Monday, June 11, 2018

If natural and human history is "historically contingent", then faith is "the behavior that is, in the last analysis, alone appropriate to reality."

     Wolfhart Pannenberg, "Contingency and natural law" (1970), trans. William C. Linss, in Toward a theology of nature:  essays on science and faith, ed. Ted Peters (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 76 and 116n11 (72-122).  An important additional "if" has been left out of this one sentence in particular:  and if there is this claim that the Judeo-Christian God is "the lord of the world" (112-113n5).

Sunday, June 10, 2018

He had the right perspective on everything else, just not MY cause du jour

"If [Simon] Leys [(Pierre Ryckmans)] had an Achilles heel, it was his deep-seated Catholicism which in 1995 led him to defend the traditional family, 'the most successful experiment in the entire cultural history of mankind', against the prospect of same-sex marriages."

     David Coward, "The man who did for Mao:  an academic polemicist who was 'a mixture of Don Quixote, George Orwell, Mother Teresa and Confucius'," the Times literary supplement no. 6003 (20 April 2018):  4 (3-4).  According to Coward, Leys was the bane of "people dazzled by propaganda, fake news, and their own agendas", just not (apparently) Coward's own.  As, indeed, two correspondents later pointed out on p. 6 of issue no. 6005, dated 4 May 2018.  Tom Dilworth:
it would have been fair if the reviewer had also credited Catholicism a little with abetting or at least enabling Leys's political criticism, if only because having a real religion, Christian (which Catholicism, beneath all its encrustations, contains), probably helped keep Leys from falling for the false religion of Maoism.
And Christopher Abbott:
this condescension towards Catholicism - not at all rare in print these days - echoes Coward's own observation of the liberal Left's long resistance to any voices that threatened their pro-Soviet or pro-Mao orthodoxies.
The rest of Coward's article is full of only praise for Ryckmans' clear-sightedness. 

"nothing ages a theological contribution so fast as fashionable 'relevance'."

University of Oxford
     James Orr, "Morality of love:  the common sense of Christian communication," a review of Oliver O'Donovan's Entering into rest, vol. 3 of Ethics as theology (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2018), in the Times literary supplement no. 6003 (20 April 2017):  26 (26-27).

Saturday, June 2, 2018

"a sort of fundamental implausibility"

Adrian Scarborough (The BBC)
     "It would be a travesty to say that Guy suspected Apthorpe of lying.  His claims to distinction—porpoise-skin boots, a High Church aunt in Tunbridge Wells, a friend who was on good terms with gorillas—were not what an imposter would invent in order to impress.  Yet there was about Apthorpe a sort of fundamental implausibility."
Adam Godley (The IMDB)

     Evelyn Waugh, Men at arms 1.8; The Sword of honour trilogy, Everyman's Library 173 (New York:  Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf, 1994 [1952]), 100.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

"Wherever you are on earth, however long you remain on earth, the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything."

"So, brethren, rejoice in the Lord, not in the world.  That is, rejoice in the truth, not in wickedness; rejoice in the hope of eternity, not in the fading flower of vanity.  That is the way to rejoice.  Wherever you are on earth, however long you remain on earth, the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything."

"Ita gaudete:  et ubicumque, et quamdiucumque hic fueritis, Dominus in proximo est, nihil solliciti fueritis."

     St. Augustine, Sermo 171.5 =PL 38, col. 935 (933-935), as translated in the Office of Readings for St. Philip Neri.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"if theology does lay special claim to gaps, i.e., to exceptions to an explanation in terms of law, then regulated events cannot be seen as direct and living acts of God in the way that miracles are."

     Wolfhart Pannenberg, paraphrasing Paul Althaus, Systematic theology, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994 [1991]), 71n174.  There are some very nice statements on this page in the body, too.  Pannenberg continues as follows:
     The only safeguard against the argument that theology is here again claiming a gap in what is normal as the basis of its description of God's action in natural occurrences is to show first that [1] contingency is constitutive for the very concept of laws in nature, and then to claim that [2] contingency thus applies not merely to events that are not regulated by law but to all events in general.  We can do this if we show that [3] the contingency of each event is the result of the irreversibility of time.  If this argument holds good, only a contesting of the irreversibility of time can weaken the thesis that all events are contingent [(italics mine)].

Deus et familia

"Only God and Guy knew the massive and singular quality of Mr Crouchback's family pride."  Yet "all his pride of family was a schoolboy hobby compared with his religious faith."

