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"The core Catholic claim"?

In the latest New Yorker, Adam Gopnik has a rather snarky review of a few recent works on Galileo. Towards the end, he offers an explanation of why the Church wouldnt tolerate his views at least as hypothesis:

Whatever might be said to accord faith and Copernicus, religion depends for its myth on a certain sense of scale.... Man must be at the center of a universe on a stable planet, or else the core Catholic claim that the omnipotent ruler of the cosmos could satisfy his sense of justice only by sending his son here to be tortured to death begins to seem a ittle frayed. Scale matters. If Clark Kent had never left Smallville, then the significance of Superman would be much reduced.

There could be some superficial merit in the argument about scale here: Pascal, for example, said that the eternal silence of the universes immensities terrified him. But, notice, it was the silence, not the immensities, that frightened him, and difference in scale was not the most important thing:

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill.

But what struck me was the ignorance displayed in Gopnik's throwaway summary of the core Catholic claim which seriouslymisrepresents the core Catholic belief in redemption through the death and resurrection of Christ.Many Christians, including even many Catholics, may hold something like that view of the atonement, which in turn, of course, repels many others. Another reason for profound regret at the low level of knowledge and understanding of the faith.

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Claire I stand by my above "for a greater good" quote . I certainly don't disagree that Newtown was a horrific tragedy, but so was the crucifixtion if looked at only as the single act of killing Christ without knowing , as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story." As I already wrote above, we killed our Creater. In return, we got redemption. Could anything be more evil than killing God? And yet, by that being "allowed", we were all redeemed.Despite human suffering being one of the great mysteries, we do know, from Catholic Theology/Christ's teachings, that suffering united to Christ has great power, redemptive power , which was in fact, the "greater good", of the Deicide.We couldn't possible know, sans Divine Revelation, how the suffering of Newtown (or any other acts of evil), will play out in the whole economy of salvation history, only that "for those who love God, it will have been for a greater good (Rom 8:28). If looked at only at the macro/human level, yeah, it all sucks. The good news is that because of Christ's suffering, we have hope, hope in knowing that the suffering of Newtown or 911 or the Holocast or any other, big or small, acts of evil have the potential to help redeem the world. Of course it doesn't look "fair", but trust that God is smarter than all of us. The end game is "every soul saved." Our job is to keep our eyes on Christ, pick up crosses, and follow. Only when we finally see the face of God will we know why God allowed what we believed to be so unjust. This may help you a lot. JPII wrote much on this topic.http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/h...

(Hi, Claire. I want to respond to your comment, but since this interesting and amusing thread isn't the place, I'll do so in a private e-mail.) (If anyone wants a copy, let me know.)

The "how" is forever ponderous, but isn't the "why" more important? And that we know: For God so loved the world. Makes the how seem more a a curiosity than the crux of the matter.Abe--yes, thanks for that.

Patricia: see http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=22367Fr. K 12/17/2012 - 12:34 pm wrote like a parent would. I feel rather guilty about praising him for the second time in one day, but his - rather than your reasoning about some abstract "greater good" - is the Christian, compassionate, human reaction:"My first, and later, reaction was that these deaths were not the result of divine action or call or will, but of the murderous will of a human being. I know, I know, the intent was to state a conviction that even this evil does not fall outside the realm of Gods superintending power and love, but the sentence seemed, and seems, too easy to say, distracting from the monstrousness of the deed, sounding hollow in the face of unfathomed grief, saying too much about the unspeakable.We all look for answers to our many Whys, for reasons. But is this not one of those occasions when reasons are precisely what we will not find? In a couple of places, St. Augustine warned against looking for reasons for an evil will, when it is the absence of reason that makes a will evil. To look for reasons for the failure of reason is, he said, like wanting to see darkness or to hear silence. An eye perceives darkness only when it begins not to see; an ear perceives silence only when it ceases to hear. So when our minds seek to understand what lacks intelligibility, we know it by not knowing it. See darkness, and youll understand sin.This doesnt throw much light on things; in fact it leaves them shrouded in darknesswhich I take it to have been Augustines point: that in the human heart and in the midst of human sociability there are dark caves that no light illumines and no words can utter. Sometimes we ought to admit that were simply dumbin both senses of the word."Or, more concisely, remember: Jesus wept.I know that this thread is about trying to apply some kind of logical, analytical reasoning to mysteries, but I think we need to remember not to take it too far.

