Category Archives: Theology

The Second Deadly Sin: Lust


-in Dante’s Purgatorio, the penitent walks around with flames to purge themselves of lustful thoughts.


-by Br Jordan Zajac OP

“We tend to equate lust with physicality—with the flesh. But it’s actually mental as well. That is, sexual vice harms the intellect. After all, humans are composite creatures: an irreducible unity of body and soul. Therefore the bad choices we make will damage them both.

The impact of lust upon the mind is something Shakespeare captures with typical genius in a poem known as “Sonnet 129.” What the speaker of this poem offers is a sustained reflection on the experience of submitting to unruly sexual passion:

Th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action, and till action, lust
Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
Mad in pursuit and in possession so,
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe,
Before, a joy proposed, behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Essentially the speaker here is contrasting the anticipated pleasure of lustful desire, which compels him to pursue it, with the emotional and moral havoc it wreaks. As soon as it is enjoyed, it is despised.

Depictions of this dynamic can be found in plenty of other literary works. But in this poem there is something more going on. Shakespeare just gets it. For he is showing how lust is actually all about irrationality. Lust is “past reason.” That is, lustful deeds are,

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated…

There’s the desire before and the dejection afterwards, all because one allows passion to overrule one’s better rational judgment. Lust is frustrating and demoralizing because it robs your reason of its proper role in ordering the passions. Passion wins, and therefore I lose. It’s a flummoxing paradox. Having enjoyed what you thought you wanted so badly, you just sit there, befuddled intellectually and feeling empty emotionally. Why did I do that? It’s supremely regrettable to succumb to passion in this way. As an ancient Latin maxim puts it: “Post coitum omne animalium triste est”—After sex, all animals are sad. If it’s not real sex—that is, virtuous sex—then yes.

Lust makes one sad. Until it doesn’t anymore.

Indulged in long enough, lust instead leaves one stupid, as the philosopher Edward Feser puts it. Recall what reason does for us: it affords us the power to understand reality. To understand truth and goodness. Drawing on Aquinas, Feser explains that if you take pleasure in something that’s actually unhealthy or a false good (“Past reason hunted”), this dulls the mind’s capacity to recognize what is authentically good and true. To habitually indulge one’s lustful appetite, Feser explains, “will tend to make it harder and harder for one to see that [this indulgence is] disordered.” Lust makes you impervious to what’s really going on. You’re absorbed in a false good (one that delivers intense pleasure), refusing to admit any problem, blind to reality.

Lust has the power, in other words, to stop making you feel sad. So it is no longer “past reason hated.” It’s not hated but rather embraced, wholeheartedly and unthinkingly.

The speaker in “Sonnet 129” claims “the world knows well” the phenomenon he’s describing (even if people still struggle to resist lustful urges). But does that seem accurate for us today? It would seem that plenty of people don’t know what Shakespeare is describing. Many are self-satisfied slaves to lust. Hey, do whatever feels right!

The situation was more or less the same in Shakespeare’s time. (You don’t need to read a whole lot from the English Renaissance before realizing that.) And that phenomenon of shamelessly embracing lust is in fact at the heart of Shakespeare’s moral project in “Sonnet 129.” This poem gives marvelous voice to the sense of shame that ought to be there. It is seeking to make lust identifiable and intelligible as such. It is a light cast on lustful blindness of mind. The reader finds himself going along with the self-admonishment and disgust right from the first line of the poem.

A crucial step in the process of developing the virtue of chastity is developing a revulsion to the idea of enjoying false sexual pleasure, since you begin to see it for what it really is. When you realize how stupid you’ve been, you’re already getting smarter, Shakespeare is saying.”

Love & continence,
Matthew

How to go to hell


-Hell Receiving Fallen Angels, Dante’s Paradise Lost illustration, by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)

-by Edward Freser is writer and philosopher living in Los Angeles. He teaches philosophy at Pasadena City College. His primary academic research interests are in the philosophy of mind, moral and political philosophy, and philosophy of religion.

“How is it that anyone ever goes to hell? How could a loving and merciful God send anyone there? How could any sin be grave enough to merit eternal damnation? How could it be that not merely a handful of people, but a great many people, end up in hell, as most Christian theologians have held historically?

A complete treatment of the subject would be complex, because there are a number of relevant subsidiary issues, some of them complex in themselves. These issues include: the difference between the supernatural end of the beatific vision and our merely natural end, and hell as the loss of the former; the difference between the sufferings of hell and the state of a soul either in limbo or in purgatory; the precise nature of the sufferings of hell, and the different kinds and degrees of suffering corresponding to different vices; what it is that makes a particular action – including actions modern people tend to regard as merely minor sins or not sins at all – mortally sinful or apt to result in damnation; what can be known by way of purely philosophical analysis and what is known only via special divine revelation; the proper interpretation of various scriptural passages and the authority of the statements of various councils, popes, and saints; what is wrong with various popular misconceptions which cloud the issues (crude images of devils with pitchforks and the like); and so forth.

I’m not going to address all of that here. What I will address is what I take to be the core issue, in light of which the others must be understood, which is the manner in which hell is something chosen by the one who is damned, where this choice is in the nature of the case irreversible. In particular, I will approach this issue the way it is approached by Aquinas and other Thomists.

Many misunderstandings arise because people often begin their reflections on this topic at the wrong point. For example, they begin with the idea that the damned end up in hell because of something God does, or with the idea that there is something in some particular sin (a particular act of theft or of adultery, say) that sends them there. Now, I would by no means deny that the damned are damned in part because of something God does, and that particular sins can send one to hell. The point, again, is just that there is something more fundamental going on in light of which these factors have to be understood.

Obstinate angelic wills

It is useful to begin with the way in which, on Aquinas’s analysis, an angel is damned. (See especially Summa Theologiae I.64.2; De Veritate, Question 24, Article 10; and On Evil, Question XVI, Article 5.) Here, as with the images of devils with pitchforks, the unsympathetic reader is asked to put out of his mind common crude images, e.g. of creatures with white robes, long golden hair, and harps. That is not what an angel is. An angel is instead an incorporeal mind, a creature of pure intellect and will. It is also worth emphasizing for the skeptical reader that whether or not one believes in angels is not really essential to the subject addressed in this post. Think, if you must, of what is said in this section as a useful thought experiment.

On Aquinas’s analysis, angels, like us, necessarily choose what they choose under the guise of the good, i.e. because they take it to be good in some way. (See my article “Being, the Good, and the Guise of the Good,” reprinted in Neo-Scholastic Essays, for exposition and defense of the Thomistic account of the nature of human action.) And as with us, an angel’s ultimate good is in fact God. But, again like us, they can come to be mistaken about what that ultimate good is. That is to say, like us, an angel can erroneously take something other than God to be its ultimate good.

However, the nature of this error in the case of an angel is somewhat different from the nature of the error we might commit. In us, a sudden and fleeting passion might distract us from what is truly good for us and lead us to pursue something else instead. But passions are essentially corporeal, i.e. they exist only in creatures which, like us, have bodies. Angels do not have bodies, so passions play no role in leading them into error.

A second way we can be led into error is through the influence of a bad habit, which pulls us away from what is truly good for us in a more serious way than a fleeting passion might. For Aquinas, there is indeed habituation in angels, as there is in us. However, there is a difference. In our case, we have several appetites pulling us in different directions because of our corporeal nature. Because we are rational animals, our will is directed at what the intellect conceives as the good, but because we are rational animals, we also have appetites which move us toward the pursuit of other, sub-intellectual things, such as food, sexual intercourse, and so forth. These appetites compete for dominance, as it were, which is why in a human being, even a deeply ingrained habit can be overcome if a competing appetite is strong enough to counter it.

