Featured Post

JPII and St. Nicholas

Friday, August 23, 2013

JPII vs Modernism

Due to the upcoming canonization of Blessed John Paul II, some suspect him of having invested himself in the heresy of 'modernism' as refuted by St. Pius X in "Pascendi Dominici Gregis". In fact, it is suspected that all of the Second Vatican Council fathers, including John XXIII (who will be canonized soon) and BXVI, were invested in modernism to such a degree that they were consciously allowing the gates of hell to prevail over the Church.  {Please see my previous post on the Tridentine Mass for background of the schism that occurred during JPII's reign}.  I want to simply refute the already refuted heresy of modernism by St. Pius X in the life and teachings of Karol Wojtyla.

It is essential to define exactly what 'Modernism' is, as it has become a rather popular term among traditionalists to critique Church leaders of the past fifty years. What St. Pius X means by 'Modernism' is more or less the following:

Laymen and clergy who lack the protection of sound philosophy and theology are setting themselves up as would-be reformers of the Church and her faith. Typically, they are men of erudition and strict moral probity. But they also, in his words, ‘double the parts of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error’. They know perfectly well at what they are aiming which is a total ‘make-over’ (in our contemporary parlance) of revelation as hitherto understood.

Right off the bat, does this sound like the man who--together with Joseph Ratzinger--compiled the most thorough Catechism of the Catholic Church in light of the Nicene Creed that the Church has yet seen? Riddled throughout that Catechism, unlike the former Baltimore Catechism of happy memory, are footnotes upon footnotes of St Thomas Aquinas as well as early Church Fathers.

Granted, St. Pius X's definition of "Modernist" would seem to apply to Wojtyla's use of phenomenology and scientific method in some instances to research controversial issues like the morality of stem cells, IVF, sexual morality and fertility, etc. But, did not Cardinal Wojtyla, and later JPII himself, have the good of the faithful and glory of God in mind when publishing works like Love and Responsibility? Did he not merely use the means of reason and philosophy to aid the faithful in the inevitable fight between the culture of death and the culture of life?

The real question is, and is sadly misunderstood by many who would too quickly dismiss Wojtyla's genius, were the methods of philosophical inquiry used by Karol Wojtyla "protected by sound philosophy and theology"? The answer is resoundingly, "Yes, they were sound and rooted in Catholic tradition".

Here is why the above answer is true: not only did Karol Wojtyla rely on St. Thomas Aquinas as a basis for objective reality and absolute moral truth, he also relied upon St. Augustine for inquiry into the 'intersubjectivity' of man--that is, the 'immanence' of the follower of Christ both consciously active in the Church and unconsciously (see my post on JPII vs. solipsism for further notes on subjectivity).

Now, 'immanence' is a potentially bad word among traditionalists, and St. Pius X has almost no tolerance for experiential believers and Pentecostalism divorced from the true and reasonable parameters of conscience described by St. Augustine in his Confessions. Allow me, then, to draw a line between the two types of 'immanence' that St. Pius X describes in "Pascendi", with the help of Fr. Nichols and St. Augustine:

Pius admits that an appeal to immanence can have an acceptable sense. Semi-quoting Augustine, it can be a way of saying God works in a way even more intimately present to me than I am to myself. But Modernists mean more than this: they mean that divine action always invests itself in the activity of nature: so revelatory divine action doesn’t differ in principle from any other manner in which creative processes have divine causality behind them. The implication, thinks the pope, is pantheism.

To pinpoint exactly where Fr. Nichols is drawing his information in the letter of Pius X, it is in paragraph 19, the section titled "The Modernist as Theologian". Another way of saying Fr. Nichol's summary of the nineteenth paragraph is that the Christian is allowed to recognize God as closer to him than he is to himself, but he is not allowed to insist on changes in revelation based on his own feelings, sentiments, or subconscious desires. Believe it or not, this is one of the main dangers that Pius and every Pope since his time has made clear to both be wary of and to balance with objectively acceptable absolute truths identified by St. Thomas Aquinas, namely, natural law and the doctrine of the Magisterium.

At this point, is there any inconsistency between JPII and St. Thomas Aquinas, or St. Augustine for that matter? Let us use Wojtyla's own words:

It is for this reason that the Church has given preference to the method and doctrine of the Angelic Doctor. Quite other than exclusive preference, this deals with an exemplary preference that permitted Leo XIII to declare him to be inter Scholasticos Doctores, omnium princeps et magister. And truly such is St Thomas Aquinas, not only for the completeness, balance, depth and clarity of his style, but still more for his keen sense of fidelity to the truth which can also be called realism: fidelity to the voice of created things so as to construct the edifice of philosophy; fidelity to the voice of the Church so as to construct the edifice of theology.

And again on St Augustine, drawing largely from Leo XIII's "Aeterni Patris":

Pope Leo XIII praised his philosophical teachings in the Encyclical Aeterni Patris; later, Pius XI made a brief synthesis of his virtues and teachings in the Encyclical Ad salutem humani generis, declaring that, of those who have flourished from the beginnings of the human race down to our own days, none—or, at most, very few—could rank with Augustine, for the very great acuteness of his genius, for the richness and sublimity of his teachings, and finally for his holiness of life and defense of Catholic truth. Paul VI later affirmed: 'Indeed, over and above the shining example he gives of the qualities common to all the Fathers, it may be said that all the thought-currents of the past meet in his works and form the source which provides the whole doctrinal tradition of succeeding ages.

