Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Others who wonder

Louder Fenn views the bombing as immoral, while Mark Butterworth disagrees.
No disrespect for Vets & our Soldiers here

Up to this point, most people have taken my thoughts on the morality of dropping the atomic bomb on Japan in the spirit I intended them. However, it was probably inevitable that my intentions be misunderstood, as I believe Blithering Idiot has done in his, umm, scathing response to my initial post.

So, I want to make it crystal-clear that I hold our vets and soldiers in the highest esteem, and that I am extremely grateful to them for what they did and continue to do in defense of our nation. I have relatives who fought the Japanese and had to hide from the Nazis, and I greatly respect all of them for what they did and went through.

The purpose of beginning this discussion was to examine the moral arguments for and against dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As both Mr. Sulik and John Betts have argued, my premise that those two cities had no military value was perhaps flawed. As I noted previously, if that's the case, then my case would have to be seriously revisited (although Disputations indicates that even this doesn't make the morality clear-cut).

Also, the "so what?" rhetorical question in my initial post should not be construed to mean that I could've cared less about the American loss of life that would have occurred in any invasion of Japan. Rather, it was directed at the argument that this justifies killing non-combatants. I thought that this was clear from the context, but perhaps it wasn't. So let me make my initial argument clear:

1. Deliberately killing non-combatants is never morally licit.
2. Therefore, if our intention in bombing Hiroshima & Nagasaki was to force the Japanese to surrender, then it was morally illicit, regardless of the circumstances. (Please recall my note that this refers to the objective moral character of the act, not to the culpability of those involved.)

That's all. Not idiotic. Maybe mistaken (which is why I italicized the "if"), but not idiotic. I can accept being proven wrong, as John's posts may well do. Contrary to Mr. Sulik's assertion, I'm not "wedded" to my views.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding, and I look forward to the discussion continuing.

Monday, June 03, 2002

More on The Bomb

John Betts has replied to my initial response regarding his views on dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (For the record, I don't see John as a bomb-happy nut, as he is concerned my title "Betts & The Bomb" may have implied.)

The crucial contention in John's new post is that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in fact bombed with the destruction of military power in mind and not the death of civilians. This is obviously a central issue, because if John (and the evidence he brings to bear) is correct, then my case would have to be revisited. From what I knew of the situation, the two cities lacked substantial military value, but John argues that I am mistaken on this point.

Unfortunately, I (for my part) am supposed to be working on a dissertation, so I don't have the time to put in to research this issue. However, if anyone else (including John) has evidence/argumentation one way or the other, I'd love to hear it.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Betts & The Bomb

John Betts has weighed in on the Bomb Discussion, arguing that civilian casualties are an unfortunate side effect of war. While I certainly agree that when civilians die as an unintentional side effect of a military operation, there is no moral dilemma (all things being equal), that was not the case with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As both sides acknowledge, neither city had any substantial military value; if our goal was to attack some aspect of Japan's military structure, other cities would have been hit. But they weren't, because our goal was not to attack the military, but to force the leadership to surrender by wiping out major population centers.

Our purpose was to get Japanese leadership to surrender. The means we used was to kill thousands of non-combatants. Unlike our War on Terrorism, Japanese civilian death was not an unintentional side effect of dropping the bomb... it was the direct intention, it was the means. And as such, it is inexcusable, at the objective level (see my initial post on this below regarding the mitigated culpability of those involved).

John asks my thoughts on the Cold War doctrine of MAD (Mutual-Assured Destruction)... with Reagan, I thought it was a ridiculous and morally-repugnant doctrine, and I'm glad it's out the door. It's like threatening to kill my neighbor's family if they kill mine... does it work? Maybe. Is it right? I doubt it. Better to develop defensive weapons systems and simultaneously scale back offensive firepower (as we are doing now) than to threaten mutual annihilation.

Anyway, that's my $.02. I'd love to hear any rebuttals/other comments.

By the way, see Disputations for some comments that concur with my assessment and disagree with the other view.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

More on The Bomb

E.L. Core has posted some comments in agreement with my argument against the atomic bombing of Japan on his new blog.

