Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fr. Nicholas Gruner, RIP

Fr. Nicholas Gruner

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Judaizers and the Galatians

Reading N°13 in the History of the Catholic Church

Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

The very success of Paul and Barnabas among the pagans involved their newly founded churches in a momentous dispute. It was impossible not to see that Antioch was the center of all the new Christian communities, and Paul seemed to be their leader. What, then, of the influence of the mother Church? In these new communities the Jewish observances were not all kept. What was happening to the ancient traditions? The Church at Jerusalem was being recruited by a considerable number of priests and Levites,[1] some of whom did not altogether forsake the narrowness of their rabbinical training and showed themselves extremely sensitive.

No doubt God had spoken to Peter at Joppa with regard to the centurion Cornelius. But the situation was now much changed. The present issue was not whether to admit a pagan and his family into the Church, regardless of the Jewish legal observances, but whether a sort of federation of churches might be formed, with a center and a head, seeming to draw the disciples of Christ into a movement quite different from that over which Jerusalem had theretofore had the direction. Some half-converted Jewish priests were grieved to see the Holy City deprived of its primacy, the Temple abandoned, the work of Moses rejected. Their complaint was apparently sanctioned by the example of their chief, James the Less, who was seen to be so assiduous at prayer in the Temple, and so exact in fulfilling the prescriptions of the Law.[2]

Some years later, the Council of Jerusalem would make allowance for whatever was reasonable in these claims. Unfortunately, certain ill-disposed persons embittered the dispute. Paul and Barnabas, at the time of their previous journey to Jerusalem, saw through the designs of "false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privately to spy our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into servitude."[3] Some of these were simply narrow, obstinate men who would not for any reason give up a view once taken or a prejudice once formed. Others were jealous and malicious; in their bitter attacks on the Apostle and his labors, it seemed they aimed at the very work of Christ Himself in His most ardent missioner.[4]

The storm broke loose shortly after the return of Paul and Barnabas to Antioch. The two missioners declared to their listeners that the hour was now at hand to open wide the door of faith to the Gentiles.[5] At this, some men, who had arrived from Jerusalem and claimed to speak in the name of the Apostles, rose up before them. St. Luke does not give us their names. St. Paul applies to them a word difficult to translate, which may refer to the haughtiness of their claims and the insufficiency of their authority (ὑπερλίαν ἀπόστολοι), "superapostles" or "apostles above measure."[6] They declared: "Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved."[7] They succeeded in winning over part of the Antiochene Jews and made loud proclamation of their commission from the Church at Jerusalem. Their daring went farther. When Peter came to Antioch for the purpose of observing at close quarters the progress of the Gospel in one of its most important phases, they appealed to him against Paul's methods. At the same time, they tried to stir up the principal churches founded by Paul against him and his teaching.

Peter followed the line of conduct revealed to him at Joppa, freely mingling with the converted pagans. He was seen to sit at their tables, without concerning himself about the food that was served. The men from Jerusalem endeavored to persuade him that such conduct scandalized the Jews and troubled their consciences. Already, they said, a large part of the Antiochene Jews had risen up against Paul and the converted pagans. They advised Peter to live as a Jew, observing the Mosaic prescriptions, to restore confidence and peace. The Apostle of the circumcised,[8] moved by this reasoning, yielded. Little by little, to quiet the Jews, he discontinued his close relations with the converted pagans, ate with his fellovv-Jews, and followed the same rules as they. Barnabas, too, weakened and was won over. Following them, a number of Christians began a strict observance of the Jewish regulations at their meals.

Petrus et Paulus
4th century etching

Paul saw the danger and judged that he was qualified to denounce it to Peter. At Jerusalem he had been officially recognized by the Apostles as the providential Apostle of the ucircumcised. It was evident that, by Peter's present conduct, the work which God had entrusted to him was threatened with failure. "To maintain circumcision, with the implied full observance of the Law, was to forego the hope of conquering the world. Never would the world become Jewish. The question of principle was graver still. To make a Mosaic practice an essential condition of salvation was virtually to deny the transient nature of the old economy, the sufficiency of the Redemption, the value of the blood and merits of Jesus Christ, the efficacity of grace; this would be to overturn the fundamental dogma of Christianity."[9] The Apostle of the Gentiles, therefore, was in duty bound to point out to the head of the Church the effects of his excessive condescension. In one of his Epistles, he writes:
When I saw that they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: "If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as the Jews do, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"[10]
Roman province of Galatia
Peter yielded to Paul's reasoning,[11] and the danger dreaded by Paul seemed to be warded off.[12] But the sect was not satisfied with acting merely at Antioch. Its emissaries had already visited the Christian communities of Galatia, disturbing the neophytes by the confidence with which they everywhere repeated their famous motto: "Without circumcision there is no salvation." Nothing could be more painful to Paul's heart. These earnest people of Galatia had received the faith of Christ with most enthusiastic eagerness and had welcomed the Apostles with marks of filial affection. With his own hand, in spite of the painful infirmity of his eyes, Paul wrote as best he could, in big letters,[13] an epistle vibrating with feeling that he made no attempt to restrain.

The Epistle opens with a prayer for the increase of their charity:
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins.
Then, without any oratorical caution, the Apostle goes straight to the point:
There are some that trouble you and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from heaven preach a Gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. [...] The gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For neither did I receive it of man, nor did I learn it; but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion: how that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God.
With a few masterful strokes, Paul then describes his past life, his conversion, the divine lights granted him, and his relations with the other Apostles. In these lines, which we can feel were written hurriedly, Paul clearly sets forth the two unanswerable arguments on which he builds his whole contention: his doctrine comes to him directly from Christ and has been expressly and repeatedly confirmed by the chief Apostles, notably by Simon Peter. His solid guaranty is Christ's word, declared authentic by the hierarchy. Why, then, should he retreat? For, he says, "if I build up again the things which I have destroyed, I make myself a prevaricator." Why return to the letter of the Law, when we have the grace of Christ? This thought of the grace of Christ transports him. He says:
With Christ I am nailed to the cross. And I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself for me. [...] O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been set forth, crucified among you?
The Law has, indeed, been appealed to, and Moses. Is there any question of setting up the faith in opposition to the Law, Christ in opposition to Moses? Not at all. The Apostle asks only that the Law of Moses should not make anyone forget the promises made to Abraham and realized by the grace of Christ. Between Abraham and Christ, Moses gave the Law to restrain passions, to maintain faithfulness to the promises, and to prepare for the advent of grace.
The Law was our pedagogue in Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after the faith is come, we are no longer under a pedagogue.
But all this is argument. The Apostle is eager to speak more directly to the heart of his dear Galatians. He writes:
You know how, through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the Gospel to you heretofore; and your temptation in my flesh, you despised not nor rejected.[...] I bear you witness that, if it could be done, you would have plucked out your own eyes and would have given them to me. [...] They would exclude you, that you might be zealous for them. [...] My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you. And I would willingly be present with you now, and change my voice.
Then the Apostle returns to his argument. Taking his stand on his enemies' ground, he makes use of a thoroughly rabbinical logic, an allegorical interpretation of the story of Agar and Sara. The Christian is not the child of a slave; he is a free man. The Epistle continues:
We are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free: by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free. [...] Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. [...] The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity. [...] Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.
Such are the main lines of the famous Epistle to the Galatians, in which Paul opens his soul to his disciples. Its style is simple, picturesque, and sincere, at times hesitant, as though beneath the weight of a crushing thought, like the feeble body of the Apostle; again it is proud, brilliant, reaching the sublime, under the impulse of a superhuman inspiration.


