Fall 1966

Page 1

l,,,~j..-, r6tu~\c5 RCHDIOCES.AN REVIE'lN


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ACTA ~

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CHICAGO STUDIES, edited by the faculty of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary and the priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago, with contrihu· tions by prominent scholars and authors, aims at an articulate presents~ tion of the best that modem scholarship has contributed to the profes· sional knowledge of the priest in the fields of scripture, theology, liturgy, catechetics, canon law, philosophy, sociology, and related sciences. The

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II


{fM~~&~ ,,i.N 1&. Iffi<C IHIICD IT <CD <0 JE ~& N LUME 5

FALL, 1966

,

Content~

i I

Articles

ON DANTE "CANTABILE''

211

I oseph C. Della Penta, O.P.

FAITH AS Woan

227

Thomas N. Munson, S./.

THE PRIEST OF BEING

239 /ames Bertrand

•

p

DosTOEVSKY ADVOCATE OF CHRISTIAN SuFFERING

253 DeniJ Dirscherl, S./.

THE BITE OF THE WATCHDOG

265 Ronald L. HoUoway

THE NUMEN AND THE GooD NEws Is INTRINSIC EVIL A !ABLE TEilM?

v

INDEX

289 Thomas A. Emanuel, C.SS.R. 307 Thomas A. Wassmer, S./. 315

NUMBER 3


Joseph C. Della Penta, O.P.

On Dante "Cantabile" The abiding rekvance oj one oJ the world's gretzles& poets of alltimes

The seven-hundredth anniversary of Dante's birth in florence has come to a close but interest in him and his work continues to grow. Never has his star shone brighter, nor his fame been more widespread. All over the world celebrations of various kinds have commemorated him and his unique poem. Especially in Italy, the past year was a notable one for Dante; cities vied with one another to honor him by congresses, pageants, dramatic illustrations, and programs of many kinds and in every medium. A new edition of the Comedy which is sold only by newsstands at a canto a week is a best-seller. Few are surprised that Italy was anxious to honor one of her foremost citizens, but many are amazed to see his fame leap beyond her borders to other countries and the world at large. In our own United States, Dante's works are studied and loved by scholars, students and discerning readers in ever-increasing numbers. More courses on Dante are given in colleges and universities than ever before. The media of television and radio have competed with each other for a share of Dante programs. 211


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Chkago Studies

Publications on Dante are still forthcoming; several new trans¡ lations of his Comedy continue to sell steadily; and even a commemorative Dante stamp was issued by our Post Office. Some wonder why there should be all this excitement over Dante in the latter half of the twentieth century. After all, despite his obvious talent, Dante (b. 1265 ¡ d. 1321) was nonetheless a medieval man, a militant Roman Catholic, an Aristotelian in philosophy, and a Thomist in theology. He also accepted the geocentric universe and was obviously limited by the science of his time. Even as a poet he has been criticized as being too intellectual, too didactic, too encyclopedic. Some wonder, then, what this poet has to say that is of value to contemporary man.

Despite the "debits" listed above-limitations which might make contemporary man hesitate to plunge into a serious effort to read and understand his poem--competent judges everywhere have always conceded that he did produce a masterpiece. The Divine Comedy is and remains a classic, one of the greatest classics ever to issue from the human spirit, one that has a timeless appeal to all who appreciate a work of genius. Like Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Shakespeare, Dante is one of the supreme poets who always continues to astonish and de¡ light the dramatic instinct of men in every age. It may seem boastful that Dante places himself sixth in the list.of great poets in his poem (the Comedy), but today many experts in literature consider this rank as too modest. Shelley, Byron, Browning, and Tennyson admired him greatly and praised his poetic excellence in lavish phrases. In our own time, T. S. Eliot has called him "the most universal of poets in the modern languages." As he states it, "Shakespeare gives the greatest width of human passion; Dante the greatest altitude and the greatest depth. They divide the modern world between them; there is no third." This should give ample indication that Dante has something valuable to say to every age. Let us examine a few of the qualities of Dante and his work which liken him to contemporary man and place him in the mainstream of present-day thought.


Dante

213

EXISTENTIALISM

In our time we are reaping the fruits of a revolt against the abstract, systematized philosophy of Hegel which was begun by Kierkegaard and developed by existentialists of various kinds so that existentialist themes and insights have become a part of the new theology and philosophy in Protestant as well as Catholic circles. Since poems are not supposed to be abstract, speculative treatises of theology or philosophy, one is disposed to find a more concrete approach in the Comedy and one is not disappointed, for "Dantus theologus" sounds familiar existentialist themes and weaves all kind of variations upon them. In almost every Canto of the Inferno and Purgatorio we find a profound insight into the weakness of man, his misery, his fears, his dread, his nausea, his split-up being, his battle between good and evil, his high aspirations and miserable failures. Dante is no abstract observer on the sidelines. He burns with desire to destroy the causes of misery in all men, himself included, by showing them the true road to rightordered love and inner peace. He reiterates fortissimo that a corrupt society cannot be saved except it purge itself of greed and selfishness, the great enemies of justice and social order, and that a well-ordered love is the indispensable condition for peace. Every portion of the three canticles trumpets the affirmation that man is free, the master of his ethical choices, the maker of his destiny, and that what he makes himself to be in time will determine his eternal condition. Even when a soul is consigned to hell, despite its fears and dread, it willingly seeks its place and knows that it is not so much being forced to go there as finding the place it has prepared for itself and determined to continue to exist in the degree of evil it has chosen. Many aspects of the new theology current in Catholic circles are present in Dante's Comedy. Although in general he is a Thomist in theology (as some great leaders in the new theology today) he is not merely a mumbler of undigested formulae; rather is he an original thinker, one who has become lean in the pursuit of truth under the guidance of the great masters,


214 Chicago Studies

one who has plunged with all his powers into the great mysteries of being. While rethinking and accepting the main lines of Thomistic theological doctrine, he reflects the present approach by steeping himself in Sacred Scripture, by acquainting himself with the thoughts of the great fathers of the Church and many others: St. Gregory, St. Isidore, St. Anselm and St. Bonaventure. He was attracted to Boethius, who left his mark on him. His mysticism is based on the teachings and insights of St. Augustine, St. Bernard and Richard of St. Victor. In many respects his distilled wisdom puts us in mind of the works of St. John of the Cross. He seeks to plumb the depths and scale the heights from the lowest point in the universe, the center of the earth, where gravity pulls down sinners as far as possible from God, through the ascending cornices of the way of purgation, to the heights of triumphant goodness in the many mansions of heaven until he arrives at the very intuition of the Blessed Trinity. If salvation history appeals strongly to the present-day theo路 gian, Dante's poem may be called a revelation of God through a drama of events which embraces the first man and woman, their sons and daughters in ancient times, the chosen people, the Jews, the Christian Church founded by Christ, pagans of every age and all future generations to the end of time. God speaks to every individual, to families, communities, cities, states and nations. Dante is not an abstract speculator and de路 !ached observer, as were some of the clergy in Kierkegaard's time; rather, he desires to understand in order to seek his own salvation and spiritual perfection so that the might have a per路 sonal encounter with God and his Church. He wrote his poem not to amuse the dilettante but to bring all men to a realization that their eternal destiny depends on their commitment to Christ and on their embracing his kingdom with their whole hearts and minds and souls. NoT OUTDATED

Although advancing knowledge has swept away his concep路 tion of a geocentric universe, it has left undamaged his poetical voyage to the other world beyond the grave. If Dante knew present-day astronomy, no doubt he would have modified his


Dante

215

plan for his journey; but unless one is extremely literal, nothing serious is lost in his symbolic descent into the ten circles of hell, the climb up the cornices of purgatory to the earthly paradise and the dramatic and exciting space flight through the lower heavens of the planets and the higher heavens of the stars and the crystalline heaven to the very empyrean. Dante's grasp of the order of the universe in its manifold parts and God's providence in ruling it are so beautifully expressed in language, figure and allegory that his poem can never be outdated but rather will be valid for all time. Benedict XV in his encyclical on the sixth centenary of Dante's birth has some appropriate words on this point: "And if the progress of astronomical science showed that there was no basis for this conception of the world and that the spheres supposed by the ancients do not exist, seeing that the nature, number, and course of the stars and the planets are altogether different from what they thought them to be, the fundamental principle was not the less true that the universe, whatever he the order that sustains it in its parts, is governed by the will-by which it was established-of Almighty God, who moves and rules all things and whose glory shines more in one part and less in another, and that this earth which we inhabit, although it be not the center of the universe, as was believed at one time, was the abode of our first parents and therefore the witness of their unhappy fall and of man's re¡ demption by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ." EMERGING LAYMAN

That Dante was a poet of no mean ability in the Latin language is attested by the fact that he was invited to receive the laurel wreath for his Latin poems at Bologna, but he deliberately chose the vernacular so that laymen and laywo¡ men could understand the more readily and be moved by his poem. Today the layman and laywoman are emerging from their purely passive role and are being challenged to take their rightful places at the call of the hierarchy. Many are surprised that in an age when education was in great part in¡ the hands


216 Chicago Studies

of clerics this layman had emerged to such an extent that besides being a poet he was also an eminent theologian, an original philosopher in some respects, an educated man who summed up in his poem the learning and science of his times. He realized that he had a serious obligation to use his God路 given talents for the promotion of the kingdom of God upon earth, which can be appreciated by remembering the merciless castigation he inflicts upon himself in the words of Beatrice when she meets him after a separation of many years and minces no words in accusing him of being unfaithful for a time to his ideals. When he did heed the inner voice of inspiration and devoted his whole life to his poem, he fulfilled his glorious mission and made a noble contribution to the mystical body of Christ of his own and of all future times. The voices of the famous preachers of his day are stilled and forgotten but Dante's voice has resounded through the centuries and will continue to inspire men to live the Christian life for all gene路 rations to come. Dante was critical of abuses whether he found them in high positions of Church or State and denounced with bitter invec路 tive those whom he considered unworthy of their trust and responsibilities, but he was not irreverent. On the contrary, no one had a greater respect for authority in State or Church, than he. Since God was the origin and source of power in the Church, a supernatural society, as well as of the civil government in the natural order, both authorities were most sacred. It was his outraged love and reverence which lit the fires of his severe denunciations of those whom he thought were unworthy. He did not hesitate to consign to their appropriate places in hell or purgatory both clergy and laity who failed to live up to their calling. High or low, all received their just deserts. That he was mistaken in his information or in his judgment at times cannot be denied, but he tried to be most honest and objective as far as his information allowed. He was not however merely a de路 structive, carping, anti-clerical iconoclast, seeking sensational scandal to make more lurid his poetic incidents. His one aim was to be objective, to judge rightly all things in the light of


Dante 217

eternity, to be the minister of God's justice, to be impartial to friend or foe. He was firmly convinced that the happiness of the human family and its individual members depended on God's plan for the Church and the State and he was angry when he saw that plan thwarted. On the positive side, he gave en· couragement and inspiration to all who desired to do God's will and sang gloriously of the beauty and happiness of virtue in this life and its eternal reward in the next. MonERN PHILOSOPHER

There is another tendency in Dante which prompts many moderns to claim him for their own: his attitude toward the relationship between theology and philosophy. Many thinkers of the medieval era did not have a clear recognition of the claims of philosophy to pursue its investigation on its own power. Some even claim that St. Thomas was primarily a theologian and used philosophy in a very menial way if at all. One of the most salient features of modem philosophy is its jealous regard for its own independence, its complete separation from theological preoccupations and influence. In regard to St. Thomas it is evident from his writings that he made a clear distinction between the domains of theology and philosophy; in fact there are those scholars who say that his most important contribution was his synthesis of the natural and the super· natural orders, his harmonization of faith and reason, philos· ophy and theology. In his view the natural order is not anni· hilated but preserved and subordinated to the supernatural. Theology is the queen of all the sciences; philosophy is the queen in her own house but is the handmaid at the service of theology. Dante departs from the view of St. Thomas on this point. According to his teaching theology is a supernatural science completely exalted above all other sciences; it is so far above them that it does not even stoop to rule them. Philosophy is not subordinated to theology; it is a queen in its own right. The service that it renders to theology is not one of subordina· lion but that of being its own splendid and magnificient self.


218 Chicago Studies

In the words of Gilson: "To aid theology, philosophy has nothing else to do but exist ... And how can she here aid revelation? By the mere fact that, because she is herself 'something visibly miraculous, of which men's eyes may daily have experience, and because she makes other miracles credible to us, it is manifest that this lady aids our faith by her wonderful aspect.' Indeed, philosophy was eternally destined, in the mind of God, to testify in favor of faith before the men of today. And philosophy thus bears witness to faith not only through the light with which it illumines the intellect, but also through the moral beauty with which it ennobles the soul. By this means God gives us to understand that the splendor of wisdom 'has the power to revive the nature of those who contemplate it, which is a miraculous thing.' " Dante furthermore considers philosophy the layman's science, the special province of those not in sacred orders. Although he never finished it, that was the reason why he wrote the Convivio: to give laymen and laywomen an understanding of this most excellent science. That is also the reason why he wrote philosophy in the vernacular-another mark of modern philosophy. In this he foreshadowed Descartes, Bacon and other writers at the beginning of the modern era in philosophy. Dante's political philosophy and his conception of the relations between the pope and the civil powers shed further light on his attitude toward theology and philosophy. Papini in; his usually clear manner sums up Dante's attitude: "He separates political life from religious life: the search for the salvation which concerns the life after death; the realm of justice from the realm of charity; the journey of the living from the triumph of the immortals. "To the two aims, the two ways, the two ideals, correspond the two sovereigns; the pope, at the head of his bishops, who bases his sacred authority on revelation and theology; the emperor, with the kings subordinate to him, who bases his human authority on tradition (the Roman Empire) and phi los¡ ophy."


Dante 219 NATIONAL PROPHET

Italy, since Dante's time, has looked upon him as its prophet of national unity; his ideal of a united Italy under the protection of the emperor, independent of the pope, has been the inspiration of its great patriots in modern times. Dante would smile benignly at the present condition, a strong, united Italy under one government with the pope the independent sovereign of a small territory, the papal states ceded to the rest of Italy. Dante would have listened to Pope Paul VI before the United Nations with great satisfaction as he appeared "among you all, representatives of foreign states, the least-invested, if you wish to think of him thus, with a miniscule, as it were symbolic, temporal sovereignty, only as much as is necessary to be free to exercise his spiritual mission, and to assure all those who deal with him that he is independent of every sovereignty of this world. But he who now addresses you has no temporal power nor any ambition to compete with you." His outraged soul would also rejoice that the civil powers, outside the iron and bamboo curtains, have relinquished for the most part their interference in the spiritual realm of the Church; that they no longer nominate bishops, seize Church revenues and benefices or try to imprison the Holy Father in order to use him for their political advantage. In the northern part of Italy in the city of Trent, nestled among the mountains, on the square before the famous Cathedral where the Council of Trent did so much to reform the abuses deplored by him, the Italian people have erected a statue of Dante, looking southward over the long sweep of the peninsula as if to contemplate the great achievement of ideals he had inspired in his countrymen-a strong united Italy under one central civil power. UNITED WORLD

Dante strikes another chord which is being heard more sympathetically today-the ideal of a united world. Although the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were addicted to extreme nationalism, two world wars in fifty years and the present cold war with threats of annihilation of the human race are making


220

Chicago Studies

political philosophers reconsider their positiOn regarding one world government or at least some form of federation among the nations of the world. Dante's political philosophy, contained in great part in his work De Monarchia (translated by some as On Government) is receiving renewed attention by scholars and statesmen. It has had several printings in the past ten years, and it has been stated upon reliable authority that it and the Constitution of the United States were the chief documents used in drawing up the Constitution of the United Nations. Some hint of Dante's strong views on the importance of a united world for the welfare of mankind can be gleaned by considering those whom he has punished in the very pit of hell, where supreme iniquity is imprisoned. Lucifer the rebel, the proud, the hater of God and man, devoid of the warmth of love, blows his icy blasts to the regions of hell and chews in his monstrous jaw the three great traitors of man's good; Judas, the betrayer of the supreme benefactor of mankind, the Redeemer; Brutus and Cassius, the betrayers of the Roman Empire, the God-given institution for the justice and peace of the human race. DANTE AND LITURGY

The present reforms of the liturgy are based on principles which Dante understood and applied with fine discernment in his poem. Being a well-formed and educated layman, he had a profound realization of the mystical body of Christ and the obligations of its members to worship in fellowship with their brothers. Liturgy means basically a public worship: a work for the people and by the people in a communal action. It demands an understanding of what is transpiring in the religious rites and ceremonies and an active participation on the part of the congregation. It is the main instrument of the sanctification of the members of the Church, the laity's share in the sacred priesthood. A few brief considerations on Dante's liturgical task in his poem and some of the ways in which he fulfilled it will serve to illustrate his fundamental agreement with the Constitution of the Liturgy promulgated by Vatican II. In a word, here is


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the task which challenges Dante's genius: he has to devise a liturgy for the souls in purgatory and paradise which will be suitable for their conditions in the life beyond the grave. By means of sensible signs, actions, postures, processions, songs and dances, he has to take us from the lowest degree of union with God in ante-purgatory to the highest summit of perfection in the inner court of heaven. How he uses sensible symbols to accomplish the purgation suitable to the various stages, and to express the various degrees of glory is truly fascinating and accords admirably with the demands of the Constitution of Vatican II. The following example may serve to show Dante's grasp of principles and his technique in applying them. As Dante enters the first cornice of purgatory, his eye is struck by three marvellous bas-reliefs sculptured on the cliff. They are three examples of outstanding humility, of Mary at the Annunciation, David dancing in simplicity before the ark, and the Emperor Trajan helping a poor woman. The souls of those who were proud in their earthly lives crawl slowly under the crushing weight of enormous slabs of rock, a punishment that is simple but most effective. The prayer that the souls recite is fundamentally that of the Lord's Prayer, a prayer learned i~ childhood and one which contains the basic doctrine of the faith. Dante is insisting that they must become again as little children before they can climb up the other cornices of purga¡ tory and advance in spiritual perfection. On each cornice Dante presents outstanding examples of the virtues to be acquired and the vices opposite to these virtues. There are appropriate hymns, songs, processions and meditations. Besides the Pater Noster, Dante uses the other basic prayers of the Church: the Ave Maria, the Gloria Patri and the Credo, in ways which bring out the riches of their meaning suitable to the stage of purgation and perfection of the souls. He also uses other prayers with which the people of his time were familiar: the Confiteor, the Te Deum, the Sanctus, the Litany of the Saints, many psalms, canticles from the Old and New Testament, appropriate hymns, antiphons, and


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Chicago Studie•

sequences. Incidents and examples from the Bible, lives of the saints, and homilies on the feast or season are interwoven to help the souls achieve an understanding of the life of grace in union with God until they reach the earthly paradise of complete integrity and are ready to ascend to their proper mansion in heaven. The celestial liturgy is especially interesting, although many readers spend most of their time on the Inferno or Purgatorio. A few details may help to illustrate. In the fourth heaven of the sun there is a carol in the original sense of the term: a marvellous ring dance accompanied by song. In two concentric circles twenty.four theologians dance, singing around Dante and Beatrice. In the fifth heaven there is a tremendous cross formed by the souls of warriors and martyrs. In the sixth heaven, that of Jupiter, are the spirits conspicuous for justice. The lights in which the spirits are hidden form themselves into the pattern of an eagle. In the heaven of the fixed stars the company of the blessed sing and dance in circles. In the ninth heaven, the Primum Mobile, Dante is privileged to see the Divine Essence revealed as a single point of intensely shining light; around the point are the nine choirs of angels in nine concentric circles of lights. The tenth heaven is that of the empyrean revealed symbolically as a river of light, streaming between two banks of flowers. Dante sees paradise as a vast, white rose within which are assembled the two courts of heaven, the angels and the redeemed. In his description of the beatific vision Dante uses the symbolism of light with three rings and one dimension and yet of triple hue, bearing the image of a human face. At the beginning of the Paradiso Dante invokes Apollo himself for aid in singing about "the blest realm's image-shadow though it be," and most critics and readers agree that he received and used this aid as no other before . or stnce. THE "COMEDY" AND THE UNIVERSITY

A study of the Comedy can be very effective in another way which is of great concern at the present time: to promote the objectives of a university.


