Sunday, April 18, 2021

"the words by which secularization is designated are themselves secularized words."
"the process of secularization was first of all semantic; the words by which secularization is designated are themselves secularized words."

"les mots par lesquels la sécularisation se désigne sont eux-mêmes des mots sécularisés."

     Rémi Brague, Moderately modern (South Bend, IN:  St. Augustine's Press, 2019), 87.  I have not consulted the original, Modérément moderne (Paris:  Flammarion, 2016).  I back-translated until I turned the quote up on the Web.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

No mere braggart of anticlericalism

     "The consistent [(logique), true, or perfect] atheist can take no interest in life.  That is the true wisdom, but it is, in my opinion, too much [in the way of] wisdom.  It is the indifference of the fakir.  I am very glad, for my part, to have, besides my logical atheism, a moral conscience that derives from an accumulation of ancestral errors but [(et)] dictates my conduct to me in cases in which reason [alone] would [otherwise] compel me to drown [myself]. . . .
". . . the question of pain aside, the atheist has no fear of death; he is incessantly ready to die, having no need, in the face of the void, of putting his affairs in order.
     "But though an atheist, he is no less a man, and has [therefore] feelings of affection for other beings who are ordinarily not themselves atheists, and do not look upon death with the same indifference.  [So] here again the [unfounded] moral conscience prevents the atheist from acting in rigorous accord with his atheism.  He doesn’t need to put his affairs in order, but he may have to concern himself with the affairs of those of his neighbors to whom he is useful, and who might suffer from his death, [whether] in their feelings or in their interests."

     The biologist and philosopher of science Félix Alexandre Le Dantec (1869-1917), L’athéisme (Paris:  Flammarion, 1907), 101, 106, translation mine.  I was put onto this by Rémi Brague, Moderately modern, trans. Paul Seaton (South Bend, IN:  St. Augustine’s Press, 2019), 83, and have read no more than the sections inclusive of these excerpts.  Le Dantec is speaking not of (say) "those braggarts of anticlericalism [(ces fanfarons de l’anticléricalisme)]" who enjoy "astonishing their contemporaries with the spectacle of their bravery" (102), but only of the extremely rare "true" or "perfect atheist," for every one of which life must be necessarily an insufferable burden:

I must here affirm in all sincerity that I see no chain of reasoning capable of preventing the perfect atheist from committing suicide [(je vois aucun raisonnement capable d’arrêter l’athée parfait que le suicide tente)].  Only, there is no [truly] perfect atheist.  The [unfounded] moral conscience imposes on the most liberated of atheists obligations that he cannot avoid.  The atheist who is a son, a brother, a husband is held back, in the absence of [a] valid chain of reasoning, by a care for the grief he would cause, and for the need that those dear to him have of him.  An atheist capable of renouncing his obligations to the world, as monks do, would commit suicide without delay [(100-101)].

Friday, April 16, 2021

What has not been assumed can be shirked; what has been assumed is inescapable

"This figural identification—one of antitype to type, of Jesus' [filial] fear to our own [filial] fear—engaged the remarkable paradox by which Christ both takes on that aspect most embedded in the creature's character and in this divine assumption makes that creaturely aspect all the more impossible and irrational to escape."

     Ephraim Radner, A profound ignorance:  modern pneumatology and its anti-modern redemption (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2019), 298, underscoring and italics mine.
     This is Radner's anti-modern, anti-pneumatological redemption.  Cur Deus homo?  So that we might become (first?) nothing else.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

"Scripture is not the property of the specialists"

"Scripture is not the property of the specialists.  It is a public garden in which all Christians have the right to wander. . . .  Why don't you, for your part, take a stroll, for example with one of your little daughters, to whom you could explain these marvellous images?"

"l'Écriture n'est pas la propriété des spécialistes.  C'est un jardin public où tous les chrétiens ont le droit de se promener. . . .  Pourquoi de ton côte n'y ferais-tu pas un tour, avec une de tes petites filles par exemple à qui tu expliquerais ces merveilleuses images?"

     Paul Claudel, Introduction à l'Apocalypse, Conférence lue à l'Institut catholique de Paris le 10 février 1946 (Paris:  Egloff, 1994), 9, as quoted by Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, in his "La liberté du théologien," Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 113 (2012), 370 (365-384), translation mine.  Barbarin adds that "Naturally, our freedom to comment [(la liberté de notre commentaire)] does not dispense us from [the obligation] to do all of the [exegetical] work of which we are capable."  But note that he is discussing here one of the most difficult books in the whole of Scripture!

Friday, April 9, 2021

A psychiatrist who did not experience the five stages of Death and dying

"The process of dying cannot be adequately understood by applying a rigid phenomenological framework that does not do justice to the resource of biblical faith and the contribution that faith makes to the acceptance of death."

