Tuesday, August 02, 2011


CHRIST THE PANTOCRATOR from Palermo Cathedral
The Author of this article is a remarkable young American Priest, Father Dylan Schrader. In careful scholarly fashion he totally demolishes what I have come to call the Brisbane Heresy. Many thanks to you Father Schrader!

Father Schrader has very kindly given his permission for the reproduction of his paper here at Vexilla Regis and later in FOUNDATION.


Archbishop Bathersby in his Cathedral at concelebrated Mass.
(In May of this year we drew attention to Brisbane Archbishop John A. Bathersby’s Advent Pastoral of 2006, which repeated a favourite theme of His Grace, which is at variance with the Church’s teaching, and we corrected it with one example of Papal Teaching. We discovered the following presentation of the truth written by a brilliant young American Priest, Father Dylan Schrader, and he has kindly agreed to us reproducing it here and in due course in FOUNDATION.)

A Brief Explanation of the Catholic Answer by Rev. Dylan Schrader.

The Background : Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, from the moment of the Incarnation, has two natures: divine and human. He has, therefore, two intellects and two wills. His divine intellect is identical with that of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit and is absolutely omniscient, knowing all real and all possible things. His human intellect, since it is created, cannot be absolutely omniscient. Moreover, the natural human way of knowing is to acquire knowledge from the senses, to form judgments, and to reason.

The question: 1) When did Christ, in his human intellect, know that He is God the Son; and 2) what is the nature of this knowledge?

The answer: 1)) Christ, in His human intellect , knew that He is God from the first moment of the Incarnation, that is, from the first moment of His conception; 2) the nature of this knowledge is the knowledge of vision, namely, the knowledge that comes from the immediate vision of God (the Beatific Vision).

The explanation: Christ’s human intellect had different types of knowledge :
1) Beatific knowledge: The direct, immediate, face- to- face vision of the divine essence and of other things in the divine essence, which is the source of their reality.
2) Infused knowledge : Knowledge that comes from individual concepts that are poured into the intellect by God .
3) Acquired knowledge : Knowledge that comes through experience, through the senses, judgments, and reasoning.

The common objections:
1) Christ’s human intellect could not have known anything when He was a zygote.
2) Christ is fully human and therefore did not have the beatific knowledge on earth.
3) The Bible says that Christ “grew in wisdom”(Luke 2 : 52).
4) Christ does not know the day of final judgment according to the Bible (Mt. 24 : 36; Mk 13:32).
5) The Beatific Vision is incompatible with Christ’s suffering on earth.

The replies:
1) While acquired knowledge requires the development of the brain and sensory organs, this is not the case for beatific knowledge. The intellect is a faculty of the soul and is immaterial; it does not require a bodily organ to function, although its normal way of functioning is to be joined to a bodily organ and to make use of images in the imagination , etc. Beatific knowledge, however, is not normal human knowledge. It is not derived from the senses but from the direct, intellectual vision of the divine essence. Therefore, beatific knowledge can be had without a bodily organ. The saints ( excepting the Blessed Mother of course) ), for example, have the Beatific Vision as separated souls.
2) There is no contradiction between beatific knowledge and human nature. If there were, then going to Heaven would make us less than human, and God would be contradicting Himself to call us to the Beatific Vision. The Beatific Vision, as explained above, does not depend on the resurrected body. Therefore, there is no intrinsic reason why man on earth could not have the Beatific Vision. On earth, Christ as a man was simultaneously acomprehensor  ( a possessor of heavenly glory) and a viator  (a wayfarer).
3) The Bible is correct. Either it means that Christ began to show forth His wisdom more and more ( an interpretation supported by the Church Fathers), or it means that He grew in His acquired knowledge. There is no contradiction in saying that Christ learned  things that He already knew, for He came to know them in a new way( i.e., with a different type of knowledge). Thus, already knowing the geographical layout of Palestine since His conception, when He was old enough He actually walked the streets of Palestine. His eyes took in the scenery around Him, etc. Already knowing the precise day and hour of His death on the cross, Our Lord actually had to live through the hour and endure the experience of being crucified and dying.
4) The Church teaches that Christ did know, even as man, the day of final judgment. The Bible expresses it the way it does to indicate that Christ considered Himself not sent to reveal the day of final judgement. It is worthwhile to reproduce at length what Pope Gregory the Great wrote on the subject:

