Winter 2015

The Coherences of Home: Life on Whiffletree Farm

Jesse Straight

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

Created by God | Articles | Communio

Winter 2015

Created by God

Romano Guardini

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Seeing with Christ in a Culture of Power | Articles | Communio

Winter 2015

Seeing with Christ in a Culture of Power

Christine Myers

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Gospel of Creation and the Technocratic Paradigm: Reflections on a Central Teaching of Laudato Si’ | Articles | Communio

Winter 2015

Gospel of Creation and the Technocratic Paradigm: Reflections on a Central Teaching of Laudato Si'

Michael Hanby
Economics, Ecology, and Our Common Home: The Limits of a Preference-based Approach to Human Behavior | Articles | Communio

Winter 2015

Economics, Ecology, and Our Common Home: The Limits of a Preference-based Approach to Human Behavior

Patrick Fleming

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Reading Natural Hierarchy in a Trinitarian Key | Articles | Communio

Winter 2015

Reading Natural Hierarchy in a Trinitarian Key

Susan Waldstein

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Ecology on One’s Knees: Reading Laudato Si’ | Articles | Communio

Winter 2015

Ecology on One’s Knees: Reading Laudato Si’

Mary Taylor

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Work as Contemplation: On the Platonic Notion of Technê | Articles | Communio

Winter 2015

Work as Contemplation: On the Platonic Notion of Technê

D. C. Schindler

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Habits of Presence and the Generosity of Creation: Ecology In Light of Integral Human Development | Articles | Communio

Winter 2015

Habits of Presence and the Generosity of Creation: Ecology In Light of Integral Human Development

David L. Schindler
Eucharist and Kenosis | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Eucharist and Kenosis

Antonio M. Sicari
The Personal Unity of Glory and Poverty in Freedom as Love | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

The Personal Unity of Glory and Poverty in Freedom as Love

Ferdinand Ulrich
Georges Bernanos: “Blessed the Poor in Spirit!” | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Georges Bernanos: “Blessed the Poor in Spirit!”

Hans Urs von Balthasar

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Rejoinder to Mark S. Kinzer | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Rejoinder to Mark S. Kinzer

Roch Kereszty

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Searching Her Own Mystery Together: A Response to Roch Kereszty | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Searching Her Own Mystery Together: A Response to Roch Kereszty

Mark S. Kinzer

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Messianic Jews and the Catholic Church: Reflections on the Ecclesiology of Mark S. Kinzer | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Messianic Jews and the Catholic Church: Reflections on the Ecclesiology of Mark S. Kinzer

Roch Kereszty

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

The Franciscan Conundrum | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

The Franciscan Conundrum

John Milbank
Most High Poverty: The Challenge of the Franciscan Experiment | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Most High Poverty: The Challenge of the Franciscan Experiment

Olivier Boulnois

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Love: Philosophy’s Blind Spot? Toward a Wisdom of Love | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Love: Philosophy’s Blind Spot? Toward a Wisdom of Love

Emmanuel Tourpe

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Vides Trinitatem Si Caritatem Vides: Persons in Communion | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Vides Trinitatem Si Caritatem Vides: Persons in Communion

Antonio López

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The Precarity of Love: Dorothy Day on Poverty | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

The Precarity of Love: Dorothy Day on Poverty

Larry Chapp
The Kenotic Decision of the Son and the Filial Obedience of the Christian | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

The Kenotic Decision of the Son and the Filial Obedience of the Christian

Jean-Pierre Batut
Introduction: Poverty and Kenosis | Articles | Communio

Fall 2015

Introduction: Poverty and Kenosis

The Integrity of Moral Deliberation: On Paragraph 137 of the Instrumentum Laboris | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

The Integrity of Moral Deliberation: On Paragraph 137 of the Instrumentum Laboris

David S. Crawford Stephan Kampowski

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Nature and Grace: The Sacramental Reality of Marriage | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

Nature and Grace: The Sacramental Reality of Marriage

Pope John Paul II

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The Logos and the Logoi | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

The Logos and the Logoi

Maximus the Confessor

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Authority Versus Power | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

