The text below is taken from “The Writings of St Maximilian Maria Kolbe – Volume II: Various Writings” from section 1311. With a Marian accent St. Maximilian articulates the Franciscan school on the test of the Angels and the fall of Lucifer and his minions.
The Immaculata before Her Coming into the World
Niepokalanów, August 5–20, 1940 by St. Maximilian Kolbe
After creating the Angels, God willed that, in full consciousness and will, they should give proof that they would always and in everything desire to accomplish His Will. He showed them the mystery of the Incarnation, that is to say, that He would call into existence a human being, with body and soul, and that he would raise up such a creature to the dignity of Mother of God, so that she would become also their Queen and they would have to venerate her as well. Countless legions of angelic spirits joyfully greeted the one whom their Creator had decided to raise so sublimely and humbly paid homage to their Lady. Some of them, however, headed by Lucifer—forgetful of the fact that all they were and possessed they had received from God, while they alone were absolutely nothing—rebelled and refused to submit to God’s Will. For they considered themselves superior to a human being covered with flesh. Such an act of veneration seemed to them a debasement of their dignity. They allowed themselves to be carried away by pride and refused to do the Will of God.
Because of that, immediate, eternal punishment befell them: separation from God, Hell. Being pure spirits, they possessed penetrating intelligence, whereby their action was fully conscious and voluntary, and in their guilt the features of mortal sin, committed with absolute awareness, were most evident. That is why those angels immediately became demons, and forever.
Since then, the memory of the fact that this creature had become the affirmation of the good Angels and the assurance of their eternal happiness, while to the demons she was the cause of scandal and separation, filled the latter with hellish hatred toward her, a hatred like the hatred they harbored toward God, of whom she was supposed to be such a faithful image.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan saw a being like the one who was the object of his anger. He cannot reach God, he cannot reach her [Mary], but pours out his hatred onto her future mother, on the first mother of mankind [Eve]. He manages to persuade the woman to oppose the will of God and to seek perfection not in submission to God’s intentions, but in following one’s reason. He wins her over with pride. The human being, who knows with the help of the senses, is far from the clarity of knowledge that a purely spiritual being possesses. And it is for this very reason that man’s sin is much less severe. That is why God’s mercy promises [to our first parents] a Redeemer, while to Satan God predicts that the victory he has achieved over Eve, the mother of the foretold being, will not in any way alter the divine plan. Indeed, He predicts that “she will crush his head,” although he continuously “lies in wait” for “her heel,” as happens to this day”
“For covetousness is the root of all evils, and some in their eagerness to get rich have strayed from the Faith and have involved themselves in many troubles.” (1 Tm 6:10)
When I was studying theology as a seminarian in the late 90s with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate my professor in dogmatic theology, Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, made an unusual comment about the problems plaguing the Church. “It will be a wonderful day when the Church is broke,” he exclaimed. Why? Because, in his opinion, it was money that kept all of the dissenters in the Church. In other words, if there were no paychecks they would pack their bags and go elsewhere.
Well that day seems to have arrived for the Catholic Church in the USA. Since 1950 over $4 billion dollars have been paid out (legal fees, settlements, etc.) for sexually abusive priests and 14 Dioceses have filed bankruptcy since 2002. Because of the Mccarrick scandal and the PA grand jury discoveries many people, including myself, have come out publicly to share our own stories of abuse and harassment (I have posted mine here). Consequently, we can expect that there will be many more legal expenses and settlements in the wake of these enormous scandals.
Perhaps the most important element of creating a “poor Church” is the financial support of the lay faithful. The Cardinals and Bishops by brushing aside victims of priestly sexual abuse and defending and reassigning the predators (like Cardinals Law, Mahoney, Mccarrick and Wuerl), by disregarding the root problem of the majority of the scandals (namely, active homosexuals and homosexual activists in the clerical state – see this interview with Cardinal Burke and this article from an EWTN panel discussion), by working strenuously to protect their own reputation, by guarding their own positions and seeking to advance their ecclesiastical careers, by thwarting their good priests and advancing their bad priests, by neglecting the salvation of souls, etc. etc. have lost the trust of the faithful. “Not one more penny,” is the cry from the laity, “until you reform yourselves, the seminaries and the priests in your dioceses!” I can assure you that this will be extremely effective if done consistently over a period of time and coupled with prayer and penance. Actually, this may be the only way to oust the gay network from the Church. They will retaliate in diabolical ways – sometimes in subtle and covert ways, other times in blatant and obvious ones. The lavender mafia is strong and insidious. They will resist tooth and nail. But if the funds stop rolling in, if the lawsuits and investigations continue to pile up and to expose the guilty, and if the faithful continue their rightful demands for chaste and holy Bishops and priests, then things will begin to move in the right direction. The ranks of the Bishops will be purified and will begin to purify the seminaries and the ranks of the priests.
