Tag: St. Thomas Aquinas

Avenging God?

Avenging God? posted in Eleison Comments on August 2, 2014

The latest horrible onslaught let loose against the virtually defenceless Palestinians in Gaza can raise in many people’s minds an obstacle to the true worship of the true God, because it is well known that many of today’s Israelis claim that they have from the Old Testament a God-given right to take all the land occupied by the Palestinians, by force if necessary. A reasonable person might ask two questions: what kind of a God can even remotely be pulled in to ‘justify’ such barbarous cruelty, together with such utter contempt for any world opinion condemning that barbarity? And what kind of a ‘Chosen People’ are these? The answer to both questions turns around Our Lord Jesus Christ, around whom of course all human history turns.

The Old Testament tells the story of mankind before Christ, especially the story of the Israelites, the people that God chose out from the rest of the human race to act as the cradle for the coming down from Heaven of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ. About a thousand years after Adam, mankind had grown so corrupt that God had to wash it out and start again with the eight souls saved on Noah’s Ark. About another thousand years later, mankind is again so corrupt that God has to pull Abraham out of the degenerate city Ur to be the founder of a race that must stay clear of all surrounding human contamination in order to be clean enough to act as that cradle. Here is the origin of that racial exclusivity observable in Jews ever since. It began with God, but it has fallen into the hands of men.

The Jews were indeed once, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Chosen People. Thus St Thomas Aquinas has a tremendous article in his Summa Theologiae where he shows how every single detail in the furnishing of the Israelites’ exclusive Temple in Jerusalem pointed forward to Jesus Christ (Ia IIae, 102, 4). However, to clear the Promised Land for the Israelites to take over, there is no question that Almighty God gave them more than once the command to exterminate utterly the pagans occupying the land, and He punished King Saul severely for not observing this command to the letter (I Sam XV). What could justify such a command?

It is the same as what explains God’s exterminating all mankind (except eight souls) in Noah’s time. Firstly men’s sins. God creates men for Heaven, they choose sin that deserves Hell. For indeed sin offends God first of all. So the sense of God and the sense of sin get lost together, as all around us today. A godless generation like ours cannot possibly understand the justice of God. Secondly, God’s mercy, which goes hand in hand with His justice, and is today equally misunderstood. But given the reality of Hell, is it not a mercy of God if he cuts men off so that they can repent before they die, or at least be stopped from sinning so as not to deserve to go any deeper in Hell?

That is how it will have been with the pagan enemies of the Israelites between Abraham and Jesus Christ. To read the Old Testament is to see how often the Israelites were tempted to abandon the true God and to worship devils by the pagans all around them. As the Curé of Ars once said, ‘Get rid of the priest, and within 25 years men will be worshipping beasts.’ It is to the eternal credit of the Israelites that they did succeed in providing the cradle for the Messiah, for instance St Joachim and St Anne, especially their child, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the twelve Apostles and all other good Israelites who helped to launch their Messiah’s Catholic Church. For today’s Israelis see next week.

Kyrie eleison.

“Marcellus Initiative”

“Marcellus Initiative” posted in Eleison Comments on November 10, 2012

After last week’s presentation of details of the “Marcellus Initiative” set up to facilitate donations to the cause of an « expelled » bishop, a few readers reasonably asked what the “Initiative” would be for. To begin with, it will cover his personal expenses of moving out of Wimbledon, maybe out of London, and then living elsewhere. Over and above those expenses, the word “Initiative” was chosen deliberately to leave options open. However, it is important that nobody should think that their donations will any time soon go to the setting up of a replacement for the Society of St Pius X or a substitute seminary. There are good reasons for not hurrying to do either.

As for an alternative to the SSPX, we must learn the lessons to be drawn from its present severe crisis. The Catholic Church runs on authority, from the Pope downwards, but our Revolutionary world has today so broken down men’s natural sense of authority that few know how to command, and most men obey either too little or too much. We have, so to speak, run out of that peasant common sense that enabled Catholic authority to function. Thus as God alone could establish Moses’ authority by a sensational chastisement of rebels (cf. Numbers XVI), so in our day surely God alone will be able to restore the Pope’s authority. Will it be by “a rain of fire,” such as Our Lady of Akita forewarned in Japan in 1973? Be that as it may, oases of the Faith remain an immediate and practical possibility, and I will do my best to serve them.

Similar arguments apply to the re-starting of a classical Catholic seminary. One cannot make bricks without straw, says the old proverb. It is more and more difficult to make Catholic priests out of modern young men, say I. Supernatural qualities of faith, good will and piety go a long way, but grace builds on nature, and the natural foundations, such as a solid home and a truly human education, are more and more lacking. Of course there are still good families where the parents have understood what their religion requires of them to put their children on the path to Heaven, and where they are doing their heroic best. But our wicked world is set upon destroying all common sense and natural decency, of gender, family and country. With the best of good will, the children of today’s social environment remain in general more or less severely handicapped when it comes to perceiving or following a call of God.

Does that mean that God has given up on his Church, or that he means to leave us without priests for tomorrow? Of course not. But it does mean that no Catholic organisation set up tomorrow to save souls can be allowed to lose its vision of the soul-destroying nature of the Conciliar Church and the modern world. It does mean that priests can no longer be formed tomorrow to have a perfect knowledge of St Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiaewhile having little to no idea of how it applies in real life today.

