Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When God created matter: the Big Bang

As a science teacher, Dr. Pence has contended that the easiest way to teach the philosophical notion that REALITY is a bigger category than the material universe is by locating the Big Bang on the "Catholic timeline" as a real event; one that gave way to physical matter, but not as the first act of creation. The first creation, of course, was the making of the angels: spiritual and immaterial beings like God, but created beings like us.

Here is his argument published in the secular press.


Here are links to video talks, given at Pence's parish, relating the masculine priesthood and Marian femininity within the cast of characters enacting the Divine drama:

Dr. Pence's Marian Femininity Video Series

Dr. Pence's All-Male Priesthood Video Series

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jennifer Haselberger and Kevin McDonough: Whom shall we Curse and Whom shall we Bless?

[Editor's note:
The top leaders of the archdiocese in Saint Paul, Minnesota, have been under investigation ever since Miss Haselberger resigned her position as Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the spring of 2013. 
Archbishop Nienstedt and his two predecessors -- Flynn and Roach -- are under suspicion of having failed to protect young people from abusive priests.
Father McDonough has been the second-in-command, the "power behind the throne," for many years (he was Vicar General from 1991 until 2008, at which point he became "delegate for safe environment.")
Doc Pence has been arguing for a decade that officials of the archdiocese have been passive in the face of wide-spread corruption.] 

by David Pence

A brave woman has told the truth. The corrupting de-sacralization of the Catholic priesthood in the Saint Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese has been revealed. Too many "faithful Catholics" heap abuse upon this woman for playing exactly the role of Joan of Arc and Catherine of Siena centuries ago. Like those heroic female saints, she challenged men of high office to do their duties. She did not ask to be bishop or priest. She asked bishops and priests to be fathers. Read her deposition; and read the depositions of the clerics. Only she describes the central conflicts in the language of sacraments and theology.

The Minnesota Public Radio presentation, "Betrayed by Silence", is an exquisite unveiling of the deep evil behind the smiling face of Archbishop Harry Flynn, and the smooth blarney of Vicar General Kevin McDonough. A courtroom scene of diocesan priests weeping at the sentencing of serial predator Gil Gustafson, while the victim's family sat alone, is a soul-wrenching emblem of the wretched spiritual state of our priestly fraternity. The program's placement of our local clerics in their historical roles in the American bishops' bureaucracy is superb investigative journalism. The radio program is excellent on history, utterly misguided about celibacy, and conveniently silent about the homosexual subculture in the archdiocese. When the secular press gets one of three right, we should thank them.

Miss Haselberger has been criticised for speaking with MPR, Commonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter. They all have a deep animus toward Archbishop Nienstedt (for all the wrong reasons) and are lifting this drama to the national stage. The "orthodox" Catholic press, however, is too confused or frightened to face the facts of her story. What could she do? Who will explain this very explainable story with real names and real spiritual causes and remedies? Who will speak the mind of Christ when his shepherds are scattered?

It is time to rip up the separate concordat that our local priesthood has made with homosexuality. This subculture of deceit emerged from a sacral identity crisis. The priesthood as a collective culture was opened to perversions and horrors when they stopped believing in their acquired ontological character which allowed them to exorcise a real Satan at Baptism, forgive sins in Confession, and confect the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As floundering clerics questioned the sacral identity of Ordination that engaged them in the ultimate spiritual realities of the Sacraments, a thousand counterfeit flowers bloomed.

The spritual cleansing of the local presbytery will aim at Principalities and Powers. It will take more than a change in policies and procedures. Joan of Arc and Catherine of Siena urged the French soldiers and deposed pope of their different eras to do their duties. Jennifer Haselberger utters a similar cry today. Let Catholic men, priest and lay alike, heed these good women.

UPDATE: The reporters at MPR have now posted an expanded summary (in four chapters). More excellent work on their part!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Religious Sociobiology: Catholic Men, the Queen Bee, and the Democratic Party

[Editor's note:

We thought that today -- this day of fasting on the Seventeenth of Tammuz -- would be an appropriate time to offer this essay by Dr. Pence.
(It commences three weeks of mourning, leading up to the "saddest day in the Jewish calendar": Tisha B'Av.)

