Monday, May 22, 2006

Kass and Hume on Phenomena

I redeem myself a little bit with this paper: Kass and Hume on Phenomena

Ovid, an early first-century Roman poet, paints a beautiful picture of the contrast between animals and man. It is a simple statement but rich with meaning: “And, though all other animals are prone, and fix their gaze upon the earth, he gave to man an uplifted face and bade him stand erect and turn his eyes to heaven.”[1] The beauty of this statement is that despite its simplicity it prompts us to naturally ask, “Why?” Why does man stand erect while the animals are prone? What does his posture illustrate about him? Why is his face uplifted? What in the heavens captures his gaze? What can he see and do now with this posture that he could not see and do before? What is the reason for this human phenomenon and why is it his? Is this good for man?

It does not take a zoologist, a biologist, an anthropologist, or other scientist to ask these questions, we can expect them from anyone. And if the common man can ask them, should not the scientist who has a more astute curiosity be all the more able to? We would think so. But, a careful look at modern science reveals a glaring inability to ask the most natural questions of the phenomena we encounter in the world.

Rather than ask the above, modern science would ask, “How is it that man stands erect? Is it the strength of his hind legs? How does he hold up his head? Is it the ligaments in his neck? How does he fix his gaze? Is psychology at play? Is he daydreaming? How does his brain create his state of daydreaming?

Here, Dr. Leon R. Kass, M.D., former chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, draws the appropriate conclusion in his book, The Hungry Soul.[2] What is revealed in Ovid’s statement and “other such simple natural facts, accessible to us through the testimony of our own lived experience, can provide a royal road to appreciating what we are and discovering what we might become.” But, unfortunately, he goes on to say, “we have lost our way in the world partly because we no longer believe that our ordinary experience of life in the world may be the privileged road to the deepest truth.”[3]

The questions we noted above, those of modern science, presuppose a view of nature, what Kass would call nature as “blind, mechanical, mindless, and aimless.” But isn’t the scientific community a rather elite group, small in number compared to the total population? Why should we be concerned with this dilemma? Kass would reply that while most of us are not scientists,

virtually all of us in the present age are at least cryptoscientists and fellow travelers [with modern science]. We are rationalists… and we do not stand respectfully before our living bodies. We readily accept biochemical “explanations” of human [phenomena]… We may not see with a scientific eye, but we think – often unwittingly – with scientific concepts and explanations.[4]
In this essay we will take a brief look at David Hume, a philosopher that has influenced modern science and in turn the common man as described above. We will do this so that we can better understand where we stand today. All the while we will compare and contrast his thought with that of Leon Kass so that we can look forward and up and ask the right questions.

First, what is phenomena? The word itself is the plural form of the word “phenomenon” which is derived from the Greek “phainomenon,” literally meaning something that can be seen, or an appearance.[5] For our purposes, the phenomena, or the appearances of nature, on which a philosopher chooses to focus can be very revealing. While Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, chose to focus on “plants and animals; the heavens; living kinds; substantial and accidental change or generation and corruption,” Hume turned to “the pain of excessive heat, the pleasure of moderate warmth;” anger, inertia, billiard balls, and weighted figures in motion.[6] He chose too look at “earth, water, and other elements” rather than living organisms. The ordinary natural wholes that we experience and encounter every day are absent from Hume’s phenomenology. And when we look at his popular work, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,[7] we see that this is quite deliberate and in fact a strategic move in his ideology for science.[8] We will look at this ideology later, for now, we have come to our first contrast with Kass.

Kass’s book, The Hungry Soul, follows in Aristotle and Aquinas’ footsteps and is about “deeper desires, appetites, and longings as they reveal themselves in human eating.” Furthermore, eating, “like other activities in which human beings and animals engage, is an activity of whole, unified, formed, living, active, sensitive, and desiring beings.”[9] But Hume, in a similar example in An Enquiry, is skeptical of man’s ability to learn anything from this phenomena concerning its motivations or meaning: “Our senses inform us of the colour, weight, and consistence of bread; but neither sense nor reason can ever inform us of those qualities, which fit it for the nourishment and support of a human body” He even goes on to say that “nature throws a bar to all our enquiries concerning causes, and reduces us to an acknowledgment of our ignorance.”[10]

Aristotle and Aquinas (and now Kass) observed the phenomena in their everyday world and allowed them to naturally disclose their meaning and purpose. They then, through metaphysics, moved from the phenomena to a study of the principles and causes that animate them. From these they discovered both the superficial and underlying truth of the phenomenal forms they beheld. But Hume, and much of modern science today, has no use for the metaphysical causes of the phenomena they study. The truth they seek is, again, in the question “How?” not in the questions “What?” or “Why?” They reject the latter questions as being the mere “inevitable source of uncertainty and error.” To Hume classical metaphysics is not “properly a science” and arises either from “the fruitless efforts of human vanity, which would penetrate into subjects utterly inaccessible to the understanding, or from the craft of popular superstitions, which… raise these entangling brambles to cover and protect their weakness.”[11]

To this end, Hume moves the focus away from the observable natural phenomena to the inner-workings of the mind of the observer. Therein lays the truth of what he sees. In making this move he seeks to liberate modern science from the “obscurity, painfulness and fatigue” of classical metaphysics and here we see his ideology. Only in the “secret springs and principles by which the human mind is actuated in its operations” do we really find clarity:

Astronomers had long contented themselves with proving, from the phenomena, the true motions, order, and magnitude of the heavenly bodies: Till a philosopher, at last, arose, who seems, from the happiest reasoning, to have also determined the laws and forces, by which the revolutions of the planets are governed and directed. The like has been performed with regard to other parts of nature. And there is no reason to despair of equal success in our enquiries concerning the mental powers and economy, if prosecuted with equal capacity and caution.[12]
So the movements of these heavenly bodies, and ultimately the result of any observable phenomena, is not an exhibition of meaning or purpose but a string of laws and forces, clearly and precisely executed, as if all phenomena were simply a cosmic game of Billiards in which one ball strikes another which strikes another ad infinitum. This dynamic leaves no room for substantial forms.

