“This past September, Apple TV+ launched an ambitious science fiction television series described as “based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov” that “chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire.”
The show takes its name, Foundation, from the first of three Asimov novels originally published as short stories from 1942 to 1950. Asimov received the prestigious Hugo Award for best all-time science fiction series in 1966 for the novels. Decades later, he added several prequels and sequels to the body of work. The books were considered notoriously difficult to adapt to film, as efforts by studios in the late 1990s and mid-2000s failed to achieve results. However, Apple TV acquired the rights in 2018 and ordered a ten-episode season. Released to mostly positive critical reviews, Apple ordered a second season last month.
Foundation purports to tell the story of the coming end of the Galactic Empire, ruled by three clones of the emperor, Cleon I. Imperial power rests with the seemingly consistent cloned rulers, who enforce galactic peace through extreme violence. However, trouble erupts when Hari Seldon, a university professor of mathematics, develops the theory of “psychohistory” (“a predictive model designed to forecast the behavior of very large populations”) that he claims foretells the fall of the empire. Arrested and tried for treason, Seldon confronts the cloned emperors and predicts the impending collapse of peace, security, and order in the galaxy. The TV show chronicles the adventures of the imperial clones, Seldon’s band of exiled followers, and the impending collapse of galactic society.
No book can be understood without reference to its author and what influenced him. Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was born in Russia, but his family moved to the United States when he was a boy. He earned advanced degrees in chemistry, which led to a position as a professor in biochemistry at Boston University. Asimov enjoyed creative writing from an early age and was drawn to science fiction. Although raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, Asimov rejected his family’s faith, became an atheist, and embraced the Enlightenment ideals of humanism and rationalism. He was named “Humanist of the Year” in 1984 by the American Humanist Association, an organization dedicated to establishing a “progressive society where being good without a god is an accepted and respected way to live life,” and served as its president from 1985 to 1992. Asimov continued to write and speak on scientific topics until his death in 1992.
Asimov found inspiration for his Foundation narrative after reading Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon (1737-1794) was an English Enlightenment scholar who was raised Anglican, converted to the Catholic Faith at Oxford while a student, and then reverted to Protestantism when his outraged father sent him to Calvinist Switzerland to regain the “true” faith. Later, after meeting Voltaire, the French skeptic and enemy of the Church, Gibbon embraced skepticism and rationalism. In his famous work on the Roman Empire, Gibbon posited the theory that the Church enfeebled the once mighty imperial structure. He speculated that the Church’s objection to Roman immorality and its failure to embrace the Roman way of life disrupted the unity of the empire.
According to Gibbon, the teachings of the Catholic Church produced a “servile and effeminate age,” where Roman imperial society was undermined by the clergy and its insistence on living Christian virtues. He argued that the political life of the empire was radically changed by the adoption of the Christian faith as the official (and only) religion in the empire in the late fourth century. Emperors, Gibbon opined, were distracted by worthless and ridiculous religious disagreements, which hampered their ability to deal with the rising political and military situation on the imperial borders.
Gibbon’s theory on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire became the standard narrative in the English-speaking world and found favor with Enlightenment thinkers with an animus against religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Enlightenment intellectuals believed that the Church was a negative influence in the world and that the collapse of the Roman Empire produced a thousand-year “triumph of barbarism and religion” that was finally broken with the return of the classical knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome during the Renaissance. The Frenchman Denis Diderot (1713-1784), an Enlightenment leader, summed it all up when he famously quipped, “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”
The influence of Enlightenment intellectuals, and especially Gibbon’s work, is clearly seen in the first episode of Foundation, when Hari Seldon stands in the docket during his treason trial. Seldon predicts the collapse of imperial civilization within five centuries (Rome collapsed at the end of the fifth century) followed by a dark age of barbarism and violence consisting of 30,000 years, which Seldon argues can be reduced to a thousand years with the creation of an Encyclopedia Galactica, a compilation of human knowledge that can be used by future generations climbing out of the post-imperial dark ages as a “foundation” for the re-establishment of civilization. After rebels detonate suicide bombs, initiating events that may lead to the empire’s demise, the emperors decide to spare Seldon’s life and send him along with his followers into exile on a remote planet, where they will compile their Encyclopedia Galactica to ride out the impending dark ages.
Now it’s time to set the record straight. Although the Foundation Apple TV+ series is a well written show containing majestic set pieces, beautiful cinematography, stunning computer-generated graphics, and a cast of fascinating characters brilliantly acted, its foundation (pun intended) rests on a tired anti-Catholic historical myth about the role of religion and the Church in the collapse of ancient civilization.
Contra the show’s writers—and Isaac Asimov, and Edward Gibbon—embracing the Catholic faith did not cause the collapse of the Roman Empire. The early Church did not desire the downfall of the established political order and in fact supported the Roman state, spiritually through prayer and materially by individual Christians joining the army, working as imperial officials, and paying their taxes.
The empire persecuted the Church and tried to eradicate it for numerous political, religious, and social reasons. The Church’s moral teachings certainly placed it at odds with Roman culture, and there is no doubt that these were a cause of Roman animosity against the Church. Ten general persecutions exploded against the Church in its first four centuries of existence. The Great Persecution under Diocletian in the early fourth century was undertaken at a time of relative peace and stability in the empire and certainly did not distract the emperor from more important affairs of state, as Gibbon claimed. By the time of the western imperial collapse in the late fifth century, Rome had made peace with the Church and embraced its teachings for over a hundred and fifty years.
So if the Church was not responsible for the “fall” of Rome, who or what was? The key to understanding the question of why Rome collapsed is found in the Roman army, which underwent a series of transformations that doomed the longevity of the empire. The Roman army of the early empire comprised Roman citizens who saw military service as a central piece of citizenship. The army, totaling 300,000 men, focused on a perimeter defense on the borders of the empire to protect the 60 million imperial inhabitants. But by the third century, the Roman army had become a professional entity with recruitment primarily drawn not from citizens, but from slaves and poor free men. Recruiting became difficult, so imperial bureaucrats developed the idea of offering the Germanic tribes on the imperial borders entrance into the empire in exchange for military service. By the fifth century, the Roman army in its vital components was staffed by ethnically German warriors, raised in the empire and self-identifying as Roman but not beholden to the wealthy Roman nobility nor the imperial bureaucracy.
The empire collapsed in the West in the late fifth century because it was exhausted from five hundred years of imperial rule. Romans lost confidence in their society. Central bureaucratic control from Rome collapsed in the West in the late fifth century, and power fell into the hands of the local Roman military commanders—again, ethnic Germans. These local chieftains were forced to forge a new identity and societal structure when the last Western emperor was overthrown in the late fifth century. Contrary to what the Enlightenment thinkers claimed—and the line of thought that provides the grist for Foundation—the Church, with its bishops and dioceses (organized according to the imperial governmental structure), provided the Romans a chance at unity in belief, practice, and life.
No one needs to be convinced that Foundation is a work of fiction. But unfortunately, in our age, rife as it is with animosity against the Catholic Church, what does need spelling out is that Foundation is based on fiction, too—not true history, but the tendentious work of bitter philosophers and historians with an axe to grind against the one institution mandated by God to produce hope and light in a chaotic world.”
It was the Catholic Church that saved and preserved Western civilization despite the collapse the what was left of the western Roman Empire beneath it.
In a 1988 letter to the Rev. George V. Coyne, S.J., director of the Vatican Observatory, His Holiness Pope St John Paul II wrote, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”
The Gold Mass, which follows in the tradition of special Masses for members of different professions, was selected because gold is the color of the hoods worn by individuals graduating with a Ph.D. in science. It is also the color associated with the patron saint of scientists St. Albert the Great.
“The proper roles and relative importance of faith and reason have been pondered and argued across the centuries. In our day, the debate is often cast in the form of religion (faith) and science (reason), with an underlying assumption that the issue boils down to religion versus science, and we really need to take sides, either clinging to outdated “religious superstition” or progressing with the times to “follow the science.”
Pope St. John Paul summed up the extremes of this false dichotomy in his encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) in 1998 using the termsfideism (from the Latin fides for faith) and scientism. Fideism, embodied by some of our Protestant brethren, “fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God” (50). We see this most commonly in Biblicism, which makes the Bible “the sole criterion of truth.” Scientism, embodied by many modern atheists and agnostics, is “the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical, and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy” (88).
John Paul knew well that St. Thomas Aquinas made clear in the thirteenth century, as he put it in the Summa Contra Gentiles, that “there exists a twofold truth concerning the divine being.” One kind of truth is accessible through reason, and the other is obtained through God’s direct revelation. Indeed, one nice metaphor casts such truths as written in two books—the book of nature and the book of Scripture. John Paul provided a particularly beautiful and relevant metaphor: “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”
Today, we celebrate the feast of one of the people who flew the highest upon both wings—all the way to heaven. Albert of Cologne (c.1200-1280) is perhaps best known today as the teacher and mentor of Thomas Aquinas. Indeed, as Thomas has become the patron saint of scholars, Albert is the patron saint of scientists. (Seems they both did a fair job of choosing faith and reason.)
Though he is overshadowed by the towering figure of his mighty student, Albert was known as Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great), even while he was alive on earth. So why was he so great? Because he read so well the books of Scripture, like many great Church Doctors before him, and because he read the book of nature like none before him and few since! He also wrote many books of his own, and both different kinds of books.
Albert was called the Great due to his incredible breadth of knowledge and mastery of virtually every scientific discipline known to man at the time—from A to Z, with contributions to fields as diverse as anatomy, anthropology, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, dentistry, geography, geology, medicine, physiology, physics, psychology, and zoology. Some people in his day said you could completely repopulate the forests and rivers of Bavaria with all the plants and animals he had written about. Some said Albert knew all there was to know!
Working without any modern instruments, two hundred years before the printing press, and in the midst of a variety of roles throughout his lifetime, including professor at the University of Paris, bishop of Cologne, and Dominican provincial of Germany, here are some of Albert’s scientific accomplishments:
He isolated arsenic.
He provided the first description in Western writing of the spinach plant (surely becoming the favorite Church Doctor of Popeye the Sailor Man.)
He did early work in the theory of protective coloration of animals—including predicting that animals in the extreme north would have white coloring.
He determined that the Milky Way is a huge assemblage of stars.
He determined that the figures visible on the moon were not reflections of the earth’s mountains and seas, but features of the moon’s own surface.
He predicted land masses at the earth’s poles.
He predicted a large land mass to the west of Europe (and a copy of his prediction has been found in the personal library of Christopher Columbus).
He determined, with the use of mathematical formulae, that the earth was spherical.
He integrated the theories of Aristotle on the nature of human memory with the literature on practical improvement of memory that came down through Cicero.
So Albert clearly was no slouch on the science side of the ledger. As for religion, Albert also wrote many treatises of biblical commentary and was said to be perhaps the most prolific Mariologist of the thirteenth century. Indeed, when Pope Pius XII declared the dogma of the Assumption of Mary on November 1, 1950, he cited Albert as a key champion of the Assumption, having gathered the arguments from Scripture and the Church Fathers to conclude that the Mother of God had indeed been assumed body and soul into heaven.
Though Albert’s greatest student, the Angelic Doctor Thomas Aquinas, was as calm and placid as they come, our great Albert could get testy at times, but only because he so cherished the truth. Later in his life, he would speak out with strong words against those opposed to acquiring human knowledge, the fideists of his day: “There are those ignorant people who wish to combat by every means possible the use of philosophy, and especially among the preachers, where no one opposes them; senseless animals who blaspheme that of which they know nothing.”
Albert loved science and philosophy because he loved God. He knew well that the book of Scripture guides us to the book of nature, and vice versa: “For the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their creator” (Wis. 13:5). Albert never looked at or wrote about a plant, an animal, or even a star without glorying in the fact that each is a creature, reflecting in its own way the beauty and perfection of its creator. That is why the whole world was theology to him.
