Friday, March 30, 2007

Truth and Love

If One Does Not Encounter True Love, Then He Cannot Call Himself Fully Christian
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Homily at the Penitential Liturgy
St. Peter's Basilica, March 29, 2007

In the heart of every man - a beggar for love - is a thirst for love. My beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, wrote in his first encyclical, Redemptoris Hominis: "Man cannot live without love. He would remain incomprehensible to himself, his life would be devoid of sense, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, experience it and make it his own, if he does not fully participate in it" (n. 10).

Even more so, the Christian cannot live without love. Indeed, if he does not encounter true love then he cannot even call himself fully Christian, because as the encyclical Deus Caritas Est says, "Being Christian does not start from an ethical decision or a great idea, but rather with an event, an encounter with a Person who gives life a new horizon, and with this, its decisive orientation." (n. 1).

God's love for us, which began with the Creation, is made visible in the mystery of the Cross, in that kenosis of God - the emptying and humiliating degradation of the Son of God - which we heard the apostle Paul proclaim in the first Reading, in his magnificent hymn to Christ in the Letter to the Philippians. Yes, the Cross reveals the fullness of God's love for us. Love that was crucified, that did not end with the scandal of Good Friday but culminates in the joy of the Resurrection and the Ascension to Heaven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of love through which, even tonight, sins are remitted and forgiveness and peace are granted.

God's love for man, which is expressed in its fullness on the Cross, can be described by the word agape, the sacrificing love which seeks exclusively only the good of the other," but it can also be described as eros. In fact, while it is a love that offers man all that God is, as I noted in the message for Lent this year, it is also a love in which "the heart of God Himself, the Omnipotent, awaits the 'Yes' of his creature as a bridegroom awaits that of his bride."

Unfortunately, "from its very beginnings, mankind has been seduced by the lies of the Evil One and has closed himself off from the love of God in the illusion of an impossible self-sufficiency" (cf. Jn 3,1-7). But in the sacrifice of the Cross, God continues to re-offer His love, His passion for man, with a force that, as the Pseudo-Dionisius says, "does not allow the lover to remain in himself but impels him to be united to the beloved" (De divinis nominibus, IV, 13; PG 3, 712), leading him to come and "beg" for love from His creature.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Utility and Truth

Utilitarianism is the ethical doctrine that the moral worth of an action is solely determined by its contribution to overall utility, that is, its usefulness. The basic tenet of utilitarianism is to utilize resources to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number, with happiness or pleasure being seen as the greatest good. It seeks to maintain quality in purposeful living, and it appeals to the passions and absolute will of the individual. Thus, it tends toward hedonism and narcissism.

Utilitarianism denies transcendent and absolute values, and the rightness of an action, or the value of a thing, is judged on its contribution to the general welfare, that is, whether it adds to human happiness or pleasure, or whether it adds to human pain. That is, whether something is “good” is determined by whether it minimizes suffering or promotes personal autonomy and quality of life. Since utilitarians judge all actions by their ability to maximize good consequences, harm to any one individual can always be justified by a greater gain to other individuals. In other words, the ends justify the means.

Even the value of human life is regarded as a resource to be weighed in the equation. Since it is concerned with the greatest good for the greatest number, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, thereby rejecting the idea of the inherent dignity of individual human life and leading to the objectification of the human person. Thus, utilitarians deny that individuals have inviolable moral rights.

At the same time, the utilitarian ethic places high value on personal autonomy, insisting that an individual has an absolute right to do whatever he or she wants, so long as it does not harm someone else. Utilitarianism also asserts an absolute right of self-determination, that is, a right to determine for one’s self what is right and true. Those subscribing to utilitarianism tend to confuse and conflate choice and conscience. They tend to justify their conduct by saying that it does not violate their conscience, as if they could choose their own conscience. But what they are talking about is the will. The task of conscience is not to create moral truth, but to perceive it. (Jeremy Bentham, J.S. Mill)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Unbelief is a Heavy Burden, Faith Allows Us to Fly

Cardinal Ratzinger addresses atheistic existentialism and nihilism --

The ease of unbelief is relative. It exists in the sense that it is easy to throw off the bonds of faith and to say, I am not going to exert myself; this is burdensome; I'm leaving that aside. This first stage is what you might call the easy part of unbelief. But to live with this is not at all so easy. To live without faith means, then, to find oneself first in some sort of nihilistic state and then, nonetheless, to search for reference points. Living a life of unbelief has its complications. If you examine the philosophy of unbelief in Sartre, Camus, and so forth, you see that readily.

The act of faith, as new start and acceptance, may be complicated, although at the moment when faith really hits me -- "you may rejoice" -- it has in turn its great interim ease. So we mustn't unilaterally emphasize the toil. The ease of unbelief and the difficulty of belief lie on different planes. Unbelief, too, is a heavy burden, and in my opinion even more so than faith is. Faith also makes man light. This can be seen in the Church Fathers, especially in monastic theology. To believe means that we become like angels, they say. We can fly, because we no longer weigh so heavy in our own estimation. To become a believer means to become light, to escape our own gravity, which drags us down, and thus to enter the weightlessness of faith.
--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Salt of the Earth (1996)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Existence, Nothingness, and the Will

In addition to skeptics, relativists, and others who believe that the concept of truth is important, but that it is uncertain and not fixed, there are some who consider the question of truth to be entirely pointless and without meaning.

