Progress? How Pathetic!

Imagine pulling into your local farmer’s co-op, where hippies, “traddies,” and other divergent elements of our modern melting pot all coalesce in the interests of health, localism, and fresh asparagus.

You park your dinged-up Ford Explorer, bedecked with rear-view Rosary and other ostentatious sacramentals, in the only available parking spot. As you exit the vehicle, fumbling with your keys and shopping list, you notice that the Prius you’ve inattentively parked next to is so adorned with adhesive political messaging that it looks like a leftist bumper-sticker emporium: icons of Marx and Che keep company with “I Support Planned Parenthood,” “Coexist,” and “I’m Non-Judgmental and I Vote!”

There must be more than a dozen decals, simultaneously assaulting your intellect and senses with offensive thoughts and substandard graphic design. The chaos is getting to you. Then, as if guided by preternatural help, your eyes land on a sticky slogan you’ve never before seen, and it helps to contextualize all the others, for it reads: “MY PATHOS RAN OVER YOUR LOGOS.

Alas, there is order amid the chaos!

It is my contention that the progressivist spoils rhetoric by giving pathos rather than logos the central position among the rhetorical appeals, and the effect of such an inversion is dangerous, for emotion unhinged from reason is like powerful wild horse infuriate with passion.

If we extend our simile by incorporating the mob mentality and a dastardly provocateur, then we have a cautionary parable about a madman instigating a stampede, with all its potential for death and destruction.

But let me back up and give some of the principles that govern the subject under consideration.

According to Aristotle, in any given rhetorical situation, the rhetor has three “appeals” he can make to his audience: logosethos, and pathos. Simply explained, logos is reason, ethos is character, and pathos is feeling.

Because logos pertains to the subject matter, ethos to the speaker, and pathos to the audience, the first appeal has more of the nature of objectivity to it, while the others are necessarily subjective as they pertain to persons — though, of course, standards of ethical goodness are objective, and standards of beauty that can move the human heart are not entirely arbitrary.

Because he joined rhetoric to logic — whereas Plato joined it to mercantile pursuits! — Aristotle’s approach to rhetoric is very logos-centered. We can understand Plato’s mistrust of rhetoric as the notable rhetors of his day, the sophists, were responsible for the death his mentor, Socrates.

And this illustrates why rhetoric ought to be joined to logos, for without having acquired the art and science of right thinking, one ought not to pursue the art of persuasive speaking: the reason why is obvious; in addition to the sophists, history presents us with a rogues gallery of despots and charlatans who moved men to mischief by the clever use of speech.

Aristotle would have preferred that the rhetorician stick to reason, but he conceded that the other appeals were necessary. Man is a “pathetic” being, he acknowledged, meaning quite literally that we have feelings. Because of this, feeling must be incorporated into rhetoric, but not given the centrality that belongs to reason.

The three rhetorical appeals have an affinity to the three transcendentals: logos corresponds to truth, ethos to goodness, and pathos to beauty. Far be it from me to downplay either pathos or beauty, but certain beauties have been known to turn men’s heads away from reason, which accounts for the more decadent aspects of romanticism.

I make no claim to understand the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, but I do know a little about his heretical leanings, including not only his eschatological “hope” for an empty Hell, but also his bizarre Christology concerning Our Lord’s descent thither.

Von Balthasar is sometimes called the “theologian of beauty,” as he apparently wrote a great deal about it in his theological tomes. But if my understanding is correct, he did with this third transcendental precisely what we ought not to do with it: untether it from the other two, or — probably more accurately — he put it in the lead position over the others.

Without truth, beauty can mislead us, leading us to find her in what is contrary to the law of God, and therefore contrary to reason, to logos. To give an obvious example, God made the female anatomy to be beautiful to the male, and this is no bad thing.

Beauty is the splendor ordinis (splendor of order) or the splendor formae (splendor of form). Speaking abstractly and dispassionately in purely aesthetic terminology, one may note that there is a more perfect proportionality, or order, in one or another specimen of the female form, yet we must ever be mindful of the words of Our Lord: “whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).

