Friday, July 03, 2009

God bless America?

Disclaimer: I do not here intend to make any political statements whatsoever. I am not all that interested in the conservative v. liberal polemic on the matter. Rather, I intend to attempt to make a theological point.

N.B.: I am grateful for the freedoms and rights which I enjoy as a citizen of this country, although I do not necessarily agree with the manner in which our freedoms have been won and protected throughout history, but that is a discussion for another post.


Around this time of year it is not uncommon to see flags, signs, facebook statuses, etc. which exclaim “God bless America!” It seems a nice enough sentiment and potentially a reflection of a valid and perhaps virtuous patriotism. Of course, it could also reflect an idolatrous nationalism. However, I do not intend to parse that distinction here.  Rather, I want to ask whether it is theologically accurate or appropriate to utter this exclamation.

To my knowledge the only “nation” that God promises to bless is Israel (which does not refer to the modern nation-state of Israel or any nation-state for that matter), and we must remember that while His love is clearly unconditional, his blessing is not, not even for Israel. In the face of Israel’s idolatry and hard-heartedness God, on more than one occasion, withdrew his blessing and replaced it with the curse of exile and/or other natural consequences of the actions which expressed Israel’s will.

Additionally, Israel’s status as God’s people, while never revoked, has essentially been superseded by the one, holy, catholic (universal), apostolic Church. Thus no nation or state has a claim to be God’s own in the same sense that Israel could have made that claim in Old Testament times. Furthermore, we are a pilgrim people. Our home is the heavenly Jerusalem and our loyalty should go to all other members of the BODY before it goes to members of our nation.

Now,  I see no problem with praying for God’s blessing upon our nation. However, it seems to me that that prayer should sound more like the prayer of the repentant publican. “Lord, we, as the body of America, have sinned against you and turned our backs to you. Have mercy on us. Forgive us. Do not turn your face from us, but in your mercy bless and guide us and our leaders to conform to your Truth and Love.” Rather, the tenor and tone of “God bless America” tends to reek of pride, the vicious type. “Thank God we are not like those other damnable nations. We stand for truth and goodness and freedom. Rejoice at our greatness. God bless America the beautiful, the proud, the good!”

Perhaps our country would be in a healthier spiritual condition if we repented and did penance for the sins of our country before asking for God’s blessing, rather than praising our alleged virtues and nearly demanding blessing in an act of praise, not of God, but of ourselves, our country.

Monday, June 22, 2009

On Keeping Holy the Sabbath Day

Growing up, I never really contemplated the idea of keeping holy the Sabbath day. We went to Mass every Sunday, and normally we would spend the rest of the day at Grandma's, which included spending time with the extended family, football and/or swimming for us kids, and TV, cards, cooking, and cleaning for the adults. While there was nothing explicitly holy or religious about this, I think through family custom we did a decent job of fulfilling God's decree, keeping in mind that man was not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath for man.  


However, as an adult who is a perpetual student and who has been a teacher, I now frequently procrastinate throughout the week and use Sunday to complete any remaining homework, grading, or lesson planning. Yesterday as we were to driving to see family for Father's day, I was reflecting on those who were working: truck drivers in particular, but also waiters and waitresses, cooks, cashiers, etc.  How difficult it has now become to refrain from participating in the "social sin," for lack of a better term, of violating the sabbath! 

What do you think it means to keep holy the Sabbath? How much are we/you willing to sacrifice (convenience stores, Monday deliveries, gas stations, etc.) to enable others to have the freedom to rest on the Lord's Day? 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sunday Snippets: a Catholic Carnival

Greetings and Peace to all newcomers.


My wife AB and I are grad students in theology and new parents too an adorable 5month old boy. Most of our blogging focuses on Catholic theological or social issues.

We aren't able to post on a daily basis, but our most recent one, On Hobbies and Pursuing Holiness, has had some decent discussion, which was probably better than the post itself. I'd love to hear any further thoughts you may have.

Other older posts of interest include the following:
- A theologically dense post on the Anthropological Structure of Faith
- An interesting post by my wife on Going Green and the Pill
- The first of an 8-part series on Being a Faithful Catholic in America
- Our baby boy

Enjoy and let us know you stopped by.

Peace.

For more Faith-Filled Posts please go to the Sunday Catholic Carnival over at This and That.

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Hobbies and Pursuing Holiness

“Faith comes from what is heard”, says St. Paul (Rom 10:17)…The assertion “faith comes from what is heard” contains an abiding structural truth about what happens here. It illuminates the fundamental differences between faith and mere philosophy, a difference which does not prevent faith, in its core, from setting the philosophical search for truth in motion again…

“In faith the word takes precedence of the thought, a precedence that differentiates it structurally from the architecture of philosophy. In philosophy the thought precedes the word; it is after all a product of reflection that one then tries to put into words…Faith, on the other hand, comes to man from the outside, and this very fact is fundamental to it.” (Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 90-92)

St. Anselm defined theology as “faith seeking understanding,” however, it ceases to be so when one ceases to listen, to receive that word which is the foundation of faith. This essentially turns theology into some sort of philosophy of religion. It makes it dead and private, rather than living and communal.

A danger which I have had to face as a student of theology is the temptation to turn theology into mere thought. Sometimes I find myself thinking about some theological precept, abstracting, attempting to figure it all out, and doing so without turning to prayer, without listening to the Logos. Sometimes I find myself abstracting about how to love in relationship rather than asking for the grace to love.

In this regard, as my wife and I are preparing for significant changes in our lives, we are attempting to re-evaluate some of our habits, choices, hobbies, leisure activities, etc. The questions we are posing to ourselves I now pose to you our readers, all four of you:

If every person is called to be a saint, to strive for holiness, and if I claim to place my faith in Christ as my savior, as the second-person of the Triune God who became man so that I may be divinized, what leisure activities are…permissible, nay, prudent, for a person striving to grow in holiness?

Perhaps specific examples would be helpful: Are video games merely a waste time? What virtue do they cultivate?

In this past I rationalized that when I played video games I was socializing with and occasionally even evangelizing those with whom I was in competition, but I can no longer make that claim. Can I still justify spending time on video games when I could be praying, playing with my son, studying, etc.?

What about television? Certainly some shows have more merit than others, but generally speaking can one make the claim that TV is a neutral media?

