An Adequate Ethics
Traditional Ethics Revisited
Reality and the Good:
Basic Questions: What is reality? What is the good?
Christianity understands the human person to be created in the image and likeness of God and revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. Hence, being, reality and the good are understood to be grounded in that revealed realism. Morality is then understood to be free action in conformity with that revealed realism. The revelation of being image of God and disclosed by the Person of Christ is not to be considered as an exception to man but constitutive of his very meaning.
Pre-Exile: The God of Abraham “is not the God of a particular nation, of a particular country; not the God of some particular sphere or realm, of the air of water, and so forth, which were, in the religious context of the time, among the most important manifestations of divinity. He is the God of one person, of Abraham.”
Pre-Exile: The God of Abraham “is not the God of a particular nation, of a particular country; not the God of some particular sphere or realm, of the air of water, and so forth, which were, in the religious context of the time, among the most important manifestations of divinity. He is the God of one person, of Abraham.”
Two conclusions: “This God has power everywhere. His power is not restricted by geographical or any other boundaries; he is able to accompany the person concerned, to guard him and guide him wherever he chooses and wherever he goes. Even the promise of land does not make him just God of a particular land, which would thenceforth be his only land. It shows, rather, that he can distribute lands as he chooses. We can therefore say that the personal God has effective power without limitations of space.” And time: “His way of speaking and acting essentially bears on the future…. All the important things are given in the category of promise of what is to come… That means that he is plainly in control of the future, of time.”
The Babylonian Exile: “In the normal way of things, a God who loses his land, who leaves his people defeated and is unable to protect his sanctuary, is a God who has been overthrown. He has no more say in things. He vanishes from history. When
Conclusion: The God of Revelation becomes the Only God. “
The Exile removed
As we see the faith of
Benedict is making the point that violence has no part in the spreading of this faith. As rational, it must be freely accepted as understood and lived, and lived and understood. Violence is antithetical to the very notion of belief in the revealed God of Jews and Christians.
Ratzinger goes further. From his earliest days, he has seen that reason (and therefore freedom) is a constitutive part of faith because there is no revelation unless there is a “veil” removed in the believer.
“But he [Michael Schmaus] also did not like the result of my analyses. I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of `revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as `revelation.’ Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, `revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”
Consider Augustine’s “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late Have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you… You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Faith as Total Self-Gift Involves Reason
If faith is the involvement of the whole person (see VS #88), then faith must become reason, because the whole person is Being, and the experience of Being is always accompanied by intellectual consciousness. Therefore, a living faith is a living ontological self who immediately experiences the living reality of the self and becomes conscious.
In historical fact, Benedict offers an account of the mutual interplay between Judaic faith and Greek (Ionian) philosophy at the time of the Exile in the 6th and 5th centuries. The account is both experiential and conceptual. The Greeks absorb the anthropology of the Judaic self-gift (Abraham obeying to the point of sacrificing his very self in the person of his beloved son Isaac), while the Israelites identify Yahweh with “Being.” Benedict begins by quoting the dialogue between Moses and the God of the burning bush:
“Then Moses said to God, `If I come to the people of
He comments: “It is clearly the aim of the text to establish the name `Yahweh’ as the definitive name of God in
“Let us try to visualize clearly what kind of image of God arises in this way. First, what does it mean when the idea of Being is here brought into play as an interpretation of God? To the Fathers of the Church, with their background of Greek philosophy, it seemed a bold and unexpected confirmation of their own intellectual past, for Greek philosophy regarded it as its decisive discovery that it had discovered, behind all the many individual things with which man has to deal daily, the comprehensive idea of Being, which it also considered the most appropriate expression of the divine. Now the Bible too seemed to be saying precisely the same thing in its central text on the image of God. It is not surprising if this seemed an absolutely amazing confirmation of the unity of belief and thought, and in fact the Fathers of the Church believed that they had discovered here the deepest unity between philosophy and faith, Plato and Moses, the Greek mind and the biblical mind. So complete did they find the identity between the quest of the philosophical spirit and the acceptance which had occurred in the faith of Israel that they took the view that Plato could not have advanced so far on his own but had been familiar with the Old Testament and borrowed his idea from it. Thus the central concept of the Platonic philosophy was traced back to revelation; people did not dare to attribute an insight of such profundity to the unaided power of the human mind.”
Also, the Other Way Round: The
Philosophical Mind of the Greeks is Expanded
“The text of the Greek Old Testament, which the Fathers had before them, could very well suggest such an identity of thought between Plato and Moses, but the dependence is probably the other way round; the scholars who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek were influenced by Greek philosophical thinking and interpreted the text from this angle; the idea that here the Hellenic spirit and the faith of the Bible overlapped must already have inspired them; they themselves built the bridge, so to speak, from the biblical concept of God over to Greek thought if they translated the `I AM WHO AM’ of verse 14 by `I am He that is.’ The biblical name for God is here identified with the philosophical concept of God. The scandal of the name, of the God who names himself, is resolved in the wider context of ontological thinking; belief is wedded to ontology. For to the thinker it is a scandal that the biblical God should bear a name. Can this be more than a reminder of the polytheistic world in which the biblical faith had at first to live? In a world swarming with gods Moses could not say, `God sends me,’ or even `The God of our fathers sends me.’ He knew that this meant nothing, that he would be asked, `Which god?’ But the question is, could one have ever given the Platonic `Being’ a name and referred to it by this name as a kind of individual?”
