Traditioning Jesus, and Aristotle’s Four Causes

My Tradition Conference Essay! It’s a bit clunky in parts, but I’m rather fond of the overall idea.

 

Given that Jesus is the Truth (Jn. 14:6), explore the implications for Sacred Tradition.

 

In the opening paper of the Tradition Conference, Catholic Moral Tradition, Bishop Anthony Fisher noted that it is in our nature as human beings to have traditions.[1]These generally function by providing conventions for actions or ways of thinking, and arise from a process of handing on received wisdom and custom. When we consider the fact that Christ identifies the truth with His very own being,[2]we arrive at the startling notion of “traditioning”[3]or handing on a person. This paper will attempt to see what sense we might make of such a proposition, and its implications, with particular reference to the ideas discussed at the Tradition Conference. I propose that thinking of Tradition in this way gets right to the heart of precisely what Sacred Tradition is, and should not be a foreign concept at all. Furthermore, drawing from the four causes of human persons, I will apply them analogously to this idea of Tradition as a Person.[4]I will argue that this fashion of thinking of Tradition allows its purpose to shine through with greater clarity, revealing that Sacred Tradition ultimately finds its fulfilment in the encounter with Christ made possible for the world through the Church as a whole and through all her individual members.

The Tradition Conference presented an array of angles from which tradition might be viewed, which aligned themselves in various thematic ways. One of these in particular was that tradition may refer either to the process by which truth is transmitted from one generation to the next, or to the transmitted truths themselves. When thinking about Sacred Tradition, however, we do well not to draw too hard a line between the two. Renee Kohler-Ryan, in her paper Keeping Truth in Style, provides us with a helpful analogy- that of envisioning Tradition as a long conversation that has been going on within the Church, through the ages.[5]Those engaged in conversation (whether written or oral)[6]and the ideas exchanged may be distinct, but nonetheless very much intertwined. The ideas would not be present if not for the agents’ minds, and the agents, without exchanging ideas, would not be conversing. Thus persons and ideas need each other for the conversation to take place. Their inseparability may be better understood as being similar to that of matter and form. Matter and form should not be thought of as distinct, but rather as different ways of looking at the same thing.[7]Similarly, Tradition as process and Tradition as doctrinal content are merely different ways of looking at Sacred Tradition.

Truth is generally held by realists to be “the adequation of the mind to being”, or that which arises from “our knowing apprehending being.”[8]In his conference paper Tradition, Temporality and Transcendence: A Biblical Ontology of Time and Space, Robert Tilley dwelt at length upon the contrasting paradigms of modernity and Scripture regarding the nature of space and time. He pointed out that two currents in modernity, namely, anti-clericalism and anti-metaphysics or sacramental ontology, have led to the separation of meaning from reality.[9]Modernity contends that any meaning we perceive the cosmos to have is precisely merely that: perceived. They claim that we project or even impose meaning on reality, and thus reality is subject to the individual’s interpretation, with no real connection between being and meaning.[10]This destroys any concept of teleology. Truth is thereby relativised, the effects of which are legion in contemporary society. The position of the Church, in opposition to this, is that meaning is intrinsic to being.[11]The consequences of such a position for one’s conception of Tradition are manifest in Terence Tilley’s Inventing Catholic Tradition, a critique of which is the focus of Matthew Levering’s paper Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received? Tilley rejects realism, a rejection followed by the “relativisation of propositional truth, the view that Catholic tradition has no definite content or starting-point, and the view that Catholic tradition evolves in a non-teleological fashion.”[12] Hence, when truth is relativised, by becoming merely the individual’s projection onto reality, one arrives at an understanding of tradition that runs along similar contours to Terence Tilley’s, namely one that “envisions Catholic tradition as a continual re-invention of the practice of Catholic faith, without doctrinal stability.”[13]Thus a well-grounded concept of truth is essential for grasping Sacred Tradition, which claims to be the preservation of the deposit of faith,[14]necessarily requiring a sound notion of objectivity.

An alternative (but by no means contradictory) account of truth is found in Hans Urs von Balthasar’s definition, “being revealing itself”.[15]It is obviously relevant to note that God is existence or Being itself.[16]So, truth is God revealing Himself, which is none other than revelation. The fullness of revelation is found in Jesus Christ, and accordingly He quite intelligibly (and yet mysteriously) says “I am the truth.”[17]Revelation has been taking place throughout the history of humanity, as recorded in the Old Testament, where God slowly prepared mankind to receive the fullness of revelation. This fullness arrived in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Son of God. By definition, revelation requires someone to whom things are unveiled, a receiver. The receiver of God’s complete revelation in Christ is the Church. She constantly receives it anew in each generation, and is simultaneously the bearer of that which is received. It is within this larger context of revelation that Sacred Scripture and Tradition must therefore be considered.[18]

Thus we arrive at the core of the question at hand. Having reflected upon truth, revelation and Christ in connection with Tradition, it seems that thinking of Tradition simply as unchanging truth claims about God is inadequate. Rather, if Sacred Tradition is the revelation that Christ has charged the Church to transmit to every age, that revelation is inseparable from the Person of Christ Himself. Tracey Rowland, in her paper Tradition and Revelation in the Theology of Benedict XVI, provides us with Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on this matter. While some aspect of Sacred Tradition is certainly the “material transmission of what was given to the apostles,” this by no means exhausts it. More than that, Tradition is “the effective presence of the crucified, risen Jesus who accompanies and guides in the Spirit the community He has gathered together.”[19]It is more because what Jesus left in His Church was not just a collection of truths about Himself- He promised to remain with His Church always,[20]and to send the “Spirit of Truth”.[21]Furthermore, as noted previously, He identified His own person with Truth itself. This fact is expressed by Emery in the following way: “the Son is the truth of the Father.”[22]Therefore, to understand that that which the Church hands on in Apostolic Tradition is the final revelation of God in Jesus Christ is to understand Tradition in its fullest sense.

