Thursday, November 26, 2015


The story below is a shocking one of sacrilege. However, the artist-perpetrator also needs prayers. He is certainly "broken" by his life experiences and thus may not be completely culpable for his actions in the sense of "mortal sin." His full consent of the will may have been compromised by mental illness.

By receiving Holy Communion in the hand he took over the course of time more than 250 consecrated Hosts, the glorified Body and Blood of our Risen Lord, and placed these on a sidewalk in the form of an artistic expression which was then photographed.

However, those who are culpable are the bishops of the world who first promoted Holy Communion in the hand and now refuse to see the handwriting on the wall as to what a horrible legacy this has been. (Oddly enough Wednesday's Old Testament reading for Mass was the reading about the "hand writing on the wall!")

Most every priest in Ordinary Form Mass parishes including me and my parishioners knows of the desecration of the Hosts by people who walk off with the Host. Some do so in complete ignorance. They are not Catholic but come forward to receive neither knowing they shouldn't nor understanding the gravity of receiving let alone of taking the Host and discarding it on the floor or elsewhere.  There have been Hosts taken from papal Masses and placed on eBay for sale!

Some are Satan worshipers and know exactly what they are doing and why when they take a Host from the Church! This happened when I was pastor of a downtown parish in Augusta.

When I was at the Vatican and distributed Holy Communion to the periphery of the crowds at a papal outdoor Mass, I realized that many receiving in the hand would pass the Host back to others and then receive again. As I wasn't looking at what was happening trying to keep my bearings with so many wanting to receive in a confined space and people not moving out of the way to allow it, I'm afraid this went on for some time!  God only knows what happens to Hosts at the majority of this gigantic outdoor Masses the pope has either at the Vatican or on pilgrimages!

I doubt that the stealing of Hosts from FSSP parishes or SSPX parishes is a problem although that is not to say that someone intent on stealing a Host couldn't remove it from his mouth. But it is less likely under ordinary circumstances when someone approaches the railing for Holy Communion and kneels and then receives on the tongue.

Here is the sad,sad, shocking story:

SHOCKING: Consecrated Hosts Desecrated in Spanish Art Exhibit

A new low for performance art: In the city of Pamplona, Spain, artist Abel Azcona used consecrated hosts to spell out the word “Pederasty” in Spanish on the sidewalk; the display was photographed, and featured in an exhibit in a city-operated public art gallery.
By AbelAzcona (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By AbelAzcona (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Azcona is a controversial artist whose video performance project “Intimacy” features the artist engaged in raw sexual activity with other males. In the first stage of the project, Azcona explains, he attempts to show the “intimate emotional bonds” with the artist Juan Yuste,
“with whom he had a partner relationship for the last months of 2013…. further stages shall be recorded from now on with different collaborators during the life of the artist.”  
In this latest shocking presentation, part of an exhibit titled “Buried,” photos show Azcona spreading the Body of Christ on the pavement: He uses 242 consecrated hosts which he procured by pretending to receive Holy Communion at Mass. The Hosts themselves were displayed beside the photos, until a private citizen removed them from the exhibit.
An equal opportunity insulter of religion, Azcona also created the controversial “Eating a Koran” video in which he is shown tearing up a Koran and then eating it, page by page. For that presentation, he received death threats.
*     *     *     *     *
Despite Azcona’s belligerent portrayals of anti-religious motifs, one can almost feel sorry for him after reading his bio on the artist’s Vimeo site. It tells of a tragic childhood marred by abandonment and maltreatment by his prostitute mother:
His artistic exploration considered highly biographic looks into his own childhood, scarred experiences of abuse, abandonment, and child maltreatment, being his biological mother a key reference of his experience and therefore of his artistic craft.
The feeling of abandonment experimented for the first time because of his mother, who practiced prostitution, and his pass through multiple child shelters, mental institutions and different foster homes, are determinant to the way Azcona expresses himself.
His life experience, marked by drugs, prostitution, or several suicide attempts during his adolescence, are linked to his creation and so he doesn’t hesitate to share with the viewers through his work. In his works on this intimacy, Azcona is known for experiencing pain and physical stamina, exposing himself to beatings, intoxications, aggressions and various tortures both physical and psychological, and doesn’t cower to confront himself.
Azcona tells us that when inner pain is so intense, outer pain can disappear; uses pain to empathize with his own feelings and own experiences during childhood and teen ages. Also, he assures that when he practices self-harm, it’s his own choice to alter the shape of his body, as opposing to an abused child or woman, without a chance to decide. A resilient Azcona, creator of a cathartic work as a mean of self knowledge and personal construction.
*     *     *     *     *
The Archbishop of Pamplona-Tudela, Archbishop Francisco Perez, has announced that he will celebrate a Mass of Reparation in the cathedral on Wednesday, November 25.  According to the Spanish-language newspaper Noticias de Navarra:
In a statement to the media, the Archbishop said that this “is a serious desecration of the Eucharist, a fact that deeply offends the Catholic faith and feelings, and violates religious freedom.”
Therefore, the Archbishop expressed his “strong condemnation of these painful facts which constitute an attack on the faith of that Catholic community of the faithful of this Archdiocese and of all Catholics.”
*     *     *     *     *
And now, the legality of the offensive exhibit has been challenged. According to a report by Catholic News Agency,
The Christian Lawyers Association has filed a lawsuit against Azcona for violating Spanish law. It has said the city council must pull the display by Thursday or face legal action itself.
Maider Beloki, a councilwoman from the city’s Department for Culture, presented the exhibit, which is titled “Buried.” The Hosts were laid out on display until a private citizen removed them from the art exhibit.
Polonia Catellanos, spokesperson for the Christian Lawyers Association, told CNA that the association has filed a lawsuit against the author of the display for “an offense against religious sentiments and desecration.” The offenses are illegal under Articles 524 and 525 of the Spanish Penal Code.
“We’ve also given the Pamplona City Council until Thursday to close down the art exhibit. If they don’t do it, we’ll expand the lawsuit to include charges of complicity and necessary cooperation,” Castellanos stated.
As of Monday evening, November 23, more than 75,000 individuals had signed a petition asking the Pamplona city council to immediately and totally remove the exhibit.