Our last contrast with Kass will be one concerning connections. We return now to the phenomenon of human eating. Kass observes in the Introduction to The Hungry Soul that the world is arranged so as to contain “deep connections among human eating, human freedom, and human moral self-consciousness. It is these connections that we here seek to discover. We, too, seek wisdom through eating; eating is the manifest theme of this inquiry.”[13] With Kass, we see an inquiry that is motivated by a desire to discover deep meaning in the phenomenon he has chosen to explore. But the main point here is that there are real, fertile connections between phenomena on one hand and meaning, purpose, truth, goodness, beauty and the “just, noble, and holy” on the other. And similar connections, also disclosed by phenomena, can even be found between nature and ethics. But, Kass adds,

modern thought has come to teach the uselessness of natural knowledge for ethics… Eventually even the possibility of truth [comes] under challenge, with various skepticisms asserting the ultimate unknowability of both the true being of nature and the true causes of natural phenomena.[14]
Hence Hume, again regarding non-organic phenomenon and ambiguous “objects”:

When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connexion [sic]… The scenes of the universe are continually shifting, and one object follows another in an uninterrupted succession; but the power or force, which actuates the whole machine, is entirely concealed from us, and never discovers itself in any of the sensible qualities of body. We know, that, in fact, heat is a constant attendant of flame; but what is the connexion [sic] between them, we have no room so much as to conjecture or imagine.[15]
It would be easy for us to become discouraged and confused in this seeming war over meaning in science. But, from what we have seen above, it is imperative that we follow the lead of Leon Kass and other post-modern thinkers like him. We must “reconsider the now-dominant scientific view in search of a more natural and richer biology and anthropology.”[16]

If we are successful, perhaps we can even show that nature is not altogether silent about, or irrelevant for thinking about, how we should live… nature rightly understood might turn out to be a suggestive teacher. Nature might yield a pointing-toward, a hinting-at, a promising-forth of a wholesome direction, a propitious attitude, a dignified and fulfilling posture for our lives. Nature, and even natural necessity, might yet point the way to virtue.[17]

[1] Metamorphoses (1.84-86) from Kass, p. 57 (see note 2)
[2] The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature, by Leon R. Kass, M.D., The University of Chicago Press, ©1999. Hereafter referred to as “Kass”
[3] Ibid, p. xv, 8
[4] Ibid, p. 7
[5] Also from neuter present participle of phainesthai, to appear. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2004, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company)
[6] From the document “David Hume’s an Enquiry concerning Human Understanding,” David Hume I.doc, 3/25/2006, by Dr. Paul Seaton
[7] An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, second edition, edited by Eric Steinberg, Hackett Publishing Company, ©1993. Hereafter referred to as “Hume”.
[8] Idea from Dr. Paul Seaton given in conversation, 5/3/2006
[9] Kass, p. xiii, emphasis mine, and p. 11
[10] Hume, p. 21, 40
[11] Ibid, p. 5
[12] This train of thought from the Hume document noted above (note 6) and Hume, p. 8
[13] Kass, p. 1
[14] Ibid, p. 4-5
[15] Hume, p. 41-42
[16] Kass, p. 9
[17] Ibid, p. 12

Aquinas and Kant on Law

OK, this paper is pretty horrible. I'm posting it here as an act of humility. This time, I include Dr. Seaton's corrections in brackets. Here goes nothing... St. Thomas Aquinas and Kant on Law

Ralph McInerny, in his Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on Law, states that what makes the treatise seem foreign to a modern reader is “Thomas’s understanding of what the human agent is and how we can know what is good for him.”[1] Thus, we can infer that the modern reader has been formed by an understanding of the human agent, and his ability to know the good, that is contrary to Aquinas’ understanding. Few things have formed our misunderstanding more than modern philosophy qua modern science. A key figure in this formation is Immanuel Kant. Here, prompted by McInerny, we will take a brief look at Kant’s thought on law and then bring it into the light of Aquinas so we that can gain a correct understanding.

McInerny states, following the above, that “The human agent for Thomas is not an isolated, unencumbered individual whose task it is to define what he is and decide what will be fulfilling of him.”[2] Does Kant indeed provide such a view of the human agent? [DR. SEATON: No, but he's one of the sources of this view.] How exactly would Aquinas respond? Let us first look at how each would define law and then we will be able to answer these questions.

The classical definition of law is given by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae: “it is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.”[3] But, its location in the Summa gives it meaning as well. McInerny points out that Aquinas’ discussion of law is part of a larger discussion of morality in the first part of the second part of the Summa (the Prima Secundæ Partis). In particular, its own nineteen articles are located after a nineteen-article treatment of Vice and Sin and before a six-article treatment of Grace. We will see that Kant eschews any similar contextual meaning of law in his definition.

It would be suffice to turn now to Kant’s famous “categorical imperative” for his understanding of law. In Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals,[4] he states that in moral law one must “Act so that the maxim [determining motive of the will] may be capable of becoming a universal law for all rational beings.” And of the will, it must be stressed, he says: “Nothing in the world – indeed nothing even beyond the world – can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a Good Will.” This statement, the first sentence of the Foundation, could alone expel any moral context as understood in Christian philosophy.[5] But more must be said to this effect.

