Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Proposal To Give a Metaphysical Account of Person as Relation in terms of the Thomistic "Esse" (1991)

Relational "Esse" and the Person

My purpose in this paper is to propose the Thomistic "esse" as the explanation of the relational dimension of person as well as its unique subsistence. Both relation and subsistence are equal as dimensions of that "act." Relation is not considered as the predicamental "accident" but as the constitutive expansiveness of the act of existence understood "intensively." That act of existence, when it is intensively intellectual and volitional, is the person.

The topic falls under the rubric of "Christian Philosophy" because as the act
of existence or esse (as I will now refer to it) may have involved the revealed notion of creation for its discovery, the notion of person certainly involves the revelation of the Trinity of three Persons in one God, and the act of faith as its subjective experience. If this is so, and if the One God is considered "substantial" Being, then the Three Persons, revealing themselves in dialogue, can only be subsistent relationalities, dialogue being a relational ontologic. St. Augustine remarks: "In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation." Explaining himself, Augustine says: "He is not called Father with reference to himself but only in relation to the Son; seen by himself he is simply God."

Cardinal Ratzinger comments that "this means that 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."3 What is being affirmed here is that the notion of person is constitutively expansive as relation (self-gift). Therefore, the notion of being has to be rethought and reformulated in the dyadic terms of substance or intrinsic existence and its constitutive relationality.4 So also, the purpose of this paper is to confront the challenge which Cardinal Ratzinger throws down to a metaphysic which has affirmed being only as substance without a constitutive relational dimension: "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 ... a new plane of being comes into view ."5 It could also be mentioned here that the Second Vatican Council has wanted to suggest the parallel between the relational character of the Divine Persons and the relational character of the human person when it says: "man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself."6 I might also insert here the recent statement of Walter Kasper which says that theology needs a metaphysics which has been developed precisely within theology. He comments:

"The regaining of the metaphysical dimension appears to me, therefore, one of the most important tasks of contemporary theology. This holds true, even though many contemporary theologians, to use Hegel's terms, keep a safe distance from metaphysics as if it were a leper. But without a transcendent ground and point of reference, statements of faith are finally only subjective projections or social and ecclesial cannot ... adopt this theologically necessary metaphysics `from the outside.' Rather, one must develop it on the basis of the testimonies of revelation and the understanding of reality implicit in them... "7

Up to this moment, the analysis of person has traditionally been made from the bottom ups That is to say, man has been viewed as a part of nature to which has been superadded the distinguishing ingredients of rationality and free will. This has also been the analytical procedure of Aristotelian anthropology, shepherded through the Middle Ages under the guiding thought of Boethius in to the present day. Boethius defined person as the naturae rationalis individual substantia. Person, then, has traditionally been defined from the side of essence as substance, which in Thomistic existentialism is the source of finitude and limit. Even when it has not been defined that way, as in the case of Capreolus, esse was seen only as the actuality of essence and not as intensive in itself and intrinsically expansive.9 Hence, even when person was constituted from the side of esse, esse was not considered in its expansiveness but as the "thin" actuality of essence.

Therefore, as long as the metaphysical model for describing a person was Aristotelian substance and relation was always an accident, then being as relation would never be able to pass from its immanentized domestication within the Trinity, to man and thereon to all reality as relational being. The cultural effect of understanding being to be relational in its very intrinsicness has been admirably presented by David Schindler in a number of articles in recent years. The proposal, then, is to accept the theological elaboration of person as constitutively relational as expansive and offer the Thomistic esse as 'the ontological explanation of that expansiveness.

Three major points will be considered: (1) esse as intensive act; (2) the relation of intensive esse and agere; and (3) the transmutation of the subject or person from limiting essence to expansive esse. We will assume the dynamic character of the Thomistic esse as expounded by Gerald Phelan when he comments:

"What was my joy, then, to read in the very first article of St. Thomas's Quaestio Disputata De Veritate, that reality, unity, truth and all the transcendentals were general modes of being (modi essendi), not properties or attributes of beings (entia) and that all those things we are accustomed to designate by nouns-substance, quantity, quality, relation and the rest-are likewise modes of being [(modi essendi, mark you, not modi entis or modi entium)]. They are, therefore, more accurately expressed by adverbial adjuncts to the verb "to be" than by the customary substantives.”11

The proposal, then, is to see this "to be" (esse), not as an actuality of substance, but as an intensive act in its own right of which agere, and expansiveness as an agere is another "mode" of that esse. Thus, agere is "esse-becoming" and so constitutive of "esse's
esse. I will offer a presentation of essence as limit not as "exercising" subject of esse. The final development will be to suggest the transference of agency from essence to esse. When esse is intelligere the agent is the person.

The first order of business is to establish the priority of esse as on and source of all reality. Rev. Gerald B. Phelan (co-founder with Etienne Gilson of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto) was taught at Louvain that esse is the only act which "God gives when he creates,"12 and he understood it to mean that "God gives esse and nothing more .... Just as in God there is nothing but ESSE, writ large, so in things, there is othing but esse, writ small."13 "The act of existence (esse)," says Phelan,

"is not a state, it is an act and not as any static definable object of conception. Esse is dynamic impulse, energy, act-the first, the most persistent and enduring of all dynamisms, all energies, all acts. In all things on earth, the act of being (esse) is the consubstantial urge of nature, a restless, striving force, carrying each being (ens) onward, from within the depths of its own reality to its full self-achievement ...14

Our purpose here is to see what kind of act esse is so as to be able to discern if it is merely the actuality of essences which would be the "subjects" receiving and exercising esse. Rather, might it be a constitutive relationality because of its intensity as intelligible act and so be a wo candidate for the ontological category of person. The gambit then is: where there is intensity, there is relationality. Relationality means intensity. Vivere, sentire, intelligere are hierarchical gradings of directly proportional relationalities and corresponding intensities of being. If personality is defined by relationality (and we saw that this was the offering from Trinitarian theology and reinforced today by the Magisterium of the Church) then the principle of relationality should be the principle of personality as intensity. If we can show the Thomistic esse to be intensive and therefore relational, it should be the principle of personality. And if essence, thick or thin, is to be considered merely as limit of esse, then finite esse, as limited, should not only be considered the principle of personality but the subject, the being of the person himself.

I have three texts of St. Thomas on a major issue, namely, the "kind" of esse that belongs to the soul, that enables it to be immaterial and by nature intrinsically related to matter at the same time. The whole conundrum of whether an intellectual soul can be at the same time the form of the body is resolved by St. Thomas through his understanding of esse:

...the human soul exists through its own esse; and matter shares in this esse up to a point without completely enveloping it, because the dignity of such a form transcends the capacity of matter. And that is why nothing prevents the soul from having an operation or power beyond the reach of matter. 15

Now, the esse of the soul which becomes the esse of the body is not just the actuality of the soul extended to the body, but an intelligere which is of a complete lyy different order of intelligible density than the esse of the composite. s Esse as intelli~ere is not "thin. "17 It has an intensity, a "thickness," an intelligibility, -18 and an immateriality which the body cannot exhaust in its own way of being. Man exists, then, "in his totality and in his compositeness through an act of existence which is wholly
intellectual."19 Anton Pegis sums up his article on the subject affirming, that "Man is an intellect, an incarnate intellect, and this by nature."

To clarify the use of the word "intelligere," St. Thomas makes a distinction between two meanings of the word: "Sensation and intelligence, and the like, are sometimes taken for the operations, sometimes for the existence (ipso esse) of the operator.”21

And so, St. Thomas is talking about esse, but not as some homogeneous actuality or facticity, but about a real "quo" which is on a different level of density in a hierarchy of real beings.

