Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas


It is not insignificant that Msgr. William B. Smith died on the vigil of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 24, 2009, and was buried on the Feast of St. Thomas. His personally chosen homilist – Msgr. James T. O’Connor - did himself proud in a true to life presentation of Smith from the heart. Msgr. O’Connor was a classmate of Smith in seminary. They did simultaneous doctorates (O’Connor in Dogmatic Theology, Smith in Moral Theology), taught at Dunwoodie together for decades forming a terrible triumvirate of profound and precise orthodoxy with Msgr. Austin Vaughan as rector. They lived across the hall from each other on the south side of the second floor of Dunwoodie. They vacationed together with close friends in uncomfortably hot places in summer when seminary was out, never in the winter when business was business. The Smith I knew came alive profoundly in the homily: the basic scene was “the desk” surrounded by piles of papers (that grew exponentially over the years) where Smith – “priest and victim” – crafted Immaculate Heart of Mary homilies, classes and world class papers on moral theology with insight and loving care. I must say I wept again as O’Connor followed Smith’s explicit instruction that the Memorare to our Lady be recited at his funeral. The entire Church did it. And then the music! I was done for.





St. Thomas Aquinas



The significance of St. Thomas Aquinas for today has been sharply and profoundly delineated by Pope Paul VI. He points out what St. Thomas did for the revelation of Christ in his day (1225-1274), and therefore what we should do in ours. Thomas combined (1) the radicality of the Gospel with the (2) secularity of the world. Paul VI said: “The key point and almost the kernel of the solution which, with all the brilliance of his prophetic intuition, he [St. Thomas] gave to the new encounter of faith and reason was a reconciliation between the secularity of the world and the radicality of the Gospel, thus avoiding the unnatural tendency to negate the world and its values while at the same time keeping faith with the supreme and inexorable demands of the supernatural.”[1]

The Fathers of the Church of the fourth to the seventh centuries had been duly dazzled by the reality of the introduction of the creating God-man into creation. The great task was to give a rational, and therefore metaphysical, account of the two dimensions at stake, viz. the radical transcendence of the Creator as “supernatural” divinity, and the autonomy, or secularity, of the world. Thomas did this with his understanding of “esse,” the act of existence as tending to be infinite act when unlimited by potency. He had done this by being open to and accepting the philosophy of Aristotle but “giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason.”[2] As John Paul II said, “Both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God… hence there can be no contradiction between them.”[3]


“More radically, Thomas recognized that nature, philosophy’s proper concern, could contribute to the understanding of divine revelation. Faith therefore has no fear of reason, but seeks it out and has trust in it.”[4]

This is exactly what has to be done today at a moment when we find ourselves in a nihilistic moment dominated by a “dictatorship of relativism.” Both ruling ideologies, Communism and Capitalism, have seemingly collapsed leaving no rector truth to order freedom, locally or globally.

Recalling what Joseph Ratzinger had remarked about the challenge we face today concerning modernity:
“Here is the problem: Ought we to accept modernity in full, or in part? Is there a real contribution? Can this modern way of thinking be a contribution, or offer a contribution, or not? And if there is a contribution from the modern, critical way of thinking, in line with the Enlightenment, how can it be reconciled with the great intuitions and the great gifts of the faith?

“Or ought we, in the name of the faith, to reject modernity? You see? There always seems to be this dilemma: either we must reject the whole of the tradition, all the exegesis of the Fathers, relegate it to the library as historically unsustainable, or we must reject modernity

“And I think that the gift, the light of the faith, must be dominant, but the light of the faith has also the capacity to take up into itself the true human lights, and for this reason the struggles over exegesis and the liturgy for me must be inserted into this great, let us call it epochal, struggle over how Christianity, over how the Christian responds to modernity, to the challenge of modernity?...

“And it seems to me that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time, let us say, to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the lights and strength of the faith.

“Because it was the Council Fathers’ intention to heal and transform modernity, and not simply to succumb to it or merge with it, the interpretations which interpret the Second Vatican Council in the sense of de-sacralization or profanation are erroneous.

“That is, Vatican II must not be interpreted as desiring a rejection of the tradition and an adapting of the Church to modernity and so causing the Church to become empty because it loses the word of faith.”
[5]



The Magisterium Itself as the New Thomism:


At the moment, we have lost the realism of an experiential encounter with the Absolute. We have gained the subject which was missing in Thomas’s account of reality, but that was not a lack in him since it was not his time. There had not been the retrieval of the “I” as of yet, save in Augustine, and that was unique to him. Therefore, there could not have been the historical-experiential retrieval of the “I” as “being.” We could say that he was critically “na├»ve,” but so was the age. However, that does not lessen the loss of the ontological reality and weight of the subject as being.

Modernity is characterized by the turn to the subject and has been severely emarginated by orthodox thinking because of the attendant idealism and relativism that have come apparently in its wake. Modernity has reached the sophistication of engaging the “I,” but at the cost of losing realism.

At the same time, the cost of objectified realism in the form of the hegemony of scientific methodology and a concomitant positivism has tended to reduce the modern intellect to being overcome by mere “facts” whereby “reason [has] wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the human capacity to now the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned.

“This has given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread skepticism.”
[6]

Hence, the time has come. The only way of the relativist impasse in which we are mired is to accept the “I” of modernity and purify it by a philosophic work that will be able to perceive that it is not a part of being, but “the privileged locus for the encounter with being [actu essendi], and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”
[7]

This is our task, and it is Thomist as understood above. We must do a metaphysic of the “I” in the radicality of being total “self”-gift which has been experienced by the Church
[8] and conceptualized as an obedience of the whole person, not merely faculties of intellect and will - mere accidents of man as a substance. The entire dynamic changes once we enter into horizon of the “I” and render it metaphysical as constitutively relational. This last, the “relational,” is the metaphysical rendering of self-gift. It will involve a Thomist metaphysics of “Esse” that is new since it is now experienced as “I.”

Concretely, this is the Work. It is St. Josemaria Escriva in his constant teaching that we must find the Person of Christ through the humanity that is Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the Scripture of the New Testament. He has insisted to us:
“Don’t ever read the Gospel as water which passes; in it you can learn to deal with Jesus… When opening the Holy Gospel, think that what is narrated there – the works and sayings of Christ – you must not only know it, but you must also live it. Everything, each point that is mentioned, must be gathered up, detail by detail, so that you incarnate it in the concrete circumstances of your existence.

“ The Lord has call us – the Catholics – to follow him and, in this Sacred Text, you will find the Life of Jesus; but besides, you should find your own life.


“You will learn to ask also, as the Apostle, full of love: ‘Lord, what do you want me to do…’ – The Will of God! You hear in an imperative way.


“Well, take the Gospel daily, and read it and live it as a concrete norm. That’s the way the saints did it.”

This concrete adventure is the experiential way to “know” Christ Jesus Who is the Absolute Reality. He is the Word of God Who alone is what we mean by “real.” He personally is the fullness of Being. We may know “about” Him, but we do not “know” Him until we experience our being becoming His by this radical supernatural going out of self – which is an imaging of the trinitarian relation of the Son to the Father.

Modernity is not our enemy here. There is not only the philosophic work of John Paul II as Karol Wojtyla but there is a recent work of David Walsh (including previous books of his) that is clearing up a too narrow apologetic of the faith that has exercised an exclusively negative apologetic on such authors as Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, etc. In line with the mind of Benedict of broadening reason, we have much work to do to retrieve them in much the same way that Thomas retrieved Aristotle.

