Cardinal’s Address to Catholic University of America
November 13, 2008
Cardinal James Francis Stafford
Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal-Priest of S. Pietro in Montorio
Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: “Being True with Body and Soul”
For 51 years of priestly ministry I have been attentive to res sacra in temporalibus in American culture, i.e., “to the elements of the sacred in the temporal life of man” or, in a more Heideggerian idiom, “to man as the sacred element in temporal things.” In 1958 John Courtney Murray, S. J. was my guide. With further guidance from the Church over the years, I have learned that the nucleus of this principle, enunciated by Pope Leo XIII, maintains that the sacred element in secular life, especially our use of language, escapes the undivided control of the supreme power of the State. The secular life of man is not completely secular, nor totally encompassed within the State as the highest social organism, and subject ultimately only to the political power. The sacred word within man in secular life transcends the control of the supreme power of the State. A person’s public life is not encompassed within the State as the highest social organism, and not subject ultimately only to the political power.
President Thomas Jefferson’s celebrated 1802 letter to the committee of the Danbury Baptist Association asserting “a wall of separation between Church and State” formally denied the reality of res sacra in temporalibus. He introduced a latent and powerful virus which would eventually be used to diminish and then to wound mortally a theology of discourse in the public arena. It has led to the increasingly secularized states of the American union and their active hostility towards the Catholic Church. Some of these governments are threatening Roman Catholic adoption agencies because of their refusal to select same-sex couples as potential adoptive parents. They are forcing Catholic hospitals to accept medical procedures which are contrary to the dignity of the human person. They are insisting on hiring practices which will destroy the Catholic identity of health and social services under Catholic Church auspices. They have not refrained from coercing the individual conscience. Here the federal and state governments are enshrining the primacy of secular laws over against religious principles. These decisions are the legal and moral progeny of Jefferson’s insistence on debarring personal faith from the public forum. And this is only a beginning. Their seeds can be found in the 1787 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom sponsored and promoted by Jefferson. His self-proclaimed Epicureanism and crypto-utilitarianism furnish the hermeneutical keys for interpreting the opening paragraph of his 1776 Declaration of Independence.
This evening. I will cover the following areas: 1) the narrow, calculative, mathematical mind and its manipulation of the humanum and, more specifically, of human sexuality since 1968; 2) the response of the Church’s magisterium in the encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae and teachings of later Popes; 3) other Catholic philosophical and theological responses to what John Rawls calls the “embedding module”, namely the increasingly disenchanted world in which we work and pray.
Furthermore, since this month, November, is the time in which the liturgy of the Church reflects on the final things – heaven, hell, purgatory and death, I will be attempting to strengthen the Catholic faithful, as St. John did in the Book of the Apocalypse, against the ever increasing pretensions of the state making itself absolute. For the next several weeks the Book of the Apocalypse will be read at daily Mass. The theme of that final book of the Bible is that the Battle of the Logos has always already been won on Calvary. In the immense conflicts associated with the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the overarching task of the Church is to make manifest for the faithful the apocalyptic victory of the Lamb in our historical time. The Church, the bearer of revelation, insists that the mysterious beginning and earthly end of every member of the human race is illumined by the light of the divine Logos. [“Every human being] comes from the source of light that irradiates him”. Finally, I will be using the word “apocalyptic” in the Christian sense of “expressing the fundamental law of post-Christian world history: the more Christ’s kingdom is manifested as the light of the world……the more it will meet determined opposition.”
1) The apparent triumph of what has been described as “the manipulable arrangement of the scientific-technological world and of the social order proper to this world”  over the past several generations.
1968 was the year in which Pope Paul VI issued, Humanae Vitae (HV); it was the long-delayed and long-awaited encyclical letter on transmitting human life. It met with immediate and unprecedented opposition. American theologians were its choral directors. The encyclical arrived in Washington, D. C. in late July 1968. It had to contend with the chaos of assassinations, overseas wars, the conflicts surrounding the Democratic/Republican national conventions, indiscriminate killings, university strikes and riots, growing use of barbiturates, and ubiquitous insurrections within the cities. It was preceded by a one year An Aquarian Exposition, the for- profit, rock-music event staged on a Woodstock dairy farm in New York State. Since then, the chaos has become chronic, more insidious because partially hidden. If 1968 was the year of the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt”, 2008 is the year of America’s exhaustion.
