A Confusion of Loves
“And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying….” (1 Thess 2: 8-10).
Holy Scripture offers us three great “definitions” of God: God is Supreme Being (I Am Who Am); God is Truth; and God is Love.
In previous articles I have extensively examined the first two of these self-definitions of God, and the war being conducted against them. We have seen that it is Thomistic philosophy and theology which are the great defenders of these concepts of God, and it is therefore against these that modernism and the “New Theology” rage most vehemently.
Invariably, this attempt to rid Catholic philosophy and theology of St. Thomas is done in the name of love. The “categories” of St. Thomas are seen as static, rigid, repressive of dynamic growth and evolution and, most of all, tyrannically suppressive of love – all this because they draw hard lines between God and man, light and darkness, truth and falsehood, good and evil, right and wrong, nature and grace, the state of sanctifying grace and mortal sin, and between Catholic and non-Catholic. Thomism, in other words, may be seen as the foundation of substantial Catholicism, being at the same time the first enemy of “fuzzy” Catholicism. With Thomism we know where we are. We know with absolute clarity what is within the circle of being, truth, and love, and we know what is without.
These “hard lines” of Thomistic scholasticism have, until very recently, been seen as something absolutely integral to Catholic life and faith. Being a Catholic has always been seen as a state which, because of our fallen nature, must be protected by a life lived (as much as is possible) separate from the world.
St. Paul is adamant in this regard:
“Bear not the yoke with unbelievers: For what participation
hath justice with injustice. Or what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever?
Wherefore, Go out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: And I will receive you; and I will be a Father to you; and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor 6:15-16, 17-18).
It is this “separateness” that people like Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and Joseph Ratzinger found unbearable. And it is many of the “bastions” of distinctive Catholic doctrine and worship which these same people wished to see demolished in order to facilitate a descent into a loving relationship with the world.
A serious examination of St. Thomas’ teaching on love will clearly reveal how destructive and self-contradictory are these efforts of the “New Theology” to oppose love to the traditional faith. It will specifically show that the very descent into the world which these men hold up to us as a modern imitation of Christ is in fact a profound sin against the very people and institutions that they claim to love.
This analysis will also hopefully shed some light on the confusing content of Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus caritas est.
The Anatomy of Human Love:
According to St. Thomas, “Love is the first movement of the will.” (ST I, Q.20, A..1). To love something or someone is “nothing else but to will good to the beloved.” (Ibid, A.2), whether this “beloved” be another or one’s own self. Love is therefore properly seen as an “appetite” for good.
Thomas distinguishes between three types of love: natural love, sentient love, and intellectual or rational love (I,II, Q..26, A..1). Natural love is simply the tendency of created things to maintain their being and existence, and all those things proper to this existence and activity. Natural love, according to St. Thomas, is dependent upon an “apprehension which is not in them, but in the Author of their nature…” Such “love” is obviously proper to things which have no subjectivity, and therefore no knowledge or awareness.
Sentient love, however, exists in a subject capable of apprehending or knowing, but this love “derives from necessity and not from free-will.” In irrational animals this lack of free will in the act of love is absolute, but in man it “has a certain share of liberty, in so far as it obeys reason.” At this stage (sentient love) we encounter the concupiscible power of love. It is very important to realize that this power is from God. In man, it is exercised in a good or evil manner depending on whether it is subject to right reason. Concupiscence is the passion called desire. It may be experienced in regard to either physical, or rational and spiritual objects.
We should also mention here that the word “concupiscence” is also used to denote the insubordination of passions to right reason. Thus we have the famous verse from St. John’s first epistle: “For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.” This refers not to the concupiscible power itself but to its exercise by our fallen nature in rebellion against reason.
Finally, intellectual love flows from an intellectual apprehension in the subject, and this is called the intellectual appetency or will. It is immensely important that we understand the connection between the two words used here to describe this love. Love, or will, is not something that can be separated from intellect. It is not something “over here” that can be separated, or opposed to, “intellect over there.” We can only love what we know. For this reason the will is called the intellectual appetency.
