quarta-feira, 12 de outubro de 2011

Modern biology and original sin, Part II - by Edward Feser

In part I of this series (and in a response to critics of part I) I addressed the question of whether monogenism of the sort entailed by the doctrine of original sin is compatible with modern biology. I have argued that it is. In this post I want to address the question of whether modern biology is consistent with the claim that the ancestors of all human beings transmitted the stain of original sin to their descendents via propagation rather than mere imitation. The correct answer to this question, I maintain, is also in the affirmative. Critics of the doctrine of original sin often suppose that it claims that there is something like an “original sin gene” passed down from parents to offspring. And this, of course, seems highly dubious from a biological point of view. They also suppose that to say that Adam’s descendents inherited from him the stain of original sin is like saying that Al Capone’s descendents somehow inherited from him his guilt for the crimes he committed, and deserve to be punished for those crimes. And this too seems absurd and unjust. But both of these objections rest on egregious misunderstandings of the doctrine.

Faith and reason

Before explaining how, I want briefly to say something about the rational foundations of the doctrine. Some skeptical readers were critical of my appeal in my earlier post to Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis, and mocked my statement that “there is no evidence against” the supposition that God may have infused human souls into creatures descended from sub-intellectual hominids. They seem to think that what I was saying is that because a certain religious authority has said something, that by itself suffices to show that it is true, or that the mere fact that there is no evidence against a proposition licenses us in believing it if we are so inclined. But this is a complete travesty both of my views and of Catholic theology.

To be sure, while it has sometimes been suggested that the doctrine of original sin can be defended on purely philosophical grounds, probably the more common view is that it is a matter of faith. But what is faith? It is not what most people think it is; in particular, it is not a matter of believing something without any grounds for believing it, or believing it simply because you’ve taken a fancy to it, or because through sheer will you’ve worked yourself into a state of belief in defiance of all the evidence. In short, faith, rightly understood, is in no way at odds with reason. On the contrary, faith is, in a sense, grounded in reason.

Suppose you know nothing about quantum mechanics but you do know a physicist who is both highly competent and scrupulously honest, and he tries to explain the subject to you. Suppose further that you only understand part of what he says, and even that part you understand only imperfectly. Still, you have no doubt that what he is saying is true. You trust him, because he knows what he is talking about and wouldn’t lie to you. You have faith in him, and your faith is perfectly rational. Indeed, it is grounded in reason in the sense that it is reason that tells you that he is a reliable source of information, and thus can be believed even when what he is saying is something you could not have discovered for yourself and cannot even fully understand.

Faith in the religious context -- or at least in the Catholic theological context -- is like that. To cite a representative definition, “faith is adhesion of the intellect, under the influence of grace, to a truth revealed by God, not on account of its intrinsic evidence but on account of the authority of Him who has revealed it” (Parente, Piolanti, and Garofalo, Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, p. 101). That is to say, faith involves believing some proposition we could not have discovered on our own and perhaps cannot even fully understand, but which we know must be true because God, who is omniscient and cannot lie, has revealed it. But this faith is grounded in reason insofar as the claim that the proposition in question has in fact been revealed by God is something that can and should be independently rationally justified. In short, reason tells us that there is a God and that he has revealed such-and-such a truth; faith is then a matter of believing what reason has shown God to have revealed. In that sense faith is not only not at odds with reason but is grounded in reason.

Of course, how we know through reason that God exists and that He has revealed some truth is a large and complex matter. I have defended several of the traditional arguments for God’s existence in several places (here, here, and here). The way to get from God’s existence to the justification of the claim that some particular Christian theological doctrine (such as the doctrine of original sin) really has been divinely revealed would have to involve a number of further steps. In particular, it would have to involve a defense of the claim that Jesus Christ claimed divine authority for His teaching, that He was resurrected from the dead, that only God could have effected this resurrection and that it therefore constitutes a divine seal of approval of Christ’s teaching, that Christ founded a Church with authority to pass on and interpret His teaching, and so on. In other words, the rational defense of any particular purportedly divinely revealed Christian doctrine presupposes an independent rational defense of the truth of theism, of the veracity of Christ, and also (I would say) of the specifically Catholic understanding of revelation and authority.

Obviously I can hardly accomplish all of that here, in a single blog post, though of course many theologians have defended all of these points in detail over the centuries. The point for now is just to emphasize that believing the doctrine of original sin is not a matter merely of appealing to authority, as if the reliability of the authority did not itself need to be rationally established (of course it does). And I am not, in any event, pretending in this series of posts to establish the doctrine of original sin to the satisfaction of someone who is not already familiar with and convinced by the arguments for theism and Catholicism. My aim is rather only to answer certain specific criticisms of the doctrine. Hence when I said that “there is no evidence against” the novel monogenesis scenario sketched in my previous posts, I was not saying “There is no evidence against it, and that suffices to justify us in believing it.” I was saying “This scenario is compatible with the genetic evidence, so the claim that the genetic evidence has refuted the doctrine of original sin fails.” Naturally, a positive case for the doctrine would have to say a lot more than that.

Now some Catholic readers might wonder if I am presenting too rationalist an account of faith (as some readers of my book The Last Superstition seem to think I did there). In particular, they might think that I have ignored the role grace plays in faith (a role referred to in the definition I cited above). As the Catholic Encyclopedia says in its article on faith:

[I]n the minds of many faith is regarded as a more or less necessary consequence of a careful study of the motives of credibility, a view which the Vatican Council condemns expressly: "If anyone says that the assent of Christian faith is not free, but that it necessarily follows from the arguments which human reason can furnish in its favour; or if anyone says that God's grace is only necessary for that living faith which worketh through charity, let him be anathema."