Many active homosexuals and homosexual activists teach in Seminaries, work in Chanceries, and run parishes across the country… If there is no paycheck then they have a choice, to serve God or mammon. The mammon-servers will leave. Take, for example, the priest in the Diocese of Syracuse who went public as being an active homosexual, Fr. Fred Daley. Not only has he been permitted to continue as a priest and pastor during these past 14 years (which means all of the perks: salary, insurance, food, lodging, etc.), he was even reassigned from his parish in Utica to a parish in Syracuse itself! When he first came out of the closet in 2004 I immediately wrote a personal letter marked “confidential” to the Bishop about how this was creating scandal and confusion among the laity and asked the Bishop if he was going to say or do something, and the response? Crickets. If priests (and Bishops, for that matter) were reduced to the poor stable of Bethlehem or the Holy House at Nazareth or the poverty of the Cross on Calvary, would they continue? Would they stay? If they did, it would have to be out of love for Christ, His Church, and the souls entrusted to them.
I’m not saying that money cannot be used for noble, holy endeavors, but I’m simply making the point that serving Christ and His Church – the Church that teaches that sodomy is morally wrong, that homosexuality is an intrinsic disorder – means leading a life of prayer and sacrifice. If the Church becomes truly penniless the clergy will be forced to serve God for the right reason – for the pure love of Him – and to seek that treasure which is in Heaven.
A poor and purified Church would also be genuinely concerned with the poor and vulnerable – like the victims of priestly sexual abuse and those who could be potentially abused in the future, like the seminarians who want and need solid formation, like the laity who want and need the unadulterated truth of the Catholic Faith and need chaste, dedicated priests to assist them along the way. Many of the Bishops, to date, have shown by their actions that they have been more concerned with the finances and reputation of their Dioceses (and themselves) than the eternal salvation of the souls entrusted to their care. This is frustrating and infuriating. There are many ways of giving in the Church without enabling the gay mafia; there is also the possibility of setting aside one’s offerings and retaining them until one is sure the funds will be used properly. Whatever method is used, the reason for it needs to be communicated to the priests and Bishops (like printing out a slip of paper saying “Dear Bishop, Not another penny until you get rid of the homosexual priests in the Diocese,” putting that into the parish offering envelope, and dropping it into the collection basket). They will get the message loud and clear.
The entire situation in which we find ourselves today reminds me of the sobering question of Our Lord: “Yet when the Son of Man comes, will He find, do you think, faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8). And the explanation of St. Paul regarding the end times, “Let know one deceive you in any way, for the day of the Lord will not come unless the apostasy comes first…” (2 Thes 2:3). Whether what we are currently experiencing is the great apostasy or not remains to be seen; but there is indeed a great apostasy and therefore a tremendous need for purification in the House of God – starting with my own sinful soul. “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” May her Immaculate Heart triumph in my heart, your heart and in all hearts that beat upon the face of the earth.
Dr. Mark Miravalle, one of my professors of Theology when I was an undergraduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, speaks of the moral test of the Angels. Why are there Holy Angels and fallen angels? What proved the good Angels to be “good” and the fallen angels to be “evil”? Why is there a spiritual war raging between Lucifer and St. Michael?
From beginning to end the Bible tells us that the battle has to do with the Woman and her Offspring (cf. Gen 3:15 and Apoc 12). The Evil One, “that great dragon…, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world… stood before the Woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her Son” (Apoc 12:7,4) – spiritual warfare is centered on the mystery of the Incarnation.
