Abrahamic religions and the transcendence of God

Among Abrahamic religions, we must make a distinction between Islam and the other two. Islam is born of a personal revelation to a single person and no witnesses. Judaism is born of personal but consistent revelations to several remarkable patriarchs and prophets, whom God used as instruments to perform great wonders and miracles, in the presence of the witness of an entire nation.

Finally, Christianity is born of the revelation of God Himself, who became incarnate in the human nature of Jesus Christ, to many thousands of the Jewish people, in whose presence He performed wonderful signs and miracles, culminating in His own bodily resurrection from the dead after being ignominiously executed on a roman cross.

In his resurrected body He appeared to many hundreds of His disciples, who went on to proclaim to the world the good news of His resurrection as a token of His promise of our own resurrection at the end of time. Many of them sealed their testimony on the resurrection of Jesus with their own blood, being cruelly persecuted by the Jewish authorities first, and put in jail, tortured and martyred by the romans several times afterwards, for three hundred years. Inexplicably, with each persecution the number of Christians grew quasi exponentially, until virtually the whole Roman Empire became Christian.

For Christianity (and I believe it is the same or very similar for the other two), God, in a way, contains the whole creation, and sustains all reality in being, because God is Being itself, and outside of Him there is nothing. Anything that is, is only because it participates in the being of God. But the universe is not divine, because, even if it exists within God and by God, its being is limited by the essences created in the mind of God, whereas God remains in the altogether transcendent realm of infinite (unlimited) being.

God is infinite being and, by logical necessity, cannot create something infinite, for something without limits cannot coexist on the same level of reality with something else, let alone something else also infinite. (For example, on the level of reality of the state of Texas, only one limitless property can exist). Therefore, creation is utterly dependent on God, but God remains entirely unchanged by it, for infinite being remains infinite even after sharing being with a multiplicity of beings.

And creation does not add anything whatsoever to God, because nothing can be added to something that is already infinite. The sum of God plus the created universe in no way can be greater than God alone, because nothing can be greater than infinite. (In fact, you cannot possibly add the universe to God, as if the universe was something foreign to Him; the universe is already within the divinity and only exists as a reflection of the divine being.) “In Him we live, we move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

Corollary: God is omnipresent to the whole creation, but remains transcendent to it, on a different status of being. When somebody asks, “is God real?”, I feel compelled to reply: “if your standard for what is real is your own existence, then the answer is no, because the reality of God cannot be put in the same category as ours.” If anything, you could say that, if we are real, then God is more than real. But not just one step above our level of reality, but an infinite number of levels.

To put it simply, our own reality vanishes in comparison with the reality of God.

Why does God allow evil?

The whole point of God’s creation is love. True, deep, absolute love; not the sympathy that I could have for my guinea pig. It’s a terrible love that doesn’t settle for half measures.

God is willing to give us everything, including Himself (somehow He felt obliged to prove it humiliating Himself to the lowest possible extent. I wonder why…. ) The only condition is that we give ourselves to Him, fully, with no reservations, in the same way husband and wife give themselves to each other on the day of their solemn marriage vows: for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death separates them. No conditions. Because only one such love creates the bond that can make two people become one, two lives to become one shared life.

And, arguably, that’s what God wants: to share His eternal life with us.
Now, love, any love, but particularly one such as this, is absolutely dependent on free will: it is in the essence of love that it must be freely given. Without freedom love becomes nonsensical, a ridiculously absurd proposition.

Full love, perfect love, necessitates full freedom. And it must be so, because it is in the very essence of perfect love to be unconditional and eternal. Only a perfect love will create the eternal bond that is necessary to share an eternal life.

But there’s no full freedom if the consequences of our choices are immediately reversed on the mere pretext that they left out the love of God. For there to be true love, there has to be true freedom. For there to be true freedom, there has to be the possibility of choosing wrongly, with the corresponding accountability and consequences. Choosing wrongly (excluding the love of God) is sin, and all the consequences of sin, and sin itself, is what we commonly call “evil”.

Since God’s primary design is to create beings capable of loving and being loved for themselves, it ensues that allowing evil to follow its course is where the divine omnipotence is ultimately revealed. Not allowing evil would be going against His own design, the proof that He made a mistake, therefore the proof that He is not God.

To be sure, God wants evil as much as He wants sin. But He does want the possibility of love a lot more strongly than He hates sin, and the logic of love inescapably requires the possibility of evil.

Mary and the Protestants

The preface to this blog entry is found, as usual, in the comments’ section to a presentation on YouTube (“How do we know the early Church?”) by Dr. William Marshner. In there I manifested my disappointment at the absence of any mention to early paintings portraying our blessed Mother among the art works that we can use as historical sources to find out clues to the beliefs and devotions of the first Christians. In reply to my comment, a brother Protestant—very respectfully—wondered if maybe Mary wasn’t as popular back then… As it is a habit I don’t seem able to shake off, my reply became too long for a comment. Maybe too short for a blog entry. In any case, here it goes:

“From a Catholic point of view, if you are a Protestant, you aren’t but a Christian brother who, probably through no fault of your own, is separated from the one Catholic Church. But make no mistake: you, like all other Protestants, belong to the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church belongs to you, as much as to any Catholic. You may have a positive outlook on the Catholic Church; I’m very glad if that is the case, because it’s your church. But, if you don’t, I encourage you to review your preconceptions about it, for I guarantee you that you will find many misconceptions among them. And let me tell you something I tell all my Protestant brothers: your Church needs you back. There has always been crisis and confusion, but if there was ever a time when our mother the Church  was in direst need of all her faithful children to come back to her troubled bosom, this would be high time. It is high time for all the true followers of Christ at heart (who are by no means to be found solely amongst practising Catholics) to set aside petty differences, and come back together as one in the one Church of Christ. 

“I follow several Protestant preachers and, no exaggeration, many of them sound more Catholic than many a Catholic bishop. Not so much because they are growing closer to the original Christian doctrines—though many of them do—but chiefly because some Catholic priests and bishops don’t sound even Christian any more (I’ve heard some that go to the extreme of casting doubts on the Resurrection itself, the very foundation of our common faith!). They’ve lost the fire of the first love and the clear vision of the apostolic mission, while many Protestants rise as veritable pillars of unshakable faith in the perennial Christian truths, and models of love for the Lord, eager to spread his gospel.

“Time after time, I hear protestants that came back home talking about the Virgin Mary being the biggest hurdle they must overcome before they can fully accept that Catholic theology is firmly rooted in Scripture—which it is. But it doesn’t take too much insightfulness to realize that the Bible is not an IKEA instruction manual, and we all need an interpretive framework to approach it. It may take a little more convincing to accept that, whatever that framework may be, it must pay its dues to the tradition of the earliest Christians, though I lately get the sense that a good number of Protestant theologians have come to acknowledge this debt. If this perception is accurate, it may account for the circulation of the fairly wild claim that theological interest in Mary and Christian popular devotion to the Mother of God were a late development in the history of the Church.

“The facts of history run quite contrary to such a claim. Already in the second century Saint Irenaeus was setting the groundwork for Marian theology (Mariology), writing about her as the New Eve. About the same period Justin Martyr and Tertullian also wrote along the same lines. I’m not certain on exactly when Marian devotion became widespread, but what is certain is that, when Patriarch Nestorius explained that one consequence of his Christological theory meant that people should refrain from using the expression “Theotokós” (God bearer or Mother of God), there was social unrest and demonstrations of popular indignation in the streets of Constantinople. And manifestations of popular joy ensued right after the council in Ephesus (431 AD) deposed him and declared his doctrine heretical. Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria, who had led a fierce opposition to the heresy, wrote in a letter:

“The entire population of the city of Ephesus, from early morning till night, gathered in anxious expectation of the resolution. When they learned that the author of the blasphemies had been deposed, all broke out in one voice glorifying God and acclaiming the Synod, for the enemy of the faith had fallen. As soon as we came out of the Church, the crowds were ready to escort us back to our homes at the light of the torches. It was night: the whole city was lighted up and jubilant.”

Cyril of Alexandria, Epistolae, 24 (Pg 77, 138).

“Some versions of the time events even mention that the crowds carried Cyril on their shoulders, parading him through the streets of Ephesus, proclaiming him a hero. Such outpouring of popular enthusiasm could not have been possible absent a deep rooted and widespread conviction about the divine maternity of Mary in the people’s imaginary and devotion. And, it seems to me that such a level of popular emotion takes several generations to take root.

“As for the ‘dangers’ for abuses in the cult and devotion to our blessed mother, you may rest at ease knowing that idolatry is entirely out of the question. The most humble Catholic peasant in the remotest locations in places like Mexico, Argentina, Italy or Spain knows without a shred of a doubt that Mary is only an intercessor before God; the most powerful intercessor, to be sure, but no more than that. All the Catholic prayers make that very clear, and I haven’t found, in all the local devotions, one single exception to this rule: Mary intercedes; Christ alone saves. I was recently noticing in the numerous devotional litanies that, if the response is “have mercy on us,” you can rest assured that the target of the invocation is God, in any of the divine persons, because the moment the target switches to Mary—or any of the saints—the response to the invocation also switches to “pray for us.” What we ask Mary to do is basically the same as we do: to pray. We don’t expect to get something from her, but that she intercedes for us to get something from Jesus. 

“We believe our departed Christian brothers are alive and in the presence of God, so we ask them to pray for us as we would any other friend. We find the basis for the pre-eminence of Mary amidst all the other saints in the clout a mother has over her Son, the one displayed when, at the wedding feast in Cana, forced his hand to perform the first miracle. But the only reason we pray to her is to get to Jesus. And she always takes good care to redirect our attention to him, as in Cana: “do as he commands.” 

“When you look at the historical development of the Marian doctrine, you’ll realize that it advanced only in defense of some key doctrine about the Incarnation of the Word of God. For example, the “theotokos” declaration against Nestorius I mentioned before, was aimed at protecting the notion that it was the very second person of the holy Trinity that took a second nature in the womb of Mary. The Word didn’t “conjoin” his person to a pre existent human person. He—the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the whole person—became man. 

“Jesus was not a strange individual with a split personality, one divine and one human. Jesus is one person, and that person is the Son, the Second person of the Holy Trinity that shares the same divine nature with the other two, and decided freely to adopt a second nature, in accord with the will of the Father. He, the divine Logos, with whom, through whom and in whom everything was created, the one Person that shares a divine nature with just other two divine persons, adopted the created nature of humanity. Not a new human nature, but the same nature, which now he shares with billions and billions of other human persons. 

“Every new born person receives a share in human nature from a father and a mother. Jesus received a share in human nature only from his mother. But she did not conceive a new nature—she transmitted to her son the nature that she possessed in fullness, as the person of the conceived baby already possessed a share in the fullness of the divinity. Thus, divinity and humanity coexist side by side in the one Person of the Son, who is thus fully human and fully divine.

“When a human mother conceives with a human father a new life in her womb, she does not give rise to a new human nature, but a new member of the human species, who, by definition, is a person. Mothers don’t give birth to natures, but persons. And not a human father, but the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, stands in his stead. Hence, since the son she conceived was the second person of the most holy Trinity, it follows that she is the mother of a divine person. She either is truly the mother of God, or Jesus’ full divinity is put in jeopardy. 