But what I am saying is in no way in conflict with Catholic teaching, and is in fact just standard Scholastic theology. As the very same article immediately goes on to say:

On the other hand, we must not minimize the real probative force of the motives of credibility within their true sphere—"Reason declares that from the very outset the Gospel teaching was rendered conspicuous by signs and wonders which gave, as it were, definite proof of a definite truth" (Leo XIII, Æterni Patris).

And as the same encyclopedia puts it in its article on fideism:

As against [fideistic] views, it must be noted that authority, even the authority of God, cannot be the supreme criterion of certitude, and an act of faith cannot be the primary form of human knowledge. This authority, indeed, in order to be a motive of assent, must be previously acknowledged as being certainly valid; before we believe in a proposition as revealed by God, we must first know with certitude that God exists, that He reveals such and such a proposition, and that His teaching is worthy of assent, all of which questions can and must be ultimately decided only by an act of intellectual assent based on objective evidence. Thus, fideism not only denies intellectual knowledge, but logically ruins faith itself.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Church has condemned such doctrines… On 8 September, 1840, Bautain was required to subscribe to several propositions directly opposed to Fideism, the first and the fifth of which read as follows: "Human reason is able to prove with certitude the existence of God; faith, a heavenly gift, is posterior to revelation, and therefore cannot be properly used against the atheist to prove the existence of God"; and "The use of reason precedes faith and, with the help of revelation and grace, leads to it." … [T]he [first] Vatican Council teaches as a dogma of Catholic faith that "one true God and Lord can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason by means of the things that are made"…

As to the opinion of those who maintain that our supernatural assent is prepared for by motives of credibility merely probable, it is evident that it logically destroys the certitude of such an assent. This opinion was condemned by Innocent XI in the decree of 2 March, 1679… and by Pius X in the decree "Lamentabili sane"… Revelation, indeed, is the supreme motive of faith in supernatural truths, yet, the existence of this motive and its validity has to be established by reason.

In short, the teaching that grace guides us to faith does not entail that at some point we just have to close our eyes real tight and will ourselves into believing some proposition for which there are insufficient rational grounds. That is William James style fideism, not Catholicism. When someone says “There but for the grace of God go I,” he does not mean that he did not freely choose to avoid a life of sin and that God somehow programmed him to avoid it, as He might program a robot. Similarly, when we say that we are led to faith by God’s grace, this does not mean that we are not at the same time led to it by reason.

Let’s move on now to the doctrine of original sin itself.

What original sin isn’t

Many people seem to think that the doctrine of original sin says something like this: Adam and Eve were originally made for the eternal bliss of Heaven, but because they ate a piece of fruit they were told not to, they came to merit instead eternal torture at the hands of demons sticking pitchforks into them as they roast over hellfire. Though Adam and Eve’s descendents had no part in their fruit-stealing, they are going to be held accountable for it anyway, and merit the same eternal torture (demons, pitchforks, hellfire and all). For they have inherited a kind of guilt-carrying gene, which will automatically transfer them into the custody of the pitchfork-carrying demons straightaway upon death unless God somehow supernaturally removes it. For some reason, though, this gene doesn’t show up in biological research, and its existence must be taken on faith.

Naturally, atheists and other non-Christians reject this scenario as too ludicrous for words. And it is too ludicrous for words. But it also has nothing to do with what the traditional doctrine of original sin actually says. Indeed, it barely rises to the level of caricature; certainly it bears no resemblance to the traditional Catholic understanding of original sin. Here as elsewhere, too many critics haven’t troubled themselves to find out what the main Christian thinkers have actually written, but rely on vulgar stereotypes. And on the rare occasions when such critics do at least skim some serious theological work (so as to forestall the accusation that they haven’t done their homework) they are likely to read into it the ludicrous scenario just described.

Properly to understand the doctrine of original sin requires understanding what traditional theology says about what human beings were originally made for, what the offense of our first parents consisted in, what the punishment for that offense was, and the sense in which we have inherited that punishment. Let’s look at each issue in turn. We will see that what traditional theology says is radically different from what many people think it says. Nothing that I will be saying here is original. You can find it in old works of Scholastic theology, and online in relevant articles from the Catholic Encyclopedia. (See, for example, the articles on original sin, supernatural order, sanctifying grace, and concupiscence. You might also look at a book like Matthias Scheeben’s recently reprinted The Mysteries of Christianity. The best discussion of the doctrine I’ve read is in Thomas Harper’s long out-of-print little book The Immaculate Conception, but that is hard to track down. You can read about Harper here and Scheeben here.)

Natural and supernatural

For Scholastic theology, human beings have, like everything else, a nature or essence, and what is good for them – what they need in order to flourish as the kinds of creatures they are – is determined by that essence. Hence, for example, because we are by nature rational animals our flourishing requires both bodily goods (food, shelter, and the like) and intellectual goods (such as the acquisition of knowledge). The point of Scholastic natural law theory is to provide an account of the various human goods and their moral implications. (I provide a brief sketch of how this goes in the first half of this article, and also in chapter 5 of Aquinas.)

Now among the things that are naturally good for us is a certain kind of knowledge of God and a certain kind of religious devotion. For as rational animals, we are capable of knowing the ultimate causes of things and of freely pursuing the good; and God is the ultimate cause of things and the highest good. The paradigm of this natural knowledge of God is the sort of thing we know from natural theology – for example, the kind of arguments concerning God’s nature and essence one finds in Aristotelian or Neo-Platonic philosophy.

