Tag Archives: The Catholic Thing

Wanted: A New Height of Vision – The Catholic Thing

This year marks the 40thanniversary of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s famous Harvard commencement address, “A World Split Apart.”  Five months after he delivered it, Karol Wojtyła was elected pope. Both men, from Communist lands, gave warnings to the West. How was Solzhenitsyn’s diagnosis different? How has it stood up over time?

 We are used to commencement addresses that are left-wing stand-up comedy. But Solzhenitsyn did not go to Harvard to tell jokes. He promised bitterness. “Truth eludes us,” he began, “if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter.”

Likewise, Solzhenitsyn rejected social self-righteousness. The horrors of Nazism and Communism had taught him sober self-knowledge: “There is nothing that so assists the awakening of omniscience within us as insistent thoughts about one’s own transgressions, errors, mistakes,” he wrote in The Gulag Archipelago. “I remember myself in my Captain’s shoulder boards and the forward march of my battery through East Prussia, enshrouded in fire, and I say: ‘So were we any better?’”

What would you have said was the main problem in the West in 1978?  For Solzhenitsyn, “the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days is a decline in courage.” But before you think of Jordan Peterson, consider that he means not so much personal manliness but strength of will in public life: “The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society.”

Clearly, Solzhenitsyn judges societies based on the character traits that they form. He effectively runs through the cardinal virtues, arguing that our successes have led to moral decline. He decries the “welfare state,” by which he means, interestingly, not the habilitation of dependents by government, but a society devoted solely to material prosperity: “It has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment.” So why should someone like that risk his life for any higher good?

Veritas: Solzhenitsyn at Harvard (6/8/78)

Moderation suffers, too, because freedoms are exploited to the full without self-restraint. We enjoy much freedom for evil, he says, but freedom for good hardly exists, as those who want to accomplish good get tripped up on every side. “Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror.”

As for justice, it gets replaced by legalism: “Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. . . .Nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint.”

The “culture of death” plays no role in the speech. But a criticism of abortion might, by friendly amendment, be placed here. We tend to think of the putative abortion right as “substantive due process,” the opposite of legalism. Someone who accepted Solzhenitsyn’s analysis, however, might say, “Of course it’s wrong and should be forbidden. It is claimed that it must be allowed only on a legalistic pretext, ‘what the constitution says.’  So let’s be clear and say: that is not its true basis at all.”

We can hardly believe it now, but it was true, that incipient “political correctness” then involved ignoring the evils of Communism: “There is a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation, which works as a sort of petrified armor around people’s minds. Human voices from seventeen countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it.” Without any censorship, he says, the media was marching in lockstep to preserve this viewpoint.

It is not that liberalism failed, but that it abandoned the medieval heritage that it had always required. Thus it failed to realize the synthesis of material and spiritual goods which was its original promise:

In American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims.

Both the West and Communism reveal the failure of materialism.  The path forward for the West, however, is not a reform, but something completely new. The only truths it is willing publicly to affirm are “ossified formulas of the Enlightenment,” a “social dogmatism” inadequate to the trials we must face. Solzhenitsyn seems to agree with Marx on one point: that liberalism is on an inevitable path to, first, radicalism, then socialism, then Communism.  “Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism,” but the West as currently constituted seems to lack the resources to do this.

“The world has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.”

Michael Pakaluk

Michael Pakaluk

Michael Pakaluk, an Aristotle scholar and Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, is professor at the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. He lives in Hyattsville, MD, with his wife Catherine, also a professor at the Busch School, and their eight children.

 

The Dating Project – The Kids Aren’t Alright

The Dating Project

 

The Kids Aren’t Alright

Tomorrow (4/17/18), Fathom Events (best known for short-run theatrical re-releases of classic films and for simulcasting opera live to movie theaters) will present in 750 “cinemas nationwide” a documentary directed by Jonathan Cipiti entitled The Dating Project (click on the title to find a theater in your area: I found three near me).

The film is co-produced by Paulist Productions, Mpower Pictures, and Family Theater Productions – with distribution by the aforementioned Fathom and by Pure Flix.

It seems to me a bold plan, indeed, to hope to fill seats on a spring Tuesday with folks – mostly young ones, I presume – eager to watch a film about why it is so difficult to date in 2018, which is what the film is about.

