“What is Life?” conference in Krakow, June 2011

Adrian J. Walker, Robert Spaemann, David L. Schindler

A variety of Communio editors and authors participated in the June 2011 conference in Krakow, “What Is Life?: Theology, Science, and Philosophy”  organized by the Centre of Theology and Philosophy (Nottingham).

Participants included editors David L. Schindler, Adrian Walker, and D. C. Schindler; editorial board members Tracey Rowland, Antonio Lopez,  and Stratford Caldecott; and contributors Aaron Riches, Conor Cunningham, John Milbank, Robert Spaemann, Louis Dupre, Remi Brague, Simon Oliver, Mark Shiffman, Larry Chapp, John McCarthy, John Betz, Peter M. Candler, Martin Bieler, Javier Martinez, and others. (See the conference program here.) Photos courtesy Dr. Eric Austin Lee.

D. C. Schindler, John Milbank, Adrian J. Walker, Fr. John Behr

Rémi Brague, Conor Cunningham, Agata Bielik-Robson


Cardinal Scola Roundup

Below is an assortment of links to articles on Cardinal Angelo Scola. A longtime editor of the Italian Communio and frequent contributor to the English language edition, Cardinal Scola (currently Cardinal Patriarch of Venice) was appointed Cardinal Archbishop of Milan last week by Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Scola is going back home. To Milan. (Sandro Magister). Meet the New Crown Prince of Catholicism (John Allen).  ‘A certain faith paves the way to open dialogue’ (Interview with  Inside the Vatican). Cardinal Scola Appointed Archbishop of Milan (National Catholic Register) Benedict’s ‘School of Community’: Venice’s Scola to Milan (Whispers in the Loggia).

Watch a Youtube video of Cardinal Scola at the 2010 Rimini meeting here.

A selection of Communio articles by Cardinal Scola available online (pdf):

The Dignity and Mission of Women: The Anthropological and Theological Foundations  (1998).

Freedom, Grace, and Destiny (1998)

Human Freedom and Truth According to the Encyclical Fides et Ratio (1999).

Which Foundation? Introductory Notes (2001)

Education and Integral Experience (2003)

The Nuptial Mystery: A Perspective for Systematic Theology? (2003)

The Unity of Love and the Face of Man: An Invitation to Read Deus caritas est (2006)

See the entire list in the Communio Author Index.

Cardinal Ouellet

Here is another brief article on Cardinal Ouellet, from Whispers in the Loggia.

From the text:

As the appointment made Cardinal Marc Ouellet one of the Roman Curia’s “Big Three” and only served to further burnish a unique resume that’s taken the Quebecois from Communio articles to Latin American seminaries, a Roman professorship, prominent ecumenical posting and seven years at the helm of Canada’s oldest diocese, perhaps the immediate uptick of talk dubbing the Sulpician prelate a leading papabile would’ve been more conspicuous by its absence. Still, having capped his first year leading the “Thursday table” of the Congregation for Bishops with the move of a fellow member of the pontiff’s “kitchen cabinet” to the helm of Europe’s largest diocese, the media-friendly cardinal-prefect has gone on the record to address speculation of his odds in a potential Conclave, saying that, for him, being Pope “would be a nightmare.” (Go to the article).

Cardinal Ouellet’s articles in Communio:

Paradox and/or Supernatural Existential (1991) The New Catechism: An Event of the Faith (1994) Woe to Me If I Do Not Preach the Gospel (1994) The Mystery of Easter and the Culture of Death (1996) Priestly Ministry at the Service of Ecclesial Communion (1996) Jesus Christ, the One Savior of the World, Yesterday, Today, and Forever (1997) Covenantal Justice (2000) Mary and the Future of Ecumenism (2003) Theological Perspectives on Marriage (2004)

Read more about Cardinal Ouellet here. See a complete list of his articles here.

D. C. Schindler. Enriching the Good: Toward the Development of a Relational Anthropology

From the Winter, 2010 issue:

D.C. Schindler (bio). Enriching the Good: Toward the Development of a Relational Anthropology

From the text:

[W]ealth is not simply a collection of possessions (or indeed an abstract measurement of their monetary value) but more fundamentally a way of being, and specifically, being good. A response to the problem of poverty requires, before some sort of redistribution of wealth, more radically a reconception of wealth, and so an “enrichment” of the notion of the good, or it risks reinforcing the individualistic atomism at the root of poverty.

