Wednesday 28 August 2013

The Aquinas Institute's Grand Publishing Project

For those of you who like collecting Aquinas translations, I thought I'd put in a link to the opera omnia project of the Aquinas Institute. They are aiming to produce English translations of all of Aquinas's works; which, given that even some of his major works (like the Commentary on the Sentences) have never appeared in English, is tremendous news. A number of the volumes appear to be re-workings of existing translation; for example that of the summa theologiae is based on the older Dominican translation.

From this series, I have acquired the commentaries on the letters of St Paul. I can attest that all aspects of the book production are of the very highest quality: a nice layout of Latin and English, printed on good quality paper and well bound. For what they are, the prices being asked are very modest.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Aquinas and Zombies

When Thomas Aquinas was writing his summa theologiae, the zombie apocalypse was considered too far in the future to be of direct relevance to the teaching of theology. Happily, modern writers have addressed this sad lacuna in the summa. However, less noticed is the fact that Aquinas did in fact talk about zombies without actually naming them as such. Where do we find this teaching?

The York Aquinas Reading Group has turned its attention to the Angels. In Ia.q51, Aquinas considers the bodily appearences of angels to men spoken about in the scriptures. It appears that the angels are using human bodies in some way or another. What is the nature of the relationship between angel and human body? In this short question Aquinas immediately discounts (article 1) the idea that the angels (as pure form) are united to the body as form is united to matter. But it is clear that the angels in some way assume human bodies (Article 2). What is the state of such a human body when it is under the power of an angel? In article 3, Aquinas denies that the human body assumed by the angel is alive; moreover the angel itself is not exercising vital functions through this body.

What Aquinas appears to have in mind here is something akin to the notion of zombie in modern philosophy of mind. In this context a zombie is a hypothetical exact physical copy of a human being but which has no consciousness, qualia or sentience. So, did Aquinas arrive at the modern notion of a zombie many centuries before they arose in the philosophy of mind?

Saturday 15 January 2011

A Relic

I cannot resist this!

How lonely sits the city that was full of people!

I found myself reading Lamentations last night, for no particular reason. I was struck in general by the haunting beauty of this poem to the desolation of Jerusalem. The picture of a city ravaged by destruction and famine might be as applicable now to modern disasters as it was so many years ago. But Lam 4:10 is especially and particularly striking:

The hands of compassionate women
have boiled their own children;
they became their food
in the destruction of the daughter of my people.

My train of thought, as trains of thought are apt to do, made a connection (probably through the explicit language) with Psalm 137 (136) “By the Rivers of Babylon”. Recall the last two verses:

O daughter of Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall he be who requites you
with what you have done to us!
Happy shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

This is about as graphic a description of how mental desolation can lead to a passion for revenge as one can get.

But this extraordinary passage is not present in the Psalms as sung or recited in the modern Liturgy of the Hours; why ever not? I suppose it could simply be because the editors of the LOTH wished to spare modern sensibilities from such upsetting images. But could it point to a lack of appreciation of the Christological orientation of the Psalms? After all, this is one aspect of Christianity that seems to have been mislaid in the murk of modernity. What more graphic description of the potential state of fallen man’s psyche than these verses? What more telling ordering to the need for Christ’s redemption could there be?

One of the most attractive features of the exegetical method that Pope Benedict uses in his book “Jesus of Nazareth” (which my wife is reading at the moment hence why it springs to mind) is his focus on the Christological orientation of all scripture. If he manages in teaching one thing to the modern Church, perhaps this will be the most important.

Monday 25 October 2010


Before the silver cord is snapped;
remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Before the golden bowl is broken;
remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Before the pitcher is broken at the fountain;
remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Before the wheel is broken at the cistern;
remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Before the dust returns to the earth as it was;
remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Before the spirit returns to God who gave it;
remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Modern Times

A bit out of date, but I just spotted this:

One sometimes feels that the best thing that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI could do for the United Kingdom would be to perform the rite of exorcism over it.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Grace and the Mysteries

Grace, by a secret instinct sets us at peace concerning our salvation and the intimate reconciliation in God of infinite justice, mercy, and sovereign liturgy. Grace, by this secret instinct, sets us thus at peace, because it is itself a real and formal participation in the divine nature, in God's intimate life in the very Deity, in which all the divine perfections are absolutely identified.

