The Catholic Vision

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Title: 'The Catholic Vision

Author Edward D. O'connor, C.S.C

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Part 1: Perspectives

2. Christianity amid the world religious.

3. The modern Religious atmosphere

Part 2: The sources of religious knowledge

The sources from which religious knowledge can be sought... nature and revelation

Nature has often been preceived as a manifstation of God, and most of the classical arguments for the existence of God start from nature. We call this natural knowledge of God by reason.

Tradition of Judeo-Christian is characterized by the claim of having received revalation from God himseld. This might be referred to as a superatural revalation as opposed to a natural revalation. We call this Divine revalation.

The church maintains that the human reason is inded capable by itself of attaining the knowledge God: but that the revelation given to through Jesus Christ and the phrophets is nevertheless very useful. The First Vatican Council (1870) declared:

God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certitude from created things by the natural light of human reason... But God, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, has seen fit to reveal himself and the eternal decrees of his will to the human race in another way - one that is supernatural...

it does not say that the existance of God can be demonstrated.

Revelation enables us to know them easily, whereas without it the knowledge of God is quite difficult.

Divine revelation is absolutly indispensable in that God has by free "decree," call nam to "participate in the divine goods, which utterly transcend human understanding." That is to say, mankind has a vocation that is supernatural, beyond the reach of mere natural human powers.

Without revelation, we would not know that this has been offered to us; hence weather could we orient our efforts toward such a goal.

Plato conceived of "the good", Aristotle argued for the existence of an "unmoved mover" which he said must be conceived as "thought thinking itself"

St. Thomas Aquinas formulated the most stringent arguments of the existence of God. His Suma Theologia gives five ways, each starts from a different observation of the natural world.

4. Nature Speaks of God

In their vital, experimental interactions with the world around them, and in their simple, untrained musings, people have instinctivly sensed that there must be some kind of Supreme Being.

All of the considerations fall into the perspective of St. Thomas's fifth way, often called the argument from design. In this perspective, the question of God (or divinity) reduces to the question, whether the actual world is simply the result of the chance interaction of all of the factors involved in it, or whether some kind of intelligence is at work in it.

If there are things that cannot be the result of mere chance but must have come about by design, dome sort of intelligence must have produced them.

Chance presupposes multiple lines of causality, each operating according to its own inner necessity. It is when two or more such lines intersect, without this intersection being intentionally planned, that we speak of a chance event.

Can our world have come about simply by the chance interplay of the elements that make it up; or must there not lie an intelligent design behind it?

There is not therefore some evident master plan of the universe that argues for the existence of God. Instead, what we are asking here is whether, in a world that is largely the domain of contingency, there are not marks of intelligent design indicating amid all of this randomness, the work of a purposeful agent.

Implicit Attitudes

  • The Meaning of Life - Underlying all of these attitudes is the conviction that wife does have, can have, or ought to have, a meaning. The existentialism of Sartre.
  • Confronting the world with confidence - Most people, however, go on living, and do so with a hope, security, and expectation which implicitly acknowledge that the world is not just chaos. They live in the belief that something can be accomplished, that life can indeed be worth the effort. In people who consciously believe in God and his promise of a future reward, this behavior is understandable.

Some common ways to God

  • Beauty Three aspects of the world

God and the world of Science

Did not finish this chapter because it is a little off topic of research here. Need to back an finish from page 93

5. God has spoken to us

Because nature's witness to the Creator is so difficult to interpret and so limited in scope, God has spoken to us about himself.

Christianity is founded on the belief that the Sovereign Lord of the universe has communicated to the world something of his inmost thoughts and intentions.

...the summits attained by the human mind trying to scale the steep cliff of the meaning of the world are far inferior to what has been given by the hand of God reaching down to us.

  • Revelation real or mythical? The fundamental structures of revelation, namely, prophecy and faith. It is by prophecy that revelations is presented to us, and by faith that we receive it.


