23 February 2020

The Topophiliac Heresy and Biblical Teaching

Lifesitenews has an absolutely BRILLIANT piece by Cardinal Cordes on the errors of seeing the Amazon ... or any other place ... as a uniquely and theologically significant topos which is unspoiled and a source for us of authentic teaching and "Wisdom". His Eminence offers a classical Biblical exposition of the Fall. I couldn't possibly put it better than he has, so I urge you to go and read it.

Bishop Schneider points out the error of calling the Theotokos "Mother of All Creation". Error may be made more attractive to some minds by being incorporated into extravagant Mariolatry, but to do this is an insult to the Immaculata. The Liturgy regards her as the antidote to, not the facilitatrix of, all  heresies.

This sort of error is closely connected with the Christianitylite error that we should regard all peoples as brothers and as children of the Almighty. New Testament teaching suggests rather that all are under sin and in darkness until they are illumined and reborn into Christ, incorporated into His Resurrection through Baptism, Children through Adoption. (Did you spot the references to 'Illumination' and 'Seeing' in today's Quinquagesima readings?)

But, as I wrote recently, I am convinced that we should all welcome and spread abroad the good things in the Apostolic Exhortation, notably the very strong reaffirmation of the fact that the Eucharist can only be confected and offered by an ordained  male. Cardinal Mueller is, in my opinion, absolutely right in adopting this tactic. If PF is starting to realise ... certain things ...  we would be very foolish if we were to drive him back into the arms of the maniacal hyperueberultrapapalists and supraneomodernists who think they have him neatly corralled and at their disposal.

As far as the Bogey Man of 'Clericalism' is concerned, I have written before about an amusing paradox: it is the Traddy Movement which is largely organised and run by lay men and women. We clerics just jump to it and do as we are told. Perhaps the Campos people are the ones best shaped by their own background to help the Amazonians to move into a healthy and inculturated laic spirituality.

We experienced lay leadership, too, in the C of E when we had our 'flying bishops', episcopopters. One of them, being accused of acting as if he was a diocesan bishop, replied "I certainly do not. Nobody gets in touch with me when there's a leak in the Sacristy ceiling". Another remarked "We have no authority except what you give us". And there is the very splendid Anglican tradition, stretching back into the Middle Ages, of Churchwardens, male and female. I still doff my hat and stand to attention on the all-to-rare occasions when I find myself in the company of either of my last pair of these very superior men and women.

Viva Laicita ...


Ben said...

I think there is room for some shades of meaning on a couple of these points.

On Mary as 'Mother of all Creation' - certainly in the existing teaching of the Church she is Queen of all things, as Pius XII teaches in 'Ad Caeli Reginam' (with extensive support from the Fathers). She is 'the powerful Queen of Creation'('potens rerum aevorumque Domina') (Ad Caeli Reginam 50). So can there be realms of which she is Queen, without being Mother? 'Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world.' (Ad Caeli Reginam 1)

And granted that we become children of God in a fuller sense by being adopted in Baptism, there is nevertheless a broader sense in which all of us 'are indeed his offspring', as St Paul affirmed at the Areopagus (Acts 17:28-29).

True, taken in the strictest sense, a father or a mother must be of the same nature as that of which they are father or mother. But language and imagery are not so rigid, as St Thomas explains:

'…The perfect idea of paternity and filiation is to be found in God the Father, and in God the Son, because one is the nature and glory of the Father and the Son. But in the creature, filiation is found in relation to God, not in a perfect manner, since the Creator and the creature have not the same nature; but by way of a certain likeness, which is the more perfect the nearer we approach to the true idea of filiation.

'For God is called the Father of some creatures, by reason only of a trace, for instance of irrational creatures, according to Job 38:28: "Who is the father of the rain? or who begot the drops of dew?"

'Of some, namely, the rational creature (He is the Father), by reason of the likeness of His image, according to Deuteronomy 32:6: "Is He not thy Father, who possessed, and made, and created thee?"

'And of others He is the Father by similitude of grace, and these are also called adoptive sons, as ordained to the heritage of eternal glory by the gift of grace which they have received, according to Romans 8:16-17: "The Spirit Himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God; and if sons, heirs also."