If we stress too much our analogical concepts of the divine attributes, we set up an obstacle to the contemplation of the revealed mysteries. The fact that these concepts are distinct from one another, like small squares of mosaic reproducing a human likeness, is why they harden the spiritual aspect of God for us. Wisdom, absolute liberty, mercy, and justice seem in some way to be distinct in God, and then His sovereignly free good pleasure appears in an arbitrary light, and not entirely penetrated by wisdom; mercy seems to restricted, and justice too rigid. But by faith illumined by the gifts of understanding and wisdom, we go beyond the literal meaning of the Gospel and imbibe the very spirit of God's Word. We instinctively feel, without seeing it, how all the divine perfections are identified in the Deity, that is superior to being, the one, the true, the intellect, and love. The Deity is superior to all perfections that are naturally susceptible of participation, these being contained in it formally and eminently without any admixture of imperfection. The Deity is not naturally susceptible of participation, either by angel or man. It is only by grace, which is essentially supernatural, that we are permitted to participate in the Deity, in God's intimate life, in as much as the latter is strictly divine. Thus it is that grace is instrumental in causing us mysteriously to reach, in the obscurity of faith, the summit where the divine attributes are identified. The spiritual aspect of God for us is no longer hardened. We do not see His countenance, but we instinctively feel it, and this secret instinctive feeling, in the supernatural abandonment of ourselves, gives us peace.

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P. in “Predestination”

Thursday 23 September 2010

Oh Noes!

Last Pope Quote

Mining Benedict XVI's addresses certainly makes a blogger's life easier. Here's one to finish off with, giving an indication of the hard and painful road that may lie ahead of us in the UK.

I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible...

Sunday 19 September 2010

From Cofton Park

The beatification mass today...

Saturday 18 September 2010


I've been struck by the sheer aesthetic beauty of the Holy Father's addresses during his visit to the UK; not simply in the theologically and politically sophisticated speeches either. Here he speaks to schoolchildren:

Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.

Friday 17 September 2010

The Natural Law in the Public Forum

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This "corrective" role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.

Benedict XVI live at Westminster Hall.

Thursday 16 September 2010

From the Streets of Edinburgh

Sue & Martin went to see the Holy Father on Princes Street in Edinburgh today. Here's the world exclusive picture!

From Benedict XVI's First Speech in the UK

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a "reductive vision of the person and his destiny" (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

Benedict XVI


Oremus pro pontifice nostro Benedicto.

Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Perturbed by Predestination?

If these thoughts [being disturbed by the idea of predestination] come to the mind, and only useless efforts are made to dispel them, they must end in causing us to abandon ourselves completely to God, assured that it is infinitely better to leave our salvation in His hands than to rely on our own strength. Only by thus doing shall we find peace. The whole doctrine of the divine Master's secret is that we must adore Him and not claim to fathom Him. We must lose ourselves in this impenetrable height and depth of divine wisdom and plunge ourselves as if lost in His immense goodness, though expecting everything from Him, without however relaxing our efforts, which He demands from us for our salvation.

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (quoted in “Predestination”, by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.)

Sunday 12 September 2010


"All that God does in time, He foresees and predestines from all eternity. He foresaw and predestined in detail all the means by which He had to inspire his followers with fidelity, obedience, and perseverance. That is what predestination means.

The benefit of this doctrine is to have us place our will and liberty in God's hands, asking Him to direct this will so that it may never stray from the right path, and thanking Him for all the good that it does and believing that He operates in it without weakening or destroying it, but on the contrary, elevating, strengthening, and granting it to make good use of itself, which is the most desirable of all good things.

We must not therefore, attribute the cause of salvation to him who wills or to him who runs, but to God who shows mercy. This means that neither their running nor their willing are the primary cause, and still less the only cause of their salvation; but this cause is the accompanying and preventing grace that gives them strength to continue until the end, and this grace does not act alone; for we must be faithful to it; and to accomplish this effect, it gives us the power to co-operate with it, so that we can say with St Paul: “Yet not I, but the grace of God with me”.

