A conservative who was right about Occupy, by Nathan Schneider. WagingNonviolence.com. 02/15/14:
    That a critic like Bottum, most at home in conservative quarters, credits Occupy for inspiring his book is to me a reminder of why the movement caught hold of me and so many others so fiercely at the outset: it had the potential to recenter our politics and our discourse and our spectrum. Its failures were less failures of aspiration than of accomplishment — that it wasn’t diverse enough, or empowering enough, or transformative enough to live up to its own transcendental ambitions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cessario on Cajetan and the Communio School

The Communio school of theology, taken globally, and not as it plays out under the influence of the American edition, is more difficult to define than Thomism. Thomists are those who read Aquinas, and so may be distinguished from those who read and adhere to other major Christian thinkers such as Scotus or St. Bonaventure or Ockham. Partisans of the Communio school, on the other hand, study many authors; their return to the sources embraces a wide range of both ancient and recent theologians and philosophers, and even includes consulting social scientists.

[Tracey] Rowland identifies many of these figures in her chapters. Suffice it to remark that a common feature of Communio school theology is that its adherents subscribe without hesitation to a viewpoint that lately has been set forth by Nicholas M. Healy in his Thomas Aquinas: Theologian of the Christian Life: “In his commentary on the Summa theologiae, Cajetan so separates nature from grace that humanity now has two ends, natural and supernatural. . . .” Healy of course repeats an assertion that was set forth with remarkable success in the twentieth century by Jesuit Father Henri de Lubac, later Cardinal of the Roman Church.

It has always struck me as odd that so many good-willed theologians accept the view that a twentieth-century French Jesuit whose intellectual interests were wide-ranging occupied a better position to understand what St.Thomas Aquinas taught about the finalities of the human person than did a sixteenth-century Italian humanist, who had represented Catholic doctrine in person to no less imposing a figure than Martin Luther and whose commentary on the entire Summa theologiae appears by order of Pope Leo XIII in the critical edition of Aquinas’s opera omnia that bears that Pope’s name, the still incomplete Leonine edition. But they do. Many sincere people, including Tracey Rowland, accept the proposition that de Lubac laid bare a huge historical mistake about how to construe the relationship between nature and grace, and they seemingly consider his critique of Cardinal Cajetan and the Thomists who follow him a non-gainsayable principle of all future Catholic theology. What Cajetan obscured, de Lubac grasped with clarté. Nicholas Healy illustrates this conviction:“[T]he influence of the two-tier conception of reality became widespread and was understood by many theologians as a reasonable development of Thomas’s thought.” One could infer from remarks such as these that Tommaso De Vio, Cardinal Cajetan (1469–1534) should be known as the great betrayer of Aquinas instead of his papal approved interpreter. Prima facie, the proposition seems primitive.

Those who want to understand more about this golden apple of twentieth-century theological discord should consult the work of Professor Steven A. Long. His essays on topics such as the obediential potency and other related theological theses repay careful study. Long’s articles reveal the way that theologians have attempted to handle the difficult question of describing adequately the differentiation of finalities that the gratuitous bestowal of divine friendship on the members of the human race introduces into Catholic theology. Because of the centrality that this issue holds in the thought of many of the theologians that Rowland presents to her readers, I think it is important to alert those who will read her book, especially beginners in the discipline, that they should make up their own minds about de Lubac’s critique, and not assume that one eminent French Jesuit and 100,000 Communio followers can’t be wrong. The fact of the matter is that the differentiation of finalities that a Catholic theologian must consider in the human person remains a topic that has been ill served during the period after the Second Vatican Council.

Let me conclude this section with a word of advice to beginners: You can embrace Gaudium et Spes 22 and still follow Cardinal Cajetan.

Romanus Cessario, OP.
Nova et Vetera Vol. 2, No. 2 (2004).

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Incidentally, today is Romanus Cessario's 73rd birthday. You may view more of his articles online here, his full CV here.

Mulcahy on Milbank

I particularly appreciate Mulcahy's Aquinas's Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac for its demonstration of how De Lubac's criticism of pure nature has, carried to its logical conclusions, culminated in the "integralist revolution" of John Milbank, leading proponent of Radical Orthodoxy.

Mulcahy begins with an examination of the political origins of Radical Orthodoxy in Marxist theory and anti-Thatcherism (its hostility refocusing on the "neoimperialist" and "relatively genocidal" United States of America post-9/11). Originally Marxist in tone, Mulcahy observes how Milbank's vision of society has become exclusively theological -- endorsing socialism as not only the creed of "all sane, rational human beings" but as the vehicle by which the peace of the Church [is going to be] mediated to and established in the entire human community."

Maculhy also demonstrates Milbank's increasing receptivity to theocracy -- or rather "democraticed, anarchic theocracy": small, self-sustaining communities "Eucharistic in form, with a liturgical rhythm and a spiritual motivation pervading its system of peaceful sharing." Granted, Milbank does not pretend to know how it would be established.