Authority Versus Power

Augusto Del Noce

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The Light of Glory: From Theosis to Sophiology | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

The Light of Glory: From Theosis to Sophiology

Stratford Caldecott Adrian J. Walker

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Being, Gift, Self-Gift: Reply to Waldstein on Relationality and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

Being, Gift, Self-Gift: Reply to Waldstein on Relationality and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body

David L. Schindler
“Political Correctness” as a Form of Humanism, and the Christian Mission | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

“Political Correctness” as a Form of Humanism, and the Christian Mission

Ricardo Aldana

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Totalitarian Tendencies and the Perversion of Language | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

Totalitarian Tendencies and the Perversion of Language

Jean-Pierre Batut

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The Saving Difference | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

The Saving Difference

Adrian J. Walker Rachel M. Coleman
Introduction: Saving the Differences | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

Introduction: Saving the Differences

La Fede e il Sacramento del Matrimonio | Articles | Communio

La Fede e il Sacramento del Matrimonio

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Faith and the Sacrament of Marriage: A Response to the Proposal of a New “Minimum Fidei” Requirement | Articles | Communio

Summer 2015

Faith and the Sacrament of Marriage: A Response to the Proposal of a New "Minimum Fidei" Requirement

The Real World: A Metaphysical Reflection on The Great Divorce | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

The Real World: A Metaphysical Reflection on The Great Divorce

Rachel M. Coleman

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The Music of Eternity | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

The Music of Eternity

Élisabeth-Paule Labat

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Hope and History | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

Hope and History

Josef Pieper

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The Christocentric Mystagogy of Joseph Ratzinger | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

The Christocentric Mystagogy of Joseph Ratzinger

Robert P. Imbelli

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The Church as the Sacrament of Creation: A Reading of Origen’s Commentary on the Song of Songs | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

The Church as the Sacrament of Creation: A Reading of Origen's Commentary on the Song of Songs

John C. Cavadini

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God and the Cross: The Doctrine of God in the Work of Hans Urs von Balthasar | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

God and the Cross: The Doctrine of God in the Work of Hans Urs von Balthasar

Martin Bieler

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Vatican II and the Catholicity of Salvation: A Response to Ralph Martin | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

Vatican II and the Catholicity of Salvation: A Response to Ralph Martin

Nicholas J. Healy Jr.
“Further Up and Further In!” C.S. Lewis on Heaven | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

"Further Up and Further In!" C.S. Lewis on Heaven

Carol Zaleski
“The Father Without the Son Would Not Be the Father”: The Concept of God at the Council of Nicaea | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

“The Father Without the Son Would Not Be the Father”: The Concept of God at the Council of Nicaea

Jan-Heiner Tück

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Introduction: “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven” | Articles | Communio

Spring 2015

Introduction: “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven”

A Meditation on Givenness | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

A Meditation on Givenness

Pope John Paul II
Nature and Notes of the Church | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

Nature and Notes of the Church

Emile Mersch

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

“The Mystery of Mysteries”: On Péguy’s Vision of Hope | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

“The Mystery of Mysteries”: On Péguy’s Vision of Hope

Paolo Prosperi

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

Fruitfulness and the Rediscovery of Finitude | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

Fruitfulness and the Rediscovery of Finitude

Antonio López

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

“In the Beginning Was the Word”: Mercy as a “Reality Illuminated by Reason” | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

“In the Beginning Was the Word”: Mercy as a “Reality Illuminated by Reason”

David L. Schindler
Conscience, the Emperor, and the Pope: The Witness of St. Maximus the Confessor | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

Conscience, the Emperor, and the Pope: The Witness of St. Maximus the Confessor

Adrian J. Walker

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Ecclesia de Trinitate | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

Ecclesia de Trinitate

Ricardo Aldana

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

The Unity of the Church | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

The Unity of the Church

Roch Kereszty

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

Introduction: Ecclesiam Unam | Articles | Communio

Winter 2014

Introduction: Ecclesiam Unam

Editor
In Memoriam: Stratford Caldecott (1953-2014) | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

In Memoriam: Stratford Caldecott (1953-2014)

David L. Schindler
Divorce and Remarriage in the Early Church | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