“(But) concerning that which has been written that neither the Son, nor the angels know the day and the hour ( Cf. Mark 13:32), , indeed, your holiness has perceived rightly, that since it most certainly should be referred not to the same son according to that which is the head, but according to His body which we are…. He ( Augustine) also says….that this can be understood of the same son, because omnipotent God sometimes speaks in a human way, as He said to Abraham: Now I know that you fear God (Gen. 22:12), not because God then knew that He was feared, but because at that time He caused Abraham to know that he feared God. For, just as we say a day is happy not because the day itself is happy, but because it makes us happy, so the omnipotent Son says He does not know the day which He causes not to be known , not because He Himself is ignorant of it, but because He does not permit it to be known at all. Thus also the Father alone is said to know, because the Son (being) consubstantial with Him, on account of His nature, by which He is above the angels, has knowledge of that, of which the angels are unaware. Thus, also, this can be the more precisely understood because he Only-begotten having been incarnate, and made perfect man for us, in His human nature indeed did know the day and the hour of judgment but nevertheless He did not know this from His human nature. Therefore, that which in (nature) itself He knew, He did not know from that very (nature), because God – made- man knew the day and the hour of the judgment through the power of His Godhead….Thus, the knowledge which He did not have on account of the nature of His humanity by reason of which, like the angels, He was a creature this, He denied that He, like the angels, who are creatures had. Therefore (as) God and man He knows the day and the hour of judgment; but on this account, because God is man. But the fact is certainly manifest that whoever is not a Nestorian can in no wise be an Agnoeta. For with what purpose can he, who confesses that the wisdom itself of God is incarnate say that there is anything which the Wisdom of God does not know? It is written: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….All things were made by him (John 1 : 13). If all, without doubt also the Day of Judgment and the hour. Who, therefore, is so foolish as to presume to assert that the Word of the Father made that which He does not know? It is written also: Jesus knowing, that the Father gave Him all things into His hands (John 13:3).  If all things, surely both the Day of Judgment and the hour. Who, therefore, is so stupid as to say that the Son has received in His hands that of which He is unaware? With regard to the place, however, where He says to the women about Lazarus,Where have you placed him? ( Jn. 11:34), we have understood what you have also understood, that if they deny that the Lord knew where Lazarus was buried, and for that reason He had asked, they are without doubt compelled to acknowledge that the Lord did not know in what place Adam and Eve had hidden themselves after their sin, since He said in Paradise Adam where are you? ( Gen3:9) or when He chastises Cain saying,Where is your brother Abel? ( Gen. 4:9) If He did not know, why did He add not much later: Your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground?[1]
5) The Beatific Vision does produce spiritual joy, but does not exclude intense suffering in the body or in the lower faculties of the soul. Thus, even while seeing His Father, our Saviour experienced fear at the prospect of death and great physical pain  during His Passion. Actually Christ’s beatific knowledge gave Him knowledge, even as a man, of each and every sin that would ever be committed and allowed Him to offer His sufferings and death as satisfaction for every  sin. This intimate knowledge of the sheer weight of humanity’s sinfulness caused Him to sweat blood (Lk. 22:44)

The consequences of denying Christ’s beatific knowledge:

1) If Christ acquired knowledge of His Divine identity, then this knowledge must be based on faith, since it cannot be from reason alone. In other words, God the Father would have had to reveal to Christ that Christ is God the Son. The faith of the Church would then be based on Christ’s faith. Moreover, Christ’s human intellect would have to believe that it belongs to God Himself (i.e., that it is the human intellect of God) rather than knowing this with certainty because it sees its union with the Word.
2)Christ’s human intellect, even if it had been given infused knowledge by God, would have had to know everything pertaining to His mission as the Redeemer through individual concepts. Given the universal scope of His Redemption , this would have been impossible, since He would have had to reflect on one person, sin, or grace after another without being able to grasp in His mind each and every person, sin, or grace all at one time. If Christ had the Beatific Vision, however, His human intellect would have had knowledge of all people and all individual sins and graces simultaneously by  seeing them in the divine essence ( the source of their reality) rather than through separate concepts. Thus, throughout His Passion, Our Lord, in His humanity, was able, through His beatific knowledge , to offer up His sufferings for every member of the human race specifically(cf. Gal. 2:20), as satisfaction for every individual grace that would ever be given.
3) Christ’s human will would not have been explicitly conformed to His Divine will for a portion of His life on earth. He could not will what He did not know. Without this conformity of His human will to His Divine, He would not have been our Priest, Mediator, or Redeemer until later in His life.

