Toward the Mind of Francis: OLP 11/20/17

Jesus Christ as Person-Son is the existential revelation of the Father

  1. Jn. 1, 18: ‘No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.”
  2. Mt. 11, 27: “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
  3. Therefore, we can know the Father only by knowing the Son Who is in the flesh: “Feel Me and see that a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Lk. 24, 40).
  4. This is true in depth because “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30).  Therefore, “Philip, he who sees me sees also the Father” (Jn. 14, 9).

Conclusion: Until we experience Christ, we do not experience and know the Father. Therefore, until we experience Christ, we are living a religiously disguised atheism.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Abstract Knowledge of God Can Be a Disguised Atheism:

               Francis’s words before the Conclave: “The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries… geographical but also the existential peripheries… When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.”[1]

The Sickness: the atheism disguised in abstract knowledge              

Walker Percy: “The lives of other people seemed even more farcical than his own. It astonished him that as farcical as most people’s lives were, they generally gave no sign of it. Why was it that it was he not they who had decided to shoot himself? How did they manage to deceive themselves and even appear to live normally, manage to deceive themselves and even appear to live normal, work as usual, play golf, tell jokes, argue politics? Was he crazy or was it rather the case that other people went to any length to disguise from themselves the fact that their lives were farcical? He couldn’t decide.

               “What is one to make of such a person

               “To begin with: though it was probably the case that he was ill and that it was his illness – depression  – which made the world seem farcical, it is impossible to prove the case.

               “On the one hand, he was depressed.

               “On the other hand, the world is in fact farcical.

               “Or at least it is possible to make the case that for some time now life has seemed to become more senseless, even demented, with each passing year.

`              “True, most people he knew seemed reasonably sane and happy. They played golf, kept busy, drank, talked, laughed, went to church, appeared to enjoy themselves, and in general were both successful and generous. Their talk made a sort of sense. They cracked jokes.

               “On the other hand, perhaps it is possible, especially in strange times such as these, for an entire people, or at least a majority, to deceive themselves into believing that things are going well when in fact they are not, when things are in fact farcical. Most Romans worked and played as usual while Rome fell about their ears.”[2]

Pope Francis: “The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries… geographical but also the existential peripheries… When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.”[3]

The Sickness: The turn to the Self and self-absorption    

Symptoms of the Sickness: “the biggest threat of all is ‘the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness.’ A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking hope, which seizes the heart like ‘the most precious of the devil’s potions’ (Bernanos, “Diary of a country Priest”)[4]

A Cause of the Sickness: A Detached Knowledge of Jesus Christ:  Romano Guardini: “The Christian God is the ‘God of Jesus Christ.’ He, whom Jesus means when he says, ‘My Father.’ He, by whom Jesus is sent. Through whom he lives, and towards whom he is turned. God is he who is ‘the God and father of Jesus Christ.’ It is not possible to detach a ‘Christian conception of God,’ a ‘Christian truth,’ from the concrete Christ. What is Christian doctrine remains Christian only as long as it is heard as if from the mouth of Christ; as long as it is understood in a living way, drawing its life from him, from his existence and action. There is no ‘essence of Christianity’ separable from him – we repeat, separable from him, and expressible in a free-floating, conceptual scheme. The essence of Christianity is Christ. What he is; whence he comes and towards what he goes; what lives in him and around him – heard living from his mouth, read from his countenance. A demand is here made of the philosophical mind, which is, in reality, a stumbling block for mere philosophy; that the definitive category of Christianity – and ‘category’ means the inescapable condition for all assertions about a given subject matter – is the particular, unique reality of the concrete personality of Jesus of Nazareth.

