Metamorals

In the list of influential Catholics in the twentieth century the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, who died in 2001, will certainly find a place. She removed the underpinning of moral philosophy, as currently practised, and triggered a revival of virtue ethics. Roger Scruton recently wrote that she was “perhaps the last great philosopher writing in English.”

In her 1958 essay, Modern Moral Philosophy, she argued that the concept of moral obligation, inherited from an earlier, Judaeo-Christian culture, could only have meaning if it were based in law. However modern moralists had excluded God as lawgiver, and had failed to replace him with any alternative.

She analysed, and pooh-poohed, schools such as consequentialism (no moral content) and Kantian ethics (folly to think one can be bound by moral laws you have yourself imposed). And suggested that Hume might, despite himself, indicate a better approach.

Hume argued that there is “no ought from is”. And indeed this is exactly where traditional morality inserts God’s law as an obligation derived from our created natures. Hume, however, accounted for our social feelings by positing an emotional quality of benevolence which inclines us to so-called moral activities. For him, moral sentiment is no more than sentiment. This explanation points towards the consideration of the qualities of the actor rather than the qualities of the act.

Anscombe argued that we should not start by analysing the morality of acts but by considering the virtues of the actor. Thus we should speak of a man as just, or unjust, chaste or unchaste, truthful or untruthful. She suggested that the basis of morality might better be found through the study of the psychology of virtue. That study would prove successful if it resulted in a watertight demonstration that, say, an unjust man was necessarily a bad man.

The reaction to her conclusion has been interesting. There were two general responses. The first was that there was no possibility whatsoever of demonstrating this because it would require a circular, and therefore, invalid, argument.  The second was to match up to the challenge and undertake an exploration of the value and imperatives of virtue ethics.

The first response led to the thought that Anscombe was being disingenuous. By setting her fellow philosophers off on a false trail, they would find for themselves that they still could not explain moral obligation without a lawgiver. While the second response would not of itself replace the underpinning of moral philosophy, it might lead to a better understanding. For those of us who also accepted God as lawgiver it could lead in a very enriching direction.

While the New Testament does not abrogate a jot or tittle of the moral law, the whole emphasis is on the qualities of the person, measured by our imitation of Christ. In doing so, it gives meaning to the law, for both the law and the prophets are founded in love for God and love for neighbour.  The focus of the moral life is not “what should I do?” but “what should I become?” We are no longer called to observe the law directly but to grow into the just, the chaste, the truthful person who will look to the law not as a burden but as a welcome guide. “The ten commandments protect the outer periphery of the realm in which Christ will be formed in us.” (G. Ermecke)

We will scarcely need reminding that we owe to Socrates the huge step in our understanding that the quality of the human being lies in his virtue as a person. And we see this more clearly laid out in Aristotle, who sets down the cardinal virtues as prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. We might translate these as practical wisdom, justice, fortitude, and balance. They are called cardinal, or hinge, because from these all the other virtues descend, and because you cannot effectively practice one without practising the other three.

Not surprisingly the theological virtues, faith, hope and charity, which link us to God through grace, were not recognised as such by the ancients. The Greeks did not look towards charity but towards excellence as their goal.

The practice of these virtues leads to mankind flourishing. What Aristotle has in mind here can be most easily seen by analogy. How do we enable a dog to flourish? By treating him according to his nature – thus he will need such things as exercise and human company. And we must apply these according to his breed: we would scarcely treat a husky and a toy dog identically. Similarly, we must look to man’s nature – in its full spiritual and material aspects – to discover how we must behave in order to flourish. And this, of course, is the meaning of natural law. Once again we see the law not as a burden but as an ‘instruction manual’ for our benefit. But, where Aristotle’s starting point is whatever would be agreed upon by well brought-up gentlemen, our starting point is God’s will written in nature.

It is through this approach which Pope Benedict, when a cardinal, sought to reconcile the concept of freedom of conscience with the presence of authoritative law. It is only when we have freely opened up ourselves to love that we see the meaning and purpose of the law to which the Church invites us.

In my next column I want to relate what I have discussed here to deeper aspects of virtue ethics. This will enable us to explore how this approach can release us from the grip of neurobiology and our preoccupation with moral casuistry.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

106 Responses to Metamorals

  1. Nektarios says:

    Quentin

    There are several aspects in your introduction I am finding difficulty with, for example, what exactly do you mean by `metamorals?’
    Do you mean what lies beyond metapsychology, or what lies behind it all?
    Perhaps you mean transcending societal morality, to an investigation into the psychology of virtue?
    To do the latter one will need to be free from societal norms and constructs of what not only morality is, but also our imaginations of what virtue actually is?

    • Quentin says:

      Normal moral discussion concerns itself with whether actions are right or wrong. Metamorality is concerned with the principles of morality. For example, is our moral sense no more than a feeling of benevolence?, or, how do we use natural law in our approach to morality? In this instance the question is: should we work at morality by debating specific issues of right and wrong, or should the emphasis be on becoming ‘good’ people through virtue?

  2. tim says:

    Very interesting – and difficult. It’s fascinating to read the article on Anscombe in Wikipedia. She was born in Ireland during the Troubles, the daughter of a British officer, became a Catholic at Oxford, was a favorite student of Wittgenstein, had seven children, defended traditional Catholic sexual morality and was arrested more than once for demonstarting against the atomic bomb as well as outside abortion clinics.

  3. John Candido says:

    My mind rails against the difficulty of this topic. For the super intelligent and patient, there is a good article in the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy called ‘Virtue Ethics’. Without having read it, I get the impression that it is a difficult article. There are braver souls. Would John Nolan or anybody else care to have a crack at it?

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/virtue/

    • Rahner says:

      Oh dear! Of course it is “difficult”, any serious philosophical reflection is difficult.

      • Vincent says:

        You’re right, Rahner, but I wonder if we can tease out the issues. The first point is clear: Anscombe is taking on the whole history of moral philosophy, at least as far back as the Enlightenment, and saying – quite simply – that it has preserved a nonsense. Their own assumptions oblige them to abandon morality and moral obligation because they have thrown out the ultimate source of moral obligation. Is that true or not? Do we know of any moralist who gets around Anscombe’s point? Do we accept that those who do not believe in God must by the same token disbelieve in moral obligation? What would the atheist say in defence?
        The second issue concerns whether we, as Christians, should put our major focus on the law (ie is this action right or wrong?) or on our growth in virtue. Is it going too far to say that the virtuous person has a kind of inbuilt instinct for recognising the good?
        In this context I think of Pauline teaching: the law can damn us but it cannot save us – only our union with Christ can do that. Is virtue, and virtue ethics, where we must all start?

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        What would the atheists say in defence? Vincent asks. Well first he would say that virtues are not the prerogative of believers. Aristotle was probably not an atheist but his system of virtues is built up without any reference to a god. And it would be foolish to claim that atheists in our society have no morals. In my experience they have more morals than believers.
        First of all, by definition, they do not seek rewards – when they are good they are good for the sake of goodness. Nothing else. They do not go around telling people that if they get things wrong they will end up in torture for all eternity. Just think of that god! After 14 billion years into the future (the time since the Big Bang) some unfortunate fellow who missed mass on a Sunday without good excuse will still be there being tortured, and that’s where he stays. Is that the god who lies behind a believer’s morals. Thank you, I pass.
        And how about believer’s morality? There is one sort of believer who holds that it is virtuous to blow yourself up in a crowd of civilians. There’s another who says that it’s right to nuclear bomb a city or two. Let’s just imagine someone with HIVAIDS about to hop into bed with his wife, and he’s wearing a condom. Along comes a believer who says: “take that awful thing off. The fact that you’re wearing it means that you don’t truly love your wife.” Pardon me while I puke a little.
        As for the source of morality – I find it inside myself. It’s perfectly clear that rational people can see the sorts of behaviour which make it possible to live comfortably in society, and that’s the behaviour they follow. No god needed there! In fact a good deal, perhaps all, of altruistic morality is an evolutionary outcome. “Get to the ant, thou Christian, learn its ways and be wise.” Yes the ants are altruistic in order to survive, and so are we. The ants don’t need an ant god; nor do we.