God is the author of all the good we do. It is He who brings it to completion, just as it is He who begins it. His Holy Spirit forms in our hearts the petitions He wishes to grant. He foresaw and predestined all that; for predestination is nothing else. In all this we must believe that no one perishes, no one is cast off as a reprobate, except through his own fault. If human reasoning finds a difficulty in this, and cannot reconcile all phases of this holy and inviolable doctrine, faith must continue to reconcile all things, at the same time waiting until God causes us to see everything in Him, the fountainhead.

The whole doctrine of predestination and grace may be summed up briefly in these words of the Prophet: “Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in me. So it is. If we do not see the consistency in all this, it suffices for us that God knows, and we must humbly believe him. God's secret is his own."

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (quoted in “Predestination”, by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.)

Saturday 11 September 2010

Trinity in Aquinas

Oops. I seem to have disappeared for a couple of months; sorry about that!

Having completed the treatise on the One God over at the other place, I’ve been preparing to start on the Triune God. I found myself disappearing into a deep think about this as there were several metaphysical questions (and considerations of how the medievals approached these questions, and how these approaches differed from modern approaches etc. etc.) that I needed to get straight in my head. Something had to give, and it was this blog.

So, to get back underway here, let’s draw attention to Gilles Emery’s book “The Trinitarian Theology of St Thomas Aquinas” that has recently appeared in paperback. This seems to be the best introduction to the subject available in the English language. The hardback was prohibitively expensive, but this new edition is much more reasonable; highly recommended!

Saturday 10 July 2010

Jensen on St Thomas

I’ve been reading Steven Jensen’s new book “Good & Evil Actions: A journey through Saint Thomas Aquinas”.

It’s an excellent book, charting the technical difficulties involved in understanding the foundations of Aquinas’s moral theory and describing some of the various solutions to these difficulties that philosophers and theologians have arrived at in recent times. Here, as a taster, are a couple of paragraphs on how proportionalism misunderstands the notion of “the common good”.

Proportionalism can imagine that the common good justifies harming innocent human beings, then, only by a misperception, by supposing that the good is found not in sharing but in accumulating. To the contrary, the common good protects the innocent, for the common good is nothing other than sharing the good with these innocents. (Page 158).

Proportionalism imagines that we can act for the common good when we kill one person in order to save many others. In reality, by killing we do not act for the common good of any human community; we merely act for an aggregate of individuals. By subordinating one individual to others, we separate him and his good from the community, thereby rupturing the unity found in sharing the good. At most we create a new community, a community of our own, but we break up the community of shared goods that included the individual we kill. Although killing one person can produce a greater aggregate of individual goods, it inevitably does so by excluding a person from the shared good. Ultimately, by killing an innocent person we must be seeking some other good beside the common good. (Page 164).

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Benedict XVI on St. Thomas Aquinas

The Holy Father gave a series of three talks about St Thomas at his General Audiences recently. The full text has now appeared in English translation on the Vatican website.

Part I
Part II
Part III

The Holy Father quotes his predecessor Paul VI as saying:

All of us who are faithful sons and daughters of the Church can and must be his disciples, at least to some extent!

We might also recall the words of Pius XI in Studiorum ducem:

We so heartily approve the magnificent tribute of praise bestowed upon this most divine genius that We consider that Thomas should be called not only the Angelic, but also the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church; for the Church has adopted his philosophy for her own, as innumerable documents of every kind attest.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Pro multis

How the words “pro vobis et pro multis” should be rendered appears to be one of the more controversial changes in the new English translation of the mass. Let's have a look at this.

At the consecration of the precious blood, we hear:

Ordinary form: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem.

Current Translation: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me

New Translation: Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.

From the point of view of translation, this really is an easy one: if we inspect the Greek text of Matthew 26:28 (or Mark 14:24) the word used, “polloi”, means “the many” or “the multitude”. The Latin version reflects this and so, one might argue, should any further translation, especially if it is to respect the Latin text of the mass as a definitive prototype. Of course, one must note that “polloi” does not exclude the meaning “all”, but to translate it with a meaning that excludes “possibly not all” is to impose an interpretation.