By hook or by crook, tomorrow’s Congregations and seminaries must keep their grip on reality, and not get lost in dreams of how “normal” they are, or need to be. Can it be done? With God’s help, yes. But God is God, and for the salvation of souls tomorrow it may be that he will no longer resort to the classical Congregation or seminary of yesterday. For myself, I shall attempt to follow his Providence in the ordaining of priests – or in the consecrating of bishops. God’s will be done.

Kyrie eleison.

Ancestral Pride

Ancestral Pride posted in Eleison Comments on October 15, 2011

In his second volume on the life of Jesus published several months ago, Pope Benedict XVI made remarks enabling journalists to jump to the conclusion that the Jews must no longer be held responsible for deicide, i.e. the killing of God. Worse, on May 17 the executive director of the US Bishops’ Conference’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs said that one cannot charge the Jewish people with deicide at any time in history without falling out of communion with the Catholic Church. Against what many people today want to believe, it is time to recall, however briefly, what the true Church always used to teach on the judicial murder of Jesus.

Firstly, the killing of Jesus was truly “deicide,” i.e. the killing of God, because Jesus was the one of the three divine Persons who in addition to his divine nature had taken a human nature. What was killed on the Cross? Only the human nature. But who was killed on the Cross in his human nature? None other than the second divine Person, i.e. God. So God was killed, deicide was committed.

Secondly, Jesus died on the Cross to save all of us sinful human beings from our sins, and in this sense all men were and are the purpose of his death. But only the Jews (leaders and people) were the prime agents of the deicide because it is obvious from the Gospels that the Gentile most involved, Pontius Pilate, would never have condemned Jesus to death had not the Jewish leaders roused the Jewish people to clamour for his crucifixion (Mt. XXVII, 20). Certainly the learned leaders were more guilty than the unlearned people, says St Thomas Aquinas (Summa III, 47, 5), but they all cried together for Jesus’ blood to come down upon them and their children (Mt. XXVII, 25).

Thirdly, at least Pope Leo XIII considered there to be a real solidarity between the Jews clamouring then for Jesus to be killed and the collectivity of Jews of modern times. Did he not in his Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus have the entire Church, from the end of the 19th century onwards, pray to God that he turn his “eyes of mercy towards the children of that race, once God’s chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Saviour; may it now descend upon them a laver (i.e. washing) of redemption and life”?

But Leo XIII is by no means alone in observing such a continuity amongst Jews down the centuries. Do they themselves not lay claim today to the land of Palestine on the grounds that it is theirs by right from the God of the Old Testament? Has there ever been a race-people-nation on the face of the earth more proudly self-identifying as identical down the ages? Originally raised by God to cradle the Messiah, alas, when he came they refused, collectively, to recognize him. Collectively also, meaning there are always noble exceptions, they have remained faithful to that rejection, so that they changed their religion from that of Abraham and Moses and the Old Testament to that of Anas, Caiphas and the Talmud. Tragically, their very messianic training by God drives them to go on rejecting the one whom they hold to be a false messiah. Until they convert at the end of the world, as the Church has always taught they will do (cf. Rom. XI, 26–27), they seem bound to choose to go on acting, collectively, as enemies of the true Messiah. How can the Pope let go of such ancient truths?

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.

Moral Framework

Moral Framework posted in Eleison Comments on April 24, 2010

By their comprehensive brevity and divine promulgation, God’s ten Commandments (Deut.V, 6–21) are the outstanding presentation of that natural law known to every man through his natural conscience, and which he denies or defies at his peril. Last week’s “Eleison Comments” claimed that this law makes easy a diagnosis of the ills of modern art. Actually it diagnoses a multitude of modern problems, but let us this week look at the structure of the ten Commandments, as analyzed by St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, 1a 2ae, 100, art.6 and 7.

Law is the ordering of a community by its leader. Natural law is God’s ordering of the community of men with himself, of himself with men. Of this community God himself is the centre and main purpose, so the first “table of the Law” lays out men’s duties to God (C.1, no idols, C.2 no blasphemy, C.3 keep the Sabbath), while the second table (C. 4–10) details men’s duties to their fellow-men.

The first three Commandments represent the duties of loyalty, respect and service in that order. For just as for a soldier in an army, says St.Thomas, disloyalty to his general, or treachery, is worse than disrespect, which is worse than a failure to serve him, so a man towards God must firstly have no other gods (C.1), secondly in no way insult him or his name (C.2), and thirdly render him the service he requests (C.3).

As for the duties of a man towards his fellow-men (C.4–10), of primary importance are his relations with the father and mother who gave him life. Therefore the second table of the Law is headed by the duty to honour one’s parents (C.4). So basic is this honour to all human society that without it society falls to pieces, as we see happening all around us today with “Western civilization” (which would better be termed “Western disintegration”).

The remaining six Commandments St.Thomas continues to analyze as being in descending order of importance. Harm to neighbour in action (C.5–7) is worse than merely in word (C.8) which is worse than only in thought (C.9–10). As for harm in action, harm to a neighbour’s person (C.5, no killing) is graver than to his family (C.6, no adultery), which in turn is graver than to his mere property (C.7, no stealing). Harmful actions in word (C.8, no lying) are worse than harm in mere thought, where again envy of his marriage or family (C.9, no concupiscence of the flesh) is graver than envy of his mere property (C.10, no concupiscence of the eyes).

However, the breaking of all ten Commandments involves pride – the ancient Greeks called it “hubris” – whereby I rise up against God’s order, against God. For the Greeks, hubris was the key to man’s downfall. For us today, a universal pride is the key to the modern world’s appalling problems, insoluble without God, which means, ever since the Incarnation, without Our Lord Jesus Christ. Sacred Heart of Jesus, save us!

Kyrie eleison.