The Great Commandment – On the Perfection of the Spiritual Life V

In another way we love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, if nothing in us is lacking to divine love, if there is nothing which we do not, actually or habitually, refer to God. And a precept is given concerning this divine love.

[In the last chapter, St. Thomas described the perfection of love by which the whole power of a creature's faculties were turned to God. In this chapter he describes a lesser degree of perfection, according to which everything is at least habitually, or in one's ultimate orientation, ordered to God. It sounds a bit like the theory of the "fundamental option," which maintains that choices of concrete individual acts cannot separate a person from God, that this is only a matter of one's fundamental orientation. But what is St. Thomas saying here? When a person is ordered to an end, that end remains the goal of all the particular things he does on the way to the end, even when he is not actually thinking about the end. For example, when a person sits down to write a letter to a friend, then even when his thoughts are occupied with the attempt to recall events of previous days, or with the attempt to spell a difficult word correctly, he is doing these things for the sake of his friend. Similarly, if the primary reason a person has a job is to support his family, this motivation is the implicit motivation of the various tasks he does in his job, even though he doesn't explicitly think of his family every moment.]

First, man should refer all things to God as his end, as the Apostle says: "Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31). One fulfills this when one orders his life to God's service, and thus all the things that he does for himself, he virtually orders to God, unless they are things that lead away from God, such as sins: thus man loves God with his whole heart.

[Everyone naturally seeks a single ultimate goal in the sense of seeking to be happy, and indeed, seeking to live a life of happiness. We do many things that we could not give a precise reason for, but we perceive in a vague manner that they are elements of a happy life. Thus everything we do is, in a sense, for ourselves, insofar as each action is thought to be some component of or necessary for a happy life, and is implicitly or explicitly desired as such. Now, "when one orders his life to God's service," the goal of a "happy life" is seen and desired in light of a more perfect end, namely the fulfillment of God's will (It is important to note that these are not two separate ends–The fulfillment of God's will is not separated from or contrary to being happy, but includes and realizes this happiness). Thus, whatever a man does, he "does for himself" inasmuch as he does it as part of the happy life he desires. And therefore, such a man "virtually orders to God" everything he does–at least, as long as, in acting, he does not implicitly reject his previous life's goal of being happy by fulfilling God's will. The man who is writing a letter to his friend, if he begins deliberately drafting his letter in a manner liable to harm his friend but help himself, is not writing those sentences for the sake of his friend, even if he doesn't consciously reject the goal of writing for his friend, but is only thinking about the profit he can somehow derive from the friendship. Similarly, a man who concretely does something that is not suited for growing in charity, but hinders it, is not doing that concrete action for the sake of God, even if he doesn't reject it. And if he does something that is simply incompatible with charity, he not only is not doing that concrete action for the sake of God, but is no longer even acting as a whole for the sake of God.]

[Since the primary affection of the soul is love, it is by love for the end, by charity, that all things are referred to God as the end. St. Thomas thus goes on explain how the various elements of human life (intellect, will, actions) are referred to God by charity, and how these various aspects can be understood in the commandment to love God "with the whole heart, mind, soul, and strength."]

Secondly, man should subject his intellect to God, believing those things that are divinely revealed, according to the Apostle: "taking understanding captivity, unto the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). Thus man loves God with his whole mind.

[Insofar as the intellect, with respect to matters that are not seen as manifestly true or false, is subject to the will's influence, it shares in the movement of the will. Thus a man may be said to love God with his mind, or intellect, inasmuch as his motivation to believe is his friendship with God, his love for him, and inasmuch as his belief is an expression of this friendship.]

Thirdly, all the things a man loves, he should love in God, and universally refer all his affection to the love of God; hence the Apostle says "whether we be transported in mind it is to God, or whether we be sober, it is for you; for the charity of Christ presses us" (2 Cor. v. 13). Thus man loves God with his whole soul.

Fourthly, man should derive all his external works, words and deeds from divine love, according to the Apostle: "Let all your things be done in love" (1 Cor 16:14), and thus a man loves God with all his strength.

[To "refer all his affection to the love of God" and to "derive all his external works" is not to be understood in an explicit and conscious sense, which pertained to the previous kind of perfection of love, but in a general sense–possibly explicit, but at any rate implicit–as explained in the first point about referring all things to God as an end.]