Claire I fail to see how quoting Romans 8:28 is "taking it too far," or how Father K and I are in much of a conflict. Are you also arguing that the crucifixition of Christ did not bring about a "greater good?" I also made it more than clear that suffering is indeed a great mystery, consequently, I or anyone else outside of Divinity am unable to tell you at this time what if any "good" will come from Newtown. The main point was "When we love God, and even more so when our sufferings are united to His, God HIMSELF tells us, ALL WILL work for good. Perhaps Thomas A Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ (2nd most read book after the Bible), said it best:"If, indeed, there were Anything Better or More Useful for Man's Salvation than Suffering, Christ would have shown it by Word and Example."I challenge any of you, including Abe, to offer anything in our humaness that can break us more than human suffering, as it's often in, and only in, the debts of human suffering that many of us fianally, still in our free will, call out to God. It's at that point, that man often realizes he needs God, consequently, the faith for salvation can then be made possible.

Claire --I'm glad you're glad when Fr. K. and I agree, and no doubt he is glad I'm glad you're glad . . . :-) But let me go a bit further and maybe there's some disagreement in all this after all.Not only do I think the so-called "Scholastic method" would be a welcome method for doing theology today, I think it is *essential* today that Rome re-recognize the value of dialectics, and it is essential that Rome even encourage reasoned disputations. Its present squelching of obviously justified challenges only serves to discourage the young from becoming theologians, and it causes the clergy to abandon the faithful who, like Anne, are seriously troubled by the problems. And in my experience there are many who are so troubled. Nothing is perfect, and that includes Vatican II. At VII Aquinas was almost totally ignored, having been dismissed by theologians who found him barren for this age. I do not consider myself a Thomist, but to take that attitude towards Aquinas and the other rationalist theologians exhibits a sort of irrationality that is worthy of the Romantics, not the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition. Unfortunately, the present Pope leans towards Romanticism. (See, I knew I could find something to argue with JAK about :-) Further, not only does the rejection of Aquinas and his dialectical method short-change the faithful, but it is simply inconceivable that the secularists will even *begin* to take the "New Evangelism" seriously as long as Rome persists in its intolerance of dissent. And, rightly, the New Evangelism is directed towards the secularists as well as believers of other faiths. The Enlightenment saw very clearly that criticizing one's own thoughts is a means to truth, and the medievals already knew it. The Vatican needs to learn it again. I don't mean to say that reason is the only method of expanding understanding of theology. But it does seem to me that humility demands a proper respect for reasoning. We all can be wrong.

Patricia, I'm not sure how to respond, but when you write: " its often in, and only in, the debts of human suffering that many of us finally, still in our free will, call out to God. Its at that point, that man often realizes he needs God, consequently, the faith for salvation can then be made possible", and apply it to other people's s sufferings, it brings to mind the Inquisition-like Christians of the past who tried to beat people into conversion. Something in what you write seems a little bit off. Maybe an apparent lack of sympathy for other people's sufferings? Maybe a lack of revulsion at suffering as consequence of evil? I can't quite put my finger on it (and maybe that's because I don't have a good understanding of sin and expiation), but I hope that someone more skilled than me will take you up on it.

That is, if you talk about transforming your own suffering by uniting yourself to Christ, that's all well and good, but if you talk about other people's suffering and claim, like Pangloss, that things will work out for the best, that talk seems hollow. Their suffering belongs to them. In and as of itself, suffering is the product of evil. It can be transformed, but as long as it is not, it deserves only compassion, not abstract reasonings about a hypothetical greater good.But I probably misunderstood what you wrote.

JAK --Yes, the scholastic method could be useful on blogs. But rhetoric was not part of the method, and I fear that most "arguments" on blogs are largely rhetorical appeals. They're don't stick to the subject and are largely name-calling.But how about the theologians here (I mean you and Fr. Imbelli) giving us a demonstration of a theological disputation? Or maybe you could each have a team, the Pros and the Cons. Grant could formulate the question. There was once such a disputation in the School of Philosophy at Cath. U. when I was there. It was in Latin, but great fun watching two students pretend they were medieval masters. The "Nego! Nego!"s really flew. (One of them, Robert Sokolowski, did turn out to be a master of phenomenology.)Here's the site again of the light-hearted question, "Whether Aquinas is fittingly called boring." It's funny, but it shows exactly how Aquinas' and the others' disputations were structured.http://www.dominicanablog.com/2013/01/28/whether-st-thomas-is-boring/

Claire for $2.50, you can download Scott Hahn's MP3 on "making sense out of suffering." He explains it as simply as I think is possible, in a "cliff note" kind of way; great place to start. I'm quite sure if you listend to it, redemptive suffering would make a lot more sense. I found a link for you. http://www.lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/making-sense-out-of-s..., many Catholics never have much or any understanding of redemptive suffering, for all the obvious reasons. Hats off to you for even trying to understand it rather than outright rejecting it. Trust me it's worth the effort, at least to be familiar with it in a general sense. That's where Scott Hahn will be of great help!

