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Monday, October 30, 2006

Timor Domini initium sapientiae

I am increasingly troubled by strange uses, even abuses, of words such as 'knowledge'; and am not sure if this is indicative of something bigger going on. (What brilliantly precise language...)

The University Librarian is now also entitled the Vice-Principal for Knowledge Management. The Library has a huge banner proclaiming its identity as the home of 'Information Services.' Blackwell's bookshop down the road now bills itself 'The Knowledge Retailer.'

That vice-principality is clearly laughable. So why did no-one in the administrative hierarchy realise how Orwellian it sounds? It's either hilarious or threatening, and neither is a characteristic one wishes to see in the running of a University.

As for 'Information Services' - well, one naturally does look to be able to find information in a library. And part of the reason for the name is that Computer Services has its HQ in the same building; and the Library, the Computer boffins and some other media-techno-chaps, who gently coax luddite academics into using all the new whizz-bang thingies in the lecture theatres, have been lumped together for administrative purposes under the umbrella of the 'Information Services Group.' Yet I still find it worrying that the 'Information Services' label is at least as big as the Library label; and that more and more computers are displacing books. Using the Library is not just about finding information. It is also about coming across information and ideas that you would not have come across had you simply been presented at the start of term with a pile of photocopied articles. It is about browsing the current periodicals and coming across unwieldy folio editions of obscure texts. It's about finding a book on the shelf next to the book on your reading list, and reading that as well.

Similarly, the things you can buy in Blackwell's will provide knowledge. But books aren't just about knowledge...

Funny that the word 'wisdom' doesn't seem to cropping up much in these contexts...

Friday, October 27, 2006


Please pray for the repose of the soul of my Grandmother Dorothy who died last night. She had been ill for a very long time. She was raised an Anglican, and though she did not attend church she was not without some faith.

Rachel weeping for her children

Today is the 39th anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act in Britain. Let us pray for all those who have been affected by abortion in this country, and pray that the hearts of those in power may be changed.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Apologies to Romanians and Bulgarians

Today's announcement by the government is most unfortunate. It is of course unworkable, but then it is not intended to work. The sole purpose of these restrictions is to give the impression that the government is 'doing something' about immigration. The government is well aware that the hard working, well educated and non-jihadist inhabitants of Eastern Europe are precisely what Britain needs to make up for the indolent, work-shy and demographically doomed local population. They are also well aware that the Poles and their neighbours have already made a massive contribution to the British economy. The only reason the government is announcing these measures is to appease the tabloid press. Honour and civility towards Romania and Bulgaria are, it seems, less important than pleasing the likes of the odious Frank Field. It takes four hundred and fifty years of Protestantism to blind us to the fact that Romanians and Bulgarians are part of the same culture as our own while the only alternative source of population on offer has a different culture altogether and a rival civilisation. Undoubtedly, Mohammedanism is superior to secular liberalism but it is also very difficult to reverse the Islamicisation of a territory, while liberals die off of their own accord. There is a poetic justice to the idea of Britain being repopulated by the grandchildren of those people whose countries we either exploited for colonial purposes or abandoned to the Soviets in 1945. In the case of Poland there is a particular justice to it, as we would have lost the Battle of Britain without the Polish Air Force and the Polish Army fought and died for the allies in Africa, Italy and France while their comrades in Poland were being shot and deported by 'our gallant Soviet allies'. I just hope the Poles start having more babies so both countries profit from the population movement instead of Britain leaching off Poland. Sadly, it doesn't look like very many Romanians and Bulgarians are coming anyway, they prefer Spain and Italy. Hmmmph...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wisdom from the classics

'The twentieth century? I could pick a better century out of a hat blindfold!'