What does the Fast of the Tammuz commemorate? The breaching of the wall of Jerusalem which led to the destruction of the Temple and the dispersal of the Jews.

When the walls of the city crumble, the family is left unprotected and the Temple for worship is laid waste. Those sacred spaces (home and Church) need the masculine wall around them which is the city or nation. It is built on man's natural attraction to sociability with other men.]

"The splendor of Jerusalem is a thing of the past"

by David Pence

Our all-male Catholic high school in 1960 taught us to be Knights. That was our school name. There were posters in the hallways that upheld the categories of maturation: Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical, and Social. Catholic men in public life made the posters flesh and blood. Vince Lombardi, a daily communicant, was coaching the Green Bay Packers. Mayor Richard Daley, another daily communicant, was building Chicago. John Kennedy was the Catholic alpha male who wrested political leadership from the Brahmins of Massachusetts; and then broke open the Protestant lock on the American Presidency. There were Catholic Republicans in the countryside, but most Catholic political culture was urban, union, and ethnic. Police and fire departments were Democratic cauldrons that molded Catholic ethnics into local patriots. The Democratic Party was not just a civic platform for the individual Catholic; it was a confederation of tribes, and our tribe had its home there. We were a Catholic school, not a prep school, so at least half our students were not headed to college -- but they were being formed as men in full, as Catholics, as Americans, as literate workingmen and soldiers.

A Catholic man was trained to be a morally disciplined warrior, first on school playing fields and then on national battlegrounds. Notre Dame established the American Catholic synthesis on the gridiron before the classroom. A Catholic man respected the codes of combat, but was also taught a reverence in the sacred space of Church. He crossed himself with holy water on entry and went fully to his knee in acknowledgement of a Presence in the golden tabernacle on the high altar. No adult had to be in the church to silence a young male or force his genuflection. Someone Else was watching and the red light on the altar meant He was there. We understood what it meant to be knights. We were building a social order because we were part of a sacred order.


We were shaped to be intellectually alert, physically fit, spiritually disciplined, and ready to play a role in a group endeavor. A few men were natural leaders, most men played other roles; all men needed the group. There was a book called The Authoritarian Personality (which was all the rage among enlightened atheists after WWII) that basically blamed the pathology of Nazism on cultural formation that looked a lot like our Catholic high school. We, of course, thought this kind of manly corporate formation led to NFL championships after years in the desert; to cities with big shoulders; to a president who saved his men in the Pacific and led his nation in the Cold War. Maybe to the university crowd, cultures extolling authority and group identity led to fascism; we thought it was just such cultures that formed the men who beat the Nazis.

What does the JFK/Mayor Daley Catholic man see when he looks at today’s Democratic Party? Does any man who works with his hands think the great economic injustice of our time is that women are not being paid enough for indoor work? Does any young male who needs to learn a trade in high school believe that college prep schools and more subsidies for feminist-dominated universities are the agenda of the working man? Does any Catholic man not recognize the immigrant who harvests our food and roofs our houses as a working brother? And, yet, what Catholic man will not enforce the borders that define us as a territorial nation with armed force? And won’t a Catholic man who still opposes the burning of our flag view the coupling of Old Glory with the rainbow emblem at our embassies as a desecration of our nation’s most sacred symbol? Is this really the ordered American liberty of Catholic political theory and American military history, or its betrayal to license?

As religious men ourselves, Catholics understand that other men will fight for their religion. As Catholics we remember Oliver Cromwell who said he spoke for all of Christianity as he butchered the papists and “moderate” Christians who did not join him. We have seen purification movements try to assume the mantle of all Christianity. We have seen our altars, statues, convents, and Eucharist made physical targets for death and defilement. We have learned how to fight religious battles, and we know the importance of isolating the force you fight from the larger religious group the extremist is trying to lead. Extremist religious movements depend on the cultural ignorance, religious prejudice, and military clumsiness of their foes who strike members of the whole religion when aiming at the extremists. Blanket acts of violent overreaction link the extremist and his co-believer by an experience of common suffering. Religious men who fight religious terrorists must take seriously the religious differences -- not just between us and our foes -- but between the extremists and their coreligionists who are being dragged into a war against us that they do not desire. The strategic task is to define the enemy narrowly to isolate him while widening the circle of allies who oppose him. This demands religious, historical, and geographic literacy.    

