Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine September – October 2011
Dear Father Editor,
Despite being a long-standing follower of and contributor to this magazine, I feel I must express concern with the manner in which the May/June editorial dismissed the notion that "a drop" of the Redeemer's blood would have sufficed for our Redemption, describing the notion as "pious speculation", not "helpful", and not "true" (p.3). While I fully accept that the Faith synthesis is important in "helping to avoid a purely punitive and juridical view of the Redemption" (p.4) that sees the Cross as achieving "simply legal acquittal" (p.5), nonetheless, I cannot help but note that it is important that any development in our understanding of the Redemption be in continuity with the Catholic tradition.
That tradition includes St. Thomas's Adoro te devote hymn which refers to "a single drop" cleansing the entire world's guilt. More significantly, in terms of the Magisterium of the Church, the bull Unigenitus Dei Filius of Pope Clement VI (1343) teaches that, "he did not merely shed a drop of his blood -although this would have sufficed for the redemption of the whole human race because of the union with the Word -but a copious flood"(ND 643; DS 1025). The articulation of the Faith synthesis would benefit from better indicating how its teaching on this point develops rather than rejects the theology and teaching that has preceded it.
Fr Dylan James
Fr James raises some important points, both about the particular question and the wider discussion of a new synthesis of faith and reason within Catholic tradition. First we would note that we wrote that our opinions were given "under correction" and we would value further discussion in these pages and perhaps at the annual Faith Theological Symposium.
It would be very helpful in these matters if we still had the habit of using the old "notes of certainty" (ate fide, sententia fidei proxima, sententia communa, sententia pia etprobabilis etc). While only the "de fide" category ever had any formal agreed designation, they did perhaps, through their setting of parameters, allow for a freer debate with less risk of raising concerns about orthodoxy.
As to whether Christ could have saved us "by shedding just one drop of his blood", St. Thomas addresses the issue in the Tertia Pars q.46. His answer is typically careful and nuanced. The specific questions he asks in articles 1 & 2 are:
1. Whether it was necessary for Christ to suffer for the deliverance of the human race?
2. Whether there was any other possible way of human deliverance besides the Passion of Christ?
In discussing the second question he actually says:
"Since God could have liberated mankind solely by His Divine will, it does not seem fitting that Christ's Passion should have been added for the deliverance of the human race."
So, considered simply according to the omnipotence of God, not even one drop of blood nor any redemptive act would appear to be necessary. However, he answers this thought by quoting St. Augustine (De Trin. xiii): "There was no other more suitable way of healing our misery" than by the Passion of Christ. He then reconciles these two truths by saying that "many other things besides deliverance from sin concurred for man's salvation in that man was delivered by Christ's Passion".
Part of what he means by this had been made clearer in discussing article 1.
"That man should be delivered by Christ's Passion was in keeping with both His mercy and His justice. With His justice, because by His Passion Christ made satisfaction for the sin of the human race; and so man was set free by Christ's justice: and with His mercy, for since man of himself could not satisfy for the sin of all human nature ... God gave him His Son to satisfy for him, according to Romans 3:24-25: 'Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood.' And this came of more copious mercy than if He had forgiven sins without satisfaction. Hence it is said (Ephesians 2:4): 'God, who is rich in mercy, for His exceeding charity wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead insins, hath quickened us together in Christ.'
So the offence of sin could be forgone by God's free will, but the damage done to our nature and the restoration of God's glory in the glorification of man could not be achieved without real healing and a commensurate price being paid. Lest this be thought to limit God's power he argues that"... there are several acceptations of the word 'necessary'. In one way it means anything which of its nature cannot be otherwise; and in this way it is evident that it was not necessary either on the part of God or on the part of man for Christ to suffer. In another sense a thing may be necessary from some cause quite apart from itself; and should this be either an efficient or a moving cause then it brings about the necessity of compulsion ... It was not necessary, then, for Christ to sufferfrom necessity of compulsion, either on God's part, who ruled that Christ should suffer, or on Christ's own part, who suffered voluntarily. Yet it was necessary from necessity of the end proposed." (He cites John 3:14, Luke 24:26, Luke 22:22, Luke 24:44-46 as witness to that necessity in the plan of salvation for the Passion and Cross of the Lord).