I repeat what I posted yesterday on Walsh:

1. Kant’s ‘Copernican Revolution’ as Existential
· 2. Hegel’s Inauguration of the Language of Existence
· 3. Schelling on the Beyond of Existence
· 4 Nietzsche: Philosophy as Existence
· 5. Heidegger’s Achievement Despite the Betrayal of Philosophical Existence
· 6. Existence Without Refuge as the Response of Levinas
· 7. Derrida’s Dissemination of Existence as Differenance
· 8. Kierkegaard’s Prioritization of Existence over Philosophy
· Epilogue: Modernity as Responsibility

When Walsh gets into his Preface, he makes the point that Ratzinger made in challenging us to face up to philosophically. He said in his interview with Robert Moynihan:


“It seems to me that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.”[2]

Walsh remarks: “Based on a conscientious rereading of eight major figures, from Kant to Derrida, it (the book) argues that there is a remarkably consistent unfolding within this philosophical development. Studies of individual figures or periods within this time frame have often gone a considerable distance in dispelling the fog of conventional misjudgments. But the achievements as a whole have not come into focus; indeed, the era of philosophy from Kant to the present has hardly been conceived of as a whole, because we have lacked an overarching interpretative hypothesis. That is what the present volume seeks to provide. It suggests that Philosophy, beginning with Kant, has explicitly shifted from an account of entities and concepts to an existential meditation on the horizon within which it finds itself. So while metaphysics in the propositional sense may have become defunct, it is not by any means the case that our orientation within metaphysical openness has disappeared. The death of metaphysics in thought has meant the return of metaphysics in life. God, immortality, and freedom, as well as the unsurpassable exigency of goodness in its unending struggle with evil, not only remain real but have acquired an existential force that is all the more powerful for our inability to contain them within discursive limits. No surprise is prompted by the return of religion or the echoes of Greek philosophy in contemporary thought. But if we are to make sense of these strange reverberations in a context that has understood itself apart from all theological and metaphysical reference, we must be prepared to understand why the transcendent can surface only within this profoundly mysterious mode. It is not that we in the modern world have lost faith, but that philosophy has come to understand the meaning of faith in a very different way." [Let me hasten to add, what Walsh is talking about is the recovery of "being" (which is Greek metaphysics) and the real as “I.” Consider Benedict’s presentation of “reality” as the Word of God, that is “I Am.”[3] He continues:] “Now whether that way of faith is continuous with the tradition of faith that is descended to us is for the reader to judge. All that the present study can offer is a way of reading the development of modern philosophy as an opening to the possibility of faith. Of course, it is more than the opening of sheer possibility that Kant announced. It is more like the practice of faith that his own philosophical odyssey evidenced, even while he sought to assimilate his project to the authority of science.”

Let me insert here: In the section on Kant, Walsh has a section entitled “Existence as Knowledge.” It reads: “The reason Kant marks the beginning of the modern philosophical revolution is that he sees existence, practical reason, as providing the deepest access to being.”

Comment: This is precisely the burden of Vatican II, Dei Verbum #5, and the mind of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This is the “New Evangelization.” As Benedict said in Brazil in May o 2007: “Only God knows God.” I.e. one has to enter into the Trinitarian dynamic of relation as self-gift in order to be “like” God and therefore know Him. I.e. one has to pray as Christ prayed in order to be able to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). We do not God only by concepts whereby we know “about” God. Rather, we must “experience” God in Christ through Scripture and prayer. Walsh sees that Kant was philosophically on this same track. I repeat, “(Kant) sees existence, practical reason, as providing the deepest access to being.” Walsh continues:“This interpretation is in contrast to the prevalent view that originates in considerable measure from his own estimate of the scientific character of his work. There is a tension between the existential Kant and scientific-critical one, although he may no have considered it as such. Ultimately they cannot be reconciled, because the existential meditation reveals the extent to which the theoretical perspective cannot include itself. The process of objectification cannot include objectification. Kant reassured himself that he was thereby advancing a critical approach to philosophy, although he was rather opening philosophy to the unfathomable mystery of its own source. While holding onto the lifeline of the latter provide no theoretical knowledge, he nevertheless insisted that the existential enlargement furnished all the knowledge we need. Kant’s greatness as a thinker lies in his realization that to be scientific we must step outside the boundary of science. The implications of this recognition were not fully absorbed by Kant, just as they have not yet been digested within the history of modern philosophy, but he is clearly the one who made the issue visible. His insistence on the primacy of practical reason is the recognition that existence discloses essence. What remained to be determined was the status of that existential knowledge. The authority of scientific knowledge remained so strong for Kant that it still monopolized the claim to knowledge, even though his own critical philosophy had already exposed its relativity” (42-43).I stop. Time and Tide overcome me. I think the book (and others before, like “The Third Millennium”) are a must read to complement what Benedict and John Paul have been up to in this moment of Nihilistic relativism. It’s a new metaphysic of the “I.”

[1] John Paul II, “Fides et ratio,” #43.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid
[5] J. Ratzinger, R. Moynihan, “Let God’s Light Shine Forth,” Doubleday (2005) 34-35.
[6] John Paul II, “Fides et ratio,” #5.
[7] Ibid #83.
[8] Dei Verbum #5.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Enthusiasm Over a Philsophic Sighting: David Walsh's "The Modern Phhilosophical Revolution"


I think I’ve found something. I must write it down before I lose it by time constraints, the movement of the earth and the wash of the river Lethe (forgetfulness: Homer) over my brain.

This present blog that you are reading is a record – at least for me – of the attempt to record the two epistemological levels of “knowing:” the experience of the senses and abstraction that forms concepts, propositions and judgement; and the experience of the “I” as Being that becomes consciousness. The first is the experience of individual “things;” the second is the experience of the self (“I”) in the free act that is being-in-relation.

I sighted this distinction for the first time reading Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity” on the notion of person in the Trinity (pp. 131-132 in the old edition). There, “Being” was presented in the revolutionary terms of relation, and was daringly presented as tolling the death knell to the category of substance as the primary meaning of “Being.” had been brought up on througThe entire book from faith to Christ, to heaven, hell and redemption was re-presented in terms of Being-as-relation.

This gave me the insight into John Paul II as philosopher Wojtyla. His enormous insight was the recovery of the self (“I”) as Being and as subject, not by reflection (which would render the subject as object), but precisely as "unreduced" subject. Wojtyla did this via the deployment of phenomenology (acquired through the reading of Scheler) to describe the free act of faith in St. John of the Cross, and wed it to thomistic metaphysics. The double discovery of Ratzinger and Wojtyla overturned my whole mental world whereupon I proceeded to attempt to reconcile to be = to-be-in-relation with the esse realism in Maritain, Gilson, Fabro, Pieper, etc.

That began in 1989. I immediately published a secondary piece in Communio (Fall 1990) together with a translation I had done (it had to be redone by Waldstein) on Ratzinger’s “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology.” The piece Schindler published was entitled “Relation, The Thomistic Esse And American Culture: Toward a Metaphysic of Sanctity.” That was his title for it, not mine. As time went on, I kept trying to tease out the implications of a constitutively relational being that is the “person” with the dynamic of the thomistic esse that I had seen some 35 years prior to 1989. I lost hope after I wrote a piece for a Festschrift for Frederick Wilhelmsen after his death in which I became convinced that the way to a new metaphysic was not by squeezing the thomistic esse on the level that it was offered to us by Thomas, i.e. on the level of theoretical intelligence and objective truth, but rather on another level, that of practical experience of the subject in free action. That is, instead of reaching the “really real reality” of Being (esse) through sensible experience and propositional knowing, I was convinced that Ratzinger had it right in his “theological epistemology” that one can know the reality of the Person of the Son of God – Who is the “really real reality” only by entering into a like act of self gift that is prayer with Him, and thus “know” him by experiencing the self by the self-transcendence that is prayer and transferring it to Him. I have loaded this blog with tons of postings on this.

I have also had the fine opportunity to try to teach modern philosophy. By reading some of the original works of Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Locke, Kant, Herder and Hegel – and the secondary work of Charles Taylor on them, I began to see that the key to insight in modern thought is the notion of experience that takes place on the two levels: sense and self, which has been copiously presented in both Wojtyla and Ratzinger. The most telling and novel was Wojtyla’s use of Scheler’s phenomenology to disclose faith in St. John of the Cross as an act of the whole person, and therefore the most important of all experiences that had been hidden and disguised as consciousness (purely mental). Add to this, the mind of Ratzinger that modernity is not to be defended against and dismissed; but to the contrary, it is to be taken up as something immensely positive and purified by the experience of the Christian faith.

I have labored in many postings in this blog on same. In a word, what I had seen was that Descartes was to be thanked for the turn to the subject; Kant was to be appreciated for his attempt give an account of the autonomy of freedom and the absoluteness of truth; Herder was to be commended for his discovery of the experiential (and therefore “empirical”) reality of the “I” in the use of language. Taylor was huge for me in presenting Hegel as attempting to put the two together. That is, Hegel was trying to connect the experience of Kant’s radical freedom in the categorical imperative with the expressive fullness of Herder. Taylor expressed it like this: “

“These were the oppositions which expressed most acutely the division between the two ideals of radical freedom and integral expression.

“These were: the opposition between thought, reason and morality on one side, and desire and sensibility on the other; the opposition between the fullest self-conscious freedom on one side, and life in the community on the other; the opposition between self-consciousness and communion with nature; and beyond this the separation of finite subjectivity from the infinite life that flowed through nature, the barrier between the Kantian subject and the Spinozist substance.