The justification for the interpretation that would render “pro multis” as “for all” comes from texts such as 2 Cor 5:15 and 1 Tim 2:4, where it is affirmed that Christ died for all and that God’s will is that all should be saved. The question of the possibility of universal salvation has been argued about throughout the history of the Church. Although the idea has never been formally condemned, I don’t think that it is unfair to say that the more probable opinion is that it is incorrect considered as doctrine. However, there is a difference between believing that universal salvation is a fact and hoping that it may be true; in the catechism we read:

1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved." She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

(c.f. 1058)

Of course, by simply quoting the words of scripture, the catechism leaves ambiguous how these words are to be understood. But it would at least appear on the face of it that the catechism is teaching that we are justified in hoping for universal salvation even if we may not believe it to be true.

In order to understand how the Tradition has understood this problem, we might turn to St Thomas. In question 19, Article 6 of the first part of the summa theologiae, we find the universal doctor considering the question of whether God’s will is always fulfilled. The very first objection to this position is:

Objection 1 It seems that the will of God is not always fulfilled. For the Apostle says (1 Timothy 2:4): "God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." But this does not happen. Therefore the will of God is not always fulfilled.

After giving his answer that God’s will is always fulfilled, St. Thomas turns to answering this particular objection. The first two possibilities he offers may seem somewhat strained (but note that they are received in many parts of modern Christianity as true). The third, on the notion of antecedent and consequent will in Christ, seems to me to be much more convincing.

Reply to Objection 1: The words of the Apostle, "God will have all men to be saved," etc. can be understood in three ways.

First, by a restricted application, in which case they would mean, as Augustine says (De praed. sanct. i, 8: Enchiridion 103), "God wills all men to be saved that are saved, not because there is no man whom He does not wish saved, but because there is no man saved whose salvation He does not will."

Secondly, they can be understood as applying to every class of individuals, not to every individual of each class; in which case they mean that God wills some men of every class and condition to be saved, males and females, Jews and Gentiles, great and small, but not all of every condition.

Thirdly, according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 29), they are understood of the antecedent will of God; not of the consequent will. This distinction must not be taken as applying to the divine will itself, in which there is nothing antecedent nor consequent, but to the things willed.

To understand this we must consider that everything, in so far as it is good, is willed by God. A thing taken in its primary sense, and absolutely considered, may be good or evil, and yet when some additional circumstances are taken into account, by a consequent consideration may be changed into the contrary. Thus that a man should live is good; and that a man should be killed is evil, absolutely considered. But if in a particular case we add that a man is a murderer or dangerous to society, to kill him is a good; that he live is an evil. Hence it may be said of a just judge, that antecedently he wills all men to live; but consequently wills the murderer to be hanged. In the same way God antecedently wills all men to be saved, but consequently wills some to be damned, as His justice exacts. Nor do we will simply, what we will antecedently, but rather we will it in a qualified manner; for the will is directed to things as they are in themselves, and in themselves they exist under particular qualifications. Hence we will a thing simply inasmuch as we will it when all particular circumstances are considered; and this is what is meant by willing consequently. Thus it may be said that a just judge wills simply the hanging of a murderer, but in a qualified manner he would will him to live, to wit, inasmuch as he is a man. Such a qualified will may be called willingness rather than an absolute will. Thus it is clear that whatever God simply wills takes place; although what He wills antecedently may not take place.

If the third explanation, of antecedent and consequent will, appears a bit inaccessible, you may wish to refer to the commentary over at the other place.

So, the consequences of the words of scripture reproduced in the text of the mass are deep and profound. The new English translation’s rendering of “pro multis” as “for many” restores the natural meaning of the words in the Latin prototype (and in scripture) and hopefully will encourage catechesis on the meaning of this phrase and on the theology of God’s will for our salvation.

Monday 28 June 2010

The Mystery of Faith

I thought I might start a little series looking at a few details of the new English translation of the mass. The current English translation has been widely attacked as being inaccurate as a translation and has been widely defended for being accessible. I’d like to concentrate here on the theological aspects of the old and the new translations. In particular, I’d like to highlight places where the theological symbolism of the Latin original is obscured by the old translation and revealed by the new. I will also consider whether there are places where the new translation may “obscure by accuracy” compared to the old translation.

