Tag: reason

Emotions Rampant

Emotions Rampant posted in Eleison Comments on February 9, 2019

In another interesting article from the regular bulletin of the American TFP (Tradition, Family, Property, January 4th edition), John Horvat observes and criticises a widespread phenomenon of modern society – emotions running out of control, and dominating people’s lives. Again (cf. these “Comments,” 590 of Nov. 3, 2018), from a Catholic point of view, the international TFP may be open as an organisation to more or less severe criticism (notably for by-passing the true Church), but its American bulletin has many thoughtful yet accessible articles for today’s Catholics having to live in a godless world. How Wisdom helps People Destroy the Dictatorship of the Emojis by John Horvat is one of these articles.

An “emoji” is one of those small digital images or icons used to express an idea or emotion, especially the tiny smiley or frowny faces freely available on computers and easily inserted in a text to express any one of a variety of emotions. Horvat uses emojis as a concrete example of the frequency with which emotions figure in today’s society. He argues that emotions are not bad in themselves, but they are presently playing too large a part in daily living, with disastrous results for the whole of society. When people do not want to face the reality of a world that includes hardship and suffering, then feelings prevail over facts, says Horvat, and instead of thinking they emote, so that, for instance, raw emotions fuel the anger politics that are rocking the world. Where it hurts to have to think, in order to work out why the world’s problems are as they are, on the contrary emotions make me feel good, and so I prefer to emote. But emotions have a necessarily incomplete grasp on reality. Here is why many a good wife has valuable instincts and intuitions, but she recognises that these need to be subordinated to the normally higher reasoning of her husband (not to his tyranny). And here is why our emotive politics of today are so crazy. And why the Newchurch of Vatican II and its Conciliar priests are so effeminate.

So why is reasoning superior to emotion? Because reasoning belongs to the higher part of man, to his mind and will, whereas human emotions belong to his higher and lower parts, to his passions and will. Certainly Our Lord and Our Lady had emotions. Our Lord wept over the grave of Lazarus (Jn. XI, 35). Our Lady suffered intensely when she lost her 12-year old Boy (Lk. II, 48). But just as by her reason she submitted her motherly grief to His mystery (Lk. II, 50), so He submitted 21 years later His human agony in the Garden of Gethsemane to the will of His Father in Heaven (Mt. XXVI, 39). For whereas all animals have sense appetite or passions, responding to sense stimuli from outside them, only the rational animal, man, has also the higher faculty of will which responds to intellective information fed to it by his mind. This intellective or rational dimension of man is wholly lacking to all the non-rational or brute animals.

Now nobody in his right mind accuses any non-rational animal of committing sin. At worst it is only following its instincts. This is because right and wrong are perceived only by man’s mind and performed as such by his will. That is because only by having mind and will does man have a conscience aware of sin (Jn. I, 9), making him able to sin. That is why man’s will must follow his higher reason and control his lower emotions, neither crushing them too tightly nor letting them completely go, but harnessing them in accordance with reason, with what his natural reason (Jn I, 9) tells him is right and not wrong.

It follows that if men want to sin, they will begin by dulling or obscuring their conscience, and they may well finish by denying that they have reason at all, and by affirming that animals are just as rational as they are. Anywhere in between they will let their emotions loose so that they no longer have to think, but are free to wallow in their passions. Horvat does not go this deep, but in fact this modern unleashing of emotion is part and parcel of modern man’s total war on God. God has only to get out of His own universe so that man can take His place, and do with it what he likes. Dear God, have mercy upon us!

Kyrie eleison.

Faith Victorious

Faith Victorious posted in Eleison Comments on August 6, 2011

By way of answer to Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’ persuasive criticism of Pope Benedict’s thinking, laid out briefly in the last four numbers of these “Comments,” what then shall we say (Rom.VI, 1)? Let us look at three arguments by which good Catholics might seek to defend the Pope from the accusation that his thinking is not Catholic.

A first line of defence might claim in general that to attack in any way the Pope is to help the enemies of the Church. But is not the primary duty of the Pope to “confirm his brethren in the Faith” (Lk.XXII, 32)? If then a Pope’s thinking seriously strays from the Faith, to point out to him, with all due respect, where he is going astray, is not to attack him, or to do the work of the enemies of the Church. It is to help him to see clear to do his duty, and to remind him of the one and only means he has of conquering those enemies, who are today more powerful than ever – “This is the victory which overcometh the world – our Faith” (I Jn.V, 4).

