Slate's Bizbox


back to homepage

Transcript

Note: This transcript has not been proofread, and therefore its accuracy is not guaranteed.


Wright: Well first of all thanks for taking the time.

Lorenzo Albacete: Thanks for the invitation.

Wright: I've been reading your book, "God at the Ritz" and...

Lorenzo Albacete: Very good.

Wright: It's a very good book or it's...

Lorenzo Albacete: It's very good to read it...

Wright: ...that I've been reading it... it is a good.

Lorenzo Albacete: I see.

Wright: There's a place in it where you refer to a line of Flannery's O'Connor's where she says that the trouble with contemporary life is that people are equivalent of ... what is it?

Lorenzo Albacete: Wingless chickens.

Wright: Wingless chickens?

Lorenzo Albacete: Wingless chickens yes.

Wright: And what does that mean?

Lorenzo Albacete: There is, apparently, I don't know anything about up-keep of chickens but apparently if you cut their wings they will become fatter and and better tasting - the meat gets better. Unfortunately you cut their wings so they're unable to, well not to fly really... They're not big flyers. It's not like they were soaring eagles but at least they have experience of up and down...

Wright: Right.

Lorenzo Albacete: ...Another dimension. When you cut their wings in order to improve their usefulness they lose that experience. Flannery O'Connor's argument was that in order to better parts of our lives (()) we have lost our wings and cannot tell another dimension, a dimension of interiority for example.

Wright: So we focus so much on material comfort that we've lost track...

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes although I don't that the word material is a question of material or spiritual because they are mostly metaphysical questions whereas here I think she means it at the level of experience. Can we experience a dimension that goes beyond the horizontal one?

Wright: And for you that dimension ultimately leads to religious experience.

Lorenzo Albacete: I think the experience of that dimension is a religious experience, yes.

0:02:02

Wright: Now the book has God in the title but I noticed that actually the word "God" doesn't appear all that much in the book itself. You use, when you're referring to this dimension of experience, you use words like "the transcendent" "eternal" "the infinite"... in fact the subtitle is "Attraction to Infinity"... or the mystery.... is there a reason that you're kind of avoiding ...

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes yes it's because God is ...for two reasons. First, it's already a loaded word and there are, I can imagine as many ideas or definitions or thoughts suggested by the word God as there are people so I look for something because you could have this experience without necessarily tying it to a personal reality. You can think of it as a dimension of life. In order to make it as non-confessional as possible I look for those other words. The word I really like I suppose is "mystery"..

Wright: That's a big word among Catholics isn't it?

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes. Also it's a big New Testament word.

Wright: Is it in the New Testament?

Lorenzo Albacete: ...St. Paul especially. But there it has a very precise meaning. Mystery here means, in a certain way, an unknown, something you are looking for.

Wright: Right and I gather I mean the book is intended largely for people who are not already, at least conventionally, religious. Right? I mean it's not a book aimed at Catholics.

Lorenzo Albacete: Sure. No no no not at all.

Wright: Yes and I mean I gather one of the things you're up to is trying to talk about God in ways that make sense in a modern, intellectual... I mean, if you look at the Bible, there are some very anthropomorphic descriptions of God. There are descriptions of God sitting in a throne...

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes.

Wright: ...now, that's probably not the way you conceive of God...

Lorenzo Albacete: No no.

Wright: ...but I guess one question I have is: how much can you modernize your description of God before it starts sounding too vague to have great emotional impact on people. I mean ... terms like "the transcendent" and "the infinite," they can mean a lot of things to a lot of people and I assume that you yourself as a believer have a somewhat more specific conception of God. Well, what is your... in other words you have a conception of God that is consistent with those terms, those are attributes of the God you think of but you think of something more when you think about God...

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes. I think of a concrete human face...

Wright: You do?

Lorenzo Albacete: Jesus Christ.

Wright: I see. You think of Jesus as the incarnation of God.

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes.

Wright: So when you think about God it's actually Jesus you think about?

