November and December 2010 Volume 42 Number 6 Price £4.50
P RO M OT I N G A N E W S Y N T H E S I S O F FA I T H A N D R E A S O N
Science and the Spiritual: The Unaddressed Relationship at the Foundation of Modern Evangelisation Editorial
Modern Science and Metaphysics John Haldane, Stephen Barr, Kevin Flannery, John McDermott and David Brown
The Papal Visit Phenomenon
William Oddie, Peter Mitchell, Joanna Bogle, Road from Regensburg and Correspondence
Critiques Andrew Byrne on the CTS Bible Kenneth Kavanagh on the Soho Mass Hugh MacKenzie on the Alpha course
A special series of pamphlets from Faith Movement
REASONS FOR BELIEVING Straightforward, up to date and well argued pamphlets on basic issues of Catholic belief, this new series will build into a single, coherent apologetic vision of the Christian Mystery. They bring out the inner coherence of Christian doctrine and show how God’s revelation makes sense of our own nature and of our world. Five excellent pamphlets in the series are now in print.
Can we be sure God exists? What makes Man unique? The Disaster of Sin Jesus Christ Our Saviour Jesus Christ Our Redeemer NEW The Church: Christ’s Voice to the World
To order please write to Sr Roseann Reddy, Faith-Keyway Trust Publications Office, 104 Albert Road, Glasgow G42 8DR or go to www.faith.org.uk
annual faith winter conference
Catholicism a New Synthesis by Edward Holloway
Winter 2010 at Stonyhurst College Tuesday 28th-Friday 30th December 2010 Three days of lectures for 15-30 year olds. Discussion and seminars around a particular theme, in a relaxed holiday environment, with daily Mass and prayer. Cost: £105 (unwaged: £95) Closing date: Monday 6th December 2010 contact: Ann McCallion Tel: 0141 945 0393 email: firstname.lastname@example.org full details: www.faith.org.uk
Pope John Paul II gave the blueprint for catechetical renewal with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Catholicism: A New Synthesis seeks to show why such teaching makes perfect sense in a world which has come of age in scientific understanding. It offers a way out of the current intellectual crisis, a way which is both modern and orthodox.
Sr Roseann Reddy, Faith-Keyway Trust Publications Office, 104 Albert Road, Glasgow G42 8DR
Contents 02 Synthesis cience and the Spiritual: The Unaddressed Relationship at the 02 S Heart of Modern Evangelisation
06 The Symbiosis of Science and Metaphysics
08 The Disuniting and Reuniting of Ultimate Questions
10 Science and Metaphysics as Related Ways of Knowing Reality
David Brown S.J.
12 How are Physics and Metaphysics Related?
John M. McDermott S.J.
15 The Methodology of Aristotle’s Metaphysics & the Problem of Modern Atheism
Kevin Flannery S.J.
Regular Columns Our Regular Columns
16 Letters On the Westminster Cathedral Mass, Catholic Cooperation with the “gay” agenda, and the Mind of God. 18 Book Reviews Matthew Critten surveys some careful thought of Alister McGrath on science and religion. Fr Mark Vickers is inspired by an insightful novel for our post-Christian time. Fr John Fleming finds the thoughts of a prominent Anglo-Catholic Bishop enlightening. Fr Andrew Byrne has serious worries about the new CTS Bible. 23 The Road From Regensburg Before, during and after the visit: Reminders about God. 24 Comment on the Comments William Oddie on the Pope’s refashioning of British Catholicism. 26 The Truth Will Set You Free Fr Hugh MacKenzie compares the traditions of Catholicism and Alpha. 29 The Truth Will Set You Free (Part II) Joanna Bogle on the impact of some papal home truths. 30 Notes From Across the Atlantic Fr Peter Mitchell charts the surprising nature of the papal visit. 32 Cutting Edge The evidence mounts. Editor Hugh MacKenzie, St. Mary Magdalen’s, Clergy House, Peter Avenue, Willesden Green, London NW10 2DD, Tel 020 8451 6720, email@example.com Deputy Editor Kevin Douglas Editorial Board David Barrett, Timothy Finigan, Andrea Fraile, Roger Nesbitt, Christina Read, Dominic Rolls, Luiz Ruscillo, Mark Vickers. Book Reviews Mark Vickers, St Peter’s, Bishop’s Rise, Hatfield, Herts AL10 9HN, firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Manager Scott Deeley, c/o Holy Cross, 11 Bangholm Loan, Edinburgh EH5 3AH, email@example.com Subscriptions and Faith-Keyway Trust Publications Office Sr Roseann Reddy, 104 Albert Road, Glasgow G42 8DR, firstname.lastname@example.org UK £25/year, Europe (inc.Eire) £29/E37/year. Surface Mail overseas £28/$56/E36/year. Air Mail overseas £33/$66/E42/year. Student rate £17/$34/E22/year. Single copies £5 inc. p&p. Bulk orders £3.50 plus p&p. Published by the Faith-Keyway Trust, registered charity No. 278314. Printed by Tudor Printing 01772 633098, ISSN 1356-126X.
faith November and December 2010 Volume 42 Number 6
Synthesis The positive impact of the Pope’s presence on our soil is not in doubt. In this issue we have numerous pieces discerning the graces that our country has received. As our Road from Regensburg column recounts, his addresses to our political and cultural leaders seemed to hit the right note – giving us a gentle reminder about God. Yet the fact that the Vicar of Christ felt the need in this land of saints to return to the divine foundations of true civilisation is a salutary reminder of how far our culture has shifted away from them. The largely unopposed progress of the secular revolution in our country in recent decades was also the explanatory context of the first and main point of our Holy Father’s parting speech to the British Bishops. At Oscott seminary he requested: “Be sure to present in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture. As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelisation of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you.” An indication of the cultural and ecclesial problem that the Pope was addressing occurred at Cofton Park just before he beatified John Henry Newman. Our country’s most respected media organisation, the BBC, had invited a British Bishop and grandees from the Tablet, a well-known periodical that proudly carries the label “Catholic” on its masthead, to help set the scene for Radio 4’s flagship religious discussion forum, The Sunday Programme. Just moments before the start of the beatification Mass, when for the first time a Pope would exercise his solemn apostolic authority on British soil, our establishment panel, live on air, effectively held it up to ridicule. The Bishop’s comment on Pope John Paul’s magisterial rejection of women priests was recorded on Damian Thompson’s blog: “‘Well, according to Pope John Paul II, this was a definitive statement, wasn’t it, so… [laughs] I couldn’t possibly comment.’ Cue knowing sniggers from Tabletistas.” It’s because of such prominent attitudes in Church and state that the Vicar of Christ upon earth has to remind us Brits, in his ever-courteous way, of the existence, the relevance and the incarnate presence of divinity. Our editorial illustrates how agnostic presumptions became so deeply influential in our culture. Their roots go way beyond the 20th century’s revolt against the revelation of God and the meaning of man. Our editorial, supported by contributions from several eminent academics, highlights the ongoing Cartesian insularity of Catholic thought concerning the 17th century’s leap forward in the investigation into the natural world, which we call the scientific revolution. This continual defensiveness has driven a wedge between faith and reason. We have noted before that Blessed John Henry Newman predicted that we in Britain would have “a new world to conquer before we have weapons for the warfare” (Introduction to The Development of Christian Doctrine). Providentially for us, Pope Benedict has put himself in the vanguard. 02 Faith I Synthesis
“Most Catholic thinkers since Descartes have attempted to keep modern science in a box where it cannot effect metaphysics”
“Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” Romans 1:20 Hawking’s Challenge Early last September Stephen Hawking claimed to have come close to the coveted Theory of Everything, and this without any need to invoke God. He wrote in The Times: “Philosophy is dead. It has not kept up with modern developments in science … scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” Behind the cursory dismissal of philosophy, and especially metaphysics, lies a materialistic prejudice that is widespread in the scientific community. Especially sadly it has been unwittingly encouraged by most prominent Catholic thinkers since Descartes. These thinkers have attempted to keep the specific discoveries of modern science in a box where such data cannot effect the study of the foundations of physical reality, namely metaphysics. The main exceptions to this tendency are “Process” theologians, who unfortunately compromise the transcendence of God. Because of this avoidance of science the rejection of the materialism of Hawking et al by the philosophical schools of Transcendental Thomism, neo-scholastic realism and personalist phenomenology, is restricted in its effectiveness. As one they rightly uphold the reality of the supra-material self-conscious human subject. It is indeed an important truth that at the core of our identity as human beings we experience a spiritual intentionality that defies reduction to the level of material causality. Nonetheless we human beings, precisely because we are both matter and spirit, body and soul, cannot, in our very understanding of human consciousness, prescind from the material conditions that characterise the human condition. Human knowing, human reason necessarily entails human sensation. On this point we should not be shy of acknowledging the sometimes well expressed post-modern insight that the meaningfulness of linguistic concepts is always related to an individual’s experience of the physical. Such Catholic philosophy is hamstrung by its failure to engage fully with material reality, and its credibility is shaken in the light of the specific, successful and useful results of science. This philosophy often regards “usefulness” as of little metaphysical significance. Whilst the concept is certainly not primary at the level of spiritual communion between persons, actual and potential usefulness, in the sense of functional relationality, is, in the light of modern physics, chemistry and biology, at the heart of the very being and metaphysical significance of physical things. The fairly ubiquitous failure of contemporary Catholic thought to respect the findings of modern science as anything more than interesting and handy measurement and mathematics is charted in this issue by Stephen Barr, John Haldane and David Brown. This failure is the reason why Catholic academia continues to fail to find an effective and widely accepted response to the inexorable rise of the anti-metaphysical Kantianism.
Science and the Spiritual: The Unaddressed Relationship at the Foundation of Modern Evangelisation Editorial This situation is witnessed to by the fact that the only metaphysical issue where there is a virtual consensus among mainstream twentieth century Catholic thinkers, apart from the reality of human subjectivity mentioned above, is the claim that the discoveries of modern science should not have a significant influence upon metaphysics. To this extent Hawking would seem to be right.
Roots of the Denial Christopher Dawson, in reflecting upon the “drama of our times”, wrote concerning the French Revolution: “We have not paid enough attention to the intellectual revolution that had already taken place before there was any question of a political one. Yet it is this intellectual revolution that is responsible for the secularisation of western culture … [which] owed … its diffusion to the ill-judged and unjust, though sincere, action of religious orthodoxy” (Christopher Dawson, The Gods of Revolution, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1972, p14-15) This intellectual reaction against science has its roots in Descartes. Ronald Knox pointed out that Descartes “has made absolute, by a decree that has lasted to our own day, the divorce between the study of the world outside us and the study of the human mind as an instrument” (God and the Atom, Sheed and Ward. p.27). Back in the early seventeenth century Francis Bacon, the first modern philosopher of science, recognised that the developmental nature of modern scientific methodology provided a truer vision of how human knowing arrives at formality than the scholastic theory of abstraction. We fill out our knowledge of the unity of “Whiskers the cat” and our definition of the species of “cat” through repeated observation – and this knowledge can never be final and absolutely definitive until we know the whole cosmos. Bacon thus begun the inexorable uncovering of the dynamic and relational aspects of the phenomenon of formality. This inherent dynamism was absent from Greco-Catholic form-matter hylomorphism. Ronald Knox put the resultant question this way: “How (we ask) is it possible for research to burrow deeper and deeper into the very heart of being, and come back to us with no news of having come across, even having go nearer, to the heart of being as philosophers conceive it? … We talk about ‘form’ and ‘matter’; distinguish between the mere undifferentiated substratum which underlies any existing thing, and the added principle which makes it what it is. And here are the physicists, splitting up the molecule into atoms and now picking away at the atom itself, peering down into the deep abyss in which the constituent elements of all chemical things are the same; yet never a word have they to tell us about where ‘form’ ends and ‘matter’ begins!” (p.35-36) Descartes attempted to protect Catholic metaphysical methodology from the encroachment of science through his “innate ideas”, which depicted the Greek static form as something known a priori to human experience of the physical.
This radical undermining of the distinct and dynamic intelligibility and identity of the objective realm finds a logical end point in Kant’s foundation of modern a priori idealism. Kant argued that the whole intelligibility of an experienced ‘phenomenon’ is known a priori to the experience. For him the actuality of the distinct, existential ‘noumenon’ of the objective realm is not intelligibly grasped. He dedicated his Critique of Pure Reason to Bacon seemingly in recognition of the need to look carefully at the phenomenon of human experience. Kant’s radically dualistic analysis of such experience led him to deny the objective existentiality of holistic forms, yet to affirm that we do know that there is an unknowable noumenal pole of sensation. He epitomises the worst nightmare of traditional Catholic thinkers concerning what effect modern science might have upon formal realism if it is allowed to. Kant indeed declared the death of metaphysics.
“metaphysics is simply the study of matter as it immediately relates to mind” Thinkers who have been more faithful to Thomistic Realism, with its a posteriori abstraction of the universal form, have rejected the idea that formality is a priori to observation in general but kept it as a priori to modern experimental observation. Thus, seemingly in order protect the validity of metaphysics, they have tried to depict scientific methodology as a radically different type of observation from normal human observation of the physical. Etienne Gilson in his influential 1971 book From Aristotle to Descartes and Back Again favoured claiming that the object of science is material and efficient causation while normal physical observation is much broader and gets at formal and final causation. The former he argued is useful at the concrete physical level, the latter not. Yet, in fact chemistry and biology do uncover formal and indeed final, that is teleological, dimensions. Take for example the chemical properties captured by the periodic table or a plant’s very formal and final environmental interaction that we call photosynthesis, not to mention animal behaviour. The properties of the chemical substances, a plant’s movement towards the sun and its ability to produce oxygen from carbon dioxide are very useful to humans in general and can be very useful to designers. Neo-scholastic metaphysics has continued to prize the universal realm of the “form”, for example “cat-ness”, over the realm of the concrete individual, for example Whiskers the cat. Yet this concrete realm is profoundly relevant to the advance of science. Moreover, as Stephen Barr affirms, in this issue, our significantly increased access to the dynamics and mathematics of the concrete offered by experimental methodology speaks clearly of the formal and intelligible dimensions. This places an inexorably increasing pressure upon the traditional division of reality between the concrete individual and the static and hermetically sealed off character of the universal ‘form’. Crucially then the distinction between science and human observation, recently invented in order to defend traditional Catholic metaphysics in its entirety, does not hold water. For
Science and the Spiritual: The Unaddressed Relationship at the Foundation of Modern Evangelisation I Faith 03
Science and the Spiritual: The Unaddressed Relationship at the Foundation of Modern Evangelisation continued modern scientific method is just sophisticated observation. Pope Benedict, in a speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences last October, affirmed that “experimentation [is] an organised method for observing nature”. And as with all the future predictions that always accompany observation there can be a justifiable certainty, especially about the past and present, as well as provisionality, especially about the future. As the Pope added “even provisional results constitute a real contribution to unveiling the correspondence between the intellect and natural realities”.
The Contemporary Situation In the modern era the scientific “encroachment” has continued. Tragically, a nominalistic and reductionist philosophy of science has filled the gap left by the absence of a respectful, holistic Catholic interpretation. In this emergent philosophy of science formality and finality became metaphysically secondary whilst concrete individuality and its newly singing and dancing mathematics became the primary reality. The basic traditional metaphysical dualism of universal form and individual remained, but the ontological primacy was just flipped from formality to “material” individuality. This is the deeper root of modern materialism.
“Modern scientific method is just sophisticated observation”
Yet this transcendence is a transcendence of the physical and arises from the relationship of human reason to the physical realm, as St Paul points out to the Romans (1:19). If “natural reason” is to be open to supernatural revelation it must coherently move beyond the realm of physical nature to that realm which founds it, the metaphysical. The justification of such a movement is key to the fulfilment of Pope Benedict’s heartfelt call. This foundation of physics in metaphysics has been recognised by the Catholic tradition, from the moment the Son of God took the physical realm to his very self, right up to Pope Benedict’s description of science, to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in October last, as “a place of dialogue, a meeting between man and nature and, potentially between man and his Creator. Pope John Paul put it like this: “We face a great challenge at the end of this millennium to move from phenomenon to foundation, a step as necessary as it is urgent.” [Fides et Ratio, 83]. He went on to state: “I wish to reaffirm strongly the conviction that the human being can come to a unified and organic vision of knowledge. This is one of the tasks which Christian thought will have to take up through the next millennium of the Christian era. The segmentation of knowledge, with its splintered approach to truth and consequent fragmentation of meaning, keeps people today from coming to an interior unity. How could the Church not be concerned by this?” [n. 85]
If, as we have noted, our sole defence against materialism has been the reality of the human subject, so our sole defence against philosophical reductionism has been limited to pointing out that it is in reality a reductio ad absurdum. For it is indeed absurd to remove the objective meaningfulness of the holistic level of physical things. If the fact that “the plant needs the sun” is not a real relationship but can be reduced, without losing anything of its being, to a description of the plant’s parts and the mechanics of photosynthesis, then this reduction can also be done to these parts and mechanics, and so on, until there is no reality left at all.