“How was this great reunification to be accomplished? How to combine the greatest moral autonomy with a fully restored communion with the great current of life within us and without? In the end, this goal is only attainable if we conceive of nature itself as having some sort of foundation in spirit. If the highest spiritual side of man, his moral freedom, is to come to more than passing and accidental harmony with his natural being, then nature itself has to tend to the spiritual.”
[1]

Add to this the fact that Benedict XVI (Ratzinger) has been insisting in four major presentations over the last two years that there must be a “broadening of reason” whereby we can escape from the dungeon of reduction to mere objectiveness and facts, and enter into the subjective, but ontological, reality of the Word of God in Person.

* * * * * * * *

That said, consider my joy when opening David Walsh’s new book “The Modern Philosophical Revolution” and finding the following contents:

· 1. Kant’s ‘Copernican Revolution’ as Existential
· 2. Hegel’s Inauguration of the Language of Existence
· 3. Schelling on the Beyond of Existence
· 4 Nietzsche: Philosophy as Existence
· 5. Heidegger’s Achievement Despite the Betrayal of Philosophical Existence
· 6. Existence Without Refuge as the Response of Levinas
· 7. Derrida’s Dissemination of Existence as Differenance
· 8. Kierkegaard’s Prioritization of Existence over Philosophy
· Epilogue: Modernity as Responsibility

When Walsh gets into his Preface, he makes the point that Ratzinger made in challenging us to face up to philosophically. He said in his interview with Robert Moynihan: “It seems to me that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.”
[2] Walsh remarks: “Based on a conscientious rereading of eight major figures, from Kant to Derrida, it (the book) argues that there is a remarkably consistent unfolding within this philosophical development. Studies of individual figures or periods within this time frame have often gone a considerable distance in dispelling the fog of conventional misjudgments. But the achievements as a whole have not come into focus; indeed, the era of philosophy from Kant to the present has hardly been conceived of as a whole, because we have lacked an overarching interpretative hypothesis. That is what the present volume seeks to provide. It suggests that Philosophy, beginning with Kant, has explicitly shifted from an account of entities and concepts to an existential meditation on the horizon within which it finds itself. So while metaphysics in the propositional sense may have become defunct, it is not by any means the case that our orientation within metaphysical openness has disappeared. The death of metaphysics in thought has meant the return of metaphysics in life. God, immortality, and freedom, as well as the unsurpassable exigency of goodness in its unending struggle with evil, not only remain real but have acquired an existential force that is all the more powerful for our inability to contain them within discursive limits. No surprise is prompted by the return of religion or the echoes of Greek philosophy in contemporary thought. But if we are to make sense of these strange reverberations in a context that has understood itself apart from all theological and metaphysical reference, we must be prepared to understand why the transcendent can surface only within this profoundly mysterious mode. It is not that we in the modern world have lost faith, but that philosophy has come to understand the meaning of faith in a very different way.

Let me hasten to add, what Walsh is talking about is the recovery of being (which is Greek metaphysics) and the real as “I.” Consider Benedict’s presentation of “reality” as the Word of God, that is “I Am.”
[3]

He continues: “Now whether that way of faith is continuous with the tradition of faith that is descended to us is for the reader to judge. All that the present study can offer is a way of reading the development of modern philosophy as an opening to the possibility of faith. Of course, it is more than the opening of sheer possibility that Kant announced. It is more like the practice of faith that his own philosophical odyssey evidenced, even while he sought to assimilate his project to the authority of science.”

Let me insert here: In the section on Kant, Walsh has a section entitled “Existence as Knowledge.” It reads: “The reason Kant marks the beginning of the modern philosophical revolution is that he sees existence, practical reason, as providing the deepest access to being.”

Comment: This is precisely the burden of Vatican II, Dei Verbum #5, and the mind of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This is the “New Evangelization.” As Benedict said in Brazil in May o 2007: “Only God knows God.” I.e. one has to enter into the Trinitarian dynamic of relation as self-gift in order to be “like” God and therefore know Him. I.e. one has to pray as Christ prayed in order to be able to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). We do not God only by concepts whereby we know “about” God. Rather, we must “experience” God in Christ through Scripture and prayer. Walsh sees that Kant was philosophically on this same track. I repeat, “(Kant) sees existence, practical reason, as providing the deepest access to being.” Walsh continues:

“This interpretation is in contrast to the prevalent view that originates in considerable measure from his own estimate of the scientific character of his work. There is a tension between the existential Kant and scientific-critical one, although he may no have considered it as such. Ultimately they cannot be reconciled, because the existential meditation reveals the extent to which the theoretical perspective cannot include itself. The process of objectification cannot include objectification. Kant reassured himself that he was thereby advancing a critical approach to philosophy, although he was rather opening philosophy to the unfathomable mystery of its own source. While holding onto the lifeline of the latter provide no theoretical knowledge, he nevertheless insisted that the existential enlargement furnished all the knowledge we need. Kant’s greatness as a thinker lies in his realization that to be scientific we must step outside the boundary of science. The implications of this recognition were not fully absorbed by Kant, just as they have not yet been digested within the history of modern philosophy, but he is clearly the one who made the issue visible. His insistence on the primacy of practical reason is the recognition that existence discloses essence. What remained to be determined was the status of that existential knowledge. The authority of scientific knowledge remained so strong for Kant that it still monopolized the claim to knowledge, even though his own critical philosophy had already exposed its relativity” (42-43).

I stop. Time and Tide overcome me. I think the book (and others before, like “The Third Millennium”) are a must read to complement what Benedict and John Paul have been up to in this moment of Nihilistic relativism. It’s a new metaphysic of the “I.”


[1] Charles Taylor, “Hegel and Modern Society,” Cambridge University Press (1979) 8-9.
[2] Benedict XVI – Robert Moynihan, “Let God’s Light Shine Forth,” Doubleday (2005) 35.
[3] “Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life;” Benedict XVI “Opening Address of the Synod,” October 7, 2008.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Comments on Msgr. Smith I Can't Resist Posting



I am a parishioner of IHM and have been going to this church for over 30 years. I remember as a small child not being too happy when Msgr. Smith was the celebrant since his homilies always seemed long. My mother and father were big fans of his and always told me and my 3 older sisters that we would one day appreciate what a great theologian he is and only want to hear his sermons. How right they were! Each week I always tried to attend mass he celebrated and looked forward to his insight to the Gospel and his correlation to modern day life. His dry humor was unmatched as well! I am so happy I attended his mass 2 weeks ago; I believe the last mass he celebrated. What a huge loss for the IHM family and all Catholics.




Elisa

* * * * * *


Me:

I went to the wake tonight. Kind of shock to see him dead. But the demeanor wasn’t that much different than when he had breathed out one of his laconic absolutes that always resonated in me as truth itself. It was rarely bitter and always emerged with a curlicue of humor.

I had to finish my breviary (Office) and sat there beside the coffin at the head of the nave. People came up in drips and drabs. 8.30 p.m. A number of us sat there in prayer. I was invariably looking up from what I was supposed to be doing to watch the people come.

The most interesting was to watch the sisters of life who came a bit late, especially toward the end, when it was coming time to say goodbye. They came up real careful, fixed on the Smith’s body and poured themselves out. Most knelt down by the coffin, shook a bit, exhibited deep emotion, some touched, then turned to sit close by and watch too. I felt like we were all "Gigot" (Jackie Gleason [find the movie]), whose mission in life was to follow funerals and weep for the unknown dead in intimacy with those who loved him. I found myself weeping with each sister in whom I could sense deep emotion.


Because in this case I knew the dead. I had his sacramental trust for years.

Another Comment:

Thanks for posting the chapter from John Janaro's book. That was very inspiring. It seems to me that Msgr. Smith was one of the first people to sound the alarm on assisted suicide, back in the 1990s. I will always remember him for a saying he repeated often: "All social engineering is preceded by verbal engineering." R.I.P.


Distinguished Theologian, Moral and Medical Ethicist Monsignor William B. Smith Dies At Age 69YONKERS, New York, January 26, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After the recent deaths in New York of Fordham University theologian Avery Cardinal Dulles, and prolific pro-life activist and intellectual giant Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, the pro-life and pro-family movements and the Catholic Church are mourning the passing of another brilliant star. Monsignor William B. Smith died on Saturday, January 24, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers.

Some Details on Msgr. Smith

Msgr. William Smith passed away (the morning of Saturday, January 24)just as Fr. Don Haggerty and several Friars of the Renewal were on the last decade of the Divine Mercy chaplet. Fr. Haggerty gave him the last rites and the apostolic blessing with the plenary indulgence. Msgr.Smith was put in the hospital with double pneumonia on Jan. 13, and was doing well, but there were complications with his heart. On Thursday he was in distress, and on Friday they put him in ICU. Requiescat in pace. Monsignor William Smith was a past president of the Fellowship ofCatholic Scholars.