On the other hand, Mark Sullivan at Ad Orientem (an excellent Catholic blog focusing primarily -- but not exclusively -- on things liturgical) disagrees.

Mark's argument is basically this: dropping the bombs was justified because it saved more innocent lives than it killed and it ended a war that caused untold suffering (Mark also points to the fighting "character" of the Japanese).

While I understand Mark's argument, I have to disagree. As Catholics who uphold the unique dignity of every human being -- even of those against whom we may have to fight -- we cannot perform a numerical analysis to determine the pluses and minuses of a particular action in order to decide how to act. Although I'm sure that it was not at all his intention, Mark's argument sounds dangerously like that of ethical utilitarians, who argue that the best course of action is that which maximizes pleasure (or money, or power, or whatever standard you choose) and minimizes pain & suffering, regardless of the nature of the act itself.

Such a view clearly runs against Catholic moral thought. Some acts are -- in and of themselves -- immoral, and no circumstances can mitigate that reality. Intentionally killing thousands of civilians is such an act, as Vatican II unequivocally stated in Gaudium et Spes, n. 80:
Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Am I glad World War II ended, and that we were the victors? Certainly. Do I esteem our veterans? With the highest respect. But in seeking a victorious outcome in a cause that is just, we must make sure that we maintain our moral code, and that we carry out our cause without deliberately, intentionally, and consciously wiping out large populations of civilians or committing similar atrocities.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

WWII and The Bomb

I watched NBC's Memorial Day special on Monday, which showed us the horrors and bravery of the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific during WWII.

Near the end of the show, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (with atomic bombs, for those of you in Palm Beach) was discussed, with comments from the pilot of the Enola Gay (which dropped both bombs) and soldiers who were fighting in the Pacific during the war.

The pilot (I can't recall his name) asserted that when he took off to drop the first bomb, he "threw religion and morality out the window" (that's a rough quote). In other words, he had a job to do, a job that he and those above him -- including of course, President Truman -- hoped would end the war. And it did. But in flying the missions, the pilot (and presumably the rest of the crew) preferred not to consider the morality of their actions.

In the time since then, the standard defense for dropping the bomb is this: if we hadn't done so, we would have lost perhaps a million men in an invasion of the Japanese home islands, and many more Japanese would have died in that fighting than did in the dropping of the two nukes. This is the basic form of the argument by the pilot of the Enola Gay mentioned above.

My response: so what?

The fact of the matter is this: if we consider the moral act of dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki objectively -- i.e. apart from the subjective factors involved for those who ordered & carried out the attacks (more on this below) -- there is no doubt that it was an immoral act, in that thousands of innocent non-combatants were deliberately killed (as is well-known, neither city had any real military value). I don't care that it (may have) saved lives, both American and Japanese. On the objective level, there is no moral ground for deliberately killing an innocent non-combatant. (Here it comes...) the ends never justify the means. I'm sure that the Enola Gay pilot did not intend to state a principle for living in the quote above, but I hope that such a view is no longer common among those who have the responsibility for safeguarding our nation. It is in war especially that moral considerations must be made, to ensure that our cause and how we carry it out is just.

I want to make it clear that I am not passing judgment on Truman, the pilots, or anyone else involved in ordering & carrying out the strikes: as they say, war is hell, and the pressure the situation brought to bear on all of them greatly reduces their culpability, in my opinion. As I have noted, my argument focuses solely on the objective level -- whether or not it was (and is) right to nuke a civil population for any reason.

I know that many of you -- including fellow Christians -- may disagree with me. Great. I'd love to receive emails or see another blogger engage me on this issue, because it's possible that I've neglected something. But at this point, I don't see how anyone who values innocent human life could endorse dropping The Bomb on Japan.

Note: please read the rest of this discussion above as well.
Palm Beach is Back... Wayyyy Back

According to this AP story, school district officials in Palm Beach county have "issued" a standarized American and world history final exam on which a student need only answer 23 questions correctly out of 100 in order to pass the test. Answering just over half (that's 50 for those of you in Palm Beach) correctly gets you an A.

Friday, May 24, 2002


Joel Garver has a great post on the question of women's ordination from a Protestant perspective. Check it out.