Exactly the same idea appears in his De Spiritualibus Creaturis, when he answers the 14th objection:

Intelligere is sometimes understood as an operation, and as such its origin is a power of the soul or habit. At other times it is understood to be the existence (ipso esse) of an intellectual nature. Arid so, the origin of this “intelligere" is the essence of the intellective soul. 22

Again what he is affirming is that the esse of the intellectual nature is not just simply esse as facticity or actuality but an expanding and relational esse which, as finite and immaterial, has the power of becoming, as intelligere, an infinity of other beings in an immaterial, intentional way and thus increasing its density as act. As finite act, this being is only this being. As an expanding esse, an intelligere, it has the power to become all things. St. Thomas's first part of the answer to objection 14 presents the point clearly:

the soul, in so far as it is the form of the body, according to its essence as substantial form, gives esse to the body. But it also gives an esse of a certain kind which is vivere, in so far as it is such a form, i.e., soul. And it also gives a vivere of a certain kind, i.e., of an intellectual nature, in so far as it is a certain kind of soul, i.e., intellective.23

The same point is made in the `"I'reatise on Separate Substances" where St. Thomas says:

(I)n immaterial substances, their esse itself is their vivere, and their vivere is not other than their intellectivum esse. Therefore they are living and understanding from the same principle by which they are beings. 24

And again, in the "Quaestiones de Animal,' in that all important first question, St. Thomas answers the 17th objection in the following manner:

Although esse is the most formal of all perfections, still it is also the most communicable, although it is not shared in the same way by those beings which are lower and higher. Hence the body shares in the esse of the soul but not so excellently as the soul itself does. 25

Notice that the esse of the human body is of a higher intensity than what would be the esse of body taken as mere material conglomeration. It is much more than a given order of heterogeneous parts. It is a dynamic ordering. And ordering always involves an intellect sighting a purpose. There is no order that is not purposeful, that is not relational toward a "telos." The very to be of the body is relational to the "telos" of the
person. The eye is an ordering of parts "for sight." But one sees in order to know. This expansiveness of the esse of the person, immaterial at its level of intelligere, impacts on every organized structure from the biochemical through the physiological to the gross anatomical. 26

The body is an instrument of relationality, of knowledge and love. It is person enfleshed. Notice that St. Thomas emphasizes that this esse in man who is mineral, vegetable, sentient and intelligent is one: "It is necessary, if a soul is the form of a body, that there be common to both one esse which is the esse of the composite."27 This esse of the body is the intelligere which I am suggesting to be the very person. The teleology of the body orienting it toward the very goals of the person is due to the fact that its esse is the personal intelligere. My point here is that esse is not just actualization of essence or facticity of being but rather it is relational, teleological, even in its generation of the body. If "person" means relationality on the level of intelligere, then esse as intelligere is "person."

Having considered esse as intensive act, let us now consider it as expansive. In so doing, we take up more directly the challenge of Cardinal Ratzinger: "relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality.. .a new plane of being comes into view." esse as expansive and hence relational must do so as agere. The question, then, is: what is the relation between esse and agere?

The Greek Fathers of the Church, particularly Gregory of Nyssa, offer light on this point in their implicit and original metaphysics where ousia and energeia are one and the same simple Reality, the Trinity of Persons. The Magisterium of the Church responded to the rationalism of an Arius or a Eunomius with the homousios. This term meant that the one simple Being of the Godhead was at the same time a generating
and proceeding reality. The ousia or esse of God is constituted by the energeia or agere of generation and procession. The same is true of Jesus Christ; Cardinal Ratzinger affirms that the starting point of all Christology is "the identity of work and being, of deed and person. 28

The point of this section is to lay heavy stress on finite agere as an intrinsic and constitutive dimension of esse rather than as an accident of substance. The best way to consider it is to see agere as finite esse itself in its state of expansion. Gilson glosses the mind of St. Thomas in the following way:

Not: to be, then to act, but: to be is to act. And the very first thing which "to be" does, is to make its own essence to be, that is, "to be a being." This is done at once, completely and definitively... But the next thing which "to be" does, is to begin bringing its own individual essence somewhat nearer its completion.29

Gilson makes it clear that the primacy of esse as dynamism radically transforms the Aristotelian dynamism of form. When St. Thomas made this transformation,
the whole philosophical outlook on reality at once became different... .Instead of a self-achieving end, form becomes an end to be achieved by its own esse, which progressively makes it an actual being. To be (esse) is to act (agere), and to act is to tend (tender to an end wherein achieved being may ultimately rest.30

This is a critical point of the proposal because expanding esse (i.e., relational esse), which is implied in the magisterial formulations concerning the Trinity and in the theology of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Greek Fathers, is axiomatic to Thomistic metaphysics. Esse achieves: its expansion precisely as agere.

Now, to the charge that agere must always be an accident of created: being, let me suggest the following. Agere varies according to the hierarchy of being. The more limited the esse, the more extrinsic or transitive the action is, the greater the effect on the exterior and the, more limited the extent of relation. The charge of a bull or a landslide is almost totally extrinsic, devastating and limited. On the other end, of the spectrum, the higher the degree of being, the more immanent the action, the less the exterior manifestation and the wider the extent of relation. A man in love with God may have a zero exterior manifestation, yet with an intense universal relation to every man and to creation itself. From the perspective of substance, we place the charge of the bull in the; category of "action" while the love of God would be categorized a "quality." They would both be accidents.

From the point of view of esse as the primum metaphysicum, however, they would both be manifestations of esse, as "modes," according' to the degree of limit constricting it. To see substance as a subject receiving, specifying and exercising esse with agere and intelligere as accidents of it is to miss the intensive character of the Thomistic esse while reducing it to the actualization of reified metaphysical components, substance being one of them. Again, if Fr. Phelan is correct in his evaluation of De Veritate, 1,1, (p. 7, n. 16), substance is a mode of being, a kind of limited way of
seeing esse.3l Therefore, instead of seeing different kinds of accidents, it would be truer to see hierarchical levels of limitation of esse producing different kinds of agere, remote and sporadic like the charge of a bull, or intrinsic and constitutive like the thought and love of a man. Thus, instead of seeing agere as the manifestation of the nature of a substance and hence an accident of the substance, it would be more true to
see it as esse itself at various levels of limitation. The less limited manifestations would be levels of intelligere and velle. Where there is no limitation, esse is agere as in the case of the Person of Christ and the inner life of the Trinity. My point is to connect esse and agere as states of one another32 without perfectly identifying them except where they
reach infinity. As Fr. de Finance remarks:

Esse accidentale will not be anything else than a particular aspect of the unique act of existence; operation (agere) will truly be more being, not another being (l'operation verait vraiment un plus etre, non un etre de plus).

We will see below how esse/agere correspond to the two states of esse itself: intrinsic existence and relationality.