- Sabrina (1954)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Pius X on Democracy

Was poring over various criticisms of Jacques Maritain's political philosophy the other day when I came across an Apostolic Letter of Pius X "Notre Charge Apostolique" which I hadn't read in years. It concerns a French Christian Democratic movement the Sillon which had strayed beyond the boundaries of orthodoxy in its enthusiasm for Democracy. The letter is characteristically hard line. I was reminded of Dietrich von Hildebrand's call for us to "storm heaven with the prayer that the spirit of St. Pius X might once again fill the hierarchy, that the great words anathema sit might once again ring out against all heretics, and especially against all the members of the 'fifth column' within the Church." What surprised me about the Apostolic Letter is that Pius X appears to exclude Bellarmine's view on the origin of civil authority (that it comes from God but through the people).

"The Sillon places public authority primarily in the people, from whom it then flows into the government in such a manner, however, that it continues to reside in the people. But Leo XIII absolutely condemned this doctrine in his Encyclical 'Diuturnum Illud'” on political government in which he said:

'Modern writers in great numbers, following in the footsteps of those who called themselves philosophers in the last century, declare that all power comes from the people; consequently those who exercise power in society do not exercise it from their own authority, but from an authority delegated to them by the people and on the condition that it can be revoked by the will of the people from whom they hold it. Quite contrary is the sentiment of Catholics who hold that the right of government derives from God as its natural and necessary principle.'

Admittedly, the Sillon holds that authority - which first places in the people - descends from God, but in such a way 'as to return from below upwards, whilst in the organization of the Church power descends from above downwards'.

But besides its being abnormal for the delegation of power to ascend, since it is in its nature to descend, Leo XIII refuted in advance this attempt to reconcile Catholic Doctrine with the error of philosophism. For, he continues: 'It is necessary to remark here that those who preside over the government of public affairs may indeed, in certain cases, be chosen by the will and judgment of the multitude without repugnance or opposition to Catholic doctrine. But whilst this choice marks out the ruler, it does not confer upon him the authority to govern; it does not delegate the power, it designates the person who will be invested with it.'"

Now, I had always understood Leo XIII to be speaking in this sense but lots of people still go round promoting Bellarmine's view that soverignty comes to the rulers through the people. I wonder if they are aware of Pius X's condemnation of this view? Of course this condemnation is not a problem for those who prefer Democracy as a form of government it just means that we exercise our vote Dei Gratia. However, it is a problem for those who suppose Democracy to be the only legitimate form of government.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Limbo Returns

The argument about Limbo is a particular instance of a more general argument about salvation outside the Church. It is not for that reason any less important. Just as the argument over the title 'Mother of God' is a crucial test case for a more general argument about the nature of the incarnation; and the argument about indulgences is a crucial test case for a more general argument about the nature of salvation; and the argument about contraception is a crucial test case for a more general argument about the nature of the moral act; so the argument about Limbo is a test case for a more general argument about the possibility of salvation outside the Church. In each of these cases it is possible for the various contending parties (or some of them) to reach agreement, though for different reasons, on the other key issues; but in the instance of the test case all the crucial theoretical differences between them are brought into play and the true merits of the case must be decided, one position adopted, and the others excluded for ever. Such is the nature of the dispute over Limbo.

The dispute begins in an apparent difficulty in reconciling two scriptural authorities. On the one hand there are the many passages throughout the New Testament in which God or His Apostles assert that unless certain conditions obtain, the salvation of a given individual will be impossible. "Those who believe and are baptised will be saved, those who do not believe will be condemned"; "unless you are born again of water and the Holy Spirit you will not enter the kingdom of heaven"; "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we may be saved". There are many more of these passages. On the other hand, there is a single line in St Paul where he asserts "God wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth". Now as St Paul also points out, "all scripture is inspired by God and profitable". So the fact that the New Testament asserts many more times that there are conditions which unless they are satisfied the individual will not be saved, than it asserts that God wishes all men to be saved, though not without significance, does not allow us to ignore the fact that God wishes all men to be saved.

