No News is New

A Catholic view on old heresies in the news

What is Love?

http://www.cleveland.com/brett/blog/index.ssf/2014/05/catholic_school_teachers_fear.html

Short answer to the billboard: Yes.

Short answer to the billboard: Yes.

This opinion piece is about the morality contract for teachers of Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Cleveland.  Teachers, whether they like it or not, are roll models for children.  They teach not just reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic, but they also teach how one should live their life.  Part and parcel of a Catholic school teachers job is therefore to model the morality children are supposed to be learning in Catholic schools.

This morality is not arbitrary, but is founded on love.  Let’s look at the case the author brought up, that of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

To begin, my 7th grade science class taught me that pregnancy, “results when a mature egg is fertilized by a mature sperm” (Thanks Stanford University!).  That newly formed zygote is already either male or female; and has eye color, hair color and so forth already determined because this human zygote (soon to be embryo) has it’s own unique DNA, just like you and me.

For IVF, many eggs are harvested and fertilized, creating many embryos.  These embryos each have their own unique DNA, and if allowed the womb to grow, could become fully functioning adults.  However, many of these embryos are cryogenicly frozen in case the first attempt to implant embryos in the womb fails.  While one might be, “blessed with twin boys through in vitro fertilization”, there are many other sons and daughters that remain on ice.  

(N.B. – I use the terms “son” and “daughter” because the embryo is already either male or female through DNA, even if the respective male and female parts haven’t yet grown).

How cruel is it to make over a dozen daughters and sons when one will only raise one or two?

“What kind of church wouldn’t see that?”

Apparently the church desired by the author of this opinion piece.

In our understanding of what makes an action loving is the fulcrum of the matter.  The Catholic Church has received the teachings of love from Jesus Christ and passed them onto us. Some things didn’t exist when Jesus was around, so the Church looks at the handed down teachings and looks for whatever doesn’t contradict them to guide us in our new settings and with our new technology.  Who would doubt that it contradicts love to conceive but not raise a child?   Those people are called deadbeat dads or moms, and are justly scorned for such behavior.  Orphans are given a protected status in the Scriptures, and children created but abandoned by parents are orphans.

The protestations of some Catholics to redefine the teachings of love handed down to us from Christ are because we are ignorant of the richness of our theology.  Therefore our Catholic teachings become ungrounded and so gain the patina of arbitrarity instead of having the love which is their foundation shine forth like the dawn.

Now then, in the unlikely event the author will read this piece, I challenge her to become a more loving person so that she can make a reality of the Church becoming more loving.  I challenge her to love the 400,000 frozen up like Stallone and Snipes in Deomolition Man as much as she loves those she can see and touch.  If she and I and every Catholic manage this great love, then the Church will indeed become more loving.

Superstition and the Sacraments

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/gay-patient-says-catholic-chaplain-refused-him-last-rites/2014/02/19/35d163f6-99b1-11e3-80ac-63a8ba7f7942_story.html

The above link goes to an article about a man who is denied a sacrament.  At first pass this seems outrageous, but by recognizing what a sacrament is we can see the particulars of this case actually make a lot of sense.

The purpose of all 7 Sacraments is to bring us into relationship with God.  Baptism starts and Confirmation completes the founding of our friendship.  Eucharist is the celebration and renewal of that communion.  Holy Orders and Marriage both guide us into a deeper frienship with God by teaching us to how to serve each other.  Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick heal us when we have damaged that relationship or are close to death and so want to ensure our relationship is strong.

The sacraments are not magical because they go hand in hand with our union with God.  For example: if I was not yet baptised when I died, but I desired a relationship with God, then I can be assumed to have a “Baptism of Desire” and (even without a baptism of water) I might be with God celebrating that connection in Heaven.  To think the sacraments are efficacious without an internal aspect of faith is to fall into superstition.  As the Catechism says, “To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart form the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition” (CCC 2111).

Trying for every superstition.

Trying for every superstition.

Looking at the particulars of the case in the article, there was a man who was apparently unrepentant about being in a sexual relationship with another man.  Briefly put, this sort of relationship leads us away from the truth of God by lying about his nature.  Since the man didn’t want to repent from lying about the nature of God with his actions, the performance of the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick would have been mere superstition.