Thank you, Anne Chapman, for your questions, which I share. Also to Gerelyn, Ann, Claire, Frs. K and I, among others. Like Anne, I share these questions; they shape one's image of God at least, and in turn influence prayer life. My ignorance is very clear from reading comments, but those mentions of God's love help foster more positive interpretations.I used to think, well if God allowed the crucifixion to happen to his Son, if he treated him that way, what chance in blazes did I have? And what was so extraordinary about God coming to share our humanity? If God creates man a certain way, why shouldn't God partake of what He made? Why create a world that exempts him alone from experiencing what his creatures have to cope with, instead of being willing to share the conditions he decided for others?That image accords well with a God of penal substitution. I read at mass today, God "died for our sins" in the Nicene Creed. I recall a Good Friday liturgy where parishioners were given a nail and then filed to the front to use a hammer to pound the nail into a large wooden cross. By the end, it was studded with nails as a reminder of our part in causing God's brutal death. Yipes.Gerelyn - "if this is a core Catholic belief, its strange how few understand it and how poorly and inconsistently its taught." Amen.I am starting to read Christianity in Evolution: an exploration by Jack Mahoney SJ (Georgetown Univ Press). I find this far more meaningful:the evolutionary achievement of Jesus was to confront and overcome death in an act of cosmic significance, ushering humanity into the culminating stage of its evolutionary destiny, the full sharing of God's inner life. Previously such doctrines as original sin, the fall, sacrifice, and atonement stemmed from viewing death as the penalty for sin and are shown not only to have serious difficulties in themselves, but also to emerge from a Jewish culture preoccupied with sin and sacrifice that could not otherwise account for death. The death of Jesus on the cross is now seen as saving humanity, not from sin, but from individual extinction and meaninglessness. Death is now seen as a normal process that affects all living things and the religious doctrines connected with explaining it in humans are no longer required or justified.In the end, Rahner's words catch my tired, confused brain: to the effect that whoever does not love the mystery does not know God, but constructs an image in one's own likeness.

Patricia, thank you for not taking offense at my comments. It seems that we are talking past one another. But I appreciate your taking the time to look for a reference.

Carolyn Disco,I see what Father Mahoney is trying to move beyond, But, solely on the basis of the quote you give, I think he may be equally one-sided.My point is that I think there is a dialectic between sin and death, and that fear of death, of vulnerability, often leads us to take "defensive" measures that in turn become death-dealing/sinful. In this regard I've several times appealed to Ernest Becker's "The Denial of Death" as an illuminating study. On the theory that the best defense is a good offense, we often respond to perceived threats by lashing out at the other/Other. Cain serves as paradigmatic instance.When I was in grammar school, "mystery" was often presented as a "red light:" you can't understand it, so don't bother. I try to suggest it's like a blinking "yellow light:" proceed with caution. Rahner's great article, "The Concept of Mystery in Catholic Theology" has been a guide.I think this thread has proceeded with due caution in seeking some understanding of the paschal mystery of faith.

"I challenge any of you, including Abe, to offer anything in our humaness that can break us more than human suffering, as its often in, and only in, the debts of human suffering that many of us fianally, still in our free will, call out to God. Its at that point, that man often realizes he needs God, consequently, the faith for salvation can then be made possible."Well what does your challenge even amount to? I'm fine saying that its suffering that breaks us more than anything, but that doesn't seem like any great realization. The problem is everything that follows after, because it falls into the same trap of valorizing suffering as a key element in God's plan for salvation. It makes suffering be "for something," and in doing so, it runs the risk (unavoidable, I think) of making suffering good.What is so mysterious about suffering? The murder of the children at Newton was not a mystery. Nor was the execution of Jesus. Rather, the reasons for why those tragedies took place are all too obvious, all too familiar. I'm not saying that suffering can't lead to something, that it can't be transformative. What I'm saying is that it's really messed-up to place people's suffering on a pedestal as a means of divinization. What Claire wrote above at 10:46 is dead on, and you never addressed her point.