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Dante

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Any educated person who has read the Comedy can see that it is admirably suited to generate and develop a philosophical habit of mind. From its lofty viewpoint it scans the universe of being and sees therein the marvelous order which reflects the divine perfections. Dante tells us that God wrote two books, the book of revelation in which are contained the high mysteries of grace and the book of nature in whose pages are unfolded the great wonders of God's creation. The Comedy is a re· markable summary of the religious, philosophical, literary and scientific culture of the Christian West, which not only trans· mits the treasures of the past but opens up new vistas for the future of man's progress. Dante chose Virgil as his guide through the Inferno and Purgatorio for many reasons but one of these reasons was because Virgil was one of the greatest poets by reason of his wisdom. He was a sage, a philosopher, besides being a poet. He is Dante's model, and the Comedy is not just a lyrical effusion but a song that sings the highest wisdom. According to Newman the primary objective of the university is to foster this philosophical attitude of mind, but he does not neglect its other offices. Although the Catholic university is not to be organized and run as a seminary, and in this Newman opposed some fellow-clerics, he insisted that it must foster ideals and develop the character of a true Christian gentleman. He would agree with Foerster that "the science of ideals is the most important auxilliary science of education." Here again the Comedy can do its share. It is a powerful moving force, a poem that inspires the loftiest ideals and presents in all its evil the distorted character of vice and in all its loveliness the beauty of Christian virtue. It is not a dry, sterile, intellectual exercise, but a vivid, moving, gripping, passionate poem sing· ing of man's craving for love. THE "COMEDY" AND ESTHETICS

Along these lines the Comedy can help to remedy another defect that is all too common in our colleges and universities today: the meagre part that esthetics is alloted in the curriculum.


224 Chicago Studies

Our universities are concerned with the true to a large extent, with the good to a lesser extent, to the one and the beautiful hardly at all. The Comedy can certainly help to unify our knowledge and to awaken us to esthetic values. There is no finer way to learn about the philosophy of beauty and art than to follow Dante in his allegorical journey and to notice how he applies his artistic principles along the way. Dante is admired by other poets as the master of simile and metaphor and is certain to elevate the taste of his reader. Dante is rightly held in high esteem by his fellow poets, medieval, modern and contemporarys and has left his mark on all subsequent esthetics. A study of the Comedy should be a rich and rewarding experience to college and university students. It would also be in line with the new trend to cut across departmental lines and to break down the isolation between various fields of knowledge. A course in the Comedy could be presented so that students in theology, philosophy, esthetics, fine arts or literature could receive adequate credit and thus be encouraged to plunge into this great adventure. The following lines from Newman's Idea of a University may be quoted as a fitting summary to this section. The practical end of a university "is that of training good members of ,society. Its art is the art of social life, and its end is fitness for the world ... A university training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying national taste, at supplying true principles to popular aspira¡ tion, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, and refining the intercourse of private life." A study of the Comedy is certainly a great step in this direction. THE "COMEDY" AND THE SEMINARY

Finally, it would seem obvious that the Comedy should find some place in the education of seminarians. Whether a special course or courses be offered or whether this be done on the initiative of the professors or students in connection with other


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courses can be worked out according to the local situation. A study of the Comedy would bring many benefits to the seminarians and their teachers. It would be an antidote to the heavy emphasis on the intellectual, technical approach which is to some extent necessary; it would give students and professors a lively experience of how Dante can take what seems a dry and forbidding theological or philosophical principle and make it come alive, go to work, charm and captivate the hearts and minds of his readers. It would be a stimulating example of how to present material in instructions and sermons so that the hearers of the word are not barraged by undigestible material hut may derive pleasurable profit for their soul. Whether in the university, seminary, or out of it, the Comedy can be a great source of profit and delight. As T. S. Eliot has remarked, it is one of those books which,we can grow up to by the end of our lives. By starting early we can learn to enjoy it and derive inspiration, instruction and delight from it all during our lives. Last year the author conducted a summer course in the Comedy at DePaul University which was attended by about twenty-five students. The reaction of the students encouraged him to plan to offer it again and to persuade others to do likewise. It opened up a new world to them and to him and convinced him it can help to do the things mentioned above. This will not be the last centenary of Dante. The vast amount of literature on him testifies to the challenge he has hurled to men of all time. He is a special challenge to Catholics who are not satisfied with sealed-off units of knowledge but who wish to integrate their knowledge in a vast synthesis achieved by the insight, melodies and harmonies of impassioned poetry. It is a challenge to those who wish to pursue the one, the true and the good by way of the gate called beautiful.


Thomas N. Munson, S.].

Faith as Word The autlwr sugguu a possible insight into faith thr~ugh a phenomenology of word.

Some day a wise psychologist may explain to us why, after years of living on the political and social brink, the popular writer or lecturer must still attract attention by dressing up his topic as a critical issue. One would have thought that people as sophisticated as we claim to be about "hidden persuaders" and "subliminal perception" would have become as inured to these "crises" as to TV commercials. Yet we are selectively accommodative animals. Accordingly, the theologian who has set his sights on popular consumption should address himself to the sure-fire subjects: the so-called "theology of crisis," the more tantalizing "death of God theology," or best of all, "the pill." In this article, however, I see no point in elaborating on the very real and disturbing crisis of faith. To detail the dismal statistics of our fallaways, especially of the college-age group, is not a constructive task. And even if one were to attempt to explain this phenomenon in globo, he would say nothing significant for our better understanding and appreciation of the gift

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of faith. For contemporary disbelief, as I understand it, is a product of complex psychological and philosophical factors. It is, first of all, a lived experience of suffering, hardship, famine, degrading poverty, and in justice in the face of the apathy of Christians. We have been unfaithful to the call of charity. In addition, faith makes knowledge claims, and therefore it has been sucked into that vortex of philosophical speculation-questions of the nature of truth, proof, evidence, fact and value-which has whirled intellectuals since the birth of modern science. Finally, the believer lives the tensions of freedom and authority: undoubtedly the paramount problem of modern man.

A TRADITIONAL

THEOLOGY OF WORD

Our purpose in this article is understanding, and it has been suggested in the title that something is to be learned by reflecting on faith as a word: not merely as the powerful and ennobling Word of God to man, but also as the cordial and grateful reply of man to God. To call faith a word is not just a fortuitous analogy meant to suggest at most an adventitious connection between belief and speech. For example, our English expression, "to keep one's word," instances a meaning of

fidelity. But beyond this linguistic relationship lies what we might call a whole theology of word. "Why does he not say," Saint Augustine asked in his commentary on Saint John's Last Supper narrative, " 'You are clean because of the baptism by which you were washed,' but says, 'because of the word which I have spoken to you'; unless because of the fact that in water the word purifies? Take away the word and what is water but water? The word comes to the element, and the element becomes a sacrament, even itself, as it were, a visible word." Clearly, for Saint Augustine it was the word spoken in faith, the believed word, which was joined to a material element, whether water or bread or oil, to constitute a sacramental sign. The saint naturally expressed himself in the traditional language of the Church. He emphasized the sacramentality of the word or sign because it is through signs that we are graced by the presence of the Word, Jesus Christ, who is not only the


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Son who has come to deliver to us the fullness of the divine message but is also by his incarnation the great sacrament of the New Law. By definition, then, a Christian is one who is signed as a hearer, anointed as a listener to the Word: one who became a child of God by asking, either personally or through godparents, for the gift of faith from the people of God and by responding to their queries with the words of the Creed and the act of faith. THE WORD INSERTS MAN IN SOCIETY

Once we grasp that the intelligibility of faith lies concealed in its character as word, we will find it less puzzling that the baptismal rite begins with a blunt question: What do you ask of the Church of God? to which we almost curtly respond: faith. We have grown accustomed to the mystery that it is a group of people that is the repository and transmitter of the divine life, since our spiritual vocabulary, the conventional language of theology and liturgy, is rich in terms suggestive of genera¡ tion. The Church, we say, is a mother and we are her children. She--it seems that we really ought not say "we have begotten us"-has begotten us and incorporated us into the household of faith, in which we enjoy the rights and prerogatives of heirs. But as we know, life is more than coming into existence and being hom, so that the need we have for our families and the societies in which we are reared cannot be limited to the role of preserving and developing the material conditions of our being. As men, we are born into a community because we have a need for communion. We must be educated: led out of the narrowness of ourselves to the richness of sharper minds and more balanced personalities. It is therefore no exaggeration to assert that because generation is for education, and because the material resources of the human body are for the spiritual re¡ sources of the human person, it must follow that personal ex¡ istence is for interpersonal co-existence. I am a man not because I speak but because I must speak. In a sense it is true that I am because I have been generated and born. But in a more profoundly human sense I do not exist until I have


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ex-pressed myself: pressed out to completion that fullness of my being which is precisely something not given in nature but created out of the potentialities of nature. Human perfection is a process of continuous e-ducation and comm-unication. The purpose of thinking about faith as a word is that we are thereby forced to locate it in the order of communication instead of generation. We think more in terms of becoming deeply committed, group-conscious Christians than of merely existing as individually predestined, baptized Christians. For it is the word ("language") which, as we know from contemporary linguistics and philosophy, inserts a child into a speech community, furnishes him with his habits of thought and expression, and so by controlling the availability of his concepts, profoundly influences his whole world. Is not_ our criterion for someone's "belonging" ultimately that he speaks like us and is therefore understood by us? If it sounds strange to us to say that we reveal what we are by the way we talk, we must put ourselves in the place of the personnel manager conducting a job interview, or ask ourselves what we mean by a foreigner. Another's German, Swedish, or Bantu speech betrays his German, Swedish, or Bantu pattern of thought, way of life or morals, in a word, his whole culture. He is that kind of man because he has developed and lived in a particular network of social relations which is distilled in the genius of his language. THE DIALECTIC OF THE "OTHER"

It is always an interesting, and sometimes disturbing, experience for an American to live in a foreign land. Perhaps for the first time he realizes what it means to be an American. He suddenly becomes conscious of the fact that his speech betrays him: his way of existing and conducting himself in the world. In contemporary psychology and in the new field of psycholinguistics, we want to emphasize that this American has learned to manifest the "American way of life" through communication. His daily life is marked by identity crises and the perpetual struggle for personal recognition, in other words, by a continuous dialectic or dialogue with others. Behind his


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longing for an I-Thou relationship is the inalienably human attitude expressed in the phrase, "I am not a thing or just another object" I am an individual striving for integrity, reaching for maturity, hoping that tomorrow I will be a better person than I was today. The temptation for the American away from home is to become intimidated by the language barrier and slacken his pace in the outward movement to others which is the matrix of his personal development. Because he cannot communicate, he feels misunderstood and very much alone. If he is in the army, he has an easy escape into the American ghetto, whence he can view the "comrades"-the "Other"with affected or supercilious detachment But if this route is closed to him, he can withdraw behind the protective wall of his body and imperceptibly allow this security to degenerate into an undisguised hostility. Even here at home, who of us has not experienced this kind of division, where bodies are physically present but neither¡ friendly gesture nor gleam of fraternity breaks through to reveal a soul? Such an alienation can spring up between two workmen toiling at the same bench, between parent and child, between teacher and student, between husband and wife, between superior and subject. Ironically, all of these are associations for the purpose of communion, in which bodies touch, collaborate, and even intermingle, but where souls can turn away in refusaL It is no wonder that such a lifeless presence of bodies to each other-more accurately, a real absence in an enforced presence-should in the end turn to hatred and shatter every remaining vestige of community. When the body has lost its sign-character and its remarkable power of revealing the life and light of the spirit, all communication breaks down, love withers, and the spark of human personality itself sputters and dies. THE DIALECTIC OF F.AITH

By calling faith a word, we imply that it plunges us into something similar to the dynamic world of human growth and personal development. In the past we have spoken of faith as an intellectual assent We have had to defend its divine


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gift-character against the onslaughts of Pelagian naturalism and rationalistic reductionism. Also, we have had to flesh out its intellectual skeleton because of attempts to exaggerate its mystical and non-rational components. But what earlier defence maneuvers staked out is not necessarily the whole of the terrain. The needs of our time suggest that we develop those areas of faith which are connected with society, specifically, with our obligation to move out to others in love because through them and in them we have become persons in Christ. The Protestant theologian, Emil Brunner, has condensed this dialectic of the Christian as follows: "Man becomes man only in hearing the Word of God. To be a person is not a condition or a state; it is not a fact of nature, like being a European or a Negro; to be a person is an act" (The Word and the World, p. 32). FAITH AS DIALOGUE

A contemporary philosopher has recommended that we make more of the connection between legein, "to collect," "to gather," and legein, "to speak." Perhaps the Greek verbal affinity is an intimation that the act of speech is, after all, a gathering performance. We speak in order to collect bits together and fit them into a pattern of truth. Speech in this account is essentially a dialogue; and were we talking about faith, we would say a dialogue with God and therefore also with our fellow men. Any dialogue, to be sure, is a kind of unity in diversity. In and through it we come together with a view to enriching each other. But this harmony exists only in tension. If the dialogue is to perdure, the partners must remain, respectfully of course, at odds. We can only respond to one who is authentically and inviolably other. And when we have learned to live in and with this tension which is love, we mature through the other, for our response to him weighs upon us as a responsibility. Faith is man's most challenging dialogue. THE MYSTERY OF WORD

Have we ever given any thought to the mystery of a word? Not that we fail to understand the meaning of a¡ simple ut-


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terance like cow, but have we a proposal for explaining how these three letters mean or stand for the four-footed animal? The word cow spontaneously appears there; it forms part of the complicated structure of English morphology and syntax. We are sure about what we mean and confident of our ability to construe it grammatically until someone rudely asks us about its origin. Do we suppose that offering its Anglo-Saxon etymology saves our embarrassment? UNBELIEF AND THE LOSS OF HISTORY

Nothing for our contemporaries is quite as problematical about a word, and particularly about the word of faith, as what I prefer to call its historicity. We have already noted that a word becomes meaningful by drawing us into a frame¡ work. Literally, then, a word has its history: not just a temporal sequence of roots and analogues but a definite place in a whole tissue of relations. Consequently, when we insist that a word (or the word of faith) inserts us into a world of a determinate language community, we mean to stress the etymologi~al sense of history as histos. As thinking, communicating beings we have been caught up in a web, a vast network, a shared history, if you will, which permits us to discourse because we are situated both temporally and locally in a common cosmos: in that ordered system in which we know our way about. Even in every¡ day parlance, chaos spells a rupture of communications: a helter-skelter situation in which we cannot find ourselves. The Old Testament has provided us with a striking example of linguistic confusion in the tower of Babel account. There, we may recall, the breakdown of communication is presented as an aspect of the mystery of sin: the outcome of man's sacrilegious pride in attempting to build a city in defiance of due order, that is, without God. It is only in the New Testament that this chaos is depicted as overcome. For after the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles on Pentecost in the form of fiery tongues, peoples of diverse nationalities understood them. In this symbolism is expressed the radical reconcilation of mankind, for the


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Holy Spirit has been given to teach us to speak to one another in the unique language of charity. It would be impossible in this article to relate all the factors which have contributed to modern man's loss of history and his resultant loss of himself. The prodigious growth of the natural sciences in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries sired commensurate ideologies, notably philosophies of empiri¡ cism and rationalism, which so glorified the present state of man's rationality and the immediate datum of experience as uniquely verifiable that the past became inaccessible, primitive, mythological, or naive. Cut off from his roots in the past, scientific man substituted historicism for history: the accumulation of masses of "facts" for a meaningful revelation of himself as part of a people or a world. But as more data has been acquired, contemporary man has become even further alienated from nature. We tend to look upon ourselves as insignificant molecules or specks of cosmic dust, tossed about by blind forces, and destined to have our most noteworthy achievements demolished if somebody should thoughtlessly pull the wrong switch. No wonder existentialists are busy diagnosing our anxiety and offering prognoses and prescriptions for our "sickness unto death" and our meaninglessness. God, we have been told, is dead, and so the twentieth-century Prometheus or Sisyphus must cultivate the "will to will" (Nietzsche), the "courage to be" (Tillich), or become a Sartrean genius: one who invents a way out of desperate circumstances. Man, they say, has been uprooted from his place of origins (the original meaning of natura) and his world has been profaned and desacramentalized. He is now literally "outside himself" because he has succumbed to what Andre Malraux has described as The Temptation of the West: "For you, absolute reality was first God, then Man; hut Man is dead, following God, and you search with anguish for something to which you can entrust his strange heritage. Your minor attempts to construct a moderate nihilism do not seem destined to long life ... "What awareness can you have of this universe, on which


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you have based your unanimity, and which you call reality? ... The history of the psychological life of Europeans [Westerners], of the new Europe [West], is a record of the invasion of the mind by emotions which are made chaotic by their conflicting intensities. The image of all these men dedicated to maintaining an idea of Man which allows them to overcome their thoughts and live, while the world over which this Man reigns becomes each day more foreign to them, is doubtless the final vision I shall take away from the West" (Hollander translation, pp. 97-98). Santayana once remarked that those who are ignorant of history are often condemned to relive it. The word corulemned is well chosen; it connotes the same threat that others e:<press in the phrase, "the terror of historicism." For insofar as con路 temporary man has, in the name of scientific progress, divorced himself from his history, he has become increasingly word路 less. On the one hand, the word of faith has been replaced by a negation, an a-theism, which recently a student at Loyola University recommended as offering a satisfactory way of liv路 ing in the immediate. On the other hand, the word of ex-pression, the utterance of man's self-comprehension and understanding of the meaning of his world, has been drowned in cries of despair and groans of futility. Can we he surprised that so much of contemporary literature and philosophy agonizes over freedom? When man has severed the ties that bind him to his fellow man and the world, his liberty is in jeopardy. Everyone and 路everything looms up before him as a hostile other. FAITH'S GROUNDING IN HISTORY

The paradox of the Christian word, the word of faith, is that it would speak to contemporary man in behalf of all those values which fifty or a hundred years ago it was accused of betraying. At that time Christianity was charged with an anti-historical, anti-social, and a-temporal attitude. Because it was (and still is) concerned about the last days, it was presumably indifferent to every effort to improve existing human conditions. It may have been, to he sure, that theologians


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felt constrained to emphasize assent and shied away from the language of commitment or engagement as redolent of worldliness. Nevertheless, the Church has never lost the word-aspect of faith. As believers, we are inescapably social, incarnational, situational. We are, like Our Lord himself, in the world to redeem the world. Otherwise, Christianity would never have had to enter the lists in defense of history against the perils of a dehumanizing historicism. The trend of historicism has been to overwhelm us with "facts" so that we finally give up with the past as incomprehensible and immerse ourselves in the immediate present. Yet for the beliver, historical insouciance betrays a loss of faith. It is important enough that God himself became man at a certain juncture of recorded events; but more significantly, faith itself is a history. It reveals to us the meaning of the world by portraying the course of God's dealings with our race: created, fallen, redeemed, and predestined to glory, In fact, if it ceases to provide us with this structure of selfinterpretation, it is strictly irrelevant. For this reason, I have questioned in my own mind the efforts of Rudolf Bultmann, Bishop John Robinson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Van Buren, Harvey Cox, and others. Is it possible to construct a viable theology for a deliberately de-historicized man? THE RELEVANCE OF THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS

In the past few years we have gained some insight into religion as a revealing structure, that is, as that which enables a people to apprehend themselves as a a people, through an investigation of archaic and non-Christian religions. I mention this fact not for the purpose of launching into a discussion of the symbolism of the center of the world, of the mythical ancestor and the re-presentation of his acts, or to elaborate on the desire for paradise or on Nirvana as a breaking out of time and the human condition. AU of these are fascinating, yet complicated, topics. But it is important that we who have_ to live with the modem non-religious man be aware that the religious vision of life is a conspicuous and inseparable part


Faith 237 of human history. No matter how overtly irreligious or atheistic one of our contemporaries may be, he cannot wipe out that religious behavior of our ancestors which has made even him what he is today. He may suppress it within his "unconscious," but he can never rid himself of it. It lies there at hand, perhaps at great depth, for our eventual revivification. THE WORD AS FREEDOM

We have noted that part of modem man's anxiety about the word of faith is that he regards it as inimical to our precious heritage of freedom. The Christian in his view is clearly distinguishable by an attache case of propositions. If someone at路 tempts to enter into dialogue with him, the believer solemnly fetches a few "answers" out of his stock of eternal truths. In practice, there is no dialogue. The word of faith has lost its creativity. Reduced to a dull sequence of letters which belie its origin in inspiration, the word is emptied of its power of communication, its capacity for effecting interpersonal comm路 union.

