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Vatican City

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The head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, is under investigation as part of a money-laundering inquiry, police sources say. 

Prosecutors also seized 23m euros ($30m; £19m) from the bank’s accounts with another smaller institution. 

The inquiry was launched after two suspicious transactions were reported to tax police in Rome. 

The Vatican said it was “perplexed and astonished”, and expressed full confidence in Mr Tedeschi. 

The Vatican Bank, known officially as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), was created during World War II to administer accounts held by religious orders, cardinals, bishops and priests. 

John Henry Newman, when he preached his first ...

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John Henry Newman has now been declared Blessed, a step up from Venerable. I imagine the next move is towards canonization or sainthood and then after that, there’ll probably be a push to name him Doctor of the Church. John Allen at National Catholic Reporter has a bunch of interesting links.

So Wapo has an article on Opus Dei, the type of soft, fluff piece meant to humanize Opus Dei. I think it was largely successful with the exception of this very strange bit:

There is corporal mortification, though not as portrayed in “The Da Vinci Code,” they say. “It’s not a bloody whipping of oneself,” Coverdale said. “It’s more an annoyance.” He wears a leg chain with dull spikes — called a cilice — around his upper thigh for a couple of hours a day while praying. It’s designed to be uncomfortable but not to draw blood. And once or twice a week, during a prayer, he whips himself on his buttocks with a type of rope referred to as “the disciplines.”

“It doesn’t particularly hurt; maybe it stings a bit,” Coverdale said.

Yikes! There is no way to make this come across as normal and everyday-Joe like.

The sermon, “The Philosophical Temper First Enjoined by the Gospel,” was preached July 2, 1826.

{1} FEW charges have been more frequently urged by unbelievers against Revealed Religion, than that it is hostile to the advance of philosophy and science. That it has discouraged the cultivation of literature can never with any plausibility be maintained, since it is evident that the studies connected with the history and interpretation of the Scriptures have, more than any others, led to inquiries into the languages, writings, and events of ancient times. Christianity has always been a learned religion; it came into the world as the offspring of an elder system, to which it was indebted for much which it contained, and which its professors were obliged continually to consult. The Pagan philosopher, on enrolling himself a member of the Christian Church, was invited, nay, required, to betake himself to a line of study almost unknown to the schools of Greece. The Jewish {2} books were even written in a language which he did not understand, and opened to his view an account of manners and customs very different from those with which he was familiar. The writings of the ancients were to be collected, and their opinions examined; and thus those studies which are peculiarly called learned would form the principal employment of one who wished to be the champion of the Christian faith. The philosopher might speculate, but the theologian must submit to learn.

 I think this is an interesting statement for an Oxford man. 19th century Oxford was a school for the Arts. Science was not it strong suit. It would be interesting to know what Newman understood by science (I wonder if he is thinking Bishop Joseph Butler and Bishop Paley of watchmaker analogy fame). There was a lot going on in Great Britain scientifically, including with folks like Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus Darwin.  This early we see Newman’s concern to bridge the gap the between faith and science, which I think he succeeds with his 1870 work As Essay in the Aid of a Grammar of Assent.

In general this sermon raises interesting questions and issues:

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by Michael Satlow of Brown University. This is a series of podcasts on the history of the Israelites to the end of the first century C.E. It is very, very, very, well done. One example is the handling of the Ezra-Nehemiah story. It is a complicated story and I have listed to another Ph.D. butcher it. Satlow does his home work and his explanations are very clear.

Dan Gilgoff at US News and World Report blogged about the growing dissonance of scientists and religion. The percentage of scientists who believe in God is drastically less that the God-believing part of the population.

An eye-opening new Pew survey on science and religion reveals a huge God gap between scientists and other Americans. Eighty-three percent of Americans say that they believe in God, while just 33 percent of scientists do. Just 17 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, while nearly three times as many scientists are.

This is not surprising at all being that religion is fast losing credibility. The fact that an ungodly number of Americans, about 40%, do not accept evolution is astounding and is directly attributable to religion. For scientists, the question of evolution is a non-starter. Evolution occured. Period. So when they have to debate the fact of evolution, it is like debating that the earth is indeed round or that the earth revolves around the sun.

Also, the issue of the nature of the human being, i.e., the soul. That’s another that science and traditional Christianity have no middle ground in understanding the nature of the human person.

Until Christianity, especially Catholicism, take a step in honestly dealing with science, scientists will dismiss religion as credible. I suspect that most of these people consider themselves spiritual, which seems to be the cool alternative to traditional religion.

Caritas in veritate 4:

4. Because it is filled with truth, charity can be understood in the abundance of its values, it can be shared and communicated. Truth, in fact, is lógos which creates diá-logos, and hence communication and communion.

