Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine March - April 2008
RECENT UNDERMINING OF THE FAMILY
Dear Father Editor,
John Deighan is to be commended for the accuracy of his analysis “Undermining the Family-Where are we at?” (Nov-Dec 2007). The erosion by stealth of a common language defining the innate dignity of human sexuality has been clear for those with eyes to see. Spiritual vision is granted to us all with the eyes of faith. Open our eyes wide we must to this creeping threat to the domestic church if we are not to wake up in the middle of a nightmare landscape from which our children cannot hide. Let us not forget the words of Pope John Paul II as he elevated St. Edith Stein to the rank of co-patroness of Europe, warning: “A Europe, that would change the value of tolerance and universal respect into ethical indifferentism and scepticism about values that cannot be forsaken, would openitself to most risky ventures and sooner or later it would see appearing in new forms the most dreadful phantoms of its own history”. I look forward to seeing John Deighan’s proposals to combat such political demons.
Director, Department for Pastoral Affairs
Diocese of Westminster
ECONOMICS’ PRE-ENLIGHTENMENT ROOTS
Dear Father Editor,
Many thanks for Edward Hadas’ very interesting article in the November-December 2007 edition of Faith. The history of social sciences, certainly of economics, however, may not be quite so dubious as he portrays.
I am not sure of the significance of the word “modern” in Mr Hadas’ contention that “the modern study of economics was started by Adam Smith”. The study of economics, in fact, goes back considerably earlier to the late scholastics of the Catholic Church. The matter is explained by Alejandro Chafuen in his too little known book “Faith and Liberty: The Economic Thought of the Late Scholastics,” first published in 1986 with a second edition in 2003. From the late fifteenth century the theologians of the Church began to reflect upon the “new things” in the social order of their times, in this case the emergence of the modern business economy – trade, commerce, credit, banking and industry. Questions of a “just price” were paramount and the scholastics can be credited with discoveringthe principles of the market determination of prices. Chafuen shows how Adam Smith took his cue in a direct line of intellectual descent from these thinkers.
Thus, modern economics, like the modern business economy, is not the dubious result of a secular Enlightenment, but the fruit of European Christendom and the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. They are part of our Catholic heritage.
Of course what has happened to Economics since Adam Smith is another story and closely related perhaps with what has happened to the modern academy, something else we inherited from the Middle Ages but seem now to have wrecked.
In any event Adam Smith himself deserves a better press. He was primarily not an economist but a moral philosopher. Even so his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nationsis a remarkable work which deserves respect both as an enquiry and as an argument for economic liberty.
The way to engage our contemporaries who do not share our faith is by means of rational and dispassionate argument based on that tradition of Natural Law which we share with all except those who today would seek to abandon the use of reason itself. Edward Hadas makes a very good start on this road but we should not dismiss all secular thinking simply because it is secular.
Rev (Deacon) John Greenwood
UNITY LAW CONTRA POST-MODERNISM
Dear Father Editor,
One of our students recently introduced Our Lady’s School of Evangelisation to the approach of the Faith Movement and to Fr. Edward Holloway’s book Catholicism: A New Synthesis. This included using some of Fr. Holloways’ ideas during our Youth Outreaches to second level students here in Ireland.
I was struck by the following extract from your Magazine’s recent editorial (Nov-Dec ’07) concerning the failure of secular humanism which “seeks to exclude God from public policy as an irrelevance, an interference in humanity’s autonomous self-development without any vision of meaning and value ... The truth is that for all its noisy propaganda atheistic humanism has nothing positive to offer humanity. And we have it in our power to do so much more than merely resist and refute the march of secularism. We hold in our own unworthy grasp the treasure that humanity longs and searches for. We have a duty to offer it again to the world in the clearest and most convincing way possible”.
All the more reason for the second evangelisation called for by Pope John II. God bless your work among the youth of the U.K. which is so much needed.
Yours Faithfully Eleanor Healy Co-Founder, Our Lady’s School of Evangelisation Knock Co Mayo Ireland
Dear Father Editor,
I write to congratulate you on the November/December edition of Faith. I have been a subscriber since the early days, and I found this one of the best editions ever produced, with a number of articles that deserve very wide circulation and attention. I was reminded of Faithin the 1970’s with articles by Dom David Knowles on Humanae Vitae.
Lest anyone think I am praising my own efforts, let me say that I should be very pleased if my own modest book review could be seen as a footnote to some of the outstanding articles.
Dear Father Editor,
Thank you for your strengthening and reassuring magazine. The post-modernism which you recently highlighted is of course infecting much of academic study. For example undergraduate English has for a decade or so been preoccupied with so-called underlying assumptions concerning gender, class, race, sexual orientation etc.. Some virtually pornographic texts are not infrequently required reading. The ramifications for students, not least our own young Catholics, seem significant.
Miss Robina Knewstub
TERTULLIAN AND ORTHODOX DOCTRINE ON THE FLESH
Dear Father Editor
, Gerard McKay’s ongoing concern about the trustworthiness, perhaps even the orthodoxy of any text that cites Tertullian’s famous dictum “the flesh is the hinge of salvation” ( caro cardo salutis est) is surely misplaced (Letters, Nov-Dec 07). The Catechism of the Catholic Church itself includes precisely this quotation (CCC 1015) giving explicit reference to Tertullian’s De Ressurectione Mortuorum as witness to the Church’s optimism about the goodness of body.