The undeniable logical truth of that statement, and our obligation to conform to it for the sake of ethical goodness lead us to discipline (yet not destroy) our pursuit of the pathos of beauty.

Saint Augustine rightly called God the “beauty ever ancient and ever new,” but when Saint John set out to speak of Christ’s eternal generation, the Holy Ghost gave him to use the word logos, not either of the Greek words for beauty, kallos or hōraios.

There was a primacy to logos in the best of Greek thought, and that concept ripened in the Hellenized world so that, “in the fulness of time” (Gal. 4:4) it would be there as a personal, proper name of the Second Person of the Trinity. We can adequately appreciate His beauty only when our reason has been elevated by grace to know Him and our will has been moved to love His goodness.

From the high-brow heterodoxies of the ex-Jesuit von Balthasar, let us move to the lowbrow journalism of the popular still-Jesuit, James Martin, who loves to extol false mercy. What Christian virtue is more beautiful than mercy?

We all love mercy; we all count on it. Inasmuch as we have received grace, we have received mercy, and we ought to show it to others, as is manifest from Our Lord’s parable of the unmerciful servant and the fifth Beatitude. Our Lady is the Mother of Mercy, the saints were all agents of divine mercy.

Yet, the beautiful appeal to mercy can, in the mind of one bereft of logos, be perverted into something contrary to reason; it can and often does become an invitation to moral libertinism that also contradicts ethos.

Hence James Martin’s nonstop cheerleading for unnatural sins of lust and the people who commit them. Frequently, his defense of the unspeakable is couched in terms of an emotional appeal to stop being “mean” to homosexuals, for doing so is not merciful.

Tugging at the heartstrings of his readers by showing how cruel “anti-gay” people can be, he elicits sympathy not only for persons who are allegedly being abused, but also for the cause for which they stand, which is itself inherently mortally sinful.

See this Twitter thread, for example, which includes a real gem: “LGBT issues seem to bring out the mean in people, too.” I replied to this (in a non-mean way) by saying, “Let’s take a balanced approach in our analysis. Vice, in general, tends to bring out the worst in people. Some have even been saying mean things about Jeffrey Epstein” — which raises the ethical question as to whether it is even possible to be “mean” to a #MeToo villain.

Following Martin’s method, if I were a Nazi and wanted to defend my cause, I could say how mean the Communists are to our people. I could conversely argue in favor of Communism by showing how mean Nazis and “Fascists” are to us. (A “Fascist,” by the way, is generally anyone that the speaker does not like).

Amid all the positioning for superior victim status, questions of truth and falsity, good and evil get set aside, which plays into the progressivist cause. Pathos is the most useful defense for the indefensible.

James Martin recently retweeted the tweet of one Michael Bayer, who announced a new “ministry for LGBTQ+ people,” called “Affirmed,” wherein, “every person is affirmed as made in image of God, called to deeper relationship with Jesus, and invited to share their gifts” (I note in passing the progressive aversion to definite and indefinite articles, those perfectly innocent parts of speech).

There is here an appeal to mercy, to affirm people. Affirming people is good, right? But do we affirm wife-beaters, serial adulterers, pederasts, racists, drug-dealers, gun-runners, and mercenary capitalists who defraud workers of their wages?

These people need mercy and affirmation just as much as the others, right? But they don’t fit into the progressivist narrative, which is very selective in identifying recipients of mercy. And what of that work of mercy, “admonish the sinner”? Perhaps “Affirmed” should have its name changed to “Admonished.”

The pathetic progressivist approach to mercy has been further augmented and institutionalized since the publication of Amoris Laetitia, which offers a “forgiveness” and mercy that are distorted, house-of-mirrors simulacra of the genuine items.

While Christian forgiveness and mercy are supernally beautiful things, there is something ugly about the habitual adulterer, with no purpose of amendment, being welcome to receive Holy Communion.