This is not a coincidence. According to the Franciscan school Satan (and a third of the angelic host with him) was condemned to Hell forever and lost his glorious light because he refused to serve Christ as King and Our Lady as Queen: non serviam! I even wonder if this is the reason that he goes after Eve, the first woman, instead of Adam in the garden of Eden… he either suspected her to be “the Woman” or despised her because she represented that Woman. Although I treat of this and draw upon the writings of Fr. Gabriel Amorth and the Ven. Mother Mary of Agreda here, here and here, nonetheless, the topic is always fresh and worthy of further meditation. I am posting a 10 minute presentation where Dr. Miravalle gives insights into Mary’s role as Queen of the Angels. After the introduction to the topic he speaks of the Franciscan thesis and how the Incarnation of Christ and the divine maternity of Mary were presented to the Angels, that it was revealed to them that they would have the joy and privilege of serving Christ as King and Mary as Queen if they accepted God’s marvelous plan. The Holy Angels are the ones who embraced the will of God and make up the nine choirs of Angels in Heaven. Here is Dr. Miravalle’s reflection:
On November 20th, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the “absolute primacy” of Christ in his address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Besides his reference to the absolute primacy of Christ (clearly a reference to the Franciscan and Benedictine tradition of Christ’s primacy quite apart from any consideration of sin – Pope Benedict has spoken very highly of the Benedictine Abbot Rupert of Deutz and specifically underscores his Christology), note how this entire paragraph regarding religious life stands on its own quite apart from any mention of Christ’s redemptive work:
Christo omnino nihil praeponere [prefer nothing to Christ] (cf. Rule of Benedict 72, 11; Augustine, Enarr. in Ps 29: 9; Cyprian, Ad Fort 4). These words which the Rule of St Benedict takes from the previous tradition, clearly express the precious treasure of monastic life lived still today in both the Christian West and East. It is a pressing invitation to mould monastic life to the point of making it an evangelical memorial of the Church and, when it is authentically lived, “a reference point for all the baptized” (cf. John Paul II, Orientale lumen, n. 9). By virtue of the absolute primacy reserved for Christ, monasteries are called to be places in which room is made for the celebration of God’s glory, where the mysterious but real divine presence in the world is adored and praised, where one seeks to live the new commandment of love and mutual service, thus preparing for the final “revelation of the sons of God” (Rm 8: 19). When monks live the Gospel radically, when they dedicate themselves to integral contemplative life in profound spousal union with Christ, on whom this Congregation’s Instruction Verbi Sponsa (13 May 1999) extensively reflected, monasticism can constitute for all the forms of religious life and consecrated life a remembrance of what is essential and has primacy in the life of every baptized person: to seek Christ and put nothing before his love.
Pope Benedict XVI underscores a point that is central to the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ, namely that the primary reason Christ came in the flesh, and the primary reason that the Angels and the elect exist, is for the glory of God – ad majorem gloriam Dei as St. Ignatius of Loyola puts it. The Incarnate Word gives the maximum glory to God in His Sacred Humanity; we are called to give glory to God per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, viz. through Him, with Him and in Him as we pray in the Sacred Liturgy. This is God’s plan, sin or no sin, and the Pope’s words ring true not only for monks and nuns, but for all the faithful: By virtue of the absolute primacy reserved for Christ, monasteries [and by way of extension families, parishes, our souls, etc.] are called to be places in which room is made for the celebration of God’s glory, where the mysterious but real divine presence in the world is adored and praised, where one seeks to live the new commandment of love and mutual service, thus preparing for the final “revelation of the sons of God” (Rm 8: 19).
He mentions adoration and praise of the divine presence. Sin or no sin, we were created to adore and praise God. Our Lord Himself tells the Samaritan woman, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to worship Him. God is spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4: 23-24). Christ, then, who tells us that He is that truth (cf. Jn 14:6), is the Mediator, the High Priest, the one through whom we can adore the Living God. Christ exists for the glory of God; we also exist for the glory of God, but for us that glory is given to Christ and through Him to the entire Trinity. For this reason, as Pope Benedict XIV states, “a profound spousal union with Christ” reveals “what is essential and has primacy in the life of every baptized person: to seek Christ and put nothing before His love.”
According to Franciscan Christology these beautiful expressions would hold true even if Adam had not sinned – in other words, in a sinless world we would still be called to seek Christ and put nothing before His love and to give glory to God through, with and in Christ. Because of sin Christ comes in passible, mortal flesh and works out our Redemption on Calvary. The divine design is the same – man is called to glorify God and be one with Him through the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – but because of sin Christ had to suffer, die and rise from the dead to conquer sin, Satan and eternal death forever [for more on this topic, including diagrams and a video click here].
According to the Franciscan school God willed one economy of grace which He offers to Angels and the elect through Christ (gratia Christi) and not two economies, one for Angels and Adam and Eve before sin (gratia Dei) and another “better” economy for Adam and Eve and their progeny after sin (gratia Christi), a sort of “plan A”, but because of sin God gives an even better “plan B”. Bl. John Duns Scotus points out that “there could never be but one Head in the Church from which there is derived the influx of graces upon the members.” (Ordinatio, III, d.13, q.4, n.8.). So Jesus is the Head (Col. 1:18); in Him dwells the fullness of Divinity corporally (2:9); from Him, as the Head, the whole body is supplied and built up (2:19). That is God’s eternal decree, sin or no sin.