As with other creatures, nature provides human beings with what they need in order to realize these goods, at least in a general way. For example, we need food, and nature is set up in such a way that we can acquire it – by hunting and gathering, through basic farming, and also by the more sophisticated agricultural methods and economic institutions familiar from modern life, which our natural rational capacities have made possible. We need knowledge of God, and philosophical investigation gives us such knowledge. But as with other creatures, while nature provides the means to our ends, she doesn’t guarantee that every one of us will in fact realize those ends. Due to misfortune, some of us sometimes go hungry. Due to intellectual error and the complexity of the philosophical issues, some of us sometimes fail properly to understand the main arguments for God’s existence, or mix all sorts of errors into whatever knowledge of God we do have. Due to the weaknesses of our wills, we also fall into moral error. And when moral and intellectual errors multiply throughout a culture, the resulting general social environment may make it difficult for a given individual living within it to avoid more numerous and more serious moral and intellectual errors than he otherwise would have been prone to. (Modern Western society provides a good example, insofar as the secularist portion of it is much farther from understanding the basic truths of natural theology and natural law than perhaps any other culture ever has been. I have explored the contingent historical and philosophical reasons for this elsewhere.)

So, human beings in their natural state have only a limited capacity to realize the ends their nature requires them to pursue in order that they might flourish. They have the raw materials needed for this pursuit, but the finitude of their intellectual, moral, and material endowments entails that there is no guarantee that each and every individual human being will in fact realize the ends in question, or realize them perfectly when they do realize them at all. Nature has granted us what it “owes” us given what we need in order to flourish as the kind of creatures we are, but no more than that. This is the situation Adam, Eve, and their descendants would have been in had God left the human race in its purely natural state.

But according to Christian theology, God offered to our first parents more than what was “owed” to us given our nature. He offered us a supernatural gift. Here it is crucial to understand what “supernatural” means in this context. It has nothing to do with ghosts, goblins, and the like. What is meant is rather that God offered us a good that went above or beyond what our nature required us to have. In particular, he offered Adam and Eve the beatific vision – a direct, “face to face” knowledge of the divine essence which far transcends the very limited knowledge of God we can have through natural reason, and which would entail unsurpassable bliss of a kind we could never attain given our natural powers. He also offered special helps that would deliver us from the limitations of our natures – that would free us from the ignorance and error our intellectual limitations open the door to, the moral errors our weak wills lead us into, the sicknesses and injuries our bodily limitations make possible, and so forth.

By definition, none of this was “owed” to us, precisely because it is supernatural. Hence while God cannot fail to will for us what is good for us given our nature, He would have done us no wrong in refraining from offering these supernatural gifts to us, precisely because they go beyond what our nature requires for our fulfillment. Still, He offered them to us anyway. But this offer was conditional.

The fall of man

The condition was the obedience of our first parents. Yet they did not obey. And of course, that is the point of the account of their eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. It wasn’t fruit per se that was important, but rather the will to rebel against the Creator. (Recall Augustine’s youthful theft of the pears, where what was attractive about the theft was the fact that it was forbidden, not the fact that he got some pears out of it.) The penalty was the loss of the supernatural gifts they had been given and that their descendants would have been given, and a fall back into their merely natural state, with all its limitations. In particular, it was a loss of all the helps that would effectively have removed those limitations -- and worst of all, loss of the beatific vision.

In short, the penalty of original sin was a privation, not a positive harm inflicted on human beings but rather the absence of a benefit they never had a right to or strict need for in the first place but would have received anyway had they not disobeyed. And it wasn’t the prospect of pitchforks and hellfire that Adam’s descendents had to look forward to because of what Adam did, but rather the privation of this supernatural gift. What is essential to Hell is the loss of the beatific vision, and while Hell can certainly also involve more than that (including the pains of sense) the standard view is that it does so only for those guilty of actual sin, and not those (such as infants who die without baptism) who merely suffer the penalty of original sin, without ever having committed actual sin. (For this reason the Scholastic tradition came to settle around the view that infants who die without baptism, and thus without removal of the penalty of original sin, probably enjoy perpetual natural happiness -- the highest state we could have attained without being raised to the supernatural gift of the beatific vision.)

You might compare the situation to that of a landowner who has sold an unimproved parcel of land to a certain family – which, just to be cute, we’ll call the Adams family. In allowing the Adamses to take possession of the parcel, he’s given them everything he owed them. But suppose he offers to throw in, for free, something extra – to plant on the land a vineyard using the finest quality vines, whose fruit will make possible the best wine. This is something that all the descendents of the original Adamses who bought the land will profit from. But the landowner makes the offer only conditionally. He wants to see how Mr. and Mrs. Adams are going to handle things before turning the vineyard over to the Adams family as a whole, including the many descendents who are not likely to do any better with the vines than their ancestors are. So if Mr. and Mrs. Adams do well with the first vines planted, they and their descendents will get to keep them and reap the benefits. If not, the landowner will tear them out and leave the Adamses and their descendents with only the original unimproved parcel, which is all they were owed in the first place.

Now suppose that Mr. and Mrs. Adams botch things up, and the landowner removes the vineyard. The fault is entirely theirs, but all their descendents necessarily suffer the penalty just as much as they do, just by virtue of being Adamses. Yet it is not a positive harm that is inflicted on them, but rather the loss of a benefit they were not entitled to but nevertheless would have received if not for the actions of their ancestors.