Angels are not like this, because they are incorporeal. They have only a single appetite – the will as directed toward what the intellect takes to be good. There is no competing appetite that can pull the angel away from this end once the will is directed toward it. Once the will is so directed, habituation follows immediately and unchangeably, because of the lack of any other appetite that might pull an angel is some different direction.

A third way we can be led into error is intellectually, by virtue of simply being factually mistaken about what is in fact good for us. Here too, angels can make the same sort of error. But here too, the nature of the error is different in the case of an angel. The way we come to know things is discursively. We gather evidence, weigh it, reason from premises to conclusion, and so on. All of this follows upon our corporeality – in particular, the way we rely upon sensory experience of particular things in order to begin the process of working up to general conclusions, the way we make use of mental imagery as an aid to thought, and so forth. Error creeps in because passion or habituation interferes with the proper functioning of these cognitive processes, or because we get the facts wrong somewhere in the premises we reason from, or the like. Further inquiry can correct the error.

There is nothing like this in angels. For Aquinas, an angel knows what it knows, not discursively, but immediately. It doesn’t reason from first principles to conclusions, for example, but knows the first principles and what follows from them all at once, in a single act. Now, because there is no cognitive process by which an angel knows (as there is in us), there is no correction of a cognitive process that has gone wrong, either by gathering new information, resisting passions, or overcoming bad habits. If an angel goes wrong at all, it is not (as we are) merely moving in an erroneous direction but where this trajectory might be reversed. It simply is wrong and stays wrong.

For Aquinas, then, an angel’s basic orientation is set immediately after its creation. It either rightly takes God for its ultimate end, or wrongly takes something less than God for its ultimate end. If the former, then it is forever “locked on” to beatitude, and if the latter, it is forever “locked on” to unhappiness. There is no contrary appetite that can move it away from what it is habituated to, and no cognitive process that can be redirected. The angel that chooses wrongly is thus fallen or damned, and not even God can change that any more than he can make a round square, for such change is simply metaphysically impossible insofar as it is contrary to the very nature of an angelic intellect.

Obstinate human wills

Again, human beings are different, because they are corporeal. Or, to be more precise, they are different while they are corporeal. For a human being has both corporeal and incorporeal faculties. When the body goes, the corporeal faculties go. But the incorporeal faculties – intellect and will, the same faculties that an angel has – carry on, and the human being persists as an incomplete substance. (See my article “Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought,” also reprinted in Neo-Scholastic Essays, for defense of the incorporeality of the intellect. See chapter 4 of Aquinas for exposition and defense of the Thomistic argument for the immortality of the soul.)

This brings us to Aquinas’s treatment of the changeability or lack thereof of the human will. (See especially Summa Contra Gentiles Book 4, Chapter 95.) Prior to death, it is always possible for the human will to correct course, for the reasons described above. A passion inclining one to evil can be overcome; a bad habit can be counteracted by a contrary appetite; new knowledge might be acquired by which an erroneous judgment can be revised. Hence, at any time before death, there is at least some hope that damnation can be avoided.

But after death, Aquinas argues, things are different. At death the soul is separated from the body, a separation which involves the intellect and will – which were never corporeal faculties in the first place – carrying on without the corporeal faculties that influenced their operation during life. In effect, the soul now operates, in all relevant respects, the way an angelic intellect does. Just as an angel, immediately after its creation, either takes God as its ultimate end or something less than God as its ultimate end, so too does the disembodied human soul make the same choice immediately upon death. And just as the angel’s choice is irreversible given that the corporeal preconditions of a change are absent, so too is the newly disembodied soul’s choice irreversible, and for the same reason. The corporeal preconditions of a change of orientation toward an ultimate good, which were present in life, are now gone. Hence the soul which opts for God as its ultimate end is “locked on” to that end forever, and the soul which opts instead for something less than God is “locked on” to that forever. The former soul therefore enjoys eternal beatitude, the latter eternal separation from God or damnation.

The only way a change could be made is if the soul could come to judge something else instead as a higher end or good than what it has opted for. But it cannot do so. Being disembodied, it lacks any passions that could sway it away from this choice. It also, like an angel, now lacks any competing appetite which might pull its will away from the end it has chosen. Thus it is immediately habituated to aiming toward whatever, following death, it opted for as its highest end or good – whether God or something less than God. Nor is there any new knowledge which might change its course, since, now lacking sensation and imagination and everything that goes with them, it does not know discursively but rather in an all-at-once way, as an angel does. There is no longer any cognitive process whose direction might be corrected.

But might not the resurrection of the body restore the possibility of a course correction? Aquinas answers in the negative. The nature of the resurrection body is necessarily tailored to the nature of the soul to which it is conjoined, and that soul is now locked on to whatever end it opted for upon death. The soul prior to death was capable of change in its basic orientation only because it came into existence with its body and thus never had a chance to “set,” as it were. One it does “set,” nothing can alter its orientation again.

An analogy might help. Consider wet clay which is being molded into a pot. As long as it remains wet, it can alter its basic shape. Once it is dried in the furnace, though, it is locked into the shape it had while in the furnace. Putting it in water once again wouldn’t somehow make it malleable again. Indeed, the water would be forced to conform itself to the shape of the pot rather than vice versa.

The soul is like that. While together with the body during life, it is like the wet clay. Death locks it into one basic orientation or another, just as the furnace locks the clay into a certain definite shape. The restoration of the body cannot change its basic orientation again any more than wetting down a pot or filling it with water can make it malleable again.

The influence of the passions and appetites

Now, what choice is a soul likely to make immediately upon death? Obviously, the passions and appetites that dominated it in life are bound to push it very strongly in one direction or another. For example, a person who at the end of his life is strongly habituated to loving God above all things is very unlikely, in his first choice upon death, to regard something other than God as his ultimate end or good. A person who at the end of his life is strongly habituated to hating God is very unlikely, in his first choice upon death, to regard God as his ultimate end or good. A person who, at the end of his life, is strongly habituated to regarding some specific thing other than God as his ultimate good – money, sex, political power, etc. — is very likely, in his first choice upon death, to regard precisely that thing as his ultimate good or end. It is very likely, then, that these various souls will be “locked on” forever to whatever it was they were habituated to valuing above all things during life on earth.

Of course, what counts as regarding God as one’s ultimate end requires careful analysis. Someone might have a deficient conception of God and yet still essentially regard God as his ultimate good or end. One way to understand how this might go is, in my view, to think of the situation in terms of the doctrine of the transcendentals. God is Being Itself. But according to the doctrine of the transcendentals, being – which is one of the transcendentals – is convertible with all the others, such as goodness and truth. They are really all the same thing looked at from different points of view. Being Itself is thus Goodness Itself and Truth Itself. It seems conceivable, then, that someone might take goodness or truth (say) as his ultimate end, and thereby – depending, naturally, on exactly how he conceives of goodness and truth – be taking God as his ultimate end or good, even if he has some erroneous ideas about God and does not realize that what he is devoted to is essentially what classical theists like Aquinas call “God.” And of course, an uneducated person might wrongly think of God as an old man with a white beard, etc. but still know that God is cause of all things, that he is all good, that he offers salvation to those who sincerely repent, etc. By contrast, it seems quite ridiculous to suppose that someone obsessed with money or sex or political power (for example) is really somehow taking God as his ultimate end without realizing it.

In any event, the strength of the passions and appetites is one reason why the sins attached to them are so dangerous, even when they are not as such the worst of sins. To become deeply habituated to a certain sin associated with a particular appetite or passion is to run grave risk of making of that sin one’s ultimate end, and thus damning oneself. This is why the seven deadly sins are deadly. For example, if one is at the time of one’s death deeply habituated to envy or to sins of the flesh, it is naturally going to be difficult for one’s first choice upon death not to be influenced by such habits.