Topics still to come... reprobation and the moral status of the Galactic Empire.

Check out Fool's Folly today for a great post on the real meaning of submission.
Anti-Catholicism a thing of the past? Try again

According to this Washington Post story, a newly-released poll by priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley shows that anti-Catholic attitudes are common in the US. According to the survey...

73% of non-Catholic Americans believe that we Catholics do what the Pope & bishops tell us to do;
52% of non-Catholic Americans believe that Catholics aren't really allowed to think for themselves;

and then these kickers...
83% of non-Catholic Americans believe that we worship God as well as Mary and the saints;
and 57% of our fellow Americans believe that statues and images in Catholic churches are idols (i.e. things we worship).


There are some positives... according to Greeley's poll, younger and more educated non-Catholic Americans are less likely to be anti-Catholic. Well, that's something.

Still... wow.

We've got a lot of work to do. Hopefully the cleaning-up that should come from the sex & cover-up scandals will be the beginning of getting our house in order so that we can more ably turn outward and address some of these misconceptions.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

It simply is not going to happen

Emily Stimpson says she’s been getting some flak because she recognizes the infallible nature of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the inability of the Church to ordain women.


Two things. First of all, as many theologians – professional and lay – have noted, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a clear example of a teaching which has been “declared” infallible by the “ordinary Magisterium” (as opposed to the “extraordinary Magisterium”: an Ecumenical Council or a decree ex cathedra). In other words, the fact that the Magisterium has always and everywhere held this teaching indicates that it is a definitive truth to be held as such by all believers.

Aside from that fact, there is this consideration: Catholics are to give due assent of the intellect and will to every Magisterial teaching, regardless of whether or not that particular teaching is taught as infallible by the ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium. It’s not as if we have to hold to the infallible doctrines and are free to choose which of the “other” teachings we give our assent to—that’s simply another brand of your typical Cafeteria Catholicism. No. We are called to give assent to all the teachings of the Church, whether or not we grasp their rationality. (On that last point, see my post on “The Obedience of Faith” from last week below.)

This isn’t mindless obedience… it’s recognizing the fact that our intellects are clouded by sin and that we therefore give assent to that organism which Jesus established to be the means by which He reveals His Truth to us with clarity and strength: His Body, the Church.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

More on Reprobation soon...
The Empire... good or bad?

John Betts is surprised at my comments about Star Wars' Galactic Empire, and he has a long critical dissection of Jonathan Last's piece which I linked to below. I'm just going to make a couple of remarks here.

First, I want to explain why I'm even dealing with this; someone might ask, "Why waste your time commenting on the policies of a government in a science fiction movie?" I'm not sure if John would agree or not, but I'm doing so because fiction is often used to explain reality. In this case, Lucas' vision of a republic which turns into a dictatorial empire provides interesting fodder for a discussion about the direction modern Western democracies could go.

Second, I'd like to point out that my questions below were just that... questions. John wonders how Last and I reach our conclusions, but on my own part, I haven't done so... I merely raised some questions about the actions of the late Republic-Empire.

Contra Last, John argues that democracies/republics have the right to prevent secession from themselves, and he points to the most obvious example: our own Civil War. John quotes extensively from Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, wherein our former president lays out the case for preventing the South from leaving the Union. Personally, I've been thinking a lot about this over the last several months. On the one hand, I'm certainly glad the North won the war. But on the other hand, I'm not so sure that the North's argumentation against secession is a strong as I've thought, and I'm hoping that someone might be able to make the case for me in favor of preventing secession. The argument Lincoln lays out in the address John quotes and links seems to hinge on the notion that the Union is more than just an association of States; that the US is "a government proper". Is this completely the case? (That's a real question, not a rhetorical one.) It seems to me that if I agree with a group of others to band together and -- while retaining our individuality -- to form a common government, I should retain the right to leave that group, should I so choose. Am I wrong?