“Truly, this vice [of homosexuality] is never to be compared with any other vice because it surpasses the enormity of all vices.… It defiles everything, stains everything, pollutes everything. And as for itself, it permits nothing pure, nothing clean, nothing other than filth.…” St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church
It has been a sad week for the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the United States, and the reports of scandals among the priests, even Bishops… even Cardinals – ex-Cardinal Mccarrick (now more accurately known as Uncle Ted) and Cardinal Wuerl’s negligences which will probably be exposed by the PA Grand Jury in the weeks to come, have reached the ears even of this hermit. The scandals are part of the ongoing spiritual and moral crisis both in our society and within the Church.
Personal encounters with scandal
I saw that some priests, like Fr. Desmond Rossi (see here), Fr. Roman Manchester (see here), former priest Peter Mitchell (see here), former seminarians John Monaco (see here), John DeFilippis (see here), and an anonymous H.R. (see here) have gone public with the gay culture they encountered as seminarians, and even Michael Voris has shared how he was harassed by a priest (Fr. Richard McBrien?) at Notre Dame (see here). I too experienced being groomed by a Jesuit priest during high school. Fortunately no crime or sin was committed, but the diabolical disorder and seductive methods of these homosexual priests is frightening and deserves to be exposed. As St. Maximus the Confessor once wrote, “He who puts on a show of friendship in order to do his neighbor some injury is a wolf hiding his wickedness under sheep’s clothing” (Ad Thalassium, 25). So let me describe exactly what happened to me…
Fr. Joseph Casey, SJ
It was 1984. I was 15 or 16 years old and a sophomore at Brebeuf Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN, which was run by the Jesuits. I don’t remember the circumstances, but one day a priest, Fr. Joseph Casey, SJ, (who happened to be the President of the school) said hello to me and invited me to stop by his office sometime. He didn’t mingle with the students much because he was usually in his office, so the encounter was strange to begin with. I was a straight A student at the time and so, being asked by a priest and the President of the school to come by his office, I felt it was my duty to stop by. I did. I had no idea why he wanted to see me, but I expected it to be like my other encounters with the faculty – academic or business oriented. Well, he told me that he had seen me at the school dance and that I was a very good dancer. I had the bizarre feeling that this priest was stalking me.
I was on the swim team at that time. One afternoon we had a swim meet and as we were piling onto the bus there was Fr. Casey. Apparently he was coming to cheer us on. Really, no one came to our swim meets and certainly no one traveled on the bus with the team, so this was quite unusual. It never occurred to me during the swim meet that he was coming to watch me – like he had done at the school dance – only now with nothing but a Speedo swimsuit on. After the swim meet we all piled back onto the bus. Fr. Casey got on the bus and made it a point to sit next to me – I was basically trapped between him and the window. It was very dark and the windows were all steamy because it was so cold outside. I put my knees up against the back of the seat in front of me and tried to get some rest because I was exhausted. Fr. Casey never said anything or did anything, but I felt awkward and tense for the entire bus ride… Fortunately my tale ends here. Nothing happened. I never went to his office again and he never reappeared in my life. But when I look back, especially in light of all that has come to the fore in the last 20 years, it makes me tremble. I was so, so vulnerable at that time. Besides being a teenager, my parents had just divorced. It would have been devastating for me if anything had happened.
Brebeuf, as it turns out, has always been notorious for abuse. The Dean of Students in the 1970’s, Fr. James Grear, molested boys (see here); in my freshman year in 1984 I remember Michelle, a cheerleader, telling us that the computer teacher, James West, had taken her into his office and offered her an “A” if she would let him spank her; a credible accusation was made against Fr. Bernard Knoth, SJ, for sexually abusing a student in 1986 (see here) when Knoth was Principal of the school; Rick Doucette, a religion teacher (full blown heresy, by the way) and wrestling coach, would frequently take the wrestlers and other boys to hotels for overnights and even “chaperoned” a trip to Italy – he was released from Brebeuf and later caught red handed molesting a minor twice as soccer coach (see here). [N.B. during all 4 years that I was at Brebeuf (1983-87) the Principal, President and only male religion teacher were all homosexuals and all secretly preying on male students]
After my own conversion to Christ and His Church in 1988 (before I knew about his misbehavior), I met with Fr. Bernard Knoth, SJ, twice as I myself had started discerning the priesthood. In my first meeting with him he confided to me how, as a Jesuit seminarian, he had been raped by another seminarian. In my second meeting with him he told me that the Eucharist was not the Real Presence and that Confession was just a psychological phenomenon – in other words, he had lost his faith but continued to “function” as a Jesuit priest. My heart goes out to him and many others who, through being molested, lost their faith and went on to hurt others. Pray we must, for both victim and perpetrator.
