Responding to the Papal Call: Caritas in Edward Holloway

Editorial FAITH Magazine March-April 2010

“Development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God."
Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate 11

“Let man seek for and recognise his own personal Law of Life, for man is not his own God and without God he is the tragic fool of all nature."
Catholicism, a New Synthesis, (p. 3J1)

“Lose a sense of God and the sense of man will be quickly lost."
Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

Several times recently Pope Benedict has spoken of the "urgent" need for a "new humanist synthesis" in order to resolve "the succession of crises that afflict the world today" (Caritas in Veritate, CiV, para. 21, cf. our last and current Road from Regensburg column).

The disintegration of community cohesion and family life is, sadly, a well documented fact in the technologically developed world. One could also argue that the cohesion of the family of humankind at the level of international relations has been equally problematic over the last hundred years.

At the beginning of Chapter Five of CiV, "The Cooperation of the Human Family", Pope Benedict analyses the cause of this breakdown as the rejection of the God-centred, relational nature of man:

"One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation. [...] Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God's love, by man's basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself, thinking himself to be self-sufficient or merely an insignificant and ephemeral fact, a 'stranger' in a random universe. [...] Pope Paul VI noted that 'the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking'. He was making an observation, but also expressing a wish: a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; [...] a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. [...] metaphysics and theology [are] needed if man's transcendent dignity is to be properly understood." (n.53).

We thus urgently need "a metaphysical interpretation of the humanum in which relationality is an essential element" (n.54). David Schindler of the Washington John Paul II Institute argues that "The implications of the constitutive relationality affirmed in CiV are stunning." (See our current Road from Regensburg column).

New Developments

The Pope makes a couple of specific contributions to this proposed "new humanistic synthesis", both new emphases for the magisterium (see Edward Hadas's piece later in this issue). In Chapter Three he proposes the theme of "gratuitousness" as fundamental to man's life and self-conscious knowing, and so to the just balance of market and state. And in Chapter Six he affirms the crucial place of a proper interpretation of technology. At the end of that Chapter he calls us to develop "new eyes and a new heart, capable of rising above a materialistic vision of human events" (n.77, his emphasis, as with all such quotes below). Schindler notes "the encyclical's call for a new trajectory of thinking informed by the principles of gratuitousness and relationality, metaphysically andtheologically conceived", as well as "integrating" technology "into the idea of creation as something first given to man, as gift, 'not something self-generated' (n.68), or produced by man."

In his 1970 book, Catholicism, A New Synthesis - a title that resonates strongly with Pope Benedict's phrase quoted above - Fr. Edward Holloway recognised the crisis of relationship at the heart of modernity: "... the heart of belonging and surety of being loved and wanted has gone out of human society" (p.355, Catholicism: A New Synthesis, Faith-Keyway, CNS). He also offered the outlines of a philosophical and theological "new synthesis", which, in our view, meets all the CiV criteria we have just noted.

Holloway made relationality central to his new metaphysics, partly because it is central to the constitution of "matter" as rediscovered by modern science and technology (see our editorials for Sept 2006 and July 2009). For Holloway, to be is to be in relationship. Not only is all material being mutually correlative within the equation that is the universe, he defines matter as that which relates to Transcendent Mind as its source of being, meaning and finality. At the peak of that unfolding equation, matter is gathered into ontological unity with directly created spirit to form human nature, which exists in direct and personal relationship to God who is the Living Environment of grace and providence for every human being and for mankind as a whole. For all created being, inHolloway's vision, is in the irreducible relationship of being known by God.

The crowning glory of that relationship, and of every material relativity too, is the gift of the Incarnation when God the eternal Word takes human nature - material body and spiritual soul - to himself in ontological and personal (hypostatic) union. In Christ we can see revealed with total clarity how the whole cosmos, and every aspect of creaturely existence, depends on the gratuitous love, yet utterly coherent Wisdom of the Creator. Through such a vision the metaphysics of relationality and gift proposed by CiV can be rooted once again in physics, and at the same time be put at the service of a renewed Christ-centred theology and catechesis.

Modern Neurosis

If it is true, as Holloway argues, that the very foundations of matter and the identity of human nature are aligned upon the coming of the Word made flesh, then a society which is uncertain about the existence of God and whether Man has any meaning or purpose must be subject to crisis, alienation and chaos even more inevitably than CiV is able to show. It will be starved of the bread that nourishes Life and life more abundant within the individual heart and mind; it is cut off from the life-blood that sustains true social progress. The bonds of trust that bind communities together in shared faith, hope and charity will be corroded from within as human nature itself withers like branches detached from the Vine. (See the Pope's 11 January powerful words about the Berlin Wall in currentRoad from Regensburg column).

If people are uncertain about God as the source of their own identity and fulfilment, they are bound to be more uncertain about relationships with one another.