There is this “upside” to a sin like envy, though – it offers the sinner no pleasure but only misery. That can be a prod, during life, to overcoming it. Sins of the flesh, however, typically involve very intense pleasure, and for that reason it can be extremely difficult to overcome them, or even to want to overcome them. In addition, they have as their “daughters” such effects as the darkening of the intellect, self-centeredness, hostility toward spiritual things, and the like. (I discussed Aquinas’s account of the “daughters of lust” in an earlier post.)

It is said that at Fatima the Blessed Virgin declared that more souls go to hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason. Whatever a skeptic might think of Fatima, this basic thesis is, if one accepts the general natural law account of sexual morality together with Aquinas’s account of the obstinacy of the soul after death, quite plausible. That is not because sins of the flesh are the worst sins. They are not the worst sins. It is rather because they are very common sins, easy to fall into and often difficult to get out of. Nor does it help that in recent decades they are, more than any other sins, those that a vast number of people absolutely refuse even to recognize as sins.

A world awash in sexual vice of all kinds and “in denial” about it is a world in which a large number of people are going to be habituated to seeking sexual pleasure above all things, and to become forever “locked on” to this end as their perceived ultimate good. (It is very foolish, then, for churchmen and other Christians to think it kind or merciful not to talk much about such sins. That is like refusing to warn joggers of the quicksand they are about to fall into. And positively downplaying the significance of such sins and even emphasizing instead the positive aspects of relationships (e.g. adulterous relationships) in which the sins are habitually committed is like encouraging the joggers to speed up. One thinks of Ezekiel 33:8.)

Whatever might be said about sins of the flesh per se, however (and I have said a lot about that subject in other places) the main point is to emphasize how deeply the passions and appetites “prepare” a soul for the decisive choice it is going to make, especially when there is pleasure attached to the indulgence of the passions or appetites. What is true of illicit sexual indulgence is true also, if often in a less intense way, of the indulgence of other passions and appetites. There is, for example, the pleasurable frisson of self-righteousness that can accompany the judgment of others or the indulgence of excessive or misdirected anger. There is the pleasure a sadist might get from dominating or humiliating others. And so forth.

There can also be a deficiency in the passions and appetites. For example, one can show insufficient anger at injustice and evil and thus lack any resolve to do something about it. Or one might be deficient in the amount of sexual desire one has for one’s spouse or in the amount of affection one is inclined to show one’s children. Deficiencies in passions and appetites can thus keep us from pursuing what is good, just as excesses in passions and appetites can lead us to pursue what is not good.

The passions and appetites are like heat applied to wet clay. The longer the soul is pushed (or not pushed) by a passion or appetite in a certain direction, the more difficult it is to reorient the soul, just as it is more difficult to alter the shape of wet clay the longer heat is applied and the drier the clay gets.

Those interested in further reading on this subject are advised to read, in addition to the texts from Aquinas cited above, Abbot Vonier’s The Human Soul, especially chapters 29-33; Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s Life Everlasting and the Immensity of the Soul, especially chapters VII-IX; and Cardinal Avery Dulles’s First Things article “The Population of Hell.” (Most readers will be familiar with Garrigou-Lagrange and Dulles. If you are not familiar with Vonier, I highly recommend tracking down everything written by him that you can get your hands on.)”

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us, Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us. Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
-Litany of the saints
Matthew

Hell: God is unjust?


-by Karlo Broussard

“For many people, the Catholic doctrine of hell serves as an obstacle to belief in God. They think an all-good God wouldn’t allow someone he loves to experience everlasting torment. And they think the permanent nature of hell’s punishment is incompatible with a just God.

A recent caller on Catholic Answers Live asked, “Given that we have a finite life with limited information to make our decisions, how is an infinite punishment not infinitely disproportionate? Shouldn’t the punishment be proportional to the transgression?”

St. Thomas Aquinas put this question in the form of an objection:

“It would seem that an eternal punishment is not inflicted on sinners by divine justice. For the punishment should not exceed the fault: “According to the measure of the sin shall the measure also of the stripes be” (Deut. 25:2). Now fault is temporal. Therefore the punishment should not be eternal (Summa Theologiae, suppl. III:99:1).”

So, does the eternity of hell make God an unjust, vengeful tyrant? Here are some reasons why the answer is no.

A different law of gravity

First, the objection falsely assumes that a punishment has to be equal or proportionate to a fault as to the amount of duration. If the duration of punishment had to correspond to the duration of an offense, then it would be unjust to give a murderer a prison sentence any longer than the time it took for the murderer to kill his victim.

But that’s absurd. As the Jesuit philosopher Bernard Boedder writes, “[T]ime cannot be the standard by which punishment is to be determined” (Natural Theology, 340; Kindle edition).

The measure of the punishment due for sin is the gravity of the fault. According to Aquinas, “[T]he measure of punishment corresponds to the measure of fault, as regards the degree of severity, so that the more grievously a person sins the more grievously is he punished” (ST, suppl.III:99:1). In other words, it is the internal wickedness of an offense that is the measure of expiation for it.

The highest high of moral disorders

The free and willful rejection of God—what the Catholic Church calls a “mortal sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1855) or, as the apostle John calls it, “a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16; Douay Rheims)—reasonably calls for permanent exclusion from the presence of God.

As Aquinas points out in the supplement to the third part of the Summa Theologiae, the gravity of an offense is determined according to the dignity of the person sinned against. For example, punishment for striking the president of the United States is going to be greater than punishment for striking a fellow citizen in bar brawl.

Since God is ipsum esse subsistens (subsistent being itself), He is infinite in dignity and majesty. Therefore, His right to obedience from His reasonable creatures is absolute and infinite. There is no right that can be stricter and every other right is based on it.

A willful violation of this right, which is what a mortal sin is, is the most severe offense a human being can commit. Boedder explains it this way: “A willful violation . . . of this right implies a malice which opposes itself to the foundation of all orders” (NT, 340).

Since the rejection of God’s absolute right to our obedience, worship, and love is a moral disorder of the highest degree, it deserves a penalty of the highest degree. Everlasting punishment seems to fit the bill.

Alternatives that don’t register on the justice monitor

A second reason why the unending punishment of hell is just is because the alternatives are unreasonable. If permanent punishment is not the answer, then there can only be two other options: temporary punishment or annihilation—the act by which God stops willing someone into existence. But neither one of these alternatives coheres with the nature of mortal sin in relation to God.

Consider temporary punishment. Perhaps the soul receives an intense dose of punishment and then enters heaven upon being relieved of it. This would be an injustice. For example, let’s say I find out that my twelve-year-old son ditched school and went to a party with his older teen friends and got drunk and smoked a few jays (this is merely hypothetical, mind you).

I punish him by saying, “Son, you’ve been a bad boy, and as a result you’re going to stay in your room for ten minutes. But when that time is up, pack your bags because we’ve got tickets to spend the weekend at Legoland.” (He loves Legos). How does this register on your justice monitor? My guess is that it doesn’t rate very high—especially if my son refuses to apologize for his misconduct. The duration of the punishment is much too small relative to the reward he is given.

Similarly, a temporary stint in hell—no matter how long the term—is much too small of a punishment relative to the everlasting happiness of heaven. It would be unjust for God to give heaven as a reward to a person that committed the most grievous offense of all, the permanent rejection of God’s absolute right to obedience, worship, and love.

Annihilation is also an unreasonable alternative. How could a person experience the punishment justice demands for permanently rejecting God if he were annihilated? The gravity of violating God’s absolute right would be reduced to nothingness if there were no punishment for it, Justice would not be served.

