Thursday, April 26, 2012

The New Evangelization... Begins in the Confessional

Friday, 9 March 2011

Dear Friends,
I am very glad to meet you on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. I address a cordial greeting to Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Major Penitentiary, who has presided at your study sessions for the first time as such, and I thank him for his cordial words.
I likewise greet Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, Regent, the Penitentiary personnel and each one of you who with your presence remind everyone of the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the life of faith, highlighting both the constant need for an adequate theological, spiritual and canonical training in order to be confessors and, especially, the constitutive bond between sacramental celebration and Gospel proclamation.
In fact, the Sacraments and the Proclamation of the Word must never be conceived as separate; on the contrary, “Jesus says that the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is the goal of his mission; this proclamation, however, is not only a ‘discourse’ but at the same time includes his action; the signs and miracles that Jesus works show that the Kingdom comes as a present reality and in the end coincides with his very Person, with his gift of himself.... The priest represents Christ, the One sent by the Father, he continues his mission, through the ‘word’ and the ‘sacrament’, in this totality of body and soul, of sign and word” (General Audience, 5 May 2010).
This totality, rooted in the very mystery of the Incarnation, suggests to us that the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is itself a proclamation and therefore a path to take for the work of the New Evangelization.
In what sense then is sacramental confession a “path” for the New Evangelization? First of all because the New Evangelization draws its lifeblood from the holiness of the children of the Church, from the daily journey of personal and community conversion in order to be ever more closely conformed to Christ. Then there is a close connection between holiness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, witnessed by all the saints of history. The real conversion of our hearts, which means opening ourselves to God’s transforming and renewing action, is the “driving force” of every reform and is expressed in a real evangelizing effort. In confession, through the freely bestowed action of divine Mercy, repentant sinners are justified, pardoned and sanctified and abandon their former selves to be reclothed in the new.
Only those who have let themselves be profoundly renewed by divine grace are able to bear within them — and hence to proclaim — the newness of the Gospel. In his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, Blessed John Paul II said: “I am also asking for renewed pastoral courage in ensuring that the day-to-day teaching of Christian communities persuasively and effectively presents the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation” (n. 37).
I would like to reassert this appeal, in the awareness that the New Evangelization must acquaint the people of our time with the face of Christ “as mysterium pietatis, the one in whom God shows us his compassionate heart and reconciles us fully with himself. It is this face of Christ that must be rediscovered through the Sacrament of Penance” (ibid.).
In an age of educational emergency in which relativism is calling into question the very possibility of an education understood as a gradual introduction to knowledge of the truth, to the profound sense of reality, hence as a gradual introduction to the relationship with the Truth which is God, Christians are called to proclaim energetically the possibility of the encounter between today’s people and Jesus Christ, in whom God made himself so close that that he may be seen and heard.
In this perspective the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which begins with a look at one’s actual condition in life, contributes uniquely to achieving that “openness of heart” which enables one to turn one’s gaze to God so that he may enter one’s life. The certainty that he is close and in his mercy awaits the human being, even one who is involved in sin, in order to heal his weakness with the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is always a ray of hope for the world.
Dear priests and dear deacons who are preparing for the priesthood, in the administration of this sacrament you are given, or you will be given, the possibility of being instruments of an ever renewed meeting of people with God. All who turn to you, precisely because of their condition as sinners, will experience within them a profound desire: the desire for change, the desire for mercy and, ultimately, the desire for the encounter with Christ and for him to embrace them once again.
You will therefore be collaborators and protagonists of a great many possible “new beginnings”, as many as the penitents who come to you, bearing in mind that the authentic meaning of every “newness” does not consist so much in the abandonment or excision of the past. Rather it consists in welcoming Christ and in opening yourselves to his Presence, ever new and ever capable of transforming and illuminating all the patches of shade and ceaselessly unfolding new horizons.
The New Evangelization, therefore, also begins in the confessional! That is, it begins in the mysterious encounter between the endless question of human beings, a sign within them of the Creator Mystery and God’s Mercy, the only adequate response to the human need for infinity.
If the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is this, if the faithful have a real experience of that Mercy which Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ has given to us, they themselves will become credible witnesses of that holiness which is the aim of the New Evangelization.
If all this is true for the lay faithful, dear friends, it acquires even greater importance for each one of us. The minister of the Sacrament of Reconciliation collaborates with the New Evangelization in the first place by renewing himself, his own awareness that he is a sinner and is in need of receiving sacramental pardon. In this way may be renewed the encounter with Christ, which was begun in Baptism and has found its specific and definitive form in the sacrament of Orders.
This is my hope for each one of you: may the newness of Christ always be the centre and reason for your priestly existence, so that those who meet you through your ministry may exclaim as did Andrew and John “we have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41). In this way, every Confession, from which each Christian will emerge renewed, will be a step ahead in the New Evangelization. May Mary, Mother of Mercy, Refuge for us sinners and Star of the New Evangelization, accompany us on our way. I thank you warmly and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you.

