Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Catholic Sociobiology: Communio theology of Tracey Rowland, Popes John Paul and Benedict

[first published March 1, 2016]

by Dr. David Pence

Tracey Rowland, from Australia, is a favorite lady theologian. This hour-long talk is about culture in the thought of John Paul II and Pope Benedict.

An excerpt:
Most pop culture celebrities are not only post-Christian but their lives are often what philosophers call 'narrative wrecks.' The narrative or story of their life contains so many twists and contradictions that their personal integrity has been shattered. They often employ an entourage of minders, including life coaches, to advise them on how to conduct their professional and private affairs. Whereas the life of an ordinary Christian is described in the sociology journals as a life 'celebrated recurrence' where certain feast days and liturgies are celebrated the same way year after year, and where there is only one model of a perfected humanity, that of Jesus Christ; the lifestyle that was celebrated by the elite of the generation of 1968 was one which gave priority to originality and difference. The more original the lifestyle, the greater its difference from that of an ordinary person, the more likely a person was to qualify for celebrity status. 

This reminds us that  modern evolutionary culture favors progress toward some indeterminate future as the ideal. Christians seek fulfillment through conformity to an already incarnated Person. Surely such a fundamental difference will  be expressed in how we teach both history and the natural sciences.

Here is a short article on Dr Rowland and the theological basis of Catholic education.

Here is another lecture by Dr Rowland on Dostoyevsky and Beauty. She relates this to the Trinitarian Anthropology and emphasis on beauty in the works of Pope Benedict and Hans von Balthasar. She highlights the objection to the rationalism of the West by the great Russian novelist. She then posits that the theologian Joseph Ratzinger resonated with this critique, and began his 'Deus est caritas' encyclical as Pope Benedict with the very un-Kantian Christocentric proposition that "truth is a Person." Behind all the "value-free moralisms," says Benedict, there is a theology and anthropology. Particularly, there is strong predilection toward an "ontology of original violence" found in Hobbes, Freud, and almost all atheist accounts of mankind. This is very different than the Christian Trinitarian/Eden account of human origins.
These insights instruct our own project (see Thursday posts on Christian Realism) in countering the atheistic account of international relations based on Social Darwinism and perpetual conflict. Christian realism is based on a very different anthropology of accord. Pope Benedict called for a "daring new anthropology, Trinitarian and Christocentric." That was exactly the anthropological project of Christopher Dawson proposing a more Christic account of history and the lives of nations.

The Principal Arguments of AOA

The principal arguments of Anthropology of Accord are presented below. Follow the links to a table of contents page for each series:
1.  Catholic Sociobiology: A New Paradigm
2.  Christian Realism for American Foreign Policy
3.  Masculine Anthropology and the Reform of the Catholic Priesthood
4.  Profiles of the Nations (Maps on Monday)                                    
5.  One Hundred Book Reviews

Sunday, April 23, 2017

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY: “On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow"

[first published April 27, 2014]

Those are the words of Our Lord to Saint Faustina.

An entry from her Polish diary:
“Strangely, all things came about just as the Lord had requested. In fact, it was on the first Sunday after Easter [April 1935] that the image was publicly honored by crowds of people for the first time. For three days it was exposed and received public veneration.”   (#89)

Three years later she died in Krakow at the age of 33.


The image of Divine Mercy is the red and white lights of Mercy from our incarnate Lord. It is the blood and water that flowed from his side at Calvary, when like the first Adam he allowed the new Eve of the Church to come from his side. The water and blood are Baptism and the Eucharist, by which men are incorporated into the Body of Christ.

The Gospel on this day recounts the first act which Christ did on Easter evening. In a locked upper room the first Pentecost of mercy deliberately set aside the Apostles as He breathed the Spirit on them to empower them to forgive sins as He had done. He instituted the sacrament of mercy (reconciliation/confession) and just as the saving blood and water could only come from his side, forgiveness of sins is mediated only through His priesthood. This part of today's Gospel reading almost always gives way to the second story about Thomas and his reluctance to believe without seeing and touching. Because his experience is such a universal one, that episode is almost always the topic of Catholic and Protestant homilies on this day. But on Divine Mercy Sunday -- in this special papal year of Divine Mercy -- let us concentrate on the first episode of today's Gospel. The Holy Spirit and the mercy of Christ work through a sacramental order. Man is rescued from Satan in Baptism, confirmed in the Spirit by a bishop, forgiven of sins by a priest in confession, and  integrated into the salvific Body of Christ in the Mass. Mercy overflows but it comes from a narrow spigot, a very particular and well-formed font: the side of Christ, the Apostolic Church.