Furthermore, it would violate God’s wisdom to annihilate the soul. Why would he create a soul with an immortal nature only to thwart it? Moreover, Aquinas argues that because God’s power is manifest in preserving things in existence, to take a soul out of being would hinder that manifestation (Summa, I:104:4).

The reasonableness of a permanent commitment

A third reason the unending nature of hell is justified is that it’s befitting to reason that an individual make a permanent choice for or against God at death. And if a permanent choice against God, then a permanent punishment.

We know from divine Revelation that there is no repentance after death: “[I]t is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The time of preparation for man’s last end comes to an end at the moment of death.

This is reasonable within the logic of love. Love demands a permanent commitment to the beloved. For example, would it be true love if a man says to his bride on the altar, “I’ll commit to you for only ten years, and then after that, we can go our separate ways?” Of course not! We value loving relationships that involve a choice to commit one way or the other—a commitment unto death.  [Editor: even better if you don’t know what you’re getting into!!!  It’s too easy when the going is rough to abandon one’s commitment.  Metaphorically, if a soldier under fire throws away his gun and says “I quit!”  Let the marriage jokes regarding a combat metaphor ensue.  Remember, there are seven sacraments in the Catholic Church: baptism. eucharist. confirmation. reconciliation. anointing of the sick. holy orders and martyrdom.  I know, I know.  I’m in trouble, AGAIN!] 😉

Similarly, the loving relationship that God has created us for demands that we at some point in time make a definitive choice to love Him or not. According to divine Revelation, that moment is death (Heb. 9:27).

The permanency of our choice at death can also be argued for in light of the nature of choice by an incorporeal being. Such a topic, however, goes beyond the scope of this article. For a great explanation of Aquinas’s thought on this topic, see Edward Feser’s online article “How to Go to Hell.”

If a person makes his choice against God at the moment of death, then his choice to not love God remains forever—the perversity of the will is forever determined. Therefore, the punishment for such perversion is eternal as well.

This is why the Catechism defines hell as the “definitive self-exclusion from God” (CCC 1033). This is also the reason why the Church teaches that if a person dies in a state of mortal sin, hell will be his lot (see CCC 1033, 1035).

The sinner who rejects God at the moment of death gets what they wanted—namely, separation from God. This unending separation is the “eternal punishment” (CCC 1472), because the individual will forever lack the fulfillment and satisfaction that only God can give a creature of a rational and spiritual nature (CCC 1035).

The flip side is reasonable

Finally, we can see the reasonableness of the unending punishment of hell by seeing the reasonableness of the reverse side of the issue—the unending reward of heaven. Aquinas writes:

As reward is to merit, so is punishment to guilt. Now, according to divine justice, an eternal reward is due to temporal merit: “Every one who seeth the Son and believeth in Him hath [Vulg.: ‘that everyone . . . may have’] life everlasting.” Therefore according to divine justice, an everlasting punishment is due to temporal guilt (Summa, Suppl. III:99:1).

Just as it is not contrary to God’s justice to give a permanent and everlasting reward for a temporal act of charity, so too it’s not contrary to God’s justice to give a permanent and everlasting punishment for a temporal act of evil.

Conclusion

Hell is not a pleasant place to think about. It’s something that we’re all repulsed by—especially those who use it to object to God’s justice. But there is no reason why such repulsion should lead us to reject God. It should lead us to reject hell; not to deny its existence but to do what we can to stay out of it.”

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us, Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us. Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
-Litany of the saints
Matthew

Love is love?

“Love wills the good of the other person.” CCC 2514-2533


-by Karlo Broussard

““Love Is Love.” It’s the new mantra of our culture, the moral wisdom of the age. It’s the battle cry of a movement led by those not so wise as a sage. (Channeling my inner Dr. Seuss.)

Joining the fray, the Coca-Cola Company has launched its “Love Is Love” campaign in Hungary. Peppered throughout train stations, on billboards, and on their Hungarian Facebook page, their ads feature both opposite-sex and same-sex couples with the hashtag #loveislove. The campaign came days before this year’s “Love Revolution”-themed Sziget Festival, a week-long music-and-art event held annually in Budapest.

The message of this slogan is a no-brainer: “Male or female? Who cares? Love is love, and it’s all good!” As Coca-Cola stated in a recent e-mail, the ads “do indeed try to convey a message . . . our belief that everyone has a right to love and that the feeling of love is the same for all” (emphasis added).

Kudos to those who developed the slogan; it has rhetorical force. It appeals to something innate: the desire for romantic love. In particular, it proposes love as the foundation of a sexual relationship, which is noble and worthy of praise (something we can’t say about the motivations behind the “hookup” culture).

But when you think it through, “Love Is Love,” the way it is used in this slogan, simply can’t be true.

Consider, for example, that when the slogan is used, “love” is rarely defined. And when it is defined, it’s usually called a “feeling,” as Coca-Cola Co. did in its defense of the ads. (Not too different from “Taste the feeling!”)

The problem is that it is so easy to hijack the word “love” and justify almost anything. The grotesque North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), for example, does just that. It seeks to justify sexual acts between adult males and young boys in the name of “love,” stating on its website,

NAMBLA’s goal is to end the extreme oppression of men and boys in mutually consensual relationships by . . . educating the general public on the benevolent nature of man/boy love (emphasis added).

Adopting the same reasoning as the Coca-Cola Co., NAMBLA appeals to the rights of all to express love through their bodies: “We support the rights of youth as well as adults to choose the partners with whom they wish to share and enjoy their bodies.”

Every bit of so-called wisdom that “Love Is Love” embodies—the feeling of love is the same for all and that everyone has a right to express that love—justifies the abuse that NAMBLA promotes.

Now, someone will inevitably respond, “What NAMBLA promotes isn’t true sexual love. Minors aren’t in a position to understand what’s involved in a sexual relationship. Therefore, they can’t really consent. The slogan ‘Love Is Love’ is meant only to express the idea that biological sex is irrelevant to romantic love and its expression in sexual activity among consenting adults.”

A member of NAMBLA, however, could counter and say sexual relationships with minors are consensual, as indicated in the above quote. But that aside, when push comes to shove, those who live by “Love Is Love” don’t really think all sexual love is equal. For these people, some things rob sex of its power to express true love, such as young age.

But if biological age has something to do with determining appropriate or inappropriate expressions of sexual love, perhaps biological sex does as well? Why should we think biological sex is exempt? Perhaps sexual activity among members of the same sex is not a legitimate expression of sexual love.

The only way we can know whether this is true or not is to know whether same-sex sexual activity involves willing what’s good for the beloved concerning his or her sexual powers, since the essence of love is to will the good of another (Summa Theologiae I-II:26:4; II-II:23:1).  [Editor:  In the natural order, and according natural law, the good, the fruit of sexual intercourse, is children.  Sexual intercourse was designed by God to unify a married couple and to further participate in God’s ongoing creation, and for NO other reasons!  Using human beings as a means to an end is abuse, not love.  The end never justifies the means, ever!  Although difficult, there is always a holy option however difficult it may be. Seeking pleasure for the sake of pleasure reduces human existence to a piece of entertainment only to be thrown away when it no longer gives us a thrill.]

If same-sex sexual activity is not a good use—but an abuse—of our sexual powers, as traditional sexual ethics claims, then to engage in it is to reject the order of the good inscribed in the nature of human sexual activity. It would be an expression of contempt to use the good of human sexuality against what is good for the human person, as if the latter is a kind of evil to be supplanted or an obstacle to be removed.

The perversity of such behavior would be akin to a doctor who engages in her activity of healing as a doctor only to make someone ill. In such a scenario, the doctor positively rejects her good as a doctor—namely, healing— as an evil to be avoided. For a doctor to reject the order of a good doctor can only merit the charge of being an evil doctor.