Kant also says that the good will is “good not because of what it effects or accomplishes [non telos], nor because of its fitness to attain some proposed end; it is good only through its willing, i.e., it is good in itself.” Furthermore, it is “to be esteemed very much higher than… even the sum total of all inclinations.”[6] Also in his moral framework we see “the ground of obligation here must not be sought in the nature of man or in the circumstances in which he is placed but a priori solely in the concepts of pure reason.”[7] Finally, “the only object of respect is law, and indeed only the law which we impose on ourselves and yet recognize as necessary in itself.”[8]

Because law is self-imposed – not just for the actor but necessarily for all “rational beings” – and because this law demands respect, Kant concludes that we must always act in a way that “uses humanity” as an end, and never as a means:
Hence Kant infers, first, that the will of every rational being, by commanding respect for humanity as an end in itself, lays down a universal law, and is therefore a law unto himself, autonomous, and subject to no external lawgiver; secondly, that morality consists in obedience to the law of our own reason, and immorality, on the contrary, in heteronomy, that is obedience to any, even Divine, authority distinct from our own reason, or in action from any other motive than respect for our reason as law.[9]
Now we can safely answer that Kant establishes the view of the human agent that McInerny has in mind. [DR. SEATON: not exactly, not really, not yet!] Let us look now at Aquinas’ correction.

First of all, man is not an end in himself:

Now it is impossible for the very act elicited by the will to be the last end. For the object of the will is the end, just as the object of sight is color: wherefore just as the first visible cannot be the act of seeing, because every act of seeing is directed to a visible object; so the first appetible, i.e. the end, cannot be the very act of willing. Consequently it follows that if a human action be the last end, it must be an action commanded by the will: so that there, some action of man, at least the act of willing, is for the end. Therefore whatever a man does, it is true to say that man acts for an end, even when he does that action in which the last end consists.[10] [DR. SEATON: In Aquinas' view, man is an end in himself: read the "Preface" to the 2nd Part of the Summa. Being an "end in itself" doesn't necessarily mean: subject to no other end; it means: independent or free]
As to man’s end, we remember Kant’s statement that the will is “to be esteemed very much higher than… even the sum total of all inclinations.” He later identifies the “sum of satisfaction of all inclinations” as “happiness.”[11] Here Kant stresses that man’s end is certainly not happiness. And, the quality of universality and necessity that we saw before “shows at once that the moral law has no foundation in pleasure, happiness, the perfection of self, or a so-called moral sense. It is its own foundation.”[12] Again (and also in the Prima Secundæ Partis), Aquinas argues otherwise:

Happiness can be considered in two ways. First according to the general notion of happiness: and thus, of necessity, every man desires happiness. For the general notion of happiness consists in the perfect good, as stated above (3,4). But since good is the object of the will, the perfect good of a man is that which entirely satisfies his will. Consequently to desire happiness is nothing else than to desire that one's will be satisfied. And this everyone desires.[13] [DR. SEATON: Kant agrees with this, he says it's a natural necessity for man to desire happiness]
Aquinas rightly identifies happiness with God: “Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence”.[14] Also, on the effects of law, from his treatise on the same, Aquinas states: “it is evident that the proper effect of law is to lead its subjects to their proper virtue: and since virtue is that which makes its subject good, it follows that the proper effect of law is to make those to whom it is given, good.”[15] Finally, we know that man is not the source of moral law; rather, he receives it through natural law (his participation as a rational human being in God’s eternal law): “Consequently every human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from the law of nature”[16]

Now, since Kant claims that the only respectable law is that which we impose on ourselves, he ignores any authority that would impose laws on us from without. The result would be the “destruction of all religion, which in its essence rests upon the subjection of the creator to His Creator.”[17] But, Aquinas argues in his treatment of Human Law that such law binds a man precisely because it comes from without, from God’s Eternal Law: “Laws framed by man are either just or unjust. If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived, according to Prov. Viii. 15: By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things.”[18] Furthermore, “In order that a human law may be obligatory upon us we must have in ourselves from the beginning the conviction that we are to do good and avoid evil… we receive this conviction... From God, our Creator”[19]

Kant’s supporters praise his work, claiming that he

firmly establishes the reign of reason; elevates the dignity of man by subjecting in him sensibility to reason and making rational nature free, supreme, and independent; overcomes egoism by forbidding action from self-interest; and upholds morality by the highest authority.[20]

But, from our points above, we know that he was in error from the beginning – “he made a false start when he assumed in his criticism of speculative reason that whatever is universal and necessary in our knowledge must come from the mind itself, and not from the world of reality outside us.”[21]

[1] Part of the Summa Theologiae, Prima Secundæ Partis, Questions 90-108. Also, Treatise on Law: With a New Introduction by Ralph McInerny, University of Notre Dame, ©2001 (covers Questions 90-97). Hereafter referred to as “Treatise.” Here, Treatise, p. xvii
[2] Ibid.
[3] I-II.90.4 resp.
[4] Translated, with an introduction, by Lewis White Beck, Library of Liberal Arts, ©1997 by Prentice Hall Inc. Hereafter referred to as “Kant.”
[5] Of the things he says are not good or are at most conditionally good he includes: Intelligence, wit, judgment, and whatever talents of the mind; courage, resolution, and perseverance; power, riches, honor, and even health; happiness; and moderation in emotions and passions, self-control, and calm deliberation. (Kant, 393-394)
[6] Ibid.
[7] Kant, 389
[8] Kant, 401
[9], Catholic Encyclopedia, hereafter referred to as “CE.” Here, CE, “Categorical Imperative”
[10] 2
[11] Kant 399
[12] CE, “Kant, Philosophy of”
[13] I-II.5.8 resp.
[14] I-II.3.8 resp.
[15] I-II.92.1 resp.
[16] I-II.95.2 resp.
[17] CE, “Law”
[18] I-II.96.4 resp.
[19] CE, “Law”
[20] CE, “Categorical Imperative”
[21] CE, “Kant, Philosophy of”

Sunday, May 21, 2006

planting seeds

Some thoughts on the Generation JPII fundraiser, mentioned here.

Generation JPII is a youth group in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Their mission statement:
Generation JPII is an association of youth and young adults who embrace a foundation, a mission, and a call. The foundation is the teaching of Jesus Christ elucidated by the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. The mission is protection of the sanctity of human life. The foundation empowers the youth and young adults in this mission, guides them throughout their lives, secures their eternal destinies, and helps them guide more souls to Heaven. The call is to Sainthood. It is God's voice speaking in the depths of the human heart, clearly echoed in Pope John Paul II's love for the youth.