The hereditary stain

Notice that there is nothing the least bit unjust about the landowner’s actions, since he never owed the vineyard to any of the Adamses in the first place. He would have done Mr. and Mrs. Adams no wrong if he had refrained from offering the vineyard, and he does none of their descendants wrong in denying it to them. Notice also that there is nothing remotely mysterious about how our fictional Adamses inherit the penalty of Mr. and Mrs. Adams’ error, and do so genetically. For they do so, not because they’ve got some strange “vineyard-losing gene” but rather simply because they are the biological descendents of Mr. and Mrs. Adams, and the deal that would have gained or lost them the vineyard was a deal made with Mr. and Mrs. Adams on their behalf.

Similarly, we inherit the penalty of original sin, not in the sense that we’ve got some “original sin gene” alongside genes for eye color and tooth enamel, but rather in the sense that the offer of the supernatural gifts was made to the human race as a whole through their first parent acting as their representative. Inheriting this penalty from Adam is more like inheriting your father’s name or bank account than it is like inheriting his looks or his temperament. And there is no more injustice in this inheritance than there is in the landowner’s not planting a vineyard for Mr. and Mrs. Adams’ descendents.

That, anyway, is how the doctrine of original sin came to be understood in the Scholastic tradition. Obviously the account depends crucially on the distinction between the natural and supernatural orders -- a distinction that was blurred in Protestantism and has also been blurred by some modern Catholic theologians (a tendency criticized by Pope Pius XII at paragraph 26 of Humani Generis). Part of the danger of blurring it is that doing so threatens to make a hash of the doctrine of original sin. If Adam and Eve lost for us something we are in some sense owed by nature, or if the penalty of original sin did involve some positive damage to that nature rather than merely the privation of a supernatural gift, then it does come to seem unjust that we have inherited that penalty, and the door is opened at least a crack to the caricatures of the doctrine’s critics.

Post-Kinsey: Is There Anything Normal About Pornography? - by Cassandra Hough

An “adaptationist” approach to pornography is dangerous because it ignores widespread research showing that pornography harms society at many levels.

by Cassandra Hough

More than fifty years after Alfred Kinsey’s discoveries about human sexuality, two neuroscientists have offered what they hope is an improved answer to the question of human sexual desire. To access and analyze the sexual desires of human beings on a mass scale, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam studied the internet use of more than a hundred million men and women across the globe. In their book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, they share their findings based on their analysis of the websites, erotic videos, and even the digitized romance novels that these users frequent.

Ogas and Gaddam warn the reader in the preface of the explicit nature of their study, and they hold nothing back in presenting a very vivid picture of human sexual tastes. “The sexual brain is guaranteed to upset the politically correct, the socially conservative, and just about everyone in between,” they write, adding that readers are “certain to be challenged and occasionally dumbfounded.”

The first part of their book details the most obvious observations about male and female desire. Men are highly visual and easily aroused by certain parts of the female anatomy. Their search histories show a preference for these feminine parts, as well as a preference for younger women. Women are more complex, and often need many physical and psychological requirements to be met before experiencing arousal. Women are largely attracted to the strength and power status of alpha males. While men often satisfy their desires through pornography, women look to the romance novel. Ogas and Gaddam compare male desire to the cartoon character Elmer Fudd, “wabbit” hunter: Men are “solitary, quick to arouse, goal-oriented, driven to hunt … and a little foolish.” They nickname female desire the “Miss Marple Detective Agency,” for its aim to “uncover, scrutinize, and evaluate a dazzling range of informative clues” present in potential sexual partners. Though men and women seem to share the same brain circuitry governing physical arousal, psychological arousal, sexual reward systems, motivation, and response to sexual cues, Ogas and Gaddam assert that “there are dramatic differences in how these components operate” in the sexes.

To explain these differences, the authors rely on evolutionary theory. Men have developed visual cues to help them identify women who are most likely to provide healthy children for many years to come. Women have developed their complex system of visual and psychological cues in order to identify the men most likely to protect them and their offspring, and they then weigh the various risks associated with pursuing sex.

Surprising and challenging content follows these chapters, where Ogas and Gaddam detail desires too graphic to recount here (let it suffice to say that BDSM is on the tamer end). It is in these pages that their use of the “adaptationist lens” becomes a problem: Rather than account for their findings by discussing the desire and pleasure systems in the brain already known to us, and how those systems might account for the abnormality of the “politically incorrect” desires they have discovered, Ogas and Gaddam simply explain these desires by proposing other “cues.” For example, to explain why some men are aroused by seeing their wife or girlfriend cheating on them, they suggest a “cuckold cue” that leads to a desire for “cuckold pornography.” To account for some women’s attraction to rapists and paranormal heroes such as vampires and werewolves, the authors conclude that these women must be attracted to men who are, in a sense, the alpha of alphas—extreme loci of male social status and power.

By taking an “adaptationist” approach, Ogas and Gaddam can only conclude that labeling these darker desires as anything other than a healthy part of sexual life is a matter of fearing the unconventional. In their last chapter, they reflect on the diversity of sexual interests that their study revealed, noting that it may be “hard for us to accept that other people’s most intimate desires are different from our own—and when confronted with this fact, we often dismiss their desires as deviant or dangerous or just plain hurtful.” They go on to assert that “science can’t offer any moral prescription about which [sexual] cues should be judged acceptable,” but that “we can accept our fantasies without becoming slaves to them.”

But can we? As evidenced by works such as The Social Costs of Pornography, numerous scholars have agreed that there are myriad harms associated with the pornography industry and with pornography use that reach everyone—individuals, couples, children, the economy, and society at large. Science may not be moral philosophy, but science can help us distinguish what is healthy from what is unhealthy, and it can help us make reasonable, practical, and ethical judgments about behaviors that should and should not be encouraged. And science has spoken quite definitively that pornography should not be encouraged if we are to preserve the health of individuals and communities.

