Friday 26th April 2019

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Crisis Of Hope In The Modern World

February 9, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Two opposing vices were identified last week as contrary to the theological virtue of hope: despair and presumption. Despair, on the one hand, goes against Divine Mercy; presumption, on the other hand, goes against Divine Justice.

To explain, the renowned Thomist philosopher Dr. Josef Pieper describes hope as “preeminently the virtue of the status viatoris [condition or state of being on the way]” (Faith, Hope, Love [FHL], p. 98), the virtue by which “man reaches ‘with restless heart,’ with confidence and patient expectation,…toward the arduous ‘not yet’ of fulfillment” (FHL, p. 100). However, Dr. Pieper goes on to say, “Both despair and presumption…destroy the pilgrim character of human existence in the status viatoris” (FHL, p. 113).

The sin of despair is giving up hope or the desire of attaining everlasting beatitude, giving up hope of achieving the only happiness that can truly satisfy. When entered into deliberately and voluntarily, it is a sin by which, in a sense, a person makes himself out to be greater than God. It is the blasphemous conviction that one’s case is so special, that one’s sin is so odious, that even God’s mercy is insufficient to forgive it.

Its gravity is especially great “in that it ‘closes the door,’ [and] is by its very nature a denial of the way that leads to the forgiveness of sin” (FHT, p. 117). For the Christian, despair is a decision against Christ and a denial of the redemption.

We also saw last week that presumption reveals itself in two basic forms, both of which are prevalent in today’s society. Similar to the Pelagian heresy, the first type presumes that a person can attain salvation through moral effort without the necessity of grace. “It is characterized by the more or less explicit thesis that man is able by his own human nature to win eternal life and the forgiveness of sin” (FHT, p. 126).

The other type, which manifested itself during the Protestant Reformation, is characterized by the idea that a person can be certain of salvation without true contrition or performing works of charity. In a sense, God’s justice is belittled and an inordinate confidence is placed on His mercy. In this form of presumption, “man comes to believe that he has actually attained the ‘arduous’ goal that, in reality lies still in the future” (FHT, p. 124).

“Despair and presumption,” asserts Dr. Pieper, “block the approach to true prayer….One who despairs does not petition, because he assumes that his prayer will not be granted. One who is presumptuous petitions, indeed, but his petition is not genuine because he fully anticipates its fulfillment” (FHT, p. 127). It is evident, then, that “one who looks only at the justice of God is as little able to hope as is one who sees only the mercy of God. Both fall prey to hopelessness — one to the hopelessness of despair, the other to the hopelessness of presumption” (FHT, p. 128).

Last week’s installment closed with an observation by Dr. Lawrence Feingold, STD: “The modern world is oscillating unstably between presumption and despair, two contrary blasphemies against the Holy Spirit” (Course Notes for Fundamental Moral Theology [FMT], December 2009, p. 160).

He went on to state that “the crisis of hope in the Western world is leading inexorably to the very extinction of that society which, in turn, is aiding the spread of Islam. The challenge of our time is to reignite Christian hope” (FMT, p. 163), a topic examined by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi (“Saved in Hope”).

In Spe Salvi (SS), Pope Benedict emphasizes that the virtue of hope is absolutely essential for life, that it has immense existential importance. The former Vicar of Christ begins by affirming that “the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey” (SS, n. 1).

Citing St. Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians — that they should not “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13) — the Holy Father underscores that a distinguishing mark of Christians is that “they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness….The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life” (SS, n. 2).

What is the object of Christian hope? As has been stated repeatedly in recent installments of this series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the theological virtue of hope has God as its object in two ways: He is the one in whom we trust, and perhaps even more important, hope is directed toward union with Him. Hope is directed to God as the ultimate realization of our internal desire for happiness, through His aid.

From this flows the decisive reason for the existential importance of hope: It is essential in that it gives life meaning — it provides the impetus for the journey in that there is a final end, a glorious future that awaits us, which consists in face-to-face union with the Beloved. As P. Marie-Eugene, OCD, states beautifully in I Am a Daughter of the Church, “…among the theological virtues hope is par excellence the dynamic virtue, the virtue that advances toward God” (p. 395).

Why is Pope Benedict able to speak of a crisis of hope in the modern world, especially in Western society? It is precisely because of the prevalence of the sin of disbelief in contemporary times. The Holy Father’s critique of contemporary culture depicts it as one characterized by the loss of hope, and therefore of despair and presumption.