Ultimately, in order to overcome the poverty of individualism, which is a spiritual poverty at the root of material poverty, we must think of the common good in its most transcendent sense, and this entails a recovery of the Platonic understanding of goodness. (full text)

Also by D.C. Schindler:

Freedom Beyond Our Choosing: Augustine on the Will and Its Objects (2002). Surprised by Truth: The Drama of Reason in Fundamental Theology (2004). ‘Wie kommt der Mensch in die Theologie?’: Heidegger, Hegel, and the Stakes of Onto-Theo-Logy. (2005). The Redemption of Eros: Philosophical Reflections on Benedict XVI’s First Encyclical. (2006). Truth and the Christian Imagination: The Reformation of Causality and the Iconoclasm of the Spirit. (2006). Why We Need Paul Claudel. (2007). Restlessness as an Image of God. (2007). Why Socrates Didn’t Charge. Plato and the Metaphysics of Money. (2009). On Experience and Reason (2010).

David Cloutier. Working With the Grammar of Creation: Benedict XVI, Wendell Berry, and the Unity of the Catholic Moral Vision

From the Winter 2010 issue:

David CloutierWorking With the Grammar of Creation: Benedict XVI, Wendell Berry, and the Unity of the Catholic Moral Vision

From the text:

At the heart of Berry’s work is a conviction about the pattern of nature, a pattern he seeks to discover through the careful practice of farming. He is sometimes called an “agrarian writer,” and he notes the influence of the “Southern agrarians” on his work. Yet he worries that, for some of these writers, their agrarianism “is abstract, too purely mental . . . too often remote from the issues of practice.” Berry’s own life is “forcibly removed” from “abstraction,” and instead “must submit to the unending effort to change one’s mind and ways to fit one’s farm.” But ultimately such effort is aimed at “seeing in nature the inescapable standard and in natural processes the necessary pattern for any human use of the land.”

The patterns are discovered through ignorance and discipline.  “Ignorance” here refers to a “humbling knowledge” that is “a way of acknowledging the uniqueness of every individual creature, deserving respect, and the uniqueness of every moment, deserving wonder.” Such a way of proceeding acknowledges limits, both in oneself and in the human condition. Since we are often uncomfortable with such limits, hewing to them also requires discipline. In preferring a lack of discipline, we ordinarily end up allowing our desires to determine what we will do and how we will do it. However, “we have, in fact, no right to ask the world to conform to our desires.” . . .

[The] conflict between environmental romanticism and industrial capitalism, two oversimplified patterns, also appears in virtually the same form in our thinking about human sexuality. Indeed, Berry argues that our sexual lives are governed primarily by a “sexual romanticism,” that worships “true love,” trying to defend against the “sexual capitalism” of purely instrumental use of sex for pleasure. Sexual capitalists, he remarks, are merely disillusioned sexual romantics. As he puts it wryly, “The sexual romantic croons, ‘You be-long to me.’ The sexual capitalist believes the same thing, but has stopped crooning.” An oversimplified pattern of possessive ownership replaces the much more complex mutual belonging that is marriage.

Summarizing these oversimplified grammars in an essay on language, Berry diagnoses its “increasing unreliability” by explaining two types of language that fail to be accountable in their imprecision, and hence oversimplification. One kind of language is “diminished by subjectivity, which ends in meaninglessness . . . .” This is the language of expressivist romanticism. But then there is also “a language diminished by  objectivity, or so-called objectivity (inordinate or irresponsible ambition), which ends in confusion.” This is the language of  specialization, which Berry so often derides, a language characteristic especially of industrial science, but which also infects most areas of knowledge. Both these sorts of language, in different ways, ultimately dispense with the matter of truth, insofar as they fail to be accountable to the reality which they are trying to designate. Therefore, the languages are useful for concealing ignorance, but also for attempting supposed knowledge of things without the practices of discipline actually required. (full text.)

DAVID CLOUTIER is associate professor of theology at Mount St. Mary’s
University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Nicholas J. Healy, Jr. Caritas in Veritate and Economic Theory

From the Winter, 2010 issue: A Symposium on Caritas in veritate.

Nicholas J. Healy, Jr. (bio): Caritas in veritate and Economic Theory

From the text:

. . . Benedict is also asking us to re-conceive the meaning of economic activity and economic logic; the study of “efficient use of scarce resources” is not realistic. There is “more” to economic relations than efficiency or utility. The “economy” allows for an exchange of goods between members of the human family; market exchanges are an integral part of human life and the common good of humanity. The logic of gift is not extraneous to the logic of the market; it rather opens the door to good economic analysis. . . (full text)

David L. Schindler. The Anthropological Vision of Caritas in Veritate in Light of Cultural and Economic Life in the United States

From the Winter 2010 issue:

David L. Schindler. The Anthropological Vision of Caritas in veritate in Light of Cultural and Economic Life in the United States.