Every caricature has a point. Many believers prefer security to risk. Because they are human, they would rather accept the word as a Linus-blanket than as a call to fresh commitment. But the word of Our Lord, "Follow me," is divinely creative. Irritatingly, it is a constant goad. By continuously creating within us new situations of tension, it compels us to exercise our freedom: to choose to remain in dialogue with the Divine Word. "A faith that does not continually expose itself to the possibility of unfaith," a contemporary philosopher has wisely remarked, "is not faith but merely a convenience." Saint Paul, we may recall, described the Christian vocation as one of freedom. In our times especially, this kind of talk is heady stuff. Yet how many believers are aware of the farreaching implications of their choice of the word of faith? Too many limit their response to God because they shirk the conse路 quences of accepting a bona fide response to man. Our growth in maturity as Christians, however, is proportionate to our ac路 ceptance of full responsibility. If our faith is essentially a


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dialogue, we are believers only to the extent that we are open to an encounter with the differences of Christians. Paradoxically, we believe insofar as we recognize and profit from other opposing, yet perfectly valid ways of understanding the Word as God utters it within the community of the faithful. THE TASK OF THE WORD

Following the lead of Holy Scripture--that it is not by bread alone that man lives but by every word from the mouth of God-I have suggested that we might gain some understanding and appreciation of the gift of faith by reflecting upon it as a word. A word, first of all, is something physical, external, or public, so that by using it (by sharing its meaning) we manifest our insertion in and commitment to a group, or to a society like the Church. But the externals of language exist for the sake of meaning; we employ words to communicate. Thus any dialogue has communion for its goal. We talk be¡ cause of unity and with the hope of furthering unanimity. For this reason God has taken the initiative in speaking to us. The Father has sent us his Word to make us his children and brothers to one another. Graciously, he has elicited our free response, for only if we want to hear, if we generously hearken to his Word, will the unification of dialogue take place. It is obvious that the Word of God resists our efforts to describe it because it is a living thing. To believe this mystery, we must first find it: a task far more exacting than adopting a program. It is this process of finding which I would call res-ponse, since in it I am engaged both in answering and promising a Person. Normally, it is a waste of time to try to justify a word of response. A word of love does not qualify for argu¡ ment in the conventional sense, even though in the Church we have always relied on reflective proofs to indicate why we think a response is required. In the last analysis, we must justify the reply of faith by speaking. In this way we become progessively more articulate, more facile, more knowledgeable, so that the truths revealed to us gradually disclose themselves as our truths: those by which we are and live as men.


]ames Bertrand

The Priest of Being Christ, the priest of creation, offering the world to his Father, calls other men to share his priesthood affectively, intelligently, totally.

There are priests who fear and even shun the emotional content in human experience. I wish to suggest to them that the affective life is essential to their priesthood, that it has its source in Christ's attitude toward creation. Indeed it is by identifying with this attitude of Christ that the priest achieves the perfection of his priesthood. Our position will become clear as we explore the priestly role of adoration-the very essence of the priesthood, it seems. As we shall see, God's affirmative presence in all creation is the initial call to this adoration. Christ is its pattern and ultimate perfection. His relation to eternal being and to created being is perfect adoration.

1.

EXISTENCE AND ADORATION

''The very physical world, created as it is for God's glory tends with a kind of blind love toward its author. "-Etienne Gilson Just "to be" is a prayer. Created being is a visible testimony to. Perfect Being; nonreflective being through its mere

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and marvellous status of existing announces a prayer of glory. Though nonreflective, it reflects the glory of the God who formed it. Though nonverbal, it speaks of the love which fashioned and preserves it. Through its beauty it attracts and inspires; in fact, it begs from man the complement of nonreflective existence, a verbal expression of thanksgiving. "To be" is to possess dignity. "To be" is to be intimate with God. St. Augustine says that God is present in all things, fills and contains them because God is active in the universe and in each entity by a certain mysterious power ( occulta potentia) and by a certain mysterious motion ( occulta inspiratione). God's presence and power are thus intrinsic to the created entity, the reason it subsists, and as such the source of dignity and joy. Augustine also observes that God's immanence does not destroy the acts and motions proper to created being; they remain individual, free, yet unified in him. When we speak of "God-in-all-things" and "all-things-in-God" we both avoid pantheism and preserve immanence. The first phrase is used only in a limited sense, while the latter has a more correct and extensive meaning. REIFICATION, DISTINCTION, AND DESTRUCTION

In our impatience to know the mystery of God, we have built a tabernacle into which we invite God to come and dwell -an ivory tower of terminology and labored categories where man is uncomfortable and God cannot fit. At times we try to force God to dwell where we would have hold of him. But God is free; he will not be captured. He will however surrender and generously open his heart to us if we search for him on the open plains of being. Franciscans and Thomists have debated for centuries the divine purpose of the incarnation. Did God create the world and then call it to an intimacy with himself? Did the sin of man call for the redeeming act of the incarnation? Did our Lord come among us because of sin or in spite of sin? Duns Scotus thought that God decreed the incarnation of the Word apart altogether from man's sin, for he willed that the Word


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Incarnate should be king of heaven and earth. He questioned the position defended by Thomas Aquinas that God willed the incarnation as a means to rectify evil. Philosophical systems challenge each other to explain adequately in limited concepts the finite and the infinite. Existentialists recognize a nondefinable transcendence in being. Gabriel Marcel describes the difficulty in defining a flower as an objective being. In his Mystery of Being, he forces us to examine the unity of existence and the interdependence within being. Objective things are in reality not objective at all but quite definitely part of ourselves and receive their fullness in being recognized as such. To know and to express reality the Thomistic school stresses the intellectual activity of the formation of universe concepts. But to the existentialist, Marcel particularly, such processing of being is a system of division and destruction; it is the objectification of things, the separation of oneself from "it" so that "it" might be examined by a "you." True experience of reality can be found only when we are willing to recognize ourselves in being. "In the Thomistic system, we know existence by a conversio ad phantasmata; in Marcel's thought we know mystery by a conversio ad participationem" (Kenneth T. Gallagher, The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel, Fordham University Press, 1962, p. 45).

AN

EXISTENTIAL THELOGY

Modern theology is increasingly influenced by the existential notion of being. Writers such as Karl Rahner and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin have integrated it into their thought and given ¡popular expression to it. In an excellent essay, Priest and Poet, Karl Rahner expresses the thought common to Marcel's metaphysics: ". . . realities become more themselves and only achieve their perfected nature when they are known and spoken of by men. They themselves acquire, to use the words of Rilke, an intimacy of being when they are known" (The Word, Readings in Theology, Kenedy, 1964, pp. 3-26). This thought of man perfecting nature will be returned to when we consider the priestly function. Our immediate concern here is the recognition


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of the unity of being and the futile and destructive attempts of some philosophical systems to "explain" the mystery of being. The writings of Teilhard de Chardin reveal the unity of being in a variety of expression, it seems, according to his mood and the literary form used as a vehicle of that mood. In The Phenomerwn of Man his mood is that of a scientist and accordingly he describes the unity of being in physical terms. All matter is ultimately reducible to a common element: "It is almost as if the stu£( of which all stufi is made were re· ducible in the end to some simple and unique kind of substance." When writing as a mystic however, Teilhard recognized the immediate presence of God in things and yet all things de· vel oping to a state of perfected presence in God. And thus: "God reveals himself everywhere, beneath our groping efforts, as a universal milieu, only because he is the ultimate point upon which all realities converge. Each element of the world, whatever it may be, only subsists hie et nunc in the manner of a cone whose generatrices meet in God who draws them together . . . It follows that all created things, every one of them, cannot be looked at, in their nature and action, without the same reality being found in their innermost being . . . one beneath its multiplicity, unattainable beneath its proximity, and spiritual beneath its materiality" (The Divine Milieu, emphasis mine). In an unpublished paper by Arthur R. Luther, a student of Marcel's metaphysics, the unity of being and man's true knowl· edge of himself as being in Being is skillfully presented. He proposes that Marcel's thought is that man actualizes himself through participation in being; that man's only situation is that of involvement; that a "me here" and a "world there" bifurcation has no basis in reality. The reality of unity of being however is not exhausted by a physical dimension; in fact, the physical is but a superficial dimension and is charac· terized by externality. He argues that man is able to interiorize the physical world, that is, to humanize the world by making it be for him. This act of incorporating the external is not a destruction of distinction between the observed and the ob·

I

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server but rather an act which is creative. The unity we experience with being is that of community, hence, describable in terms of we are. To summarize what we have said thus far, we would point out that all creation in its simple act of being gives glory to God; that being enjoys a unity on both a physical and spiritual level or dimension; that man as being in being has the power to internalize the external, synthesize it, identify with it and as the spokesman for being to announce the glory of God. II. EXISTENCE AFFIRMED IN CHRIST "Man receives, and he receives not a specific 'content' but a Presence, a Presence as power." -Martin Buber For two centuries our thought has labored under the prejudice of scientific concepts. Theology, but more so prayerful experience, has been seriously limited in describing religious phenomena. We are indebted to the philosophies of existentialism and to the sciences of psychology for a new freedom in our bearch for explanation and meaning. Spatial-temporalphysical categories have been challenged by the theory of relativity. In a world society where the furthest distance has been reduced to hours of travel an intimacy with mankind is a possibility. But how can man be intimate with others? Previously, our neighbor was the man next door; proximity seemed the determining factor. But how many people sharing the same table are distinct from each other. Intimacy is not the removal of a spatial barrier, it is the result of relationship. Earlier we stressed the development and fulfillment of man through participation in being. Now allow a further consideration of being. The Christian mind is familiar with the theme of St. John, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God . . . and all things were made through him" (1ohn l :l). The Christian mind should also be acquainted with the effective and the affective power of the Word of God. The eternal life of the Triune God is the perfect society-three


244 Chicago Studies

persons sharing intimately the presence of each other, interrelated yet independent, distinct yet one. The Word, the Son of the Father, the expression of the Love of the Father, was spoken or proclaimed in an act ad extra (and yet, how imperfectly this expresses the thought because of the immanence of the Godhead in creation). Creation is truly love made visible. When the Father proclaimed his love, effectively the world was made. "The created world is a self-expression of God. It is his Word already made flesh" (Martin Buber). While it is true that the creative act of God is one and eternal, there is, because of our conditioned thinking in causal and sequential relationships, a consideration of a twofold act of God. This sequential view considers first the creative act and then the affirmative act, which I would like to refer to as the affective demonstration of the Word of God. Beyond the necessary immanent presence of God, necessary for the very constitution of being, the Son has affirmed the goodness and beauty of created existence by identifying himself with it, permeating all of being with his personal participation. In effect the act of affirmation is distinct from the act of creation; it is the elevation of that which enjoyed a natural existence into a supernatural. This is described in the words of a popular theologian, "Greater still is the mystery of the divine endowment of elevating his creature to a sharing in the trinitarian life. This mystery is so sharply distinct from creation itself and from everything belonging to creation that it is, so to speak, the opposite of creation. It extricates the creature from the lowly position assigned to him by his origin from nothing in order to deify him, that is, to make him a sharer in the 'divine nature with all the majesty, sanctity, and beatitude of that nature" (Matthias Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, B. Herder, 1946, p. 206). vs. THEOLOGY The act of affirming us in creation is that of communicating grace--our sharing in the divine life through God's presence and participation in our existence. By using his natural faculTHEODICY


Priest 245 ties however, man can know God only imperfectly, in a limited way. By this imperfect knowledge God is known as the absolute principle of creation. He is known as a cause related to an effect. God is then not known as a person in and for himself, but only as a person yet to be known personally. And since we as persons testify by simply existing that God is a personal absolute in whom is found the reason of our existence, and therefore that he is the being who gives ultimate meaning to our lives, we are able-and this is the supreme possibility of our life in this world-to desire a personal relationship with God. (Cf. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., Christ the Sacra¡ ment of the Encounter with God, Sbeed and Ward, 1963.) In this sense then our knowledge of God through creation is imperfect; we know him not as he is, not as he can reveal himself to us, but only as we see ourselves dependent on him. Our love of him, consequently, would also he imperfect because a person is loved in the manner in which he is known; we would love him for ourselves whose very existence is seem¡ ingly threatened. The perception of this tragic sense of life, which is the universal lesson of natural religion, is an appeal by the human person to the Divine Word. Man's word begs the Divine Word to supply for its inadequacy and to do for us what we aspire to achieve and cannot. "In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Hebrews 1:1). St. Paul lends a theme to Teilhard when he speaks of Christ as "the heir of all things." The vision of the finality of all things in Christ is shared by both mystics, with Teilhard envisioning a process of evolution in which the Christ of revelation is the definitive terminus of all creation, the Omega. Writing in 1917, Teilhard emphasizes Christ as the personal center of the evolutionary process, not in a natural order, hut rather as the result of the gratuitous gift of the supernatural. "Christ is, of course, not the center which all things here below could naturally aim at embracing. Being destined for Christ is a favor of the Creator, unexpected and gratuitous. It nonetheless remains true that the incarna¡


246 Chkago ShUiks

tion has so recast the universe in the supernatural that, concretely speaking, we are no longer able either to seek or imagine the center toward which the elements of this world would gravitate without the elevation of grace." Later on (1920) Teilhard wrote of "the impossibility of a Christ who would be organically central in the supernatural universe and physically juxtaposed in the natural universe." A point of extreme interest, yet only tangential to this paper, is the question of Teilhard's meaning of Christ as the physical or organic center of creation and thus its omega and king. He is opposed to an opinion held by many that Christ is king merely by a juridical decision of his Father. Essential to our thought however is the total and perfect love that Christ has for this world, not only mankind. He loved it in and for itself. Creation is in the likeness of the Word but it is distinct from the Word. His love is an unconditioned love--embracing all men and all things-"drawing all things to himself." But even in drawing all things to himself it is not for himself but for creation itself, that we may share the beatitude of eternal love. His love is complete and selfless--"he was offered because it was his own will" (Isaia 53 :7). In the most perfect sense Jesus has given us an example of fundamental love. He has established a union with us and in us, offering himself freely and unconditionally, preserving and dignifying our individuality, not merely affirming us in a natural order but elevating us into the fullness of Being. CHRIST AND THE WORLD

This act of fundamental love by a divine Person is revealed to us in visible signs. He participated in our condition, in all things except sin. He experienced birth, a cup of cold water, the ointment of companionship with men and women; he shared the secret hopes of sinners and paralytics; he sensed the hatred of the devil, his sacred feet walked our paths. His heart and mind were perfectly human; born of woman his body was dust. And in a moment he took the fruit of human labor, a piece of bread and a cup of wine, and turning to his Father says forever, ''This is mine." From the thorn that pierced his head


p,u,, 247 to the cup of wine shared with his friends, from the love of an immaculate mother to a thief on a cross, from a field ready for harvest to a fox resting in his den-all this became his. He loved all things, all people because of their unique goodness--"Father forgive them ..." Teilhard writes that when Christ comes sacramentally to each of the faithful, "it is not only to hold conversation with him. It is to join him more and more to himself physically and to all other faithful in the growing unity of the world. When he says through the priest 'This is my Body' ... the priestly action extends beyond the transubstantiated Host to the cosmos itself, which the still unfinished incarnation gradually trans¡ forms in the course of the passing centuries." And in another place, he says the universe is "an immense Host" and Christ is "the physical focus of creation, an influence secretly present in the depths of matter and a dazzling center." (Cf. Christopher F. Mooney, S.J., Teilhard de Chardin and the Mystery of Christ, Harper and Row, 1966). Affirmed in Christ is our human condition. Affirmation in Christ is our elevation to participation in absolute being and also our participation in created being at its very center. To exist as man is to desire the intimacy with the personal God. To exist in Christ is to know the Father as revealed in the Son by the Spirit; to exist in Christ is to love all things as sacred vessels of the revealing God; to exist in Christ is to achieve fullness of self-identification through participation in creation at its very heart and to its ultimate boundaries. Christian living is awareness and enjoyment of Presence. III.

A PRIEST IN CHRIST

"To the full extent of my power, because I am a priest, I wish from now on to be the first to become conscious of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers; I want to be the first to seek, to sympathize, and to suffer; the first to unfold and sacrifice


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myself; to become more widely human and more nobly of the earth than any of the world's servants."-Teilhard de Chardin Accepting the view of Marcel that participation in being actualizes the individual by constituting him in community, not only with others but with being itself, we must consider our relationship to Being Incarnate, or Being in being. It is proper for all men to find and establish themselves in relation to the Christ, the Savior of being, the physical center of created being. In this method all of creation will then find expression through man in Christ. Created being will then find its fulfillment in adoration. The priest however has been singled out to an unique participation in being; it is for him to announce until the end of time the indwelling of the Transcendent. It was pointed out earlier that man can come to a knowledge of the Transcendent and develop a desire for him but that with his own resource he cannot enter into an intimate personal relationship with him. But Christ has come and announced that he is from the Father and that at the present moment he is both coming and returning. Our present condition demands heralds of his coming in fullness, his presence in activity, his immanence in evolution. "You will bear witness to me even to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Here then we find the unique relation of a priest to the Son of God-he is a herald. It is expected that the herald will proclaim his presence among men, in being. And then in response to this proclamation and through his power of consecration, the priest will bring those offered gifts into a new relationship with the Christ, with he¡ who-is-present, the priest of being. What is this new relationship? It is our joyful acceptance of that which is-his presence in being, our being-in-Being. It is the joy of unity of oneness. To preach is not to parrot; to preach is to proclaim what one has experienced and to invite others: "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus, the son of Joseph of Nazareth ... Come and see' (John 1:45). We herald the Promised not as a man, but the Man; not as exist-


Priest 249

ing, but the Existant; not as one among us, but the very core of ourselves; not as a joy, but the excitant of all life. To experience is to suffer immersion; to experience being is to surrender to Being. A herald's proclamation gains resonance from the depths of his immersion in Being; preaching without depth, without community, is "sounding brass." The priest-in· community is the only priestly existence; the priest-without· community is nonentity. As soon as we accept the notion of presence in we are also disposing ourselves to influence by the other. When we acknowledge the presence of another, we are opening ourselves to an influx of something in which we are immersed-in community with-which surpasses us on every side; hence we are surrendering ourselves to active reception. This surrender to community redeems man from isolation; he grows, matures, finds his fullness in being. The person of Christ is alone in his perfection; he alone is not liberated, is not established by community. But community itself is es· tablished in Christ. In only· one sense can we say that Christ is established, that is, he who always is, is now made manifest.