UPDATE: It's remarkable, but both Faustina and Hans Urs von Balthasar were born in the month of August 1905.  They certainly came to different views of Hell's existence!  Another excerpt from Faustina's diary:
“Today, I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is …  I, sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.” 
Good Pope John, son of the soil of northern Italy, was canonized today (along with the Polish man in full, John Paul). Angelo Roncalli's sharecropper parents had 13 children. An army chaplain in the First World War, Angelo later served in Bulgaria, Turkey, and France as a Vatican diplomat.

Here is Faustina (the first saint of the 'Great Jubilee' of 2000) on the power of the Eucharist:

"All the good that is in me is due to Holy Communion... Herein lies the whole secret of my sanctity... One thing alone sustains me, and that is Holy Communion. From it I draw all my strength; in it is all my comfort... Jesus concealed in the Host is everything to me... I would not know how to give glory to God if I did not have the Eucharist in my heart... O living Host, my one and only strength, fountain of love and mercy, embrace the whole world, and fortify faint souls. O blessed be the instant and the moment when Jesus left us His most merciful Heart!"

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 22

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


500 YEARS OF PROTESTANTS-MARTIN LUTHER PROCLAMATION WAS IN 1517: A good survey at Christianity Today.

FRANCE A CATHOLIC AWAKENING? Mass attendance is still very low but awakening. France - THE European nation? A captivating essay on her place in geopolitics.

NIGERIA'S CHRISTIANS: When will an African Strategy Emerge - until then a growing faith meets a growing danger.

PRESIDENT TRUMP MESSAGE FOR PASSOVER AND HOLY WEEK: Strong and faithful - this is who we are - Trump is an American Protestant. He understands who we are as a people.

FROM ANTHONY ESOLEN: "...A mob is to a congregation as a 'demonstration' is to a religious procession, as lust is to love, as shouting is to conversation, as wrath is to the hunger for righteousness, as the habituating force of vice is to the liberating habit of virtue. The mob chants a slogan; the people in a procession pray as their fathers did. The mob is sub-rational, and can turn a Socrates into a beast. The procession is supra-rational, and can make the most ordinary of mortals glow like an angel. The procession attracts, the mob appalls - and sometimes attracts precisely because it is appalling..."


FOUR SCHOOLS OF ISLAMIC LAW - WHY SHOULD AN OFFSHOOT OF THE HANBALI SCHOOL DOMINATE THE HOLY CITIES? Wahhabism is a further purification of the most literalist school of law in Islam. The Hanbali school (Ahmad ibn Handball 780-855) is the last of the four main branches of Law. It is centered in Saudi Arabia after its revival by Muhammed ibn Wahhabi (1707-1792). Their alliance with the Saudi clan and their takeover of the Holy Cities from the Hashemites in the 1920's was cemented with the discovery of oil and a new alliance with American oil companies in the 1930's and 40's. That fateful trinity off Wahhabi extremism, Saudi royal rule, and American oil interests now presents the religion of Islam and the nation of America with a culminating crisis. But first it is good to see this is not all Islam, but a faction of a faction.

YEMEN: FIGHTING HOUTHIS HELPS AQAP - OUR REAL ENEMYAn analysis of one of our more dangerous fronts. Saudis. UAE and US: Differences to be exploited in deciding which war to fight in Yemen.

ATTACKING EGYPT'S CHRISTIANS - ISIS STRATEGY IN IRAQ AND YEMEN WAS TO TARGET SHIA. IN EGYPT - TARGET CHRISTIANSUnderstanding the Salafist Sunni strategy and tactics - clarity at Atlantic.


CHRISTIAN EXODUS IRAQ AND SYRIAA living presence diminished - will it be destroyed? Robin Wright on the Mideast Christian exodus.

OLIVER ROY ON WHO BECOMES A JIHADIST: Always he has insights, always he over concludes.




PALM SUNDAY IN EGYPTThe attack. How many Egyptians will favor a policy aggressively protecting Christians? Pope Francis will visit soon.

JERUSALEM - IN THE END WILL IT BE ABOUT THE TEMPLE MOUNT: A good summary of the great dispute between those who would rebuild the Jewish Temple for sacrifice, the Muslims who now abide on the Dome of the Rock, and those awaiting the Messiah.

