Wednesday, 02 December

18:37

The words of men and the universe of minds … [John G. Brungardt, Ph.L.]

CDK Photo
Photo from Vol. II.3 of collected works, published by PUL.

Yesterday, I finished revising my dissertation on the natural philosophy of Charles De Koninck. Only the faculty reader-requested comments remain. Deo gratias!

In related events, the newest edition of De Koninck’s Oeuvres published by Laval Press arrived today. In the book, it was striking to discover a photo of the man that I had never seen before (reproduced above). This newness called to mind some things (some rather obvious): I will never meet him this side of the grave; I’ve spent a significant portion of my life studying his work in philosophy and the work of those minds that he in turn, studied; what I do know of this man I know only indirectly, through the ideas he attempted to put down on paper.

De Koninck tells us:

The object as object acquires no perfection from the simple fact that it is held secret. Even though one reveals it to another, it would not be for all that illuminating. Not all speech (locutio) is enlightening (illuminatio). “The revealing of things which depend on the will of the knower cannot be called illumination but only talk; for example, when one person tells another, ‘I want to learn this, I want to do that, etc.’ The reason for this is that the created will is not light, nor the measure of truth, but it participates in the light; that is why to communicate things which depend on the created will does not, as such, illumine. In fact, it does not pertain to the perfection of my intelligence to know what you want or what you understand, but only what is the truth of the thing.” Because the divine will alone is the measure of truth, it is only divine talk that is always enlightening. (The Primacy of the Common Good, Writings: Vol. 2, 96)

De Koninck quotes St. Thomas, ST, Ia, q. 107, a. 2, c. Here, St. Thomas is considering how one angel speaks to another (a higher to a lower, or a lower to a higher). The Angelic Doctor distinguishes between enlightenment (illuminatio) and speech (locutio). Perhaps we can compare this, in our human discourse, to a meaningful conversation over and against “mere talk.” Speech is “mere talk” when it only reveals our desires or aims apart from the common rule of truth—precisely insofar as it proceeds from me it does not bear the mark of the Primal Truth and is not enlightening (the private good of my own spoken words is enlightening truth only when it shares in the common good measured by God): “For to know what you may will, or what you may understand does not belong to the perfection of my intellect; but only to know the truth in reality.” (St. Thomas, ibid.) As speakers, we are perfected only when we speak in unison with and imitation of the Primal Word. Thus we must avoid vain talk or godless chatter (see Eph 4:29–32, 5:4; 2 Tim 2:16).

In a similar vein, St. Thomas teaches us (Super Ioannem, VII, Lectio VII, n. 1040) that all who speak from themselves are liars. (As De Koninck points out in Principle of the New Order, ibid., 117, if sheer will entirely precedes thought, we only eliminate ourselves from the order of truth: “The liberty of speech is discovered, speech freed from intelligence. The ‘external utterance’ is emancipated. Thought is made subject to language. In the beginning, the word of man. ‘I say unto you, on the day of judgment, men will give an account of every vain word that they have spoken. For you will be justified by your words and you will be condemned by your words.'” [Mt 12:36–37])

St. Thomas then tells us (ST, loc. cit. supra):

Now it is clear that the angels are called superior or inferior by comparison with this principle, God; and therefore enlightenment, which depends on the principle which is God, is conveyed only by the superior angels to the inferior. But as regards the will as the principle, he who wills is first and supreme; and therefore the manifestation of what belongs to the will, is conveyed to others by the one who wills. In that manner both the superior angels speak to the inferior, and the inferior speak to the superior.

Thus illumination (based upon the angelic intellect’s grasp of the truth) in the proper sense can only pass from higher to lower, while speech (based upon one angel revealing its will to another) can proceed from either higher to lower or lower to higher.

Because human beings are all on a par—we all possess the same nature—we only imitate the angels in a distant way in this respect. Their universe of pure intellects is strictly hierarchical; our cosmos, with its materiality and the organic structures upon which our minds and hearts depend as conditions, levels into a sometimes uneasy dynamism the spiritual stasis-in-activity of the angelic order. One human mind, over time, may never achieve the ability to illuminate another human mind. A younger mind may illuminate an older mind. Some old minds are only full of “mere talk,” and it is rare for a young mind to illuminate even his peers.

Yet, in statu viae, we do imitate the angelic hierarchy of illumination in the relationship of teacher to student, master to disciple. One mind strives to pass on to another—in the mode of illuminatio—what it has grasped by being measured by truth. The angels, existing apart from time, need not study history to learn what their brighter brothers know connaturally. Men, by nature historical animals (and historical because animal—organic and material), must comb the past and its records for help from the past luminaries. Yet the human mind may take searching this “dustbin of history” for the science itself; the bibliographical quisquillia and indigestible knowledge stones that Nietzsche condemns are perhaps better thought of as “mere talk” from the past that we must carefully discern. Indeed, if Nietzsche proves anything in his discourse on the advantage and disadvantage of the study of history, it is to show us that the force of a living (present) mind alters where it alteration finds and bends to remove and reshape the past into its own artistic product of the now. (His error comes by taking this to be the whole account of truth in all its possibility.)

This indicates that the historical word (written or spoken) necessarily pales in comparison to the present word (spoken in dialogue with another); the act of philosophy cannot be a long-distance relationship with now-disembodied minds. The human mind, a shade-intelligence, turning outward to find the truth, finds the going hard. The immanent, interior activity of contemplating the truth, then, since it cannot be perfected precisely as an act by someone from history or by another human in the present, necessarily must turn to a source above history and a hope for a vision of the Truth that encompasses all times. —Or, we must turn to that Truth coming down to us; the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; the Primal Truth has broken into our history by taking our own nature.

Thus, now in this universe of minds, in the beauty we see when finding the truth from another human mind, as in my case with Charles De Koninck, we can say that we see the face of Christ in another’s words. This spiritual work of mercy from mind to mind, teaching and illumination in human words and human flesh, takes its nobility and perfection when formed by the Truth of the Word made Flesh.


15:44

The Glories of Detroit. [Dyspeptic Mutterings]

The "Bishop's Mansion" of Detroit. (Photograph owned by the Detroit News). For those who, more or less forgivably, associate Detroit with "ruin pR0n," the discovery of a gem like the former diocesan mansion in Palmer Woods is a salutary tonic. If you're in the area, you can tour it this weekend: Built in the mid-1920s, this 35,000-square-foot Tudor Revival was built by the Fisher

15:03

Confusion about condoms leads to violation of 5th and 6th commandments [Voice of the Family]

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Pope FrancisOn 30th November, during a press conference on his return flight from his visit to Africa, Pope Francis was asked about the Church’s position on the use of condoms as a means  of combating HIV.  A German journalist asked:

Is it not time for the Church to change it’s position on the matter? To allow the use of condoms to prevent more infections?

In his response Pope Francis stated:

Yes, it’s one of the methods. The moral of the Church on this point is found here faced with a perplexity: the fifth or sixth commandment? Defend life, or that sexual relations are open to life?