So the emphasis is that contemporary society does not understand love and truth. Authentic love is defined by truth and truth is identified specifically, not as correctness or verification of fact, but as Christ/God. So here the pope calls Truth, logos.

Truth, by enabling men and women to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions, allows them to move beyond cultural and historical limitations and to come together in the assessment of the value and substance of things.

Here’s an interesting point made by the pope, truth is not found in “subjective opinions and impressions,” and also that “culture and history” are limiting factors in the achievement of truth. So to get to the essence, “value and substance” of things one must go beyond subjective opinions and impressions, culture and history. The questions is what truth is there outside of subjectiveness, perception, culture and history? As a phenomenologist, I tend to cringe at the thought of this idea–that there is an objective truth independent of subjective perceptions and culture.

One thing that strikes me is that for Benedict, who was quite the Augustinian scholar, he seems to sound more like a Thomas Aquinas type. There’s a very sharp distinction between the natural and the supernatural, and essence and accidents. The essence of a thing is its true nature and the accidents are properties that cannot exist in themselve independent of the essence. Essences can exist and retain their integrity without accidents. So with a blue table, the “blue-ness” is the accident because the table can exist without being blue and the blueness does not substantially add anything.

So the pope is establishing the idea that the accidents of truth are subjective opinions, impressions, history and culture, and that there is an essence of truth, logos. To get then to the essence of truth we have to wade through the accidents of subjective impressions, culture, etc, to get at it.

In the present social and cultural context, where there is a widespread tendency to relativize truth, practising charity in truth helps people to understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development.

There’s the word “essential” which is a loaded term in Catholic thought. So, Christianity is not simply a good idea for society but is “essential” for a good society and true human development. So . . . what happens to a non-Christian society? Is such a society capable of authentic human development? This is very much in line with Ratzinger’s/Benedict’s focus. The name Benedict was selected because Benedict the father of monasticism, and Benedictines, were critical in restoring and promoting Christianity in Europe and the current pope has that very much as his focus, i.e., returning Europe back to its “Christian roots.” My point here is that Benedict is very much a Christiainity focused person and has no problem whatsoever proclaiming the superiority of the merits of Christianity.

A Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world. Without truth, charity is confined to a narrow field devoid of relations. It is excluded from the plans and processes of promoting human development of universal range, in dialogue between knowledge and praxis.

So the absence of authentic Christianity means that there is no “real place for God in the world.” Again the issue of non-Christian societies arises. The key thing here is that the pope is presenting as the foundation of social justice, Christianity. There is usually another approach to social justice issues which focuses on a philosophy/reason base without a necessary reference to Christianity. So the argument is usually that there are social justice issues that we can all agree on as long as we are people of good will, regardless of religion or religious disposition.

Scholasticism was the academic method of the middle ages, exemplified by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. In the 19th century there was a revival of scholasticism, called neo-scholasticism. I just found a great resource for information on neo-scholasticism, an online reproduction of a book by Joseph Louis Perrier called The Revival of Scholastic Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century. Looks like it was written in 1909 but would have good stuff nonetheless.

In general, check out the U of Notre Dame Jacques Maritain center page of readings.

Via God & Country, Francis Collins has new website up dedicated to issue of Faith and Science called Biologos. For centuries the debate has been about Faith v Reason, or Theology v Philosophy. That discussion seems outdated as it is now specifically Faith v Science, i.e., reconciling faith in God, scripture, etc with science such as evolution.

The constant throughout the centuries in my opinion is that reason, science, natural philosophy, or whatever it is called at the time, always wins. It’s hard to dispute with people who chart the stars to bring the ships home, or people create machines to see as far Jupiter, or those who opened up a new world of medicine and technology. The constant of scientific truth remains, the question is how religion eventually absorbs it intellectually and linguistically.

Via CNN, according to PEW, church goers are far more likely to support torture than non-church goers. I can see why this would seem to be news. The fact is that religion can be very dangerous in that the worship and sanction of a divine lawgiver can abrogate existing moral laws because a lawgiver is greater than the law.

Christianity is based primarily on allegiance to and with and faith in Christ and not in laws. God has frequently in the Old Testament permitted rather foul actions if they ultimately serve His goals.  In the Old Testament, God frequently called on His people to wipe His enemies out completely–and we’re talking elderly, women, children, livestock, etc, the enemies. There were no moral qualms because God sanctioned it. Thus, if torture is put in service of the faith and serves God’s ends torture can be justified because God, who is greater than any moral law prohibiting torture, has sanctioned it.

 It is strange but religion and religious need a major conscience in secular law and life or we can easily see how things can get out of control. This also calls to mind Frederick Douglass’ observation that Christian were the worst slave masters and particularly so on Sundays after church.