Tuesday 31st March 2015

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 The newer something is, the better; and nobody wants to appear old-fashioned, out of date, or medieval!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

Lying About Card. Burke

Both Michael Sean Winters of the Fishwrap and David Gibson of RNS posted intellectually dishonest hit pieces against Card. Burke. They purposely misread what Card. Burke said in order to put him in the worst light they could. At least…Continue Reading

Pope says prayers, not ‘gossip,’ needed for successful synod on family

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) — No matter how weary, wounded or sinful a family has become, the church will always do everything to try to help family members heal, convert and reconcile with the Lord,…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke says confusion spreading among Catholics ‘in an alarming way’

LifeSiteNews: Since the extraordinary synod on the family, we have entered a period of uncertainty and confusion over several “hot-button” issues: communion for divorced and “remarried” couples, a change of attitude towards homosexual unions and an apparent relaxing of attitudes…Continue Reading

Bishop backs Catholic school’s removal of teacher over pro-marriage Facebook comments: cites Pope Francis

SOMERVILLE, NJ, March 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Catholic school has decided not to rehire a theology teacher who rejected the argument in favor of gay “marriage” on her private Facebook page, her family has announced. The controversy began last…Continue Reading

Creepy Catholicism.

Martin O’Malley is the latest Catholic politician to come out as a duplicitous “Catholic.” Deacon Kandra posts an excerpt here from an interview in which O’Malley displays some amazingly twisted thinking to support homosexual marriage–even though he’s a Catholic. As far…Continue Reading

Polish Bishops’ Conference rejects Holy Communion for divorced and “remarried”

The Polish Bishops’ Conference has issued a communiqué firmly rejecting the proposals that divorced and “remarried” Catholics should be admitted to Holy Communion without amendment of life. The communiqué, published on 12th March, includes the following statement: “In view of the…Continue Reading

Celtic Catholic priest and friends pile on archbishop

On Monday March 16, KALW radio’s City Visions will host a program “Can Bay Area Catholics and Archbishop Cordileone find Common Ground?” Scheduled guests are the Reverend Vincent Pizzuto; Most Holy Redeemer parishioner and teachers’ union representative Ted DeSaulnier; and…Continue Reading

The Traditional Case for Capital Punishment

A group of Catholic publishers recently issued a joint statement urging an end to capital punishment. I have great respect for all of them – I have written for all of them at one point or another. I disagree with…Continue Reading

Cardinal Müller: Pope Is Not Above the Word of God and the Catholic Faith

Edit: Rorate tends to understate things.  They want a sober response.  We’d like to offer this translation of Giuseppe Nardi’s appreciation of their take on Cardinal Müller’s recent letter appearing in the Osservatore Romano and additional commentary from other important Italian…Continue Reading

Is the Synod Secretariat Stacking the Deck Again?

The Vatican today announced that the vice president of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family will be a consulter to the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Professor José Granados‘ appointment,…Continue Reading

Gay activist: Of course our goal is to ‘indoctrinate children into LGBTQ agenda’

TORONTO, March 13, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — A homosexual activist has candidly admitted that gay-themed materials and policies pushed in grade schools across North America are for the sake of “indoctrinating” children into an unquestioning acceptance of homosexuality. “I am here…Continue Reading

Pope . . . giving holy Communion to remarried divorcees “won’t solve anything”

On the second anniversary of his pontificate, the Holy Father gave a lengthy interview to a Mexican television journalist. – CNA/Bohumil Petrik VATICAN CITY — In a new, wide-ranging interview published Friday on the second anniversary of his election, Pope…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

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis on Palm Sunday: remember persecuted Christians

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis remembered the persecuted Christians in the world on Sunday – Palm Sunday – during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Following the proclamation of the Passion according to St. Mark, Pope Francis delivered a homily, in which he reflected on the plight of all those who endure humiliation because of their faithfulness to the Gospel, all those who face discrimination and pay a personal price for their fidelity to Christ. “We think…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Palm Sunday Homily

pope742

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday – Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week, 2015. Please find, below, the official English translation of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks. ***************************** At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8).  Jesus’ humiliation. These words show us God’s way…Continue Reading

Pope: Life Of St Teresa Of Avila Can Help Renew Consecrated Life

st thera avila

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said the life of St Teresa of Avila, characterized by “total self-giving to God,” is a “great treasure” that can help to renew consecrated life today. The pope spoke of the witness of St Teresa in a letter, issued Saturday, to the Superior General of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Fr Xavier Cannistrà, to mark the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the saint’s birth. Listen to the report by Laura…Continue Reading

