Sunday, January 31, 2010

Atheists Upset About Mother Teresa Postage Stamp


Read about it here. Here is a link to the "action alert" disseminated by The Freedom from Religion Foundation, the group spearheading the effort to prevent the stamp from being issued by the U.S. Post Office.

Fr. George W. Rutler on baseball player pursuing the Catholic priesthood

Here is Fr. Rutler's commentary for January 31, 2010:
Sports news often sounds more like business reports, preoccupied with the salaries of athletes being traded. Personally, I’d rather watch paint dry on a wall than listen to some of the sports commentators filling TV air time, but in this I may be unrepresentative. Ears perked up recently when Grant Desme, a top draft prospect for the Oakland A’s, announced he was going to study for the priesthood. The only player in the entire minors with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the past season, Desme was ranked by Baseball America as Oakland’s No. 8 prospect.Sports officials expressed both respect and surprise.

It recalled the publicity given a Major League Soccer defender, Chase Hilgenbrinck of Illinois, when he entered the seminary. He is now studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland for the Diocese of Peoria. Desme will enter the seminary of the Norbertine Fathers, whose rapidly growing abbey is in California. There was less stir in 1912 when Al Travers left the Detroit Tigers to become a priest, but salaries back then were not what they are now .An aphorism says that a priest’s pay is not much, but the benefits are out of this world.

It is more to the point to say that Christians, clergy and lay, become the most professional athletes by their Profession of Faith. The Greek word asketes, referring to one who exercises, is also the root for asceticism, which means getting the soul in shape.Our Lord and His Apostles must have been in very good physical shape for the lives they led. St. Paul spent twenty years traveling, well over twenty thousand miles by some estimates; his first missionary journey alone was 1,400 miles. He sailed, but usually walked and suffered many physical tests. One plausible recollection has him short and bowlegged, but wiry. He disciplined a “weakness in the flesh” and it strengthened his humility (2 Cor. 12:7-10). The physically infirm can be better athletes for Christ than the physically strong, and wheelchairs can reach heaven faster than running shoes.

The Latin collect for the feast of St. Paul prays that we may “walk according to his example” and the word “gradiamur” gives a sense of trudging along through adversity. I doubt that St. Paul would have watched much TV, but he enjoyed the greatest contest of all: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Fr. Rutler is pastor of the Church of Our Savior in New York City.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Where to begin reading Ralph McInerny's take on St. Thomas Aquinas: a philosopher's recommendation

Many admirers of the late Ralph McInerny (1929-2010) who are not familiar with his philosophical work on St. Thomas Aquinas may wonder where to start. In my opinion, the best place to start is with his 1990 book, A First Glance at St. Thomas Aquinas: A Handbook for Peeping Thomists (University of Notre Dame Press). Ralph explains St. Thomas' philosophy with clarity and wit. He is writing for the uninitiated so that they may be drawn to the wisdom and insight of the Angelic Doctor. Ralph does not disappoint.

The apostolate of St. Francis De Sales: Apostle to the Reformed

Over at Called to Communion, Matt Yonke has published this brief, though insightful, essay:

Few figures loom as large in the history of Calvinism, and yet are at the same time so unknown by Calvinists, as St. Francis De Sales.

St. Francis, born in 1567 to a wealthy family, led an interesting life, the details of which are too great to expound here, but I recommend the Catholic Encyclopedia article on his life for a good recounting of the details.

For our purposes, the most important aspect of Francis’ life and ministry was his mission to convert the Calvinists of Geneva. In 1594, a young priest at the age of 27, he volunteered to evangelize the Calvinists there.

Francis’ ministry was not well received by the Calvinists at first. In fact, most of them wouldn’t even talk to him. As such, Francis turned to the tactic of writing pamphlets that he would slip under the door of the people of the town. These tracts were later collected into a book called The Catholic Controversy that can be read in its entirety at the preceding link. Of course, what passed for a tract in those days is much more like what we would call a scholarly essay, so the book is a very meaty examination of the problems that separate Calvinists and Catholics.

Little by little, Francis gained himself a hearing among the Calvinists and eventually converted them by the thousands. His success was so great that he was later elevated to the post of Bishop of Geneva.

I have found it interesting how many converts to Catholicism from the Reformed faith have found De Sales work so compelling, even to this day. Speaking for myself, his chapter on the concept of the mission of ministers of God was one of the turning points in my own conversion.

I hope our Reformed brothers will give a hearing to this very holy man of God whose work resonates down through the centuries.