'Lastly, He is the Father of others by similitude of glory, forasmuch as they have obtained possession of the heritage of glory, according to Romans 5:2: "We glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God."' (Summa Theologiae 1a, 33, 3)

Banshee said...

Yes, but we don't call Mary "Mother of Angels" or "Mother of Dragons". Or "Mommy of Puppies and Kitties". She is the "Queen of Angels," and she could be fittingly described as the queen of various other critters. But not their mommy.

The queen mother of the OT was not named "Queen mother" but "gebirah", strong woman, lady. Motherliness of approach is implied by her position, but not being mom of those who are ruled over. Her momhood is directed toward her son, the king.

So yeah, the title might not be a problem in a kinder world, but in our world it is incorrect and paganish too.

Ben of the Bayou said...

My dear Father H,

Perhaps it is overly cynical of me, but I believe that I detect in QA of PF some sleight of hand. Yes, happily he affirms that only males are capax of Orders. On the other hand, you seems to reduce the priesthood to certain functions. He asks what absolutely requires Orders. Then he names them (is this list taxitive?). But, in this way he may be carrying out the very reductionism of which he complained vis-a-vis a woman's role in the life of the Church.

It seems to me that this may be a prelude to a further step. Namely, if such and such a thing does not absolutely require holy Orders, although itmay be fitting, a lay man or woman could instead perform that function. Think of all the ways that this turns the nature and understanding of priesthood and it's fatherly role inside out.

I wonder whether this will not be counted one day as a Pyrrhic victory.

Grant Milburn said...

I like Wordsworth too, but all this Gaia worship brings out the Marquis de Sade in me. Nature? Bah humbug! A criminal organization!

Schiller and Beethoven sang Alle Menschen werden Bruder, but that was only after divine joy had left its mark. More ordinarily...

Are not the rich and the poor brothers?’ asked the young King.

‘Ay,’ answered the man, ‘and the name of the rich brother is Cain.’ ( Oscar Wilde: The Young King)

Ben said...

@ Banshee

There is a deep theological reason why Mary is Mother of all Creation.

St Anselm writes: 'Sky, stars, earth, rivers, day, night, and all things that are meant to serve man and be for his good rejoice because of you, our Lady. Through you they have in a way come back to life, enriched with a new grace that words cannot describe... Now they are made beautiful because they serve and are used by those who believe in God... These immense benefits have come through the blessed fruit of the blessed womb of the blessed Mary...

'God is Father of all created things and Mary is mother of all that has been recreated. God is Father of the institution of all things and Mary is mother of the restitution of all things. God begot him through whom all things were made and Mary gave birth to him through whom all things are saved.' (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Office of Readings, 2nd Reading)

We can make it sound a bit ridiculous, for example by calling Mary the Mother of puppies and kittens - just as it would sound ridiculous and disrespectful if we made a point of addressing God as the Father of puppies and kittens, or of the coronavirus (which are all nonetheless most certainly part of his creation, bearing his trace, as St Thomas says). But theologically it remains true, as St Anselm says: 'God is Father of all created things and Mary is mother of all that has been recreated' because through her 'they have in a way come back to life'. Obviously she is not their physical mother, just as, neither is she our own physical mother - but we call her our Mother because she imparts life in the order of grace.

I guess almost any Catholic teaching can be misinterpreted or misapplied (and the fear here is that this particular teaching be misapplied in a pagan or pantheist way). But that doesn't mean we refrain from presenting the true teaching - it just means we take pains to give its true explanation. Otherwise, to avoid one heresy, we would find ourselves flying into the opposite heresy.

Ben of the Bayou said...

Does it not seem to anyone else that my fellow commenter, @Ben, who feels free to spread about warnings about heresy, has fallen unintentionally into something like the naturalistic heresy condemned by Pius IX.? His own citations are perfectly illustrative.

S Anslem beautifully repeats the teaching that, through Our Lady, we have received the Redeemer. She is Mother of the Redeemer and thus the channel of grace by which fallen creation can be redeemed, being brought by grace (through the sacerdotal blessing) into the service of the community of the redeemed, the Church.

Then, the anonymous author of the 2d reading above-cited makes it quite explicit that we are speaking not of creation, but of REcreation (in grace). This distinction seems to me to be key to this discussion.