John also addresses the issue of the inept nature of the Galactic Senate. Before explaining how I think his remarks are right on, I want to point out that Last was not pointing to this aspect of the Republic to argue in favor of the Palpatine's dictatorship, but to explain/justify the separatists' actions. Having said that, I agree with John that Hitler and Lenin used similar comments to gain power in their countries, and one of my major concerns relating to the outcome of the Culture War is that we as Americans might reach a point at which we are so tired of chaos and disorder that we, too, would trade the chains of for those of totalitarianism. I'm reminded of John Paul II's concerns for modern democracies... that if moral order does not return, the inevitable resulting chaos will lead us to make exactly that "trade".

John doubts the possibility of a "benign dictator". What about the absolute monarchs a couple of centuries ago? Were not some of them benign dictators? No, I'm not arguing for a return to absolute monarchies; I'm just devil's advocating a bit.

In closing, I want to reiterate that I do not think the Empire is "good"; my initial questions were raised to lead to some discussion, which it has, at least with one fellow blogger. I'd take the USA and its government over the Republic and the Empire any day.
Serafin's Blog

Gerard Serafin -- whose website is linked to the left -- has contracted blogitis. You can find his blog here.

John Paul II, We Love You!!

Happy Birthday to our Holy Father, John Paul II, who turns 82 today. Keep him in your prayers.

Friday, May 17, 2002

The Empire... not so bad?

Jonathan V. Last makes an interesting case for the legitimacy and -- for the most part -- positive nature of Star Wars' Galactic Empire. He deals with some questions I've been wondering about lately... why does the Republic want to prevent the separatists from separating? How does the Empire make life miserable for its average "citizen"? What's wrong with Vader's desire (explicated in Empire) to "end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy", especially when that order is (for the most part) benign?


Thursday, May 16, 2002

The Obedience of Faith

I'm going to briefly jump out of the predestination/reprobation discussion to comment on another ongoing topic: women's ordination.

Fr. Shawn O'Neal recently provocatively raised the issue in light of Paul's comments in Galatians that in Christ we are neither "male nor female". A number of bloggers have taken up Father's challenge.

One blogger for whom the issue is of personal importance is Peter Nixon, host/author of Sursum Corda. Peter is familiar with most of the standard arguments against priestesses, and yet remains unconvinced as to their validity. The angst this causes him as a Catholic who seeks to remain true both to his Church and his conscience is clear in his recent comments on the topic.

For me, issues like this -- in which the arguments made in defense of a particular doctrine do not convince -- highlight the place of what St. Paul and Vatican II's Dei Verbum (among others) term the obedience of faith.

As Catholics, we are called to form our intellect and will according to what God reveals about Himself and His plan of salvation through His Church; in the language of Dei Verbum 5, we as believers are called to freely assent to the truth revealed by God, revelation which occurs within the community of believers... the Church. This does not mean that the arguments made to explain a particular teaching will necessarily be convincing; the Holy Spirit's protection over the Church acts to protect the Church from teaching error... it doesn't mean that the arguments used will always convince.

But that is why revelation requires faith on our part; while revelation never contradicts reason, reason is not always able to elucidate revelation, at least not immediately. That is the ongoing task of theology, the famous definition of which is "faith seeking [as opposed to "already possessing"] understanding". That the arguments used today to explain the Church's inability to ordain women may or may not convince us is beside the point (interestingly, in his masterful biography of John Paul II, Weigel is mildly critical of the Holy Father's approach to the issue in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, wishing that the Pope might have providing more substantial argumentation in favor of the doctrine); as members of the Church, we are called to give assent to all of the Church's teachings, even those for which we do not perceive the rationality.

I am reminded here of some wonderfully profound thoughts expressed by Hans Urs von Balthasar in his outstanding work, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church. Speaking of Mary's Yes to God (via Gabriel), her fiat, her great faith in God which we are called to imitate, Balthasar writes the following:

What is basic to the infinite elasticity of the Marian Yes is that it again and again stretches beyond understanding and must consent to what is not within the domain of the humanly possible, foreseeable, bearable, or fitting. [...] Mary shows herself to be "truly blessed" because she has believed. [...] the Marian principle is thus the exact opposite of any "partial identification" where discipleship depends on the measure of one's personal comprehension or "responsible" evaluation. But it is equally the opposite of the passive indifference of a mere instrument that can be manipulated at will.