IN

DIALOGUE WITH OTHERS

The individual by his active reception of participation in being, recognizes his absolute dependence on others-we do not belong to ourselves. In the dialogue within being we become who we are. To the extent that we remain open, that we con· tinue to acknowledge the surrounding plentitude, we partici· pate in it more and more fully; we become filled by something beyond us; we expand towards plentitude, towards absorp· tion in Being. In the beautiful Hymn of the Universe Teilhard asks the question "What are this paten and this chalice of mine?"-that is, what are the instruments of his priesthood. "They are the depths of a soul laid utterly open to all the energies which in a moment rise up from the earth's corners and meet together, and together mount towards the spirit. Give me then, Lord, to call to mind, and to hold mystically present before my eyes, all those whom the light is now awakening to a new day."


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To what depths are we willing to immerse ourselves into community, into Being? Once we acknowledge our absolute dependence on the "Other," one whom we have not chosen but only have grown in and from, one who has chosen us and given us meaning, how can we resist the temptation to absolute surrender in him? Here we approach, I think, the terrifying experience of self and the sense of freedom-to choose to be and to what extent. We are confronted with the transcendent yet the immanent, the eternal yet the coming, our being or our loss. "To live" should be the decision when the encounter with the absolute is ours. A reckless attitude, it seems, to "let go," to allow oneself to become at the invitation of the Absolute Thou! What trust, what love can ever be sufficient to allow such freedom? I only know that it is beyond my making; it must be a gift. It is. It is the love of the Father made visible in the person of Jesus Christ, made active in his call to intimacy, to be one with him. This becoming through intimacy with Christ is the life of every Christian. It is the re-birth, the perfection of all things and all personalities. Regarding this development in Christ, Adrian Van Kaam offers us this thought: "Every Christian personality is a new and special manifestation of Christ that did not exist before him and will not repeat itself after him. Therefore, as long as a Christian is not a personality he has not fulfilled the project of God concerning him. He has not yet given to Christ full possibility of incarnating himself in a new and surprising way among humanity, for the divine incarnation is a mystery in which each Christian personality participates. Paradoxically, he reaches his summit of participation at the moment that he is most himself and most not himself, in the hour that he is most deeply immersed in Christ and at the same time most personally himself ... It is a losing of oneself in order to find oneself, and it is a finding of oneself in order to lose oneself. Only when I am aware of myself and accept myself wholly can I give my real self to Christ . . The Christian personality is not a vegetative existence; he is


Priest 251 a unique radiant center of personal thought and feeling. He is a person urged on by the awareness of an irreplacable vocation, a personal mission, a unique presence . . . (This) means that he does common things in personal ways, with a personal love, a personal feeling of responsibility, a personal commitment, and in a personal style." (Religion and Personality, Prentice· Hall, 1964, p. 44). THE ROLE OF THE PRIEST

The life of the priest should be one of total identification with the activity of Christ, his love of creation. Christ's attach· ment to the world was with a heart laid open, receiving ab· solutely all of existence, incorporating it into his very Person, making it one with himself. Likewise should a priest experience the world with an absolute confidence in the Christ who con· stitutes him, preserves and perfects him. How absurdly free he has asked us to be so that we may more perfectly be his instruments of communicating to other men his presence in us and among them. To preach a life of love without experienc· ing it is merely to make noise. A priest must be a poet; he must express what he suffers, what is truly his life in Christ. His instruments of worship are not only vestments and chalice but a heart laid open to this situation so that Christ in him will be able to accept this moment and offer it to his Father as mine. Can we dare to limit our affection for anyone or for anything when the true Priest has laid open his heart for all of creation, made it one with himself? Would we not be rejecting then him who·is-in-all·things, him in-whom-all-things-are?


Denis Dirscherl, S ./.

Dostoevsky Advocate of Christian Suffering The tragic life of thi. great Russian noveli.t is reflected in his novels portraying the mystery of man and human suOering.

One of the truly outstanding Russian master novelists of the past century, Fyodor Dostoevsky, has one idea flowing through practically every work he penned. From Poor Folk, which brought him to the attention of the literary public, to his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov, we find human suffering the dominant motif. Dostoevsky vividly depicts the abuse of man by man in every imaginable way. His description, in fact, is so overwhelming, so intensified, that many readers feel impelled to put his works down after a brief perusal. Dostoevsky represents the "city man" in a conflicting world: the world of despair, fear, and hatred as well as courage, faith, and love. He is a man absorbed with the problem and mystery of evil, for according to him, evil proves that there is a God. As a result he dwells on the suffering, bleeding, and humiliated man. The story of his life clearly reveals the important how's and why's this philosophy came to be. 253


254 Chicago Studies ExPERIENCE OF DEATH

Dostoevsky lived a full, tragic-ridden life; he was horn in 1821, just three years after Marx, and he died in 1881 after sixty fantastic and drama-packed years. After a somewhat joyless youth he attended the School of Military Engineers in Saint Petersburg where a fellow student reported that he "always held himself aloof and never took part in his comrades' amusements. Later he became involved in activities deemed reactionary by the czarist authorities. In December of 1849, Dostoevsky made the long trek to Siberia, but not before the authorities made a tragic-comedy of the sentence of banishment and hard labor. It was a wantonly cruel affair as Dostoevsky and his group marched out onto the open winter field to hear their sentences. ,Instead they found themselves being prepared for execution by the firing squad: "In the center of the ground, within a fence, stood a platform of white wood, and in front a square formation of soldiers was drawn up before the scaffold. A little further there were three posts driven into the ground. Dostoevsky recognized Speshnev, serene and contemptuous as ever, Grigoriev, sick with fear, and Petrashevsky . . . 'Stand in a row!" A blackclad priest holding a cross led the procession. The numbed prisoners stumbled in the soft snow ... No one stirred ... The prosecutor stepped to the center of the platform and read the text of the verdict in a monotonuous and rapid voice, enumerated the crimes of which each of the prisoners had been guilty and ended the exposition with the simple word, 'Sentenced to death.' Petrashevsky, Mombelli, Grigoriev, Aksharumov •.. Dostoevsky... sentenced to death.'' Feodor Mikhailovic shuddered, as though awakening from a dream ... "This official was replaced at once by a priest. In a voice choked with emotion he delivered a sermon on the text of St. Paul: 'the wages of sin is death.' He explained to these unfortunates that nothing ends in this world, and that an eternity of bliss is in store for those who repent ..• Dostoevsky kissed the little silver cross, hard and icy. He straightened himself.


Dostoevsky 255

Now he could not doubt. The presence of the priest dispelled his last hope... "Meanwhile the priest had left the scaffolding. Two men in colored cloaks approached the condemned: the executioners. They had the large hairy hands of professional assassins. The trumpet sounded, the drums beat and their funeral roll echoed against the barrack walls. It grew lower, then began again, insistent, deafening, endless ... The conspirators were obliged to kneel. Above their heads the executioner broke swords as a sign of dishonor, then the young men were draped in white canvas robes with long sleeves and hoods. The first three, Petrashevsky, Mombelli and Grigoriev were tied to the posts, and the hangman drew the hoods over their faces. At a brief command, three squads came forth from the ranks and drew up before the condemned. Dostoevsky closed his eyes. He was the sixth man and would be in the next group of three. In five minutes he would be dead... "He was twenty-seven years old, fully conscious of his powers and his talent-and now, suddenly, he must die. He existed, he was living, and in three minutes he would be nothing -or something else or someone else. . . The soldiers loaded their guns and shouldered them. The silence was unbearable. One command: 'Fire!' and those three bodies would founder to the ground, ridiculously limp. Then they would be taken away and replaced by three others ... But why did they not fire? ... "Retreat was sounded. The hangmen untied Petrashevsky, Mombelli and Grigoriev and led them back to the platform. The prosecutor stepped forth again and, stammering atrociously, read the commutation of the sentence: 'The defendants, who deserved the death penalty in accordance with the law, are pardoned by the infinite clemency of His Majesty the Em· peror... ' So it was to be hard labor and exile. Joy descended on Dostoevsky like a huge, concrete mass. He was saved! Noth· ing else mattered. Twenty years later he said to his wife, 'I cannot recall any day as happy as that one.' Some of his com· panions, however, were so exhausted by their emotions and so disgusted by this farce that they longed for the death they had


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escaped. Grigoriev was livid and trembling. His teeth chat¡ tered. In those few moments he had gone insane" (Henry Troyat, Firebrand, The Life of Dostoevsky, 1946, pp. 129-134). Dostoevsky never could forget this horrible experience, and he recalls this scene in both The Possessed and The Idiot. SLAVE LABOR

He spent the next eight years in Eastern Russia, near Omsk for the first four years. "There he spent four infernal years at hard labor, surrounded by murderers and other ciminals, and had to submit to treatment so inhuman that only glimpses of it can be caught in his later work, especially in Notes from the House of the Dead" (Marc Slonim, Introduction to The Brothers Karamazov). He describes the hitter isolation in the above work when "one would sometimes, through a chink in the fence, take a peep into God's world to try and see something; hut one could see only a strip of the sky and the high earthen wall overgrown with coarse weeds, and on the wall sentries pacing up and down day and night." Life inside the prison was almost unbearable: "In the vapor appeared scarred backs, shaven heads and abbreviations of crooked hands and legs ... It occurred to me that if we were all to meet again in hell, it would remind us of the place where we were now" (Tropat). In 1854 he was sent as a prisoner-soldier to the disciplinarian battalion in Semipalatinsk, an Asiatic "hellhole." It was not until 1858 that Dostoevsky was allowed to return to European Russia. During these eight years he underwent the regular ordeals of the Russian prisoner: he saw his fellow "criminals" suffer through brutal lashings, experienced the pain of being locked in chains, became nauseated with the poor quality of the food, dirty clothing, and the tightly packed quarters that were stifling in the summer and hone-tingling cold in the Siberian winters. Because of these extreme conditions. Dostoevsky became a new men, both physically and spiritually. His health was ruined for the rest of his life, and he began to have severe attacks of epilepsy. And since he was unable to procure literary materials from the outside, he chose to read and medi-


Dostoevsky

25 7

tate often on the New Testament. As a result he began to see the relationships between God, man, and nature in a new light. SuFFERING OF MARITAL LIFE

Even though Dostoevsky took leave of Eastern Russia with his fragile body, his suffering in some sense became more intensified, for his first marriage ended in near despair. "The scenes between husband and wife grew increasingly coarse because of Maria's heightened irritability-she was slowly dying of consumption-and his own more and more frequent attacks of epilepsy. It was a marital inferno, more terrible than the cruelest imagination could conceive: a half-insane invalid and an epileptic were torturing one another to death" (Rene Fiilliip-Miller, Fyodor Dostoevsky, p. 13). Telling a friend how he felt after an attack of epilepsy he said, "I feel that I am a great criminal and it seems that an unknown sin, a vile action of some kind, lies heavy on my conscience." With the death of Maria, Dostoevsky married Anna Grigorievna and it was largely through her efforts that some semblance of order began to make itself noticeable in his life, not however without many trials and sorrows. Indicating Dostoevsky's profound interest and understanding of human suffering, his second wife recounts a scene from the early days of their marnage: "She and her husband, on their way to Geneva in 1867, broke their journey in Basle in order to see a picture which they had been told about. 'It was a painting by Holbein, in which Christ, who has just suffered an inhuman martyrdom, is represented as having been taken down from the cross and abandoned to decomposition.' Unable to endure so painful a spectacle for long, Anna Grigorievna went on into another room. 'But my husband,' she says 'seemed shattered .... When I returned, twenty minutes later, he was still there, in the same place, rooted to the spot. His stricken face wore that expression of dread which I had very often noticed at the beginning of epileptic fits . . . He gradually calmed down, but on leaving the gallery he was very anxious to look at the picture once

l


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Chicago Studies

more'" (Henri de Lubac, The Drama of Atheist Humanism, pp.l73-l74). During this early period of his second marriage, he "incurred endless debts, struggled for money and begged from all his friends. His real difficulties and heavy family responsi¡ bility were aggravated by his gambling. All this, however harassing, was nothing compared with the conjunction of crea¡ tive tension with the constant fear that illness (his epilepsy) or death might prevent him from finishing his work" (Nadejda Gorodetzky, The Humiliated Christ in Modem Russian Thought

p. 58). Struggling on as the years flashed by he realized "quite suddenly he was growing old, and like many men who retain an air of youth through middle age, he began to age quickly. His body had been wasted by innumerable attacks of epilepsy; he suffered excruciatingly from throat catarrh, and there were inexplicable fits of dizziness. At fifty-five he looked like a man of seventy" (Robert Payne, Dostoyevsky: A Human Portrait, p. 309). Thus Dostoevsky ran the gamut from an unhappy childhood to an undeserved conviction, from the penal colony to illness and addiction to gambling with its consequent debts and privations. At last this man's light slowly flickered out by sheer exhaustion. His life was one long adventure through foggy morasses, impenetrable mazes, and flashes of brilliant insight. Berdyaev closes our look at Dostoevsky's life with a strong, perhaps exaggerated, statement - one however with which other writers would agree as far as the substance of the matter goes: "No one has felt human suffering more acutely than Dostoevsky, and his heart is ever bleeding" (Nicholas Berdyaev, Dostoievsky, p. 107). "SUFFERING" IN HIS NOVELS

Dostoevsky's mental and physical sufferings are, naturally enough, reflected in his novels; for one example, there is usually at least one character in each of his works who is an epileptic. There is always one individual who is usually set apart from the rest for being maltreated, being misunderstood,


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259

or most typically, enduring humiliation. There are numerous passages to choose from, hut two citations from Crime and Punishment, and The Insulted and Injured illustrate this point. In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov the murderer and Sonia the "innocent" prostitute hold their :first scene: "Five minutes passed. He still paced up and down the room in silence, not looking at her. At last he went up to her; his eyes glittered. He put his two hands on her shoulders and looked straight into her tearful face. His eyes were hard, feverish and piercing, his lips were twitching. All at once he bent down quickly and dropping to the ground, kissed her foot. Sonia drew back from him as from a madman. And certainly he looked like a madman. "'What are you doing to me?' she muttered, turning pale, and a sudden anguish clutched at her heart. "He stood up at once. " 'I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity," he said wildly and walked away to the window. 'Listen,' he added, turning to her a minute later. 'I said just now to an insolent man that he was not worth your little finger . . . and that I did my sister honor making her sit beside you.' "'Ach, you said that to them! And in her presence?' cried Sonia, frightened. 'Sit down with me! An honor! Why, I'm ... dishonourable . . . Ah, why did you say that?' " 'It was not because of your dishonor and your sin I said that of you, but because of your great suffering. But you are a great sinner, that's true,' he added almost solemnly, 'and your worst sin is that you have destroyed yourself for nothing. Isn't that fearful? Isn't it fearful that you are living in this filth which you loathe so, and at the same time you know yourself (you've only to open your eyes) that you are not helping any one by it, not saving any one from anything! Tell me,' he went on almost in a frenzy, 'how this shame and degradation can exist in you side by side with other, opposite, holy feelings? It would be better, a thousand times better and wiser to leap into the water and end it all!'


•

260 Chicago Studies

" 'But what would become of them?' Sonia asked faintly, gazing at him with eyes of anguish, but not seeming surprised at his suggestion." Later when the problem reaches its solution we see another side of the picture; "in a silent scene which is the height of tragedy, Sonia sees the monstrous secret in his eyes. The poor girl is struck dumb by the revelation, but she recovers quickly. She knows what to do, and this cry issues from her heart: 'We must suffer together, pray and expiate. Let us go off to prison together.' " In another story, The Insulted and Injured, we see a young girl, whose mother has died and whose father has run off, try to stand up against the cruelty of her surroundings. "I pictured Nellie alone, too, without her mother, remembering all this, while Mme. Bubnov was trying by blows and brutal cruelty to break her spirit and force her into a vicious life. Later Nellie does not even want to accept the kindness of friends who are willing to adopt her arid look after her welfare: "'Yes, I'd better go into the street and beg. I won't stay here!' she shrieked sobbing. 'My mother begged in the street too. and when she was dying she said to me, 'Better be poor and beg in the street than .. .' 'It's not shameful to beg. I beg of all, and that's not the same as begging from one. To beg of one is shameful, but it's not shameful to beg of all'; that's what one beggar-girl said to me. I'm little, I've no means of earning money. I'll ask from all. I won't! I won't! I'm wicked, I'm wickeder than anyone. See how wicked, I am!' " 'There, now it's broken,' she added, looking at me with a sort of defiant triumph. 'There are only two cups,' she added, 'I'll break the other ... and then how will you drink your tea?' " REDEMPTIVE POWER OF SUFFERING

Berdyaev is accurate in pointing out that Dostoevsky strongly believed in the redemptive, regenerative function, and drawing power of suffering; man expiates his sin through suffering. Fredom has opened the path of evil to man, it is a proof of free¡ dom, and man must pay the price. The price is suffering and by


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it the freedom that has been spoiled and turned into its contrary is reborn and given back to man." George Steiner sheds more light on this spiritual philosophy: "In Dostoevsky an terms, the salvation of man depends on his vulnerability, on his exposure to suffering and crises of conscience which compel him to face unequivocally the dilemma of God. To make them more liable to ambush, the novelist stripped his personages of sheltering impediments. When God's shadow falls across their paths, the dread intensity of the challenge is diminished neither by the routine of social life nor by temporal involvement" (George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, p. 189). Since God and the devil are waging a battle for the hearts and minds of men everywhere there is bound to be much tor· ment and suffering. And like Christ who came upon earth, the sinless one who took upon himself the suffering of the guilty and innocent alike, so too must man take upon himself the suffering, man must be responsible for others' guilt through sin. This is the spiritual message of Dostoevsky. Reading the works of this master novelist can be a torturing process, a kind of catharsis in which the spiritual thought goes through a transformation. Ivanov has a similar idea on this point: "Direct experience tells us, as soon as we have traversed a great work by this epic poet·tragedian, that our tender hearts have not been stung in vain; that some inerasable mark has been left upon us; that we have become somehow different; that, indeed, a quite inconceivable and nevertheless joyful con· firmation of the meaning and value of life and suffering has begun to shine like a star in our souls, which have been en· nobled by the secret sacrifice of a shared renunciation, and blessed and redeemed by the painful gift of a spiritual parturi· tion" (Vyacheslav Ivanov, Freedom and the Tragic Life, p. 13). It is Dostoevsky's psychological insight into the human character that makes his writing and observations so effective. "In the scenes of pathos, of rapture, of nightmare, especially where the characters speak almost as naked souls, this indif. ferent and awkward stylist finds phrases that, in his own words,


262 Chicago Studies

veritably 'scratch the heart'" (Avrahm Yarmolinsky, Dostoevsky, His Life and Art, p. 405). MYSTERY OF

Goo AND

MAN

Fortunately for Dostoevsky and his countless readers, he found his "vocation" or mission in life at an early date. Man is a mystery which "must be solved, and even if you pass your entire life solving it, do not say you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, since I want to be a man" (Payne). Thus he "devoted the whole of his creative energy to one single theme, man and man's destiny. He was anthropological and anthropocentric to an almost inexpressible degree: the problem of man was his absorbing passion." He was "bound to man more than any thinker before him had been; he Aafeguarded the image and likeness of God in the least and most abandoned of his creatures" (Berdyaev). At the same time "it is no exaggeration to say that there is not a single modern writer of his rank who has clung to Christ with such burning of heart and mind alike as Dostoevsky" (Karl Pfleger, Wrestlers with Christ, p. 209). Some commentators go so far as to use the term "God-drunk" to describe his emphasis on the place of Christ in this world. But Dostoevsky does bring home one truth. Man cannot organize the world without God; without God he can only organize the world against man. HOPE OF RESURRECTION

It has been objected that Dostoevsky's dictum that each must become responsible for all things, for everyone and that each person must shoulder the suffering of mankind-one of the great social truths to come out of the Gospels--always ends on Calvary. Though there is some truth in this objection, the resurrection also has a place in his world view. His great novels end with an optimistic note; man must have faith in himself and, above all, in the power and love of Christ; for example, Sonia and Raskolnikov in Siberia: "She too had been greatly agitated that day, and at night she was taken ill again. But she was so happy-and so unex-


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263

pectedly happy-that she was almost frightened of her happiness. Seven years, only seven years! At the beginning of their happiness at some moments they were both ready to look on those seven years as though they were seven days. He did not know that the new life would not be given him for nothing, that he would have to pay dearly for it, that it would cost him great striving, great suffering. But that is the beginning of a new story-the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended" (Crime and Punishment). The same note is paralleled in the conclusion of the Karamazov's story: "'And always so, all our lives hand in hand! Hurrah for Karamazov!' Kolya cried once more rapturously and once more the boys took up his exclamation: 'Hurrah for Karamazov!'" Dostoevsky's "body of work, this dreadful work, ends in a hymn of hope. The whole of it is a hymn of hope. That is its underlying meaning. Dostoevsky is the prophet of the other life . . . He is the prophet of unity, which presupposes a breach to be healed; the prophet of the resurrection, which presupposes experience of death" (de Lubac). The great value of Dostoevsky's place in world literature is that he probes the mind and asks large questions, ultimate questions that confronts each man in every generation. In his works, "all relative values were related to absolute values and received their significance, positive or negative, from the way they reflected the higher values" (D. S. Mirsky, A History of Russian Literature, p. 279). If a man wishes to save himself and his fellow man, he must face the need of religious rebirth that Dostoevsky posed. For the real truth about Dostoevsky, whose works are so exciting and emotionally charged that they are called "more real than life" is this: we must learn to live.


