Monday, 23 November

19:41

On Liberty of Conscience [The Josias]

by Tommaso Maria Cardinal Zigliara, OP

Translated by Timothy Wilson


Today we continue our series of original translations of important texts relating to Catholic political philosophy. Tommaso Maria Cardinal Zigliara was a prominent Thomist philosopher and theologian in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Among many other accomplishments, he was closely involved with the preparation of the Leonine edition of the Angelic Doctor’s Opera Omnia (the first volume of which contains his synopses and annotations on St. Thomas’ Organon commentaries), and assisted in preparing the encyclicals Aeterni Patris and Rerum novarum.

The chapter translated here is taken from book two of the third part of Zigliara’s widely circulated Summa philosophica (14th ed., 1910). Having treated of domestic, civil, and religious society in their principles and particulars in the preceding books and chapters of this part, he now sets himself the task of treating in brief the relations which should obtain between those two perfect societies, the Church and the State. The original text can be found here.

This is the second of the five articles of the chapter, treating of liberty of conscience. The remaining articles will be posted serially over the next few days.


SECOND ARTICLE
On liberty of conscience

I. The notion of liberty of conscience. Everywhere today, all who profess liberalism proclaim that liberty of conscience is necessary; and not a few Catholics, from the liberal school, as they call it, who thus call themselves liberal Catholics, are of the same mind with the liberal rationalists. But what is liberty of conscience? Generally, according to its defenders, it can be called the faculty of thinking and doing those things which are more pleasing in those matters which relate to God and religion. We ask, therefore, whether man enjoys this right, or this liberty of conscience: and note the words of the question, for we inquire concerning the right.

II. First preliminary note. In the first place, I say that faith is able to be imposed upon no unbeliever through violence, which faith he refuses to admit; because to believe is of the will, as St. Thomas says in IIaIIæ, q. 10, a. 8. Wherefore the Council of Toledo commanded these things: «But concerning the Jews, the holy Synod commands, that force be inflicted upon no man in order that he believe; for God shows mercy to whom He wills, and hardens whom He wills.» (Cf. Francisco Victoria, Relect. V. de Indis, §. XV). Whence they indeed calumniate the Catholic Church, who say that she does violence to consciences in order to obtain the faith of Christ. Certainly, there has been, and is, violence—but the Church has suffered it and indeed now suffers it; she has not inflicted it, as the history of the martyrs and persecutions manifestly attest.

III. Second preliminary note. For our purposes, so that the exercise of true liberty may be had, it is necessary that it disparage no duty: for liberty is not for evil, but for good (Ps. 50, XIV). Therefore as often as a man abuses it for evil, it ought not to be called liberty, but more truly license. To ask, therefore, whether liberty of conscience is licit, is the same as to ask whether the liberty of thinking and doing those things, which are more pleasing in matters which are concerned with God and religion, disparages the duties toward God Himself. This precisely is the sense of the question, and under this aspect it is to be solved; and its solution is easy.

IV. Third preliminary note. In truth, this question, posed in this manner, is able to be defined 1° absolutely, or liberty of conscience considered in itself; 2° relatively, or liberty of conscience considered with respect to social cooperation: under which latter aspect it is chiefly defended by the adversaries. — Let the first conclusion, therefore, be stated.

V. Liberty of conscience, considered in itself, is entirely impious. And indeed, man, by a most strict duty of nature, is held to think rightly of God, and of those things which look to religion, both speculative and practical (33, II). But voluntarily to make resistance to a most strict duty is license, not liberty; and if the discussion, as in our argument, is concerned with the voluntary transgression of a duty toward God, the aforementioned license is an impiety. Since, therefore, through liberty of conscience, a right is given to man of thinking of God as it more pleases him, this liberty, this right is a true impiety. — But, because this first conclusion is hardly examined by the adversaries, the things already said suffice for its proof; and I arrive at the second part of the question. And thus let the second conclusion be stated.

VI. Liberty of conscience, socially considered, if it is able to be tolerated in given circumstances, yet never is to be approved, and much less to be protected or inculcated. That it is able to be tolerated in given cases is easily admitted: for many other evils are tolerated, or are not punished (for to tolerate is not to approve, nor simply to permit, but only not to punish)—no indeed, it sometimes happens that they ought to be tolerated in society, for otherwise worse evils would follow. But this tolerance ought not to be approbation, nor protection, nor inculcation. — The thesis is proved. Liberty of conscience, socially considered, is founded in nothing other than political atheism: it is most pernicious to society, and self-contradictory. Therefore liberty of conscience, socially considered, is in nowise able to be approved. The antecedent is proved.

