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The Church lost a giant yesterday with the passing of Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ. Cardinal Dulles was the only American theologian to become a prince of the Church having bypassed the episcopate. he was a convert to Catholicism from a prominent Presbyterian family.

Born in Auburn, New York, on August 24, 1918, to John Foster Dulles and Janet Pomeroy Avery Dulles. His father later became the United States Secretary of State to whom Dulles International Airport is dedicated.

Avery Dulles became a Catholic in 1940 and entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1946. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1956. After many years as an important influential theologian, he was elevated to the college of cardinals in recognition of his enormous contribution to Catholic theology. This elevation ordinarily comes with ordination as a bishop, but Dulles requested and recieved permission to decline this ordination.

Of his many works, Models of the Church, is one of his best known works. It was one of the first theological works I formally studied. However, he wrote prolifically on many issues.

I was fortunate to hear him speak last year on Divine Impassibility. The lecture, which was one of his very last, was simply brilliant.
I plan to travel to New York for the funeral and will report when I return.
Photo by Domini Sumus

Every so often something happens which makes me very proud of my school. Today was one of those days. Fr. Shanley has done an excellent job since he became president three years ago. In addition to the current solid faculty, the theology department has attracted theologians such as David Bentley Hart. The college has also hosted theology conferences such as was held last year featuring Avery Cardinal Dulles.

From the Providence Journal:
Emphasis added

When Pope Benedict XVI asked to address Catholic educators during his recent visit to the United States, there was much speculation that he would scold Catholic college presidents for failing to remain true to the mission of their institutions. As all of America learned, however, the Holy Father is not a scold. He is a teacher of hope who believes that “the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.” I returned from my encounter with him filled with hope for Providence College and convinced that it is realizing his vision — and the vision of our Dominican Friar founders — for Catholic education.

Many of the themes addressed by Pope Benedict in his remarks resonate deeply with the mission of Providence College and remind us of the unique place that a Catholic college or university occupies in higher education. For example, Pope Benedict considers one of the church’s roles in the world as a service (diakonia) of truth. In a time where there is widespread doubt about objective truth, a Catholic college such as Providence College (whose motto is veritas, or truth) is seen as countercultural, based on the optimistic proposition that the human mind has been created by God to know the ultimate truth. In opposition to the view that there are only perspective-based points of view, we believe that students can integrate what they learn into a unified view of the whole; we reject the popular assumption that all claims to knowledge are fragments that do not fit together.

Pope Benedict further articulated that knowledge of the truth leads to an appreciation of the good, and that true freedom is not the aimless pursuit of novelty or personal satisfaction, but choosing to embrace the truth about the dignity of the human person as made in the image and likeness of God. Catholic colleges do not focus on students’ intellect alone but equally on their moral character. We explicitly help our students to come to know the good and recognize the dignity of the human person through studies in ethics and moral philosophy and through participation in meaningful community service.

Pope Benedict introduced the intriguing idea of “intellectual charity” as a particularly urgent imperative in Catholic education. He noted the Catholic educator’s call to “recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love.” Once this passion for the fullness of unity and truth is awakened in students, the pope observed, “young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do.” As a teacher and administrator, I have watched this discovery of God’s providence unfold in countless students. We succeed not when students find employment for employment’s sake, but rather when they know the value of work within the context of a meaningful life that is focused on communion with God and service to others.

One of the most controversial issues on a Catholic college campus is the meaning of academic freedom. Pope Benedict thoughtfully described it as the “freedom to search for truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you,” and affirmed that the coherence and identity of a Catholic institution depends on all aspects of its life being consistent with the truth. Rooted in the harmony of faith and reason, a Catholic college is fundamentally optimistic that such a search for truth — undertaken in accord with scholarly canons of inquiry — will not lead to conclusions that contradict faith. So academic freedom cannot be invoked in order to justify positions that contradict the faith — because truth cannot contradict itself.