Benedict’s conclusion at
This believing/loving self that is experienced as Being is precisely the norm and criterion of moral action.
Christianity, the Synthesis of Faith and Reason:
The relativism that is crippling the modern mind – and that is searching for the Absolute – is overcome in the act of faith as self-gift to Jesus Christ. When Christ reveals himself to man, and calls him to follow Him to such an extent that he becomes “another Christ,” the person experiences self in the act of self-transcendence (going out self as service, work, Love [agape], friendship) as absolute. The “I” is absolutized in its Being as not only image but “likeness” to God. As God is good, the human person becomes good. This is the leitmotif of Veritatis Splendor with the encounter of the Rich Young Man and Christ as context. Consequently, the long search during the entire Enlightenment for the empirical experience of the absolute values in the existentially contingent is not found in the radical individual and existential reality of the self – now no longer disguised as “consciousness” but Being itself. This is the moral act par excellence: the obedience of faith, becoming another Christ, knowing the truth, the truth making one free (Jn. 8, 32). Since faith is not reducible to concepts, but is the consciousness resulting from the free act of self-transcendence (obedience), it is supreme moral act rendered as anthropology of self-mastery, self-possession, self-governance, self-gift. This is the anthropology of the moral act that mirrors Christ’s redemptive act of subduing His human will as His so as to say “Yes” with the divine Will to obey to death on the Cross. The Christology becomes Christian anthropology and the meaning of morality, not only for Christians, but for all men since Christ is the revelation not only who God is, but who man is. Revelation and faith thus become reason as a metaphysic that is universally available for all men who then, by virtue of a culture of service that can be put in motion by a few, can live the truth of who they are, perhaps, without knowing who Christ is.
Benedict’s Conclusion: Broaden reason by going out of yourself who is the being that reason resides in. The experience of yourself as self-transcending by faith and love enlarges who you are and gives a radiation of light to reason that “feeds” on it. If the “going-out” is radical as in the case of faith in Jesus Christ, and by “radical” I mean risking martyrdom, the being of the self, as image of God, takes on the character of the absolute that reason is yearning for. We are now in the realm of the Beatitudes which are the ethical dimensions of Christ who is the very revelation of the meaning of man.
The Challenge of Modernity
The Challenge of Modernity
Benedict warned at
Consider what Ratzinger has hitherto understood for “The Challenge” modern thought of the Enlightenment:
“Here is the problem: Ought we to accept modernity in full, or in part? Is there a real contribution? Can this modern way of thinking be a contribution, or offer a contribution, or not? And if there is a contribution from the modern, critical way of thinking, in line with the Enlightenment, how can it be reconciled with the great intuitions and the great gifts of the faith”
“Or ought we, in the name of the faith, to reject modernity? You see? There always seems to be this dilemma: either we must reject the whole of the tradition, all the exegesis of the Fathers, relegate it to the library as historically unsustainable, or we must reject modernity.
“And I think that the gift, the light of the faith, must be dominant, but the light of the faith has also the capacity to take up into itself the true human lights, and for this reason the struggles over exegesis and the liturgy for me must be inserted into this great, let us call it epochal struggle over how Christianity, over how the Christian responds to modernity, to the challenge of modernity.”
You use the phrase `epochal struggle’… I said…
`Well, at the very least, that means it is a struggle of enormous historical importance…’
“And it seems to me,” he continued, `that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time, let us say, to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.
“Because it was the Council Fathers’ intention to heal and transform modernity, and not simply to succumb to it or merge with it, the interpretations which interpret the Second
“That is, Vatican II must not be interpreted as desiring a rejection of the tradition and an adapting of the Church to modernity and so causing the Church to become empty because it loses the word of faith” (The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, `Let God’s Light Shine Forth,’ ed. Robert Moynihan, Doubleday  34-35).
The Meaning of Being is Person as Image of the Divine Persons
Morality is to act reasonably in conformity with the Being of the self as image of the divine Persons. “`Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God,’ said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.”
Two Tiers of Experience of Being: 1) Through perception of the external senses (whereby being is rendered “object”); 2) the experience of the self (“subject”) in the moral act: Karol Wojtyla in The Meaning of `Experience:’ The inspiration to embark upon this study came from the need to “The Acting Person:” `objectivize that great cognitive process which at its origin may be defined as the experience of man; this experience, which man has of himself, is the richest and apparently the most complex of all experiences accessible to him. Man’s experience of anything outside of himself is always associated with the experience of himself, and he never experiences anything external without having at the same time the experience of himself.”
The development of doctrine during the Second Vatican Council is most notable here: “In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being [actu essendi], and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”
Chapter 2 of the Notes says: “A. Good is the Most Basic Reality of the Moral Order” and then quotes S. Th. I-II, q. 94, a.2, c.) that “the good is the first reality of which our intelligence is aware in its practical aspect, that is to say inasmuch as it directs our activity.” It then goes on to state that “Being is the Root of Goodness” (S. Th. I, q.5, a.1, c.): “an `existent is good inasmuch as it perfection is agreeable to appetite. Thus the good is what all desire; it is the existent inasmuch as it is appetible.” This is all to say that the good is goal of moral action, and sets it into motion. Being is always the good that is sought because being (for
But the large question is: what is that good? In the received tradition of the manuals, God, finite beings and the tendencies of our nature are good insofar as the will desires them, and the intellect perceives this tendency of the will. The entire treatment is within an epistemology of the object: God, things, our nature and its tendency as nature. Truth to tell, it is pre-Christian and extra-Christian ideology within the characteristic of the Greek mind and its Stoic manifestation. It is highly abstractive.