It is founded in political atheism alone. And indeed, as has been said in the preceding number, liberty of conscience is a right, conceded to individuals, of thinking of God as they should please, or of submitting those things which are of God and religion, and the duties following from these, to the definition and arbitration of individual conscience, which thus is constituted as the criterion of religion. But just as in many other things, man not only errs from ignorance, but also from malice, so in the things which pertain to religion; nay more, in these more than in others, for religion imports more severe duties, to which the depraved passions make resistance: which errors, both speculative and practice, yet constitute an impiety in the religious order. But because, as has been said, in liberty of conscience, the criterion is the individual reason, the right of liberty of conscience is truly a right to error and impiety: which right indeed is not able to be approved in society and by society, unless at the same time there be set in place religious skepticism or political atheism.

It is most pernicious to society. For, as long as actions remain in the conscience, they are proper to the individual, and do not fall under judgment except that of God. But by the very fact that they are manifested, they have relation to the members of society, and consequently, when they inflict evil upon the members of society, they fall under the purview of the social authority. Now just as men suffer either scandal or any other injury whatsoever from the improbity of other men, so a fortiori they suffer scandal and injury from public and unpunished improbity, and much more from the permitted and approved dissemination of error and impiety, by which the intellectual and moral perfection of men is directly impeded. Therefore not to impede, nay more, indeed to approve these scandals, these injuries, more grave than corporal injuries, is not only impiety toward God, but is a perversion of the social order itself.

It is self-contradictory. And in fact, either liberty of conscience is a right, or it is not. If it is not, why is it noisily proclaimed? But if it is a right, why is it limited? In this limitation is clearly found the contradiction of the defenders of liberty of conscience. Indeed, not only do they prescribe religion, but they also forcibly impose in regard to civil laws, in regard to the king, etc. But neither civil laws, nor the king, nor society itself are above God, Who being removed, all other things topple, and all morality is either absurdity or the animal law of the stronger (29, II). Therefore if liberty of conscience is a right with respect to the duties of religion toward God, and political authority is scrupulous in preserving this right inviolate, the political authority itself is not able to impede it, without manifest contradiction and without open violence, so that that right is exercised fully with respect to royal power, with respect to civil laws, and finally, with respect to civil society itself. — And if it be said, that liberty of conscience should be restrained, such that duties toward society are not harmed; I rejoin, therefore much more ought not liberty to be restrained, but rather license of conscience, lest the duties toward God be abused—which duties are more weighty than social duties, such that the latter do not exist, nor are able to exist, without the former.

VII. Corollary. Rightfully therefore are the following propositions condemned in the Syllabus of Pius IX, which propositions affirm both liberty of conscience and indifferentism:

«Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, led by the light of reason, he shall consider true» (Prop. XV).

«Men are able to find the way of eternal salvation in the worship of any religion whatever, and therein to attain eternal salvation» (Prop. XVI).

VIII. Note. A difficulty is resolved. The things which present-day liberals teach concerning liberty of conscience in the social order are not new—indeed, Rousseau had already given them in his Social Contract, Book IV.8. Let us therefore hear this sophist, that from his mouth we might become acquainted with the arguments of the others: «Subjects are not obliged to render a reason to the civil power concerning their opinions, except so far as these are referred to the community. But it is in the interest of the State, that each and every citizen profess a religion which impresses upon him a love of his duties; but the dogmas of this religion concern neither the State nor its members, except so far as they are referred to morals and to the duties which the citizen is obliged to fulfill toward others.»[1]

That these things were written by Rousseau in hatred of the Catholic Church, is manifest from the things which he invents with respect to the will in the chapter cited. Next in order, we shall see the contradictions and absurdities which we encounter throughout in his words and in those of his imitators. — Without doubt, so long as religion is shut up in the interior conscience, it lies hidden from both the civil and ecclesiastical power; and consequently God alone is the judge of it. But when religion becomes the rule of morals, by this very fact it is referred to the community. In this sense, Rousseau thought the State to be present so that each citizen might profess that religion which impressed upon him a love of his duties. But only true religion impresses upon citizens a love of their duties. Therefore, contrary to what Rousseau illogically concludes, it ought entirely to be said, that even from his principles, it is not only fitting to the State that the true religion be at least externally observed by all the citizens, and the propagators of irreligion or of false dogmas be restrained, but it is incumbent upon it as a most grave duty of carrying out that which is proper to it.