Here we must go down a brief rabbit hole without losing focus about the topic at hand.  Marriage is a picture of God’s love.  The Father and Son have such a real love that it (because of the nature of that love) is personified into the Holy Spirit.  The nature of male-male or female-female love is such that it cannot generate new persons.  The nature of male-female love is such that it can generate persons similar to the out-flowing of the Holy Spirit, and so female-male love is an icon of God.

God the Father and God the Son love so intensely that this love is the God the Holy Spirit.

God the Father and God the Son love so intensely that this love is the God the Holy Spirit.

Sex therefore becomes an image to us of who God is.  If we use sex in such a way that it doesn’t properly show us who God is, then we misuse it.  It is no coincidence that people commonly yet out “Oh God” during sex.  This topic deserves more digital ink, but let this suffice as a summary so we can get back to the topic at hand.

The man in the article is by his actions rejecting God, but yet wants a sacrament so he can have union with God.  He doesn’t want “to rot in hell”, but he also doesn’t want to live a celibate life in communion with God.  The priest “can’t give you [Communion] if you continue that lifestyle, if you’re an active participant” because by participating in that lifestyle one is choosing to reject God, which is the opposite of Communion.  If the man had same sex attraction but still sought out God and tried to live with good will towards God, then I would agree that, “who am I to judge” such a life?

Sadly, this article doesn’t discuss such a man, a man living a celibate life not by desire for such a life but rather out of love for God.  Instead it discusses a man living out his carnal desires to the point of rejecting God and the shepherding actions of a priest.  In his desire to not “end up 63 and alone”, he has decided to reject the Church, to reject Jesus, and hence to be 63 and alone from God.  It’s very tragic not that he was denied a sacrament, but that he didn’t want to order his life in such a way as to be ready to receive the sacrament.

Still, it is better to be him than it is to be me.  Who knows what I am doing that should prohibit me from receiving the Eucharist?  If only a priest would shepherd me as this priest tried to shepherd him, then I might be more on track with life.  This man with same sex attraction now can correct his life and be with God for eternity.  Me?  I might never root out all the sins I am unaware I commit.

Was Luther an Antichrist? The Bible suggests yes.

http://headhearthand.org/blog/2014/02/20/seven-characteristics-of-the-antichrist/

Today’s link is from David Murray’s blog.  He identifies as a pastor, professor, and author, so even though it is a blog post rather than news, it is be respectable.  In his post he discusses some marks he sees as indicating antichrists.  Let’s look at each point and see whom it may identify, as is subsequent post points whom he thinks is the antichrist.  In this post I’ll look at what his points tell me about whom an antichrist might have been.

Point 1: Lawless

Mr. Murray searches Scripture and finds that the antichrist is one who disregards God’s law.  Let’s look at part of God’s law of the new covenant — the use of Sacraments.  The Catholic Church has 7 Sacraments, but many have disregarded some of the sacraments.  Anglicans and the Reformed, for instance, have only 2 sacraments — Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Lutherans have 3 (the Anglican two plus Absolution).  Quakers have none.  Or, looking at law more strictly speaking, who has kept the command of Jesus that divorce is against the law of God?  Only Catholics don’t allow divorce (for you who might chime in that annulment is Catholic divorce; an annulment is actually a claim of a marriage never existing, not the dissolution of a marriage).  This rejection of the law of God is a good argument for the founders of Protestantism to be considered antichrists.

Point 2: Destroyer

This point is that the antichrist is a destroyer.  Well, the destruction of the unity of the Christian Church, which is something Jesus himself prayed would be kept intact (“that they may be one“), was again brought about by the founders of Protestantism.  Protestants now aren’t responsible for this, they aren’t antichrists, but those founders of Protestantism who split the Church seem to fit the bill so far.  And in the bloody split of the church, people on all sides were destroyed physically by death.  One such famous priest killed was Cuthbert Mayne, who became a priest in France and went to Anglican England to die for his faith.