In the intervening 40 years the United States has been thrown upon unlit roads. There have been few, if any, “clearings” (Heidegger’s Lichtung). In 1973 alone the U. S. Supreme Courts’ pro-abortion decision was imposed upon the nation. Its scrupulous meanness has had catastrophic effects upon the identity, unity, and integrity of the American republic. It has undermined respect for human life. We have been horrified and uncomprehending witnesses for over two generations to America’s decline from “a mansion to a dirty house in a gutted world”. Yet honesty compels me to admit that this decision against human life is in historical continuity with the pragmatism on the part of the Fathers of the 1787 Constitutional Convention for the recognition of Black slavery and, following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, in continuity with the same meanness toward Native Americans on the part of the politicians, entrepreneurs and settlers. The 1803 event was a meanness enshrined shortly in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. The 1973 Court’s alteration has even more radically transformed the way we think about others, especially the least among us. Its inexcusable evasions about the dignity of human life, and their prolongation to the present, have condemned those of us who oppose it to disillusionment and bitter isolation. Both Republican and Democratic partisans have abused rhetoric on this issue. The President-elect is a skillful rhetorician. Civic life has been invaded with an anti-humanism so toxic that it is proving mortal to the body politic.
Nothing has been left untouched by the court’s lethal wand. Social engineering and the price-systems have infected all Americans with a pervasive, technological mind-set. Economics, administration, sexuality, language and, above all, human life are being manipulated by complex strategies of power. “Politics in turn becomes an arena for contention among rival techniques.” Obama’s campaign raised over $600 million, a record, and McCain’s over $300 million. An uncritical, unspoken “metaphysics of presence” dominates American life, both private and public. This new way of thinking has led to the creation of a worldwide colossus, America’s military. It is generally acknowledged that nothing in the nation’s economic, social, or political institutions approaches its influence. Freedom itself has been reduced to power.
Part II of Humanae Vitae, called “Doctrinal Principles”, ends with a description by Pope Paul VI of the “Serious Consequences of the Use of Artificial Methods of Birth Control”. His apocalyptic vision has been prophetic of the epoch we have entered. After 40 years of widespread contraceptive practice, the consequences appear now as the Horsemen of the Apocalypse ravaging what St. Paul described as the “ten logiken latreian hymon – “the humanly proper worship” (Rom 12: 1) of the baptized. The demonic four are the following: marital infidelity; disrespect for woman, governmental despotism in the regulation of births, and the human body manipulated and destroyed as a technological artifact. The four horseman have been responsible for the calamitous meltdown in Western demographics and in real development. Sexual aberration has become a way of life for many. These four shades are insinuating their deathworks upon whole nations and cultures. The Middle East is an obvious example.
Mary Eberstadt in a recent article entitled,“The Vindication of Humanae Vitae”, commented on the prophetic vision of Paul VI, “Contraceptive sex…….is the fundamental social fact of our time.” She continues, “In the years since Humanae Vitae’s appearance, numerous distinguished Catholic thinkers have argued, using a variety of evidence, that each of these predictions [of Pope Paul VI] has been borne out by the social facts.” Human life has been conceded to the arbitrary will of the state.
Governments are dissolving religious and philosophical values and remaking them into the distortions of a dominant, cybernetic model. Franz Kafka’s 1915novella, Metamorphosis, is not far off the prophetic mark. The good has been drained of ontological content; it has become “a mere cipher, a monadic carrier of information, a unit of cybernetic science”. The British government has recently set as a national goal the manufacture of human life by technology. Its reductive anthropology allows the unprecedented to happen: the radical manipulation of the substance of the biological heritage of the human race. It has allocated £40 million of public monies for stem cell research. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair envisions Britain to be leader of the world in cloning human embryos for research. Potential benefits, he claims, will be huge. Furthermore, a consortium of leading British bankers and scientists have launched a £100 million fund to finance stem cell research. Plans are being made for a national stem cell research institute, costing £16 million. In 2005, the British Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced that the Government would spend more than £1 billion on biotechnology by 2008. ‘We want to send a signal to scientists that Britain is open for business in some of the most controversial areas,’ she said. It is not simply a coincidence that economics and technology dominate. Bankers, financial investors, and MBA executives are mentioned consistently with the scientific midwives of this cultural monstrosity, the nub of which is the forgetting of the question of God.