It is precisely in those moments when we do not comprehend that God calls and challenges us to assent with the obedience of faith, just as He did with Mary.

One Catholic blog I intended to link long ago, but forgot about was Minute Particulars. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

One more thing

One other thing I wanted to note in response to Tom's thoughts: I agree that the difficulties with the Thomistic position (and probably the Calvinist as well) do not flow from an inadequate conception of God's atemporality. Instead, just an inadequacy seems to me to underlie the position of the average layman who argues for double predestination.
More on Reprobation

Joel Garver and Tom Kreitzberg both offered some thoughts (Joel doing so in an email) in response to my own reflections on the mystery of Predestination and Reprobation. I'd like to offer a thought or two in lieu of their responses.

First, Tom states that my position is something like Molinism; while I can see how one might draw that conclusion from my initial post and certain imprecisions therein, I'd like to state "for the record" that I disagree with both Molina's take as well as Banez's (with Tom, I question whether or not the "Thomistic" position is that of St. Thomas). How so? Because unlike Molina -- and like St. Thomas -- I tend to see my free acts and originating in God. Molina seems to have separated the divine causality from the secondary; with Thomas and others, I would see the secondary causality within the divine and preeminent causality. So in effect, my own free acts are caused by God, but in such a (mysterious) way that they remain free and hence truly mine as well. A useful analogy here is that of the inspiration of Sacred Scripture: just as both the human and divine writers are both truly authors -- with the latter having preeminence -- so too is salvation a result of God's grace and human cooperation with that grace, with the latter seen as "enveloped" within the former, while retaining its distinction.

Tom refers to Question 23 of the First Part of Thomas' Summa, in which the Angelic Doctor discusses the question of predestination. After quoting from the third article, Tom goes on to say that "that God permits people to fall into sin and imposes damnation on that account seems clearly to be Catholic doctrine." Absolutely. My quarrel is with those (later) Thomists who seem to argue that God does not offer the grace necessary for salvation to all, i.e. that He does not do "everything He can" to save all of humanity.

Joel seeks to clarify my presentation of the Calvinist position. He points out that for Calvin, "While election finds its origin and cause wholly in the grace of God, reprobation finds its cause in the creature." I would certainly agree with this. He goes on to explain... "it is true that Calvin doesn't want to see reprobation in terms of a merely permissive will on God's part since God's will extends over every contingent state of affairs. Thus God's permitting S to remain condemned in his sins entails God's willing to permit this. Or, to put this another way, God's *not choosing* to save some entails his choosing *not to save* some. Still, this choosing not to save is not identical with God's positive willing to damn some."

This is where I begin to get a little uneasy. It seems to me that such a view -- again, correct me if I'm wrong -- seeks to assert God's sovereignty by denying that He would be "unable" to save someone, and so we must say instead that He wills not-to-save someone. As Joel says, Calvin does not see reprobation only in terms of a permissive will on God's part.

What I would like to do know is provide a (very) long quotation from Charles Cardinal Journet's The Meaning of Grace, a work which I would highly recommend to be read in its entirety. In this section, Fr. Journet argues for a position on this question with which I strongly agree:

1. On the basis of what has been said in the preceding pages we shall try to interpret a few passages of St Paul, principally on the subject of predestination.

These questions about grace are extremely mysterious and profound. If, in discussing them, we forget that God is a God of love, if we speak about them without steeping them in the atmosphere of divine goodness that knocks at men's hearts, we may well say what would seem theologically—or rather, verbally, literally—exact, but what would in fact be a deformation, misleading and false. Ultimately only the great saints, the great lovers of God, can speak of these matters without distorting them.

We must bear in mind, at the outset, that in the word predestination, as in prescience, the prefix 'pre' signifies an anteriority of dignity and excellence, not one of chronology which would suggest a scenario written beforehand. Predestination is a love-assignation made on high, a supreme divine destination in course of realization, a supreme 'prevenience' on the part of Love, a prevenience not refused, but accepted and finally brought to fulfilment.

2. The doctrine of predestination is a scriptural doctrine, a part of revelation, which we are to believe without doubting. But how is it to be understood? There is the Catholic interpretation, and the Lutheran and Calvinist one, to which we shall return later.