     Evelyn Waugh, Men at arms, Prologue ("Sword of honour"); The Sword of honour trilogy, Everyman's Library 173 (New York:  Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf, 1994 [1952]), 31, 32.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Blame Bernard, not Henry of Ghent, Peter John Olivi, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham

     "This investigation has shown that there was in the middle of the 12th century a tradition of thought with several representatives that, following Bernard of Clairvaux [(1090-1153)], both adopted a substantive distinction between will and reason and also granted to the will the possibility of itself deciding freely at any time against the judgments of reason.  Add to this the fact that these authors [(those of the Summa sententiarum and the Sententiae divinitatis, Robert of Melun (d. 1167), and Philipp the Chancellor (1160/85-1236))] in [their] different ways ascribed freedom primarily to the will, which was for Bernard already itself the defining characteristic of the human being, [and] it is in fact appropriate to call them voluntarists.  Their significance is underscored by the fact that in opposition to them other authors of the late 12th century [(Master Udo, Alexander Neck(h)am (1157-1215), and Praepositinus of Cremona)] proposed a [consciously] intellectualistic interpretation of human activity.  Thus, Praepositinus of Cremona [(c. 1140-c. 1210)] especially transmitted essential information about early voluntarism in the [early] 13th century.
     "Accordingly, the conflict between theories of human action of [1] a voluntaristic character [on the one hand and] [2] an intellectualistic [one on the other] had arisen by c. 1130 at the latest, and continued from that point on in varying degrees of intensity right on into the [supposedly foundational] 14th century."

     Matthias Perkams, "Bernhard von Clairvaux, Robert von Melun und die Anfänge des mittelalterlichen Voluntarismus," Vivarium 50 (2012):  20 (1-32).  According to Perkams, this indicates that medieval voluntarism wasn’t just rooted in a defensive reaction against an intellectualism inspired by the recovery of Aristotle, but in the peculiarities of the Christian doctrine of man, with its emphasis on the perversity of the will (20).  Perkams admits, though, that he finds in this period no evidence of a properly theological voluntarism (19), and suspects that the beginnings of this aren’t to be sought before the middle of the 13th century (20).

Monday, May 7, 2018

Let's not beat around the bush, but get straight to the point

O God, from whom all good things procede, bestow [them] bountifully upon [us], thy suppliants, in order that, at thy inspiration, we may think upon those things that are right, and, at thy direction, do them.  Through.

"Deus, a quo bona cuncta procedunt, largire supplicibus tuis:  ut cogitemus, te inspirante, quae recta sunt; et, te gubernante, eadem faciamus.  Per."

"O God from whom all good things come, we beseech thee grant that by thy inspiration we may thing right thoughts and under thy guidance put them into practice.  Through" (O'Connell & Finberg, The missal in Latin and English (1949)).

"O God, from Whom all good things do come, grant to us thy humble servants that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by the merciful guiding may perform the same.  Through" (

"O God, from whom all that is good proceeds, grant that thy people, by thy inspiration, may resolve on what is right, and by thy direction, put it in practice. Through."


     Oratio, Fifth Sunday after Easter and the Vigil of the Ascension in the old Mass, as well as Matins, Fifth Sunday after Easter in the Divine Office.  (It is also O981co in the 3rd edition of the new missal, though I haven't located it there yet.)  bona cuncta:  Eccl 3:11 (cuncta:  "all in a body/together," "the whole/entirety"), and, more remotely, Js 1:17.  cogitemus:  Phil 4:8.  According to Bruylants no. 199 (vol. 2, p. 62), at least, this goes back to the early 8th-century Gelasian sacramentary.  Cf.

"O God, from whom all good gifts do proceed, and by whom alone it is that we are able to will or to do aught that is well pleasing in Thy sight, grant, we do beseech Thee, that by the illumination of Thy Holy Spirit, we may both desire what is right, and by Thy strength working in us, be enabled to obtain the same, through" (Samuel Miles Hopkins).

Monday, April 30, 2018

"a sort of lawless law agreed upon by all"

". . . Christian culture has always been haunted by a certain, seemingly irresoluble dilemma:  the mystery of an impossible mediation between the kingdom's charitable lawlessness (which is a higher law) and the practical necessities of social life within fallen time.  Historically, the only communities that have attempted to form societies obedient to the apocalyptic consciousness of God's 'anarchic' love have been monastic.  Their ideal, at least, has always been to live not according to a lex, but according to a regula, a sort of lawless law agreed upon by all, enforced only by gestures of love, shared service, statutes of penance and reconciliation, and the absolute rule of forgiveness.  And only a precious few of these communities have succeeded to any appreciable degree, for any respectable length of time.  For those, moreover, who cannot and should not retreat from the world where positive law must operate—society, the family, all the commanding heights and sheltered valleys of culture—the mediation of the law is of its nature something always imperfectly defined, always something of a hermeneutical and creative struggle, and always somewhat alien.  That a truly Christian society can exist, guided by the law of love, is more or less an article of faith—otherwise the historical venture of the church would be pointless—but its political and legal configurations are anything but obvious, and are subject to constant revision, not only in response to extrinsic material developments, but also on account of a certain spiritual dynamism intrinsic [(i.e. unique)] to the gospel."

