When I read books, I find that occasional passages jump out at me right away—and that oftentimes these passages, which strike me as initially interesting, seem to fade out of my memory. Other passages kind of sneak up on my mind a little more, barely registering at first glance but then lodging themselves back in some recess of my memory, waiting their turn to come forward. Such may be said about conversations as well. And when the two things meet, well, that's often the time when they both spring forward unannounced, which may lead to a bit of thinking and still more writing (or is it the other way around?).
In his Aquinas 101: A Basic Introduction to the Thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fr Francis Selman delves into a number of commonly and uncommonly commented topics in the thought of St Thomas. One of the more common is Aquinas' thoughts concerning good and evil. Included in this discussion is "five notes of the good," the fourth of which begins:
"When living beings, including humans, seek and strive to obtain what they apprehend as good for them, they act for an end. We see that things act for an end in nature: for example, the end of a caterpillar is to turn into a butterfly because its nature is to become a butterfly. Things are good when they attain their end, as a good pear tree bears fruit and a pear tree that bears no fruit is defective. Only what is good is the end we seek in acting; evil is never an end in itself. Nothing seeks what is bad for it, but avoid it. We can do evil, however, in seeking something that is good in itself when it is not directed to its proper end. Pleasure, for example, is good in itself, but not when we make it the end of our life because the senses are not the highest part of our nature; it needs to be directed to its proper end in our life."
What is apologetics, and how is it related to catechesis and evangelization?
Apologetics sounds a bit like "apologize," and the two words do share a common root. Stated simply, apologetics means to give an account or defense, or perhaps an explanation. The Christian idea of apologetics can trace itself back to Saint Peter, who advises us by saying:
"Even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame" (1 Peter 3:14-16).
Good apologetics, then, has several marks:
- It is a defense of our "hope," which ultimately means a defense of what we believe and how we live.
- This defense should be both gentle and reverent, so that we are not attempting to hit others over the head with faith.
- It involves keeping our consciences clear, so we should be honest and should always tell the truth.
The trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell is well underway, and from the mainstream media, we hear the sounds of crickets chirping. Sure, the occasional reporter, when pressed, offers a very weak excuse for why he or she is not bothering to cover this, and sure a few of the talking heads are beginning to take notice. They've had two years to plan for this, and apparently they decided that there was no spin which would justify letting the case see the light of day . Perhaps their hope is that if they ignore it, it will go away. Thank God for Twitter, for bloggers, and for the occasional local beat writer .
This article is from America magazine seems to be getting a lot of buzz, particularly from my Catholic friends. There are some good points in here, for one this:
"Cardinal Dolan told ABC that we need to listen to those who don’t feel welcome. The cardinal is spot on. We need to listen—all of us. In order to open our hearts more fully to the love and mercy of the One we follow, we must open our hearts to one another. We need to listen in order to learn how the church can be more supportive of gay and lesbian people while remaining faithful to its tradition."
That has basically always been my position, though at times I may give off the impression that I feel otherwise. I do hold that marriage is first and foremost a sacrament (Holy Matrimony), and that even when viewed non-sacramentally (e.g. by secular society) it has a purpose and meaning which are incompatible with homosexuality; there are, in other words, no gay marriages because it is an onotological impossibility for gays to marry. Thus, I can't give support to gay marriage because 1) this would be lending support to sin, since I believe with (and apart from) the Church that homosexual acts are in fact sinful, and "gay marriage" is an attempt to legitimize them, and 2) because I do not believe that "gay marriage" is an ontological possibility regardless of what the law of the land says. Analogies fail, but it is something like being asked to support a round square, like having a law which recognizes that squares can be round and which is used to punish those who say otherwise.
"The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another's suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, “consolation”, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. In the end, even the “yes” to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my “I”, in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.
Note: A shorter version of this interview was published on the IGNITUM TODAY site. About 3 hours later, white smoke issued forth from the Sistine Chapel, and then the announcement was made that Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio had been elected Pope Francis. Here, then, is the longer version of my interview with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Among other things, the papal resignation means that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's fourth encyclical will go unpublished, or at least unpublished under his own authority. This encyclical was to be about faith, and it would therefore have completed his encyclicals on the theological virtues. We may never know what he would have written, though I was able to interview him a bit about faith—via his other writings.
JC Sanders: Your holiness, can you give us a little background on what faith is?