However, he does so in a style that takes care not to condemn modern society, but to encourage a solution.

The Roman Pontiff compares today’s social situation to the state of the Roman world when the Apostle to the Gentiles first arrived in Europe; he cites St. Paul’s reminder to the Ephesians that before encountering Christ they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

Pope Benedict is trying to awaken modern society to the reality that the secularism, atheism, and agnosticism that pervade today’s world, which attempt to impose a temporal hope in place of true hope (i.e., replace the Kingdom of God with the kingdom of man), will inevitably lead to despair because it can’t fulfill its utopian promise. In other words, the attempted secularization of hope can be seen as a form of presumption, which ends up falling into despair because it cannot deliver.

A telling manifestation of the lack of hope in Western society, of the lack of social hope, is the steady decline in birthrates. In an essay he contributed to a work entitled Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam (published in 2006 after he was elected Pope), then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

“Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future. Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present, as if they were taking something away from our lives. Children are seen as a liability rather than as a source of hope” (p. 66).

Pope Benedict, in Spe Salvi, is trying to spur society on toward the hope held by the martyrs, a hope that enables one to live the present so well that he can overcome any kind of trial. It is precisely the hope of future beatitude that gives the human person the capacity to suffer for something greater than himself.

In a masterful way, Pope Benedict points out that emptiness and hopelessness can be the only outcome in a world without God at its center. He is affirming that “life is worth living,” that society can indeed be transformed by hope-filled anticipation of beatitude — the fullness of happiness — if God is at the center of not only individual human hearts, but society in general. He points to prayer as the school of hope.

As an example of the power of Christian hope, Pope Benedict points to the written testimony of Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh (+1857), who courageously endured in the face of human hopelessness. In the midst of his torments, this heroic witness of supernatural hope wrote: “I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone — Christ is with me….In the midst of this storm I cast my anchor towards the throne of God, the anchor that is the lively hope in my heart” (SS, n. 37).


Stronger Than Death


Toward the end of Spe Salvi (nn. 41-48), Pope Benedict points to the Last Judgment as a key to Christian hope. Usually, people think of the Last Judgment and everything associated with it as opposing hope. However, part of the yearning of the human heart is the natural desire to see that justice is done in all of history. A great objection to God’s existence is the presence of injustice and evil in the world and indeed, if there were no Last Judgment, injustice would seem to have the last word.

It is precisely at the time of the Last Judgment, however, when mankind’s hope that all innocent suffering will be redeemed and rewarded will be realized, when all victimizing will be publicly condemned. Our hope that justice will be done, that perfect communion will be realized, and that evil and injustice will be excluded presupposes judgment — the Last Judgment will satisfy that natural aspiration in man.

“The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death (cf. Song 8:6)” (CCC, n. 1040).


+ + +


(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is a Consecrated Marian Catechist.)


Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

"Post-Christian America, in many ways, is beginning to mirror what we were once taught that the pre-Christian Roman Empire looked like. Indeed, if the mayor’s lifestyle is moral, Christianity got it wrong for 20 centuries"

Mayor Pete And The Crackup Of Christianity

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” said Hamlet, who thereby raised some crucial quest...

Good news! Heard from Raymond De Sousa today. He had successful surgery. Thank you for all your wonderful kindness and prayers!

Load More...

Bishop Donald J. Hying appointed to lead Madison diocese

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2019 / 04:04 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Thursday appointed Donald J. Hying the next bishop of Madison, Wis., following the death of Bishop Robert C. Morlino in November. Hying, 55, has been the bishop of Gary,…Continue Reading

Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., has died at the age of 91

Fr. James V. Schall, the prolific and much-beloved Jesuit, professor and author, died earlier today. His family states that “he was comfortable and at peace” at the time of his death. He was born in Pocahontas, Iowa, January 20, 1928.…Continue Reading

North Carolina Gov. vetoes bill requiring care for babies born alive after failed abortion

RALEIGH, April 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – North Carolina Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed legislation Thursday morning that would require abortionists to provide basic medical care to newborns who survive failed abortions, just days after the measure cleared the state legislature.…Continue Reading

How Cardinal Wuerl Misled the Papal Foundation

In 2017, Cardinal Donald Wuerl provided false and misleading information to the board of the Papal Foundation to secure a $25 million grant for the Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata (IDI), a scandal-plagued hospital in Rome. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro…Continue Reading

