Monday, January 21, 2019

Fr. Rutler's Weekly Column - 20 January 2019

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Fr. Rutler's Weekly Column
January 20, 2019

   The nineteenth-century churchman John Henry Newman has shaped many of my views and how to apply them. With the credit of a second miracle to his intercession, it is likely that he will be canonized in short order.
   Our culture as a whole is conflicted about the course of events and moral failing in dealing with them, and this is glaringly so in the Church, which is made by God to be a beacon and ballast for all people. Newman reminds us in one of his letters (Vol. XXV, p. 204) not to be surprised by this, as it fits the predictable strategy of the Anti-Christ: “Where you have power, you will have the abuse of power—and the more absolute, the stronger, the more sacred the power, the greater and more certain will be its abuse.”

Where you had Pius X, you will have Francis I...

   For Catholics, present problems are weightier than at any time since the sixteenth century, with its political and theological upheavals. Even the assurance of a stable and centrifugal reference in Rome itself is being tested. It is helpful to recall what Newman said in another of his letters (Vol. XXVII, p. 256): “In the times of Arianism the great men of the Church thought things too bad to last. So did Pope Gregory at the end of the 7th century, St. Romuald in the 11th, afterwards St. Vincent Ferrer, and I think Savonarola—and so on to our time.”

Gee, if only we had a pope who also thought things were bad...

   It would be falsely pious to sweep the scandals of our day under the rug. And it is stunningly evident that, in cases of moral abuse, bureaucratic attempts to buy silence have been a very bad investment.

Is this where Rutler names names? No... I didn't think so....

   In the Historical Sketches, Newman refers to “the endemic perennial fidget which possesses us about giving scandal; facts are omitted in great histories, or glosses are put upon memorable acts, because they are thought not edifying, whereas of all scandals such omissions, such glosses, are the greatest." 

Cf. my above gloss...

   Present experience attests to what Newman wrote in his book Via Media: “The whole course of Christianity from the first . . . is but one series of troubles and disorders. Every century is like every other, and to those who live in it seems worse than all times before it. The Church is ever ailing . . . Religion seems ever expiring, schisms dominant, the light of truth dim, its adherents scattered. The cause of Christ is ever in its last agony." 
   Scandal is “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil” and it “takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2284-2285). Our Lord, who faulted the scribes and Pharisees for giving scandal, is the author and head of the Church, and the good news is that, despite the vicissitudes and dissembling of the Church’s mortal members, His Good News is not “fake news.”

Never mind that the same Catechism is on record asserting that Christ Himself 

"scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves. Against those among them 'who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others', Jesus affirmed: 'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.' He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves. Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God's own attitude toward them" (cf. CCC 588-589).

Stay tuned for more animadversions...


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Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Eastern Orthodox Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Part 2a

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''Mark Eugenicus (1392–1447), disciple of Palamas and pillar of orthodoxy at [the Council of Ferrara-Florence] ... offers a synthesis of the entire [immaculatist] development, not only in favor of doctrinal certitude of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception in eastern tradition, but [also] of its profound links with key doctrinal questions concerning the Trinity: the filioque and the mission of the Spirit. This development might well be considered a proximate preparation for the subsequent decisions of the Franciscan theologian, Francesco della Rovere[,] who, as Pope Sixtus IV, inserted the feast into the universal calendar of the Roman Church [cf. the 1476 apostolic constitution Cum Praeexcelsa]. ...   
"[T]he [immaculatist] synthesis of Mark Eugenicus is not the result of a study of Scotus, but of long meditation on the explicit Greek tradition concerning the Immaculate Conception, just as the work of Scotus, though paralleling the Greek tradition is not, immediately at least, dependent upon it. Nonetheless, the Greek patristic tradition and the 'metaphysical' Mariology of Scotus stand in substantial agreement. Once recognized, it also inspires both study of that Oriental tradition and its more explicit incorporation into Latin Mariology, as in fact occurred during the fifteenth century before and after the Council of Florence. As Fr. Kappes notes, that advancement is reflected in the solemn definition of the dogma by Bl. Pius IX in 1854, and subsequently in the work of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe."*

-- Fr. Peter M. Fehlner, FI, "Preface" to Fr. Christiaan Kappes, The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, & Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2014)

* This post is meant to be read after this and before this.

