Month: November 2009

Paul J. Griffiths on Rowan Williams and "Ecumenical Obedience"

Catholic theologian Paul J. Griffiths pens a good response to Rowan Williams on the Catholic-Anglican divide:

This past Thursday (19 November 2009), Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, gave an address at the Gregorian University in Rome as part of an event celebrating the centenary of the birth of Cardinal Willebrands, the first President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In it, he made a distinction between first-order theological understandings of the Church, on which he thinks that there has been considerable convergence between Anglicans and Catholics since the Second Vatican Council; and second-order questions, the answers to which still divide, but consensus about which, he thinks, is not as “vital for its [the Church’s] health and integrity” as is that about first-order questions.

He distinguishes three putative second-order topics: the question of authority in the Church; the question of Petrine primacy; and the question of the relations between local churches and the universal Church. And he notes that the fundamental issue is the importance of these (and perhaps others), because it is about them that Anglicans and Catholics are divided. How can we, he asks, “properly tell the difference between ’second order’ and ‘first order’ issues”?

This is the right question. Williams clearly thinks that the three divisive topics he identifies are second-order, and that in light of agreement about the first-order theology of the Church differences about them should not remain a barrier to (some form of) sacramental unity. He asks of those who disagree with him that we provide a theological account of why what he thinks are second-order questions have sufficient theological importance that they ought to remain church-dividing.

I think he is wrong. … [More]

See Also

Here and There

An eclectic mix of posts and articles that captured my attention recently — perhaps yours as well?
  • “What? Me Pray?” – A commentator by the name of “unagidon” @ Commonweal:

    If you have a group of Catholics over for a dinner party, and they’ve stayed a bit too late but you don’t want to be rude by pointedly winding the alarm clock in front of them, one thing that always works to clear the room is to bring up in conversation the efficacy of prayer and people’s individual prayer lives. We all believe that people should pray and we may even believe that everyone does pray. And probably no one would deny that the question of opening channels of communication to God is “a very important thing”. But nothing makes people start looking at their watches faster than bringing up prayer in conversation.

    For those of you who have stayed with me to the end to the end of the last paragraph, let me try to tantalize you with this. For a full 35 years, I didn’t think that I could pray. This changed a few years ago. [More]

  • Hollywood’s Favorite Cowboy – The Wall Street Journal interviews Cormac McCarthy, 76, talked about love, religion, his 11-year-old son, the end of the world and the movie based on his novel ‘The Road.’ (I read so little fiction these days, but this may be an exception).

    WSJ: What kind of things make you worry?

    CM: If you think about some of the things that are being talked about by thoughtful, intelligent scientists, you realize that in 100 years the human race won’t even be recognizable. We may indeed be part machine and we may have computers implanted. It’s more than theoretically possible to implant a chip in the brain that would contain all the information in all the libraries in the world. As people who have talked about this say, it’s just a matter of figuring out the wiring. Now there’s a problem you can take to bed with you at night.

  • Macln Horton (Light on Dark Water) comes across a striking observation from Belloc
  • Maverick Philosopher, “on forming societies at faint provocation”.
  • American Catholic‘s Chris Burgwald, responding to the ongoing controversy involving the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s contributions to morally-questionable causes:

    One of the many unfortunate aspects of “cafeteria Catholicism” in our country today is that the Church’s social teaching has become virtually synonymous with liberal, quasi- or outright-heterodox forms of our faith. This should not be. The social doctrine of the Church is part and parcel of the deposit of faith, and those of us who embrace the truth of Catholicism must stop ourselves from assigning guilt by association with regard to social doctrine merely because its loudest proponents are very picky in the cafeteria line.

    On the CCHD’s scandals, see this wrap-up from Deal Hudson.

  • Zach @ American Catholic asks: “Would a Catholic political party be a good thing?”
  • “Is philosophy bullshit?”

  • Almost Chosen People is a new blog, “dedicated to American History up to the time of Reconstruction” — featuring contributions from Don McClarey (American Catholic), Dale Price (Dyspeptic Mutterings) and a number of others.

Self-Indulgent Scott Hahn Rage-Fest!!!

Arturo Vasquez is seething, SEETHING! — the author positively enraged over “paying $10, being told to park in an unconvenient/borderline unsafe location, and sitting in bleachers all to be in the wonderful presence of Scott Hahn and sit through a ‘Catholicism is Scriptural, now let’s all cheer ourselves’ pep rally.”

As a commentator pointed out:

I wouldn’t expect Hahn to lecture on the nuances of Aristotelian metaphysics re. Transubstantiation, to what is essentially a lay audience. You really need to relax, this type of even was not meant for people like you. Why you went there to begin with is beyond me. He has much more serious “events” like the “Letter & Spirit Summer Institute.”

Eliot on Pascal

“The majority of mankind is lazy-minded, incurious, absorbed in vanities, and tepid in emotion, and is therefore incapable of either much doubt or much faith; and when the ordinary man calls himself a skeptic or unbeliever, that is ordinarily a simple pose, cloaking a disinclination to think anything out to conclusion. Pascal’s disillusioned analysis of human bondage is sometimes interpreted to mean that Pascal was really and finally an unbeliever, who, in his despair, was incapable of enduring reality and enjoying the heroic satisfaction of the free man’s worship of nothing. His despair, his disillusion, are, however, no illustration of personal weakness; they are perfectly objective, because they are essential moments in the progress of an intellectual soul; and for the type of Pascal they are the analogue of the drought, the dark night, which is an essential stage in the progress of the Christian mystic. A similar despair, when it is arrived at by a diseased character or an impure soul, may issue in the most disastrous consequences though with the most superb manifestations; and thus we get Gulliver’s Travels; but in Pascal we find no such distortion; his despair is in itself more terrible than Swift’s, because our heart tells us that it corresponds exactly to the facts and cannot be dismissed as mental disease; but it was also a despair which was a necessary prelude to, and element in, the joy of faith.

-T.S. Eliot (introduction to Pascal’s Pensées)


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Fr. James V. Schall on reading "Great Books"

I have no doubt that what are called the “great books” should be read. I read Plato and Aristotle every semester with increasing awe.

But the reading of great books does not do the trick, if I might call it that. What does the trick are books that tell the truth. And usually these books are very difficult for a student to come by. They are “notes from the underground,” to steal a phrase from Dostoyevsky.

Thus, Another Sort of Learning
contains many book lists. Most of the works recommended are relatively short. It is not all that difficult to get at the truth, once you know where to begin. Universities are not a total waste of time, but most graduates earn degrees while remaining confused about the ultimate things. About these latter things, little is to be found in most universities. Still, graduates have their whole lives ahead of them, if they can read.

Fr. James V. Schall on “Another Sort of Learning” (The Catholic Thing October 9, 2009 )
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