All of which things are in such wise true, that Rousseau himself, who defends liberty or license of conscience against the Catholic Church, utterly destroys it after the words just cited by making firm the omnipotence of the State, or Statolatry: «Therefore there ought to be admitted a purely civil profession of faith, the right of which belongs to the Sovereign to determine the articles, not as dogmas of religion, but as they are sentiments of sociability, without which it is impossible that a man be a good citizen and faithful subject. The Sovereign has no faculty for imposing faith in articles of this sort, but he is yet able to make an exile of him who does not believe them, not as one who is impious, but as one who is unsociable and incapable of sincerely loving the laws and justice, and of pouring out one’s life, if necessary, for the carrying out of a duty. And if a man were publicly to admit the aforementioned dogmas, yet led a life as if he did not believe them; let him be punished by death: for he perpetrates the greatest crime, because he has spoken falsely before the law: qu’il soit puni de mort: il a commis le plus grand des crimes, il a menti devant la loi.»[2]

Thus speaks Rousseau, and thus speak they who follow after his sophisms. They set out from the principle: Nothing pertains to the Sovereign concerning the religious opinions of the subjects, so long as their exterior life is conformed to social duties, but immediately it is added, that a code of religion ought to be rendered by the Sovereign, which ought to encompass positive dogmas, that is, the existence of God, the future life, rewards for good deeds, and punishments for bad; and negative dogmas, which Rousseau reduces to intolerance alone. Finally, it is concluded that those citizens ought not to be tolerated—and indeed ought to be expelled from the State or punished by death—who do not hold to this civil religion, even if in other quarters they observe all those things which pertain to duties toward others. That is, religion is excluded from the State by reason of liberty of conscience, as if the principles of true religion should in fact be of no concern to the State; by reason of sociality, religion itself is submitted to the arbitrary will of the Sovereign; and by the arbitrary will of the Sovereign, the citizens, in admitting religion, ought to comply in a blind fashion, under pain of exile or death!

Nor could it have been concluded in any other way. For liberty of conscience, if once admitted, just as it is opposed to true religion, thus is opposed to the true felicity of the State; because there is no morality without God, and no duty without religion. But if regulation in those matters which pertain to religion is taken from the Church of God, it is necessary that it be given over to the arbitration of the civil power: which, lacking authority in religion, imposes its own tyranny upon consciences; and thus the true liberty of souls is oppressed by means of the same principles with which the false liberty of conscience is proclaimed by Rousseau and his followers. — Cf. Principes du Droit politique mis en opposition avec le Contrat social de J-J. Rousseau, par Honoré Torombert, etc., Lib. IV, par M. Lanjuinais, p. 335 (Paris, 1825).


NOTES

[1] This is our direct translation of the Latin text given by the Cardinal. The 1782 translation by G.D.H. Cole from the French renders it thus:

«The subjects then owe the Sovereign an account of their opinions only to such an extent as they matter to the community. Now, it matters very much to the community that each citizen should have a religion. That will make him love his duty; but the dogmas of that religion concern the State and its members only so far as they have reference to morality and to the duties which he who professes them is bound to do to others.»

[2] Cole renders it:

«There is therefore a purely civil profession of faith of which the Sovereign should fix the articles, not exactly as religious dogmas, but as social sentiments without which a man cannot be a good citizen or a faithful subject. While it can compel no one to believe them, it can banish from the State whoever does not believe them — it can banish him, not for impiety, but as an anti-social being, incapable of truly loving the laws and justice, and of sacrificing, at need, his life to his duty. If any one, after publicly recognising these dogmas, behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished by death: he has committed the worst of all crimes, that of lying before the law.»


19:27

I’m moving! [I Have to Sit Down]

You guys. First I had a hard time keeping it a secret, and then I got busy and forgot to tell you, and so now here it is at the last minute: I’m moving. To Aleteia. Starting today! Here’s my first post: A quiz to see if you are Simcha Fisher. I dunno, it seemed [Read More...]

18:07

Notice of De Koninck volume from Presses de l’Université Laval [John G. Brungardt, Ph.L.]

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The third volume of Laval’s editions of Charles De Koninck’s oeuvres has been available for some time now, but has only recently come to my attention. It contains De Koninck’s work for the Tremblay Commission on Canadian federalism.

