The War Against Being
Science and the Philosophy of Deceit
It is conventional, contemporary wisdom that there is probably nothing more detached from reality, and nothing more inconsequential to the real events of this world, than is the study or promotion of the discipline of philosophy – and especially that highest branch of philosophy which is called ontology, the science of being. All that follows is meant to be a refutation of this “wisdom.” The road which I shall take will not, for the most part, be the technical world of the professional philosopher – this of necessity, simply because I am not one. There is an even greater necessity which hopefully will justify my presumption as a layman in treating of the metaphysical reality of being, and the war which has been and is being waged against it, and which now seems virtually universally victorious. This necessity was personally verified for me in a passage from Etienne Gilson’s book Being and Some Philosophers:
“For indeed, if being is the first principle of human knowledge [and it is], it must be the very first object to be grasped by the human mind; now, if it is, how are we to account for the fact that so many philosophers have been unable to grasp it. Nor is this all. That which comes first in the order of knowledge must of necessity accompany all our representations; now, if it does, how can being both be constantly present to the most common mind, yet prove so elusive that so many very great philosophers have failed to see it? If the ultimate lesson of philosophical experience is that the human mind is blind to the very light in which it is supposed to see both itself and all the rest, what it teaches us is worse than a paradox, it is an absurdity.”
Now, the reader who has no formal training in philosophy and has only some slight inclination of what the philosophical meaning of being is, should, upon a careful reading of Mr. Gilson’s words, become both hopeful and interested. We have here an admission by a very prominent philosopher that something which is “constantly present to the common mind” is yet elusive to philosophers. And when he says, “the human mind is blind to the very light in which it is supposed to see both itself and all the rest….”, I would hope that some echo might ring forth to the reader from the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John :
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
In other words, the philosophical question of being has something very immediately to do with not only man and created things, but also with Who Christ is, and also our very intimate relationship with Him. At this point, of course, we cross over from philosophy to Divine Revelation. This is something we shall frequently do – philosophy being both the handmaid of theology and of Revelation.
As Christians who have come to know Jesus Christ, we might therefore have confidence that we are equipped to come to understand what being is, and how to defend it. Certainly we should at least intuit such a need. If we consider such phenomena as the atheism and apostasy of our times, the murder of untold numbers of unborn children, moral relativism and perversion, and all those things such as alcoholism, drug-use, suicide, terrorism, and violence which speak not only of a loss of belief in God, but also a loss of contact with being and reality itself, then we should truly desire to understand and to equip ourselves with the knowledge which is necessary for this battle. We especially need to realize that it is primarily the souls of children which are the objects of this war, and that the modern secular educational establishment has been fully equipped with the ideologies and methodologies necessary for the destruction of this God-given reality in the mind, heart, and soul of every child in our modern world. So let us move on to the task.
Old Testament Epiphany:
The great revelation of the Old Testament is of God Who names Himself “I AM WHO AM” (Ex 3:14). In terms of Scholastic theology this name or definition of “Who God is” encloses several astounding truths. First, to put it in very colloquial terms, “God is totally His own Man.” There is absolutely no contingency in His Nature – His Being is not limited or defined by anything or anyone else. In order for this to be so, His Being must be Infinite. Second, if His Being is Infinite, then there must be nothing outside Himself which possesses any independence from Him. In other words, all of creation must be created by Him out of nothing, and must require His ever present Infinite Intellect and Will for its continued existence. Thirdly, God does not change. If He is “He Who is”, then His actual existence must be the same as His Being. In the language of Scholastic metaphysics, He is pure Act, without any potentiality of becoming something new, better, worse, or different
All this can be known through Divine Revelation. The Church teaches, however, that these same things can be known about God and creation through “the law of God written in the human heart”, which is nothing less than the eternal law of God inscribed in man’s rational nature. Scripture teaches that man is created in the image of God (possessing intellect and free will), and therefore it is only natural that any human soul coming upon this self-definition of God should be drawn to Him as its much longed-for Home. St. Augustine said that the soul is restless until it rests in God. In other words, an honest human heart does not require Scholastic training in order to intuit that “I AM WHO AM” is truly God, and should be the absolutely primary goal of all man’s longings and desires.
Man’s original sin vitiates this “natural” aptitude towards God simply because it obscures the Being of God with man’s own becoming. Eve falls to Satan’s temptation to doubt God’s command (which is the same as to doubt His immutable Being) and “to be [become] as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Eve’s sin mirrors that of Satan himself who “said in his heart: "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most High” (Is 24:23-24). Original sin immediately results in a “new will” and a new “unnatural law” in man according to which “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God” (Gen 3:8). Because of the imposition of man’s becoming upon God, Being is obscured and denied, as is God’s creation and the very nature of human beings. Man, in fact, becomes alienated from his own nature which is created in the image of God.
For this reason man’s becoming always poses a great threat to his ability to perceive not only the truth about God, but also the reality of His own being. All of the laws and prescriptions of the Old Testament therefore have not only the purpose of rendering justice towards both God and one’s fellow man, but also the additional purpose of directing all of man’s aspirations in holy simplicity towards God. God’s first great commandment therefore reads as follows:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.
And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart:
And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising.
And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes.
And thou shalt write them in the entry, and on the doors of thy house.”
(Deut 6: 4-8)
We tend to think of the Old Testament as a dispensation concerned only with exterior conformity to the Mosaic law. Yet there exists in all of Judeo-Christian literature no writings which are more profoundly descriptive of contemplative prayer than that which we have just quoted. In order to emphasize this simplicity as the absolutely necessary foundation for our relationship to God, I offer here a comparable passage from the great Flemish mystic of the fourteenth century, Blessed John Rüysbroeck:
“Which is the road that we may go forth to meet the Lord, the road of the most perfect resemblance and most blissful union? Every good act however small, provided it be referred to God by simplicity of intention, augments in us the divine likeness and replenishes us with eternal life.
Simplicity of intention collects the dispersed powers of the soul into unity of spirit, and unites the spirit itself to God. It is simplicity of intention which honours and praises God, which offers and presents our virtues to Him; thus entering into and overstepping itself and all creatures, the soul finds God in its own depths. Simplicity is the beginning and end of all virtues, their splendour and their glory.
I call a simple intention, that which aims at God alone, referring all things to Him, conformably with order and truth. It puts to flight all pretence, hypocrisy, duplicity; in every possible action simplicity should be chiefly aimed at, practiced and cultivated. This places man in the presence of God and gives him light and courage. This sets him free from all vain and servile fear, now and at the Day of Judgment. It is that single eye of which the Lord speaks, as giving light to the whole body; that is, to the whole vital energy, which it delivers from evil. It is the interior inclination of the enlightened spirit: the foundation of the whole spiritual life.”
We are thus given the prescription which enables us to attain unity with God Who is The Supreme Being; while it is this same means of holy simplicity by which we attain also to union with our own true nature and being.
The Old Testament also offers us an epical view of a disastrous alternative: the separation from God, spiritual decay, and physical disaster which came to the Jewish people through rejection of God, idolatry, adultery, and sin. Interestingly enough, we are also given specific warnings against the pursuit of false science and philosophy – philosophy being defined as the attempt to understand things in their deepest cause and reasons through the use of man’s unaided power of reasoning:
“Nothing may be taken away, nor added, neither is it possible to find out the glorious works of God: When a man hath done, then shall he begin: and when he leaveth off, he shall be at a loss.” (Ecclus 28:5-6).
“And I understood that man can find no reason of all those works of God that are done under the sun: and the more he shall labor to seek, so much the less shall he find: yea, though the wise man shall say, that he knoweth it, he shall not be able to find it.” (Eccl 8:17).
“For the works of the Highest only are wonderful, and his works are glorious, secret, and hidden.” (Ecclus 11:4).