St. Albert the Great, pray for us, that we may grow in faith and reason, in religion and in science.”
“St. Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence often gets a bad rap, even from many Catholics. For one thing, it can be a difficult argument to understand. Though its premises are rather simple, something about it makes us think we are being tricked. For another thing, we know that eminent authorities like St. Thomas Aquinas have expressed their discontent with the argument.
Nonetheless, I think it is wrong to discard the argument without a second thought. Indeed, I think there is still much of value to be gleaned from it. For simplicity’s sake, here’s a basic sketch of the argument:
God is the greatest conceivable thing.
But if something is only in the mind and not in reality, then a greater thing can be conceived.
So, God cannot only be in the mind.
Therefore, God exists in reality.
In short, the very idea of God necessitates His existence. Thus, the Psalmist is right when he writes, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Whether or not this is a perfect representation of Anselm’s argument, it should serve our purposes today.
I would like to set aside for now the objections against it as an argument for God’s existence, not because it’s not an important question. It is indeed a very important question! But before defending the argument, we have to understand better what Anselm was saying. In fact, unbelievers who point out what they believe to be its weaknesses tend to miss Anselm’s meaning, and thus end up “defeating” a straw man. Engaging in an argument without clarifying meanings is never a good idea.
Christian apologists have long been frustrated to deal with popular skeptics railing against God as something other than what he truly is. Comparisons of God to the tooth fairy or Santa Claus are often flippantly made, particularly among the New Atheist types. Pathetic as such caricatures are, they betray a conception among non-believers that God is a finite creature. But for St. Anselm, that is precisely what God is not.
In an age when religious indifference is rampant and serious contemplation of spiritual things is scarce, St. Anselm’s argument is valuable because it takes on the form of a spiritual exercise.
In reality, God is not a thing at all—things in the sense of “beings in the world” have limitations. They can always be imagined to be greater in some way. But as Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe writes, “God cannot be a thing, an existent among others. It is not possible that God and the universe should add up to make two.”
What he means is that God’s mode of existence is completely different than everything else. Indeed, God is the creator of everything, and keeps it in being every moment it exists. This is the kind of God St. Anselm has in mind when he imagines “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.”
The Anselmian proof invites us to do away with the caricatures—a challenger cannot even begin to refute the proof until he seriously entertains the notion of God presented by Anselm. From that starting point, then, all lesser kinds of “divinities”—from Zeus to the Flying Spaghetti Monster—are necessarily ruled out. We must ask the question soberly: what is the greatest conceivable thing? It is certainly not a beast composed of pasta.
There is more than one way to approach the question. We can think about God as unrestricted existence—that is, existence itself. Or in Aristotelian terms, we can think about God as being pure act and no potency—which just means that God is utterly perfect and lacks all possibility of further perfection. Technically (and as St. Thomas affirmed), to think of God as existence itself is probably the best way to think about “what” God is.
But there is another way to think about what it means for God to be, as Anselm put it, “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Let’s think about this in concrete terms. What is greater—a God who loves everyone who loves him back, or a God who loves everyone unconditionally? Clearly the latter, for his love is perfect. Now, such “negative theology” can help us understand what God isn’t, but it proves nothing about whether such a thing exists. Still, it can help to clarify the nature of the thing considered—the first step of serious argumentation.
In his influential book, The God of Faith and Reason, philosopher Robert Sokolowski considers another contrast, one that sheds light on St. Anselm’s meaning of God. The first “god” Sokolowski asks us to consider is one who becomes greater as the result of his creation. In this first case, “god + the world” is greater than the god alone. He contrasts this version with another in which God is so great that his creation adds nothing to his perfection. In the latter case, “God + the world” is not greater than God alone. And clearly, argues Sokolowski, this latter God is a greater conception of God than the former. Indeed, no greater God could be conceived. And there are important implications that follow from this.
One implication is that if God creates but gains nothing for himself by doing so, then it follows that God’s act of creation is completely gratuitous and unsolicited. We—the created—have everything to gain by virtue of the gift of our existence.
So, aside from what it contributes to the debate about God’s existence, St. Anselm’s ontological proof helps us to re-establish who God is and what it means for us to exist. It gets us thinking about the big questions again, for we have been created for our own good by a God who is unlimited in perfection. Our lives, then, should be lived in a way that reflects uncompromising gratitude, humility, and trust in God.
If St. Anselm’s argument fails as a proof for God’s existence, it nonetheless does great service in establishing a firm starting point for determining what it is we are trying to prove in the first place. Moreover, it compels us to think seriously about whether such a grand contention could be true.
In 2017, The Pontifical Academy for Life released a short document called “Clarifications on the medical and scientific nature of vaccination.” This clarification was written in collaboration with the Italian Bishops’ Conference and the “Ufficio per la Pastorale della Salute” (“Association of Italian Catholic Doctors.”) The 2017 document notes declining vaccination rates in Italy, encourages vaccination, and concludes, “While the commitment to ensuring that every vaccine has no connection in its preparation to any material of originating from an abortion, the moral responsibility to vaccinate is reiterated in order to avoid serious health risks for children and the general population.”
In the 2005 document, The Pontifical Academy for Life teaches that we have a duty to request and use those vaccines which are produced in a morally acceptable way. In the United States, we can make specific vaccine brand choices to avoid some vaccines derived from aborted fetal tissue. In the 2017 “clarification” they do not comment on the issue of vaccine brand choices. They state, “We believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion.” Of note, this clarification was written by Italian bishops and Italian physicians. In Italy, patients do not have the same vaccine brand choices as in the United States.
In the United States, the National Catholic Bioethics center states that we should choose ethical vaccines when they are available. The NCBC’s “FAQ on the Use of Vaccines” was most recently updated in 2019, and is frequently cited by U.S. bishops.
Some, but not all of the Coronavirus vaccines under development are derived from aborted fetal tissue. This article from Science magazine, published in June, 2020 provides a good summary of the coronavirus vaccines under development and the cell lines used for each vaccine. Of note, the United States government has provided 1.2 billion dollars of funding for the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which is being developed using the HEK-293 cell line. This cell line originated from kidney cells from a fetus that was aborted in 1973.
For some vaccines there are no morally produced brands. In the United States, these vaccines are MMR, hepatitis A, and varicella. So should we use these vaccines, when there is no alternative?
In the 2005 document, The Pontifical Academy for Life says we can use them “on a temporary basis” and “insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women.” In the 2017 document, the Pontifical Academy for life writes, “Especially in consideration of the fact that the cell lines currently used are very distant from the original abortions and no longer imply that bond of moral cooperation indispensable for an ethically negative evaluation of their use. On the other hand, the moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others is no less urgent, especially the safety more vulnerable subjects such as pregnant women and those affected by immunodeficiency who cannot be vaccinated against these diseases.”
“For many people who don’t believe God exists, this is one reason why: the smart people they know and respect, such as scientists and philosophers, are often atheists.
For example, ninety-three percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the most elite scientific organizations in the United States, deny God’s existence. One study found that seventy-three percent of professional philosophers are atheists
With such an overwhelming amount of smart people embracing atheism, it’s no surprise that a person who wants to be intellectually responsible will be disinclined to acknowledge that God exists. Let’s look at two strategies for how we can lower this mountain, and prepare a way for the Lord.
Explain that just because someone is smart in one area of expertise doesn’t make him competent when it comes to the question of God’s existence.
QUESTION: “Would you trust a mechanic’s views on politics because he is a good mechanic?”
I think it’s safe to say your friend will answer no. The training that a mechanic receives as a mechanic doesn’t equip him with political knowledge or wisdom. Explain that the same principle applies to what natural scientists and philosophers who are not trained in philosophy of religion, for example, say about God’s existence.
You can remind your friend that God is not subject to scientific inquiry. God is an immaterial being who transcends the boundaries of science’s data source—namely, physical reality. This being the case, no amount of scientific training is going to equip a scientist to pursue the philosophical inquiry of God’s existence.
QUESTION: “If you shouldn’t trust a mechanic’s views on politics just because he knows cars, then why should you trust a scientist’s views about God because he knows chemistry?”
Since the question of God’s existence is beyond a scientist’s expertise, as a matter of authority his opinion on the matter is of equal value to that of any other educated non-scientist—just like his opinion on art, or history, or sports.
Name some smart people that were/are believers in God or some transcendent power.
Your friend doesn’t merely have to trust polls that say many scientists and philosophers are believers. You can share with him the names and pro-God quotes of some of the greatest minds of history. Some of them laymen who were/are theists:
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), father of the heliocentric theory of the solar system: “The universe has been wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.”
Max Planck (1858–1947), originator of the quantum theory: “Religion is the link that binds man to God—resulting from the respectful humility before a supernatural power, to which all human life is subject and which controls our weal and woe.”
Albert Einstein (1879–1955): “Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order… This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”
And consider the contributions of these Catholic scientists:
Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294), English Franciscan monk whose writings predicted the construction of the telescope and laid the groundwork for the scientific method.
St. Albert the Great (1200–1280), bishop who taught St. Thomas Aquinas and who did a great amount of observational work in botany and zoology.
Thomas Bradwardine (1290–1349), archbishop of Canterbury who proved Aristotle’s scientific ideas on motion to be inconsistent and was the first to attempt to formulate a mathematical law of motion.
Nicholas of Oresme (1323–1382), bishop of Lisieux in France who made significant contributions to psychology, physics, mathematics, and economics.
Nicolas of Cusa (1401–1464), German cardinal who posed bold ideas such as the universe being infinitely large and that the sun and earth were in motion in infinite space.
Marin Mersenne (1588–1648), historic figure in mathematics referred to as the “father of acoustics.”
Christoph Scheiner (1573–1650), Jesuit priest who was one of the first five people to discover sunspots with a telescope independently of each other. His sunspot data is still used by scientists today.
Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–1799), top biologist of the eighteenth century whose investigative work and experiments served as the foundation for the work of Louis Pasteur
Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), Augustinian monk and priest who was the founder of genetics.
Abbe Henri Breuil (1877–1962), one of the leading paleontologists of his time and known for his expertise on cave paintings and prehistoric art.
George Lemaitre (1894–1966), director of the Pontifical Academy of the Science who was one of the two originators of the Big Bang theory.
By now your friend will see that to believe in God is to be in good intellectual company.”
-by Dr. Christopher Clemens, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Innovation, Jaroslav Folda Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy
“It shocks many people to find out that I am both an astrophysicist and a religious believer. It shocks some of my fellow astrophysicists and even some of my fellow Catholics. And I know it shocks some of my faculty colleagues at Chapel Hill. But why should this be? Why should it be a surprise that someone whose chosen profession is the scientific study of the universe is also a person of faith? Why the perception of conflict? Is it intrinsic to the business of science that it be “at odds” with religion? Or is it rooted in cultural attitudes?
Let us start by looking at certain aspects of the wider culture and of the culture of science itself.
One of the defects of contemporary culture is the undue and unhealthy reverence we show toward scientists. The public imagines scientists to be too smart to disagree with, too objective to be swayed by emotion or bias, and experts on every subject they choose to talk about. None of these things is true, of course, and the unquestioning acceptance of these notions does great harm. When the physicist Stephen Hawking said that his theories show that the universe has no cause, but simply “is”, or when the biologist Richard Dawkins rails against religion as a “virus” that should be eradicated, their words are given much weight. They are the great minds of our time, our culture supposes, and therefore we are not smart enough even to disagree.
In truth, scientists are anything but authorities on subjects philosophical, and have strayed very far from their own scientific method when they make these kinds of pronouncements. The question of why their words carry so much weight is an interesting one, and deserves to be studied, but here I want to explore what lies behind some of their anti-religious pronouncements. What I hope becomes apparent is that while scientists might be very good at their jobs, their thinking on the subject of religion is not always objective and clearheaded.