From the text:

Caritas in veritate takes up the complicated question of technology in its last chapter. Benedict of course acknowledges that technology “enables us to exercise dominion over matter” and to “improve our conditions of life,” and in this way goes to “the heart of the vocation of human labor” (n. 69). The relevant point, however, is that “technology is never merely technology” (n. 69). It always invokes some sense of the order of man’s naturally given relations to God and others. Technology thus, rightly conceived, must be integrated into the call to holiness, indeed into the covenant with God, implied in this order of relations (cf. n. 69): integrated into the idea of creation as something first given to man, as gift, “not something self-generated” (n. 68) or produced by man.

Here again we see the importance of the family. It is inside the family that we first learn a “technology” that respects the dignity of the truly weak and vulnerable—the just-conceived and the terminally-ill, for example—for their own sake. It is inside the family, indeed the family as ordered to worship, that we first learn the habits of patient interiority necessary for genuine relationships: for the relations that enable us to see the truth, goodness, and beauty of others as given (and also to maintain awareness of “the human soul’s ontological depths, as probed by the saints”: n. 76). It is inside the family that we can thus learn the limits of the dominant social media of communication made available by technology, which promote surface movements of consciousness involving mostly the gathering of bits of information, and foster inattention to man in his depths and his transcendence as created by God. It is in the family that we first become open to the meaning of communication in its ultimate and deepest reality as a dia-logos of love that is fully revealed by God in the life, and thus including also the suffering, of Jesus Christ (cf. n. 4). Read the full article.

DAVID L. SCHINDLER (bio) is Provost and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Lacunae in your library? Back Issue Summer Sale!

To make room in our archives, we’re selling all existing back issues for half price during the next two weeks of June. Click here to see available issues. These make great gifts for students!

A Symposium on ‘Caritas in Veritate’

The introduction to the Winter, 2010 Communio: A Symposium on Caritas in veritate:

The editors of Communio are pleased to devote the Winter, 2010 issue to Pope Benedict XVI’s third encyclical, Caritas in veritate. The essays were prepared for a conference on “Family, Common Good, and the Economic Order: A Symposium on Caritas in veritate,” sponsored by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in December of 2010. In this encyclical Pope Benedict suggests that “a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family” (n. 53). At the heart of Caritas in veritate’s development of Catholic social thought is the affirmation that God is love and that “everything has its origin in God’s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it” (n. 2). The essays gathered in this issue explore the anthropological and theological vision of Caritas in veritate in the context of contemporary economic practice and theory. “The great challenge before us,” writes Pope Benedict, “. . . is to demonstrate, in thinking and behavior . . . that in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity” (n. 36).

David L. Schindler, in “The Anthropological Vision of Caritas in veritate in Light of Economic and Cultural Life in the United States,” surveys some early criticisms of the encyclical and then elaborates Benedict XVI’s contribution to Catholic social doctrine: “to recuperate the authentic meaning of social practice as a vision of reality whose most basic content is God-centered love; and in so doing to expose the inadequate alternative visions of reality that are implied in and give the basic form to the conventional economic models of socialism and the liberal market.”

Nicholas J. Healy, Jr., in “Caritas in veritate and Economic Theory,” shows how Pope Benedict conceives the logic of gift not simply as an addition or moral corrective to current economic practice and theory, but as a basis for rethinking the nature of the economy and its goals. Healy argues that an economic analysis of human behavior or markets that prescinds from the question of the objective good of the person and human solidarity assumes a deficient model of economic order.

Andrew V. Abela, in “Caritas in veritate and the Market Economy,” probes the twofold question, “what kind of market economy is consistent with the principles articulated in Caritas in veritate—what sort of regulatory framework should we be looking for?” Abela suggests that the relational anthropology of Caritas in veritate coupled with the principle of subsidiarity offers a promising and realistic path for reforming markets and regulation.

David Cloutier, in “Working With the Grammar of Creation: Benedict XVI, Wendell Berry, and the Unity of the Catholic Moral Vision,” shows how the writings of Wendell Berry illuminate and concretize one of the most distinctive features of Caritas in veritate—the explicit connection between the Church’s social ethics and her teaching on sexual and “life” issues. The common thread linking the thought of Pope Benedict and Wendell Berry is an understanding of the “gift” pattern of creation.