Maculhy then addresses Milbank's interpretation of De Lubac as the basis for the "integralist revolution" (the notion that Vatican II enacted a "new theology of grace", recognizing that “in concrete, historical humanity there is no such thing as a state of ‘pure nature’. ... with the consequence that one cannot analytically separate ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ contributions to this integral unity.”)

If "everything is grace", nothing is truly secular. To regard philosophy, politics, science and culture as non-theological or possessing "autonomous and immanent secular realms" is tantamount to heresy, against which RO marshals itself in resistance via engagement in radical Christian politics. (Indeed, Milbank indicts De Lubac and Balthasar for being deficient in their "aversion to the secular order" [photographic evidence!]):

RO views any self-limiting theology—all liberal theology—as colluding in its own marginalisation. Radical Orthodoxy intends to reverse this marginalisation by proclaiming theology’s true scope, and by insisting on theology’s relevance in determining the validity of all modes of human discourse. The establishment of the commanding position of theology over all other modes of knowledge, and in regard to all other scholarly and scientific discourse, will thus be a step toward the building of a new Christian modernity. The hope of RO is that this new modernity will be one in which divine wisdom and peace reign over all.
But how, exactly, is the marginalization of theology to be countered? -- for while Pope Benedict might lament the "de-Hellenization" of academia (the attempt by scholars to separate Christianity from Greek philosophical thought), RO abandons reason and objective truth altogether, relinquishing itself to the postmodern depiction of Christianity as a "communal narrative", one among many, howbeit claiming to trump all others as "the narrative of The Word Incarnate":
Given such an exalted Christian claim, namely, that Christian discourse alone enacts and represents the divine Word, how are this discourse’s truth claims to be recognized as true in the Christian community of faith? The idea of objective verification or falsification has, in RO’s judgement, been discredited. The answer is that Christianity “out-narrates” any rival discourse. This is to imply that the Christian story, enacted in the community of faith, has a beauty and luminosity which other discourses lack. As a result, it exerts an aesthetic appeal on those touched by it. Once the attractiveness of the divine beauty is experienced, no other arguments or evidence need be considered. Rather, the very suggestion that such other forms of evidence could be considered is a relic of epistemological naïveté. The Christian story “claims no foundation for the truth of Christianity beyond the compelling vision of the story and of the vision it sustains.”
There is no question of apologetics, of natural law, of rational persuasion, of any marriage of reason and faith -- all that's left is the aesthetic appeal of Christianity.

There is no denying that "the heart has its reasons, which reason knows nothing of" (Pascal); that converts have been won over by the beauty of Christianity, moved by the witness of its martyrs and the lives of its saints. And I can certainly get behind people like Gregory Wolfe, and his belief that "beauty will save the world" -- that art, literature and the fruits of imagination can become the wellsprings to cultural renewal, providing enrichment to public discourse and cultivating a receptiveness towards the truth where ideology and politics cannot. But Radical Orthodoxy doesn't appear to be proclaiming just that -- rather, it gives up on truth and reason altogether. Mulcahy again:

RO vigourously sets itself to reclaim a comprehensive, Christ-centred vision. But such a vision may also invite self deception. Its ostensible discrediting of correspondence theories of truth is, I would suggest, no more than apparent. Our personal vision may be tested against publicly known realities, against the truth not only of Scripture, ecclesial authority, and tradition, but also of wisdom and learning wherever these are to be found. Such an openness to truth cannot consist in collapsing everything into the doctrine of the incarnation, or into Christ’s Eucharistic presence. If it is to serve the world, and even if it is to save the world, doctrine must live with the distinctions between grace and nature, even if it refines them in new ways. If “everything is grace,” as RO would understand it, then Christianity departs for an enclave which must become ever more remote. If, on the other hand, “not everything is grace,” if there is room for the notion of pure nature, then there are vast possibilities for communication between Church and world, and between faith and all human disciplines—to the benefit of all concerned. Methodological arrogance is hardly a necessary quality of a genuinely incarnational theology.

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Returning finally to the topic of Aquinas, Radical Orthodoxy purportedly adopts and expounds upon De Lubac's account of Thomism. However, if recent studies have indicated that De Lubac's understanding of Aquinas was found to be wanting, this defect is apparently by no means an impediment to Radical Orthodoxy. While Maculhy finds that "Milbank has not yet written in any detailed way on the history of Thomism, nor has he been engaged in a close reading of Thomistic texts", this has not deterred Milbank from co-authoring a book with Catherine Pitstock on Truth and Aquinas in which they expound on Aquinas' "theory of knowledge."

The impression is clearly given that for Mulcahy -- and I would imagine for most anybody who adheres to prevailing norms of academic scholarship, rational discourse and validation -- the very act of reading Milbank is itself a recipe for exasperation. Consider the following:

The word "interpretation" must be emphasised and explained when it comes to Milbank’s treatment of Aquinas. As one who rejects "accepted secular standards of scientific truth or normative rationality" and denies that truth is a correspondence between the intellect and extra-mental reality, Milbank insists that "the point [of theology] is not to represent ... externality, but just to join in its occurrence; not to know, but to intervene, originate." Accordingly, his recourse to Aquinas is not a work of exegesis, but a project of creative expression: “exegesis is easy; it is interpretation that is difficult, and Aquinas, more than most thinkers, requires interpretation." This explains why Milbank holds that, even if the actual text of St Thomas "appear[s] incontrovertibly to refute my reading," that reading itself should not be subjected to conventional scholarly critique. ...

