All posts by techdecisions

Nov 15 – St Albert the Great, OP, (1193-1280), Doctor of the Church – Maligned & Misunderstood


-please click on the image for greater detail

The first parish Kelly, Mara, & I attended in Wisconsin is named St Albert the Great. I am still fond.


-by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP

“On March 7, 1274, Saint Thomas Aquinas died. His teacher Saint Albert the Great was around 80 years old at the time. Tradition tells us that St. Albert was profoundly affected by St. Thomas’ death, as seems natural for men whose intellectual relationship and relationship in the Order was so close. In fact, according to the process of canonization of St. Thomas, Br. Antonius de Brixia reports that St. Albert received supernatural knowledge of St. Thomas’ death the very hour he died. Saint Albert’s words relating this death to the brethren in Cologne were as follows: “I tell to you all grave news, for Br. Thomas Aquinas, my son in Christ, who was the light of the Church has died, and this has been revealed to me by God.” Saint Albert was, in many ways, the intellectual father of St. Thomas, who received his teaching and carried it forward. Saint Albert, therefore, must have been proud of all that St. Thomas had accomplished in the short span of years he had been allotted.

Soon after St. Thomas’ death, the bishops Stephen Tempier of Paris and Robert Kilwardby of Canterbury, himself a Dominican, began to issue condemnations that, while not mentioning St. Thomas by name, censured several positions held by him. Through these condemnations, St. Thomas was associated with the Averroism of Siger of Brabant, the primary target of Tempier’s condemnations. Given that Siger contradicted both St. Thomas and St. Albert and that St. Thomas wrote explicitly against Siger, St. Albert was understandably outraged by this association. To add insult to injury, the condemnation issued by Stephen Tempier was promulgated on March 7, 1277, the anniversary of the death of St. Thomas. Seeing the good name of his student at risk, the old teacher made the long journey from Cologne to Paris. The distance between the two cities is between 250 and 300 miles. Saint Albert made this journey in the middle of winter on foot—the early constitutions forbade travel on horseback—at the age of 84.


-Ernest Board, Albertus Magnus expounding his doctrines of physical science in the streets of Paris ca. 1245. Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0).

The great humility and love of St. Albert is clearly displayed in the care he had for the work and memory of St. Thomas. Saint Albert bears the title of “the Great” not only because of his incomparable learning and mastery of every subject but also for this humility. Having already been shown a humble man by retiring from the episcopacy, he crowned that humility in spreading the works of his student. In the normal course of affairs, it is the student who hands on the teachings of his master: only the fullness of the virtue of humility could recognize and accept that the student had surpassed the master. Furthermore, in accepting so fully the achievement of his student that even in his old age he should deny the natural desire to complete unfinished endeavors and instead focus on the elevation of his student’s work, St. Albert demonstrated a supernatural humility. Such humility aided St. Albert in showing forth the love he had for his student and son St. Thomas.”

Love,
Matthew

Anglicanism/Episcopalianism


-the founder, by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1537–1547

I. The Dilemma of Competing Ecclesiologies: the Visible vs. the Invisible Church

If Anglicans have any sort of notion of “indefectibility” — whereby the true Christian Church (or a valid portion of the universal catholic church, etc.) cannot and will not fall into rank heresy; being protected by the Holy Spirit, then it would be quite difficult for traditionalist Anglicans to square that concept with what is happening in liberal Anglican and Episcopalian circles today.

If one takes a view of the Christian Church that it is a visible, historical institution, then indefectibility would seem to follow as a matter of course. Or one can take an alternate view of the “invisible church,” which is the route of most non-Anglican Protestants, but then (in my opinion) historical continuity, apostolicity, and legitimate apostolic Tradition lose some of their authoritativeness and binding nature.

The presence of heresy and ethical departure from Christian precedent raises troubling questions as to the apostolicity and legitimacy of visible, institutional churches. But the breakaway Anglican communions have to deal with the schismatic principle: i.e., how can they break away and form a new sect without this doing harm to the notion of “one holy catholic and apostolic church” and the apostolic continuity (or, “indefectibility”) of the “mother church”?

In other words, I think (orthodox, traditional) Anglicans have a real dilemma here, since to accept the more institutional, “visible” view of ecclesiology is to be confronted with clear heresy and departure from Christian Tradition, while breaking away, on the other hand, creates the difficulty of a de facto acceptance of the Protestant “invisible church” framework and hence, the actuality or potentiality of yet another schism. So the orthodox Anglican is “betwixt and between” two incompatible forms of ecclesiology, with no easy resolution to either problem.

Anglicanism seems to me to foster an incoherent mixing of low Protestant invisible church beliefs and apostolic succession, which I understand is the mainstream Anglican position. It’s neither “fish nor fowl.” Better (logically speaking) to be either . . .

The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 state:

XIX. The visible Church of Christ is the congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

So the Church is visible. If one adopts visibility and “institutionality” as ecclesiological criteria, then the dilemma or difficulty arises, because that is in distinction to the invisible church notion of mainstream Protestantism. But Anglicans (i.e., orthodox ones) seem to be in a catch-22 here, granting the above standard of the nature of the Church.

But then again, I suppose the above might be interpreted in the “invisible” fashion. To me, it is potentially as nebulous and malleable as any Baptist or Reformed Creed or Confession or official denominational statement, etc.

This business of “the congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached” is full of interpretational difficulties. It reads great, but it is extremely difficult to consistently apply. If the Church is merely every “faithful” man, then surely this is the invisible church, rather than the visible, since in the institutional Church, the wheat and the tares grow up together, as Christ tells us. There are sinners in the Church. That is abundantly clear in Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Corinthians, and the seven churches in Revelation, among other biblical indications.

