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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Delineating Personalism

The editor of the Wanderer and another gentleman scholar in an interview were using the term "personalism" which I have criticized on this blog as a form of subjectivism. However, the term when referring to political systems means something a bit different and perhaps some clarifications are necessary. There are, in other words, good and bad personalism, as the term is vague and too encompassing.

I would have used a different term in the debate, but I think those involved were pointing to the latest developments of the use of the term.

Augustine and Aquinas taught the uniqueness of human creatures over all over creatures and the personal relationship each human has, because of the soul and the intellect, with God.  Also, because there are Three Persons in One God, the Personhood of each may be stressed as separate and true.

So far, so good. The personalism of Aquinas and Augustine would have been the basis for Maritain's idea of the sanctity of the person in various systems of governance, as against communism and socialism, both which deny the sanctity and hierarchy of personhood.

Now, the isms, such as communism and socialism, deny the importance of personalism. Most people understand this.

However, the long and excellent philosophical aspect of personalism in the Catholic Church has been changed in recent times.

The problem is the locus of understanding the importance of self in reference to God. That we all have a character which is unique and a unique soul and the fact that the person is never a means to an end, that is, cannot be used or manipulated for either a government or another person, is clear to most of us.

But, the problem is the almost universal misunderstanding of self-fulfillment. The idea that a person can be fulfilled outside of God is simply false. Without a personal understanding that each one gets an identity from God, first as creature, then as adopted daughters and sons, and then as friends, and finally as lovers, we self-fulfilled. Period.

When Blessed John Paul II and the Pope Emeritus spoke of self-fulfillment, they did not mean the understanding of the world and many liberal theologians, who claim that there is a natural fulfillment without grace.

No. Personalism must be based on the definitions given by the Catholic Church of what a person is, both pre-baptism and post-baptism. And, to add to the confusion of a lack of the traditional definitions of person coming from the great Church Fathers, is the denial of the need for grace.

On top of this, is the belief that men and women are the center of their individual lives, instead of God.

So, the bad personalism rests on a total separation of men and women from God. I suggest a keen reading of Benedict's Deus Caritas Est ,and my commentaries on it here and here and here.....