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The Mind That Is Catholic

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A truly extraordinary interview to Jesuit Father James Schall on the Vatican’s Zenit, about his book “The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays“, that “explores the habits of being that allow one to use the tools of faith and reason to explore all things seen and unseen“.

Somehow, there’s lots of me in that interview. A few extracts follow:

ZENIT: What does it mean to have a mind that is Catholic? What are its key elements?
Father Schall: The mind that is Catholic is open to all sources of information, including what comes from Revelation […] It is characteristic of the Catholic mind to insist that all that is knowable is available and considered by us in our reflections on reality.

[…] We think, in the end, that what is peculiar in Catholicism is not opposed to reason but rather constitutes a completion of it. It was Aristotle who warned us that the reason we do not accept the truth even when it is presented to us is because we do not really want to know it. Knowing it would force us to change our ways. If we do not want to change our ways, we will invent a “theory” whereby we can live without the truth. The “primary” source of the Catholic mind is reality itself, including the reality of revelation.

[…] Why do these and many other thinkers “embody a mind that is Catholic?” I think it is because they take everything into account. What is peculiar to Catholicism, I have always thought, is its refusal to leave anything out. In my short book, “The Regensburg Lecture,” I was constantly astonished at the enormous range of the mind of the present Holy Father. There is simply no mind in any university or public office that can match his. He is a humble man, in fact. It is embarrassing to the world, and often to Catholic “intellectuals,” to find that its most intelligent mind is on the Chair of Peter. I have always considered this papal intellectual profundity to be God’s little joke to the modern mind.

[…] Catholicism knows that all sorts and sources of knowledge flow into its mind, one of which — the primary one that makes it unique — is revelation. But it is a revelation, in its own terms, addressed to active reason. That too is the mind that is Catholic.

Written by omnologos

2009/Oct/05 at 21:19:52

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity, Philosophy, Universe

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What Makes A Roman Catholic?

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I have enough experience in debating with non-Catholics to be surprised not at all when people start dictating what makes and doesn’t make a Roman Catholic. Most of the time, especially avowed atheists state their illusion that a Roman Catholic is a person that follows the precepts of the Catholic Church, and agrees with anything and everything the Pope says.

Simply, the above is not true.

There is nobody, not even an Archbishop or a Pope, that can declare who is, and who is not a Roman Catholic. The RC Church is not a cultural association, or a political party. There is no membership card, no entry exam, and no expulsion procedure. At most, one can find oneself at one or the other degree of “excommunication”, that by itself is a confirmation that one is of course a Roman Catholic.

Simply, a Roman Catholic is whoever (sincerely…) believes to be a Roman Catholic. And the RC Church is the community of people who (sincerely…) believe to be Roman Catholics.

Of course it could be argued who is and who isn’t a good Roman Catholic. The Pope and most Cardinals will agree on that definition, but at the same time one or more among the Faithful may have a different view on the same topic.  But at the end of the day, the struggle towards being a good person is just that: a struggle. We’re no angels.

Written by omnologos

2009/Mar/09 at 23:06:48

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity

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The Christian Roots of Marxism (and Secular Thought)

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It turns out, Pope Benedict was not so wrong after all.

Excerpts from “A Rescue of Religion” by John Gray, The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 15 · October 9, 2008 – reviewing “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?: 23 Questions from Great Philosophers” by Leszek Kolakowski, Basic Books:

It is part of Kolakowski’s achievement as the greatest living intellectual historian to have tracked the ways in which religion has shaped Western thought. His work is, in effect, a sustained argument for the irreducible presence of religion in intellectual life and in society. In Kolakowski’s view the secular movements of the last century, such as communism, […] deployed categories of thought, including a view of history as a narrative having a consummation or end-point, which are inheritances from Western monotheism. […] Religion was not in truth superseded, either in Marx’s thought or in the movements Marx inspired. Instead, the promise of salvation reemerged as a project of universal emancipation.

The renewal of religious categories of thinking in avowedly secular systems of ideas […] continued in the ideology of neoconservatism. The notion of the end of history […] derives from religious traditions of apocalyptic myth. […] Presupposing as they do a teleological view of history that cannot be stated in empirical terms, all such theories are religious narratives translated into secular language. […]

Religion has had a formative influence on our categories of thought, which it is the task of philosophy to examine. Excavating the archaeology of our concepts is a part of philosophical inquiry. For us, that inescapably involves tracing their debts to Judaism and Christianity. Any way of doing philosophy that neglects these traditions is unhistorical and impoverished.