Friday, January 29, 2010

True Confession: A Ralph McInerny story

Last year while I was a visiting faculty member at the University Notre Dame, I was in line for confession at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. After several minutes in line, it was my turn. The door opened to the confessional and out walked Ralph McInerny. He gave me a gentle look as if to say hello, seeming to realize that in that sacred space an ordinary exchange of pleasantries would have been profane. Several days later while I was working in my office in the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture, I walked to the printer to pick up a manuscript. There was Ralph in the hallway, talking it up with Alasdaire MacIntyre. As though I were watching history in the making, and the Prime Directive forbade me from interfering, I gingerly hovered around the conversation, nodding my head now and again, pretending that I may have something interesting to contribute.

After Ralph said goodbye to me and Alasdaire, he proceeded down the hallway toward the elevator. As if on cue, he looked over his shoulder at me, smiled in my direction, waved his right hand, and loudly said, "See you at confession!"

Thomas Hibbs' tribute to Ralph McInerny


This just appeared on the First Things website. It is authored by my friend and colleague, Thomas S. Hibbs (photo left), Dean of the Honors College at Baylor University, and someone who had the privilege to study under the great Ralph McInerny. Writes Dean Hibbs:


Ralph McInerny


One of the marks of a virtuous character, according to Aristotle, is the performance of virtuous acts with ease and delight. On that basis, as well as others, Ralph McInerny was a remarkably virtuous man. One of Ralph’s most beautiful books is entitled The Very Rich Hours of Jacques Maritain: A Spiritual Life, the premise of which is that “we can find in the person of Jacques Maritain a model of the intellectual life in the pursuit of sanctity.” Those words certainly apply to Ralph, one of the great Catholic intellectuals of our time. What distinguished Ralph was not just his fidelity, his intelligence, and his astonishing productivity, but his gracious and ready wit. He possessed a knack for conversation with everyone—from philosophers and politicians, to the elderly and children. Unlike most gifted individuals, Ralph was never burdened by his gifts. He engaged in serious pursuits joyfully, almost playfully.


Ralph excelled in so many spheres and combined so many virtues in his person that it is difficult to know where to begin in recounting his noteworthy achievements. He was a philosopher (author of more than two dozen scholarly books, he gave the prestigious Gifford Lectures in 1999–2000), a translator (he translated the texts of Aquinas for Penguin Classics), a critically acclaimed and popular novelist (author of a number of mystery series, including the popular Father Dowling series that became a television series), a public intellectual (he appeared on William F. Buckley's Firing Line), and was a member of President George W. Bush's Committee on the Arts and Humanities), a journalist (with Michael Novak, he founded Crisis, a journal of lay Catholic opinion), and a published poet. In the midst of all this activity, Ralph was remarkably generous with his time and his help, especially for his students, in whose families he expressed an avid interest.


In recent years after the death of his beloved wife Connie, with whom he had seven children, his thoughts turned increasingly to age and death. In a wonderful and deeply autobiographical volume of poems, The Soul of Wit, he reflected at length on death. He said often that since Connie died, he felt posthumous. They were indeed a perfect match. As a graduate student, I met Connie when Ralph introduced her by saying, “Have you met my first wife?” With a wit as quick as Ralph’s, she had no trouble keeping up. Even or especially when occupied with thoughts of easeful death, Ralph’s humor emerged. He liked to tell the story about a hospital visit to see a failing Jean Oesterle, his Notre Dame colleague, a convert to the faith, and a translator of Aquinas. Hesitantly, he asked, “Jean, do you know who I am?” She retorted, “Don’t you know?”