These scriptures present us with three extraordinary facts about every created substance: 1) the origin and nature of each is wonderful, glorious, secret, and hidden; 2) man’s mind cannot understand the origin and being of anything, except as lying in the mysterious Being (Intellect and Will) of God; 3) the attempt to unravel the depths of created reality using man’s analytical mental capabilities leads to deeper ignorance, and eventually to total darkness and confusion. It is conventional modern wisdom that the Jews knew nothing of philosophy, and that the discovery of philosophy lay with the Greeks. Yet here, in God’s Revelation, lies the most profound principle of philosophy and ontology: that the unity, nature, essence, and being of any created thing lies not in anything subject to intellectual or physical analysis, but in the creating and sustaining Being of God.
New Testament Development:
All these truths concerning being which are revealed in the Old Testament are profoundly encapsulated in St. Paul’s speech to the Athenian philosophers:
“God, who made the world, and all things therein; he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
Neither is he served with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing; seeing it is he who giveth to all life, and breath, and all things:
And hath made of one, all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times, and the limits of their habitation.
That they should seek God, if happily they may feel after him or find him, although he be not far from every one of us:
For in him we live, and move, and are….” (Acts 17:24-28).
Or, as some translations have it, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being. ” The philosophic quest, therefore, must always end in God. Defined as the quest for the deepest causes and reasons of all things, philosophy always ends up by meeting God, in Whom all things live, and move, and have their being. Any attempt to posit these deepest causes and reasons for created things within creation itself is always doomed to failure and confusion. We shall see later on that this is the punishment inflicted upon the hubris of modern secular science.
For now, however, we must understand the great New Revelation which is the New Testament. God is revealed fully as a Trinity of Persons. In the love which is revealed as the Being of God in three Infinite Persons is also revealed the depths of the human soul created in the image of God. Being is revealed as Love, and the One in Whom “we live, and move, and are” is revealed to be the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ:
“For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, on dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and in him.
And he is before all, and by him all things consist.
And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy:
Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell;
And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.” (Col 1:16-20).
Further, this primacy of Christ over all creation necessarily demands His right to universal sovereignty over all creation:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels,
And every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ.” (2Cor 10:3-5).
This universal sovereignty of Christ necessarily includes His right to sovereignty over every nation and institution. In his encyclical on The Kingship of Christ (Quas Primas), with which he instituted the Liturgical Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Pope Pius XI writes:
“He, however, would be guilty of shameful error who would deny to Christ as man authority over civil affairs, no matter what their nature, since, by virtue of the absolute dominion over all creatures He holds from the Father, all things are in His power. Nevertheless, during His life on earth He refrained altogether from exercising such dominion, and despising then the possession and administration of earthly goods, He left them to their possessors then, and He does so to-day. As it is well put: Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestaa – He does not seize earthly kingdoms Who gives heavenly kingdoms. And so, the empire of Our Redeemer embraces all men. To quote the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: ‘His empire manifestly includes not only Catholic nations, not only those who were baptized, and of right belong to the Church, though error of doctrine leads them astray or schism severs them from her fold; but it includes also all those who are outside the Christian faith, so that truly the human race, in its entirety, is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.” Nor, in this connexion, is there any difference between individuals and communities whether family or State, for community aggregates are just as much under the dominion of Christ as individuals. The same Christ assuredly is the source of the individual’s salvation and of the community’s salvation: Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
The Christian heart and mind which accepts God and Christ as Supreme Being naturally accedes to the Catholic doctrine of this universal sovereignty of Christ over all peoples and nations. And since Christ established His Mystical Body in order to effect the conversion of all nations, and to bring all minds into subjection to Christ, this Kingship also accords to His Church:
“All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
Going, therefore, teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.” (Mt 28:18-20).
The Great Scholastic Synthesis of St. Thomas:
It has too often been said that the Church embraces no particular philosophy. This statement may be considered true if we think of “embracing a particular philosophy” as a dogmatic declaration that all of one man’s teaching, in all its particulars, is infallible. We would do well to begin this subject, however, with some elaboration of the degree to which the Church has indeed embraced the philosophy of St. Thomas. Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical on St. Thomas, Studiorum Ducem, simply says the following:
“We so heartily approve the magnificent tribute of praise bestowed upon this most divine genius that We consider that Thomas should be called not only the Angelic, but also the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church; for the Church has adopted his philosophy for her own, as innumerable documents of every kind attest. It would be an endless task to explain here all the reasons which moved Our Predecessors in this respect, and it will be sufficient perhaps to point out that Thomas wrote under the inspiration of the supernatural spirit which animated his life and that his writings, which contain the principles of, and the laws governing, all sacred studies, must be said to possess a universal character.” (#11).
Speaking specifically of St. Thomas’ teaching concerning being, the Pope continues:
“His teaching with regard to the power or value of the human mind is irrefragable: ‘The human mind has a natural knowledge of being and the things which are in themselves part of being as such, and this knowledge is the foundation of our knowledge of first principles’ (Contra Gentiles, II, lxxxiii). Such a doctrine goes to the root of the errors and opinions of those modern philosophers who maintain that it is not being itself which is perceived in the act of intellection, but some modification of the percipient; the logical consequence of such errors is agnosticism, which was so vigorously condemned in the Encyclical Pascendi” (#15).
In order to get some idea of just why the whole concept of being and the science of being (Ontology) is so important, we shall first begin with a good definition. Paul Glenn, in his Introduction to Philosophy offers the following definition of Ontology:
“The Ontological Question is the question of reality in its most general, most abstract, most profound meaning. It is the question of being, that is, of being as such, and not of being as it stands determinate in this nature or that nature or the other nature. It is the question of being or reality stripped of the limitations that come of materiality, that is, of bodiliness or of dependence on bodily things. Hence, it is the question of non-material real being. Here we have the heart of metaphysics, and metaphysics is the heart of philosophy.”
We must here be very emphatic on one point. In talking about being we are not talking about something which is a mere abstraction of the human intellect. Just as the Supreme Being is real “out there”, so the being of created realities is truly real and “out there.” Secondly, as Pius XI pointed out (quoting St. Thomas), “the human mind has a natural knowledge of being and the things which are in themselves part of being as such, and this knowledge is the foundation of our knowledge of first principles" (such as the “The Principle of Contradiction” – that a thing cannot at the same time be and not-be; “The Principle of the Excluded Middle” – that there is no middle ground between being and non-being; the “Principle of Identity”, and “The Principle of Difference”). In other words, the human intellect has a natural ability to come into contact with and to know reality at a level which is deeper and more profound than anything which can be called “physical” or be subjected to physical analysis. Fr. Denis Fahey, writing in his little book Mental Prayer According to the Principles of St. Thomas Aquinas, quotes from La Contemplation Mystique by Joret:
“Let us not forget that the human intelligence is intuitive by nature and predisposition. Owing to its substantial union with matter, it can only acquire knowledge by starting from sense-perceptible realities and by the help of phantasms [ideas or representations of sense data in the intellect]. But apart from this necessity, our intelligence is intuitive. Its first act is an intuition, the intuition of ‘Being’, or more concretely, ‘of a thing that is,’ and at the same time there appear to it suddenly with irrefragable (indisputable) evidence, the first principles….”
“Thus, then, every man is intuitive, and nobody, except abnormal individuals, is deprived of the rudimentary intuitions of ‘Being’ and of the first principles…. It is owing to this faculty that man is capable of being raised to mystical contemplation. It is to this intuitive function of the human intelligence that the gifts [of the Holy Spirit] of Intelligence, Knowledge and Wisdom link themselves to strengthen it.”