Divorce and Remarriage in the Early Church

Henri Crouzel
God’s Gift of Life and Love: On Marriage and the Eucharist | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

God’s Gift of Life and Love: On Marriage and the Eucharist

Pope John Paul II
Pastoral Care of Marriage: Affirming the Unity of Mercy and Truth | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

Pastoral Care of Marriage: Affirming the Unity of Mercy and Truth

Fabrizio Meroni
Gay Marriage, Public Reason, and the Common Good | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

Gay Marriage, Public Reason, and the Common Good

David S. Crawford
“What God Has Conjoined, Let No Man Put Asunder” | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

“What God Has Conjoined, Let No Man Put Asunder”

Adrian J. Walker
The Crisis of Marriage as a Crisis of Meaning: On the Sterility of the Modern Will | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

The Crisis of Marriage as a Crisis of Meaning: On the Sterility of the Modern Will

D. C. Schindler
The Merciful Gift of Indissolubility | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

The Merciful Gift of Indissolubility

Nicholas J. Healy Jr.
Marriage’s Indissolubility: An Untenable Promise? | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

Marriage’s Indissolubility: An Untenable Promise?

Antonio López
The Sacramental Character of Faith | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

The Sacramental Character of Faith

José Granados
Marriage and the Family Within the Sacramentality of the Church | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

Marriage and the Family Within the Sacramentality of the Church

Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Marriage and the Family Between Anthropology and the Eucharist | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

Marriage and the Family Between Anthropology and the Eucharist

Angelo Scola
Introduction: Marriage | Articles | Communio

Summer 2014

Introduction: Marriage

Introduction: Health | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

Introduction: Health

Satan Was the First Philanthropist | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

Satan Was the First Philanthropist

Jeremy Beer

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

Healing the “Healthy” | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

Healing the “Healthy”

Ruth Ashfield

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Health Between Science and Wisdom | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

Health Between Science and Wisdom

Hans Urs von Balthasar

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

Reconceiving the Organism: Why American Catholic Bioethics Needs a Better Theory of Human Life | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

Reconceiving the Organism: Why American Catholic Bioethics Needs a Better Theory of Human Life

Michael Hanby

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

Health and Disease: Aspects of Wellbeing and Human Flourishing | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

Health and Disease: Aspects of Wellbeing and Human Flourishing

Dirk Lanzerath

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Human Wellbeing, the Natural Family, and Natural Law | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

Human Wellbeing, the Natural Family, and Natural Law

Allan Carlson
The Healthy and the Holy | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

The Healthy and the Holy

D. C. Schindler

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

On the Sacramental Nature of Health | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

On the Sacramental Nature of Health

José Granados
From Nature to Glory: The Grace of Illness | Articles | Communio

Fall 2014

From Nature to Glory: The Grace of Illness

Jean-Pierre Batut

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

The Rod, The Root, and the Flower | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

The Rod, The Root, and the Flower

Coventry Patmore

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

Why We Need Coventry Patmore | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

Why We Need Coventry Patmore

Stratford Caldecott
The Dispute Between Maximus the Confessor and Theodosius | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

The Dispute Between Maximus the Confessor and Theodosius

Maximus the Confessor

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

The Primacy of the Pope and the Unity of the People of God | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

The Primacy of the Pope and the Unity of the People of God

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

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“If Philosophy Begins in Wonder”: Aquinas, Creation, and Wonder | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

“If Philosophy Begins in Wonder”: Aquinas, Creation, and Wonder

Randall B. Smith

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

“Faith Is Obvious”: The Apologetics of Creation | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

“Faith Is Obvious”: The Apologetics of Creation

Mary Taylor
On Reason’s Authority | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

On Reason’s Authority

D. C. Schindler

This article can be found in the printed issue only.