               “And once again: the way to this God is not a general religious experience and endeavor, an ethical exertion and penetrating rational interpretation – all of which, ‘in other respects, retain their significance – but rather that way ‘which is taught in the Gospel.’ ‘…no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Mt. 11, 22). ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’ It is the way of faith. Faith is that act of personal adherence, of binding oneself in definitive fidelity, through which Jesus Christ becomes the beginning out of which something new, a new existence in the fullest sense of the word arises. The believer puts himself in the place of Jesus. In ‘rebirth’ and ‘imitation’ he sees through Jesus’ eyes, he takes Jesus’’ norms, goals, and estimations as his own. For all merely natural perception, this is walking on water. But therein begins, for the believer, the ‘kingdom of God.’[5][6]

 Joseph Ratzinger: The Outrageous Access to the God of Jesus Christ: One must become Christ, and therefore, become God as Son. Recall Ratzinger’s explanation of Peter’s faith as “intellegere = ab intus legere (to read from within, i.e. to know the self from the experience of going out of oneself. That is, one must be Christ to know Christ and to be able to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Mt. 16, 16]).

               Ratzinger’s re-habilitation thesis to become a professor of of theology in Germany (rejected by Michael Schmaus who considered it modernist[7]:

“But he also did not like the result of my analyses. I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of ‘revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as ‘revelation.’ Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, ‘revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the  concept of ‘revelation.’[8] Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed[9]. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the Conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture and tradition [Dei Verbum #5]. Because, if Bonavnture is right, then revelation precedes Scripure and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura  (‘by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject,[10] and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”[11]

               The above says that I can only know the “I” of Jesus Christ if I have an experience of my own “I” which I have by the act of going out of myself.  This is basically the mind of Pope Francis: “The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries… geographical but also the existential peripheries… When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” And then, because the Church is trapped in herself, “the biggest threat of all… ‘the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness.’ A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like the most precious of the devil’s potions’” (Bernanos, ‘”Diary of a Country Priest”).[12]

               Now, where do we get the idea of the “Good?”[13] ( Ans. By being active images of God, the only Good)

               Mark 10: “Good Master, what shall I do to gain eternal life?’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Why dost thou call me good? No one is good but only God. Thou knowest the commandments: Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not defraud, Honor thy father and mother.’ And he answered and said, ‘Master all these I have kept ever since I was a child… One thing lacking to thee; go, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and though shat have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”[14]

               Notice, the Old Law spoke of categories that were insufficient. Christ reveals the New Law which is himself which is a “going:” “come, follow me.” The “good” is not a category of once-and-for-all, but an action of “going” as Christ is a “going.” It will not be just following Christ, but being Christ going, i.e becoming Christ.  It is the morality of the “Acting Person” as self-gift. It’s  important that we understand this so that we can see that a person trapped in an objectively sinful situation, can subjectively and inwardly go through a development of self-giving and “become good” pace the objective sinfulness of the situation.[15]     

               While rifling through papers again, I come across Karol Wojtyla’s “The Problem of the Theory of Morality” in his Person and Community, Peter Lang (1993) 159: “I maintain that morality as a value has objective meaning in and through the human being and that there is no way to apprehend this meaning apart from the categories of being and becoming.[16] In other words, moral good is that through which the human being as a human being becomes and is good, and moral evil that through the human being as a human being becomes and is evil. This becoming (fiere) resides in the dynamism of human action (actus humanus); it cannot be properly objectified on the basis of consciousness alone, but only on the basis of the human being as a conscious being. It follows, too, that good or evil as a property of a conscious being is itself also a being and not just a content of consciousness. This does not, however, obscure the fact that it – good or evil – is, at the same time, a content of consciousness that it is given in lived experience as a specific value, namely, moral value. Proceeding from the two different orientations in philosophy, it seems that we can arrive in the theory of morality at a complementary view of this same reality. Moral value points directly to that through which the human being as a human being is good or evil.”

              
Good or bad: from the objective state of affairs, or from the person as going out of, or turning into, self? Or Both with priority given to the subjective?             