The Life of Msgr. William B. Smith

[What follows is Chapter Four of the book, Fishers of Men by John M. Janaro
published in 1986 by Trinity Communications. The electronic form of this document is copyright © Trinity Communications 1994. Provided courtesy of: The Catholic Resource Network, Trinity Communications, PO Box 3610, Manassas, VA 22110. —PP]


St. Joseph's seminary sits on a hill along Seminary Avenue, a street that winds its way up from the homes and stores, restaurants, bakeries, and delicatessens that gather together on the Hudson River to form Yonkers, New York. From its gold dome to its foundation stone, St. Joseph's radiates strength and permanence; if it could speak it would probably say to America, "The Church is here to stay!"

Yonkers touches the northern border of the Bronx, and though some people call it "the sixth borough" of New York City, it likes to assert its own identity-a sense of neighborhood community built on the shared perspective of the Polish, Italian, and Irish ethnic groups that make Yonkers their home. The flavor of Yonkers is tangible, like that extra spice you notice in the spaghetti sauce that tells you that the restaurant cook makes it the same way at home for his kids. At the same time there is that universal touch that is distinctive to New York, an area that has its eyes wide open to everything that is going on in the world. All of these things are very much a part of St. Joseph's Seminary; the fact that it is a major institution in one of the most important Catholic dioceses in the world does not make it any less a part of the neighborhood. And the institution is reflected substantially in the man who is its Dean; a man who has lived his whole life in the shadow of St. Joseph's, yet who also has a vital role to play in speaking to America on behalf of the Church that St. Joseph's serves.


Msgr. William Smith is a priest perhaps best known for being in the "hot seat" on critical issues in the public forum. In sensitive areas of medical ethics, abortion, and homosexuality he has represented the voice of the teaching Church, often on national television and radio. Yet Msgr. Smith is a man who never intended to be a "celebrity" and who does not especially seek the public eye. He speaks on behalf of the Church—on behalf of the diocese he is pledged to serve, and in recognition of the duties inherent in the diocesan priesthood. Msgr. Smith is a man of duty; his sense of duty, though, is not some impersonal thing, but rather it stems from a profound sense of encountering Christ in the various and often unpredictable circumstances that form the substance of his vocation.

Becoming the Dean of St. Joseph's Seminary was perhaps the last thing that William Smith would have predicted while growing up in Yonkers. Born on August 4,1939, the youngest of three boys, William's family was characterized by quiet but steady devotion, a sense of duty to the Church and the obligations of life, and a share in the values of a heavily Catholic neighborhood. "The Lord alone was their leader, no strange god was with him" (Deut. 32:12). William has nothing but fond memories of a supportive childhood, one marked in particular by a great deal of intimacy with the parish priests, who frequently visited the Smith home. The priests were seen as members of the family, like "uncles" who seemed to play as much a part in the family upbringing and formation as anyone else. Everywhere young William turned he saw a unity of influence and activity, despite the everyday problems that are part of the lives of everyone. "The home, the school, and the Church," the three basic sources of his personal growth, "were all playing the same tune, resonating the same values, confirming and reconfirming the same direction.

"St. Denis parish played a large part in his boyhood years. Msgr. Joseph O'Connor, the pastor since 1921, was a revered and saintly man. His associates were often youthful and close to the children. All three of the Smith brothers were altar boys, and William thus had the opportunity to get to know the priests in a particularly intimate way. Often, Fr. Quill and Fr. Marshall would take William and some of the other boys on outings as a reward for doing the early Masses that no one else wanted to do. By third grade, William had already begun to think that he wanted to be just like these dedicated and friendly men whom he saw every day.

William was attracted to the priesthood in a very concrete fashion; he wanted to imitate these priests because he saw in their lives something profound, a deep commitment underlying the variety of their service.

After grade school, William attended Xavier High School, run by the Society of Jesus. Here he learned Latin and Greek, played sports, and became involved in charitable activities. The Jesuits too were exemplary, yet William still felt drawn to the parish life, though he could not give detailed reasons why. As graduation approached and he determined to enter the diocesan seminary, he remembers that "I became the object of a vocations campaign" by the ever-zealous Jesuits. "Why don't you want to be a Jesuit," they asked him, "and oddly enough I kept saying I didn't want to be a teacher." The diversity of the parish duties, their intimate connection with daily life, attracted him and called upon him to commit himself to a kind of service defined solely by the day to day requirements of the Church and the needs of the people.

The parish priest, he realized, serves as that intimate and necessary link between the Catholic people and the teaching, ruling, and sanctifying aspects of their Church. When William graduated from high school in 1957, the Church, under Pope Pius XII, reflected deeply the solidarity of all her members. This reflection formed the whole of William's boyhood experience and solidified his vocation; the Church in his early life seemed to be one large team, "some people were guards and some were ends, but there was no question where that goal line was."


At this time, however, his understanding was more practical than theoretical. William devoted a good deal of time to following the statistics of the New York Yankees, and at first, things such as Mystici Corporis and Humani generis sounded like names of diseases to him. A fellow student at Cathedral College, James O'Connor, was by contrast quite interested in these weighty theological matters. The two began by being on opposite sides of various discussions and arguments, but their relationship quickly developed into a friendship that lasted throughout their seminary years and indeed to this very day as colleagues on the faculty. After two years of general studies at Cathedral, the students made their dramatic entrance into the formidable seminary of St. Joseph.

In the year 1959, such an entrance brought a seminarian into a world of unparalleled discipline and regimentation. From 5:30 in the morning until 10:00 at night, every minute was accounted for, divided among prayer, classes, study, and recreation. It seems that the object of the regimentation and order was to keep a seminarian from performing any one activity for too long. This training would then carry over into parish life, which-although structurally different from seminary life-nevertheless is characterized by constantly changing demands on a priest's attention. The seminary structure was designed to give the priest the discipline and flexibility for this kind of life.


If a seminarian was at peace with himself and sure of his goal, he could make it through the system, have a sense of humor about it, even thrive on it. Msgr. Smith insists, "I enjoyed my time at the seminary in as much as I was doing exactly what I wanted to do all the time every day, although if you judged it by contemporary standards it was a little bit stricter than Sing Sing prison!" All kidding aside, however, the strictness was not slavish in that it was informed with a clear purpose, and lived not only by the students but also by the priests who comprised the faculty. Hence "what to outsiders may have looked like a burden was actually a system of providential ways to maximize your time and your personal development."

In addition, each class of seminarians developed their own special bond of solidarity and friendship from the sharing of common activities and the achievement of a common goal. William's class, however, was particularly noteworthy because of a unique and ongoing event that dominated his years of theological study.

On October 11, 1962 the seminarians at St. Joseph's were granted fifteen extra minutes of recreation, something that was not often done. This, however, was no ordinary day, for the entire seminary was gathered around a television set to watch the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The occasion was one of great solemnity, yet when the secular television commentator announced that "the choir is now going to sing 'Come CREATED Spirit'" the seminarians roared with laughter.

For the next few years, the seminarians followed the Council with enthusiasm, "like a World Series in motion." St. Joseph's dogma professor, Fr. Austin Vaughan, was a man of towering stature both intellectually and spiritually. Digesting the daily reports of L'Observatore Romano, Fr. Vaughan would recapitulate for each class the action on the Council floor the previous day. In this way, William's class was trained to assimilate the authentic teaching of Vatican II-viewed in continuity with the whole of the Church's tradition even while that teaching was being formed. Another important influence on William personally was Msgr. Daniel Flynn, who not only trained him to be an altar boy as a youth, but also taught him almost all of his moral theology in the Seminary. Finally the much anticipated ordination day arrived on May 28,1966. William was deeply moved by the ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral, with his family present and Cardinal Spellman, just back from the Council, imposing the hands that stretched forth through their consecration from the hands of the very apostles themselves. As members of the first class to be ordained after the close of Vatican II, William and his fellows had particular obligations toward the renewal of the Church. (Msgr. Smith remarks that, "As I often point out to Fr. Curran, he's pre-Vatican II, I'm not.")

The new Father Smith became assistant pastor at St. Francis Church in Mt. Kisco, north of Yonkers. Here he delved into the parish life just as he had always hoped he would, ministering to a growing and active hospital, teaching the children in school, giving sermons, and administering the sacraments. He had immediately been placed in that formative role that so influenced him as a child. Fr. Smith quickly learned about the trust that people put in the Church. Here he was, young and unknown, coming into a parish and taking a directive role in people's lives, some of whom had been Catholics since long before he was born. They did not know him, but they trusted the Church who sent him. This in turn gave a tremendous sense of responsibility to the young priest. Fr. Smith wondered how God could place such an important matter in the hands of someone so young as himself, but he realized that, many years ago, a young woman in Nazareth was entrusted with the task of bearing the Word made-flesh. Indeed, God has a great deal of confidence in young people who are devoted to Him.

