Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Two Thoughts on the Previous Post: Mother of God

1) The women is the key to the human. The Virgin took the seed into her soil of humanity and transformed it into a body that God would assimilate into His divine Self as Son and inform all of it with His Persona, His divine “I.” Consider that the Virgin’s gift of self forms a body that is divine. She has become the source of a body that has become a divine Person. Hence, she is the mother not merely of the individual Jesus of Nazareth, but Mother of God.

This changes everything. That is, a created, historical and finite woman transforms (she is really a “cause” here) a created seed into God. What she offers – the totality of her DNA, humanity and life - becomes God. Then she feeds Him by transforming created objects of food into milk that nourishes the body of God

2) What is her knowing mind like? Better said: what does any woman experience who is a mother who has done exactly this, i.e. transformed objective “things” like egg and sperm into person? How does she think? What is real for her?

I would hazard that what is really real for her is herself experiencing herself as always engendering the child-person, as well as the child-person. Her mind is not a technical mind of facts and data bases ruled and deciphers by “principles” and deductive reasoning. She “sees” and knows by experiencing. Her very self as “given” is the way she knows. And in knowing herself as engendering is the way she knows God. She has advanced far beyond reason (without jettisoning it) and has become a most concrete contemplative and mystic. This is what went on in Vatican II.

The Acquisition of the Feminine Mind: Vatican II

Joseph Ratzinger’ “Theological Highlights of Vatican II: “The Struggle Over Schema 13” (of to-be “Gaudium et spes:” The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World)

“The history of the text begins in late fall, 1962. In a way typical of classical Roman scholasticism, the preparatory commissions had suggested a kind of codification of all present theological thinking on the issue. They wanted clear and cautious formulations. But caught in the web of system, ideas lost in force and vitality as they gained inner perfection and clarity. The prepared text did definitely broach topical contemporary questions…. But their solutions were too pat to be convincing. They were marked by an assurance which had no basis in revelation, and by an authoritarian decisiveness which is simply no longer suited to the complexity of reality. They were put in categories that came more from classical antiquity than from Christianity. Marriage was discussed in terms of the basic category of ‘end;’ its morality was deduced abstractly from the concept of nature. Here social utility was viewed as overriding the reality of the human person. The whole emphasis was on asserting and reiterating the rights of the Chruch. The Church’s ministerial function was virtually forgotten….

“Its chief architect was the German moral theologian, the Redemptorist Bernhard Haring. A draft mainly written by him was submitted for Council discussion in the fall of 1964. The draft’s basic idea was a result of the events which had shaped it. It said that authoritarian fiat had to be replaced by dialogue, insistence on rights by an awareness of the Church’s duty to serve. Instead of social utility, personal values needed emphasis; instead of the familiar theological notion of abstract nature, there had to be a revaluation of the concrete realities of man and his history. From these leading ideas, three chapters on general Christian anthropology were worked out, as well as a fourth chapter which dealt with concrete problems – marriage and family, war and peace, social questions, the relations of the Christian to culture and modern technological civilization.”[1]

3. The Final Text of Gaudium et Spes:

“To understand the type of moral theology that has been dominant in Catholic teaching hitherto, we must consider the circumstances from which it developed. The New Testament does not contain a fully elaborated moral teaching, but only a number of concrete imperatives plus an overall reorientation showing the antithesis between law and grace. As far as specific moral statements are concerned, the New Testament remains sketchy. Moreover, the law-grace dichotomy, far from providing a point of departure or an elaborate ethical system, really shows the limitations of any moral theology. This is probably the reason why early Christianity, in working out its concrete moral norms, largely resorted to contemporary models of ethical though for guidance. It leaned chiefly on the Stoic ethic. The recourse to classical antiquity, and especially to Stoic philosophy, resulted in the emergence of two chief principles in Christian teaching on marriage.

1) There developed a view of marriage which was essentially ‘generative’ in outlook – generative in the double sense that marriage was entirely subordinated to the genus humanum, the human race as such, and was thus subordinated to human procreation in the social sense. From this viewpoint, procreation pertains to man as a being of his particular kind, and as such has nothing to do with any individual or personal consideration. T his generative approach largely relegates marriage t o the biological level, seeing it chiefly as a means to the end of procreation. Thus the concept of the end supplies the basic norm for judging marital ethics. Thus a terminology which sees procreation of offspring as the primary end of marriage has until now characterized the classical positions of Catholic immoral theology and cannon law.

2) The basic approach of Stoic ethics, despite all its sublimity, can be termed naturalistic because the Stoics saw in nature the directive activity of the Logos; the natural order revealed an all-pervasive divine meaning. Accordingly, the Stoics considered the overriding moral norm to be nature; a thing was right if it was ‘according to nature (kata physin).

The moral teaching of the Church largely follows Stoicism in this, so that we may say that both the procreative function of marriage and the habit of judging ‘in accordance with nature’ constituted the dual dowry bestowed oby the world of antiquity on Christian marital morality. Up to the present these principles have determined the categories of Catholic moral theology.