The Project began in the Boston College classroom of Professor Kerry Cronin, who teaches classics and who noticed that her students are moving romantically through their teens and twenties like so many billiard balls: having glancing collisions with the opposite sex in which the traditional subtext of marriage isn’t even part of the game. Girls go to places where they know boys will be (and vice versa), and there they may “hook up,” a dreadful phrase (and a more dreadful reality) describing everything from “Let’s go to the local ristorante for a pizza” to “Let’s go to my place and have sex.” (read more….)

 

RIP Father Matthew Lamb: Pater et Magister

RIP Father Matthew Lamb: Pater et Magister

(The Catholic Thing, 1/13/2018)

Note: Fr. Matthew Lamb was, since its founding in 1999, a member of the Advisory Board of the Faith & Reason Institute, the parent institution of The Catholic Thing. He was a dear friend and his passing is a great loss to America and the Church. – Robert Royal

In his doctoral colloquia on the ancients and the moderns, Fr. Lamb was fond of observing Socrates’ final line from the Apology, “But now it is time to go away, I to die and you to live. Which of us goes to a better thing is unclear to everyone except to the god.” A lifelong lover of Plato and Aristotle, Fr. Lamb never hesitated, however, to affirm the newness of the Gospel and its promise of eternal life. Unlike Socrates, we now know that death has become a dies natalis, a day of birth, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word.

The Book of Sirach says, “Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations. . . .men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding. . . .leaders of the people in their deliberations and in understanding of learning for the people, wise in their words of instruction.” Over the course of a priestly vocation and theological career spanning Vatican II and the subsequent fifty years, Fr. Matthew Lamb was indeed among such great men.

He was born in 1937 and entered a Trappist monastery just before his fifteenth birthday. For many years, he lived the Trappist life of prayer and work, silence, and fasting – and of studying the Scripture, the Fathers, Aquinas, as well as contemporary theological scholarship.

During the 1960s, his abbot suggested that he go to Rome to earn advanced degrees in theology. There he encountered Bernard Lonergan, a scholar and teacher who inspired countless Catholic theologians who would go on to impact Catholic theology around the globe. In his later years, he would describe Lonergan’s influence, especially in relation to a deepening of his understanding of the wisdom found in Augustine and Aquinas.

After earning an STL from the Gregorianum in Rome, he went to study at the University of Münster, Germany under Johann Baptist Metz. He completed his Doctorate in Theology (Dr. Theol.) “Summa cum laude” and earned the University Prize for the best dissertation in Catholic Theology in 1974.

From that time forward, he dedicated himself to a singular task: the formation of doctoral students in the Catholic theological tradition. Fr. Lamb’s doctoral instruction would span five decades, first at Marquette, then Boston College, and finally Ave Maria University, where he founded and directed the Patrick F. Taylor Graduate Programs in Theology. Fr. Lamb’s doctoral students now teach across the United States and abroad, in seminaries, colleges, and universities.

Father Lamb

In 1990, he published an epochal essay in America Magazine entitled, “Will There Be Catholic Theology in the United States?” He went public with the beginning of what he would lightheartedly call “Lamb’s Lamentations.” He cautioned against what he termed the “Protestantization” of Catholic theology, combined with the loss of knowledge of Latin and Greek, which left students estranged from the sources of the Catholic theological tradition.

He became increasingly concerned that more and more Catholic theologians “no longer know what they don’t know.” He warned in a 1997 essay that over 90 percent of systematic theologians were doing dissertations focused on recent figures, with the result that real grounding in – as well as well as fidelity to – the dogmatic tradition was no longer being handed on to the next generation.

So he labored many years to pass along to students the intellectual patrimony he had received, culminating in his directing almost fifty dissertations and serving as a reader on almost as many others. He published over a hundred and sixty articles dealing with Augustine, Aquinas, Lonergan, theological method, political theology, modernism, communication theory, and the writings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In 2002, he received an honorary doctorate from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in recognition of his contributions to the renewal of Catholic theology.