Fr. Fahey also quotes St. Thomas:
“The research of reason which starts from a simple intuition of the intelligence [of ‘Being’ and the ‘First Principles’), for it is from the principles of which the intelligence is in possession that research proceeds, reaches its term also in the certitude of the intelligence, when the conclusions attained are resolved into the principles from which they draw their certitude.” (III Sent., D.35, Q.1,A.2, Q.2).
All of human knowledge is therefore rooted in a non-discursive, intuitive apprehension of being. This knowledge is only possible through a “participation” of our created intellects in the uncreated light of God’s Intellect ( “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men”) . We may say therefore that all human knowledge, though deriving from sense experience, is rooted in transcendental Being, and is predisposed to seek after this Supreme Being not only as the deepest foundation of its own natural knowledge, but also as its true supernatural home.
Both Aristotle and St. Thomas taught that there are ten categories of being. These, in turn, can be divided into substance and accidents. Substance is a reality which is “suited to exist as itself, and not as the mark, determinant, or characteristic of some other thing.” Accidents are realities “which are not suited to exist as themselves, but exist as the mark, determinant, modification, or characteristic of some other thing, and ultimately of a substance.” There is only one category of substance; there are nine categories of accidents: quantity, quality, relation, action, passion, place, time, posture, habit. Accidents are said to inhere in substance. Substance is said to “stand under” the accidents of which it is the subject.
If this seems to be getting too complicated, then we should realize that what Aristotle and St. Thomas have put into philosophical terminology is simply common sense. We know that somehow the mature tree possesses identity with the seed or seedling, despite the fact that there have been innumerable “accidental” but very real changes in its being. The only way of explaining this “substantial” identity in the midst of all this change is to philosophically and scientifically posit this distinction between substantial and accidental being. Without this distinction the whole concept of substantial reality is lost, not only to science, but also to simple human experience and values. All notion of substantial reality becomes lost in the ever present reality of change. In our analysis of modern errors we shall see just exactly how this has taken shape.
It is also fully in accord with common sense that any bodily substance must involve the substantial union of two principles: what scholastic philosophy calls primal matter and substantial form. Primal matter, according to St. Thomas, “is the common substrate of all existing bodies; it is that by which a body is bodily” (Paul Glenn: Tour of the Summa). It has no existence of its own, but only comes into existence through God’s creation, and in union with some particular substantial form. We must not think that through deeper and deeper physical analysis of created things we will finally discover primal matter. In terms of physical analysis, the human mind naturally works only in terms of limited constructs – it can only work in relation to things which are “accidental”, that is having spatial and temporal extension. . Compounds, molecules, atoms, atomic particles, etc only have meaning to us in relation to their ability to be “quantified” in some way. Such things, therefore, are not, and cannot be, primal matter: they are themselves a union of substantial form with primal matter. They cannot, in other words, be at the root of what matter is all about. It is interesting that the quest to get to the ultimate constituents of matter and energy now has pushed the human intellect to the very limits of such spatial-temporal thinking. And if one reads the comments concerning this current situation of physics which are made by those on the cutting edge of this search, one clearly becomes aware of their sense of despair over the matter. It is almost as though, in having reached the limits of human constructs and material analysis they hear a call beckoning them beyond such constructs for the ultimate explanation of the physicality of even the most rudimentary of things. This explanation has already been given by the philosophy and metaphysics of St. Thomas. They do not want to listen, however, because they are fundamentally locked into the hubris and shallowness which refuses to believe that there can be anything “above” (meta-) physics. In so doing, they deny the ultimate meaning and purpose of their own science.
For any particular substance to exist there must be something more to it than mere materiality, something which determines it as a specific kind of body – something which determines its essence or nature. This other principle is substantial form. The Scholastic doctrine that all bodily substances are constituted by the union of substantial form and primal matter is called hylemorphism (a term made up of two Greek words: hyle, meaning matter; and morphe, meaning form). It should be noted here that with the principle of substantial form we have again crossed over into the metaphysics, into a realm that is beyond physical analysis. We thus touch once more upon that realm of being which speaks of the direct touch of God upon both creation and our intelligible grasp of reality. Again, we must note that Thomism lays down that all our knowledge comes through the senses, and that our intellect comes to an understanding of universals or essences through a process of abstraction from the ideas or phantasms which these sense impressions imprint on the intellect. At the same time, however, we would be badly missing the profound import of Thomistic epistemology (the philosophical science of how we know things, or whether we can truly know at all) if we failed to realize that inherent in any act of knowledge is that direct and intuitive act of the intellect which grasps not only being in its general reality, but also the substantial forms which are the determinant principles of created bodily substances. St. Thomas writes, “We must needs say that the human soul knows all things in the eternal types, since by participation of these types we know all things. For the intellectual light itself which is in us, is nothing else than a participated likeness of the uncreated light, in which are created the eternal types.” (Ia, 84, 5). Thus we again have the philosophical application of that truth so profoundly and simply expressed by St. John: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
It has so happened in the history of the Church that the truth only comes fully into focus when confronted with its denial in the form of heresy, schism, or apostasy. Hopefully, then, the truths of which we have been speaking will boldly shine forth when we next examine the “modern” errors which constitute their rejection.
The Church versus Revolution:
Writing only fourteen years before the French Revolution Pope Pius VI, in his encyclical Inscrutabile (1775), unravels the primary role of philosophy in what he prophetically saw would be the terrible disorders to come:
“Who would not be shocked when considering that We have undertaken the task of guarding and protecting the Church at a time when many plots are laid against orthodox religion, when the safe guidance of the sacred canons is rashly despised, and when confusion is spread wide by men maddened by a monstrous desire of innovation, who attack the very bases of rational nature and attempt to overthrow them?....yourselves, established as scouts in the house of Israel, see clearly the many victories claimed by a philosophy full of deceit. You see the ease with which it attracts to itself a great host of peoples, concealing its impiety with the honorable name of philosophy….While they pursue a remarkable knowledge, they open their eyes to behold a false light which is worse than very darkness. Naturally our enemy, desirous of harming us and skilled in doing so, just as he made use of the serpent to deceive the first human beings, has armed the tongues of those men with the poison of his deceitfulness in order to lead astray the minds of the faithful….In this way these men by their speech ‘enter in lowliness, capture mildly, softly bind and kill in secret (St. Leo the Great)’….When they have spread this darkness abroad and torn religion out of men’s hearts, these accursed philosophers proceed to destroy the bonds of union among men, both those which unite them to their rulers, and those which urge them to their duty. They keep proclaiming that man is born free and subject to no one, that society accordingly is a crowd of foolish men who stupidly yield to priests who deceive them and to kings who oppress them, so that the harmony of priest and ruler is only a monstrous conspiracy against the innate liberty of man.”
Similar quotes, attributing all the evils of modern day apostasy from Christ and Catholic culture to the works of philosophers, can be found in the writings of Popes throughout the nineteenth century and on into the twentieth. For the early part of the nineteenth century we mention the following encyclicals: Die Satis (1800) by Pius VII; Ubi Primum (1824) by Leo XII; Traditi Humilitati (1829) by Pius VIII; and Mirari Vos (1832) by Gregory XVI. The latter even uses the word conspiracy at least four times to describe the work of these men.