Similarly, if same-sex sexual activity is an abuse of our sexual powers (which this author proves it is), then it entails a rejection of the human good for sex.

But actions that entail a rejection of the order of the human good cannot possibly be expressions of authentic love, even if they are done in the name of love. Such actions would be directly opposed to love, showing disdain for the other rather than appreciation. In the words of Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II), such a love could only be called an “evil love.”

In light of this, it becomes evident that the “Love Is Love” slogan is a smokescreen that distracts us from the real question: does same-sex sexual activity will the good of the other?

If it does, then the slogan is a true bit of moral wisdom. But if it doesn’t, then the slogan’s wisdom just ain’t “the real thing.”

Who wants a mantra that’ll come back to haunt ya?”

Real love,
Matthew

Purgatory 2

“Purgatory’s materiality refers to the persistent set of characteristics associated with purgatory that have been a continuous problem from its inception as a doctrine in the thirteenth century to the present. It has been variously described as a location on earth, as a place where souls are at once physical and spiritual, and as a condition that demands bodily mortifications and severe penances. In this sense, materiality is a category that encompasses three important sites where purgatory has presented theological, scientific, and logical difficulties for church theologians, scholastic philosophers, and others who have been responsible for working out the philosophical support for the doctrine: place, body, and performance. From the twelfth century to the present, representations in various sources, including medieval chronicles, exempla, early modern periodicals, and, later, in pamphlets, books, and magazines, and today on websites and in books, have depicted purgatory variously as a location on earth, a place simultaneously spiritual and physical, and, most recently, as a more abstract condition of souls experiencing the pain of loss. The version of purgatory as a physical location persisted into the nineteenth century. Pre-doctrinal representations of purgatory shifted so much with respect to historical context that it is impossible to identify a linear progression from that of a physical place to a condition of soul. However, this progression becomes pronounced in the modern era and by the mid-nineteenth century conceptions of purgatory as a place were subject to anti-Catholic polemicists and were actively discouraged by Church authorities. I have not encountered anyone, currently, who believes purgatory is a place on earth. Taking a “long view,” of purgatory suggests that material representations of purgatory have been discouraged in favor of representations clothed with abstract words such as process, state of soul, or condition. The progression from a “place” to a “condition” has been fraught with dramatic twists and intrigues, and even today the issue of purgatory’s material status is not definitively settled. Contemporary Catholic devotional literature about purgatory focuses on the material locations of place, body, and performance that were the focuses of purgatory devotions in eras past…

…statements about purgatory participate in a long tradition of interpretations of the doctrine that seem to have little in common with official definitions. Papal statements about purgatory, from its official codification as a Roman Catholic doctrine until today, emphasize its status as an afterlife “state” or condition, and deemphasize its material, concrete characteristics. Writing during the Council of Trent (1545–1563), Pope Pius IV insisted that attention to purgatory’s material aspects, such as where it is located and what types of punishments occur there, should be discouraged. “The more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, [should] be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude.”6 Currently, papal discussions of purgatory, while briefer, are substantively no different. In his General Audience address of 1999, Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, stated that the term “purgatory,” “does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence.” And, on January 12, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI noted that the fifteenth-century mystic St. Catherine of Genoa did not focus on “purgatory as a place of transit in the depths of the earth,” or “as an exterior fire.” Rather, purgatory was an inner state.7 Shortly after, the Catholic News Service published an article that eliminated any possibility that the pope would be misunderstood as to purgatory’s physical reality. It was titled “Purgatory Is a Process, Not a Place.”8

Despite papal statements about it, authors of popular narratives about purgatory have characterized it very differently. In their reports and anecdotes, purgatory is a physical place of suffering. Souls in purgatory are depicted engulfed in real, not symbolic, fire, the evidence of which include burned charcoal–colored handprints on tables for the living to consider, such as can be found in the Purgatory Museum in Rome. It is tempting to suggest that these narratives are in tension with official, cleric-authored proclamations about purgatory. While in some instances this is the case, in other contexts it was clerics and theologians who wrote about purgatory as a place, and scholastics also wrote about the physical evidence left by souls in purgatory. What persists throughout these various narratives and their historical contexts, however, is the problem presented by purgatory’s materiality. Purgatory’s place, which has been described variously as being in Ireland [Editor: Definitely], or in Italy, in the middle of the earth, or as a place next to hell, has been a problem for those who attempt to locate it, and also for those who have participated in a tradition that downplays its concrete features. The following chapters examine several cases where the physicality of purgatory is its best advocate and its most problematic feature. In other words, this book is a history of the problem of purgatory—it’s characterization as a physical place of real, not symbolic, suffering.

While it may have been more common to associate purgatory with an actual earthly location in medieval Europe, as stated previously this belief persisted into the nineteenth century. For hundreds of years, and contrary to the proclamations of most popes on the subject, purgatory was believed to be either on earth or in the middle of the earth. I was not surprised to hear of (some people’s) belief that purgatory was on earth, and I am certain that her belief is not like the belief that prompted medieval knights to undertake journeys to Ireland in search of the real purgatory. But nonetheless what is important is that (some people) associate purgatory with an earthly place, not a condition. This inclination to attribute spatial and physical characteristics to purgatory, and the problems this creates, is intrinsic to its history. Scholastic theologians of the thirteenth century, who were most responsible for providing the theological support for the new doctrine, questioned where it was on earth, and they rarely questioned if it was on earth. William of Auvergne (1180–1249) posited the existence of two purgatories, one on earth, and the other somewhere else, perhaps near heaven. As recently as 1863, the French periodical “Le Liberateur des Ames du Purgatoire,” edited by the French priest Celestin Cloquet, described how the souls in purgatory resided inside the earth. Purgatory’s place on medieval and early modern world maps, or mappa mundi, persisted even as the Garden of Eden and heaven, the two most mapped religious destinations, gradually disappeared.”

Love,
Matthew

6. Council of Trent, The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Ecumenical Council of Trent: Celebrated under the Sovereign Pontiffs, Paul III, Julius III and Pius IV (1848) (Ithaca: Cornell University Library Press, 2009), 233.
7. “Purgatory Inflames Hearts with God’s Love, Pope Says,” Catholic News Agency, Vatican City, January 12, 2011.
8. Cindy Wotten, “Purgatory Is a Process, Not a Place, Pope Says at General Audiences,” Catholic News Service, January 12, 2011.

Purgatory


-Dante and Beatrice in Gustave Dore’s “Submersion in the Lethe”, 1903


-by Br Cyril Stola, OP

“We’re called to become saints. The Father desires that we be united in friendship with him in this life in order that we might forever dwell with him in heaven. The heavenly union with God is a perfect union that can begin on Earth, but it can also be inhibited by sin. Since it acts against this union, sin is the greatest evil of all. In the words of the Catechism, “nothing has worse consequences for sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world” than sin (CCC 1488). When we sin, we cloud our consciences, build vices, and harden our hearts. Sin hurts our relationships with each other and with God. God’s mercy blots out our sins, but it does not automatically fix the ways in which sin warps us.

Over time, growth in grace and virtue can put our inner selves back into order. Throughout the course of life, the Holy Spirit takes repentant sinners and makes them radiant with divine life and estranges them from sin and vice. He especially effects this through prayer, the sacraments, and redemptive suffering. This process is one of purification. Those who fully embrace the Spirit’s actions live with hearts that seek God alone, and they immediately enter heaven when they die. Not all who revere God, however, come to such a point in life. Their time runs out before they’re fit for the heavenly union; they are united with God, but imperfectly so. Hope is not lost, however. In his mercy, God gives us an intermediate state between heaven and Earth where he purges away the sins and impurities that still inhibit our union with him. He gives us purgatory.