In the United States President – elect Barack Obama and the Vice-President-elect Joseph Biden, a Catholic, campaigned on a severe anti-life platform. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, analyzed America’s descent since 1968-1973 into deathworks by summarizing Obama’s vision. George’s analysis appeared in the journal, Public Discourse. “[Obama] has co-sponsored a bill…..that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning.”
The assumption under girding the positions of Barack Obama, Joseph Biden, and Tony Blair results from a technological mind-set. Such technologically-driven men eventually may assert that human nature, until recently acknowledged to be a unitary composite of two polarities, body and soul, must not only be changed by technology, but, if necessary, be suppressed. It has proven to be the next logical step after the decision to control and manipulate technologically the origins of human life.
But ‘phusis – nature’, has been essential in Western metaphysics for describing the truth of beings. Martin Heidegger writing about the radical reduction of the goals of medicine to what is technologically possible, and its relation to human phusis, asserted that, in the past even until very recent times, “techne can only cooperate with phusis, can more or less expedite the cure; but as techne it can never replace phusis and itself become the arche of health itself. This could happen only if life as such were to become a ‘technically’ producible artifact. However, at that very moment there would also no longer be such a thing as health, any more than there would be birth and death. Sometimes it seems as if modern humanity is rushing headlong toward this goal of producing itself technologically. If humanity achieves this, it will have exploded itself, i.e., its essence qua subjectivity, into thin air, into a region where the absolutely meaningless is valued as the one and only ‘meaning’ and where preserving this value appears as the human ‘domination’ of the globe. ‘Subjectivity’ is not overcome in this way but merely ‘tranquilized’ in the ‘eternal progress’ of a Chinese – like ‘constancy’. This is the most extreme nonessence in relation to phusis-ousia”
A similar technological mind-set has contributed to the recent economic turmoil. Hedge funds were heavily invested in the technology bubble. The October 21, 2008 issue of The Financial Times read, “Blame it on Harvard: Is the MBA culture responsible for the financial crisis?” Technology and operations represent a major component of the MBA imagination at work at Harvard. The news story described the 100th anniversary celebration of the pre-eminent Harvard Business School. “You would have to have a heart of stone not to be amused by this piquant accident of timing. Here, at the spiritual home of the Masters of the universe, distinguished graduates could only look on as that same universe threatened to collapse.”
2) The response of the Church’s magisterium. The issues now facing us are all entwined within the above-developed linguistic and actual deathworks informing Rawl’s “embedding module”. The response of the Church’s magisterium has been based on the ancient Catholic imagination recaptured happily by Pope John Paul II in his now famous phrase,”the nuptial meaning of the human body created as male and female.” The response includes “being true with the body and the soul.” The title of my talk has been taken from Francois Mauriac. He struggled for many years to overcome the unbending austerity and narrow rigidity resulting from the theological pessimism of the Jansenism of his childhood. In 1931 he overcame this heritage. Thereafter life became a creative drama that engages the fullness of the person by being true with body and soul. Mauriac’s “clearing” was where he discovered the dramatic convergence of form and content. The wholeness of two polarities is manifested within the unity of body and soul in the human person. David L. Schindler in a recent paper on human sexuality summarized his first principle supporting the differentiated unity of body and soul: “The Soul as it were lends its spiritual meaning to the body as body, even as the body then, simultaneously, contributes to what now becomes in man, a distinct kind of spirit: a spirit whose nature it is to be embodied”.