The problem arises from the fact that all men will not be saved. We know this with divine faith because it is directly asserted by the New Testament. The unrighteous "will go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels"; the inhabitants of Sodom "are suffering the everlasting fire"; "the door is narrow and the way hard which leads to everlasting life and those who enter by it are few". Thus it is clear that God does not wish the salvation of all men in such a way that all or even most men will actually be saved. How then does he wish the salvation of men? In the first place he wishes it in the sense that he has made all men for union with himself in beatitude. "Come you blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom which was prepared for you from the foundation of the world," Our Lord will say to the elect; while to the damned he will say "Go with your curse upon you unto that fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels". Heaven was made for man and hell was not. But if God wishes the salvation of all men He must have provided for it. In the first place He did this by creating man in original innocence with sanctifying grace and preternatural gifts which could be transmitted by inheritance to all his descendants and which provided him with the theoretical and moral capacity to avoid all sin and at the end of his natural life enter into beatitude. However, St Paul asserts God's will that all be saved in the context of the present order of providence in which man has fallen and lost original innocence, so God must have provided for the salvation of all men in this condition also. First and foremost he has done this through the atonement for man's first and all subsequent sins offered by Christ on the Cross. But this atonement is not such that man is restored to his preternatural gifts or restored automatically to sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is available, but under the conditions so often mentioned through out the New Testament. The most important and most often mentioned of these conditions is Faith. But faith is received ex auditu and a certain maturity is necessary for someone to receive it. Accordingly God has instituted baptism which is necessary to salvation as a precept and a moral means to adults, but as a necessary means for children too young to receive the faith by hearing. For by baptism the virtue of supernatural faith is infused into the souls of infants without the necessity for the act thereof. Finally, if Cajetan is right, then the desire for baptism for their child on the part of its parent or parents frustrated by the child's death before or after birth and through no fault of their own also suffices to guarantee the infusion of sanctifying grace. In this way God has provided for the salvation of all men even after the fall.

A problem arises in the fact that, though these means of salvation exist and suffice to save anyone, they are not actually available to all men. As such this is not a problem. We may say God wishes all fish to swim in water and has provided water in which they may swim without thereby asserting that all fish are actually now in water swimming. The fact that many men do not come across or do not avail themselves of the means of salvation does not change the fact that God has provided adequate means for all, or that He wishes all men to be saved. If God wished all men to actually be saved, all men would actually be saved and we know this is not the case.

The hypothesis of Limbo results from the certain fact that God is perfectly just and will not punish anyone for a sin they have not committed. Damnation is defined as the permanent deprivation of the beatific vision. In the case of those who have personally spurned occasions of grace and committed actual sins this deprivation involves positive torment. In the case of those who have not, because they never reached the age of reason, it does not. This is a consequence of God's justice. Because God wills man for his own sake it is also thought that he will not deprive any man of the necessary means to attain an end in which he may rest unless as a punishment for actual sins. For this reason it is thought that those who die subject to original but not actual sin will be provided with preternatural gifts allowing them to rest in a natural end. This must be possible on the principle that God will never create a species that of its nature cannot attain its end at least with assistance. If it were not possible for God to allow man to rest in a natural end at least through preternatural gifts then man would have a right to beatitude. As beatitude is a certain participation in the divine nature, this would mean man already by his nature alone participates in the divine nature. This would be form of pantheism and is as such unacceptable. The hypothesis of Limbo is constructed of these two parts: that those who die with original sin but not actual sin will suffer no positive torment, and that they will be given preternatural gift to allow them to rest in a natural end. The first half of the hypothesis is derived from two revealed premises, that he who does not believe will be condemned and that God is perfectly just and will not punish anyone for a sin they have not committed. It is thus in principle definable as of divine faith. The second part is derived from a revealed premise and a premise of natural reason: that God created man for his own sake and that He will not create any species that of its nature cannot attain its end at least with assistance. It is therefore definable as of ecclesiastical faith.

The objections raised to the hypothesis of Limbo are derived from one or more of three erroneous positions:

1. A false understanding of God's universal salvific will which would in fact entail that God wills the salvation of all men in such a way as to ensure that all are saved.