He continued:

But this isn’t the problem. The problem is bigger…this question makes me think of one they once asked Jesus: “Tell me, teacher, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Is it obligatory to heal?” This question, “is doing this lawful,” … but malnutrition, the development of the person, slave labor, the lack of drinking water, these are the problems. Let’s not talk about if one can use this type of patch or that for a small wound, the serious wound is social injustice, environmental injustice, injustice that…I don’t like to go down to reflections on such case studies when people die due to a lack of water, hunger, environment…when all are cured, when there aren’t these illnesses, tragedies, that man makes, whether for social injustice or to earn more money, I think of the trafficking of arms, when these problems are no longer there, I think we can ask the question “is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Because, if the trafficking of arms continues, wars are the biggest cause of mortality…I would say not to think about whether it’s lawful or not to heal on the Sabbath, I would say to humanity: “make justice,” and when all are cured, when there is no more injustice, we can talk about the Sabbath.

These remarks have caused confusion and controversy inside and outside the Church. Much of the media has drawn the conclusion, perfectly reasonable given the nature of the remarks, that Pope Francis thinks that “there are more important issues confronting the world, like malnutrition, environmental exploitation and the lack of safe drinking water” than giving clear teaching on the question of whether condom use can ever be morally acceptable.

In order to assist in dispelling the confusion about Church teaching caused by the Holy Father’s remarks we would like to offer the following article by Mgr Michel Schooyans. Mgr Schooyans is a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain and an acclaimed academic and writer. The text was originally published in 2005 as part of the book Le terrorisme à visage humain but we expect that readers will immediately see its relevance to the current controversy.

An extract from the book Le terrorisme à visage humain by Michel Schooyans and Anne-Marie Libert

We shall examine statements put out in the last few years by various high-profile personalities in the academic and/or ecclesiastical world, most often by moralists and pastors. We shall call them dignitaries, and shall refrain from quoting them by name to avoid personalising the debate and in order to concentrate our attention on the moral argument.

Disarray and Confusion

Since they refer to recourse to condoms in case of AIDS, these statements have often caused profound confusion in public opinion and in the Church. They are often accompanied by surprising remarks about the person and function of the Pope, as well as the authority of the Church. In the slipstream one also finds the usual list of grievances about sexual morality, celibacy, homosexuality, the ordination of women, Communion given to remarried divorcees and to abortionists, etc. An opportunity like any other to globalize these problems.

These dignitaries have expressed themselves somewhat complacently in the mass media. They have pleaded in favour of condoms in cases of risk of infecting a healthy partner with AIDS. According to them the Church should change its position on this subject.

These statements cause great confusion in the minds of the public; they confuse the faithful, divide priests, upset the episcopate, discredit the body of Cardinals, undermine the Magisterium of the Church and aim head-on at the Holy Father. Other dignitaries, now retired or deceased, had already led the revolt in these areas. Meanwhile today, these remarks have often caused consternation, for people expect more prudence; and moral, theological and disciplinary rigour on the part of these dignitaries who – influenced by ideas fashionable in certain milieu – do their utmost to “justify” the use of condoms by cobbling together a “sales pitch” with all-purpose tricks like “least harm” or “double effect”.

One of these dignitaries has gone so far as to make recourse to condoms a moral duty if one wishes to avoid infringing the 5th Commandment. Indeed, he argues that if people infected with AIDS refuse to practise abstinence, they must protect their partners and the only way to do so, in this case, is to resort to condoms.

Such remarks are enough to leave people perplexed, and they reveal partial and biased knowledge of the most natural morality and in particular of Christian morality. Their way of presenting things is at the very least astonishing.

A PROBLEM OF NATURAL MORALITY

Some reassuring but untrue remarks

The arguments of these dignitaries about condoms is of an unexpected superficiality, and one would willingly recommend to interested parties that they acquaint themselves with authoritative scientific and clinical studies rather than keep coming out with and giving credence to gossip long ago refuted by test purchases by any consumer magazine.

How can one pass over in silence that the effect of restraint which condoms seem to exercise is broadly illusory? It is so, in so far as the said condom is mechanically fragile, as it encourages increases in the number of partners and in variety of sexual experience, and as for all these reasons it increases the risks rather than diminishes them.

As for the only effective prevention, this is to be sought in the renunciation of risky behaviour and in fidelity.

From this point of view, moral qualification of condom use is a problem of scientific honesty and natural morality. The Church has not only the right but also the duty to pronounce on this subject.

“Failure, that is death in any event”

Now these interventions by dignitaries fail to mention recent studies of undeniable scientific value, such as that of Doctor Jacques Suaudeau. In the absence of being aware of the recent studies, the authors could at least bear in mind previous admonitions, emanating from the highest scientific authorities. For instance in 1996 one read in a report by Professor Henri Lestradet, of the National Academy of Medicine (Paris)  : “It is appropriate […] to point out that the condom was initially advocated as a means of contraception. Well […] the “failure” rate is generally thought to vary between 5% and 12% per couple per year of use. A priori […] with the HI Virus which is 500 times smaller than a sperm it is hard to see how there would be a lower failure rate. In any case there is an enormous difference between these two situations. When the condom is not completely effective as a means of contraception the consequence of failure is development of new life, while with HIV failure is death in any event.”

Then, considering the case of the HIV-positive, the same report notes that “The only responsible attitude of an HIV-positive man is actually to abstain from all sexual relations, whether protected or not. […] If a couple envisages a stable relationship, there should be the following recommendations: each [person] to have a screening test, repeat it after three months and in the meantime abstain from all sexual relations (with or without condoms).Then put mutual fidelity first.

The dignitaries, who are authors of the remarks we are analysing, would do well to pay attention to one dramatic conclusion of the medical study which we are quoting: “The assertion proclaimed hundreds of times (by health officials, the Conseil supérieur for AIDS, and associations for the battle against AIDS) ? of the complete security afforded in all circumstances by condoms is without any doubt at the root of many infections of which at the moment one refuses to find the origin.”

Some international campaigns are being carried on in “exposed” societies in order to flood them with condoms. Religious authorities are invited to give them their distinguished patronage. Well, in spite of these campaigns, and probably because of these campaigns, the advance of the pandemic is observed regularly.

In July 2004, one of the most eminent authorities on AIDS in the world, the Belgian doctor Jean-Louis Lamboray, resigned from UNAIDS (the United Nations programme against AIDS). He stated as his reason for resigning “the failure of policies to curb the spread of this disease”. These policies have failed because “UNAIDS has forgotten that real preventive measures are decided in people’s houses and not in the offices of experts.”

Before issuing peremptory declarations, the dignitaries should remember what a doctor, given a lot of media coverage and hardly suspected of sympathy for the Church’s positions, has stated. Here is what the late Professor Leon Schwartzenberg wrote in 1989: “It is of course mainly young people who will spread AIDS; they are completely unaware of the tragedy of AIDS, which for them is an old people’s disease. This conviction is strengthened by the attitude of the political class, much older than they are and which is responsible for [such] feeble propaganda: the official publicity for condoms gives the impression of having been created by people who never use them for people who do not wish to use them.”

