Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 309-314, 324 – God’s Providence and the Problem of Evil

clock November 16, 2012 01:02 by author John |

The Catechism sections for today delve into the problem of evil. The supplemental material comes from St. Thomas Aquinas’ other “Summa”, the “Summa Contra Gentiles”.

Providence and the scandal of evil

309 If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.

310 But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better.174 But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world "in a state of journeying" towards its ultimate perfection. In God's plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.175

311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.176 He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:

For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.177

312 In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: "It was not you", said Joseph to his brothers, "who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive."178 From the greatest moral evil ever committed - the rejection and murder of God's only Son, caused by the sins of all men - God, by his grace that "abounded all the more",179 brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good.

313 "We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him."180 The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth:

St. Catherine of Siena said to "those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them": "Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind."181

St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: "Nothing can come but that that God wills. and I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best."182

Dame Julian of Norwich: "Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith... and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time - that 'all manner (of) thing shall be well.'"183

314 We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God "face to face",184 will we fully know the ways by which - even through the dramas of evil and sin - God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest185 for which he created heaven and earth.

IN BRIEF

324 The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.

In “Summa Contra Gentiles” (3, 71), St. Thomas Aquinas explains how evil can exist in the world even though God is perfect:

That Divine Providence Does Not Entirely Exclude Evil From Things

[1] Now, from these conclusions it becomes evident that divine providence, whereby He governs things, does not prevent corruption, deficiency, and evil from being found in things.

[2] Indeed, divine governance, whereby God works in things, does not exclude the working of secondary causes, as we have already shown. Now, it is possible for a defect to happen in an effect, because of a defect in the secondary agent cause, without there being a defect in the primary agent. For example, in the case of the product of a perfectly skilled artisan, some defect may occur because of a defect in his instrument. And again, in the case of a man whose motive power is strong, he may limp as a result of no defect in his bodily power to move, but because of a twist in his leg bone. So, it is possible, in the case of things made and governed by God, for some defect and evil to be found, because of a defect of the secondary agents, even though there be no defect in God Himself.

[3] Moreover, perfect goodness would not be found in created things unless. there were an order of goodness in them, in the sense that some of them are better than others. Otherwise, all possible grades of goodness would not be realized, nor would any creature be like God by virtue of holding a higher place than another. The highest beauty would be taken away from things, too, if the order of distinct and unequal things were removed. And what is more, multiplicity would be taken away from things if inequality of goodness were removed, since through the differences by which things are distinguished from each other one thing stands out as better than another; for instance, the animate in relation to the inanimate, and the rational in regard to the irrational. And so, if complete equality were present in things, there would be but one created good, which clearly disparages the perfection of the creature. Now, it is a higher grade of goodness for a thing to be good because it cannot fall from goodness; lower than that is the thing which can fall from goodness. So, the perfection of the universe requires both grades of goodness. But it pertains to the providence of the governor to preserve perfection in the things governed, and not to decrease it. Therefore, it does not pertain to divine goodness, entirely to exclude from things the power of falling from the good. But evil is the consequence of this power, because what is able to fall does fall at times. And this defection of the good is evil, as we showed above. Therefore, it does not pertain to divine providence to prohibit evil entirely from things.

Footnotes

174 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 25, 6.
175 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, SCG III, 71.
176 Cf. St. Augustine, De libero arbitrio I, 1, 2: PL 32, 1221- 1223; St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 79, 1.
177 St. Augustine, Enchiridion II, 3: PL 40, 236.
178 ⇒ Gen 45:8; ⇒ 50:20; cf. Tob 2:12 (Vulgate).
179 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:20.
180 ⇒ Rom 8:28.
181 St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue IV, 138 "On Divine Providence".
182 The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, ed. Elizabeth F. Rogers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947), letter 206, lines 661-663.
183 Julian of Norwich, the Revelations of Divine Love, tr. James Walshe SJ (London: 1961), ch. 32, 99-100.
184 ⇒ I Cor 13:12.
185 Cf. ⇒ Gen 2:2.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 302-308, 321-323 – Divine Providence

clock November 15, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Divine Providence – God’s plan for creation. Supplemental material comes from Lactantius’ “Epitome of the Divine Institutes” and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.

V. GOD CARRIES OUT HIS PLAN: DIVINE PROVIDENCE

302 Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created "in a state of journeying" (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call "divine providence" the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection:

By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, "reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well". For "all are open and laid bare to his eyes", even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures.161

303 The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases."162 and so it is with Christ, "who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens".163 As the book of Proverbs states: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established."164

304 And so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes. This is not a "primitive mode of speech", but a profound way of recalling God's primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world,165 and so of educating his people to trust in him. The prayer of the Psalms is the great school of this trust.166

305 Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children's smallest needs: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?". . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well."167

Providence and secondary causes

306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan.

307 To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of "subduing" the earth and having dominion over it.168 God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors. Though often unconscious collaborators with God's will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers and their sufferings.169 They then fully become "God's fellow workers" and co-workers for his kingdom.170

308 The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."171 Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes."172 Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace.173

IN BRIEF

321 Divine providence consists of the dispositions by which God guides all his creatures with wisdom and love to their ultimate end.

322 Christ invites us to filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father (cf ⇒ Mt 6:26-34), and St. Peter the apostle repeats: "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you" (⇒ I Pt 5:7; cf. ⇒ Ps 55:23).

323 Divine providence works also through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the ability to co-operate freely with his plans.

Lactantius in the “Epitome of the Divine Institutes”, writes about the necessity of Divine Providence:

Chapter 1.— Of the Divine Providence.

First a question arises: Whether there is any providence which made or governs the world? That there is, no one doubts, since of almost all the philosophers, except the school of Epicurus, there is but one voice and one opinion, that the world could not have been made without a contriver, and that it cannot exist without a ruler. Therefore Epicurus is refuted not only by the most learned men, but also by the testimonies and perceptions of all mortals. For who can doubt respecting a providence, when he sees that the heavens and the earth have been so arranged and that all things have been so regulated, that they might be most befittingly adapted, not only to wonderful beauty and adornment, but also to the use of men, and the convenience of the other living creatures? That, therefore, which exists in accordance with a plan, cannot have had its beginning without a plan: thus it is certain that there is a providence.

St. Thomas Aquinas addresses the providence of God in the Summa Theologica (1, 22):

Article 1. Whether providence can suitably be attributed to God?

Objection 1. It seems that providence is not becoming to God. For providence, according to Tully (De Invent. ii), is a part of prudence. But prudence, since, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 5,9,18), it gives good counsel, cannot belong to God, Who never has any doubt for which He should take counsel. Therefore providence cannot belong to God.