The Church’s response to the technological/scientific hegemony just described has not involved any condemnation of technology or of science as such. Rather is based on her recognition of the present spiritual climate for what it is: A New Ice Age. The great American poet and convert to Catholicism, Wallace Stevens, coined the image. “‘America was always North ……. ‘ where God was in hiding.”. We must turn south and even return to our origins, the desert. How? By recovering the structure of truth in its relation to goodness and beauty. Only a linguistic imagination that is analogical – and ultimately liturgical and sacramental – is capable of such rediscovery. In her devastating critique of the deconstructionism of Jacques Derrida, Catharine Pickstock has recaptured the apostrophic voice of Catholicism’s high desert origins, the responsorials first heard in the Sinaitic and Judean wildernesses. The poiesis of the Catholic imagination finds itself in the title of Pickstock’s book, After Writing: the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy.
In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (27), Pope Benedict XVI echoes what is partially anticipated by Pickstock, “The Eucharist, as the sacrament of charity, has a particular relationship with the love of man and woman united in marriage. A deeper understanding of this relationship is needed at the present time. Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: ‘The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.’ Moreover, ‘the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist.’ The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the Eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32)”. In Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II called for the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage within the Eucharistic sacrifice to demonstrate the living connection between the two Sacraments. He thereby made more visible “the rich analogy between the una caro of the Eucharist and the una caro of the spouses through which their gift to one another becomes a particular form of participation in the Body ’given’ and the blood ‘poured out’ of Christ that becomes for the Christian family the inexhaustible font of its identity (with) itsmissionary and apostolic dynamism.”  Here we sense the flavor of Karl Barth’s analogia fidei in explaining the origins and meaning of linguistics.
What are the philosophical/theological foundations for such assertions? What are the meta-anthropological presuppositions for this vision of linguistics, of reality? Two elements should be highlighted: the biblical image of God and the biblical image of man. In his first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI proposes that the Bible presents us with new image of God – his Trinitarian self-oblation, the self-surrender characteristic of immanent Trinity – and with a new image of man, of which the most sublime sign is the Eucharist. “The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God’s presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing his body and blood” (13). The Eucharist builds up man and woman from within in the image of the Triune God and man learns the complexity of love: St. Augustine’s insight is helpful here: “Capit ut capitur. One grasps in being grasped.” Preeminently in marriage, the Eucharist draws with the cords of love each spouse in the depths of their interiority toward a mutual, total, integrally human, and fruitful self-oblation. The total giving of the Word in the Eucharist is the mirroring of the real language of the human body as created as male and female.
In his Wednesday audiences during the early 1980s Pope John Paul II called spouses to a deeper understanding of the theology of the body. When he described the prophets’ of the Old Testament use of marriage as an analogy of God’s relation to man, the Pope expressed the astonishing insight about the specific “prophetism of the body”. In interpreting this prophetic language, he indicated, one must “reread” the language of the body for “it is the body itself which ‘speaks’; it speaks by means of its masculinity and femininity, it speaks in the mysterious language of the personal, it speaks ultimately -and this happens frequently – both in the language of fidelity, that is of love, and also in the language of conjugal infidelity, that is of ‘adultery’”. A correct rereading must be done “in truth”. The human body speaks “a ‘language’ of which it is not the author. “Its author is man, who as male and female, husband and wife, correctly rereads the significance of this ‘language’. He rereads therefore the spousal significance of the body as integrally inscribed in the structure of the masculinity or femininity of the personal subject.” In other words, the human body as created by God as masculine/feminine is the Ursprache, the primordial utterancefrom the beginning. The “nuptial meaning” of the human body originally was the Adamic language.
All of these texts from John Paul II and Benedict XVI refer to the inner dynamic of the relationship between the two spouses. The subject of moral acts is each person, a dual unity of body and soul, a psychosomatic whole. Anything that smacks of a body-soul dualism is firmly rejected. One cannot attempt to free the soul from the body. When a human being seeks the truth and the good, his body is not an afterthought or an accident or a ‘tomb’ for the soul. The language of the human body, rightly reread, is a language by which “the likeness with God shows that the essence and existence of man are constitutively related to God in the most profound manner. This is a relationship that exists in itself, it is therefore not something that comes afterwards and is not added from the outside.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church [CSDC] 109). In the words of the International Theological Commission, “Human bodiliness participates in the imago Dei.” They echo the ancient teaching of St. Irenaeus, “”the flesh ….was formed according to the image of God.”