President Obama, not out of religious acumen but a propensity for caution, has discouraged our entering the wrong side of conflicts with both Syria and Iran. In each case, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain would have enrolled us on the side of Sunni extremists against states who should be our most natural allies. Neither of his old election opponents understands the role of religion in the social organization of fighting men any better than he does. But the president's caution has spared our nation the disaster that their leadership would have imposed. The emotionally careening veteran and the emotionless female careerist carry no historical map in their heads nor religious compass in their hearts. Gender violence theory from State Department feminists is not clarifying our situation. Pique, bravado, and insults to the presidents of both the U.S. and Russia is not a thoughtful critique from a loyal opposition.
The absence of a post-Cold War strategic national consensus forged by a masculine synthesis of civil and military leaders is not the fault of President Obama. All of us -- from religious thinkers to military generals to journalists to academics and, especially, our national senators -- have failed in the strategic task of defining the role of America amidst the nations. We have been living in a fantasy world created by the sexually inverted baby-boom culture, and it is time to grow up and enter the real world of religion, nations, and armed men. Baseball got a lot better when black men, and then Latinos, were fully integrated into the game. Has the affirmative action plan to feminize our military and diplomatic corps yielded similar fruits? Does anyone think our State Department -- from Albright to Rice to Clinton -- has been elevated in our geo-strategic clarity by the plethora of female spokespersons trying to explain the world to the very good-looking but equally perplexed ladies of Fox News?

The fighting male Sunni purification movement is the enemy of our nation. The movement has been empowered by the passing or killing of secular leaders from Ataturk to Hussein to Khadafy. All in the path of the Wahabi Sunni movement are its natural enemies (and our potential allies). That includes Shiite Muslims, Sunni nation-states, Jews, Christians, Hindus, and the nations who represent them. Why hasn’t a Catholic warrior emerged to chart a proper definition of our foes and friends to lead his countrymen in clear speech and measured deed? This is no time for the Unitarians of the Adlai Stevenson mold. An Andrew Jackson Protestant, a Catholic Kennedy, a Deist Washington, or a scriptural Truman would all do fine. Where are such men in the Democratic Party of manual laborers, citizen soldiers, and religious patriots? Have the suburban committeewomen and gay blades really taken over?
Let us propose a biology thesis.  A nation is both a spiritual and biological organism. Among the social insects such as bees, the queen bee puts out a chemical message called a pheromone which signals to all the females in the hive: Do not ovulate!  This is not simply a restriction on pregnancy or rebellion -- it is a chemical command against ovulating. It isn’t an argument -- it is something in the air that never lets the hive even have an argument.


Sometime about a decade ago the cigars came out of the smoke-filled backrooms of the Democratic Party, and the feminist pheromones filled the air. Some call it the "feminist implant" that we are all carrying in our brains and speech patterns, implanted by English departments that quit teaching grammar to devote decades to eliminate the masculine representative personal pronoun in thought and speech. In a televised twisting of sexual reality as the first baby boomer took office, the national imagination was filled with a lying male performing counterfeit sex acts with a servant girl. The privately humiliated wife was transformed into a socially dominant figure of sympathy. The servant girl was abused by all and discarded. Feminism showed her true face not as the sweet sister of solidarity but as the craven crone of careerism.

When the aggrieved wife reappeared on the national stage, all the old rules of battle were declared invalid. Men, especially from Texas, would come on the new stage and appear as fools. Their language and thought patterns could not adjust to the new milieu. There was a message to the males -- you may file for office, but do not run as a man. You are not establishing yourself as the alpha male among the warrior males who must protect the nation. Now, it turns out, if a woman runs as a woman and a man runs as a gelding -- the woman will usually win.