Cutherbert Mayne, Catholic Martyr

Cuthbert Mayne, Catholic Martyr

Point 3: Opposition to God

The first step in understanding this is to know that Christ and his Church are mysteriously one entity.  St. Augustine says, “Marvel and rejoice, we have become Christ”.  Pope St. Gregory says, “Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church”.  St. Tomas Aquinas states, “Head and members [Christ and Church] form as it were one and the same mystical person”.  Joan of Arc concludes, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing”. (For citations see CCC 795).  This oneness is why Paul talks about Christ being formed in us (Galatians 4:19).  As Colossians puts it, Jesus is, “head of the body, the Church”.

Therefore one who is in opposition to the Church is one who is in opposition with Jesus.  Again the Protestant Reformers come to mind.  Their opposition to the Church created a replacement for it, and now people might go to various denominations instead of directly to the Body of Christ.  Which brings us to the fourth point of Mr. Murray.

Point 4: Substitution

The antichrist tries to substitute himself for God.  Mr. Murray says this point is that the antichrist, “is not necessarily an enemy from outside the church, but from inside it. He opposes Christ by replacing him, by taking Christ’s titles, worship, and roles.”  This is exactly what the Protestant founders did with the Church, the Body of Jesus.  They replaced the worship of Jesus passed down from Jesus himself with worship of a Jesus created more after their own thoughts and desires.  It is easy to look at the insecurities of say, Luther, and see why that would psychologically drive any logical person to say we don’t need to cooperate with the mercies of God for our salvation.  Cooperation for such an insecure person means too great a risk of losing God.  Psychologically speaking, Luther makes excellent points.  Luther created a very psychologically fulfilling vision of God, the only problem is that it is a replacement of the truth, which Mr. Murray says is a sign of the antichrist.

Point 5: Deceiver

These Protestant founders then used this psychologically fulfilling vision of God to deceive people away from the fullness of the truth.  By their preaching and actions they deceived people into the substitute Church, the various Protestant denominations.  With admittedly humanly wise words they brought people out of the fullness of truth.  They did not come expressly to destroy the Church, but under the deception of “reform” brought about that effect.

Point 6: Heretic

This obviously tie ins with previous points.  Mr. Murray says, “THE ultimate Antichrist will not deny everything about Christ, but just enough to undermine the power of Christ’s gracious salvation.”  The Protestant denominations still have large swaths of truth — most of the books for the Bible, Baptism, Marriage, the necessity of Grace, even various aspects of predestination and so forth.  In doing so they undermine the power of Christ’s salvation through the fullness of all the Sacraments he gave us and in the fullness of the Truth passed down to us from generation to generation.

Point 7: Politics

Any student of the Reformation can tell you that things got very politically messy.  The German princes used Luther to advance their independence.  Henry VIII used the Reformation to get a politically expedient divorce.  If not for the political involvement to advance their temporal power, the Reformation would have been much more unlikely to get off the ground.  It is not coincidence that religious maps of Europe coincide with political boundaries.

Political and Religious Borders

Simplified Political and Religious Borders

Presbyterianism was founded in Scotland.  Anglicanism was founded in England.  Lutheranism was founded in Germany, and adopted by Scandinavian princes. An authentic reformation should have effected the whole Catholic world, but instead it remained tied to principalities.  Political expediency drove the Reformation forward, which again is a sign that the founders were antichrists.

Now, in turning the page to Mr. Murray’s next blog post, he surprises by saying it is the Pope who is the antichrist.  This is the opposite of what I took his post to be implying, but it is also an old claim (after all, no news is new!).  While there are older claims (see Mr. Murray’s post), none have been so influential as Mr. Alexander Hislop’s work, “The Two Babylons: Papal worship Proved to be the worship of Nimrod and His wife.”  This book was first published in 1853, and is known to be abundant with inaccuracies.  It compiles a lot of the earlier claims about the papacy as a form of antichrist.

The point is that this is an old claim, but when brought up can cut both ways.  It can easily turn into a he said/she said sort of discussion.  Mr. Murray can look at the Bible, and his take-away is that the Pope may be an antichrist.  I can look at the same passages and even the same understanding of the passages and my take-away might be that Luther was an antichrist.