Marc said...

In my experience, traditional chapels tend to use very small hosts (approximately dime-sized). They are so small that they usually dissolve quite quickly. So it is incredibly unlikely that a host would be stolen from such a chapel.

Gene said...

There is absolutely nothing morally wrong with shooting people like ain't legal, but it is certainly morally justifiable.

James said...

Communion on the tongue doesn't prevent these kinds of incidents (as can be seen from Graham Greene's story 'The Hint of an Explanation'), although I'm sure this 'artist' wouldn't have been able to accumulate quite so many hosts this way. It would be interesting to ask him why he didn't just steal from a tabernacle (the normal practice of satanists): there's some twisted morality at work here, as he'd no doubt say that he wouldn't dream of stealing.

In Greene's story, the thief sees the error in his ways and becomes a priest. It seems pretty unlikely that this narcissist's journey of 'self knowledge and personal construction' will end in a similar way.

Anonymous said...

How much do you want to bet that the Vatican doesn't have a problem with this form of artistic exspession?

You must rember Father you have to believe in the Catholic Faith to have a problem with what that person did.

If bishops are trying to permit sacraligeous communions and have no problem giving communion to unrepentant public sinners why would they have a problem with this "art".

The bishops didn't have a problem when the Eucharist was distributed at a papal Mass in plastic cups and the then passed around from person to person like a potato chip in the pouring rain and trampled underfoot in the mud? Why would they have a problem with this. The Mass has been offered for the last 50 in the most impious, scandalous ways imaginable and nothing is done. Why would the bishops care about this?

Julian Barkin said...

Gene that is abhorent you would say that. I guess you are one of those "justifiable killing" people who likes to disobey the Catechism and the 5th commandment with your rationalism.

Radicals Misrepresenting Traditionalists: Cafeteria Catholics on the Right Side of the spectrum.

Fr AJM, why did you let Gene's comment through like that uncontested?

Robert Kumpel said...

Most Catholics in the Novus Ordo culture have been completely surrounded by the imposition of Holy Communion in the hand. If you try to explain that this is an "indult", people look at you as if you were crazy. If you explain that the worldwide norm is STILL to receive it on the tongue, few have any recollection of most people receiving that way, because receiving in the hand is so pervasive. When this was introduced back in the 1970's, our parish was told "This is the new way we are to receive Communion" with no mention that we could still receive on the tongue. I have been to ONE parish in the last 20 years where the majority of people receive on the tongue and it was in a small town in Virginia, where, besides the parish church, there were two other Catholic chapels and all three venues also offered the TLM.

Of course receiving on the tongue again would not eliminate all abuses, BUT IT WOULD GREATLY CURTAIL THEM. However, this is never going to stop until parish directors of religious education stop teaching First Communicants to receive in the hand. Most children are not aware that this is the norm or that they can even receive this way. Somebody, somewhere up the ladder has decided that the INDULT, which encourages abuse and, in the opinion of many leading churchmen (like Bishop Athanasius Schneider) has served to decrease belief in the Real Presence--somebody has decided that this indult should supersede the norm and has imposed it as such.

We have got to stop indoctrinating children in this failed practice.

JBS said...

Sometimes we search for practical justification for reform, when perhaps we should just be honest and do the right things for the real reasons.

Marc is right about the size of hosts. The traditional size is also better for Communion to the sick, who often have less difficulty chewing a smaller and thinner host.

Jindal said...

This is horrible. However, I believe an all-powerful God can un-consecrate a host if He sees that something terrible is about to happen to it. God wins in the end!

Gene said...

Oh, Julian, cry your heart out. This guy and guys and girls like him, defile the Host, have gay sex openly in public and have it filmed, and advocate sex with children, etc. Seriously, pass the ammo.

Gene said...

Oh, and Julian, while you are whining about Constitutional Amendments...remember the First Amendment? Seems like you don't mind trampling that one.

Gene said...

Jindal, I am not worried about God, I am concerned about what blithely accepting this kind of behavior says about us.

JBS said...

