Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fundamental Theology, § 2. Notae Theologicæ

(Ad versionem latinam legendam, pulsa hic.)

Most theological problems of our day boil down to the notae theologicae (the “theological notes”), which is Sacred Theology's way of classifying doctrinal truths according to their level of certainty, along with the censurae (censures); that is, the classification of opposing errors. The subject is so important that--by popular request--I have decided to write up an English version of my previous post in Latin on the subject. (My main source is Salaverri; Nicolau. Sacrae Theologiae Summa. Madrid: BAC, 1952; vol. 1, pp. 7-8. See also Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Intr., § 8, “The Theological Grades of Certainty”; as well as The Catholic Encyclopedia, "Censures: Theological," and Bl. Pope Pius IX, Tuas libenter, parragraph quoted in Denzinger, no. 1684--text included below. (For a Latin version of this post, click here.)

1. Truths to be believed with divine faith:

De fide divina (a truth of divine faith): a truth which is contained in the Word of God, whether in written form (Sacred Scripture), or handed down orally (Sacred Tradition): e.g., Our Lord's descent into hell. The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called error in fide (error in the faith).

De fide divina et catholica (a truth of divine and catholic faith): a truth which is contained in the Word of God, whether in written form (Sacred Scripture), or handed down orally (Sacred Tradition), AND which is proposed by the Church--WHETHER through her solemn judgement OR through her ordinary and universal Magisterium--as divinely revealed and as credenda (“to be believed”): e.g., Our Lady's co-redemption. The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called haeresis (heresy).

De fide divina et catholica definita (a truth of defined divine and catholic faith): a truth which is contained in the Word of God, whether in written form (Sacred Scripture), or handed down orally (Sacred Tradition), and which is proposed by the Church, by her solemn judgement--that is, through her infallible magisterium, exercised in an extraordinary manner, whether in an ecumenical council or through the Roman Pontiff speaking ex cathedra--as divinely revealed and as credenda (“to be believed”): e.g., "Souls that die in original sin only suffer eternal damnation." The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called haeresis (heresy).

Fidei proxima (a truth that is proximate to the faith): a truth which, according to the almost unanimous consensus of theologians, is contained in the Word of God, whether in written form (Sacred Scripture), or handed down orally (Sacred Tradition): e.g., Baptism of Desire. The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called proxima errori in fide vel haeresi vel haeresim sapiens (proximate to error in faith or proximate to heresy or savoring of heresy).

2. Truths to be held with ecclesiastical faith:

De fide ecclesiastica (a truth of ecclesiastical faith): a truth which is not formally part of Divine Revelation, but which is infallibly proposed by the Church's Magisterium: e.g., “The soul is the form of the body.” The error that is opposed to this level of Catholic truth is called error in fide ecclesiastica (error in ecclesiastical faith). (Many theologians, even prior to Vatican II, denied the separate existence of this category; many Thomists affirmed it, however, including Reginald Schultes--a student of Garrigou-Lagrange--in his famous, De Ecclesia.)

3. Truths to be held with religious assent of intellect and will:

Doctrina catholica (Catholic doctrine): a truth which is taught in the entire Church, but is not always infallibly proposed: viz., those things which the Roman Pontiffs explicitly desire to teach in encyclicals: e.g., the doctrines on the Sacred Liturgy in Pius XII's Mediator Dei. The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called error in doctrina catholica (error in Catholic doctrine).

Theologice certa (a truth that is theologically certain): a truth which was acknowledged “in the theological schools” as certain and having a necessary logical connection with Revelation; such connection may be virtual, or presupositive, or final: e.g., "Christ posessed the beatific vision while on earth, even before his death and resurrection." The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called error in theologia (error in theology).

Ita tenenda, ut contraria sit temeraria (a doctrine that is to be held, such that the contrary is temerary): a truth proposed by the Roman Congregations, which nevertheless does not enjoy the special approval of the Roman Pontiff: e.g., “The first Gospel was written by the apostle St. Matthew.” The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called doctrina temeraria (temerary doctrine).

4. Doctrines that are to be respected and revered:

Sententia communis, certa in theologia (a common doctrine, a doctrine that is certain in theology): a doctrine that is proposed “in the schools” by the common consensus of theologians (i.e., in pontifical faculties of theologians, prior to 1962, when their orthodoxy was carefully safeguarded) as “well founded”: e.g., “Grace presupposes and perfects nature.” The error that is opposed to this level of catholic truth is called falsa in theologia, vel temeraria, vel scholis catholicis injuriosa (false in theology, or temerary, or injurious to catholic schools).

Sententia pia (pious doctrine): a doctrine which is not theologically exact, but which communicates well the piety and sentiments of the faithful: e.g., “Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Ghost.” A truth that is contrary to this level of catholic truth is called scandalosa seu male sonans seu offensiva piarum aurium (scandalous, or bad-sounding, or offensive to pious ears).