Up to this point, the positive aspect of the proposal has consisted in highlighting the intensive character of esse as well as its expansive tendency as agere. We now come to the negative side of the proposal which is to suggest that essence be downgraded from its traditional role as limiting and exercising subject and be restricted to the lesser role as limit of esse. Two theories of essence as limit suggest themselves. The one is the "thin" theory pioneered in this country by G.B. Phelan and advanced by William Carlo,34
and W. Norris Clarks, S.J.35 It maintains that since esse, in the mind of St. Thomas, is all the act and reality there is in being, so as not to fall into contradiction by assigning "reality" to a "really distinct" essence which "receives," "exercises" as well as limits this esse, they maintain that essence "is an intrinsic principle of limitation only, that makes no positive contribution of its own but merely limits or 'contracts'. ..what would otherwise be the de se plenitude of existence.... "36

The traditional or “thick” thomistic notion of essence as the limitation of esse consists in esse limiting itself mediately, through essence which in this case is positive, distinct from esse but derived from it. Esse "autodetermines" itself. By "determining" is meant to confer a perfection and to limit a perfection. Esse does both. It gives reality to essence which in turn limits esse specifying and limiting it to be this kind of being and this individual existent.

Both theories of essence as limit have advantages and disadvantages. The "thin" theory is coherent with the vision that esse is all the act there is in being. As we saw above from Gerald Phelan: "God gives esse and nothing more." But it limps explaining how "nothing" limits esse to be this "chunk" of esse; i.e. there is no explanation because there is nothing there,37 since esse is all there is. It also limps explaining the "plasticity" or "tending" of esse. By denying the reality of a distinct potency, it introduces, without
warrant, potency into esse.

The thick theory is the temptress/haven of the reification of principles. Even when essence is not presumed real as "receiving" and "exercising" esse, the awkward situation of esse limiting itself arises because it has recourse to distinct levels of causality. On the positive side, however, it does give an explanation of limit of esse and potency of being.

Still in both cases, essence as limit should be disqualified as on logical candidate for personality precisely because person is coming to us from its theological origin as a positive expansive dynamic, not a limiting(negative) principle, and – as we have seen in Walter Kasper – “one cannot… adopt this theologically necessary metaphysics ‘from the outside.’ Rather, one must develop it on the basis of the testimonies of revelation and the understanding of reality implicit in them.” And not only “testimonies of revelation.” What is essential for both theology and philosophy is to craft a positive metaphysics of being as pure relation so that, on the one side, Christianity not dwindle into mere paradox (one finds self by gift of self [Gaudium et Spes #24]), nor, on the other side, that Being be eliminated with the question of death and God. Hence, if essence is only a limit of expanding esse, it cannot be the principle of personality.

Having presented the act of existence positively as intensive expansive and the essence as reduced to limit and specification of that act, I would like to focus attention on a Thomistically heterodox yet crucial conclusion. If esse as intensive (intelligere) is relational, an person is characterized by relationality, then esse should be the principle of personality. Essence as principle of limit of act and therefore limit relationality should be rejected as subject of being and hence person. The pinpointing of esse as the intersection of intensiveness and relatio ality can be made clearer with this gloss by Josef Pieper on St. Thomas Summa Contra Gentiles 4, 11. He shows the direct proportionate between esse as intrinsic existence and its outreach as relation, as age The greater the relationality of the agere, the more intensive the esse.

The principle that I want to be faithful to here is that which se person as relational energy in God and as image and likeness of God man. Josef Pieper's gloss on Summa Contra Gentiles 4, 11 could put the proposal on display. St. Thomas begins the question:

Following a diversity of natures, one finds a diverse manner of emanation in things, and, the higher a nature is, the more intimate to the nature is that which flows form it. Pieper gives an elucidation of this principle. He says: For the notion of "having an intrinsic existence" corresponds to "being able to relate," so that the most comprehensive ability to relate-namely, the power to "conform to all that is"-implies at the same time also the highest form of intrinsic existence, of selfness.39

Pieper identifies "having an intrinsic existence" with a "self" and, makes it the "core" of the emanations or relationalities (agere). He obviously means "being an intrinsic existence" as opposed to "having" and to that effect, says:

The concept of "intrinsic existence" refers to that dynamic core of an entity from which all active manifestations originate and toward which all endurance and receptivity are focused and directed. An entity endowed with an intrinsic existence is ontologically a "subject," a self-contained unified being. 40

I see esse as "that dynamic core of an entity from which all active manifestations originate." Pieper goes on to explain how a rock has no intrinsic existence (from a common sense perspective) and therefore no proper relationality.

Plants do possess a true intrinsic existence; animals even more so. The most genuine and highest form of intrinsic existence is the spirit-endowed se1f.41

The "emanations" of which St. Thomas spoke, Pieper translates as relation, not as accident of substance, but as an orientation of the subject itself, from the "inside." He says:

Only in reference to an inside can there be an outside. Without a self-contained "subject" there can be no "object." Relating-to, conforming-with, being-oriented- toward - all these notions presuppose an inside starting point.... The higher the form of intrinsic existence, the more developed becomes the relatedness with reality, also the more profound and comprehensive becomes the sphere of this relatedness: namely, the world. And the deeper such relations penetrate the world of reality, the more intrinsic becomes the respective subject's existence.42

The rock relates only in the sense of placement. The plant reaches into the soil and toward the sun. The animal senses all material reality and moves with regard to it. Man does all of that and besides he knows all being and relates correspondingly with love, transcending all created reality. He sums up:

to have (or to be) an "intrinsic existence" means "to be able to relate" and "to be the sustaining subject at the center of a field of reference. The hierarchy of existing things, being equally a hierarchy of intrinsic existences, corresponds on each level to the intensity and extension of the respective relationship in their power, character and domain....These two aspects, combined---dwelling most intensively within itself, and being capax universe, able to grasp the universe-together constitute the essence of the spirit. Any definition of "spirit" will have to contain these two aspects as its core. 43

My proposal is that that core is esse itself as intensive. Although the essence is "thick" or "thin" in its function as limit, it is not a substantialized essence that is the subject at various hierarchical levels intensive esse itself. is that subject.' There is no doubt that I am transmuting esse from its status as created quo to that of created quis or quod.45As quis or quod I understand it to be the principle and subject of all operations. As such, "I" am this finite esse which is this intelligere and velle. As created, 46 this esse is finite.47 As such, it cannot be God, nor can it be strictly identified with agere which alone takes
place in God. That is why there is a systole and a diastole between the going forth as relation and the return as self-actualization (an intrinsic existence). I become myself by giving myself. But it is from esse that agere issues. Fr. Phelan comments:

From esse issue all operations, immanent and transient, as from a living source of dynamic power, while essence or nature gives direction and determinant character to that ceaseless flow of entitative energy within which the being (ens) rows and waxes stronger, becoming more and more itself.

The ramifications of a proposal such as this are many. The first, which is the proposal of the paper, is that esse as person subject is the principle of expansion and relation, not the principle of limit. If relation is a dimension constitutive of being itself, then love and ultimately relation to others will not be accidental but constitutive. Sanctity would then be of the essence of personality and not an adjunct to it. So also, freedom
would be transmuted from the narrowness of freedom of choice as indetermination before the finite good, to the dynamic, both divine and human now, of "being-for-the-other." As Cardinal Ratzinger says:

The real God is bound to himself in threefold love and is thus pure freedom. Man's vocation is to be this image of God, to become like him.... For this reason, the person who has become at one with his or her essential nature, at one with truth itself, is free. 49

The migration of subject and person from the limiting essence to the expanding esse redefines the relationship between God, man and reality. It puts the relationship more in agreement with the Fathers of the Church, particularly the Greek Fathers. Instead of there being a gap between God and creation, there is ontological common ground: infinite esse and expanding esse. Instead of a heteronatural relationship, it is connatural. Freedom and sanctity become constitutive requirements for ontological development instead of accidental exceptions for the elite. The ultimate closing of ground is found in that ontological center where God became man that men might become gods. This is not pantheism but divinization of the created, i.e., finite and expanding esse is touched by Divine Grace and actualized in its steady drive towards union with the Infinite.

