Archive for the ‘Church History’ Category


A Clash of Pentecosts — Robert Joustra

October 29, 2013
Rembrandt, Two Old Men Debating 1628. The Incident at Antioch was an Apostolic Age dispute between the apostles Paul and Peter which occurred in the city of Antioch around the middle of the first century.

Rembrandt, Two Old Men Debating 1628. The Incident at Antioch was an Apostolic Age dispute between the apostles Paul and Peter which occurred in the city of Antioch around the middle of the first century.


French Catholicism and the secular state. Robert Joustra is assistant professor of international studies at Redeemer University College and editor, with Jonathan Chaplin, of God and Global Order (Baylor Univ. Press).


Every Pentecost is loud. In that first, in dusty provincial Rome long ago, storming winds and tongues of flame made manifest the promise of a curtain torn, of a tomb split open. It was a new communion, one in which barriers of language, race, and gender were remade in the person of Jesus Christ. The curse of Babel undone, humankind found wholeness.

The French Revolution sparked its own Pentecost, with the acrid smell of powder and flint and the scream of metal and steel striking mortal blows to the Ancien Régime, the old order which divided a sovereign people by the hubris of divine right and the paternalism of the clergy. The Revolution brought the masses into the political arena. It was a political Pentecost, a civic epiphany that sparked an explosion of activism.

The story of Emile Perreau-Saussine’s Catholicism and Democracy is a clash of Pentecosts, a clash of sovereignties — one too many for most Catholics, who were just as happy with the one they already had. It is a remarkably powerful story, told by a political theorist of extraordinary talent and depth, a story with its own sad ending, if marked only by his tragic death at such a young age from a heart attack.

The book was published posthumously, and over it hangs that lament which Alasdair MacIntyre puts so poignantly in the foreword: “I shall resist the temptation to note here the occasional doubts that I would have wanted to express to the author or the questions that I would have been anxious to put to him. But I do so with unusual sadness, since I shall never learn what he would have said.”

Yet what Perreau-Saussine bequeathed to us in Catholicism and Democracy is an inheritance worthy of his brief genius. The questions he brings into focus are twofold:

  1. First, why and how did Catholic France, and Catholicism generally, accommodate the spirit of revolutionary democracy, of the sovereignty of the people, which seemed so contrary to the theology and practice of the Catholic Church?
  2. And second, far more subtly, why was it so easy for Protestantism

Of this last question he says very little explicitly, but the consistent suggestion is that Protestantism, and what he calls liberal Protestantism especially, is essentially ideological modernity with theological dressing, tending toward pantheism. Conservative Protestantism comes off rather better, but you might be forgiven for reading the book as concluding that there is no real political or theological vitality in Protestantism — which is, I hope, an overstatement.

Few things seem less palatable to the American religious and political imagination than French Catholicism, and yet there are remarkable parallels between Protestant America and Catholic France, a tether across space and time that Catholicism and Democracy teases at, but never stretches out and sermonizes. Perreau-Saussine’s enviable restraint yields a striking counter-narrative of religious freedom, statehood, and the Catholic faith. Americans, Laotians, Bolivians — everyone — should take note: how we tell that story, how we understand the practice and power of religion and politics in the nation-state’s European past, will profoundly inform our present and our future.

Catholicism and Democracy is the story of Catholic political ideas in an age of democracy, told to complete or at least explain the connection between the origins and applications of Vatican I and Vatican II. It is Perreau-Saussine’s argument that the seemingly radical transition which took place between the two was not so radical at all, but that in fact the resources that yielded these conciliar engagements with modernity, especially in the Gallican and ultramontanist traditions [vocab: the traditions/policies that the absolute authority of the church should be vested in the pope], existed in a productive tension which gave rise to one, consistent theological and political strain.

Consistency of tradition is important in a way to Catholics in which it is, of course, not to Protestants, so the value of that argument might be lost on some readers. But even if the argument is a stretch, and I think it may be, it is not made disingenuously and neither without some solid evidence. Perreau-Saussine traces in the work of Maistre, Lemennais, Tocqueville, Comte, Littré, and Péguy an existential struggle: how can a person who professes to be the slave of Jesus profess in that same breath the ultimate sovereignty of the people? In these thinkers the rushing, horizontal immanence of a Pentecost of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” meets head on the hierarchical pillars of a faith which recognizes no God but the Lord, no sovereign but Jesus Christ.

This is precisely where the book offers such richness for those who are neither French nor Catholic. The crisis of revolutionary France was how to combine a system of sovereign, equal, political peoples with a system of faith, stewarded and safeguarded by a historic hierarchy, deeply entrenched and in many cases internally divided about what paths of justice to follow. The answers were far from obvious. The question of how to live as people owing oaths of loyalty to both Caesar and God is not new, even if the specific institutions and history of late-modern Catholic Europe are, and the answers — and failures — are instructive for more than that time and place.

Leave aside the spat with Protestantism for the moment and consider Islam, a religion which some scholars and pundits have suggested is simply incapable of reforming around the idea of representative democracy. Can there be hope for Islamic states to forge a theological consensus around the rights and duties of democratic liberalism?

The Catholic tradition suggests there might be, provided the internal resources of Islam can fund these commitments and, perhaps most challengingly, if a certain kind of ultramontanist theology can take root — an emergent loyalty to a supranational spiritual rather than spiritual-political office. It is the irony of medieval Catholicism that the spiritual supremacy of the Vatican and the papacy proved a secularizing rather than radicalizing force, as states relinquished their hold on clerical offices and popes relinquished theirs on political ones.

There is, I think, one significant oversight in Perreau-Saussine’s story. It is misleading to starkly state that the deconfessionalization of the nation secured a secular society. Disestablishment is not the same as deconfessionalization, and in this sense Maistre, and in the later tradition Schmitt, might be right, contra Perreau-Saussine, in talking about “political theology” and religion as “the constitutive principle of every society.”

If, as contemporary theologians like William T. Cavanaugh have argued, religion itself is a normative rather than descriptive term — if what we have come to define as religion is in fact an invention of the modern period — then the very categories of our analysis and belief have been predefined by a kind of secularism. This is certainly Charles Taylor’s argument in A Secular Age, where secularity is not neutral and nonreligious but rather, as in Cavanaugh, depends upon its own kind of thin theological consensus about the very definitions of sovereignty, politics, and religion. Where we draw those boundaries — indeed, whether such boundaries exist at all — is as much a matter of theology as of politics. Religion and its boundaries had to be invented before a secular society could claim to secure its freedoms.

This helps render Catholic (and Islamic) squeamishness at the prospect of secular society in a better context: what Catholics were being asked to do was not simply refashion their political loyalties, but fundamentally change their religion, by definition.

And if this secularism, this thin consensus at the basis of the Westphalian state, is indeed an act of theology as much as of politics, if it is religare in that binding original sense, then what we must admit, contra Perreau-Saussine, is that it is no accident of apostasy that Protestantism came to this first. Perhaps — and here I intentionally push back on his unqualified celebration of Catholicism — it was because Protestantism stands a better chance of Reformation, of making new consensus, on the basis of understanding old ones to have been wrong. It may be impolite to say it, but from the Civil Constitution of the Clergy by the Constituent Assembly on July 12, 1790, to the 1965 Declaration of Religious Freedom is an awfully long stretch. There was much profound political philosophy in the Catholic Church during this period, but that glacial growth is itself something of a concern to Protestants and secularists alike.

For Cavanaugh, the nation-state is an apostasy, and he would find a strong history in Perreau-Saussine’s account to draw on for that case. For Taylor, the thin consensus around which secularism persists in the Western state may well depart from orthodox Catholicism, but that is as politics is. A good compromise leaves everyone miserable, politicians will remind us, and to say that a serviceable lie persists at the basis of the nation-state might just be another way of saying we have found something thin enough, if unsatisfying, to largely agree upon, for the time being.

Perreau-Saussine, taking after his great mentor Alasdair MacIntyre, offers only the most tantalizing hors d’oeuvres in conclusion, leaving to us the feast of applying his argument and working out its contemporary applications. Clearly he believes in a kind of secularism — a positive idea of laicity — which understands the secular state to be funded by virtues laws cannot make, and values markets cannot sell. Liberal democracy, for all its freedoms and its rights, now finds itself with an ironic deficit only the Church can fund. As philosophy turns in upon itself, with the idea of autonomy of the will, of indefinite perfectibility, of profane manipulations, Perreau-Saussine wonders whether liberal democracy has not in fact already succumbed to its own totalitarian excesses. And here he concludes with a moving appeal to the papacy, to “the Vatican’s man in white” who is a sovereign with no crown, a witness to a reality which transcends the general will:

[H]e manifests the Christian refusal to be entirely swallowed up in the democratic order. That is the church’s service to society: to resist the docile conformism to which egalitarianism can lead. In a democratic world that works ceaselessly to eliminate otherness, even (perhaps especially) when it proclaims its commitment to pluralism, believers have an eye to something beyond the society of the here and now, and thus have an escape route from conformism. They form a breakwater against the tide of conformity. They are, par excellence, a sign of contradiction.

If it were to be the Catholic Church that so wrestled to come to terms with the measures of liberal democracy, which proved a salve and a savior for that same democracy, the power of that irony must surely wash whatever smug secularism still clings to our Western politics. I suppose Emile Perreau-Saussine now knows that answer, but I for one am very grateful to him for writing out its introduction in this important book.


Pentecost 1 – Dorothy Sayers

August 26, 2013
What we cannot pin down and look at is the movement of our own mind. In the same way, we cannot follow the movement of our own eyes in a mirror. We can, by turning our head, observe them in this position and in that position with respect to our body, but never in the act of moving themselves from one position, to the other, and never in the act of gazing at anything but the mirror. Thus our idea of ourself is bound to be falsified, since what to others appears the most lively and mobile part of ourself, appears to us unnaturally fixed. The eye is the instrument by which we see everything, and for that reason it is the one thing we cannot see with truth.

What we cannot pin down and look at is the movement of our own mind. In the same way, we cannot follow the movement of our own eyes in a mirror. We can, by turning our head, observe them in this position and in that position with respect to our body, but never in the act of moving themselves from one position, to the other, and never in the act of gazing at anything but the mirror. Thus our idea of ourself is bound to be falsified, since what to others appears the most lively and mobile part of ourself, appears to us unnaturally fixed. The eye is the instrument by which we see everything, and for that reason it is the one thing we cannot see with truth.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a renowned English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator and Christian humanist. She was also a student of classical and modern languages. She is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between World War I and World War II that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey that remain popular to this day. It has been said that with her creation of Lord Peter Wimsey that Dorothy Sayers, in the first half of the 20th century, rightly occupies a place of honor alongside Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes as one of the finest detectives in the murder mystery genre, in the traditional British mould. However, Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy to be her best work. She is also known for her plays and essays.


And if any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
The Gospel of St. John 13:47-48

If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, 1 will send him unto you.
The Gospel of St. John. 16:7

That through the growing faculties of sense
Doth like an agent of the one great Mind
Create, creator and receiver both.
William Wordsworth, The Prelude


When the writer’s Idea is revealed or incarnate by his Energy, then, and only then, can his Power work on the world. More briefly and obviously, a book has no influence till somebody can read it.

Before the Energy was revealed or incarnate it was, as we have seen, already present in Power within the creator’s mind, but now that Power is released for communication to other men, and returns from their minds to his with a new response. It dwells in them and works upon them with creative energy, producing in them fresh manifestations of Power.

This is the Power of the Word, and it is dangerous. Every word — even every idle word — will be accounted for at the Day of Judgment, because the word itself has power to bring to judgment. It is of the nature of the word to reveal itself and to incarnate itself — to assume material form. Its judgment is therefore an intellectual, but also a material judgment. The habit, very prevalent today, of dismissing words as “just words” takes no account of their power.

But once the Idea has entered into other minds, it will tend to reincarnate itself there with ever-increasing Energy and ever-increasing Power. It may for some time incarnate itself only in more words, more books, more speeches; but the day comes when it incarnates itself in actions, and this is its day of judgment. At the time when these words are being written, we are witnessing a fearful judgment of blood, resulting from the incarnation in deeds of an Idea to which, when it was content with a verbal revelation, we paid singularly little heed.

Which Ideas are (morally) Good and which are anti-Good it is not the purpose of this book to discuss; what is now abundantly manifest is the Power. Any Idea whose Energy manifests itself in a Pentecost of Power is good from its own point of view. It shows itself to be a true act of creation, although, if it is an evil Idea, it will create to a large extent by active negation — that is to say, by destruction. The fact, however, that “all activity is of God” means that no creative Idea can be wholly destructive: some creation will be produced together with the destruction; and it is the work of the creative mind to see that the destruction is redeemed by its creative elements.

It is the business of education to wait upon Pentecost. Unhappily, there is something about educational syllabuses, and especially about examination papers, which seems to be rather out of harmony with Pentecostal manifestations. The Energy of Ideas does not seem to descend into the receptive mind with quite that rush of cloven fire which we ought to expect. Possibly there is something lacking in our Idea of education; possibly something inhibiting has happened to the Energy.

But Pentecost will happen, whether within or without official education. From some quarter or other, the Power will descend, to flame or to smolder until it is ready to issue in a new revelation. We need not suppose that, because the mind of the reader is inert to Plato, it will therefore be inert to Nietzsche or Karl Marx. Failing those, it may respond to Wilhelmina Stitch or to Hollywood. No incarnate Idea is altogether devoid of Power; if the Idea is feeble, the Energy dispersed, and the Power dim, the indwelling spirit will be dim, dispersed and feeble — but such as it is, so its response will be and such will be its manifestation in the world.

It is through the Power that we get a reflection in the mind of the world of the original Trinity in the mind of the writer. For the reader, that is, the book itself is presented as a threefold being.

First: the Book as Thought — the Idea of the book existing in the writer’s mind. Of this, the reader can be aware only by faith. He knows that it does exist, but it is unknowable to him except in its manifestations. He can, of course, suppose if he likes that the book corresponds to nothing at all in the writer’s mind; he can, if he likes, think that it got into its visible form by accident and that there is not and never was any such person as the writer. He is perfectly free to think these things, though in practice he seldom avails himself of this freedom. Where a book is concerned, the average man is a confirmed theist.

There was, certainly, a little time ago, a faint tendency to polytheism among the learned. In particular cases, that is, where there was no exterior evidence about the writer, the theory was put forward that the Iliad, for example, and the Song of Roland were written by “the folk”; some extremists actually suggested that they “just happened” — though even such people were forced to allow the mediation of a little democracy of godlets to account for the material form in which these manifestations presented themselves. Today, the polytheistic doctrine is rather at a discount; at any rate it is generally conceded that the Energy exhibited in written works must have emanated from some kind of Idea in a personal mind.

Secondly: the Book as Written — the Energy or Word incarnate, the express image of the Idea. This is the book that stands upon our shelves, and everything within and about it: characters, episodes, the succession of words and phrases, style, grammar, paper and ink, and, of course, the story itself. The incarnation of the Energy stands wholly within the space-time frame: it is written by a material pen and printed by a material machine upon material paper; the words were produced as a succession of events succeeding one another in time. Any timelessness, illimitability or uncreatedness which may characterize the book belongs not here but in the mind; the body of the Energy is a created thing, strictly limited by time and space, and subject to any accident that may befall matter.

If we do not like it, we are at liberty to burn it in the market-place, or subject it to any other indignity, such as neglecting it, denying it, spitting upon it, or writing hostile reviews about it. We must, however, be careful to see that nobody reads it before we take steps to eliminate it; otherwise, it may disconcert us by rising again — either as a new Idea in somebody’s mind, or even (if somebody has a good memory) in a resurrected body, substantially the same though made of new materials. In this respect, Herod showed himself much more competent and realistic than Pilate or Caiaphas. He grasped the principle that if you are to destroy the `’Nord, you must do so before it has time to communicate itself. Crucifixion gets there too late.

Thirdly: the Book as Read — the Power of its effect upon and in the responsive mind. This is a very difficult thing to examine and analyze, because our own perception of the thing is precisely what we are trying to perceive. We can, as it were, note various detached aspects of it: what we cannot pin down and look at is the movement of our own mind. In the same way, we cannot follow the movement of our own eyes in a mirror. We can, by turning our head, observe them in this position and in that position with respect to our body, but never in the act of moving themselves from one position, to the other, and never in the act of gazing at anything but the mirror.

Thus our idea of ourself is bound to be falsified, since what to others appears the most lively and mobile part of ourself, appears to us unnaturally fixed. The eye is the instrument by which we see everything, and for that reason it is the one thing we cannot see with truth.

The same thing is true of our Power of response to a book, or to anything else; incidentally, this is why books about the Holy Ghost are apt to be curiously difficult and unsatisfactory — we cannot really look at the movement of the Spirit, just because It is the Power by which we do the looking.