As someone who is more educated than most of my family (I do not say this with pride, it’s a mere fact), who is more interested in theology, and who, at the very least, at to appear to be living a life consistent with Catholic social doctrine and morality, I sometimes find it difficult to engage in small talk or other social activities that many of my loved ones engage in. I obviously have little to no interest in beer-pong or going to hooters, activities which in my opinion seem contrary to growth in holiness. However there may be more neutral activities in which I could have an interest in order to aid small talk which could hopefully turn to more meaningful conversations. Therefore, I have reasoned that television shows can offer some common ground about which to converse without my feeling uncomfortable or the other party feeling bored. On the other hand, now that we have a child, to what extent are we willing to expose him to television? How much should we shelter him? If we abstain from television are we not more likely to spend our time cultivating virtue and teaching our child to cultivate virtue? Or, if we are the virtue-cultivating type, we would do so regardless of whether or not we watch television?

What about sporting events as entertainment? Intramurals as hobbies or exercise routines?Etc. Etc.?

What hobbies or leisure activities do you find assist you in your slow journey to holiness? What hobbies have you resisted because you find they hinder your sainthood?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Final Thoughts: Notre Dame vs. Bishop D'Arcy and the USCCB

Over the past couple of months, I have frequently flipped and flopped over the Obama-Notre Dame issue. At first glance, I saw no problem with him speaking at the commencement exercises of a Catholic institution, but as a man, a politician, whose policies on abortion fly directly in the face of Catholic teaching, he should not be honored by a Catholic institution.

Ultimately the difficulty in discerning my position on the issue boiled down to a tension: on the one hand I do not think Catholic institutions should honor in this way those who persist in promoting views and policies which are contrary to the Gospel. I believe bestowing an award on someone is a very different kind of honor than visiting their house (as Jesus visited tax collectors and the like). On the other hand, most of the "pro-life" response by Catholics has been well...unCatholic, and even when it has been reasoned, measured, and authentic - in the case of many of the bishops, it has been inconsistent. This inconsistency did not sit well with me.

It was not until I read an article by Fr. Emmanuel McCarthy that I was able to lucidly think through the problem. McCarthy's style of writing is always is bit more biting than I am comfortable with. In this article I believe his primary point is spot on, however at times I think he states it more harshly than is necessary, and several of his example are stretched outside of their proper context in order to make his point.

Nevertheless his point is correct. McCarthy is not concerned overly with Obama; he is concerned with the intra-Church squabble over the issue. McCarthy argues that Bishop D'Arcy and the other bishops are absolutely correct. A Catholic institution should not give this kind of honor to Mr. Obama. However, the reason their voice lacks authority for many Catholics, the reason that many Catholics are dismayed by the protests, rests in their inconsistency.


The beef with John D’Arcy is not with him as a person—he is a most decent human being— but with his permitting himself to become a symbol, a mouthpiece, and a puppet for the USCCB’s illogical, immoral, long-running, and blatant rigorism-laxism dance on behalf of the powerful and wealthy. Note the historical fantasy, and the spiritual, moral, theological, and factual absurdity, which Bishop D’Arcy employs to validate his present decision and to exculpate himself and his U.S. episcopal colleagues, past and present, for their support of 2 legalized mega-murder extra-utero: “[President Obama] has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.”
The bishops are absolutely correct in stating that an institution which is supposed to be guided by and reflecting Christ should not give honor of this sort to a man who supports the killing of innocent life in-utero. However, their voice lacks the authority it should carry because the bishops have given their support to other men whose policies support and put into action the killing of innocent life, that is murder, extra-utero.
That is the beef. If the Bishop and his episcopal peers had consistently stood up for what Jesus taught by word and deed about violence, and for what he and they were explicitly commissioned by Jesus to teach as successors to the Apostles ( Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you. Mt 28:20) about violence, and had acted publicly and consistently from day one of their episcopacies in accordance with this stand, no one could have the slightest criticism of Bishop D’Arcy’s course of action in response to President Obama being honored at Notre Dame...Instead, they have chosen to stand by something called “Natural Law Catholic Just Violence Theory"... This is why what is happening now is happening. Bishop John D’Arcy, the NCCB, and Notre Dame have all refused to stand with Jesus and His teaching of Nonviolent Love of friends and all enemies, in utero and extra-utero. Therefore each will “stand for” what Jesus would self-evidently never stand for from His Apostles and disciples. Simultaneously, the Bishop, the USCCB, and Notre Dame have each played the ostrich in relation to reality and rationality in their respective applications of this so-designated Catholic Just War Theory and Catholic Moral Theory. The present spiritually dis-graceful, anti-witness, antievangelical situation they all inhabit is the direct consequence of not following Jesus as He said to follow Him.

For McCarthy, the problem can be traced back to Constantine. Once the Church had worldly power, it was all too easy for members of the Church to reject portions of Jesus’ teaching and put their trust in violent power rather than in nonviolent love. Some members of the Church have recognized the evil of certain actions, like abortion, but have been unable to separate themselves from other evils like capital punishment and unjust killing, that is murder, in wars.


As Fr. McCarthy explains:


In Catholic theology there is no moral doubt that intentional abortion is murder…However, in Catholic theology there is equally no moral doubt that the unjust killing of the child in utero is no more, nor less, murder than is the unjust killing of a child or any human being extra-utero. All are the intrinsically grave evil of murder. The intentional, unjust killing of a human being in the womb in Baltimore, MD, is no more, nor less, murder than the intentional unjust killing of a human being, outside or inside the womb, in Iraq, or El Salvador, or Honduras, or Guatemala, or Nicaragua, or Panama, or Afghanistan, or Grenada, or Vietnam, or Nagasaki.[1]

In this regard, McCarthy quotes Pope John Paul II:


Better still, perhaps, a direct quotation from John Paul II is most appropriate here: Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act , either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action…We now need more than ever to have the courage to look truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophets is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”

America, indeed the entire world, desperately needs Jesus right now. We desperately need prophetic voices, without compromising or denigrating, to speak the Truth in Love with authority and consistency. We need Christian witness with integrity.