Ralph had an indiscriminate love of puns; he seemed to enjoy bad puns more than good ones—a thesis that would seem to be confirmed by a perusal of the titles of his mystery novels (On This Rockne, Irish Gilt, Law and Ardor, Rest in Pieces, or The Book of Kills). An appreciation for the nuances and richness of ordinary language informed not only his humor but also his practice of philosophy. His most important philosophical text was Aquinas and Analogy, a study of the way Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, teased out of the complexity of ordinary language unities of meaning. He rejected the idea that Thomas Aquinas provided us with a philosophical system intended to compete with other systems. Instead, Thomas was asking in a more precise way questions every human being asks; he is interested in the human good, not the good of professional philosophers or intellectuals. In keeping with this working assumption, Ralph wrote both for elite groups of scholars and for intrigued laymen. With the latter group in mind, he penned A First Glance at Thomas Aquinas: A Handbook for Peeping Thomists. His distinctive approach to Thomas Aquinas is most evident in his supple account of natural law (see Ethica Thomistica, for example), and in his defense of natural theology in the text of his Gifford Lectures, published as Characters in Search of Their Author, the thesis of which Ralph states thus: “for us it is all but inevitable that, however momentarily, we feel ourselves to be part of a vast cosmic drama and our thoughts turn to the author, not merely of our roles, but of our existence. Natural theology is one version of that quest.” Ralph’s philosophical work flourished at the University of Notre Dame, to which he moved in 1955, after receiving his doctorate at Laval under the great Thomist Charles DeKoninck and teaching for one year at Creighton. His first office at Notre Dame was in the administration building, the Golden Dome. When he and a colleague became intrigued by the presence of an old safe, they opened it, and, amid the clutter, discovered a draft of a novel written by Knute Rockne. At Notre Dame, he held an endowed chair as the Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies; he was also director of the Maritain Center and of the Medieval Institute.


Early on at Notre Dame, he began, in addition to his teaching and philosophical work, to write fiction. The story of how he made the transition from wanting to be a writer to becoming one is illuminating. After a time in which he haphazardly polished off and sent out short stories for publication, only to receive rejection letters, he decided that he would write daily over the next year. If nothing were accepted for publication, he would take that as a sign it was not meant to be. So, every evening, after he had put his children to bed, he would repair to his unfinished basement and stand, not sit, before his typewriter pecking away from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. On the wall in front of him, he had posted these words in bold, “No One Owes You a Reading.” He eventually published some short stories and then had a breakthrough in 1969 with The Priest, a work that became a bestseller. He wrote more than eighty novels and received the Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award for mystery writing.


Ralph’s life and career will always be enmeshed with the university he loved, Our Lady’s University. He was of course deeply chagrined at the direction of the University. Of course, the concerns about Notre Dame’s Catholic identity have become very public in the past few years with the administration’s decisions to elevate the tawdry Vagina Monologues to the status of great art and to award an honorary doctorate of laws to a pro-abortion president. Before all that, Ralph objected to the premature firing of Coach Tyrone Willingham, in an New York Timesop-ed piece “The Firing Irish,” and to the unseemly image of a president and priest chasing down potential coaches on airport tarmacs in the dead of night. Even prior to that, Ralph objected to hiring practices that focused exclusively on “academic” criteria and rendered irrelevant knowledge of, and sympathy for, the Catholic faith and intellectual tradition. For Ralph, the accelerating abandonment of things Catholic at Notre Dame was the direct result of a craven quest for success understood in conventional, and often quite secular, terms.


It is common to say that Notre Dame’s motto is “God, Country, Notre Dame,” but Ralph was quick to remind us that the official motto is “vita, dulcedo et spes”—words meaning “life, sweetness, and hope” from the Latin Marian prayer, Salve Regina. How fitting that Ralph’s last book, published in just months ago, is Dante and the Blessed Virgin. Again, what he said of Jacques Maritain is equally true of Ralph. Teacher of teachers, he was a “model of the Christian philosopher, of the Thomist, both by what he taught and what he was.”


Ralph McInerny, resquiescat in pace

I am sad to report the death of Ralph McInerny, a man that I had the privilege to get to know last year while I was on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame. Here is a portion of a note I received today from a friend in South Bend, Indiana:
Ralph died early this morning at 7:45... It was, from what I can discern, a happy death, serene and full of the acceptance that comes from a sure and strong faith. I know that for me, I never expect to know another like him in this life. He was outstanding in all the important roles of life: husband and father, friend and teacher, inspirer and witness, in love with God and truly love by God. Has there ever been a happier man, a man more able to make all around him smile?

Ralph was the sort of intellectual giant that becomes more rather than less formidable when one attempts to explain to those outside the guild the scope and influence of his work, the generosity of his spirit, and the habits of Christian virtue and philosophical rigor that he imparted to his students and colleagues in both word and deed. Although I did not have the privilege to study under Professor McInerny, I am one of literally tens of thousands, both inside and outside the academy, who has been deeply influenced by his work and example.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May Ralph's soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

St. Thomas Aquinas' Prayer for Guidance

There is no better way to end this feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas than to pray with him. Here is his "Prayer for Guidance":
O creator past all telling,
you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom
the hierarchies of angels,
disposing them in wondrous order
above the bright heavens,
and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe.

You we call the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed
on the darkness of mind in which I was born,
The twofold beam of your light
and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin.

