Saint Thomas Aquinas

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Divine Revelation, and Sacra Doctrina



I have been working on an apologetics book that is based upon Saint Thomas Aquinas and his works. Although I have presented quite a bit of information here in this post, it is only a small portion of what will be in the book. I have taken a portion of the material that I have written pertaining to how Saint Thomas viewed Doctrine and Scripture, and I have condensed it down and edited for this blog post. I am proud to offer this essay on the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and I hope that it helps to clear up the confusion that has surrounded Saint Thomas' writings. I hope that those who have been mislead into believing that his writings support the heresy of "Sola Scriptura" will come away with a new and more accurate image of Saint Thomas and his writings. I have broken up the post with some pictures, so you can stop and take a breather every once in awhile. I apologize for the HTML problems with the text not being uniform in the paragraphs. Perhaps someone can give me a hint as to how to correct it! Enjoy!




Saint Thomas Aquinas, Divine Revelation and Sacra Doctrina


By Matthew Bellisario Jan 28th, 2010.


Saint Thomas' Historical Background



Saint Thomas Aquinas is one of the greatest Latin dogmatic theologians the Church has ever produced. There have been attempts by those outside the Church to brand him as some type of pre-Protestant theologian, subscribing him to a form of “Scripture Alone” theology. Although some passages taken in isolation may at first glance appear to put him in such a category, more extensive reading of his material will prove him to be much in line with current Catholic dogmatic theology, which subscribes to the Scriptures as being God’s written Word, being of the same substance of His Oral Word, as taught and proclaimed infallibly by Holy Mother Church in Rome. Although much can be said of the Catholic Church, it is Catholic teaching that the Church is not above God’s Word, but only serves it. As we will see, Saint Thomas thought the same. In fact, Saint Thomas did not view any of these elements as being separate entities, and they all fit together almost as the Holy Trinity fit together in one substance. Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit cannot ever be separated apart, so the Eternal Word proclaimed in Scripture and Tradition, as taught infallibly by the Holy Spirit through the Christ’s only Church, cannot be separated. But, before we can even begin to examine Saint Thomas’ writings, we must first understand Saint Thomas’ educational and historical background.


Saint Thomas began his formal studies at Montecassino in Italy. The education he received there was a form of scholastic, classical curriculum that focused on the trivium and the quadrivium. So Saint Thomas was well versed in logic, rhetoric, grammar, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, which he continued to study when he was later, sent to Naples, Italy. It was however in Paris and Cologne where he received his formal theological education. It is here that we can find the roots of his theological positions. Peter Lombard’s work titled the Sentences, were essentially the Summa Theologiae before there was a Summa Theologiae. Saint Thomas studied Peter Lombard, and was very familiar with the scholar’s theological works. In fact, Saint Thomas composed a commentary on his work titled ‘The Sentences’, which if left unabridged would span a 6000 page volume work in today's average book format. Lombard was a foundation from which Saint Thomas built upon, yet he was never afraid to modify or change directions in his own theological work. Saint Thomas would later use the works of Lombard to defend Catholic teaching for Pope Urban IV against the errors of the East. Saint Thomas was also a great scholar in Patristics to which he frequently referred, to substantiate some of his Biblical interpretations. Despite his appreciation and study of the Fathers, he was in many ways an innovator in regards to Scriptural scholarship. What many people today however may not understand is the focus of studies among the universities of his time. The theological focus of the medieval universities of Saint Thomas’ time, were devoted primarily to Biblical studies. Saint Thomas, being a professor twice at Paris, was no exception, and his theological work is for the most part, entirely focused on Biblical scholarship. Much of his work however was not composed as a complete defense to Catholic doctrine in a strict sense, it was developed in a large part to examine and cultivate the literal sense of Scripture. We must note that the word literal here is not synonymous with today's fundamentalist definition. We will touch on that later in this work.



There are also a few basic historical facts that we should remember when reading Saint Thomas. Although Aristotelian philosophy had already influenced great theologians like St. Albert, one of Thomas' teachers, we should remember that Saint Thomas was one of the first Latin theologians of the middle ages to really expound upon and integrate the sound aspects of Aristotelian philosophy with theology. It influenced how he viewed Sacred Scripture, and it developed in him a profound leaning towards the sufficiency of the literal sense of the Scriptures, which almost seems contrary to many of the Church Fathers who came before him, who tended to emphasize the spiritual senses over the literal. Although there were theologians such as Saint Augustine who wrote about understanding Scripture in the literal sense (De Doctrina Christiana), none emphasized the sufficiency of the literal sense as Saint Thomas. Catholic theologian Matthew Lamb writes, “St. Thomas' unqualified adoption of the Aristotelian doctrine concerning the dependence of the human mind on the imagination threw a new light on the importance of the literal sense of Scripture.” (1. Lamb) This difference was largely due to the influence of Platonic philosophy on the earlier theologians that came before Saint Thomas. Although Saint Thomas fully accepted the tradition held before him by the Fathers, his theology developed aided by the influence of Aristotle, though not disconnected with Platonic thought, which was brought about primarily through his studies on St. Augustine. Saint Thomas also further leaned on the literal sense of Scripture to combat heresies of the day such as the Cathar heresy, who developed their heresies by rendering a false “spiritual” sense in place of the literal. It was Saint Thomas’ position that the literal sense of Scripture was the only sense on which strict theological arguments should be based on in regards to Scripture itself, hence we see him address this issue in his Summa Theologiae, “Consequently Holy Scripture sets up no confusion, since all meanings are based on one, namely, the literal sense. From this alone can arguments be drawn, and not, as St. Augustine mentions in his letter to Vincent the Donatist, from whatever is said according to allegory. Nor is anything lost from Sacred Scripture on this account, for nothing that is necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not openly conveyed by the literal sense elsewhere. (Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 1, Article 10) Saint Thomas here clearly states his opinion as to how Scripture teaches matters necessary to the faith. He proposes that when Scripture teaches something necessary to the faith, it does so in the literal sense. This type of Scriptural interpretation was developed by Saint Thomas and it influenced much of his work.


It must be understood that Saint Thomas never separated the Scriptures from the Tradition of the Church. He demonstrates his belief in the primacy of the Church of Rome, which was founded upon Saint Peter. "This is as if He said: "They shall make war against thee, but they shall not overcome thee." And thus it is that only the Church of Peter was always firm in faith. On the contrary, in other parts of the world there is either no faith at all or faith mixed with many errors. The Church of Peter flourishes in faith and is free from error. This, however, is not to be wondered at, for the Lord has said to Peter: "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren." (Catechism of Thomas Aquinas, 9th article) Throughout his career he also researched the writings of the Church Fathers to arrive at proper Biblical interpretations of Scripture. It is a fact that Urban IV requested him to compose a gloss on the four gospels, in which St. Thomas referred back to the original Greek sources to compose. It is a topic of debate as to how well versed St. Thomas was in Greek, but it is apparent that he at least possessed some understanding of the language. It is also well known that he referred to other Greek scholars of his day, to which he used their translations of the Greek Father's original texts to compose much of his work . Most people are familiar with his gloss often titled “the Catena Aurea.” In it he cites 22 Latin Fathers and 57 Greek Fathers all of which were cited to support the Church’s traditional interpretation of the Scriptures regarding proper doctrinal teaching. Although Saint Thomas is often accused of being a Latin minded theologian, the Eastern Church had a great influence on his theological writings.



It must be noted that although much of Saint Thomas’ work was devoted entirely to Scripture, when needed however, he does occasionally demonstrate the necessity to appeal to Tradition. Saint Thomas does this when he defends the Catholic Church for Pope Urban IV against the schismatic Church of the East. In his university setting however, we rarely see Saint Thomas engage in this type of apologetic. His university work falls in line with the Biblical studies, which were the point of theological focus of the time. Nevertheless, Saint Thomas does often speak of the Scriptures as being the “rule of faith”, and when Saint Thomas speaks of the sufficiency of Scripture as a rule of faith, it must be understood that he does not mean Scripture alone, as a Protestant would much later define it. It means the Word of God as expressed in the Written Word and the Oral Kerygma of the Church, within the structure of the Church of Rome headed by the Roman Pontiff. It appears that Thomas uses these authorities almost interchangeable when referring to Sacra Doctrina. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies explains further, “This sola scriptura of which St. Thomas speaks is far different from the sola scriptura (“only the Bible”) of the Reformers. This battle cry was made famous by Luther, who insisted that what is not contained in the Bible is not “of faith.” But Luther and Thomas (or any other medieval theologian) meant two different things by the word Bible, or Sacred Scriptures. For Luther and the Reformers the Bible was thought of as a finished, edited, and (by then) printed collection, while Thomas and the medieval theologians meant the Sacred Word together with the gloss of the Fathers, liturgy, and the living Church.” (James A. Weisheipl, O.P. ,Magi Books, Inc., Albany, N.Y.) The final point of Dr. Weishepl is very crucial to understanding these texts of Saint Thomas. The primary point that must not be forgotten is that St. Thomas did not divorce the living Church, the tradition of the Church Fathers or the integration of the Scriptures in liturgy from the Scriptures themselves as a rule of faith. That living element is what is referred to as Sacred Tradition. This puts Saint Thomas in good company with modern Catholic theologians such as Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict XVI writes the following on Tradition, “Tradition is indeed never a simple and anonymous handing on of teaching, but is linked to a person, is a living word, that has its concrete reality in faith.” (7. Benedict XVI) This living element, rooted firmly in faith and Tradition cannot be separated from Thomas' view of Scripture. Such terms that are used today in modern Protestant works such as “material sufficiency”, “formal sufficiency” and the like, have no place in the thought of the Angelic Doctor. To force these types of definitions upon his writings and thought would be an anachronistic error of the gravest proportion.