As if this wasn’t enough, my spiritual director who helped me discern the Franciscans informed me in 1997 that his Bishop threatened to suspend him as a priest if he would not perform homosexual acts with him. My director refused and was indeed suspended as a priest. It turns out that the Bishop had also been going on a regular basis to the red light district and hiring men and woman prostitutes. They called him “the Bish” and knew that they would get wined and dined like kings or queens before the dirty work would begin. My director, after getting nowhere with Rome, went public (anonymously) with The Wanderer around that time of 1997-1998 and finally Bishop Daniel Ryan resigned in late 1999 (see here).
Protest by RCF in the late 1990s
I could go on (just with examples I have come to know about personally, let alone what’s hitting the news and what you can find in books like Goodbye, Good Men), but it would be pointless.
A particular problem: Sodomy
Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
As noted, the problem is a spiritual and moral crisis in the world and in the Church. But most of the priest scandals in the Church are specifically related to the sin of sodomy (see Fr. Regis Scanlon’s article which calls a spade a spade and this interview with Cardinal Burke and this panel discussion from EWTN). While this sin is nothing new (think of Sodom and Gomorrah), we are living in a society that is telling us on all sides that homosexuality and gender-confusion is not a disorder, but just part of an enlightening evolutionary process and that everyone needs to be open minded to where that process is leading us.
The fact is that vast majority of pedophiles are sodomites whose disordered passions lead them to seep down into lower age brackets. In the world it is legal for a young man to look at internet pornography, but not child pornography. Well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that as long as there is no restraint in looking at pornography there will continue to be a market for child pornography. Similarly, as long as homosexual priests are not disciplined (like Fr. Fred Daley who for 14 years now has been publicly professing himself to be a gay priest) there will continue to be those who prey on children (not to mention teenagers and seminarians). Enough is enough! If a priest does not accept the perennial teaching of the Scripture and the Church he should be shown the door; and if he does not live that teaching he should be disciplined; and “pink” seminaries should be shut down. Otherwise the accusations and lawsuits will continue to plague the Church and her credibility will continue to crumble.
The solution: Jesus Christ
One of the beauties of the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ is that He became flesh to glorify the Father in the most perfect way possible in a created universe. “And where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Rm 5:20)… in other words, nothing will eclipse the perfect glory given to God in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Christ invites us to be forgiven and freed from our sins and to glorify God through, with and in Him. But even if nobody were to accept His invitation, perfect glory would still be given to God in His Sacred Humanity. Sin never has the upper hand in God’s plans; sin never has the last word.
Christ does not need us; we need Him. Will we follow Him? Will we take up our Cross and be His disciples? Will we be pure of heart so that we can see God? The merciful invitation to repent and believe remains. And whether individuals (including clerics) respond to that invitation or not, He will nonetheless come in glory to judge the living and the dead. Then He will submit all to His Father for His eternal glory: “And when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be made subject to Him who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).
In an essay in First Things back in 1991 entitled Education and the Mind Redeemed, my Philosophy professor at Franciscan University, Dr. John Crosby (the first to introduce me to Bl. John Henry Newman), draws out the fact that “certain theological traditions” uphold an “incarnational humanism” because Jesus, by virtue of His absolute primacy in the divine plan, belongs to the very order of creation and not just to the order of redemption. Here is the paragraph where he speaks of this:
It is perhaps worth observing that there are certain theological traditions that have a particular reason to make their own the incarnational humanism taught by the Council. Even before the Blessed John Duns Scotus, the great medieval Franciscan theologian of the fourteenth century, but especially after him, the doctrine of what is called the “absolute primacy of Christ” has been dear to many theologians, including, I believe, certain Protestants, among them Karl Barth. They disagree with those who say that the incarnation of the Son in Jesus Christ belongs only to the order of redemption and not to the order of creation, and that, apart from the fall of man, there would have been no incarnation. They hold instead that Jesus Christ belongs to the order of creation no less than to the order of redemption, that God in His original plan of creation, and not just as a response to human sin, created the world for the God-man, and destined it to be subject to His kingship (as St. Paul seems to teach in Col. 1:15-18 and elsewhere). And it should be especially clear why everything human is ordered to Jesus Christ and can be fulfilled only in Him: for His kingship over creation is rooted not only in the economy of our salvation, but in the original plan of creation. And it should be especially clear why for Christians life in Christ should not compete with our love of His creation, but should rather support our commitment to “build up the earth” in and with and through Him.