And what is the “pure Word of God”? Given the squabbles in Anglicanism, it seems that this is not so simple of a matter to determine. There are no Ecumenical Councils to resolve it, and of course no pope. If it were that simple, then many things in Anglicanism would have long since been determined, and the current civil war would be a lot less serious than it is. But if the “Church” consists of all the faithful, who hear the Pure Word, then I dare say that there isn’t a single congregation in the world, of any trinitarian Christian stripe, which qualifies. So — with all due respect — I contend that the above statement is hopelessly incoherent.

I have faith that my Church is divinely protected, just as most committed, devout, practicing Christians of any stripe have faith that God preserved the Bible from error, and inspired it. One is no more implausible than the other, in my opinion. And just as there are thorny exegetical and hermeneutical and textual difficulties in Scripture to be worked through and mulled over, so there are in Church history. But that need not cause anyone to despair that God is able to protect His Sacred Tradition and His Church and orthodoxy inviolate.

That’s why I’ve always said that Protestants seem to have a lack of faith in what God can and will do. I believe this even has a relationship – however remote – to the Incarnation. God became a Man and so raised humanity to previous untold heights (I’ve actually written about deification and theosis — usually Orthodox emphases — in my second book). Likewise, if God created a Church which is at bottom a divine institution: His institution, is it not plausible to believe in faith that He can protect that institution from doctrinal error? Yet Protestants and (many?) Anglicans want to adopt an “invisible” notion of the Church, which I find to be utterly unbiblical and non-apostolic.

Indefectibility follows from the “self-confidence” of each Church’s Creed and how binding they claim to be; also based on certain statements of Jesus and the Apostles whereby we are led to believe that the true Church would not fall into heresy, as there is a true and false tradition. That is certainly how St. Paul views the matter. For him it is quite cut-and-dried. God is able in fact to maintain pure doctrine. He is not able to maintain pure human beings, because He has allowed free will and the freedom to rebel against Him and righteousness. But doctrinal and ethical truth and orthodoxy – not having free will – are possible for an omnipotent, sovereign Being to uphold, even in a human institution.

Abuse and institutionalization of error are vastly different. Catholic theological and moral doctrine has not changed. Anglican doctrine has: on contraception, on divorce, on abortion, on homosexuality, and any number of other issues. So the traditionalists among them have formed breakaway communions. Their motives are certainly pure, but this doesn’t solve their ecclesiological problem. They’re still applying the Protestant principles of schism and private judgment, and this clashes with the nature of the Church as expressed in the Nicene Creed.

Be that as it may, I see internal inconsistency in how Anglicans are applying the term “church” – an arbitrary switching back and forth between invisible and visible definitions, which I think is improper and illogical. There is a sense in which an invisible or mystical church is properly spoken of, but for those who accept apostolic succession, this can never undermine in the least a visible, institutional church.

II. Anglican “Messiness”: Glory or Tragedy?

More than one Anglican has told me that they “glory” in Anglican “messiness” — i.e., the fact that not all dogmas are infallibly declared, but that the individual can choose among options. They seem to view this as an admirable moderation or restraint, free from the excesses of “Rome.” But where do we find the desirability of “messiness” in Holy Scripture? We find messiness in the early Church, surely (all over the place), but what we never find is commendation for such “messiness,” as if it were a good thing.

What we find, on the contrary, are condemnations of this in the strongest possible terms, from both St. Paul (in places too numerous to mention) and Our Lord Jesus (e.g., John 17). So this approach is somewhat baffling, from a strictly scriptural point of view. Are we to glory in human shortcomings rather than divine ideals and goals and biblical prescriptions? This strikes me — with all due respect — as C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” taken to an extreme.

If I may be so brash as to speculate: the tendency of Anglicanism to perpetually divide itself into parties in many ways mutually exclusive (thus allowing a natural inroads to the modernist with few scruples and little historical sense of orthodoxy), is ultimately doctrinal relativism. It isn’t like Dominicans, Jesuits, and Benedictines in the Catholic Church, since those are primarily differences in spiritual approach and liturgy, rather than fundamental theology and ethics.

Messiness has struck the Catholic Church too, because of the gift of modernism that was born and bred in Protestant ranks and bequeathed to us. But we regard this “messiness” as a bad thing, as a distortion and co-opting of the orthodox Vatican II, whereas so many Anglicans “glory” in it. Strange: traditionalist Anglicans fight the liberals on the one hand, yet revel in theological diversity and relativism on the other. Relativism and a body of truth more than one and indivisible is an absolutely unbiblical concept.

The Church is what it is, because the apostolic deposit was what it was and is. Unity exists insofar as Christians accept this deposit and submit themselves to it. But of course Anglicans and Catholics have arguments as to the nature of the initial Tradition handed down to us by the Apostles. The thing to do is to determine what the Apostles believed and to conform ourselves to those beliefs. But one must necessarily take into account the place of development of doctrine, as well. I think development is the key for understanding the non-essential differences in doctrines from the time of the Apostles to our time, and the key for Protestants to understand the ostensible “growth” of doctrine in Catholicism (what is usually termed “[unbiblical] excess” or “corruption.”