Since “Unplanned” Movie Released, 94 Abortion Clinic Workers Have Said They May Quit Their Jobs

Abby Johnson’s powerful conversion story is moving hearts inside the abortion industry. Chuck Konzelman, who is a co-writer/co-director of “Unplanned,” the new film detailing Johnson’s life, said nearly 100 abortion workers have reached out to them in the past few…Continue Reading

Franciscan University president resigns

Steubenville, Ohio, Apr 8, 2019 / 07:50 am (CNA).- Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, has resigned as president of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Fr. Sheridan informed the university’s trustees of his decision during a regular meeting of the board on…Continue Reading


Alumni of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland and the Cardinal Newman Society are voicing their outrage at the school’s selection of Mark Shriver to deliver the 2019 commencement address while also receiving an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Shriver is president of the Save the…Continue Reading

Emails show Planned Parenthood behind California rule to make churches pay for abortions

Sacramento, Calif., Apr 5, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A 2014 California rule forcing religious groups, including churches, to cover elective abortions for employees was the result of direct pressure from Planned Parenthood, internal emails have shown. On April 4,…Continue Reading

Notre Dame’s Catholic duty

On Wednesday, the LGBT Law Forum at the law school hosted an event featuring Jim Obergefell, Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, plaintiffs in the Supreme Court caseObergefell v. Hodges, which mandated that every state recognize same-sex marriage. The talk was co-sponsored…Continue Reading

Catholic priests in Poland burn alleged sacrilegious books including ‘Harry Potter,’ condemn magic

Polish Catholic priests condemning magic burned dozens of books they considered to be sacrilegious, including works from the “Harry Potter” series. The SMS from Heaven Foundation – an evangelical group – posted photos of the burning at Gdansk’s Mother of…Continue Reading

Vatican Life Academy: Parents must vaccinate, even if vaccines come from aborted babies

VATICAN CITY, March 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In a stunning declaration, the Pontifical Academy for Life — now populated entirely with Pope Francis appointments — has urged parents to vaccinate their children, even if the vaccines are derived from aborted…Continue Reading

Cardinal DiNardo discharged from hospital, expected to make full recovery

Houston, Texas, Mar 21, 2019 / 08:59 am (CNA).- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston has been released from the hospital, following a mild stroke last week, his archdiocese announced March 20. The cardinal, who serves as president of the U.S.…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  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 su
bscribe 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 150 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

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love


  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading


Tickets For Life

Today . . .

Joe Biden Announces He is Running for President, He Supports Abortions Up to Birth

Former Vice President and Senator Joe Biden today announced that he is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Biden, who is pro-abortion, enters a crowded Democrat field with candidates like Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Beto, O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren and others vying for the chance to take on President Donald Trump in 2020. In 2007, Biden made his approach on abortion crystal clear, indicating he would vote to defend and expand abortions at al

Cardinal Sarah condemns ‘barbaric Islamist violence’ in Sri Lanka

April 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Two respected cardinals known for their defense of the Catholic faith spoke out about the horrific Easter Sunday bomb attacks in Sri Lanka. Cardinal Robert Sarah condemned “barbaric Islamist violence” on Monday in a tweet and Cardinal Joseph Zen tweeted that the attacks are a call to prayer for all persecuted Christians.

Italian Bishop doubles down on ban of traditional Latin Mass

ROME, April 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Documents obtained by LifeSite show that an Italian bishop has ordered a priest to cease celebrating the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, after the traditional liturgy drew an increasing number of young lay faithful. Bishop Antonio Napolioni, of the northern Italian diocese of Cremona, is upholding a ten-year ban on the Latin Mass begun by his predecessor, on the grounds that such “objectively disharmonious initiative

Islamic State claims responsibility for Sri Lanka Easter bombings

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 23, 2019 / 07:09 am (CNA).- The Islamic State claimed responsibility Tuesday for the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka that killed at least 321 people and left 500 injured. “The perpetrators of the attack that targeted nationals of the countries of the coalitions and Christians in Sri Lanka before yesterday are fighters from the Islamic State,” the Islamic State said through its Aamaq news agency April 23. Sri Lankan officials suspected…Continue Reading

