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Metaphysics of a Celibate Priesthood

June 18, 2010 2 comments

If one visits Benedictine College, in Atchison, KS, one will notice a curious admixture of architectural styles.  The original St. Benedict’s College was founded in 1858; expansions and additions to the school have come through the past 152 years and have endured—some for the better, many for the worse—the various ideologies which moved men to build in such or another way.  The original buildings have a beauty characteristic of the 19th century American style; far from ostentatious, they nonetheless convey something significant, through their arches, their brickwork, their solidity.  Contrariwise, several of the academic and residence halls, built from roughly 1950-1975, are hideously bland.  The aesthetic is structured purposefully towards a denial of purpose in aesthesis—in other words, they are structured so as not to impress, but deliberately to fail to impress; they are so devoid of artistry that they are, admittedly, quite flexibly functional.  One could use the buildings for a great many purposes.  It is or ought not to be any surprise that they were designed by Marxists—and it is or ought not to be any surprise that being flexibly functional for a greater number of purposes than any of the other more beautiful buildings, they are vastly inferior in supporting any of them.  The ideal Marxist building can be anything—but to do so, it must divest itself of the possibility of truly being one thing at any time.  As such, students looking to study would not meet in the common room of a stark, cold building, but rather move to one of the much nicer, more aesthetically pleasing; they would not pray in the Abbey church (itself a hideous structure) were the monks using the adjoining parish church—a beautiful but sadly underused place of spiritual elevation and significance.  (Happily, the College is today emphasizing the aesthetics of its better buildings and shunning the regrettably unavoidable facilitative structures).

If someone were candidly asked, “What is a wall?” they would likely respond that it is part of a structure that helps hold up the roof, keep some things in, and others out.  This is true; this is the function of the wall.  But it is the function of the wall at its most basic, its most base level of being-a-wall.  It can be a better wall; why else do people paint, use wallpaper, place pictures, paintings, tapestries, crucifixes, and images of the Blessed Mother upon the wall?  They could just as well be placed on shelves, bookcases, countertops; they could be put on ceilings or strewn about a floor.  It is not merely for the fact that most of these placements would result in gross inconvenience that things are placed on the wall; it is also due to the fact that one wants to beautify the wall, because the wall is not just the wall—it is the wall as a part of the room, of the house or church or whatever structure to which it belongs, and as such, its function is more than its mere function.  There is a certain fittingness for every thing in every context into which it is placed.  Some, in revolting against the one-thing-at-a-time monomania of Marxist, and its necessitated insubstantiality, would see in this ability of a thing by its accoutrements and by its context to be more than its mere functionality a pluralization of the thing’s being; it is both a wall and a place for art; it is both a church in which one may worship and a testimony to beautiful art and architecture; it is both a true statement and one beautifully put.  This sort of plurality of function pervades American culture—with the obvious danger that it is in danger of, going the opposite direction, ending in the same place as the Marxist ideal—but fails to accurately characterize the more fundamental being of the more fundamental things.  The wall, in holding a copy of Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement” is not a wall and an art-space; it is a beautified wall.  The church is not both conducive to worship and aesthetically well-posed, but a beautiful place to worship.  The statement is not separately true and beautiful, but its truth is conveyed through beauty, and its beauty permeates the truth it expresses.

Benedict Hall, Atchison KS

If a wall is not beautiful and a supporting, protective part of a structure, but a beautiful wall, if a church is not a place of worship and beautiful but a beautiful place of worship, if a beautifully stated truth is not separately true and beautiful but beautifully true and truthfully beautiful, then what can be said of man as regards his functionality?

