Monday, April 27, 2015

Ratzinger-Cafarra Assessments

The Ratzinger and Cafarra Interventions – April 27, 2015

Ratzinger’s Theological Intervention

In his address  at the Vatican Press Office, March 25, 2014,  Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, recalled that “Pope Emeritus Benedict, in his homily at the Opening Mass of the Synod on New Evangelization, said that there is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage….In 1998, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the same Pope emeritus as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger remarked that “further study is required… concerning the question of whether non-believing Christians – baptized persons who never or  who no longer believe in God – can truly enter into a sacramental marriage. In other words, it needs to be clarified whether every marriage between two baptized persons is ipso facto a sacramental marriage. In fact, the Code states that only a ‘valid’ marriage between baptized per sons is at the same time a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055, par. 3). Faith belongs to the essence of the sacrament; what remains to be clarified is the juridical question of what evidence of the ‘absence of faith’ would have as a consequence that the sacrament does not come into being.”[7]

                Theological Evaluation on Matrimony: Given the state of affairs of a world culture that is turned back on self as a “structure of sin” and trapped in a global economic ideology of self where the bottom line is profit and not gift; and given that faith in truth is an habitual state of being turned away from self as gift to Other, the real question is not so much trying to see where there may be “an absence of faith”  but where in fact, it may be present and  validating matrimony as a sacrament.

And since the true exercise of faith may be scarce, the real import of the pope’s enquiry into the possibility of communion for the divorced and remarried is to go deeply enough into discerning   the real state of validity to confront the fact that the entire ascetical culture of the Church must change. That it is not enough to “beef up” pre-Cana as entre into marriage, but the entire orientation of the Church toward sanctity in ordinary life must go through conversion.  That is, failure to approach matrimony as the ordinary way to achieve sanctity from baptism through family, classroom, pulpit, confessional, spiritual direction and pre-Cana will leave the sacrament invalidly administered because the attitude of the spousal-ministers was self, superficial, bourgeois and banal.                                                                    

Cafarra Intervention
To go yet a step further: Cardinal Carlo Cafarra suggests[1] there may be a more radical problem after the demolition of “natural marriage” in contemporary culture: for those who are asking for sacramental marriage, he asks, are they capable of natural marriage? Has there been such devastation, not of their faith but of their humanity, that they are no longer capable of marriage? Attention must certainly be paid to canons 1096 [of the 1983 Code of Canon Law] (“For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must at least not be ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring”) and 1099.”

* * * * * * * * 

I, blogger, take this to mean that a person can be so dumbed-down in his capacity to make the gift of self to another, i.e. so self-referential – so selfish -  that he is not capable of the level  of generosity necessary to be self-gift.  This would not be strange in a secularized culture of individuals who have lived only for self.  The natural language of love is gift of self to death, which is obviously the same in a Christian culture where  martyrdom for the love of Christ is the denoument of Christian life. In a word, sanctity. This is for all, Christian or not. The difference is that Christian culture and sacramental order empower s the person to achieve in fact and deed who he is as created image. The background to this is the revelation that man has been created in the image and likeness of the divine Person of the Son, and therefore, has the “natural” ontological tendency  to self gift to the Father .

Cafarra adds to this that the total gift of self demands that the intelligence be informed by absolute truth. At the moment, as Benedict XVI remarked in 2005, world culture is dominated by a relativist dictatorship. The Church, however, has in its arsenal the Magisterium of John Paul II, the Theology of the Body, which places the Truth that is the Person of Jesus Christ as the incarnate Absolute that can inform, theoretically and practically, the conjugal under taking.

[1] Inside the Vatican, April 2015, 33-35.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

This Text of Cafarra Must Be Studied. The Anthropological Question: "Has there been such devastation, not of their faith but of their humanity, that they are no longer capable of marriage?"


by Carlo Caffarra

I believe that it is necessary to make a clarification of terms, so as to be able to indicate with conceptual rigor what precisely is the theme of my reflection.

Faith: by this I mean the “fedes quae” concerning marriage. It is synonymous with the “gospel of marriage,” both in the objective sense - what the Gospel proposes concerning marriage - and in the subjective sense - the Gospel, the good news that is marriage. It is to be emphasized that I will not reflect on the doctrine of faith concerning marriage considered in and of itself, but as it is communicated in a precise cultural setting, that of the West. In brief: I will reflect upon the communication of the Christian proposal concerning marriage within Western culture.

And moving on to the second term: culture. By this I mean the shared vision of marriage today in the West. By vision I mean the manner of thinking about marriage, above all as it is expressed in the juridical structure of states and in the declarations of international bodies.

My reflection will be divided into three sections.

In the first I will seek to sketch an outline of the cultural condition in which marriage finds itself today in the West. 

In this second I will seek to identify the fundamental problems that this cultural condition presents to the Christian proposal concerning marriage. 

In the third I will indicate some fundamental ways in which the Gospel of marriage must be presented today.

1. Condition of marriage

"Rari nantes in gurgite vasto.” The famous verse of Virgil’s is a perfect snapshot of the condition of marriage in the West. The edifice of marriage has not been destroyed; it has been deconstructed, dismantled piece by piece. In the end we have all the pieces, but there is no edifice anymore.

There still exist all the categories that constitute the institution of marriage: conjugality; paternity-maternity; filiation-fraternity. But these no longer have any uniform significance.

Why and how was this deconstruction able to take place? Beginning to look deeper, we note that what is at work is an institutionalization of marriage that dispenses with the biosexual determination of the person. It becomes ever more thinkable to separate marriage completely from the sexuality proper to each of the two spouses. This separation has even come to be applied to the category of paternity-maternity.

