Vatican Clarification on Filioque

The PCPCU published in 1995 a text on the Filioque entitled “The Filioque: A Clarification”. It has good points. Yet, it is not without reason for criticism. Zizioulas among the Orthodox has criticized it. D. Coffey among the Catholics has criticized it (and quite well and incisively I might add).

I’d like to add a few minor observations.

First, the document speaks of the conflict between the ‘East’ and the ‘West’. This is the usual way in which the conflict is put. And it is understandable. However, it is not accurate.

The conflict is between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches. The Catholic Church is both Eastern and Western in terms of her theology and rites. (Both churches are Eastern and Western geographically.) Thus, we have an important ecclesiological correction to make to this picture. For there is but one true Church of Christ, and that is the Catholic Church. I consider that it is high time for ecumenical niceties to be sobered by realism. We cannot continue not to express the “fullness of the faith”. Part of that fullness is that there is also an exclusiveness. One true religion, etc.

Second, the document claims, “The Holy Spirit, therefore, takes his origin from the Father alone (ek monou tou Patros) in a principal, proper, and immediate manner” [Footnote Thomas Aquinas: ST Ia, q. 36, art. 3, ad 1.] This claim is problematic for two reasons.

We grant that the Holy Spirit proceeds principally from the Father, in the technical sense. That means, the Father is his principal without principal. It is not that the Spirit proceeds “less” from the Son. But that the Son, his principal, is himself from a principal. In short, the teaching here shores up the monarchy of the Father.

But it is odd to say that the HS proceeds from the Father alone in a “proper” manner. Is this opposed to an “improper” manner? Does it mean the term “proceeds” should not be linked to the Son? Does it mean that “proceeds” means only coming from an ultimate principal? Why then should the document include the expression “proceeds (ekporeuetai) from the Father through the Son?” Wouldn’t that be oxymoronic? Or is “proper” simply a redundant synonym for “principal”? These are questions.

Most important, however, is the misreading given to Thomas. The text aims to imply that the Spirit does not proceed “immediately” from the Son. (Or else this “alone” is part of a complex and thus misleading statement. Read as complex, it would mean: “Simply b/c the HS is from the Father alone in a principal way, therefore we can truly say HS is from the Father alone in a principal and immediate manner, although he is not from the Father alone in an immediate manner. Misleading to say the least!)

Thomas’s text is in response to obj. 1. Objection 1 contends: If the HS is “from the Father through the Son” then he is not immediately from the Father, which is false. So, the response is aimed precisely at that statement. Now, even the good Fathers of the English Dominican Providence have a translation that may be seen to ‘tilt’ in the direction the Clarification takes. However, Thomas only states the following in his response: (1) HS is from the Father immediately as from him; and (2) He is from the Father (this is understood in the Latin more clearly) mediately as from the Father through the Son. Thus, Thomas is not denying that the HS is from the S immediately. In fact, his entire theology contends he is from the S immediately.


Atheism and divine transcendence

I have a whimsical little essay on this topic at Crisis Magazine. At the center is what I take to be a Thomistic understanding of creation. It's pitched to a broad audience. But it might be something to refine and develop further in the future. Or it might not. Your comments would be much appreciated either here or at Crisis

Thomism, Synods, Heresy and the PRDL

Too much blog reading has caused many acquaintances to fall into hysterical fits concerning Church teaching and contemporary prelates.  Things were far worse in the fourth century and in the time of Honorius I.  It seems to me that people should spend less time on the Web and more time reading works written before 1700.  If you must use the Web, the best short discussions of Church and papal authority I know of are available through downloads that are linked from the Post-Reformation Digital Library.  See Dominic Banez, In II-II, q. 1, art. 10, dub. 2 (in Venice 1587, 183-212); Salmanticenses, Cursus Theologicus, tract. 17, disp. 4, dub. 1 (in Paris, 1879, vol. 11, 247-261).  Incidentally, Banez, pp. 194-196, explains clearly the errors of today's sedevacantists.  Banez is here: and the Salmanticenses here: .  If you must use the Web, use the PRDL!

On First Principles: That There be Some Informative Ones

Are there any substantive first (i.e. self-evident) principles? Substantive meaning informative: neither tautology nor mere principles of formal logic.

Some argue that there are none, that there can be none: Any given principle is either substantive or self-evident (exclusive disjunct).

The reason given is that in order to be grasped as self-evident, the principle must be so close to the Principle of Contradiction that it is practically a repetition of this principle. All such propositions are easily grasped as being necessarily true, and just as equally uninformative.

Conversely, all statements that are truly informative require, to be understood and affirmed as true, some theoretical framework which renders the principles grasped only within the framework to be hypothetical. Every such proposition is open to possible falsification (or further ratification) as the inquiry continues. Hence, no such proposition could be affirmed to be necessarily true.

I maintain that the above disjunct is not absolute. I suggest the following two arguments demonstrate that it is not absolute. The first is that the affirmation that this disjunct is absolute requires in practice the denial of the truth of the disjunct. The second is that some there are in fact some substantive self-evident principles.

First: If it were true that there are no substantive self-evident principles, one could not affirm with certainty that there is none. This is shown impossible on the very terms of the disjunct.

This proposition itself – Any given principle is either substantive or self-evident – is informative. It is not a practical repetition of the Principle of Contradiction. Therefore, if it were true, no one could affirm it to be true necessarily. Instead, one would have to wait for its further verification, or falsification, in which case one could not lay it down apodictically. Or, conversely, if one grasped that it—an instance of an informative proposition—is necessarily true, one would demonstrate that it—there are no substantive self-evident principles—is false.

Second: There exist seemingly mundane, but to me marvelous, truths of the perennial philosophy which are both informative and necessarily true. For example: Every animal moves itself. Informative because motion and animal are not the same concept, for the living mind (not the computer) thinks the one thing in aspects (and does not merely bundle properties). For example: Every man is risible. Informative because laughing and man are not the same concept. However, in the concept man we have the distinct ideas of rational and animal. Who is rational but of limited intelligence can grasp what is in place and can be befuddled at what is out of place. Who is animal has lungs and a voice box. Thus, who is both rational and animal has wherewithal bodily to express befuddlement: Can laugh. These truths do not yield supercomputers. But they are instances of real insight into a real world. And the discovery of these truths is just that, progress and discovery. It is progress to grasp what “animal” is and what “rational” is. Insights into reality. It is progress to put these insights together rationally. It is progress to come to a conclusion. Therefore, although these statements are analytic, so to speak, yet they exhibit real progress in our knowledge of the real.

Last piece of evidence in this brief: Consider the progression from Q. 2 of the Prima pars through Q. 11 of the same. Deductions that are informative, resting on inductions that are non-hypothetically penetrating.

Kasper and his critics

Back in April I wrote a post on the theological debate over reception of Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics (that is, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics without annulments, who are not abstaining from sexual relations with each other). I presented some comments on this topic by John Rist. This will also be a topic of an upcoming synod in Rome.

Cardinal Walter Kasper is at the center of the debate. He has proposed giving Communion to some Catholics who find themselves in the situation described above (but who have taken certain steps and meet certain criteria). On Thursday he gave an interview with the Italian daily Il Mattino. In the interview he responds to his critics. I have some comments on the interview here.