2. A denial that God could give man a natural end which, as we have seen, ultimately entails pantheism.

3. A false belief that God could not cause men of their own free acts to successfully preach the Gospel to all men so that He has to institute extraordinary invisible means of salvation for those to whom the Gospel has not been preached lest His universal salvific will be frustrated by men.

This last error implies an understanding of the creative power of God and the free will of man in which the two are mutually exclusive. This is the opposite error to pantheism, in that it supposes men to be little Gods whose wills are independent of and may frustrate the will of God.

A modified version of the first error is also at work: this is to say that God's salvific will requires that He actually present all men with the means necessary for salvation rather than simply make them available in principle. Were this the case then men could only be lost as a result of actual sin and never as a result of original sin alone. For the grace necessary for salvation to be made available to a child below the age of reason who will not reach the age of reason it must be infused as the infant is not competent to choose to accept or reject it. This would mean that Christ's death on the cross had abolished original sin already without the absolute requirement for the subjective appropriation of the merits of Christ in order to be cleansed of original sin. This would render infant baptism absurd.

To deny this modified version of the first error is not to deny that God will offer sufficient grace to anyone reaching the age of reason to avoid actual sin. This necessarily follows from the fact that it is morally impossible to avoid actual sin in the fallen state without grace, and that if it were actually impossible to avoid sin then sin would be inculpable: man would be preserved indefinitely in an infantile state and there would only be Limbo and Heaven but no positive torment in Hell. Such a conclusion is clearly contrary to revelation. For this reason all men who actually reach the age of reason are offered sufficient grace for eternal salvation not on account of God's universal salvific will but on account of His justice. In fact, it is not possible to receive sanctifying grace without faith, and faith cannot be accepted without a preacher. The fact that many places, such as the Americas, were not preached to for hundreds of years simply confirms the fact that in fact men do not cooperate with divine grace without the assistance of the Gospel and the sacraments, "for all have sinned and fallen short for the glory of God". God accordingly does not need in His justice to ensure that the Gospel is preached to all nations. It is possible to ask what God would do in the hypothetical case of the virtuous pagan. The virtuous pagan does not in fact exist. If he ever did God ensured that a preacher reached him in time to save him from his sins. The postulation of extraordinary invisible means of salvation is superfluous and emanates from the third of the three errors mentioned above.

In the order of Divine causation, that the Gospel is preached to all nations results not from God's justice but from his mercy, and God has mercy and does not have mercy on whom He wills. In the order of human causation, the fact that the Gospel was not preached to all nations until the twentieth century, and is still not preached to many individuals, results from our own negligence for which we will be held to account in due course. At this point God will not be impressed with our erroneous theological speculations concerning His possible use of invisible extraordinary means of salvation. Woe upon me if I do not preach the Gospel.

New links

Credo
Pointed Arches
Juventutem Ireland
Juventutem Australia

Via Credo, an article in the Times about the rumoured universal indult... with the usual misemphases on the difference between the old and new Latin rites of Mass; most egregiously, Miss Gledhill seems to think the main difference is that one is in Latin and one in the vernacular. Sigh. This is rather odd in light of her blog entry which is enthusiastically pro-Trid. Oh well. Like Mr Credo, ah hae ma doots, but we can hope and pray...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Yet more on Limbo

Super-hero Liechtenstein priest Johannes Maria Schwarz, on kath.net - the book of his doctoral thesis is on the subject.

I would like to add one more personal remark. In my study I found that limbo is not only valid as an explanation, it also has a greater probability than most other theories and as a model of non-salvation a longstanding tradition with authority. I do not rejoice over the fact, that such a state could be the state of unbaptized children. But then, there are many things in this world, I find hard and difficult. I often fail to understand why God permits this or that, but I do not believe in God because he conforms to my image, but simply because God is. I trust, that how he ordains things it is right, just and merciful.


And Zadok Romanus also offers a theological overview. ('...the ITC would be prudent to say no more than the Cathechism of the Catholic Church...')

The Bludy Serk

Robert Henryson

[Vaguely apropos of today's Gospel, but only vaguely.]