See the table of contents here.


17:42

Is Islam a Heresy or World Religion? Legos and Muhammad [Taylor Marshall]

Answer begins with an H

The politically incorrect article I wrote last week on a Thomistic response to the Islamic Refugee Crisis is approaching 100,000 views and 20,000 shares on Facebook and some 300 comments – many of which debate the “nature of Islam.”

I wanted to continue this discussion in a sequel article about the relationship of Islam with Christian theology. You’ll find this sequel in the post below:

The question is really about whether Islam is a “Christian heresy” or a whether Islam is a “world religion.”

The English word “heresy” derives from the Greek word αἵρεσις (hairesis) meaning “choice” or “a thing chosen.” (It’s the original “pro-choice” position.) Saint Paul uses the word in Titus 3:10 to describes “heretics” – those that pick and choose their own beliefs instead of following the beliefs taught by the Apostles:

  • heresy = I choose my own personal beliefs just as I choose my meal at Luby’s
  • orthodoxy = I receive the Apostolic beliefs passed down through papally ratified Councils, Scripture, and Tradition (orthos in Greek means “right or straight”; eg. orthodontics means “straight teeth” and orthodox means “straight belief.”

Heresy is not a slur or pejorative term. It simply describes a method of religion.

An Analogy from Legos

Let’s say you purchased the Lego edition of the Star Wars’ Death Star. It comes with a box full of plastic pieces and a paper set of instructions. If you follow the directions and follow the instructions correctly or “straight” then you have an orthos situation and having something that looks like this:

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But if you buy this box of Legos and personally choose how you yourself want to assemble it, you’ve created your own reality and arrange the pieces however you want to create any pattern that you like. For example, this Lego pattern:

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In the first example, the Lego pieces were arranged according to the creator’s instruction. In the second example, the Lego pieces were arranged in accord to the person’s “choice” or “hairesis.”

Legos and Islam

When it comes to Islam, we must ask whether Islam is a religion totally distinct from apostolic Christianity (like Hinduism or Jainism or Aztec paganism) or whether it is a “rearrangement” of historic Christianity (like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses).

The History of Muhammad

If you haven’t listened to my free audio talk on “Is Muhammad Evil? (audio)” please take a listen. It will give you a short biography of Muhammad and show how he fell under demonic influence.

You will learn that the ancient Arabs were generally polytheistic pagans. They worshipped a variety of deities, as did the ancient Greeks and Romans. However, Muhammad belonged to a social circle that was composed heretical Christians as we will discuss below.

Listen to Dr Marshall’s Is Muhammad Evil? (audio)

Islam as a Heresy Stealing from Christian Ideas

The great Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc (d. 16 July 1953) foretold the future rise of Islam in his book The Great Christian Heresies (a book that every member of the New Saint Thomas Institute should read).

Hilaire Belloc wrote, “[Islam] began as a heresy, not as a new religion….It was a perversion of the Christian religion…an adaptation and a misuse of the Christian thing.” Belloc is following Saint Thomas Aquinas, Dante, and Saint John of Damascus who describe Islam not as a new religion but as a corruption of Christian ideas, notably a pre-existing Christian heresy of Nestorianism.

Was Muhammad modifying the Christian Heresy of Nestorianism?

The Islamic sources reveal a heretical Christian monk having an influence on the young Muhammad. Moreover, Muhammad’s first wife Khadija belonged to a heretical Christian sect since she was familiar with the God of Abraham, Jesus, Mary, and the angel Gabriel. Khadija once consulted a monk about Muhammad and the monk was named Nestora. Given the time period and geography and name, we are likely dealing with Nestorian branch of heretical Christians having influence over Khadija and her husband Muhammad.

Nestorianism was a heresy that denied that the baby Jesus born of the Virgin Mary was the Divine Son of God. Rather, the heretic Nestorius taught that the historical Jesus Christ was a combination of two persons: the Son of God (one divine person) and the historical and human Jesus son of Mary (one human person). Catholic orthodox teaches that Jesus Christ is one Divine Person with a Divine Nature and a Human Nature united but not confused or commingled.