It is with Popes such as Pius IX (1846 – 1878), Leo XIII (1878 – 1903), Pius X (1903 – 1914), and Pius XI (1922 – 1939) that these modern philosophical errors are explored in greater depth. Before examining these particular errors in some depth, we would do well to see that these philosophical errors in themselves are rooted in another very closely related hubris. In his encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, Pope Leo XIII writes the following:
“From the fact that it has been vouchsafed to human reason to snatch from nature, through the investigations of science, many of her treasured secrets and to apply them befittingly to the divers requirements of life, men have become possessed with so arrogant a sense of their own powers, as already to consider themselves able to banish from social life the authority and empire of God. Led away by this delusion, they make over to human nature the dominion of which they think God has been despoiled; from nature, they maintain, we must seek the principle and rule of all truth; from nature, they aver, alone spring, and to it should be referred, all the duties that religious feeling prompts. Hence they deny all revelation from on high, and all fealty due to the Christian teaching of morals as well as all obedience to the Church; and they go so far as to deny her power of making laws and exercising every other kind of right, even disallowing the Church any place among the civil institutions of the State. These men aspire unjustly , and with their might strive, to gain control over public affairs and lay hands on the rudder of the State, in order that the legislation may the more easily be adapted to these principles, and the morals of the people influenced in accordance with them. Whence it comes to pass that in many countries Catholicism is either openly assailed or else secretly interfered with, full impunity being granted to the most pernicious doctrines, while the public profession of Christian truth is shackled oftentimes with manifold constraints.”
I would recommend that the reader re-read the above passage very carefully. These five sentences contain what is probably the greatest historical analysis and summary of the past four or five centuries ever penned.
The extent to which investigations into natural science and the growth of fundamentally anti-Christian and anti-Scholastic philosophy paralleled and militantly supported one another should be obvious to anyone acquainted with the history of ideas. According to the teachings to be found in the above encyclical, and also in the encyclicals of the other Popes we have mentioned, such “science” seems almost inevitably to lead to that hubris which ends by denying not only God, but also the very foundations of human knowledge itself. As Pope Gregory XVI said in the quote already offered, such philosophy and science “attack the very basis of rational nature.”
Why is this so? The answer is easy enough, if at the same time very difficult for modern man to accept. The mind and heart of a man deeply established in God, the Supreme Being, is also profoundly established in the reality and being of creation (including himself). All his faculties (and especially that intuitive grasp by the intellect of being which we have mentioned above) tell him that at the root of any created reality is a unity, essence, and nature (in terms of scholastic philosophy this would amount to the intellectual grasp of that universal essence or nature which is abstracted from an existing substance) which can only find its explanation (as our Old Testament Scriptures have already told us ) in the “glorious, secret, and hidden” intellect and will of God – “In Him we move, and live, and have our being.” In other words, the man of God humbly acknowledges that what he sees with his God-given eyes of a God-given creation, in all its wholeness and integrity,
is far more profound than what he shall know through human analysis and science. This, of course, does not mean that such science cannot accomplish many technological marvels in this world. If I kill my cat, rip it open, and take its guts to make a violin string, I certainly have accomplished an act of technology by engaging in some sort of science. The notion, however, that the cat-gut string which I have obtained somehow enables me to understand more deeply the mystery of being which is my cat, would indeed be a great hubris. This, of course, may seem a very foolish example; and admittedly, the first time our man opened up his first cat, it would be very unlikely that he would emerge from the interior of that cat as an agnostic. But what the Pope is saying is that the more cats, dogs, frogs, human beings, compounds, molecules, atoms, quanta, super-strings a man rips out of reality through his analytical science, the more likely he is to crawl out of his laboratory not only a God-slayer, but also a killer of kings and priests, Popes, and unborn babies. And this is so because something drastic has happened to his philosophy, to his whole perception of what reality is all about.
It is historically important to understand that this false science and philosophy is something which antedates the French Revolution by at least two or three centuries – to the effects of Renaissance science and humanism (which actually began in Italy about the middle of the 14th century and spread in the next one-hundred years to the rest of Europe) upon Christian culture. Pope Leo XIII, in at least two different encyclicals ( Immortale Dei and Aeterni Patris – On the Restoration of Christian Philosophy ), in fact points out that the Protestant Revolution was the “climax” of this process of decay. This revolution was totally rooted in the rejection of the Scholastic philosophy of being (especially the categories, and the distinction between substance and accidents ), the rejection of hylemorphism(the philosophical position that all substances are a substantial union of substantial form and primal matter), and Scholastic epistemology (or criteriology) which establishes the God-given ability of the human mind to truly apprehend universal essences through the process of abstraction from sense experience (in other words, the true reliability of human knowledge under normal circumstances).
Under the tyranny of a bogus science (which sees every thing in terms of the reductive principles of the actions of material particles upon one another and upon the human senses) the whole of Scholastic philosophy, and its teachings regarding the reality of substantial being and the mind’s ability to grasp it, is rejected. Recent research has, for instance, unearthed a document in the Vatican Galileo archives which reveals that Galileo rejected hylemorphism, believed that all reality was reducible to the effect of crude atomic particle upon one another and the senses(these also, of course, reducible to atomic particles), and that therefore there could be no such thing as transubstantiation simply because in any physical reality there could be no real distinction between substance and accidents.
I don’t think that we fully understand the degree to which the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation has been the sign of contradiction in the whole religious, theological, philosophical, and scientific world for the past five-hundred years. The reason of course is that in order for transubstantiation to be true, there must exist a metaphysical distinction between substance and accidents. And further, it must also be true that the entire realm of investigation by the analytical physical sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.) is by its very nature confined to the relatively superficial realm of the accidental categories of being (quantity, relation, etc.). Substance (and the union of substantial form and primal matter which constitute any particular substance) is not subject to apprehension by the senses or to any sort of physical analysis. It is also true, therefore, that sciences which do not affirm the real existence of such substantial being underlying all existing substances, are not real sciences. Paul Glenn gives us this definition of any true science: “knowledge that is systematic, complete, evidenced, and certain.” It is evident that the vast majority of “scientists” practice a trade which profoundly rejects the deepest elements of substantial reality, and their endeavors therefore do not deserve to be called true science.
Certainly, there is a powerful seductive power within the pursuit of physical science which tends to draw any of its practitioners into a reductive materialism. After all, such science works – it results in technological advances, and the discovery of all sorts of things. More important, however, is the fact that accidental change can, and very often does, produce substantial change (this is totally in keeping with the teaching of Scholastic philosophy). This, in turn, gives the impression that individual and particular substances are themselves reducible to these accidental realities. The gas hydrogen is, for instance, the simplest substance according to physical analysis. It is composed of an atomic structure of one proton and one electron. If one changes this simple atomic structure (by either adding or subtracting electrons or protons) then what was hydrogen is changed into something totally different. Yet there is absolutely nothing in the atomic composition of one proton and one electron which accounts for the substantial nature of hydrogen gas. To make this even more evident, let us take the substance water. If we take two atoms of this hydrogen gas and unite it with one atom of oxygen gas, we cause to come into existence something extraordinarily different: the substance water. There is absolutely nothing in the individual substance of hydrogen and oxygen or in their molecular union which accounts for the extraordinary substance which is water. And yet, all of us are deeply infected with the bogus scientific notion that water is H2O. What we have done is to take part of what constitutes water – its very real but “accidental” physical structure – and equated it with the whole. The same may be said of the union of sodium and chlorine gas to form common table salt, or of any other existing physical “stuff.” Substantial reality is simply not equivalent to, or reducible to, physical analysis or atomic structure (or quanta, super-strings, or any other structure). And yet the effect upon the human mind and heart of engaging in such science is overpowering and almost inevitable. It is not that science is intrinsically evil, but that it is intrinsically superficial and, at the same time, immensely seductive. Its pursuit almost inevitably results in the identification of accidental reality with substantive being.
As our Old Testament scriptures pointed out, the end point of such endeavors is to put a man at a total loss as to the reality of both creation and God. I would suggest that anyone interested in this subject obtain a copy of John Horgan’s best-selling book The End of Science (Broadway Books, 1996). Mr. Horgan, former senior writer at Scientific American, interviewed several dozen of the most famous and prize-winning scientists in the world as to their views regarding the “meaning of science”, the “end of science”, etc. He discovered and chronicles what he calls a world of “ironic” science: a world in which virtually no one is sure of any reality, or that there even is such a thing; there is total confusion in regard to the science of epistemology – whether there is or can be any true correspondence between the human mind and objective reality (or whether this is even a valid distinction or question); there appears to be a radical discontinuum between the world of ordinary human experience and perception and the “scientific” apprehension of things; and yet most, including Mr. Horgan, still continue to believe in the supremacy of analytical science as an “unfolder” of the depths of reality, while at the same time holding to a contemptuous view of religious faith (and certainly Thomistic philosophy).