See, for example, the work of neuropsychiatrist Norman Doidge in his book The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. Building from an explanation of the two pleasure systems that operate in the brain (one that regulates “appetitive” pleasure—the pleasure of desire—and one that regulates “consummatory” pleasure—the pleasure of satisfying desire), Doidge concludes that the brain is quite malleable when it comes to pornography use. New brain maps develop that reinforce the pathways connecting pornographic viewing with excitatory pleasure (and dopamine release).

There is an irony in Doidge’s findings. Contrary to popular culture’s promise that pornography offers a healthy and pleasurable outlet for sexual tension, his research shows that using pornography often only increases and exacerbates such tension. Doidge notes that many of his male patients “often craved pornography but didn’t like it.” For both men and women, exposure to pornography decreases sexual satisfaction with one’s partner. He explains that what pornography “often delivers is an addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure.”

Journalist Pamela Paul reached similar conclusions in her survey of pornography users. She discovered that for many individuals, using pornography quickly becomes a slippery slope, where users seek out and become habituated to material they once held in disgust, such as “bestiality, group sex, hard-core S&M, genital torture, and child pornography.” For some, this slippery slope quickly leads to a form of addiction.

It would be unreasonable to suggest that all of the subjects that Ogas and Gaddam studied were sex addicts, but in light of the above-cited research, it is reasonable to at least question the subjects’ sexual mental health. Ogas and Gaddam take it for granted that pornography is a normal, healthy part of the human sexual experience. By using widespread internet use to show just how common and “normal” deviant sexual desires and interests are, their methodology takes its cue from the Kinsey mentality that deviant sexual behavior begins in infancy and is not so deviant after all.

Ogas and Gaddam claim that their wide-reaching survey of “millions” improves upon Kinsey’s “landmark” study. To the contrary, they fail in many of the same ways Kinsey did. Kinsey may have surveyed 18,000 subjects for his report, but hundreds of his subjects were sex offenders, prostitutes, prison inmates, and exhibitionists. Another several hundred were mere children. Kinsey’s “science” not only drew from an unrepresentative sample of people, it drew from unhealthy members of society and, in the case of the children studied, from the sexually abused.

Even if we grant that Ogas’s and Gaddam’s research represents the desires of millions, it is a far stretch to claim that their sample is a representative one. Although the amount of online pornography consumed is astounding, only one in four internet users views a pornographic website in a given month. This means that Ogas and Gaddam neglected to account for the sexual desires of the vast majority—75 percent—of people who comprise their target population. Moreover, when one considers current research that details the harmful effects of frequent pornography use on one’s brain and social relationships, there is reason to question whether Ogas’s and Gaddam’s study represents human desire more broadly, as it claims, or whether it reflects the desires of the sexually troubled.

Overall, the authors’ study is limited by subscribing to a type of biological determinism where the sexual cues in our brains determine our desires and thereby excuse them. In this way, Ogas and Gaddam take the ideology of Kinsey a step further. It is both unscientific and unacceptable that the Kinsey reports have been hailed for over half a century as a liberating turning point in American sexual identity, awareness, and health. We would be wise to keep the reports of A Billion Wicked Thoughts from being acclaimed in the same way.

terça-feira, 11 de outubro de 2011

Cardenal Piacenza explica "crisis" del sacerdocio católico

LOS ÁNGELES, 11 Oct. 11 / 10:09 am (ACI/EWTN Noticias)

El Prefecto de la Congegación para el Clero en el Vaticano, Cardenal Mauro Piacenza, explicó en entrevista exclusiva concedida a
ACI Prensa la "crisis" del sacerdocio católico que los medios seculares pretenden presentar, así como lo que cada presbítero debe vivir para ser fiel a su vocación.

Por su cargo, el Cardenal Piacenza es el principal encargado en la Santa Sede, luego del Papa, de promover iniciativas para la santidad y la formación del clero: sacerdotes diocesanos y diáconos.

También se encarga de la formación religiosa de todos los fieles, especialmente la catequesis. Y tiene además una labor menos conocida de conservar y administrar los bienes temporales de la Iglesia.

El Cardenal Piacenza nació el 15 de septiembre de 1944 en Génova Italia. Fue ordenado sacerdote el 21 de diciembre de 1969. Tiene un doctorado en derecho canónico. Fue designado Presidente de la Comisión Pontificia para los Bienes Culturales de la Iglesia el 13 de octubre de 2003 y recibió la ordenación episcopal el 15 de noviembre de ese mismo año.

Fue nombrado secretario de la Congregación para el Clero y promovido al rango de Arzobispo el 7 de mayo de 2007. Fue luego nombrado Prefecto de la Congregación el 7 de octubre de 2010. Fue creado Cardenal el 20 de noviembre de ese mismo año

A continuación la entrevista exclusiva completa concedida a ACI Prensa en la ciudad de Los Ángeles (Estados Unidos) en donde el Cardenal Piacenza realizó diversas actividades como participar en la Asamblea Nacional de Sacerdotes Hispanos.

ACI Prensa: Una conjunción de hechos y de sobreexposición en la prensa secular ha creado una "crisis", por así decirlo, de la imagen del sacerdote católico. ¿Cómo rescatar esta imagen para el bien de la Iglesia?

Cardenal Piacenza: En la teología católica, la imagen y la realidad no están nunca separadas. La imagen se cura curando la interioridad. Debemos curar primero que nada "por dentro". No debemos preocuparnos mucho por "aparecer por fuera" sino por "ser realmente". Es fácil individualizar las reglas que mueven lo externo y los consiguientes intereses entrecruzados.