Grace heals hardened sinners (if they cooperate, which is part of the pure mystery of grace and free will), but the notion of God overlooking ill will and impenitence flies in the face of the Gospel: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings [beautiful image, no?], and thou wouldest not? [Ah! But the beauty is stifled by the ugliness of ill will!]” (Matt. 23:37).

In the next verse, we are told what was to happen: “Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate,” which prophesy was brutally fulfilled. (There will be a beautiful ending, though; when its people respond to grace, Jerusalem will return to Our Lord: “For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth till you say: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matt. 23:37]).

There is a profoundly unChristian aesthetic in the image of the hardened sinner who will not let go of his sins being unconditionally embraced by God. Would it not be cruel for the Good Shepherd to feed his wayward sheep with food that would harm or even kill them?

Yet that is what happens when the person in mortal sin receives Holy Communion. The shepherd who knowingly gives Holy Communion to his adulterous sheep poisons them by allowing his flock to eat and drink judgment to themselves and become guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord (cf. I Cor. 11:26-30).

Cardinal Burke, the Darth Vader figure in the progressivist legendarium, recently made an excellent point regarding the canonically mandated denial of Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, telling Martha MacCallum, “It’s not a punishment. It’s actually a favor to these people to tell them don’t approach, because if they approach, they commit sacrilege” (my emphasis). There is logos, and ethos, and pathos — all in good order.

But the inverted mercy of the progressivists is profoundly unmerciful, which fact probably betrays its actual origins.

Seventy-two years ago, Brother Francis gave a name to this wrongheaded prioritizing of pathos over logos in Catholic thinking: “Sentimental Theology.” And when the sentimental theologian enters the domain of rhetoric, he becomes terribly pathetic, and we must not fear subjecting his pathos to the careful judgment of logos — even if we don’t have to make a bumper sticker about it.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.

The photo shows, “The Whale Bus,” a view of life in the 21st-century, as imagined in 1899. Drawing by Jean-Marc Côté.

The Council Of Trent – Some Thoughts

The importance of the Council of Trent lies in its being two things at the same time: 1) the heart and soul of the Catholic Reformation (the authentic reform of the Church); and 2) the definitive moment of the Counter Reformation (the reaction against the Protestant Revolt): “By almost universal agreement, the counter-attack of the Church to the movement that is known as the Protestant Reformation begins seriously with the Council of Trent.”

Besides these important issues the Council met to address, there were serious problems that plagued it before, during, and after its sessions. These will come to light in the following brief sketch.

For many years before the Council actually met, there had been talk of an ecumenical synod to reform the Church and to react to the challenge put to her by Luther.

Reform-minded Catholics strongly desired such a council, as did others with a more pragmatic agenda, especially the Emperor (Charles V), who had to address the civil strife caused by Luther’s revolt within the Empire and the Spanish Netherlands.

As early as 1520, only three years after the close of the Fifth Lateran Council, there was a call for such a council, but Pope Leo X was afraid of what might come of it, especially in light of the conciliarist tendencies that were still lingering.

The threat was a real one: The Protestants agitated for conciliarism during the Council, and, even after its conclusion (1563), the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand I, who succeeded his brother Charles as emperor, advanced a conciliarist line.

Pope Paul III (1534-1549), a reform-minded Pontiff, was willing to risk the dangers, and summoned a council to meet in Mantua. Emperor Charles V resisted, as he wanted the council within the confines of the Empire. A compromise was made in selecting Trent, which, while an Italian city, belonged to the Empire. Charles resided much of the time at Innsbruck, a day’s ride to the south.

Although the Council was summoned in 1542, it did not convene until 1545. Even then, it was off to a very slow start. Those who were in attendance at first were exclusively Italians. Then the Spaniards showed up. French and German bishops were in sporadic attendance throughout the history of the Council, depending on the present mood of their sovereigns.

The Council met on and off for eighteen years: 1545 to 1563. That it was off more than on can be seen by the dates of the sessions, which spanned over three periods: 1545-1547, 1551-1552, and 1562-1563.

The Council met for only four of those eighteen years. The reason behind the frequent prorogations of the Council was most often disagreement between the pope and the emperor over such things as location of the Council, the subjects it was to take up, the pope’s policies toward Charles’ war with France, and the war itself.