As Archbishop of Denver, in 1996 I addressed a Pastoral Letter to the people of northern Colorado on the historical importance of a culture formed by the medieval Anglo-Saxon Sarum Rite and by the even more ancient Gregorian Sacramentary. Peoples in such a culture intuitively interpreted reality through the covenantal and bridal relationship of God and creation and of Christ and the Church. Consequently, they would find absolutely inapprehensible the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality activity as a valid moral option. Such activities are a direct assault not only upon the Sacrament of marriage but also upon the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
In light of all of the above realities, I cannot accept the judgement of Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, who in attempting to prevent the passing on of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, morally justifies the prophylactic use of condoms in a marriage in which one of the spouses is so infected. He summarizes his argument, “The immediate (or proximate) object of one’s choice in such a case is to engage in marital intercourse” and not “to ejaculate into a condom”. I agree with the conclusion of Bishop Anthony Fisher (and many, many other moral theologians) that Rhoneimer’s arguments are not only unconvincing but philosophically untenable and contrary to the Catholic theological and canonical tradition. Bishop Fisher writes about his agreement with the conclusions of [Janet ?] Smith, “Not only is condomized intercourse not a reproductive type of act, it can also be argued that it is not apt for uniting a couple ‘as one flesh’. In the first place the condom places a barrier to complete physical union: while this looks like ordinary sexual intercourse the couple fail, in fact, to touch in the most intimate way; arguably, they do not become ‘one flesh’.”
Rhonheimer dismisses a meta-anthropological objection as a “psychological and perhaps aesthetic” concern, not a moral one. His body/soul dualistic rupture is enunciated with the repulsion he expresses over integral human copulation, “[I find it] intuitively repulsive to make the consummation of marriage dependent upon factual insemination of the woman’s vagina”. Should the wholeness of marriage in its consummation be considered repulsive? The human spirit finds its inner completion only as something honestly externalized, since the human spirit in this life is always already embodied. The body is the externalization of the spirit. The highest expression of human love is embodied in the total self-giving and self-oblation of a couple as “one flesh”.
What renders such repulsion intuitive? A meditation of the “one flesh” found Genesis two? But God described that unity as “very good” in Genesis one. A repulsive intuition before the image of man and woman integrally united as ‘one flesh’ is not only at odds with the biblical revelation but also with the Church’s reflection on that revelation. Pope John Paul II insists on the need for “a correct rereading in truth……of the spousal significance of the body as integrally inscribed in the structure of the masculinity and femininity of the personal subject.”
3) Other Catholic philosophical and theological responses to the “embedding module” of John Rawls. I cannot speak highly enough of the reflections on these issues and others by those engaged in the Communio project. According to von Balthasar, Communio’s conversations with the American secularized culture is the project of the Church in the United States. It calls for “the greatest possible radiance in the world by virtue of the closest following of Christ”. Over the decades I have followed and benefitted enormously from reading your quarterly journal. I owe a special indebtedness of gratitude to David L. Schindler, a theologian, and his son, David C. Schindler, a metaphysician and theorist of knowledge. Their clearings have included signs marked “Where we are going!” and “Where we have come from”. I have already cited their works earlier. In these concluding remarks they appear again because they give light for one’s gaze on the mystery of “Being true with Body and Soul”.
David C. Schindler writes that “drama is the structure of being”. From that splendid insight it is reasonable to conclude that the conjugal act itself is a drama that reveals who each individual is and who each is to become. Its principle revelation is not who the individual always was. The meaning of the sacramental act – the summit of the sacrament of marriage in facto esse, is revealed only in the activity of the two spouses. The marital act in its wholeness is a fundamental interpretation or unfolding of the sacrament of marriage.