The fundraiser was a concert by the up-and-coming Catholic musician, Marie Miller, at the St. Philip Neri oratory. I wanted to go because I knew there would be tons of youth there and I had heard great things about this group. They only served to affirm the hope and optimism I have for great things on the horizon in the Archdiocese of Louisville. The Holy Spirit is doing great things in our youth who are on fire for their faith and are in love with the Church. It was so inspirational to be there! And I was amazed to see so many youth showed up for the concert! It was a family affair too, with many families bringing their young children. I hoped that I would be able to promote vocations by my presence there as a seminarian and hopefully encourage some young men to discern the priesthood.

I volunteered to work the door, selling tickets to the show and food tickets for concessions. I was looking for a young man I saw at the 8:30am Mass that morning. I was serving the Mass and noticed that he genuflected before receiving communion and then received on the tongue rather than in-hand which is a particularly devotional thing to do for some people. Then I noticed he was praying the rosary after Mass at one of the back pews. After Mass I approached him, asked him how he was doing, and asked if he knew of the G-JPII fundraiser that evening. He said he did so I told him I'd see him there.

At the fundraiser I talked briefly with some young adults who were running the show and others who recognized me as a seminarian. Apparantly, people actually pay attention to the seminarian posters around the Archdiocese! They were all very kind and supportive and interested in how my discernment was progressing.

During the intermission of the concert I managed to weasel my way into the program in order to make a brief announcement to introduce myself to the crowd. I wanted the youth to know that I was there if any of them had any questions whatsoever about the priesthood, seminary, or discernment in general. Throughout the rest of the show and mostly afterwards several teens approached me with various questions about seminary. And I was even able to catch up with the young man I saw earlier that day. I asked him if he had thought about the priesthood. He said he had so I encouraged him to keep praying about it, that our Lord would reveal to him His Will for his life, and that discernment is a beautiful thing :)

One seventh grader sort of latched onto me. He recognized me from when I spoke to his class with Fr. Naylor, when I was helping him out at St. Aloysius during the Triduum. He thought it was cool that we shared the same first name and he was glad that I came to answer his class's questions. I asked if he was an alter server and he said he was so I tried to affirm this particular calling that he was already living. Great kid, great personality. He has a sister who is a member of a religious order in D.C. and another sister discerning the same order. Maybe he has a vocation as well? St. Tarcisius, pray for him.

As a result of my schpeel several people, young and old, approached me with support and assurances of their prayers. I was also touched to receive several requests for prayers as well. One woman asked me if I would pray for her family who had fallen away from the Church. I assured her I would.

At the end of the day I estimated that G-JPII made about $1000, all going towards their upcoming 2nd annual Ignite Your Torch Conference. Go get 'em guys, rekindle the gift of God within you.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

quick update

Hey guys, I've had a great last few days. Just wanted to post a quick update.

Well, I'm back home in Owensboro, KY on a week long break until I have to return to St. Mary's for a "Summer Seminar"/extended spiritual retreat-type thing until mid-June.

This past Friday, my first day back in Louisville after a good while, I went to an AWESOME fundraiser for a local youth group: Generation JPII. I was very very impressed! And Marie Miller had an awesome show.

Sunday, the 14th, was my 26th birthday and it was great to spend it with my family. I bought Plumb's new CD for myself :) Awesome Christian Rock. And for the record, she influenced Evanesence, not vice versa ;) My younger brothers Andy and Ben got me an iTunes Music card, my parents got me the compact version of The Best Bible, the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition :) (The 2nd edition was recently released, it's like the NRSV without the inclusive language) They also got me a little "Cracking The Da Vinci Code" booklet (online here) and a cool t-shirt. My twin brother Nick got me a book of Latin Hymns.

The last couple days were a little lazy... sleeping in, watching T.V., etc. So today I got up a little early, mowed the lawn, ran some errands, and BBQ'd about 30 pieces of chicken on the 'ol grill... great day. Ahhhh how Owensboro Does BBQ!

I'll post more later about my reactions to all of the above, especially the fundraiser.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

priesthood isn't a career

Priesthood Isn't a Career, Says Pontiff
Ordains 15 on World Day of Vocations

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2006 ( The priesthood is not a path to prestige, says Benedict XVI.

In his homily today during the ordination Mass of 15 new priests in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope said that the spirit of the priesthood is opposed to "making a career" of it, to get to the "top," or "to seek a position through the Church: to be served rather than to serve."

The HolyFather criticized the "image of the man who, through the priesthood, wants to be important, to become a personality."

"But the only legitimate ascent to the ministry of the pastor is the cross," said the Pope. "This is the door."

On World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Benedict XVI said that to be a priest is "not to desire to become personally someone, but to live for the other, for Christ and, in this way, through him and with him, to live for the men he seeks, whom he wishes to lead on the path of life."

The Pope continued: One "enters the priesthood through the sacrament, that is, through giving oneself to Christ, so that he can dispose of me, so that I serve him and follow his call, even if it is opposed to my desires for self-fulfillment and esteem.

"To enter through the door, which is Christ, means to know him and love him ever more, so that our will is united to his and our conduct is his."

The Holy Father gave this advice to the new priests: "May Christ grow in us, may our union with him be ever more profound."

Of the 15 new priests ordained, five studied at the Roman Seminary, seven at the Redemptoris Mater diocesan college ofRome, one at Capranica College, also of the Diocese of Rome, and two are religious of the Discalced Carmelites.

Twelve are Italians, while the other three were born in Israel, Honduras and Poland.