Here are a few teachings of Muhammad that cribbed from Christianity:

  1. Muhammad taught that God chose Abraham (although Muhammad taught that God’s promise went through Hagar and Ishmael and not Sarah and Isaac – hence the term Sara-cenes).
  2. Muhammad taught that Jesus was born of a Virgin (although Muhammad denied that God was His Father).
  3. Muhammad taught that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah (although he denied that Jesus was the Savior and Son of God).
  4. Muhammad taught that Mary the Mother of Jesus was sinless.
  5. Muhammad taught that Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel are important angelic messengers (Muhammad claimed to speak with Saint Gabriel).
  6. Muhammad taught that there is Heaven and Hell.
  7. Muhammad taught that there will be a resurrection of the body as Christians recite in the Creeds.
  8. Muhammad taught that a Creator created the universe out of nothing (as Jews and Christians believe).
  9. Muhammad taught the importance of Christian customs such as fasting, regularly prayer, almsgiving, and pilgrimage.

So the “Lego pieces” being used in Muhammad’s religion are those of Christianity. But he re-organizes these pieces to create a religion in his own image.

Here are some those heretical errors:

  1. Muhammad taught that Jesus Christ is not divine.
  2. Muhammad taught that Jesus Christ is not the Son of God.
  3. Muhammad taught that the Trinity was “the Father and the Son and the Virgin Mary.” He didn’t properly understand the Christian teaching on the Trinity.
  4. Muhammad taught that there was no such thing as a Trinity of Divine Persons as Christians profess.
  5. Muhammad taught that there are no sacraments (eg, no baptism, Eucharist) but only a profession of faith (shahada).
  6. Muhammad taught that lying is allowed. It’s the al-Taqiyya deception. Muhammad said that Muslims can lie to non-Muslims. So when a Muslim tells you “I am peaceful and I don’t approve of terrorism – we can never be 100% ceratain about whether they are being honest with us, because the Quran explicitly gives them permission to lie to non-Muslism.” Mohammed also gave permission for a follower to lie in order to murder a Jewish poet who had offended Mohammed. [Are you learning from this post? If so share it on Facebook by clicking here.]
  7. Mohammad taught that Jesus did not die on the cross and therefore denied salvation through the cross of Christ. Surah 4:157-158 says: “they [the Jews] said, ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’ – But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself.”
  8. Mohammad denied that marraige is monogamous or sacramental.
  9. Mohammad denied the existence of a “Church” and instead had the “State” stand in as the organizing principle, hence the imperative for Sharia Law.

Muhammad is painting with Christian colors, but omitting and reorganizing the structure and form of religion. He’s taking Nestorianism (false belief that Jesus son of Mary is not a Divine Person) and taking it to the heretical next level.

Why Does This Matter? “Islam as Heresy”

If we perceive Islam as a Christian heresy, it helps Christians better understand and address Islam. Muslims are not baptized and do not have faith in Christ as Savior. Hence, they are not Christians. They are certainly not “brothers and sisters in Christ.”

However, they do profess that Jesus is the “Jewish Messiah” (though non-saving Messiah), and the sinless son of Mary.

This matters because we are dealing a demographic of people with a severely “malformed conscience.” We know from Saint Thomas Aquinas and from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that all humans are called to form their conscience in accord with reason, natural law, and divine revelation. Islam leads human adherents to a conscience formed incorrectly.

So the Christian answer is most certainly not: “Just be a good Muslim. Follow your conscience.”

The Christian answer is, “Let’s reform consciences in conformity to natural law (eg, lying is always sinful and polygamy is contrary to nature).”

Even better, the Christian answer is, “Let us tell you the good news of Jesus Christ who is Son of God, Savior, and Divine Mercy. He will lead you to know God as Father.”

Our Goal as Christians:

Our goal as Christians is to remove all error from the earth and lead people to God Who is Truth Incarnate. Our goal is to see all peoples saved and every human person receiving the joy of the Holy Eucharist. This includes Muslims. So we must form consciences properly and evangelize every human heart.

If you want to learn how to do this better, the New Saint Thomas Institute is currently offer a special Catholic Apologetics training module on “How to Share Your Faith to Jewish Friends and Muslim Friends.” It’s available to all of our Basic and Premium Member students:

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If you’re not yet a student Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can watch the video series and quizzes here. If you want to join and get start learning how to share the Catholic Faith with Jewish and Muslim friends, click here.

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The post Is Islam a Heresy or World Religion? Legos and Muhammad appeared first on Taylor Marshall.

