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Why Doesn’t God Give Everyone a Miracle?

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Some years ago, a friend of mine told me how, after losing his wife to cancer, he encouraged his embittered young adult children to return to church. On their first visit to a small group, several people shared their recent answers to prayer — miracles, they said — while the two young visitors sat quietly. When they returned home that night, my friend’s kids asked one question: “Dad, if God answered all those prayers, why didn’t he answer ours?” In short, if God gives people miracles, why doesn’t he give everyone a miracle?

The Miracle

I want to back into that question with a miracle of my own.

When I was about ten years old, I was riding my bike home from school when I crossed the street just up the hill from our house … except this time I didn’t do my usual shoulder check for oncoming traffic. A second later I suddenly heard a car horn blast followed by the sickening squeal of tires. Then, just as I turned to my left I saw the grill of a large Buick as if it were hovering but a few terrifying feet away from me. You know how people talk about time slowing down when their life is in danger? That describes my experience. Though it was a mere split second, even now I can still visualize the grill of that Buick, frozen in time, looming in space mere feet away from me.

The next moment I was sent sailing through the air and rolling on the asphalt as the car came to a lurching halt on the graveled shoulder of the road. Here’s where the miracle bit takes center stage. Incredibly, I never felt the impact of the car. At the moment when I should have been making contact with a chrome grill, all I felt was a cushion of air. Even more incredibly, though I had been sent flying off my bike and skidding on the asphalt with no helmet or pads, I got up with no injuries at all, save a single scrape on my elbow.

Shortly thereafter, as I was wheeling my bike up the driveway, our Christian babysitter, Mrs. White, burst out the front door. She said that she had been sitting on the couch watching TV when God told her that I was in trouble and she needed to pray for my safety. So pray she did until she sensed God telling her that the danger had passed.

The Problem

These days I can’t share that story without acknowledging a range of additional issues that I never thought to ask when I was ten. Perhaps the most difficult one is this: for every child that God miraculously saves from a fatal injury, there are countless others he does not save. Why is that? The problem was memorably stated by the 19th-century skeptic, Robert Ingersoll:

“Only the other day a gentleman was telling me of a case of special Providence. He knew it. He had been the subject of it. A few years ago he was about to go on a ship, when he was detained. He did not go, and the ship was lost with all on board. ‘Yes!’ I said, ‘do you think the people who were drowned believed in special Providence?’ Think of the infinite egotism of such a doctrine.”

Frankly, it would be a lot simpler if God just never intervened on principle. But once he starts making exceptions, once he starts getting involved, once he spares the life of one child but not another, it’s difficult to escape the uncomfortable feeling that he’s playing favorites.

The problem is heightened for me as I consider another car accident near my childhood home when a young girl was run over and killed by a dump truck. If God reached down into spacetime to place an invisible divine finger between me and the front grill of a Buick, why didn’t he do something similar for this young girl? If God saves some children, then why doesn’t he save all of them? Again, it’d be one thing if it was God’s general policy not to get involved in the details: in that case, that’s just the way it is. But once he abandons a non-intervention policy in order to ensure that the grill of a Buick never comes into contact with one particular kid, the question looms: why doesn’t God intervene in other cases?

Looking for Answers

These are haunting questions, and over the last twenty years, I’ve invested a lot of time thinking about them. While there is much I could say on this very difficult topic, I’ll limit myself to four points.

First, if you believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, it follows that he must have some purpose in acting as he does. The fact is that as all-powerful, God could have stopped the garbage truck from hitting that girl. As all-knowing, he would have known the truck was about to hit that girl. And as all-good, he would never want any person to suffer without a morally sufficient reason. From this, it follows that when a terrible event like this occurs, it isn’t because it escaped God’s power or knowledge. And it certainly isn’t because God is less than perfectly good. Rather, it must be because God has a morally sufficient reason why he allowed that event to occur.

Second, while God has his reasons, when people are in the midst of suffering they typically don’t want to hear what those reasons might be. And they also don’t want to hear well-intentioned attempts to lessen the suffering with so-called “comfort words” that end up offering anything but comfort. A few years ago a friend of mine lost his daughter in a car accident. He noted that in the wake of the accident countless well-meaning Christians said to him “Well at least…” and then they would say things like “… she’s in heaven” or “… you’ll see her again.” No doubt, those folks meant well, but the words “Well at least” still ended up being salt in his wounds. The moment he heard them, he would automatically tune out Job’s comforters. With that warning in mind, what does one say to those in deep suffering? The simple answer is, when in doubt just say nothing. Instead, just be with those who suffer.

Third, while we will probably never know the reasons God allows terrible events, we can know that he doesn’t perform miracles because people somehow deserve them. If God opted to spare my life from a Buick while not sparing the life of that young girl from a garbage truck, it is not because of any difference in us. It isn’t because I had somehow earned the right to be saved as if I’d logged a few more brownie points for good behavior. Rather it must be due to God’s sovereign purposes alone, whatever those may be.

Now for my final point: what is the proper response of those who believe they experience a miracle? While I’ll be the first to admit that many questions remain, my conviction also remains that God did indeed intervene at a particular moment to spare my life. In light of that fact, the best I can do is to seek always to live in a way that honors the merciful gift of my life.

I know I said that was my final point, but there’s one more thing I want to say: even though I was spared, the fact remains that someday we all shall die. Even the greatest miracles experienced by God’s human creatures are at best a temporary reprieve from their inevitable demise. In that sense, a miracle now is but a promissory note on a future time when all shall be well.
 


 
This article is based on a section of my book What’s So Confusing About Grace? You can order the book here.

Dr. Randal Rauser

Written by

Dr. Randal Rauser is Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary where he has taught since 2003. He is the author of many books including What on Earth do we Know About Heaven? (Baker, 2013); The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (InterVarsity, 2012); Is the Atheist My Neighbor? (Cascade, 2015); An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything (Prometheus Books, 2016); and his most recent book, What's So Confusing About Grace? (Two Cup Press, 2017)"Randal also blogs and podcasts at RandalRauser.com and lectures widely on Christian worldview and apologetics.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Rob Abney

    It was also a miracle that Mrs. White didn't lose her job because a 10 year old got hit by a truck while she was watching TV instead of watching him.

    • David Nickol

      Exactly how seriously you want to be taken I can't tell, but if it is not clear from the condensed account in the OP, it is clear from the fuller account in Rauser's book What’s So Confusing About Grace? that Mrs. White was staying in the Rauser home while Randal's parents were away for a couple of days. There is no implication that he shouldn't have been out riding his bike or that she shouldn't have been watching television.

      The second alleged miracle was that Mrs. White was somehow alerted that Randal was in danger, and the implication is that she was warned to pray for him, and that her prayers worked.

      As for the question, "Why Doesn't God Give Everyone a Miracle?" it seems to me that many people see God's hand constantly at work in their lives. But the question in the title is not really the question discussed in the OP, which is something more like, "Why does God intervene to prevent some tragedies but not others?" He doesn't have an answer for the question but rather advises trusting that God knows what's best and acts accordingly.

      • VicqRuiz

        He doesn't have an answer for the question

        As an agnostic, I have no answer for this question either, as I commented to Randal on his own blog.

        The difference is that I think I am more content with not having an answer than are most Christians.

        • Rob Abney

          What leads you to conclude that you are more content when Rauser advises to “trust that God knows what's best and act accordingly.”?

          • VicqRuiz

            It seems pretty straightforward to me, Rob.

            Christians of nearly all flavors have to reconcile what they see humans doing to humans and nature doing to humans with their presupposition that God is a good and loving father to each and every individual human being. It's fairly clear to me that this reconciliation is hard and the source of a good deal of heartfelt questioning, whether the Christian is personally the victim of (apparent) arbitrary suffering or not.

            On the other hand, I approach the idea of God by starting with the world and humanity as I observe them, and reasoning from there to what sort of God would have to be behind it all. I'm under no constraint to find God's actions as "good" as I interpret that word, and can accept any possible God from a stoicist, "he is what he is, and is not like me in any way" point of view.

          • Rob Abney

            This may sound flippant but your approach is: Vic knows what is best and acts accordingly. Fortunately, you are most likely following a Christian way of life, just not giving credit where it is due.

          • VicqRuiz

            Fortunately, you are most likely following a Christian way of life

            You may well be right. There is not much about the Christian way of life with which I can find fault.

          • Rob Abney

            This is from Pope Francis' homily today:
            Idolatry, he continued, stems from the inability to trust in God. In the absence of this trust, Christians lack the strength to resist succumbing to doubt in times of uncertainty and precariousness.

            Without God, he added, it "is easy to fall into idolatry and be content with meager reassurances."
            https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/08/08/fear-uncertainty-lead-do-it-yourself-religion-pope-says

  • The answer to the title question seems to be: "Nobody really knows." Or am I missing something?

    • Rob Abney

      No, the answer is "only God knows".

      • I will rephrase. The answer to the title question seems to be: "No human being really knows."

      • michael

        You could dismiss anything by that logic. This story is no more believable than sightings of Bigfoot.

        • Rob Abney

          This makes no sense, why is his telling of an incident that happened to him and his sitter not believable?

          • michael

            Why don't you believe the same about Muhammed or Zoroaster? Do you believe stories on paranormal.about.com about people seeing Santa Claus, or encountering little gnome like creatures, or traveling to the future, or stories about alien abductions?

          • michael

            Do you believe alien abduction stories?

          • Rob Abney

            Tell me one

          • michael

            There are magazine articles and webpages where people claim to have met martins and been brought in spaceships to see life surrounding Jupiter and stuff. I've met two people who claim to have lost memories immediately after a mysterious encounter in the woods, consistent with similar stories.

          • Rob Abney

            It doesn't take much to convince you.

          • michael

            I donn't believe those stories at all.

          • Rob Abney

            Very few people do, so why are you asking about them?

          • michael

            You honestly don't know?! I am answering your question "This makes no sense, why is his telling of an incident that happened to him and his sitter not believable?". I am saying its obviously no more believable than alien abduction stories.

          • Rob Abney

            It is believable to him, he wasn't trying to convince you. The alien abduction stories are usually trying to convince you of their truthfulness.
            But if you don't believe in the concept of miracles then one will never happen to you.

          • But if you don't believe in the concept of miracles then one will never happen to you.

            Does that mean that if a believer prays for a miracle, it can't happen as long as I'm around where I could see it happen?

          • Rob Abney

            It can happen but you won't witness it, your intellect will not accept it.

          • your intellect will not accept it.

            When I see something inexplicable, my intellect allows me to say, "I can't explain that."

          • ClayJames

            I believe in miracles and my intellect works in the same way.

            However, simply being able to acknowledge that you cannot explain something is not a virtue. There are many people that can´t explain things that should have likely explanations.

          • However, simply being able to acknowledge that you cannot explain something is not a virtue.

            Lack of ability, in and of itself, is neither a virtue nor a vice, though it could be due to a character defect. I cannot solve differential equations because I was not sufficiently motivated to do the practice exercises that would have taught me how to solve them. Maybe that's proof of my laziness, or maybe it's just because I wisely decided that I have better things to do with my time than learn a skill that I will never have occasion to use.

            But whatever the reason for my lack of ability, it is better for me to be aware of the lack than to imagine, or to deceive myself into believing, that I know how to solve differential equations, wouldn't you say?

  • OMG

    The Gospel of John 11 presents Jesus' miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. John does not present any testimony from Lazarus. If any of us were Lazarus, would we want to experience death twice? Would we value this experience as miracle or curse it as curse? Most of us, I surmise, would choose to experience death only once and later rather than sooner.

    Some saints have reportedly yearned for death in order to more fully love and possess their eternally beloved. Perhaps the saints had already experienced death in their earthly living.

    • David Nickol

      I saw a dramatization of something (I can't now remember what) in which the risen Lazarus appeared as a character. He did not speak, and he was depicted as a man profoundly stricken and perhaps terrified. That's how I recall it, anyway.

      Those who watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer will recall that Buffy died, and Willow brought her back from the dead. Her friends were overjoyed to have her back, but it soon became clear something was wrong. Buffy doesn't want to burden them with the gravity of what they had done, but as it turned out, Buffy had been at peace (in heaven?) and was not pleased to have been resurrected.

      We get little or no follow-up on the miraculous healings (and resurrections) by Jesus in the Gospels, but we can only assume that everyone who was healed or resurrected eventually died of some other affliction.

      • OMG

        Again David here posts some interesting thoughts. He shows that the resurrection of Lazarus seems to have easily led to dramatic interpretation in modern entertainment media. I don't necessarily have an opinion as to why that should be, but I'm curious to explore. Anyone?

  • David Nickol

    What OMG said about Lazarus made me think the following on the topic of "Why Doesn’t God Give Everyone a Miracle?" As far as we know from the Gospels, Jesus pretty much did grant a miracle to anyone who sought to be healed. There are no accounts of anyone being refused and no accounts of relapses. No one has ever said that "Jesus answered every request, but sometimes he just said no."

    Why did Jesus apparently heal everyone who requested during his earthly life, and yet God now heals only an infinitesimal fraction of those who week healing today, even through places like Lourdes?

    • Rob Abney

      Jesus answered them and said,
      "Amen, amen, I say to you,
      you are looking for me not because you saw signs
      but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
      Do not work for food that perishes
      but for the food that endures for eternal life,
      which the Son of Man will give you.

      So they said to him,
      "Sir, give us this bread always."
      Jesus said to them,
      "I am the bread of life;
      whoever comes to me will never hunger,
      and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

      • David Nickol

        Excerpts from the Gospel of John are always interesting, but I don't see how this one answers the questions I raised.

        • Rob Abney

          The point is, He offers something better than miracles, He offers Himself to us and we can accept Him through the Eucharist everyday,

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The Eucharist is itself a miracle: Transubstantiation.

            At Cana, Christ turned water into wine.

            In the Mass, through the priest, Christ turns wine into his own Precious Blood.

            Who says the age of miracles is over?

          • Rob Abney

            It would be interesting to hear why Rauser's miracle did not lead him to the Eucharist, yet.

          • David Nickol

            I have been puzzling over this one for days. Is it the Catholic position that God would have saved the 10-year-old Randal Rauser from being hit by a car in order to convert him (and his babysitter) to Catholicism? Is there an implied criticism of Protestants here? It seems sto to me. Misguided Protestant Randal Rauser was the recipient of a miracle, but why didn't it lead him to the (Catholic) Eucharist? How in the world was it supposed to?

            From time to time there are more than hints of prejudice against Protestants here. Are they not fellow Christians? Don't they try to obey God and follow Jesus? Is it the unstated Catholic position here that Protestants are basically in the same category as atheists—Catholicism is the one, obviously true religion, and those who do not embrace it are willfully blind? If so, why have OPs by Protestants? Why, for that matter, quote C. S. Lewis? Is it possible (likely) that he was not saved?

          • Rob Abney

            I don't believe that all religions are equal, only that Catholicism has the fullness of Christianity, otherwise I would embrace one of the other denominations that doesn't have as many demands.
            And the biggest difference is the Eucharist which is the most direct way to receive God's grace.
            As I understand it, the direct methods to receive God's grace are the Sacraments, and there are indirect ways also especially prayer. Protestants denounced most of the sacraments so they only have baptism, and they have the indirect ways. We need God's grace to be saved, Catholicism has the most "sure" way due to the Sacraments but that doesn't mean that receiving grace in other ways can't be effective.
            It's an even tougher path for those who reject all the sacraments and reject prayer too.

          • David Nickol

            But from your point of view, shouldn't Protestants (and atheists) know better? What excuses do they have? Wouldn't God provide them with the grace or insight to know the full truth if they really wanted it?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, He provides sufficient grace for all to fully believe. Work is required though, as Pope Benedict XVI says, we must convert everyday.
            The easiest way for a lapsed Catholic to say yes to grace is to walk into confession and then receive the Eucharist.

          • David Nickol

            Yes, He provides sufficient grace for all to fully believe.

            Of course this is obviously not the case for people who could not possibly receive sufficient knowledge of Catholicism—say, people in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans. Certainly there must even today be people in remote areas of the world who have no knowledge of Catholicism or insufficient knowledge to see the truth of it given their upbringing in other traditions or other religions. And of course there are also the mentally disabled who do not have sufficient intellectual capabilities to understand Catholicism. Consequently, we have in the Catechism:

            847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

            But it sounds to me like, aside from cases like the above, Protestants and Jews (and a great many others) have no excuse. If God provides sufficient grace to fully believe (which seems to me to mean "adopt Catholicism"), then those who know of the Church and don't join it, or those who leave it, have turned away from God's grace. What hope of salvation can they have? How do we account for the apparent holiness of someone like C. S. Lewis or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. C. S. Lewis certainly had every chance in the world to convert to Catholicism. Should we suspect he was not saved?Should we read his books?

          • Rob Abney

            You present it as if Protestants and Jews should accept the fullness of the Catholic church but that primitive or isolated people have an excuse "through no fault of their own". But I think with further research you could see that the Church considers many in each of those groups to be in their present situation through no fault of their own.
            Here is the key moment in a person's salvation: that upon your death your will is to love God, period. There are ways that are minimally sufficient to allow that to happen and there are ways that maximize the potential for that outcome. One of the reasons that it is better to maximize the outcome is because most of us never know when the moment of death will occur (and now even those on death row will not have that knowledge).

          • OMG

            Rob and David,
            C.S. Lewis' non-conversion is good in this sense: Christians and non-believers of all stripes and confessions read and enjoy him. C.S. is reported to have explained his non-conversion by referring to his youth in Belfast. We can guess the rest.

          • Alex

            Lewis himself actually seems to have had papal infallibility and what he saw as resulting doctrinal instability as his main objection:

            "The real reason why I cannot be in
            communion with you is not my disagreement with this or that Roman
            doctrine, but that to accept your Church means, not to accept a given
            body of doctrine, but to accept in advance any doctrine your Church
            hereafter produces. It is like being asked to agree not only to what a
            man has said but to what he’s going to say…To us the terrible thing
            about Rome is the recklessness (as we hold) with which she has added to
            the depositum fidei [deposit of faith]…the proliferation of credenda [what must be believed]."

          • Ficino

            From the Catholic POV, Lewis was schismatic or heretical or both. From the atheistic/skeptic POV, Lewis was a muddle-headed thinker. A lot of Protestants like quoting him.

          • OMG
          • David Nickol

            Papal infallibility would seem to me to be only a fairly insignificant part of the problem, since infallible decrees by the pope very rarely produce new doctrine. I suppose for some it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back, though, since as a Catholic one is required to assent to anything a pope decrees infallibly no matter whether one finds it believable or not.

          • OMG

            Jesus to the Pharisees: "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains" (John 9:41).

            At Romans 2:14-16, Paul says: "When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus."

            The teaching is explained further by a Master's level Catholic theologian at https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means.

          • OMG

            Intriguing, good questions. Don't have much time now, but... Basically, today's Protestants are usually and not necessarily willfully 'blind.' Rather, a 'fullness' of faith, a depth of faith is offered in the Eucharist, and although some Prot. denoms. celebrate communion with bread and wine/juice, they celebrate it as symbol without sacramental (miraculous) aspects...( Lutherans and some others perhaps count is as sacrament--). Anyway, it's my observation and knowledge that many converts from Protestantism to Catholicism claim the Eucharist as their motivation. (Others are attracted by dogma, infallible teaching of truth, or are repelled by some aspects of the faith practice of their youth. There are surveys delineating other reasons.) You ask a very good question here. Perhaps Dr. Rauser could chime in too. Or offer an OP about it.

            As for judging who is saved? Sorry, but I am only human and cannot answer that.

            Catholics believe in Eucharist as food for the journey. We don't want anyone to die mid-trip. Perhaps trite, but I trust you grasp the notion.

          • OMG

            Further, many Prot. denoms. believe in the sufficiency of Scripture for salvation. They discount, disallow, or don't know that the Biblical canon was promulgated by the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church (with deletions and cuts by Luther and then reinterpreted by Luther, Calvin, others.) Catholics put faith in one final prayer of Jesus on his earthly trek: That they may all be one. Hence, Catholicism has historically preferred to expand to understand and accommodate difference while remaining true to truth....that is one reason it is so slow to move, to respond to crises (ahem). That is usually why councils have been called--to study, clarify, and commit in writing their deliberated and Holy-Spirit inspired beliefs. The Church would rather avoid schism and heresy so as to remain one.

            Also, Catholics take Jesus literally when he speaks of bread and wine, body and blood. Catholics take Jesus literally when he claims the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church which He himself founds. We take Jesus' desire for this church to have a vicar, an administrator, when He grants its keys to Peter, whom He renames "Cephas." (rock)

          • OMG

            Finally, the Catholic Church is 'catholic.' It strives to be the same everywhere and is universally open to everyone, including and perhaps especially sinners since Jesus came to heal the sick, not the well.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I don't have any special knowledge of this topic, but I wonder whether all the focus isn't on the wrong purpose of miracles.

      I am thinking about Christ healing a paralytic, where he first forgives the man his sins, but does not heal him. Then, in response to the criticism of present Pharisees who noted that only God could forgive sins, Christ said, "So that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, I say to thee, arise and walk." The purpose of the miracle was to produce faith in the observers.

      Again, I recall what Our Lady said to the children at Fatima, when she promised a miracle so great "that all may believe."

      My point is that God's perspective in causing miracles may not be the same as what we often pray for -- say, a present healing or aversion of danger. From God's perspective, he knows that every physical miracle is but a temporary "bandage" on our lives -- a few more moments of inevitably mortal life.

      I am not saying that God does not answer prayers of those seeking physical relief for loved ones, but simply am pointing out that -- from God's perspective -- what man needs most is not that momentary reprieve from earthly suffering, but the grace of faith that will provide eternal salvation.

      That might just help explain places, like Lourdes, where there was a flourish of public miracles in the first decades, but where the need for such miracles has now been fulfilled and those who come already believe and come, for the most part, not expecting the rare cure, but to participate in the living miracle of faith which Lourdes celebrates every day.

      God's ways are inscrutable. I don't pretend to understand why he grants the miracles he does when he does. I don't think we often grasp the lesser miracles that occur every day, which receive no notice. My own lovely granddaughter was attacked just a couple days ago by someone in a fit of road rage (occasioned by no fault on her part), and escaped unharmed -- despite her car being thrown off a highway at 65 mph and barely missing multiple deadly alternative paths. Was this a miracle? Did God directly intercede? I don't know. But perhaps we are just not sensitive enough to the number of times that things go right in our lives when they seem aimed at a dozen bad outcomes as measured by pure chance.

      God wants us to believe so that we may have life eternal. Physical miracles serve best his purposes when they lead men to that end.

      • >The purpose of the miracle was to produce faith in the observers.

        So why not heal everyone or some amputees? Why not do it in an way that is verifiable instead of relying on anecdote?

        This would create so much faith.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          From your comments, it appears that you would utilize the power to perform miracles far more effectively than God does. And, of course, God hides his apparent ignorance in this matter by having Scripture tell us that "his ways are inscrutable."