On the other hand, what we know is often dependent upon what we will (or love) to focus our intellect upon. We have all had the experience of trying to explain something really quite simple to someone, knowing that they have the intellectual ability to grasp it, and yet knowing that they are not really “seeing it.” And this despite the fact that they might even be able to repeat what we have told them. And, I am sure, we have all had the experience of doing it ourselves, even to the point of catching ourselves in the middle of a conversation, and trying to remedy this injustice to the other person by trying to really listen to what they are saying. Referring to the “hardness of heart” of the Jews, Jesus says, “Therefore do I speak to them in parable: because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Mt. 13:13. We might tend to think that Jesus’ parables are merely a way of depriving the people of the direct truth. But in reality, they were a means of trying to stimulate their hearts to really focus their minds on the truth. When Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son to the publicans and sinners, we can only imagine how much more this story drew their attention than would a mere recitation of the theological and moral truths involved. The story touched their hearts, and their hearts awakened their minds so that they could see and understand.
The intellect and will are thus two faculties of our soul, profoundly interrelated and interdependent. It is, therefore, a very serious error to oppose love and truth to one another. Just as they are ontologically united in the divine simplicity of God so, in our human nature, we are called upon to image God through the moral unity between our intellect and will. As St. Paul says, that which establishes true union with Christ is “faith (the intellectual virtue) that worketh by charity.” (Gal 5:6). Any love which contradicts a truth of Divine Faith is therefore an act of evil which is destructive to souls. Yet, even more, any love or “well-wishing” towards souls which does not spring forth from the deposit of divine faith is a work that is not founded in truth. It is bound to whither and die like a branch not connected to the tree. It is therefore an absolute absurdity for a man like von Balthasar to claim that those who cling to “tradition as the handing-on of ready made results” (a euphemism for defined doctrine), are “hollow shells” who are alienated from Christian love.
We find, therefore, that just as the “hard lines” of Thomistic cosmology and metaphysics are absolutely necessary in order to protect the realms of being and truth, so they are possibly even more necessary in defense of love. How, for instance, are we to know what is harmful to any one human person unless we believe that there is such a thing as human nature, the structure of which demands certain things for its health and well-being? And how are we to know that such a nature exists and is valid without believing in the concept of substantial being as unfolded to us in the teaching of St. Thomas? If present human reality is such that there is a profound need in human beings to be brought out of the darkness and up to the light and truth of Christ, then these hard lines of defined doctrine are absolutely necessary in order that love may do its job in this world.
On the other hand, if instead of possessing and believing in defined doctrines regarding the nature of both God and man, and structuring our approach to the people and cultures of the world so as to draw them out of error into the abundance of life and grace that can only be found in the Catholic Church, we instead descend to a world in which human beings are seen as essentially dynamic, moving, developing, evolving phenomena, with no stable and known nature, then love is truly the most tragic and confusing of things. Then, indeed, the lover descends into chaos, and has no home to offer to his beloved. He offers the milk of liberal sympathies and empathies to minds and hearts that are starving for real meat. He offers bread and physical well-being (good things in themselves) to peoples whose situation will only continue to worsen if they do not embrace the Kingship of Christ over both their individual and collective lives. It is only appropriate, therefore, that the usual response to such “love” is boredom and contempt. Nor do we need to look to mission lands for such contempt. We find it abundant in two generations of our own children catechized in accord with the principles of this “love”, and found to be departed from the Church as soon as they are able to elude parental authority. This is the great lesson of the Church’s experience in the West over the past 40 years: Love, indifferent to or contemptuous of Catholic truth, has finally looked into the mirror and seen the face of Hell.
Human love is complicated. It is complicated because man has a twofold nature of flesh and spirit. It is complicated also by the fact that man’s nature is fallen, and that because of disorders in both flesh and spirit, man tends towards false love. And finally, it is complicated by the fact that man is simply not infinite, but one among many.
Out of these complexities arise the various forms of human love. One form of human love, for instance, seeks to possess the beloved. This is the love of passion, desire, yearning, and concupiscence. Another genuine form of human love seeks solely the well-being of the beloved. A third type of love takes the form of profound friendship. And finally, man can also be the recipient of a special grace from God by which he possesses that supernatural love (caritas) which is substantial friendship with God.