Fr. Smith was nevertheless prepared to take on any other task at the call of the bishop. He was already aware of the possibility that he might end up teaching in the seminary; while still a seminarian, some of his professors had "sounded him out" about the possibility of an academic career. Although at that time he admitted that he had no desire to be a teacher, he nevertheless pledged his loyalty to the wishes of the bishop.

Now the will of New York's new bishop, Terence Cardinal Cooke, became clear. At the recommendation of St. Joseph's seminary faculty, Fr. Smith was to pursue advanced studies in moral theology with a view to becoming involved in seminary life. After an interim year of teaching religion at Stepinac High School, Fr. Smith got his passport and prepared to go to Rome, along with Fr. O'Connor, who was studying dogmatic theology, and all the other priests from the Archdiocese of New York who were being sent to pursue doctoral degrees.

As with everything else, however, a diocesan priest can never be sure of his travel plans. Cardinal Cooke had just been placed on the board of directors of the Catholic University of America, as is common for prominent members of the American hierarchy. The president of the school complained to the Cardinal that "New York never sends us anyone unless there's a war on," referring to the Archdiocese's policy of sending its students to Rome. Cardinal Cooke, realizing that there was one particular priest that he could send to Washington, D. C., replied, "Well, we're sending one right now." Thus Msgr. Smith recalls that, when the semester started, "I found myself going down the New Jersey Turnpike, which is not the way to Rome."

It was the fall of 1969, and when the priest-student arrived at the Catholic University he soon discovered that "the silly season had emerged" in the school of theology. Humanae vitae was a year old, and some of the professors were no doubt wishing that this encyclical would go away. The theology school was polarized over the issue of dissent. Fr. Smith was deeply disturbed by the "politicization" of the faith; the idea that one had to choose sides "for" or "against" Catholic teaching at a Catholic university was to him ridiculous. It was as if the team were breaking apart and the players running all over the field.

Fr. Smith quickly realized that his loyalty to the Church and defense of her teaching would cause him difficulty with the dissenters on the faculty. Recognizing that he had been sent to the university for a specific purpose, Fr. Smith dug in his heals and set about getting his degree as quickly as possible, determined not to compromise the Church, but also determined not to allow those who were abandoning their loyalty to the Church to have any excuse to hinder him from accomplishing the task that the bishop had given him. His call was to the formation of seminarians; there would be plenty of battles to be fought and a great deal to be learned after he had his doctorate of Sacred Theology. Thus he determined to make his stay at the university as short and as smooth as fidelity to his principles would allow.

Through two turbulent years at Catholic University Fr. Smith kept a low profile and fulfilled his academic requirements. Upon receiving his degree, Fr. Smith attained a status far different than he had ever expected. He was now a Moral Theologian, thrust forth in the midst of a crisis. The Church once again placed great trust in him, and he was determined to represent her teachings with faithfulness, through the power of the Spirit of God.

And there was yet another trust that he was about to receive from God. The formation of His priests, the delicate nurturing of personal vocations as they correspond to that highest call of the Lord through His Church, to be conformed to Him in the fullness of His redemptive action: a task such as this carries a tremendous responsibility, particularly in these difficult years. Fr. Smith, however, was prepared because he saw this task, like all others, as a fulfillment of his duty.
The duty of a diocesan priest is unique because it does not correspond to a particular charism; rather it is universal within the local circumstances of a parish or other diocesan service. The priest makes the bishop "present" locally to his people; he participates in the bishop's duty of shepherding the flock. This means the willingness to accept a variety of assignments and, within each assignment, the variety of responses that each circumstance requires.

Fr. Smith identifies this unpredictable variety as "both the beauty and the challenge of the diocesan priesthood; whoever knocks on the door, you answer the door." The duty of a diocesan priest can be expressed as "opening the door." A parish priest in a rectory hears knocking all during the course of the day, and on the other side of his front door he might find anyone from the local mayor to a transient who needs money or food to a kid from the neighborhood. Despite the variety of people, needs, and situations, however, there is a profound underlying consistency—it is on the other side of that open door that the priest finds, each and every time, the person of Jesus Christ.

For Fr. Smith, the knock on the door was a call away from the parish life he loved and into a seminary where he could communicate that love to others. He knew that it was Christ who called, Christ who was on the other side of the door of his heart. In 1971, he answered that door, becoming professor of Moral Theology at St. Joseph's seminary.

Fr. Smith had never imagined himself as a teacher, but seminary teaching is much different from a college professorship. At the seminary, he is "teaching his own", playing a vital role in enriching the ministry of the diocese. Also there is a strong pastoral component to seminary teaching; by knowing what the Church expects of her priests and integrating it with his own life, Fr. Smith is able to communicate the essence of that openness that characterizes the diocesan priestly vocation. In addition, the current situation has created its own special difficulties. Many young men come to the seminary without a clear knowledge of the essentials of the faith. This means that there is an added need for communication between the faculty and the seminarians.

Theology embraces a way of life, and it is essential both for the sake of fidelity to the Gospel and for the happiness and stability of the candidate that he be at peace with what the Church teaches. "Better to talk out a problem here than live it out later on," Fr. Smith points out.
Thus St. Joseph's seminary has maintained its own "peace" as an institution dedicated to the Gospel during a time when some other seminaries in America are tossing about in a sea of irrelevant novelty and a crippling lack of discernment. Soon after Fr. Smith's arrival as a professor, now-Bishop Vaughan became Rector of the seminary, bringing his lucid sense of the Church and its authentic renewal into the administration of St. Joseph's.

This particular seminary thus has had an important role not only in training its own priests, but also in representing the teaching Church. As the 1970's wore on, issues of ethics became prominent in New York politics and in the national public forum. The Archdiocese of New York was continually called upon to present the teaching of the Church, often to a hostile, secular audience. Cardinal Cooke needed an articulate and knowledgeable spokesman who could grapple with issues that were having a serious impact on American public life, as well as a confusing effect on the faithful. There was a knock on the seminary door, and Fr. Smith answered.
.
Under Cardinal Cooke and his successor Cardinal O'Connor, Fr. Smith has spoken for the Church on a variety of moral topics, proclaiming me Gospel even in the most unfavorable circumstances. He has appeared on national television programs, including the Today Show, Phil Donahue, David Suskind, 20/20, First Estate, Good Morning America, Firing Line, and Cable Network News, and has also written numerous articles and given important lectures.

His involvement in the public realm of ideas and issues convinced Fr. Smith more and more that the Word of God, particularly as it is expressed in the intellectual apostolate, was frequently misunderstood and increasingly unpopular. Loyal Catholic thinkers abounded, but they were isolated from one another, forced to face hostile forces in the world—even in the Church-alone. The burden of this situation could become too great for some to bear. "There's always the danger that you'll be shaving one morning and you'll think, 'Maybe I'm the one who's crazy!'" This realization prompted Fr. Smith and several other concerned intellectuals to found the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in order to provide a sense of solidarity in the midst of crisis, reminiscent of the great sense of teamwork he remembered so well from his youth. "Don't be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). Fr. Smith served as president from 1981 to 1983.

In all of his activities as seminary professor, whether proclaiming the teachings of the Church or dealing directly with his seminarian students, Fr. Smith sees that same consistency-within-diversity that characterizes parish life: "Whatever comes up, comes up, and you deal with it." A seminary priest, or a parish priest, or any priest in the diocese simply has to examine every task, break it into manageable parts, and go to work; keeping in mind at all times a supernatural vision, a conviction of the reality and primacy of the spiritual. This means seeing Jesus Christ in the substance and at the end of every priestly duty.

Such a vision is impossible without three components that Fr. Smith continually stresses to his students and to anyone who will listen: sound doctrine, in order to know Jesus Christ; sound interior life, in order to encounter Christ in prayer and the sacraments, increasing love and union with Him; and sound personal practice, in order to serve Christ as He presents Himself in the demands of priestly life.

Jesus Christ is the goal and Jesus Christ is found everywhere, linked as He is to the destiny of every human being. Therefore it is impossible for a faithful priest to be idle. "Go visit the sick or
teach some kids the Hail Mary," Fr. Smith would say to priests who find time on their hands. "No honest priest would say that he has nothing, to do." Nevertheless, the devoted parish priest often serves with a zeal known only to God, and even if he does become a celebrity in the course of his duties, his ultimate successes are usually hidden ones: "Some of the most important things we work at will never show up in a cost/benefit analysis, nor in a book, nor in a glossy magazine," Fr. Smith observes. The greatest deeds, done to Jesus in the persons and situations that plant themselves on the front doorstep of the diocesan priest, are written only in the Book of Life.