The Theology of Person in the Trinity: “Relation”
Josef Ratzinger asserts:
“the First Person does not beget the Son in the sense of the act of begetting coming on top of the finished Person; it is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving… Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality.”
The Impact: The Metaphysic of “To Be” (Greek Substance) Becomes the Metaphysic of “To Be For” (Christian Aγάπη [Relation])
The Anthropology and Metaphysic of Divinization (before sin) or Redemption (after sin):
The divinizing act first took place in
After sin, the divinization becomes redemption by the Logos’ willing obedience to the Father with His own human will that was freely laden with all sin of all time (2 Cor. 5, 21). That human will of Jesus of Nazareth was subdued by the Logos and rendered totally His own and therefore made to coincide with the very tendency and drive of His Person toward the Father. In this very act, the human will and the entire humanity of Christ is divinized without losing autonomy and freedom. This is the liberation of the human and therefore of the entire material creation. On the contrary, this directing of the entire humanity to the Father is the freedom of being God, and therefore human freedom as image and likeness of God. This is the grounding and meaning of secularity. The New Adam, Who, by drawing all things to Himself sacramentally, makes all things new.
The anthropological formulation of divinization or redemption is Gaudium et spes #24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.”
Ratzinger describes it thus: “Thus the Logos adopts the being of the man Jesus into his own being and speaks of it in terms of his own I: `For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). In the Son’s obedience, where both wills become one in a single Yes to the will of the Father, communion takes place between human and divine being. The `wondrous exchange,’ the `alchemy of being,’ is realized here as a liberating and reconciling communication, which becomes a communion between Creator and creature. It is in the pain of this exchange, and only here, that that fundamental change takes place in man, the change which alone can redeem him and transform the conditions of the world. Here community is born, here the Church comes into being. The act whereby we participate in the Son’s obedience, which involves man’s genuine transformation, is also the only really effective contribution toward renewing and transforming society and the world as a whole. Only where this act takes place is there a change for the good – in the direction of the
The Christology of
The deepest insight of Benedict XVI on the Incarnation is to be found in his treatment of Constantinople III (685-686) as completion of
“If God joins himself to his creature –man/woman – he does not wound or diminish it: he brings it to its plenitude. But on the other hand (and this is no less important) there remains no trace of that dualism or parallelism of the two natures, which in the course of history was frequently judged necessary to defend the human liberty of Jesus. Such studies forgot that the assumption of the human will into the divine will does not destroy freedom, but on the contrary generates true liberty. The Council of
Therefore, the Cross is the revelation of God’s deep primordial love for man. It also cannot be explained then as “satisfaction,” or “scapegoat,” or any theory that has God as “Other” in the sense of an individual substantial being paying the price for another individual substantial being. To see God in Christ as “other” than man is to see Him as an “exception” Who extrinsically and from a distance pays off the debt of another. It is His debt – debtless as He is in Himself – but it is His debt because He willed to be man before the creation of the world (Eph. 1, 4). He willed to will with a human will that is His as God. Jesus of Nazareth is really Christ, i.e., the ontological Son of the eternal Father Who is Absolute Goodness, accepts all sin of al men of all time as His own (2 Cor. 5, 21) and turns it back from self seeking to the obedience of self-giving. This is redemption as “atonement” from within the sin itself, not simply paying off the debt in an extrinsic detachment from it as “satisfaction.” “Here’s the money, it’s not my problem.” Rather, “here I am, I am the problem.” “To be” means “to be for,” to live outside of self and at risk. It is the ontology of the universal call to holiness.
The Fathers of the Church, Anselm and all theories of satisfaction that mean paying off the debt of another from outside in the sense of not involving the very being of the rescuer are false as non-Christian. What is at stake is the development of consciousness that is the Second Vatican Council, and particularly in our case here, the meaning and import of Gaudium et Spes #22. The great move that has been made is the passage of Jesus Christ from “exception” to prototype for man.
Christ is the Meaning of the Human Person and Therefore the Moral Norm:
Gaudium et Spes #22 defines man in terms of Jesus Christ, not Jesus Christ in terms of sinful man: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Hem all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.
“He Who is the `image of the invisible God’ (
The Overriding Dynamic: “Relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality.”
The Human Person, Not “Reducible” to the Category “Substance” (To be In Self and not in other)
Ratzinger: on the “hegemony of substance:”
“In this light, Boethius’s concept of person, which prevailed in Western philosophy, must be criticized as entirely insufficient. Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined `person’ as Naturae rationalis individual substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms” (underline mine).