In fact The Catechism also includes another reference to Tertullian’s works (CCC 228 citing his Adversus Marcion, in favour of God’s unicity). The Magisterium is clearly using Tertullian’s lucid and succinct style from his Catholic writings to express the ancient orthodoxy of the Apostolic faith on these points without in any way endorsing his other, heretical, views.
In any case, to debate about Tertullian’s (well known) doctrinal meanderings and fall from grace is to miss the point. Tertullian is not being used as a doctrinal foundation. The issue is only whether the thought neatly expressed by “caro cardo salutis” sums up the general patristic view of the place of the flesh in God’s saving plans. A modicum of knowledge of the Fathers assures one that it does
. St Irenaeus, for example, has the following:
“...as it is certainly in the power of a mother to give strong food to her infant, but the child is not yet able to receive more substantial nourishment; so it was possible for God to have made man perfect from the first, but man could not receive this [perfection], being as yet an infant. And for this cause our Lord in these last times, when He had ‘summed up all things into Himself’ (cf. Eph 1.3), came to us, not as He might have come, but as we were capable of beholding Him. He might easily have come to us in His immortal glory, but in that case we could never have endured the greatness of the glory; and therefore it was that He, who was the perfect bread of the Father, offered Himself to us as milk, as to infants. He did this when He appeared as a man, and nourished us, as itwere, from the breast of His flesh. By such a course of milk nourishment we become accustomed to eat and drink the Word of God and may be able also to contain in ourselves the Bread of immortality, which is the Spirit of the Father”. ( Adversus HaeresesBook IV, Chapter 38).
In other words, the earthly, matter-bound origin of human nature calls forth God’s greatest act of loving care and humility – the Incarnation of God the Word through which humanity is united to Godhead in a union more intimate than with any other creature and gradually raised to immortality. Through man’s need, therefore, the Incarnation is the crowning glory of the whole creation. Or to put that the other way round, God created Man – and by implication the whole material order to which he belongs – in order to glorify his Son. All flesh is ordered towards God incarnate in whom human beings are perfected and glorified, body and soul.
The mystery of the Eucharist also flows directly from the plan of the Incarnation which is primarily about the “divinisation” of man in Christ. Redemption from sin and undoing the effects of the fall are only possible for man because human identity already “hinges” on Christ through the flesh. There can be little doubt that this is the earliest patristic theology which is still taught explicitly in the Eastern Church. Neither is it alien to the traditions of the West. At the height of the Counter Reformation St Francis de Sales taught exactly this perspective in his Treatise on the Love of God. St John of the Cross also expressed the same thought in his mystical poems on the Divine Marriage.
Many other saintly authorities could be quoted, but one hopes that this helps to reassure those who, in the current climate of tension, have been made nervous and perhaps over cautious about what truly belongs to the orthodox tradition of the Church. I’m sure we can all agree that the Catechism can be taken as an authentic guide.
A brother of Charterhouse
IMMIGRANTS MASK THE DEPTH OF DECLINE
Dear Father Editor,
William Oddie’s article in the latest (Jan-Feb 2008) FaithMagazine raises interesting issues.
He refers to “about half a million more Roman Catholics in this country than five years ago” who have come here from Eastern Europe. This made me compare the statistics for 1999 and 2006 in the Catholic Directory for England & Wales. Statistics are notoriously misleading but, in the light of these figures, the supposed extra half-million Catholics increase the gloom implicit in Oddie’s comments. I discovered that 585 Catholic Churches have been closed (c. 17\%), that the estimated total population of Catholics is roughly constant at 4.1 million and that Mass attendance has diminished by 114,574 (from c. 1042K to 927K). If there has been an influx of 500K practising Catholics in Britain many of those should be part of the 2006 figures. The numbers who have lapsed from theirCatholic faith in the seven years from 1999 would appear to be significantly more serious than we might suppose.
There is a striking image, in the middle of Psalm 105, relevant to our extraordinary epoch in which so many Christians are abandoning their religion and Europe’s Christian heritage has been publicly rejected. The situation is similar to how the Israelites apostasised 3000 years ago:
They failed to destroy the peoples As the Lord had commanded But instead they mingled with the nations And learned to act as they did They worshiped the idols of the nations And these became a snare to entrap them.
Christian evangelisation campaigns are clearly unable to compete with the godless messages preached all day and every day on the TV, radio and in printed media. Furthermore Europe’s Christians are confronted with new laws which demand conformity with immoral behaviour and a ‘political correctness’ which contradicts the Gospel.
William Oddie expresses very succinctly the dismay of many Catholics at the apparent complacency of our Bishops; one can only hope they may be defending the Catholic Faith in hidden ways and in prayer.
Recourse to Blessed Pope John XXIII’s opening prayer of the Second Vatican Council may be apposite:
“Almighty God! In Thee we place all our confidence not trusting in our own strength. Graciously hear the prayers which we pour forth. O Mary, Help of Christians and all the Saints, intercede for us. Jesus, our Redeemer and Immortal King, to you be love, power and glory for ever”.