It should also be pointed out at this point (and as also noted by Pope Leo XIII) that this dual process of the growth of secular science and the decay of philosophy was also largely responsible for the Protestant Revolution. Luther detested St. Thomas and embraced the Nominalism of Ockham (which denied the human mind’s ability to grasp universal essences of substances (of which we have spoken already). He also vehemently rejected transubstantiation and the distinction between substance and accidents which is integral to this doctrine. Again, therefore, we can see the great “sign of contradiction” which is the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. It is, in fact, the one point in all of Catholic doctrine wherein Thomistic ontology is enshrined as a dogmatic philosophical truth absolutely integral to Catholic doctrine: “that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species [accidents] only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church aptly calls transubstantiation” (Council of Trent, Session XIII, can 2).
The one Church document which constitutes the greatest sign of contradiction to all this erroneous science and philosophy is Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors, promulgated on December 8, 1864). It contains eighty propositions expressing the errors of liberalism, all of which are specifically condemned by the document. These errors are divided into nine categories ranging from a variety of philosophical errors to such things as religious indifferentism and latitudinarianism, the condemnation of socialism communism and secret societies, errors concerning the Church and her rights and her relationship to civil society (including errors concerning the education of the young), errors concerning the moral law, errors concerning Christian marriage, and errors concerning the temporal sovereignty of the Pope.
We have already discussed at some length the philosophical errors which are condemned by the document. Yet it would be well for us to quote several (there are fourteen in all):
#1. There exists no Supreme Being, perfect in His Wisdom and in His Providence and distinct from the universe. God is identical with nature and consequently subject to change. God is evolving in man and in the world, and all things are God and have the very substance of God. God is thus one and the same thing as the world and consequently spirit is identified with matter, necessity with liberty, truth with falsehood, good with evil, and justice with injustice.
#5. Divine Revelation is imperfect and consequently subject to a continual and indefinite progress which corresponds to the progress of human reason.
# 11. The Church not only should not proceed with rigour against philosophy, but should even tolerate the errors of philosophy and allow it to correct itself .
#12. The decrees of the Holy See and of the Roman Congregations impede the free progress of science.
#13. The method and principles, according to which the ancient scholastic Doctors cultivated Theology, are in no way suited to the necessities of our times and to the progress of the sciences.
It is in the application of the truth concerning God’s Being, and His consequent Sovereignty over all individuals and nations through His Church, that we find the condemned propositions which are the greatest sign of contradiction to the modern world. Under the category of religious indifferentism and Latitudinarianism are the following:
#15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall have come to consider as true.
#16. Men can find the way of eternal salvation and reach eternal salvation in any form of religious worship.
#17. Good hopes at least must be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who in no way belong to the True Church of Christ.
#18. Protestantism is nothing else than a different form of the same True Christian Religion, and in it one can be as pleasing to God as in the Catholic Church.
Now, if we place these errors into the context of what we have learned about the Being of God, and of how this Being is expressed through Christ’s sovereignty over all things human through His Church, then we can well see the depths of error involved in these propositions. They are indeed an attack on the Being of God and the well-being of men.
Possibly the greatest affront to the values of modern secular society are to be found in the condemnations of those propositions which have to do with the relationship between Church and State:
#55: The Church should be separated from the State and the State from the Church (condemnation of this proposition amounted to placing the Church in battle array against the American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and probably against the beliefs of most American Catholics).
#77. At the present day it is no longer advantageous that the Catholic religion should be considered as the only religion of the State to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.
#79. It is false to hold that the according of liberty to all religious denominations and the complete power granted to all to manifest outwardly and publicly all opinions and views of any kind, more easily bring about the corruption of morals and ideas among peoples and spread the pest of indifferentism.
#80. The Roman Pontiff can and ought to be reconciled and come to terms with Progress, Liberalism and modern Culture (or Civilization).
Finally, there is one more condemned proposition which is very worthy of mention, since it obviously is so opposed to our modern view of things:
#48. Catholics may approve of that method of educating the young which is divorced from Catholic Faith and withdrawn from the control of the Church, and which aims solely, or at least principally, at the knowledge of the merely natural world and the furtherance of the ends of human society here below.
The Syllabus amounted to a declaration of war against the liberal world of ideas and practices which had come into ascendancy from the French Revolution. Historians have a tendency to see the French Revolution as a sort of one-time aberration (this is probably due largely to the “Reign of Terror” which accompanied it). We must realize, however, that the ideas and culture which were brought into permanent dominance in France through the French Revolution are of little difference from those which are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. That which required a “Reign of Terror” to accomplish in France because of its dominant Catholic population and monarchy, was accomplished in a much more orderly fashion in the United States simply because the population was dominantly Protestant and there existed no Catholic monarchy. We (as well as every other nation in the world) now live in a country whose Constitution and public institutions (especially the public school system) are in profound violation of God’s sovereignty, and thus a denial of the very Being of God.
The Catholic position on all of which we have so far been speaking is simply called “The Kingship of Christ.” We must not at all think that the Syllabus of Pius IX was the apex of the Church’s confrontation with the forces of liberalism. In fact, Pope Leo XIII’s long pontificate (25 years: 1878 – 1903) seems to have been almost entirely dedicated to a careful and extended exploration of all the errors condemned in the propositions of Pius IX. We will not here delve deeper into these waters. I do, however, want to convey to the reader the absolute seriousness of Leo XIII’s task which he undertook, and the incredible wealth of teaching contained in his writings, by listing most of the English titles of these wonderful encyclicals (they can be found in A Light In The Heavens – The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII , published by Tan Books):On The Evils Affecting Modern Society; Socialism, Communism, Nihilism; The Study Of Scholastic Philosophy; Christian Marriage; Freemasonry; The Christian Constitution Of States; Human Liberty; The Right Ordering Of Christian Life; On The Chief Duties of Christians As Citizens; The Condition Of The Working Classes; The Study Of Holy Scripture [the great defense of the Scriptures against modern “scientific” criticism]; The Reunion Of Christendom; The Unity Of the Church; Anglican Orders; The Prohibition And Censorship Of Books; True and False Americanism In Religion; Christ Our Redeemer; Christian Democracy. I stress this again: if the reader wishes to understand all of which we have been speaking, the study of this great Pope’s encyclicals is an absolute must.
I cannot leave Leo XIII without offering a series of quotes from Tametsi (Christ Our Redeemer):
“Never to have known Jesus Christ in any way is the greatest of misfortunes, but it involves no perversity or ingratitude. But, after having known [as Western Man knew for centuries], to reject or forget Him, is such a horrible and mad crime as to be scarcely credible….By the ministry of the Church, so gloriously founded by Him, He willed to perpetuate the office assigned to Him by His Father, and having on the one hand conferred upon her all effectual aids for human salvation, He ordained with the utmost emphasis on the other that men should be subject to her as to Himself, and zealously follow her guidance in every department of life: He that heareth you, Heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me (Luke 10:16)….Do away with the obstacles to the spirit of Christianity; revive and make it strong in the State, and the State will be recreated….The security of the State demands that we should be brought back to Him from whom we ought never to have departed, to Him who is the way, the truth, and the life,; not as individuals merely, but as human society through all its extent. Christ our Lord must be reinstated as the ruler of human society. It belongs to Him, as do all its members. All the elements of the commonwealth; legal commands and prohibitions, popular institutions, schools, marriage, home-life, the workshop, and the palace, all must be made to come to that fountain and imbibe the life that comes from Him…. About the ‘rights of man,’ as they are called, the multitude has heard enough; it is time they should hear of the rights of God.”
