Balthasar and the "Faith" of Christ

In previous articles on this website and blog we have challenged the orthodoxy of the famous theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Balthasar is often promoted as an orthodox answer to the tidal wave of progressive theology inundating the post-Vatican II Church. This is somewhat understandable; Balthasar vehemently resisted certain progressive trends that sought to reduce Christ to into a mere role model and redefine salvation in merely social terms. Balthasar strongly insisted on a transcendent Catholicism with a central focus on the Person of Christ who saves us, not merely from social injustice, but from our sins. Balthasar's voluminous writings on the Church Fathers and various aspects of Christian theology earned him a respected place among the post-Conciliar Church's most notable theologians. His works have been popularized in the English speaking world by Ignatius Press, which is run by Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., a disciple and friend of Von Balthasar.

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Canonization: Old vs. New Comparison

It is often noted by those skeptical of modern canonizations that the procedures by which the Church raises saints to her altars have been "changed" since the Second Vatican Council. What were these changes? Pope Paul VI began the process in 1969. His decree Sacra Ritua Congregatio split the Congregation of Rites into two congregations: the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The latter congregation was sub-divided into three offices, which led in turn to a restructuring of the canonization process. Between 1969 and 1983, the process in a sort of flux. In 1983, St. John Paul II's Divinis Perfectionis Magister further streamlined the procedure, eliminating much of the back-and-forth that characterized the pre-1969 procedure, as well as famously downgrading the office of Promotor Fidei ("Devil's Advocate") to make the office less adversarial.

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Anselm Contra Greeks

The question of the procession of the Holy Spirit remains a bone of contention between the Greek East and the Latin West. The Greeks have historically denied the doctrine known as Filioque (literally, "and from the Son"), the Latin Christian belief that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as stated in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. The Greek Orthodox have rejected and continue to reject this teaching, stating instead that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. The Church has had no lack of talented saints and theologians arguing in favor of the Latin tradition; in this essay, we will examine the arguments of St. Anselm of Canterbury against the Greek position and in favor of the double-procession of the Spirit. St. Anselm (d. 1109) was one of the most important churchmen of his age. He was a rigorous theologian and is considered one of the fathers of the Scholastic movement.

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Introduction to Trinitarian Theology


For years at Unam Sanctam Catholicam we have been offering high quality RCIA lesson plans and Power Points that are orthodox and in continuity with the Church's great Tradition. In honor of Trinity Sunday, in which the supreme mystery of the Christian faith is celebrated in awe-filled reverence, we have taken our lesson plan on the Holy Trinity and turned it into a regular article. We have done this for two reasons: first, many Christians, though able to state correctly that the Trinity is one God existing in three divine Persons, may know little more Trinitarian theology than this basic formula. Second, we want to provide an opportunity for people to see an example of the layout and content of one of our lesson plans.

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Pentecost and the Jews

The Day of Pentecost is celebrated as the birthday of the Church, that day when God, in fulfillment of the promises of Christ, poured out the Holy Spirit upon the believers gathered in the Upper Room. This Holy Spirit endowed the fledgling Church with supernatural zeal, courage and miraculous charisms and sent the Apostles out from the Upper Room to begin the conversion of the world. Pius XII, in his memorable encyclical Mystici Corporis, stated that the Holy Spirit's indwelling in the Church made it the very soul of the Catholic Church. And this began on the Day of Pentecost. Rightly, then, is this feast celebrated with such enthusiasm by the Catholic people. Today, however, rather than focus on the giving of the Holy Spirit, we shall draw out some implications the events of that day on the topic of interreligious dialogue and the necessity of conversion for the Jewish people.

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Assault on Constitutive Tradition

Why does the liturgy always bear the brunt of the attacks launched by those intent on remaking the Catholic Church in the image of modernism? What is it about the sacred liturgy that poses such a threat to progressives, such that it suffers from the constant and unremitting tinkering of liberal 'reformers' intent on obliterating all vestiges of the Church's tradition? Of course, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most perfect act of worship and as such is especially hated by the devil, who rages against the Mass with a special hatred. This is obviously the supernatural motive behind progressive attacks. But there is also a very theological reason, and it is bound up with the Church's understanding of Tradition, Divine Revelation, and her own nature.

