My dear colleague,
Thanks to a close friend of mine, one of your many enthusiastic Italian readers, I have just read your “The Soul and its Destiny” in French translation. If you care to return the compliment by reading my own book (“From Illusions to Illumination. The Itinerary of a Franciscan Priest from Catholicism to Atheism”) and this Blog, you will understand that as a Believer on the Brink you are part of my target readership. My readers may not know you as the rebel Catholic theologian-philosopher you are, or the publishing phenomenon you have become. Google (as well as the two hard-hitting official reviews of your book in “L’Osservatore Romano” and “La Civilità Catholica” : http://www.chiesa.espressonline.it Vito Mancuso) will save me the trouble of introducing you and your work. You will learn who I am by consulting the biographical details in my “Welcome” to the Blog and by a rapid scan of some of my 264 other posts. I trust you will understand why I presume to write to you as a colleague.
I am taking the liberty of addressing you directly in public because you and your faith-stance provide a fascinating example of people I have dubbed Believers on the Brink. A large number of believers (I prefer “non-atheists”) have jettisoned many of their childhood religious beliefs and practices, but hesitate to take the logical step into atheism. It is rare to find an eminent Professor and best-selling author spelling out why he has rejected, according to “L’Osservatore Romano”, at least twelve official dogmas of the Church, while continuing to call himself a Catholic theologian. It is worth quoting what you say about your attack on the Church’s traditional beliefs, in particular what has been called your “gnostic” doctrine on the nature and inherent immortality of the soul, and your radical revision of belief in the “Novissimi”, the Last Things :
“The Catholic that I am hopes that some believers (my brothers) will demonstrate the inconsistency of my thesis, so that I will be able to return, in conscience, to affirm all the traditional doctrines of the Catholic Church concerning the soul and its destiny” (p.47).
You insist that you hope your book will assist in the coming of the kingdom of God (!) : “It is only in this perspective that I allow myself to raise objections against certain dogmas formulated in past centuries by the Church to which I belong, and to which I will always belong, because it is my family” (p. 42). “I publish this book with the hope that it will be refuted” (p.46).
I have no choice, as a professional and as a gentleman, but to believe in your sincerity. But you have demolished Catholicism ! The “religion” you have created has no need for dogma (except your own), sacraments, commandments (except “justice and love”) or … God.
One could attempt to sum up your opinion, which you yourself recognize as heterodox, concerning the nature of the soul, by saying that you believe it is “not some mysterious supernatural entity which comes from above, but something natural, the principle of life” (p.22). The soul is part of an overall finality in creation in which “energy is the fundamental reality” (p.25). “The logic of nature (which is the action of the Coordinating Principle (?) ) is not aimed at death but life” (p.328). Ever since the Big Bang, reality has contained an intrinsic tendency to order and complexity, from “the primordial cosmic point to matter, from inanimate matter to life, from the first forms of life to the complexity of the intelligence, from intelligent life to the moral life of goodness and justice” (p.329). Q.E.D.
As you develop your thesis, you discard most of Catholic traditional doctrine, to the point that frankly not much is left of the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible or of doctrines (not only the abomination which is Augustine’s Original Sin – “Alleluia !”) like eternal punishment in Hell, but of “miracles” including the Resurrection, the Ascension, and – my favorite – the Assumption (“Alleluia” bis !). And, for good measure, you very rightly point out that Jesus was entirely mistaken about the imminence of His Second Coming (pp.312-315).
Beyond all this, I have to wonder whether you believe in God any more than I do.
Dear Professor Mancuso, carissimo Vito, take a little time to read my Blog. You will surely agree with much that I have written. Why do you bother claiming to be a Catholic theologian ? Is it because it reinforces your credibility in Catholic Italy ? But you could increase your already considerable impact by taking the next step, if you joined people like myself in rejecting entirely Religion itself and the Catholicism in which we both once believed.
Carpe diem, Dottore ! Feel free to post any comments you like on the Blog. It would be enriched, and its readers and creator honored, by your contribution.
Pax et bonum.
Yours respectfully and fraternally,
Frank O’Meara, alias Frank O’Phile
RIDENDA, DELENDA RELIGIO