It was even stated by one Anglican with whom I dialogued, that this “messiness” had humility“as its root.” I fail to comprehend this thinking. How is it a lack of humility (as it seems to me this person was perhaps subtly implying) to simply acknowledge that certain things are true, as passed down by an authoritative Christian body, be it Anglican, Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed? And how is it “humble” merely to accept the notion that large areas of ethics and doctrine should be left up to choice and a sort of “majority vote” – which I would call a de facto relativism? If I were to choose, I would say that it is arguably far less humble to feel that one can pick and choose Christian truths, rather than submitting in obedience and faith to whatever brand of Christianity they adhere to. This gets into the rather complicated argument about private judgment.

III. The Via Media: the Attempted and Sought-After “Middle Way” of Anglicanism

The Anglican concept of the Via Media is regarded as a “middle way” between Protestantism and (Roman) Catholicism. Cardinal Newman disputed this understanding with great force (I think, compellingly) in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine and Apologia pro vita sua, but the perspective is still very much with us today.

What fascinates me about this Via Media approach is: by what means does one arrive at it? What are its first premises, and where do they come from? Is it in the Bible? If so, where? Is this strain of thought present in the Church Fathers? For my part, I would suspect that it is ultimately (in terms of history of ideas) a product of Renaissance nominalism, sola Scriptura, and the negative influences of post-“Enlightenment” philosophical thought. I could just as easily make a case that certain secular philosophical influences have brought Anglicans to this juncture where they think in these terms in the first place, so that they are just as beholden to philosophy as we are with our Thomistic “baptized” Aristotelianism (as they sometimes criticize us).

Catholics are in no way, shape, or form, reducing mysteries to merely intellectual constructs. We bow before the mysteries; we marvel at them. Are Marian apparitions, e.g., instances of a “dominance of intellect”? Yet some of them (notably, Fatima and Lourdes) are accepted at the very highest levels of the Church, and all of our greatest thinkers (e.g., Aquinas, Augustine, Newman, the present pope) had or have a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

It’s not either/or. We value mind and heart, mysticism and systematic theology, orthodoxy and orthopraxis, experience and the pondering of the intricacies of dogma. Our greatest saints are always combinations of these traits and emphases. I say that our “both/and” approach is the truest kind of Via Media: a refusal to create false dichotomies, and to accept all the different aspects of faith, all the while not relegating dogmas to majority vote and “secondary doctrines.” As Chesterton observed:

The Church is from the first a thing holding its own position and point of view, quite apart from the accidents and anarchies of its age. That is why it deals blows impartially right and left, at the pessimism of the Manichean or the optimism of the Pelagian. It was not a Manichean movement because it was not a movement at all. It was not an official fashion because it was not a fashion at all. It was something that could coincide with movements and fashions, could control them and could survive them. (The Everlasting Man, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1925, 228)

If the Via Media is such an attractive and distinguishing trait, then surely it can be found in the Bible and the Fathers and the early Councils, right? Anglicans also value those sources very highly, so it seems to me that if this notion of Via Media cannot be found there, then Anglicanism has a problem of internal incoherence once again — and a rather serious one at that.

Cardinal Newman, in his criticism of the Via Media in his Apologia, argued that the “middle position” between so-called extremes was also heretical. If one takes a position between 4th-century Catholicism and Arianism, one is not a “Via Media Christian.” That person is a Semi-Arian. By pressing various analogies like this, Newman was led to the realization where he wrote (famously): “I looked in the mirror and I was a Monophysite.”

Again, I ask Anglicans (with perfect sincerity and curiosity): where in the Bible or the Fathers or Councils do you find the scenario of always seeking a “middle way” between two other parties? What was the equivalent in the Ancient Church of the Anglican Via Media? I suppose Anglicans could argue that the ancient Catholic Church was closer to present-day Anglicanism than to present-day Catholicism, but that would take an awful lot of arguing to be persuasive. To offer two quick examples: where are, e.g., the analogies to the Council of Chalcedon and Pope Leo the Great in Anglicanism today? But Catholics have John Paul II and Vatican II.

IV. Anglicanism and the Papacy

One Anglican argued that since the ex cathedra definition of papal infallibility was promulgated in 1870, that no pope prior to that date could fulfill that role. That a particular doctrine was not dogmatically defined before a certain date, however, does not mean that it didn’t exist prior to that date, or was not widely accepted. Papal infallibility and supremacy of jurisdiction certainly did exist, and was – by and large – adhered to, until the Orthodox ditched it, and later the Anglicans and Protestants.

The very fact that all of them made a big deal out of rejecting it (we need look no further than Henry VIII) proves that it was in fact present. It is presupposed in Luther’s contrary statement at the Diet of Worms: “popes and Councils can err.” How can one reject something that is nonexistent? Controversy suggests contrary views. St. Thomas More was martyred in order to uphold papal supremacy, which in turn is closely connected (logically and ecclesiologically) to papal infallibility (of some sort, at any rate).

John Henry Cardinal Newman, in his masterpiece, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845; rev. 1878), elaborates upon the above analysis:

Whether communion with the Pope was necessary for Catholicity would not and could not be debated till a suspension of that communion had actually occurred. It is not a greater difficulty that St. Ignatius does not write to the Asian Greeks about Popes, than that St. Paul does not write to the Corinthians about Bishops. And it is a less difficulty that the Papal supremacy was not formally acknowledged in the second century, than that there was no formal acknowledgment on the part of the Church of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity till the fourth. No doctrine is defined till it is violated . . . .

Moreover, an international bond and a common authority could not be consolidated . . . while persecutions lasted. If the Imperial Power checked the development of Councils, it availed also for keeping back the power of the Papacy. The Creed, the Canon, in like manner, both remained undefined . . . All began to form, as soon as the Empire relaxed its tyrannous oppression of the Church . . .

Supposing there be otherwise good reason for saying that the Papal Supremacy is part of Christianity, there is nothing in the early history of the Church to contradict it. . .