In 2003, Fr. Lamb delivered the academic convocation address at the newly-founded Ave Maria University. He challenged the young institution to strive to unite the first millennium’s quest for wisdom and holiness within the monastic traditions and the second millennium’s search for science and scholarship within the universities, a unity that he perceived had been severed over time causing great injury to society and the practice of theology.

To issue such a challenge took much understanding of the Church’s theological patrimony and much experience of the Church’s tradition of prayer. What took greater courage, however, was that Fr. Lamb was willing to leave his established position at Boston College and join this small institution with the fixed purpose of establishing and sustaining graduate programs in theology. Fr. Lamb became a champion for an authentic reception of Vatican II as a renewal within tradition.

In Fides et Ratio, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, “It must not be forgotten that reason too needs to be sustained in all its searching by trusting dialogue and sincere friendship. A climate of suspicion and distrust, which can beset speculative research, ignores the teaching of the ancient philosophers who proposed friendship as one of the most appropriate contexts for sound philosophical inquiry.”In Christ, Fr. Lamb fostered such relationships of friendship that sustained authentic inquiry into the realities of the Catholic faith. In addition to being a father and teacher to so many students, young and old, clerical and lay, he also became a friend.

Fr. Lamb passed through the portals of death on January 12, 2018. He died, as was providentially fitting, with two doctoral students praying and keeping vigil at his bedside throughout the night. In the many funeral Masses he had celebrated for others, he would often say that “they now see what we only believe.” He would say this with real joy, however, not with the sighs and half-hopes that one often feels. In his daily life, he felt himself in a living communion with Christ Jesus.

Fr. Lamb passed through the portals of death on January 12, 2018. He died, as was providentially fitting, with two doctoral students praying and keeping vigil at his bedside throughout the night. In the many funeral Masses he had celebrated for others, he would often say that “they now see what we only believe.” He would say this with real joy, however, not with the sighs and half-hopes that one often feels. In his daily life, he felt himself in a living communion with Christ Jesus.

Let us pray that through the abundant divine mercy he is now gazing in that most loving and beatifying vision upon the most holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

How to Destroy Catholicism in America – The Catholic Thing

 

How to Destroy Catholicism in America

May I respectfully recommend a study of the history of liberal Protestantism in the USA? You will soon see that today’s liberal Catholics are traveling down the same road that liberal Protestants traveled down earlier – that is, a road to destruction.

It’s hard to blame the old Protestants for what they did, for they didn’t know where this road led. They were pioneers, they were cutting a path in the religious wilderness. They feared that traditional Christianity was becoming unbelievable; that if they didn’t modernize their religion by dropping certain old-fashioned doctrines, modern men and women would no longer be able to accept Christianity.

As it turned out, to modernize Christianity, at least if you carry this modernization process beyond a certain limited point, is to destroy it. Look at the liberal Protestant denominations today. All of them are shrinking rapidly in numbers. All of them have lost much of their once-great social influence.

But liberal Catholics don’t have this excuse. They can’t very well say, “We didn’t know where our liberalism was taking the Church.” For they have the precedent of liberal Protestantism in front of them. Their ignorance is vincible – and culpable.

Liberal Christians, beginning with the Boston Unitarians of the late 1700s and early 1800s, always “improve” Christianity according to the same pattern. The pattern is this: You attempt to blend what seems to you to be the essentials of Christianity with the best in whatever happens to be the fashionable anti-Christianity of the day. This synthesis, partly Christian and partly anti-Christian, will, of course, be incoherent; but at the moment you’re creating it, it looks pretty good.

In the generation after the American Revolution, the fashionable form of anti-Christianity was Deism. And so the Boston Unitarians said in effect, “While Deism is very wrong in its rejection of Christianity, the Deists, it must be admitted, make a few good points. So let’s toss out the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ and Original Sin. We’ll then have a purified Christianity.”

In the post-Civil War era, the fashionable form of anti-Christianity was a triple-headed threat: (1) agnosticism; (2) evolutionary theory; plus (3) a skeptical higher criticism of the Bible. Liberal Protestants responded by becoming near-agnostics while arguing that Christianity is far more about morality than knowledge: doctrine is of little real importance.