Fr. Smith, with his strong sense of the meaning of the priesthood, and his recognized status within the intellectual community, was the ideal choice for Dean of the Seminary in 1977. His approach to theology is professional and scholarly but at the same time embraces the full sense of "faith seeking understanding." Knowing that "if theology were sheerly knowledge, it could be done by a correspondence course," Fr. Smith tries to integrate knowledge with life, so that his candidates increase in wisdom.

In addition to his seminary work, Fr. Smith helps out in various other works within the diocese; he assists at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Scarsdale, New York on Sundays, works as Vice-Chancellor-of the Archdiocese during the summer, and serves as chaplain for the South Bronx house of the Missionaries of Charity, a work which brought him to Calcutta, India to preach retreats to Mother Teresa and her sisters during Christmas of 1983.
Finally, it was in recognition of his service that, at the recommendation of


Cardinal O'Connor, Pope John Paul II conferred the title of Monsignor upon William Smith in
March of 1986. This honor singles out Msgr. Smith for his loyalty to the Church and loyalty to duty. During his twenty years in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, he has answered the door for parishioners, high school students, seminarians, religious, the inquiring secular press, and—always—the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. One might say that the door, so often used, is simply left open, lest the appearance of Christ with His ever-present call might for a moment be obscured. And most often it is young men who walk through the passageway, following the same Christ, who has brought them to St. Joseph's Seminary to become His priests. For these, Msgr. Smith has one especially important message, a message he has tried to live: "Wherever you are assigned by the Bishop as a diocesan priest really does not matter too much, but what matters very much is that we be faithful. If it involves some public attention or no notice at all, what difference? St. Luke's gospel tells us what makes the difference and what really matters: 'We have done no more than our duty'" (Lk. 17:10).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Smith's Clarity of Mind - Service to the Church: Facientes Veritatem in Charitate (Eph. 4, 15)

Smith was asked this question in HPR, January 2004:


Is Same Sex Union "Marriage"?


“Same-sex union is not `marriage’ and should not be called such. The present Code of Canon Law correctly defines marriage as a `matrimonial covenant’ by which `a man and woman’ establish a partnership of their whole life which of its nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children (cf. Canon 1055, #1 and also CCC, #2362).

“Obviously, same-sex union has nothing to do with procreation; same-sex human procreation is a physical and human impossibility.

“Similarly, same-sex union is not truly unitive sex `ordered to the well-being of the spouses’ (here partners) because the exercise of sexuality here is not a `gift of self’ to the other but rather and simply masturbatory sex, a gift (if you will) of self to same self. Thus, the use of words here; `love’ (love that is not marital) or `lovers’ is quite misleading and simply not true.

“Same-sex expression – be it oral, anal or manual – is not and cannot be marital love since the complementary unitive dimension of human sexuality is absent. Masturbatory sex is not self-giving. It is, perhaps, self-getting and, in truth, it is self-indulgent lust. Galatians 5, 24 is addressed to all Christians: `How those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passion and desires’ (cum vitiis et concupiscentiis in the Vulgate).

“Now, either St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has it right or, the whole of Christian tradition has it wrong. Masturbatory sex is not truly unitive nor is it at all procreative and that is what the Catechism teaches about Chastity and Homosexuality (CCC, #2357).

“This fundamental teaching of the Church `is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning’ (Humanae Vitae [1968] n. 12; cf. CCC, #2366).

“This unitive-procreative connection is the very meaning of human sexuality. Every misuse of human sexuality somehow tries, most often artificially, to separate and/or suppress one of these goods allegedly for the sake of the other. Artificial reproduction separates the unitive good for the procreative; whereas, contraception and sterilization chemically suppress or surgically remove the procreative good for the unitive. However, masturbation is neither unitive nor procreative and thus can never be marital. Any love that does not transcend itself is not worthy of the name love.

“To advance legal claims, legal benefits or arrangements to make same-sex unions supposedly stable does not change in nature or reality what this activity is. It is what it is; indeed, it cannot help but be what it is, and surely it is not marital!”[1]

[1] Homiletic & Pastoral Review January 2004, 62.

* * * * * * * * * * * *



Some feeble attempts to fill in some blanks.

What is involved here is the very development that took place in and after Vatican II. Before Vatican II, the Church was working with a nature-based ethic to explain morality, sexual and social. When working with “nature,” which is an abstraction of “person,” one works with ends. In the case of sexual ethics, the terms of explanation were “ends.” For matrimony, the moral account was primary and secondary ends: the primary was the procreation of children; the secondary was mutual love. After GS “48, the Church moved from an objectivized explanation by ends to the ontological subject who “found self by the sincere gift of self” (GS #24). It was not that “ends” was false, but ends leaves out the existential and ontological subject, the “I.” And the dynamic of the “I” as imaging the Trinitarian “I’s” is relationality.

Hence, instead of children as the primary “end” of matrimony, it is the “gift of self” as tending toward the procreation of children. This seems to open the door to a possible interpretation of matrimony where any two persons, say, of homosexual orientation could fill the bill, now that children are not primary, and the union of homosexuals is necessarily sterile. But the terms of understanding the reality matrimony are much deeper now. Those terms are the “person,” the “I.” Persons of homosexual orientation simply cannot make the gift of self to the other, because as enfleshed persons they are not capable of self-gift as donation or reception. Since the body is the person – and only a Gnostic abstractionism will hold to the contrary – the genital complementarity of male and female make them the only suitable protagonists of the one flesh union that is proper to spousal union. Only this squares with the experience of history, with the peace and health of societies, and with the Judeo-Christian revelation. And even deeper. Only this squares with the subjective experience of men and women. The experience of falling in love as only a male and female can “fall in love,” always speaks the language of the gift that is the language of life, both in themselves and open to the child.

The point on which our discussion turns – I think – is whether there can be such a thing as a “valid” gay marriage where the protagonists have the intention of making the gift of self to each other as homosexuals

. The Church understands marital or “conjugal” union as reciprocal and complementary self-gift in the flesh which must be open to the procreation of children. The reciprocal and complementary in-flesh exercise of self-gift is called “consummation.” If a couple has not “consummated” the marriage which is valid without it, is nevertheless annullable by the Roman Pontiff.

Let me weigh in with Canon 1061 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law: “A valid marriage between baptized persons is said to be merely ratified, if it is not consummated; ratified and consummated, if the spouses have in a human matter engaged together in a conjugal act in itself apt for the generation of offspring: to this act marriage is by its nature ordered and by it the spouses become one flesh.”

Although it seems to indicate that a valid marriage is one that is de facto ratified and consummated (by an act in itself apt for the generation of offspring) and therefore would imply that the failure to consummate the marriage would render it invalid, the following canon (1697) reads that one of the parties – in a ratified but non-consummated marriage – can appeal to the Pope for a dispensation from the marriage, which he alone could give (Canon1698.1). Therefore, there can be a bond (ratified) of marriage without consummation, but it is breakable.

These texts in a positivistic exegesis would not preclude homosexual union as marriage, except that the meaning of 1697 and 1698 clearly indicate the ability to consummate marriage in a one flesh union demands genital complementarity.


The Texts:
Canon 1697: The parties alone, or indeed one of them even if the other is unwilling, have the right to seek the favor of a dispensation from a ratified and non­consummated marriage.
Canon 1698.1 Only the Apostolic See gives judgment on the fact of the non­consummation of a marriage and on the existence of a just reason for granting the dispensation.
Canon 1698.2 The dispensation, however, is given by the Roman Pontiff alone.