Perhaps Gene's comment should have been tempered with greater mercy, but it hardly seems offensive to faith or morals. If Our Lord resorted to violence against the profane use of the Temple, then perhaps there is moral room for even greater violence against Eucharistic blasphemy.

JBS said...


God knew something terrible would happen to His Son, and yet He proceeded with the Incarnation. The solution to the present problem is fasting and Eucharistic adoration, not pretending it is not really a problem.

gob said...

Poor Eugene...he seems to have lost his marbles.

Gene said...

Mercy is an act of will, measured by the individual or State depending upon the offense and the intention. God's mercy is an act of God's will...inscrutable, freely given, not compelled and, often in Scripture, a terrible and harsh mercy. It is not some blanket, pseudo-theological, feel-good, social concept that we apply indiscriminately. People like this creep are INTENTIONALY and unapologetically waging war against the Church, the family, the culture. The Church has literally taken up arms against them before and was completely justified in doing so. If you consider the Church to extend back to the Children of Israel (and I do), then God dealt harshly with them when they did NOT slay all the infidels, rather succumbed to the eclecticism that led to their exile and destruction. Ya'll need a Scripture lesson but, then, Catholics have never been known for their Scriptural sagacity.

Jindal said...

Let's take a short break while Gene cleans spittle off his screen.

Gene said...

No spittle on the screen...that is a straightforward theological understanding of mercy, followed by a reminder of our responsibility to combat evil. Jindal should take a short break to change his diaper...

Anonymous said...

JBS - No, there is no room for "greater violence against Eucharistic blasphemy." None whatsoever.

Lashing out, "There is absolutely nothing morally wrong with shooting people like ain't legal, but it is certainly morally justifiable" is a symptom of perverted moral thinking that is driven by anger and frustration, not by a desire to be the face of Christ to others.

Anonymous 2 said...

Gene (and JBS):

I too find such desecration of the host abhorrent. But if I then seek to justify morally killing the person who committed such desecration, please explain to me how I am any different from a Muslim who kills those who desecrate the Holy Qur‘an (which enshrines the literal word of God in Muslim eyes), or insult the Prophet Muhammad. And if you say, because ours is the one true faith (and theirs is a false religion), remember that our hypothetical Muslim will say the same about his faith (and ours). And, following this line of thinking, if each religion took the same view, we would all end up killing one another for committing such blasphemies.

And Gene: How odd, not to mention inconsistent, of you, of all people, to invoke protection of the First Amendment (erroneously, of course, because Father McDonald is not a state actor –the First Amendment does not apply between private persons) against Julian for wanting to do to you what you incessantly try to do to others on this blog with whom you disagree, that is, to shut them up by employing a variety of questionable rhetorical tactics.

Regarding both issues, then, why not apply the Golden Rule and leave the judgment (and any penalty) up to God?

By the way, we do know our Old Testament Scripture. The violence apparently inflicted through God’s command in the Old Testament is one of the major challenges many Catholics (and Christians more generally) face in their faith life. Here again one can draw important parallels with Islam. In both faiths there are ways to “contextualize” the violence. And here again I find it ironic, not to mention inconsistent, that you would criticize those Muslims who advocate violence against unbelievers in the name of their God based on their sacred texts and then turn around and in the next breath champion such violence in the name of our God based on our own sacred texts.

No, to both our hypothetical Muslim and to you I stand with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “Not in God’s name”—and, of course, with Pope Francis who has said that it is blasphemy to kill in God’s name. So, you cannot rectify one blasphemy by committing another.

Gene said...

Anon 2, you are a relativist. Every religion believes their's is the one true faith. The Christian knows that his faith is the one true revealed faith. You do not believe that? It really bothers you to hear it, doesn't it. But, in the so-called "encounter of Christianity with world religions" (Tillich's lousy book), the Christian must say, "we know something you do not;" "we possess a truth that you do not have and all other Gods are false gods.

Now, there is quite a difference between the wars waged by Israel against her adversaries and the violence of Islam, the first being that it was commanded by JHWH the one true God ( I know you do not believe that, but tough). It was a part of the path of salvation history that was preparatory for the Incarnation and the coming of Christ, Christ himself being the culmination and fulfillment of that history and God's will in history. Christ declares himself the new Torah, incorporating into himself both the violence and judgement of JHWH in history and the redeeming act of God as revealed in the NT. We are told by Him that that violence and judgement will return, so it ain't over.

Now, if the Christian God is the one true God...and we do believe that...there is no need for justification of His acts in the OT, no need for it to be a "challenge" for Christians, and no need to "contextualize" (read "rationalize") the violence (what BS). It was God's will and command. End of discussion. I see why it is so difficult for you squeamish types who wring their hands over killing a roach to believe in God. I know it is a struggle for you, but keep at it.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

I we are going to use Old Testament passages to justify our use of violence today, then we can't pick and choose.

We must establish Stoning Centers in every city to execute those women, and not their male counterparts, who are guilty of adultery.

We must execute those children who curse their parents, those who violate the Sabbath, those who attempt to convert us to other religions, those who fail to pen up dangerous bulls, etc etc etc.