Objection 2. Further, whatever is in God, is eternal. But providence is not anything eternal, for it is concerned with existing things that are not eternal, according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 29). Therefore there is no providence in God.

Objection 3. Further, there is nothing composite in God. But providence seems to be something composite, because it includes both the intellect and the will. Therefore providence is not in God.

On the contrary, It is said (Wisdom 14:3): "But Thou, Father, governest all things by providence [Vulg. But 'Thy providence, O Father, governeth it.']."

I answer that, It is necessary to attribute providence to God. For all the good that is in created things has been created by God, as was shown above (Question 6, Article 4). In created things good is found not only as regards their substance, but also as regards their order towards an end and especially their last end, which, as was said above, is the divine goodness (21, 4). This good of order existing in things created, is itself created by God. Since, however, God is the cause of things by His intellect, and thus it behooves that the type of every effect should pre-exist in Him, as is clear from what has gone before (19, 4), it is necessary that the type of the order of things towards their end should pre-exist in the divine mind: and the type of things ordered towards an end is, properly speaking, providence. For it is the chief part of prudence, to which two other parts are directed--namely, remembrance of the past, and understanding of the present; inasmuch as from the remembrance of what is past and the understanding of what is present, we gather how to provide for the future. Now it belongs to prudence, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 12), to direct other things towards an end whether in regard to oneself--as for instance, a man is said to be prudent, who orders well his acts towards the end of life--or in regard to others subject to him, in a family, city or kingdom; in which sense it is said (Matthew 24:45), "a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath appointed over his family." In this way prudence or providence may suitably be attributed to God. For in God Himself there can be nothing ordered towards an end, since He is the last end. This type of order in things towards an end is therefore in God called providence. Whence Boethius says (De Consol. iv, 6) that "Providence is the divine type itself, seated in the Supreme Ruler; which disposeth all things": which disposition may refer either to the type of the order of things towards an end, or to the type of the order of parts in the whole.

Reply to Objection 1. According to the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 9,10), "Prudence is what, strictly speaking, commands all that 'ebulia' has rightly counselled and 'synesis' rightly judged" [Cf. I-II, 57, 6]. Whence, though to take counsel may not be fitting to God, from the fact that counsel is an inquiry into matters that are doubtful, nevertheless to give a command as to the ordering of things towards an end, the right reason of which He possesses, does belong to God, according to Psalm 148:6: "He hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away." In this manner both prudence and providence belong to God. Although at the same time it may be said that the very reason of things to be done is called counsel in God; not because of any inquiry necessitated, but from the certitude of the knowledge, to which those who take counsel come by inquiry. Whence it is said: "Who worketh all things according to the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11).

Reply to Objection 2. Two things pertain to the care of providence--namely, the "reason of order," which is called providence and disposition; and the execution of order, which is termed government. Of these, the first is eternal, and the second is temporal.

Reply to Objection 3. Providence resides in the intellect; but presupposes the act of willing the end. Nobody gives a precept about things done for an end; unless he will that end. Hence prudence presupposes the moral virtues, by means of which the appetitive faculty is directed towards good, as the Philosopher says. Even if Providence has to do with the divine will and intellect equally, this would not affect the divine simplicity, since in God both the will and intellect are one and the same thing, as we have said above (Article 19).

Footnotes

161 Vatican Council I, Dei Filius I: DS 3003; cf. Wis 8:1; ⇒ Heb 4:13.
162 ⇒ Ps 115:3.
163 ⇒ Rev 3:7.
164 ⇒ Prov 19:21.
165 Cf. ⇒ Is 10:5-15; ⇒ 45:51; Dt 32:39; ⇒ Sir 11:14.
166 Cf. ⇒ Pss 22; ⇒ 32; ⇒ 35; ⇒ 103; ⇒ 138; et al.
167 ⇒ Mt 6:31-33; cf ⇒ 10:29-31.
168 Cf. ⇒ Gen 1:26-28.
169 Cf. ⇒ Col 1:24.
170 I Cor 3:9; I Th 3:2; ⇒ Col 4:11.
171 ⇒ Phil 2:13; cf. ⇒ I Cor 12:6.
172 GS 36 # 3.
173 Cf. ⇒ Mt 19:26; ⇒ Jn 15:5; ⇒ 14:13



A World Without God is Hell on Earth

clock November 14, 2012 15:14 by author John |

HellThere are many people who would like nothing better than to eliminate the faith of believing Christians. Call them secular progressives, call them atheists, or call them communists. Just don’t call them prophetic or wise. These folks have been vociferous of late, as victory emboldens the brazen. It seems that the noise coming from secularists has been amplified and focused at those things which the faithful hold most dear: family, morality, and religious liberty.

They began the attack years ago by calling for tolerance and separation of Church and State. Slowly, they moved God out of the public square. They acclimated people to immoral lifestyles by showcasing them on primetime television, books, and magazines. They promoted tolerance as a virtue, when in actuality it is antithetical to the spiritual works of mercy. We are called to instruct the ignorant and rebuke the sinner. As Christians, tolerance is not an end in itself. Tolerance implies living with evil or imperfection without attempting to change it. Clearly, this is not the call Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations

We have been coaxed into accepting immorality and amorality in our world as a condition of quiet coexistence. This has led to the situation we now find ourselves in. God is slowly being pushed out of our public lives, which ultimately results in God being pushed out of our private lives. We are seeing a slow transformation of our world into a world without god.

Hell is an eternity spent in the absence of the wonder and glory of God. God does not send us to hell so much as we choose to go there ourselves by hating God and pushing Him out of our life and grace out of our soul. An eternity in hell is one spent lamenting the decisions we made that excluded God or outright rejected Him. We are collectively pushing God out of our society. In doing so, we are only bringing sadness and hardship upon ourselves. A world without God is a Hell on Earth.

In the absence of God, evil fills the vacuum. Is it a coincidence that in our society as secularism rises, with it comes the evils of abortion, sexual depravity, and recently an uptick in religious persecution? I don’t see a coincidence. I see causality. Indifference toward evil begets acceptance of it. Acceptance of evil begets commission of evil.

There is hope for us.  Jesus gave us the assurance that evil would not triumph against the Church in Matthew 16:18:

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

That is not to say that times will not be difficult or that evil will never get the upper hand for a time. Quite to the contrary, being a Christian is not going to be a walk in the park. Throughout history the Church has undergone persecution. As Tertullian famously said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of faith.”

