Those popes who bear the name, "Pius," are the greatest guardians of the Church against heresy. This blog is a watchdog for modernism in the Church. In reality, outside this blog, the members of the board temper their criticisms and opinions with prudence and charity so as to help souls in their journey towards Christ. But sometimes, for the sake of their own sanity, the authors of this blog just need to blow off some steam. The result is Totus Pius.

14 July 2006

Civil Marriage and a Declaration of War?

We have recently had the opportunity to review the Encyclical, Arcanum, of Our Predecessor, Leo XIII, of happy memory. We took this opportunity after having reviewed Our Own Encyclical, Casti Connubii, which we promulgated fifty years after the promulgation of Our Predecessor's Encyclical. The main subject discussed in this Encyclical is the question of Civil Authority over the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. This question is one that our world faces more than ever. Our Predecessor, to summarize his argument, states that, although there are many things over which the state has legitimate authority, Holy Matrimony is not one of these things, but rather, Holy Mother Church is the only true authority over such an important calling to holiness. Not only is this Sacrament a means by which many can and do achieve the heights of sanctity, it is also an invaluable part of and benefit to society, a point which is duly noted by Our Predecessor (Arcanum 4). However, the benefits given to society by the Institution of Marriage are increased immensely and the Institution is protected from vice by the grace poured forth upon those souls who have entered into this Institution through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, which was instituted by God the Father at the dawn of Creation, but was sanctified and perfected by Our Lord Jesus Christ (Arcanum 5-9). This Holy Institution, having been sanctified and perfected, not only focuses on the procreation of children, but also on their education in the Holy Faith of the Apostles, and the growth in Holiness of the spouses (Arcanum 10-12).

For these reasons, Christ, the Bridegroom, entrusted those matters concerning Holy Matrimony to his spotless and undefiled Bride, the Church, granting Her complete authority over the institution, and entrusting to Her its defense from all those who wish to destroy it (Arcanum 13). Our Predecessor then discusses the program of the naturalists who worked to frame the concept of a civil marriage. Such a program would lead to the same vices in marriage (divorce, disrespect for women and children, etc.) to which it had been prone, before its perfection and sanctification by Our Lord, and a disregard for the laws which the Church, in Her wisdom, has set in place over such an important arrangement (Arcanum 18). Then, referring to marriages in the past, in Paragraph 19 of his Encyclical, Our Predecessor writes,
Hence, among those, marriages were commonly celebrated with religious ceremonies, under the authority of pontiffs, and with the ministry of priests. So mighty, even in the souls ignorant of heavenly doctrine, was the force of nature, of the remembrance of their origin, and of the conscience of the human race. As, then, marriage is holy by its own power, in its own nature, and of itself, it ought not to be regulated and administered by the will of civil rulers, but by the divine authority of the Church, which alone in sacred matters professes the office of teaching.
In this bold declaration of the inappropriateness of civil marriages, as they are called, Our Predecessor makes a declaration that would be quite unpopular in contemporary culture. In fact, today, not only have politicians almost completely accepted the falsehood that the state has legitimate authority over marriage, many are now pushing for the legalization and affirmation of what they call same-sex unions and gay marriages. Not only would these arrangements affirm people in their sin, it would also lead to a greater weakening of marriage, through the efforts of the State to take even more control over the institution, a weakening which can already be observed in the increase of divorce rates and a degradation of the quality of the situations of many families, a weakening which was forseen by Our Predecessor of happy memory, as early as 1880, as a result merely of an increase in State control over Holy Matrimony.

Fortunately, Our Successor, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, has declared war on modern thought on eros and the Church's influence over it, according to Benjamin Wiker of Crisis Magazine. According to Wiker's analysis, despite what the mainstream media and liberal Catholics took from the encyclical,
Well, they didn'’t call him the "Panzer-Kardinal"” for nothing. Deus Caritas Est is a declaration of war, and it is loaded with ammunition - much of it stealth in design, and of such power that the Church under Benedict XVI will certainly be the Church Militant. For while on the surface Benedict only seems to be offering a theological platitude, that "God is love,"” hidden to the hasty eyes of the press, buried in the intricacies of his philosophical and theological analysis, obscured from all but those initiated into Benedict'’s inner circle, he really is declaring that God is love.