The Eastern Orthodox Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Part 2

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"[The first part of this study] deals with the first known use of this title [viz., Mary as "prepurified"] during the patristic era, that of St. Gregory Nazianzen (c. 329 – c. 390), the Theologian. The teaching of St. Gregory on this title, clearly an immaculist one, was kept alive by many representatives of Byzantine theology during the medieval period. On this tradition depends the considerably more detailed exposition of the title in an immaculist sense by St. John Damascene (c. 675 – 749). His teaching on this title has notable links with St. Maximus Confessor and the Third Council of Constantinople (680) where the title appears to be a part of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church.* 

I am extremely eager to explore this last claim, and I think Fr. Kappes elaborates on it in this 2016 lecture, which I shall address in a separate post.

As a disciple of Scotus, the Martyr of Charity [viz., St. Maximilian M. Kolbe] stresses not only the "negative" definition of the Immaculate Conception: preserved from all stain of original sin from the first moment of conception, but more so the "positive" in pointing out how the name of Immaculate Conception is name of both the Mother of God and of the Holy Spirit, respectively the created and uncreated Immaculate Conception. This perfect union of wills: divine and human, in the Mother of God and of the Church through the operation of the Holy Spirit, makes possible that mysterious, maternal mediation by which the disjunctive transcendentals: infinite and finite, uncreated and created, are united in the Person of the Incarnate Word. This union, through the maternal mediation of the Immaculate, makes possible a sharing in the divine life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for those incorporated into the mystical Body of Christ by Baptism.* 

This latter synthesis is not only breathtaking in its own right, but resonates strongly with prior research I was conducting based on Fr. Donald J. Keefe's magnum opus, Covenantal Theology [also here, here, etc.]. As part of a large, ongoing "ressourcement" of books and research interests I engaged as far back as my college days, I look forward to seeing how much overlap there is indeed between "maternal mediation" of the "disjunctive tranascendentals" in Fr. Kappes's work and the theme of "One Flesh " (mia sarx) in Fr. Keefe's.

* from Fr. Peter Fehlner's preface to Fr. Kappes's The Immaculate Conception, pp. xviii-xx.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Eastern Orthodox Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Part 1

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"The All[-]Holiness of Mary, or Immaculate Conception, as it was sometimes called even in the East and now commonly called in the Latin West, was primarily linked in the East, not to the redemption, but to what we know as the absolute primacy of Christ for the sake of whom the entire creation and then the work of redemption were undertaken. The notion of perfect redemption by a perfect redeemer, as St. Maximilian Kolbe notes, depends on that of the absolute primacy of Christ; and the Immaculate Conception is the Marian mode of that primacy, for us the sign of its actuality. ... 

"Fr. Kappes's study ... is rather a detailed analysis of one particular title of Mary: Prepurified, common in the East from the earliest times, a synonym for Immaculate Conception. ... In the West, however, it initially [ab origine lol] appeared to mean just the opposite, viz., one gradually purified from sin after conception, not preserved. So it was understood by St. Thomas and Scotus in their reading of the Damascene and thereafter among Latins until the time of Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) and Mark Eugenicus (1392-1447) when the disciples of Scotus first began to realize, not only that the real meaning of the title, far from supporting maculism ([the] position of St. Thomas), but that it supported just the opposite: immaculatism ([the] position of Scotus) and had a strong biblical basis in the account of the purification-presentation of Mary and Jesus in the Temple (cf. Lk 2: 22-40). Once the interpretation of the Damascene was corrected and the antiquity of the title in Scripture and tradition was recognized, the basis for this doctrine in the deposit of faith became clearly evident to those supporting the views of Duns Scotus. ... [T]he mystery of Mary's person is our key — to both the study of theology and of the economy of salvation — one pointing to crucial features of a Christian metaphysics as Marian."
-- Fr. Peter M. Fehlner, FI, "Preface"to Fr. Christiaan W. Kappes, The Immaculate Conception: The Immaculate Conception: Why Thomas Aquinas Denied, While John Duns Scotus, Gregory Palamas, & Mark Eugenicus Professed the Absolute Immaculate Existence of Mary (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2014), pp. xvi-xvii.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Fr. Rutler's Weekly Column - January 13, 2019

