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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reasoning and Faith (Pt. 2): Catholic Universalism

The Catholic Church's knowledge of the necessity for openness and universalism is not as commonly known as we would like it to be. The Church realizes that in order for the faith to flourish and survive, that truth, no
matter where it is found, must be accepted, cultivated, and natural. Belief cannot be forced, and reason cannot be disposed of in the search for faith. In Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II illuminates the reasons why openness and universality are an indisposable part of the Church.
“Faith's encounter with different cultures has created something new. When they are deeply rooted in experience, cultures show forth the human being's characteristic openness to the universal and the transcendent. Therefore they offer different paths to the     truth, which assuredly serve men and women well in revealing values which can make their life ever more human.... To everything they do, they bring something which sets  them apart from the rest of creation: their unfailing openness to mystery and their boundless desire for knowledge. Lying deep in every culture, there appears this impulse towards a fulfillment. We may say, then, that culture itself has an intrinsic capacity to receive divine Revelation. Sought accepted and not coerced (Fides Et Ratio: John Paul II).” 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reasoning and Faith (Pt. 1): The Transcendental Precepts

The act of reasoning seems like a simple task. People reason things out all the time. You take the environmental stimuli available in conjunction with the knowledge you already have and you make a rational
decision. This decisions making process is called reason. It is, however, more complex than it seems. The cognitive operation of reasoning involves not only a plethora of different sensory inputs (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smell), but also a cavalcade of mental processes. This involves deduction, evaluation, formulation, deliberation and the like. Without processing what it is being experienced in this way, reasoning is impossible. When attempting to understand the reasoning of another, or even yourself, there are considerations that must be made. These considerations involve questions one must ask themselves about the nature of the theories and ideas being put forth. This is because we are striving for truth . In his encyclical letter, Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II said;
Through the centuries, philosophers have sought to discover and articulate such a truth.... people seek in different ways to shape a “philosophy” of their own—in personal    convictions and experiences, in traditions of family and culture, or in journeys in search            of life's meaning under the guidance of a master. What inspires all of these is the desire to      reach the certitude of truth and the certitude of its absolute value. (John Paul II).
To find the truth we must ask who, what, why, when, where, and how were these ideas and philosophies formulated? What outside factors colored the reasoning of the person making these claims? In asking these questions one must also inquire about the intentionality and awareness of the person doing the reasoning to these outside factors. Reasoning for the benefit of others necessitates a certain level of accountability. Bernard Lonergan formulated a method to aid with this utilizing the Transcendental Precepts. These precepts espoused the necessity to be attentive, reasonable, intelligent, and responsible. To approach a moral philosophy without the transcendental precepts would result in fallacy. Fortunately, for philosophers and theologians alike, these precepts can be applied to understanding/formulating both theology and philosophy.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Catholicity of the Saints

1. The condition or quality of being catholic; breadth or inclusiveness.
2. General application or acceptance; universality.
3. Catholicity Roman Catholicism.

Theologian, Jesuit, and Cardinal Anthony Dulles formulated and illumined the notion of the Catholicity of Saints brilliantly in his 1985 book “The Catholicity of The Church.”
Hardly any practice is so distinctively Catholic as the cult of the saints. The Catholic esteems the saints as living embodiments of the gospel and archetypal instances of it's transforming power... Christ's 'being for others' takes root in them. The merits of the saints, though they serve to build up the Church, are not directed only to the Church as a closed community. The Church would not be Catholic if it were simply a mutual aid society based on mutual interest. Its catholicity it to be open without restriction. The saints are those in whom Christ's totally selfless love is present and operative. (Dulles Chapter 5).
What is written here is both succinct and accurate. Saints are venerated, or honored, by practitioners of the Church because of the holiness they exhibited by them through thought and deed. The veneration we have for the saints is different than the adoration associated with God, though those who are not familiar with the faith can find this confusing.

One of the Saints held in most high regard is Saint Francis of Assisi. His life, and subsequent death has influenced people since the 13th century. His example has lead to the formation of the Franciscan order, more recently he has become the namesake for Jorge Mario Bergoglio (the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church), and art and literature beyond measure. Saint Francis was an ordinary Italian man from the small city of Assisi. He lead the stereotypical life of a young wealthy merchant's son. After a brief stint in the army Francis had a vision. In his vision a crucified Christ appeared and said "Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins." This vision combined with a life changing sermon in which he heard a reading from Matthew saying:
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave (New Oxford Annotated Bible With The Apocrypha. Matt. 10:6-12).
Francis took these words and vowed to live by them. He gave up all the worldly trappings of wealth, and made it his mission to help those less fortunate than he. He would strive to commit good deeds, and to adhere to a lifestyle of poverty and charity. He was determined  to be a living testament to the life and works of Jesus Christ. Much like Christ upon which the Church is founded, he selflessly gave to all, man and animal alike. His love was universal, and therefore Catholic.