THE ISRAEL LOBBY - MORE THAN A LOBBY: Phillip Giraldi calmly tells a disturbing tale.

THE UNTOUCHABLE JOHN BRENNAN: By Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen.

ERDOGAN WINS REFERENDUM TO CENTRALIZE RULE IN TURKEYA close vote but a real sentiment that the purpose of government is to govern.

ENTANGLING ALLIANCES: Why is North Korea our problem? Pat Buchanan asks the right questions.


AT THE UN PRO-FAMILY FORCES WIN: The Trump USA, Russia, Africans, and Muslims vs the sexual left.

THE JESUIT, THE CHURCH AND THE MEN WHO KISS: In Jesuit James Martin's speech and now new book he says first the Church should give respect. "First, respect means, at the very least, recognizing that the L.G.B.T. community exists, as any community would want its existence recognized. It also means acknowledging that the L.G.B.T. community brings unique gifts to the church, as every community does." We couldn't agree more. We must start by admitting the huge homosexual subculture among our priests and bishops. That is how we "by recognizing the LGBT community exists." Finally some common ground with James Martin.

James Martin and New Ways Ministry. This Crisis piece is informative about Martin's treachery but seriously deficient in naming the problem. What if Crisis and The Catholic Thing and other American Catholic internet spent half the time on the homosexualization of the priesthood that they do on the their anti-Pope Francis screeds?

The duplicity of the Judas priests associated with homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy is the primary reason a brotherhood of fathers has become a fractured body of effeminate cliques which allowed the widespread clerical sexual abuse of mostly teenage boys. James Martin is the soft face of Judas still pretending to be part of the apostolic band up to the last moments. The gay feminist cult of the media and urban Democratic Party salutes him. Eventually Our Lord told Judas to leave and do what he must to do. Then he cleansed the apostles of the Judas priest with the sacred priestly foot washing. Then he ordered his apostles and all future bishops to do what he had done. We await for one to obey his command.

PIETY AND PATRIOTISMSome reflections on Anthony Esolen Out of the Ashes book. His emphasis is very different than Rod Dreher's Bendict Option. Dreher's book is about a man who formed the patriarchal fraternity (an abbott and his monks) that some say is the cultural basis of Europe and her Catholic nations. Though he is talking about monks and their lessons for a thick Catholic culture he never mentions Fatherhood, filiation and fraternity as the web of foundational relations of public Christianity. This reviewer understands that Esolen is unique in paying attention to some very old Christian rudiments of culture: piety, patriotism, patriarchy, and the need for male groups to socialize young males.

A HISTORY OF JUDGE WARS WITH NIXON AND LBJ: A great history lesson from Pat Buchanan.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday BookReview: "God or Nothing" by Cardinal Sarah

[first published January 8, 2016]

by Dr. David Pence


Robert Sarah was born in Guinea, West Africa (June 15, 1945). His homeland has 12 million people, 85 percent of whom are Muslim. After independence from the French in 1958, the country was ruled by a communist dictator, Sekou Toure, who nationalized all the schools including the seminary where Sarah was studying. He was ordained in 1969. Under Paul VI, he was selected in 1978 to be groomed as the next bishop of the country -- since Archbishop Tchidimbo was imprisoned, with no hope of release inside the country. Pope John Paul II consecrated Sarah as Archbishop of Conakry diocese in 1979, and Tchidimbo was released and exiled. Five years later Toure died suddenly. On his desk was a list of agitators to be eliminated, with Archbishop Sarah at the top of the list. Pope John Paul II called him to Rome to be Secretary of Evangelization of Peoples in 2001. Pope Benedict appointed him President of Cor Unum: the organizing council for the church’s international relief services. Pope Francis appointed him Prefect of Divine Worship and Sacraments in November 2014. He was asked to write an autobiography, but agreed instead to tell his story through this 300-page interview with French journalist Nicolas Diat. Sarah is fluent in his local mother tongue, as well as French -- the language of his education.