We have much work to do and so little time upon this earth to do it. We must transform the culture. We must bring Christ back into our society. It will not be an easy task. If you participate in it, you will be persecuted in some way, great or small. It is only through genuine love of God and with the assistance of His grace that we will be able to take up this task and bring it to fruition. Love demands sacrifice. God loves us enough to be crucified for our iniquities. Do we love Him enough to face the same fate? Do you love Him enough to transform yourself first? Conversion of the world begins with the conversion of yourself.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 295-301, 320 – The Mystery of Creation

clock November 14, 2012 01:03 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the mystery of creation. Supplemental materials come from the Vatican I constitution, “Dei Filius” and from the writings of St. Theophilus of Antioch called “Ad Autolycum”. Good reading!

IV. THE MYSTERY OF CREATION

God creates by wisdom and love

295 We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom.141 It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom and goodness: "For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."142 Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: "O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all"; and "The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made."143 God creates "out of nothing"

296 We believe that God needs no pre-existent thing or any help in order to create, nor is creation any sort of necessary emanation from the divine substance.144 God creates freely "out of nothing":145

If God had drawn the world from pre-existent matter, what would be so extraordinary in that? A human artisan makes from a given material whatever he wants, while God shows his power by starting from nothing to make all he wants.146

297 Scripture bears witness to faith in creation "out of nothing" as a truth full of promise and hope. Thus the mother of seven sons encourages them for martyrdom:

I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws. . . Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.147

298 Since God could create everything out of nothing, he can also, through the Holy Spirit, give spiritual life to sinners by creating a pure heart in them,148 and bodily life to the dead through the Resurrection. God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist."149 and since God was able to make light shine in darkness by his Word, he can also give the light of faith to those who do not yet know him.150

God creates an ordered and good world

299 Because God creates through wisdom, his creation is ordered: "You have arranged all things by measure and number and weight."151 The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the "image of the invisible God", is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the "image of God" and called to a personal relationship with God.152 Our human understanding, which shares in the light of the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work.153 Because creation comes forth from God's goodness, it shares in that goodness - "and God saw that it was good. . . very good"154- for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him. On many occasions the Church has had to defend the goodness of creation, including that of the physical world.155

God transcends creation and is present to it

300 God is infinitely greater than all his works: "You have set your glory above the heavens."156 Indeed, God's "greatness is unsearchable".157 But because he is the free and sovereign Creator, the first cause of all that exists, God is present to his creatures' inmost being: "In him we live and move and have our being."158 In the words of St. Augustine, God is "higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self".159

God upholds and sustains creation

301 With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.160

IN BRIEF

320 God created the universe and keeps it in existence by his Word, the Son "upholding the universe by his word of power" (⇒ Heb 1:3), and by his Creator Spirit, the giver of life.

The Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Filius from the First Vatican Council expresses the creation of the universe from nothing:

Chap. 1. God, Creator of All Things

The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, omnipotent, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in intellect and will, and in every perfection; who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world; most blessed in Himself and of Himself, and ineffably most high above all things which are or can be conceived outside Himself.

This sole true God by His goodness and "omnipotent power," not to increase His own beatitude, and not to add to, but to manifest His perfection by the blessings which He bestows on creatures, with most free volition, "immediately from the beginning of time fashioned each creature out of nothing, spiritual and corporeal, namely angelic and mundane; and then the human creation, common as it were, composed of both spirit and body" [Lateran Council IV, can. 2 and 5]

But God protects and governs by His providence all things which He created, "reaching from end to end mightily and ordering all things sweetly" [cf. Wis 8:1]. For "all things are naked and open to His eyes" [Heb 4:13], even those which by the free action of creatures are in the future.

St. Theophilus of Antioch provides a beautiful discourse on creation in his work, “Ad Autolycum” (2, 4):

CHAPTER IV.—ABSURD OPINIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS CONCERNING GOD.

Some of the philosophers of the Porch say that there is no God at all; or, if there is, they say that He cares for none but Himself; and these views the folly of Epicurus and Chrysippus has set forth at large. And others say that all things are produced without external agency, and that the world is uncreated, and that nature is eternal; and have dared to give out that there is no providence of God at all, but maintain that God is only each man’s conscience. And others again maintain that the spirit which pervades all things is God. But Plato and those of his school acknowledge indeed that God is uncreated, and the Father and Maker of all things; but then they maintain that matter as well as God is uncreated, and aver that it is coeval with God. But if God is uncreated and matter uncreated, God is no longer, according to the Platonists, the Creator of all things, nor, so far as their opinions hold, is the monarchy551 of God established. And further, as God, because He is uncreated, is also unalterable; so if matter, too, were uncreated, it also would be unalterable, and equal to God; for that which is created is mutable and alterable, but that which is uncreated is immutable and unalterable. And what great thing is it if God made the world out of existent materials? For even a human artist, when he gets material from someone, makes of it what he pleases. But the power of God is manifested in this, that out of things that are not He makes whatever He pleases; just as the bestowal of life and motion is the prerogative of no other than God alone. For even man makes indeed an image, but reason and breath, or feeling, he cannot give to what he has made. But God has this property in excess of what man can do, in that He makes a work, endowed with reason, life, sensation. As, therefore, in all these respects God is more powerful than man, so also in this; that out of things that are not He creates and has created things that are, and whatever He pleases, as He pleases.

Footnotes

141 Cf. Wis 9:9.
142 ⇒ Rev 4:11.
143 ⇒ Pss 104:24; ⇒ 145:9.
144 Cf. Dei Filius, cann. 2-4: DS 3022-3024.
145 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800; cf. DS 3025.
146 St. Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum II, 4: PG 6, 1052.
147 2 Macc 7:22-21, 28.
148 Cf. ⇒ Ps 51:12.
149 ⇒ Rom 4:17.
150 Cf. ⇒ Gen 1:3; ⇒ 2 Cor 4:6.
151 Wis 11:20.
152 ⇒ Col 1:15, ⇒ Gen 1:26.
153 Cf. ⇒ Ps 19:2-5; ⇒ Job 42:3.
154 ⇒ Gen 1:4, ⇒ 10, ⇒ 12, ⇒ 18, ⇒ 21, ⇒ 31.
155 Cf. DS 286; 455-463; 800; 1333; 3002
156 ⇒ Ps 8:1; cf. ⇒ Sir 43:28.
157 ⇒ Ps 145:3.
158 ⇒ Acts 17:28.
159 St. Augustine, Conf: 3, 6, 11: PL 32, 688.
160 Wis 11:24-26.