•

Ronald L. Holloway

The Bite of the Watchdog A paper on movie censorship, delivered at the National Film Board of Camuia Summer Institute,

Montreal, August 2, 1966.

A current issue of Esquire magazine features a humorous article (under "Stop the Presses, I Want To Get Off") entitled "Remember the Sixties?" It offers a survey of the "happenings" of this decade-that is, of the first six years. It points out (rather sympathetically) that "the Sixties have been so packed with hysteria, so intense and frenetic, so rocking and rolling, so pop and so op that we have well nigh obliterated all that came before. And so we benevolently announce that the Sixties are over. Let six years be a decade. Let the next four be a vacation." So it is, certainly, with the movie world. In the post-war years we witnessed the rise of new expressions in an already nostagically "old" medium-new faces and new personalities, new directors and new techniques, new environments and new ideas. Movies were not only growing up, they were maturing (the living room Cyclops" took care of that). More than ever before, films presented moral issues and problems, which in tum generate other moral issues and problems. The Sixties provided the headlines and the "trouble." 265


266

Chicago Studies

To begin arbitrarily, the 1959 production of Analomy of a Murder first stirred the waters of controversy with the introduction of two words: rape and contraceptive. Two Women then depicted the rape. Fellini presented his survey of contemporary sexuality in La Dolce Vita (which also made the first "prophet of the 60's" out of Joe Levine and gave us the first international star in Marcello Mastroianni). Bergman began his search for a fruitless God in his famous trilogy (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence) and exposed the personality of a director as it had never been attempted before. Two exposurestudies of middle-class propriety from different viewpoints were tested on audiences in Forbes' The L Shaped Room and ¡Wyler's The Collector. Even the entertainment fad of this decade, the "secret agent" pictures, brought a few surprisesone that was very good (The lpcress File), one that was very sad (The Silencers), one that was both good and sad (Goldfinger), and one that may be sadder yet (In Like Flint). And there are the three surprises on the screen that put Hollywood's Production Code out to pasture: The Pawnbroker, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Alfie. The result? Confusion. Old standards no longer apply. The laws of the land are being challenged, dissected, changed, patched up, and thrown away. The watchdogs of our society, particularly censor boards, are perilously attempting to interpret the moral fibre of the community. Churchmen, sociolo¡ gists and educators are discovering new rationales and exploring new approaches to an already extremely segmented society. Self-styled radicals of both extremes can always be found in the middle of the foray. To put it into focus from a different perspective, I quote from an article printed in a household magazine at the beginning of the 60's. These are the concluding two paragraphs from excritic William K. Zinsser's "The Bold and Risky World of 'Adult' Movies,' which appeared in the not-so-bold-but-alwaysrisky Life magazine: "With formal censorship reduced to such . . . a degree, Hollywood enters the 1960's with the best chance it has ever


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had to reach maturity. All the old watchdogs are losing--or at least loosening-their bite. The Code and the churches are more liberal than ever before, and so are the times. Film censorship has been declared largely unconstitutional, and where censors do survive, they are regarded as somewhat un-American. Classification is still only a distant dream. "This means that the task of policing American movies in the coming era of frank expression will lie in two places. The first is Hollywood itself, for if the motion picture industry misuses its freedom, public opinion will soon snatch that freedom away. But in the last analysis there is only one effective film censor in the United States today, and his job is getting more difficult by the hour. That censor is, of course, every parent. True censorship, like charity, begins at home, the one place where it incontestably belongs." This paper intends to offer a partial study of today's movie watchdog and his bite and hopes to present not so much the case for or against censorship but an explication of its somewhat eternal reality in society. DEFINITIONS

The word censorship conjures up immediately a variety of meanings and definitions. For our purposes, we will divide the issues into three categories: censorship by law, self-regulation and classification. Censorship by law. In the United States, this means the prior determination by a duly appointed board under a statute or ordinance of a film's suitability for exhibition. Such boards include customs censorship (under the Department of the Treasury), state censorship (formerly four states), city censorship, and occasionally police censorship. Although in many places censor boards are not actually constituted for reviewing and licensing of films, nevertheless obsenity laws are on the books of forty-seven states and innumerable cities and towns. Normally prior restraint is exercised by a board, which means that a film must be submitted for review before a license is . g1ven. Self-regulation. The Hollywood industry prefers to regulate


268 Chicago Studies

itself and for this purpose has set up an administrative office to police its own product. The standards are found in the Production Code, written in 1930 and revised in 1956. The Code applies to both film scripts and the completed picture. If a member company of the Motion Picture Producers of America (MPP A) does not receive Code approval, the ruling may be appealed to a Board of Review or the company may risk exhibition without approval. Foreign films are almost never submitted to the Production Code Administration. Classification. Classification can come from within the industry or outside and applies to the rating of a film according to the nature of the audiences. Two types of classification are differentiated: a) compulsory classification, with mandatory powers of enforcement; and b) voluntary classification, applying to its free acceptance by a constituency. Unlike other countries the United States has no form of government classification, and it is considered by the industry to be dangerously close to censorship. It is well to note that these are simplified terms. When censorship is discussed in a group, any number of imprecise¡ terms and phrases are used, for instance (as one author noted): government censorship, customs censorship, police censorship, pressure-group censorship, industry self-censorship, obscenity regulations, police obscenity regulations, pressure-group regulations, governmental classification, industry classification, voluntary ratings, distributor-exhibitor ratings, and publication ratings. Apparently, as Life magazine finds it apt, we can even refer to "parental censorship." Also, I am relatively ignorant of the censorship problems that are faced in countries other than my own, although I am sure that the situation in Canada is similar to the one we face at home. The only difference is that forces are probably brought into play from different points of departure and with varying intensity. THE ISSUE OF PRIOR RESTRAINT

The most important issue in film censorship is that of prior restraint, enforced by law through state and local censorship


Movies 269

boards. It is one thing to say that free press and free speech is impeded by prior censorship. But it is yet another thing to say that movies, as a medium of free expression, are en路 titled to the same freedom. The first ordinance to establish a censorship board for the purpose of viewing and determining the moral fitness of films before their exhibition was Chicago's in 1907. The board was placed under the direction of the police department, where it still exists today in a somewhat modified form. Nearly every city and a few states (New York, Kansas, Virginia and Mary路 land) followed suit. In the beginning, the producers did not object vociferously, until the realization came that the boards presented constant problems of time, fees and harrassment. The first challenge arose in 1915, when an Ohio distributor argued that movies had the same rights as free speech and free press. The Supreme Court however disagreed. The ruling stated: "The exhibition of motion pictures is a business pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit, like other spectacles, not to be regarded, nor intended to be regarded . . . as a part of the press of the country or as organs of public opinion." For the next forty years, this decision was to remain the samemovies were not to be considered a medium of free expression. Naturally, censorship boards thrived, and some were liable to censor anything that moved in the wrong way. The picture began to change quickly in 1948.The major movie companies saw their monopoly structure of theatre ownership crumble and fall to the ground, again by the decision of the Court. This led to a weakening of restraints because the theater owners could now choose the products they themselves desired, and what they came to desire were movies with !IJOre provocative themes. Secondly, the influx of foreign material led to a new area of screen appreciation-Open City, Paisan, Bicycle Thief, La Strada, etc. Since these films did not seek Code approval, the self-regulation system of the industry was open for challenge. The issue for freedom of the press and its applica路 tion to the film medium came quickly to the fore. The pre路 dicament was even more accentuated by the opinion Justice


270 Chicago Studies

William 0. Douglas expressed in the industry monopoly case: "We have no doubt that moving pictures, like newspapers and radio, are included in the press whose freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment." Four years later, in 1952, "The Miracle Case" provided the first breakthrough. The Miracle was made in Italy by Roberto Rossellini and presented the story of a simpleton girl seduced by a passing vagrant whom she believed to be St. Joseph. The pregnant girl was played by Anna Magnani and the script was done by Frederico Fillini. An independent importer, Joseph Burstyn, presented the film to the New York Censor Board; it was approved and licensed for the Paris theater. Two weeks later, the New York City Commissioner of Licenses threatened to suspend the license on the grounds that the film was "officially and personally blasphemous." He was supported by the public outcry of offended groups, notably Cardinal Spellman of New York. The film was reviewed again and the censors ruled it "sacrilegious." When the Supreme Court handled the case, the decision was reversed unanimously. But the Court stated only that "sacrilege" was not a valid judicial guide under which a censor board could operate under law. In the cases to follow, other standards by which censor boards acted were gradually eliminated. Examples are Pinky ("prejudicial to the best interests of people"), La Ronda ("immoral"), The Moon is Blue ("tending to currupt morals"), M {"harmful"), Native Son ("contributing to racial misunderstanding"), Lady Chatterley's Lover ("adultery as proper conduct"), The Garden of Eden ("indecent"). This left only the term obscenity as grounds for censorship. An attempt was then made to rule out the constitutionality of all censor boards. A film called Don Juan, an innocent variation on the classic Don Giovanni theme, was presented to the Chicago censors for a license without preview. This decision in 1961 by the Supreme Court on the "Times Film Case" was important and is still extremely relevant to the situation today. By a close decision of 5-4, the Court ruled the city of Chicago had a right to inspection beforehand with the statement that


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"it is not for this Court to limit the state in its selection of the remedy it deems most effective" for the welfare of the community. However, the opinion of the dissenting Justices (notably Chief Justice Earl Warren} indicated this was perilously close to saying that the "licensing scheme may also be applied to newspapers, books, periodicals, radio, televison, public speeches, and every other medium of expression. The Court in no way explains why moving pictures should be treated differently than any other form of expression." Therefore it should be noted that the issue of prior restraint is still defensible in a limited number of cases, essentially those violations of "obscenity" laws. As a footnote to this case, an editorial appeared in a Catholic periodical, Commonweal, which offers (in my opinion} an accurate insight into the problem as a whole: "Censorship is a very delicate and difficult business, and it is not helped by the extremists on both sides-those who think that every piece of obscenity published is a blow struck for freedom and the vigilantes that would ban first and ask questions afterwards. As Justice Clark noted, every city has 'the duty to protect its people against the dangers of obscenity in the public exhibition. of motion pictures.' But the steps taken to protect the people against the evil of obscenity must not bring about the danger of a worse evil-the loss of the precious and perishable commodity of free speech-and this is the danger which the dissenting opinion discusses. Weighing the evils and the dangers in the question of prior film censorship, we would have to align ourselves with the dissenters.'' A final case for consideration is "Freedman vs. Maryland" of 1965. Slightly different from the Chicago situation, a Baltimore exhibitor played a non-obscene film, Revenge at Daybreak, without bothering to apply for a license. He was arrested and convicted for violation of a state law but contended that prior restraint of his film was unconstitutional in itself as an infringement of free speech. Again, the Supreme Court ruled against the defendant, stating that "the requirement of prior submission to a censor sustained in 'Times Film' is con-


272 Chicago Studies

sistent with our recognition that films differ from other forms of expression." But the Court did strike down the state statute that required the exhibitor to bring proceedings against the censor board's determination and stated that the defendant was entitled to a prompt judicial ruling by court of law (in· stead of merely being impeded by administrative action). In effect, the tables are reversed. It is now up to a court to rule promptly on each individual film that is contested. As a result, this decision provided a burial ground for most state and municipal laws that did not formally guarantee the defendant the freedom of the courts. The censor boards of New York, Vir· ginia and Kansas no longer exist. To summarize, the bite of the legal watchdog has been re· duced severely. It can still bite of course, but nearly all its teeth are missing. Today the statutes are being rewritten, and new laws will tend to zero in on the sole standard of "obscenity" with provisions for an immediate judicial response to indi· vidual cases. It will only be a matter of time before a series of important new cases reach the headlines. A side comment should be made on "obscenity." Presently, the "Ginsberg Case" ( 1966) has received wide attention and notoriety, in which the Supreme Court convicted a publisher for distributing Eros magazine. What is "obscenity?" By simple analysis of the Court's definition it is that which 1) constitutes hard-core pornography, 2) has no redeeming social value, and 3) is offensive to standards of public morality. The problem is much wider than this, but then again we are treating here the issue of movie censorship. It would thus be precarious and presumptive to extend the matter of free press to the related, but still constitutionally different, medium of film expression. My own opinion of prior legal restraint is that it is too faulty to treat the film as a medium o£ artistic expression and communication. Too many ridiculous examples of screen regulation by censor board bear this out. Some recent examples are the following: 1) Films such as Never on Sunday, The Balcony, and Room at the Top were banned by censorship boards as being simply "objectional." 2) Some films are denied


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licenses before they are even seen, or they are previewed by a board that is not representative of local communities. It is frequently highly dubious as to which criteria (other than personal dislikes) are applied to a film's suitability. 3) In the "Times Film Case" detailed examples of misuse of cen路 sorship were presented by the Supreme Court. It stated: "A revelation of the extent to which censorship has been used in this country is indeed astonishing. The Chicago licensers have banned newsreel films of Chicago policemen shooting at labor pickets and have ordered the deletion of a scene depicting the birth of a buffalo. in Walt Disney's Vanishing Prairie." It then goes on for pages enumerating scores of other instances of the same caliber. In all honesty however, some recogmuon should be given to the establishment of "appeal boards," which provide a safety路 valve mechanism for the distributor who wishes to contest the decision of the censors without having to resort to the courts. This naturally does not solve the problem of confronting an incompetent censor board, but it alleviates the necessity of going to the courts. Before the Maryland Case stipulated im路 mediate court action, the exhibitors in trouble in the city of Chicago seemed to prefer submitting their film again to the appeal board. In most cases, they go away somewhat satisfied.

If I were to propose an immediate solution to most of the problems of legal censorship, it would be that of industry self-regulation (or, if you will, self-censorship). But in ac路 tuality this can be only a partial answer to difficulties because it applies solely to the big Hollywood industry or the "home product." Since movies are an international and independent medium of expression, it is not conceivably possible for the film industry to police itself totally. The only other alternative is classification, either compulsory and voluntary, that would meet the needs of society. To some critics, all proposals for classification are untenable and they would much prefer a system of checks and balances that would lead the audience to choose for itself (and thus indirectly determine the quality of


274 Chicago Studie•

most film fare). These solutions demand singular and detailed treatment. REGULATION BY THE HOLLYWOOD INDUSTRY

The first real manifestation of self-control by the industry came soon after the First World War. The introduction of a bolder type of entertainment (that was paying off commercially) and the headlines caused by Hollywood scandals aroused the public to protest. The industry replied by forming its own organization for protection and public relations, known originally as the MPPDA (Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America). Its czar was Will H. Hays, then the Postmaster General in President Harding's Cabinet. With the growing clamor caused by censorship boards and the growth of the film's sophistication, the industry was prevailed upon to adopt a code of morals in 1930. The Production Code was written by a Jesuit, Daniel Lord, and a trade journalist, Martin Quigley; both were Roman Catholics. After the Production Code (which was voluntary) went unheeded for a few years, a Production Code Administration (PCA) was set up to handle affairs more efficiently as an enforcement agency. Presently, this office is under the direction of Geoffrey Shurlock, and the Code was revised once in 1956. It is important to note that the PCA examines scripts before production and reviews the completed film afterwards to suggest cuts, etc. It is entirely an advisory agency, agreed to by the member companies. If a film is contested, it is brought before a Board of Review (consisting of producers, directors and theater owners), where the final determination is made as to whether it is to receive a "seal of approval." The Code itself suffers from a wide assortment of ambiguities and misleading inferences. This can best be illustrated by the accentuated moral tone of its opening paragraphs under General Principles: "1) No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience shall never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin. 2) Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be


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presented. 3) Law-divine, natural or human-shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation." The Code then goes on to make particular application to crime, murder, brutality, sex, seduction or rape, vulgarity, obscenity, blasphemy and profanity, costumes, religion, special subjects (bedroom scenes, hangings, drinking, childbirth, etc), national feelings, titles, and cruelty to animals. It is correct to say that although the treatment of certain subjects should be moral and meaningful, it should not on the other hand dictate life as an unnatural, vicarious experience. This is indirectly what the Code is trying to do, thus frequently robbing the audience of an encounter with its own environment and conditions. For this reason, as films began to mature ( especially in our present 60's), the Code has run into serious trouble. An examination of its present awkward position is best analyzed through a survey of the last three editorials in Motion Picture Herald (a trade publication that is edited by the son of Code's co-author, Martin Quigley, Jr.) :

/une 22, 1966: "Virginia Woolf" and the Code. "The crisis in the Motion Picture Association over Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has been resolved-as had been widely predicted-by the appeal to the Review Board. As con¡ stituted the Board is unlikely to deny a Code Seal to any film brought before it. In the case of Virginia Woolf an exemption was granted. This was the way the appeal of The Pawnbroker was handled over a year ago. "In its statement explaining the exemption the Review Board made three points: I) the film is not designed to he prurient; 2) Warners wants no one under 18 admitted unless accompanied by a parent; and 3) the exemption is specific and does not mean that the floodgates are open for language or other material. The statement ended in these words: 'We desire to allow excellence to be displayed and we insist that films, under whatever guise, which go beyond rational measures of community standards will not bear a "Seal of Approval." ' "If the Code system is to be preserved, immediate action is


276

Chicago Studies

required to forestall any more Code Seals issued by exemptions. "If the Code system is not worth preserving, let's give it a quick burial."

July 6, 1966: The Code is Dead. "While the causes of the Code's long sickness are many, the cause of death is one. The Code died because of Who's

Afraid of Virginia Woolf? "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? got its exemption on the grounds that the film is of high quality, made at great cost by people of consummate talents. "Certainly the members of the Review Board did not take the position that blasphemy is not blasphemy, that profanity is not profanity, and that verbal obscenity is not verbal obscenity. "Here is the issue between the handling of The Pawnbroker and Virginia Woolf. The Pawnbroker did not kill the Code. Virginia Woolf did. "Many have held that good taste is the ultimate standard. Virginia Woolf killed this approach. "There certainly is a question of good taste in handling nudity, violence and many other matters. "There is no such thing as good taste in blasphemy, pro¡ fanity and obscenity."