The most important consequence of this debiologization of marriage is its reduction to a mere private emotion, without any fundamental public relevance.

The process that has led to the separation of the institution of marriage from the sexual identity of the spouses has been long and complex.

- The first phase is constituted by the way of thinking about the person’s relationship with his own body, a theme that has always accompanied Christian thought. I would like to describe how matters have progressed through a metaphor.

There are foods that when ingested can be metabolized without creating any problems, either immediate or remote; they neither cause indigestion nor raise the cholesterol. There are foods that, when ingested, are difficult to digest. Finally, there are foods that are harmful for the organism, even in the long term.

Christian thought has ingested the Platonic and Neoplatonic vision of man, and this decision has created serious problems of “metabolism.” As the medieval theologians liked to put it, the wine of faith was at risk of being turned into the water of Plato, rather than the water of Plato into the wine of faith.

Augustine saw very clearly and profoundly that the difficulty lay in the “humanitas-humilitas Verbi,” in his having become flesh, body.

The properly theological difficulty could not help but become also an anthropological difficulty concerning precisely the person-body relationship. The great thesis of Saint Thomas that affirmed the substantial unity of the person did not turn out to be victorious.

- Phase two. The separation of the body from the person finds a new impulse in the methodology characteristic of modern science, which bans from its object of study any reference to subjectivity, as an unmeasurable quantity. The process of separating the body from the person can be said to have been substantially concluded: the reduction, the transformation of the body into a mere object.

On the one hand, the biological aspect has been gradually expelled from the definition of marriage, and on the other, and as a result in terms of the definition of marriage, the categories of a subjectivity reduced to pure emotionalism have become central.

I will dwell on this for a bit. Before the debiologizing transformation, in substance the “genome” of marriage and family was constituted of the relationship between two other relationships: the relationship of reciprocity (conjugality) and the intergenerational relationship (paternity). All three relationships were interpersonal: they were considered as relationships rooted in the person. They certainly could not be reduced to the biological aspect, but the biological aspect was taken up and integrated within the totality of the person. The body is a person-body and the person is a body-person.

Now conjugality can be either heterosexual or homosexual; paternity can be obtained through a technical procedure. As Pier Paolo Donati has correctly demonstrated, what we are witnessing is not a morphological change but a change of the genome of the family and of marriage.

2. Problems raised for the Gospel of marriage

In this second section I would like to identify the fundamental problems that this cultural condition raises for the Christian presentation of marriage.

I think that this is not in the first place a problem of ethics, of human conduct. The condition in which marriage and the family find themselves today cannot be addressed in the first place with moral exhortations. It is a radically anthropological question that is situated within the proclamation of the Gospel of marriage. I would now like to specify in what sense.

- The first dimension of the anthropological question is the following: it is well known that according to Catholic teaching the sacrament of marriage coincides with natural marriage. I think that there can no longer be any theological doubt about the coinciding of the two, even if with and after Duns Scotus - the first to deny it - there has long been discussion in the Latin Church in this regard.

Now what the Church meant and means by “natural marriage” has been demolished in contemporary culture. If I may put it this way, the “matter” has been removed from the sacrament of marriage.

Theologians, canonists, and pastors are rightly asking about the faith-sacrament relationship of marriage. But there is a more radical problem. Those who are asking for sacramental marriage, are they capable of natural marriage? Has there been such devastation, not of their faith but of their humanity, that they are no longer capable of marriage? Attention must certainly be paid to canons 1096 (“For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must be at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring”) and 1099. Nevertheless, the “praesumptio iuris" of § 2 of canon 1096 (“This ignorance is not presumed after puberty”) must not be an occasion of disregard for the spiritual condition in which many find themselves with regard to natural marriage.

- The anthropological question has a second dimension. This consists in the inability to perceive the truth and therefore the preciousness of human sexuality. It seems to me that Augustine described this condition is the most precise way possible: “Submerged and blinded as I was, I was not capable of thinking of the light of truth and of a beauty that was worthy of being loved for its own sake and was not visible to the eyes of the flesh, but within” (Confessions VI 16, 26).

The Church must ask itself why it has in point of fact ignored the magisterium of Saint John Paul II on human sexuality and love. We must also ask ourselves is this: the Church possesses a great school in which it learns the profound truth of the body-person: the liturgy. How and why has it been unable to draw upon this also with regard to the anthropological question of which we are speaking? To what extend is the Church aware that “gender” theory is a real tsunami that is not aimed primarily at individual behavior but at the total destruction of marriage and the family?

In summary: the second fundamental problem that is raised today for the Christian presentation of marriage is the reconstruction of a theology and philosophy of the body and of sexuality capable of generating a new educational effort in the Church as a whole.

- The anthropological question raised by the condition in which the Christian presentation of marriage finds itself has a third dimension, and this is the most serious.

The collapse of reason in its straining toward the truth as spoken of in the encyclical “Fides et Ratio” (81-83) has brought along with it the will and freedom of the person. The impoverishment of reason has generated the impoverishment of freedom. As a result of the fact that we despair of our capacity to know a total and definitive truth, we have trouble believing that the human person can really give himself in a total and definitive way, and receive the total and definitive self-donation of another.

The proclamation of the Gospel of marriage has to do with a person whose will and freedom have been deprived of their ontological substance. This lack of substance gives rise to the person’s incapacity today to think about the indissolubility of marriage except in terms of a law “exterius data”: a measure inversely proportional to the measure of freedom. This is a very serious question in the Church as well.