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes and no. When I think about God, I think about the reality ... something... whatever it is that corresponds to the fulfillment of certain needs and desires of my heart. And of my mind, answers to certain questions, answers to demands of effectivity... for example, say the thirst for justice. I experience that and yet I find that, where can I find justice? The love for the beautiful. What is beauty? Even a not too very popular concern but truth. I don't want to be deceived. But what is truth? for example. These are needs of the human heart and that which ... and since I look where to find them and I find traces here and there and I can identify and say "That was beautiful." "Yes, that was good." "Yes, that was just." But these are concrete individual cases. Is there any such thing as a sort of justice of good, of beauty like that. I don't know so I search for that.

0:06:16

Wright: But it's not enough for you to look at something and say "Oh that's really beautiful. It feels good..." You almost need a grand unified theory of beauty and justice.

Lorenzo Albacete: I would certainly hope it would be enough (()). It's not enough, not because I don't want to, it's because it pushes you further. I don't want... I would rather... I wish I would be able to say I just settled for items and I don't try to unify them at all. But that is not my heart. I want a beauty that doesn't end. I want a justice that doesn't have to be fought for again and again and again, that we actually learn to live by it. The experience of the particular itself moves me beyond, shows me that I am on to a particular on a path but on a path towards some mystery that contains the secret of justice, beauty, truth, etc. That's my experience.

Wright: You're not just saying you would like to see perfect justice on this planet, which we'd all like see, or you would like to see you know lots of beauty on the planet. You would like to have some kind of comprehension of and communication with the ultimate source of all of these good things.

Lorenzo Albacete: I would like to experience and to have an understanding of it but I don't demand an understanding in a sense of a definition and "Now I totally understand it," because I think the most outrageous human experience is love, for example. From the moment you understand it you have lost it. So, I don't demand that kind of understanding. I demand a reasonableness that corresponds to my heart and always more. I want more.

Wright: And to some extent I assume you have found it by virtue of having a religious life.

Lorenzo Albacete: I have found the path. For me, faith comes in when I say "This is a path that I can follow." But it's still a path forever.

Wright: I mean this is a kind of surprise for me in the book was the extend of your emphasis on questioning and exploring as part of a religious life. Whereas there are some religious traditions within Christianity where the idea you get is not about questioning at all because they say they've got all the answers. Right? I mean you can certainly... and I mean even official Catholic doctrine and official Christian doctrine has a certain amount of consistent saying "You have to be sure that Jesus was the son of God to be saved." Right? That's a completely confident view.

Lorenzo Albacete: But my question is, yes, alright, those are words but what do they mean? I order to find out what they mean I need to explore, I need to ask, I need to question. If at any one time I have put the matter down, that's it, definitely no more questioning then I am actually at the level of the mystery itself, of God. That's self-defeating. I think the path is ... there's a difference between and the kind of comprehension ... we're talking about two different kinds of comprehension and certainty. It is the teaching of the church however it is has been emphasized enough or not or whether most people are aware or not at least in the Catholic church that the doctrines and dogmas are signposts but not the reality that one is after. These are signposts pointing in the direction of that which surpasses onwards and all doctrines and all dogmas and it should.

0:10:29

Wright: I assume that at some points in your life you felt like you were having more success on the path than others or...

Lorenzo Albacete: Everyday...

Wright: ...you felt you were closer... what's that?

Lorenzo Albacete: I feel everyday that I've certainly...

Wright: You have ups and downs.

Lorenzo Albacete: ...veered off, fallen or actually taken many steps back.

Wright: Maybe some details on that would be interesting...

Lorenzo Albacete: Well because this happens as you live your life, as you react to the circumstances that determine where you are, so you have to go through these in a sense every time. You know even the great -- in the Catholic tradition -- John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, they were all forced to draw these little maps of growth into absolute union with God... the castle, the mountain and you are at this stage and that stage. They were forced because people demanded that kind of outline but again and again and again they repeated for as one it cannot be done. It just doesn't follow a drawing. And second, you achieve a point that doesn't mean it is there. You take off from that point, you actually probably come back to the beginning again. I have to decide everyday whether I believe what I believe everyday.

Wright: But I assume you must have had some pretty profound experiences because, for one thing, you went into the priesthood. You were, at one point, a scientist, right?

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes.

Wright: A physicist in, I guess, space science or...?

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes.

Wright: And you decided to take a kind of radical turn you know and follow a vocation that has a lot of rewards but also demands a lot of sacrifices.

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes.

Wright: I assume you must have had at least one very powerful experience and I'm wondering if you can at all relate to us the nature of the experience.