You make eloquent the tongues of children.
Then instruct my speech
and touch my lips with graciousness.
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
able to remember;
make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak.

Guide my going in and going forward,
lead home my going forth.
You are true God and true man,
and live for ever and ever.
--St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Calvinist theologian, John Gerstner, on St. Thomas Aquinas


In an essay entitled, "A History of Justification," the late Calvinist theologian John Gerstner (1914-1996) suggests to Catholics that they ought to follow St. Thomas Aquinas' teachings on the doctrine of justification: "Some Roman Catholics like to cry `Forward to the Middle Ages,' thinking that they there find authority for their antisolafideian doctrine. But Adolf Harnack insisted that if the medieval church had followed its favorite teacher, Thomas Aquinas, on justification, the Reformation would not have been necessary." You can read Professor Gerstner's entire piece here.

To those who are interested in exploring St. Thomas' work on justification, a nice place to start is with Daniel A. Keating's book chapter, "Justification, Sanctification, and Divinization in St. Thomas Aquinas," from the book Aquinas On Doctrine: A Critical Introduction, eds. Thomas Gerard Weinandy, Daniel A. Keating, and John Yocum (New York: T & T Clark, 2004). Interestingly enough, Catholic philosopher Bryan Cross has recently written a series of essays about the influence of St. Thomas's work at the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Catholic Church's ecumenical council that responded to the challenges of the Reformation. You can read Cross' essays here (part 1), here (part 2), here (part 3), here (part 4), here (part 5), and here (part 6).

St. Thomas Aquinas on the question, "Whether it belongs to the Sovereign Pontiff to draw up a symbol of faith?"

From the Summa Theologica:

Article 10. Whether it belongs to the Sovereign Pontiff to draw up a symbol of faith?

Objection 1. It would seem that it does not belong to the Sovereign Pontiff to draw up a symbol of faith. For a new edition of the symbol becomes necessary in order to explain the articles of faith, as stated above (Article 9). Now, in the Old Testament, the articles of faith were more and more explained as time went on, by reason of the truthof faith becoming clearer through greater nearness to Christ, as stated above (Article 7). Since then this reason ceased with the advent of the New Law, there is no need for the articles of faith to be more and more explicit. Therefore it does not seem to belong to the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff to draw up a new edition of the symbol.

Objection 2. Further, no man has the power to do what is forbidden under pain of anathema by the universal Church. Now it was forbidden under pain of anathema by the universal Church, to make a new edition of the symbol. For it is stated in the acts of the first council of Ephesus (P. ii, Act. 6) that "after the symbol of the Nicene council had been read through, the holy synod decreed that it was unlawful to utter, write or draw up any other creed, than that which was defined by the Fathers assembled at Nicaeatogether with the Holy Ghost," and this under pain of anathema....The same was repeated in the acts of the council of Chalcedon (P. ii, Act. 5). Therefore it seems that the Sovereign Pontiff has no authority to publish a new edition of the symbol.

Objection 3. Further, Athanasius was not the Sovereign Pontiff, but patriarch of Alexandria, and yet he published a symbol which is sung in the Church. Therefore it does not seem to belong to the Sovereign Pontiff any more than to other bishops, to publish a new edition of the symbol.

On the contrary, The symbol was drawn us by a general council. Now such a council cannot be convoked otherwise than by the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, as stated in the Decretals [Dist. xvii, Can. 4,5. Therefore it belongs to the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff to draw up a symbol.

I answer that, As stated above (Objection 1), a new edition of the symbol becomes necessary in order to set aside the errors that may arise. Consequently to publish a new edition of the symbol belongs to that authority which is empowered to decide matters of faith finally, so that they may be held by all with unshaken faith. Now this belongs to the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, "to whom the more important and more difficult questions that arise in the Church are referred," as stated in the Decretals [Dist. xvii, Can. 5. Hence our Lord said to Peter whom he made Sovereign Pontiff (Luke 22:32): "I have prayed for thee," Peter, "that thy faith fail not, and thou, being once converted,confirm thy brethren." The reason of this is that there should be but one faith of the whole Church, according to 1 Corinthians 1:10: "That you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you": and this could not be secured unless any question of faith that may arise be decided by him who presides over the whole Church, so that the whole Church may hold firmly to his decision. Consequently it belongs to the sole authority of the Sovereign Pontiff to publish a new edition of the symbol, as do all other matters which concern the whole Church, such as to convoke a general council and so forth.

