Showing posts with label New Catechism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Catechism. Show all posts

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quaeritur: Novel Notions of the Image of God in Man?


QuaeriturI was at a youth group meeting last month and something came up that I did not really understand. I was hoping that if you have a spare moment you might be able to help me. The subject we are discussing in the youth group for the whole year is Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body,which seems like a good thing to be studying. We were reviewing what we had learned so far and one of the questions that was asked was confusing to me: Human beings are created "in the image of God." This refers to a) soul only, or b) soul and body.

      Now, the answer that was given was b), a soul and a body. These two CCC paragraphs were cited in the answer as well:

364 The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:232

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.233

1004  In expectation of that day, the believer's body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering: The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? . . . You are not your own; . . . So glorify God in your body.563

It is obvious that the human body is different from any other animal's body, but how could it possibly be made in God's image when He has no body? It seems to me that the catechism is saying that because humans have a soul their bodies are also made in God's image, which just doesn't make sense. All animals are animated by something spiritual, whether or not it is formally called a soul; when any animal dies the body stays but something leaves, the life-giving element that cannot be seen. Is it because humans have a rational soul that their bodies are in the image of God? If all animals are body-soul composites then there must be a distinguishing feature of the human soul for that to be the case.      

The catechism says something else about how humans are made for God (I suppose the animals and plants are made for man?) and this makes both the human body and soul made in God's image. Could this be because God's essence and existence are identical, that is to say that His only reason for existing is Himself and the only way He can exist is in Himself? I had just always thought that being made in God's image meant having an intellect and free will and had nothing to do with the body, so this was quite a curveball.

Thank you for your time!

RespondeoYou are right.  And you saw it because you have a metaphysical mind.  God is not a body, so our image and likeness of God consists in our incorporeal soul, and in particular in our having intellect and will, not in our bodies.  Our bodies are not made in the image and likeness of God, but are only 'vestiges' or 'traces' of the Blessed Trinity.   Aquinas explains it succinctly in Summa theologiae I.93.6c:  

While in all creatures there is some kind of likeness to God, in the rational creature alone we find a likeness of "image" as we have explained above (1,2); whereas in other creatures we find a likeness by way of a "trace." Now the intellect or mind is that whereby the rational creature excels other creatures; wherefore this image of God is not found even in the rational creature except in the mind; while in the other parts, which the rational creature may happen to possess, we find the likeness of a "trace," as in other creatures to which, in reference to such parts, the rational creature can be likened. We may easily understand the reason of this if we consider the way in which a "trace," and the way in which an "image," represents anything. An "image" represents something by likeness in species, as we have said; while a "trace" represents something by way of an effect, which represents the cause in such a way as not to attain to the likeness of species. For imprints which are left by the movements of animals are called "traces": so also ashes are a trace of fire, and desolation of the land a trace of a hostile army.

Therefore we may observe this difference between rational creatures and others, both as to the representation of the likeness of the Divine Nature in creatures, and as to the representation in them of the uncreated Trinity. For as to the likeness of the Divine Nature, rational creatures seem to attain, after a fashion, to the representation of the species, inasmuch as they imitate God, not only in being and life, but also in intelligence, as above explained (2); whereas other creatures do not understand, although we observe in them a certain trace of the Intellect that created them, if we consider their disposition. Likewise as the uncreated Trinity is distinguished by the procession of the Word from the Speaker, and of Love from both of these, as we have seen (28, 3); so we may say that in rational creatures wherein we find a procession of the word in the intellect, and a procession of the love in the will, there exists an image of the uncreated Trinity, by a certain representation of the species. In other creatures, however, we do not find the principle of the word, and the word and love; but we do see in them a certain trace of the existence of these in the Cause that produced them. For in the fact that a creature has a modified and finite nature, proves that it proceeds from a principle; while its species points to the (mental) word of the maker, just as the shape of a house points to the idea of the architect; and order points to the maker's love by reason of which he directs the effect to a good end; as also the use of the house points to the will of the architect. So we find in man a likeness to God by way of an "image" in his mind; but in the other parts of his being by way of a "trace."

You could say that the body participates in the image and likeness of God, insofar as it is informed by a rational soul that itself is made in the image and likeness of God, but because the body is corporeal, it is not essentially the image and likeness of God.

Although this explanation is not a dogma, it is, nonetheless, the traditional doctrine of the Church, especially as explained by the Fathers of the Church.  John Paul II, the CCC, and most Catholic "personalists" today are proposing a novel understanding of the concept of the image of God in man: they think that our being the image and likeness of God consists not so much in our having an intellect and a will, but in our being social, that is, in our being "a community of persons."   And our social nature is bodily, so they conclude that the image and likeness of God is also found in the body.  This view is metaphysically problematic, at least insofar as they do not make the distinction between (a) image and likeness, and (b) vestige/trace, thus making it seem that the soul and the body are the image and likeness of God in the same sense.  