We need to move towards a “unified and organic vision” of creation, witnessing to the one simple Logos through Whom it was all made. Yet how can we do this if developments of modern science, which have done so much to reveal the wonder of creation, have no determinative role to play.
Yet, as alluded to above, this defence against the culturally dominant mindset has only ever been a partial defence because the data of science is still patronised as irrelevant. The very intellectual weakness of keeping science at arm’s length invites the dominant dualistic mindset to interpret scientific as well as other observational data in a reductive manner, which leads to nominalism. And this is what has happened. Every successful advance of the technological revolution has been spun, with little direct opposition, as further evidence of the nominalistic nature of the universe, the individualistic nature of man and the meaninglessness of metaphysics.
Ronald Knox put it this way back in 1945: “Our age is in need of a great philosopher; one who can thread his way, step by step, through the intricate labyrinth of reasoning into which scientists have been led, eyes riveted to earth … one who can keep his mind, at the same time, open to the metaphysical implications of all he learns, and at last put the whole corpus of our knowledge together in one grand synthesis … He must at once be a Thomist and an Atomist; until that reconciliation is attempted, the pulpit and the laboratory will be forever at cross-purposes.” (God and the Atom, Sheed and Ward p.110-111)
Contemporary Papal Magisterium on New Metaphysics
Towards a Solution
A few days after Hawking made his point Pope Benedict, in Westminster Hall, warned our cultural leaders against any attempt to cut natural reason off from its transcendent foundations and the religious revelation which has served it and us so well (see our Road from Regensburg column).
Rather, as Pope Benedict said in his October speech: “as increasing accomplishments of the sciences deepen our wonder of the complexity of nature, the need for an interdisciplinary approach tied with philosophical reflection leading to a synthesis is more and more perceived”.
There was and is a need for a philosophy of science which, as Edward Holloway writes, was more “existential in emphasis” than essential, whilst being truly realist concerning formal universality (cf. Perspectives in Philosophy, Vol III, Noumenon and Phenomenon: Rethinking the Greeks in the Age of Science,
04 Faith I Science and the Spiritual: The Unaddressed Relationship at the Foundation of Modern Evangelisation
“Over decades of Faith publications, symposia and youth catechesis we have put an extremely unfashionable effort into updating the traditional arguments for the distinction of matter and spirit” Faith-Keyway Trust). Christianity needs a philosophy which affirms the concept of human “nature” in a way that affirms its effective and historical sharing between us and Christ. There is no question that reductionism is false and has been shown to be such. There is no question that we must justify anew the concept of universals, like human nature, if we are to maintain the harmony of faith and reason. Yet if we ignore our new knowledge of what it means to be a part of something we cannot appropriately show that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
“Physical things are immediate objects of my knowing because they are immediate objects of God’s knowing.” Our own observation of substantial formality is, and must be shown to be, consistent with our biological, chemical and physical knowledge. So the fact that my pet Whiskers is more than the sum of its parts is indisputable, and widely acknowledged today. But the task of harmonising this with the biochemistry of its organs is crucial. But there is one other facet that needs to be synthesised with this if we are to be able to refound Christian culture: the fact (and the Judaeo-Christian revelation) that my very power of intelligent observation is in the image of God’s Mind. For thereby we found the coherence of modern science with basic Judaeo-Christian anthropology, not least concerning human freedom, creativity, spirituality and eternal destiny. My grasping of the above holistic, formal patterns of physical relationships between things and their environments is an immediate grasping of what is in immediate relationship with the Mind of its Creator. They are objects of my knowing because they are the objects of God’s knowing. And my creative development of these patterns is in the image of the Logos of God. That is to say the human creation of artefacts and, indeed any intelligent and intentional interaction of the human body with its environment is a reflection of God’s ultimate fiat. My very control and direction of my own body is a clear illustration of the immediacy of such creative knowing and willing. All material things, whether natural or artificial, are holistic unities because they are in an immediate founding relationship with a mind. The difference between a natural thing and a man-made thing is that the creativity in the latter case applies only to the holistic, unitary level of functionality, whereas in the former case it applies to every level of the thing whatever, from top to bottom, throughout its physics, chemistry and biology – it is creation ex nihilo. In this vision metaphysics is simply the study of matter as it relates to mind, which is matter’s foundational relationship. Thus it is that over decades of Faith publications, symposia and youth catechesis we have and continue to put an extremely unfashionable effort into updating the traditional arguments for the distinction of matter and spirit, body and soul.
Such an intellectual itinerary is in contrast to the traditional western proposal of a dualistic, “dialectical” tension between matter and form, the many and the one, matter and spirit, body and soul, object and subject. Yet this is this same contrast is present between the Judaeo-Christian tradition and other religious traditions. As Claude Tresmontant was at pains to point out and carefully to defend: “The metaphysical content of the religious tradition of the Bible, both Jewish and Christian, is utterly different from the metaphysical content or structure of the religious traditions of India, Africa, Oceania or Greece.” (The Origins of Christian Philosophy, Burns and Oates, 1962, page 100). Indeed the early Fathers rejected any neo-Platonic dualism between an eternal, unformed, unintelligible matter and a form which somehow floats between this and God. Irenaeus, for instance, wrote in the second century AD: “Men can certainly never make things out of nothing; they need to be provided with matter. But God is greater than man, in so far as the matter, which he fashions, though it did not exist previously, he himself creates.” This contrast is true not least concerning the approach to the fundamental issue of the status of evil. The uniquely JudaeoChristian approach is that evil is secondary to goodness, emerging from the abuse of goodness by free creatures. It is not a metaphysical principle, equal and opposite to goodness, as it is in Eastern religions, and the Greek philosophy which flowed from them. Dis-order is a breakdown of order. So it does not need to be incorporated into our basic metaphysics as many modern thinkers seem to do, not least Process Theology. We just need to discern what interactions arise purely from the nature of things and what from man’s activity, both good and evil. As our review of Alister McGrath’s latest book in this issue implies, he, along with many other contemporary science and religion writers, fails to make this discernment and thus, whilst making numerous helpful points, despairs of inferring properties of God from looking at nature. Yet this discernment of order and disorder is precisely what science does in order to be successful, and its very success confirms this Christian metaphysic.
Conclusion Our civilisation was once Christian. After centuries of Christian defeat in intellectual debate it is no longer so. We are now lost in mists of philosophical and cultural “pluralism”, which really stands for agnosticism and moral chaos. The need for a new synthesis is not an academic issue, the future of the Church in the West depends on it, our debased secular culture is crying out for it. Surely we must expect God to prompt it and all men and women of good will to seek it. For as the inspired proverb puts it “where there is no vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29, 18).
Science and the Spiritual: The Unaddressed Relationship at the Foundation of Modern Evangelisation I Faith 05
The Symbiosis of Science and Metaphysics by Stephen Barr
Stephen Barr argues that the reticence of the Thomistic tradition to allow modern science to affect metaphysics has been an own goal. He is a member of the First Things’ editorial board and is professor of physics at the University of Delaware. He is author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith and A Student’s Guide to Natural Science. Might the discoveries of modern science have implications for theology? They certainly cannot alter the substance of “the faith once delivered to the saints”. They can, however, affect our cosmological and philosophical ideas and thus change the way we conceive of certain religious truths. To take an obvious example, even though the Church had no teaching on the location of Hell, it was once generally supposed by theologians to be somewhere inside the earth. Today this view would strike most Christians as extremely implausible, if not absurd. This is not a question of a change in doctrine, but of a change in “World Picture”, to use a term of the Polish physicist and philosopher Fr. Michał Heller. In every age, people naturally form World Pictures that are syntheses of ideas derived from various sources – prevailing scientific theories, philosophical speculation, revealed truth, widely accepted notions, and “common sense”. In this way, non-theological currents of thought, including scientific ones, inevitably and often unconsciously influence the ideas of theologians. Clearly, there is a danger of theologians becoming too wedded to current, and possibly transient, scientific theories. But, as Fr. Heller notes, it is also risky for theologians simply to ignore scientific developments, as many do, for they may then unwittingly retain in their thinking elements of older, scientifically obsolete World Pictures. There are no simple rules here; discernment and prudence are required. A set of issues of much contemporary interest where these considerations apply concerns the resurrection of the dead. One strand of tradition emphasises the continuity of the “world to come” with this world. It is de fide Catholic teaching that we shall rise with the “same bodies” we now have, and most theologians have understood this to mean that our resurrected bodies will be composed of the “same matter” as composes our present bodies. Indeed, a recent book even suggests that they must contain some of the very same particles. Quite other considerations, such as concern for the environment and reaction against what some see as too otherworldly a faith, have led to greater emphasis recently on the idea that the physical universe and the earth itself will be redeemed and renewed. (“[T]he creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the sons of God. ” Romans 8:21.). 06 Faith I The Symbiosis of Science and Metaphysics
This is an area where modern science has definite things to say. First, it is absolutely certain that the earth will be obliterated in about 5 billion years, when the sun becomes a red giant star. And in the standard cosmological theory of today, the universe will either end in a “Big Crunch”, in which time itself will end, or will continue to expand forever, becoming ever colder, darker and more empty, and eventually losing all capacity to sustain life. It would seem, then, that the “new heavens and new earth” of which Scripture speaks must be truly new creations rather than mere modifications of the present heavens and earth. This is entirely in accord with the numerous scripture passages that speak of heaven and earth passing away and being destroyed utterly, even to the dissolution of the elements. Second, the idea that resurrected bodies will share some of the very same individual particles as our present bodies is actually inconsistent with theoretical particle physics, which says that elementary particles (such as electrons) have no individuality at all. (In the physics literature this is called the “quantum indistinguishability of particles”. It has generated much discussion among philosophers on the lack of “haecceitas” of elementary particles. This is an excellent example, incidentally, of something that will be discussed below, namely how science can be relevant to fundamental issues in metaphysics, in this case whether “matter individuates form” as Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics asserts.)
“Aristotle’s metaphysics and science make use of the same technical apparatus of form, matter, substance, accident, potency, act, and so on.” Third, the “bondage to decay” of the present creation is rooted in a very fundamental feature of the laws of physics of this universe called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. A world not subject to decay would have to obey such radically different principles that it is very doubtful that it could be seen as in physical continuity with this universe. Of course, our imaginations are limited and God is omnipotent. But, as these three points show, any theological conception of the world to come that posits a strong physical continuity with the present world faces formidable theoretical difficulties coming from physics. I should note that one theologian whose writings on bodily resurrection and eschatology show a sophisticated awareness of some of the implications of modern physics is Joseph Ratzinger. A second set of theological issues to which the discoveries of modern physics are relevant concerns the nature of time. The traditional view, most profoundly developed by St. Augustine in the eleventh chapter of his Confessions, is that time is a feature of the created world, and so is itself something created. This implies, as St. Augustine first
“The re-engagement cannot simply be an attempt to translate statements of modern science into existing Aristotelian terms.” pointed out, that it is quite meaningless to speak of a “time before creation”. The beginning of the created world must be the beginning of time itself. Einstein’s theory of gravity (General Relativity) leads to the same conclusion by a parallel route. According to General Relativity, the spacetime manifold is a physical entity – it bends, ripples, expands and contracts, has energy, and interacts with other physical entities. For this reason modern physics also affirms that the beginning of the physical universe is the beginning of time and space. St. Augustine’s deep reflections in this area led Bertrand Russell to praise his “admirable relativistic theory of time”, and Steven Weinberg has noted that “it seems to have become a tradition to quote from [Augustine’s Confessions] in writing about quantum cosmology.”
“Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy has paid a heavy price for the two and a half centuries in which it largely ignored what was going on in the natural sciences.” A second implication of St. Augustine’s insight is that God in his own nature (as distinct from the finite human nature assumed by the Word) must be outside of space and time. Created things, at least those that are part of this physical universe, have among themselves spatio-temporal relations; but God dwells in “the sublimity of an ever-present eternity”, the “nunc stans” (the now that stands still) and knows and wills all things by a single atemporal act. Strangely, there has been a movement away from St. Augustine’s profound conception. One sees this in certain forms of process theology and “kenotic” theology, and quite definitely in “open theism”. Open theism argues that God does not know “the future”, either because it does not yet exist to be known, or because God chooses not to know it, in an act of kenosis (self-emptying). This is supposed to give creatures greater freedom. What is ironic is that these “modern” theological trends do not comport very well with what modern science has learned about time. Since space-time is now known to be something physical, to suppose the divine nature bound to the time of this world is perforce to suppose God a physical being locatable in space – a remarkably primitive notion. Newtonian physics projected the simple one-dimensional timeline of our mental experience onto the physical universe. Special relativity showed, however, that spacetime has a more subtle four-dimensional structure, in which it does not make sense to speak of the past, the present, or the future of the universe as a whole. What is past, present, or future to one point of space-time does not coincide with what is past, present or future to a point spatially distant from it. If it was naive to project our one-dimensional mental timeline onto the universe, how much more so to suppose
that it could be projected onto the Mind of God, who infinitely transcends the universe. Beyond directly theological issues, does modern physics have anything to say to metaphysics, and therefore indirectly to theology? Some might argue not, on the grounds that metaphysics speaks about such general features of reality – of being as being – that it cannot be affected by discoveries of particular contingent facts about the world. And yet, Aristotelian metaphysics, which has such an important place in Catholic thought, was not conceived in isolation from scientific investigation. Aristotle was himself a great scientist and both his metaphysics and science make use of the same technical apparatus of form, matter, substance, accident, potency, act, and so on. Indeed, it was largely as a theory of nature that Aristotelianism first commended itself to medieval Christian thinkers. It is a great problem that traditional Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics and modern science no longer speak the same language, as they did in the Middle Ages. Indeed, there are many terms and concepts in the language of each that are now almost untranslatable into the language of the other. Some argue that this is the fault of modern science, which restricted its attention to a limited range of questions having to do with the merely quantitative aspects of things and with efficient and material causes at the expense of formal and final causes. While there is some truth in this, it is only a part of the story. The language of Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics has changed very little since the advent of modern science and its vocabulary seems from a scientific perspective quite stilted and awkward for many purposes.
“it is risky for theologians simply to ignore scientific developments, as many do” Physics has had enormous success in explaining why things happen as they do in the natural world, but its modes of explanation do not fit neatly into the four-fold classification of material, formal, efficient, and final causes. For example, when physicists explain the electrical conductivity of metals in terms of the “band structure” of the energy levels of the electrons in a crystal lattice of atoms, to which of the four causes does that correspond? As this example illustrates, explanation in modern physics is almost entirely in terms of mathematical structure and involves an enormously rich set of ideas about form. The fact that modern science is nonetheless typically accused by Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysicians of neglecting “formal cause” shows that they are working with a different notion of form than are contemporary physicists and mathematicians. In Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy, the ideas of formal causation and substantial form have a teleological thrust that is largely missing from the physicist’s conception of form, which corresponds The Symbiosis of Science and Metaphysics I Faith 07
The Symbiosis of Science and Metaphysics continued
“St John used the term ‘Logos’ as belonging to metaphysics-cum-science-cum-natural theology.”
more to Lonergan’s broader idea of form as “intelligible structure”.
John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, calls for the reestablishment of the dynamic of science leading to metaphysics, this in turn leading to the personal realm. His two most recent books are Practical Philosophy (2009) and Reasonable Faith (2010).
Another example of a linguistic/conceptual difference between Aristotelian thought and modern science is that the former usually envisions the action of one thing upon another (for example fire heating iron), whereas in modern physics the physical world is explained in terms of mutual “interactions”. A third example is that the notions of “species” in Aristotelian philosophy and modern biology are not compatible. Aristotelian species are what mathematicians call “equivalence classes”, so that if A is of the same species as B, and B is of the same species as C, then A must be of the same species as C. However, it does not appear possible in biology to define species in a way that always satisfies this condition. (The existence of “ring species”, such as the Larus gulls, illustrates the problem, as indeed does “speciation” in evolution, whereby all animals are of the same species as their parents and offspring, but not as their remote ancestors or descendents.)
“It is a great problem that traditional Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics and modern science no longer speak the same language, as they did in the Middle Ages.” In short, Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy has paid a heavy price for the two and a half centuries in which it largely ignored what was going on in the natural sciences. A sustained re-engagement with science would enrich its conceptual and linguistic resources. This re-engagement cannot simply be an attempt to translate statements of modern science into existing Aristotelian terms. That cannot be done in many cases. Rather, many more Aristotelian/ Thomistic metaphysicians than currently do must learn to listen to and understand science in its own native tongue. Modern physics has made discoveries (e.g. quantum mechanics) which undoubtedly have profound metaphysical implications, but what those implications are cannot be explored unless the physics is understood directly and not “in translation”.