If "person" is a being with the relational dimension of knowing and loving, and esse, as intensive and expansive, gives that dimension, and essence is only a limit of esse, then esse as intelligere is the prime candidate to be "person." This would give us a new and more coherent profile of finite being, fashion a more relevant tool for theological speculation, reintroduce metaphysics to ethical reasoning which yearns for a dynamic
grounding and give us an ontologic of freedom and personal sanctity: the pro-structure of being. Being has become love (Agape). This would be the truth that makes us free in its metaphysical formulation.

American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly Volume LXVm 1991, 253-267.

* * * * * * * * * * *


1. De Trinitate, V, 5, 6 (Patrologia Latina [PL] 42, 913f).
2. Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, 68,1, 5, in CCL 39,905 (PL 36, 385).
3. J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (New York: Herder and Herder,
1970), 131-32.
4. Gregory of Nyssa complained of Eunomius, the Arian, because "he suppresses the names of 'Father, Son and Holy Ghost" and speaks of a "Supreme and Absolute Being" instead of the Father, of "another existing through it, but after
it" instead of the Son, and of "a third ranking with neither of these two" instead of the Holy Ghost." He complains that this substitution robbed the revelation of the Trinity of its constitutive relational dimension. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, Book I, par. 14 from A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. P Schaff and H. Wace
(Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Erdmans, 1892), 51-52.5. ibid, 132.
5. J. Ratzinger, op. cit., p. 132.
6. Gaudium et Spes, #24.
7. Walter Kasper, "Postmodern Dogmatics" in Communio, Summer 1990, 189-90.
8. "Whereas in the days of Aristotelian hegemony the task was to integrate the world of the person into that of nature, the task now is to constitute the world of personhood (both inter-human and divine-human) and then integrate the world of physical nature into it (ecology). Now only persons are transcendent in that they alone can constitute a world of mutually intelligent interaction. Only personal relationship can be normative, and even the 'otherness' of physical nature can only be respected when mediated by the doctrine of creation seen from the vantage point of the covenant with God." Quoted from David Novak by David Bruckbauer in The Recovery of Classical Reason in The Wanderer,
9/18,90, 7.
9. Capreolus affirms that "the human person adds something positive over the individuated nature. That positive "something," however, is the actus naturae... i.e., the esse actualis existentiae which is the actus essentiae. Even though person is esse, esse only actualizes a nature. Person continues unrelational." Ref. Defensiones Theologiae
Divi Thomae Aquinatis, ed. Paban-Pegues, t. V, 105a.
10. "Is America Bourgeois?," Communio 14 (1987),264-90; "Catholicity and the State of Contemporary Theology: The Need for an Ontologic of Holiness," Communio 14 (1987), 426-50; "Once Again: George Weigel, Catholicism and American Culture," Communio 15 (1988), 92-120; "On Meaning and the Death of God in the Academy," Communio
17 (1990), 192-206; "U.S. Catholicism: a `Moment of Opportunity'?", 30 Days (1989) 57-60.
11. G.B. Phelan, "Being, Order and Knowledge," Selected Papers (Toronto: PIMS, 1967), 127.
12. Ibid., 125-26.
13. Ibid., 126-27.
14. Ibid., `The Existentialism of St. Thomas," 77.
15. De Unitate Intellectus, III; Editio Critics, Leo W. Keeler, S.J., Romae aupd Aedes Pont. Universitatis Gregorianae, 1957, 53.
16. The same point can be found in the answer to the 18th objection of Question 1 of the Questions on the Soul:
"Although the esse of a soul belongs in some way to the body, still the body does not succeed in participating in the
esse of the soul according to the soul's full excellence and power; and consequently:-there is an operation of soul in which the body does not share." J. Robb, Questions on the Soul (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1984), 51.
17. This notion would seem to differ from the "orthodox" position as exemplified in the works of Fr. Joseph Owens. Following the vocabulary of St .4 Thomas himself, Fr. Owens always refers to esse as "actuality." The intelligible density and operational power which I am attributing to esse, for him, seem to come from the form of which esse is the actuality. But esse itself is not "dense." In this regard he says: “The positive character of the essence, however, is actually positive only through the being that actualizes the essence. Considered in priority to the actualization by being, the form can function only as potency ... it is receiving its actuality. “The Accidental and Essential Character of
Being in the Doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas,” Medieval Studies 20 (1958), 38.
18. "In the verb exists we have the act of existing, or a super-intelligible. To say that which exists is to join an intelligible to a super-intelligible; it is to have before our eyes an intelligible engaged in and perfected by a super-intelligibility." J. Maritain, Existence and the Existent (need place of publisher: Pantheon, 1948), 34.
19. J. Robb, "Intelligere Intelligentibus Est Esse,"An Etienne Gilson Tribute ed. Ch. O’Niele (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1959), 224.
20. A. Pegis, "St. Thomas and the Unity of Man," Progress in Philosophy (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955), 1972.
21. Summa Theologiae, 1, q. 18,2, ad 1m.
23. Ibid.
22. De Spiritualibus Creatures, Art. XI, obj. 14 and ad 14m. 23. Ibid.
24. De Substantiis Sepamtis, XI, #61, ed. LescQe, 100-01.
25. St. Thomas Aquinas, Quaestiones de Anima, ed. J.H. Robb (Toronto: PIMS, 1968), . p.63
26. "I will argue here that organisms are systems which are intrinsically teleologically organized and that this fact is a permanent obstacle to reduction. This is not to say that organisms are made of any special matter or that biological phenomena will not be a complete account. The claim I will explicate is that because of the teleological
organization of organisms there is an explanatory relation that goes from the level of organization of the entire entity as a system to the subsystems and parts and processes that constitute the entity. There is an intimate relation between the character of organisms as complex, developing wholes and their being teleologically organized ... Hierarchical
organization is explanatory with respect to (at least some of) its components and not merely consequent upon them," Jonathan Jacobs, "Teleology and Reduction in Biology" in Biology and Philosophy 1(place of publisher: D. Reidel Publishing Company,
1986) 389-99.
27. Quaestiones de Anima, q.1. ad 13m, 62, op. cit.: ( anima est forma corporis, quod animae et corporis sit unum esse commune quod est esse compositi).
28. J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius(1990) 168.
29. E. Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1949) 184.
30. Ibid., 184-86.
31. G.B. Phelan, "Being, Order and Knowledge," Selected Papers (Toronto: PIMS, 1967), 126.
32. The union of action and its agent is therefore much closer than that of subject and its accidents. ..Is there a perfect existential unity? Does the same "esse" bring about the substance and its act at the same time? It seems so... Would it not be more in conformity with the unity of being to conceive the accident, and more particularly, the operation (action) as expanding, so to speak, the capacity of the subject with regard to its "esse," in
permitting it to exercise its function more? Accidental "esse" would not be anything other than a particular aspect of the unique act of existence: operation (action) will truly be a "plus-etre de plus" (translation mine). J. de Finance, Etre et Agir Dans la Philosophie de Saint Thomas (Roma: Librairie Editrice de l'Universite Gregorienne, 1969), 248-49.
33. Ibid., 249.
34. W. Carlo, The Ultimate Reducibility of Essence to Existence in Existential Metaphysics (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966),1003-104. Also, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophic Association, 1957, 127-28.
35. “The Role of Essence Within St. Thomas' Essence-Existence Doctrine: Positive or Negative Principle? A Dispute Within Thomism," from Atti del Congresso Internazionale, no. 6: "L'Essere." 36. Ibid., 112.
36. Ibid 112.
37. Carlo's thesis that essence is where esse stops does not explain what makes esse stop. Joyce Little comments: `To say that essence is the place where esse stops does nothing more than state a fact of our everyday experience, i.e. that things are finite. Such a description supposes the capacity (potency) of esse to stop, but provides no analysis of the conditions of possibility which would permit esse to stop." Toward a Thomistic Methodology (Lewiston, New York: Mellen Press, 1988), 92.
38. "Whatever we imagine determines the cannot be pure nothingness. Therefore, it is something pertaining to being in virtue of an act-of-being." E. Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Random House, 1966), 36.
39. J. Pieper, Living the Truth (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 1989), 81. 40. Ibid, 81.
41. Ibid, 82.
42. Ibid, 82.
43. Ibid, 83.
44. This coincides with the phenomenological analysis of Karol Wojtyla, but not necessarily with his metaphysical
analysis. Phenomenologically, he asserts that self-determination is the constituting element of the person: "`I do' means that 'I am the efficient cause' of my action, of the actualization of myself as the subject…The concept of self-determination contains more than the concept of agency: man not only performs his actions, but by his actions he becomes, in one way or another, his own `maker'. Doing is accompanies by becoming; and, what is more, the two are organically fused together." K. Wojtyla, "The Structure of Self-Determination as the Core of Theory of the Person," in Congresso Internazionale
Tomasso DAquino nel suo Settimo Centenario (Rome/Naples, 1974), 38 and 40.
45. Frs. Dewan and Owens have debated recently (The New Scholasticism, [1989], 173-82; and ACPQ, [1990], 261-64) over the essential or accidental relation of esse to essence. Insofar as they both weigh essence as suppositum specifying esse (Dewan) or exercising esse (Owens), esse will always be of essence and incoherent with the vision of De Veritate, 1, 1.
46. For those who affirm that only Infinite Esse is, and finite esse cannot be, in the sense of being its own subject, do so by viewing esse as "thin" actuality, i.e., as the non-intensive power actualizing an essence which is its subject. Therefore, to say that "actuality is" is to say the "God is." As a result, any attempt to subsistentialize esse outside of Infinite Esse would be pantheism.
My answer to that charge is to suggest the intensive and relational character of esse making it suitable as subject, combined with its finiteness which characterizes its creatureliness. Cf. Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, The Paradoxical Structure of Existence (Albany: PCP, 1989), chs. 4 and 6.
47. The finitude of "thick" esse is sufficient to dispel any charge of pantheism since finitude of intensity means participation; i.e., the finite being has only "part" of the full intensity of Infinite Being.
48. G.B. Phelan, The Existentialism of St. Thomas, 81.
49. J. Ratzinger, "Freedom and Liberation," in Church, Ecumenism and Politics (New York: Crossroad, 1987), 274.
50. V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Cambridge and London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1957),10,91-113; also, T. Paul Verghese, The Freedom of Man (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1968), 68.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