A second objection to Bishop Tissier’s argument, particular to our own time, might be that Pope Benedict is a prisoner in the Vatican, so he is not free to defend Catholic Tradition as he would really wish to do. Now it is true that the post-Conciliar Popes have been surrounded by high-up Church officials who are Freemasons secretly bent upon destroying the Church. It is also possible that since Vatican II the money-men have had more and more of a financial slip-knot around the Vatican’s neck. But enough dollars would follow the true doctrine, if only it were proclaimed, and if Benedict’s faith were not imprisoned by Hegelian errors, it would easily have the victory over the Freemasons all around him. Victory by martyrdom? It might take a series of martyr Popes, but if only we deserved them, as in the early Church, the Vatican would soon again be free!

A third more direct objection was alluded to in the last “EC”: Benedict XVI might claim that he believes not only in Faith and Reason correcting one another, but also in the Traditional Faith. Thus, he might say, he himself absolutely believes that Jesus’ own crucified body rose alive with his human soul from the tomb on Easter morning, so if he also tells modern man that the real meaning of the Resurrection is not a material body coming out of a material tomb, but spiritual love conquering death, that is merely to make the Resurrection accessible to disbelieving modern man.

But, Holy Father, did or did not that crucified body rise alive from that material tomb? If it did not, stop believing that it did, stop even pretending to believe that it did, and resign from being the Pope of delusional Catholics. But if it did rise from the tomb, then THAT is what you must proclaim to poor modern man, and you must – pardon my language – cast his disbelief in his teeth. Modern man does not need to be told about luv, luv, luv. He hears it all day long! He does need to hear the rational argument, not pre-supposing faith, that only Our Lord truly risen could have both stopped his implacable enemies in their tracks and turned his totally dispirited Apostles into world-conquerors.

Holy Father, it is useless trying to get through to the world on its own rotten terms. Conquer it on Our Lord’s terms! And if you are obliged to give to us an example of martyrdom, do believe that that is the example that many of us may need in the not too distant future. We humbly pray for you.

Kyrie eleison.

Benedict’s Thinking – I

Benedict’s Thinking – I posted in Eleison Comments on July 9, 2011

The “Eleison Comments” of June 18 promised a series of four numbers which would show how “disoriented” is Pope Benedict XVI’s “way of believing.” They present in fact a summary of the precious tract on his thinking written a few years ago by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four bishops of the Society of St Pius X. The Bishop’s tract, The Faith Imperilled by Reason, he calls “unpretentious,” but it does lay bare the Pope’s fundamental problem – how to believe in the Catholic Faith in such a way as not to exclude the values of the modern world. The tract shows that such a way of believing is necessarily disoriented, even if the Pope does still in some way believe.

It divides into four parts. After an important Introduction to Benedict XVI’s “Hermeneutic of Continuity,” Bishop Tissier looks briefly at the philosophical and theological roots of the Pope’s thinking. Thirdly he lays out its fruits for the Gospel, for dogma, for the Church and society, for the Kingship of Christ and for the Last Things. He concludes with a measured judgment upon the Pope’s Newfaith, highly critical but wholly respectful. Let us start with an overview of the Introduction:—

The basic problem for Benedict XVI, as for all of us, is the clash between the Catholic Faith and the modern world. For instance he sees that modern science is amoral, that modern society is secular and modern culture is multi-religious. He specifies the clash as being between Faith and Reason, between the Faith of the Church, and Reason as worked out by the 18th century Enlightenment. However, he is convinced that they can and must both be interpreted in such a way as to bring them into harmony with one another. Hence his close participation in Vatican II, a Council which attempted to reconcile the Faith with today’s world. But Traditionalists say that the Council failed, because its very principles are irreconcilable with the Faith. Hence Pope Benedict’s “Hermeneutic of Continuity,” or system of interpretation to show that there is no rupture between Catholic Tradition and Vatican II.

The principles for Benedict’s “hermeneutic” go back to a German historian of the 19th century, Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911). Dilthey maintained that as truths arise in history, so they can only be understood in their history, and human truths cannot be understood without the involvement of the human subject in that history. So to continue the core of past truths into the present, one needs to subtract all elements belonging to the past, now irrelevant, and replace them with elements important for the living present. Benedict applies to the Church this double process of purification and enrichment. On the one hand Reason must purify the Faith of its errors from the past, e.g. its absolutism, while on the other hand the Faith must get Reason to moderate its attacks on religion and to remember that its humanist values, liberty, equality and fraternity, all originated in the Church.

