Month: October 2009

"The Line Through the Heart" – J. Budziszewski

The Line Through the Heart: Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (May 15, 2009)

I received this in the mail over the summer from ISI Press. I am making my through it, howbeit slowly — the bulk of my evening time these days spent with a rambunctious two-year-old who (rightly) demands his father’s attention. Still, with my gratitude to ISI for their granting me a preview, the least I could do is give it a mention:

Natural law is a fact about human beings, and a theory that humbles itself before this fact. Yet it is something else as well—a sign of contradiction, something that exasperates, offends, and enrages. The transient cause of such rage is the suicidal proclivity of our time to deny the obvious, but a more enduring cause is the Fall of Man. Our hearts are riddled with desires that oppose their deepest longings, and we demand to have happiness on terms that make happiness impossible.

In The Line Through the Heart, popular philosopher J. Budziszewski threads a path between these various abysses. Among his questions are how the knowledge of good is related to the knowledge of God, how things that seem to run against the grain of human nature can become “second nature”, and whether natural law can be reconciled with Darwinian evolution. Turning to politics, he takes up such topics as who counts as a human person, whether human dignity is compatible with capital punishment, what courts have made of the United States Constitution, and how an ersatz state religion can be built in the name of Toleration. Written in Budziszewski’s usual crystalline style The Line Through the Heart makes the natural law and its implications clear for both scholars and general readers.

A Line Through the Heart has received high praise from the likes of Peter Kreeft, James V. Schall, Ralph McInerney and Russell Hittinger (among others).

A former Evangelical, Budziszewski spoke with Ignatius Insight on the “objections, obstacles, and acceptance” which culminated in his becoming a Catholic. He is currently professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.



Food for Thought: Thomas Merton

“The notion of dogma terrifies men who do not understand the Church. They cannot conceive that a religious doctrine may be clothed in a clear, definite and authoritative statement without at once becoming static, rigid and inert and losing all its vitality. In their frantic anxiety to escape from any such conception they take refuge in a system of beliefs that is vague and fluid, a system in which truths pass like mists and waver and vary like shadows. They make their own personal selection of ghosts, in this pale, indefinite twilight of the mind. They take good care never to bring these abstractions out into the full brightness of the sun for fear of a full view of their insubstantiality.

They favor the Catholic mystics with a sort of sympathetic regard, for they believe that these rare men somehow reached the summit of contemplation in defiance of Catholic dogma. Their deep union with God is supposed to have been an escape from the teaching authority of the Church, and an implicit protest against it.

But the truth is that the saints arrived at the deepest and most vital and also the most individual and personal knowledge of God precisely because of the Church’s teaching authority, precisely through the tradition that is guarded and fostered by that authority.

Thomas Merton – New Seeds of Contemplation
, page 146)

[HT: ReadMerton YahooGroup of the Thomas Merton Society of the Capital Region (NY).]


Rome’s talks with the Lefebvrists begin.

Vatican Information Service on the Meeting between “Ecclesia Dei” and the Society of Saint Pius X:

“On Monday 26 October in the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, headquarters of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, the study commission made up of experts from “Ecclesia Dei” and from the Society of St. Pius X held its first meeting, with the aim of examining the doctrinal differences still outstanding between the Society and the Apostolic See.
“In a cordial, respectful and constructive climate, the main doctrinal questions were identified. These will be studied in the course of discussions to be held over coming months, probably twice a month. In particular, the questions due to be examined concern the concept of Tradition, the Missal of Paul VI, the interpretation of Vatican Council II in continuity with Catholic doctrinal Tradition, the themes of the unity of the Church and the Catholic principles of ecumenism, the relationship between Christianity and non- Christian religions, and religious freedom. The meeting also served to specify the method and organisation of the work”.

(Oh, to be a fly on that wall …)

More on Rome’s talks with the Lefebvrists by way of the newsletter of Dr. Robert Moynihan, editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican, on the perspective of Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), as well as the fundamental question, that of “Rupture, or Continuity?”:

What is the real, fundamental issue of these talks?

It is this: Did the Second Vatican Council teach new doctrines not in keeping with prior Church teaching, and so lead the Church into error (as the Society of St. Pius X, and other traditional Catholics, have often argued)?

Or did the Council develop doctrines based on what the Church has always taught, and so open up new, legitimate aspects of old doctrines?

To put it another way: Did a “new Church” come into being after Vatican II, a Church which broke with the “old Church” of the pre-conciliar period?

Or is it still the same Catholic Church of all time, which has simply been passing through a confusing period as it attempts to find a way to live in and bear witness to the modern world?

Benedict has been calling for a reinterpretation of Vatican II for almost 40 years. In book-length interviews when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, in major studies of the liturgy and in addresses as Pope, he has denounced interpretations of Vatican II which claim it as a rupture with the Catholic faith of all time.

