Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Broadening Reason and Conscience for the Third Millennium

The Emergence of the Third Millennium

The introduction to an important book published in 1999 began in the following way:

“The millennium is the most momentous calendar event any of us will live through. Yet despite the attention lavished upon it, nothing is more certain that that its true significance will be missed. This misperception is itself evidence of the intellectual fog under which we labor. We are incapable of apprehending the meaning of the most massively obvious events. How can our public celebrations bear any meaningful relation to the knot of time through which we are passing, if we have no credible sense of what is being marked? Are we celebrating a merely empty numerical sum? Or does something of more consequence lie behind that intriguing row of zeros? We know how to celebrate the new year, the new decade, even the new century. But a new millennium? There we are in unfamiliar territory, and the impending arrival is more than a little intimidating. No proximate generation will have such a moment to inaugurate…“This generation is charged with beginning a new age. We have been granted the opening of the third millennium of our history, thereby stamping it with a character that will remain more visible than the imprints of many less strategically placed cohorts. Thus, it is not the celebration that is daunting, but its aftermath… Business as usual reassures us that life will continue pretty much as it has. Little of the apocalyptic excitement we know from the beginning of previous millennia seems to be in the air. Or perhaps it is merely building subterraneously to be unleashed in a volcanic eruption. An eerie calm seems to characterize our lack of preparations. Sooner or later, however, that will be shattered as we are gripped by the stature of the historical shift we are entering. The advent of a new millennium cannot be overlooked forever, and eventually it will take us into its grip. Then our disorientation will be complete. How will we be able to sustain our precarious entry into a new era if we have lost our sense of what the transition means.”[1][1]-

And then came 9/11, and the election of November 4, 2008!!

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A Beefed-Up Understanding of Being (Person)
Broadening Reason

Ratzinger’s Trinitarian Account of Divine Person
To Be =To Be in Relation

“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… In this idea of relativity in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the ‘accidents,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the ‘individual.’ 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.”[2]

Jesus Christ as Relation
“Jesus is Christ”

Jesus is His Act
“Christ is a title and yet also already part of the unique name for the man from Nazareth. This fusion of the name with the title, the title with the name, is far from being just another example of history’s forgetfulness. On the contrary, it spotlights the very heart of that process of understanding which faith went through with regard to the figure of Nazareth. For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are not longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an `I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be `off duty’ [as "substance" is the ontological support for the "accident," action]; here the `I’ is not separate from the work; the `I’ is the work and the work is the `I’…

“Similarly, as faith understood the position Jesus did not perform a work that could be distinguished from his `I’ and depicted separately. On the contrary, to understand him as the Christ means to be convinced that he has put himself into his word. Here there is no `I’ (as there is with all of us) which utters words; he has identified himself so closely with his word that `I’ and word are indistinguishable: he is word. In the same way, to faith, his work is nothing else than the unreserved way in which he merges himself into this world; he perform himself and gives himself; his work is the giving of himself….

“In other words, faith’s decisive statement about Jesus lies in the indivisible unity of the two words `Jesus Christ,’ a unity which conceals the experience of the identity of existence and mission. In this sense one can certainly speak of a `functional Christology:’ the whole being of Jesus is a function of the `for us,’ but the function too, is – for this very reason – all being….

“As a fitting conclusion one could indeed assert that… The person of Jesus is his teaching, and his teaching is he himself. Christian faith, that is, faith in Jesus as the Christ, is therefore truly `personal faith.’ What this means can really be understood only from this angle. Such faith is not the acceptance of a system but the acceptance of this person who is his word; of the word as person and of the person as word.”[3]


The Meaning of Man, Image of God: To-Be-In-Relation

The anthropology of the Second Vatican Council is derived from Christology. Gaudium et spes #22 reads: “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’ (Col. 1, 15), is Himself the perfect man."

But Jesus Christ, as divine Person, is pure relation to the Father. The human person has been created in the image and after the likeness of the divine Persons, concretely, of the Son: we have been made “sons in the Son:” “For those whom he has foreknown he has also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son…” (Rom. 8, 29).