Nosotros no debemos nunca escondernos, pero, donde sea necesario, debemos reconocer con humildad y verdad los errores, con la capacidad de reparar, ya sea humanamente, ya sea espiritualmente, confiando más en el Señor que en nuestras pobres fuerzas humanas. ¡Así viene el rescate!, si el sacerdote es aquello que debe ser: hombre de Dios, hombre de lo sagrado, hombre de oración y, por ello, totalmente al servicio de los otros hombres, de su fe, de su bien auténtico e integral, ya sea espiritual o material, y del bien de la comunidad en cuanto tal.

ACI Prensa: ¿Cómo hacer enteder a tantos católicos desilusionados que ven el llamado "escándalo sexual" de la Iglesia, que esto no define para nada ni el sacerdocio ministerial ni la Iglesia?

Cardenal Piacenza: Es humanamente comprensible, como el Santo Padre ha referido en la entrevista durante el vuelo del último viaje apostólico a Alemania, que algunos puedan pensar que no pueden reconocerse en una Iglesia en la cual suceden ciertos actos infames. Sin embargo, el mismo Benedicto XVI, en aquella ocasión, invitaba con claridad a ir hasta el fondo de la naturaleza de la Iglesia, que es el Cuerpo viviente de Cristo resucitado, que prolonga en el tiempo su existencia y actuar salvífico.

El horrible pecado de algunos no desligitima el buen proceder de muchos, ni tampoco cambia la naturaleza de la Iglesia. Ciertamente debilita enormemente su crediblidad y, por ello, estamos llamados a obrar incesantemente por la conversión de cada uno y por aquella radicalidad evangélica y fidelidad, que siempre deben caracterizar a un auténtico Ministro de Cristo. Recordemos que para ser verdadermante creíbles es necesario ser verdaderamente creyentes.

ACI Prensa: Algunos creen que esta "crisis" es todavía un argumento más para las "reformas exigidas" sobre el modo de vivir el sacerdocio. Se habla, por ejemeplo, de sacerdotes casados como una solución tanto a la soledad de los sacerdotes como a la falta de vocaciones sacerdotales. ¿Qué cosa significa verdaderamente la "reforma del clero" en el pensamiento y el magisterio del Santo Padre Benedicto XVI?

Cardenal Piacenza: Quien argumenta eso, si lo siguiera, crearía un crack inaudito. Los remedios sugeridos agravarían terriblemente los males y seguirían la lógica inversa del Evangelio. ¿Se habla de soledad? ¿Pero por qué, Cristo es acaso un fantasma? ¿La Iglesia es un cadáver o está viva? ¿Los santos sacerdotes de los siglos pasados han sido hombres anormales? ¿La santidad es una utopía, un asunto para pocos predestinados, o una vocación universal, como nos lo ha recordado el Concilio Vaticano II?

No se debe bajar el tono sino más bien elevarlo: ese es el camino. Si el ascenso es arduo se debe tomar vitaminas, nos debemos reforzar y, fuertemente motivados, se sube con mucha alegría en el corazón.

Vocación significa "llamada" y Dios sigue llamando, pero es necesario poder escuchar y, para escuchar, es necesario no tener tapadas las orejas, es necesario hacer silencio, es necesario poder ver ejemplos y signos, es necesario acercar la Iglesia como el Cuerpo, en el que ocurre siempre el acontecimiento del Encuento con Cristo.

Para ser fieles es necesario estar enamorados. Obediencia, castidad en el celibato, dedicación total en el servicio pastral sin limites de calendario u horario, si uno está realmente enamorado no se perciben como constricciones sino como exigencias del amor que constitutivamente no podría no donarse. No son tantos "no" sino un gran "sí" como aquel de la Santa Virgen en la Anunciación.

¿La reforma del clero? Es lo que invoco desde cuando era seminarista y luego un joven sacerdote (hablo de los años 1968 -1969) y me colma de alegría escuchar cómo el Santo Padre invoca continuamente tal reforma como una de las más urgentes y necesarias en la Iglesia. ¡Pero recordemos que la reforma de la que se habla no es "mundana" sino católica!

Creo que, en una síntesis extrema, se puede decir que el Papa valora mucho un clero cierto y humildemente orgulloso de la propia identidad, completamente ensimismado con el don de gracia recibido y por el cual, consiguientemente, es clara la distinción entre "Reino de Dios" y mundo. Un clero no secularizado, que no sucumbe a las modas pasajeras ni a las costumbres del mundo.

Un clero que reconozca, viva y proponga el primado de Dios y, de tal primado, sepa hacer descender todas las consecuencias. Más simplemente la reforma consiste en ser lo que debemos ser y buscar cada día llegar a ser lo que somos. Se trata entonces de no confiar tanto en las estructuras, en las programaciones humanas, sino y sobre todo en la fuerza del Espíritu.

ACI Prensa: Se habla con frecuencia también del "sacerdocio femenino". De hecho existe en Estados Unidos un movimiento que pretende y exige el sacerdocio y la ordenación de obispas mujeres, y que afirman haber recibido tal mandato de los sucesores de los Apóstoles.

Cardenal Piacenza: La Tradición Apostólica, en este sentido, es de una claridad absolutamente inequívoca. La gran e ininterrumpida Tradición eclesial siempre ha reconocido que la Iglesia no ha recibido de Cristo el poder de conferir la ordenación a las mujeres.

Cualquier otra reivindicación tiene el sabor de la auto-justificación y es, histórica y dogmáticamente, infundada. En cualquier sentido, la Iglesia no puede "innovar" simplemente porque no tiene el poder para hacerlo en este caso. ¡La Iglesia no tiene un poder superior al de Cristo!