          While miracles evidently are aimed at producing faith in the immediate observers, at the same time it appears that God sees value in those who believe without seeing them. We see this with doubting Thomas, when Christ -- having shown his wounds to the amazed skeptical apostle -- tells those present that "blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

          Thus, it seems that God sometimes works miracles to give faith to the unbelievers in a restricted setting, yet leaves it to most human beings to make their own act of faith -- perhaps by believing in the reports of miracles witnessed by others.

          We see this even in the case of Fatima, where the great miracle of the Sun was performed before tens of thousands of witnesses -- many of whose skeptical numbers were converted on the spot. And yet, even today both skeptics and believers look at the same events through different eyes.

          So, it seems that God's purpose is not to heal everyone, but perhaps only enough of the sick so as to give evidence to the vast majority who do not see with their own eyes, but whose hearts and minds are open to the evidence attested to by others.

          As for healing amputees, this is a favorite challenge offered by atheists and others who assume that no such events have ever occurred. Well, in fact, there are some such reports -- even more amazing ones, but yes, they are anecdotal. How insensitive of God not to produce this evidence on demand of the skeptics in exactly the form they demand!

          Yet, even so, there comes to my mind one well-documented case: the healing of Pieter de Rudder in 1875. De Rudder had so badly broken his leg some eight years previously that one inch of bone was missing and the lower part of the leg could be moved freely about since it lacked any solid connection to the upper part. Not only was the leg suddenly healed so that he could walk on it, but the missing inch of bone was replaced so that he could stand evenly on both legs. See the account and his picture after the cure here: http://miraclesoflourdes.blogspot.com/p/pieter-de-rudder.html

          This may not be the replacement of an entire leg as the skeptics demand, but will part of a leg suffice? As I noted, there are more remarkable reports, but this one appears well-documented. And there may be others that are well-documented, but of which I do not know.

          • >From your comments, it appears that you would utilize the power to perform miracles far more effectively than God does.

            Yes, if I had the power to heal all disease and prevent all injury I would. Wouldn't you?

            >"blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

            An awful lesson for humanity. Don't believe things based on evidence and observation, it's better to believe without evidence, on hearsay.

            This idea of valuing credulity makes no sense to me. If god's purpose was to generate belief in his I
            existence, why not simply give us all Thomas' experience? Or Fatima why does he prefer we believe without seeing?

            >How insensitive of God not to produce this evidence on demand of the skeptics in exactly the form they demand!

            No, how unbelievable that if he is going to perform demonstrations of his existence he doesn't perform credible ones.

            >This may not be the replacement of an entire leg as the skeptics demand, but will part of a leg suffice?

            No, it's specious. Do it now do it in a credible way. Actually better to do it 30 years ago when we had good video tech but poor computer graphics.

            Look there is an obvious tension between all of you statements here. God wants us to believe without a demonstration so he demonstrates he exists.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You seem to completely misunderstand the role of miracles in creation. If all God wanted to do was to show his existence to man, he could do it in a moment for all to see -- as should be evident.

            God doesn't need to prove his existence to mankind. His purpose is to give us free will and then entice us to use it rightly so as to produce holiness in the human soul. He does not use a broadaxe to accomplish this.

            A miracle by definition is a rare event. If God worked miracles all the time, everything would appear miraculous and miraculous suspension of natural laws loses all meaning. It would undermine the very intelligibility of the natural sciences that are God's gift of human reason applied to the order of nature.

            As St. Paul indicates in Romans 1:20, God has given all men the power of reason by which to recognize his existence from the things that he has made.

            God may work special miracles from time to time to underline his presence or to teach us something we need to know -- or simply to heal someone (but always with a purpose that goes beyond the mere healing).

            That God refuses to jump through all the hoops you would provide for him does not mean he does not exist or cannot work miracles. It only means that his purposes are not those which you would impose on him.

            Yes, it is good that those who directly see a miracle are moved to faith in the God who works it, but it is even more virtuous for those who do not directly see to see with the eyes of faith, not against all reason, but through a sensitivity to all that is good and holy that leads them to recognize the work of God in the world. We all can first discern God as the Cause of all creation, but the evidences of revelation are there for those whose will is open to finding them.

            Clearly, even an overwhelming miracle like Fatima is today being denied by those who prefer a skeptical way of life. That is not merely a function of reason, but also of choice. If we choose to look with open eyes, the evidence of reason, of history, and of particular miracles is there for all to see.

            God "will not break the bent twig." Isaiah 42:3.

          • OMG

            In an earlier comment, someone said something about innumerable small 'miracles.' Some would count their continued existence one. Natural rhythms of seasons, sunshine, rain, and new days. Friends and family. A blog which causes pause but never fails to convince of the reasonableness of faith. Here are my miracles against all odds.

          • David Nickol

            DB: A miracle by definition is a rare event.
            OMG: In an earlier comment, someone said something about innumerable small 'miracles.'

            I realize OMG puts miracles in quotes, and I can see the distinction between the Miracle of the Sun and the 'miracle' of, say, the birth of a baby. But it seems to me there are still many who do not think of miracles (not just small 'miracles') as rare at all. It is not at all uncommon to hear certain people speak as if "the Lord" is managing the smallest details of everyday life. How many people pray to St. Anthony when they have lost some object or another ("Tony, Tony, come around . . . ")? Isn't Actual Grace basically an intervention by God?

            So are miracles rare? Or are big, public miracles rare and little everyday ones common? And I mean miracles, not "miracles."

          • >Yes, it is good that those who directly see a miracle are moved to faith in the God who works it, but it is even more virtuous for those who do not directly see to see with the eyes of faith, not against all reason, but through a sensitivity to all that is good and holy that leads them to recognize the work of God in the world.

            What do you mean by "moved by faith" and why is this a good thing? Rather than having solid evidence?

            I mean most people have not and do not believe Jesus was god or died for our sins and does god seem to think it's important to convince those who don't believe as you acknowledge he could easily but doesn't.

            No one is trying to make god do anything. We're noting that the world is not how we'd expect it to be if he existed .

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"What do you mean by "moved by faith" and why is this a good thing? Rather than having solid evidence?"

            You misread my text, even in your own quote of it! It says that "those who directly see a miracle are moved TO faith in the God who works it."

            Now what I said is obviously correct. The "solid evidence" is the miracle they see with their own eyes, and this "evidence" moves the TO have faith in God.

            As for the rationale for why God does miracles, I think my previous comment is rather complete. Please just reread it more slowly.

          • BCE

            I agree and think miracles are rare. I'm not sure the OP describes a miracle.

            While miracles are intercessions, not all intercessions are miraculous.
            What Randal describes might be an intercession (his guardian angel)
            and the angels of Mrs White and the driver.

            While Randal might have felt only a miracle saved him, there could be
            natural explanations why his body wasn't injured.
            Angels may have effected his and the drivers actions. That in turn caused each of them to react, in some real ( not supernatural), yet imperceptible way; which prevented devastating injury.

            I imagine the unified work of several Guardian Angels can feel miraculous; informing ones actions, so as, in less than a second,
            we alter our actions just enough to result in a significant
            different outcome.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, preternatural effects can look like supernatural ones to us poor mortals.

            Still, it is all within the providence of God -- and his angels who probably protect us far more often than we could conceive.

          • Craig Roberts

            "Yes, if I had the power to heal all disease and prevent all injury I would."

            I would too. I guess that makes me better than God.

          • BCE

            Not only are you saying you're better than God, but that you and Brian have wisdom and foresight superior to the Universe.
            You could design it better?
            You have some superior knowledge of biologic, chemical and mechanical processes? And life forms could be at their present state without any disease or forces that injure (like fire causing burns, the Suns radiation causing changes in DNA or motion mass and gravity causing fractured bones )
            Start with gravity....let's hear how you'd tweak that so there's no injury.
            I'm anxiously awaiting!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Without addressing every detail you raise here, the overall picture is this.

            God creates free beings whom he knows will merit greater eternal reward if they freely choose to love God and live virtuous lives.

            While God obviously could make his existence instantly evident to all and thereby virtually "force" total obedience to his will, he chooses instead -- for the sake of the creatures themselves -- to give them sufficient evidence of his existence so that those who want to can find the truths needed for their salvation. He does not force the issue on anyone.

            We have no right to ask or expect God to jump through the hoops we think he should, since he is God and we are not.

            If you ask what happens to those who do not seek or do not find these truths, that depends on the extent to which they are responsible for their failure. God is all good and just and merciful, so we need not fear that anyone who is truly innocent will suffer.

          • David Nickol

            While God obviously could make his existence instantly evident to all and thereby virtually "force" total obedience to his will, he chooses instead -- for the sake of the creatures themselves -- to give them sufficient evidence of his existence so that those who want to can find the truths needed for their salvation. He does not force the issue on anyone.

            It is my own personal "gut reaction" that this is harder to believe than "first parents," the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and transubstantiation combined. There is an old song titled "To Know (Know Know) Him Is to Love (Love Love) Him." If that is the case with God, and God wants to be loved, then it is a great mystery why he doesn't allow everyone to know him. I would rather accept it as a great mystery why he does not than accept the rationalization that if he were to reveal himself, that would constitute "force." That strikes me as bizarre.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It depends on what you mean by "to know God."

            To know him perfectly in himself would be to already possess the Beatific Vision, which is the reward for a good life, not the condition of trial which is this life and through which we merit the attainment of that glorious end. This life is an "entrance exam." You don't get into heaven without passing the test.

            While God could make his existence even more manifest, the problem is that, while some would love him more perfectly knowing him more fully in this life, many would be good from fear of clear punishment for disobedience -- a somewhat less worthy motive.

            God created a world in which men are free to live virtuously or to become self-absorbed and inclined to evil choices.

            We might wish it otherwise, but God manifests his greatest glory and perfection by calling forth our greatest qualitative perfections. Free agents' greatest qualitative perfection manifests when they choose moral good while self-deceptive evil beckons. A world in which evolutionary naturalism appears a speculative possibility -- where rejection of God himself seems nearly coherent -- is perfectly designed for building the greatest saints.

          • David Nickol

            This life is an "entrance exam." You don't get into heaven without passing the test.

            If so, it is an exam for which the Teacher of the course deliberately withholds information from the class to make it easier for some students to fail.

            many would be good from fear of clear punishment for disobedience -- a somewhat less worthy motive.

            But which is all that is required by the Catholic Church. Correct me if I am wrong, but if the world's most wicked person confesses on his deathbed having only "imperfect contrition" (fear of hell), this is sufficient for him to get to heaven.

            God created a world in which men are free to live virtuously or to become self-absorbed and inclined to evil choices.

            And yet, it seems that living virtuously is not enough. The implication is that those who come into contact with Catholicism must become Catholic in order to be saved. I have been using the example of C. S. Lewis. Certainly if God gives everyone the grace to see that the Catholic Church is the one true Church, C. S. Lewis had no excuse for not converting.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"...it is an exam for which the Teacher of the course deliberately withholds information from the class to make it easier for some students to fail."

            You give God the worst of intentions. I make the case that this world is best designed to permit the formation of the greatest saints. A side effect is that some, through their own fault, fail to save their souls. Don't blame their bad choice on God. They have the same chance as everyone else. God has the perfect right to create a world aimed at the greatest possible qualitative perfection by his creatures.

            >"Correct me if I am wrong, but if the world's most wicked person confesses on his deathbed having only "imperfect contrition" (fear of hell), this is sufficient for him to get to heaven."

            You confuse the technical criteria with actual reality. First, the world's most evil person is not likely to have a deathbed conversion. Second, theologians warn that not all deathbed conversions are intrinsically sincere, and hence, may not produce the desired effect. Third, a firm purpose of amendment is also required, which may be lacking. Fourth, it is well considered that as we live so shall we die. Fifth, you overlook the little doctrine of Purgatory, which may well be as horrific as Hell, save for duration. In a word, the technicals don't assure a "free ride."

            >"The implication is that those who come into contact with Catholicism must become Catholic in order to be saved."

            I demur. First, the faith is held to be a gift of grace, not given to all. Second, there is salvation possible outside the Church for those who fail to enter through no fault of their own. C.S. Lewis may prove to be a great example. Third, mere "contact with Catholicism" is a long way from becoming convinced of the essential truth of the Catholic Faith.

            I view the human condition as one in which God's justice and mercy makes salvation possible for all, including all those "cave men" who never heard of revelation for the hundreds of thousands of years between Adam and Christ. All are saved through Christ's saving merits, but not all will know that they are so saved in this life. Still, they may be saved if they lead a good life as the Church defines it.

            I view the coming of Christ as not only being the redemptive act that theologians describe, but also the founding of the universal Christian Church in which he gave us Sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist, by which God makes it much easier for men to achieve salvation. If you think this is unjust, reread the parable of the workers in the vineyard who are hired at different times for the same wage. It is self-explanatory.

            The greatest gift of Catholicism is the full access to the Sacraments, which make living and dying in Christ easier to do and with greater grace and merit for eternity. I view this as a great gift from God, one which I hope all men will embrace, but which I realize must be freely chosen according to the lights and graces God gives to each of us. God does us no disservice, since he owes us absolutely nothing -- and salvation is still available to men of good will who may not receive all the possible gifts of God. Clearly, those men who came before Christ did not have the Sacraments to assist their salvation, but God is not unjust and they, too, determined their own destinies through free choices which formed their souls with respect to their eternal destination.

          • David Nickol

            You give God the worst of intentions.

            Before I even read past this first sentence, let me reiterate that I do not presume to criticize God. I accept that if there is a God, he is omniscient, omnipotent, all good, all just, and so on. I accept that God, if he exists, does not have bad intentions. Anything else is unthinkable.

            What I am criticizing are ideas about God put forward by others that do not seem to me to be consistent with the concept of God as I understand it. If I am wrong, then the problem is with me, not with God.

            It seems to me that you think that God is under attack here by some atheists and others (I am one of the latter), and it is your task to defend him. Well, I am not attacking God, and I don't see you as defending God. I see you as defending certain assertions made about God that I do not find reasonable. If you are right, then I am wrong. If I am right, then you are wrong. Under no circumstances, however, do I consider the possibility that I have legitimate criticisms of God!

          • Rob Abney

            Your position on God is unique. You accept all His attributes but do not accept that He exists.

          • David Nickol

            I neither accept nor reject. But I don't think my position is unique at all. I think almost every atheist and agnostic is denying or doubting the existence of the "Judeo-Christian" God.

          • Your position on God is unique. You accept all His attributes but do not accept that He exists.

            It's not all that unique. Many of us skeptics will stipulate, when a Christian tells us that we should believe God exists, that if he exists then he has whatever attributes that Christian says he has. In other words, when you talk about "God," what we are accepting is whatever definition you are using for that word.

          • Rob Abney

            Sure, but as I have often recommended to you, study Aquinas and work on arguing against the best arguments.
            Take a cue from David Nickol for instance, he seems to know the Catechism of the Catholic Church better than most Catholic commenters, so when he says here is what the church says, he is usually (technically) accurate.

          • study Aquinas and work on arguing against the best arguments.

            I have read the Five Ways. Those seem to be his best arguments. Are they?

          • Ficino

            A colleague who teaches philosophy at a Catholic college says that he doesn't give his classes the Five Ways. He doesn't think any of them is as strong as the argument from "God's essence is identical with His existence" from the De Ente et Essentia. There are several translations accessible online.

          • There are several translations accessible online.

            I found one and have read it.

            His reasoning in that piece is very complex, and it would take me at least a few days to do a complete logical analysis. And until I do that, I cannot comment on the validity of his overall argument.

            However, there remains the issue of its soundness. It is perfectly clear that his premises include some propositions assumed by Aristotle's metaphysics. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for me to disagree with Aquinas's conclusion unless it is unreasonable for me to disagree with Aristotle's metaphysics. I believe my disagreement with Aristotle is reasonable. Are you prepared to argue for the contrary?

          • Rob Abney

            It is perfectly clear that his premises include some propositions assumed by Aristotle's metaphysics

            Start listing the premises that you disagree with.

          • I'll start with just one: Abstract concepts are real entities.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What do you mean by "real entities?" Do you mean the independently existing Pure Forms of Plato, perhaps?

            That is not what Aristotle or St. Thomas means by them.

          • That is not what Aristotle or St. Thomas means by them.

            I am aware that Aristotle had some disagreements with Plato about the Forms.

            I was referring to the notion that abstract concepts, particularly including universals, exist independently of the minds that conceive of those concepts, in some sense like that in which material objects exist independently of the minds that perceive them.

            I am a nominalist. I understand that philosophers make some distinction between nominalism with respect to universals and nominalism with respect to abstractions. It seems to me that universals are just a particular instance of abstraction, but we need not be distracted by that issue. I perceive abstractions and universals as products of intelligence and as having no other kind of existence.

            My nominalism is, I believe, a logical consequence of my materialism. Whether Aristotle was a materialist in any useful sense, I am not at this moment prepared to argue, but Aquinas certainly was not a materialist. No orthodox Christian can be a materialist, and I doubt that any other kind of theist could be.

            I cannot argue that Aquinas must be wrong because materialism is true. That would be begging the question. But I have yet to see any summary of Aquinas’s argument that includes a proof of materialism’s falsity. Of course, a sound argument against nominalism would also falsify materialism, but I have yet to see a proof that nominalism is false, either from Aquinas or from anyone else.

            A failure to prove one’s opponent wrong is not a proof that one is right. But if both sides in this particular debate have failed to prove the other wrong, then it seems to me that any uncommitted observers (if there are any) should conclude that, with respect to either side, reasonable people may accept it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"My nominalism is, I believe, a logical consequence of my materialism."

            What you are saying is that your materialism necessarily implies nominalism. But, if p implies q, then Nq implies Np. Negating the consequent logically implies negating the antecedent. Logically, that means that if nominalism is false, then you must necessarily conclude that your materialism is also false.

            Nominalism is taken from the Latin, "nomen," meaning "name." Nominalism is the doctrine that universals or general ideas are mere names without any corresponding reality, and that only particular objects exist.

            Among other problems with nominalism, two major ones are these. First, both natural science and common sense require that, while only particular objects exist, our words for things are not mere names without any corresponding reality, but rather are abstracted essences with a corresponding foundation in reality.

            For example, unless all the elements of the periodic table represent things with definable real properties in common, there would be no basis for the science of chemistry. If sodium were just a name in my brain for a group of individual physical entities having nothing in common in reality, then it could not be classified so as to have any universal science of its nature or behavior. All science depends on being able to classify things, based on real properties that define both their appearance and behavior in varying conditions. Unless the nature of all sodium atoms is essentially the same, we could never have scientific knowledge about the class of physical objects called "sodium atoms." Sound science is based on precise definitions of the natures of all physical entities.

            This leads to the second problem with nominalism, namely, that nominalists cannot really define anything.

            If you define a cat as simply that assemblage of individuals that have certain sets of properties, such as living, vertebrate, organic, having sharp teeth, having claws, and so forth, how then do you define the properties just predicated of the cat? For instance, take claws. How do you know what belongs to the class of things having claws unless you know what the essential meaning of "claws" is in the first place? If you define claws in terms of the physical characteristics of sharp, bony, extensions from paws, etc., how do you then define the terms involved, e.g., sharp?

            The well-known problem of nominalism is that you simply cannot define either an individual thing or any group of individual things without having some sets of universal predicates that themselves either have to be essentially understood, or else, which themselves have to be defined in terms of other sets of individual things having the same logical problems. The process either ends up with universal concepts that are based on real natures shared in common by extramental realities, or else, it goes to infinity with no actual definition of anything ever being achieved.

            Either way, nominalism simply does not work. It implicitly contradicts the very ability to classify physical objects which is central to the essence of natural science, and hence, is a most "unscientific" philosophical move.

            But, as I showed above, if nominalism is untrue, then, according to your own logic, you must admit that your materialism is also false.

          • Logically, that means that if nominalism is false, then you must necessarily conclude that your materialism is also false.

            Yes, and I said exactly that, in the post to which you are responding. I said, “Of course, a sound argument against nominalism would also falsify materialism.” Did you not notice that?

            First, both natural science and common sense require . . . .

            An appeal to common sense is not the stuff of intellectual rigor. The history of science is a history of refutations of common sense.

            our words for things are not mere names without any corresponding reality, but rather are abstracted essences

            Your reference to essences presupposes Aristotle’s metaphysics, which makes this a circular argument.

            unless all the elements of the periodic table represent things with definable real properties in common, there would be no basis for the science of chemistry.

            Nominalism does not deny that the word “element” refers to a set of things with definable properties in common.

            All science depends on being able to classify things, based on real properties that define both their appearance and behavior in varying conditions.

            Nominalism does not imply our inability to do that.

            Unless the nature of all sodium atoms is essentially the same, we could never have scientific knowledge about the class of physical objects called "sodium atoms."

            Sodium atoms all have certain observable properties in common, and no other kind of atom has all of those same properties. Whether we should refer to those common properties as “the nature of all sodium atoms” is a semantic issue, not a scientific question.

            nominalists cannot really define anything

            Nevertheless, we do define our words. You are assuming your conclusion again.

            how then do you define the properties just predicated of the cat?

            Definitions are established by usage, not discovered by metaphysical analysis. The function of language is the communication of ideas from one human mind to another. If, when you use the word “vertebrate,” I correctly understand exactly what you are referring to, then you and I are defining “vertebrate” the same way, and in that case our common definition has served the only purpose it needs to serve.

            How do you know what belongs to the class of things having claws unless you know what the essential meaning of "claws" is in the first place?

            If I point to something and say, “That is a claw” and you reply, “No, that is not a claw,” then you and I are having a semantic disagreement, not an argument about the nature of reality.

            how do you then define the terms involved, e.g., sharp?

            I do it by observing the conventions of my linguistic community.

          • Rob Abney

            Interesting, nominalists can define elements but essences is too Aristotelean, why can't you define essences?

          • why can't you define essences?

            I didn't say we couldn't. Our objection is to the assumption that definability depends on existence.

          • Rob Abney

            elements=set of things with definable properties in common
            essence=set of things with definable properties in common
            What is the difference? Which one has existence?

          • essence=set of things with definable properties in common

            I have read many explanations of what Aristotle meant by "essence." None of them ever said that.

          • Rob Abney

            What do you think the meaning of essence is according to Aristotle?

          • What do you think the meaning of essence is according to Aristotle?

