Saturday, June 30, 2018

"If favor is shown to the wicked. . . ."

"when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.  If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals perversely and does not see the majesty of the Lord."


כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר מִשְׁפָּטֶ֨יךָ֙ לָאָ֔רֶץ צֶ֥דֶק לָמְד֖וּיֹשְׁבֵ֥י תֵבֵֽל׃
יֻחַ֤ן רָשָׁע֙ בַּל־לָמַ֣ד צֶ֔דֶק בְּאֶ֥רֶץ נְכֹחֹ֖ות יְעַוֵּ֑ל וּבַל־יִרְאֶ֖ה גֵּא֥וּת יְהוָֽה׃


     Is 26:9b-10 RSV.  However this is to be fit into its context, and into biblical teaching as a whole, it makes a point not widely aired today.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A thoroughly admirable confession: Ian Bradley on some of the ways in which he misappropriated "Celtic Christianity"

". . . research by myself and others has made me realise that the original book was coloured too much by the naive zeal of the new convert and was overly romantic and simplistic in some of what it said both about particular themes and also about the uniqueness and particularity of Celtic Christianity.  I have also become more cautious about the use of this phrase and the concept that it denotes. . . .
". . . I am, for example, no longer inclined to view Celtic Christianity as either feminine—or eco-friendly, light on sin and judgement or particularly affirmative of the natural world and the intrinsic goodness of humanity.  I am much more conscious of the orthodoxy of the faith of the early Irish monks, their sense of human sinfulness and the importance of penitence and their belief in the awesome power as well as the presence of God.  I realize that, like others who wrote in those early heady days of the modern Celtic Christian revival, I was somewhat careless in conflating ancient and relatively modern sources and seeing them all as representing a single continuing entity.  I was also too ready to project my own dreams and prejudices into the mists of the far-distant past. . . .
". . . I have found my own very liberal Christian faith seriously challenged rather than reinforced and I have been made much more conscious of my own sin and frailty and of the themes of judgement and accountability.  This has been a much harder and more disturbing journey than the one which originally took me on to the Celtic way.  Maybe that is because I am older than when I first embarked on it but I think it is also because I have let the voices of the Celtic saints, their followers and chroniclers, speak to me more clearly and listened to them with less of a preconceived agenda about what I was hoping to hear from them.  If they have not quite turned this unrepentant old liberal into a conservative evangelical, they have certainly forced me [to] think much more seriously about subjects which are not naturally congenial to me. . . .
     "25 years on from The Celtic Way, this new book offers a more sober and measured appreciation of a significant tradition, perhaps one less exceptional and unique than I once thought, but nonetheless distinctive and important."

     Ian Bradley, Following the Celtic way:  a new assessment of Celtic Christianity (London:  Darton, Longman, & Todd, 2018), vii, ix-x, xi.  Cf. this.  Of the books he has published since The Celtic way first came out in 1993, Bradley cites especially Celtic Christianity:  making myths and dreaming dreams (1999) ("my most academic and deconstructionist work in this area") and Colonies of heaven =Celtic Christian communities:  live the tradition (2000).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Smith on an inescapable distinction

"American sociology's sacred project nonetheless insists on the 'moral' affirmation of everyone's choices and lifestyle by everyone else in his or her society, an insistence that is mindless and impossible.  Personalism distinguishes between those matters about which all humans must be affirmed—or, better, respected, loved, and treated with justice—and those that instead require their being challenged, debated, and sometimes even refused, precisely because they are loved."

     Christian Smith, "Appendix:  The alternative of critical realist personalism," in The sacred project of American sociology (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2014), 202 (199-204).  This amounts in the end, of course, to the ancient and unavoidable distinction between loving the sinner and hating his sin.

Smith on The sacred project of American sociology

"not many sociologists are as sociological about themselves as they are about the world around them.  They can carefully train their sociological scopes on everyone and everything beyond themselves, yet fail to see and name the basic true character of the [sacred] project that animates and directs their own professional endeavors. . . .  The only need . . . for any sociological analysis or debunking is to expose for transformation anything outside of sociology that gets in the way of realizing the sacred aspirations of that project.  That and only that is what the critical sociological eye is meant for."

     Christian Smith, The sacred project of American sociology (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2014), 175-176, italics mine.


"We live submerged at the bottom of an ocean of elementary air. . . ."

"Noi viviamo sommersi nel fondo d’un pelago d’aria elementare. . . ."

"We live submerged at the bottom of a sea of elementary air. . . ."

     Remember:  air was one of the four elements ("uno de'quattro elementi"), and "elementary" had first in English that sense, as in c. 1440, "God is not fyre elementare", or in 1652, "The whole Elementary air being of its owne nature most subtile" (OED).