Lorenzo Albacete: I must tell you that it wasn't very powerful at all. For me, I can't speak for other people, the vocation of the priesthood was among the most fragile things that existed. It was there. it wasn't there for many years, I was practically in fact I was in the age to get married ... it hadn't been announced, but then suddenly it appeared in an afternoon where I was involved with a church activity --- the parish where John F. Kennedy used to go in Washington --- and this is soon, well not that soon, after the Vatican Council so there were more lay involvement lectures, ministers of communion, that kind of stuff and I was a lecture, the best in the area. My specialty was the Passion of Christ according to Saint John, the narrator... I do that part the best. And I was doing that and it came out really neat, I really wasn't even thinking of it in religious terms, more like a performance. It was kind of like really neat and then suddenly I recognize inside a very weak suggestion, like why not do this kind of stuff full-time. Would you consider the priesthood? I mean, I didn't hear any voices, it just felt... I felt a call I have not felt before. Of course I roar with laughter...

Wright: It was more than, "Hey, I'm pretty good at this."

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes. But it starts with almost "Hey, I'm pretty good at this." Then you suddenly notice, to me, that there was something there that was different. Now, again, from that moment until the day I decided it was to be two almost three years because I thought it was absurd. During that time it never got any stronger than just a possibility, a suggestion. So it wasn't difficult to resist or to ignore. But suddenly, in certain moments, it was back and finally I hardly discussed this with anyone, I don't think I did for years... eventually I asked a few people but not people who knew me well. What convinced me was that I, one day, looking back, I came to the realization that it was irresponsible for me not to say "yes" or "no" to this possibility... to even the invitation to try it out. After all, it was that I say "yes" and then I'm a priest. I had to go to the seminary... at any one time I could have just walked out and in the end I imagine I can walk out anyway. But, why not try it out? One day, I began thinking, "You know, it's really evasive of me not to try this out." And then I realized, if I don't say yes then it will go away. Not that I will not be happy or anything but that the door would be closed and I didn't want it closed. I didn't exactly fall off a horse like Saint Paul or anything I just said "What the heck, let's try it out." I think is very important and this is what I bring in from science and frankly in my life, in theology, even as a priest I have found people who don't have these standards. I am not saying anything unless I have verified it. But the method is how to verify it and in what way. I mean you have to have a reasonable basis. In the end you decide. Because to say if it is about love, how do you verify whether you are going to marry such a person? What kind of proof do you demand that that person loves you? When you know depending on what proofs you demand you are never going to respond to it. What is reasonable? That's what you want to do, something that makes sense. Well, I believe that this is exactly the same way someone has to verify the proposal of faith. Does it make sense?

0:16:58

Wright: So your religious convictions have to be consistent with reason...

Lorenzo Albacete: Absolutely.

Wright: ... but you stress again and again that the driving force for a religious person is a kind of passion. In the book you compare the passion for religion to other passions ...

Lorenzo Albacete: In fact I think other passions are expressions of the passions of religion, put it that way. That's just a title. Life itself is a passion. By passion I mean a search, a quest that is never satisfied and so increases even as it tastes what it is looking for it gets stronger and wants more. I believe this is a characteristic that in some ways expresses or defines best our humanity. I think, more than intelligence, will and freedom, the real key to humanity is desire. And it is there because you can verify it in yourself. At one time, if you said "That's it. I have enough. I am completely, fully satisfied. I'll never again have..." You say that every time one wants something particular, that's when you say, even when you're a little kid, "If you buy me this, I'll never ask you for another present again." Oh yeah sure. But we go life thinking like kids like that. If only I had this, finally that's it and I can relax. It's just not true. I'm not attacking it, I'm just saying, "That's life." But you always want more and more and more.

Wright: And religion is a deeper manifestation...

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes, I think this is what I call religion, that quest, that search for whatever it is that will bring fulfillment, that really corresponds to your desire. I think religion can be defined as that... as the impetus that drives humanity.

Wright: The desire to know things like why...

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes! What is the relation among thing, etc.

Wright: But why everything is in a deeper sense than scientists look for a grand unified theory. It isn't just a grand unified theory of physics. That's one kind of answer to why everything is.