The interview is reminiscent of the 1985 book, The Ratzinger Report, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave his own less biographical, but equally penetrating, insights into the state of the Church. Ratzinger taught with measured eloquent responses about the meaning of liturgy, the loss of the sacred, the documents of Vatican II, and the continuity of the Council in Catholic history. The bestseller was an intellectual synthesis that turbo-charged a whole generation of literate Catholic thinkers reeling from the excesses of their clergy and bishops. He gave us a way to talk that was more than effective argumentation. He showed us the spiritual high ground. This interview with Cardinal Sarah provides a similar synthesis pointing to a higher path.  But this time it is not a German professor talking. And, frankly, to untie the peculiar knots that bind the Church today, we don’t need another professor. Particularly "conservative intellectuals," who seem so puzzled by the pope from Argentina, should walk for a mile with the cardinal from Guinea. The walk is a peaceful reorientation.                              
Guinea, Africa


"He was more of an innovator than his superficial critics would have you believe. His 1957 encyclical 'Fidei donumin' on the renewal of the missions, inspired in part by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (a missionary Holy Ghost Father), was… written especially with a view to Africa. He was the first to consecrate African bishops, in particular, Bernardin Gantin. His interest in a native African episcopacy was real.

"The Cathedral at Conarky was elegant… At the time of the first discussions about liturgical reform, Archbishop Tchidimbo returned to Conarky and ordered the destruction of the baldachin (a canopy) and the main altar. We were angry, incredulous at this hasty decision. I can attest that the botched preparation for liturgical reform had devastating effects on the Catholic population, particularly on the simpler people… The liturgy is not a political object that we can make more egalitarian according to social demands… How could such a strange movement produce in the life of the Church anything but great confusion among the people?

Nevertheless, the idea of John XXIII was extraordinary… At the seminary as we studied the various constitutions, we were awestruck by the work of the Fathers. I am convinced that Pope John wished that the faithful would experience great intimacy with God. He wanted believers to enter into deeper spirituality; indeed the spiritual vision of man is the source of his program of reform. His concern about adapting to modern times never caused him to forget the transcendental necessity of evangelization work. And so his denunciation of 'prophets of doom' is correct. The fight against Soviet Communism and its expansion around the world was so difficult that it gave rise to a form of defeatism. Some circles did not believe sufficiently in the power of Christ."

"He had to deal with extraordinarily difficult upheavals. Many priests left the priesthood. Convents emptied out and many nuns set aside their habits. Little by little the Spirit of the age caused the disappearance of the sign that God's hand had been placed on those who had devoted their lives to the Lord. There was a widespread impression that even among the consecrated persons the presence of God was forbidden! For the Pope this meant terrible suffering. His sorrow did not prevent him from standing firm... Paul VI was a prophet."

"God gave those few weeks in the summer of 1978 a marvelous brilliance because John Paul I had the smile, simplicity, and the radiance of children. His gentleness was so profound that it became a dazzling purity. Given the impurity of some, even in the Church, I think he did not die in vain."
John Paul I, son of a bricklayer in northern Italy

"All those very productive years can be traced back to the three pillars of his interior life, which were the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Blessed Virgin, Crux, Hostia, et Virgo. His extraordinary faith sought the foundations for its strength only in the most ordinary tools of the  Christian life."

"The cultures of the Polish philosopher and the German theologian, the athletic ascetic and the 'Benedictine' professor were different. Yet the popes met in the depths of their spiritualities. Maybe some people inside and outside the church never accepted the fundamental insights of Benedict XVI. As early as 2005, he was lucidly aware of the situation. During the Mass of his inauguration, did he not ask, 'Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.' In thinking about him I hear these words, "I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith." The pope had reached his decision on his knees before the Cross. Benedict XVI resigned from his office with the conviction that this was keeping with God’s will. All his life he had sought God; once again God showed him the way."

"In Deus caritas est, Benedict XVI writes that 'at the origin of being a Christian there is not an ethical decision, a philosophical or moral idea, but an encounter with an event, a Person.' Pope Francis rightly refuses to give a pervasive place to moral questions without minimizing them, however. He considers that the most important encounter is with Christ and his Gospel; the Holy Father acts like Benedict who tried to distinguish morality from the essence of Christianity... John Paul II himself explained that the path marked out by the Divine Law is not a moral police ordinance, but the mind of God. Pope Francis is not afraid to say that the greatest threat is 'the gray pragmatism of daily life of the Church in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness. A tomb psychology develops which turns Christians to mummies… Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they generate only darkness and inner weariness and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this I repeat, Let us not lose the joy of evangelization.' "


"A seminarian is first and foremost the work of the priests who have accompanied him… The priests who accompanied me insisted on the interior life. I understood that the greatest way to be with the Son of God made man was still the liturgy.