July 20, 1966: And Now--"Alfie." "Now, having passed blasphemy, profanity and verbal ob¡ scenity-all barred by the Production Code-the Motion Picture Association is confronted with a film which treats abortion beyond the limits imposed in the Code. The film is Alfie, made in England on a modest budget and a remarkable success at the box office there. "The MPAA has two alternatives: 1) the Production Code Administration may ignore the plain and flagrant violation of the Code (as has been done from time to time in the past but never in so blatant a case); or 2) the PCA may refuse to grant a Code seal until ordered to do so by an interpretation of the Review Board.


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"Should Geoffrey Shurlock deny Alfie a Code approval, Paramount would immediately appeal. Given the present membership of the Review Board and the record of the body's past actions, the outcome is a foregone conclusion-Alfie will get by, either through an overriding of the PCA or by a Code exemption. "The Alfie situation again raises the question of the proper function of the PCA and of the Appeal Board. "Everything expressly prohibited in the Production Code apparently is to be approved, one way or another." Quigley's editorials point out two things. Apparently (in his opinion), the industry's watchdog not only does not have any teeth-it is apparently dead. Moreover, there does not seem to be any indication that the PCA's Appeal Board will hold the line on films that are handled within the bounds of "good taste" (notwithstanding Quigley's personal preferences). A few side comments perhaps should be offered on the subject of the industry's desire for self-regulation. Ostensively, the MPPA makes a good show of wanting to police itself, but it goes very little beyond that. When Otto Preminger released The Man With the Golden Arm and The Moon is Blue without Code approval, he benefitted financially from the notoriety that followed. The producers are aware of this. In another light, the PCA has often been referred to as the "right arm of the Legion of Decency," because the Legion historically caused its coming into existence. When the Production Code Administration passed Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid two years ago, the Legion accused the PCA of a "betrayal of trust." Last year a similar embarrassing situation developed for the MPPA when the New York Times ran an article that the Code should be revised and that the industry indicated that it was planning to do just that. But when the MPPA was questioned at length by reporters, it responded with befuddlement. ¡ What is to be concluded? A very lot depends on the newly appointed president of the MPPA, Jack Valenti, former Special Advisor to President Johnson in the White House. Valenti has not yet taken complete command of the situation (one com-


278

Chicago Studies

ment: "God created the world in six days-l've only been here two weeks!"). He skirted the Virginia Woolf problem, and one wonders whether this was completely wise in the light of the shape of things to come. Furthermore, the industry today does not stand to lose very much by not seeking Code approval or just going ahead without it, except for public relations (which presently are admittedly not good). Only television and the Armed Forces require the seal of approval for exhibition, and the theatre owners are more likely to look to the rating sheets of various classification groups to judge public opinion on their product. Strangely enough, the industry is incredibly disinterested in its audience beyond what appeals on a commercial level. What sells is all important, and it takes a defensive position when being attacked, even if it is done in a very friendly manner. Recently, in a Reader's Digest survey of film critics, in which 132 responded, it was discovered that 104 were opposed to the film industry's "preoccupation with themes dealing with unnatural sex, morbid suggestiveness, and thinly veiled porno路 graphy." Another article in Variety challenged the exhibitors' sincerity in their desire for family-type pictures. The advertising policies are even more abhorrent. In an article written for The Journal of the Screen Producers Guild (March 1965), John Houseman, one of the more articulate members of the film industry, stated: "It will remain forever incomprehensible how a strong and experienced organization such as the Motion Picture Producers' could have countenanced the prurient, re路 pulsive, inept and dishonest advertising with which many of its members, for more than a half century, disgraced and degraded the picture industry." To carry the point further, when the industry is sounded on the moral suitability of adolescent or children's viewing, it responds by hedging, moralizing, equivocation, and "shift路 ing the blame." A good example can be taken from the pro路 ceedings of a 1962 dialogue, "The Mass Media and the Moral Climate," co-sponsored by the New York Youth Board and the few interesting revelations:


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Committee of Religious Leaders of the City of New York. In the workshop on motion pictures, J. Raymond Bell, Director of Public Relations for Columbia Pictures Corporation, provided a "Are we so preoccupied with our examination of youngsters that we have failed to see that perhaps it is we who need examination? Yes, the mass media and the motion pictures provide influences. But what of the impact on the child of the neurotic actions and attitudes of their parents? What of the inhibiting and demoralizing forces of adults with a puritanical compulsion to correct, change or reform? And can adults objectively prescribe what youngsters may see or read when they lack the ability to think in terms of youth and know how youngsters will react? Here alone is one of the basic misconceptions of grownups-their tendency to see everything from their own point of view, failing or not wishing to recognize that youngsters never really react to things as we do. "The total impact on society and on its youth is immeasurable. It would therefore seem unfair to point to the screen and say, 'There's the real culprit.' We cannot in this way divert attention from the myriad contributors to the sickness of a segment of our society. "Like every mode of expression they (the movies) must live in the world of reality. Yet they must be made within the framework of self-respect and self-discipline. These aspects of responsibility are--and for more than thirty years have beenreflected in our industry's adherence to a voluntary code of self-regulation. The Code does not permit indecency or pornography. It provides that nothing be put on the screen to make what is basically wrong seem morally right. The Code safeguards the basic standards of morality and decency in motion pictures." It would be unfair for me to hint that Mr. Bell is in error on some of his assumptions, but his calculated concern for the industry is nevertheless misleading. Moreover, if the industry is to be honest at all, further research must be made into the influences and effects that movies have on children. (Thus far, such research has been sparse indeed-the Payne


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Fund Studies of the 30's and the 1956 hearings of the Kefauver Committee on Juvenile Delinquency are minor sources among infrequent attempts in this direction.) Film education has yet to be supported actively, despite all the money that has gone into publicity alone. Lastly, pressure groups are currently being reactivated and the industry is dangerously close to encountering the uproar that occurred thirty years ago. Since most pressure groups tend to be negative and unconstructive, the industry is liable to find itself aground on a sandbar of distrust and criticism. Moreover, pressure is coming from new and unexpected quarters. John Goldfarb, Please Come Home recently ran into trouble with Notre Dame University (for its satirical use of the university's symbols) and a temporary injunction against the movie's exhibition (since dismissed) was granted by the New York Supreme Court. Many conservativeminded "rearmament" groups (such as Chicago's Better Movie Council) are definitely on the scene to stay. CLASSIFICATION

Two kinds of classification must always be differentiated: compulsory and voluntary. The first is dangerously close to the strictest form of censorship, since it is enforced by law and places the responsibility on the theater owner not to admit anyone under a certain age. The second includes all other forms of classification adhered to by the industry and the public at large. Statutory classification has a myriad of interpretations and has met constant trouble on the state level. One example is a classification statute adopted by the State of Pennsylvania in 1959, which provided for the classification of movies for suitability under the age of seventeen. But the law also made it a criminal offense to exhibit a film that had been classified as "completely unsuitable for all." Basically, this did amount to censorship, and the statute was declared unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as a violation of free speech. Other states have encountered similar difficulties. On the level of the Federal Government, Senator Margaret


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Chase Smith has been seeking support to introduce a bill to Congress that would provide for a form of government classification. It is interesting to note that every foreign government has adopted a classification system except the United States. Two factors are in the forefront in the case for compulsory classification: 1) which standards would be employed for the method of classification; and 2) should provision be made for the indiscernible constitutional rites of minors to the free dissemination of ideas. Moreover, it also seems to be the inviolable right of parents to decide what is suitable for their children. And again it should be noted that the industry is afraid of losing money from a compulsory classification system. (In this respect, it is important to note that the MPPA has hired Louis Nizer-at a salary of 1,000,000 dollars over a five-year period, requiring only seventy-five percent of his time--reportedly to handle the industry's complex legal problems. The salary far exceeds that of Jack Valenti, the industry's new president.) My own inclination is that a different form of classification (i.e., other than compulsory), geared to protect against the corruption of youth with a recognition of the parent's right to supervision, is worth the nation's time, trouble and experimentation. There are, quite rightly, many problems to be worked out; but this is precisely the responsibility of a free and democratic society. A word now about the present forms of voluntary classification. Volunteer groups such as the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures (formerly the Legion of Decency), the Film Estimate Board of National Organizations (which publishes the Green Sheet), and the new rating service of the National Council of Churches are the major, huge organizations with broadly publicized information sheets. In addition, film ratings can be found in Parent's Magazine, the PTA Magazine of the Parent-Teacher Association, and the Consumer Bulletin, published by Consumers' Research. These groups (and others) reflect the viewpoints of their constituency and do not in any way fundamentally impede free speech. If anything, when a protest is made about the suitability of a motion picture, the


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Chicago Studies

group is exercizing its own rights granted by the Constitution. One group however has consistently maintained a position of authority that is strongly felt by the film industry, particularly by the theatre owner-the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures. The fact of the matter is that in many instances a film is found unacceptable by an exhibitor if it has received a B or C rating (i.e., morally objectionable in part or whole), and it consequently will not be shown. The exhibitor is not of course obligated to follow these ratings, but he often does so, not wishing to offend a large portion of his potential audience. There has been some discussion that this results in "restraint of trade," but the argument falters under the "lack of intended malice." A summary of the old Legion's position was accurately described by John Houseman in The Journal of the Screen Producer's Guild (March, 1965): "The Legion of Decency, quite rightly, points out that there is nothing coercive about its rulings; that it is merely issuing guidance to its flock against patronage of what it considers corrupting entertainment. But so long as studios and distributors continue to regard the loss of revenue that results from Legion disapproval as fatal to their business, the Legion doeS, in fact, exercise the function of censorship-censorship by boycott." Recently however the Legion has changed its title to the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures and has taken a forward position in the encouragement and growth of :film education. A new affiliate was added to its organization, the National Center for Film Study, which supports in a positive manner an appreciation of the film as an artistic medium of communication. It is also viewed by many that additional efforts should be made to possibly eliminate the necessity of prior "cuts" (which are made in order to obtain better ratings) and to revaluate the scope of the so-called 'condemned" rating (prompted by the recommendation by the Protestant Council of The Pawnbroker). The most recent development in voluntary classification is the Warner Brothers' decision to classify Who's Afraid of


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Virginia Woolf? under a special clause in its contract with exhibitors. The contract required that the exhibitor must refuse to admit anyone "under the age of 18 unless accompanied by a parent." In an open statement, Jack W a mer went on record as saying: "We are certain that theatre owners throughout the country will join with us gladly in this demonstration of maturity, responsibility and community-mindedness." Since the film is a box office bonanza ( $50,000 dollars in less than a week in Chicago), one can only surmise that the exhibitor is not going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. But there is always the next film and the one after that, as Hollywood is almost certain to repeat a winner. A side issue was raised indirectly by the trade journal, Motion Picture Herald: "What happens, if by design or by accident, a youth is admitted who should have been barred? May the distributor 'pull' the picture and cancel the run? Does the distributor have the right to damages? If so, how would damages be calculated?" To conclude, classification requires the cut-off age necessary to limit the viewing of adolescents. Yet, a chronological formula is arbitrary and to a great extent unrealistic in attempting to determine the maturity (intellectual, social, moral, emotional) of the individual. Moreover, who is going to determine the impact of certain dramatic and entertainment material? The problem of interpreting the mind of the "classifier" arises again and presents difficulties for the government, industry and the public. Bosley Crowther, in a pamphlet entitled Movies and Censorship," summarized the situation adequately: "The arguments pro and con classification are many and variable, and the individual's readiness to accept them seems to depend largely upon the slant of his sentiments. Here again the extent of comprehension is generally limited. Much more thought should be given to the matter before any big decisions are made." PRESSURE GROUPS AND PRIVATE CENSORSHIP

The tactics employed by "pressure groups" are more or less self-evident, but they can be extremely difficult to pin down.


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A simple explanation is to say that "pressure groups" exist on multiple levels: political, national, religious, moral, educational, community, local, ethnical, racial, and so forth. They certainly have their most telling effects on communities, schools and libraries, where media of communication are often prejudged as "harmful," "objectional," or "inappropriate." Again, this amounts to a form of censorship--censorship by fear of intimidation.· In the movie industry, the examples are too numerous to cite and much too complicated for this cursory study. Perhaps the less said about them the better, except to note that they frequently constitute the motivating force behind overt acts of censorship. "Private censorship" is even more difficult to ferret out than that imposed by the actions of pressure groups. In the first place it is more subtle. The United States War Depart· ment, the FCC, sponsors of radio and TV programs, newspaper publishers, film producers, distributors and exhibitors have all exercized censorial rights over what is considered their "property" or "official duty." Examples are prolific and multivarious. John Huston made a film for the War Depart· ment in the 40's, San Pietro, that was considered too "anti· war" for exhibition. Later, when he made an honest version of The Red Badge of Courage for MGM, it was terribly muti· lated as being too "arty." The current The Russians are Com· ing is not being shown at the Moscow Film Festival, as was previously indicated, because of "national interests." The Pawnbroker has lately fallen into different bands and cuts have been made to insure an A-3 rating from NCOMP. On television, the standards imposed by General Mills far exceed the propriety of a sponsor. In the second place, who is to say what limits of discretion and prudence can be exercised pri· vately? Does not a producer or sponsor or government agent have a right to act in his own (or his country's) best interests? Where is the line drawn? Where does censorship begin? To illustrate the confusion that crops up so often in cases of "private censorship," a humorous note appeared in the July issue of the Canyon Cinema News:


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"The following letter was received from George Amberg of the University of Minnesota. It contains an explanation of his position regarding what we, on the basis of incomplete information, reported as his part in a censorship sitnation. Our apologies are extended. 'You published a notice, stating that "I banned Flaming Creatures at the U of M campus on grounds of being bad art." I don't know the source of your information, but I believe that my past record entitles me to a rectification. 'In the first place, I'm in no position to "ban" anything. I am faculty advisor to the University Film Society (in fact, one of two, the other being Jerome Liebling), and if your information service is accurate and complete, you must surely be aware that I have done my very best to support the policy of the Society in any number of controversial sitnations. I have great respect for A. Milgrom, the Society's director, as both a private person (he is my assistant in Humanities) and as the director of this enterprise. I dare say we have jointly fought some battles against the administration and the community, and we have won some of them. 'As concerns Flaming Creatures, the showing was scheduled at a time when Milgram's position was critically endangered. Tbe Film Society had been under fire for some time and its very survival was at stake. The issue was never whether or not Flaming Creatures had artistic value, or whether it was wise to show it in open performance. It would have been a provocation the Society would not have survived. It is my honest opinion that this film was not worth the price of the demise of a well-run and successful film society. I wonder whose cause you think you are defending?' " These reflections on pressure groups and private censorship are admitted! y spotty and inconclusive. More would be said except that it is likely to cloud the major issues of :film censorship, which are more readily serviceable for exploration and a study. SUMMARY

Up to now, I have primarily offered a study of "movie


286 Chicago Studies

watchdogging." It is time to give my own opm1ons and con· elusions on what has been presented. First, censorship is almost entirely subjective. The canard "Who censors the censor?" is not far from the truth. Because it is subjective, it is very much open to question and challenge. Moreover, it should always be challenged by an intelligent person. Second, I am convinced that prior restraint is a clear impedi· ment to the principles of free expression. The movies are no exception. My feeling is that films should be submitted to a board only for viewing and allowed free exhibition under law. If a community deems it offensive after exhibition (one day or week is sufficient), let the offender be brought to court for immediate legal action. In my opinion, the Supreme Court will eventually lean in this direction. Third, classification is- a much better solution than prior censorship. Although the application is complex, it is never· theless important to safeguard the morals of youth. An in· telligently devised classification system would certainly solve the overall problems. Fourth, parents do make the best censors for their children. Provisions must be made in a classification system to allow for supervised audience attendance. Fifth, the film industry has a responsibility to study the side effects of its product. Until it does so adequately, its present opposition to a classification system is senseless. Sixth, film education on any and all levels will mitigate the problems of censorship and the sometimes heedless action of pressure groups. Movies are constantly getting better. The exciting Sixties are not yet over. SUGGESTED READINGS Carmen, Ira H., Movies, Censorship, and the Law, Ann Ar· bor: The University of Michigan Press, 1966. Chafee, Zechariah, Jr., Free Speech in the United States,


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Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1941. Crowther, Bosley, Movies and Censorship, Public Affairs Pamphlet No. 332, 1962. Handel, Leo A., Hollywoo,Z Looks at its Audience, A Report of Film Audience Research, Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 1950. Inglis, Ruth, Freedom of the Movies, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1947. Motion Pictures and Juvenile Delinquency, Report of the Committee on the Judiciary Containing an Interim Report of the Sub-committee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, S. Rep. No. 2055, 84th Congress, 2nd Session, 1956. Murphy, Terrence J., Censorship: Government and Obscenity, Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1963. Schumach, Murray, The Face on the Cutting Room Floor, New York: William Morrow and Co., 1964. NOTE Since the above article was written a new production code has appeared, introduced by Jack Valeriti and approved by the MPAA Board of Directors. Thus far tentative support has been given to the new code by the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) and the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures (NCOMP). The new standards are the following: The basic dignity and value of human life shall be respected and upheld. Restraint shall be exercised in portraying the taking of life. Evil, sin, crime and wrongdoing shall not be justified. Special restraint shall be exercised in portraying criminal or antisocial activities in which minors participate or are involved. Detailed and protracted acts of brutality, cruelty, physical violence, torture and abuse shall not be presented. Indecent or undue exposure of the human body shall not be presented. Illicit sex relationships shall not be justified. Intimate sex


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scenes violating common standards of decency shall not be portrayed. Restraint and care shall be exercised in presentations dealing with sex aberrations. Obscene speech, gestures or movements shall not be presented. Undue profanity shall not be permitted. Religion shall not be demeaned. Words or symbols contemptuous of racial, religious or na¡ tiona! groups shall not be used so as to incite bigotry or hatred. Excessive cruelty to animals shall not be portrayed, and animals shall not be treated inhumanely.


Thomas A. Emanuel, C.SS.R.