This ostensibly post-modern approach to sources has predictably occasioned intense criticism. Informed scholars have described Radical Orthodoxy’s interpretations as "gnostic idealism," "blithely imprecise, ideologically driven historical revisionism," "free-floating, self-perpetuating insularity", "opaque [sentences] drifting [in] conceptual murkiness", "sophistical legerdemain," "blatant misreading ... that ignores the ordinary canons of scholarly enquiry," and "[not] just wrong, [but] laughable, though not amusing." Milbank’s vague and sometimes even inaccurate footnotes do not help his cause.

In Milbank’s defence, one can say only that RO had disclaimed the canons of scholarly objectivity and verifiable accuracy right from the beginning. Radical Orthodoxy sets itself to challenge all settled theological opinion, and pretends no dialogical relationship with other views or types of rationality. When considering Milbank’s interpretation of St Thomas, the best approach, one might suggest, is to recognise it as something akin to an interpretive dance. It displays an inherently subjective approach, and, in effect, purports to be nothing else. Scholarship of an objective kind must be sought elsewhere.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aquinas's Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac

As noted by Edward Feser, "there is a growing wave of reaction against the Nouvelle Theologie’s reaction against the tradition of the commentators" -- specifically the proposal that "the centuries-old tradition of Aquinas commentators, and the Neo-Scholastics in particular, somehow all got Aquinas wrong on questions of nature and grace, natural and supernatural."

Among such recently published texts are:

I have read and praised McInerney's book elsewhere on this blog -- one of the first of its kind and narrow in scope (focusing specifically on Etienne Gilson and De Lubac's error-ridden interpretation and criticism of Cajetan and Aquinas. My father gifted Feingold's Natural Desire to See God to me on my birthday. Comprehensive in scope and exhaustive in detail, it will likely take several years for me to digest but it is clearly an invaluable resource in this whole debate. Steven A. Long's shorter treatment is on my "to read" list (particularly interesting as it reportedly examines the work of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI on the topic). Surnatural, likewise on my "to read" list is a collection of various papers pro and con, following a symposium held in 2000 on the controversy of de Lubac's surnaturel.

Having just completed my reading, I wish to commend Mulcahy's Aquinas's Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henry de Lubac, the publication of his doctoral thesis under the title "Not Everything is Grace" for the Australian Catholic University (full text of which can be found here). Here is the abstract:

Henri de Lubac argues that, in early modern times, a pernicious concept began to become commonplace in Roman Catholic theology: this concept is “pure nature.” Pure nature is human nature, considered without reference to grace or to the supernatural destiny of personal union with God. Further, de Lubac argues that Catholic theology, in assimilating this idea, has departed from the sound tradition represented by St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. He holds that the notion of pure nature leads inevitably to the self-exclusion of Christianity from the affairs of the world -- when, in fact, the light of the Gospel ought to be shed on all aspects of human existence.

This dissertation tests de Lubac’s thesis concerning the history of the idea of pure nature, showing that this notion is not, in fact, a modern novelty. This study examines the role of the idea of pure nature in the Bible and early Church, in the theology of Thomas Aquinas, in the early modern Jansenist controversy, in the theology of Henri de Lubac, and in the theology of the contemporary Radical Orthodoxy movement, paying particular attention to the historical circumstances which made the repudiation of “pure nature” attractive.

Today, some theologians follow de Lubac in contending that Catholic doctrine must eschew the idea of pure nature in order to resist secularism and maintain Christianity’s relevance to all aspects of human life. This dissertation contends that the idea of pure nature is not only traditional, but necessary for Christian theology. It argues that a Christian “integralism” which refuses to prescind from grace when considering nature can do justice neither to nature nor to grace.

Further review by Reinhard Hutter, Duke Divinity School:
Characterized by acuity of analysis, fairness of judgment, and lucidity of thought and style, Matthew Bernard Mulcahy’s ‘Not Everything Is Grace’ is an indispensable reading for any serious student of theology with an interest in the recent renewal of the debate over ‘nature and grace’ and especially the idea of a ‘pure nature’.

Mulcahy convincingly demonstrates first that theologians of the patristic era were well familiar with a human nature and a common final human discernible apart from revelation and grace and, secondly and more extensively, that the idea, though not the term, of pure nature plays a significant role in the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Furthermore, by showing that Henri de Lubac’s characterizations of Baianism and Jansenism occluded the political and historical contexts and impacts of these theological movements, Mulcahy successfully questions Henri de Lubac’s familiar, but historically unsubstantiated claim, that the modern scholastic use of ‘pure nature’ facilitated the rise of modern secularism and atheism.