To begin, I need to introduce a concept that sounds like an oxymoron: “Scientific Mythology.” The great majority of agnostic or atheist scientists criticize Christians for their “superstitions,” but their own world views are often constructed around a kind of mythology, with scientists themselves as the mythic heroes. The enemy (or, more romantically, the “dragon”) in their myths is anything that stands in the way of free inquiry and the advancement of knowledge. In their terms, the enemy is “dogma,” and they will have none of it. These same scientists do not see that holding the advancement of knowledge or free inquiry as the supreme good is itself a kind of dogma; and this should help us realize that scientists are not always flawless in their logic.
In any event, a typical story in Scientific Mythology has as its hero a person with a new idea, and the story works best if the idea can be described as “heretical” — an adjective many scientists use to confer honor. In the course of the story, the hero encounters a “dogmatic” villain, preferably an immensely powerful one, and is often vanquished in body and spirit, but never in mind, and at the climax of the story he may mutter under his breath, “e pur si muove” (“it moves nonetheless”) or some other phrase to tell us that he has not given up his idea. The moral is always the same: today we know the “heretical” idea is correct, and we can scoff at the dogmatic villain who was powerful but wrong and honor the freethinking hero who was weak but right.
Many scientists are wedded to this kind of mythology to such an extent that it warps their view of history, adversely affects their scientific work, and even compromises their honesty. These are serious charges, the most serious ones you can level against a scientist, but I base them on close experience. Let me tell a story that illustrates what I am saying.
When I was a graduate student at the University of Texas, many of the professors there taught a scientific myth about the Crab Nebula and the Supernova of 1054. The Crab Nebula is a wispy cloud of gas and dust visible in the northern skies, which astronomers believe is the remnant of an exploding star called a supernova. Based on the distance to the nebula, and the rate that material in the nebula is expanding outward, we can calculate the year (1054 A.D.) that the supernova would have appeared in the sky and how bright it would have been. As it happens, in that year, Chinese and Japanese astronomers recorded the presence of a new star, bright enough to be seen even in daytime, which is what we would expect. However, there is no record that the event was seen in Europe.
From this absence of recorded evidence grew the myth taught by many of the UT astronomy faculty (which I have now traced back at least as far as The Feynman Lectures on Physics). The supernova of 1054, they taught, was not reported in Europe because the Europeans were in the grip of the Dark Ages, and the powerful and dogmatic Catholic Church enforced Aristotle’s view that the stars were unchanging. This Church was so effective at suppressing the observations that none survived in all of Europe.
This story has all the basic elements of Scientific Mythology magnified many times. The supposedly heretical idea, that a new star could appear, was verifiable by anyone who had eyes to see. The dogmatic villain was so powerful that it could convince the poor ignorant masses of a whole continent that they could not believe what their own eyes told them. A dark age indeed! Thank Newton we live in better times!
There’s just one problem with the story, it is patently ridiculous. Anyone who can read the Gospels will have a first inkling that something must be wrong with it: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:2) It is difficult to reconcile a dogmatic position that the heavens are unchangeable with a newly appeared Star of Bethlehem of Matthew’s Gospel. Or are we supposed to believe that Aristotle held a higher position in the medieval mind than even the Gospels? Well, it really doesn’t matter, because anyone who knows Western history, that increasingly esoteric and unpopular subject, will see a bigger problem. The ideas of Aristotle were nearly completely unknown in Latin Europe in 1054. Not until the 13th century did St. Thomas Aquinas and other Scholastic thinkers attempt to adapt Aristotelian thought to the foundations of Christian theology, and this was greeted with great suspicion at first.
To continue the story, near the end of my graduate studies at UT, I spent a lot of time working in the library, and I came across a book — I believe it was called The Historical Supernovae — and read an account of the supernova of 1006. This one was brighter than the supernova of 1054 and a little further south, and it was also reported in China and Japan, and … in the records of a European monastery. At this point, I had had enough. I copied the page from the book and brought it to one of our weekly group lunches. At the end of the meeting, I showed it to a professor whom I had heard teach the “mythological” version. He was a man whose scientific integrity I respected. I told him that he and many of the professors were teaching an error in the introductory astronomy classes. I explained everything that I have explained above, ending with an emphatic flourish: “and so, unless you have a convincing theory that some radical dogmatic change occurred in the 48 years between 1006 and 1054, you should probably change what you teach about the supernova of 1054.”
What do you suppose he said? His one-sentence reply was “I’m still going to teach it the way I always have.”
Apparently, his myth meant more to him than the truth. And he’s not the only one. I have found lots of interesting references to the myth of the Supernova of 1054. The most interesting is from a 1998 issue of Natural History magazine and was written by the director of the Hayden Planetarium (none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson), in an article, ironically enough, about the importance of checking the evidence before you believe something:
“In scientific investigations of the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier. In A.D. 1054, a star in the constellation Taurus abruptly increased in brightness by a factor of one million. Chinese astronomers wrote about it. Middle Eastern astronomers wrote about it. Native Americans in what is now the southwestern United States made rock engravings of it. The star became bright enough to be seen in the daytime sky for weeks, and it continued to be visible in the night sky for months. Yet we have no record of anybody in all of Europe documenting the event.”
“[But] Aristotle had said the stars don’t change. The Church, with its unmatched authority, promulgated the idea. People accepted it, believed it: a collective delusion that was stronger than their own powers of observation.”
Later in the same article, referring to some of the commonly held misconceptions about astronomy, Tyson lamented,
“One would think that in our modern and enlightened culture, people would be immune to believing falsehoods that are easily testable. But we are not.”
What can one say, except “how true”? You are allowed one guess as to where Neil de Grasse Tyson conducted his graduate studies….The University of Texas. (I know this because I was studying there at the same time.) Thus is the Scientific Mythology passed on to the next generation, except, with Tyson, the size of the forum is quite a lot larger. In a final irony, I found a 1999 article that claims to have found evidence that the 1054 supernova actually was reported in European records. But even that article couldn’t let go of the mythological version so easily. It ends by noting that Europeans never reported seeing the supernova in the morning, as the Asians did, and then speculates that the Roman church may have suppressed only the morning observations. Right … or maybe they just slept later in Europe.
There are many other examples of Scientific Mythology one could cite. Many of them have to do with the case of Galileo, which involved real abuse of authority and real injustice, though not as clear-cut as in the mythological versions.
To see how distorted the story of Galileo has become, consider the following fact that many historians and scientists forget to mention: the evidence Galileo presented for the motion of the Earth in his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” had to do with ocean tides and is completely wrong. Not his conclusion, mind you — the Earth does move — but the evidence he presented for it. So his critics in the Church were not wrong to insist on better proof before taking his advice about re-interpreting Scripture in light of heliocentric theory.
Scientific Mythology unfairly distorts history, but is often innocent and rather juvenile. Sometimes, however, it is coupled with something more pernicious, namely the idea that science and Christianity are in fundamental opposition. This usually takes the form of what one may call “Scientific Triumphalism”, in which science completely displaces theology, philosophy and everything else as the sole tool for understanding our existence.
Scientific Triumphalism is harmful both to science and to Christianity, and so full of subtle errors that I’m sure I haven’t worked them out fully. So let me proceed again with examples. I borrow the first example from the late Stephen Hawking, who was Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University, the very chair that Newton held. In a 2002 article from his 60th birthday symposium, Hawking described the situation in theoretical cosmology at the beginning of his career. (See http://plus.maths.org/issue18/features/hawking/) The big question in cosmology at that time (the early 1960s) was whether the universe had a temporal beginning, i.e. a first moment of time. Many scientists were instinctively opposed to this idea, because they felt that a first moment could be seen as a “point of creation.” It might even be a place where science broke down and one might have to appeal to the hand of God to set the “initial conditions” of the universe.
This widespread prejudice against the idea that the universe had a beginning grew out of the materialist philosophies of the 19th century, and by 1917 it held such sway that Einstein himself was afflicted with it. When Einstein improved upon Newton’s theory of gravity and used his new theory to construct the gravitational equations governing the universe, he found that there was no “static solution,” that is, the equations suggested that a universe dominated by gravity would either expand or contract. This idea was so philosophically “repugnant” (his word) that he added a constant, or “fudge factor” if you like, to the equations to balance them out. In effect he forced the equations to describe an eternal universe. He later called this his “biggest blunder”. The consequence of his blunder was that he failed to predict the cosmic expansion that Edwin Hubble would measure in 1929.
As it happened, there was a less dogmatic hero in this story, who took seriously the possibility, suggested by the equations, that the universe could be expanding. Do know who he was? His story falls so far outside the standard Scientific Mythology that you seldom hear it or even his name. He was the Belgian theoretical physicist and Catholic priest Georges Lemaître. Lemaître used Einstein’s Equations to construct the theory that later became known as the Big Bang theory and to predict the expansion of the universe two years before Hubble measured it. Here’s what Fr. Lemaître had to say about science and religion in his life: “There were two ways of arriving at the truth. I decided to follow them both.” He also said,
“Nothing in my working life, nothing I ever learned in my studies of either science or religion has ever caused me to change that opinion. I have no conflict to reconcile. Science has not shaken my faith in religion and religion has never caused me to question the conclusions I reached by scientific methods.” [Editor: me neither.]
To continue Lemaître’s story, the initial response of some to his theory of an expanding universe with a finite age was dismissal and even derision. Fred Hoyle, a Cambridge astronomer of firm atheist convictions, applied the name “Big Bang” to the theory as mockery. Hoyle hated the idea of a universe with a beginning, even after Hubble’s discovery that the universe is expanding. He did not believe the question was settled, but proposed that as the universe expanded new matter was constantly appearing to fill the void, so that the Universe could still be eternal. Hoyle was happier with the spontaneous and unobserved generation of new matter (which violated the principle of conservation of energy) than he was with a cosmic beginning.
Fortunately, one of the great features of scientific inquiry is that it relies upon observations of the universe itself to correct any biases that theorists might have. And that is what happened in the case of the “Big Bang” theory. In 1965, when radiation from the “primordial fireball” of Lemaître’s theory was observed by Bell Labs engineers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, even the diehard skeptics were convinced, and now the Big Bang is the standard model astronomers and physicists use to think about the universe. And almost all of them agree it had some kind of beginning very different from the conditions we see now. Happily, Fr. Lemaître is now beginning to receive greater honor from scientists for his contributions. In 2018, the members of the International Astronomical Union voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the famous “Hubble Law” describing the expansion of the universe should henceforth be called the Hubble-Lemaître Law. And this is another wonderful thing about science, which should give us hope: in the end truth does tend to win out over myth and prejudice.
My second example of Scientific Triumphalism are the radically reductionist views of Evolution of the kind promoted by Richard Dawkins and others.
Evolution by natural selection is an elegant, though incomplete, theory and a theory I enjoy thinking about very much. As a scientific theory, it is no more problematic for religion than the study of fetal development. If I tell my children in one moment that they were made by God and in the next I explain how they grew in their mother’s womb from a single cell through a set of magnificently orchestrated chemical reactions, I do not commit any theological or scientific error. As I once put it to a Christian audience, “Ladies and gentlemen, no laws of physics were broken in the creation of this human being you see here before you.” Reproduction strikes me as an economical way to create. And it illustrates a general principle of Catholic theology, which was stated as follows by the great Jesuit theologian Francisco Suarez (1548-1617): “God does not interfere directly with the natural order, where secondary causes suffice to produce the intended effect.”
Of course, fetal development is not only economical, it is also marvelous, wonderful, and, if you have ever tried to build anything remotely complicated, awe-inspiring.