Dulles, Avery. The Catholicity of The Church. Oxford Scholarship Online/Oxford University Press, 2003. Chapter 5. eBook. <>.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Apostolic Succession

How does the apostolic succession of bishops, and of the Pope, contribute to the mark of the Church as “apostolic?”

The Catholic Church regards Saint Peter as the original Pope, and the first in a line of Apostolic succession. “It is as a consequence of the special revelation associated with him that we have the image of “Peter the
confessor of the true Christian faith,” and “Guardian of the faith against false teaching (Marthaler 306).” The apostles became the first bishops of the early Church. Each bishop has a successor, leading to a continuity that endures to this day. This continuity is the basis for the Catholic Church's apostolic. The direction of the Church by these bishops is what is called episcopal authority. It is unbroken and God given.

The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
 - she was and remains built on "the foundation of the Apostles," the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;
- with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the "good deposit," the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;
- she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ's return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, "assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church's supreme pastor": 
                                                You are the eternal Shepherd
                                                who never leaves his flock untended.
                                                Through the apostles
                                                you watch over us and protect us always.
                                                You made them shepherds of the flock
                                                to share in the work of your Son. . . .(CCC 857).

The sacramental authority bestowed upon the Apostles, the first bishops of the Church, by Jesus, is
what allows for the creation of new bishops through the sacrament of Holy Orders.


Marthaler, Berard. The Creed. 2nd ed. Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty Third Publications, 1993. 306. Print.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Substitutionary Atonement and The Nicene Creed

How could one Man die for another's sins?

The Creed, though brief, makes specific references to The Passion of Christ within it's first sentence. It is the
last sentence however, that makes reference to the “forgiveness of sins” that is associated with Jesus's death. Many question how it is that another man could die for another persons transgressions against God. There are several different approaches to that subject.

St. Paul believed that it is not God who needs to be mollified for the wrongful conduct of man, it is man who needs to be cured of his apostasy; “God is aggravated by sin, but, like a caring parent, God continues to love the sinner... it is not God's wrath that needs to be propitiated, but the vicious cycle of our rebellion and rage against God that needs to be expiated (Marthaler 156).” Paul also believed that through original sin Adam had doomed himself and his descendents to slavery through sin. It was with Jesus's sacrifice at Calvary that purchased our freedom from sin.

St. Anselm's Theory of Satisfaction is another path to the sentiment of Jesus's dying for “our sake.” Anselm's Satisfaction theory, in essence, posited that the lowly status of man, in comparison to God, would make it impossible for him to truly recompense for his transgressions. Man's punishment could not possibly meet that standard. It was only when God became flesh that he was able to atone both as a man and as a God.

There are also those who believe that to view Christ's sacrifice as purely objective lessens the importance of the subjective nature of what it was he actually did. This does not change the fact that His Crucifixion was something that He did for man, it does alter the emphasis. It takes the emphasis from being on what His sacrifice accomplished as far as reconciliation for sins, and placed it on the fact that Christ lay down His life for those who believe in Him. Theologians seem to agree that Christ's sacrifice must be viewed as both subjective and objective.

Source: Marthaler, Berard. The Creed. 2nd ed. Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty Third Publications, 1993. 156

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Title of "Christ" - Death & Resurrection

How is the Christian meaning of the title “Christ” connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection?

“Jesus Christ” has come to seem like a first and last name in modern Christianity. That is not, however the case. Jesus is His name, and has its origins in the Hebrew “Yeshua” or “Yahweh saves.” “Christ” however is
a title. It means “Anointed One.” Being anointed, in itself, was not something that could be considered unique to Jesus. In Hebrew tradition many (priests, prophets, the dead, kings, and kings to be) were anointed with oil when they could be said to have been “commissioned by God.” Jesus could be seen as a culmination of all of these. Prior to His crucifixion Jesus was widely seen as both a prophet and priest (Rabbi). What sets Jesus apart from any of these other people who history had shown to be “anointed” is His death and resurrection. The Cross of the Crucifixion was inscribed with “King of the Jews,” an acknowledgment by Pilate to what Jesus' disciples had been calling Him all along. His Resurrection fulfilled the Messianic prophesy of the Jews that a descendent of King David (and therefore King) would rise from death as King to restore city and the Temple.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Analogy of Being

At times it seems like the very idea of God is far beyond description. There's a reason for this; He is! The words we use... words like "Father" are misleading in their inability to truly illuminate what He Is. These
difficulties have resulted in what the Church calls The Analogy of Being. The Analogy of Being makes meaningful knowledge of God possible.

The Analogy of Being posits that any observations we as humans may make about God, using ourselves as a reference, are basically true, but far from the actuality of His being. What knowledge we can glean from our own situations pales in comparison to His actuality. We have being, but God is being. The words that a man might use to explain an attribute of God, even at it's most noble, is so inferior to the actuality of God that we must accept it as an analogy. What makes the language we use to give attributes to God so powerful and meaningful is that they are the words we use to describe ourselves at our very best. Humanity at it's best is as close as we can get to the true meaning of God.