Tuesday Ear Tickler: Jason Berry and the Festering Wound Called Women’s Ordination

clock November 13, 2012 01:20 by author John |

The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…

Today’s winner is Jason Berry, writing at the noxious liberal commune known as the National Catholic Reporter. Berry goes all mushy for the ordination of women and promotes dissent from the magisterium in his latest piece. (Berry’s comments in the red quote boxes, my comments in black.)

Diane Dougherty, 67, who has short silver hair and stands barely 5 feet tall, became a fleeting media sensation Oct. 20 with her ordination in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.

Don’t they all have short silver hair? What’s the point of describing her physical attributes? Does silver hair indicate wisdom? Sorry, I didn’t see her on the news or in the media at all. Must have been more fleeting than sensational. Also, let’s be accurate here – she was not ordained. An ordination was simulated, thereby excommunicating her and anyone else simulating her ordination. I must also ask the question, “If these women have so much venom for the Church and Rome, why do they associate with Rome in the name of their club?” Anyway, on to more madness…

The forces that drove Dougherty to profess priestly vows are a parable of today's church, as divided in America as in Europe, where 144 theologians in Germany, Austria and Switzerland signed a 2011 declaration defying Pope Benedict XVI in support of women's ordination. Dougherty, who spent 23 years as a nun earlier in her life, followed a pull of conscience to "the same basic calling" in violation of church law.

I guess the criteria for being counted as a “theologian” is rather flimsy these days. If this was such a noble honor, how did they only manage 144 signatures? I would also like to know the number of signatures after Big Bird, Luke Skywalker, Roger Rabbit, and Abraham Stinkin are removed from the list. Here is a prime example of why it is important to emphasize that following your conscience is only laudable if that conscience is well-formed.

Five other women, well along the road of middle life, were ordained as deacons in the same Mass held at First Metropolitan Community Church, which historically serves gays and lesbians. Bridget Mary Meehan, a bishop affiliated with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, came from her home in Virginia to preside. About 300 people attended, among them relatives of the newly ordained, a few scampering grandchildren; groups from Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Louisiana; 15 other women priests in the movement; and two women in black robes of the Episcopal clergy.

Let me translate that phrase “Well along the road of middle life” for you. It means old. Yes, old women. Bridget Mary Meehan might call herself a bishop, and the 15 other wymynprysts may call themselves priests, but the sad fact is that they are simply excommunicated women, reaching the twilight of their lives still dancing and singing that Frank Sinatra tune, “I did it my way”. I think most of us would agree that a better theme would be “I did it God’s way”.

The ceremony was the latest held by the association. Since 2004 when a male bishop, who has remained anonymous, ordained seven women on a ship in the middle of the Danube River, about 100 women have joined the movement in America and about 150 worldwide. Unlike the male hierarchy, the association is decentralized. The women hold liturgies in homes, on college campuses and in non-Catholic sacred spaces; they have small teaching and outreach ministries.

I think we understand that by “decentralized”, Berry means “forbidden from befouling a Catholic church”. Their ministries are “small” because their message is empty. They are preaching self-gratitude rather than the glorification of God and obedience to the dogmas of His Church.

At least Berry had the sense to include a quote from the radiant Sr. Mary Ann Walsh…

The official church has not accepted them. "I can say I'm the queen of England and it doesn't make it so," Mercy Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have banned even the discussion of women priests. Benedict has said John Paul's prohibition on women priests is infallible teaching, though some church scholars dispute it.

I think he uses the term “church scholars” a bit loosely here.

In 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared: "One who attempts to confer sacred ordination on a woman, and she who attempts to receive sacred ordination, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See."

"It means that excommunication takes place immediately," New Jersey canon lawyer Fr. Kenneth Lasch told NCR.

"There is a hitch, though," said canonist Dominican Fr. Tom Doyle. "Automatic excommunication basically means that it is not publicized. Only the excommunicated one knows it for sure and is obliged in conscience to observe the penalty. … Most of the women priests I have helped were concerned [about the excommunication] and then got to the point -- a healthy one, I think -- where it did not matter."

Fr. Tom Doyle calls their disregard of the state of their soul healthy. Healthy – like scaling the Statue of Liberty in a lightning storm. You may think you are making progress, but reality will set you straight soon enough. His statement does shed some light on the real issue here. These folks just don’t care about truth, authority, or apparently, their immortal soul. As with all of the winners of this award, I urge you to pray for them. Only prayer and the outpouring of grace will return them to the fold.

I hereby award the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award for Tuesday, November 13, 2012 to Jason Berry.


 



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 290-294, 316-319 – Creation, Work of the Trinity, For the Glory of God

clock November 13, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the Trinitarian nature of the work of creation and the purpose of creation, which is the glory of God. St. Irenaeus provides the supporting material with an excerpt from “Against Heresies”.

II. CREATION - WORK OF THE HOLY TRINITY

290 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth":128 three things are affirmed in these first words of Scripture: the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone is Creator (the verb "create" - Hebrew bara - always has God for its subject). The totality of what exists (expressed by the formula "the heavens and the earth") depends on the One who gives it being.

291 "In the beginning was the Word. . . and the Word was God. . . all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made."129 The New Testament reveals that God created everything by the eternal Word, his beloved Son. In him "all things were created, in heaven and on earth.. . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."130 The Church's faith likewise confesses the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the "giver of life", "the Creator Spirit" (Veni, Creator Spiritus), the "source of every good".131

292 The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit,132 inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the Church's rule of faith: "There exists but one God. . . he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom", "by the Son and the Spirit" who, so to speak, are "his hands".133 Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.

III. "THE WORLD WAS CREATED FOR THE GLORY OF GOD"

293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: "The world was made for the glory of God."134 St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it",135 for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand."136 The First Vatican Council explains:

This one, true God, of his own goodness and "almighty power", not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel "and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal. . ."137

294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us "to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace",138 for "the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man's life is the vision of God: if God's revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word's manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God."139 The ultimate purpose of creation is that God "who is the creator of all things may at last become "all in all", thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude."140

IN BRIEF

316 Though the work of creation is attributed to the Father in particular, it is equally a truth of faith that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together are the one, indivisible principle of creation.

317 God alone created the universe, freely, directly and without any help.

318 No creature has the infinite power necessary to "create" in the proper sense of the word, that is, to produce and give being to that which had in no way possessed it to call into existence "out of nothing") (cf DS 3624).

319 God created the world to show forth and communicate his glory. That his creatures should share in his truth, goodness and beauty - this is the glory for which God created them.