“It’s one of those head spinning truths of Christianity that makes it virtually impervious to suspicions of human fabrication: in other religions and mythologies, gods beget demi-gods; only in Christianity an inferior being begets a superior one, not in spite but because of its inferiority. The lowliest ones are always chosen to the loftiest missions. And Mary is always very clear that she was chosen because of her lowliness, as she proclaims in the Magnificat. Nobody knows their place before God (under God!) better than Mary, and she is a constant reproach and encouragement to the rest of us who are always itching to replace God. And she’s also a constant threat of disaster and actual terror to the one who’s always trying to tempt humanity into taking the place of God, like he successfully did with Eve. 

“Jesus is the son of David, heir to his kingdom. And as davidic kings consistently sat their mothers on the queenly throne, it is befitting that Mary is queen wherever Jesus is king. If you accept Jesus as king in your heart, you are implicitly accepting Mary as queen of your heart. She is truly the Queen of Heaven, because her Son is the King of Heaven. And as Bathsheba interceded before king Solomon on behalf of the people, wouldn’t you think that whoever goes to Mary, she will make sure to turn them to her son and bend the knee before the King, like she did and has been doing forever, in an eternal act of perfect adoration, since the moment she said to the angel, “I’m the slave of the Lord, be it done to me according to his word,” and the Eternal Word of God took on our human flesh in her virginal womb? 

“If you think Catholics exaggerate the devotion to Mary, think about this: there’s strong scriptural basis to affirm without a doubt that whoever goes to Mary, invariably reaches Christ; whoever belongs to Mary, belongs to Christ. Can you imagine a mother feeling comfortable in the house of somebody who rejects her son? She was chosen by the eternal Father to be the gate through which his Son would enter the world. Where do you think that gate leads to? Where if not in the Incarnate Word of God will end up whoever enters through that gate? The role of Mary in the plan of salvation is impossible to overstate. To say the contrary would imply that the role of her son could possibly be overstated, since her fundamental role is to give us her son and lead us to him. Like in Cana, she’s always displaying that maternal attention to our needs and, when we realize this, she won’t be the one to satisfy them, no, she will lead us to Christ. And, like in Cana, she will remind us that all we need to do is to heed Jesus’ commands, because that is the way we show our love for her son.  

“Sorry for the lengthy reply. As you see, I get easily carried away talking with my protestant brothers because it stings my heart to think how much it pains our Lord that we are still divided, that his last wish for unity among Christians remains unfulfilled after such a long time. And I get carried away talking about our blessed Mother as well, because it was also Jesus’ last wish that we should receive her in the home of our hearts as our own mother, like John did at the foot of the cross and the remainder of his earthly life. At the foot of the cross, John was representing the universal Church—all the other bishops were hiding in fear, including our very first Pope, who, also in fear, denied the Lord as well (so we should not be surprised at the weaknesses and sins of his successors).

“Whether you know it or not, whether you accept it or not, you are part of that universal Church and Mary is your mother. It pains me to think of all the Christians that go through life unaware of her maternal solicitude. Jesus said to Nicodemus that we must become like children, and there is something very heart-wrenching about little orphans that lack the loving warmth and tender care of a mother. How do you become a child without a mother? How do children survive without a mother?

“Anyways, there I go at it again… Sorry! Last, but not least, I would like to recommend you two authors. If you are adept to Youtube (I’m addicted to it, I’m afraid, but use it more like a podcast, while I’m doing other physical labor) you can find both of them there. Their names are Scott Hahn and Brant Pitre. I think both have books on our blessed mother that you can find on amazon. Whatever they wrote is pure gold. You may also find very helpful Scott’s story of conversion from a Presbyterian minister into Catholicism, both on youtube and book form (“Rome sweet Home”).  

“And don’t delay coming back home! We’ve missed you, your mother misses you.  And we need you! We need all Protestants who are still faithful to Christ to come back home and help us rebuild our common church, that has endured too much pain and doubt and treason in the last generation. Don’t mind our bad shepherds; keep searching for the faithful ones—they are there, and they are the majority, though the bad ones seem to be the noisier ones. In any case, look at the perennial teachings, because they are the same as the Apostles’. Don’t believe it when they tell you that doctrines have changed. They may be adapted or evolved, but they are the same as much as the adult is the same as the child. 

“I prayed for you while writing, and will pray again. I know it’s a difficult decision, and I hope God will give you the necessary strength.

“Peace be with you!”

Last time I visited that comment section (someone else had replied a year later), I was very happy to find this post from that same brother in Christ:

“I have joined the RCIA now, on my way to join the Church. Mary is still a puzzle to me, but I don’t worry overmuch about it. Maybe I will see it fully one day.”

And another one who was also part in the dialogue:

“Oh that’s great! Welcome home, as they would say. I’m on my way to it as well. I hope to be able to get confirmed soon. Hopefully we’ll figure out the Mary thing sooner or later, or not…”


Disobedience takes us away from the source of eternal life, as it did to our first fathers in the garden, cast out and forever barred by cherubim and flaming sword from getting anywhere close to the tree of life.

It was befitting then that an act of extreme, outrageous–perfect–obedience to the Father (“usque ad mortem…”) would take Jesus to the cross, the tree of life to feed the nations. It was Jesus’ humanity that took the burden and showed us the way: the way of love that is shown in obedience to his commands. The love that unites the estranged humanity to the humanity of Christ, as wagons get hitched to the engine, and takes us back to the source of eternal life–through, with and in Christ’s crucified humanity.

Why marriage

Human marriage is not just a symbol of the union between Christ and the Church. Human marriage is the prototype, a reflection if you will, of the One True Marriage that brings together in one the Divinity and the fallen humanity. That is the reason why God created man male and female.

First, He created a whole kind of beings that reproduce by the union of two incomplete specimens, and then, very deliberately (as attested by Genesis narration) created man out of this kind of beings, and then woman out of man. And all this with very clear instructions about the reason why they were made individually incomplete, yet entitled to the full extent of human dignity, so they may not compromise their individuality by the union that completes them.

All religions (most of them, anyway) understand that the deepest and ultimate meaning and purpose of human life lies in union with the divinity. Only Christianity understands that such a union can be accomplished without the superior entity dissolving the individuality of the inferior one. In Christian mysticism, the goal is a union of love between persons, not the dissolution of personality as a drop in an ocean of divinity.

In Christianity, this union without dissolution of the inferior being is made possible by the Incarnation of the divinity that can in turn engage in a marital union with humanity, a union that creates a new perfect entity without its parts losing their individuality. Mind that this is not because Christians are smarter and holier, but because they were entrusted by God with this revelation; which actually means that Christians are less smart and less saintly, for it’s known (to us Christians anyway) that God chooses the weak to confound the strong, so that His power may shine through.

And I’m kind of glad that it should be that way, as the responsibility for guarding and transmitting to the world this revelation (at what we suck, by the way) will be less imputable to the weak and dumb. 😊

The madness of the Cross

(Work in progress. Feel free to comment, ask questions or make suggestions. I truly welcome them and find them very helpful. The mindmy mind, anywayalways benefits from intellectual stimuli, and feedback, questions and opposition are powerful motivators against writer’s blocks and lack of ideas).

Question I recently heard, asked by a caller in Bishop Barron’s The Word on Fire Show – WOF 010: The Power of Confirmation: Why did God insist upon the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins? Couldn’t have He forgiven the sins of the world just by snapping His fingers? If He could, why did He require the death of Jesus?

Loose ideas:

Jesus had to go through death to rescue those who were beyond death/surrounded by death.

We were being held captive by sin and death.

Many things about God— probably everything!—should not be viewed as arbitrary, as a caprice from a whimsical ruler. As Christians, we cannot be fatalistic. There’s a big confusion many times about not understanding something about God and thinking “it is as it is, just because God wants it as it is,” whether it makes sense or not. Of course from God’s vantage point everything makes sense! And if we don’t see the sense it is not because there is none, but because we yet don’t share God’s vantage point.

So, while on this earth, we know certain things are as they are because God has revealed them, even though we may not understand. But we should not give up trying to understand. The knowledge that we won’t fully achieve something should never deter us from trying, because we know that no matter how futile our efforts may seem from our side of reality, there’s another dimension where they are viewed and valued under a different, much brighter light.

Death was required, doesn’t mean God required it. We had to be liberated from our enemy (remember Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your lineage and hers.”) A ransom price was set and had to be paid, not to God, but to the enemy of human race. It was an infinite price

Did God really insist upon the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins? On the surface, this seems to be a pretty straightforward question with a “yes” or “no” answer. But that’s a very deceitful surface, and it takes just a little diving under its surface to realize that this apparently simple question requires a very nuanced answer.

There’s a dialogue between Jesus and His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that does seem to suggest that it is a fairly simple issue. But we only hear Jesus side of the dialogue— we don’t know what the Father says. We only know that Jesus says,”Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass away from me. Yet truly, let it not be as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39).

Then again, does it really matter? Jesus’ dialogues with His Father in Heaven are in their own right very bizarre from a merely human point of view. So is our prayer, for that matter… But that’s a veritable rabbit hole down which I am not necessarily loath to go (sometimes I wonder if there are any), but I will refrain this time, for the benefit of the reader’s patience and the consistency of this entry.

First rarity about these Father and Son dialogues is that Father and Son are one. It’s been said many times—though never enough—that the Incarnation is probably the greatest and most puzzling mystery that theologians will ever face. But let’s not be fazed
Of course, we know that His body is being given up, and His blood is being poured out for the forgiveness of sins. But it doesn’t follow that the forgiveness of sins was made conditional upon Jesus Sacrifice, nor that there aren’t any other designs in that bloody sacrifice.

The cross was the sacrifice of the Son of God, offered freely by himself. It wasn’t imposed on the Son by the Father. Jesus freely gave himself up for us. In obedience to the Father alright, but freely. Impelled by Jesus’ boundles love for us; but freely. Think about the mock sacrifice of Isaac. Can you fathom the suffering of Abraham during the three day trip to Mount Moria, knowing that at the end of it he had to sacrifice his son, his only beloved son? Abraham’s love for Isaac pales in comparison with the Love between the Father and the Son, source and measure of all loves, to which none of them come even close to measuring up. And yes, I know,

God does not need anything from us for his own sake. If there’s anything he needs from us it will be for our own sake.

God binds himself with his word, and is bound by the truth of His own eternal Being. Freedom. Forgiveness can only be effectively given if asked for freely. God cannot force his forgiveness upon us. We need to freely ask for it. But we won’t ask for it unless we have faith in God. Not only in His existence, but also in His infinite love for us.

In His ‘crazy’ love for us to the point of ‘desperation’ He became one of us. His ‘desperation’ is not for His own sake—how could it be?—, but for our sake alone. He creates us to share His life, His infinite life of eternal bliss that is the loving union between God the Father and His the Son. His Life is His Love. It’s truly said that God is Love, because God’s very life is Love.

The Holy Spirit: the Love of God. There’s no other source of eternal life. How could there be, if outside of God only nothingness is possible? Or, only outside of God nothingness is possible. Or, nothingness is impossible because there is God. God is the only infinite being, hence the only possible source of being and hence the only possible source of life. Could God have created us with life eternal independent of His Life, outside of His Love? No. Because that would require the creation of another God, of another infinite being.