The Lefebvrists have maintained that is is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret Vatican II as being in continuity with all prior Church tradition.

But Benedict has said he believes this interpretation can be made.

And he has sent his chosen men into this dialogue to show the Lefebvrists how it can be done.

(You can subscribe to Dr. Moynihan’s daily newsletters from Rome here).

"The Challenge of Fatherhood", by Massimo Camisasca

The Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo is a society of missionary priests working around the world. We live community life together and work in parishes, schools, universities, and hospitals.

Mons. Massimo Camisasca, founder and general superior of the Fraternity of St. Charles, has educated priests and seminarians for twenty-five years. A new translation of one of Fr. Camisasca’s fundamental works has just been published by Human Adventure Books: The Challenge of Fatherhood: Thoughts on the Priesthood (September 2009)

The first part of this book contains several lessons given to his seminarians during their formation. The second part is articulated around five words: the three “classic” terms (poverty, virginity, and obedience) are completed with reflections on fatherhood and fruitfulness.

An excerpt from the book:

“When God conceives of our face, he conceives of it in its complete form, even though each of us has to achieve it in time as a progressive discovery. And each one of us experiences his own freedom as the possibility of corresponding to the Father’s will, to God’s will. This progressive discovery of our personal destiny usually happens through difficulty and pain. It is often through suffering that we begin truly to know. We come to understand as if by putting together the pieces of a puzzle or weaving together the strands of a tapestry. In God, however, there is no progression. He has a perfectly clear idea of what our face looks like, and he is patient enough to let it unveiled before our eyes, too: slowly, sometimes even through contradictions, zig-zags, second thoughts. This is why we must not make the mistake of thinking, say, that something that blocks our path for a moment thwarts it radically. It is just a moment of darkness that we need in order to fall in love again with the light, to rediscover the light, to walk more resolutely in and towards it. Our freedom matures along the path of this ‘groping’ (see Acts 17:27).” (pgs. 11-12)

(HT: Apolonio Latar, former blogger, now a seminarian of the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, studying in Rome).

Real Ecumenism! – Vatican makes a path for Anglicans returning to Rome!


With the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.

In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.

The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop. The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony. In this way, the Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church. … [MORE]

  • Carl Olson provides a helpful roundup of initial reactions from various parties, notes “three dubious and curious conclusions” and recommends a re-reading of Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio:

    It’s worthwhile revisiting that document since there appears to be the notion, among some Catholics and non-Catholics, that the goal of ecumenism is unending dialogue and perpetual conversation at the service of further dialogue and conversation, resulting in the formation of committees, sub-committees, and sub-sub-committees, which seek to refine further discussion about dialog—well, you get the picture. Nothing against good conversation and authentic dialogue, of course, but they should have a point, a purpose, a goal. As Unitatis Redintegratio explains, dialogue is meant to correct misunderstandings, remove impediments, and facilitate common endeavors, which are all oriented ultimately to complete, real unity.

  • Update!Some good reflections from Amy Welborn (Charlotte Was Both October 23, 2009):

    This is obviously about Anglicans, because the initiative has come from the Anglican side – that is, those asking for this kind of structure. But I can’t help but see that it is also about the Church in general, particularly shifts in ecclesiological and canonical thinking and practice, and more specifically about the liturgical life of the Church. It is not clear what liturgy will prevail in this new arrangement, but I can’t help but wonder if part of the envisioned fruit of this is the wider presence of a liturgy that would offer another way for those fed up with the unpredictability and frequent ego-driven banality of a typical parish Mass but who find the TLM too big of a step (or for whom it is not available.) The insertion of a more formal, English-language liturgical tradition into Catholic practice adds a startling new chapter into the post-Vatican II era of liturgical change.

    It’s also interesting to me because the structure of this new entity does not depend on a local bishop’s good feelings or sympathies. This has been an enormous problem in the application of the Pastoral Provision and the Anglican Use, and aside from other reasons for approaching it this way, this seems to be a factor. Remember, though, that this is not unprecedented. [More]


Keep this blog alive! — Help Christopher get a Computer!

With regards to internet access my situation remains the same: my beloved laptop of 4+ years has bought the farm; regular blogging prohibited howbeit I have occasional access to another for email. I rarely use this blog as a vehicle for blegging for myself, but circumstances being what they are …

In the event my readers, past or present, have appreciated Against the Grain over the years, or my contributions to The American Catholic, Catholics in the Public Square, or my many other online ventures such as The Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club (providing detailed blogging coverage as the Pope’s visit to America or visit to the Holy Land or roundups of coverage and commentary on a new papal encyclical) — or online archives such as those devoted to Hans Urs von Balthasar, Richard Neuhaus and Avery Cardinal Dulles — and would like to see these ventures continue — you can assist in this endeavor by clicking on the banner below.

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