            I’ll have to defer to someone who is way more familiar with Aristotle’s writings than I am. This is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics/#SubsEsse):

            Aristotle turns in Ζ.4 to a consideration of the next candidate for substance: essence. (‘Essence’ is the standard English translation of Aristotle’s curious phrase to ti ên einai, literally “the what it was to be” for a thing. This phrase so boggled his Roman translators that they coined the word essentia to render the entire phrase, and it is from this Latin word that ours derives. Aristotle also sometimes uses the shorter phrase to ti esti, literally “the what it is,” for approximately the same idea.) In his logical works, Aristotle links the notion of essence to that of definition (horismos)—“a definition is an account (logos) that signifies an essence” (Topics 102a3)—and he links both of these notions to a certain kind of per se predication (kath’ hauto, literally, “in respect of itself”)—“what belongs to a thing in respect of itself belongs to it in its essence (en tôi ti esti)” for we refer to it “in the account that states the essence” (Posterior Analytics, 73a34–5). He reiterates these ideas in Ζ.4: “there is an essence of just those things whose logos is a definition” (1030a6), “the essence of a thing is what it is said to be in respect of itself” (1029b14). It is important to remember that for Aristotle, one defines things, not words. The definition of tiger does not tell us the meaning of the word ‘tiger’; it tells us what it is to be a tiger, what a tiger is said to be in respect of itself. Thus, the definition of tiger states the essence—the “what it is to be” of a tiger, what is predicated of the tiger per se.

          • Rob Abney

            That's a good description of the meaning. But what do YOU think you are arguing against when you dispute the existence of essence?

          • I am arguing against the notion that it is something that exists independently of our minds. This notion is related to the notion that definitions apply not to words but to things. I think Aristotle was wrong about that, and if his thinking about essences depended on it, then he was wrong about essences.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just a side comment here, but I was taught in grad school that the only sure way to understand what a philosophical tradition maintained was to study from the people in that tradition. Thus, to understand the Scholastics requires listening to their own take on their historical sources.

            Whether, and how much, there is any truth in that observation, what I was taught, and what this Stanford source almost seems to get, but not quite, is that the real meaning of "that what it was to be" is contained in the connotation behind the "was to be."

            The Roman translators may have coined the term, "essentia," but the actual original meaning for Aristotle has just a whiff of final causality contained in it. It means "what it was to be" in the sense of a sort of intention or finality. That is, it directs the mind toward the fulfilling of an intrinsic finality rooted in the very nature of a thing. It is more like "what it was intended to be.

            Hence, when applied to organisms, it would mean all that is in the living thing, even from its inception, that tends it toward the substantial reality of the mature adult of that species, together with all the essential properties that will be manifest in that adult. I know this would not seem to apply to non-living, non-growing things, but then there is the added Christian insight that God gives to species of creatures the form of their existence, so that here the intentionality would be that of God intending that a certain kind of substantial reality be produced, with its attendant properties.

            In this manner, we see an outgrowth of the Aristotelian conception of essence that takes an analogical expression in Scholastic thought which differs slightly from that of Aristotle.

            One should never underestimate the effect of fifteen centuries of added philosophical and theological reflection on Aristotle's thought by the time we get to St. Thomas Aquinas. This means that knowing the physics and metaphysics of Aristotle does not assure us that we grasp the deepest insights of St. Thomas.

          • Just a side comment here, but I was taught in grad school that the only sure way to understand what a philosophical tradition maintained was to study from the people in that tradition.

            A good observation. I've noticed that even people who accept evolution have some odd notions about what evolutionary theory actually says. And, understanding evolution is not even about understanding anything Darwin himself ever wrote.

            knowing the physics and metaphysics of Aristotle does not assure us that we grasp the deepest insights of St. Thomas.

            The more I look into this, the clearer that is becoming. I've been doing additional research into what some apparently knowledgeable people have had to say about Aquinas's interpretation of Aristotle, and I am working my way through the Miller translation of De Ente. Understanding it is proving quite the challenge and will obviously require several readings.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            My own dissertation director, the late Professor Joseph Bobik of the University of Notre Dame Philosophy Department, wrote a very detailed commentary on the De Ente et Essentia.

            It should be remembered that it was an early work, written when St. Thomas was only about thirty years old. It was something of a summary written for the edification of his Dominican confreres.

            While I have used the proof for God in chapter four (which Gilson insists is not intended as a proof, since it does not proceed from sense experience), I do not use it exactly as it is found in the text. And I certainly do not base the real distinction between essence and existence on his famous "man and phoenix" argument. I think a better argument can be teased out of the lines immediately following the "man and phoenix" argument.

            I would point out that I cover that argument in my own book, but hesitate to be too explicit about it for fear of being viewed as spam!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The sincerity of your effort to understand the De Ente, especially when you say it "will obviously require several readings," honestly impresses me.

            In truth, the problem with just reading such a text is precisely that its meaning is best understood by those who were taught in the living tradition of that philosophy whose text you are reading.

            That is the purpose of a good commentary, such as the one by Bobik I mention to you in my comment below.

            But, if your intent is to really understand the philosophy of St. Thomas within the living tradition that best expresses that understanding, may I be so bold as to suggest a lengthy shortcut! I know that sounds hopelessly self-contradictory, but I have method in my madness.

            I would suggest plunging into a much more modern book, namely, Nature, Knowledge, and God by Bro. Benignus Gerrity (Bruce, 1947).

            Although it does not address ethics or political philosophy, it gives an amazing synthesis of the other Aristotelian-Thomistic disciplines (psychology, physics, metaphysics, epistemology, natural theology) with a thematic view to refuting naturalism. which it describes as "the greatest single enemy of Thomistic philosophy today."

            Why this book? Why not read St. Thomas and all the classical and contemporary Thomistic commentators, such as Lagrange, Maritain, and Gilson? The simple reason is that Benignus compresses and synthesizes the best insights of all this tradition into a single volume, thus saving literally years of research in particularized topics of various more famous Thomists, and yet, does so with clarity and authentic fidelity to the thought of St. Thomas.

            If you forgive me a bold guess, but I strongly suspect that this may be what you have actually been searching for if you really want to understand the essential insights of Thomism.

            Edit: This book was written just long enough after the advent of modern physics that its author can handle some of its novel claims with competence.

          • Thank you for the recommendation. It might be a while before I can get a copy. Our library doesn't have it, and my wife regards books as a luxury that we can rarely afford.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I hate to cross your better half again, since I got you to buy one paperback already!

            Sadly, I just checked and they want some forty bucks for a new paperback version. I was able to get the old, original edition a few years back for only about $12 or so. Not fair.

            It is still a gem. Inter-library loan?

          • The last time I got a book on interlibrary loan, I had to return it before I was done with it. I suspect I'll want to spend some time with this one.

            After some more searching, though, I was able to find one at a price my wife was grudgingly willing to accept. It should be here within a couple of weeks.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Even if the Benignus book fails to convince you of the errors of naturalism, it will give you an excellent reference source for an authentic understanding of Thomism so that your rejections of it will be "on target." Fortunately, I have two copies of the original with which I shall part only after my demise.

          • Ficino

            If you would like to compare translations of the De Ente, you can compare Miller's with Gyula Klima's:

            http://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/Blackwell-proofs/MP_C30.pdf

          • Thank you, but since I am quite ignorant of Latin, I have no basis on which to make a comparison. Of course, if knowledgeable people tell me one is better, I can take that into consideration.

          • Ficino

            Hi Doug, I do know Latin, and I've found that for some passages, Miller is clearer, and for others, Klima. I've published Latin translations and reviews of Greek translations, and I have seen enough to know that there are often several ways of translating a passage correctly. But sometimes one rendering is clearer or just clicks better with a reader than does another rendering. So you may get a little further along the road by having recourse to Klima as well as to Miller, so you can consult both in rough patches.

          • I don't plan to become an expert on Thomist philosophy. The bottom line for me is an investigation of the claim that Aquinas proved the indefensibility of naturalism. If he did, I can only hope that I'm open-minded enough to see that he did and revise my thinking accordingly. If he did not, then I wish to understand his argument well enough to explain why, in my judgment, it fails to support his conclusion.

          • Ficino

            Thank you for telling about the Benignius Gerrity book. I requested it from my library's offsite collection.

          • Ficino

            ??? Neither elements nor essences are sets. The above would be genera or species.

          • Rob Abney

            My understanding of the essence of a human is that he/she has rationality and will, both must be present, is that a set?

          • Ficino

            What you write does not define the essence of human. Other beings also have rationality and will.

            Aquinas defines an essence as: that which is signified by a definition; that whose actuality is to exist; the same as a nature "in re" but not "in ratione", since essence is the principle of being/existing, but nature is the principle of operations; in material things essence signifies the composite composed of form and matter.

            I wouldn't call any of these "sets" in any proper sense. To say that a substance has more than one essential attribute does not make the substance, which is unitary, into a set, which is a plurality. In A-T, substantial attributes are properties *of* some single substance. You are not a collection of attributes walking around; you are one person, a substance. Your essence defines you as a man. Because the essence is the formal principle of being, and being, one, and true are all convertible, your essence is unitary, not a plurality. If you mean just that a thing's essence can be defined by more than one attribute, then yeah.

            Above you spoke of elements and essences as both existing. But essences can be objects of thought and not have acts of existence granted to them. The essence of the unicorn is not actualized in any individual existing unicorn, but it is an essence that can be defined. Not all essences have existence. I don't know whether Aquinas would say that there are elements that are not actualized in the composition of any body at all.

          • Rob Abney

            You make very good points. What constitutes being real? Only an essence that has existence?

            Other beings also have rationality and will.

            I'm not sure what beings you are referring to, can you be more specific?

          • Ficino

            I was writing from the POV of Thomism, of course.

            As far as I understand Aquinas, to be real is to exist. As Aristotle says in the Categories and elsewhere (Aquinas follows him on this), "being" or existence is said "of" something, as "man" is said of Socrates, or is said "in" something, as "white" or "musical" is said in Socrates. Put another way, Socrates is a substance, a man, and attributes like white or musical are in Socrates the substance.

            Since a unicorn does not exist, the attributes that belong to the essence of unicorn, like "having four non-cloven hooves" or "having one horn in the center of its forehead" etc are not said "in" any substance. There is no substance of which the essence is what it is to be a unicorn. So the unicorn is not real, because no unicorn exists. It is only an object of thought.

            Angels have intellect and will. Because they are not corporeal, they are not composites of form and matter in the way embodied creatures are. Their intellect is by nature higher than ours because they do not need mental representations, abstracted from sensory data, about which to reason discursively to a conclusion - though they can consider one universal and at another time, another universal. Maybe I was too imprecise when I suggested they have "rationality." Their intellect grasps universals directly rather than step by step.

            God of course also has will. Since God does not reason discursively, we would say God has intellect but higher than discursive reasoning - and God's intellect is higher than angels' -- for one, there is not even temporality in God's intellect.

            It's tricky whether or not to call God a "being." Creatures participate in being. God confers an act of existence on them and sustains them in existence at every moment. God on the other hand is not one of a group of "beings." God is not a member of any genus, and there is no genus, being. Aquinas says that God is existence itself subsisting per se. But he defines metaphysics as the science of "ens in communi" or the like, "being" as participated in by creatures and "being" as identical with God's essence.

            There is way too much to try to get into in a combox, and I may have misstated something about Thomism - though I don't believe I did.

          • weknow

            I am just now getting more familiar with the thomistic arguments for god's existence, but while I can usually follow non-thomistic arguments for god's existence pretty well (e.g. Craig's time argument for God is easy to follow) I am often confused by how words are being used by the Thomist. Can you recommend me any books on thomistic metaphysics that is objective and does not try to offer a defense of why Thomism is basically correct?

            I discovered you from this http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tippling/2018/07/18/ed-feser-vs-arif-ahmed/ and you seem really well verse in thomistism. I watched the debate Feser had with Ahmed and I still can't understand what was Feser trying to get at in his first argument. The second argument, I was able to follow pretty well, but its always the thomistic arguments that confuse me.

            Can you please help me?

          • Ficino

            Hello weknow, thank you for the words of encouragement. I know more about Aquinas than do most people but less than the experts know. I agree with you that it is difficult to appreciate his writings without familiarity with the tradition in which he worked, esp. Aristotle and Augustine and, to an extent, Plato. For Ari and Plato, the conceptions of their systems as filtered through centuries of commentary also shaped the tradition Aquinas inherited, but his mind was so powerful that he read and commented on and taught the bulk of Aristotle's surviving treatises. So he worked with Aristotle directly.

            I mostly read Aquinas himself (in Latin, heh heh) rather than secondary works. But many topics pertaining to Aquinas are treated in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas. The contributors know a lot but do not write their contributions so much as apologists as they do in a scholarly way. An oldie but I think pretty good for English speakers is Frederick Copleston's Aquinas. A bit more critical and more versed in mid-twentieth century analytic philosophy is Anthony Kenny's work of that title.

            Edward Feser's Aquinas is accessible. He tries to explain more of the Aristotelian metaphysical background in Scholastic Metaphysics. You may know that Feser is more engaged with the public as a promoter of Thomism as the truth than are many academics.

            Just to disclose my own angle, I am an ex-Catholic and now an atheist. But I love Aristotle, read him every day, and think Aquinas has fascinating things to say too.

          • weknow

            Okay thanks for the suggestions.

            Also, does Aquinas take "existence" to be its own thing?

            I read that, for Aquinas, he believes that God is both existence and essence, but that the way he uses the word existence seems to imply that it is a thing in itself.

            You speak/read latin? WOW!

          • Ficino

            Yeah, I read Greek too - working through Aristotle's De Generatione Animalium at the moment.

            I don't know what you mean by existence's being its own thing. Aquinas does characterize "esse," which I think is better translated as "existence" than as "being" most of the time, as a perfection. God's essence is identical with His existence in Aquinas. Creatures' existence is an act conferred on them, joined to the essence, by God.

            Aquinas describes God as "esse ipsum per se subsistens," "existence itself subsisting through itself."

            Most philosophers I know consider it a big mistake to treat existence as a perfection or predicate. Defenders of Thomas tend to say that these philosophers misunderstand and that existence is a perfection. They say Thomas was right to construct his deeply insightful philosophy of Being.

          • Rob Abney

            "the first active principle must needs be most actual, and therefore most perfect; for a thing is perfect in proportion to its state of actuality, because we call that perfect which lacks nothing of the mode of its perfection."(Question 4. The perfection of God)
            I'm not saying that anyone misunderstands, but would like to see your explanation regarding perfection. Thanks

          • Ficino

            Some things can be F only to a degree. The circles I draw freehand are not perfect circles, but when i use a compass, they come closer to perfection because they more fully satisfy the essence of circle, i.e. are closer to being a geometric figure, all the points of which are equidistant from a central point or whatever. The circles I draw with a compass still are not perfect because of various irregularities in the paper etc.

            I understand perfection as the quality of matching an essence, loosely speaking - I don't want to take a position on the reality of essences apart from things that instantiate them.

            Existence, though, as I understand it, is not a predicate or perfection. Seven hundred dollars fully match the essence of seven hundred dollars. But what are you saying when you say, "Now we/God add/s an act of existence to the seven hundred dollars." It's vacuous to say that Seven hundred dollars that exist are more perfect than seven hundred dollars that don't exist, because seven hundred dollars that don't exist are not anything. "... that exist" does no work when you add it to "seven hundred dollars are a perfect seven hundred dollars." [$699.999 might be an imperfect seven hundred dollars]

            That's the best I can do so far!

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks. This is from the same page.
            Reply to Objection 3. Existence is the most perfect of all things, for it is compared to all things as that by which they are made actual; for nothing has actuality except so far as it exists. Hence existence is that which actuates all things, even their forms. Therefore it is not compared to other things as the receiver is to the received; but rather as the received to the receiver. When therefore I speak of the existence of man, or horse, or anything else, existence is considered a formal principle, and as something received; and not as that which exists.

            You precisely drawn circle has received existence from a more perfect form, but it will never be perfect because the effect cannot be more perfect than the cause.

          • Ficino

            It makes no sense to say that existence is a thing.

            I don't know that an effect cannot be more perfect than the cause.

          • Rob Abney

            It makes no sense to say that existence is a thing.

            Is "thing" a good translation of the term he uses in Latin?

            I don't know that an effect cannot be more perfect than the cause.

            Are you saying that you disagree with that or that you don't understand it?

          • Ficino

            Aquinas' Latin is "ipsum esse est perfectissimum omnium: comparatur enim ad omnia ut actus," or "existence itself is the most perfect of all [neuter plural..]: for it is compared to all things as act/actuality." Latin and Greek both use neuter adjectives as substantives, with no expressed noun, as in English locutions like "the white, the musical, the just," etc. The translation you quoted was justified in supplying "things" after "of all." There is no other English noun to put there.

            I realize of course that what you quoted is straight Thomistic doctrine. I have never been convinced that it's coherent.

            As to the principle of proportionate causality and the like, I didn't say I don't know how ... but, I don't know that... I do not have reason to accept that principle as a universal truth. I don't think we know that there can't be emergent properties of things, but I don't know enough physics or math to get beyond what I have read in summary form.

            What you say about the circle above seems to me to point to the difficulties of talking about existence as the most perfect [thing?], which actualizes everything. You said that the circle receives existence from a more perfect form. But in ST 1a 4.1 ad 3, which you quoted, Aquinas says that existence itself is the actuality of all real things [rerum], even of the forms themselves. I can follow along with Aristotle and get with form's configuring matter, even mathematical matter (Ari has that in his system), so that we get an actual thing. I don't buy it that there is some third factor, an act of existence, that has to be stamped on form + matter, and that's what Aquinas seems to want to hold. Efficient cause brings Form + matter = a substance, end of story, as far as I can figure out, in Aristotle. I don't see reason to follow Aquinas and add an act of existence as a third thing, though I confess I have not reread De Ente et Essentia since calling it to Doug Shaver's attention.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for that reply, but I don’t think that Aquinas considers there to be a third factor. I’ll try to explain my understanding later if you’re interested.
            You don’t strike me as being fearful, like some atheists that we both know counsel you to be, of course you’ve already demonstrated that you can exercise your free will to choose or to leave the Church.

          • Ficino

            Aquinas doesn't say there is a third factor, but it seems to me that what he writes about acts of existence entails that there is, above form and matter.

            I have some deadlines I have to meet, so I can't give in-depth consideration to this problem for some weeks. Thank you for the discussion, and later, F

          • weknow

            I was looking to buy the books you recommended and I see that they both got bad reviews by clearly angry people.

            https://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Past-Masters-Anthony-Kenny/product-reviews/0192875019/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar

            https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/0199279446/ref=acr_dpx_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&showViewpoints=0

            Honestly, the only time I ever see this kind of hostility is when someone is criticizing Marxist theory and a Marxist starts responds angrily.

            Can you tell me if there is any merit to their harsh words?

          • Ficino

            I don't think so. The first, saying Chesterton is better on Aquinas than Kenny, I think is uninformed. Chesterton was not a professional philosopher. Similarly the second is too off-the-bat dismissive.

            ETA I also enjoyed Kenny's The Unknown God: Agnostic Essays (2004). I thought Kenny had interesting things to say about analogical predication of names of God.

            I think you are right that ideological commitments color many people's reactions, from different sides of the question -- because, yes, there are sides. The practical application of the question, is Aquinas' system true, dovetails with the claims of the RC church. And there are political and other consequences of where one stands on those. So yeah, lots of hostility in comboxes and other public places of comment.

            But something like the Oxford Handbook, edited by two Thomists, Brian Davies and Eleanor Stump, gives another take.

            A big issue is logic. I have been told by a colleague that Aquinas and many other scholastics were led astray because they followed Porphyry in adopting the Square of Opposition - by which questions like "Can a unicorn be a fish?" are meaningful. This colleague says that Avicenna, Ockham and Buridan are some medievals whose logic was better. I don't know enough logic to assess this judgment. I do see lots of vitriol from combox guys directed against Ockham et al!

          • Your definitions are idiosyncratic. They are not what most people mean when they use those words.

            Besides, linguistics is not algebra. Two words can mean the same thing without being interchangeable.

          • Rob Abney

            You said: Nominalism does not deny that the word “element” refers to a set of things with definable properties in common. Are you being idiosyncratic?

          • Are you being idiosyncratic?

            I don't think so. I've seen nominalism defined often enough to know its common usage. The common usage makes no reference to how the word "element" should be defined. And where nothing is said, nothing is denied.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are doing a lot of ducking and weaving, but you still fail to directly address the philosophical arguments I posed to you regarding the ultimate inability of nominalism to define anything.

            >"The function of language is the communication of ideas from one human mind to another. If, when you use the word “vertebrate,” I correctly understand exactly what you are referring to, then you and I are defining “vertebrate” the same way, and in that case our common definition has served the only purpose it needs to serve."

            Nominalism directly describes two of the three components of human communication, but fails to deal adequately with the third.

            Nominalism discusses semantics, the use of words, and the objects which are their referents -- but it does not adequately treat of the mental word or concept, which is the act of "understanding" that you assume in the above quote from you.

            When you say we "understand" and "define" "vertebrate" "the same way," that must mean more than merely that we have the same words and same referents. Otherwise, we would have no real basis for knowing exactly which referents our words should apply to.

            It is the "understanding" which allows us to know that the words we use have common referents (objects to which the words refer), since it is only because our words refer not directly to the things themselves, but to the "meanings" that define which referents are intended and which are excluded.

            But those "meanings" or "definitions" exist only in our minds, and are of real use solely if they refer to something really existing IN the referents which is itself common to all of them.

            That is the basis for an essential definition, which defines the concept or mental word or "essence" as it is understood in the mind.

            In other words, words themselves do not directly refer to the referents, but rather refer to the "meanings" of the words, which are the essences of things as understood by the intellect.

            The essential defect of nominalism is that there is absolutely no way to be certain which referents the words refer to unless we understand a common meaning for the words and that common meaning is based on something actually existing in common in the things to which the words apply.

            That was the point of my second argument in my prior comment. You simply cannot define words by referring to a bunch of things that have a certain property, since you don't know which things fulfill that property's definition unless you know what is essential to that property IN each of the things to which that meaning applies.

            Nominalism assumes that one somehow magically can "know" what are the proper referents of a term without the mind understanding a real common essence that is grounded in extramental reality.

            But you never would know what objects a term refers to and which ones it does not refer to, unless you first know the common essence of the things you are talking about. The "common essence" exists in the mind as what we call the "universal concept," but the key is to realize that unless there is some sort of common reality in extramental things to which that concept refers, the concept has no meaning, and thus, the words used cannot tell us which things are meant and which are not meant.

            Please reread the fourth and third last paragraphs of my immediately prior comment, which describe the practical difficulties of trying to define a "cat" in nominalistic terms.

          • you still fail to directly address the philosophical arguments I posed to you regarding the ultimate inability of nominalism to define anything.

            I don’t know what you think it means to address an argument. I explained why, in my judgment, your arguments fail to support your conclusion. Of course you think my explanations are in error, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t address your argument. What it means it that in your opinion, I failed to address them adequately.

            Nominalism discusses semantics, the use of words, and the objects which are their referents -- but it does not adequately treat of the mental word or concept, which is the act of "understanding" that you assume in the above quote from you.

            Nominalism is an assertion about the existence of certain entities. Having made that assertion, it doesn’t need to discuss anything else. A defense or critique of nominalism needs to discuss other things, but a defense or critique of any proposition is not the proposition itself.

            When you say we "understand" and "define" "vertebrate" "the same way," that must mean more than merely that we have the same words and same referents.

            Why? If we go to a zoo, and no matter what animal we look at, we both agree as to whether it is or is not a vertebrate, what else is required to demonstrate that the word “vertebrate” means the same thing to both of us?