Each spouse is an actor of truth. Truth has its terminus ad quem, not in the mind of the knower, but rather in a tertium quid, a Gestalt, a structure resulting from the encounter between the appearance of the depths on one hand and the transportation of the seer into the depths on the other. Truth is profoundly relational. It involves the tension of various parts of the whole, the movement from horizontal appearance to the vertical depths. David L. Schindler describes it in this fashion: “The body, always-already informed by soul and spirit and actualized by esse, exhibits an order of love: the body bears within it, already in its creaturely nature as body, the sign of the human being’s constitutive relation to God and to others in God, the sign thus, of a communion of persons and the promise of the gift itself.”
As I mentioned earlier, one of the contested areas of pastoral life today is the predicament of a married couple one of whom has a mortally threatening disease which may be transmitted through the conjugal act. The confusion over this matter is becoming increasingly serious from a pastoral point of view. Fr. Martin Rhoneimer’s position undermines the anthropological teaching of Pope John Paul II and undercuts a coherent Catholic response to the crisis affecting human sexuality.
In concluding, I have underscored that the present crisis is ontological/epistemological and linguistic. At its foundations it is a crisis of signs, which means a crisis that is analogical, liturgical, sacramental. It was a constant theme implicit, sometimes explicit, in the discussions at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome on the biblical word of God. The participants asked how does religious language refer to reality? The modern response since the Enlightenment has been an “inside-out” approach to epistemological foundations, not an “outside-in”. The Catholic religious education establishment in the USA after the II Vatican Council adopted a similarly subjective-experiential methodology based on an “inside-out” epistemology. Widespread religious skepticism was the outcome. Nothing is recognized as definitive and “meaning itself is forever postponed.”  A movement toward “a dictatorship of relativism” is the diagnosis which Pope Benedict XVI has given to this phenomenon.
To counter this nihilism, the discovery of the “Gestalt” character of language, of the word, was pioneered by Hans Urs von Balthasar and brilliantly advanced by many, especially by David C. Schindler in his recent book, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Dramatic Structure of Truth: A Philosophical Investigation.
The following conclusions may be drawn from the foregoing. First, we must assert the rootedness of language, including the language of the human body, in ontology. A solidly unabashed metaphysics of being, founded on the real distinction between essence and existence, is essential for any recovery of truth and its objective structure. Postmodernists have rejected the tradition of western metaphysics, the concept of being since Socrates, and the real distinction between essence and existence. Metaphysics of this type is fundamental to any discussion of truth and its nature. Using Plato’s Phaedrus Catharine Pickstock has offered a devastating critique of Jacques Derrida’s theory of Supplementation by writing. She insists that his account “is tantamount to a metaphysics of presence”.
Secondly, Catholic scholars must explore the nuptial language founded upon the biblical text and upon the Catholic tradition and enriched by the teaching of John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI affirmed its substance recently, “The Eucharist, as the sacrament of charity, has a particular relationship with the love of man and woman united in marriage. A deeper understanding of this relationship is needed at the present time. Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: ‘The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.’ Moreover, the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist.”
Thirdly, an exploration of the relationship between the nuptial meaning of the human body and the Eucharist, as the triform Body of Christ, should be made. Its development by de Lubac and Pickstock would be advanced if accompanied by an awareness of the critical role of the Gregorian Sacramentary and the Sarum Rite had upon the West and especially upon Anglo-Saxon culture. That culture was informed with the perception of the nuptial character of reality. The high medieval poem, In a Valley of this Restless Mind illustrates this. The anonymous English Catholic poet had the same spousal vision of life as that of the modern French Catholic novelist Mauriac when he described the human as “being true with body and soul”. I wish to contrast his cultural vision with that of the dominant political and cultural classes today.