Ratzinger goes on to point out: “Scholastic theology developed categories of existence out of this contribution given by Christian faith to the human mind [the existential dimension and therefore relation in itself as category of being]. Its defect was that it limited these categories to Christology and to the doctrine of the Trinity and did no make them fruitful in the whole extent of spiritual reality. This seems to me also the limit of
The Result: Man does not image the divine Persons as Relations, in his very being. Rather, the human person has been philosophically elaborated in terms of the category of substance. Jesus Christ is not the prototype of man, but an exception. There would then be such a thing as “pure nature” or the “natural man” to whom the supernatural is added as a “second tier” to safeguard the gratuitousness of the supernatural. Holiness would not (as in fact it has not been) an intrinsic orientation of the very being of the human person, and therefore there is no de facto universal call to holiness.
Christ, not sin, is constitutive of man:
It belongs to Catholic Faith that the meaning of man is Jesus Christ – the incarnate Logos of the Father - before the foundation of the world, i.e., before sin. It is scriptural revelation that “God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1, 33-4). This means that the Incarnation of the Logos “precedes” – in the “intention” of the Father - the fall into sin which consequently would not be the cause of the Incarnation. It means that God did not become man because of sin. It means that man would be divinized in the flesh – not just created in the image of God, but also actualized as His likeness (as some Fathers of the Church say it), but not saved from sin, because there would have been no sin. It also means – once man has sinned - that we should not be surprised that Jesus Christ as prototype has taken the sin on as his own and pays for it by the obedience of the gift of himself to death. Since Christ is revelation of man before sin, He is also the revelation of man after sin – now repaired by the Cross of the God-man. After sin, the Cross of Christ reveals the kind and intensity of Love with which God has loved man. But this love is antecedent to the Cross.
The “Adequate” Moral Norm for all Men
Gaudium et Spes #24: “Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, `that all may be one… as we are one’ (Jn. 17, 21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” Later, John Paul insisted: “As the year 2000 since the birth of Christ draws near, it is a question of ensuring that an ever greater number of people `may fully find themselves… through a sincere gift of self,’ according to the expression of the Council already quoted. Through the action of the Spirit-Paraclete, may there be accomplished in our world a process of true growth in humanity, in both individual and community life. IN this regard Jesus himself `when he prayed to the Father, “that all may be one… as we are one” (Jn. 17, 21-22)… implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine persons and the union of the children of God in truth and charity.’ The Council repeats this truth about man, and the Church sees in it a particularly strong and conclusive indication of her own apostolic tasks. For if man is the way of the Church, this way passes through the whole mystery of Christ, as man’s divine model. Along this way the Holy Spirit, strengthening in each of us `the inner man,’ enables man ever more `fully to find himself through a sincere gift of self.’ These words of the Pastoral Constitution of the Council can be said to sum up the whole of Christian anthropology.”
Now: ground the above in VS showing that morality is being taken from above just as man is understood from above.
“Natural Law” is Now “Law of the Person” = “Law of the Gift”
“At this point the true meaning of the natural law can be understood: it refers to man’s proper and primordial nature, the `nature of the human person,’ which is the person himself in the unity of soul and body, in the unity of his spiritual and biological inclinations and of all the other specific characteristics necessary for the pursuit of his end. `The natural moral law expresses and lays down the purposes, rights and duties which are based upon the bodily and spiritual nature of the human person. Therefore this law cannot be thought of as simply a set of norms on the biological level; rather it must be define d as the rational order whereby man is called by the Creator to direct and regulate his life and actions and in particular to make use of his own body.’ To give an example, the origin and the foundation of the duty of absolute respect for human life are to be found in the dignity proper to the person and not simply in the natural inclination to preserve one’s own physical life. Human life, even though it is a fundamental good of man, thus acquires a moral significance in reference to the good of the person who must always be affirmed for his own sake. While it is always morally illicit to kill an innocent human being, it can be licit, praiseworthy or eve imperative to give up one’s own life (cf. Jn. 15, 13) out of love of neighbor or as a witness to the truth.”
The “Law of the Person” (of the Gift of self), the “natural law,” is the “tendency” ( again, not of “nature”) of the being of the person as image of God toward God Himself. The person cannot fulfill this tendency without grace (that is divine Love), nor without the Revelation of Christ Himself. But the tendency of the person as image is to God Himself. Hear Cardinal Ratzinger:
“(The word `anamnesis’) means that the first so-called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true (both are identical) has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears it echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”
He goes on to explain that the possibility, right and indeed necessity to evangelize the pagan and the unbeliever is precisely the fact there is an ontological
“yearning for it in the hidden recesses of their souls (cf. Isaiah 42, 4).
What would be “Pure Nature?” An Object
Reduction to the object: Movement from classicism to historical consciousness:
“The second great trend of the 19th century was the movement from classicism to historical consciousness… Suffice it to say that classicism designates a view of truth which holds objective truth, precisely because it is objective, to exist `already out there now” (to use Bernard Lonergan’s descriptive phrase). Therefore, it also exists apart from its possession by anyone. In addition, it exists apart from history, formulated in propositions that are verbally immutable. If there is to be talk of development of doctrine, it can only mean that the truth, remaining itself unchanged in its formulation, may find different applications in the contingent world of historical change. In contrast, historical consciousness, while holding fast to the nature of truth as objective, is concerned with the possession of truth, with man’s affirmations of truth… The Church in the 19th century, and even in the 20th, opposed this movement toward historical consciousness. Here, took, the reason was obvious. The term of the historical movement was modernism, that `conglomeration of all heresies,’ as Pascendi dominici gregis called it. The insight into the historicity of truth and the insight into the role of the subject in the possession of truth were systematically exploited to produce almost every kind of pernicious `ism,’ unto the destruction of the notion of truth itself – its objective character, its universality, its absoluteness. These systematizations were false, but the insights from which they issued were valid. Here again a work of discernment needed to be done, and was not done. To be quite summary about it, this work had to wait until Vatican Council II.