The "opium of the people" is not religion, but any philosophy which denies God as a principle of man's inner well-being and communal destiny. Opium, like its modern equivalent heroin, produced a temporary pleasure that ends in nausea and self destruction. That is also the fruit of any ideology which denies the spiritual nature and supernatural vocation of Man. Holloway described the children of modern liberalism as "serfs of the Freudian overlord". Regarded at the time of publication as negative and pessimistic, these words now have the grim ring of truth:

"It is the personalities marked in the features which so appal: the way of life so meaningless, the sensualism so without love, the pathless drift, the degradation of the image of God so without hope. Over it all is the angry scorn for their very selves. This last is virtue, it is God's own ironic triumph upon their seducers. This is an act of contrition wrung from outraged nature for its own detestable corruption, and God will accept it unto a state of grace." (p.359)

The Social and Religious Nature of Man and of Creation

According to Schindler, the most "stunning" implication of CiV's anthropology is that "no relations taken up by human beings in the course of their lives are purely contractual." Holloway makes the same point. He says that the family is the primary unit of community because all human relationships derive from the familial bond within which we minister being and existence to one another. Chesterton called the family "the small state founded on the sexes [which] is at once the most voluntary and the most natural of all self-governing states." {The Superstition of Divorce, p.23).

All social institutions, including the state, are in one way or another the extension of the family - of mutual dependence and belonging - which is ontological, not just functional or extrinsic. This is why the state is a legitimate organ of human organisation, but it is also why the state derives its authority upwards from the individual and the family, via intermediate groups and institutions, and not the other way round.

We can see in this the traditional Catholic balance between solidarity and subsidiarity (cf. CiV Chapter Five), but again Holloway goes further. The whole of nature is 'social' in character, the very term 'environment' implying ontological inter-definition and mutual belonging. Human society is the natural outgrowth and expression of human nature which, like all created natures, is set within the Unity Law of Control and Direction, which is his new name for and conception of the Natural Law. But humanity is spiritual as well as physical, and so human society is founded on the absolute value of the individual and the need for a direct relationship with God as the Environment in which men find their Life-Law and their fulfilment:

"The institutions of men are, by analogy, the sacramentalisation of society in the natural relations of men one to another, and thus even the civic institutions of men, to be totally focused, must embody something of this underlying relationship to God as the source of human truth and the dynamism of natural human happiness." (p.356)

Society, then, is the total human framework within which men administer control and direction to each other from God, acknowledged and loved in their personal consciences. And the Church, by corollary, is the public and objective body of relationships by which God ministers life and life more abundantly to men through one another in Christ.

No True Humanism Without Christ

The Incarnation was intended to bring about the perfection of the individual and of human society through the integration of the whole human race as a family which takes its name from God the Father. This consummation of life on earth is delayed and resisted by the incursion of sin, yet, for all the struggles, setbacks and betrayals, the defining goal of creation and of human history remains - the bringing together under Christ as head of all, everything in heaven and on earth. This was never meant to be just an "other worldly" reality.

The cosmic and eschatological synthesis sketched in Caritas in Veritate is remarkably similar:

"God is the guarantor of man's true development, inasmuch as, having created him in his image, he also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds their innate yearning to 'be more'. Man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God's creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom he has always loved." (n.29)

This plan for man is centred upon Christ, who "reveals to us in all its fullness the initiative of love and the plan for true life that God has prepared for us" (n.1). It is written into nature which

''expresses a design of love and truth. It is prior to us, and it has been given to us by God as the setting for our life. Nature speaks to us of the Creator (cf. Rom 1:20) and his love for humanity. It is destined to be 'recapitulated' in Christ at the end of time (cf. Eph 1:9-10; Col 1:19-20)" (n.48).

Charity and Community - Relationships as Gift

CiV speaks of human relationships coming under the "logic of gratuitousness", [1] a gratuity which is another name for the Caritas which even more profoundly marks all God's dealings with us.

The greatest expression of Caritas as gift and relationship lies in the Eucharist, which is why the "holy communion" of God with men is realised most fully on earth among those gathered around the altar for the Eucharist.

For Holloway, the Eucharist not only feeds the personal love of God as a living experience, it also engenders love and care for others in the measure that we are conformed to the personality of Christ whom we have received. Holloway often emphasised, too, how all our loves, concerns and charitable efforts are brought back to the Eucharist as an offering to the Father through the hands of the priest, to be united, to be purified and perfected in Christ.

True love, of whatever kind, will take delight in all that is good, which means all that is of Christ in the Holy Spirit, which is why it finds its true home and its wellspring in the great offering of Love that is the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Personal communion with God through grace will always lead to a social love, as witnessed in the lives of the saints, although in different kinds and degrees, whatever a person's state of life. For,

"the first requirement is not to write books on wisdom or to address men over the television. Until the end of time men will be nourished and fostered in personality only in the attention of a truly individual love." (p.352)

The Interplay of State and Church in God's Plan

The state, then, is ultimately based on these natural and supernatural relationships which make us human and children of God. The authority of the state derives upwards from the communion of men under God, in God and with God via intermediate groups and institutions, not the other way around.