            Otherwise, we would have no real basis for knowing exactly which referents our words should apply to.

            That “should” assumes your conclusion. Considering the purpose of language, nothing matters except that when you call something a vertebrate, I agree that it is a vertebrate and when you don’t call it a vertebrate, I agree that it is not a vertebrate. To say, in that situation, that what we both call a vertebrate might not really be a vertebrate is to beg the metaphysical question that we’re disagreeing about.

            It is the "understanding" which allows us to know that the words we use have common referents (objects to which the words refer)

            If we’re using a common language, all either of us needs to understand is what the other is thinking when they say something to us.

            it is only because our words refer not directly to the things themselves, but to the "meanings" that define which referents are intended and which are excluded.

            They can refer to either, depending on context. In ordinary conversation, they refer to the things themselves. In some contexts they can refer to meanings, but then the conversation is about the philosophy of language, which is not ordinary conversation.

            But those "meanings" or "definitions" exist only in our minds, and are of real use solely if they refer to something really existing IN the referents which is itself common to all of them.

            Meanings and definitions do exist only in our minds, yes. Their utility depends solely on whether they effect the purpose of language, which is the exchange of information between minds. Of course that raises the question of how the information got into anyone’s mind in the first place. I think a materialist worldview can explain that well enough. Obviously, Aristotle didn’t think so. And considering the time and place in which he lived, I can’t blame him, but I believe that everything we have learned since he was alive justifies a strong suspicion that he was mistaken.

            The essential defect of nominalism is that there is absolutely no way to be certain which referents the words refer to unless we understand a common meaning for the words and that common meaning is based on something actually existing in common in the things to which the words apply.

            We know what the words refer to if we know which objects we’re talking about when we use those words. To say that something else has to exist for the words to have any meaning is to multiply entities beyond necessity.

            You simply cannot define words by referring to a bunch of things that have a certain property, since you don't know which things fulfill that property's definition unless you know what is essential to that property IN each of the things to which that meaning applies.

            That seems to be what Aristotle thought. I don’t have to believe it just because he said it.

            It is up to the community of English speakers to decide among themselves what they will mean when they use a word such as “vertebrate.” Having made that decision, they will have established the definition of “vertebrate,” and that will be the end of it. When one of them uses that word, anyone they are talking to will know what they are talking about. Effective communication requires nothing else.

            But you never would know what objects a term refers to and which ones it does not refer to, unless you first know the common essence of the things you are talking about.

            I must now suspect that you and I don’t mean the same thing when we use the word “know.” If that suspicion is correct, then we’re not talking about the same thing when we use that word. Until we can resolve that issue, further discussion might be pointless.

            but the key is to realize that unless there is some sort of common reality in extramental things to which that concept refers, the concept has no meaning, and thus, the words used cannot tell us which things are meant and which are not meant.

            Back to our visit to the zoo. The only extramental things that have to exist, for the word “vertebrate” to have a meaning, are the critters to which we are referring when we use the word. They tell us all we need to know about which things are meant and which things are not meant.

            Please reread the fourth and third last paragraphs of my immediately prior comment, which describe the practical difficulties of trying to define a "cat" in nominalistic terms.

            I can see no difficulty until such time as one of us points to an animal and says, “That is a cat” and the other says, “No, that is not a cat.” And I would not attempt to resolve that difficulty by consulting Aristotle. I would attempt to resolve it by consulting a biologist.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I agree that human beings communicate effectively and that they understand each other's words as referring, usually, to the same agreed upon objects.

            But that is not the point. The point is that our words have common meaning solely because we all know that there is something in the things to which the words refer that is really common and is therefore the basis for predicating the terms univocally or, in many cases, analogously.

            We may agree on the meaning, but that is because we find in the objects known some extramental basis of commonality, and that is the meaning of "having an essence." The essence makes the thing to be what it is, and that allows us to render a definition that fits those objects and solely those objects.

            You could not know which things to predicate a term to if there were no extramental basis for being assured that the objects all fall under the same meaning. Merely applying properties to the objects only delays the problem of knowing how to put the objects into the same reality category, since then this universal meaning of each of the properties must be tested, et cetera. That was the point of my "cat" example and argument two comments ago.

            Your reference to the biologist settling the case suggests to me that your nominalism partly may derive from the claims of Darwinian evolution. In an evolutionary setting, things have no defining essence, since what we call a species is merely a mid-range of seemingly similar individuals that in fact are not essentially different from others, but are merely a selected portion of an infinitely gradating spectrum of minor differences that are found between ever-evolving living organisms.

            In a word, species don't really exist extramentally, even though the biological species concept struggles to make some sense of this frustrating phenomenon.

            But not all objects are products of evolution, which is why I initially gave an example from the periodic table of elements, which science groups according to specific differences that are physically definable. Even in evolving organisms, I would still defend the essential distinction between rational and irrational animals, but you don't do so because you likely adopt a sensist view of knowledge which does not recognize intellect as having an essentially distinct mode of knowing.

            Without moving into even broader matrix of metaphysical topics, I would still suggest that the problem with defining anything, including the cat example, betrays the weakness of the nominalistic position. You don't actually define anything. Your argument rests on the fact of our agreement about meanings, but that is not the same thing as having a proper definition that is rationally coherent.

            Nominalism founders on its inability to explain how there can be an objective structure to reality that the mind can classify, not merely subjectively, but objectively -- so as to make science an objective body of knowledge that entails rationally coherent scientific definitions of things having really distinct existential structures (natures).

            For without an extramental basis of commonality, we could, as I have repeatedly tried to point out, have no way to be sure which items to include in a general scientific law or theory or description of reality -- and which things to exclude.

            The key is not merely having a subjective agreement, but having an objective basis for that agreement.

            Cats are not cats merely because we agree that they are cats, but because there is something "out there" in the cats that make them really classifiable as belonging to the same species. Better yet, forget cats, since they are subject to all the confusions that arise from the inept biological species concept!

            Go back to the elements of the periodic table -- and all the other distinct kinds of physical entities that exist in the physical world, not to mention the intramentally distinct concepts, such as justice, beauty, truth, love, and so forth, which are themselves based on some extramentally real -- though not physically observable -- aspects of reality.

            P.S. Please do not confuse the problem we often have in determining a proper definition with the false claim that proper definitions do not and cannot exist.

          • Your argument rests on the fact of our agreement about meanings, but that is not the same thing as having a proper definition that is rationally coherent.

            Our argument reflects our disagreement about what constitutes a proper definition. For you, a definition, in order to be proper, has to be consistent with Aristotle's metaphysics. If you say that my view of definitions must be wrong because of its metaphysical shortcomings, you are not really presenting an argument but are only restating your conclusion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Not quite. For me, a definition, in order to be proper, has to be consistent with extramental reality. If that is what you object to in Aristotle's metaphysics, I guess I plead guilty.

          • It's not a matter of establishing guilt. It's a matter of figuring out what is the fundamental point on which our disagreement rests.

            I don't have any problem with extramental reality as such. If I did, I'd be a solipsist. My problem with Aristotle is that he assumes the existence of a lot more extramental reality than I think is warranted. The things we all call cats are extramental. So are the things Aristotelians call their essences. But something corresponding to cats must also exist in our minds, or else we would not be aware of them. I think it sufficient, to explain our knowledge of cats, that the correspondence is with the cats' material properties. To posit an additional something called essences is, it seems to me, to multiply entities beyond necessity.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Of course, you are right. Our disagreement over nominalism is rooted in a basic disagreement about philosophy in general, and the metaphysical structure of the world in particular.

            I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I suspect your position is what we call sensism, meaning, that ultimately all knowledge is sensory-material in nature. Thus, the knowledge one has of "cats" in the mind is actually some sort of image or neuronal pattern in the brain, which is itself singular, just like the words we use to convey the meaning of "cat."

            Since you espouse evolution as a gradation of mutational changes, and not the existence of essentially distinct species, there really is for you no extramentally existing "essence" in cats that make them different from all other species of things, since what we call "cats" is for you simply a mid-range of similar organisms that can be defined by the similarity of many identifying physical characteristics that constitute their class of organisms.

            Of course, I totally disagree with all this, but I think that is why our discussion of nominalism ultimately gets nowhere without addressing all these other issues.

            An underlying added problem is that I do not myself believe that "cats" as such have a "philosophical natural essence" that is different from, say, that of a "mouse" or even an "elephant," since all three types of animals possess the same essential powers or nutrition, growth, reproduction, plus the five external and four internal senses!

            That is enough for one comment I think you may agree.

          • That is enough for one comment I think you may agree.

            I'm OK leaving it at that for now. You have helped me to clarify some of my ideas, and I appreciate that.

          • Ficino

            No, I was hoping to hear your take on the arg from De Ente et Essentia. Any further thoughts about it will be welcome.

          • As I said, my take on the argument is that it is unsound, because it includes premises that I regard as untrue.

            The unsoundness of any argument does not constitute a proof that its conclusion is false, but it does constitute the failure of that particular argument to prove its conclusion. The conclusion could still be true, but until I see a sound argument for its truth, I remain justified in not accepting it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I agree with your colleague. I have been teaching metaphysics for over half a century and I do not normally give the Five Ways as such. In fact, I even wrote a book, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence, which focus on the quinque viae, and still prefer to give my own variations on the prima via as well as the proof found in the De Ente et Essentia. Actually, St. Thomas gives many proofs in his writings -- of which the Five Ways are simply the most famous. The variation on the prima via and a proof based on the constant creation of the cosmos are available as articles on Strange Notions.

          • Rob Abney

            No, you have to read the whole Summa.

          • Many apologists have said to me, "You must read this book. It will answer all of your objections." So far, whenever I have read that book, my objections have not been answered, at least not with cogent reasoning.

            I realize that it might not be reasonable to ask you to summarize the entire Summa in this venue, but can you tell me at least whether I am correct in thinking that without Aristotle's metaphysics, nothing would remain of Aquinas's arguments?

          • Rob Abney

            Many apologists have said to me, "You must read this book. It will answer all of your objections."

            I've never said that to you, but I've challenged you to engage the best arguments.

            I can't claim to know Aristotle well enough to compare precisely but Aquinas refers to him often in the Summa, he refers to him as The Philosopher. It seems to me that they are both realists, and here is a section where Aquinas explains how we abstract from material objects.
            http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1085.htm

          • I've challenged you to engage the best arguments.

            I can do that if you will tell me what, in your judgment, the best arguments are. Telling me to read a whole book is not helpful.

            here is a section where Aquinas explains how we abstract from material objects.

            I can manage that, but not immediately. I'll post a response when I've finished with it.

          • Ficino

            Doug, as I said earlier, some think that the argument from De Ente et Essentia is Aquinas' best, and that one does not appear in Aristotle. You were right that much of it, however, does rely on Aristotelian metaphysics.

          • You were right that much of it, however, does rely on Aristotelian metaphysics.

            Then my objection stands. Unless I am demonstrably wrong to disagree with Aristotle, I am not demonstrably wrong to think Aquinas has failed to prove his conclusion.

          • I'm reading it now. I'll have to re-read it a few times to understand it well enough to offer a sensible critique.

          • Ficino

            Aquinas gives three much shorter arguments that God's essence is identical with His existence in ST 1a 3.4.

          • Any such argument would presuppose Aristotle's metaphysics. I'm looking to see whether the longer argument you referred me to will avoid that problem. (Which, of course, is no problem at all for those who already agree with Aristotle.)

          • OMG

            Dr. B., Are you familiar with the work of the Roman Theological Forum? They have a couple good articles on standing in the 'portico.' Most relate specifically to the Feeney case but their work covers a broad range...I even found some tidbit by Ratzinger on the validity of 'teaching' which may be added to the Catechism! (written by Ratzinger when he was still Ratzinger). Other articles deal with evolution, whether souls of aborted children attain salvation, modernism, Humanae Vitae, etc. etc., historical criticism, senses of scripture, etc., Paul VI.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Hi OMG,

            I know of the Roman Theological Forum and have exchanged emails with Fr. Harrison many times in the past. I do not necessarily endorse all of their positions, but generally would do so.

          • lcnorthon

            If you're not impressed by the well-documented 1875 case of Pieter de Rudder, you wouldn't be impressed by anything. You wouldn't find any proof at all to be "credible."

          • David Nickol

            The Pieter de Rudder case as described in Wikipedia is not all that compelling. I had never heard of him before. It is very difficult to find unbiased information about such things. Those interested in them either are promoters who have a vested interest in them being true, or dedicated skeptics who are eager to debunk them.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Wikipedia entries are not always fully authoritative and complete.

            Did you ever read this web site's account of events surrounding the Pieter de Rudder case?

            http://miraclesoflourdes.blogspot.com/p/pieter-de-rudder.html

            Edit: I know that theologians want a healing to be instantaneous. But, looking at that picture of De Rudder with his legs of equal length and him standing erect, if the medical reports of his prior condition clearly state that the bottom of the limb was so loose that it was literally "flopping around" and that some actual leg bone was missing, I would not want to bet my immortal soul that this was not a miracle.

            While I do not propose to speak for anyone else, that is asking for a bit too much faith in skepticism for me.

          • David Nickol

            @Brandon Vogt

            I would not want to bet my immortal soul that this was not a miracle.

            I wouldn't either. Nor did I say no miracle had taken place in this case. Is it your implication that I am risking my immortal soul to doubt a miracle here? It seems to me there is sometimes the implication from a small number of commenters here that those who are atheists or agnostics (or maybe even Protestants!) are going to burn in hell. At best we can imagine these commenters rolling their eyes when they condescend to communicate with someone who doesn't believe what they do.

            Icnorthon recently said to me, which you upvoted:

            But why do we waste our time? There is no "proof" that you would ever accept, so any prolonged debate would be useless.

            It is not my position now, nor has it ever been, that I rule out the possibility of miracles. Nor (as I said in different words earlier) is the Pieter de Rudder case of any great significance to the question of the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, or the truth claims of the Catholic Church. I think it would be an absurd waste of time for me or anyone else to spend hours researching Pieter de Rudder just to argue about it here. There are hundreds of good books (not a few of them already on my shelves or my Kindle) that my time would be much better spent on than reading about Pieter de Rudder.

            This site was created for the purpose of dialog. It is not Catholic Answers. It seems to me you don't set up a site for dialog with atheists (agnostics, etc.) and then make it clear when they say anything skeptical (even radically so) that you consider them willfully and obstinately ignorant because they disagree with Catholics or theists. That is not dialog.

            I was taught in Catholic school that the best way to attract "non-Catholics" to the Church was by example. What kind of example is it to non-Catholics who come here to for somebody to turn up his nose and say, "Why do we waste our time?" Of course, Christians who deliberately give the impression to nonbelievers are wasting their time if they think that will attract people to the Church. It is more likely to repel nonbelievers, and to a Catholic, that should be a serious matter.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I will address only the part of this comment that refers to something I wrote earlier about my not wanting to bet my immortal soul that the De Rudder cure was not a miracle. I thought I also made clear there that I did "not propose to speak for anyone else" about this case.

            I do think that there are implications for every human being between the existence of miracles and the fate of their immortal souls. And it would be a supreme lack of charity not to point out these connections.

            The Christian religion is evinced precisely by the reality of miracles, centered on the greatest of all miracles, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, to ignore discussion of specific miracles would be to ignore one of the purposes of the existence of this site, since such matters are relevant to the "truth claims of the Catholic Church."

            As to the implication that I (or any others) are presuming that all atheists, agnostics, and skeptics are "going to burn in hell," I think I have made clear in other comments that, because of God's goodness, justice, and mercy, "no innocent person will suffer." I have no way of judging the intellectual honesty of others. Only they and God can do that. Moreover, I adhere to Church teaching that says that even many believers can go to hell if they die in a state of unrepentant mortal sin. There is plenty of room in hell for all of us.

            But the connection between authentic miracles and God's existence is critical, since a "miracle" is understood to mean an event that could be caused by God alone. No one is forced to accept any given phenomenon as being miraculous, but each is free to make his own judgment about a given case -- and that is precisely what I was saying in the De Rudder case when I said that my faith in skepticism was not great enough to deny its miraculous content.

            As to the connection to one's immortal soul, recall Christ's admonition: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his immortal soul?" The first significance of Christ's words here to me is the vast importance of saving my immortal soul -- a soul I not only believe in, but know to exist through philosophical demonstration as well.

            I don't insist that others have that same knowledge. But, to me, the connection between (1) my belief in things like God, my spiritual soul, supernatural revelation, the Catholic Church and (2) my eternal destiny as a human being is so intimate that judgments I make about miraculous events do have bearing on the salvation of my soul. Every judgment I make in this arena may entail risk for my immortal soul -- and immortal souls are, to me, the most important things in all creation.

            I don't expect skeptics and agnostics to share my perspective on such matters. But I am entirely within my own intellectual rights to affirm that I don't want to risk my own eternal destiny by failing to take seriously something like the De Rudder miracle -- since that is precisely what it looks like to me: a miracle.

            Others must make their own judgments about this case. One is free to say he does not wish to spend time discussing the De Rudder case because he thinks it is a "waste of time." Yet, I hope I have made clear why I, personally, do not think it a waste of time, and also, why discussions of this sort properly belong to the intellectual content of this site -- since they touch directly upon the "truth claims of the Catholic Church." Otherwise, discussion of the Resurrection itself might also be considered by some to be a "waste of time."

            Yes, you could believe in the Catholic Church without even examining the De Rudder case. But, examining the De Rudder case might just also convince one of the truth claims of the Catholic Church. The historical record lists many persons for whom it appears that it played precisely such a role.

          • OMG

            You as editor and I as English teacher know to place words and to structure them so as to convey clear, concise and correct meaning. That said, we know that it is in the nature of communication (fallen, flawed, not perfect) that words convey to the reader some combination of more, less, and/or nothing at all of what an author may consciously intend.

            Of course the basic belief system of Ichnorthon, Dr. B. and I differs from yours, but dare I say that Ichnorthon did not say that non-believers are "willfully and obstinately ignorant because they disagree with Catholics or theists." He does say that "prolonged" debate would be useless as he assumes that no "proof" would ever be accepted. (I read his words as an expression of frustration.)

            I hope that you are not offended by my peacemaker attempt, but of course I understand that my tone may completely fail to communicate sincerity and some semblance of neutrality. Please accept my apology in advance.

          • David Nickol

            "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

          • Rob Abney

            Here's the issue that I notice, the Catholics commenting on this subject seem to believe the evidence that some miraculous healing occurred even though we are told that we do not have to believe it. But your position is that you don't believe it because you don't believe in miracles (I'm assuming that is your position for the sake of discussion), so you can't believe that a miracle occurred despite the presented evidence.
            Many atheists often say they haven't been given evidence to believe, yet here is evidence and it is not considered. That seems like appropriate dialogue to me.

          • David Nickol

            But your position is that you don't believe it because you don't believe in miracles (I'm assuming that is your position for the sake of discussion), so you can't believe that a miracle occurred despite the presented evidence.

            In the comment of mine to which you are responding, I said the following:

            It is not my position now, nor has it ever been, that I rule out the possibility of miracles.

            I could see how there could be significant pushback here on Strange Notions against a claim that the alleged miracle under discussion did not happen for the reason that miracles do not and cannot happen. However, I never have taken the position that miracles don't happen, nor have I even taken the position that this particular one didn't happen.

            The position taken here seems to be, as best I understand it, that if a person denies something within the realm of private revelation—something that others find totally convincing—that is tantamount to denying all of public revelation. That simply is not Catholic teaching. Believing in the Incarnation and the Resurrection in no way are dependent on a belief that Pieter de Rudder's leg was miraculously healed.

          • lcnorthon

            "The Pieter de Rudder case as described in Wikipedia is not all that compelling." That speaks loads right there. The Wikipedia entry is indeed biased and belittling in its tone, but I find the witness testimony astoundingly "compelling." The Lourdes Medical Bureau has approved very few claims of miracles, considering the immense number of people who have gone there. They are quite thorough. I don't know about their present rules, but I do know that in the past, they did not employ doctors who were Catholics. But why do we waste our time? There is no "proof" that you would ever accept, so any prolonged debate would be useless.

          • David Nickol

            But why do we waste our time?

            First, who is "we"?

            The Catholic Church does not require the faithful to believe in alleged miracles associated with Lourdes or even in the original alleged apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous. These things are all a matter of "private revelation." The Catechism says the following:

            67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

            Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".

            So when you ask why "we" waste our time, you can't be speaking for the Church. Take away all of the alleged apparitions and alleged related miracles in the history of the Catholic Church, and you still have everything of importance the Church teaches. At most, private revelation can legitimately serve only as "icing on the cake" for those who already believe, and perhaps occasionally to spark the interest of those who don't.

            There is no "proof" that you would ever accept, so any prolonged debate would be useless.

            I certainly agree that there is no point in a long debate about Pieter de Rutter. Alleged miracles such as in his case are far removed from the central truths taught by Catholicism.

          • Ficino

            "The Lourdes Medical Bureau has approved very few claims of miracles, considering the immense number of people who have gone there."

            So you are saying that very few people were demonstrably healed at Lourdes? How few does the few have to be before external observers conclude that the incidence of unexplained healing is not significantly different from that which is observed in other contexts? I'm not seeing a big deal here.

          • lcnorthon

            No. I'm saying very few healings at Lourdes can meet the high standards the Church has for a miracle; i.e., that what happened is medically impossible. If someone who stutters or who is clinically depressed goes there and comes away without the affliction, that's not going to be recognized as a miracle. You refer to the "incidence of unexplained healing" as though it were a trifle. Have you ever seen a doctor heal a compound fracture within minutes so that the patient can get up, walk away and go dancing if he wants, without so much as a wound or a cast or a pin or any outward evidence of injury? Without even needing a pain pill? Does that happen a lot where you live? Have you ever seen a woman in the last stages of medically-verified tubercular peritonitis, with a heart rate of 160, respiration 90/minute, non-ambulatory, severe confusional state, emaciated with swollen abdomen containing hard masses...and without any modern medical treatment, suddenly return to a normal, healthy state over a 16-hour period; pulse 88, respiration 18, abdomen normal, patient feeling well and ambulatory, etc. This kind of thing happen a lot among people you know?

          • David Nickol

            that what happened is medically impossible

            I think the criteria is more along the lines of "medically inexplicable" according to medical science as it is known today. In addition, the condition cured must not be one in which spontaneous remissions are inexplicable but which nevertheless happen occasionally without any circumstances that would suggest a miracle, such as certain cancers.

            Doctors who investigate allegedly miraculous cures do not pronounce them miracles. They merely certify them inexplicable based on current scientific knowledge. It takes a religious authority (such as a bishop) to accept an unexplained healing as either just that—an unexplained healing—or a miracle. Since a miracle is considered (defined) to be a direct intervention by God, the final authority in declaring an unexplained occurrence must be someone who can say the circumstances are such that it is in accord with Catholic teaching that God would indeed intervene in such a case. For a spontaneous and inexplicable healing to be declared a miracle is a theological, not a medical, matter.