The transition in civil law from divorce by fault to divorce by consent institutionalizes the condition in which the person finds himself today in the exercise of his freedom.

- With this last observation we have entered into the fourth and last dimension of the anthropological question raised for the Gospel of marriage: the internal logic of state legal systems concerning marriage and the family. Not so much the “quid juris,” but the “quid jus,” as Kant would say. On the question in general Benedict XVI expressed the magisterium of the Church in one of his fundamental discourses, the one he gave before the parliament of the German federal republic in Berlin on September 22, 2011.

Legal systems have been gradually uprooting family law from the nature of the human person. It is a sort of tyranny of artificiality that is being imposed, reducing legitimacy to procedure.

I have spoken of the “tyranny of artificiality.” Let’s take the case of the attribution of conjugality to homosexual cohabitation. While until now the legal system, starting from the presupposition of the natural capacity to contract marriage between man and woman, limited itself to determining the impediments to the exercise of this natural capacity or the form in which it had to be exercised, the current laws of equivalency attribute to themselves the authority to create the capacity to exercise the right to marry. The law arrogates to itself the authority to make artificially possible that which is not naturally so.

It would be a grave error to think - and act accordingly - that civil marriage has nothing to do with the Gospel of marriage, which would be concerned only with the sacrament of marriage. To abandon civil marriage to the tendencies of liberal societies.

3. Modality of the proclamation

In this third and final point I would like to indicate some ways in which the Christian presentation of marriage must not be made, and some ways in which it can be made.

Their are three ways that must be avoided.

The traditionalist modality, which confuses a particular form of being family with the family and marriage as such.

The catacomb modality, which chooses to return to or remain in the catacombs. Concretely: the “private virtues of the spouses” are enough; it is better to let marriage, from the institutional point of view, be defined by what liberal society decides.

The neighborly modality, which maintains that the culture of which I spoke above is an unstoppable historical process. It therefore proposes to come to terms with it, preserving that which seems recognizable in it as good.

I do not have time now to reflect longer on each of these three modalities, so I will move on to indicate a few positive modalities.

I will begin with an observation. The reconstruction of the Christian vision of marriage in the individual conscience and in the culture of the West is to be considered a long and difficult process. When a pandemic hits a population, the most urgent thing is certainly to care for those afflicted, but it is also necessary to eliminate the causes.

The first necessity is the rediscovery of the original evidence concerning marriage and the family. To remove from the eyes of the heart the cataract of the ideologies, which prevent us from seeing reality. It is the Socratic-Augustinian pedagogy of the inner teacher, not simply of consensus. That is: recovering that “know yourself” which has accompanied the spiritual journey of the West.

The original evidence is inscribed in the very nature of the human person. The truth of marriage is not a “lex exterius data,” but a "veritas indita.”

The second necessity is the rediscovery of the concurrence of natural marriage and the marriage sacrament. The separation of the two ends on the one hand with thinking of sacramentality as something extra, extrinsic, and risks on the other the abandonment of the institution of marriage to that tyranny of the artificial about which I spoke above.

The third necessity is the recovery of the “theology of the body” present in the magisterium of Saint John Paul II. Christian pedagogy today finds itself in need of a theological and philosophical effort that can no longer be pushed back or limited to a particular institution.

As you see, this is a matter of taking seriously that superiority of time over space of which “Evangelii Gaudium" speaks (222-225). I have indicated three processes rather than three urgent interventions.

I too, finally, am of the opinion of George Weigel that at the foundation of the synod discussion is the relationship that the Church wants to have with postmodernity, in which the wreckage of the deconstruction of marriage is the most dramatic and unmistakable reality.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Body and Blood of Christ is His Very Self: "Feel Me and See."

From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus

  We are his members and we are nourished by creatures, which is his gift to us, for it is he who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall. He declared that the chalice, which comes from his creation, was his blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood. He affirmed that the bread, which comes from his creation, was his body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body. When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the word of God, the eucharistic elements become the body and blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow. How then can it be said that flesh belonging to the Lord’s own body and nourished by his body and blood is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life? Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians that we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. He is not speaking of some spiritual and incorporeal kind of man, for spirits do not have flesh and bones. He is speaking of a real human body composed of flesh, sinews and bones, nourished by the chalice of Christ’s blood and receiving growth from the bread which is his body.If our flesh is not saved, then the Lord has not redeemed us with his blood, the eucharistic chalice does not make us sharers in his blood, and the bread we break does not make us sharers in his body. There can be no blood without veins, flesh and the rest of the human substance, and this the Word of God actually became: it was with his own blood that he redeemed us. As the Apostle says: In him, through his blood, we have been redeemed, our sins have been forgiven.

  The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things. The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s word they become the eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time, for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father. Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

From “Inside the Vatican:” Remarks of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick on Pope Francis, Church doctrine and divorce and remarriage in particular.

On March 19 in New York, Cardinal McCarrick said: “This Holy Father has been and will be faithful in the doctrine and teaching of the Church. He says it clearly… He’s not an obfuscator. He tells it like it is, because he wants people to hear it as it truly is.”