Freedom Is Not Primarily Choice

            It is the “Kataphatic” (symbols and words: mediations of likeness between the mind and reality) that keeps imposing the experience that reality is “thing-in-itself,” as opposed to the experience of receptivity and love (tendency) which is the experience of the deeper reality of the self. To explain freedom in terms of “thing-in-itself” constrains one to think in terms of potency or indetermination toward choice.

   Ratzinger's anthropological rendering of the "Son" as relation in the previous blog is the articulation of relational and non-substantialistic meaning of freedom.

            And so, I would offer that freedom is the exercise of determining the self in accord with “the inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine.”[1] Where does this tendency come from? It comes from the mimicking of the Self-transcendence which is prototypical freedom. The Three Divine Persons are not only free; They are Freedom itself. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger commented: “The real God is bound to himself in threefold love and is thus pure freedom.”[2] Freedom means to become fully who one is. God the Father is fully Himself as Father by being the act of engendering the Son. He is not Father, and then engenders the Son. He is the very act of relating. He is not substance who “then” engenders the Son, thus becoming Father. His totality of Being as Father and Person is the “relating.” And this, of course, is what true freedom means in us as images. To be free will mean to be fully who one is and is supposed to be.

To be as act of relation constitutively, of course, sounds unthinkable – precisely because it is our way of thinking that we impose on the revelation. And it is because we think by the mediation of abstract concepts – “kataphatically,” i.e. by the mediation of symbols and words - that we insist that there must be a substance in which relation is grounded as an accident. But the God of revelation is not the God of the philosophers. Ratzinger remarked that “The Fathers [of the Church], who started from the assumption of this harmony between philosophy and biblical revelation, realized that the one God of the Bible could be affirmed, in his identity, through two predicates: creation and revelation, creation and redemption. But these are both relational terms. Thus the God of the Bible is a God-in-relationship; and to that extent, in the essence of his identity, he is opposed to the self-enclosed God of philosophy.”[3] After the likes of the “Da Vinci Code” we are aware of the tension that preceded the Council of Nicea, and continues today. To say that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the divine Person, Logos, Absolute God, Creator and Lord of all reality, and that He is such in that He is equal to the Father in Godhead but dissimilar as Person-Son engendered from all eternity – explodes the meaning of “Being” substance-in-itself that was received from Greek metaphysics. That is, how can a being be one with another yet be irreducibly different. “Being” for Aristotle and Plato – perhaps they themselves are a decline from the higher metaphysics of the 5th and 6th centuries of Anaximander, Parmenides, Heraclitus, etc. as suggested by Heidegger[4] – meant precisely to be an individual “substance” or the “One,” but not a relation.

            For Heidegger, there is a “concealment of Being” (discovered in the experience of the self) by sensible perception (of “things”) and concepts (judgements of “fact”). That done, there is λήθη which is forgetfulness (the river of Homer), and αλήθειια that is the alpha privative of forgetting that, when combined lethe, is remembering.[5] This is what Benedict XVI is focusing his Magisterium on: the “presencing” of Christ by self transcendence of the self. This is the same point brought out in his understanding of the symmetrical self gift going on in Christ’s Self-revelation, and the self-gift in the act of faith of the believer. The Second Vatican Council will not be understood – nor the Magisterium of John Paul II nor Benedict XVI – if this crucial point is not understood and lived. Reality – “Being” – is the person that must be un-concealed by experiencing itself in the act of relation as self-giving.

(To see that the prototypical meaning of “being” is “person” as in revelation does not created a philosophy that we call “personalism.” It is simply to see that what we mean by “being” in its first instance is person).