At this point, it might be expedient to draw some brief conclusions from our reflections thus far. While the idea that Tradition and a Person are intimately connected may at first seem counterintuitive, if one examines the relationship between truth, Christ and divine revelation, such an idea becomes the only way that Tradition makes real sense. It is the best way to think of Tradition, since it is the most holistic and comprehensive, getting to the heart of what Tradition actually is, rather than the more simplistic notion of preserving a set of dogmatic truths through time. Furthermore, it is worthwhile noting that, since the process and content of Tradition are inseparable, Christ may be identified not only as that which is handed on by the Church in Tradition, but also with the process of Tradition itself. This implies that one may not only say Christ is traditioned, but, along with Benedict XVI, [23]  that Tradition is Christ.

It is important to have this clear understanding of what Sacred Tradition is, so that we may know what it is for, if we are to play our proper role in it. One way of gaining a comprehensive knowledge of what an object is and of its purpose, is accomplished by discerning that object’s four causes. Although Christ is a divine Person, not a human one, He does possess a human nature. I propose, therefore, that we may analogously consider the four causes, as applied to human persons, as they relate to the Person of Christ in His humanity.[24]Insofar as Sacred Tradition is the preservation of the Incarnation, the four causes of Sacred Tradition and of Christ in His humanity are intimately connected. By so doing, I hope to build a more complete account of Sacred Tradition. Briefly, the material cause of the human person is the body, the formal cause is the soul, God and one’s parents are the efficient causes and man’s final cause is to be united with God eternally.[25]The respective means by which Christ has remained on earth that echo these are: in His Body, the Church; in the soul of His Body, the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church into all truth; in His instituting the Church, and her every generation successively becoming bearers of the deposit of faith; and in the purpose of the Church being the means by which Christ draws all humanity to Himself, so that every person may fulfil their end, by encountering Christ. What follows will be a more in-depth discussion of each of these ways of understanding Tradition.

The Person of the Son of God, post the Incarnation, is irrevocably united to His human nature. As such, if Christ is to remain on earth, as He promised He would,[26]integral to this plan is that He remains in a tangible manner, corresponding to the bodily dimension of His humanity. This is manifested in the Church, a visible entity, appropriately called the Body of Christ.[27]Recall that according to Dei Verbum this Church traditions herself, and the Incarnation, and so Sacred Tradition is inextricably linked to her teaching, life and worship.[28]This was the main point made by Robert Tilley in his conference paper. He argued that “redemptive and perfective sacramental action is dependent on the priestly role of humanity, a role perfected and fulfilled in the humanity of the Word made flesh, and by reason of a real participation in the body and blood of this humanity, all humanity is involved, and this through his body the Church. And this real participation is through the words of the Apostles, both in Scripture and Tradition.” In other words, Tradition has a thoroughly material aspect, in that is it bound to the liturgy and sacraments, which are necessarily tangible,[29]and also in that it is carried out by the members of the Body of Christ.

The formal cause of Sacred Tradition may be said to be the soul of the Body of Christ, namely, the Holy Spirit.[30]This Spirit, “the Spirit of truth”,[31]guides the Church and allows Tradition to evolve in a teleological fashion.[32]The Church engages with revelation over the centuries, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, questioning and explaining, seeking to effectively hand on the faith to the next generation, allowing new aspects of Christ to shine forth. It is a never-ending quest to exhaust the inexhaustible depths of God, and therefore a foretaste of heaven.[33]These new aspects that must be allowed to surface were described by Kohler-Ryan as scandals,[34]by Kingwell as ruptures,[35]and by Rowland quoting Balthasar as “the Spirit blowing where it wills, bringing new aspects to light in every age.”[36]Hence, the Holy Spirit acts as the animating principle of the Church, guiding her as she engages in traditioning, so that the revelation of Christ is authentically preserved and engagement with Him is made possible in every age.

An object’s efficient cause is the “primary source of the change or coming to rest.”[37]Thus for Sacred Tradition, we have as the primary source Christ’s establishment of the Church, leaving her with the Apostolic deposit of faith, to be handed on; but since this Tradition is an ongoing reality, each generation, as they become the new bearers of the deposit (after the Apostles), also causes the deposit to remain for the next age. This process is inaugurated by the Father, who, in the primordial act of handing on, sends His Son to the world.[38]Together, the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to the Church, and it is His actions in the Church that facilitate the handing on of Christ to each age. In Baptism, the Church Traditions herself, as new persons are born anew into the life of God as His children, and as part of His Church, they receive the responsibility of playing a part in handing on the faith they have received.[39]In this way the perpetuation of humanity and that of the Church bear striking similarity.[40]And it is precisely in the perpetuation of the Church that Sacred Tradition exists. In the words of Dei Verbum, in Tradition “the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.”[41]Hence God is the Divine Author of Tradition, in that He initiated it, established a community to continue it, and pledged to guide that community Himself.