Before applying the same logic to evolution, it is important to be clear about the meaning of the word. To “evolve,” in the literal sense of the word, is to “unfold.” If the unfolding of the first man and woman was through natural selection acting on the well-regulated natural interactions of matter, then what is there in that to threaten our faith? In saying this, am I going way out on a theological limb? Well, listen to what the great St. Augustine wrote more than sixteen centuries ago in his work De Genesi ad Litteram (“On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis”):
“But from the beginning of the ages, when day was made, the world is said to have been formed, and in its elements at the same time there were laid away the creatures that would later spring forth with the passage of time, plants and animals, each according to its kind. . . . In all these things, beings already created received at their own proper time their manner of being and acting, which developed into visible forms and natures from the hidden and invisible reasons which are latent in creation as causes. . .”
That is about as good an anticipation of evolution as one could imagine. And St. Augustine proposed it for theological reasons. So why is evolution considered so controversial and problematic, and why do even some Catholics feel a pit in their stomachs when some eminent biologists teach and defend the theory? Part of the reason is that some of these biologists are like the astronomers I described above. Some of them are interested not only in teaching us about evolution but also in telling us what it means … their materialist and triumphalist version of what it means. Which usually translates into “God is dead at last.”
For example, Jacques Monod, molecular biologist and 1965 Nobel laureate in medicine, argued in his book Chance and Necessity that because we arise from a process involving chance events we cannot be the result of any foresight, nor can we be the fulfillment of any purpose, divine or otherwise. “Destiny,” he said, “is written concurrently with the event, not prior to it.” Richard Dawkins, the most effective popularizer of evolutionary theory, is more blunt: “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics… Natural selection has no purpose in mind, it has no mind and no mind’s eye. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.” Along with their presentation of evolutionary theory, both of these atheists present, as a logical conclusion of the theory, that we cannot be the result of any design.
My first response to this is that it is a logical fallacy. The presence of randomness in a process might just as much be evidence for design as against. In recent years, a whole new field of computational physics has emerged that relies upon the same principles we find in evolutionary theory. In this new field, programmers construct “genetic algorithms”, which breed and randomly mutate solutions to complex equations; and then they use these algorithms to explore the properties of physical systems. It turns out that this is the most efficient way to explore solutions to some complicated problems, and yet it relies on randomness and selection based on fitness. If we came upon a computer running one of these algorithms, we would not be able to discern its purpose simply by observing it in operation, but we would err if we supposed from its use of random mutation that it had no purpose or design.
For the more poetic, a different analogy: just as dust sprinkled randomly on a surface can reveal the prints left by a hand, so could the random exploration of physical forms reveal latent creatures laid down by God’s design in the very potentialities of matter. I don’t pretend to be proving that this is true, only showing that the randomness and selection by fitness intrinsic to evolutionary theory is not prima facie evidence against God, no matter what some well-known biologists may say.
I would also point out a curious paradox. In the interval of history between Isaac Newton and Werner Heisenberg, materialists told us God was dead because the laws of physics were deterministic. Once the initial conditions were fixed, the universe played out without the chance for free will. At best we could have Deism, where God winds things up and then sits back to watch. But it wouldn’t be a very interesting show since the end was fixed at the beginning. Now we know better, we know that all interactions in nature are pervaded with intrinsic randomness, including the interactions of beings like us. And what do materialists tell us this means? … That God is dead!
One of the problems with Scientific Triumphalism, the notion that science has displaced all other ways of arriving at truth, is that there are many questions it cannot provide answers to, including most of the important questions of life and how we should live our lives.
Modern science as we know and practice it emerged in the early modern period within a Western Christian culture. In the service of human flourishing it has done great good. But in an increasingly secularized West, science as a methodology for solving problems is in constant danger of pulling loose from its religious and spiritual moorings. Whenever this happens, the result is disaster. In ethics and in morality science cannot provide for itself. There are two things in particular it has to borrow from elsewhere, and these are “compassion” and “hope”. Concerning compassion, one way to put the problem is this: “compassion for the weak is not a principle of science.”
The more you think about that the more frightening it becomes. To be fair, all of the atheist scientists I have known who claimed to live by science alone actually had quite a lot of compassion for the weak. Whether this arose from the “law written in their hearts” by God (Romans 2:14-5) or from breathing what is left of the increasingly rarified religious component of the atmosphere of our culture I cannot say. But this compassion was certainly not an outgrowth of their scientific materialism. I have always been simultaneously puzzled by and grateful for the compassion of atheists, but I never inquire too deeply about it, out of fear I might trigger a recognition of what I have just told you: “compassion for the weak is not a principle of science.”
In fact, compassion for the weak is the virtue science most easily forgets. The flirtation with eugenics in the last century was an attempt to improve the human race by eliminating the so-called weak. In the United States it resulted in forced sterilizations and in Europe millions died. In the future, when we have constructed clear enough genetic maps to choose precisely between the weak and the strong, how many millions will die? The machinery is already in place, and our culture has already declared its willingness to cooperate in such an “improvement project” by assenting to the abortion of many millions of children.
In addition to “compassion for the weak,” science lacks the route to another important virtue, and that is hope. From observation we know not only that each of us will die, but that in the distant future our planet will undergo the same fate. Even if there is no catastrophic asteroid collision that wipes out all life sooner, in 5 billion years or so the sun will grow into a red giant star, boil away the earth’s oceans and atmosphere and leave a lifeless rock. Everything we have ever created or will create will be lost forever. Even if we can move elsewhere, the increasing expansion of the universe will eventually mean energy is too dilute to sustain life. Science gives us no reason to hope in the face of existential fears.
And the loss of hope has become a serious problem in the secular world. What is the leading cause of violent death worldwide? Is it war, or homicide? It’s neither. According to the World Health Organization, the leading cause of violent deaths is suicide, which is roughly twice as common as homicide and seven times more common than death from violent conflict. In many ways we live in our own Dark Ages, an era of despair. Never have so many, with so much, been so unhappy. Science can show us how to live longer, but it cannot show us how we ought to live or even that we ought to live.
Science itself is a great good and a great gift. It is not and never has been an enemy of religion. What is harmful to religion, and not only to religion but to science itself, is what I have called Scientific Mythology and Scientific Triumphalism. These are cultural phenomena that do not stem from the discoveries of science but from the vanity of some scientists who are unable to put science in proper perspective.”
-“Vitruvian Man“, Leonardo da Vinci, 1490, pen and ink with wash over metalpoint on paper, 34.6 cm × 25.5 cm (13.6 in × 10.0 in), Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice.
The ancient world was fascinated by symmetry (think classical architecture/statuary) in nature, not only for its beauty, but also for its potential revelations regarding the transcendent (God): the movements of the planets, originally attempted to be understood as circles in Ptolemaic Egypt, but eventually and correctly understood as elipses, but still. This was true especially human symmetry and dimensions: foot (length), pound (weight), etc. Considering how many contemporaries we are acquainted with who consider themselves the center of the universe, this ancient view seems quite logical/rational/reasonable. In fact, before metric, all measurements were based on human dimension. And, this symmetry should be unquestionably in architecture, to the ancient mind. What other conclusion was possible? The ancient Roman architect Vitruvius (from whence cometh the name) in Book III of his treatise De architectura. Vitruvius described the human figure as being the principal source of proportion among the classical orders of architecture. (As Plato, Socrates, Aristotle sought the fundamental forms – theory of forms, to understand the physical and the transcendent) Somewhat like any academic question posed which no one can answer for hundreds of years, even though academic fame and financial prizes incentivize, the geometric problem of how does one fit the human dimension in the geometric ideals of the square and the circle? Every attempt had ASSUMED the centers of the circle and the square and the human to be concentric. da Vinci finally, brilliantly, simply realized the problem was solvable if the square was NOT concentric, but if its center were shifted down.
A Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718–1799) – mathematician who wrote on differential and integral calculus Georgius Agricola (1494–1555) – father of mineralogy Alois Alzheimer (1864–1915) – credited with identifying the first published case of presenile dementia, which is now known as Alzheimer’s disease André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836) – one of the main discoverers of electromagnetism Leopold Auenbrugger (1722–1809) – first to use percussion as a diagnostic technique in medicine Adrien Auzout (1622–1691) – astronomer who contributed to the development of the telescopic micrometer Amedeo Avogadro (1776–1856) – Italian scientist noted for contributions to molecular theory and Avogadro’s Law Francisco J. Ayala (1934–present) – Spanish-American biologist and philosopher at the University of California, Irvine B Jacques Babinet (1794–1872) – French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer who is best known for his contributions to optics Stephen M. Barr (1953–present) – professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware and a member of its Bartol Research Institute Joachim Barrande (1799–1883) – French geologist and paleontologist who studied fossils from the Lower Palaeozoic rocks of Bohemia Laura Bassi (1711–1778) – physicist at the University of Bologna and Chair in experimental physics at the Bologna Institute of Sciences, the first woman to be offered a professorship at a European university Antoine César Becquerel (1788–1878) – pioneer in the study of electric and luminescent phenomena Henri Becquerel (1852–1908) – awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his co-discovery of radioactivity Carlo Beenakker (1960 – present) – professor at Leiden University and leader of the university’s mesoscopic physics group, established in 1992. Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823) – prolific Italian explorer and pioneer archaeologist of Egyptian antiquities Pierre-Joseph van Beneden (1809–1894) – Belgian zoologist and paleontologist who established one of the world’s first marine laboratories and aquariums John Desmond Bernal (1901–1971) – British pioneer in X-ray crystallography in molecular biology Claude Bernard (1813–1878) – physiologist who helped to apply scientific methodology to medicine Jacques Philippe Marie Binet (1786–1856) – mathematician known for Binet’s formula and his contributions to number theory Jean-Baptiste Biot (1774–1862) – physicist who established the reality of meteorites and studied polarization of light Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville (1777–1850) – zoologist and anatomist who coined the term paleontology and described several new species of reptiles Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608–1679) – often referred to as the father of modern biomechanics Raoul Bott (1923–2005) – mathematician known for numerous basic contributions to geometry in its broad sense Marcella Boveri (1863–1950) – Biologist and first woman to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Theodor Boveri (1862–1915) – The first to hypothesize the celluar processes that cause cancer Louis Braille (1809–1852) – inventor of the Braille reading and writing system Edouard Branly (1844–1940) – inventor and physicist known for his involvement in wireless telegraphy and his invention of the Branly coherer James Britten (1846–1924) – botanist, member of the Catholic Truth Society and Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great Hermann Brück (1905–2000) – Astronomer Royal for Scotland from 1957–1975; honored by Pope John Paul II