The prophet is enlightened so as to perceive the truth directly; others are enlightened so as to acknowledge what is uttered by the prophet. the prophet has the role of articulating in human language the divine mysteries which other accept or reject as formulated by the prophet.

But if we look attentively at their prophecies, we find them mostly concerned with the present, not the future, declaring God's judgment upon the people. And Jesus, although he came as the Messiah foretold in the old testament, was himself the greatest of all the prophets because he, more than any others, declared the divine mystery in the language of men.

What makes a person a prophet is not the content of his message - it is the fact that it originates not from him but fro God. The prophet is sent by God to speak in God's name.

Belief in Revelation

If revelation is the act by which God communicates to us the inner secret of his divinity, faith is the response by which we accept what he reveals. The terms of faith and belief designate the fact that in this act, one gives assent to doctrines, the truth of which omen is not able to see for oneself or to demonstrate.

  • The term faith -
  • The motives of faith -
    • What leads a person to make such an act of faith? .. two important factors: signs presented to the rational mind to convince it, and grace by which God touches us in the hidden depths of our being.
    • It is normal for the prophet to offer sings as a guarantee that he has been sent by God. ...God gave him miraculous signs to work.
    • Another sign used by the prophets consists of foretelling future events which could not have been foreseen naturally.
    • Such signs confirm the prophet's claim to speak in the name of God.. ... God to whom past, present, and future are all equally present, is vindicating the word of the prophet. They make faith reasonable, even when it assents to doctrines beyond the reach of reason. If a man claims to speak in the name of God, and produces signs that can come only from the power of God, it is reasonable to believe in him.
  • Miracles today - But with great difficulty with some of this evidence it is remoteness from us. We today are not able to see the miracles or hear the predictions...
    • The fact is that miracles have not ceased: it could indeed be argued that they are ore abundant and more spectacular in the twentieth century than ever before. Lourds for example, is the site of numerous miraculous healings ...
    • No saint is canonized without several miracles having been worked through his intersession.
    • The tilma of Guadalupe, bearing a miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin
  • The church as a sign - The church appears as so extraordinary a phenomenon that one must ask whether recourse to some superhuman power is not necessary to explain it. ... human flaws make the miracle all the more evident. Do we not find the the more we are in the church, the closer we are to God and the truer we are to our own identity; whereas insofar as we withdraw from the Church, we loose contact with God, our fellowman and with our own true self?
  • Scripture as a sign - Finally, Scripture is a sign of immense value for faith. Scripture is its own best witness.
    • ...on reading the New Testament, many people find in it a goodness, wisdom, and holiness that convince them of its profound truth and divine origin. Anyone who gives serious consideration to the Faith must examine its main piece of evidence.
  • How to seek faith - It is not necessary to find a single, absolutely convincing sign that suffices all by itself; the whole complex of signs occurring in an individual's life go together to give him the "evidence" he needs of divine

The Grace of Faith

Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me (John 6:44f) This hidden witness of the Father is the decisive element in Christian faith, giving an absolute conviction, far beyond what we could get from an miracles or other sings taken by themselves.

  • The Father's witness - ... in St. Peter's famous profession of faith. When Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!" replied Jesus, "For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:15-17). He was in light of an interior grace. Peter was able to perceive the true sense, and recognize Jesus as the Christ.
    • Faith is essentially a living, personal response to God. If someone does not have faith you cannot prove to him that God is speaking to him. Each one has to "hear the voice of the heavenly father in his own heart for himself.
  • Human witnessing - In matters of faith, although we may be able to show the reasonableness of what we believe, we can never properly proof it. Faith is not a function of our learning or intelligence; the uneducated and dull-witted have just much access to faith as brilliant geniuses. On the other hand, neither is faith an irrational, emotional act; it is a judgement of the mind, and requires that we use our minds, considering the signs and evidence, resolving problems, etc.
  • The sin of unbelief - ...the sin of unbelief is not just ignorance or mistaken judgement; it is a closing of one's mind to the light, that is, to the Father's witness.
  • Freedom of faith - Most people find faith within themselves or fail to find it. The decision has taken place in their subconscious, and has resulted from many little decisions to do the right or the wrong: to love the good or abandon it. ...falling away from the faith is seldom due to the reasons or problems we consciously declare; it is usually the result of living in discord with the faith we profess.
  • The claims of other religions - ...if Christianity is authentic, Islam cannot be, for it contradicts the other. Islam denies that Jesus is the Son of God, reducing him to the status of a prophet.