They became evolutionists, holding not just that biological species have evolved (under God’s guidance) but that religion itself has evolved, Christianity being but its latest result, and we should expect more evolution in the future. As for the Bible . . . oh, well. It abounds in errors, but it’s still a very good book.

Thomas Jefferson’s cut-and-paste Bible

In the 1960s and 1970s the fashionable form of anti-Christianity was the sexual revolution – a total rejection of traditional Christian sexual morality and, by implication, a rejection of virtually all the rest of Christian teaching; for if Christianity had been wrong for all these centuries about sex, wasn’t it likely that it was wrong about almost everything else?

As usual, liberal Protestants responded by blending Christianity (what was left of it) with this form of anti-Christianity, announcing that Christianity, correctly understood, was perfectly compatible with fornication, homosexuality, and abortion.

Liberal Protestant thinkers remind me of certain U.S. Supreme Court justices. The latter “find” things in the Constitution that aren’t there (e.g., rights to abortion and same-sex marriage). The former “find” things in the Bible that aren’t there. They claim that the Bible, rightly understood, mandates the watering down of Biblical religion and morality.

It’s as if the most important teaching of the Bible is, “Don’t take the Bible too seriously.” In reality, of course, they find these new “truths” not in the Bible but in the anti-Christianity that happens to be flourishing at the moment, much as some German Protestants in the 1930s “found” – mirabile dictu – that the Bible justified Nazism.

Anybody familiar with the history of modernizing Protestantism cannot help but see this same thing going on today among many Catholics. Catholics, it is true, are moving in this direction only gradually, and this for a few reasons.

For one, they got into the game much later than Protestants did. Second, the RC Church still has bishops in places of authority, even though many bishops are reluctant, or unable, to wield their authority. Third, the Nicene or Apostles Creed is still recited at Mass, which serves as an obstacle to kicking orthodoxy completely out the door.

Orthodox Catholic morality, however, especially sexual morality, is not included in the Creeds. And so it’s easier to get rid of. You get rid of it in three steps.

Step one: silence. You don’t talk about it, or you very rarely talk about it. Most Catholic leaders today are shy about teaching Catholic sexual doctrine. In some cases, this is because they don’t really believe in it, but in most cases it is probably because they don’t want to offend folks in the pews. When it comes to the sexual behavior of gays and lesbians, our leaders know that public opinion increasingly views it as shockingly un-American or un-Christian to disapprove of homosexual sodomy.

Step two: you modify that old saying about “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Instead, you love the sinner so much that don’t bother mentioning the sin, for that would hurt the feelings of the well-loved sinner, and that would be a sin against Christian charity, wouldn’t it? The most conspicuous example of this today is the small book by Fr. James Martin, S.J., Building a Bridge. Fr. Martin tells us he is fully orthodox. I don’t doubt his sincerity, but I know, having studied the history of liberal Protestantism, where Fr. Martin, whatever his intentions may be, is leading us.

Step three: you declare that the Church will eventually, maybe 50 or 100 years from now, come around to your opinion. You argue that your apparent heresy is really nothing but premature orthodoxy.

That’s the sure-fire, historically proven way to destroy the Catholic religion in America.

David Carlin

David Carlin

David Carlin is professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.

Source: How to Destroy Catholicism in America – The Catholic Thing

A Contemporary Examination of Conscience – The Catholic Thing

A Contemporary Examination of Conscience

Marian Crowe

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I recently decided to go to Confession – or Reconciliation as it is now called. Because I hadn’t been to the sacrament for a long time, I looked for one of those guides for preparing for confession. The one I found, however, had an examination of conscience that seemed hopelessly out of date. I decided to make up my own, one that adequately reflects a contemporary understanding of morality. In the old days the idea

Source: A Contemporary Examination of Conscience – The Catholic Thing

A Portrait of the Portrait Painter – The Catholic Thing

A Portrait of the Painter – By

A Portrait of the Portrait Painter By Fr. Robert P. Imbelli Thursday, September 21, 2017 A foible common to movers and shakers, whether clerical or lay, is a penchant for checking the index of a newly published book to see whether their names appear – and how often. I suspect that George Weigels newest book will provoke a good deal of surreptitious peeking. Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II recounts, in fascinating and insightful detail, the providential encounters that…….

Source: The Catholic Thing