Existentialism is a philosophical movement in which individual human beings are understood as having full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives, and thereby counter the deep anxiety of human existence that there is nothing and no purpose at its core. Existentialists insist that radical freedom is the condition of human existence, and who a person is is a function of the choices that he makes, that is, we are what we choose to be. As such, there is a predominance of the will over reason, and “truth” is necessarily subjective.

The rejection of reason as the source of meaning is a common theme of existentialist thought, as is the focus on the feelings of anxiety and dread that we feel in the face of our own radical freedom and our awareness of death. It then follows that existentialism tends to view values as subjective, and human beings as subjects in an indifferent, objective, often ambiguous, and "absurd" universe, in which meaning is not provided by the natural order, but rather can be created, however provisionally and unstably, by human beings' actions and interpretations. “Choice” becomes a virtue in and of itself. Additionally, social order, like natural order, is a fabrication that is created to avoid the fact of our total isolation.

A leading existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, stated that “Existentialism is nothing else than an attempt to draw all the consequences of a coherent atheistic position,” and a central proposition of his atheistic existentialism is that existence precedes essence, that is, that a human being's existence precedes and is more fundamental than any meaning which may be ascribed to human life. That is, because there is no God to design mankind, he has no blueprint, no essence or soul. His essence or nature comes not from a Creator but from his own free choice; “man is nothing else than what he makes of himself.” This idea that existence precedes essence thus strongly rejects the belief that human existence has inherent meaning. Because there is no God for the atheistic existentialist, and because we therefore create our own values and laws, there is no evil. Moreover, since God does not exist and since God is love, genuine altruistic love does not exist. (Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Friedrich Nietzsche)

Nihilism, from the Latin word for “nothing,” is a philosophical position which argues that the world, especially past and current human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. Nihilists generally assert that there is no reasonable proof of the existence of God, a "true morality" is unknown, and secular ethics are impossible. Therefore, life has no truth, and no action is known to be preferable to any other. Nihilism not only dismisses received moral values, but rejects “morality” outright, viewing it as baseless. The most common type of nihilism tends toward defeatism or fatalism.

Friedrich Nietzsche saw nature as a brutal and savage contest of strength, and he aggressively attacked traditional Judeo-Christian morality as being an invention of the weak to weaken the strong. Mankind was something to be overcome and surpassed in favor of the “Übermensch” (Superman), who represented a higher level of mastery. One interpretation is that the Übermensch is neither person nor substance, but the existential process of overcoming both oneself and nihilism.

Nietzsche thus proposed a transvaluation of values and morals, a discarding of the old morality of equality and servitude in favor of a new morality, which was “beyond good and evil” because “God is dead,” or more precisely, society’s conception of Him is dead (since He never really existed in the first place). With the death of God, all objective truths, objective values, and morality die with Him. True morality, said Nietzsche, was built from the immediate sense of power which one felt within himself. Without God, a heaven, truth, or an absolute goodness to aim at, the essence of an individual is not reason, but will, that is, the meaning of life is simply the “will to power,” that is, power as its own end, not a means. The meaning of life is thus seen as nothing more than self-affirmation and egotism, expanding the meaningless self into the meaningless void.

Modernity's False View of Man and History

The French Revolution saw the birth of the ideology according to which Christianity, because it believes in the end of the world, in judgment, and the like, is by nature pessimistic, whereas modernity, which has discovered progress as the law of history, is by nature optimistic. We now see that these comparisons are slowly dissolving. We see the self-confidence of modernity increasingly crumble. For it is becoming clearer and clearer that progress also involves progress in the powers of destruction, that ethically man in not equal to his own reason, and that his capability can become a capability to destroy. Christianity in fact does not have such a notion that history necessarily always progresses, that, in other words, essentially things are always getting better for mankind.

When we read the Book of Revelation, we see that humanity actually moves in circles. Over and over there are horrors that then dissipate, only to be followed by new ones. Nor is there any prophecy of an inner-historical, man-made state of salvation. The idea that human affairs necessarily get better and better has no support in the Christian outlook. What does, on the other hand, belong to the Christian faith is the certainty that God never abandons man and that man therefore can never become a pure failure, even though today many believe it would be better if man had never appeared on the scene.