Doctrine cannot but develop as time proceeds and need arises, and . . . therefore it is lawful, or rather necessary, to interpret the words and deeds of the earlier Church by the determinate teaching of the later.

Details needed to be worked out (e.g., how wide was the latitude for papal infallibility: Vatican I settled on a (relatively speaking) “moderate” position over against the Ultramontanes and the Gallicans, and what was later known as the “Old Catholics” (led by the historian Dollinger), but this is the case with all developments. I could just as well say that no one believed that Christ had Two Natures before Chalcedon in 451, because it wasn’t yet precisely defined dogma, or that no one accepted the Trinity before Nicaea in 325, etc.

Papal infallibility is a straightforward development and logical extension of papal supremacy. The latter can be indisputably shown in hundreds of patristic (and even conciliar) quotes, perhaps most notably from Pope Leo the Great. And the former is not at all inconsistent with it.

Now, lest Anglicans or anyone else dispute the validity of development itself, they would have to demonstrate how Christological or canonical or soteriological development (particularly concerning original sin) differ in essence from development of the office of the papacy. Anglicanism has no pope; Orthodoxy has none; Protestants have none, but the early Church sure seemed to (even if the office is regarded as merely a primacy of honor).

How does one get from a pope to no pope in a straight line of doctrinal development? Therefore, I submit that having no pope is far more a departure from early Christianity than having an infallible pope. The first is a complete reversal of precedent; the latter a deductive development of what came before.

There either was a pope in Church history or there wasn’t. Most (if not all) would grant that there was. Then the dispute becomes the extent of his power and jurisdiction, and infallibility. At that point it becomes (insofar as it is a strictly historical discussion) basically a “war of patristic and conciliar quotes.” Thus far, no matter how (in my opinion) compelling a set of quotes from the Fathers is produced, I have yet to meet an opponent who will deal with them seriously and comprehensively rather than derisively or dismissively. Granted, I may have limited experience, but I have engaged in many dialogues, and I refer only to my own experience, as far as it goes.

Another tack I would take on this is that Anglicans (as far as I can see) acknowledge (early) conciliar and creedal infallibility (or at least a high degree of authoritativeness, notwithstanding disputes of interpretation). Now, I assume that would be based on consensus of the early Church, just as, e.g., the Canon of New Testament Scripture or the Two Natures of Christ was. But many in that early Church (and not a few from the East) acknowledged the papacy in exalted terms not inconsistent with the full development of papal infallibility, brought to fruition in 1870.

So why accept their opinions on one thing and not the other? If we judge the authoritativeness and truthfulness of Church Fathers at every turn based on our own private judgment, then we are in no wise different in our approach than Luther at Worms and thereafter. And that gets me right back to my point about the incoherent mixtures of Protestant and Catholic notions of ecclesiology and authority in Anglicanism. Apostolic succession means something.

Beyond that are the biblical indications of papal supremacy and the logical deduction of infallibility in the same sense that a Council (e.g., the one in Jerusalem: Acts 15) is regarded as infallible in some binding and dogmatic sense.

Development ought not surprise us. It has always been with us, and always will be. It is evident in Scripture itself (e.g., the angelology which had obviously undergone much development amongst the Jews in the inter-Testamental period). The common mistake is to confuse particulars of definition with the essence of a doctrine, and so conclude falsely that the essential or presuppositional elements were never historically present before they were defined in great precision. Such is the case with papal infallibility, as with many other disputed doctrines – e.g., the Catholic Marian ones.

Anglicans like to claim that papal excesses in the exercise of authority fractured the Catholic Church, with the Great Schism (when three men claimed to be pope simultaneously) and the events of the 16th-century so-called “Reformation.” But the papacy was by no means the sole factor in either break. It was much more so in the so-called English “Reformation” since Henry VIII wanted supremacy to reside in himself rather than the trans-national papacy (in the first instance due to sheer lust). St. Thomas More died because of his refusal to accept that travesty of justice and perversion of Christian governance.

Students of Church history may recall that Martin Luther also rejected conciliar infallibility and five previously commonly-accepted sacraments, among many other things. He had to do so in order to establish absolute supremacy of conscience, private judgment, and sola Scriptura, with its corollary perspicuity of Scripture, as the new formal principles of authority. I don’t see that Anglicans are much different, much as they acknowledge and claim to respect primitive Christian Tradition and the Fathers. I believe Anglicans (at least the more traditional and “orthodox” ones) do respect them, but I see many problems of inconsistent application of their teachings, and an incoherent mixture of visible and invisible church notions (and private judgment vs. the obedience entailed in apostolic succession).

Jesus Himself said that His coming would divide households. Was that His fault? Likewise, if the papacy was indeed divinely-instituted, yet people didn’t like it and rejected it, was it God’s fault that division then occurred? We should also expect conflict in larger Church battles and divisions. But we shouldn’t adopt an indifferentist or relativist approach and assume all sides are equally right, or that there is no right side, simply because division exists, or that every man is in effect his own pope, or despair that there is any answer at all.

The grounds for the papacy are in Scripture itself, and in how the Lord and the early Church regarded St. Peter. That’s where the argument succeeds or fails (at least in ecumenical discussion), not in a momentary dispute between Paul and Peter (over behavioral hypocrisy — not doctrine at all), or some alleged arrogant act of Pius IX, or a whoring Renaissance Borgia pope, or historical-political-cultural happenstance, etc.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Know Thyself – γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Know Thyself


-by Jason Craig

Often, the difference between a man that believes in virtue and a man who doesn’t comes down to one distinction: is truth true or is truth relative? Most reading this know that “moral relativism” is a plague easily diagnosed and dismissed by sane men, but not truly believing in truth has more manifestations than we might think. Many of us are relativists by a different name by our attempt to create false images of ourselves and ask the world to believe in what we have created. Our screen time fuels this error.