Is this just lip-service from one modernist to another? Or, is this the truly prayed over material of the Slavic Pope who found in himself the continuation of these great Catholic thinkers? I strongly suggest the latter.

In conclusion, I have argued the following:
1) JPII is far from being a Modernist heretic, but is profoundly rooted in Tradition
2) St. Pius X allows for the teachings of Vatican II in his letter
3) St Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine are the objective and subjective litmus tests for true continuity with Tradition

For more info, please see JPII's "Fides et Ratio", section "The Magisterium's discernment as diakonia of the truth" in paragraphs# 54-56

And, a helpfully simple Peter Kreeft list against Modernism:
1) Is God a transcendent, supernatural, personal, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, providential, loving, just Creator? Or is God an immanent cosmic force evolving in nature and man?
2) Do miracles really happen? Or has science refuted them? A transcendent God can perform miracles; a merely immanent, naturalistic God cannot. The three great miracles essential to orthodox Christianity are the Incarnation, the Resurrection and the new birth.
3) Is there a heaven? Or is heaven just all the good on earth?
4) Does God really love me? Or is that just a helpful sentiment?
5) Does God forgive my sins through Christ? Or is sin an outdated concept? In other words, is Christ a mere human example or a Savior from sin?
6) Is Christ divine, eternal, from the beginning? Or is he only divine “as all men are divine”?
7) Did he physically rise from the dead? Or is the Resurrection only a myth, a beautiful symbol?
8) Must we be born again from above to be saved, to have God as our Father? Or is everyone saved automatically? Does everyone have God as Father simply by being born as a human being, or by being reasonably nice during life?
9) Is Scripture God’s word to us? Or is it human words about God? Does it have divine or human authority behind it? And can an ordinary Christian understand its true meaning without reading German theologians?
10 )Most important of all, can I really meet God in Christ? If I ask him to be my Lord, the Lord of my life, will he really do it? Or is this just a “religious experience”? This question is really one with the question: Did Christ really rise from the dead? That is, is he alive now? Can I say: “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!”?

[1] Aidan Nichols O.P., “Modernism a Century On" Crisis Magazine
[2] Ibid. & https://archive.org/details/popepiusx_1409_librivox
[4] Apostolic Letter to the bishops, priests, religious families and faithful of the whole Catholic Church on the occasion of the 16th centenary of the conversion of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor, 28 August 1986.
[5] http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/toward-reuniting.htm

Thursday, August 1, 2013

JPII and Redemption

Throughout his life, Karol Wojtyla wrote extensively on Divine Mercy, but more personally, the Redeemer. As a powerful title for Christ, 'Redeemer' had specific meaning to JPII and can be found in most of his speeches, letters, and other works. Why did he refer to Christ under this title so often? How did JPII hope for members of the Church to identify with the Redeemer?

Three encyclicals that prove his affinity for the Redeemer, and his conviction that (in addition to Divine Mercy) redemption was the message for the modern world are: Remptor Hominis, Redemptoris Missio, and Redemptoris Mater. All three refer to the mystery of Redemption and its implications for man (both individually and collectively). I want to largely draw from the first two of these encyclicals in order to illustrate the profound relationship JPII had with the Redeemer, who paid for the Church with the gift of his own blood.

The 'mystery' of the Redemption is precisely that, a mystery, but it is still worth mining for truth, goodness, and beauty under the guidance of the Slavic Pope who explored the mystery so thoroughly. That is to say that the mystery is very much accessible to the layman with the help of the wisdom of the holy father. Therefore, it is safe to proceed with the basic understanding of Redemption as the price paid for man to be reconciled to God.

As the Redeemer, Jesus paid the price of his blood on the cross without reservation, and once dead, was raised on the third day in victory over sin and death. I want to emphasize, as does the Pope, that the Resurrection justified the price of Jesus' blood on the cross with inestimable value, efficaciousness, and life-giving centrality to the Church. JPII's very first encyclical began with these words: "THE REDEEMER OF MAN, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history" (Redemptor Hominis, ch. 1). Furthermore, in the sacraments, especially of baptism and the eucharist, we encounter the power of the Redemption firsthand:

By celebrating and also partaking of the Eucharist we unite ourselves with Christ on earth
and in heaven who intercedes for us with the Father, but we always do so
through the redeeming act of his Sacrifice, through which he has
redeemed us, so that we have been "bought with a price". The "price" of
our redemption is likewise a further proof of the value that God himself
sets on man and of our dignity in Christ. (ibid, ch. 20)

This statement in itself, comprises the whole of the message of Redemption which JPII wished to impart to the world. It was as though the Redeemer urged him to "tell my people that I value them to such a degree that I entirely spent my priceless blood for each of them". The message is very much in line with scriptural and traditional understanding of redemption as 'purchasing', and demands to be delivered with a particular urgency in a world where human dignity has all but been reduced to mere numeric value. Further evidence from Scripture for this same understanding of redemption appears in the books of Ruth and Exodus in particular, foreshadowing Christ as Bridegroom in the former and Christ as Redeemer from slavery in the latter.