13:26

Dating in Light of Matthew 5:37 [Edinburgh Housewife]

Inspired by Cardinal Sarah's wonderful book, God or Nothing, I have been slowly reading the Book of Matthew, and one of the verses came back to me when I was thinking of some basic dating advice. The context is swearing oaths, but the simplicity of the teaching strikes me as pertinent to conversations between men and women: "Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No': anything more than this comes from the evil one."(Matt 5:37).


When someone asks you out on a date, it is better not to obsess on what it all could mean, or why he asked you by text and not in person, by letter or by homing pigeon. If the invitation is, "Would you like to meet me for coffee?" instead of having a brain-freeze, you must ask yourself, "Would I like to meet him for coffee?"  If you answer is "Yes," then say "Yes". If your answer is "No," then say "No." Unless there is a very good reason you should NOT be meeting this person for coffee (e.g. he is a flirtatious married man you secretly fancy), say what you want and don't feel guilty about it. Meanwhile, no man on earth--even the one you are thinking right now is exceptionally sensitive--is going to fall over and die because you said "No."

If the guy shows up for the date in blue jeans and a T-shirt, and you think he should have shown up in a suit, to show proper respect for you or the venue (e.g. the opera), then this may weigh upon your decision about a next date--although frankly I think a man is a man and is going to wear what he's going to wear. If you don't want to go out with a man again just because he wears the uniform of his generation, then obviously you're just not that into him. Personally I think you should give a guy a chance, but that's me. Can you imagine a guy never calling again just because you wore jeans on a date? But anyway, it's up to you, so if he asks you out again, you should ask yourself, "Would I like to go out with him again?" If "Yes" say "Yes" and get used to the blue jeans because you have no right to tell a man what to wear unless you're having a formal dinner party.  If "No", say "No", and if pressed, say you feel no spark. Or you can throw caution to the wind and say you're looking for a Cary Grant type. Please e-mail me what he says. 

I think a lot of contemporary unhappiness could be averted if women just took the time to ask ourselves what we want when we are asked directly if we would like something. Do I? I do, so "Yes." I don't, so "No." Men at swing-dancing, who take what used to be the women's privilege of accepting or rejecting dances, say "No, I'm too tired" or "No, it's too fast" without being the least bit apologetic. (They are not entirely to blame for this appropriation. If women ceased to ask them to dance, we would get our privilege back.) Although I don't like being told "no", I envy the men guilt-free decisiveness. 

There is something to be said for openness, of course. When I went to swing-dancing, I wanted to dance with the men there. Now that I don't want to dance with the men there, I don't go to swing-dancing. (Actually, there are three regulars I'd happily dance with, but you know, it's a long way to go on a cold night, it would cost at least £3, I'd have to look at the smug faces of the other guys and watch beautiful, talented women throw themselves at them.) If you despise all the men in your social circle, then maybe you need to change your social circle.

But even if you like all the guys around, there is no reason for you to have a coffee with one, or have supper with one, or go to a concert with one, if you really object--for whatever reason--to the proposed plan. Maybe you don't like coffee, supper or concerts. Maybe the idea of being alone with him for 1-3 hours makes you cringe. In which case, if he asks you if you would like to have coffee with him, you will probably say "No"--and that's okay.  However, if you like the idea of having coffee or supper with the guy, or going to a concert with him, you will probably say "Yes", and that's okay too. "Yes" to coffee, supper or a concert is not "Yes" to anything else, and if he assumes it is, ask yourself the question again. Do you want to go out with this presumptive chap? If Yes, say "Yes." If No, say "No." If pressed for an explanation, say "You're too presumptive." That'll larn him.

12:31

For "The Hill," A New Man – Pastoral Chief Named Rector of NAC [Whispers in the Loggia]

While several Stateside seminaries have reported upticks in enrollment over the last decade, the largest of the bunch remains across the Atlantic... and as the trend has only served to bolster the Pontifical North American College's standing as the lodestar of priestly formation (and a good bit else) back home, this Monday brings the accordingly consequential word of a change at its helm.

At this hour atop the Gianicolo, the 156 year-old seminary is slated to introduce Fr Peter Harman, 42 – a priest of Springfield in Illinois who's served since 2013 as the NAC's top pastoral formator – as its 23rd Rector. The choice formally made by the Congregation for the Clergy, which accepted the recommendation of the college's 15-bishop Board of Governors, the appointment takes effect on February 1st. In the post, Harman succeeds Msgr Jim Checchio, who returns to his Mom and clan in South Jersey after a ten-year tenure that's significantly solidified the the NAC's resources while likewise growing its enrollment by some 60 percent. (The duo are shown above, with Harman at right.)