Donde vemos comunidades no católicas guiadas por mujeres, no debemos maravillarnos porque donde no es reconocido el sacerdocio ordenado, la guía obviamente es confiada a un fiel laico y, en tal caso, ¿qué diferencia hay si ese fiel es hombre o mujer? La preferencia de uno sobre otro sería sólo un dato sociológico y por tanto mutable, en evolución. Si fueran solo hombres entonces sería discriminador. El asunto no es entre hombres y mujeres sino entre fieles ordenados y fieles laicos, y la Iglesia es jerárquica porque Jesucristo la ha fundado así.

El sacerdocio ordenado, propio de la Iglesia Católica y de las Iglesia ortodoxas, está reservado a los hombres y esto no es discriminaciòn de la mujer sino simplemente consecuencia de la insuperable historidad del evento de la Encarnación y de la teología paulina del cuerpo místico, en el que cada uno tiene su propio papel y se santifica y produce fruto en coherencia con el propio lugar.

Si luego se interpreta esto en clave de poder, entonces estamos completamente fuera de órbita, porque en la Iglesia solo la bendita Virgen María es "omnipotencia suplicante", como ningún otro lo es, que resulta así en ese aspecto más poderosa que San Pedro. Pero Pedro y la Virgen tienen roles diversos y ambos esenciales. Esto lo he escuchado mucho también en no pocos ambientes de la Comunión anglicana.

ACI Prensa: Desde el punto de vista de las cifras y de la calidad, ¿cómo aparece la Iglesia Católica hoy, en comparación con su pasado reciente, y cómo se ve en el futuro?

Cardenal Piacenza: En general, la Iglesia Católica está creciendo en el mundo, sobre todo gracias a la enorme contribución de los continentes asiático y africano. Esas jóvenes Iglesias aportan su fundamental contribución en orden a la frescura de la fe.

En las últimas décadas –si se me concede la expresión– hemos jugado rugby con la fe, chocándonos, a veces haciéndonos también mucho mal, y al final ninguno ha llegado a ningún punto. Han habido y hay problemas en la Iglesia, ¡pero es necesario mirar hacia adelante con gran esperanza!

No tanto en nombre de un ingenuo o superficial optimismo, sino en nombre de la magnífica esperanza que es Cristo, concretizada en la fe cadaa uno, en la santidad de cada uno y en la perenne auténtica reforma de la Iglesia.

Si el gran evento del Concilio Ecuménico Vaticano II ha sido un viento del Espíritu que ha entrado por las ventanas abiertas de la Iglesia al mundo, es necesario reconocer que, con el Espíritu, ha entrado también no poco viento mundano, se ha generado una corriente y las hojas han volado por los aires. Hay de todo, nada se ha perdido, sin embargo es necesario, con paciencia, volver a poner orden.

Se pone orden afirmando sobre todo y con fuerza el primado de Cristo Resucitado, presente en la Eucaristía. Hay una gran batalla pacífica por hacer y es la de la Adoración eucarística perpetua, para que todo el mundo haga parte de una red de oración que, unida al Santo Rosario, vivido como rumia de los misterios salvíficos de Cristo, junto a María, generen y desarrollen un movimiento de reparación y penetración.

Sueño con un tiempo cercano en el que no exista diócesis en la que no haya una iglesia o al menos una capilla en la que día y noche se adore al Amor sacramentado. ¡El Amor debe ser amado! En cada diócesis, y mejor si también en cada ciudad y pueblo, deben haber manos alzadas al cielo para imploar una lluvia de misericordia sobre todos, cercanos y lejanos, y entonces todo cambiaría.

¿Recuerdan lo que sucedía cuando Moisés tenía las manos alzadas y qué cosa sucedía cuando las dejaba caer? Jesús ha venido para portar el fuego y su deseo es que arda en todo lugar para llegar a la civilizaciòn del amor.

Este es el clima de la reforma católica, el clima para la santificación del clero y para el crecimiento de santas vocaciones sacerdotales y religiosas, este es el clima para el crecimiento de famlias cristianas verdaderas iglesias domésticas, he aquí el clima para la colaboración de fieles laicos y clérigos.

Es necesario creer todo esto verdaderamente y en los Estados Unidos siempre ha habido y hay todavía muchos recursos prometedores. ¡Adelante!

A Catholic manifesto in support of the Pope Assisi III

by Alberto Carosa

In Vatican Insider

A mayor risk for the upcoming Assisi gathering in late October, as shown in the current heated and raging debate, is for the event to be manipulated by a number of the media and then presented in a way poles apart from the Pope’s very intentions.

In a communiqué by the Holy See press office dated 2 April 2011 and in subsequent please, the Holy Father asked for the faithful to support him, both spiritually and with their presence there, in this ideal pilgrimage in the city of Saint Francis.

During a relevant symposium in Rome on October 1st, 2011, don Mauro Gagliardi, a young theologian and professor attached to the Pontifical university “Regina Apostolorum” who is also consultor in the Vatican for the office of the Papal liturgical celebrations and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Disciplines of Sacrament, decided to heed the Pope’s call in the most concrete and practical way: a manifesto setting the record straight with regard to the true interpretation key of the Assisi initiative in full compliance with the will of the Holy Father. A manifesto that should obviously be circulated/printed/posted as widely as possible in any for of media around the world.

“Holy Father, in obedience to your request, we are preparing ourselves in prayer for the forthcoming World Day of Prayer for Peace, due to be celebrated twenty-five years after its first edition, which was promoted by Your predecessor, Blessed John Paul II.