He would surely not intend the poetic expression he employs in the Adoro Te Devote to override these theological and scriptural points he makes in the Summa. Its use in that hymn, which surely does have a revered place in Catholic tradition, and its use inter alia in a papal Bull which first clarified the teaching on indulgences, expresses the infinite value of every aspect of Our Lord's humanity and the superabundant merit of his Passion. But as often repeated, it could sound as if the sufferings of Christ were merely a melodrama unrelated to the gravity of sin and the degradation of human nature. This is what we think is not helpful or true. When we understand that the Incarnation is the very template of humanity and its principle of glorification anddivinisation, then the impact of sin upon the humanity of Christ as he gives himself to be our satisfaction and plenary redemption with the Father becomes a necessity in the precise sense that St. Thomas Aquinas explains.
EXPLAINING WHY PRIESTS ARE MALE
Dear Father Editor,
I read your well put together July/August issue with great eagerness. Joanna Bogle's article on feminism was very interesting. What I would like to see is a full exploration into all the reasons why a woman cannot be a priest - written by both a woman and a man. I get constant questions about this issue from all kinds of people including devout Catholics.
Fr Augustine Hoey
Dear Father Editor,
I was a little disappointed that in your July/August editorial: "Science and Religion: Is Synthesis Possible?", you used the oft misquoted quote of Galileo, "the Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go". This can indeed be found in "A" level Religion and Philosophy revision books, and does little to help us combat the polemic of the gulf between Religion and Science.
It is worth giving Galileo's quote in full. He said, in referring to the Holy Spirit's intent in inspiring the Bible, "it is clear from a churchman who has been elevated to a very eminent position that the Holy Spirit's intention is to teach us how to go to Heaven, and not how the heavens go." It is widely believed that that churchman was Galileo's contemporary, the "elevated" Oratorian, Cesare Baronio.
That it was a churchman and not Galileo, is significant. Perhaps, such information can start as a very useful first stepping-stone in a more meaningful engagement with the scientific community, many of whom are people of religious beliefs. It would be wonderful if we could once again elevate theology to its rightful position as Queen of the Sciences.
FAITH AND REASON IN 'DIFFERENT LEAGUES'?
Dear Father Editor,
By attempting to synthesise faith and science you have unavoidably brought them to the same level. This is, I presume, not your intention but it will be perceived that way. Syntheses are usually between more or less equal things, and your stance on this cannot but encourage the prevailing belief that science has replaced religion as a superior explanation of everything. You do not help to correct this terrible error by putting science, and in particular evolution, up there with faith. The trouble with the Church today is too much accommodation to secular values which are, of course, much influenced by the rise of science. Incidentally I think that the phrase "right relationship" is more suitable than "synthesis".
You do not seem to fully appreciate the sublime supernatural knowledge that faith can bring to us compared to earthbound natural science; the two things are in different leagues. "Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge", (I Co1 2:3).
The people who know far more about this than academics are the mystics: hear some of their thoughts on the role of natural intelligence.
St. John of the Cross puts the reasoning faculty far below faith. In the Dark Night of the Soul reason is deliberately discarded as an actual impediment to attaining real knowledge of theology, (understood in the sense of an experiential encounter with God, not words). He thus, far from synthesising, severs the connection completely.
St. Teresa of Avila in one of her ecstasies, regarded her thinking and imaginative faculties as troublesome little dogs snapping at her ankles. Thomas Merton says that, for the soul in the life and death struggle of some phases of the advanced spiritual life, any kind of rationalisations are absurd luxuries. St. Paul soon gave up trying to "synthesise" with the Athenians and determined to preach "Jesus and him crucified" only. And isn't God executed as a criminal about as unreasonable as you can get, both to stone age and modern scientifically sophisticated men?
In the Bible the mere use of the brain gets short shrift; "What man by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?" (Matt.6:27). "Receive him that is weak in the faith but not given to doubtful disputation" (Rom.14:1). Our faith can look down on science from another realm and see exactly where it fits into the scheme of things, but reason cannot even begin to penetrate into the territory of faith and love. One thinks of St. Augustine's classic dream of the small boy trying to empty the ocean into his little hole in the sand.
I think that your endeavours are excessively intellectual to the detriment of faith and the answer to the editor's question as to whether your desired synthesis is possible is a resounding "no".