Listeners, readers and television viewers therefore cannot take at face value the imprudent remarks addressed to them by these dignitaries, without risking ?  like them ?  seeing themselves accused sooner or later of being “at the root of many infections.”

A problem of Christian morality

Furthermore it is specious to assert that the Church has no official teaching on AIDS and condoms. Even if the Pope systematically avoids using the latter word, the moral problems posed by the use of condoms are tackled in all the great teachings concerned with conjugal relations and the purposes of marriage. When one is dealing with AIDS and condoms in the light of Christian morality, one must bear in mind that to recall this involves some essential points: the carnal act ought to take place within the framework of monogamous marriage of a man and a woman; conjugal fidelity is the best rampart against sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS; the conjugal union should be open to life, to which must be added respect for the life of others.

Spouses or partners?

It follows that it is not for the Church to preach a “morality” of sexual partnership. It should and does teach conjugal and familial morality. It addresses spouses, couples united sacramentally in marriage which is monogamous and heterosexual. Remarks on the subject of condoms aired by the dignitaries are concerned with partners, whether they maintain relationships which are pre- or extra-marital, intermittent or persistent, heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, sodomitic, etc. One does not see why the Church, and less than anybody the dignitaries invested with Magisterial authority, should at the risk of causing scandal, come to the rescue of sexual vagrancy and be responsible for the sins of those who, in most cases, could not care in the slightest, in practice and often in theory, about Christian morality.  “Sin, my brothers, but in safety!”  After “Safe Sex”, we now have “Safe Sin” !

The Church and her dignitaries, then, have no role in explaining what to do in order to sin in comfort. They would be abusing their authority were they to embark on lavishing advice about how to conclude a divorce, since the Church considers divorce is always an evil. It would even be hardening the sinner to show him how he ought to go about avoiding the undesirable consequences of his sin.

Whence the question: is it admissible that dignitaries, who are normally the guardians of doctrine, obscure the demands of natural morality and of evangelical morality, and not rather launch an appeal for a change of behaviour?

It is inadmissible and irresponsible for dignitaries to give their backing to the idea of safe sex, utilised to reassure condom users, when one knows that this expression is a lie and leads to the abyss. These distinguished dignitaries ought therefore to ask themselves whether they are not only inciting people to scorn God’s 6th Commandment, but also to flout the 5th Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The false security offered by the condom, far from reducing the risks of contamination, increases them. The reproach of not honouring the 5th commandment backfires on those who address it to “partners” who do not make use of condoms.

The argument invoked to attempt to “justify” the “prophylactic” use of condoms thus is reduced to nothing, as much in the views of natural morality as of Christian morality.

Perhaps it would be simpler to say that, if spouses really love each other and if one of them catches cholera, bubonic plague, or pulmonary tuberculosis, this one should abstain from contacts to avoid contagion.

THE OBJECTIVE: THE GREAT UPHEAVAL

An error of method

At the beginning of this analysis, we were indicating that dignitaries who advocate condoms were frequently linking to their defence plea, causes other than that of far-sighted and organised sexual “partners”. In fact, one is making too much of this case in order to challenge all the Church’s teaching about human sexuality, then about marriage, then the family, then society, then the Church itself. It is this that explains in part these dignitaries’ almost total lack of interest in the scientific conclusions and the fundamental ideas of natural morality. It is nevertheless these conclusions and fundamental ideas that the dignitaries ought to take into account first of all in their consideration of Christian morality. Because of this error of method – whether voluntary or not – , the dignitaries wish to open the way to an upheaval of Christian morality. They even wish to turn Christian dogma upside down since they reserve the right to a call on it in their opinions to summon the whole institution of the Church into a reform capable of endorsing their morality and their dogma. They intend thus to participate, at their level, in this new cultural revolution.

Nevertheless, as these dignitaries have committed, right from the start, an error of method by neglecting the essential fundamental ideas of the problem with which they claim to be dealing, they are setting out inevitably on a slippery road. Starting from false premises one can only end up with false conclusions. It is easy to see where erratic thoughts are leading the dignitaries concerned. One can summarise them in three sophisms which can be demolished by any schoolboy.

Three Sophisms

First sophism

Major : Not using a condom encourages AIDS.
Minor : Now, to encourage  AIDS, is to encourage death.
Conclusion : Therefore not using a condom is to encourage death.

This distorted reasoning is based on the idea that to protect oneself, is to use condoms. Partners can be numerous. Fidelity is not even envisaged. Sex drives supposedly being irresistible and conjugal fidelity impossible, the only way not to contract AIDS is to make use of condoms.

Second sophism

Major : Condoms are the only protection against AIDS.
Minor : Now, the Church is against condoms.
Conclusion : Therefore the Church is encouraging AIDS.

This pseudo-syllogism is based on an incorrect assertion stated in the major point, namely that condoms are the only protection against AIDS. We are in the presence of a begging of the question, a petitio principii. It is a matter of fallacious reasoning, where the first premise having been presented as indisputable, it goes without saying that the rest is as well. One asserts as true what would need to be proved, namely that condoms are the only protection against AIDS.

A case of polysyllogism

Here finally is an example of pseudo-syllogism, a sophisticated syllogism, which the dignitaries could look into:

Major : The Church is against condoms;
Minor : Now, condoms prevent unwanted pregnancies;
Conclusion/Major : Therefore the Church encourages unwanted pregnancies;
Minor : Now unwanted pregnancies are avoided by abortion;
Conclusion : Therefore the Church encourages abortion.

To sum up, the revival of morality and of Christian ecclesiology has nothing to expect from the perfidious exploitation of the ill and of their death.

Voice of the Family thanks Mgr Schooyans for his permission to republish this article. It was originally published in 2005  as part of Le terrorisme à visage humain by Michel Schooyans and Anne-Marie Libert. It was republished in 2010 at Chiesa news.

The post Confusion about condoms leads to violation of 5th and 6th commandments appeared first on Voice of the Family.

11:41

Dusting Off the Shoes [Edinburgh Housewife]

Today is Artistic Wednesday, and I must praise the committee of the Edinburgh swing-dance society I fled earlier this autumn. Depressed by the snobbishness of the society, particularly the evil LEADS, I decided not to spend another penny of household income in lessons and workshops. As regular readers will recall, I was late in dropping out of the last workshop, so I got a nasty phone call from a male stranger.

Now, this next part is genius. This is how you win friends and influence people.

Feeling irate, I emailed the committee to tell them that I had had an angry phone call from a member of their team and please take me off their list.

The committee emailed back to say they were really sorry and the individual responsible would no longer be on the team. They hoped I would come back as I was a valued member of the society. I recognized two of the three names signed to the bottom of this email, and I remembered that they are friendly women, one particularly cheerful and kind.

I was a bit taken aback that the chap was leaving the team (surely not because of my email?), and I giggled at the idea that I was a valued member of the society. Although if I have learned anything from the Leads, it is that I am not a valued member of the society, I felt flattered all the same.

So I wrote back to thank the committee for their email and to explain why I was not coming back. I had met many great women, and a few nice men, but the power imbalance between the Leads and the Followers, exacerbated by the local habit of women asking men to dance, was just too much. Also nothing marginalizes Beginners more than group dances like the Shim Sham, which are never taught, for we have to stand back looking on wistfully while the Advanced folk take to the floor.