[1] Acts 6:7. Cf. Acts 15:5.
[2] Hegesippus, in Eusebius, II, xxiii; Josephus, Antiquities, XX, ix.
[3] Gal. 2:4.
[4] The Tübingen school makes no mistake in affirming the existence of a party ruthlessly hostile to St. Paul. But they are wrong when, without proof and even in face of most convincing evidence to the contrary, they attribute the inspiration and guidance of that party to St. Peter and St. James. We know what St. Peter's attitude was regarding the conversion of the Gentiles, and we see St. James joining in the conciliary declaration which disavowed the sect in question. Those whom St. Paul calls "false brethren unawares brought in" could not be Apostles. St. Epiphanius supposes that the future heretic Cerinthus belonged to this Judaizing sect. (Haereses, 26.)
[5] Acts 14:26.
[6] Cf. 2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11.
[7] Acts 15:1.
[8] Gal. 2:8.
[9] Prat, La Théologie de saint Paul, I, 71.
[10] Gal. 2:14.
[11] "Peter certainly yielded to Paul's reasons. If he had been obstinate, this whole affair, instead of being an argument in favor of St. Paul's gospel, would be a serious objection which St. Paul could not have remembered without utterly ruining the thesis which was so dear to him." (Prat, op. cit., I, 74.)
[12] Such is this famous Antioch incident, reduced to its just historical proportions. Enemies of the Holy See have made a great fuss about it; and some apologists of the papacy have been so disturbed by it that they have gone to great lengths in an effort to prove that the Peter of this incident is not the Peter who was the head of the Church. We need scarcely say that neither the pope's infallibility nor his supreme authority in the Church is in any way involved in this passing disagreement. Peter's whole fault was in letting himself be momentarily circumvented by Judaizers, who misled him as to the effects of his conduct. As Tertullian says, "The fault was one of conduct, not of preaching, conversationis fuit vitium, non praedicationis." (De praescriptione, chap. 23.) Was St. Peter, then, living at Antioch? Tradition gives him the title of bishop of that city; and Antioch itself has always honored him as its first founder. (See Eusebius, H. E., III, xxxvi, and Chron., bk. 2.) In matter of fact, the Apostles were the bishops of all the churches that they founded; their authority over those churches may rightly be called an episcopate, but we should not imagine it organized like that of their successors. The latter, attached to a single church and residing there, were alone true bishops in the sense we give the word. But when Peter, the supreme head of the Apostolic College and of the whole Church, arrived at the "metropolis of the East," that city acclaimed him as its pastor. "There the name 'Christian' was born. Church history bears witness to the fact that this church, though founded by St. Barnabas and St. Paul, recognized Peter, because of his lofty office, as its first pastor. Peter had to come there when it was so prominent for its brilliant profession of Christianity, and his chair at Antioch became a solemnity in the churches." (Bossuet, Sermon sur l'unité de l'Eglise, 1St point.)
[13] Gal. 6:11.


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Monday, April 27, 2015


Ninth in a Series on Catholic Morals

Fr. John H. Stapleton

Superbia (Pride)
Hieronymus Bosch
Excellence is a quality that raises a man above the common level and distinguishes him among his fellow-beings. The term is relative. The quality may exist in any degree or measure. 'Tis only the few that excel eminently; but anyone may be said to excel who is, be it ever so little, superior to others. Three kinds of advantages go to make up one's excellence. Nature's gifts are talent, knowledge, health, strength, and beauty; fortune endows us with honor, wealth, authority; and virtue, piety, honesty are the blessings of grace. To the possession of one or several of these advantages excellence is attached.

All good is made to be loved. All gifts directly or indirectly from God are good, and if excellence is the fruit of these gifts, it is lawful, reasonable, and human to love it and them. But moderation is to be observed in all things. Virtue is righteously equidistant, while vice goes to extremes. It is not, therefore, attachment and affection for this excellence, but inordinate, unreasonable love that is damnable, and constitutes the vice of pride.

God alone is excellent and all greatness is from Him alone. And those who are born great, who acquire greatness, or who have greatness thrust upon them, equally owe their superiority to Him. Nor are these advantages and this preeminence due to our merits and deserts. Everything that comes to us from God is purely gratuitous on His part, and undeserved on ours. Since our very existence is the effect of a free act of His will, why should not, for a greater reason, all that is accidental to that existence be dependent on His free choice? Finally, nothing of all this is ours or ever can become ours. Our qualities are a pure loan confided to our care for a good and useful purpose, and will be reclaimed with interest.

Since the malice of our pride consists in the measure of affection we bestow upon our excellence, if we love it to the extent of judging it not a gift of God, but the fruit of our own better selves; or if we look upon it as the result of our worth, that is, due to our merits, we are guilty of nothing short of downright heresy, because we hold two doctrines contrary to faith. "What hast thou, that thou hast not received?" If a gift is due to us, it is no longer a gift. This extreme of pride is happily rare. It is directly opposed to God. It is the sin of Lucifer.

A lesser degree of pride is, while admitting ourselves beholden to God for whatever we possess and confessing His bounties to be undeserved, to consider the latter as becoming ours by right of possession, with liberty to make the most of them for our own personal ends. This is a false and sinful appreciation of God's gifts, but it respects His and all subordinate authority. If it never, in practice, fails in this submission, there is sin, because the plan of God, by which all things must be referred to Him, is thwarted; but its malice is not considered grievous. Pride, however, only too often fails in this, its tendency being to satisfy itself, which it cannot do within the bounds of authority. Therefore it is that, from being venial, this species of pride becomes a mortal offense, because it leads almost infallibly to disobedience and rebellion. There is a pride, improperly so called, which is in accordance with all the rules of order, reason and honor. It is a sense of responsibility and dignity which every man owes to himself, and which is compatible with the most sincere humility. It is a regard, an esteem for oneself, too great to allow one to stoop to anything base or mean. It is submissive to authority, acknowledges shortcomings, respects others and expects to be respected in return. It can preside with dignity, and obey with docility. Far from being a vice, it is a virtue and is only too rare in this world. It is nobility of soul which betrays itself in self-respect.

Here, then, is the origin, progress and development of the vice. We first consider the good that is in us, and there is good in all of us, more or less. This consideration becomes first exaggerated; then one-sided by reason of our overlooking and ignoring imperfections and shortcomings. Out of these reflections arises an apprehension of excellence or superiority greater than we really possess. From the mind this estimate passes to the heart, which embraces it fondly, rejoices and exults. The conjoint acceptation of this false appreciation by the mind and heart is the first complete stage of pride - an overwrought esteem of self. The next move is to become self-sufficient, presumptuous. A spirit of enterprise asserts itself, wholly out of keeping with the means at hand. It is sometimes foolish, sometimes insane, reason being blinded by error.

The vice then seeks to satisfy itself, craves for the esteem of others, admiration, flattery, applause, and glory. This is vanity, different from conceit only in this, that the former is based on something that is, or has been done, while the latter is based on nothing.

Vanity manifested in word is called boasting; in deed that is true, vain-glory; in deed without foundation of truth, hypocrisy.