We don't do this because we live under a new dispensation. We don't do this because, by grace, we have been redeemed. We don't do this because it is contrary to the Church's teaching.

Gene said...

Once again, Cavy Gnaw completely misses the point.

Anonymous 2 said...


I almost wrote: “This does not make me a relativist” but hoped you would understand this without my having to say it. It seems that I was expecting too much of you. I was pointing out the logical consequences that follow when people of different religions take a similar view about blasphemy and what should be done about it. I will, however, admit to being a pluralist, which is quite different.

In response to my question, “how I am any different from a Muslim who kills those who desecrate the Holy Qur‘an (which enshrines the literal word of God in Muslim eyes), or insult the Prophet Muhammad” if I am also willing to kill the blasphemer, you make what is probably the only move you can make given your apparent premise about the God of the Old Testament (and it seems, about Jesus Christ). The Muslim who is willing to kill the blasphemer today is in the same position. One way out of this position is the move Father Kavanaugh (and as I understand it, the Catholic Church as a whole) makes, that is, to limit the relevant texts to a particular historical context. You seem to be unwilling to do that. In this you are like the Muslim fundamentalist who reads the text as literally, eternally, and universally true and thus as God’s command abstracted from all context. The alternative approach is to consider that some of God’s commands may be like this but others are not. Yet even those that are eternally and universally true (the Ten Commandments for example) require interpretation and exegesis, and this in itself may be impossible without attention to the historical context.

But perhaps I have you wrong. Father Kavanaugh has suggested the test of your true position. Would you do the things he mentions?

Gene said...

Salvation history is linear. JHWH's actions in the life of Israel were preparatory to the Incarnation and the Revealing of the one true God and the one true faith. Why is that so difficult for you to grasp? The question as to whether I or anyone else would do those things is completely irrelevant in a theological context. The will of God does not have human reason, or law, or mores as its referent. It is false exegesis to read 21st century thinking and values back into the life of Israel in the OT or into the life of Christ in the NT. Reason and rationalism can carry us only so far in understanding the "context" in which the acts of God take place. There are many instances where the will of God, and those seized by it, have done things we might consider irrational or outside a reasonable context. If we judge these actions to be nice, we call these people saints; if we do not like them we try to "contextualize" their actions. Then, if we cannot do that, we wring our hands and moan. The Church, in past times, has been led by the will of God to slaughter the enemies of Christ, to torture heretics, to excommunicate whole nations. The Holy Spirit may lead us again to acts which at other times may horrify rationalists and others who worship man. God does not inhabit an upper class drawing room, an academic quadrangle, or a Boston encounter group. He lives in the Whirlwind and asks Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth...!!"

Gene said...

Oh, to answer your silly and irrelevant question, no I would not do those things under normal circumstances. Also, be careful regarding dispensationalist theology. It has some pitfalls.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - You have previously argued that the Church's teaching which forbids the kiling of non-combatants in war can be ignored. You frequently make references to guns, gun violence, scoping out sniper positions in your neighborhood. You violently attack those who call you out on your errors or who simply disagree with your opinions.

No, I did not miss your point.

You are, it seems to me, addicted to violence and to the harm it causes. You never hesitate to suggest violence as a cure-all for the woes of society. That is your tragedy.

I pray that something of the hope that is spoken of throughout the Advent season will manage to find its way past your anger and fear and enable you to trust, as Mary did, that God's word to you, and to us, will be fulfilled.

Gene said...

I never said the Church's teaching should be ignored, only that it is often unrealistic. I am certainly not addicted to violence, which is just a stupid statement. I think I mentioned that we'd better clear fields of fire in the neighborhood...that was hyperbole. I seriously doubt if your prayers make it past the ceiling...

Gene said...

Oh, and the points you miss are theological ones, which you ignore because you are ill-equipped to discuss them and probably do not care, anyway.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - "under normal circumstances" is a fudge phrase. The moral principles of the Church obtain under ALL circumstances, "normal" and otherwise.

Anonymous 2 said...


This is a very interesting theological discussion. What you have done, it seems to me, is to come dangerously close to the prevailing conception of God in Islam that Pope Benedict expressly contrasted with the God of reason in which we believe, despite the ultimate inscrutability and ineffability of the Godhead. Here is an extract from Pope Benedict’s address.

“The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. ‘God, he says, is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. . . To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death. . . .’

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.”

However, Pope Benedict’s address repays reading in full:

In short, Gene, although I believe in the same God as you do, I do not share your belief (or the prevailing belief among Muslims) regarding His nature.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene, I'll post your comments about killing non-combatants in a day or two. You know these are EASY to find don't you? You can't hide from your own words.

You also can't claim, "Oh, that was just hyperbole!". Well, you can, but it is obviously not true.

I am more that prepared to discuss any theological point you care to raise. Shall we start with your highly theological point, that's just a "stupid statement."

I care enough about the Church's theology not to say that it is "unrealistic.". That's what people who are looking for ways to ignore it say.

Anonymous 2 said...