The function of man, in the eyes of the Church, is most lucidly stated in the Baltimore Catechism: to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him in the next.  The goal is the same for all men; but though all men have the same goal, it is a phenomenological truth that every man is different, from different situations, different experiences, and is therefore in need of different means to bring him to God.  This subjectively determined but objectively oriented means—in other words, suited to the individual but only insofar as it will bring him to sanctification—is what has long been called man’s vocation.  Typically, vocations are broadly categorized: marriage, priesthood, religious life, single life.  Yet the fact is that, despite these broad categorizations, each calling (for “vocation” is from the Latin vocare, “to call”) is particular to each individual; one married man’s marriage is not the same as others, for his wife is different, and his children are different, and incalculable, innumerable aspects of his life are unique to him, each providing him, according to Divine Providence, with that which he needs in order to find salvation.  Likewise, a priest may be a diocesan priest, a mendicant, he may belong to a personal prelature, he may be in the Roman Rite or the Melkite, the Byzantine or the Ukranian Catholic.  He may have a didactic talent, or a pastoral talent, or an evangelical talent; he may be the next great theologian or the next great Francis of Assisi—but he will never be St. Francis no more than he will be St. Thomas Aquinas, for he is himself, unique in his participation in the Being of God.

Would it not make sense, then, that for some men, the vocation could be within the categories of both marriage and priesthood, or marriage and religious life?  Could there not be some blending of the priesthood and the single life?

Suppose a man wanted to travel from Chicago to Atlanta.  He might do so by land, in a car, or by air, in a plane.  Either way, he arrives at the same location; what he cannot do is travel by both land and air simultaneously, for the equipment required for each is different—never mind the principle of non-contradiction.  If he wants to travel by both, he must switch back and forth, changing equipment each time (were he in a plane that can drive or a car that can fly, he would nonetheless switch the active equipment; tires for wings and vice versa).  At no point in time is he simultaneously fulfilling both modes of transport, and thus at every point in time, if he is fulfilling one, he is leaving the other unfulfilled.  At times, no doubt, this sort of travel is necessary, under circumstances that mandate abdication of one mode for the sake of the other at whatever time; to drive the car or fly the plane, to guide the small flock or to shepherd the larger.

It is, however, undeniable that this duality of roles is an unnatural division.  Every man is responsible for others on the path to the Kingdom of Heaven; but for how many others, in how many ways, can one man help shoulder the burden?  In less than perfect circumstances, he may adequately fulfill multiple such roles; but less perfectly than in more perfect circumstances; when one must fulfill multiple functions, being a limited being, of limited time, with limited abilities, the fulfillment of such more often than not becomes perfunctory.  The less-than-perfect circumstance induces the would-be-perfect man to be merely adequate, merely functional; he may hold up the structure, but he does not hold it up beautifully.  Should not then, in more perfect circumstances, man seek to do that which is more perfect?  No man may reach God in this life or by his own means, certainly; all he may do is make the attempt to lessen his own imperfection, to draw as near to God as possible.  A man’s spiritual life is indivisible from the rest of it; one’s work, one’s particular vocation, one’s socialization, all of it is of a unity; it is all part of his vocation, it is all to be ordained to the attainment of salvation, not as aggregate parts, but as a single organism.  The fulfillment of function, the response to vocation, is not a juxtaposition of disparate parts, but a living response, one breath at a time, diffusing life into one bloodstream.

In the early Church, marriage and Holy Orders were both conferred, regularly, upon one man.  Over time, as the East and West become distinguished from one another in liturgy and tradition, something happened in the West that did not in the East; something, always held in particular esteem for the priesthood, underwent greater scrutiny, study, and consideration: the practice of celibacy.  In the first centuries of the Church’s existence on earth, celibacy was seen as admirable principally because of the examples of Christ and St. Paul, but was seen as a merely optional though encouraged discipline of those having received Holy Orders.  The distinction between priest and lay was not so clear; how could it be?  The priesthood introduced by Christ was totally unlike any other to have existed in human history; for whereas pre-Christian priests mediated between man and the gods through words and supplication, through offering and ritual, the Christian priest mediates between man and God by bringing God Himself to man and thereby sanctifying and elevating man himself.  Though the profundity of this action, this vocation, was never lost upon the Apostles and their immediate successors, its place and its practice within the world could not fully be grasped so quickly; what is more, the world itself could not comprehend, was not ready—just as it was not ready to accept the Immaculate Conception as dogma until 1854.  This slow progression, be it in dogmatic definitions or the strengthened reinforcement of long-standing disciplines, is the natural, organic development which has characterized the Western Church for over seventeen-hundred years.  The fittingness of celibacy to the priesthood has been realized, recognized, articulated and understood; the wall has been built higher, and it has been built beautifully.  Celibacy is not a mere adornment, external and removable; it is gold set into the very stone.