Cardinal Tobin: Catechism language ‘very unfortunate’ on homosexuality

Newark, N.J., Apr 18, 2019 / 10:54 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Newark said Wednesday that the language used by the Catechism of the Catholic Church to describe homosexual acts is “very unfortunate,” adding that he hopes the Catechism will use different language in its discussion of homosexuality. “The Church, I think, is having its own conversation about what our faith has us do and say with people in relationships that are same-sex. What should…Continue Reading


Sri Lanka’s Cardinal Ranjith . . . Would Have Canceled Easter Mass If Bomb Warnings Had Been Passed On

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNA) — The archbishop of Colombo says that government officials in Sri Lanka should be fired for failing to act on tips that terrorist attacks were imminent in the hours preceding Easter Sunday bombings in the country. “It’s absolutely unacceptable behavior on the part of these high officials of the government, including…Continue Reading

Dispute Over Papal Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Approval Continues

By KEVIN JONES VATICAN CITY (CNA) — Scrutiny continues for the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, amid questions of whether some of its grant activity was motivated by a desire to secure leniency for disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The ongoing controversy surrounds the foundation’s decision to make an unprecedented grant to a leading Italian hospital whose…Continue Reading

A Book Review… A Renaissance Man Looks At Human Worth

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Manetti, Giannozzo. On Human Worth and Excellence. Edited and translated by Brian P. Copenhaver; Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press, I Tatti Renaissance Library, pp LI + 362. One does not have to be a Renaissance historian or know much medieval philosophy or theology to appreciate this delightful book. On Human Worth and…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Make A Devotional Journey Into The Mass

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY A Devotional Journey Into the Mass: How Mass Can Become a Time of Grace, Nourishment, and Devotion, by Christopher Carstens (144 pages, Sophia Institute Press, Paperback and Kindle). Visit or call 1-800-888-9344. A Devotional Journey Into the Mass is an in-depth study of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and the first thing…Continue Reading

Memento Mori… The Danger Of Being Ultra-Nice

By DONALD DeMARCO A man wakes up in his nice apartment and, while having a nice cup of coffee, is told by a nice radio voice that the weather will be nice. He drives his nice car through his nice neighborhood and is wished a nice day, verbally by the teller at the bank and…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. As we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus this Easter, can you give me a short summary of the reasons why we believe that Jesus really rose from the dead? — K.J., via e-mail. A. Defenders of the Resurrection have usually grouped the reasons for the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus into three categories: The empty tomb, the many…Continue Reading

Looking To Cardinal Sarah . . . The Arrival Of Spiritual And Religious Collapse

By FR. SHENAN BOQUET (Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with permission of Human Life International, It first appeared at on April 15, 2019. Fr. Boquet is the president of HLI.) + + + Recently I traveled to Phoenix in order to lead a mission. When I arrived at the airport, I was stunned to see a group…Continue Reading

Do Not Doubt, But Believe

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday Of Easter, Divine Mercy (YR C) Readings: Acts 5:12-16 Rev. 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 John 20:19-31 Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy, a Feast our Lord Himself requested through St. Faustina. Mercy has been indispensable throughout history, but in God’s Providence He has waited until our own time to ask for a liturgical…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… To Rise From The Ashes, To Quit The Tomb

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK A blessed Easter to all of our readers. “The Lord is risen. Alleluia!” Christ’s story, recounted in the Scriptures proclaimed liturgically in these holy days, must become our story, too. Easter is our most important annual celebration of this fact. Baptized as we are into Christ’s death, we must live so as to rise with…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: It is easy to get discouraged at the state of the Church these days, particularly at the decline in the number of Religious sisters from 181,000 in 1965 to about 47,000 today, which Fr. George Rutler blames partly on those orders which “accepted bad advice from misguided and misguiding theologians and leaders. Bishops often have been at fault,…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Marie Of The Incarnation

By CAROLE BRESLIN Stories of St. Rene Goupil and St. Isaac Jogues, two of the first French Jesuit priests to be martyred in the New World, led many other French citizens to seek missionary service in Canada. Women as well as men set sail for New France. Women such as St. Marguerite Bourgeoys left the comforts of France to bring…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Peter Of St. Joseph De Betancur

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church is the largest provider of health care in the world. As of 2013, more than 40,000 hospitals, clinics, and homes for the elderly were run by the Catholic Church throughout the world. The pioneering work of many devout saints for centuries provided care for the sick and the homeless. To care for the sick…Continue Reading