Don’t forget how this conversation began—with you asserting it is morally justified to shoot the man who desecrated the Host. When challenged, you invoked God as portrayed in the Old Testament in defense. And you seem to have doubled down on this conception of God, suggesting that the Church has been led by the will of God to torture heretics. What I would like to know is whether you think the Church would have been justified in torturing YOU when you were a Presbyterian minister and, if not, what changed morally (clearly, quite a lot changed legally, but you want to talk morality not legality).

Gene said...

Anon 2, I have never advocated violent conversion and do not. However, I have pointed out that the Church has, at times, had to resort to force and violence to defend herself and the Faith. There is a difference. As far as violence is concerned, to say that violence is not in God's nature is certainly contradicted by Scripture and by Christ's warnings in the NT and in Revelation. Once again, Pope Benedict and all of us, tend to filter our reading of Scripture through a particular type of Enlightenment reason which enables us to feel better about certain things in Scripture. God is not compelled by His own nature to act in accordance with "reason." The Creation is contrary to reason, as is the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the Miracles, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and Christ's return in historical time. Also, for good measure, are the Immaculate Conception, the Real Presence, and various visions, epiphanies, and miracles throughout Church history. There is theological reason, which is called theo-logic, but it is bracketed on both ends by God's Creative and redemptive act and cannot be subsumed under rationalistic reason. Neither the Pope, nor anyone else, can have it both ways. This is an old theological issue that has hounded protestants and Catholics for centuries. You should read a book or two on it. A good place to begin is with H. Richard Neighbur's, "Reason and Revelation." There are significant differences between how, for instance, Augustine and Aquinas view reason, Luther and Calvin, and Barth and Ratzinger. There is also a good treatment of it in Von Balthasar's book on Karl Barth, the title of which slips my mind.

Cavy Gnaw, re: killing combatants. No one is advocating the intentional and willful killing of non-comabatants. But, it is going to happen in war and that is just how it is. I do not get appalled at that because it is a fact of war. If you get off on searching my old posts and tossing them at me, I do not care. Have fun.

Gene said...

Looks like "Reason and Revelation" is out of print, but his book "The Meaning of Revelation" is still around. Also, Etienne Gilson, a medieval theology scholar, has a book on reason and revelation in the Middle Ages that I read in grad school and remember as being quite good. I am still pretty Calvinist/Augustinian in my belief that human reason is rather puny when it comes to understanding God's will and actions.

Gene said...

RE: Torturing me when a Presbyterian minister. Not during the historical time period I was one. In the 13th century, all bets are off. LOL! What changed morally? Well, the Enlightenment and its sequellae, for starters. There were many historical changes, as well, as the Faith spread and became dominant and less conflicted and chaotic. However, we are moving back toward the chaos and conflict.

Gene said...

One more correction...I emailed a theology colleague and he corrected me that Neibuhr's "The Meaning of Revelation" is the book I am referencing. I had conflated the two titles. Anyway, Niebuhr's book is concise and very useful as a jumping off point. Also, his book that I have mentioned before, "Christ and Culture" a true classic that can be read and understood by non-theology students and which delineates quite nicely the various Christologies of today. Although a neo-prot, Niebuhr's books transcend denominational differences and speak to the entire spectrum of theology. Do not confuse him with his theologian brother, Rheinold Niebuhr.

Anonymous 2 said...


Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking responses and for the references. Clearly I do not have your theological training. Nevertheless, I do believe I can think critically, raise pertinent and challenging issues, and ask pertinent and challenging questions, and this (I hope) may itself help advance the conversation.

To begin by clarifying a point at the beginning of your 7:03 a.m. post: Pope Benedict was using forcible conversion as an illustration of a more general point. Thus, immediately before the passage I quoted he says:

“In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

It is this last statement that provoked such a strong, and often violent, backlash among Muslims around the world and that Benedict now qualifies in a footnote as not reflecting his own personal views about Islam. Benedict should indeed perhaps have been more careful—also about referring to holy war, a term that apparently originates in Christendom, not Islamdom. In any event, the main point is clear: Benedict continues with the Emperor’s more general point about the nature of God:

“The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. ‘God’, he says, ‘is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. . . . . ’”

I don’t think one can explain away Benedict’s apparent approval of this view as being the product of Enlightenment reason, as the main point of Benedict’s address is precisely to argue that the Enlightenment view is a far too narrow and impoverished view of reason. And one certainly cannot explain away the Emperor’s view in this way. So, I would speculate that neither of them would see the examples you cite as being contrary to divine reason or, to use your term, theo-logic. Benedict also makes the important point regarding the Church’s rejections of “voluntarism” in favor of “intellectualism” (following a similar battle between the two that occurred in Islam, by the way) that:

“[T]he faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which - as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated - unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, ‘transcends’ knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos.”


Anonymous 2 said...

So here we arrive at the central point it seems: all the instances you cite as example of “theo-logic” are compatible with God’s nature as a God of reason and of love. Violence and blood-letting are not.

All this just leads to a question, of course, because I do not know what the theologians you cite say about this point. So, what do they say? How does one answer this point? It also leads to further questions such as: What do we then make of the violence apparently inflicted or commanded by God in the Old Testament? Logically, we either have to accept that this too is indeed part of God’s nature or somehow otherwise explain these Scriptures without of course slipping into heresy such as Marcion’s. This is what I meant by the Old Testament violence posing a challenge to faith, albeit not, I believe, an insurmountable one.