      • John L says:

        Oh dear… A.D usually makes some good points to chew on. Surely, though, he can do better than to raise that old canard about eternal torture. God doesn’t torture – we torture ourselves by rejecting the good in whatever sense you define it. And eternity isn’t x trillion years, it is the absence of time, which is only a “temporary” creation. Oh, I really can’t be bothered… to quote A.D. -I pass.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        Nice try, John – but won’t do

        Tell me where you disagree:

        1 Your god allows people to be born with a damaged nature and a deep tendency to sin. No man chooses to be born nor does he choose to have a damaged nature.
        Thanks, god.

        2 Choosing to miss mass on a Sunday is a mortal sin

        3 Well-instructed Catholic person chooses to miss mass without good reason

        4 He is no longer in a ‘state of grace’

        5 Next day he is run over by a passing bus, before repenting

        7 He goes to Hell

        8 Hell can be described as a ‘weeping’ and gnashing of teeth, and a place of eternal fire

        9 He never gets out.

        Just in case you have a lapse of memory, here are some quotations taken straight from the Catechism you no doubt had to learn as a child:
        1 To be in a state of grace is to be free from mortal sin, and pleasing to God.
        2 Catholics are under a serious obligation to attend Mass on Sundays (etc) unless prevented by other serious duties or by ill-health
        3 Mortal sin is a serious offence against God
        4 Where will they go who die in mortal sin?.
        5 They who die in mortal sin will go to hell for all eternity.
        6 The wicked also shall live and be punished for ever in the fire of hell.

        Next time ‘bother’ a little more, and find out what your Church teaches.

      • JohnL says:

        Oh dear, A. D. – well if we really must go through all this, I will start by assuming you share the tendency of all of us who are fixed in space and time to confuse ourselves by talking about God in the same terms. Since space and time are His creation and not His “environment”, this makes for difficult dogmatic definitions and often for unprofitable argument.
        1 God allows us to be born with a free will, which permits us to choose between good or ill. Thanks, God.
        2.A mortal sin is a conscious total rejection of God. It is not as common as some think.
        3. A well-instructed (or I prefer motivated) person never chooses to miss Mass. It is the opporunity for a “one-to-one” with God and to recharge on’s batteries in the welcome company of like-minded people.
        4 Such a person does not easily get out of a ‘state of grace’. Another, who does not know God, cannot make the rejection inherent in mortal sin. The most vociferous against God, who declare themselves ‘atheist’ are entitled to the benefit of the doubt that they have a sincere point of view, although ‘agnostic’ is a better description. I find it hard to believe that anyone is so totally negative as to be ‘atheist’.
        5. We can all be run over by passing buses – there are worse ways to die.
        7. He goes to Hell – at last we come to the crux of the fallacy.
        8. Hell can be descibed in any number of ways. They are nearly all imbued with this false concept of describing them in some form of space/time.
        9. He never gets out – again ‘never’ is bogged down in a time formula.
        God exists in a spiritual environment which is not bounded by space or time. That is what ‘eternity’ means. When we die we cross the boundary from space/time into God’s environment and meet Him on His own terms. If we have developed a capacity to love God we are united with Him. If we have developed a total rejection of Him then we cannot be united with Him but we realise to the full what we have rejected, and that is what Hell is.
        Even at this point we don’t overlook that the many perfections of God include infinite mercy, and the man who dies in stupidity may still be rescued. Some have suggested that Hell is empty – space/time again, it has even been suggested that we might be welcomed at the gates of Paradise by one Adolf Hitler. All right – let’s not go down that road, but it makes a point.
        Finally, I have a fair idea of what my Church teaches. I learned the catechism as a child – like the multiplication tables it provides a foundation for further study. It is bound up in a space/time continuum because if we try to define things outside of that continuum we rapidly get bogged down.
        Once we accept the catechism as a means to an end and not an end in itself we can get on to more advanced theological notions.
        For further reading, see St Augustine, and for thoughts on space and time as being an inseparable creation, see Albert Einstein.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        John L, thank you for coming back to me on this. Sadly it doesn’t get us any further. But you may well be able to point me to an authoritative statement by your church, which withdraws the teaching and proclaims a teaching in line with your interpretation. I would certainly then withdraw my remarks. But that seems unlikely since your up to date Catechism contains the following. “1035. The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”

      • John L says:

        I said at the outset that argument becomes unprofitable when anyone, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is forced into having to use human space/time terminology to discuss matters of God’s nature. If you are exposed in something you are deeply ashamed of, your shame “burns” – fire is not an unreasonable simile. Eternity is the absence of time, not time everlasting, so IF any soul is damned, then that burning shame in the face of God is within God’s eternity. The actual words the catechism uses are a starting point. They require theological study to tease out their true meaning from the limitations of human language, and the attempt requires a far more competent brain than mine.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Candido

      Many thanks for the link which as a quick glossary of terminology used, is most helpful.

      It is difficult, but so far, I can only see, what is termed `Virtue Ethics’ a valiant attempt
      to describe Virtue without necessarily being in possesion of Virtue.
      I also see the movement of situational ethics, which essentially is not ethics at all,
      but ethics built around norms that favour the rich and the powerful and pleasure.

      Can there be virtue where there is fear? Can their be virtue if we are ambitious, pursuing our own pleasures or if we are frightened?
      Can we be in a state of virtue if we are one thing in the office, demanding, brutal, competitive, then come home and play docile, and say `I love you darling’, surely that is not love?

      We can only love when we die to all the images we have built up,of yesterday, to all the images of pleasure, sexual and otherwise; then when there is love, which in itself is virtue, which in itself is morality -all ethics are in it.

  4. twr57 says:

    Vincent,”Do we accept that those who do not believe in God must by the same token disbelieve in moral obligation?” Whether they must is more difficult (sorry, Rahner) but observation shows that people do believe in moral obligations without believing in God. In fact, they are liable to get quite cross if you suggest they aren’t entitled to. In reasoning, you have to start somewhere (it helps to believe in the validity of the reasoning process, for example) and it would be reasonable (I say) to start from the existence of moral obligation as a given fact. You can then argue about where it comes from, and so forth, proposing more or less plausible theories (as we are doing now).

    • St.Joseph says:

      Advocatus Diaboli.
      Read the Catholic Church’s teaching on conscience ,then write your comment again!

      • ionzone says:

        I have to say ditto to that, Joseph. What AD is saying is quite common to atheists, but it has an utterly massive fundamental flaw: atheists don’t have a moral system and have no way to agree or enforce one. When AD says “In my experience they (atheists) have more morals than believers.” what he is saying is that atheists embedded in this, largely, Christian country are better at following the established Christian morality than actual believers. With no culturally enforced moral system to latch on to atheists have no standards of behaviour or code by which to live, nor any reason to live by one.

        Now, it may, or may not, be true that the atheists that AD knows are more moral than the Christians he knows…but whose morality are we talking about here? Often atheists consider abortion, drug use, and promiscuous sex to be perfectly moral behaviours and consider many Christian traits (and traits that they think are Christian traits but which actually aren’t) to be immoral.

        Are atheists more moral than Christians in a Christian society? They have potential to be, but often aren’t. Not to Christian standards anyway. They do, however, almost always see themselves as being morally superior (to the point of arrogance, usually). But by whose morality? It is very easy to follow a moral code that makes no demands.

