Monday, January 30, 2012

Gaining a Catholic Vision

My local parish was blessed with the presence of Fr. Michael Keating of the Department of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.  He addressed remarks concerning "The Intellectual Wounds of our Times" to hundreds of Christ the King (Ann Arbor, MI) parishioners between Sunday morning's masses.

After introductory comments on Christ the healer--a theme consonant with Pope John Paul II's encyclical letter Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason, 1998)--and on the underlying source of the contemporary problem--due in a word to the "Enlightenment" (Endarkenment) when men set about to understand the world without reference to God--he delivered a discourse on six intellectual wounds afflicting the contemporary mind.

  1. The belief that religion and faith are not matters of truth -- This has to do with the notion that only empirically verifiable data--what we exclusively consider to be scientific--is certain. This intellectual wound is related to scientific positivism and scientism.
  2. The relegation of moral questions to the realm of opinion and lifestyle choices -- It follows that since the good is not directly verifiable, and hence not true according to the scientific method (it is not a facticity), then it is relative and depends on one's personal preferences.  This intellectual wound is related to moral pragmatism and emotivism.
  3. A loss of the sacramental understanding -- If knowledge is limited to that which we can sense, we are deprived of much of what Christ came to reveal.  The meaning of things far transcend their matter.  This intellectual wound and deprivation is related to philosophical materialism and theological eclecticism.
  4. A lack of understanding of liturgy as the ordering principle of the world -- The celebration of the mass, especially at the moment of the consecration, is where and when the eternal sears temporality open and interpenetrates with it.  This intellectual wound and deprivation is related to theological  modernism. 
  5. The assumption that subjective experience is the sole validation of truth -- Truncated from being, the mind grabs onto what it experiences (or thinks it experiences).  Ironically, it is a given in science that experience is molded and preceded by theory, a model, that enables us to order otherwise random phenomenon.  This intellectual wound is related to practical subjectivism
  6. The loss of an integrated vision of life and the world -- C.S. Lewis once remarked on the irony that religious believers open to transcendence are accused of being closed-minded, and that non-believers who relegate the world to the domain of the merely perceptional are considered broad-minded.  This intellectual wound is related to all of those mentioned above.
A quick look at his list reveals a common root to the various forms of subjectivism and relativism identified: the turn away from real transcendence, towards immanence; from God, to ourselves.  

Our wounds derive from closing our minds to being, with the consequent loss of its transcendental properties: unity, truth, goodness and beauty.  The resulting mono-dimensionality of mind without external referents has led in our age to nihilism, a negation that overtakes even the person in his human dignity.

In Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II outlined an urgent task for philosophy to recover three primary aspects in order to once again point the way to the truth and meaning that all men seek.  They are to (1) recover its sapiential (wisdom) dimension, or search for ultimate and overarching meaning rather than to dwell on mere technology; (2) seek the total and definitive truth about reality, the very being of objects, as opposed to particular and subordinates aspects of reality; and (3) to probe a genuinely metaphysical range that transcends the merely empirical to reach absolute, ultimate and foundations grounds for truth.

Catholics know that the salve to heal our wounded intellects is Christ.  "The mystery of the incarnation will always remain the central point of reference for an understanding of the enigma of human existence, the created world and God himself" (FR, 80)

The talk was sponsored by the parish's office of religious education directed by Barbara Morgan.  Barbara convoked a series of meetings over the holiday's to begin discussing the Catholic worldview.  Fr. Mike's visit was the opening event in an anticipated series of lectures addressing this topic.

Christ the King posts weekend homilies, talks, RCIA presenta- tions, retreat talks, and more at, or link to it from the parish website,

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