“The sessions of the Council have made it clear that, despite resistance in certain quarters, classicism is giving way to historical consciousness;” Declaration on Religious Freedom of Vatican Council II, Paulist Press (1966), Appendix III by John Courtney Murray, S.J.
The Ontological Center of “Veritatis Splendor”
The context of John Paul II’s “Veritatis Splendor” is quite different. Its context is the Biblical scene of the encounter of Jesus with the Rich Young Man. The “novelty” of the New Testament revelation is that Jesus Himself is the Absolute that has invaded contingent history. Jesus Christ is the Absolute in Person and in His singularity. That Absolute here is not an abstract universal. It is an existential Contingent with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth. And He says: not only “follow me,” but become
The self is not the Cartesian nor latter Enlightenment “consciousness,” but the self as “Being” that has been obscured by consciousness in its very disclosure. Consciousness is the reflective act that reveals the being of the “I” as potency, and then act, in the act of self-determination – the “loop” – as offered below. The “I,” the subject that is reflected in consciousness, not the object that is made such by concepts, is the “Being” that experiences itself as either good or bad. Since the “I” has been revealed as created in the image and likeness of God, and God is a triplicity of Relations that are the three irreducibly different Person, the “I” experiences itself as “good” when it self-transcends (goes out of self); and “bad” when it turns back on self as in the disobedience that is sin. To say it differently: the ontological moral criterion is no longer the reduction of being to “nature” that is object, but the unmediated (no mediation either by sense perception nor concepts) experience of Being as subject.
With this, the moral criterion in the teaching of the Magisterium has morphed from nature and the object of its tendencies to the giftedness or non-giftedness of the subject. Hence, in Gaudium et spes #24, it reads: “Man, the only earthly being that God has willed for itself, finds himself in the sincere gift of himself.”
This Being that is subject or person has the character of the absolute. It is not a value that is contingent on circumstances or intention. The human person as subject is the absolute, non-negotiable criterion of all moral action. The entire social doctrine of the Church is founded on the Being of the human person. John Paul in Centesimus Annus stated categorically: “Her [the Church’s] sole purpose has been care and responsibility for the human person, who has been entrusted to her by Christ himself: for this person, whom, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake, and for which God has his plan, that is, a share in eternal salvation. WE are not dealing here with humanity in the `abstract,’ but with the real, `concrete,’ `historical’ person. We are dealing with each individual, since each one is included in the mystery of Redemption, and through this mystery Christ has united himself with each one forever. It follows that the Church cannot abandon humanity, and that `this human person is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission… the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption.’
This, and this alone, is the principle which inspires the Church’s social doctrine. The Church has gradually developed that doctrine in a systematic way, above all in the century that has followed the date we are commemorating, precisely because the being in his concrete reality as sinful and righteous.”
See also, “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” Chapter Three, “The Human Person and Human Rights” 61-90.
Experiences to be Explained: 1) Adam in the naming of the animals; 2) Helen Keller (via Walker Percy).
The act of faith as the experience of the “I” making the self gift to the revealing Christ. It is in the believer that the veil (the “rust” expressed by Gregory of Nyssa) of revelation is removed. Therefore the believing subject is integral to there being revelation at all. The experience of Josef Ratzinger: Habilitation Thesis: It is in St. Bonaventure (13th century) that Ratzinger finds the distinction between Sacred Scripture and Revelation. See page 3 above.
And in his “The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure,” Ratzinger reports,
“As far as I can see, at no time does Bonaventure refer to the Scriptures themselves as Revelation.’ He speaks of revealer and facies revelata primarily when a particular understanding of Scripture is involved, namely the `manifold divine wisdom’ which consists in grasping the three-fold spiritual sense of Scripture – the allegorical, the anagogical and the tropological…. (I)t is expressly stated that we grasp that which we are to believe not from the letter of Scripture, but first of all by the use of allegory. The letter by itself is merely the water which is transformed into wine in the spiritual understanding; the letter is a stone which must be changed into bread; or as Bonaventure says together with Joachim, the letter is the skin around the true fruit…. In other words, where there is only the letter, there we find the Old Testament and Judaism, regardless of whether we call this letter `New’ or `Old’ Testament. The mere letter is not `New’ Testament; the New Testament is truly present precisely where the letter has been surpassed by the Spirit. Consequently, that which is properly New Testament does not consist in a new book, but in the Spirit who makes these books full of life. Here, therefore, `revelation’ is synonymous with the spiritual understanding of Scripture; it consists in the God-given act of understanding, and not in the objective letter alone. Only those who understand Scripture spiritually have a `facies revelata.’”
Relate this with the latter theological epistemology in last Sunday’s Gospel as to “knowing” the Person of Jesus Christ (“Who do men say that I am?;” “Who do you say that I am?”). In a word, it is only when the whole self is involved as self-gift (that Vatican II calls “faith”), that the “veil” is removed that covers the intelligence (by being turned back on self and therefore not imaging the relational transcendence of the divine Persons).