(I learned all the power imbalance and marginalization lingo at theology school, and it is very useful for talking to university students.)

I expected nothing but a cold silence, for who was I to tell them how to run their society, eh? But to my amazement, I received ANOTHER email from the society telling me that I was right about the power imbalance, and how they had come up with a Code of Etiquette in which to train up new Leads, and as there would be a workshop on the group dances this coming week, they were inviting me to attend for free.

At this point I thought, Holy guacamole. Maybe I am a valued member of the society! 

So I wrote back to tell them that  I would take them up on their invitation and, what's more, throw in the £3 for the social dance. There are, after all, two or three chaps there that I enjoy dancing with, and sometimes a fellow Canadian turns up who is happy to talk to anyone.

Of course, I am not convinced that I want to go back to spending my Wednesday nights smiling away and saying "Oh, good job" to a pack of male dance snobs. However, I must admit that the committee really care about winning and keeping new members in their society. And that you really do catch more disgruntled flies with honey than with vinegar.

08:05

The law of folly and time (update on interpreting the pope's remarks) [The Sensible Bond]

One of my favourite Flanders and Swann songs is The First and Second Law. Have no fear. If, like me, you would rather be listening to Flanders and Swann than reading this, I will provide the thing embedded at the end of the post. The song is a witty rendering of the first and second law of thermodynamics, all set to a jazzy beat. It's the way I like my physics anyway.

But this law sets me in mind of another 'law' that current events seem to illustrate with increasingly alarming frequency, and it is this:

the more frequent the incidences of folly, the less reaction time there is before another incidence occurs.

You just notice one act of folly, and before you can think through all the consequences, here comes another one (two, three?). I'm sure Paul Virilio would tell us that such are the laws of speed in a dromological world - a world whose principal characteristic has become acceleration. That helps us but not very much. It only tells us what to expect next: yet more incidences of folly with ever-decreasing increments of time between them.

*************

I am not going to spoil the start of Advent with reflecting at length on the latest foot-in-mouth remarks of the Sovereign Pontiff. Fundamentalists like me are full of meanness anyway, so it would not count.

But, you know who I feel sorry for? I have to suppose for a moment that there are on the ground in Africa priests, brothers and sisters who have been fighting off pressure to get with the condom distribution schemes. Of course there might not be. For all I know all such people might have caved in years ago. But just supposing such people are out there, daily struggling with the mess, under pressure to abandon the Church's line, fully aware of the moral turpitude which has accompanied the devastating spread of the disease on the continent, conscious of the leverage that such a change would give to the Church's enemies or its false friends, what do you think those people felt when they learned they had been effectively "refusing to heal" on a Saturday? Let us hope they have not the time to read the news. UPDATE Is this a hard reading of what the pope said? I took his remarks on the topic to be a clear concession to the pro-condom agenda, not least because he says that the problems to be fixed are firstly the physical ones. But what does the pope really mean in the end? As ever with Pope Francis, he is as clear as mud.

************

I have actually spent most of the last few weeks - when not engaged in my usual duties of shovelling Olympic quantities of excreta and pretending to be Superman - trying to get my head around the attacks in Paris. The place where I work announced a minute's silence for the victims of the shootings on the Monday following the attacks. The boss was then inundated with emails asking why similar minutes of silence had not been organised to honour the memory of those who died in Beiruit on the Thursday before or in Kenya on the Saturday.

*Sigh*. As I say, the incidences of folly just seem to multiply exponentially by the week. And our ability to fend them off, to take stock and reflect, is accordingly diminished.

The machine gun changed warfare for good. An advancing battalion could now be cut down in a matter of seconds, rather than after hours of bloody fighting. Curiously, Richard Gatling who invented one of the first efficient models of this kind of weapon, believed that it would reduce the size of armies because not so many soldiers would be needed to fight. That's what I call offensive thinking. The defensive reality is that it reduced the size of armies by sending soldiers to meet their Maker sooner than expected. The savings in wages surely paid for the guns and the arms broker's bonus at the same time!

Whatever happens, we have got
The Gatling gun, and they have not


as I believe Belloc wrote. But my point here is that today we face a kind of information weapon than rains down its bullets of stupidity on us. It's not like being taken down by a sniper, robbed of our senses by a dum dum bullet to the brain. The information machine gun just rips through our guts. Remember you used to have a heart there? Yes, what happened to that? And the spleen, the spleen!

News story after news story after news story. We cannot process it all. We should not try to. Maybe the first tactic for reducing the effectiveness of the information machine gun is to refuse to break cover and give it what it wants: our attention.

I'm amused by the number of pieces I read these days of people going on a digital detox: staying away from the internet for a month at a time just to recover some mental balance. Well, of course that is a slightly different problem. But the effect is the same. Mental imbalance and moral folly sometimes follow hard on each other, as Lady Macbeth could attest.

**************

A last word here - since this is becoming a digest of recent unrecorded reflections - about Islam and Jihad. I might write about Islam at some point, but I'm struggling at the moment with how much there is to know and how little I currently know. This is a two-pronged task. It involves not only studying what Islam was meant to be originally, but also what Islam has become in the concrete. There is the Islam of essences and the Islam of history, and they are by no means identical. Not all its contradictions can be resolved as an inflection of Islamic belief. Mix any religion with a cocktail of accelerating events, multiple political agendas and lone wolf loonies, and you have a recipe for confusion. There is some metaphysical link between multiplicity and deceit, or at least multiplicity and error. Yet another reason not to blog too often, eh? There is the old saying:

Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses.

which Sir Humphrey Appleby, an old friend of this blog, translates brilliantly as:

If you'd have kept your mouth shut, we might have thought you were clever.

One for all of us to reflect on, from lowly bloggers to Sovereign Pontiffs.


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Meanwhile, I promised you a bit of Flanders and Swann to finish, so here it is.

02:38

In Defence of Scholasticism [Edward Feser]

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My article “In Defence of Scholasticism” appears in the 2015 issue of The Venerabile(the cover of which is at left), which is published by the Venerable English College in Rome.  Visit the magazine’s website and consider ordering a copy.  Among the other articles in the issue are a piece on religious liberty by philosopher Thomas Pink and a homily by Cardinal George Pell.  The text of my article, including the editor’s introduction, appears below:

Editor's note: Two of the Second Vatican Council's documents dating from 1965 - Gravissimum Educationis, the declaration on Christian education, and Optatam Totius, the decree on priestly training - recommend the doctrine and method of St Thomas Aquinas to the Church. While the former contains an explicit call for "questions... new and current [to be] raised and investigations carefully made according to the example of the doctors of the Church and especially of St Thomas Aquinas" (§10), the latter insists that those training for the priesthood investigate the mysteries of salvation "under the guidance of St Thomas" (§16). As the Church marks the fiftieth anniversary of these conciliar texts, Edward Feser presents a defence of the Scholastic tradition.