The word predestination we owe to St Paul. In the Epistle to the Ephesians (i. 4-5), he writes: 'God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity. Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the purpose of his will.'

Further on (ii. 4), we read: 'God, who is rich in mercy, for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, by whose grace you are saved, and hath raised us up together and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places through ChristJesus.' Here the Apostle sees in advance the elect gathered together in the heavens round Christ, saying: thanks to you, O God, for having predestined us by your love. You are he who enabled us to utter the supreme assent we gave to you. To you be the glory.

The word predestination was already used in the Epistle to the Romans: 'Whom he predestinated, them he also called. And whom he called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified' (viii. 30). Here again the apostle sees in advance the elect gathered in the heavens, and reflects on how they have been led there by God. God first called them; he went to meet them with graces which they did not frustrate though they could have done so. If they assented to them, it was by a divine movement in them, for our assent always comes from God: 'thy salvation comes from me, O Israel, thy destruction from thee'. Since they did not refuse this first call, they went on to justification through a new divine movement; and those whom he has justified God finally brings to heaven. That is the supreme prevenience by which God enables us to die in his love.

3. When you reread these passages, they will give you no difficulty if you see tkem in the context I have indicated. You will remember that, if anyone is not predestined, itis because he refuses the call, and not once only, like the fallen angels, for again and again divine grace returns to, and even importunes, the human heart. How often? The apostles asked Jesus, 'Should we forgive seven times?'; and the answer was, 'Seventy times seven times' (Mt. xviii. 21-22). That is what Jesus expects of men, who yet are miserable creatures and loath to show mercy. Elsewhere he said, 'If your child asks of you a fish, will you give him a serpent? If he asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If he asks you for bread, will you give him a stone? If then you who are evil, give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father!' (cf. Luke xi. 11-13; Mt. viii. 9-11). So then he, too, will forgive me seventy times seven. He will return to knock again at the door of my soul. None the less, if I wish to refuse him, I can; I have the terrible power of saying no to God, of making a definitive refusal that will fix my lot for eternity. I can say to him: I do not want your love, I want to be myself, to be myself not in you, but against you, to be for ever like a thorn in your heart. This is the frightful refusal of hell.

What might possibly lead to a misconception on this point is the very moving parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke xvi. 19), where we see Dives beseeching Abraham to let Lazarus go and warn his brothers to change their way of life. Abraham, however, answers, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. If they do not hear them, neither will they hear if one is raised from the dead.' As you see, the purpose of the parable is to show that we have to hear now, while there is time; afterwards, it will be too late. But it would be a mistake to suppose that, in hell, the damned have the sentiments of charity attributed to the rich man. If one of the damned could say: Lord, allow me to tell others what thy love is so that they may not be damned like me, he would bring charity into hell, and hell would be blown to pieces. (We must always regard the intention of the parable—and the evangelist shows what this intention is—otherwise, its character would be altered, and we might be led astray. Consider the parable of the unjust steward, which scandalizes so many Christians through their misunderstanding of it.)

So, if anyone is not among the predestined, it is in consequence of a refusal for which he bears and always will bear the responsibility. He will persist in his refusal, in his hate—that, in fact, will be his torment—but he will never retract his original choice. St Thomas gives us a comparison. Take a man who hates his enemy. He wants to kill him. He thinks: If I meet him, I shall kill him. But he is prevented; perhaps he is in prison. Ah, he thinks, once I am out of prison! He lives by, feeds on his hatred. He may be told: 'Don't you see that the cause of your misery is your hatred? 'I do,' he replies, 'but that's the way it is; I want to have my revenge.' In any case, we know quite well that we can cling to feelings which torment us. This example is no more than an image of the perpetual refusal of the damned, the refusal because of which they are not among the predestined. Such is the Catholic doctrine.

What we have said earlier on the divine prescience serves to clarify this doctrine completely. We do not say, 'God does not predestine, God abandons and reproves those who he knows in advance will refuse his prevenient grace'. We say, 'God does not predestine; God abandons and rejects those who, as he sees, from all eternity, themselves take the first initiative in the final refusal of his prevenient grace.' From eternity, he takes account of their free refusal in the establishment of his immutable and eternal plan.