5. Opinions that are open to debate among experts:

Sententia communior (the more common opinion): an opinion that is usually favored over its counterpart(s) by most theologians: “Mary suffered a natural, temporal death.”

Sententia propabilis (probable opinion): an opinion which is not certain but which has a high level of probability: e.g., “the Minor Orders are part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”

Sententia propabilior (the more probable opinion): an opinion that is not certain but which is better founded than its counterpart(s): e.g., The view that the form of the consecration of the wine includes not only the words hoc est… calix sanguinis mei, but also the words novi et aeterni testamenti, mysterium fidei, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum.

Sententia tuta, sententia tolerata (safe opinion, tolerated opinion): an opinion which may be weakly founded or even altogether false, but which the Church has not, at least for the moment, deemed worthy of censure or condemnation: e.g., Molina’s scientia media.


The core of this classification (at least nos. 1 and 3) is confirmed by the words of Blessed Pope Pius IX, in his letter to the German Bishops, titled Tuas libenter (1863). There he tells Catholic theologians to be aware that they are required not only to believe de fide doctrines (from category 1), but also to submit to other decisions and teachings of the Church and her theologians (category 3):

For even if it were a matter concerning that subjection which is to be manifested by an act of divine faith, nevertheless, it would not have to be limited to those matters which have been defined by express decrees of the ecumenical Councils, or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this See, but would have to be extended also to those matters which are handed down as divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching power of the whole Church spread throughout the world, and therefore, by universal and common consent are held by Catholic theologians to belong to faith.

But, since it is a matter of that subjection by which in conscience all those Catholics are bound who work in the speculative sciences, in order that they may bring new advantage to the Church by their writings, on that account, then, the men of that same convention should realize that it is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas of the Church, but that it is also necessary to subject themselves to the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations, and also to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some theological censure. (Denzinger no. 1684.)

Beate Pie, ora pro nobis!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Letter from Fr. Harrison: On Anti-Life Legislations in Puerto Rico

Share/Bookmark Dear Friends,

You have probably heard little or nothing in the U.S. media about the fact that Puerto Rico is right now facing an extremely radical legislative project attacking traditional norms of marriage, human life, and family. So you may find this little report of interest.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, this island was used as a testing ground for the most revolutionary innovation of that decade, the contraceptive (and abortifacient) pill, with Puerto Rican women being used as human guinea pigs. And once again the hard left has been pushing aggressively down here, aided and abetted from 'up north' by the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, militant homosexuals, the Freemason-friendly local press and other enemy forces. They have taken advantage of a project to revise the island's Civil Code so as to"adapt it to the 21st century", pushing for a whole slew of secular humanist changes to Puerto Rican law covering marriage and family issues: embryo experimentation and destruction, equal legal and economic "rights" for 'gay' and unmarried heterosexual couples (it will be "marriage" in all but name), sex-'changes' being registered to officially falsify birth certificates (and so bring same-sex "marriage" in through the back door), adoption rights for unmarried couples and single mothers, sale of semen for in-vitro mothers, with the option of 'designer-babies' (selecting desired genetic traits from the 'supermarket' of anonymous semen vendors), freezing genetic material so as to allow in vitro procreation of infants whose father is already dead, along with other anti-human and anti-Christian measures.

On the brighter side, the island's Catholic Church - along with plenty of Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestants - is mounting some firm resistance. Among other things, we have gathered so far 150,000 signatures to a petition (which I helped to draft) opposing the new proposed legislation, and had a big public Catholic protest on Saturday, March 24. Many thousands of faithful from parishes all over the island, including all the seminarians, plenty of priests and religious, and masses of young people, crowded the south side of the Capitol in San Juan, led by all of the island's bishops and the Apostolic Delegate (the American Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who is also the Papal Nuncio for our next-door-neighbor, the Dominican Republic). It was very refreshing to see for a moment the social Kingship of Christ symbolized, at least, in a reminder of what Pius XI had in mind in his 1925 Encyclical "Quas Primas", which introduced the Feast of Christ the King into the Liturgy in order to combat the exclusion of Our Lord from the public life of nations.