His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
"Faith is the fundamental act of Christian existence. In the act of faith the essential structure of Christianity is expressed, its answer to the question how in the art of being can one reach the goal. There are other answers. Not all religions are 'faith.' Buddhism in its classic form, for example, does not aim at this act of self-transcendence, of encounter with the totally other—with God, who addresses me and invites me to love. Characteristic of Buddhism is rather a kind of radical internalization: an act of climbing not out of oneself, but into oneself, an act which is meant to lead to liberation from the yoke of individuality, from the burden of being a person, and to a return into the common identity of all being that, in comparison with our experience of existence, can be described as not-being, as nothing, in order to express its total otherness." 
This is the third in a series in which I attempt to address the question, "What is purgatory, and why is it necessary?" by expanding on the simple answer that Purgatory is the state, place, or process by which a soul is purified for entrance into heaven. Part 1 is here and Part 2 can be found here.
"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Yet man is not perfect, nor are men sinless. Furthermore, we read that "nothing unclean will enter" heaven (Revelation 21:27), elsewhere that
"Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile....But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile" (Mark 7:15, 20-23).
Thus, even our evil thoughts can be counted as sins, and can defile us, that is, can make us unclean. These evil thoughts come unbidden to us in this life, though we may attempt to resist them. And they persist after our conversion as before.
This is the second in a series in which I attempt to address the question, "What is purgatory, and why is it necessary?" by expanding on the simple answer that Purgatory is the state, place, or process by which a soul is purified for entrance into heaven. Part 1 can be found here.
"The doctrine [of purgatory] can be stated briefly. Purgatory is a state of purification, where the soul that has fully repented of its sins but has not fully expiated them has removed from itself the last elements of uncleanliness. In purgatory all remaining love of self is transformed into love love of God. At death one's soul goes to heaven, if it is completely fit for heaven; to purgatory, if it is not quite fit for heaven, but not worthy of condemnation; or to hell, if it is completely unfit for heaven. Purgatory is a temporary state. Everyone who enters it will get to heaven, and, after the last soul leaves purgatory for heaven, purgatory will cease to exist. There will remain only heaven and hell." (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism)
In order to understand the point of purgatory, we need to understand the difference between salvation and sanctification on the one hand, and between punishment and atonement on the other. Salvation means being spared from damnation: we are saved from Hellfire. But being saved from Hell is not the same as being worthy of heaven—nor of being "ready" to enter this state. Salvation may come from grace, through faith—but heaven is for the holy. Merely wishing to be good, or indeed even trying to be good, does not make us actually good; we may strive to become pure while yet being sinful.
Question: What is purgatory, and why is it necessary?
Purgatory is the state, place, or process by which a soul is purified for entrance into heaven.
Conversion as a Process
When we are converted to Christ and baptized, we are given grace which allows us to recognize our sins, and which begins to cleanse us of these sins. However, because we continue to sin after conversion (1 John 1:8-9, Romans 3:23), after baptism, and indeed even after repentance of past sins, despite our best intentions and despite our sincere resolutions to avoid sinning, we must be involved in a process of being cleanse and sanctified. We can fall out of the state of grace (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, 2 Timothy 2:12, Hebrews 10:23-27, CCC 1855-1856), so it also stands to reason that we can live in an intermediate state: in grace but not yet sanctified. I would venture to say that many of us spend most of our (post-conversion) lives in this state—works in progress, as it were.
We may still be in this work-in-progress state when we die. We are essentially still converted to Christ, but not yet fully sanctified, still being tempted into sin, still occasionally turning away from God, even if we always turn back to Him . We know that in this life, it is a struggle to overcome past sins, and that there are always new ones to which we might be tempted. We know that some things which once tempted us don't tempt us any longer, but that there are other things which now tempt us more strongly, new temptations to sin which must be overcome.
During the last session, the deacon made three incorrect pronouncements. The on-topic one was about the (im)possibility women's ordination, which I have addressed at length elsewhere. One involved the uniqueness of the Church, which I will not address here, either. The last one involved the Eucharist, and specifically what happens when it is received by a non-Catholic—he claimed that when a person who does not believe in the Eucharist receives it, there is "no effect." That may fly in a number of Protestant denominations—even the ones which believe in communion as something more than just a commemorative meal—but it is certainly not true of the Eucharist .
I don't have time to go into Protestant theological understandings of communion, other than to say that they are rather varied, and that what the Deacon said actually does fit with (some) Protestant theological interpretations of the effects and meaning of communion. Protestants, however, are not Catholics (axiomatic, I know), and so their theological and practical understanding does not necessarily apply to the Eucharist.
We will have an entire session devoted to the Eucharist, so I will just summarize a few key points about what the Church teaches and thus what Catholics must believe.