Scholasticism is that tradition of thought whose most illustrious representative is St Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-1274) and whose other luminaries include St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), Bl. John Duns Scotus (c.1266-1308), and Francisco Suárez (1548-1617), to name only some of the most famous. By no means only a medieval phenomenon, the Scholastic tradition was carried forward in the twentieth century by Neo-Scholastics like Désiré-Joseph Mercier (1851-1926) and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877-1964), and Neo-Thomists such as Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) and Etienne Gilson (1884-1978).

The theological roots of Scholasticism are Augustinian, and this inheritance brought with it a heavy Neo-Platonic philosophical component. However, the philosophical core of the mature Scholastic tradition, at least in its dominant forms, is Aristotelian, with the surviving Neo-Platonic elements being essentially Aristotelianised.

The Scholastic approach

Scholastic thinkers emphasise a healthy respect for tradition, in two respects. First, they are keen to uphold Catholic orthodoxy. Second, they tend to regard the history of Western thought from the Pre-Socratics through to the medievals as, more or less, progressive. On this picture, Thales, Heraclitus, Parmenides, the ancient atomists and the other Pre-Socratics introduced most of the key problems and offered erroneous but instructive solutions; Socrates, Plato, and (especially) Aristotle set out at least the outlines of the correct solutions; later thinkers from various traditions - pagans like Plotinus, Christians like Augustine, Jews like Maimonides, and Muslims like Avicenna - built on this foundation and contributed further key insights; and the great Scholastics, such as Aquinas, finally combined these elements in a grand synthesis, preserving what was best, weeding out error, and adding yet further new features of their own. The result was a well worked-out general account of fundamental metaphysical notions such as change, causation, substance, essence, and the like; of lines of argument concerning the existence and nature of God, the immateriality and immortality of the human soul, and the natural law basis of ethics and politics; and, where sacred theology is concerned, an application of these philosophical results to Christian apologetics and to the explication and defence of the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the relationship between nature and grace, and so forth.

The history of modern philosophy, on this view, has largely been a gradual unravelling of the fabric of this hard-won achievement, and a return to one or the other of the errors of the Pre-Socratics, whether Parmenides (in the case of Spinoza, say), or Heraclitus (Hume), or the atomists (modern reductionist materialism). The intellectual and moral pathologies of modernity reflect these errors, and their cure requires a recovery of the wisdom of the best classical and medieval thinkers.

It would be a deep mistake, however, to conclude from this that the Scholastic approach is simply dogmatically to reiterate the views of certain favoured writers of the past. As the summary just given itself indicates, the Scholastic attitude is to look for and appropriate truth wherever it is to be found, including a wide variety of non-Christian sources. Nor does the Scholastic suppose that even the greatest thinkers of the past solved every problem, got everything right, or cannot still be improved upon even where they did get things right. The idea is not to keep the tradition frozen in the form it took at some particular point in the past (the thirteenth century, say). The idea is rather that you have to master the tradition before you can improve it, apply it to new and unforeseen problems, and then hand it down to future generations for yet further novel applications and improvements. The Scholastic regards the tradition he inherits as a plant to be cultivated and occasionally pruned, not a fossil to be stuck in a museum display case.

Then there is the heavy emphasis that the Scholastic tradition puts on rational argumentation. It is no good, for the Scholastic - contrary to a common caricature - simply to take a view because Aristotle, or Aquinas, or anyone else happened to hold it. (Aquinas himself famously regarded arguments from human authority as the weakest of all arguments.) One must provide a rational justification, or yield to rival views which do have such a justification. Thus, vigorous disputation has always been a key component of Scholastic method, with arguments from all sides of a particular issue carefully weighed before a position is staked out. And a good Scholastic knows that his own argumentation for that position ought to involve the gathering of evidence from all relevant domains of knowledge, the making of careful distinctions, precision in the use of words, the setting out of explicit lines of reasoning, and adherence to canons of logical inference.

In terms of both its content and its method, then, the Scholastic tradition claims to provide genuine knowledge of a philosophical and theological sort - knowledge which might be systematised and presented in formal treatises, and was so presented in works from Aquinas’s Summa Theologiaedown to the manuals of the Neo-Scholastics. The function of such works is not only to pass on the tradition to future generations of philosophers and theologians, but also to acquaint natural scientists, social scientists, and other academics with the philosophical and theological prolegomena essential for a proper understanding of every other field of inquiry, and to provide the seminarian with the philosophical and theological formation he will need as a priest. The Scholastic manualist thereby aims faithfully to respond to the commission set out in papal documents from Leo XIII’s Aeterni Patris to St. John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio.

Critics of Scholasticism

In the years after Vatican II, however, the Scholastic tradition went into an eclipse from which it is only now starting to emerge. Indeed, that tradition has, among Catholic intellectuals of a certain generation, been routinely denounced - sometimes even by people who are otherwise theologically conservative - with epithets like “Baroque Neo-Scholasticism,” “sawdust Thomism,” and “manualism.” Usually the denunciation is treated as if it were self-evidently correct, with little explanation given of exactly what is wrong with the tradition being denounced. When reasons are given, they are uniformly weak.

Let’s examine them. Recently, Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart rehearsed some of these stock objections, alleging, on the one hand, that the Thomist tradition from the sixteenth century to the twentieth represents “an impoverished early modern distortion of the medieval synthesis.”1 On the other, he assured his readers that:

Thomas was a dynamically original thinker, who today would make as avid a use of Darwin and Bohr as he did of the Aristotelian science of his day; Thomism, by contrast, is a school, which too often clings to its categories with the pertinacity of a drowning man clutching a shard of flotsam.

Notice first the incoherence of these charges. Hart claims that modern Scholastics have “distorted” or departed from the tradition, but also that they dogmatically “cling to” and “clutch” the tradition. So which is it? Such contradictory accusations are very commonly flung at Neo-Scholasticism. On the one hand, Neo-Scholastics are accused of having an inflexible “fortress mentality,” and of being insufficiently sensitive to the concerns of “modern man” or the findings of modern science. On the other hand, they are accused of selling out to modernity in various ways, such as by adopting a modern “Wolffian rationalist” theory of knowledge, or by adopting a “two-tier” conception of nature and grace that allegedly paved the way for modern philosophical naturalism and even atheism.

Neither sort of accusation is just. For one thing, far from sticking their heads in the sand in the face of modern science, the Neo-Scholastics and Thomists of the twentieth century were keen to show how its discoveries are fully compatible with the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition (as evidenced by the unjustly neglected works of writers like Vincent Edward Smith, Henry Koren, Andrew van Melsen, James Weisheipl, and William A. Wallace). Nor have modern Scholastics been dogmatic reactionaries in the practical domain. Building on the work of Robert Bellarmine, Francisco Suárez, Francisco de Vitoria, and Bartoloméo de Las Casas, they have argued that Thomistic natural law theory is compatible with individual rights, democracy, and limited government.