There was also a typhus epidemic that broke out in Trent, leading to a brief convocation in Bologna. Francis I, the Valois king of France, showed himself to be even less cooperative, opposing the Council at first, forbidding the publishing of the bull of convocation in his Kingdom, and refusing for a while to allow French bishops to attend its sessions.

Francis feared not only the loss of the Gallican Church’s independence, but also whatever might favor Hapsburg hegemony in European politics. Indeed, France’s allying herself against the Empire with the Protestant Schmalkaldic League showed that she put her own national interests over those of the Church.

For his part, Charles, a good Catholic, was too pragmatic in his pursuit of peace with Protestants within the Empire. At many points during the Council, he pushed for a deferring of the doctrinal questions in favor of discussing reform, naively thinking that the Council could show the Protestants that the Church was reforming herself, thus rendering the dogmatic disagreements non-issues.

We see that there were two issues the Council met to address: reform and heresy. In the immediate background, though, were the issues of conciliarism (condemned shortly before at Lateran V, but still lingering) and nationalism. The complex interplay of these four issues was to impact the life of the Council until its very end.

In light of the events he had to deal with, Charles’ pragmatic considerations are not as reprehensible as they may seem. They were not governed by sheer pacifism. Not only did he have to deal with the treachery of an anti-Hapsburg Valois policy, but, all the while, the Turks were at the Gate threatening the security of all Christendom.

The Italians present, by far the majority of Fathers – never to be equaled or outnumbered by all the other national groups combined – were of a much more realistic awareness of the depth of the doctrinal divide. Luther had transgressed orthodoxy. Not only was the Church in need of internal reform; heresy must be condemned.

But how to accomplish both of these ends? Paul III preferred that doctrinal questions be addressed first, then the Council could take up reform. Charles V wanted it the other way. In a compromise between the emperor’s preferences and the pope’s, issues of doctrine and of reform were addressed simultaneously.

Having briefly summarized the intrigues and politics that complicated the work of the Council, and what, in broad outline, that work was, we now detail some of the issues the Council addressed. We will do so session by session, skipping those whose work was limited to the administrative functions such as convocation, indiction, resumption, translation, prorogation, or the granting of safe passage to heretics.

The fourth session of the Council defined the Canon of Holy Scripture contrary to the Protestant rejection of the deutero-canonical books. It also established the authenticity of the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome, anathematizing anyone who would reject it. (It did not, as Palmer claims – pg. 85 – say that the Vulgate was “the only version of the Bible on which authoritative teaching could be based.”)

The fifth session issued the Decree on Original sin. This condemned Lutheran and Calvinist “total depravity,” the doctrine that exaggerated the effects of Original Sin.

At the same time, the Decree avoided anything savoring of Pelagianism, Protestantism’s heretical opposite in the doctrine of grace. The Decree established the true doctrine of Original Sin concerning its existence, extent, effects, and remedies. This session also addressed two reform issues touching upon 1) the education of clerics in theology and the liberal arts and 2) the office of preaching and that of “questors,” i.e., collectors of alms.

The sixth session gives us the celebrated decree on Justification, which did so much to clarify Church teaching in a matter some Catholics were confused about, thinking that there was room for compromise with the Protestants. In the “process of justification,” faith is not the only ingredient, but it is the essential initium salutis.

In addition to faith, the other infused theological virtues are necessary, as is human cooperation with God’s movement. Those in sin can, by the actual grace of God, cooperate with His loving designs.

Grace is not simply an external garment (still less is it snow on dung!), but an interior beautification of the soul, an intrinsic change that makes the Christian a new creature. Once in the state of Grace (justification), man can truly merit an eternal reward because he has the principle of supernatural life in him. In a series of canons, the various heresies of Luther and Calvin on these points are explicitly anathematized.

The reform issues taken up by this session included episcopal and priestly residence (the duty of the bishop to reside in his diocese and the priest charged with cure of souls to reside in his parish), restrictions on bishops performing pontifical functions outside their dioceses, and the prohibition of regulars from residing outside their religious houses.