But this is not substantial enough for ambition, another form of pride. It covets exterior marks of appreciation, rank, honor, dignity, authority. It seeks to rise, by hook or crook, for the sole reason of showing off and displaying self. Still growing apace, pride becomes indignant, irritated, angry if this due appreciation is not shown to its excellence; it despises others either for antipathy or inferiority. It believes its own judgment infallible and, if in the wrong, will never acknowledge a mistake or yield. Finally the proud man becomes so full of self that obedience is beneath him, and he no longer respects authority of man or of God. Here we have the sin of pride in all the plenitude of its malice.

Pride is often called an honorable vice, because its aspirations are lofty, because it supposes strength, and tends directly to elevate man, rather than to debase and degrade him, like the other vices. Yet pride is compatible with every meanness. It lodges in the heart of the pauper as well as in that of the prince. There is nothing contemptible that it will not do to satisfy itself; and, although its prime malice is to oppose God, it has every quality to make it as hideous as Satan himself. It goeth before a fall, but it does not cease to exist after the fall; and no matter how deep down in the mire of iniquity you search, you will find pride nethermost. Other vices excite one's pity; pride makes us shudder.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Thy Exceeding Great Reward

Seventh Conference on the Most Sacred Heart

Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer

We have studied the divine, uncreated love of the Sacred Heart as manifested in the Creation and the Incarnation. We will now consider it as shown in heaven in the rewards of the just. It is true that the magnitude of those rewards is beyond all conception:
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for those that love Him.
Still, theology teaches us something concerning the joy of the elect in heaven, and though that knowledge be meagre, obscure and incapable of being fully realized, it is sufficient to inflame our hearts with holy desires, and to give us another glimpse of the fathomless abyss of God's love for man.

The essential happiness of heaven consists in what is called the Beatific Vision. The word beatific comes from two Latin words, which mean 'to make happy'. The Beatific Vision, therefore, is a vision, a sight which makes one happy. That vision is the vision of God.

No creature, not even an angel, can by its natural powers see God. God is a spirit whose substance is so pure, so simple, so immaterial, that no created spirit can behold Him. "He dwelleth in light inaccessible." The angels can see and converse with one another, and when our souls are separated from our bodies, we also shall be able to see the angels and kindred spirits: but by our own unassisted natural powers, we can never behold the Spirit of God. To see God, a new supernatural, intellectual power must be infused into our soul; our mind must be supernaturally elevated and expanded, since new power must be added to our intellect: that enlightenment, that elevation, that expansive power which is called lumen gloriae, the light of glory.

Consequently, when a soul crosses the threshold of heaven, this light of glory envelops it, as it were, round about; it penetrates the soul through and through, it elevates and expands the intellect communicating to it the divine power of seeing God. In lumine tuo videbimus lumen. "In Thy light, we shall see the Light." The soul looks upon God face to face as He is! It sees the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost with the eye of the intellect, infinitely more clearly than we see with the eye of our body the material universe around us. It beholds the Unity and the Trinity of God, yet does not comprehend Him; it beholds the Father engendering the Son, and the Holy Ghost proceeding from both, yet it does not understand. It sees His goodness, His omnipotence, His justice, His mercy, His infinite beauty and holiness, the interminable, incomprehensible oceans of His perfections, it contemplates all before it, oceans of joy, of peace, of tenderness and love. It sees, too, how God has loved from all eternity, how wonderfully His Providence has directed all with wisdom and power to their appointed end, how He blessed us when He made us endure this sorrow and loaded us down with that cross, it sees the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost bending in love towards it, and ready to clasp it eternally to His bosom.

What is the immediate consequence of this vision? When the soul thus sees God in His divine beauty, goodness, and unspeakable love for it, it loves Him with all the power of its being. It cannot help itself. It is set on fire with a seraphic love; it loves Him unselfishly, supremely, above all things. Feeling this intense love for Him, seeing at the same time this mysterious love of God for it, and knowing that it shall now possess Him forever, a new, ineffable joy takes possession of it, and thrills through its every fiber. That joy, that bliss cannot be described; eye hath not seen it, ear hath not heard it, neither hath it entered into the heart of man: it constitutes the essential happiness of heaven.

We must, however, guard against one error which is very apt to creep into our minds when meditating upon the happiness of seeing God. And it is an error very common, even among holy persons. We must not imagine that the sight of God will so absorb our minds as to make us motionless and inactive like statues, or that our happiness will be so exclusively complete, as to make us insensible to every other joy. This is certainly a mistake.

It is true, the essential happiness of heaven consists in the vision of God; still, the Beatific Vision will not destroy our nature. We are naturally active, we shall be supremely so in heaven. Man is not an angel, he is not complete unless he has a body with its senses. The resurrection of our body shall therefore increase our happiness; all the natural senses shall be gratified; we shall enjoy, for instance, the charms of heavenly music. And there shall be social joys in heaven. We shall know one another there. We shall take with us our natural love for relatives and friends, stripped of everything that was inordinate and imperfect. It may sound strange, yet the Angel of the Schools, St. Thomas, teaches that, even in heaven, we shall have our preferences as we have them on earth. Yes, in heaven, where all is order, harmony, sanctity, stability and love, even in heaven, I say, those whom we shall have loved here on earth by reason of nature or grace, we shall love for the same reasons still, and incomparably more than we loved them on earth, and the love we shall feel for them will be more tender, more intense, than that we feel for others, though we should see the latter to be as holy as the seraphim, and as beautiful as the archangels. For God is the author of nature as well as of grace, and grace never destroys, it only elevates and perfects nature.

We have seen so far that the essential happiness of heaven consists in the Beatific Vision, i. e., in seeing, loving and enjoying God. The souls who already enjoy the Beatific Vision are, consequently, happy beyond expression. Still, as long as they are separated from their bodies, their happiness is not yet complete. Then only will their bliss be entire and perfect, when they are reunited to their risen bodies. I do not mean to say that the least shadow of sadness or discontent rests upon the blessed; they know that new joys are in store for them, and they desire those joys only inasmuch as God wills them: but they desire them because human nature requires and springs from the union of body and soul.

And will these - our bodies - be changed? Will our bodies become worthy temples of our transformed and beautiful souls? Yes. St. Paul says explicitly:
It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory. It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power. It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body. (1 Cor. 15)
First, "It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption." That is to say, our bodies at present are corruptible by their very nature, and because corruptible, they have an inexpressible capacity for suffering. Every organ, every member, every nerve of our frame is susceptible of veritable torture. And bodily pain can be so great as to drive us to distraction. But these, our bodies which are sown in corruption, shall rise in incorruption. They shall be no longer subject to sickness and infirmity. There shall be no more disease, no more pain or anguish; no more shall the eyes weep tears of grief. Every sense shall become the source of an abundant, ever new, and never-dying joy. This first gift is called the gift of impassibility

St. Paul continues: "It is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory." Yes, our bodies are sown in dishonor; like seed they are cast into the earth, and become the prey of corruption and worms. Our dearest friends turn away with disgust from that which is but a mass of putrefaction. But these same bodies shall rise in glory. That word, glory, in Holy Scripture, means first, 'perfect beauty and symmetry of form', and secondly, 'a radiant brilliancy'. Our bodies in heaven shall possess both this beauty and brilliancy. The body on earth may have been disfigured by birth, infirmity or accident ; it may have been shrivelled with old age, or by sin it may have lost its youthful bloom: but in heaven, all these defects and blemishes of the body shall disappear. It shall be a masterpiece of God's wisdom and power. Every member, organ and feature shall be exquisitely shaped and proportioned, without defect or imperfection of any kind, with all the loveliness and bloom of youth. The body will also shine with a brilliancy before which all the radiance of a midday sun shall pale, yet with a brilliancy that gladdens, soothes and softens as the light of precious stones. This gift is called the gift of glory.