--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Salt of the Earth (1996)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Eternal Truth and Modernism

Another challenge to the Truth is Modernism and Modernity, which are rooted in the idea that traditional forms of religious faith, art, literature, social organization and daily life have become outdated and stagnant, and therefore it is essential to sweep them aside and "modernize." Modernity is not a systematic philosophy itself, but is instead an attitude or frame of mind towards basic philosophical and cultural issues. Etymologically, "modernism" means an exaggerated love of what is modern, an infatuation for modern ideas. At its most extreme, modernism aims at radical transformation of human thought in relation to God, man, the world, and life. Some modernists may see themselves are part of the avant-garde, that is, the vanguard of some future utopia. Change and "progress," including technological advances, are seen as great goods in themselves, while the status quo is seen as suspect at best. Tradition is rejected while experimentation, innovation, and radicalism are celebrated. Modernism encourages the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy to morality, with the goal of discovering what is holding back progress and replacing it with new, and therefore "better," ways of reaching the same end. As such, modernist tendencies are found in other relativistic challenges to absolute, transcendent truth.

The modernist believes that mankind has outgrown the need for "God," and prefers to account for the existence of nature and mankind in terms of physical and natural causes. To the extent that Modernity accepts the existence of God, He is seen as distant, or as an image that is constructed in the likeness of Man. It is widely accepted in Modernism that mankind's fate is determined either by nature or by himself without reference to God. Secularization has thus emerged as one of the main characteristics of Modernity.

As such, Modernism insists that the Church and Catholic dogma are mere human institutions and, thus, their nature may properly be changed over time, even radically. From art to architecture to music to traditional prayer to the liturgy, for the modernist-minded, it is out with the old and in with the new. Modernism undermines defined Catholic doctrine in a fundamental way, denying the idea of objective unchanging truth and authoritative teaching. For the modernist, morality is relative and situational, and traditional moral norms are rejected as being old-fashioned and oppressive. Modernism takes a skeptical view of miracles and the historicity of biblical narratives, focusing on scriptural text alone and ignoring what the Church fathers and others have historically taught about it.

The Truth is Steadfast and Constant in Himself

The soul is weak and helpless unless it clings to the firm rock of truth. Men give voice to their opinions, but they are only opinions, like so many puffs of wind that waft the soul hither and thither and make it veer and turn. The light is clouded over and the truth cannot be seen, although it is there before our eyes.

-- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IV, ch. 14.

Let the ears of my heart move close to your lips, and let me listen to you, who are the Truth . . . You are steadfast, constant in yourself; but we are tossed on a tide that puts us to the proof, and if we could not sob our troubles in your ear, what hope should we have left to us?

-- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IV, ch. 5.

Make your dwelling in Him, my soul. Entrust to Him whatever you have, for all that you have is from Him. Now, at last, tired of being misled, entrust to the Truth all that the Truth has give to you and nothing will be lost. All that is withered in you will be made to thrive again. All your sickness will be healed. Your mortal body will be refashioned and renewed and firmly bound to you, and when it dies, it will not drag you with it to the grave, but will endure and abide with you before God, who abides and endures forever.

-- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IV, ch. 11.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

God is Truth

Eternal Truth, true Love, beloved Eternity – all this, my God, you are, and it is to you that I sigh by night and day. When first I knew you, you raised me up so that I could see that there was something to be seen, but also that I was not yet able to see it. I gazed on you with eyes too weak to resist the dazzle of your splendor. Your light shone upon me in its brilliance, and I thrilled with love and dread alike. I realized that I was far away from you. . . . And far off, I heard your voice saying I am the God who IS. I heard your voice, as we hear voices that speak to our hearts, and at once I had no cause to doubt. I might more easily have doubted that I was alive than that Truth had being.

-- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book VII, ch. 10.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Spring of True Joy

God loves us. He is the spring of true joy. Because even when one has all that one wants, one may still be unhappy. On the other hand, one may be deprived of everything, including freedom or health, and still feel peace and joy, if God is within our heart. And so that is the secret; God must always occupy first place in our life. And Jesus has revealed to us the true face of God.
-- Pope Benedict XVI
Address to Detainees at the Penal Institute for Minors in Casal del Marmo, Rome
March 18, 2007

Relativism Applied: Secularism and Pragmatism

Relativism has many adherents and takes many forms. Secularism and Pragmatism are both relativistic, denying the existence of any transcendent immutable moral truth except for one -- their assertion that secularism and pragmatism are absolutely true.

"Secularism" generally refers to an ideology that promotes the secular (as opposed to the religious) particularly within the public sphere, maintaining that the best course of action in politics and other civic fields is that which flows from disparate groups’ common understanding of the “good,” with a strict “separation of church and state.” Similar to positivism, secularism necessarily denies concepts of transcendent truth. By its noninvolvement with and antagonism toward religion, secularism refuses to take sides or make judgments between religious beliefs, and thereby tends to deny the idea of absolute truths and values. Secularism is inherently pluralistic, and all views must be accepted and affirmed. What is “good” is merely a matter of opinion. But here secularism contradicts itself, because although it proclaims that it is tolerant of all views, it rejects and is intolerant of those who oppose secularism in favor of absolute, transcendent truth. And because it must necessarily deny or ignore the religious, including the idea of God, morality and human rights are necessarily seen as human creations, and therefore relative and changeable.