Albert Brudzewski (c. 1445–c.1497) – first to state that the Moon moves in an ellipse Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) – one of the pioneers of natural history, especially through his monumental Histoire Naturelle C Nicola Cabibbo (1935–2010): Italian physicist, discoverer of the universality of weak interactions (Cabibbo angle), President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences from 1993 until his death Alexis Carrel (1873–1944) – awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for pioneering vascular suturing techniques John Casey (mathematician) (1820–1891) – Irish geometer known for Casey’s theorem Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625–1712) – first to observe four of Saturn’s moons and the co-discoverer of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789–1857) – mathematician who was an early pioneer in analysis Andrea Cesalpino (c.1525–1603) – botanist who also theorized on the circulation of blood Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) – published the first translation of the Rosetta Stone Michel Chasles (1793–1880) – mathematician who elaborated on the theory of modern projective geometry and was awarded the Copley Medal Guy de Chauliac (c.1300–1368) – the most eminent surgeon of the Middle Ages Albert Claude (1899–1983) – awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contributions to cytology Mateo Realdo Colombo (1516–1559) – discovered the pulmonary circuit, which paved the way for Harvey’s discovery of circulation Arthur W. Conway (1876–1950) – remembered for his application of biquaternion algebra to the special theory of relativity E. J. Conway (1894–1968) – Irish biochemist known for works pertaining to electrolyte physiology and analytical chemistry Carl Ferdinand Cori (1896–1984) – shared the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with his wife for their discovery of the Cori cycle Gerty Cori (1896–1957) – biochemist who was the first American woman win a Nobel Prize in science (1947) Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis (1792–1843) – formulated laws regarding rotating systems, which later became known as the Corialis effect Domenico Cotugno (1736–1822) – Italian anatomist who discovered the nasopalatine nerve, demonstrated the existence of the labyrinthine fluid, and formulated a theory of resonance and hearing, among other important contributions Maurice Couette (1858–1943) – best known for his contributions to rheology and the theory of fluid flow; appointed a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Pius XI in 1925 Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (1736–1806) – physicist known for developing Coulomb’s law Clyde Cowan (1919–1974) – Co-discoverer of the neutrino Jean Cruveilhier (1791–1874) – Made important contributions to the study of the nervous system and was the first to describe the lesions associated with multiple sclerosis; originally planned to enter the priesthood Endre Czeizel (1935-2015) – Discovered that folic acid prevents or reduces the formation of more serious developmental disorders, such as neural tube defects like spina bifida D Gabriel Auguste Daubrée (1814–1896) – pioneer in the application of experimental methods to the study of diverse geologic phenomena René Descartes (1596–1650) – father of modern philosophy and analytic geometry César-Mansuète Despretz (1791–1863) – chemist and physicist who investigated latent heat, the elasticity of vapors, the compressibility of liquids, and the density of gases Johann Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet (1805–1859) – mathematician who contributed to number theory and was one of the first to give the modern formal definition of a function Ignacy Domeyko (1802–1889) – Polish scientist who made major contributions to the study of Chile’s geography, geology, and mineralogy Christian Doppler (1803–1853) – Austrian physicist and mathematician who enunciated the Doppler effect Pierre Duhem (1861–1916) – historian of science who made important contributions to hydrodynamics, elasticity, and thermodynamics Félix Dujardin (1801–1860) – biologist remembered for his research on protozoans and other invertebrates; became a devout Catholic later in life and was known to read The Imitation of Christ Jean-Baptiste Dumas (1800–1884) – chemist who established new values for the atomic mass of thirty elements André Dumont (1809–1857) – Belgian geologist who prepared the first geological map of Belgium and named many of the subdivisions of the Cretaceous and Tertiary Charles Dupin (1784–1873) – mathematician who discovered the Dupin cyclide and the Dupin indicatrix E John Eccles (1903–1997) – Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the synapse Stephan Endlicher (1804–1849) – botanist who formulated a major system of plant classification Gerhard Ertl (1936–present) – German physicist who won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces Bartolomeo Eustachi (c.1500–1574) – one of the founders of human anatomy F Hieronymus Fabricius (1537–1619) – father of embryology Gabriele Falloppio (1523–1562) – pioneering Italian anatomist who studied the human ear and reproductive organs Mary Celine Fasenmyer (1906–1996) – Religious sister and mathematician, founder of Sister Celine’s polynomials Hervé Faye (1814–1902) – astronomer whose discovery of the periodic comet 4P/Faye won him the 1844 Lalande Prize and membership in the French Academy of Sciences Pierre de Fermat (1601–1665) – number theorist who contributed to the early development of calculus Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) – awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work in induced radioactivity Jean Fernel (1497–1558) – physician who introduced the term physiology Fibonacci (c.1170–c.1250) – popularized Hindu-Arabic numerals in Europe and discovered the Fibonacci sequence Hippolyte Fizeau (1819–1896) – first person to determine experimentally the velocity of light Léon Foucault (1819–1868) – invented the Foucault pendulum to measure the effect of the earth’s rotation Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787–1826) – discovered Fraunhofer lines in the sun’s spectrum Augustin-Jean Fresnel (1788–1827) – made significant contributions to the theory of wave optics Johann Nepomuk von Fuchs (1774–1856) – confirmed the stoichiometric laws and observed isomorphism and the cation exchange of zeolites G Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) – father of modern science Luigi Galvani (1737–1798) – formulated the theory of animal electricity William Gascoigne (1610–1644) – developed the first micrometer Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778–1850) – chemist known for two laws related to gases Riccardo Giacconi (1931–present) – Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist who laid the foundations of X-ray astronomy Paula González (1932–present) – Religious sister and professor of biology Peter Grünberg (1939–present) – German physicist, Nobel Prize in Physics laureate Johannes Gutenberg (c.1398–1468) – inventor of the printing press Samuel Stehman Haldeman (1812–1880) – American naturalist and convert to Catholicism who researched fresh-water mollusks, the human voice, Amerindian dialects, and the organs of sound of insects Jean Baptiste Julien d’Omalius d’Halloy (1783–1875) – one of the pioneers of modern geology Eduard Heis (1806–1877) – astronomer who contributed the first true delineation of the Milky Way Jan Baptist van Helmont (1579–1644) – founder of pneumatic chemistry George de Hevesy (1885–1966) – Hungarian radiochemist and Nobel laureate Charles Hermite (1822–1901) – mathematician who did research on number theory, quadratic forms, elliptic functions, and algebra John Philip Holland (1840–1914) – developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the US Navy Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748–1836) – first to propose a natural classification of flowering plants Mary Kenneth Keller (c.1914–1985) – Sister of Charity and first American woman to earn a PhD in computer science, helped develop BASIC Brian Kobilka (1955–present) – American Nobel Prize winning professor who teaches at Stanford University School of Medicine René Laennec (1781–1826) – physician who invented the stethoscope Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736–1813) – mathematician and astronomer known for Lagrangian points and Lagrangian mechanics Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) – French naturalist, biologist and academic whose theories on evolution preceded those of Darwin Johann von Lamont (1805–1879) – astronomer and physicist who studied the magnetism of the Earth and was the first to calculate the mass of Uranus Karl Landsteiner (1868–1943) – Nobel Prize winner who identified and classified the human blood types Pierre André Latreille (1762–1833) – pioneer in entomology Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794) – father of modern chemistry Jérôme Lejeune (1926–1994) – pediatrician and geneticist, best known for his discovery of the link of diseases to chromosome abnormalities Jonathan Lunine (1959–present) – planetary scientist at the forefront of research into planet formation, evolution, and habitability; serves as vice-president of the Society of Catholic Scientists M Marcello Malpighi (1628–1694) – father of comparative physiology Étienne-Louis Malus (1775–1812) – discovered the polarization of light Anna Morandi Manzolini (1714–1774) – anatomist and anatomical wax artist who lectured at the University of Bologna Giovanni Manzolini (1700–1755) – anatomical wax artist and Professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937) – father of wireless technology and radio transmission Pierre Louis Maupertuis (1698–1759) – known for the Maupertuis principle and for being the first president of the Berlin Academy of Science Michele Mercati (1541–1593) – one of the first to recognize prehistoric stone tools as man-made Charles W. Misner (1932–present) – American cosmologist dedicated to the study of general relativity Kenneth R. Miller (1948–present) – American cell biologist and molecular biologist who teaches at Brown University Mario J. Molina (1943–present) – Mexican chemist, one of the precursors to the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole (1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry) Peter Joseph Moloney (1891–1989) – Canadian immunologist and pioneering vaccine researcher, who worked out the first large-scale purification of insulin in 1922; International Gairdner Award, 1967) Gaspard Monge (1746–1818) – father of descriptive geometry John J. Montgomery (1858–1911) – American physicist and inventor of gliders and aerodynamics Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682–1771) – father of modern anatomical pathology Johannes Peter Müller (1801–1858) – founder of modern physiology Joseph Murray (1919–2012) – Nobel Prize in Medicine laureate N John von Neumann (1903–1957) – Hungarian-born American mathematician and polymath who converted to Catholicism Martin Nowak (1965–present) – evolutionary theorist and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University; serves on the board of the Society of Catholic Scientists O Karin Öberg (1982–present) – her Öberg Astrochemistry Group discovered the first complex organic molecule in a protoplanetary disk; serves on the board of the Society of Catholic Scientists Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598) – created the first modern atlas and theorized on continental drift P Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) – French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) – father of bacteriology Pierre Joseph Pelletier (1788–1842) – co-discovered strychnine, caffeine, quinine, cinchonine, among many other discoveries in chemistry Georg von Peuerbach (1423–1461) – called the father of mathematical and observational astronomy in the West Michael Polanyi (1891–1976) – Hungarian polymath, made contributions to physical chemistry, economics, and philosophy Vladimir Prelog (1906–1998) – Croatian-Swiss organic chemist, winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize for chemistry R Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934) – awarded the Nobel Prize for his contributions to neuroscience René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur (1683–1757) – scientific polymath known especially for his study of insects Francesco Redi (1626–1697) – his experiments with maggots were a major step in overturning the idea of spontaneous generation Henri Victor Regnault (1810–1878) – chemist with two laws governing the specific heat of gases named after him Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro (1853–1925) – one of the founders of tensor calculus Gilles de Roberval (1602–1675) – mathematician who studied the geometry of infinitesimals and was one of the founders of kinematic geometry Frederick Rossini (1899–1990) – Priestley Medal and Laetare Medal-winning chemist S Paul Sabatier (chemist) (1854–1941) – awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work improving the hydrogenation of organic species in the presence of metals Adhémar Jean Claude Barré de Saint-Venant (1797–1886) – Remembered for Saint-Venant’s principle, Saint-Venant’s theorem, and Saint-Venant’s compatibility condition; given the title Count by Pope Pius IX in 1869 Theodor Schwann (1810–1882) – founder of the theory of the cellular structure of animal organisms Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865) – early pioneer of antiseptic procedures, discoverer of the cause of puerperal fever Louis Jacques Thénard (1777–1857) – discovered hydrogen peroxide and contributed to the discovery of boron Evangelista Torricelli (1608–1647) – inventor of the barometer Paolo dal PozzoToscanelli (1397–1482) – Italian mathematician, astronomer and cosmographer Richard Towneley (1629–1707) – mathematician and astronomer whose work contributed to the formulation of Boyle’s Law Louis René Tulasne (1815–1885) – biologist with several genera and species of fungi named after him V Louis Nicolas Vauquelin (1763–1829) – discovered the chemical element beryllium Urbain Le Verrier (1811–1877) – mathematician who predicted the discovery of Neptune Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) – father of modern human anatomy François Viète (1540–1603) – father of modern algebra Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) – Renaissance anatomist, scientist, mathematician, and painter Vincenzo Viviani (1622–1703) – mathematician known for Viviani’s theorem, Viviani’s curve and his work in determining the speed of sound Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) – physicist known for the invention of the battery W Wilhelm Heinrich Waagen (1841–1900) – geologist and paleontologist who provided the first example of evolution described from the geologic record, after studying Jurassic ammonites Karl Weierstrass (1815–1897) – often called the father of modern analysis E. T. Whittaker (1873–1956) – English mathematician who made contributions to applied mathematics and mathematical physics Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768) – one of the founders of scientific archaeology Bertram Windle (1858–1929) – anthropologist, physician, and former president of University College Cork Jacob B. Winslow (1669–1760) – convert to Catholicism who was regarded as the greatest European anatomist of his day Z Antonino Zichichi (1929–present) – Italian nuclear physicist, former President of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
“St Anthony!! St Anthony!! Please come ’round!! Something’s lost and can’t be found!!” is a popular Catholic ejaculation.
This excerpt is from the book, “Saint Anthony of Padua: The Story of His Life and Popular Devotions”, which was published in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of St. Anthony Messenger by Franciscan Father Norman Perry (1929-1999)
“Legends about Anthony abound. But let’s turn to the known facts about him.
Anthony was born in 1195 (13 years after St. Francis of Assisi) in Lisbon, Portugal and given the name of Fernando at Baptism. His parents, Martin and Mary Bulhom, apparently belonged to one of the prominent families of the city.