Let us follow St. Paul's revealed words. Thirdly, "It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power." The soul has not, at present, perfect control over the body: the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. The soul cannot go where it will; walls and doors impede its desires. The body is a thick, heavy, unwieldy mass of clay, it is an obstacle to the soul's will. But the body, sown in weakness, shall rise in power. Walls and doors, slabs and seals, shall no longer be able to impede its course; it shall run and not be weary, it shall move as if it had the wings of eagles, with such rapidity that its time cannot be noted; with lightning speed, it shall pass from place to place. This third gift is called the gift of agility.

Finally, in the fourth place: "It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body." St. Paul does not mean to say that our bodies are to be changed into spirits; but this, that our bodies, though remaining material, shall be clothed with certain properties belonging naturally to spirits. A spirit needs not food, drink or sleep, nor shall our risen bodies need these things. The sense of taste shall be eminently gratified, but not in the carnal way of eating and drinking. A spirit is invisible; in like manner, a glorified body is visible or invisible as the soul wills. A spirit is by nature simple; the body shall lose its coarseness of texture, and become so refined and delicately organized as to approach the nature of a spirit. A spirit is immortal ; the body likewise shall be immortal; it shall never again feel the sting of death, never again shall it be the victim of the grave. Finally, a spirit cannot become the slave of animal passion; the body also shall be emancipated from the law of sin which is now in its members. It shall war no longer against the spirit, it shall no longer burn with the impure flame of concupiscence, it shall, in a word, be totally subject to the spirit: in consequence, no more temptations, no more dangers, no more struggles, no more inordinate cravings after forbidden pleasure. This fourth gift is called the gift of spirituality.

No wonder St. Paul said so powerfully:
That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.
Behold the love of God, the uncreated love of the Sacred Heart for man! O Mary, Queen of heaven and Mother of beautiful love, obtain for us the grace of reaching heaven, that home of never-ending happiness and love!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On the UN, Sex Abuse and Glass Houses

In February of last year, newspapers around the world were awash with coverage of the UN's condemnation of the Vatican for what was described as a systemic failure in regards to its handling of cases of clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church. A report published by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child alleged that:
... the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.
While understandably displeased by the unnecessary political interference, the Holy See acknowledged the UN report and vowed to improve it's handling of cases involving charges of clerical sex abuse. And while the concrete application of the Vatican's 'zero-tolerance' policy has been somewhat spotty - contrast the case of Bishop Robert Finn with that of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid - awareness of the problem has permeated the Church at all levels - a key component in the plan to eradicate such abuse.

The 2014 UN report was also seen as a welcome opportunity to ramp up criticism of the Church by various self-proclaimed watchdog groups, such the Center for Constitutional Rights, whose senior staff attorney, Katherine Gallagher, opined:
The whole world will be watching to ensure that the Vatican takes the concrete steps required by the UN to protect children and end these crimes. Impunity and cover-up, including at the highest levels of the church, will not be tolerated.
Catholics were assured that such thinly-veiled threats were motivated by honest concern for the welfare of children, and had nothing at all to do with anti-Catholic bias. One has to question the sincerity of such assurances, however, given the relative silence surrounding a recent event which should have stirred up a media frenzy: the hushed release of a 32-page document detailing the extent of appalling sexual abuse perpetrated by United Nations personnel around the world.

The document, released last month, reports that, in 2014 alone, nearly 80 cases of rape, sexual assault and sex trafficking were alleged to have been committed by UN staff and soldiers deployed in missions around the world, predominantly in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. The report also provides shocking information regarding past offences: in the period between 2010 and 2013, there were 43 confirmed cases of sexual abuse - typically rape - 27 of which involved children, and 44 confirmed cases of sexual exploitation, of which 7 involved minors. In addition, there were 26 paternity claims, i.e. 26 children who were born as a result of sexual abuse and/or exploitation by UN personnel.

What's worse, this problem has been known to exist for years. A 2008 report published by Save the Children UK explains how UN peacekeepers and "humanitarian" NGOs around the world use the promise of food, money and other non-monetary items or services to pressure desperate children into performing sexual acts. A 15-year-old girl from Haiti gives the following shocking testimony:
My friends and I were walking by the National Palace one evening when we encountered a couple of humanitarian men. The men called us over and showed us their penises. They offered us 100 Haitian gourdes (US $2.50) and some chocolate if we would [perform oral sex on] them. I said no, but some of the girls did it and got the money.
The report, entitled No One to Turn To: The Under-Reporting of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Aid Workers and Peacekeepers, presents a veritable litany of sexual abuse suffered by children and young adults at the hands of so-called "humanitarian peacekeepers," including:

  • trading sex for food and/or services
  • forced sex / rape
  • verbal sexual abuse
  • child prostitution
  • child pornography
  • sex slavery
  • indecent sexual assault
  • child trafficking linked with commercial sexual exploitation

The overwhelming majority of cases of
sex with minors involve staff of the UN
Department of Peacekeeping Operations
Thus, the very organization which assumed for itself the moral authority to castigate the Catholic Church over a failure to respond properly to sex abuse is itself infested with sexual predators of the worst kind. As sad as that is, I am not surprised.

Yet, where is the hue and cry over the suffering of these children? Where are the Katherine Gallaghers of the world promising that we will not rest until the UN undertakes more decisive action to prevent future cases of abuse as well as to punish the perpetrators? The authors of the recent UN report are to be lauded for proposing that UN soldiers be subject to court-martial in the countries where they commit their crimes, but where is the public outcry at the current policy of the UN, which is to quietly send such soldiers back to their home countries?

Though we can expect little in the way of coverage of this human tragedy in the mainstream media, we can and should, as Catholics, do our part to help make it known.

UN Aid Worker and Haitian Child
(Photo: UNHCR)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Faithful Nuns Protest Anti-Catholic Propaganda in Catholic School

Sr. Clare Marie teaches Social Studies
at Marin Catholic High School
Five Dominican Sisters of Mary walked out of their Kentfield (CA) classrooms at Marin Catholic High School last Friday in protest of the school's failure to prevent the dissemination of pro-sodomy, anti-Catholic literature on school grounds.

Although the school had initially stated that it would not be participating in the "Day of Silence" on April 17th, an event championed by pro-sodomy activists as being aimed at reducing LGBT-bullying in schools, it nonetheless directed students via Facebook to the "Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network" (GLSEN), an organization which promotes the event with stickers, pamphlets and other literature. On Friday morning, as a group of students began handing out the GLSEN materials - which told students that any church which teaches that homosexuality is sinful is an "oppressor" and should be opposed - the five Sisters, among them Sr. Clare Marie, felt that the Catholic identity of the school was being compromised and that they could no longer remain in their classrooms in good conscience.