We may, however, note one or two things — fixed aspects of the Power. Like the Idea itself, it is immaterial and timeless. When we say we “know Hamlet,” we do not mean merely that we can memorize the whole succession of words and events in Hamlet. We mean that we have in our minds an awareness of Hamlet as a complete whole — “the end in the beginning.”

We can prove this by observing how differently we feel when seeing a performance of Hamlet on the one hand and an entirely new play on the other. While watching the new play we are in contact with the Energy, which we experience as a sequence in time; we wonder “how it is going to work out.” If, during the interval, we are asked what we think of it, we can give only a very incomplete answer. Everything depends, we feel, on the last act.

But when the final curtain has come down, we feel quite differently towards the play — we can think of it as a whole, and see how all the episodes are related to one another to produce something inside our mind which is more than the sum-total of the emotions we experienced while sitting in the audience. It is in this timeless and complete form that it remains in our recollection: the Energy is now related to the Idea more or less as it was in the mind of the playwright: the Word has returned to the Father.

When we see Hamlet (or any other play that we already “know”) we start already in this frame of mind. We are able, as the performance proceeds, to relate the part to the whole and the time-sequence to eternity at every point. Just as the writer realized while writing that there was a complete Idea in his mind, because, step by step, he found himself relating the progress of his work to that Idea, so also we realize while watching the play that there is a “whole Hamlet” in our own minds to which we are busily referring every word and action as it passes before us.

Our knowledge of how the whole thing “hangs together” gives us a deeper understanding and a better judgment of each part, because we can now refer it, not only to the past but also to the future; and, more than that, to a unity of the work which exists for us right outside the sequence of time.


The Trinitarian Being Of The Church 2 – Fr. John Behr

August 15, 2013
The Church, as the body of Christ and the temple of the Spirit, incarnates the presence of God in this world, and does so also as the mother of the baptized, in travail with them until their death in confession of Christ, to be raised with him, as the fulfillment of their baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist.

The Church, as the body of Christ and the temple of the Spirit, incarnates the presence of God in this world, and does so also as the mother of the baptized, in travail with them until their death in confession of Christ, to be raised with him, as the fulfillment of their baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist.


The Calling of the Church and Her Eschatological Perfection
This very high theology of the Church as the body of Christ and the temple of the Spirit must not blind us to the other Trinitarian aspect of the Church, that she is the one called by God.
As called, the Church is a response, a dynamic response growing to the fullness to which she is called. We who were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel,” have been introduced into the promised covenant of Christ (Ephesians 2.12), but nevertheless “our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philemon 3.20-1).

Our prayer is that when he appears, we shall be like him (1 John 3.2). But he is still the Coming One,” to whom “the Spirit and the bride say `Come!” (Rev 22.17). As such, the Church, though scattered throughout the world, is not located on earth but in the Spirit: “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is there is the Church.” [Irenaeus of Lyons Against the Heresies 3.24.1]

It is within this dynamic that we can best explain such issues as “the visibility of the Church,” whether “the Church” is to be fully identified with the gathering of the baptized around the sacraments of word and Eucharist, and the all too visible failings of both the individual believers, ordained and lay, who belong to the Church, and the particular church of any given place. We are called by God to be his holy Church, and by conversion and repentance we enter into that reality, becoming the body of Christ by the grace of the Spirit; the Church is holy, not by the virtues of the individual believers, but by receiving the holy mysteries, through the hands of sinful believers.

More to the purposes of an ecumenical dialogue, it is perhaps by virtue of this dynamic that we can also best understand the claim of the Orthodox Church to be the true Church. Georges Florovsky stated this in unequivocal terms, asserting that the conviction of the Orthodox Church is that she “is in very truth the Church, i.e. the true Church and the only true Church.” [G. Florovsky, "The True Church," in idem, Ecumenism LA Doctrinal Approach, Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, 13 (Vaduz & Belmont, MA: 1989)] With this conviction, he admits, he is “compelled to regard all other Christian churches as deficient,” and so “Christian reunion is simply conversion to Orthodoxy.”

But, he continues, this is not meant to be an arrogant claim, it is not meant to be triumphalistic, for it goes hand in hand with the acknowledgement that “this does not mean that everything in the past or present state of the Orthodox Church is to be equated with the truth of God. Many things are obviously changeable; indeed, many things need improvement. The true Church is not yet the perfect Church.” Or, as he puts it elsewhere: “The Orthodox Church claims to be the Church. There is no pride and no arrogance in this claim. Indeed, it implies a heavy responsibility. Nor does it mean `perfection.’ The Church is still in pilgrimage, in travail, in via. She has her historic failures and losses, she has her own unfinished tasks and problems.” [G. Florovsky, "The Quest for Christian Unity and the Orthodox Church," in idem, Ecumenism, Collected Works, 13, p. 139-40]

Although stressing the orientation towards the eschatological perfection to which the Church is called, Florovsky himself, in his “return to the Fathers,” sought for the Christian unity in the past, the common mind that existed in the diversity of early Christianity and which has been preserved intact by the Orthodox Church: “The Orthodox Church is conscious and aware of her identity through the ages, in spite of all historic perplexities and changes. She has kept intact and immaculate the sacred heritage of the Early Church … She is aware of the identity of her teaching with the apostolic message and the tradition of the Ancient Church, even though she might have failed occasionally to convey this message to particular generations in its full splendor and in a way that carries conviction.

In a sense, the Orthodox Church is a continuation, a `survival’ of Ancient Christianity.” [Florovksy, Quest, 140] Florovsky’s insistence that ecumenical dialogue be not only an “ecumenism in space, concerned with the adjustments of the existing denominations as they are at present,” but also an “ecumenism in time,” [Florovksy, Quest, 139] thus turns out to be a return to the past: “The way out of the present confusion and into a better future is, unexpectedly, through the past. Divisions can be overcome only by a return to the common mind of the early Church. There was no uniformity, but there was a common mind.” [Florovsky, "Theological Tensions among Christians," in idem, Ecumenism, Collected Works, 13, p.13]

In what sense there was a “common mind” in Christian antiquity has become an extremely thorny question, especially since the work of Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (or at least since its translation into English). However, what was recognized as normative Christianity by the end of the second century was based (through the interplay of the “canon of truth,” a common body of Scripture, apostolic tradition, and apostolic succession) on nothing other than the proclamation of the Gospel “according to Scripture” as delivered by the apostles (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.3). [Cf. Behr, Way to Nicaea, 11-48]

It was the one Christ, proclaimed in this manner, who was then, and will always be, the uniting force for those who gather together in expectation of him as his body. The full, perfect, identity of the Church, therefore, is not something located in the ecclesial bodies and structures of the past, to be recovered by archaeology, but, as Florovsky intimates, in the future, in the eschaton, where Christ will be all in all, an orientation maintained by remaining in faithful continuity with the “faith delivered once for all to the saints” (Jude 3) regarding Christ, the coming Lord. The implications that this has for the recognition by the Orthodox Church of the ecclesial reality beyond its own bounds, is best seen from the point of view of the abiding significance of baptism as our entry into the Church and the historical practice of the Orthodox Church regarding reception of converts.

Baptism, Eucharist and the Boundaries of the Church
Entry into the body of Christ is through baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
“One baptism for the remission of sins” is ubiquitously included in creedal confession along with “one Church.” As the body of Christ that we are speaking of is his crucified and risen body, baptism itself is understood as sharing in his death: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore 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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6.3-5).

It is very important to observe the tenses used by Paul: if we have died with Christ in baptism, we shall rise with him. Although baptism is a specific, sacramental event, until our actual death, in witness to Christ, we must preserve our state of being baptized: “If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. … So you must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6.8, 11). In other words, the “one baptism for the remission of sins” is not simply a gateway to be passed through as we enter into the “one Church,” and then left behind. Rather, the paschal dimension of baptism characterizes the totality of the Christian life, shaping and informing every aspect of it, until we are finally raised in Christ. [See especially, J. Erickson, "Baptism and the Church's Faith," in C. E Braaten and R. W. Jenson, eds., Marks of the Body of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 44-58, to which the following paragraphs are indebted.]

As Aidan Kavanagh puts it, “The whole economy of becoming a Christian, from conversion and catechesis through the Eucharist, is thus the fundamental paradigm for remaining a Christian.The paschal mystery of Jesus Christ dying and rising still among his faithful ones at Easter in baptism is what gives the Church its radical cohesion and mission, putting it at the center of a world made new.” [A. Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation (New York: Peublo Publishing Company, 1978), 162-63] The “one true Church” must maintain her baptismal character until, in the eschaton, she is, as Florovsky puts it, the “perfect Church.”

It is in the Eucharist, the “banquet of the kingdom,” the event of “communion” par excellence, that Christians are given a foretaste of the Kingdom, invoking the Spirit “upon us and upon the gifts now offered,” and praying to God to “unite all of us to one another who become partakers of the one Bread and Cup in the communion of the Holy Spirit” (Liturgy of St Basil). But we must not forget that this is given to us in anticipation, as a foretaste of the Kingdom to come, not as its final realization; no eschatology can be exclusively “realized”; Christian eschatology is always already but not yet. The Church is still in via, seeking, and receiving proleptically as a gift, her perfection that is yet to be fully manifest.

Whether the sacrament of the Kingdom, already celebrated in anticipation by the Church in via, can be used to define the boundaries of the one true Church is a very serious question. This is, of course, how the “Eucharistic ecclesiology” espoused by many Orthodox theologians during the twentieth century views the matter. This has undoubtedly contributed to an increased ecclesial awareness, but it has also had a deleterious effect in two respects.

First, the “Eucharistic revival” that has accompanied such ecclesiology has emphasized participation in the Eucharist to such a point that it often overshadows, if not obscures, the perpetual baptismal dimensions of Christian life; baptism is regarded as the necessary preliminary step into body which celebrates the Eucharist.27 Taken to its extreme, this results in a community of, in John Erickson’s phrase, “Eucharisticized pagans” — members of the Church who participate in the Eucharist but do not otherwise have any consciousness of the life in death that is the Christian life in this world. [As Erickson ("Baptism," 57) puts it: "We forget that the Eucharist is but a foretaste of the kingdom, not its final realization. And then, this tendency towards a realized eschatology begins to creep from the Eucharist into other aspects of church life, so that the church qua church comes to be seen as perfect in every respect. Its dependence on Christ, and him crucified, is forgotten. We want the glory and forget the cross."]

Secondly, it results in a view that sees life outside the Orthodox Church, defined as coextensive with participation her celebration of the Eucharist, in uniformly negative terms: “The boundaries of the body of Christ depend entirely on the Eucharistic life. Outside that life, humanity is ruled by alien powers. Separation and destruction can only be averted by those who unite in Christ and prepare themselves for the joint assembly of the Eucharist.” [G. Limouris, "The Eucharist as the Sacrament of Sharing: An Orthodox Point of View," in Orthodox Visions of Ecumenism, ed. G. Limouris (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1994), 254] In this perspective, not only do the Orthodox regard themselves, rightly, as belonging to “the one true Church,” but they deny the designation “Church” to any other body gathering together in the name of Christ: outside the Orthodox Church, “humanity is ruled by alien powers.”

This approach began with Cyprian in the third century. When faced with various schisms resulting from different responses to persecution, Cyprian defined the boundaries of the Church in terms of adherence to the bishop, but the bishop understood not, as with Ignatius and Irenaeus, as the bearer of the true teaching (for the schismatic groups with whom Cyprian was dealing were perfectly orthodox in their beliefs), but rather the bishop as the bearer of apostolic authority, especially the ability to forgive sins (which is connected with the only mention of the word “church” in the Gospels; Matthew 16.18, 18.17), and ultimately with the Church herself. “You should understand that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop and whoever is not with the bishop is not in the Church” (Cyprian Ep. 66.8). The images for the Church preferred by Cyprian all emphasize the sharp boundaries of the Church and her exclusivism: “You cannot have God for your Father if you no longer have the Church for your mother. If there was any escape for one who was outside the ark of Noah, there will be as much for one who is found to be outside the Church.” [Cyprian On the Unity of the Church 6] Most famously, “outside the Church there is no salvation” (Cyprian Ep.73.2 1).

Finally, when Cyprian was faced with the issue of receiving into communion those who had been baptized in a schismatic group, Cyprian insisted that they were to be baptized (i.e. “re-baptized,” though Cyprian, naturally, does not use this term). Because of the connection between baptism and remission of sins, there can be no baptism outside of the Catholic Church, defined as adherence to the bishop who alone bears this apostolic gift: as baptism is entry into the Church, one cannot be outside the Church and yet baptized into it.

Cyprian’s position concerning (re-)baptism has been repeatedly advocated through the centuries, and, especially since Nikodemus the Hagiorite (1748-1809), is promoted by many in the Orthodox Church today. [For a critical analysis of the issue, see J. Erickson, "The Reception of Non-Orthodox into the Orthodox Church: Contemporary Practice," SVTQ 41.1 (1997), 1-17)]

But, as Florovsky points out, while Cyprian was right, theologically, to state unequivocally that the sacraments are performed only in the Church, “he defined this in hastily and too narrowly.”[G. Florovsky', "The Boundaries of the Church," in idem. Collected Works, 13, pp. 36-45, at p. 37] Moreover, as Florovsky also points out, “the practical conclusions of Cyprian have not been accepted and supported by the consciousness of the Church.” [Ibid] Cyprian’s position was an innovation,[It is noteworthy that Cyprian does not challenge the claim made at Rome that Pope Stephen's policy was in accord with the traditional practice of that Church, nor does Cyprian appeal to "tradition" to support his case: "one must not prescribe by custom, but overcome by reason" (Ep. 71.3)];and one that has not been uniformly followed by the Church.

Indeed, there are several important witnesses against it. The First Ecumenical Council, at Nicaea in 325, speaks of receiving “the pure ones,” that is, those of the Novatianist schism, by the laying-on of hands (Canon 8). Addressing the same issue several decades later, Basil, in a letter (Ep 188) which was subsequently included in the canonical corpus of the Orthodox Church, differentiated between “heretics” (who are completely broken off and alien as regards their faith, shown in the form of their “baptism,” for instance “in the Father and the Son and Montanus or Priscilla”), “schisms” (which have resulted “from some ecclesiastical reasons and questions capable of mutual remedy,” in this case regarding penance), and “paraecclesial gatherings” (“assemblies brought into being by insubordinate presbyters or bishops or by uninformed laity”).

Basil mentions Cyprian’s practice, but sides with “the ancients [who] decided to accept that baptism which in no way deviates from the faith,” so that “the ancients decided to reject completely the baptism of heretics, but to accept that of schismatics, as still being of the Church.” In other words, those baptized in the right faith, even if not in Eucharistic communion with the main body of the Church, still belong to the Church.

This is not to succumb to some kind of “branch-theory” of the Church, nor to advocate immediate Eucharistic communion with, in the paradoxical phrase, the “separated brethren.” Rather it is to place the issue in terms of the eschatological tension in which the Church exists in this world. But this does present a challenge, perhaps especially to the Orthodox, to reconsider how they view those outside their own Eucharistic community. The celebration of the Eucharist is the sacrament of the kingdom, giving a foretaste of what is already but not yet; it seems, as suggested earlier, that we should perhaps not take the character of the “perfect Church,” to use Florovsky’s expression once again, as the definition of the boundaries of the “one true Church.”

As we are to live baptismally, “considering ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus,” until we actually die in good faith and are raised with Christ, so also the Eucharist in which we already partake is also, in a sense ‘`not yet,” but is fulfilled in our own death and resurrection. As Irenaeus put it:

Just as the wood of the vine, planted in the earth, bore fruit in its own time, and the grain of wheat, falling into the earth and being decomposed, was raised up by the Spirit of God who sustains all, then, by wisdom, they come to the use of humans, and receiving the Word of God, become Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ; in the same way, our bodies, nourished by it, having been placed in the earth and decomposing in it, shall rise in their time, when the Word of God bestows on them the resurrection to the glory of God the Father, who secures immortality for the mortal and bountifully bestows incorruptibility on the corruptible
(Against the Heresies 5.2.3)

By receiving the Eucharist, as the wheat and the vine receive the fecundity of the Spirit, we are prepared, as we also make the fruits into the bread and wine, for the resurrection effected by the Word, at which point, just as the bread and wine receive the Word and so become the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist, so also our bodies will receive immortality and incorruptibility from the Father. The paschal mystery that each baptized Christian enters by baptism is completed in their resurrection, celebrated as the Eucharist of the Father.

The Mother Church and Christian Identity
Finally, just as Paul describes himself as “in travail until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4.9), in those, that is, whom he (though this time as a father) has “begotten through the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 4.15), so also, until the day when we die in the witness (martyria) of a good confession, the Church is our mother, in travail, giving birth to sons of God. The motherhood of the Church is an ancient theme, one which has its roots in Isaiah, who, after foretelling the Passion of Christ, proclaims: “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord” (Isaiah 54.1). Of the many ways in which this imagery has been explored, one of the most stimulating brings it directly into conjunction with the Incarnation of the Word.

