Thursday, October 24, 2013

Email to Craig Torres on Pope Francis on Conscience and Relation

The Mind of Pope Francis on Conscience = Ratzinger in “Conscience and Truth.”

Dear Craig,
A+ on your assessment of the pope. And I would add that the turn to person as relation is not an alternative to moral absolutes, but the ontological grounding. The immorality of abortion is the dignity of the human person and that is grounded on the person imaging the divine Person of the Son - who is nothing but relation to the Father. The immorality of contraception is the failure of the spouses to make the gift of self to each other - which again is relationality. The immorality of gay marriage is the impossibility of the self giving as donation and reception (relationality) which is constitutive of enfleshed persons [male and female anatomy as "language of the body].

 Also, the relation of Christ to each of each (Christ's self-gift) as the redemptive act. Francis points out the discrepancy between the conscience of Judas and that of Mary Magdalene (the good thief, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman at the well....). Judas sees himself as bad - irretrievably so - and commits suicide. Mary is also bad (prostitute in the exegesis of Leo the Great ?), but she has Christ home for weekends with Martha and Lazarus, and the Lord loves to come. Francis' point (he also sees himself as sinner, nay, more: sinner is the appropriate definition of the person who has become pope) is that we all sin, we all see ourselves as sinful, but the Lord continues to love us, and in so doing makes us good. We can begin again. There's hope.


   The email got away from me.

   The large point of the pope is that we continue to be loved and forgiven, and with that the conscience - that kills us because we are bad - is restored to goodness. To know we are loved - related to in the most profound way,  i.e. to the death of God who loves us so that it costs all of His blood - makes me good. I'm not good because I obey all the moral laws, and everything my state in life demands. I don't, and, in reality, I can't. That is, I find myself incapable of loving my enemies as I find myself set up. I have trouble  loving my friends in any consistent way. I am a fraud. And  my smallness makes my unsure of myself and  jealous of the success of others. My immediate judgment of others is negative because I build myself up putting others down in my mind. 
   However, as miserable as I am, Christ still loves me. The sun keeps rising. I have a heart beat and can breathe. Someone keeps affirming me, loving me. This gives me a sense of being good. That is, I am good because Christ continues to love me, and in so keeps giving me value and identity. This is the meaning of the "Good News:" The Eu-Angelum (Evangelium: Gospel). I have hope. I think that was the import of BXVI's "Spe Salvi."And hoping, I want to do good.
   This and only this will save the world today. This, and only this, will move us  out of ourselves. And if we move out of ourselves, we will become who we are as images of the triune God. 

   This is the salvation of global humanity. All the hatred and the wars are coming out of hating ourselves because we are bad. 

Joseph Ratzinger, in his “Conscience and Truth” in “On Conscience” (Ignatius [2007) 39-41), writes about the expiation of conscience for Orestes’ crime of matricide. “Orestes finds himself hounded by the Furies… who are mythological personifications of conscience and who, from a deeper wellspring of recollection, reproach him, declaring that his decision of conscience, his obedience to the ‘saying of the  gods,’ was in reality guilt. The whole tragedy of man comes to light in this dispute of the ‘gods,’ that is to say, in this conflict of conscience. In the holy court, the white stone of Athena leads to Orestes’ acquittal, his sanctification, in the power of which the Erinyes are transformed into Eumenides, the spirits of reconciliation. Atonement has transformed the world…
            “This myth speaks to us of the human longing that conscience’s objectively just indictment – and the attendant destructive, interior distress if causes in man – not be the last word. It thus speaks of an authority of grace, a power of expiation that allows the guilt to vanish and makes truth at last truly redemptive. It is the longing for a truth that does not just make demands of us, but also transforms us through expiation and pardon. Through these, as Aeschylus puts it, ‘guilt is washed away,’ and our being is transformed from within, beyond our own  capability.

            “This is the real innovation of Christianity: The Logos, the truth in person, is also the atonement, the transforming forgiveness that is above and beyond our capability and incapability. Therein lies the real novelty on which the larger Christian memory [anamnesis: from being created in the image and likeness of the divine Persons] is founded, and which indeed, at the same time, constitutes the deeper answer to what the anamnesis of the Creator expects of us.

            “Where this center of the Christian message is not sufficiently expressed and appreciated, truth becomes a yoke that is too heavy for our shoulders, from which we must seek to free ourselves. But the freedom gained thereby is empty. It leads into the desolate land of nothingness and disintegrates of itself. Yet the yoke of truth in fact became ‘easy’ (Matthew 11, 30) when the Truth came, loves us, and consumed our guilt in the fire of his love. Only when we know and experience this from within will we be free to hear the message of conscience with joy and without fear.”

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