Introduction: Paternity

The Summer, 2009 issue of Communio is dedicated to the theme of “Paternity.” “Everything comes from the Father,” writes M.-J. le Guillou, “and everything must return to him in the mystery of Christ. That is why human thought, whether it likes it or not, bears the mystery of the divine Fatherhood.” Proceeding from the central mystery of God the Father, the present issue reflects on the nature of human fatherhood and of the priestly sacramental fatherhood, on the wealth of the Church fathers’ reflection on the Trinity and the Filioque, and on the eclipse of fatherhood that is perhaps the deepest source of our current cultural crisis.

In an editorial titled, “Caritas in veritate and ‘Integral Human Development,’” Stratford Caldecott introduces the third encyclical of Benedict XVI. “Everything has its origin in God’s love,” Benedict writes, “everything is shaped by it, everything is directed toward it.” Accordingly, love is “the principle not only of microrelationships (with friends, with family members, or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic, and political ones).” Human development, which involves “the whole man and every man,” depends on our “rising above a materialistic vision of human events” to include an openness to the mystery of God. In other words, Caldecott concludes, Caritas in veritate requires that we “become aware of our constitutive relation to the transcendent, our ‘calling’ toward God for the common good of all, in love and truth.”

José Granados, in “Priesthood: A Sacrament of the Father,” begins with the human experience of fatherhood, which, if taken in all its breadth, changes our vision of the human person: “Fatherhood implies man’s generous openness to another ‘I’ who, while belonging to the father’s existence . . . , is different from him with an irreducible novelty.” The mystery of human fatherhood is transformed in Jesus Christ: “By identifying fatherhood with the surrender of his own life, Christ . . . breaks definitively the link that ties fatherhood with mortality, that is, he assures a communication of life able to overcome the threshold of death by bestowing the new gift of the Spirit.” The sacrament of priesthood, by identifying the priest with Christ the head, allows the priest to participate in Christ’s communication of divine life. Priests are called to make visible the countenance of the divine father, the hidden source of all love.

Antonio López, in “God the Father: A Beginning Without Beginning,” extends the reflection on God the Father by exploring what it means to identify the Father as the permanent origin of the divine triune communion. “To be ‘father,’” Lopez argues, “is to reveal oneself, to let one’s own beauty shine through another. The Father’s allowing another to participate fully in his own glory is coincident with his pouring out of himself to the end in another, in order that this other one might exist.” López contrasts this vision of the Father as generous origin with Hegel’s system, wherein “absolute spirit is an absolute circle of negativity whose ontological poverty makes God move from original abstract universality to being
absolute, concrete subject.”

Peter Gilbert, in “Not an Anthologist: John Bekkos as a Reader of the Fathers,” offers a fresh look at the theologian who served as Patriarch of Constantinople from 1275-1282. “John Bekkos was not a juggler of texts or an anthologist,” Gilbert argues, “but a man who was concerned to state the logical coherence of traditional Christian belief in the Trinity, and to state it in such a way as to show that the insights of the Latin and Greek Christian traditions are ultimately harmonious. He saw . . . correctly, that the Filioque debate had deep historical roots; this debate arose out of earlier misunderstandings concerning person and substance in God.”

Jean-Pierre Batut, in “Calling Fathers ‘Father’:Usurping the Name of God?” explores the profound difference between human fatherhood and divine fatherhood. A human father must have been originated in order to become an originator: human fatherhood is, definitively, the fatherhood of a son. As the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ reveals the mystery of a Father who is the Origin without origin. At the same time, the teaching of the Council of Nicaea (325) confirms that God is not first he who is without origin, but he who gives origin, in others words, the Father. As Father, God is the Source who gives rise to other sources (cf. Eph 3:14–16).

Tony Anatrella, in “Disappearing Fathers, Destabilized Families,” shows how the family is the basic reference point that allows for the psychological development and education of a child. “The problem of the absence of the father,” Anatrella argues, “cannot be dissociated from the more general problem of the disintegration of the traditional family that allows a child to flourish.” The neglect of the family’s responsibility for educating the child is bound up with a denial that the father and mother have distinct tasks in the procreation and upbringing of a child.

Anthony Fisher, in “HIV and Condoms Within Marriage,” addresses the difficult question of whether Catholic agencies and professionals should distribute or promote the use of condoms as a preventative strategy for HIV-discordant married couples. Drawing on the work of Elizabeth Anscombe and John Paul II, Fisher concludes that “condomized intercourse of HIV-discordant spouses is non-marital because it is not apt for generation (proles), for marital union (fides) or for spiritual communion (sacramentum).”

Retrieving the Tradition returns to the theme of “paternity” with a selection from Marie-Joseph le Guillou’s book The Mystery of the Father. Le Guillou’s point of departure is the solidarity between theological thought devoted to the mystery of the Trinity and philosophical thought devoted to being. For the Christian, “the first and last reason for the creative communication of being is seen as grounded in the inner-trinitarian communication of being and in the pure generosity that characterizes it.” One who is able to name the absolute personal source of everything in God and in God’s creation “will be kept from all temptation to situate himself over against the real is if he were himself that source, whether as individual or as spokesman for humanity, or as engineer of the world or of history.”

Finally, Notes and Comments closes the issue with Juan de Dios Larrú’s “John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and His Roman Triptych,” which traces the close connection between John Paul II’s catechesis on human love in the divine plan and the poem that he composed in Polish in 2002. Both texts converge on the fundamental unity of creation and redemption: each man is called into being through love, and simultaneously called to love in response to God’s gift of communion.