Finally, we turn to the end to which Sacred Tradition is ordered, utilising what we now know about its nature. The Body of Christ hands itself on, and this same Church, which is also the Bride of Christ, is guided by its “soul”, the Holy Spirit, into all truth. In this way the Bride is engaged in an ongoing conversation with her Bridegroom, as He leads her to unfold more and more of the mystery of Revelation in Christ. It is in this manner that Tradition “evolves teleologically”.[42]But this development is not an end in itself. It finds fulfilment in being the means by which all men are able to encounter Christ in every age, whether that encounter be directly (through the liturgy in word and sacrament) or indirectly (through the witness of members of the Church).

On an individual level, we oscillate between sharing our faith and receiving it from others, as we grow and learn individually and help those around us to do the same, within the Church community. Sharing our encounter with Christ is not, however, an optional extra. It is an imperative from Christ,[43]and, argued Dr John Armstrong in The Difficult Duty of the Few to the Many, a natural obligation. We have a duty, he says, to attempt to persuade others of that which we are convinced is true and good and therefore helpful for living a fulfilled life.[44]Obviously this is true in the most complete sense of the Christian faith. This is done not only in what we say, but by the very way we live, in who we are, since, through baptism, we are so closely identified with Christ as to become “other Christs”, through whom others may truly encounter Him.[45]Thus Tradition truly becomes, in the words of Prof John Haldane, a means to being introduced to the Truth.[46]

In conclusion, while the idea of a person being identified with tradition might seem counter-intuitive, in the case of Sacred Tradition, looking at Tradition from this angle in fact captures a fuller picture of Tradition than does the idea of preserving a set of truth claims, as this exposition has attempted to argue. By contemplating Tradition in connection with its organ, the Church, we can grasp in a more complete way how Jesus carries out His promise to remain with us always. An Aristotelian examination of Tradition as revelation in the person of Christ reveals the depth of this connection, and also illuminates the relationship between what Tradition is, how it works, and what it is working towards. Its purpose is ultimately seen to be the enabling of all humanity to encounter their Saviour, Jesus Christ.

 
BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Aquinas, Thomas., Summa Theologiae, Thomas Gilby O.P. (Ed.) & T.C. O’Brien O.P. (Trans.) (Cambridge University Press: New York, 1965)

 

Aristotle, ‘Physics’ in Great Books of the Western World Vol. 8- Aristotle I, Robert Maynard Hutchins (Ed.) (Chicago: William Benton, 1952)

 

Armstrong, John., The Difficult Duty of the Few to the Many, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Biemer, Gunter., Newman on Tradition (New York: Herder and Herder, 1967)

 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2ndEdition, English translation for USA (Washington, USA: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997)

 

Chappell, Timothy., Persons and humanity, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Copleston, Frederick., A History of Philosophy Vol. I Part II Greece & Rome (New York: Image Books, 1962)

 

Costello, Archbishop Timothy., Personal faith and development in the light of Sacred Tradition, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Dulles, Avery., Models of Revelation (New York: Orbis Books, 1992)

 

Emery, Gilles., Trinity, Church and the Human Person (Florida: Sapientia Press, 2007)

 

Fisher, Bishop Anthony., Catholic Moral Tradition, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Gregory, Brad., The Unintended Reformation- How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2012)

 

Haldane, John., What philosophical sense can we make of Sacred Tradition? Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Journet, Charles., Theology of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2004)

 

Kingwell, Mark., Fugitive Democracy: A Gift in Time, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Kleinig, John., Leviticus (Concordia Commentary)(Concordia: St Louis, 2003)

 

Kohler-Ryan, Renee., Keeping Truth in Style, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Levering, Matthew., Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received?Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 11, 2nd Edition, Berard Marthaler (ed.) (Washington, D.C.: Thomson Gale, 2003)

 

Rowland, Tracey., Tradition and Revelation in the Theology of Benedict XV, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum (November 18, 1965) 

 

Tilley, Robert., Tradition, Temporality and Transcendence: A Biblical Ontology of Time and Space, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Trigg, Roger., Ideas of Human Nature- An Historical Introduction (Oxford: Athenaeum Press, 1988)

 

The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)


REFERENCE LIST:

Aquinas, Thomas., Summa Theologiae, Thomas Gilby O.P. (Ed.) & T.C. O’Brien O.P. (Trans.) (Cambridge University Press: New York, 1965)

 

Aristotle, ‘Physics’ in Great Books of the Western World Vol. 8- Aristotle I, Robert Maynard Hutchins (Ed.) (Chicago: William Benton, 1952)

 

Armstrong, John., The Difficult Duty of the Few to the Many, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2ndEdition, English translation for USA (Washington, USA: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997)

 

Chappell, Timothy., Persons and humanity, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Copleston, Frederick., A History of Philosophy Vol. I Part II Greece & Rome (New York: Image Books, 1962)

 

Emery, Gilles., Trinity, Church and the Human Person (Florida: Sapientia Press, 2007)

 

Fisher, Bishop Anthony., Catholic Moral Tradition, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Gregory, Brad., The Unintended Reformation- How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2012)

 

Haldane, John., What philosophical sense can we make of Sacred Tradition? Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Kingwell, Mark., Fugitive Democracy: A Gift in Time, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Kleinig, John., Leviticus (Concordia Commentary)(Concordia: St Louis, 2003)

