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Thursday 9 January 2014

Watch this when you can....

and read this

Another re-post from another blog

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Rethinking The New Evangelization

The call to new evangelization cannot be a static one. As Catholics, we have a duty to know our audience, 
our target groupings. And, I am convinced we are not addressing the youth of today in the mode which they need.

Too often, evangelization either is too banal, that is, watered down to the lowest common denominator; 
or it is an attempt to bring people out of serious sin by attacking the sins; or it is the speaking of Jesus as 
Savior again outside of context of the larger perspective of what is means to be human and what it 
means to know a particular God.

I have been thinking about St. Augustine and his importance to our Catholic world today. He wrote in a similar time-
the great destruction of a civilization which had endured for hundreds of years. He also bought a 
philosophical approach to all that chaos.

The Hebrews experienced much the same situation over and over and over. Either they were destroying 
old civilizations, or their own was being destroyed by whatever conqueror was the most powerful.

The reason for my ruminations is that we need, desperately, Catholic minds which can stop addressing the 
moral questions, stop addressing the ethical questions, and go back further to the basic questions of the 
existence of God and the nature of what it is to be human.
Now, obviously, we need the ethical discussion, so prominent among good Thomists, as Aquinas, like Aristotle, 
who dealt with vice, virtue, law and so on, but the world we are dealing with now is one of agnosticism and 
atheism. Those people deserve better discussions than what we have been able to give. Starting with morals 
is not the way to converse with atheists or agnostics, who lack a moral structure and may not even believe in one, 
except relativism. 

There are few great Catholic minds which can address the basic questions youth ask today. 
Here are a few of those questions. 

Is there a God?

What would be the meaning of being human?

What is the relationship between men and God?

Why are we here?

Do you ever doubt?

Why do you want to be a Catholic?

Augustine wrote his City of God in direct response to pagans, agnostics, and even atheists who were blaming 
Catholics for the fall of Rome. Hey, folks, this will happen again and I do not see the bright spark, a new Augustine, 
who can address the entire question of the nature of man, the City of God and the secular city in terms of basic 
principles. Phenomenology is too personalistic for this discussion. We need to revisit the Greeks, the Romans, 
all part of our heritage. We need to go back to the basics, or we shall continue to lose yet another generation.

Apologetics has been so slanted towards ethics, towards morality, that it has set aside the first principles. 
As humans and as Catholics, we must be able to discuss metaphysics at this level. Aristotle, Aquinas, 
the neo-Thomists, even educators, such as Montessori, all of whom are part of my mindset, my history,
used the scientific method of rational discourse.

This is no longer accepted by many, and we cannot meet physicists, politicians, academics of any kind with 
language they no longer accept.

We must go back further. And, I do not mean Duns Scotus, who was more popular than Aquinas for a very long time.
 Nominalism is limited as well. We must go back and ask the basic questions of believing, of the supernatural, 
of God Himself. We must evangelize at this level, and not merely the moral or ethical one.
Those Millennials who ask the basic questions have no framework for morality because they have no
 philosophical framework. Benedict, the Pope Emeritus, was the man of the time, reminding us that Augustine 
was not only a theologian, but a philosopher. We need to look at him again in that light, and at those Doctors 
of the Church who helped the Church develop doctrine from the basic principles.

The reason we must think in different terms is that we are witnessing the chaos of the death of Western Civilization 
and to speak in any terms purely from moral or ethical viewpoints will not speak to the hearts of those completely
 at a loss, at sea in chaos.

That is what the Moslems do - speak only in ideological, so-called moral terms. This type of approach does not 
speak to the very essence of who a person is and who God is. Imposing law without the reasons for such begs 
the question of religion.

I read and hear too many high-ranking priests, bishops, theologians, especially moral theologians, who do not have 
the proper perspective of the problem of basic principles, because their own training was so limited. Try and find 
excellent philosophers in seminaries who are orthodox and can engage at this level of thinking.

When one answers the questions of who man is and Who God is, then the moral and ethical questions fall into place

I hope God raises up some great metaphysical minds in this era. I hope and pray that both clergy and laity can 
learn to evangelize from basic principles

Re-post from another blog

Friday, 15 March 2013

On Rational Discourse and Blogging

I taught Logic for years. I taught Debate. I taught Rhetoric. These were at the university level. 
These parts of the Trivium should be taught earlier than college or university, but rarely are. 
I had Logic in first year of secondary school, when I was fourteen.