SCDF on Lumen Gentium (in particular)



The Second Vatican Council, with its Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, and its Decrees on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio) and the Oriental Churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum), has contributed in a decisive way to the renewal of Catholic ecclesiology. The Supreme Pontiffs have also contributed to this renewal by offering their own insights and orientations for praxis: Paul VI in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam suam (1964) and John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint (1995).

The consequent duty of theologians to expound with greater clarity the diverse aspects of ecclesiology has resulted in a flowering of writing in this field. In fact it has become evident that this theme is a most fruitful one which, however, has also at times required clarification by way of precise definition and correction, for instance in the declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973), the Letter addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Communionis notio (1992), and the declaration Dominus Iesus (2000), all published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The vastness of the subject matter and the novelty of many of the themes involved continue to provoke theological reflection. Among the many new contributions to the field, some are not immune from erroneous interpretation which in turn give rise to confusion and doubt. A number of these interpretations have been referred to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Given the universality of Catholic doctrine on the Church, the Congregation wishes to respond to these questions by clarifying the authentic meaning of some ecclesiological expressions used by the magisterium which are open to misunderstanding in the theological debate.



Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?


The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.

This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council.[1] Paul VI affirmed it[2] and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution Lumen gentium: “There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation”.[3] The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention.[4]


What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?


Christ “established here on earth” only one Church and instituted it as a “visible and spiritual community”[5], that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.[6]

“This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him”.[7]

In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church[8], in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.[9] Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church.[10]


Why was the expression “subsists in” adopted instead of the simple word “is”?


The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity”.[11]

“It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church”[12].

Note: Then-Cardinal Ratzinger offered a telling epistemological distinction between subject and object in the understanding of this text. He remarked that:

"Subsistere is a special case of esse. It is being in the form of a subject who has an autonomous existence. Here it is a question precisely of this. The Council wants to tell us that the Church of Jesus Christ as a concrete subject in this world can be found in the Catholic Church. This can take place only once, and the idea that the subsistit could be multiplied fails to grasp precisely the notion that is being intended. With the word subsistit, the Council wished to explain the unicity of the Catholic Church and the fact of her inability to be multiplied: the Church exists as a subject in historical reality" (J. Ratzinger, "Ecclesiology of the Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, 'Lumen Gentium'").


Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term “Church” in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?


The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. “Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all – because of the apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds”[13], they merit the title of “particular or local Churches”[14], and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.[15]

“It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature”.[16] However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches.[17]

On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.[18]


Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?


According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery[19] cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense[20].

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ratified and confirmed these Responses, adopted in the Plenary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 2007, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
William Cardinal LevadaPrefect