Contrarily, “Being” for the Fathers of the Church meant “relation.” Ratzinger says, “as a result of this struggle, a new philosophical category – the concept of `person’ – was fashioned, a concept that has become for us the fundamental concept of the analogy between God and man, the very center of philosophical thought.” Notice that the analogy between God and man is not “being” but person.  He goes on: “The meaning of an already existing category, that of `relation,’ was fundamentally changed. In the Aristotelian table of categories, relation belongs to the group of accidents that point to substance and are dependent on it; in God, therefore, there are no accidents. Through the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, relation moves out of the substance-accident framework. Now God himself is described as a trinitarian set of relations, as relatio subsistens. When we say that man is the image of God, it means that he is a being designed for relationship; it means that, in and through all his relationships, he seeks that relation which is the ground of his existence. In this context, covenant would be the response to man’s imaging of God; it would show us who we are and who God is.”[6]
            Ratzinger goes further when he directly says that the revealed concept of person “was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and Latin mind. It is not conceived in substantialist, but… in existential terms. In this light, Boethius’s concept of person, which prevailed in Western philosophy, must be criticized as entirely insufficient. Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined `person’ as naturae rationalis individua substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greeks mind which thinks in substantialist terms.”[7]

            To sum up: since the prototypical meaning of Being in Christian faith-experience is person-in-relation, and freedom takes its meaning from Being, then one “becomes” free to the extent that he/she enters the relationality of self-gift. The more one gives self, the freer one is. Hence, “If you abide in my work, you will be my disciple indeed; you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8, 32); and “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom;” (VS #85).

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas (1991) 20.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Freedom and Liberation, The Anthropological Vision of the 1986 Instruction Libertatis Conscientia,”   Church, Ecumenism and Politics Crossroad (1988) 274.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Many Religions – One Covenant,” Ignatius (1999) 75-76.
[4] Martin Heidegger, “Early Greek Thinking, The Dawn of Western Philosophy,” Harper Collins (1975- 1984)
[5] Mel Gibson wrote: “There is a classical Greek word which best defines what `truth’ guided my work, and that of everyone else involved in the project: Aletheia. It simply means `unforgetting’ (derived from lethe – water from Homer’s River Lethe cased forgetfulness). It has unfortunately become part of the ritual of our modern secular existence to forget. The film, in this sense, is not meant as a historical documentary or does it claim to have assembled all the facts. But it does enumerate those described in relevant Holy Scripture. It is not merely representative or merely expressive. I think of as contemplative in the sense that one is compelled to remember (unforget) in a spiritual way which cannot be articulated, only experienced;” The Passion, Tyndale (2004)  Foreword.
[6] Ibid 76-77.
[7] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion Parson in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448.

Reception and Response to God - Vocation

World Day of Prayer for Vocations April 20, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI

The source of every perfect gift is God who is Love - Deus caritas est: "Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (1 Jn 4:16).  Sacred Scripture tells the story of this original bond between God and man, which precedes creation itself.  Writing to the Christians of the city of Ephesus, Saint Paul raises a hymn of gratitude and praise to the Father who, with infinite benevolence, in the course of the centuries accomplishes his universal plan of salvation, which is a plan of love.  In his Son Jesus - Paul states - "he chose us, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him in love" (Eph 1:4).  We are loved by God even "before" we come into existence!  Moved solely by his unconditional love, he created us "not ... out of existing things" (cf. 2 Macc 7:28), to bring us into full communion with Him.

In great wonderment before the work of God's providence, the Psalmist exclaims: "When I see the heavens, the work of  your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?"(Ps 8:3-4).  The profound truth of our existence is thus contained in this surprising mystery: every creature, and in particular every human person, is the fruit of God's  thought and an act of his love, a love that is boundless, faithful and everlasting (cf. Jer 31:3).  The discovery of this reality is what truly and profoundly changes our lives.  In a famous page of the Confessions, Saint Augustine expresses with great force his discovery of God, supreme beauty and supreme love, a God who was always close to him, and to whom he at last opened his mind and heart to be transformed: "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace." (X, 27.38).  With these images, the Saint of Hippo seeks to describe the ineffable mystery of his encounter with God, with God's love that transforms all of life.