I thought that I’d start with “the Mystery of Faith”, just after the consecration of the precious blood in the ordinary form. Even in the Latin, there was some controversy when the ordinary form first came out, as the words “mysterium fidei” were moved from their position in the words of consecration. Compare the Latin of the older extraordinary form and the newer ordinary form.

Extraordinary Form: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti: mysterium fidei: qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Haec quotiescumque feceritis in mei memoriam facietis.

Ordinary Form: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes: hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem.

New Translation of the Ordinary Form: Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, (the mystery of faith) which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.

I’ve inserted the phrase “the mystery of faith” in the translation of the ordinary form to indicate where it comes in the extraordinary form. Note that the Latin texts of the ordinary and extraordinary forms are the same apart from the final sentence and the moving of the mysterium fidei, so that the translation is good for both forms up until the final sentence.

The ordinary form continues (rubrics in red) with the new translation and with one of the choices of acclamation:

Calicem ostendit populo, deponit super patenam, et genuflexus adorat. Deinde dicit:
Mysterium fidei.

The Priest shows the chalice to the people, places it on the corporal, and genuflects in adoration. Then the Priest says:
The mystery of faith.

Et populus prosequitur, acclamans:
Quotiescumque manducamus panem hunc et calicem bibimus, mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, donec venias.

And the people continue, acclaiming:
When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.

The structure here is that the priest makes a proclamation “the mystery of faith” to which the people respond in acclamation (which is made clear by the rubric). There’s a clear sense of the people approving and applauding the proclamation of the priest. We might also note that “and the people continue” for “et populus prosequitur” is a bit weak; “prosequitur” better rendered with a sense of following or accompanying.

However, when we look at the old translation we find

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith:

Memorial acclamation of the people

When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.

The fragment “let us proclaim” is an invention of the old translation, not found in nor implied by the Latin original. We might also note that it is also somewhat inconsistent with the following rubric! The effect is to totally lose the proclamation-acclamation, priest-people, head of Christ-body of Christ structure. In the Latin and in the new translation, the priest has simply made the proclamation to which the faithful join in acclamation; in the old translation, the priest is inviting a joint proclamation with the faithful as though he had not already done it.

The general effect of the old translation here appears to be a weakening of the theology of the priest acting “in Persona Christi Capitis” (in the Person of Christ the Head) and therefore a weakening of the theology of the Church as the Mystical body of Christ. As such, the new translation is a welcome improvement.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Cycling to Rome

I'm not, but some friends of ours are! Please consider sponsoring them on their pilgrimage as they are raising money for two very good causes. You can find more details on their Facebook page, but here's a quote:

Mary’s Meals provides a staple, daily meal in schools for children in some of the poorest countries in the world, thus fighting poverty through tackling malnutrition and encouraging education. The Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative provides non-judgemental practical, spiritual and emotional support for mothers in the UK, struggling with crisis pregnancy and the prospect of bringing up a child alone.

You might like to look at the some of the intricate planning that's gone into this project by looking at their proposed route map.

Update: They've now got their own blog!

Thursday 17 June 2010

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Supernatural one more time

Time for one final quotation from Lawrence Feingold’s book, from the concluding chapter.

The natural desire to see God is something intermediate between the innate natural inclination for our connatural end (contemplation of God through creation), and the supernatural acts and habitual inclinations of hope and charity. A confusion of these tendencies, or a denial of any one of them, leads to grave theological errors. We can thus distinguish four states of the desire for God:

  • An innate desire for our connatural end - to know and love God through the mirror of creation - follows from the very nature of our spiritual faculties. This is not an act, but simply the relation of the spiritual faculties to their proportionate end.
  • In all his texts on the natural desire to see God, St Thomas demonstrates the existence of a naturally elicited desire for the vision of God's essence. It can be inferred that this desire is conditional without the aid of Revelation and actual grace.
  • And elicited and unconditional desire for the vision of God is made possible by knowledge of God’s promise in Revelation, together with the aid of actual grace. Such a desire is an act of theological hope, which presupposes faith.
  • There is the supernatural habitual inclination to the vision of God resulting from sanctifying grace, and consisting in the theological virtues of hope and charity. This inclination is present whenever a soul is in a state of grace; it is independent of knowledge and thus unconditional, and is based on the proportionality between grace and glory (for grace is the seed of glory).

pp. 432-3

Saturday 12 June 2010

The new Antiphonale Romanum

As I mentioned a few posts ago, my most recent impulse purchase was of the new “Antiphonale Romanum II” from the monks of Solesmes.