St. Irenaeus explains the Trinitarian work of creation, and that creation was made to glorify God in “Against Heresies” (4, 20):

1. As regards His greatness, therefore, it is not possible to know God, for it is impossible that the Father can be measured; but as regards His love (for this it is which leads us to God by His Word), when we obey Him, we do always learn that there is so great a God, and that it is He who by Himself has established, and selected, and adorned, and contains all things; and among the all things, both ourselves and this our world. We also then were made, along with those things which are contained by Him. And this is He of whom the Scripture says, And God formed man, taking clay of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life. Genesis 2:7 It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God, nor any one else, except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness; Genesis 1:26 He taking from Himself the substance of the creatures [formed], and the pattern of things made, and the type of all the adornments in the world.

2. Truly, then, the Scripture declared, which says, First of all believe that there is one God, who has established all things, and completed them, and having caused that from what had no being, all things should come into existence: He who contains all things, and is Himself contained by no one. Rightly also has Malachi said among the prophets: Is it not one God who has established us? Have we not all one Father? Malachi 2:10 In accordance with this, too, does the apostle say, There is one God, the Father, who is above all, and in us all. Ephesians 4:6 Likewise does the Lord also say: All things are delivered to Me by My Father; Matthew 11:27 manifestly by Him who made all things; for He did not deliver to Him the things of another, but His own. But in all things [it is implied that] nothing has been kept back [from Him], and for this reason the same person is the Judge of the living and the dead; having the key of David: He shall open, and no man shall shut: He shall shut, and no man shall open. Revelation 3:7 For no one was able, either in heaven or in earth, or under the earth, to open the book of the Father, or to behold Him, with the exception of the Lamb who was slain, and who redeemed us with His own blood, receiving power over all things from the same God who made all things by the Word, and adorned them by [His] Wisdom, when the Word was made flesh; that even as the Word of God had the sovereignty in the heavens, so also might He have the sovereignty in earth, inasmuch as [He was] a righteous man, who did no sin, neither was there found guile in His mouth; 1 Peter 2:23 and that He might have the pre-eminence over those things which are under the earth, He Himself being made the first-begotten of the dead; Colossians 1:18 and that all things, as I have already said, might behold their King; and that the paternal light might meet with and rest upon the flesh of our Lord, and come to us from His resplendent flesh, and that thus man might attain to immortality, having been invested with the paternal light.

7. Therefore the Son of the Father declares [Him] from the beginning, inasmuch as He was with the Father from the beginning, who did also show to the human race prophetic visions, and diversities of gifts, and His own ministrations, and the glory of the Father, in regular order and connection, at the fitting time for the benefit [of mankind]. For where there is a regular succession, there is also fixedness; and where fixedness, there suitability to the period; and where suitability, there also utility. And for this reason did the Word become the dispenser of the paternal grace for the benefit of men, for whom He made such great dispensations, revealing God indeed to men, but presenting man to God, and preserving at the same time the invisibility of the Father, lest man should at any time become a despiser of God, and that he should always possess something towards which he might advance; but, on the other hand, revealing God to men through many dispensations, lest man, falling away from God altogether, should cease to exist. For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.

Footnotes

128 ⇒ Gen 1:1.
129 ⇒ Jn 1:1-3.
130 ⇒ Col 1:16-17.
131 Cf. Nicene Creed: DS 150; Hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus; Byzantine Troparion of Pentecost Vespers, "O heavenly King, Consoler".
132 Cf. ⇒ Pss 33 6; ⇒ 104:30; ⇒ Gen 1:2-3.
133 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 2, 30, 9; 4, 20, I: PG 7/1, 822, 1032.
134 Dei Filius, can. # 5: DS 3025.
135 St. Bonaventure, In II Sent. I, 2, 2, 1.
136 St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. II, prol.
137 Dei Filius I: DS 3002; cf Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800.
138 ⇒ Eph 1:5-6.
139 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 20, 7: PG 7/1, 1037.



Human Life vs. Human Being (Is a Fetus a Human Being)

clock November 12, 2012 21:38 by author John |

Baby in the WombIt may seem like a strange distinction to talk about human life vs. human being, but that is the point our society has reached. We have produced 2 terms that should refer to the same exact thing, but there are many who insist there is a difference. In this article, we will examine whether there is a difference, and some of the implications that stem from the use of these terms.

What is Human Life?

In the previous article in this series, we explored when human life begins. All of the evidence pointed to fertilization, which most people refer to as “conception”. We also explained that a fetus exhibits all of the 5 characteristics which define life:

1. Living things are highly organized.
2. All living things have an ability to acquire materials and energy.
3. All living things have an ability to respond to their environment.
4. All living things have an ability to reproduce.
5. All living things have an ability to adapt.

In the most basic sense, human life is the result of the union of a human egg and human sperm. A fetus is human life. A toddler is human life, as is an adolescent, and an adult. A piece of tissue such as skin or a human organ would not be considered human life, since it cannot reproduce, adapt, respond to its environment, or acquire materials and energy.

What is a Human Being?

A human being in Catholic teaching is a human life infused with an immortal soul, created by God in His image and likeness. A human being is also referred to as a human person. The point at which a human life becomes a human being is when the soul enters the body. We believe that the body and soul join to form a human being and that even though the soul and the body are separated at death, after the final judgment, the body and soul will be reunited in the afterlife.

Does Every Human Life Constitute a Human Being?

As Catholics, we believe that a human life becomes a human being at the very first instant – at fertilization. It is at this point that not only is the human life created, but also the soul is infused by God, forming a human being.

We know this because even though the fetus depends on the mother for nourishment and protection, it is a wholly separate life, with its own brain, heart, eyes, hands, and genetic makeup. The fact that it is connected to the mother by the umbilical cord does not make it part of the mother. People don’t have 2 brains or 2 hearts. Clearly the baby in the womb is a separate human life. A baby can be born naturally or through caesarian section. The process of birth does not make a human life a human being. The birth can and often does happen early. We wouldn’t consider a premature baby any less of a person. We cannot say that a person only becomes a person at the normal 40 weeks gestation. Babies have been born shortly after 20 weeks and still survived outside the womb and grown to adulthood.

Any attempt to draw a hard and fast line on the age a baby becomes a person is strictly arbitrary and has no scientific or religious basis to it. A child born at 22 weeks today could in theory survive outside the womb with the proper care. With advances in technology and medical knowledge, we will eventually be able to push that point of viability back. Clearly God does not operate according to our meager knowledge of biology.

To put a rest to this discussion once and for all, we know that in the process of in-vitro fertilization, the doctors create children in a lab and then implant them into the mother. If the child is separate before the pregnancy, and is separate, though attached to the mother in the womb, and is removed from the mother at birth, regardless of at what stage of development, then clearly, the soul must be infused that the point of fertilization, since that is the only point where human life begins. (For clarity, it should be noted here that the process of in-vitro fertilization is considered gravely sinful by the Catholic Church. It is used as an example only for scientific purposes, not as an endorsement of the procedure.)