The seventh session considered the doctrinal issue of the sacraments in general and two of them specifically: Baptism and Confirmation. There are seven sacraments, all of which were founded by Jesus Christ.

They work ex opere operato, effecting what they signify, and are not mere symbols of grace. The form and matter of Baptism and Confirmation, their effects and relative necessity, as well as the proper minister are carefully laid down. Canons with anathemas attached to them censure the Protestant errors in sacramental doctrine.

The reform issues addressed included several items concerning benefices, clerical life, promotion to orders, repair of churches, and the timely filling of vacant sees.

After several prorogations, delays, and upon the beginning of a new pontificate, the thirteenth session resumed the work of the Council on the Sacraments, treating only of the Eucharist. Lutheran “consubstantiation” is condemned, while transubstantiation is upheld.

The real presence of Jesus Christ, which abides after the Mass (ergo allowing for reposition of the Blessed Sacrament) was also affirmed, as was the divine institution of this august sacrament, Its excellence over the other sacraments, Its power to give grace, the dispositions necessary for Its reception, and the veneration to be showed It. Contrary errors were anathematized.

The reform issues addressed included the bishops’ involvement in civil criminal cases, ecclesiastical exemption from the civil arm, and the degradation of clerics for severe crimes.

The fourteenth session continued with the sacraments, laying down the Church’s doctrine on Penance and Extreme Unction. As for the former, it was defined that Our Lord established Penance when he said “Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22).

Regarding the latter, St. James’ text is shown to speak of Anointing: “Is any man sick among you ? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). The necessity, effects, form and matter, and minister of each sacrament are taught, while contrary errors are anathematized.

The reform decree of this session treated episcopal oversight of clerics, their promotion to orders, and their suspension for various crimes. Financial endowments, rights of patronage, and benefices were also addressed.

The twenty-first session treated of communion under both species and the communion of infants. The Council taught the principle of Eucharistic concomitance, that “Christ whole and entire, and a true Sacrament are received under either species,” so the faithful need not receive from the Chalice. Infants need not receive Holy Communion at all. The reform decree in this session treated benefices and the establishing of new parishes.

The twenty-second session set down the true doctrine concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass against the novelties of the Protestants. Included in this doctrine is “that the Sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory both for the living and the dead.” The reform decree addressed the use and protection of church property, among other things.

The twenty-third session defined, against the heretics, what is the truth concerning the sacrament of Holy Orders, which is “a true and proper sacrament,” distinguishing the three sacramental orders from the minor orders and subdiaconate, and affirming that the former of divine institution. Contrary errors were condemned in the canons. The reform decree included minute prescriptions on who can be admitted to Orders.

The twenty-fourth session treated of the sacrament of Matrimony. A short section established its true sacramental nature, while a much longer section minutely reformed the administration of the sacrament.

The twenty-fifth and last session treated the dogmatic topics of purgatory relics, saints, sacred images, and indulgences. The reform issues concerned religious, regulations on the granting of indulgences, the establishing of the index of forbidden books, feast and fast days, and the reform of the breviary and missal. It also called for a catechism to be issued.

J.P. Kirsch succinctly summarizes the importance of the Council of Trent: “The Ecumenical Council of Trent has proved to be of the greatest importance for the development of the inner life of the Church.

No council has ever had to accomplish its task under more serious difficulties, none has had so many questions of the greatest importance to decide. The assembly proved to the world that notwithstanding repeated apostasy in church life there still existed in it an abundance of religious force and of loyal championship of the unchanging principles of Christianity.

Although unfortunately the council, through no fault of the fathers assembled, was not able to heal the religious differences of western Europe, yet the infallible Divine truth was clearly proclaimed in opposition to the false doctrines of the day, and in this way a firm foundation was laid for the overthrow of heresy and the carrying out of genuine internal reform in the Church.”

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.

The photo shows, “The Council of Trent,” by Pasquale Cati, painted in 1588.