A noteworthy quote of St. Lawrence of Brindisi (+1619), Doctor of the Church, was posted at AirMaria.com two years ago here. It gives marvelous insight into the Franciscan thesis which says that the Incarnation of Christ was willed for its own sake and not primarily as a remedy to Adam’s fall. St. Lawrence says,
God is love, and all His operations proceed from love. Once He wills to manifest that goodness by sharing His love outside Himself, then the Incarnation becomes the supreme manifestation of His goodness and love and glory. So, Christ was intended before all other creatures and for His own sake. For Him all things were created and to Him all things must be subject, and God loves all creatures in and because of Christ. Christ is the first-born of every creature, and the whole of humanity as well as the created world finds its foundation and meaning in Him. Moreover, this would have been the case even if Adam had not sinned.
I have translated a few other quotes pertinent to the primacy of Christ from the Latin Mariale of the Saint which can be found at this link. I consider St. Lawrence of Brindisi a “heavyweight” when it comes to the Franciscan thesis because of his theological erudition and his deeply contemplative and penitential spirit as part of the Capuchin reform.
On the website “Community in Mission” Msgr. Charles Pope brought up the question which the Medieval theologians had used to determine the primary motive of the Incarnation: If Adam had not sinned, would Christ have come in the flesh? His answer was to cite St. Thomas Aquinas on the subject and then to add his own personal commentary. You can see the original post in its entirety here (and notice the stir it created in the combox!). Since I have already posted St. Thomas’ position with commentary elsewhere I will limit this post to Msgr. Pope’s personal commentary. He writes:
While theological speculation may have its place, it is most certain that the Incarnation was instituted by God first and foremost as a remedy for sin. And while the Incarnation offers more than is required to remedy sin (e.g., an increase in human dignity (since God joined our family), God’s visitation, the opening of a heavenly (not merely earthly) paradise), Scripture presents remedy for sin as God’s primary motive. In remedying our sin, God shows the greatness of His mercy, because He does not merely restore us but elevates us to a higher place than before. The least born in to the Kingdom of God is greater than the exemplar of the Old Covenant, John the Baptist. Had we not sinned and had God merely wanted to elevate us, He could have done so in other ways. Hence, St. Thomas’ position is best suited to the evidence.
First, let me address his conclusion: Hence, St. Thomas’ position is best suited to the evidence. What evidence? Not a single Scripture quote is proffered; with the exception of St. Thomas no Saint, Doctor of the Church, or magisterial document is cited to confirm this “evidence”; not even logic is offered – we are simply told that this position is “most certain”.
Now let’s look at this line by line…
While theological speculation may have its place, it is most certain that the Incarnation was instituted by God first and foremost as a remedy for sin.
“Speculation”: This seems to be the constant lament of Thomists who do not want to discuss the matter any further, namely, that it is all speculative and hypothetical (I tackle this head on here). In reality the Franciscan position is not hypothetical at all: Christ’s predestination was willed before the creation of the world and God willed to give us every spiritual blessing through Him the one Mediator between God and man (cf. Eph 1:3-5; Mt. 11:27; Jn. 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). To say that Christ would NOT have come… now that is the height of speculation. Where in the Scripture does it speak of an economy of grace without Christ? Even the Angels are under His headship as the God-Man (cf. Col 1:15:18; 2:10 – see Fr. Gabriel Amorth on this point).
“It is most certain that the Incarnation was instituted by God first and foremost as a remedy for sin”: This requires proof. Scripture, from Genesis to Apocalypse, was written after the fall and it is no surprise that God’s Word to us is dominated by our need for Redemption. So I think we all agree that it is absolutely certain that after the fall Christ came to save sinners (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; Gal. 4:4-5; Heb. 9:26). But it does not follow that the Incarnation was instituted “first and foremost as a remedy for sin.” St. Thomas argues that this is “more probable” whereas the contrary position is “probable”. Thomas never cites his position as certain.
For Bl. John Duns Scotus what is certain is this: “If man had not sinned, there would have been no need for our redemption. But that God predestined this soul [of Christ] to so great a glory does not seem to be only on account of that [redemption], since the redemption or the glory of the soul to be redeemed is not comparable to the glory of Christ’s soul. Neither is it likely that the highest good in creation is something that was merely occasioned only because of some lesser good; nor is it likely that He predestined Adam to such good before He predestined Christ; and yet this would follow [were the Incarnation occasioned by Adam’s sin]. In fact, if the predestination of Christ’s soul was for the sole purpose of redeeming others, something even more absurd would follow, namely, that in predestining Adam to glory, He would have foreseen him as having fallen into sin before He predestined Christ to glory. (from his Ordinatio).
And while the Incarnation offers more than is required to remedy sin (e.g., an increase in human dignity (since God joined our family), God’s visitation, the opening of a heavenly (not merely earthly) paradise), Scripture presents remedy for sin as God’s primary motive.