The more recent statements of the Magisterium:

Pope Saint Pius X
Pius X in Lamentabili sane condemned the following proposition:

Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.[2]

In 1918, the Holy Office responded to a series of questions on the knowledge of the human soul of Christ:

Question: Whether the following propositions can be safely taught:
1. It is not certain that there was in the soul of Christ, as He lived among men, the knowledge which the blessed, that is comprehensors possess.
2. Neither can the opinion be called certain which states that the soul of Christ was ignorant of nothing but rather knew from the beginning in the Word all things , past, present , and future, or all things which God knows with the knowledge of vision.
3) The belief of certain more recent thinkers on the limited knowledge of Christ’s soul is not less to be accepted in Catholic schools than the opinion of the ancients on its universal knowledge.

Response: In the negative.[3]

Venerable Pope Pius XII
In Mystici Corporis, Pius XII explains:              (Ed. This is the quote we used to refute Archbishop Bathersby’s assertions)
Now the only-begotten Son of God embraced us in His infinite knowledge and undying love even before the world began. And that He might give a visible and exceedingly beautiful expression to this love, He assumed our nature in Hypostatic union: hence – as Maximus of Turin with a certain unaffected simplicity remarks – “in Christ our own flesh loves us”. But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was he conceived in the womb of the Mother of God , when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His  Redeeming love. O marvelous condescension of Divine love for us! O inestimable dispensation of boundless charity! In the crib, on the Cross, in the unending glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church present before Him  and united to Him in a much clearer and more loving manner than that of a mother clasps her child to her breast, or than that with which a man knows and loves himself.[4]
In 1966, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a letter (Cum oecumenicum concilium ) on some misinterpretations of the Second Vatican Council. Among other errors, the Congregation mentions :
Even the adored Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ is attacked, since in the consideration of Christology such concepts of nature and person have been employed as are hardly compatible with the dogmatic definitions. A certain Christological humanism creeps in on account of which, Christ is reduced to the condition of an ordinary man who gradually acquired the consciousness of His Divine Filiation. His virginal conception, the miracles, and the Resurrection itself  are admitted as far as the words go, but in reality they are reduced to the merely natural order.[5]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:
But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God’s Son expressed the Divine life of His person. “The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word , knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God.”Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father. The Son in His human knowledge also showed the Divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.
By its union to the Divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in His human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans He had come to reveal. What He admitted to not knowing in this area, He elsewhere declared Himself not sent to reveal.[6]

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church :

The Son of God assumed a body animated by a rational human soul. With His human intellect Jesus learned many things by way of experience; but also as man the Son of God had an intimate and immediate knowledge of God His Father. He likewise understood people’s secret thoughts and He knew fully the eternal plans which He had come to reveal.[7]

[1] Gregory the GreatSicut acqua (600), in Heinrich Denziger and Adolf Schonmetzer,Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum, 36th ed. ( Freiburg: Herder, 1965) [henceforth : DS], 474-476. Translation from The Sources of Catholic Dogma (Loreto Publications, 2007). The last lines are my own translation, since they are not present in the English translation of the older edition of Denzinger.
[2] Pius X , Lamentabili sane (1907), n.35. DS 3435
[3] AAS 10 (1918), p. 282. DS 3645-3647. My translation.
[4] Pius XIIMystici Corporis (1943) , n.75.DS 3812
[5] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cum Oecumenicum concilium, in A.A.S. 58 (1966), p660, n.5 My translation.
[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 473-474
[7] Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.90.


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