Reply to Objection 1. The truth of faith is sufficiently explicit in the teaching of Christ and the apostles. But since, according to 2 Peter 3:16, some men are so evil-minded as to pervert the apostolic teaching and other doctrines and Scriptures to their own destruction, it was necessary as time went on to express the faith more explicitly against theerrors which arose.

Reply to Objection 2. This prohibition and sentence of the council was intended for private individuals, who have no business to decide matters of faith: for this decision of the general council did not take away from a subsequent council the power of drawing up a new edition of the symbol, containing not indeed a new faith, but the same faithwith greater explicitness. For every council has taken into account that a subsequent council would expound matters more fully than the preceding council, if this became necessary through some heresy arising. Consequently this belongs to the Sovereign Pontiff, by whose authority the council is convoked, and its decision confirmed.

Reply to Objection 3. Athanasius drew up a declaration of faith, not under the form of a symbol, but rather by way of an exposition of doctrine, as appears from his way of speaking. But since it contained briefly the whole truth of faith, it was accepted by the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, so as to be considered as a rule of faith.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Evangelical philosopher and theologian, Norman L. Geisler, on St. Thomas Aquinas

In 2002, Evangelical philosopher and theologian, Norman L. Geisler, was interviewed by Christian History about St. Thomas Aquinas. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

What can Christians who aren't theologians or philosophers learn from Aquinas?

First of all, his absolute, unconditional commitment to Christ. He was an extremely devout person. He spent hours in prayer and Bible reading and Bible study. His whole life had a biblical basis—just read his prayers.

In one Thomistic class I took at a Catholic institution, the professor would pray a brief part of one of Aquinas' prayers before class. He would say, "Inspire us at the beginning, direct our progress, and complete the finished task within us." Aquinas had such a succinct way of getting to the heart of an issue.

Here's another of his prayers: "Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow on me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and faithfulness that may finally embrace you, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

I can't tell you how Aquinas has enriched and changed my life, my thought. He has helped me to be a better evangelical, a better servant of Christ, and to better defend the faith that was delivered, once for all, to the saints.

You can read the entire interview here.

Fr. Robert Barron on St. Thomas Aquinas

Bryan Cross: "St. Thomas Aquinas on the Unity of the Church"

Over at Called to Communion, Bryan Cross offers a nice presentation on St. Thomas and the sin of schism. Here are some excerpts (notes omitted):
Various heretics have founded sects, St. Thomas says, but these sects do not belong to the Church. They may very well have been founded by well-intentioned persons; perhaps none of these founders of sects thought they were heretics, or that they were making a schism. But, says St. Thomas, these sects do not belong to the Church. They were founded by mere men. The Church, by contrast, was founded by the incarnate God-man, Jesus Christ. Only by remaining in the Church Christ founded do we truly participate in the supernatural unity Christ imparted to His Church. The sects show that they are not united, by their many divisions. The Church, by contrast, cannot be divided; unity is one of the four essential marks of the Church, because the Church’s unity is Christ’s unity, and Christ cannot be divided. (1 Cor 1:13) Schismatics and dissenters can separate themselves from her in various ways, but they cannot divide her....

We can learn something about the unity of the Church by studying the sin against that unity. Strictly speaking, says St. Thomas, the sin of schism is one in which the person willfully and intentionally separates himself from the unity of the Church. The person who does so in ignorance or unintentionally, is less culpable (if culpable). But the person who discovers himself to be in schism, even if born into that schism, is culpable if he does not seek to cease to be in schism. To willfully remove oneself from the unity of the Church, or to willfully remain in schism from the Church, is to sin against charity. As heresy is a sin against faith, so schism is a sin against the charity which “unites the whole Church in unity of spirit.”

What does it mean to be in schism? Some Christians think that so long as they love other Christians, they are therefore not in schism. But St. Thomas explains that the unity of the Church consists in two things: the mutual connection of the members of the Church, and the subordination of all the members to the Church’s visible head, who represents Christ. So there are two ways to be a schismatic, according to St. Thomas. One way is to refuse to hold communion with other members of the Church. The other way is to refuse to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff. Both forms of schism are sins against charity, for they both act against the charity by which the whole Church is held together in love.

Here we see the relation between authority and charity, described earlier this week in Jeremy Tate’s essay. Love and authority are not mutually exclusive. Rather, love for Christ is expressed by humbly subordinating ourselves to those with His authorization, especially the successor of the Apostle to whom Christ entrusted the keys of the Kingdom.

Read the whole thing here. Bryan's personal blog may be found here.