Last but not least, Mulcahy offers an accurate and illuminating reading of the most recent radicalization of de Lubac’s vision into a comprehensive theological integralism - Radical Orthodoxy. Mulcahy’s perspicuous analysis of its central tenets constitutes a critique that is as charitable as it is devastating. Mulcahy makes a powerful case for the indispensability of the idea of pure nature for a Catholic theology that wants to account for the full scope of the complexity of creaturely existence. This is a ‘must’ on the reading list for every class that tackles the ‘nature-grace-debate’ in the 20th century. Its clarity and even-handedness make it a welcome contribution to a complicated and often heated debate. Tolle, lege!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Cosmos" vs. History and Academic Integrity

I love science television, especially anything to do with space, astronomy, etc. My son and I watch "Nova" religiously and I was delighted at how quickly he's taken to it at an early age. It's one of our favorite shows to watch together and talk about.

But when a show purportedly about "science" indulges in sheer propaganda and lays it on thick in the most cartoonish, crass, childish form imaginable, ignoring the nuances and complexities of history -- well, you can't help but sense that something's missing:

[Neil deGrasse Tyson, narrator]: His name was Bruno, and he was a natural born rebel. He longed to bust out of that cramped little universe. Even as a young Dominican monk in Naples, he was a misfit. This was a time when there was no freedom of thought in Italy. But Bruno hungered to know everything about God's creation. He dared to read the books banned by the Church. And that was his undoing!

Seriously? -- Alas, yes. Seriously. And that's just the beginning.

Q: Does this elevate Tyson as a scientist, or Cosmos as a show possessing any sense of academic credibility? -- Frankly I found it all rather embarrassing.

Not that I've written it off entirely, I'll likely check out the next several episodes in hopes of improvement. But wow, what a genuine disappointment.

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Cartoons and Fables - How Cosmos Got the Story of Bruno Wrong (Armarium Magnum) This magnificent post really nails it as to why the first episode of "Cosmos" turned me off. And by a "wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, occasionally arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard" no less. (Or as we might say, one who is "on the side of the angels").

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Joseph Ratzinger - Collected Works: Theology of the Liturgy

Joseph Ratzinger-Collected Works: Theology of the Liturgy
Publisher: Ignatius Press (May 5, 2014). 700 pgs.

This major volume is a collection of the writings of Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) on the theology of the Liturgy of the Church, a subject of preeminence to him as a theologian, professor and spiritual writer. It brings together all his writings on the subject, short and long, giving his views on liturgical matters and questions over many years and from various perspectives.

He chose to have his writings on the Liturgy for the first volume published of his collected works (though listed as vol. 11) because, as he says in the Introduction: "The liturgy of the Church has been for me since my childhood the central reality of my life, and it became the center of my theological efforts. I chose fundamental theology as my field because I wanted first and foremost to examine thoroughly the question: Why do we believe? But also included from the beginning in this question was the other question of the right response to God and, thus, the question of the liturgy."

By starting with the theme of liturgy in this volume, Ratzinger wants to highlight God's primacy, the absolute precedence of the theme of God. Beginning with a focus on the liturgy, he said, tells us that "God is first". He quotes from the Rule of St. Benedict, "Nothing is to be preferred to the liturgy", as a way of ordering priorities for the life of the Church and of every individual. He says that the fundamental question of the man who begins to understand himself correctly is: How must I encounter God? Thus learning the right way of worshipping is the gift par excellence that is given to us by the faith.

The essential purpose of his writings on the liturgy is to place the liturgy in its larger context, which he presents in three concentric circles. First, the intrinsic interrelationship of Old and New Testament; without the connection to the Old Testament heritage, the Christian liturgy is incomprehensible. The second circle is the relationship to the religions of the world. The third circle is the cosmic character of the liturgy, which is more than the coming together of a circle of people: the liturgy is celebrated in the expanse of the cosmos, encompassing creation and history at the same time.

(As if there aren't already enough books on my "to read" list).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recent Articles on Religion and Liberty, Catholicism and Liberalism

A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching, by Patrick J. Deneen. The American Conservative February 6, 2004. "The most interesting Roman split is over liberal democracy itself."

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Illiberal Catholicism, by John Zmirack. Aleteia. 12/31/13. "Catholics used to be open to the lessons of freedom from the American experience. Are we forgetting those lessons?"

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Unsustainable Liberalism, by Patrick J. Deneen. First Things

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Murry's Mistake, by Michael Baxter. America 09/23/13. "The political divisions a theologian failed to foresee."

Monday, February 3, 2014

  • Dr. Philip Blosser on: "The Endnote that led to my Conversion" ("is now online"):
    Imagine that: an endnote. Yep, that's how it started. Back in the fall semester of 1987 when I was teaching a course in the history and philosophy of law at Lenoir-Rhyne University and using as a the main text Harold Berman's Law and Revolution, The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983) ...
  • Eight Lies in President Obama's Roe Statement, by Matthew Schmitz. First Things 01/22/13.
  • "The other day at the Sorbonne, speaking to a Marxist lecturer, a Catholic priest said in public that he too was anticlerical. Well, I don’t like priests who are anticlerical any more than philosophies that are ashamed of themselves." -- Albert Camus (HT: Pertinacious Papist)
  • Bush Without Hysteria, by Matthew Hennessey. City Journal (Autumn 2013) - Looks like another book to add to the 2014 reading list:
    You haven’t heard that Bush was Cheney’s puppet? You don’t remember the cabal that installed this C-student in the Oval Office so they could plant the flag in Baghdad? You didn’t know that Bush napped at Camp David while Cheney conspired with Wolfowitz and the Saudis to plot the future of American empire?