 

Kohler-Ryan, Renee., Keeping Truth in Style, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Levering, Matthew., Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received?Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Rowland, Tracey., Tradition and Revelation in the Theology of Benedict XV, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum (November 18, 1965) 

Tilley, Robert., Tradition, Temporality and Transcendence: A Biblical Ontology of Time and Space, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished

 

Trigg, Roger., Ideas of Human Nature- An Historical Introduction (Oxford: Athenaeum Press, 1988)
The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)


[1] Bishop Anthony Fisher, Catholic Moral Tradition, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished (NB: references from papers are sourced both from audio versions and written versions, as variously available. Hence some references will contain page numbers, and others will not.)
[2] Jn. 14:6; Unless otherwise noted, all references to Sacred Scripture will be taken from the Revised Standard Version
[3] In this paper I will denote the act of handing on the content of tradition by using “tradition” as a verb (in addition to its normal usage as a noun), in keeping with its Latin root tradere, the verb meaning ‘to hand on’. The use of this term is intended to encompass not only the transmissioning aspect, but also the fact that the tradition is being actively received. Such terminology will help to emphasise the unity between the process and the content of tradition.
[4] Throughout this paper, “tradition” will refer to the general notion of tradition, while “Tradition” will denote Catholic Sacred or Apostolic Tradition
[5] Renee Kohler-Ryan, Keeping Truth in Style, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
[6] 2 Thess. 2:15; Matthew Levering, Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received? Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished, p. 39- “Paul’s words demonstrate that there is an apostolic communication that belongs to the Church as a living subject and that in some way differs from Scripture. Put another way, Paul’s distinction between traditions delivered “by letter” and traditions delivered “by word of mouth” enable us to appreciate that divine revelation is not communicated to the Church solely by means of Scripture.”
[7] Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy Vol I Part II Greece & Rome, pp. 48-51
[8] Matthew Levering, Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received?Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished, pp. 8-9 (paraphrased)
[9] Brad Gregory traces the historical trajectory of the latter current in his first chapter of The Unintended Reformation- How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, “Excluding God”, summarised thus: “Desacramentalised and denuded of God’s presence via metaphysical univocity and Occam’s razor, the natural world would cease to be either the Catholic theatre of God’s grace or the playground of Satan as Luther’s princeps mundi. Instead, it would become so much raw material awaiting the imprint of human desires.” p.57
[10] Robert Tilley, Tradition, Temporality and Transcendence: A Biblical Ontology of Time and Space, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished, p.3 footnote 6
[11] A view grounded in the understanding that God created the cosmos, which infuses everything with meaning and purpose, and the study of which is found in metaphysics
[12] Matthew Levering, Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received?Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished, p.7
[13] Matthew Levering, Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received?Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished, p.6
[14] CCC 97
[15] As quoted by Giles Emery, Trinity, Church and the Human Person, p. 73
[16] ST I-I, Q. 3, Art. 4; Ex. 3:14
[17] Jn. 14:6
[18] Tracey Rowland, Tradition and Revelation in the Theology of Benedict XV, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
[19] Tracey Rowland, Tradition and Revelation in the Theology of Benedict XV, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
[20] Mt. 28:20
[21] Jn. 16:13
[22] Giles Emery, Trinity, Church and the Human Person, p. 78
[23] See footnote 19: Tradition is “the effective presence of the crucified, risen Jesus who accompanies and guides in the Spirit the community He has gathered together.”
[24] By this, I in no way mean to say that Christ, as God, is caused by anything. Rather, considering Christ in His humanity reveals some interesting parallels that are relevant to our current contemplation of Sacred Tradition
[25] Roger Trigg, Ideas of Human Nature- An Historical Introduction, pp. 39-40
[26] Mt. 28:20
[27] 1 Cor. 12:27
[28] DV 8: “the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.”
[29] John Kleinig, Leviticus, pp. 20-24
[30] CCC 809, 813
[31] Jn. 14:17, 15:26, 16:13
[32] Matthew Levering, Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received?Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished, pp. 46-47
[33] 1 Cor. 13:12; CCC 1028
[34] Renee Kohler-Ryan, Keeping Truth in Style, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
[35] Mark Kingwell, Fugitive Democracy: A Gift in Time, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
[36] Tracey Rowland, Tradition and Revelation in the Theology of Benedict XV, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
[37] Aristotle, Physics, 194b29-30
[38] This Josef Ratzinger called the “original paradosis which “is continued in the abiding presence of Christ in His Body, the Church.”; Tracey Rowland, Tradition and Revelation in the Theology of Benedict XV, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished, p. 279
[39] CCC 785, 1270
[40] As previously mentioned, the efficient causes of the human being are God and one’s parents (or, more generally, the previous generation). Similarly, for Tradition, the efficient cause is the Trinity, as well as the previous generation of the Church.
On a related note, in his paper Persons and humanity, Timothy Chappell laid out a theory of personhood which may be of use in our attempt to see how traditioning a person might be made intelligible. He submits that we become a person by essentially being traditioned into personhood. He states “I get to be a person by being treated as a person: I learn to treat myself as a subject and a thinker and an interactor with others because others so treat me.” The idea that Chappell raises is not without merit. One might legitimately say that we are traditioned into personhood not by being treated as one, but in the fact that our humanity is in a sense “handed on” to us by our parents. We do not obtain it ourselves, it is a gift. Each generation does indeed pass on the persons of the next generation. Thus we see that humanity traditions itself over time, by traditioning individual persons at particular times. Timothy Chappell, Persons and humanity, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
[41] DV 8, emphasis added
[42] Matthew Levering, Catholic Tradition: Invented or Received?Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished, p.7, paraphrased
[43] Mt. 28:18-20
[44] John Armstrong, The Difficult Duty of the Few to the Many, Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
[45] Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-11; Rom. 8:17
[46] John Haldane, What philosophical sense can we make of Sacred Tradition? Tradition Conference 2013, unpublished
 