Christ still calls

World Day of Prayer for Vocations was a couple days ago, but I'd still like to share this:

Pope on Vocations Day: Christ Still Calls
Cites a Friendship That Gives Meaning to Life

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2006 ( Despite the crisis of vocations in some countries, Christ continues to call adolescents, youths and adults to the priesthood, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made these comments today, World Day of Prayer for Vocations, after ordaining 15 priests in St. Peter's Basilica, and before praying the midday Regina Caeli with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father referred to "the experience of Jesus' first disciples that, after meeting him on the lake and in the villages of Galilee, were captivated by his attractiveness and love" to explain why men and women decide to consecrate their whole life to Christ.

"The Christian vocation always implies renewing this personal friendship with Jesus Christ, which gives meaning to one's life and makes it available for the Kingdom of God," the Pontiff said.

Benedict XVI continued: "The Church lives from this friendship, nourished by the word and the sacraments, holy realities entrusted in a particular way to the ministry of bishops, presbyters and deacons, consecrated by the sacrament of holy orders.

"The mission of the priest is irreplaceable and, although in some regions there is a lack of clergy, there is no doubt that God continues to call adolescents, youths and adults to leave all to dedicate themselves to the preaching of the Gospel and the pastoral ministry."

Following Christ

"Another special way of following" Christ, the Pope said, "is the vocation to the consecrated life, which is expressed in a poor, chaste and obedient life, totally dedicated to God, in contemplation and prayer, placed at the service of brothers, especially the little ones and the poor."

Also, the Holy Father said, "let us not forget that Christian marriage is a vocation to holiness in the full sense of the word, and that the example of holy parents is the first condition favorable for the flowering of priestly and religious vocations."

Benedict XVI concluded by appealing for the prayers of all believers "so that the seeds of the vocation that God sows in the hearts of the faithful will mature and bear fruits of holiness in the Church and the world."

According to data in the latest Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the number of priests fell by 3.5%, from 420,971 to 405,891, in the period 1978-2004.

In the same period, women religious decreased by 22.5%, from 990,768 to 767,459.

the metaphysics of christian belief

Well, lemme tell ya, these papers were really stressfull! But only because I procrastinated so much! I'm done with all of them though and am now concentrating on my two remaining finals. Here's the first of a few I still need to post, my fifth one this semester: Sokolowski on Aquinas and the Metaphysics of Christian Belief. I really like Soko (as we call him), I used him on several papers this year.

In his book, The God of Faith & Reason: Foundations of Christian Theology,[1] Monsignor Robert Sokolowski pioneered what he calls the Theology of Disclosure. Briefly, in his own words, this is “the reflective study of how the Christian distinction between God and the world is presented to us.” This distinction is dependent on the distinctively Christian understanding of God that lies at the intersection of faith and reason; and this is the heart of the matter. Throughout the book, Sokolowski thoroughly and clearly treats the problem of faith and reason, a problem that concerns their compatibility and the tendency to either reduce faith to “rational thinking and to natural human experience” or to regard faith as “unreasonable and arbitrary.”[2]

“In chapter five [of Sokolowski’s book], the metaphysics of St. Thomas is interpreted as a development of the Christian distinction between God and the world.”[3] This allows us to move from a discussion of the Christian understanding of God – and the ways in which it is unique and different in light of the pagan understanding – toward discussions of: the differences and disclosures of natural and theological virtue and action; Sokolowski’s Theology of Disclosure; a reexamination of God’s existence; the Scriptures’ understanding of God; our experience of Him; and the Sacraments that bring all of this together. Thus, chapter five amounts to a critical step in the solution of the problem of faith and reason, of the Christian understanding of God, and the Christian distinction between God and the world.

Sokolowski grounds the chapter in Aquinas. He notes that Aquinas speaks of God as ipsum esse subsistens and describes all other beings as existing through a participation in esse. In other words, God is described as Subsistent Act of Existing Itself (or “existence in its fullness”) and creatures as having merely the act of existing. But, what does Aquinas mean by this?

First, in chapter one of his treatise, On Being and Essence,[4] Aquinas explains that “being can be attributed to anything concerning which an affirmative proposition can be formed.” In this way, we could call “blindness” a being because it is in the eye but it does not have an essence.[5] Aquinas describes essence as “that through which something is constituted in its proper genus or species” or “what a thing is.” It is what Aristotle calls quod quid erat esse, “the what a thing was to be,” that is, “that through which something is a certain kind of being.” Ultimately, essence is potential and must receive an actualizing principle, esse, to really exist in the world.[6]

Now, applying this to God, when we say that He is Subsistent Act of Existing Itself we mean that He is the one being whose essence is to exist; what He is equals that He is.[7] On the contrary, in chapter four of Aquinas’ treatise we see that a creature’s act of existence, its esse, is other than its essence: “every [such] essence or quiddity can be understood without its act of existing being understood. I can understand what a man or phoenix is, and yet not know whether or not it exists in the nature of things.” Aquinas then explains the reasonableness of the creature’s participation in esse:

It is impossible that the act of existing itself be caused by the form or quiddity... for then something would be the cause of itself and produce itself in existence, which is impossible. It is therefore necessary that everything whose act of existing is other than its nature have its act of existing from another.[8]

Why is this important? Because we must properly define the Christian understanding of God before we can move on to Sokolowski’s further treatment of this understanding and the Christian distinction.

Sokolowski adds that God is “the sheer act of esse subsistens, the sheer act of existing.” Also, “He is not confined to being this kind of thing as opposed to that kind. He is not a ‘kind’ of thing at all, only sheer esse.” Now, he is gradually setting up the distinction between God and man that he will develop throughout the rest of the chapter: “Between God and creatures there is no exclusion like the exclusion among finite beings.” Furthermore, at the beginning of the third paragraph he states that “Creatures then are limited in two ways.” Our train of thought was grounded on Aquinas and is now firmly set on a path of distinctions, a path on which we can now form responses to “the presentation of differences in which two things emerge as other to each other.”