According to Hippolytus, “The Word of God, being fleshless, put on the holy flesh from the holy virgin, as a bridegroom a garment, having woven it for himself in the sufferings of the cross, so that having mixed our mortal body with his own power, and having mingled the corruptible into the incorrupt- ible, and the weak with the strong, he might save perishing man.” [Hippolytus, On Christ and the Antichrist, 4; see also the extended metaphor in Antichrist 59.] God and man, announced by the prophets, “whom the Church continually bears as she teaches all nations.”

In and through the images of the Church that we have explored — the Church as the people of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit — together with testimony to the life of the Church expressed in the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, we can perhaps now glimpse more fully what is meant by speaking of the Trinitarian dimensions of the Church and why it is that the Church herself was never a direct subject of theological reflection in the early centuries. The Church, as the body of Christ and the temple of the Spirit, incarnates the presence of God in this world, and does so also as the mother of the baptized, in travail with them until their death in confession of Christ, to be raised with him, as the fulfillment of their baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist.

He continues with an extended image of loom, of which the web-beam is “the passion of the Lord upon the cross,” the warp is the power of the Holy Spirit, the woof is the holy flesh woven by the Spirit, the rods are the Word and the workers are the patriarchs and prophets “who weave the fair, long, perfect tunic for Christ.” [For further use of the imagery of weaving as applied to the Incarnation, see N. Constas and M. W. Morgenstern, Proclus of Constantinople and the Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity, Homilies 1-5, Texts and Translations, Supplements to Vigiliae Ciristianae, 66 (Leiden: Brill, 2003).]

The flesh of the Word, received from the Virgin and “woven in the sufferings of the cross,” is woven by the patriarchs and prophets, whose actions and words proclaim the manner in which the Word became present and manifest. It is in the preaching of Jesus Christ, the proclamation of the one who died on the cross, interpreted and understood in the matrix, the womb, of Scripture, that the Word receives flesh from the virgin. The virgin in this case, Hippolytus later affirms following Revelation 12, is the Church, who will never cease “bearing from her heart the Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving in the world,” while the male child she bears is Christ, God and man, announced by the prophets, “whom the Church continually bears as she teaches all nations.”

In and through the images of the Church that we have explored — the Church as the people of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit — together with testimony to the life of the Church expressed in the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, we can perhaps now glimpse more fully what is meant by speaking of the Trinitarian dimensions of the Church and why it is that the Church herself was never a direct subject of theological reflection in the early centuries. The Church, as the body of Christ and the temple of the Spirit, incarnates the presence of God in this world, and does so also as the mother of the baptized, in travail with them until their death in confession of Christ, to be raised with him, as the fulfillment of their baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist.


The Trinitarian Being Of The Church 1 – Fr. John Behr

August 14, 2013
The Trinitarian order, from the Father through the Son in the Spirit, finds its reciprocating movement in the Spirit through the Son to the Father. In a very striking passage, Gregory Palamas relates these two movements by speaking of the Spirit as "an ineffable love of the Begetter towards the ineffably begotten Word," a love which is "also possessed by the Word towards the Begetter," for the Spirit also belongs to the Son, who "rejoices together with the Father who rejoices in him," so that "the pre-eternal joy of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit," as common to both of them, but whose existence depends upon the Father alone, from whom alone he proceeds.

The Trinitarian order, from the Father through the Son in the Spirit, finds its reciprocating movement in the Spirit through the Son to the Father. In a very striking passage, Gregory Palamas relates these two movements by speaking of the Spirit as “an ineffable love of the Begetter towards the ineffably begotten Word,” a love which is “also possessed by the Word towards the Begetter,” for the Spirit also belongs to the Son, who “rejoices together with the Father who rejoices in him,” so that “the pre-eternal joy of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit,” as common to both of them, but whose existence depends upon the Father alone, from whom alone he proceeds.

The People of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit
Most fundamentally, the word “church,” ekklesia, means a “calling-out,” the election of a particular people from the midst of the world by God, who forms them as his own people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own people” (1 Peter 2.9). For Christians this calling is of course that of the gospel of Christ, proclaiming with the power of the Spirit the divine work wrought in and by Christ, destroying death by his death, and by his blood breaking down the dividing wall so that those “separated from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel,” may enter into the covenant, in the one body of Christ, having access in the one Spirit to the Father (Eph 2.11-18).

The “citizenship of Israel” is defined by relation to Christ. Though a specific, “once for all,” event, the Passion of Jesus Christ — his death, resurrection and bestowal of the Spirit, as another advocate leading its into the fullness of the truth of Christ [Cf. John 14.25-26; 16.13-15. The Pentecostal bestowal of the Spirit is intimately connected with the Passion of Christ, for it is at his death, when the work of God is "fulfilled" and Christ rests on the Sabbath, that Christ "gave up the ghost" or, more literally "handed down [traditioned] the Spirit” (John 19.30).] — as preached by the apostles, `according to Scripture,” is of eternal significance and scope.

It is this gospel that was preached in advance to Abraham, so that all who respond in faith to the Word of God, as did Abraham, receive the blessings that were bestowed upon him (Galatians 3.3-14). Going further back, many of the Fathers affirmed that the creation of Adam already looks towards, and is modeled upon, the image of God, Christ Jesus (and that the world itself is impregnated with the sign of his cross), and also that the breath which Adam received, making him a “living being,” prefigures the Spirit bestowed by Christ, which renders Christians “spiritual beings.”

The Word, by which God calls forth and fashions a people for himself, is unchanging. The revelation of this mystery- hidden from all eternity both enables us to look back into the Scriptures, and creation itself, to see there an anticipatory testimonally to Christ, and also introduces the Gentiles into the covenant, for its basis is now clearly seen to be Christ himself, not race or fleshly circumcision: the Church, the new creation called into being by the cross of Christ, is the Israel of God (Galatians 6.16).

Called into being by God through his Word, Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Spirit, the Church is the body of Christ. God “has put all things under [Christ's] feet and has made him the head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1.22-23). As “firstborn of the dead,” in whom “the whole fullness of divinity dwells bodily,” Christ is “the head of the body, the Church” (Colossians 1.18-19, 2.9). It is by holding fast to the head that “the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2.19).

The identity is complete; it is not a loose analogy or metaphor: `You are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” all, that is, who `by the one Spirit were baptized into the one body” (1 Corinthians 12.27, 13). Christians are called to be “the one body,” by living in subjection to the head, Christ, allowing his peace to rule in their hearts (Colossians 3.15).

As members of his body, they depend for their life and being upon their head, and also upon one another: “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12.5). The grace given to each is for the benefit of the one body, so that everything is to be done in love for the building up of the one body (1 Corinthians 12-13).

The subsequent reflection devoted to identity of the one body, the body of Christ assumed by the Word who now dwells in those who have “put on Christ,” is so vast and profound that it is impossible to treat it here. But as it is also not satisfactory to pass it by in silence, one example must suffice. The identity of body is the central nexus in the classic work On the Incarnation by Athanasius, integrating Trinitarian theology, Christology, ecclesiology and soteriology.

As he puts it: “For being over all, the Word of God, by offering his own temple and his bodily instrument as a substitute for all, naturally fulfilled the debt by his death; and, as being united to all by the like [body], the incorruptible Son of God naturally clothed all with incorruption by the promise concerning the resurrection; and now no longer does the actual corruption in death hold ground against humans, because of the Word dwelling in them through the one body” (Inc. 9).

The Word clothed himself with our body, so that he might conquer death by offering his body to death, and so that we might now be clothed with his incorruption through the identity of the one body. It is very striking that when treating the Resurrection of Christ, Athanasius makes no mention of the post-resurrection appearances of Christ to the disciples as described in the gospels: that Christ is alive and his own, proper body raised, is shown by the fact that those who have “put on the faith of the Cross,” as he put on our body, “so despise death that they willingly encounter it and become witness for the Resurrection the Savior accomplished against it” (Inc. 27-28).

The presentation of Christian theology, characteristic of many textbooks, as a collection of discrete realms — Trinity, Incarnation, Passion, Soteriology, Ecclesiology — only serves to obscure the vitality of such a vision.

As a body, the Church also has a structure, a variety of members with a variety of gifts and ministries. From the earliest times, the congregation gathered around the bishop, together with his presbvters and deacons; so intrinsic were these to the structure of the body, that Ignatius asserts that without these three orders, the community cannot be called a “Church” (Letter to the Trallians 3.1).

That there is only one Christ means that there can only be one Eucharist, one altar and one bishop (Letter to the Philadelphians 4). However, for all the importance given to the clergy, and especially the bishop, their roles are historically and geographically specific; as it is often pointed out, the Church of God is also always the Church of a particular place, gathering together all Christians (e ri -ro av’ d, 1 Corinthians 11.20).

On the other hand, the significance of the apostles, upon whose proclamation the Church is based, is universal and eternal, and so, in the typologies that Ignatius proposes, they always appear on the divine side. [Cf. Behr, Way to Nicaea, 82. For Ignatius the bishop, deacon and presbyters image the Father, Christ and the apostles respectively (Letter to the Trallians 3.1; Letter to the Magnesians 6.1) Only with Cyprian are the apostles considered to be the first bishops and the bishops, in turn, the successors of the apostles.] The changing understanding of the ordained ministry through history need not detain us here, what is important for the present purposes is the essential role that they have in the constitution of the Church.

Yet their essential role should not be overstated, it is not by virtue of being gathered around the bishop that a community is the church, but by virtue of Christ himself; as Ignatius puts it, in words which are often misquoted: “whenever the bishop appears, let the congregation be present, just as wherever Christ is, there is the catholic Church” (Letter to the Smrynaeans 8). It is Christ who makes the congregation to be his body, the Church, and so when Ignatius writes his letters, he does so to the whole community; not to the bishop, warning them to “be deaf when anyone speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Trallians 9).

Finally, it is “by the one Spirit that we are baptized into the one body” (1 Corinthians 12.13), and so it is as “a holy temple in the Lord” that we are fashioned into a “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2.21-22). Those in whom the Spirit of God dwells are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3.16). The Spirit is bestowed through Christ, so that it is as the Spirit of Christ that we receive the Spirit of the Father (cf. Romans 8.9-11). But it is also the Spirit who enables us to recognize Christ, to call him Lord, that is, the one spoken of in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 12.3), and who unites us to Christ, making us to be one body with him, as a bride to her spouse (as in the imagery of Ephesians 5), so that “the Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!” (Revelations 22.17), and who enables those united in one body with Christ to call on God as Abba, Father (Galatians 4.6; Romans 8.15-16).

It is in “the communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13.13) that Christians have their unity as the one body of Christ; they are to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” so that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4.3-6).

All of these images describe the activity of the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the divine economy of salvation. Yet they are not merely “economic” activities different from the “immanent” relations of the Father, Son and Spirit, “missions” as distinct from “processions.”

As debate concerning Trinitarian theology intensified during the fourth century and beyond, discussion inevitably became more abstract but its content remained constant. As the Cappadocians in the fourth century were keen to emphasize, we only know God from his activities, as he reveals himself, and what he reveals of himself is what he is.

The crucified Jesus Christ “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1.4), of whom it is said “You are my Son, today have I begotten you” (Acts 13.33; Psalms 2.7), is the same one about whom, when the Spirit rested upon him at his baptism, the Father declared “You are my Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3.17, Mark 1.11; in Luke 3.22, ancient variants have the “begotten you” of Psalms 2.7), and who was conceived in the womb of the Virgin by the Holy Spirit, the Power of the Most High (Matthew 1.20, Luke 1.35) — this is the one who is eternally, or better, timelessly, begotten from the Father; not, as Arius would have it, begotten as a discrete event in a quasi-temporality before the aeons, and before which God was not Father.

Likewise, the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, is bestowed upon Christians by Christ, as the Spirit of Christ, and so it is affirmed that while the Son is begotten directly from the Father, the Spirit derives from the Father “by that which is directly from the first cause, so that the attribute of being Only-begotten abides unambiguously in the Son, while the Spirit is without doubt derived from the Father, the intermediacy of the Son safeguarding his character of being the Only-begotten and not excluding the Spirit from his natural relation to the Father.” [Gregory of Nyssa To Abinbius (GNO 3.1, p.56).]

Later Byzantine theology, especially that of Gregory of Cyprus and Gregory Palamas in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, develops these points by differentiating between the “procession” of the Holy Spirit from the Father, by which the Spirit derives his subsistence and existence, and the “manifestation” or “shining forth” of the Spirit though the Son, a relation which is not only temporal but eternal. [Cf. D. Staniloae, "Trinitarian Relations and the Life of the Church," chapter 1 in idem, Theology and the Church (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1980), 11-44.]

The Spirit who proceeds from the Father rests upon the Son; the activity which is depicted at every key moment in the apostolic presentation of Christ manifests, and provides the basis for our understanding of, the eternal relation between Father, Son and Spirit. But the Spirit does not simply rest upon the Son as a termination, for, as we have seen, it is always through the Spirit that Christ is shown to be the Son of God, through the Spirit that he is begotten, raised, and revealed, and through the Spirit that Christians are led to Christ, incorporated into his body and so have access to the Father.

The Trinitarian order, from the Father through the Son in the Spirit, finds its reciprocating movement in the Spirit through the Son to the Father. In a very striking passage, Gregory Palamas relates these two movements by speaking of the Spirit as “an ineffable love of the Begetter towards the ineffably begotten Word,” a love which is “also possessed by the Word towards the Begetter,” for the Spirit also belongs to the Son, who “rejoices together with the Father who rejoices in him,” so that “the pre-eternal joy of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit,” as common to both of them, but whose existence depends upon the Father alone, from whom alone he proceeds. [Gregory Palamas, The One Hundred and Fitly Chapters, chapter 36; on this aspect of Palamas' theology, and its connection to Augustine, cf. R. Flogaus, "Palamas and Barlaam Revisited: A Reassessment of East and West in the Hesychast Controversy of 14th Century Byzantium," SVTQ 42.1 (1998), 1-32]

That the Spirit is “manifested” through the Son, not only in the temporal realm, but eternally, means that the distinction between “procession” and “manifestation” does not correspond to a distinction, often made, between intra-Trinitarian “processions” and in the Spirit. The Church is not just a communion of persons in relation, but the body of Christ giving thanks to the Father in the Spirit.


With The Pope Against The Homoheresy 2 — Fr. Dariusz Oko, Ph.D.

March 5, 2013
Gay marriage denies God and devalues human dignity, Pope Benedict XVI said Friday in his annual "state of the Church address at the Vatican.  Speaking to the Curia, the bureaucrats who run the global church of 1.2 billion Catholics, the pope said opposition to gay marriage is a way of defending humanity: "Whoever defends God is defending man." Benedict also quoted the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, who has written that promoting a right to same-sex marriage is an "attack" on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children.  The address echoed his recently released annual peace message, which said gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia are threats to world peace.

Gay marriage denies God and devalues human dignity, Pope Benedict XVI said Friday in his annual “state of the Church” address at the Vatican. Speaking to the Curia, the bureaucrats who run the global church of 1.2 billion Catholics, the pope said opposition to gay marriage is a way of defending humanity: “Whoever defends God is defending man.” Benedict also quoted the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, who has written that promoting a right to same-sex marriage is an “attack” on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children. The address echoed his recently released annual peace message, which said gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia are threats to world peace.

The Formation Mechanism Of The Homo-Community
As can be seen from the above examples, that lobby must have been allowed to have its way for a long time for such a situation to have been (and still be) possible. But the normal majority should not be intimidated by a disturbed minority. It is therefore necessary to understand the mechanism allowing that lobby to become so influential.

Everything begins with the fact that it is much more difficult for a seminarian with homosexual tendencies or an established homosexual orientation to become a decent priest. On the one hand, priesthood may appear attractive, seeming an ideal biotope, since he can stay here in his preferred manly company without the need to explain the absence of women in his life. On the contrary, this is, after all, seen as a great sacrifice for the Heavenly Kingdom, giving up the greatest value of marriage (even though he is not marriageable anyway). The situation appears to be very comfortable.

Consequently, if no requirements are made of such young men, in particular congregations or dioceses there may be many times more of them than in the world on the average, i.e. many times more than 1.5 percent[11]. Their exact number will depend on how dominating the position they have already achieved is, and how much other clergymen are intimidated or unaware of the significance of the problem.

On the other hand, homosexuality is a wound on the personality which may impair many other functions. Such impairments include distorted relationships with other men, women and children; the habit of constantly pretending, hiding something important in their lives; the pattern of playing a game which prevents honest, deep, emotionally fair relationships with peers and tutors.

It also hampers proper understanding and respect for the nature of femininity and marriage as the mystery of the love between a man and a woman. Besides, if a homosexual feel similar desires towards men as a man who is undisturbed in that regard feels towards women, these desires will be constantly aroused in him by the permanent, close presence of the objects of his desire. He finds himself in a situation analogous to that of a normal man who were to live for several years (or for the whole life) under one roof, using the same dormitory and common bathrooms with many attractive women.