It is a love that is limitless and that precedes us, sustains us and calls us along the path of life, a love rooted in an absolutely free gift of God.  Speaking particularly of the ministerial priesthood, my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, stated that "every ministerial action - while it leads to loving and serving the Church - provides an incentive to grow in ever greater love and service of Jesus Christ the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, a love which is always a response to the free and unsolicited love of God in Christ" (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 25). Every specific vocation is in fact born of the initiative of God; it is a gift of the Love of God!  He is the One who takes the "first step", and not because he has found something good in us, but because of the presence of his own love "poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5).
In every age, the source of the divine call is to be found in the initiative of the infinite love of God, who reveals himself fully in Jesus Christ.  As I wrote in my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, "God is indeed visible in a number of ways.  In the love-story recounted by the Bible, he comes towards us, he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along its path. Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist" (No. 17).
The love of God is everlasting; he is faithful to himself, to the "word that he commanded for a thousand generations" (Ps105:8).  Yet the appealing beauty of this divine love, which precedes and accompanies us, needs to be proclaimed ever anew, especially to younger generations.  This divine love is the hidden impulse, the motivation which never fails, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Dear brothers and sisters, we need to open our lives to this love.  It is to the perfection of the Father's love (cf. Mt 5:48) that Jesus Christ calls us every day!  The high standard of the Christian life consists in loving "as" God loves; with a love that is shown in the total, faithful and fruitful gift of self.  Saint John of the Cross, writing to the Prioress of the Monastery of Segovia who was pained by the terrible circumstances surrounding his suspension, responded by urging her to act as God does: "Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and there you will draw out love" (Letters, 26).

It is in this soil of self-offering and openness to the love of God, and as the fruit of that love, that all vocations are born and grow.  By drawing from this wellspring through prayer, constant recourse to God's word and to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, it becomes possible to live a life of love for our neighbours, in whom we come to perceive the face of Christ the Lord (cf. Mt 25:31-46). To express the inseparable bond that links these "two loves" - love of God and love of neighbour - both of which flow from the same divine source and return to it, Pope Saint Gregory the Great uses the metaphor of the seedling: "In the soil of our heart God first planted the root of love for him; from this, like the leaf, sprouts love for one another." (Moralium Libri, sive expositio in Librum B. Job, Lib. VII, Ch. 24, 28; PL 75, 780D).

These two expressions of the one divine love must be lived with a particular intensity and purity of heart by those who have decided to set out on the path of vocation discernment towards the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life; they are its distinguishing mark.  Love of God, which priests and consecrated persons are called to mirror, however imperfectly, is the motivation for answering the Lord's call to special consecration through priestly ordination or the profession of the evangelical counsels.  Saint Peter's vehement reply to the Divine Master: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you" (Jn 21:15) contains the secret of a life fully given and lived out, and thus one which is deeply joyful.
The other practical expression of love, that towards our neighbour, and especially those who suffer and are in greatest need, is the decisive impulse that leads the priest and the consecrated person to be a builder of communion between people and a sower of hope.  The relationship of consecrated persons, and especially of the priest, to the Christian community is vital and becomes a fundamental dimension of their affectivity.  The Curé of Ars was fond of saying: "Priests are not priests for themselves, but for you" (Le cure d'Ars. Sa pensée - Son cœur, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 100).
Dear brother bishops, dear priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, catechists, pastoral workers and all of you who are engaged in the field of educating young people: I fervently exhort you to pay close attention to those members of parish communities, associations and ecclesial movements who sense a call to the priesthood or to a special consecration. It is important for the Church to create the conditions that will permit many young people to say "yes" in generous response to God's loving call.
The task of fostering vocations will be to provide helpful guidance and direction along the way. Central to this should be love of God's word nourished by a growing familiarity with sacred Scripture, and attentive and unceasing prayer, both personal and in community; this will make it possible to hear God's call amid all the voices of daily life.  But above all, the Eucharist should be the heart of every vocational journey: it is here that the love of God touches us in Christ's sacrifice, the perfect expression of love, and it is here that we learn ever anew how to live according to the "high standard" of God's love.  Scripture, prayer and the Eucharist are the precious treasure enabling us to grasp the beauty of a life spent fully in service of the Kingdom.

It is my hope that the local Churches and all the various groups within them, will become places where vocations are carefully discerned and their authenticity tested, places where young men and women are offered wise and strong spiritual direction.  In this way, the Christian community itself becomes a manifestation of the Love of God in which every calling is contained.  As a response to the demands of the new commandment of Jesus, this can find eloquent and particular realization in Christian families, whose love is an expression of the love of Christ who gave himself for his Church (cf. Eph5:32).  Within the family, "a community of life and love" (Gaudium et Spes, 48), young people can have a wonderful experience of this self-giving love.  Indeed, families are not only the privileged place for human and Christian formation; they can also be "the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the Kingdom of God" (Familiaris Consortio, 53), by helping their members to see, precisely within the family, the beauty and the importance of the priesthood and the consecrated life.  May pastors and all the lay faithful always cooperate so that in the Church these "homes and schools of communion" may multiply, modelled on the Holy Family of Nazareth, the harmonious reflection on earth of the life of the Most Holy Trinity.