We are always distinguishing, making distinctions, in our experience, but we cannot experience the distinction between God and the world. This is unlike the pagan understanding of the divine, because the world, the whole, was for them the “final context” and the divine was just as much a part of the world as the creatures. This repeats the uniqueness of God because his existence is understood as being possible without the world and independent of it.

Sokolowski then explains, interestingly enough, that Aquinas’ description of esse can only work in the Christian distinction between God and the world, i.e. in the “un-necessary-ness” of the world. Existence, esse, doesn’t dawn on the pagan mind because with it he would have to address non-existence which he could not fathom after having setup the world as the fullness of “place” or “stage,” or again, as Sokolowski earlier referred to it, the “final context.” Only with Christianity do we have a notion of existence (and therefore non-existence).

Next, Sokolowski presents a distinction between what we will call the “Christian Dilemma” and the Euthyphro Problem. In the Christian Dilemma,

[E]ither created natures are inherently arbitrary, and things seem to lose their natural necessity; or created natures are somehow integral and determined apart from God’s will, at least in their potentiality to be what they are, and God’s creative power seems to be confined by something outside himself.[9]

This is similar to the Euthyphro Problem, only with respect to essence (he also applies this dilemma to goodness and being capable of speech) rather than the pious and the loved. In the Platonic dialogue, Euthyphro, Socrates asks, “Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?”
[10] But, as problematic as these both may seem, they are only so because of our temptation to address them in the same limited context the pagans used. We must allow ourselves to think within a Christian “world-view”.[11]

Aquinas shows us how to avoid these dilemmas. In his “doctrine of the divine ideas” he explains that the ideas or forms in the mind of God are the “exemplars according to which things are created.” His use of the word “forms” here reminds us of Plato but in Plato’s doctrine things are not created according to the forms, they mirror them. And Aquinas himself explains that what he is describing is not what Plato had in mind. In chapter five of his treatise On Being and Essence, Aquinas says,

If we say God is only an act of existing, we do not necessarily fall into the error of those who have stated that God is that universal existence by which each thing formally exists. The act of existing which God is, is such that no addition can be made to it. Hence, by its very purity, His act of existing is distinct from every other act of existing.[12]

And this is precisely the point Sokolowski has been making all along. “ ‘What things are’ retains its necessity because the essences of things are the ways esse can be determined, but esse subsists only in God, so the basis for the determination of things is not distinct from him: it is his own existence.”

Sokolowski then reiterates the Christian distinction between God and the world, reminding us that philosophy can help theology make this distinction more explicit. We must be careful to have a proper understanding of the world and God; only through the cooperation of philosophy and theology can this be accomplished. Sokolowski then summarizes by saying that misunderstandings can be prevented by:
· Respect for the whole and its necessities;
· Awareness of God as ipsum esse subsistens and the language that this requires; and
· Studying the unique character of the God - whole distinction.

And once again, Sokolowski repeats the uniqueness of the Christian distinction: “diversities do not occur to the Christian sense of God precisely because it is defined, not by contrast to other beings in the world, but in contrast to the world as the whole.” Because God is pure esse and not pure “whatever a culture would wish him to have or be” (e.g. thinking, life, power, etc.) he is more universal and can be all for all.[13] The pagan understanding of the divine was so ingrained in a particular people or culture that if the god was separated from the people than the god was demolished. And if one culture assumed another than the assumed god was destroyed as well. On the contrary,

If the Christian distinction is correctly appreciated and correctly lived, then the cultural forms in which it is realized, the habits, music, language, gestures, work, and social order, the nuances of moral life and of human relationships, can be brought forward in their own excellence and still be in the service of Christian faith.”[14]

Toward the end of chapter five, Sokolowski presents one more important distinction but only briefly develops it. This is the distinction between Christian theology and Averroistic interpretations of Aristotle and brings us back to our Thomistic treatment of being and essence at the beginning of the chapter:

Averroës wrote with the intention of rescuing Aristotle from Neo-Platonic and religious impurities, especially as found in the works of Avicenna. In particular, whereas for Avicenna existence is an accident of essence, or in other words, the universal or form precedes the individual thing, for Averroës individual substances are the primary existents, and the distinction between them and their essence is the work of the mind.[15]

The other non-Christian doctrines he held where the eternity of the world, the absence of individual providence, and the doctrine of “merely collective immortality.” Because of these errors, Sokolowski adds, Aristotle was considered a threat to Christianity. Plato, though, was more widely accepted because his doctrines seemed more orthodox. But Sokolowski warns us against condemning Aristotle (and praising Plato) too quickly. We must be careful to make the proper distinctions here as well. Sokolowski echoes the clarification from Aquinas that we saw before: “oneness or goodness is what thinking catches glimpses of when it reaches the edge of rational order and tries to think about what lets the order be: but this letting be is not creation.” And finally, “the Christian sense of God is to be distinguished not only from natural necessities but from the oneness and goodness that permit such necessities to be what they are and to appear as they do.” Now that philosophy and metaphysics have gotten us this far, it is up to theology to take over and make this distinction.

[1] Catholic University of American Press, Copyright ©1995. All Sokolowski quotes are from chapter five: “The Metaphysics of Christian Belief.” Hereafter referred to as “Sokolowski”
[2] Sokolowski, p. xiii
[3] Sokolowski, p. xiv
[4] Selected Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, translated by Robert P. Goodwin, Library of Liberal Arts, Prentice Hall, Copyright ©1965. Hereafter referred to as “Aquinas”
[5] Aquinas, p. 34: “some things are said to be beings which do not have an essence, as is evident in privations.”
[6] Cf. Notes from Dr. Seaton, Metaphysics, 3-10-06
[7] Ibid.
[8] Aquinas, p. 55
[9] Sokolowski, p. 43
[10] Cf. Euthyphro 10a-11b from Five Dialogues, Second Edition, translated by G.M.A. Grube, Copyright ©2002 Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
[11] Seaton’s fourth pedagogical principle
[12] Aquinas, p. 58
[13] Cf. 1 Cor. 9:22 “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
1 Cor. 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
1 John 2:2 “and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
[14] Sokolowski, p. 48
[15] Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, “Averroism,” Copyright ©1996

Monday, May 08, 2006


You may notice I've explanded the book list on the right side of the page, under the links and buttons. These are all the books I used this semester and last semester ('05-'06). If you buy one after clicking on its link then I get a small commission.