I think this is why Mr. Murray’s point that,

“I don’t believe this should be a prominent part of any Christian’s ministry. Yes, we should outline the Antichrist’s characteristics and call people to look out for this threat, even in the mini-antichrist’s of our own day. But it’s not a huge theme in the Bible and it certainly doesn’t specify the individual.”

is so important.  To fixate upon antichrists takes our attention off of God and our neighbour, which is where our attention should be.  Even putting this post as kindly as I know how, and even recognizing that Mr. Murray did the same, name calling doesn’t help to grow Christian union and doesn’t help ease people’s journey of faith; however that journey may be progressing.  It is an interesting exercise to examine these things (hence my own posting about it), but it should never take our eyes off the prize of communion.

The power of words, misused.

http://www.eagletribune.com/latestnews/x601935324/Fired-teachers-ready-for-legal-action

It is very common in the news to spin stories through the manipulation of language to sell papers.  The above story is a great example to look at that spin.  In the story a man and a woman had sex without being married.  As both were supposed to follow Catholic teaching to keep their jobs at a Catholic school, both were fired.

The story is written as a David verses Goliath story.  Evil Goliath Church arbitrarily enforcing their arbitrary morality on an innocent David couple, who simply love each other.  As it is written, “the firings ‘come off as incredibly hard and callous’ in juxtaposition with a couple in love”.

Looking past the formulaic writing, let’s look at what the Church teaches about love to see how this couple of haters shouldn’t be exposing school kids to their hate; and how they are not a couple which shows love to each other.

Love is so much more than “Baby Don’t Hurt Me.”

It is hateful to lie to someone, yet in having sex without marriage that is exactly what this couple was doing.  In their actions they were expressing, “I give myself wholly to you”, yet in their words they did not make this commitment by marriage, so either their mind or heart was holding something back.  This is not love, as love is a gift of self.  The fact this couple mistook this lieing for love shows how poorly they were living up to their contractual commitment to teach the faith to children.  If they were telling people they loved each other, but then lied to each other, then they are quite terrible roll models.

In our society love is becoming confused with what is meant to sustain it, like a plant being confused with the warm light meant to keep it alive.  Feelings and sexual gratification are meant to sustain the commitment and self-sacrifice that is love.  When we chase after the feelings and gratification we end up with neither, but when we seek out service of our spouse we receive those feelings to support that loving gift of self.  Call it the Benjamin Franklin effect in action — go Science!

science

When the couple in the story mistook sexual gratification for love, they became haters.  They selfishly went after the action that gave themselves pleasure without the commitment which that sexual pleasure is an expression of.  One might posit the cruelty they must have in exposing children to such selfish actions; if one thought they had any awareness that what they were doing was wrong.  In our world the word “love” is so misunderstood that one cannot help but feel pity instead of hostility.  Love reduced to a feeling is but an empty shell of it’s true power, and it is sad that this shrivelled and lonely “love” is all they are seeking.  To attain self-mastery through the self-sacrifice of service to another is so much more liberating than the crushing slavery that is the pursuit of pleasure.

$$$

http://www.pocketfullofliberty.com/minimum-wage-2/

This article is in part why the Pope recently spoke out so strongly against capitalism.  In it, the author states: “At fifteen or sixteen, you likely possess no valuable skills, no worthwhile experience, and limited social awareness. You are worth less than others. And so you should be paid less”(empasis in original).

There are many philosophies that value people at different rates.  Even in America, slaves were only 3/5th a person for quite some time.  The idea was that “[slaves were] worth less than others.  And so [slaves] should be paid less.”  This stands in direct contrast with Catholic social teaching on work.

am_I_not_a_man

To begin with, work exists for us, not us for work.  In laboring at work, we partake in the creative act of God.  He made the world, and we mould it to how we would like it.  Good work well done is therefore gratifying.  Most people can attest to this with their hobbies.

Now, not all work is worth doing.  We use pay to make this jobs worthwhile.  What then is a job that is worth someone’s life?  It is a job that provides for that life.  If one spends all day at a job, that job should provide sufficient pay for that days life in both survival and enjoyment.  As it is, minimum wage provides enough to sustain life, but not enough to thrive.  All people deserve the opportunity to thrive and enjoy life, and so pay should provide for a person and their “family on the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level” (CCC 2434).

As St. John Chrysostom said,

“Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life.  The goods we posses are not ours, but theirs”

and as St. Gregory the Great said,

“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours.  More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

We can therefore see extreme wealth inequality as an injustice which should be righted by law.  Some might say the injustice isn’t that bad in America, so let’s look at it.