St. Thomas Aquinas: "On the Necessity of Penance and Of Its Parts"

From the Summa Contra Gentiles:

ON THE NECESSITY OF PENANCE AND OF ITS PARTS

[1] From this, then, it is evident that if a man sins after baptism, he cannot have the remedy against his sin in baptism. And since the abundance of the divine mercy and the effectiveness of Christ’s grace do not suffer him to be dismissed without a remedy, there was established another sacramental remedy by which sins are washed away. And this is the sacrament of penance, which is spiritual healing of a sort. For just as those who receive a natural life by generation can, if they incur some disease which is contrary to the perfection of life, be cured of their disease: not, indeed, so as to be born a second time, but healed by a kind of alteration; so baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration, is not given a second time against sins committed after baptism, but they are healed by penance which is a kind of spiritual alteration.

[2] Let this, however, be considered: bodily healing is at times wholly from within, as when one is cured by the power of nature alone. But there are times when one is cured from within and from without simultaneously, for example, when the operation of nature is helped by the external benefit of medicine. But it never happens that one is cured entirely from without, for he still has within himself the principles of life, and from these the healing is somehow caused within him. But spiritual healing, it happens, cannot be brought about entirely from within, for we showed in Book III that man cannot be delivered from fault except by the help of grace. In like fashion, also, neither can his spiritual cure be entirely from an external thing; for the soundness of his mind would not be restored unless ordered movements of will were caused in man. Therefore, the spiritual health in the sacrament of penance must proceed both from something internal and from something external.

[3] This comes about in this way. For a man to be perfectly cured of a bodily disease, he necessarily must be freed from all the inconveniences which the disease involves. Thus, then, even the spiritual cure of penance would not be perfected unless a man were relieved of all the damages into which he has been led by sin. Now, the first damage which man sustains from sin is the disordering of the mind; in that man is turned away from the incommutable good—namely, God—and is turned toward sin. But the second damage is that he incurs the guilt of punishment, for, as was shown in Book III, God the most just ruler requires a punishment for every fault. The third damage is a certain weakening of the natural good, in that man by sinning is rendered more prone toward sinning and more reluctant toward doing well.

[4] Therefore, the first thing required in penance is the ordering of the mind; namely, that the mind be turned toward God, and turned away from sin, grieving at its commission, and proposing not to commit it; and this belongs essentially to contrition.

[5] But this reordering of the mind cannot be without grace, for our mind cannot duly be turned toward God without charity, but one cannot have charity without grace, as is clear from what was said in Book III. Thus, then, by contrition the offense to God is removed and one is also freed from that guilt of eternal punishment which cannot be simultaneously with grace and charity; for there is no eternal punishment except by separation from God, and by grace and charity man is united with Him. Therefore, this reordering of the mind, which consists of contrition, proceeds from within, that is, from the free will with the help of divine grace.

[6] Since, however, it was established above that the merit of Christ suffering for the human race works for the expiation of all sins, if a man is to be healed of sin his mind must necessarily cleave not only to God, but also to the mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ, in whom rests the remission of all sins. For spiritual health consists in the turning of the mind to God, and, to be sure, we cannot achieve this health except through the physician of our souls, Jesus Christ, “who shall save His people from their sins” (Mat. 1:21). Indeed, His merit is sufficient to take away all sins altogether, for it is He “‘who takes away the sins of the world” as John (1:29) says. Nonetheless, not all achieve perfectly the effect of remission; each achieves it in the measure in which he is conjoined with Christ suffering for sins.

[7] Our conjunction, then, with Christ in baptism is not in accord with our operation (from within, so to say), because nothing generates itself in being, but it is from Christ, who “regenerated us unto a lively hope” (1 Peter 1:3); therefore, the remission of sins in baptism is made in accord with the power of Christ conjoining us perfectly and entirely with Himself, so as not only to take away every impurity of sin, but also to free us entirely from every guilt of punishment; except incidentally, perhaps, in the case of those who do not get the effect of the sacrament because they approach with a false attitude.

[8] In the later spiritual healing we are conjoined to Christ in accord with our own operation informed by divine grace. Hence, we do not always entirely, nor do we all equally, achieve the effect of remission by this conjunction. For there can be a turning of the mind toward God, and to the merit of Christ, and to the hatred of sin which is so vehement that a man perfectly achieves the remission of sin, not only with regard to wiping out the fault, but even with regard to remission of the entire punishment. But this does not always happen. Hence, after the fault is taken away by contrition and the guilt of eternal punishment is relieved (as was said), there sometimes persists an obligation to some punishment to maintain the justice of God which requires that fault be ordered by punishment.