"Pragmatism" asserts that life is essentially practical. All human activity pertains to and serves a purpose. The purpose of philosophical pragmatism is the control of human experience with a view to its improvement, both in the individual and in the race. Truth is but a means to this end. Ideas, hypotheses, and theories are but instruments which man has "made" in order to better both himself and his environment; and, though specific in type, like all other forms of human activity they exist solely for this end, and are "true" in so far as they fulfill it. Truth is thus a form of value: it is something that works satisfactorily; something that ministers to human interests, purposes and objects of desire. In the philosophy of pragmatism, there are no axioms or self-evident truths. God and religion are largely irrelevant. Until an idea or a judgment has proved itself of value in the manipulation of concrete experience, it is but a postulate or claim to truth. Nor are there any absolute or irreversible truths. A proposition is true so long as it proves itself useful, and no longer.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Overcoming the Dictatorship of Relativism

Knowledge to Judge True from False, and Deceit from Truth
His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Homily at the Mass Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice
April 18, 2005

We must attain the "measure of the fullness of Christ" if we are to be true adults in the faith. We must not remain children in faith, in the condition of minors. And what does it mean to be children in faith? St Paul answers: it means being "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4: 14). This description is very timely!

How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves -- flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith -- only faith -- that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

On this theme, St Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence some beautiful words, in contrast to the continual vicissitudes of those who, like children, are tossed about by the waves: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a clanging cymbal" (I Cor 13: 1).

Quid est veritas?

Jesus said, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"
-- John 18:37-38

Like Pontius Pilate, there are many in the world who question what truth is. They wonder if it really exists, but they avoid coming to any conclusions regarding the question that they have raised. Others believe in certain kinds of "truths," denying that there is any one truth, and insisting that a given truth depends upon one's perspective or the situation, rather than being absolute. Still others believe that truth can exist, and in a certain fixed manner, but they deny that such truth is transcendent of the known and visible world.

"Skepticism" is the proposition that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain. Thus, it is a method of suspended judgment and systematic doubt. For the skeptics, truth is not necessarily unobtainable, but rather an idea which does not yet exist in a pure form. Religious skepticism is skepticism regarding faith-based claims. Religious skeptics may focus on the core tenets of religions, such as the existence of divine beings, or reports of earthly miracles.

"Relativism" consists of various theories each of which claims that some element or aspect of experience or culture is relative to or dependent on some other element or aspect. There are grades of relativism: most relativists deny the existence of universal moral values, which make them moral relativists, but few deny the existence of universal truths when mathematics are concerned.

The term “relativism” often refers to truth relativism, which is the doctrine that there are no universal or absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture. In this sense, relativism constitutes a denial of the capacity of the human mind and reason to arrive at truth, leading to moral license and a denial of the possibility of sin and of God. A common reaction by those who newly criticize the idea of absolute truth is the absolute statement: "Absolute truths do not exist." The non-existence of absolute truth would, if true, be as true as the existence of absolute truth in an absolute sense.

Some relativists suggest that truth is subject to consensus. That is, when two or more individuals agree upon the interpretation and experience of a particular event, a consensus about an event and its experience begins to be formed. This being common to a few individuals or a larger group, then becomes the “truth” as seen and agreed upon by a certain set of people — the consensus reality. Thus one particular group may have a certain set of agreed truths, while another group might have a different set of consensual “truths.” Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities should be interpreted in terms of his or her own culture.

"Moral relativism" is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect absolute and universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. Relativistic positions often see moral values as applicable only within certain cultural boundaries or in the context of individual preferences. Some maintain that moral judgments are primarily expressions of emotional preferences or states, devoid of cognitive content; consequently, they are not subject to verification. As such, moral propositions are essentially meaningless utterances or, at best, express personal attitudes.

"Situational ethics" sees moral absolutism as unduly legalistic and contrary to charity, and it is concerned with the outcome or consequences of an action; the end, as opposed to an action being intrinsically wrong. The theory asserts that there are moral truths, but the morality of a given act can be determined only in reference to the circumstances in which it is made. Thus, an act might be moral in one context and immoral in a different context. In the case of situation ethics, the ends can justify the means.

"Positivism" takes varying forms, but one form maintains that truth consists only of that which is created and reduced to positive, concrete, and tangible form, such as a written statute. Legal positivism stands in opposition to various contrary ideas in the tradition of natural law, and many legal positivists endorse the idea that legal validity has no essential connection with universal or transcendent morality or justice. As such, the “law” can be arbitrary and changeable. Also, what is legal determines what is moral, rather than morality determining what is law. Similarly, another form of positivism insists that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only come from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method. (Adherents include John Austin and Auguste Comte)

Materialism holds that the only thing that can truly be said to exist is matter; that fundamentally, all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions, and matter is the only substance. Such a view necessarily denies the existence of a transcendent reality, including the spiritual.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Error Leads to Error, Not Truth

Aristotle pointed out that a slight error in the beginning of some science or philosophical position would, if not corrected, lead to a great error in the end. That is, this error would continue in the intellectual community. Its disorder would be expanded, developed, organized; its implications would be carried out in reality. Great systems of errors are often based on a very narrow fault or error, one that seems, to recall Aristotle, small in the beginning. From truth, truth follows, but from error anything can follow, as an old saying went. And of course, even truth can be rejected, though always in the name of another claimed truth. . . .