    Baker doesn’t trade in such nonsense. As a longtime White House correspondent for both the Washington Post and the New York Times, where he currently works, Baker is a card-carrying member of what is sometimes called the “elite liberal media.” He has observed the last two decades of presidential scandals and outrages at close range. Yet, his Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House, which stretches from the Florida recount in 2000 to the housing collapse in 2008, is a masterpiece of objectivity.

  • If You Think Communism Is Bad For People, Check Out What It Did To The Environment Colin Grabow responds to an idiotic tweet from a Communist: "If I have to answer for Soviet gulags, these market/capital twits have to answer for climate collapse, the greatest genocide in history."

Monday, December 30, 2013

Here and There

  • Disputations on "Modern Prometheuses" (of Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium):
    The modern Prometheus claims to be able to define his own nature and to create his own good, and in doing so he creates a monster. He doesn't just fail to do God's will, he fails to do his own will, because man isn't able to define his own nature and create his own good. ...

    The neopelagianism comes in, I suppose, in the de facto reliance on human actions -- the right prayers, said on the right day in the right language -- for salvation, rather than on Divine mercy. This reliance on human actions may perhaps be more clearly be seen in attitudes towards those who don't follow their prescribed orthopraxis. (As an extreme example, I once came across a condemnation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a ruse of the devil to trick Catholics into not praying the Rosary.)

    I'll go so far as to suggest the possibility of a neopelagian orthodoxy -- placing one's hope for salvation in believing the right doctrines, according to the right formulas, rather than in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit promised to those who live according to those doctrines, and Whose presence is a guarantee of salvific grace.

  • "The End of Protestantism" turns out to be ... Protestant - Michael Liccione responds to Peter Leithart's "The End of Protestantism" (First Things "On the Square" 11/8/13): "What Leithart is advocating, which he calls "reformational Catholicism," has been around since the 16th century."

  • Balthasar's Interpretation of Aquinas Thomistica.net.:
    A few years ago I translated Angelo Campodonico's essay “Il pensiero filosofico di Tommaso d’Aquino nell’interpretazione di H.U. Von Balthasar” for the English edition of Nova et Vetera. It was published as "Hans Urs von Balthasar's Interpretation of the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas" in vol. 8 of Nova et Vetera on pp. 33-53. I recently uploaded it to my Academia.edu page. You can find it here.

    Since Thomists and Balthasarians often find themselves at odds, this makes Campodonico's essay all the more interesting, or so it seems to me. In fact, Campodonico argues that Aquinas had a profound influence on Balthasar's thought. He even makes the (in my view) provocative claim that...

    [t]he influence of Thomas Aquinas on the formulation of Balthasar’s theology and philosophy is clear and shows that Balthasar regarded him with perhaps more esteem than any other theologian in history (33-34).

  • Texts on natura pura A compilation from Mark Johnson. Thomistica 11/02/13.

  • Catholicism and the problem of modernity, by James Chastek. Just Thomism 12/19/13.

  • Remembering Jim Morrison, by Paul Beston. The American Conservative. The Doors frontman and his admiral father lived a generation's turmoil.

  • I had the privilege to attend part of the "Thomas Aquinas and Philosophical Realism" Symposium in NYC in November. Among the presenters was Ed Feser (“An Aristotelian Argument for the Existence of God") and John Haldane ("Aquinas and Realism"). Unfortunately no texts of the presentations have surfaced yet online, although William Briggs gives a detailed account of the conference on his blog. (Feser's much anticipated Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction will be published next year).

Sunrise and Waterfalls.

One benefit of being home on vacation is that it affords a little more time to draw. Here are two recent efforts -- published to my ongoing "art blog", Christopher Doodles.

Hand-drawn on 9.75x7.5 composition paper. Colored with Crayola marker and crayons. (Click the thumbnails above for close-ups). For those interested, postcard(s) available.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Edward T. Oakes, S.J. - R.I.P.

[Via David Mills @ First Things]:

Father Edward Oakes, S.J., distinguished theologian, gifted writer and teacher, generous ecumenist, and our friend, has died, of pancreatic cancer, at 8:00 this morning. The announcement from the Academy of Catholic Theology, of which Father Oakes was president, reports:

Father Oakes entered the Society of Jesus in 1966, and was ordained a priest in 1979. He received his doctorate in theology from Union Theological Seminary in 1987. He taught at New York University, Regis University, and Mundelein Seminary, where he was deeply loved and valued by his colleagues, students, and indeed everyone on the staff as well.

He was a major contributor to the ecumenical magazine First Things on theological and scientific topics, and a longtime close friend of Father Richard John Neuhaus. For close to two decades he was an influential member of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. He was a founding member of the Academy of Catholic Theology and was elected president of the Academy in May 2013.