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Watchers and Nephilim

In our previous article on the Nephilim, we have examined the various places in the Scripture in which the Nephilim are mentioned and sketched out some very rudimentary ideas about their identity. This was all by way or preparation for this article, which will take a much more in depth look at the Nephilim and the Watchers, the mysterious fathers of the Nephilim. These "Watchers", known as the Grigori in Hebrew, the "sons of God" who went in to the daughters of men in Genesis 6. Who are these Grigori? Are they fallen angels? Or, as some assert, are they merely the human descendants of Seth? The answer is relevant not only to the identity of the Nephilim but to the very interpretive lens with which we view the entire Old Testament.

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C.S. Lewis, the Psalms, and Modernism

What are traditional Catholics to make of C.S. Lewis? Is he to be enlisted in the defense of the faith as an ally, or is he an author that needs to be warned against? Everybody understands that C.S. Lewis was not Catholic, and consequently we do not expect to see Catholic truths taught and defended in his writings [1]. But beyond this omission, where does Lewis fall on the problems of Modernism? Is he a staunch defender of traditional Christianity against the Modernist tide, or is he himself a promoter of Modernist idea? Or perhaps, like much else about Lewis, is the answer somewhere mysteriously in the middle, a dallying with "mere Modernism" without affirming the radical conclusions of the more extreme Modernists? In this article, we will examine one of C.S. Lewis' lesser known works to demonstrate that the great apologist of Christian orthodoxy was himself not free from Modernist contagion.

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Proselytism and Conversion

Surely no one who has been paying attention to the shenanigans of New Church has failed to note the painful double-think that comes into play whenever ecclesiastical officials discuss Catholic missionary efforts. On the one hand, we hear proclamations from the pope right on down to the local bishop about "going out into the streets" and being effective witnesses of the Gospel; we get entreaties by mail and by visiting mission priests to give to Catholic missionary efforts - and yet, we hear prelates saying that we should no longer seek the conversion of Jews, and prayers to that effect are removed from the Mass; the pope calls proselytism "solemn nonsense" and reports of missions abroad seem to suggest that our missionaries are adopting the practices of the pagans rather than converting them - and what's worse, this is all seen as part of some kind of "New Springtime" of evangelization which we are supposed to laud.

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Tongues of Fire

On the day of Pentecost, the Church was filled with the Holy Spirit - which Pius XII referred to as the Church's "soul" - and which is the source of the manifold gifts, graces and charisms that have characterized Catholicism since the beginning. On that auspicious birthday of the Church, the giving of the Spirit was manifest by the miraculous gift of tongues, a gift which continued on in the Early Church as Christianity spread throughout the Empire. In this article we will look at some very basic questions about the gift of tongues. It is not within the scope of this article to resolve disputed questions about the modern phenomenon of 'tongues' in charismatic movement, nor is it meant to delve into the patristic literature on the subject, though we will invoke Augustine and Chrysostom to help clarify a few points. Rather, the purpose of this article is to simply lay out the Scriptural data on tongues and hopefully arrive at a few preliminary conclusions about the nature of the gift and its purpose. Those looking for a polemic here will be disappointed - although we will make a few comparisons to modern charismatic practice when it comes to Paul's guidelines in 1 Corinthians 14.

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Solemn Enthronement of Evolution

While it is an established point of our faith that the Church cannot change teachings that have been definitively proposed to the faithful for belief, the about-face the Catholic Church has done on the question of evolution since the mid-19th century is nothing short of revolutionary - revolutionary in the most literal sense of the word, "to turn around", for the Church has done just that, turned around on its approach to evolution and questions surrounding the origin of human life. In this article, we will trace the origins of the Church's interaction with evolutionary theology and witness how, while the papacy of the 19th century condemned evolution as incompatible with Christian theology, the late 20th century Magisterium has essentially enthroned the theory as a permanent fixture of Catholic thought. The two most influential theologians behind this enthronement were none other than Teilhard de Chardin and Joseph Ratzinger.

