Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Definition of a Neo-Catholic and Some Philosophical Foundations

Let us proceed more directly to the heart of this issue in order to critique the fundamental flaws of their reasoning and of their general assumptions. Contrary to what they proclaim, the philosophical or political understanding that they possess, whether they are fully conscious of it or not. does not derive from Catholicism. Neither does it proceed from a source compatible with Catholicism that may be utilised to the glory of God in a new age. Certainly, our age is confronted with its own dilemmas as well as great triumphs, particularly in the realm of the natural sciences and technology which require a sound and faithful response to the challenges that arise. According to Maurice de Wulf of Louvain, Scholasticism encountered difficulties and exposed itself to ridicule when it encountered material advances that its thinkers refused to confront. It was due not to the system itself that Scholasticism declined but it was as a consequence of the mediocrity of those who claimed to be faithful to it. The world had opened up the human mind to new experiences and developments, while these men of ill talent closed their eyes and repeated the same syllogisms and expanded ad nauseam their sub distinctions of negligible value.  In a future article I will attempt to set out what can offer a faithful and coherent response to the fundamental questions of this age, but here I wish to expose the inadequateness of the thought of the Neo-Catholics. They seek to do something new while claiming to be faithful to dogma and good morals.

 The Neo-Catholic may claim to present Christianity is its positivity and joy but on closer inspection one notices a shell of an edifice. I am not opposed to another system of philosophy simply for  it being another system of thought. What troubles me is that it renders Catholicism almost obsolete and is constructed on shaky foundations. The genius of St. Thomas was to take the 'common sense' and moderate realism philosophy of Aristotle and show how it was compatible with our Faith in its fundamental principles. By unifying it with Catholicism, the coherence and the truth within the Stagirite's philosophy could reach new heights, while its errors were being corrected in the light of Revelation. Aristotle did not set out to contradict the principles and assumptions of Catholicism which he could not have known, therefore his understanding of man and the universe may be considered on its own merits. The philosophical underpinnings of the Neo-Catholic, consciously or not, derives from the tenants and beliefs of the Enlightenment. There are certain advances that the Christian may embrace as all that is good and beautiful belongs rightly to God and His worship but caution must be our approach. Out of Egypt, the Israelites brought the gold and silver that had formally been in the service of idols so that they may be converted to the adoration of the one true God. This must be our project, however the principles of the Enlightenment are not to be shared by the faithful Catholic.

 I can understand the concern to be considered moderate and up-to-date, however this desire is most applicable to matters of fashion and not to universal principles. Errors in political philosophy may not mean much if they remain restricted to articles in theoretical academic journals but too often in the Neo-Catholic they encroach on matters theological. I have already mentioned in the first part to this article the importance of the American background of a number of these prominent writers and speakers which must not be ignored. The creation of the United States of America was entirely unique. The rebellion was not simply against a king. That nation was built upon a series of ideas. In the Iberian peninsula, the Catalans may have rebelled against the Castilians but they continued to hold the same religious beliefs and the same understanding of society. They were forced back by Madrid and life went on. On the contrary, the principles that underlay the American Revolution and the framing of the Constitution derive from the Enlightenment, a period entirely hostile to Catholicism and its sure understanding of the world and man's place in it. All was turned upside down. A new world was forged. I am in particular referring to a certain understanding of natural rights, freedom of religion (essentially religious indifferentism), freedom of speech (no matter the content), representative democracy and that the government must reflect the will of the people who in turn grant it legitimacy. The US Constitution is fundamentally agnostic on matters of religion. The Declaration of Independence certainly refers to the 'Creator' but there is no certainty that this goes beyond a Deistic or Masonic understanding of God, rendering Him utterly irrelevant. The first amendment of the Constitution can only be accepted by Catholics as a practicality in a multi-confessional state where Catholics are in the minority. Unfortunately, our Neo-Catholic friends has exalted the value of freedom to idolatrous heights. We on the other hand, praise goodness and truth. The Constitution in its Bill of Rights sets out a particular understanding of the human person and claims that we each possess inalienable rights as human beings and here the Neo-Catholic stumbles into grave error. Human beings created in the image and likeness of God certainly possess a great value, greater than we could know, but we must not stray outside the boundaries. Human beings can only have rights in relation to God. We have not been created and abandoned, set apart to find our own way in this vast universe where self-realisation is fundamental to fulfilling our potential. No Catholic may accept such an erroneous understanding of his vocation and duties toward God. The entire universe was created for Him, because of Him and He is its end. Let this be the root of our understanding of the rights of man and his liberty.

 These false ideas have filtered through to the average man and he accepts them implicitly, believing them to be entirely common sense, without ever having heard of Thomas Paine or his ilk. This is what is most insidious about their reasoning. It is due to this that Catholics and a few other brave Christians have struggled to combat the HHS mandate regarding contraception and abortifacient drugs as part of Obamcare. They have sought to seek exemptions and declarations of unconstitutionality whereas this is entirely the wrong track to take. The Catholic opposes such things as they are evil, intrinsically, not due to them violating constitutional rights. All that they have done is to trade right off against right and have suffered for it. Maybe the Supreme Court which has elected to hear a particular case may grant them their wish but let us not be satisfied with wavers but with goodness. Their claimed right of religious freedom has clashed with another supposed right of reproductive freedom. Furthermore in a society that tends now to condemn religion for forcing itself on another's morality there is only going to be one winner. Let us not seek victory and a safe place from oppression but the total transformation of society under the Kingship of Christ. The US is not entirely a democracy but a constitutional republic but it is clear that laws and fundamental norms can be, and have been, transformed in the light of public opinion. All authority comes from God and the government must seek to uphold the natural law and divine law in society for the true harmony of the nation. The USA has a fundamental flaw as it has not solved sufficiently the question of religion other than that man should be left alone.On the basis of voting, God may be adored or He may be mocked. He has no rights unless we grant them to Him. The Neo-Catholic is utterly unaware of the condemnations of these principles in the wise encyclicals of the pontiffs of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Apparently their veneration of popes is restricted to a recent handful.

 On such an understanding of rights, naked of orientation, subject to the dictates of whims disguised as reason, the Neo-Catholic is unable to challenge evil in his society. If he has a right to worship God, another has a right to mock Him. Practicality as a minority religion may have to tolerate this but they consider these rights of religious liberty to be God-given. He assumes that this understanding of rights is one that is completely compatible to Catholicism but it appears that he has exalted the American experiment in nation building and placed God second to man.

 Let us now consider how the Neo-Catholic approaches matters of the Faith in the third and final part of this article.

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