A deeply cultured man, Father Oakes enlivened everything of which he was a part by his penetrating intelligence and warm, friendly spirit. He was an esteemed translator of the works of Hans Urs von Balthasar and others. He was the author and editor of important works such as Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology, Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar.

To say that Father Oakes will be sorely missed is a profound understatement. Let us pray for his soul as he enters into the infinitely loving communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as an adopted son in Jesus Christ!

Goodbyes and Remembrances

Books

Articles and Book Reviews

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium

Please note - this is an ongoing compilation of reactions to, and reflections on, Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium. This post will be updated with further content.

Full Text of Evangelii Gaudium


News Coverage

Commentary

On Economic Matters

Because while the exhortation contains much, much more -- progressives and conservatives alike will harp on this topic. The former believing themselves vindicated by the Pope's remarks, the latter finding cause to critique.
  • Morality and economics, Pope Francis, and Rush Limbaugh, by Matt C. Abbot. Renew America. Father John Trigilio Jr., Ph.D., Th.D., president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, responds to Rush Limbaugh's "scorching" reaction to Evangelii Gaudium ("pure Marxism coming from the mouth of the Pope").
  • Finances in Light of the Call for a Poor Church, by R. Jared Staudt. Crisis 11/29/13:
    The Gospel and the ministry of Pope Francis invite us to “create a prophetic, counter-cultural resistance to the self-centered hedonism of paganism,” a paganism that is beginning to dominate our culture more and more (§193). Evangelical poverty, putting our finances at the service of God and others, is a crucial way to withstand this paganism. Pope Francis issues this invitation to follow Christ: “God asks everything of us, yet at the same time he offers everything to us” (§12). This is another way of saying: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all else will be added unto you.”
  • A key error in translation of Evangelii Gaudium [on Section 54 referencing "trickle-down theories"], by Phil Lawler. CatholicCulture.com. 11/28/13. ("In passing let me ask rhetorically why the translation errors always seem to tilt in the same ideological direction. Almost makes you think they aren’t really "errors.'")
  • The Joy of the Gospel, by Daniel Nichols. (Caelum Et Terra) 11/27/13:
    I just read Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Exhortation. Wow, Just wow. There is absolutely no room for the neocons or libertarians to spin this letter. None. While papal teaching has always been inherently radical – the principle of solidarity, of the primacy of labor over capital, of the preferential option for the poor, etc etc – it often has been cloaked in scholarly prose, in deliberately moderate tones, and even sometimes in ambiguity. Not Francis. Plain-spoken, direct, the pope of the poor and of the people. There is no way that this can be spun. ... Sorry if I seem to be gloating; this feels like victory after a long (since ’79, when I returned to the Catholic Church) war.
  • Pope Francis hates trickle-down economics, but he isn't a liberal, by Peter Weber. The Week 11/27/13. The pope's first manifesto, Evangelii Gaudium, confirms a pontiff at home with Occupy Wall Street. With some big caveats.
  • Let’s Listen to Pope Francis on Economics, by Pascal-Emmanual Gobry. First Things "On The Square" 11/27/13. "When Pope Francis describes inequality and exclusion as very grave moral sins, we must let ourselves be challenged, and we must open our hearts."
  • The New Pope Doesn’t Heart the Free Market, by Todd Zywicki. The Volokh Conspiracy 11/26/13:
    Ever since the Galileo incident, the Catholic Church has generally tried to be careful to get its science right before it opines on ethical matters related to science. It takes seriously questions of bioethics and has developed internal expertise on those issues. Yet when it comes to economics, the Church seems to have no qualms about opining on issues of economics without even the slightest idea of what it is talking about.
  • When Economic Moralism Clashes with Reality, by Kishore Jayabalan. Acton Institute. 11/27/13.
  • Pope Francis and Poverty, by Dr. Samuel Gregg. National Review 11/26/13:
    ... it is difficult not to come away from reading Evangelii Gaudium thinking that there are just too many unexamined assumptions about the economy that have made their way into this document. Indeed, towards the end of his more direct economic observations, the pope seems to indicate his awareness that some of his thoughts about poverty and economics will generate criticism. “If anyone feels offended by my words,” he says, “I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology” (208). Instead, Francis writes, he is concerned with ensuring that people don’t succumb to the type of self-enclosed individualism that produces injustice and ultimately kills the soul.

    I myself take no offense from Evangelii Gaudium’s observations about poverty and the economy. In fact I admire Francis’s determination to ensure that we don’t lose sight of the material misery in which far too many people continue to live. His words are also a powerful reminder that Christ’s commandment to love the poor is truly non-negotiable for any serious Christian.

    Nevertheless, as Francis himself writes, “Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism” (232). And attention to particular realities about economic life is precisely what’s missing from parts of Evangelii Gaudium’s analysis of wealth and poverty. If we want “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good” to be more than what the pope calls a “mere addendum” to the pursuit of “true and integral development” (203), then engaging more seriously the economic part of the truth that sets us free would be a good start.