This is, then, the third mode of perfect divine love, to which all are bound by the necessity of precept. But the second mode is not possible to anyone in this life, unless he is at the same time a wayfarer and an enjoyer of beatitude, as was our Lord Jesus Christ.

Evolution and Creation V – Hope or Despair

From Hugh Owens The Importance of the Traditional Doctrine of Creation:

Comments are in red.

5. The traditional understanding offers hope for the future of mankind. Theistic evolutionism fosters either a false hope or a deep despair.

The traditional understanding of Genesis confers hope. It gives Christians confidence that the same beautiful harmony that existed throughout the whole universe "in the beginning" will be restored "in the end" through the working of the Holy Spirit. [That seems logical. If it was that way once, it can be again.] It also strengthens men's faith in the credibility of the prophecies of numerous canonized saints who have foretold a future flowering of Christianity before the final judgment and the end of the world when many of the characteristics of the first created world will be restored. [Is this good or bad? Should men's faith in private revelation be based upon how plausible the content seems to them?] The Christian who comprehends and believes in the patristic understanding of creation also has the capacity to reconcile the occurrence of death-dealing natural disasters with the absolute goodness of God who wills no evil. [Is this the answer to the problem of evil? God really didn't want things this way, but it wasn't up to him…] In light of the traditional understanding of Genesis, the faithful know that destructive natural disasters do not reflect the natural order as it came forth from God's hands. [If "destructive natural disasters" means disasters harmful to the human race to descend from Adam, this is true. If it means natural disasters harmful to other living beings, it needs qualification–perhaps that was a common opinion, but it doesn't seem that it was generally held as part of the meaning of the text. Also, though not stated, it seems to be suggested that it had to be this way, that God couldn't have a created a world in the state in which it is now. This is a misunderstanding of the fall. Fallen man is not nature minus something that belongs to nature. He is man in the state of nature, without the gifts of grace that were planned for him in Adam. The Church even condemned the position that "The integrity of the first creation was not an exaltion of human nature not due to it, but was its natural condition," (Denz. 1026), and taught that God could have created man in the same state in which he is now (Denz. 1055), subject to death, pain, etc.–in such a case it would not be fallen nature, since it wouldn't have been previously elevated.
with natural evil before sin, a position condemned in 1567 (Denz. 1055)]
Moreover, they understand that such disasters result directly or indirectly from the sins of mankind, and that they have a twofold purpose—first, to correct sinners, and, second, to bring them to repentance. [The supposition that such events belong to nature as such, and occurred before sin, does not remove them from God's providence. God is Lord of nature, and does use nature to correct sinners and bring them to repentance. To supppose that "natural disasters" have to be unnatural in order to be instruments of God's providence is to make a grave mistake.] According to the traditional doctrine of creation, the first created world operated in perfect harmony and subordination to Adam and Eve, so long as they in turn remained subordinated to the Divine Will. The course of nature as we know it today resulted from a curse imposed on nature by God after Adam's fall. With this in mind, the traditional understanding inspires a fervent hope that each repentant sinner and divinized saint brings the world one step closer to the day when the wolf will lie down with the lamb. [The original claim has become stronger. Not only does it give confidence, but inspires a fervent hope. Our hope, though, is not primarily based upon a conviction about the original state, and the possibility of what already was, being once again, but upon God's promise of a new heaven and a new earth.]

Theistic evolutionism cannot conceive of an original harmonious state of the universe, and thus either dismisses prophecies of a future restoration of the world before the final judgment or misinterprets them as referring to some kind of Teilhardian evolution of consciousness. In general, theistic evolutionism leads its adherents to believe that God deliberately ordained a struggle for existence and a process of natural selection as his means for producing the human body through secondary causes. For the theistic evolutionist, man-harming natural disasters, such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes, are just part of the ordinary course of nature as created by God from the beginning. [However the beginning was, such occurences are now part of the ordinary course of nature, according to the Catholic understanding, which again, does not mean they are outside providence.] Consequently, the theistic evolutionist does not see the connection between natural disasters and men's sins, and thus fails to interpret "the signs of the times." Faced with the painful reality of natural disasters, he either lives in a constant state of denial that God uses such events to accomplish his purposes without regard to human sin, or else he falls into despair at the contradiction between such a god and the God of love revealed in the Bible.

