The Dialogos Institute has published the proceedings of a colloquium held in Norcia on Dignitatis Humanae and tradition. The volume is particularly helpful, because all of the interventions agree that the traditional condemnations of religious liberty as found, say, in Quanta cura, are irreformable, but they give different explanations of the apparent conflict between Dignitatis and previous teaching. This gives the collection more focus and precision than is usual in such discussions. Alan Fimister’s provocative final essay attempts a synthesis of the main positions by a remarkable application of Augustinian ecclesiology. Tolle lege!
Gloriosus apparuisti inter principes Austriae, sancte Leopolde, ideo diadema suscepisti de manu Domini; ora pro nobis ad Deum qui te elegit. (Magnificat Antiphon for the Feast of Saint Leopold)
Earlier this month the Austrian Bishop’s Conference met here in Heiligenkreuz. By some chance the first day of the Conference coincided with the Feast of Saint Leopold, the great Margrave of Austria and founder of Stift Heiligenkreuz (November 15th). These are, shall we say, challenging times for the Church of Austria, and one could not but be struck by the contrast between our times and those of Saint Leopold. But perhaps there is more illusion than reality in the contrast.
Certainly the impression that one gets from the liturgical texts etc. for Saint Leopold is of a kind of golden age in which everything went right for the Holy Prince. The antiphon for the Dixit Dominus at vespers goes, “Dominus…
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Moral theology is a beautiful thing to reflect on when one is reflecting on our happiness and the virtues by which we are ordered to it. But, alas, it is also necessary for moral theology to reflect on the ugliness of sin. This should not take an inordinately important place in moral reflections, but a certain amount is necessary, and actually helpful. I have been getting a number of Curious Cat questions recently on the sin known in moral theology under the fittingly ugly name of ‘morose delectation’. The most recent question dealt more generally with the problem of consent in internal sins:
What is a directly elicited act of the will (a term you’ve used in answering several other questions)? Perhaps relatedly, can you provide any principles for discerning whether one has fully consented to an act which is objectively grave matter? I know that anxiety, sleepiness, and distraction can sometimes vitiate consent but I don’t know how to tell whether one of these or some other factor is present to a sufficient extent in specific cases (in terms of deciding whether I can receive/need to go to Confession).
My response was too long for the Curious Cat format, so I paste it here. The subject is distasteful, but since it is a problem that is often brought up in confession, I hope that the response will none the less be helpful. Continue reading
In a brilliant essay on the Social Kingship of Christ, Peter Kwasniewski discusses the effect that the organization of temporal political life has on the way in which the doctrine is received. He writes of,
the Catholic vision of society as a hierarchy in which lower is subordinated to higher, with the private sphere and the public sphere united in their acknowledgment of the rights of God and of His Church.
And he writes of how this vision is undermined by the modern, horizontal, secular conception of politics. He argues, quite rightly to my mind, that royal government has a peculiar suitability to communicating a hierarchical vision of social order, and the majesty of temporal kings is help in understanding Christ the King.
My favorite Catholic republican, Aelianus of Laodicea, has responded with a sharp attack on Prof. Kwasniewski’s piece. Aelianus points out that the question of the political recognition of the Social Kingship of Christ, is separate from the question of the best form of government. The Church has always been content to allow various forms of political rule— monarchical, aristocratic, democratic, or mixed— as long as they are “integralist” in the sense of recognizing the superiority of the spiritual power. Aelianus as is right as far as the argument goes. But he does not thereby disprove Kwasniewski’s point. Kwasniewski was not arguing that the Social Kingship of Christ demands a Christian monarchy as the form of temporal power, but rather that such a monarchy “lends itself most readily to collaboration and cooperation with the Church.” And this seems to be primarily because of the “image of sacred majesty” that it presents to the minds and hearts of its subjects. This image calls to mind the “wonderful resemblances” that according to Pope Leo XIII’s teaching in Diuturnum illud, are to be found in the different levels of authority that are all derived from the authority of the one God.
Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica by Pope Silvester I in the year 324. Following closely on All Saints and All Souls, which bring to mind the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering, we can see the Dedication of the ‘Mother of all Churches’ as the day of the Church Militant.
The texts for dedication of a Church are full of references to Jerusalem, the “city of peace”.