Descartes is famous for saying, “I think, therefore, I am.” (Cogito ergo sum.Cartesian thought stems from stripping all other forms of knowledge away, being instinctively skeptical of all received so-called “truths” and being sure only of one’s own thinking. All knowledge in this mode comes from what can be proven by empirical evidence, but really what we end up with is just thinking that whatever we think is right. “I think, therefore whatever I think is what is.” Moral relativism flows easily from here, since morality needs philosophy and theology, not just empiricism.

Mix relativism with a little narcissism, and it’s not hard to picture the thousands of uploaded images, comments, etc. that we post on the internet and hear ourselves say clearly – by our actions – “I post, therefore I am.” We think what we slap on the wall is what we are, because we don’t actually care to know what we are. That can be ugly and hard.

Few of us want to do the work of really knowing ourselves, yet this is the true path to virtue and wisdom. Socrates expanded the Greek maxim “know thyself” saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Gazing at ourselves online – adoring what we have marketed – is not self-examination. It’s looking at the self as we have created it, not as God has. Holiness, which is the graced reality of virtue, must be found in asking God to show us to ourselves. Few of us have the courage and humility to see our self as it is, let alone the courage to persevere in correcting its faults. Seeing and correcting the faults of others is much easier, especially done through our created persona. To understand the self, we have to look away from it, especially by looking away from our screens, and look to God:

“We shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble.” (St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle)”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Infallibility 101

Sometimes Only A Single Sentence In A Document Is Infallible
Identifying Infallible Teachings

Sometimes people ask, “Is this document infallible?”

The question is problematic because the Magisterium doesn’t issue documents whose teaching is infallible from beginning to end. Instead, it issues documents that contain individual propositions that are infallible.

In Ineffabilis Deus (1854) and Munificentissimus Deus (1950)—the documents that defined the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary—only a single sentence in each document was infallible (i.e., the definitions themselves).

The rest of the documents provided context for the definitions.

A better question would be, “Is this teaching infallible?”

The initial presumption is that it’s not: “No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.” (CIC 749 §3).

Note the forcefulness of the language: It mustn’t just be evident that a doctrine is infallible; it must be manifestly (clearly) evident. This places a weighty burden of proof on one wishing to claim that a teaching is infallible.

Neglect of this principle is a frequent source of problems. Many people casually assume a prior teaching is infallible and then encounter difficulties squaring it with a more recent one.

But the Church has always been careful about what it defines, and the rule has always been that a teaching is not to be regarded as infallible unless the contrary is clear.

So what factors overcome the presumption of non-infallibility?

This depends on how the Magisterium teaches it.
Vatican II provided what is currently the most doctrinally developed and authoritative explanation of the conditions in which the ordinary and universal magisterium teaches infallibly:

Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held (Lumen Gentium, 25; cf. CIC 749 §2).

Vatican II thus indicates the following criteria must be met for the ordinary and universal magisterium to define a teaching:

1. The bishops of the world maintain communion among themselves.
2. They maintain communion with the successor of Peter.
3. They teach authentically (i.e., authoritatively).
4. They teach on a matter of faith and morals.
5. They are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.

The first two conditions require that the bishops not be in a state of schism, which is “the refusal of submission to the supreme pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (CIC 751).

The third condition requires that they must teach on a matter authoritatively. It wouldn’t be enough for them to privately believe an opinion among themselves. It must be communicated to the faithful as an authoritative teaching.

The fourth condition requires the matter to concern “faith and morals.” That is, it must either be a revealed truth or one required to properly guard and explain revealed truth (§§428-450). Bear in mind that “morals” (Latin, mores) includes aspects of Christian life that go beyond the principles of moral theology (§429).

The final condition requires three specific things:

a) It requires the bishops be in agreement. This is generally understood as a moral unanimity among them. It wouldn’t be enough if only a portion or even a mere majority were in agreement, but it needn’t be every single bishop in the world.

b) The bishops must agree on one position. It isn’t enough if they consider a range of positions legitimate. They must agree on a single, specific truth.

c) They must agree this truth is “definitively to be held” by the faithful, thereby bringing all legitimate discussion to an end. If the bishops merely agreed that it should be held then the teaching would be authoritative but non-infallible. It is only when they agree a teaching is absolutely mandatory that infallibility is engaged.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Vice is the opiate of masses…

-by Dr. Matthew Tan, The Divine Wedgie

“A diagnosis that is common to the thought of Nietzsche and Marx concerns the pacifying strength of fantasies.

At the risk of oversimplification, we can say that for Marx, the fantasy concerns the artificial worth injected into things by capitalist modes of production, which for him religion played a part by redirecting the vision of the have-nots to a realm beyond things. For Nietzsche, meanwhile, the fantasy is one of an artificial morality imposed by the weak on the strong. Regardless of the source, these fantasies acted as a narcotic that was consumed at a societal level, blinding whole communities to the reality of things and preventing the administration of the cure.

If fantasy was the sickness, the cure lay in casting off these fantasies and the structures that sustained them to reveal the reality of the world. For Marx, it was the integral connection between a person’s identity with his dialectic with the world, while for Nietzsche, it was the necessity of the rule by those that are able to embrace the flux of life over those that seek to block that off that flux by hiding behind a veneer of order.