One of the problems with the post conciliar Liturgy of the Hours is the lack of musical settings for the antiphons, which makes singing the psalms of the Hours somewhat problematic. The excellent Liber Hymnarius, covering the hymns of the office, came out nearly thirty years ago but there was a long wait until more music for the office came out in the form of the Antiphonal Monasticum, which started appearing in 2005. This new book pertains to the Roman office and is therefore, in a sense, more suited to the needs of parish life. This new volume contains all that is needed for the celebration of the office of Vespers on a Sunday, for every week of the year.

Reviews of the new Antiphonal Romanum have started appearing, for example at the New Liturgical Movement and at the CMAA. I’m not going to offer a full review here, but I’ll make a couple of observations. The first is that the book is beautifully produced and a joy to handle and look at. Also, there are a number of features that make the singers’ life easier:

the psalm texts are accented and have cadences indicated in bold text;

the Magnificat is given special attention to show how to fit the words in the different tones and in an appendix the text is given accented and bolded for each of the psalm tones.

However, as with the new Antiphonal Monasticum, Solemnes seems to have given up any attempt at rhythmic indications: so there are few dots and the episema and ictus have been banished. (There are some interesting comments about this in the Antiphonale Monasticum at the Gregorian Association’s website). This means more work for the musical director! This may be difficult on two levels: for the first, getting the rhythm from the text is often relatively straightforward to do in simple Gregorian settings, but antiphons not uncommonly contain florid melismata for which a bit of rhythmic indication would have been helpful; on the second level, there’s nothing like chant rhythm to start a punch-up between chantists, so the poor musical director will be caught in the middle!

Friday 11 June 2010

The New Translation of the Mass

I’m starting to assemble some resources to support catechesis for the new English translation of the Missale Romanum (which, presumably, we in the UK should start using some time next year). In case any of this is useful to you, here’s what I’ve got so far.

One of the most remarkable things that I’ve found is how hard it is to track down the Latin text of the mass in an easily (i.e. on the web) or cheaply (i.e. book study edition) available form. As far as printed resources go (for the editio typica tertia) the only resources that I’ve found are the full altar edition (very expensive) and this study edition from the Midwest Theological Forum. Even this edition is expensive!

Online, we’re more fortunate. Probably the best version of the ordinary of the mass is available at the “Roman Liturgy” site. It’s not set up particularly well for printing off, but if you’re not afraid of a bit of html hacking, it can be turned into something quite presentable.

For the propers, the best site I’ve found is Bibliaclerus (which is useful for quite a lot of other things as well). You can get through to the missal by following the sidebar links to “missals and similar” (under "The celebration") and then “Missale Romanum 2002”, if you want to keep the frames intact, or you can go direct to here, if you hate frames!

The layout of these pages is pretty unfriendly, which is why I suggest using the “Roman Liturgy” site for the ordinary, extracting the propers (and full rubrics, if you like that sort of thing) from Bibliaclerus.

As for the new English text, the United States Bishops’ Conference appears to be ahead of us at the moment. They have an attractive site dedicated to the new translation and have quite a few helpful resources assembled there, including the approved version of the new translation of the ordinary of the mass.

For musical settings for the new translation, there is some material on ICEL’s site, but it seems to me that the best material is available from the Church Music Association of America, which you can find here. For the moment, one must assume that none of these musical settings have received any authoritative approval!

I’m not aware of any full edition of the mass propers being made available online yet. Please let me know if I’ve missed it! Also, if anyone’s got any more useful catechetical material, please share!

Thursday 10 June 2010


It seems compulsory in blogland to post pictures of one's cat. So here goes...

Wednesday 9 June 2010

More books!

My dear wife’s impulse purchase this week was of the book “English Catholic Heroines” edited by Joanna Bogle. (Mine was of the new “Antiphonale Romanum” from Solesmes, but more about that later.)

