Saturday 23rd August 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Our “Evolving” Thought

February 25, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By DEACON JAMES H. TONER

(Editor’s Note: Deacon James H. Toner, whose most recent book is Worthy of the Promises, serves at Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro, N.C. Another version of this article appeared in his diocesan newspaper.)

+    +    +

“That a good many Christians today kneel before the world is a fact perfectly clear” — Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), The Peasant of the Garonne.

+    +    +

A number of prominent politicians have recently suggested that their thought has been “evolving” on various moral subjects. Inevitably some will ask why the Church’s doctrine (cf. Titus 2:1) isn’t, they think, similarly evolving. They tell us to prize novelty above everything else. The only thing we can be sure of, after all, is change, and nothing is forever. The newer something is, the better; and nobody wants to appear old-fashioned, out of date, or medieval!
The idea that everything is in flux is an ancient one, dating to the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus. But is everything change? Is it true that the only thing that doesn’t change is, well, change? Is there anything permanent?
Philosopher J. Budziszewski of the University of Texas — a convert to Catholicism — has written, however, that there are some things we cannot not know, much as St. Paul wrote about what is written on our hearts (Romans 2:14). The brilliant Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterton told us: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” In fact, the Catholic faith tells us to bind our minds to what is the most solid matter of all: Jesus the Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
By the same token, our human nature doesn’t change, either. I have been in debates for years about this with anthropologists and sociologists, but they have never responded to a key argument: If human nature is continually evolving (toward perfection), how is it that we can understand (in translation) the philosophical writing of Heraclitus, the history of Herodotus, the war accounts of Thucydides, the plays of Aeschylus, the poetry of Aristotle, and the accounts of salvation history in the Old Testament?
It was C.S. Lewis who used the term “chronological snobbery,” meaning that some hold, mistakenly, that whatever is new in philosophy, religion, art, or science is invariably better than what preceded it, merely because it is newer.
It was Pope Gregory XVI who in 1834 condemned “the contemptible and unrestrained desire for innovation,” because, so often, it “does not seek truth where it stands in the received and holy apostolic inheritance.” The quest for novelty was denounced by such Popes as Blessed Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, Pope St. Pius X, and Pope Pius XI (cf. Eccl. 1:11).
In fact, we are well advised to think that what has come down to us should be preferred until the innovation, or change, can be demonstrated to be an improvement over, or to be superior to, what it is supposed to replace. As Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) told us in the Declaration of Independence: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.”
Edmund Burke (1729-1797), the great parliamentarian, similarly believed: “People will not look forward to posterity who never looked backward to their ancestors.”
The Deposit of Faith — the settled teaching of the Church — does not change. What is good and true and beautiful does not change. If it did, that would mean that morality is a function of the clock: What was critically wrong at one time may be right at another; or what was seen as right at one time may be viewed as critically wrong at another.
“But,” some will object, “isn’t that an accurate understanding of, say, slavery, which was socially acceptable at one time? Isn’t morality dictated by time and geography?” That is a common view, and it is wrong.
We do not make truth, like architects; we discover truth, like archaeologists. Our perception of truth, our understanding of it, and our commitment to it may vary according to the state of art or science or philosophy. But the truth doesn’t change. For example, our understanding of the tenets of the Catholic faith should be much more mature when we are fifty than when we are five; but the faith itself hasn’t changed, only our grasp of it.
Many may kneel before the world — that is, deify time and circumstances (cf. 1 John 2:15) — but Catholics believe and, better, know that the universe is shaped by and around the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10). That is the direction and destination of “evolving thinking.”
Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890) pointed out, in discussing the “development of doctrine,” that there is a gradual understanding of the meaning of what God has revealed, but the substantial truth of a revealed mystery remains unchanged. Again: What changes is our personal understanding of revealed truth, not the objective truth itself.
The fads, fancies, and fictions of a given time may, and should, be rejected as inimical to the truth which transcends them. St. Paul told us that we must “not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2 RSV).
As Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch comment in The Ignatius Study Bible: “Because worldly wisdom and values are often deformed ([Romans] 1:21, 28), Christians must allow God to transform them….The grace of the spirit enables us to interpret our lives and evaluate all the influences of our culture with respect to the gospel. In all things, God’s will should be the central object of our discernment, for it alone is acceptable and perfect (CCC nn. 2520, 2826).”
When someone says that his thinking about a moral issue has “evolved,” we must inquire whether his thinking evolved in line with what is perfect and permanent (in line, that is, with the holy Gospel) or whether the evolution in his thinking is inspired, rather, by political opportunism, or by peer pressure, or by financial desires.
In his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul explains that we must not be “carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful men who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ” (4:14 GNB). So we are to hold fast to the truth; we are constantly to grow in our understanding of it and in our commitment to it; and, in all things, we must strive to follow Christ and His Bride, the Church.
If and when we distort or deny the truth which comes to us from apostles, we may deceive ourselves or others into believing that our thinking has “evolved,” but, in fact, in such cases, we have only knelt before the world. We Catholics, by the grace of God, kneel only, but always, “in honor of the name of Jesus,” as we openly proclaim the unchanging truth that “Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

The “Closure Crisis” Within The Church.