While we can debate over whether these two were correct in their particular diagnoses of the fantasy, the diagnosis of the fantasy itself is something for the Christian to consider seriously. This is because doing so sheds new light on what the vices do as negations of the virtues. The vices are not just bad things that people do.

In in the classical and medieval mind, the virtues were what helped a person attain his or her end as a flourishing being. A person living a life of virtue is one that is able to immerse themselves deeply into the reality of the cosmic order, and in the reality of the supernatural order. In doing so, they were also able to see themselves for what they really were, their abilities, limits, desires and so on. Armed with this knowledge, persons living the life of virtue are able to live in the present.

By contrast, the vices recognize no such order. Instead, the vices are powerful narcotics which produce upon consumption, fantasies about ourselves, our relationship with the world, and ultimately our relationship with God. Rather than receive our status as creatures of God, for instance, we imagine ourselves to be creators over and against God. As R.J. Snell argued in Acedia and Its Discontents, vice is a refusal to accept any limit and to be frustrated by any that come our way.

Importantly, if we are attentive, we find that the limits are those that we face all the time and in the present.

What this causes us to do is to indulge in fantasy, which comes in two forms. The first fantasy, one that was identified by Evagrius of Alexandria in the sixth chapter of his Praktikos, is nostalgia, where we recall blissful moments of the past where those limits were overcome. The other is speculation, where we imagine our lives in states where those limits do not exist (it can be in terms of wealth, sex, status, jobs and so on). In casting our minds to these states, we think of those moments as salvific, which by contrast reframes the present as a state of damnation. We find the present repulsive and even futile, and prefer to indulge in fantasy and speculation – with all the audiovisual aids and substances concocted by pop culture – thinking that our connection with reality lies in those moments, when those are exactly when our connection with reality is eroded.  This is because those moments do not exist. The past can no longer be retrieved, and the future speculation can never arrive. Insofar as we are stuck in either the past or future, we are indulging in fantasy. What does exist, what does connect us to reality, is the present moment we find repulsive on account of their limit, the limit that we find to be a denial of reality and an impediment to God’s providence.

By contrast, as Julian Carron said in “A Leap of Awareness”, limit constitutes the very site of God’s providence. Writing from another angle, Romano Guardini argued in The Living God, that the experience of the overcoming of limit occurs precisely where we are most cognizant of that limit.  This is the present moment that the vices prompt us to find repulsive. As Guardini writes in a chapter entitled “God’s Providence”, “There is a way of coming to experience [Providence] as a reality, and it is a way that is constantly recurring: it is ‘the now’.”

It is the precise moment when we realize that we are not the ones that provide our own providence that the reality of Providence emerges as an experiential reality. Indeed, we find that Providence is the very structure of reality, and the life of virtue is a constant attunement to that reality. If we feel we have missed that moment, do not worry, for as Guardini says, the moment of providence is constantly recurring, and the offer to reconnect with reality is made new every single moment.”

Love & virtue,
Matthew

Nov 13 – St Francis Xavier Cabrini, MSC, (1850-1917), “Not East, but West..”, Holy Pivots…

https://endowgroups.org/content/mothercabriniprayforus

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini must have been a flexible soul. Several times in her life, God asked her to pivot in her plans and follow Him in directions she had not thought to discern. But through her obedience, the Lord did amazing things – and now she is honored as the first American citizen to be canonized, and the patron saint of immigrants. In the United States, we celebrate her feast day on November 13.

She was born a miracle baby in 1850, into a world where life was especially fragile. Two months premature, she survived even though only three of her twelve siblings would live into adulthood.

As a child, she would play by a stream near her uncle’s house, dropping little violets into paper boats and watching “the missionaries” float away to Eastern shores.
Her health would always be compromised, and her physical weakness caused her to be turned down when she desired admittance into the Daughters of the Sacred Heart at the age of 18. This must have been heartbreaking – these sisters had been her teachers for years, but they just felt she was too frail for their way of life.

Here was the first pivot – a priest asked her to teach at an orphanage, and she embraced God’s new call. Her enthusiasm attracted others, and soon she had a community of women following her. They took religious vows, and she added ‘Xavier’ to her name after the great missionary priest St. Francis Xavier. Their order was named The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her heart, it seemed, still belonged to the Eastern missions.

She asked permission of the Pope to establish missions in China. But Pope Leo XIII was thinking instead of the thousands of Italian immigrants flooding into America – orphans themselves, in a sense – far from home, in great poverty, and without spiritual support. We can image her surprise when the Pope told her, “Not to the East, but to the West.” Another pivot.

Obedient again, she packed her bags, gathered six other sisters, and joined the throngs of Italians heading to New York. When she arrived, she encountered another surprise: the house they had been promised was no longer available, and the archbishop insisted she return to Italy. This time, she held her ground. Certain that this was God’s will for her, after all her other changes in plans, she refused to return. Eventually he found them room at another convent and no doubt became glad he had: over the next 35 years these women would found 67 institutions around the United States and the world, caring for the poor and sick in hospitals, schools, and orphanages. Mother Cabrini, as she was called, was prayerful, resourceful, and an astonishingly skilled administrator. She became a citizen of the United States in 1909, and died eight years later in one of her own hospitals in Chicago.

It would seem that in heaven, she made another plea to go East. This time, God humored her. Long after her death, the sisters of her order would be sent as missionaries to China, and surely with joy she watched them sail away, as she had watched the little paper boats of her childhood.

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, pray for us, that we may accept the upsets of life when they are God’s will for us, stand firm when they are not, and that we may have the discernment to know the difference. Give us, too, a heart for the poor and needy and the spiritual eyes to see them in our own midst. Amen.”

