Skip to comments.Pope on divine love vs. erotic love
Posted on 01/04/2006 7:31:11 AM PST by klossg
Pope Benedict XVI may try to "save eros," in the first encyclical of his papacy, Chicago's Cardinal Francis George told the Chicago Sun-Times.
George expects the new pope will try to explain that erotic love, eros, and unconditional love, agape, are both inherently good in God's eyes in his encyclical titled "Deus, Caritas Est," Latin for "God is Love." An encyclical is a pope's most authoritative document, a pastoral letter circulated to the universal church.
Letter talks about Christ
The cardinal has not yet seen Benedict XVI's encyclical, which is expected to be released by the Vatican within days, but said he has "seen comments" about it. The pope has asked George to deliver an address about the major themes of the encyclical to a gathering of the pontifical charity organization Cor Unum in Rome at the end of the month, according to Colleen Dolan, the cardinal's spokeswoman.
Benedict XVI's first encyclical will likely "talk about Christ, which is a good thing for a pope to talk about in his first encyclical. John Paul II did that," George said. "And he is going to talk about the relationship between love and truth, between agape and eros."
Agape (pronounced "ah-gah-pay") is a Greek word, referring to unconditional love, the kind Catholic doctrine teaches God has for humankind. Eros was the Greek god of love, and his name has come to refer to sexual love or desire.
In the mid-1900s, Anders Nygren, a Lutheran bishop from Sweden, published a book called Eros and Agape, in which he concluded that agape is the only truly Christian kind of love.
"In a kind of Lutheran fashion, he distinguished between agape, the love of God in us, which is good; and eros, which is our own erotic life and desire, which turns us away from God," George said. "He said that in English 'love' is ambiguous and you have to distinguish between these two. And you do.
"What the pope is going to do is to try to save eros. That is to say that our own human love, our desires, are good in themselves. . . . The distinction between agape and eros is not a clean one. In fact, one influences the other and therefore both should be considered good. But we are sinful creatures, so they can be misused."
A pope's first encyclical is seen as setting the tone for the rest of his papacy. Pope John Paul II, who died in April, published 14 encyclicals during his 27-year pontificate.
What will it mean if Benedict XVI tackles the issue of erotic love versus divine love?
"It might be part of his overall program of trying to not let things become purely secularized and devoid of religious connection," the Rev. Donald Senior, president of Chicago's Catholic Theological Union, said by phone from Rome on Monday night.
'Purifying the church'
Senior is there for a meeting of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which was led by Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, before he became pope in April.
"He has spoken about, in a couple of his statements already, a 'soulless materialism,' so trying to integrate human experience with the divine is really fundamental to him," Senior said.
"It may be that he's worried about a picture of human love or sexuality that is devoid of any connection to the divine. And in a strange way, it may be part of his response . . . to the clergy abuse crisis.
"He talked about 'purifying the church.' Maybe this is part of his way of doing it," Senior speculated.
The pope, who is said to have begun work on his first encyclical last summer, is a scholar of St. Augustine, who famously had a hard time reconciling erotic and divine love.
"Maybe he's going to try to repair Augustine a bit," Senior said, adding that he has not seen the encyclical and had expected it to be solely about Christology, or the study of Christ.
The pontiff's "focus is so much more dogmatic. Nevertheless, he does have a very emotional way of speaking. In his homilies and stuff, people have been noting that they're all very rich in imagery and much more affective than cerebral," Senior said. "Bavarians are very sentimental and romantic."
"but when I attend Mass with my Catholic wife, I am not permitted to take communion--because I have not performed certain required works."
Well, not quite.
It's because you haven't given appropriate evidence of certain beliefs - because you don't accept Catholic Faith.
As for these others, they hold or once held Catholic faith, or it was held for them, however imperfectly. That the Church is slow to cut off those already within her for their sins and offenses is viewed by some as a fault, by others as a wise patience.
I think the requisite word is "Communion".
If you are not in communion with the Catholic Church, why would you desire to partake in the Eucharist?
Perhaps this will help to explain this practice:
We must presume that these Catholics are all in a state of grace before receiving Communion. Paul tells us we are to examine ourselves, and the first Christian writings outside of the Bible tell us to confess our sins before receiving the Eucharist. We, as Catholics, cannot judge whether that Mafia guy went to confession and is truly repentant or not. We do not know the state of their souls. The priest does, though, have a right to withhold communion to such public figures if it could cause scandal to the community. Unfortunately, political correctness has infiltrated the thoughts of some priests...
Be that as it may, if these above figures are receiving communion worthily, they are entitled to it, as they share in the communion of faith - we believe the same things. We share one faith, one baptism, and one loaf. Unfortunately, by accepting Protestants into communion, we would belittle the center of our faith. The Eucharist is the source and center of Catholicism, and by allowing people who do not hold to its reality to receive, we are saying "it isn't important to us". We still consider Protestants members of the Catholic Church in a hidden sense, in that they have been properly Baptized. Do this make sense?
By the way, there is nothing stopping you from receiving what is called a "spiritual communion" into your heart. Certainly, Christ will come to you when you have such a disposition of receiving Him in such manner.
Also, please understand it is not the works that you have not performed keeping you from the Catholic Communion line, it is that you are unable to show you believe you would be receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Our separated Orthodox brethren are welcomed to receive Our Lord at Catholic Masses because the Orthodox profess that Our Lord is truly and fully present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Thank you and God bless you for accompanying your wife and daughters to Mass. I believe it can only help strengthen your daughters' faith.
I like the "it takes a Nixon to go to China" analogy...yes this would be major progress for the Church imo.
You are not permitted to take communion because you are not in communion with the Church. It's not a matter of "not performing certain required works," but simply a recognition that you hold yourself outside of the Catholic communion. For you to receive communion but remain outside of the church would be to say one thing but do another.
My children can receive it
Presumably you don't object to that. :-)
the Mafia and all the Kennedys can receive it
It's Catholic teaching that persons in the state of (unrepented) mortal sin must not receive. We can debate to what degree a person's subjective guilt may be diminished by ignorance or other circumstances, but objectively, persons who commit the kinds of crimes we would associate with the Mafia, or who cast votes in Congress in favor of abortion, should not be receiving communion.
So what you say here is not really correct.
but I, along with some of Catholics' favorite authors, such as C.S. Lewis, and the authors of the hymns Catholics sing, such as Charles Wesley, could not or cannot.
Back to what I said at that top.
But there's a very simple solution to this; it's called a "spiritual communion". When your family members go up to receive, simply pray to Jesus and ask him to give him every grace he could give you by receiving Catholic communion. He will never respond to such a request in any but the most lavishly generous fashion. Trust me.
The value of agape love is not in question, nor imo could it be, but the possibility of agape love does not 'diminish' eros love as 'debased' or 'sinful' nor is that a correct reading of Catholic thinking...and for this Pope to make that clearer to non-Catholics who may often think the Church is 'anti-sex' and perhaps even suspect that misperception to be at the root of the abominable abuses by clergy so often in the press is a welcome move forward imo.
Wow. I'm impressed and... envious.
So is it true that they debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin? < /s>
Well, the congregation turned him out after a few years of hearing about agape love.
C.S. Lewis also covered the subject in his book, the "Four Loves." This would be a useful commentary on the issue.
"..but objectively, persons who commit the kinds of crimes we would associate with the Mafia, or who cast votes in Congress in favor of abortion, should not be receiving communion."
Unless they've gone to Confession first.
Which would only be a valid confession if they've repented of those sins and intend to avoid them in the future.
He's new, give him some slack.