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Monday 9 September 2013

The Sin of Presumption Part Three: The Denial of Natural Law, Free Will, Reason, and Revelation

Concluding this little three part series on the sin of presumption, I want to stress that this sin involves not only pride, but the denial of free will, reason, and revelation. Presumption also denies natural law.

I have been recommending the reading of Suarez, an overlooked writer on both moral and spiritual theology. Of course, I have remarked on this blog and elsewhere, that Pelagianism and Neo-Pelagianism are two of the most common heresies found today

Here is one of his quotations from the Catholic Encyclopedia: 

Suarez ("De spe", disp. 2a, sect. 3, n. 2) enumerates five ways in which one may be guilty of presumption, as follows:
  1. by hoping to obtain by one's natural powers, unaided, what is definitely supernatural, viz. eternal bliss or the recovery of God's friendship after grievous sin (this would involve a Pelagian frame of mind);
  2. person might look to have his sins forgiven without adequate penance (this, likewise, if it were based on a seriously entertained conviction, would seem to carry with it the taint of heresy);
  3. a man might expect some special assistance from Almighty God for the perpetration of crime (this would be blasphemous as well as presumptuous);
  4. one might aspire to certain extraordinary supernatural excellencies, but without any conformity to the determinations of God's providence. Thus one might aspire to equal in blessedness the Mother of God;
  5. finally, there is the transgression of those who, whilst they continue to lead a life of sin, are as confident of a happy issue as if they had not lost their baptismal innocence.
Now, the denial of both Original Sin and Hell add to the problem of presumption. If one believes in universal salvation, one would be presumptuous. If one thinks one can get to heaven without grace, the sacraments, conformity to the teachings of the Catholic Church and so on, one is presumptuous.

Again, the softening of the conscience by repeated sin and by the closing of the mind, heart and soul to God causes presumption. 

I suggest that this sin is one of the most common among our youth today, who have been raised without any consequences and no moral framworks with which to judge situations. However, as humans, they all have reason, free will, can find out about revelation, and they have natural law written on their hearts.

To excuse sin and to tolerate sin are two sins of parents and teachers.

But, societies, such as pagan Rome, have converted to Christ and His Church.

The challenge is twofold on our part-missionzing in a culture of false ecumenism and relativism. And, praying constantly.....

Presumption Part Two: Reason

The glorious teaching of the Catholic Church shows us that we all have the gift of reason. The CCC is, again, a good place to start. As humans, we have free will and reason, two of the ways in which we have been created in the image and likeness of God.

31 Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments", which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.

As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.7
And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?8

One of the huge problems is the lack of reflection among the young. When do they stop their stampede towards pleasure in order to think about life, God, the it were......
33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God's existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material",9 can have its origin only in God.
34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality "that everyone calls God".10
35 Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.

Section 33 is important for this discussion. All humans have reason and therefore a sense of goodness and a conscience. Reason separates us from the other animals which only have instincts. 

One of the gravest false teachings of the day is the denial of reason. Reasonable people can come to know God and be open to more knowledge which God has given us in revelation.

Reason and revelation form our faith. Here is the CCC again.

36 "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."11 Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created "in the image of God".12
37 In the historical conditions in which he finds himself, however, man experiences many difficulties in coming to know God by the light of reason alone:

Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, who watches over and controls the world by his providence, and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty. For the truths that concern the relations between God and man wholly transcend the visible order of things, and, if they are translated into human action and influence it, they call for self-surrender and abnegation. The human mind, in its turn, is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful.13
38 This is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God's revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but also "about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error". 14
39 In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.
40 Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking.

41 All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures - their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures" perfections as our starting point, "for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator".15
42 God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God--"the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable"--with our human representations.16 Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.
43 Admittedly, in speaking about God like this, our language is using human modes of expression; nevertheless it really does attain to God himself, though unable to express him in his infinite simplicity. Likewise, we must recall that "between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude";17 and that "concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other beings stand in relation to him."18

I am convinced that young people choose and as the text highlighted above states, persuade themselves against reason to accept evil.

That children do not use reason at the age of adolescence is the fault of the parents and teachers, in this age of relativism. But, still, God gives grace to all and invites all to come to Him. 

Do we need revelation? Yes,and we need missionaries. But, reason can lead one to be open to the Gospel message. 

To deny reason and free will is heresy. Remember, Christ descended into hell, as stated in our creed, and released those who waited for His Redemption. Adam and Eve are the first who come to mind and we honor them as saints. 

Those in Judaism who accepted God's Law and revelation were also among those freed from hell. We call these men and women saints-Judith, Esther, Ruth, Joshua, Jacob, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, the prophets, the Maccabees, etc. 

They believed in the promise without the fullness of revelation. These were the righteous, being made so by faith. They believed in the revelation given to them. And, through the use of reason. 

Revelation and Reason--both God's gifts to us....