The likelihood of maintaining chastity in such a situation would rapidly decline. We should respect and try to understand our homosexual brothers to the same extent we respect and try to understand any human being. They often do their best, try, and some of them succeed, live a decent or even a holy life. Objectively, however, it is much, much harder for them, and so they fail much more often.

If, however, they are unable to control their tendencies, and succeed in passing through the sieves of seminarian control, real trouble begins in priesthood or monastic life. They no longer benefit from the presence and control of their supervisors, their freedom is much greater. If they yield to temptation and go down the road of active homosexuality, their situation becomes desperate.

On the one hand, they administer the sacraments, celebrate the Holy Mass every day, deal with the holiest of holy objects; and on the other hand they keep doing the exact opposite, that which is particularly deplorable. This way they “become immune” to that which is higher, that which is holy, their moral life yields to atrophy, going steadily downhill towards the fall. The more of that which is higher dies in them, the more room there is for that which is lower – the desire for material, sensual things – money, power, career, lust and sex. They can hardly be helped, since the highest means of formation, faith and grace have failed.

They know well, however, that they may be exposed and embarrassed, so they shield one another by offering mutual support. They build informal relationships reminding of a clique or even mafia, aim at holding particularly those positions which offer power and money. When they achieve a decision-making position, they try to promote and advance mostly those whose nature is similar to theirs, or at least who are known to be too weak to oppose them.

This way, leading positions in the Church may be held by people suffering from deep internal wounds, hardly displaying the spiritual level expected of their office; people who have given themselves away to hypocrisy and are especially prone to blackmailing by the enemies of Christianity. People who never “speak from the heart”, never revealing it for fear of being brought to shame. Instead, they repeat what they have learned by heart, copy that which has been said by others. Often an atmosphere of hypocrisy and lifelessness can be sensed around them. Pharisaism in its pure form[12]. Even if they do not actively practice homosexuality, as a rule they try to shield and promote even those who do, with much solidarity, ready to “dig in their heels” together with them.

This way they prefer their own well-being to the well-being of the community, according to the rule which says: “Let the Church be disgraced, ridiculed and humiliated, as long as myself and “mine” are well-set for life, as long as there is always enough to satisfy us”. “Omertà” in its pure form. This way, however, they may actually achieve a dominating position in many areas of church hierarchy, become a “backroom elite” which actually has tremendous power in deciding about important nominations and the whole life of the Church. Indeed, they may even prove to be too powerful for honest, well-meaning bishops.[13]

The situation then becomes quite desperate for other priests. New clerical students may, for instance, include the younger partners of such homo-priests. When the vice-chancellor or another superior tries to remove them, they may end up being removed themselves instead of the homo-seminarians. Or, when a vicar tries to protect youth from the parish priest who molests them, it is the vicar and not the parish priest that is disciplined, ostracized and moved elsewhere. He goes through an ordeal for courageously fulfilling his fundamental duty. He may even be blackmailed, humiliated and slandered in the parish or among other priests as a victim of an organized campaign. And when a priest or a religious is molested by a peer or a superior and applies for help and protection to a higher instance, he often finds the office occupied by an even more ardent homosexual.

Along the road, members of the homo-clique can achieve such positions and influence that they come to believe they have extraordinary powers and will go unpunished forever.[14] Their life often becomes a diabolic caricature of priesthood, just like homosexual relationships are a caricature of marriage. As can be learned from the media, for instance, they act like homosexual addicts, becoming more and more unbridled, resorting to violence. They start to molest and abuse even minors. A grievous wrong may result, including murder and suicide.

I learned about Bishop Paetz by accident, from a seminarian who told me, all trembling from emotions and terror, about his having been molested by his own ordinary. He was at a brink of losing faith as well as mental and spiritual integrity. It was not an easy job to convince him that one man is not the whole Church, that such case is yet another reason to become a priest so that something as wonderful as that is not left in the hands of such people.

I have heard many similar stories from priests from Łomża and Poznań (where he served as an ordinary) I met during national and international academic symposia. Our interventions at various levels of Church hierarchy were of no avail, however; we encountered a wall that could not be overcome, even in a case as self-evident as that. In the case of a vicar or a catechist, a small part of such revelations would be enough to cause some reaction. In that case, a tremendous commotion in the media and reaching the Pope himself was necessary.

To quote F. Józef Augustyn once again: “The Church does not generate homosexuality, but falls victim to dishonest men with homosexual tendencies, who take advantage of its structures to follow their lowest instincts. Active homosexual priests are masters of camouflage. They are often exposed by accident. … The real threat to the Church are cynical homosexual priests who take advantage of their functions on their own behalf, sometimes in an extraordinarily devious way. Such situations cause great suffering to the Church, the priestly community, the superiors. The problem is indeed a very difficult one.[15]

The Struggle Of Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI has come to know that type of clergymen well during his long years of work in Vatican. He has repeatedly stressed how shocked he was to learn the extent of the plague of homosexual abuses in the Church, the size of that underground and the terrible damage caused to youth and the Church as a whole. He recalls: “Yes, it is a great crisis, we have to say that. It was upsetting for all of us. Suddenly so much filth. It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame and every priest was under the suspicion of being one like that too.”[16]

It was mostly about such clergymen that he referred to while still a Cardinal during the famous Way of the Cross at the Colosseum in 2005, shortly before the death of John Paul II and his own election as Pope: “Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? … how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! … We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us (cf. Matthew 8: 25)”.

The Pope also said: “The greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church”[17]. He knew what task was awaiting him, and taking office on April 24, 2005, said: “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves”[18].

The greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church.

And that is why he took resolute and fast action as Pope. He made cleansing the Church from homosexual abuse and preventing its reoccurrence in the future one of the priorities of his pontificate. He removed compromised clergymen from their offices with much energy. In the very first months following his election, still in 2005, he had an instruction issued to strictly forbid ordaining untreated homosexuals. The instruction was preceded by a letter sent from the Holy See to bishops around the world, ordering that priests with homosexual tendencies be immediately removed from any educational functions at seminars[19].

A letter from the Congregation for Catholic Education issued in 2008 prohibited known homosexual priests admission to seminars. It says explicitly they may only be admitted after they have been permanently healed[20]. These principles were confirmed in 2010 by a Note from the Vicariate of Rome for the Successor of Saint Peter – a standard for the entire Church[21]. A model to be followed in such cases was also provided by the Pope’s pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland, also in 2010, on serious sins against defenceless children[22]. Just like the current President of Germany, Joachim Gauck, carried out a successful, model inspection in the former East Germany, his fellow countryman in the Vatican has been carrying out a thorough, honest, Christian cleansing of the Church[23]. The Pope is also trying not to allow for a similar disaster to happen again in the future by strictly prohibiting the ordaining of homosexually-oriented persons, by preventing the rebirth of that community.

That should be stressed, because in the Polish Church the issue of the relationship between homosexuality and priesthood has been underestimated. It appears that the breakthrough in that matter accomplished by Benedict XVI and the Holy See is not sufficiently understood here. Its results could be summarized as follows:

1)  Instead of a division into active and passive homosexuality, in his official documents the Holy Father introduces a division into temporary homosexual tendencies which occur during puberty, and tendencies which have become deeply rooted. Both forms are an obstacle which precludes holy orders, so the  requirements is not merely (usually temporary) freedom from active homosexuality.

2)   Homosexuality is irreconcilable with priestly vocation. Consequently, it is strictly forbidden not only to ordain men having any homosexual tendencies (be it temporary), but even to admit them in seminars.

3)   Temporary homosexual tendencies must be cured even before admission to the first year of studies or the novitiate.

4)  Seminars and monasteries, presbyteries and diocesan curias must be completely free from any forms of homosexuality.

5)   Men with homosexual tendencies who have already been ordained as deacons, priests or bishops remain to be validly ordained, but are called to keep all commandments given by God and the Church. Just like other priests, they should live in purity and desist from any activities harmful to man and the Church, in particular from any rebellion against the Holy Father and the Holy See, or any mafia-like activities.

6)       Clergymen who suffer from such disorders are strongly encouraged to immediately commence appropriate therapy[24].

In Benedict XVI’s Light of the World of 2010, we find as an afterword a very important passage about homosexuality and priesthood. These words of the Holy Father are, in a way, a comment on the earlier documents of the Holy See. It seems he is speaking “from the heart”, and is quite explicit:

Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation. Otherwise, celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for bringing people into priesthood who don’t want to get married anyway. For, in the end, their attitude toward man and woman is somehow distorted, off centre, and, in any case, is not within the direction of creation of which we have spoken.

The Congregation for Education issued a decision a few years ago to the effect that homosexual candidates cannot become priests because their sexual orientation estranges them from the proper sense of paternity, from the intrinsic nature of priestly being. The selection of candidates to the priesthood must therefore be very careful. The greatest attention is needed here in order to prevent the intrusion of this kind of ambiguity and to head off a situation where the celibacy of priests would practically end up being identified with the tendency to homosexuality”[25].

The importance of the matter for the Pope and the Holy See is emphasized by the fact that despite a great shortage of priests and new vocations in Western Europe and America, the Church does not want to admit such candidates in its seminars; the grave abuses of homosexual clergymen have already caused too much evil, too many disasters, and have cost too much.


[11] F. Hans Zollner SJ, Dean of the Institute of Psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, says that “in lay circles … the number of molested girls is greater than boys. Why is that? It certainly points to a higher percentage of persons with homosexual tendencies or orientation in those church communities in which numerous cases of paedophilia with a  homosexual tinge occurred than in the society in general”. (F. J. Augustyn SJ, Kościelna omerta [Omerta in the Church], an interview with F. Hans Zollner SJ, transl. by F. B. Steczek SJ, “Rzeczpospolita”, 19.04.2012).

[12] This also partially explains why the representatives of both groups sometimes display so much mediocrity, both in moral and intellectual terms. And yet, it is of such immense importance whether the Church is led by such bishops as Wojtyła, Wyszyński, Nagy, Jaworski, Nossol, Nowak, Pietraszko and Małysiak, or such as Paetz, Magee or Weakland.

[13] For instance, when he became the Archbishop of Warsaw, Archbishop Jozef Glemp, the Primate of Poland, said: “When I came to this diocese, I was surprised to see how strong the homosexual lobby is in the Church.” Cf. the blog of F. Wojciech Lemański:,ks-lemanski-juz-prymas-glemp-mowil-o-silnym-lobby-homoseksualnym. Another Polish cardinal said: “The most difficult job is dealing with the gay lobby”.

[14] The mechanism of formation with such „homo-cliques” and „homo-mafias”, the mutual, monstrous “pulling one another up” is in fact sociologically quite typical for “uniform” services, employing almost exclusively men who remain in a strong hierarchal relationship of subordination. Similar problems are encountered in the army, the police and the prison system. It is destructive for any human community – when decisions about taking up tasks of particular importance are made based primarily on homosexual orientation, instead of professional competence, dedication and performance at work. It is also a fundamental injustice, discrimination of the normal majority.

[15] J. Augustyn, Bez oskarżeń i uogólnień, op.cit.

[16] Benedict XVI, Light of the World. The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times], a conversation with Peter Seewald, transl. by Michael J. Miller and Adrian J. Walker, San Francisco 2010, p. 23.

[17] Benedict XVI, Light of the World, op. cit., pp. 27.

[18] Ibid., p. 20.

[19] The document being referred to is: Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders, Rome 2005. Cf. a commentary on the document by G. Mansini, L. J. Welch, W posłuszeństwie Chrystusowi [In Conformity to Christ], “First Things. Edycja polska” 1, Fall 2006, pp. 10-12. It is a particularly apt analysis of the nature of Christ’s priesthood as contrasted with the homosexual approach.

[20] The document being referred to is: Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation f Candidates for the Priesthood, Rome 2008.

[21] Cf. Nota del Vicariato in merito all’articolo di “Panorama”, pubblicato il 23 luglio 2010, Rome 2010. The Note is a response to an article in the Italian „Panorama” which, together with films posted on the Internet, shows the sexual lasciviousness and cynicism of homo-priests working in the Vatican. Cf.

[22] Cf. Benedict XVI, Light of the World, op. cit. pp. 189ff.

[23] The resolve with which Benedict XVI fights against the plague of paedophilia and ephebophilia in the Church, and the extent to which he applies the “no tolerance” rule to them is reflected in a list of what he has done about the matter. It can be found in Italian at, and, and in German at

[24] As regards these decisions, it would be a good idea now to prepare an account of their implementation in Poland; how faithful have we been to the Pope and the Holy See in that regard? After all, we have more than 100 seminars, we could organize a symposium to share our experiences. We could ask, for instance: What is the procedure of admission to seminars in Poland? What is the procedure with regard to sexual tendencies? Do candidates sign some kind of a statement on the matter, or are they properly examined by a psychologist as provided for in the Vatican document of 2008? What is the scale of the problem in Polish seminars? Where are candidates with temporary homosexual tendencies sent who want to have them treated before they are admitted to a seminar? Do we need a national centre offering special therapy? How has the instruction of the Holy See of 2005 been implemented, saying that all homosexual vice-chancellors and educators should be removed? An important help in dealing with that problem can be found in: Richard Cross, Ph.D. (With research data from Daniel Thoma, Ph. D.), The Collapse of Ascetical Discipline and Clerical Misconduct: Sex and Prayer, “Linacre Quarterly”, vol. 73, Februry 2006, No. 1, pp. 1-114.

[25] Benedict XVI, Light of the World, op. cit., pp. 152f.


With The Pope Against The Homoheresy 1 — Fr. Dariusz Oko, Ph.D.

March 4, 2013
The sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice. (Pope Benedict XVI, Interview, May 11, 2010)

The sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice. (Pope Benedict XVI, Interview, May 11, 2010)

From the blog Rorate Caeli:

In June 2012, Polish magazine Fronda published an extensive, incisive, and influential article on the papacy and what it calls the “Homoheresy” and the great powers of the group it calls the “Homomafia” in all levels of the Church hierarchy, going all the way to the Roman Curia – and on how Benedict XVI has tried to curtail the great influence of this underground network of deviation. The Rev. Dr. Dariusz Oko, the author, is a Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Academy of Theology (Pontifical University John Paul II), in Krakow. The article was published in German as well (D. Oko, Mit dem Papst gegen Homohäresie, “Theologisches” 9/10 [2012] pp. 403-426), but it has been sparsely available in English.

In the days following the announcement of his resignation, we have been hearing the repeated warnings of Pope Benedict against the divisions in the Church. They recall one of the most somber declarations made by His Holiness, when, en route to Portugal, he said:

As for the new things which we can find in this [Fatima] message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice. (Interview, May 11, 2010)

Considering the dark influences that will try to reach even into the most secret places in the upcoming weeks of grave decisions for the Church, we thought, after having received the translated text from several Polish readers, that this is the right time to make it known to a larger audience among English speakers. We ask our readers to make this text as widely known as possible.

And after reading the translation I thought it most worthy to share. Today we will look at the introduction to the paper and Part I, A Global Phenomenon


For several weeks now Poland has witnessed a heated discussion on the “huge homosexual underground in the Church”, provoked by the most recent book by Fr. Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski entitled Chodzi mi tylko o prawdę[1](Truth Is All That Matters). Some deny any such underground exists, and put forward theses profoundly inconsistent with the teaching of the Church, both being at odds with truth[2]. The problem is serious to the extent I feel I must join in the discussion as well, because I also care about truth, and first of all about good, the fundamental well-being of man and of the Church – the basic community in which he lives.

Any discussion should have as its starting point the basic, axiomatic assumption that any one of us can know with certainty only a part, and that part is likely to be partially wrong. That should result in any opinions being presented with humility, and the arguments of partners or opponents being listened to with attention. That way we may best benefit from the parts of knowledge each of us has, and correct them. They will always remain only parts, but they will be bigger and purified from errors to a greater extent. That is the blessing of an honest dialogue, and it is in this spirit that I want to proceed.

My feeling of duty to take a stance results from my involvement in the philosophical criticism of homosexual ideology and homosexual propaganda (abbreviated to homoideology and homopropaganda), which I have dealt with for several years now to the order and with encouragement from many cardinals and bishops.[3] In doing that, I have accumulated what is probably the biggest Polish collection of writings on the topic, one of the largest collections of data.

This has been accomplished with the help of many friends and allies, both lay people and clergymen, university professors and practicing physicians, as well as a large number of people I had not known before, but who, encouraged by the opinions I have expressed and having read my articles, wished to add to and correct my knowledge. Thus, I have received news, results of scientific studies, and official documents from both around Poland and various regions of the world, particularly the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Holland and Italy, and, first of all, from the Holy See.