Among the earliest writings that continue to be thought of as metaphysical are a series of broken texts and quoted passages now known as ‘the Pre-Socratic fragments’. That description comes from the title of a work by the German scholar Hermann Diels (Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker) who gathered together a large number of pieces attributed to thinkers prior to the period of Socrates, mostly from the 6th century BC. Looking at these passages it is clear that the authors were investigating fundamental questions about the nature of reality, and seeking for ultimate principles that would explain its existence and nature. So, for example, Thales of Miletus is reputed to have said that “it is necessary that there should be some nature, either one or more than one, out of which arise the features of things”; and several of the Pre-Socratics speak of principles that explain the order and patterns of movement in the universe. As well as being claimed as the first philosophers, however, the ‘Pre-Socratics’ are also cited as being the first scientists. After all they were interested in the ultimate constituents of things and in the manner of their combination, and in the ancient world they were actually referred to as ‘physiologoi’ which can be translated as ‘natural scientists’.
“several of the Pre-Socratics speak of principles that explain the order and patterns of movement in the universe” What is less often observed, however, is that these thinkers can equally well be represented as natural theologians. For while they were interested in nature they thought of it in the broadest possible terms, as encompassing all that there might be, invisible and invisible; and they wanted to know what sustained it and moved it towards certain intelligible ends. In speaking of the ultimate explanation they began to talk of ‘Logos’, an account or explanation. Although logos can be translated as ‘theory’ that is anachronistic if by theory we mean a set of ideas in the mind of enquirers, or a set of statements written down. The Logos for which they sought was something that explained the cosmos both in the way that an account might, but also in the way that a cause would do. Indeed, for these thinkers the Logos was something real, perhaps transcendent of the cosmos, but if so then also immanent within it,
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The Disuniting and Reuniting of Ultimate Questions by John Haldane making it to be what it is and drawing reality to itself as an end or telos. With this before us we can better understand the purpose of the prologue to John’s gospel, in which he writes: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’, and appreciate the extraordinariness of its claim. The author was intending to address Greekspeaking Jews and educated Gentiles who would recognise the term ‘Logos’ as belonging to metaphysics-cum-sciencecum-natural theology. Instead of identifying the account either with a theory or even with a metaphysical or cosmological principle, however, he identifies it with a deity, and not just a ‘god’ but with God, an ultimate, intrinsically personal creator, sustainer and provider of the universe.
“observation gives rise to questions that science answers, these themselves raise questions that call for metaphysical responses” That was then; but metaphysics, science and theology seem to have long drifted apart. The first, can appear the model of pure a priori thought, disengaged from the world of experience; the second, a massive collection of detailed descriptions and theories about the enormous variety of material phenomena, but with no intelligible unity; and the third an obscure and generally unrigorous rhapsody of affirmations and aspirations, at one end couched in the languages of politics and sentimentality, and at the other in the terms of a cosmic poetry unregulated by science or philosophy.
patterns of occurrence. Pressed repeatedly this brings us to a description of the fundamental elements of the material universe and the laws governing their interactions. Second, ‘why?’ may be addressed to the ultimates of any theory and answered by showing that in some sense these things are necessary. For example, while it may not be necessary that objects have the character they do in this universe, it may be argued that it is necessary that in any universe that could exist there would have to be objects and events of some sort or another. This is a metaphysical explanation. Third, however, ‘why?’ may be addressed to whatever might occur or be the case and then be answered not in terms of events, or elements, or laws, or necessities, but in terms of ends or purposes. This is a personal explanation. The reintegration of science, metaphysics and theology lies in the direction of showing that observation gives rise to questions that science answers, but that these themselves raise questions that call for metaphysical responses, and that these in turn point to a different kind of explanation which, though ultimate, is also personal. Theology does not do the work of metaphysics let alone that of science, but it does provide the most transcendent answer which is also a statement of purpose. The ultimate Logos is that of which John spoke to the natural scientists and metaphysicians of the ancient world and of which his prologue continues to speak to us today: the Word of God by which all things were made and in whom was life, which was the light of men.
Not only is this disassociation apparent but it seems to leave theology particularly exposed; for while the metaphysician may be criticised for paying insufficient attention to empirical enquiry, and the natural scientist too little to abstract argument about ultimate principles, at least both appear to be directed towards describing the structure of things: metaphysical and natural, respectively. This seems to exhaust the possible totality of reality, and so if there is anything for theology to do, it can only be to provide a poetic accompaniment comprised of pleasing imagery but not revealing any objective truth. This is a now a fairly common view but it rests on a deep misunderstanding about the nature of enquiry and explanation. A clearer and better view shows the necessity but also the limits of each discipline, and an order of priority among them that elevates theology. To begin with, we need to distinguish between three different kinds of answer to the question ‘why?’ First, ‘why?’ may be addressed to the occurrence of an event where the appropriate answer takes the form of an explanation citing observed or presumed prior events and
The Disuniting and Reuniting of Ultimate Questions I Faith 09
Science and Metaphysics as Related Ways of Knowing Reality by David Brown S.J. David Brown suggests that even if scientific observation does not enable us to describe its object in its totality, the resulting description cannot be completely cut off from something of its reality. Fr Brown is of the New Orleans province of the Society of Jesus, a researcher at the Vatican Observatory and a member of the editorial board of the New Jesuit Review. Modern scientific discovery has significant metaphysical and theological implications. This is most evident in how physics and biology have profoundly changed the way in which man thinks about the universe and about life within it. The succession of scientific discoveries and revolutions in physics over the last 500 years have led to fundamental paradigm shifts (Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) in the way that science conceives of the reality of this universe both on the cosmological scale and in the subatomic realm, and perhaps even beyond this universe. Meanwhile, rapid developments in biology, particularly in the field of genetics, have provided an occasion for serious reflection on how life is structured and even defined, how it might have arisen, and how it might develop in future years. This short essay will briefly examine the basic metaphysical and theological implications of developments in physics and biology and how they can be taken into account into theological discourse in order to make accessible the truths of the Christian faith to the current generation. Before proceeding to the discussion, it is necessary to clarify what is meant by “metaphysics”, given the opinion in many philosophical circles that such an endeavour is neither possible nor even desirable. Traditionally, metaphysics has been understood to be the study of “being” and of the relation of different types of “being” to one another. Criticism levelled at the study of metaphysics from the newly-emerging scientific worldview highlighted the problem of how to establish a sound discourse about things which could not be empirically verified by the scientific method, which resulted in the divergence of science (natural philosophy) from philosophy. Suffice it to say that the complexity of this problem is beyond the scope of this article and that, instead, use of the term “metaphysics” will refer to how science is able to describe the structure and nature of the reality that it observes, the “being” of this universe, or at least the empirically verifiable segment of it. That is, we shall take our metaphysics to be that perceivable reality (of the universe) which science has been able to describe by its own methods, leaving aside critically important questions about the limitations of the scientific method in describing “super-realities”. In so far as science strives to discuss what this universe, 10 Faith I Science and Metaphysics as Related Ways of Knowing Reality
this reality is, it cannot avoid some form of metaphysical involvement. A second preliminary issue to discuss is the reverse of what was described above: whether or not philosophy and theology should even bother to use developments in modern science (and the slice of reality that it attempts to explain) as a framework or platform to conduct theological or philosophical discourse. The answer is a resounding yes. Any theological or philosophical discourse should always be grounded on the reality in which we live. Joseph Pieper makes a good point, though in regard to moral theology: “All obligation is based upon being. Reality is the foundation of ethics. The good is that which is in accord with reality. He who wishes to know and to do the good must turn his gaze upon the objective world of being. Not upon his own ‘ideas’, not upon his ‘conscience’, not upon ‘values’, not upon arbitrarily established ‘ideals’ and ‘models’. He must turn away from his own act and fix his eyes upon reality.” [Reality and the Good, pp. 106-180, in Living the Truth, Ignatius Press, 1989.] Any discipline, be it theology or philosophy, which seeks to understand the meaning of, purpose of, behaviour of, and relationship between the different constituent “beings” of this reality of ours should at least try to account for and incorporate an understanding of that which is observed in such a reality. This should include how that empirical reality affects those beings, even if what is observed empirically cannot fully explain the reality of “being”. Insofar as science is able to describe at least a slice of the reality in which we live, it is incumbent on the theologian and philosopher to be cognisant of how science describes the nature of the universe and the beings who inhabit it. Developments in physics over the last 500 years have changed the way that man thinks about the reality in which he lives in three fundamental ways. First, the Copernican conception of the cosmos revolutionised the way that man understands his place in the universe by displacing him (and the Earth) from its centre. Subsequent discoveries in physics/astronomy/astrophysics have only served to remind humanity of its smallness in relation to a cosmos thought to be vast and almost unimaginable in size and scale. As far as we know our universe came into existence from a primordial singularity (at the beginning of time 13.7 thousand million years ago) which exploded into the expanding universe which we observe today; its expansion is accelerating (perhaps due to dark energy); its content we can barely conceive of (96% of it exists in an unseen form known as dark energy together with dark matter) let alone enumerate (its 100 billion galaxies, each contain between 100 billion and 1 trillion stars, many of which may harbour planets with conditions conducive to the existence of other life-forms, many possibly intelligent); its dimensions may be more than four; and its fate (re-collapse?) remains an open question;
“In so far as science strives to discuss what this universe is, it cannot avoid some form of metaphysical involvement.” and it may be only one among many in a multiverse. The mystery of such a cosmological reality whose centre is said to be “everywhere and nowhere”, can only serve to reorientate the way in which man conceives of his own place in the universe. He can react in one of two possible ways: with despair as he contemplates his own physical insignificance in the cosmic landscape; or with a profound reverence and humility before an unfathomable cosmos giving witness to the majesty, power, and awesomeness of God. Such reverence will prompt us to reassess, rather then be humiliated by, our finitude and non-centrality. More than ever, such awareness provides a rich source for theological contemplation: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, RSV)… “When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him” (Psalm 8:3-4, RSV). Merely contemplating whether or not we are alone in this vast universe calls for profound theological speculation. Second, developments in physics have changed the conception of reality on a microscopic scale. Particle accelerators have discovered a hierarchy of sub-atomic and sub-nuclear particles characterised by order and symmetry, while theory predicts the possible existence of other particles such as the Higgs boson (colloquially called “the God particle” because it is thought to give mass to other particles). Such particles existing on smaller and smaller scales seemingly reveal infinitessimal realms of existence and thus serve to redefine what we think of as the building blocks of reality itself and how its constituent objects interact with each other and with the universe as a whole. This universe can be defined by relativity as a fabric of space-time (with space and time being malleable quantities), or by classical physics as a vacuum (the emptiness of outer space), or by quantum mechanics as a quantum soup of virtual particles (do they exist or not?) or quantum foam. All of this poses enormous implications for how we exist (as aggregates of smaller constituent particles) and has consequences for how we view identity in such a matrix. What exactly does it mean for a (human) body to exist in space-time or as a macroscopic extension of a quantum foam, and how can the soul be seen to exist in a universe whose hidden dimensions go well beyond the three we can observe? Developments in quantum mechanics (with its emphasis on probabilities, wave-particle duality, quantum teleportation of information and tunnelling, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) may prove a useful, if limited, tool in speculating about topics such as free will, communication, matter-spirit and epistemology. Third, scientific reflection (in the form of observation and much speculation) on the nature of time itself also has profound implications on how man conceives of his reality as a succession of events (how man connects events in his reality) – interpreted as the passage of time – and whether
those events are intrinsically connected, and, if so, whether or not such a connection is changeable. Speculation on the possibility of time travel (with philosophical implications for concepts such as causality) from the point of view of relativity, together with speculation about parallel realities implied by some interpretations of quantum mechanics, leads to questions about the nature of free will, prayer, God’s knowledge, and responsibility. In this sense, developments in science affect the way in which we conceive of how we are connected to and interact with such events. Until now, the discussion has focused on developments in physics, primarily as a way to describe the reality of the universe in which we live and how we conceive of our place within it. Developments in biology have been no less significant in the last 150 years, and, if anything, have had an even more visible impact on our lives with profound implications for how we conceive of ourselves as human beings, how we view our relationship to other life-forms on Earth, and maybe even how we addresses the possibility of life beyond Earth. Discoveries have had an enormous impact in four ways. The ability of biology to detail the organisation and constitution of life-forms, not just on a cellular level, but now also on a genetic and molecular level, and its description of how such factors can affect the global behaviour of an organism, should be taken into account in the theological and philosophical discussion of free will, individual identity/personality, conscience, the soul, and other areas concerning human behaviour, especially in regard to morality. Second, the discovery of ever-more exotic forms of life in extreme environments on Earth, with the unique biological/ chemical factors which allow for their existence, together with speculation about the possible existence of extraterrestrial life, has led to a renewed consideration about what constitutes life itself and by what criteria it can be identified. The discovery of extra-terrestrial life would significantly alter the way in which humanity thinks of itself. In fact, it would probably be the most significant discovery in the history of man. Third, the theory of evolution has no less an impact on the world than the Copernican revolution in physics. It has affected how man understands the origin of life (including his own) on this planet, and Christianity has had to contend with, account for, and reconcile its implications with the biblical narrative of creation and purpose as stemming from God. Certainly Catholic Christianity has had the ability to engage the issue with seriousness, with respect for the integrity of science, and with fidelity to the biblical narrative and Tradition of the Church, as evidenced by the efforts of Pope Pius XII (Humani Generis, 1950) and Pope John Paul II (Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 22, 1996). Science and Metaphysics as Related Ways of Knowing Reality I Faith 11
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“Aristotle considered (prime) matter to be unintelligible and non-being”
Fourth, developments in genetic engineering will pose a challenge both ethically and metaphysically in the way man deals with attempts to manipulate life (and change it) via cloning, hybrids, and the integration of human (organic) and machine technology (via nano-technology); issues of conscience, soul, purpose, intelligence, memory and morality will require the Church to articulate competently its understanding of the human person in order to provide an ethical voice.
John M. McDermott S.J. argues that matter and man exhibit a transcendence of universal formality and intelligible reasoning. This points to the need for a metaphysics that uncovers the fundamental realms of freedom and love. Fr McDermott is a faculty member of the Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. Since 2003 he has served as a member of the International Theological Commission, and since 2008 as a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Doctrine.
In so far as contemporary developments in science can shed light upon the reality of this universe, they should be taken into account in theological discourse. Metaphysics and theology have to be grounded on, or connect with, the reality of this universe if they are to account for the world in which Christ became incarnate. However, the Church’s theological discourse cannot be so intimately bound to any one scientific theory, as “the final way” to explain something, that it becomes difficult to separate itself from such a theory, either because a theological doctrine itself can no longer be explained without it (which it can) or because a scientific theory has been superseded by a more coherent scientific theory (better able to explain reality) as is the nature of progress in science. There is a precedent for this in the Galileo controversy from the 1600s. So ingrained was the non-Christian Aristotelian framework of reality in the theological discourse of the Church at the time, that it proved difficult to conceive letting go of it and to use a different cosmology (Copernican) as a new paradigm for theological reflection on the same truths. This attachment to Aristotelian and Ptolemiac models proved unfortunate. Considerable fruit has come when the Church engages fully but carefully with the best possible explanations of reality available at the moment, knowing that such conceptions can and do change over time and that the unchanging truths of Christian faith are able to adapt without any loss. Modern science in no way threatens the orthodox understanding of Catholic Christianity, as attested by the work of countless theologians and popes, including Pope John Paul II in Fides at Ratio; rather, it provides a rich ground on which to continue to elaborate a profound theology in order to communicate the unchanging faith of the ages in news ways.
The question finds a facile answer: metaphysics comes after physics. Greek meta means “after”, and Aristotle’s early commentators aligned the Metaphysics after the Physics. But that ordering finds a deeper reason. Physics studies space, time, and motion. Greek physis denotes a nature, a principle of motion and rest. Motion is inherent to worldly natures because they are composed of matter and form. Form provides the intelligible principle which can be grasped in universal abstractions, while matter indicates the principle of individuality, what makes natures this or that particular instance of a species or genus. A polar tension exists between form and matter since neither can be reduced to the other but both essentially constitute every material reality. The tension inherent in this diversity in unity underlies many others. “Substance” is often used as the equivalent of “nature”, yet substance denotes what remains the same in accidental change, e.g., although a man changes in size, weight, position, age, etc., he remains substantially the same man. So from different perspectives the same reality is seen as a dynamic nature and a static substance. This holds true since the abstract form of the substance-nature remains always the same, yet in its concrete instantiations the form always seeks to realise itself more adequately. As by nature an acorn seeks to become a full-grown oak and a chick strives to become a chicken, so a human being is oriented by inherent natural dynamism to full self-realisation. As long as form and matter are joined motion seeks its completion in rest.