The Deeper Anthropology of Sex as Consummation:

The male and the female are not equal as similar. They are equal as dissimilar, and by “dissimilar,” I mean “relational.” They are relational as vectors pointing in opposing directions. They are equal as vectors and dissimilar as opposing vectors. They are not individual substances in-themselves but created constitutive relations imaging the pure relationality of the divine Persons. They are not pure relation in act, but a process of becoming relation as self-gift that is a work of conversion. They must exercise the freedom of mastering themselves, gaining possession of themselves so as to be able to make the gift of themselves (hence, relation) to the other, and thus to become one. Note that they are not simply “united.” They become “one” in an imaging of the Trinity of Persons.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, doing a phenomenology of the relation of spouses, wrote: “There is a widespread error, even in Catholic circles, that conjugal love is distinguished from love of friends or love of parents and children merely by its connection with the sensual sphere. Quite independent of sensuality, conjugal love in itself constitutes a completely new kind of love. It involves a unique mutual giving of oneself, which is the outstanding characteristic of this type of love. It is true that in every kind of love one gives oneself in one way or another. But here the giving is literally complete and ultimate. Not only the heart but the entire personality is given up to the other. When a man and a woman love each other in this way, they give themselves to each other at the very moment they begin to love.”
[1]

Von Hildebrand wants to argue – as did John Paul II – that the marriage act is not “for” the procreation of children, but “for” the giving of the self which must always be “open” to the procreation of children. One cannot close off the openness to children because the conjugal act in the flesh (which is the very person himself and herself) must be the gift of the whole self (soul and body). The deep reason for that is the reality that divine Persons as Act-Relations are Love, and that Love is their very Life. Love and Life cannot be separated in God , the Prototype, nor in us, the images. Hence, for us, love-making cannot be separated from life-giving. It contradicts the very meaning of person as revealed to us by Jesus Christ.

But, the man and woman “are the only earthly beings God has willed for themselves” (Gaudium et spes #24), and therefore they cannot be used, not even by God the Creator. He has endowed them with reason and free will to decide for themselves about themselves, according to the truth of their ontological constitution as images.

But that is precisely the point. As persons in relation, heterosexual persons are called to make the complete gift of themselves to each other in spirit and body. Persons with a homosexual orientation cannot execute the total gift of self in spirit and body because the total gift of sexuality as body can neither be given nor received, and hence cannot be open to procreation, and hence not open to valid marriage as understood by the Church. The only use they can make of genital sexuality is masturbatory, which is a turning back into the self, and hence, non-imaging and non-self-fulfilling.


[1] Dietrich von Hildebrand, “Marriage, the Mystery of Fatihful Love,” Sophia Institute Press, (1984) 5.


Details of Msgr. Smith's Wake and Funeral


Monsignor William B. Smith was called home to the Lord this morning, January 24, 2009.Monday: Wake at St. Josephs' Seminary, Dunwoodie, NY: 2-4 pm and 7-9 pmTuesday: Wake at St. Josephs' Seminary, Dunwoodie, NY: 2-4 pmHoly Mass at St. Josephs' Seminary, Dunwoodie, NY: 7:30 pmWednesday: Requiem Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Chuch, Scarsdale, NY 10 am

Note From Dr. William E. May on Msgr. Smith

Sunday, January 25, 2009.

Dear Father Connor,

Father William Smith, a great personal friend of mine, was not only a splendid moral theologian but also a warm, loving, giving person. During the Christmas holidays in 1980 my son Tom was injured in a car accident while coming home from college and was hospitalized near Dunwoodie. I called Father Smith who immediate went to visit him and pray for him before I could come. An example of his Christ like love. I and others will miss him. May he rest in peace.

Sincerely in our Lord,

William E. May

The Conversion of St. Paul: The "Broadening of Reason" - 2009



Divine filiation as an ontological reality, and not necessarily humility, is the grounding truth of Opus Dei. This makes sense since Opus Dei is “a little bit of the Church.” And since the Church is the “I” of Christ, it would make sense that the vocation to Opus Dei is to bring forth that “I” and raise it to act. As then-Joseph Ratzinger remarked: “(C)onversion in a Pauline sense is something much more radical than, say, the revision of a few opinions and attitudes. It is a death-event. In other words, it is an exchange of the old subject for another. The ‘I’ ceases to be an autonomous subject standing in itself. It is snatched away from itself and fitted into a new subject. The ‘I’ is not simply submerged, but it must really release its grip on itself in order then to receive itself anew in and together with a greater ‘I.’

“In the Letter to the Galatians, the fundamental intuition about the nature of conversion – that it is the surrender of the old isolated subjectivity of the ‘I’ in order to find oneself within the unity of a new subject, which bursts the limits of the ‘I,’ thus making possible contact with the ground of all reality – appears again with new emphases in another context.”
[1]

The question of divine filiation is given a new light (for me) when Benedict XVI raises the question as to what the meaning of father really means. He goes to Scripture rather than to the common sense ontological dynamic of “engendering son.” He says:

“In Jesus’ discourses, the Father appears as the source of all good, as the measure of the rectitude (perfection) of man. ‘But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good’ (Mt. 5, 44-45). The love that endures ‘to the end’ (Jn. 13, 1), which the Lord fulfilled on the Cross in praying for his enemies, shows us the essence of the Father. He is this love. Because Jesus brings it to completion, he is entirely ‘Son,’ and he invites us to become ‘sons’ according to this criterion…. When the Lord teaches us to recognize the essence of God the Father through love of enemies, and to find ‘perfection’ in that love so as to become ‘sons’ ourselves, the connection between Father and Son becomes fully evident. It then becomes plain that the figure of Jesus is the mirror in which we come to know who God is and what he is like: through the Son we find the Father.”
[2]

To forgive the enemy demands, by definition, a conversion of self, since the other is enemy. Hence, there is no true filiation to the Father, Who is mercy, without having mercy, the mercy of forgiveness. This therefore is the burden of the meaning of conversion for all the baptized who are called to divine Sonship.



Paul “Saw” the Risen Christ


Christ is completely man as He is completely God. The humanity of Christ is not in parallel to the divinity of His Person. Ratzinger calls it “compenetrated” because the humanity is not autonomous in independence from the divinity, but is exercised by the divine Person. That is to say, the human will does not will. It is the person – the subject – who wills, and in this case, it is the divine Person who wills with His human will. Since it is an autonomous exercise of the divine Person, the human willing of the divine Person has the freedom of the autonomy of the divine Person.

The divinity is “hidden” from the visual view of sight. All that can be seen is the man “Jesus of Nazareth.” All the perceptualism and scientific study of the historical Jesus of Nazareth” will not reveal the transcendent reality of the divine Person Who is the hidden Protagonist. Benedict affirms with Origen that the Kingdom of God is the Person of Christ, and is consequently hidden with the divine Person.

Since “like is known by like” in that knowing demands ontological identity (“only the Father knows the Son” [Mt. 11, 27]; or “Adam knew his wife” [Gen. 4, 1]), in order to “know” Jesus Christ, there must be an anthropological mimicking of the Christological relationality to the Father. That mimicking is prayer. As Christ is pure relation to the Father (which He reveals as His constant prayer communication with the Father), so also, we must pray and turn everything we do (work, play, family life) into prayer (as the giving of the self). In a word, the encounter with Christ cannot be merely conceptual, but “eventful.” As faith cannot be simply “informative,” it must be “performative.” So also, the encounter of Paul with Christ on the road to Damascus was not simply “informative.” It was an “event.” Benedict said recently:

“The fact is that a complete turnabout took place there, a total change of perspective. Henceforth, unexpectedly, he began to consider as "loss" and "rubbish" all that before was for him the highest ideal, almost the raison d'etre of his existence (Philippians 3:7-8). What happened?

In this respect, we have two sources. The first type, the most well-known, are the accounts owed to Luke's pen, who on three occasions narrates the event in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:4-23). The average reader, perhaps, might be tempted to pause too long on certain details, such as the light from the sky, the fall to the ground, the voice that called, the new state of blindness, the curing when something like scales fall from his eyes and the fasting. However, all these details point to the heart of the event: The Risen Christ appeared as a splendid light and addressed Saul, transforming his thinking and his very life. The splendor of the Risen One left him blind; presenting also externally what the interior reality was, his blindness in regard to the truth, to the light, which is Christ. And then, his definitive "yes" to Christ in baptism reopens his eyes, and makes him truly see.