Angelo Amato, S.D.B.Titular Archbishop of SilaSecretary

[1] John XXIII, Address of 11 October 1962: “…The Council…wishes to transmit Catholic doctrine, whole and entire, without alteration or deviation…To be sure, at the present time, it is necessary that Christian doctrine in its entirety, and with nothing taken away from it, is accepted with renewed enthusiasm, and serene and tranquil adherence… it is necessary that the very same doctrine be understood more widely and more profoundly as all those who sincerely adhere to the Christian, Catholic and Apostolic faith strongly desire …it is necessary that this certain and unchangeable doctrine, to which is owed the obedience of faith, be explored and expounded in the manner required by our times. For the deposit of faith itself, or the truths which are contained in our venerable doctrine, are one thing; another thing is the way in which they are expressed, with however the same meaning and signification”: AAS 54 [1962] 791-792
[2] Cf. Paul VI, Address of 29 September 1963: AAS 55 [1963] 847-852.
[3] Paul VI, Address of 21 November 1964: AAS 56 [1964] 1009-1010.
[4] The Council wished to express the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church. This is clear from the discussions on the decree Unitatis redintegratio. The Schema of the Decree was proposed on the floor of the Council on 23.9.1964 with a Relatio (Act Syn III/II 296-344). The Secretariat for the Unity of Christians responded on 10.11.1964 to the suggestions sent by Bishops in the months that followed (Act Syn III/VII 11-49). Herewith are quoted four texts from this Expensio modorum concerning this first response.
A) [In Nr. 1 (Prooemium) Schema Decreti: Act Syn III/II 296, 3-6]
“Pag. 5, lin. 3-6: Videtur etiam Ecclesiam catholicam inter illas Communiones comprehendi, quod falsum esset.R(espondetur): Hic tantum factum, prout ab omnibus conspicitur, describendum est. Postea clare affirmatur solam Ecclesiam catholicam esse veram Ecclesiam Christi” (Act Syn III/VII 12).
B) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 297-301]
“4 - Expressius dicatur unam solam esse veram Ecclesiam Christi; hanc esse Catholicam Apostolicam Romanam; omnes debere inquirere, ut eam cognoscant et ingrediantur ad salutem obtinendam...R(espondetur): In toto textu sufficienter effertur, quod postulatur. Ex altera parte non est tacendum etiam in aliis communitatibus christianis inveniri veritates revelatas et elementa ecclesialia”(Act Syn III/VII 15). Cf. also ibid pt. 5.
C) [In Caput I in genere: Act Syn III/II 296s]
“5 - Clarius dicendum esset veram Ecclesiam esse solam Ecclesiam catholicam romanam...R(espondetur): Textus supponit doctrinam in constitutione ‘De Ecclesia’ expositam, ut pag. 5, lin. 24-25 affirmatur” (Act Syn III/VII 15). Thus the commission whose task it was to evaluate the responses to the Decree Unitatis redintegratio clearly expressed the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church and its unicity, and understood this doctrine to be founded in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium.
D) [In Nr. 2 Schema Decreti: Act Syn III/II 297s]
“Pag. 6, lin. 1- 24: Clarius exprimatur unicitas Ecclesiae. Non sufficit inculcare, ut in textu fit, unitatem Ecclesiae.R(espondetur): a) Ex toto textu clare apparet identificatio Ecclesiae Christi cum Ecclesia catholica, quamvis, ut oportet, efferantur elementa ecclesialia aliarum communitatum”.“Pag. 7, lin. 5: Ecclesia a successoribus Apostolorum cum Petri successore capite gubernata (cf. novum textum ad pag. 6, lin.33-34) explicite dicitur ‘unicus Dei grex’ et lin. 13 ‘una et unica Dei Ecclesia’ ” (Act Syn III/VII).The two expressions quoted are those of Unitatis redintegratio 2.5 e 3.1.
[5] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.1.
[6] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.2; 3.4; 3.5; 4.6.
[7] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, 8.2.
[8] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1.1: AAS 65 [1973] 397; Declaration Dominus Iesus, 16.3: AAS 92 [2000-II] 757-758; Notification on the Book of Leonardo Boff, OFM, “Church: Charism and Power”: AAS 77 [1985] 758-759.
[9] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 11.3: AAS 87 [1995-II] 928.
[10] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.2.
[11] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.2.
[12] Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.4.
[13] Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.3; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 17.2: AAS, 85 [1993-II] 848.
[14] Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1.
[15] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 56 f: AAS 87 [1995-II] 954 ff.
[16] Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.1.
[17] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 17.3: AAS 85 [1993-II] 849.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 22.3.
[20] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, 17.2: AAS 92 [2000-II] 758.

The Two February 14ths (1930/1943) in Opus Dei

The Dynamics of February 14 in the Founding of Opus Dei:

Ministerial priests and lay women (as well as men) are equal but not the same as “priests of their own existence.” They are equal because they share equally in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. In Opus Dei, as in the Church, there is only one Christian vocation, to be Ipse Christus. The dynamic of sharing in the “ipse Christus” is the gift of self on the occasion and in the performance of ordinary work and social life.

Women in Opus Dei:

“A short time later, on February 14, 1930, I was celebrating Mass in the little chapel of the elderly Marchioness of Onteiro, Luz Casanova’ mother, whom I took care of spiritually while I was chaplain of the Foundation. During the Mass, right after Communion, the whole women’s branch of the Work! I cannot say that I saw it, but intellectually, in detail, I grasped what the women’s branch of Opus Dei was to be. (Later I added other elements, developing this intellectual vision). I gave thanks, and, at the usual time, I went to the confessional of Father Sanchez. He listened to me and then said, ‘This is just as much from God as the rest.’”

“The participation of women in Opus Dei had been something already implicit in the general vision of October 2. Now his hesitations and investigations into similar institutions came to an end.

“I noted down in my “Catalinas,” the event and its date February 14, 1930. Later I forgot the date, and I let some time go by, but never again did it occur to me to think, with my false humility (that is, love of comfort, fear of struggle), of becoming a little soldier in the ranks. It was, beyond any doubt, necessary to do some founding."

“The events of both October 2 and February 14 caught him unprepared, but especially the latter, which flew in the face of his conviction that there was no room in Opus Dei for women. As he saw it, this made the Work’s divine origin all the more clear.

“I always believed, and I still believe, that our Lord, as on other occasions, ‘managed’ me in such a way that there would be a clear, external, objective proof that t he Work was his. I said, ‘I don’t want women in Opus Dei!’ and God said, ‘Well, I do.’

“That was not the end of the surprises. Speaking about the paradoxes of the founding, he would say one day:
“The foundation of Opus Dei happened without me; the women’s branch, against my personal opinion; and the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, when I was seeking it but unable to find it.”[1]

Ministerial Priests in Opus Dei

“‘Time went by,’ he says. ‘We prayed. The three who were to be ordained as the first priests of the Work were studying very hard, putting their hearts into it. Then, one day…’

“On the morning of February 14, 1943 – already a day of thanksgiving for the Work as the anniversary of the founding of the women’s branch on February 14, 1930 – Father Josemaria left early to say Mass for his daughters in the oratory of Jorge Manrique. They all participated with great devotion, and he was immersed in God throughout the Holy Sacrifice.

“As soon as Mass was over, he took out his notebook and wrote on the page for February 14, feast of Saint Valentine, ‘In the house of the women, during Holy Mass “Societas Sacerdotalis Sanctae Crucis” [The Priestly Society of the Holy Cross].” And then, on that same page, he made a little drawing, of a circle with a cross inside it. After making his thanksgiving, he went downstairs, asked for a sheet of paper, and went into a small reception room, while his daughters waited for him in the vestibule. Encarnita later wrote:

“A few minutes later he reappeared in the vestibule, and it was clear he was deeply moved.
Look,’ he told us, pointing to a sheet on which he had drawn a circle with a cross of special proportions in its center, ‘this will be the seal of the Work. The seal, not he coat of arms.” Opus Dei will not have a coat of arms. It represents the world, and in the very heart of the world the Cross.”

“Next day Father Josemaria went to El Escorial, not far from Madrid, where Alvaro del Portillo, Jose Maria Hernandez de Garnica, and Jose Luis Muzquiz were preparing for their theology exams. With a great sense of unworthiness, almost with shame, he told Alvaro of the grace he had received during Mass the day before. The necessary documents needed to be prepared quickly. Alvaro would be the one to go to Rome to seek approval for the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross."

The Second Vatican Council

Historical Background: Alvaro del Portillo wrote: “In modern times, with the appearance of the separation or rupture between Christianity and European thought and culture, there comes about a definite dechristianization of the secular sphere which, in its initial stages, takes the form of an emancipation of that secular (lay) sphere from the Church. Hence the terms laicization, secularization, lay education, lay schools etc. in the sense of something to be deplored. The explanation of this is that the Middle Ages the layman found his field of action reduced to worldly affairs, with the disappearance of the sense of the laity’s active participation in the field proper to the Church, which had been so lively in the early centuries; the Church’s mission came to be identified almost exclusively with the ministry of the clerics, and Christian perfection came to be considered as something proper to clerics and religious. The layman’s possibilities were reduced to the practice of the common virtues in the exercise of his secular functions, which was generally presented in ascetic literature as an obstacle to the Christian life of perfection.