Marriage of the ordained and ordination of the marriage can, most certainly, be permitted, in extraordinary circumstances; but the Church is not historically, theologically, canonically recidivist; for She has, in the understanding of Her members, grown in wisdom and maturity, and cannot return to a state of infancy.

Pope Pius XI

“Priests have a duty which, in a certain way, is higher than that of the most pure spirits ‘who stand before the Lord.’ Is it not right, then, that he live an all but angelic life? A priest is one who should be totally dedicated to the things of the Lord. Is it not right, then, that he be entirely detached from the things of the world, and have his conversation in Heaven? A priest’s charge is to be solicitous for the eternal salvation of souls, continuing in their regard the work of the Redeemer.” – Pope Pius XI, Ad Catholici Sacerdoti, 45.

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The Right Idea of a University

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

This article was written as a response to a previous article, “The Wrong Idea of a University,” about the closing of Southern Catholic College, my alma mater.  As I thought about how to write this article, it became evident to me that words would, ultimately, fail what I desire to express; the experience of four years, translated into a universal truth, is hard to put back into the particulars of words.  I, one more time, turned to the prayer which I believe carried me through those four years, the Memorare.  In English, the prayer’s final line is rendered “Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me.”  On the other hand, in Latin it reads “Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere, sed audi propitia et exaudi.”  The English translation, though poetic, loses the connection between Mary as the Mother of the Word (Mater Verbi) and the words of the petitioner (verba mea).  So it is that I pray, through the intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, the writing of this, the words put down here, may reflect the will of the Word.

What more can be said on the subject of education, and of the University education in particular?  In a sense, it seems almost impossible to contribute, to presume to build upon the works from antiquity.  But the depth and the richness of the Western intellectual tradition has been formed not merely through the great names and great works, but also through the nameless adherents and students of better men; if this essay may be a line in a letter, the dot above an “i,” in a word in a sentence in the tomes of the great tradition, it would be more than its author presumes.  A particular debt is owed to the work of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman and the 20th century Thomist philosopher, Josef Pieper.

If there is one physical feature of Christendom College that is particularly striking, aside from the poignant centrality of the chapel, it is the school’s library.  Though somewhat marred by a sea of computers in the center of the main floor (or so it was in 2005), the building is nonetheless characterized by a calm and yet elevating beauty; it induces the peace of contemplation.  One immediately feels that he is in a place of learning, of wisdom.  Likewise, amidst a half dozen so aesthetically well-composed buildings, including a new chapel that ranks among the most beautiful of North American churches built in the last 40 years, the library at Thomas Aquinas College in California envelopes the visitor with a profound sense of the intellectual atmosphere.  It is tempting and easy to look around at such settings and say without qualification that “Yes, here is a University.”  To do so would, however, be a grave mistake; for while Christendom and Thomas Aquinas are certainly Universities, it is dubious whether other places of even greater academic atmosphere and history are still deserving of the name.

Nice buildings, large holdings of books, idyllic landscapes, accommodating classrooms, the trappings of academia—all of these are certainly conducive to a University education; but they no more (and in fact, far less) guarantee or even indicate a true center of learning than a beautiful church guarantees local orthodoxy.  The most heterodox of priests may preach to fellow heretics in front of the most glorifying of tabernacles (perhaps grudgingly); and the most brilliant of professors may teach eager students in run-down trailers or sloppily converted hotel rooms (though not without some resentment).  What the heretics lack—what divides them from the Church—is that very same thing for which the professors and students strive, and in so doing, for the University.  It is the Word—the Logos.