Anonymous 2 said...


My own personal faith within the framework of Catholicism proceeds from one very simple premise set out in John 14:9-10 and 10:30:

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. . . . . The Father and I are one.”

And I am unable to reconcile this Jesus with the kinds of religiously motivated violence you advocate and justify by reference to the Old Testament.

Moreover, I often think we are only having these sorts of conversations because the Church became part of the political power structure following first the toleration and then the official institution of Christianity in the fourth century (and similar institutionalization in the Germanic kingdoms following the fall of the Western Roman empire). Arguably, instead of just transforming political structures and policies the marriage of Christianity and political power transformed both of them, with both beneficial and not so beneficial consequences

Gene said...

Anon 2, I suppose I am still a Calvinist with regard to analogia entis. It is a continuing issue among Catholic theologians and among protestant and catholic ones. Regarding the Enlightenment reason dialogue, I think we are using Enlightenment reason to critique Enlightenment reason. The Augustinian/Calvinist point is that there is an impassable gulf between rationalism, under which it is fair to subsume Enlightenment reason, and God's will and actions. Theologically, these can be seen as matters of degree and emphasis, but they do shape doctrine and evangelical practice. In other words, I can be a Catholic or a Calvinist, a Thomist or an Augustinian, and still confess the Creeds and everything in CCC while my actions and statements may vary greatly from another believer's. There is a line somewhere, but that is another discussion. I think we have to accept the violence in Scripture as a given and a part of God's nature. He is not one-dimensional and, while he may be a God of reason, He is not a God according to reason...our reason. If God posited the violence and if He willed it, then it is by definition just and right. This is what the theologians I read would say. I am unclear what you mean by "voluntarism." This is a good discussion despite our being poles apart.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - You have advocated "the intentional and willful killing of non-combatants."

August 31, 2014 you said, "The day after Bush found out that the terrorists were Islamic, he should have carpet bombed Mecca and Medina, Baghdad, and every major Islamic city in the Middle East, began a wholesale deportation of Muslims in the US, forbade them from immigrating, and declared them undesirables."

Carpet-bombing major metropolitan cities necessarily involves the intentional and willful killing on non-combatants.

When asked if you were serious about this mass killing of non-combatants, you replied, "I am serious, Anon 2. Oh, Ignotus, it is not immoral to kill enemies in a war and, like it or not, we are in a war with Islam. They do not give a damn about our innocents, and I do not give a damn about their's, if there are any."

You don't give a damn about non-combatants.

So it is plain that you do, indeed, advocate the intentional killing of non-combatants.

And now in an attempt to weasel out of your past statements, you assert that the Church's teaching is "often unrealistic." Labeling it "unrealistic," you believe that we can set it aside or overlook it or otherwise ignore it, and do what we damn well please, at least in the case of killing non-combatants.

This is balderdash. The Church's teaching doesn't admit of circumstances in which that teaching does not apply. The prohibition against killing non-combatants is absolute, admitting of no exceptions, even when a person may find it "unrealistic."

If we can set aside those teaching we find "unrealistic," I would ask, can a person set aside the Church's teaching regarding the Incarnation if he finds that "unrealistic?" Or the teaching on the real Sacramental Presence of Jesus under the forms of bread and wine? Or the teaching regarding the authority of priests to absolve sacramentally a penitent's sins?

Plainly, that a person thinks a teaching of the Church is "unreasonable" is insufficient to reject, as you do, that teaching.

Anonymous 2 said...


This is how Pope Benedict described “voluntarism” in his Regensburg address:

“In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God's voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, . . . . etc."

P.S. It may be a good discussion_because_we are poles apart.

Gene said...

Go away, Cavy Gnaw. Yes, if you carpet bomb enemy cities, you kill non-combatants. You kill them firing into hooches, etc. Often, you cannot tell the combatants from the non-combatants because they switch roles. War involves civilian deaths. But, they are not desirable. Life is hard Cavy Gnaw...I'd love to see you under fire and how you would react.

Gene said...