Advertisements

Love and Responsibility Sydney Week 1: Getting the Foundation Right – Real Friendship

Plug for L&R!

Did you know that in 2012 the most popular “How to?” search in Google in Australia was “How to love?” People are confused. In an age where the more we attempt to feel technologically “connected”, the more isolated we become, and the more we seek to find intimacy and fulfilment in sex, the more disillusioned and heartbroken we become. The only solution for widespread social change is to radically rethink our conceptions of how to go about fostering authentic relationships of all kinds. Karol Wojtyla’s books Love and Responsibility provides us with one way of doing that, and L&R is a series of discussion groups on each of the chapters of this book.

Week 1 has been and gone already, and it focused essentially on the fundamentally important principle that every human being has a unique dignity, and is an end in themselves. They should be treated as such, and therefore there is no situation in which it is ok to use another person for our own ends. It also became evident a while that people were conflating intimacy with non-use, and so a good way to think about how we go about all our daily interactions with people is that we should see every interaction as an opportunity to love. Some people we may only get one opportunity to love them, with others we will have many. If we strive to seize each of these opportunities, our relationships can only flourish. (All this will probably make more sense when you’ve done the reading, below.)

Taking place in the heart of SYD every Tuesday in the UNDA Courtyard, these weekly social discussion forums for young adults will inspire you to grow in your understanding of love and flourish in your relationships. 