It is in this regard that Southern Catholic College, however it ostensibly failed in the eyes of the world, managed to excel.  Classes were taught in a run-down trailer and in sloppily converted hotel rooms; and yet between the professors and the students there existed a continual conversation, a continual exchange of ideas through words, a consistent attempt at expression and comprehension of the Word itself.  In an interview done to promote the school, Dr. Cicero Bruce, professor of English Literature at Southern Catholic, gave a description of the literature program which rather accurate described the whole of the humanities program at the school: “Here I believe we proceed from the supposition that there is something true and good; you might describe the literature program here as logocentric.  In other words, it is centered around words—words on the page, metaphors—but around, ultimately, the Word of God; yes, the Word of God.  In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And it’s that Word of God, that Logos, that we believe inspires the literature in the first place.  And the words on the page, the metaphors of the poet become portals into that Logos, into that fount of Wisdom.”  (The video may be seen here).

It is this pursuit of the Logos, through words on the page and in conversation, through the unceasing dialog, that the University is grounded, and through which it grows.  Such an endeavor, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake—not to be put to any use, not to be subordinated to some practical end—the world, engaged as it is with “total work,” to steal a phrase of Josef Pieper’s, does not understand.  The world, instead, occupies itself with man’s daily needs and his daily wants; his food and his television, his electricity and, yes, his toilet paper.  It is the duty of the University to push man beyond these needs and base desires; for while in and of themselves they pose no harm, they allow man to divert himself from his true purpose, from the pursuit of perfection through knowledge of and engagement with the true and the good.  Such is what Newman advocated in his Idea of a University; an effort which, not easy, not simple, and not without struggle, is nonetheless in itself rewarding; the “knowledge of a gentleman,” the artes liberales, the form and foundation of society (wed, of course, to the spiritual heritage of the Catholic faith; something which seems unnecessary to argue for this audience).

It is sad that so many schools today, where perhaps this environment could be fostered, are instead suffocated beneath the bureaucracy of mere administrators—by which is mean those who, without experience in the education of the gentleman, of the liberal arts, are brought into the institution with some misconception that they may nonetheless facilitate such an education.  This atrocious state of affairs is not merely a situation of the blind leading the blind; it is of the utterly sense-deprived obscuring the vision of the newborn, stunting development, constraining would-be growth.  The liberal arts teach integration of all the world; and yet the liberal arts college all too often, as happened at Southern Catholic, is a fragmentary structure in which neither faith nor education, nor the inseparability of each from all aspects of life are properly understood.

In conclusion, this is not the place to conjecture about the particular configuration of the Catholic University.  It is merely a statement of principles: employ good professors, recruit good students, and put them together; for the University to grow and to be sustained, it must first exist.

P.S., it ought to be noted that Fr. Shawn Aaron, most recent president of Southern Catholic, did participate in the classroom and frequently engaged students in academic discussions; if only he had been four years earlier.

Dear Alethea Malachi

May 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Dear Alethea Malachi,

In regards to the allegation of gnosticism (and likewise elitism, arrogance, and whatever else one may justifiably associate with gnosticism), it can only be said “absolutely not.”  Certainly our first issue was not distributed to every individual within the community; but as is later pointed out in your letter, there is significant expense of time, effort, and money in publishing such a work.  Sadly, our financial backing only allows for a limited number of copies to be printed.  Therefore, in distribution, we aimed for those who we thought most likely to find the journal of some interest, and most especially those with whom it wound generate a dialogue.  We do not hold ourselves as the “sole holders” of truth, but seek, through rationally proceeding discourse, to unveil it as much as possible.  Naturally, we hold what we say to be true and thus advocate it, but are not closed to the possibility that we are wrong.  That is the primary goal of this journal: to invite a dialogical discourse and hopefully make clearer the discernment of truth.  If anyone has any argument against anything said in these pages, we welcome it.