What makes this story particularly interesting is that, according to various reports, these Sisters were hand-picked by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to strengthen Catholic identity in Bay Area schools.

I invite you, gentle reader, to say a prayer that God may continue to shed His grace upon these faithful daughters. You might also want to send a note of support to Sr. Clare Marie, at: 

Incidentally, I came across this story as I was reading Brian Cahill's latest hit-piece on Archbishop Cordileone, which he starts off by deploring the latter's "failed leadership." Really? The man's nearly single-handed defense of the rights of the Catholic faith in the public square just inspired five habited Sisters to walk out in protest of the dissemination of pro-sodomy, anti-Catholic propaganda at their school, and his leadership has "failed"? Au contraire, Mr. Cahill. Au contraire.

Paul, Barnabas and the Church at Antioch

Reading N°12 in the History of the Catholic Church

Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

The city of Antioch was the residence of the imperial legate of Syria. About the middle of the first century, it may have counted half a million inhabitants. It had been built by Seleucus in a superb location on the banks of the river Orontes. At first, it was the capital of the Seleucid kings, who embellished it with that taste for theatrical decoration which they showed in the construction of their large cities. Its magnificence increased under Roman rule. The extensive ruins, which the traveler may still see,[1] lead us to imagine what may have been, for example, the great Corso paved with marble and white stone, lined with sumptuous residences, public monuments, and royal palaces, which traversed the full length of the city. The wealth of its inhabitants, grown rich through commerce, the luxury of its buildings, the soft beauty of the encircling countryside, all favored the growth of a sensual paganism. The worship of Apollo and of the nymphs was displayed in long processions which used to pass through woods of laurel and myrtle along roads bordered with roses and jasmine, to venerate the colossal statue of Apollo of Daphne which was celebrated throughout the world.[2] At this spot it was that Julian the Apostate later tried in vain to revive a paganism already fatally stricken.

Map of Ancient Antioch
(click to enlarge)

In a retired section of the city, a group of Jews, drawn thither long before by the Seleucidae, who hoped thus to foil the Ptolemies, were worshipping the true God. Many historians think Antioch was the scene of the martyrdom of the saintly old man Eleazar, of the seven Maccabee brothers, and of their heroic mother.[3]

In course of time, between these true adorers of Yahweh and the multitude of idolaters, there gradually emerged a mixed and undefined mass: Hellenist Jews, more or less imbued with pagan customs, and "God-fearing" pagans attracted by the grandeur of Jewish monotheism and the hope of a Messias-Redeemer. It was through these intermediate groups that religious propaganda finally reached the out-and-out pagans, those whom St. Luke calls "the Greeks."[4]

The preaching of the Christian missioners was very successful; "the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believing, were converted to the Lord."[5] News of this soon reached the Church at Jerusalem, which, by St. Peter's vision at Joppa and the circumstances accompanying the baptism of Cornelius, was prepared to understand and accept this extension of the apostolate. The "brethren" of Jerusalem sent one of their number, Barnabas, to Antioch to learn the facts.

Saint Barnabas
detail from a 15th century painting
in the church of the Holy Cross by Philip Goul
The Levite Joseph, surnamed Barnabas (Bar Nebuah, "the preacher," or "the consoler") because of his zeal in preaching the word of God or because of his kindly and unselfish character which made him liked by all, was already a person of note in the assembly of the faithful. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that, at the very first, he sold a field and gave the money to the Apostles for the aid of the young community.[6] When the converted Saul, as yet not fully trusted by the Christians, came to Jerusalem, it was Barnabas who introduced him to the assembly.[7] Barnabas was a native of Cyprus, not far from Tarsus. It may be that he had already known Saul and, better than anyone else, could guarantee the sincerity of that whole-hearted and loyal man, incapable of deception. Barnabas "was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith."[8] He was tall and had a noble bearing, which at Lystra made the people take him for Jupiter. His repute and personal appearance carried weight with the people.[9] The choice of Barnabas for the mission to Antioch was a happy one, for no one was in a better position to understand the new Apostolic campaign, in which some of his fellow-Cyprians had labored so effectively.

Barnabas came to Antioch, and not only approved the catholic movement that was developing there, but likewise decided to further it by increasing the number of the missioners. His mind turned to his friend Saul, for he knew that ardent soul, open to great undertakings and full of zeal for the conversion of the Gentiles. He therefore went to Tarsus and soon afterwards brought Saul back with him.

The new missioner of Antioch was destined henceforth to occupy the first rank, if not in the hierarchy, of which Peter remained the unquestioned head, at least in the work of preaching the gospel. We might almost say that his history becomes the story of the spread of Christianity.

Saint Paul
detail from a 15th century painting
in the church of the Holy Cross by Philip Goul
Saul of Tarsus was then in the full vigor of maturity, being a little more than forty years old. His person was not at first glance imposing. Being puny in appearance and fully aware of his outward defects,[10] he trembled, as indeed he did throughout his life, at the very thought of facing a new audience. But throughout his life the commanding voice of his conscience and of his irresistible vocation impelled him to preach to all, in spite of everything, "in season and out of season," the faith in Christ who was his life. "Woe is unto me," he said, "if I preach not the gospel."

After his baptism and the curing of his blindness, he felt the need of visiting all the synagogues of Damascus to declare openly that he had seen with his own eyes, living and risen, that Jesus who had been ignominiously put to death and buried, who called Himself the Son of God. Then, leaving his coreligionists dazed at his declarations, but not doubting his word, he hastily fled from the tumult to spend some time in intimate converse with God. He set out for Arabia, that is, in all likelihood, for the Sinai peninsula. There, for a year or perhaps two years, he explored the meaning of the revelation he had received from God on the Damascus road and of the traditional teachings he received from the lips of Ananias. In the light of his new faith, he reread the Scriptures, which he had so long scrutinized under the direction of Gamaliel. Now he was equipped for controversy and exhortation; but not yet able to set forth his doctrine freely. At Damascus, when he came back there to preach, assassins were hired to murder him. He escaped only through the clever stratagem of friends, who let him down from the city wall in a basket.

Saint Paul Escapes from Damascus
painting based on a 14th century mosaic in Monreale Cathedral, Sicily

At Jerusalem, where he went to see Peter, he encountered new snares. He remained there only a fortnight. Then he returned to his native Tarsus, where for five or six years he again nourished his soul in silent prayer and study, no doubt holding ill restraint, in heroic resignation to God's designs, his burning desire to preach Christ everywhere.[11] Thither Barnabas went to make Paul his companion in the apostolate, or rather his teacher and leader.