Claire I would hope that I never take offense at anyone like you with an honest attempt to understand the faith. I will make one last attempt as simply as I can make it. God created man and women. Man sinned against God, consequently, the entire human race was in need of redemption, as God and sin cannot co-exist, meaning none of us would ever be able to spend eternity (heaven) with God owing to our "original sin" obtained via our human blood lines. Being that man is finite, and only God is infinite, only God could "repay the debt of sin" so to speak. Consequently, Jesus sent His son to redeem us. And He chose the cross.From Genesis 3:16 to the end of the New Testament, we encounter pain and suffering, the consequence of sin. Jesus being God, He chose to not only to redeem us, but to redeem us in the greatest of love, total sacrifice. Just as a good mother never leaves the side of her sick child, God, our heavenly father, chose not to ever leave us, both in our joys or in all of our suffering(s). Consequently, His life and passion left nothing, in his humanity, bigger than any of us could ever suffer. That's why He chose to suffer MORE.Not only did He suffer more than any of us ever could, He even invited us INTO His suffering, consequently, out of great love, to even "share" in His redemption, by uniting our sufferings to His sufferings (redemptive suffering).From James to St. Paul's "thorn in his side", to countless references in Scripture, in addition to just about every saint, we are told that suffering, properly understood (and united with Christ), is a great gift. The reason it's a great gift is that it enables profound graces, of which Christ promised, He would always give us sufficient grace for anything of which He allowed. Like many things of faith, it's a great paradox, for sure counter intuitive, albeit true. Before Christ, suffering was "meaningless." Christ gave suffering both meaning and power, the greatest power in fact, redemption.Blessed Henry Suso once wrote:"Suffering is a short pain and a long joy. Suffering gives to the sufferer, pain here, and joy hereinafter. Suffering changes an earthly man into a heavingly man." Copious saints and mystics have written much on the "gift of suffering", suggesting to us, that if we truly understood it's power, a power we will only know on the other side of the veil, we would regret (if it was possible to have regrets in heaven), that we weren't allowed more. In point of fact, we are being asked, with the one we love, Jesus Christ, to help in redeeming the world. This doesn't mean that Christ's sacrifice wasn't enough, only that our with His would be "more."And the really good news of course, is after the short lived life on earth, all suffering ends in eternal joy, in the beatitude of the oneness with God, the ultimate meaning of life, for sure the "end game" of our faith.Lastly I would suggest two things, and being that Lent starts on Wednesday, timing couldn't be better. Pray the rosary, especially the sorrowful mysteries, and meditate on the Stations of the Cross. If prayed in faithful obedience, God will start to reveal some of the mystery. One of the many beauties of the Catholic Faith is that none of us have to be sages to "get it", just faithful. Most of all, meditate on the crucifix, as it contains the entire human condition. There is nothing any of us can ever suffer or experience that Christ, in His great love for us, hasn't suffered more. It's all on the cross.Hope this helps Claire.

Bob Imbelli's comment at 2/8, 5:00 strikes me as very helpful:"I tried to move away from this by suggesting that we not think of redemption or atonement in terms of a transaction: something paid to another, but rather to focus upon the person whose vision and action transformed evil into good."Likewise, his quote from Anselm about the dreadfulness of sin.

"From Genesis 3:16 to the end of the New Testament, we encounter pain and suffering, the consequence of sin."Patrice --The problem is not that we suffer because we have sinned. There is no injustice there. The problem, the injustice, is that innocent creatures -- babies, crickets, horses, Jesus Himself -- suffer, sometimes dreadfully, without having sinned.You need to read Job to understand "the problem of evil". Be sure to take the end seriously -- in the end God punishes Job's "friends" who try to convince him that there is no problem, that suffering is a just result of our having sinned. God doesn't agree, and, in fact, he punishes Job's friends for their fooling themselves, and He *rewards Job mightily* for telling the truth about Him, for saying that He does at least seem to be an evil God. God doesn't want us to avoid this problem -- He wants us to face it and tell the truth as we see it, even though it makes God look evil Hmself.

"Before Christ, suffering was meaningless. Christ gave suffering both meaning and power, the greatest power in fact, redemption."Patrice --Yes, we agree about this. But the suffering is not good in itself, it is good only as means to a good end. It's goodness is derived, not intrinsic. So to call it a gift is not to say that the suffering itself is something to be grateful for -- even Jesus asked to avoid it. It is the *result* of suffering-freely- accepted that is mysteriously good. Suffering then is no longer meaningless, but it is still seems terribly unjust and hence utterly irrational.