God’s love, on the other hand, while being infinite, is profoundly simple. Since, as we have seen, “love [the willing of good] is the first movement of the will”, and since God is infinite intellect and will, then God is infinite love. Further, “the will of God is one, since it is the very essence of God.” This oneness of love applies both to Himself and His creation. In regard to God’s love of Himself, St. Thomas writes:
“An act of love always tends towards two things; to the good that one wills, and to the person for whom one wills it: since to love a person is to wish that person good. Hence, inasmuch as we love ourselves, we wish ourselves good; and so far as possible, union with that good. So love is called the unitive force, even in God, yet without implying composition; for the good that He wills for Himself, is no other than Himself, Who is good by His essence…” (I, Q.20, A.1).
And in regard to created things, St. Thomas quotes the book of Wisdom to the effect that “Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made.” And he proceeds to prove that unlike our love which responds to the goodness that is in things, God’s love is the cause of the existence of things because it “infuses and creates goodness.” (Ibid., A.2). Love, therefore, is at the center of all things, both human and Divine.
Having said this, however, we are also obligated to draw profound distinctions between human love and the Love of God. The most important of these is that God “loves without passion.” (Ibid. A.2). His love is one with His infinite “intellectual appetency” (Divine Will), which is not in any way subject to concupiscence, passion, desire, or yearning. All or any of these things to which human love is subject, would imply a lack in God, and also undermine His divine simplicity. The problem is that we think that love is profound to the extent that it is passionate. The fact is that God’s Love is infinitely more profound and mysterious because he has no passion (no personal need, desire, or yearning) and yet totally gives Himself to man.
This truth is bound to call forth protests from many a Catholic. After all, does not Holy Scripture attribute passion – such things as love, anger, yearning, jealousy – to God? Yes, it does, but only metaphorically. St. Thomas writes:
“When certain human passions are predicated of the Godhead metaphorically, this is done because of a likeness in the effect. Hence a thing that is in us a sign of some passion, is signified metaphorically in God under the name of that passion. Thus with us it is usual for an angry man to punish, so that punishment becomes an expression of anger. Therefore punishment itself is signified by the word anger, when anger is attributed to God.” (ST, I, Q.19, A.11).
We must not confuse God’s Nature with man, even when speaking of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In His humanity He really (and not just metaphorically) experiences these passions (with no disorder or sin involved). But it is erroneous and profoundly disruptive to Catholic truth to in any way attribute such passions to His Divine Nature which He shares in total unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Deus Caritas Est
It is therefore profoundly disturbing to read in the Pope’s encyclical, Deus caritas est, the following words:
“God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape.” (#9).
First, we must realize that the attributing of eros to God is incontestably an attribution of passion to the very Nature of God. The Pope further writes:
“God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being; but this universal principle of creation – the Logos, primordial reason – is at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love.” (#10).
The Pope thus denies the premier distinction laid down by St. Thomas to the effect that God “loves without passion.” We must keep in mind that the attribution of passion to any being is to subject that being to yearning, desire, and need, and therefore to incompleteness and dependence. To say that God has passion has the effect of profoundly confusing the ontological distinction, absolutely central to Christianity, between the Creator and His creation.
It is extremely telling that the footnote to the Pope’s statement that God’s love “may certainly be called eros” refers us to Dionysius the Areopagite’s work on The Divine Names. Readers of my article on Eastern Orthodoxy )Part III) should immediately recognize Dionysius as being an integral source for the pantheism inherent in Eastern theology and mysticism, and also as the writer who fraudulently claimed to be a contemporary of the apostles, and to have witnessed the solar eclipse at the time of the Crucifixion.