(RNS) What happens to a community when a Roman Catholic school closes its doors? That’s the question Nicole Stelle Garnett and Margaret F. Brinig, two Notre Dame law professors, pondered as they studied closures in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. There were 7,000…Continue Reading

Satanists Return Stolen Host to Archbishop Coakley

The organizer of a Sept. 21 black mass surrendered the consecrated Host, one day after the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City filed a lawsuit for its recovery. by CNA/EWTN NEWS 08/21/2014 OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City’s archbishop voiced relief that Satanists…Continue Reading

Slain journalist James Foley on praying the rosary in captivity

August 20, 2014 08:45 EST By Catherine Harmon The news broke late yesterday that Islamic State jihadists executed freelance journalist James Foley and posted a video of his beheading. Foley, 40, had been missing for two years while covering the conflict in Syria.…Continue Reading

Black Mass Organizers Face Lawsuit Over Stolen Host

Oklahoma City, Okla., Aug 20, 2014 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Organizers of a satanic black mass slated to take place in Oklahoma City next month face a lawsuit on grounds that the consecrated Host used for the sacrilegious event…Continue Reading

Archbishop of Mosul: ‘I Have Lost My Diocese to Islam; You in the West Will Also Become Victims of Muslims’

At our pro-Israel rally on Sunday, leaders from across the world warned the crowd of the impending threat of Islam to America. One million Christians have been killed or have had to flee Iraq because of persecution by jihadists. But…Continue Reading

Pope Francis profoundly saddened by death of three relatives in traffic accident

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has learnt of the tragic death of three of his relatives in a traffic accident in Argentina and is “profoundly saddened.”  The Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi said the Pope had…Continue Reading

The present, future, and quality of Catholic online education

An interview with Patrick Carmack, President of the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program, about Catholic online education, technology, and Great Books August 15, 2014 07:48 EST Patrick S. J. Carmack, J.D. is the President of the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program, and the founder…Continue Reading

Pope makes silent anti-abortion statement in South Korea

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Pope Francis has generally avoided hot-button “culture war” issues like abortion, arguing that the church’s doctrine on the sanctity of life is well-known and that he’d rather emphasize other aspects of church teaching. But he made a strong,…Continue Reading

Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue Slams Islamic Caliphate Crimes And Barbarism

Caliphate militants are responsible for inhumane actions like public executions, humiliation of women, and terror towards Christians, Yezidis and members of other religions. The Vatican body calls on Islamic religious leaders and governments to condemn these crimes and prosecute their…Continue Reading

Incoming Roman Catholic Springfield bishop on gay marriage: ‘God made us male and female’

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, will be installed as the ninth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, on Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Cathedral, with a public reception at…Continue Reading

Liberia: Nun dies of Ebola virus, two missionaries ill

A nun working in Liberia has died of the Ebola virus. Sister Chantal Pascaline worked with the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God. She died in Monrovia on Saturday. Two colleagues from the same order, Spanish priest Father Miguel…Continue Reading

Kurtz: New Catholic Teachers Shouldn’t Be Afraid

A group of about 750 Catholic school teachers, principals and Jefferson County school officials crammed into pews and chairs at St. Gabriel Parish in Fern Creek Friday morning for a mass service to ready the staff for the coming year.…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope Francis Calls Parents of James Foley

foley

American Journalist Was Murdered by Islamic State This Week Rome, August 22, 2014 (Zenit.org) Junno Arocho Esteves Pope Francis has called the parents of James Foley, the American journalist who was killed by the Islamic State (ISIS). In an email to ZENIT, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Holy Father telephoned John and Diane Foley. Although no details were given as…Continue Reading

Pope at Audience Warns Against Evil One Who Sows Discord Between People, Nations

But Says We Can Have Victory If We Remain in God’s Love  Vatican City, August 20, 2014 (Zenit.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Reflecting on his five-day apostolic visit to South Korea that concluded Monday, Pope Francis affirmed that Christ never diminishes or cancels something ‘good,’ like culture, he only enriches them, and brings them to their full potential. Speaking to the thousands gathered for…Continue Reading

The 35.4 Percent: 109,631,000 On Welfare

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com. To find out more about him, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. All rights reserved.) +    +    + A total of 109,631,000 Americans lived in households that received benefits from one or more federally funded “means-tested programs” — also…Continue Reading

Democracy And Despotism

By DONALD DeMARCO Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America was recognized from the first as a political treatise of the first order. It remains today, according to scholars of American history, as the most perceptive and penetrating work of its kind. The author does not idealize democracy. His intention was to show “to those who…Continue Reading

The Ivy League Admission Process

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK If watching the Ivy League grads in the Obama administration and the State Department has led you to question the caliber of modern Ivy League universities, you may be onto something. (Can you picture these Valley girls and pajama boys in the same room with Vladimir Putin’s aides?) William Deresiewicz, the…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “The Strange World Of Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of 900 of the best quotes from The Birth Control Review, organized by topic, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) +    +    + Introduction About 25 years ago, I bought a complete set…Continue Reading