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Titus on Aquinas on "the flawed saint"

"Moral virtue may be considered either as perfect or as imperfect. An imperfect moral virtue, temperance for instance, or fortitude, is nothing but an inclination in us to do some kind of good deed, whether such inclination be in us by nature or by habituation. If we take the moral virtues in this way, they are not connected: since we find men who, by natural temperament or by being accustomed, are prompt in doing deeds of liberality [(opera liberalitatis)], but are not prompt in doing deeds of chastity [(opera castitatis)]."

     St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II.65.1.Resp., underscoring mine.

     "Aquinas also identifies a fourth type of virtue, which Jean Porter does not discuss (to my knowledge).  This is the infused virtue that is not connected with the others.  Aquinas explains the possibility of possessing infused virtue in merely habitual or inchoate states (habituales formae).  Although all the virtues are infused with charity, they are not necessarily exercised, as when there is an impediment . . . or as when one exhibits perfect faith but imperfect charity."

     Craig Steven Titus, "Moral development and connecting the virtues:  Aquinas, Porter, and the flawed saint," in Ressourcement Thomism:  sacred doctrine, the sacraments, and the moral life:  essays in honor of Romanus Cessario, O. P. (Baltimore:  The Catholic University of America Press, 2010), 348 (330-352), underscoring mine.
     Yet in one of the very passages Titus cites in support of this, Thomas says explicitly that "faith may be without charity, but not as a perfect virtue [(fides est quidem sine caritate, sed non perfecta virtus)]" (ST I-II.65.4.Resp.).  So I need to follow up on those passages in De virtutibus cardinalibus.

     In any case, this is an important response to Jean Porter's discussion of Martin Luther King Jr. in "Virtue and sin:  the connection of the virtues and the case of the flawed saint," Journal of religion 74, no. 4 (1995):  521-539, the full complexities of which I won't attempt to reproduce here, but only these sentences from the Conclusion (351, italics mine):
for St. Thomas, charity (as a fledgling disposition [not yet a more or less established virtue confirmed in act]) neither guarantees its own full development or the connection of the other infused virtues nor guarantees a coherent psychological structure of the acquired virtues (as dispositions [not yet more or less established virtues confirmed in act]).  Aquinas explains that in the exercise of infused moral virtues we can 'experience difficulty in their works, by reason of certain ordinary dispositions remaining from previous acts.  This difficulty does not occur in respect of acquired moral virtue:  because the repeated acts by which they are acquired remove also the contrary dispositions.'
For Aquinas there can be "an imperfect connection of charity and the other infused virtues" (350), as well as "growth" in or a falling away on the level of the acquired virtues (351).  "A static point does not exist.  At any moment, either a person advances toward a more coherent connection of these dispositions [infused and acquired], or he regresses" (351).  From p. 352:
Aquinas's approach. . . . construes moral development as a process of habitualizing, connaturalizing, and connecting the virtues, while not losing hope for any 'flawed saint,' a term that Aquinas would not use.  In particular, God can revive the person—after a grave sin—to repent, to seek forgiveness, and to repair (when possible) the damage done.  The person thus returns to the pathway of development with renewed charity and infused virtue, which includes the possibility of further connecting the virtues, sanctifying desire, and even being disposed to martyrdom in a state of grace.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

"He alone of all the prophets"

Dieric Bouts I (c. 1415-1475),
Ecce Agnus Dei (1464/66),
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
"He alone of all the prophets pointed out the Lamb of redemption."

"ipse solus omnium prophetarum Agnum redemptionis ostendit."

     Preface for the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, Roman missal.
     As the sources make clear, the emphasis here should be on "pointed out" (ostendit).  John's predecessors, too, foretold (praenuntiavit) his coming, but only John was in a position to point to an individual present in flesh and blood and say, "Behold, the Lamb of God".  "Leonine" (i.e. Veronese) sacramentary no. 254, Supplement (Supplementum Anianense) to the Gregorian sacramentary no. 1630, and so forth:
solusque omnium prophetarum redemptorem mundi quem praenuntiavit ostentit.
and alone of all the prophets pointed out the redeemer of the world whom he foretold.
See Ward and Johnson, The prefaces of the Roman missal:  a source compendium with concordances and indices (Rome:  Congregation for Divine Worship, 1989):  420-421.  See also Corpus praefationum no. 464, and especially on pp. 221-222 of the first volume of the Apparatus, where those earliest sacramentaries (and more) are referenced, but the profound enrichment this Preface has undergone since is noted:  "the Leonine and Gelasian original has been here profoundly recast and enriched" (222).
     On pp. LXXIV and LXXXII of his critical edition of the "Leonine" or Veronese sacramentary, Mohlberg, citing p. 115 of vol. 1 (1948) of Bourque's Étude sur les sacramentaires romains, traces this to the layer of that sacramentary dated 468-c. 500 (or the early 6th century).
     If I'm not mistaken, the pre-1962 missal made no use of this Preface.