Love & pivots,
Matthew

Nov 9 – “Mi Mamá Me Ama!!”, My Mother Loves Me, Holy Mother Church

Today, Nov 9, is the Feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran Church in 325 AD.

As to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.” –Servant of God Dorothy Day, a convert from nominal Christianity, to Episcopalianism, to Catholicism, as documented in her book The Long Loneliness.

“The Church is our mother. She is our “Holy Mother Church” that is generated through our baptism, makes us grow up in her community and has that motherly attitude, of meekness and goodness: Our Mother Mary and our Mother Church know how to caress their children and show tenderness. To think of the Church without that motherly feeling is to think of a rigid association, an association without human warmth, an orphan.” -Pope Francis, 9/15/2015, homily at Mass, Casa Santa Marta.


-by Br. Josemaría Guzmán-Domínguez, OP

“I was taught to write cursive as a child back home in Venezuela. The typical method of instruction involved painstaking copying of letters or short sentences several times. I still remember that to learn how to shape the letter ‘m,’ my workbook presented the short alliterative sentence, “mi mamá me ama.”

Mi mamá me ama. “My mother loves me.” What an excellent sentence for a child to repeat, to write many times on his workbook, and to inscribe on the tablets of his heart. It is a sentence expressing a key truth of our lives. “Mi mamá me ama” ought almost to read as a tautology. My mother, our mothers, should, in the right order of the world, incarnate for me and for us the truth of unconditional love. For us children, the gift of our mothers should mean the gift of knowing we are loved.

Mi mamá me ama. “Does she?” asks the teenager. When we begin to notice the flaws in our mothers, especially their faults in their loving us, this question becomes tempting. And when we see the situation of a person who cannot truthfully think, write, or speak that sentence, we witness a tragedy. Since the love of human mothers toward their children does admit of failure, even of grave transgressions, the confidence in love that their love ought to give us is called into question.

Today Catholics celebrate a mother, Holy Mother Church, symbolized by the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran, the Pope’s cathedral. Therefore, it stands as “the mother and head of all the churches in the city and the world.” So today we can remember, “Mi mamá me ama.” Our Mother the Church—one, holy, catholic, and apostolic—loves us. She gave birth to our faith through her preaching and nourishes our hope by her sacraments. She inflames our hearts with charity for God and one another through sharing with us the Spirit who dwells in her. She points us toward happiness and teaches us how to live so as to attain it. She walks with us throughout our lives and leads us to our loving Father.

But does she really love us, this Church who so often appears to us negligent, distant, or even downright abusive? Can we really trust in the motherly love of a Church that like Jerusalem of old so often seems utterly corrupted? Would it not be best to distance ourselves from her, forget her, and assert our independence?

We understand the appeal of such impulses. The Church, as sometimes mothers, may strike us as hurtful and hypocritical. She seems to teach one thing and live another. She is the spotless bride of Christ and yet she seems to act like the whore of Babylon. This difficulty confronts Christians, saints and sinners, of every age. Sinfulness has been so prevalent in her members and her hierarchy that some see in this impurity the true mark of the Church.

However, we know in faith that the Church is our mother and a most loving mother at that. We know that she was formed by God from the pierced Heart of Jesus, the new Adam. She is the new Eve, the mother of all those who live by God’s grace. Such is the profound, mystical, often hidden identity of Holy Mother Church, perfectly symbolized in the person of our Holy Mother Mary.

Yet only eyes full of faith can see true face of the Church. Only a heart purified by charity can cut through the muck of sin with which her members defile the Church to embrace her words of wisdom and acts of love. Let us in these days beg these gifts from God in order to appreciate the Church’s true character and to remember that most fundamental of truths: Mi mamá me ama.”

Love,
Matthew

Spiritual Platitudes

Pope Francis leads the Angelus Sept. 16 from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Favio Frustaci, EPA) See POPE-ANGELUS-FAITH Sept. 17, 2018.

-by Junno Arocho Esteves • Catholic News Service •  September 17, 2018

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — True followers of Jesus profess their faith not through pre-packaged platitudes but rather through concrete actions of love for their neighbors, Pope Francis said.

When He asks the disciples who they think He is, Jesus wasn’t interested in “ready-made responses (or) quoting famous personalities of Sacred Scriptures because a faith that is reduced to formulas is a myopic faith,” the pope said Sept. 16 during his Sunday Angelus address.

After praying the Angelus prayer, the pope welcomed the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square and said he wanted to give them a gift to commemorate the Sept. 14 feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Pope Francis said the gift, a silver crucifix distributed by the papal almoner’s office, wasn’t an “ornamental object” but a “sign of the love of God Who, in Jesus, gave His life for us.”

“I invite you to receive this gift and place it in your homes, in your children’s room or your grandparent’s (room); in any place but it must be seen in your home,” he said. “By looking at Jesus crucified, we are looking at our salvation.”

Before praying the Angelus prayer, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Peter professes his faith in Christ, and Jesus explains the price that is paid for following Him.

“Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it,” Jesus said. (-Mt 16:24)

Christ’s words, the pope explained, affirm that His mission and those of His disciples “isn’t carried out on the wide road of success but on the arduous path of the suffering servant: humiliated, rejected and crucified.”

Like Peter who objected to Jesus’ assertion, Christians can also “protest and rebel because this doesn’t meet our expectations,” he said.

Professing one’s faith in Christ, Pope Francis added, doesn’t “stop at words but must be authenticated by concrete choices and gestures, by a life marked by God’s love, a great life, a life with so much love for one’s neighbor.”