Lorenzo Albacete: Because the question of why, the existential question, doesn't pertain to science. I don't want my scientists to sit around and worry about the why of the universe. I want them to find out what the heck is going on even... But I want to make sure that they follow certain paths finding out what's going on. I want to know what's going on inside that house next door I could just sneak through the window and find out although I shouldn't. There are ways. But I want... anyway, the point is science has to proceed according to certain standards. Results should be measurable. You should be able to express it in an equation. All of these standards. And that's fine. But that cannot apply to all of our experience of life. You know, if you fall in love and you want to send a little note to the person you love you don't send an equation. I mean, usually perhaps you might send a silly stupid poem or a beautiful poem.

0:20:27

Wright: There's a point you make in the book in kind of making this distinction between the merely material conception of life and things like love. You say we can trace feelings of love to the brain but nobody ever says "My brain loves your brain." What do you mean...what's the exact point your making there?

Lorenzo Albacete: The point that there is --- this is very important because it is I mean we are circling the decisive question today really I mean... nothing compares to this question because it defines what is a human being. What I meant to say is that there are... when you talk you have some kind of experience that makes you say something. It's good to explore that. Study what you mean when you say this. I'm trying to say there are perhaps two, maybe more, various kinds of I's. When you say I something, that I, what does it stand for? What are you talking about? I'm trying to say... there is one I that can be completely explained in terms of brain functions. No problem with that, it satisfies it. There is an experience that I have, in reaction to it I say I and I can explain this with brain function. Fine. No problem. I'm saying that there are other experience when I say I in which the brain functions explanation is inadequate, it is not enough. Obviously it's there, I have to have a brain, there's not much on an I if I don't have a brain. So the mechanism is there. Science can study those how the brain works when you say I but it knows nothing about the experience you are having like when you say "I love you."

Wright: So subjective experience... consciousness is not directly amenable to science...

Lorenzo Albacete: It's not exhausted but it should be a scientific explanation.

Wright: And this is part of the mystery. I mean life would be less mysterious if it didn't feel like anything to be human...

Lorenzo Albacete: Again, if it could be reduced to an equation that would eventually describe the physical processes.

Wright: Right.

Lorenzo Albacete: Then fine, the mystery ceases and you got it.

0:23:04

Wright: Now in your book you also talk about sexual experience as, well I don't want to overstate it and say you're calling it a religious experience, but you almost are...

Lorenzo Albacete: Absolutely.

Wright: You're saying it's a way to make contact with the transcendent and for you the transcendent is a rough synonym for God so what do you... I mean this would surprise some people I think.

Lorenzo Albacete: Perhaps. I am one step removed Freudian in my thinking. That is to say, I think that sexual experience is decisive because... just looking at everything... if I land from Mars and examine this creature known as human being... I mean, what moves them? What moves them is this, essentially this desire for life... for life. But that's an abstraction. I don't know how to express it. I really have to put it in terms of the Bible. In the Bible in the book of Genesis human sexuality, which is the only sexuality mentioned, that of the animals and everything else is unimportant, they are just there to reproduce I guess, human sexuality is not only mentioned but highlighted because it is the only part where God has to do kind of like a repair job and realize he has to recreate the human creature to make it come out male and female. Why? Because in the human creature, sexuality appears as a response to the need to carry out the task of developing nature and creation. Of building a world that satisfy the desires of the heart. Again, at the root are those desires... you have a desire for something you try to construct it, you do everything, that is human beings do that. And then it says that the human creature, when sexuality wasn't a point, finds himself-herself unable to do this and the solution to this is sexuality. It means, to me, just reading the book of Genesis as a text written by Joe Schmo, not even as a revelation, just as a story that tells a message. It seems to me that whoever is responsible for that story thought of human sexuality as the most fundamental human way of fulfilling the impulse of the heart that I call religion. So, I think the two are very tight and I think sexual energy, the sexual quest is the first one of the first and most powerful expressions of the religious question. Some people reverse that and say the religious quest is an expression of the sexual quest. I would consider that too because they are so close but the religious quest, I fear, is much broader.

Wright: And how would you define exactly the elements that they have in common? I mean, intensity is one.

Lorenzo Albacete: Intensity yes. But also they are action movers. We build a world, we begin to play with our lives our surroundings everything to organize to build a culture, let me put it that way. They both generate cultures.