If we are going to have a frank discussion about the roles of men and women, not merely in the workplace but in the world at large (segregation of the world into home and office, personal and professional, is something greatly detrimental to a man’s spiritual continuity), it would behoove us to first review the comment in controversy.  Chesterton’s words – “Modern women defend their office with all the fierceness of domesticity.  They fight for desk and typewriter as for hearth and home, and develop a sort of wolfish wifehood on behalf of the invisible head of the firm.  That is why they do office work so well; and that is why they ought not to do it” – are indeed easily misunderstood, regardless of whether not they are placed in the greater context that he wrote them.  Namely, the words derive from the very end of a chapter called “The Emancipation of Domesticity,” in a section titled “Feminism, or the Mistake about Woman,” from the book written in 1910 under the name What’s Wrong with the World.  For any readers unfamiliar with the writing and argumentation style of G.K. Chesterton, he operates almost entirely by paradox.  This bizarre structure can be seen in the above quoted words: he points out that women do office work exceptionally well, and then says that they should not do it. 

So just what is it that Chesterton finds objectionable about women working in an office?  Clearly it is not inefficiency or incompetence, nor is it a threatening of the male workman.  Rather, it is that by working in an office, by becoming another paper pusher, the woman denigrates herself far more than any amount of housework ever could.  It may be that the home-bound woman, the house wife, the stay-at-home mother feels trapped, confined to a mundane and trivial life; and so may the man feel his desk a nine-to-five ball and chain, replete with torture-loving boss.  Feminists will point out that the man gets to leave the home, be self-determining, decide his own work, pursue his dreams, while women are left devoid of options, of freedoms.  Indeed, that is the sacrificial magnitude of the calling to be a wife and mother; no less, but drastically other than the sacrificial calling of a husband and father.  As it says in Ephesians 5:22-28, “Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord: For the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the head of the church.  He is the saviour of his body.  Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things.  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for it, That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, nor any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth his wife, loveth himself.”

This passage is not the easiest to understand.  Even if one accepts that it is not anti-woman, and that it still recognizes a profound equality between men and women while acknowledging their differences, there are hidden nuances of meaning that bear flushing out.  Let us proceed.

Why would St. Paul, and God through him, command women to submit to their husbands?  I do not think it an exercise in humility – and I am fairly certain that most wives would agree that almost all lessons in humility ought to be directed at the less-fair half of a couple.  Why are men commanded to love their wives, and wives not commanded to love their husbands?  It seems an odd pair of double-standards, but the reality is one of perfect relational equanimity, based not on rationally flaccid social mores, but on the indisputable truth of human nature.

Man and woman, as the two halves of the image and likeness of God, are perfectly equal in their natures, and share much in common between them; yet there are profound differences, not so much in structure – excepting anatomy for the moment – but in spiritual focus.  A man is entirely singular in his life: his pursuits are typically of a particular and exclusive nature, as much as a sword is for fighting.  As Chesterton puts it, a man is called to give his best, which inherently and inexorably means giving only one thing, be it a trade, an art, or an intellectual pursuit.  He may exchange one best for another, as Aristotle forsook the practice of medicine for the philosophical quest, but he may never exercise two bests at once and will always feel some pull towards that at which he excels most.  Contrariwise, a woman is called to give everything; not her best, but her all; her duty is not particular, but universal; she is not a sword, but a fire, with which one may burn for warmth, for cooking, for cheer, for smithing or pottery or a thousand other uses.  To quote from the same chapter by Chesterton, “Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad.  The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs.  It was only by partly limiting and protecting the woman that she was enabled to play at five or six professions and so come almost as near to God as the child when he plays at a hundred trades.” 

This broadness is why women are called to marriage and motherhood: to fulfill the expansive callings of their nature, with the guidance of the singular calling of a man, each assisting the other.  St. Thomas Aquinas said, in his Summa Contra Gentiles, that woman needs man for her governance – not because a woman is incapable of surviving on her own, but because her multitudinous talents can be a distraction.  If you have ever seen a mother with many children overly deprived of her husband, you can see the truth of this; it is too tempting for a woman to extend herself beyond her capabilities, to do too much and succeed in doing it, but to succeed in such a way that she overworks herself, loses sight of the bigger picture.  Nonetheless, there is a strength in woman for holding everything together, all at once; a woman directs all of the parts that make up the whole that is her household, so long as it is definitively hers.  Thus, the efficacious broadness of a woman’s talents is not only the reason she should, ideally, apply herself to managing the home, but also why she ought to stay out of the office; for the office should never belong to one person; and though women may be the most effective administrators, administration is not the end goal of an office.