Before doing so, some contextual background of my criticism is important. In early 2003 as our country was preparing to go to war in Iraq, I spoke out against the war and on two occasions condemned the policies of the Bush administration for contributing to the lessening of respect for the dignity of the human person by the use of torture. In the same spirit today as a pastor of souls I do not hesitate again to flag some serious abuses against the natural and divine laws. Our own cultural ambience is not dissimilar from the period of the 1920’s when European intellectuals were moving ahead with an understanding of something “new”. Graham Ward’s description of that period highlights elements which characterize the vision of today’s President – elect, the Vice-President – elect, and the legislators elected to assist them in implementing their vision. Graham wrote, “Briefly modernism’s programme was to ‘make it new’. It courted the unconventional and nonconformist in a conscious effort to overthrow the traditional perspective and stock expectations. Its dynamism was aggressive, disruptive and even apocalyptic. Hostility to the………War fed its anger against the status quo and its desire for a creativity that would be transcultural, transclass and transfrontier.”
On November 4, 2008 a cultural earthquake hit America. Senator Barack Obama and Senator Joseph Biden were elected President and Vice President of the United States together with a significant majority of their Party in the federal Congress supporting their deadly vision of human life. Americans were unanimous in their joy over the significance of the election of a Black President. However, if Obama, Biden and the new Congress are determined to implement the anti-life agenda which they spelled out before the election, I foresee the next several years as being among the most divisive in our nation’s history. If their proposals should be initiated and enacted, it would be impossible for the American bishops to repeat in the future what their predecessors described the United States in 1884 as “this home of freedom.”
While reflecting about the profoundly negative impact of Obama’s vision on the humanum (and also of Biden’s), I recalled how current are the reflections of Mauriac upon his contemporary, an influential European author. Even though Mauriac disagreed with him on almost every point, he acknowledged his great intelligence and personal attraction. “But under all that grace and charm there was a tautness of will, a clenched jaw, a state of constant alertness to detect and resist any external influence which might threaten his independence. A state of alertness? That is putting it mildly: beneath each word he wrote, he was carrying on sapping operations against the enemy city where a daily fight was going on.”
Similar characteristics were evident in Senator Obama’s talk before Planned Parenthood supporters on July 17, 2007 – tautness of will, a clenched jaw, etc. – where he asserted, “We are not only going to win this election but also we are going to transform this nation………The first thing I will do as President is to sign The Freedom of Choice Act……..I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law………..On this issue I will not yield..” During a town meeting in March 2008 in Johnstown, Pa., he spoke with equal determination on the necessity of universal sex education for preteens and teens, “I don’t want my daughters punished with a baby.” The President – elect did not qualify in any way the methods his single daughters might employ in the event they needed to avoid being “punished with a baby”, that is, giving birth to his grandchild. Obama’s vision is modernist and rooted in the Enlightenment. The content and rhetoric of Obama and Biden have elements similar to those described earlier: aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.
Catholics weep over Barack Obama’s words. We weep over the violence concealed behind his rhetoric and that of Joseph Biden and what appears to be that of the majority of the incoming Congress. What should we do with our hot, angry tears of betrayal?
First, our tears are agonistic. Secondly, we must acknowledge that the model for our tears is ancient. Over the next few years, Gethsemane will not be a marginal garden to us. A model, I suggest, is medieval. With an anonymous author, our restless minds search in a dark valley during this exhausting year. With him as our guide, we find a bleeding man on a hill sitting under a tree “in huge sorrow”. It is Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church and of mankind.
Thirdly, we listen to the words of Christ as narrated by our mediaeval ancestor. Jesus pointing to his gloved hands says that these gloves were given him when he sought his Bride. They are not white but red, embroidered with blood. He says that his spouse brought them and they will not come off. Fourthly, we focus our attention on the constantly repeated refrain of the Bridegroom and the reason for his “huge sorrow”, “Quia amore langueo – Because I am sick for love”. And finally, we find that before this vision of the wounded young man, our frustration and tears become one with his “huge sorrow”and we make his love for the unfaithful Bride whom he seeks and never fails, our own. I will close with a citation of this spousal model. It serves as a measure of what we need to recapture for the whole Church in 2008:
Upon this hil Y fond a tree,
Undir the tree a man sittynge,
From heed to foot woundid was he,
His herte blood Y sigh bledinge:
A semeli man to ben a king, (handsome enough to be a king)
A graciouse face to loken unto;
I askide whi he had peynynge, (suffering)
He seide, “Quia amore langueo. (Because I am sick for love).