At the Mass, the priest is face to face with God. The Mass is the most important thing in our lives. And the Divine Office, the breviary, prepares us for it. I remember how enthralled I was when I saw the Holy Ghost fathers walking every afternoon reading their breviaries… I never tired of watching them with a sense of awe. Every day the Holy Ghost fathers lived by the rhythm of the Divine Office, Mass, work, and the rosary, and they never shirked from their duties as men of God. How many times I was gripped by the silence that reigned in the church during the fathers’ prayers... They seemed to be listening and conversing with someone in the semi-darkness of the church lit by candles… There is a true heroism, greatness, and nobility in this life of regular prayer. Man is great only when he is on his knees before God."

"Recall that, for a long time, the prophet Elijah [pictured] remained hidden in a cave before hearing the soft whisper of heaven. Yes, I will say it again, prayer consists in the first place of remaining silent for a long time. We must often nestle close to the Virgin of silence to ask her to obtain for us the grace of loving silence and interior virginity, in other words a purity of heart and a willingness to listen that banishes any presence except God’s. The Holy Spirit is in us but we are often filled with orchestras that drown out his voice. There is no spiritual fruitfulness except in a virginal silence… For a long time I have thought that prayer can take shape only in the night. In darkness we are illumined only by God. Like Jacob, and the monks, it is important to learn to pray in the middle of the night, while all creation is seeking sleep. Prayer at night plunges us back into the darkness of the death of Jesus…"

"We must be precise in our choice of words. The language of the UN and of its agencies who want to suppress poverty, which they confuse with destitution, is not the language of the Church of Christ. The Son of God did not come to speak to the poor in ideological slogans. In the fight against destitution there is one fundamental dimension which consists of restoring to man his vocation as a child of God and his joy in belonging to the family of God.  The Son of God loves the poor; others plan to eradicate them. What a lying, unrealistic, almost tyrannical utopia!"

"The God of my ancestors is the Creator of the universe and all that exists. He is the Supreme Being, ineffable, incomprehensible,invisible, and intangible. Yet, He is at the center of our lives and permeates our entire existence.

The Holy Cross missionaries were completely consumed by the fire of God’s love. They had exceptional human, intellectual, and spiritual qualities, but they all died very young.
The Church in Guinea experienced a terrible way of the Cross... Dictatorship drove the people to exhaustion, lies, brutality, mediocrity, and spiritual poverty. The entire young nation was transformed into a valley of tears. I thank the missionaries who made me understand that the Cross is the center of the world, the heart of mankind, and the place where our stability is anchored… Stat Crux, dum volvitur orbis ('Only the Cross stands, and the world revolves around it'). "

(on Pope Francis calling the liturgy of pedophile priests 'a black Mass')
"The Pope gave mature reflection to the full scope of such a comparison. How can a priest who has attacked an innocent child with such extraordinary violence then celebrate Holy Mass? After committing such a serious sexual crime, the priest can no longer carry the consecrated Host in his hands. If he continues to celebrate Mass, he has made a pact with the devil. A pedophile act ontologically affects the very being of the priest, consequently the priestly bond that attaches him to Christ is gone. The breach is so extreme that he can no longer enter into communion with Jesus. Francis decided to denounce black masses so as to flush out the devil and bring his misdeeds into the light of day.  Francis deserves our thanks and gratitude for his courage. The devil will seek his revenge."

At the Synod on the Family in October 2015, Cardinal Sarah made an intervention -- understanding he was addressing many European and American bishops who had made their own pact with the Evil One in condoning consenting homosexual acts.

"A theological discernment enables us to see in our time two unexpected threats (almost like two 'apocalyptic beasts') located on opposite poles: on the one hand, the idolatry of Western freedom; on the other, Islamic fundamentalism: atheistic secularism versus religious fanaticism. To use a slogan, we find ourselves between 'gender ideology and ISIS.'

Islamic massacres and libertarian demands regularly contend for the front page of the newspapers. (Let us remember what happened last June 26!) From these two radicalizations arise the two major threats to the family: its subjectivist disintegration in the secularized West through quick and easy divorce, abortion, homosexual unions, euthanasia etc. (cf. Gender theory, the ‘Femen’, the LGBT lobby, IPPF...) On the other hand, the pseudo-family of ideologized Islam which legitimizes polygamy, female subservience, sexual slavery, child marriage etc. (cf. Al Qaeda, Isis, Boko Haram...)

Several clues enable us to intuit the same demonic origin of these two movements. Unlike the Spirit of Truth that promotes communion in the distinction ('perichoresis'), these encourage confusion ('homo-gamy') or subordination ('poly-gamy'). Furthermore, they demand a universal and totalitarian rule, are violently intolerant, destroyers of families, society and the Church, and are openly Christianophobic.