I began my work as a struggle against a deadly, external threat to Christianity, but then gradually discovered that the division is not that simple. The enemy is not only outside the Church, but within it as well, sometimes perfectly camouflaged, like the Trojan Horse.

We are dealing not only with the problem of a homoideology and a homolobby outside the Church, but with an analogous problem within it as well, where homoideology takes the form of a homoheresy. One does not even need to study the archives of the Institute of National Remembrance, which is only one of many sources.

These facts are self-evident also in those countries which have not heard of any such Institute at all. It is enough to collect reliable information from lay and Catholic media concerning the recent years, and add to it the knowledge of human nature, some logical thinking, put two and two together and study documents which present the Church’s response to these facts.

A Global Phenomenon

We should first expose the common lie presented by the media. They keep talking about paedophilia among clergymen, while it is most often the case that the problem is ephebophilia, which is a perversion consisting in adult homosexual men being attracted not to children, but to pubescent and adolescent boys. It is a typical deviation related to homosexuality. Basic knowledge about that reality includes the fact that more than 80 percent of cases involving sexual abuse by clergymen reported in the U.S.A. were cases of ephebophilia, not paedophilia[4]! That fact has been carefully hidden and ignored, as it reveals particularly well the hypocrisy of the homolobby in both the world and the Church. It is all the more important that it be exposed.

In other countries, the situation is similar, it is therefore important to note that scandals involving sexual abuse which have shaken the global Church were mostly the work of homosexual clergymen. The Church has paid a very painful price for the tremendous offences which have been exposed, losing much of its credibility. This has caused dramatic difficulties both in spiritual and material terms in many dioceses, monasteries and seminars, with churches becoming empty in entire provinces of the Church.[5] It is estimated that the Church in the U.S.A. has had to pay more than one and a half billion dollars in damages so far[6]. None of that would have been possible without the existence of a significant underground, of which prosecutors usually reveal only a small part, the tip of the iceberg.

The scandals have also involved those holding the highest offices. In Poland, for instance, Archbishop Juliusz Paetz was dismissed from his office as Bishop of Poznań in 2002. In Ireland, so similar to Poland in spiritual and historical terms, so Catholic, several bishops have been removed from office in the recent years, including John Magee, Bishop of the Diocese of Cloyne, dismissed in 2010 on the grounds of  covering up the offences of paedophilia and ephebophilia committed by 19 priests in his diocese. Before that, Fathers Paetz and Magee had worked together in Vatican for many years as part of the closest, most influential associates of the last three Popes.

The lengths to which militant homosexuals in cassocks can go can be observed in the behaviour of the particularly “liberal” and “open-minded” Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who ruled the diocese of Milwaukee, U.S.A., in the years 1977-2002. He openly admitted to being gay and to having had many partners in life. Throughout the term of his office – for 25 years – he continuously opposed the Pope and the Holy See on many issues, particularly criticizing and rejecting the teaching of the Magisterium on homosexuality. He supported and protected active gays in his diocese, helping them avoid liability for sexual offences they repeatedly committed. At leaving his office, he defrauded about a half million dollars to support his ex-partner.

One of the most influential people in the Church of his time, Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, turned out to be bisexual and to have perpetrated serious sexual offences against many members and underage students in his own congregation, including even his own son…

All four went entirely unpunished for a long time, despite many complaints and charges against them sent to Rome for years. Only direct contact with the Pope or publications in the media finally helped. Otherwise, everything was blocked at lower levels of local or by the Vatican hierarchy. It was similar in many other cases. For instance, several years passed before Bishops Patrick Ziemann of Santa Rosa in California (1999), Juan Carlos Maccarone of Santiago del Estero in Argentina (2005), Georg Müller of Trondheim and Oslo in Norway (2009), Raymond John Lahey of Antigonish in Canada (2009), Roger Vangheluw of Bruges, in Belgium (2010), John C. Favalora of Miami (2010) and Anthony J. O’Connell of Palm Beach in Florida (2010) were removed from office for active engagement in[, or cover-up of,] homosexual paedophilia or ephebophilia. Similar steps had to be taken with respect to many other bishops who concealed or covered up such offences. The same applied to many, sometimes very influential priests.

Not only the number of serious sexual offences proves the power of that underground, but also – to an ever greater extent – the degree to which the process of selecting candidate bishops has been disturbed, who were allowed to make a great “career” in the Church despite their having perpetrated such offences, despite leading a double life. This is further confirmed by the efficiency with which such cases were covered up and concealed, the often insurmountable blockade of all attempts made within the Church to protect the wronged, to strive for elementary truth and justice.

It has been so difficult at times to take appropriate, self-evident measures against homosexuals, so many strange difficulties have arisen, and even any success in that area is limited, partial and temporary. We witness a terrible phenomenon – it turns out the comfort of homosexual offenders is more important than the fate of children and youth, the fate of the whole Church. If that was done deliberately, that would be high treason, the Church would be guilty of betraying the youth!

This can also be seen in the fear and confusion of the clergy, particularly in certain dioceses and congregations, when faced with that topic – they escape into silence, unable to articulate even elementary statements on the teaching of the Church on the subject. What are they afraid of? Where does that fear in entire groups of mature, adult men come from? And where do the neuroses, heart diseases and other complaints come from in priests who nevertheless try to oppose such phenomena, especially to protect children and youth? They must be afraid of some influential lobby which wields its power and which they may fall into disfavour with[7].

In order for such evil to be concealed and tolerated, it is necessary that the right people hold key positions, and that not only a homolobby, but a homoclique or a homomafia is created. Indeed, that is what the present Polish Minister of Justice, Jarosław Gowin, called that group when referring to the scandal of homosexual abuses perpetrated by priests in the Diocese of Płock, the offences of molestation against young people and seminarians, and the covering up of such facts. He said that when he intervened in the Church in the case of Archbishop Paetz, he had the impression he was dealing with a mafia, brutally negating even the most obvious principles and facts.[8]

Similar references to mafia have recently been made by F. Charles Scicluna, the main person responsible for sorting out such cases in the Church, a “prosecutor” in the Disciplinary Section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He spoke during the symposium entitled “Towards Healing and Renewal” held in February 2012 in Rome, devoted to the problem of sexual abuse in the Church.[9]

On behalf of Benedict XVI, he strongly condemned not only the perpetrators, but also their superiors in the Church who covered up their deeds, and called for a strong opposition to such behaviour, open cooperation with the police, taking the path of cleansing set out by the Holy See. The more organized offenders are successful in protecting their own interests, the more successful they are in bringing harm to others and in destroying the credibility of the Church. This way, a powerful impulse towards dechristianization comes forward from within the Church itself.

A particularly valuable comment in the discussion has been made by F. Professor Józef Augustyn SJ, who said: “The problem, in my opinion, is not “in them” but in our reaction “to them”. How do we, ordinary priests and superiors, react to their behavior? Do we yield to fear, step back, call for silence, pretend the problem does not exist? Or do we face the problem, are explicit about it, take away their influential positions, remove them from their offices? They should not work in seminars or hold any important positions. If the homosexual lobby exists and has anything to say in the structures of the Church, it is because we give in, withdraw, pretend, and so on.

The Holy See … has given us a clear sign, a direction on how such problems should be solved. Concealing the behavior of dishonest persons, which will sooner or later be exposed anyway, destroys the authority of the Church. The faithful spontaneously ask about the reliability of a community which tolerates such arrangements. If we make an a priori assumption that no lobby of homosexual priests has ever existed, exists now or will exist in the future, we actually support the phenomenon. The homosexual lobby of the clergy get off scot-free and become a serious threat”[10].


[1] Cf. F. T. Isakowicz-Zaleski, Chodzi mi tylko o prawdę [Truth Is All That Matters].Warszawa 2012, pp. 114-119.

[2] Cf. F. J. Prusak, Lawendowa historia Kościoła [A Lavender History of the Church], „Rzeczpospolita”, 26 March 2012.

[3] In fulfilling that task, I have published a number of papers and articles: Dziesięć argumentów przeciw [Ten Arguments Against], “Gazeta Wyborcza” 28-29.05.2005, pp. 27 and 28; Godne ubolewania wypaczenie [A Lamentable Perversion], “Tygodnik Powszechny” 27 (2921) 2005, p. 6; Śmieci nie można zamiatać pod dywan [Rubbish Must Not Be Swept Under the Carpet], “Rzeczpospolita” 54 (7651) 5.03.2007, p. 3; W tej walce trzeba zaryzykować wszystko [In This Battle We Must Risk It All], “Rzeczpospolita” 18.05.2007, p. 8A; Zmaganie z głębi wiary [A Struggle From Within the Depths of Faith], An interview with Katarzyna Strączek and Janusz Poniewierski, “Znak” 11 (630) 2007, pp. 16-33; O czym można dyskutować na uniwersytecie [What Can Be Discussed at University], “Rzeczpospolita” 8.05.2009, pp. 2; Dezorientacja prawa [A Legal State of Confusion], a statement made together with the Ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski in an article by Przemysław Kucharczyk, “Gość Niedzielny” 24.05.2009 (56) 21, pp. 38-39; Na celowniku homolobbystów [At the Homolobby’s Gunpoint], a conversation with Bartłomiej Radziejewski, “Fronda” 51 (2009), pp. 188-208; Homoseksualizm nie jest normą [Homosexuality is Not the Norm], an interview with Bogumił Łoziński, “Gość Niedzielny” 13.09.2009 (56) 37, pp. 36-37; Dwugłos wobec homoideologii [A Duet On Homoideology], “Miłujcie się!” 4 (2009), pp. 38-41; Non possumus. Kościół wobec homoideologii [Non Possumus. The Church and Homoideology], in: T. Mazan, K. Mazela, M. Walaszczyk (ed.), Rodzina wiosną dla Europy i świata. Wybór tekstów z IV Światowego Kongresu Rodzin 11-13 maja, Warszawa 2007 [The Family is the Spring of Europe and the World. Selected Papers Presented at the 4th World Congress of Families, 11-13 May 2007, Warsaw],  Łomianki 2008, pp. 355-361; parallel: Homoideologia? Non possumus! [Homoideololgy? Non Possumus!], “Głos dla życia” 4 (87) 07/08 2007, pp. 12-14; „Non possumus.” Kościół wobec Homoideologii [Non Possumus. The Church and Homoideology], “Materiały Homiletyczne” 236 (2007), pp. 5-19; Kościół wobec homoideologii [The Church and Homoideology], “Miłujcie się!”, Part I, 1 (2009), pp. 40-43, Part II, 2(2009), pp. 41-44.

[4] A real mine of knowledge on the subject is found in the fundamental document of the Bishops’ Conference of the United States, a very reliable report drawn up on the basis of thorough studies carried out in all US dioceses: The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholics Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002, New York 2004, known as thee John Jay Report 2004. See also R. Dreher, The Gay Question, “National Review”, 22 April 2002, and R.J. Neuhaus, Rozejm roku 2005? [The Truce of 2005?], “First Things. Edycja Polska” No. 1, Fall 2006, pp. 13-19, 18.

[5] George Weigel describes that situation and the fault of clergymen particularly well in his book Odwaga bycia katolikiem [The Courage to Be Catholic], transl. J. Franczak, Kraków 2005.

[6] Cf. D. Michalski, The Price of Priest Pederasty, “Crisis”, October 2001, pp. 15-19.

[7] It is so typical that even though the Church found Bishop Paetz guilty – for otherwise such rare a sanction as removal from office would not have been applied to him, the priests who contributed to it, who had the courage to defend the seminarians, have been persecuted ever since. It is suspected that one of the reasons for the apostasy (apart from an attempt at building a theology on poor philosophy) of F. Tomasz Więcławski, once a famous, honest and admired professor of theology, was confrontation with that kind of evil in the Church. Cf. W. Cieśla, Pokuta [Penance],,6/pokuta,35716, page1.html.

[8] J. Gowin said that on March 5, 2007 on Jan Pospieszalski’s programme “Warto rozmawiać” on TVP2 concerning the homosexual scandal in the Diocese of Płock. Cf. A. Adamkowski, Dwaj duchowni do prokuratury [Two Clergymen Brought for Prosecution], „Gazeta Wyborcza” March 3, 2007.

[9] Cf. T. Bielecki, Kościół zmaga się z pedofilią. Nie hołdujmy zasadzie omerta! [The Church Has Been Struggling with Paedophilia. Let’s Not Follow the Principle of Omerta!], “Gazeta Wyborcza” 11.02.2012.

[10]  Cf. J. Augustyn, Bez oskarżeń i uogólnień [Without Charges and Generalizations], an interview by T. Królak about homosexuality among priests for the Catholic News Agency of March 23, 2012:


A Pope for the ‘New Evangelization’ — George Weigel

February 19, 2013
Lightning flashes over St. Peter's Basilica Monday, the day Pope Benedict XVI announced he will step down. Got your attention yet?

Lightning flashes over St. Peter’s Basilica Monday, the day Pope Benedict XVI announced he will step down. Got your attention yet?

The next pontiff must nurture Catholicism where it is growing and revive it where it is not. Mr. Weigel is the author of “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church,” just published by Basic Books. Recently in the WSJ and rebroadcast here. Reviews of Mr. Weigel’s new book:

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York
“This sparkling read puts all the old Church-labels — liberal vs. conservative, progressive vs. traditionalist, pre- vs. post-Vatican II — in the shredder. Now there is only one valid adjective for all of us: evangelical! Simply put, this means we take our baptismal promises with the utmost seriousness. Like the Samaritan woman, we’ve met a man — Jesus — who has changed our lives.”

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia
“George Weigel has been the leading diarist of authentic Catholic renewal — its progress, detours, personalities, and hopes — for 30 years. In Evangelical Catholicism he turns his extraordinary skills to the needs of the Church in the coming decades, calling us back to the missionary vocation we received at baptism and offering us a road map to faithful, vigorous Church reform. Rich in its vision, engaging in style, on target in its counsel and invaluable for anyone trying to understand the Church and her challenges in the 21st Century, this book should not be missed.”


The challenges facing the successor of Pope Benedict XVI come into sharper focus when we widen the historical lens through which we view this papal transition. Benedict XVI will be the last pope to have participated in the Second Vatican Council, the most important Catholic event since the 16th century. An ecclesiastical era is ending. What was its character, and to what future has Benedict XVI led Catholicism?

Vatican II, which met from 1962 to 1965, accelerated a process of deep reform in the Catholic Church that began in 1878 when the newly elected Pope Leo XIII made the historic decision to quietly bury the rejectionist stand his predecessors had adopted toward cultural and political modernity and to explore the possibilities of a critical Catholic engagement with the contemporary world. That reform process, which was not without difficulties, reached a high point of ecclesiastical drama at Vatican II, which has now been given an authoritative interpretation by two men of genius, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both influential figures at the Council. According to that interpretation, the church must rediscover and embrace its vocation as a missionary enterprise.

Evangelical Catholicism — or what John Paul II and Benedict XVI dubbed the “New Evangelization” — is the new form of the Catholic Church being born today. The church is now being challenged to understand that it doesn’t just have a mission, as if “mission” were one of a dozen things the church does. The church is a mission. At the center of that mission is the proclamation of the Gospel and the offer of friendship with Jesus Christ. Everyone and everything in the church must be measured by mission-effectiveness. And at the forefront of that mission — which now takes place in increasingly hostile cultural circumstances — is the pope, who embodies the Catholic proposal to the world in a unique way.

So at this hinge moment, when the door is closing on the Counter-Reformation church in which every Catholic over 50 was raised, and as the door opens to the evangelical Catholicism of the future, what are the challenges facing the new pope?

Catholicism is dying in its historic heartland, Europe. The new pope must fan the frail flames of renewal that are present in European Catholicism. But he must also challenge Euro-Catholics to understand that only a robust, unapologetic proclamation of the Gospel can meet the challenge of a Christophobic public culture that increasingly regards biblical morality as irrational bigotry.

The new pope must be a vigorous defender of religious freedom throughout the world. Catholicism is under assault by the forces of jihadist Islam in a band of confrontation that runs across the globe from the west coast of Senegal to the eastern islands of Indonesia.

Christian communities in the Holy Land are under constant, often violent, pressure. In the West, religious freedom is being reduced to a mere “freedom of worship,” with results like the ObamaCare Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.

Thus the new pope must be a champion of religious freedom for all, insisting with John Paul II and Benedict XVI that there can be neither true freedom nor true democracy without religious freedom in full. That means the right of both individuals of conscience and religious communities to live their lives according to their most deeply held convictions, and the right to bring those convictions into public life without civil penalty or cultural ostracism.

This defense of religious freedom will be one string in the bow of the new pope’s responsibility to nurture the rapidly growing Catholic communities in Africa, calling them to a new maturity of faith. It should also frame the new pope’s approach to the People’s Republic of China, where persecution of Christians is widespread. When China finally opens itself fully to the world, it will be the greatest field of Christian mission since the Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere.