“Added to these circumstances was the influence which ecclesiastics exercised from the sociological point of view in matters and spheres more proper to lay people, the so-called ‘potestas Ecclesiae in temporalibus’ etc., and one can easily understand how the phenomenon of ‘laicity,’ although an antichristian force in certain philosophico-political currents, is also a veritable blossoming forth, within the Church, of the secular world, the world of the laity, trying to free itself from a clerical tutelage which in many respects was unnecessary and stifling. In this case, of course, we should not speak of ‘laicity’ in any derogatory sense, but rather of a perfectly legitimate ‘layness.’ It was, in other words, a movement towards emancipation, towards the autonomy of the secular, which in so far as it is legitimate has now been recognized by the Second Vatican Council, but which unfortunately before this recognition caused many people to abandon the Faith both doctrinally and in practice, and 8gave rise to attempts to seek independence from the Hierarchy even on matters falling clearly within the Magisterium, so that eventually the movement was tos become openly anti-ecclesiastical and anti-religious. This process came to be called ‘secularization,’ and consequently the word ‘lay’ came mean ‘secular.’

“Wherever this process of ‘secularization’ triumphs, whenever the world of politics and culture falls almost completely into the hands of people who are not catholic, then the catholic laity begin to recover a certain awareness of their mission in the Church, of their apostolic responsibility and potential. But then the laity’s active participation in the Church’s mission comes to be considered primarily, if not exclusively, as subsidiary, supplementary or auxiliary to that of the clergy. The world is regarded as evil, and attitudes of isolation and protection against it are adopted. The catholic layman then undergoes a kind of ‘desecularizing’ process, which takes from the word ‘lay’ a considerable proportion of its ambivalence. Lay in the sense of ‘secular’ and lay in the sense of ‘non-clerical faithful’ approximate to one another, because the concept of the layman in the sense of a secular, that is to say a layman immersed and involved in worldly affairs by virtue of his very function within the Church, comes to lose all meaning. The position of the layman in the world, regarded as an evil place, begins to be regarded as due to a lack of any vocation to a higher state, and ceases to be considered as a mission entrusted to him by Christ himself.”

The Radical and Fundamental Equality of the People of God

“(There is) one incontrovertible fact, emphasized with unprecedented vigor by the Second Vatican Council, namely that all persons who belong to the Church have a common fundamental legal status, because they all share one and the same basic theological condition and belong to the same primary common category. All the faithful, from the Pope to the child who has just been baptized, share one and the same vocation, the same faith, the same Spirit, the same grace. They are all in need of appropriate sacramental and spiritual aids; they must all live a full Christian life, following the same evangelical teachings; they must all lead a basic personal life of piety – that of children of God, brothers and disciples of Christ – which is obligatory for them before and above any specific distinctions which may arise from their different functions within the Churchy. They all have an active and appropriate share – within the inevitable plurality of ministries – in the single mission of Christ and of the Church. Therefore it follows logically that within the Church all members have certain fundamental rights and obligations in common.”[3]

It is important to note and state that this radical and fundamental equality is the insertion of all “faithful” (i.e. those who make the gift of self to the revealing Person of Christ) into the one priesthood of Christ. This insertion is not primarily structural nor bureaucratic but sacramental: the sacrament of Baptism, and the sacrament of Order. Priesthood means mediation, and that mediation in Christ is the gift of self through the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Both laity and ministers are priests of Jesus Christ empowered sacramentally to make this gift of themselves to death. Yet, although being equally priests of Christ (and therefore Christ Himself), they are not priests in the same way. Relational beings are able to be equal without being the same. Hence, “Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ.”[4]

Functional Diversity

The presentation of the radical and fundamental equality of the people of God in the document Lumen Gentium came as the result of a significant departure from the preparatory schema. “As is well known, this chapter appeared as the result of dividing into two parts an earlier draft entitled De Populo Dei et speciatim de laicis, which came after the section dealing with the Hierarchy. The new arrangement placed the chapter De Populo Dei second in the Constitution precisely to emphasize the condition which is common to all the Christifideles, who are dealt with in greater detail according to their different functions, in later chapters: the hierarchy in chapter III, the laity in chapter IV and the religious in chapter VI.”[5]

“Thus, one of the results of the Council has been to lay new emphasis on what is common to all the faithful, all the members of the priestly People of God, and to place in perspective within this primary and fundamental unity the various functions which exist in the Church.” What is common to all in the Church is call and sacramental insertion into the very Person of Jesus Christ. “‘Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephes. 4, 5). As faithful, they share a common dignity from their rebirth in Christ. They have the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection. They possess in common one salvation, one hope, and one undivided charity. Hence, there is in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female. For you are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3, 28).”[6]

Being One and equal, however, they are not the same. The relational orientation of the layman-priest (male and female) makes them One and equal, but not the same. The relationality of the lay faithful is to the world, thus participating in the mission of the Church to sanctify the world (through work) as the sacrament of Christ. The relationality of the ministerial priest is oriented to the service of the layfaithful precisely in the activation and exercise of their priesthood (by preaching the Word, celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and administering the sacraments, especially penance).

The Significance of the Two February 14ths in Opus Dei for this Consciousness in Vatican II

“Opus Dei is a little bit of the Church.” The theologian Pedro Rodriguez remarked: “With that non-technical expression the founder doubtless meant to ignore the legal framework into which the Work was slotted at the time, in order to highlight better its essence as a ‘little bit of the Church.’ It struck me at the time (and still does) that he was pointing the way to understanding the ecclesiology of Opus Dei – getting to the very core of the question. To think and speak of Opus Dei soon sends us back to what the Church essentially is, to its saving riches. All that Opus Dei is, it is within the mystery of the Church. Consequently, to study Opus Dei on needs to have a good grasp of ecclesiology. The better we understand the Church, the better will we see how the ‘little bit’ fits in.”[7]

Not only should one grasp the ecclesiology of the Church to understand Opus Dei, but also, the other around: one can grasp the ecclesiology of the Church by experiencing and grasping the reality of Opus Dei that existentially anticipated the doctrinal development in the writing of Lumen Gentium. This is true to such an extent that Alvaro del Portillo was able to remark:

"(The Second Vatican Council) “had assimilated and promulgated as common doctrine for all Christians the substantial lines of the charism of Opus Dei.”

What are those “substantial lines of the charism of Opus Dei”?

1- the common priesthood of the faithful. LG #10.

2 - the universal call to sanctity. LG #39.

3 – unity of life

4 – professional work as occasion and means of personal sanctity and apostolate. LG #31.

5 – secularity as specific characteristic of the lay apostolate and the sharing of the lay faithful in the mission of the Church

6 –recognition of the personal freedom of the Christian in temporal questions

7 – Holy Mass as “center and root” of interior life

8 – configuration of the special dioceses or personal Prelatures for specific pastoral and apostolic activities.