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   The foundational documents of our nation were influenced by Catholic political philosophers such as Aquinas, Suárez, Báñez, Gregory of Valencia and Saint Robert Bellarmine, who wrote before theorists like Hobbes and Rousseau. This contradicts a popular impression that democracy was the invention of the Protestant Reformation.
If only!
Luther and Calvin considered popular assemblies highly suspect. The concept of the Divine Right of Kings, which was a prelude to what we call “statism” and “big government,” was systematized by the Protestant counselor to King James I of England, Robert Filmer. 
   For all his vague Deism, Thomas Jefferson might have acknowledged those Catholic sources, if obliquely, in his eloquent phrases. The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion and Article VI’s prohibition of religious tests for public office were developments rooted in the Thomistic outlines of human rights and dignity declared in the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Arbraoth
This latter claim is worth exploring, not the least because the foregoing has chafed against my monarchial proclivities in the worst ways. For the time being, the acute irony is that a reading of the Declaration of Arbraoth that supports popular sovereignty over absolute monarchy is based on a proto-nationalist theory of Scottish independence. So, insofar as I view nationalism as a bridge to monarchy by other means, I will call the significance of Arbraoth an ideological draw.
   This was lost on some senators who have violated Constitutional guarantees by subjecting judicial nominees to religious tests. One senator complained to a Catholic nominee for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Two other senators said that the President’s nominee for a federal district court in Nebraska was unsuitable because his membership in the Knights of Columbus committed him to “a number of extreme positions.” Members of their political party consider opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion “extreme.” This would characterize the Pope as an extremist, but at least he is not a judicial nominee. 
   In the Statuary Hall of our nation’s Capitol are sculptures portraying heroes who represent the best of the history and culture of each state. They include Saint Junípero Serra of California, Saint Damien de Veuster of Hawaii, Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll of Maryland, Father Eusebio Kino of Arizona, General James Shields of Illinois, Chief Justice Edward Douglass White of Louisiana, Father Jacques Marquette of Wisconsin, Patrick McCarran of Nevada, Dennis Chavez of New Mexico, John Burke of North Dakota, John McLoughlin of Oregon, Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart Pariseau of Washington, and John Edward Kenna of West Virginia, all of whom were Catholic. These canonized saints, statesmen, soldiers, jurists and pioneers would be extremists unworthy of public office in the estimation of some current senators for whom subscription to natural law and obedience to the Ten Commandments are violations of what they fantasize as the norm of moral being
Gee, if only America had been established as a Catholic state to the honor of Christ the King, or as a Protestant theocracy which Catholics of the time would have known how to evangelize by preaching and martyrdom. Oh well, Lockean indifferentism wins again. But at least Fr. Rutler can protest that ideological hegemony.
   The coruscating illiteracy of such senators burlesques reason. At every performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, audiences wait for the fifth scene of the second act, when the haunting statue of the Commendatore comes alive and knocks on the door to the sound of trombones. Would that all those statues of some of our nation’s greatest figures might come down from their pedestals and challenge the vacant minds of those inquisitorial senators to explain what constitutes extremism.
This is the essence of the problem: a nation must choose between an inquisition guided by the Catholic Church, or one opposed to it.