        “First of all, by definition, they do not seek rewards – when they are good they are good for the sake of goodness.”

        This is very charming, but is it true? Can you honestly say that atheists are generally selfless people? The statistics say they are not. Christians tend to win hands down when it comes to charitable donations, and they tend to donate without any hope of any earthly reward.

        “They do not go around telling people that if they get things wrong they will end up in torture for all eternity.”

        I bet you won’t find that in the New Testament or any major Christian Church’s teachings. In fact, I bet you have never even heard it said by a Christian. I was brought up going to church and I have NEVER heard ANYONE say that. Except atheists. My understanding has always been that evil people go to hell. Really evil people. Unapologetically evil.

        Also, hell isn’t torture, the Biblical hell is annihilation of the soul.

        “Nothing else. They do not go around telling people that if they get things wrong they will end up in torture for all eternity.”

        But they do go around telling people they are stupid, insane, and worse than paedophiles. And that’s the university-educated professors! What the less well educated atheists on the internet tend to say is extremely abhorrent and prejudiced. When they get in charge in an atheist country they are far, far worse. Which is another reason I question your charming view of them – it doesn’t hold up to a historical or social perspective.

        “There is one sort of believer who holds that it is virtuous to blow yourself up in a crowd of civilians. There’s another who says that it’s right to nuclear bomb a city or two.”

        These people are ideological idiots who would exist regardless of religion. The fact is that Christianity tells us these things are abhorrent. It is bad theology to practice violence in the name of God. Killing in the name of God is like killing in the name of pacifism. Or love. In any case, it is almost always the case that these people kill for social or political reasons, not religion. And yes, I have a citation for that: “Dying to Win”, Robert Pape, 2005. Well worth reading.

        “As for the source of morality – I find it inside myself. It’s perfectly clear that rational people can see the sorts of behaviour which make it possible to live comfortably in society, and that’s the behaviour they follow.”

        You find it inside yourself for exactly the same reason that I find an engine inside my car, because it has been put there. Do you really think that you are a blank slate? A totally autonomous person capable of dividing right from wrong with no reference to any external source? Christians believe in two holy books, the Bible and nature. nature is what gives us our basic impulses, but it is Christian culture that gives us our moral impulses. In any case, CS Lewis, and basically the whole of Christian tradition, consider the fact that we have some moral programming to be evidence of an underlying programmer – God. If there were no God, he says, we would expect human society to be a great deal more vicious and self-serving.

        Which brings me to the thing about ants. The actual quote is: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! Proverbs 6:6” Which is to say, look at the industrious way that ants work and do the same in order to play your part in society. What the Bible doesn’t say is to look to them for morality. Have you ever watched ants? The only social structure I can think of that is more vicious and amoral than those practised by ants and other social insects is the one practised by most atheist countries! Ants tend to feed their workers and kill less of their own, in my experience.

      • ionzone says:

        Incidentally, nature has its own suicide bombers ~ termites.

        http://www.nature.com/news/termites-explode-to-defend-their-colonies-1.11074

      • Quentin says:

        Ionzone, I appreciate the strength of your feeling, but I do have a rule of thumb that a contribution should not be longer than 600 words. However on this occasion I will leave it as it is, but I am just asking Advocatus Diaboli – if he wants to come back – to do so briefly.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        So I will be brief. By confining myself to one point, Ionzone, I am truly sorry to have obliged you to face your own Church’s teaching. Few Catholics do. I hope you are not as upset as your rambling answer suggests. You have coped with the shock bravely simply by denying that you have ever heard of, or met, Catholics who “go around telling people that if they get things wrong they will end up in torture for all eternity.” But if you look at my direct quotes from your own Catechism that is what it does say. Except that I use the word ‘torture’ while the Catechism says “punished for ever in the fire of hell”. Feel free to substitute the Catechism’s own words if you think that redeems the teaching. I think the Catechism was written by a Catholic, wasn’t it? And this has been routinely taught by heart to Catholic children preparing for their sacrament at the age of 7. I am glad to learn that grown up Catholics are now too ashamed to proclaim this teaching, but I think it is a little rough to push it into the head of an impressionable young child, don’t you?

    • Nektarios says:

      twr57

      But what I am saying in my posting above yours is not a plausible theory, but actual, provable facts that each of us either knows or can discover. What said is not an educated guess, or theory.
      Moral obligations either proceed from a sensitivity to what God has placed in our hearts and we think and act accordingly; or they proceed from our conditioning by others which is at root a spirit of fear.

  5. St.Joseph says:

    Advocatus Diaboli.
    When is a sin Mortal! Catholics go to Church because of their love for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Catholics now a days have a better understanding of the Eucharist, those who do not understand are ignorant of that fact, therefore what we do now we do for the love of Our Lord, and that pleases Him more than someone who misses Mass because their conscience tells them there is no need to go, they are already turning their back on His Church in the celebration and worship of the Father.and one could call it ignorance.
    God does not allow us to be born damaged ,God did not cause Jesus’s Crucifixion, we did- lest we forget.
    ‘Can you not spend one hour with me’ is a very poignant saying of Jesus whilst He suffered waiting to be nailed to the Cross for us you as well -lest you forget.
    We bring our children up to remember Sunday and to Worship, and I am pleased that I was taught this as a child, as Christians we have that responsibility, and to pray for those who have no faith!
    I shall include you in my prayers too!

  6. Rahner says:

    ionzone – Perhaps you might explain how a person like, for example, Aristotle, could have made correct moral judgements without reference to any religious tradition. Or are you seriously suggesting he could not make any correct moral judgements?

    • Nektarios says:

      Rahner

      Certainly Aristotle could make moral judgements, the same as you can. His moral horizons was not without his own religious tradition or inventions, anymore than yours are, albeit his was Pagan.
      What do you mean by, `correct moral judgements?’ Is it what the Church says is moral or not?
      Aristotle was able to make moral judgements, correct or incorrect, for God wrote the Law into the hearts of all men. Man,therefore knows right from wrong unless their conscience is seered. It is the same the world over.
      How we arrived at our so-called Christian morality, I gave on the topic of Rotten Barrels
      Rotten Apples erlier this month.
      Understandably these methods did not produce morality, but was intrinsically immoral.
      So now we are looking at Virtue Ethics to see if we can find a morality. To do that, one has to truly understand Virtue, Love of God, and as I wrote at the beginning of this topic
      In Love, Virtue are all ethics.
      Be careful we do not do with Love, or Virtue what we did with morality, which was to invent it.
      The Law of God written on the hearts of all men, is not the same thing as morality as expressed by the Church or Govenments.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Advocatus Diaboli.
        Can you tell me where it speaks about missing Holy Mass is a mortal sin-as I am unable to find.it
        On Catholic answers-it tells of conscience which I have found-also continuing to miss Mass for Catholics will eventually lead to becoming lapsed.
        We need to look more deeply into what the Church teaches and to why it teaches, that is important.
        The 1st Commandment demands we Worship God and God alone, and if we are brought to that through fear it is better than not at all.
        We must remember as Christians why we do this.The Eucharist is an important part of Catholic life`-in fact the most important as it feeds our soul, whereby otherwise we ‘may lose it’ and I say ‘may’ because salvation doesn’t depend on this-but it does depend on Jesus’s Sacrifice. Therefore He deserves our presence and to eat the Food He died for us, if we love someone we will always want to please them-so why not Our Lord and His Blessed Mother?
        All it requires is a little thought and understanding,and if it too much to ask while we are here-we will be a long time in eternity with Him.
        We must love the Lord our God with our whole heart and our soul and our whole mind etc
        Is one hour a week to much to ask, He ought to be on our mind every minute of the day-when we wake till we sleep in Him.
        That is our belief as Catholics,so Holy Mother Church has a duty to guide people conscience on such an important part of our life..