Mass at Santa Marta- Ode to joy

2015-03-26 L’Osservatore Romano Joy and hope are Christian traits. It is sad to find a believer who knows no joy, fearful in his attachment to cold doctrine. This was the very reason for Francis’ ode to joy during Mass at Santa Marta on Thursday, 26 March. At the beginning of Mass, the Pope acknowledged the Carmelite “Hour of Prayer for Peace”. “Dear brothers and sisters”, he said, “the day after tomorrow, 28 March, will be…Continue Reading

“What Is Historical Church Teaching On Contraception?”

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 chapter 21 of The Facts of Life, “Contraception,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + Part 1 “Contraception cannot be an expression of total self-giving, because in contraception, something is…Continue Reading

Transforming The St. Patrick’s Day Parades

By LAWRENCE P. GRAYSON St. Patrick’s Day, which is a holy day of obligation for Catholics in Ireland, has been corrupted in America by homosexual activists who flaunt their opposition to Catholic doctrine. Celebratory parades have been co-opted for dissident political purposes. Since the seventh century, St. Patrick has been revered as the patron saint…Continue Reading

How Far Can One Sink?

By DONALD DeMARCO “With [Premier] Wynne’s sex education curriculum, we have at last splashed down in a miasmal sewer in which it’s hard to sink any further.” So writes Harley Price, who has taught philosophy at a number of prestigious universities. Many, including outraged parents and indignant members of the medical establishment, agree with him.…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . A Spiritually Sound Approach To Depression

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY The Catholic Guide to Depression, by Aaron Kheriaty, MD, with Fr. John Cihak (Sophia Institute Press, 228 pages). Visit www.sophiainstitute.com or call 1-800-888-9344 for more information or for ordering. + + + This book has a lengthy introduction, and is then divided into two parts. The first is entitled “Understanding Depression,”…Continue Reading

What If Hillary Doesn’t Care?

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO What if Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked by foreign agents when she was the secretary of state? What if persons claiming to have done so are boasting about their alleged feats on Internet websites and in chat rooms traditionally associated with illegal or undercover activities? What if this is the sore…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Message From Cardinal Burke

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . The Lessons Of Holy Week On Faithful Love

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK As Holy Week is upon us once again, and we join in with the condemnation of the crowd, crying “Crucify Him, Crucify Him,” we relive the betrayal of sin which marks every human life. We accompany the Lord Jesus Christ on His way of the cross and journey with Him all the way to Calvary.…Continue Reading

Is Mary The Mother Of God… Or Only The Mother Of Jesus?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 Responding to a common misconception among separated brethren and ill-informed Catholics: What did the Early Christians believe about the Catholic doctrine on the divine Motherhood? Those men, women, and children who sacrificed everything for the true faith in Jesus — even their very own lives? They were imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Some were burned…Continue Reading

Divine Revelation: Gradual And Progressive

By DON FIER We left off last week reflecting on God’s motive for revealing Himself to us in a supernatural manner. In a word, His sole motive was that of boundless love for mankind. God gratuitously and unconditionally chose to “communicate His own divine life to the men He freely created, in order to adopt them as His sons in…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: As readers of this column know, we like to quote Fr. George Rutler from time to time because his weekly bulletin columns at the Church of St. Michael in New York City are sources of both information and inspiration. After starting his March 22 column by noting that history is “replete with the failures of famous figures,” such…Continue Reading

We Have Been Raised With Christ

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Easter Sunday (YR B) Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Col. 3:1-4 John 20:1-9 In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Peter and John entering the Lord’s grave after they had been informed by St. Mary Magdalen that Jesus had been taken away. We are told that when the Beloved Disciple saw the burial cloths there and…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Faustina And Divine Mercy

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Divine Mercy Chaplet had never been one of my favorite devotions until my aunt died. As she lay in the hospital during her final hours, I sat in the room, visiting with the endless stream of visitors who stopped in to see their fellow volunteer. By six o’clock, the room was quiet. I decided to read…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. John Of God

By CAROLE BRESLIN In our time, it is common to hear parents bemoan the fact that their child is impulsive, or strong-willed, or irresponsible. Even the Holy Family suffered when our Lord, at the age of twelve, stayed behind in the Temple. How Mary and Joseph must have agonized over the missing Child Jesus. How do you tell God you…Continue Reading