As noted above, the Scriptures were written after the fall of man and God’s Word to fallen man is frequently dominated by the revelation of our need for Redemption in Christ, without which we could not be saved. But nowhere does the Sacred Page say that Christ was sent primarily, let alone exclusively, to save man from sin. There are many passages that would indicate the opposite (and this website is chalked full of them!). To say that “Scripture presents remedy for sin as God’s primary motive” as if this were indisputable fact is misleading. St. Thomas does not say that remedy for sin is the “primary” reason and he notes that he feels that his position is “more in accordance” – not certain.
In remedying our sin, God shows the greatness of His mercy, because He does not merely restore us but elevates us to a higher place than before.
Those who hold the Franciscan thesis totally agree that in redeeming mankind God shows the greatness of His mercy; but to say that “He elevates us to a higher place than before” is pure speculation. From the Franciscan perspective we must say this: If we were always predestined to be God’s adopted children in Christ, as St. Paul affirms, then there is only one economy of grace – that which is offered to us by God through Christ Jesus. No other economy of grace has been revealed to us and Adam’s sin does not open the door to a higher elevation in Christ. An example of this is Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body: “…before sin, man bore in his soul the fruit of eternal election in Christ, the eternal Son of the Father…” (see more on this here). How does this reconcile with the thomistic position?
Where in the Holy Bible does it tell us of two economies of divine grace – one for the good Angels and for Adam and Eve before the fall, and another economy for sinful man after the fall? St. Paul proposes only one economy of grace: “by justice unto life everlasting through Jesus Christ” (Rm 5:21 – one can read this commentary on justification through faith – sin or no sin). Even St. Bernard of Clairvaux saw that the good Angels were preserved from sin by the God-Man (see here). And Our Lady… is she elevated to a higher place than before the fall because of Adam’s sin? In a certain sense she is more indebted to God’s mercy than all of us sinners because of the singular grace of the Immaculate Conception where she was preserved free from all taint of original and actual sin (as opposed to being given a remedy or restoration from sin after having contracted it). Clearly Our Lady was elevated above us without being liberated from sin. Unlike the Thomists, the Franciscan school does not hold that Mary receives her singular graces because of the sin of Adam, but that these graces were given because of her eternal predestination in Christ to be His Mother (whether Adam had fallen or not). In other words, after the grace and glory given to the Humanity of Christ no one had a higher place in God’s designs than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hence Thomists are basically saying that God’s greatest masterpieces in all creation, namely Jesus and Mary, were occasioned by sin and are indebted to Adam for transgressing against God because without his transgression, say the Thomists, Jesus and Mary would not have been predestined to the maximum grace and glory (Christ in His Humanity, Mary as His Mother). According to the logic of Bl. John Duns Scotus it would be “absurd” to say that Jesus, Mary or any Saint was predestined to glory because of another person’s fall.
The least born in to the Kingdom of God is greater than the exemplar of the Old Covenant, John the Baptist.
I’m not sure how this confirms the thomistic position. The people of the Old Covenant lacked the plenitude which came in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) in Christ’s coming and after the establishment of the Sacraments and the Church – but this does not prove that the graces of the Old Covenant were not graces distributed in view of the merits of Christ. Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception is a grace given prior to the Incarnation in view of Christ’s merits and, according to the Franciscan school, all graces to Angels and men from the beginning are bestowed through Christ. To study this more in depth one can download Fr. Dominic Unger’s treatment of Franciscan Christology.
Had we not sinned and had God merely wanted to elevate us, He could have done so in other ways.
True, but He chose to do it this way – the most perfect way. St. Francis de Sales wrote on this very topic (Treatise on Divine Love, Book II, Ch.IV). According to this Doctor of the Church the primary reason for the Incarnation was that God “might communicate Himself” outside Himself (ad extra). From all eternity He saw that the most excellent way to do this was in “uniting Himself to some created nature, in such sort that the creature might be engrafted and implanted in the divinity, and become one single Person with it.” This is the primary reason God willed the Incarnation. Then through Christ and “for His sake” God willed to pour out His goodness on other creatures thus choosing to “create men and angels to accompany His Son, to participate in His grace and glory, to adore and praise Him forever.” What the Thomist is saying when denying the absolute predestination of Christ is that God chose to elevate us in the most perfect way because of Adam’s sin; if Adam had not sinned He would have done it in a less perfect way and would not have predestined the Sacred Humanity to grace and glory nor Mary to be the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God.
While theological speculation may have its place, it is most certain that the Incarnation was instituted by God first and foremost as a remedy for sin… Hence, St. Thomas’ position is best suited to the evidence.