The Witness of the Martyrs in the Early Church | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

The Witness of the Martyrs in the Early Church

Paolo Prosperi
Introduction: Apologetics | Articles | Communio

Spring 2014

Introduction: Apologetics

Editor

Also in Retrieving the Tradition, we recall a classic example of witness: the trials and torture of St. Maximus the Confessor (580–662), in the “Dispute Between Maximus and Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea Bithynia.” In 638, the emperor Heraclius, together with the Patriarch Sergius, produced a letter (Ekthesis) defending the idea that Jesus Christ had two natures but one will, a form of Monetheletism that they hoped would be acceptable both to Chalcedonians and to Monophysite (=“one nature”) followers in the empire. This document initially received widespread support, but resistance soon increased, led especially by the monks Sophronius and Maximus. Constans II became emperor in 641; and, in an effort to resolve continuing political unrest, he issued an imperial edict (Typos) in 648 which ordered that all discussion about the Monothelite doctrine must cease, and that all theological positions were to be as they were prior to the controversies. Maximus refused to accept Monotheletism as well as this edict, and was brought to a first trial in 655—following which he was sent into exile—and a final trial in 662.

We publish here the exchange between Maximus and Bishop Theodosius, who was sent by the emperor in 656 to persuade Maximus, while he was in exile, to accept the “compromise” of the Typos. The “Dispute” is a word-for-word account of the exchange that was probably written by Anastasius, the disciple of Maximus, along with Maximus, shortly after the events took place, in 656–57. In the exchange, Maximus insists again and again that he is not committed to his own teaching, but rather to the common teaching of the catholic Church. To Theodosius’s insistence that the Typos was demanding the “silencing of words” in order “that all might be at peace with each other,” Maximus responds by asking: “what believer accepts an arrangement which silences words that the God of all arranged to be spoken through the apostles and prophets and teacher?” Maximus continues: if, therefore, in examining innovative doctrines which have emerged in our times, “we find that they have resulted in this utmost evil, beware lest under the guise of peace we are found to be sick with apostasy, and preaching it, which the divine apostle said would come before the advent of
the Antichrist.”

In the face of the assertion against Maximus that “the laity [might] be harmed by too subtle words” in the continuing controversy over the Typos, Maximus replies: “On the contrary, each person is sanctified by the scrupulous confession of the faith, not through the abrogation of it, which is found in the Typos.” When it is objected to Maximus that the Typos “did not abrogate but ordered silence, in order that we might all enjoy peace,” Maximus responds: “The silencing of words is the abrogation of words: through the prophet the Holy Spirit says: ‘There are no speeches nor words of which their voices will not be heard.’ Therefore, the word that is not uttered in no way exists.” The final trial of Maximus ended with his tongue being ripped out, so that he could never speak again; and his right hand being cut off, so that he could never write again. Maximus died a few months later. His teaching was formally affirmed by the Church at the Third Council of Constantinople in 680–81.

Finally, in Why We Need . . . , we present Stratford Caldecott on Coventry Patmore. Caldecott explains why Patmore, a little known nineteenth-century English Victorian poet and essayist, represents “the best part of the Romantic movement,” while at the same time surpassing it: Patmore holds at the core of his thought that “nature’s innermost form is symbolic.” Combining this insight of Patmore with his great attentiveness to nature—in particular to the relationship between male and female—Caldecott suggests why Patmore “could be called—somewhat anachronistically, but no less rightly—the Poet of the Theology of the Body.”

We follow Caldecott’s article with excerpts from Coventry Patmore’s book of aphorisms and short poems, The Rod, the Root and the Flower. Patmore writes in the foreword that he wishes to discover and report “how the ‘loving hint’ of doctrine has ‘met the longing guess’ of the souls who have so believed in the Unseen that it has become visible and who have thenceforward found their existence to be no longer a sheath without a sword, a desire without fulfillment.”

—The Editors

Death by the Brain Criterion: A Response to Shewmon | Articles | Communio

Death by the Brain Criterion: A Response to Shewmon

Nicholas Tonti-Filippini

2. Defining Integration

In his critique, Alan Shewmon, asserts that I have not provided a definition of what integration means in this context.7  In the original article, I had written,

We can take from the doctrine proclaimed at the Council of Vienne that the ongoing causative effect of the soul is its informing the body. Therefore the type of integration which is relevant is a communication of information to all parts of the body that keeps the body united and functioning as a single whole.8

This would seem to be consistent with John Paul II's teaching that death is the separation of the soul from the body; that it consists in the total disintegration of the unitary and integrated whole that is the personal self; and that therefore what we are looking for is evidence or “clinical markers” that indicate the loss of the integrated and coordinated life of the person as a single living organism in which the soul forms and informs the matter to maintain the unity of the body. The relationship between soul and body is thus dynamic.