I know the fallacies. I know how to think. I know how to lead students to think and there is 
hardly anything more exciting than watching students learn to think. It is an amazing experience.

I also have a journalist background, working in high school, college and city newspapers.

I have blogged from 2007-2009 and January 2012 until now.

I read many, many blogs and comment on some.

The past two days have been painful in the blogosphere. One reason has been the lack of logic 
and the use of fallacies.

Opposing sides of an argument have used faulty thinking, which are the fallacies, instead of sticking 
to points and arguing from logic.

Why this has happened is simply that most people have not learned to think or argue logically.

Emoting is useless and, on line, selfish and boring.

Sadly, adults have not mastered these stages. I would change the words "persuasion" and "persuasively" 
in the two diagrams to "argumentation" and  "debate". Persuasion uses emotion. which is subjective, 
while argumentation used object logic and facts.  Fallacies reveal faulty thinking and the application of 
subjectivism, such as name calling.

Name calling and ad hominem statements cause pain and hurt.

The problem is compounded by the fact that many people are afraid of the truth.

I hope all of us who belong to the Guild and all who read the Guild only want truth and not sentiment or comfort.

The truth, as Christ said, makes us free.  Anything less imprisons us in an adolescent state of either denial or confusion.

Confusion is not from God. Clarity is from God. Division is not from God. Unity is from God. But, unity must be 
real and not based on fake niceties.

Faith and Reason continued

Everything that I have written today is part of the Teaching Magisterium of the Church. Nothing is secret, arcane knowledge.

The lost art of reading, the horrible busyness of most people's lives, and the insistence that experiential religions is more important than study and reflection created an atmosphere of gross anti-intellectualism in our Church.

The dropping of real religious studies in many Catholic elementary and secondary schools, the removal of the catechism from required reading, the lack of discipline in both teachers and students have brought us to the point where a sizable majority of Catholics no longer or have never thought like Catholics.

The weakness of the Church comes from within. I challenged Catholics to reclaim the use of their intellects in religion. Recently, I have witnessed this anti-intellectualism in adult Catholics on line. Opinions not based on Catholic teaching are becoming more and more common, even among some clergy members, who have had poor seminary studies. An odd sentimentality has replaced rational discourse among Catholic adults. It is not attractive and this approach to religion is, frankly, dangerous.

Do you know that in some seminaries Aquinas may be only required in one class, semester length? May I quote Pius XII:

“… the Angelic Doctor interpreted [Aristotle] in a uniquely brilliant manner. He made that philosophy Christian when he purged it of the errors into which a pagan writer would easily fall; he used those very errors in his exposition and vindication of Catholic truth. Among the important advances which the Church owes to the great Aquinas this certainly should be included that so nicely did he harmonize Christian truth with the enduring peripatetic philosophy that he made Aristotle cease to be an adversary and become, instead, a militant supporter for Christ … Therefore, those who wish to be true philosophers … should take the principles and foundations of their doctrine from Thomas Aquinas. To follow his leadership is praiseworthy: on the contrary, to depart foolishly and rashly from the wisdom of the angelic Doctor is something far from Our mind and fraught with peril … For those who apply themselves to the teaching and study of Theology and Philosophy should consider it their capital duty, having set aside the findings of a fruitless philosophy, to follow St. Thomas Aquinas and to cherish him as their master and their leader.

For more quotations on Aquinas from Popes, look here.

As adults, we have no excuse to fall into the mushy thinking of those who left the Church in search of spiritual experiences.  We all need to learn to think like Catholics again.

The Disappearance of Catholic Rationalism Part Six

I only need to quote from the following work to wrap up today's thoughts on being adult Catholics.....

William E. May, Senior Fellow

This is a snippet....

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on Conscience
In a remarkable address, called “Conscience and Truth,” given at a conference onCatholic Conscience: Foundation and Formation (Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop 1991) and originally published as edited by Rev. Russell Smith by the Pope John XXIII Medical Moral Center, Braintree, MA (now the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Philadelphia, PA) and reprinted in On Conscience: Two Essays by Cardinal Ratzinger. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007 Ratzinger uses the thought of Cardinal Newman, Socrates and Plato, to develop what he regards as the central anthropological and ontological meaning of conscience as anamnesis. 