"We are not contending against creatures of flesh and blood..." We need to be inclusive and welcoming to all that is human; but what comes from the Enemy cannot and must not be assimilated. You cannot join Christ and Belia. What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today."

"The best example of the disappearance of the head on battles of the past is still the Russian Orthodox Church.  After so much violence, so much destruction, it is now at the center of the debates, reversing the movement of insidious atheism that has carried off almost all of Western Europe. Orthodoxy has allowed the Russian nation to avoid the traps so that now it is a country that makes significant room for God and faith."

"Joseph Ratzinger understood quite accurately the fact that Pope John XXIII wanted first of all to respond to the challenge for the modern world: receiving God as He manifested Himself in Jesus Christ. Here are the words of Pope John at the opening of Vatican II: 'The serious problems confronting the world after almost two thousand years remain unchanged. Jesus Christ is ever resplendent as the center of history and of life. Men are either with Him and His Church… or else they are without Him, or against Him' …From the start of Vatican II, although concerned about aggiornamento, the renewal of the Church, and the reunion of Christians, the Pope strongly emphasized that the Council’s chief task was to reveal God to the world, to defend and promote doctrine. That is why the church, while rejoicing in the admirable inventions of human genius and in the progress of science and technology, had to remind mankind that beyond the visible aspect of things, the primordial duty remains to turn to God. For John XXIII, the Council was first of all an encounter with God in prayer, with Mary like the apostles in the upper room on the eve of Pentecost... In order to see that everything at the heart of the conciliar documents was centered on and oriented toward God, Benedict XVI invited us to reflect on how they are ordered. He says the architecture of the documents has an essentially theocentric orientation…beginning with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy… Before all else in the Church there is adoration and therefore God… Now if there is one reality too often left out of consideration, it is certainly the consubstantial relationship of the liturgy and God. The foundation of the liturgy must remain the search for God... The Council spoke to mankind about this God who is the God of all, who saves all and is accessible to all. Vatican II intended to subordinate its discourse about the Church to its discourse about God and to propose an ecclesiology along theological lines. The Council does not consider the Church a self-enclosed reality, but sees her in terms of Christ."

"The estrangement from God is not caused by reasoning but by a wish to be detached from him. The atheistic orientation of a life is almost always a decision by the will. Man does not want to reflect on his relationship with God because he intends himself to be God. His model is Prometheus, the mythological figure who stole the sacred fire so as to give it to men; the individual embarked on a mission to appropriate God instead of adore Him... This is so-called 'Enlightenment.' The individual-king who aspires more and more to independence and autonomy tends to forget God. Man must not be turned in on himself. Precisely the opposite orientation assures him of balance and life… If we are faithful, always directing our soul to the divine light, we will become luminous in turn, as the flowers take on a resemblance to the Sun. The normal orientation will produce order, balance, tranquility, and peace."

[I received this book in October 2015 from a seminarian in Washington DC. Copies were given by Apostolic Nuncio Viganò to seminarians and those training for religious life during the visit to America by Pope Francis. What a gift!]

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Christian Realism: Bonaventure and History by Pope Benedict

by David Pence

(From a papal audience given March 10, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI on how the Franciscan saint, Bonaventure (1221-1274), dealt with a movement that divided world history into ages -- leaving a last modern era in which spiritualists liberated from past Christian traditions would be truly free for a new age of innovations):

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last week I spoke of the life and personality of St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. This morning I would like to continue my presentation, reflecting on part of his literary opus and on his doctrine.
As I have already said, among St Bonaventure's various merits was the ability to interpret authentically and faithfully St Francis of Assisi, whom he venerated and studied with deep love.

In a special way, in St Bonaventure's day a trend among the Friars Minor known as the "Spirituals" held that St Francis had ushered in a totally new phase in history and that the "eternal Gospel", of which Revelation speaks, had come to replace the New Testament. This group declared that the Church had now fulfilled her role in history. They said that she had been replaced by a charismatic community of free men guided from within by the Spirit, namely the "Spiritual Franciscans." This group's ideas were based on the writings of a Cistercian Abbot, Joachim of Fiore, who died in 1202. In his works he affirmed a Trinitarian rhythm in history. He considered the Old Testament as the age of the Fathers, followed by the time of the Son, the time of the Church. The third age was to be awaited, that of the Holy Spirit. The whole of history was thus interpreted as a history of progress:  from the severity of the Old Testament to the relative freedom of the time of the Son, in the Church, to the full freedom of the Sons of God in the period of the Holy Spirit. This, finally, was also to be the period of peace among mankind, of the reconciliation of peoples and of religions. Joachim of Fiore had awakened the hope that the new age would stem from a new form of monasticism. Thus it is understandable that a group of Franciscans might have thought it recognized St Francis of Assisi as the initiator of the new epoch and his Order as the community of the new period the community of the Age of the Holy Spirit that left behind the hierarchical Church in order to begin the new Church of the Spirit, no longer linked to the old structures.