Change in income, the bottom 90% verses tiers in the top 10%

Change in income, the bottom 90% verses tiers in the top 10%

Almost all the gains from labor in America went to the top .01%.  The bottom 90% of workers lost 10% of their income.

But if videos are more your thing, look at this:

Clearly money is not well distributed in America.  This is not because the poor are “worth less”, they are people and all people are equally precious.  Capitalism fails to give value to people based upon who they are as children of God, and instead gives value to people based upon what they can do.

In this system, smarter people, prettier people, cleverer people, are all worth more than average people.  In this way, it is no less unjust than an aristocracy.  As a democracy, we should contact our legislators and petition them to enact more just laws regarding wealth.  Laws that fairly provide for the needs of those who work but are still excluded from society from poverty.  To allow the situation to remain as it is would be to allow the rich to continue to steal from the poor.

Something wicked this way comes.

I’ve been thinking for some time about how to tackle the above video.  It shows a case of violence done by some pro-choicers against some pro-lifer’s passively praying with arms linked to protect the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

From her Rhythm serries, where people were allowed to do whatever they wanted to her.

From Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm performance: people were allowed to do whatever they wanted to her well she remained stationary.

A part of me wanted to tie it into Marina Abramovic‘s performance art, and how much violence will be shown to those who are passive.  Part of me wanted to talk about how there were more martyrs for the faith in the 20th Century than in all the previous ones combined.  But then a most wonderful thing happened: someone read my post on Celibacy!  So readers, please go read his piece.

The connection between that piece and the above video is at first obscure.  However, at their core, both deal with emotion.  The excessively capitalized “Bollocks”, the refusal to accept the science that priests are less likely to offend, and so forth point to how heavily the head is influencing the heart.  It culminates in the unsubstantiated claim that if a strait man doesn’t have sex often enough, he’ll abuse a little boy (so married women, don’t go on vacation; or when you get back you’ll find your husband has turned into a pedophile!).  All these mesh seamlessly with the chanting and assaulting mob from the video.  Their hearts are on fire for a cause, and they will stop at neither decency or reasonability to reach their end.

An example of the crazy things people do to express their hearts.

An example of the crazy things people do to express their hearts.

I tend to write from the head, and this commenter on me wrote from the heart.  These two ways, head and heart, have been at war for a long time.  In doing research for my recent multi-part piece, I found that after the Scholastics came on the scene to dive to incredible intellectual depths, the first humanists became their counterpart and plumbed the heart.  The Franciscans appear to have played a large part in this, but other groups like the Beguines and Beghards also contributed to the movement.

At root, the idea of this early humanism is that you don’t win someone’s heart by engaging in logic with their head.  It’s why I blog to help myself understand issues and not to convert souls.  Conversion won’t happen from reading me, but from my shedding my life to help those in need; which is an appeal to someone’s heart rather than head.

Here is a great article from the superb blog You Are Not So Smart, which touches on why heads are so hard to change, and why logical arguments are so easy to dismiss.  Here is another.  I’ve even read that our brains literally shut blood flow to our reasoning center when we read something that doesn’t agree with our preconceived notions (sadly, I cannot find the source).

From all that, I think both the critique of my post as well as the video do an excellent job at rhetoric.  The rhetoric is so entrenched in the world that no one wants to be the gal to defend priests, no one wants to be the guy defending churchs.  The rhetoric makes us want to belong.  We don’t want “Bollocks” yelled at us, we don’t want people spraying us with chemicals.  No, we want to be loved and to belong.

The standing tension between head and heart will probably always exist, though some are more immune to one or the other.

We can't all be Dr. Brennan.

We can’t all be Dr. Brennan.

In the long term though, each person has both head and heart.  To understand theology and pass it along, we need good logic as well as good rhetoric.  A merging must occur between the scholastics and the humanists to more fully express the faith.  Maybe one day I can be part of that merging process.  Until then, enjoy the dichotomy between my posts and posts like my commenter made.