The peremptory and sweeping charge that modern Scholastics “distorted” Aquinas is also entirely tendentious and partisan. The usual bases of this charge concern several areas where the interpretation of Aquinas’s views has been a matter of controversy. For example, it is sometimes claimed that Thomas de Vio Cardinal Cajetan (1469-1539) misinterpreted Aquinas’s teaching on the analogous use of language, and passed this misunderstanding on to the later Thomist tradition. But whether this is so is by no means a settled matter - Cajetan has his defenders to this day - and in any case it hardly marks a dividing line between Neo-Scholastics on the one hand and faithful interpreters of Aquinas on the other. (The late philosopher Ralph McInerny was both a Neo-Scholastic admirer of the manualist tradition anda critic of Cajetan.)

The precise grounds for the accusation of “Wolffian rationalism” are seldom made very clear, but the idea seems to be that Neo-Scholastics have somehow departed from Aquinas’s view that knowledge comes through our sensory experience of the real world, and adopted the modern rationalist tendency to ground knowledge in an order of “essences” grasped a priori. But there is nothing in the work of Neo-Scholastics that entails this. It is true that they have made use of the rationalist’s Principle of Sufficient Reason, according to which all reality is intelligible. But far from being a distortion of Aquinas, this principle is itself implicit in Aquinas, insofar as it follows from Aquinas’s well-known thesis that being (objective reality as it is in itself) and truth (reality as it is known to the mind) are convertible with one another, the same thing looked at from different points of view.

As to the allegation that the Neo-Scholastic understanding of nature and grace paved the way for modern atheism, it is simply aimed at a ludicrous caricature. The charge is that Neo-Scholastics sealed off the “two tiers” of nature and grace in a way that made the former entirely self-contained, so that man has no natural need of God. But this presupposes that the Neo-Scholastic understanding of “nature” is the same as that of the modern philosophical naturalist or materialist, which it most definitely is not. On the contrary, for the Neo-Scholastic, rational demonstration of the existence of God is something of which natural reason is capable, and the knowledge and worship of God is thus part of our natural end. Hence the Neo-Scholastic conception of nature, far from entailing atheism, positively excludes it. It is the conception of nature affirmed by thinkers like Aristotle and Plotinus - pagan theists who regarded the knowledge and service of God as the highest end of human life - and not the desiccated “nature” of a David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, or Richard Dawkins. What grace adds to nature properly understood is the promise of the supernatural, “face to face” knowledge of God entailed by the beatific vision. And in emphasising the distinction between nature and grace, Neo-Scholastics were concerned, as Pope Pius XII was in Humani Generis, to counter theological doctrines which would “destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order” by collapsing grace into nature. A number of important recent works have begun at last to rehabilitate this unjustly maligned aspect of the Scholastic tradition.2

Where matters of ethics are concerned, the Scholastic tradition has been accused of “legalism.” The suggestion is that a law-oriented approach to morality of the sort one finds in Scholastic manuals is a holdover from the nominalism and voluntarism of William of Ockham. Yet law has always been at least a component of a biblically-grounded morality - Moses was hardly an Ockhamite! - and there is bound to be a “legal” aspect to any workable system of ethics. If there are objective moral principles, we need to know how to apply them to concrete circumstances, and working this out carefully and systematically entails that casuistry will be a part of any serious moral theory. There is also the fact that the priests for whom the ethics manuals were largely written needed guidance in the confessional, as did their penitents. That means, inevitably, a way of telling mortal sin from venial sin - grave matter from light matter, sufficient knowledge from insufficient, sufficient consent from insufficient, in all the areas of human life where we find ourselves tempted. This too inevitably gives rise to a system of casuistry. Hence, it is not Ockhamism or “legalism” that leads us to the approach of the manualists, but rather the very nature of the moral life, and also the Catholic sacrament of penance.

Then there are complaints to the effect that the Scholastic approach is “ahistorical” and “out of date.” Such assertions are ambiguous. Is it being claimed that truth is relative to historical epoch and that in the current era Scholastic claims no longer hold true? If so, then this merely begs the question against the Scholastic, who would deny that truth is or could be relative in this way. Is it merely being claimed instead that Scholastic ideas are no longer as widely accepted as they once were? If so, what does that matter? What counts is whether the ideas in question are true. If they are not true, then that would be enough reason to reject them, and their popularity or lack thereof would be irrelevant. But if they are true, then we ought to defend and promote them, and if contemporary intellectuals do not accept them, then it is their views which ought to change, not those of the Scholastic.

Moreover, the claim that Scholastic ideas are “out of date” in this latter sense is itself out of date. Recent decades have seen a revival of interest in Aristotelian and Thomistic ideas within mainstream academic philosophy. While Aristotelianism and Thomism are still definitely minority positions, they are getting a hearing in contemporary philosophy in a way they have not been since the 1950s.3

Finally, it is often remarked that Scholastic works are too “dry” and “ready-made” in their systematicity, lacking sufficient excitement and creativity. (This alleged dryness is the source of the “sawdust Thomism” epithet.) But the complaint is frivolous. Again, what ultimately matters is whether what such works have to say is true, and whether the ideas they convey really are related to one another in the logical and systematic way in which they are presented. No one objects to textbooks of chemistry or history on the grounds that their orderly and systematic presentation of the facts they discuss makes them too “dry” and “ready-made.” How can anyone who believes the Catholic Faith to be true object to there being manuals or textbooks which present the Church’s doctrine in a similarly systematic way?

The need for Scholasticism

In fact, such manuals are crucially needed, now more than ever. As Catholic theologian R. R. Reno has written regarding the abandonment of Scholastic manuals in recent decades:

The Church is not a community of independent scholars, each pursuing individualised syntheses, however important or enriching these projects might be. The Church needs teachers and priests to build up the faithful. To do this work effectively, the Church needs theologians committed to developing and sustaining a standard theology, a common pattern of thought, a widely used framework for integrating and explaining doctrine…

[T]he Church can no more function like a debating society that happens to meet on Sunday mornings, forever entertaining new hypotheses, than a physics professor can give over the classroom to eager students who want to make progress by way of freewheeling discussions… [B]elievers need a baseline, a communally recognised theology, in order to have an intellectually sophisticated grasp of the truth of the faith…

The collapse of neoscholasticism has not led to [a] new and fuller vision... We need to recover the systematic clarity and comprehensiveness of the neoscholastic synthesis, rightly modified and altered by [later] insights… We need good textbooks… in order to develop an intellectually sophisticated faith.4   

It is no secret that catechesis has collapsed in many parts of the Church, and that outside the Church its doctrines are often dismissed as a hodgepodge of irrational prejudices. The neglect of the Scholastic tradition is a large part of what got us into this mess. Its rediscovery will help to get us out of it.

Endnotes

1 David Bentley Hart, "Romans 8:19-22", First Things, June/July 2015.

2 See e.g. Lawrence Feingold, The Natural Desire to See God according to St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, 2010); Steven A. Long, Natura Pura: On the Recovery of Nature in the Doctrine of Grace (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010); and Bernard Mulcahy, Aquinas’s Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac: Not Everything is Grace (New York: Peter Lang, 2011).