It will become clear - —as we dig into the encyclical - —that a more dangerous and constructive idea for our culture could not be imagined. It'’s a brilliant strategy on Benedict'’s part to hide so explosive a truth under a simple truism.
This declaration of the objective fact that "God is love," he says, is a direct attack on the philosophy of Nietzsche and his disdain for the Church's teachings on what true love is, as is evidenced by Our Successor's quoting of the German philosopher in the third paragraph of his Encyclical. Our Successor, of course, does not agree with Nietzsche that the Church has poisoned eros, but rather, he says, it is not the Church, but modern culture, Nietzsche, and his false philosophy which have poisoned eros. All three, offer to man, eros deictus merum ad sexum, "eros thrown down to unmixed sex" (this part of the Encyclical, notes Wiker, was unfortunately translated "reduced to pure sex" thus giving an improper connotation to what was intended). As Wiker notes, merum literally translates as "unmixed" but when it was used substantively, as a noun, it meant "unmixed wine," that is, wine before it was mixed with water. This was the stuff that drunkards drank, merely to get drunk. Deictus also is poorly translated as a more precise translation would render the word as "thrown or hurled down" or even "killed." If what the modern culture is offering us is eros so degraded that it is unmixed sex which is only good for causing sexual drunkenness, what should we mix it with so that we might actually enjoy it, as the truly good wine that it is? Our Successor reminds us that, as is the case with all things, it must be mixed with agape, charitable love. In order for eros to truly benefit the beloved, it must be tempered by agape. This is what Our Successor says is the calling of all Christians. This is the same calling Our Predecessor, Leo XIII, called for in maintaining the authority of the Church over marriage. He knew that only the Church would be sure to continue to offer the same calling. Only Christ's Bride would be capable of guaranteeing that the love He has for Her would continue to be evidenced in the love shown between human spouses. For these reasons, We once again take as Our Own the Encyclical, Arcanum, and nrecommendo reccomend the fervent study of Our Successor's Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.

To him who does not accept these teachings, in line with the Tradition of the Magesterium of Holy Mother Church, Bride of Christ, the Bridegroom, we hereby declare: ANATHEMA SIT!

1 comment:

Maurice Blondel said...

Benedict's beef in the Encylical isn't so much with Nietzsche, whom he engages rather sympathetically, but rather what would lead to Nietzsche to make such a statement. Why did Nietzsche feel compelled to rescue eros from this captivity? The question is actually more complicated than meets the eye, and begins to some degree in Late Scholasticism.
With the collapse of the Thomistic synthesis through the work of Scotus, Ockham and so-called Thomists like Suarez, as well as much of the late medieval mystical tradition, nature and grace began the slow process of coming apart, culminating in the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Nature, in this case eros would be seen to have its own ultimate ends outside of the capacity to unite with agape and to form the unity that is Christian love. This was disastrous, leading first to Protestant principles embracing a conception of grace removed from nature and then to Enlightenment principles separating nature from its capacity for grace. Under this conception, one ends up with something like the system of Anders Nygren, where Christian love must suppress eros in favor of a pure and complete agape. Thus, opposite Nietzsche's accusation, there is Nygren's: that Augustine and Aquinas poisoned agape by failing to call for the complete removal of eros. Nietzsche, then, comes off as a prophetic though wrongheaded voice pointing out how badly damaged Christian notions of love had become in theory and practice by his time. Much of twentieth century Catholic though, both in neo-Thomistic forms and in the rival yet complementary Ressourcement was dedicated precisely to trying to put these questions back on the table as urgent issues for emphasis by the Church, and the Encyclical is in a sense a crowning of these efforts. This issue is laid out very well in M.C. Darcy's The Mind and Heart of Love and expanded upon in Hans Urs von Balthasar's Love Alone is Credible, both of which clearly have some influence on this Encyclical. Forthcoming in English, also, is Jean-Luc Marion's The Erotic Phenomenon, which promises much insight on this issue from one of today's top Catholic thinkers.

7/14/2006 11:17 PM