On Conscience: Two Essays by Cardinal Ratzinger. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007.
After first showing the falsity and solipsistic subjectivism at the heart of the understanding of “conscience” espoused by dissenting Catholic theologians who make one’s own conscience “infallible,” and how this notion of conscience was precisely that held by the Nazi Gestapo, Ratzinger then appeals to the thought of John Cardinal Newman and the Platonic Socrates in his battle against the Sophists to focus on what he calls conscience as anamnesis, which he regards as its central anthropological and ontological meaning.
He cites the famous citation from Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk: “I shall drink—to the Pope, if you please—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards” (p.23).  Newman’s point was not to belittle the Pope nor put conscience above him but in contrast to Gladstone and other Anglicans to show that the papacy is correctly conceived only when viewed together with the primacy of conscience—“a papacy not put in opposition to the primacy of conscience but based on it and guaranteeing it” (23). Most important was that for Newman the middle term connecting authority with subjectivity is the truth.  “The centrality of the concept conscience for Newman is linked to the prior centrality of the concept truth (24). Conscience is the demanding presence of the voice of truth in the subject.  “Two standards become apparent for ascertaining the presence of a real voice of conscience. First, conscience is not identical to personal wishes and taste. Second, conscience cannot be reduced to social advantage,to group consensus, or to the demands of political and social power” (26).  Ratzinger  sees the contemporary relativisitic understanding of conscience paralleled by the Socratic-Platonic battle with sophistry. On one side Socrates anPlato were confident that man has the ability to grasp truth, while the Sophists were relativists who made each individual the measure of all things (28).  Ratzinger sees the “final meaning of the Socratic search and the profoundest element in the witness of all martyrs ” is that what characterizes man as man is not that he asks about the ‘can’ but about the ‘should,’and that he opens himself to the voice and demands of  truth” (29-30).
He then contrasts the medieval notion of “conscience” with “anamnesis”. The medieval tradition rightly recognized that two levels of conscience, while distinct, must be related to each other and that many unacceptable views of conscience result from neglecting either the difference or the connection between the two. “Mainstream scholasticism” expressed these two levels as synderesis and conscientia. The termsynderesis entered medieval thought through the Stoic doctrine of the microcosm and its exact meaning was not clear and therefore became a hindrance to understanding conscience. Ratzinger proposes replacing this problematic word with the clearly defined Platonic concept of anamnesis, a term in harmony with key motifs of biblical thought and anthropology, e.g., the thought expressed by Paul in Romans 2:14-15 and by Sts. Augustine and Basil. (30-32). He then writes: “the first so-called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and the true  (they are identical) has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the image and likeness of God, toward the divine….This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the god-like constitution of our being, is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is…as inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. The possibility for and right to mission rest on this anamnesis of the Creator, which is identical to the ground of our existence. The gospel…must be proclaimed to the pagans, because they themselves are yearning for it in the hidden recesses of their souls” (32). “We can now appreciate Newman’s toast first to conscience and then to the Pope. The pope cannot impose commandments on faithful Catholics because he wants to or finds it expedient. Such a modern, voluntaristic concept of authority can only distort the true theological meaning of the papacy….the situation is really quite different according to the anthropology of conscience, of which we have tried to come to an appreciation in these reflections. The anamnesis instilled in our being needs, one might say, assistance from without so that it can become aware of itself.  But this ‘from without’ is not something set in opposition to anamnesis but is ordered to it. It has a maieutic function…[bringing] to fruition what is proper to anamnesis, namely, its interior openness to truth” (34).
Because here we are dealing with the faith and the Church Ratzinger says we must take into account another dimension treated particularly in Johannine writings. “John is familiar with the anamnesis of the new ‘we,’ which is granted to us in the incorporation into Christ (one body, that is, one ‘I’ with him).  In remembering, they knew him….The original encounter with Jesus gave the disciples what all generations thereafter receive in their foundational encounter with the Lord in baptism and the Eucharist, namely, the new anamnesis of faith, which unfolds, like the anamnesis of creation, in constant dialogue between within and without….It does signify the sureness of the Christian memory…One can comprehend the primacy of the pope and its correlation to Christian conscience only in this connection. The true sense of the teaching authority of the pope consists in its being the advocate of the Christian memory. The pope does not impose from without. Rather, he elucidates the Christian memory and defends it….All the power that the papacy has is the power of conscience. It is service to the double memory on which the faith is based [creation/redemption] and which again and again must be purified, expanded, and defended against the destruction of memory…” 36).
It  is precisely to this memory or anamnesis to which John Paul II refers in the text from Veritatis splendor.