I am glad the bishops have found a voice. I am glad they are speaking out against the evil of abortion, but if they wish to be taken seriously, if their words are to be efficacious, they must embrace a consistent ethic of life and denounce as unCatholic and unChristian all forms of violence. If Obama cannot be honored in this way, then neither should Bush or Cheney. The center must be Christ, which means remaining absolutely and unequivocally in the Truth, but doing so lovingly and patiently. While we ought not honor men and women whose policies and actions directly oppose truth and goodness, we must recognize that they remain sons and daughters of God. We must love them. Dialogue with them. Pray for them. Work with them where we agree and challenge them when they err. Only when the voice of the Church, episcopal, priestly and lay, speaks Truth in Love with consistency and integrity to the Gospel will that voice speak eloquently, prophetically, and convincingly.

[1] I do not wish here to dispute whether there is a difference in the gravity of voting for someone who supports abortion versus someone who supports unjust war. Both are murder. Both are evil. Neither should be supported or given honors by the Church.




Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Metaphysics of Peace/Nonviolence

As many of you know, philosophy plays an incalculable role in directing the perspectives and worldviews of society. Several hundred years ago St. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus developed two contradictory metaphysical outlooks on the relationship between God and the world. The prevalence of the Scotist worldview has led in part to many of the problems we face today in the Western world.

Duns Scotus proposed a univocal conception of being, existence. Accordingly he, and later on William of Occam, a fellow Franciscan, saw God and his infinite existence standing alongside all other beings which exists in finitude as different types, instances, of a broad, common category. Thus, God is merely the greatest of all beings. He is the Supreme Being. But, there is no necessary and ontological connection, relation between God and finite beings.

St. Thomas Aquinas, on the other, proposed a participation metaphysics. He saw God as the ipsum esse subsistens,the sheer act of to-be itself. God is Being; God is Existence. This parallels well the name by which God identifies Himself when speaking to Moses through the burning bush: I AM WHO AM; I am He who is, who always has been, who always will be; I am.

This perception of God as esse, being, has at several important implications. First, rather than defining God as one being (albeit the supreme one) among many, Aquinas’ view sees God as the ground of all finite existence. Thus God must be “in all things, by essence, presence, and power.”

This understanding moves us to our second important implication: “the connectedness of all created realities through God.”[2] Thus God is both radically different from all other beings, ecause He is existence Himself while other receive their existence from in, and intrinsically connected with all finite beings because they share in a limited way in His existence. “As fellow participants in God’s act of to-be, all things are related to one another in the most intimate way possible, for they are all ontological siblings.”[3]

Additionally, this has powerful implications for our we view the act of creation. “If God is ipsum esse subsistens, then whatever else comes to existence must be created ex nihilo, literally from nothing.”[4] The mythic creation stories of pagan religions all saw creation coming about through act of violence among the gods. However, if God is the sheer act of to-be, if God is existence, then from the “beginning” there is nothing else, no matter, no stuff, no other beings which exist with Him. He must create all other beings from nothing,and they can only exist by participation in His existence.

“This implies that the act of creation is thoroughly noninvasive, nonmanipulative. God’s creative act is one of utter generosity (since he needs nothing outside himself) and utterly nonviolent (since he shapes nothing outside of himself)…The implication of the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo is that nonviolence is the deepest truth of things, noncompetitiveness is the ground of being. And thus to live nonviolently is not simply to be ethically upright; it is to be cosmically correct,to go with the grain of creation.”[5]
If I can recognize in our hearts and minds the correctness and truth of this vision of creation, that all created things are most intimately connected by sharing deeply, ontologically, and virginally, in the esse, the to-be, of God, then any antagonism, competition, violence, between me and other nor between me and nature reduces to a nonsensical destruction of that by which I exist.

The being of God, as existence itself, logically requires the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo and points toward the connectedness and relatedness of all finite beings as variegated instances of participation in the infinite being of God. Both creatio ex nihilo, as an utterly gratuitous and nonviolent act, and our inner-relatedness to all beings require that our lives bear evangelical witness to the Truth of God with daily lived attitudes of nonviolence, peace, brotherhood, and mutual concern for the other.

Consumerism, Abortion, Torture, Capital Punishment, War, etc. all deny our interrelatedness and reflect lives lived within the current of ways of men, but against the grain of creation and of the ways of God.

Part 2 to follow: Where our society is in direct contradiction, philosophy and metaphysically to God as ipsum esse substens, to creation ex nihilo, and to the nonviolence and peace with is the ground of our very existence.


[2] Robert Barron, Bridging the Great Divide, 201.

[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 202.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Cool Quotes 4

Fr. Barron on the category- destroying vibrancy of Catholicism,Faith, lived with integrity,grounded in the Logos


In study after study, article after article, one finds the puzzled commentator scratching his head over the ‘contradiction’ of Dorothy Day, this woman who prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament, attended daily Mass, took frequent retreats, spoke in pious language and accepted the traditional dogmas of the Church, and who, at the same time, lived with the poor, opposed any and every way, sharply criticized the economic and political status quo, and advocated a ‘radical Catholicism.’ How could she have been, simultaneously, so conservative and so liberal? What this questions reveals, of course, is simply the gross inadequacy of those categories in the presence of a saint…She was a person who had made Jesus Christ in all of his concreteness the center of her life. Her ‘conservative’ piety is expressive of this continual act of centering, her ‘liberal’ social commitment is her living out the unambiguous message and style of Jesus…

Anchored in Christ and filled with a sense of mission, we can take what we need from any source and get up in any pulpit available to us…let us embrace the spicy,troublesome, fascinating, and culture-transforming person of Jesus Christ. And then let the Church of Christ thereby shape the world.
- Bridging the Great Divide, 20-21.

What say you, what say we, "Catholics" who trust in the power of money to save us, who trust in the power of arms to deliver us, who trust in the goodness of men to free us, who deny the dignity of the poor, the immigrant, the prisoner, the enemy, the other? What say we?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Cool Quotes 3

Barron/Ratzinger on the subversive nature of the Christian Credo - I/We Believe


Barron writes:

"The opening statement of the credo -- I believe in one God, the Father the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth-- is a reaffirmation of the Old Testament Shema ('Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is God alone'), a declaration that formed the people of Israel and provided the ethical foundation for their lives. Joseph Ratzinger has commented that this proclamation of monotheistic faith is subversive in nature, since it implies that no nation, state, political party, leader, ideology, or culture, indeed nothing in the created realm, can be of ultimate concern. The Credo therefore, like the Shema, relativizes and places in question all rival gods, all powers that would week, in a final sense, to order human life."
 - Fr. Robert Barron, Bridging the Great Divine, 44-45, citing Ratzinger, Intro to Christianity, 73-76.