These are, of course, truths which are very foreign to the modern mind. This “modern” attitude, of course, tells us a great deal about the extent to which we have fallen away from what are simply very elementary truths concerning Who God is, and the obligations that all men and institutions have toward Him. In an absurd sense, it means that we have come to the point of wanting to believe in God (if we still retain this desire), while at the same time rejecting His Being or Nature, or of simply choosing to ignore It.
We may loudly protest things about the dignity of man, and his right to free choice. As a matter of historical fact, the Church has always taught that this dignity and freedom must be respected – it has always taught that no one may be coerced into acceptance of the Christian faith, or forced to accept baptism. Faith obviously may involve a journey, and the free will which is a part of our being created in the image of God is absolutely integral to that process. This does not, however, entail any “right to error.” Nor does it entail the right to spread error in civil society. Nor does it lessen the obligation of all individuals and communities to seek out the truth and embrace it. Nor does it entail any right of the State to deprive the Church of Her rights, or to pass unjust laws, or to permit and encourage immorality and error. There certainly exists in Church tradition a right for states to “tolerate” error, but this toleration has very strict limits. Basically such toleration is permissible for one of two reasons: either to prevent a greater evil – such as the total civil chaos and anarchy which might follow from enforcement of the truth; or to protect a greater good – this is, of course, why personal religious error or idolatry would be permitted by God at all: in order to respect the free will of the individual in his or her journey towards God and the fullness of truth and moral integrity. As Catholics, however, we must always realize that such toleration of evil is not an ideal situation. The presence of evil and error in any society always has its consequences, especially upon the young. We are therefore always obliged to be committed to the conversion of all individuals and nations to the Catholic Faith.
Pope Leo XIII was followed by Pope St. Pius X, the only Pope to be canonized since Pius V (d. 1572). Four years into his pontificate, Pope Pius X promulgated his own Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists (Lamentabili Sane – July 3, 1907). Approximately two months later (Sep 8, 1907) he issued his great encyclical On the Doctrines of the Modernists (Pascendi Dominici Gregis). And on Sep 1, 1910 the Pope published his famous Oath Against Modernism (which contained a statement of interior assent to all the teachings contained in Lamentabili and Pascendi Dominici Gregis). All bishops and priests were required to take this oath, until two years after Vatican Council II when Pope Paul VI abolished it. Pope Pius X’s Syllabus contains 65 condemned propositions. Upon reading them carefully, it is astonishing to realize how many of them have to do with the inerrancy of Holy Scripture and Divine Revelation. One is led to the obvious conclusion that Liberalism or Modernism, having largely eliminated the Kingship of Christ over human society and its institutions, is now aiming at the very Heart of God: at the truth of His Divine Revelation. Essentially, the methodology which Satan is now employing in this struggle is to proclaim that God’s Presence and Being are to be found pre-eminently in the experience of man’s consciousness and becoming, and not in some immutable, eternal Being of God proclaimed through unchangeable Divine Revelation. This heresy is labeled by the Pope as Immanentism – the belief that God is most real and present in the evolving consciousness and belief of the individual person.
Again, I cannot recommend enough that Pius X’s encyclical on Modernism be carefully studied. One immediately comes away with the impression that what Pius X is writing about is certainly fully deserving of the name Liberalism, but also that under the form of what he labels as Modernism, it contains new and extremely insidious elements. These elements (which we have already mentioned as the heresy Immanentism) are not directly preached as a coherent system but rather are insidiously promoted through a process of dialogue with error, and a false ecumenism in which the Kingship of Christ over human society is either ignored or denied. What is employed for the furtherance of this heresy is really a shift in emphasis that is totally destructive to both the Kingship of Christ and the moral fiber of Christian society. We are, in other words, dealing with a profound shift in our world view. Under the old (as envisioned in all the Popes and documents which we have up to this point mentioned and quoted), God is the Supreme Being Who is the Source of all Truth, Love, Goodness, and Beauty. Further, He is Incarnate on this earth in His Mystical Body the Church. All our efforts as Catholics, therefore, are aimed at drawing all men and societies upwards through the Church to Him. Christ said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.” (Jn 12: 32). This, of course, refers to His ascending the Cross; but it also refers to the process by which a man ascends to Christ through being crucified to the world. The primary force of evangelization is conversion – the lifting up of man to God. This cannot be accomplished unless God, His Truth, and His Church be offered to man in all Their purity, clarity, and uniqueness. It is certainly necessary therefore that the Christian love the sinner (but hate the sin), and that he go out into all the ways and byways of the world in order to bring his fellow man to Christ. It is absolutely necessary, however, that he not lower God in the process, and that he realize that man can only be drawn to God through a full revelation of His Being and Rights. This certainly requires prudence; it does not require or allow compromise with the fullness of truth.
For the Modernist, however, man’s salvation lies not in conversion, not in being drawn upwards to God ; but rather in “fostering all that is truly human”, so that through “dialogue” and mutual sharing of human experience we might evolve into the fullness of human maturity which somehow is identified with Christ. In its extreme form, such an attitude simply degenerates into full-blown pantheism (as in the writings of Teilhard De Chardin). In more moderate forms, it comes to us in the form of such movements as Christian Phenomenalism, or the Integral Humanism of Jacques Maritain. The really disturbing and seductive thing about the writings and teachings of Modernists is that they offer an apparently acceptable fusion of orthodoxy and heresy. Pope Pius X points out in Pascendi that in the same work by a Modernist scholar one page can be found to be totally orthodox in formulation, and the next heretical. One of the “first principles” of Thomistic Metaphysics – the “Principle of the Excluded Middle” no longer holds. A Truth can now both be and not be. Dogma or doctrine can be, in the sense that it is a current formulation of the truth understood by the evolving human consciousness. The same dogma or doctrine can also not be, in the sense that we are evolving out of it into a fuller understanding of reality and God. Truth is really a dialectical process – from “be” to “not be” to “new be” – from thesis, to antithesis, to synthesis. This is why the Modernist can seem like such a humane and loving fellow, and the traditional Catholic so rigid and uncompassionate. The former can truly accept the position of the latter. The Catholic however, can in no way accept the position of the Modernist. In so doing, He would be denying the very Being of God, and also the being of his own nature.
We have already mentioned the wonderful encyclical written by Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) on The Kingship of Christ, and we have quoted a very important passage from it. We have also quoted from his encyclical Studiorum Ducem, on St. Thomas. We shall simply offer one more short passage: “Again, if we are to avoid the errors which are the source and fountain-head of all the miseries of our time, the teaching of Aquinas must be adhered to more religiously than ever. For Thomas refutes the theories propounded by Modernists in every sphere….” Sufficient to say that the study of St. Thomas has been virtually extinct in our seminaries since Vatican Council II.
Our teaching concerning the Being of God, the Kingship of Christ, and the centrality of Thomistic philosophy in protecting this great Tradition has spanned nine Popes and at least three times that many Papal documents since the year 1775.For 150-200 years the western world had thundered with the guns of warfare between the Ways of God and the ways of men. In 1962, the guns became strangely silent. Vatican Council II opened session, and since then, peace has comparatively largely reigned between the Church and the world. But as Pius VI wrote in 1775:
“The Church is struck within and so in peace is my peace most sorrowful. But what is peace? There is peace and there is no peace. There is peace from the pagans and peace from the heretics, but no peace from the children.”
It is to this subject that we shall next turn.
No Peace from the Children:
(Note: the following was written before Cardinal Ratzinger’s elevation to the Papacy)
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has been the Prefect for the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith since 1982. He is considered by most to be the second most important man in the Vatican. He is also considered to be the bastion of orthodoxy and traditional Catholicism among the hierarchy.