Benedictines in Norcia to Celebrate in Both Forms

[Note: I'll be away this week, and so won't be blogging–I tried to use the scheduled posts feature, but it seems to be still not working.]

The Benedictine monks of Norcia, Italy (where my brother is a monk), have just received from the Ecclesia Dei commission of the Holy See the apostolate of celebrating the Mass in "in utroque usu," that is, in both ordinary and extraordinary forms. The announcement was made on the the 2nd anniversary of the Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI Summorum Pontificum, July 7th. By mid-July they hope to be able to offer daily on their website a recording of the sung Conventual Mass in the extraordinary form.

Here is the letter from Ecclesia Dei:

April 21, 2009

Very Reverend Father Prior:

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, from the very beginning of his pontificate, has made known his desire to foster the unity of the Church. As in the past so also today, the careful celebration of the Sacred Mysteries is a most efficacious instrument for achieving this goal.

For this reason, faithful to the intentions of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, this Pontifical Commission, responding to your request, entrusts to the Monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia the special apostolate of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist "in utroque usu", that is, both in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, in collaboration with the Holy See and in communion with the diocesan bishop.

I am confident that your young Benedictine community will always support the pastoral activity of the Supreme Pontiff with faithful prayer,

With my best Easter wishes,

Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, President
Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei"

It would be a good thing if more communities in a position to do so followed this example.

In order to avoid possible misunderstandings, an interview with the Prior of the monastery, Fr. Cassian Folsom, in which he anticipates certain questions that might be raised, was also distributed with the announcement.

Does this decision respect the Second Vatican Council Council?

It would be useful to read carefully the Council document on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. SC 22 says that: "Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop." Pope Benedict's Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum simply reiterates that principle, and legislates for the use of the old rite alongside the new. Pope Benedict also emphasizes that the way to interpret the Council documents is by the hermeneutic of continuity. That principle is also expressed in the document on the liturgy where it says: "…care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing" (SC 23). What we're really talking about here is legitimate pluralism, which the Council advocates as well: "Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole community" (SC 37). So the celebration of the Mass in utroque usu by all means respects the Second Vatican Council. We are embracing both usages, and reaching out to other groups in search of unity. That's a very conciliar approach.

But doesn't this mean "turning back the clock"?

On the contrary, I see a monastery "utriusque usus" as very forward looking, especially in terms of authentic ecumenism. By that I mean two things. First, the ethos of the extraordinary form is very similar to the ethos of the many oriental rites, and therefore celebrating the Eucharist according to both the Novus Ordo and the Ordo Antiquior allows us to serve as a bridge between East and West. Second, I think we need a good dose of "internal ecumenism" in the Church, so as to be able to dialogue with Catholics attached to the older liturgical forms without ideological prejudice.

How can you, as a liturgist, justify such a decision?

It is precisely as a liturgist that I have had the opportunity to study and experience the rich variety of liturgical traditions that exist within the Church. It is "politically correct" for Latin rite Catholics to be enthusiastic about the Byzantine rite. Why isn't it "politically correct" to be enthusiastic about the extraordinary form as well? The history of the liturgy shows clearly a multiplicity of usages within the one Roman rite. It is thanks to many years of studying the liturgy that I came to see the importance of this unity in diversity. In fact, I argued this point in the presence of the then-Cardinal Ratzinger at a liturgical conference held at Fontgombault in France in 1997. As a liturgist, I would also like to say that there is no perfect rite; there are positive and negative aspects in every liturgical tradition. The only perfect liturgy is the heavenly one. In addition, both the extraordinary and the ordinary form can be celebrated well or celebrated poorly. For a comparison to be fair, we have to place the best of both side by side.

How can the two usages influence each other?

The ordinary form stresses such elements as the participation of the faithful, the use of the vernacular, the ongoing development of the liturgy by the addition of new saints to the calendar, etc.: these are all very important. At the risk of oversimplifying, I would say that the ordinary form stresses rational understanding, speaking in prose, as it were. The extraordinary form provides rich food for the intellect also, but relies heavily on gesture, symbolism, intuition, silence, ritual action without words, speaking in poetry, you might say. Man knows both rationally and intuitively. He needs both prose and poetry. If the two usages, like two different cultures, can patiently live with each other over time, they can become friends.

What pastoral benefits will come from this new apostolate?

The monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia is in a unique position. The pastoral life of the town is served very well by the diocesan clergy. The Basilica, on the other hand, is not a parish, but a shrine, whose pastoral attention is focused on pilgrims who came from all over the world. We are an international community serving an international public. The pilgrims come for a specifically Benedictine liturgy, which is characterized by what I would call a monastic or contemplative style. This is our unique contribution. The extraordinary form is very conducive to this contemplative, even mystical style, which is why the young people are so drawn to it. We celebrate the Mass in the ordinary form in the same style, which is why people come from far and wide to participate in our Sunday Mass.

Wouldn't it be better to be just like everyone else?

To use an expression taken from the world of commerce, growth and development depend on finding a distinctive "niche". This special apostolate of celebrating the Eucharist in utroque usu, makes the Norcia monastery distinctive, unique. I'm sure it will contribute to the growth of the community, in a time when young people aren't interested in a vocation that means living "just like everyone else".

In their newsletter, the monks also announced that on June 17 they finally acquired a piece of land outside the city (they have desired to move for some time, for the sake of space, as well as a setting more suited to monastic life).

Love in Heaven – On The Perfection of the Spiritual Life IV

[St. Thomas beings to consider the various degrees of divine love possible to creatures. Having shown that only God can love God as much as he deserves to be loved, he concludes that the only mode of loving God perfectly that is possible for a rational creature, is that which is taken on the side of the one who loves, namely that the rational creature love God with his whole power; [and love that is perfect in this way is the love we are commanded to have] hence this is also expressed clearly in the precept of divine love. For it is said in Deut 6:5, "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole strength," and in Luke 10:27 it is added, "and with your whole mind"; heart may be referred to intention, mind to knowledge, soul to affection, strength to execution. For all these things are to be given over to the love of God. But it should be considered that this precept may be fulfilled in two ways. For since "whole" and "perfect" is that to which nothing is lacking, one loves God with the whole heart, soul, strength, and mind, if nothing of these fails to be actually turned wholly towards God. [Again a distinction regarding ways of being totally given over to love. In the fullest sense, to be totally given over to love means that at every moment, every power and act of ours is fully informed by love.]

This perfect mode of love does not belong to wayfarers, but only to those who enjoy beatitude. Hence the Apostle says, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to lay hold of it" (Phil 3:12), as though expecting perfection when he laid hold of the palm of beatitude. But he does not take "laying hold" insofar as it implies comprehending or enclosing, for in this sense God may not be comprehended by any creature, but insofar as "laying hold" implies attaining that which one has followed and sought after. [As St. Paul remarks, we will only be truly perfect in heaven, while here we aim for that goal.] For in that heavenly beatitude the intellect and will of the rational creature shall always be borne actually towards God, since beatitude consists in the enjoyment of God, and beatitude does not consist in habit, but in act. And since the rational creature will cling to God, who is Supreme Truth, as its last end, and all things are referred in intention to the last end, and all things to be done are arranged according to the last end as according to a rule, it follows that in the perfection of beatitude the rational creature will love God with its whole heart, since its whole intention will be borne to God in all that it thinks, loves, or does; with its whole mind, since its mind will always be actually borne towards God, always seeing him, and judging all things and about all things in him and according to his truth; with its whole soul or its whole strength, since the love of God will be that which arranges all external acts. This is then the second mode of perfect divine love, which belongs to the blessed. [It is due to the imperfection of our human nature that after we decide to do something, and begin thinking about how to do it, we are no longer thinking as distinctly or vividly about the goal; similarly that when we are doing all the particular daily tasks of a life devoted to one's family, or ultimately, devoted to God, our heart is often turned to those tasks, being distracted either by enjoyment of them or by displeasure or annoyance from them. But since this is only from our weakness, not from an inherent contradiction in loving the person to whom we are devoted, and giving attention to the particular things we're doing at the moment, when God totally fills our mind and heart with his presence, as he will do in heaven ("the Lord God will be their light" {Rev 22:5}), then love for him will pervade each and every one of our particular thoughts and actions.]

Evolution and Creation IV – Man and Nature

From Hugh Owens The Importance of the Traditional Doctrine of Creation:

Comments are in red.

4. Theistic evolutionism perverts the relationship between man and nature. The traditional doctrine of creation fosters a right relationship between man and nature.