                Inside  the Vatican (Editorial: April 2015): "In his homily at one of the first Masses of his papacy, Francis said God never gets tired of forgiving us,but we sometimes get tired of asking him, McCarrick said. The cardinal predicted Pope Francis will address the issue of broken marriges by coaxing canon lawyers 'to develop better systems so we understand how the mercy of God can reach into circumstances that we dln't always understand, he said. I believe that so many marriages that were rightly and correctly celebrated are not valid, because people really don’t understand that this is forever,  with this one person, and in the hope of bringing children into the world.”[1]

[1] “Inside the Vatican” april 2015, Editorial by Robert Moynihan.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Election of Benedict XVI, 2005: Priorities of His Pontificate, by Cardinal Camillo Ruini

Ten Years Ago Today:

The priorities of Benedict XVI's pontificate

by Camillo Ruini

In the homily at the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI said that he had no program of his own, if not the one that comes to us from the Lord Jesus Christ. This was a clear reminder of what is essential in Christianity. The new pontificate also situated itself in substantial continuity with that of John Paul II, whose main collaborator in terms of decisive content was Joseph Ratzinger.

In this context, it is not difficult to identify some of the priorities of Benedict XVI's pontificate.

The first and greatest priority is God himself, that God who is too easily pushed to the edges of our lives, focused on "doing," especially through "techno-science," and on "enjoyment-consumption." That God is even expressly negated by an evolutionist "metaphysics" that reduces everything to nature, to matter-energy, to chance (random mutations) and to necessity (natural selection), or more often is said to be unknowable according to the principle that "latet omne verum," all truth is hidden, as a result of the restriction of the horizons of our reason to that which can be experienced and measured, according to the view now prevalent. That God, finally, who has been proclaimed "dead," with the assertion of nihilism and the resulting collapse of all certainty.

The first effort of the pontificate is therefore to reopen the road to God: but not, however, by having the agenda dictated by those who do not believe in God and rely only upon themselves. On the contrary, the initiative belongs to God, and this initiative has a name, Jesus Christ: God reveals himself to us in some manner in nature and conscience, but he has revealed himself in a direct and personal manner to Abraham, Moses, the prophets of the Old Testament, and in an unprecedented manner he has revealed himself in the Son, in the incarnation, cross, and resurrection of Christ. There are therefore two paths, that of our search for God and that of God who comes in search of us, but only the latter of these permits us to know the face of God, his deep mystery, his attitude toward us.

This brings us to the second priority of the pontificate: prayer. This is not only personal prayer, but also and above all prayer "in" and "of" the people of God and the body of Christ, meaning the liturgical prayer of the Church.

In the preface to the first volume of his "Opera omnia," recently published in German, Benedict XVI writes: "The liturgy of the Church has been, since my childhood, the central activity of my life, and also became the center of my theological work." We can add that today it is the center of his pontificate.

This brings us to a controversial point, especially after the motu proprio permitting the use of the preconciliar liturgy, and even more after the lifting of the excommunication from the four Lefebvrist bishops. But even before this, Joseph Ratzinger had made this point very clear. He was one of the great supporters of the liturgical movement that paved the way for the Council, and one of the main proponents of Vatican II, and has always remained so. But with the implementation of the liturgical reform in the first years following the Council, he opposed the prohibition against using the missal of St. Pius V, seeing this as an unnecessary cause of suffering for the many people who loved that liturgy, in addition to being a rupture with the previous praxis of the Church, which, in the successive reforms of the liturgy in history, had not prohibited the liturgies in use until then. As pontiff, he has thus believed it necessary to remedy this inconvenience by making it easier to use the Roman rite in its preconciliar form. He was also driven to do this by his fundamental duty as promoter of Church unity. Moreover, he was moving in the direction already begun by John Paul II. In this spirit, the lifting of excommunication was granted in order to facilitate the return of the Lefebvrists, but certainly not in order to dispense with the essential condition of this return, which is full acceptance of Vatican Council II, including the validity of the Mass celebrated according to the missal of Paul VI.

In the positive sense, Benedict XVI has clarified the interpretation of Vatican II in his speech to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005, distancing himself from the "hermeneutics of rupture," which has two forms: the prevalent one, which sees the Council as constituting a radical novelty, and "the spirit of the Council" as much more important than the letter of its texts; the other, on the opposite extreme, sees only the tradition before the Council as valid, and the Council as a rupture rife with harmful consequences, as the Lefebvrists themselves maintain.

Benedict XVI proposes instead the "hermeneutics of reform," or newness in continuity, supported before him by Paul VI and John Paul II: this means that the Council constitutes a great novelty, but in continuity with the one Catholic tradition. Only this kind of hermeneutics is theologically sustainable and pastorally fruitful.

We have thus brought to light another priority of the pontificate: to promote the implementation of the Council, on the basis of this hermeneutics.

Ten Years Ago Today

In the same perspective, we can speak of a "Christological" or "Christocentric" priority of the pontificate. This is expressed in particular in the book "Jesus of Nazareth," an unusual effort for a pope, to which Benedict XVI dedicated "all of his free moments." Jesus Christ, in fact, is the way of God the Father, he is the substance of Christianity, he is our only Savior.

For this reason, there is terrible danger in the separation between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, a separation that is the result of a unilateral absolutization of the historical-critical method, and more precisely an application of this method on the basis of the presupposition that God does not act in history. Such a presupposition, already by itself, represents in fact the negation of the Gospels and of Christianity. In this case as well, it is a matter of expanding the room for rationality, giving credit to a form of reasoning that is open, not closed, to the presence of God in history. This book puts us in contact with Jesus, and in this way introduces us into the substance, into the profundity and novelty of Christianity: reading it is an effort that costs a bit of exertion, but repays this abundantly.