The year 1982 also saw the publication of Cardinal Ratzinger’s book Principles of Catholic Theology. The book contains an Epilogue On the Status of Church and Theology Today. Part B is titled Church and World: An Inquiry into the Reception of Vatican Council II. The text focuses primarily on the Vatican II document the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes), which the Cardinal calls “a kind of summa of Christian anthropology.” The following is of immediate interest to our subject:
“If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text (Gaudium et Spes) as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus. Harnack, as we know, interpreted the Syllabus of Pius IX as nothing less than a declaration of war against his generation. This is correct insofar as the Syllabus established a line of demarcation against the determining forces of the nineteenth century: against the scientific and political world view of liberalism. In the struggle against modernism this twofold delimitation was ratified and strengthened. Since then many things have changed. The new ecclesiastical policy of Pius XI produced a certain openness toward a liberal understanding of the state. In a quiet but persistent struggle, exegesis and Church history adopted more and more the postulates of liberal science, and liberalism, too, was obliged to undergo many significant changes in the great political upheavals of the twentieth century. As a result, the one-sidedness of the position adopted by the Church under Pius IX and Pius X in response to the situation created by the new phase of history inaugurated by the French Revolution was, to a large extent, corrected via facti, especially in Central Europe, but there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the world that had come into existence after 1789. In fact, an attitude that was largely pre-Revolutionary continued to exist in countries with strong Catholic majorities. Hardly anyone today will deny that the Spanish and Italian Concordats strove to preserve too much of a view of the world that no longer corresponded to the facts. Hardly anyone today will deny that, in the field of education and with respect to the historico-critical method in modern science, anachronisms existed that corresponded closely to this adherence to an obsolete Church-state relationship…..
Let us be content to say here that the text serves as a countersyllabus and, as such, represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.”
These words of Cardinal Ratzinger are absolutely astounding. Cardinal Ratzinger places himself and Gaudium et Spes in direct contradiction – countersyllabus – to the central teachings of Blessed Pius IX and St. Pius X. This, however, is a gross understatement. He actually places himself and this non-doctrinal document in direct opposition to the absolutely consistent teaching of at least nine Popes in dozens of documents covering a period of almost 175 years. Further, his statement that there was a new “ecclesiastical policy” under Pope Pius XI which somehow foreshadowed the “countersyllabus” teaching of Cardinal Ratzinger and Gaudium et Spes is simply false. In order to thoroughly dispel this error, I quote again the following words from Pius XI’s encyclical on The Kingship of Christ:
“He, however would be guilty of shameful error who would deny to Christ as man authority over civil affairs, no matter what their nature, since by virtue of the absolute dominion over all creatures He holds from the Father, all things are in His power…. “His (Christ’s) empire manifestly includes not only Catholic nations, not only those who were baptized, and of right belong to the Church, though error of doctrine leads them astray or schism severs them from her fold; but it includes also all those who are outside the Christian faith, so that truly the human race, in its entirety is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.’ Nor in this connection is there any difference between individuals and communities whether family or State, for community aggregates are just as much under the dominion of Christ as individuals. The same Christ assuredly is the source of the individual’s salvation and of the community’s salvation: Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.”
Cardinal Ratzinger cannot have directly contradicted all these magisterial documents of so many Popes without at the same time attacking the integrity and sanctity of the Magisterium. On May 24, 1990 Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published an Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian. The Cardinal also presented to the press a fairly long statement regarding the structure and purpose of the document. This statement was also published in Part III of his book The Nature and Mission of Theology. It contains the following passage:
“The text also presents the various forms of binding authority which correspond to the grades of the Magisterium. It states – perhaps for the first time – that there are magisterial decisions which cannot be the final word on a given matter as such but, despite the permanent value of their principles, are chiefly also a signal for pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional policy. Their kernel remains valid, but the particulars determined by circumstances can stand in need of correction. In this connection, one will probably call to mind both the pontifical statements of the last century regarding freedom of religion and the anti-Modernists decisions of the beginning of this century, especially the decisions of the then Biblical Commission.”
Can any of us imagine telling Popes Pius VI, Pius VII, Leo XII, Pius VIII, Gregory XVI, Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, or Pius XI (or any of the other almost innumerable Popes who taught against religious indifferentism) that their condemnations and teachings were provisional and in need of correction?
Pope St. Gelasius (492-496), in his epistle Licet Inter Vari pens the following instruction, profoundly applicable in the case of Cardinal Ratzinger;
“What pray permits us to abrogate what has been condemned by the venerable Fathers, and to reconsider the impious dogmas that have been demolished by them? Why is it, therefore, that we take such great precautions lest any dangerous heresy, once driven out, strive anew to come up for examination, if we argue that what has been known, discussed, and refuted of old by our elders ought to be restored? Are we not ourselves offering, which God forbid, to all the enemies of the truth an example of rising again against ourselves, which the Church will never permit….Or are we wiser than they, or shall we be able to stand constant with firm stability, if we should undermine those [dogmas] which have been established by them?” (Denzinger, 161)
It might be argued that what was taught by these Popes does not involve dogma. Is it not dogma that God is Supreme Being, that we are created by Him out of nothing, and that He has the absolute right to supreme Sovereignty and Dominion over every human individual and institution? Is it not dogma that Jesus Christ established only one true Church, that there is only One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, and that outside the Church there is no salvation – this despite the fact that no one will be condemned “who has not the guilt of deliberate sin” (Pius IX – Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, Denzinger, 1677)? Is it not dogma that just as Christ possesses Universal Sovereignty over all individuals, He also possesses this same Sovereignty over all nations; and that a nation will be blessed or cursed accordingly as it accepts this Sovereignty and God’s plan for divine order in this world? Is it not absolutely integral to Catholic dogma, therefore, that there is no such legitimate thing as “separation of Church and State”? Is it not absolutely integral to Catholic dogma, therefore, that there is no such thing as a “right” to religious error or a “right” to claim existence as a legitimate Christian religion or world religion outside of the Catholic Church?
The Oath Against The Errors Of Modernism began as follows:
“I ………….firmly embrace and accept all and everything that has been defined, affirmed, and declared by the unerring magisterium of the Church, especially those chief doctrines which are directly opposed to the errors of this time.” Further on: “I also subject myself with the reverence which is proper, and I adhere with my whole soul to all the condemnations, declarations, and prescriptions which are contained in the Encyclical letter “ Pascendi” and in the Decree “Lamentabili”…..”
Pope St. Pius X designates the magisterium as “unerring”, and includes in this unerring magisterium the condemnations, declarations, and prescriptions of both Pius X’s Syllabus and his encyclical Pascendi (On the Doctrines of the Modernists). Cardinal Ratzinger, on the other hand, states that probably for the first time in Church history we can now accept that there is a part of the magisterium which is infallible and permanent, and there is another part that is fallible, and can be seen as provisional and superseded . The Cardinal further states that among these provisional and superseded teachings are the very ones which Pope Pius X declares to be part of the “unerring” magisterium . If Cardinal Ratzinger’s statements are to be considered in any way the mind of the Church, may we not say with Pope St. Gelasius : “Are we not ourselves offering, which God forbid, to all the enemies of the truth an example of rising again against ourselves, which the Church will never permit?” Are we not, in fact, denying the very Being of God by denying the Being and Nature of the Church which He founded?