            I am no expert here, and I believe the above criteria were changed in 2008 to put less emphasis on the medical and more on the theological, but I have not researched that sufficiently to comment.

          • lcnorthon

            You are correct. (Although I know nothing about the 2008 matter.)

          • OMG

            If you have a link to the criteria change in 2008, could you post it? Thanks.

            Fr. John Hardon's Catholic Dictionary defines a miracle as a "sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing at least the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or testify to someone's sanctity." More of Hardon here: http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Miracles/Miracles_003.htm

            Miracles may be classified as either physical (i.e., medical cases like those at Lourdes; the sun's erratic movement at Fatima), intellectual, or moral.

            Physical miracles garner the most attention since they are the easiest to observe and verify. Intellectual and moral miracles, OTOH, are what many more people claim to experience and what many skeptics tend to question. Moral or intellectual miracles can often only be claimed by personal testimony or witnesses to behavior change (e.g., the lifelong addict suddenly no longer wants a fix, etc.). The Church's body of mystical theology attests that 'sensibly perceptible effects' attributable to God's intervention are signs of his purifying love and grace.

            Many folks testify to the healing power of confession, for example. After or during it, many folks experience overwhelming intellectual, moral, and subjective physical sensations which they believe to be gifts from the ever- consoling power of God. It's the parable of the Prodigal Son experiencing a feast. There's nothing like it on earth but in fact it does exist here. Honestly.

          • David Nickol

            If you have a link to the criteria change in 2008, could you post it?

            Actually, the changes were announced in 2006, and here is a link. There are two articles of note from 2008. The first is the one I mistakenly took to be the one announcing changes. Instead, it is an article saying that as of 2008, the 2006 "eased criteria" had not resulted in a significant increase in new alleged miracles. The other article announced that a panel of doctors who had, since 1954, been making judgments on whether or not cures at the shrine were miraculous were stepping back and leaving that judgment to the Church. The following sentence from the article clears up some of the confusion surrounding who vets miracles and how:

            The Lourdes committee is independent of the Vatican's miracle-vetting outfit, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which investigates reports of miraculous cures as part of the church's saint-making process.

            It seems clear that presently, and also historically, the approach to declaring various events (usually healings) as miracles has gone through a number of changes. As for the "saint-making process," the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had its beginning in 1588 as the Sacred Congregation for Rites until 1969, when it was split into the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

            As best I can recall from other reading, prior to the 16th century, saints were named without having to have miracles attributed to them.

            I think most of us would acknowledge that the mass media are often not 100 percent reliable when reporting religious news, but as far as I can tell from reading multiple sources, the sites linked to above are reasonably reliable.

          • David Nickol

            I am sure there are people who find confession very helpful, but from everything I have read, the number of Catholics who confess regularly has declined dramatically:

            COLLAPSE is not too strong a word. Fifty years ago, the great majority of Catholics in this country confessed their sins regularly to a priest. Confession, after all, is one of the seven Catholic sacraments. But now only 2 percent of Catholics go regularly to confession, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate [CARA], a nonprofit organization affiliated with Georgetown University—and three-quarters of them never go, or go less than once a year. In many parishes, the sacrament is currently available only by appointment, and in Europe it has declined to such a degree that groups who study Catholic practice there have stopped even asking about it on their questionnaires.

            The CARA data can be downloaded as a PDF. See numbered page 5 of the PDF for the data on confession.

          • lcnorthon

            As far as I can tell, the Lourdes cures which could not be explained by the science of the 19th and 20th centuries still cannot be explained by the science of 2018. As I write, no one has yet explained how a compound fracture can instantly disappear. Ditto with the other cases.

          • David Nickol

            medically impossible

            As I noted elsewhere, the criteria is "medically inexplicable" based on current knowledge.

            Lists of Lourdes miracles I have run across on the web tend to be out of date, since they often give a total in the high 60s but the count as of this year is 70.

          • lcnorthon

            I have read that there are numerous, UNsubstantiated claims of miracle cures among the crowds every day. It would be reasonable to assume, I think, that only a minority of them would be reported to the Medical Bureau and subjected to documentation and investigation; the vast majority would be rejected as insufficiently verifiable or astounding. Of those accepted and passed along to Church authorities, I don't believe that all of them are automatically approved. I have no figures regarding the backlog of medically-approved cures which await ecclesial approval.

          • What do you think "well-documented" means in terms of what it proves beyond reasonable doubt?

          • lcnorthon
          • That link doesn't answer my question. The article tells me the author's opinion. I asked for your opinion.

          • lcnorthon

            The article relays witness statements and contains direct quotes. You asked what I considered "well-documented." That is the answer.

          • You asked what I considered "well-documented."

            That is not all I asked. I asked you to tell me what it means "in terms of what it proves beyond reasonable doubt." So, how do witness statements and direct quotes constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt?

          • lcnorthon

            Aren't people convicted "beyond a reasonable doubt" because of witness statements in court? I've seen judges and lawyers instruct jurors on the meaning of "reasonable doubt" in several states. In all cases, "reasonable doubt" is a lesser category than "any conceivable doubt," because the latter is recognized as an impossibility. Reasonable doubt is defined as a doubt based on a reason, a doubt which would give a reasonable person pause, and yet a doubt which is more substantial than a fanciful or ridiculous doubt, which would be something like, "maybe space aliens did it." Beyond that, juries have to decide for themselves in each individual case whether the prosecution has proven guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." Witness statements plus physical evidence, often interpreted by experts, is how people are convicted of crimes which, in some cases, lead to the death penalty. At Lourdes, they use medical and eyewitness testimony, medical test records, photographs, X-rays, imaging studies...the whole range of possible proofs before any cure is approved as miraculous. I am not aware that "reasonable doubt" is used as an official standard by the Church, although in my opinion the proofs offered by the doctors and bishops at Lourdes have established the validity of the miracles beyond any reasonable doubt. The scoffers have to resort to UNreasonable doubts in order to sustain their rejection, such as: maybe the X-rays were deliberately switched and the papers forged, maybe the eyewitnesses were bribed or victims of "mass hallucination" (no such phenomenon exists in reality) or the cures were the result of "autosuggestion" (another made-up "explanation"), or that paranormal cures are no big deal (simply deny reality) or that indeed space aliens did it. These are the type of contrived "doubts" which any judge would instruct jurors that cannot base an acquittal upon in a criminal case. The same type and degree of proof sufficient to send a defendant to the injection chamber should be enough to establish a miraculous cure.

          • David Nickol

            The scoffers have to resort to UNreasonable doubts in order to sustain their rejection,

            It doesn't seem so to me. As I have noted in some previous messages, the Church-approved miracles are not declared so by doctors and scientists. "Scoffers" may feel the need to come up with alternative explanations for alleged miracles, but non-scoffing skeptics merely need say, "I can't explain it. It seems inexplicable based on anything I know. But I can't claim to explain much of what I see everyday."

            To acknowledge something as inexplicable and even astonishing is not necessarily to conclude "God did it." I think that is why, when it comes to saint-making, the final decision rests with the bishop in the diocese in which the alleged miracle occurred or the person who claims the miracle lives. The final decision by the Church is not, "That is so remarkable it must have been done by God." Rather, its whether (a) the phenomena is "miracle-like," and (b) whether God can reasonably be said to have directly intervened in those particular circumstances as viewed by the Catholic Church. I don't think, for example, the Catholic Church would declare it a miracle if someone prayed to Martin Luther and appeared to undergo even the most unexpected and dramatic cure—say like Pieter de Rudder.

            The same type and degree of proof sufficient to send a defendant to the injection chamber should be enough to establish a miraculous cure.

            I don't agree. Once again, miracle in the sense you use it implies at least one, and probably two, assertions. First, it implies that God did it, and second, it almost certainly implies that God did it as some kind of confirmation of the truth of Catholicism. As far as I know, Catholics do not investigate the miracle claims made by individuals outside of Catholicism.

            I have written several messages here tonight and let me just say that it is not my claim that miracles cannot or do not occur, or that there are not authentic miracles as the result of visits to Lourdes. I am just making the argument that it is not unreasonable to say, "I just don't know for certain. There are many things I can't explain."

            It seems to me a very popular argument here that God does not want to "force" belief but rather wants it to be freely chosen. If the Pieter de Rudder case (or other alleged miracles at Lourdes) literally compels belief (including belief in Catholicism), then the argument that God does not want to "force" belief is untrue.

          • I've seen judges and lawyers instruct jurors on the meaning of "reasonable doubt" in several states.

            I have witnessed a few trials myself, but we are not in a court of law. This is an epistemological debate, not a legal proceeding.

            Witness statements plus physical evidence, often interpreted by experts, is how people are convicted of crimes which, in some cases, lead to the death penalty.

            In a court of law, no attorney for either the prosecution or the defense can bring just anybody into the courtroom and say, “Here is a witness, Your Honor” and have that person put on the witness stand so the jury can hear their testimony. There is a screening process, and for experts, the process is even more stringent.

            I am not aware that "reasonable doubt" is used as an official standard by the Church

            And with good reason, I suspect.

            The scoffers have to resort to UNreasonable doubts in order to sustain their rejection

            I am not responsible for anything said by scoffers in general. I have my own reasons for doubting.

            The same type and degree of proof sufficient to send a defendant to the injection chamber should be enough to establish a miraculous cure.

            Have you heard about the Innocence Project? Google it if you haven’t, and then tell me how much confidence I should have in eyewitness testimony.

          • lcnorthon

            We don't seem to be having a substantive exchange regarding claims of miracles at Lourdes and the evidence which is required to receive Church approval. You were the one who led the discussion into an exploration of "reasonable doubt," and now you protest that what we've been talking about has nothing to do with the courtroom, where reasonable doubt is the main point of judgment. Of course it doesn't, as I mentioned above myself. But it's obvious now that you're one of those guys who likes to go around badmouthing what he knows nothing about, and wants to keep it that way. Fine. I've got other things to do. We're done.

          • it appears that God sees value in those who believe without seeing them.

            How very convenient for believers.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Many people think that "believing" for Catholics is the same as the fideism of Protestantism, where the act of faith is not seen as grounded in a rational basis.

            Catholicism first affirms the value of the preambula fidei, the preambles to faith, such as a reasoned conviction of God's existence (from the things that He has made), epistemological realism, philosophical evidences for the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, the historical reliability of the Scriptures, and so forth. From these things one can make an act of faith that is based on rational evidence, not blind faith.

            Knowledge of the historical evidence of miracles, such as the miracle of the sun at Fatima witnessed by tens of thousands, can also be part of an overall worldview that offers a rational foundation for belief. Still, this need not entail direct experience of miracles first hand -- and, in this sense, one can be "one who is a believer, but has not seen." Clearly, many look at some of the same signs and arguments and do not believe.

            Beyond all that is the concept that faith is a gift of grace from God. So, it is in that sense that one can understand the words, "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe."

            And yes, given that the act of faith presupposes both rational evidence and a willingness to pursue that evidence in a direction open to the truth that God offers to us, those who come to believe without directly witnessing miracles first hand do merit a greater reward than those to whom faith is, in a sense, "handed on a golden platter." That is why they are "blessed" for not directly seeing, but yet coming to belief.

            No, this does not prejudge either the salvation or loss of salvation for "unbelievers," since Catholicism insists that God is both just and merciful and will judge each soul according to its own opportunities and choices. This is between the individual soul and God -- not something to which we are privy in this life.

          • No, this does not prejudge either the salvation or loss of salvation for "unbelievers,"

            That’s not what I was getting at. I was thinking instead of the epistemological convenience of a God who gives preferential treatment to people who don’t care whether their beliefs are supported by evidence. I have seen the advocates of many secular ideologies or pseudosciences speak disparagingly, if not outright hostilely, about people who won’t believe them because they offer no evidence or insufficient evidence for their claims. Christians are not the only group trying to tell the world, “There’s something wrong with you if you won’t just take our word for what we’re telling you.”

            the act of faith presupposes both rational evidence and a willingness to pursue that evidence in a direction open to the truth that God offers to us [emphasis added]

            Except for the underlined part, what’s what they all say -- and some of them will add that, too. Whatever notion they are pushing, they’re saying in effect, “We have all the evidence you should need, provided you are willing to believe and are really, truly, sincerely open-minded.”

            The only thing you’re doing that most of them don’t is assuring us that the truth you offer us comes from God, which implies that if we doubt you, or doubt the ecclesiastical authorities on whom you rely, then we are doubting God himself.

            The story of Thomas says a lot more to me about the people who canonized it than about whether it really happened. By the time it was written, nobody who read it could have found anyone still alive who was in a position to verify any of it. All the really good evidence, if there had ever been any, was gone. But that wasn’t supposed to be a problem. The church was telling people, “This is what we’re telling you, and if you really want to please God, then it’s really in your best interest to just take our word for it.”

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But that is why I said above:

            "Catholicism first affirms the value of the preambula fidei, the preambles to faith, such as a reasoned conviction of God's existence (from the things that He has made), epistemological realism, philosophical evidences for the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, the historical reliability of the Scriptures, and so forth. From these things one can make an act of faith that is based on rational evidence, not blind faith."

            We do not just say here is the Good Book and read it and you will be converted to God's truth. We know the Book must first be examined as a purely historical document. The much maligned science of apologetics requires examination of the philosophical, historical, epistemic claims and theological coherence of Catholic claims. This is a far cry from demanding just "blind faith."

            Even so, we accept that a gift of grace is needed from God to move the will to accept the evident conclusion of all this converging evidence.

            And we leave to God's mercy and justice what He wills to do with those who somehow do not find that route to accepting His authentic revelation.

            Obviously, if you do not believe all this, you think it is merely like others who say "just believe." But the entire Catholic intellectual heritage has always been there for all to examine in its fullness.

            You will never be comfortable with its claims short of crossing the Tiber yourself. I do not judge the state of anyone's soul, since I am not them and do not see the world as they see it. In my view, God alone can so judge us. And, eventually, He will.

          • But the entire Catholic intellectual heritage has always been there for all to examine in its fullness.

            But even a full examination of that heritage will convince only those who are predisposed to believe. You have have so yourself, in effect.

          • BCE

            Dear Doug how are you?

            It reminds me of an incident when I was about 7 years old.
            My younger brother and myself were playing and came upon a horrible accident; the man was beheaded. We were quickly pushed aside and told to go home as a swarm of police, fire and ambulance workers arrived.
            We told our parents, they didn't believe us; they told us not to talk about it.
            Many years later I presumed, they really knew but just didn't want us to be traumatized or dwell on it.
            But no, instead they said....there was never any such report, nothing in the news and no one else they knew heard of it (not even a bit of gossip or speculation).
            Even 30 years later my brother and I were treated as though we just
            imaged the whole thing. They didn't accuse us of lying but
            that we were young and must have misunderstood what we saw.
            But my brother and I know we saw a guy with no head.
            I suppose I could dig for evidence, but apparently at the time, the gruesome details were not published, so no one I knew in my lifetime believes what we saw.
            It isn't that I wanted them to believe because they suspend their
            intellect, but I wanted them to trusted me.
            Does that seem like a contradiction to you?
            It had a real impact on me. Not just what I saw, but that it was dismissed as fantasy.

          • It had a real impact on me. Not just what I saw, but that it was dismissed as fantasy.

            Your anecdote provides some useful lessons. To draw them all out, I’m going to have to get a bit long-winded.

            The courtroom analogy is popular in these discussions. It is not perfect. In a criminal trial, in order to disincentivize police or prosecutorial misconduct, the law must sometimes exclude evidence that a reasonable person would otherwise have to consider. But I’m focusing here on the standard for conviction: The prosecution must provide evidence of the defendant’s guilt sufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

            Because this is the standard, it necessarily follows not only that some guilty defendants will be acquitted but that some innocent defendants will be convicted. There is no way we could create a system under which neither outcome would be possible, and no matter what we do to prevent one outcome, the other will happen oftener. A perfect system would convict every accused person who was actually guilty while never convicting any innocent person, but we cannot create such a system. As a society, we have chosen to make it very difficult to convict innocent people. Because of that choice, we often cannot convict guilty people, but that is the price we pay for protecting the innocent. But the same constraints that keep us from convicting all guilty people also prevent us from protecting all innocent people. The only way to ensure that no innocent was ever convicted would be to never convict anyone. Mistakes in judgment cannot be prevented.

            Now to your anecdote. You indicate that no one in your entire community was able to tell your parents that the incident to which you and your brother were testifying actually happened. And yet, you say, there was “a swarm of police, fire and ambulance workers” at the site. Given that detail, the people of your community had a cogent argument from silence against your testimony. For your parents to find your testimony credible, they would have to be convinced that somebody with authority over all of those police officers, firefighters, and medical personnel had ordered them to tell no one about what they saw, and furthermore that every last one of those people had obeyed that order.

            But my brother and I know we saw a guy with no head.

            I cannot speculate on what your parents were thinking when you told them that. I can only tell you what I’m thinking now that I hear your story and have no additional information to factor into my analysis.

            You and your brother saw something that you both felt certain was a guy with no head. And I’m not saying that that isn’t what it was. But you were only 7, and your brother was not even that old. The hypothesis that you were both mistaken about what you saw does not strike me as prima facie implausible. If it hurts your feelings for me to think you might have made a mistake, then with all due respect, I suggest that you reconsider your sense of personal infallibility.

            You used the word “know,” but knowledge presupposes truth. In this context, all you’re really telling me is that you felt certain. But maybe you felt that way for a good reason. Maybe it really was a headless corpse. I can’t rule that out. I believe you were probably mistaken, but “probably” does not mean “certainly.” Let us then consider the implications of assuming you were not mistaken.

            That raises the problem, as I’ve already noted, of the absence of corroborating testimony when we have a reasonable expectation of having it. That is not inexplicable, but it is improbable. At least one each of the police officers, firefighters, and medical personnel who were on the site would have been required to file a written report accounting for their activities at that site, and in most jurisdictions, those reports would have been public records. An actual order of secrecy under which the reports would have been concealed or never written would have been extremely unlikely -- though, again, not impossible.

            A less unlikely possibility would have been that nobody was told to keep their mouth shut but it happened anyway. Everybody wrote their reports as usual and the reports were filed in the unusual places, and nobody else ever saw them again. Now, that is what usually happens anyway with those reports. The anomaly here would be everybody who was at the scene making a personal decision not to talk about it afterward with any of their family or their friends. That is contrary to human nature. People who see headless corpses will talk about that experience. Within any community where it happens, it will become common knowledge that such a corpse was discovered at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time. And if numerous police, firefighters, and medical personnel investigated the discovery, that too will be common knowledge.

            Assuming, then, that you and your brother actually saw what you are so convinced you saw, your community’s apparent unawareness of the incident is a great mystery. But so be it. There are great mysteries -- events for which we can think of no credible explanation but which, nevertheless, we have good reason to believe did happen. There are not nearly as many, in my judgment, as many people think there are, but I don’t claim there are none at all. But in that case, can you really blame anybody for thinking it more likely that you just made a mistake about what you saw?

            In this scenario, you were telling the truth, and nobody would believe you. Of course you don’t like it. Nobody likes being in that position. But if the situation is exactly as you said it was, then everyone who hears your story has a good reason to believe you were mistaken, and you have no right to demand that they ignore that good reason until such time as you can produce some very good evidence that you could not have been mistaken. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but that is beside the point. Reality could not care less about the way we think it should be. In the court of public opinion, you stand convicted of making a mistake that you did not make. It has happened before and will happen again to other people, because there is no way to prevent it from happening once in a while.

            When we hear any person’s testimony, no matter what it is about, we have to take into consideration everything we know about the limitations and fallibilities of human cognition in general and especially, in your case, of young children. Our fallibility does not mean we can never be right. It doesn’t even mean we cannot usually be right. But it does deny us the right ever to claim that we cannot be wrong. And there will be times when, even though we are right, the rest of the world is justified in believing that we are wrong.

          • BCE

            So very sorry. The accident was reported.
            My brother and I never met anyone who also acknowledged the guy's
            head was severed. When we would say we saw he had no head, no one
            we knew confirmed they had heard or read he was beheaded.
            We didn't demand to be believed.

            I appreciate your "court of public opinion" discourse.
            My point was so simple.. our desire to be trusted?
            The...blessed are those who have not seen..., seems to express an appreciation of close relationships (not courtrooms or lab tests) where there is trust.

            To his disciples I think Christ expresses that the pride they have for
            being first hand witnesses needs to be tampered.
            When reading Paul, you see where there is anxiety over who
            should be considered worthy of credible teaching.
            (not that all should be believed).
            Christ foreshadows that very soon upon his death, this will begin to happen.
            I never thought that it meant an attack on reason.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You say "predisposed." I say "open."

            No one believes just to believe. We are moved by reason and evidence. It is true that some accept very slight intellectual reasons and are often moved more by emotional experiences.

            But the Catholic intellectual heritage is just that, "intellectual." Anyone who has read its content widely knows its richness, depth, and rational strength. Unfortunately, it is not widely known these days. The days of Chesterton and Belloc seem long past. But those willing to do the study cannot deny the breadth and depth of its content over two thousand years.

            Mere predisposition alone may move someone to embrace a sudden personal experience or a single persuasive preaching. But that is no substitute for a lifelong openness to and passion for the truth. Unfortunately, many today have little faith even in the concept of truth, which is why we have to spend time explaining why there is such a thing as truth and why all knowledge is not mere assumptions.

            I think we have had this conversation before.

          • I think we have had this conversation before.

            I've been debating Christian apologists online for 19 years. I have had this conversation a great many times.

            Before I came to this forum, those conversations were almost always with Protestant evangelicals. Catholics -- most of the ones I've found here, anyway -- do have an edge in their intellectual sophistication, but the basic claims of their arguments aren't substantially different. The Protestants have simplified them a bit, but their commitment to sola scriptura is not entirely genuine, and so in the final analysis you're both saying pretty much the same things.

          • Obviously, if you do not believe all this, you think it is merely like others who say "just believe."

            I get it that you're not saying "just believe," and I wasn't comparing you to others who do. I was comparing you to others who disparage people who will not believe without evidence.

            You might not be saying "Just believe," but the Thomas story makes it perfectly clear that in the church's view, God prefers those who will just believe.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't see the Thomas story as meaning that God prefers those who will "just believe." I earlier explained in detail how there are other rational means to come to belief without directly witnessing a miracle.

          • I don't see the Thomas story as meaning that God prefers those who will "just believe."

            Thomas is told by Jesus that those believe without seeing are blessed. Why should I think it means anything else?

            I earlier explained in detail how there are other rational means to come to belief without directly witnessing a miracle.

            When I talk about asking for evidence, I am not being so specific as to be referring to miracles. I am talking about any undisputed fact or set of facts that is, to some pertinent level of probability, inconsistent with a denial of Christian teachings.

    • OMG

      Why were there miracles in Jesus' and his disciples time but far fewer today? Perhaps they were given to grow Christianity in that early phase. Since of course there was no social media, no Pony Express, etc.