“Zenonian paradoxes reappear to reopen Western thought to metaphysics and freedom.” To study motion Aristotle identified four causes. A cause answers the question “why”, giving the reason for something. “Why?” can be answered variously. “Why is something such as it is?” calls for a formal cause; e.g., “dogginess” makes a dog a dog. “Why this rather than that?” seeks a material cause. “Why is it moving?” can aim at discovering a final cause, the goal or “that for whose sake” something moves. So the chick desires to become
12 Faith I Science and Metaphysics as Related Ways of Knowing Reality
How are Physics and Metaphysics Related? by John M. McDermott S.J. the best chicken possible – a natural final cause – or a man chooses the purpose of free action. The same question might also seek an efficient cause, defined as the primary principle of motion and rest. It applies to both the motion imparted from without by contact and the motion internally generated by a self-moving nature. Indeed nature and efficient cause overlap since both are principles of motion. The nature’s form actively seeks its realisation, thus acting as an efficient cause. Moreover, since that same desire orients the nature to a determined goal – a chick cannot become a horse – and in a sense anticipates it, formal and final causes also coalesce. The only cause which cannot be equated with another is the material cause. While matter serves as the ultimate principle of continuity in substantial change – e.g., the form of grass is replaced by the form of the cow digesting it but the material component of grass subsists under the form beefsteak – matter is not ultimately intelligible because it cannot be grasped in universal concepts. This resistance to the mind’s attempts at order creates a problem. Truth consists in the conformity of mind and reality (being) – if the human mind cannot know reality, thinking is senseless – but the mind cannot grasp individuality as such. Hence Aristotle considered (prime) matter to be unintelligible and non-being. Furthermore, since matter cannot be grasped in a finite form, it is infinite. Lest the universe become irrational, Aristotle contained matter within form; the universe is finite with the highest heaven containing all mobile realities beneath it. Nonetheless, since matter is unintelligible, it allows for contingency and chance: although one can explain why individual causal chains occur, e.g., why treasure is buried in a field and why a farmer ploughs his field, it is inexplicable why here and now, while ploughing, the farmer hits upon buried treasure.
“the abstract form of the substance-nature remains always the same” Zeno’s paradoxes also manifest matter’s unintelligibility. As Parmenides’ disciple, Zeno defended spiritual monism by showing that all attempts to understand space, time, and motion involve contradictions. For example, if space is continuous, to cross a stadium one must traverse the space’s entirety; but to go all the way, one must first go half-way, then half-way again, ad infinitum; since a spatial line contains an infinity of points, it is impossible to arrive at the stadium’s other end. Yet the initial measurement of the stadium’s length involved distinguishing one portion of space from another, i.e., considering space discontinuous. A contrary example presupposes that space is discontinuous. Imagine an arrow fully occupying a space equal to its own dimensions; since the arrow cannot pass from one spatial position to another, space being discontinuous, the space of the arrow must move with it
from one point to another in a series of discontinuous “jumps” until it arrives at its destination. But to remain within its own space fulfills the definition of a reality at rest; hence the arrow in motion is always at rest. Nonetheless, some spatial continuity exists; otherwise the arrow’s space could not transfer itself from one position to another. A final example concerns a material whole divisible into ever smaller parts; since the process of division can be continued to infinity, one never attains the smallest unity. Without a unity, however, a multiplicity, i.e., a collection of unities, cannot be recognised. Hence there is neither “one” nor “many.” This ridiculous conclusion is contradicted by the presupposition of the initial material whole, a unity. When Aristotle declared matter, the basis of space, time, and motion, unintelligible, he finessed such contradictions. Matter allows for motion, yet matter is unintelligible. Consequently, the ultimate intelligibility of motion cannot be found in motion. The universe’s intelligibility must consist in a reality transcending matter as pure form. Aristotle’s argument for a First Mover in Physics VI appealed to efficient causality: a stone is moved by a stick, moved by a hand, moved by the man. Since an infinite regress is unintelligible – just as matter’s infinity is unintelligible – but motion must be intelligible lest reality be senseless, a First Mover must exist. He cannot be composed of matter. He is pure Form, separated from the material universe, like a Platonic form which Aristotle otherwise rejected. Metaphysics XII employed a similar argument but relied ultimately on final causality: the First Mover moves the universe as the goal of motion: “He moves by being loved.” Thus physical motion is explained by a reality beyond motion: metaphysics transcends physics.
“moral obligation is previous to rational abstraction” Plotinus later employed Aristotle’s First Mover as the goal of motion and also ascribed to Him, the One, an active emanation whereby all of reality, even prime matter, flows from Him before turning back to Him. Since matter, infinite non-being, derives from the One and finds its final intelligibility in Him, the One is infinite. Yet God exercises no act of volition or intellection lest duality taint pure Oneness. Although Plotinus insisted that the One’s emanation is beyond necessity, his doctrine conduces to pantheism. Christianity’s doctrine of creation introduced new meaning to metaphysics since God’s free act simultaneously distinguishes Him from created realities and assures His love of them. Aquinas clarified the doctrine by identifying God, the First Mover, with infinite Existence (Esse) and then distinguishing essences (“what something is”, the equivalent of nature-substance) from existence in created realities. Therefore all beings are contingent in their very existence. But for God’s will they need not be. His infinity explains the How are Physics and Metaphysics Related? I Faith 13
How are Physics and Metaphysics Related? continued infinity in created individuals insofar as His creative act makes everything. Though human minds cannot grasp individuality, the infinite God knows individual existences thoroughly. Hence material reality is intelligible even as its intelligibility transcends human rationality. Yet, given God’s love of creation, there is an analogy between human knowing and God’s knowing: despite all differences between infinite and finite, men can approximate God’s mind and know something of God and creatures. Thus physics, the knowledge of finite mobile realities, again demands something beyond physics for complete intelligibility. Newtonian physics placed this metaphysical view into question when it regarded nature as inert mass, i.e., dead matter, moved from without by efficient causality. Final causality was excluded even though gravity, the attraction of one body upon another, remained a mystery. God’s existence was required to explain motion’s original impetus and prevent certain irregularities from devolving into chaos. Later Laplace succeeded at subsuming Newton’s irregularities under laws. Physics began to serve again as the paradigmatic science. Chemistry was assimilated to it and its method of analysis and explication was applied to biology and humanistic “sciences” like economics, psychology, and sociology. Philosophy suffered from physics’ hegemony since empiricists reduced knowledge to sense impressions while idealists sought necessary universal laws through the analysis of ideas. Finally Kant banished metaphysics from the realm of objective science because, unlike physics, it deals with realities not perceptible to the senses. “Objective science” occurs only when the mind’s categories are joined to sense impressions to produce Newton’s universal, necessary laws.
“nineteenth-century physics subjected material realities to inviolable law.” With physics dominating the end of the nineteenth century; scientific determinism was widely preached: since physical laws are necessarily and universally valid, nothing escapes them. Contrary to experience, with ideological consistency philosophers denied moral freedom and biological finality. Admittedly an underlying problem exists: if thought’s laws are not arbitrary, they must be necessary. The laws of contradiction and sufficient reason should apply in all cases. Hence reality contains necessities corresponding to mental laws. Whereas classical philosophy grounded such laws in natures, but restricted their application insofar as matter introduces contingency, nineteenth-century physics subjected material realities to inviolable law. Fortunately other philosophers realised that physical laws consist of abstractions and reality surpasses abstractions. Almost simultaneously physicists encountered conundrums overthrowing the Newtonian world-view. Electrons and 14 Faith I How are Physics and Metaphysics Related?
photons manifest themselves as both continuous waves and discontinuous particles. Ever smaller particles-waves are postulated. Time and space are made relative to motion. The universe is conceived as infinitely expanded in three dimensions (Newton) and as a four-dimensional, limited space-time continuum (Einstein) and as a congeries of discontinuous spatial events occurring when gamma-rays strike electrons (Heisenberg). Since sub-atomic realities cannot be known apart from scientists’ active interventions which change the direction and speed of the electron studied, Heisenberg held that reality is unknowable and can only be approximated. Zenonian paradoxes reappear to reopen Western thought to metaphysics and freedom. While some philosophers, acclaiming human reason’s inability to know reality, equate freedom with arbitrary choice, urging others to “create their own values”, such immorality soon runs into contradictions. If abstractive reason always falls short of reality, philosophy degenerates into mindless chatter and reality soon teaches the wayward the price paid for irrationality. Recurring patterns exist in reality, which physical laws approximate. So men can generally foresee the consequences of actions. But the commitment which moral behaviour demands, doing good for its own sake, surpasses all rational calculation. Every finite reason offered can be questioned and relativised from a different perspective, until one recognises that moral obligation is previous to rational abstraction. We do not choose to be born but finds ourselves thrust into life with obligations to parents and others. We are summoned to commit ourselves absolutely to do the good even to death, but only God’s call can ground absolute commitment. Hence an adequate metaphysics must transcend the finite, recurring patterns of natures to deal with freedom and God. Although various metaphysics have been excogitated, history has shown that physics cannot justify itself because the material realities with which it studies contain paradoxes requiring a suprasensible, indeed, an infinite grounding. Another science must speak the last word after physics.1 In a forthcoming issue we plan to publish a piece by Fr McDermott on evolution and a discussion upon it with us.
Notes 1 For further developments of these points cf. our “Faith, Reason, and Freedom”, Irish Theological Quarterly 67 (2002), 307-332; “The Mystery of Freedom”, Lateranum 74 (2008), 493-542; “Why Matter Matters”, Proceedings of the Sixty-Seventh Annual Meeting of the Jesuit Philosophical Association, ed. J. Koterski (New York: Fordham, 2006), 19-47.
The Methodology of Aristotle’s Metaphysics & the Problem of Modern Atheism by Kevin Flannery S.J. Fr Kevin Flannery S.J. argues that Aristotle, saw human knowledge of the immaterial as that which completes our knowing of the physical rather than being a deduced conclusion from it. He is a founding editor of the New Jesuit Review and a professor of philosophy at the Gregorian university in Rome. One of the remarkable features of Aristotle’s Metaphysics is the absence of any attempt to set out principles, definitions, arguments, and conclusions according to the structure of an Aristotelian science. This is striking because he calls what he is doing in that work ‘science’ (epistémé) and, according to his own Posterior analytics, a science ought to be so arranged. Also absent at key junctures is argumentation itself. An argued transition, for instance, from the analysis of material to immaterial (supersensible) substance – in effect, the transition from physics to natural theology – is not to be found. In the sixth book, Aristotle makes it apparent that the itinerary he intends to follow has as its destination immaterial substance. At the beginning of the seventh book he tells us that a reasonable approach to that takeoff would be a study of material substance; and, by the end of the ninth book (which completes the study begun in the seventh), we have been led to understand that the immaterial (formal) aspect of material substance is more important than any material aspect. Following the intervention of two books that have little to do with the preannounced itinerary, in book twelve we finally get a discussion of immaterial substance: Aristotle’s God, the unmoved mover, thought thinking of thought. But we are never told how we got to that point: what warranted the move from material to immaterial substance? Now it is perfectly reasonable to argue that this interpretative difficulty has nothing to do with Aristotle’s metaphysical methodology but rather with the historical accident that he died before finishing the work and that what we now call “the Metaphysics” is the result of his disciples’ attempt to complete the project by appending (among other independent treatises) a treatise on immaterial substance. There are textual indicators to support this thesis. But there is also reason to believe that, even had Aristotle been able to complete the Metaphysics, the gap we find (or feel) would not have been filled by any attempt at logically compelling argumentation. Nothing in the work as we now have it suggests that he is setting out the principles from which he will eventually deduce the conclusion that immaterial substances exist, let alone that there is one among them which is primary and serves as cause (either final or efficient or both) of things below it. Indeed, since the movement of the argumentation (such as it is) is towards first principles – including this single first principle – and since scientific argumentation is from first principles, any strictlyspeaking demonstrative argumentation would have to be limited to preliminary and ancillary issues, such as whether material substances are properly-speaking forms or rather composites, etc. Aristotle’s metaphysical methodology is a paraenetic one in which he engages in analysis that involves concepts proper to the theses to which he hopes to bring his interlocutors (or readers). Having brought these concepts to their attention,
he then asks, in effect: “What if we simply cut these things – form, act, intelligibility, unity – off from matter. Does this not give us what all men desire to have: an explanation of why the world is as it is?” He clearly believes that immaterial substances are the best explanation of why things are as they are, but he realises too that, in the end, he can only coax his interlocutors toward them. He cannot compel assent. This understanding of how metaphysics proceeds helps us to understand why the arguments of theists against modern atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, and co.) are invariably inconclusive and, for one who does not understand the limited potential of metaphysical argumentation, ultimately unsatisfying. Such arguments are certainly worth engaging in, for in doing so we come to understand better the dependence of creation upon its creator; but any argument toward first principles, especially a first principle whose relation with His effects can be described only analogically, must be more of an invitation to take an argumentative leap than to recognise how propositions already held oblige certain conclusions. In science or in philosophy, argumentative leaps are usually bad things; in this case, however, they are the only way forward. If they give intelligibility (explanation) to the base from which the leap begins, they are good things.
“There is nothing inconsistent in saying that nature just works that way … but there is something incomplete” This Aristotelian approach also helps us to understand how atheism (or, at least, agnosticism) can become as widespread as it apparently has become, especially in scientific circles. This is not to say that atheism/agnosticism has won the day in such circles – just that it is very widespread. The reason for this is that such a position can itself be held in good faith, as far as it goes: one can, without logical inconsistency, maintain that the laws of nature (if completely understood) do (or could) explain the phenomena studied in the sciences. Even complex phenomena, such as the emergence of the human eye, can be explained by studying simpler versions of the same structure and positing some evolutionary succession of events. A scientist might even acknowledge that such a succession of events involved huge increases of complexity over short spans of time and yet deny (again, in good faith, as far as it goes) that there is a God. There is nothing inconsistent in saying that nature just works that way and in declining to take the explanation to another level, the level of natural theology. But there is something incomplete about such an explanation. As Aristotle says at the beginning of the Metaphysics, all men desire to know – and such an explanation leaves us still desiring. The atheist/agnostic cannot in good faith dismiss this desire as irrelevant, for it is what motivates his own investigations and is satisfied when he achieves a more adequate explanation of whatever particular problem he is investigating. Refusing to take the leap that metaphysics indicates to him is a failing: a failing to take the phenomenon of science – including scientific desire – seriously and to follow its lead to whatever explanation it ultimately offers.
The Methodology of Aristotle’s Metaphysics & the Problem of Modern Atheism I Faith 15
Letters to the Editor
The Editor, St. Mary Magdalen’s Clergy House, Peter Avenue, Willesden Green, London NW10 2DD email@example.com bring back to this country with its long Christian heritage, a society worthy of man and of our martyrs. Yours faithfully Maureen and Dick Findlay-Wilson Bat Alley, Marnhull, Dorset
pope to laity Dear Father Editor, The generous invitation which we received to celebrate the actual day of our Golden Wedding Anniversary with the Pope in Westminster Cathedral led to a wonderful occasion which we shall always remember. In the quiet of the great Cathedral a single sacristy bell warned of the approach of the Pope. A tremedous crash of organ, trumpets, drums and bells thundered through the silence reaching to the very rafters heralding the Pope as he quietly and humbly made his entrance surrounded by clergy and servers. And thus the Mass commenced. The atmosphere in the Cathedral was one of quiet expectancy as the numerous clergy and lay people began their participation in the Mass of the Precious Blood. This truly wise and holy man has the ability to preach to his flock words of tremendous wisdom which can be understood by the humblest intellect. We were especially struck by his powerful invitation to us as laity to participate in Christ’s reconciling sacrifice which He wishes us to bring to the world. We felt called to listen to John Henry Newman’s teachings and so be inspired to be witnesses to the beauty of holiness in this land and to defend and proclaim the unchanging moral truths of the Gospel. The Pope wishes us to pray and consecrate ourselves to God through lives of faith and holiness accompanied by an outpouring of prayer for vocations, without which we would have no Eucharist. Only by offering our ‘spiritual worship’ and sufferings can we be united with Him on the cross and 16 Faith I Letters to the Editor
ASSESSING OUR COOPERATION WITH HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVISM Dear Father Editor, 1. William Oddie quotes a correspondent defending the Soho Masses as saying, “Research shows clearly that most Catholics differ from the official doctrine on virtually all matters of sexual ethics” (Ecclesial Co-operation with Homosexual Activism; Faith September and October 2010). While the research claim is a red herring it could be a useful one. Our beliefs are based not on current opinion but on Faith and Reason. To reject what the Church teaches would necessitate un-picking the weave of Scripture from Genesis to the end of the Apostolic Age; the rejection of its authenticity and the rejection of Christ’s claim to teach with the authority of the Father and that he was vesting that authority in the Church headed by Peter, the Rock, Key-bearer, and Shepherd. It would further require the rejection of two thousand years of Jewish and Christian history since at no time has homosexual intercourse been proposed to or found acceptance among the People of God. Furthermore there is no rational argument for equating homosexual union, which is anatomically and physiologically dysfunctional and unproductive of new life, with heterosexual union. It would be useful to know the source of the research figures, to be able to scrutinise its methodology. In any case the most it could tell us is the level of apostasy within the Catholic Community. 2. How has the Soho situation arisen? One view is that the English and Welsh bishops while not formally rejecting Christian teaching on homosexuality have undermined it by mixed messages. Their precipitate refutation of Cardinal
Bertone’s justifiable concerns about the overlap of the homosexual and pederast cultures, lends some credence to this view. It drew them praise from Peter Tatchell, who campaigns for the easing of restrictions on “consensual” sex with the young (Faith July/August 2010). Their refusal to give figures on the level of abuse of post pubertal boys by homosexual priests as opposed to paedophiles is puzzling. Those figures would facilitate a sharper focus on the problem. Adding to the uncertainty is the failure of some Bishops to prevent their adoption agencies dropping their Catholic identity and agreeing to being open to placing children with same sex parents, subjecting such children to the experience of “genderless.parenting”. The Archbishop of Westminster has been criticised for failing to engage with Tina Beattie of The Tablet on homosexuality during the post-Papal Visit Oscott debate on BBC2. He was right to refuse to allow Ms Beattie and Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch to manipulate the agenda onto the homosexual agenda. It is interesting to note that National Statistics, reported by The Daily Telegraph, not long after the debate indicated that homosexual persons make up 1.5% of the United Kingdom population; a figure consistent with Academic research over twenty five years. In his Westminster address Pope Benedict focused, not on the demands of a fractional and vocal minority, but on the urgent needs of millions in deprived parts of the developing world. He highlighted their need for food, clean water, improved maternal health and also the importance of co-operation between the British Government and the Catholic community for the good of all citizens. The Archbishop rightly maintained that focus. His apparent hesitation when asked elsewhere if homosexual relationships would ever be accepted by the Catholic Church is harder to decipher. 3. Oddie reports that the organisers of the Soho Masses claim that at no time did Bishop Longley, who set them up, demand that they remain celibate or agree with Church teaching. Would not
“All support should be withdrawn from any organisations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely.” (CDF, 1986) a Catholic bishop assume that those for whom he was making provision in good faith intended to live, as far as any of us can, in accordance with Christian teaching? Would he not assume that as a result of the generous provision they would, like the rest of us, try to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Christ? Could he, acting in good faith, have foreseen that these Masses would be used as a platform for attacking the Church and the Holy See and furthering an ideological and political agenda? The Soho Masses Pastoral Council surely now realise that their position is untenable. 4. It is easy to underestimate the pressure which Gay activist lobbies exert. Stephen Green in his book “The Sexual Dead End” describes how the Chief Superintendent in charge of the Metropolitan Police Community Relations Branch was “worn down” by pressure of Gay activists. The Police have capitulated to gay activist pressure on numerous occasions. In Chorlton police searched an Evangelical church; in Glasgow an evangelical preacher was put in the cells overnight; in Workington an Evangelical preacher was fingerprinted, palm-printed, had his retina scanned and DNA taken; in Wyre an elderly Evangelical couple were interrogated; all because they would not collude with Gay opinion. Brighton and Hove City Council withdrew finance from a prestigious Evangelical Charity caring for the elderly when they resisted pressure to give preferential mention to Gays in their literature and quiz elderly patients on their sexual orientation. In Northamptonshire an experienced Evangelical paediatrician was removed from the Adoption Panel because her views did not accord with Gay thinking. The agenda seems to be to silence all who dissent from Gay activist opinion. The political aim of some of the defenders of the Soho Masses is to create a model which, in the words of Mr Martin Prendergast, “could be used potentially in other parts of the world”. To do what? To further the rejection of two thousand years of Christian teaching?