Ratzinger writes:

"For to believe as a Christian means in fact entrusting oneself to the meaning that upholds me and the world; taking it as the firm ground on which I can stand fearlessly....[It] means understanding our existence as a response to the world, the logos, that upholds and maintains all things...And further: Christian belief means opting for the view that what cannot be seen is more real than what can be seen. It is an avowal of the primacy of the invisible as the truly real, which upholds us and hence enables us to face the visible with calm composure -- knowing that we are responsible before the invisible as the true ground of all things. To that extent it is undeniable that Christianity belief is a double affront to the attitude that the present world situation seems to force us to adopt. ...[It] invites us to confine ourselves to the 'visible,' the 'apparent,' in the widest sense of the terms; to extend the basic methodology to which natural science is indebted for its success to the totality of our relationship with reality...The primacy of the invisible over the visible...runs directly counter to this basic situation. No doubt that is why it is so difficult for us today to make the leap of entrusting ourselves to what cannot be seen."
- Introduction to Christianity, 73-75.

Yet how many of us are more American than we are Christian? How many of us are more Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, than we are Catholic? How many us listen to , reflect upon, and live out the Gospel truth, recognizing the suffering Christ in the suffering poor, in the war torn villages of our enemies, in the undocumented immigrants, in the prisoner, the homeless, the unborn? 

What is the ground of our lives? 

P.S. The next quote will examine what our lives might look like if we actually abandoned ourselves in the invisible, if we totally entrusted ourselves to the logos as the ultimate ground of reality.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Speeches and Honors at Catholic Universities

[ Note: I apologize in advance for the length of this, but there is much to say. I hope the length will not discourage you from stating your thoughts]

In 2004, the USCCB released a document entitled Catholics in Political Life , in which they taught "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

When Notre Dame announced the President Obama would be their commencement speaker this year and would receive an honorary law degree, my reaction was similar to Policratus'. I stated that I believe dialogue is important. We must not demonize or alienate ourselves from our interlocutors, especially those in positions of power and those who want the same results as we do - in this case, a reduction in abortions - simply because their means of achieving said reduction differs, albeit drastically and egregiously, from our means. However, I stated that I thought that Notre Dame was going too far in honoring Obama. I could not recall Jesus honoring "sinners." At the time I did not have the bishops' statement quoted above in mind. However, it now seems an accurate reflection of my intuitions.

Upon expressing my thoughts to a few wise and trusted Catholic friends, I was advised that Jesus certainly honored sinners. He honored Zaccheus the tax collector with His presence. The whole Jewish/Middle Eastern culture was based upon "honor." Pilch apparently exemplifies this well. I was told that Jesus does honor the Pharisees for what they teach, but not how they act. Can we not honor Obama's achievements while challenging his problematic views? If we wish to change the culture we must dialogue with the culture. We must be in the world but not of it. We must hate the sin and love the sinner. We cannot simply blackball all pro-choice politicians from Catholic institutions. This is what I was told. I saw much truth in it. But I was not comfortable, not at peace with it.

Since then my own Archbishop Hughes has weighed in on the Obama-ND situation. He writes:

We cannot compromise our Church's clear and unflagging opposition to abortion and embryonic stem cell research by providing honors and a platform for those who deny the humanity and dignity of the most frail creature in our midst.... I respect the President of the United States. I pray for him. As Catholics we need to enter into civil debate with him on the fundamental issues on which we disagree. We work with him on those issues with which we agree. But we do not supply a platform or grant an honor to someone who not only is so wrong on such a fundamental issue but is aggressively pursuing policies which exclude the human rights of the unborn.


Shortly thereafter Xavier University's plans to honor Donna Brazile at their commencement became public. She is the first African American to have directed a presidential campaign, is Catholic, and has done much for the rights and respect of African Americans. She is also pro-choice and has stated as much publicly. Hughes chose to write to the president of XULA as well as to boycott their commencement, which he usually attends. To Dr. Francis, President of XULA, Hughes writes :
I recognize that Ms. Brazile is a Catholic Louisiana native who has worked effectively in service to the poor and African Americans in particular. However, her public statements on the abortion issue are not in keeping with Catholic moral teaching. She has supported President Obama’s decision to reverse the Mexico City policy allowing federal funds to organizations that provide abortions overseas by saying that this policy will “save lives.” She has also relativized the importance of the fundamental life issues on national television suggesting that there are more important things for the American people to discuss than abortion. She has supported and worked for the election of candidates who support contraceptive practices and abortion on the basis that this stance is pro-woman.

Additionally Hughes released the following statement entitled Recognition of Public Figures by Catholic Institutions , apparently in response to ...shall we say "social-justice" Catholics. In it he explains:
We recognize that abortion and embryonic stem cell research are not the only “life issues” of concern for the Catholic Church. Some point out that capital
punishment is also rejected by the Catholic Church and suggest that a proponent of it should be denied similar recognition.
It is important to distinguish an absolute moral principle from one that is subject to different applications according to varying conditions or circumstances. Direct abortion is always wrong, no matter what the circumstances. Capital punishment is accepted in the Church as one way in which innocent life can be protected. Over the years, as viable alternatives such as life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, have become more possible, the need for recourse to this has become
less necessary. This is what has led the Pope and Bishops to recommend that as a society we move away from it. It is not in itself wrong, if the crime is heinous, people are threatened and there is no alternative available.

Meanwhile, Fr. Louis Arceneaux, c.m. of Pax Christi has written a letter to Archbishop Hughes for apparent inconsistencies. I cannot find a link to the letter, which was emailed to me, therefore I shall post it in its entirety. It is not too long.