St Thomas Aquinas recognised that all citizens should have some share and say in government, whether the system be a monarchy, aristocracy or some variety of electoral democracy (ST. I-II Q.105 art. I). Today the Church upholds the value of democracy because it maximises the participation of individuals in social development and is seen as the best way to hold politicians to account (cf. Centesimus Annus 46). However the democratic process cannot determine or alter fundamental human values or truths. Democracy is the pooling of individual free choices at a given moment in history and those choices are still circumscribed by the Law of God (cf. Evangelium Vitae 70).

Catholic social teaching does not advocate the identification of Church and state, but neither can the sacred and secular be absolutely separated. In effect that would mean the elimination of God from human history. That is of course the real intention of the secular humanist.

In an address to the Diplomatic Corps assigned to the Vatican on the 11 January last, Pope Benedict criticised any notion of "secularly" which

"den[ies] the social importance of religion. Such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology [...] There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility."

Like the family, the Church is not the creation of the state. It has its own divine origin and its own natural place at the heart of the human community under the Unity Law of Control and Direction. The Church does not claim independence from or immunity from the rule of local laws. However, when laws are passed which infringe fundamental human values like the right to life of the unborn, or the privileges and duties of the Church, which are God given (e.g. the right of the Pope to appoint bishops), this is without any legitimacy. For "the usurpation of the authority of God in society by the power of the state is essentially the transfer of the divine Life-giving environment to the creature." (p.377)

One Lord, One Church, One World

One final point that follows from this line of thought, which is also common to both Holloway and Pope Benedict, is that just as the Incarnation has already unified the family of man in a new way, society needs structures of government that reflect its increasingly globalised unity. For Holloway this flows from the fact that "in a mysterious way, God has united himself to every man" {Gaudium et Spes 22), and this unity is also a visible, social reality in the Body of Christ which is the Church. As "Christendom" was to medieval Europe, so a federation of all nations and races needs to be forged for the good governance of the world.

The Pope has been criticised by some prominent Catholics for saying that

"In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, [...] that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth". (CiV, n.67)

A better translation of those last three words would seem to be "become a concrete reality", but the intention is clear. As we have become a global community of communities, so humanity needs to be organised and governed as a single "family of nations".

Holloway wrote that:
"Man, who began as one community of origin under the blessing of God, is destined at the consummation of human society to find again the same unity and community in one society on earth. Eventually this will need a governmental centre which is the supreme authority of a federated world." (p.481)

As CiV points out, such an

"authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth" (n.34).

Clearly, there are many factors in our current social and political climate which threaten to subvert this aim and impose a secularist, anti-life agenda on the global community. Yet the Pope does not decry the idea and aim of an international government for that reason. Rather he warns of the consequences of excluding the voice of God from the commonwealth of nations and urges us not to lose hope that the Christian vision of Man in Christ can be realised in the modern world.


For Pope Benedict and for Holloway, the Church is the sacramentalisation in history of the natural relationship of humanity to God. The Church belongs at the heart of the human village as naturally as the marketplace and the town hall. The Church embodies a "dynamic relationship [of God to men] not an intervention" (p.373). Despite frequent opposition and persecution through the ages, she will not fail in the one thing necessary: "to bring forth his children in her womb through Christ, to dedicate them as sons and daughters acceptable at the font and at the altar." (p.353).

Church and state are co-relative, transcendent and immanent powers, directed to foster the good of men. Caritas in Veritate makes it startlingly clear that the call to change how we live as individuals, as communities and as a human family is unintelligible without a coherent vision of human identity and destiny. Secular humanism lacks any such vision, making every man the subjective measure of his own truth and destiny.

Pope Benedict highlights the inherent freedom and relationality of human nature to underpin a renewed social vision of Man in Christ. Holloway would concur with this, but goes further, rooting his Christian anthropology in the intrinsic relationality of all being, including the material creation. He can show a continuity of principle running through the material cosmos that leads to the body and brain of man. It is a principle of interrelativity in control and direction, meaning and purpose that relates the whole cosmos to the Mind of God as Creator. It also makes perfect sense of the direct creation of the human soul at the peak of the development of life on earth. Man is thereby made as a single living being in two orders - material and spiritual - whose true environment and finaldestiny lies in a freely given and freely received relationship of grace with God. That relationship is perfected, and also redeemed from the disaster of sin, in the ultimate gift of love which is Christ crucified and risen. In him alone, above all in the Eucharist, do we find the key to love: the vision, the wisdom and the energy we need to build a civilisation of love.

[1] 'Mostly in chapter three — see the article by Edward Hadas in this issue. David Schindler also identifies: "the encyclical's central category of relation as gift". In our September editorial we looked at some implications of the idea of truth as a " gift received" (CiV, 34 & 77) but apart from Stratford Caldecott and Tracey Rowland, very few have taken up this profound idea from Pope Benedict's encyclical (See our November Road from Regensburg).

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