HAVING OFFERED A BRIEF SKETCH OF THE FOUNDATIONS OF CATHOLIC MORALITY, let us proceed to examine a novel tendency in the Magisterium which bears upon the themes treated in this book.
1. Radical Subjectivism Defined: This tendency may be defined as radical subjectivism, in the sense of a movement away from the object towards the subject.
We propose to consider two aspects of this subjectivism, namely the movement away from objective truth of the supernatural order, that is to say the distancing from the Faith; and the priority given to the order of the Good over the order of the True (whether this Truth is natural or supernatural). That is to say, in scholastic terms, from being.
i) The Distancing from the Faith
In regard to the distancing from the Faith in general, we refer to Fr. Doermann’s analysis of the encyclicals Redemptor Hominis, Dives in Misericordia, and Dominum et Vivificantem in his four-volume work on the theology of Pope John Paul II (referred to above), and Romano Amerio’s analysis of the encyclical Tertio Millenio Adveniente in his work Stat Veritas (in Courrier de Rome 1997).
In the recent teaching of the Magisterium on the themes treated in this book, the distancing from the Faith occurs principally by means of a confusion of the natural and supernatural orders. This confusion occurs when the attempt is made to apply elements of the Faith universally, so naturalizing and degrading the supernatural order, and supernaturalizing and unduly glorifying the natural order.
(This tendency was already manifest in the Second Vatican Council. In the first chapter of “Die ‘Neue Theologie’’’ (Amis de St. Francois de Sales 1996), the comment of the Jesuit Fr. Henri Bouillard S.J. is quoted that: “The Second Vatican Council avoided the expression ‘supernatural’ in its principal documents.” In this connection Romano Amerio in Iota Unum points out (at paragraph 253 in chapter 35 on Ecumenism) that in the two documents Ad Gentes and Nostra Aetate (on Ecumenism and the non-Christian religions) the word ‘supernatural’ does not even appear.)
Examples of this confusion are analyzed in the discussion of the vocation to religious life (ch.4 footnote), the vocation to Divine beatitude, the dignity of the latter vocation, the dignity subsequent on the Incarnation (ch.2), limbo (Appendix B), the concept of love (ch.3 and the appendix on the ‘Theology of the Body’), and the concept of life (ch.12). Here we see respectively how the vocation to a supernatural goal is confused with a purely natural impulse; how the vocation of the faithful is confused with the vocation of all men; how the supernatural dignity of man is (in two cases) confused with his purely natural dignity; how the supernatural end of man is confused with a purely natural end; and how (in two cases) supernatural love is confused with natural love, and supernatural life with natural life.
ii) The Priority of the Good over the True
The motivation for this distancing from the Faith seems to be the precedence given to a new ideal, namely the loving communion of men irrespective of their beliefs, in other words to the priority of Love over Truth: the priority of the order of the Good over the order of the True. This priority runs counter both to Reason and to Faith, for Reason demands that one must first know an object before one can love it, and love it in the appropriate way; and (as Romano Amerio explains in Iota Unum (17) Faith teaches that the Procession of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity from the Intellect of the First Person, precedes the Procession of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity from the Will of the First and Second Persons.
17 (City MO, 64127-0611 (1996) cf. Iota Unum, Romano Amerio A study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XX Century, Sarto House Po Box 2700611, Kansas)
This priority of the Good over the True is manifest in the falsely conceived principles of ‘Dialogue’18 and ‘Ecumenism’19 where union between parties is sought even at the expense of the Truth. An example may be seen in the Magisterial document ‘Ut Unum Sint’(1995) in regard to ‘Sister Churches’ (see below)20.
18 19 (cf. Iota Unum, s.151 cf. Der Oekumenismus als Hebel der Protestantisierung derKatholischen Kirche, Fr. Georg May, Verax-Verlag 2000. Ecumenism, being above all a doctrinal matter, most obviously errs in according priority to the order of the Good over that of theTrue; but it also typically errs in ignoring Grace, which is a feature of the Catholic confession, of not all of the other confessions, and of none of the non- Christian religions (see footnote 14). It thereby also falls prey to the naturalism noted above)
20 (We refer also to the liturgical example of the bidding prayer in the Novus Ordo for Good Friday, that the Jewish people ‘may continue to grow in the love of his name and faithfulness to his covenant’; to paraliturgical functions such as the placing of a statue of the Buddha on the tabernacle of Assisi, the strangling of a cock on the altar of St. Clare, or in the course of the same proceedings, and the organization of Hindu rituals in the Sanctuary of Fatima; and to diplomatic gestures intimating that the Catholic Faith is on the same level as other ‚World Religions’.