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Fr. Rutler's Weekly Column - January 6, 2018

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   Researching the Birth Narrative of our Lord on the computer can be a source of unintentionally mordant humor. On one of the prominent encyclopedia sites, we are told in the entry for King Herod that “most scholars agree” that he was entirely capable of massacring the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem. But the same source, under the entry for Holy Innocents, says “most scholars agree” that the account was a myth, since no one would do such a thing.
   The emperor Augustus, who was content to have Herod as a client ruler, punned in Greek that he would rather be Herod’s pig (“hys”) than be his son (“huios”). Herod had murdered three of his sons along with one of his wives and a brother-in-law, not to mention three hundred military officers who were abrasive to his paranoia, even though he had 2,000 bodyguards from as far away as what now are France and Germany. Augustus was appalled by the crassness of Herod, rather as the Nazis, for all their malevolence, were taken aback by the sadism of the Soviets in the Katyn Forest and the insouciant viciousness of the Vichy leaders. 
   To this day, remnant stones and bulwarks testify to the large-scale engineering wonders with which Herod impressed and intimidated the populace: the extension of the Second Temple, the Herodium and Masada fortresses, the port town of Caesarea Maritima, which was enabled by his development of hydraulic cement, and his shipbuilding industry made possible by the asphalt he dredged from the Dead Sea. 
   The Wise Men from the East, whatever else they were (and we do not know precisely from where they came or how many they were) were good psychologists. They quickly seized upon the paranoia of Herod and outwitted him, provoking the massacre of male infants two years old and under. The historians Josephus and Nicholas of Damascus do not record that slaughter because the victims were babies, and for Roman chroniclers, babies were not as important as adults. Contrary to the inspired Jewish religion, the dominant protocols of the Western world permitted the killing of infants by the paterfamilias for any reason, including inconvenience, deformity and birth control. In Sparta, only a child strong enough for development into soldiery had a right to life. 
   By an indult of Providence, and in contradiction to many “virtue-signaling” cynics, our current Executive branch of government has become the most pro-life since Roe v. Wade, but that is a fragile assurance and one with no promise of permanence. There are vastly more infanticides now than in Herodian Bethlehem. If our civilization lasts two thousand years more, there may be a “majority of scholars” who will say that in 2019 there were people capable of such iniquity, and another “majority of scholars” who will insist that people back in 2019 could never have been so cruel.


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A return to orders...

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Of late, I am rereading formative books I read long ago, or finally chipping away at that endless list of "books I've been meaning to read for a while now,"[1] and I'm currently enjoying Vinoth Ramachandra's staggeringly good, yet seemingly underrated, Gods That Fail: Modern Idolatry & Christian Mission (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996). The book was life-changing for me, not only because it cemented my conception of Christianity as a global missionary religion (particularly by opening my eyes to Christianity in Southeast Asia, which was a factor in my decision to live and serve in Taiwan for what ended up being nine years, and where I met my wife!), but also because it introduced me to the work of Fr. Stanley Jaki, which was a crucial factor in my conversion to Catholicism. 


Ramachandra's second book, Faiths in Conflict? Christian Integrity in a Multicultural World (IVP, 1999), was just as enriching, though mainly by deepening my understanding of and appreciation for Southeast Asia. I have not had a chance to read his most recent book, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping Our World (London: SPCK, 2008), but I intend to do so once I finish rereading the first two books. 

As an author, Ramachandra is as challenging as he is edifying because of the intellectual balancing act he performs, and which he makes the reader perform with him. On the one hand, he gleefully and deftly skewers anti-European, anti-Christian propaganda that portrays Christianity as a means of oppression by the West, or that non-Christian cultures were and are better off before and without Christian influence. On the other hand, he is anything but a stooge for Western neo-liberal progressivism, and denounces globalist malfeasance just as deftly. He casually uses buzzwords that reflexively give American conservatives, like myself, the jitters, but does so amidst a larger argumentation that ultimately undermines the ideology behind those buzzwords, and behind much of what passes for American conservatism these days, in order to hobble them in subjection to the demands of the Gospel.  

The following passages, beginning on page 116 of Gods That Fail, arrested me not only because it nicely captures Ramachandra's ability to hobble non-Christian idols on both sides of the aisle, as it were, but also because it ties in well with discussions I've had over the past couple years about "Making America Great Again" versus "Making Americans Godly Again."