        If children feared their parents a little nowadays some maybe would be better behaved!

  7. johnbunting says:

    In the hope of doing justice to AD and to ourselves, may I ask if anyone can put a rough date to the text of the catechism from which he quotes, and say whether it is still in use today? I have no children, but perhaps someone who has can tell us if their education in the faith still employs this sort of language in teaching about sin.
    I was received into the church when aged about thirty, and the ideas that stick with me are that one should neither regard sin as being trivial and excusable, which would be the sin of presumption; nor think it too bad ever to be forgiven: the sin of despair.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Johnbunting.
      Yes I asked that to AD too, he doesn’t wish to answer it, perhaps he can’t.
      Quentin can you?

      • Quentin says:

        I daresay that AD would expect you to know that. It’s from the Penny Catechism. I was brought up on it, like many older Catholics today. The Sunday Obligation is cited as the first of the chief commandments of the Church, so it is certainly recorded as grave matter. So far as I know the Church has never repudiated this position — taught for centuries of course, so AD is entitled to regard it as Catholic teaching.

        You can Google it for a text.

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        Now it’s you who are selling me short, Quentin. Of course I used the Penny Catechism because it lays it out explicitly. But the grave command, and the mortal sin which is the punishment for breaking it is quite happily in the modern Catechism. Question 2181.

  8. St.Joseph says:

    I was never taught the Penny Catechism, never going to a Catholic School.
    I was given The Students Catholic Doctrine by Rev Charles Hart. BA Fourth Edition Revised. 1921.
    I read it thoroughly in my twenties 1962, as I was having my children, as I wanted to know what the Church taught as a cradle catholic. and it certainly does not say that. One can find it on the computer. Have I missed out because I did not know if that was the Truth.?In the CCC now it says a grave sin, to me that is not necessarily Mortal in the sense of being evil which it defines it as ‘not’
    in the 1921 Catechism.

    My comment above as far as I am concerned still stands..
    I believe we condemn ourselves.Not God or the Church.
    Anyway what is AD trying to prove if anything.?

    • St.Joseph says:

      What constitutes a mortal sin.?
      Answer. according to The Students Catholic Doctrine 1921.
      Since then mortal sin is the greatest of all evils, it is of the utmost of all importance to know, as clearly as possible, what is its nature.To constitute a mortal sin three conditions are required.
      1. Gravity of matter; that is the evil we do, or the duty we leave undone, or appear to us to be a mater of grave importance.
      2; Full advertence of the mind; that is, we must have a clear and perfect knowledge of the Malice of our act, or a belief at least of what we are about to do is a grievious wrong.
      Wilful ignorance does not excuse us from understanding the gravity of an act.
      3; Free and full consent of the will; that is realising that what we are about to do is grievously wrong, we nevertheless deliberately resolve to do it.
      If we reject the temptation to do evil without yielding the slightest consent there is no sin, and if our consent is but partial or imperfect the sin can only be venial.
      IF a single one of these three conditions were wanting there would be either no sin at all, or venial sin at the most.

      I can not believe that non-catholic’s think that we are so riddled with guilt feelings and fire and damnation that we can not love the Lord for Himself.
      But Hell does exist and some can be living that in this life.And that is our duty as Christians to ease their suffering,but not from failing to ‘point’ out what sin is.

  9. johnbunting says:

    AD,
    As I mentioned before – though you may have missed it – you know quite a lot about us, from Christian belief in general, and from what we say here; whereas you’ve said little about your beliefs.
    Can’t you give us a quick run-down of your ‘creed’ on the sort of metaphysical matters that ours deals with? I find that most atheists are very vehement about what they don’t believe, but rather reluctant to say what they do believe.
    At least some of us here have read a few of the current crop of atheist authors. Which of them, if any, would you recommend to anyone seeking enlightenment about atheist philosophy?

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      What makes you think I am an atheist?

    • St.Joseph says:

      johnbunting.
      I have always had a suspicion that AD is Quentin playing ‘Devil’s Advocate’!

      • ionzone says:

        AD, I’m certainly not angry at you, I’m just very wordy. I actually enjoy this kind of sparing. Sorry Quentin if I wrote a book!

        I have suspected once or twice myself that AD might merely be pretending (maybe even Q pretending) as regular atheists tend to sound more like they are reading from a very angry script. That he knows what the Penny Catechism is tends to support the idea that he isn’t an atheist since their knowledge is almost always third-hand stuff they get from each-other. He is also incredibly restrained and polite, which is something I have seen in agnostics but never in an atheist.

        “Aristotle”

        Aristotle would not have been able to make moral judgements based on the pagan gods because the pagan gods were in constant conflict – something that is actually the focus of a famous Socratic dialogue on the nature of piety. Aristotle may or may not have come up with a good system of ethics….but again, he would have had no way of enforcing it and it would, doubtless, have conflicted with Christian morality very strongly. Back then they did not think it immoral to rape, plunder, or murder so long as it was against your enemies (most of the gods certainly had no objections). We tend to exult the ancient Greeks and Romans but they really weren’t as nice or ‘civil’ as they were made out to be!

      • Iona says:

        Certainly AD believes in God. The devil believes in God, so surely his advocate does too.

  10. John Candido says:

    The Penny Catechism can be accessed from,

    http://www.proecclesia.com/

    Another version of the same Penny Catechism, but with headings so that you can go to any topic in a quicker fashion,

    http://www.catholictreasury.info/

    If you are interested in reading a daily sample of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) emailed to your inbox,

    http://www.flocknote.com/catechism

  11. Nektarios says:

    Do you think after A D’s and others rather pointless diversions, we can return to the topic in hand, that of `Virtue and s-called Virtue Ethics if such a thing actually exitsts apart from an idea?

    • St.Joseph says:

      I would if I knew exactly what we are supposed to be discussing?
      We know that there are Supernatural Virtues also Human Virtues.
      Are we considering it in the sense of moral goodness or the perseverance of the will in doing what is pleasing to God. and define it as a habit or disposition of the soul which leads us to good actions ,a disposition that we act according to reason which is from human virtues that we possess, and to the fact of living up to the light of reason and through the mercy of God and light to rise to higher things
      We ended up in discussing from AD’s post. Supernatural Virtues., and the Church. and when he make comments like he did he needs to be answered.
      The opposite to Virtue is Vice which is defined as a habit which leads us to do wicked actions.
      Supernatural is exercised by Sanctifying Grace infused into our soul from Baptism.
      I don’t know what else there is to discuss, but perhaps I will learn from the more knowledgeable on the blog. I understand it but can not dissect it.
      We would need to place our whole human nature on a slab and do a biopsy individually, and only God can do that.Perhaps I am wrong.

      • Rahner says:

        “I would if I knew exactly what we are supposed to be discussing?”
        …..er, exactly!!!

  12. Singalong says:

    From the second reading at today`s Mass, the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, chapter 3,
    “I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith.” Does this sum up the Christian version of virtue ethics as Vincent asked?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Happy St Patrick’s Day to all Irish bloggers- me too!

    • Vincent says:

      I liked your quote, Singalong. The more I think about it the more I feel sure that virtue ethics is not just a possible way in which we approach morality, it is the essential way for Christians. Absolutely central to the history of salvation is the fact that the Jewish religion is fundamentally about law. Christ does not tell us to abandon law but he teaches that law is not end in itself, it gains its meaning from love. But love doesn’t live in the air, there is always a need for a Person or a person to express themselves through loving.