In 2008 one man didn’t get the intra-party memo; a black man could still run as a man, and he did. He upset the Queen-designate. He was the black man who had the usual claims to be militant, but had enough Asian training in public manners to not threaten. He was embraced. Catholic men voted for the black man who said he was the new Joshua to Martin Luther King’s Moses. But he did not bind the men together, as Joshua had in fighting as one nation for the Promised Land. He inaugurated the confusion of the sexual revolution in a far more definitive way than a female ever could. For he had a secret bankroll: the large reservoir of social capital won by the Christian brotherhood movement of fifty years ago. He spent that social capital as we (myself included) proudly voted him our first black president. But he was not what he seemed. He didn’t come from the black churches, though he knew their language. He was not a child of the Third World national liberation. He is the softer child of black entitlement, the sexual Left, and the university faculty lounge. He didn’t support the African Christians beset by Muslims from the north. He didn’t defend Nigeria from the European atheists from even farther north. He has never defended the global South from the atheist North -- the Christians of color from the white bureaucrats. In every forum he was the son of his white anthropologist feminist mother, and no president has better waged the war against patriarchy than he. Still, in God’s Providence, it was he who protected us from the wrong wars of the queen bee and the intemperate veteran senator from Arizona.
But for the Catholic men who made the old Democratic Party, there was a deep problem. Catholic workingmen are not against patriarchy. We were taught to pray for the Father’s rule on earth as it is in heaven. And so we must look again for a more fitting leader. We do not apologize for seeking a leader. That is how nations act -- under good leaders. We will not hate President Obama, as we did not hate President Bush. We will scapegoat neither man. The Presidency is a tough job, and if our policies have been confused so has been our whole culture. In the next election we will look for a new national leader. Parties are meant to help us find and coalesce behind such a man. We look for a man to stick a world map on the wall, and explain how he will lead us in this new landscape suddenly war-strewn. No man will figure this out alone, but some man must be able to convoke a body of advisors to strategically assess our international situation. His best advisors may be one religious/political wise man, two military regional commanders, five top ambassadors, seven State Department officials, or ten good Senators. As Moses was told: no man can lead alone. But, as of now, no man is putting up a map and giving the history-geography-religion lesson necessary. We ask why are we not hearing such a lesson? Why is such a statesman not emerging to lead?

The pheromones fill the air. These are not the pheromones of the queen inside the hive against the estrogen of females who might be mothers, but an outside signal to block the testosterone of any male contesting to lead the group. There are many good, strategic, patriotic, and religious military men who could lead the Democrats -- but there is a paralysis.There is no staging ground where the bulls can fight hard, and then shake hands and accept the winner. The rules are different -- there are no rules -- just a chemical in the air, an implant in every head.  
Mayor Richard Daley in 1966

The Queen looks out and warns: "Do not run as a man. You are not going to lead your brother countrymen in a time for war. The patriarchy is dead, and so is the masculine fraternity that always supported it. We don't talk like that anymore. You are allowed to talk with each of your fellow country persons in the language of the drawing room. Do not speak in declarative sentences. That doesn’t mean you can’t shout against the rich or denigrate the servant girls or roll your eyes at the too pious. We prefer our older male veterans a bit impaired, and we paint the younger ones in need of counseling and benefits. As for us healthy leaders who have never been damaged by the battlefield, we will all run as feminists."

This is coming from a woman who in her time of crisis was “too exhausted” to speak clearly to her nation. A woman who several weeks later could not speak to the Senate because she had fainted and hurt her head. She described her State Department office in Washington D.C. as befuddled by the fog of war for weeks after the real fog of war had filled a room during a single night of smoke when our ambassador was slain.

For now, the Queen has paralyzed the religious men, as well as the fighting men, as well as the men of the cities, and the men of manual labor. If Democratic males file for office, will they look like the forlorn drones that filled the stage six years ago with their queen? This time, there will be no “first black President” to break the spell. No man will break the spell until he understands this is not about political fights for leadership among men; this is about pheromones and queen bees. The nation needs the men of both parties to put forth their best men. This is about mustering men for duty, not clustering around celebrities. Real arguments must be made about why we are seeking a godless, anti-nationalist, military alliance called “the West” against the Orthodox Christians of Russia. An open well-attended Senate floor session, and a full campaign evening debate, must address why we still ally with the Saudis -- who bankroll the deadly variant of global Sunni jihadism which has targeted our country. Before the maps will be displayed and arguments can be made, the chemical must find its antidote and an implant must be extracted.