Ann: You wrote: "At VII Aquinas was almost totally ignored, having been dismissed by theologians who found him barren for this age. I do not consider myself a Thomist, but to take that attitude towards Aquinas and the other rationalist theologians exhibits a sort of irrationality that is worthy of the Romantics, not the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition. Unfortunately, the present Pope leans towards Romanticism".Thomism was not ignored at the Second Vatican Council. There are twenty-eight references to his works in the conciliar texts, and there was an energetic debate about him and his thought during the preparation of the Council and during its third session. Fr. Congar even could write: "It could be shown that St. Thomas, the Doctor communis, furnished the writers of the dogmatic texts of Vatican II with the bases and the structure of their thought." Congar thought that Gaudium et spes in particular showed a Thomist methodology. I discuss all this in an essay which includes an explanation of why the place and role of St. Thomas was so hotly debated at the Council. http://jakomonchak.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/jak-thomism-at-vatican-ii...

Ann Oliver I never said that "we suffer because we have sinned", only that suffering is a consequense of sin. We are all, in the Body of Christ, in it together. Unlike what many think, sin is NOT personal, we all share in both the reparations and the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our sin affects each other as much as our prayers.Indeed many "good" and faithful people suffer. My point was that all suffering (regardless of how we get there), has value when united with Christ.Job was a pre figurement of Christ; a very good man who suffered much, almost "broke" in his despair (as Jesus in his humaness also asked the Father to take "this cup from me" , albeit Job or Christ (in his huamity), ever lost their faith.Abe, "it runs the risk (unavoidable, I think) of making suffering good."The point is Abe, suffering united to Christ IS good, very good, "redemptive" good. There's a good reason why Christ asked us all to "pick our crosses" and follow Him. That doesn't mean we go out looking to inflict pain and suffering on ourselves, only that we do encounter it, we can know that Christ is with us in it, always, and that is for sure "good."

'Unlike what many think, sin is NOT personal, we all share in both the reparations and the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ."Patrice --I'm sorry, but according to what i have been taught and read this view is thoroughly at odds with the ancient and continuing teaching of the Church -- sin is *always* personal, and that is why we are responsible for it. We do not share the guilt of others, though I grant you the contemporary secular culture does seem to admit of something called "corporate guilt". But that is not Catholic belief. You are not guilty of my sins, nor I of yours. Yes, consequent on our sinning we can, with the grace of God, be helped to become repentant and we can sometimes influence others in to repent. But guilt is personal. That's why individuals, not groups, go to Hell, whatever that is. See Dante's Inferno for the classic view on this topic.

I don't believe that suffering per se is a consequence of sin. Cruelty and callous indifference to the suffering of other people are consequences of sin, even in the secular order. But mere suffering is a consequence of life or, more exactly, of the life of finite creatures that continue to grow and vary in imperfectly coordinated ways. Some of us are subject to the pain of flat feet because African forests vanished during the Pliocene and our ancestors had to leave the trees where we had lived for millions of years and walk upright on the savannah. Our feet are still trying to catch up. Childbirth is painful because our brains grew larger and the birth canal did not. Microbessinless microbesexploit us and cause diseases which we have not yet developed immunities to or remedies for. Even many of our social ills are more the result of ignorance and shortsightedness than of outright sin. And death is an entirely natural thing in itself, although it can be inflicted, perhaps even self-inflicted, through sin.I don't believe that Adam's disobedience was God's will, any more than mine is. Adam and I must each bear the responsibility. I also don't believe that the Crucifixion was God's will.God's will was the Incarnation. Having made a wonderful world, he did not choose merely to observe it or to play with it like a small boy spinning a top. He desired to immerse himself in it and to share in some sense the experience of his creatures. Why would he want to do that? I have no idea. But I believe he would have done it even if no one had ever sinned.The Cruciixion was our idea and our deed, ours alone. It was a violation of the ancient duty of hospitality and a stunning rejection of God's love, but merciifully mitigated by the victim's plea that "they know not what they do."And in this fateful contest, God proved the more resourceful player and countered our move with the Resurrection.But why, knowing how things would turn out, did he begin at all? Well, we ourselves sometimes do that, accepting a high cost for what we hope will be a greater good. And truly, "image and likeness" aside, he is not just like us and his calculations are not ours.