      To take a simple example: suppose that I hear a fruity little bit of ‘gossip’ about a neighbour. It’s clear to me that loving requires me to refrain from passing that gossip on. But st.joseph writes about virtue as a habit. That means I must cultivate the habit of avoiding the pleasure which tittle tattle gives, perhaps by becoming more concerned about my neighbours’ good, and the injustice caused to them by bad-mouthing. I must become the sort of person who habitually protects the reputation of the people I know.

      • Singalong says:

        Vincent, indeed, and I often think too, that lists of sins produced in Confession can bear very little relation to one`s actual spiritual state. It is so easy to overlook sins of omission, not responding to another`s need for moral or material assistance for example, in a situation where there may be no explicit obligation to do so, or saving too much for a possible rainy day in the future, when others are suffering theirs right now, and we can see the details as we sit in comfort in our homes. The balancing of prudence and selfishness in all these things is a measure of our love and generosity which only God can evaluate.

        I think it is even harder to define virtue for those who live without religion, now, when the Christian legacy of our country has almost expired. A person can be considered virtuous despite breaking many of the traditional rules about marriage, and abortion, euthanasia, accumulating wealth without sharing, and generally about living decently. How can there
        be the consensus which Elizabeth Anscombe was trying to achieve?

  13. Rahner says:

    Most of these contributions are pretty embarrassing, they really are…. they display an almost total degree of philosophical illiteracy……
    Quentin, If we can return to the original topic. Will a Virtue Ethics approach provide new arguments to help resolve moral disputes? I have to say I remain unconvinced…can you provide examples?

    • Nektarios says:

      Rahner

      You would do well to re-read what I wrote. Perhaps then, you will not be so embarrassed as you sit on your fence, decrying others philosophical illiteracy?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Netarious.
        I agree with you.
        Rahner perhaps you can substitute what is missing.and enlighten me please.!!
        We all have our ‘own’ talents!! Mine is not philosophical literacy at least I will admit it!
        And I am not at my age now going to study it.just to show how clever I am!

    • tim says:

      Rahner, if you can overcome your embarrassment, it would be a work of charity to correct briefly any basic philosophical errors into which your fellow bloggers may fall. You should not despair of educating us, however difficult this may be.

    • John Candido says:

      Rahner,

      I was wondering if you would give us the benefit of your take on ‘Virtue Ethics’. How about 600 words worth? This should hopefully kick us off to a more relevant path.

  14. ionzone says:

    “Happy St Patrick’s Day to all Irish bloggers- me too!”

    A day of unsaintly behaviour if ever there was, but certainly a bit of what you fancy does you good.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ionzone. Yes, that’s why I have a ‘tot’ of the hard stuff every night-I might have 2 tots to-night!!
      Glad you agree.

  15. johnbunting says:

    I am reminded again of Blake’s saying: “Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules”; which expresses what we are dealing with here: the difference between acting according to law and acting from love. Paul, as quoted by Singalong, means that our efforts must be directed not to observing every detail of the law, but to becoming so attuned to the mind of Christ that we act for the best instinctively.
    If this is to mean anything, it should be accessible to all, whatever their worldly circumstances: work, wealth or poverty, education, responsibilities, etc.; and it seems right that from those to whom more is given, more will be expected. So much for Christians. However, as Pilate said, “What is Truth?”. If there is virtue in anyone or anything other than Christ, what could it possibly be?

    • Nektarios says:

      johnbunting

      Virtue is of the heart and not of the mind. When the mind cultivates virtue, it is cunning calculation; it is a self-defence, a clever adjustment to the environment. Self-perfection is the very denial of virtue.
      How can there be virtue if there is fear? Fear is of the mind and not of the heart. Fear hides itself in different forms: virtue, respectability, service and so on.
      As a child practices the piano, so the mind cunningly practices virtue to make iteself more permanent and dominent in meeting life to attain what it considers to be the highest.

  16. John Nolan says:

    I have a lot of sympathy for the eponymous Rahner’s scepticism. I don’t make forays into philosophy as it isn’t my strong suit. However, most of the discussion on this blog is concerned with Catholic moral teaching, and I couldn’t help noting that Archbishop Bergoglio castigated priests who refused baptism to children born out of wedlock, describing it as the worst sort of clericalism. To me this seems a very post-V2 kind of clericalism, which talks a lot about ‘committed Catholics’ who ‘actively participate’ in a reformed liturgy in which everyone is involved, and yet fails to realize that the poor sinner who wanders into a church during Mass and stays for ten minutes is also connecting with the liturgy, and possibly in a more profound sense than is the case with those who are jumping up and down and celebrating themselves. Can the Church’s moral precepts, which we all find hard to live in complete accordance with, be applied in a less rigid and possibly (dare I say it?) more charitable manner? Might this be a feature of the new Papacy? I really don’t know.

    • Quentin says:

      I think we have to be careful here. As Vincent points out, virtue ethics do not render the law superfluous, it actually makes it more compelling by giving it fundamental meaning. If Aquinas is right, we are able to assess what the law demands by virtue of ‘the light of faith’. (ST 2a 2ae, q.2, a.3, ad 2). But we are greatly helped by the ‘instruction book’ which is provided by the authority of the Church. We have of course to apply this in the light of love, always looking for the true value which the law (sometimes clumsily expressed, and sometimes in need of revision) is trying to preserve.

      John Nolan, in the matter of the baptism of babies born out of wedlock, gives an example of love in action. Benedict gives another when he does not condemn a homosexual prostitute for using a condom; instead he regards it as move in the direction of responsibility. When inter vivos kidney donations were thought initially to be wrong (‘mutilation’) it was decided that love rendered the old law superfluous in this case. Pius XI ruled that the expression of love within the married relationship permitted the deliberate choice of the safe period as a means of family planning. This was regarded as radical at the time. Later popes, particularly Pius XII, developed the virtues of this.

      All of us, I hope, applaud the Church for defending the dignity of man, made as he is in the image and likeness of God.

      • Nektarios says:

        Quentin

        Words are cheap, and actions by religious including the RCC far from defending the
        dignity of man, or what it really means to be made in the image of God, it has shown itself to be pontificating a morality favouring the rich and the powerful, interfering in the essentially private aspects of family life and far from protecting the image of God in man,
        well the idea is quite silly to say the least, and calculating on the other hand.
        The image of the Church that has been built up and put together by thoughts of others unelected by none of the rank and file members of the Church, and the way they are used and abused is nothing short of tyrannical. No, I do not applaud the institution of the Church and those careerists. and egoists that climb the ecceliastic ladder.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    150 thousand in St Peters Square today, happy to see the Holy Father.
    Well that can’t be bad.!
    As far as Baptising babies-how can anyone refuse it ? I never thought we did, I know people have told me that the C of E refused to.. There must be a starting point somewhere.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      Man has free-will. Holy Mother Church proclaims the Truth,it does not interfere in the essential aspects of private life.One can either take it or leave it.,but it would be dishonest of the Church to go against Her own teaching beliefs to suit.
      Jesus did not take the soft issue.
      Perhaps you could expand on that a little more and say how family life is interfered with.

      • Nektarios says:

        St.Joseph

        I did not make comment about ` The Church’ which is in Christ, and in Him is perfect.
        However, the institutional aspects of the Church are not heavenly in origin but earthy.
        So it has a beginning, a middle and will have an end.
        Church history and the history of mankind, does not allow me a blind obedience to any man or institution, especially religious.

  18. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarios.
    Thank you for your reply.
    We must realise that Holy Mother Church on earth has done so much for the poor with Catholic organisations, people are inclined to forget this fact and only look to the sinners which we all are in all religions.
    We would be a lot poorer spiritually if She did not exist as that is what the Church represents -our spirituality
    Jesus said ‘There will always be poor people in the world’ but you won’t always have Me’.
    The Holy Father who is a pope for the poor is a opportunity now for those to criticize and make him an example against the goodness of Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul 2nd..

