Summa Theologiae

“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.

“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.