The Disappearance of Catholic Rationalism Five

The intellect and the will are part of our soul. The soul does not "hold" the emotions. The intellect and will, therefore, must be formed in order for us to become saints. We are inclined to be good or bad according to grace and according to the intellect and will.

We know that certain things are good. It is human to be able to understand good and evil. It is human to make moral decisions. We are more free to make moral decisions if our intellect and wills are in conformity with Christ and His Church.

If we are, as we believe, made in the image and likeness of God, then we are made to be rational, to form our wills and intellects in the Mind of Christ, which is revealed in the Mind of the Church.

If an adult is not working on the rational, unless there is a natural inability to do so, this could be a sin. Most people who do not pursue knowledge fall into the sin of sloth. Another reason could be pride, as one may not want to know one is sinning, one is choosing evil.

If one is running away from God, then one may ignore the intellect. One must seek God and the good.

Another reason why people may not pursue being a rational Catholic could be that one is steeped in heresy, particularly the Protestants one of sola fide, sola Scriptura, sola Christus, sola gratia.

Sadly, many of the Charismatics fall into these errors. And, in doing so, concentrate on experiences rather than the intellect.

I can write about this subject because I have read some of the greatest writers given to the Church: St. Thomas Aquinas, the Popes in the 19th, 20th, 21st centuries. Both Blessed John Paul II and the Pope Emeritus reminded us of the overlap of Faith and Reason. All Catholics have access to the texts which help us think, and approach our Faith in a reasonable manner.

The saint comes to a unity of the mind, the heart, the intellect. That unity is our goal in seeking perfection.

There must be purity in all three faculties. The conscience must be formed. Most likely, we are culpable for not forming our consciences. Conscience is more than merely making a decision. It is making a right decision.


The Disappearance of Rational Catholicism Four

There is objective reality and there is objective good.

Catholics should accept this basic truth.

Subjectivism and relativism destroy rational discourse. So many people fall into the great fallacies because they lack objectivity. I have written in the perfection series that objectivity is a sign of the saint. The person who can stand back and be objective about themselves is "putting on the mind of Christ".

Those who refuse to be objective cannot be holy. Virtues are also objective. These gifts, given to us at baptism, are not feelings, nor based on feelings.

If I am patient today with someone who is difficult, the decision to be patient is not based on how I feel but how I act and how I think-which in this case would be in a position of humility.

Irrationality is so subjective that it leads one to insanity. Insanity has many meanings. Take a look at these definitions. This is why when one sins over and over and over, one can become insane. Insanity, not always, as it can be medical, can be extreme folly or unreasonableness. This is another definition of sin.

:  a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia)
:  such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility
a :  extreme folly or unreasonableness
b :  something utterly foolish or unreasonable

The Disappearance of Rational Catholicism Three

Most Catholics I have met outside of the TLM communities have actually been heretical in some way.

Now, when I have been able to do so, I have corrected the errors of faulty thinking, realizing that most Catholics have not had good catechesis. Whether the beginnings of their teaching was false or not, by the time one is an adult, one must learn to true faith.

Reason is part of who we are. Therefore, to ignore the rational part of us is to ignore a key gift of God to us as humans-our rational nature.

If one is a heretic at the age of fifty, it is one's own fault. There are so many places to find out the faith, that there is no longer, in the Western World, an excuse for invincible ignorance.

If one desires to find out something, one looks until one finds that knowledge. There are some things which are self-evident, but missed because people are simply not paying attention for a variety of reasons.

We have sufficient reason to be rational Catholics.

We have faith which informs reason.

We have speculative and practical reason. Speculative reason examines the nature of things, asking the questions Who is God; Is there a God; Why are we here?

Practical reason asks questions such as Why is this good and this evil? Is this action good?

If we are not asking questions,we are not using the gifts which God gave us as humans.

We are responsible for what "goes into our brains."

What are you putting in your brain? What are you reading, listening to, watching?

On these things, we shall be judged.  