    However the example Pope Francis 1st is showing is ‘ maybe it is about time we all ‘took the bus!’
    It grieves me when those wish to argue that the hierarchy live in a bit of comfort-they give their lives up for The Lord whether they be sinners or not-would we begrudge them that,as I say we would be poorer without them.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Not forgetting Jesus on Palm Sunday-then a week later He was Crucified..
      Let us all Pray for the Holy Father in his MIssion in the Chair of St Peter.

  19. Geordie says:

    Cardinal Fox Napier has been called to account for saying on the Steve Nolan programme on Radio 5 that paedophilia is a disease not a crime and should not be punished. Possibly it is both. It is certainly not a virtue and such actions are sinful. If we follow the cardinal’s logic all vices are a disease and should not be punished, which puts paid to hell.

    I wish I could believe this but the Gospels clearly state that hell exists. I just hope that no-body goes there, especially me.

    • St.Joseph says:

      That is why they need our prayers!We pray for the souls in Purgatory, or do we not do that any more.

      • johnbunting says:

        I certainly do, St.Joseph. I assume that at the point of death most of us are probably not good enough for Heaven and not bad enough for Hell, so Purgatory makes a lot of sense.

    • Singalong says:

      Geordie, so do I, and I try to put my hope in the mercy of God, and think of the prayer which Our Lady of Fatima asks us to say at the end of each decade of the Rosary, “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead ALL souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.” Would she give us this prayer, if what it asks for cannot happen?

  20. John Candido says:

    Cardinal Napier is skating very close to a non-prosecutorial position for perpetrators, which is completely unacceptable. Of course there is a dichotomy between this proclivity and criminal acts of paedophilia. I am out of my depth here as regards the psychology of paedophilia and its generally understood rates of recidivism after a period of treatment and/or incarceration. If any person were caring, circumspect and honest enough to seek treatment for the condition of paedophilia, without ever committing any crimes; fair enough. How many individuals would fit this bill? Who would know? As a guess, I would think that these individuals are probably not very common on the ground.

    An important follow-up question is whether or not somebody with these proclivities, who have sought treatment for them, and has been both brave and honest enough to admit those to a superior today, should be trusted to be allowed to work with children. To be on the safe side, my uneducated guess would be to say no to such an individual ever working with children again. It would be a moot point as to whether someone with such a proclivity, which has undergone treatment, be allowed to work with children under strict supervision. Again, I don’t know, maybe not.

    • tim says:

      It’s all much easier with hindsight. It’s fairly clear that the answer to John’s follow-up question is No, never. Because whatever the actual chance of such a person reoffending might be, the obloquy that would be heaped on the Church (and the person who had made such a decision on behalf of the Church) were it to become known, would make the risk unacceptable.

  21. tim says:

    Geordie, the good cardinal is 30 years out of date. What he says was the height of liberalism in the ’80s, but now is ‘obviously’ wrong. He is not defending pederasty – but to propose mercy for pederasts gives scandal, because he sounds as if he is. I’m sure that what he says about abusers having been abused themselves is in many cases true – though how many priestly abusers were so, we don’t know (should they have been ‘discriminated against’? Or not? I don’t suppose anyone knew, but I hope these days the history and background of candidates for the priesthood is fully taken into account). I don’t think the cardinal is suggesting that all pederasty (or other vice?) is a disease – certainly we should not follow him that far. But any mitigating circumstances need to be taken properly into account – humans may not be able to do this, but God can.

    • St.Joseph says:

      What about abortionists,just because its legal, it does not make it right.!
      Making it a criminal offence or not will never make it right,
      I believe the difference being with sex offenders is they don’t see the wrong they do and they must be sick to do it-they do not see it as evil-not like killing a baby in the womb!

      • St.Joseph says:

        What I find difficult to understand and that is that as soon as a person becomes so close to God through Jesus and His Blessed Mother why they do not understand that they
        are losing their relationship with God when we sin,and He is offended ,although forgiven.God loves us even in our sin,and died for us before we sinned.So He deserves our loyalty-as we would or more than to our neighbour or close friends, as He did say ‘I call you friends now,.That is how I see Him in the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
        That is how I speak to Him, and joke. I pray to the Father Almighty.But talk to Jesus and Our Mother.And She will pass it on. She has more clout than me!

  22. St.Joseph says:

    JC, Yes hence the words of the Our Father ! Forgive is our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into ‘temptation’-

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      Do you not believe in Purgatory? Is it either Heaven or Hell.?

      • Nektarios says:

        St, Joseph
        You are right, I do not believe in purgatory. I do believe in heaven and Hell however.

        Why do I not believe in purgatory, you may ask? Well, it has to do with ones definintion according to the Scriptures of what a Christian actually is.
        So what is a Christian? A believer you say in Christ? That is fine as it goes, but surely there is much more to it than that.
        Turn up Ephesians Chapter 1 verse 1. It reads: Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God,
        To the saints who are in Ephesus,and faithful in Christ in Christ Jesus.

        We often over-look this thinking it is a mere formal or courtesy greeting like, dear so and so, it it is much, much more than that. In this verse you have the very definition and essentials of what a Christian is.
        The calls them saints. He could have used followers of the Way, Christians, or believers,
        but no, He calls them Saints!

        Now I know, and how many times have you heard it, `oh yes, I am a believer, but I am far from being a saint’. We think it is a name reserved only for those who have excelled in the ascetic life, beome extremely holy, written treatises that have benefited the Church.
        But you know, that is not what the Aposstle is saying here.

        Who were these saints in Ephesus? They were in fact a small number of believers who were followers after John the Baptist, whom st. Paul took aside and taught them more perfectly, and the Apostle describes them as saints.
        What does the word saint mean? It means – separate or separated.
        It is looking back to the Old estament when God procured a people out of all the nations,
        a peculiar people. God separated them unto Himself, and they became His People. He was their God, and He gave them His Laws.
        So saints are a separated people by God, unto Himself. They are in the world but not of it.
        That in part is a Saint.
        But they are also people who have faith. they are a people who believe certain things and live accordingly. But they are much more than a people with just a set of beliefs, they are in Christ Jesus. The are in Him, in God, they are in heaven with Him even as they are on the earth. They are saved separated people unto God in Christ, and are faithful unto Him.

        And that my dear St. Joseph and any others reading this, is why I do not beleive in purgatory, and if we are to understand what it is to be a Christian actually, truly, then I have just given in part what that Christian is, from the highest, to the lowliest – a Saint!

  23. Iona says:

    Singalong: “I think it is even harder to define virtue for those who live without religion, now, when the Christian legacy of our country has almost expired. A person can be considered virtuous despite breaking many of the traditional rules about marriage, and abortion, euthanasia, accumulating wealth without sharing, and generally about living decently”.

    I don’t think such a person is considered “virtuous”, and not only because we don’t use that sort of terminology in ordinary everyday conversation any more. Such a person might not be frowned on, or disapproved of; we might share a joke with him, go for a drink with him, but not think of him as a positively good, “virtuous” person, one who could be regarded as an example to follow in moral terms. Despite the prevailing “If it feels right for me, I’ll do it” attitude, I think people still admire those who remain faithful within marriage (despite difficulties), who go through with a problematic pregnancy, who are generous and self-sacrificing.

    • St.Joseph says:

      On EWTN today.a remark about Socrates and his Philosophy ‘Far better to suffer evil than to do evil’! as regards to the human soul as the Spirit.
      So over 400 years before Christ there would have been an insight into immortality of the soul . So Pagans fit into Christian Philosophy.
      So would that be virtuous .