Aristotle [also] said that our ability to see the truth often depends on our virtue. If we are disordered in our ends, in our choices, we will spend our lives not pursuing truth, but rather in shrewdly using our minds to justify what we want to do.
-- James V. Schall, S.J., “On The Will to Know The Truth: Newman on Why Men of Learning Often Do Not Believe”

Christianity: "The Religion According to Reason"

Christians must live a faith that comes from the "Logos," from creative reason
His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
April 1, 2005

From the beginning, Christianity has understood itself as the religion of the "Logos," as the religion according to reason . . . it has not identified its precursors in the other religions, but in that philosophical enlightenment which has cleared the path of traditions to turn to the search of the truth and towards the good, toward the one God who is above all gods. . . . Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the "Logos." It is faith in the "Creator Spiritus," in the Creator Spirit, from which proceeds everything that exists. Today, this should be precisely its philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not, therefore, other than a "sub-product," on occasion even harmful of its development -- or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal. . . .

A reason that springs from the irrational, and that is, in the final analysis, itself irrational, does not constitute a solution for our problems. Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way. In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the "Logos," from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational.

St. Justin Martyr's Discovery of Truth

We can all perceive glimmers of truth because we are rational creatures participating in the Logos
Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience, March 21, 2007

Today, we will talk about St. Justin, philosopher and martyr, the most important among the apologist fathers of the second century. . . . Justin was born around the year 100, near the ancient city of Sichem, in Samaria, in the Holy Land. For a long time he searched for truth, passing through the various schools of traditional Greek philosophy. . . .

At the end of a long philosophical journey in search of truth, he comes to find Christianity. He then founded a school in Rome, where, for free, he initiated his students into the new religion, which he considered the true philosophy. In this religion, in fact, he had found the truth and, therefore, the way to live uprightly. Because of this he was denounced and decapitated around the year 165, under the reign of Marcus Aurelius. . . .

In his two "Apologies" and the "Dialogue with Trypho," Justin aims above all to show the divine projects of creation and of salvation brought about by Christ, the "Logos," that is, the eternal Word, eternal Reason, creative Reason. Every person, as a rational creature, participates in the "Logos," carrying within himself a "seed," and can perceive glimmers of truth. . . . And he says that the two realities of the Old Testament and Greek philosophy are like two roads leading to Christ, to the "Logos." This is why Greek philosophy cannot be opposed to evangelical truth, and Christians may confidently draw from it, as if it was their own possession. . . .

In particular and especially in his first "Apology," Justin harshly criticized the pagan religion and its myths, which he considered diabolical "disorientations" on the path to truth. . . . In fact, the pagan religion did not walk along the path of the "Logos," but insisted on following its myths even if recognized by Greek philosophy as inconsistent with the truth. Therefore, the fall of the pagan religion was inevitable: It was the logical consequence of detaching religion from the truth of things, reducing it to a fake collection of ceremonies, traditions and customs. . . .

In an era such as ours, marked by relativism in the debate on values and on religion -- as well as in interreligious dialogue -- this is a lesson that should not be forgotten.

Truth is the First Principle, From Which All Else Follows

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
-- John 14:6

Moses asked God, "when I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' if they ask me, 'What is his name?' what am I to tell them?" God replied, "I am who am." Then he added, "This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you."
-- Exodus 3:13-14

Then God delivered all these commandments: "I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall have no other gods besides me.”
-- Exodus 20:2-3

Truth is Absolute and Transcendent --
Truth is what is. It is objective and universal reality, which is valid in all times and places. Thus, it is seen as transcendent, eternal, and absolute. God, as the “I am,” is the Ultimate Reality and is therefore Truth itself. Indeed, if something lacks truth, it lacks reality and existence. This Truth is the first principle, from which all else follows. God is also the Word, that is, Logos (Creative Reason), and as such, is again Truth itself from which everything that exists proceeds. "God is the ultimate truth to whom all reason naturally tends, solicited by the desire to totally fulfill the journey assigned to it. God is not an empty word or an abstract hypothesis; on the contrary, he is the foundation upon which to build one's life." (Benedict XVI Address to Students) Truth thus exists independently of man and is merely discovered by him by reason and/or revelation. And since there is only the One God, there can be only One Truth.

Truth, then, is necessarily absolute, fixed, and unchanging. Truth is not subjective; it is not a matter of feeling, a matter of opinion, or a matter of the will. One cannot choose their own truth, their own reality. Truth is not relative or malleable. Moreover, Truth exists and is relevant. Truth matters. It is something which is absolutely necessary for order to exist in the universe. Truth cannot be dismissed as merely theoretical or irrelevant or immaterial. This is so, not only with respect to scientific truths, mathematical truths, and psychological truths, but moral truths as well. That is, there are absolute standards and truths against which moral questions can be judged, and certain actions are per se right or wrong, devoid of the context of the act.

