Cerca nel blog

«Tutte le generazioni mi chiameranno beata» (Lc 1, 48). «La pietà della Chiesa verso la Santa Vergine è elemento intrinseco del culto cristiano”. La Santa Vergine «viene dalla Chiesa giustamente onorata con un culto speciale. In verità dai tempi più antichi la beata Vergine è venerata col titolo di “Madre di Dio”, sotto il cui presidio i fedeli, pregandola, si rifugiano in tutti i loro pericoli e le loro necessità...(Clicca sull'immagine per andare al sito)

lunedì 27 agosto 2012

Fr. Scott on Deus Caritas Est

Fr. Scott on Deus Caritas Est

Dear friends and benefactors of Holy Cross Seminary,

Sunday February 5 was a gratifying return from summer break. All but two of last year’s Minor Seminarians returned, these two having decided not to continue their studies any longer. In addition to the fifteen returning from last year we received thirteen new candidates for the spiritual formation we offer, bringing to a present total of 28, two pre-seminarians and 26 Minor Seminarians. 11 of these are studying at the A level, and 17 at the IGCSE level. 7 of those studying at A level are in the second year of the program and hope to finish and graduate at the end of the year. Of these 28, 13 are from Australia, a marked increase compared with previous years, 6 are from the U.S., three each from Canada and Malaysia and one each from the Philippines, Indonesia and Ireland, a total of 7 countries, maintaining the international character of the Minor Seminary.

As can be imagined, the St. Joseph House is filled to capacity and the Minor Seminary is already overflowing into the Brothers’ wing, also called the Mater Dei wing. Also, with such an increase in enrollment, our small faculty of three lay teachers who teach the secular subjects, has become a little overwhelmed. Consequently we are presently looking for another competent lay teacher for high school level subjects.
I have been asked to indicate what our attitude ought to be to Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical Deus caritas est. It is certainly encouraging to hear a Pope speak of love, of the different words used to express it in Sacred Scripture, and of its necessity, so opposed to the Protestant notion of salvation by faith (i.e. confidence) alone. It is also good to hear a defense of the possibility of a love that is not purely materialistic and instinctive, and also of the necessity of love of our neighbor, and how it presupposes justice.


However, this encyclical is not one that I could possibly recommend for any Catholic to read. Allow me to explain this, without entering into the philosophical technicalities developed in the encyclical. The first very troubling observation about this encyclical is the absence of all reference to the Church’s pre-Vatican II Magisterium. There are certainly some references to the Fathers of the Church, and there is also mention of the examples of saints who practiced charity to a heroic degree (§40), but none at all to the Church’s precise teachings on the supernatural virtue of charity, and not even so much as a mention that it is a theological virtue (cf. §39). The necessity of charity for justification is omitted, although the Church has defined it as being of Faith (Cf. Council of Trent, Session vi, Canons 9 & 11). Likewise that it is infused by God (II Orange, Can. 25 & Trent, Session vi). Also, that it can truly be increased, in particular by the merits of mortification and good works (Trent, Ib. Chapter 10 & Canons 24 & 32), and that it is not at all a sin to have our eternal reward as the goal of our works of charity (Ib. Canon 31). Why would the Pope write an encyclical on charity that does not reiterate these magnificent teachings so necessary for our salvation?


Benedict XVI hints at this from the very beginning, when he describes the purpose of the encyclical, namely to show “the intrinsic link between Love and the reality of human love” (§1), that is between divine and human love, between that love that is the novelty of the new law founded by Christ, a love that is entirely self-sacrificing and that we rightly call charity (agape in Greek), and the instinctive self-seeking, intoxicating, sensual love that is natural to fallen human nature and which is characteristic of paganism (eros in Greek). Whereas the constant spirituality of the Church, founded on the Gospel (cf. Jn 12:25: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal”), is to mortify one’s sensuality, one’s self-love in all its aspects, in order to grow in charity, the self-sacrificing love that is directed to God first of all and to one’s neighbor secondly, the goal of this encyclical is to promote a unification between the two, considered as two aspects of one same love. “Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love – eros – able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur.”(§5)

           This principle is full of consequences, as dangerous for the soul as they are deceptive for the mind. It is the development of John Paul II’s new theology of the body, in which sensuality, albeit disciplined and above the gross sexuality of fleeing pleasure, is integrated into the wholeness of the dignity of the human person, or “our overall existential freedom” (Ib.) as Benedict XVI puts it. An attempt is made to form a new synthesis, midway between Christianity of the past, rightly “criticized as having been opposed to the body” (Ib.) and the contemporary exaltation of the body that denigrates the human person.