The remark in the pope’s address that elicited a spontaneous round of applause from all present was his exhortation that Catholic education must remain “accessible to people of all social and economic strata.” In describing the history of Catholic education in America, Pope Benedict notes that Catholic education has “helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.” This aptly describes the historic mission of Providence College. We remain committed to inviting and enrolling applicants from underrepresented populations, including economically disadvantaged students from urban schools and first-generation college students. In recent years, we have reinvigorated this mission by removing the barrier of standardized testing for applicants and by devoting greater resources to need-based scholarships.

Spring is decision time for college-bound students and their parents, who, the Holy Father noted, “recognize the need for excellence in the human formation of their children.” One marvelous feature of the American higher-educational landscape is its rich diversity. Students can choose from a wide array of institutional characteristics and values: public and private, religious and secular, urban and rural, large and small, and so many others. The best way for Catholic education to serve America is by providing a distinctive educational option for students and their parents. Pope Benedict has defined those distinctive features. It is my responsibility to see that Providence College continues to embody them.

The Rev. Brian J. Shanley is president of Providence College.

As I look forward to starting my junior year in one month, I have also started looking at graduate programs. I have grouped schools into four lists: possibilities, reaches, dreams, and not even in my nightmares.

The Angelicum is one of the dream schools. Unless I become a millionare there is no way I will be able to pack up my family and move to Rome for a few years, but oh how I want to. This is one of the reasons I shouldn’t have put my education off for so many years. Maybe someday, when my kids are all grown and in school themselves I will be able to make the dream of studying with the Dominicans at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, but until then, I must console myself with this awesome ad.

Made public today were the responses of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to two questions concerning the validity of Baptism conferred with certain non-standard formulae.

The first question is: “Is a Baptism valid if conferred with the words ‘I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier’, or ‘I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer'”?

The second question is: “Must people baptised with those formulae be baptised ‘in forma absoluta’?”

The responses are: “To the first question, negative; to the second question, affirmative”.

Benedict XVI, during his recent audience with Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these responses, which were adopted at the ordinary session of the congregation, and ordered their publication. The text of the responses bears the signatures of Cardinal Levada and of Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the dicastery.

An attached note explains that the responses “concern the validity of Baptism conferred with two English-language formulae within the ambit of the Catholic Church. … Clearly, the question does not concern English but the formula itself, which could also be expressed in another language”.

“Baptism conferred in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, the note continues, “obeys Jesus’ command as it appears at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew. … The baptismal formula must be an adequate expression of Trinitarian faith, approximate formulae are unacceptable.

“Variations to the baptismal formula – using non-biblical designations of the Divine Persons – as considered in this reply, arise from so-called feminist theology”, being an attempt “to avoid using the words Father and Son which are held to be chauvinistic, substituting them with other names. Such variants, however, undermine faith in the Trinity”.

“The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes an authentic doctrinal declaration, which has wide-ranging canonical and pastoral effects. Indeed, the reply implicitly affirms that people who have been baptised, or who will in the future be baptised, with the formulae in question have, in reality, not been baptised. Hence, they must them be treated for all canonical and pastoral purposes with the same juridical criteria as people whom the Code of Canon Law places in the general category of ‘non- baptised'”.


H/T to Thomas Peters (American Papist) for making this video available. Check out his You Tube page for more great video from this Theology on Tap session.

Listen carefully! The Archbishop has a very important message which I wish more people would get. It’s not about the man, it’s about the office.

I am quite ambivalent on the issue of whether the priest should celebrate Mass facing the people or facing with the people. I think there are good arguments for and against both, and I have done very little study on either liturgical posture but there is one document which keeps reverberating in my mind whenever this debate surfaces.

It is a passage from the Mystagogical Catechesis of St. Cyril of Jerusalem which dates back to approximately 347 A.D. In the catechesis on the Rites Before Baptism, Cyril writes:

However, thou art bidden with arm outstretched to say to him as though actually present “I renounce thee, Satan”. I wish to say, wherefore ye stand facing to the west; for it is necessary. Since the west is the region of sensible darkness and he being darkness, has his dominion also in darkness, ye therefore, looking with a symbolical meaning towards the west, renounce that dark and gloomy potentate.