Truth, especially the highest Truth, has everything to do with life, even specific contexts of it. Moreover, the human person is drawn toward the Truth. Know¬ledge is for man, but man is for truth. Truth is central to the concept of the Church and in the last analysis can only be grounded in God. No matter how separated someone is from God, "in the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it." The splendor of truth "shines forth deep within the human spirit."

Faith helps reason to discover itself and its openness to transcendence. Faith and reason are not contraries; they both belong to the desire for truth and it is precisely because of this common root that they are compatible sisters who need one another. Only a rational animal can have faith and, in a certain sense, must have it. Indeed, the very work of reason is based on belief. The search for truth never starts from zero, but always presupposes a trust in knowledge, ideas and data which we cannot always control by ourselves. Faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of revealed faith. Indeed, truth exists whether or not it is ever discovered by man. The tendency to consider true only that which can be experienced constitutes a limitation for human reason.

Moral Truth -- The term "morality" refers to the concept of human ethics which pertains to matters of good and evil, also referred to as "right or wrong," used within the context of moral truths or values and the individual conscience. The Church recognizes and teaches that morality is objective and absolute, determined by eternal and transcendent truths, which are discovered by right reason. However, many in the modern world insist that morality is relative and is determined by the situation and the subjective values or positive codes that are shared within a given culture or community, so as to regulate behavior within that culture or community. Others see morality as merely a product of evolutionary forces and as evidence for continuity with other group-living organisms. These people argue that moral codes are founded on emotional instincts and intuitions that were naturally selected in the past because they aided survival and reproduction. The systematic study of morality is a branch of philosophy called ethics.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Can You Handle the Truth?

In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1).

-- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, April 18, 2005
Homily at the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff

In Christ, love and truth coincide. We have engaged in a comprehensive discussion regarding "love," so we now proceed to the question of "truth" -- Quid est veritas?

Statement of the Problem

Truth. At first it seems to be a fairly straightforward proposition. But as Pilate’s question demonstrates, there are some who wonder exactly what “truth” is, and some even question the very existence of truth. Throughout history, but especially in modern times, the concept of truth has been met with suspicion and even opposition. Many simply refuse to consider or address the question of truth, while others consider “truth” to be something that can be molded to obtain some objective. For example, pointing out the truth of the sinfulness of a given activity is considered judgmental and uncharitable, asking about the truth of various cultures is considered rude and unacceptable, and insisting that there is One True Faith is deemed to be offensive and exclusionary. In Islam, Allah is held to be so all-powerful that he is not even bound by truth and reason. In certain political systems, disinformation is practiced, and historical and other “truth” is subject to change and revision, like Orwell's 1984 or Animal Farm. Likewise in the law, the truth of the humanity of the unborn child is alterable upon the will of the woman carrying such child, and consideration of the truth of whether the universe might have been created is prohibited in public schools. If an advocate does not like the truth as it exists, then the truth is simply changed by a manipulation of language and redefinition of words, such as changing the meaning of the word “marriage” or even the meaning of the word “is.” Truth may seem to be a simple question, but the truth of the truth is frequently denied. That is, much of the modern world can't handle the truth.

As a consequence, our ability to see and know what truth is has been corrupted and distorted, so that even those who have a good faith desire to know and live the truth often times are instead living a perversion of the truth. We think that what is a lie is the truth, and what is the truth is a lie. Even when, deep down in our gut, we know that something isn't quite right, we still cling to the lie, thinking it is the truth, indeed, wanting it to be the truth.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What Force User Are You?

Hmmm. Yoda I am. Expected this is.

You scored as Master Yoda. Yoda: The Master.

Master Yoda


Mace Windu


Qui-Gon Jinn


Count Dooku


Obi-Wan Kenobi


Darth Sidious


Random Jedi


Anakin Skywalker


Darth Vader


Luke Skywalker


Darth Maul


What Force User Are You?
created with

It be St. Padraig's Day

St. Patrick is a popular saint who, about 1,500 years ago, brought Christ to the little country of Ireland. Pádraig was born in Roman Britain, and when he was about 16 years old, he was captured during a raid by the Irish and sold as a slave. After about six years, he was able to escape and return to Britain. There he heard the call to return and bring Christianity to Ireland. He was ordained a priest, consecrated a bishop and came back to Ireland to preach the Gospel. During the thirty years that his missionary labors continued he covered the Island with churches and monasteries.

Many legends are associated around St. Patrick: how he drove the snakes out of Ireland, and the use of the shamrock to teach the mystery of the Trinity. Whether or not the legends are true, St. Patrick succeeded in bringing Catholicism to Ireland, and in time, the whole country converted from their pagan gods to the one true God.

I am greatly God's debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: "To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited naught hut lies, worthless things in which there is no profit." And again: "I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth."

-- Confessions of St. Patrick

He Makes All Things New

I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away."

The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."