In defending John Paul II’s acceptance of determining death by the brain criterion, I proposed only that the loss of all brain function is a state of loss of dynamic unity of the body, not that the brain is the master organ, as Shewmon expresses it. As indicated above, the same claim can be made about loss of circulation. When the heart stops beating there is also a loss of integration, largely because vital organs such as the brain permanently cease to function soon after and the parts of the body have no means of communication if there is no circulation. The heart and the lungs perform an essential function in keeping the organs of the body alive, though the latter die at different rates when the heart stops beating.

The problem a faithful physician has in medically determining that death has occurred is that the soul is not observable. The doctrine, however, implies that the effects of the soul may be observable. When we observe the integrated functioning of the organic unity that is the human body, as a matter of faith we are confident that that body is formed by a human soul, and therefore that the human soul must be present. Though there is no event that marks the separation of the soul at death, what the physician observes is the disintegration of the body that results from that separation. Loss of a communicative relationship between the parts of the dynamic unity that is the body would indicate loss of the dynamic role of the soul.

Pope John Paul II, expressed this in the following way:

It is helpful to recall that the death of the person is a single event, consisting in the total disintegration of that unitary and integrated whole that is the personal self. It results from the separation of the life-principle (or soul) from the corporal reality of the person. The death of the person, understood in this primary sense, is an event which no scientific technique or empirical method can identify directly.
Yet human experience shows that once death occurs certain biological signs inevitably follow, which medicine has learnt to recognize with increasing precision. In this sense, the "criteria" for ascertaining death used by medicine today should not be understood as the technical-scientific determination of the exact moment of a person's death, but as a scientifically secure means of identifying the biological signs that a person has indeed died.9

John Paul II does not proclaim doctrinally the diagnosis of death by the brain criterion. His words are more cautious. He gives permission for health practitioners to adopt the neurological criterion:

the criterion adopted in more recent times for ascertaining the fact of death, namely the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, if rigorously applied, does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology. Therefore a health-worker professionally responsible for ascertaining death can use these criteria in each individual case as the basis for arriving at that degree of assurance in ethical judgement which moral teaching describes as "moral certainty". This moral certainty is considered the necessary and sufficient basis for an ethically correct course of action.10

It is, however, open to a faithful Catholic to challenge the medical empirical grounds on which the Pope based his judgement.

Nevertheless, one would reasonably expect that challenge to be based on accepting that the separation of the soul at death results in loss of integration and that the latter means a loss of dynamic unity in which not all the remaining parts of the body are unified through being interrelated to one another in a communicative sense (forming and informing). My concern with Shewmon’s position is not that he rejects Pope John Paul II’s permission for health professionals to use the brain criterion to determine death - it is open to him to challenge the empirical grounds for that permission - but that he does not accept the notion of integration that the Pope engaged which implies dynamic unity of the organism that is the life of the person. Shewmon’s notion of integration does not require that unity.

Shewmon’s key point is that his notion of integration is more in line with reality. However his distinction between life-constituting and life-sustaining types of integration is problematic.

A difficulty that I have with Alan Shewmon’s treatment of integration is that he seems to considerate it sufficient that some parts of the body remain related to other parts of the body for the body to be considered integrated. This is not unity of the body in the sense implied by the doctrine proclaimed at Vienne, a unity that is a result of the soul forming and informing the matter. He also criticizes me for thinking in terms of levels of integration. That may have been a misunderstanding in that I conceded that what he refers to as “integration” was an acceptable meaning of the word and that could be taken to imply different levels of integration. But for the purposes of understanding what integration must mean in the context of understanding the concept as a necessary element of being a living human person, his meaning will not do at all, because the concept must at least imply a dynamic intercommunicative unity between the parts. We take it that that dynamic unity, taking its form from the immortal soul, persists from the formation of the zygote until the soul separates from the body at death, even though in both Donum Vitae and Dignitas Personae the Congregation of the Faith is a little more circumspect about declaring that the zygote has a soul. It instead poses a question:

Certainly no experimental datum can be in itself sufficient to bring us to the recognition of a spiritual soul; nevertheless, the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of this first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?11

Shewmon devotes a great deal of space to his own theoretical analysis of integration, contrasting life-constituting and life-sustaining “types” as he expresses it and envisioning integration as being on two different axes. The analysis is novel and interesting but ungrounded. There is no anthropological starting point and no apparent basis in existing philosophical or theological perspectives within the Tradition.

To try find an answer to this question of death that is consistent with our Tradition or, at least, a development of the Tradition, we do need to work from the point of view of trying to understand theologically what happens at death and what it is to understand what an individual life is from the single cell zygote until death: we need to develop an anthropology that makes sense of what it is to have an immortal rational soul that forms and informs the matter so as to be the unity that is a human person, as we understand the latter to be from the doctrine proclaimed at the Council of Vienne, and renewed many times since. At Vienne the doctrine was not presented as a philosophical thesis but instead offered a theological starting point by being based upon John’s Gospel:

When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; 33 but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth--that you also may believe.12

Linked to this Gospel account in our Tradition is the teaching that

Jesus "descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens." The Apostles' Creed confesses in the same article Christ's descent into hell and his Resurrection from the dead on the third day, because in his Passover it was precisely out of the depths of death that he made life spring forth.13

In summary, the Catechism expresses the teaching in the following words:

In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven's gates for the just who had gone before him.14

Also in developing this anthropological understanding, we must include the imago dei15 and the significance of being a person in the image of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, again from the time we are a zygote until death, and then in the continuity of being a body after resurrection.

Shewmon makes no apparent attempt to link his theories of integration to doctrine and Tradition or to any accepted philosophy.

His account leads to an oddity in his discussion of the notion that a person might consist of a “brain in a vat”. If this view is linked to his idea that the body could be considered to continue as a living person after the brain has died, then a person could be at the same time two persons – the isolated brain in a vat and the body left behind. There is something distinctly odd about a notion of integration that would allow for such a division which would contradict the essential unity of the human body. The possibility highlights the fact that Shewmon does not understand integration as implying the role of the soul in forming and informing the dynamic unity that is a human being.

I recall standing in an IVF clinic, a result of serving in a government role, and wondering about the precious content held within the tanks of liquid nitrogen. In the tanks there were literally hundreds of straws held in racks, each containing a human embryo, dried and frozen and held in a state of suspended animation. By the latter I mean that there was no growth and no biological activity of any kind. But as a matter of faith, I believed that each embryo instantiated a human soul and, because of that, each was the form and the reality of the adult he or she would become, if given the right environment in which he or she would be rehydrated and thawed and then transferred to a woman’s uterus. Each of those straws contained such an extraordinary reality. Each was just a cluster of cells, but at the same time so much more than just cells, because those clusters of cells were human lives. They already contained the form of that person. As a cluster of cells they were linked together as a single entity already pre-programmed to develop in a predictable fashion, given the right conditions.

At another time I chaired a government committee16 to develop ethical guidelines for the care of people in a post coma unresponsive state, (sometimes unfortunately referred to as a persistent vegetative state). It was brought home to me, by those caring for the patients I visited, that the unresponsiveness was just what we observed. What was happening within those individuals remained so much a mystery to us despite our brain scanning technologies. They had brain activity, but it was not connected to any observable expression of that activity. I also met some rare individuals who had survived several years in that state before recovering to a point that they could speak of their experiences.

I asked one young such man, (he had been over two years without showing any responsiveness), who came to the launch of the ethical guidelines, what he remembered of his experience. He said he recalled conversations being held about whether to continue nutrition and hydration delivered through a PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy). He said that he was also aware of the love of his parents (his father, a general medical practitioner, and his mother, a nurse), and had confidence that they would protect him, as indeed that did.