Karol Wojtyla saw the worst of ideological indignity in nazism and communism. Yet, he found himself being led by the Redeemer, in the midst of both catastrophes, to communicate the message of Redemption to the world threatened by the allurement of such inhumanity. He challenges man, so strongly influenced by the likes of Freud, Nietzche, and Marx to adopt the "Ethos of Redemption" (Theology of the Body) to combat the "masters of suspicion" already mentioned. He does not settle for the excuse, 'we are only human flesh'. That is why, in Redemptor Hominis, he deals with the truth of redemption in a human dimension and in a divine dimension--as Christ united both in himself:

We can and must immediately reach and display to the world our
unity in proclaiming the mystery of Christ, in revealing the divine
dimension and also the human dimension of the Redemption, and in
struggling with unwearying perseverance for the dignity that each human
being has reached and can continually reach in Christ, namely the dignity
of both the grace of divine adoption and the inner truth of humanity, a
truth which—if in the common awareness of the modern world it has been
given such fundamental importance—for us is still clearer in the light of
the reality that is Jesus Christ. (Redemptor Hominis ch.11)

It is not enough for humanity to come to some greater appreciation of itself as reasonable, industrious, etc. Rather, man has to be raised to his crucial relationship of covenant with God in Christ in order to fully grasp his dignity and worth--and in humility, to acknowledge God as its source and summit. Revolutions like the Enlightenment and Marxism drastically fall short of this call. So too does any technological advancement invented by man that promises to alleviate suffering for a time. JPII covers all of these substitutes for the Redeemer in his writings. Furhtermore, he notes that the need for a redeemer is written on the human conscience ever since the first sin.

The need for a redeemer is clearly seen throughout Scripture. Especially one who could definitively reunite God and man. If we look at the depictions of bloodshed in the earliest recorded Judeo-Christian history, we see that Abel ends up to be the first martyr and victim of familial violence. His death is mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews "the blood of Christ speaks more eloquently than that of Abel"(Heb 12), and is directly compared to the redemptive blood of the Son of God whose life continued beyond death. Just as the message of the Redeemer 'speaks' to JPII, so too does Abel's blood 'speak' of a need for the Redeemer. Abel's blood, like every innocent victim of violence since himself, demands an answer from God. Even God says, soon after the murder of Abel by Cain, "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground!" (Gen 4). So too, the blood of the martyrs 'speaks' of the past, present, and future need for the blood of the Redeemer to restore life to man's mortality, and JPII captures the pulse of this communication in Redemptoris Missio (ch. 1):

Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and
degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value
only from Christ's own mediation

That is to say, that the blood of the martyrs does not suffice as redemptive unless Christ is raised from the dead! Abel's blood would have no answer from God had not Christ poured out his blood on the cross. Not only die, but rise to see his blood forever re-gain its vitality and 'speak eloquently'. This is exactly what JPII is writing about in his reference to the Eucharist as the living body and blood, or lifeblood, of the Redeemer. The dignity and value of man, paid for by the priceless and living blood of Christ, is nearly ineffable. In the Eucharist too, this price remains with man as enduring proof of his redemption. None can say that he is far from them or distant from one's suffering, dying, or loneliness. The answer to all of man's wounds is in the redemption!

That is why, as the first Slavic pope, Karol Wojtyla so strongly identified with the Redeemer. He had experienced firsthand, the extent to which Christ had taken on the human condition and with Divine Mercy raised it up to God. He explains (Redemptor Hominis ch.1):

In its penetrating analysis of "the modern world", the Second Vatican
Council reached that most important point of the visible world that is
man, by penetrating like Christ the depth of human consciousness and by
making contact with the inward mystery of man, which in Biblical and
non-Biblical language is expressed by the word "heart". Christ, the
Redeemer of the world, is the one who penetrated in a unique
unrepeatable way into the mystery of man and entered his "heart"

JPII goes as far as saying that Vatican II was an initiative of the Redeemer to more thoroughly influence wayward man! How great an emphasis he places on redemption, as to afford the council a special mission and goal toward this end of proving to man that Jesus loved him to death and beyond. Redemptor Hominis, as his first encyclical, effectively communicates JPII's burden for accurately instituting the teachings of the council and to bring the Church into year of Jubilee, 2000. Wojtyla lived to see that day, having done exactly what he proposed in the opening years of his reign.

picture: blood of JPII preserved as relic

Update "Unequal Exchange":
It is not as though the life of the Redeemer for our life is an equally valid and contractual exchange, no it is completely gratuitous. Pope BXVI says, "The mystery of the Covenant expresses this relationship between God who calls man with his word, and man who responds, albeit making clear that it is not a matter of a meeting of two peers; what we call the Old and New Covenant is not a
contract between two equal parties, but a pure gift of God." (Verbum Domini #22)