Let us join Ramachandra on the tightrope: 

Development is one of those words which, far from being innocuous, has served to reinforce the hold of modern idols over vast populations in the Third World (or, the South, to use a geographically appropriate term). It has become a source of propaganda for a particular way of life. In other words, it is an ideology. ... From 'westernization' to 'modernization' to 'development': images that turned the West, whether in its capitalist or socialist expressions, into the definer of the 'good life' for men and women across the globe.  
Not surprisingly, 'development' became a neo-colonial [gasp! a librul buzzword!] project through which an aggressive, expanding Corporation Culture sought to establish a bridgehead among political and commercial elites of the Third World. The attraction of 'development' is that it has brought substantial improvements [gasp! a neo-conservative talking point!] in health care, education and general well-being to scores of people inmany [sic] countries. But it has , more often than not, given legitimacy to the acquisition and control of other people's resources, inevitably increasing poverty and distress under the guise of eliminating them. 

"It never ceases to amaze me," continues Ramachandra on page 117,

how many Christians, in the North and the South, continue to refer to the former as the 'developed' and the latter as the 'developing' world. ... All our normative images and yardsticks of 'devcelopment' are ideologically 'loaded'. Who dictates that mushrooming TV ariels and skyscrapers are signs of 'development'? Who, apart from the automobile industry and the advertising agencies, seriously believes that a country with six-lane highways and multi-story car-parks is more 'developed' than one whose chief mode of transport is railways? Does the fact that there are more telephone lines in Manhatten [sic], New York than in the whole of sub-saharan Africa, mean that human communication is more developed in the former than in the latter?

Keep in mind that I read these words shortly before I (grudgingly) bought my first cellphone, and Ramachandra wrote them years before the explosion of social media that now dominate our lives. And yet, his critique is just as salient, if not more so, for predating our "new and improved" means of "keeping in touch." But Ramachandra's bipartisan critique is not over yet. 

The commonest measure of 'development' (on the basis of which entire societies are classified hierarchically) is the Gross National Product per capita. That improving levels of income are an important aspect of human well-being..., I do not deny. But GNP per capita tells us nothing about the distribution of income in a given society. It is a well-observed fact that, even as the GDP per capita increases by leaps and bounds, the purchasing power of whole segments of the population may decline and levels of of absolute poverty in the country actually increase. As we saw in Chapter 2, no Christian assessment of human well-being can ignore the issue of distributive justice, the access of the poor to the wealth that is generated. [p. 118]

Ramachandra is referring to arguments he mounted beginning on page 44. "The privileged, who may also happen to be 'religious," notes Ramachandra, 

often feel that their social and economic privileges are somehow a solemn, basic, God-given right. In many legal systems down to the present day, the sanctity of private property has been upheld ... with greater religious indignation than the sanctity of human life. As the economist John Kenneth Gilbraith comments, tongue-in-cheek, 'The sensitivity of the poor to injustice is a trivial thing compared with that of the rich'.[2] But, someone may object, what about the apostle Paul's injunction to Christians to be content with their material state (1 Tim 6:6ff)? 

Firstly, answers Ramachandra, "Paul is not addressing those whom modern economists would describe as the 'absolute poor': namely those people ... whose basic needs of nutrition, clothing, health care and housing have not yet been met." On the contrary:

He assumes (in v.8) that these primary human requirements have been satisfied.... Where these needs have not been satisfied, it is usually because of a failure to share material resources, which in turn is a result of the arrogance of the rich and their refusal to fulfil their obligations to the poor (see v.17,18). Secondly, Paul's warnings are not directed at the legitimate aspirations on the part of the poor to be freed from exploitation and material want. Rather they are directed at human greed, the 'love of money' (v.10), the spirit of acquisitiveness which is rampant among 'the rich in this present world' and which leads to idolatry and a false sense of security (v.17; cf Col. 3:5). ... [In a word,] Paul's warnings are based on the assumption that a world of gross material inequality is a world that is dominated by false gods, by empty sources of security (v. 7,17). 