At the age of 15 he entered the religious order of St. Augustine. Monastery life was hardly peaceful for young Fernando, nor conducive to prayer and study, as his old friends came to visit frequently and engaged in vehement political discussions.
After two years he was sent to Coimbra. There he began nine years of intense study, learning the Augustinian theology that he would later combine with the Franciscan vision. Fernando was probably ordained a priest during this time.
The life of the young priest took a crucial turn when the bodies of the first five Franciscan martyrs were returned from Morocco. They had preached in the mosque in Seville, almost being martyred at the outset, but the sultan allowed them to pass on to Morocco, where, after continuing to preach Christ despite repeated warnings, they were tortured and beheaded. Now, in the presence of the queen and a huge crowd, their remains were carried in solemn procession to Fernando’s monastery.
He was overjoyed and inspired to a momentous decision. He went to the little friary in Coimbra and said, “Brother, I would gladly put on the habit of your Order if you would promise to send me as soon as possible to the land of the Saracens, that I may gain the crown of the holy martyrs.” After some challenges from the prior of the Augustinians, he was allowed to leave that priory and receive the Franciscan habit, taking the name Anthony.
True to their promise, the Franciscans allowed Anthony to go to Morocco, to be a witness for Christ, and a martyr as well. But, as often happens, the gift he wanted to give was not the gift that was to be asked of him. He became seriously ill, and after several months realized he had to go home.
He never arrived. His ship ran into storms and high winds and was blown east across the Mediterranean. Months later he arrived on the east coast of Sicily. The friars at nearby Messina, though they didn’t know him, welcomed him and began nursing him back to health. Still ailing, he wanted to attend the great Pentecost Chapter of Mats (so called because the 3,000 friars could not be housed and slept on mats). Francis was there, also sick. History does not reveal any meeting between Francis and Anthony.
Since the young man was from “out of town,” he received no assignment at the meeting, so he asked to go with a provincial superior from northern Italy. “Instruct me in the Franciscan life,” he asked, not mentioning his prior theological training. Now, like Francis, he had his first choice—a life of seclusion and contemplation in a hermitage near Montepaolo.
Perhaps we would never have heard of Anthony if he hadn’t gone to an ordination of Dominicans and Franciscans in 1222. As they gathered for a meal afterward, the provincial suggested that one of the friars give a short sermon. Quite typically, everybody ducked. So Anthony was asked to give “just something simple,” since he presumably had no education.
Anthony too demurred, but finally began to speak in a simple, artless way. The fire within him became evident. His knowledge was unmistakable, but his holiness was what really impressed everyone there.
Now he was exposed. His quiet life of prayer and penance at the hermitage was exchanged for that of a public preacher. Francis heard of Anthony’s previously hidden gifts, and Anthony was assigned to preach in northern Italy. The problem with many preachers in Anthony’s day was that their life-style contrasted sharply with that of the poor people to whom they preached. In our experience, it could be compared to an evangelist arriving in a slum driving a Mercedes, delivering a homily from his car and speeding off to a vacation resort. Anthony saw that words were obviously not enough. He had to show gospel poverty. People wanted more than self-disciplined, even penitent priests. They wanted genuineness of gospel living. And in Anthony they found it. They were moved by who he was, more than what he said.
Despite his efforts, not everyone listened. Legend has it that one day, faced with deaf ears; Anthony went to the river and preached to the fishes. That, reads the traditional tale, got everyone’s attention.
Anthony traveled tirelessly in both northern Italy and southern France—perhaps 400 trips—choosing to enter the cities where the heretics were strongest. Yet the sermons he has left behind rarely show him taking direct issue with the heretics. As the historian Clasen interprets it, Anthony preferred to present the grandeur of Christianity in positive ways. It was no good to prove people wrong: Anthony wanted to win them to the right, the healthiness of real sorrow and conversion, the wonder of reconciliation with a loving Father.
Public Preacher, Franciscan Teacher
Anthony’s superior, St. Francis, was cautious about education such as his protégé possessed. He had seen too many theologians taking pride in their sophisticated knowledge. Still, if the friars had to hit the roads and preach to all sorts of people, they needed a firm grounding in Scripture and theology. So, when he heard the glowing report of Anthony’s debut at the ordinations, Francis wrote in 1224, “It pleases me that you should teach the friars sacred theology, provided that in such studies they do not destroy the spirit of holy prayer and devotedness, as contained in the Rule.”
Anthony first taught in a friary in Bologna, which became a famous school. The theology book of the time was the Bible. In one extant sermon by the saint, there are at least 183 passages from Scripture. While none of his theological conferences and discussions were written down, we do have two volumes of his sermons: Sunday Sermons and Feastday Sermons. His method included the use of allegory and symbolic explanation of Scripture.
Anthony continued to preach as he taught the friars and assumed more responsibility within the Order. In 1226 he was appointed provincial superior of northern Italy, but still found time for contemplative prayer in a small hermitage. Around Easter in 1228 (he was only 33 years old), while in Rome, he met Pope Gregory IX, who had been a faithful friend and adviser of St. Francis. Naturally, the famous preacher was invited to speak. He did it humbly, as always. The response was so great that people later said that it seemed the miracle of Pentecost was repeated.
Padua Enters the Picture
Padua, Italy is a short distance west of Venice. At the time of Anthony, it was one of the most important cities in the country, with an important university for the study of civil and canon law. Sometimes Anthony left Padua for greater solitude. He went to a place loved by Francis—LaVerna, where Francis received the wounds of Jesus. He also found a grotto near the friary where he could pray in solitude.
In poor health, and still provincial superior of northern Italy, he went to the General Chapter in Rome and asked to be relieved of his duties. But he was later recalled as part of a special commission to discuss certain matters of the Franciscan Rule with the pope.
Back in Padua, he preached his last and most famous Lenten sermons. The crowds were so great—sometimes 30,000—that the churches could not hold them, so he went into the piazzas or the open fields. People waited all night to hear him. He needed a bodyguard to protect him from the people armed with scissors who wanted to snip off a piece of his habit as a relic. After his morning Mass and sermon, he would hear confessions. This sometimes lasted all day—as did his fasting.
The great energy he had expended during the Lent of 1231 left him exhausted. He went to a little town near Padua, but seeing death coming close, he wanted to return to the city that he loved. The journey in a wagon weakened him so much, however, that he had to stop at Arcella. He had to bless Padua from a distance, as Francis had blessed Assisi.
At Arcella, he received the last sacraments, sang and prayed with the friars there. When one of them asked Anthony what he was staring at so intently, he answered, “I see my Lord!” He died in peace a short time after that. He was only 36 and had been a Franciscan but 10 years.
The following year, his friend, Pope Gregory IX, moved by the many miracles that occurred at Anthony’s tomb, declared him a saint. Anthony was a simple and humble friar who preached the Good News lovingly and with fearless courage. The youth whom his fellow friars thought was uneducated became one of the great preachers and theologians of his day. He was a man of great penance and apostolic zeal. But he was primarily a saint of the people.
Miracles and Traditions of St Anthony
The reason for invoking St. Anthony’s help in finding lost or stolen things is traced back to an incident in his own life. As the story goes, Anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him. Besides the value of any book before the invention of printing, the psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order.
A novice who had already grown tired of living religious life decided to depart the community. Besides going AWOL he also took Anthony’s psalter! Upon realizing his psalter was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. And after his prayer the thieving novice was moved to return the psalter to Anthony and to return to the Order, which accepted him back. Legend has embroidered this story a bit. It has the novice stopped in his flight by a horrible devil, brandishing an ax and threatening to trample him underfoot if he did not immediately return the book. Obviously a devil would hardly command anyone to do something good. But the core of the story would seem to be true. And the stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.
In any event, shortly after his death people began praying through Anthony to find or recover lost and stolen articles. And the Responsory of St. Anthony composed by his contemporary, Julian of Spires, O.F.M., proclaims
“The sea obeys and fetters break
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore
While treasures lost are found again
When young or old thine aid implore.”
St. Anthony Bread is a term used for offerings made in thanksgiving to God for blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony. Sometimes the alms are given for the education of priests. In some places parents also make a gift for the poor after placing a newborn child under the protection of St. Anthony. It is a practice in some churches to bless small loaves of bread on the feast of St. Anthony and give them to those who want them.
Different legends or stories account for the donation of what is called St. Anthony Bread. By at least one account it goes back to 1263, when it is said a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony which was still being built. His mother promised that if the child was restored to her she would give for the poor an amount of corn equal to the child’s weight. Her prayer and promise were rewarded with the boy’s return to life.
Another reason for the practice is traced back to Louise Bouffier, a shopkeeper in Toulon, France. A locksmith was prepared to break open her shop door after no key would open it. Bouffier asked the locksmith to try his keys one more time after she prayed and promised to give bread to the poor in honor of St. Anthony if the door would open without force. The door then opened. After others received favors through the intercession of St. Anthony, they joined Louise Bouffier in founding the charity of St. Anthony Bread.
St Anthony and the Child Jesus
St. Anthony has been pictured by artists and sculptors in all kinds of ways. He is depicted with a book in his hands, with a lily or torch. He has been painted preaching to fish, holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in front of a mule or preaching in the public square or from a nut tree.
But since the 17th century we most often find the saint shown with the child Jesus in his arm or even with the child standing on a book the saint holds. A story about St. Anthony related in the complete edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints projects back into the past a visit of Anthony to the Lord of Chatenauneuf. Anthony was praying far into the night when suddenly the room was filled with light more brilliant than the sun. Jesus then appeared to St. Anthony under the form of a little child. Chatenauneuf, attracted by the brilliant light that filled his house, was drawn to witness the vision but promised to tell no one of it until after St. Anthony’s death.
Some may see a similarity and connection between this story and the story in the life of St. Francis when he reenacted at Greccio the story of Jesus, and the Christ Child became alive in his arms. There are other accounts of appearances of the child Jesus to Francis and some companions.
These stories link Anthony with Francis in a sense of wonder and awe concerning the mystery of Christ’s incarnation. They speak of a fascination with the humility and vulnerability of Christ who emptied himself to become one like us in all things except sin. For Anthony, like Francis, poverty was a way of imitating Jesus who was born in a stable and would have no place to lay his head.
In Portugal, Italy, France and Spain, St. Anthony is the patron saint of sailors and fishermen. According to some biographers his statue is sometimes placed in a shrine on the ship’s mast. And the sailors sometimes scold him if he doesn’t respond quickly enough to their prayers.
Not only those who travel the seas but also other travelers and vacationers pray that they may be kept safe because of Anthony’s intercession. Several stories and legends may account for associating the saint with travelers and sailors.
First, there is the very real fact of Anthony’s own travels in preaching the gospel, particularly his journey and mission to preach the gospel in Morocco, a mission cut short by severe illness. But after his recovery and return to Europe, he was a man always on the go, heralding the Good News.
There is also a story of two Franciscan sisters who wished to make a pilgrimage to a shrine of our Lady but did not know the way. A young man is supposed to have volunteered to guide them. Upon their return from the pilgrimage one of the sisters announced that it was her patron saint, Anthony, who had guided them.
Still another story says that in 1647 Father Erastius Villani of Padua was returning by ship to Italy from Amsterdam. The ship with its crew and passengers was caught in a violent storm. All seemed doomed. Father Erastius encouraged everyone to pray to St. Anthony. Then he threw some pieces of cloth that had touched a relic of St. Anthony into the heaving seas. At once, the storm ended, the winds stopped and the sea became calm.
Teacher, Preacher, Doctor of the Scriptures
Among the Franciscans themselves and in the liturgy of his feast, St. Anthony is celebrated as a teacher and preacher extraordinaire. He was the first teacher in the Franciscan Order, given the special approval and blessing of St. Francis to instruct his brother Franciscans. His effectiveness as a preacher calling people back to the faith resulted in the title “Hammer of Heretics.” Just as important were his peacemaking and calls for justice.