Reading for Tuesday 20th August 
What could a young Polish priest professor really teach anyone about love, sexuality, and relationships between men and women?
That’s the question Fr. Karol Wojtyla (hereafter referred to as Karol), addressed in the introduction to his book, Love and Responsibility (L&R). Published in 1960, this book was the fruit of his extensive pastoral work with young people and his reflections on this topic while teaching in Krakow — long before the world would come to know him as Pope John Paul II.
In Love and Responsibility, Karol argues that while he may lack direct experience in marriage and sexuality, he has something that gives him an even wider perspective on these matters: a broad “second-hand experience.” As an advisor who worked closely with many young adults and married couples amidst their struggles in love and sexuality, Karol was able to draw from the experiences of a wide range of personalities, relationships, and marriages in a way that the average person could not. L&R is the fruit of this rich pastoral experience as well as his own reflections on love, sex, and marriage.
Let’s begin!
The Personalist Principle
Karol’s first major task in L&R is to lay out what he calls the “personalist principle.” According to this foundational principle for relationships, “a person must not be merely the means to an end for another person”. In other words, we should never treat the people in our lives as mere instruments to achieving our own purposes.
He explains why this is so. We are capable of self-determination. Unlike animals that act according to their instincts and appetites, persons can act deliberately. Through self-reflection, persons can choose a course of action for themselves and assert their “inner self” to the outside world through their choices. To treat a human person merely as an instrument for my own purposes is to violate the dignity of the person as a self-determining being. “[E]very person is by nature capable of determining his or her aims. Anyone who treats a person as the means to an end does violence to the very essence of the other”.
Loving or Using?
What makes it difficult to live out this basic principle for human relationships is the spirit of utilitarianism that pervades our society. In this view, the best human actions are those that are most useful. And what is useful is what maximizes my pleasure and comfort and minimizes my pain. The underlying assumption is that happiness consists in pleasure. Therefore, I should always pursue whatever brings me comfort, advantage, and benefit, and avoid whatever may cause me suffering, disadvantage, and loss.
This utilitarian view affects the way we relate to one another. If my main goal in life is to pursue my own pleasure, then I weigh my choices in life in light of how much they lead me to this goal. Hence, many people today may evaluate a relationship in terms of how useful a person is for me to achieve my goals or how much “fun” I have with this person. Karol says that once these utilitarian attitudes are adopted, we begin to reduce the people in our lives to objects to use for our own pleasure.
This helps explain why many friendships and “dating” relationships (and even marriages) today are so fragile and so easily dissolved. If I value a woman only insofar as she is advantageous for me to know or only to the extent that I derive some pleasure from being with her, then there is not much of a foundation for the relationship. As soon as I cease to experience pleasure or benefit from my time with her — or as soon as I can find more pleasure or benefit with someone else — she no longer is valuable to me. This view is quite far from the personalist principle and even farther from a relationship of committed love.
Love and Friendship
Here, it may be helpful to mention the different kinds of friendship according to Aristotle.
For Aristotle, there are three kinds of friendship based on three kinds of affection that unite people. First, in a friendship of utility, the affection is based on the benefit or use the friends derive from the relationship. Each person gets something out of the friendship that is to his advantage, and the mutual benefit of the relationship is what unites the two people.
For example, many work-related friendships fall under this category. Let’s say Bob owns a construction company in Newcastle. He has a friendship with Sam on the Central Coast because Sam sells the kind of nails that Bob needs at the best price. For their business exchanges, Bob and Sam see each other a few times a year, talk on the phone about once a week, and email each other regularly. Over the years of doing business together, they have learned about each other’s careers, families, and interests. They get along together well and sincerely wish each other all the best in life. They are friends, but what unites them is the particular benefit they each receive from the friendship: nails for Bob and sales for Sam.
Second, in a pleasant friendship the basis of affection is the pleasure one gets out of the relationship. One sees the friend as a cause of some pleasure for himself. This friendship is primarily about “having fun together.” The friends may listen to the same music, play the same sport, enjoy the same form of exercise, live in the same dormitory, or like to hang out at the same nightclub. The two people may sincerely care about each other and wish each other well in life, but what unites them as friends is primarily the pleasure or “good times” they experience together.
Fragile Foundations
Aristotle notes that while the useful and pleasant friendships are basic forms of friendship, they do not represent friendship in the fullest sense. Useful and pleasant friendships are not necessarily bad but they are the most fragile. They are the least likely to stand the test of time because when the mutual benefits or “fun times” no longer exist, there is nothing left to unite the two people. For example, if Sam leaves the nail selling business to go sell books, what will happen to his friendship with Bob now that he no longer sells the nails Bob needs? Sam and Bob may still exchange Christmas cards and emails every once in a while, but since they no longer need to communicate regularly for their business transactions, their friendship most likely will begin to dissolve. The relationship is no longer mutually useful.
Similarly, in the pleasant friendship, when one person’s interests change or they move away and are no longer around to share “good times,” the friendship is likely to fade. This helps explain why friendships among young people shift so often. As they move from high school to college to the professional world, they mature and their interests, values, moral convictions, and geographical locations tend to undergo many changes. If their friendships in these transitional years are not based on something more profound than simply the fact that they happened to live in the same dorm, play the same sport, take the same class, and have a lot of fun together, their friendships are likely to dissolve over time.
Such friendships based on having “good times” together are unlikely to continue when those pleasurable experiences are no longer able to be shared.
Virtuous Friendship
For Aristotle, the third form of friendship is friendship in the fullest sense. It can be called virtuous friendship because the two friends are united not in self-interest, but in the pursuit of a common goal: “the good life,” the moral life that is found in virtue.
The problem with useful and pleasant friendships is that the emphasis is on what I get out of the relationship. However, in the virtuous friendship, the two friends are committed to pursuing something outside themselves, something that goes beyond their self-interests. And it is this higher good that unites them in friendship. Striving side-by-side toward the good life and encouraging one another in the virtues, the true friend is primarily concerned not with what he gets out of the friendship, but with what is best for his friend and with pursuing the virtuous life with his friend.
What Makes or Breaks a Relationship
With this background in mind, Karol gives us the key that will prevent our relationships from falling into the self-centred waters of utilitarianism. He says the only way two human persons can avoid using each other is to relate in pursuit of a common good, as in the virtuous friendship. If the other person sees what is good for me and adopts it as a good for himself, “a special bond is established between me and this other person: the bond of a common good and of a common aim”. This common aim unites people internally. When we don’t live our relationships with this common good in mind, we inevitably will treat the other person as a means to an end, for some pleasure or use.
Especially in marriage, there is a temptation to be self-centred, to want our spouse and our children to conform to our own plans, schedules, and desires. For example, when the weekend approaches, I may focus on the things I want to do — house projects I want to get done, work I want to get caught up on, sporting events I want to watch — without giving priority to what my wife and children may need from me. When it comes to family finances, I may joyfully agree to spend money on things that are important to me, but strongly resist my wife’s desire to invest in something that may not benefit me directly, even though it may be important for our family.
However, Karol reminds us that true friendship, especially friendship in marriage, must be centred on the bond of a common aim. In marriage, that common aim involves the union of the spouses, the spouses’ serving each other and helping each other grow in goodness, and the rearing and education of children.
Our own individual preferences and agendas should be subordinated to these higher goods. Husband and wife must be subordinate to each other and to the good of their children, working to prevent any selfish individualism from creeping into their marriage. As a team, husband and wife work toward this common aim and discern together how best to use their time, energy, and resources to achieve those common goals of marriage.
Karol explains how spouses’ being united in this common good helps ensure that one person is not being used by another or neglected by the other. “When two different people consciously choose a common aim this puts them on a footing of equality and precludes the possibility that one of them might be subordinated to the other. Both . . . are as it were . . . subordinated to that good which constitutes their common end”.
Without this common end, our relationships inevitably will fall into some form of using the person for our own benefit or pleasure.
In the next week, we will consider how crucial these foundational points from L&R are for navigating the emotional and physical attractions we often experience when we encounter people of the opposite sex.

Cardinal Pell on Religious Liberty

Last night His Eminence George Cardinal Pell delivered the Annual Lecture on Religious Liberty at the University of Notre Dame. He was a pleasure to listen to, as always.

Some excerpts:

Todd Johnson, an expert on Christian demography with the World Christian Database, has estimated that there were 100,000 new Christian martyrs each year between 2000 and 2010, many from the Sudan and Congo. Citing Johnson’s research, Italian sociologistMassimo Introvigne has claimed that a Christian is killed every five minutes.