For a whole year, Paul and Barnabas evangelized Antioch. There is no evidence that any act of authority or any popular disturbance impeded their zeal. We can easily imagine the two Apostles, one with his burning word, the other with his contagious piety, taking part in the conversations of this commercial population which was stirred, but not satisfied by feverish occupation in business and love for pleasure. We see them, now disputing with the orators in the market-place, now gathering the people about them at street corners, to show them the charming ideal of the beatitudes.[12] Conversions were rapid and many. Soon, the Church at Antioch acquired a fame that raised it above all the Christian congregations of the time. On the other hand, the pagans understood that here was a society distinct from Judaism. From the name of Him who was acclaimed by all His followers as their only Master, the pagans called them Christians (χριστιανοί).[13]

These Christians were not niggardly in testifying their charity toward the mother Church at Jerusalem. In the year 44, when the prophet Agabus foretold the famine that would afflict the holy city, the Christians of Antioch began at once to gather alms. Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by Titus, brought these alms to Jerusalem when the famine came, eighteen months later, shortly after the martyrdom of James the Greater. The terror of the persecution still weighed upon the city. Peter had returned from Rome and was there, as were also John and James the Less. James was appointed head of the local Church. The envoys from Antioch placed their offerings in the hands of the council of the ancients and profited by the occasion to explain the situation which Providence had brought about at Antioch. Peter, James, and John saw that a special grace had been given Paul for the conversion of the pagans,[14] that he was the Apostle of the uncircumcised, as Peter was of the circumcised,[15] and they simply asked the two missioners to be mindful of the poor of Jerusalem.[16] Probably even at that time it was possible to foresee that the state of wretchedness would continue in the Holy City, in the midst of almost ceaseless revolts and repressions, until the day of its final destruction. Paul promised the Apostles of Jerusalem never to forget their poor and kept his promise with unfailing fidelity.

Fortified with the approbation of those who were rightly regarded as "pillars" of the Church,[17] Paul and Barnabas resumed their apostolate with new zeal. They went first to the island of Cyprus, the birthplace of Barnabas, where the proconsul Sergius Paulus embraced the faith, and Saul - his name suddenly changed to Paul - took charge of the preaching. Returning to the continent, they evangelized Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, in short, the whole region that was known as Roman Galatia.[18] Everywhere their method was the same. They would first appear in the synagogues, where they would preach as long as the Jews listened to them. But as soon as the door was closed to them, or a disturbance led to their expulsion, they boldly addressed the pagans. To their fellow-Jews they said: "Because you reject it [the word of God] ... behold we turn to the Gentiles."[19] Between the years 47 and 52 they founded no less than seven Christian centers.

The Apostles Paul and Barnabas at Lystra
Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678)


[1] Cf. Müller, Antiquitates antiochenae.
[2] Cf. 2 Macc. 4:33.
[3] St. Jerome, Liber de situ et nominibus locorum; St. Augustine, Sermones, I de Macch.
[4] Acts 11:20.
[5] Acts 11:21.
[6] Acts 4: 37. This piece of land must have been at Jerusalem. In that city there lived a sister of Barnabas, or at least a near relative, named Mary, the mother of John Mark. (Coloss. 4:10; cf. Acts 12:12.)
[7] Acts 9:27 f.
[8] Acts 11:24.
[9] St. Luke seems to say that Barnabas was one of the first converts of the Apostles, Acts 4:36; Eusebius (I, xii) and Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, II, xx) say that he was one of the seventy-two disciples. The Church gives him the title of Apostle, as it does St. Paul.
[10] With touching frankness, he refers to them in his Epistles (I Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 10:1-10; cf. Acts 14:11). The somber features of this portrait were freely exaggerated in the Acts of Paul and Thecla in the fourth century, and in the Chronicle of John Malalas of Antioch, written in the sixth. They represent St. Paul as "short, bald, stout, with short legs, eyebrows meeting, prominent nose." These details, reported by enemies, are maliciously exaggerated. That St. Paul suffered greatly from periodic inflammation of the eyes, the best exegetes infer from several passages in his Epistles (Gal. 4:15; 6:11; 1 Thess. 3:1; 2 Tim. 4:16, etc.). This painful ailment, which the Apostle considered to be an "infirmity of the flesh" (Gal. 4:13), and other trials, possibly of a moral nature, he regarded as a providential offset to the visions and ecstasies with which he was favored (2 Cor. 12:1-9).
[11] Cf. Prat, La Théologie de saint Paul, I, 65-67.
[12] In a street at Antioch, near the temple of all the gods, is pointed out the place where St. Paul is said to have preached to the multitude.
[13] Acts 11:26.
[14] Gal. 2:9.
[15] Gal. 2:8.
[16] Gal. 2:10.
[17] Gal. 2:9.
[18] The scholarly works of Perrot (De Galatia provincia romana, Paris, 1867) and Ramsay (Saint Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, London, 1900) have removed every doubt as to the location of Roman Galatia. It was Roman Galatia that St. Paul evangelized on his first missionary journey, and it was to the inhabitants of that district that he addressed his first Epistle. On this point and on certain important consequences with regard to the chronology of St. Paul's life, see Le Camus, L'Œuvre des apôtres, I, 84-89, 104 f. Cf. Belser, Einleitung in das Neue Testament; Dufourcq, L'Avenir du christianisme, III, 27-29.
[19] Acts 13:46.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rebuild My Church - An Interview with Brother Alexis Bugnolo

The Radical Catholic is pleased to present the following exclusive interview with Brother Alexis Bugnolo, author of the From Rome blog and editor of The Franciscan Archive.

Br. Alexis Bugnolo
RC: Br. Alexis, what initially drew you to the Order of St. Francis?

Br. A: When I was but a lad, I had the habit of watching TV. I played a game with my brother to see who could identify the good guy and the bad guy first. To win this game, I observed many characters in many movies and tried to synthesize the most accurate criterion to make such a judgement. I determined that it was this: that good guys always told the truth, but bad guys did not always tell the truth. That enabled me to win the game with my brother. After some time, I came to the conclusion that the most noble thing to do was always tell the truth. And I began to love truth for its own sake.

When I heard the Gospel one Sunday at Mass: "I have come to give witness to the truth and all who are on the side of truth, harken to My Voice!" I realized that I must take Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom I already knew as God, to be my leader and teacher. It was months later when I heard the Gospel again, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life", that I felt a terribly strong desire to follow Him and remain loyal to Him forever. But I did not know how. I knew of no religious. I only wanted to imitate the Apostles in a general sort of way.

In college, a member of the Third Order of St. Francis put the Little Flowers of St. Francis in my hands. I was taken by St Francis' example, his love for Christ Crucified and most of all with his logical argument: for St. Francis had said, "If a great king were to offer you a globe-sized lump of gold in exchange for a lump of gold in your hand, would you refuse him? How much more, if Our Lord Jesus Christ would offer you eternal life if you sacrificed your own life to follow after Him?" I found the poverello's logic perfect and indisputable. From then on, I wanted to be a Franciscan.  But I did not know of any who were faithful and not Modernists. So when a Carmelite Hermit told me about the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, I joined them.

RC: You recently announced your intention to found a Franciscan monastery of the Ancient Observance, and that you are currently accepting applications from men who desire to live a life of prayer and penance with special dedication to the ancient form of the Roman Rite, i.e. the traditional Latin Mass. What role do you see the Latin Mass playing in the restoration of religious life in the Church?

Br. A: There is only one true Faith, and God has preserved in the Church only one form of the Latin Rite throughout all the ages, which embodies that faith. St. Francis, desiring to be faithful to the Lord Jesus, desired to have this ancient liturgy which comes from St. Peter as the rite of his own order. He obtained this from Pope Innocent III, who was delighted with this inspiration, since that rite had fallen into disuse and remained extant in only three copies of liturgical books, one of which was unusable, one of which was kept in the private chapel of the Pope, and one of which he gave to St. Francis to be copied.  His order copied this and spread it to the whole world. It was the Franciscan Order which compiled these books into one tome, and termed it the Missale Regulare, the Missal required by the Rule of St. Francis.  When St. Pius V, 300 years later, in his Apostolic Constitution of 1570 made the Ancient Roman Rite the liturgical norm for the dioceses of the Latin Rite, he took the Franciscan Missale and renamed it the Missale Romanum. This Missale God the Holy Spirit, by His Divine providence, chose to spread the Faith to the whole world, from East to West. What better tool for evangelization and conversion can anyone propose, but that which God Himself and His Saints have chosen? There is absolutely no argument against such facts.