In purgatory, God puts men and women face to face with their sins. There, they fully understand how they acted against God, and they cannot grasp for any distraction or rationalization in facing even the smallest things that still separate them from God. Saint John Henry Newman puts this reckoning in stark terms in “The Dream of Gerontius.” In the poem, a guardian angel addresses his charge, an old man who just died a holy death with his sins absolved:

And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinn’d, as never thou didst feel.

His state now allows him to see his past sins on a spiritual level; he hates that he committed such acts. This is a painful realization because sin is a painful reality. If we could see sin as it truly is—an offence against God⁠—we would never sin. Purgation is like physical therapy after surgery, it’s painful but ultimately it heals. God reveals sin in order to remove all traces of it and to bind up our injured souls.

Dante expresses the healing of purgatory beautifully at the end of the “Purgatorio”—the second part of his Divine Comedy. There, Beatrice chastises Dante for abandoning the love he had for her and God and for choosing to obsess over futile things instead. Faced with the shame and gravity of his sins, he weeps and then gets plunged into the waters of the Lethe. The Lethe, according to Greek mythology, makes one forget the whole of life. Dante, however, adapts this river to suit his higher vision. His Lethe makes one forget his sins and the warped mentality they gave him in life; it restores lost innocence and heals interior wounds. It makes a person like a little child, ready to enter the kingdom of heaven.

That purgatory purifies, heals, and brings souls to holiness is a great mercy and a source of hope. Even men and women who have struggled with sin all their lives, but not yet reached “sainthood” in this life, can be made perfect after death and thereafter dwell with God. Let us thank God for the gift of purgatory and pray for those who dwell there, that God’s work in them may be complete.”

Love,
Matthew

The Divine Attributes – Immutability


-by Dave Armstrong

“Orthodox, historic Catholic theology holds that God is…immutable. Descriptions such as “jealousy” applied to God are usually held by orthodox theologians to be anthropomorphic (intended to make God more comprehensible to limited human beings, rather than being literally true). Here are some typical statements in this regard, by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas:

“God’s anger implies no perturbation of the divine mind. It is simply the divine judgment passing sentence on sin. And when God “thinks and then has second thoughts” this merely means that changeable realities come into relation with his immutable reason. For God cannot “repent” as human beings repent, of what he has done, since in regard to everything His judgment is fixed as His foreknowledge is clear … But it is only by the use of such human expressions that Scripture can make its many kinds of readers whom it wants to help to feel, as it were, at home. Only thus can Scripture frighten the proud and arouse the slothful, provoke inquiries and provide food for the convinced. This is possible only when Scripture gets right down to the level of the lowliest readers.” -(St. Augustine, City of God, 15:25)

“It is written, I AM the Lord, and change not. (Mal. 3,6) I answer that, From what precedes, it is shown that God is altogether immutable. First, there is some being, whom we call God, and that this first being must be pure act, without any admixture of potency, for the reason that, absolutely, potency is posterior to act (Q.III, A. 3). Now everything which is in any way changed is in some way in potency. Hence it is impossible for God to be in any way changeable.-(Summa Theologica, First Part, Q.9, art.1)

“God is said in turn to repent; not in the sense that his eternal disposition has changed, but some effect of his is changed. Hence Gregory says: “God does not change his plan, though at times he may change his judgment”, not, I say, the judgment which expresses his eternal disposition, but the judgment which expresses the order of inferior causes, in accord which Ezechias was to have died, or certain people were to have been punished for their sins. Now such a change of judgment is called God’s repentance, using a metaphorical way of speaking, in the sense that God is disposed like one who repents, for whom it is proper to change what he had been doing. In the same way, he is also said, metaphorically, to become angry, in the same sense that, by punishing, He produces the same effect of an angry person.”-(Summa Contra Gentiles, Bk. 3, Pt. 2, q.96:15)

Let’s examine now Catholic dogma regarding these matters. First, I consult Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (edited in English by James Canon Bastible; translated by Patrick Lynch, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974, from the fourth edition of May 1960; first published in German in 1952):

God is absolutely immutable. (De fide.)

The 4th Lateran Council and the Vatican Council teach that God is immutable (incommutabilis) D 428, 1782. Holy Scripture excludes all change from God and positively ascribes to Him absolute immutability . . .

The Fathers exclude all change from God . . .

St. Thomas bases the absolute immutability of God on His pure actuality, on His absolute simplicity and on His infinite perfection . . .

(pp. 35-36)”

Now I shall cite Henry Denzinger: The Sources of Catholic Dogma (I have the 13th edition of 1954; translated by Roy J. Deferrari; Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications). All bolding is my own.

LATERAN COUNCIL IV 1215

Ecumenical XII (against the Albigensians, Joachim, Waldensians etc.

The Trinity, Sacraments, Canonical Mission, etc.*

Chap. 1. The Catholic Faith

(Definition directed against the Albigensians and other heretics]

428 Firmly we believe and we confess simply that the true God is one alone, eternal, immense, and unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent and ineffable, Father and Son and Holy Spirit: indeed three Persons but one essence, substance, or nature entirely simple. The Father from no one, the Son from the Father only, and the Holy Spirit equally from both; without beginning, always, and without end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal and omnipotent and coeternal; one beginning of all, creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual, and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body. For the devil and other demons were created by God good in nature, but they themselves through themselves have become wicked. But man sinned at the suggestion of the devil. This Holy Trinity according to common essence undivided, and according to personal properties distinct, granted the doctrine of salvation to the human race, first through Moses and the holy prophets and his other servants according to the most methodical disposition of the time.

THE VATICAN COUNCIL 1869-1870

Ecumenical XX (on Faith and the Church)

SESSION III (April 24, 1870)

Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith *

[ . . . ]

Chap. 1. God, Creator of All Things

1782 [The one, living, and true God and His distinction from all things.] * The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, omnipotent, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in intellect and will, and in every perfection; who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world; most blessed in Himself and of Himself, and ineffably most high above all things which are or can be conceived outside Himself [can. 1-4].

That’s only the beginning; there is much more:

ST. MARTIN I 649-653 (655)

THE LATERAN COUNCIL 649

(Against the Monothelites)

The Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.*

254 Can. 1. If anyone does not confess properly and truly in accord with the holy Fathers that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit [are a] Trinity in unity, and a unity in Trinity, that is, one God in three subsistences, consubstantial and of equal glory, one and the same Godhead, nature, substance, virtue, power, kingdom, authority, will, operation of the three, uncreated, without beginning, incomprehensible, immutable, creator and protector of all things, let him be condemned [see n. 78-82, 213].

COUNCIL OF LYONS II 1274

Ecumenical XIV (concerning the union of the Greeks)

Declaration Concerning the Procession of the Holy Spirit *

[The Most Exalted Trinity and the Catholic Faith]

[ . . . ]

Profession of Faith of Michael Palaeologus *

[ . . . ]

463 He will come to judge the living and the dead, and will return to each one according to his works whether they were good or evil. We believe also that the Holy Spirit is complete and perfect and true God, proceeding from the Father and the Son, coequal and consubstantial, co-omnipotent, and coeternal through all things with the Father and the Son. We believe that this holy Trinity is not three Gods but one God, omnipotent, eternal, invisible, and unchangeable.

A Decree in Behalf of the Jacobites *

[From the Bull “Cantata Domino,” February 4, Florentine style,

1441, modern, 1442]

703 The sacrosanct Roman Church, founded by the voice of our Lord and Savior, firmly believes, professes, and preaches one true God omnipotent, unchangeable, and eternal, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; one in essence, three in persons; . . .

