Monday, March 21, 2011

Inevitable Scholasticism

In the latest issue of First Things, Fr. Thomas Joseph White reviews Ulrich Leinsle’s Introduction to Scholastic Theology.  You can find the CUA Press page for the book here, and the book’s table of contents here


  1. "Fear of scholasticism is the mark of a false prophet." Loved that bit in the review. The book looks promising. I will be sure to purchase it.

    Slightly off topic:

    Do any of the well-read Christians here know of a philosophical/theological defense of the Roman Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox idea that praying for certain types of dead people will help then attain the Beatific Vision? I went to Catholic schools all my life, attended some All Souls' Day services, and have yet to understand the idea. What is the point of praying *for* a person once they're dead? It's not like it'll change God's judgment.

  2. Anon, here's part of the Catechism's point at least:

    1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

    1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

    As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

    1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

    Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.

  3. In addition to the fact that they may be in purgatory becoming purified of attachment to sin, (as Josh makes clear), there is a more mysterious aspect: while we are in time, God is not. There is nothing that prevented God from applying the merits of Christ's perfect sacrifice for the salvation of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc by His granting them the grace of faith, hope, and love while they were living. Therefore, there is nothing that prevents God from applying the merits of our prayers and sacrifices (joined to Christ's sacrifice, of course) offered after death of a loved one, for the benefit of that loved on who would have otherwise died in sin, to make up what is lacking in the Body of Christ. That is, our effort after their death, seen and accepted by God eternally, can "result" in God granting the person grace while he was still living (even if it was at the very moment of death).

  4. Anon, you should read Ratzinger's book on Eschatology, particularly the section on purgatory, pp. 218-233. He gives a nice historical and theological explanation. Our Pope taught courses on eschatology regularly when he was a professor. Here's a sample quote: "... because self-substituting love is a central Christian reality, and the doctrine of Purgatory states that for such love the limit of death does not exist. The possibility of helping and giving does not cease to exist on the death of the Christian. Rather does it stretch out to encompass the entire communion of saints, on both sides of death's portals. The capacity, and the duty, to love beyond the grave might even be called the true primordial datum in this whole area of tradition..."