Like his two immediate predecessors, the new pope should recognize that the church’s future mission in China will be imperiled by any premature deal-making with the Chinese Communist regime, which would also involve an evangelical betrayal of those Chinese Christians who are making daily sacrifices for fidelity to Jesus Christ.

The ambient public culture of the West will demand that the new pope embrace some form of Catholic Lite. But that counsel of cultural conformism will have to reckon with two hard facts: Wherever Catholic Lite has been embraced in the past 40 years, as in Western Europe, the church has withered and is now dying. The liveliest parts of the Catholic world, within the United States and elsewhere, are those that have embraced the Catholic symphony of truth in full. In responding to demands that he change the unchangeable, however, the new pope will have to demonstrate that every time the Catholic Church says “No” to something — such as abortion or same-sex marriage — that “No” is based on a prior “Yes” to the truths about human dignity the church learns from the Gospel and from reason.

And that suggests a final challenge for Gregory XVII, Leo XIV, John XXIV, Clement XV, or whoever the new pope turns out to be: He must help an increasingly deracinated world — in which there may be your truth and my truth, but nothing recognizable as the truth — rediscover the linkage between faith and reason, between Jerusalem and Athens, two of the pillars of Western civilization. When those two pillars crumble, the third pillar — Rome, the Western commitment to the rule of law — crumbles as well. And the result is what Benedict XVI aptly styled the dictatorship of relativism.

What kind of man can meet these challenges? A radically converted Christian disciple who believes that Jesus Christ really is the answer to the question that is every human life. An experienced pastor with the courage to be Catholic and the winsomeness to make robust orthodoxy exciting. A leader who is not afraid to straighten out the disastrous condition of the Roman Curia, so that the Vatican bureaucracy becomes an instrument of the New Evangelization, not an impediment to it.

The shoes of the fisherman are large shoes to fill.


The Dream Of Dante’s Late Teens: The False Distinctions Of Sacred And Profane Love – A.N. Wilson

January 16, 2013
Victorian Art A.C. Lalli’s Dante’s Dream

Victorian Art A.C. Lalli’s Dante’s Dream

While I respect Mr. Wilson’s scholarship and his contributions to my understanding Dante and church history, his occasional forays into theology and current controversies are less than appreciated. Pardon my outbursts when coming across the latter in this essay.

There are many paradoxes, of course, about the fact that the Church which persecuted the Albigensians for their cult of personal virginity should themselves worship a Virgin, that a Church which resented the Manichaean fear of the flesh expressed by the Albigensians should itself celebrate those human beings who had forsworn sexual relations. But the `paradox’ is in this instance simply explained. The Church owed much to the `heretical’ Albigensians. Much of its own asceticism derived from theirs. In order to win converts from the Cathar ranks, it was necessary to borrow Cathar clothes.

It was no accident or paradox that in the years when the Cathar threat to Catholicism rose to its height, the Church should have seen a revival of ascetic monasticism and the growth of the two most eloquent itinerant religious orders, those of St Francis and St Dominic.

The love poets of the Languedoc region, the inventors of Courtly Love, were themselves deeply imbued with the Cathar contempt for the body. In Purgatory, Dante and Virgil enter the circle of the sodomites. There they are greeted by the poet Guido Guinizelli, who was praised by Dante in his prose writings. Dante acknowledged Guinizelli as his, literary father or forebear. When he has recognized his old hero as Guinizelli, he exclaims:

It is your sweet lines that, for
as long as modern usage lasts, will still make dear their very inks.
[Purgatorio XXVI.112-14, Mandelbaum]

But here is something strange. Just as his old friend Brunetto Latini is among the sodomites in Hell, so his two heroes among the poets, Guinizelli and Arnaut Daniel, are in Purgatory being purified of their of… once again, sodomy. Why they are in Purgatory when Brunetto is Hell, Dante does not tell us.

They confess: ‘Nostro peccato fu ermafrodito‘ [Purgatorio. XXVI.82) Mandelbaum translates `our sin was with the other sex, but Dante is surely subscribing to the view of gay sex which Proust adopted (much to Gide' rage) at the beginning of Sodome et Gomorrhe, namely that gay men ar somehow hermaphroditic, or that they are women struggling to get out of men's bodies.

St Augustine of Hippo recalled that, during the exodus from Egypt, the Hebrew women stole the jewellery of the Egyptians. When Christian; thinkers took from the wisdom of the pagans -- as in his own borrowings from Plato -- it was `plundering the Egyptians.

The Church has always borrowed most shamelessly from those whose viewpoints it claimed most articulately to deplore. From the Albigensians, it derived its high medieval asceticism, its belief in a celibate clergy and, in part, its exaggerated cult of the Virgin. Dante, likewise, is able to borrow and develop the quasi-idolatrous worship of Idealized Woman of the troubadours and of the Courtly Love convention.

But while doing so, he can dismiss Guido Guinizelli and Arnaut Daniel to the company of the sodomites. He is saying that this treatment of women as an idealized figure, unapproachable, is a bit gay. This, perhaps, is what Dante is partly saying about his great precursors as love poets. Yet it beggars belief that this is all he is saying. Arnaut Daniel and Guido Guinizelli could have been suffering in Purgatory for any of the sins. Dante chose to specify this one.

The figure of Arnaut is, Momigliano says in his commentary, among the most delicate and nuanced in the entire Purgatorio. He was one of the most famous of the great Provencal troubadours. Petrarch gives him the first place among non-Italian love poets -- he calls him the `gran maestro d’amor.’ He represents all that is best in the Courtly Love tradition.

We might suppose that as Dante became more `mature, he gave up believing in the courtly conventions of romantic love, that he in some way or another `saw through' it as a sham. It would seem, though, as if the opposite were the case. He began a cynic. Trained by sour, misogynistic Jean de Meun, he had written in Il Fiore that love was just another word for pain (see the sonnet called `Reason' [Casciani and Kleinhenz, p. 109]). `Separate yourself from him or you will die.’ Reason teaches us, in Jean de Meun, to shun love. The many cynical sonnets in the later part of the sequence entitled `The Old Woman’La Vecchia — could have been written by Becky Sharp in old age:

If I had been a true expert
In the game of love when I was young,
I would be richer than any young noble woman
Or lady, whom you can see today.
[Casciani and Kleinhenz, p. 327]


Many times my door was broken down
And battered, when I was sleeping:
But despite this I said nothing to them,
Since I had the company of another man;
I made him believe that his sexual pleasure
Pleased me more than any other thing in the world.
[Casciani and Kleinhenz, p. 329]

This breezy cynicism which so appealed to the very young Dante would give place, when he was broken and middle-aged, to a sense of the overwhelming power of romantic love. Arnaut Daniel had written of it in his now lost romance of Launcelot, the book which beguiled the lovers Paulo and Francesca.

This is the passage of the Inferno that even the most cursory readers of Dante remember. And again, as in the encounter with the totally charming Brunetto, suffering for the sin of sodomy, we are so made to sympathize with the adulterous lovers that we all but forget that what they have done is a sin. Thus, while being the most famous and most haunting passage in the Inferno, it is also the most subversive of the very doctrine of Hell, and of eternal punishment.

When I had listened to those injured souls
I bent my head and held it low until
the poet asked of me: `What are you thinking?’

When I replied, my words began, Alas,
how many gentle thoughts, how deep a longing,
had led them to the agonizing pass!’

Then I addressed my speech again to them,
and I began, `Francesca, your afflictions
move me to tears of sorrow and of pity.

But tell me, in the time of gentle sighs,
with what and in what way did Love allow you
to recognize your still uncertain longings?’

And she to me: `There is no greater sorrow
than thinking back upon a happy time
in misery — and this your teacher knows.

Yet if you long so much to understand
the first root of our love, then I shall tell
my tale to you as one who weeps and speaks.

One day, to pass the time away, we read
of Lancelot — how love had overcome him.
We were alone and we suspected nothing.

And time and time again that reading led
our eyes to meet, and made our faces pale,
and yet one point alone, defeated us.

When we had read how the desired smile
was kissed by one who was so true a lover,
this one, who never shall be parted from me,

while all his body trembled, kissed my mouth.
A Gallehault [Queen Guinevere's steward] indeed, that book and he
Who wrote it too; that day we read no more.’

And while one spirit said these words to me,
the other wept, so that — because of pity –
I fainted, as if I had met my death.
[Inferno V.109-41, Mandelbaum]

Arnaut speaks to Dante in his own language of Provençal. He says that he `plor e vau cantan, he weeps and sings at the same time. In thought he sees his past madness; with joy, he looks forward to the day of joy which awaits him [Puratorio XXVI.142-8]; but there is still some purging to be completed, so he retreats back into the refining fire.

In the dualistic mindset which possessed, and possesses, most Christian thinking, there would be no difficulty in seeing Arnaut Dani as a representative of false love; he laments his devotion to profane love, and rejoices because he is looking ahead to sacred love. It may even be the case that at certain points of Dante’s career, he too would have thought in this way.

But the reason that Charles Williams thought that the world was still not ready for Dante was that the Comedy is much bolder than this. In Dante’s finished and mature work, there is no such thing as profane love. Arnaut Daniel, and the Italian love poets who imitated him, and the traditions of Courtly Love poetry into which Dante, as a young man, were initiated were not idolaters — in the sense of focusing their love on false idols. What Dante was to venture was the possibility that in loving a woman, a man is not turning away from God but towards Him; that the meaning of Incarnation was that men and women, in the flesh as well as in the spirit, became like Christ. The Comedy is much too subtle a work to make its points loudly or by banging a drum. But the pity of the poet-traveler in Hell is more powerful, rhetorically, for the reader, than the supposed orthodoxy which condemns the lovers everlastingly.

The Cathars had believed that matter was evil, that the body was in itself impure, that the only good was spiritual good. The Church had rejected the heresy and persecuted it with the most terrible cruelty. But although the Church saw that the ideas of the Cathars were false, it was itself seduced by the very heresy which it purported to suppress. After the suppression of the Cathars, the Church laid more and more emphasis on the need for priestly celibacy. Sex itself was suspect. The body was suspect. Christianity lives, to this hour, with those old Cathar falsehoods — as is demonstrated from time to time when `orthodox’ Christians rise up to persecute, for example, gays in the twenty-first century. [Ugh. Such an ignorant observation. dj]

Even if you are not a Christian, common sense teaches us that the Cathar heresy is wrong. Of course, we are bodies not spirits! [Duh. How about embodied spirits? Wilson writes entertainingly and informingly of Dante but doesn’t know shit about Catholic theology. DJ ] Yet, from Plato to Mrs Baker Eddy and the Christian Scientists, from the Cathars to the Muslim men who swathe their women in burkhas, the human race has been attracted by the thrilling falsehood that their very bodily existence is sinful, that matter is illusory or evil. Common sense teaches us that physical existence — appetites of stomach or sexuality, the appearance of our bodies, the nerve endings in our brains — are what determine our existence. [So hard not to comment:This guy IS stupid! dj]

The mature Dante had put behind him the false distinctions of sacred and profane love. These he had learned, not from reading theology, but from reading the `heretical’ love-religion of Arnaut Daniel and the Provencal poets, and perhaps from dabbling with the heresy of the Cathars. The religion of Courtly Love had set the ideal Lady on a pedestal. The `tragedy’ of Paolo and Francesca was that in reading Arnaut Daniel’s romance of Launcelot, they had moved away from the fantasy of literature into an actual sexual encounter. `That day we read no more’ — ‘Quel giorno piix no vi leggemmo avante’ — a line of characteristic economy, irony, punch.

The confused erotic preoccupations of adolescence come to focus on an actual sexual object. The nine-year-old Beatrice, the little girl in a red frock, becomes an eighteen-year-old Beatrice, and Dante becomes aware of the body beneath the dress. Dante is walking along a street in Florence and sees her. We are not, surely, meant to suppose that Beatrice Portinari, who lived only yards from the Alighieri house, had really not been seen by a neighbor for nine years. There are seeings and there are `seeings.’ This is not a regular good-morning, it is an epiphany — and for the moment the girl next door is little lower than the angels. She is between two other women. `The miraculous lady appeared, dressed in purest white’ [VN III Musa]. She greets him, and he is overwhelmed. As he was to write of the incident after she had died, this was the first time that she had ever actually spoken to him.

If this account of his meeting the adult Beatrice is to be taken as literally true, it would suggest that Florentines kept their women in purdah until they were free to be handed over to their husbands, but I do not think you need to take it as the literal truth, even though the customs of the time and the doctrines of the Church both conspired to agree that women were inferior beings. `Whether of good or bad character, women needed to be kept down, if necessary violently. Buona femmina e mala femmina vuol baston. The common to a young bridegroom was to wish him, `Salute e figli maschi!’ and boy-children.

When, towards 1318-20, Francesco da Batberin his Reggimento e costume di donna he was not sure whether to recommend families of the middle class or the nobility to teach their children to read. As for the behavior of young girls and women, their great virtue is reserve, modesty and stillness. To agitate the limbs too much signifies in a female child, affectation, and in a young woman, an inconstant heart.

Beatrice, then, as she walked out with two female companions or chaperones, would have led an existence which was as restricted as that of the most strictly brought-up Muslim girl of today. Her daring to speak out of turn and to greet Dante, even if they had been neighbors for eighteen years, was a token of some boldness. Perhaps this was his reason — apart from the fact that she had for nine years become a goddess inside his head — for being so overwhelmed by the experience. He went home to his bedroom. We do not know where this bedroom was. Was it still with his half-brother and half-sister and stepmother? Or was it in the house of a guardian?

The vision of the child Beatrice had touched the most secret chamber of his heart. Here, once again, he goes to his secret chamber. His way of writing about these things, and his articulation of his feelings, signal a new development not only in literature, but in European consciousness. As the great Swiss cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt said, `The human spirit had taken a mighty step towards the consciousness of its own secret life.’

As he lay in his bedroom, Dante fell asleep. A fiery mist filled the room, and through its vapours he made out the fearsome Lord of Love, who declared that he was Dante’s Master. In the arms of the Lord of Love, a woman was asleep. She was naked, except for a blood-red cloth loosely wrapped around her body. Dante recognized the lady whom he had met in the street. In one of the Lord’s hands, Dante saw a flaming object. `Vide cor tuum’ — see your heart, says the Lord in Latin. (In the dream, which is related in Italian, the Lord of Love always speaks Latin, some of it unintelligible.) Then the Lord of Love woke up the young woman and forced her to eat the heart. The Lord, who had been joyful, started to weep, as he and Beatrice vanished, drifting upwards towards Heaven.


Considering Vatican II — William Doino Jr. & Fr. Robert Barron & Francis Cardinal George

September 4, 2012

Second Vatican Council by Lothar Wolleh

Three contributions here. The first is a wonderful little blog posting from William Doino Jr. that I found very comforting to read. I hate to see my Church squabbling and a lot of post Vatican II “dialogues” seem to have been just that. Next Fr. Barron offers some perspective in a YouTube video. Finally a reading selection from Francis Cardinal George’s keynote address at the conference, “Keeping the World Awake to God’: The Challenge of Vatican II,” at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., 12-14 January 2012. Taken all together, an excellent look back at Vatican II as it nears  its 50th anniversary.

And a special invitation to any reader of PayingAttentiontotheSky who lives in the Boston area. I belong to a Communio Reading Group that will be taking up Cardinal George’s keynote address. If you would like to read the piece, I would be happy to email it off to you along with directions to St. Clement’s Shrine where we meet on September 23rd.  Join us and share some Catholic Fellowship as we discuss.


It has now been almost fifty years since the Catholic Church created waves by opening the Second Vatican Council. And for many, the tumult continues. Vatican II has become nothing less than a battle over the mission of the contemporary Church.

The progressive left sees the Council as an open-ended innovation whose revolutionary promise has yet to be fulfilled. The traditionalist right views it with deep suspicion and is sometimes heard to say (if not openly, at least sotto voce) that the Church would have been better off had it never occurred. But the vital center of Catholicism — if it can be called that — has always defended the Council as a necessary and faithful extension of the Church’s evangelical mission to the modern world. The historian Edward Norman gave voice to this perspective when he wrote:

The remarkable thing about the Council was that it was able to produce more or less exactly what it set out to do: a statement of the Catholic faith in modules of understanding intelligible to modern culture yet completely conformable to past tradition — an achievement the more remarkable in view of the incoherence of western culture in the 1960s.

Norman’s perspective is better appreciated today. John Paul II’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985, and Benedict XVI’s insistence on a “hermeneutic of continuity” rather than rupture have both helped to recover a “deeper reception of the Council” as the Synod’s final report requested. The wonderfully clarifying universal Catechism was one of the Council’s greatest fruits. But even as Vatican II, properly understood, remains an achievement of the first order, its immediate consequences were anything but.