Ramachandra continues by reminding us that "the great thinkers and preachers of the Christian church have affirmed the economic rights of the poor" (p. 45). "Not only did they remind the relatively well-to-do of their charitable duty to the poor," argues Ramachandra, "but they also insisted on the right of access on the part of the poor to adequate means of sustenance." As St. Ambrose teaches, "Not from your own do you bestow upon the poor man, but you make return from what is his."[3] Even more boldly, notes Ramachandra, did St. John Chrysostom preach: 

That is also theft, not to share one's possessions. ... [T]he rich man is a kind of steward of the money which is owed for distribution to the poor. ... So if he spends more on himself than his needs require, he will pay the harshest penalty hereafter. ... [N]ot to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life.[4] 

Presumably heading off a "conservative" objection to his "liberal" arguments, Ramachandra notes that the suggestion "that the concept of rights is a product of the humanism of the Enlightenment, is historically misleading."

Although the word 'rights' may not have appeared with much frequency in the great patristic and medieval church leaders, the thought that the poor in society have legitimate claims on the rich..., and that to withold what was in one's power to grant in situations of material deprivation was to do moral injury to the poor, permeates their writings. [As such, it] is morally permissible for an extremely impoverished person to take what he or she needs for sustenance from a person who has plenty.

More concretely, Ramachandra explains, "If I have food in my house which you need for your survival, but which is not indispensable for mine, then it rightfully belongs to you." As a result, "If I offered it to you, it would not be an act of charity on my part as much as granting you your rights under God." Ramachandra then invokes the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica: 

In cases of need all things are common property, so that there would seem to be no sin in taking another's property, for need has made it common.... Hence whatever certain people have in superabundance is due by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor.[5]

An obvious retort -- and certainly my own reflex -- is to say that, in our modern world, and in our daily lives, it is so rare to encounter so radical a case of need that theft against us would be mere justice. However, the retort seems to prove too much, since, if there are no realistic conditions under which we could see ourselves being obliged to follow the injunctions levied above, then we are effectively removing the moral burdens of the traditional teaching about distributive justice. In other words, if we no longer have to worry about the demands of distributive justice "in our day," then it follows that distributive justice is not a universally (i.e., transhistorically and transculturally) binding moral principle. As such, it was never, in principle, a binding principle, and therefore we are refuting the teaching of Sts. Paul, Ambrose, John Chrystostom, Thomas, et al. Rather than parrying the implications of the Christian teaching about distributive justice with sophistical qualifications, it behooves us to discover fresh applications of the Christian teaching, beginning in our own lives and communities.

Meanwhile, how did such materialistic sophistry come to hold sway in the modern Western Christian mind? Part of the problem, according to Ramachandra, is that "the market mechanism for allocating resources was raised to a semi-divine status by Adam Smith's (1723-1790) occult notion of an 'invisible hand' steering human self-interest to socially beneficent ends" (p. 110). In Smith's defense, argues Ramachandra, "Smith has been associated, rather unfairly, with the nineteenth-century [and Social-Darwinian] advocates of laissez-faire capitalism and their counterparts in the post-Thatcher-Reagan era in the West." Smith's main concern, contends Ramachandra

was to defend free trade against mercantilist arguments that a strong government was needed to protect the interests of producers. Many of the mercantilist writers were themselves merchants who saw their own interests as best served by a nation-state which used economic policy as a means of reinforcing its own power. Smith rejected any action by government which discriminated against some citizens by supporting the interests of others.

Modern defenders of laissez-faire capitalism shore up their ideology in Smith's name by leaving his position at that, but thereby do him a great injustice. For, as Ramachandra clarifies, "while [Smith] opposed any government intervention in the operation of markets, he was aware of the responsibility of government to protect human welfare." It is often overlooked that Adam Smith was a professor of moral philosophy, and only accidentally an economic philosopher. Indeed, his 1759 book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, not only predated his famous The Wealth of Nations by seventeen years, but also classified "Economics" as a subset of, or at least a shorthand name for, "Familial Rights." 

