Fr George Rutler, pastor of St. Michael’s in Manhattan first-rate thinker, issues a weekly, Sunday essay as a “Pastor’s Page”. This week’s column for the Novus Ordo Feast of Christ the King opens and closes with a deep incision and a ruthless cauterizing of an especially goofy remark that, in a way, could be the anti-proverb of these wounded years.
A mark of first-rate thinkers is their ability to make complex theories understandable. Conversely, muddled thinkers assume that obscurantism is profound. Consider, for instance, a comment made a few months ago by an Italian Jesuit and close advisor to Pope Francis, who wrote: “2 + 2 in theology can equal 5. Because it has to do with God and the real life of people. . .” It was the attempt of a confused mind to justify “situation ethics,” by which sentiment replaces reality. In the lives that people really live, as distinct from indulged lives lived in ivory towers, facts are facts.
Saint Augustine was a realist: “No man can by force of will say that three times three is not nine.” By her commitment to reality, the Holy Church has been the greatest benefactor of civilization: in theology, philosophy, science, works of charity, and the arts. Étienne Gilson, of the same religion that gave us Pascal and Pasteur, wrote: “We are told that it is faith which constructed the cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Without doubt, but faith would have constructed nothing at all if there had not also been architects; and if it is true that the façade of Notre Dame of Paris is a yearning of the soul toward God, that does not prevent its being also a geometrical work. It is necessary to know geometry in order to construct a façade which may be an act of love . . .”
Perhaps the decline of classical reasoning explains the fuzzy and unsystematic thinking of many who portray themselves as theologians. It explains at least in part how Europe, and Rome itself, once the nursery of great sculpture and architecture, has been foisting on culture such pretentious mockeries of art, as often displayed in recent years in the Venice Biennale and scattered urban galleries. Happily, here at home the current nominee to head the National Endowment for the Arts, Mary Anne Carter, will be able to undo the waste of public monies on sham art, some of which has been blatantly anti-Catholic.
Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King to celebrate the dominion of the Savior over all creation, sustaining and nurturing every aspect of human knowledge. As the Nazis began to disseminate pagan myths of racism and statism, he had the Vatican Radio broadcast in German: “Twice two makes four, whether you are a Japanese, a German or an Eskimo. There is a truth common to all mankind, and every nation is but a different incarnation of the same truth about man.”
Saint Paul said that in his own clarion way: “For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).