The Numen and the Good News What is that which gleams through me and smites my heart without wounding it? I am both a-shudder and a-glow. A¡shudder, in so far a.s I am unlike it,

a-glow in so far as I am like it. -St. Augustine

A great deal of modern study and research has been done in areas which are largely non-rational, though not irrational; that is, many of the outstanding features of these fields cannot be strictly defined by concepts or clear! y grasped by our power of conceiving or pinned down even by philosophical analysis. Witness to this the vast amount of work which has been ac¡ complished and is still taking place in mythology, comparative religion, religious psychology, linguistic analysis, anthropology, archeology, and scriptural theology, to name but a few. In connection with this, existentialism in the broad sense and the rediscovery of myth and symbol have had enormous influence on all religion and related fields over the last half century. And strangely concomitant has been the rise of a deep underswelling interest in Middle and Far Eastern literature 289


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and thought. This has increased so much that no man interested even slightly in theology or Scripture today can afford to ignore it, remain unaffected by it, or measure its encampment even in his own thought. 0ne of the most tangible tensions in the Church has always been the interplay between the rational and the non-rational, between the hierarchical structure and the prophetic office, between the precise notions of theology and the mystical sense of the faithful, between the professional priest and the man of God. But for some centuries now-how many is debatable-we have swung over to the rational, precision-conscious, even legalizing side of things. Now however in our own day the pendulum is beginning to swing back. The Church herself has felt the swing and given it emphasis in Vatican II. In fact, in the title of chapter five of the Constitution on the Church, "The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church," the Council has hit upon one of the core concepts of all religion. Holiness, the Holy, is the very plastic clay which the rational and the non-rational continually work in their attempt to model the image and likeness of God. But they must work together or they form only dead idols. Holiness-"there is no religion in which it does not live as the real innermost core, and without it no religion would be worthy of the name. It is pre¡eminently a living force in the Semitic religions, and ol these again in none has it such vigor as in that of the Bible" (Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy, Oxford University Press, 1923, 1950, 1958, p. 6). It is this holiness or transcendence, under the title of the Numen which we shall endeavor to present in what follows. The main divisions are taken from Dr. Rudolph Otto's famous Das Heilige, but the treatment and the application to the four Gospels is our own. THE NUMEN ITSELF

In order to unite more firmly, we often have to begin by separating quite distinctly the several elements or moments of an experience. So, for a short time we will concentrate on


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the meaning of the numen or the sacred as distinct from and in opposition to the profane. "Man becomes aware of the sacred because it manifests itself, shows itself, as something wholly different from the profane" (Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, Harper and Bros., 1961). That is, the holy is a mode of valuation which is characteristic of and applicable only in the case of religion. And this value·appreciation of the holy is made in an entirely non·rational way, in a way that com· pletely eludes apprehension of it in terms of concepts because the holy is in itself the ineffable. Now of course this is not true if we mean by the holy "the morally good." And in point of fact this is the more common meaning of the term, not only in ordinary speech, but even in theological usage. But this use of the word in a moral or ethical sense does not express what we wish to convey here. What is more, it does not express the original idea of the holy which we find in ancient languages. Both the Greek hagios and the Hebrew qadosh mean in the first instance something entirely different than the morally holy. "If both qadosh and tehor (the ritual term) may be brought under the concept of the re· ligious, both are distinct from the ethical, with which the re· ligious is not to be equated. The ethical has its roots in the human sphere rather than the divine. It is only with the increasing spiritualisation of thought that the two great vital streams come together" (Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, art. "Hagios," B. The Use of the Term Holiness in the Old Testament). It is the holy in the divine sphere which we now want to examine more closely, determining how it awakens religious awe and explaining this experience by some analogies with feelings and emotions in other spheres of man's life. For strictly speaking we cannot explain or determine the feeling itself, because like every absolutely primary and elementary data it cannot be defined but admits of being discussed. By this means we hope to awaken the feeling itself in the mind and heart, which will eventually help us to see this perfectly sui generis and irreducible state of mind in the Gospels.


292

Chicago Studies ELEMENT OF AWEFULNESS

.I

One of the first aspects of the essence of God is his absolute unapproachability. In the creature this will often take the form of fear or numinous dread. It was expressed in the Old Testa路 ment by the idea of a man perishing if he ever beheld God or approached too near him-the fear of God. Now fear is in itself a perfectly natural emotion and implies nothing of the dread aroused at the approach of God. For a person can be terribly afraid so that he loses complete control, even passes out or dies, and yet there may be nothing whatever of the feeling of the uncanny, the eerie, the weird in the emotion. For it is the uncanny which is the earliest manifestation of numinous dread and is still retained today in that queer offshoot, the fear of ghosts. The analogy of the two kinds of fear is oddly enough sup路 ported even by different physical reactions. We say: "My blood ran cold" or "My flesh crept." The "cold blood" feeling may be a symptom of ordinary natural fear, but there is some路 thing non-natural, irrational, even super-natural in the idea of "creeping flesh." There is here, as almost anyone can see, a distinction which is not merely one of intensity between this natural fear and the feeling of "creeping flesh" that makes hair stand on end and limbs quake, even though it may also be just a swift tremor across the face, a shadow of the gentlest agitation, hardly even consciously observed or reacted to. No, it has nothing to do with intensity, and no natural fear will pass over into numinious dread by merely being strengthened. "Not only is the saying of Luther, that the natural man cannot fear God perfectly, correct from the standpoint of psy路 chology, but we ought to go further and add that the natural man is quite unable to 'shudder' or feel horror in the real sense of the word. For 'shuddering' is something more than 'natural,' ordinary fear. It implies that the mysterious is already beginning to loom before the mind, to touch the feelings" (Otto, chapter 4: "Mysterium Tremendum," p. 15). This element of the numen does not disappear even on the highest level of religion, and in fact if it did it would be


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an essential loss. It would enmesh the transcendent in the emollient bog of the human condition. But the numinous dread, which has a kind of demonic grisly horror to it, is now en¡ nohled beyond measure until the soul is held speechless in something akin to absolute respect. "When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, 'Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you'" (Lk 7:6-7). Here there is a light thrill of awe and a unique kind of feeling which suggests to the man that even holiness itself might he tainted by his worldly presence. This is a second type of emotion hound up with the idea of the awefulness of God, the judgment of self-disvaluation. However this will be covered more fully in the next element of the numen. Now we have but to note that fear or numinous dread does not always lose its heavier side in the Nt'w Testament. Even in the teaching of Christ, who emphasized so much the love of the Father, it can reappear with real force. Note for instance: "Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mt 10:29), Such a passage still vibrates with some trace of that weird awe and shuddering dread before the transcendent of which we have spoken. And when occasion demands even the "God of Vengeance" can begin again to punish all who attempt to remove themselves from his dominance. "He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons" (Mt 21:42). Another and different light is thrown upon the awefulness of the numen by the first petition of Christian prayer, the "Hallowed be Thy Name" of the Our Father. To "keep something holy in the heart" is to mark it off by a peculiar feeling of dread, to maintain and increase one's respect for the sacred. But actually according to Kittel: "The logical subject of sanctifying is God alone and not man. This may be seen by comparison with the petitions which follow. God's name is as little hallowed by men as his kingdom comes or his will is done. His name is his person, which is holy in itself and is


294 Chicago Studies

to be revealed in its holiness. The revelation takes place eschatologically in the last judgment and historically in, though not by, believers. When God's deity is revealed to man in the mystery of worship, then God is sanctified to him. The cultic ele· ment is here absorbed in the adoration in which God's deity is felt in contrast to all creatureliness" (italics added) . Here, also "the name" or to onoma shows itself to be something per· sonal ( cf. Mt 28-19); it means the person in which God reveals himself but in which he is also distinct from the world (i.e., the profane). Thus the holy shows itself to be something personal in the name of God which requires the appropriate numinous attitude to the divine world. So the holiness of God the Father is everywhere presumed in the New Testament, though ·' it is not often stated. Jesus Christ is the one who makes God's deity to be felt in contrast to our creatureliness, and who teaches us in our hearts by the spirit how to "hallow" it by our response of adoration to the numinous awe.

' ELEMENT OF "MAJESTAS"

·'

The second thing to be noticed about the numen here is its character of overpoweringness or majesty. This may seem to be almost the same quality as the awefulness which we just finished discussing, but there is a real difference in that awe· fulness is essentially absolute unapproachability. But even where this total unapproachability dies away, as it does to a great extent in the New Testament, there may still remain the element of overpoweringness or majesty. Majesty is best made palpable to the person who encounters it by reflection on his subjective experience. In the face of majesty, the person makes a value-judgment on himself of worthlessness, of being but dust and ashes, of the niggardly importance of one's own existence, a profound self-abasement. And in the case of the numinous we may call this a creature-consciousness, a very deep awareness of one's impotance and annihilation in sight of absolute power and superiority. This is the numinous raw material for the feeling of religious humility. Peter makes a very clear statement of this in a beautifully


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spontaneous manner, almost like a direct reflect action, upon encountering Christ as if for the first time: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord" (Lk 5:8). This statement does not stem from any consciousness of a transgression, and most likely there is not any moral appraisement of himself here at all. This is a pure feeling of disvaluation at the touch of the numinous presence, a very special quality which is beyond any mere temporal power or majesty. Peter here makes a judgment, not upon his character because of any individual sinful actions which he may have performed, but upon his own very existence as a creature. And at the same time he passes on that which is above every creature a judgment of appreciation of a unique kind. "The feeling is beyond question not that of the transgression of the moral law, however evident it may be that such a transgression, where it has oc¡ curred, will involve it as a consequence: it is the feeling of absolute 'profaneness' " (Otto, p. 51). We might mention that this is the same feeling in relation to Christ that Isaia felt in his inaugural vision when he exclaimed: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (Is 6:5). Even the enemies of Jesus notice his majestic superiority. What of that fascinating story of Christ cleansing the temple? How are we to suppose that any ordinary man could have done the same thing without being treated with scorn by the Pharisees, without being thrown into the streets or perhaps stoned by those whose interests he had violated? Again, there are the numerous times in which he argues with the chief priests and they are just confounded by his power. Mark makes the cryptic comment: "And after that no one dared to ask him any questions" (Mk 12 :34) _ There is also the example in J n 18:6 which seems to display Christ's quality of majestas best of all. After one of the most anguished nights imaginable he can say but one word and it leaves his would-be captors completely helpless: "When therefore he said to them, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground." A mere creature against such


296 Chicago Studies

force is less than weak! And that brings us to the next aspect of the numen, the element of urgency or energy. ELEMENT OF URGENCY OR ENERGY

This element is often expressed in ideograms of vitality, passion, will, force movement, excitement, violence. Here the "wrath of God" attains its full brilliance. Here also is the source of that phenomena which have always caused so much discussion, the miracles in the Old and New Testaments. There are many, many instances of these which we could cite, but perhaps it would be better to take as an example that which is the highest expression of the energy of the numen, the "living" God. This wording occurs in both Matthew and John in very significant places. In Matthew it is in the heart of Peter's confession of Christ as the "Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). In John it occurs at the summit of Christ's statement about him¡ self as the Eucharist ( J n 6:51). What is the import of the "living bread come down from heaven"? What is the meaning of this "living God"? God is living in the sense that he directs all creation with such power to his inscrutable ends that nothing can thwart him. He is living in the sense that like a father he communicates his life to us: he is the very life which makes us live. A numinous way of saying God is love. He is living with such incalculable richness that even the doctrine of the Trinity pales into an ideogram before his immense vitality. He is the God who denies his worshippers images and chooses for himself man himself, that most complex and wonderful of physical beings, as his image. He is the God who makes his mystics burst all harriers of thought and all boundaries of sympathetic imaginative intui¡ tion and take to the via negativa to do justice to him-the via negativa or the via negationis, by which every predicate which can be stated in words is denied because of its paltriness until finally the absolute Numen is designated as "nothingness" and "nullity," through these terms denote in reality immea¡ surable plenitude of being. They even go to the lengths of denying him personality and existence--"God is dead"-a


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tendency which is in appearance so irreligious. In short, this is the God who is "wholly other." THE "WHOLLY OTHER"

The "wholly other" is the aspect, along with the last one of energy, which has prompted the fiercest opposition from the defenders of the philosophic God and from rationalists in general. They contend that these expressions of energy are for the most part pure anthropomorphism raised to its ultimate level, that is, terms borrowed from the sphere of human affective life and human ways of thought are projected onto Being itself and made absolute. And they are right to condemn this in so far as these things are not kept strictly in mind as analogies and ideograms of the true face of the Numen. But they are wrong in so far as, this error notwithstanding, these terms stand for a genuine aspect of the divine essence--its non-rational, irra路 tiona! aspect-a due consciousness of which must be main路 tained to protect religion from being rationalized out of ex路 istence. "For wherever men have been contending for the 'living' God or for voluntarism, there, we may be sure, have been non路rationalists fighting rationalists and rationalism" (Otto, p. 23). But in regard to the "wholly other" itself, we realize at once that it is something which is totally outside the limits of the "canny." Since this is so, perhaps we may explain it hy the reaction it causes in us. We need a word then, which will signify blank amazement and wonder, staring wonder at what has no place at all in our scheme of reality. A symbiosis of the two states, that of the "wholly other" and our own, produces in our mind the impression of what we can ouly call "stupor," a dumb astonishment. This experience is nicely suggested to us in a passage of Mark where the Greek word thambein is used. (The sound "tham" itself is an excellent onomatopoeia for the state of mind we wish to paint here.) However, the English translation of the passage in question (Mk 10:32) from the Revised Standard Version is rather poor for our purpose: "And Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid." Mk 16:5 is about the same:


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Chicago Slzuiie•

"And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed." But Mk 16:8 catches more of the sense which we want to bring out: "And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid." ELEMENT OF FASCINATION

This last element of the numinous consciousness is one of the most important. In fact, this theme and the first, that of awefulness, are the main components while the ones in between could be considered subdivisions of the first. That, at any rate, would he a rationalistic way of lining up the non-rational! These two elements of the numen, the daunting and the fascinating, produce a strange harmony of contrasts. Dr. Rudolph Otto remarks: "It may well be possible, it is even probable, that in the first stage of its development, the religious consciousness started with only one of its poles-the 'daunting' aspect of the numen-and so at first took shape only as 'demonic dread.' But if this did not point beyond itself, if it were not but one 'moment' of a completer experience, pressing up gra¡ dually into consciousness, then no transition would be possible to the feelings of positive self-surrender to the numen . . . (This dread) can never explain how it is that 'the numinous' is the object of search and desire and yearning, and that too for its own sake and not only for the sake of the aid and backing that men expect from it in the natural sphere" (p. 32; cf. the whole of chapter 6). Thus, although the demonic-divine element may appear to the mind as an object of horror and dread, it no less has a powerful charm about it. The very creature who utterly cowed before it and fears with a unique dread permeating his very soul to approach it lest he lose his life is yet captivated and transported hy the same numen. This is a strange ravishment and rapture, which may greatly excite a man, intoxicating him to dizzy heights of ecstasy. It is the famous Dionysiac element in the numen. Ideas which are parallel to the Dionysiac on the level of


Numen 299

rationalism are love, comfort, joy, mercy. These are here thought of as completed and brought to their absolute state. This, indeed, is the experience of religious felicity. But just as the "wrath of God" is only an ideogram for the irrational power which produces numinous dread in us, that is, religious infelicity; so too, this religious felicity which ultimately means beatitude is far more than what is meant by joy, bliss, love, on the natural plane. It contains the idea of salvation. But "salvation" is in itself a numinous conception, as is proved by the reaction of the natural man to ita presentation. Describe to him the notion of the beatific vision of God, and as far as he understands it, he will find it tedious and unattractive, perhaps even distasteful and repugnant to his nature, as is the case with many existentialist philosophers. "As far as he understands it," we said, and this is just the point. He really does not understand it in the least. He lacks the inward teaching of the Spirit. He can only confound what is offered him as a real expression of the experience of salvation-and he is offered a dry intellectualized formula of what is really an ineffable adventure. And so he is at best uninterested and wanders ever farther from the goal. What we have spoken about so far is the religious feeling of longing. This is the first part of the idea of fascination, its second being that of solemnity or of that moment which can fill the soul so full and keep it so inexpressibly tranquil. This power of fascinating solemnity is simply and beautifully expressed in the story of Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38-42). Mary had indeed "chosen the best part," and her delicate soul felt most strongly this mighty propulsion known only to religion and in its nature fundamentally non-rational. This shows, I think, that above and beyond our rational being lies hidden the ultimate part of our nature, which can never find satisfaction in the mere allaying of the needs of our sensuous, psychical and intellectual impulses and desires. Mystics call this above and beyond, the ground of our being (Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, University of Chicago Press, 1951, vol. I, pp. 155-

158; 2ll-286).


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Chicago Studies COMMENTS

We have now come to the end of our short consideration of the content of the numinous feeling. But in applying this briefly and in a broad way to the Gospels as we now intend to do, we must remember that we have explored only that aspect of the numen which is generally less well known, the irrational or non-rational aspect. We left aside its entire development on the rational and moral side (except that our examples were generally taken from the Gospel itself and thus included the evolved and purified expression of it). In the Good News of Jesus the process tending to rationalize, moralize, and humanize the idea of God and the experience of the Absolute Numeu reaches its supreme consummation. Thus the demonic is scarcely recognizable as it appeared in its first groping beginnings and in its undeveloped crude forms. But here we must be very careful about two things. The first is the significance of evolution in this matter, and the second the sense in which "demonic" is to be taken. Evolution here is not meant in exactly the same way as it is generally used in paleontology, anthropology or related sciences. Here is meant what we could perhaps call "evolution by association." Demonic dread after passing through various gradations reaches the level of "fear of the gods" and thence to the "fear of God." Thus the numen becomes God or Deity and it is to this Numen rendered absolute that such words as qadosh and hagios primarily pertain. Now, on the basis of this full numinous consciousness the process or rationalization and moralization by association takes place. Almost everywhere we find the numinous attracting and appropriating to itself mean¡ ings from social and individual ideas of obligation and justice, of happiness and love, of beauty and goodness. These become the will of the Numen and the Numen becomes their force, their guardian, and their author. More and more these ideas come to enter into the very essence of the Numen and charge it with ethical and rational content. This process is the basis for the principle of the development of doctrine as we have it in the Church today. What is more, it serves as a principle in


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comparative religion for the human judgment of the advance and growth of a religion and its relative development. In Islam, for instance, some men maintain that Allah is "precisely Yahweh in his pre-Mosaic form and upon a larger scale." He is pure uncontrolled and unrationalized Numen: "The numinous in Allah, nay, even his uncanny and demonic character, outweighs what is rational in him. And this will account for what is commonly called the 'fanatical' character of this religion. Strongly excited feeling of the numen, that runs to frenzy, untempered by the more rational elements of religious experience--that is everywhere the very essence of fanaticism" (Otto, pp. 75, 91)But the numen itself does not change intrinsically, though all false analogies and fortuitous associations are gradually sloughed off or rejected outright. This is seen in the fact, generally recognized today, that many so-called primitives have very developed forms of religion often equally as developed as our own, though they may be badly symbolized or poorly expressed or mixed in with very archai<; and very low forms ( cf. Mircea Eliade in various places in Patterns in Comparative Religion, The Sacred and the Profane, Images and Symbols)_ Secondly, demonic dread means here that most primitive feeling of primeval man who encounters the "weird" or the "uncanny" or the "eerie" as the first intimation of the numinous in the religious consciousness of man. This is the springboard for the entire religious development in history. Demons and gods arise alike from this root, and all the different products of the mythological fantasy are nothing hut objectifications under pressure from this a priori feeling. We must emphasize again that all gods and all demons are hom from this, even the queerest perversiOns ( cf_ the horror of Pan) and even the highest worship. THE NuMEN OF JEsus

There is an incalculable number of places in the New Testament where the numen is present and palpable for all who can recognize it! One can open to almost any page and


302 Chicago Studie•

point out several examples. But we will confine ourselves here to the most obvious ones, the ones which will take less explana¡ tion and really need only to be pointed out for their numinous aspects to force themselves upon us. GoSPEL OF THE KINGDOM

First of all then, we cannot disregard the numen unless we disregard altogether that which the message of Christ really purports to be first, last, and in every instance--the Gospel of the Kingdom. How are we to think of this kingdom except as the very participation in the numinous itself. It is greatness and absolute marvel itself, the reign of God, the "Wholly Other" fully possessing us, the mysterious itself in its dual character of awe-compelling and all-attracting. It sheds a color, a tone, a mood, an atmosphere around all that it touches; upon the men who proclaim it or prepare for it (John the Baptist), upon the life and practice which are its precondition, upon the company of those who make it up and are to inherit it fully one day. In fact, later on these people will designate them¡ selves by the technical numinous term, hoi, hagioi, the saints. It is clear at once that they did not have the temerity to mean by this "the morally perfect," but they did have the insight to see that all those who participate in the mystery of being sons of God, the All-Holy One of the New Israel, are themselves "holy" because they eagerly await the final day of the kingdom. The Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-11) exemplify well this numinous quality of the kingdom. As almost all Scripture scholars hold, the promises which follow each beatitude are all one and the same gift. Seeing God, being filled with justice, inheriting the earth, being comforted, and receiving the kingdom of heaven are all the full glorious participation in the Numen itself. This non-rational Numen is totally beyond our comprehension, for "eye has not seen or ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). God has prepared himself for them. It is to be noted that there is not one positive statement in this