Other Criteria for Human Beings

Some people try to offer other attributes to identify when human life becomes a human being. They use concepts such as sentience, which is the awareness of oneself, or consciousness. This is clearly arbitrary, since we lose consciousness and self-awareness when we are sleeping, under anesthesia, or in a coma. We would not logically conclude that a sleeping person is no longer human, so why would we use that as a delineation point at the beginning phases of life? The ability to feel pain is another arbitrary point used to rationalize abortion. Again, painkillers and consciousness affect our ability to feel pain. It cannot be used as a solid indicator of human personhood.

One Condition Indicates Human Personhood

Only one condition can be a solid indicator of personhood: being itself. As we know from Exodus 3:14,

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

God names Himself by one particular attribute, which is His Being. God is eternal. In Genesis 1:26-27, we read,

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

We must realize that we are made in the image and likeness of God. We are defined by our being, just as God is defined by His being. God is eternal, and though our body will die, our soul will live forever. We are special not because of any physical attribute, but because we have an immortal soul and we are specially made by God. There is no significant difference between an adult and a child in the womb. All human life from the moment of fertilization to the moment of death is a human being.

Other articles you may like:

When does Human Life Begin? (The argument from faith and science)



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 279-289, 315: The Creator and Catechesis on Creation

clock November 12, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism section examines the catechesis on creation. Supporting material comes from Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation of the Word”.

Paragraph 4. THE CREATOR

279 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."116 Holy Scripture begins with these solemn words. The profession of faith takes them up when it confesses that God the Father almighty is "Creator of heaven and earth" (Apostles' Creed), "of all that is, seen and unseen" (Nicene Creed). We shall speak first of the Creator, then of creation and finally of the fall into sin from which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to raise us up again.

280 Creation is the foundation of "all God's saving plans," the "beginning of the history of salvation"117 that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth": from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ.118

281 And so the readings of the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the new creation in Christ, begin with the creation account; likewise in the Byzantine liturgy, the account of creation always constitutes the first reading at the vigils of the great feasts of the Lord. According to ancient witnesses the instruction of catechumens for Baptism followed the same itinerary.119

I. CATECHESIS ON CREATION

282 Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of all times have asked themselves:120 "Where do we come from?" "Where are we going?" "What is our origin?" "What is our end?" "Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?" the two questions, the first about the origin and the second about the end, are inseparable. They are decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions.

283 The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: "It is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me."121

284 The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin: is the universe governed by chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity, or by a transcendent, intelligent and good Being called "God"? And if the world does come from God's wisdom and goodness, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Who is responsible for it? Is there any liberation from it?

285 Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions, the world (at least the physical world) is evil, the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world was made by God, but as by a watch-maker who, once he has made a watch, abandons it to itself (Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin for the world, but see it as merely the interplay of matter that has always existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively human.

286 Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason,122 even if this knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error. This is why faith comes to confirm and enlighten reason in the correct understanding of this truth: "By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear."123

287 The truth about creation is so important for all of human life that God in his tenderness wanted to reveal to his People everything that is salutary to know on the subject. Beyond the natural knowledge that every man can have of the Creator,124 God progressively revealed to Israel the mystery of creation. He who chose the patriarchs, who brought Israel out of Egypt, and who by choosing Israel created and formed it, this same God reveals himself as the One to whom belong all the peoples of the earth, and the whole earth itself; he is the One who alone "made heaven and earth".125

288 Thus the revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the one God with his People. Creation is revealed as the first step towards this covenant, the first and universal witness to God's all-powerful love.126 and so, the truth of creation is also expressed with growing vigor in the message of the prophets, the prayer of the psalms and the liturgy, and in the wisdom sayings of the Chosen People.127

289 Among all the Scriptural texts about creation, the first three chapters of Genesis occupy a unique place. From a literary standpoint these texts may have had diverse sources. The inspired authors have placed them at the beginning of Scripture to express in their solemn language the truths of creation - its origin and its end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and finally the drama of sin and the hope of salvation. Read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries of the "beginning": creation, fall, and promise of salvation.

IN BRIEF

315 In the creation of the world and of man, God gave the first and universal witness to his almighty love and his wisdom, the first proclamation of the "plan of his loving goodness", which finds its goal in the new creation in Christ.

St. Athanasius writes on the connection between creation and the Incarnation in his work, “On the Incarnation of the Word” (4):

4. Our creation and God's Incarnation most intimately connected. As by the Word man was called from non-existence into being, and further received the grace of a divine life, so by the one fault which forfeited that life they again incurred corruption and untold sin and misery filled the world.

You are wondering, perhaps, for what possible reason, having proposed to speak of the Incarnation of the Word, we are at present treating of the origin of mankind. But this, too, properly belongs to the aim of our treatise. 2. For in speaking of the appearance of the Savior among us, we must needs speak also of the origin of men, that you may know that the reason of His coming down was because of us, and that our transgression called forth the loving-kindness of the Word, that the Lord should both make haste to help us and appear among men. 3. For of His becoming Incarnate we were the object, and for our salvation He dealt so lovingly as to appear and be born even in a human body. 4. Thus, then, God has made man, and willed that he should abide in incorruption; but men, having despised and rejected the contemplation of God, and devised and contrived evil for themselves (as was said in the former treatise), received the condemnation of death with which they had been threatened; and from thenceforth no longer remained as they were made, but were being corrupted according to their devices; and death had the mastery over them as king. (Romans 5:14) For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. 5. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were turned back to what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption. 6. For man is by nature mortal, inasmuch as he is made out of what is not; but by reason of his likeness to Him that is (and if he still preserved this likeness by keeping Him in his knowledge) he would stay his natural corruption, and remain incorrupt; as Wisdom (Wisdom 6:18) says: The taking heed to His laws is the assurance of immortality; but being incorrupt, he would live henceforth as God, to which I suppose the divine Scripture refers, when it says: I have said you are gods, and you are all sons of the most Highest; but you die like men, and fall as one of the princes.