In the beginning of the Summa Theologiae St. Thomas opens with how he views Sacred Doctrine, or Sacra Doctrina. There is more than meets the eye when it comes to this term in the mind of Saint Thomas. The term at face value appears to mean nothing more than Sacred Doctrine. Protestants have tried to make this term synonymous with Sacred Scripture, but this is not at all what the author intended to communicate. Sacra Doctrina was defined and understood to mean sacred instruction, most often in the active sense, but not limited to the active sense. We also cannot forget that sacred doctrine, was a doctrine that was preached or learned as science. For Thomas the science of Sacra Doctrina was not limited to Sacred Scripture, but the receiving of God's entire revelation through His revealed Word, as well as what was revealed in nature. Article Two of the Summa Theologiae gives us some clarification. For Thomas the doctrina was the foundation of everything he would build the Summa upon. In his reply to objection two, regarding whether Sacra Doctrina is indeed a science he writes, “Individual facts are treated of in sacred doctrine, not because it is concerned with them principally, but they are introduced rather both as examples to be followed in our lives (as in moral sciences) and in order to establish the authority of those men through whom the divine revelation, on which this sacred scripture or doctrine is based, has come down to us.” Here he reveals a few important facts. First he reveals that Sacra Doctrina is founded upon the authority of the men, the apostles, and that all doctrina and scripture is handed on by this authority. It is this living foundation that all doctrina rests upon, and it is this living foundation which the doctrina is handed on to us including Sacra Scriptura. In other words, St. Thomas here in the opening of his Summa is saying that all doctrina is built upon the foundation and authority of the apostles, not Scripture alone. He clearly points out that all doctrine falls under the authority of the apostles and he states that Scripture is also founded upon that authority. This foundation that St. Thomas lays down is critical to understand if we are to make any sense out of the rest of the Summa. It must be noted that if one does not understand the opening articles of the Summa, one will never understand the rest of its contents. St. Thomas, as with all the scholars of his time, do not repeat themselves often, and if you miss important points as they are set up in the progression of the Summa, you will not be able to grasp what the author intends to communicate later, no matter how well you read English, or how great of a Latin scholar you are. For Thomas Scripture and Doctrina were part of the revealed revelation of God, which is based upon Christ and the authority of the apostles, which St. Thomas clearly states has been handed down through the ages by the Church.


We must note that for Saint Thomas there is no distinction between Scripture and doctrine per se. For him doctrina and scriptura were derivative of the same source of all divine revelation, which is God. (9 Baglow) The distinction between forms of revelation did not need to be made in Thomas's time as would later have to be done after the Protestant revolt. The Protesters of the 16th century actively sought to separate Scripture from its unitive bond with all divine revelation. This is not to say that there are no examples of Church Fathers writing about Tradition, and we do find Saint Thomas a couple of times indeed appealing to Tradition. But it is safe to say that it was not a point of focus for Saint Thomas in the theological works of his time. His works were written for the audience of his time, not ours. This is often a mistake people make in reading into the Fathers of the Church. They often mistake the ancient writers as writing for the controversies of the modern day, removed centuries from the writers time. It is this mentality that has sought to apply the Protestant definition of Sola Scriptura to the Angelic Doctor.


One other side note that we should address before we go into Saint Thomas' actual writings, is the fact that Saint Thomas was also a monastic at heart. He spent many years with the Benedictines in his early years, later becoming a professed Dominican. He was often praised by many of his piers for his extraordinary piety, knowledge and preaching. The hours he did not spend writing and dictating writings to his secretaries, he spent in prayer. We must be careful not to divorce the spiritual aspects of Saint Thomas from his theological works. The influence of Thomas regarding liturgical devotion is also well known, and many scholars credit St. Thomas with the church wide instigation of the Feast of Corpus Christie, as well as the prayers that are used in worship of the Blessed Sacrament today. For Thomas, the spiritual life and close connection to God was of the utmost importance in his theological writings.


No study of Aquinas would be complete without noting his influence on the papacy, which is well known. His relations with Pope Urban IV and Pope Gregory X are well documented. Pope Urban IV requested him to write a defense of the Latin church and Pope Gregory X was so impressed with Saint Thomas that he personally requested him to attend the deliberations at Lyons in 1274. But as we know, before Saint Thomas could finish his trip to Lyons, he received his eternal reward with the Cistercian monks at Fossa Nuova. It is interesting to note some of his final words in his last hours, for it summarizes his allegiance to the Holy See, and puts to rest any doubt as to his acknowledgment of the Catholic Church's authority. Near the point of his death, he submitted all of his writings to the authority of Holy Mother Church. “Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life.” It is with his final words that we begin our examination of his written work.


The Writings of Saint Thomas.


In order to examine Saint Thomas’ texts regarding Sacred Scripture, we must first stop and look at his Summa Theologiae. Since this is the work most often cited by modern day apologists, we must examine the Saint’s intention behind the Summa. If we fail to understand his starting premise for this work, there is a high risk of taking his work out of the original context in which it was written. Father Chenu, O.P. warns those who study the Summa, “Undoubtedly in the history of Thomism the Summa Theologica has monopolized all the attention... But it is precisely here that a grave problem arises, and the first condition for understanding and solving it is not to forget that the Summa is planted in the soil of the Scriptures, not merely by some species of devotion which gives its rational systematization a pious aspect, but because of the very law of its genesis. The university education of the thirteenth century will produce disputations and Summae only within the framework of Scriptural teaching.” (1 Lamb) This fact is an important one to remember. To dismiss the educational system that Saint Thomas was a product of, risks missing his theological focus, which was primarily Sacred Scripture. This is why we see such a strong focus on Scripture throughout his Summa. In fact, at times it appears as if nothing else exists but the Scriptures to Saint Thomas. Theologian and scholar Father Matthew Lamb also warns, “When St. Thomas' more systematic works, such as the Summa Theologiae, are studied in isolation from the scriptural matrix they were meant to supplement, misunderstandings are inevitable.” It is very apparent that many Protestant apologists have fallen into these misunderstandings.



A first mistake people often make in reading the Summa Theologiae i s that they treat it as a modern theological encyclopedia. Instead of reading the text as it was intended to be read, from the beginning to end, people open up the index and simply look for the topic they are interested in. This poses a serious problem. As they say, an error in the beginning is an error indeed! Saint Thomas' writings do not afford us the luxury of repetitive summary that modern publications often use. Once Saint Thomas has set up an important point, he often makes no mention of it again, and simply builds upon that point throughout the work. This happens many times throughout the Summa. So one cannot go into the Summa and simply start cutting out and reading passages without having first understood core principals of theology that Saint Thomas laid out in earlier parts of the work. It is also important to note that each question is often followed by several articles relating to that question. All the citations must be read to fully understand what Saint Thomas' is addressing in that particular question, as well as the final conclusion that he states.


There are many passages in the Summa to which Protestants make improper reference to, in which Saint Thomas is falsely hailed as if he is almost a supporter of Sola Scriptura. For instance, Protestant William Webster attempts to build a fallacious case against the Catholic Church by ignorantly attempting to frame Saint Thomas in a position contrary to current Catholic teaching, “The first was sola Scriptura in which the fathers viewed Scripture as both materially and formally sufficient. It was materially sufficient in that it was the only source of doctrine and truth and the ultimate authority in all doctrinal controversies. It was necessary that every teaching of the Church as it related to doctrine be proven from Scripture. It was necessary that every teaching of the Church as it related to doctrine be proven from Scripture. Thomas Aquinas articulated this patristic view when he stated that canonical Scripture alone is the rule of faith. Additionally, they taught that the essential truths of Scripture were perspicuous, that is, that they were clearly revealed in Scripture, so that, by the enablement of the Holy Spirit alone an individual could come to an understanding of the fundamental truths of salvation” (8.Webster) It appears that Mr. Webster does not understand the theological background to Saint Thomas’ writings, nor does it appear that he has ventured out very far in investigating the background and history surrounding Saint Thomas' writings. To interpret Saint Thomas in this manner misses the main point of his work, and ultimately it shows a grave misunderstanding of Catholic teaching regarding the Scriptures. It was Saint Thomas intention as a university scholar to exhaust Sacred Scripture for every doctrine or teaching that could be implied from the literal text. Even when Saint Thomas could not explicitly find a text in Scripture to support an argument, he used philosophical reasoning to get him to where he wanted to go with Scripture. For instance Saint Thomas argues for the two wills of Christ based on Scripture, yet he has to use logic and philosophy to arrive at his interpretation, because the Scripture passages he uses are not explicitly clear. He demonstrates that the root of Monothelism was in the error of their logic, not in the use of Scripture. For Saint Thomas, Scripture was clear in this instance, only in using his tools of philosophy, logic and Patristic interpretation within the living Church, but Scripture standing on its own does not give us the answer. (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Question 26)



Saint Thomas is often misinterpreted, and every time he makes reference to the use of Scripture for proving a doctrine or teaching of the Church, he is often hailed as binding himself to “Scripture Alone.” Yet, there are many times when he is addressing an entirely different topic altogether. For instance, the following text has been quoted by many Protestants to imply that Saint Thomas held Scripture as the only rule of faith, and the only source of necessary doctrine. “It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and others of this kind, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is his meaning when he says ‘we know his testimony is true.’ Galatians 1:9, “If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!” The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith. Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things.” If we look at the context of this text, Saint Thomas is clearly holding up the Church’s accepted canonical books of Scripture against those not accepted by the Church, hence he says that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith. It is a fact that Saint Thomas and the Dominicans were on the frontline in the battle against many heresies including the Cathar heresy, in which the false texts such as the Gospel of the Secret Supper and The Book of the Two Principles were presented as authentic Scripture to spread their heresies. Here Saint Thomas is clearly not alluding that Scripture stands on its own per se, but he asserts that only canonical Scripture can convey the true gospel, or be used as a measure of faith. This is not in any opposition to current Catholic thought.