  • Beware the hobbyhorse. Evangelii Gaudium is not about economics, by Phil Lawler. Catholic Culture. 11/27/13:
    If you read Evangelii Gaudium as primarily an indictment of free-market economics, you read it all wrong. The Pope did have a good deal to say about economic matters (more on that later), but this is not an apostolic exhortation about economics.

    If you thought the big news was that the Pope reaffirmed that women cannot be ordained, or that he strongly condemned abortion, that’s wrong, too.

    Evangelii Gaudium is about the urgent need to tell the world the good news of God’s love, the joy of salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s flat-out impossible for any reasonably objective person to read the document and come away with any other idea about its central theme.



... On Everything Else

  • Pope Francis the Revolutionary, by George Weigel. Wall Street Journal 11/28/13:
    The first nine months of the pontificate of Pope Francis have often resembled a gigantic Rorschach test in which various commentators inside and outside the Catholic Church have "seen" their dreams and fears realized. Alas, what has been "seen" has often had little to do with the record of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as priest and bishop or with his most consequential decisions as pope.

    Those projections reached fever pitch with the publication on Tuesday of Francis' first apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), which was celebrated, or lamented, as if it were an Occupy Whatever position paper for a G-8 summit. Instead, the papal document should be read and appreciated for what it manifestly is: a clarion call for a decisive shift in the Catholic Church's self-understanding, in full continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

  • From Jeff Cullbreath (of the traditional Catholic blog New Sherwood): Did I read that right? (regarding the phrase "God’s saving love ... precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part"); Pope Francis, Holy Orders, the Council of Trent, and St. John Vianney; Pope Francis and non-Catholics -- as well as passages hinting at on what the Pope Francis' might propose at next year's Synod on the Family.
  • Evangelii gaudium and the liturgy: First thoughts, by Fr. Christopher Smith (Chant Cafe):
    One of the things I find fascinating here is that nowhere is the liturgy seen as a source of evangelization itself, nor is it seen as an end towards which evangelization should strive. Am I to conclude from this that the Bishops at the Synod and/or Pope Francis do not consider the liturgy to be even a part, much less central, to the New Evangelization? [...]

    If the objective of the New Evangelization were merely to introduce the non-believer to the person of Jesus to begin some form of relationship with Him, it would be hard to find the difference between it and the admirable forms of evangelization already done by our Protestant brethren. But if its objective is full communion with the Catholic Church, it is hard to see how the New Evangelization can ignore the fact that the liturgy is not tangential to it, but part and parcel of it. [...]

    Although I doubt that a Church made in the image and likeness of Evangelii gaudium would ever dispense with the Sacred Liturgy, it is clear that the perspective of the document indicates a different one than that outlined in Sacrosanctum Concilium. It is also hard to see how EG’s liturgical thought is in continuity with the broader aims of the classical or the new liturgical movements, or the liturgical theology of Pope Benedict XVI, even if EG, in many other areas, is most definitely in continuity with many insights of Ratzinger and the broader theological movements of the last century and today. In some way, EG’s liturgical theology could be said to be the triumph of an unintended by-product of the Catholic Reformation: an ecclesial culture where liturgy is merely what one has to go through to confect the Eucharistic species, and what is often set aside so people can go about the devotions of their own devising. Liturgy in EG appears far from being fons et culmen. Pope Benedict XVI’s assertion that the liturgy is a powerful element of the New Evangelization has been only weakly, if at all, carried over into the charter of that New Evangelization for our time. But that it has not, does not negate the truth of what the liturgy is in itself and its power to evangelize and equip disciples.

  • Pope Francis and the Gospel of Joy, by William L. Patenaude. Catholic World Report 11/27/13. The Pontiff’s apostolic exhortation is filled with warnings, encouragement, explanations, and challenges, all rooted in a pastor's love for the flock.
  • Francis and a church that breathes with both lungs, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter 11/27/13:
    At the big-picture level, Francis says he wants a more missionary and more merciful church, one less afraid of change than of "remaining shut up with structures which give us a false sense of security," "rules which make us harsh judges," and "habits which make us feel safe."

    At the level of detail, Francis hints at reform in numerous arenas, including a blunt call for a "conversion of the papacy" toward a "sound decentralization." That includes at least one seemingly clear reversal of previous policy: assigning teaching authority to bishops' conferences, as opposed to a 1998 ruling under John Paul II denying them precisely that role.

    Yet there's a deeper sense in which "The Joy of the Gospel" stands in clear continuity with Francis' immediate predecessor, Benedict XVI, and in particular his 2009 social encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

    In effect, both documents amount to full-frontal assaults not on Catholic doctrine or discipline, but on contemporary Catholic sociology.

  • Preaching Law and Gospel – the Catholic Version, by David Schütz (Sentire Cum Ecclesia) 11/27/13.
  • Francis has succeeded in doing what no Pope has ever done: divide the ‘c’atholic Left, by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. 11/27/13:
    Liberals are so happy that the Pope seems to be bashing conservatives, that they are ready and willing to accept that women will never ever be ordained.

    The “Joy of their Gospel” is to see conservatives get whacked. They are so overjoyed, as a matter of that, that they are willing to sacrifice their flagship.