With this prayerful hope, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you: my brother bishops, priests, deacons, religious men and women and all lay faithful, and especially those young men and women who strive to listen with a docile heart to God's voice and are ready to respond generously and faithfully.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Metaphysics of Divine Filiation

From Joseph Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity (185-188)

“In St. John’s gospel Christ says of himself: ‘The Son can do nothing of his own accord’ (5, 19 and 30). This seems to rob the Son of all power; he has nothing of his own; precisely because he is the Son he can only operate by virtue of him to whom he owes his whole existence. What first becomes evident here is that the concept ‘Son’ is a concept of relation. By calling the Lord ‘Son,’ John gives him a name that always points away from him and beyond him; he thus employs a term that denotes essentially a relationship. He thereby puts his whole Christology into the context of the idea of relation. Formulas like the one just mentioned only emphasize this; they only, as it were, draw out what is implicit in the word ‘son,’ the relativity which it contains. On the face of it, a contradiction arises when the same Christ says of himself in St. John: ‘I and the Father are one’ (10, 30). But anyone who looks more closely will see at once that in reality the two statements are complementary. In that Jesus is called ‘Son’ and is thereby made relative to the Father, and in that Christology is ratified as a statement of relation, the automatic result is the total reference of Christ back to the Father. Precisely because he does not stand in himself he stands in him, constantly one with him.

            What this signifies, not just for Christology but for the illumination of the whole meaning of being a Christian at all, comes to light when John extends these ideas to Christians, who proceed from Christ. It then becomes apparent that he explains by Christology what the Christian’s situation really is. We find here precisely the same interplay of the two series of statements as before. Parallel to the formula ‘The Son can do nothing of his own accord,’ which illumines Christology from the son-concept as a doctrine of relativity, is the statement about those who belong to Christ, the disciples: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15, 5). Thus Christian existence is put with Christ into the category of relationship. And parallel to the logic which makes Christ say, ‘I and the Father are one,’ we find here the petition ‘that they may be one, even as we are one’ (17, 11 and 22). The significant difference from Christology comes to light in the fact that the unity of Christians is mentioned not in the indicative but in the form of a prayer.

            “Let us now try briefly t consider the significance of the line of thought that has become visible. The Son as Son, and in so far as he is Son, does not proceed in any way from himself and so is completely one wit the Father; since he is nothing beside him, claims no special position of his own, confronts the Father with nothing belonging only to him, retains no room for his own individuality, therefore he is completely equal to the Father. The logic is compelling: iof there is nothing in which he is just he, no king of fenced-off private ground, then he coincides with the Father, is ‘one’ with him. It is precisely this totality of interplay that the word “Son” aims at expressing. To John ‘Son’ means being-from-another; thus with this word he defines the being of this man as being from another and for others, as a being that is completely open on both sides, knows no reserved area of the mere ‘I.’ When It thus becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being ‘from’ and ‘towards,’ that nowhere clings to itelf and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation, pure unity. This fundamental statement about Christ becomes, as we have seen, at the same time the explanation of Christian existence. To John, being a Christian means being like the Son, becoming a son; that is , not standing on one’s own and in oneself, but living completely open in the ‘from’ and ‘towards.’ In so far as the Christian is a ‘Christian,’ this is true of him. And certainly such utterances will make him aware to how small an extent he is a Christian.

            “It seems to me that this illuminates the ecumenical character of the passage from a quite unexpected angle. Everyone knows, it is true, that Jesus’ ‘high priestly prayer’ (john 17), of which we are speaking, is the basic charter of all efforts for the unity of the Church. But do we not often take far too superficial a view of it. Our reflectrions have shown that Christian unity is first of all unity with Christ, which becomes possible where insistence on one’s own individuality ceases and is replaced by pure, unreserved being ‘from’ and ‘for.’ From such a being with Christ, that enters completely into his openness, that would want to hold on to nothing of its own individuality, (cf. also Phil. 2, 6f), follows the complete ‘at-one-ness’ –
That they may be one, even as we are one.’ All not-at-one-ness, all division, rests on a concealed lack of real Christliness, on a retention of individuality which hinders the coalescence into unity.