Wright: And of course there's some kinds of sex you would not put in this category. I mean, you're explicit in the book in saying that mere lust objectify the other person and so is not something ...

Lorenzo Albacete: Oh yes, I think that lust... mere lust... I was wondering what any other kind of lust would be? Mere lust I don't think has anything really, very little, to do with sex anyway. It's a question of perception and power.

Wright: It's not a form of communication?

Lorenzo Albacete: No. No communication or love or sex at all.

0:27:57

Wright: Now, a Darwinian might say, wait a second, you can speculate all you want about what sex is for and, in fact, you quote then Cardinal Ratzinger now the Pope...

Lorenzo Albacete: So that's what happened to him.

Wright: I can bring you up on new developments if you'd like ...

Lorenzo Albacete: I kept thinking, "Where is Georg?"

Wright: Now he's Pope. He says actually the purpose of sex, in the passage you quote, is to do something along the lines that we're talking about here. Now, a Darwinian might reply, "No, actually, you can speculate all you want but I know what the purpose of sex is. The purpose of sex is to get genes into the next generation. That's why sex is. In the Catholic church is generally known for having accepted Darwinism although that's maybe an issue...

Lorenzo Albacete: That was a false alarm.

Wright: Well we'll talk about that, but first how would you reconcile what this Darwinian says with what you're saying about the purpose of sex?

Lorenzo Albacete: I would say, I don't know anything about Darwinism scientifically. If you tell me that, well that's interesting, fascinating... I have no problem with that. But you are speaking about life as a Darwinian. If all you are, if all you are capable of knowing, of whatever fits within Darwinian scientific method, I have nothing... I accept what you say. But I would say how sorry. I mean, you are depriving yourself of experiences that are to me decisive human experiences.

Wright: Do you think Darwinism is true in so far...

Lorenzo Albacete: ...within it's scope...

Wright: But if those are the only questions you are asking...

Lorenzo Albacete: Exactly. Within it's scope. Again, fields of knowledge like that have to define their scope and their methodology and everything that doesn't fit is excluded. In Darwinism, in order to get biological results ... last night I found out that these huge swarms of ants all over the world and they started like in Argentina but if an Argentinian ant arrive at Paris it would recognize immediately the other ant and build together, they will not be antagonistic generations afterwards because of the continuity of that species. That's beautiful stuff. I love to see all of that. And if at that moment that is discovered by a method once you know what is the purpose of ants and why there are ants and why there is life to begin with... They will never find this. The price to have the progress in this way is to exclude from it certain things and I think as long as we are aware of what is being excluded, I have no problem. That's fine. That's the way it works. But, for life? When you take that from which you have excluded something and make that the norm of your I, of how you express yourself, of how you see life, I think that is a very tragic narrowing of horizons at least...

0:31:35

Wright: Ok and this does bring us this controversy over what the church in fact ... the connection with Darwinism. An influential Cardinal not too long ago in the New York Times seemed to back track on the traditional seeming position of the Catholic church and said ...and seemed to be you know taking issue with conventional Darwinism, that is the idea that evolution happens through the selective retention of randomly generate traits. As I understood it, and he was a little vague, but as I understood it he was not happy with that model of how evolution happens. Right?

Lorenzo Albacete: Well I read it and I know the man very well, he's a friend of mine. I haven't called him up or anything to find out ... I have written Op Eds for the Times and you always want to say more, to explain, etc.

Wright: But what do you think he was getting at?

Lorenzo Albacete: I think his concern is the concern we have just expressed. The problem isn't Darwinism or Neo- or Neo-neo-Darwinism as a proposal for the scientific explanation of life. The problem is Darwinism or any -ism -- Creationism for that matter -- as an ideology, that is to say, as a scientific method that accounts for all human experiences. And to me that, the church, after the Galileo scare and things like that, when the evolution thing came up the was caution on how to deal with this so we wouldn't be embarrassed like before and I think that continues. It's outrageous. I know this Cardinal, I know Ratzinger. These are people who are not sitting there saying that you know evolutionary biology or biology or whatever their science is in this case has to you know accept direct creation or whatever it is. This is just not a Catholic thing. I am interested though in why this was said at the present time. In a sense it was a repetition of what the church has always held. As a scientific reality proposal, let science decide it, with it's own methods and by it's own peers. As an ideology that is to say, as a proposal for organizing one's life in all it's dimensions, then we have something to say. We cannot accept that.