Hence they ran the risk of very seriously misunderstanding St Francis' message, of his humble fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. This error entailed an erroneous vision of Christianity as a whole.

St Bonaventure, who became Minister General of the Franciscan Order in 1257, had to confront grave tension in his Order precisely because of those who supported the above-mentioned trend of the "Franciscan Spirituals" who followed Joachim of Fiore. To respond to this group and to restore unity to the Order, St Bonaventure painstakingly studied the authentic writings of Joachim of Fiore, as well as those attributed to him and, bearing in mind the need to present the figure and message of his beloved St Francis correctly, he wanted to set down a correct view of the theology of history. St Bonaventure actually tackled the problem in his last work, a collection of conferences for the monks of the studium in Paris. He did not complete it and it has come down to us through the transcriptions of those who heard him. It is entitled Hexaëmeron, in other words an allegorical explanation of the six days of the Creation. The Fathers of the Church considered the six or seven days of the Creation narrative as a prophecy of the history of the world, of humanity. For them, the seven days represented seven periods of history, later also interpreted as seven millennia. With Christ we should have entered the last, that is, the sixth period of history that was to be followed by the great sabbath of God. St Bonaventure hypothesizes this historical interpretation of the account of the days of the Creation, but in a very free and innovative way. To his mind two phenomena of his time required a new interpretation of the course of history.

The first:  the figure of St Francis, the man totally united with Christ even to communion with the stigmata, almost an alter Christus, and, with St Francis, the new community he created, different from the monasticism known until then. This phenomenon called for a new interpretation, as an innovation of God whichappeared at that moment.

The second:  the position of Joachim of Fiore who announced a new monasticism and a totally new period of history, going beyond the revelation of the New Testament, demanded a response. As Minister General of the Franciscan Order, St Bonaventure had immediately realized that with the spiritualistic conception inspired by Joachim of Fiore, the Order would become ungovernable and logically move towards anarchy. In his opinion this had two consequences:
The first, the practical need for structures and for insertion into the reality of the hierarchical Church, of the real Church, required a theological foundation. This was partly because the others, those who followed the spiritualist concept, upheld what seemed to have a theological foundation.
The second, while taking into account the necessary realism, made it essential not to lose the newness of the figure of St Francis.

How did St Bonaventure respond to the practical and theoretical needs? Here I can only provide a very basic summary of his answer and it is in certain aspects incomplete:

1. St Bonaventure rejected the idea of the Trinitarian rhythm of history. God is one for all history and is not tri-theistic. Hence history is one, even if it is a journey and, according to St Bonaventure, a journey of progress.

2. Jesus Christ is God's last word in him God said all, giving and expressing himself. More than himself, God cannot express or give. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. Christ himself says of the Holy Spirit:  "He will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14: 26), and "he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16: 15). Thus there is no loftier Gospel,there is no other Church to await. Therefore the Order of St Francis too must fit into this Church, into her faith and into her hierarchical order.

3. This does not mean that the Church is stationary, fixed in the past, or that there can be no newness within her. "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt":  Christ's works do not go backwards, they do not fail but progress, the Saint said in his letter De Tribus Quaestionibus. Thus St Bonaventure explicitly formulates the idea of progress and this is an innovation in comparison with the Fathers of the Church and the majority of his contemporaries. For St Bonaventure Christ was no longer the end of history, as he was for the Fathers of the Church, but rather its center; history does not end with Christ but begins a new period. The following is another consequence:  until that moment the idea that the Fathers of the Church were the absolute summit of theology predominated, all successive generations could only be their disciples. St Bonaventure also recognized the Fathers as teachers for ever, but the phenomenon of St Francis assured him that the riches of Christ's word are inexhaustible and that new light could also appear to the new generations. The oneness of Christ also guarantees newness and renewal in all the periods of history.