The question Wojtyla now confronts is: how does the human being become good or bad? He will answer: by becoming active being“for” another. He writes: “Self-determination… points as though inward – toward the subject, which, by willing this value, by choosing it, simultaneously defines itself as a value: the subject becomes “good” or ‘bad.’ Human beings not only determine their own activity but also determine themselves in terms of a most essential quality. Self-determination thus corresponds to the becoming of a human being as a human being. Through self-determination, the human being becomes increasingly more of a ‘someone,’ in the ethical sense, although in the ontological sense the human being is a ‘someone from the very beginning. I might add here that the pronoun ‘someone’ as the anonym of the pronoun ‘something’ very succinctly captures the uniquely personal character or the human being.

               “The experience[17] of self-determination – with its basically phenomenological character – would seem to lead us to an increasingly deeper understanding of … [St. Thomas]. If we acknowledge , as Thomas did, the full reality of moral value in the subject ‘human being,’ we must also acknowledge that this subject, in the act of self-determination, becomes a particular object. Self-determination objectifies the acting subject in the subject’s own activity. This objectification of the person is in no sense a ‘reification’ of the person: I cannot become a thing for myself, without I myself am the first and most basic object that I determine. In this determination of myself, my subjectivity is revealed in its deepest possibilities…  If I determine myself, I must possess myself and govern myself. These realities mutually explain one another because they also mutually imply one another. Each of them reveals the unique composition that is proper to a human being as a person… This is not the metaphysical composition of body and soul (the composition of prime matter and substantial form) proper to the human being as a being, but a more ‘phenomenological’ composition. In phenomenological experience, I appear as some who possesses myself and who is simultaneously possessed by myself…. In this way, my acts give me a unique insight into myself as a person.

The Law of Gradualness (294)

   (AL 294) “All these situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to the full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel…. That is how Jesus treated the Samaritan woman (cf; Jn. 4, 1-26): he addressed her desire for true love, in order to free her from the darkness in her life and to being her to the full joy of the Gospel

295. Along these lines Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called ‘law of gradualness’ in the knowledge that the human being ‘knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good by different stated of growth.’ This is not a ‘gradualness of law’ but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law. For the law is itself a gift of God {me: in the objective order] which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being ‘advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life.”

               Therefore, confronting again the core of the misunderstandings:

305. For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families”. Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that “natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”. Because of  forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”.352 The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality.

               The core of the problem is not Francis who is courageously confronting a disguised and perennial atheism in the Church, but the replacement of the living Faith and experience in and of the Person of Jesus Christ as Revelation of the Father. The alternative is either a living knowledge of Christ, or atheism emitting toxic fumes through the floor boards of the daily life of the Church, and therefore all society.

    I realize in closing this offering that the topic is the experience of Christ. Pace the philosophic-phenomenological work this would entail, let me offer the following from BXVI on Christ’s insistence on their experience of Him in order that they can preach the doctrine to the world.

The Epistemology of the Christian Faith as Self-Gift and Direct Experience of Christ as Person

Benedict XVI:

Apostles Proclaim Christ, Not an  Idea, Says Pope BXVI
Explains Relationship Between Jesus and the Church

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The first apostles, like today’s, were not heralds of an idea but rather witnesses of Christ before the world, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope delivered that message today in his second general audience address dedicated to explain the relationship between Jesus and the Church.
In an address before 35,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father focused on Jesus’ call to the Twelve Apostles.
In particular, the Pope recalled the dialogue recounted by John the Evangelist on the banks of the Jordan, when John the Baptizer presented Jesus as the Lamb of God.
To the question: “What do you seek?”, the future apostles replied with another question: “‘Rabbi’ — which means Teacher — ‘where are you staying?'” Jesus replied “Come and see.”
“Thus, the apostles’ adventure began as a gathering of persons who open to one another reciprocally. A direct knowledge of the Teacher began for the disciples,” Benedict XVI explained.
To “be”
“They saw where he lived and began to know him. They would not have to be heralds of an idea, but witnesses of a person,” he added.
“Before being sent to evangelize, they would have to ‘be’ with Jesus, establishing a personal relationship with him,” the Pope continued.
Therefore, “evangelization is no more than a proclamation of what has been experienced and an invitation to enter into the mystery of communion with Christ,” added the Holy Father. “An apostle is someone who is sent, but even before that he is an ‘expert’ on Jesus.”
After his passion and resurrection, Christ “would send the apostles ‘into all the world,’ and to ‘all nations,’ ‘and to the end of the earth,'” indicated the Pope.
“And this mission continues,” he said. “The Lord’s commandment always continues to gather the nations in the unity of his love.