Dear Archbishop Hughes:
I am writing you regarding your decisions and public declarations regarding President Obama and Donna Brazile, receiving honorary degrees at Catholic universities. Let me be clear. I am as opposed to abortion as you are. I long for the day when few, if any, women and men choose to have abortions. Where you and I disagree is our approach to getting there.
For example, I do not think that your publicly stating that you will not attend Xavier’s graduation because someone who is being given an honorary degree and will speak at the graduation is pro-choice is going to help the cause of reducing and eliminating abortion. In my opinion, all you are doing is giving people who agree with your approach a reason to boast. You are also antagonizing many other people who might be open to dialogueabout ways to reduce abortions in the country. Did you read what Sarah Comiskey gave as an explanation for the reason President Obama was allowed to attend and speak at the Al Smith dinner in New York? She is quoted as saying “They are recognized as candidates, but not honored.” Do you not agree that this is yet another example of a distinction without
a difference, so often used as an explanation, that most people will not find helpful?
I think that there are ways that you and other American bishops would better promote your goals. Why could you not have spoken positively about all the good that President Obama has done already and all the Catholic social values he shares with us and urge him to speak out more often on his specific proposals to reduce the number of abortions in the country since we are opposed to any abortions. You could have taken the same approach with Donna Brazile. I think that kind of approach will be more helpful in reducing the number of abortions than blanket statements against universities and politicians. There can be and ought to be a different way to deal with this issue in the political arena than the way we deal with it in Catholic schools and churches.
I also think you and other Catholic bishops would get a more positive response and greater respect if you spoke out more consistently for the human life and dignity of all persons. These distinctions that are made about “just wars” and the permissibility of the death penalty do not help the full pro-life cause of our Church. When I speak of pro-life in retreats and parish missions, I make it clear that we need to be for the life and dignity of every human being from conception to death. I have been criticized by a minority for that stand, and yet I truly believe it is the position we ought to take as true followers of Jesus Christ, despite the distinctions that Catholic theology has made over the years. Wouldn’t you agree that Jesus Christ would not support war the way it is waged today, not with bows and arrows, but with bombs that destroy innocent men, women and children. Don’t you also think that He would not support the death
penalty when we can incarcerate criminals for life, without parole, if they are found guilty of heinous crimes? And yet, so many so-called “pro-life” Catholics and evangelicals hold that Jesus Christ would support modern warfare and the death penalty, including the governor of Louisiana, whom you will honor by your presence at the Loyola University graduation.
My point is that the narrow “pro-life” focus on the unborn is probably detrimental to the very cause of reducing and eliminating abortions and that we are not doing a very good job of helping Catholics to be truly pro-life from conception to the grave.
As we used to say in the seminary, those are my thoughts on the subject. I would be happy to have a fuller discussion with you on these thoughts.
Sincerely yours in St. Vincent DePaul,
Louis Arceneaux, c.m.

So, locally, Archbishop Hughes is boycotting Xavier's graduation because the university is inviting and honoring a Catholic who wholeheartedly supports and advocates for the Democratic Party Platform on abortion and ESCR, which are contrary to Catholic teachings. On the other hand, he is apparently not boycotting Loyola's graduation, although it is inviting and honoring Bobby Jindal, a Catholic and the Governor of Louisiana who has advocated for and signed legislation enacting the death penalty or chemical castration for child rapists. The Archbishop has, rightly I think, exhibited the difference between abortion/ESCR and captial punishment. However, in my understanding, there is no acceptable prudential reason which Jindal can cite in defense of his stance. That abortion and ESCR are intrinsically evil tells us that they can never be justified. Similarly, capital punishment cannot be justified in our circumstances, even if it is not intrinsically evil. Therefore, it is not clear to me why Archbishop Hughes must boycott Brazile but not Jindal. Certainly more are killed through abortion and ESCR than capital punishment, but if we are to propose a consistent ethic of life to this culture of death, can we afford to compromise?

The issue has been further complicated by Mary Ann Glendon , who is currently the first female President of the Roman Catholic Church's official Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and is has been nominated for Notre Dame's prestigious Laetare Medal. Despite being counseled by some of the US bishops, including Notre Dame's own Bishop D'Arcy who has not at all approved of Obama's invitation, to accept the award and attend the graduation, she has decided to reject the award and abstain from attending. This seems to be a complex and divisive issue as is evidenced by reading the comments on the previously linked post.

Several questions arise from all this, which I think are preliminary to any sound judgment on the matters as hand. I ask for your insight and discussion on these preliminary questions.

1. What is the role of Catholic universities in dialoging with and forming the culture?
2. How can we properly bear witness to a culture of life, which presupposes a consistent ethic of life, without being consistent?
3. What is the role of scandal in this? Would American Catholics be scandalized by Obama's presence at ND? By the Bishops' presence at the commencement? By Hughes' presence at Xavier? Should Catholics be more
scandalized than are likely to be by Jindal's presence at Loyola? Why was Obama's presence and honor at Xavier in 2007 not worthy of Hughes' boycott? Did he slip under the radar? Was Senator Obama somehow less important then than Brazile is now?
4. How are we to dialogue with the culture while being in the world, without compromising ourselves or our own institutions, without being of the world? On the personal level this is difficult enough; how can we do it on the institutional level when so many of our Catholic institutions are becoming more and more secular and less Catholic?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fr. Benedict Ashley on Science and the Fall

I just returned from a talk given by Fr. Benedict Ashley, OP. It focused on science as an avenue leading us to a greater knowledge and understanding of God and the Trinity. The talk was pretty good, interesting if nothing else. However, I wish to focus on a brief comment he made in a Q&A session following the lecture.

He was asked to discuss the physical (as opposed to moral) evil of death and the like as it relates to the fall, and how that entrance of suffering into human life at the fall can be reconciled with evolution. Fr. Ashley explained that science now shows us that human life began in eastern Africa, in a garden-like place. He posited that had we not fallen, perhaps the intimacy of our relation to God would have enabled us to develop technology at an incredibly accelerated pace, sparing us from physical evils such as toil, painful childbirth, possibly even death (?), by cultivating the surrounding desert with technology for our use.

Thus he stated: science can help us overcome some of the effects of the fall.

I ask you, faithful readership (all 4 of you), could science have made the advances it has without the Incarnation? We know the important role Christian thinkers have had in the development of philosophy, anthropology, psychology, etc. Is it possible that only redeemed man, participating in He who is Truth, could have brought together all the various truths of the ancient world to develop the worldview(s) which have enabled us to build up to the modern depth and breadth of scientific thought ?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cool Quotes 2

Ratzinger on Holy Saturday and the apparent death of God in modernity


On Good Friday our gaze remains fixed on the "death of God," the day that expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God no longer is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him. "God is dead and we have killed him." This saying of Nietzsche's belongs linguistically to the tradition of Christian Passiontide piety; it expresses the content of Holy Saturday, "descended into hell."