My reason for this post though is to offer a small disclaimer. While I would personally recommend many of these books, some of them I would not. Some of the books, I thought, were very strong and well-suited the class(es) they were for, others I thought were pretty weak. And some of the philosophy books I definitely would not read without some sort of Catholic source to respond to it, especially if you're new to philosophy.

My main reason for including this book list is so that guys who are discerning may have a better idea of what seminary is like... or for anyone who would be interested for that matter.

If you would like my thoughts on any particular book just leave a comment or email me.

God Bless,

Erie Ordinations... the Diocese that is!

Here's a slideshow from the Diaconate Ordinations for the Diocese of Erie, PA. My seminarian brother, and newly ordained Deacon, Justin Pino is laying prostrate on the right and my friend Dan is the server. The Deacon on the left, vested, is also a fellow seminarian, Marc Solomon. And the bishop is Bishop Troutman, head of the USCCB's committee on the liturgy.

St. Lawrence, pray for us!
St. Stephen, pray for us!
St. Ephrem, pray for us!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bishop Maloney, requiescat in pace

From The Record, emphasis mine:
(Louisville, KY) Bishop Charles G. Maloney, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville since 1955 and priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville since 1937, died this morning at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital. He was 93 years old.

Archbishop Kelly praised his brother bishop for his love and service to the Archdiocese of Louisville: “We have lost a great and gentle servant of the Catholic Church and this community. Bishop Maloney will be greatly missed by all of us.”

The funeral liturgy for Bishop Maloney will be held on Thursday, May 4, 11:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 South Fifth Street. Visitation will be at Highland Funeral Home, 3331 Taylorsville Road, on Tuesday, May 2, from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Bishop Maloney’s body will be received at the Cathedral of the Assumption on Wednesday, May 3, at 3:00 p.m. Visiting hours will follow at the Cathedral until 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday and beginning at 9:00 a.m. until the funeral on Thursday. Burial is at Calvary Cemetery.

The Most Reverend Charles Garrett Maloney, D.D., has served the Archdiocese of Louisville for nearly 70 years. Born on September 9, 1912, Bishop Maloney served as auxiliary bishop to three archbishops: John A. Floersh, 1955-1967; Thomas J. McDonough, 1967-1981; and Thomas C. Kelly since 1982. His appointment as auxiliary bishop was a first in the history of the Archdiocese of Louisville. In 1995, he was named the first titular bishop of Bardstown, Kentucky. Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, O.P., announced this appointment, made by Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of Bishop Maloney’s 40th anniversary as a bishop.

Bishop Maloney retired as auxiliary bishop in 1988. After retirement he remained active in ministry. He was a member of the archdiocesan Priests’ Council and the College of Consultors, major advisory bodies to the Archbishop. Maloney also shared parish confirmation duties with Archbishop Kelly until the last couple of years. As a priest and bishop, Maloney has confirmed more than 80,000 Catholics.

A native of Louisville, Bishop Maloney attended St. James Elementary and is a summa cum laude high school and junior college graduate of St. Joseph College, Renssaelaer, Indiana. He completed pre-ecclesiastical studies at the North American College, Rome, and was ordained a priest in the College Chapel on December 8, 1937. Bishop Maloney studied canon law and received his licentiate degree in 1942. Bishop Maloney studied canon law at the Catholic University of America from 1940 to 1942.

Prior to being named auxiliary bishop, Maloney served in a variety of positions within the Archdiocese. He was chaplain at St. Thomas Orphanage from 1938 to 1939, associate pastor of St. Frances of Rome Parish from 1939 to 1940 and chaplain at St. Joseph Infirmary from 1942 to 1946. He became secretary to Archbishop Floersh in 1946 and assistant chancellor of the Archdiocese in 1951. In 1952 he was named chancellor and in 1954 vicar general. Bishop Maloney was appointed auxiliary bishop by Pope Pius XII in December 1954 and consecrated a bishop on February 2, 1955. In September of 1955 he was named titular bishop of Capsa, Africa, a title he held until his most recent appointment as titular bishop of Bardstown.

In the 1960s, Bishop Maloney attended sessions of the Second Vatican Council. At a session in 1965, he gave a talk on religious liberty, defending the right of people to free expression of religion without coercion or pressure from the government. In 1974, Bishop Maloney was among 69 United States bishops who attended a month-long U.S. Bishops’ Theological Consultation in Rome.

One of the Bishop’s most enduring contributions to the Archdiocese has been his financial and administrative skill. According to Archbishop Kelly, Maloney is a “genius at financial administration … But of all the things that I treasure about him, it is his wisdom, which is a combination of charity and experience. He is a man of profound faith. That gives him a vision of Church that very few people have.”

Bishop Maloney has received many honors during his years of service, including the St. George Emblem from the Boy Scouts of America, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Bellarmine University and the 1999 Salute to Catholic School Alumni Award.

The son of David and Imelda Shea Maloney, Bishop Maloney is the second-oldest of 12 children, three of whom became priests and one a sister. According to the Official Catholic Directory, Bishop Maloney had been ordained a bishop longer than any other living bishop in the United States.

The oldest Roman Catholic archdiocese west of the Appalachians, the Archdiocese of Louisville was founded as the Diocese of Bardstown in 1808, transferred to Louisville in 1841 and elevated to an Archdiocese in 1937. The Archdiocese covers 24 counties in Central Kentucky and hosts a Catholic population of 200,000.
Also of Note, an excerpt from an earlier article, emphasis mine:
Bishop Maloney — then auxiliary bishop of Louisville and now auxiliary bishop emeritus — is one of only eight U.S. bishops still living who took part and voted at the council. He attended all four sessions of the council from its opening on Oct. 11, 1962, until its closing on Dec. 8, 1965.