The Phenomenology of the Moral Act:
“In Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, we read that "the human being, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself" (24)….
“As I said earlier, in the experience of self-determination the human person stands revealed before us as a distinctive structure of self-possession and self-governance. Neither the one nor the other, however, implies being closed in on oneself. On the contrary, both self-possession and self-governance imply a special disposition to make a "gift of oneself," and this a "disinterested" gift. Only if one possesses oneself can one give oneself and do this in a disinterested way. And only if one governs oneself can one make a gift of oneself, and this again a disinterested gift. The problematic of disinterestedness certainly deserves a separate analysis, which it is not my intention to present here. An understanding of the person in categories of gift, which the teaching of
“Only if one can determine oneself—as I attempted to show earlier—can one also become a gift for others. The Council's statement that "the human being...cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself" allows us to conclude that it is precisely when one becomes a gift for others that one most fully becomes oneself. This "law of the gift," if it may be so designated, is inscribed deep within the dynamic structure of the person. The text of
“I have attempted, however, even in this short presentation, to stress the very real need for a confrontation of the metaphysical view of the person that we find in St. Thomas and in the traditions of Thomistic philosophy with the comprehensive experience of the human being. Such a confrontation will throw more light on the cognitive sources from which the Angelic Doctor derived his metaphysical view. The full richness of those sources will then become visible. At the same time, perhaps we will better be able to perceive points of possible convergence with contemporary thought, as well as points of irrevocable divergence from it in the interests of the truth about reality.”
What is Freedom?
The Lay Mentality: Freedom
Revelation: “If you abide in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8, 32). This is the Magna Charta of the revelation of freedom. As revealed, freedom is a result of knowing the truth, which in turn comes as a result of living obedience. If one obeys, one becomes a disciple – or perhaps better a “Christian,” which is alter Christus – and in that experience of following Christ’s obedience that is “usque ad mortem,” one “knows” the truth of being Christ, which in turn is the state of freedom. Thus
The Reductive Understanding of Ethics: Nature as Object. True but Inadequate
The Received Understanding of Freedom: Objective Epistemological Horizon, the interplay of faculties of the soul.
“The will is moved by natural necessity, since it is necessarily attracted by the good in general or the ultimate end. It impossible for me not to want good as such, which is to say my happiness. In this respect the will is comparable to the intellect, which necessarily adheres to first principles. Furthermore, the will is moved by necessity of the end, which means that whenever the will desires something it necessarily desires the means without which this end cannot be attained….
“Apart from things that are necessarily willed, there are countless others that do not move the will of necessity, because even without them it is possible to arrive at whatever end one may have in mind. Between them and the end there is no necessary connection it is in this area that we find true psychological freedom, namely, within the realm of goods which are not necessarily associated with the end and which may, there, be willed or not willed….”
“With respect to the subject of agent, therefore, freedom has its source in reason; with respect to the object, it lies in the contingent or particular nature of the goods confronting the agent. In terms of the object we may, as St. Thomas often does, state the argument for free will as flows: in face of contingent or particular goods the will remains free; only the absolute or universal good necessarily moves it. These two proofs, moreover, the one from the object and the other from the rational nature of man, are complementary, since the human or free act is the product of the reciprocal application of intellect and will.”
This objectified presentation of freedom in terms of the necessary desire for the absolute with the resultant indetermination of the contingent, finite and non-necessary has been completely undermined by the reduction of the sensible-experiential to the radical materialism of positivism. The finite substance is reduced from a hylomorphic composite of soul and matter to purely evolved material forces that are measurable through the senses. Freedom is denied as illusory and collapses into a determinism “from below” of physical, chemical, physiological and behaviorist forces. There are no absolutes, no relative contingents, and therefore no indetermination or “freedom.” The best we have is the illusion of freedom of choice between this and that, but such choice is obviously determined by constraints beyond our threshold of perception.
Such a “self” is called “Autonomous” or “Emotivist” in the parlance of Alasdair MacIntyre. He says,
“The specifically modern self, the self that I have called Emotivist, finds no limits set to that on which it may pass judgment for such limits could only derive from rational criteria for evaluation and, as we have seen, the Emotivist self lacks any such criteria. Everything may be criticized from whatever standpoint the self has adopted, including the self’s choice of standpoint to adopt… Anyone and everyone can thus be a moral agent, since it is in the self and not in social roles or practices that moral agency has to be located.” 
Freedom as the Experience of Self-gift as in Christ Crucified
“The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom” (Veritatis Splendor #85).
To achieve this liberation, one must master self as in “subdue the earth,” or “self-determine” in philosophical terminology. Hence, we will see that priestly soul and lay mentality are two essential components of the same metaphysical anthropology. Priestly soul is the determining of the self to make the gift of oneself. Lay mentality is pre-requisite for such self-governance and self-possession since the freedom that is the lay mentality is the experience that thunders within the consciousness of each person in terms of responsibility, guilt, joy, sadness, etc. That is, there is another kind of experience within everyone that has been mistaken for the structure of consciousness, and that is really the ontological experience of the self in dealing with the inner tendencies of one’s very self as ontological reality. In fact, John Paul says, “In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with the act of being” (actu essendi). When self-gift takes place, a relative autonomy is achieved. The goodness of the self is experienced and a true secularity of the social order takes place.