This brings us to the issues you raise with the faltered masculinity of modernity.  Indeed, I would say that you are very insightful.  Man has, time and time again, failed in his duty to lead, and has enslaved himself to an unnatural, bureaucratic working world, one which undermines and denies his innate manly qualities.  How many men now are employed in a way meaningful, fulfilling?  Not many; the narrow, monomaniacal world of which Chesterton spoke, the world of men, has been made even narrower by the simultaneously occupation of the broad-minded female.    What ought to have been a sword has been reduced to less than a fencing-foil.  The emphasis in all business is on the wrong things: profit, efficiency, shrink, overhead, so on and so forth.  That is not what man is meant to do, outside of the home; he is meant to do one thing, and to do it well, so long as that one thing is something productive, creative, or serves some greater end.  A journalist’s task is to produce good journalism; a carpenter good works of wood.  Services such as accounting are an unfortunately necessity brought about by a perverted, convoluted society without good sense; it serves a greater end, but minimally.  Thus, it is not the work itself which emasculates men, but the manner in which and the end for which he works that deprives him of the manliness he ought to have.

No doubt there are exceptions within either sex; but in order for them to be as exceptions, there must be a rule, a standard, an acknowledgement of the natures of man and of woman as that against which the abnormalities are excepted.

Regardless, we come back around to that which seemed prior, and may now doubly-so, to be a double-standard between God’s commandments to husbands and wives.  That there is no radical difference between them would appear indisputable: except, of course, when we examine the ends at which man and woman are naturally inclined to achieve, despite by drastically different means.  Namely, men and women act so as to complete one another; individually, they are incomplete, unfulfilled reflections of the Divine, which can fit together only like a four-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.  Thus men are commanded to love their wives, and to show that love by being always ready to die for them, as Christ died for the Church.  Women are also commanded to love their husbands, to love them by submitting to them, by being faithful to them, by living every day for them, as the Church lives every day for Christ.  In the words of the late and hopefully soon canonized Bishop Fulton Sheen, “As a matter of fact, men and women are not equal in sex; they are quite unequal, and it is only because they are unequal that they complement one another.  Each has a superiority of function.  Man and woman are equal, inasmuch as they have the same rights and liberties, the same final goal of life, and the same redemption by the Blood of Our Divine Saviour – but they are different in function, like the lock and key.”

I could of course go on much more, but I will leave off with more words from Bishop Sheen:

“[Mary] was the inspiration to womanhood, not because she claimed there was equality in sex (peculiarly enough, this was the one equality she ignored), but because of a transcendence in function which made her superior to a man, inasmuch as she could encompass a man, as Isaias foretold.  Great men we need, like Paul with a two-edged sword to cut away the bonds that tie down the energies of the world – and men like Peter, who will let the broad stroke of their challenge ring out on the shield of the world’s hypocrisy – great men like John who, with a loud voice, will arouse the world from the sleek dream of unheroic repose.  But we need women still more; women like Mary of Cleophas, who will raise sons to lift up white hoists to a Heavenly Father; women like Magdalene, who will take hold of the tangled skeins of seemingly wrecked and ruined life and weave out of them the beautiful tapestry of saintliness and holiness; and women, above all, like Mary, the Lady of Equity, who will leave the lights and glamours of the world for the shades and shadows of the Cross, where saints are made.  When women of this kind return to save the world with equity, then we shall toast them, we shall salute them, not as ‘the modern woman, once our superior and now our equal,’ but as the Christian woman closest to the Cross on Good Friday, and first at the Tomb on Easter morn.”