Cyril then continues by describing the meaning of the each line of the renunciation of sins. Afterwards, he writes:

When therefore thou renouncest Satan, utterly breaking all covenant with him, that ancient league with hell, there is opened to thee the paradise of God, which He planted toward the east, whence for his transgression our first father was exiled; and symbolical of this was our turning from the west to the east, the place to light. Then thou wert told to say, “I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and in one Baptism of repentance.”

Imagine my shock when I first read this. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystagogical Catechesis rocked my Liturgical understanding. I still don’t know if I think Mass should be celebrated ad orientum, but I will tell you that I think baptisms should.

I recommend the Mystagogical Catechesis, especially the one on baptism, of which I am most familiar. I haven’t read the one on the Eucharist yet, but I am sure it is just as good. In fact, I wrote a term paper based on the Mystagogical Catechesis which compared the use of Chrism as he describes and to how it is used in the modern rite and ended up concluding the we don’t use nearly enough Chrism. That wasn’t the paper I set out to write, but the evidence was irrefutable.

I was reading an article about Archbishop Burke of St. Louis and his order that Catholic schools in the Archdiocese remove the His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass) series from the schools.

That is not what this post is about. At the end of the article, there is a quote which proved how confused the commenter is about faith and morality:

The Reverend Bruce McCoy, of Canaan Baptist Church in Oakville, said the controversy really just comes down to what the writer’s intent was.

While I have no doubt that Philip Pullman intended to use the trilogy to subvert the faith of young children, in all honesty, intent has very little to do with it. One is not permitted to commit evil even if he has a good intention.

Image this: A drunk driver kills a family, but the judge lets him off because he didn’t intend to kill anyone. When’s the last time this happened and if it did would it be right?

Here is another one: A company uses cheap foreign labor to manufacture children’s products resulting in the death of several infants. They didn’t intend to kill or hurt anyone.

Ready to let them off the hook? I didn’t think so.

I don’t care what Mr. Pullman’s intent was. The only thing that really matters is the outcome. His books have the potential to harm the faith of young children whose “GPS system” is just being set. I want my children’s “GPS” to be set to heaven. Where Pullman intends to set it isn’t the issue, the issue is where he sets it to.

Rev. McCoy sounds like a typical relativistic Christian. There is no good or evil, it all depends on intentions and circumstance. Well, I am here to tell him and everyone else who will listen that that point of view is BULL!

Jesus Christ said in Matthew 18:6:

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

That is more than enough for me.

Sadly, my semester of studying the Summa Theologiae and the other writings of St. Thomas Aquinas has come to an end. I submitted my term paper yesterday (via e-mail because of the snow storm). I learned many things during this semester, most of which I wasn’t expecting.

  1. I can talk about the senses of scripture and the powers of the soul at great length.
  2. I know the difference between the image of God and the likeness of God.
  3. I know much less than I think I know.
  4. I can write a parody article of the Summa Theologiae.
  5. The Holy Spirit tends to provide the inspiration to write intense papers on intense topics at the last minute.
  6. The Trinity is a more difficult concept to understand that I even though it was.
  7. The answer to any theological question can be found in the Summa, no matter how obscure.
  8. Theology isn’t about getting it right, it’s about helping the Church get it right.
  9. Even the best theologian gets it wrong once in a while.
  10. Sometimes the best answer to a question is “I don’t know”.

The last time I posted from one of Fr. Stokes’ articles he was bemoaning the decline of funeral homily. Now he is writing about the decline of the Episcopalian/Anglican Church.

For those unfamiliar with Fr. David L. Stokes, he is a former Episcopalian priest, who converted to Catholicism and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood. He teaches theology at Providence College and writes an occasional column for the Providence Journal. As I learned on my first day as his student, Fr. Stokes pulls no punches. He tells it like it is, and if you don’t like it, tough luck!