 A special commission established as part of the Church’s preparations for the Great Jubilee of 2000 arrived at a lower estimate than Johnson. It concluded that were perhaps twenty-seven million Christian martyrs in the twentieth century, making up “two thirds of the entire martyrology of the first two millennia”. However the estimates might be drawn up, it seems clear that more Christians were killed for their faith in the twentieth century “than in the previous nineteen centuries combined.”

Recently at Sydney University, a pro-life group founded Life Choice, a society to promote discussion around abortion and euthanasia. For such a group to be affiliated with the Student Union and receive some funding, they are required to hold an initial meeting with at least twenty members and then make application. Their first application was denied by a subcommittee because such a group would not enhance student life! An appeal against this exclusion was made to the full Student Union board and the Life Choice group won affiliation by one vote.

Two details are interesting. Professor Peter Singer, the Australian philosopher from Princeton University, intervened to support the right of Life Choice to affiliate; and one of the Student Union opponents proclaimed that a woman’s right to choose abortion comes before freedom of expression. Here we have a glimpse of the future.

Protections, not exemptions. Federal and state anti-discrimination laws usually include a range of “exemptions” or “exceptions” for religious organisations (and other groups). The purpose of these exemptions is to protect other rights, but the language of exemptions creates the impression that they are simply concessions or special permissions to discriminate granted by the state for political reasons. This is completely misleading and helpful to no one, except those who want to misrepresent the situation and remove protections for religious freedom. The language of exemptions should be replaced with the language of protections, clearly identifying the human right that is being protected.

Go read the whole thing!

+AMDG

Rearranging the Rosary: The Fifth Mysteries (Consummation)

Previously:
Rearranging the Rosary: An Introduction
The First Mysteries (In the Beginning)
The Second Mysteries (Discipleship)
The Third Mysteries (Kingdom of God)
The Fourth Mysteries (Pilgrimage)

Today is my favourite. I wish I had time to write a whole essay on this, but I’ll have to settle for brevity.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Finding of the Child Jesus
in the Temple

The Fifth Luminous Mystery: The Institution of the Blessed Eucharist
  • In the Eucharist we meet the Risen Christ, and thus experience a foretaste of Heaven, the fulfilment of all our desires, in which Christ and His Bride become one flesh, the Body of Christ. But also it is mysteriously one and the same sacrifice of Calvary, which Christ is offering before the Father for all eternity.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord
  • Before He gave up His spirit, Christ said “it is finished”, probably better translated as “it is consummated.” (Jn. 19:30) Scott Hahn has a great discussion of this, where he argues that the “it” that is completed is the Passover sacrifice, begun at the Last Supper (which is the Institution of the Eucharist).

The Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Coronation of Our Lady Queen of Heaven
  • Since today is the feast of the Assumption, the readings for today were very much linked to this. The Mother of God takes her place in Heaven (Rev. 12:1), reflected also in Psalm 45. In this, as she begins her eternal life with her Divine Father, Son and Spouse, as a fully redeemed human person, she shows us the glory to which we are called. We see this in Christ, but He is not a human person, He is a Divine Person, and had no need of salvation. Mary is the first one for whom salvation is fully realised, and thus in this Mystery we see the climax of what all the other Mysteries have been building up to. The salvation of humanity is possible, because it has been accomplished in one person already.

So what’s the point?

We begin our lives as disciples of Christ, becoming a part of and working towards the complete fulfilment of the Kingdom of God whilst on our pilgrimage to Heaven, which will be the consummation of our marriage with God, so to speak; the realisation of the end for which we were created, which is to live in a communion of love with the Trinity for all eternity.

Next time: Wrapping it up

+AMDG

Rearranging the Rosary: The Fourth Mysteries (Pilgrimage)

Previously:
Rearranging the Rosary: An Introduction
The First Mysteries (In the Beginning)
The Second Mysteries (Discipleship)
The Third Mysteries (Kingdom of God)

So far, we have seen that as we go through each set of Mysteries in the Rosary, we see the Christian life cyclically reflected in the specific part of salvation history pertaining to Christ’s life. (Of course it is also reflected this way throughout all of salvation history.)

Today we’re gonna take a squiz at the Fourth Mysteries, which suggest the idea of pilgrimage.

The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple
  • the Holy Family’s journey to the Temple in Jerusalem is a pilgrimage. Further to this, when we consider that the Temple is essentially modelled on God’s heavenly court, and is a microcosm of the New Eden, travelling to Jerusalem is like both the Jewish exodus to the Promised Land, and our journey to our true Promised Land, Heaven
The Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration of Our Lord
  • In the account of the Transfiguration in Luke, we read:

“And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli’jah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Lk. 9:30-31)

The greek word used for departure here is actually exodos. Jesus is depicted as the New Moses, and so when we put all this together, in the redemption He accomplished at Jerusalem, Christ, the New Moses, instituted the New Exodus of the New People of God, the Church, as they journey to the New Promised Land (as we’ll see tomorrow, there’s a New Manna too! Also New Law, New Covenant, etc, you get the idea)

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
  • Jesus instructs those who would be His disciples that they must “take up their cross daily, and follow Him.”
The Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
The Assumption
  • Our Lady completes the last leg of her pilgrimage to Heaven (and this is tomorrow’s feast day, incidentally! And a holy day of obligation, don’t forget.)