He is now known to have been a syncretist between Christianity and neoplatonism, who wrote very close to the year 500 A.D. Part of his works are virtual verbatim passages from the neoplatonist Proclus. It should also be noted that this fraud was not known with certainty until the end of the 19th century, and that writers in the Middle Ages unanimously thought him to be of apostolic origins. For this reason, St. Thomas quotes him extensively, but always does so by transforming his writings into metaphors, or in such a way as to accord with true Catholic theology and philosophy. It is my firm belief that St. Thomas, had he known of the real neoplatonic and pantheistic orientation of Dionysius and his writings, would not have used him at all, except in a critical fashion.
Dionysius is of that school of Eastern theology which postulates that the Divine and Eternal Energies of God are in creation from the beginning, and that all of creation therefore naturally partakes of divinity. Orthodox writers even go so far as to call these “divine energies” the Holy Spirit. The way back to God, for Eastern Orthodoxy, therefore entails a process of gnosis by which this divinity is actualized. All life and passion partakes of this divinity and therefore needs only to be purified through asceticism and knowledge in order to lead man to his own “divinization.” The key concept which we must note here is that there is in all this confusion a continuity between divine love and human love. Man’s sanctification is not a question of grace and caritas being added to nature, but a realization of, and communion with, a divine presence united to creation from the beginning.
It would seem extremely revealing, therefore, that in an encyclical titled Deus caritas est, there is not one mention of caritas (charity) as being a divine grace gratuitously added to our nature, by which we come into friendship with God. There is not one mention of sanctifying grace, gratuitously added to our nature at baptism, and restored through confession, by which we become capable of the exercise of supernatural caritas. Never, therefore, does the Pope tell us that the greatest act of love which we can exercise towards any of our unconverted neighbors is to help bring them into the life of supernatural charity which comes through conversion to Christ and to His Church.
St. Thomas, on the other hand, offers us a profound passage integrating the teaching of Holy Scripture with absolutely sound Catholic theology:
“On the contrary, The Apostle says (Rom. v. 5): The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, Who is given to us.
I answer that, As stated above 9Q.23, A.1), charity is a friendship of man for God, founded upon the fellowship of everlasting happiness. Now this fellowship is in respect, not of natural, but of gratuitous gifts, for, according to Rom vi. 23, the grace of God is life everlasting: wherefore charity itself surpasses our natural faculties. Now that which surpasses the faculty of nature, cannot be natural or acquired by the natural powers, since a natural effect does not transcend its cause.
Therefore charity can be in us neither naturally, nor through acquisition by the natural powers, but by the infusion of the Holy Ghost, Who is the love of the Father and the Son, and the participation of Whom in us is created charity.” (ST, II-II, Q.24, A.2).
The salvation of every human being on this earth is therefore dependent on the gift of supernatural charity which is integral to sanctifying grace. And since the “normal” means of acquisition of sanctifying grace and supernatural caritas is through the sacrament of Baptism, and since Baptism for adults requires a personal assent to Christian faith, then the great impetus behind all love exercised towards non-Catholics should be to bring them to Catholic faith and baptism. This is the great mandate given by Christ to His apostles after the Resurrection: “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16). It is therefore astounding that in a Papal encyclical on charity, the greater part of which is devoted to the obligation of love towards our neighbor, that this Gospel imperative is never quoted or discussed.
The “hard line” which must be drawn between God and man, between the supernatural and the natural, and between spiritual life and spiritual death as taught to us both by Christ in His teaching on faith and baptism, and also by St. Thomas in his writings on supernatural caritas, is the great sign of contradiction to proponents of the New Theology, and also to Eastern Orthodoxy. It is my conviction that Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching on love is reflective of this enmity.
It has been my contention throughout my articles on the War Against Being and the New Theology that this battle for the integrity of the supernatural always comes to rest in the Eucharist, and in the doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is here that the true nature of God’s divine invasion of our world meets head on the perverse claims of reductive secular science. Here, in the dogmatic distinction between substance and accidents, God claims and proves that all substantial reality is His creation out of nothing. For it is here that He changes bread and wine into His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, while secular science can only protest about the remaining accidents which it pathetically and wrongly embraces as substantial being.
But Transubstantiation is not just about philosophy. It is premierly about Love Incarnate. The Eucharist is the means by which we come to union with this Divine Love in Jesus Christ, and also to true union with our fellow man. The Eucharist is pure Jesus, with no adulteration or mixing with the world. And it is the dogma of Transubstantiation which is the protector of this purity.