      • St.Joseph says:

        I believe that someone who has difficulties.to ‘not commit’ a particular sin in their weakness it would be virtuous to suffer the agony against their own will than to commit the sin which would be against Gods Will,and not try to change the sin and make it moral-
        for instance same sex marriage as an example -as that sin is permanent along with abortion. Of course their is always repentance .
        That’s why we pray for the souls in Purgatory-and I hope my soul will be prayed for when I die.!
        I would like to hear the opinions of others.
        Maybe the experts would say something as I am not one of those, just my thinking.

    • Singalong says:

      Iona, I think you are right, the word acceptable would be more appropriate, but these things seem to be becoming increasingly more acceptable.

  24. Singalong says:

    St. Joseph, as a non expert, I agree with you. It can be even more than virtuous, sometimes heroic, to refuse an abortion in difficult circumstances, or to decide against living as a homosexual couple. Those of us who are not tempted in this way would find it hard to imagine the extent of the difficulty.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank Iona
      We have to help those women if we can to cope with an unwanted pregnancy,although no baby ought to be unwanted.
      Unless ii is through not knowing their, fertility. or misuse of condoms and the pill which cause early abortions anyway. It again come down to responsibility.
      En-courage do wonderful work to help gay men and women to be chase.
      There are people here to help.

  25. Nektarios says:

    Apologies to all of you, for all the typing and spelling mistakes in my last posting answering St. Joseph, on why I didn’t believe Purgatory. I hope it is still easily readable for you all?
    I was typing very quickly and wanted it finished before I had to rush off for a dental appointment.

  26. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarios.
    Thank you for your explanation.
    However,There are numerous religions that are spread throughout the East who have preserved and still preserve the custom of praying for the dead.
    They did not borrow it from the RC Church they hold it from the Apostles and Christ
    Our Lord tells us that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall be forgiven neither in this world or .
    the next.
    There are then some some sins which will be forgiven in the next world.
    Now this is not in Heaven where nothing defiled can enter; nor is it in Hell where there is no redemption. So it must be a place of purification.
    I understand what you are saying- and correct me if I am wrong-but anyone who.
    dies not in the state of grace are doomed. I know Jesus said we are not baptised with water alone now, but with water and the Holy Spirit, and of course allowing for the Baptism of Blood
    Also are you saying that all Christians who are baptised go straight to Heaven., if it is not, you are agreeing with AD that it is what we believe as Catholics that we go straight to Hell.
    But I will pray for the dead anyway. My parents anniversary yesterday and today, I will still have a Mass offered up for them as I have done today and I will always. No problem to me!

    • Vincent says:

      St.joseph, I think you make good points here. The word ‘saint’ derives from the word ‘sanctus’ which means ‘holy’ or ‘consecrated’. Everyone who is baptised and remains in friendship with God – from the week old baby to the slobbering old man – is holy because Christ lives in him or her.

      But of course we sin ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Romans 3.23. So we are imperfect, and we owe punishments for our sins. Thank Heavens (if you see what I mean) for purgatory. Without it I should come a cropper! In fact I look forward to it. Catherine of Genoa had a vision of purgatory in which the holy (as we call them) souls wanted to be there. Once they had caught a glimpse of God and spotted their own failures the one thing they wanted to do was to be made fit for God’s presence.

      Of course the descriptions of purgatory are only there to help our very human imaginations. All we know for certain is that we are liable to need cleansing when we die – and that God provides us with the means to get clean.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent thank you for your reply.
        There is also another way of thinking about it ,that is when Jesus asked the woman who was found committing adultery ‘Is there anyone here who condemns you’-she answered
        ‘No Sir’, then Jesus said to her, ‘then I don’t condemn you ,go sin no more.’
        I may be picking at small unnecessary thoughts here,but I think that it could mean, if there are people who don’t forgive a person that has sinned against them, then maybe the story would be different- maybe, just a thought.
        I know you are a good thinker Vincent so perhaps you would be able to say what you think.

    • Nektarios says:

      St.Joseph,
      Prayer for the dead is for one reason only – they cannot pray for themselves.
      They can pray for you or I as the Holy Mother does and the saints do in the Glory.
      That is the Orthodox view on it.
      They also have something similar, as we pray for the soul in transit through the tollbooths where demons judge them and try to take them away from the angels who are given charge over the soul, including ones Guardian angel.
      But there is not one scrap of evidence from H0ly writ that backs any of that up.
      But prayer for the repose of the soul in the light everlasting and memory eternal is more help for those who are greiving the loss of a loved one. So by all means pray for the dead.
      But you know, that is a far cry from from the idea of Purgatory which is a thought up earthbound concept with no basis in Scriptures at all, not to mention a money spinner for the RCC.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        It is unfortunate that you place money in terms of Holy Mass, which is priceless.
        I believe that is why the RC Church and the Orthodox is different.
        Money does not come into it in situations like this.
        We pray for the dead all the time and it costs nothing.
        Donations are given to the Church if one can afford it , it is not a commitment or priority..
        Most money given goes to poor countries and the up keep otherwise we could not exist, even Judas held a purse! We give to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s and to God what is Gods-which is everything.Money is only dirty when used for dirty reasons.
        Are you telling me that the Orthodox Church survives with no.donations.?

      • john L says:

        Christ tells us “Nothing defiled can enter Heaven”. I think that covers most of us. He then goes on to say “Some shall be saved as though it were by fire”. I think this is the scriptural basis for Purgatory. His use of fire as a simile leads to all sorts of lurid pictures of Purgatory, many of which a sensible person will reject. All we have is that certain souls undergo a purification after death. To my mind, standing face to face with Christ in the (burning) shame of our shortcomings is sufficient description.

  27. St.Joseph says:

    John L.
    A good description of Purgatory the state of our soul.It has to be, common sense tells us that.

  28. Nektarios says:

    St Joseph
    Thank you for your reply.
    I do not advocate money for the sacraments or prayers for the dead. In the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox clergy are not allowed to accept money for such services, and I know they do not and are rather scrupulous about that.
    Regarding purgatory, it seems your undestanding of the Salvation you have in Christ is somewhat lacking.
    A Christian is in Christ – your idea of the Christian is too low, earthy, fearful and so on. Get to know what you actually have of Christ, being in Christ. Understand You are a new creature in Christ Jesus, not a patch up sinner whose place would be in Hell right enough for they would reject God, reject Christ, reject Salvation, yet God is willing to save to the uttermost.
    Are you saying, His blood does not wash away every stain of sin? Are you saying, the what Christ has done for us in His work of Salvation is not complete, that we still have to undergo purification
    separate from Christ? No, no, the idea of purgatory become more ludicrious the more one spells it out. The tragedy of the idea of purgatory, it amounts to a salvation of works, no faith required.
    One will undergo some sort of punishment and cleansing. The Salvation presented to us in the Gospels and what the Apostles taught us is total and complete in Christ.
    If one is not `in Christ’ one is not a Christian at all.

    Coming back to purgatory, indulgencies and the like, the abuses of those things for money within the RCC was one of the sparks that brought forth the Reformation.
    Do remember, these were Roman Catholics who stood against such abuses and excesses by RC clergy, and as a result they were called Protestants.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      We discussed all these things a few years back in great detail. Indulgences etc,.
      May I suggest you read back to those discussions and find out what Holy Mother Church
      taught in those days.
      People like yourself will always misrepresent what the Church taught because of your own misunderstanding and lack of faith, that is why you are of the Orthodox Tradition.
      And I don’t disrespect you for your choice
      The C of E is not a reformed Church from the Roman Catholic Church but a new one based on King Henry 8th.Like all the other Christian Churches which eventually split from them and will have taken some of the Truths with them and it will go on and on wanting and searching. till the end of time.
      I am quite happy and contented where I am and I will always pray for the souls in Purgatory while they wait in Gods own time whether they be on earth or not.
      Only God knows that and neither one of us including yourself are Him.
      I would also rather believe that no one ends up in Hell.-even though it exists for Satan and his fallen angels.which wander through the world for the ruin of souls. (prayer to St Michael).
      And let us pray that they don’t succeed !
      Perhaps you will pray for me and my lack of understanding of Salvation as you presume I am ignorant of!!