Thank you for that clarification. That is what I had supposed you meant, and is a very concise and straight-forward statement of the Thomist view of reason and the pitfalls of the Scotist position. But, the Thomist position has its own pitfalls. (I am sitting in my office and referencing Etienne Gilson, Copleston, W.T. Jones, Aulen, and Karl case you are interested and so you will not think these ideas are gems of my own.) The reason/revelation dialogue is as old as theology and will never go away. Again, it is often more a case of degree/emphasis than of a qualitative difference in theology, so neither of us is a heretic for finding ourselves on any given point in the spectrum. But, the practical implications of where we land on the spectrum are significant. I begin with the caveat that Augustine is much closer to Scotus in many ways than he is to Thomas.
The synthesis between the "Greek spirit and the Christian spirit" breaks down at some point because there is no precedent in Greek thought for a revealed theology. There is one "great chain of being" (Lovejoy, book by same title) that leads, without a break, to Truth, beauty, the good. Christian theology has used this Platonism as an apt, but not perfect, analogy for the nature of God. Augustine, and later Scotus, see the cracks in the wall. For Augustine, original sin and concupiscence are the limits upon reason, and the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity and Christ's free grace also defy reason. For Scotus, God's will, although it may adapt itself to man;s reason, is not compelled by it. We cannot use reason to explain the nature of God because reason is God's gift to us and tainted by sin. Although a philosophical tautology, theologically God's will is good because it is God's will. Therefore, if God wills the destruction of Sodom, or the slaughter of the Canaanites, or the ravages of Joshua, they are de facto good and just because they are God's will. Scouts says very clearly that this "does not mean that God is capricious, rather is an indication of his ultimate freedom and inscrutability to human reason." God, though acting within the understanding of human reason and morals, may freely choose to depart from them. Logic and reason do not compel him. "If you ask why heat heats, the only answer is that heat is heat; so the only answer to why God willed a certain thing is that He willed it."
Of course, this is frustrating to human reason, as well it should be...God is God. God is not determined by our morals or our concepts of goodness because He, a priori, willed them. Scouts says, "Freedom belongs to the Divine Perfection of volition an must formally be present in God. Volition directed to the final end is the most perfect kind of volition, it must include what belongs to perfect volition, i.e, freedom." Yes, Scotus ultimately leads to Ockham, Luther, Calvin, Kant (though not necessarily), but Thomas leads to stuff like Teilhard and Vatican II. Ironically, either position can lead to a humanism of sorts...Thomas to rationalism and Scotus to some kind of existentialism. But, I digress.
This is what I mean when I speak of a too close association with human reason in Catholic presupposes reason to critique reason and tries to bridge the gap of revelation with analogy. Then, why Christ at all? Why revelation at all? Why not just a progressive chain of being from which we deduce God and salvation through reason? The Thomist position leads to a weakened Christology and semi-Pelagianism; the "freedom of God" position can lead to what Pope Benedict cautioned against...a God so "wholly other" as to be inaccessible....which is why I ultimately made the switch to the Church.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - When you advocate carpet bombing you advocate killing non-combatants. Doing do is in direct opposition to the Church's teaching. Neither I nor the teaching will "go away" as you so ardently desire.

Gene said...

Cavy Gnaw, what else is the Church supposed to say...of course it condemns the killing of non-combatants. All of us do in principle, but in a fallen and sinful world, some of us are caught up in events caused by that sin in which bad things happen. I am sure God will sort it all out for us believers in time. How will he deal with those Priests who refuse to confess Him before man? Hmmmm...

Anonymous 2 said...


Many thanks for your detailed response. Yes, as I understand it, the debate goes back at least to the time of Plato and the Euthyphro. The best I have been able to do with it when challenged by the voluntarist objection that an omnipotent God cannot be bound by any external standards is to suggest that maintaining that God is X or is Y is not the same as saying He is bound by external standards but a belief about His nature. Thus, as you suggest, it can be part of my faith that God is a God of Reason and Love who cannot act against His nature as such and part of another’s faith that He is a God of pure Will and therefore in His omnipotence can act however He chooses, for_that_is His nature.

This said I do find guidance in the Person of Jesus as indicated in an earlier post (as well, of course, in the teaching of the Church) and also, as He taught us to do (for example referencing how we treat our own children), from our own natures as the Imago Dei, fallen creatures though we are. Moreover, I think it reasonable (that word again) to infer that in an unfallen state we are not violent and that our violence is part of our falleness. But we can’t be “more good” in this respect than God. And this then brings one inexorably to the very challenging thought that the violence in the Old Testament may have as much, and perhaps more, of the human in it as the divine.

I guess my bottom line is that I find the voluntarist’s God far more frightening than the intellecualist’s God, and I think we see the risks associated with the former conception very present in our world today. Thus I find even more frightening the person, a fallen human being, who claims to be carrying out the will of such a God. Isn’t it safer to say simply “Vengeance is the Lord’s” not mine?

Sorry if this post is a bit rambling but these are profoundly important and disturbing issues. I believe very much that one’s ethics are determined by one’s metaphysics, or perhaps it is the other way around. In any event, there is an intimate connection between the two.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - The Church teaches that killing non-combatants is morally wrong because it has been revealed by God that it is so.

You propose carpet bombing cities, which will result in the INTENDED deaths of hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of non-combatants. That you would intend the death of non-combatants is evil, morally bankrupt, destructive. Their deaths cannot be attributed to the fallen, sinful nature of humanity. Their deaths are directly attributable to the evil choice made by those who caused their deaths.

You assert that you don't give a damn about the killing of non-combatants, yet you try to deflect the fact that this is directly opposed to the will of God and to the teaching of the Church.

Gene said...

If their deaths cannot be attributed to the fallen, sinful nature of humanity what, pray tell, can they be attributed to? In combat, you cannot give a damn about non-combatant deaths. You try to prevent them within reason, but you do not risk your life or your buddies lives to avoid them. War itself is opposed to the will of God.

Gene said...