This interpretation is shared by several recognized Catholic scholars including Fr. Matthew Lamb. He writes in reference to this passage, “This does not imply that St. Thomas advocated sola scriptura; he could not abstract the Book from its living environment within ecclesial tradition.” This fact can be proven by other texts in the Summa itself which clearly make reference to Church Tradition. For instance, in the Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas clearly states the fact that some things that are essential to the faith concerning the Sacraments are not found in Sacred Scripture, “But those things that are essential to the sacrament, are instituted by Christ Himself, Who is God and man. And though they are not all handed down by the Scriptures, yet the Church holds them from the intimate tradition of the apostles, according to the saying of the Apostle (1 Corinthians 11:34): "The rest I will set in order when I come."(Summa Theologica III, Question 64, article 2) There are several other texts we can cite from Aquinas that affirm his adherence to Sacred Tradition. Another example regarding the use of sacred images is taken once again from the Summa, "The Apostles, led by the inward instinct of the Holy Ghost, handed down to the churches certain instructions which they did not put in writing, but which have been ordained, in accordance with the observance of the Church as practiced by the faithful as time went on. Wherefore the Apostle says (2 Thessalonians 2:14): "Stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word"--that is by word of mouth--"or by our epistle"--that is by word put into writing. Among these traditions is the worship of Christ's image. Wherefore it is said that Blessed Luke painted the image of Christ, which is in Rome." (Summa Theologica III, Question 25, Article3 ) Saint Thomas here holds up the Church's doctrinal teaching by the use of Sacred Tradition, and not Sacred Scripture in this particular case. There are some who try to make this statement apply only to church practice and have claimed that it is not doctrinal in nature. This interpretation however, is well refuted by anyone who is at all familiar with the iconoclastic controversy of the eighth century. The iconoclastic controversy was one of the gravest and most bitter theological disputes of the first millennium of the entire Eastern Church. So much so that the entire ecumenical Church would condemn iconoclasm with the threat of the anathema. So we clearly see an appeal by Thomas outside of Scripture to support an argument for a doctrinal teaching of the Church.



There are other passages of Saint Thomas that we must examine concerning statements that refer to the Scriptures as being “The rule of faith.” For example we see St. Thomas often appeal to Sacred Scripture as a rule of faith to defend the Church's teachings. In the Summa Theologica Saint Thomas makes an affirmation of Scripture as being the rule of faith to which nothing could be added or subtracted.



“Objection 1. It would seem that it is unsuitable for the articles of faith to be embodied in a symbol. Because Holy Writ is the rule of faith, to which no addition or subtraction can lawfully be made, since it is written (Deuteronomy 4:2): "You shall not add to the word that I speak to you, neither shall you take away from it." Therefore it was unlawful to make a symbol as a rule of faith, after the HolyWrit had once been published.



Reply to Objection 1. The truth of faith is contained in Holy Writ, diffusely, under various modes of expression, and sometimes obscurely, so that, in order to gather the truth of faith from Holy Writ, one needs long study and practice, which are unattainable by all those who require to know the truth of faith, many of whom have no time for study, being busy with other affairs. And so it was necessary to gather together a clear summary from the sayings of Holy Writ, to be proposed to the belief of all. This indeed was no addition to Holy Writ, but something taken from it. (Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 1, Article 9)



There is a nothing here in this passage that would align Saint Thomas in opposition to current Catholic dogmatic teaching. In fact, the Catholic Church has always held up Sacred Scripture as a rule of faith to which nothing can contradict. Where the error lies is the presuppositional mentality that Protestants read this passage with. It is only with the dawn of the Protestant Revolt that the unity of Scripture, Oral Tradition and the Church became a real point of theological controversy. Let me explain. With the dawn of the Protestant heresy, the Church had to reiterate the need for proper Biblical exegesis within Church Tradition. Although Saint Thomas had problems in his day with heretical interpretations, there was not an entire movement dedicated to eliminating or divorcing the living Tradition and authority of the Church from Sacred Scripture. That heresy really developed on a wide scale with the Revolt. What Saint Thomas wrote in this passage was no different than what Pope Benedict XVI has written in the modern age in reference to Scripture as being the rule of faith. In fact Pope Benedict XVI wrote to the Biblical Commision in Rome, in 2009, the following concerning Sacred Scripture. "Therefore since all that the inspired authors or hagiographers state is to be considered as said by the Holy Spirit, the invisible and transcendent Author, it must consequently be acknowledged that “the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures” (Pope Benedict XVI addressing the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on April 23, 2009) It must be noted that Pope Benedict XVI is well versed in Thomism, and he expresses Saint Thomas' thoughts in much of his theological work. Saint Thomas was no more of a “Sola Scripturist” than our current Pontiff. It is a Catholic theological practice to measure our faith by Sacred Scripture, and Catholic teaching tells us that nothing can oppose the Scriptures. Saint Thomas expressed this theological premise many times in his writings, yet never to the exclusion or divorcing of the living apostolic Tradition from which they proceeded from. Pope Benedict XVI said in 2008, "When exegesis—critical analysis or interpretation—does not appeal to theology or when Scripture is not the soul of theology or theology is not rooted in the Scriptures, then there is a problem with the way sacred writings are being interpreted," (Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 14 2008.) It is with the same mentality that Saint Thomas comes to see the root of all theology, that is the root of Sacred Scripture. Although this text from St. Thomas appears to be exciting for Protestants in need of an ancient example of their heretical “Sola” doctrine; upon close examination it is not supported by the Angelic Doctor.




Let us now return to the text cited regarding Scripture as the rule of faith. There is a word here that seems to be overlooked or misinterpreted. What does Saint Thomas mean when he uses the word “symbol?” The Latin word is symbolum, and it simply means in this particular case, Creed, or article of faith. It does not refer to every essential doctrine of the Church, as some Protestant apologists have incorrectly stated. We could however argue that all essential doctrine lies in some fashion within the core principals of the Creed, but not every explicit doctrine of the Church is expressed in an explicit material fashion. Saint Thomas never implies that symbol means all sacra doctrina, or every teaching of the Church. He is simply saying that Creeds, like that of the Nicaean Creed, should not be composed without the root of Sacred Scripture, nothing more. Saint Thomas was simply stating that in the symbolum, or in this specific case, in the Nicaean Creed, there was nothing contained in it in principal, that was an addition to Sacred Scripture itself. I don't think any modern Catholic theologian would disagree.



Saint Thomas was primarily a Scripture scholar, and it is no surprise that he exhibits such a fine focus of examining them in his theological works, including the Summa Theologiae. Although the Summa Theologiae is the “go to” text for many of today’s apologists, his works directly concerning the Scriptures are just as relevant as to how Saint Thomas viewed the role of Sacred Scripture. His Scripture commentaries, catechism and lectures are often overlooked. Although Saint Thomas held that most passages of Scripture had a literal interpretation, he often argued for two or more literal interpretations of Scriptural passages, often times never making a definitive decision as to their literal meaning. It is quite apparent that he often opted to appeal to the Church’s traditional interpretations based on the Fathers who preceded him. It must be understood that much of Saint Thomas’s work was to use Scripture to settle on a literal sense of the text, rather than to probe for spiritual senses. In an effort to describe Aquinas’ methods Scholar Nicholas M. Healy writes, “They probed the text of Scripture just as intently as the monks, but not for the spiritual meanings lying below the literal sense that would enhance one’s religious experience. Rather, the aim was to use reason and logic to raise difficulties and questions that, once resolved, would deepen understanding of the text.” So we must understand that Saint Thomas’ definition of the literal sense is not one in the same that modern exegetes understand to be the literal sense. Saint Thomas is not bound by the text itself in regards to historical or scientific explanations. He understands that the literal sense is to determine the original intent of the author. For example, Healy gives an example of how Aquinas interpreted the passage of Genesis 1:6, where a body of water surrounding the firmament is interpreted to mean a formless matter or transparent body. Aquinas held that God could use words in Scripture to have more than one meaning, even in the literal sense. Finally it must be noted that Saint Thomas did not limit himself to the literal sense of Scripture. Father Matthew Lamb writes, “Not that the traditional doctrine of the four senses was ever abandoned - far from it. He gave them a precise and transparent definition:



“1) The literal or historical sense: That intended by the sacred author, the realities he signified through the words of Scripture. Since God not only can adapt words to convey meaning but also, by his providence, transmit meaning in the very events of life, the realities narrated in the Bible can in turn signify a further spiritual reality. Hence the spiritual senses:


2) The allegorical or typical sense: The realities of the Old Testament signify those of the New, Christ and his Church.