6. Scripture and the Church

Some of the many prophets wrote down their messages or had scribes write for them. The resultant literature has been collected in the volume we now call the Bible, or sacred scripture. The bible is therefore not one book but a library - a collection of writings composed over a period of a thousand years. The "Old Testament" contains those scriptures accepted as sacred by both Christians and Jews; the New Testament, the distinctively Christian Scriptures.

  • Deuterocanonical books - The deutercanonical books are: Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and First and Second Maccabees, besides fragments of Ester and Daniel. All were written toward the end of the Old Testament period. Most war composed in Greek or Aramaic rather than Hebrew, by Jews living in exile. Some Jews accepted them a inspired; others did not. seems plausible that the final Jewish canon was partially motivated by a reaction to the Christian practice.
  • Origin of the Scriptures - Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as author of certain Old Testament passages... Following him, the early Christians likewise acknowledged the Jewish Scripture as inspired. The text they usually employed was the Septuagint, a Greek translation which normally included the deutercononical works.
    • The New Testament began with letters written by St. Paul from about 51 A.D. onward to churches he founded. The Synoptic Gospels seem to have been written shortly before or after the year 70.
    • The New Testament as we know it today had been assembled in various places by 200 A.D., but the collections differed from place to place regarding the other NT books.
  • The official canon - Books claiming to be the work of the apostles such as James or Peter appeared but were rejected by many Christians as not authentic. Official lists ("canons") of the sacred writings began to be drawn up by various churches.
    • .. a letter of Pope Innocent I in 405 established the canon which the Catholic church has followed ever since. The canon was not, however defined solemnly until the Council of Trent (1546), when the Church had to deal with the omissions made by Luther and other Reformers.
  • What is Sacred Scripture? - The Christian community (like the Hebrew community) began to refer certain writings as sacred long before reflective thinkers undertook to define exactly what this implied.
    • Scripture is inspired by God, and it is the Word of God.
    • Many preachers spoke of the Holy Spirit as dictating words to the inspired author. Such an understanding of inspiration is not peculiarly Christian; we meet in the Muslims of the seventy century and the Mormans of the nineteenth. It dominated the thinking of most of the Protestant Reformers, and is still held by Fundamentalists today. The dictation concept leads to an extremely liter interpretation of Scripture, and makes it impossible to accept many of the conclusions and insights of modern biblical scholarship.
  • Human factors influencing Scripture - The intense investigations of the text and background of Scripture during the past two centuries have made it evident that a long, historical process and many human factors went into the composition of the sacred books.
    • Sometimes the same story (such as the create or the flood) was recorded by several authors living in different communities, and their diverse accounts were subsequently combined.
    • The writings of one prophet were often added to by others cam later e.g. the Psalms of David or the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.
    • The religious literature of other Near Eastern peoples =- contains striking parallels to the Hebrew Scriptures.
    • The four Gospels were composed by men whose personality and culture obviously affected their writing.
  • The Catholic position - The Catholic understanding of inspiration, although rooted in the writings of the early Church Fathers, and taking its key notions from St. Thomas Aquinas ... can be summarized in two theses: (1) God is the principal author of Scripture; (2) the human writer is a subordinate but genuine author.
    • Scripture is a true word, a communication of the heart and mind of one person to others. God is its author because God is the one who primarily and properly speaks what is said.
    • The prophet or inspired writer articulates the divine message in human language.
    • The human author is subordinate to God and acts as his instrument not only in receiving the message but also in the very act of articulating it. Only thus can the word that is produced properly be called God's word.