In canonizing Anthony in 1232, Pope Gregory IX spoke of him as the “Ark of the Testament” and the “Repository of Holy Scripture.” That explains why St. Anthony is frequently pictured with a burning light or a book of the Scriptures in his hands. In 1946 Pope Pius XII officially declared Anthony a Doctor of the Universal Church. It is in Anthony“s love of the word of God and his prayerful efforts to understand and apply it to the situations of everyday life that the Church especially wants us to imitate St. Anthony. While noting in the prayer of his feast Anthony’s effectiveness as an intercessor, the Church wants us to learn from Anthony, the teacher, the meaning of true wisdom and what it means to become like Jesus, Who humbled and emptied Himself for our sakes and went about doing good.”
In St. Anthony we see the complete harmony of faith and reason, but also that “the wisdom of this world is folly with God. (1 Cor 3:19)” The world may tell us to search for our keys ourselves, unaided by useless prayers. But in light of the knowledge we have through faith, the most rational course of action is to beg for the assistance of the all-knowing & all-loving God, Who certainly knows where our keys are, and Who wishes to help us find them, since He ONLY wills our good through His love, and through the intercession of St. Anthony. The world may tell us that if we are going to find happiness, we must grasp it for ourselves. But through the intercession and teaching of St. Anthony, let us grow in the confidence that our salvation comes through faithfully following Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
“The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience, and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words . . . it is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions. But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! … We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit give us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. ” — St. Anthony of Padua, p. 492, Witness of the Saints
“Traditionally, Catholic theology makes use of a fair amount of philosophy when thinking about what God is…biblical revelation is not irrational and…it does not do violence to natural human reason…biblical revelation not only respects natural human reason. It also invites us to make use of natural human reason in the service of the revealed (Ed. biblical) truth.
…we might immediately ask a series of good philosophical questions, based on our ordinary experience of reality. Do we see signs, for example, in the ordinary realities around us (including ourselves) that things as we know them really are dependent for their existence upon another? Does the order of the world, as far as we can make it out, tend to suggest at least the possibility of an origin in divine wisdom? Does the physical world seem self-explanatory or could there be good reasons to think that the existence of the material world implies the necessary existence of something transcending matter?…the claim that revelation is compatible with natural reason requires at least that there is some kind of possible rational harmony between what we think about the world philosophically based on ordinary experience of the world and what we find being taught in the revelation of the Catholic faith.
…the traditional Catholic insistence on the “proofs for the existence of God” are not first and foremost about trying to gain universal consensus regarding the philosophical question of the existence of God. They are not even first and foremost about trying to show that it is rational to believe that God exists (though this is true and sometimes the arguments help agnostic people see this). The central aim of them, instead, is to show that there is a way of human thinking about God that can reach up toward God even as (or after!) the revelation of God reaches down to human reason, so that the two cooperate “under grace” or in grace. The point is that grace does not destroy human nature but heals and elevates it to work within faith in a more integral way. Thinking about the one God philosophically is meant, in Catholic theology, to be a form of humble acceptance of biblical revelation…This Catholic approach eschews then two contrary extremes: a fideism that would seek to know God only by means of Christian revelation (with no contribution of natural human reasoning about God), and a rationalism that would seek to know God only or primarily by philosophical argument, to the exclusion of the mystery of the revelation of God.5 Faith and reason are meant to work together in this domain, not stand opposed.
The Illative Sense
…The traditional Catholic arguments for the existence of God are not geometrical proofs derived from self-evident axioms, but are something more elevated and deal with a subject matter that is more elusive. They function primarily as intellectual discernments about the nature of reality as we perceive it all the time. They begin from things around us so as to perceive the necessity of a transcendent origin, God the creator, Who remains hidden and hence not immediately subject to the constraints of our “clear and distinct ideas.” That is to say, thinking about God is realistic and philosophical, but it also seeks to acknowledge the numinous character of our existence and the ways that our limited, finite being points toward something transcendent, necessary, and eternal, which is the cause of our existence. Thinking about God in this sense is difficult for the human mind, not because theology is soft-headed, but simply because the subject matter is so elevated and not intrinsically capturable in the way mathematical or empirical topics are.
There are many ways of approaching the question of God philosophically, and the Catholic tradition has given rise (and continues to give rise) to a multitude of rational arguments, some of which are incompatible with one another (such that intense philosophical dispute occurs continually within the Catholic faith, a sign of its respect for the autonomous development of philosophical reason). There are arguments from the metaphysical structure of reality (the being of the world), arguments from beauty, from the very idea of God as perfect (Anselm’s famous ontological argument), from the order of the world, from the moral drama of human existence, from the desire of man for an infinite good, and others as well. Aquinas is often said to have given five demonstrations of the existence of God, but in fact he gives between fifteen and twenty arguments in various locations in his work.6 Many of these have their roots in previous thinkers, particularly Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, and a host of patristic authors.
It is important to note that more than one argument or philosophical way of thinking about God can be true simultaneously. There are various routes up the mountain, so to speak. This is because the world around us is complex and so the complexity of the world can “bespeak” or indicate God in different ways. It is one thing, for example, to note that the existence of interdependent physical realities requires a transcendent, non-physical cause. It is another thing to note that the human being is marked inwardly by a dramatic struggle between moral good and moral evil. These two truths can be indirect indications of the mystery of God distinctly, but also in a simultaneous and convergent fashion. Various truths we come to about the world converge to suggest a larger overarching truth.
This is the case not only for arguments for the existence of God, but also for our larger perspective on religious and cosmic questions more generally. Atheists, for example, often inhabit intellectual traditions of argument that attempt to explain a variety of truths from within a diverse but convergent set of unified theories: “The Bible is a purely human book.” “There are no good philosophical arguments for the existence of God.” “The problem of evil mitigates against claims to the contrary.” “All that exists is in some way purely material.” “Human origins are explicable by recourse to a materialist account of the theory of evolution.” “Whatever moral or aesthetic truths there are within human existence are best safeguarded by secular political systems.” These are all very different claims but they are held by many people as a set of convergent, interrelated ideas about reality, and the more one holds to a greater number of them, the more the others may seem plausible or reasonable. This is something like what John Henry Newman referred to as the “illative sense” of rational assent to the truth.7 We tend to see things in sets or groups of collected truths. Meanwhile, such complex deliberations touch upon the cords of our heart. We are affected by what we want to be true, or what we want not to be true, by our unconditional desire to find the truth or our fears of inconvenient truths. Otherwise said, the heart is both affected by and affects our thinking about major questions like atheism or the existence of God, because there are implications for other aspects of our life and our overall take on reality in a broad sweep of domains.
This is why thinking about the one God is often, for each of us, deeply interrelated to (even if logically distinguishable from) a whole host of other issues…
…Straightforward philosophical reflection about God, then, has its own integrity as a form of argument, or reasoning, but it is also embedded within a web of existential concerns and reflection on a wide array of issues pertaining to reality. The plausibility of believing one thing, especially a truth about God, is connected to the plausibility of believing a great deal of other things.”
-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph. The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Locations 1223-1247, 1251-1285, 1288-1291). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.”
Faith has implications. Belief is consequential, in SO MANY ways!!! But, so too, atheism. Like it, or not. Eternally?? 🙂 Not choosing is a choice. Jesus compels a choice. Which do you choose?
Aut Deus, aut malus homo.
5. See here the classic Catholic statement on faith and reason in the document of the First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, April 24, 1870, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, pars. 27–43.
6. On Aquinas’s varied arguments for the existence of God, see John Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought.
7. John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, chap. 9.
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~ Voltaire
School administrators and board members terrified of expensive lawsuits are capitulating to the demands of “gender”-confused adolescents. Parents are capitulating to the disordered thinking of their children, terrified that if they don’t, their children will commit suicide. Their fears are stoked by a deeply flawed study that is grossly misunderstood.
1.) No one knows what causes gender dysphoria. While some subscribe to “brain sex” theories of causation (for which there is no proof) or believe that intrauterine hormone exposure causes the development of gender dysphoria, there are other possibilities, including pubertal changes (e.g., early breast development in girls can lead to unwanted male attention that results in girls feeling uncomfortable with their female bodies); autism; sexual abuse; childhood trauma ; family dysfunction; and excessively rigid gender roles. Moreover, even a discovery that biochemical factors influence the development of feelings about gender would not mean that chemical and surgical treatments are appropriate responses to gender dysphoria.
2.) Gender dysphoria can diminish, resolve, or be treated in less drastic ways than the “trans”-affirming protocol that involves chemical and surgical interventions for a non-medical problem (i.e., puberty is not a medical problem). The best research to date suggests that upwards of 80% of gender-dysphoric children will “desist,” that is, their gender dysphoria will resolve and they will accept their bodies, unless their rejection of their natal sex is affirmed by their environment.
3.) There’s been an explosion in the numbers of children and teens identifying as “transgender,” including teens who never before exhibited signs of gender dysphoria. This latter phenomenon, which affects primarily teen girls, has been called “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” Some parents are reporting that their children have several friends who identify as “trans,” and some are reporting that their children self-diagnosed after spending time on the Internet where they encountered videos or chat rooms in which young people describe their gender dysphoria or “trans” identity. Many believe the dramatic increase in this profoundly unnatural phenomenon results from “social contagion,” which tends to affect adolescents much more than adults.
4.) The medical community admits it has no idea whether pathologizing healthy sexual development and setting children and teens on a path of lifetime risky medical treatments will help them, and they have no idea if these children will grow up to regret their “transitions.”
5.) Gatekeeping is lax. Gatekeeping is the process that determines who accesses “trans”-affirming medical treatment like prescriptions for cross-sex hormones. Parents and former “trans”-identified men and women criticize the mental health community for failing to take adequate medical and mental health histories of new patients that might reveal “co-morbidities” (i.e., the simultaneous presence of more than one chronic disease or condition in a patient) prior to prescribing cross-sex hormones or making surgery referrals. Some young gender-dysphoria sufferers are able to get prescriptions for opposite-sex hormones after just a couple of visits with a doctor. Worse, the pressure is mounting from the “trans” cult to eliminate gatekeeping entirely, even for minors.
6.) Puberty-blockers carry serious known health risks, and long-term effects are unknown. Kaiser Health News recently wrote about one of the primary puberty blockers administered to gender-dysphoric children: Lupron. Lupron is thought to cause osteopenia (bone-thinning), osteoporosis (bone loss), degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and depression. Due to the number and nature of complaints received, the FDA is now reviewing the safety of Lupron.
7.) “Progressives” argue that the effects of puberty blockers are reversible and merely buy gender-dysphoric children time to figure out their “gender identity.” What they don’t share is that the vast majority of children who take puberty blockers move on to cross-sex hormones. In contrast, as mentioned earlier, upwards of 80% of gender-dysphoric children who do not take puberty blockers or socially transition eventually accept their sex. Preventing the process of puberty to proceed naturally not only interferes with the biological and anatomical development of children but also changes he social experiences that attend puberty.
8.) Cross-sex hormones are risky and lifetime effects unknown. Voice changes, sterility, and hair growth patterns (including male pattern baldness in women who take testosterone) are irreversible. Side effects and long-term health risks for women who take testosterone include a decrease in good cholesterol (HDL), an increase in bad cholesterol (LDL), an increase in blood pressure, a decrease in the body’s sensitivity to insulin, weight gain, possible increase in risk of heart disease (including heart attack), stroke, and diabetes. The side effects and long-term health risks for men who take estrogen include liver damage and disease, blood clots, stroke, diabetes, gall stones, heart disease, prolactinoma (a cancer of the pituitary gland that can, in turn, damage vision), nausea, and migraines.