[1] Pope Francis, Pre-conclave speech (March 12, 2013).

[2] Walker Percy, “The Second Comint” Ivy Books (1980) 4.

[3] Pre-Conclave speech (March 12, 2013).

[4] EVangelii Gaudium 81-86.

[5] Romano Guardini, “Pascal For Our Time,” Herder and Herder (1966) 40-41.

[6] “The Kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the Kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed;” John Paul II “Mission of the Redeemer” December 7, 1990 (#18).

[7] “Michael Schmaus, who had perhaps also heard annoying rumors from some in Freising concerning the modernity of my theology, saw in these theses not at all a faithful rendering of Bonaventure’s thought (however, to this day I still affirm the contrary) but a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation” (109). This is refuted in Wojtyla’s phenomenological metaphysics of the “I” as acting person.

[8] And this because the only person one can experience is the self because only the self can master itself and determine his/her freedom.

[9] And the Moses’ veil that covered his face when he spoke with the people was removed when he spoke with God.  That is, one sees God in the act of going out of oneself and becoming like Him.

[10] My underline to emphasize that he means the Church not as “object-institution” (thing), but as person-believing protagonized by the Virgin. The Church believes, and as going out of herself, grows in the experience of the revealing Christ, and therefore also in the burgeoning consciousness of Him, and therefore in the dogmas that are the objectifying reflection   on that growth in consciousness.

[11] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones, Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1998) 108-109.

[12] Evangelii Gaudium 81-86.

[13] Veritatis Splendor of John Paul II” “There is only one who is good” (Mt. 19, 17, and Mk 10, 18, Lk 18, 19).

[14]  Mark 10, 17-22.

[15] Benedict XVI in Light of the World: To the charge that “It is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms,” in the context of an extended answer on the help the Church is giving AIDs victims and the need to fight the banalization of sexuality, Pope Benedict replied: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.  But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”

[16] “Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called ‘law of gradualness’ in the knowledge that the human being ‘knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth. This is  not a ‘gradualness of law’ but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciated or fully carry out the objective demands of the law. For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception…”AL  295

[17] The notion of experience is vital in understanding the development that has taken place in understanding St. Thomas’s thought. Thomas did not work with experience as an epistemological category in investigating reality because its time had not come. It came accompanied by the false rendering of “being” as univocal” by Scotus, Occam and on into the beginning of the modern period with Descartes and his attempt to begin anew with the clear and distinct idea of the “I.” Mistaken as it was, however,  it was the awareness of the “I” as thought, confused with consciousness, that now awakens in our day (Vatican II) as what is really real –  the most real of all realities – that Wojtyla is offering as the prime place of encounter with being [“In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with actu essendi, and hence with metaphysical enquiry” Fides et Ratio #83]. In a word, Wojtyla is here offering the “I” as being – not consciousness – but the ground of the consciousness of the moral values of “good” and “evil,” primarily in the ontological self. And the self finds itself and becomes itself only in the act of making the sincere gift of self (GS #24). He lifts morality from the subjectivism and relativism where Kant had left it in a subjective consciousness, and implants it in the realism of the ontological subject that is to be one with the “I Am” of Exodus 3, 14 and the “I am” of Jesus Christ in John 8, 24, 28, 58. The created “I” of the human person – as image of God Who alone is “good,” is where we experience and become conscious of  “good” or “bad” when we grow as self-gift (“good”), or retreat as “bad” into self. The moral values of “good” or “bad” are not, then, static categories. This is the mind of Francis who sees the gradual and incremental gift of self as the person, trapped in objective sin, becoming subjectively “good.”

obviously a work-in-progress as ontological tendency to become “Ipse Christus.”

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