     Orville S. Walters, "A psychiatrist's approach to death," Christian Medical Society journal 6 (Fall 1975):  4-6, which is, presumably, the source of the INPM version online.  Walters composed this little essay in the final throes of stomach cancer.  He died on 18 February 1975.

Kübler-Ross’s "Death and Dying takes little notice of the resources of Christian faith for the dying."  For this reason "It is difficult to imagine the writer of these words working through anxiety over approaching death in the troubled stages currently associated with dying."

Friday, April 2, 2021

Beauty puts a legitimate thumb on the scales

      "The encounter with beauty can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the soul and thus makes it see clearly, so that henceforth it has criteria, based on what it has experienced, and can now weigh the arguments correctly."

     Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "Wounded by the arrow of beauty:  the cross and the new 'aesthetics' of faith," chap. 2 of On the way to Jesus Christ (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 2005 [2004]), 37, italics mine.  As with a Bach cantata:  "'Anyone who has heard this knows that the faith is true.'"  "Arguments so often have no effect, because too many contradictory arguments compete with one another in our world, so that one cannot help thinking of the remark of the medieval theologians that reason has a wax nose:  in other words, it can be turned around in any direction, if one is clever enough.  It is all so clever, so evident—whom should we trust?"
     Ratzinger opens with the "Two antiphons [to Ps 45 that] stand . . . side by side [in the Liturgy of the hours], one for the season of Lent, the other for Holy Week":  "'the fairest of the children of men'" "'had neither beauty nor majesty, nothing to attract our eyes'" (32-33).

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"That's not how my Aana taught me to read the Bible."

"the first epistle of John. . . .  was composed at a time when the emergence of a new group of intellectuals, the so-called Gnostics, raised problems that are not unlike those we are facing today.  They interpreted the Christianity of the Church as a Christianity of the naive in comparison with the 'real' Christianity, in which the letter of faith, which Christians had thus far accepted, could be manipulated by sophisticated methods of interpretation to accord with one's own views.  Simple Christians felt themselves deceived and, at the same time, more or less helplessly victimized by the intellectual superiority of the Gnostics and their inventions.  In his response (1 Jn 2:18-27), John says:  You have all received the anointing that instructed you; you have no need of further instruction.  The Apostle opposed to the arrogance of an intellectual elite the unsurpassability of simple faith and of the insight it bestows. . . .  This common knowledge, which comes from baptism, is not subject to a higher interpretation; it is itself the measure of every interpretation.  It is the source of life for the Church, which, in the sacrament and in the catechesis that is part of the sacrament, is the real bearer of the word.

     "We come thus to understand the duty of bishops as representatives of the Church with regard to theology.  Their obligation as bishops is not to seek to play an instrument in the concert of specialists but, rather, to embody the voice of simple faith and its simple primitive instincts, which precede science and threaten to disappear where science makes itself absolute.  In this sense, they serve, in fact, a completely democratic function that rests, not on statistics, but on the common gift of baptism. . . .  The common ground of baptismal faith, which the Magisterium must protect, does not fetter a theology that properly understands itself but rather issues to it that challenge that has proved fruitful again and again throughout the centuries.  The model of enlightened reason cannot assimilate the structure of faith. . . .  But faith, for its part, is comprehensive enough to assimilate the intellectual offer of the Enlightenment and give it a task that is meaningful also for faith."

     Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "The Church and scientific theology" (1978), in Principles of Catholic theology:  building stones for a fundamental theology, trans. Sister Mary Frances McCarthy, S.N.D. (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 1987), 330-331 (322-331) =Theologische Prinzipienlehre (Munich:  Erich Wewel Verlag, 1987) ="The Church and scientific theology," Communio:  international Catholic review 7 (1980):  332-342 ="Kirche und wissenschaftliche Theologie," in W. Sandfuchs, ed., Die Kirche (Würzburg, 1978), 83-95.  "The shepherds of the Church not only find themselves exposed today to the [supposedly Enlightened] accusation that they still hold fast to the methods of the Inquisition and try to strangle the Spirit by the repressive power of their office; they are, at the same time, attacked by the voice of the faithful, who accuse them more and more loudly of being mute and cowardly watchdogs that stand idly by under the pressure of liberal publicity while the faith is being sold piecemeal for the dish of pottage of being recognized as 'modern'" (324).  "Under this new aspect, the shepherd of the Church is offered the opportunity of giving his teaching ministry a democratic form:  of becoming the advocate of the faithful, of the people, against the elitist power of the intellectuals" (324).  "To that extent, we are correct in seeing in the function of the ecclesial Magisterium a democratic element that derives from its Christian origin" (325).  For "Faith is not to be placed in opposition to reason, but neither must it fall under the absolute power of enlightened reason and its methods" (325), which often set themselves up in opposition to the intrinsic logic of the Christian faith (which, unlike the religions of the East, is, in fact, a logos, and not a mythos (327)).
     The headline I stole from my dear friend and sister Esther Smith.