With this as a background, we can begin to see the great significance of the fact that the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World eliminated both these categories. Neither the concept of the ‘prime end of procreation’ nor the concept of marital behavior ‘according to nature’ has any place in the Constitution. This elimination of ancient categories was the result of struggle and effort and clearly marked a radical turn toward new modes of moral teaching, and a turning away from forms t hat have up to now characterized moral theological tradition. The procreative view is here supplanted by a personalistic view, which of course must not overlook the essentially social meaning of marriage if it is not be become one-sided in the other direction. Even more import ant is the fact that moral teaching whose norms came ‘from below’ (from a concept of nature that was not all that unequivocal) was now supplanted by a teaching whose norms came ‘from above,’ from a spiritual view of marriage and family. And so, the text points to conscience, to the Word of God, to the Church interpret ing the Word of God, as proper guides for morality in marriage.

We may, of course, ask whether the change was not more than a verbal change. Would the recourse to the Church’s authority not have the practical effect of leaving everything as it was, despite all the new verbiage? Though this objection is not entirely unjustified since it points t the text’s avoidance of the concrete problem of birth control, yet it does not do justice to the text as a whole T here is a decided difference between a total moral statement based on the concept of the race and the propagation of the race and on the concept of ‘accordance with nature,’ and a view which focuses on individual conscience, on the Word of God and on responsibility toward children, toward the husband or wife and toward the community of mankind. The context within which conscience operates, the entire atmosphere in which al decision and moral commitment is made, differs radically in these two cases. It is simply not the same, whether a person asks himself if his actions are ‘in accord with nature’ or whether he must ask whether his actions are responsible actions in view of other persons with whom he is related in the marriage community, and whether his actions are responsible in view of the Word of the personal God who has indicated the fundamental pattern of conjugal love by comparing it with love for the Church as exemplified in Christ. (Eph. 5, 25-33).”[2]

Vatican II

Text on Marriage from Gaudium et Spes #51 (see 49-52): “The sexual characteristics of man and the human faculty of reproduction wonderfully exceed the dispositions of lower forms of life. Hence the acts themselves which are proper to conjugal love and which are exercised in accord with genuine human dignity must be honored with great reverence. Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.(14)

All should be persuaded that human life and the task of transmitting it are not realities bound up with this world alone. Hence they cannot be measured or perceived only in terms of it, but always have a bearing on the eternal destiny of men.”

Canon 1055 of the Code of 1983 reads: “The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered to the bonum coniugum atque ad prolis generationem et educationem, has, between the baptized, been raised by Christ the Lord to the divinity of a sacrament.”
Bonum Coniugum: The object of Matrimonial consent: the self-gift (finis operantis) of the Subjects of Matrimony (persons).

Msgr. Cormac Burke: “Until the preparatory work for the post-Vatican II Code began, the expression ‘bonum coniugum’ is seldom to be found in canonical writing or in magisterial documents. IN 19077 it was accepted by the Pontifical Commission for the new Code into the draft of what was to become can 1055. The Consultors of the Commission, however, gave no indication of its exact meaning, beyond the fact that it was regarded as expressing the ‘personal end’ of marriage (cf. Communicationes, 1977, p. 123), to be taken (as was later clarified) in the objective sense of a ‘finis operis,’ and not in a subjective sense of a simply ‘finis operantis’ (ib. 1983, 221). Its legal standing was in any case confirmed by its incorporation into the description of matrimony given by can. 1055. The term nevertheless is mentioned rather rarely in rotal jurisprudence of the following years…
“It is important to establish how this term fits into the traditional scheme that distinguishes between essence, properties and ends of marriage.”
Burke then shows how “bonum coniugum” “does not express a value or property or attribute of marriage, in any sense parallel to that of the Augustinian ‘goods.’ The ‘bonum’ of this new term is referred not to marriage (as if it were a value that makes marriage good), but to the spouses (as involving something that is god for them); it denotes not a property of marriage (a ‘bonum matrimonii’), but something – the ‘good’ or welfare of the spouses which marriage should cause or lead to… but of finality. Matrimony, which is an institution characterized by exclusivity, permanence and procreativity, tends to the good of the spouses just as it tends to the actual procreation of offspring. It is striking in fact that doubt should arise about this, since it is quite clearly expressed by canon 1055: ‘the matrimonial covenant… is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and toward the procreation and education of offspring.’”[3]
When all is said and done, the meaning of “good” is the act of self gift of each of the spouses. Each spouse becomes “good” (“No one is good but only God” Mk. 10, 18) only by achieving the relationality of self-gift in the marital covenant, and matrimony as an institution is directed to achievement of this goodness (sanctity).

In another place, Burke writes: “Vatican II sought to offer a renewed vision of marriage, of marital love and commitment. How is it that this renewed vision seems so infrequently to have been translated into practice? A main reason, I feel, is that much post-conciliar reflection on marriage has not always grasped the Christian anthropology [I – Gift] which is a key to conciliar thinking about human realities, especially as applied to the marital covenant. The result is that the under standing and presentation of marriage has been largely, though no doubt unconsciously, colored by the secular anthropology dominant in today’s world, with its individualistic view of the human person, seeing the key to fulfillment in self: self-identification, self-assertion, self-concern.”