There is no way around it. If God wants to share His life, He has to create finite beings with a capacity for infinite Love. To communicate His life, a love connection must be established. To establisha love connection he creates beings capable of being loved and loving in return, namely free beings.

To be sure, God’s love for us is unconditional: He created us in order to offer His life giving love, that we may accept it and share His life. The offer is an eternal Covenant that will stand as long as there are humans able to accept it (or reject it). But to transmit His life, a love connection—a loving relationship—needs to be established, and that connection is only possible if His love is corresponded. I can be madly in love with a beautiful woman, but if there’s no correspondence—if she doesn’t love me back, there will be no relationship, no lasting connection.

Our God is NOT a needy God that creates us in order to have somebody to love Him. Christianity has that question more than adequately answered by the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God is one, but one Being, or entity. But not an individual entity. God is one pluripersonal entity (tri-personal, to be precise). To the vexation of our Muslims brothers, we’re still a monotheistic religion, because there’s only One pluripersonal divinity; not two, or three. We can say that God is one family, a family where there is absolutely no need for anymore love, because there’s a perfect and infinite current of love between God the Father and God the Son, so perfect that the Love itself has personality: God the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

So I hope that this has been made abundantly clear, because it is verily crucial to understand that there’s no reason whatsoever in God Himself for His creation. God’s creation is an absolutely free, arbitrary and magnanimous act of overwhelming love, whose only purpose is in the creation itself. God creates us for our own sake. The moment that any other teaching leads us to conclude that we are supposed to do something for God, that is a false teaching, or a misunderstood teaching.

And I also hope that I was able to establish the absolute need for the creation of a free being. That’s not God’s choice. It’s just one of those paradoxical cases where God’s omnipotence is not what we may think it is. God is Love and He is not at liberty to be something else. His life is his love, and nothing can be done about it. And if there’s anything that can be said without a shadow of a doubt about love is that love is free. It has to be. It’s the very essence; the definition of love. To force someone to love is an oxymoron, and not as a literal device, but a literal oxymoron— besides being, well, moronic. So, if God sets about creating a being with whom he can share His life, by the force of logic, He has to create a free entity. And not only free to make one choice, but forever free. The capacity for a loving being to orient itself towards what he or she perceives as good, without any external compulsion.

From the end of the last paragraph, it can be deduced that freedom is not enough in order to love. We also need a rational capacity for conscious knowing, to perceive what is good, because one cannot love what is consciously unknown. One has to be able to know oneself as what and who one is, and able to know the object of one’s love as what and who the beloved is.

The inexorable sacrificial mode of being

I was once accused of trying to appear more intelligent than I really am by using big words. There’s indeed a big word to name this kind of behavior. I would gladly use it, if only I remembered it… The truth is, I have a very limited intelligence…. And I have a complex: that because my intelligence level is so low nobody will understand what I’m trying to explain. And that could be one reason why I have this probably unhealthy obsession to rake my brains trying to find the right words.

Anyway… Here is one such an instance of me trying to explain something that I feel incapable of explaining, but I have to try. Otherwise, it just becomes an excuse for laziness.

One of my intellectual pet peeves—or shall we call it a “theological” pet peeve…?—is to clarify that God’s omnipotence does not mean “God can do whatever the blip he feels like doing,” as in, for example, “NO, GOD CANNOT STOP BEING GOD!” Well, one of the many, many things God cannot do (just because it would mean that He’s not God if He did) is to create another God.

(It would take too long—and I’ve got the feeling that I’ll end up doing that anyway—to explain why God must be a Supreme Being, and I trust the reader will intuitively know that there cannot be more than one.)

On pain of sounding repetitive, I think it’s very important to stress this point: God cannot create another God. And the reason I harp on it is because I’m convinced that many (if not most) of the atheists’ objections to the God of the Christians could be reduced to this paradoxical complaint: “why didn’t God create us gods?”

God is unlimited being. “I am who is,” says He to Moses from the burning bush. Christian intellectuals from the earliest times made the connection between this biblical passage and the ‘theology’ of the great Greek philosophers, who understood the ontological need for a being that is pure being, with no essence that puts limits to it. And an unlimited being cannot create another unlimited being without ceasing to be unlimited—God cannot cease to be God. All God can do is to share His unlimited—infinite—being with other limited beings.

So here comes the Logos… The creative mind of God does not really create out of nothing in the strictest sense of the word. When theologians talk about creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing), they don’t really mean ‘nothing’ as absence of being. For us, limited beings, it’s virtually impossible to think of being without thinking of the essence that delimits it, and for that reason, when we talk about ‘nothingness’ we don’t really mean ‘total absence of being,’ but rather ‘total absence of essence.’ I know it may sound just like playing with words, but I hope it’ll become clearer as I continue with the explanation.

One way to understand this is to think of God as sharing His infinite being with the essences created through the Logos. Because the being of God is infinite, participating it into the created essences goes in no detriment whatsoever to the being of God, and neither do they add anything to the perfect and pure act of the being of God. Thus, a universe of essences comes into existence.

Essence is the price tag of being

The essence limits the being. There’s no way around this, since we concluded that an infinite God, who is by definition unlimited being, cannot create another unlimited being. The limits that essence imposes around the universe of all created beings and around the essence of each particular created being, is the price that must be paid in exchange for the benefit of just being.

Sacrifice is the privation of something in order to achieve something else of a higher value. But it is not God, the Creator, the one making the sacrifice. It is an unavoidable sacrifice imposed on creation in general, and on each singular created entity. And I’m not talking about voluntary sacrifices, as everything that is, including non free beings, must ‘accept’ this sacrifice of existing within the boundaries of a particular essence.

An immediate consequence of this limitation is the impossibility of being anything else. If your essence is that of a mountain, you cannot be a river, or anything else: you are limited by your essence to just be a mountain. If your essence is that of a human, you cannot be a goat or anything else: you’re limited by your essence to just be a human. Or, put in other words, the possibility of being all things must be sacrificed for the benefit of being one thing.

There’s no real choice for God here, because, I repeat, God cannot create other Gods. So the sacrifice of being within the limits of a particular essence could be said to be “imposed” on creation, because the value to be achieved must be higher, not for God’s sake, obviously, but for creation’s sake. Being is worth the price.

This “sacrificial mode of being,” is the only mode possible for created beings.

Continue reading The madness of the Cross

Presupositional God

(Work in progress. Feel free to comment, ask questions or make suggestions. I truly welcome them and find them very helpful. The mindmy mind, anywayalways benefits from intellectual stimuli and feedback, questions and opposition are powerful motivators against writer’s blocks and lack of ideas).

I have been attracted of late, and quite surprised by the super abundance of debates between new atheists and Christian apologists, both seasoned and aspiring, that can be found on the internet. The YouTube algorithms have not been helpful in the fight against this my newly acquired obsession.


It has occurred to me that in many of these debates the debaters end up talking at cross purposes, very easily losing sight of what their original point was. The atheist very soon forgets that he doesn’t believe in the existence of God, and the apologist forgets that it’s impossible to define or comprehend God. The famous five ways of Saint Thomas Aquinas are mistaken as convincing proofs of God’s existence that atheists ought to necessarily accept should they use their reason, when the truth is that Saint Thomas didn’t write them to convince or convert atheists. All the saint intended was to demonstrate that the belief in God is not irrational, or against reason, and I think that he far exceeded his own expectations! Indeed, I believe the five ways not only provide ample argumentation in favor of the rationality of belief, but also in favor of belief being more rational than disbelief!

Two kinds of people do not realize the limits of the human mind: those who don’t use it enough and those who have lost it

The Catholic faith requires one to use the rational faculties to the maximum possible extent. Once we reach the edge of reason, we are faced with a choice, as a diver who walks up to the edge of the diving board: to jump, or not to jump. There might not be enough reasoning to go on in order to either jump or arrest the process, freezing it in a constant vacillation at the edge of the board.

What needs to be decided is whether taking the proverbial “leap of faith” makes more rational sense than being frozen in everlasting skepticism. And I will contend that making the choice to open oneself to the possibility of believing is the more natural step, the one that continues the process of reasoning, as the diver that jumps after reaching the end of the diving board is the one that continues the process of diving. Inertia alone makes it more natural to jump than to turn around. The train of reason compels us to take the leap. The leap of faith is beyond reason, but not against reason. Not taking it requires stopping the train of reason. Doubting might well be within reason, but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be against it.

It is precisely at this point, at the edge of reason, when atheism, or even a certain kind of agnosticism, start to slide down from the top of the rational higher ground. An atheist position can only be held by somebody who didn’t make it to the outermost boundaries of reason, whether out of lack of sufficient exertion or lack of sufficient humility to recognize one’s own intellectual limitations. If you don’t yet see the limits of human reason, just keep using it, keep stretching it. If you didn’t make it to the end of the diving board, keep walking.

But once you have used it enough—once you’ve reached the inevitable edge—and have the requisite humility to admit your limitations, the rational weight of implacable logic should prevent you from denying the existence of a supernatural world. (I’m fine using preternatural, or even reality beyond reason in case some squeamish readers feel uncomfortable with the word “supernatural.”)

Why is this so? Well, you cannot both admit that reason is limited while at the same time denying there is something that exists beyond the boundaries of reason.

Not even an agnostic position can be rationally held. Agnosticism means not knowing and, once you admit that reason has limits, you cannot say that you don’t know if there’s something beyond the limits of reason, for if there’s nothing beyond reason you are denying your previous assumption. If there’s nothing beyond the reach of reason, it follows that reason comprehends the whole of reality and therefore reason is unlimited, infinite. Remaining agnostic would be tantamount to saying that reason is limited and unlimited at the same time and in the same sense. Remaining agnostic would be tantamount to losing the nexus with a reality signed and bound by the principle of non contradiction, tantamount to losing the mind.

At this point, faith in the existence of the supernatural becomes an imperative of logical reason. Denial is irrational.

“There’s no God,” said the fool in his heart. (Psalm 14:1)

At this point, agnosticism, claiming not to know, remains a viable rational option only if it relates to the nature, not the existence—the “what,” but not the “is”—of what lies beyond all reason. You cannot say “I do not know if there is something beyond reason,” but only “I do not know what is that that we find beyond reason.” Because, having admitted the limits of reason, the moment you say “I don’t know if there is….” you will be implicitly contradicting your previous admission.

The “God of the gaps” fallacy

From Nietzsche to our days, particularly in atheistic circles, the use of the idea of the “God of the gaps” has come to be more of an abuse, to the point of becoming commonplace. According to this idea, religions are accused with the charge of using the concept of God as a stop-gap to fill in whatever gaps are left within the expanse of human knowledge. As science and human knowledge expands filling in all those gaps, God becomes progressively and irrevocably superfluous.

This is a rather silly idea, for two reasons. First of all, it does not seem that human knowledge advances leaving gaps behind, but always pushing the frontiers, always building upon previous knowledge, for the most part taken for granted. Any trained scientist, or anybody with common sense for that matter, knows that trying to advance in the knowledge of reality leaving gaps behind makes for a very unsteady progress. And the farther it goes, like a bridge without support, the unsteadier it gets.