Christians In The Mideast… Experience A Modern Calvary

By JOHN J. METZLER PARIS — The headlines seem from another era, if not century: that of Christian persecution by militant Islamists in the Middle East. Yet the modern political responses to this age-old conflict appear ambivalent about what’s emerged as an organized attempt by the militant Islamic State to impose a caliphate both on…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Creeds

By DON FIER In last week’s column, we laid the groundwork to begin an in-depth exposition of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that we, as Catholic Christians, are called to believe: the one, true faith we profess in the Creeds of the Church. For it is in the formulas of the Creeds that, “through the centuries,…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I saw a letter-to-the-editor recently that asked why, if a member of the Mafia is to be excommunicated for cooperating with murder, then why isn’t a member of any group that murders unborn children (or enables the killing, e.g., politicians who vote for abortion bills) also excommunicated? The editor made no comment, but how would you respond to this…Continue Reading

Living According To The Word

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Jer. 20:7-9 Romans 12:1-2 Matt. 16:21-27 In the second reading today, Jeremiah cries out to the Lord in his loneliness and pain, saying that the Lord duped him and that he had allowed himself to be duped. This is because the word of the Lord brought him derision…Continue Reading

Memorial Of St. Alphonsus Liguori… Marian Catechists Strive To Imitate The Mother Of God

By RAYMOND CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: Raymond Cardinal Burke is the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. He delivered the homily below on August 1 at the Marian Catechist Consecration Weekend, held at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, Wis. (The readings for August 1, the Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, were: Romans 8:1-4;…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… How Catholics End Up As Practical Protestants

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The Church is in the business of making Catholics, of proclaiming and calling all to the fullness of saving truth in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our mission to those who doubt or refuse some of our teachings is to call them to that fullness, whether Catholics already in our pews or Protestant brothers and sisters…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . Pope St. Pius X

By CAROLE BRESLIN This month the Catholic Church celebrates the 100th anniversary of the death of Pope St. Pius X who had so many things in common with the last few Popes. Like Pope Francis, he had a special affinity for the poor — especially since he came from a poor family. Like Pope John Paul II, who updated the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Maximilian Kolbe

By CAROLE BRESLIN During the Final Discourse, our Lord speaks to His disciples at the Last Supper about union with Christ, union with the Father, and the coming of the Holy Spirit with the theme of love woven throughout the night’s sharing. “Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).…Continue Reading

What to Do If Your Boyfriend Wants You to Get an Abortion?

by Krisi Burton Brown | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/20/14 4:00 PM Washington, DC (LiveActionNews) — Note: This article is for any girl or woman who is feeling pressured into having an abortion. If you are a guy who is trying to find out how to stop an abortion, please see this article written for dads. 1.  Stand your…Continue Reading

It’s Time to Build Schools, from the Ground Up

February 13, 2014 by Anthony Esolen   It might have been worth repairing, if it had once been noble and beautiful, or at least conceived in an orderly way, for ordinary human purposes. But it wasn’t. It was constructed upon false principles. Its walls looked like those of a bad factory. It smelled like a warehouse. It could be terribly…Continue Reading

Why I am Pro-Life

February 4, 2014   Pro-Lifers   By Therese Recinella   Editor’s note. This tribute was posted on Therese Recinella’s Facebook account. She is graciously allowing us to reprint it in NRL News Today.   There are many things that I could say about my Dad, but what I want people to know is this: My parents faithfully raised 8 children…Continue Reading

Fathers . . . The Essential Role of the Father

Posted on February 10, 2014 by The Catholic Gentleman 13 Comments   Divorce rates skyrocketing; adultery rampant; non-married cohabitating couples; children abandoned by their fathers or mothers; “same-sex unions” adopting children and calling this the “modern family”; pornography invading homes, leading to powerful addictions and total alienation from other members of the family: all of this is a bird’s eye view…Continue Reading

How Much is One Billion Dollars?

This article appeared in the March 20, 1941 issue of The Wanderer. (Well, 70 years later we can add 15 trillion into the example.) Here’s a simple and homely illustration of what one billion dollars amounts to: Suppose we take an imaginary boy, aged 15 years, and assign to him the task of counting one billion dollars in one-dollar bills.…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood

This article appeared in The Wanderer, April 3, 1941.  (WOW, Look what we have 70 years later.) A group which calls itself the National Committee for Planned Parenthood has begun a nationwide campaign to have the promotion of birth control included in State and national health programs. The committee—which, according to propaganda sheets reaching our desk has a branch in…Continue Reading

Questions of Non-Catholics . . . Answered by Father Richard Felix, O.S.B.

Reprinted from The Wanderer April 10, 1941 Why Does God allow us to be tempted? God allows us to be tempted so that we may prove our attachment to him and merit a higher place in heaven. Temptations are the lot of all men; they are the battle ground upon which heaven is won or lost. “The kingdom of heaven…Continue Reading