3) The moral or tropological sense: The events of Christ's life, and those who prefigured him, signify what Christians should do, how they should live.



4) The anagogical or eschatological sense: The New Testament realities signify those of the kingdom that is to come.” (1 Lamb)



There are some telling methods that Saint Thomas used to prove his interpretations of Sacred Scripture, which are contrary to the positions of Protestants who cradle Saint Thomas as almost being one of their own. For instance, there are times in which Saint Thomas uses declarations made by the Church in dogmatic statements, which are not found in Scripture, to arrive at proper Scriptural interpretations. More importantly, he never sees an opposing line concerning divine authority between the Scriptures or the Church. For him the authority of the Church to bind and interpret a particular verse or passage of Scripture was synonymous with the authority of Scripture itself. Saint Thomas makes use of the Nicene Creed to make light of the authority of the apostles in their apostolic succession, and their ability to bind and loose sins through the sacraments, "By these seven Sacraments we receive the remission of sins, and so in the Creed there follows immediately: "the forgiveness of sins." The power was given to the Apostles to forgive sins. We must believe that the ministers of the Church receive this power from the Apostles; and the Apostles received it from Christ; and thus the priests have the power of binding and loosing. Moreover, we believe that there is the full power of forgiving sins in the Church, although it operates from the highest to the lowest, i.e., from the Pope down through the prelates. "(Catechism of Thomas Aquinas, 10th article)



It is with definite assurance that Saint Thomas looked to Living Tradition to shed light upon the Sacred Scriptures as well as to settle upon Church doctrine. It is also important to recognize that Saint Thomas understood the Biblical root from which the Nicene Creed was formed from. But for him, the Church, Tradition and Scripture were tightly wound together, and he viewed them ultimately to be inseparable. This is further emphasized in the Summa, "On the other hand faith adheres to all the articles of faith by reason of one mean, viz. on account of the First Truth proposed to us in Scriptures, according to the teaching of the Church who has the right understanding of them. Hence whoever abandons this mean is altogether lacking in faith." (Summa Theologica II, Question 5, Article 2) There is an understanding that is expressed by Saint Thomas that holds Scripture up as being a rule to measure the “faith” with. But the rule of Scripture is not based solely upon the authority of Scripture alone, but with the Church that was able to recognize, uphold and interpret them. If we look to Catholic teaching regarding the authority of the Church, we see that it does not teach that the Church is essentially “above” the Scriptures in authority. They both share in the very same authority that the Scriptures themselves hold, since God's Word is only recognized properly within the Church Body that Christ himself gave us, to which he promised hell itself would not overcome. For Saint Thomas, there was no Church other than the Roman Catholic Church, which could recognize divine revelation itself and interpret it correctly. This includes of course the recognition and interpretation of Sacra Scriptura.



We can summarize the Catholic view as being similar to a constitution or rule of law we would see today in our court system. Although the constitution is held up as a rule to be followed, the cases and legal decisions based on the tradition of past court cases cannot be ignored to determine a proper interpretation. Those cases sometimes include content that is not explicitly defined in law books or the constitution. It is much the same with Scripture. It is a rule to be followed, to which the faith must conform to, and cannot oppose. It is within that framework that much of the Word of God is found and explicitly expressed. There are however times when Scripture itself appeals to something other than itself for the assurance of infallible interpretation , theological clarity and revelation not found within itself. (2 Thessalonians) Saint Thomas himself appealed outside of Scripture itself to uphold the Church's orthodox understanding and doctrine pertaining to the use of sacred images within the Christian faith. I noted this already in my earlier text.



There is no question that Saint Thomas devoted a majority of his work to the study of Sacred Scripture. He also viewed it as a primary tool for refuting heresy as well as using it to explain essential teachings of the faith. It makes perfect sense to use the Scriptures to teach and profess essential teachings if they are so contained in them. It seems that Saint Thomas understood that Scripture was part of the same deposit of Divine Revelation as Oral Tradition, and when the Scriptures clearly taught an essential doctrine, there was no need to appeal to anything other than Scripture. However, there are examples of Saint Thomas teaching directly from Sacred Tradition as defined by the Church in her Councils to refute heresies. Let us return to Pope Urban IV. Pope Urban IV requested Saint Thomas to write up a series of answers to theological disputes between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. The work is known as Opusculum contra errores Graecorum. In this work we clearly see Saint Thomas appealing to the Fourth Lateran Council to arrive at a correct understanding of the Son’s nature and essence in relation to the Holy Spirit. Saint Thomas examines the early Fathers in relation to the Ecumenical Councils and arrives at the proper understanding. “Athanasius likewise asserts in his letter to Serapion that the divine essence in the Holy Spirit is spirated. He says: “The Holy Spirit is the true and natural image of the Son in virtue of the essence wholly spirated into him by the same.” This manner of speaking, however, is highly misleading, and at the [Fourth] Lateran Council the teaching of Joachim, who presumptuously defended it against Master Peter Lombard, was condemned.” (Opusculum contra errores Graecorum, Chapter Four) What is also telling is that the Fourth Lateran Council, which is cited by Saint Thomas in this work, reaffirmed doctrinal teachings pertaining to the papacy, the Holy Trinity and Transubstantiation. Binding laws were also laid down by the Council pertaining to yearly confession and communion. Saint Thomas was well aware of the authority of the Pope and Church Councils, and he appealed to this authority to defend the teaching of the Church as well as implement its disciplinary decisions regarding the practice of faith. It is quite clear that Saint Thomas understood that Scripture alone could not defend itself from being misinterpreted by those outside the Church.


Finally, it is clear to see how Saint Thomas harmonized Sacred Tradition with Sacred Scripture in reference to defending the papacy for example. Saint Thomas clearly appeals to Sacred Tradition as defined by the Councils to defend the papacy. Here he clearly cites both Tradition and Scripture to substantiate his claim. It is important to quote this text at length.



“The error of those who say that the Vicar of Christ, the Pontiff of the Roman Church, does not have a primacy over the universal Church is similar to the error of those who say that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son. For Christ himself, the Son of God, consecrates and marks her as his own with the Holy Spirit, as it were with his own character and seal, as the authorities already cited make abundantly clear. And in like manner the Vicar of Christ by his primacy and foresight as a faithful servant keeps the Church Universal subject to Christ. It must, then, be shown from texts of the aforesaid Greek Doctors that the Vicar of Christ holds the fullness of power over the whole Church of Christ. Now, that the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, is the first and greatest of all the bishops, is expressly stated in the canon of the Council which reads: “According to the Scriptures and definition of the canon we venerate the most holy bishop of old Rome as the first and greatest of all the bishops.” This, moreover, accords well with Sacred Scripture, which both in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; John 21:17; Acts 1: 15-16, 2:14, 15:17) assigns first place among the Apostles to Peter. Hence, Chyrsostom commenting on the text of Matthew 8: 1: The disciples came to Jesus and asked, who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, says: “For they had created in their minds a human stumbling block, which they could no longer keep to themselves; nor did they control their hearts’ pride, because they saw that Peter was preferred to them and was given a more honorable place… It is also shown that the Vicar of Christ has universal jurisdiction over the entire Church of Christ. For it is recorded of the Council of Chalcedon how the whole synod acclaimed Pope Leo: “Long live Leo, the most holy, apostolic, and ecumenical, that is, universal patriarch…It is also established from the texts of the aforesaid Doctors that the Roman Pontiff possesses a fullness of power in the Church. For Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria, says in his Thesaurus: “As Christ coming forth from Israel as leader and sceptre of the Church of the Gentiles was granted by the Father the fullest power over every principality and power and whatever is that all might bend the knee to him, so he entrusted most fully the fullest power to Peter and his successors…It is also shown that Peter is the Vicar of Christ and the Roman Pontiff is Peter’s successor enjoying the same power conferred on Peter by Christ. For the canon of the Council of Chalcedon says: “If any bishop is sentenced as guilty of infamy, he is free to appeal the sentence to the blessed bishop of old Rome, whom we have as Peter the rock of refuge, and to him alone, in the place of God, with unlimited power, is granted the authority to hear the appeal of a bishop accused of infamy in virtue of the keys given him by the Lord.” And further on: “And whatever has been decreed by him is to be held as from the vicar of the apostolic throne.” (Opusculum contra errores Graecorum, Chapters 32, 33, 34 and 35)



In summary we can see a clear image of what Saint Thomas believed in reference to Sacra Scriptura, Sacra Traditionem, Sacra Doctrina and how they functioned within the Church. In the examples I provided, we can see that he not only relied on Sacred Scripture alone, but he held the Council of Chalcedon up as an authority equal to Scripture to define the doctrinal jurisdiction of the papacy. Yes, much of his writing says little about teaching derived outside of Scripture, but that is because St. Thomas was very much a product of his own time in regards to his theological focus. Saint Thomas certainly had a high regard for Sacred Scripture, and he focused much of his theological work to plumbing its depths in the university. He even made it a point of his studies to exhaust Scripture for everything it could reveal concerning doctrine. It is for this reason that we see little reference made to Tradition in his work, while Sacred Scripture takes center stage. Despite this fact, we can still see clearly that his adherence to papal authority, apostolic Tradition, the writings of the Fathers, and Church Councils, that Saint Thomas was very much a Catholic in his formal theology. It is therefore an untenable argument for Protestant apologists to infer upon him any such characterizations that would define the great Angelic Doctor with any theological position remotely similar to the Protestant heresy of Sola Scriptura. It is simply intellectually dishonest to do so.