To be continued....

The Sin of Presumption in Three Parts: Part One: Natural Law

One of the interesting conversations I have had of late has been with a young person who is concerned with her peers who are not at all pursuing a spiritual life.

Of course, the reasons for the deadening of the sensitivity of the spiritual life are myriad. But, I asked her to think about pre-Christian Rome. We know from history and from the Act of the Apostles, as well as the Epistles, that the apostles went to the Gentiles after the Gospel was refused by the Jewish people.

Those Gentiles were pagans of various sorts. There were the Cynics, the Skeptics, the Epicureans, the Stoics and so on. Some of these believed in gods and some did not. Some believed in an afterlife, and some did not. Some believed in the virtues, and some merely in the pursuit of pleasure.

How is it that so many Gentiles became Christians when today we see a huge growth in neo-paganism, especially Epicureanism, and few converting?

Today, in 2013, some statistics state that in this world, there are 300 million pagans.

These would not include heathens, the term for those who believe in false religions. Remember, there are only two revealed religions, Judaism and Christianity. All the others are man-made.

But, before Christianity, men and women are humans had a sense of good and evil. The natural law philosophy, which underlies much of our Catholic teaching, is that by the fact that each person has a soul, there is embedded in human a moral sense.

I have discussed with many people of late the question of invincible ignorance. I maintain that in this day and age in the West, at least, there is no such thing in modern society as complete moral ignorance  Here is the Catechism on natural moral law. 

1954 Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:

The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.5
1955 The "divine and natural" law6 shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. The natural law states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one's equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called "natural," not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature:

Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring.7 The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.8
1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:

For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.9
1957 Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.
1958 The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history;10 it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. The rules that express it remain substantially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies:

Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law that is written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself does not efface.11
1959 The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.
1960 The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known "by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error."12 The natural law provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God and in accordance with the work of the Spirit.

Now, notice that the wise authors concede that grace and revelation are needed today in the growing darkness of the world.

But, God gives grace to all people. There is no one in this world to whom God has not given grace. His free gift to all for the enlightenment of the intellect, the soul, and the heart is available to all.

So, is the current level of evil owing to the lack of missionaries to help bring people to the fullness of truth? Is the current trend of denying the afterlife and emphazing pleasure deadening will power?

We cannot deny will power. We cannot deny that God loves all and wants all to be saved. We cannot deny that at least in the West, invincible ignorance would be rare.

Which leads me to the question of how people can fall into subhuman behavior and call it normal?

One of the reasons is presumption. In Dante's Inferno, the heretics, which pagans fall under, denying the truth of the Catholic Church, of Christ, are in Circle 6 in Canto 10. Here is one-Epicurus, with a summary from here.


Epicurus was a Greek philosopher (341-270 B.C.E) who espoused the doctrine that pleasure--defined in terms of serenity, the absence of pain and passion--is the highest human good. By identifying the heretics as followers of Epicurus (Inf. 10.13-14), Dante condemns the Epicurean view that the soul--like the body--is mortal.

To be continued...

The Stupidity of Clubbing

All human activity has a purpose. Humans are mostly goal oriented people. 

To listen to classical music is the reason for attending a concert. To enjoy a good movie is the reason to go to the cinema. To play golf or tennis with friends is for exercise and companionship.

This is the most difficult post I have ever written.  C. S.  Lewis said he had to stop writing Screwtape Letters, as concentrating on evil got to him. That is how I feel about this post.

What is the goal of clubbing? I have had a sad but illuminating discussion with a twenty-something about clubbing. Clubbing in Ireland is a BAD scene. One does not go to dance. One does not go to get exercise. Most clubs do not have real dancing.

The goal of clubbing is sex. I have tried to find out today why young people club and have found out that they go for these reasons.

1) to meet up with new people; 2) because it is the "in" thing to do; 3) for the goal of casual sex.

Amazingly boring, really, imo.

Real name, not a joke, sadly....

But, the clubbing scene here in Ireland is huge. In Dublin, there are lists of the clubbing events.

The problem with clubbing is that it makes one stupid. What do I mean?

Getting drunk makes one stupid. Sinning, which some people do not even seem to understand, makes one stupid. In fact, the lack of the use of reason seems to be the main impetus for clubbing. And, do Catholic youth know that getting drunk is a mortal sin? NO? why do they go?

"Because all my friends go"  "Because it is the cool thing do do...." "Because that is what we do on Friday night.."

What about real entertainment, because clubbing is not about dancing, mostly or good music, mostly.

It is about casual sex. Here is a dress code from a famous club. 

Do Wear the Right Clothing – Girls can wear short dresses or even lingerie-inspired pieces while men can wear tight shirts....Do Dress to Impress. 
I looked at several sites on line for dresses for clubbing. Oh, my, goodness. The vast majority were actually pornographic. I cannot give any links to these shops.  And, the dress is worse here in Dublin. Here, young persons just wear tights and tops, no skirts, no slacks-just tights. 