-- Rev. 21:2-5

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Love Does Mean Having to Say You're Sorry

Fry, I'm sorry. I should have understood how someone can love an inferior creature, because I love you. Not in the way of the Ancient Greeks, but the way a robot loves a human, a human loves a dog and, occasionally, a gorilla loves a kitty.

-- Bender
Jurassic Bark, Futurama, Season 5

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Highest and Most Perfect Love is God's Love -- the Love of Caritas

Previously, we discussed the nature and origin of “love.” It was suggested that love is a feeling, an emotion, an attraction, a desire for the other, a sense of fulfillment. And certainly these things often do accompany love, but they are not love itself. Feelings come and go. Sentiments come and go. Attraction comes and goes. And yet love -- if it truly is love -- remains. Indeed, this is seen when Jesus tells us that we must love not only those close to us, but our neighbors, that is, total strangers we don’t even know, and even our enemies, people we don’t even like.

So, we saw how love in its true sense is more than just an emotion. It is more than something we inwardly experience; it is more than simply selfishly satisfying our wants and desires. And love is not arbitrary; love is not something that just happens or doesn’t happen.

Love in its true sense concerns itself with the other; it selflessly seeks what is good for the other. Love is also something which is given, it is a gift of self. Thus, we see that, far from being a mere sentiment that comes and goes, or may not happen at all, love is an action; it is an act of the will, a conscious decision to selflessly seek the good of the other, whether or not we take pleasure in it, and whether or not he or she deserves it.

Likewise, whether the other person loves us is not something that just happens or does not happen. It is not some arbitrary event, and it is not some sentiment or feeling that is imposed upon the other. For the other to love you or not love you is also a conscious decision on his or her part, and we must disabuse ourselves of the folly of thinking that if only we do this or do that we can make the other person love us or that we can make the other person "happy."

Now, let us consider the love of God -- God is perfect; He is Truth itself. Therefore, the highest and most perfect and truest love is God’s love. And what kind of “love” is that? Deus caritas est. God is caritas; God’s love is love as caritas. God does not love us because we are attractive and pretty, funny and smart, or because we are so likeable. He loves us regardless of these things, and even in the absence of these things. He loves us, God gives Himself to us, even though we do not deserve it.

God’s love is caritas, which means “charity,” and charity is something which is given. God’s love is a gift, as were His gifts of the ability to reason and free will. God gave us free will, including the ability to choose to love Him or not love Him, because love is not love if it is not freely given. God’s love is a conscious decision, an act of His will, to seek the good for us.

To love perfectly and truly, we must love as God loves. The highest and most perfect love we can have for our sweetheart or our friend is caritas; the love that we are commanded to have for our neighbor, the stranger, and our enemy is, likewise, caritas. We must choose to give of ourselves and unconditionally seek what is good for the other. And if we find that this is difficult, if we cannot find the strength within ourselves to do this, then we must choose to ask God for help, we must ask for grace.

(And in having such a loving disposition, we find many more people to love; by giving in this way, we receive more, we find more happiness, than if we had selfishly sought such things for their own sake.)

In modern usage, many people tend to think of charity (caritas) as limited to what has traditionally been called “almsgiving,” which includes the act of giving money, goods, or time to the poor or unfortunate, or in the “corporal works of mercy,” which include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead.

But as important at that is -- and it is very important -- true caritas, true charity, is far broader than this limited modern concept. Being charitable means much, much more that giving money or time to an organization that provides assistance to the unfortunate. For example, it also includes what are called the “spiritual works of mercy,” which include counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offenses, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead. But true charity, true love, does not stop there, it goes even further. In its highest and most perfect state, the one who loves is prepared and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of self and lay down their very life for the sake of the other.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Drusilla Explains It All

I think many in their teens to 40s would say they can imagine a love that would last a lifetime but that love consists of strong, pleasant feelings and lovely the images of spouses who behave towards us as we think they should. Our "liberated" society has failed to teach what love actually is: an act of the will, a choice, a commitment, sacrifice, choosing to make another's good at least co-equal to ones own, making each other holy, generating life by having children and building up the community. Love is foreign to us; most of us are not prepared to live the reality of marriage.

Throughout our lifetimes, in so many ways, we've been taught to focus on ourselves and our immediate gratification, taught that truth does not exist because everything is relative, taught that there is nothing solid nor reliable nor irreplaceable; we have not learned to value ourselves or each other. Few of us have experienced lasting family ties or community. So, by and large, we are cynics, without hope - even Christians buy into the "minimum amount of money" arguments that earlier generations never imagined. We were "liberated" so we could do anything we want and the result of that "liberation" is a generation of cynics who now need to be freed so we can love and accept love and become holy."
-- Drusilla, Heirs in Hope

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

CCD Class for March 7, 2006 Cancelled

Well, we have an inch of snow on the ground. That means that the entire DC area is shutting down. Arrgghh!!!