For purposes of context, it's no stretch to say that when the NAC sneezes, the US church catches a cold... and, indeed, a good chunk of global Catholicism starts sniffling, to boot. Even beyond its current 250-plus seminarians – a high over recent decades – the reach of "The Hill" is even more tellingly explained in the students' presence from nearly 100 dioceses, comprising a majority of the nation's Latin-church outposts, as well as a handful each from Australia and Canada. (An additional 75 priests in graduate studies live at the college's Casa Santa Maria, the NAC's original home in the city's core until the Gianicolo compound opened in 1953.) Yet whether they come as theologians preparing for ordination or advanced degrees afterward, its alums have formed the modern backbone of American hierarchical leadership: today, no less than two-thirds of the nine Stateside cardinal-electors – including three of the four who lead dioceses – are products of the college and/or the Casa, along with a heavy plurality of the nation's bishops and a wider network that leaves practically no church entity on these shores untouched. Borrowing from another field, it's a profession-wide impact comparable to having the graduate pools of Harvard Law and Yale Law rolled into one.

Six months since just the latest Papal Mass in the NAC's chapel, it still bears repeating that the Hill's dominance stretches across ecclesiological lines: the most diametrically differing figures of the home-crop's top rank as it stands – Cardinal Raymond Burke, now patron of the Order of Malta, and Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago – are both members of the NAC Class of 1975, as are at least six other US bishops. And all around, given its legacy of leadership from the sweep of its hilltop campus in sight of St Peter's – newly anchored by an $8 million, 10-story tower (left) opened in January – the college's role as Rome's unquestioned hub of American Catholic life gives its rector an outsize influence not just on the next generation of shepherds he forms, but the current one which calls the place home whenever they're in town. Lest anyone forgot the principal proof of it, the hospitality and charisma of the 20th Rector created a cult following that, within a decade of his departure from the Hill, would catapult Tim Dolan into the archbishopric of New York... and when Dolan went on to write his own history in becoming the first Big Apple prelate ever elected to lead the national bench, the deciding votes came from the younger appointees whose own priesthoods were marked by the book of conferences he gave his NAC seminarians.

Back to the latest of the line, Harman's appointment to the Rector's Office comes as a surprise given both his background and place in the college's pecking order. In marked contrast to his predecessors who were elevated from within, the new chief isn't the incumbent vice-rector on the Gianicolo, nor anywhere close – indeed, the formal listing ranks his current post ninth among the faculty. As for biography, while being an alum of the seminary, Harman didn't return to Rome for later studies but instead rose rapidly in his home diocese, becoming rector of Springfield's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (and guiding the end of its $11 million, stem-to-stern restoration) within a decade of his ordination in 1999.

His undergrad work done at St Meinrad, Harman's doctorate in theology comes from the Catholic University of America in Washington, with a dissertation on St John Paul II's enrichment of a "theology of suffering." Only in 2013 was the now-incoming Rector called back to Rome to oversee the NAC's program which forms its priests-to-be in preaching, celebrating the sacraments, and works of charity. In addition, he's served as the college's media liaison.

Developing – more to come.

-30-

12:23

Catechism and Solemn Nonsense [That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill]



'Christian education -- the Pope says -- is not only teaching catechism and proselytizing. Never proselytize in schools.'

Don't worry, Your Holiness. Catechism isn't taught in schools and there is no proselytizing. Why try and 'fix' a 'problem' that doesn't exist?

Is it just me, or does anyone else think ecumenism (at least in its modern format) is solemn nonsense?

After all, Our Lord never commanded it.

Still, well done to the Anglicans for trying (but failing) to get cinema goers to pray during Advent.

You can watch the 'offensive' advert below.



The bizarre thing is what with all this papal talk against the solemn nonsense of proselytism, one wonders, or perhaps one already knows, what the Holy Father would say about such a brazen attempt to spread one's religion in the public square.

Never proselytize?

10:00

Interview 025 — Pope Boniface VIII and the decline of the medieval Papacy [Athanasius Contra Mundum]

Download [Right Click]       Play in New Window Today Boniface of Unam Sanctam Catholicam rejoins us to talk about his blogger namesake, Pope Boniface VIII, his life and how politically he ushered in the end of the Medieval Papacy and the prestige it enjoyed from great Popes like Innocent III an Gregory VII, and more to […]

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