    Yes, you will find a few waayyyy out on the even leftier fringe of their fleet – you know, the Gray Panthers – for whom Francis denial of women’s ordination this is still a problem. But, for the most part, Francis hit their liberal sweet spot so perfectly that they are taking the bitter hit amidships.

    “Trads to the WALL!” To them, it’s worth it.

    Make no mistake. The Big Issue for liberals is women’s ordination. Francis, the fluffiest and most wonderfullest Pope since Peter has now taken the issue away from them.

  • Pope Francis on the Joy of the Gospel, by Robert P. George. First Things 11/26/13.
  • Pope Francis' document delivers wake-up call on evangelization, by John Thavis. 11/26/13.
  • The New Apostolic Exhortation: Bothersome in more ways than one!, by Dr. Jeff Mirus. Catholic Culture. 11/26/13:
    There is only so much one can say about Pope Francis’ new apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), before we come up against the fact that this is a post-synodal text from which only a relatively few people are going to benefit. As with the other exhortations of this type over the years, the vast bulk of it is occupied with putting in some sort of order nearly every insight offered at the Synod of Bishops which occasioned the document. For this reason, it often seems that the main benefit is going to be for each individual participant who scans through the document until his eyes eagerly alight on the little point that can be attributed to himself.
  • Evangelii Gaudium: First Impressions (11/26/13) | Second Impressions (11/27/13), by Michael Sean Winters. National Catholic Reporter:
    Evangelii Gaudium is remarkable the way Pope Francis is remarkable. He has set forth a bold vision for the Church, in this text and in the past nine months. The "sourpusses" are grumbling but we can hope that they, too, will catch the Francis Fever and see that it is not Francis' fever at all; it is the zeal of the Gospels, a Gospel that is credible when grasped and preached as attractive, not scolding, welcoming and not exclusionary.

    * * *

    There are not enough gold and red pens in the world for George Weigel to parse the clamant social justice sections out of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation released yesterday. ... it is vital to keep in mind that the pope’s treatment of social justice is placed within the context of evangelization: The Pope is calling the Church to be a missionary Church, an evangelizing Church, and the privileged path of fidelity to the Gospel is service to the poor.

  • A New Vision for the Church, by James Martin, SJ. America 11/26/13. "In all my years as a Catholic, I cannot remember a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising and invigorating. Frankly, reading it thrilled me."
  • 'Evangelii Gaudium' amounts to Francis' 'I Have a Dream' speech, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter 11/26/13:
    Dreams can be powerful things, especially when articulated by leaders with the realistic capacity to translate them into action. That was the case 50 years ago with Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and it also seems to be the ambition of Pope Francis' bold new apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel."

    In effect, the 224-page document, titled in Latin Evangelii Gaudium and released by the Vatican Tuesday, is a vision statement about the kind of community Francis wants Catholicism to be: more missionary, more merciful, and with the courage to change.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Vatican II, Salvation, and the Unsaved: A CWR Symposium

Via Carl Olson (Ignatius Insight):
This special CWR symposium, consisting of eight essays, is the result of a promise made earlier this year as well as the desire to address and discuss some timely questions related to the Year of Faith (which concludes this Sunday on the Feast of Christ the King), the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and the New Evangelization.

In April, CWR published a review by Dr. David Paul Deavel of Dr. Ralph Martin's book, Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Eerdmans, 2012). It was then decided that the review would be withdrawn until a later time; as Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press and publisher of CWR, explained, CWR wished “to provide a fuller treatment of a difficult subject than the original review, in my opinion, is able to provide. … The goal is to try to understand what’s what, who’s who, and how best to proceed in fulfilling the Great Commission, without overlooking the genuine nuances and insights theological wisdom provides.”

To that end, we asked six theologians to take up one, two, or all three of the following questions:

  • What did the Council say about the possibility of salvation for those who do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church?
  • What are the reasons for the apparent widespread loss of emphasis on evangelization following the Council?
  • How can the directives of Vatican II and recent popes about evangelization be best explained and implemented?
Those theologians are Douglas Bushman, STL, Dr. Nicholas Healy, Father David Meconi, SJ, Tracey Rowland, Father James V. Schall, SJ, and Father Thomas Joseph White, OP.

This symposium includes Dr. Deavel’s original review, as well as essays from the seven authors above. It concludes with the essay, “Did Hans Urs von Balthasar Teach that Everyone Will Certainly be Saved?” by Mark Brumley.

Responses

  • Dare we Hope? Rorate Caeli 12/8/13:
    Mark Brumley, in his own essay cleverly sidesteps one of the central accusations that Martin makes against Balthasar, namely that Balthasar makes specious use of his sources, often quoting them out of context or even to make the opposite point of what the author intended.

    Instead, Brumley concludes the selection of essays by offering an alternative interpretation of Balthasar that would more easily harmonize with Tradition and Scripture regarding the “hope” of universal salvation.

    But what does Scripture and Tradition tell us about hope and salvation? If God created everyone out of love, then surely he would will them all to reach their end - eternal happiness in heaven. And if he wills the end, then surely he wills the means, right? Therefore, all will be saved? ...