RC: Everyone is familiar with the harrowing repression suffered by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate for what has been labelled a "traditionalist drift." Given that you are seeking to found a monastic community dedicated to the traditional Latin Mass and a strict observance of the Rule of St. Francis, are you expecting and/or prepared to undergo similar trials?

Br. A: You have to be.

RC: Br. Alexis, your blog From Rome has devoted substantial space to uncovering and documenting the "Team Bergoglio" Affair, and maintains a detailed chronology of events beginning with the release of Austen Ivereigh's biography of Pope Francis in November of last year. Could you give a brief summary of the key points in the "Team Bergoglio" Affair for our readers, explaining what is at stake and why it is important?

Br. A: Austin Ivereigh alleges that 9 Cardinals collaborated to garnish 25 votes for Cardinal Bergoglio in the first ballot of the 2013 Conclave on March 12 of that year. Their mutually shared intention and collaboration is morally equivalent to an agreement or pact to vote for Bergoglio and not to vote for anyone else. Those who participated by soliciting or promising votes were excommunicated in virtue of the papal law Universi Dominici Gregis of Pope John Paul II, paragraph 81, with ipso facto excommunication. Since that law does not exempt the papal election from the general norms of canon law, and since the 1983 Code does not exempt papal laws from its own norms, unless specified, any irregularity must be judged according to the 1983 Code, which declares invalidly elected those who were excommunicated at the time of the election and/or won their election by counting votes of excommunicated electors. It is highly morally improbable that Cardinal Bergoglio did not collaborate in the work of this group of Cardinals, whom Ivereigh names "Team Bergoglio". Thus, because, as Bergoglio admitted in March of this year, he was elected by no more than 80 votes, 76 being the necessary - thus of the approx 20 cardinals who did promise their votes - it is highly morally improbable that less than 4 met the conditions for excommunication. Thus, it is highly probable that the election was canonically invalid. Thus, the Cardinals should move an investigation and hold a trial, in virtue of the authority granted them in the papal law, paragraphs 4-5.

RC: How would you describe the reactions you have received to your reporting on the affair?

Br. A: Silence from the hierarchy. Consternation from the faithful.

RC: Br. Alexis, you were the initiator of the #Y4Tc (A Year for True Conversion) campaign, offered as a counter-measure to Pope Francis' Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Why were you compelled to launch this campaign?

Br. A: There is nothing more disgusting to my soul than to use religion for the sake of political goals, for it denigrates the Divine Majesty and makes of God a tool for men, which is an abomination.

RC: Now that the Papal Bull Misericordiae Vultus has been issued, do you see your initial concerns confirmed?

Br. A: Yes, as in that Bull there is no call for repentance for sinners, only for mafia, pilgrims and confessors. There is a radical absence of proper theology in it, and it looks like a number of hands attempted to rewrite it to pull it away as much as possible from patent heretical statements. It remains silly, nevertheless, to laud Vatican II with anything, let alone a year of mercy without repentance and recognition of sin which must be repented of.

St. Bonaventure's Commentaries
on the Four Books of Sentences
Master Peter Lombard
RC: Br. Alexis, you are also the editor and publisher of The Franciscan Archive, a web-based resource dedicated to St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality. One of the major accomplishments of the Archive has been the publication of the first volume of St. Bonaventure's Commentaries on the Four Books of Sentences of Master Peter Lombard. When can readers expect further publications? Will this work be continued if your plans with the monastery move ahead?

Br. A: The first tome was published last fall; God willing, the following tomes every two years. Yes, I would expect the friars of the monastery to want to study Bonaventure and make him the patron of studies.

RC: Br. Alexis, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to answer these questions.

Br. A: You're very welcome.

America's Scholastic Roots

Quo vadis, Carolus?
Catholic Founding Father
Charles Carroll (1737-1832)
I'm not a big fan of American political commentary, but I do read the odd opinion piece now and again. One such piece, penned by Patrick J. Buchanan and published on his blog a week ago, especially caught my attention. Entitled The Long Retreat in the Culture War, it laments the capitulation rendered by America's political and religious conservatives in the face of the cultural revolution which has been advancing virtually unchecked since the 1960's. On every important front, from religion in the public square to marriage and the family to human sexuality, the progressives have not only taken the field, but have been allowed to dictate the terms of the surrender. Mr. Buchanan tries hard to end the piece on a positive note, but there's very little he can offer in the way of an encouraging counterbalance. The situation is grim, and we would do well to come to grips with it sooner rather than later.

The reasons why America lost - some would say sold for a song - its own soul are many and far too complex to treat in anything approaching sufficient detail in a blog post. But I recently discovered an interesting piece of the puzzle which deserves more thoughtful consideration. The discovery came by way of a book with the following title:

Education of the Founding Fathers of the Republic
Scholasticism in the Colonial Colleges:
A Neglected Chapter in the History of American Education
James J. Walsh M.D, Ph.D, Sc.D., E.D., etc.
Fordham University Press

As you might have guessed from that title, the book sets out to demonstrate that the Founding Fathers of the American Republic - indeed, nearly all educated Americans up through the middle of the 19th century - were intimately familiar with Scholastic philosophy and the medieval methods of teaching and study, and that this familiarity imparted the intellectual and moral foundation upon which the Founding Fathers conceived the new nation. Walsh writes:
The Founding Fathers of our republic, then, were educated according to the academic traditions which had been formulated in the earlier Middle Ages by Boethius, sometimes hailed as the father of Scholasticism, developed under St. Anselm in the eleventh century, reaching their culmination in the mind of Aquinas and the group contemporary with him in the thirteenth century when there came the conciliation of Scholastic doctrines with Aristotle, thus welding together the whole course of philosophic thought.
Walsh develops the thesis in great detail, providing a careful analysis of the so-called Commencement Theses debated publicly by examinees at the great American universities, such as Harvard, Princeton, the College of Rhode Island (Brown University) and King's College (Columbia University) from the middle of the 17th to the beginning of the 19th century. He continues:
A definitely revolutionary change came over the content and the method of college and university education during the first half of the nineteenth century. [...] Scholastic philosophy, which had been the basic element of education in practically all the institutions of learning in our western civilization from the early Middle Ages down to this time, was gradually dropped from the college curriculum in all except distinctly Catholic educational institutions.
The effect of this change was dramatic. Walsh writes:
Almost needless to say, this alteration in the subjects to which the student devoted their efforts, especially during the last two years of their college course, involved a profound modification of the method and content of education. The acquisition of information now took the place to a great extent of training in thoughtfulness and in discrimination of truth from falsity on which so much emphasis had been laid in the older time.
As to the motivation behind this change away from the sound principles of Scholasticism and critical thinking and towards novel theories of education and data-gathering bordering on pursuit of the trivial, I leave it to the interested reader to peruse the volume for himself and draw his own conclusions. But the following passage is very much worth noting in this regard:
It is probably easier to fool people now than ever before. Many refuse to believe that and lay the flattering unction to their souls that we are an intelligent, discriminating people, but the stock market and its devotees, our wonder-working patent medicines, the ease with which our people fall for all sorts of frauds as well as the prevalence of political chicanery and the naivete of voters, demonstrate very clearly the ease with which our generation may be duped. We have been filling students' memories with large numbers of facts but we have not trained them in that intellectual discrimination so important to the making of distinctions between what is true and what seems true and noting how close to each other truth and falsity may be under a great many circumstances. After all, half truths are more dangerous than whole lies.
Given what we know about the relationship between Scholastic philosophy and the recognition of human nature, natural law and the objective moral order - if you need something of a refresher on this extremely important subject, I recommend the brief but thoroughly accessible article by Logan Paul Gage entitled Darwin, Design and Thomas Aquinas - is it any surprise that the abandonment of Scholastic education was followed by an inability on the part of the people to intelligently self-govern as envisioned by the Founding Fathers? Or that today's average American conservative seems utterly incapable of making a cogent moral argument without referencing the Bible?