Aristotle -> Aquinas -> Atheism, Part 8

To wrap up some loose ends, the aformentioned proofs aren’t the end of proving the attributes of God.  The scholastics had many proofs and reasons for his various attributes.  Aquinas only touches on a few because at this particular point in his work he is trying to focus upon the causes outlined by Aristotle.  One would need to look at the total of the Summa Theologica for the total of his proofs for the various attributes of God.

It would be hard to understate the impact Aristotle had on Church thinking.  Taking just one theological point as an example: the causes of justification.  The council of Trent (1945-63) listed five causes of Justification.  The final cause, the efficient cause, the meritorious cause, the instrumental cause, and the formal cause.  Aristotle’s causes are all but the meritorious one.

On a side note of history, the sole formal cause of justification is grace.  One of the rallying points of the early Protestants was Sola Gratia (a.k.a., Grace Alone) which Trent affirmed in its’ statement on the formal cause of grace.

The 5 solas of the reformation.

The 5 solas of the reformation.

Aristotle -> Aquinas -> Atheism, Part 7

Proof Five: Final Cause

The final cause of Aristotle is to consider what is a things end, purpose, or use.  The last proof revolved around form, and this one revolves around function or “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”.

Aristotle found acting upon ends is not simply the domain of humans, but even of nature.

“If, then, a swallow makes its nest and a spider its web both naturally and for some end, and if plants grow leaves for the sake of the fruit, and send roots down rather than up for the sake of nourishment, it evidently follows that this sort of cause is among things that come to be and are by nature.” (Physics, Book 2, 199a)

Further, things without awareness act to attain ends, “We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result” (Aquinas).  More simply put, a rock always falling when dropped is attaining its’ best result, its’ natural end.

The best result for everything but your car!

The best result for everything but your car!

Taken in it’s broadest form, this cause of Aristotle might be understood as: matter expresses itself according to the laws of physics; with Aquinas adding: laws need to be created by intelligence, whom we name “God”.

Dawkins response that we have evolution, and in this he misses the grandeur Aristotle.  Evolution does nothing to explain the four fundamental forces in the universe; or even more broadly: why do things follow laws at all?  Physics is great at noticing the laws, but has yet to take even the most rudimentary guess as to why laws exist.  Aristotle shows that air does not rise because of luck (as he notes Empedocles believes in Physics, Book II, 196a), but rather that all of nature acts out of principles (the laws which physicists discover).  Aquinas echoes this when he writes, “it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do [natural bodies] achieve their end”.  The designs of nature are enforced in laws, like that of gravity or magnetism.  These laws must have a source, just as other causes needed a source, and Christians similarly call this source of law God.

Aristotle -> Aquinas -> Atheism, Part 6

Proof 4: Degree

The argument from degree relates to the formal cause of Aristotle. The formal cause is the cause from form (think Platonic form). When a seed in a pine cone grows, it transforms to become more and more like the form of a pine tree. A newly conceived baby is less like the form of an adult human than a newborn baby is. Plants and animals grow to approximate their adult form.

But humans also grow in another way, they grow in goodness. Anyone with a toddler can attest to the fact that children aren’t very good.

"But I don't wanna share!"

“But I don’t wanna share!”

As we develop, we grow to approximate this goodness. Some of us are worse than others, but no one refrains from making any mistakes.

If you think you are perfect, just ask a cat.

If you think you are perfect, just ask grumpy cat.

What is the perfection or good we try to approximate as we grow? What is the form of good we strive to achieve? As my grandma used to say:

Good, better, best,
never let it rest;
’till your good is better,
and your better best.

We strive towards some concept of “good”, and Aquinas states Christians name this good “God”.

The sum of Dawkins response is:

That’s an argument? You might as well say, people vary in smelliness but we can make the comparison only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him God. Or substitute any dimension of comparison you like, and derive an equivalently fatuous conclusion.

In doing so, he misunderstands Aristotle and subsequently misunderstands Aquinas. Of course there is a platonic form of stinky. We use the word “Stinky” in a whole slew of situations because the word points to the form which the situation approximates. When you read the word “Tree”, a certain form of “tree”-ness pops into your head. For me, it looks something like this:

For me, this is a close approximation of the platonic form of "tree".

I think this is a close approximation of the platonic form of “tree”.