No sooner had the final session of the Council ended than dialogue gave way to worldly adaptation: Priests started abandoning their collars and nuns their habits, if not their orders. Large portions of the Catholic laity, flushed with a sense of unbounded freedom, stopped going to confession and Sunday Mass. Consciences once formed in the light of Catholic teaching began to morph into self-interest. The Church’s teaching against contraception, for example, was effectively thrown out the window by the laity. These events were not authorized by the Council, and somehow secularism and relativism had penetrated the Church.

Leading Catholics whose writings had done so much to influence the Council — men like Yves Congar and Henri de Lubac, Louis Bouyer and Hans Urs von Balthasar, Jacques Maritain and Dietrich von Hildebrand — sounded the alarm. By 1967, Congar was asking: “Where do we go from here? Where shall we be in twenty years? I, too, feel almost every day a temptation to anxiety in the face of all that has changed or is being called into question.”

But none of these men turned their back on the Council or the Holy See. As von Hildebrand stressed:

When one reads the luminous encyclical Ecclesiam Suam of Pope Paul VI or the magnificent ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ [Lumen Gentium] of the Fathers of the Council, one cannot but realize the greatness of the Second Vatican Council. But when one turns to so many contemporary writings…one can only be deeply saddened and even filled with grave apprehension. For it would be difficult to conceive a greater contrast than that between the official documents of Vatican II and the superficial, insipid pronouncements of various theologians and laymen that have broken out everywhere like an infectious disease.

Among those who share von Hildebrand’s concerns is Father Paulo Molinari, S.J., who was a contributor to Lumen Gentium. Several years ago, I had the privilege to speak to him in Rome. In our lively discussion, three things stood out.

First, Vatican II was not a bolt out of the blue from Pope John XXIII. It was preceded by twenty ecumenical Councils, and Congar writes that “the Church has always tried to reform itself.” Pius XI and Pius XII had seriously considered holding a new Council themselves. Next, John XXIII’s famously jovial personality has led many to believe he was an unabashed progressive, and this has colored many accounts of the Council. But Molinari, a close friend of the pope, told me that this popular image of “Good Pope John” as easygoing and tolerant of almost any proposal, is “absolute nonsense.” Finally, statistics about the Church in the pre-Conciliar years are misleading, because there were many trends afoot — in theology, morality, politics, science, and exegesis — that were already having an unsettling impact on the internal life of Catholics.

At the end of our discussion, I still had one question: “All that being said Father, and granting the necessity, beauty, and orthodoxy of the Council’s teachings — how did their implementation go so disastrously wrong in the immediate years that followed?”

“The Council called us to find fulfillment in Christ,” he said gently, “but many Catholics confused that with their own self-fulfillment.” Stunned, I finally murmured, “That’s a pretty big mistake.” “Yes,” he replied, with tremendous understatement.

The Second Vatican Council wasn’t about us, but about Christ’s call, lovingly offered, to fulfill our potential on his terms, in and through the moral and spiritual teaching of his Church. It is the transformation that awaits us all — if we are prepared to accept it — promised by Christ two thousands years ago: “He that finds his life shall lose it and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.”



 The Church In The World

The internal unity of the Church as communion should establish and model the external unity of the human race in solidarity, of nations and cultures and peoples living together in peace. The council therefore was an exercise in ecclesial self-consciousness, as Pope John Paul II explained this from the viewpoint of his own philosophical anthropology. How is the Church to change her self-consciousness in order to be God’s instrument for changing the world? How does the Church situate herself in the world so that she can be, as the first paragraph of Lumen gentium, the decree on the Church, says, “the sacrament or … sign of union with God and of the unity of all mankind.”

With that declared purpose in mind, a few points about the Church’s life demonstrate how there is continuity of principle but in always changing circumstances. In a changing world, principles themselves sometimes take on a different cast as well. Pope Benedict XVI has explained this as the hermeneutic of reform. There is development of doctrine in the Second Vatican Council because of a changed understanding of the Church’s pastoral life and mission. It was a reform council, which means some things changed. What changed was our sense of the Church and her mission today. Nothing was taught that contradicted what Christ had said and done in establishing the Church, but there were new interpretations of teaching in order to establish new efforts to perfect the Church’s mission.

The great ecclesiologist after the Council of Trent and in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation was St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). He was building on the work of the late medieval jurists who studied ecclesiastical structures of governance in relation to the various civil societies in which the Church lived. The earlier councils of the Church were concerned with responding to errors about the mystery of the Godhead in the Trinity, and in clarifying the person and natures of Christ. In the late middle ages, as the way of life of many Christians, including many in the papal court, was more and more separated from the way of life presented and modeled in the Gospel, the reform councils of the Lateran spoke about the Church in moral terms.

One could easily argue that the Reformation was rooted in the scandal of the Church’s pastors and faithful not living in conformity to what they were professing as they proclaimed the Gospel. But schism in the Church pre-dated the Reformation, and it was answered in juridical terms by the medieval jurists. James of Viterbo, in the early years of the fourteenth century, wrote the first canonical treatise in ecclesiology. St. Robert Bellarmine was working out of that received juridical framework for understanding the Church as a visible society, because the reformers were saying that the structures of the Church are adventitious: it does not matter really what form the governance of the Church takes because the Church is invisible, she is a work of grace.

It is true that invisible grace is the life of the Church, but because the reformers relativized and almost put aside or confided entirely to civil rulers the apostolic structures of the Church, Cardinal Bellarmine’s reaction was to define the Church as a perfect society, like the state. The Church’s members are not morally perfect any more than the state’s citizens are morally perfect; but both are perfect in the legal sense that both have everything needed to do their work to accomplish their mission. The Church has all the gifts necessary to fulfill her mission from Christ, just as the state has everything that it needs in order to fulfill its mission in this world.

St. Robert Bellarmine explained, in a more theological framework, how the Church possesses all that is necessary for her mission. He defined Church authority and its juridical limits and gave these a basis in Scripture and Tradition; he clarified the rights and duties of different classes of Church members. The Church was examined from outside, as if by an observer. The analogy for the Church’s self-understanding was the kingdom of France or the republic of Venice. That controlling metaphor meant that Church governance was still legitimated by jurisdiction, by the legal power to act.

This left the Church in the modern age with the dilemma of competing jurisdictions: how does one separate the domain of the Church and the claims of the new nation-states created by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648? Both Church and state are perfect societies; both are complete; both have their rights. Yet each makes both religious and secular claims. How does one separate the domains of competence and, more than that, how can Church and state peacefully and respectfully cooperate?

Various theories of the proper subordination of state to Church and of the Church’s liberty of action in the secular sphere have been elaborated. The Church needed an ecclesiology that established her freedom in the world for the sake of her mission that transcends the world. She also needed to explain how civil society is properly autonomous but not totalitarian. Before the Second Vatican Council, Pope Pius XII had already begun to draw on the thought of German theologians who, in the nineteenth century, moved beyond the juridical framework of the perfect society based upon jurisdiction toward a theology based upon the biblical metaphors that describe the Church in the New Testament.

The Church is related to Christ and the Holy Spirit as a mystery of faith and, in 1943, Pope Pius XII wrote on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ in order to define the Church’s nature from the sources of her life from within rather than from her juridical organization. Pius XII wrote to combat the false notion that there are two different churches, an interior or spiritual church of all who believe in Christ and an external, visibly structured Church which can be analyzed without reference to her nature as a mystery of faith. He overcame ecclesial dualism by identifying the Mystical Body of Christ with the society and structures of the Roman Catholic Church, with no overlap.

The famous existet in of Lumen gentium says exactly that, but the council recognized the existence of gifts from Christ outside of visible Catholic communion. There are visible elements of ecclesial reality outside of the visible structure of the Catholic Church, and these relate people to the Church in ways that make salvation available. They are called vestigiae ecclesiae (vestiges of the Church). These elements of the Church outside of her pastoral and visible unity serve to include all Christians, in a certain limited sense, in her membership in such a way that it is possible to dialogue with them as brothers and sisters, to see something in them that is also in us, to see them as friends and as fellow believers, through a common baptism.

This is the conviction found also in the mission document of the council, Adgentes. Semina verbi, the seeds of the Word, are to be discovered in natural religions and in non-Christian religions so that, again, missionaries can dialogue with people of other faiths or of no faith at all, because seeds of the Word are present among them. God created the world, and the world therefore is good even in its own now fallen and wounded nature, the cosmos speaks of God to those who are listening. Our discerning everywhere vestiges of the Church and seeds of the Word enables the Second Vatican Council to say that all are already part of God’s family, even if not everybody realizes it. Catholics should therefore be the ones to initiate dialogue, and this ability presupposes that the Church is free to do so everywhere in the world.

Vatican II finessed the political dimensions of how the Church should be in the world by sidestepping the relationship between Church and state (which is still the unreconstructed way we speak of it in this country) and emphasizing instead the relationship between faith and culture. The most provocative and original section of the constitution on the Church in the world, Gaudium et spes, is the second chapter, on culture. The concept of culture is not too explicitly defined but nonetheless the Church’s parameters shifted from living the tension between two perfect societies to explaining the relationships between two normative systems — faith and culture.

We are who we are because of our culture, far more profoundly than because we are citizens of a particular nation state. Both faith and culture are normative for those who are believers; both are complete in themselves and both tell us what is important, what to think and how to act. If the Church is to be in the world as a leaven, then she must engage cultures. Just as the legalist approach to understanding the Church is inadequate to her full internal reality, so also her external relationship to the world through the institution of the state, while obviously still of great importance, becomes secondary.

The relationship between the Church and the world is defined by dialogue between faith and culture. The council fathers were therefore concerned about the conditions for authentic dialogue. To have an authentic dialogue between the universal faith and a particular culture, in order properly to situate the Church in the world in a new age, the council spoke to the freedom of the Church to fulfill her mission publicly and the personal freedom of conscience that is a natural right.

The council’s document on religious liberty, Dignitatis humanae, depended partially on the prior work of John Courtney Murray, S. J. His groundbreaking articles in Theological Studies in the 1950s, remain, however, an institutional analysis. In countries where the state claims vast jurisdiction over its citizens’ lives, a legally defined relationship between the Church and the state is necessary because the Church could not otherwise be free. But in the case of a state with limited government, and the best example is the restriction placed on the state by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the state is contained within its own domain and therefore leaves free every other domain of human activity.

The United States does not have a government ministry of religion nor of culture, as European states often have. Our constitutional guarantees were thought to give the Church greater freedom of action. The document on religious freedom in the modern world, however, starts not from institutional considerations but from anthropology. It decides who we are as free people, men and women made in God’s image and likeness and therefore necessarily exercising our religious duties to God and expressing our religious beliefs publicly in society. The state must respect and permit that freedom. The dignity of the human person is therefore the foundation of Dignitatis humanae, and the document explains how that dignity is given to every human person because of his or her relation to God. Dignitatis humanae also speaks of freedom of conscience, but it talks about freedom of conscience vis-a-vis the state, not vis-a-vis the Church.

Freedom of conscience means a person has the right and obligation to act according to his or her conscience, but conscience is a practical principle in Catholic moral teaching. Freedom of conscience does not mean one has the right to interpret personally or to deny what God has revealed in Christ and still call oneself a Catholic believer. Freedom of conscience is often understood as a function of the sovereign self in an individualistic society. It means that individuals have a right, even by reason of the Church’s own teaching, to deny what is declared by the Church as authentically revealed. Every individual would then be a Church of one.

Rather, freedom of conscience is understood within the community of faith differently from the way that it is understood within the civil community. It must be, as a principle of both belief and action, respected totally in the civil community. Within the community of faith it must be respected as a principle of action but not as a principle of belief. Faith is a response to what has been revealed by God. Its contents are assented to as a whole, or else it is not faith in a God who reveals himself. Thomas Aquinas explained that, if one believes every article of the Creed but one, he or she doesn’t believe any of the articles, because “faith” would be reduced to an “assent” to an individual’s personal value system. In the realm of faith, an individual’s intelligence and will cannot be the criteria of what God has revealed, as if God’s word were not trustworthy without our verification.

The council’s teaching on the relationship between culture and world and on the freedom of religion and conscience builds on what was taught before, but the council shifts the tradition so there is a reinterpretation and a new emphasis rather than a simple reiteration of teaching. There is authentic development; there is reform. Reform means a principle remains but is now worked out in different ways because circumstances have changed and new insights have come to shape the Church’s living tradition.


Scholastic Thought – Professor William R. Cook

August 29, 2012

Giovanni Bellini’s Allegoria Sacra (Sacred Allegory) hangs in the Uffizi in Florence. The subject of this painting is a mystery to art historians. The earliest figures of Christian and ancient mythology are gathered together on a balustrade by a sea or a wide river, surrounded by hills on which can be seen, in the distance, village huts and a palazzo. St. Sebastian, the Madonna, a centaur, small children playing by a tree in the center, a Saracen-Muslim, a man somewhat like the Apostle Paul with a sword in his hand, in the background a peasant with a mule, two beautiful ladies one of whom is St. Catherine, a naked old man reminiscent of Job – this is a far from a complete list of the heroes who Bellini brought together in this picture. One interpretation of this painting is that it showed Purgatory, where the souls of the righteous, of virtuous pagans and of unchristened children await their fate – heaven or hell.

Some notes from Professor Cook’s great courses lecture on the history of the Catholic Church.


In a real sense, Christian learning is as old as Christianity itself; that is to say, if we take a look at the texts of the New Testament, they are written by not only intelligent people, not only people of faith, but people who have a great deal of learning. We know, of course, than the entire New Testament was written in Greek, and therefore any New Testament writer could have read, and in many cases we know did read, great Classical texts by authors such as Plato or Thucydides. I mentioned examples of that: The Letters to the Hebrews, for example, pretty clearly shows in one passage that the author has read Plato and uses Platonic language and Platonic ways of thinking in order to explain a part of the faith to the people who were the original audience for that letter.

We need to remember from the very beginning that the question really arises: In what ways can Christians use things outside the biblical tradition, outside the Hebrew predecessors, to interpret the meaning of Jesus, to explain it, and to persuade people who were, in fact, very often Greek-speaking gentiles to follow, to convert to Christianity.

We know that there was a debate in the early church over exactly what kind of learning was useful, or even acceptable, to Christians. On more than one occasion I’ve already mentioned the famous question of Tertullian, a third century theologian: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” What has that great pagan learning of the past to do with our faith and the way we teach and practice our faith? We saw that Tertullian’s answer was “It has nothing to do with it.”

It is important to say that Tertullian was not trying to dumb down Christianity; he wasn’t saying Christianity is for people who don’t think or don’t reason. In fact, Tertullian used a very sophisticated Latin vocabulary, even though he did not like the idea of using foreign — that is, non-Judeo-Christian — ideas as ways of understanding or explaining Christianity.

But we saw that Tertullian’s position really wasn’t the dominant position in the Latin-speaking West. For example, I’ve pointed out that both Augustine and Jerome in somewhat different ways both thought a great deal about the question of the relationship of pagan learning to Christianity to the revelation that’s contained in the Bible.

In both cases, we would say perhaps that Augustine and Jerome were sort of moderate on this issue; that is to say, clearly Classical knowledge doesn’t get you there. Classical knowledge, to use Augustine’s image, can sort of show  you where you want to go; but only faith in Jesus, only the knowledge of the Christian scriptures can show you how to get there. Nevertheless, Augustine and Jerome recognized value in their own lives personally of the classics, and also recognized their value in understanding, teaching, and explaining the Christian faith.

We saw that Jerome, in fact, was a great: scholar; he translated the Bible — that is to say, the Hebrew scripture and the Christian scripture, which of course was written in Greek — into Latin, ” and his translation became the standard translation used for 1,000 years of Catholicism. Clearly, it took a great scholar to be able to do that.

Let me also suggest that tone of the issues that the Latin-speaking West had to deal with was the fact — and again, I’ve mentioned this before — that all the councils, the four ecumenical councils, were held in the Greek-speaking word, had mostly Greek bishops, and issued all of their teachings and decrees in Greek; and there were some difficulties in translating some of that theology, some of those texts, into Latin because Greek was a more highly nuanced language with regard to having a sort of philosophical therefore borrowed theological vocabulary. It’s important to remember that Latin theology developed somewhat differently than the theology of what later on we’d call the Orthodox world at least in part simply because of the languages being so different.

When we talk about the development of Latin theology, as we saw in a previous lecture, the figure we turn the most to is Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine’s writings today — the ones that survived — are about 50 volumes worth of writing, and clearly he is the great Latin theologian of the West. However, remember that Augustine died in 430, and literally — the barbarians, in this case the Vandals, were at the gates of Hippo where Augustine was bishop and where Augustine died. Therefore, as we know, not long after Augustine died — less than a half century — Roman imperial authority in the West had essentially collapsed and for all practical purposes disappeared.

Therefore, what we tend to do, unfortunately, is sort of assume because here come the Germanic tribes of a, b, and c that somehow or other theology must have also sort of gone downhill if not almost disappeared; that’s sort of the mythology of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West.