I am Truelove that fals was nevere.
My sistyr, Mannis Soule, Y loved hir thus.
Bicause we wolde in no wise discevere, (because in no way would we part company)
I lefte my kyngdom glorious.
I purveide for hir a paleis precious; (prepared, a palace)
Sche fleyth; Y folowe. Y soughte hir so,
I suffride this peyne piteuous,
Quia amore langueo.
In the autumn of 2008 we must begin anew with that sentiment of our medieval brother. Quia amore langueo. With Jesus we are sick because of love toward those with whom we are so tragically and unavoidably at variance. The reader has now become one with the narrator who is addressed in line one as “Dear Soul”. As Humanae Vitae with the whole Catholic tradition teaches, we are to “be true with body and soul”.
James Francis Cardinal Stafford
- Francois Mauriac, cited by David C. Schindler, op. cit. 311, 324.
- Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodrama: Theological Dramatic Theory, IV: The Action, ( San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 126.
- Ibid. 21.
- Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, Revised an expanded edition, ed. By David Farrell Krell, (Cornwall: Routledge, 2004), 435.
- Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, (New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 1991), 158. Abridged and cited by Helen Vendler, Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985), 34.
- Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, translated from the French by John Wilkinson, (New York: Vintage Books, 1964), vii.
-  David Farrell Krell, ed. Basic Writings: Martin Heidegger, (Cornwall: Routledge, 2004), 428.
- George Steiner, Real Presences, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989), 230.
- October 15, 2008
- Martin Heidegger, Pathmarks, ed. by William McNeill, (Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1998), 197.
- Philip Rief, My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority,
- (Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2006).
- David L. Schindler, Persons, Body, and Biology: The Anthropological Challenge of Homosexuality, unpublished paper, 2008, 3.
- Alan Filreis, cited by Charles M. Murphy, Wallace Stevens: A Spiritual Journey in a Secular Age, (New York, Paulist Press, 1997), 72.
- Giancarlo Grandis, in Sacramentum Caritatis: Studi e commenti sull’Esortazione Apostolica postsinodale di Benedetto XVI, ed. by R. Nardin-G- Tangorra, (Rome, Lateran University Press, 2008), 277.
- St. Augustine.
- Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter, Humanae Vitae, 1968, 9.
- Pope John Paul II, The Theology of Marriage and Celibacy, (Boston, Daughters of St. Paul, 1986), 309.
- Ibid. 311.
- International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship, Human Persons Created in the Image of God, (2004), 31. (cited by David L. Schindler. Ibid., 3).
- Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, V, 6, 1.
- Anthony Fisher, Cooperation, Condoms and HIV, unpublished paper, 2008, 15-16.
- Pope John Paul II, Ibid. 318.
- Hans Urs von Balthasar, My Work in Retrospect, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), trans. by Cornelia Capol, 58.
- David C. Schindler, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Dramatic Structure of Truth: A Philosophical Investigation, (United States of America: Fordham University Press, 2004), 19.
- David L. Schindler, Ibid. 8.
- Michael Drolet, The Postmodern Reader: Foundational Texts, (London, Routledge, 2004), 23.
- Catherine Pickstock, After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy, (Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1998), 20.
- Pope Benedict XVI, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, 2007, § 27.
- Francois Mauriac, cited by David C. Schindler, op. cit. 311, 324.
- GrahamWard, Barth, Derrida and the Language of Theology, (Cambridge: Cambridge University House, 1998), 7-8.
- “Pastor Letter Issued by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore”, 1884, found in Pastoral Letters of the United States Catholic Bishops, Volume I:1792-1940, (Washington, United States Catholic Conference, 1983), 216.
- Francois Mauriac, “The Death of Andre Gide”, taken from Gide, a Collection of Critical Essays, (Prentice Hall, 1970).
- “My use of the word “apocalyptic” would be emphatically biblical, rooted in the understanding of the Book of the Apocalypse.