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Collegiality: The Church's Pandora's Box

The issue of episcopal collegiality is one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Second Vatican Council. It is hard for many to Catholics understand why this question was the most controversial of all the topics discussed at the Council; it was debated in nine General Congregations and can be viewed as the heart of the conciliar debates. What could be so controversial about collegiality? Isn't collegiality only the rather common-sense teaching that bishops are successors to the apostles? Does it not simply mean that each bishop is the rightful authority in his own diocese, and that taken together, this body of bishops, of whom the pope is Head, constitutes the hierarchy of the Church and governs it according to the will of God? What Catholic could possibly oppose this?

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Our Lady's Knowledge

Following Pope Francis' comments in his homily on December 20, 2013 that the Blessed Virgin Mary may have felt "cheated", deceived, or weakened in faith when confronted with her Son's crucifixion, there has been a lively interest in the topic of our Blessed Lady's knowledge, particularly when referring to her acceptance of the redemptive death of her Son Jesus. Leaving aside the interpretation of the pope's words in particular for those who are more adept at parsing papal statements, we shall confine ourselves to the question of the knowledge of the Blessed Virgin. What exactly did she know about her Son's mission, and when did she know it? This is an interesting question, one in which we can easily fall into extremes. As always, it is best to begin with Tradition.

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The Lie of Integralism

Those orthodox Catholics who continue to insist that the Second Vatican Council ushered in a new springtime of rich fruits for the Church have a difficult time when it comes to dealing with the pre-Vatican II Church of the early twentieth century. On the one hand, these orthodox Catholics who insist on uniformity and continuity cannot simply reject out of hand everything that came before Vatican II as the liberal-dissenting-progressives do; on the other hand, in order to maintain the proposition that Vatican II was necessary and has borne good fruit, they must find some sort of flaw or fault or deficiency with the pre-Conciliar Church that would justify the Council and its subsequent reforms. Thus, in an attempt to establish this via media, these Catholics have invented the dichotomy between a liberal modernism and a reactionary "integralism" on the other, positing that the Church of Christ must steer a "middle course" between these two extremes.

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Introduction to the Nephilim

Genesis 6 begins with a famously mysterious passage stating that the sons of God married the daughters of men and begat Nephilim, who were “the mighty men who were of old, the great men of renown.” (Gen 6:4) Who were these Nephilim? It depends on what one makes of the "sons of God" who begat them. Traditional Catholic exegesis, as well as rabbincal tradition, says that the "sons of God" are a type of angel, the Grigori, who mated with human women; contemporary scholarship is more apt to suggest that the sons of God refer to the descendants of Seth, the third son of Adam. Seth was Adam’s son “in his own likeness, after his image.” (Gen 5:3), and the "sons of God" could be the righteous descendants of Seth who in marrying "the daughters of men" take to wives the wicked seed of Cain.

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What is Archaeologism?

In his 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei, Venerable Pius XII warned against what he termed an "exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism" in the reform of the Sacred Liturgy. This preference for "antiquarianism" has subsequently become known as "archaeologism", and from the 1930s till today has been one of the most prevalent schools of thought in discussions about Catholic identity. What is archaeologism, why is it so prevalent, why did Pope Pius XII warn Catholics against it, and how does it promote a distorted view of the Catholic tradition? God willing, we will endeavor to answer these questions and demonstrate why archaeologism, though ostensibly praising Catholic history and tradition, is actually a very deficient ecclesiological concept.

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Political Authority's Divine Origin

Christian revelation brought nothing new into the world when it suggested that political authority came directly from God. The idea that God's authority stood behind the authority of the ruler was assumed in ancient Judaism, which saw the establishment of regal authority as a manifestation of the wisdom with which God ordered creation ("By me kings reign", Proverbs 8:15); other civilizations of the Levant had similar notions, often sacralizing the authority of the state to such a degree that the boundary between god and ruler was blurred. With the Romans and Greeks, it was not so much the person of the ruler but the laws of the state that were divine, and both civilizations venerated mythical or divine law-givers such as Romulus, Numa and Lycurgus, signifying that the right ordering of the state was a gift from the gods. Thus divine authority gave legitimacy to political authority...

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Inspiration "for the sake of our salvation"

Let's talk about Dei Verbum 11. Few Conciliar documents give me more headaches than this one passage out of the Constitution on Divine Revelation. The passage states that the Bible "teaches, without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation."
 