This article of the Creed always reminds me of two scenes in the Bible. The first is that cruel story of the Old Testament in which Elijah challenges the priests of Baal to implore their God to give them fire for their sacrifice. They do so, and naturally nothing happens. He ridicules them, just as the 'enlightened rationalist' ridicules the pious person in response to his prayers. Elijah calls out to the priests that perhaps they had not prayed loud enough: 'Cry aloud, for he [Baal] is good, either he is musing, or has gone aside, or he is one journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened' (1 Kings 18:27). When one reads today this mockery of the devotees of Baal, one can begin to feel uncomfortable; one can get the feeling that we have now arrived in that situation and that the mockery must now fall on us. No calling seems to be able to awaken God. The rationalist seems entitled to say to us 'Pray louder, perhaps your God will them wake up.'  'Descended to hell'; how true this is of our time, the descent of God into muteness, into the dark silence of the absent.

But alongside the story of Elijah and its New Testament analogue, the story of the Lord sleeping in the midst of the storm on the lake (Mk 4:35-41), we must put the Emmaus story (Lk 24:13-35).  The disturbed disciples are talking of the death of their hope. To them, something like that death of God has happened: the point at which God finally seemed to have spoken has disappeared. The One sent by God is dead, and so there is a complete void. Nothing replies anymore. But while they are speaking of the death of their hope and can no longer see God, they do not notice that this very hope stands alive in their midst; that 'God', or rather the image they had formed of his promise, had to die so that he could live on a larger scale. The image they had formed of God, and into which they sought to compress him, had to be destroyed, so that over the ruins of the demolished house, as it were, they could see the sky again and him who remains infinitely greater...

Thus the article about the Lord's descent into hell reminds us that not only God's speech but also his silence is part of Christian revelation. God is not only the comprehensible word that comes tous; he is also the silent, inaccessible, uncomprehended, and incomprehensible ground that eludes us. To be sure, in Christianity there is a primacy of the logos, of the word, over silence; God has spoken. God is word. But this does not entitle us to forget the truth of God's abiding concealment. Only when we have experienced him as silence may we hope to hear his speech, too, which proceeds in silence. Christology reaches out beyond the Cross, the moment when love is tangible, into death, the silence and eclipse of God. Can we wonder that the Church and the life of the individual are led again and again into this hour of silence, into the forgotten and almost discarded article, 'Descended into hell'?
Introduction to Christianity, 294-297.


Good stuff!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cool Quotes 1: Ratzinger/Plato - Good Friday and the Just Man

I read a few apropos sections from Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity to aid my Holy Week reflections. An except from Ratzinger reflecting on Jesus' Crucifixion:

The Cross is revelation. It reveals, not any particular thing, but God and man. It reveals who God is and in what way man is. There is a curious presentiment of this situation in Greek philosophy: Plato's image of the crucified 'just man.' In the Republic the great philosopher asks what is likely to be the position of a completely just man in this world. He comes to the conclusion that a man's righteousness is only complete and guaranteed when he takes on the appearance of unrighteousness, for only then is it clear that he does not follow the opinion of men but pursues justice only for its own sake. So according to Plato the truly just man must be misunderstood and persecuted in this world; indeed Plato goes so far as to write: "They will say that our just man will be scourged, racked, fettered, will have his eyes burned out, and at last, after all hte manner of suffering, will be crucified." This passage, writting four hundred years before Christ, is always bound to move a Christian deeply.
- pg 292, quoting Republic book 2, 361e - 362a.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lenten Resources

Last year I wrote a post summarizing the focus of Lent and providing a few links to resources. You can find my summary here, and I will provide several more links. I pray this helps you use this time as a time of conversion via prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Pax

Blog Reflections

Fr. Dwight Longenecker via Fr. Steve Leak
Lenten retreat with daily Scriptural reflections by Dominican priests over at Godzdogz
Lenten Meditations
Random Lenten Blog posts
Prayer

Daily Audio podcasts of Liturgy of the Hours
Lenten overview with prayers
Hymns for the Liturgical Year
Sacred and Classical Music

Church Links
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' resources and links

VATICAN/POPE
Lent 2009, including stations, music, and papal homilies
Lent 2008
Lent 2007
Lent 2006
Lent 2005, Pope John Paul II's last Lent
Lent 2004
Lent 2003
Lent 2002
Lent 2001

Have a blessed and holy Lent

Peace!

Friday, February 20, 2009

From around the web....

1. Excellent Lenten Reflection

Jennifer at Conversion Diary has posted a reflection on her first reading of Pontius Pilate's role in the Passion of Christ which focuses on our tendency to rationalize sin out of fear of losing favor with the "Emperor," whomever that may be for us in our lives. She writes:


I knew that the threat of losing favor with the Emperor would be more than a person like Pilate could take. I knew it would be the last straw, the spark to ignite the rationalizing and denial that would clear the way for proceeding with evil. I knew it because, at that moment, I recognized somewhere within myself my own disturbingly strong desire to be "friends with the Emperor." My "Emperor" was something different than Pilate's, of course: his was an actual man who had the power to make all Pilate's wildest dreams of riches and success come true; mine was a symbolic Emperor comprised of all my desires for things like comfort and pleasure and money and control and success and acclaim, an Emperor whose friendship I sought over doing the right thing on at least a daily basis.
...
And, as I realized only later, Pilate's all-to-familiar actions 2,000 years ago are not as different in severity from mine as I might have liked to tell myself, because they both led directly to Jesus' death on the Cross.
It is always helpful and humbling to recognize ourselves so clearly in the sins and motivations of those whom we so often demonize. Pilate recognized Jesus was a good man and did not want to sentence him, but he placed his own well-being and desires above truth and goodness. Am I willing to take up my cross and follow Christ? Am I willing imitate Jesus' sacrifical love of Christ? Or am I merely a good guy with good intentions who tends to flake out when things get tough?

2. Benedict XVI and Nancy Pelosi

On Wednesday Pope Benedict met with pro-choice Catholic Nancy Pelosi.

His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.
H/T to Rocco Palmo

This has caused some interesting conversation. Some are citing the lack of photo-op and the Pope's using the meeting for a teachable moment as evidence of his stern condemnation of Pelosi. However there is no real evidence to support such a view. On the hand, some are criticizing the Pope and Pelosi's bishop for failing to discipline her by witholding the Eucharist from her.