Allan Carlson, in “Family, the Economy, and Distributism,” recalls a basic principle of Catholic social doctrine from Leo XIII through John Paul II: the “family wage,” which safeguards “the fundamental bond between work and family.” Carlson puzzles over the absence of an explicit treatment of the “family wage” in Caritas in veritate and hopes that this lacuna will be addressed in a future document by Benedict XVI.

D. C. Schindler, in “Enriching the Good: Toward the Development of a Relational Anthropology,” argues that “a radically relational concept of the person, which Benedict calls for as a response to modern poverty, depends in part on a rich notion of the good that lies at the basis of all human relations.” Drawing on the Platonic tradition, Schindler shows that a genuinely transcendent notion of goodness can be affirmed only if we think of goodness not exclusively in terms of final causality but also in terms of efficient and formal causality.

The next article, although not explicitly concerned with Caritas in veritate, develops the kind of metaphysics envisioned by Pope Benedict when he writes: “Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. . . . That which is prior to us and constitutes us—subsistent Love and Truth—shows us what goodness is” (n. 52). Stefan Oster, in “Thinking Love at the Heart of Things. The Metaphysics of Being as Love in the Work of Ferdinand Ulrich,” introduces and explores the thought of one of the most important Catholic philosophers of our time. According to Oster, “Ulrich’s philosophy draws its life from having received the gift of being as love gratis. Its roots, then, lie in an original experience of creatureliness, so that it is permeated with an expectation of the mysterious ‘ad-vent’ of being as gratuitous gift.”

Finally, the issue concludes with two articles that help to frame a forthcoming series on The Mystery of Church. Over the next four years, the international Communio will devote one issue each year to the mystery of Church as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 811).

Antonio Maria Sicari, in “The Vision of the Church in St. John of the Cross,” reflects on the ecclesiological dimension of the Carmelite Mystical Doctor. “The most famous and influential ascetical treatises,” Sicari suggests, “are not strictly speaking ascetical but rather intended to describe the way in which the Christian person becomes ecclesial and trinitarian.”

Henrique Noronha Galvão, in “The Mystery of the Church in the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger,” traces the development of Ratzinger’s ecclesiology from doctoral dissertation through his reception of Lumen gentium. The unifying thread of Ratzinger’s ecclesiology is the affirmation that “at the very heart of who she is, the Church is the sacrament, the efficacious manifestation of the salvific design of God the Father, realized by his Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit and actualized by the celebration of the Eucharist.”


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Paul Claudel. Religion and the Artist: Introduction to a Poem on Dante

Paul Claudel. Religion and the Artist: Introduction to a Poem on Dante. Communio 22, no. 2 (1995): 357-367 RT.

From the text:

Love, for Dante, is a full and integral love, the desire for the absolute good which was sparked in his heart by the innocent glance of a maiden. Fr. Lacordaire explains that there are not two different loves. Indeed, God’s love calls upon the same faculties in us as that of other creatures; it draws on that feeling we have that we are not complete alone, that the supreme good that will fulfill us is something beyond us, a person. But God alone is this reality, of which creatures are only an image – I say image, and not phantom, because the creature has its own personal beauty and its proper existence. The removal of this image, this betrothed, began Dante’s exile; and it is she who, outside the walls of an ungrateful homeland, invited him to the realm of the living.

Dante did not resign himself to separation from his beloved, and his work is nothing but an immense effort of the intelligence and imagination to reunite this world of trials, where he prepares himself, this world of effects which, seen from where we stand, seems the domain of chance and incomprehensible mechanisms, with the world of causes and final ends. His is a gigantic work of engineering to rejoin, to unify, the two parts of creation, to fasten them into one indestructible expression, and thus to achieve a hint of that vision of justice which another great poet says belongs to God alone.

And because the whole of the Divine Comedy finally resumes itself in the encounter between Dante and Beatrice, in the reciprocal effort of two souls separated by death in which each works to bring himself to the other in the solidarity of this world that each has endured, it is this essential encounter that I have tried in turn, after so many other readers, to imagine and to paint; it is this dialogue between two souls and two worlds which forms the subject of the poem to which these lines serve as introduction.

Dante speaks a verse inspired by the drudgery of this base and banal life, ultimately so foreign to the best nature in each of us. He too experienced the same exile that we do – one could say he is the paradigm of the exiled soul, banished from a world in which no part was large enough to hold him. Because he could not remake that world, Dante undertook to judge it and bring it onto the plane of justice to which Dona Bice had invited him. . . . (Full text).