According to theistic evolution, all creatures, including the human body, have arisen out of lifeless matter through billions of years of natural processes. [(1). The theory of evolution does not necessarily entail life arising from lifeless matter. Self-replicating non-living beings can be subject to evolution, but the scientific theory of evolution itself doesn't as yet have much to say about whether life arose from such non-living self-replicators. It is true that quite a few scientists, because of naturalist suppositions, assume that this is the origin of life. But that is merely an hypothesis. (2). According to theistic evolution correctly understood, if living beings came from non-living beings, their life comes from God. Theistic evolution is, in fact, distinct from atheistic evolution, according to which, ultimately, potency produces actuality.] This perspective harmonizes very well with the popular pantheistic slogan, "The earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth." [It is true that it harmonizes with pantheism, inasmuch as, if the individual components (atoms, proteins, or such things) that directly produced living beings were, as components, lifeless, and if life can only come from life (since a complete cause must be at least as perfect as its effect), then there has to be another cause of life than those individual components. This could be the whole earth, or the whole universe, but it could just as much, indeed even more be a separate divine being. Thus the view that life is derived from non-living matter harmonizes even better with theism… especially since according to the pantheistic view, life didn't really derive from non-living matter; rather, all matter is alive.] Such a slogan would have been anathema to the Apostles and to the Holy Fathers of the Church. Within the context of their understanding of Genesis, it would have been blasphemous to suggest that the earth in any sense gave man his existence. All of the Holy Fathers recognized the literal truth of the Genesis account of the special creation of man, in which God alone used material elements to form man's body but fashioned that body and infused his soul by a supernatural act of his Divine Will. According to the traditional understanding of Genesis, God created the whole universe for man. All things in heaven and earth are entrusted by God to us, as the stewards of creation. [This last sentence is setting up a strawman. The earth's being "entrusted by God" to man is just as compatible with theistic evolution as with immediate creation.]

The patristic understanding of Genesis fosters a deep reverence for the sacredness and mystery of life, including each particular kind of life. The traditional understanding of Genesis recoils at the thought of tinkering with the DNA of any kind of living thing, except to repair a known abnormality or genetic defect. [This premise is at the least overstated, if not simply inaccurate. According to this argument, breeding plants to improve their yield, nutritional value, or flavor, or breeding animals to improve their strength, life expectancy, or health would also be wrong. The difference between selecting plants or animals for a given trait, and giving them it directly by altering the DNA consists in (1) the speed with which the change is made, and (2) the fact that our knowledge of DNA and what it produces is quite imperfect. The speed doesn't really matter; our degree of knowledge does. So at most, a belief that each kind of being was separately created, would lead us to be caution or to hold off on altering DNA directly, until we understood it well enough to do so within the limits suitable to each kind of living being. It would not in the least forbid it simply speaking.]

The traditional understanding fosters a profound skepticism in regard to the safety of genetically modified foods, mindful of the purposeful God-given design of plant foods and the grave dangers inherent in tinkering with that design, especially when the genetically modified substances are ingested by human beings without rigorous testing in advance of the interaction between the GMF's and the human body. [It does not follow from the premise that each kind of living being was separately created, that human tinkering with the design is dangerous, anymore than the premise that God created the earth implies that it is dangerous to dig caves or build hills. Nor, on the contrary, does the theory of evolution imply that tinkering with DNA is safe.]
Whether there is grave danger or not is such "tinkering" ]

[Granting that the theory of evolution and the belief in special creation necessarily, or at least in fact lead to these different attitudes regarding genetically modified foods and altering the DNA of animals, we might ask, what about it? The author of the article seems to take it as evident that the attitude of "profound skepticism" is the right attitude (since "the difference it makes" has always been showing how belief in creation leads to better attitudes than belief in evolution). But this is far from evident, and indeed is probably false. Caution is surely in order, but not "profound skepticism."]

According to theistic evolutionism, billions of years of death, destruction, mutations, and disease, have been the very means God has used to create the various kinds of creatures. To theistic evolutionists it is not at all unthinkable that man create clones, chimeras, or GMF's, since, in their view, man is just imitating his "Father" who used random mutations and natural selection to "create" the first human body from the bodies of countless generations of ape-like creatures. [Turning the argument around, does this mean that to special creationists it is not at all unthinkable that man build up a man from non-living elements, since he is just imitating his Father who formed the first human body from non-living matter? It would seem to be equally valid. In fact both are inequally invalid. The sin of pride is said to be a certain wanting "to be like God". The fact that God did something does not mean that humans can rightly do it. It is because of human dignity that human cloning is wrong, not because of the historical manner in which God brought man into existence. Again, as regards GMF's, should they be "unthinkable"? No.]