There are some philosophers for whom the only place for religion in philosophical inquiry is that of a bogey, a specter of irrationality that must be exposed and expelled so that philosophy can be an entirely secular discipline. As Kolakowski has argued, however, a good deal of secular thought has been shaped by Western religion. Exorcising religion is harder than it seems.

Richard Dawkins where art thou?

Written by omnologos

2008/Oct/24 at 19:18:17

The Incredible Power of the Roman Catholic Church

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A little more than two weeks before a U.S. Presidential election. The two candidates have just finished their series of televized debates. Nasty words are flying around. Some important States are definitely too close to call.

And yet: who could manage to get McCain and Obama and their undivided attention for several hours, together at the same charity/society event, forcing them to make fun if not fools of themselves?

Why, RC Cardinal Edward Egan, of course!

Written by omnologos

2008/Oct/17 at 17:18:04

On Abortion, A Perfectly Reasonable Christian Stance

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Personally I find the following statements bordering on the obvious. For some reason, many people think otherwise, in one sense or another…and unbelievably, abortion is still somehow an issue in US politics.

From the Methodist Church’s “Abortion and Contraception” web page:

  • abortion is always an evil
  • there will be circumstances where the termination of pregnancy may be the lesser of evils

And in particular:

  • the mother should be told clearly of the alternatives to termination
  • abortion should be avoided if at all possible by offering care to single mothers during pregnancy, and the adoption of their children if, at full term, the mother cannot offer a home
  • the result of the coming together of human sperm and ovum is obviously human
  • the right of the embryo to full respect […] increases throughout a pregnancy
  • it would be strongly preferable that, through advances in medical science and social welfare, all abortions should become unnecessary
  • late abortions should be very rare exceptions
  • if abortion were made a criminal offence again, there would be increased risks of ill-health and death as a result of botched ‘back-street’ abortions
  • to refuse to countenance abortion in any circumstances is to condemn some women and their babies to gross suffering and a cruel death in the name of an absolutism which nature itself does not observe

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/28 at 22:11:21

Fitna: Anti-Koranic Freedom of Expression It Ain’t

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What to say about Fitna, the anti-Koran movie by far-rightist Dutch MP Gert Wilders who’s enjoying his spot in the limelight in these days?

First of all, the fact that it has had a difficult time getting published is not a serious matter of censorship and/or an attack on freedom of expression. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean playing up polemic for the sake of polemic: I’ll defend Rushdie’s right to write literature that some may find offensive, but I won’t waste a second to defend the author of Fitna or anybody that publishes something with the one and only intent of causing offense.

On the other hand it is simple historical truth that Christians and Jews have been able to prosper in Islamic states: the opposite, unfortunately, is much harder to argue (just think at the Armenian genocide, that follows the de-islamization of the Ottoman State).

The Qu’ran is quite explicit about this:

2,62: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

5,69: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

22,17: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allah is witness of all things.

One should compare that for example to Roman Catholic exclusivity: at least until the Second Vatican Council, there was no path to Heaven to anyone that was not a RC. All sort of Christians have managed to kill each other (and others) for centuries, on the basis of some sort exclusivity. Compared to that, the Qu’ranic text verges on the ecumenical:

2,135: They say: “Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation).” Say thou: “Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.”
2,136: Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
2,137: So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
2,138: (Our religion is) the Baptism of Allah: And who can baptize better than Allah? And it is He Whom we worship.
2,139: Say: Will ye dispute with us about Allah, seeing that He is our Lord and your Lord; that we are responsible for our doings and ye for yours; and that We are sincere (in our faith) in Him?
2,140: Or do ye say that Abraham, Isma’il Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Do ye know better than Allah? Ah! who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah? but Allah is not unmindful of what ye do!

To anybody talking about Islam as “intrinsically fascist” I can then only answer that as far as I am concerned they can write that on the surface of the Moon, but all they’ll show is ignorance (and unwillingness to learn).

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/29 at 21:50:52

St. Paul Against the Christian Churches’ Secular Activities

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2 Corinthians 9, 7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

It is a pity that so many Christian religious leaders, from Episcopalians to Roman Catholics, have decided to forget St. Paul’s message: one is saved by Grace, and not by (Divine) Law, let alone by human law. All their struggles to make politics follow their ethical rules, don’t really sound like something to be expected from people of Faith.

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/18 at 23:55:57

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity, Ethics, Politics

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