“Often in life, for many reasons, we take the wrong path, looking for happiness only in things or in people who we treat like things,” the pope said. “But we can only find happiness when love, that true love, finds us, surprises us and changes us. Love changes everything.”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 1-8: Visit a cemetery, get souls out of Purgatory!!!

Bored? Looking to get a new vibe on? You’ve come to the right place, friend!!


-by Melissa Guerrero

“During All Souls Day, Catholics are encouraged to visit cemeteries to gain plenary indulgences for our loved ones who are no longer with us. Catholics cemeteries are also consecrated grounds. Yes, we have our memento mori thoughts in cemeteries and we mourn our losses, but there is also hope. (1 Thess 4:13-18)

We pray for the Poor Souls, hoping that our prayers, Masses, and indulgences get them out of Purgatory quicker. That means that we provide hope to get them to Heaven sooner, so they can finally spend eternity with God. Not only this, but we can also hope that someday they will be in Heaven, praying for us. Furthermore, we hope that future generations will be doing the same for our souls when we’ve passed on.

Are you interested in receiving an indulgence – either plenary or partial – for the soul of a loved one while visiting their grave? Here is what you can do.

Requirements for obtaining a plenary indulgence:
1. Be in a state of grace, at least when performing the indulgence act
2. Have complete detachment from sin, even venial sin
3. Confession (having gone either 20 days before or go 20 days after the indulgence act)
4. Communion (received either 20 days before or go 20 days after the indulgence act)
5. Prayers for the Supreme Pontiff (prayed either 20 days before or go 20 days after the indulgence act) or/and his intentions.
6. Complete the indulgence act; a special good work with special conditions of place and time.

What are the indulgence acts you can do to obtain a plenary indulgence?
1. Visit a cemetery between November 1st and 8th and say a mental prayer for the poor souls; you can do this once a day, every day during the 8 days.
2. On November 2nd, you can visit a church or an oratory where they’re praying an Our Father and the Creed.

If you can’t get a plenary indulgence, a partial indulgence can be obtained at any time by simply visiting a cemetery and praying for the poor souls in Purgatory with this prayer:

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the rest in peace. Amen.

If you don’t have anyone to pray for, you can always pray and ask God to apply the indulgence for a poor soul who has no one praying for them. As Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, when we die, those souls we’ve prayed for—even people who we never met on earth—will be “coming toward us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: ‘A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory.’”

Now, get out to your local cemetery and get some souls out of purgatory!”

Love & purification!!
Matthew

Good vs Evil

We moderns look askance at such a dialectic.  However, my experience has shown me life is exactly this, every day, ever moment, every instant. I wish I had more soothing news, a way out, a loophole. Rather, there is no nuance.  No dissembling.  Straight up.  It has.  It is.  Woe to them that accept it not. Woe to them. Evil is NOT an equal to good. It is the absence of good. Good is a reality. Evil is a vacuum of reality. Hence, evil can never truly overcome good. It can tempt towards despair, but it has no power other than what we acquiesce to. Good is. Evil is not. God allows evil to exist as part of His passive will, that which He allows, only as a means of bringing good out of evil because He is God, and He alone can do this, and does and will.

“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the Faith!!” -2 Tim 4:7. This scripture was engraved on the base of the youthful statue of the patron of my young adult parish, St Paul’s.  My mother asked her catechetical students, see where I get it?  She asked them not to say, “Hello, Mrs. McCormick!” But, rather, “Keep the Faith!” “If my children lose their Faith, I have failed as a mother!” -MDM

Rm 12:21


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“He who endures to the end will be saved” (-Mt 10:22)

It is good to start something, but it is better to finish it (see Eccl 7:8). To endure to the end, our ultimate end, means to die well, to die with our loving trust in God. Blessed are those who die in the Lord, because they will be saved, because they will live in perfect happiness with God in the communion of saints. The very essence of a good life is a good death, because a good death leads to eternal life.

This doesn’t mean that our actions now, before our deaths, are meaningless or unimportant. In fact, the only way to endure to the end is to belong firmly to God in grace, a belonging established throughout our lives.

In a way, all the many actions throughout our lives together make up only one choice. We are offered the possibility in grace of belonging to God forever, of knowing Him, loving Him, and finding perfect fulfillment in Him. We can choose to accept this possibility, to love God. Or, we can choose to reject God, to hate Him. We make this choice through the course of our whole life, a choice which is completed and finalized in our choice at death, a choice which has consequences beyond our death.

The angels were offered the same choice in the moment of their creation. Some chose God, and some chose their own pride. But because they are spiritual, and not bodily, because they have a higher perfection of being than us, they made this choice in a single act and in a single moment.

We are bodily persons, not angelic persons. We make our choice not in a single act, but through the whole course of our lives. That choice, to either accept His gift of grace and to love Him, or to reject Him and hate Him, is cemented at our death. Before that ultimate moment there is always the possibility of conversion, and likewise the possibility of falling away. The direction in which we turn is shaped by each and every one of our actions.

Our lives are, in a way, an anticipation and preparation for our deaths, and for what lies beyond our deaths.

But we are not alone in this preparation. God gives us His grace, purchased by the blood of Christ, and communicated to us in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The saints and angels stand by our side, interceding. Mary, our mother, is our foremost intercessor, as we petition her in the Hail Mary to pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

As we strive to endure to the end, we can turn again and again to Mary. Let us beg her to pray for us now, that we may love God in each of our actions, and at the hour of our death, that we may endure in God’s love until our end, and beyond our end.”

Love,
Matthew