In the early Church, baptism was also called "illumination," because this sacrament gives light, makes one truly see. All that is indicated theologically was realized in Paul also physically: Once cured of his interior blindness, he sees well. Hence, St. Paul was not transformed by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen One, whom he could never again doubt, so strong had been the evidence of the event, of that encounter. The latter changed Paul's life fundamentally. In this connection, one can and must speak of a conversion. This meeting is the center of St. Luke's account, who quite possibly used an account born, probably, in the community of Damascus. The local coloring suggests this by the presence of Ananias and the names, both of the street as well as of the owner of the house where Paul stayed (Cf. Acts 9:11).”[3]

And on October 8, 2008, Benedict XVI went explicitly into the two epistemological ways of knowing a person:


“He writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: "Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer” (5:16). To know "according to the flesh," in a corporeal way, means to know only from the outside, with external criteria: one can see a person many times, recognize the individual's facial characteristics and the many details of how he acts: how he talks, moves, etc. Yet, even knowing someone in this way, one does not really know the person, one doesn't know the nucleus of the person. Only with the heart is one able to truly know a person.”In fact the Pharisees, the Sadducees, knew Christ from the outside, they heard his teachings, and knew many details of him, but they did not know him in his truth. There is an analogous distinction in the words of Jesus. After the Transfiguration, he asked the apostles: "Who do people say I am?" And, "Who do you say that I am?" The people know him, but superficially; they know many things about him, but they do not really know him. On the other hand, thanks to their friendship, and the role of their hearts, the Twelve at least substantially understood and began to learn more of who Christ really was.”This distinctive manner of knowing also exists today: There are learned individuals who know many details of Christ, and simple people who don't know these details, but they know Christ in his truth: "The heart speaks to the heart." And Paul essentially says that he knows Jesus in this way, with the heart, and that he knows essentially the person in his truth; and then afterward, he knows the details.”Having said this, the question remains: What did Paul know about the life, words, passion and miracles of Jesus? It seems he never met Christ during his early life. Surely he learned the details of Christ's earthly life from the apostles and the nascent Church. In his letters we find three forms of reference to the pre-Easter Jesus. First, there are explicit and direct references. Paul spoke of the Davidic lineage of Jesus (cf. Romans 1:3), he knew of the existence of his "brothers" or blood relatives (1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19), he knew of the development of the Last Supper (cf 1 Corinthians 11:23). He know other phrases of Jesus, for example on the indissolubility of marriage (cf 1 Corinthians 7:10 with Mark 10:11-12), on the need that those who announce the Gospel be sustained by the community as the worker deserves his wage (cf 1 Corinthians 9:14 with Luke 10:7). Paul knew the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper (cf 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 with Luke 22:19-20), and he also knew the cross of Jesus. These are direct references to the words and facts of the life of Jesus."


But Paul did not know the Person of Christ experientially. Consider this September 16, 2008 address of the pope on the same topic. He is constantly working the same point from different perspectives: there are two (2) epistemological perspectives: (1) the sensible “facts” about the Person of Christ; (2) the empirical experience of the Person (the “I”) of Christ on the road to Damascus whereby Saul became Paul by becoming “another Christ.” These two levels are the whole of the mind of Benedict. The second level is the “broadening of reason” whereby reason enters into the fullness of Being and reality and hence is “saved” as redeemed. Reason enters the horizon of the consciousness of the “I” of Christ Who is the Word of God, and therefore “Reality.” Consider the pope’s opening Address at the Synod of Bishops in Rome on the “Word of God” (October 8, 2008
[4]). The exposure of the human mind to “Being” as Reality (the divine Person Who is “Word”). Recall that reason has “wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being.”[5]


Here is Benedict on September 3, 2008.

"The fact is that a complete turnabout took place there, a total change of perspective. Henceforth, unexpectedly, he began to consider as "loss" and "rubbish" all that before was for him the highest ideal, almost the raison d'etre of his existence (Philippians 3:7-8). What happened?

"In this respect, we have two sources. The first type, the most well-known, are the accounts owed to Luke's pen, who on three occasions narrates the event in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:4-23). The average reader, perhaps, might be tempted to pause too long on certain details, such as the light from the sky, the fall to the ground, the voice that called, the new state of blindness, the curing when something like scales fall from his eyes and the fasting. However, all these details point to the heart of the event: The Risen Christ appeared as a splendid light and addressed Saul, transforming his thinking and his very life. The splendor of the Risen One left him blind; presenting also externally what the interior reality was, his blindness in regard to the truth, to the light, which is Christ. And then, his definitive "yes" to Christ in baptism reopens his eyes, and makes him truly see.

"In the early Church, baptism was also called "illumination," because this sacrament gives light, makes one truly see. All that is indicated theologically was realized in Paul also physically: Once cured of his interior blindness, he sees well. Hence, St. Paul was not transformed by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen One, whom he could never again doubt, so strong had been the evidence of the event, of that encounter. The latter changed Paul's life fundamentally. In this connection, one can and must speak of a conversion. This meeting is the center of St. Luke's account, who quite possibly used an account born, probably, in the community of Damascus. The local coloring suggests this by the presence of Ananias and the names, both of the street as well as of the owner of the house where Paul stayed (Cf. Acts 9:11).
The second type of source on the conversion is made up of St. Paul's letters themselves. He never spoke in detail about this event; I think he assumed that everyone knew the essentials of his story. All knew that from being a persecutor, he was transformed into a fervent apostle of Christ. And this did not happen at the end of his own reflection but of an intense event, of an encounter with the Risen One. Although not mentioning details, he refers to this most important event, that is, that he is also a witness of the resurrection of Jesus, the revelation of which he has received directly from Jesus himself, together with the mission of apostle.

The clearest text on this aspect is found in his account of what constitutes the center of the history of salvation: the death and resurrection of Jesus and the apparitions to witnesses (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). With words of very ancient tradition, which he also received from the Church of Jerusalem, he says that Jesus died crucified, was buried, and after his resurrection appeared first to Cephas, that is, Peter, then to the Twelve, and afterwards to 500 brothers who were still alive at that time, then to James, and then to all the apostles.

And to this account, received from tradition, he adds: "Last of all ... he appeared also to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8). Thus he clarifies that this is the foundation of his apostolate and of his new life. There are also other texts in which the same reference appears: "Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship (cf. Romans 1:5); and elsewhere: "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1), words with which he alludes to something that all know. Finally, the most complete text is found in Galatians 1:15-17: "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus." In this "self-apology" he underlines decidedly that he is also a true witness of the Risen One, that he has a mission received directly from the Risen One.
We can see that the two sources, the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul, converge in a fundamental point: The Risen One spoke with Paul, called him to the apostolate, made him a true apostle, a witness of the resurrection, with the specific charge to proclaim the Gospel to the pagans, to the Greco-Roman world. And, at the same time, Paul learned that, despite the immediateness of his relationship with the Risen One, he must enter the communion of the Church, be baptized, and live in harmony with the other apostles. Only in this communion with all will he be able to be a true apostle, as he wrote explicitly in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (15:11). There is only one proclamation of the Risen One, because Christ is only one.

As we see in these passages, Paul never interprets this moment as an event of conversion. Why? There are many theories, but the reason is very obvious. This change of his life, this transformation of his whole being was not the result of a psychological process, of a maturation or intellectual and moral evolution, but it came from outside: It was not the result of his thinking but of the encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a maturing of his "I," rather, it was death and resurrection for himself: a life of his died and a new one was born with the Risen Christ.
In no other way can this renewal of Paul be explained. All psychological analyses cannot clarify or resolve the problem. Only the event, the intense encounter with Christ is the key to understand what happened: death and resurrection, renewal on the part of him who revealed himself and spoke with him. It is in this more profound sense that we can and must speak of conversion. This meeting was a real renewal that changed all his parameters. One can now say that what before was essential and fundamental for him, now has become "rubbish" for him; there is no longer "gain" but loss, because now only life in Christ is what counts.

"However, we must not think that Paul locked himself blindly in an event. In reality, the opposite occurred, because the risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This enlarged his heart, and opened it to all. At that moment, he did not lose all that was good and true in his life, in his heritage, but understood in a new way the wisdom, truth, and depth of the law and the prophets; he appropriated them in a new way. At the same time, his reason opened to the wisdom of the pagans. Having opened himself to Christ with all his heart, he became able to engage in a wider dialogue with all, he made himself everything to all. Hence he could really be the apostle to the pagans.”
How Does This Relate To Us?


Benedict XVI goes on: “Let us now look at our situation. What does this mean for us? It means that also for us, Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ. Of course he does not show himself to us in that irresistible, luminous way, as he did with Paul to make him Apostle of the Gentiles.

"However, we can also encounter Christ in the reading of sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's heart and feel him touch ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians. [And now, Benedict enters into the topic of the “broadening of reason” that he has insisted on especially in the last 2 years].And in this way, our reason opens, the whole of Christ's wisdom opens and all the richness of the truth. Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world.”



[1] J. Ratzinger “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 51.
[2] Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth,” (2007) 136-137.
[3] Benedict XVI, September 3, 2008.
[4] “[Psalm 18] begins like this: “In aeternum, Domine, verbum tuum constitutum est in caelo... firmasti terram, et permanet”. This refers to the solidity of the Word. It is solid, it is the true reality on which we must base our life. Let us remember the words of Jesus who continues the words of this Psalm: “Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. Humanly speaking, the word, my human word, is almost nothing in reality, but a breath. As soon as it is pronounced, it disappears. It seems like nothing. But already the human word has incredible force. It is words that create history, it is words that form thoughts, the thoughts that create the word. It is the word that forms history, reality.
“ Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.”
[5] John Paul II, “Fides et ratio” #5.