            “I think it is not unimportant to note how the doctrine of the Trinity here passes over into an existential statement, how the assertion that relation is at the same time pure unity becomes transparently clear to us. It is the nature of the Trinitarian personality to be pure relation and so the most absolute unity. That there is no contradiction in this is probably now evident. And one can understand from now on more clearly than before that it is not the ‘atom,’ the indivisible smallest piece of matter, that possesses the highest unity; that on the contrary, pure oneness can only occur in the spirit and embraces the relatedness of love. Thus in Christianity the profession of faith in the oneness of God is just as radical as in any other monotheistic religion; indeed, only Christianity does it reach its full stature. But it is the nature of Christian existence to receive and to live life as relatedness, and thus to enter into that unity which is the ground of all reality and sustains it. This will perhaps make it clear how the doctrine of the Trinity, when properly understood, can become the reference point of theology that anchors all other lines of Christian thought.”

    Let us round off the whole discussion with a passage from St. Augustine that elucidates splendidly what we mean. It occurs in his commentary on Stl. John and hinges on the sentence in the Gospel that runs, ‘Mea doctrina non est mea’ – ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me’ (7, 16). Augustine has used the paradox in this sentence to illuminate the paradoxical nature of the Christian image of God and of Christian existence. He asks himself first whether it is not a sheer contradiction, an offense against the elementary rules of logic, to say something like ‘Mine is not mine.’ But, he goes on to ask, digging deeper, what, then, is the teaching of Jesus that is simultaneously his and not his? Jesus is ‘word,’ and thus it becomes clear that his teaching is he himself. If one reads the sentence again with this insight, it then says: I am by no means just I; I am not mine at all; my I is that of another. With this we have moved on out of Christology and arrived at ourselves. The ‘I’ is simultaneously what I have completely and what least of all belongs to me. Thus here again the concept of mere substance (=what stands in itself!) is shattered, and it is made apparent how being that truly understands itself grasps at the same time that in being itself it does not belong to itself; that it only comes to itself by moving away from itself and find its way back as relatedness to its true primordial state.
                Such thoughts do not make the doctrine of the Trinity unmysteriously comprehensible, but they do help, I think, to open up a new understanding of reality, of what man is and of what God is. Just when we seem to have reached the extreme limit of theory, the extreme of practicality comes into view: talking about God discloses what man is; the most paradoxical approach is at the same time the most illuminating and helpful one" (My emphasis).

  P.s.  In the light of the above, it is evident that the traditional scholastic metaphysic, which holds "substance" to be the prime meaning of "being," has become an obstacle in giving an account of
reality and freedom understood as "Word of God" and person.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Charlie Rice on Notre Dame Faculty-Religious Freedom

Charles E. Rice
Professor Emeritus
Notre Dame Law School
April 24, 2012

On April 14, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., of Peoria, Illinois, delivered a courageous homily at Mass during “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith.”  Bishop Jenky said, “This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries—only excepting our church buildings—could easily be shut down.  Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.”
Forty-nine members of the Notre Dame faculty denounced Bishop Jenky in a Letter to the  University President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Richard C. Notebaert.  The Letter called on them to “definitively distance Notre Dame from Bishop Jenky’s incendiary statement.”  The signers, said the Letter, “feel” that Bishop Jenky should resign from the University’s Board of Fellows.
The faculty Letter claims that Bishop Jenky “described President Obama as ‘seem[ing] intent on following a similar path’ to Hitler and Stalin.”  They accuse Bishop Jenky of “ ignorance of history, insensitivity to victims of genocide, and absence of judgment.”  The astonishingly simplistic and defamatory character of those accusations can be appreciated only by looking at what Bishop Jenky actually said:
Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room.
In the late 19th century, Bismarck waged his “Kulturkampf,” a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.
Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama—with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
The immediate antecedent of that last quoted sentence refers to the fact, which not even a liberal academic could deny, that Hitler and Stalin, like Bismarck and Clemenceau, “would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.”  It was not “incendiary” but simple truth for Bp. Jenky to say that the trajectory of the Obama regime is along a “similar path” in regard to “education, social services, and health care.”  His faculty detractors misread Bishop Jenky’s homily, assuming that they actually read it before they distorted and denounced it.  The strident tone of their Letter, moreover, draws into question their own judgment and balance.
Bishop Jenky properly drew attention to the impending dangers to religious and personal freedom.  The Obama regime, the leader of which was elected with 54 percent of the Catholic vote, is substituting for the free economy and limited government a centralized command system of potentially unlimited jurisdiction and power.  Its takeover of health care was enacted against the manifest will of the people, in disregard of legislative process and by a level of bribery, coercion and deception that was as open as it was unprecedented.  The HHS Health Care Mandate imperils not only the mission of the Catholic Church but also the right of conscience itself.
The faculty Letter outrageously claimed that Bishop Jenky’s limited and appropriate reference to Hitler and Stalin showed his ‘insensitivity to victims of genocide.”  The Hitler record, however, is relevant in another respect.  It provides an example, comparable to the Obama record, of the rapid concentration of executive power by a legally installed regime.  Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor on January 30.   Over the next few weeks he consolidated his power.  The decisive event was the Reichstag’s approval of the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, by which it ceded full and practically irrevocable powers to Hitler.  That was the point of no return.  The Enabling Act received the needed two-thirds vote only because it was supported by the Catholic party, the Centre Party.  (Eliot Barculo Wheaton, The Nazi Revolution: 1933-35 (1969), 286-93; William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959), 88, 276-79).  The gullible Catholics voted themselves and the German people into persecution.  America’s Catholics may be about to follow their example.  With good reason, Bishop Jenky prayed: “May God have mercy on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.”
Bishop Jenky deserves appreciation for so urgently reminding Catholics of their civic duty.  He spoke the Truth as a Bishop ought to speak.  And his judgment and courage reflect the finest tradition of a Notre Dame that has gone missing.  Pray for Bishop Jenky, for Notre Dame, for our Church and for our country.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Religious Freedom and The Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013)