But such an act of self-determination obviously involves a meaning of freedom that transcends merely a neutral indetermination between finite choices of “this” or “that” finite good. It transcends what we may have considered “freedom” in Scholastic Rational Psychology as the neutrality of the will when confronted with finite goods. Freedom meant neutrality of the will before the finite because it was necessarilly determined to will the absolute. This is true within the reduction of the real as object.
“Considered biblically” (and therefore subjectively and existentially), Ratzinger remarks, “freedom is something other than indeterminacy. It is participation, and indeed, not just participation in some particular social structure, but participation in being itself. It means to be the possessor… of being. Only on this basis can indeed God be defined as freedom in person, because he is the totality of the possession of being. We can… say that freedom is identical with exaltation of being, which admittedly only makes sense if exaltation of being is really exaltation: the gift of life and being given in love.”
Rather, within a phenomenological metaphysics such as Wojtyla’s, it means that one is quite literally “cause of oneself,” or even more strongly, “creator of oneself.” There is an apprenticeship in God-likeness, an approximation to becoming like God that, as creator, is not absolute, but is characterized by a relative becoming autonomous. As he says, “Self-determination reveals that what takes place in an act of will is not just an active directing of the subject toward a value. Something more takes place as well: when I am directed by an act of will toward a particular value, I myself not only determine this directing, but through it I simultaneously determine myself as well. The concept of self-determination involves more than just the concept of efficacy: I am not only the efficient cause of my acts, but through them I am also in some sense the `creator of myself.’ Action accompanies becoming; moreover, action is organically linked to becoming. Self-determination, therefore, and not just efficacy of the personal self, explains the reality of moral values: it explains the reality that by my actions I become `good’ or `bad,’ and that then I am also `good’ or `bad’ as a human being – as St. Thomas so eminently perceived.” 
Within the radical dependency on being created and loved by God, the only reality that I control from within as being is myself. I can control and dispose of non-rational things but I violate their natures at my own peril. I cannot impose my will on anyone else, precisely because as rational beings they experience the same responsibility of disposing of themselves as I do. Wojtyla’s assertion here that he borrows – re-elaborated from Kant – is the discovery of moral values in the experience of the being of the “I” in the moment of self-determination.
Kant, arguing from within the rationalism that has characterized the Enlightenment from Descartes to the present day, had argued that moral value was autonomous to the will, which he found “within” the practical intellect. For him “autonomy of the will is the property the will has of being a law to itself (independently of every property belonging to the objects of volition). Hence the principle of autonomy is `Never to choose except in such a way that in the same volition the maxims of your choice are also present as universal law’… (B)y mere analysis of the concepts of morality we can quite well show that the above principle of autonomy is the sole principle of ethics. For analysis finds that the principle of morality must be a categorical imperative, and that this in turn commands nothing more nor less than precisely this autonomy.” This means that to conform the will to anything outside the principles of practical reason and that are part of the structure of practical reason, i.e., to the tendencies inherent in the being of person as imaging Trinity, would be “heteronymous.”
Wojtyla seizes on the insight while experiencing something different. Instead of finding autonomy in the analysis of concepts or principles of reason, he finds it in the experience of the self as being when it is in conformity or disconformity with its ontological inclinations as image of God. Hence, he finds this autonomy as moral value, the “good,” from the (realistic) experience of being a person as God is Person. Hence, he says, “we must never treat a person as the means to an end. This principle has a universal validity. Nobody can use a person as a means towards an end, no human being, not even God the Creator. On the part of God, indeed, it is totally out of the question, since, by giving man an intelligent and free nature, he has thereby ordained that each man alone will decide for himself the ends of his activity, and not be a blind tool of someone else’s ends. Therefore, if God intends to direct man towards certain goals, he allows him to begin with to know those goals, so that he may make them his own and strive towards them independently. In this amongst other things resides the most profound logic of revelation: God allows man to learn His supernatural ends, but the decision to strive towards an end, the choice of course, is left to man’s free will. God does not redeem man against his will.” Wojtyla then goes on to say, “It may not be irrelevant to mention here that Immanuel Kant, at the end of the eighteenth century, formulated this elementary principle of the moral order in the following imperative: act always in such a way that the other person is the end and not merely the instrument of your action. In the light of the preceding argument this principle should be restated in a form rather different from that which Kant gave it, as follows: whenever a person is the object of your activity, remember that you may not treat that person as only the means to an end, as an instrument, but must allow for the fact the he or she, too, has, or at least should have, distinct personal ends. This principle, thus formulated, lies at the basis of all the human freedoms, properly understood, and especially freedom of conscience.” He, of course, is talking about the person as a self-determining ontological reality, and not merely an object considered in the light of a universal autonomous principle of the practical intellect.
One cannot give what one does not have. Freedom of choice presupposes the determination of the self to so choose. And one can choose to make the gift of self in accordance with the truth of being made in the image of the Triple Self-Gift that is God; or one can choose self and turn back on self, for self. This is the essence of sin and the un-truth of self.