The way forward is clear. Saint Paul tells Titus that a bishop must “adhere to true doctrine, so that he may be well able both to move his hearers with wholesome teaching and to confute objectors”.(Titus 1;9.) Will the response of the English bishops to the dubious arrangement in Soho be less courageous than that of our Evangelical brethren? Yours faithfully Kenneth H Kavanagh Byron Crescent, Bedford
Dear Father Editor, On 14th September 2010, BBC News 10.00pm, Martin Pendergast, coordinator of the SMPC, stated he was actively gay and actively Catholic and manifested his dissent from Church Teaching. To quote Professor Patrick Reilly writing recently in the Scottish Catholic Observer. “The church exists to serve, not flatter the world and often serves best by correction, not compliance.” Our Holy Father, teacher and physician of souls does the same. No matter how vociferous and strident the demand of Martin Pendergast is, he needs to learn the Pope cannot renounce the mandate of Christ. The duty of pastoral care and teaching are inextricably entwined. Now Our Lord Jesus understands weakness from within. His judgment can only be love. He sets us straight if our hearts are not humble enough to be in harmony with His Truth. His gentle call is for healing, forgiveness and wholeness on our road to holiness. The question remains: Are we dealing with a betrayal of Church Teaching, by Westminster Diocese? “Friend wherefore art thou come?” (Matt. 26.50) Yours faithfully Katherine Barry Ixworth Place, Chelsea, London
Dear Father Editor, Thank you for publishing Dr Oddie’s excellent article on the Soho Masses: “Ecclesial Co-operation with Homosexual Activism”. Such a piece may be difficult for many to take in, but people should be aware that an alarming trend is emerging regarding certain bishops’ responses to homosexual issues. Some posts on John Smeaton’s blog in Jul/Aug/Sept reveal firm evidence of this trend http:// spuc-director.blogspot.com I appreciate that some may still be wondering if the Westminster diocese is really aware of the agenda of the so-called ‘Soho Masses Pastoral Council’. I wish to leave your readers in no doubt that the diocese is fully aware of its agenda. These Masses were specifically requested by individuals who have publicly voiced their opposition to Catholic teaching on homosexuality for decades, and to secure such diocesanapproved Masses has undoubtedly been a massive coup for them. Verifiable and irrefutable evidence, such as newsletters published by the Soho Masses Pastoral Council even stronger than that provided by William Oddie, of the dissent of these people and that which has been, and continues to be, promoted by them and through the Masses. The Westminster diocesan authorities have no excuse. The norms for pastoral care of homosexual people are clearly set out in the 1986 CDF document Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church On The Pastoral Care Of Homosexual Persons (available on the Holy See website). Two quotes from this document will suffice to show how Westminster diocese is directly violating its teaching:“We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organisations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that
(continued overleaf) Letters to the Editor I Faith 17
Letters continued homosexual activity is immoral … All support should be withdrawn from any organisations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous.” Name and address supplied
MIND AND SPECIFICITY Dear Father Editor, I think the following is just one indication of how God is behind nature: The world in which we live is characterised by law. Let us think, say, of a kicked ball. There is indeed a law of nature which stipulates that, when the antecedent force causing the ball’s motion is X, the ball shall travel A amount of distance during B amount of time (this distance is increased or lessened by influences during the ball’s motion). Of course, we are familiar with the fact that the laws of nature reflect a lawgiver, but the reason why the above detail is interesting is that, in originating the law, God necessarily specified the degree of force, of distance, and time that the law embodies. There is no logical connection between force X and the distance the ball goes in B time, nor any logical connection between the distance the ball travels and the time it takes over that distance. Yours faithfully Damian Goldie Church Hill Totland Bay
18 Faith I Letters/Book Reviews
natural theology, with its assumption of fixity of species since the Creation of Genesis, careered into obsolescence; eventually, his watchmaker was blinded by a scathing Dawkins.
A Fine-Tuned Universe – The Quest for God in Science and Theology Alister E. McGrath, Westminster John Knox, 288pp, £26.99 “I believe in design because I believe in God; not in God because I see design.” Cardinal Newman’s words illustrate the scaling-down of natural theology’s ambition advocated by McGrath in this book, which is based on his 2009 Gifford lectures. For McGrath, natural theology is not a means to prove the existence of God, but rather should aim to highlight a “fundamental consonance or resonance between Christian theory and empirical observation”. In other books, McGrath (inter alia Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King’s College, London) has battled against Professor Dawkins and the New Atheists. But, reflecting on the history of natural theology, he is conscious of the danger of nailing his colours to the mast of current scientific thinking. Although scientists behave as if their theories are facts, often arguing ferociously against critics, key paradigms of science can shift rapidly and fundamentally when empirical evidence reaches a tipping point. As McGrath reminds us, William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802) set out a demonstration of the existence of God, based on observations of the natural world, that was highly influential in its day, and for many years afterwards. Most famously, Paley promulgated the idea of God as a watchmaker, who engineered the fine intricacies of natural creation, such as the human eye. Then came geology and Darwin. Science took a sharp turn; Paley’s
In this book, which is in two parts, McGrath focuses on “surprising facts” – apparent fine-tunings of critical parameters of nature. These facts are consistent with the existence of a Creator, and indeed a potential catalyst for faith in unwaveringly sympathetic people, but are also open to atheist explanations. A major strand of McGrath’s ideas is a reworking of St Augustine’s concept of rationes seminales (as set out in De Genesi ad litteram). This is the concept that God incorporated multiple dormant potencies and principles of order into His initial Creation, and that those are actualised during the passage of time through divine providence. The existence of “surprising facts” in nature is consonant with that idea that Creation was created containing the seeds of its future development. McGrath is aware of the risk of slipping into Deism – with a creator sitting back and detachedly watching his creation unfurl – hence, his emphasis on the importance of a Trinitarian approach, in which God not only intervenes in the subsequent development of His Creation, but in which the whole Christian economy of salvation is worked out. Much of the first part of the book is a discussion of what a natural theology, and especially a Trinitarian natural theology, should and should not be (the exposition of the theory itself is limited to little more than a single chapter). The natural theology McGrath espouses is Trinitarian in its explanation of our perception of imperfections and evil in the world. If we attempt to deduce properties of God from our observations of the natural world, our conception of Him will be far from orthodox, pointing perhaps to dualism or outright paganism. On a Trinitarian approach, we understand that we and the world exist in the broader context of the economy of salvation: we should expect to see imperfections and evil, both because we ourselves are fallen
“It confronts the Church’s fumbling response to the contraceptive mentality of our culture” observers, and because we are observing a “groaning” Creation, in transition from a lost Paradise to “a new Heaven and a new Earth”. In the second part of his book, McGrath sets out detailed examples of “surprising facts” in cosmology, chemistry and biology (especially, but not exclusively, evolution). To pick an example from the cosmology chapter, if the strong nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces recognised by modern physics, and which controls amongst other things the burning of the Sun, were slightly larger or slightly smaller, we could not exist. Similarly, to take another example, the emergence of entities on Earth capable of evolution again appears to require “fine-tuning” of physical and chemical properties of the Universe. Over six detailed chapters, McGrath builds up a compelling body of evidence. Of course, as McGrath recognises, atheist explanations for such “fine tuning” exist: the multiverse, for example, which posits that our universe is just one region of a vastly bigger reality, such that the apparently fine-tuned parameters have different values elsewhere. In that interpretation, an anthropic selection effect filters our observations: the parameters have here the values they do have because, if they did not have those values, we would not exist here to measure them.
“The aim is to highlight a ‘fundamental consonance or resonance between Christian theory and empirical observation’.” The science chapters are informative and interesting in their own right, and will provide useful material for anyone likely to be debating the interaction of religion and science. Overall, although well worth reading on its own, the book does come across as being part of a broader work in progress – which it is. For a fuller picture, you would need to read other works by the same author. McGrath is a skilled apologist, with a pragmatic approach to evangelism, is very well-informed in
both theology and science (he holds doctorates in both), and he writes very well. Reading his other books, as well as this one, would not be a waste of time. Matthew Critten Bath
Fatherless Brian J. Gail, One More Soul (available from Amazon’s US site), 536pp, $14.95 This novel will not win the Nobel Prize for Literature – nor any other prize awarded by the Establishment. It is not high culture, but it is taking the Catholic Church in the US by storm. It names “the elephant in the room.” “The elephant of catechetical illiteracy, the acculturation of the laity, the loss of identity of religious women, the loss of identity in Catholic higher education, the embrace of sexual promiscuity, microscopic attendance of Mass, acute vocational shortages, and impending episcopal and clerical scandals.” (p. 499) Specifically, it confronts the Church’s fumbling response to the contraceptive mentality of our culture.
“It charts the devastating consequences on the lives of real people of the decoupling of society from orthodox faith and morals” How do you write a popular novel addressing these issues? Brian Gail – former athlete, Madison Avenue advertising executive, husband, father, grandfather, and faithful Catholic – has no difficulty spinning an engaging yarn encompassing the board room, the parish and the home. It is a revelation to find a novel exposing the commercial and cultural realities of pornography, contraception including the alleged suppression by the pharmaceutical industry of the Pill’s connection to the incidence of breast cancer. Gail’s research is thorough, but he avoids descending either into the minutiae of scientific evidence or
unintelligent polemics. This work of fiction charts the devastating consequences on the lives of real people of the decoupling of society from orthodox faith and morals. Gail has witnessed this and writes with a passion. The principal protagonist is a young priest in 1980s Philadelphia who undergoes a post-ordination conversion experience. Fr. John Sweeney is not a bad priest. He says his daily Mass, he is assiduous in his pastoral duties, he has many personal qualities. But he has two flaws familiar to most priests today: a deficient formation and a desire for popularity. These failings are fundamental. They prevent Fr. Sweeney giving the spiritual and pastoral advice required by those floundering in a Western society intent on “committing moral suicide.” Those entrusted to his care only appreciate their need when they move parish to encounter directly the teaching of Pope John Paul II too often withheld elsewhere. It is with real tenderness and sorrow they confront their former pastor: “For people who want to live holy lives, dumb as that may sound, we’ve got to go where we get fed. It’s too hard for us otherwise. We just can’t do it. It’s like we’ve been orphaned out there in the world. Father, we’re spiritually… fatherless.” (p. 336). Elegant prose? Perhaps not. But a cri de coeur for clerical introspection and courage. Fr. Sweeney makes the transition to the culture of life. But the author maintains the tension, and he has us turning the pages to the very end – not without a couple of unexpected twists and cameo appearances from two real life heroes of the Faith. It is unfortunate that the novel contains a handful of factual howlers which ought to have been picked up before publication. St. John Vianney did not preach in the eighteenth century, unless he was a teenage prodigy. Caravaggio’s Conversion of St. Paul is not to be found in S. Luigi dei Francesi but rather Santa Maria del Popolo. Those wanting to reject Gail’s Book Reviews I Faith 19
Book Reviews continued underlying message might seize on such glaring errors. They should be corrected in a second edition. But they are no excuse for not reading this book. It challenges priest and layman alike to live out to the full a loving relationship with Our Lord and His Church in the confused world in which we find ourselves.
“a cri de coeur for clerical introspection and courage.” An essential stocking filler for any priest over the age of 45; confirmation of everything he already knows for any priest under that age; a snapshot of the contemporary Church accessible to any Catholic wanting to live a holy life. Fr. Mark Vickers St. Peter’s Hatfield
Heaven & Earth in Little Space: The Re-Enchantment of Liturgy Andrew Burnham, Canterbury Press, 224pp, £16.99 There are many books on the development of liturgy in which the discussion is principally about what is happening within one liturgical tradition while taking into account influences from other traditions. This is not one of them. What we have here is an absorbing discussion on contemporary developments in liturgy and their interplay between the Catholic Church and in the Church of England. Andrew Burnham, the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet, takes us back to the way in which liturgy developed in England during the Reformation and why. With scholarly objectivity and an engaging literary style, Burnham navigates the reader through the turbulent waters of the English Reformation, the troubled waters of post Vatican II liturgy, and the exciting possibilities opened up by Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus. This is a book which will appeal to both scholars and laypersons. 20 Faith I Book Reviews
Critics in both the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church complain about the coarsening of much of modern liturgy, its banality, the over emphasis upon the ‘community’ at the expense of a sense of participation in the transcendent worship in the heavenly sanctuary, and its slavery to now dated 1970s experiments in ‘creative’ liturgy. Many have voted with their feet and refuse to attend liturgical celebrations, especially those formats that have been ‘manufactured’ to attract the people. In subtitling his book, “The Reenchantment of Liturgy”, Andrew Burnham signals his purpose which is no less than to sketch out newer approaches to liturgical renewal which, drawing upon the best of the Church’s liturgical treasury, may assist worshippers to engage more fully in the transforming worship of heaven. There is a pressing need, he argues, to find the way out of contemporary liturgical banality in order to rediscover “something of the mysterium tremens et fascinans” of what the sacred liturgy, at its best, can truly express. Traumatic ruptures in the liturgical tradition, as distinct from organic development, have not served the spiritual interests and needs of the People of God. Burnham begins his task with a scrupulously honest evaluation of what happened to the liturgy in the Church of England at the Reformation. He freely acknowledges that the traditional Anglican formularies of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 (and to a greater and lesser extent the Prayer books of 1549, 1552, and 1559) seem patient of either a more Catholic interpretation or a more Protestant interpretation. The rupture in the Catholic liturgical tradition engineered by Thomas Cranmer resulted in “a maddening ambiguity at the heart of Anglican Eucharistic theology.” The differing Anglican Eucharistic theologies have become institutionalised in the Book of Common Worship which provides a variety of Eucharistic Prayers to meet the differing theological beliefs of different congregations.