In other words, just follow St. Thomas’ position – no need to speculate any further. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the fear of the Thomists is that bright minds will continue to study, reflect upon and discuss the primary motive of the Incarnation; whereas the fear of the Scotists (at least myself) is that bright minds will bury their heads in the sand and cease to study, reflect upon and discuss the primary motive of the Incarnation. In the end it is not about “winning” an argument, but about the truth of God’s revelation being fully known. I’m not alone in believing that we have the key to understanding the entire history of the universe because the “mystery which has been hidden for eternity in God” has now been revealed (Eph 3:9; cfr. Col 1:26; Rm 16:25; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 1:9; etc.).
Below is a presentation – as simple as it is profound – of the Franciscan position on the primacy of charity and the primacy of Christ by a young priest with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, Fr. Josemaria Barbin. Noteworthy is the parallel he draws out between the seven days of creation and Galatians 4 (Time, Space, Life). There is a humorous, spontaneous Q/A section at the end. I will point out that most reputable Scotists hold that if Christ came into a sinless world He would NOT have come in a glorified body, but like Adam in original innocence, viz. as a wayfarer capable of merit with an impassible, immortal body (see Fr. Peter Fehlner’s comments on this here). I should also note that Fr. Josemaria in his brief responses was not able to go into detail about the actual theology of the absolute primacy which is found in Ven. Mary of Agreda’s work The Mystical City of God, something which I have treated more in-depth on this website. Another point which is brought out in the Q/A is the test of the Angels; for more information on this one can read here, here and here. And without further ado, here is Father’s presentation…
True to form, Michael Voris and ChurchMilitant.com were not afraid to step into the fray of controversy… this time regarding the primacy of Christ. They simply present the fact that many Saints responded “yes” – Christ would have become man even if Adam had not fallen – and synthesize some of the logic of the Subtle Doctor, Bl. John Duns Scotus, on the nature of the absolute predestination of Christ’s Sacred Humanity to glory. The original post can be found HERE (with lots of heated discussion in the combox!). The following is the text posted on ChurchMilitant.com:
Some theologians say yes
Most Catholics think the Incarnation is something that happened because of the sin of Adam: God became man to save man from sin. They will often quote the Exsultet to support this position: “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the death of Christ! O happy fault, which merited for us so glorious a Redeemer!”
This position, however, is not held by all the Saints. In fact, this is a point of theological dispute among the Scholastics. One such scholar, Blessed John Duns Scotus, a 13th-century Franciscan, argued that Christ would indeed have become incarnate, even if man had not fallen.
His argument can be summarized in the following syllogism:
If man had not fallen, Christ would not have become Man.
If Christ had not become Man, there would not be any bridge between God and creation. God is no longer the “perfect Man” uniting creation to Himself.
This means that what would have been the highest good of creation (i.e., Christ’s human nature) would no longer exist.
Therefore, what is in fact the highest good of creation, Our Blessed Lord’s human nature, is the result of an accident, an “occasion of a lesser good,” as Scotus says.
But the wise man does not leave the greatest good to chance; on the contrary, it is first in his intention.
But if a wise man intends the greatest good, then a fortiori God, Who is Wisdom Itself, intends the greatest good of creation.
Thus the hypostatic union could not be a result of an accident, and hence its cause cannot be the fall of man, which is clearly not necessary (or else God would directly intend evil, which is absurd). Therefore, God intended to assume human nature and become Man, regardless of whether man fell.
In short, Scotus is saying that God would not leave the greatest work of His creation to chance. For though the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity is not created, the human nature of Christ is created (albeit in some mysterious, unknowable way).
The point is this: God has predestined certain men to eternal glory (Heaven), and this includes Our Blessed Lord, who is truly Man. In fact, the predestination of Our Lord is prior to every other saint since He is “before all else that is” and “in all things He has primacy” (Colossians 1:17–18).
But the predestination of the saints to glory is not dependent on the Fall of man (it’s not as if man needed to fall in order for the saints to attain Heaven). Therefore, Scotus argues, if their glory is not dependent on the Fall, then much less is Christ’s glory dependent on the Fall. Therefore, Christ would have become Man had man not fallen.
What about the Exsultet, the happy fault of Adam?
The words of the Easter Vigil hymn do not say Adam’s sin was necessary to make God Man, but rather to merit us a Redeemer. If we take this for exactly what it says, then there need not be any contradiction. For had Adam not sinned, we certainly would not have needed a Redeemer. But because Adam did sin, we now have a most glorious Redeemer, Who triumphed over sin and death and crushed the skull of the serpent at the place of the skull.
[For more on the “happy fault” of the Exultet you can see my reflections and a short video on the subject here]