     David Bentley Hart, "Christianity, modernity, and freedom" (2013), as reprinted as chap. 17 in The hidden and the manifest:  essays in theology and metaphysics (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2017), 319-320 (312-323).
     I arrived at this passage having just been grappling with Emmanuel Faure, "La miséricorde selon Dorothée de Gaza," Nouvelle revue théologique 138 (2016):  241-246, and found it illuminating.  Though Dorotheos would undoubtedly have extended a more or less identical mercy to the lawless outside of (and even threatening) his community, there is a sense in which he was functioning under the aegis of "a sort of lawless law agreed upon by all".

Saturday, April 28, 2018

"the material nature of men having been . . . made an enemy of sin"

"His nature or essence is double, because as mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2.5), he must fittingly restore the natural relationship to the mediated parties by his existence as both, so that—in him and through him in very truth, having united the earthly realm with the heavenly (Eph 1.10)—he may through his holy flesh taken from us as a firstfruit perfectly make us sharers in the divine nature (2 Pet 1.4), the material nature of men having been deified and made an enemy of sin [(τὴν ὑλικὴν τῶν ἀνθρώπων φύσιν, τὴν ἐκ τῆς ἁμαρτίας πολεμωθεῖσαν, τῷ Θεῷ καὶ Πατρὶ προσαγαγὼν σωθεῖσαν, φιλωθεῖσάν τε καὶ θεωθεῖσαν, the material nature of menthe [nature] that had had war made upon it/been treated as an enemy on account of/been ravaged by sinhaving been ([he] presenting [it] to [his] God and Father) saved, befriended, and even deified)], not by an identity of essence, but by the ineffable power of his becoming human.  Hence he is known in fact and not in name alone to be at the same time both God and man."

     St. Maximus the Confessor, Ep. 12 =PG 91, col. 468CD, as translated by Adam G. Cooper, in "St. Maximus the Confessor on priesthood, hierarchy, and Rome," Pro ecclesia 10, no. 3 (Summer 2001):  349-350 (346-367).
     Well, I rather liked the idea of our "material nature . . . having been . . . made an enemy of sin," but am not at all sure that the Greek bears Cooper out.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The indefectibility of Rome as ensured by "the complex structure of the ecclesial constellation itself"

"As the guardians of orthodoxy, the best among [the popes] sometimes found themselves obliged to resist [heretical] emperors to their face.  It was often the great, solitary saints such as . . . Maximus the Confessor . . . who inspired them with the confidence they needed to do so. . . . This is a fact belonging to the complex structure of the ecclesial constellation itself."

     Hans Urs von Balthasar, The office of Peter and the structure of the Church, trans. Andrée Emery (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 1986), 209 (of the German original), as quoted by Adrian J. Walker, in "Conscience, the emperor, and the pope:  the witness of St. Maximus the Confessor," Communio:  international Catholic review 41, no. 4 (2014):  750 (740-750).  Thus, St. Maximus does not consider the indefectibility of the Pope a "done deal," but fortifies Pope Martin I for the martyrdom to which they will both be soon subjected.  Also:  "John remains steadfastly ‘other’ than Peter, but he does so precisely in order to give Peter (and his successors) his, John’s, own ‘greater love,’ which is the very gift the Prince of the Apostles will need to ‘confirm the brethren’ (Lk 22:32) in the unity of office and love willed by the Lord".

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Nature, invoked at the beginning against convention, has itself become a convention."

     "Rights are detatched from nature and thus without any anchor.  They multiply and proliferate in a chaotic profusion.  As originally understood, the rights of man were based on a distinction:  on the one hand, the realm of rights where humanity as such received its due, where no distinction between men applied; on the other, the rest of life, in which differences among men were played out.  But this distinction is effaced along with the idea of nature.  If rights are no longer based on nature, then there is no reason to limit them....
"...Nature, invoked at the beginning against convention, has itself become a convention."

     Philippe Bénéton, Equality by default:  an essay on modernity as confinement, trans. Ralph C.  Hancock (Wilmington, DE:  ISI Books, 2004), 12-13.