[The next part deals with natural evils in the world, and God's love, and it was particularly that part which led me to begin writing this series.]

Conversion story

For the longest, I was indifferent to the reality of God. I never talked about Him, thought about Him, or prayed. By the time I was in the sixth grade, I believed to be an atheist was to face reality. I had not heard a more compelling or convincing argument to many existential questions I already had nor did I have a credible Christian witness around me to make me a believer.

Finally the real moment came. I don't know precisely when I "converted." Perhaps it was when I started to show up daily to Mass, or though not a Catholic, I was coordinating 24 hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, going to Bible Study every week with a priest-theologian, and explicitly had a Catholic spiritual director. I am not certain. I like to think of conversion as a moment of surrender when you stop fighting. I simply let go of all the moral and existential questions that were tormenting me and distancing me from God. I did not feel that I needed to know the answers to those questions, even though I desperately wanted to. God knew the answers and that was the point.

The real mystery of conversion, I think, is beyond the scope of psychology for one reason: the key ingredient is God's divine providence. It is not simply a human change. We do not lift ourselves up, but are lifted up if we give a free and genuine "yes" to God's invitation. No one can change for the greater good except by the grace of God. In the case of my own conversion, I think this theory is remarkably true. The providence, in fact, is a clear and impossible miracle.

I was conveniently ignorant of a multitude of things about the Church, even while surrounded by Catholics and even regularly asking priests and professors questions, I never thought to bring up or address these matters. Had I asked certain questions and gotten an orthodox response, I might have been confused, hurt, or even angered. More than likely, I would have not proceeded to become Catholic. This is the miracle of Divine Providence: mysteriously the arrangement of my free decisions and God's activity in the world acted in unbelievable concert, as arbitrary my decisions seem at times as well those of others—others who both influence me and whom God is attempting to save in the same way. All this somehow played out magnificently, even if it is not noticeable at first glance. Complicated, I know. Let me explain further.

Today, I am easily an advocate of John Paul II's "new feminism." Previously, I was a "liberal feminist." If I had known during my process of conversion, the Church's stance on the ordination of women, that it not only was declared, but was, in fact, infallible and irreversible, and the fact that it was based largely on gender—being ignorant of metaphysics, ontology, sacramentality, and the nature of which our Lord instituted the priesthood—I would have likely dismissed such a teaching as "hypocritical doctrine" or some "injustice in the name of God." The Lord knows what I would have called it and what it meant for my conversion, I cannot say would have been good.

Read more here (American Catholic website).

God Alone Loves Perfectly – On the Perfection Of the Spiritual Life III

The Perfection of Love of God That Belongs to God Alone

[Having concluded that being perfect in the spiritual life means, first of all, loving God perfectly, and secondly, loving one's neighbor perfectly, St. Thomas will take up each of these in turn. And since perfection consists first of all in the love of God, he first takes up the love of God.]

In each love we find many degrees of perfection. With regard to the love of God, the first and supreme degree of perfection belongs to God alone. [Thomas immediately states the point to be established in this chapter, and will go to explain why it is true.] The mode of perfection is considered both on the side of the one who is loved, and of the one who loves: perfection in loving on the side of the one who is loved, means that he is loved as much as he is lovable; and on the side of the one who loves, perfection means that he loves a thing with his full power. [What does it mean to love a thing perfectly, or completely? Since loving is both a personal act, and has a specific object, we can speak of loving perfectly or completely inasmuch as the love is a personal act, or inasmuch as it is love for a specific object or person.] Now since everything is lovable to the degree that it is good, and God's goodness is infinite, he is infinitely lovable. But no creature can love infinitely, since no finite power can have an infinite act. Therefore God alone, who has as great a power of loving as his goodness is, can love himself perfectly as regards the first way of being perfect.

[In the first sense of loving perfectly, only God is a perfect lover of God; no mere human or angel can love God as much as God deserves love. God, being infinite goodness, deserves infinite love. But any created being, just as it has created and limited being, so it's power and act is limited. Therefore its act of love, even love for God, whom it loves above all else, is limited. God's love is infinite, as his goodness is–in fact God's love is really identical with his goodness.

