Thursday 24th July 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 The newer something is, the better; and nobody wants to appear old-fashioned, out of date, or medieval!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:

Marco Rubio To Take On Abortion and Gay Marriage in Catholic U Speech

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) plans to take on social and cultural issues in the latest installment of his policy speeches outlining a new conservative agenda. “Senator Rubio will discuss the values needed for economic success in the 21st century: values like…Continue Reading

USCCB Chairmen Respond To ‘Unprecedented and Extreme’ Executive Order

The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be…Continue Reading

Dallas-Fort Worth Catholic leaders appeal for legal help in border crisis

Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell (center) and Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson on Monday asked for volunteers to assist with a “humanitarian crisis.” By DIANNE SOLÍS Staff Writer dsolís@dallasnews.com Published: 21 July 2014 10:32 PM Updated: 22 July 2014 12:21 AM Dallas Catholic…Continue Reading

Iraq Catholic leader says Islamic State worse than Genghis Khan

By Dominic Evans and Raheem Salman BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The head of Iraq’s largest church said on Sunday that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his grandson Hulagu who…Continue Reading

CHRISTIAN HOLOCAUST UNDERWAY IN IRAQ, USA AND WORLD LOOK ON

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000. In a…Continue Reading

Vancouver Catholic Schools Adopt Transgender Policy

James Keller, The Canadian Press Published Wednesday, July 16, 2014 7:20PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, July 17, 2014 7:24AM EDT VANCOUVER — Catholic schools in Vancouver have adopted a policy that could allow transgender students to use the pronouns, uniforms…Continue Reading

New Catholic Bishops Say Civil Disobedience OK If For Common Good

Newly appointed auxiliary bishops, two Catholic clergymen suggest Occupy Central could be just, while third weighs in on reform report St Two auxiliary bishops newly appointed by the Vatican have spoken out about the Occupy Central campaign, saying the church supports…Continue Reading

Skeptics And The Claims Of The Catholic Church Seventeen Reasons Scoffers Ought To Rethink Catholicism, If They Really Thought About It

July 11, 2014 05:09 EST By Thomas M. Doran In today’s world, isn’t it crazy to appeal to scoffers to consider Catholicism? Why would a rational modern man or woman in the 21st century be attracted to what the world and…Continue Reading

The Obama Administration’s Border-Crisis Plan B: Use the Catholic Church

The federal government reaches out to a California diocese to help shelter illegal immigrants in California. By Ryan Lovelace In order to avoid future clashes with the citizens of Murrieta, Calif., over attempts to transfer illegal immigrants there, the Obama administration has turned to…Continue Reading

A New Low For Liberals: Attacking Catholic Nuns Over Hobby Lobby

I’m a big fan of absurdity in politics. But even absurdity has its limits, and the National Organization for Women has surpassed it in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision inBurwell v. Hobby Lobby. As part of its full-throated…Continue Reading

Louisiana court’s ruling that Catholic priest testify about confession criticized by Baton Rouge Diocese:

The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge has issued a statement decrying a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court that could compel a local priest to testify in court about confessions he might have received. The alleged confessions, according to legal documents, were made to…Continue Reading

Out Of Nowhere A Network Emerged To Save Catholic Schools

By Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: June 24, 2014   The fledgling Independence Mission Schools network of Catholic elementary schools is used to moving fast. It sprang into action two years ago to save 14 parish schools in low-income neighborhoods…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'


Pope Francis . . .

Pope Francis calls Patriarch in solidarity with Iraqi Christians

2014-07-23 Vatican Radio (Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has reassured the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church Ignatius Youssef III Younan that he is following news out of Iraq with concern, particularly the dramatic situation of Christians in Mosul who have been threatened with death and seizure of their homes by Islamic militants demanding they leave or convert to their form…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Profile: Girls Scouts Of America”

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 this article with footnotes, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) +    +    + We’ve all had little girls in uniform appear on our porches selling Girl Scout cookies (with watchful mothers standing…Continue Reading

Chilling

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO “Chilling” is the word lawyers use to describe governmental behavior that does not directly interfere with constitutionally protected freedoms, but rather tends to deter folks from exercising them. Classic examples of “chilling” occurred in the 1970s, when FBI agents and U.S. Army soldiers, in business suits with badges displayed or in…Continue Reading

Do They Think We’re Stupid?. . . It’s Worse Than That

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK It has become routine to hear conservative talk radio hosts, such as Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh, as well as many commentators on Fox News, react to public comments by the Obama administration and its supporters with an exasperated, “Do they think we’re stupid?” I have in mind Obama supporters’ contentions…Continue Reading

Facing The Truth About Abortion

By REY FLORES “America will not reject abortion, until America sees abortion” — Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life. +    +    + One thing I have often said about abortion is that you cannot sugarcoat it no matter how hard you try. It is a monstrous and criminal act against the most defenseless of human…Continue Reading

Following Proper Requirements

By DEXTER DUGGAN It was the beginning of July, and new waves of unauthorized immigration were in the news. For his Fourth of July homily, a priest at a large Southwestern U.S. church soft-spokenly noted the Catholic Church’s foundational moral stands and its view of politics. The Church favors limited government, he said, but there’s…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Anglophone Conference On Sexual Abuse . . . “The Entire Church Is Called To Put Right What Has Happened”

By MOST REV. DIARMUID MARTIN ROME (ZENIT) — Below is the full text of an address given by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin on the issue of clerical sex abuse. The address was given July 7 at the Anglophone Conference, which took place at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. The Anglophone Conference takes place annually and its purpose is to address relevant…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Journalists, Atheists, And The Pope

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The bureaucratic apologists are now in full scramble mode once again to interpret the Pope’s words as filtered to the whole world through the atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari and printed in the paper he co-founded, La Repubblica. Yet again, we are informed, the Pope did not say what we are told he said. The fact…Continue Reading

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 The visit I received from two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs, for short) gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that repetitive prayer — especially the rosary — is entirely in line with Sacred Scripture. When they walked into my living room and did not miss the sight of my rosary on the mantelpiece, I knew…Continue Reading

The Obedience Of Faith

By DON FIER For the past ten weeks of this series, we’ve been unpacking the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on how God comes to meet man through His divine Revelation. As the Catechism, citing Dei Verbum (DV), so beautifully expresses it, “the invisible God, from the fullness of His love, addresses men as His friends,…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. It has been a while since it was decided to permit openly homosexual boys into the Boy Scouts, but not a word for an official position on Catholic-affiliated troops. I wonder why? In the meantime, I fear many boys will be in great danger. Why no statement from our bishops on this very critical issue? — R.B.K., Virginia. A. In…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Alphonsus Liguori

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 1 Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, having read the works of St. Alphonsus Liguori, took him as a mentor. It is not surprising, then, that Fr. Hardon taught his students, “If you are not encountering the cross, you are not doing God’s work.” Such were the lives of saints such as St. Teresa of Avila, St.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Benedict

By CAROLE BRESLIN Every month the Apostleship of Prayer publishes the intentions of the Holy Father: one for a universal intention and one for an evangelical intention. In June 2014, the evangelical intention was that Europe may rediscover its Christian roots through the witness of believers. The advent of Christian civilization coincided with the advent of Western civilization. The Benedictine…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