Letters | Rethinking the Order of Malta, ratio & intellectus



In his piece on the current scandal and Archbishop Viganò’s letter (“Double Lives,” November 9) Kenneth Woodward indulges in a drive-by shooting at the Order of Malta. I, like most Catholics, knew little about this religious order until I first came across them running a leprosarium in Central Africa early in my diplomatic service.

But your readers should perhaps know that this oldest of religious orders (with 13,500 members plus over one hundred thousand professional staff and volunteers) runs hospitals, medical teams, ambulance services, refugee programs, prison ministries, support for the poor and hungry, and efforts to defend the faith in over 120 countries. Mr. Woodward might wish to volunteer to help with the sick we bring on the order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes.

The witness to the graces poured out, both spiritual and physical (I have seen more than one miracle there), should inspire any who come with us—and perhaps modify the accusation that we are little but politically conservative Catholics favored by an outmoded organization “basically in the business of trading hefty donations for face time with Catholic hierarchs.” (The last two candidates I have sponsored were a retired university president and a local fireman—neither, I think, looking forward to trading hefty donations for face time with the hierarchy.)

Gerald Scott
Richmond, Va.



The more that I read Philip Porter’s article (“Newman & Theological Conflict,” October 5), the more I became aware of a philosophical error that he consistently makes.

First, great care must be taken with the words “intellect” and “reason” whenever the primary linguistic background is Latin, for in that language and as used by ancient and medieval writers, intellectus and ratio are not synonyms.

Intellectus is the word used to express what Plato was talking about when the mind is functioning at the highest level of the divided line. It involves insight and comprehension of foundational truth such as Goodness. Ratio expresses the deductive workings of the mind as it tries to understand the world in the light of such truth.

That is why the motto over the entrance to the Academy was “Let no one enter without [knowing] geometry.” For only those who had had the experience of both comprehending general principles and applying them in an orderly fashion would be able to do philosophy. Anselm’s famous remark thus says that the goal of faith is not an articulate theory but comprehension of a truth that might not be able to be put into words.

Michael H. Marchal​
Cincinnati, Ohio

Published in the January 4, 2019 issue: 
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