There is, however, such a contrast between post-coma unresponsiveness which includes sleep-wake cycles, on the one hand, and, on the other, a person whose brain has completely died and the harsh reality of seeing the images of that patient’s contrast angiogram showing no blood supply to the brain. In the latter case one knows that on autopsy the brain would be found to be a liquid without structure or life, and that it is only technology that sustains a semblance of the dynamic unity possessed by both the frozen-dried embryo and the person in an unresponsive state. In fact, no such unity exists once there is complete absence of brain function because the systems that communicate between organs, the neural and endocrine systems, are missing a vital element. Circulation can be maintained, with assistance, but circulation without a brain is like a postal system, without mail. Circulation is the means of communication, it is not in itself communication. The dynamic unity that is a personal life has been lost. Shewmon’s insistence on circulation being a form of integration really misses the point that integration implies a dynamic intercommunicative unity. To be a unity in a meaningful sense the parts must be in actual communication with each other, not just be collocated with a system that could carry communications. The fact of the matter is that without the functions of the brain, the neural and endocrine systems have been profoundly interrupted. Circulation may be maintained, for a time, and thus the system for carrying communications, but the means of generating those communications is no longer present. There is thus no empirical evidence of the forming and informing that the doctrine refers to as the functions of the soul.in the unity that is the life of the person.


7. Shewmon, Op. Cit. p. 429.

8. “You Only Die Twice: St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, and the Concept of Death by the Brain Criterion,” Communio 38 (Fall 2011).

9. John Paul II, Op. Cit., n. 4.

10. Op. Cit., n. 5.

11. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae (1987) 5, I , 1.

12. John 19:30-35.

13. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 631. The doctrine from the Apostle’s Creed on the descent into Hell, as a doctrine based in Scripture, is complex. The Scriptural basis for the doctrine includes: Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:20; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 3:18-19; Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13; 481 Cf. Ps 89:49; 1 Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26; Mt 27:52-53; 1 Pet 4:6; Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9. Heb 2:14-15; Acts 3:15; and Rev 1:18. I am not a Scripture scholar and take what is in the Apostle’s Creed as a matter of faith.

14. CCC, n. 637.

15. Genesis 1.

16. Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Working Committee to Develop Ethical Guidelines for the Care of People in a Post Coma Unresponsive State or Minimally Responsive State, 2007–2009.

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Editor
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Summer 1985

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Hans Urs von Balthasar

We need not make any special mention of the remaining aspects of the celebration: reconciliation of the congregation through a confession of sins through the listening to the Word, through the offering of one's self, together with the gifts of bread and wine, through the inclusion in Christ's "surrender," and through the complete union with him during communion. Assuming these truths are not disputed, we may turn immediately to a few important questions which remain unanswered despite what has already been said.

First, we have refrained from using the term "sacrifice" and used "surrender" instead. One surely cannot proceed from the concept of sacrifice as attested to by all religious people who carry out sacrifices to their gods when, for instance, a human being (Iphigenia and others) is sacrificed in place of the people or when human beings sacrifice their lives (such as Roman heroes or soldiers in general) for the fatherland, and subsume all these under Christ's sacrifice. We cannot even proceed from the Old Testament food and animal sacrifices in order to draw nearer to the cross. This is expressly forbidden by the letter to the Hebrews. Furthermore, we cannot equate Jesus' self-surrender with a man's renunciation of an amenity or a good for moral (or other) reasons, even though it may benefit another human being. Jesus' "sacrifice" is entirely unique and cannot be equated with anything, not even with Mary's "sacrifice" under the cross, with that of the holy women or the apostles or other saints, and not even with the sacrifice of a St. Paul who can say: "It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his mystical body, the church" (Col. 1:24-25). In so far as these things are the suffering of Christ they lack nothing; they are complete and more than sufficient. It is only by cirtue of his grace that there remains a place for his mystical body, the Church, to participate in his suffering, since Christ and the Church are the "head" and "body" of Christ (the "body" owes its existence and everything else to the "head"). It is not forbidden to speak of the eucharistic sacrifice, but one must keep in mind the analogous nature of the term.

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Summer 1985

The Unity and the Multiplicity of Aspects in the Eucharist

Walter Kasper

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Summer 1985

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