* * * * *
(ST. SERGIUS I 687-701)

COUNCIL OF TOLEDO XV 685

Protestation concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation *

[From “Liber responsionis” or the “Apologia” of Julian,

Archbishop of Toledo]

294 . . . We have found that in that book of response to our faith, which we had sent to the Roman Church through Peter the regent, it had seemed to the Pope already mentioned (St Benedict II) that we had carelessly written that first chapter where we said according to divine essence: “Will begot will, as also wisdom, wisdom,” because that man in a hurried reading thought that we had used these very names according to a relative sense, or according to a comparison of the human mind; and so in his reply he commanded us to give warning saying: “In the natural order we recognize that the word takes its origin from the mind, just as reason and will, and they cannot be changed, so that it may be said that, as the word and the will proceed from the mind, so also the mind from the word or the will, and from this comparison it seemed to the Roman Pontiff that the will cannot be said to be from the will.” We, however, not according to this comparison of the human mind, nor according to a relative sense, but according to essence have said: Will from will, as also wisdom from wisdom. For this being is to God as willing: this willing as understanding. But this we cannot say concerning man. For it is one thing for man not to will that which is, and another thing to will even without understanding. In God, however, it is not so, because so perfect is His nature, that this being is to Him as willing, as understanding. . . .

The Catholic Encyclopedia reiterates the above (“The Nature and Attributes of God”):

Immutability

In God “there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (James 1:17); “They [i.e. “the works of thy hands”] shall perish, but thou shalt continue: and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the selfsame and thy years shall not fail” (Hebrews 1:10-12, Psalm 101:26-28. Cf. Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). These are some of the Scriptural texts which clearly teach Divine immutability or unchangeableness, and this attribute is likewise emphasized in church teaching, as by the Council of Nicaea against the Arians, who attributed mutability to the Logos (Denzinger, 54-old No. 18), and by the Vatican Council in its famous definition.

That the Divine nature is essentially immutable, or incapable of any internal change, is an obvious corollary from Divine infinity. Changeableness implies the capacity for increase or diminution of perfection, that is, it implies finiteness and imperfection. But God is infinitely perfect and is necessarily what He is. . . .

Divine Knowledge

That God is omniscient or possesses the most perfect knowledge of all things, follows from His infinite perfection. In the first place He knows and comprehends Himself fully and adequately, and in the next place He knows all created objects and comprehends their finite and contingent mode of being. Hence He knows them individually or singularly in their finite multiplicity, knows everything possible as well as actual; knows what is bad as well as what is good. Everything, in a word, which to our finite minds signifies perfection and completeness of knowledge may be predicated of Divine omniscience, and it is further to be observed that it is on Himself alone that God depends for His knowledge. To make Him in any way dependent on creatures for knowledge of created objects would destroy His infinite perfection and supremacy. Hence it is in His eternal, unchangeable, comprehensive knowledge of Himself or of His own infinite being that God knows creatures and their acts, whether there is question of what is actual or merely possible. Indeed, Divine knowledge itself is really identical with Divine essence, as are all the attributes and acts of God; but according to our finite modes of thought we feel the need of conceiving them distinctly and of representing the Divine essence as the medium or mirror in which the Divine intellect sees all truth.

The article on “Eternity” highlights the same notions of immutability and transcendence of time:

. . . That is how and why we represent the Divine existence as a life. It is a life, moreover, not only without beginning or end but also without succession — tota simul, that is without past or future; a never-changing instant or “now”. It is not so difficult to form some faint notion of a duration which never began and shall never end. We hope that our own life shall be endless; and materialists have accustomed us to the notion of a series stretching backward without limit in time, to the notion of a material universe that never came into being but was always there. The Divine existence is that and much more; excluding all succession, past and future time-indeed all time, which is succession-and to be conceived as an ever-enduring and unchanging “now”. . . .

If, now, we apply to the time-line what we have been attempting in that of space, the infinite, unchangeable point which was immensity becomes eternity; not a real succession of separate acts or changes (which is known as “time”); nor even the continuous duration of a being which is changeless in its substance, however it may vary in its actions (which is what St. Thomas understands by an aevum ); but an endless line of existence and action which not only is not actually interrupted, but is incapable of interruption or of the least change or movement whatsoever. And as, if one instant should pass away and another succeed, the present becoming past and the future present, there is necessarily a change or movement of instants; so, if we are not to be irreverent in our concept of God, but to represent Him as best we can, we must try to conceive Him as excluding all, even the least, change or succession; and his duration, consequently, as being without even a possible past or future, but a never beginning and a never-ending, absolutely unchangeable “now.” This is how eternity is presented in Catholic philosophy and theology. The notion is of special interest in helping us to realize, however, faintly, the relations of God to created things, especially with regard to His foreknowledge. In Him there is no before or after, and therefore no foreknowledge, objectively; the distinction which we are wont to draw between His knowledge of intelligence or science or prescience and His knowledge of vision is merely our way of representing things, natural enough to us, but not by any means objective or real in Him. There is no real objective difference between His intelligence and His vision, not between either of these and the Divine substance in which there is no possibility of difference or change.

. . . it is not true to say that God either saw or foresaw anything, or that He will see it, but only that He sees it. . . . It is only in relation to the finite and mutable that there can be a before and after. And when we say, that, as faith teaches, the world was created in time and was not from eternity, our meaning should not be that the existence of the Creator stretched back infinitely before He brought the world into being; but rather that while His existence remains an unchangeable present, without possibility of before or after, of change or succession, as regards itself, the succession outside the Divine existence, to each instant of which it corresponds as the centre does to any point in the circumference, had a beginning, and might have extended indefinitely further backward, without, however, escaping the omnipresence of the eternal “now” . . .

Sources

The basis of all later treatment of the question of eternity is that of ST. THOMAS, I, Q. x. For a fuller exposition see SUAREZ, De Deo, I, iv; IDEM, Metaphysica, disp. l, ss. 4 sq.; LESSIUS, De perfectionibus divinis, IV.

….The salvation or damnation of every soul is known to God and decreed from eternity. Therefore, there is no change. It always was what it is. For God it simply “is” because He is at all times “now.” An omniscient being cannot change His “mind….”

…Protestant theologian John Frame has written a very informative article that is, I believe (unless I missed something) harmonious with Catholic teaching: “Open Theism and Divine Foreknowledge”. This can clear up many questions about “contingency” and conditional prophecies. See also the Catholic Encyclopedia article, “Prophecy”, though it doesn’t specifically address the issue of how God presents prophecies in relation to His foreknowledge and omniscience, and immutability.

For an extremely interesting (but not exclusively Christian or Catholic Christian) philosophical treatment of these sorts of issues, see “Prophecy” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy); also, “Immutability” in the same work. And “Divine Simplicity” and “Eternity”. Also, along similar lines: “God and Time” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Also, St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa: First Part, Q. 10: The Eternity of God.

Paul Helm: J. I. Packer Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, has written a book defending the divine timelessness view: Eternal God: A Study of God Without Time (Oxford University Press, 1988). IVP (evangelical publisher) has put out a book: God & Time: Four Views. Protestant (?) writer George Pytlik defends God’s timelessness: “Can God Change His Mind?” (part one / part two). John Frame gives a very brief reply too.