Putting it all together: we begin our lives as disciples of Christ, becoming a part of and working towards the complete fulfilment of the Kingdom of God whilst on our pilgrimage to Heaven.

Next up: The Fifth Mysteries (Consummation)

+AMDG

The Error of Compartmentalisation

The excellent Jason has kindly included myself in a list of his friends with good blogs. Over on his blog, with the awesome Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque name (at least that’s what I think of) The Masked Thomist, Jason regularly displays his talent for concisely distilling his own thoughts, or those of others, deftly rebutting where appropriate. He also courageously shares various personal struggles, which I find quite inspiring, as well as helpful, providing a perspective not much voiced in the Catholic world.

Also on this list was the very new (only one post so far!) Platitudes in the Making. This first post was on the problem of compartmentalisation, with specific reference to mathematics and music. As someone with a degree in Advanced Mathematics, naturally this caught my attention. It’s a very interesting read: did you know, for example that

Beethoven loved to take geometric figures and twist them, raise or lower them, taking certain points on the figures as musical notes, and write entire motifs that way.

What a cool way to compose!!

This compartmentalisation has troubled me for some time in other areas though, especially in the area of university education. It seems to me that the widespread specialisation of most degrees is not the best of ideas. Admittedly, part of the reason why I did Maths was because I hated essays, thought I was no good at them, nor could I ever be, because I just wasn’t one of those “English-y types”. If I’d been forced to non-Maths or Science subjects, I’d have been pretty ticked off, back in the day.

But now I think that learning to think in a variety of different ways, and learning skills different to the ones that you excel at, is ridiculously important.

When universities began, this was well understood. One didn’t simply pick a specific area to be educated in, and specialise right from the get-go. You had to study rhetoric, grammar, logic, arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy, before you could study philosophy, and before you reached the queen of all studies, theology. They understood that you had to be well-grounded in how the world is, how reality functions as a beautiful whole, in order to not be a slovely theologian.

These days, obviously not everyone is going to be a theologian. But I think there is nevertheless great merit in encouraging students to broaden their intellectual horizons.

Some ways this is done in Sydney:

UNSW gets their students to do a number of General Education (Gen Ed) subjects, which, as I understand it, are just subjects not in your field. This is a good start, but from what I hear most people don’t take these seriously, don’t really understand why they’re important, and try to find “bludge” subjects: in other words, how little work they can get away with.

My own Notre Dame has the Logos Program, which basically involves getting a general introduction to the basics of philosophy, theology and ethics. This is definitely awesome in theory, but I’m not sure how much students get out of it (as I think many probably resent having “Catholic stuff shoved down our throats”), and also it’s only three subjects worth.

Campion College is the winner on this front, as it offers the Liberal Arts degree, and that’s all it does. Basically, you sit at the feet of history’s greatest thinkers, and learn to think and express yourself well, in the areas of history, literature, philosophy, science and theology. By doing so Campion hopes to produce the leaders of the next generation, who are able to think well no matter what profession they choose to enter. Here, crucially, one’s specialisation is delayed slightly, which I don’t think is any bad thing. Many I have talked to, however, think it’s a bit of a waste of time.

This pretty much because education is not generally seen as a good in itself, but merely as a means to getting a degree in something, so you can work. The idea of educating the whole person, aiding them in their pursuit of wisdom, so that they can live a virtuous life in accordance with what we were created for, and thus find true fulfilment, is non-existent in most universities. At Sydney Uni, I pretty much felt like one nobody among many, part of a production-line of graduates, helping the uni make money. This is the sorry state of our unis, which is not going to do society any favours, because university graduates go on to get positions of power and influence, and if they’re not well-formed individuals, they’re not likely to make well-informed decisions. And I think this is already being seen.

So, to conclude: if you have the chance to not narrow your straight after school, putting yourself into the “teaching” box, or the “politics” box, or the “science” box, or the “IT” box, go for it. Stretch those intellectual muscles! The world needs people who can both think logically and clearly, and express that well, whether in writing or verbally, and who know something of the rich inheritance of knowledge our forebears have bequeathed to us, so that they can contribute something valuable of their own.

+AMDG
 

Rearranging the Rosary: The Third Mysteries (Kingdom of God)

Previously:
Rearranging the Rosary: An Introduction
The First Mysteries
The Second Mysteries

Finding a clear theme for the Second Mysteries is not so easy, and perhaps you found the result a bit dubious. Today, however, is much clearer, I think.

The Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Our Lord
  • Christ the King is born! He is recognised as such by the three wise men, who bring Him appropriate gifts.
 
The Third Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven

Sermon on the Mount
  • At the Sermon on the Mount, Christ proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (because He is here and the redemption that He is going to bring about draws near)
 
The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns

  • Jesus is mocked by the soldiers for claiming to be King, by dressing Him in purple and setting a crown of thorns on His head. They taunt Him, and spit on Him. Little did they know that they were deriding He who truly is King of the Universe. (Yikes)
 
The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles

  • The pouring out of the Holy Spirit marked the birth of the Church, which is the Kingdom of God. What was accomplished on Calvary and in the Resurrection, was manifested anew in the Church, to be the means for the perpetuation of these salvific realities for all time. 
 
Thus, at some point we begin our lives as disciples of Christ, which involves both becoming a part of and working towards the complete fulfilment of the Kingdom of God.
 
+AMDG