1. Lamb, Matthew L., trans. Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Aquinas Scripture Commentaries, 2. Albany: Magi Books, 1966.


2. Weinandy, Thomas G. Aquinas on Scripture. T&T Clark International, 2005


3. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica


4. Aquinas, Thomas. Catechism of Thomas Aquinas



5. Aquinas, Thomas. Opusculum contra errores Graecorum



6. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. ,Magi Books, Inc., Albany, N.Y. 1998



7. Benedict XVI, God's Word, Ignatius Press



8. Webster, William, A Repudiation of the Patristic Concept of Tradition



9. Baglow, Chrostopher, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Doctrine in St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas on Doctrine T&T Clark

SSPX Group In Mexico Attacks FSSP Church.

Update. 1-30-10
I received some pictures after the graffiti was cleaned off of the walls outside the church. You can see where it all didn't come off.

I have just got word from a first hand source of a terrible act committed by an SSPX group in Mexico. The FSSP Chapel of St Peter Apostle in Guadalajara (The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter) was asked to schedule a Mass for the conversion of those outside the Church, in an effort to promote true unity among all Christians. The Mass was called a Mass for the conversion of sinners outside the Church, to be followed by a rosary in reparation for false ecumenism. The SSPX however heard through the grapevine that an ecumenical Mass was going to take place and they jumped to false conclusions. As a result, the SSPX went ballistic, calling for a protest against the upcoming scheduled Mass at the FSSP chapel. A first hand witness from the FSSP parish notes, "We started hearing gossip about what people were saying about us. One man said at the Mass on Sunday, that the Pius X priest told his people to go to all these events to say the rosary in reparation for ecumenism." Apparently the FSSP assistant priest who is currently at the FSSP parish wrote two emails trying to clear up the confusion before any type of protest could be organized. One email was sent to the SSPX priest, the other to all the laity of the parish, telling them that it was not going to be an ecumenical service for the purpose of legitimizing all other Christian professions of faith outside the Catholic Church, but a Mass in reparation for false ecumenism, and praying for the  conversion of those outside the Catholic Church. These emails however were ignored by the SSPX priest, and what happened next is truly appalling. 


The SSPX laymen came to the FSSP church the morning before the Mass on Wednesday Jan 20th, 2010, and they spray painted the walls around the church! A first hand account wrote, "Ecumenismo no! Judas!" was spray painted in huge letters three times, almost all the way around, and one time on the side walk. One was in black and the others in red." Parishioners at the church then had to use gasoline to try and remove the graffiti from the walls and the sidewalk before Mass. That however was not the end of the malicious attack. Once again, a first hand account wrote, "We had arranged for the Choir to sing so we could have a High Mass, using the 'missa pro  Ecclesiae Unitate'. As Mass was beginning we could hear a lot of noise outside: there was a bunch of people and someone with a megaphone or loudspeaker saying the rosary and singing hymns as loud as they could." Apparently one of the FSSP priests then went outside to try and talk to the SSPX protesters, but to no avail. Others carried signs around the church which said, "Outside the Church there is no Salvation!" (in Spanish)." The protesters also handed out fliers to those around the FSSP church, which labeled them as being evil, and as being in support of false ecumenism. The FSSP priests are in complete dismay over the vandalism committed and public disturbance incited by this SSPX group.


We see here why little progress has been made over the years in fully reconciling the SSPX with the Catholic Church. It is incidents like these that make charitable headway almost impossible to take place.  The FSSP are officially sanctioned by the Church to lead the way in promulgating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to the Catholic faithful. Some groups of the SSPX however, appear to have taken the FSSP as a threat to their communities. Some of the SSPX loath the fact that many people want to be in full communion with Rome. We can only hope that cooler heads will prevail, and that the talks will continue with success at a higher level in Rome. I also hope that the those in higher positions within the SSPX will acknowledge the injustice that has taken place here and put a swift stop to it.
Matthew Bellisario Jan 28th, 2010

Happy Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas!


I will be posting a portion of my work today on St. Thomas regarding Sacra Doctrina and Sacra Scriptura. As soon as I proofread it I will post it! Have a great feast day!

"17. Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because "he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all."(34) The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching." Pope Leo XIII-Aeterni Patris



 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thomas Aquinas Resources Top 10

Jan 28th is the feast of Saint Thomas! If you are interested in reading some serious scholarly books about Saint Thomas and his theology, I have put together a source list for you. It is extremely important to be familiar with Saint Thomas' historical background, his education and the mentality, style and form from which he penned his great theological works. Many "apologists" today cut and paste from the Summa Theologiae as if it is a modern theological encyclopedia. This is a critical mistake to make concerning the great Angelic Doctor's works. For those of you who want more than the pop-apologetics books offer, I suggest these 10 books to start off with. This will give you a good basic foundation to start using the works of Aquinas in an intelligent manner. There are many other great books on this subject as well, but these are great to start off with. Before you even crack open the Summa Theologiae, or any of his works for that matter, you have to possess a solid foundation to work from.


1. Saint Thomas Aquinas: The person and His Work- Jean-Pierre Torrell
2. Saint Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master- Jean-Pierre Torrell
3. Aquinas's Summa: Background, Structure, & Reception- Jean-Pierre Torrell
4. Saint Thomas Aquinas: A Biographical Study- Angelus Walz
5. Trinity in Aquinas- Giles Emery, OP
6. Aquinas on Scripture- Thomas Weinandy
7. Aquinas on Doctrine- Thomas Weinandy
8. Thomas Aquinas Theologian- Thomas F. O'Meara, OP
9. Modus Et Forma- Christopher T. Baglow
10. Thomas Aquinas and the Liturgy- David Berger




Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aquinas: Repetitive Signs of the Cross in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Many today falsely accuse the Extraordinary, Classical Latin Mass' use of repetitive prayers and gestures as not being necessary to the Mass. The "noble simplicity" of the Novus Ordo is sometimes pitted against the ancient Latin Mass, and her apparent use of repetitive prayers and gestures. Yet if we closely examine both Masses, which one best symbolizes what is actually happening in the Mass? This is not a piece about the validity of the Novus Ordo, so those who are immediately going to label me a "Rad Trad", take a hike. For those who want to learn why there are apparent repetitive gestures in the Extraordinary Form, read on. This piece is about recognizing what the Mass is, and recognizing what form best expresses this reality in gesture and symbol.

After Vatican II the emphasis on the celebration of the Mass turned from the sacrificial aspect of the Mass to the communal aspect. While both are certainly important, the sacrificial aspect of the Mass, along with Christ being present in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament, should always be of primary focus. The Mass then literally defines in sacrament and worship the core theological foundations of the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church teaches that we actually enter into Christ's sacrifice on the cross and partake of the same flesh given on that cross at Christ's crucifixion. If this reality is understood, then I believe the Extraordinary Form in the Latin Rite, best expresses this reality.

Many in the Church at the time of the second Vatican Council believed that the Mass needed to be stripped down from repetitious prayers and gestures. As a result many prayers and gestures were removed or changed in the Mass, and I believe that was a big mistake. Pope Benedict XVI also thinks that the Church made a mistake in implementing some of these changes to the liturgy as well, and has always had a mind for the reformation of the Novus Ordo. Although I could address the many differences in gesture between the two Masses,  I want to focus on one particular gesture; the symbolic sign of the cross.


For instance, why are so many signs of the cross made by the priest in the Extraordinary Form? Why not just eliminate them and instead make one or two signs of the cross? The ignorant person that suggests this however has no idea what these signs mean, and why they are placed in the exact spot within the ancient Latin liturgy. There is no one better to turn to than the great Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas, who wrote about this very question in his day. He too had those who wanted to eliminate or greatly reduce the number of times the sign of the cross was made during the Mass. The objection was stated, "Further, the ceremonies performed in the sacraments of the Church ought not to be repeated. Consequently it is not proper for the priest to repeat the sign of the cross many times over this sacrament." The Angelic Doctor answered very clearly in reference to the sign of the cross with the following in his Summa Theologiae. There is not much I can add to the Angelic Doctor's explanation, so below that I will close with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI.

The priest, in celebrating the mass, makes use of the sign of the cross to signify Christ's Passion which was ended upon the cross. Now, Christ's Passion was accomplished in certain stages. First of all there was Christ's betrayal, which was the work of God, of Judas, and of the Jews; and this is signified by the triple sign of the cross at the words, "These gifts, these presents, these holy unspotted sacrifices."

Secondly, there was the selling of Christ. Now he was sold to the Priests, to the Scribes, and to the Pharisees: and to signify this the threefold sign of the cross is repeated, at the words, "blessed, enrolled, ratified." Or again, to signify the price for which He was sold, viz. thirty pence. And a double cross is added at the words---"that it may become to us the Body and the Blood," etc., to signify the person of Judas the seller, and of Christ Who was sold.

Thirdly, there was the foreshadowing of the Passion at the last supper. To denote this, in the third place, two crosses are made, one in consecrating the body, the other in consecrating the blood; each time while saying, "He blessed."