Secondly, the charge might arguably be applied, if at all, to more ancient religions, of the mythological polytheisms or animist sorts, but hardly to the Abrahamic religions. If the God of the Abrahamic religions in general and of Christianity in particular has ever been truly used as an ad hoc explanation for whatever science could not explain at any given stage of its development, it was only at the popular level, where theology meets superstition. Whoever wants to affirm the opposite must be ready to find that they are indicting and condemning themselves for the charge of willful ignorance about the theological depths that can be found in the three Abrahamic religions.

Rather than filling gaps, the Abrahamic God points to the context in which the object of human knowledge and human knowledge itself exists and develops. The existence of the universe, human beings included, is merely an extension (or participation) of the divine being, and its ever expanding knowledge, a mere reflection of the mind of the Divinity (or Logos).

It has to be said, though, that the atheist and the agnostic, faced with the limits of human reason (therefore of human knowledge), still have a choice in order to remain rational: deny those limits. And they actually do, to be sure, placing an unfounded faith on human reason far greater than the faith any theist places on the existence of God. Why so? It is not difficult to see that, if human knowledge is ever growing, ever pushing its own frontiers, those frontiers do grow larger as well.

And the history of the development of science has attested to this truism once and again over the centuries. Whether we go down to the microscope or up to the telescope, all we manage to find out is that the more we know, the more we realize how little the scope of our previous knowledge was, though we deemed it great; and how much greater than we thought it is the scope of the unknown. Like some apologist said, it takes a lot more faith to believe in the infinitude of human knowledge than to believe in the Incarnation of the eternal God that creates and sustains the whole universe, in the womb of a hebrew virgin.

For the most part, intelligent people of all times have recognized the limitations of scientific knowledge. It is only after the Darwinian revolution that the seed of unbounded optimism in the capacity of human reason started to germinate, only to find out, with the latest advances in genetics, how little Darwin knew about the cell he had under his microscope.

The myth of rational skepticism

Look, we mustn’t kid ourselves: our rational power is fairly limited and we all take leaps of faith along the way. In order to know reality, we use our minds to process the information we capture from the outside world with our senses. So, right off the bat, we are making untested assumptions, which is another way of saying that we put our faith in certain unprovable premises, leaps of faith about certain preconditions that we need to accept before going on our rational trip towards the knowledge of Truth, our final destination. They are like items that we check before going on a trip, because we assume that they will be necessary to reach our destination:

  • Leap of faith 1: we believe there’s actually an outside world and there’s objective truth in it, and that truth can be known.
  • Leap of faith 2: we believe our senses are capable of capturing more or less reliable information from the outside world.
  • Leap of faith 3: we believe our brains are a tool adequate enough to understand and process the information thus acquired
  • Leap of faith 4: we believe the outside world actually contains intelligible information about the objective truth susceptible to be processed by our minds in order to make sense of it and draw relationships and conclusions.
  • Leap of faith 5: we believe we exist as a personal self, with a unique identity throughout time and space, who is in control, and free to make decisions about how to use our sensorial and mental faculties.

None of these are rationally or empirically testable conclusions. They are presuppositions, absolutely necessary presuppositions that cannot be rationally proven with absolute certainty by dint of however many concatenated syllogisms. But we have to put our faith in them nevertheless. We cannot afford to be skeptical about them, otherwise all our rational endeavors couldn’t even get off the ground. In order to rationally prove that you will need a plane ticket you first need to believe it, so you may get to the airport and test your assumption: it’s a presupposition that, once believed, and not before, may become a rational conclusion. It is likewise with God: it is a presupposition that we must believe in, and once, and only once we’ve made the act of faith, God may become a rational conclusion. It might not immediately look much like the God of the religions we know of, but rather a first conclusion that there has to be something else beyond time and space, beyond the comprehension of our rational but limited minds. Even the common intuition that human reason has limits requires the existence of something beyond its limits.

But our leaps of faith don’t end there; they’re just getting started. We believe our parents, we believe our teachers, we believe the books that our teachers tell us to read… And there isn’t anything irrational in all that faith. Indeed, these examples refer to the many situations when having faith is the more reasonable stance. I myself have no way to verify the theory of evolution. I cannot even prove that the earth is round! But I find it a lot more rational to place my faith in those scientists that tell me that evolution happens and that the earth is round. Reacting with skepticism in such cases would understandably be regarded as irrational behavior, better suited to a crackpot conspiracy theorist than a sensible person in the search for truth.

Some of us may like to flaunt our skepticism, but the truth is, our minds find it very natural to believe. Minds are made for believing. The truly rational mind is always open to faith, because it knows that the starting point of its journey was an act of faith. Doubting should have never been considered as a fundamental, primordial and natural step, because the natural attitude of the mind is one of faith. It is unfortunate that Descartes’ methodical doubt was to have such a powerful influence in modern and even postmodern philosophy. In the aftermath of the Copernican revolution, having witnessed a paradigm shift of seismic proportions, when centuries of Ptolemaic convictions had to be unceremoniously thrown out the window, the French philosopher was not in the right frame of mind to set out on a quest for knowledge. Assailed by the surrounding skepticism of the time, he thought that the way to truth should start with an extreme methodical doubt (method that, of course, and somewhat paradoxically, should not be doubted), so extreme that not even the minimum self awareness of his own existence could be taken for granted. He must have sighed a sigh of relief when he realized that to be doubting and thinking he had first to exist. His “cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) would turn out to be just the first tremor of the major earthquake his writings would cause in the history of western philosophy.

But a sane mind would instinctively know that we don’t exist because we think. The sane mind of the common man has always and will always know that we think because we exist.

In our postmodern world, Descartes ideas are alive and well. Many philosophers after him were all too quick to believe his faulty premise, and ever too slow to question his even more faulty conclusion. The typical postmodern skeptic, dazzled by the possibilities that a philosophy that puts mind before reality offers to the human ego, doesn’t stop to think that basing knowledge on doubt is self defeating, for if it all must be doubted, there’s no justification for sparing doubt itself as the only way to knowledge. The skeptic mind doubts everything, except its own skepticism. And if you make one exception to the rule without a cogent explanation, then who is to say where the exceptions must end?

Knowledge can only start with an act of faith, even if it is delusional faith in skepticism itself. Can we prove with absolute certainty that skepticism is the only valid way to truth? What sort of irresistible syllogism must we come up with to accomplish such a task? Is absolute certainty about anything even possible?

Can we prove with absolute certainty that we exist? The question doesn’t even occur to sane common people. But we must decidedly answer it with an emphatic…. “I don’t care.” And we might add, for good measure, our personal act of faith in the one creed of the common sense: “I believe that I exist, and I don’t need a syllogism to prove it. I just do!” Descartes doubted his own existence, but we must believe that we exist, and staunchly so, if we want to remain within the circle of sanity. Ultimately, unrestrained doubt will lead us to insanity and desperation. Only faith can lead us to reason and hope. And sanity.

The temptation to set the human mind before reality is strong, no doubt. It is the original and everlasting temptation to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, resonating in every human ear down the ages. Because, when we decide what is real, we can also decide what’s good and what’s evil.

Reality must be the measure of the mind; not the other way around. When we try to have the mind be the measure and arbiter of what is real, all we get is a mind unhinged from reality: the very definition of insanity.

To be sure, skepticism does have a role to play in the path to knowledge. We may encounter good reasons to suspect the reliability of the basic epistemological axioms (for example, our senses or mental faculties might be afflicted by some sort of impairment). And, of course, we must responsibly evaluate every new source of authoritative information, or new more reliable information may give us good reasons to doubt and, eventually, stop trusting old ones.

See, the natural tendency of human nature is the reverse of the skeptic’s attitude. The skeptic is always demanding reasons to believe, whereas the common man only doubts when faced with reasons to doubt.

There is something very unwise and reckless, not to mention exceedingly arrogant, about the attitude of the aspiring intellectual that despises the common beliefs of the common man. It’s the first and sure step that takes one down the tragic path of total loss of common sense. We may not feel inclined to make all the changes in our lives that following those beliefs would entail, but the least we can do is to treat them with the utmost respect. Because throughout the world, along millennia of human history, the overwhelming majority of people have believed in the existence of the divine, the belief in God should be the default position, and it should always be the atheist one that must explain the reasons for his doubt. Either that or be ready to explain how on earth has he (or she) become illuminated by the light of genius, whilst billions of human beings that populated the earth since the dawn of time have remained in the dark for so long.

Something’s rotten in Albuquerque

A critical assessment of some of OFM priest Richard Rohr‘s views, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, based on one YouTube presentation.

Saint Josemaria Escrivá used to teach that the Mass is the center and root of the spiritual life. Vatican II called the Eucharist the summit and source of Christian life. There is no way to overstate the centrality of the Mass in the Catholic Faith, so I would be very suspicious of any teaching that doesn’t lead back to the Eucharist one way or another, and of any sort of spirituality that does not revolve around and is fundamentally nurtured by the Holy Sacrifice. And I am certain that there’s something wrong with somebody that suggests that the mass might be an optional feature of Christian life. Richard Rohr seems to suggest that much when he chuckles at the recollection of some boys’ confessions to having missed mass on Sunday.

Towards the end of that YouTube, he dares to say that “it is evil to teach that missing Sunday mass is evil.” Now, as far as I know, nobody teaches that missing Sunday mass is evil, so he is arguably alluding to one of the precepts of the Church, that bind the Catholic’s conscience with mortal sin. Under this assumption, he not only misunderstands the notion of sin and does not appreciate the value of the Mass, but he would also be openly challenging the authority of the Church.

The misunderstanding of sin as something evil is very common nowadays. But the truth is that the current definition and implication of what is evil does not equate with the Catholic notion of sin, not even of mortal sin. Nobody really feels like a sinner, because nobody wants to be evil. And the truth is, most people aren’t evil. But all of us are sinners. Except for Jesus and Mary, everybody else is a sinner. And if you think you are not, just check two of Jesus’ parables: the rich man and Lazarus, and the goats and the sheep. It’s pretty clear that in both cases, neither the rich man nor “the goats” were condemned for doing something ‘evil,’ but rather for failing to do something good.

So let us turn our eyes to the one paradigmatic sin, which is the source of all other sins and all the evil in the world—the original sin of Adam and Eve—and hopefully put to rest this absurd notion that only what we commonly understand as evil can really be considered a sin.

The story of Genesis may be allegorical (or not), but its meaning is very clear: we reject the love that God offers us when we disobey His command, no matter how arbitrary it may seem to our limited comprehension. Nobody would think that eating a fruit from a tree can be considered evil. But there should be no doubt, even in the least attentive reader, that eating from the tree was a mortal sin: In the day that you eat from it you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:17). And, it seems to me, neither would Fr. Richard deem it evil to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But I wonder if he paid enough attention to realize that it was a sin, and a mortal one. He seems very comfortable deciding what is good and what is evil all by himself, and redefining the concept of mortal sin.

I don’t know, and it’s not to the point, whether there was a literal tree and a literal fruit. Still, the message is clear: a willing disobedience to a known command from God is inexorably followed by death. Obviously not the kind of death that is the loss of this animal and ephemeral life, but the real Death to the real Life for which we were created: a sharing in the everlasting life of God.