Footnotes

116 ⇒ Gen 1:1.
117 GCD 51.
118 ⇒ Gen 1:1; cf. ⇒ Rom 8:18-23.
119 Cf. Egeria, Peregrinatio at loca sancta 46: PLS 1, 1047; St. Augustine, De catechizantis rudibus 3, 5: PL 40, 256.
120 Cf. NA 2.
121 Wis 7: 17-22.
122 Cf. Vatican Council I, can. 2 # I: DS 3026.
123 ⇒ Heb 11:3.
124 Cf. ⇒ Acts 17:24-29; ⇒ Rom 1:19-20.
125 Cf. ⇒ Is 43:1; ⇒ Pss 115:15; ⇒ 124:8; ⇒ 134:3.
126 Cf. ⇒ Gen 15:5; ⇒ Jer 33:19-26.
127 Cf. ⇒ Is 44:24; ⇒ Ps 104; ⇒ Prov 8:22-31.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 268 – 278 The Almighty Power of God

clock November 11, 2012 01:00 by author John |

The omnipotence of God is the subject of today’s Catechism sections. The supporting material comes from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.

Paragraph 3. THE ALMIGHTY

268 of all the divine attributes, only God's omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God's power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it "is made perfect in weakness".103

"He does whatever he pleases"104

269 The Holy Scriptures repeatedly confess the universal power of God. He is called the "Mighty One of Jacob", the "LORD of hosts", the "strong and mighty" one. If God is almighty "in heaven and on earth", it is because he made them.105 Nothing is impossible with God, who disposes his works according to his will.106 He is the Lord of the universe, whose order he established and which remains wholly subject to him and at his disposal. He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will: "It is always in your power to show great strength, and who can withstand the strength of your arm?107

"You are merciful to all, for you can do all things"108

270 God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us ("I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty"):109 finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.

271 God's almighty power is in no way arbitrary: "In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God's power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect."110

The mystery of God's apparent powerlessness

272 Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus "the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."111 It is in Christ's Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth "the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe".112

273 Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God's almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ's power.113 The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that "nothing will be impossible with God", and was able to magnify the Lord: "For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name."114

274 "Nothing is more apt to confirm our faith and hope than holding it fixed in our minds that nothing is impossible with God. Once our reason has grasped the idea of God's almighty power, it will easily and without any hesitation admit everything that [the Creed] will afterwards propose for us to believe - even if they be great and marvelous things, far above the ordinary laws of nature."115

IN BRIEF

275 With Job, the just man, we confess: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (⇒ Job 42:2).

276 Faithful to the witness of Scripture, the Church often addresses her prayer to the "almighty and eternal God" (“omnipotens sempiterne Deus. . ."), believing firmly that "nothing will be impossible with God" (⇒ Gen 18:14; ⇒ Lk 1:37; ⇒ Mt 19:26).

277 God shows forth his almighty power by converting us from our sins and restoring us to his friendship by grace. "God, you show your almighty power above all in your mercy and forgiveness. . ." (Roman Missal, 26th Sunday, Opening Prayer).

278 If we do not believe that God's love is almighty, how can we believe that the Father could create us, the Son redeem us and the Holy Spirit sanctify us?

St. Thomas Aquinas examines the omnipotence of God in his Summa Theologica (1, 25, 3).

Article 3. Whether God is omnipotent?

Objection 1. It seems that God is not omnipotent. For movement and passiveness belong to everything. But this is impossible with God, for He is immovable, as was said above (Question 2, Article 3). Therefore He is not omnipotent.

Objection 2. Further, sin is an act of some kind. But God cannot sin, nor "deny Himself" as it is said in 2 Timothy 2:13. Therefore He is not omnipotent.

Objection 3. Further, it is said of God that He manifests His omnipotence "especially by sparing and having mercy" [Collect, 10th Sunday after Pentecost]. Therefore the greatest act possible to the divine power is to spare and have mercy. There are things much greater, however, than sparing and having mercy; for example, to create another world, and the like. Therefore God is not omnipotent.

Objection 4. Further, upon the text, "God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world" (1 Corinthians 1:20), a gloss says: "God hath made the wisdom of this world foolish [Vulgate: 'Hath not God', etc.] by showing those things to be possible which it judges to be impossible." Whence it would seem that nothing is to be judged possible or impossible in reference to inferior causes, as the wisdom of this world judges them; but in reference to the divine power. If God, then, were omnipotent, all things would be possible; nothing, therefore impossible. But if we take away the impossible, then we destroy also the necessary; for what necessarily exists is impossible not to exist. Therefore there would be nothing at all that is necessary in things if God were omnipotent. But this is an impossibility. Therefore God is not omnipotent.

On the contrary, It is said: "No word shall be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

I answer that, All confess that God is omnipotent; but it seems difficult to explain in what His omnipotence precisely consists: for there may be doubt as to the precise meaning of the word 'all' when we say that God can do all things. If, however, we consider the matter aright, since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, "God can do all things," is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason He is said to be omnipotent. Now according to the Philosopher (Metaph. v, 17), a thing is said to be possible in two ways.

First in relation to some power, thus whatever is subject to human power is said to be possible to man.

Secondly absolutely, on account of the relation in which the very terms stand to each other. Now God cannot be said to be omnipotent through being able to do all things that are possible to created nature; for the divine power extends farther than that. If, however, we were to say that God is omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible to His power, there would be a vicious circle in explaining the nature of His power. For this would be saying nothing else but that God is omnipotent, because He can do all that He is able to do.

It remains therefore, that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely; which is the second way of saying a thing is possible. For a thing is said to be possible or impossible absolutely, according to the relation in which the very terms stand to one another, possible if the predicate is not incompatible with the subject, as that Socrates sits; and absolutely impossible when the predicate is altogether incompatible with the subject, as, for instance, that a man is a donkey.

It must, however, be remembered that since every agent produces an effect like itself, to each active power there corresponds a thing possible as its proper object according to the nature of that act on which its active power is founded; for instance, the power of giving warmth is related as to its proper object to the being capable of being warmed. The divine existence, however, upon which the nature of power in God is founded, is infinite, and is not limited to any genus of being; but possesses within itself the perfection of all being. Whence, whatsoever has or can have the nature of being, is numbered among the absolutely possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent. Now nothing is opposed to the idea of being except non-being. Therefore, that which implies being and non-being at the same time is repugnant to the idea of an absolutely possible thing, within the scope of the divine omnipotence. For such cannot come under the divine omnipotence, not because of any defect in the power of God, but because it has not the nature of a feasible or possible thing. Therefore, everything that does not imply a contradiction in terms, is numbered amongst those possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent: whereas whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence, because it cannot have the aspect of possibility. Hence it is better to say that such things cannot be done, than that God cannot do them. Nor is this contrary to the word of the angel, saying: "No word shall be impossible with God." For whatever implies a contradiction cannot be a word, because no intellect can possibly conceive such a thing.