Next Burnham turns his attention to what happened in the Catholic Church following the introduction of the Novus Ordo of Paul VI, and what is happening in the Church following the promulgation of the Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum (2007). And, of course, full account is taken of Liturgicam Authenticam (2001) with the resulting and soon to be published new English translation of the Mass. Questions are raised about the Catholic Church’s relative inexperience with vernacular liturgy compared to the 500 years’ experience of the Church of England which allowed a sacral vernacular language to emerge. Burnham takes seriously the possibility of how one Form of the Mass, the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form, may influence the other. As an example he suggests the replacement of the Offertory Prayers in the Novus Ordo with those from the Missal of Blessed John XXIII thereby recovering in its fullest expression the true doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass for the Novus Ordo. In his lengthy discussion of Church music Burnham displays all the acumen of one who has authority to speak in this important area of liturgical worship. He correctly points out that hymnody has had a powerful influence on Anglican consciousness, with hymns providing a teaching modality as well as beauty in the worship of God. Much Catholic Eucharistic theology is disclosed in well known and well loved traditional Anglican hymns. The practical loss of these traditional hymns with their replacement by often very unworthy contemporary alternatives has eviscerated much of the AngloCatholic legacy of traditional Eucharistic understanding and worship. In many ways, the content of Anglican hymns remedied what was – from a Catholic perspective – lacking in the Service of Holy Communion in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Burnham’s discussion on the liturgical forms of Morning and Evening Prayer, and other Offices is carried out in its
“The result is what I call ‘parasitic exegesis’” dialectical relationship between the Catholic breviaries in their various amended forms, and the forms devised by Thomas Cranmer. He carries that kind of discussion on into the contemporary revisions of the Church of England and the new Breviary now in use in the Catholic Church. Burnham, while clearly Catholic in his understanding of liturgy, is nevertheless also able to present in an objective and dispassionate way alternative views more widely accepted by Anglicans. Importantly, Bishop Burnham also makes clear what is meant by the classic “Anglican Patrimony” which can suitably be retained and incorporated into the Catholic liturgical tradition, thereby enriching the tradition. This book provides readers with a profound understanding of liturgical developments in both the Church of England and the Catholic Church, the manifest shortcomings of much contemporary liturgical worship both Eucharistic and non-Eucharistic. Usefully, the book goes on to suggest ways in which liturgy may not only be renewed in the light of tradition, but also re-enchanted such that active participation in the Eucharist will enable the believer really to experience something of the sublime reality of heaven. In concluding with a chapter on St Mary the Virgin Mother of God, the Bishop makes the traditional Catholic link between the meeting of heaven and earth in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and the meeting of heaven and earth on our altars as bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. Fr. John Fleming Adelaide Australia
The CTS New Catholic Bible CTS, London 2007, pp. 2260, price £9.95 (CTS Sc100; ISBN 978 1 86082 466 1) This bible was presented to Pope Benedict XVI during his recent visit by Bishop Paul Hendricks. The Catholic Truth Society blurb has: “This is a Bible tailor-made for every Catholic. It will lead you through the same English texts that the Church uses at each Mass, with brand-new notes and introductions edited by Vatican expert Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB”. The book is attractive. The Liturgical notes explain what part of each biblical book is read at different times of the liturgical cycle. This is an excellent idea and potentially very useful. They also point out what texts are read in the Breviary – which is helpful. Below I offer some critical comments, based on a very rapid reading, concerning the exegetical method employed and the unbalanced conclusions reached concerning the authors of the Bible.
Exegesis I got the impression that the scholarship behind the Scriptural introductions is excessively influenced by historico-critical attitudes, whilst making the claim to be going beyond such. There seems to be virtually no attempt to read the Bible in the light of the exegesis of the Fathers or the Middle Ages. I saw a mention of St Augustine. I didn’t see any of St Jerome. There is a summary introduction of Vatican II teaching, but I did not see anything else of the Magisterium. I don’t see therefore that we are being helped to read the Bible in Ecclesia. Basically, the scriptural “authorities” who are recognised are the new exegetes (from the 18th century). On the other hand, their views are not given full backing – in this sense, there is a distancing from extreme trust in the purely “scientific” method of interpreting the Bible; but see “Human Authorship” below. The Inspiration of the Bible seems not to be a significant idea.
There seems to be no reference to the Holy Spirit being the author of the Bible. In most of the introductions I read (Genesis, Isaiah, Mark, John, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter – I haven’t yet read the introductions to Matthew, Luke or Acts) there is little evidence that the author of the notes believes in the traditional authorship. So we get the impression that the books of the Bible were written by someone and then revised by some sort of committee, who made up their own mind as to what would be there and what would not. Who gave them authority to do this? We are not told. I would ask such “exegetes”: if those committees were so free and easy with the material that came to them, how come that, as soon as we have a written scriptural text, there is a scrupulous defence of that text, and no one is allowed to alter it? Who was the Jewish High Priest (for the Old Testament), who was the Pope (for the New Testament) who suddenly put his foot down and told the committee authors that now they had to stop fiddling and what they had decided on became sacred? When did this take place? 143 AD (to give a date we can argue around)? What then about the Dead Sea Scrolls and their text of Isaiah (which I understand is virtually identical to the one we have)? What about the John Rylands MS of John? The result is what I call “parasitic exegesis”. It lives off the fact that traditionally the Bible has been seen as inspired, and written by the Holy Spirit… so that we can refer to all its parts as being mutually compatible, but then in practice it comments on each part as if it was the product of different people and doesn’t draw the conclusion that, if this is the case, then there is no reason to assume that all the Bible holds together. There is no attempt to be rigorously coherent in drawing conclusions from the theories expounded, lest they undermine your convenient suppositions (see the comment on John’s authorship below). Thus it lives off the faith that people have in the Bible, but undermines it by its comments.
Book Reviews I Faith 21
Book Reviews continued The Messianic dimension of the Bible is mentioned but almost always as a concession to New Testament (NT) interpretation, not as the truth. The “NT interpretation” is often given, but with a spirit of detachment from it, as if the author of the introduction or notes does not really believe it to be a fundamental hermeneutical key to the literature. Ps 2 and Ps 109 are not really seen as Messianic. In Ps 2, the divine sonship of the new King is related to an Egyptian custom of proclaiming a new king to be son of the divinity. 1 Cor 15 on the resurrection of the flesh being crucial: no big deal is made of this. There is no footnote for “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) – the footnotes do not bring out the strong points of Catholic belief.
Human Authorship The quadruple sources of Genesis, Yahwist, Elohist, Priestly and Deuteronomist are described and then more or less relegated as a passé theory. That is, there seems to be a conversion away from extreme historical-critical exegesis. However I saw not a single mention of the important tradition affirming Moses as the author; though there was a suggestion that some parts went back to Abraham. What is left of Jesus’ own use of the Scriptures? His assumption was that Moses and Isaiah were authors who wrote their books. In Isaiah, the notes explain the three author theory (Isaiah, Deutero-Isaiah, and Trito-Isaiah). Whilst they argue that the triple division is not really acceptable, they also argue that there cannot be one author of the whole book. One reason they suggest for this is that the name of Isaiah appears relatively rarely in the Book, whereas Jeremiah’s appears often in his Book. Mark 16:9-20 is said to be by a different author from the rest of the Gospel, and the implication is allowed that the author of the rest of Mark (who actually appears not to be the Mark we meet in the NT) perhaps leaves belief in the Resurrection as a matter of opinion. 22 Faith I Book Reviews
The authorship of John: doubt is cast on the author being John the Apostle, on his being the beloved disciple, or standing at the foot of the Cross with Mary. The discourse at the Last Supper could be three different accounts later put together. It is admitted that the old view (of recent exegetes) that John was unreliable historically has been proved wrong. John, we are told, had detailed knowledge of Jerusalem. But that is used to “prove” (along with the fact that he was known to the high priest) that he could not be a humble fisherman, and a friend of Peter. There is no attempt to account for the fact that, if the theory that John the Apostle is not the author of the Gospel were true, then much of the iconography of the Crucifixion (with John comforting Mary) is wrong. For me, this is a typical example of “parasitic exegesis” – you live off the tradition, but undermine it with your views, and don’t accept responsibility for the full logical consequences of those views. We are told that 2 Peter is definitely not by St Peter. In Hebrews, there is not the slightest mention of St Paul as the author (not surprisingly, given the present consensus). However, no convincing alternative is produced, and no idea that inspiration ended with the death of the last Apostle. The Liturgical notes don’t really expound the reasons behind the distribution of the readings. The notes also reflect the views of “exegetes”: they say that Mark appears at the beginning of the Year and that this confirms the overwhelming view of scholars that Mark was the earliest gospel. But they do not present the opposite “evidence” of Matthew being the first Gospel by being chosen for Year A in the Sunday Cycle. The notes do not explain why Isaiah is distributed in the way that it is distributed, which, as far as I can judge, is certainly not that of the three-Isaiah theory.
Other Information There are a number of indices at the end of the volume. The type face of the main text is relatively easy to read.
The footnotes are in very small type face. The English translation used is that of the Jerusalem Bible. This is not surprising, since it has become the standard one used in liturgical readings. I liked the fact that the Psalm numbers are those of the Church (and the Fathers) rather than the now fashionable Hebrew numbers (I assume this is because the liturgy still uses the traditional Catholic Christian numbering system).
Conclusions The modern demolition job done by exegetes is now being re-studied by those exegetes. There are signs of contrition in the air. It is interesting to bear in mind that A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (ed. by Dom Bernard Orchard) was published in 1953. It is only relatively recently that Catholic scholars have separated themselves from tradition. The notes in this CTS Bible are a sign that there is some attempt to return to tradition, though the reverential spirit that inspired Catholic biblical scholars until the 1950s is still not there. To put things in very crude terms: we should prefer to be “wrong” with Jesus, than “right” with modern “exegetes”. I believe that the Bible is inspired (that is, authored) by the Holy Spirit and therefore infallible and endowed with inerrancy. I have no objection to scholarship, except that scholarship is not infallible nor endowed with inerrancy and, if it presents itself as such, then I have less respect for its results. I believe in reading the Bible in Ecclesia. That is as it has always been read in the Church: I feel at home with Origen, Augustine, Jerome, Basil, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Bede, Bernard, Thomas Aquinas, Trent, John of the Cross, Alphonsus, Pius IX, John Henry Newman, Vatican II, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I don’t feel at home with some modern “exegetes”. Fr Andrew Byrne Ealing London
The Road From Regensburg Papal-inspired dialogue in search of a new apologetic
Words from the Papal Visit to Britain and Related Occasions The Pope’s key point to our cultural leaders: British culture has many virtues. They are fruits of our deeply ingrained Christian tradition. So don’t drop these Christian foundations from public life – 20th century has shown that to be dangerous, e.g. Communism. 19 Sept Prime Minister to Pope Benedict: You have offered a message not just to the Catholic Church but to each and every one of us of every faith and none …, the searching questions that you, your Holiness, have posed to us about our society … have really challenged the whole country to sit up and think. 16 Sept Pope to the Queen: Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike. … Britain intervened directly to stop the international slave trade … set new standards in healthcare … stood against a Nazi tyranny … forg[ed] the post-war international consensus which … ushered in a hitherto unknown period of peace and prosperity in Europe … [and] helped give birth to a peaceful resolution of the conflict [in Northern Ireland] … Your Government and people are the shapers of ideas that still have an impact far beyond the British Isles … May all Britons continue to live by the values of honesty, respect and fair-mindedness that have won them the esteem and admiration of many […and ] always maintain … respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let not [the UK] obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms … 17 Sept To Representatives of British Society in Westminster Hall: Allow me also to express my esteem for [your] Parliament … your common law tradition [etc., etc.] … Yet … if the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident … [e.g. the credit crunch lacked] solid ethical foundations … [whereas the British-inspired] abolition of the slave trade [did not]. … the role of religion [… is] to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. … misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. … I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity … relegat[ing it] to the purely private sphere … [such] that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience … and the official teaching of the Church. 8 Sept To Members of The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: A more explicit, not to say blunt, version of his above Westminster Hall speech nine days earlier.
If [values, rights and duties] were to lack an objective rational foundation, common to all peoples, and were based exclusively on particular cultures, legislative decisions or court judgments, how could they offer a solid and long-lasting ground for supranational institutions such as the Council of Europe …? How could a fruitful dialogue among cultures take place without common values … rooted in the natural dignity of each person, something which is accessible to human reasoning. The Christian faith does not impede, but favours this search, and is an invitation to seek a supernatural basis for this dignity. I am convinced that these principles, faithfully maintained, above all when dealing with human life, from conception to natural death, with marriage – rooted in the exclusive and indissoluble gift of self between one man and one woman – and freedom of religion and education, are necessary conditions if we are to respond adequately to the decisive and urgent challenges that history presents to each one of you,” 19 Sept To the Bishops at Oscott Seminary: As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture. As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelisation of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you. Moreover, many of the new ecclesial movements have a particular charism for evangelisation, and I know that you will continue to explore appropriate and effective ways of involving them in the mission of the Church. 21 Sept From The Motu Proprio establishing the new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation: The Second Vatican Council already included among its central topics the question of the relationship between the Church and the modern world. … Paul VI noted that the task of evangelisation, “as a result of the frequent situations of dechristianisation in our day, … John Paul II made this urgent task a central point of his far-reaching Magisterial teaching, referring to it as the “new evangelisation,” … This particularly concerns countries and nations of the so-called First World, in which economic well-being and consumerism, even if coexistent with a tragic situation of poverty and misery, inspires and sustains a life lived ‘as if God did not exist’. … “Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations …” … Among the specific tasks of the Council are particularly the following: [study and promotion of relevant:] 1. … theological and pastoral [dimensions]; 2. … Papal Magisterium; 3. … initiatives … that are already being put into practice … in Institutes of Consecrated Life and in Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as in groups of the faithful and in new communities; 4. … modern forms of communication; 5. … the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Road From Regensburg I Faith 23
Comment on the Comments by William Oddie
A Reason For Hope I begin with a little quiz: at what stage in the papal visit to the UK was the following written? “It takes quite a lot to make an old Presbyterian no-church misery like me feel sorry for a Pope, a mannequin god who a billion people think can do no wrong. He’s infallible. If a Pope says it’s a Scrabble word, it’s a Scrabble word. He gets the one size, comfy fit kaftans and nobody ever says he’s put on weight…. Now he’s come to Britain and I feel sorry for him, more embarrassed, really. His welcome has been hellish. The press coverage is consistently haughty, vicious and stoked with a great self-righteous pleasure, an indulgent, joyous malevolence” Thus and much more of the same, A.A. Gill, attacking not only his principal target but also the target’s supposed attackers, anyone available to attack, really – that’s what A.A. Gill does, nothing unusual there. But when did he write this article, whose clear assumption is that the Pope’s press coverage at the time it was to appear in print will have been “consistently” hellish, vicious and malevolent? The trouble is, of course, that by the time the article did appear, it was just very clearly and staggeringly wrong. Gill’s piece appeared in The Sunday Times’s Culture supplement on the final day of the visit; here, for purposes of comparison was The News of the World’s assessment (which by this stage was more or less everyone’s) which appeared on the same day under the headline “Bene’s from heaven” and the strapline “People’s Pope leaves Britain with a smile on its face”. “The Pope”, the article began “was given a rock star reception last night as more than 100,000 ecstatic worshippers cheered him through the streets of London [actually it was more like 200,000, with another 80,000 in the park].