    Our 7th president
Andrew Jackson and John Kennedy faced tougher foes than these. Hubert Humphrey, and the ADA Democrats in the post-war years, rescued the compromised Democratic party from the pacifists and Leftists who really did think that the Soviet Union was the inevitable face of the future. Old Hickory, HHH, and JFK were all told (as those of us who cannot drink the Kool-Aid of the sexual Left have been told) that their opposition to the spirit of the times would put them on "the wrong side of history." But there is a deeper sacral order which Christian men must always obey over the fads of any age. Let the fighting liberalism of those happy warriors rise again. May that true and beautiful rainbow of interracial colors which marks the Democratic Party form a national brotherhood again in service to God and country.


"In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
'We have a strong city;
 he sets up salvation
 as walls and bulwarks.
 Open the gates,
 that the righteous nation which keeps faith
 may enter in.' "    (Isaiah 26)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday BookReview -- Philip Rieff: "The fire of a new no"

[first published on October 20, 2012]

Philip Rieff’s book, Charisma, was published after his death in 2006:
"The therapeutic is that terrible beast who has been slouching toward Bethlehem… Therapeutic and charismatic are proposed in this book as ideal anti-types… There is no charisma without creed… I understand the charismatic as somehow in truth an innovative resolver of ambivalences by the introduction of new interdicts into our lives, the fire of a new no.  The therapeutic is a releaser from the interdicts… All holy terror is gone.  We live in terror but never in holy terror… Max Weber [d. 1920] is himself the culminating expression, I think, of the Protestant pathos, which turns into evolutionism and progressivism, with its mystique of breaks with the established order as the highest expression of the intellect and of soul."

A writer in the ‘Boston Review’ said that Rieff’s “exegeses are ingenious and original, and they all yield the same conclusion: religion is prohibition, culture is inhibition, authority is salvation, submission is wisdom, transgression is folly, and criticism of anything but the pretensions of critical reason is impiety.”

A couple questions to Pence regarding the work –

In what sense are the current lawn signs in Minnesota pushing the legalization of gay marriage [for November referendum on whether to change state constitution] an even more radical break with tradition than all the 1960s war protests with their sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll?

Rieff argues that religious man – a man whose interior character is shaped by allegiance to some sacred order – is protected by interdicts and taboos. The most effective assault on man’s relationship with God and the sacred is to eliminate prohibitions and taboos.

There it is, right out on your neighbor’s  lawn—right out in public—“end the taboo against homosexuality!”

If you can un-train the physiological revulsion men feel toward that, the buttresses protecting the interior life are fatally weakened.

What is his point about Catholics,  Grace, and the Protestantism of Weber (added 3/2018)?

Professor Rieff accuses the secular sociologist Weber of divorcing charisma from its supernatural origin. He attributes this to a Protestant mindset which tends toward progressivism and evolutionism.   He says the Protestant pathos presents Christianity in terms of good beginnings and bad institutional endings. They transgress against the priestly order which is tied to a Divine Authority.  Charisma is not a transgressive act. Just the opposite--it emits from radical obedience. Charisma is a grace, a gift, an imprint by God upon the soul that makes the soul.  Weber in the spirit of Protestantism divorces men from the grace giving acts of authoritative priests in the sacramental order. Charisma emerges outside the sacramental order and indeed often degenerates into  uninhibited acts of the autonomous self.  Charisma argues Rieff  is not an alternative to institutional order. An order built around obedience to the UNALTERABLE FORM provides a transmission belt of grace, of God's life, of the Spirit. Charisma is called all these in Scripture. Charisma comes from without to deepen the within. Most often, this communion with the Divine is not just an individual event. A large body of believers, an entire community or movement or even an era is actually more likely than a single individual to obey together and hence experience these Divine awakenings. From the communal acts of obedience to a unitary creed will come the reception of the particular gifts of charisma.  This interaction occurs in the  "vale of soul making" which is man between God and the world. The person in obedience to God and in conflict with the world is in holy terror of God. He fears transgressing God's commands. But only in this bounded place will a man prophesy and show forth the varied gifts of the Spirit. The state of grace, a Catholic formulation, is the Divine imprinting on a man's soul that deepens his inwardness and character. Such a man acts in holy terror of the divine which necessitates a repulsion and condemnation of the interdicted abominations. Such a religious character (as opposed to the therapeutic man) is willing to utter the "great no."  
Why are Mr. Rieff’s insights so important?