I was interested in this excerpt, written by Joanna Bogle, from the Introduction

Another issue raised by the topic of Catholic heroines is the whole matter of the role of women within the church. None of the heroines whose stories are told here - covering a great range of time from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present day - showed any signs of believing that women should be ordained as priests, nor did they assume that the Church denigrated the female sex or marginalized women and girls. On the contrary, they assumed - correctly - that Mother Church loves her daughters, takes pride in their achievements, and holds them up often as an example to men. There are more churches dedicated to women than to men, female saints have always been at the forefront of popular enthusiasm and devotion - from the early martyrs Agnes, Cecilia and Lucy through to Elizabeth of Hungary and Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena and beyond - and the roles of women in public life and in writing, teaching, and in the area of mystical and religious experience has always been central to the Catholic faith. I must take issue with the author of the section on Mary Ward when she writes that “Marginalization of women's experience within the church, based on the conviction that their access to God was of an entirely different order from that of men, led to a high degree of invisibility and inaudibility in spiritual and ecclesial matters. Women seeking to find a voice and a place in the public forum of the Church were not welcome...” This denies the centuries of female work and achievement, and the church’s honouring of this and upholding of it as exemplary. Mary Ward was not treated well, but many men have similarly endured injustices through church bureaucracy - think of John Henry Newman - and it is surely wrong to suggest that women were, or are, singled out for such treatment on the grounds of sex.

Living as we do in York, we are very aware of how some would assimilate anachronously some very modern concerns to the cause for Mary Ward’s canonization. A similar process appears to be happening with the cause for John Henry Newman. The strange thing is, especially with the latter, that such assimilations are clearly silly. It would seem that we have here examples of the anti-rational forces that are at work in the Church (and, of course, in the wider world); these are plays of pure power.

Monday 7 June 2010

Chant Resources

There are some excellent resources available from the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) to support the singing of Gregorian Chant in parishes. Their resource page is available here.

Two things I’d especially draw your attention to are the “Parish Book of Chant”, a simply excellent collection of chant repertoire suitable for all parishes and the “Communio” collection of communion antiphons. Both of these are available for free download in pdf format, but hard-copy versions at reasonable prices are also available.

There is a lot more available, including reproductions of many of the older chant books. For example, the 1961 English-introduction-and-rubrics version of the liber usualis is available in pdf.

Beyond the resources page, it’s an excellent site for chant junkies to browse and there’s even a forum!

Sunday 6 June 2010

Reclaiming the Supernatural

Coming to the end of Lawrence Feingold’s book on the supernatural, I came across this passage on page 443:

Finally, one of the great pastoral problems of our time is that so many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, take heaven for granted as something somehow due simply to natural goodness. This view debases heaven by naturalizing it. We have to discover ever again a radical wonder at the inconceivable dimension of the gift of our supernatural vocation, which carries with it a true divinization, enabling man to enter into the divine friendship, into a spousal relation with the Holy Trinity, into the beatitude proper to God Himself. We must continue to repeat with Isaiah and St Paul (1 Corinthians 2:9): “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared to those who love him.”

Beautiful in itself, this passage brought back memories from a few years ago of sitting in a small (Anglican) parish group, hearing a dearly loved old cleric say that he felt that Christians spent too much time thinking of Jesus as divine and too little time thinking of Him as human. I remember having to stop myself from falling off my chair at the time; how could it be possible to be so wide of the mark? What catechesis there was (and largely still is, it seems to me) focuses on the Jesus as human exemplar, the perfect man. I’m not sure, at that point, that I had ever heard anybody teaching about Jesus as divine: that is, any probing enquiry beyond simple creedal affirmation of what the consequences of His being divine would be.

Reconnecting with the supernatural is difficult. We live in a world where the common sense is of a vague atheistic materialism and where even educated Christians can often be unaware of the shifts of philosophical presuppositions that work to undermine their faith.

His Holiness John-Paul II showed great wisdom in setting new standards for priestly formation in philosophy (inter alia!) in Pastores dabo vobis. Perhaps now is the time for a similar lead in the formation of the laity?

Saturday 5 June 2010

When I was Young

Back when I was young this was among the first (if not the first) CDs that I ever bought. It's still my favourite CD. My wife just put it on in the kitchen.