And it makes perfect sense. Why? Because the Life of God is the eternal Love between the Father and the Son: the Holy Spirit. Spirit is Life. Life is love. When we hear that God offers us his Love, we must understand it also as an offer of Life—a Life giving Love, if you prefer. It is a love connection through which the divine Life flows from Creator to creature. And love—any love—must be found in freedom and truth. Disobedience—and the doubt that causes it—denies the basic truth of who God is in relation to who we are and, therefore, also denies the truth of the total dependency of the creature from the Creator.

By consenting to the doubt that God may not have our best interest at heart—God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God (Genesis 3:5)”—,we are withdrawing the requisite faith in the love of God. Without faith in His Love, we take away the possibility of our acceptance, resulting instead in the rejection ipso facto of God’s offer of love. And, ipso facto, we lose our connection with the Love of God; which is to say, we lose the Life of God. Death may be portrayed as punishment for sin, though it is better characterized as its consequence. It’s more like ruining your car as a consequence of ramming it against a telephone pole, than getting a ticket for speeding.

And lost and lifeless were we, walking in valley of darkness in this land of exile, when God became Man and dwelt among us bringing light back into the world. We were dead when God gave up His human life on the cross so divine Life could be restored back into humankind and we could be welcome back to the lost paradise where the tree of life offers its fruit.

Nowhere else as much as in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross does God pour out all His love for us. The cross of Christ is an event in history imbued with eternal relevance, because it is the sacrifice of one who is the eternal God (*). And that eternal sacrifice, offered by Christ “as Priest of the order of Melchizedek” from dawn till dusk, is made present everyday for us in every holy mass celebrated throughout the world. So we can say too, that nowhere else as much as in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass does God pour out all His love for us. There He invites us to eat and be nourished by His body and fully participate in His redemptive and Life giving sacrifice.

The tree of the cross is the tree of life, and its fruit is the bread of eternal life come down from heaven. Every time we miss mass we miss the most precious chance to receive God’s love. We give up a chance to receive God Himself in the Eucharist! By rejecting the fruit from the tree of life we are, indeed doing something akin to eating from the wrong tree all over again.

God also gave power to the Church to bind us with her precepts. For our own good, like a mother that compels her children to get the good food, the Church commands all her children to come together as one church, one body, to accept and receive from God the greatest gift of all: the invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb and the consummation of His infinite sacrifice of love for us on the cross.

God offers Himself to us so we can transform our lives by uniting them and everything in them to this infinite sacrifice. Every small and seemingly negligible circumstance of our lives becomes infused with infinite value when we put it on the altar to be offered to the Father together with the infinite value of the Holy Sacrifice of the Son. It is madness to waste such an amazing opportunity.

It is for our own good that the Church binds us with this “obligation” to come every week on the Lord’s day to the table of the Lord’s supper. And it is hardly an obligation when we are going to receive the greatest gift of all. Would we think it an “obligation” to go claim the one billion dollars owed to our lottery winning number? Well, yes, it is strictly an obligation, because we would forfeit the prize if we don’t claim it before the deadline. But we would be really stupid or raving mad to complain about fulfilling such an “obligation.” And one, no, three, ten, a thousand, a trillion dollars is nothing and less than nothing compared to what we get when we participate in the bloodless renovation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, the Holy Mass.

God gave a command to Adam and Eve with the warning that they would die if they did not obey; and the Church, in the name of and with Christ’s given authority, enjoins us with identical warning: willingly skipping holy mass on Sunday without a valid reason carries the same consequence: death of the soul.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

Satan sows doubt, the first step in the scheme of temptation. And Fr. Richard Rohr, unwittingly or not, but very dutifully for sure, sows in the souls the doubt about one clear command among the very few that are given to us by the Church. Our mother the Church, concerned about our spiritual life and the nourishment of our souls, backed up by the authority bestowed upon her by our Saviour and two thousand years plus of accumulated wisdom, bids all Catholic faithful to celebrate the memorial of the Lord’s passion at least once a week.

Fr. Rohr thinks “it’s evil to teach kids that it’s evil to miss Sunday mass.” Don’t you hear the echo of the diabolical tempter sowing doubt in the minds of the faithful? Wouldn’t it be evil instead to cast, like the serpent in the Garden, the shadow of doubt over the clear command of the Church, the institution founded by Christ to shepherd His flock?

Make no mistake, I am not a legalistic person; rather the opposite. I am not writing out of ignorance or narrow mindedness. I know how daring it may come accross to some that I, a low rank and file catholic with no official and worldly titles, challenges the teaching of a priest of the Church entrusted with transmitting faithfully her teachings, who holds Phd titles and several published bestselling books to boot. I know that Fr. Rohr has been followed by many people for many years, that some attribute to him the way back or having remained in their faith. But I cannot remain silent seeing a false prophet leading my brothers astray.

I know that Fr. Rohr is probably well versed in Franciscan spirituality and, so I’m told, in the mysticism of St. John of the Cross. I am no expert in Franciscan spirituality, but I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that St. Francis did not, and would have never dared to challenge the authority of the Church. Quite the opposite.

I don’t hold any degrees on the mysticism of St. John of the Cross, but I’ve read enough of his writings to know that he would have never dreamt of questioning the authority of the Church. He who wrote that “we will be judged by how much we loved,” knew better than most (certainly better than Fr. Rohr) what love means for Jesus: “Whoever loves me follows my commandments” (John 14:15). He knew perfectly well too, that the commandments of the Church are the commandments of Christ, who gave her the power to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19), and that Christ himself commanded: “do this in memory of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)

There is a certain air about this whole presentation—and others by Fr. Richard Rohr—that insinuates an undeniable uneasiness on his part to stay within the confines of Catholic orthodoxy, and even within the strictures of the Franciscan order. And one needs not be overly perspicacious to make out the virtue of obedience as a large tripping stone in his path. His very reticence to wear the habit that his father Francis designed for the members of his order should give us a hint to the warrant for this suspicion.

He may be careful enough not to say things that directly contradict the dogma of the Church on numerous issues. Alas, his smugness got the best of him, and revealed his true colors by the use of an ill disguised condescending tone when speaking about the little kids that came to him in the Sacrament of Confession searching forgiveness for missing Sunday mass. Mind that he did not excuse the sin on account of an impossible guilt for a kid who is yet unable to drive himself. No. His contention was against a Church that teaches kids that missing mass on Sunday is a sin.

It is sad to consider that those kids are far ahead of him in the contemplative way. Or maybe not, maybe I should not be sad if my first reaction had been the same as Jesus’:

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”(Matthew 11:25)

It is little wonder that Jesus conditioned the entrance in the Kingdom of Heaven to becoming like little children. For little children have faith in the love of their father, and it is in that confidence that they obey their fathers’ commands (and their mothers’ commands—for the Church is our mother), knowing fully well that whatever our Father commands has our happiness as His sole aim and purpose.

Obedience, like little children’s obedience, is key to our salvation. Not the servile obedience of a slave to a master, but the trusting obedience of a little child to a Father that loves and knows them with an infinite love and an infinite knowledge. The knowledge that a Creator has of His creature, and of the purpose for which He created it: infinite bliss in communion with the life giving love of the Trinity. Nobody knows better than Him what makes us happy, not even ourselves—maybe particularly not ourselves. Nobody can love us more. Nobody else has the efficacious power to will for us the very summit of love and happiness. Hence the outrageous excess of love that He meant to show us by dying on a cross, lest our faith in His love were ever to falter.

Through disobedience, we lost the original innocence and the communion with God—hence, we lost the eternal life. And the Word of God, eternally begotten of and one with the Father, became flesh to model what should have been Adam’s behavior, so we could follow in His steps:

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.

“Christ made himself for us obedient unto death–even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

I don’t think Richard Rohr even begins to understand what happens every Sunday in holy mass. In other passages of this presentation he does drop some hints, here and there, as to the extent of his personal belief in the Holy Eucharist. He says things like, “the image of the presence of God—the host…” What about real presence? Did he really mean that the host is just an image of the presence of God? Or was it just an involuntary gaffe? It would seem so, for shortly afterwards he does say, “you can offer people the real presence in the Eucharist…” But then proceeds to dash all my hopes by adding “perhaps” at the end of that sentence!

Other passages in the conversation give us a strong clue about what he really means. And it’s not good. For example, he says:

“Presence is a relational term… if you can’t believe that God is here right now, He’s not going to be there in church, at mass…”

And soon,

“If you’re not present, there’s no real presence.”

Presence is not a relational term. True, it includes the hope for a relationship: God’s desire that we will show up and allow Him to drawn us in His love. But Jesus is present in the host regardless of the presence of other people in the temple, regardless of whether people in the temple are paying any attention to Him or chatting among themselves, regardless of the fact that those present in the temple are present to Him, indeed. Jesus is always there in the tabernacle, waiting for us, waiting to love us or, rather, waiting for us to open our hearts for Him to flood it with the ever flowing torrent of his love, pouring out of His open wounds. Jesus is always there for us. He is not a projection of our minds. His real presence does not depend on our intentional presence, otherwise it would not be really “real.”

Fr. Rohr seems to believe that it is our faith that operates the miracle of Jesus’ presence in the host. He seems to ignore that it is the power of Christ’s words that operates the miracle, ex opere operato, independently of the faith or even the state of grace of the celebrant. I can’t be sure that this is an accurate and fair description of his assumptions (that’s why I say that he “seems to believe”), but that’s what his words suggest to me.

It is bad enough that those who believe in His real real presence so many times behave as if we didn’t. But it’s even worse when we purposefully just stare right through Him. Intentional indifference to somebody’s presence—somebody’s real presence—must feel like a dagger through the heart of one who loves us so, so much, that he gave the last drop of blood of His sacred heart for us, and would give it again, and again, and again.

It makes my heart shrink in sorrow to think that the Eternal God, Creator of heavens and earth, lowers Himself so incredibly much by becoming one of us, dying a horrible death so we can have our sacrifice and model; not happy with that, He becomes even a piece of bread to be that close to us and prove His infinite love for us, only to be met by the indifference of one consecrated precisely to show us and lead us to that unfathomable love.

God is a desperate, unrequited lover, that knows no boundaries—not even death—when it comes to make sure we know how much He loves us, so that we may believe in His love to the point that nothing will stop us in the way of trusting that His desperation is only for our sake. A little child unhesitantly trusts in his father’s love, knowing fully well that he wants nothing, and will command nothing but what is necessary for his happiness. Likewise God is dying (literally) to prove that His will for us is nothing but a life of eternal happiness in union with Him.

There are many other erroneous teachings latent under things said in this YouTube video and it would become too long and tedious to debunk them all. But I’m confident that the ones described here about such crucial Catholic teachings as the notion of sin and the nature of the Holy Mass, are more than sufficient to make the reader wonder, as I myself wonder, how on earth has this wolf disguised as shepherd been permitted to lead astray so many faithful souls for such a long time. If bishops and superiors show such cowardice when it comes to protect their sheep from false shepherds like Richard Rohr, it is no surprise at all to learn of the appalling numbers coming out of the latest Pew Research on the percentage of Catholics that go to mass on Sundays, and the even smaller number of those who believe in the Real Presence of the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord in the Eucharistic bread and wine.