To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this taks, made full use of their powers and faculties so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written and no more. (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, no. 11)

    • In summary, Scripture is an authentically human word, and truly divine word. Human because the writers who composed it - for example, Isaiah of St. Paul - wrote out of their own mind and will, senses, sentiments, and experiences, like any other author, Divine, because they were used by God to convey a message that originates in him, gets its authority from him, and, in the last analysis, is his more than theirs, although it remains truly theirs.
  • Divine, human collaboration Providentissimus Deus
  • Inspiration and revelation - Note also that inspiration is not the same as revelation. ...revelation means God communicating a "secret" which would otherwise remain hidden. Inspiration means God compelling someone to speak, write or act.
    • When St. Paul tells the story of his early years as a Christian or when the author of 2 Samuel recounts the adventures of King David, there is no need for revelation, for they had seen with their own eyes the things they are writing about.
    • The doctrine of inspiration of Scripture does not imply that all inspired writings have been collected into Scripture but only that the Scriptural writings themselves are inspired. It is often suggested that the Incarnation of Christ or the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius... are divinely inspired.

The Truth of Scripture

  • Problems raised by critical studies until about the 19th century
    • Statements that seem to conflict with what is known from science or history. e.g. the sky is a dome with waters above it Genesis 1:6.
    • Scriptures seem to contradict one another
      • How long Noah was in the ark (Genesis 7:13 - 8:13)
      • St. Paul's doctrine of justification by faith appears at first to slight or contradict St. James's teaching that "a person is justified by what he does, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24)
    • Scripture sometimes narrates things which seem patently impossible, absurd, or legendary, such as Jonah's survival intact for three days and three nights in the belly of the "big fish" or Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt because of her curiosity.
  • Scholarship confirms historicity - The overwhelming effect of historical and archeological research has not been to create problems for the historicity of the Bible but rather to confirm it. Once it was not uncommon for scholars to treat the Bible as containing little by myth and legend.
  • The Church affirms truthfulness
  • Idiom not affirmation - The term affirm has been chosen precisely to indicate that not everything said in Scripture is actually affirmed. Any author is likely to employ ideas that are current in his culture without intending to vouch for them himself. The statement that "God set the stars in the firmament (Genesis 1:17) was obviously not a pronouncement about celestial architecture but rather that it was God who brought all this about.
    • To interpret any human content rightly we must read it with a certain sincerity; and the presence of occasional ambiguities does not keep us from profiting from what is intelligible in the work.
    • The second Vatican Council avoids saying that nothing is erroneous whatsoever had crept into the text.
    • Clearly Scripture was written not satisfy human curiosity but to present "that truth which is for our salvation". It was not written as a scientific treatise on astronomy, geology or world history.
  • Scripture intended as history - The writers of scripture were dong "popular" as opposed to "academic" or "scientific" history. Only what was considered memorable was passed on; the rest was forgotten.
    • The transmission was mostly by word of mouth, in stories told over and over "around the campfire" or in the marketplaces.
    • They were often arranged to heighten the dramatic effect. Things got out of sequence or into a wrong context. The ancient historians made little effort to adopt the detachment and objectivity prized by modern historians.
    • One characteristic of the biblical writings which often disturbs the modern reader unprepared for it is its free use of pseudonyms. Much of the writings ascribed to Moses, David, Isaiah and others was composed centuries after their time. In the new Testament, it is freely debated whether any of the Gospels were actually written by the man whose name they bear. Similarly for some of the epistles.
  • Diverse literary types - Diverse types of literary form are to be found in Scripture. While some books are genuinely historical, others are not properly historical at all. This is obvious in the case of hymns such as the Psalms; likewise moral maxims such as Proverbs.
    • It is legitimate to suppose that some of the sayings attributed to Jesus by the Gospels are really concoctions of the early Church put back on Kesus' lips in order to give them more authority.
    • To say that the early christians, in reciting the teachings of Jesus, sometimes used language and expressing that belonged to their time rather than his is to attribute to them a very natural and legitimate transformation that occurs all of the time in popular literature.
  • Unsolved problems and faith This leaves us with some unsolved problems;
    • The church has the conviction that is grounded on something deeper than a rational solution to objections; namely on a mysterious encounter with God that takes place mysteriously in the depths if the heart through reading of his word.
    • The church does not disregard these difficulties, nor does it claim to have the solution to all of them; but it does have the assurance that the truth of Scripture is unassailable, and that solutions are somewhere to be found, even if not yet available.
    • Each book, and sometimes each particular part of a book, must be judged according to criteria immanent in the work itself.