4. The erroneous doctrine put forward by Luther, and by Calvin in his Institutes is that, just as some are predestined to heaven, so are others to hell; God himself therefore drives them to hell, and they cannot escape it. This is the thesis of double predestination: one to heaven, which is just, provided that it is not understood in the sense of Luther and Calvin, for whom, as we have seen, the good act comes solely from God, and not from God through man; the other to hell. As you see, there is a twofold error here: predestination to heaven is misconceived and the idea of predestination to hell is introduced—a still worse aberration. For that matter, Protestants today no longer defend Calvin on this point; Karl Barth declares frankly that he cannot find this idea of predestination to hell anywhere in St Paul. (Yet, from the doctrinal point of view, some critics see, in the thesis of double predestination, the cornerstone of the Institutes.)

With that, I'll end this post and await any thoughts....
Another Fav

One of my favorite websites is Gerard Serafin's Catholic Page for Lovers. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002


One of the most mysterious of Christian doctrines is Predestination, which affirms God's sovereignty regarding our salvation: it is only because God -- in his infinite love & mercy -- has offered us salvation that we have it. This Catholic teaching was formulated by Ludwig Ott in the following way: "God, by His eternal resolve of will, has predetermined certain men to eternal blessedness".

Having said that, things get tricky when the question of those who are damned (if there are any) comes up; if God positively wills the salvation of the elect, does he positively will the damnation of the damned?

If my understanding of Reformed theology is accurate -- please correct me if it isn't -- then the answer to this question would be: yes, God does positively will the damnation of some souls. Such a view is rejected by Catholicism, but that doesn't mean things are hunky-dory among Catholic theologians on this question....

Many Thomists (and other Catholic theologians as well) assert that while God does not positively will the reprobation (damnation) of anyone, He does not predestine all to Heaven; in other words, of the entire human race, some are predestined to Heaven, and some are not. While this view avoids the Reformed position mentioned above -- and can be held by Catholics -- it still seems problematic to me. One of the major themes -- if not the theme -- of Scripture (and Tradition) is God's love for humanity, indeed for all of creation ("For God so loved the world..."). We also know that God desires the salvation of all.

Having said that, how (and why) would someone posit that God reprobates some -- either actively (Calvin) or passively (various thomists)? It does nothing to infringe on God's sovereignty to say that -- of our own free choice to accept the gift of salvation, or to sin -- some humans will be saved and others damned.

I suspect that such a view as a mistaken understanding of God's eternality. It's far too easy for us to imagine that God set forth His plan "before" creation, that He predestines us "before" He creates us. But this is to anthropomorphize God's existence vis. time.

In trying to understand how God's eternality relates to predestination, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 600, is very helpful:

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.

As this paragraph states, God's plan of predestination already incorporates our response to His grace; contrary to the (alleged) Calvinist position -- and the position argued for by some Thomists -- the elect are chosen and the damned are reprobated not "before" their response to God's grace, but in view of them.

So there ;-)

Seriously, if anyone has any comments -- positive or critical -- please email me. As I noted above, the "thomistic" position is one that a Catholic is free to hold, and -- from my understanding -- is similar to the one held by many Reformed and other Protestants.
Some New Blogs

Catholic and Christian blogs have exploded over the last few weeks, and I am way behind in linking them. Although I can't get to all of them now, I would like to mention and link a couple:

Sacra Doctrina: don't let the latin fool you: this is a Reformed Christian blog, not a Catholic blog :-) This (veteran) blogger -- Joel Garver -- is a philosophy prof by trade, and he usually makes some very thought-provoking comments. And he is -- this may come to a surprise to some Catholics -- a metaphysician, or at least has a strong interest in metaphysics; yes, there are non-Catholic Christian metaphysicians.

John Betts is a newcomer, and his blog is very promising.

Somehow, I've neglected to mention Michael Dubruiel's blog, one of the most insightful and prayerful of the plethora of Catholic blogs.

Sorry to the many others that I have linked yet; I hope to get to you before too long.