24 Faith I Comment on the Comments
“Benedict XVI sparked the carnival celebrations as his famous Popemobile made its way through packed streets to an open air prayer vigil in Hyde Park…. The Pontiff also [had earlier] met five victims of sexual abuse by priests. “The extraordinary scenes which greeted him later turned his state visit to Britain – which had been clouded by the abuse issue – into a rousing success. A sea of followers waving flags and clutching rosary beads craned for a glimpse of the Holy Father inside his iconic white Mercedes. Perched on a specially designed throne the beaming Pontiff … waved to his fans, flashing the historic gold Ring Of The Fisherman on his right hand.” Elsewhere in the same paper, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, summed up what nearly everyone was saying by now: “he came, he saw, he conquered”. So, to return to A.A.Gill: why did he get it so wrong? I speculate (I may be wrong, of course) that the answer has to do with the fact that the deadline for the various magazine sections has to be several days before they appear on the following Sunday. This piece may well have been written and filed (it’s the only credible explanation) before the Pope arrived: internal evidence encourages the conclusion that it was. So what A.A.Gill’s piece reflected was not what actually happened, but what everyone thought (and Catholics feared) was certain to have happened by the time the visit was over. Looking back on my regular Catholic Herald blogs I detect a mood of anxiety as the visit approached. My final blog before his arrival began: “This is my last post before the arrival of the Pope. By the time you read this, he will be here; as I write, he is in the air. In my last column, I wrote that I confidently expected all the media attempts to wreck the visit to be swept away by the visit itself. I still believe that: but it is clear that the media attempts to play up the
paedophile scandals in the Church will continue.” My next blog appeared the following day, on Friday morning, by which time it was already absolutely clear that everything was going to be just fine. “Scotland has done us all proud”; I announced in my headline, “suddenly the anti-Catholic campaign has lost its power” and then “The papal chemistry is still active on British soil; now, we can relax and enjoy the visit”. And so it proved. It was true, of course, that in some quarters this anti-Catholic policy would continue. The Guardian and the Independent were still at it on the Friday morning. It is worthwhile at this point returning to A.A.Gill, whose fantasy article was not just an anti-pope piece but part of a quite widespread reaction among secularists against the Dawkins/Tatchell brand of aggressive anti-Catholicism which, they felt, had given atheism a bad name. Gill had a bit of a laugh at the Pope’s expense. But when he went on to attack the campaign against him he was not just being perverse. “It’s been both uncivilised and unedifying” he pronounced (seriously, now); “You might have imagined that secularism and humanism and bleak atheism would have made them uninterested in the doings of the superstitious. But no: it’s like professing to have no interest in football, then becoming a football hooligan”. This ignores the fact that, of course, the atheist coalition calling itself “Protest the Pope” weren’t just being hooligans, though they were that at least: they also had a specific strategic goal. Their aim was to poison the atmosphere of the visit and to discredit the Pope before he set foot on British soil and thus strike a blow against the Catholic religion: and they failed utterly. Their only success was in alienating, by their hate-filled fanaticism, not only public opinion at large but even much
“The sheer venom of the attack, at times, had had me rattled.” of what should have been their own atheist constituency. In the words of the secular humanist Clare Fox, “There are many reasons to criticise religious leaders… but secularists really should take the opportunity to remind themselves of the Enlightenment values they claim to stand for – such as tolerance, freedom of thought and conscience and a human being as a rational subject – rather than focusing on what they hate about the Church and, by extension, Catholics”. The sheer venom of the attack, at times, had had me rattled. Claire Rayner, the former agony aunt, was one of those asked by the New Humanist website to think of something she would say if introduced to the Pope. “I have no language”, she spat, “with which to adequately describe Joseph Alois Ratzinger, AKA the Pope. In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature. His views are so disgusting, so repellent and so hugely damaging to the rest of us, that the only thing to do is to get rid of him.” This, I wrote at the time, “is all horrible for anyone who regards Pope Benedict with the admiration and love most Catholics feel for him; and I find myself almost wishing that the decision had been taken to beatify Cardinal Newman in St Peter’s Square and not a muddy field, and for the Pope to be spared this dreadful business of a state visit”. Well, I got it wrong. Any doubts I had about the state visit were all swept away by that wonderfully impressive address to the leaders of civil society in Westminster Hall. A purely pastoral visit would have inspired the faithful, no doubt: but the result of a state visit has been seriously to re-engage the Church with our society, to regain our place in the public square: now the Pope has gone, that is something we need to keep alive. In the event, that headlong confrontation of values, between the Pope’s transparent humility and goodness, and the vicious hatred and arrogance of Protest the Pope, could only end in one way: with the utter
failure of the atheist campaign to gain the hearts and minds of the British people – a people who, in the end, will always choose decency over gross incivility. In the end, British fairmindedness was the Holy Father’s secret weapon. Protest the Pope was just not cricket. The Pope’s visit ought to be a gamechanger. Firstly, it changed the atmosphere, sweeping away the antagonism towards the Church that Protest the Pope had taken many months to build up. Max Clifford, the ultimate PR pro commented that “In the build-up to the visit there was far more criticism than praise and then after he arrived far more praise than criticism. The pluses far outweighed the minuses. From a PR perspective there is a huge amount that needs to be done, but the visit was a success – far more a success than I thought it might have been.” A starry-eyed papalist might be a little more enthusiastic than that: but Clifford’s is on the whole a positive assessment from a wholly disengaged non-Catholic professional. So does all that mean that the Church in England is now united behind the Pope, as it all seemed from the television coverage at the time? I’m not so sure. The Tablet online assessment was much less positive than Max Clifford’s: if you didn’t know, you might almost have thought it had been composed by a member of Protest the Pope. “Unfolding sex abuse scandals”, this website pronounced, “the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop, and the Pope’s traditionalist leanings that have led him to relax restrictions on Tridentine liturgy while continuing to limit Catholic clergy to unmarried men had cost the Pope a degree of support he might have enjoyed from inside and outside the Church (my italics). Secularists and gay rights activists joined forces to create a “Protest the Pope” group and 10,000 people took to the streets of central London when the Pope was in town”. Nothing about the Pope’s success in swamping them: incredible.
The Tablet’s print edition did very slightly better, opining that at the Hyde Park rally (which took place at the same time as the anti-Pope rally which so impressed their online correspondent) “British Catholicism set out its stall, saying simply, ‘Here we are, this is what we do.’ It displayed its diversity, its contributions to the common good through its care for disabled and elderly people and for the education and welfare for young people, its inclusive concern for immigrants, strangers and refugees, its commitment to international development and to protecting the environment. This is precisely what the Pope, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, once called a ‘creative minority’ ”. More enthusiasm there for “British Catholicism” (whatever that is) than for the Pope, but it was at least an attempt to be positive. The Tablet’s online assessment, though, represents all too accurately the ideology of a certain kind of English Catholic, who like Grima Wormtongue in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings aims to sap courage and self-confidence by depression and defeatism, and which, as we see, was already, within a week of the Holy Father’s departure from British soil, finding once more its insidious voice. That voice has always been fundamentally anti-Woytila and anti-Ratzinger; and though it surely will find it a lot more difficult, now, to be heard, it is not yet a thing entirely of the past: it is very tiresome; but we need, even now, still to be on our guard.
Comment on the Comments I Faith 25
The Truth Will Set You Free by Fr Hugh MacKenzie
CATHOLICISING THE ALPHA KERYGMA? The Holy Spirit seems to be using the evangelical Alpha course to good effect. Through participation in it numerous people discover or gain a deeper awareness of our Lord Jesus and change their lives for the better. In addition Alpha, which began at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) in the early 1990s, is now a famous and successful brand, incorporating professional business and advertising strategies. There are two particularly fruitful moments in the history of the course’s seemingly exponential growth. Firstly the introduction of the “Holy Spirit” weekend where there is a Charismatic-style appeal to God. Secondly the introduction to the leadership team of a management professional. In France alone 700 Catholic parishes run what is called “Alpha in a Catholic context” with Episcopal support. An excellent group of Catholic young adults in London, under the name of “Vision”, is currently attempting to develop and deliver an effective evangelisation course. Under Mauro Iannicelli, their dynamic leader who has recently given up his City job for this purpose, they have just begun a course in Kensington inspired by Alpha, as well as by other Catholic courses from the States and Italy. HTB, which is now the headquarters of “Alpha International”, employs a number of people just to support such “Catholic Alpha” courses. Yet there is a problem with the concept, namely: Alpha is not part of the Catholic tradition. Thus its doctrinal content, ecclesial character and catechetical methodology are bound to be in significant tension with the Catholic Church. This certainly does not mean that God cannot and is not working through it and that we should not learn from it. It just means that it is not, and cannot truly be described as “Catholic”. Moreover, whilst the HTB leadership want to be generous with their resources, to allow the Spirit to work wherever it will, there is a reasonable desire not to let people use the brand if there is not a significant faithfulness to the original materials. So there is a strong encouragement that “Catholic Alpha” courses avoid “controversial” issues such as the Real Presence and Magisterium until after the basic fifteen talks have been given. Nicky Gumbel, Vicar of HTB, and writer of the main materials has done a fine job mediating between various protestant theologies, and arguing that he has found and is presenting a sort of common denominator “kerygma” between Catholic and reformed traditions. However, from the point of view of Catholic teaching, he has not been successful in this aspect of his endeavour – for the reasons opposite.
26 Faith I The Truth Will Set You Free
Below are three apologetic themes which need to be developed in, not to say added to, the official Alpha content to make the it coherent with Catholicism. For reasons mentioned opposite we are not going so far as to say that such developments would justify appending the word ‘Catholic’ to the Alpha brand. The suggested developments cover respectively, Creation, the humanity of Jesus Christ, The Cross, and the Church – corresponding to four key God-centred concepts, which are underplayed in Alpha: reason, human nature, solidarity and communion.
1. Creation There is virtually no teaching on creation, even in the first talk – yet this is a foundational aspect of the Christian kerygma, and has been from the earliest times. Scott Hahn and Edward Holloway has developed the theme by emphasising that Creation is a revelation and covenant of Love which is destined to be fulfilled in the great Covenant of union with God in Christ. It needs to be emphasised that there is convincing evidence for God in nature (Romans 1:19). The order of the cosmos points to a creator. This is Catholic teaching cf.: the first Vatican Council and the Catechism, which follows Blessed John Henry Newman in speaking of “Convincing and converging arguments” which can lead to justifiable “certainty”. In the fourth talk, “How can I be sure of my faith?”, the idea of natural reasoning upon nature is completely absent – yet this is a key dimension of the classic and Catholic answer to the question posed. Also in this talk there is ambiguity about whether faith gives eternal life irrespective of later sin, an example of Nicky Gumbel’s finessing of controversial issues. Also human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, we can know and love, through the power of our spiritual soul – we are very different from animals, not in our physical bodies but in our souls. This means truth and love are the key foods we need, we are made for the revelation (truth) and love of God. As we say in Faith movement, He is our sunshine, our environment, our ecosystem. In as much as Alpha even mentions our human nature the emphasis is the protestant one upon the image of God being “almost eradicated by sin”.
2. The Humanity of Christ When talking about the identity of Jesus as God (before sin and the Cross) it is important to have a much bigger emphasis on the fact of the true human nature of Christ. The talk on “Who is Jesus?” is completely about evidence for his divinity from the Bible, including his resurrection. There is nothing about his humanity – which however is crucial for understanding who He is for us, and not least how his Cross saves us.
“The Catholic emphasis is upon solidarity” So there is a need to add: – Jesus is in real “solidarity” with us. We are destined, in our very nature, to be his true family (the Church), closer than blood-brothers. “We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” [Ephesians 1:4]. – Christ is the exemplar of humanity “the first-born of creation”. [Colossians 1:15] – “God becomes man that men may become like God” [St Irenaeus, 2nd century AD], “sharing his Divine nature” [2Peter 1:4] In FAITH movement we would go a little further and suggest that we have a Jesus-shaped hole in our hearts: “You have made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts will not rest until they rest in you” [St Augustine] “In the beginning the word was God, and the Word was with God …. and the word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us … he came into his own and his own knew him not” [John 1] If God’s word and will, his truth and love, are our food, Jesus is truly our “Bread of Life”: “My flesh is real food indeed” [John 6] So when we come to the reason for the Incarnation we see it as fundementally to fulfil human nature irrespective of sin. The presence of sin draws out the even deeper enaction and expression of divine love which is Christ’s faithfulness to his original mission, “even to death on a Cross” (Philippians 2:8). The emphasis in the Alpha course is upon seeing the Incarnation as a rescue mission. Whilst this is a reduced version of the Catholic vision, there is a truth to it. It is like going into a burning building to save someone you love. You know you may get horribly burnt yourself, but love drives you to accept the pain. So Christ “descends into hell” to carry us out of degradation and spiritual, as well as physical, death and back into Life.
In the “Result” section the talk slightly softens the image, through images of cleansing sacrifice, monetary debt, criminal punishment and, finally, the healing of a broken familial relationship. One is still left with image of an angry, punishing God the Father. The Catholic emphasis is upon solidarity. It is because Jesus “shares our human nature” (i.e. point 2 above) that he can heal us and forgive us from the inside out. He is faithful to us in his love of us and his mission to complete us (“I come that you may have life”, John 10:10). Jesus is able to redeem us because of this solidarity. Only in this context can we talk of “substitution” (and the other Alpha images), which can be helpful if interpreted through the lens of Who Jesus is in his divinity and humanity. Jesus as the lamb-victim who goes to the slaughter is clearly scriptural, but he is the victim of our sin, not simply the Father’s anger, and saves us because he is the foundation of our humanity, the “first-born of creation”. There is a truth to the “substitutionary sacrifice” theme, but it is not juridical and extrinsic – not just “paying a price”. If your child committed some awful crime you would grieve for them and apologise for them, but above all you would want to reform them and win them back to sanity and goodness. This will cost you blood, sweat and tears. God could have sent legions of angels to prevent the crucifixion, and indeed he could prevent many evils similarly. However, that would not change human nature which has become through sin heavily conformed to the devil and his angels, who therefore claim dominion over fellow corrupted spirits. (It is an awful but true thought). We would then carry on doing evil things and the only solution would be for God to abandon or destroy us. But he does not. The battle for human hearts and minds has to be fought with the weapons of the human heart and mind, and indeed the human flesh and blood of Christ. In other words the battle must be fought on human terms alone. Hand to hand, as it were. His power as God must be freely laid aside and his only weapons are utter faithfulness and perfect charity.
3. Jesus’ death on the Cross In the Alpha talk “Why did Jesus die?” the emphasis is upon “substitutionary” theory. The primary analogy used is of a Japanese concentration camp commandant punishing only one man rather than the whole group when, at the eleventh hour that (innocent) man (falsely) owned up. This has more recently been replaced by the analogy of Maximillian Kolbe offering himself for death by starvation in place of a father. This analogy should only be used if it is clear that the concentration camp commandant is not an examlpe of an angry God the Father but of the devil – it is the devil and evil and sin that causes Jesus’s suffering not (directly) God.
The Truth Will Set You Free I Faith 27
The Truth Will Set You Free continued
4. The Church The key lack in Alpha, from the point of view of the Catholic tradition, is ecclesiology. The kerygma should involve the fact that the key element of the Incarnation, namely our Lord’s physical and sacramental corporeality, continue in the Church, the family of Jesus, its sacraments and teaching. It is wholly inadequate for the Church to be the penultimate talk. Indeed the catechism says: “The world was made for the sake of the Church … [which] is the convocation of men in Christ”. (n. 760). Any impression that the Ascension means that the actual presence in time and space of God-made-man is no longer here should be avoided. Integral Christian living means (i) being part of Jesus’s family (i.e. being in “Communion” with the Holy Trinity, physically and spiritually), through having the actual touch of Christ in Baptism, Confirmation and Communion, and (ii) receiving his Teaching through the Church’s magisterium (i.e. ‘teaching authority’). The Church wrote the Bible and can interpret it. Full Christianity has two books, the Bible for our inspiration, and the Catechism, for our instruction. All the graces of redemption therefore flow from his Sacred Heart and Sacred Head – his human heart and human head. We belong to him in flesh and blood. These graces must be sacramental, and administered through the familial structures of the Church. They cannot be merely imputed from on high. So Alpha-style statements like, in the first video: “If you say sorry in your heart then you are forgiven” need the significant qualification that full forgiveness involves actually hearing Jesus’s words “I absolve you”, and presence at the Mass. This should lead fairly quickly, and seamlessly to those other fundamental aspects of being Jesus’s family, for instance the Communion of Saints. Being part of the communion/family of Jesus means acknowledging our mother Mary and our brothers and sisters in Heaven and purgatory as well as on earth – and our Father on earth, the Holy Father, with his magisterium – not Nicky’s!
28 Faith I The Truth Will Set You Free
In Faith movement we develop these themes in this way: The relationship to God through the Church may be imagined this way. I love my nieces and nephews not just in their own right, which I do of course, but primarily because they are my brothers’ children. That is why they mean what they do to me in the first place. I love my brothers first, historically and in priority of affection, and them for his sake. This does not contradict the individual love but sets it within the hierarchical order of the family bond. So it is with God. We are all known and wanted in the Son, “chosen in Him before the ages began”, and in him through the flesh. Our Lady is the first creature to be known and chosen in Christ as most amazingly intimate and essential to his vocation. We are then known and loved within and through that family bond in the Church. This is why we cannot fully belong to Christ without having Our Lady for our Mother. And of course the saints for brothers and sisters. Another point that we would want to bring out is the need for Magisterium in the Church as flowing directly from the Incarnation of the Word. This would involve emphasising early on the correct order of priority when understanding the meaning of “the Word of God”: namely 1. Word 2. Church 3. Bible: 1. the living relationship of revelation, 2. the community constituted by God and acting with his inspiration and magisterium, 3. then the Book within that. Scripture is part of Tradition (they are not parallel streams of revelation). Jesus is truly our Bread of Life offered to the Father through The Eucharist, ratified upon the Cross. The Mass does not merely enact and recall calvary. We say that rather “The Eucharist went to the Cross”, so every Mass is the One same offering of Christ in time and space which was ratified by his perfect obedience unto death on the cross and is offered in heaven as an eternal offering.