Further, Pius X, in his Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, issued Nov 18, 1907, declared ipso facto excommunication upon any who would contradict or “endeavor to destroy the force and the efficacy” of these documents:
“In addition to this, intending to repress the daily increasing boldness of spirit of many Modernists, who by sophisms and artifices of every kind endeavor to destroy the force and the efficacy not only of the Decree, “Lamentabili sane exitu,” which was published at Our command by the Sacred Roman and Universal Inquisition on the third of July of the current year, but also of Our Encyclical Letter “Pascendi Dominici gregis,” given on the eighth of September of this same year by Our Apostolic authority, We repeat and confirm not only that Decree of the Sacred Supreme congregation, but also that Encyclical Letter of Ours, adding the penalty of excommunication against all who contradict them; and We declare and decree this: if anyone, which may God forbid, proceeds to such a point of boldness that he defends any of the propositions, opinions, and doctrines disproved in either document mentioned above, he is ipso facto afflicted by the censure imposed in the chapter Docentes of the Constitution Apostolicae Sedis of the Apostolic See, first among those excommunications latae sententiae which are reserved simply to the Roman Pontiff. This excommunication, however, is to be understood with no change in the punishments, which those who have committed anything against the above mentioned documents may incur, if at anytime their propositions, opinions, or doctrines are heretical; which indeed has happened more than once in the case of the adversaries of both these documents, but especially when they defend the errors of modernism, that is, the refuge of all heresies.”
We have two choices. We may believe Pope St. Pius X, the only Pope to be canonized since the 16th century, who largely dedicated his Papacy to the extirpation of these errors from the Catholic Church. Or we may believe Cardinal Ratzinger who says that the teachings and condemnations of this Pope have been superseded, thus falling into the category of those who “endeavor to destroy the force and efficacy” of these documents and their teachings and decrees. According to the decree of Pope Pius X, of course, Cardinal Ratzinger would be in a state of automatic excommunication. Whether or not this decree has been abrogated certainly lies outside my competence to judge. The fact, however, remains: Cardinal Ratzinger’s statements are clearly anti-magisterial to a massive degree.
Conclusion: Philosophers Are Not Alone:
We would be very mistaken if we were to conclude from all this that what we have considered as an apostasy from Being is now primarily a sickness of only the intellectuals: philosophers, theologians, etc. Virtually all persons in all the developed countries of the world are now immersed in the culture of scientific hubris, which, as we have said, amounts to a continual attack upon the very notion of substantial being itself, and therefore upon the God Who defines Himself as I Am. For the philosopher, this twisting of reality may result primarily in a perversion of the intellect. For the average individual, however, the primary effect of this philosophy is upon the will, his own personal moral well-being, and the whole moral fabric of society. This is the clear wisdom found in the following passage from Ecclesiasticus (Sirach):
“For great is the power of God alone, and he is honoured by the humble.
Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above the ability: but the things that God hath commanded thee, think on them always, and in many of his works be not curious.
For it is not necessary for thee to see with thy eyes those things that are hid.
In unnecessary matters be not over curious, and in many of his works thou shalt not be inquisitive.
For many things are shewn to thee above the understanding of men.
And the suspicion of them hath deceived many, and hath detained their minds in vanity.” (Ecclus 3:21-26).
Vanity is, of course a perversion of the will (which St. Thomas calls the intellective appetency). Holy Scripture is here telling us that the attempt to analytically penetrate the depths of created things is in itself an act of hubris, denying humility, and also denying the honor which is due to God as the “hidden” source and root of all being and substance. God, in fact, tells us that we are to spend the powers of our intellect upon understanding Him through His ways and commandments, and not try to penetrate into the hidden nature of His works. He further states, in this passage, that rejection of this “holy simplicity” leads to a state of “suspicion” (lack of faith or belief in the reality, truth and reliability of normal human perception of created things), which consequently detains the mind (heart) in vanity and perversion of the moral faculties. Moreover, the “scientific” identification of all reality with accidental reality necessarily leads to the rejection of the fact that there really is any substantial nature (soul) to man. Modern secular science therefore necessitates not only the rejection of God, but also the rejection of the inviolable dignity of the human person. Consequently, it is not surprising that the moral corruption of “civilized” nations has paralleled the growth of secular science and technology. And it is therefore eminently logical that the twentieth century, which was the century of militant atheism (Communism, Nazism), produced more religious martyrs than all other centuries combined.
This “scientific” rejection of the substantial nature (soul) of human beings finds its ultimate expression in the abortion holocaust. We are rightly horrified by the murder of hundreds of millions of unborn babies. We should, however be equally horrified by what has happened to the minds and hearts of the hundreds of millions of women (and men) who have killed their own babies. Mother Theresa said that women are the heart of the world. If that be true, then the world has suffered a massive coronary, from which we might well doubt it can ever recover.
We have already mentioned that Pope Pius X focused on Immanentism as being a primary principle of Modernism. He also offers a second principle as this heresy’s defining essence: the subjection of the faith to secular “science” and to modern “progress.” If one reads the theological writings of Cardinal Ratzinger and so many other modern theologians (and especially Biblical exegetes), one is immediately struck by their ever-present sycophancy to so much that has been perpetrated on us as “science.” On the other hand, search these men’s works for any serious exposition and acceptance of Thomistic science (and here we use the word science in its true sense) – or, for instance, any serious exposition of the doctrine of transubstantiation – and you will come away empty handed. Ever since the beginnings of the Renaissance, increasing numbers within the Church have been falling victim to this hubris of man’s reductive and partial “science.” It has now become so all- pervasive as to seem almost the air we breathe.
Nor is this hubris something that finds expression only in science or philosophy. It penetrates to every institution of society: to art, literature, music, every form of entertainment, and simply all aspects of culture. It also finds expression as a political hubris which increasingly seeks larger forms of worldly sovereignty; and in aspirations for a one-world government, which is simply a modern form of the Tower of Babel. Possibly most destructive, it leads to what is called the “fecundity” of money – those violations of simplicity in the economic realm which lead to money taking on a life of its own, whereby it ceases to be merely a medium of exchange for real goods (as St. Thomas taught it must be), and becomes instead an economic hydra to which all other values become subject.
As secular science has grown, so also has technology, and the consolidation of power and money in what is usually called international finance. And just as there now reigns a silence concerning the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ, so there also is silence from the Church on the subject of usury. This essential silence concerning usury is an older phenomenon, dating back to the middle of the 18th century (we will discuss this in more detail in the chapter on usury). We might well conjecture concerning the degree to which the Church’s practical accommodations to secular economics in previous centuries paved the way for Cardinal Ratzinger’s “coming to terms’ with the French Revolution in the latter half of the 20th century. After all, money and secular science are certainly the primary means of making progress in this world; and the French Revolution is considered by liberalism to have been the most progressive event in human history.
We speak of the Church’s silence. We may say with certainty, however that this is no true silence, but only the roar of the world. The recent Vatican Bank scandal, and the extent to which this Bank is deeply involved in money speculation and usury, should give us some idea of the degree to which this roar has penetrated towards the very heart of the Church. Christ said that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. This does not mean that Satan cannot be howling at the door. I think that if we meditate carefully on the matter, we will in fact conclude that secular science and love of money are the primary pursuits by which holy simplicity has largely been defiled, the intuitive grasp of God’s Being and the substantial being of creation has been lost, and God’s children are more and more being overcome by this dreary and feckless ascent by modern man towards God’s throne.
As Christ’s children, there is no room for despair. There is a great deal of room to return to that first love which is the Gospel, and to that life of holy simplicity which is the subject of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. In order to accomplish this, of course, we must have the honesty and integrity to know just exactly how counter-world (and we might add Pro-Syllabus) Christ and the Gospel truly are. We must then possess the desire and fortitude to attempt to religiously apply all these teachings of Our Lord and His Magisterium to all the facets and institutions of our lives: to our families, the way we recreate; the education of our children; our work; our politics; and most of all to the way we worship and pray. God will provide the grace, if we in turn are willing to provide our honest assent to the fullness of His truth, and the gift of our wills to the action of His Desire and Grace.
Authored by: James Larson © 2008
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