3 See e.g. John J. Haldane, ed., Mind, Metaphysics, and Value in the Thomistic and Analytical Traditions (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002); C. Paterson and M.S. Pugh, eds., Analytical Thomism: Traditions in Dialogue (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006); Tuomas E. Tahko, ed., Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Ruth Groff and John Greco, eds., Powers and Capacities in Philosophy: The New Aristotelianism (London: Routledge, 2013); Daniel D. Novotný and Lukáš Novák, eds., Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives in Metaphysics(London: Routledge, 2014).

4 R. R. Reno, "Theology After the Revolution", First Things, May 2007.

02:04

Jesse Tree 4: Noah’s Ark [New Song]

[From the online Jesse Tree.]

A reading from the book of Genesis (6:5-7):

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

When Adam and Eve sinned, something went terribly wrong. It was not just that the world was a sadder place for them. It was not just that now they would have to die someday. Something went terribly wrong inside of them, in their hearts, and all their children were born with darkness in their hearts. Remember that the whole world came from God and was supposed to return to God through Adam and Eve and their children. By the time of Noah, the children of Adam and Eve had become so bad that God decided to send a great flood to destroy the whole world.

Noahs ArkGod warned Noah to build an ark. He told Noah to bring two of every animal into the ark so that the animals would not all be destroyed in the flood. So when the rain poured down and the water rose up even over the mountains, Noah’s family and the animals on the ark were safe, and when the water finally went down and dry land appeared, it was a new day for the world. God promised that he would never again send a flood to destroy the whole world.

But something was still wrong inside the hearts of men. Darkness was still on the earth, and it would grow again.

01:32

Errores del anticomunismo católico [Comunión Tradicionalista]

Aurelio Kolnai

Aurelio Kolnai

El comunismo, como ya denunció Pio XI, emplea el engaño como táctica (Divini Redemptoris, § 58). Podemos se ha aupado hasta alcanzar un puesto importante entre los partidos contendientes en las próximas elecciones. Lo ha hecho engañando a sus electores, entre los cuales no han faltado católicos. Con engaño ha formado unas listas de candidatos adecuados a sus fines. A pesar de su previsible descenso en votos, puede formar parte del gobierno por medio de alianzas, ahora o en otra consulta posterior. Y con engaño, su decidido designio revolucionario puede absorber de hecho la línea de actuación de otros partidos ideológicamente muy débiles.

«Procurad, venerables hermanos, con sumo cuidado que los fieles no se dejen engañar. El comunismo es intrínsecamente perverso, y no se puede admitir que colaboren con el comunismo, en terreno alguno» (§ 60). La mejor manera que se me ocurre de seguir esta sabia recomendación de Pio XI es recurrir de nuevo a Kolnai y citar algunos de sus textos sobre las actitudes desencaminadas que los cristianos han adoptado ante el comunismo.

Busque usted en Internet lo que se dice de Aurelio Kolnai. Hallará datos sobre sus investigaciones fenómenológicas y sobre sus críticas al nacionalsocialismo, pero nada o bien poco sobre el libro Errores del anticomunismo. Que las izquierdas lo callen va de suyo; que los demócratas liberales lo hagan se explica por aquella conspiración del silencio en todo lo que se refiere al comunismo, que ya denunciaba por Pío XI, (§18). Pero, los medios eclesiales ¿por qué lo silencian también? Kolnai hablaba para todos los que coincidían en ser anticomunistas. Veía en el marxismo una amenaza inmediata que merecía una atención primordial por parte de todos. Pero su punto de vista era el de aquellos tiempos felices en que las enseñanzas de la Iglesia se mantenían desde los tiempos apostólicos con una coherencia, incluso externa, que no dejaba lugar a las dudas que hoy ponen a prueba la fe de todo católico. Tenía muy presente las repetidas condenas de las formas de adaptar el catolicismo a las corrientes filosóficas, políticas y sociales que los pontífices del XIX y primera parte del XX lanzaron parapio-xi preservar de contaminaciones mundanas la doctrina eterna de la Iglesia. Su crítica de las tres primeras formas inadecuadas de enfrentarse al comunismo por parte de los cristianos afectaba por entonces a tres desviaciones del catolicismo fácilmente reconocibles. Hoy, por desgracia, se reconocen de manera igualmente fácil como tres «sensibilidades» gustosamente acogidas y mimadas por las autoridades eclesiásticas.

El primero de esos errores es el de los «cristianos demócratas, laicistas, apolíticos o progresistas» (121). Vienen a decir lo siguiente: «los fines políticos, sociales y económicos del comunismo, como tales, son indiferentes o incluso laudables en parte. Sólo se le ha de combatir en cuanto se aferra al prejuicio antirreligioso y sobre todo anticatólico. Si los jefes comunistas renunciaran a la persecución de la Iglesia y al ideal de un ateísmo obligatorio, podría lograrse fácilmente la inteligencia con ellos. ¿No ha dicho el Señor: “dad al César lo que es del César”? ¿no hay que obedecer tanto más este mandato cuanto que se trata de un “César” preocupado por aliviar la suerte de los pobres y por poner de relieve la dignidad del trabajador? … Dios y su Iglesia, lejos de estar ligados a un orden social caduco están llenos de simpatías hacia las justas aspiraciones de las clases trabajadoras … La desconfianza con que nos miran los protagonistas de estas aspiraciones reposa sobre malentendidos debidos a extravíos accidentales de los que ciertos individuos o medios eclesiásticos reaccionarios … se han mostrado culpables en el pasado» (118-119).

A estos cristianos progresistas Kolnai les recuerda que «el César marxista se define por su concepción monoteísta: es decir su función de ser adorado, en una entrega absoluta y sin reserva, como única divinidad, que se confunde por lo demás, con la humanidad y la sociedad organizada, ídolo único de una teocracia total y del todo terreno» (121). Pero además asimila el error de esos cristianos al pietismo que, queriendo «hacer vivir al hombre en las nubes, sacrificando las cosas terrenas a una tibia nivelación y reduciendo la moral y la política a un estado de indiferencia, es frecuentemente debido al error sectario que tiende a rebajar al catolicismo al nivel de una necesidad particular de los católicos; a una confesión más, o sea un grupo entregado un conjunto de prejuicios tradicionales que exigen ser respetados como cualquier otro interés de grupo. De aquí el doble error … de quienes pretenden que, desde el punto de vista de la religión, sólo la religión cuenta, o que los católicos no deben mezclarse sino en aquello que los católicos atañe» (122-123).

El segundo error recuerda la actitud del catolicismo social y anticipa en cierto modo la teología de la liberación. Sus partidarios arguyen que «el comunismo en sí, es profunda e incurablemente anticristiano; pero al compartirlo, guardémonos de despertar la impresión de que combatiríamos forzosamente todo “comunismo” (en cuanto doctrina social y política), incluso un “ comunismo cristiano” si lo hubiera. Porque entonces combatiríamos al comunismo no en cristiano, sino en reaccionario, o en cualquier caso, como “políticos” o servidores de prejuicios económicos, más que como defensores de la fe religiosa».