           But why? Why attempt a new understanding of love that attempts to bridge the unbridgeable chasm between the charity taught by Christ, infused into the soul by grace (Cf. Jn 13:34: A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you”), and the pagan, sensual, self-seeking notion of love? Not only to find “points of contact with the common human experience of love” (§7), but much more than that. To show that they are really one, to attempt to show that “’love’ is a single reality" (§8), that there is an
“inseparable connection” and that “The more the two (eros and agape) find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized” (§8). Now the Church has always taught that a true ordered charity, that begins with the love of God must necessarily include the love of oneself, and in particular of one’s true good, one’s eternal salvation. But this necessarily means the mortification of self-love by the embracing of the Cross: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). Anybody who frequents regularly the sacrament of penance can testify to the reality of this battle against self-love.


           But again, we must ask the question why. Why attempt to unite as one, two movements of the will that are so frequently opposed, on the one hand fallen nature that seeks its own advantage, and on the other grace, that seeks God’s holy will? Why attempt to establish that the love with which man is created “which in the first instance is manifested above all as eros between man and woman, must be transformed interiorly later into agape, in gift of self to the other to respond precisely to the authentic nature of the eros”, as Benedict XVI reportedly (February 2) himself stated was the purpose of the encyclical? Why go so far as to identify the love of infinite Goodness, diffusing itself out of pure generosity towards creatures, without any possibility of self-advantage, with the self-seeking love of eros? Yet this is exactly what Benedict XVI does: “God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape” (§9). Why attempt to join into one, these two totally different kinds of love?

There can only be one explanation of this effort, and that it is to radically obscure the distinction that exists between the natural order (human love) and the supernatural order (infused charity). This is the real purpose of this encyclical and this is how it serves to obnubilate the distinction between the Catholic Church and every other religion, and to promote a more elevated humanitarianism, not simply “a kind of welfare activity” (§25), as in the case of purely secular help enterprises.

The practical denial of original sin necessarily accompanies this refusal of the distinction between self-love and the self-sacrificing Christian love, consummated on the Cross. Not only does the encyclical make no mention whatsoever of original sin and especially the wounds of weakness, concupiscence, ignorance and malice, that are the continual obstacle in our path, making it so difficult to practice true, supernatural charity. Much more, the encyclical has the effrontery to compare the entire Genesis account of creation to a Greek myth, with this distinction, though, that “the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment”? (§11) What about the expulsion from paradise, and the loss of the preternatural gifts of immortality and integrity? Were these not a punishment from God? Here is exactly what Benedict XVI has to say about the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib:

“Here one might detect hints of ideas that are also found, for example, in the myth mentioned by Plato, according to which man was originally spherical, because he was complete in himself and self-sufficient. But as a punishment for pride, he was split in two by Zeus, so that now he longs for his other half, striving with all his being to possess it and thus regain his integrity. While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete’” (§11).


How can such an explanation of marital love not be seen as a denial of the divine inspiration of Sacred Scripture? For this encyclical, Catholic marital love is no longer the sacred, supernatural love, the participation in the mystery of the Cross that is described by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (5:22-27 & 32), that is the sacramental grace of one of the seven sacraments. No, it is an entirely natural phenomenon, common to all mankind. It is the development of his self-love, enabling him to discover his humanity:

“First, eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who ‘abandons his mother and father’ in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become ‘one flesh’. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfill its deepest purpose...Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa” (§11).

Marriage thus considered is a personal commitment, dictated by the natural impulsion to seek one’s own good, but one that understands that it can only do this truly by being exclusive and indissoluble, that is a monogamous relationship for life. While true in the natural order, this lacks supernatural depth, the self-sacrifice, true charity of the Cross, that characterizes every truly Catholic marriage. Also, where does this leave the state of consecrated virginity? According to such a philosophy, can such a person who denies the natural inclination to marriage, in order to love in a purely supernatural manner, be considered as complete? Surely such a naturalistic conception of love destroys the great sign of the Church’s holiness which is the vow of perpetual chastity taken by every priest and religious, in fulfillment of Our Lord’s words: “There are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.” (Mt 19:12).