Fourthly, there was Christ's Passion itself. And so in order to represent His five wounds, in the fourth place, there is a fivefold signing of the cross at the words, "a pure Victim, a holy Victim, a spotless Victim, the holy bread of eternal life, and the cup of everlasting salvation."

Fifthly, the outstretching of Christ's body, and the shedding of the blood, and the fruits of the Passion, are signified by the triple signing of the cross at the words, "as many as shall receive the body and blood, may be filled with every blessing," etc.

Sixthly, Christ's threefold prayer upon the cross is represented; one for His persecutors when He said, "Father, forgive them"; the second for deliverance from death, when He cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" the third referring to His entrance into glory, when He said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit"; and in order to denote these there is a triple signing with the cross made at the words, "Thou dost sanctify, quicken, bless."

Seventhly, the three hours during which He hung upon the cross, that is, from the sixth to the ninth hour, are represented; in signification of which we make once more a triple sign of the cross at the words, "Through Him, and with Him, and in Him."

Eighthly, the separation of His soul from the body is signified by the two subsequent crosses made over the chalice.

Ninthly, the resurrection on the third day is represented by the three crosses made at the words---"May the peace of the Lord be ever with you."

In short, we may say that the consecration of this sacrament, and the acceptance of this sacrifice, and its fruits, proceed from the virtue of the cross of Christ, and therefore wherever mention is made of these, the priest makes use of the sign of the cross.
(III,q. 83, a. 5, ad 3)


"I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council." Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (SF, CA: Ignatius), p. 149.

New Podcast Sermon- The Holiness of the Mass

Here is another great sermon delivered by Father James Fryar, FSSP, at Christ the King chapel in Sarasota, Florida. In this sermon Father takes a look at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and its relation to the Old Testament temple worship. You can listen here or download it on iTunes. Search the iTunes store for Catholic Champion and subscribe today. More sermons are on the way. Enjoy!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Interview: Fr. James Fryar FSSP, and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass

I recently sat down with Father James Fryar FSSP, and talked to him about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Many Catholics are not familiar with theology of the liturgy. In this interview Fr. Fryar answers some of the most common questions people have about the Classical Latin Mass. I had to break up the series into four parts. This interview is an abbreviated version that will be coming to DVD in the near future. In order to see the full widescreen video, right click on the video and watch it on YouTube. Enjoy!

Part I


Part II


Part III


Part IV

Defending St. Thomas Aquinas Update



Hopefully I will have a readers digest version of my work on Saint Thomas available here online Jan 28th, which is the feast of the great Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas. Even though this is a condensed version, it is still well over 20 pages in length. I am trying to decide if I am going to break it up into multiple posts for easy reading, or just put it all up at once. The post will cover a bit of Saint Thomas' background, his theological views concerning Sacra Doctrina, and Sacred Scripture, among other topics. Jan 28th is a great feast day in our Catholic faith. It is one in which we honor one of the great Catholic theologians of the Church. I hope to able to honor his day with an apologetic defense of him as a pure Catholic theologian.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Book of Eli Movie Review


I don't post many movie reviews, but occasionally its fun to do. I saw The Book of Eli this evening, and it was quite entertaining. Although it's not a masterpiece, it did instill an appreciation for having  the Sacred Scriptures available to us in such abundance today. Most people have the Scriptures available to them in their own homes, but spend little time reading and digesting them on a regular basis. In fact, most people that I know have more than one copy. The movie depicts an apocalyptic world, in which only one known copy of the Scriptures survive.  Of course it becomes a prized and sought after treasure, by both the good and the evil. The movie is not one of intense dramatic dialogue, and the action sequences are what keep you entertained. The movie also has a nice twist at the end. It is rare for something to come out of Hollywood that actually promotes an appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures. There are some underlying tones in the film that can be interpreted a variety of ways. If you enjoy an entertaining action film that instills an appreciation for the Sacred Scriptures, then I recommend checking it out. After watching it you might want to go home and crack open the Scriptures!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cardinal Journet and the Catholic Teaching on Predestination.

The Catholic teaching of predestination is often misunderstood by those inside and outside the Catholic Church. In fact, many simply avoid the subject altogether, for it is in fact a great mystery. In order to fully understand it, you would have to know the mind of God himself, which can never be accomplished. We only know what He has revealed to us in His Word, as taught with absolute certainty within the one Church that he established on this earth. Cardinal Journet was a brilliant theologian, and here he tackles the subject of predestination. He addresses the errors of Calvin and the Protestants, and he gives a Catholic explanation concerning the two seemingly opposing doctrines concerning man's freewill, and God's divine predestination. This text is part of a much longer work called 'The Meaning of Grace.' The entire work is available on EWTN's library. If you get a chance, check it out. This part of the work posted below is a bit lengthy, and I have broken it up in sections with photos I have taken at various churches throughout my travels. I also have bold typed the passages that caught my attention. Enjoy!
Above: The dome of Sacred Heart parish in downtown Tampa, Fl.

From the Meaning of Grace by Cardinal Charles Journet

III. PREDESTINATION

1. On the basis of what has been said in the preceding pages we shall try to interpret a few passages of St Paul, principally on the subject of predestination.
These questions about grace are extremely mysterious and profound. If, in discussing them, we forget that God is a God of love, if we speak about them without steeping them in the atmosphere of divine goodness that knocks at men's hearts, we may well say what would seem theologically—or rather, verbally, literally—exact, but what would in fact be a deformation, misleading and false. Ultimately only the great saints, the great lovers of God, can speak of these matters without distorting them.
We must bear in mind, at the outset, that in the word predestination, as in prescience, the prefix 'pre' signifies an anteriority of dignity and excellence, not one of chronology which would suggest a scenario written beforehand. Predestination is a love-assignation made on high, a supreme divine destination in course of realization, a supreme 'prevenience' on the part of Love, a prevenience not refused, but accepted and finally brought to fulfilment.

2. The doctrine of predestination is a scriptural doctrine, a part of revelation, which we are to believe without doubting. But how is it to be understood? There is the Catholic interpretation, and the Lutheran and Calvinist one, to which we shall return later.
The word predestination we owe to St Paul. In the Epistle to the Ephesians (i. 4-5), he writes: 'God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity. Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the purpose of his will.'

Further on (ii. 4), we read: 'God, who is rich in mercy, for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, by whose grace you are saved, and hath raised us up together and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places through ChristJesus.' Here the Apostle sees in advance the elect gathered together in the heavens round Christ, saying: thanks to you, O God, for having predestined us by your love. You are he who enabled us to utter the supreme assent we gave to you. To you be the glory.

The word predestination was already used in the Epistle to the Romans: 'Whom he predestinated, them he also called. And whom he called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified' (viii. 30). Here again the apostle sees in advance the elect gathered in the heavens, and reflects on how they have been led there by God. God first called them; he went to meet them with graces which they did not frustrate though they could have done so. If they assented to them, it was by a divine movement in them, for our assent always comes from God: 'thy salvation comes from me, O Israel, thy destruction from thee'. Since they did not refuse this first call, they went on to justification through a new divine movement; and those whom he has justified God finally brings to heaven. That is the supreme prevenience by which God enables us to die in his love.
 Above: The front of the altar at Christ the King, Sarasota, Fl.

3. When you reread these passages, they will give you no difficulty if you see them in the context I have indicated. You will remember that, if anyone is not predestined, it is because he refuses the call, and not once only, like the fallen angels, for again and again divine grace returns to, and even importunes, the human heart. How often? The apostles asked Jesus, 'Should we forgive seven times?'; and the answer was, 'Seventy times seven times' (Mt. xviii. 21-22). That is what Jesus expects of men, who yet are miserable creatures and loath to show mercy. Elsewhere he said, 'If your child asks of you a fish, will you give him a serpent? If he asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If he asks you for bread, will you give him a stone? If then you who are evil, give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father!' (cf. Luke xi. 11-13; Mt. viii. 9-11). So then he, too, will forgive me seventy times seven. He will return to knock again at the door of my soul. None the less, if I wish to refuse him, I can; I have the terrible power of saying no to God, of making a definitive refusal that will fix my lot for eternity. I can say to him: I do not want your love, I want to be myself, to be myself not in you, but against you, to be for ever like a thorn in your heart. This is the frightful refusal of hell.

What might possibly lead to a misconception on this point is the very moving parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke xvi. 19), where we see Dives beseeching Abraham to let Lazarus go and warn his brothers to change their way of life. Abraham, however, answers, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. If they do not hear them, neither will they hear if one is raised from the dead.' As you see, the purpose of the parable is to show that we have to hear now, while there is time; afterwards, it will be too late. But it would be a mistake to suppose that, in hell, the damned have the sentiments of charity attributed to the rich man. If one of the damned could say: Lord, allow me to tell others what thy love is so that they may not be damned like me, he would bring charity into hell, and hell would be blown to pieces. (We must always regard the intention of the parable—and the evangelist shows what this intention is—otherwise, its character would be altered, and we might be led astray. Consider the parable of the unjust steward, which scandalizes so many Christians through their misunderstanding of it.)

So, if anyone is not among the predestined, it is in consequence of a refusal for which he bears and always will bear the responsibility. He will persist in his refusal, in his hate—that, in fact, will be his torment—but he will never retract his original choice. St Thomas gives us a comparison. Take a man who hates his enemy. He wants to kill him. He thinks: If I meet him, I shall kill him. But he is prevented; perhaps he is in prison. Ah, he thinks, once I am out of prison! He lives by, feeds on his hatred. He may be told: 'Don't you see that the cause of your misery is your hatred? 'I do,' he replies, 'but that's the way it is; I want to have my revenge.' In any case, we know quite well that we can cling to feelings which torment us. This example is no more than an image of the perpetual refusal of the damned, the refusal because of which they are not among the predestined. Such is the Catholic doctrine.