Umm, it is pride to try to impress and immodesty causes sin in another--not Catholic attitudes, people.

I do not know how this generation moved so far away from real fun and real entertainment into sleaze.

Maybe some dewy-eyed college girls think that it is exciting and maybe they feel protected by their friends. This is stupid. 

Here is an interesting poll I found on line. Is it a sin for a Christian to go clubbing? About 52% said yes.
  • yes, it is a sin

I am saddened that some young people are so pressured by their peers that they go along to places which can actually be quite dangerous for them. Especially young women...

The immodest club clothing sends a message. And why Catholic parents let their kids go to these clubs is beyond me. Do they trust their 18 year olds in this type of environment? Are they afraid to be real parents and tell their kids not to go or be grounded? Are Irish kids grounded? Are there any real parents left out there giving guidance about the real predators? There are many predator men out there, young ladies. 

Sadly, recreational sex is so accepted that clubbing is just one more thing to do for this goal.

How this culture has lost the sense of sin. As Catholics, we are to both avoid the places of sin and to avoid the appearance of sin. Catholics should not go clubbing.

But, then, I am an old-fashioned mom. 

A small memory of a great priest...

There are more talks on this site, where I got the others posted in the last two posts.

I thank proecclesia, plus my friend, David, for showing me these. I actually met Fr. Thwaites. A friend of mine told me about him and I made the trip out to see him. This was a memorable meeting. He talked about Mary, of course, and the importance of the rosary.

The room where we met was chock-a-block with books. The priest seemed almost lost in his library. But, when he began to speak to me, Father's voice filled the room with peace and the consolation of Truth.

More Talks by Rev. Hugh Thwaites-Part Two

There are many many more at the site-
Selected Encyclicals read by Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJ
Pascendi Gregis by Pope St.Pius X: An encyclical on the Doctrines of the Modernists. This has been officially out of print for years. One would think that it, and its author, never existed. Fortunately, it was written in a manner which is ideal for spoken-word production. It is clear, forthright, concise, descriptive, it is like a mountain stream in a desert, with a reputation of miraculously curing spiritual blindness.
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJPascendi Gregis - Part 1talk_HTPascendi1.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJPascendi Gregis - Part 2talk_HTPascendi2.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJPascendi Gregis - Part 3talk_HTPascendi3.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJHumani Generis by Pope Pius XII: This encyclical concerns false opinions which threaten to sap the foundations of Catholic Teaching. It corrects the false notion that a position advanced by an encyclical does not ipso facto claim consent of all Catholics.talk_HTHumani.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJMortalium Animos by Pope Pius XI: Ecumenism means different things to different people. here Pope Pius XI tells us what it means in the mind of the Church.talk_HTMortalium.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJMysterium Fidei:talk_HTMysterium.mp3
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis read by Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJ  (Production by Arthur Johnson) 

After the bible, there is no sounder spiritual reading than The Imitation of Christ. It encourages us gently, yet with firmness, to follow Christ more faithfully, and shows us how to do it. Fifteen minutes a day would give us a balanced spiritual diet. Since it was written, early in the 15th Century, thousands of editions and translations have appeared.
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Imitation of Christ - Part 1talk_HTImit1.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Imitation of Christ - Part 2talk_HTImit2.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Imitation of Christ - Part 3talk_HTImit3.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Imitation of Christ - Part 4talk_HTImit4.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Imitation of Christ - Part 5talk_HTImit5.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Imitation of Christ - Part 6talk_HTImit6.mp3

Talks from Rev. Hugh Thwaites Part One and Thanks, David and proecclesia

The Mystery of Faith: A beautiful explanation of the central act of worship - The Mass.
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Mystery of Faith - Talk 1talk_HTMOF1.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Mystery of Faith - Talk 2talk_HTMOF2.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Mystery of Faith - Talk 3talk_HTMOF3.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Mystery of Faith - Talk 4talk_HTMOF4.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Mystery of Faith - Talk 5talk_HTMOF5.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Mystery of Faith - Talk 6talk_HTMOF6.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Mystery of Faith - Talk 7talk_HTMOF7.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJThe Mystery of Faith - Talk 8talk_HTMOF8.mp3

A Compendium of talks on Christian Doctrine by Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJ. (Production by Arthur Johnson).
A Catechism of Christian Doctrine
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJA Catechism of Christian Doctrine - Part 1talk_HTCat1.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJA Catechism of Christian Doctrine - Part 2talk_HTCat2.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJA Catechism of Christian Doctrine - Part 3talk_HTCat3.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJA Catechism of Christian Doctrine - Part 4talk_HTCat4.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJA Catechism of Christian Doctrine - Part 5talk_HTCat5.mp3
Rev. Hugh Thwaites SJA Catechism of Christian Doctrine - Part 6talk_HTCat6.mp3