The Third Millennium
The Task for Us

Novo Millennio Ineunte:
John Paul II (2001):

29. "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). This assurance, dear brothers and sisters, has accompanied the Church for two thousand years, and has now been renewed in our hearts by the celebration of the Jubilee. From it we must gain new impetus in Christian living, making it the force which inspires our journey of faith. Conscious of the Risen Lord's presence among us, we ask ourselves today the same question put to Peter in Jerusalem immediately after his Pentecost speech: "What must we do?" (Acts 2:37).
“We put the question with trusting optimism, but without underestimating the problems we face. We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you!
"It is not therefore a matter of inventing a "new programme". The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a programme which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This programme for all times is our programme for the Third Millennium.”

Christian Anthropology as Grounding Conscience

Sons in the Son

The most difficult thing to grasp: a being that is intrinsically and constitutively relational. As Conrad Baars quoted in his “I Will Give Them a New Heart”[4] remarked: “It is very difficult for the human mind to sustain the notion of fundamental difference within fundamental equality.”

Me: Think of the differences of the sexes. They are irreducibly different and yet equal (which makes the account against homosexuality so difficult). Such a being is not given in the world of sensible perception as perception. By the very constitution of our senses and abstractive-conceptual power of the mind, we perceive reality as discrete things that stand-in-themselves. We see and conceive relations as accidental (non-substantial) connections between things. Hence, to talk about “pure” relation in itself is imperceptible (but not inconceivable: think of the experience of spousal love). However, it is given to us in the revelation of the Trinity which is One yet constituted by Three Persons. Theologically, this happens only if each Person is pure relation.

Ratzinger’s Account of Conscience

The Two Levels of Conscience: 1) Experience of tendency of our being (awareness of the value “good”); 2) judgment that this, not that, is in accord with it (“good”)
3. Systematic Consequences: The Two Levels of Conscience
A. Anamnesis: non-amnesia (memory)
“After all these ramblings through intellectual history, it is finally time to arrive at some conclusions, that is to formulate a concept of conscience. The medieval tradition was right, I believe, in according two levels to the concept of conscience. These levels, though they can be well distinguished, must be continually referred to each other. It seems to me that many unacceptable theses regarding conscience are the result of neglecting either the difference or the connection between the two. Mainstream scholasticism expressed these two levels in the concepts synderesis and conscientia. The word synderesis (synteresis) came into the medieval tradition of conscience from the stoic doctrine of the microcosm. It remained unclear in its exact meaning and for this reason became a hindrance to a careful development of this essential aspect of the whole question of conscience. I would like, therefore, without entering into philosophical disputes, to replace this problematic word with the much more clearly defined Platonic concept of anamnesis. It is not only linguistically clearer and philosophically deeper and purer, but anamnesis above all also harmonizes with key motifs of biblical thought and the anthropology derived therefrom. The word anamnesis should be taken to mean exactly what Paul expressed in the second chapter of his Letter to the Romans: "When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts while their conscience also bears witness ..." (2:14 ff.). The same thought is strikingly amplified in the great monastic rule of Saint Basil. Here we read: "The love of God is not founded on a discipline imposed on us from outside, but is constitutively established in us as the capacity and necessity of our rational nature." Basil speaks in terms of "the spark of divine love which has been hidden in us," an expression which was to become important in medieval mysticism. In the spirit of Johannine theology, Basil knows that love consists in keeping the commandments. For this reason, the spark of love which has been put into us by the Creator, means this: "We have received interiorly beforehand the capacity and disposition for observing all divine commandments ... These are not something imposed from without." Referring everything back to its simple core, Augustine adds: "We could never judge that one thing is better than another if a basic understanding of the good had not already been instilled in us."

Therefore: 1) As imaging the divine relation that is the Son, there is a tendency toward the good (“God alone”) and a consciousness that accompanies the inner experience of that tendency. It will not be “a store of retrievable contents” – concepts as principles – but an “inner sense, a capacity to recall” that is my very being as person tending.
2) I then judge: “That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.” I seek the divine absolute good. It is not a universal concept that is offered to my will, and my will desires that good necessarily such that the intellect judges that the absolute is “good.” See handout of the steps of the “practical syllogism.”