Reply to Objection 1. God is said to be omnipotent in respect to His active power, not to passive power, as was shown above (Article 1). Whence the fact that He is immovable or impassible is not repugnant to His omnipotence.

Reply to Objection 2. To sin is to fall short of a perfect action; hence to be able to sin is to be able to fall short in action, which is repugnant to omnipotence. Therefore it is that God cannot sin, because of His omnipotence. Nevertheless, the Philosopher says (Topic. iv, 3) that God can deliberately do what is evil. But this must be understood either on a condition, the antecedent of which is impossible--as, for instance, if we were to say that God can do evil things if He will. For there is no reason why a conditional proposition should not be true, though both the antecedent and consequent are impossible: as if one were to say: "If man is a donkey, he has four feet." Or he may be understood to mean that God can do some things which now seem to be evil: which, however, if He did them, would then be good. Or he is, perhaps, speaking after the common manner of the heathen, who thought that men became gods, like Jupiter or Mercury.

Reply to Objection 3. God's omnipotence is particularly shown in sparing and having mercy, because in this is it made manifest that God has supreme power, that He freely forgives sins. For it is not for one who is bound by laws of a superior to forgive sins of his own free will. Or, because by sparing and having mercy upon men, He leads them on to the participation of an infinite good; which is the ultimate effect of the divine power. Or because, as was said above (Question 21, Article 4), the effect of the divine mercy is the foundation of all the divine works. For nothing is due to anyone, except on account of something already given him gratuitously by God. In this way the divine omnipotence is particularly made manifest, because to it pertains the first foundation of all good things.

Reply to Objection 4. The absolute possible is not so called in reference either to higher causes, or to inferior causes, but in reference to itself. But the possible in reference to some power is named possible in reference to its proximate cause. Hence those things which it belongs to God alone to do immediately--as, for example, to create, to justify, and the like--are said to be possible in reference to a higher cause. Those things, however, which are of such kind as to be done by inferior causes are said to be possible in reference to those inferior causes. For it is according to the condition of the proximate cause that the effect has contingency or necessity, as was shown above (14, 1, ad 2). Thus is it that the wisdom of the world is deemed foolish, because what is impossible to nature, it judges to be impossible to God. So it is clear that the omnipotence of God does not take away from things their impossibility and necessity.

Footnotes

103 Cf. ⇒ Gen 1:1; ⇒ Jn 1:3; ⇒ Mt 6:9; ⇒ 2 Cor 12:9; cf. ⇒ I Cor 1:18.
104 ⇒ Ps 115:3.
105 ⇒ Gen 49:24; ⇒ Is 1:24 etc.; ⇒ Pss 24:8-10; ⇒ 135 6.
106 Cf. ⇒ Jer 27:5; ⇒ 32:17; ⇒ Lk 1:37
107 Wis 11:21; cf. Esth 4:17b; ⇒ Prov 21:1; ⇒ Tob 13:2.
108 Wis 11:23.
109 ⇒ 2 Cor 6:18; cf. ⇒ Mt 6:32.
110 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 25, 5, ad I.
111 ⇒ 1 Cor 1:24-25.
112 ⇒ Eph 1:19-22.
113 Cf. ⇒ 2 Cor 12:9; ⇒ Phil 4:13.
114 ⇒ Lk 1:37, ⇒ 49.
115 Roman Catechism I, 2, 13



When Does Human Life Begin? (The Argument from Catholic Faith and Science)

clock November 10, 2012 19:12 by author John |

Baby in the WombWhen human life begins, whether human life constitutes a human being, and whether human beings have an inherent dignity and worth are the foundational questions of Catholic Social teaching. They compel Catholics to defend each other from unjust aggression, provide for each other in times of need and speak out for each other when fundamental rights are threatened. These questions also form the basis for the discussion of the merits of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, and the use of abortifacient drugs such as the “Plan-B Pill”. In this series, we will investigate the answers to each of these three questions, starting with the first and most basic question, “When does human life begin?”

When Does Human Life Begin? (The Catholic View)

God created man in His image and likeness. In Genesis 1:26-27, this is revealed to us:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Given the fact that God created us in His image and likeness, we can then use the gift of reason to infer the point at which human life begins. Reason is one attribute of God’s likeness in which we are created, though to an imperfect degree. God has perfect truth and logic. Our grasp of these two things are limited, though sufficient for our needs.

Now in understanding the ways in which we resemble God, we can only rely on what God has revealed to us, the use of our senses and the application of our intellect and reasoning. Knowing that God would not reveal something to us without providing value in the revealed truth, we can deduce that the revelation given in Genesis 1:26-27 is intended for our understanding of our own nature and attributes.

Therefore, we must decide at what point a person assumes the “image and likeness” of God. We know some of the attributes that constitute the “image and likeness”. These include a will and an intellect. Now the will and the intellect can be compromised such as when we are asleep or through disability. These attributes cannot be used reliably as a means of defining a human. The ultimate attribute of God is Being itself, which is the name God conveys to Moses in Exodus 3:14:

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

If therefore, God is defined by his existence, then humans are best defined by their very existence, and not by a physical attribute or capability. From a Catholic perspective, we know that our existence is evident before we are born, since we read in the Bible,

For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb. - Psalm 139:13

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace Galatians 1:15

Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." 4 But I said, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God." 5 And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength – Isaiah 49:1-5

for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. - Luke 1:15

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. – Luke 1:41-44

When Does Human Life Begin? (The Scientific View)

It is clear to everyone that a fetus is human tissue. It is living as we know that it meets the 5 criteria for living things:

1. Living things are highly organized.
2. All living things have an ability to acquire materials and energy.
3. All living things have an ability to respond to their environment.
4. All living things have an ability to reproduce.
5. All living things have an ability to adapt.

The question then turns to the point at which this living tissue is organized and differentiated. The answer is clearly at fertilization, the point at which the egg and sperm join. This is the point at which the genetic makeup is determined. It has a unique genetic identity, which it will carry for the rest of its life. The DNA this child has is distinct from the mother’s. The fetus is not simply a growth or a “blob of tissue” in the mother’s body any more than the mother herself is a “blob of tissue”.

In Summary

Human life begins at conception. This is evident from both a Biblical and scientific point of view. Any attempt at minimizing this point by referring to the child in the womb as a “blob of tissue” is intellectually dishonest. Calling something by a different name does not change what it is. In the next articles in this series, we will examine whether every human life constitutes a “human being”, and whether each human being has inherent dignity and worth. These questions will help us understand the validity of abortion as well as many other encroachments on human life such as euthanasia.

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