This particular article is from October 29th. I had wanted to post it weeks, ago but you know what happens when something is put on the back burner.

In this article, Fr. Stokes argues that the Episcopal Church has much deeper problems than same-sex marriage and gay bishops. The emphases are mine.

…But Robinson’s election, important as it is in this drama, is really only secondary to the woes besetting the Episcopal Church — and, indeed, Anglicanism world-wide. To couch it in theological language, we may call Robinson the efficient cause of Anglicanism’s fracturing. But he is not the formal cause. Strange as it sounds, the formal cause is nothing less than the demise of the British Empire and with it the ineluctable evaporation of a definite British ethos.

In 1559, Queen Elizabeth I, much more a practitioner of real-politic than her father Henry VIII, dealt with feuding Christian factions by encompassing them within the same state church. Puritans and Catholics, “high” churchman and “low,” woke up one morning to find themselves beneath the same tent. That didn’t mean disputes ceased. The English Civil War (1642-1651) attests to how bloody theological contentions could turn. Still, by the late 17th Century, with a common prayer book and the King James Bible, the lineaments of Anglicanism had emerged — much more a cultural ethos than a confessional church such as existed amongst the Lutherans and Calvinists on the continent.

Elizabeth’s actions had another result. In suspending theological squabbles, she inadvertently suspended corporate theological reflection. For over 400 years the Anglican ethos remained pretty much a late medieval view of God and the human person, suspended in linguistic amber of dazzling beauty. Thus “protestant” and “catholic,” Platonist and even the odd agnostic all found themselves harmonizing after a fashion in the same choir.

What kept this ethos from evaporating like mist? Not the Archbishop of Canterbury. (He has never held authority analogous to the pope.) Nor the creedal statements of Anglicanism. (Like a wax nose these have always been shaped pretty much by whoever was doing the interpreting.)

What grounded this Anglican ethos was the very English culture from which it arose. For example, two Anglicans may, and did, vehemently disagree on a biblical text’s meaning, but they both shared a common culture that took the Bible as normative. Their differences became blended into the soil they share. With the significant exception of nonconformists, to be an Englishman was to be an Anglican, to be an Anglican was to be English. Cultural stability ensured theological consensus.


For anyone brought up in the mid-20th Century, the Episcopal Church still radiated certain Englishness. We resonated to the rhythm of the old prayer book, the sonorities of T. S. Eliot and the urbanity of W. H. Auden. Ours was the church of C.S.Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and Vaughn Williams. Those mid-century decades possessed a spirituality of informed and stylish moderation.

Even then, though, had we been more attentive, we would have heard a distinctly nostalgic, even elegiac, tone in all this. But few of us are ever explicitly aware of the under-currents of real change in our lives. It’s not that the Episcopal Church scrapped the old prayer book, nor was it somehow infiltrated by dastardly liberals. Simply, it underwent what happened to most Protestant traditions imported to these shores: As the English ethos slowly dissipated, the Episcopal Church was finally being transformed into an American denomination.

What does this mean? To use the most glaring example: Where once heterosexual marriage was integral to the social and civic ecology of America, it is no longer. And the spiritual ecology of American denominations cannot but adapt accordingly, if they are to be credible. American culture determines the agenda for American denominationalism.


…I am certainly not ringing the death knell of the Episcopal Church. Indeed, when these disputes are finally settled, I suspect the Episcopal Church may prove an attractive option to many Americans nostalgic for some sort of a spirituality.


American history’s answer has always been power-plays, cloaked in theological rhetoric — followed by yet another, new denomination. Let’s wait and see.

Read the complete article here.

I think that as American Catholics, we need to take Fr. Stokes words to heart and see that something quite similar is happening in the Catholic Church. Have we moved from the Roman Catholic Church to the American Catholic Church? When we desire to assimilate into American culture, that is exactly what we are doing. I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church. There was a time where Catholics wouldn’t dare to eat meat on Fridays, now Catholics don’t give it a second thought to eat meat on any Friday, even during Lent. I hear Catholics say that they don’t want to stand out or do anything which will reveal their faith. We are to be signs of contradiction, not signs of assimilation. So what if someone looks at us funny when we don’t go along with the rest of society. Notice how well Christ blended in?