As far as the themes of this book are concerned, the aforementioned priority is particularly manifest in an approach to philosophy which we have called ‘Magisterial Personalism’. According to this approach, man is prized not in virtue of objective moral or supernatural standards, but solely in virtue of his humanity (see the section on the Dignity of Man in chapter 2); marriage is understood not in accordance with the objective moral law but simply in terms of ‘love’, and is described in terms of ‘life and love’ (ch.4); it is insinuated that the primary end of marriage is love (ch.5); the conjugal act is presented as ‘total self-giving love’; and contraception is presented as sinful on this basis (ch.5). This form of personalism finds a particularly clear expression in the doctrine known as ‘Theology of the Body’(see Appendix A).
This subjectivism (which we have understood as a movement away from the object towards the subject), when viewed from the standpoint of religion, in other words from the standpoint of man’s relation to God, amounts to anthropocentricism, that is to say a movement away from God towards man. Such an anthropocentricism may be described as a ‘new humanism’ which is neither atheist nor Christian, but a hybrid of the two.
This anthropocentricism is clearly manifest in the following text of the Second Vatican Council: that homo … ‘in terris sola creatura est quam Deus propter seipsam voluerit’: man is the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake (Gaudium et Spes 24, quoted by Pope John Paul II in a speech on conjugal love Osservatore Romano 17th January 1980). As Romano Amerio in chapter 30 of his Iota Unum points out, the Church has always taught that Universa propter semetipsum operatus est Dominus (Prov.16.4): The Lord has made all things for Himself. Man was therefore created not for himself but for God.
21.(It is true that in a passage mentioned in the discussion of the natural dignity of man in the previous chapter (at Summa II II q.64 a.2), St Thomas says that man exists for himself, but the context shows that he understands this not in an absolute, but in a relative, sense: man exists for himself, or has an intrinsic dignity, in virtue of his orientation to eternal beatitude. But by grave sin he can lose this orientation and this dignity, so that he can be treated as a means to an end – as an animal. And in any case man’s eternal beatitude is not an absolute, but rather is relative to the Glory which he gives to God.)
Furthermore he was also redeemed for God, that is to say in the first place so that divine justice might be satisfied; and only in the second place for his (man’s) own good.
The same anthropocentricism may be seen in the encyclical Dives in Misericordia (1) where Pope John Paul II states that ‘whereas the various currents of human thought in the past and present have had, and continue to have, a propensity to divide and even contrast theocentricism from anthropocentricism, the Church … is concerned to introduce into human history their deep, organic connection. That is also a fundamental thought, perhaps the most important in the teaching of the last council.’ In this connection we may also mention the remark of Pope Paul VI (in the OR 6th March 1969 quoted in the same chapter 30 of Iota Unum) that: ‘on this matter the council has considerably modified attitudes and judgments concerning the world.’
Fr. Doermann, in his book on the theology of the former Pope (II/2, 1.4 op. cit.), argues that the Pope understands as the ontological ground for the union of man and God referred to in this encyclical, the union of the Son of God with every man on the occasion of the Incarnation (see the discussion of the dignity of man in chapter 2 above).
This purported union would also provide a justification for loving man in an absolute sense, as Pope John Paul II advocates in the following two instances: first in the speech to UNESCO at Geneva in 1980 where he said: ‘man should be affirmed for his own sake, and not for any other motive or reason: uniquely for his own sake. Still more, man should be loved because he is man; love for man must be demanded because of the particular dignity which he possesses.’ We qualify this statement by noting, as does Romano Amerio, that the Pope was here addressing non- religious humanists, but this having been said, we recall that the love of Charity that we owe to man is a love essentially related to our love for God: it is a love for the sake of God, a love by which we love man in God, or so that he might be in God, a love motivated by the fact that God loves man and has redeemed him.
A second instance where the Pope advocates that man should be loved in an absolute sense is his doctrine that man should be loved with a total self-giving love (see chapter 4), that is to say with a love otherwise reserved for God alone. (22) (This purported union would also provide a justification for the cult of man, where we see the correspondence of belief and prayer, in accordance with the principle lex orandi lex credendi. In this context we note the words of Pope Paul VI in his allocution of 7th December 1965 quoted in Mgr. Brunero Gherardini’s Le Concile Oecuménique Vatican II – un débat à ouvrir, Casa mariana editrice 2009 (ch.6.3): ‘We also, We more than any-one, We have the cult of man.’ This is particularly true of the Novus Ordo Missae instigated by this same Holy Father (see the chapter on the Cult of Man in Michael Davies’‚Pope Paul’s New Mass’)
If we follow this radical subjectivism, this radical anthropocentricism, through to its logical conclusion, where do we arrive? at the divinization of man in despite of God, or in other words without Sanctifying Grace.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.