He also played an active role in council deliberations, giving oral presentations — called interventions — on two key subjects: religious liberty and Scripture. One historian, Father Gerald Fogarty, called Bishop Maloney one of the major American voices at the council in supporting religious liberty.

The Declaration on Religious Freedom was one of 16 documents approved by Vatican II. And Bishop Maloney, in a 1987 interview with The Record, recalled the debate on religious liberty and his talk on it.

He said it had become clear that, due to opposition, the religious freedom document would have failed unless it was pushed by the U.S. bishops at the council.

Bishop Maloney said he had suggested that one American bishop make a presentation on the issue. This bishop replied to him, "Well, you know Latin; you do it."

And so he did at a session in the autumn of 1965.

Those opposed to the religious liberty document contented that "error has no rights," Bishop Maloney recalled in the 1987 interview. "As I sat in the (council) hall, waiting to be called (to speak), the thought came to me that if this (objection) is valid, then some of the bishops here didn’t have any right to speak because they have contradicted each other. ... If error has no rights, how could they speak?"

The central question, as Bishop Maloney said he viewed it, was that "people have rights." This is what he emphasized in his talk, and this is what he considered the essence of the document.

The English translation of Bishop Maloney’s talk said in part:

"A person who expounds religious error does not derive his right from those errors. Rather by reason of his dignity as a human person endowed with free will he has the facility of speaking and acting.

"These two ideas are poles apart: The right to act (or decline action) on the one hand, and on the other the right to be free from coercion in acting or attempting to act. It is the latter right which we desire to affirm in religious matters."

The religious liberty declaration, which the council approved in 1965, says that religious freedom is a right found in the dignity of each person and that no one should be forced to act in a way contrary to his or her beliefs. The document does not say "error has rights," Bishop Maloney noted.

The document was "carefully worded" to allow everyone at the council to agree with it, Bishop Maloney recalled. "That was the genius of the council," which enabled it to get a large consensus on decrees.

On the other question he addressed — Scripture — Bishop Maloney was among council members favoring the use of modern research in interpreting the Scriptures.

"The church now can make use of new discoveries to corroborate the things it has been teaching and to obtain more explicit knowledge of other elements," he said at the council. "The historical method can make genuine contribution to the right knowledge of Scripture if this method is correctly understood and applied."

Bishop Maloney, in another interview with The Record, explained what Vatican II did and what it did not do regarding church renewal.

"It’s really important to repeat that the council did not change the doctrines of the church," he said. "The role of the council was to find new insights which would give modern man a better understanding of the church and provide greater attraction for it."

Bishop Maloney, 93, celebrated his 50th anniversary as a bishop earlier this year. He lives at the Little Sisters of the Poor St. Joseph Home for the Aged in Louisville.

The other still-living U.S. bishops who attended Vatican II are: retired Archbishop Philip M. Hannan of New Orleans; retired Bishop Marion F. Forst of Dodge City, Kan,; retired Bishop Charles A. Buswell of Pueblo, Colo.; retired Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle; retired Auxiliary Bishop John J. Ward of Los Angeles; retired Bishop Loras J. Watters of Winona, Minn.; and retired Maronite Archbishop Francis M. Zayek of St. Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Another article from the Louisville Courier-Journal

I was talking about our beloved Bishop Maloney at lunch today with Fr. Stevens, our Vice-Rector and a Sulpician Father from the Archdiocese of Louisville. He recalled one funny moment when someone asked him, "Bishop, who ordained you?" To which he quickly replied, "The Holy Spirit!" hehe :)

Bishop Maloney was a mentor and friend to many priests of the Archdiocese, including my old spiritual director, Fr. Paul Beach.

My prayer:
O Blessed Mother, Mary, if it pleases your Immaculate Heart, and the will of your Son, usher our beloved Bishop Maloney to God, where he may enjoy eternal happiness and through his intercession we may continue to increase in holiness through his loving care.

Month of Mary

Pontiff Hails Mary as Mother and Teacher
Calls May a Time to Rediscover Her Role
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2006 ( Benedict XVI proposes May to be a time to rediscover the role of the Virgin Mary in Christian life.

After Christ's resurrection, when the apostles gathered with her, Mary was for them both "mother and teacher, a role she continues to carry out for Christians of all times," the Pope said today before praying the Regina Caeli with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"Every year, during Eastertide, we live this experience more intensely and, perhaps, precisely for this reason, popular tradition has consecrated the month of May, which normally falls between Easter and Pentecost, to Mary," the Holy Father said.

The Bishop of Rome invited the faithful to rediscover in the coming month "the maternal role she carries out in our lives, so that we may always be docile disciples and courageous witnesses of the risen Lord."

Benedict XVI entrusted to Mary "the needs of the Church and of the world, especially at this moment marked by not a few shadows."

The Pope invited those present to invoke the intercession of St. Joseph, whom the Church will remember on Monday as worker, especial
ly for the labor world.

The Holy Father will begin the month of May by praying the rosary Monday afternoon at the Shrine of Divine Love, near Rome.

Also, during the month of May, after evening prayer the community gathers around "the Sedes" and chants the following, in Latin:
From the Easter Vigil to Pentecost

Regina Caeli, laetare, alleluia.
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu
Christi, mandum laetificare dignatus es:
praesta, quaesumus: ut, per eius Genitricem Virginem
Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem
Christum Dominum nostrum.
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
Has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
The son whom you merited to bear, alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray.
O God, who through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, did vouchsafe to give joy to the world; grant, we beseech Thee, that through His mother, the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord.

My reaction to the above when we were done chanting? "Sweeeet."


You were praying before a crucifix, and you made this resolution: it is better to suffer for the truth, than for truth to suffer because of me.
– St. Josemaria Escriva, Furrow, #567