We must love as God loves

He who would be first will be last. If love is all about you, making you happy, then it is destined to fail. Love must be selflessly turned outward, and not selfishly focused inward, to succeed and bear fruit. True happiness in love is paradoxical because it is obtained, not by seeking happiness for yourself, but by denying yourself, by not concerning yourself with what you may or may not receive in return. Unhappiness and insecurity are destroyed by deciding to keep loving no matter what, even if and when the other is unfaithful and rejects you. Because of love, even suffering and pain can be transformed to joy.

Furthermore, we can see that, by consciously willing and seeking what is best for the other, love does not seek to use or exploit the other for our pleasure, but instead seeks the good of the other, including the good which is truth, namely, the truth of the other as a “person” and not as a thing to be used for our amusement, a subject and not an object, an end in his or herself, and not merely a means to an end.

Love affirms the truth and value of the other as a “person.” Love considers, treats, and chooses to respect the other as a “person” and not merely as a thing or object to be utilized for our amusement, as an end in and of his or herself, not merely as a means to an end, and as a moral equal, not as inferior, subordinate or subservient. One who treats another as merely the means to an end, such as personal pleasure, does violence to the very essence of the other as a person. We must love as God loves, and God will not use a person as a means to an end, even if that end is good. God does not even redeem man against his will.

The more that you are disposed to love, the better you are able to love and find love in male-female and other interpersonal relationships. The more that you have a loving inner disposition, the more potential mates you will encounter. With true love in the heart, the universe of possible mates grows. The more you are disposed to love, the more you will be able to see the good qualities in others. These others become more physically attractive, more intelligent, more humorous, more enjoyable. However, the more you are turned inward, seeking to satisfy yourself, complaining that there are no good men or women out there, the more trouble you will have finding them. A perfect Christian, embracing love perfectly, should be able to be united to anyone and be attracted to them, and desire them, and want to be with them, because they have love.

We must learn to see and embrace other truths. We must recognize the truth that our passions and urges are extremely powerful, and that if we do not learn to control our passions and urges, and to subordinate them to our will, then they are going to control us.

In addition to seeing and recognizing the truth that the other is a “person,” we must see and recognize the truth of what kind of person he or she is. We must learn about the real other – the other as he or she actually is -- not an imagined other or an other as we want them to be. We must also recognize the truth of who we are, namely, a person as well, and we must love ourselves, so that we do not exploit ourselves or join in our own exploitation and objectification by another. If someone wants you merely as a means, then he does not really want you at all because, if not you, then someone else will suffice.

Love is not love if it is not freely given.

There is only one “love,” whether it is love of an enemy, or love of a sweetheart. “Fundamentally, ‘love’ is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly.” – Deus Caritas Est

If love were merely a positive feeling, then how could we love our enemy, whom we do not even like? “Love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvelous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love.” – Deus Caritas Est

The greatest gifts that God gave us in addition to our existence are reason, free will, and the capacity to love. We were created by God out of love, by an act of creative reason, and for love. Our purpose, the reason that we are here, is to love and be loved. Does it make sense that, in that area for which we are created, love, God would deprive us of those other gifts of reason and free choice of the will?

Love is not love if it is not freely given. Love is not love if it is not the fruit of a conscious decision. Love is not a mere pleasure or sentiment. Love is a conscious, decisive choice of the other as the focus of affection, subordinating one’s self for the sake of the other. Love is a commitment of the will to the other person, with a view to that person’s good. In short, in all its aspects, love is a choice.

Love is more than just an emotional feeling, more than attraction and affection, and more than a desire for personal happiness or fulfillment. Love is a conscious act of the will to subordinate yourself, and to seek the good and welfare of the other, including the gift of yourself for the other’s benefit. Moreover, because you subordinate your own desires, this is a gift of full and complete unconditional love to the other, which does not concern itself with what you may or may not receive in return, although there is great joy when it is reciprocated. And such a love is secure because it does not depend upon and is not contingent upon the other person -- it only depends on you.

“The ‘commandment’ of love is only possible because it is more than a requirement. Love can be ‘commanded’ because it has first been given [by God]. Some people object and say that love cannot be commanded, that it is ultimately a feeling which is either there or not, nor can it be produced by the will. However, God has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. In God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings.” – Deus Caritas Est

So, how do you love – truly love? You make a conscious decision, an act of the will, that you will love no matter what, freely and unconditionally, that is, that you will seek the good of the other, and that you will give of yourself regardless of what the other gives or does not give back. Love is a gift of self, accepting the person who is loved as they really are, without the merits of whether or not they “deserve” to be loved. And if you feel that you do not have that power within you, ask for a little help, which we call grace, from God. And by having such a complete loving disposition, we are able to obtain a level of contentment and happiness that is permanent. It is another one of those curious paradoxes -- by sacrificing yourself, even your personal happiness and security, you gain an even greater happiness and security.

It is also something which approaches the divine. After all, mankind has given God little more than rejection and infidelity throughout history. And yet, He continues to love us, fully, completely, and unconditionally. He refuses to stop loving us, even when we torture Him and murder Him. He continues to give. And so, He truly does embody love; He truly is Love itself. If we love as He loves, we are truly secure. Thus, we most become like God, not by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, but by eating from the Tree of Love.