Wright: Ok but why can't it be the case... you said you object when people say Darwinism can account for everything. Why can't it be the case that Darwinism can in some sense account for everything but it's not the final account... in other words to look at the example of sex again. Yes the function of sex, the reason in material terms that sex exists is because it was good at getting genes...

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes yes yes.

Wright: ... but maybe the Creator of natural selection had something larger in mind ...

Lorenzo Albacete: I have no problem with that, I would just say the word I would like to use is ... it accounts and maybe it will not, no, I think it accounts for everything within it's own sphere and that remains true if I come up with something that seems to contradict the verifiable without the sphere of science within the sphere of science then I have a problem.

Wright: Right.

Lorenzo Albacete: I mean, the faith proposal. I cannot only have to say "There is meaning in the universe. Everywhere. Everything points to the mystic." This is my proposal. Now if that proposal makes impossible or rules out a scientific discovery that is verifiable in it's own terms, I'm prepared to abandon it. Of course, this is absurd.

Wright: Well I mean if your position is that, yes natural selection is the immediate explanation for the human experience...

Lorenzo Albacete: As far as that science goes in it's own terms...

Wright: But natural selection is itself subordinate to some larger purpose that is less immediately evident than ... to me that's...

Lorenzo Albacete: How do I know that?

Wright: Right. That's my question...

Lorenzo Albacete: ... I ask myself, "Is natural selection, as I best understand it, or these guys tell me and they'll tell me, I don't have this background, I have to accept the fact that this is a (()) intelligent people. Although they are people they are affected by politics and ideology as anybody else. I was one of them so I know that very well. On the other hand, you got what you got. My question is: Does this account, does if fulfill, does it account, does it correspond to my experience of life? That's what I want to deal with I don't want to compare it directly to something somebody tells me about God. I want to compare it to myself... because I want to embrace what somebody tells me about God because it does correspond. The moment it stops accounting for my experiences I will leave it. Why not? It would be absurd...a completely alienated creature walking around as a contradiction of ... you stop believing..embrace that which accounts for the experience of your heart but do that in a reasonable way. That's all I advise. Even in matters of faith, even later when you come to actual doctrines of Christianity or even doctrines of Catholicism. The Church cannot get away by simply telling you "This is it and shut up." It has to invite you to verify it.

0:37:50

Wright: What's a good example of an experience that you just ... that Darwinism isn't enough just to either account for ...

Lorenzo Albacete: When I say to someone, "I love you."

Wright: Okay, now you can understand how a Darwinian can say, "Look, falling in love is the first step to sex. Sex gets you ..."

Lorenzo Albacete: I agree, fine.

Wright: So, but in what sense...

Lorenzo Albacete: But when I say to someone "I love you" is this what I am saying? I am saying this is I feel this attraction to continue the species through this... that's not what you are saying it is...

Wright: It's not what you're saying but it could still be the reason you feel what you feel, right?

Lorenzo Albacete: It is not the reason I am saying what I am saying. It is not. I give you the example of the pathologist who goes after work -- I can never understand how a pathologist could lie down with his woman or her man or his man, whatever, because I mean you would be thinking ... Oh my God, I know what's inside... it just destroys the whole damn thing. Police people, for example, are always seeing potential criminals. I wonder if pathologists are always seeing potential dead bodies for autopsies where you can take things... if that is so then you've got a real problem.

Wright: You're saying that... if you take your work home with you... if even a Darwinian takes his/her work home it would deprive life of meaning.

Lorenzo Albacete: And the fact is, the Darwinian, sooner or later, would contradict his position that neo-Darwinism or whatever explains everything because the Darwinians, in their lives, they do not act like that. I even quote Singer in the "Feast of Reason" ... all his life And this is what he holds... everything can be explained this way. But yet certainly at the end he begins to feel a responsibility towards the new generations to educate him in a particular way because he begins to have thoughts which contradict what he has just said, that there is no meaning in the universe inherent in it... usually happens when you get old enough. My friend over here at Colombia, Bob who wrote "The Biology of Faith"...