As we know, this passage is universally misapplied by modern Scripture scholars to mean that only those things pertaining to salvation can be considered to be truly inspired. Nor is this interpretation made by liberal or modernist scholars either; otherwise orthodox Scripture scholars read the document the same way.
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Need for Theological Precision

One of the greatest pitfalls in modern theology that is seldom discussed is the problem of imprecision in theological statements. Too often modern theologians and prelates will speak of things like "faith", "love" and "peace", but they mean them in incredibly generic ways that can be taken to mean any number of things. This makes it very difficult to understand what a theologian or bishop really be saying, let alone make any true progress in theological study. Our theologians and prelates desperately need to return to the discipline of theological precision, as does anyone who writes on issues relating to Catholicism, where words and definitions are so vital.A prime example of this lack of theological precision can be found in the passages on the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the topic of scandal. Let's begin with the CCC's definition of scandal:

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Noli me tangere!

After she had described the cause of her overwhelming grief to the angels at the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene turned around. Though He was standing right in front of her, Mary did not immediately recognize the Risen Lord. Drowned in her sorrow and sense of loss, she mistook Christ for the gardener, requesting that the man reveal the location of her Lord’s body. As she turned away, she was answered, “Mary!” Christ cried. Mary turned around yet again and exclaimed, “Rabboni! Teacher!”; for she had found the Risen Lord. Ah, how deeply Mary desired to fall at the Lord’s feet and embrace them, just as she had when she anointed Him, just as she had when she stood at the foot of His Cross! Mary wanted to touch Christ, but He responded, “Noli me tangere" (Do not touch me), for I have not yet ascended to My Father.”

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Predestination: Problems and Solutions

Predestination is one of the deepest mysteries of the Christian Faith, but being a Dogma all are required to believe in it. [1] That said, the precise details of how one is to understand the Dogma are not defined, mostly because such a definition and understanding is beyond man's finite capacity to formulate and comprehend it in toto. Instead, the Church has given us "parameters" of sorts, which are supporting Dogmas that protect the faithful from embracing a wrong (and even dangerous) view of Predestination.

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Balthasar's denial of the Beatific Vision in Christ

I do believe that Catholics who value our tradition need to start coming together and challenging the prevalence of Balthasarian theology in much of Catholic academia. His presence is truly all-encompassing. Well-respected popular teachers like Fr. Barron state that Balthasar is "probably right" about Hell being empty; disciples of Balthasar are being promoted to the cardinalate (Scola and Oullet); major, otherwise orthodox Catholic publishing companies are promoting von Balthasar; and Cardinal Ratzinger himself, at Balthasar's funeral, said that"he is right in what he teaches of the faith." Truly, there is no escaping the influence of von Balthasar. Despite his eminence, many have raised concerns about his teaching.

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Are canonizations infallible?

Are canonizations of saints an exercise of infallibility? That is to say, when the Church solemnly proclaims that a man or woman is among the blessed and is worthy of veneration, does this statement command the obedience and certitude of faith, or is their room for doubt? Could the Church be in error regarding some of her saints? Is it possible that those we venerate and invoke at our Masses could in fact still be in Purgatory or even be damned?  This concept must cause revulsion in the heart of any loyal Catholic; for those of us raised on the stories of the great deeds of the saints, the very notion that St. Francis, St. Theresé or St. Augustine could be anywhere but heaven is blasphemous and offensive to pious ears. But even if our heart revolts against the idea, what can we say theologically about this question? In this article I will attempt to show that canonizations are infallible pronouncements of the Church...
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"Saved through childbearing"

Question from a reader:

I have a scriptural difficulty that I hope you'll address: what exactly does St. Paul mean when he says: "But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety" (1 Tim. 2:15, NIV). How does the Church understand this verse?

Great question. I confess that one of the reasons it took me so long to post on this was that, though I started reading on it right away, so much has been written on this obtuse passage that it is difficult to give a clear interpretation. Nevertheless, I think we can dig into it a bit and get some answers...
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Head coverings "because of the angels"

For me, one of the most cryptic and difficult passages of the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 11:7-10. Here, St. Paul discusses the issue of women's head coverings when praying. He says:
 
"For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels" (1 Cor. 11:7-10, RSV).

What is the meaning of this phrase "because of the angels"? What angels, and why do they care whether or not a woman has her head covered?
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