Tradition and Pastoral Authority

In dealing with religious questions, a Catholic looks not only to what Scripture says but also to the beliefs and practices of the Church, especially to decisions that have been made by the teaching authority (magisterium). The Classical protestant approach, on the contrary, regards only the scriptural teaching as authoritative.

    • Scripture alone has authority for them in matters of faith whereas, for Catholic thought, the Church has an authority of its own.
  • Jesus did not write a book The first basic fact they Jesus himself never wrote a book; all of his teachings was by word of mouth.
    • The Christian community lived for a generation without any of the New Testament and, as we have seen, for some centuries before compilation of the full New Testament.
    • Secondly, not even the apostles made a book on the basis of the churches they founded. Most of them never wrote anything so far as we know.
  • New Testament grew out of tradition - The writings of the New Testament cannot be set in opposition to tradition, since they themselves arose out of the tradition which preceded them. One of the major achievements of modern Scripture studies has been the realization that the Gospels cannot be understood rightly unless they are seen as a pepsin of the traditions of the early church.
    • In his second letter the Thessalonians, St. Paul tells them that they must hold fast to "the traditions which you were taught by us, either in word of mouth or by letter (2:15); he condemns those who do not live "according to the tradition received from us" (3:6).
    • Church teaching is also Gods word. We see that the Church is not founded on a book. It was by the oral teaching of living apostles that Jesus arranged for his doctrine to be passed on. The documents that came to be written later under the inspiration of his Spirit are precious aids for the instruction of the Church of subsequent ages.
    • To take "Scripture alone" as the basis of faith is to alter the regime established by Jesus and to contradict Scripture itself.
  • Religious traditions Sacred tradition therefore is not merely a human reality but a product of the Holy Spirit's secret fermentation in the Church.

Part 3: God the Creator

7. The divine nature

8. Creation

9. God and the World

1. God Sustanins and moves the world

2. God knows all things

3. God is all Powerful

4. God is Everywhere

5. God as King and Lord: Divine Providence

6. The Justice of God

7. The Mercy of God

8. God answers Prayer

  • Matthew 7:7f
  • Perhaps the most basic reason why many find it hard to believe in the efficacy of prayer is that often prayers don't seem to be answered. In such a case, it may be that we have not prayed very well. If we routinely mouth a formula, it is not prayer at all. If we pray without trust in God, our prayer will not be heard; for tuust is the essence of prayer. But even if our prayer is all that iit should be, the answer to it may not be evident. God always answers sincere prayer but not always in the way that we anticipate. He answers according to his own wisdom; Those who pray in humility and faith ofter receive very litteral and obvious answers.
  • A more subtle reason why some do not believe in the power of prayer is the modern reluctance to believe that God intervenes to alter the course of Nature
  • The Lord of nature can arange that nature itself, by its own workings, provide what we request.