We Catholics literally took over the whole Capitol portico and its massive steps, in a scenario that would have had the ACLU, Barry Lynn and his "People for the American Way", and all other dogmatic Church/State separationists, in paroxysms of rage at the "unconstitutionality" of it all. I confess I almost choked up, on arriving at the Capitol, to see a massive statue of Our Lady of Divine Providence, the island's Patroness, enthroned on a high stone rampart at the side of the Capitol steps, while an enormousimage of Our Lady of Guadalupe ("Empress of the Americas") was hung between the very columns of the Capitol facade. It was reminiscent of beatifications and canonizations in St. Peter's Square, when they always have colossal portraits of the new Saints or Blesseds hanging between the great columns of the Basilica. For a moment old Christendom had made a proud re-appearance here in the original heart of the Christian New World! (The first diocese in the Americas with its resident bishop was established in Puerto Rico in 1511.) I can't imagine a similarly defiant scenario with American bishop spresiding at the Washington Capitol, or even any State capitol. It was really a manifestation of a united national Catholic Church clamoring for certain basic and traditional social norms of Christendom to be up held by our legislators. The media has been rather frustrated trying to fish out dissident "Catholics" to express support the legislation and create the impression of a house divided. So far I've only seen a report of a lone liberal nun dissenting from the Church's official opposition to the legislation. But even she belongs to a group that is semi-schismatic and not in good standing juridically with the local hierarchy.

Please keep Puerto Rico in your prayers, that this evil legislative project is defeated, through the intercession of She who 'crushes the head of the serpent', and this island's first Blessed, the lay apostle Carlos Manuel Rodríguez (1918-1963).

May all of you receive God's richest blessings in this Holy Week and at the triumphal celebration of Our Lord's Resurrection!

Yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Do the passions remain in the separated soul?

Dear Professor Romero,

I need your help in understanding the faculty of the passions (affections or emotions). I was told that the passions are rooted in the body. It is the body also in which the temperaments are rooted. The souls in heaven are free from any passion. The thing that I don't understand is that is it not the soul that directs, or at least should direct, the passions. If the soul is then separated from the body, then how can the souls in heaven feel love, hate, etc. Please help this poor fellow in Scholastic Philosophy.

God bless.

Good question, Tony; and a very appropriate one to ask during Passiontide.

First, a little bit of background. There are three kinds of soul. First, there is the vegetative soul, which is proper to plants. This type of soul is very basic in that it only enables its bearer to operate qua vegetative being--viz., to assimilate food, to regenerate cells, and to reproduce.

Second, there is the sensitive soul, which is proper to brute animals. As such, this type of soul has two parts, a vegetative part and a sensitive part, each of which which enables the animal to operate qua vegetative being AND qua sensitive being, respectively--viz., the vegetative part enables the animal to assimilate food, to regenerate cells, and to reproduce (vegetative functions); and the sensitive part enables him to see, smell, hear, touch, and taste, as well as to imagine, to remember and to feel fear, anger, desire, and joy (sensitive functions).

Third, there is the spiritual or rational soul, which is proper to rational animals, i.e., humans. As such, this type of soul has three parts, a vegetative part, a sensitive part, and a spiritual part, each of which which enables the human being to operate qua vegetative being AND qua sensitive being AND qua rational being, respectively--viz., the vegetative part enables the human to assimilate food, to regenerate cells, and to reproduce (vegetative functions); the sensitive part enables him to see, smell, hear, touch, and taste, as well as to imagine, to remember and to feel fear, anger, desire, and joy (sensitive functions); the rational part enables man to understand intellectually and to exercise his will (which are specifically spiritual/rational functions).

So, as you see, the passions, along with the temperaments, are sensitive faculties, which means they reside in the sensitive part of the human soul, or in the sensitive part of the animal soul. In the brute animal soul, the passions (and temperaments?) rein freely and act according to nature and, ultimately, Divine Providence; that's why lions can't abstain from meat on Fridays: they are carnivores and that's what they do, every day of the year--and that's the way nature and Divine Providence intended it. But in man, the rational part must "reach down" to the sensitive part and give it a sort of rational order, so that the passions are acted upon only according to reason. So that we can subdue our cravings when it is appropriate; and also act upon them when appropriate.

As you implied, this sort of rational governing of the passions can only happen here in this life (in via). The reason is this: both the sensitive and the vegetative parts of the human soul are dependent on the body for their existence and operation; all the faculties associated with those two parts reside in the body-soul composite. Consequently, when the body-soul composite is destroyed (at death) these faculties also cease to be. So, yes, that means that the separated (disembodied) soul of St. Peter in heaven cannot assimilate food, or smell, or imagine anything--although Our Lord and Our Lady can because they have glorified bodies. Peter, however, will have to wait until the last day--and so will we--to be able to smell anything again and do other things of the sort. (But don't worry about him not being able to smell: he's in heaven and, somehow, that means he must be having a blast.)

However, the rational part of the soul and its faculties (intellect and will) are completely independent from the body* and thus they remain in the separated soul. So the separated soul of St. Peter in heaven love because love is an act of the will and, as such, it is an exclusively spiritual/rational operation. Similarly, a separated soul in hell can hate because hate is also an act of the will.

*For their existence, not their operation. For their operation, the intellect and will need either the indirect "input" of the senses (down here, in via) or the direct "input" of God's Beatific Vision (up there, in patria).

I hope this helps.

In Domino qui passus est pro nobis,