Friday, March 29, 2024

Wishful thinking about Judas

In a recent article at Catholic Answers titled “Hope for Judas?” Jimmy Akin tells us that though he used to find convincing the traditional view that Judas is damned, it now seems to him that “we don’t have conclusive proof that Judas is in hell, and there is still a ray of hope for him.”  But there is a difference between hope and wishful thinking.  And with all due respect for Akin, it seems to me that given the evidence, the view that Judas may have been saved crosses the line from the former to the latter.

Jesuit Britain?

Did Spanish Scholastic thinkers influence British liberalism? You can now access my Religion and Liberty review of Projections of Spanish Jesuit Scholasticism on British Thought: New Horizons in Politics, Law, and Rights, edited by Leopoldo J. Prieto López and José Luis Cendejas Bueno.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Mind, matter, and malleability

Continuing our look at Jacques Maritain’s Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau, let’s consider some arresting passages on the conception of human nature the modern world has inherited from Descartes.  Maritain subtitles his chapter on the subject “The Incarnation of the Angel.”  As you might expect, this has in part to do with the Cartesian dualist’s view that the mind is a res cogitans or thinking substance whose nature is wholly incorporeal, so that it is only contingently related to the body.  But it is the Cartesian doctrine of innate ideas and its implications that Maritain is most interested in. 

Friday, March 15, 2024

The metaphysics of individualism

Modern moral discourse often refers to “persons” and to “individuals” as if the notions were more or less interchangeable.  But that is not the case.  In his book Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau (especially in chapter 1, section 3), Jacques Maritain notes several important differences between the concepts, and draws out their moral and social implications.

Traditionally, in Catholic philosophy, a person is understood to be a substance possessing intellect and will.  Intellect and will, in turn, are understood to be immaterial.  Hence, to be a person is ipso facto to be incorporeal – wholly so in the case of an angel, partially so in the case of a human being.  And qua partially incorporeal, human beings are partially independent of the forces that govern the rest of the material world.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

When do popes speak ex cathedra?

Consider four groups that, one might think, couldn’t be more different: Pope Francis’s most zealous defenders; sedevacantists; Protestants; and Catholics who have recently left the Church (for Eastern Orthodoxy, say).  Something at least many of them have in common is a serious misunderstanding of the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility – one which has led them to draw fallacious conclusions from recent papal teaching that seems to conflict with traditional Catholic doctrine (for example, on Holy Communion for those in invalid marriages, the death penalty, and blessings for same-sex couples).  Some of Pope Francis’s defenders insist that, since these teachings came from a pope, they must therefore be consistent with traditional doctrine, appearances notwithstanding.  Sedevacantists argue instead that, given that these teachings are not consistent with traditional doctrine, Francis must not be a true pope.  Some Protestants, meanwhile, argue that since Francis is a true pope but the teachings in question are (they judge) not consistent with traditional Christian doctrine, Catholic claims about papal infallibility have been falsified.  Finally, some Catholics have concluded the same thing, and left the Church as a result.