Anon 2, I agree that our violence is a part of our fallenness. Re: OT, OT violence was commanded by JHWH; Israel was a tool of his righteousness and wrath. Our positions are probably pretty clear to each other...the voluntarist God scares you, the God bound by human reason frightens me even more. To say that God cannot act against His nature is still to place a limit upon God. God, being omnipotent, posits his own nature, but he cannot by definition, be bound by it if he is omnipotent. This is similar to the old "can God make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it," schtick. We cannot toss up logical absurdities as challenges to God's nature. But, neither can we use philosophical reason to define Him. Anyway, thanks for your responses. You have obviously given this much thought, as I have.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - "In combat, you cannot give a damn about non-combatant deaths."

Yes, you can, and yes, you must. War does not alter the Church's teaching on what is or is not morally acceptable.

CCC 2312 "The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. 'The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.'"

Note especially the reference to "human reason." This was an essential part, maybe even THE essential part, of Pope Benedict's address at Regensberg. God does not act and cannot be understood as acting irrationally, unreasonably.

Trying to prevent civilian deaths is morally required. INTENDING the deaths of non-combatants, which is what one intends in carpet-bombing metropolitan areas, is always morally forbidden. It does not matter if such bombing will shorten the duration of the war, lower the casualties on one side or the other or both, or achieve some other morally acceptable goal.

The use of morally condemned means - intending the death of non-combatants - to achieve a good end is not acceptable and is directly opposed to the Church's teaching.

Gene said...

Tell you what Cavy Gnaw, when you have humped it through the bush and hunkered down under fire, endured a couple of rocket and mortar attacks, seen your buddies with their throats cut and their testicles stuffed in their mouths, and watched 12 year olds open fire on your platoon from inside a hut, come back and talk to me about what Mother Church says and what you think. This discussion is over.

Anonymous 2 said...


A couple of (related) thoughts:

(1) I think we may have discussed this particular point about civilian deaths before but perhaps it is necessary to make some distinctions – for example, between the kind of scenario you describe where battle fatigue and PTSD take their inevitable toll and, moreover, where it may be genuinely difficult to distinguish non-combatants from combatants, on the one hand, and indiscriminate carpet bombing of civilian populations in a city, on the other.

(2) If we do not ascribe reason to God (and the consequent inscription by God of the natural law on the human heart discoverable through the use of human reason applied to natural inclinations towards certain basic goods such as life, friendship, procreation, etc.), haven’t we just removed the natural law foundations for much of the Church’s teaching, or at least divinely inspired natural law foundations? Admittedly, it is still possible to apply secular natural law reasoning but I am not sure the Church wants to stand on just this.

Anonymous 2 said...


One very important reason I am so concerned with this issue of reason and the nature of God is because this issue is also central to the battle for the soul of Islam. This is, if you will, a spiritual jihad (to borrow the Islamic term) in which Christians, and especially Catholics, also have to become intelligently engaged by allying with moderating elements within Islam as argued in the following interview with Father Samir Khalil Samir, “Middle East Scholar: Islam Needs a Renewal of Reason”:

It is not just a case of seeking to recapture the rational Mutazalite theological tradition within Islam. It is also a case of seeking to recapture the remaining rational elements stemming from that tradition and associated jurisprudential thought even after the competing, voluntarist tradition had become the prevailing theological tradition within Islam. Here is an extract from Father Samir’s article:

“If you go back 1,000 years ago and read a booklet on what Muslims expect in heaven, it’s different to today: The virgins, the fruits and the waters were then not seen as material, because there’s no body. This interpretation is no longer spread; instead, there is a literal interpretation of the Quran. So I think we’ve gone 1,000 years backwards, because the teaching in the faculties of Islamic theology, even in Al-Azhar, is not based on reason. The interpretation of the Quran and Islamic tradition is not based on reason, as it was in some schools in the Middle Ages. For many Muslim theologians, reason is seen as anti-revelation! By the way, this is precisely the criticism of Pope Benedict XVI in his famous lecture at Regensburg’s university on Sept. 12,, 2006, which provoked such a violent Muslim reaction. . . .

So an answer is to build real friendship with Muslims, to say we are together against extreme secularism. We agree with you on some issues, will help each other to be more spiritual and to have a more spiritual approach to God and religion.

And to become Catholic eventually?

Yes, certainly. The last sentences of Matthew: ‘Go, and proclaim the Gospel to the whole world’ is an obligation of love for each Christian. It’s not propaganda; it’s allowing the spiritual liberty that the Gospel, that Christ brought to the world. So it’s not simply optional; it’s an order, but an order for freedom, for life and for joy. With Muslims, as well as Christians, we have to re-evangelize Christians, Muslims and atheists and preach the Good News.

If the Gospel is the most beautiful treasure we have, how can we refuse to share it with others, especially if they are in crisis?”

There is much more in this article, which repays reading in full.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - You are wrong, again

The discussion is not over. You may choose to reject what the Church teaches, to relegate it to the realm of "unreasonable," and to denigrate those who disagree with you.

When you accuse others of being "enemies of the Church," of being "relativists" or "modernists" or any other of the other false charges you are fond of leveling against those who stand with the Church and its teaching, this conversation will continue.