The Franciscan Order of course as he emphasized belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the apostolic Church, and cannot be built on utopian spiritualism. Yet, at the same time, the newness of this Order in comparison with classical monasticism was valid and St Bonaventure as I said in my previous Catechesis defended this newness against the attacks of the secular clergy of Paris:  the Franciscans have no fixed monastery, they may go everywhere to proclaim the Gospel. It was precisely the break with stability, the characteristic of monasticism, for the sake of a new flexibility that restored to the Church her missionary dynamism.

At this point it might be useful to say that today too there are views that see the entire history of the Church in the second millennium as a gradual decline. Some see this decline as having already begun immediately after the New Testament. In fact, "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt":  Christ's works do not go backwards but forwards. What would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and so forth? This affirmation applies today too: "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt", they move forward. St Bonaventure teaches us the need for overall, even strict discernment, sober realism and openness to the newness, which Christ gives his Church through the Holy Spirit. And while this idea of decline is repeated, another idea, this "spiritualistic utopianism" is also reiterated. Indeed, we know that after the Second Vatican Council some were convinced that everything was new, that there was a different Church, that the pre-Conciliar Church was finished and that we had another, totally "other" Church an anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God the wise helmsmen of the Barque of St Peter, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on the one hand defended the newness of the Council, and on the other, defended the oneness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.

4. In this regard, St Bonaventure, as Minister General of the Franciscans, took a line of government which showed clearly that the new Order could not, as a community, live at the same "eschatological height" as St Francis, in whom he saw the future world anticipated, but guided at the same time by healthy realism and by spiritual courage he had to come as close as possible to the maximum realization of the Sermon on the Mount, which for St Francis was the rule, but nevertheless bearing in mind the limitations of the human being who is marked by original sin.

Thus we see that for St Bonaventure governing was not merely action but above all was thinking and praying. At the root of his government we always find prayer and thought; all his decisions are the result of reflection, of thought illumined by prayer. His intimate contact with Christ always accompanied his work as Minister General and therefore he composed a series of theological and mystical writings that express the soul of his government. They also manifest his intention of guiding the Order inwardly, that is, of governing not only by means of commands and structures, but by guiding and illuminating souls, orienting them to Christ.

I would like to mention only one of these writings, which are the soul of his government and point out the way to follow, both for the individual and for the community:  the Itinerarium mentis in Deum, [The Mind's Road to God], which is a "manual" for mystical contemplation. This book was conceived in a deeply spiritual place:  Mount La Verna, where St Francis had received the stigmata. In the introduction the author describes the circumstances that gave rise to this writing:  "While I meditated on the possible ascent of the mind to God, amongst other things there occurred that miracle which happened in the same place to the blessed Francis himself, namely the vision of the winged Seraph in the form of a Crucifix. While meditating upon this vision, I immediately saw that it offered me the ecstatic contemplation of Fr Francis himself as well as the way that leads to it" (cf. The Mind's Road to God, Prologue, 2, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici / 1, Rome 1993, p. 499).
The six wings of the Seraph thus became the symbol of the six stages that lead man progressively from the knowledge of God, through the observation of the world and creatures and through the exploration of the soul itself with its faculties, to the satisfying union with the Trinity through Christ, in imitation of St Francis of Assisi. The last words of St Bonaventure's Itinerarium, which respond to the question of how it is possible to reach this mystical communion with God, should be made to sink to the depths of the heart:  "If you should wish to know how these things come about, (the mystical communion with God) question grace, not instruction; desire, not intellect; the cry of prayer, not pursuit of study; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity; not light, but the fire that inflames all and transports to God with fullest unction and burning affection.... Let us then... pass over into darkness; let us impose silence on cares, concupiscence, and phantasms; let us pass over with the Crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that when the Father is shown to us we may say with Philip, "It is enough for me'" (cf. ibid., VII 6).

Dear friends, let us accept the invitation addressed to us by St Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, and learn at the school of the divine Teacher:  let us listen to his word of life and truth that resonates in the depths of our soul. Let us purify our thoughts and actions so that he may dwell within us and that we may understand his divine voice which draws us towards true happiness.

Church of St Bonaventure in Lyon, France

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

CATHOLIC SOCIOBIOLOGY: When God created matter

[first published March 29, 2016]

Materialists resisted the idea of a singular beginning for matter. The "big bang" was a pejorative term aimed at a Jesuit physicist who proposed just such a beginning. God created matter in a singular instance about 13.8 billion years ago.

In an article for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dr. Pence proposed "Reclaiming the Big Bang: When God Created Matter.”

An outline of our essays on Catholic Sociobiology