The argument Aquinas makes is that when I, as a Catholic, say “Good”, the form that pops into my head is God. That the form of God pops into my head shows the non-theistic philosophy of Aristotle doesn’t exclude God as some of the Muslim Philosophers thought. It is a proof God exists within the rational mind and within the framework of Aristotelian thought.

To digress upon the matter, it is clear that there is a good towards which people aim their lives.  Some have named that good “Family”, others “Comfort”, and still others label that good “Success”.  All these things are the abstract forms of what we actually accomplish in life.  The family is mutable: adoption, marriage, birth, and death all change the family while the form remains the same.  Comfort and success are similar.  I might have some comfort and success where I am at in life, but I might still strive for more or different comfort and success.  There is no limit or perfect expression of these goods on our earth.  No one argues these goods don’t exist, even if they are impossible to perfectly pin down or impossible to hold and see.  One man’s success might be becoming president, another’s might found in be being a house spouse.  One woman’s comfort might be found by having children, which might be the discomfort of another.  I cannot see externally the success or comfort that is being strived after.  The argument Aquinas makes is that a Catholic labels the good towards which we aim our life as “God”, rather than “Family” or “Money” or “Fame” or what have you.  That we have a unique label to describe a unique type of good we experience in our lives and that we strive after that good is proof that this good exists.  After all, how can we get closer to approximating something that doesn’t exist?  The degrees of goodness in our various lives therefore show we can approximate something, and that thing is what Catholics call God.

It is not a “fatuous conclusion” to draw because it is the reasoning power of Aristotle combined with the raw experience of life. A better way for Dawkins to disprove this proof would be to offer a better solution to the problem of universals than Plato and Aristotle had (i.e., find a way to to explain universals without recourse to platonic forms), or to expand upon Hitchens work to create a disconnect between God and good in my mind.  If it is shown that the good I am advancing towards has some characteristic incompatible with God, then it becomes easy to argue this proof is a failure.

Hopefully one might also see how this is a rather insufficient proof of God if one hasn’t already experienced God.  If the good I seek is “Money”, then I am not trying to get close to God but rather to cash.  This proof would then confirm wealth exists, rather than be proof that God exists.  That is hardly a winning argument if used to try to convert souls.

Clerical celibacy could end, but should it?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/opinion/keller-sex-and-the-single-priest.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I was given the above article by a friend, and it is really quite good.  It is about the potential of Popes to end clerical celibacy.  At root this is an issue of discipline rather than dogma, so unlike issues like women priests or same sex marriage, this could actually happen.

There is, however, one misstep and one point of ignorance that I thought would be wise to clear up for readers of this blog.

This misstep is that clerical celibacy has anything to do with the horrific sexual abuse scandal.  The article states “Celibacy — by breeding a culture of sexual exceptionalism and denial — surely played some role in the church’s shameful record of pedophilia”.  While intellectually plausible it is a claim that is empirically deniable.  In fact, there is some evidence that if we wanted to reduce pedophilia, we should all be celibate, as priests abuse at a lower rate than the general population.

Moving on, the point of ignorance is about the spiritual impact of the practice of celibacy.  The article states: “John told me that if celibacy had been optional back in the ’60’s, ‘most of us would have remained in active ministry’ (although ‘most of us would also have gotten in hot water’ over other disagreements with Vatican policy).”  The subtle message this gives is that priestly celibacy is still a good idea.  If permitted sexual license, heretical priests would have stayed in the church.  This subtly suggests that by demanding celibacy, only those truly committed to the ideals of Catholic Christendom stay within the fold.

Benjamin_Franklin_by_Joseph-Siffred_Duplessis

In part, this is the Benjamin Franklin effect.  By giving up sexual intercourse priests become more attached to the Church.  The more strict the demands are, the greater the attachment.  In demanding a lot from priests, the Church ends up with priests more committed to the goals of Christianity and more willing to self sacrifice to attain those goals.  These are good things, and the article seems to ignore the point that priestly celibacy has been good for the Church in this major way.

All together then, the article seems to ignore what science has to say about celibacy in favor of populist arguments.  Science says celibacy seems to reduce sexual abuse of minors and suggests that celibacy might increase devotion of priests to the the cause of our Faith — both good things.  The article, while correct that maybe it is time to end celibacy, sadly uses some arguments that contradict this research.