Conscience: Judging According to an Ontological Tendency that Images the Good (Remembers). Conscience is both the remembering and the judging.

“This 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 its echo from within. He sees: "That's it! That is what my nature points to and seeks."

"The possibility for, and right to "mission" rest on this anamnesis of the creator which is identical to the ground of our existence. The Gospel may, indeed, must be proclaimed to the pagans because they themselves are yearning for it in the hidden recesses of their souls (cf. Is 42:4). Mission is vindicated then when those addressed recognize in the encounter with the word of the Gospel that this indeed is what they have been waiting for. In this sense, Paul can say: the Gentiles are a law to themselves—not in the sense of modern liberal notions of autonomy which preclude transcendence of the subject, but in the much deeper sense that nothing belongs less to me than I myself. My own I is the site of the profoundest surpassing of self and contact with Him from whom I came and toward Whom I am going. In these sentences, Paul expresses the experience which he had as missionary to the Gentiles and which Israel may have experienced before him in dealings with the "god-fearing." Israel could have experienced among the Gentiles what the ambassadors of Jesus Christ found reconfirmed. Their proclamation answered an expectation. Their proclamation encountered an antecedent basic knowledge of the essential constants of the will of God which came to be written down in the commandments, which can be found in all cultures and which can be all the more clearly elucidated the less an overbearing cultural bias distorts this primordial knowledge. The more man lives in the "fear of the Lord"—consider the story of Cornelius (especially Acts 10:34-35)—the more concretely and clearly effective this anamnesis becomes.

Richard Rohr: "This tendency within the human person needs to be spoken to and answered by the revelation of itself. Every person, especially the young, has this driving imperative for the infinite and absolute. They are “pilgrims of the absolute,” and this absolute must be answered. If not, if they are presented only with what they can see, touch, smell, hear and taste; they are disillusioned and compensate with the pseudo-absolute of “big crowds, loud music, marching armies, totally unrealistic fantasies, fame (or infamy!), money, and popularity. Anything loud, large or socially admired becomes the substitute for the cosmic and the transcendent that they are really ongoing for. Someone needs to tell them that, even if they only half-believe it.” Rohr expatiates: “If there is no contact with greatness, there is an almost cosmic disappointment inside of us, a deep sadness, a capacity for cynical dismissal and sullen coldness, exactly as we see in so many of our young today. The visionary gleam is lost. It is as if they are saying, ‘There are no great people or great patterns. I will not believe in anything. I will not be disappointed again.’ It is called postmodernism, and it is the general assumption of our jaded and uninitiated society.” Importantly, Rohr then sounds the caveat: “But do note that it is not the presence of pain or suffering that destroys the brain; rather it is the lack of larger-than-life people around us. Primal cultures seemed to now that if young people missed being exposed to a greater meaning and greater people during key periods of their lives, especially the last clear opportunity at ages fourteen to seventeen, the result would be disastrous both for the young person and for the society.”[5]
Mentoring must come from outside, from men (for boys) who are truly fathers and who can pass on the inner experience of suffering initiation to become men. This is the foundation of all catechesis and the teaching authority of the Church and Pope. Hence, Ratzinger’s defense of John Henry Newman’s toast first to conscience, and then to the pope.

Practical Consequences of the transition from “nature” to relational person as moral criterion for conscience.