N.B.: Remember that the Theology of the Body and the CCC are not binding acts of the Magisterium, so you don't have to take them as the authoritative statement of Catholic doctrine.  For the official teachings of the Church, see Denzinger's Sources of Catholic Dogma, which contains the definitive statements of the Magisterium, as well as Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers, which contains the main teachings of the Church Fathers on which they reach a morally unanimous consensus.  You should also study the consensus of the Doctors of the Church, whose teaching you will find in the manuals of the approved theologians (mainly those prior to the Second Vatican Council, when the Magisterium stopped censuring theologians), such as those by Ludwig Ott and Adophe Tanquerey (among many others, but these two have the advantage of being available in English translation).  You can also find many other valuable sources in ITOPL.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Modernism vs. Neo-Modernism: What is the Difference?

The overarching principle of post-conciliar theology is not modernism, properly speaking. Let us get our terms straight.

Modernism is the idea that there are no eternal truths, that truth is the correspondence of the mind with one's lifestyle (adaequatio intellectus et vitae), and that, therefore, old dogmas must be abandoned and new beliefs must arise that meet 'the needs of modern man'. This is a radical denial of the traditional and common sense notion of truth: the correspondence of the mind with reality (adaequatio intellectus et rei), which is the basis of the immutability of Catholic dogma.

No, the post-conciliar theological principle is neo-modernism, and the theology that is based on it is known as the nouvelle theologie.  It is the idea that old dogmas or beliefs must be retained, yet not the traditional 'formulas': dogmas must be expressed and interpreted in a new way in every age so as to meet the 'needs of modern man'.  This is still a denial of the traditional and common sense notion of truth as adaequatio intellectus et rei (insofar as it is still an attempt to make the terminology that expresses the faith correspond with our modern lifestyle) and consequently of the immutability of Catholic dogma, yet it is not as radical as modernism.  It is more subtle and much more deceptive than modernism because it claims that the faith must be retained; it is only the 'formulas' of faith that must be abandoned--they use the term 'formula' to distinguish the supposedly mutable words of our creeds, dogmas, etc. from their admittedly immutable meanings.  Therefore, neo-modernism can effectively slip under the radar of most pre-conciliar condemnations (except Humani generis, which condemns it directly) insofar as its practitioners claim that their new and unintelligible theological terminology really expresses the same faith of all times.  In other words, neo-modernism is supposed to be 'dynamic orthodoxy': supposedly orthodox in meaning, yet always changing in expression to adapt to modern life (cf. Franciscan University of Steubenville's mission statement).  

Take extra ecclesiam nulla salus as a clear example of a dogma that has received a brutal neo-modernist re-interpretation: they claim that the old 'formula' that "there is no salvation outside the Church" must be abandoned; rather it is more meaningful to modern man to say that salvation is not in, but through, the Church;  people who are not in the Church may still be saved through the Church; thus, to them the dogma that "there is no salvation outside the Church" means that there is salvation outside the Church.  Hence see Ven. Pope Pius XII condemning those "reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation." (Humani generis 27).

Yet this mentality of reinterpreting everything anew in order to 'meet the needs of the times' is generally tends to be found in different degrees among different post-conciliar sources:  

It tends to be  (1) rampant in men like De Lubac, Von Balthasar, Congar, etc.: it is the ultimate goal of their writings, teachings, and activities as churchmen.   To achieve this end, they employ the technique of 'resourcement', the neo-modernist strategy of fishing for the few dubious, questionable, or idiosyncratic teachings of some Fathers of the Church and other authoritative writers, and gather them into a massive, heterodox theological argument against the traditional understanding of the faith (which they like to relativize by giving it names such as "Counter-Reformation" Theology, "Tridentine" Theology, or "Scholastic" Theology, instead of just admitting that it is Catholic Theology plain and simple).  This technique accomplishes three things that go hand-in-hand: (a) offers a refutation of traditional Catholicism, (b) defends an interpretation that meets the needs of modern times, and (c) gives it a semblance of being traditional, because it appears to be based in the Fathers et al.  This type of argument is used, for example, by Von Balthasar in his nearly heretical book, Dare We Hope that All Men be Saved? to 'prove', not that Hell does not exist (that is a dogma), but that it is empty.  But this technique and its neo-modernistic underpinnings is not only practiced in almost all of these men's writings; it is also defended in theory by many of them, particularly in Von Balthasar's daring little book, Razing the Bastions, where he demonstrates that "Tridentine" theology must be rejected in our times because it is 'boring'.

It also tends to be (2) present in a more moderate way in the non-binding statements by post-conciliar popes, since they themselves were deeply involved in the developing of the nouvelle theologie.  Just to give one of a million possible examples, see Pope Benedict's evolutionistic re-interpretation of the Resurrection of Our Lord.  Nothing here obviously contradicts  the dogma of the Resurrection (it may be interpreted as a simple analogy, even if a bad one, and nothing more), but it is a novelty that can be easily understood as claiming that the Resurrection is part of the natural development of nature (thus giving credence to some of the nouvelle theologie's pet doctrines, such as De Lubac's heterodox notion of the supernatural and De Chardin's pantheistic evolutionism).   This happens almost on a daily basis in what comes out of the Vatican, not to mention what comes from local bishops.

And finally, neo-modernism tends to be present (3) mostly implicitly or behind-the-scenes in the Council, the Catechism, etc., even though it seldom comes out more explicitly.  Things are done at this level under the pretext of 'aggiornamento', a euphemism for neo-modernism.  That is usually all the justification provided since at this authoritative level, there is no need to justify things theologically.  Hence, Vatican II and the Catechism are not outright neo-modernistic.  Rather, they (like most of post-conciliar doctrine) tend in that direction and/or are inspired by that mentality.  In other words, most of the time these documents do not explicitly teach neo-modernist errors (the kind of errors you hear explicitly from neo-modernist theologians and priests). Rather, they are full of dangerous ambiguities: statements that in a technical sense could be interpreted as being in harmony with the traditional faith, but that, in their natural, non-forced, interpretation are heterodox.  One clear example of this is Dignitatis humanae, par. 2; entire monographs have been written in order to prove that, despite appearances, this document does not contradict previous teaching.  Maybe in fact it ultimately does not, but it is obvious that the prima facie meaning does; otherwise there would be no need to write so many volumes to prove it.

It must be noted that these are general tendencies, and that in some documents (cf. Gaudium et Spes) and every now and then in papal and episcopal statements neo-modernist principles rears come out more explicitly.    

For a more detailed philosophical and theological critique of neo-modernism, and how it is nothing but a re-hashing of modernism, see Garrigou-Lagrange's Where is the New Theology Leading Us? and his The Structure of the Encyclical Humani Generis.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Correspondence with Fr. Harrison on the New Catechism

Posted with Fr. Brian Harrison's permission.  The correspondent's name was omitted for privacy.

Dear Father Harrison,

Does the Catechism of the Catholic Church represent an authentic work of the ordinary Magisterium that requires at least the religious assent of mind and will?  In other words, can a Catholic simply reject a teaching contained therein, without sinning?  Thank you.

In Jesus and Mary,


Dear [name],

     I would say that when the Catechism presents a teaching that is already backed up by previous papal and/or conciliar statements, we have the duty, obviously, to give our assent to what it says in the measure due to those prior teachings.
     On the rare occasions when the Catechism departs from existing doctrine - as it does when it says in #1261 that we are allowed to hope for the salvation of infants dying without baptism (and it clearly means all of them) - I would not say we are bound to give our assent. Even supposing the existing doctrine were a non-infallible one that might theoretically be capable of reversal by a future Pope or Council, a mere Catechism seems a doubtful instrument for officially changng a doctrine. We don't know how much specific attention and prayer for guidance (if any) Pope John Paul II gave to that specific item (#1261) of the Catechism. After all there are about 2,000 items in the Catechism and the Pope cannot have personally studied all of them in depth. Some of them he may not even have been aware of! So the Catechism has a very different status from an encyclical wherein the Pope carefully goes out of his way to pass judgement on some controversial doctrinal issue (e.g., Humanae Vitae or Evangelium Vitae, both dealing with disputed human life issues, or Ordinatio Saceredotalis, ruling out women's ordination).

     Fr. Harrison


Thank you, Father.

It is unfortunate that the average Catholic must be knowledgeable of papal and/or conciliar documents, i.e., he cannot simply take everything within the CCC as true Church teaching in spite of Pope John Paul II's declaring the CCC to be a "sure norm".  I guess it's not so "sure" after all.

In Jesus and Mary,


Dear [name], 

      Things aren't really as bad you suggest below, first of all because any doctrinally questionable statements in the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be very rare, and secondly there are thousands of references to Scripture and Magisterium in the CCC footnotes, so the reader can usually see that the statements in the main text are backed up by previous Church and biblical teachings, even if he's not familiar with those sources.
     However that English translation of the Pope's words that you cite is actually an exaggeration. In the Latin text of John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution, it doesn't say anything meaning "sure" - a word which in English gives the impression of something completely certain - totally guaranteed.
     The words translated "sure norm" are "firmam regulam". "Regula" means rule, norm, criterion, so translating it "norm" is OK. But the adjective"firmus" in Latin means "firm", trusty","solid", "stable" - pretty much like "firm" in English. No classical or ecclesiastical Latin dictionary I can find (not even the long entry in the authoritative 'Lewis & Short') gives "sure" or "certain" as one of the meanings of firmus. Calling the CCC a "sure norm" gives the  impression that the Pope is guaranteeing it will never make a mistake. 
     So a more accurate translation would call it a "safe", "reliable" "solid" or "trustworthy" norm (for learning and teaching Catholic doctrine). We all use these words to describe something or someone we can depend on at least nearly always - let's say 99% of the time, but not necessarily 100%.
     The Catechism contains 2,865 articles. So 28 of them would constitute 1% of the total.  I doubt very much that one could find even that many articles containing any doctrinal statement that might even appear to depart from existing Church teaching, or be difficult to reconcile with it. 
        The bottom line here seems to me that what the Pope really says in the key declaration of his Apostolic Constitution promulgating the CCC -namely, that it provides a "solid" or "trustworthy" norm of Catholic doctrine - is quite compatible with the possibility that there could be a few, but only avery few, statements in it that might turn out to be doctrinally questionable.

       God bless,
       Fr. Harrison

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