Según Kolnai quienes así argumentan se engaña sobre la naturaleza del comunismo, que no es como ellos creen «una cosa buena o indiferente, a la que, de un modo secundario y por desgracia … se mezclase un perverso elemento de irreligión. Al contrario, es una cosa absolutamente mala en sí, sin que haga falta considerar su actitud explícita con relación a Dios y su culto, a la fe y a la Iglesia; y es una cosa tan sumamente mala en sí, porque su motivo central  es el ateísmo y el anticristianismo tomado en toda su amplitud. Todo el que procura rebajar la talla de este enemigo a una medida de irreligión y anticlericalismo técnico, por así decirlo, falsea la cuestión desde el principio y rodea al objeto en lugar de penetrar en él» (127).

La tercera actitud errónea surge del enfoque individualista, o personalista, que sostuvo Maritain cuando se encandiló con la democracia americana y se convirtió en adalid del anticomunismo. Sus defensores argumentan lo siguiente: «el comunismo es un materialismo llevado al límite. Reduce al hombre al estado de máquina … Pero el hombre nunca estará enteramente satisfecho con la sola prosperidad material … Intentemos ante todo, devolverle la conciencia de que tiene un alma, despertar en él sentido de la individualidad … Presentemos, ante los ojos del hombre prisionero del imperio comunista, la imagen del hombre occidental, libre mientras él es esclavo» (130).

Kolnai no puede evitar chotearse de espiritualismo del capitalista que emite semejantes críticas: «los burgueses, transpirando idealismo e insultando al comunismo, son un espectáculo demasiado regocijante para no provocar la sátira». Pero luego, precisa cuidadosamente su crítica de esta versión del anticomunismo: «sin duda es justo y necesario atacar el materialismo y el maquinismo comunista, pero a condición de que no se crea con eso haberlo hecho todo», pues resulta «peligroso combatir al comunismo principalmente en nombre del individualismo, o para emplear un término más solemne, más pretencioso y más de moda, del personalismo. … En el plano histórico, es el propio individualismo quien ha provocado, a través de la concepción de una voluntad del pueblo unitaria y masiva, el comunismo; quien ha abierto el camino de la omnipotencia estatal … El individualismo ha decretado que el hombre es la medida de todo». Ahora bien, «la entidad real que se precia de representar a la humanidad colectiva organizada, a la humanidad integrada en un sujeto propio dotado de una conciencia y de una voluntad única y claramente definida, no es otra cosa que el partido comunista» (133-136).

A la vista de cierta simpatías que la más alta jerarquía eclesiástica ha manifestado recientemente hacia la teología de la liberación e incluso hacia líderes y gobernantes comunistas, sin excluir al propio Pablo Iglesias, cabe esperar cualquier cosa de las jerarquías subordinadas de la moderna sociedad eclesial, si repiten la indiscreción de dar una recomendación de voto a los católicos. Todo es posible, salvo, desde luego, la solución que todas estas actitudes pseudo-católicas llaman reaccionaria.

Este desolador panorama empuja de la manera más natural a que los católicos abandonen el combate. Semejante abominación era desconocida y probablemente inimaginable para Kolnai. Sin embargo el ya detectó unaúltima tentación pseudo-religiosa cuyo atractivo no deja indiferente incluso al tradicionalismo. Es la tentación de las «élites de los espíritus cultivados», que «se mueven en un plano infinitamente superior» al de las otras posturas pretendidamente católicas. «¿Vale la pena combatir al comunismo —dicen sus defensores— para salvar la civilización contemporánea? ¿Acaso no expresa el comunismo su esencia mejor que cualquier otro régimen? ¿No será el azote que necesita el mundo degradado, y religioso, insensible a los valores, esclavo del confort material, de las apariencias de la cantidad y de la máquina? ¿No es acaso la plaga que merece este mundo? El tipo de vida norteamericano, cuyo único rival poderoso es actualmente el comunismo, ¿acaso no es un enemigo tan importante como el comunismo, aunque más insidioso, más disimulado, más tentador para la mayoría de los hombres y, por lo mismo, más eficaz y peligroso a la larga?».

Kolnai no podía prever el nuevo orden mundial que representa el grado superlativo de depravación, de esclavitud de corrupción a que puede llevar el espíritu americano tan lúcidamente descrito por Juan Manuel de Prada enDinero, demogresca y otros podemonios. Sin embargo, siguen siendo válidas las objeciones de Kolnai a las élites apocalípticas. En primer lugar recuerda que no podemos despreciar el principio cristiano del mal menor (principio que, dicho sea de paso, sólo es aplicable cuando no hay otro remedio posible y que es, por ello mismo, inoperante en el sistema electoral fundado en encuestas que dan a conocer lo previsible, no lo posible). «No somos Dios —señala Kolnai— ni siquiera bienaventurados, sino hombres in statu viae, que, aunque seamos libres para huir del pecado, siempre estamos sometidos al imperio del mal … En cuanto a los que insinúan que el régimen progresista industrialista de la democracia occidental, comparado con el régimen comunista, no representa siquiera ni el mal menor, estamos tentados a aconsejarles una documentación, ampliada después por la experiencia personal en un mundo en el que no se atrevería apenas a comunicar sus pensamientos íntimos a su mujer, por miedo a que el portero —o alguno de sus propios hijos— pudiese escuchar tras la puerta; en que no se atreverían asistir al culto —suponiendo que esto fuese físicamente posible— por temor a perder, con toda probabilidad, su pedazo de pan en este mundo, aprenderían muy pronto a apreciar el anticristianismo insidioso, el totalitarismo disfrazado, la libertad desvalorizar de este mundo occidental del que están descontentos, y con razón, a pesar de todo».

Pero además y sobre todo les recuerda que es un error «querer abarcar con la mirada el conjunto de la historia futura, lo cual conduce fácilmente a la decisión de no hacer nada» (162). «El hombre es un agente que realmente actúa en la historia, pero no es su dueño; llamado a prestar su concurso a las operaciones de la providencia, no es su autor, ni siquiera, ordinariamente, el intérprete esclarecido. No le está concedido tampoco edificar, conscientemente y a propósito, para un mundo distinto del suyo: para un mundo del porvenir que rompiese la continuidad con su propia sociedad y que hubiera de construirse sobre sus ruinas. Cualesquiera que sean los vicios de que podemos acusar con justicia a nuestra civilización, no tenemos el derecho de desempeñar con ella el papel de ejecutores de la cólera de Dios, ni —lo que viene a ser lo mismo— anticipar con delectación su destrucción por considerarla inevitable» (162-163).

«Sin duda alguna, la subversión cósmica [que supone el comunismo] está llamada a un fracaso cierto. Pero la réplica victoriosa de Dios se hará por “causas segundas”: bien a través de reacciones humanas, mediando fuerzas humanas imprevisibles hoy día; bien por el contrario, utilizando las ahora conocidas, que operarán despreciando los consejos que acabamos de citar…  El imperio infernal, instituido sobre esta tierra no alcanzará sus últimos objetivos; pero es porque su misma invencibilidad será un día truncada por aquellos que no sólo negarán sus fines últimos sino que además experimentarán el placer de combatirlos» (33-34).

José Miguel Gambra

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28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
December 2009
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
November 2009
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829303101
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30010203040506