It's the way they tell 'em

If sacred persons or things are criticised precisely on account of their human or finite imperfections, real or alleged, the sin of irreverence is committed, when the criticism is prompted by malice or levity. No sin at all is committed, if one is stating facts with due respect for the character of the person or things spoken of. Examples: To call a Doctor of the Church an ignoramus out of anger at a theological opinion defended by him, would be of itself a serious sin of disrespect. To speak of a saint as a dirty tramp or idle visionary, if the intention is to insult, is also a serious sin of disrespect. But, if one were to say in joke that St. Peter was a baldhead, St. Chares Borromeo a big nose, the sin of irreverence would be only slight. No sin would be committed, if one, describing a religious painting from the artistic standpoint, called it an abomination.

McHugh & Callan, Moral Theology: A Complete Course, para 892 (b)

Phew! Saved by the final sentence…

Friday 4 June 2010

On Authority V

I’m going to be tremendously lazy for today’s blog on authority and send you all away to read this essay on the manualist tradition by Fr. Joseph Fenton.

The reason I’ve put this in the series about “Authority” is that the theological manuals used to be widely considered as authentic interpretations of magisterial authority in the Church and hence practical sources of authentic teaching. In recent years, of course, they seem to have slipped into the shadows; but I get the feeling that this tradition is making a comeback as more and more of the faithful yearn for a deeper understanding of the deposit of faith handed on to the Church by Christ Himself.

Fr. Fenton’s article is useful in situating the manuals in the Christian tradition; but it is also very useful in pointing out particular sources for their strengths in particular areas. Many of the manuals cited are in Latin; however many of then have received English translations, so it's worth searching on the web around even if Fr. Fenton does not mention an English translation.

I must also, of course, mention again Dr.Feser’s “Scholastic’s Bookshelf” series both for its recommendations and for the links to the many online sources that are now available.

Thursday 3 June 2010

On Authority IV

In the field of science that I work in it’s a lot of hard work to refute erroneous theories and studies once they get established in the literature. The fact that it is such hard work and that the kudos for demolishing false theories tends to be much lower than that available for creating new theories or buttressing established theories, tends to lead to the situation that rubbish is just left to die a natural death rather than being killed off promptly. Of course, reputations get established on the top of nonsense, and these erroneous theories often have to wait for the passing of their creators before they themselves get consigned to oblivion. The trouble is, when public health policy becomes involved, these erroneous theories lead to irrelevant or just plain damaging consequences. Bad science does kill people.

The same would appear to be true in dogmatic theology. Although, in principle, erroneous science would appear to be easier to refute (after all, to be optimistic for a moment, if it is irrefutable it cannot be science), errors in dogmatic theology are exposable and yet many theories seem to live on in a zombie existence long after they have been torn to shreds. One of the things that struck me very forcibly whilst reading Feingold’s book was how the huge problems of de Lubac’s theory of the supernatural were identified pretty much as soon as the ideas appeared. Why then does such a theory live on? One might make similar comments about Rahner’s idea of the transcendental existential. Perhaps it is simply due to the intrinsic seductiveness of the ideas and to the fact that few are intellectually equipped to actually understand the problems. Perhaps, as well, we are looking at the collapse of the idea of theological authority.

If one approaches a new idea from the point of view of the deposit of faith interpreted in the light of the perennial philosophy, then (and again, I’m being optimistic here) one might realistically hope that a deductive proof of the truth, falsity, fittingness or inconsistency of the new idea might be amenable. However, if hermeneutical principles are themselves disputed, then pretty much anything goes.

Ecclesiastical authorities rarely step in to theological disputes; and when they do these days there tend to be howls of indignation from those academic theologians who consider their intellectual freedom to be under attack. And yet perhaps in these days we do need the Magisterium to say more through its positive affirmation of the deposit of faith and through the condemnation of error. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask whether seemingly abstruse theological arguments actually have any effect on “ordinary people” at all and therefore why not just let erroneous theology fade into the sunset. But ideas have consequences; these erroneous ideas become simplified and popularized and they do influence ordinary folk. Lives are at risk with bad science but souls are at risk with bad theology.