Your rather large paragraph regarding the Southern Catholic community seems to be raising two main points: one, that the student body appears to be well-educated, well-informed, and ought to be left to its own course without any effort such as that which comes in this journal; two, that one cannot judge something without knowing every last detail about how it came to be as it is.  As regards the first point, the majority of education for most students comes outside of the classroom.  Certainly, a student’s peers cannot hold a candle to the erudition of his venerable professors; but dissemination of information from a higher authority is fruitless if the mind is not willing to accept it, to seek it (Mark 4:1-20).  Positive peer influence can have a magnificent effect, not only to make a student more eager within the classroom, but also outside of it – to extend intellectual alacrity not only to academia, but to the world at large.  In response to the second point, an institution is not judged by its intentions or the secret difficulties it faces, but by the results it produces.  It may be that, to some eyes, an institution is producing satisfactory or even excellent results, that it is living up to its promises.  To other eyes, it may not seem so.  Undoubtedly, there are many details that never extend beyond the complicated, bureaucratic inner workings of such organizations.  The question is whether or not the inner works should be so complicated and bureaucratic, and even more so whether or not they should be so secretive. 

Where do girls find time to do their hair, or students to write for a school-run newspaper?  Perhaps we took shorter showers, slept a little less, spent a bit less time at meals or idly discussing our egotistic and pedantic opinions.  Minor sacrifices of time come easily, and do not in the least necessitate a failing in the fulfillment of our vocations as students.  Furthermore, we do not see how opinions (though such is a weak word, indicating a nervousness about whether or not one is correct) in contradiction to our own could be of equal value, for a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time, in the same place, and in the same manner; in other words, if one of us is right, the other must necessarily be wrong.  Consequently, to rectify these discrepancies of belief, the journal was primarily distributed to those whose opinions are contrary to ours, in order to, as has been stated over and over again, facilitate a dialogue, to employ reason in the service of truth.  What do we gain by it?  “Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?” (James 2:24).

Pax Domini
Veritatis Praeco

Suggested further reading:
What’s Wrong with the World – G.K. Chesterton
The World’s First Love – The Most Reverend Fulton J. Sheen

Categories: Correspondence

Dear Writers and Editors of Veritatis Praeco

May 6, 2009 1 comment

Editor’s Note: This letter was received in response to the first issue of Veritatis Praeco.  An abbreviated reply is included in the second issue, and a full response will be posted here as soon as it is completed.

I have several questions and comments regarding your recent newsletter. The first of which is a complaint. Why was I not afforded the opportunity to read through the newsletter first-hand? I did not receive a copy of your enlightening document. Was I considered unworthy or was I simply overlooked? Surely the editors of such a fine journal would consider it imperative to provide such discussions of truth to all members of society regardless of creed, gender, or color. Does the fact I was absented your mailing list betray some bias on your part? Was there an ulterior motive involved in providing copies to those who did receive the journal? Do you truly aspire to spread truth or do you merely wish to receive approbation and confirmation of your views from an intellectual minority?

My second observation ties in with my first. If you wish to enlighten a community, surely you should contact all its members. Since you have not, I fear I must lay the charge of gnosticism (not the religious view, but of the possession of esoteric knowledge) at your door. Do the editors and writers of Veritatis Praeco believe they are the sole holders of “truth” and understanding regarding Catholic education and worship? Is there an underground society I should join in order to receive the fullness of truth (which apparently I need Veritatis Praeco’s help finding and without which I am lost amid the sunken and crippled intellectual wreckage which drifts through the morass of modern relativist society)?

Furthermore, as an advocate for all things good and true, I take offense at the inclusion of G.K. Chesterton’s comment in your “Logos” section on page 10. I appreciate Chesterton’s sentiment as I have read his writings and I understand his objection to women in the workplace. However, I find it to be out of context in your journal and an example of a biased and unbalanced discussion against women’s equality and opportunity. A full appreciation of the many talents and gifts which women have is vital to the protection and true understanding of femininity. All women should not be banned from the workplace or sequestered to the seclusion of the home simply because they are women. Neither so should all men be forced into the business world to wear a suit and tie and work long meaningless hours as an actuary (no offense intended to the noble profession) or paper-pusher simply because it is the role society has designated for the male. The great advantage of the modern age is that all persons are free to pursue whatever course God may call them too–be it as homemaker, office clerk, CEO, blacksmith, or entrepreneur. 