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whole litany of wonders, they are all purely negative. And yet who does not feel the exalted sound of these words, the element of transport and fervor in them! It is to be noted further that in reading and hearing these words, their negative character is not even conscious! In fact, we can let whole chains of such negations roll by, let them rapture and elevate us, and yet when examined there is nothing really positive in them at all. It is the same with the kingdom. Who can say. in what this kingdom consists here and now, who can point out to you what the reign of God means on this earth today? And as for heaven, which is that reign in the next world, what is there in which its rational meaning is clear, to be set down in precise ideas? As a matter of fact, it is essentially part of heaven that it remain obscure, for its awe and overpoweringness and fascination would disappear without the nonrational numinous glow which surrounds it. This element of overpoweringness in the kingdom and in heaven is made clear in the use we make of the word in relation to it. "When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, 'Father the hour has come; glorify thy Son .. .'" (Jn 17:1). It is even clearer when the idea of up falls out, as it is beginning to do today, and the idea of depth or ground is substituted for it. HEAVENLY FATHER

Secondly, what of the Lord of this kingdom, the "Heavenly Father"? As its Lord he is not less hut for more holy, numinous, mysterious, qadosh, hagios, and sanctus than his kingdom. The fact that the term Holy Father, apart from Jn 17:11, does not occur very often in the Gospels is not at all surprising. Aside from the impossibility of teaching what God's holiness is, it would not have made any sense for Christ to teach what was an obvious primary fact to every believer in the kingdomthat God was the Holy One of Israel. He had to teach them rather what was not so obvious, and that is that this Holy One was a "Heavenly Father." And it was all the more necessary, as we know, because this doctrine was the opposite of the two


304 Chieago Studies

most prevalent opinions o£ the day. To the Pharisees the Law was the absolute, the most rationalized conception of religion ever constructed. And on the other hand, there was John the Baptist with his solely numinous God of justice and harsh mea· sures: "Repent . . . You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Mt 3:2-7). But the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is the summit of the pedestal to which these two doctrines lay the steps. In the high priestly prayer of Jn 17 we see the loving Father who is all-attractive and benevolent and yet who has overpower· ing awe and absolute distinction from the profane as his very essence. The "world" for which Jesus would not pray (Jn 17:9) is the world of the profane: "A searching analysis of religious experience by the philosophy of religion proves that the basic experience of the sacred, in this historical ('profane') world, takes the form of an experience of its absence, showing itself in its true nature at the summits of human life (such as love arid death) but immediately withdrawing into obscurity and ambi· guity" (Karl Rahner and Herbert Vorgrimler, Theological Dictionary, Herder and Herder, 1965, art. "Holy, the Sacred"). That this "world" o£ John means the profane world is made clear by the position of opposition which the term Holy Father occupies to the term world in Jn 17:11: "And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name ..." Note also here Jesus' statement of his own transcendence and of the ambivalent situation of his disciples. This is exactly what religious historians and the science of comparative re· ligion have come to, the ambivalence of the sacred. It also confirms what we said above about the term hoi hagioi being a technical numinous term. PASSION NARRATIVES

Another place where the numen comes out most forcefully is in the Passion narratives. There are so many separate little scenes here which portray the numinous in one or another of its basic qualities that it would take very long to bring out all their


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nuances. Pehaps just the naming of these scenes will bring to the mind concepts which would be poorly expressed in words but have a powerful effect on the reader in his own thought. Cer¡ tainly, one of these scenes is that of the horrible agony in the garden, where the evangelists give us such an insight into the tremor of a man before the Holy One. It cannot be his death which would cause such a violent reaction, for he had been thinking about and predicting that and actually longing for it for over a year. Yet the disciples do not feel the same thing at all. In fact, they are completely oblivious to the whole import of this night: "And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy" (Mt 26:43). Then one after another the quick scenes flit by in numinous eerie flashes. The rna jesty and silence of Jesus before Pilate; that look that Jesus gives Peter after he has denied him; the darkness over the earth at the sixth hour; the aweful rending of the curtain of the temple at the moment of his death; and the statement of the centurion: "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mk 15:39). All these. But in reading this story over once more, a verse struck me more than the others as embodying the twofold aspect of the obedience and humility of man before his God and yet of the loving attention of the Father which attracts his Son to call him by that tender word used in ordinary Jewish home life Abba: "Abba Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me: yet not as I will, but what thou wilt" (Mk 14:36). CoNCLUSION

We could probably mention many more New Testament ideas which manifest the Numen, but this can be more readily done and more personally applied in one's own private reading of the Scripture. There are certainly many passages which might be considered even better examples than those we have used. Such, for instance, might be the light and life in St. John, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Transfiguration. And if one looks in the Epistles, a vast number of new meanings and relationships will immediately catch his attention. However, we have said enough to help in making a start at finding the


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Numen in the Good News. One last point which might be of interest is the strange fact that "the question of depicting God or even man or animal never arose at all in the New Testament, whether from the positive or the negative standpoint. It never entered the head of any early believer to hand down a picture of Jesus or the apostles, let alone a cultic image" (Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, art. "Eikon"). In fact, it was not until the Council of Elvira in 302 that any prohibition against idolatrous images had occasion to arise: "Placuit picturas in ecclesia esse non debere, ne quod colitur et adoratur in partietibus depingatur." There could be no greater testimony to the numinous impression made by Jesus on his contemporaries and those immediately following them than this!


Thomas A. Wassmer, S./.

Is lntTinsic Evil a Viable TeTm? .

Philosophical ethics raises que&tions

about the traditional definition and application of the idea of intrinsically evil acts.

Most students of ethics soon understand why the concept of sin is not introduced into a course of philosophical ethics. They know from theology that sin is a theological term re· £erring to a state of separation from God by an inordinate tum· ing to a creature. The dual formality of an aversion from God and a conversion or turning inordinately to a creature is recognized to be present in every sin. The students easily understand this duality in sin, but they raise many objections to the inclusion within the notion of turning away from God any reference to offending him, displeasing him, or injuring him. They have problems with reconciling wrongdoing on our part with injury to God. What possible harm to God can be done by our wrongdoing? They see early in philosophical ethics that sin is a difficult term to introduce into the course and they accept in its place the concept of moral evil. But here precisely is the rub. If tra· ditional Thomistic texts in philosophical ethics omit the term 307


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sin and readily adopt the term moral evil, non-Thomistic texts seem to give slight attention even to moral evil, employ it infrequently and in many cases ignore it altogether. Why is not the term moral evil used more often and considered more profoundly than it is in philosophical ethics? PHILOSOPHERS SLIGHT MORAL EVIL

Professor A. E. Taylor puts his finger upon this inadequate treatment of the problem or moral evil and says that it is the outstanding defect of philosophical treatises on ethics. He points out that most writers on the subject seem to think that they have done all that is expected of them when they have tried to tell tis what the good for man is, and what virtue or the moral law demands of us. The concern is with a theory of good and little more. Writers may set before us a "theory of good and evil" but the student will have to be satisfied with the perfunctory consideration given to moral evil. The influential Principia Ethica of G. E. Moore barely mentions the term. It sems fair to say that, of the principal philosophers who have dealt expressly and at length with the moral life of man (independently of a theological tradition), there are only two, Plato and Kant, whose language reveals an acute and constant sense of human evil. Professor Taylor denies that this interest in the problem of moral evil can be found in Aristotle, in Descartes, in Spinoza, in Leibnitz, or in Hegel. He finds it not even prominent in such vigorous supporters of an "eternal and immutable" morality as Cudworth, Clarke, and Price. Throughout the history of moral philosophy there is the paradox of a preoccupation by so many thinkers with the problem of the good while reducing almost to relative unimportance the agonizing problem of moral evil. THE MEANING OF GOOD

Just briefly let us consider once again G. E. Moore, for whom the basic problem in ethics upon which all others depend is the meaning of good in its intrinsic sense. The intrinsic sense of good is the one in which if a thing is good in that sense "it would be a good thing that the thing in question should


Evil 309

exist, even if it existed quite alone" without any further accompaniments or effects whatever. What then does intrinsic good mean? The fact is that intrinsic good cannot be defined; it is a simple, unique, irreducible characteristic; it can be known only immediately or intuitively. The knowledge of the goodness of a thing is directly apprehended when the thing is known, if it is apprehended at alL This does not mean that there is a special faculty by which good is known, and it does not mean that one cannot be mistaken in judgments of value. It does mean that such questions as whether or not, and to what extent, a thing is good are in no sense subject to argument or capable of being clarified by reasoning. Propositions to the effect that something is intrinsically good are not debatable: "No relevant evidence can be adduced: from no other truth, except from themselves, can it be inferred that they are either true or false." THOMISTS CONCENTRATE ON EVIL

This is just a capsule summary of the notion of intrinsic good to Moore. He barely mentions evil in his Principia Ethica but there is more than mere mention of evil in the traditional Thomistic texts on ethics. In fact, where Moore was primarily interested in the intrinsic good, the Thomistic ethician leads many students to believe that his primary interest is in moral evil and frequently in intrinsic eviL It is here where I come to the heart of my reflections on philosophical ethics and moral eviL Let me put it this way. The Thomistic moral philosopher finds it easier, it appears, to define intrinsic evil than to discover satisfactory examples to illustrate the definition. It should make the moralist reflect on whether it is not unwise to designate or call some moral act intrinsically evil without fearing that he may possibly have painted himself into a corner. To retreat from this position requires some delicate foot¡ work. This calls for some elaboration. Let me explain why it appears to me that the term intrinsic evil is not a viable term in moral philosophy and why it causes more problems than it attempts to solve or even to explain adequately. I shall try to


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defend this position by considering the meaning of intrinsically evil and then by examining the representative acts which are usually designated as intrinsically evil. THE MEANING OF INTRINSICALLY EVIL

An act is considered to be intrinsically evil if, viewed just from its moral object, prescinding from circumstances and motive, it is always in difiormity with the proximate norm which is rational human nature. The moral object of an act is that relationship which it bears to the norm of morality. The object of an act is the whatness of the act. For example, homicide has a different moral object than murder; fornication has a different moral object than adultery. If the act is regarded solely from its object and found to be repugnant to rational human nature (adequately considered), then such an act is characterized as intrinsically evil. The object of most acts or, to phrase it more precisely, most acts viewed just from their objects, prescinding from circumstances and motive, are morally indifferent. Walking, smoking, even killing are morally indifferent acts considered just from their objects. It is only when walking is done under certain circumstances and with this or that motive that walking acquires the moral dimension of being either morally good or morally bad. Likewise it is only when smoking is done in excess by someone whose health may become endangered that the act assumes a moral dimension of good or bad. Incidentally, this latter example provides a rash of problems because, while smoking in excess may involve consequences upon physical health, there is no doubt that its provides psychological good consequences which may well be intended to counterbalance the possible harmful consequences to physical health. HoMICIDE

The last example cited above of homicide is a more interesting one to consider. Homicide, the killing of a man-just this act viewed from its object-is morally indifferent. It requires the addition of several factors to become an act morally evil. Not every variety of homicide is the same. Which circumstances


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have to be added to homicide to constitute an act of murder? These are circumstances that are required even to constitute the physical integrity of the act of murder. What is interesting is that these very circumstances that change a mere act of of homicide into an act of murder also are the circumstances that change the moral object of indifference in the case of homi¡ cide to a moral object of evil in the case of murder. What is added to homicide to make homicide a case of murder? Here is where the moral philosopher becomes even more teclui.ical and begins to add elements that almost inflate the original moral object of mere homicide. What is murder for the moralist? MURDER

Murder for many moralists is unjust killing of another man. What really does this mean? When spelled out it becomes this expanded definition and, as John Hospers says, makes the original moral rule "do not kill" almost diluted into a tautology. This is the articulated meaning for unjust killing or murder: it is the direct killing of another man on one's own authority outside a case of legitimate self-defense. Direct killing refers to the act of killing intended as an end or as a means to an end, and on one's own authority means that one is exercising right over another person's life which he does not have. By the inclusion of self-defense within the definition, the definer surely wants to exclude this as an act of murder when the assailant is killed. But what happens if someone considers it just punishment for a society to exercise capital punishment? In order to exclude capital punishment as an act of murder when the criminal is killed, does this not compel the advocate of the above definition to include this exception? Murder then assumes this definition: Direct killing of another man on one's own authority outside a case of legitimate self-defense and capital punishment. If anyone wants to designate this moral act with its expanded, articulated object, an act morally wrong, he will receive wide acceptance in Western society. However, suppose this definition is offered to the extreme pacifist who takes the moral rule not to kill literally; suppose it is sub-


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S~k•

mitted to the Hindu who extends the prohibition against taking life to all forms of life; suppose it were submitted to Dr. Schweitzer? Now I do not quarrel with the fact that there is general acceptance in many quarters of the definition of murder. What I do suggest is that murder had been so defined that it excluded everything that we do not regard as murder, and it is here where some moralists with one constellation of values will add or subtract cases and other moralists with a different constellation of values will add or subtract other cases. If, then, for us murder is defined as it was above--direct killing of another man on one's own authority outside a case of legitimate selfdefense and capital punishment-and if this act of murder is then considered to be merely evil from its object, intrinsically evil from its object, just how viable has this notion of intrinsicially evil become? Viable for all who accept, but not viable for those who dissent from our own constellation of values, our own value system. INTRINSICALLY EVIL- TO WHOM?

This speculation on the problems that arise from any designa¡ tion of an act to be intrinsically evil can be extended to include a consideration of similar problems in the cases of suicide, lying, and sterilization. It seems to lead to this conclusion: that the moral philosopher must struggle to develop the most authentic meaning for murder, suicide, lying, sterilization, but after he has constructed such a moral act, he should be very hesitant to designate it as intrinsically evil. Why is this so? Because by characterizing this act with all of its qualifications as intrinsically evil, he has little ground on which to move unless he is willing to re-examine each of the qualifications and admit that the definition is malleable. The problem with the person who readily designates an act to be intrinsically evil is that he will tolerate very little modification within the definition of the moral act as he proposes it. In fact, does not the very term intrinsic evil seem to imply that modifications are not in order? However, any student of the history of ethics


Evil 313 knows well that modifications are very much in order arising from a more penetrating knowledge of human nature and the complexities of the human act. An examination of most texts in ethics will reveal a general reluctance to refer to any act as intrinsically evil. Most books mention blasphemy and stop there; others add dishonesty, infidelity, dishonor but these latter are really dodging the issue because they do not specify the very moral act which is an act of dishonesty, infidelity, or dishonor. Any moral act can be built up into something approaching the notion of intrinsic evil if we construct upon the simple moral object of the act a variety of circumstances and motives which will alter its moral species from moral indifference to moral eviL But how far does this construction have to go before we are sure that the moral act is intrinsically evil? To take sterilization as a further example. Sterilization in itself is morally indifferent; indirect therapeutic sterlization in the presence of a pathological disorder is morally good; direct punitive sterilization would be acceptable to anyone who accept the De Lugo position on the lawfulness of direct killing of an aggressor in the case of legitimate self-defense. If the De Lugo position warrants direct killing of a criminal in these circumstances, then a fortiori direct sterlization of a criminal can be allowed because to intend directly the death of the man himself is something more serious than to intend directly the mutilation of his generative system. The further problem with the moral dimension of sterilization is the question which is the thorny question in the controversy over the anovulants, i.e., if the anovulant results in a sterilization (temporary), may such a sterilization be directly intended in the absence of a pathological condition such as menorrhagia, dysmenorrhea, or an irregular menstrual cycle? In other words, may this kind of sterilization be directly intended, intended as a means for the further good of marital intimacy and in the presence of serious psychological reasons? To say that a direct sterilization is always wrong, to say that only indirect sterlization is licit in the presence


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of a physical pathological condition, is to narrow the area of moral dialogue. More can be said and should be said about the non-viability of the concept of intrinsic evil. It is hoped that these reflections will stimulate some further discussion on the problem of moral evil in general and on the prudent unwillingness to characterize any moral act as intrinsically evil. Intrinsically evil, applied too freely, can place an albatross around the neck of the user.


AUTHORS IN THIS ISSUE

James A. Bertrand: priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin; master's degree in marriage counselling from University of Detroit. Joseph C. Della Penta, O.P.: associate professor of philosophy at De Paul University, Chicago. Denis Dirscherl, S.J.: Bellarmine School of Theology, North Aurora, Illinois; graduate student in Russian studies; author of articles and reviews in this area. Thomas A. Emanuel, C.SS.R.: formerly of Immaculate Conception College, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin; now at Holy Name Church, Omaha, Nebraska. Ronald L. Holloway: assistant director, National Center for Film Study; assistant chaplain, Catholic Adult Education Center, Chicago. Thomas N. Munson, S.J.: Calvert House (University of Chicago) ; doctorate in philosophy from Louvain; teaches philosophy at De Paul University, Chicago. Thomas A. Wassmer, S.J.: associate professor of moral philosophy and history of philosophy, St. Peter's College, Jersey City, New Jersey; author of articles in journals of philosophy and theology in the United States and abroad.

317


' INDEX TO VOLUME

5 (1966)

n. 1 (Spring), 1-112; n. 2 (Summer), 113-208; n. 3 (Fall), 209-320.

AsPECTS OF A PEACEFUL REVOLUTION __

121

/ameJ, THE PruEST OF BEING ______________________

239

Bea, Augu.tin CardiTUJl, Bertrand, Boe, John,

CHURCH Music AND AGGIORNAMENTO:

AN ANGLICAN VIEW-----------------------------------

Braybrooke, Neville, Buckley, Franci. /.,

VoiCES IN THE DESERT: ]UNG AND TEILHARD

153

PENANCE IN THE CHURCH __________________

201

Cody, Archbi.hop John P., Congar, Yve.o M.-1., O.P.,

INTRODUCTION--------------------

Cooke, Bernard, S./.,

THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION OF SEMINARIANS__

Della Penta, Joseph C., O.P. Dirscherl, Deni., S./.,

ON DANTE "CANTABILE"----------

25 41 211

DosTOEVSKY, ADVOCATE OF CHRISTIAN

SUFFERING -----------------------------------------SACRAMENTAL ASPECTS OF TRADITION __________

Emanuel, Thomas A., C.SS:R.,

253 183

THE NuMEN AND THE GooD NEws

289

THE BITE OF THE WATCHDOG ____________

265

LUTHER: A NEw VIEW________________________

53

Holloway, Ronald L., Iedin, Hubert,

3

THE CHURCH, SEED OF UNITY AND HOPE

FOR THE HUMAN RACE---------------------------------

Dreher, John,

163

Mangan, Joseph T., S./.,

QUESTIONS ON "THE PILL" AND THE

PRACTICE OF ARTIFICIAL BIRTH CONTROL---------------

315

195


Meyer, Albert Cardinal,

93

INTERVENTIONS AT THE CoUNCIL________

Munson, Thomas N., 5./.,

FAITH AS WoRD ____________________

Murray, John Courtney, 5./.,

227

THE STATUS OF THE NICENE CREED

65

AS DOGMA -------------------------------------------

Nogar, Raymond /., O.P.,

THE EMERGENCE OF THE PERSON IN NATURAL LAW THEORY________________________________

0' DonneU, Bishop Cletus F.,

ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER: THE

PRINCE AND THE PRIEST-------------------------------

5choonenberg, Piet, 5./.,

CHRIST's EucHARISTIC PRESENCE------

Wassmer, Thomas A., 5./., Is

81

115 135

INTRINSIC EVIL A VIABLE TERM? __ 307

Y zerman.s, Vincent A., THE

RELUCTANT LEADER: ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER, 1903 1965__________________

316

5