At this point, we can return to the first priority, God, in order to take into consideration also the rational and cultural effort of Benedict XVI, for the purpose of opening contemporary reason to God and of making room for God in behavior and life, personal and social, public and private: particularly important here is the address in Regensburg, the more recent one in Paris, and also the one in Verona in 2006.

As for contemporary reason, Benedict XVI develops a "criticism from within" of scientific technological rationality, which today exercises cultural leadership. This criticism does not concern rationality in itself, which on the contrary has great value and merit, since it allows us to understand nature and ourselves as never before possible, and to improve enormously the practical conditions of our lives. It concerns, instead, its absolutization, as if this rationality constituted the only valid understanding of reality.

Such an absolutization does not proceed from science as such, nor from the great men of science, but rather from a "vulgate" that is very widespread and influential today, and yet is not science but a rather old and superficial philosophical interpretation of it. Science, in fact, owes its successes to its rigorous methodological limitation to that which can be experienced and measured. But if this limitation is universalized, by applying it not only to scientific research but to reason and human understanding and as such, it becomes unsustainable and inhuman, since it would prevent us from rationally pondering the decisive questions of our lives, which concern the meaning and purpose for which we exist, the orientation to give to our existence, and would force us to entrust the answer to these questions solely to our sentiments or arbitrary choices, detached from reason. This may be the most profound problem and also the drama of our present civilization.

Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI goes a step further, demonstrating that reflection on the very structure of scientific knowledge opens the way to God.

One fundamental characteristic of this knowledge is, in fact, the synergy between mathematics and experience, between hypotheses formulated mathematically and their experimental verification: this has produced the monumental, ever-increasing results that science is making available to us. But mathematics is a pure and "abstract" result of our rationality, which pushes beyond everything that we can imagine and represent materially: this happens in particular in quantitative physics – where a single mathematical formulation corresponds at the same time to the image of a wave, or of a particle – and in the theory of relativity, which implies the image of the "curvature" of space. The correspondence between mathematics and the real structures of the universe, without which our scientific predictions would not come true and our technologies would not work, therefore implies that the universe itself is structured in a rational manner, such that there exists a profound correspondence between the reason inside of us and the reason that is "objectified" in nature, or rather intrinsic to nature itself. But we must ask ourselves how this correspondence is possible: thus emerges the hypothesis of a creative Intelligence, which is at the origin of both nature and our rationality. The analysis, nonscientific but philosophical, of the conditions that make science possible therefore brings us back toward the "Logos," the Word of which Saint John speaks at the beginning of his Gospel.

Benedict XVI is not, however, a rationalist, he understands very well the obstacles that obscure our reason, the "strange penumbra" in which we live. For this reason, even at the philosophical level, he does not propose the reasoning that we have seen as an apodictic demonstration, but as "the best hypothesis," which requires on our part that we "renounce a position of domination and risk that of humble listening": the contrary, therefore, of the attitude that is widespread today, and is called "scientism."

In the same way, it cannot be called "scientific" to reduce man to a product of nature ultimately the same as all the others, denying that qualitative difference which characterizes our intelligence and our freedom. Such a reduction constitutes, in reality, the complete overturning of the point of departure for modern culture, which consisted in the defense of the human subject, or of his reason and freedom.

For this reason, as Benedict XVI said in Verona, precisely today the Christian faith presents itself as the "great yes" to man, to his reason and freedom, in a socio-cultural context in which individual freedom is emphasized on the social level, making it the supreme criterion of every ethical and legal decision, and in particular in "public ethics," while however denying freedom itself as a reality intrinsic to us, meaning as our personal capacity to choose and to decide, beyond biological, psychological, environmental, and existential conditioning and determinism.

Precisely the reestablishing of a genuine concept of freedom is another priority of the pontificate, the last of which I will speak.

This concerns personal and social life, both public structures and personal behaviors. Benedict XVI disputes, that is, the ethics and the conception of the role of the state and its secularism that he himself has called "the dictatorship of relativism," according to which there is nothing that is good or evil in itself, objectively, but everything must be subordinated to our personal decisions, which automatically become "rights of freedom." This excludes, at least on the public level, not only the ethical norms of Christianity and every other religious tradition, but also the ethical guidelines founded on the nature of man, meaning the profound reality of our being. This is a radical break, a genuine split with the history of humanity: a break that isolates the secularized West from the rest of the world.

In reality, personal freedom is intrinsically relative to other persons and to reality, it is freedom not only "from," but "with" and "for," it is shared freedom that is realized only in combination with responsibility. In concrete terms, Benedict XVI is sometimes accused of insisting unilaterally on anthropological and bioethical topics, like the family and human life, but in reality he similarly stresses social and environmental topics (although certainly without indulging in "ideological pollution"). His third encyclical, which is now imminent, will be dedicated to social topics. The common root of this twofold insistence is God's "yes" to man in Jesus Christ, and in the concrete it is the Christian ethics of love of neighbor, beginning with the weakest.

I conclude by returning to the beginning. Speaking in Subiaco the day before the death of John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger invited everyone, including men of good will who are unable to believe, to live "veluti si Deus daretur," as if God exists. But at the same time, he affirmed the need for men who keep their eyes focused on God, and act according to this focus. It is only in this way, in fact, that God can return in the world. This is the meaning and the purpose of the current pontificate.
Formation - The Supreme Affirmation of Our Worth: The Wounds

“Every single person is worth all the blood of Christ.” (Christ is Passing By #81)

“Bring here thy finger and see my hands…” (Jn. 20, 27).