9. Religion

10. God and the Moral Order

10. The uniqueness and mastery of the human person

11. Morality: freedom, law, and conscience

12. Man and woman under God

13. Spirits - Good and evil

14. Original sin

Part 4: Christ the Redeemer

Part 5: The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete

Part 6: The Church

24. The Mystery of the Church

25. The Identity of the Church

26. The Sacramentality of the Church

  • Sacramentality means God clothing the spiritual with the sensible to make it accessible to humanity.
  • The Christian sacrament is not merely a symbol of the sacred, it is a historical reality, chosen and used by God as an effective sign of his presence and action.
  • ... the church in its entire being is a sacrament, the archetype of all others. It is the universal sacrament of salvation. The sacramental function of the Church, in turn, is realized chiefly in the seven official sacraments.

The Seven Sacraments


  • Cleansing from sin
    • The principal gesture of baptism is that of bathing. e.g. Jesus in the Jordan River
    • All sin is removed by this sacrament original and actual, mortal and venial - and not only the guilt from sin but also whatever pusishment is due for it. If we were to die immediately, we would be admitted into heaven, just as the "good thief" at Christ's death.
  • Infusion of the Holy Spirit
    • The cleansing form sin in baptism is brought about by the Holy Spirit who is poured into the recipient, making her the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).
  • Incorporation into the Church
    • By this sacrament, a person becomes a member of the Body of Christ. Jesus saves by gathering us into a people:
    • We receive a "sacramental character". The sacramental character is a spiritual imprint on of Christ on the soul, marking the person as a Christian.

27. The Pastoral Structure of the Church

  • "The Church is directed by pastors commissioned and empowered to act in the name of Christ by Jesus himself"
  • This structure is adumbrated already in the primitive community of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus was not an elected leader; he came as one sent by the heavenly father to speak with "authority" and to act with power as his disciples acknowledged. This original association, of Jesus and his disciples, remains the paradigm for the Church ever since.
  • The Apostles
    • Jesus gave them the name apostle (literally, "one who is sent") "As the Father has sent me, I also send you" (Jn 20:21)
    • He did not merely urge them he appointed them to preach and teach, and gave them the power to heal the sick and cast out demons. This power and commission were not given to all the disciples but only to the twelve.
    • The link between Jesus and his envoys is so close that he could say, "He who receives you receives me"
  • Development of Authority in the early Church
    • As the Church developed, new forms and structures of authority became necessary. Thus we find the apostles appointing seven (deacons?) to assist them.
    • By the end of the first century, however, the basic form of the Church government was stabilized around three offices: bishop, presbyter (from which the name priest derives), and deacon.
  • Distinguishing clergy from laity - The early church there was a differentiation on the difference between the clergy and the laity. This got to the point where the laity played a mostly passive role.
  • Vatican II "... strongly reaffirmed the dignity and responsibility proper to lay Christians... Its most important documents on this subject are the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church and the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.
  • Bishops -The bishop "shepherds the flock entrusted to him.. the bishop shares Christ's triple of prophet, priest and king.
    • The prophet spoke God's message to the people; he was thus a teacher or preacher, calling men back to the Covenant.
    • The king was not regarded as a mere political figure: he was God's representative, ruling in the name of God.
    • the priest was the head and representative of the community in worship. He was the mediator between God and the people in religious matters.
  • The Teaching Office - Only in matters pertaining to the Gospel, that is faith and morals.
  • The Governing or pastoral office - By his authority, the bishop participates in the royalty of Christ but his role is primarily pastoral.
    • Includes not only administrative but also on the direction of the personal lives of its members.
  • The Priestly Office
  • Papal Primacy - The Bishop of Rome has authority over the others, and who is in his own person the principal sign and instrument of unity in the Church.
    • Peter, head of the apostles "I will give you the keys to the Kingdom" (MT. 16:17-19)
  • Infallibility - infallibility implies that the Church is not just an association of Christians who do their best to follow their Master but that the Master himself supports and strengthens them in this endeavor as He promised to do: "I will be with you always, to the very end of the age (MT. 28:19-20)

28. The things that are to come