Those who are interested may download a pdf of the above-mentioned work here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Deadly Sins

Eighth in a Series on Catholic Morals

Fr. John H. Stapleton

Gerard van der Kuijl (1604-1673)

You can never cure a disease till you get at the seat or root of the evil. It will not do to attack the several manifestations that appear on the surface, the aches and pains and attendant disorders. You must attack the affected organ, cut out the root of the evil growth, and kill the obnoxious germ. There is no other permanent remedy; until this is done, all relief is but temporary.

And if we desire to remove the distemper of sin, similarly it is necessary to seek out the root of all sin. We can lay our finger on it at once; it is inordinate self-love.

Ask yourself why you broke this or that commandment. It is because it forbade you a satisfaction that you coveted, a satisfaction that your self-love imperiously demanded; or it is because it prescribed an act that cost an effort, and you loved yourself too much to make that effort. Examine every failing, little or great, and you will trace them back to the same source. If we thought more of God and less of ourselves we would never sin. The sinner lives for himself first, and for God afterwards.

Strange that such a sacred thing as love, the source of all good, may thus, by abuse, become the fountainhead of all evil! Perhaps, if it were not so sacred and prolific of good, its excess would not be so unholy. But the higher you stand when you tumble, the greater the fall; so the better a thing is in itself, the more abominable is its abuse. Love directed aright, towards God first, is the fulfillment of the Law; love misdirected is the very destruction of all law.

Yet it is not wrong to love oneself; that is the first law of nature. One, and one only being, the Maker, are we bound to love more than ourselves. The neighbor is to be loved as ourselves. And if our just interests conflict with his, if our rights and his are opposed to each other, there is no legitimate means but we may employ to obtain or secure what is rightly ours. The evil of self-love lies in its abuse and excess, in that it goes beyond the limits set by God and nature, that it puts unjustly our interests before God's and the neighbor's, and that to self it sacrifices them and all that pertains to them. Self, the "ego," is the idol before which all must bow.

Self-love, on an evil day, in the garden of Eden, wedded sin, Satan himself officiating under the disguise of a serpent; and she gave birth to seven daughters like unto herself, who in turn became fruitful mothers of iniquity. Haughty Pride, first-born and queen among her sisters, is inordinate love of one's worth and excellence, talents and beauty; sordid Avarice or Covetousness is excessive love of riches; loathsome Lust is the third, and loves carnal pleasures without regard for the law; fiery Anger, a counterpart of pride, is love rejected but seeking blindly to remedy the loss; bestial Gluttony worships the stomach; green-eyed Envy is hate for wealth and happiness denied; finally Sloth loves bodily ease and comfort to excess. The infamous brood! These parents of all iniquity are called the seven deadly sins. They assume the leadership of evil in the world and are the seven arms of Satan.

As it becomes their dignity, these vices never walk alone or go unattended, and that is the desperate feature of their malice. Each has a cortège of passions, a whole train of inferior minions, that accompany or follow. Once entrance is gained and a free hand is given, there is no telling the result. Once seated and secure, the passion seeks to satisfy itself; that is its business. Certain means are required to this end, and these means can be procured only by sinning. Obstacles often stand in the way and new sins furnish steps to vault over, or implements to batter them down. Intricate and difficult conditions frequently arise as the result of self-indulgence, out of which there is no exit but by fresh sins. Hence the long train of crimes led by one deadly sin towards the goal of its satisfaction, and hence the havoc wrought by its untrammeled working in a human soul.

This may seem exaggerated to some; others it may mislead as to the true nature of the deadly sins, unless it be dearly put forth in what their malice consists. Deadly sins are not, in the first place, in themselves, sins; they are vices, passions, inclinations or tendencies to sin, and we know that a vice is not necessarily sinful. Our first parents bequeathed to us as an inheritance these germs of misery and sin. We are all in a greater or lesser degree prone to excess and to desire unlawful pleasures. Yet, for all that, we do not of necessity sin. We sin when we yield to these tendencies and do what they suggest. The simple proneness to evil, devoid of all willful yielding is therefore not wrong. Why? Because we cannot help it; that is a good and sufficient reason.

These passions may lie dormant in our nature without soliciting to evil; they may, at any moment, awake to action with or without provocation. The sight of an enemy or the thought of a wrong may stir up anger; pride may be aroused by flattery, applause or even compliments; the demon of lust may make its presence known and felt for a good reason, for a slight reason, or for no reason at all; gluttony shows its head at the sight of food or drink, etc.

He who deliberately and without reason arouses a passion, and thus exposes himself imprudently to an assault of concupiscence, is grievously guilty; for it is to trifle with a powerful and dangerous enemy and it betokens indifference to the soul's salvation.

Suggestions, seductions, allurements follow upon the awakening of these passions. When the array of these forces comes in contact with the will, the struggle is on; it is called temptation. Warfare is the natural state of man on earth. Without it, the world here below would be a paradise, but life would be without merit.

In this unprovoked and righteous battle with sin, the only evil to be apprehended is the danger of yielding. But far from being sinful, the greater the danger, the more meritorious the struggle. It matters not what we experience while fighting the enemy. Imagination and sensation that solicit to yielding, anxiety of mind and discouragement, to all this there is no wrong attached, but merit.

Right or wrong depends on the outcome. Every struggle ends in victory or defeat for one party and in temptation there is sin only in defeat. A single act of the will decides. It matters not how long the struggle lasts; if the will does not capitulate, there is no sin.

This resistance demands plenty of energy, a soul inured to like combats and an ample provision of weapons of defense - faith, hatred of sin, love of God. Prayer is essential. Flight is the safest means, but is not always possible. Humility and self-denial are an excellent, even necessary, preparation for assured victory.

No man need expect to make himself proof against temptation. It is not a sign of weakness; or if so, it is a weakness common to all men. There is weakness only in defeat, and cowardice as well. The gallant and strong are they who fight manfully. Manful resistance means victory, and victory makes one stronger and invincible, while defeat at every repetition places victory farther and farther beyond our reach.

Success requires more than strength, it requires wisdom, the wisdom to single out the particular passion that predominates in us, to study its artifices and by remote preparation to make ourselves secure against its assaults. The leader thus exposed and its power for evil reduced to a minimum, it will be comparatively easy to hold in check all other dependent passions.