The Truth Will Set You Free (Part II) by Joanna Bogle
THE VIEW FROM WESTMINSTER HALL It was all joy. There had been such muddles over the complex ticketing arrangements, and such hostility from sections of the mass media, and such horrible things said by campaigners opposed to the Church’s teachings, and such tragedy over the evil actions of priests who had betrayed their calling. But now, here was Pope Benedict, arriving at Edinburgh airport and standing next to the Queen for the national anthem. Pope Benedict is small. And quiet. His voice and manner is that of a gentle, kindly professor, with a warm smile and large intelligent eyes. Long years in public view have trained him in the art of maintaining stillness and dignity while speeches are made and greetings are exchanged, but he still doesn’t look quite at home with military bands and official formality; he walked nicely along the guard of honour but was much smaller than all of them. Things got more relaxed when he was sitting chatting with the Queen (she is small, too) and the Duke of Edinburgh, and everything positively erupted into joy when he cheerfully donned a tartan scarf and went out into the city. When he celebrated the first Mass of his visit, at Bellahouston Park, before a vast crowd, with everyone roaring out glorious hymns, the style of the visit was established. Why were we led to believe that this was a nasty, cruel, ranting figure of hate? When he arrived in Britain, the reality became clear: this is a man who long ago placed his entire life at the service of Christ, and has, down all those years, tried faithfully to imitate Him and to live according to His teachings. And it shows. I was privileged to be invited to Westminster Hall, where, in an extraordinary moment of British history, the Pope was to address Members of Parliament and a great gathering of men and women in public life from across Britain. These walls have echoed to the great events of British history – notably the trial of St Thomas More, who in this place was condemned to death for refusing to follow a king’s rebellion against papal authority, adhering to God and conscience instead. And now, here was a pope arriving – heralded by trumpeters. A line of former prime ministers awaited his Holiness, along with the Speaker of the House of Commons who would introduce him. He arrived looking small and polite, and there were handshakes and pleasantries. And then came his speech. The voice, low and quiet, with its fizzy accent and precise vowels, takes a moment to assimilate: this is no passionate orator. But he had us spellbound. He drew attention to the central issues of our day – the big questions: by what values do we live? How on earth do we decide? Does it matter what is right and wrong? Have we anything by which we can make decisions and judgements? Are we spiritual and cultural orphans, adrift with nothing to guide us? With clarity, and delicate precision, this priest who represents an authority dating back in an unbroken line across two millennia, spelt out what Western man knows but has forgotten: we cannot live as though religion does not exist,
we cannot live without truth. Man has to use his mind, he has to open himself to what is good and true and beautiful. Attempts to marginalise faith – including Christianity – impoverish all and rob human beings of their dignity. Parliamentary democracy – a gift from Britain to the world, and a heritage of which British people should be proud – did not arise in a spiritual vacuum, and will not flourish in one. For too long we have been told that our ancestors, with their assumptions about God and man’s unique destiny, were ignorant and muddled, and that now we must shake off the nonsense passed on to us. Morality as previously known was dangerous; it could now be reinvented by television pundits and if we were smart we would not challenge their views. Now, sitting in Westminster Hall, I heard all this challenged, and new and much more interesting vistas opened up: of course we must be allowed to think along large lines, to lift our minds to things that are great and noble, to ponder the things of God, and to connect these with our public life, our common life and the search for the common good. The Pope was not asking for the Church to have a privileged position, not seeking the reinvention of a Church-dominated society; on the contrary, he was inviting us all to a national conversation, a way of living and serving one another in a country where there are people of many faiths and none, and where the place of faith is recognised and enjoyed and honoured for the contribution it can make and the good fruits it brings. He was applauded all the way down the aisle – where he stopped to view the plaque that commemorates Thomas More – and afterwards the glorious bells of Westminster Abbey pealed out as people milled about in a wonderful traffic-free area, savouring London in a new way. Whatever you think about the Pope, there has to be an admission that he wasn’t what most people had expected, and his message was timely. I expect we’ll ignore it. We have become used to dismissing matters of religion (“Oh, it’s all rubbish”; “Causes more trouble than it’s worth” etc) and we find it easier to sludge along with our culture soaked in TV soap operas and rising crime figures and drunken teenagers hanging around bleak shopping centres shouting at one another on Saturday nights. But we would be stupid to do this. We have been given another vision of Britain – brighter, more interesting , and one that we know is realistic, honest, and attractive. It echoes with our common sense and our desire to get along with one another in a workable way and achieve things. It carries resonance from the best of our past and offers a way forward. Please, don’t let us marginalise faith in God, or ignore what Christianity offers, or sneer at the possibility that men and women can know about the deepest and greatest things. Perhaps it shouldn’t have had to take a Pope to tell us this. But he has done so, and it is a wake-up call. Often, elderly gentle clergy with quiet wisdom do say wise things. (This piece is a shortened version of an article published on the MERCATOR website). The Truth Will Set You Free I Faith 29
Notes From Across the Atlantic by Peter Mitchell
A FLOWERING OF VATICAN II By Fr. Peter Mitchell, of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Dean of Men at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Nebraska As a first generation English-American who became a Catholic priest, I have grown accustomed over the years to being on the receiving end of no shortage of dismayed comments from my sensibly atheist English relatives. When I announced that I was entering the seminary, my fallen-away Catholic grandmother (may she rest in peace) said to me, “What a pity a fine young fellow like you would waste your life by going into the ministry!” Each summer my family would arrive in Oxford for tea with our elderly Aunt Mary, who habitually relished every opportunity she could find to remind my siblings and me that down the centuries religion has done nothing but cause wars and oppress people in the name of God. With great assurance she would explain to us unenlightened, almostbarbarian Americans that England had gotten “beyond religion” and was a place where the Church no longer told people how to think. As she extolled the progress of such developments as “freedom of choice,” she would, almost in the same breath, chide us for the immoral way in which we carnivores mercilessly ate innocent animals for dinner. Each year as we parted with a congenial “Cheerio!”, I would try to say, “You’ll be in my prayers, Aunt Mary,” and she would reply quite confidently, “I don’t need your prayers, young man, I am an atheist!” Needless to say, in the 30 Faith I Notes From Across the Atlantic
weeks leading up to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent pilgrimage to Great Britain I had little expectation that my English kin would hold anything other than a dim view of the entire affair as being another example of religion wasting money, clogging traffic in central London, and no doubt also harming the environment. It was unthinkable, to me, that they would or even could have any other response. Thus it was with great interest that I watched from “across the pond” last week as what indeed seemed to be unthinkable happened, not just for my family but for an entire nation. Pope Benedict made an apostolic visit to Great Britain that was cordial, positive, and well-received by the English press and people, during which he beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman, recognising him as one of the great Christian witnesses of our time, first as an Evangelical Anglican and then as a Catholic. His four remarkable days in the United Kingdom were an historic event that would have been impossible to imagine even a few short decades ago, to say nothing of a few centuries ago. It was unthinkable, from the perspective of English history, that a Pope would be invited by the Queen to make a formal state visit to England. But visit England he did – not in worldly or political triumph (the Spanish Armada tried that approach and failed), not in direct antagonism or opposition (Pope St. Pius V’s excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I in 1570 was not exactly the happiest moment in the history of either England or the Catholic
Church) – but rather in solidarity with Queen Elizabeth II, the Archbishop of Canterbury, secular leaders, and all English people of good will. Benedict’s message was quite simply that the Catholic Church wishes to be partners with all people who are committed to seeking truth, justice, and social progress in the secular realm. In the words of the Holy Father at Westminster Hall, “The world of reason and the world of faith need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilisation.” It was also unthinkable from the Catholic perspective of even fifty years ago that a papal visit could unfold in such a manner. Pope Benedict’s purpose and tone as he spoke to both religious and secular leaders – overwhelmingly positive and collaborative – was the direct fruit of the landmark event that remains the most significant moment of the history of the Church in our time, the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II: the council which was foreseen as necessary by Blessed John Henry Newman; the council which formed the young Joseph Ratzinger in his theological and pastoral thinking; the council which, on his first morning as Pope, Benedict XVI declared that he was determined to put into practice, invoking John Paul II’s description of the Council as a “‘compass’ by which to take our bearings in the vast ocean of the third millennium.” The authoritative word given by the Holy Spirit to the Church at the defining and pivotal moment of Vatican II nearly fifty years ago was
“all this transpired without the slightest compromise of Catholic identity.” especially “made incarnate” in Britain in September, 2010, during Benedict’s apostolic visit: to seek unity with our separated brethren in the other Christian confessions, to affirm all that is good and true in secular culture without in any way watering down our witness to the truth of the fullness of the Christian faith, to declare without apology that the Catholic patrimony of faith and reason working in harmony remains a gift that the twenty-first century desperately needs if it is to avoid self-destruction, and which it neglects or dismisses at its own peril. Pope Benedict’s four days in England and Scotland embodied the Pontiff simply doing what the Holy Spirit, through the documents of Vatican II, has asked of the Church. Gaudium et Spes and Unitatis Redintegratio took flesh as the Pontiff spoke to the Queen, the Parliament, the Anglican bishops, and all English people of whatever creed or conviction. Yet all this transpired without the slightest compromise of Catholic identity. Benedict presented himself quite clearly as the Successor of Peter, bound by Jesus Christ to labour for the unity of the Church and the proclamation of the Gospel, in continuity with the same papacy which initiated the first evangelisation of England at the time of St. Gregory the Great some fourteen centuries ago. Indeed, it could be argued that this pontificate’s signature commitment to continuity with Tradition was never more visibly apparent than in Benedict’s visits to both Westminster Hall and Abbey, where the Holy Father eloquently invoked the witness of Thomas More, Edward the Confessor, Bede the Venerable, and the splendid Christian tradition that has made England the great nation that it is. A previously unthinkable recovery of the apostolic and patristic mission of the Bishop of Rome seems to be occurring at the dawn of the third Christian millennium. This is a recovery which began with the intellectual groundwork laid by theologians such
as Newman, de Lubac, and von Balthasar prior to Vatican II and was given affirmation and direction by the Council’s deeply evangelising and unifying imperative. It has now been given concrete expression in the numerous apostolic journeys of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both living witnesses of that great moment of Pentecost in the life of the Church that was and is the Second Vatican Council. John Paul the Great restored an awareness of the apostolic identity of the papacy during his twenty-six years of travelling the globe, largely through his personal charisma and unflagging zeal. Now, with a beautiful complementarity, Pope Benedict is putting his own particular patristic stamp on the mission of the Successor of Peter – he travels and speaks in the midst of an increasingly pagan culture as a teacher of faith and a witness to the truth and reason of the Christian claim. The historico-cultural context in which the papacy finds itself at the beginning of the twenty-first century has significantly more in common with the era of the great Fathers of the Church such as Athanasius, Ambrose or Gregory the Great than with more recent centuries. Newman’s life and work was devoted towards the recovery of the patristic tradition in both Catholic and Protestant circles, and he applauded it as a necessary step towards the reunification of the Church that had been shattered at the Reformation. We Christians of the Third Millennium, guided by the Second Vatican Council and its great champions John Paul and Benedict, are graced to be witnessing a return of the papacy and episcopacy to the model of the age of the Fathers: boldly evangelical, passionately committed to mission, and with true humility inviting the men and women of our time to consider the proposal that truth is to be found in the person of Jesus Christ.
of his visit, an unthinkable thing happened among my English relatives – they were inspired! On the evening following the Pope’s Mass in Birmingham beatifying Newman, Aunt Mary rang up my father, who listened with astonishment as she spoke of how she had followed every minute of the papal visit on BBC2. “The Pope has been really marvellous,” she said, declaring that he had been “a terrific influence,” and that he had “said all the right things.” She applauded his message of the world’s need for faith and moral values as “just the thing our youth need to hear.” “The Pope has made us think,” she said, “and I feel changed after listening to him.” An unthinkable comment about an unthinkable moment in the history of England, the Church, and even Western civilisation. And kudos to both my Aunt Mary and to Pope Benedict for their humility, good will, and mutual respect.
Sensing the “newness” of Pope Benedict’s approach (which is, in fact, an ancient one) and aware of the historic magnitude and importance Notes From Across the Atlantic I Faith 31
Science and Religion News
Hawking’s ‘Grand Design’ The latest book by Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design, published on 9th September, just before the Pope’s visit to Britain, launched another wave of media frenzy over the religion vs. science debate. Unlike his best-selling A Brief History of Time, at the end of which he referred enigmatically to the ultimate conclusion of science’s quest for a ‘theory of everything’ to be a step towards ‘knowing the mind of God,’ in this latest book he now decides to throw his weight behind an atheistic standpoint instead. Hawking is reported to have said, “The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second. If you like, you can call the laws of science ‘God,’ but it wouldn’t be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions.” But Hawking has thereby implicitly affirmed an ontological precedence of the laws of the universe, in as much as they explain the universe’s emergence, over that emergence. He says again: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.” What he seems to fail to grasp is that the existence of the physical laws themselves needs explaining. A personal God indeed is not simply equivalent to those explanatory laws. Indeed in as much as the laws are descriptive, they are clearly part and parcel of the created order. It is the necessary lawgiver, the Mind behind those laws, which gives them explanatory power. His latest foray into the science-faith forum, therefore, adds nothing whatever to the debate, notwithstanding the many columninches of the press that have been devoted to his utterances.
Proof of Brain Life In PVS Patients Dr Adrian Owen of the Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University – but soon to move to the University of Western Ontario in Canada – hit the news in February of this year when his 32 Faith I Cutting Edge
research team showed that there were incontrovertible signs of intelligent activity in the brains of patients in a so-called ‘permanent vegetative state’ (PVS). In that study – reported in the 18th February issue of The New England Journal of Medicine – they showed that some PVS patients were clearly able to interpret spoken instructions and respond to them meaningfully. They devised a code for ‘yes’ and ‘no’: for ‘yes’ the person had to think about playing tennis, whilst for ‘no’ the person had to think about moving around their home. The brain activity for these two tasks is sufficiently different for the researchers to be able easily to distinguish the responses in the functional-magneticresonance (fMRI) images of the patients’ brains. In some of the PVS patients studied, there was clear evidence of a perfectly intelligent and consistent response to the questions being asked. For the first time, therefore, since the patient’s physical activity and normal means of communication were severed, the patient had the opportunity to communicate meaningfully with the outside world, whilst still displaying no ordinary signs of awareness. In September, a further news story was reported about this research, because the group has now shown that it is possible to detect the same responses not only using the hugely expensive and static FMRI scanner, as before, but also with a simpler and smaller electroencephalography (EEG) device. In some cases, such a machine could even be made portable, so that the patient could wear one semi-continuously. Dr Owen is reported to have said that it is “inevitable [that] in the very near future” a means would be found of enabling people in a vegetative state to answer questions about their condition and express their needs. One might speculate that in due course and with the right technology they may even be able to operate a voice synthesiser and entirely break their consciousness free of the ‘prison’ of their present physical condition. According to reports, up to 1,000 patients in Britain are afflicted
with a PVS condition, though the EEG technology might only work for some 1 in 5 such patients. As Dr Owen says, “It would only be ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions but you can get a long way with just ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions.” http://web.me.com/Adrian.owen is the personal website for Dr Owen.
Embryonic Stem-Cell Halt A temporary halt in the funding of U.S. research using stem cells harvested from human embryos occurred in August/September when a lawsuit came before a U.S. district judge in Columbia on 23rd August. He decreed that the case brought by researchers Drs James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, along with a number of Christian groups including the Christian Medical Assocation, should be heard; and ordered an injunction temporarily blocking federal funding allocated for human-embryonic-stem-cell research. Under the Obama administration, there has been big money available for such research, and the injunction came as a shock to the research world, but a delight to those who abhor the constant destruction of human life in experiments. The argument of Sherley et al. is that such research using human embryos directly violates another principle of U.S. law, the Dickey–Wicker amendment of 1995, which prohibits the destruction of human embryos. President Obama sidestepped that piece of legislation when he opened up more embryo-stem-cell research, but the legislation remains on the statute book, and as such the judge in August ruled as he did. For the time being, however, the injunction has been lifted again – as of 9th September – by a higher court, not in order to pre-judge the case, but simply deciding that the ban was premature and disproportionate. The case still has to reach its judgment, but it has highlighted the ongoing debate and strong arguments that are still being promoted by pro-life groups and researchers keen to exploit instead the exciting possibilities of adult stem-cells, the use of which is not unethical.
PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES EDWARD HOLLOWAY
Volume 1: A Critique of an Abstract Scholasticism and Principles Towards Replacement Volume 2: Rethinking the Existential
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From the Aims and Ideals of
Faith Movement Faith Movement offers a perspective upon the unity of the cosmos by which we can show clearly the transcendent existence of God and the essential distinction between matter and spirit. We offer a vision of God as the true Environment of men in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and of his unfolding purpose in the relationship of word and grace through the prophets which is brought to its true head in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, Lord of Creation, centre of history and fulfilment of our humanity. Our redemption through the death and resurrection of the Lord, following the tragedy of original sin, is also thereby seen in its crucial and central focus. Our life in his Holy Spirit through the Church and the Sacraments and the necessity of an infallible Magisterium likewise flow naturally from this presentation of Christ and his work through the ages.
Our understanding of the role of Mary, the Virgin Mother through whom the Divine Word comes into his own things in the flesh (cf. John 1:10-14), is greatly deepened and enhanced through this perspective. So too the dignity of Man, made male and female as the sacrament of Christ and his Church (cf. Ephesians 5:32), is strikingly reaffirmed, and from this many of the Church’s moral and social teachings can be beautifully explained and underlined.