[9] Since, however, to undergo punishment for a fault calls for a kind of judgment, the penitent who has committed himself to Christ for healing must look to Christ’s judgment for fixing the punishment; and this, indeed, Christ does through His ministers, just as He does in the other sacraments. But no one can judge of faults which he does not know. It was necessary, then, that confession be instituted, the second part of this sacrament, so to say, in order to make the fault of the penitent known to the minister of Christ.

[10] The minister, therefore, to whom confession is made must have judiciary power representing Christ, “who was appointed to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). For judiciary power two things are required: namely, the authority to know about the fault, and the power to absolve or condemn. And these two are called the “two keys of the Church,” namely, the knowledge to discern and the power to bind and loose which our Lord committed to Peter as Matthew (16:19) has it: “I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” He is not understood to have committed these to Peter so that he alone might have them, but so that they might through him be passed on to others; otherwise, sufficient provision for the salvation of the faithful would not have been made.

[11] Of course, keys of this kind have their effectiveness from the suffering of Christ by which, we know, Christ opened for us the door of the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, just as without baptism, in which the suffering of Christ works, there cannot be salvation for men—whether the baptism be really received, or desired to the purpose “when necessity, but not contempt, excludes the sacrament”—so for those sinning after baptism there can be no salvation unless they submit themselves to the keys of the Church, whether it be by actually confessing and undergoing the judgment of the ministers of the Church, or at least having this as a purpose to be fulfilled at the opportune time; because, as Peter says: “There is no other name given to men whereby we must be saved except by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 4:10-12).

[12] In this way one avoids the error of some who held that a man can achieve forgiveness of sins without confession and without the purpose of confessing, and that the prelates of the Church can dispense one from the obligation of confessing. For the prelates of the Church are unable “to make vain the keys of the Church” in which their entire power consists, and they cannot bring it about that one achieve the remission of his sins apart from a sacrament which has power from the passion of Christ. This belongs only to Christ, who established the sacraments and is their author. Thus, then, as there can be no dispensation from the prelates of the Church allowing one to be saved without baptism, neither can there be one allowing a man to achieve the remission of his sins without confession and absolution.

[13] Nonetheless, there is this consideration. Baptism has some effectiveness for the remission of sins even before it is actually received, while one has the purpose of receiving it. We grant that afterwards—when it is actually received—it bestows a fuller effect both in the achievement of grace and in the remission of fault. Sometimes, too, grace is bestowed in the very reception of baptism and a fault is remitted for which previously there was no remission. And thus the keys of the Church have effectiveness in one before he actually submits himself to them, provided that he has the purpose of submitting himself to them; nevertheless, he achieves fuller grace and forgiveness when he actually submits himself to the keys by confessing and receiving absolution; and nothing prevents our thinking that sometimes a grace is conferred by the power of the keys on one who has confessed, in the course of the absolution itself, and that by this grace his fault is dismissed.

[14] Therefore, since even in the very confession and absolution a fuller effect of grace and remission is bestowed on him who—by reason of his good purpose—had previously obtained both, manifestly the minister of the Church, absolving by the power of the keys, dismisses. something of the temporal punishment for which the penitent remains in debt after contrition. He does, however, oblige the penitent to the balance by his command. And this fulfillment of the obligation is called satisfaction, which is the third part of penance. By this a man is entirely freed from the guilt of punishment when he pays the penalty which he owed; further, the weakness of the natural good is cured when a man abstains from bad things and accustoms himself to good ones: by subjecting his spirit to God in prayer, or by taming his flesh by fasting to make it subject to the spirit, and in external things by uniting himself by giving alms to the neighbors from whom his fault had separated him.

[15] Thus, clearly, then, the minister of the Church exercises a certain judgment in the use of the keys. But judgment is not granted to one unless it be judgment on those who are his subjects. Hence, it is manifest that it is not any priest at all who can absolve any man at all from sin—as some falsify it; he can absolve only one over whom he has received power.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reformed Theologian, R. C. Sproul, on St. Thomas Aquinas

From an essay entitled "Regeneration Precedes Faith," the American Calvinist theologian R. C. Sproul makes these comments about St. Thomas Aquinas, about whom Pope John Paul II said "the [Catholic] Church has been justified in consistently proposing... as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology":
When I began to wrestle with the Professor's argument, I was surprised to learn that his strange-sounding teaching was not novel. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield - even the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas taught this doctrine. Thomas Aquinas is the Doctor Angelicus of the Roman Catholic Church. For centuries his theological teaching was accepted as official dogma by most Catholics. So he was the last person I expected to hold such a view of regeneration. Yet Aquinas insisted that regenerating grace is operative grace, not cooperative grace. Aquinas spoke of prevenient grace, but he spoke of a grace that comes before faith, which is regeneration.
Read Dr. Sproul's entire essay here. The portion of St. Thomas' work to which Dr. Sproul is likely referring is
here, which I published on this blog earlier today.