Note: The Vatican II document “Dignitatis Humanae” begins enunciatiating the two dimensions of freedom: “for” truth and “from” coercion:

“Contemporary man is becoming increasingly conscious of the dignity of the human person: more and more people are demanding that men should exercise fully their own judgment and a responsible freedom in their actions and should not be subject to the pressure of coercion but be inspired by a sense of duty. At the same time they are demanding constitutional limitation of the powers of government to prevent excessive restriction of the rightful freedom of individuals and associations.”

      All Catholics are on board for the first time on the Church’s teaching on contraception since the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968. The government has crossed the line of separation of Church and State by infringing on our right to form our consciences in line with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The problem is that we have not formed our consciences in line with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and hence we are screaming for a freedom we have already lost, and we scream because it now comes down to money. The bishops are calling American Catholics to civil disobedience, but it will result basically in an exercise of authoritative rhetoric (hot air) since we lack the interior vitality to risk death for the truth (the truth of the human person). We haven’t risked it for the last 50 years on this issue and its progeny. Hence, Benedict XVI call for a Year of Faith. A year of silence and prayer is the only way we will come to experience and become conscious of the gifted and relational dimension of the human person. Only with this and the wise and courageous teaching of Humanae Vitae and The Theology of the Body will the sin of contraception be vanquished. 

            Facts: On January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule forcing virtually all private health care plans to cover sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. These are listed among "preventive services for women" that all health plans will have to cover without co-pays or other cost-sharing -- regardless of whether the insurer, the employer or other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage. 

The exemption provided for "religious employers" was so narrow that it failed to cover the vast majority of faith-based organizations—including Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities—that help millions every year.  Ironically, not even Jesus and his disciples would have qualified for the exemption, because it excludes those who mainly serve people of another faith.
On February 10, the Obama Administration made this rule final “without change”; delayed enforcement for a year against religious nonprofits that were still not exempted (our charities, hospitals, and colleges); and promised to develop more regulations to “accommodate” them by the end of that additional year.  But that promised “accommodation” still forces them to pay for “services” that violate their religious convictions.

            The Pope: January 19, 2012: Move on this!! “With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning[RAC1] . The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a "language" which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion[RAC2] . Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.”

USNCCB: “We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together… It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them[RAC3] . No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith (my emphasis).

The bishops statement can be misleading as if there were two different realms with two distinct sets of principles. America did not enjoy religious freedom in fact and in law (first amendment) without the interior exercise of a living Christian faith and the truth of conscience over at least 150 years [1620-1776]: the dignity of the human person as image of the divine Persons. There is no religious freedom before the state without the internal adherence of the believer to the Word of God, the Person of Christ. This internal adherence changes the experience and consciousness of the person such that he experiences autonomy and freedom of self-determination with regard to the worship of God.
The Reality: The freedom from coercion to exercise religion and the freedom of conscience are not two different realms. They both come from the notion of the human person as made in the image of God. True Freedom of religion will not be achieved until we achieve freedom from the contraceptive.
Dignitatis Humanae: ties the freedom from exterior coercion to the freedom of adhering to the truth once known and the obligation to seek it.
            “The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that , within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is any one to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matter in private or in public, alone or in association with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right” [2] (my bold).
This means that the consciousness of the dignity of the human person to self-determination with regard to God comes first and foremost from the experience of Christian faith as an act of self-transcendence, i.e. the reception of the Word of God into the self by an act of self-giving. That act yields the experience of the dignity of the self and the right and freedom to not be coerced by any external force. To contracept is neither to believe nor self-transcend, and as a result there is no consciousness of the right to religious freedom as immunity from coercion.
My Thesis: Reports continually offer 90% (+ -) of all women in the child bearing age, including Catholics, to be using a contraceptive agent for the last 40-50 years. We are awash in a universal galvanization of Catholicity by bishops and catholic publicity against making the Church pay for what is against conscience on the books. But the reality is that we are claiming a freedom that we have already given away at its root. That is, we have already given away our religious freedom by the silence and complicity in the sin of contraception and its Sequela (above).
BECAUSE: Contraception is the denial of the freedom of the person to be gift. What is freedom?