What we have said earlier on the divine prescience serves to clarify this doctrine completely. We do not say, 'God does not predestine, God abandons and reproves those who he knows in advance will refuse his prevenient grace'. We say, 'God does not predestine; God abandons and rejects those who, as he sees, from all eternity, themselves take the first initiative in the final refusal of his prevenient grace.' From eternity, he takes account of their free refusal in the establishment of his immutable and eternal plan.

 Above: The Dormition of the Theotokos from Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church, St. Petersburg, Fl.

4. The erroneous doctrine put forward by Luther, and by Calvin in his Institutes is that, just as some are predestined to heaven, so are others to hell; God himself therefore drives them to hell, and they cannot escape it. This is the thesis of double predestination: one to heaven, which is just, provided that it is not understood in the sense of Luther and Calvin, for whom, as we have seen, the good act comes solely from God, and not from God through man; the other to hell. As you see, there is a twofold error here: predestination to heaven is misconceived and the idea of predestination to hell is introduced—a still worse aberration. For that matter, Protestants today no longer defend Calvin on this point; Karl Barth declares frankly that he cannot find this idea of predestination to hell anywhere in St Paul. (Yet, from the doctrinal point of view, some critics see, in the thesis of double predestination, the cornerstone of the Institutes.)

5. We shall meet in a moment those texts which, if misinterpreted, could be used to support Calvin; notably in Chapter ix of the Epistle to the Romans. I purposely choose these vexed points so as to show you how they are to be clarified. But is there any real need to deal with these questions? Is it not rather unwise to do so?
My own opinion is that we must act differently in different cases. Suppose I have to deal with someone who is troubled by the problem of predestination. He asks himself: 'Am I saved? If I am predestined whatever I do, I am sure of salvation; and if I am not predestined, whatever good I do is no use at all.' How should I answer him?

First of all, I should have to discern the meaning of the question. It may be a speculative one, a question of revealed truth, of theology. In that case I should give an answer which would doubtless entail a mystery, but not a contradiction. You know that a mystery is something that calls for our adoration, it is the dark night of God which is the spiritual food of the metaphysician, the theologian, the saint; whereas a contradiction is detestable, it is the dark night of incoherence and evil.

But perhaps it is a question which arises from real anguish of mind, a question asked by someone going through an interior trial, whom God wishes to nail upon the cross. In that case, I should not attempt any explanation; that would be beside the point. I would say, 'Bear with this trial at present, bear with it in darkness and make profound acts of faith; a very mysterious work is to be wrought in you. Later on, when God's intention in harrowing your soul has been fulfilled, come back and we shall talk over the matter again, and the answer I shall give you will appear to you as wholly true. But for the time being you are stunned, God asks of you an act of total abandonment to him. Make no attempt to evade it. If I began to argue with you, I should be failing in my role as "angel" appointed to help you and show you the way.'

What we are saying in connection with predestination is applicable to other matters. If anyone puts a speculative problem to you, try to elucidate it. You may not always have the answer pat, but the Church possesses it and you can easily inform yourself of it. But there is also God's plan for souls. I have in mind someone whose stumbling-block was the suffering of animals. None of the answers suggested to him gave him satisfaction. He was not in a condition to grasp them. The only thing he could do was to bear this state of anxiety as a cross; and that, no doubt, is precisely what God intended him to do. As for the question of predestination, the saints managed to find answers that resolved it, not theoretically, but concretely, in the dark night of love. For example: 'Lord, if your justice must one day condemn me, I will to be condemned, for I know your justice is adorable!' Or: 'Lord, if I am not to love you later in eternity, at least let me love you here in the present.' Or: 'O my God! You know I cannot endure hell, and I know that I am not good enough for Paradise. To what shall I have recourse? Your forgiveness.' That is how God restores such souls to peace. The devil said to St Teresa: 'Why give yourself all this trouble? The die is cast!' In her spirited way, she replied: 'Then it was not worth while for you to take the trouble to come and tell me!' Then the devil understood; he too is a wit!
 Above: Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, Detroit, Michigan.

6. Now let us take the point about the rejection of the Jews, as dealt with in the Epistle to the Romans (ix-xi). 'Salvation is of the Jews', Jesus had told the woman of Samaria. God had prepared this people, privileged among all the rest, to be the cradle of the Incarnation. Privileges, I have already said, are not the chief thing. The chief thing is love, and God dispenses that to all on account of Christ's death on the cross; each man can accept or refuse it. But, after all, Messianic salvation, the honour of proclaiming and receiving the Messias, was first offered to the Jews. And then, when the Messias came, the Jews as a whole ignored him, passed him by.

What does God do? He might have said: 'They did not want my favour: I shall take it away'. But God never does that. When the gift of his love is refused by one person or people, he transfers it to others. He does not shut the door of the feast; instead of the first ones invited, he sends for the poor, the lame, the blind (Luke xiv. 21). In place of the Jews, the immense multitude of the Gentiles is invited. Thus, the fault of the Jews becomes the salvation of the Gentiles. 'By their offence,' says St Paul, 'salvation is come to the Gentiles.... Their offence has been the riches of the Gentiles' (Rom. xi. 11, 12). And when the Gentiles who have accepted this light begin to lose their fervour, then God will cause the Jews to return. The mass of Israel—which does not mean each individual Jew, but the Jews as a people—jealous at seeing other peoples preferred to them (Rom. ii. 11), will finally come into the Church. And the conversions from Judaism which occur constantly as time goes on point to the place where, one day, the Jews will come in their multitudes. 'I would not have you ignorant, brethren,' says St Paul, 'of this mystery, that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in, and so all Israel should be saved' (Rom. viii. 25-26). The apostle then concludes with the cry: 'O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways' (Rom. xi. 33).

7. Nonetheless, St Paul is deeply distressed that Israel, as a whole, refused the Messias born within it. 'I have great sadness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh; who are Israelites; to whom belongeth the adoption as of children and the glory and the testament and the giving of the law and the service of God and the promises; whose are the fathers and of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever' (ix. 2-5).

Has God then, asks the Apostle, failed to keep his word, since he had promised to Abraham a whole progeny? No: for the Church, at its inception, was wholly composed of Jews, with Our Lady, Simeon, Anna, the apostles; and it will never be so splendid as it was then. God's promise has not failed, because there was a 'remnant,' to use the technical term, which remained faithful when the mass had gone astray. St Paul explains here (Rom. ix. 6-8) that those who are of the posterity of Abraham are not all sons of Abraham. There is Israel according to the flesh, namely those who have descended from Abraham by way of generation; and also Israel of the promise, those who, among the descendants of Abraham, have the spirit of Abraham. And there are the Gentiles, to whom grace will be offered and who will be joined to these latter. They will form part of the Israel of the promise, the Israel of the spirit; not by way of generation and descent by the flesh, but by way of the spiritual regeneration given at baptism.
 Above: The baptistry ceiling in Florence Italy at the Duomo.

8. We now come to the principal passage. St Paul begins by asking if we can reproach God for choosing another people to replace the one he had first chosen, which had not accepted his gift. No, he declares, for God can without injustice choose whom he will and reject whom he will. In order to elucidate this answer of his, I want to make a distinction; it will give the key to the whole of this ninth chapter of Romans.

There are two sorts of vocations, destinations, calls. There are those concerning this present time, which might be called temporal ones, and in them God's choice is completely free. There are, in addition, those concerning eternal life, where God is not free to give or withold the grace which, if we do not refuse it, will lead us to our true home. God is not free, because he is bound by his love.
So then, to apply this distinction, can I reproach God for not having made me a poet like Dante, or for not giving me Pascal's genius? Or for having caused me to be born in this particular country or at this particular time? In this social class, with my particular temperament, my state of health? For not having given me, like the apostles, the grace of foretelling the future or working miracles? He is completely free; he is not accountable to me. But, when it is a question of eternal life, then God is not free, he is bound to give me such graces that, if I am not saved, it is my own fault. You see the difference. If I have an accident and chance to die when I consider I have the right to live longer, I cannot say to God that this is unjust. That is what St Paul means when he says that if the potter makes both a common vessel and a one of outstanding beauty, the former cannot argue with the potter. If it is fitting there should be common objects as well as works of art, what is there for the clay to say about it? It is the same with the temporal vocations of different people. Also with their 'prophetic vocation'. Why was it Israel that was the bearer of the prophetic message announcing the Messias? Why not other people as well? There is no answer.

I was asked by a small Chinese boy why Jesus was not born in China. I told him Jesus was born in Asia, not in Europe; that missionaries went to China, but that they came up against the resistance of the forces of evil. That, however, was not a direct answer; there isn't one. And to those who are always asking why God became incarnate in Israel and not in India, where mystical religions were flourishing, or in Greece, so alive to philosophical questions, it is possible to give reasons not without value. We may say, for instance, that the divine revelation would be exposed to adulteration from erroneous mysticisms, in the one case, or, in the other, to rationalization by philosophical gnosticism, and that its transcendence stood out most clearly when it made its appearance in a simple people, healthily human, a stranger to superstructures of thought. But, once again, none of these reasons is decisive.
Israel alone, then, received the prophetic vocation concerning the Messias. Does that mean that the other peoples were abandoned by God? No, for God sent them hidden graces, not so that they might be bearers of the Messianic Message, but to orientate them towards eternal salvation, in which regard not a single soul of any race was forgotten.