It is only appropriate; therefore, that Luther’s rejection of Transubstantiation, and his attempt to unite Christ with the substance of bread in his doctrine of consubstantiation, should lead him into schism and loss of charity with both God and his fellow man.
Readers of my article on the Rosmini Rehabilitation (and its Addendum) may remember some of the evidence I presented from Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings which evidenced his apparent rejection of Transubstantiation, and his redefining of this word to be in accord with Luther’s doctrine of consubstantiation. To that evidence should be added the following statement, to be found in paragraph 13 of Deus caritas est:
“Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death, and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine [emphasis mine], his very self, his body and blood as the new manna.” (cf. Jn 6:31-33).
I think it is incontestable that any other Pope going back at least to the Council of Trent would have intuitively and automatically avoided such a phrase, and would have instead said something like “under the accidents of bread and wine”, “under the appearance of bread and wine”, or under the species of bread and wine.” The same may be said of any Catholic with systematic training in his or her faith. The Pope’s choice of words can only be considered, therefore, as deliberate and calculated.
Nor can we attribute the phrase “in the bread and wine” to a bad translation. The Latin version of the encyclical renders this phrase as “in pane et vino.” This is the formula used by Luther.
It was the written opinion of Fr. Ratzinger, and still appears to be that of Pope Benedict XVI, that “to free itself from the constraining fetters of Roman Scholastic Theology represents a duty upon which, in my humble opinion, the possibility of the survival of Catholicism seems to depend.”
It was the written teaching of Pope St. Pius X that just the opposite is true – that the survival of Catholicism depends upon the metaphysical principles taught by the Angelic Doctor. As a conclusion to my writing on these matters, I would like to offer to Pope Benedict, and to all those who side with him in regard to the devaluation of the philosophy of St. Thomas, the following passages taken from Pius X’s Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici, on the Study of Thomistic Philosophy in Catholic Schools:
“For just as the opinion of certain ancients is to be rejected which maintains that it makes no difference to the truth of the Faith what any man thinks about the nature of creation, provided his opinions on the nature of God be sound, because error with regard to the nature of creation begets a false knowledge of God; so the principles of philosophy laid down by St. Thomas Aquinas are to be religiously and inviolably observed, because they are the means of acquiring such a knowledge of creation as is most congruent with the Faith; of refuting all the errors of all the ages, and of enabling man to distinguish clearly what things are to be attributed to God and to God alone….”
“St. Thomas perfected and augmented still further by the almost angelic quality of his intellect all this superb patrimony of wisdom which he inherited from his predecessors and applied it to prepare, illustrate and protect sacred doctrine in the minds of men. Sound reason suggests that it would be foolish to neglect it and religion will not suffer it to be in any way attenuated. And rightly, because, if Catholic doctrine is once deprived of this strong bulwark, it is useless to seek the slightest assistance for its defense in a philosophy whose principles are either common to the errors of materialism, monism, pantheism, socialism and modernism, or certainly not opposed to such systems. The reason is that the capital theses in the philosophy of St Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church.”
And after “ordering and commanding” that the Summa Theologica be the course of study in philosophy, Pope Pius X further declares;
“So also and not otherwise will theology recover its pristine glory and all sacred studies be restored to their order and value and the province of the intellect and reason flower again in a second spring.”
The spring spoken about by Pius X, rooted in a rebirth of Thomism, really did come and produce its flowers for several decades. On the other hand the “springtime” looked forward to by the New Theology, and rooted in a rejection of Thomistic cosmology and metaphysics, has blossomed into what Pope Benedict XVI has admitted to be a state of crisis and “filth” in the Church.
I would appeal to His Holiness to read the words of Pope St. Pius X, and understand the real cause of this crisis. There is no humility, no truth, no love, no holiness, and no Catholicism in any attempt to undermine or bypass the philosophy of St. Thomas as the foundation of all natural and supernatural science.
Authored by: James Larson – © 2008