(*) While still in the middle of writing/editing this post, thanks to YouTube algorithms I ended watching another of Richard Rohr’s presentations where he clearly states that “saying that Jesus is God is bad theology; it’s incorrect”. You can see it by yourself at https://youtu.be/MnTC4NNIACk, starting around minute 23:30. Has he even the cheek to remark “I am not being heretical”? You better believe it (or listen to it with your own ears).

How on earth is this person still teaching and preaching as a Catholic priest when he is not even a Christian? For no true Christian would ever deny the full divinity of Christ!

Who is this false prophet’s superior? What does it take to unmask this wolf in sheep’s disguise?

Original sin and divine omnipotence

God’s omnipotence is often brought up by atheists who are understandably befuddled by His apparent indifference in view of all the evil, suffering and injustice in the world. “He is either not good,” they say, “or He’s not omnipotent.”

God is unique and unlike absolutely anything else. Not in the way we, as individual persons are unique, because eventhough we as individual persons are unique and alien (other) to each other, we still share the same humanity (the same human nature) with every other human being that lives, has lived and will ever live. To be sure, if we are unique as individuals it is only because we are made in the image and reflect the absolute uniqueness of God. Only God is absolutely unique. We are relatively unique, because our uniqueness is related to the image of God we bear.

We are even more ‘other’ (alien) to non human animals for, whereas with other humans we share the same human nature (which includes the animal nature), we only share the animal nature with them. And we share only biological nature with plants and only physical nature with inanimate objects. Well, God is the other to the universe. It is not that He is one of the others: whatever is not the universe, that’s what God is. The scholastics coined the Latin expression totaliter aliter to try to express this absolute otherness of God.

In other words, what I’m trying to say is that, whatever concepts we use for realities within the universe, they are utterly insufficient to manifest the transcendent, and only analogically can they be used in reference to God, like when we say that each human being is “unique,” and then we use the same word in reference to God.

There are also instances where the analogical use of a word can be so misleading when applied to God that we might as well come up with an altogether new concept. One very conspicuous case in point is the use of the concept of ‘power’ and its derivatives, such as omnipotence. In a merely natural context, we tend to use the word power as synonim of “possibility.” But power as possibility (or ‘potentiality’) becomes tricky-—even contradictory—when we apply it to a being that is all “actuality” and zero “potentiality.” Ironically, the usual praise, “he has lots of potential,” would become a censure when referring to God. God can’t have the power to acquire any perfection whatsoever, because He is already, by definition, the sum of all perfections, not in a potential degree but fully actualized from eternity.

Neither has God the power to do anything that contradicts His being, which is the Supreme Being, in whom there’s no limitation, not even the (de)limitation of an essence (or nature) that would allow for naming Him, defining Him and, eventually have other beings share in that nature.

Nor has God the power to go back in His words and deeds: His words and deeds are eternal and therefore irreversible. We can rest in peace knowing that His offer of love will stand forever. There’s nothing that we, or anybody or anything can do for Him to give up loving us. He will not change His mind. He cannot, for change is bound up with time. If He did, He would not be eternal. And if He is not eternal, He is not God.

So, I hope it’s clear enough by now that the word “omnipotence” does not mean the same when applied to God. That there are many things that God cannot do. Just to name a few: He cannot lie to himself (or to us), he cannot stop being God, and He cannot contradict Himself. In brief, God’s omnipotence does obviously not include the possibility of doing anything that would contradict any of His other attributes. It would just not make any logical sense to say that God is not omnipotent because He cannot stop being omnipotent!

Another thing we have to keep in mind when contemplating the mystery of the original sin, and of sin in general, is precisely that it’s a mystery, a mystery of iniquity (misterium iniquitatis). That’s another thing God cannot do: He can’t reveal all mysteries. Or, said it in a different way, God without mystery would not be really God, unless we’re willing to accept the irrational contradiction of an infinite being contained (comprehended) within the boundaries of a finite mind.

Imagine Albert Einstein trying to explain the theory of relativity to a three year old. Now, multiply the distance between Einstein’s and the three year old’s intelligences by several billion and you still wouldn’t get an accurate assessment of the distance between God’s mind and the minds of all the most intelligent people in history combined. Because we cannot compare the distance between two finite minds with the distance between a finite and an infinite mind.

Before you ask why didn’t God create us with infinite minds, think about the logical contradiction implicit in positing two infinite of anything. An infinite mind has to, by necessity, be contained in an infinite being. An infinite being is a being without limits. Can we own a property without limits in the state of Texas if somebody else already owns a limitless property in the state of Texas? So, the mere idea of two infinite of any thing is a logical nonsense. Besides, infinite would imply not only spatial infinitude but also a temporal infinitude. In other words, an infinite being calls for an eternal being, a being without beginning and without end. I suppose any explanation on the impossibility for an eternal being to create another eternal being should be otiose.

Furthermore, essence is what something is. The essence of something is what we try to capture when we define it. As such, essence is a limiting concept: the word “definition” itself speaks of limitation. The moment you say what something is—the moment you define it—, you will also be inescapably saying what that something is not. When you define something, all you are doing is corralling being, separating its essence from the rest of being.

Strictly speaking then there cannot be an infinite essence. Only a being that is just pure being can be infinite, because essence is what sets the limits to being.

This is a crucial concept, and it’s what allows us to understand why the Hebrews were (and still are) so adamant about not pronouncing the ‘name of God’. Because you name something when you need to refer to its essence, when you need to pin down its “whatness“, to say what something is. But, as we saw, when you say what something is you are also saying what something is not. Moses wants to know the name of God. He wants to pin down God; but he will only get an enigmatic, “I am who is.” In other words, God just is. Pure being, altogether devoid of an essence to set limits around it. Pure being without an essence to tell Him what He is not.

What makes God’s essence so elusive is precisely the fact that there’s not strictly speaking such a thing as a divine essence. There’s no answer to the question ‘what is God?’ because there is no whatness to God. The first mistake atheists usually make is to try to define God, try to figure out which what is God among a universe of whats. God is the One indefinable being par excellence. You can define the universe, but you cannot define God.

We exist in a universe of definable objects, whereas the undefinable God contains the universe and everything in it, but from a different realm: the realm of undefinable being. So God exists in an altogether different level of reality. If the comparison helps, our total dependency from God is comparable to the dependency of the lower level reality in a work of fiction from its author. We are in the mind of God, in a sense analogous with the way Frodo and the Middle Earth were in the mind of Tolkien. Only that the dependency is even more absolute. Rather, fictional characters’ dependency on their author is a relative dependency, particularly after a book is written and read, whence it becomes less dependent. The fictitious reality will survive in the print of books and the minds of the readers, and might do so long after Tolkien has ceased thinking about it, even after Tolkien himself has passed away.

Not so with God. First, because God does not die. Second, because if God were to stop thinking about His creation, or any part thereof, it would instantly cease to exist. At all levels of reality. There is no reality of any kind of level outside of the mind of God.

Anyhow, I think it is important to understand that there are different levels of reality, and the level of ultimate reality is that where the Absolute Being resides, unrestrained by no essence whatsoever. Nay, even calling it a “level” of reality can be profoundly misleading. Because, strictly speaking, levels are to be differentiated by a relative relation to each other. However, the reality that God inhabits cannot be differentiated by a relative relation with any other level of reality, because there is an absolute relation between God and His Creation, an absolute transcendence. The distance from God to His Creation is the distance between infinite and finite. Therefore, it is an infinite distance.

“I charge thee (…) to keep the commandment (…) until the the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (…) who only has immortality, dwelling in an inaccessible light; whom no man has seen nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16)

By the way, that is the reason why nothing, absolutely nothing could be done to bridge the chasm opened between God and men after the original sin. The Fall of man was a fall of a finite being from its union with the Infinite God, hence man fell an infinite distance that only an infinite being would be able to cover. No Babel towers, no AI and all the ridiculous pretentions of technology’s “Deus Homo” or anything out of this finite world will ever have a remote chance at reaching the Infinite God. Only the Infinite God could reach down into the finite world.

Nonetheless, we mustn’t fall in the easy trap of thinking in panteistic terms. Indeed, this way of looking at the issue is the opposite of panteism, because it leaves very much out of the question the immanence of God in the Universe. God is altogether transcendent to the universe, but not completely foreign to or dettached from it. In fact, God is in all things by essence and by presence, without being any one particular being, neither all of them at once. And, by the same token, all things are in God in the sense that everything that exists does so in God’s knowledge and God’s will.

To say that God is everything is not the same as saying that everything is God.

We see reality as a unity. The pre- socratic philosophers had already figured out that the most fundamental split, the one revealed by the founding principle of logic, is between being and no being. Being is the true unifying principle. And so they called universe every thing that is.

Being is the one thing that explains itself, because being is a hard fact: once there’s a mind that can perceive being, no further explanation is required. And the fact alone that we perceive it makes the mere thought of non being, the thought of nothing, just a mental category, an actual impossibility. We perceive being in absolutely everything, but our experience of being is inseparable from the notion of essence. We can only perceive being enclosed, delimited by essences. Being is the same in everything we perceive. A car has being. A deer has being. Electricity has being. What differentiates a car from a deer from electricity is not being. A car is. A deer is. Electricity is. What differentiates one from the other is not the being: that they all have in common. The difference is given by the different essences, which are like shapes cut as if by a cookie cutter off of a very large dough (an infinite dough, in fact)

Everything has a being but nothing sums up all being, and by all accounts and measures it seems indisputable that being is inexhaustible. As long as there are minds capable of capturing being by designing new essence, there will always be being. That’s what human inventions do. The human mind seems to be an inexhaustible source of particular essences, always capable of conjuring up mental creations. And by organizing being hitherto encompassed by different essences, man can truly create new essences with what I would call “lower level beings,” that is, new essences with a merely ideal being (or lower level being). But if he wants his creation to have an existence beyond the idea within his mind, he must ‘rob’ being from other essences by destroying some and repurposing others.

A basic and crude example could be that of the essence of a tree that is destroyed in order to extract the wood that will be repurposed (in which case the essence of the wood would remain intact) in order to build something according to a preexistent essence or an entirely new essence. Depending on differing opinions there’s a wider or narrower area for the consideration of whether a new instance of just the same essence is being recreated or if a new essence altogether is being added on top of a previously existing one. This is related to a wider discussion about art: it can legitimately be argued that, if artistically designed, the chair is not just a chair, but the essence of a “piece of art” might well be added to the essence of that chair. And so, a chair might be not just any chair, but also a piece of art. And, if the art design is particularly original and excites a new line of chairs, yet another essence might be added. We would call that a new style.

A clear sign that the valuation that elevates the entity to a new essential level is present, is when the name of the style is used interchangeably with the name ‘chair.’ For instance, the Adirondack style is so popular in the US (at least here in New England) that, given the right context, anybody would understand that you’re talking about the Adirondack chair even if you leave out the vocable “chair.” Something similar happens in the world of art: if you talk about a Rembrandt, most everybody will understand that you are actually referring to a painting by the famous Dutch artist.