This encyclical is a promotion of a new humanism, by an attempt at fusion between self love and divine love, between nature and grace, between creation and revelation, and Pope Benedict XVI makes no bones about it at all. Thus he claims that the Old Law was “the path leading to true humanism” (§9). He explains this very explicitly in the second part of the encyclical, in no way separated from the first part, in which he describes “the Church’s activities in the service of man” (§30). There he states that the Church should always be willing to cooperate with other non-Catholic charitable agencies “since we all have the same fundamental motivation and look towards the same goal: a true humanism, which acknowledges that man is made in the image of God and wants to help him to live in a way consonant with that dignity.” (Ib.)

Note the absence of the supernatural order, and hence of any truly Catholic characteristic to this activity. It means that Catholic “charity” can only be directed towards helping people to be better individuals, and to express their dignity by their freedom of expression, as also by experiencing the comforts and eases of this earthly life. No account can be taken of eternal salvation, nor can that be the purpose of such charitable activities. The consequence is radical. It is immoral to perform acts of charity with the goal of encouraging someone to convert to the Catholic Faith, as the missionaries have always done in the history of the Church, believe it or not! This is what the Pope says: “Charity, furthermore, cannot be used as a means of engaging in what is nowadays considered proselytism. Love is free; it is not practiced as a way of achieving other ends.” (§31).

The other consequence of this humanism is that it would be immoral to perform acts of charity that would promote Catholic principles in the civil order, or in some real way maintain the unity of Church and State that the Popes constantly taught until Vatican II. To the contrary, §28 points out that the Church must accept “the autonomy of the temporal sphere” (=pure secularism), and the State “must guarantee religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions” and simply recognize the Church as a faith community (=religious liberty), and in no way as the one true Church, established by Christ Himself (=liberalism).

It is difficult to see how these theories of love do not lead to a form of the “vital immanence” condemned by Saint Pius X under the name of modernism:

“The question is no longer one of the old error which claimed for human nature a sort of right to the supernatural. It has gone far beyond that, and has reached the point when it is affirmed that our most holy religion, in the man Christ as in us, emanated from nature spontaneously and of itself. Nothing assuredly could be more utterly destructive of the whole supernatural order” (Pascendi, §10).

Pope Pius XII expressed the same concern in his 1950 encyclical on “False opinions which threaten to undermine the foundations of Catholic doctrine”:

“Others destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision. Nor is this all. Disregarding the Council of Trent, some pervert the very concept of original sin, along with the concept of sin in general as an offense against God…Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church” (§26 & 27).

Let us rather take our lessons of charity from the magnificent encyclical of Pope Pius XI, impelled by the charity of Christ (Caritate Christi compulsi), issued at the time of the Great Depression, in 1932. Whilst deploring the injustices of the time, he immediately hit on the cause, sordid egoism, disordered love of self, of which the love of money, the root of all evils (I Tim 6:10), was a most striking example, then as now. The supernatural response, the acts of charity of a creature who understands his absolute dependence, is that of prayer and penance. Prayer, first of all, for it removes the obstacle to the practice of charity, namely self-centeredness, self-sufficiency and desire for worldly goods and success, thus alone leading to peace, the fruit of charity, but to which also must be added penance, as Our Divine Savior preached from the very beginning: “It is also the teaching of all Christian Tradition, of the entire history of the Church”.

Pius XI insisted at length that charity requires of us penance and the expiation for sin, inciting the faithful to renew the act of loving reparation for sin requested by the Sacred Heart. Deploring the fact that the desire to make reparation for sin already at that time no longer inspired such efforts of generosity as previously, due to modern man's proud independence, he continues: “The defense of God and of religion, for which we are fighting, make a duty of it. Penance, in effect, is by its very nature, an acknowledgment and a restoring of the moral order in the world, of this moral order that is founded on the eternal law, that is to say on the living God.”

Let this be the focus of our true supernatural charity during this Lent, first of all by the personal prayers, rosaries and sacrifices by which we mortify our self love, but also by offering them, as well as our time, our goods, money, possessions and alms for the good of other souls, members or potential members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Thus will our efforts lift us up to the divinely sublime generosity of the Cross, remembering that it is only the love of a suffering God that can save the world, and that it is in this charity that we have believed (I Jn 4:16).

           Yours faithfully in the Sacred and Loving Heart of our Crucified Lord,

           Father Peter R. Scott


Inserisci il tuo indirizzo e-mail:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Una volta che ti iscrivi riceverai una mail con un link per confermare.

Post più popolari

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...