“The current crisis about indissolubility – the tendency to look on it as an ‘anti-value’ – finds much of its explanation in this individualism, which is present outside and inside the Church. Individualism fosters a fundamentally self-centered approach to marriage, seeking to get from it rather than being prepared to give in it: will this – this union, this liaison, this arrangement – make me happy? Then marriage becomes a at best a tentative agreement between two individuals, each inspired by self-interest rather than a shared endeavor of a couple who together want to build a home for themselves and for their children. With that approach no marriage is likely to last.

“Contrasted with this individualistic view, we have the distinctive anthropology of Vatican II which includes the Christian personalism… Developed in great power by Pope John Paul II, it is fundamental to a deeper human understanding of Christian life and of marriage in particular.
“The essence of true personalism is expressed in Gaudium et Spes (24): ‘Man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.’ We can only realize or fulfill our self, by giving our self. Here is a Gospel program of life in direct contrast with the prescription for living so commonly offered by contemporary psychology: seek self, find self, identify self, care for self, hold on to yourself, don’t let go of yourself….”[4]

Canon 1057[5] does “seek to find a valid juridic way of expressing this Christian personalism as it applies to marriage. The canon describes matrimonial consent as the act by which the spouses ‘mutually give and accept each other in order to establish a marriage. The very object of conjugal consent is thus presented in terms of of mutual self-donation – in most striking contrast with the ius in corpus phrase with which the 1917 Code expressed the same object. The man gives self as man and husband, the woman as woman and wife; and each receives the other as spouse…. As Paul VI puts it in one of the less-remembered passages of Humanae Vitae (9): ‘Whoever really loves his marriage partner loves not only for what he receives, but for the partner’s self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.’[6]

Metaphysical Anthropology: Christological

Constitutively Relational[7]

Gaudium et spes #22: Jesus Christ is not the exception[8] for man, but the prototype: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling…

“He who is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in im, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.”

Ratzinger Comment: “(S)ince it is made clear that man’s being is not that of a pure essence, and that he only attains his reality by his activity, it is at once evident that we cannot rest content with a purely essentialist outlook [i.e. man as hylomorphic substance]. Man’s being must therefore be examined precisely in its activities. If this is done, the concept of the ‘novus homo’ takes concrete shape in that of the ‘agnus innocens.’ It then becomes apparent that Jesus’ concrete reality is ‘pro me’ (and ‘pro nobis’) and for this very reason is a self-sacrificing existence in the mystery of the cross. This alone shows the wholly personal relationship to Christ, of Christ is not a great super –ego into which the I-monads are organized, but a most individual human being who looks at me personally. His relation to me is not that of a great corporate personality. He enters into a personal conversation of love; he has something to say to me alone, which no one else knows (cf. Rev. 2, 17). Pascal’s intense piety which made him place in the Lord’s mouth the words: ‘In my agony I thought of you; I shed these drops of blood for you,’ is biblically entirely justified in view of the Pauline ‘pro me.’ Thus Christ no longer appears as a merely general form to which human existence are conformed. His exemplarity means the concrete summons to follow him, and this gives meaning to man’s cross; it calls him to share in the ‘pro me’ of Jesus Christ in a Christian ‘pro invicem’ based on the ‘cum Christo.’ To endure in the cross, as the expression of abiding in the ‘pro me’ of Jesus Christ, is thus a concrete result of the way human nature is ontologically affect ed by the incarnation.”[9]

[1] Joseph Ratzinger “Theological Highlights of Vatican II,” Paulist Press (1966)213, 215.
[2] Joseph Ratzinger, “Theological Highlights of Vatican II, Paulist Press (1966) 236-239.
[3] C. Burke, “The Object of Matrimonial Consent – A Personalist” Forum 1998.
[4] Cormac Burke, “Marriage, Annulment, and the Quest for Lasting Commitment” The Catholic World Report January 1996 58.
[5] C. 1057 1: “A marriage is brought into being by the lawfully manifested consent of person who are legally capable. This consent cannot be supplied by any human power;
2) Matrimonial consent is an act of will by which a man and a woman by an irrevocable covenant mutually give and accept one another for the purpose of establishing a marriage.”
[7] “One is reminded of a fundamental theological exiom that is applicable here in a peculiar manner, namely Christ’s saying, ‘Only the one who loses himself can find himself’ (cf. Mt. 10, 36). This fundamental law of human existence, which Mt. 10, 36 understands in the context of salvation, objectively characterizes the nature of the spirit which comes to itself and actualizes its own fullness only by going away from itself, by going to what is other than itself” (infra. 451).
[8] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 449: “The second great misunderstanding is to see Christ as the simply unique ontological exception which must be treated as such. This exception is an object of highly interesting ontological speculation, but it must remain separate in its box as an exception to the rule and must not be permitted to mix with the rest of human thought….”
[9] H. Vorgrimler, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II Vol V: “The Church and Man’s Calling.” Introductory Article and Chapter 1: “The Dignity of the Human Person” Joseph Ratzinger, Herder and Herder (1969) 159-161.

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