To govern self is not to be governed by anything heteronymous. This is a word coined by Immanuel Kant that has much truth to it but used erroneously by him. Obedience is not to be caused by another but to cause self to do what another says. That causing of self is grounding act that we call freedom. The total gift of oneself to another is perfected freedom. Only the divine Persons are perfectly free. “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom.”
Man is not born free. He is born with the capacity of mastering self for the gift of self. This capacity has been weakened by sin. Man cannot become free by himself. As an essentially relational being, he must be loved by another, and as such affirmed in his being as a self. No man can give himself his own “I.” It must be given to him by the love of another. In this we have the deep anthropological meaning of grace. Grace is not a thing but the love of the divine Persons for the created person.
 Josef Pieper, “Reality and the Good,” Living the Truth, Ignatius (1989) 111.
 Ibid. 112.
 Benedict XVI, “Three States in the Program of De-Hellenization,” Address at the
 J. Ratzinger, “The Truth of Christianity?” Truth and Tolerance, Ignatius (2004) 146.
 Ibid 146-147.
 Ibid 148.
 Ibid 149.
 Ibid 151 Benedict XVI, “Three States in the Program of De-Hellenization,” Address at the
 Benedict XVI, “Three States in the Program of De-Hellenization,” Address at the
 St. Gregory of Nyssa said: “`Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God…’ You men have within you a desire to behold the supreme good. Now when you are told that the majesty of God is exalted above the heavens, that his glory is inexpressible, his beauty indescribable, and his nature transcendent, do not despair because you cannot behold the object of your desire. If by a diligent life of virtue you wash away the film of dirt that covers your heart, then the divine beauty will shine forth in you…
“Take a piece of iron as an illustration. Although it might have been black before, once the rust has been scraped off with a whetstone, it will begin to shine brilliantly and to reflect the rays of the sun. So it is with the interior man, which is what the Lord means by the heart. Once a man removes from his soul the coating of filth that has formed on it through his sinful neglect, he will regain his likeness to his Archetype, and be good. For what resemble the supreme Good is itself good. If he then looks into himself, he will see the vision he has longed for. This is the blessedness of the pure of heart: in seeing their own purity they see the divine Archetype mirrored in themselves.
“Those who look at the sun in a mirror, even if they do not look directly at the sky, see it radiance in the reflection just as truly as do those who look directly at the sun’s orb. It is the same, says the Lord, with you. Even though you are unable to contemplate and see the inaccessible light, you will find what you seek within yourself, provided you return to the beauty and grace of that image which was originally placed in you. For God is purity; he is free from sin and a stranger to all evil. If this can be said of you, then God will surely be within you… Once purified, you see things that others cannot see. When the mists of sin no longer cloud the eye of your soul, you see that blessed vision clearly in the peace and purity of your own heart. That vision is nothing else than the holiness, the purity, the simplicity and all the other glorious reflections of God’s nature, through which God himself is seen” Office of Readings, Saturday of 12th Week of Ordinary Time.
 J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Ignatius 107-109.
 J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 78-79.
 J. Ratzinger, “Milestones…” Ignatius (1997) 108.
 Benedict XVI, “Three Stages…” op. cit.
 K. Wojtyla, “The Acting Person,” Reidel, (1979) [Introduction] 3.
 John Paul II, “Fides et Ratio,” #83.
 J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 131-132.
 J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 92-93.
 J. Ratzinger, “Journey Towards Easter,” Crossroad (198 )
 J. Ratzinger, “Introduction… op. cit. 132.
 “Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world: the undivided sway of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today `objectifying thought;’ a new plane of being comes into view;” J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit. 132.
 “In recording the first creation of man, Moses before all others says, `And God said, Let us make man in our own image and likeness.’ Then he adds afterwards, `And God made man; in the image of God made he him; male and female made he them, and he blessed them.’ Now the fact that he said `he made him in the image of God’ and was silent about the likeness points to nothing else but this, that man received the honor of God’s image in his first creation, whereas the perfection of God’s likeness was reserved for him at the consummation. The purpose of this was that man should acquire it for himself by his own earnest efforts to imitate God, so that while the possibility of attaining perfection was given to him in the beginning through the honor of the `image,’ he should in the end through the accomplishment of these works obtain for himself the perfect likeness;” Origen, On First Principles 3, 6, 1 (244).
 John Paul II, “Dominum et vivificantem,” #59
 “Donum Vitae,” Introduction, 3.
 J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth, in Catholic Conscience, Foundation and Formation, Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop
 John Paul II, “Centesimus Annus” #53.
 J. Ratzinger, The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure, Franciscan Herald Press (1989) 62-63.
 Karol Wojtyla, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination “ in Person and Community Lang (1993) 193-195.This paper was presented by then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla at an international conference on St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and Naples, 17-24 April 1974.
 H. D. Gardeil, O.P., “The Will,” Introduction To The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas III. Psychology, 211, 213-214.
 Alasdair Macintyre, After Virtue, University of Notre Dame Press (1981) 2.
 Fides et Ration, #83.
 J. Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics, Crossroads (1988) 198.
 K. Wojtyla, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination,” Person and Community Lang) (1993) 191.
 Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Harper Torchbooks (1964) 108.
 K. Wojtyla, The Acting Person, Farrar, Straus, Giroux (1981) 27.
 Ibid. 27-28.
 Veritatis Splendor #85.