    • Singalong says:

      “One will undergo some sort of punishment and cleansing.”
      Nektarios, isn`t this what we call Purgatory?

      • Nektarios says:

        Singalong,
        I am not saying, “One will undergo some sort of punishment and cleansing – that is the argument that St. Joseph posits.
        What I am saying is, going back a bit, Ephesians 1:1 .
        The apostle refers to the Christians in Ephesus as Saints. That is all Christians who are faithful are Saints. One cannot arrive or go beyond what the Apostles said and taught.

        The Apostle Paul refers to these Saints/Christians in Ephesus as being `in Christ’. So it is with every true Christian.
        The idea of Purgatory does not place the Christian` in Christ’, but away from Him and has to undergo fire and cleansing and so on for some time. This is not what the Gospels teach at all.
        I don’t know if you, or St. Joseph realize what you are saying? You are making the finished work of Christ not complete, not sufficient, and of no effect unless one undergoes Purgatory. Such a teaching is not the Gospel nor was it there in the beginning or from the early Christian Fathers.
        Lastly on this, it is not me one has to argue your point about Purgatory with, but with the Scriptures.
        And a wee word for St. Joseph: Please don’t get carried away. I found what you said in your last posting harsh, offensive, rude and worst of all, wrong. Don’t descend into being uncharitable.

  29. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarios.
    The comment ‘harsh, offensive, rude, and worst of all wrong, is exactly what I found in your posting.
    I believe in what the Roman Catholic Church teaches, and it is obvious that you don’t-so therefore your argument against my faith is offensive, Argue against the Church yes..
    You are entitled to your opinion but not entitled to argue on what I believe.
    You are also mixing my words when you say to Singalong ‘one will go through some sort of punishment and cleansing that is what we believe.
    Read up on what the Church teaches on Purgatory, then continue to pray that everyone will go straight to Heaven when we die-because that is what you believe-and I hope it is true.
    The thief next to Jesus had the opportunity to be taken up with Christ-many an unfortunate soul do not get that chance, but it is consoling that they will in the next life.
    So according to you ‘if anyone thinks they are living in Christ and are not ,it is OK then’-that is not the way it works!!
    Jesus did not die for that philosophy.He came to TEACH us how to get there-through the narrow gate.and there are plenty who ‘think’ that is what they are doing living in Christ’.
    Purgatory if you want a simple explanation is somewhat like the parable of the Prodigal sons journey home to his Father.It is what we as Catholics call HOPE.

    • Nektarios says:

      St. Joseph,
      Nowhere do I advocate or give the impression in what I have said previously `if anyone thinks they are living in Christ and are not, it is OK.’
      Jesus is not teaching a philosophy as such, but the Way of Life which is embodied in Him the Word of God made flesh.
      The narrow gate is not RCC but Christ Himself and a following Him.
      I will not go on anymore on this.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        You are right in what you say ‘the narrow gate is not the RCC’-but take away the RCC and there would be no such thing as a narrow gate.
        That is the only voice we seem to hear in this day and age!
        That is the only one that gets all the criticism- The Body of Christ- His Church.

      • John L says:

        Nektarios, I have no huge disagreement with you. What you quote from Ephesians, and what you say about being in Christ is fair enough, but it doesn’t go far enough. Christ himself spoke of purification (see my earlier post). Yes his Blood is salvation for all, but we still have the ability to reject, misunderstand, fail to live up to the salvation on offer EVEN WHEN being committed to Christ. You must agree, whatever persuasion of Christianity we profess, we are not “finished articles”. If we were unable to fail or sin we would have no free will. Purification is necessary, whether by personal penitential practices or personally by Christ. The Purgatory that you cannot accept is a false image wrapped up in all sorts of lurid imagery which is far removed from the love of Christ. I would agree, but I would still maintain that Christ offers (as he said) a personal purification.

  30. Iona says:

    Vincent (back on March 20th, but I’ve only just caught up): “Catherine of Genoa had a vision of purgatory in which the holy (as we call them) souls wanted to be there. Once they had caught a glimpse of God and spotted their own failures the one thing they wanted to do was to be made fit for God’s presence.” That sounds very like Cardinal Newman’s description in “The Dream of Gerontius”, – Gerontius, having died, encounters God face-to-face for a brief moment, and is then plunged, suffering but happy, into purgatory. For as long as it takes.

    I hadn’t realised the Orthodox Churches don’t accept the doctrine of purgatory; I thought the main difference was in accepting (or not) the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.
    What about that quotation in Maccabees, – from memory, “It is a holy and a helpful thing to pray for the dead, that they may be released from their sins”. Do the Orthodox Churches accept Maccabees?

    • Nektarios says:

      Iona,
      Of course the Orthodox see as holy and helpful thing to pray for the dead. The reason for that I said earlier, the dead can pray for us, but they cannot pray for themselves. And of course we pray for the dead, that any unconfessed, unrepented of sin be forgiven them
      and that their repose would be n the light everlasting.
      But that is, and has nothing to do with Purgatory as perceived by the RCC.

  31. Iona says:

    Isn’t it rather similar? Unless you are praying retrospectively (that any unconfessed, unrepented sin may already have been forgiven before the moment of the person’s death), surely you are praying for someone who you consider may not be in heaven, but may not be in hell either.

    • Nektarios says:

      Iona
      No it is not rather similar to Purgatory as envisaged or invented more like by the RCC.
      It is also a human rationalisation.
      Prayer for the dead in the Orthodox Church is because having died they cannot pray for themselves, but we can pray for them and they can pray for us..
      We do not know the spiritual state before God of anyone at the time of their death.
      Purgatory is seen as a fairly rational assumption that no one is perfect hence a time of Purgatory is necessary. But you have not fully understood the Salvation we have in Christ.
      Our perfection cannot lie in ourselves, but it does lie in God. If one is `in Christ’, that person is first and foremost a true Christian, having the life of Christ in us.
      Now the life of Christ was raised from the dead, and so we in Him are raised from the dead. Those who die before our Lord’s return are not said to be dead, but merely asleep in Christ, whereupon on the last day, those have died in Christ are raised first and forever to be with Him. Not a word about Pugatory.Why not? Because it is superflous and our Salvation is complete in, and only in Christ.

      One last thing on this if I may? If a person has died in their sins, unless Christ forgives them, then no amount of time in this imagined Purgatory will gain anything. Perhaps you have not cottoned on to the fact – dead things don’t react. Neither in this so-called Purgatory would they be able to react, improve, become perfected.
      Do realise, we have no perfection in and of ourselves,only in the matchless life of Christ.
      For in Eternity it is that life of Christ in us that remains. When we die, being the wages of sin, we die and all we have done, put together by thought, dies with us. But that which reposes in Christ in hope of the Resurrection is His life in us now.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        When Moses and Elijah appeared at the Transfiguration, seen by the Apostles.
        That to me is Heaven.
        When Jesus died for our sins all those who were asleep rose from the dead.
        As far as I am concerned He closed the gates of Hell which are prepared for the Devil and his angels.
        You are contradicting yourself in saying that they are asleep in Christ and will only rise on the last day. Why do you make atonement for them-it is like you are saying the prayers we pray are held in abeyance until the Last Day when Jesus comes again.
        If they are sleeping how can they pray for us, which we as RC’s believe that they do..
        There bodies may be dead but there soul is still alive it never dies.alive.
        In Purgatory it is being filled with Grace, as they died in Grace.

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