1 – The Magisterium teaches that the human person (made in the image of Jesus Christ, the Prototype) 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” (Centesimus Annus #53).
2 – Repeating: Following on the relationality of the Trinitarian Person of Jesus Christ, the human person can only be adequately understood as a relational dynamic: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself”(GS #24).
– These two dimensions (finding self by gift of self) appear in the Magisterium[6] as the principle of subsidiarity and the principle of solidarity. “Intimately linked to the foundation, which his man’s dignity, are the principle of solidarity and the principle of subsidiarity. By virtue of the first, man with his brothers is obliged to contribute to the common good of society at al its levels. Hence the Church’s doctrine is opposed to all the forms of social or political individualism.
“By virtue of the second, neither the state nor any society must ever substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and of intermediate communities at the level on which they can function, nor must they take away the room necessary for their freedom. Hence the Church’s social doctrine is opposed to all forms of collectivism.”
Hence, “the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question.”[7] The resolution to the political and economic problems at this 3d millennial junction of a global world and the advent of a “new civilization of love” is the working person, imaging Christ, the worker. The document reads: “The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real ‘Gospel of work,’ offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though He was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of His earthly life to manual labor. The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption. Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort.”[8]
Separated from the existential reality of the working person as relational self-gift, both capitalism and socialism become abstract ideologies that become totalitarian and destructive of the human person and a truly human life.
Sexuality: The principle of life that has its source in the Zoe of Trinitarian Life in which we participate through Jesus Christ is self-giving. The relationality of self-gift is always life-producing for the person making the gift as well, obviously, for the receiver of life, be it the child, be it the other through affirmation. The relational principle reads: love- making is always connected to life-giving. To break that relation biologically, psychologically or socially is to impose a culture of death. The prototype of marital love is God’s love for Israel rendered incarnate in the love of Christ, the Bridegroom, for His Bride, the Church. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church” (Eph. 5, 25).
Homosexuality is an intrinsically disordered inclination because the ontological relation that is the person of the male and is the person of the female in opposing and complementary donation and reception, cannot obtain. It is disordered not because there cannot be children, nor because there cannot be emotional and intentional interpersonal complementarity, but because the ontological structure of the male and the female are constitutively relational in ontological complementarity even when the conjugal union cannot be effected.

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An Inadequate Grounding of Conscience
The Greek Notion of Substance that has Obtained Until Vatican II
Ratzinger on “substance” as not constitutively relational

1) “In this idea of relativity in word and love [that is the person in God], independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the ‘accidents,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the ‘individual.’ Let us listen once again to St. Augustine: ‘In God there are no accidents, only substance and relation.’ 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”[9] (Josef Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius [1990] 132).

2) More recently, he refers to “person” as a “new philosophical category… a concept that has become for us the fundamental concept of the analogy between God and man, the very center of philosophical thought;”
[10] J. Ratzinger, “The New Covenant,” in Many Religions – One Covenant Ignatius (1999) 76-770).
In the light of this, he remarks:
“The meaning of an already existing category, that of ‘relation,’ was fundamentally changed. In the Aristotelian table of categories, relation belongs to the group of accidents that point to substance and are dependent on it; in God, therefore, there are no accidents. Through the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, relatio moves out of the substance-accident framework. Now God himself is described as a Trinitarian set of relations, as relatio subsistens. When we say that man is the image of God, it means that he is a being designed for relationship; it means that, in and through all his relationships, he seeks that relation which is the ground of his existence”[11](Ibid)
3) “I believe that if one follows this struggle in which human reality had to be brought in, as it were, and affirmed for Jesus, one sees what tremendous effort and intellectual transformation lay behind the working out of this concept of person, which was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and the Latin mind. [In line with this, consider the effort and achievement of the Council of Nicea which named Christ “homoousios” as equal but different from the Father. That is fundamentally “being” as “relation” which explodes the Greek notion of being as “thing-in-itself”]. It is not conceived in substantialist, but… in existential terms… [However] 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.”[12](J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 [Fall, 1990] 448).

[1] David Walsh, “The Third Millennium – Reflections on Faith and Reason,” Georgetown Univ. Press (1999) 1-2.

[2] Benedict XVI “Introduction to Christianity” Ignatius (1990) 131-132.
[3] Ibid. 149-151.
[4] Conrad W. Baars, M.D., “I Will Give Them A New Heart,” Pauline Books and Media (2008) 161.
[5] Richard Rohr, “Adam’s Return” Rossraod (2004) 20.
[6] Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation,” SCDF 1986) #73.
[7] Ibid #83.
[8] Ibid #82.
[9] Josef Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 132.
[10] J. Ratzinger, “The New Covenant,” in Many Religions – One Covenant Ignatius (1999) 76-770).
[11] Ibid.
[12] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448.
[13] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction… op. cit. 132.
[14] “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.
[15] “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).

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