On a cursory consideration, it seems to me that this gives rise to a hierarchical reality, where the beings that pile onto them a larger amount of essences, are valued more than those that can boast of fewer of them. This seems to be the case at least with essences created by man’s artistry or ingenuity. I guess you could talk about an aggregated ontological value.

And it’s not without design that I qualify the value as ontological, which refers to the entity or being, because unlike Occam and the nominalist philosophers, I hold the view that universals are essences that exist in reality and not just abstractions of the mind. And it is for this reason that piling essences onto one entity adds more being (the being of the universal essence) to that one entity. This might hopefully become clearer when we discuss the universal nature of essences in the following paragraphs.

An important distinction is owed to the reader at this juncture. Very rarely essences occur in a singularity. In most cases, essences are shared across a more or less wide range of individual instantiations of one same essence. As a typical, almost commonplace example we can advance the paradigmatic singularity of the Big Bang as one egregious exception to this tendency. Of course, the essence of the universe refers to the quintessential singularity: the essence to encompass all essences. And then we have universal essences, that don’t seem to have a substantial existence outside the individual participations of the same.

Let’s try with an example. Let’s say that all soda cans in the world share the same essence, and let’s suppose that there’s one inventor of the soda can. The nominalist would maintain that the essence of the soda can disappears with the disappearance of the last soda can in the universe. In other words, the essence of the soda can is wholly dependent on the existence of entities that share the “soda-canity” essence.

And last, but not least, keep in mind that even though we are all created by God, Adam and Eve’s act of creation is of a different kind. When God created Adam and Eve, His creation act, besides being out of nothing, was twofold: he created both the individual human and its human nature. When He creates us, he only creates the individual; the human nature we inherit from our parents, who inherited from theirs, and so on, until reaching the first human couple.

I think the right question would be why did Adam and Eve have the “power” to affect human nature. The answer to this question (if it can be called answer at all), I haven’t found it, but I have a theory. I’m not certain this is orthodox catholic doctrine, but it (kind of) makes sense to me. I believe they had that power because they possessed human nature in its totality. We share in a human nature with billions of other individuals, so our personal sins cannot affect it, unless we coordinate with the rest of humankind to commit the same sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, humankind sinned. Under this light, it’s understandable the concern of the Church with the theory of evolution: if we don’t descend from one single couple that lived and sinned in a time when nobody else lived, all the framework of our faith crumbles.

And one more thing: don’t let yourself be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the allegorical nature of the Genesis tale. First of all, the magnitud of a sin can’t be judge independently from the circumstances of the sinner, in this case somebody without the inclination of the nature that we must nowadays overcome, and many other preternatural gifts that we don’t possess.

Sin is always something terrible, surely absurd from a divine standpoint, and in the case of the first human couple even more so considering that they lived in a state of infinite bliss. It wasn’t the reaction of somebody overwhelmed by their own weaknesses against the seeming arbitrariness of an incomprehensible ruler. Theirs was an unjustified act of disobedience, a rebellion against somebody whom they perfectly well knew only deserved their eternal gratitude.

Many centuries later, the “obedience to the point of death, and death on a cross” of another man that would replace Adam and Eve in their primacy, was needed to undo, to cancel out the first disobedience. The contemplation alone of all the suffering of that Man that was also God so His sacrifice would have the infinite power to erase an infinite offense and an infinite number of other offenses, should serve as a clue to the gravity of that original sin, that incomprehensible “misterium iniquitatis.

And as for them not knowing good from evil, that’s in my understanding an error of interpretation. I believe they knew perfectly well the evil they were doing; their faculties were definitely clearer than ours, which are clouded precisely by the wound inflicted by them on our human nature. The devil’s temptation was not to understand from a human perspective, but to understand as God understands. The temptation was to understand in the same way of a God whose knowledge alone had not only creative power, but also the power to make things good or bad. It was a temptation to usurp the place of their own Creator and Supreme ruler. And it is, by the way, the greatest temptation of modern man, to become autonomous from God, to be his only ruler unto himself, to claim the power to decide what is good and what is evil.

Male and female

I was brought up Catholic and I kept receiving and seeking instruction in my faith way beyond the classes in “Sunday school.” My approach to my faith has always been one of curiosity and wonder, and I was never satisfied with perfunctory explanations, or no explanation at all. And when my questions fell in deaf ears, or seemed to have run into a wall, I still kept thinking about them, sometimes for years.

Maybe I am a bit of a “rationalist,” not so much in the sense that I expect to fully comprehend the Divinity (I understood early on that an infinite Deity cannot possibly be enclosed in a limited reason), but in the sense that it has to make sense, even when the sense meant to accept that certain mysteries lie beyond the reach of my reason, though never against my reason.

Among the things that kept me coming back for an explanation was the story of Creation of man and woman. There was something bizarre about Adam feeling unfulfilled after naming all the animals, then put to sleep so God could extract a rib “from his side” and around that rib create a woman. There had to be a specific meaning, a lesson that God was trying to tell us through that story.

My first observation was that, in the first story, there were not really two separate acts of creation, and that told me that God really meant to create one thing, that He really did create one thing. (Of course, all of creation is one act, because in His simplicity, everything that God does, even though we perceive as many, is done in one act.)

In the beginning, God did not created two human beings. In the beginning, God created One Humanity, and that humanity was male, and female. Humanity is the essence shared by at least two persons of different sex.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
–Genesis 1:27


There is not such a thing as an individual humanity, because humanity is, by default, pluripersonal. Or does it become pluripersonal…? I believe it was meant pluripersonal since the beginning, because the image being reflected in humanity was also the image of a pluripersonal being. A tri-personal being, to be more precise.

I believe that the point of the bizarre tale of the second version of the creation of Man is merely to emphasize the fact that God creates one only essence, which is the human essence, and that essence is both male and female. The image of God withdrawing Eve from the side of Adam could well be the way of picturing this unity in humankind, a unity that survives the image of Adam’s slumber and Eve being fashioned around the portion taken from Adam’s side.

There was an original union between man and woman, and something split that unity, and somehow that unity is meant to be restored. Man lost something, and woman was missing something, and that which they missed was in the other. They were meant to be completed by each other, and thus neither was in possession of the fullness of humanity, in the sense that neither of them exhausted what we call “human nature” (or the human essence). That nature was shared between Adam and Eve. Nowadays it is seven billion of us that share that one nature. There is not, there has never been such a thing as one individual in possession of the whole human nature, and the closest we could ever get to aspire to an identification between individual and nature was with the first couple of man and woman. Therefore, not even hypothetically could a human being be defined as a single individual, which is a compelling piece of evidence to buttress Aristoteles’ cogent theory of the essential sociability of human beings.

The act by which this original unity is restored—at least physically and biologically, even if fleetingly—is the sexual union of man and woman when it’s open to reproduction of new life. Any kind of sexual union that is not open to life does not have that quality of restoring the lost unity, since it is the complementation of male’s and female’s sexual organs in the act of reproduction that, in a very concrete way, realizes the feat of having two bodies working as one.

The unity of an organism is given by its purpose; not by the result of its operations, but by its purpose. The unity of a soccer team is determined not by the winning result of a game, but by the purposeful willingness of each and all of its members to win the game. It could further be argued that the fact that not every player at every second of the game has the primary goal of winning the game in mind (as in the case that those who play just for the fun of it) doesn’t necessarily thwart the unity of the team. But it is at least required that not a single player in the team has in mind at any point to NOT win the game: there is no possible unity in a team where some mean to win and some others mean to lose. Likewise, the unity of the sexual act is not determined by whether it actually results in a new life, but by the appropriateness of such an act, as act, to be reproductive of new life.


“I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” (John Lennon)

If there’s one particular human act that brings the world together as one, it would be the sexual union of man and woman in the pursuit of one goal, which is the goal of humankind considered as a whole in perpetuating the species: the reproduction, the transmission of human life. The fact that many individual people do not engage in this kind of acts has nothing to do with this statement.

I think this is obvious, but since there is a common misconception that supports the argument against considering sex as an essentially reproductive act (basically maintaining that reproduction is a ‘side effect,’ an accident or a secondary effect at best), it might be worth pointing out that the sexual act is not required for the full realization of the individual as a human person. If it was, God wouldn’t have created the individual person with an incomplete body.

The full extent of human dignity resides in the individual person, and that is why it is not correct to talk about sex as a “biological necessity” of the individual. But there’s no doubt that it is a necessity of humanity as a whole. And when I say as a whole, I mean strictly speaking a man and a woman, for only a woman and a man together can represent the entire humankind and carry out the command to perpetuate the species. If there wasn’t anybody left on earth but just one man and one woman, they would be that “humanity as a whole,” in which case sex would remain a necessity for the species and become also a necessity for the individuals—I would even dare say, a duty of the individuals, as it indeed was for Adam and Eve.

If there weren’t any individuals of either sex left on earth, humankind can be considered extinct for all effects and purposes. It’s just a matter of time. A matter of just one lifetime, or whatever is left of it to the youngest man (or woman).

Sex as a gift

Sex is a gift in many ways. A gift from God, and a gift from man to woman and from woman to man. Man and woman give each other the gift of themselves in order to make the other complete, whole. By surrendering one’s self, by giving up their whole beings in order to become a new one, a new unity, in the act that is designed to give life, to transmit life by an act of love. We are called to be pro-creators with God in the creation of new human beings. And it only makes sense that if the act of creating is an act of love from the Creator, the act of pro-creating should also be an act of love.

To give life, means in a certain way to die. There is a strange connection between sex and death, if not for anything else, because there’s an essential bond between sex and life. The sexual act symbolizes the giving up of the individual selves, the death of the self that is meant when the spouses swear, with the most solemn and sacred vow, that they give their lives to each other. Where there were two, now there’s one. Whereas the giving up of the self is an arduous and long life endeavor, that needs to be actualized day after day; the sexual act has the capacity to physically, physiologically and biologically actualize that surrender, and that physical surrender becomes the symbol deeply ingrained in the human psyche of the giving up of the whole personal self in a free act of total and mutual submission that is the essence of love and the supreme achievement and realization of human freedom.

Worth it is to notice that the submission of love, to be truly human, must respect the sacred dignity of the human person. Only a submission accepted as an absolutely free and undeserved gift allows for the individual dignity to remain intact. There is not a chance in the universe to overemphasize the importance of this allowance, because the union in mutual and full submission of the self that cancels the sacred dignity of the individual person would ipso facto cancel freedom, the conditio sine qua non of love, turning the union into dust floating and disappearing in the wind.

There is an image of two fish swallowing each other in a Yin Yang kind of circular symbol that I find helpful to illustrate the dynamics of submission in love. The ideal love is that where both lovers submit to each other. But not in a fake kind of submission motion that is neither accepted nor intended, but as a true submission of the self, the whole self, that is accepted as a free gift, only in order to offer it back together with one’s own self in a virtuous cycle that feeds back, in a never ending romantic dance, choreographing the becoming of one in the mutual self giving of the lovers.

Of course, like I said, this is the ideal love. Alas, this kind of love rarely becomes fulfilled in this life. But is the kind of love that we should all strive for. And we should learn to identify its enemies, who are always there, lurking in the shadows to pounce on one or the other, or both. To a certain extent they all attack both sides, male and female, though it is my experience that some of them seem more powerful against the man, and some others seem more powerful agains the woman.