St. Augustine made two comments in his Enchiridion that are pertinent: "God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to allow evils to exist.""Almighty God, since he is supremely good, would never permit any evil in his works unless he were so omnipotent and good that he could bring good even out of evil."The sentences bear meditation. They're not a "solution" to the problem of evil, but state the terms within which a believer might pose the problem. There is no problem if God is either not almighty or not all-good. Christian faith refuses to choose between these two attributes and seeks understanding within the framework they supply.

I think the Creator is letting us work it out, just as we must let our children work it out. E. O. Wilson:http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/evolution-and-our-inner-... another charming NYT article on evolution from two days ago. Is our little ggggg....grandmother evil for what she is about to do to the insect? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/science/common-ancestor-of-mammals-plu...

JAK --It seems to me that the manifest presence of great goodness and beauty in the world points to the existence of a good Creator, and this evidence of His nature out-balances the problem of the evil that He has apparently created. No, not all evils are lacks of good. Physical evil is created, and thus must be a product of God. But, ISTM, it remains problematic for two reasons. The first is metaphysical: how can God who is goodness itself and who creates only things which resemble Him somehow, create that which is not good, i.i. evil? Some say that suffering in itself is not wholly evil -- it serves a purpose. But we we look at suffering in itself all we see is something bad. The other problem is the big ethical question of justice: how can a just God cause innocent creatures to suffer? One answer to that is that God Himself suffers with His creatures, that He does not require of them what He does not endure Himself, and this, of course, is a partial explanation of why Christ chose to die on the cross. But this problem doesn't destroy the fact that there is evidence of a good, loving Creator.In the end I think it is a question of which kind of evidence -- the existence of good and the existence of evil -- one finds most persuasive.

I found a 1995 set of notes by the international theological commission about redemption. A partial survey. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_... are a few quotes after a quick scan.Traditionally, howeveras the biblical witness itself revealsall suffering, and indeed death itself, has been understood as springing from sin, the mystery of iniquity in Saint Pauls phrase (2 Thess 2:7). (par. 13 - that's for you, John Prior)The death of Jesus is not the act of a merciless God exacting the supreme sacrifice; it is not a buying back from some alienating power which has enslaved. It is the time and the place where a God who is love and who loves us is made visible. Jesus crucified tells how much God loves us, and affirms that in this gesture of love a human being has given unconditional assent to God's ways. (Part 2, par. 10)All who live in Christ are summoned to become active participants in the continuing process of redemption. Incorporated into the Body of Christ, they carry his work forward and thereby enter into closer union with him. Just as he was a sign of contradiction, so the individual Christian and the whole Church become signs of contradiction as they struggle against the forces of sin and destruction, amidst suffering and temptation. The faithful are united with the Lord by their prayers (2 Cor 1:11; 1 Tim 2:1-4), their works (1 Cor 3:9-14), and their sufferings, all of which have redemptive value when united with, and taken up into, the action of Christ himself. (par. 60)

Gerelyn,Thanks for pointing out that E. O. Wilson article. Mole Rats and Us will make a marvelous book title, if someone will just write the book.

Thank you, Claire. That's an excellent paragraph, that par. 13. It says the limitations of nature (natural catastrophes and such) may give rise to suffering, and so they may. But "limitations" is just one way of looking at the workings of nature, which are a continuing process of becoming that to all appearances is stochastic and undesigned. Only a very great artist could have found a way for his masterpiece to participate in its own creation.Supernovas explode with horrible destructive power, but they seed the universe with elements that life will later use. Plate tectonics disturb and disrupt the earth, and otherwise the dry land would long ago have eroded into the sea, and there would be no daffodils. Asteroid and meteor strikes wipe out whole classes of organisms, making room for new life, including us. Astounding beauty arises and, even more astounding, the ability to perceive it. Is the gain worth the loss? I think so, although I grant that a trilobite might not. But for our purpose here, I think the judgment that counts is, "God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good." Gen 1:31

"Im sorry, but according to what i have been taught and read this view is thoroughly at odds with the ancient and continuing teaching of the Church sin is *always* personal, and that is why we are responsible for it. We do not share the guilt of others"Ann I apologize if I'm writing so badly that you misunderstand much of what I write. I never said we share "guilt" of others' sins. What we share are the consequences, consequently, our sins, for that reason alone, cannot be "personal", at least not in the sense of consequences.We are all one in the Mystical Body of Christ.

Patricia ==Thanks for clarifying your point. It's a very important one, especially when we are considering government policy about many moral issues. Our actions do have consequences in the wider group, but rampant individualism in this country blinds many to the fact.

Off topic: Pope Benedict is resigning!

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.