In light of this there has been an interesting conversation in the comments over at Vox-Nova regarding Canon 915 which reads:
Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or the declaration of a penalty as well as others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to communion.
Should it be enforced by bishops and the Pope more frequently and forcefully for those Catholic politicians who persist in voting pro-choice? The argument may be summed up thusly:

St. Paul tells us that anyone who eats the body of the Lord unworthily eats condemnation upon himself.
A loving pastor would not want his sheep to engage in self-condemnation, desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, or scandal to the faithful.
Canon 915 tells that those who persist in grave sin should not be permitted to receive the Eucharist.
Catholic politicians who public support and vote for pro-choice policies are engaging, in objective, if not subjective, grave sin.
Therefore why would the successors of the Apostles choose not discipline Pelosi, Biden, and other pro-choice Catholics accordingly?

Do the Pope and Bishops disagree with canon law? Are they ignoring canon 915? Is it not mortally sinful to vote for pro-choice policies? If not, why is canon 915 in the canon law at all? What is the relationship between canon law and its application by the Church's pastors.

Others will argue that the Church's understanding of law is unlike that which most Americans have. We tend to view law and that which is to be interpreted literally and enforced in a black and white manner. On the hand, from the ecclesial perspective canon laws are more like guidelines which must and can only be properly interpreted by those ordained with the pastoral responsiblity and charism of doing so for their flocks.

What do you think?

3. Vulnerability

Veronica over at Making Gumbo has a great post on Jesus' vulnerability, which reminded me of Balthsar's concept of God's omnipotent powerlessness. The Father all-powerfully empties himself entirely into the Son in kenotic Love. In thanksgiving (eucharist) for the Father's gift of self, the Son wills to give himself to the Father's will. Thus the Son omnipotently becomes powerless in incarnation as an infant, as a criminal on the cross, and as a dead man in the descent.

Nevertheless, as a new dad my son's vulnerability reminded me of Jesus' vulnerability as an infant, but more than that, in choosing to conceive a child my wife have made a choice of sacrifical love to be powerless to our son. We are slaves to his will. When he is hungry, tired, gassy, or upset for whatever reason, we free and lovingly stop everything we are doing to attend to him.

Life is beautiful. I pray that my wife and child and our love may teach me to love and Christ loved so that i may be more willing to make myself vulnerable out of love to them and to my neighbor and even to my enemy. God knows I have a long way to go.

Peace to all.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Thesis Thoughts 4: RAHNER’S CHRISTOLOGY/SOTERIOLOGY

Before we move on to directly examine what Rahner has to say about salvation for non-Christians, we must consider his Christology and Soteriology more generally speaking. As a Christian, and more specifically as a Jesuit priest, Rahner firmly believes that Jesus is the savior of the world, but, as Ratzinger explains, the problem is for Rahner that of “the dichotomy between the particularity of Christian history and its claim to the whole being man. Can a particular history justly claim to be salvation not just for a particular historical period but for man precisely qua man?”[1] Marshall identifies two possible approaches for answering this dichotomy. The first approach focuses on the Jesus’ life, passion, death, and resurrection as that which makes him meaningful and significant for salvation generally speaking. In other words it is an appeal to the particularity of Jesus in his historical situation rather than an appeal which demonstrates how Jesus fulfills some general criteria for universal salvific significance, which is precisely what the second approach attempts to exhibit. Proponents of the second approach believe that one must first show that anything can be significant for the salvation of all, and until that is shown to be credible, belief in Jesus as the savior must be in-credible.[2]
Rahner, following Kant, Schleiermacher and Transcendentalism, chooses the second approach. He believes that before one can reasonably believe in a universal savior one must determine the general criteria necessary for there to be an absolute savior and then must demonstrate that a particular person or entity, in this case Jesus Christ, fulfills the criteria. Rahner writes: “how can he [Jesus], the concrete one, in his historical-concrete reality, which is not at all generally valid, be a norm for me?”[3]
In addition to his philosophical allegiances, Rahner chooses the second approach because of his understanding of the problem of apologetics. He rightly believes that Christians have a responsibility to preach the gospel, that is, the Good News of Jesus’ salvation, to the world, but recognizes that the modern world, due to modernity and some of the developments of the Enlightenment, finds this message harder to believe than earlier generations did.[4] Rahner believed this was because the kinds of things said by Christians, specifically in the tradition of the Neo-scholasticism of his time, are found to be in-credible by modern people; the teachings of the faith were presented in way that modern people had difficulty relating to.
Kilby explains Rahner’s perspective: for Rahner “what we need is to get away from a propositionalist system of theology so that we can relate Christian doctrines to what we experience in the depths of our being.”[5] [6]Therefore, according to Rahner, the presentation of the doctrines of the Faith must be adapted to the philosophy and perspectives of the day, redolent of the anthropological turn following the Enlightenment. Here, it seems, Pope Benedict XVI would disagree with him. Rahner believes the problem is on the side of the presentation of the information, the content of the faith. However, in Spe Salvi Pope Benedict XVI explains that the faith must not be merely informative, but performative;[7] more important than the delivering of the information is the evangelical witness of performing, of living, the faith.[8]
Regardless of his reasons, Rahner chooses to follow Kant and Schleiermacher in Transcendental approach and Marechal by incorporating the thought of Aquinas in an attempt to solve the apparent paradox between Jesus’ particularity as a 1st Century Jew from Nazareth and his supposed significance as the absolute savior. In following the second approach, the Transcendental approach, Rahner will make an anthropological turn; much of his system will thus start with man. Thus, Marshall elucidates Rahner’s goal:

If the goal of a transcendental Christology is to show how Jesus Christ can be significant for salvation, the method of transcendental Christology is to show that an absolute savior can be significant for salvation, can be that kind of reality. Once this established, it must indicate the way in which absolute savior can be asserted of Jesus, and the goal would then be achieved.[9]