Benedict XVI’s second Encyclical, “Spe Salvi” which is dedicated to the theme of Christian hope, was published today. The document – which has an introduction and eight chapters – begins with a quote from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans: “spe salvi facti sumus” (in hope we are saved).

The chapter titles are as follows: “1. Faith is Hope; 2. The concept of faith-based hope in the New Testament and the early Church; 3. Eternal life – what is it?; 4. Is Christian hope individualistic?; 5. The transformation of Christian faith-hope in the modern age; 6. The true shape of Christian hope; 7. ‘Settings’ for learning and practicing hope: i) Prayer as a school of hope, ii) Action and suffering as settings for learning hope, iii) Judgement as a setting for learning and practicing hope; 8. Mary, Star of Hope.”

The Holy Father explains in his Introduction that “according to the Christian faith, ‘redemption’ – salvation – is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”

Hence, “a distinguishing mark of Christians” is “the fact that they have a future: … they know … that their life will not end in emptiness. … The Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known – it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.”

“To come to know God – the true God – means to receive hope.” This was well understood by the early Christians, such as the Ephesians who before encountering Christ had many gods but “were without hope.” The problem faced by Christians of long standing, the Holy Father says, is that they “have grown accustomed to, … have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God.”

The Pope recalls that Jesus “did not bring a message of social revolution” like Spartacus, and that “he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas of Bar-Kochba.” He brought “something totally different: … an encounter with the living God, … an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within, … even if external structures remained unaltered.”

Christ makes us truly free. “We are not slaves of the universe” or of “the laws of matter and of evolution.” We are free because “heaven is not empty,” because the Lord of the universe is God “Who in Jesus has revealed Himself as Love.”

Christ is the “true philosopher” Who “tells us who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human.” He shows us “the way beyond death; only someone able to do this is a true teacher of life.” He offers us a hope that is, at one and the same time, expectation and presence because “the fact that this future exists changes the present.”

The Pope remarks that “perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. … The present-day crisis of faith,” he continues, “is essentially a crisis of Christian hope. … The restoration of the lost Paradise is no longer expected from faith,” but from technical and scientific progress whence, it its believed, the “kingdom of man” will emerge. Hope thus becomes “faith in progress” founded on two pillars: reason and freedom which “seem to guarantee by themselves, by virtue of their intrinsic goodness, a new and perfect human community.”

The Pope mentions “two essential stages in the political realization of this hope:” the French and the Marxist Revolutions. Faced with the French Revolution, “the Europe of the Enlightenment … had cause to reflect anew on reason and freedom,” while the proletarian revolution left behind “a trail of appalling destruction.” Marx’s fundamental error was that “he forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. … He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism. … Let us put it very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope. … Man can never be redeemed simply” by an external structure, “man is redeemed by love,” an unconditional, absolute love: “Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God – God Who has loved us and continues to love us to the end.”

The Pope then identifies four “settings” for learning and practicing hope. The first of these is prayer. “When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. … When there is no longer anyone to help me, … He can help me.”

Alongside prayer is action: “Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle … towards a brighter and more humane world.” Yet only if I know that “my own life and history in general … are held firm by the indestructible power of Love” can “I always continue to hope.”

Suffering is another of the “settings” for learning hope. “Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering,” however “it is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, Who suffered with infinite love.” Another fundamental aspect is to suffer with others and for others. “A society unable to accept its suffering members … is a cruel and inhuman society,” he writes.

Finally, another setting for learning hope is the Judgement of God. “There is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an ‘undoing’ of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright.” The Pope writes of his conviction “that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favor of faith in eternal life.” It is, indeed, impossible “that the injustice of history should be the final word. … God is justice and creates justice. … And in His justice there is also grace. … Grace does not cancel out justice. … Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.”


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