We are prepare ourselves to this day with a spirit of faith, in the double relevance of this virtue: with personal faith in the Lord, who guides His Church through the work of her legitimate pastors, and with faith in the truth that God revealed in Christ for our
salvation. It’s in the light of this faith that we value the Assisi Day and accompany you in your pilgrimage of peace.

We are also preparing in a spirit of charity, that is with true love towards those religious men who will gather in Assisi under Your presidency. Following the teachings of Blessed John Paul II, let us reach out with charity to them, proclaiming with love and frankness our firm conviction of faith that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world and that true peace is only in Him.

Together with you, Holy Father, we are meeting our non Christian brothers to confirm their sound aspirations and their legitimate desire for peace, which they manifest through the prayers proper of their own religions. If this prayer is not and cannot be ours, if it is not therefore possible to pray together; and if we Christians, in the light of the word of truth of the Gospel, identify errors and gaps in their religions, nevertheless we appreciate the sincere search of God and the human prayer, beseeching for the Almighty to give the world justice and peace.

Thus avoiding any hint of syncretism or relativist interpretation, as if the Day of Assisi should involve a surrender of Christianity in so far as its profession of absoluteness and truth is concerned, we support your efforts, Holy Father, for every single human being to be brought closer to the mystery of Christ the Lord. Together with you, Your Holiness, we repeat and announce that there is no other name given among men by which they can find salvation except in the Name of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, yesterday, today and forever”.

segunda-feira, 10 de outubro de 2011

The Cruelty of Hedonism

A hectic competition lies at the heart of the hedonist’s life.

by Anthony Esolen


At the beginning of Book Two of his epic On the Nature of Things, the Epicurean poet Lucretius imagines himself standing upon a promontory, looking at the suffering of someone below:

How sweet, to watch from the shore the wind-whipped ocean
Toss someone else's ship in a mighty struggle;
Not that the man's distress is cause for mirth –
Your freedom from that trouble is what's sweet.

In Shakespeare's The Tempest, when the innocent Miranda believes she sees a ship wrecked off the coast of their island, she cries out to her father Prospero, "O, I have suffered / With those that I saw suffer! Poor souls, they perished!" The difference between the two reactions is, in the end, the difference between a culture of hedonism, even at its noblest, and a culture that finds the meaning of suffering in the shadow of the Cross.

Let me not suggest that Lucretius was a moral monster. If there is any case to be made for hedonism, Lucretius is the man to make it. He follows his master Epicurus in insisting that it is beneath our dignity to pursue pleasures of the flesh. He believes in an austere modesty in matters of sex, temperance in food and drink, and the enjoyment of good conversation with friends:

in the shade of a tall tree by the riverside,
most pleasantly when the weather smiles, and the season
stipples the green with fresh and lusty flowers.

He is fond of animals, and deplores the shedding of their blood upon pagan altars. He seems to like children, and imagines a newborn baby, like a mariner tossed ashore, wailing "as is fit / For one whom so much suffering awaits." He recommends that a man marry a woman not for her looks, but for her compliant disposition, and says it will then be easy for the two to learn to live with one another. He abhors warfare, and misses no opportunity to reveal the pointlessness and the waste of military aggression – and of enmity generally, inimicitia, the opposite of the Epicurean ideal of amicitia, friendship.

But how much there is missing! The Roman statesman Cicero scorned the Epicurean directive to retire from public life with its dangers and its bitter quarrels, not to mention service in the army, on the grounds that the Epicureans proposed no way to pursue or to secure the common good. The good ruler, as opposed to the tyrant, the demagogue, the self-idol, puts his considerable energy at the service of others, and may well wear himself out in the task.

It is not clear how to justify such a life if it does not bring pleasure. Or consider that fundamental commonwealth, the marriage. Lucretius writes some of his most acid satire against foolish men in the throes of love, who fall prey to illusions, believing that their obese girl friends are a little busty, or that the consumptive girl is a little delicate, and so forth. It does not occur to him that, as Richard of Saint Victor puts it, ubi amor, ibi oculus, where love is, there is an eye.

Perhaps love sees, in the less-than-perfect face, a genuine beauty. Perhaps the pleasure-seeker is blind. What happens when one's marriage proves difficult? What if the son is a prodigal? What if the daughter proves a harlot? What comfort does hedonism provide then, when the main source of contentment in life is spoiled? Are we to divorce the wife, and forget the children?

Joy comes as a surprise; it must be accepted as a gift. But pleasure is no surprise. It is hunted down. The hedonist, then, is always working against the clock, and against the deterioration of his own body. He must find pleasure while he still can. And when he is dying, the hedonists about him wish he would get on with it quietly, so as not to trouble himself or them with complaints. "Get your sobs out of here, scoundrel, and quit your whining!" cries the personified Nature of Things to an old man who weeps that his time is gone. Such a man is like one who has feasted at a banquet table and is unwilling to make way for the younger to have their fill.

A hectic competition thus lies at the heart of the hedonist's life. The social contract – described by Lucretius long before Hobbes – is at best a truce, a mutual agreement not to harm one another. Love is held in suspicion. We seek nothing together, unless we find pleasure in someone else's company. The friendship is subordinated to the pleasure, and if the pleasure disappears, there is nothing left to hold us together. Meanwhile, people scramble for the delights they can attain, and not everyone will be victorious.

The ugly, the simple, the weak, the poor, the sinful, the tiresome, the sick, the dying – much joy can come to those who seek them out, much joy, and much heartache, and perhaps little pleasure. But the hedonist cannot understand Father Damien, or Mother Teresa, or the man who waited so many years for his prodigal son to come home. Hedonism is a thorn, and no rose.