Our Lady is the undoubted Queen of the souls redeemed in Christ, of the bright angelic Spirits to be subjected to His feet, and of those things "transferred to the Kingdom of His beloved Son" by the various consecrations, hallowings, and blessings of the Church. But, "Queen of creation" simpliciter dicta? Seems very dubious.

Besides, I wonder, dear Ben, whether you have yet read and considered the arguments of Cardinal Cordes?

Ben said...

@ Ben of the Bayou

"We are speaking not of creation but of REcreation (in grace)"

The word 'creation' can mean the action of God in creating; or it can mean the sum total of the beings themselves thus created. The contrast drawn with REcreation indicates that it is the first meaning being used in the statement above, since re-creation is primarily describing an action, the action of restoring the created beings to the order of grace.

But if Mary is said to be Mother of Creation, the meaning can only be the second, not the first: Mother of the created beings. She does not perform the act of creating, and no Catholic with any instruction is imagining she was there before the rest of the created world, somehow helping God bring it into being.

Rather, she is Mother of the beings themselves that God had first created. (This is actually what the final prayer in 'Querida Amazonia' says - 'Mother of all creatures', not 'Mother of creation', so the meaning is clearer still. So perhaps it is better if I stick to that wording.)

But the created beings and the recreated beings - sky, stars, earth, rivers, and so forth, as St Anselm says - are exactly the same beings. So if Mary is Mother of the recreated beings, we must also call her the Mother of the created beings, all restored in principle through her Son's Incarnation, Death and Resurrection. If we ask, 'Which beings did Mary restore to life?' we can answer, 'All the created beings'. The fact of their creation is not irrelevant to their restoration, and they retain their basic identity as created beings.

There is a distant analogy between how we clarify, 'Mary is the Mother of God - not according to his divinity but according to his humanity', and how we can clarify, 'Mary is the Mother of all creatures - not according to their original creation but according to their re-creation in the order of grace.' We can rightly use the shorter phrase in each case, but sometimes we clarify using the longer form, if someone is misinterpreting.

Regarding the article of Cardinal Cordes, I don't think he is referring to Mary at all. I certainly agree with what he says against Gaia worship. But I don't believe for a moment that Pope Francis thinks that Mary is a mother goddess who brought forth the original creation of the world, and whom we should worship; or that he wants to bring the Church into that belief. And I don't find anything like that in reference to Mary in Querida Amazonia.

If anything, Mary the Mother who has given renewed life to all creatures is surely a remedy to Gaia - showing pagans the true (non-divine) Mother they were searching for all along.

Ben of the Bayou said...


Quite right about the BVM nit being a Mother Earth goddess. I also agree that Pope Francis is almost certainly not proposing her as such.

Concerning your distinction between the two senses if creation, I can only say that it does not follow that using re-creation necessitates the first meaning. In point of fact, I was using re-creation as a verbal noun.

Finally (and I admit that I do not intend to continue this exchange), I must say quite simply that I utterly rejection the evidently Rahnerian line that it seems you have taken in identifying creation with re-creation. I do not believe, I utterly reject, and I exsecrate the idea that, due to the Incarnation (or Passion or Death or Resurrection) of our divine Saviour, all created things are now constituted in grace. This is the kind of utter rot that gave us the modern "de Benedictionibus" which seems to do anything but bless things because it supposes them to be blessed already.

Ben said...

@Ben of the Bayou

(I too will conclude with this post.) I think that all created beings are, in Christ, re-created 'in principle' (as I expressed it previously). (cf. Col 1:20 - 'Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.)

But re-creation has degrees of penetration. The fullness of God's plan will not be until the final kingdom; and what is already perfect in Christ must be fulfilled in his body the Church. To what extent this or that individual person is re-created will depend on his free response to the grace offered him. Justification and salvation are not automatic.

As for non-personal beings, in virtue of Christ they are all re-created at least at some level, for the reason given by St Anselm: they are now all at the service of the redeemed. But this doesn't mean they can't be brought deeper still into the order of grace, e.g. by blessings of the Church.

I too detest an approach whereby sacraments and sacramentals never really 'do' anything except declare a pre-existing reality; or an approach that makes human free choices meaningless, or evangelisation a waste of time, as though salvation were all but guaranteed, regardless of what we do.