1) “‘If you abide in my Word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and truth shall make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are the children of Abraham, and we have never yet been slaves to anyone. How sayest thou, ‘You shall be free?”” Jesus answered them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin…” (Jn. 8, 32).

2) John Paul II: “Veritatis Splendor” (#85): “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it full in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom.”

3) “The real God is bound to himself in threefold love and is thus pure freedom. Man’s vocation is to be this image of God, to become like him…. The person who can merely choose between arbitrary options is not yet free. The free person is only someone who takes the criteria for his action from within and needs to obey no external compulsion. For this reason the person who has become at one with his essential nature, at one with truth itself, is free.” J. Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics. Crossroad, 274.

Happy fault this government directive! Perhaps it is the moment to confront why the mandate to pay for contraception (“love” without life) and its derivatives: IVF (life without “love”), the frozen embryo, designer embryo, pre-natal adoption, the breakdown of marriage, homosexuality, promiscuous organ donation from the “brain dead|,” etc., is grave moral evil.
 And the key to understanding the moral evil of contraception is the understanding of the human person as made in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian Persons as revealed by Jesus Christ. Such a public and secular issue has its ontological and epistemological grounding in such an apparently remote revelation as the Trinity of God – and this because the very meaning of the human person is Jesus Christ, the Trinitarian Son of the Father Who is the concrete and historical God-man (“Feel me and see that a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” [Lk. 24. 30-43]). As the divine Persons, the human person is constitutively relational [1]and “finds self only by sincere gift of self” (Gaudium et spes #24). The prohibition of contraception by the Catholic Church was semantically expressed in the encyclical of July 25, 1968:
Text of Humanae Vitae 11-12:
The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life. (12)
Union and Procreation
12. This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.
The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. 
Therefore, Benedict XVI has called for a “Year of Faith” so that we might be able to understand Vatican II, its first encyclicals Populorum Progressio, and Humanae Vitae and the subsequent Magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Porta Fidei:  The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22)….
 5. In some respects, my venerable predecessor saw this Year as a “consequence and a necessity of the postconciliar period”,[8] fully conscious of the grave difficulties of the time, especially with regard to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation. It seemed to me that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.”[9] I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”[10]
6. The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us. The Council itself, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, said this: While “Christ, ‘holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17)... the Church ... clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor11:26). But by the power of the risen Lord it is given strength to overcome, in patience and in love, its sorrow and its difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without, so that it may reveal in the world, faithfully, although with shadows, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light.”[11]
The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). For Saint Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life: “We were buried ... with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life. “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).

[1] See J. Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity” Ignatius (2004) 183-184: “‘He is not called Father with reference to himself but only in relation to the Son; seen by himself he is simply God’ [Augustine]. Here the decisive point comes beautifully to light. ‘Father’ is purely a concept of relationship. Only in being for the other is he Father; in his own being in himself he is simply God. Person is the pure relation of being related, nothing else. Relationship is not something extra added to the person, as it is with us; it only exists at all as relatedness.
                “Expressed in the imagery of Christian tradition, this means that the first Person does not beget the Son as if the act of begetting were subsequent in the finished Person. It is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of self-giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving, ‘wave’ not ‘particle’…In this idea of relatedness in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the ‘accidents,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the ‘individual.’”

 [RAC1] Reason needs faith in order to be truly reason. Without faith, reason is not reason. It cannot “see” Being fully.  The self-transcending self is the light of reason. Without faith, we light lanterns at noon.

 [RAC2]Freedom of religion as a political truth is a result of reason’s obedience to the Word of God in the Magisterium