St. Thomas Aquinas on the question, "Whether grace is fittingly divided into operating & cooperating grace?"

From the Summa Theologica:

Article 2. Whether grace is fittingly divided into operating and cooperating grace?

Objection 1. It would seem that grace is not fittingly divided into operating and cooperating grace. For grace is an accident, as stated above (Question 110, Article 2). Now no accident can act upon its subject. Therefore no grace can be called operating.

Objection 2. Further, if grace operates anything in us it assuredly brings about justification. But not only grace works this. For Augustine says, onJohn 14:12, "the works that I do he also shall do," says (Serm. clxix): "He Who created thee without thyself, will not justify thee without thyself." Therefore no grace ought to be called simply operating.

Objection 3. Further, to cooperate seems to pertain to the inferior agent, and not to the principal agent. But grace works in us more than free-will, according to Romans 9:16: "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." Therefore no grace ought to be called cooperating.

Objection 4. Further, division ought to rest on opposition. But to operate and to cooperate are not opposed; for one and the same thing can both operate and cooperate. Therefore grace is not fittingly divided into operating and cooperating.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Gratia et Lib. Arbit. xvii): "God by cooperating with us, perfects what He began by operating in us, since He who perfects by cooperation with such as are willing, beings by operating that they may will." But the operations of God whereby He moves us togood pertain to grace. Therefore grace is fittingly divided into operating and cooperating.

I answer that, As stated above (Question 110, Article 2) grace may be taken in two ways; first, as a Divine help, whereby God moves us to willand to act; secondly, as a habitual gift divinely bestowed on us.

Now in both these ways grace is fittingly divided into operating and cooperating. For the operation of an effect is not attributed to the thing moved but to the mover. Hence in that effect in which our mind is moved and does not move, but in which God is the sole mover, the operation isattributed to God, and it is with reference to this that we speak of "operating grace." But in that effect in which our mind both moves and is moved, the operation is not only attributed to God, but also to the soul; and it is with reference to this that we speak of "cooperating grace." Now there is a double act in us. First, there is the interior act of the will, and with regard to this act the will is a thing moved, and God is the mover; and especially when the will, which hitherto willed evil, begins to will good. And hence, inasmuch as God moves the human mind to this act, we speak of operating grace. But there is another, exterior act; and since it is commanded by the will, as was shown above (Question 17, Article 9) the operation of this act is attributed to the will. And because God assists us in this act, both by strengthening our will interiorly so as to attain to theact, and by granting outwardly the capability of operating, it is with respect to this that we speak of cooperating grace. Hence after the aforesaid words Augustine subjoins: "He operates that we may will; and when we will, He cooperates that we may perfect." And thus if grace is taken forGod's gratuitous motion whereby He moves us to meritorious good, it is fittingly divided into operating and cooperating grace.

But if grace is taken for the habitual gift, then again there is a double effect of grace, even as of every other form; the first of which is "being," and the second, "operation"; thus the work of heat is to make its subject hot, and to give heat outwardly. And thus habitual grace, inasmuch as it heals and justifies the soul, or makes it pleasing to God, is called operating grace; but inasmuch as it is the principle of meritorious works, which spring from the free-will, it is called cooperating grace.

Reply to Objection 1. Inasmuch as grace is a certain accidental quality, it does not act upon the soul efficiently, but formally, as whiteness makes a surface white.

Reply to Objection 2. God does not justify us without ourselves, because whilst we are being justified we consent to God's justification [justitiae] by a movement of our free-will. Nevertheless this movement is not the cause of grace, but the effect; hence the whole operation pertains to grace.

Reply to Objection 3. One thing is said to cooperate with another not merely when it is a secondary agent under a principal agent, but when it helps to the end intended. Now man is helped by God to will the good, through the means of operating grace. And hence, the end being alreadyintended, grace cooperates with us.

Reply to Objection 4. Operating and cooperating grace are the same grace; but are distinguished by their different effects, as is plain from what has been said.