The Disappearance of Rational Catholicism Two

When I was teaching so long ago, I would draw two pillars on the board and tell my students that the Church is based on Faith and Reason. Now, some of my students accepted this. But, I find that the older generations, the parents of my students, GenX and some of the Baby Boomers, simply did not believe this.

Faith and Reason, the two pillars of our Church have been passed down in Revelation and Tradition. Tradition is the interpretation and inspiration found in the Church through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church is the only institution which has the fullness of Truth, founded on Faith and Reason.

So, why do adult Catholics balk at this point? Sloth, laziness, prejudice, a false idea of what it means to be "childlike"? Being childlike does not mean being stupid or refusing to learn. In fact, one of the charming facts of the life of the child is that he wants to learn. As a Montessori trained person, I saw this thirst for knowledge over and over and over.

If a Catholic adult does not study either the Scriptures or the teaching of Tradition, they will be swept into Protestantism, or the ultimate anti-intellectual state of agnosticism.

I have seen adult Catholics fall away when they stopped reading about their religion and stopped studying. Sometimes, sin, especially sexual immorality, lead people out of the Church. But, frequently, the fact that a Catholic has not continued forming his conscience and has refused to read books and treatises from the Teaching Magisterium of the Church, leads such a person into gross error.

All of us are called to be saints. Some think that most of the saints did not study. Even Therese, the Little Flower studied in the convent, as all novices do.

Do not think that there is something intrinsically holy about mental simplicity. There is not.

I write this blog for adult Catholics-for those who want to learn to love the Church and God.

To love God is to love learning and to love learning will absolutely lead one to God.

We were made like this, to know, to serve, and to love God.

The Disappearance of Rational Catholicism

One of the reasons I loved Benedict, Pope Emeritus so much, is that he cut through the "touchy-feeley" Church again and again, starting when he was a Cardinal, with such documents as the condemnation of Liberation Theology and Dominus Iesus.  Throughout his papacy, he was determined to clarify the errors of thinking using his brilliant, rational mind.

Most of the adults I have met in the Church, barring very few, (mostly converts), are stuck in a mode of approaching religion purely by emotional responses to either liturgy or doctrine. The number of those who fall into false teachings from seers, covered on the blog in detail, has weakened the Church from the inside. Also, some of the newer orders, especially those which were founded in and through Catholic Charismatic Renewal also have revealed sloppy teaching and a weakness for religious phenomena instead of doctrine or dogma.

In fact, many priests and monks I met in England were convinced that the only way to God was through experience, totally denying that one can, combined with the gift of faith, come to know God through the intellect. We are material and spiritual beings, between animals and the angels. We learn through the senses and through our minds. The rational capacity to study and know the Truth of God has been given to us.

We do not have instant knowledge, as we learn incrementally. But learn we must. And, I am totally convinced that the greatest weakness of today's Church is this avoidance of the rational. The anti-intellectualism of many, many Catholics is nothing more than disguised Protestantism. The emphasis on private revelation has ruined many good Catholics, sending them into the arms of Pentecostalism.

I am not the only one lamenting this demise of the rational. As Scott Hahn stated there is one road into the Catholic Church through the Charistmatic Renewal and seven roads out.

These seven roads were not to my knowledge defined by Hahn, but I can guess one; anti-intellectualism.

Why is this so dangerous? Firstly, people think they know the teachings of the Catholic Church but they do not. If one is not reading and studying the Catechism and the encyclicals, one will stay a child, a spiritual pygmy.

Second, we are in a fierce battle with evil in the world and all adults are called to the new evangelization, which is not based on feeling, but a real relationship with Christ and His Church. Apologetics must be part of the adult approach to the new evangelization.

Third and this is so important I cannot emphasize this enough, the intellect informs the will. The intellect forms the conscience. Without study, reflection and pursuing Church teaching, one simply does not have a rightly formed conscience.

So many people fall away out of ignorance. They think the Church teaches something which it may not.

We, as adults, are responsible for cultivating an adult faith. We have seen the Church weakened by false teachers, by ignorance, by heresy.

All of us must be able to play the game of "heresy watch".

To be a Catholic is to be a rational Christian. Rational Catholicism strengthens the Church. There are so many sites on line which teach the real deal. If people are not taking advantage of these, they will be judged harshly for not forming their consciences in conformity with the Church and for not passing down the faith to their children.

As baptized Catholics, we have no choice but to be rational Catholics.