Friday, November 18, 2011

What is a Catholic, Liberal Education?

I just got three copies in the mail of the Nov. 2011 number of Homiletics and Pastoral Review.  On page 52 is an article I wrote with the above title. Unfortunately, it is not available online yet, although perhaps it will be when they go totally online in January. Meanwhile, check it out at your local theological library.

Why all this evil?

Evangelium Vitae begins with a laundry list of the every increasing social manifestation of a culture of death.  I think most people, including myself, see this as a call to action--a list of evils to be overcome by prayer and social action.  I wonder, though, whether the primary significance of all these enumerated evils is a call to care for the souls of those who are immersed in the culture of death.  Rather than treating them as enemies to be defeated, we may be called to work for the salvation of their souls.

John Paul II describes the condition of contemporary man as individually and socially caught up in a web of death that not only leads to the direct attacks on human life in this life, but also may lead to an eternal judgment that is a much worse disaster than any temporal evil they have perpetrated or one can imagine (and we are capable of imagining some really bad temporal evils).
24. It is at the heart of the moral conscience that the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all its various and deadly consequences for life, is taking place. It is a question, above all, of the individual, as it stands before God in its singleness and uniqueness. 18 But it is also a question, in a certain sense, of the "moral conscience" of society: in a way it too is responsible, not only because it tolerates or fosters behaviour contrary to life, but also because it encourages the "culture of death", creating and consolidating actual "structures of sin" which go against life. The moral conscience, both individual and social, is today subjected, also as a result of the penetrating influence of the media, to an extremely serious and mortal danger: that of confusion between good and evil, precisely in relation to the fundamental right to life. A large part of contemporary society looks sadly like that humanity which Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans. It is composed "of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth" (1:18): having denied God and believing that they can build the earthly city without him, "they became futile in their thinking" so that "their senseless minds were darkened" (1:21); "claiming to be wise, they became fools" (1:22), carrying out works deserving of death, and "they not only do them but approve those who practice them" (1:32). When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul (cf. Mt 6:22-23), calls "evil good and good evil" (Is 5:20), it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness.
Is not our first concern always the final judgment of the sinner?  Is not our first call to be the bearer of God's mercy to the sinner?

We will be judged based not on whether we overthrew any particular temporal evil, but on whether we loved our enemies, blessed those who cursed us, were concerned about their eternal destiny.
Fr. Z. says, "All that which God has permitted to happen here and now, will be given reasons and explanations.  We will finally seeperfect  justice even behind what now is hidden and challenging."
Might not God reveal to us that He permitted an evil to continue (for us to "fail" in our efforts to stop abortion, for instance) so that the perpetrators could be saved?

I'm not saying ignore injustice. We have a basic duty to defend the innocent and the weak, including through legislation.  I am however, saying that the eternal death of one person, no matter how evil he has been, is infinitely worse than the temporal death of any number of individuals.  And you aren't going to save the sinner simply by stopping his sin.  It requires a change of heart.

"'I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Lk. 12:5)

For ourselves and for our enemies.

Responsible parenthood.

Humanae vitae (10) speak of paternitas consia.  It is often translated "responsible parenthood." Janet Smith wrote an article explaining that a better, although not perfect translation would be "conscious parenthood," based on the roots of the idea in Karol Wojtyla's wonderful book Love and Responsibility. It is an excellent article the emphasizes the interiority of our "responsibility" based on the recognition of persons.

Interestingly, in Evangelium vitae, John Paul II himself uses the phrase responsali paternitatis ac maternitatis, so he himself must sense the incompleteness of conscia, especially since Gaudium et spes speaks three times about "responsibility" in the section on marriage and family (47-51).

Also interesting, EV uses the phrase paternitatis ac maternitatis, rather than simply paternitas, like HV. This echoes GS's Coniuges autem, dignitate ac munere paternitatis et maternitatis ornati, officium educationis praesertim religiosae, quod ad ipsos imprimis spectat, diligenter adimplebunt.  "Graced with the dignity and office of fatherhood and motherhood, parents will energetically acquit themselves of a duty which devolves primarily on them, namely education and especially religious education."  John Paul II is reminding us that the office of fatherhood and the office of motherhood are not interchangeable. HV doesn't mention motherhood at all, interestingly.

On a final note, until I found it in EV, I've never until now made the connection between "Mater" and "materia." Matter and Mother. "Moreover, once all reference to God has been removed, it is not surprising that the meaning of everything else becomes profoundly distorted. Nature itself, from being "mater" (mother), is now reduced to being "matter", and is subjected to every kind of manipulation" (EV 22). Hm.

Merriam-Webster says: 

Origin of MATTER

Middle English matere, from Anglo-French, from Latinmateria matter, physical substance, from mater

Monday, November 14, 2011

True Friendship

"Back in the 1940s and '50s and '60s, men believed that the best friends that you could have were the ones who would openly criticize your work and lay bare to you the mistakes and errors that you made, so that you might learn from them and correct them. In today's world, if someone criticizes your work openly, it has become fashionable to hate them for it. That is extremely foolish. You cannot learn from someone who always agrees with you; you can only learn in the fire of disputation and dialectic."  --Douglas Gresham in an interview in Columbia Magazine.