PopeWatch: Basic Math

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Carl E. Olsen takes a look at disturbing evidence that basic math, and basic rationality, may not apply in this pontificate:




Jesuit papal confidant and director of La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Antonio Spadaro S.J., who is considered to be “one of the Jesuits closest to Pope Francis,” has a lively Twitter account. Lively, but not necessarily theologically sound. Granted, there are more substantial news items out there, but this little tempest in a tea pot is not only rather fun, it is rather revealing.

The tweet in question, from earlier today:

Theology is not #Mathematics. 2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5. Because it has to do with #God and real #life of #people

— Antonio Spadaro (@antoniospadaro) January 5, 2017

Fr. Spadaro was apparently trying to make a point about certain theologians who are supposedly too rigid, dogmatic, or scholastic in their approaches to complex or difficult moral situations. A number of folks responded to his tweet, pointing out, in essence, that it was wrong, vapid, and otherwise embarrassing. This is Theology 101, the sort of thing junior high students should understand: truth can never contradict truth, even if some truth (theology) is supra-rational. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, quoting from both Vatican I’s Dei Filius and Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes:

Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.” “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” (CCC, 159)

Dr. Francis Beckwith, meanwhile, proffers this from St. Thomas:

@antoniospadaro True, math’s not #theology, But incoherence is a vice of #reason, including #theology, not just math. See Aquinas SCG.I.84.1 pic.twitter.com/2xn5iAjlxK

— Francis J. Beckwith (@fbeckwith) January 6, 2017

Perhaps sensing that his tweet was not going to successfully buck commonsense, basic theology, and the entire Tradition, Fr. Spadaro tried to find an ally in Benedict XVI: 

“GOD was made flesh and shows us that he is NOT only a MATHEMATICAL reason but that this original Reason is also LOVE” #BenedictXVI (2006)

— Antonio Spadaro (@antoniospadaro) January 6, 2017

The quote, in the English translation on the Vatican site, is from an address given by Benedict at Auschwitz in May 2006: “The God in whom we believe is a God of reason – a reason, to be sure, which is not a kind of cold mathematics of the universe, but is one with love and with goodness.”

That quote, however, does not help Fr. Spadaro at all since Benedict—to repeat what I’ve already noted above—is simply noting that God is a God of reason and that God also transcends the limits of reason and human knowledge. In fact, Fr. Spadaro’s simplistic, glaring error—which he seems to think is some sort of great theological insight—was roundly rebuffed in one of Benedict’s most famous addresses, also in Germany in 2006, given at the University in Regensburg:




Go here to read the rest.  One of the great strengths of Catholicism has been the way in which it has melded together faith and reason.  In this pontificate we are being called upon to cast aside both and follow the dictates of the pope with corpse like obedience.  No thank you.

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PopeWatch: Cardenal

  Hattip to commenter Greg Mockeridge.  Pope John Paul II shaking his finger at Ernesto Cardenal, Culture Minister for the Sandinista government


  1. This I think is a basis of a lot of what we’re seeing from this Pope, “2 + 2 need not equal 4”. And “anyone who thinks it must is rigid”.

  2. I saw this on Twitter and FB a few days ago. Liberal progressive clerics know as much about theology, philosophy, science, engineering, mathematics and history as do liberal progressive news journalists and liberal progressive politicians and liberal progressive climatologists, which is to say: NONE. And that includes the Pope, too. We have to love the Pope and pray for the Pope, but the truth is that behaves and speaks exactly as would a typical Argentinian Marxist Peronist. Failing to see that means that we would be as blind as those ignorant liberal progressives.
    2+2=5 ! Spadaro says that to indicate God can create more out of less. Why not 2+2=3 ? God creates less out of more? Can Spadaro not think through the logical ramifications of the idiocy he is proposing? On 2nd thought, liberal progressives don’t think and that’s the whole point.

  3. The principles of economics are absent, as well. Thomas Sowell, “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

    As usual, LQD is 100% correct. You need to keep in mind that the typical liberal begins with a myth, superstition or narrative (objective to seize power) and treats it as Truth. And, anyone that presents the facts is met with a string of ad hominems and liberal swear-words, such as “racist”, “xenophobe”, homophobe”, Islamophobe”, “what about the children?” etc.

    And, liberal academia is worse. Economics has devolved (a tiny decline) into something shoddy and unreliable. But, that has always been true of the social sciences.

  4. Bl John Henry Newman has an interesting comment on the application of number to theology: “[O]ur speculations concerning the Supreme Being, whom it may be unmeaning, not only to number with other beings, but to subject to number in regard to His own intrinsic characteristics. That is, to apply arithmetical notions to Him may be as unphilosophical as it is profane. Though He is at once Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the word “Trinity” belongs to those notions of Him which are forced on us by the necessity of our finite conceptions, the real and immutable distinction which exists between Person and Person implying in itself no infringement of His real and numerical Unity. And if it be asked how, if we cannot properly speak of Him as Three, we can speak of Him as One, I reply that He is not One in the way in which created things are severally units; for one, as applied to ourselves, is used in contrast to two or three and a whole series of numbers; but of the Supreme Being it is safer to use the word “monad” than unit, for He has not even such relation to His creatures as to allow, philosophically speaking, of our contrasting Him with them.”

  5. Pope Francis lives in a Modernist universe where truth is what you say it is. See: https://sarmaticusblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/fr-spadaro-wants-all-to-know-that-22-still-equals-5-at-the-domus-sanctae-marthae/

    Excellent point below. It is the key to modernism and Protestantism, i.e., we determine truth, not God.

    ” reviving the philosopher Maurice Blondel’s rejection of the traditional definition of truth as bringing the mind into conformity with reality (‘adaequatio rei et intellectus’) in favour of an account of truth as bringing thought into line with life (‘adaequatio realis mentis et vitae’).”

  6. Michael Dowd wrote, “the philosopher Maurice Blondel’s rejection of the traditional definition of truth as bringing the mind into conformity with reality (‘adaequatio rei et intellectus’) in favour of an account of truth as bringing thought into line with life (‘adaequatio realis mentis et vitae’).”

    Blondel’s definition was profoundly influenced by Henri Bergson, whose lectures he attended. For Bergson, “The intellect, then, is a purely practical faculty, which has evolved for the purposes of action. What it does is to take the ceaseless, living flow of which the universe is composed and to make cuts across it, inserting artificial stops or gaps in what is really a continuous and indivisible process. The effect of these stops or gaps is to produce the impression of a world of apparently solid objects. These have no existence as separate objects in reality; they are, as it were, the design or pattern which our intellects have impressed on reality to serve our purposes.” This is reminiscent of Dedekind’s creation of a new irrational number at every gap in the continuous number line at which there is no existing real number.

  7. The Lasso : Sometime, in the middle of my career in Law Enforcement, I became more than concerned with the feral ferocity of so many of the “family fights” I was having to cover. Especially in light of the fact that most of them involved children, helpless and present. I already held a four year degree from USI. So I applied at UE for admission to Graduate School to study for a Masters in Psychology. I wanted to find out what made people tick. Now, UofE is the most prestigious of all of the Universities in the Midwest. And I knocked myself out for three years to LEARN all I could, and get the degree. I graduated in 1985. But, you know, a part of the reason why it seemed like I was swimming upstream,, was because of the heavy influence of HUMANISM in so many of the studies. I edited it out myself, and came to think of it as a “Philosophical Virus”! Just like the virus that can infect a computer ! It is a Lasso to the thinking of so many !
    Timothy R.

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