Caravaggio - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.jpg

The Mercy of Forgiving Thomas and Leading His Hand Into the Wound

St. Josemaria Escriva: “How truly lovable is the Sacred Humanity of our God! – You ‘entered’ into the most holy Wound of your Lord’s right hand, and you asked me: ‘If one of Christ ‘s Wounds cleanses, heals, soothes, strengthens and kindles and enraptures, what will the five not do, open on the wood?’” (The Way #555).

                “This point refers to a mystical episode in the life of St. Josemaria, which he made anonymous in this text as was his custom. …We have the precise documentation. It happened in Burgos on 6 June 1938. He was going to the Monastery of Las Huelgas, where he was researching for his doctoral thesis. He was walking slowly, in the morning, praying. This is what he noted telegraphically that night:
                ‘Monday, 6 June: My morning prayer on my way to Huelgas guided by St. Joseph, with the light of the Holy Spirit, I entered into the Wound of the right hand of my Lord.’”
This supernatural event left him beset the whole day. When he wrote up his Notebook that nigh t, he was still in the Wound of Christ:

‘Dear Juanito: This morning, on my way to las Huelgas, where I went to do my prayer, I discovered a new world: the Most Holy Wound of our Lord’s right hand. I was there all day long, kissing and adoring. How truly lovable is the Sacred Humanity of our God! Pray that he give me that real love of his and with it completely purify all my other affections. It’s not enough to say, ‘Heart on the cross!’ Because if one of Christ’s wounds cleans, heals, soothes, strengthens, enkindles, and enraptures, what will the five not do, open on the wood? Heart on the cross! O my Jesus, what more could I ask for! I realize that if I continue contemplating in this way (St. Joseph, my father and lord, iis the one who led me there, after I asked him to enkindle me), I’ll end up chalao, crazier than ever. Try it yourself! […]

Much love. From the Wound of the right hand, your Father blesses you.

The tradition of Christian piety, follow ing the great Saints, has always ‘looked’ lovingly at the wounds of Christ and has ‘entered’ into them. The bibliography on this subject is enormous. As so many Christian faithful have done throughout the centuries, St. Josemaria recited each day after Mass, the prayer En Ego: ‘As I reflect on your five wounds and dwell upon them with deep compassion and grief’ he asked Jesus: ‘in your wounds shelter me.’ The Author’s insistence that it was the Wound of the right hand is impressive. In this regard I copy a text of St. Teresa of Avila:
                ‘Appearing to me as on former occasions, He began by showing me the wound in His left hand, and  then , with the other hand drew out a large nail which was embedded in it, in such a way that in drawing out the nail He seemed to me to be tearing the flesh. It was clear how very painful this must be and I was sorely grieved by it.’[1]

The union and identification of St. Josemaria with Christ in the mystery of the Cross leads him to this amazing expression: ‘Heart on the Cross! Oh my Jesus, what more could I ask for ?’ To lose himself with Christ on the Cross was, for him the greatest happiness. To understand this text, it seems necessary to study it in parallel with The Way 163[2], written in the Honduran Legation, and which has the same expression ‘Heart on the Cross!’ These words and their spiritual context were obviously known to Juan Jimenez Vargas, who also had been a refugee in the Honduran Legation with St. Josemaria.  There he would have meditated on them. In the letter of June 6, there is an implicit dialogue with Jimenez Vargas regarding the same point , with a strong ‘ascetical’ message  that could be considered as going ‘against- the-grain’ of the passions. But now, the Author has lived a renewed experience of the sweetness of the Cross: to have the heart on the Cross is not to ‘Crucify him,’ but to enter in to the joy of Christ. It is like saying to Jimenez Vargas, the young medical lieutenant who will read the letter on the Teruel front, that this ‘Hea r t on the Cross!’ ?#163 in the whole Cross of Christ, is the summit of ‘mysticism,’ the total joy in Christ” ‘My Jesus,  what else could I wish!’ It is the pure gif t of God. The purification of the heart, to which he aspire d in # 163, is not pure consequence
The practice of entering in to the wounds of Christ had a long history for Josemaria Escriva. The consideration that leads to #288 comes from January 1934. And from July of that year stems his desire to fulfill the ‘old’ resolution of entering each day ‘into the Wound of the Side of my Lord.’ The contemplation of the Wounds of Jesus occupied an important role in the life of prayer within the pathway towards sanctity which the Author taught.”[3]

After receiving mercy imaged in the wounds of Christ, pace the vacilating faith of the apostles, Christ continees to choose them and sends them forth. That is, "having had mercy, he chooses to send them forth in his even greater mercy: Miserandi atque Eligendi: The Vocation of Matthew, and of each one of us:

The Calling of Saint Matthew-Caravaggo (1599-1600).jpg

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What is “the newness of God” that Pope Francis is referring to in the previous post?

We certainly must ask: What is “the newness of God” that Pope Francis is referring to?

Cardinal Ratzinger took his segue to answer this from the Rabbi Jacob Neusner in his book “A Rabbi Talks With Jesus” [1] He comments in his “Jesus of Nazareth” of 2007:

Let us try to draw out the essential points of this conver­sation in order to know Jesus and to understand our Jewish brothers better. The central point, it seems to me, is wonder­fully revealed in one of the most moving scenes that Neusner presents in his book. In his interior dialogue Neusner has just spent the whole day following Jesus, and now he retires for prayer and Torah study with the Jews of a certain town, in order to discuss with the rabbi of that place—once again he is thinking in terms of contemporaneity across the millen­nia—all that he has heard. The rabbi cites from the Babylo­nian Talmud: "Rabbi Simelai expounded: 'Six hundred and thirteen commandments were given to Moses, three hundred and sixty-five negative ones, corresponding to the number of the days of the solar year, and two hundred forty-eight posi­tive commandments, corresponding to the parts of man's body.
"'David came and reduced them to eleven.. . .
'"Isaiah came and reduced them to six. . . .
'"Isaiah again came and reduced them to two. . . .
'"Habakkuk further came and based them on one, as it is said: "But the righteous shall live by his faith'" (Hab 2:4)."