The great error here of the Pope is that the truths of the Catholic Faith on which Christian civilization was built and on which its feeble remains still rest, have their origin by no means in human history, but in the eternal bosom of the unchanging God. They are eternal truths, from eternity, for eternity. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” says Our Lord, (MtXXIV,35). Neither Dilthey nor, apparently, Benedict XVI can conceive of truths far above human history and above all its conditioning. If the Pope thinks that by making such concessions to faithless Reason, he will draw its adherents towards the Faith, let him think again. They merely despise Faith the more!

Next, the philosophical and theological roots of Benedict’s thinking.

Kyrie eleison.

Men’s Authority

Men’s Authority posted in Eleison Comments on May 28, 2011

Two young men, uncertain of getting married, begged me the other day to write a manual on how men should be men. Theirs was a real cry of distress: “When should we be nice with women, and when should we be firm? We just don’t know any longer!” Yesteryear the answer to that question was common sense for many a man, but authority today has been so widely undermined by liberal propaganda that the problem of exercising it in marriage may be one reason why now numbers of young folk prefer simply to live together rather than get married. What follows is not a manual, but it may at least point our two musketeers in the right direction.

St. Paul says: “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. III, 14,15). In other words all fatherhood or authority amongst God’s creatures is modelled upon and derives from the fatherhood and authority of God himself. As Dostoevsky has one of his characters say, “If God does not exist, then I have no business being an army officer.” So it stands to reason that if men chase God out of their society, as he is being chased today out of the whole wide world, then all authority is radically undermined. In the individual, reason will be unable to govern the passions, in the family the father will be unable to control his household, and in the State democracy will come to seem the only legitimate form of government.

Now within the family, who, observing daily life, can deny that men are stronger than women in the use of reason, while women are stronger than men in intuition and emotion? Watch any sitcom if you doubt it. Now feelings have their rightful place in life and they are scorned, like one’s wife, at one’s peril, but they come and go, they are unstable and as such they are a guide, but not a reliable guide, to action. On the contrary if reason discerns what is objectively true and just, it is stabilized by the fact that objective truth and justice are above any individual or his feelings. Therefore reason may listen to feelings, but it must rule them. That is why men have, as men, a natural authority possessed only exceptionally by women, who have as a rule other qualities. That is why the man is naturally the head of the family and home, while the woman is naturally its heart.

But the liberalism which rules the modern world dissolves all sense of objective truth or justice. By so doing it deprives the reason of its object, and of its objective anchor in a reality above and independent of the reasoning subject. Reason being the prerogative of men, liberalism hits the men before it hits the women, whose feminine instincts are not dependent on reason. By the same token liberalism undercuts the authority of men which comes down from conforming to what is above them, ultimately divine Truth and Justice, and it makes all use of authority become arbitrary.

Therefore, young men, in all your dealings with men or women, seek to be true and just, and turn to God for the help necessary to discern truth and justice amidst so much untruth and injustice and arbitrary misuse of authority all around us today. Then act upon what you discern, and you will re-build your manly authority from above, in a world undercutting it from below. In brief, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. VI, 33).

Kyrie eleison.

Few Elect?

Few Elect? posted in Eleison Comments on January 22, 2011

Why is it so seemingly difficult to save one’s soul? Why – as we are told – are relatively few souls saved in comparison with the number of souls damned? Since God wishes for all souls to be saved (I Tim.II, 4), why did he not make it somewhat easier, as he surely could have done?

The swift and simple answer is that it is not that difficult to save one’s soul. Part of the agony of souls in Hell is their clear knowledge of how easily they could have avoided damnation. Damned non-Catholics might say, “I knew there was something to Catholicism, but I chose never to go into the question because I could see ahead that I would have to change my way of life.” (Winston Churchill once said that every man runs into the truth at some time in his life, but most men turn the other way.) Damned Catholics might say, “God gave me the Faith, and I knew that all I needed was to make a good confession, but I reckoned it was more convenient to put it off, and so I died in my sins . . .” Every soul in Hell knows that it is there by its own fault, by its own choice. God is not to be blamed. In fact looking back on their lives on earth, they see clearly how much he did to try to stop them from throwing themselves into Hell, but they freely chose their own fate, and God respected that choice . . . However, let us delve a little deeper.