This chapter is pretty straightforward, at least if we don't get into the question of love of self vs. love of others–whether, e.g., in notion the distinction of persons in the Trinity is essential in order for God's love for God to be the greatest love there is, as some have argued.]

Evolution and Creation III – Sexuality

This post continues the series on theological, moral and spiritual issues related (really or supposedly) to the theory of evolution. James Chastek, at the Just Thomism blog, has been doing a number of posts on philosophical issues related to evolution, which readers of this blog may also be interested in reading.

From Hugh Owen's The Importance of the Traditional Doctrine of Creation:

My comments are in red.

3. Theistic Evolutionism confuses and undermines the distinct divinely-instituted roles of men and women and indirectly contributes to the confusion of sexual roles. The traditional understanding of Genesis defines and strengthens the God-given roles of men and women and protects the dignity of both sexes and the leadership role of men.

According to the patristic understanding of Genesis, human sexuality is a gift from above, a reflection of the Trinitarian mystery. [The principal analogate of marriage for the Fathers is not immediately the Trinity, but Christ and the Church.] According to this traditional understanding of human sexuality, contraception, homosexuality, masturbation, and bestiality are all sacrilegious sins, in that they defile the life-giving reflection of Trinitarian divine love and render it sterile. According to theistic evolution, however, human sexuality came up from the apes. [But according to theistic evolution, the particularly human aspect of sexuality is not common to men and apes, nor do men receive it from apes–it is rooted in the rational soul.] Homosexuals even argue that homosexuality is "natural" since certain species of apes and baboons practice homosexual play. [It is important to distinguish two senses of "natural"; in one sense, that which in any way follows upon nature is called natural; in another sense, only that which nature is directly ordered to is called natural; in the first sense, death, disease, and monstrous births are natural to all animals; in the second sense, they are not. The relevant sense of "natural" when discussing whether homosexuality is good or bad, is the second sense. Homosexuality of the sort where an animal is infertile for its whole life could be natural in the first sense, but it's hard to see how it could be in the second. Occasional homosexuality might in some animals be natural in the second sense, be somehow good for them. That would have to be seen by study; it can't be ruled out in advance.] Since man's body evolved from animals of this kind, they argue, it is foolish to argue that homosexuality is against our nature. [It is indeed foolish to argue that an individual act of homosexuality is a moral evil without taking into consideration man's rational nature, which is presupposed to morality properly speaking. Because man has not a merely animal nature, but a spiritual and rational nature, which is capable of grasping universal truths and seeking good universally, an individual human act can be naturally apt to express the full meaning of human sexuality, which includes relationship to procreation. Hence, considering nature alone, without arguing from revelation, an argument for homosexuality would have to be based on anthropology (just like arguments against homosexuality); arguments from other animals cannot prove the case–we may find some kinds of animals for whom a certain amount of "stealing", "killing", "cheating", etc., is natural and good, but that in no way indicates that these are natural and good for man.]

The identification of the priesthood with masculinity after the pattern of the first Adam and of Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, led the Church Fathers to strongly condemn effeminacy and homosexuality in priests and monks. For the Holy Fathers, the identification of the priesthood with manhood was so strong that priests and monks were expected to be more manly, more courageous, and more ascetical than laymen. Not surprisingly, the rise of theistic evolutionism has coincided with a dramatic increase in homosexuality and effeminacy among the Catholic clergy along with a relentless feminization of the liturgy characterized by such things as female altar servers and inclusive language. [This argument scarcely needs comment. Theistic evolution does not in the least do away with the difference between masculinity and feminity. See the previous post for more on this. The causes of the minimalization of the difference between what is masculine and feminine are quite different–in part a perception that the feminine was as such made inferior to what is masculine, with the consequent desire of doing away with the difference between the two, in order to promote the equal dignity of man and woman.]

… Is it conceivable that homosexuality and clerical sexual abuse could have spread as widely as they have done in an atmosphere charged with faith in the literal historical truth of Genesis? [Yes. In fact, it may actually have been just as common in the early Eastern Church as it is now. Basil thinks it appropriate to forbid young monks from ever being together alone, because of the danger that they will be led to homosexual desires and acts. That's apparently indicative of a common inclination for young (and old) men to perceive young men as feminine, and thus be inclined to sexual intercourse with them. And this to a greater degree than present.]