      There are ten or so verses of scripture where Jesus grants power or authority to his disciples to cast out unclean spirits and to heal. Mark 16:9-18 describes that those who believe in him will be able to do likewise. There is much figurative language...since it says we can drink poison and not suffer harm!

      I cannot speak for Rob, but I'm guessing he posted the Gospel verses to show that those who accept Jesus as the bread of life need nothing more. In other words, those with deep faith will accept all that happens as gifts from God's hand. Scripture says that those he loves he chastises. He knows every hair that falls from our heads. As brothers of Christ, we are God's children by adoption and all that he has we may inherit. Endurance and character derive from trial and suffering. We are not to ask for signs since we've already been given the fullness of revelation. (All this is scriptural; I'll follow with citations if needed...)

      Poor Lazarus. I'm guessing the his second death brought only the consolation that the gates of heaven were then opened. Because his first death occurred prior to Christ's atoning sacrifice, the first death of Lazarus took him to a place not so nice. (according to scripture)

    • OMG

      You raise a very interesting point. Jesus did pretty much grant miracles to those who sought them. Yet Lazarus did not ask for a miracle. I think Lazarus 'suffered' one for the benefit of 1) his sisters and 2) the populace who probably needed this demonstration in order to understand the future resurrection of Jesus himself.

  • So... Why doesn't God perform miracles for everyone? Mr Rauser doesn't know.

    We would expect him to though, if he existed. This state of affairs acknowledges the implication that this is some evidence against his existence or the attributes of classical theism, which apologists can overcome by demonstrating the god exists by other means.

    A fair OP by an apologists with integrity.

    • ClayJames

      We would expect Mr Rauser to know or god to perform miracles for everyone if he existed?

      • I would expect that if this God exists it would heal all of those with terminal diseases instead of a few chosen for no discernible reason.

        I'd expect if such a deity existed and had good reasons for healing almost no one who prayed for healing, it would make these reasons known to us.

        Mr Rauser seems to concur but believes other reasons are sound enough to overcome this implication that no such deity exists .

        • ClayJames

          You are a very limited being determining the probable actions of an omniscient being. You have to have some other reason for coming to that conclusion instead of what you would do. Your mere expectations with no additional reasons means very little.

          • I do, the god concept I am criticizing here is one that loves humans and does not want them suffering and could prevent it all with no effort. It is acknowledged already that he does heal the sick. It's acknowledged in the OP that we would expect God to do this for everyone.

            Fine if you don't believe in such a god, or you can advance a theodicy, or like Mr Rauser accept that this is mysterious, but rely on other reasons for your belief.

            But I don't think it's fair to say we wouldn't expect a god like Jesus to do more healing.

          • ClayJames

            No Catholic believes in a God whose number one goal above all else is to prevent the suffering of people during their lives in this world. You are criticizing a strawman.

            It is also amazing that you bring up Jesus, who asked his Father to prevent his death but accepted divine providence when the answer was ¨no¨, only to be tortured and crucified. Actually, based on the accounts that we have, Jesus healed a very few number of people out of the total number of people around him that probably needed healing.

            So yes, a god that heals everyone who is sick does not exist. So what?

          • No it isn't a straw man, I didn't argue Catholics believe in a god that doesn't want to alleviate suffering.

            >So yes, a god that heals everyone who is sick does not exist. So what?

            it's a basic POE criticism. I was just complimenting Rauser on his integrity in Skeptical Theism.

  • OMG

    If, as Randal suggests, "a miracle now is but a promissory note on a future time when all shall be well…." woe to those who experience no miracle/s!

  • "All shall be well"? Only if you don't believe in a hell. Perhaps Randal doesn't, but many do. Even if that isn't interpreted as being eternal conscious torment, an eternal separation from unbeliever loved ones isn't great. As to the rest, it really seems like this would be persuasive to people that already believe.

    • David Nickol

      Even if that isn't interpreted as being eternal conscious torment, an eternal separation from unbeliever loved ones isn't great.

      Here is one of many fascinating quotes from C. S. Lewis's A Grief Observed:

      Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

      Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions ‘on the further shore,’ pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the spiritualists bait their hook! ‘Things on this side are not so different after all.’ There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.

      • I wonder what he thought Heaven was like then.

        • OMG

          Here's a lengthy but fairly interesting summation of Lewis on heaven, at https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/c-s-lewis-on-heaven-and-the-new-earth-gods-eternal-remedy-to-the-problem-of-evil-and-suffering

          From Mere Christianity:
          "There is no use trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. . . . He likes matter. He invented it" (Mere Christianity [HarperCollins, 1952], 65).
          And:
          "Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body — which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, and that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy" (Ibid., 99).

          From The Four Loves: “We may hope that the resurrection of the body means also the resurrection of what may be called our ‘greater body’; the general fabric of our earthly life with its affections and relationships” (The Four Loves [Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960], 187).

          In the final Narnia book, The Last Battle," Lucy and the unicorn grieve that Narnia has ended. Unicorn: “The only world I’ve ever known.” And “Those hills,” said Lucy, “the nice woody ones and the blue ones behind — aren’t they very like the southern border of Narnia?” …. “And yet . . . ,” said Lucy. “They’re different. They have more colours on them and they look further away than I remembered and they’re more . . .” “More like the real thing,” said the Lord Digory softly. (The Last Battle [Collier, 1956], 168–71, emphases added)

          And
          “The Eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. “The Narnia you’re thinking of . . . was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here....

          Unicorn cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.” (Ibid., emphases added)

          • Some of that is coming back to me at this point. I can't say his view is one I'd fully agreed with though, based on the Bible (or for Catholics, tradition too). Christians seem to often have a love-hate relationship with earthly things. Some of them are good, but others not. So far as it goes, I agree with that much. However, on sex, it seems both Jesus and Paul though were opposed. Jesus said there'd be none in heaven. Paul said that the best thing was to be celibate. Only get married if you can't. Now that of course condemns one of the most material things around, which everyone is born by.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Belief in hell and belief that "all manner of thing shall be well" (to use the Julian of Norwich version) are perhaps not incompatible if one allows for multiple types of eternity. Jesus said that "the gates of hell will not prevail [against the Gospel mission]". That can only mean (I think) that hell won't keep out God's kingdom forever; hell itself will somehow eventually be overwhelmed by grace. That would also seem to be the meaning of Jesus's descent into hell in the Apostles Creed.

      • I didn't remember hearing that quote. So far as I know however this isn't the interpretation of the Catholic Church. It may be what Randal believes however. Certainly that would be preferable to me.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I don't think there is any single "interpretation of the Catholic Church" of this verse (or for any other verse, for that matter). Throughout her history the Church has identified certain lines of thinking as out of bounds, a.k.a. heretical. But that usually leaves an expansive remainder of non-heretical territory, i.e. a substantial range of permissible interpretation. In my view the important point in this case is that -- as far as I can tell -- the Church as not ruled out the interpretation that I have put forward. Moreover, I'm not aware of any plausible alternative interpretations that are on offer that differ substantively from what I proposed.

          If you want to investigate this further together, I suspect we will find quite a range of meanings in Church history associated with the word "eternal" (especially if we go back to the Greek).

          • Perhaps not, but it's been my understanding that they teach hell is eternal. What you've said here seems more like their idea of purgatory. I'm very happy to be wrong though if that's not true.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Perhaps not, but it's been my understanding that they teach hell is eternal.

            Oh, they do :-) But "eternal" has a range of meanings, even in contemporary English. For example, it can mean something like "sempiternal", or it can mean something more like "outside of chronological time" (like a kairotic moment).

            With respect to some of the key NT passages on hell, the Church is often using "eternal" as sort of "best available approximation" of the Greek aiōnios, which has a more ambiguous and flexible meaning than is often implied by contemporary usage of "eternal". For example, in Jonah 2:6, Jonah gets pulled down aiōnios into the depths ... and comes back to land three days later.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            According to Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 481, "The punishment of Hell lasts for all eternity. (De fide.)

            He cites the Caput Firmiter of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) that declares: "Those (the rejected) will receive a perpetual punishment with the devil." Denziger 429.

            Sorry. Wish I had better news.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Fair enough. So, do you know how one might reconcile that with Jesus's words in Matthew 16:18?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "... and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (the Church)."

            I have always understood that that merely means that the evil spirits will not prevail in the battle with Christ's Church. Remember, it is in the context of Christ appointing Peter as head of the Church.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But it doesn't just mean that hell will not conquer the Church. It means that the Church will conquer hell. The metaphor is of hell as a besieged city. The point is that the Church will eventually surge through those gates.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As you know, the Church rarely gives official interpretations of any text. While medieval battles were won by surging through a city's gates, we need not take this literally with reference to hell. It is sufficient that God's plan for his creation triumph over the forces of evil. What is in hell can stay there.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It's not a matter of taking it literally. It's a matter of making reasonable inferences about the sense that Jesus was trying to evoke with the metaphor. To my ears it does not sound like a call for an uneasy detente with some remainder of creation that remains beyond the reach of the Kingdom of God. It sounds a lot more like an anticipation of the complete sovereignty of the Kingdom of God. Nothing in Jesus's words seems to me to evoke that the sense that "What is in hell can stay there."

            But, as you say, a range of interpretation is available within Church tradition.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As every Catholic should know, it is critical not to take Scriptural citations out of the total context of the Gospels.

            The reading you cite here must be taken in conjunction with others, like this one:

            "It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where 'the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"
            Mark 9:47-48.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes, I agree. But, as every Catholic should also know, it is also critical to take into account the mode of expression. In Mark 9:47-48, we should (I think) assume that Jesus is not speaking literally (unless one wants to propose that the "worms" are literal?). He is rather painting a metaphorical picture of hell, to evoke a sense of what it is like. As such, I don't see why one would evaluate the "not quenched" with any more literal precision than would be applied to the "worms".

            Elsewhere Jesus uses reference to Gehenna / Vale of Hinnom to suggest the reality of hell. Again, the mode of expression is clearly metaphorical, as his audience presumably understood that he wasn't talking about physically going to the actual geographic location. In every case I can think of, Jesus refers to hell only in an evocative, elliptical, and suggestive manner. I think I am on solid ground saying that he never articulates hell's properties in a manner that is intended to be metaphysically precise.

          • OMG

            Since we believe the Church exists both in and outside of time, its eventual triumph may well occur in eternity, or at the end of time.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It's perhaps worth noting that in some translations of the Fourth Lateran Council, the excerpt you provided is rendered with "eternal", rather than "perpetual". The meaning of "eternal" in the Christian tradition seems to be not straightforward, to put it mildly: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/eternity/. For example, (though not in reference to hell) For example, Augustine refers to "the sublimity of an eternity which is always in the present", which is quite different from an everlasting duration.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Ah, I see your meaning. But you may be forgetting that the real meaning of eternity is not endless duration. Eternity describes the divine life of God -- as the simultaneous and complete possession of infinite life. In God, eternity has its primary analogate meaning: Got exists all at once, not in endless duration, but still without change, without beginning, without ending.

            The secondary analogates, such as our notion of endless duration are a quite different meaning, similar to time without beginning or end, but not all simultaneous.

            Thus, when we speak of eternal duration in heaven or hell, whatever its exact referent, it retains the signification of something without beginning or ending.

            The difference between true eternity and an eternity of heaven or hell for a created person would be with respect to the possibility of sequential states of being, but it is not with respect to the aspect of having an ending or not. Both have no ending.

            That is the hell of it.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It makes sense to me that there can be no change in the "eternal now" of eschatological realities like heaven and hell. But it seems that that statement is true only when evaluated from that divine "eternal now" perspective.

            The Christian tradition seems to understand the "eternal now" / nunc stans not merely as a reference to a perspective outside of time, but rather as the integration / gathering up of all moments in time. It seems that one has to adopt something like this view in light of the Incarnation, which seems to foreclose on the possibility of a God entirely outside of time.

            To use a mathematical analogy, eternity is timeless in the same sense that an indefinite integral of a function of time (integrating with respect to the time variable) is timeless. The integral does not change with respect to time, but the integral is determined by that which happens in time.

            On that understanding, it seems coherent for us (we, who are enmeshed in time) to say that what happens in time "changes eternity", even though "changing eternity" is nonsense from the divine perspective. To use the math analogy again, this is like saying that what happens to the function of time in time affects the integral of the function (even though, again, the integral is not itself a function of time).

            So then, returning to the question of hell, this would suggest that our ongoing journey within time continues to determine the reality of an eternal hell. Of course I have put forward a fair amount of non-professional speculation here, but my proposal has the merit of allowing us to make sense of Jesus's apparent claim that hell will be conquered.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See my comment below in which I cite Mark 9:47-48.

            Remember, too, that for Catholics, the ultimate reading of Scripture is governed by consistency with dogma, which is why the definition I cited above determines the meaning of what you cite: "Those (the rejected) will receive a perpetual punishment with the devil." Denziger 429. (De fide.)

            We do not accept sola scriptura.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not arguing on a sola scriptura basis. I accept that the Bible comes from the Church and not the other way around. Nonetheless, the Biblical canon is itself part of the Church's doctrine. Moreover, in the hierarchy of truths that the Church professes, the scriptural record of words from Jesus's own mouth rank quite highly.

            Please note that I am not proposing to read the Bible without regard to Church doctrine. I am proposing to interpret doctrine and scripture in dialogue with each other. But again, that dialogue should proceed by assigning very substantial weight to words attributed to Jesus.

          • Really? I'm only aware of the "sempiternal" definition. Great word too.

            That is interesting. Long-lasting is certainly very different from ever-lasting of course.

  • michael

    Yeah, and I saw a flying unicorn.

  • michael

    Ancient Muslim writers insist they saw Muhammed split the moon.

  • michael

    What specifically would convert you to atheism? Don't say "Nothing" because that'd be the same as saying you believe for no reason. And don't say "evidence", that' horribly vague.

  • Craig Roberts

    Miracles are by definition "special exemptions" to the everyday world. If God did them for everybody, there would be no exemptions, and nothing special about them. Therefore the question is like asking, "Why doesn't God make the amazing boring?" By definition, He can't. If everything was boring there would be nothing amazing.

    • David Nickol

      I don't find your argument at all convincing. If everyone received one and only one miracle during his or her lifetime, which seems to be what the OP is about, I don't see how that would make life in this world in any way less interesting than it is. I think there are a great many people who believe God works miracles all the time—just not spectacular, public, widely reported ones.

      If I understand the concept of actual grace, it doesn't seem to me a stretch to call it miraculous, and it's available freely. I have had more than one experience that may (or may not) have been miraculous. Of course, if God worked miracles all the time, whenever anyone wanted them, then it would indeed be a bizarre world. It would also be impossible, since God would be receiving requests for incompatible miracles. It would not be possible, for example, for all 30 MLB teams to win the World Series, no matter how fervently 30 groups of fans prayed for their own team.

      If miracles are exceedingly rare, it seems to me that there are a lot of "wasted" prayers for things like good weather for crops, the wellbeing of sick loved ones, and myriad other things that people pray for almost constantly. It seems to me the belief that miracles are exceedingly rare comes very close to Deism.

      • OMG

        The 30 MLB teams could all win the World Series. Just not at the same time.

      • Craig Roberts

        "If I understand the concept of actual grace..."

        If you do...you're better than me.

        If miracles are common then we should get comfortable with other common Christian contradictions such as "everyone is special."

        If what the philosophers claim is true, that God can't make a square circle (contradict truth), then he can't fulfill the promise to make everyone special.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I it now clear that the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church includes Pope Francis covering up for the misdeeds of at least one high cleric, Cardinal McCarrick. It would be naive not to realize that even more sinful intrigue must be involved at the highest levels.

    http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/ex-nuncio-accuses-pope-francis-of-failing-to-act-on-mccarricks-abuse

    While it is not at all clear just how wide this problem is in terms of the number of clerics actually involved, it would be simply wrong to deny that responsibility for its continued existence does not in some manner go all the way to the top.

    This may well be, as Michael Voris noted last night, the most important matter to affect the Church in the last five hundred years.

    Still, I think we should recall at this moment the comment I just read: "You know that the Church is divine for it to have survived its leadership for more than a few years."

    Many may use this scandal as an excuse to leave and/or attack the Church of Christ, but it in no way logically disproves its divine credentials and mission. Christ came to save sinners and his Church is a Church of sinners needing constant redemption. We have had popes who were sinners; we have had many more who were saints. The Church will survive the present crisis.

    • Ficino

      Carlo Vigano, source of the statements in the linked article, was the one who brought Kim Davis to meet Pope Francis - apparently taking the pontiff by surprise. Vigano's resignation soon after was accepted, a move seen by many as the Pope's response to Vigano's having set up Davis' appearance.

      https://www.cnn.com/2016/04/12/europe/pope-vigano-resign/index.html

      I don't know whether axes to be ground have anything to do with what was reported in article linked in your OP, Prof. Bonnette.

      FWIW I don't know many serious observers who believe that scandals "*logically* disprove" anything (my asterisks). Many non- or ex-Catholics do find that they shed light on ways in which the church is a human institution like other human institutions, with the John 13:35 part left harder to see.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Unless the former papal nuncio is simply making up stories, and he certainly was in a position to know the truth, the smoking gun of this matter lies in the action of Pope Benedict XVI, which Vigano exsplicitly recites as essentially identical to those now imposed on McCarrick by Pope Francis. The Register article cited above makes the following independent confirmation:

        "The Register has independently confirmed that the allegations against McCarrick were certainly known to Benedict, and the Pope Emeritus remembers instructing Cardinal Bertone to impose measures but cannot recall their exact nature."

        The fact that McCarrick was perfectly free to continue his activities without any hindrance from the Vatican under Pope Francis until just recently speaks for itself. Vigano, of course, swears to the personal knowledge and responsibility of Pope Francis in this matter.

        • OMG

          The soup now becomes a stew with big chunks of rancidity spoiling the taste, the smell, the nutritional value. Many orthodox Catholics are probably not surprised, but do cling to Romans 8:28 and, of course, the miracle of the resurrection.

      • OMG

        If history offers any precedent, except for John, all disciples fled at the crucifixion. Peter had faith but not to the extent that he could overcome his fear.

        In history, what other institution has withstood such assault?

        Within the church too, weren't there only a handful of bishops who stood for truth against Arianism?

        This isn't over yet. I'm bracing myself for more. I wonder why we haven't been called to repentance. Does any bishop believe in it? Do they fear a lack of credibility? Is it up to us laity now?

    • David Nickol

      This may well be, as Michael Voris noted last night, the most important matter to affect the Church in the last five hundred years.

      I noticed that Michael Voris slammed Bill Donohue and the Catholic League, whom you have quoted recently, saying,

      . . . Bill Donohue, who, while admitting there's "gay stuff" going on, has defended tooth and nail the lying Donald Wuerl, who helped set him up at the Catholic League so he could pull down a half million dollars a year.

      Living in the Archdiocese of New York, the following was of interest to me:

      He also called out Cdl. Edwin O'Brien — the focus of Church Militant's most recent special report — the homosexualist cardinal who had deformed many men in the seminary of the archdiocese of New York while he was rector and set up the gay collective that runs New York right now, with the knowledge and complicity of Cdl. Timothy Dolan. [Emphasis added]

      It seems an interesting new word word to the conservative Catholic lexicon: homoheritics.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        There are, and will be, many players in the developing drama. You mention Michael Voris and Dr. Donohue, who themselves are not in full agreement on these matters.

        My focus, though, is on the contents of Archbishop Vigano's testimony, which is sworn and from someone who has been in actual authority and with intimate knowledge of these Vatican affairs. I read his letter carefully and find its essential message compelling, especially since he cites verbatim the wording of the action by Pope Benedict XVI against McCarrick.

        Time will tell the full story, without spin from sources such as the National "Catholic" Reporter.

        • David Nickol

          Time will tell the full story, without spin from sources such as the National "Catholic" Reporter.

          So Michael Voris doesn't "spin"?

          I think this whole mess has just begun, and before we choose sides, we owe it to the accused—especially Pope Francis—to hear from them.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The National Catholic Reporter bears a unique distinction. In 1968, Kansas City Bishop Charles Herman Helmsing issued a statement condemning NCR, asking the editors to take the name, "Catholic," off its masthead. As you can see, they refused to obey.

            My focus on Archbishop Vigano's testimony is not so concerned with his personal opinions as with his position of authority in which he was aware of Vatican actions. It is the facts which he reports that are concerning.

            Particularly, I note the former United States Apostolic Nuncio's reporting that Pope Benedict told McCarrick that he was to leave the seminary where he was then residing, that he was forbidden to celebrate Mass in public, to participate in public meetings, or to give lectures. This is a matter of simple fact: true or false.

            It is evident that McCarrick was free to do all those things under Pope Francis, who only a week or so ago -- when media criticism of McCarrick became intense -- finally imposed similar restrictions on McCarrick. For years McCarrick was allowed to flaunt Benedict's order to him.

            You are quite right. "[T]his whole mess has just begun."

          • David Nickol

            The National Catholic Reporter bears a unique distinction. In 1968, Kansas City Bishop Charles Herman Helmsing issued a statement condemning NCR, asking the editors to take the name, "Catholic," off its masthead. As you can see, they refused to obey.

            I'd say this fifty-year-old occurrence is irrelevant to the two NCR articles I linked to, which need to be judged on their own merits.

          • Jim the Scott

            Making this a left vs right or conservative/trad vs liberals is a mistake.

            We need investigation and testimony. Benedict must speak.

            It is that simple.

            @drdennisbonnette:disqus

            In terms of politics.

            I suspect if the liberal media gives Pope Francis some cover in the short term if they have to choose between saving a "liberal" Pope vs giving the Church a body blow by having a Pope resign in disgrace they will soon want the later. So Francis will be defended by the usual suspects for only so long.

            All this is irrelevant to his guilt or innocence. Benedict must speak. His testimony will either confirm or refute the Nuncio's testimony. Or something in between. That is all that matters then we can move on.

          • Jim the Scott

            Unless in a fit of madness he wants to save the Church from an evil liberal heretic Pope and is willing to do an unthinkable evil(lie) so that good might come from it? Or he is nuts but has the ability to mask it? Marcel was "conservative" and he condemned all the right things and lived his life in secret evil till it was exposed & I heard refused last rites while he was near death.

            Now mind you I absolutely don't accuse Vigano of this at all (& I would doubt it without evidence if he was accused) but I am open to the possibility which is why Holy Writ says we need two or three witnesses. One man even if he has a celebrated good character by others is not enough.

            Benedict must speak.

        • David Nickol

          I read his letter carefully and find its essential message compelling, especially since he cites verbatim the wording of the action by Pope Benedict XVI against McCarrick.

          And yet from what I have read, Benedict XVI does not himself recall the "wording of the action by Pope Benedict XVI against McCarrick.'