As we have discussed above, for Rahner, all people, in their essence, anticipate the unsurpassable self-communication of God,[10] which is made possible by the supernatural existential, but for them to receive this very real self-revelation as communication, it must occur historically and categorically. This requires that the a priori transcendental experience of man be mediated historically as human freedom is mediated categorically. Thus, in Rahner’s system, the absolute savior must be a historical individual who freely and unconditionally accepts God’s self-offer, while not only pointing to, but actually being God’s self-communication. Thus, Rahner’s system demands a sort of Hypostatic Union in order for there to be an absolute savior, and, because the absolute savior is one of us, he must merely be the prime example of what we are oriented towards. He elucidates, “The incarnation of God is therefore the unique, supreme, case of the total actualization of human reality, which consists of the fact that man is in so far as he surrenders himself.”[11] Therefore, “The concrete human essence (wesen) is nothing other than a potential obedentialis for hypostatic union,”[12] and accordingly, Rahner can axiomatically claim, “anthropology is defective Christology.”[13] In light of this, Marshall rightly asks how any of us can be satisfied with anything less than hypostatic union is that is what we are ordered towards?[14]
Rahner has shown than man has an a priori orientation or dynamism toward transcendence. A transcendent openness can only open towards the Absolute Horizon of being. Therefore, the telos of the world, or mankind at the least, is in receiving God’s self-communication, in fulfilling this potential for reception of God’s grace.[15] Because man is not merely spiritual, but physical as well, this self-communication must take place historically and spatio-temporally. It must be a real event with a permanent beginning.[16] Thus, for Rahner, “we give the title of Savior simply to that historical person who, coming in space and time, signifies that beginning of God’s absolute communication of himself which inaugurates the self-communication for all men as something happening irrevocably and which shows this to be happening.”[17] It is not necessary that the historical advent of the Savior mark the beginning of God’s self-revelation, but it must be the irrevocable and absolute form and climax of the communication. However, in addition to the historical advent of God’s absolute self-communication in the Savior, in order for the Savior to be the universally significant for all men, he must be “the object of a radical orientation of our whole being, on account of which such a reality is capable of affecting [mankind] as a whole.”[18]
Perhaps we should summarize what we have thus far discussed. A being can only be absolute savior if mankind is dynamically oriented toward it. We see in the essence of man the supernatural existential, the preparation for the offer of God’s self-communication as grace, that transcendent openness to the Absolute Horizon. Thus, only God, the Horizon, can be our savior. The savior must be the real pledge of God, must actually be God’s self-communication, and this communication must be historical. In the absolute savior, God be must enter into history, and he must do so as one of us so that we can fully receive this communication.
We can now see how Rahner’s system has led to recognition of Jesus as the absolute savior of the world. Jesus is the divine Son of God. He is the eternal Logos, the Word of God, God’s self-communication, enfleshed. In the Hypostatic Union the Word of God has become one of us to fully reveal himself to us. Although he may only contact a portion of us in his historicity and particularity, because we are transcendentally a priori oriented to receive this self-communication as grace, all men, even those who have no contact with this “consummation of human reality at the hands of God, towards which all person are oriented in grace”[19], can receive this new salvific grace of Christ in their transcendence. He can be significant, efficacious for their salvation as the historical fulfillment of the pledge made by God in the supernatural existential, the openness to receiving him.
Marshall attempts to critique Rahner’s transcendental Christology. He is critical not of Rahner’s execution, which he finds to be masterful, but of the problem inherent in applying the transcendental method to Christ. Marshall believes that Rahner’s system forces him to make implications which result in the loss of particularity of Christ, which, Marshall admits, even Rahner says is unacceptable. In this regard, Marshall references Rahner as having said that the Catholic faith is indissolubly bound up with Jesus of Nazareth and that when Jesus becomes only one among several exemplary persons, we are no longer dealing with Christianity.[20] Nevertheless, Marshall describes Rahner’s definition of what is necessary for something to be an absolute savior, “any reality/person can be significant for salvation only because and in so far as we are oriented toward it by our very nature; only by falling within the scope of this transcendental orientation can any reality affect us as a whole and so be genuinely saving”[21], and adds that Jesus cannot possibly fulfill this criterion.

We are not and cannot be, oriented in this way toward Jesus Christ; he himself can in no we be derived or deduced from our transcendental orientation and its content. Therefore, Jesus is not and cannot be significant for salvation…Since he, as a particular person, cannot be significant for salvation, he cannot be the absolute savior, according to Rahner’s logic.[22]

Thus, Marshall believes that Rahner’s transcendental method forces into choosing between two alternatives. On the one hand, Marshall argues that Rahner can argue that Jesus fulfills the general criteria he has set forth for being generally significant for salvation, but this requires Rahner to let go of Jesus’ particular as emphasized by the Christian faith because it has nothing to do with significance for salvation. On the other hand, Marshall explains, Rahner can uphold the importance of Jesus’ particularity as the faith does, emphasizing his being a first century Jew who fulfills the specifically Jewish prophecies for the Messiah, his poverty, his miracles, his death, etc. while recognizing that Jesus, in his particularity, does not fulfill the general criteria for being the absolute savior. [23]
However, despite Marshall’s sharp intellect, we must conclude that his critique is flawed and incorrect. We could argue, as some critics do, that Rahner’s transcendental method puts Christianity on a slippery slope which may relativize Christ’s unicity, but we cannot say it is incompatible with Christianity. The deficiency in Marshall’s critique appears to be that he forgotten about the Hypostatic Union. Jesus is fully God and fully man. In his divinity he fulfills the general criteria for being significant for salvation. In his humanity we can honor his particular place in human history. Jesus of Nazareth is the divine Logos. He is the son of Mary and the Son of God. He is a man who lived near Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago, and he is the absolute savior of the world.



[1]Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 163.

[2] Marshall, 19.

[3] Karl Rahner, Schriften zur Theologie, Vol. 15, 234; emphasis added: “wie kann er, der Konkrete, in seiner gar nicht allgemeing├╝ltigen, sondern in seiner geschichtlich-konkreten Wirklichkeit f├╝r mich eine Norm sein?”

[4] Marshall, 19.

[5] Kilby, 263.

[6] Note that here Balthasar and Rahner differ as well. “For Balthasar, neo-scholasticism was inadequate because it was dry as dust and reductive, because it fialed to bring out, indeed it positively obscured, the reality and beauty of the thing presented, the object of revelation.” (Kilby, 263).

[7] Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, par. 2.

[8] Here Benedict is reminiscent of Balthasar and his emphasis on the Cross and martyrdom as witnessing to the faith.

[9] Marshall, 28.

[10] Ibid., 34.

[11] Ibid., 110; Rahner’s emphases; translation slightly altered.

[12] Ibid., 36

[13]Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations Volume I: God, Christ, Mary and Grace, (New York, New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1973), 122.

[14] Marshall, 36.

[15] McCool, 167.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., 168.

[18] Marshall, 33-34.

[19] Ibid., 34.

[20] Ibid.,53.

[21] Ibid., 56.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid., 57.