Because he was a true authority on Freud, he saw the connections between the sexual revolution, modern self-actualization psychology, and the therapeutic personality. And with the fall of Marxism, the locus of atheism as a worldview has moved to the arena of sexual identity.

To understand human psychology is to understand the spiritual soul which is meant to know and love its author and commander. Rieff exposes the “murder of God” by Freud, who with his modern descendants has tried to explain human psychology without its source and end: a personal God.

Before the Jews were killed in the gas chamber, he says, the Freudians killed God. Rieff saw several generations and whole academic disciplines running that fool’s errand. All of his work is tethered to this triple axis of the sacred, of character, and authority. In this last work, he locates the ultimate authority clearly in the Personal God who is contacted in prayer and is the ultimate "meaningful authority." We reviewed his discussion of this in his  Jew of Culture.  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday BookReview: rediscovering Aquinas on the emotions

[first published February 1, 2013]

“The nature of our passions is to buttress the soul in knowing and loving God.”

In the Logic of Desire: Aquinas on Emotion, a young Dominican priest, Fr. Nicholas Lombardo, O.P. turns his STL (licentiate of sacred theology.) into a book. This is usually a very bad idea--but not this time. He is an heir and contributor to a century of intellectual ferment in Catholic moral theology. "Virtue Ethics" is a tradition found in Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and revived in notable works by Joseph Pieper (1939), Servais Pinckaers (1964), Elizabeth Anscombe (1958) and Alistair Macintyre (1971).
"For Aquinas, ethics involves more than the analysis of discrete choices: it is concerned with persons more than their actions. The virtuous life is about the cultivation of a fully human personality...virtue is the expansion of the self to its fullest potential for greatness, happiness and creativity. The parameters of virtue are determined by the teleology of human nature not by rules or conventions." (p 242)
What Fr. Lombardo brings to this project of his elders is a sustained explication of Thomas Aquinas on emotions. He argues one cannot really understand an ethical system based on virtues unless he fully understands an anthropology based on natural appetites, passions, and affectivity. Those are the categories of Aquinas, which Lombardo fully draws out before he suggests how to apply the multivalent word of "emotion." It is a testament to his insight that Fr. Lombardo won the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise by suggesting that Aquinas is an indispensable teacher on the emotions-a category he never mentioned by name. Passions, natural, sensitive and intellectual appetites, inclinations, affectus, and habitus: ---so many terms--so much reality. They help scaffold the metaphysical "cathedral" of Aquinas's mature thought. It is the singular achievement of the author that he shows and reshows us how these different phenomena fit together in the emotional life of humans. And he is certainly right that an appreciation of passions, affections and appetites gives us a much sharper focus on the targets of different virtues and the integrative actions of grace.
The book begins, "Aquinas's account of the emotions centers on his account of desire". The account of man and his desires is set in a grand narrative of exitus-reditus--of God's desire to create and our desires to return to Him. Aquinas explained the perfection of different emotions with specific virtues inside the larger context of a "metaphysics of appetite". "Aquinas view of passion and telos does not derive from philosophical reflection alone. There is a massive theological premise that is never explicitly stated because it is so obvious: the passions carry us toward our telos because they were created by God and thus they are trustworthy. God is the guarantor of desire. In Him there is a metaphysical basis for welcoming and trusting the passions."(p43).
"The inner logic of Aquinas on emotions is difficult to penetrate." says the author for "Aquinas can be maddenly discreet about his theological agenda".
Aquinas is "discreet" about theology the way fish are discreet about water. The Angelic Doctor swam in a sea drenched in God's living presence. When he spoke of natural law he could not imagine such a notion divorced from Divine Law. He lived within a different set of unspoken givens. So for him, man is made for friendship with God and all his passions and appetites are ordered to that end. The unplugging of man from his constitutive relationship with God crisscrossed his circuits and thus the passions can often be chaotically arrayed against man's "telos." But it was not so in the beginning and it is not so in man's fundamental nature. Aquinas understands original sin and the consequent loss of sanctifying grace as a disruption of man's NATURAL STATE -- being in obedient love with God.