God does not call all women to be mothers just as all men are not called to be fathers. True, women are biologically and spiritually “programmed”, if you will, for motherhood–but that natural role can be fulfilled in as many different ways as there are vocations and callings. To be celibate and or a virgin does not circumvent the natural design of a woman, it merely shifts its focus from natural born children to spiritual children or to adopted children (as with a daycare worker or social worker). The feminine predisposition toward motherhood is much like the masculine propensity to “provide and protect.” Clearly, the modern man does not hunt and forage every day and protect his family and land by killing those who trespass on it. They work in various positions for an hourly, daily, or yearly wage in order to provide and they protect by providing the basic needs to their families–food, clothing, shelter, etc. They work in the government to enact laws which will ensure their and their families’ safety. Some will say this does not “fulfill” the so-called natural determination of the man to protect and provide. Some would even say that the modern cycle undermines masculinity to such an extent that the modern man no longer acts as a man–he is emasculated, undone, becomes self-serving rather than self-sacrificing, and lapses to a subservient position to the female. Just as the act of that unfortunate Garden incident undermined the proper roles of man and woman by woman’s weakness and man’s failure to lead, so the modern man continues to fall far short of his originally intended nature. 

As a member of the Southern Catholic community, I question your motives in providing the Veritatis journal. I do not understand why the students of the college would benefit from your discussions as the College is a well-formed and well-educated whole, directed toward following the principles and precept of the Catholic Church, which provides an environment which best encourages and induces good spiritual, mental, and social formation. No doubt it has flaws, as any human institution does. However, in the grand scheme it appears to be a well-run, well-furnished educational institution which is capable of attracting and retaining a diverse student population which is, by and large, composed of studious matriculants. The inner workings of the College administration are just that, the inner workings of the administration. Without being present at every board meeting and staff meeting, can we accurately judge the success or failure of the administration to correctly safeguard and support the mission of the College? As far as I know, no one person on this campus has the right to make a judgment about how well or how poorly the staff perform their duties. Such a judgment would require first-hand knowledge of meetings and operations far beyond the reach of any student or professor or other professional on-campus. The complexity of the administrative structure is such that most decisions pass through several departments and before many eyes before they are finalized. What end does repeatedly vocalizing criticism of certain departments or decisions acheive? We change nothing, solve nothing, gain nothing beyond the gradual poisoning of our own souls through the violence and cursing of our mouths (See James 3 and James 4:11 regarding speaking ill of our brothers and sisters). Rather, we should pray, keep watch, and be active (not passive as it appears you are being by publishing an anonymous journal) in finding a positive solution to the percieved ills. Such would Our Lord urge us to do (Matthew 26:41).

Furthermore, if you are, indeed, also members of the college community, where did you find the time to create this journal? I am sure such writing, editing, and typesetting were time-consuming and exhausting. Could you possibly be able to fulfill your own duties and educational requirements, in addition to your spiritual lives and social activities, to the best of your ability while expending such effort into this diversion? How can you justify the expense of time, effort, and money for printing costs when you clearly must sacrifice some aspect of your own college education to do so while writing about the woes of the recession and the wise use of resources? What do you gain by it? Self-gratification? Inflated egos? Since your recipient audience is so severely limited, I can only assume that you intend to exalt your own pedantic opinions, deride and attack other opinions which may be of equal value but of which you do not approve because they are not your own, and to create a gnostic clique which merely reinforces its own narrow-minded judgments through the limited reading of a few select authors which express similar or identical views?

Yours respectfully, 

Alethea Malachi

(You will, of course, take no offense at my own use of pseudonym since I use it to express true and proclaim wisdom without personality etc… etc… etc.)

VOX AEQUITAS

Categories: Correspondence