So you see there are two spheres, two planes. On one plane, that of temporal gifts and destinies, and of charismatic graces, God is completely free; he chooses whom he will and rejects whom he will, without any injustice. On the other plane, that of graces of salvation, God is doubtless free to give his children different and unequal graces, to one two talents, to another five. But he is not free to deprive any soul of what is necessary to it. He is bound by his justice and love to give each of them those graces which, if not refused, will bring them to the threshold of their heavenly country.

9. I think the distinction I have given will enable you to understand this ninth chapter. Read it first of all as referring to the sphere of vocations in this present life and the charismatic gifts. These are what St Paul begins with.

'Not as though the word of God hath miscarried. For all are not Israelites that are of Israel. Neither are all they that are the seed of Abraham his children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is to say, not they that are the children of the flesh are the children of God; but they that are the children of the promise are accounted for the seed. For this is the word of promise: According to this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son' (Rom. ix. 6-9).

Abraham had a son by Agar the slave, but Sara his wife remained barren. Then the angel came and announced that Sara would bear a son the following year. So from that time there were two sons: Ismael, son according to the flesh, and Isaac, the child of the promise. From which would the descendants come? From Ismael, whom Islam claims as forbear? No, but from Isaac, the child of the promise; by him the prophetic message was to continue. That does not mean that Ismael was rejected by God in what pertains to eternal salvation, but he was not chosen to be the bearer of the prophetic message.

Then comes another disjunction. 'And not only she. But when Rebecca also had conceived at once of Isaac our father.' They were twins, Isaac and Jacob. Which of the two will be the bearer of the prophetic promise? Here again, God is entirely free. 'For when the children were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil (that the purpose of God according to election might stand); not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said to her: The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written:Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated' (ix. 10-13).
'Jacob I have loved,' as bearer of the promise. 'Esau I have hated,' not as regards eternal life, but as far as the promise is concerned, I have disregarded him.
'What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? God forbid! For he saith to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. And I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy. So that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the Scripture saith to Pharaoh: To this purpose have I raised thee, that I may show my power in thee and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth' (ix. 14-18).

How is this passage to be understood? Moses was sent by God to Pharaoh to say to him; 'Let my people go.' But Pharaoh refused to understand him. Had he been more enlightened, he would have said, 'Go with thy people.' Then he would himself have entered into God's plan; he would have shared, in some degree, in the vocation of the people who were the bearers of the promise. But Israel left against his will, and he sent his army in pursuit of them. Pharaoh went wrong in the realm of high politics. This does not mean he was necessarily damned but that he showed forth the glory of God in spite of himself. Moses and his people passed over the sea wherein Pharaoh's armies were lost.
I shall continue the passage, still keeping within the first sphere. 'Therefore he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth' (ix. 18). That is to say, he leaves in error whomever he decides to. Pharaoh went astray on the level of high politics. Cyrus, however, saw more clearly and, freeing Israel from captivity, sent it back to its own country to rebuild the temple. He furthered the plan of God, and so is praised in Scripture.

'Thou wilt say therefore to me: Why doth he then find fault? For who resisteth his will? O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it: Why hast thou made me thus? Or hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, that he might show the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he hath prepared unto glory?' (ix. 19-23).
Wishing to 'show his wrath' means to set on one side. The message is passed on in another way. 'As in Osee he saith: I will call that which was not my people, my people; and her that was not beloved, beloved; and her that had not obtained mercy, one that hath obtained mercy. And it shall be in the place where it was said unto them: You are not my people; there they shall be called the sons of the living God. And Isaias crieth out concerning Israel: If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved . . . because a short word shall the Lord make upon the earth' (ix. 25-28).
 Above: The Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padua, Italy.

10. We have read these passages as referring to the sphere of vocations in this present life. Now let us take some of them again in their application to the vocation to eternal salvation. This is not the plane St Paul directly refers to but, from time to time, it may have been underlying his thought.
First of all we take this text: 'Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated' (ix. 13). If this meant: I have loved Jacob in person, and saved him for eternal life; I have hated Esau in person, and rejected him for eternal life, then we should say that, from all eternity, God knows that the supreme initiative of Jacob's final act of love comes from himself; Jacob is saved by the divine goodness. And from all eternity God knows that the supreme initiative of Esau's refusal comes from Esau himself. Esau is rejected in consequence of this free refusal made, in spite of God's goodness towards him. He is rejected because he made these divine graces of no effect.

We must distinguish clearly between the way in which Jacob is saved (namely through the divine goodness) and that in which Esau is rejected (through his bad will). To fail to see this distinction and to say that God has the first initiative in Esau's damnation as he has in Jacob's salvation, that he is the cause of the former as of the latter, is to fall into the error of Calvin.

The second text is: 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy' (ix. 15). Taking this on the plane of the call to salvation, this is the Catholic interpretation: let us suppose a man to whom God has offered his love and who sins, freely refuses this love, destroys grace in himself. God could say to him, 'From now on, I shall leave you in your sin. Is that justice or injustice?' He would have to answer, 'It is justice.' But God might also say, 'In justice, I ought to abandon you, as I have in the case of others; none the less, once again, purely out of mercy and compassion, I shall go in search of you.'

Now let us look at the Calvinist interpretation: original sin has destroyed our free will. God chooses certain ones among us to be saved; he has mercy on whom he will have mercy. The rest are predestined to hell. And if you protest that it is iniquitous that men deprived of free will should be thrown into hell, Calvin will rise up against you and say that, since God does so, it is not iniquitous, but a mystery we must adore.

The third text is: 'The scripture saith to Pharaoh: To this purpose have I raised thee, that I may show my power in thee and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore he hath mercy on whom he will; and whom he will he hardeneth' (ix. 17-18). On the plane of eternal salvation, to 'harden' someone means, in the Catholic sense, to allow their consequences to follow on acts that he has voluntarily chosen to do. I have committed a certain sin, which will normally lead to certain other sins. If God does not intervene, out of pure mercy, to break this sequence of sins, if he abandons me to the logic of my own actions, he will be said to harden me. I go of my own free will down the slope which leads from sin to sin. Is it in this sense that Pharaoh was hardened? Was he personally rejected? How can we know? In the Calvinist sense, to 'harden' means to be plunged ever further into sin by a deliberate punitive action on the part of God.

The fourth text is: 'Thou wilt say therefore to me: Why then doth he find fault? For who resisteth his will? O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it: Why hast thou made me thus? Or hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?' (ix. 19-21). According to Catholic teaching, God is bound to give grace to all, but he is not bound to give it equally. He gives his servants one, two or five talents, to each according to his capacity (Mt. xxv. 15); and this diversity will contribute to the splendour of Paradise. But he is bound by his love to give each of us such graces that, if we fail to attain heaven, we shall have to admit our own sole responsibility.

The fifth text is: 'What if God, willing to show his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, that he might show the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he hath prepared unto glory?' (ix. 22-23). God may abandon the sinner to his sin and the logical results of his sin; it is then that he 'shows his wrath', he 'endures with much patience' the vessels of wrath ripe for perdition. Why does he endure them? It may be that, at the last moment, he will visit them once again in his goodness. But God may also draw the sinner straightaway from his evil state; it is then that he 'shows his glory' in regard to the vessels of mercy. Both Peter and Judas deniedJesus, and he could have abandoned both of them to their sin; it would have been quite just. But he looked on Peter, and his look overwhelmed him; that was mercy.

In the Calvinist view, God endures with much patience vessels of wrath destined to perdition, just as he makes vessels destined to glory. That is the doctrine of double predestination.
 Above: Nativity stained glass window at St. Stanislaus, Cleveland, Ohio.

11. The thought of predestination should never lead you to fatalism, or make you say: 'What is the use? All effort is useless?' You would be deceiving yourself, from the standpoint both of faith and of theology. What would we think of a farmer who said, 'God already knows whether I shall be harvesting or not next summer, so what is the use of sowing this autumn?' We would probably say to him, 'God knows from all eternity whether you will harvest or not, because he knows from all eternity whether you will sow or not. He sees, from all eternity, that Mary Magdalen will go to heaven, but only because he sees from all eternity that she will be converted. And, in the case of our refusal, he takes account of it from all eternity in framing his immutable plan.'
The thought of predestination may become a temptation to despair that the devil tries to induce in us. If God allows this temptation, it is not that we may give way, but so that we shall make firm acts of hope in our state of darkness.

Everyone, at all times, is liable to temptation against some point of faith; or against hope as, for example, the man who says 'I believe in the life of heaven for others, but not for myself; I am too much of a sinner.' And there are temptations against love. It is the great mystics, St John of the Cross and Mary of the Incarnation, who have best described these various trials. If we come across souls tempted in these ways, it is best to tell them simply, 'God is present within your heart, he is mysteriously cultivating its soil. That is an agony to undergo, but something very profound is in preparation, and the acts of faith and hope you make in darkness are perhaps the most valuable of all your life. In heaven you will be "eternally consoled by that which here below had plunged you into a desolation of soul devoid of all consolation".'