And, in passing, it may bear repeating that Vatican II still has not been grasped in this most critical teaching on the oneness of all in the Church in Christ. For the overall Council, Cardinal Ratzinger remarked:

“I believe… that the true time of Vatican II has not yet come, that its authentic reception has not yet begun: its documents were quickly buried under a pile of superficial or frankly inexact publications. The reading of the letter of the documents will enable us to discover their true spirit. If thus rediscovered in their truth, those great texts will make it possible for us to understand just what happened and to react with a new vigor. I repeat: the Catholic who clearly and, consequently, painfully perceives the damage that has been wrought in his Church by the misinterpretations of Vatican II must find the possibility of revival in Vatican II itself. The Council is his, it does not belong to those who want to continue along a road whose results have been catastrophic. It does not belong to those, who, not by chance, don’t know just what to make of Vatican II, which they look upon as a ‘fossil of the clerical era.’”[8]

[1] Andrés Vázquez de Prada, “The Founder of Opus Dei,” Vol. 1 (1997) 243-244..
[2] Alvaro del Portillo, “Faithful and Laity in the Church,” Ecclesia Press, Shannon, Ireland (1972) 17-19.
[3] Ibid 19.
[4] Lumen Gentium #10.
[5] Alvaro del Portillo, op. cit 21.
[6] Alvaro del Portillo, op. cit 21-22.
[7] A remark of St. Josemaria Escriva in 1958; cf. Pedro Rodriguez, “The Place of Opus Dei in the Church” in Opus Dei in the Church, Scepter (1994) 1.
[8] J. Ratzinger/Messori, “The Ratzinger Report,” Ignatius (1985) 40.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Homily Benedict XVI on Ash Wednesday 2/6/08

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

If Advent is the season par excellence that invites us to hope in the God-Who-Comes, Lent renews in us the hope in the One who made us pass from death to life. Both are seasons of purification - this is also indicated by the liturgical colour that they have in common - but in a special way Lent, fully oriented to the mystery of Redemption, is defined the "path of true conversion" (cf. Collect). At the beginning of our penitential journey, I would like to pause briefly to reflect on prayer and suffering as qualifying aspects of the liturgical Season of Lent, whereas I dedicated the Message for Lent, published last week, to the practice of almsgiving. In the Encyclical Spe Salvi, I identified prayer and suffering, together with action and judgement, as ""settings' for learning and practising hope". We can thus affirm that precisely because the Lenten Season is an invitation to prayer, penance and fasting, it affords a providential opportunity to enliven and strengthen our hope.

Prayer nourishes hope because nothing expresses the reality of God in our life better than praying with faith. Even in the loneliness of the most severe trial, nothing and no one can prevent me from addressing the Father "in the secret" of my heart, where he alone "sees", as Jesus says in the Gospel (cf. Mt 6: 4, 6, 18). Two moments of Jesus' earthly existence come to mind. One is at the beginning and the other almost at the end of his public ministry: the 40 days in the desert, on which the Season of Lent is based, and the agony in Gethsemane - are both essentially moments of prayer. Prayer alone with the Father face to face in the desert; prayer filled with "mortal anguish" in the Garden of Olives. Yet in both these circumstances it is by praying that Christ unmasks the wiles of the tempter and defeats him. Thus, prayer proves to be the first and principal "weapon" with which to win the victory "in our struggle against the spirit of evil" (cf. Collect).

Christ's prayer reaches its culmination on the Cross. It is expressed in those last words which the Evangelists have recorded. Where he seems to utter a cry of despair: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27: 46; Mk 15: 34; cf. Ps 22[21]: 1), Christ was actually making his own the invocation of someone beset by enemies with no escape, who has no one other than God to turn to and, over and above any human possibilities, experiences his grace and salvation. With these words of the Psalm, first of a man who is suffering, then of the People of God in their suffering, caused by God's apparent absence, Jesus made his own this cry of humanity that suffers from God's apparent absence, and carried this cry to the Father's heart. So, by praying in this ultimate solitude together with the whole of humanity, he opens the Heart of God to us. There is no contradiction between these words in Psalm 22[21] and the words full of filial trust: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk 23: 46; cf. Ps 31[30]: 5). These words, also taken from Psalm 31[30], are the dramatic imploration of a person who, abandoned by all, is sure he can entrust himself to God. The prayer of supplication full of hope is consequently the leitmotif of Lent and enables us to experience God as the only anchor of salvation. Indeed when it is collective, the prayer of the People of God is a voice of one heart and soul, it is a "heart to heart" dialogue, like Queen Esther's moving plea when her people were about to be exterminated: "O my Lord, you only are our King; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you" (Est 14: 3)... for a great danger overshadows me (cf. v. 7). In the face of a "great danger" greater hope is needed: only the hope that can count on God.

Prayer is a crucible in which our expectations and aspirations are exposed to the light of God's Word, immersed in dialogue with the One who is the Truth, and from which they emerge free from hidden lies and compromises with various forms of selfishness (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 33). Without the dimension of prayer, the human "I" ends by withdrawing into himself, and the conscience, which should be an echo of God's voice, risks being reduced to a mirror of the self, so that the inner conversation becomes a monologue, giving rise to self-justifications by the thousands. Therefore, prayer is a guarantee of openness to others: whoever frees himself for God and his needs simultaneously opens himself to the other, to the brother or sister who knocks at the door of his heart and asks to be heard, asks for attention, forgiveness, at times correction, but always in fraternal charity. True prayer is never self-centred, it is always centred on the other. As such, it opens the person praying to the "ecstasy" of charity, to the capacity to go out of oneself to draw close to the other in humble, neighbourly service. True prayer is the driving force of the world since it keeps it open to God. For this reason without prayer there is no hope but only illusion. In fact, it is not God's presence that alienates man but his absence: without the true God, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, illusory hopes become an invitation to escape from reality. Speaking with God, dwelling in his presence, letting oneself be illuminated and purified by his Word introduces us, instead, into the heart of reality, into the very motor of becoming cosmic; it introduces us, so to speak, to the beating heart of the universe.

In a harmonious connection with prayer, fasting and almsgiving can also be considered occasions for learning and practising Christian hope. The Fathers and ancient writers liked to emphasize that these three dimensions of Gospel life are inseparable, reciprocally enrich each other and bear more fruit the more they collaborate with each other. Lent as a whole, thanks to the joint action of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, forms Christians to be men and women of hope after the example of the Saints.

I would now like to pause briefly on the aspect of suffering since, as I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi: "The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society" (n. 38). Easter, to which Lent is oriented, is the mystery which gives meaning to human suffering, based on the superabundant com-passion of God, brought about in Jesus Christ. The Lenten journey therefore, since it is wholly steeped in Easter light, makes us relive what happened in Christ's divine and human Heart while he was going up to Jerusalem for the last time to offer himself in expiation (cf. Is 53: 10). Suffering and death fell like darkness as he gradually came nearer to the Cross, but the flame of love shone brighter. Indeed, Christ's suffering was penetrated by the light of love (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 38). It was the Father's love that permitted the Son to confidently face his last "baptism", which he himself defines as the apex of his mission (cf. Lk 12: 50). Jesus received that baptism of sorrow and love for us, for all of humanity. He has suffered for truth and justice, bringing the Gospel of suffering to human history, which is the other aspect of the Gospel of love. God cannot suffer, but he can and wants to be com-passionate. Through Christ's passion he can bring his con-solatio to every human suffering, "the consolation of God's compassionate love - and so the star of hope rises" (Spe Salvi, n. 39).

As for prayer, so for suffering: the history of the Church is very rich in witnesses who spent themselves for others without reserve, at the cost of harsh suffering. The greater the hope that enlivens us, the greater is the ability within us to suffer for the love of truth and good, joyfully offering up the minor and major daily hardships and inserting them into Christ's great com-passion (cf. ibid., n. 40). May Mary, who, together with that of her Son, had her immaculate Heart pierced by the sword of sorrow, help us on this journey of evangelical perfection. In these very days, while commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes we are prompted to meditate on the mystery of Mary's sharing in humanity's suffering; at the same time, we are encouraged to draw consolation from the Church's "treasury of compassion" (ibid.) to which she contributed more than any other creature. Therefore, let us begin Lent in spiritual union with Mary who "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith" following her Son (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 58) and always goes before the disciples on the journey towards the light of Easter. Amen!