Summum bonum (Atheist & Bishop podcast)

  • I had almost forgotten that Bishop Barron did a video on The Swerve several years ago:

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  • LOL! He uses an image of Seneca to illustrate Lucretius.

    The medieval Christians were "properly" curious. ^^

    To use the Barron's words: "C'mon, give me a break!" ^^

    Thanks for sharing, Joshua!

    btw, just because I think he defined what the summum bonum is accurately doesn't imply I agree with anything else he says! A broken clock is right twice a day.


    Sorry, can't let this go. I also freely admit that it's been quite awhile since I read Greenblatt's book, so this is more a response to Barron then a defense of Greenblatt's work.

    Barron brings up Bocaccio's Decameron. This is from Bocaccio's Wikipedia article: "he challenged the arguments of clerical intellectuals who wanted to limit access to classical sources to prevent any moral harm to Christian readers. The revival of classical antiquity became a foundation of the Renaissance, and his defense of the importance of ancient literature was an essential requirement for its development."

    "Chaucer's attitudes toward the Church should not be confused with his attitudes toward Christianity. He seems to have respected and admired Christians and to have been one himself, though he also recognised that many people in the church were venal and corrupt." (Wikipedia)

    If Barron is dismissive of Greenblatt's thesis, Barron seems a little free and easy with his interpretation of medieval Catholicism, too.

  • That's one of the more frustrating aspects of the response to Greenblatt's book. They downplay self-flagellation, which admittedly probably was restricted to the real hardliners, but take no account of the persecution of Heretical sects, the torture and murder of apostates, the relish of punishment of the damned in hell, the culture of fear and inquisition, the conversion of "heathens" at the point of a sword, the anti-Jewish pogroms, the hunting and burning of accused witches, and the infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

    One reviewer actually wrote this with a straight face;


    Indeed the Middle Ages are considered Europe’s most bookish era, a time when books — Christian, Greek and Roman alike — were accorded near totemic authority. Medieval readers and writers (not just clergy — lay culture was widely influenced by texts and documents, especially following the 10th century) were apt to believe anything they read in an old book just because it was old and from a book.

    As if to say that that were a sign of literacy. Well I'm sorry, but a literate and literary society does not believe something just because they read it in a book. A literate society knows enough about books not to take them blindly or at face value. It is only credulity and ignorance and illiteracy that views books as 'totemic'.

    But imagine someone saying or writing that in the middle ages--and about one book in particular--and then try pretending that we don't all know what would be done to them.

    Well wide of the mark, Bishop.


    His aversion to religion, in the sense usually attached to the term, was of the same kind with that of Lucretius: he regarded it with the feelings due not to a mere mental delusion, but to a great moral evil. He looked upon it as the greatest enemy of morality: first, by setting up factitious excellencies - belief in creeds, devotional feelings, and ceremonies, not connected with the good of human kind - and causing these to be accepted as substitutes for genuine virtue: but above all, by radically vitiating the standard of morals; making it consist in doing the will of a being, on whom it lavishes indeed all the phrases of adulation, but whom in sober truth it depicts as eminently hateful.

    -John Stuart Mill, on his father

  • Quote

    Augustine says against the Manichees [Cf. De Civ. Dei xviii, 1]: "In Christ's Church, those are heretics, who hold mischievous and erroneous opinions, and when rebuked that they may think soundly and rightly, offer a stubborn resistance, and, refusing to mend their pernicious and deadly doctrines, persist in defending them."


    I answer that, With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.

    On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but "after the first and second admonition," as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death.

    -Thomas Aquinas