Did the Incarnation affect God’s immutability, though? No:

“It is to be remembered that, when the Word took Flesh, there was no change in the Word; all the change was in the Flesh. At the moment of conception, in the womb of the Blessed Mother, through the forcefulness of God’s activity, not only was the human soul of Christ created but the Word assumed the man that was conceived. When God created the world, the world was changed, that is, it passed from the state of nonentity to the state of existence; and there was no change in the Logos or Creative Word of God the Father. Nor was there change in that Logos when it began to terminate the human nature. A new relation ensued, to be sure; but this new relation implied in the Logos no new reality, no real change; all new reality, all real change, was in the human nature. Anyone who wishes to go into this very intricate question of the manner of the Hypostatic Union of the two natures in the one Divine Personality, may with great profit read St. Thomas (III:4:2); Scotus (in III, Dist. i); (De Incarnatione, Disp. II, sec. 3); Gregory, of Valentia (in III, D. i, q. 4). Any modern text book on theology will give various opinions in regard to the way of the union of the Person assuming with the nature assumed.’ -(Catholic Encyclopedia: “The Incarnation”; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas’ related comments in the Summa)”

Love & mind blown,
Matthew

How demons deceive us

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith. -1 Peter 5:8–9

“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.” -Saint Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002

“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.” -Pope Francis, Halloween 2014

How Demons Deceive Us

Although the powers of demons are infinitely weaker than the powers of God, they are still greater than those of humans, and their powers can fool us if we are not careful. For example, only God knows all things, including the future. God does not see time in a linear fashion as past, present, and future; rather, he sees all times at once. Everything that ever has been, is now, and ever will be, is present to him at once.

Demons, however, exist in time as we do, so they do not know the future. However, they are very intelligent and can make it appear that they know the future. One might think of them as extremely accurate weathermen: they don’t know the future, but they can make very good predictions.

Demons also have knowledge of human beings throughout history, and thereby know all human languages, including ancient ones. As we will see later, signs of demon possession include knowledge of things that the possessed individuals could not have known on their own, as well as the ability to speak languages that they have never heard.

Demons have the power to communicate with other demons and with human beings. However, being pure spirits, they communicate in a spiritual rather than a physical way.

Aquinas maintained that demons could affect our imagination. This ability does not differ greatly from our powers of communication. We communicate ideas to one another all the time through speaking and writing. Every time we turn on the television, read a newspaper or magazine, or search the Internet, we see advertisements. These are nothing more than someone trying to plant ideas or images in our imagination.

A particularly frightening ability of demons involves how well they know our personal habits. We have only to think of people whom we know very well. When they talk to us, we often know more of what is on their minds than they say, due to hints in their affect: we notice their tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

Because of demons’ greater intelligence, memory, and powers of observation, they are much better at interpreting human behavior and thought than we are. The demons can listen to us and observe us carefully, and may be able to see or hear subtle physical signs that show our emotions. Therefore, even though God alone knows all of our thoughts, demons can readily analyze what we are thinking and feeling, and make accurate predictions.

Demons can also deceive us through their ability to move physical objects. An example of telekinesis by a demon can be seen in the book of Job (1:13–19). In that biblical account, the devil caused lightning to kill the shepherds and sheep. In the same story, demons also caused a great wind that destroyed the house of Job’s children, thus killing them. The Gospels tell us that demons caused a herd of pigs to run off a cliff, fall into the lake, and drown (Mark 5:1–13).”

Love & Lord save us!!
Matthew

Oct 2 – Guardian Angels


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

This little prayer focuses on four verbs to describe the activity of our guardian angels, and each teaches us something about the role of our guardian angels in our lives.

To light. For millennia the image of enlightenment has been used for instruction and teaching. Saint Thomas reminds us that, in terms of intellect, humans are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Every angel, even the least of them, is categorically superior in intelligence. This means that our guardian angels, even apart from their gifts of grace and glory, can teach us a thing or two. That’s exactly what St. Thomas says they do. Since our minds are weak and can easily fail, our guardian angels help us to hold onto the truth more firmly, and so we ask our guardian angels to enlighten us (ST I q. 113, a. 1).

To guard. True to their name, guardian angels also protect us from the assaults of the enemies of God. Saint Thomas gives this as reason to believe that even Adam, in the state of innocence, would have had an angel guardian (ST I q. 113, a. 4). In the same place, he states that even when we fall (as Adam did) into temptation, our guardian angels keep us from being harmed as much as the tempters want.

To rule. Since our guardian angels are not simply teachers of truth, but ministers of divine government, they never forget that their purpose in teaching is to lead us back to God. In this manner, we ask them not only to enlighten us with teaching, but also to rule and direct us toward the good. For, as St. Thomas tells us, even though we know the natural law, we sometimes struggle to apply it well, needing our angels to assist us (ST I q. 113, a. 1).

To guide. Like guarding, guiding can be understood defensively. For while a ruler might give direction from afar, a guide assists along the way by pointing out pitfalls in the path. While our guardian angels don’t and can’t make our decisions for us, they can give us nudges here and there to keep our feet on the narrow path.

These activities of our guardian angels are not extraordinary or miraculous. Their guardianship belongs to the execution of Divine Providence, much like any parent’s guardianship of children. Let’s make a new effort to appreciate and call upon these faithful angels, who are always willing to help us.”

Holy Guardian Angels!! Pray for & protect us!!!
Matthew

Gift of the Holy Spirit #4: Fortitude 2, The Narrow Gate

CCC 1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” Ps 118:14 “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Teach me, O Lord, to act courageously, trusting in You.

MEDITATION

“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matthew 11:12). Neither good resolutions nor good desires suffice to make a saint. These must be translated into action; but precisely in the accomplishment of this work, great difficulties are encountered, causing many to stop in discouragement or actually to turn back from the way they have begun. These are weak souls who become frightened in the face of fatigue, effort, and struggle. They lack the virtue of fortitude, or at least, are deficient in it. This virtue enables us to face and bear whatever difficulty, whatever hardship or sacrifice we may encounter in the fulfillment of duty. Difficulties and sacrifices will never be wanting for, although “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction … narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life” (Matthew 7:13,14). Hence, it would be an illusion to pretend that the way to sanctity is easy and agreeable, as it would equally be an illusion to think that one could persevere in it without constantly practicing the virtue of fortitude. On the contrary, the greater the perfection to which a soul aspires, the stronger and more courageous it must be, because the difficulties it has to face will be greater.

When Jesus wished to praise the Precursor, He said, “What went you out into the desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (Matthew 11:7). No, John the Baptist was not a weak man who could be shaken by the wind of difficulties; his was the strength of one who, to uphold the law of God, did not fear to incur his king’s displeasure and to courageously face martyrdom. Elsewhere, speaking of the victory over sin and the devil, Jesus praised the strong man: “When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth” (Luke 11:21). This is a picture of the soul that possesses the virtue of fortitude: it is well armed and cannot be frightened by any struggle, temptation, or other obstacle; rather, in the midst of all this, it remains in peaceful security because its strength comes from God Himself.

COLLOQUY

“O God, You have seen the weakness of our human nature; You know how weak, frail and miserable it is; therefore, You, the sovereign Provider, who in all things have provided for all the needs of Your creatures, You, the perfect Repairer, who have given a remedy for all our ills, You gave us the rock and fortitude of will to strengthen the weakness of our flesh. This will is so strong that no demon or creature can conquer it if we do not will it, that is, if our free will, which is in our own hands, does not consent.

“O infinite Goodness, where does such great strength in Your creature’s will come from? From You, sovereign, eternal Strength because it shares the strength of Your will. Hence, we can see that our will is strong to the degree in which it follows Yours, and weak to the degree in which it deviates from Yours because You created our will to the likeness of Your will, and therefore, being in Yours, it is strong.

“In our will, O eternal Father, You show the fortitude of Your will; for if You have given so much fortitude to a little member, what should we think Yours to be, O Creator and Ruler of all things?

“It seems to me that this free will which You have given us is fortified by the light of faith, for in this light it knows Your will, which wishes nothing but our sanctification. Then our will, fortified and nourished by our holy faith, gives life to our actions, which explains why neither good will nor lively faith can exist without works. Faith nourishes and maintains the fire of charity, because it reveals to our soul Your love and charity to us, and thus makes it strong in loving You” (St. Catherine of Siena).

Love,
Matthew