Neusner then continues his book with the following dia­logue: “’So,’ the master says, 'is this what the sage, Jesus, had to say?'
"I: 'Not exactly, but close.'
"He: 'What did he leave out?'
"I: 'Nothing.'
"He: 'Then what did he add?'
"I: 'Himself’ (pp. 107-108).”

This is the central point where the believing Jew Neusner experiences alarm at Jesus' mes­sage, and this is the central reason why he does not wish to follow Jesus, but remains with the "eternal Israel": the cen-trality of Jesus' "I" in his message, which gives everything a new direction. At this point Neusner cites as evidence of this "addition" Jesus' words to the rich young man: "If you would be perfect, go, sell all you have and come, follow me" (cf. Mt 19:21; Neusner, p. 109 [emphasis added]). Perfection, the state of being holy as God is holy (cf. Lev 19:2, 11:44), as demanded by the Torah, now consists in following Jesus.
It is only with great respect and reverence that Neusner addresses this mysterious identification of Jesus and God that is found in the discourses of the Sermon on the Mount. Nonetheless, his analysis shows that this is the point where Jesus' message diverges fundamentally from the faith of the "eternal Israel." Neusner demonstrates this after investigating Jesus' attitude toward three fundamental commandments: the fourth commandment (the commandment to love one's parents), the third commandment (to keep holy the Sabbath), and, finally, the commandment to be holy as God is holy (which we touched upon just a moment ago). Neusner comes to the disturbing conclusion that Jesus is evidently trying to persuade him to cease following these three fundamental commandments of God and to adhere to Jesus instead” (Blogger’s emphasis).

The “newness” of the revelation of Jesus Christ is no commandment, moral principle or law, but Himself: The “I Am” of Jn. 8, 24, 28, 58; the “It is I” of Luke 24, 37 after the Resurrection. The “I” of Christ is the novelty of God in time and space.

[1] Doubleday (1993) 95-97.

The kerygma of proclamation cannot be dumbed-down into doctrine stored in the hard-drive (Evangelii Gaudium #164)

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope's Morning Homily: Be Open to God's Voice
Says Those Who Won't Dialogue, Disobey God 
During Mass at Casa Santa Marta
By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, April 16, 2015 ( - If you are not willing to have dialogue, you are disobeying God, says Pope Francis.

During this morning's homily at his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope made this statement and warned against those who preach against the newness of God. The Holy Father offered today's Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who celebrates his 88th birthday. 

Reflecting on the theme of dialoguing, the Pontiff said, "Obeying God means having the courage to change paths."
The Pope recalled the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, recounting the priests and leaders who ordered that Jesus' disciples stop preaching the Gospel to the people.

"They became infuriated and full of jealousy," as they saw miracles taking place in the disciples midst and the number of believers growing, Francis said.

"This is the drama of these teachers of Israel, of these theologians of the people of God: they didn’t know to listen, they didn’t know how to dialogue. Dialogue takes place with God and with the brethren."

The Pontiff said, "They did everything they could to not open themselves to the voice of God.

The Argentine Pope stressed that this resentment of those spreading the Gospel in Jesus' time increased as their egos were further offended, and expressed that similarly resentment exists today.

The Holy Father warned against those "who want to silence those who preach the newness of God."
In this Mass, the Pontiff urged, let us pray for the teachers, doctors, and those who teach the people of God, "that they would not be closed in on themselves" and "that they would dialogue."

Only if they open themselves in this way, he said, they will "save themselves from the wrath of God, which, if they do not change their attitude, will remain upon them."

Comment  by blogger: 

This is a most important warning of the pope. For those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, he is addressing not so much the "liberal" media with itching ears, but the angry conservatism within the Church which considers the pope to be violating "doctrine" because he is calling the Church, in the first instance, to make a gift of herself rather than insisting on "doctrine" Since he is insisting on Love and service as the first order of business, and not doctrine, those who have identified the faith with thought  rather than self-gift, in the first instance, presume that he is denying "doctrine." Those with a clear mind and heart on what is going on must clarify this forcefully. The pope is not changing the doctrine of the Church. But he is saying that faith is not reducible to doctrine. He is simply restating in living terms what Benedict XVI was trying to communicate in conceptual terms: "You cannot put revelation in your pocket like a book you carry around with you. It is a living reality that requires a living person as the locus of its presence" [Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI - "God's Word" Ignatius (2008) 52].

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pope Francis: Removal of Differences Between Man and Woman Is the Problem, Not the Solution.

During General Audience, Francis says Gender Theory Causes Society to Take A Step in the Wrong Direction 

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME, April 15, 2015 ( - The image of God is not only displayed in man and woman individually but also together as a couple [Blogger: Mutually opposing self-gifts of male and female persons make for an Unum that images the Christian God of Father, Son and Spirit]

These were the words of Pope Francis during his General Audience today in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father said that today's catechesis and the following will reflect on the sacrament of marriage and the complementarity between man and woman.
The Pope began his catechesis by recalling the story of creation in which God, after creating the universe and all living things, created his masterpiece: mankind.
"As we all know, sexual difference is present in many forms of life, in the long ladder of the living," he noted. "But only man and woman carry within them the image and likeness of God."