Let me suggest there are very important Catholic writings that occurred, really, in every century; however, they aren’t necessarily often studied today. One reason is because these were works written by monks in monasteries to a great extent — although not entirely- and therefore those works seem to be about topics that are not of particular interest to, if you will, in the pew Catholics today.

Certainly people study them, but they don’t seem directly relevant to Christians — Catholics in particular — raise today. However, I want to suggest that there is some wonderful Christian history, history written from a Christian point of view; I mentioned, for example, Gregory of Tours and the Venerable Bede as examples.

I also want to point out that one of the most important Catholic genres of literature of the early Middle Ages were the saints’ lives; and today, again, to a great extent saints’ lives are out of vogue. They are out of vogue in part because they sort of sound like they’re history on the surface — they tell a story that starts at the beginning of a life and ends at the end of a life — but they contain a lot of things that seem to many people today to be believable; and therefore we tend to sort of be uncomfortable with them and maybe even push them aside and look for something more sophisticated, we might say.

I would argue that those works are very sophisticated whether it’s a life of Saint Patrick, for example, written in the seventh century, or other Saint’s lives. I would suggest that in some ways if more Catholics — and I mean the pew Catholics, not seminarians, monks, and whatever — got to know the literature. It’s around, it’s in existence, and a lot of it has been translated into English, but it’s still not very widely read or very well known.

I also want to suggest that during the period of Charlemagne — we call the period around the time of Charlemagne, because of some cultural developments that took place, the Carolingian Renaissance, although there are many who would not want to apply the term “renaissance” to anything that happened in the eighth and ninth centuries — there was a renewed interest in Classical literature, although very limited amounts of Classical literature and there was a good deal of theological discourse and indeed, theological dispute. Some of those issues that were disputed and debated again, tend not to have a lot of interest for people today; some of them seem very obscure to us, for example. But I simply want to remind you there is a continuous tradition of Catholic writing and Catholic learning that runs even through the darker periods of the Middle Ages and all of Christian

But about the year 1000, we began to get the development of new kinds of thought; it began slowly, and then we’ll see it developed in the 11th and 12th century and really flourishes in the 13th century. The place we usually start is with a man named Gerbert, who was ultimately elected Pope Sylvester, and he was, indeed, pope in the millennial year; he was pope in the year 1000.

In his life before he was elected pope, he was one of the men to say: We need to have better schools, we need greater learning we need to go back to a curriculum that had existed in antiquity, in late antiquity, called the Seven Liberal Arts. The Seven Liberal Arts, like a lot of things that have seven on them, are divided into a group of four and a group of three. The first three are called the trivium — it simply means “Three,” you can hear the “tri” in there — and they are grammar, rhetoric, and logic.

By the time that Gerbert’s around, around the year 1000, it seems that in the monastic schools — which are about the only schools in Europe — the only subject that’s really being studied is grammar.

“Grammar” means “learning how to read and write Latin properly”; grammar is broader than it might sound like to us, because grammar involves reading ancient models of Latin to learn what good Latin is like. That can be, for example, Cicero, or it can be Virgil for poetry, or whatever. Nevertheless, grammar, it seems, was largely what was taught in the monastic schools in the 10th century. Gerbert said we need to go beyond that and recapture the interest in and study of the other two parts of the trivium: rhetoric, which is in a sense learning to read, to write, and understand and speak Latin elegantly beyond just having proper qualities; and then there is logic, which is learning to speak, read, and write and make an argument in Latin. Gerbert is one of the first one to say to various monastic schools — and he himself came from a monastic tradition — we need to have this somewhat broader education. As I said, there are seven liberal arts, and the four others called the quadrivium are more close to what we would call science today.

They are: arithmetic; geometry; music, and music here don’t mean learning to play the fiddle, music means the study of harmonics and ratios, if you will; and the fourth one is astronomy. At least with Gerbert there was a little bit of interest even in the quadrivium; and as there as this renewed interest in the Seven Liberal Arts, or at least the first three of them, we began to get a little more interest in Classical texts. That’s Latin texts, which of course people could read because Latin was the language of the church, but also there had been some Greek texts that had been translated into Latin late in antiquity: some works of Greek philosophy, science, and whatever; they were quite limited.

For example, there was a little bit of Aristotle, a little bit of Plato, none of Thucydides, none of the great Greek tragedians we think of, none of Homer; so it was a very limited Greek list, but nevertheless, the interest in these subjects beyond grammar led to more interest in these Classical texts, because they would be of help in explaining, teaching, and persuading people about Christianity.

Around 1100, we had an Italian serving as the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, and his name was Anselm. Anselm used elements. of Greek Classical learning, in particular, formal logic — how to construct an argument — to write some very important books. He wrote a book called Why God Became Human (Cur Deus Homo, in Latin), and in it, he tried to explain using reason why, given the problem of sin and disobedience in the world; it was logical and necessary for God to send a son to take on our form, our life, and be crucified. It was trying to explain as much as possible the mysteries of the faith using reason, because, what Anselm believed was, if we can explain these things by reason or at least get closer to a full understanding by reason, that’s valuable in preaching, teaching, and evangelizing.

He wrote another book that is very interesting where he talked about the proof for the existence of God; how do you know God exists? Again, today, there are people who think his proof still makes some sense — we call it the ontological proof of the existence of God –  there are others who say, “Well, it doesn’t hold up today.”

Whichever one of those positions you take, what we need to recognize is Anselm believed it was important to try to explain as much as one can God’s existence by reason, because everybody can follow reason. Obviously you need faith, and, in fact, Anselm never lost sight of the primacy of faith; he even talked about the fact that what he’s trying to do was have his faith seeking understanding, or he said, “I believe in order that I may understand.” He did not deny the primacy of faith, but his faith could be reinforced and strengthened by reason, by being able to make arguments about the existence of God or why God became human — one of the unique claims, after all, of Christianity that would be a good thing. Anselm was an important churchman and a holy man; he is indeed Saint Anselm, there’s a college named for him in New England.

What I want to talk about now is to go another generation forward to a fellow named Peter Abelard. Peter Abelard was a Frenchman, kind of cocky as far as we can tell; he taught at what was called the Cathedral School in Paris. Ahelard sort of took some of what Anselm did and pushed the envelope further. Here’s the problem: We seek truth, but truth is very hard to find in the Christian tradition because, by this time, Christianity was more than 1,000 years old. You not only had the New Testament, but you had decrees of popes, decrees of councils, theological writings like those of Augustine — which again, run 50 volumes-and those of Jerome, Ambrose, Gregory, laid the other great writers of the church; and at least on the surface, they sometimes seemed to disagree with each other seriously. How do we deal with that? How do we understand what is true when our great authorities seemed to differ with one another?

Abelard had an answer. He wrote a book that has this wonderful title in Latin Sic et Non (it simply means Yes and No); and what Abelard says is, “What I want to do is construct wonderful questions, important questions, that we want an answer to. Then what I will do is the research to find what various authors have said about that topic”; some, no doubt, seeming to answer the question “yes” because he always sets the question up so it could be answered in theory “yes” or “no.” There are a number of “yes” answers, and very often a number of “no” answers. That’s as far as this book gets; that is to say, Abelard doesn’t draw the synthesis, doesn’t say, “the yeses are right,” or “the no’s are right,” or “both are sort of right,” he doesn’t do that; but what he suggests is this is the way we go about things: We ask the right questions, we do our research — we set these texts that seem to be in opposition to one another there — and then we use reason, we use our intellect to figure out what the truth is.

Peter Abelard really, in a sense, raised the bar for the importance of learning and reason, especially, again, that third part of the trivium, that is to say logic, in finding Christian truth. Some of you may know that Peter Abelard sort of got himself in trouble, not because of what he wrote so much — although there were opponents to what he wrote — over a, how do we say this politely, incident involving a student, a female student, he was tutoring is Paris named Eloise. The romantic story and the tragic aftermath is not relevant here, but if you don’t know that story, it’s the kind of thing of which operas are made; I’ll just leave it there and tell you that, by the way, their ashes are buried together — Eloise and Abelard — in a cemetery in Paris, and today, lovers and people about to get married go there and pay their homage to this tragic love affair of Eloise and Abelard.

As much as Abelard wanted to use reason, wanted to use logic, to figure out exactly what the truth of Christianity is through all the maze of a thousand years of tradition, he didn’t have very good tools to do it with it. The great writer about logic was Aristotle, and with very few exceptions Aristotle’s writings did not exist in Latin in Abelard’s time, so Abelard was using what we might say are snippets of Aristotle’s writing. But in the latter half of the 12th century, there was a movement to get Aristotle — all of Aristotle — into Latin so it could be used at the various schools and what would soon emerge as the universities of Europe.

Interestingly enough, the translation was not made from Greek into Latin, but rather from Arabic into Latin because Muslims had been using Aristotle for centuries; they had translated it from Greek into Arabic, they had commented on Aristotle – that is to say they’d written commentaries — and they were dealing largely with the same question that Christians were dealing with in making use of Aristotle: How can a Greek polytheist be of any use to a religion that is monotheistic, that is revealed, and that has a sacred text, because none of those things apply to any of the Greek forms of religion that Aristotle or others of his time would practice. The advantage of translating Aristotle from Arabic into Latin was that you had Arabic commentators, and they were used in the 13th century a great deal by the greatest theologians of that time as guides to how to use Aristotle for the kinds of things they were using Aristotle for.

Another thing that happened in the second part of the 12th century was the creation of what became the great authoritative textbook of theology called The Four Sentences of Peter Lombard.

Almost every student for the next several hundred years who did an advanced degree in theology wrote as what we might call a kind of doctrinal thesis, a commentary, on Peter Lombard’s Sentences. There were also new educational institutions developing, in particular the university. In Paris, Bologna and other cities, we had a new kind of institution because the monastic school; and the cathedral school really didn’t include the new kinds learning, the enthusiasm for Aristotle; and so the University of Paris evolved into the cathedral school that Peter Abelard taught in, it was not directly under the control of the bishop and the cathedral chapter as the school had been early on.

Another reason why we had a flourishing of theology and a concern for getting the details right in the 13th century was because of the rise of heresy; we talked about the Cathars and the Waldensians. When nobody challenges the basic truths of the faith, there isn’t any need to define it carefully; but when those are challenged, you need to get things in the right language. You need to say, “We believe this, we don’t believe that; this is correct, this is incorrect.” The very challenge of heresy led to the need for clarification and explanation in more detail than perhaps was necessary before.

What we talked about developing in the 13th century is a particular kind of theological discourse that we call scholastic theology. “Scholastic” doesn’t just mean here “academic”; scholastic theology refers to a kind of theology that was done at the universities — the most important one of which was Paris — in the 13th and following centuries.

Let me just simply try to say that although there is a method to scholastic theology very much based on what Abelard did; let’s make some questions — and by the way, it gets much more complicated: Is it the number of questions? How do you relate question one to question two? Then question three must follow question one and two; organization becomes important — but let’s ask questions, let’s get the various answers that exist in our tradition, and then let’s synthesize them. Maybe they really are ultimately not in disagreement at all; maybe one simply is right, one simply is wrong.

It isn’t always you get the same kind of answer; you don’t always get a synthesis. But very often what these theologians discovered was if you asked the right questions and read specific passages in context, understanding exactly what words meant in specific contexts, many of the apparent difficulties and contradictions disappeared or at least were minimized.

Let me suggest that not all scholastic theologians agreed on things; agreed on how you do things, nor did they get the same results. Let me try to suggest briefly three major schools within scholastic theology. The most conservative we can use as our representative here: Saint Bonaventure, the great Franciscan theologian who died in 1274. For Bonaventure, although the technique of Aristotelian argument was important to him, the substance of Aristotle’s thought — what he said about politics, literature, or ethics — was not particularly important to Bonaventure; so if you will, he borrowed more the technique than the content of Aristotle, and he was in that sense more conservative. I think it’s still fair to call Bonaventure an Augustinian; and his theology was perhaps as much mystical as it was academic.

The main school of scholastic theology, the one we know the best today, was represented by Thomas Aquinas who died the same year as Bonaventure, in 1274. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican; and it’s Thomas Aquinas and his fellow Dominicans that really were the major figures in what we call scholastic theology.

By and large, it’s fair to say, that Aquinas used both the techniques — the methods of arguing — of Aristotle; but also much of the substance of Aristotelian thought, whether it’s about politics, literature, ethics, or the many other issues that Aristotle talked about. Don’t get me wrong, Thomas of Aquinas was perfectly willing to disagree with Aristotle when Aristotle directly contradicted scripture. Aristotle believed in the eternity of matter; Thomas Aquinas said, “Aristotle’s wrong, because we. know from Genesis that matter is not eternal. God created matter at the beginning”; we learned that in Genesis 1, after all.

But I think it’s fair to say in general that Aquinas believed that there was compatibility between what we might call faith and reason; between the revelation contained in scripture and the reason as the best reasoners — that is to say, people like Aristotle — were able to do things. Thomas Aquinas  developed this idea that Abelard had a century earlier way beyond anything that we could’ve imagined, perhaps. The collection of questions all very carefully arranged so that one follows the previous one, today, even though that work was unfinished, it covers about 4,000 printed pages (by the way, he died at the age of 50, which makes you wonder what you have done with your life since he was able to crank out 4,000 pages and he wrote other things, too, in his 50 years of life).

But in addition simply to the quantity, he tried to include everything; he wrote about all human knowledge. Even though we would say he was bound to fail in this great work called the Summa Theologiae, it’s one heck of a try; it’s one of the great intellectual achievements — Christian or not, it seems to me — in the history of the West.

The third school of scholastic theology, which is the least important and I’m going to mention it very briefly, we call the Latin Averroists, named after an Arabic commentator on Aristotle called Averroes. The Latin Averroists basically used Aristotle uncritically; while Thomas Aquinas was willing to challenge Aristotle when necessary and Bonaventure was skeptical of a lot of Aristotle, it seems these Latin Averroists were not particularly discriminating when they used Aristotle, and therefore they came to something that we sometimes call — maybe this isn’t quite the right term — a double truth; something could be true in philosophy but false in theology, and vice versa. They were always on the edge of condemnation at the University of Paris.

These scholastic theologians — again, Bonaventure and Aquinas being the greatest examples, but there were many, many more in the 13th and following centuries — turned out an extraordinary amount of theology, carefully argued and thought theology; but also, it’s clear when we read, for example, Thomas Aquinas, maybe the great reasoner about Christianity of all time. He was also a man of very deep and profound faith; he’s not just a great Catholic scholar, I remind you, he’s also a Catholic saint, and his life — as well as his writings — is an important contribution to Catholicism.

Let me suggest that one of the popularizers of a great deal of scholastic theology in the vernacular — because all of the theology was written in Latin — was the great Italian poet Dante. Dante, in fact, meets both Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure in Heaven, and clearly his laying out of this great scheme of the afterlife and trying to include all Christian knowledge is simply not a theological treatise in verse, but certainly he borrows very deeply from both Dominican and Franciscan tradition because he was educated by both of them in Florence.

Let me suggest that by the 16th century, there were some real problems. People like Erasmus (great Catholic writer) and Martin Luther (the founder of Protestantism) mocked the scholastic method because, they said, first of all, too much of this Aristotle guy; but even more so, they sort of mocked it because it could very easily be turned into trivialization of Christianity, it could become a lot of academic debate rather than a real search for truth. On the other hand, in the 16th’ century during the Protestant Reformation, Catholics wanted clarity in their thought; they wanted to be able to respond precisely to the Protestants. Who’s the number one guy who could help them do that? Good old 13th century Thomas Aquinas; and so Aquinas gained a great deal more importance in the Catholic Church because he’s the most useful theologian to refute the Protestants.

Let me suggest, finally, that as we look at scholastic theology, we can praise its great achievements and its contributions to the church; but let me also suggest a couple problems with this kind of theology: First of all, it’s hard to go from some of these very technical debates and these sort of very scholarly works to how does this make a preacher better? How does this make an individual Catholic better out there on the farm, in the workshop, as a merchant? It didn’t easily and automatically translate into better pastoral care. Second of all, it subordinated everything to theology: Science was included in Thomas Aquinas’s Summa, and everything in the Summa wasaimed toward knowing about God. If science is a handmaid of theology – a 13th century term — that means then that science has to be guided by theologians rather than being guided by having its own way of finding truth its own experimental way. It’s only really in the 14th century that there is least a partial divorce between science and scholastic theology that allowed for a more independent development of science.

Finally, to go back to the criticism of people like Erasmus, it was very easy to go from this profound kind of exploration of Christian understanding say, “I want to win a debate with you. Let’s argue more about less and less.” Anybody who’s been to a university knows that’s a tendency that academics have. So one of the criticisms of scholastic theology is what we might sum up as people spend their time debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin rather than anything that really is relevant to the faith.

Scholastic theology is one of the most important kinds of theology church ever produced, and it flourished in the context of the other things we’ve talked about in the 13th century.


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