          From America Magazine, Viganò’s accusations: What we know and what questions they raise, by Michael O'Loughlin:

          Others say that one of the central claims of the letter, that Pope Benedict placed sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick, which were kept secret, that were later lifted by Pope Francis, does not hold up. According to Vigano, who says he learned about them from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the sanctions were placed in 2009 or 2010. Initial reporting by the National Catholic Register said that the retired pope remembers ordering the sanctions but not their exact nature. But Cardinal McCarrick continued to keep a public profile during Benedict’s pontificate.

          In 2011, he celebrated Mass and preached publicly, including an ordination in June and again in October at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. He also testified before the U.S. Congress, he appeared on Meet The Press, and he also accepted at least two awards.

          The following year, then-Cardinal McCarrick accompanied other U.S. bishops to a meeting in January with Pope Benedict at the Vatican. During the same trip, he concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Wuerl and the other U.S. bishops at the tomb of St. Peter. In April, then-Cardinal McCarrick was back in Rome, part of a delegation from The Papal Foundation to wish Pope Benedict a happy birthday.

          Cardinal McCarrick was even present at Pope Benedict’s final meeting with the cardinals in 2013 before he stepped down; the pair are seen shaking hands.

          In May of 2013, just two months after Francis was elected pope, Archbishop Viganò concelebrated a Mass, along with Cardinal McCarrick and Cardinal Wuerl, before The Catholic University of America’s Annual Cardinals’ Dinner, hosted by the school’s president, John Garvey.

          Still others have pointed to Archbishop’s Viganò’s perceived hostility toward Pope Francis, noting that the pope recalled the archbishop from his post in 2016. The decision came after the Vatican decided Archbishop Viganò had become too enmeshed in U.S. culture wars, particularly regarding same-sex marriage: He arranged the meeting between Pope Francis and Kim Davis, the former Kentucky clerk who refused to sign a marriage certificate for a same-sex couple, blindsiding the pope during his 2015 U.S. visit. [Emphasis added.]

          • David Nickol

            Additionally, Cardinals Wuerl and Cupich have responded to Vigano's accusations.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We can see a flurry of activity here in which the comments by media tend to line up according to the liberal-orthodox axis of the source involved. Both America and the National Catholic Reporter are rather strongly liberal in their orientation, while some of the other sources already cited are orthodox in persuasion.

            That does not gainsay the truth of what they publish, but in this sort of controversy, such diverse perspectives are to be expected.

            While Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI does not recall the exact status of his sanctions, the other side of the coin is that he is reported to recall that he did issue sanctions.

            That the sanctions did not appear to affect McCarrick is not as shocking as one might think, since the claim of Vigano is that those sympathetic to McCarrick are found in key positions in the Church hierarchy, which might explain the failure of the sanctions to be implemented.

            Nor does it surprise me that even Benedict himself may have failed to recognize that his orders were not fully implemented or that he had further contact with McCarrick -- given his age and the complexity of running the Catholic Church. Recall that he resigned himself for what he considered good cause.

            Just to offer analysis from another perspective, you might want to look at this: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2018/08/26/if-viganos-testimony-is-true-pope-francis-has-failed-his-own-test/

            The other question one must ask is why would the safely retired Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Vigano, issue such a "testimony" if he knew it was a tissue of lies? Knowing its content would be destroyed upon public examination, he would know that it would destroy whatever good reputation he enjoys in his later years of life. Essentially, he is falling on his own sword in publishing such an explicit condemnation of the Pope, complete with detailed allegations that are sufficiently explicit (such as the sanctions against McCarrick by Benedict) that their falsity could be easily exposed.

            It is also not surprising that those accused would quickly act to stem the effect of the accusations. It is typical of major organizations -- from a presidential administration to the officers of the Titanic -- to give the appearance that all is perfectly well -- until it isn't anymore.

            But I share with you the concern that what is most needed now is the full exposure of the truth -- whatever it may turn out to be. While it may take time now, history has a way of making its actual content evident over time. On the other hand, here we are on this site still debating whether Christ actually rose from the dead!

          • Ficino

            "We can see a flurry of activity here in which the comments by media tend to line up according to the liberal-orthodox axis of the source involved. Both America and the National Catholic Reporter are rather strongly liberal in their orientation, while some of the other sources already cited are orthodox in persuasion."

            I am confused. As has been said before, I thought the opposite of liberal is "conservative," and the opposite of orthodox is "heterodox." Do the publishers and/or staff of America and/or NCR deny teachings that are de fide, or even proximae fidei? Would they classify themselves as not orthodox?

          • OMG

            Pardon my chimes here, but I seriously doubt that America and/or NCR would classify themselves as anything other than Catholic. Just as Nancy Pelosi is Catholic, just as the Pope is Catholic, just as I am Catholic, these terms you mention represent political and ecclesial continuums. It is advantageous for many to call themselves Catholic in these days and times. There is a war going on; perhaps you may have noticed.

          • Ficino

            I do not doubt that the people you mention classify themselves as Catholic. My question, however, was a different question.

            I'd still like to know what doctrines are denied by the staff or publishers of America and NCR, in consequence of which one can say they are not orthodox.

          • OMG

            For a truly authoritative answer, I would ask them.

          • OMG

            Here's info on the KC Bishop condemning The Reporter in 2013. http://www.kcur.org/post/bishop-finn-condemns-national-catholic-reporter-0#stream/0

            Dr. B. also today or yesterday posted a few lines about the 1968 controversy--The Reporter repudiated the HV encyclical (on contraception), directly and publicly contradicting an official RCC document.

          • David Nickol

            If we were to have Bishop Finn on the witness stand testifying against NCR, we would ask him about his criminal conviction for failure to report suspected child abuse, an investigation ordered by the Vatican, and Finn's resignation.

            I still think it is open to Catholics to question Humanae Vitae and to speak in favor of the ordination of women (as NCR has done) without being classified as "heterodox." I imagine those who consider themselves "orthodox" (as opposed to "liberal") probably would disagree, but I am just offering a personal opinion.

          • OMG

            Individuals who, in good faith, question and seek understanding differ from institutions which dissent publicly and influentially, particularly when those institutions call themselves "Catholic." It is false advertising. It causes confusion to the faithful and to all.

          • Ficino

            I.e. some writers in the NCR disagreed with the discipline of family planning as stipulated in Humanae Vitae, and some think there should be women priests? OK, thanks.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are right that there has been a continuing confusion in the Church for decades on precisely those points of terminology. I used the word "liberal" to describe the two publications I mentioned, simply to avoid castigating them as being "heterodox," since some of their positions may be more of a political nature. On the contrary, I chose the term, "orthodox," to describe the opposing media in order to highlight that it was the doctrinal nature of their positions which were of significance to this matter.

            I am sure most publishers and their staff would resist being called by any such polarizing terminology -- but I don't work for them.

            That may be confusing, but we live in a confused world, wherein language defies perfect precision in arenas of social, doctrinal, and political controversy.

          • David Nickol

            I think "progressive" versus "traditionalist" (or simply "liberal" versus "conservative") is preferable to "liberal" versus "orthodox." However, many conservative Catholics are not traditionalists in the strict sense of the term.

            What has gone so dramatically wrong in the Church in the last 50 years or so? Some blame Humanae Vitae, some blame Vatican II, and some just seem to blame modern life. When I was a kid, the average parents could afford to send their children to Catholic school through the 12th grade. Now my high school, which was staffed largely by the Christian Brothers (FSC), is closer in cost to college, with all lay teachers. According to Wikipedia, there are now "4,100 brothers, 75% fewer than in 1965. The decline is due partly to many brothers reaching retirement age, and the small number of new recruits. In the same period the number of students in Lasallian schools increased from about 700,000 to over a million." In my college years and a few years following, we heard about one after another of our former teachers leaving the order. The nuns, brothers, and priests who taught in Catholic schools were far lest costly than lay teachers (who were themselves often poorly paid). The cost of a Catholic education rose dramatically.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Strictly speaking, the only correct theological terms are "orthodox" versus "heterodox." "Conservative" and "liberal" are borrowed from a political context and do not properly describe theological positions.

            What you describe of the last half century is simply accurate reporting. When i went to my Catholic grade school (only sixth through eighth grade for me), we had all nuns teaching and just two lay teachers. My mother had to come up with the tuition. You won't believe it, but it was just two dollars (yes, $2.00s!!!) a month! You know the cost today.

            The Church built its beautiful old churches and its omnipresent school system back in the Depression era when no one had any money -- but today cannot sustain it in an age of relative opulence.

            What has gone wrong here? I think Pope Paul VI put his finger on the problem long ago when he said, "We live in an age of declining faith."

            Trying to compete with secular values and secular institutions that are built on premises that totally ignore religion and faith in Jesus Christ has led to the ruin of both the Church and its institutions. We cannot compete with the world on its own terms.

            The ultimate question is, and has always been, "Is Christ truly God and did he actually found a true religion?" He warned us that his kingdom was not of this world.

            Christianity grew and spread its influence throughout the entire civilized world over many centuries. But it does not do well when it abandons its core values and tries to absorb the values of the secular world it was sent to convert.

        • Jim the Scott

          @davidnickol:disqus

          >Time will tell the full story, without spin from sources such as the National "Catholic" Reporter.

          Gentlemen we must never fall into the trap of making this a conservative/traditionalist Catholic thingy vs liberal Catholic thingy. The base politics which go on in this country (thought fun for us political partisans) must not infect the Church.

          I know some individual reactionary Catholics who don't care if Francis is guilty or not as long at is gets rid of him because he is a "heretic".

          Even if he was a secret heretic he deserves a fair presumption of innocence and if he is as orthodox as St John Paul II if he was guilty he should for the good of the Church go.

          I bash scientism all the time but that doesn't mean I am against science where it is needed. What we need here is evidence and based on that alone will we move forward.

          If the Pope is guilty this is even more important since making it a partisan fight would only help him. Make it an evidential investigation. Nothing more. Ironically even Cardinal Burke understands this. Note he has not said the Pope is guilty nor has he called for him to step down. He has called for an investigation.

          Anyway I never tire of saying this Benedict must speak and that would put an end to it one way or another.

          • OMG

            Relativism displays her truth in every color of the rainbow. The secular/religious news outlets themselves present their lib-con, hetero-ortho lenses; we have little choice but to keep abreast of the color of each. Relativism displays her truth in every color of the rainbow.

            Corruption and distrust in the church are now at high decibel pitch. Are such accusations, intrigue, distrust, and sin really new? People are all over the map on the source: Some blame Benedict and some blame JPII. Others fault John XXIII and Vatican II. A few point to Jesuit Tyrrell's early modernist push and 1907 condemnation by Pius X in Pascendi dominici gregis.

            But what would end with Benedict's speech? 1) He supports Vigano. Then what? The Pope fights or the Pope resigns. Then a new pope is elected. Should we hope for a different result? 2) Benedict denies Vigano. Then what? Schism? Either way, we're in a deep well.

            The Church teaches that it is the Body of Christ. This is not the first time the Body of Christ lay dead and buried. This is not the end.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Regardless of what twists and turns an investigation of this crisis in the Church may discover, what we must keep in mind is two truths that faithful Catholics firmly hold: (1) the Catholic Church is the authentic revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, and (2) the only source of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist (which make getting to heaven much easier) are through the validly ordained priests of the Catholic Church (and Orthodox schismatics).

          • David Nickol

            Rod Dreher's personal solution was to convert from Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I mention that the sacraments may be validly received from Orthodox priests, but was not saying that Catholics may routinely do so. OMG's refinement of my point is, of course, absolutely right. But they are available routinely to members of the Orthodox Churches.

            But, regarding Rod Dreher, that brings us back to the reasons for Catholics remaining Catholic for the first reason I stated above, namely, our belief that Catholicism is the authentic revelation of God -- complete with the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. The Orthodox have valid sacraments, but they are not in union with Rome.

          • David Nickol

            So what should a Catholic do who believes in the papacy but also believes a particular pope is leading the Church astray? Apparently, the current answer is to call for that pope to resign. But what if he doesn't?

            I think it is interesting that there seems to be brewing a true rebellion against Francis, yet there is no question that he is the legitimate pope. It seems to me that in the past, faithful Catholics would have bent over backwards to give the reigning pope the benefit of the doubt—or perhaps even have acknowledged that a "bad" pope was on the throne but he was still the Vicar of Christ. But now even mere laymen are agitating for Francis to resign. It looks more like 21st-century American politics than what one would expect to go on among the successors of Jesus and the Apostles. I can certainly see why it might make some doubt the legitimacy of the papacy and the College of Cardinals and then turn to the Orthodox Churches.

          • Rob Abney

            Here's my opinion of what a faithful Catholic layman should do. You should discuss the issues with all those who are in your close circle of influence. You should help those who do not understand the issues to more fully understand.
            You should pray, and you should also work toward being holy because then your prayers are more effective.
            This is an issue that will only change over time and if more of us are praying and working to be holy then we can influence the direction of the Church. But simply voicing my opinion of being for or against the Pope is practically useless. Leaving the Church would be like abandoning your Mother.

          • OMG

            Great point. I would only add that it would be like leaving a seriously ill, mortally wounded, or dying mother.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well it has happened before. We had Alexander VI and his brood of bastard children and Sergus III a 60 year old man bonking his 15 year old mistress. You remain faithful and stand your ground. Christ himself said there would be bad Shepards who would not spare the sheep. Augustine said there is no excuse for schism even upon the admission the Church is being ruled by wicked and sinful men. It is legitimate in the face of hard evidence of wrong doing to ask the Pope to resign for the good of the Church(I am still waiting to see how this all plays out). If an obstinate Pope refuses to resign it is still mortal sin to break communion with him.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Bottom line: no power on earth can force a pope to resign. God can end any papacy, just as he can end any of us.

            Faithful Catholics simply do not believe that a legitimate pope, such as Francis, can teach irreformable error. So, that is not a problem. Yes, many Catholics are not entirely happy with Pope Francis and might well wish he would resign. But this cannot be forced, even should the Vigano charges be proven in their worst form. That is why the Church is not like the typical political system.

            We do believe, though, in Our Lord's promise that "the gates of hell will not prevail" against his Church. So, believing Catholics should not panic over present crises. The Church has been here for two thousand years. It has endured a few really bad popes, such as Alexander VI. But note that none of them ever defined a dogma -- and certainly not one that contradicted Catholic tradition.

            Doubting the sanctity or even simple virtue of a given pope is not the same thing as doubting his legitimacy or that of the papacy. History shows that without the unity of the papacy churches and sects tend to multiply without limit, while Christ insists that his Church is one. That is why Orthodoxy is not an option for faithful Catholics.

          • Jim the Scott

            I was there over at Mark Shea's blog back in the day and witnessed it. He didn't join the EO because he found out some bit of knowledge that convinced him it was really the True Church. He joined it because it was the default church.

          • OMG

            Yes, but Roman Catholics may only receive Eucharist from a validly ordained priest in the Orthodox rite IFF there is no Catholic priest available.

            The beatified German mystic nun Katharina Emmerick on the 13th of May 1820 visioned two Roman churches, two popes. One pope had a weak will which allowed a 'second' church to develop 'under' him. That church had greater numbers but no room for the Lord. The other church she termed the right one; it had a Pope with a strong will and the Lord was there, but that true church was 'scattered.'

            Of course, we are not bound by faith to believe any private revelations. I just now read about her and found it curious.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well I suspect if Benedict speaks we will likely know the Truth and we can move on. If God allows the next Pope to be worst then we will deal with it. If he is better well that will be lovely. But Truth is an end in itself. We should know the Truth in this situation for it's own sake and for the sake of Truth Incarnate whom we worship.

            That is all that matters.

          • David Nickol

            Time and again in my career working in an office setting, it would surprise me when different people had differing accounts of a meeting they had just come out of. The "Truth" is not always so clear cut, even when everyone is doing his or her best to give an account of what they saw. There are umpteen studies demonstrating how inaccurate eyewitness testimony can be. I also have found that people relating incidents that I personally witnessed don't always quote themselves accurately. Sometimes it seems as if they are relating what they wish they had said rather than what they actually said. But I doubt that these kinds of things are conscious, willful lies.

          • Jim the Scott

            According to the Register based on their source close to Benedict who wishes to be anonymous "Pope Emeritus was “unable to remember very well” how the matter was handled, according to the source. As far as Benedict could recall, the source said the instruction was essentially that McCarrick should keep a “low profile.” There was “no formal decree, just a private request."

            Note this is the Register owned by EWTN. Not a bastion of Catholic liberalism. Being told to "keep a low profile" is slightly different then being under a disciplinary sanction that Pope Francis formally revoked.

            Francis is not out of the woods but it slightly moves the needle toward him IMHO.

            http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/further-questions-emerge-about-benedict-xvis-sanctions-on-mccarrick

            Anyway as a neutral party David I would like to hear your thoughts.

          • Rob Abney

            As Augustine noted, “They love Truth when it enlightens them. They hate Truth when it accuses them.”

          • David Nickol

            I don't really see how this is relevant to what I said. Human beings are fallible and even, in certain ways, error prone. It is not a matter of hating or loving truth. It is a matter of seeing clearly. Check out A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives or The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us. Here's the Scientific American review from the Amazon web site for A Mind of Its Own, which I have quoted a number of times before.

            Many psychological studies show that on average, each of us believes we are above average compared with others—more ethical and capable, better drivers, better judges of character, and more attractive. Our weaknesses are, of course, irrelevant. Such self distortion protects our egos from harm, even when nothing could be further from the truth. Our brains are the trusted advisers we should never trust. This "distorting prism" of selfknowledge is what Cordelia Fine, a psychologist at the Australian National University, calls our "vain brain." Fine documents the lengths to which a human brain will go to bias perceptions in the perceiver’s favor. When explaining to ourselves and others why something has gone well or badly, we attribute success to our own qualities, while shedding responsibility for failure. Our brains bias memory and reason, selectively editing truth to inflictless pain on our fragile selves. They also shield the ego from truth with "retroactive pessimism," insisting the odds were stacked inevitably toward doom. Alternatively, the brain of "selfhandicappers" concocts nonthreatening excuses for failure. Furthermore, our brains warp perceptions to match emotions. In the extreme, patients with Cotard delusion actually believe they are dead. So "pigheaded" is the brain about protecting its perspective that it defends cherished positions regardless of data. The "secretive" brain unconsciously directs our lives via silent neural equipment that creates the illusion of willfulness. "Never forget," Fine says, "that your unconscious is smarter than you, faster than you, and more powerful than you. It may even control you. You will never know all of its secrets." So what to do? Begin with self-awareness, Fine says, then manage the distortions as best one can. We owe it to ourselves "to lessen the harmful effects of the brain’s various shams," she adds, while admitting that applying this lesson to others is easier than to oneself. Ironically, one category of persons shows that it is possible to view life through a clearer lens. "Their self-perceptions are more balanced, they assign responsibility for success and failure more even-handedly, and their predictions for the future are more realistic. These people are living testimony to the dangers of self-knowledge," Fine asserts. "They are the clinically depressed." Case in point.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems to me that we are saying the same thing!

          • OMG

            That has been my experience too, but I tended to trust and believe certain persons more than others. Legal evidence is weighted according to the quality, quantity, sufficiency, relevance, etc. Credibility certainly plays a role. Past history is no guarantee of future performance, but men are creatures of habit. Patterns of behavior die hard.

          • OMG

            Yes, truth should be known. But, but, but, what if they contradict each other? [Apparently he did confirm sanctions but couldn't remember exactly what they were. How old is he now? early 90s? ] Would we want our Pope to undergo Court proceedings to arrive at the truth of it all? Would he agree to do so in any event?

          • Jim the Scott

            According to the Register based on their source close to Benedict who wishes to be anonymous "Pope Emeritus was “unable to remember very well” how the matter was handled, according to the source. As far as Benedict could recall, the source said the instruction was essentially that McCarrick should keep a “low profile.” There was “no formal decree, just a private request."

            Note this is the Register owned by EWTN. Not a bastion of Catholic liberalism. Being told to "keep a low profile" is slightly different then being under a disciplinary sanction that Pope Francis formally revoked.

            Francis is not out of the woods but it slightly moves the needle toward him IMHO.

          • OMG

            I agree that Francis is not out of the woods. True or false,history of all colors will show the accusations as a plague to his reign.

            Until the allegations are fairly reasonably shown to be false (a virtually impossible task), his silence on the matter suggests he intends not to address them but instead will let us wallow in wonder. His failure to confront the allegations recalls how he has addressed conflict in the past (e.g., dubia on the AL encyclical, etc.). But most find no comfort in that strategy. The Jesuit publication America editorializes that investigation by the press is not a sufficient resolution.

            Benedict has been asked many times to comment on other aspects of the PF papacy. He has taken always, a "low profile." He did claim in one interview that the church was "capsizing." I'll find the source of that quote if you want.

          • David Nickol

            Relativism displays her truth in every color of the rainbow.

            From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

            Relativism, roughly put, is the view that truth and falsity, right and wrong, standards of reasoning, and procedures of justification are products of differing conventions and frameworks of assessment and that their authority is confined to the context giving rise to them. . . . Relativists characteristically insist, furthermore, that if something is only relatively so, then there can be no framework-independent vantage point from which the matter of whether the thing in question is so can be
            established.

            I don't see how relativism is involved at all. There are (very roughly speaking) two sides "at war" with one another, and each side believes itself to be objectively right. Liberals and conservatives don't view each other as merely looking at each other from different frameworks, with no framework better than the other. Liberals think conservatives are in error, and conservatives think liberals are in error.

          • OMG

            "The label 'relativism' has been attached to a wide range of ideas and positions which may explain the lack of consensus on how the term should be defined." - From the same Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

            Clearly the lack of consensus on how the term is defined explains why Person A (moi) may see it as operative, while Party B (toi) may not see it at all.

          • David Nickol

            So the meaning of the word relativism is relative? Its not as if the SEP throws up its hands and says a definition is impossible. And if a definition truly is impossible, what meaning is the word intended to convey when you use it?

          • OMG

            Hi David,
            It is so very late at night it is almost morning here, so yes, I throw up my hands. The definition is as one defines it.

      • OMG

        Friction between Donohue and Voris dates to at least 2012 when they disagreed about whether Cardinal Dolan im/prudently invited President Obama to the Correspondents Dinner.

      • Jim the Scott

        Voris for some mad reason has always had it in for Bill. I debated Voris over at crisis once on Bishop Barron. He is not a brillant individual. Anyway Bill's job was never to clean up the Church or hold the Bishops accountable. His job is to stand up for Catholic civil rights.

        That Bill refused to attack specific Bishops based on rumors and Voris has no problem with it is not a bad thing. Sometime rumors do turn out to be true and sometime they don't but you can't base justice on mere rumors.

    • Many may use this scandal as an excuse to leave and/or attack the Church of Christ, but it in no way logically disproves its divine credentials and mission.

      We have some common ground here. I have no patience with atheists who think the behavior of church leaders is evidence against church teachings.

      • OMG

        Me too. Unless those same church leaders teach against church teachings. In which case, that leader essentially excommunicates himself and stands on ground for removal from office. I'm trying to locate Cardinal Burke('s words) as I write.

        In the light of a new day: When a new leader offers new teachings which break from old teachings, to which should we attend? What would a skeptic such as you do?