Being infinitely good, infinitely generous and infinitely happy, God chose – he was in no way obliged – to create beings that would be capable of sharing in his happiness. Since he is pure spirit (Jn. IV, 24), such beings would have to be spiritual and not just material, such as animal, vegetable or mineral. Hence the creation of angels with no matter in them at all, and men, with a spiritual soul in a material body. But that very spirit by which angels and men are capable of sharing in divine happiness necessarily includes reason and free-will, indeed it is by the free-will freely choosing God that it deserves to share in his happiness. But how could that choice of God be truly free if there was no alternative to choose that would turn away from God? What merit does a boy have in choosing to buy a volume of Shakespeare if there is only Shakespeare for sale in the bookstore? And if the bad alternative exists, and if the free-will is real and not just a pretence, how are there not going to be angels or men who will choose what is not good?

The question may still be asked, how can God have foreseen to allow the majority of souls (Mt.VII, 13–14; XX, 16) to incur the terrible punishment of refusing his love? Answer, the more terrible Hell is, the more certain it is that to every man alive God offers grace and light and strength enough to avoid it, but, as St Thomas Aquinas explains, the majority of men prefer the present and known joys of the senses to the future and unknown joys of Paradise. Then why did God attach such strong pleasures to the senses? Partly no doubt to ensure that parents would have children to populate his Heaven, but also surely to make all the more meritorious any human being’s putting the pursuit of pleasure in this life beneath the true delights of the next life, which are ours for the wanting! We need only want them violently enough (Mt.XI, 12)!

God is no mediocre God, and to souls loving him he wishes to offer no mediocre Paradise.

Kyrie eleison.

“Try Harder!”

“Try Harder!” posted in Eleison Comments on November 13, 2010

A non-Catholic friend that I have known for over 50 years said to me recently, “How I envy you your certainty!” By that I took him to mean that he wishes he could believe what Catholics believe, but feels he cannot. I was tempted to reply, “Try harder!” but in the circumstances I kept quiet.

Nevertheless, while believing is an act of the mind and not of the will, if the human mind is to believe the supernatural truths of the Faith which are intrinsically above its natural reach, the mind does need to be pushed by the will. Therefore while supernatural believing is not an act of the will, it is not possible without an act of the will. “Nobody believes against his will,” says St Augustine. That is why to “try harder” with the will, as advice for somebody whose mind does not believe, is not as unreasonable as it may seem to be. Nor, if the beliefs towards which the will is pushing are objectively true, will that advice, as such, result in wishful thinking.

Firstly however, if a man really and truly envies the certainty of Catholic believers, he should apply his mind to studying how reasonable are Catholic beliefs. They may be above human reason, but they are not against it. How could they be? How could God both be the creator of our human reason and then impose on it to believe truths flouting that reason? He would be contradicting himself. St Thomas Aquinas in his “Summa Theologiae” is constantly showing how faith and reason are quite distinct, but in perfect harmony with one another.

Then what human reason can do, and what my friend should do, is to build a natural ramp towards the supernatural Faith by studying for instance the entirely reasonable arguments that prove the existence of God, the divinity of the man Jesus Christ, and his divine instituting of the Roman Catholic Church. These arguments are well within the grasp of natural reason, as long as the will is not pushing against, because the mind misapplied will never recognize the truth in front of it. The will must want reality, otherwise the mind will never find the truth. Truth for us men lies in the conformity of our minds to reality.

Once a man has done all he can with right reason and upright will to grasp the reasonableness of the Faith, he still does not have the supernatural faith, which remains a gift of God. However, how can God require of us to believe (on pain of eternal damnation – Mk.XVI, 16), and yet refuse the gift of faith to a soul which has done all within its natural powers – but God is not deceived – to prepare itself for that gift? Especially if, as is reasonable, after doing what I can, I then humbly ask him for the gift in prayer? He resists the proud but he gives his gifts to the humble (James IV, 6), and he lets himself be found by those who seek him with an upright heart (Deut.IV, 29; Jer.XXIX, 13; Lam.III, 25, and many other quotes from the Old Testament).

Dear friend, read and ask. The certainty is most likely yours for the trying.

Kyrie eleison.