As such, his economic theories were intended to be read in the context of his larger moral philosophy. It is in that context, Ramachandra notes, that Smith 

defined three duties of government, the latter two proving a source of embarrassment to advocates of 'minimalist' government who look to Smith for support: namely, the 'duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it', and 'the duty of of erecting and maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions which can never be for the interest of any individual or small number of individuals...'[6] 

"Smith," Ramachandra concludes on page 111, "may be the patron saint of capitalism and neo-classical economics, but like all such saints his texts are used selectively by his devotees"—just ask Sts. Paul, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, et al. 

With the larger moral context of Smith's economic theories in mind, and the larger demands of Christianity in the socioeconomic sphere fresh in our hearts, let us return to Ramachandra's previously cited critique of 'development' (p. 118). Not only, recall, does a higher GNP per capita not necessarily result in equal development for all, but "a nation's GNP only indicates the volume of circulation of goods and services in the economy [i.e., among families]." Beyond that, however, the GNP per capita "tells us nothing about the quality of those goods and services: are they beneficial or harmful, do they enrich or damage life, do they meet the actual needs of the community?" In other words, to recall an earlier dichotomy," is a robust economy "Making America Great Again" at the expense of "Making Americans Godly Again"? If so, how we can harmonize the two aims? 

Until we achieve such a reconciliation, Ramachandra notes laconically that it "is perfectly possible to have a society with a high GNP per capita, thriving solely on the manufacture and export of armaments, heroin, tobacco and pornography." (Some might call this a libertarian utopia, but I digress.) The question Ramachandra imposes upon us is, "Would such a [commercially successful] society be regarded as 'developed'?" Under the reigning neo-liberal ideology, it would, contends Ramachandra.

In any case, I trust that the foregoing suffices to demonstrate why Ramachandra is an author well worth exploring.


[1] Hence, "a return to orders" I placed long ago.

[2] The Age of Uncertainty (London: BBC, 1972), p. 22.

[3] Quoted in C. Avila, Ownership: Early Christian Teaching (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1983), p. 50.

[4] On Wealth and Poverty, tr. Catherine Roth (New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984), pp. 49-55.

[5] Pt II-II, Q66, Art 7, tr. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (New York: Benzinger Bros., 1948).

[6] An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), ed. Edwin Cannan (1904) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), Vol. 2, pp. 208-209.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Rolling in his grave...

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"In his forceful attempts to impart, protect, elucidate, and formulate a vitalized Christianity though his many soul-oriented writings, Augustine was seeking to prevent Christianity from mutating into a semblance of religion that 'held onto the form of the faith but denied its true power. [II Timothy 3:5]' Always one who favored the 'life and light of the mind'..., he feared that Christianity might one day be transformed into a mindless, purely symbolic and simple religion that would be content with engaging in childlike otherworldly reflections and fantasies."

Masquerading as an angel of a light show...

"He feared that the faith would become a spirituality of the moods, not of the mind and heart; unexercised, it would degenerate into a belief system that reflected a soft, relaxed confidence in Christ.... In his great concern, he may have foreseen a day when congregations would gather to worship not with the mind strengthened and sustained by the heart, but by the heart alone...."


"People could easily be swayed and swept away by the heavenly beauty of the temporal light falling through stained glass windows, or, like Odysseus with the Sirens, become captivated by soothing melodies rising from a choir."

Clowns of a feather...

-- S. T. Georgiu, The Last Transfiguration: The Quest for Spiritual Illumination in the Life and Times of Saint Augustine (Grand Rapids, MI: Phanes Press, 1994), p. 82

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wanna earn a million dollars?

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Start by (re)watching Wait Until Dark.

Then rewrite the script to cast a female as the assassin and Alan Arkin as the blind victim.

Get it directed by a 'hawt' thriller director in The Current Year.

Earn a million bux.

Why, Kant, I quit you?

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-- Brokeback Metaphysics