Genesis, he explained, not only explains that man and woman individually bear this likeness to God, but also together as a couple.
"The difference between man and woman is not for opposition, or subordination, but for communion and creation, always in the image and likeness of God."
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that without the mutual enrichment in their relationship, neither can truly understand what it means to be man and woman. While modern culture has opened new ways and freedoms to understand these differences, the Pope noted that it also introduced "many doubts and much skepticism."
"I wonder, for example, if the so-called gender theory is also an expression of frustration and resignation, which aims to erase sexual difference because they can no longer deal with it. Yes, we risk taking a step back," he said.
"The removal of the difference, in fact, is the problem, not the solution. To solve their relationship problems, man and the woman should instead talk more, listen more, know more, [and] love each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate with friendship."
The Pope went on to call on intellectuals to not abandon the importance of this theme, which he said has become secondary.
The Covenant Between Man and Woman
Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis focused on two important aspects that were crucial in fostering the complementarity between man and woman.

The first, he said, was the need for women to not only be heard, but that "her voice has a real weight, a recognized authority, in society and in the Church." This, he noted, was the same way in which Jesus considered the role of women
"Jesus considered [woman] in such a way that gives a strong light, that enlightens a path that takes us far, from which we've only covered a small piece," he said.

"We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, that woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with different eyes that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path that must be crossed with more creativity and more boldness."

The second reflection the Jesuit Pope offered regarded the theme of man and woman created in God's image. The collective mistrust in God, he said, gives way to incredulity and cynicism and connects to the crisis between man and woman. This division is exemplified in the creation story in which this covenant is broken once sin entered.
"In fact, the biblical story, with the grand symbolic fresco of the earthly paradise and original sin, precisely tells us that the communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple and the loss of trust in the Heavenly Father generates division and conflict between man and woman," he said.
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis said that the Church has the responsibility of rediscovering the beauty of God's design in the covenant between man and woman.

"Jesus encourages us explicitly to give witness to this beauty, which is the image of God," he concluded.

* * * * * * * * *

John Paul II: The imaging of God in the body only by man as male and female:
Unity in "communion of persons:" (From Wednesday Address of November 14, 1979)

2. In this way the meaning of man's original unity, through masculinity and femininity, is expressed as an overcoming of the frontier of solitude. At the same time it is an affirmation—with regard to both human beings—of everything that constitutes man in solitude. In the Bible narrative, solitude is the way that leads to that unity which, following Vatican II, we can define as communio personarum.(1)

As we have already seen, in his original solitude man acquires a personal consciousness in the process of distinction from all living beings (animalia). At the same time, in this solitude, he opens up to a being akin to himself, defined in Genesis (2:18, 20) as "a helper fit for him." This opening is no less decisive for the person of man; in fact, it is perhaps even more decisive than the distinction itself. In the Yahwist narrative, man's solitude is presented to us not only as the first discovery of the characteristic transcendence peculiar to the person. It is also presented as the discovery of an adequate relationship "to" the person, and therefore as an opening and expectation of a "communion of persons."

The term "community" could also be used here, if it were not generic and did not have so many meanings. Communio expresses more, with greater precision, since itindicates precisely that "help" which is derived, in a sense, from the very fact of existing as a person "beside" a person. In the Bible narrative this fact becomes eo ipso—in itself—the existence of the person "for" the person, since man in his original solitude was, in a way, already in this relationship. That is confirmed, in a negative sense, precisely by this solitude.

Furthermore, the communion of persons could be formed only on the basis of a "double solitude" of man and of woman, that is, as their meeting in their distinction from the world of living beings (animalia), which gave them both the possibility of being and existing in a special reciprocity. The concept of "help" also expresses this reciprocity in existence, which no other living being could have ensured. All that constituted the foundation of the solitude of each of them was indispensable for this reciprocity. Self-knowledge and self-determination, that is, subjectivity and consciousness of the meaning of one's own body, was also indispensable.

Image of inscrutable divine communion

3. In the first chapter, the narrative of the creation of man affirms directly, right from the beginning, that man was created in the image of God as male and female. The narrative of the second chapter, on the other hand, does not speak of the "image of God." But in its own way it reveals that the complete and definitive creation of "man" (subjected first to the experience of original solitude) is expressed in giving life to that communio personarum that man and woman form. In this way, the Yahwist narrative agrees with the content of the first narrative.
If, vice versa, we wish to draw also from the narrative of the Yahwist text the concept of "image of God," we can then deduce that man became the "image and likeness" of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of personswhich man and woman form right from the beginning. The function of the image is to reflect the one who is the model, to reproduce its own prototype. Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. Right "from the beginning," he is not only an image in which the solitude of a person who rules the world is reflected, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable divine communion of persons.

In this way, the second narrative could also be a preparation for understanding the Trinitarian concept of the "image of God," even if the latter appears only in the first narrative. Obviously, that is not without significance for the theology of the body. Perhaps it even constitutes the deepest theological aspect of all that can be said about man. In the mystery of creation—on the basis of the original and constituent "solitude" of his being—man was endowed with a deep unity between what is, humanly and through the body, male in him and what is, equally humanly and through the body, female in him. On all this, right from the beginning, the blessing of fertility descended, linked with human procreation (cf. Gn 1:28).”[1]

[1] John Paul lI, “Theology of the Body,” November 14, 1979.