THIS hinder yeir I hard be tald
Thair was a worthy King;
Dukis, Erlis, and Barronis bald,
He had at his bidding.
The Lord was ancean and ald,
And sexty yeiris cowth ring;
He had a dochter fair to fald,
A lusty Lady ying.

Off all fairheid scho bur the flour,
And eik hir faderis air;
Off lusty laitis and he honour,
Meik bot and debonair:
Scho wynnit in a bigly bour,
On fold wes nane so fair,
Princis luvit hir paramour
In cuntreis our allquhair.

Thair dwelt a lyt besyde the King
A foull Gyand of ane;
Stollin he has the Lady ying,
Away with hir is gane,
And kest her in his dungering
Quhair licht scho micht se nane;
Hungir and cauld and grit thristing
Scho fand into hir waine.

He wes the laithliest on to luk
That on the grund mycht gang:
His nailis wes lyk ane hellis cruk,
Thairwith fyve quarteris lang;
Thair wes nane that he ourtuk,
In rycht or yit in wrang,
Bot all in schondir he thame schuk,
The Gyand wes so strang.

He held the Lady day and nycht
Within his deip dungeoun,
He wald nocht gif of hir a sicht
For gold nor yit ransoun—
Bot gif the King mycht get a knycht,
To fecht with his persoun,
To fecht with him beth day and nycht,
Quhill ane wer dungin doun.

The King gart seik baith fer and neir,
Beth be se and land,
Off ony knycht gif he mycht heir
Wald fecht with that Gyand:
A worthy Prince, that had no peir,
Hes tane the deid on hand
For the luve of the Lady cleir,
And held full trew cunnand.

That Prince come prowdly to the toun
Of that Gyand to heir,
And fawcht with him, his awin persoun,
And tuke him presoneir,
And kest him in his awin dungeoun
Allane withouten feir,
With hungir, cauld, and confusioun,
As full weill worthy weir.

Syne brak the bour, had hame the bricht
Unto her fadir fre.
Sa evill wondit wes the Knycht
That he behuvit to de;
Unlusum was his likame dicht,
His sark was all bludy;
In all the world was thair a wicht
So peteouss for to se?

The Lady murnyt and maid grit mane,
With all her mekill mycht—
'I luvit nevir lufe bot ane,
That dulfully now is dicht;
God sen my lyfe were fra me tane
Or I had seen yone sicht,
Or ellis in begging evir to gane
Furth with yone curtass knycht.'

He said 'Fair lady, now mone I
De, trestly ye me trow;
Take ye my serk that is bludy,
And hing it forrow yow;
First think on it, and syne on me,
Quhen men cumis yow to wow.'
The Lady said 'Be Mary fre,
Thairto I mak a vow.'

Quhen that scho lukit to the sark
Scho thocht on the persoun,
And prayit for him with all hir hart
That lowsit hir of bandoun,
Quhair scho was wont to sit full merk
Into that deip dungeoun;
And evir quhill scho wes in quert,
That was hir a lessoun.

Sa weill the Lady luvit the Knycht
That no man wald scho tak:
Sa suld we do our God of micht
That did all for us mak;
Quhilk fullily to deid was dicht,
For sinfull manis sak,
Sa suld we do beth day and nycht,
With prayaris to him mak.

This King is lyk the Trinitie,
Baith in hevin and heir;
The manis saule to the Lady,
The Gyand to Lucefeir,
The Knycht to Chryst, that deit on tre
And coft our synnis deir;
The pit to Hele with panis fell,
The Syn to the woweir.

The Lady was wowd, but scho said nay
With men that wald hir wed;
Sa suld we wryth all sin away
That in our breist is bred.
I pray to Jesu Chryst verray,
For ws his blud that bled,
To be our help on domisday
Quhair lawis ar straitly led.