9.) Many gender-dysphoric girls bind their breasts much like Chinese women used to bind their feet. “Chest-binding” carries serious health risks including compressed ribs, which can cause blood flow problems and increase the risk of developing blood clots. Over time, this can lead to inflamed ribs (costochondritis) and even heart attacks due to decreased blood flow to the heart, fractured ribs that can lead to punctured and collapsed lungs, and back problems.
10.) Boys under 18 can have vaginoplasty in which they are castrated and the skin from their penises and scrotums used to fashion the likeness of a vagina and labia. A surgeon, in effect, turns a boy’s penis inside out, with the outside skin of the penis becoming the lining of the “neovagina.” Alternatively, boys can have “intestinal” or “sigmoid colon” vaginoplasty, which uses part of their intestines to construct “neovaginas.” A 2015 study showed that between 12-43% of patients who had vaginoplasty experienced “neovaginal” narrowing, and 33% experienced “changes in urine stream and heightened risk of urethral infection.”
Bottom surgery for girls who pretend to be boys is more complicated and has less satisfactory results. It first requires a hysterectomy followed several months later by phalloplasty which requires skin grafts taken from the forearm or thigh to create a penis that has no capacity for producing an erection. Therefore, patients who want to have intercourse will need penile implants, the most common of which requires the most skill to use, has the highest complication rate (50% must be removed due to complications), and must be replaced every 3-15 years.
12.) There is a growing “detransitioning” movement. Detransitioners are men and women of diverse ages who regret having taken cross-sex hormones and amputated healthy body parts. Many have come to understand the cause or causes of their gender dysphoria and feel sorrow over the irreversible damage they have done to their bodies. Their stories, easily available online, are painful to hear.
13.) Research into gender reversal transitions is stymied by political pressure from “trans” activists.
“The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so…. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.
In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”
Culture is providing a lens through which young people with still developing brains interpret their experiences of discomfort with their bodies. This lens is distorting common, usually transient experiences.
As months and years pass, more men and women will tell their stories of anger and sorrow at being deluded and betrayed as children by ignorant and cowardly adults—some of whom cared more about lawsuits than about children.
So, when your school administration and board decide to allow objectively male students into girls’ private spaces or vice versa, ask them if they will accept some measure of responsibility for facilitating confusion and error when ten or twenty years from now, the “trans” ideology is exposed as one of the great pseudo-scientific errors in American history along with Freud’s theories of psychosexual development, false memory syndrome, and lobotomies.
For more information about detransitioning, watch these Youtube video clips:
Catechism of the Catholic Church
(CCC 2333) “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”
(CCC 2393) “By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”
Body and Soul
(CCC 364) “The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”
Encyclical letter Laudato Si’ (2015)
(# 155) “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an ‘ecology of man’, based on the fact that ‘man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will’. It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”
(# 56) “Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.’ It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasized that ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.’ …It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to Updated August 7, 2019 3 replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”
(# 285) “Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for ‘thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation… An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.’ Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centeredness and self-absorption. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension ‘to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.’
(# 286) “Nor can we ignore the fact that the configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture, experience, education, the influence of friends, family members and respected persons, as well as other formative situations. It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore. But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories. It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame. Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy ‘exchanges’ which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure. A rigid approach turns into an over accentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership. This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development of children’s specific identity and potential.”
Address to Priests, Religious, Seminarians and Pastoral Workers during the Apostolic Journey to Georgia and Azerbaijan (October 1, 2016)
“You mentioned a great enemy to marriage today: the theory of gender. Today there is a world war to destroy marriage. Today there are ideological colonizations which destroy, not with weapons, but with ideas. Therefore, there is a need to defend ourselves from ideological colonizations.”
Address to the Polish Bishops during the Apostolic Journey to Poland (July 27, 2016)
“In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] ‘gender’. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible! “In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: ‘Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator’. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a ‘raw’ state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the ‘raw’ state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. ‘This is the age of sin against God the Creator’. That will help us.”
Address to Équipes de Notre Dame (September 10, 2015)
“This mission which is entrusted to them, is all the more important inasmuch as the image of the family — as God wills it, composed of one man and one woman in view of the good of the spouses and also of the procreation and upbringing of children — is deformed through powerful adverse projects supported by ideological trends.”
Address to the Bishops of Puerto Rico (June 8, 2015)
“The complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.” Full text General Audience on Man and Woman (April 15, 2015) “For example, I ask myself, if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution.”
Address in Naples (March 23, 2015)
“The crisis of the family is a societal fact. There are also ideological colonializations of the family, different paths and proposals in Europe and also coming from overseas. Then, there is the mistake of the human mind — gender theory — creating so much confusion.”
Meeting with Families in Manila (January 16, 2015)
“Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family.”
Pope Benedict XVI
Encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (2005)
(# 5) “Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great ‘yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will.”
(# 11) “While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete’… Eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who ‘abandons his mother and father’ in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become ‘one flesh’. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfill its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage.”
Address to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” (January 19, 2013)
“The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great ‘yes’ to the dignity of persons called to an intimate filial communion of humility and faithfulness. The human being is not a self-sufficient individual nor an anonymous element in the group. Rather he is a unique and unrepeatable person, intrinsically ordered to relationships and sociability. Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.”
Address to the Roman Curia (December 21, 2012)
“These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term ‘gender’ as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”
Address to the German Bundestag (September 22, 2011)
“…There is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.”
Pope St. John Paul II
Letter to Families (1994)
(# 6) “Man is created ‘from the very beginning’ as male and female: the light of all humanity… is marked by this primordial duality. From it there derive the ‘masculinity’ and the ‘femininity’ of individuals, just as from it every community draws its own unique richness in the mutual fulfillment of persons… Hence one can discover, at the very origins of human society, the qualities of communion and of complementarity.”
(# 19) “…the human family is facing the challenge of a new Manichaeanism, in which body and spirit are put in radical opposition; the body does not receive life from the spirit, and the spirit does not give life to the body. Man thus ceases to live as a person and a subject. Regardless of all intentions and declarations to the contrary, he becomes merely an object. This neo-Manichaean culture has led, for example, to human sexuality being regarded more as an area for manipulation and exploitation than as the basis of that primordial wonder which led Adam on the morning of creation to exclaim before Eve: ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (Gen 2:23).”
Theology of the Body
Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006)
(# 9:3) “The account of the creation of man in Genesis 1 affirms from the beginning and directly that man was created in the image of God inasmuch as he is male and female… man became the image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning.”
(# 9:5) “Masculinity and femininity express the twofold aspect of man’s somatic constitution… and indicate, in addition… the new consciousness of the meaning of one’s body. This meaning, one can say, consists in reciprocal enrichment.”
(# 10:1) “Femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity. Precisely the function of sex [that is, being male or female], which in some way is ‘constitutive for the person’ (not only ‘an attribute of the person’), shows how deeply man, with all his spiritual solitude, with the uniqueness and unrepeatability proper to the person, is constituted by the body as ‘he’ or ‘she’.”
(# 14:4) “The body, which expresses femininity ‘for’ masculinity and, vice versa, masculinity ‘for’ femininity, manifests the reciprocity and the communion of persons.”
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World (2004)
(# 2) “In this perspective [i.e., that of gender ideology], physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”
(# 12) “Male and female are thus revealed as belonging ontologically to creation and destined therefore to outlast the present time, evidently in a transfigured form.”
Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (1975)
(III) “… There can be no true promotion of man’s dignity unless the essential order of his nature is respected.”
Congregation for Catholic Education
“Male and Female He Created Them”: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (2019)
(# 1) “It is becoming increasingly clear that we are now facing with what might accurately be called an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and sexuality. In many places, curricula are being planned and implemented which “allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason”. The disorientation regarding anthropology which is a widespread feature of our cultural landscape has undoubtedly helped to destabilize the family as an institution, bringing with it a tendency to cancel out the differences between men and women, presenting them instead as merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning.” ** This entire document deals with gender theory and education. The above is the first paragraph.
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
(# 224) “Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: ‘Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. . . .’ According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage” (emphasis in original, internal citation omitted).
Pontifical Council for the Family
Family, Marriage and “De Facto” Unions (2000)
(# 8) “In the process that could be described as the gradual cultural and human de-structuring of the institution of marriage, the spread of a certain ideology of ‘gender’ should not be underestimated. According to this ideology, being a man or a woman is not determined Updated August 7, 2019 8 fundamentally by sex but by culture. Therefore, the very bases of the family and inter-personal relationships are attacked.”
(# 8) “Starting from the decade between 1960-1970, some theories… hold not only that generic sexual identity (‘gender’) is the product of an interaction between the community and the individual, but that this generic identity is independent from personal sexual identity: i.e., that masculine and feminine genders in society are the exclusive product of social factors, with no relation to any truth about the sexual dimension of the person. In this way, any sexual attitude can be justified, including homosexuality, and it is society that ought to change in order to include other genders, together with male and female, in its way of shaping social life.”
USCCB: Various Documents
Chairmen Letter to U.S. Senators regarding ENDA Legislation (2013)
“ENDA’s definition of ‘gender identity’ lends force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality, which a person may choose at variance from his or her biological sex.”
ENDA Backgrounder (2013)
“ENDA defines ‘gender identity’ as ‘the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.’”
“ENDA’s treatment of ‘gender identity would lend the force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender’ as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. Second, ENDA’s treatment of ‘gender identity’ would adversely affect the privacy and associational rights of others. In this respect, ENDA would require workplace rules that violate the legitimate privacy expectations of other employees… Third, ENDA would make it far more difficult for organizations and employees with moral and religious convictions about the importance of sexual difference, and the biological basis of sexual identity, to speak and act on those beliefs.”
Chairmen Statement on ENDA-style Executive Order (2014)
“[The executive order] lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent… “The executive order prohibits ‘gender identity’ discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that ‘gender’ is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees.”
Chairmen Statement on Department of Labor Regulations (2014)
“The regulations published on December 3  by the U.S. Department of Labor implement the objectionable Executive Order that President Obama issued in July to address what the Administration has described as ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ discrimination in employment by federal contractors. . . . [T]he regulations advance the false ideology of ‘gender identity,’ which ignores biological reality and harms the privacy and associational rights of both contractors and their employees.”
Chairmen Statement on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (2013)
“Unfortunately, we cannot support the version of the ‘Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013’ passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate (S. 47) because of certain language it contains. Among our concerns are those provisions in S. 47 that refer to ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’ All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union.”
Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th Edition)
(# 53) “Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.” (No. 70) “Catholic health care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization.”
Hormone therapy causes physical changes that are irreversible.
Sweden has a comparatively long history of accommodating transgender persons. It does not have an admirable record. In fact, what we know should give us pause. For example, the suicide rate for those who undergo sex reassignment therapy is astonishingly high, and the range and scale of psychiatric disorders are also disturbing. None of this has anything to do with stigma—Sweden enthusiastically embraces the transgender community.
In this country, the American Heart Association has concluded that those who undergo sex reassignment therapy have higher rates of strokes, heart attacks and blood clots. Another study found that females who transition to males have a greater risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
In 2018, the Annals of Internal Medicine published the results of a major study conducted by distinguished universities and research institutes on this subject. Those men who switched to female experienced rates of stroke that were “80 to 90 percent higher” than biological women.
Last month, the Mayo Clinic reported on several risk factors for males who transition to female. They include blood clots, high blood pressure, infertility, Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and breast cancer.
It is a sure bet that the NCAA will distance itself from reports of serious health issues that arise from transgender athletes. They will claim they have nothing to do with them.
In March 2021, the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that male athletes who transition to female maintain their body mass and strength for up to three years, putting natural-born women at a major disadvantage. In other words, once the change takes place, biological women will be hamstrung for years.” –Catholic League
Love & truth,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP