Friday, January 27, 2017

Quaeritur: On the Eternal Destiny of Aborted Babies


Quaeritur: I have entered into a (friendly) debate on abortion and someone asked me what the Catholic Church teaches about the eternal destiny of the souls of aborted babies. I'm a recent convert, so I wanted some help before I reply. Grazie!

Respondeo:  Most Catholics today sadly just canonize the souls of aborted babies, assuming that since they never sinned, they automatically go to Heaven. But they either forget original sin and the necessity of Baptism, or gloss over these problems by citing God's mercy as the demonstrative proof that they are in fact in Heaven, regardless of what God may have revealed on the matter. But in fact, there is a sharp discrepancy between these new theological tendencies (promoted by the nouvelle theologie) and what the sources of Revelation have to say on the matter. 

The sources of Revelation all point to the concept of the 'Limbo of Children' (limbus puerorum)---to be distinguished from the 'Limbo of the Fathers' (limbus patrum), which is where Christ descended after his death. Limbo itself is not a dogma (i.e., not de fide, but only sententia certa or even a doctrina catholica); but it it is derived from other revealed doctrines that are de fide definita, such as the impossibility of salvation for those who die in original sin. 

First of all, it is a defined dogma that souls of those who die in the state of original sin but without having committed actual sins (this includes generally those who die without Baptism and before the age of reason) cannot enter Heaven. However, they do not suffer the bodily pains of hell either. 

Pope Gregory X, in the 2nd Council of Lyons, declared: 

“Now, the souls of those who depart in mortal sin, or only with original sin, immediately descend into hell, but to be punished differently” (Denzinger 464 [858]). 

This doctrine was infallibly defined and ratified by Eugenius IV, in the Concil of Florence (cf. Denzinger 693 [1306].)  This dogma, that souls with original sin only are punished differently from those which die in mortal sin, is the basis for the constant teaching of the theologians on Limbo. You can read a pretty thorough theological defense of Limbo that cites the authority of the theological sources, including the Magisterium and the consensus of approved theologians throughout the centuries, here.

Now, this is not to say that Limbo is a third eternal destiny, in addition to Heaven and Hell, as is often erroneously supposed. This hypothesis, that Limbo is a distinct state besides Heaven and Hell, was actually condemned: at the end of time, only two states will remain: Heaven and Hell. (Oddly, I've heard and read fallacious arguments that try to refute the existence of Limbo by citing the condemnation, thinking that what is condemned is Limbo itself. But in reality what is condemned is the claim that Limbo is a third state distinct from Heaven and Hell; see Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei; Denzinger 1526 [2626].). No, Limbo is in fact part of Hell. It involves the eternal loss of the Beatific Vision, which is the essence of Hell, even if it does not involve the horrible physical sufferings that we usually associate with Hell and which are only an accidental aspect of the latter.

St Thomas Aquinas specifically distinguishes in hell the punishment or 'pain' of sense (poena sensus) from the punishment of separation or loss (poena damni), which is not really 'pain' at all: souls with actual mortal sins suffer both, but souls with original sin only, are only subject to the latter: they do not see God face-to-face, but they do enjoy a natural sort of happiness where their natural powers (intellect, will, etc.) and body are fulfilled to their natural capacities. And this is known to the faithful by the term 'Limbo' (from the Latin, limbus, border), and was popularized in Catholic imagination by Dante, who wonderfully describes Limbo as the 'first circle' of hell.  (See Summa theologiae Ia-IIae, q. 87, a. 4; IIIae Supp., q. 97, a. 5.)

That's the traditional teaching, but as you can see, it is considered to be a bit harsh for modern sensitivities and so there has been a push within contemporary theology, especially within the nouvelle theologie to replace it with a more 'merciful' view (sound familiar?). Some contemporary theologians theorize that just as there can be a 'baptism of desire' on the part of adult catechumens who die without Baptism, and we thus hope for their salvation, so there could be a sort of 'vicarious' baptism of desire for those babies who die without Baptism but whom the Church desires to baptize. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is steeped in the nouvelle theologie, somewhat dodges the issue (and fails to teach the traditional doctrine of Limbo) in paragraph 1261. In the immediately preceding paragraphs it is noticeably 'soft' on the necessity of Baptism for salvation (as compared to the Catechisms, encyclicals, doctors, theologians, etc. of the previous millenia). And in this context it goes on to state that the Church entrusts the souls of those who die in original sin only to the mercy of God:

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them" (Mk 10 14; cf. 1 Tim 2:4), allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
These hypotheses are problematic. At heart they seem motivated by a characteristically modern (and partly erroneous) idea of divine justice and of the gratuitousness of salvation; and in the case of some theologians, even perhaps an implicit denial of the reality of original sin. Modern minds find it inconceivable that God would deprive an 'innocent' baby of Heaven. After all--they claim--these babies have done nothing wrong, so why would God deprive them of what they were made for? Wouldn't it be unfair for God to damn them in Hell? 

But, you see, lurking behind the scenes here are two very erroneous assumptions: (a) original sin doesn't really take away these souls' innocence; and (b) God owes it to them to save them, because presumably salvation is what a soul deserves by nature, by default, so long as it does not lose this right by sinning. But of course, these presuppositions are false and heretical. (Most theologians would not dare to state them explicitly; but naïvely the general population does buy into them.) Despite our sensibilities to the contrary, Catholic dogma tells us that these souls are not innocent, but bear the stain of sin and are thus unworthy of the glory of Heaven. Morevoer, God does not owe Heaven to anyone anyway; salvation is a free gift and no one really deserves it (or merit it de condigno). And, what's more, rather than there being some sort of 'unfairness' by assigning to them this eternal lot, God is in fact being merciful towards these souls. God is not punishing them for something they didn't do, but is mercifully granting them an eternal and superabundant natural happiness that they do not deserve. Divine justice, original sin, the gratuity of salvation: we may not like these doctrines, but it's what God revealed. If we really believed in them, we would not find shocking the doctrine of limbo that is widely taught to us by the Catholic tradition throughout the ages, and we wouldn't need to replace it with some vain 'hope' devised to fit our un-Catholic sensibilities.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Quaeritur: What is the Status of a Catholic Who Dissents from the Magisterium?


Quaeritur: I was having an online discussion and we all agreed with the statement that "a Catholic cannot dissent from the traditional teaching of the Church's Magisterium."  But I had further questions about that statement.  Would you say that the word 'cannot' in the statement is to be taken in the strong, descriptive sense of "isn't able to", or merely in the prescriptive sense of "shouldn't"? In other words, is it the case that it is impossible for a Catholic to have a belief that is contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, or merely that a Catholic shouldn't have beliefs contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium? If someone holds a belief that is contrary to the Deposit of Faith or the teaching of the Magisterium, does it render that person no longer Catholic, or just a bad (disobedient) Catholic?

Respondeo: It depends on the level of the Magisterial teaching in question. Some teachings have been defined dogmatically, for example, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and many, many others; such that believing in these teachings is part of the definition of what it means to be Catholic. And if someone obstinately denies even the least of these, then they no longer meet the requirements for the definition of what it means to be Catholic. There is no such thing as a Catholic who denies the divinity of Christ---or for that matter a Catholic who denies that the sacramental accidents of the Eucharist continue to exist without a subject in which to inhere. This includes moral teachings that form part of the Deposit of Faith but are nonetheless commonly rejected by many so-called 'Catholics' today: the indissolubility of marriage, the immorality of sodomy, contraception, abortion, etc.  If you reject any of these dogmatically defined teachings, then you're not Catholic. It doesn't matter if you are baptized, a priest, or a bishop.  I admit the issue has its complexities: there are important nuances such as whether the denial is obstinate, and in the case of the pope there are further complications.  But the basic principle is that part of the definition of being 'Catholic' is accepting defined Catholic teaching.

So there are people who dissent from defined Church teaching but nonetheless think of themselves as ‘Catholics’ simply because they were baptized, or because they have been raised in the Catholic Church, or because they hold some position in the hierarchy. But in reality these people are not Catholic, because none of those criteria are sufficient conditions for being Catholic.  In order to be really Catholic one must also believe in the Catholic faith and preserve it whole and entire.  This is required by the Church's mark of unity: the Church is 'one' in doctrine, worship, and government.  If someone separates himself from the Church's unity of doctrine, worship, and government, then he no longer is in the Church.

On the other hand, if someone denies a teaching that is not dogmatically defined, or especially one that is not directly part of the Deposit of Faith, but is simply a theological conclusion or common teaching of the ordinary Magisterium, then this would be different. You wouldn't cease being Catholic by denying it.  

I'm speaking, for example, of the case of a Catholic who for some reason would deny that Our Lady is the Mediatrix of all Graces---a doctrine that hasn't yet been defined. The same is true of teachings that are logically or theologically derived from defined dogma, but which are themselves not defined. These are known as theological conclusions, and theologically are considered distinct from the dogmas from which they are derived.  For example, the Christological perichoresis (the close union between Christ's two natures) is a theological conclusion that is derived from the dogma the Hypostatic Union (the union of each of His two Natures to the Person of the Word).  The latter is a defined dogma, but the former is not.  Regardless of concrete examples, I'm speaking theologically of the lower notae theologicae, i.e., of statements that are not yet de fide, but are rather at the level of sententiae proximae fideisententiae certae, etc.1 

In any case, it is not permissible to deny these: such a denial is an act of disobedience towards the ordinary Magisterium, and thus a sin.  But you are not excommunicated, nor cease to belong to the Church for doing so. If you deny them, you may be a bad Catholic, but you're still Catholic.... until the Church elevates them to a dogmatic level, that is.

So we must be careful not simply to hand out excommunications to people who deny this or that teaching, especially if we do not know exactly what the nota theologica of that teaching is. Many doctrines of the Magisterium that we hold dear have not been defined; they are true and certain, but for one reason or another the Church has not exercised its charism of infallibility in teaching them. So just calling everybody who denies any teaching a heretic is a dangerous tactic.  There are many levels of theological censure (censurae theologicae), only the first one of which is 'heresy'; other theological censures include: error in fide, sententia haeresi proxima, haeresim sapiens, sententia temeraria, error theologicus, etc.  And we must be very savvy about these and sufficiently nuanced when assessing theological errors.  This is especially the case when assessinng the claims of the practitioners of the Nouvelle Theologie (from De Lubac, Von Balthasar, Rahner, etc. to Popes John Paul II, Benedict, etc.), who were thoroughly trained in the traditional theology that preceded them and are therefore usually very careful not to fall into 'heresy', strictly speaking, when proposing a novel theological idea.  Otherwise, if every theological error were a heresy, sedevacantism would be inescapable, and in fact few hierarchs in the world would be Catholic. But fundamental theology is much more complex than that.

(1) Cf. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis: Herder, 1955), pp. 9, 161, 212, 453.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Quaeritur: Do Angels Undergo Motion?


Quaeritur: If by motion we understand the passing from potency to act, what does the motion of the angels consist in?  It is probably not locomotion, which is circumscribed within space.  I know that in angels there is a distinction between potency and act (because otherwise they would be Pure Act, that is, God, or pure potency, prime matter, which is an ens rationis, if I’m not mistaken).  But what would the actualization of their potencies consist in?  Can an angel learn?  On the other hand, with respect to local motion, as far as I understand there seem to be testimonies in Scripture and in the writings of the saints where angels seem to be have a certain trajectory in space when they interact with corporeal beings.  How is this possible?

Respondeo: First of all, as you say, in angels there is in fact a composition of potency and act.  They are not pure act, as is God, or pure potency, as is prime matter (see St. Thomas, De ente et essentia, Ch. 4).  A separate issue is whether they can move from potency to act.

Further, motion can occur per se within three genera or categories: quality, quantity, and place.  Properly speaking, only mobile being (i.e., material being) is the subject of motion.  But motion can also be understood analogically in reference to incorporeal beings where there is a composition of potency and act.  This applies to both angels and souls. 

However, angels, being incorporeal, do not have quantiative parts, so they can only undergo motion qualitatively (as you say, if they learn), or in place, by assuming different places.  But all this is true only analogically, as compared to the way we ascribe motion to bodies.

St. Thomas, in fact, explicitly ascribes place, and hence motion, to angels, but does so ‘equivocally’:

Summa theologiae Ia, q. 56, a. 1:

Whether an angel can be moved locally?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod Angelus non possit moveri localiter. Ut enim probat philosophus in VI Physic., nullum impartibile movetur, quia dum aliquid est in termino a quo, non movetur; nec etiam dum est in termino ad quem, sed tunc mutatum est, unde relinquitur quod omne quod movetur, dum movetur, partim est in termino a quo, et partim in termino ad quem. Sed Angelus est impartibilis. Ergo Angelus non potest moveri localiter.  Objection 1: It seems that an angel cannot be moved locally. For, as the Philosopher proves (Phys. vi, text 32,86) "nothing which is devoid of parts is moved"; because, while it is in the term "wherefrom," it is not moved; nor while it is in the term "whereto," for it is then already moved; consequently it remains that everything which is moved, while it is being moved, is partly in the term "wherefrom" and partly in the term "whereto." But an angel is without parts. Therefore an angel cannot be moved locally.
Praeterea, motus est actus imperfecti, ut dicitur in III Physic. Sed Angelus beatus non est imperfectus. Ergo Angelus beatus non movetur localiter.  Objection 2: Further, movement is "the act of an imperfect being," as the Philosopher says (Phys. iii, text 14). But a beatified angel is not imperfect. Consequently a beatified angel is not moved locally.
Praeterea, motus non est nisi propter indigentiam. Sed sanctorum Angelorum nulla est indigentia. Ergo sancti Angeli localiter non moventur.  Objection 3: Further, movement is simply because of want. But the holy angels have no want. Therefore the holy angels are not moved locally.
Sed contra, eiusdem rationis est Angelum beatum moveri, et animam beatam moveri. Sed necesse est dicere animam beatam localiter moveri, cum sit articulus fidei quod Christus secundum animam, descendit ad Inferos. Ergo Angelus beatus movetur localiter.  On the contrary, It is the same thing for a beatified angel to be moved as for a beatified soul to be moved. But it must necessarily be said that a blessed soul is moved locally, because it is an article of faith that Christ's soul descended into Hell. Therefore a beatified angel is moved locally.
Respondeo dicendum quod Angelus beatus potest moveri localiter. Sed sicut esse in loco aequivoce convenit corpori et Angelo, ita etiam et moveri secundum locum. Corpus enim est in loco, inquantum continetur sub loco, et commensuratur loco. Unde oportet quod etiam motus corporis secundum locum, commensuretur loco, et sit secundum exigentiam eius. Et inde est quod secundum continuitatem magnitudinis est continuitas motus; et secundum prius et posterius in magnitudine, est prius et posterius in motu locali corporis, ut dicitur in IV Physic. Sed Angelus non est in loco ut commensuratus et contentus, sed magis ut continens. Unde motus Angeli in loco, non oportet quod commensuretur loco, nec quod sit secundum exigentiam eius, ut habeat continuitatem ex loco; sed est motus non continuus. Quia enim Angelus non est in loco nisi secundum contactum virtutis, ut dictum est, necesse est quod motus Angeli in loco nihil aliud sit quam diversi contactus diversorum locorum successive et non simul, quia Angelus non potest simul esse in pluribus locis, ut supra dictum est. Huiusmodi autem contactus non est necessarium esse continuos. Potest tamen in huiusmodi contactibus continuitas quaedam inveniri. Quia, ut dictum est, nihil prohibet Angelo assignare locum divisibilem, per contactum suae virtutis; sicut corpori assignatur locus divisibilis, per contactum suae magnitudinis. Unde sicut corpus successive, et non simul, dimittit locum in quo prius erat, et ex hoc causatur continuitas in motu locali eius; ita etiam Angelus potest dimittere successive locum divisibilem in quo prius erat, et sic motus eius erit continuus. Et potest etiam totum locum simul dimittere, et toti alteri loco simul se applicare, et sic motus eius non erit continuus.  I answer that, A beatified angel can be moved locally. As, however, to be in a place belongs equivocally to a body and to an angel, so likewise does local movement. For a body is in a place in so far as it is contained under the place, and is commensurate with the place. Hence it is necessary for local movement of a body to be commensurate with the place, and according to its exigency. Hence it is that the continuity of movement is according to the continuity of magnitude; and according to priority and posteriority of local movement, as the Philosopher says (Phys. iv, text 99). But an angel is not in a place as commensurate and contained, but rather as containing it. Hence it is not necessary for the local movement of an angel to be commensurate with the place, nor for it to be according to the exigency of the place, so as to have continuity therefrom; but it is a non-continuous movement. For since the angel is in a place only by virtual contact, as was said above (Question [52]Article [1]), it follows necessarily that the movement of an angel in a place is nothing else than the various contacts of various places successively, and not at once; because an angel cannot be in several places at one time, as was said above (Question [52]Article [2]). Nor is it necessary for these contacts to be continuous. Nevertheless a certain kind of continuity can be found in such contacts. Because, as was said above (Question [52]Article [1]), there is nothing to hinder us from assigning a divisible place to an angel according to virtual contact; just as a divisible place is assigned to a body by contact of magnitude. Hence as a body successively, and not all at once, quits the place in which it was before, and thence arises continuity in its local movement; so likewise an angel can successively quit the divisible place in which he was before, and so his movement will be continuous. And he can all at once quit the whole place, and in the same instant apply himself to the whole of another place, and thus his movement will not be continuous.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod illa ratio dupliciter deficit in proposito. Primo quidem, quia demonstratio Aristotelis procedit de indivisibili secundum quantitatem, cui respondet locus de necessitate indivisibilis. Quod non potest dici de Angelo.  Reply to Objection 1: This argument fails of its purpose for a twofold reason. First of all, because Aristotle's demonstration deals with what is indivisible according to quantity, to which responds a place necessarily indivisible. And this cannot be said of an angel.
Secundo, quia demonstratio Aristotelis procedit de motu continuo. Si enim motus non esset continuus, posset dici quod aliquid movetur dum est in termino a quo, et dum est in termino ad quem, quia ipsa successio diversorum ubi circa eandem rem, motus diceretur; unde in quolibet illorum ubi res esset, illa posset dici moveri. Sed continuitas motus hoc impedit, quia nullum continuum est in termino suo, ut patet, quia linea non est in puncto. Et ideo oportet quod illud quod movetur, non sit totaliter in altero terminorum, dum movetur; sed partim in uno, et partim in altero. Secundum ergo quod motus Angeli non est continuus, demonstratio Aristotelis non procedit in proposito. Sed secundum quod motus Angeli ponitur continuus, sic concedi potest quod Angelus, dum movetur, partim est in termino a quo, et partim in termino ad quem (ut tamen partialitas non referatur ad substantiam Angeli, sed ad locum), quia in principio sui motus continui, Angelus est in toto loco divisibili a quo incipit moveri; sed dum est in ipso moveri, est in parte primi loci quem deserit, et in parte secundi loci quem occupat. Et hoc quidem quod possit occupare partes duorum locorum, competit Angelo ex hoc quod potest occupare locum divisibilem per applicationem suae virtutis sicut corpus per applicationem magnitudinis. Unde sequitur de corpore mobili secundum locum, quod sit divisibile secundum magnitudinem de Angelo autem, quod virtus eius possit applicari alicui divisibili.Secondly, because Aristotle's demonstration deals with movement which is continuous. For if the movement were not continuous, it might be said that a thing is moved where it is in the term "wherefrom," and while it is in the term "whereto": because the very succession of "wheres," regarding the same thing, would be called movement: hence, in whichever of those "wheres" the thing might be, it could be said to be moved. But the continuity of movement prevents this; because nothing which is continuous is in its term, as is clear, because the line is not in the point. Therefore it is necessary for the thing moved to be not totally in either of the terms while it is being moved; but partly in the one, and partly in the other. Therefore, according as the angel's movement is not continuous, Aristotle's demonstration does not hold good. But according as the angel's movement is held to be continuous, it can be so granted, that, while an angel is in movement, he is partly in the term "wherefrom," and partly in the term "whereto" (yet so that such partiality be not referred to the angel's substance, but to the place); because at the outset of his continuous movement the angel is in the whole divisible place from which he begins to be moved; but while he is actually in movement, he is in part of the first place which he quits, and in part of the second place which he occupies. This very fact that he can occupy the parts of two places appertains to the angel from this, that he can occupy a divisible place by applying his power; as a body does by application of magnitude. Hence it follows regarding a body which is movable according to place, that it is divisible according to magnitude; but regarding an angel, that his power can be applied to something which is divisible.
Ad secundum dicendum quod motus existentis in potentia, est actus imperfecti. Sed motus qui est secundum applicationem virtutis, est existentis in actu, quia virtus rei est secundum quod actu est.  Reply to Objection 2: The movement of that which is in potentiality is the act of an imperfect agent. But the movement which is by application of energy is the act of one in act: because energy implies actuality.
Ad tertium dicendum quod motus existentis in potentia, est propter indigentiam suam, sed motus existentis in actu, non est propter indigentiam suam, sed propter indigentiam alterius. Et hoc modo Angelus, propter indigentiam nostram, localiter movetur, secundum illud Heb. I, omnes sunt administratorii spiritus, in ministerium missi propter eos qui haereditatem capiunt salutis.  Reply to Objection 3: The movement of that which is in potentiality is the act of an imperfect but the movement of what is in act is not for any need of its own, but for another's need. In this way, because of our need, the angel is moved locally, according to Heb. 1:14: "They are all [*Vulg.: 'Are they not all . . . ?'] ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who receive the inheritance of salvation."

Friday, January 13, 2017

Quaeritur: Difference Between Formal and Total Abstraction


Quaeritur: What is the difference between so-called ‘total abstraction’ and ‘formal abstraction?  If total abstraction consists in abstracting the universal from the particular (e.g., abstracting from a concrete man the universal ‘man’), and formal abstraction consists in abstracting the form from the matter-form composite (e.g., I suppose that from a concrete man, we could abstract his formal ontological structure, that is, his substantial form ‘man’), which places a given being in its species, and which would be similar to the universal---or am I mistaken?  Aren’t they ultimately the same thing?

Respondeo: The difference between these lies in that total abstraction consists, as you say, in abstracting the complete nature of the individual in question (e.g., if we look at a particular tree and abstract the nature of ‘treeness’, or the tree’s proximate genus ‘plant’, or its ultimate genus ‘substance’), whereas formal abstraction consists in isolating, not the whole nature, but merely some partial aspect of the individual, prescinding from its sensible qualities that depend on matter for their definition (as for example, taking the same tree, we can abstractly conceive its geometric shape or figure).  These two types of abstraction, according to modern scholasticism, correspond to natural science and to mathematics, respectively.

Here is a nice explanation from Klubertanz’s Introduction to the Philosophy of Being (2nd Ed.):

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Our Lady's Breasts, Pope Francis' Comment, and the Iceberg of Catholic Culture


First of all, I'd like to apologize for this post, which is really just a rant.  It's not on a speculative theological matter, so I cannot just rely on the scholastic method to deduce a solution to the problem.  It's a faith-based reflection on a real life problem that I have encountered in my journey as a traditional Catholic.  Most of my conversations with traditional Catholics, or with people who are just beginning their love affair with the traditional Mass, naturally tend to focus on doctrinal and liturgical matters.  Sadly, many 'trads' understand the concept of being a traditional Catholic in doctrinal and liturgical terms, and never see that, in the end, becoming a traditional Catholic is so much more than that, and has to do with culture.  As a philosopher, theologian, and scholar, I am used to deductive, demonstrative reasoning and I therefore often struggle to communicate this non-scholarly, existential idea in a convincing way to people.  

But a recent papal comment and the ensuing discussion in social media became an occasion for me to address this problem among traditional Catholics.  I must say that from time to time Pope Francis says or 'tweets' something that does resonate with me.  If this ever happens, it is usually on some very practical matter, not a doctrinal issue.  One example is his recent remark during a baptism on breastfeeding in church: "[S]ince the ceremony is a bit long, [and] someone cries because they are hungry... if so, you moms go ahead and breast-feed them without fear and as usual, just like Our Lady breast-fed Jesus."  

Granted, this is not a serious moral issue, like that having to do with the reception of Holy Communion by those in adulterous unions.  But to me, it is symptomatic of a much deeper problem.

Moreover, I must also admit that it is a prudential and culturally-contingent issue, so it is not easily settled through the science of ethics or moral theology. Although I stand firmly as a defender of traditional morality, the natural law, and moral objectivity---both in my teaching and in everyday conversation---I do think, with Aristotle and Aquinas, that not all concrete moral situations are settled by the first principles of practical reasoning.  There are some cultural and prudential matters that can only be decided on by letting the various circumstances, even cultural circumstances, seriously inform your choice.

So, this issue will inevitably be seen differently by people in different countries, and in different circles within the same country.  And because in practial matters there may be many correct ways of acting, even opposing views on the issue may be found to be reasonable.  

In this case, in Latin America for example there is a very strong sense among the general Catholic population---even many traditional Catholics---that breastfeeding is completely out of place in Church, that it is disrespectful, even indecent; whereas for example among traditional Catholics in the US, especially large families attending a TLM, no one would bat an eye over a mom nursing her baby, especially if done with a nursing cover.  Non-traditional Catholics in the US and Europe tend to lie somewhere in the middle.

Social media is abuzz over this issue, with lots of people, notably from Latin America, disapproving the practice as well as the Pope's remark.  Why would some Catholics, especially in some cultures, be so strongly opposed to this statement of the Pope, and generally opposed to the practice of nursing a baby in church? I think ultimately it is because they have let an anti-Catholic culture dominate their minds, perhaps without realizing it.  Culturally they have become unaccustomed to life, to the natural family, to the growing family.  

We often do that: we allow a new way of thinking creep into our minds, and unconsciously let it dictate how we think; not necessarily at the level of dogma, or at the level of first moral principles, but we let it influence our unexamined attitudes and sensibilities.  I have noticed this happen in other areas of life.  For example, in the last twenty years it is easily noticeable there has been a profound shift in the way people think about homosexuality.  I'm not talking about people who now are pro-homosexual marriage.  I'm talking about faithful Catholics who are against it, but who have nonetheless allowed the surrounding culture (or lack thereof) transform their attitude towards homosexuals.  They reject homosexual marriage, but their attitude towards homosexuals is now entirely different from the way it was twenty years ago: before, they thought of homosexuals as mentally-ill, perverted, and even dangerous people---nearly everybody did.  But now that homosexuals have fully revealed their social revolutionary agenda, and the media has campaigned in their favor, these people now have passively agreed to think of homosexuals in entirely different, primarily positive terms.  They drank the Kool Aid without realizing it.  

Yet homosexuality is just another issue among many that are symptomatic of a crisis in the Western view of marriage and the family.  It is an important issue, a grave problem to be sure, but it is by no means the only one.

The deeper crisis is that the culture (or lack thereof) that we have been imbibing in the West since at least the mid-20th century is against every natural aspect of the family as God intended it to be, especially as it concerns the nature of womanhood. Feminism has pressured the West to think that women flourish only by emancipating themselves from the chains of motherhood and engaging in professional work.  Feminism has forced us to believe that women are to have at most two children, and thus having a child is an exceptional event in an adult woman's life.  Feminism has made us think that once a woman has given birth, it is her duty to detach her baby from herself as soon as possible, so that she may return to 'normal' life, i.e., professional work.  This often means either weaning the baby as soon as possible or not breastfeeding at all; it means switching to formula and bottle-feeding so that others can care for the baby and she can leave to work.  

And this brings with it other problems.  Because fertility returns soon after the baby is weaned, this creates a false urgency for contraception.  Recall that nursing on demand usually is a natural way of spacing births.  Not all women are like this, but it does work in most cases. It is the way God intended for mothers to be able to focus on their babies and bond with them without having to deal with the discomfort of another pregnancy while their baby is still very young.  In the case of many women, they become infertile for a year or two while the baby is exclusively fed mother's milk, directly from the breast, and strictly on demand.  But this natural order is disturbed when the baby is not nursed on demand, but nursed on a schedule, or bottle-fed, or given formula, etc.  So weaning, formula and bottle-feeding, women in the workplace, contraception: it all goes hand-in-hand. 

Because this way of seeing things is so ingrained in the minds of some Catholics, especially in some cultures like Europe and Latin America, a child being nursed has become a rare event.  In Europe especially, even just seeing children is rare; let alone a child being nursed in public.  Most children are fed formula from a very young age, so people in general have grown completely unaccustomed to seeing children being nursed in public.  Not just in church, but anywhere.  

Because they don't use them, these people have strangely forgotten what breasts are for. And as a result they have by default attached an exclusively sexual meaning to them. Hence the perceived indecency of nursing in public.

If, on the other hand, a woman decides to be so counter-cultural that she chooses to rear her child in a thoroughly natural way, the way God designed things, she has no option but to do things that people around her will consider odd.  She cannot choose when the child will want to eat.  The baby cries and whines when he wants milk, and it is at that moment that she must feed him---both for the baby's sake and her own, and those who are around her.  It is greatly inconvenient for her to leave the church to do this, especially if there is no cry-room (a very American phenomenon, by the way, which is relatively rare in other countries).  In some cases, not being able to nurse at church means she cannot attend Mass.

This sort of cultural clash can be violent.  It is not at the level of dogma, so there is no clear-cut way for the traditionally-minded woman to be vindicated by Church teaching.  And even though the issue touches on Catholic morality, the immediate issue of where a woman may nurse her baby is a prudential matter that is not dictated by Catholic moral principles.  Despite feminist pressures she is heroically embracing her femininity and following her maternal instinct in feeding her baby when he needs it, even if this means subjecting herself to the criticism of others.  It is sad to see these valiant mothers have to suffer through this.

These painful experiences are a sign that a good number of Catholics drank the cultural Kool Aid of the West and see the human body, especially the female body, in a hyper-sexualized way, so that they think of women exclusively as sexual symbols and can no longer admire and respect the beauty of motherhood.  Breasts inevitably mean sex.  They are not for children, because children drink formula.  They are just sexual play things.  As a result, we have lost sight of the beauty of a nursing mother, and have no other way of looking at nursing but as something indecent, disrespectful, or demeaning, which is definitely not a Catholic attitude.

In order to illustrate this last statement in a powerful way, I have included in this post several pictures of the Blessed Mother nursing the divine Child.  If any of the images I have shared here disturb you, then very likely you have been the victim of non-Catholic (or anti-Catholic) cultural sensibilities creeping into the way you see reality.  You may be thinking that because it is the Blessed Mother, it is very different from the case of an ordinary mother nursing her child in church.  But I think that if Our Lady can be so portrayed without damaging her purity, then a fortiori an ordinary mother nursing her child should not shock us.  They did not portray her nursing the Child because of some supernatural privilege that she had over all other women to show her breasts.  On the contrary, she is the supreme model of feminine modesty and purity.  That is, if the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose purity sacred art has taken such great pains to defend, is portrayed in this way, it is only because traditionally Catholic artists in past ages have seen nursing as just a natural, motherly act, and the Blessed Mother doing it will not be seen as anything immodest, indecent, or demeaning.

In fact, not only are Catholic artists traditionally comfortable with pictorially portraying the Blessed Virgin's breasts. Catholics throughout the ages have constantly celebrated the "blessed... paps that gave Thee suck" (Luke 11:27) in liturgical texts and song.  

For example, in the pre-1960 Roman Divine Office, every day, every priest and cleric had to praise the breasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the end of every one of the liturgical hours:

VBeata viscera Mariae Virginis, quae portaverunt aeterni Patris Filium. 
REt beata ubera, quæ lactaverunt Christum Dominum. 


V. Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, that bore the son of the everlasting Father.
R. And blessed are the breasts which gave suck to Christ the Lord.

This text and its variants have become part of the corpus of our sacred music. 

You may be wondering by now where I am going with all this.  The moral of the story is this: Being a traditional Catholic is not just about the Latin Mass, or just about upholding traditional dogma.  It is about Catholic culture as well.  It's about not drinking the cultural Kool Aid, and instead finding a way of immersing oneself as much as possible in the Catholic culture that we did not naturally receive through our upbringing.  It is not enough to know the old Mass by heart, to be able to quote Denzinger from memory, and to recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary faithfully throughout the week.  Being a traditional Catholic means letting Catholic culture thoroughly influence us.

And culture influences us deeply indeed. It permeates every aspect of our minds, from our religious beliefs, to the way we talk, dress, and interact with others, including our assessment of aesthetic values and our affective responses to the world.  It especially has a way of affecting our unexamined beliefs, attitudes, and sensibilities.  That is to say, our beliefs as Catholics are not just in the Trinity and the Incarnation.  Or in pastoral practices concerning the relationship between marriage and the reception of Holy Communion.  All of that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Our Catholic culture permeates our psyches somewhat like this: 

Our Catholic formation goes much deeper than doctrine and morals, and reaches down to our human formation, to our unquestioned, unexamined attitudes, sensibilities, dispositions, behaviors.  

If you are deeply immersed in a non-Catholic (or anti-Catholic) culture, chances are that even if you persevere and keep the faith, some of your unexamined sensibilities will suffer alterations in ways that run afoul of Catholic tradition.  You may make it to heaven, and you may even become a great saint, but you will not be able to understand or appreciate other, often more Catholic perspectives on certain things.  Even if you have a superior theological, moral, and liturgical formation, you will perhaps not be as Catholic (or Catholic-minded) as people in other traditionally Catholic countries or in other more thoroughly Catholic ages when the social Kingship of Christ was in place.  Concretely, if you live in one of many English-speaking countries, which are historically or demographically Protestant, such as the United States, England, Australia, etc., this will inevitably happen, even if you are unaware of it.  You become aware of it only when you suddenly encounter a Catholic practice, custom, or perspective which---though hallowed by time and by the endorsement of centuries of Catholics, of saints, and popes---is deeply contrary to your unexamined sensibilities. 

You are a traditional Catholic to the extent that you strive to immerse yourself in traditional Catholic culture in all its aspects.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tip on Writing Academic Papers #23: Writing Your Introduction


In recent years I've been asked by a number of younger scholars and advanced graduate students to offer them advice regarding how to publish academic papers in journals.  Not just physically how to submit a paper, but advice on anything from how to plan/write/structure a paper, to how to present at a conference, from selecting the best journals to promoting one's academic work in the academic community.  Offering this kind of feedback is a regular part of my work as a scholar.  (So we philosophers don't just philosophize all day; we spend a good deal of time strategizing about how we carry out our profession.)  I am ok with it, and actually enjoy it, because it is another way in which I can relate to my colleagues, beyond whether or not we share views on philosophical issues.  And since much of the advice I've given my younger peers is of general interest to anyone writing academic papers, I figured I'd share it with a more general audience here on my blog.

When writing an academic paper, avoid writing simply a 'reflection', that is, vaguely discoursing on some topic in a general way, without a clear aim or methodology.  Not only that: avoid also giving the reader the impression that this is what you are going to do, by including these three things in your introduction.

1. Status Quaestionis. In your introduction (which is normally labled as such) you are expected to formulate explicitly the specific question or issue that you are going to deal with in the paper.  A common temptation is to offer a general historical context without explaining clearly what the problem consists in.  There is nothing wrong with giving historical context, but it should be the immediate context and only when it is directly relevant to the question.  No need to offer 'grand narratives', such as "from the dawn of time mankind has wondered at the meaning of existence..." or any such nonesense.  A paper should be direct and address a very concrete issue or problem.  A good way to do this is to start with actual questions, such as: What is legal justice?  Is it a virtue?  If so, is it a general virtue?  Etc. You could also add what are some of the possible answers to these questions, or the actual answers that you are going to study/evaluate in the body of the paper.  This is known as the status quaestionis, the state of the quaestion.

2. Thesis.  Moreover, it is extremely important for you to express your thesis explicitly in the introduction.  This is the point where you tell the reader explicitly how you are going to answer the question/problem above.  Tell them what you are going to argue, preferably in a single sentence: for example, "In this paper I shall argue that, for Aquinas, legal justice is a general virtue," etc.  Or, if you cannot do it in a single sentence, express your theses in a group of short sentences (preferably as a list, numbered or in bullet points).

3. Divisio Textus.  Finally, your introduction must present a division of the text (divisio textus), where you explain what you are going to do in the rest of the paper.  Your divisio textus should number, in paragraph form, each of the sections and subsections of the paper. The idea is to give the reader a mental map of what you are going to do.  For example: 

This paper will consist of four sections. I shall first (I) present the context of the virtues in Aquinas' Summa theologiae.  Then (II), I shall trace his understanding of justice to his sources, primarily Aristotle and Cicero.  Subsequently (III), I shall present Aquinas' distinction between general and particular virtues.  Finally (IV), I shall argue for my main thesis, namely, that legal justice is a general virtue.  In the conclusion, I shall offer a few remarks concerning Aquinas' application of this doctrine to theological issues. 
All of this will help your reader, especially those who are not familiar with the topic or who are not so committed to reading your paper, to have a clear idea from the begining what they are going to find in it, and therefore follow it more intelligently.  The reader should grasp the main claim and structure of the piece before proceeding to read the body of the article.  The more clarity and sturcture your paper can have, the better (within reason). This is true both in the eyes of professors who will evaluate your course papers and in the eyes of journal referees who will decide whether or not your academic paper will get published.  As a college professor and journal referee, I personally consider these indispensable requirements for a term paper or published article.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Edouard Hugon on Composite and Simple Being (Exerpt)


Exerpt from Edouard Hugon, Cursus Philosophiae Thomisticae, IIIae-IIa, Metaphysica Ontologica I (Paris: Lethielleux, 1935), pp. 434-6. Translated by Dr. Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo.  Draft version, Copyright © Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo, Ite ad Thomam, 2017.

On Simple and Composite Ens [...] [1]
I. – The Notion of Simple Ens. Etymologically, the ‘simple’ means that which is ‘without fold’ (sine plica), or without parts.  Hence, ‘simple ens altogether excludes plurality and distinction of parts within itself.  For this reason, ‘simple ens’ is defined as “that which does not in itself consist of many beings” (id quod in se ex pluribus entibus non constat).

But because there are many different kinds of parts, so there are many different kinds of simple things: the physically simple, the mathematically simple, the metaphysically simple, and the logically simple. 

The physically simple is that which does not consist of physical parts, or essential parts, such as matter and form, or of integral parts, or of accidental parts.  The mathematically simple is what which is indivisible in the genus of quantity because it is the last terminus of quantity, though it be otherwise physically composite: thus, the point is mathematically simple, but physically it is something composed of matter and form.  The metaphysically simple is that which excludes real composition of essence and existence, namely, God.  Finally, the logically simple is that which excludes composition of genus and difference.  There is also a distinction between the negatively simple, the abstractly simple, and the positively simple.  The negatively simple is that which lacks parts due to the paucity and imperfection of its own entity, as the mathematical point, or a substance that is conceived as stripped of its accidents.  The abstractly simple (praecisive simplex) is that which is abstracted from its parts on account of its indeterminateness, in the way in which ens in general is most simple, since it cannot be resolved into other concepts.  The positively simple is that which excludes parts on account of the perfection of its own entity.

The simplicity that belongs to the ens a se, which is necessary and infinite, is not negative, mathematical, or abstract, for these kinds of simplicity involve imperfection.  Rather, the simplicity that belongs to it is essentially positive simplicity. Moreover, it is physical, metaphysical, and logical: that is, it excludes the composition of physical parts, integral parts, accidental parts, the composition of essence and existence, and the composition of genus and difference.

Now, logical simplicity does not belong to creatures, even spiritual creatures; for by their genus and difference beings are restricted to a certain species.  Nor does metaphysical simplicity belong to them, for their esse differs from their quiddity.  Now, they may possess physical simplicity, which excludes essential or integral parts, but not that simplicity which removes all composition of accidents: for in no created ens is the essence an operative faculty, nor is the faculty identical to the operation itself.

II. – Notion of Composite Ens.  By opposition to the simple, the composite is that which admits in itself plurality and distinction of parts, or which in itself consists of many beings.  The composite, therefore, taken together in all its parts, is the whole itself, and is divided as a whole.  Hence, we must make a distinction between (1) real composites, which are subdivided into (a) essential composites, whether metaphysical or physical and (b) integral and accidental composites; (2) logical composites, which are subdivided into definable and potential; and (3) potestative composites.[2]

Now, all species of composites can be appropriately reduced to five: (1) essential composites, composed of matter and form; (2) entitative composites, composed of essence and esse; (3) integral composites, composed of integral parts; (4) accidental wholes, composed of many accidents, or of substance and accidents; (5) numerical composites, composed of many complete substances which join into a unity of order or of collection.[3]

III. – Positive simplicity of itself implies perfection; hence, an absolutely simple ens is a pure act, or ens per essentiam.

Proof of the 1st PartPositive simplicity of its own concept excludes whatever is opposed to unity and undividedness, and has the function of containing the thing in unity.  But to conserve something in unity is to contain it in esse and in perfection, for one and ens are interchangeable.  Therefore, positive simplicity of its own concept imply esse and perfection.  Therefore, that which excels in simplicity is greater in perfection; thus plants are more perfect than minerals, animals more perfect than plants, man more perfect than animals, and angels more perfect than man.

Proof of the 2nd Part.  The ens per essentiam, or pure act, is an unreceived and unreceptive act.  But an absolutely simple ens is an unreceived and unreceptive act, for it does not consist of receptive potency and received act.  Therefore, an absolutely simple ens is a pure act and an ens per essentiam.

Now, negative or abstractive simplicity do not imply perfection, either because they abstract from perfection or only deny imperfection.

Therefore, simplicity in the abstract, insofar as it prescinds from positive simplicity, is not a simpliciter simple perfection, as St. Thomas[4] and Cajetan[5] explain.

IV. – Composition of its own concept implies imperfection; hence, every composite is a secondary ens, a caused and contingent ens

Proof of the 1st Part.  Whatever is potential involves imperfection.  But a composite, under the ratio of composite, is potential: for either one of its parts is in potency with respect to another, or at least all of its parts are in potency with respect to the whole.

Proof of the 2nd Part.  Whatever is the result of something else is a secondary ens, for it is posterior to those things of which it is made up.  But the composite is the result of its parts.  Therefore, it is a secondary ens

Moreover, every composite consists of diverse things which of themselves and of their own power do not come together to form something that is one.  But those things which of themselves do not come together to form something that is one require a cause to unite them.  Therefore, every composite requires a cause, and therefore is a contingent ens and an ens ab alio.

[1] On this point one may consult St. Thomas, ST I.3 and 9, and his commentators on those questions: Cajetan, Báñez, Sylvius, Gonet, Billuart, Buonpensiere, Satolli, Janssens, Pègues, etc.
[2] See Hugon, Logic.
[3] All of these compositions are found in our world, Cf. Hugon, Cosmology.
[4] Cf. St. Thomas, In IV Sent. dist. 11, q. 2, a. 1, ad 1.
[5] Cf. Cajetan, Comment. in De Ente et Essentia, c. 2, q. 3.