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The following is a reconstruction of my sermon today in Oeynhausen, where I celebrated a so-called “Children’s Mass” (the parish priest being sick).
Dear children, in the Gospel that we just heard Our Lord Jesus tells us the two most important things for us to do: to love God, and to love each-other. And he tells us how we ought to love each-other. Perhaps one of you noticed, He says: “love thy neighbor as _____” As what? Did any of you catch it?
[Children make thinking faces. One little boy pips up: As yourself!]
Yes, exactly! As yourself. You should love other people the way you love yourself. But what does that mean? I remember when I was little boy— a little younger than you, I think— I was fighting with my sister, and I pulled her hair and made her cry, and my mother scolded me and said: “You should love your sister as yourself.” I wondered what that meant, and my mother explained that it meant I should treat my sister the way I would want her to treat me. “Ah,” said I, “then I will play football with her, because I would want her to play football with me.” But my sister did not want to play football.
What does it really mean to love other people the way you love yourself? There are two kinds of love. One kind of love is the love that I have for chocolate. I love chocolate. But this does not mean that I want to make chocolate happy, to give it joy, to give it good things. No, it means I want the chocolate to give me joy; I want to eat the chocolate and taste its sweetness. To love other people the way I love chocolate would not be enough. If I love other people by wanting them to give me good things, give me joy, make me happy, then I do not love them in the right way. But there is a second kind of love. It is the kind of love that I have for myself. I love myself, and this means that I want myself to have joy and happiness and good things. We all love ourselves in this way. All of us want to ourselves to happy and have joy and good things. Or, does one of you want yourself to be sad, and have nothing good? [a shaking of heads]. So this is what it means to love yourself. And so, to love your neighbor as yourself, means to love the other people that you know (your brothers and sisters, your parents, the other children in your school) in this way: to want to make them happy and give them joy and every good thing. Not to make them frown cry, but to make them smile and laugh.
This is the way that God loves you: He wants to give you joy and happiness, and He gives you every good thing that you have. Let us pray to God today, and ask Him to help us to love Him with our whole hearts, and to love each-other the way we love ourselves.
Man cannot attain to beatitude without the gift of supernatural grace. Therefore, he who dies in original sin is deprived of eternal life; but he is not, therefore and thereby, subjected to any sorrow or suffering. Not being proportioned to beatitude, he is incapable of enjoying it. He does not, however, suffer from the loss; because God rectifies his will, conforming it to His own, and taking from it the desire of that which is impossible to it. A man who has no claim to an imperial crown, does not grieve because he is not an Emperor. Neither does such a soul suffer any sensible pain. On the contrary, it is endowed with all perfection proper to human nature—such as the knowledge of all natural things, and even the contemplation, by means of creatures, of such as are Divine. It enjoys all the happiness which human nature can enjoy. Furthermore, God confers upon these souls certain supernatural gifts—such as immortality, and impassibility of body—so that they are not subject to human infirmity; nor will they ever suffer sensible pain. And, although we believe that the abode of these souls is Limbo, the place of their habitation signifies but little. My private opinion, (subject to any future pronouncement of the Holy Roman Church), is, that after the resurrection, they will dwell on the purified and glorified earth. (Savonarola)
Someone sent me the following question via Curious Cat:
What is your view of David Bentley Hart’s argument for a form of universalism in his article God, Creation and Evil (and a lecture of which is available on YouTube)? Relatedly, how can a will teologically oriented to the Good and to the Truth fail to “choose”the Good/Truth/God, for example, in the case of the angels pre-Fall and humans after death?
I want to respond at greater length than is possible through Curious Cat. I think the whole framework of Hart’s argument is wrong. The difficult question is not “how can God allow anyone not to go to Heaven,” but rather: “how can God elevate any human being so high as to bring them into Heaven, giving them a share of the Divine Life.” Continue reading
The Josias has started a podcast, in which I and two other Josias writers talk about ethics and politics and Catholic social teaching. In the first episode we discuss the common good— what it is, what it isn’t. The conversation touches on many things including the relation of practical and speculative virtue, Alexander the Great’s complaining of Aristotle’s publishing decisions, and an esoterically anti-Nazi book published by a German professor under the nose of the National Socialist censors.