        • It makes no difference to me who proposes any teaching, old or new. I would examine the argument offered in support of the new teaching and compare it with the argument offered in support of the old teaching, and I would accept whichever teaching was supported by what I judged to be the better argument.

      • Craig Roberts

        The Church teaches that if you cooperate with the grace of God through the Church and its sacraments you will NOT ONLY be forgiven all of your sins, but be granted the power to resist temptation and be made chaste and holy. What the scandal shows is that this "teaching" is obviously not true. (But it's not really a lie if the people telling you this really believe it.)

        What this proves is that there is a great deal of superstition mixed up with whatever else the Church might teach.

        If the Church is sold as a mystical self-help program that will turn a persons vices into virtues, the scandal exposes these "teachings" as false.

        • The Church teaches that if you cooperate with the grace of God through the Church and its sacraments you will NOT ONLY be forgiven all of your sins, but be granted the power to resist temptation and be made chaste and holy.

          Yes, but it does not teach that everybody who is ordained is cooperating with the grace of God through the church and its sacraments.

          • OMG

            Doug, You sometimes make my mouth agape. May God bless you!

          • Craig Roberts

            That's like saying; "Yes, but not everybody has faith that the rabbit's foot will bring them luck."

            You can't cooperate with something you don't believe in, but you also can't cooperate with things that don't exist even if you fervently believe in them.

            To say that someone who has dedicated their entire lives to the Church is responsible for not investing enough 'cooperation' in the sacraments is just silly.

            The simple fact is that the very people most invested in the Church are the same ones that push its teachings into the realm of superstition by insisting that the Church provides a road map to holiness.

          • That's like saying; "Yes, but not everybody has faith that the rabbit's foot will bring them luck."

            I'm not disagreeing about the justification of their beliefs. I'm disagreeing about what you say their beliefs are.

          • Craig Roberts

            How can I not know what my beliefs are? They are me and I am them.

          • I didn't say you don't know your own beliefs.

          • Craig Roberts

            You're no longer Christian but you don't trust Christians to articulate what Christians believe?

          • but you don't trust Christians to articulate what Christians believe?

            It seems to me that I stated the contrary.

          • Craig Roberts

            You stated: "I'm disagreeing about what you say their beliefs are."

            I'm saying they believe a lot of superstitious stuff. Do you disagree? Or am I not Christian if I recognize the obvious truth?

          • I'm saying they believe a lot of superstitious stuff. Do you disagree?

            Many atheists say that all religious beliefs are superstitions. I'd rather not go there.

            Or am I not Christian if I recognize the obvious truth?

            Whether you yourself are a Christian is beside the point. If you say of another Christian sect, "They believe X," but that sect's members say, "No we don't believe X," I'm asking why I should take your word for it that they believe X.

          • Craig Roberts

            Going there is the only place left to go. It's not voodoo if it works.

            You don't need to take my word for anything. All I'm asking is that you look at the evidence. They claim that their religion will make you a better person and yet some of the very people most invested in that religion have been exposed as the worst of the worst. What are we to make of it?

          • Going there is the only place left to go.

            I don't see why. Having decided that a popular belief is unjustified, I think my primary concern should be showing other people why they should not believe it. I've seen no evidence that calling it a superstition will accomplish that.

            There is an anecdote about this subject. Several years ago, at a convention of skeptics, one of the speakers began his talk by saying, "Everybody here who used to be a Christian, raise your hand." Many hands were raised. Then the speaker said, "Leave your hand up if you changed your mind because somebody told you that all Christians were ignorant fools." Every hand went down.

          • Craig Roberts

            Let me be clear, "cooperating" means simply getting baptized, showing up for Church, getting confirmed, and going to confession once and awhile. Being ordained (another sacrament) is going above and beyond. Nobody expects anybody to do more than that. All of the priests complicit in the scandal did all of these things and still failed to exhibit the minimal amount of holiness required to prevent its happening.

          • Let me be clear, "cooperating" means simply getting baptized, showing up for Church, getting confirmed, and going to confession once and awhile.

            You say so. They say otherwise. Considering that I used to be a Christian myself, why should I take your word over theirs?

          • Craig Roberts

            No they don't. I don't know what kind of "Christian" you were but it obviously wasn't Roman Catholic.

        • OMG

          Neither is the teaching not true if people do not want it to be. Of course you will not get a miracle if you foreordain that you will not get one.

        • OMG

          Really? Mystical self-help program? Is that truly what you see? Here's what some in the church see today about those both in and outside of her. https://onepeterfive.com/bad-think-corruption-worse/

      • Jim the Scott

        Well said sir! :D

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Still, I think we should recall at this moment the comment I just read: "You know that the Church is divine for it to have survived its leadership for more than a few years."

      The Catholic Church is shedding believers in the United States. From 2007-2015 the RC Church lost 3 million members in the US. 40% of people raised in the Catholic Church leave it. Slowly dying is more apt than surviving.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        I do not challenge your statistics. Still, one must recall that the Catholic Church is universal to the whole world. And she has lost large segments before, but still remains amazingly present over two thousand years after Christ.

        With the Protestant revolt, the Church lost eight million members in Europe. Yet, after decades of failed efforts by missionaries to convert the native South Americans, the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531 suddenly sparked the conversion of eight million souls to the Church in that then distant part of the globe -- almost exactly replacing those lost to sectarian forms of Christianity in Europe.

        I have no illusions about what will happen at this time to Church membership. But objective truth is not measured by popularity contests or democratic elections.

        Christ warned long ago: "Do you think that when the Son of Man returns, he will find faith on the earth?"

        Each of us is responsible for his own quest for truth, and each of us is responsible for the final state of his own soul before God. Many will say that they serve God in their own way. But the challenge has always been to serve God in his way.

      • Rob Abney

        Here’s a story from The Independent proving math is untrue,
        “Almost 50 per cent of adults can't do basic maths (that means half)

        Decline of numeracy skills leaves 17 million adults in England at level expected of 11-year-olds“

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Whether or not Catholicism is true isn't the point. The point is whether or not Catholicism is losing members

          • Rob Abney

            Math is true and yet we're losing members (those who can use math).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm not talking about the truth of Catholicism. Bonnette said that Catholicism is surviving its leadership. I am saying that shedding members is not surviving.

          • Rob Abney

            And I'm saying that you are making a category error, the number of "members" is not a method to determine if the Church is surviving. The truth of Catholicism and the truth of math cannot be democratically determined. As a catholic I detest the acts that harm people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And the fact that it is priests and bishops causing the harm is especially detestable. But to leave the Church because anti-Catholics infiltrated it, is not rational. Just as the paltry numbers of those who practice math has no effect on the survivorship of math.

          • David Nickol

            But to leave the Church because anti-Catholics infiltrated it, is not rational.

            The problem in the Catholic Church is not that it has been infiltrated by anti-Catholics! You have wandered deep into "No True Scotsman" territory with that one. There is a world of difference between being an anti-Catholic and a "bad" Catholic. Are you claiming that, say, Cardinal McCarrick is an anti-Catholic? Or that priests and bishops who mishandled or covered up scandalous behavior by abusing priests were "anti-Catholic"?

          • Rob Abney

            There is a world of difference between being an anti-Catholic and a "bad" Catholic.

            What is the difference in your opinion? In my opinion there is very little difference because I believe that a faithful Catholic must confirm his faith every day. When you confirm your faith daily then you develop habits that are more difficult to go against. Likewise, when you go against the faith, it becomes easier to develop bad habits, and after a while anti-Catholic character.

            Here's my judgement, although I have no authority to judge anyone specifically; those who have abused others personally and abused society with cover-ups seem to be anti-Catholic based upon the habitual behavior that is said to have occurred. They may be able to re-confirm their faith, although bad habits are very hard to change, through reconciliation and a commitment to sin no more. That won't help much with the attorneys general but it may make a difference for their soul.

          • Jim the Scott

            >The problem in the Catholic Church is not that it has been infiltrated by anti-Catholics! You have wandered deep into "No True Scotsman" territory with that one.

            I don't see how? A subversive is a subversive. If I formally joined Hillary Clintons champain and spent my time trying to sabotage it so Trump would be President. That kind of makes me anti-Hallary and the fact at the time of the election I was a regestered Democrate wouldn't allow me to plead "no true scotsmen". (BTW this is a hypothetical for the record I never joined Hilary's champain).

            > There is a world of difference between being an anti-Catholic and a "bad" Catholic.

            Well they are related.

            >Are you claiming that, say, Cardinal McCarrick is an anti-Catholic? Or that priests and bishops who mishandled or covered up scandalous behavior by abusing priests were "anti-Catholic"?

            Well in the equivocal sense he was that. Granted he precieved himself to be Catholic as far as we know.

          • Jim the Scott

            additional:

            David Nickol I have always believed the term "anti-Catholic" applied to non-Catholics with an irrational prejudice against Catholics. Like the term "anti-Semite" is for Jews.

            For example you are an Agnostic religious skeptic etc...so you reject or lack belief in the God of the Jews and Catholics but one would hardly call you anti-Semitic or anti-Catholic for your mere disbelief.

            OTOH maybe Rob should have used the term "Subversives"?

            Cheers.

          • David Nickol

            The problem with Rob Abney's comment was not just the odd (mis)use of the term anti-Catholic but also the use of the word infiltrate. The problems in the Catholic Church are not a result of "anti-Catholic" outsiders "infiltrating" the Church in order to do damage from within. They are the result of Catholics doing things they ought not do. Of course, I have no proof, but it seems highly unlikely that a significant number of the priests who abused minors said to themselves as young men, "Well, I'd really like to attack the Catholic Church from the inside, and as a bonus get my hands on young boys, so I will become a child-abusing priest!" Also, I think the majority of those superiors who were involved in cover-ups were trying to protect the Church from scandal. I think they were very misguided, and ultimately what they did has backfired, but I think they acted out of a (twisted) sense of loyalty.

            It is of course possible that a few truly deranged individuals entered the priesthood with the conscious intent of having access to vulnerable youths. But it takes a great deal of time and perseverance to become a priest. It seems unlikely that a significant number of bad-actors in the priesthood or the hierarchy chose that way of life because they were anti-Catholics, or even subversives, and wanted to harm the Church from within.

            My understanding was that Rob Abney was saying, in effect, "Don't blame the problems of the Church on Catholics. Catholics wouldn't do things like that. Anti-Catholics have infiltrated the Church, and they are to blame."

          • Jim the Scott

            >The problem with Rob Abney's comment was not just the odd (mis)use of the term anti-Catholic but also the use of the word infiltrate.

            For the record I have no problem with that term. The Church has been infiltrated by subversives.

            >The problems in the Catholic Church are not a result of "anti-Catholic" outsiders "infiltrating" the Church in order to do damage from within. They are the result of Catholics doing things they ought not do.

            I see what you are saying and not to be flippant but I don't think Rob means somewhere some group of LGBT Socialist Unitarians who read Chick Comics where thinking "Hey let's all join the Romanist Church and destroy it from within". But some subversive elements have gotten a foothold.

            >Of course, I have no proof, but it seems highly unlikely that a significant number of the priests who abused minors said to themselves as young men, "Well, I'd really like to attack the Catholic Church from the inside, and as a bonus get my hands on young boys, so I will become a child-abusing priest!"

            We are on the same page here. But that having been said I do believe some gay right activists may have joined the Priesthood or some gay Priests joined the gay right movement with the purpose of trying to change the moral doctrines within.

            Now let us be honest here. If you believe the Catholic Church is a mere human institution & you want them to change their ideology to one you find more agreeable (not you specifically David I am merely being Rhetorical) then this might make sense. I for example have no problem with Moderate and or Liberal Muslims gaining the upper hand in their religion if it means less or no Jihad.
            Also as a theologically conservative Pro-Vatican II Catholic I don't much care for the extremist Reactionary pseudo Trad fringe wing of the Church that actually thinks Vatican II is wrong on religious liberty & (get this) thinks Democracy is sinful and wants to bring back near absolute Christian Monarch. Yeh this isn't the 10th century.
            But being that I do believe in the divine origin of the Church I am against persons trying to "change" the moral law. I don't believe such an undertaking will in the end succeed (it has failed in the past) but I am a convinced Catholic.

            >Also, I think the majority of those superiors who were involved in cover-ups were trying to protect the Church from scandal. I think they were very misguided, and ultimately what they did has backfired, but I think they a
            acted out of a (twisted) sense of loyalty.

            Agreed great minds thing alike.

            >It is of course possible that a few truly deranged individuals entered the priesthood with the conscious intent of having access to vulnerable youths.

            Well pederasts (or to use the technical term. Regressed Pedophile same sex offenders) and other abusers will seek out places they can operate with impunity. As the Priesthood becomes less hospitable they will migrate elsewhere.

            >But it takes a great deal of time and perseverance to become a priest. It seems unlikely that a significant number of bad-actors in the priesthood or the hierarchy chose that way of life because they were anti-Catholics, or even subversives, and wanted to harm the Church from within.

            Well they might see themselves as "reformers" except they want to change what cannot be changed. The Church's moral teaching on sex is fixed and immutable.

            >My understanding was that Rob Abney was saying, in effect, "Don't blame the problems of the Church on Catholics. Catholics wouldn't do things like that. Anti-Catholics have infiltrated the Church, and they are to blame."

            I very much doubt that was his meaning but I can see how you might misunderstand. With that I hope this clears that up.

            Cheers David.

          • OMG

            Thanks JtS. Double up-votes don't register, but I tried.

          • David Nickol

            Now let us be honest here. If you believe the Catholic Church is a mere human institution & you want them to change their ideology to one you find more agreeable . . . .

            There is much you say that I don't disagree with, or could merely quibble about, but it seems to me it would be very odd if people who called themselves Catholic—especially priests, bishops, and cardinals—believed the Catholic Church to be "a mere human institution." That would mean they had "lost their faith" (or never had any to begin with). I don't know if there is any data to go on, but it seems more likely to me that the people who might be thought of as "subversives" consider themselves to be believing Catholics who think the Church leadership has been wrong on certain matters.

            I do believe there are a disproportionate number of homosexual priests, but if they have done much of anything in an attempt to change Church teaching and be more welcoming to gay Catholics, I certainly am not aware of it. From what I can see, since Humanae Vitae the resistance to Church authority has been largely about heterosexuality. And now, the major complaint against Francis seems to be about the divorced and remarried receiving communion.

            So it seems to me the major problem within the Church is that there are various factions, all of whom consider themselves to be Catholics, who disagree. I don't see the problem as Catholics in the Church fighting against "anti-Catholic" or "non-Catholic," or "Catholic-in-name-only" infiltrators.

          • Jim the Scott

            >There is much you say that I don't disagree with, or could merely quibble about, but it seems to me it would be very odd if people who called themselves Catholic—especially priests, bishops, and cardinals—believed the Catholic Church to be "a mere human institution."

            You would be surprised. Another way to put it is some persons believe it's core truths are mutable and by definition they are not.

            >That would mean they had "lost their faith" (or never had any to begin with).

            A third choice would be a defective or imperfect faith.

            >I don't know if there is any data to go on, but it seems more likely to me that the people who might be thought of as "subversives" consider themselves to be believing Catholics who think the Church leadership has been wrong on certain matters.

            It's one thing to disagree with the Pope on the recognition of Israel pr global warming or the prudence of the death penalty or the migrant crisis etc. Those are not moral or theological truths of the Faith. Some Catholics are practically speaking Protestants with Rosary beads. They can be found on the "left" or the "right".

            >I do believe there are a disproportionate number of homosexual priests, but if they have done much of anything in an attempt to change Church teaching and be more welcoming to gay Catholics, I certainly am not aware of it.

            I am all for welcoming them. Condoning their lifestyle by some symbolic act would not be good.

            >From what I can see, since Humanae Vitae the resistance to Church authority has been largely about heterosexuality. And now, the major complaint against Francis seems to be about the divorced and remarried receiving communion.

            Yes to both. Who to give communion too is a matter of discipline since for the most part Catholics are trusted to examine their own consciences and make prudent judgements as to when to receive. The Church aids us by formally forbidding it to certain public acts of sin. To not have these bans is like having a town without stop signs and traffic lights. Careful people will slow down and look both ways at each corner to avoid collisions but idiot drivers OTOH......

            Advances in NFP helped sell me on it. Ironically it was a pamphlet I read when I was in Navy A School in the South produced by Baptists from which I learned this.

            >So it seems to me the major problem within the Church is that there are various factions, all of whom consider themselves to be Catholics, who disagree. I don't see the problem as Catholics in the Church fighting against "anti-Catholic" or "non-Catholic," or "Catholic-in-name-only" infiltrators.

            Except there is an objective set of truths you must except. Even Pope Francis has said one should not take communion if one is conscience of mortal sin and he has spoken of divorced/remarried people who have been lead by the Holy Spirit to abstain from Communion till they resolve their marriage problems(that is often ignored by the liberal press or dismissed by "conservative" haters of the Holy Father).

            Being Catholic is never boring.

            Cheers David.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So if 100 years from now, RC membership dropped to the 1,000,000 around the world, would you say that the Church is surviving?

          • Jim the Scott

            What if in 100 years it doubles it's membership? Especially with Population explosions(we don't do artifical contraception remember)?

            These are meaningless speculations and they are not attached too truth.

            This is unworthy of you Iggy.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is a hypothetical, so I can understand the meaning you all give to survive. I'm always worthy

          • Jim the Scott

            I am sorry what where we talking about a week ago my attention span is short?....oooooh! Shiny!:D

            Cheers Iggy.;-)

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, and That is not only my opinion, Pope Benedict predicted it.

      • Jim the Scott

        50% of people can't do basic Math? Wow! Math really is untrue. That has got to suck for you Iggy. You like Math right?;-)

        Sorry about that man. :D ;D :D

  • David Nickol

    Here are a few articles from more liberal Catholic sources regarding the "testimony" of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò:

    In Vigano letter exposes the putsch against Pope Francis, Michael Sean Winters says:

    Vigano is a disgruntled former employee. Such people are always a bit angry. They are also often a bit unreliable. He was always a crackpot. But, make no mistake: This is a coordinated attack on Pope Francis. A putsch is afoot and if the U.S. bishops do not, as a body, stand up to defend the Holy Father in the next 24 hours, we shall be slipping towards schism long before the bishops meeting in November. The enemies of Francis have declared war.

    In Former ambassador Vigano accuses Vatican of covering up McCarrick scandal for years, Joshua J. McElwee says:

    In an unprecedented broadside by a Vatican diplomat against a sitting pontiff, Vigano then accuses Pope Francis of ignoring the imposed sanctions and calls on him to resign in order to "set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses."

    Although the Vatican press office said it would have "no immediate comment" on the letter, released by National Catholic Register and LifeSiteNews early Aug. 26, at least several of its claims appear contradicted by the historical record.

    In Viganò Goes "Nuclear" – Targeting Rome and US, Ex-Nuncio's "Saturday Night Massacre" on Whispers in the Loggia, Rocco Palmo says:

    Even before last week's release of the Pennsylvania grand-jury report, several key US prelates privately told Whispers of their sense that the coming storm was already "worse than 2002 – because this time, it's about the bishops."

    Suffice it to say, that feeling has become all the more profound amid the sudden development of this late Saturday – in an 11-page memo that can only be described as "nuclear," to say nothing of fresh fuel for the burgeoning crisis, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò (above), the now-retired Nuncio to the US who served in Washington from 2011-16, testified that he had informed the Pope in 2013 about then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's harassment and abuse of seminarians, only to be ignored.

    Along the way, Viganò – a lead whistle-blower behind the 2012 "Vatileaks" fiasco, who's more recently become a public critic of Francis' over the Pope's approach in Amoris Laetitia – produces a laundry list of leading prelates both in the Vatican and the US who he alleges were aware of McCarrick's misconduct, as well as other indications of the disgraced prelate's influence with the current pontiff.

    Notably, however, one thing the former Nuncio doesn't mention is his own reported pressure on the auxiliaries of the Twin Cities in early 2015 to quash a diocesan investigation into similar allegations of misconduct and harassment by then-Archbishop John Nienstedt, which played a part in the outspoken conservative's early resignation at 68 that summer as a multi-front scandal enveloped Minnesota's lead fold, dragging most of the state's dioceses into Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to a torrent of abuse suits. (Only this past May, the Twin Cities church settled its own bankruptcy filing with a $210 million settlement for some 450 survivors – the second-largest payout ever made by an American see.)

    • OMG

      Thanks for this. Some will undoubtedly accept that Vigano lies, but some will undoubtedly accept his word, accompanied as it is, by the reported verification of Emeritus Pope Benedict, who, we know, is still alive. Well may we wonder why he has not yet died, just as some wonder still why he resigned.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      It appears now that Archbishop Vigano has defended himself against the charge that he interfered in the investigation of Archbishop Nienstedt in 2015 -- and that Vigano himself was exonerated of any wrongdoing:

      https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/vigano-defends-himself-in-face-of-attacks

    • Jim the Scott

      @drdennisbonnette:disqus
      I could with ease believe Pope Francis is guilty and with equal ease believe the Nuncio is either crazy or lying to get rid of a "liberal" Pope for the greater good.

      I need evidence. If Benedict would speak it would clear it up. One way or another. Speculation here is tedious.

  • OMG

    Barron: "Well, he has every role in a way to play." -
    The Tablet interview, 8/30/18

    "in a way." Not "The way"?

    • David Nickol

      I am a little mystified that that's what you got out of a 25-minute interview. (I watched it rather than reading the transcript.)

      What exactly would it mean if he had said it your way?

      Vogt: Let me ask you this? The Church is not merely a non-governmental organization or charity. We’re Christian. We’re Christocentric. So where does the Lord come into all this? What role does Jesus have to play in a crisis of this magnitude?

      Barron: Well, he has every role in a the way to play . . . .

      It seems to me what he (and the USCCB) advocates is a good idea, that being a Vatican sponsored investigation, largely led by experienced lay investigators, to get to the bottom of McCarrick's rise to power in spite of his sexual misconduct, and also now to investigate the Vigano allegations. But unless I am mistaken, as of the present time there is no sign that there will be such an investigation. Is it possible those calling for such an investigation know it is safe to do so, since they know it will never occur? I have no idea.

      • OMG

        You're probably right; an investigation probably won't happen. What would be the result? So the Pope knew. So what then?

        Rather than a lengthy analysis, observation or question (all manner of which the Bishop has probably already heard or thought), presumably he's busy man. One small question doesn't warrant much of an answer, and I am surprised that anyone took it up. Your interest in all these matters is curious. You have a finger on the pulse and understand it well.

  • Edmund Jones

    In my mind a true miracle would need the suspension of the laws of nature rather than an unexplained recovery from illness or being saved from a disaster at the expense of others. A severed limb reattached by divine hand rather than a team of surgeons would indeed be miraculous!
    The obvious reason as to why God is selective in bestowing miracles to a fortunate few rather than the many is that a personal God, who can intervene in human affairs by suspending the laws of nature which he is presumed to have created, simply does not exist,