The saule is Godis dochtir deir,
And eik his handewerk,
That was betrayit with Lucefeir,
Quha sittis in hell full merk:
Borrowit with Chrystis angell cleir,
Hend men, will ye nocht herk?
And for his lufe that bocht us deir
Think on the BLUDY SERK!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

More on Limbo

a) The International Theological Commission has no magisterial status so it doesn’t matter what it says. (Its creation along with the new style Pontifical Biblical Commission was accordingly a bad idea).

b) It appears to be the unanimous opinion of the fathers and doctors of the Church that Limbo is the best possible state an un-baptised infant might reach after death. The unanimous opinion of the Fathers is binding in faith and morals.

c) Cajetan thought that the children of Catholic parents who died before baptism might be cleansed of original sin by a vicarious baptism of desire.

d) Aborted children might receive baptism of blood by analogy with the Holy Innocents if the anti-Christian aims of the legislators and activists who sought the legalisation of this crime constitute a strong enough parallel to Herod’s command to massacre the innocents of Bethlehem.

e) The last two points (c) and (d) are pretty uncertain.

f) To go beyond this and say that all infants dying before baptism are cleansed of original sin (at the moment of death?) is to abandon the doctrine of original sin to intents and purposes.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I was going to point out the follies

of Peter Stanford's article in yesterday's Telegraph, but Paulinus has pretty much done it for me. (Can I just add the infuriating illogicality of giving as the reason to be ashamed to be a Catholic that certain Catholics have done things which are clearly contrary to the Faith? One may be ashamed to be a bad Catholic (I usually am). One may be ashamed of so many of the terrible things done by members of the Church, especially those involving a misguided attempt to protect Her. But to be ashamed to be Catholic? Illogical, Captain...)

Passionists' Chapter General

Fr PF has a very good series of posts running on the ongoing Passionist General Chapter currently underway in Rome. Good for some realistic but non-despairing thoughts about the state of religious life today.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

You know you've been a research student too long when

- even though you've submitted and are waiting for the viva - the man in the shop selling a USB memory widget thingy (and where for some reason the only 1GB widgets are decorated with footballs, for goodness sake, 'cos only blokes could possibly want that much memory, obviously) looks at you kindly and says,

'Why you look so desperate?'


(He eventually said he'd pray for me, and ask me if I prayed; and given that I think he's probably a Muslim, this struck me as inter-religious dialogue of the good sort! But still. 'Desperate'??)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pray for the Universities

I'm reading a book about heresy and the inquisition in southern France, to prepare a lecture on responses to heresy in the thirteenth century. The Library's copy has been written all over by someone or other (insert predictable rant here). One marginal comment is beside a discussion of the evangelical preachers of the twelfth century, some of whom became heretical. The annotator has underlined part of the sentence, 'They were advocates of the apostolic ideal who felt the ambition to go further and to promote among the laity a new sense of religious commitment.' Beside this is the margin is written, 'fanatical.'

(Blinking in bewilderment...)

To an undergraduate reader, 'religious commitment' apparently equals 'fanaticism.'

This is the evidence of only one reader of one book, of course; from which one can draw precisely no general conclusions. It is not, however, unrepresentative of the popular media's portrayals of religion. That such notions should be maintained in a University is a very sad thing. Pray that this reader was disabused of his misconception, and pray for all of us in higher education! O our Guardian Angels, rule and guide us!

The BBC

Aaaaaaahhh! Its unbearable. Of course one ought to be ten times more angry with the useless bishops who have allowed this sort of thing to go on, who should be excommunicated and strung up along with their sick pals; but the BBC's bloody propaganda films are just unbearable. Its impossible to tell whether its that the idiot presenting the programme just doesn't understand the documents in question and is the dupe of liberal 'canon lawyers' or whether the programme is deliberately deceitful. I expect they are dupes who want to be duped because of their hatred of the Church. The fact that the vast majority of this abuse is inflicted by homosexual pederasts who have infiltrated the Church is never mentioned because this is contrary to the BBC's ideological line. Their liberal friends within the Church are precisely those who obstruct and denounce the Holy See's attempts to prevent sodomites entering the priesthood and whose struggle for 'Gay rights' the BBC must not undermine.