Self-righteous love

Probably the worst enemy of love, the most harmful when it succeeds, is to lose sight of the free quality of the gift. The moment one grabs the gift as something due, something one has a right to, the most fundamental requisite is taken out of the equation, and the giver is deprived from the freedom to give, without which love becomes a vacuous and perfunctory pantomime. His or her dignity is violated and only the interplay of some very colossal virtues and unlikely changes and circumstances can keep it alive long enough to even get a chance at surviving. The freedom in the giving must be preserved at every moment throughout the lives of the lovers, or else, the very capacity to love is taken away. Besides, when this happens, it is usually coupled with a sef-righteous sense that one is deserving of the other’s love just because of what he or she offers in return, which is very likely to hobble his or her own willingness to offer the full gift of the self that the love dynamic necessitates.

Lazy love

I hesitate to categorize this enemy of love as less harmful than self-righteous love, because even if it is not as overpowering and difficult to defeat once recognized, it is more covert and devious, and it can do a lot of damage before it is unmasked and confronted. I once heard that love is a verb, love is an action. It is not something you feel; love is something you do. Maybe that is why the Romans called it diligere, word that bequeathed its root to words such as “diligence”

I recently heard somebody trying to debunk the “myth” of self-love. She did not succeed, because there is a very strange paradox in Christianity. The call to action of the Beatitudes is totally counterintuitive. It seems to point away from the self, but the final goal is the strongest affirmation of the self. Because, what is the self in the end if not a perfect amalgam of the image of God printed in the deepest recesses of our shared human essence and the full realization of our potential as it is conceived in the incarnated Logos? Yes, because there is a crude image of our nature, and the perfect model of our selves as they are thought of by God when He creates us. And, as with everything else, God creates us, each one of us, through the Logos and in the Logos. And the Logos was the light that illuminated the goal at the end of our path.

We have a natural tendency, almost morbidly dramatized by our modern culture, to be ourselves. “Be yourself!” they tell you, as if being oneself is a matter of choice, as if it is possible not to be ourselves. And, the funny thing is: that is the “honest to God” truth! I’m tempted to say that we are born with the instinctive knowledge of these truisms: that we must become our own selves, which directly implies the second truism, that we are not ourselves!

So, who are we if not ourselves? We don’t know. What do we know? We know that we are created for Life, not this evanescent animal life, but the fullness of human Life, the Life with capital L, that is a sharing in the eternal Life of God. And that Life is in the divine Logos, and that “Life is the light of men,” the light that shines on who we truly are and we are not yet. In other words, what we really, really are is in the divine Logos, and only looking at Him we can become what we are and who we are.

Because there is a unity of nature and individual in the human essence. We become who we are by becoming more human. Essence answers the question “what?” Our essence is “human”. “What” we are is “humans” and we are humans because we all share of this one human essence. Self, or identity, answers the question “who?” However, the human essence is fundamentally personal, hence who we are is also what we are. The more we become who we are (or who we are called to be), the more we become what we are. Person and nature are potentially one. And in this sense we are called to be one with the rest of humankind.

(In a quick side note, this is why it is totally absurd to argue about whether the unborn is a person. Personhood is not something conferred on the human being; personhood is the only possible way of being human).

Why is it so? Because the very essence of humanity is the one that reflects the image of God and aspires to the union of love with the life of God. Therefore, to be human is to love, because the Life we are called to live is the very Love of God. Love is God and God is Love. That is why person and human essence are intrinsically and indisolubly connected, for in personhood resides the capacity for loving. The very definition of a person is, precisely, a being that is susceptible to be loved and capable of loving. And the capacity for loving is sustained by the two spiritual powers that define the contours of the “imago Dei” and are the solid and immovable basis for human dignity: the rational mind and the free will.

And the Logos became human in Jesus the Christ, and in the human nature of Jesus we can come to know the perfect idea of each one of us. The ideal of what we are to become, the potential given

And, as it was said before, the essence of the gift is the completion of the beloved, since only completing the other through the surrender of the entire body can accomplish the most and dearest longing of all lovers: to become one with the beloved.

And here’s the catch: the entire body means the entire body and all its powers. And one very crucial power of the body is the sex, in a very unambiguous way, because it’s a matter of biology, and there can be no doubt that two bodies are working as one for a common purpose, which is the essential purpose of the sexual act. And that essential purpose is giving the other that one piece of the puzzle that is missing in their bodies: the other half of the reproductive organs. Thus man and woman become whole, by virtue of the act that makes them one, thanks to that complete surrender, that gift of the whole body.

And there’s no way around it: when we take out the possibility of procreation, we cannot possibly be completing the other, and there’s no real becoming one with the other. The purpose of making the other whole is gone, and what remains is, well, just as much as the intentions of the two different members of the couple, which can be to please the other or to please themselves. Of course, the sexual act is also a way to show the love between man and woman. But there are many ways to show the love, and only one way to give oneself up in the act of showing love with our whole bodies given as token gifts for the total surrender of the self in both spatial and temporal dimensions.

When the procreative power is withheld, there’s a silent and unnoticed breach. In a certain way, if done unbeknownst to the other, it would be a fraud. Since contraception is typically done of common accord, to use the word “fraud” sounds a little bit harsh. But in a certain way, there is a complicity in the act of using the other person’s body and letting the other person use one’s own for the satisfaction of an urge that we have in common with all the other animals.

God creates us for happiness, and it can be easily argued if need be that the way we accomplish such goal is through love. For love to be true, it has to be free. To love without having a choice in it is a non sequitur. Imposed love, forced love, is not love at all.

Freedom implies the possession of oneself and all of one’s decisions, in order to be able to steer our acts and our whole selves towards the goal of loving, which is another way of saying, the goal of happiness. The hallmark of full possession of a thing, of the property right to it, is the capacity to make that property alien to us: no one that is not the rightful owner of something has the power to give it away. In law, they call these kind of acts by which something is made to become alien to our possession, “acts of disposition” as opposed to “acts of administration.” An administrator can loan something, or rent something. But nobody other than the rightful owner has the power to sell something, or to donate something, as those acts imply the definitive alienation of the thing possessed, the property being definitively moved out of somebody’s patrimony and entering somebody else’s.

There are many kinds of love, and all of them require from us some measure of self-giving. There’s only one though that will require the full measure: marital love. That full measure encompasses the whole of the human person, in all its dimensions: space and time. Space, because the giving of the body is total, with no reservations and with exclusivity. Time, because lovers commit each other “till death do us part.”

The temporal dimension of the self

Of course, there’ll be those who say: “oh, but that ideal of indissoluble union between man and woman is just a religious notion.” To which I will reply that it might be a religious notion, but before and above all else, it’s a very human notion and a yearning of the heart, a notion and a longing of a man and a woman in love. Even after divorce laws have been enacted almost everywhere in the world, a man and a woman in love say to each other, “I’ll love you till the end of my days,” and those who don’t say it will certainly love to hear it said to them. And in the solemn moment of the final commitment, “till death do us part” are their vows. Because their purpose (and I may say, their expectation) is the giving up of the whole self, and of the whole life, with no limitations. And if somebody’s purpose is “till divorce do us part,” my guess is that more than a few girls will not like it one bit.

Of course, the giving has to be mutual, nothing else would befit the limitless dignity of the human person. And the acceptance of the gift has to also be mutual and devoid of limitations. There are no exclusions in the act of giving, and should there be no exclusions in the act of receiving. You cannot say “I accept the gift of your whole self, but you can keep all those bad habits to yourself,” or “I’ll take you but I can’t deal with your….” And feel free to fill in with “nagging,” “bad temper,” “depression,” “distractions,” “lack of attention,” etc.

Paternal and maternal loves are in a different category. Parents do give up their lives in order to transmit new life to their children. Their blood is in their children; they are a continuation of their lives, to a point that they could be considered to many extents as an extension of themselves. But paternal/maternal love is one way. The way back is filial love, a different kind of love, an asymmetrical love, if you will.

Instead, marital love is a two way love. It only makes sense as a two way love. There’s no measure here. The only way to understand marital love is a full self-giving of the spouses. Any lesser measure will leave the door open to unwanted asymmetries that invariably undermine the dignity of the human person. Besides, the lack of reciprocity undermines, and ends up destroying it if it lasts, the very capacity for self-giving, which is the essence of conjugal love.

The dance of love that I referred to before, is only possible if the self-giving is mutual, full, and unceasing. It starts with an act of self-possession, the acceptance of the self that is the prerequisite for the freedom to dispose of it. Then comes the disposal, the actual giving and acceptance that should be literally intended to become enslaved by the beloved.

I know, I know, “slave” is a very strong word, repugnant to our modern cultural ears. But the truth is, when people are truly in love, that is precisely the desire that burns their hearts. There is nothing “imposed” or contrived about this feeling when one has really fallen in love. We soon forget it, and become cynical, and want to disown it, thinking that we were young and immature. But deep inside, we cannot lie to ourselves, we cannot hide from the truth that the desire that burned in our hearts when we first fall in love is probably one of the most spontaneous and authentically human feelings that we will ever feel.

The romantic literature and the even the common language of two people in love will not let us deceive ourselves as to the extent of the desire. We use expressions such as the “madness of love” or being “crazy in love” and “crazy for you,” etc. In Spanish, the word “enajenado” (literally, alienated) is used to refer to a mad person, because is a person that has lost touch with their own self, a person that has become alien to themselves. In other words, they don’t belong to themselves anymore. The phrase “being beside oneself” has this same connotation and, interestingly enough, the first time it was used in print was to translate the French expression “hors de soi,” which literally means “outside oneself.”

In other words, it is not something that is culturally or religiously imposed on the institution of marriage as though from outside; it is a very natural feeling, an intuition springing from the deepest core of the human being.

Once the self is offered and accepted, gone into the dominion of the beloved, once one does not belong to oneself anymore, love can only subsist if the other does the same in return. And now, what is being given is richeris two in one. If Anna loves Francis, her self will be offered and come out of her orbit. Now Francis is in possession of Anna, and when he loves her back, he is not only giving his own self but also Anna’s self back to Anna, so the love can go on in this kind of wonderful loop of self-giving. And when this is done without reservations, the growth potential of this love knows no limits.

There is an egotistical way of seeing marital love, as a “do ut des” contract, as the Romans would say, and we would say, a “tit for tat”. This view interprets that the marriage contract is a fifty/fifty percent self-giving from the spouses, and that one’s fifty percent is due as long as the other’s fifty percent is given. This does not make sense because it makes love subject to a measure, a conditional love that sooner or later will fall in the vicious spiral of mutual retaliation. “I don’t love her because she doesn’t love me;” or “I don’t love him because he doesn’t love me.”

It’s little surprise that this notion of marital love has led to a veritable divorce epidemic. Besides, in this view, love becomes subjective, and therefore, inconsistent, fickle, whimsical and unfaithful. There’s no way to determine where one’s fifty percent of giving ends. But we’ll know where the hundred percent ends: because it doesn’t. And because it hurts. There’s always something else to give; there’s always room for self-denial increments. That’s what keeps marriages alive, always new, always fresh and youthful. The moment one or both spouses say, “I’ve given everything I got,” that’s when love begins to grow old, and to rush down the path of self destruction.