"One of the most crucial elements of Aquinas's account of the emotions is the premise that the passions naturally obey reason and naturally tend toward reason. Everything hangs on whether he is right on this premise. If he is not, the passions cannot be the seat of virtue... The natural obedience of passion to reason is the foundation of Aquinas's account of how virtue and grace perfect human affectivity."(p238-9) "The human appetite remains fundamentally oriented toward the authentic telos of the human person even after the fall. However the more fundamental challenge to his positive evaluation of human appetite remains: the fact that the experience of disordered desire is inextricably part of our fallen experience of desire." (p231) While Lombardo and Aquinas grant the reality of deeply disordered appetites (and they use just that language to describe certain proclivities) they insist that the nature of our passions is to buttress the soul in knowing and loving God. We often think of disordered passions in terms of too much intensity. Actually the source of disorder is more often either a deficit of intensity toward a proper object or an emotion falsely directed to an improper object.
There are many rewards in letting this scholar show us the picture that Thomas sketched of the desires and affections of man. Thomas drew a multi-dimensional man with a coherence of passions and soul because he drew him against the backdrop of the whole story of creation and Scripture. This is no journey into archaic language but a profound description of men who live today. The categories of this explanation provide a looking glass for self-reflection. Consider love and hate, desire and revulsion, joy and sorrow as fundamental emotions. Serving these basic desires and affections are hope and desire, daring and fear, and anger. These passions are not to be suppressed by a bludgeoning Will. They are here to help the Will to desire and love God more intensely. So let us add to the examination of conscience an examen of emotions. What are the proper objects for my emotions? How puny or robust is their expression?
I don't desire God enough. I don't hate the devil with near the emotion he deserves. I am angered by slights to myself but tepid in rousing ire at injustice to others. I have adjusted my emotions in synchrony with the worldly lesson not to feel revulsion at repulsive evil actions. I smirk when I should cringe. I tolerate what I should abhor. Somehow I consider fear of hell a relic of an earlier age or a deficit of less perfect contrition. Examining the emotions can redirect the examination of conscience. This practical fruit of virtue ethics, only partially realized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, comes to greater maturation as specific virtues are more explicitly evaluated in terms of corresponding emotions. The discussions of justice and charity were particularly profound and practical. (Readers will sense a special joy when Fr. Lombardo's footnotes credit not a book he has read but a spiritual conference he attended in the course of his everyday life as a Dominican. Alistair Mcintyre predicted the penetrative power of such words coming from a man being forged by communal life. It was a Dominic though, not a Benedict, responsible for the formative polis.)
This book (like Aquinas) treats Sanctifying Grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as fundamental to man's flourishing. There was no attempt here to squeeze man's soul into the narrow linguistic confines of an honors course at a secular University. Grace and the Holy Spirit were not considered embarrassing ancient relatives who the young intellectual must hide away while trying to win his place among modern scholars. How refreshing to see a scholar unafraid of the sacred. How right to see a priest propose the efficacy of sacraments.
The Dominican godfather of the revival of virtue ethics was Rev. Servais Pinckaers (1925-2008). In 1952 he wrote his STL thesis on Le "Surnaturel" by Henri de Lubac,S.J. The theological project of deLubac was to reunify the constitutive relationship of man's nature and God's grace. He thought this had been torn asunder not by atheists but Catholic "manual theology". Today we see a peculiar version of this same tendency in civic discourse among Catholic "public intellectuals." Armed with an inflated view of their impeccable reason, they leave Scripture and God at the city gate and think they will explain natural law, the rights of the unborn or the purpose of national life stripped of spiritual telos. Fr. Lombardo counters the practical atheism of our day and the still present stultifying naturalism of Catholic intellectual life. His book is a tribute to Fathers De Lubac and Pinckaers and should have many edifying ramifications in Catholic psychology, preaching and public rhetoric. He shows us in the most striking way that nature desires grace and grace fortifies nature. That desire is especially engraved in the emotions of man who can neither live nor flourish without the God who made him.

Check out this earlier post with its link to a videotaped talk by Father Lombardo.