Wright: Bob Pollack?

Wright: Yes. He admits it. He said, "...at a certain point I realize that my scientific conviction" -- to which he adheres -- "do not explain all of my life." My problem with him was that he says the reason doesn't explain it so one must somehow go into the unreasonable. I don't think so. I think one must somehow expand what reason means beyond scientific reasoning. Scientific reason is a form of reasoning.

0:41:15

Wright: My position, not that you asked, is that Darwinism can account for everything in the history of human experience in the history of organic life broadly speaking at least but that some of these features suggest that the Darwinian machine was set in motion with larger purposes in mind. It's not that there's a part of my life that just couldn't make sense as an ultimate result of natural selection, it's that life in various senses too interesting or that evolution by natural selection has too much direction or even the kind of moral direction in history we were talking about.. too much that is suggestive that there is a larger story unfolding, even if the machine that's driving it is natural selection it's just that I don't think it's the end ...

Lorenzo Albacete: I don't have a problem with that. My only concern is that I get nervous when science starts telling me the larger story.

Wright: The largest part of this story, maybe one level removed. Science is suggestive of the existence of that but is not equipped to unravel it.

Lorenzo Albacete: Again, it means how one defines the science. Any contact we have with reality will immediately suggest... will evoke And in some way launch you in a quest for meaning And purpose... any contact. Seeing this... I may or may not mention it in the book... there is a man... the man who found the movement that I follow ... he was saying "Just imagine if you were born with all your mental capacities that you have now." I mean, a baby is born, that's that. But here you would have all the mental capacities. When you were born, what would strike you the most? What would strike you the most is other things. A mountain. A pencil. And so, once it strikes you, the next step is "Where did it come from?" And the next And the next And the next. So striking with reality always launches you. You may crash, you may run out of energy, you may, in the end, whatever ... Darwinism, as a scientific proposal, it is my opinion, it will suggest just as any reality does...but I get kind of nervous when somehow or other that suggestion has to itself be taken out from experimental results. I worry that that is a violation of scientific rules just as I would worry if science starts moving into other areas, other ways of knowing. In the end there is only one of us. That is to say, it isn't that there are three people ... the scientist, the religious person... that's split. That is why I think the religious impulse is in fact the impulse making science possible. I think a scientific quest is an expression of a quest...

0:45:18

Wright: ...of wanting to make sense of things. Let me ask you a related question, I gather you somewhat sign on to the kind of language I'm using, I mean the idea that if natural selection is the immediate explanation for organic life including humans then for a religious person, natural selection must have itself been set in motion with some larger purpose in mind.

Lorenzo Albacete: It's within a larger...

Wright: Then you would expect natural selection to have some features that embody those larger purposes, right? I mean, or the direction of evolution to have some features... Do you see products of evolution or that are suggestive of this larger purpose?

Lorenzo Albacete: I don't know. I know there is a difference... people think this way And they try to actually construct some kind of evolutionary direction. Things like intelligent design And all of that ... I don't know enough about it. It doesn't bother me. If it were to show no particular direction it wouldn't bother me at all.

Wright: It could also have a direction...

Lorenzo Albacete: If it does, that's nice.

Wright: But it could have a direction towards intelligence through convention Darwinian mechanism. That doesn't involve the intelligent design stuff...

Lorenzo Albacete: Sometimes you wonder how certain solutions were embraced... seem to be set backs but I have no problem with that. What do I know?

Wright: As a related question, not about the direction of evolution but about the direction of history, you write in your book that human beings do subdue And develop nature not only in order to build a world responsive to our material needs but also to build a world responsive to our need for the infinite. There's a task we were given at the beginning by God, having to do with the kind of world we're supposed to build. One question is, how are we doing?

Lorenzo Albacete: How are we doing? I would say it varies. Ask me tomorrow I will have another answer but for the moment right now I'm kind of grading the whole effort with a C+.

Wright: What kind of things do you think we should ... what were we supposed to do?

Lorenzo Albacete: It's funny because, going back to Flannery O'Connor, And I mentioned it there, she says "today we feel more but see less." This is what is interesting. I think, this is outrageous ... but history is like a BBC lecture. You've seen the progress, the moral progress in sensitivities. There is progress to me in sensitivities And recognition towards you know dialogue, peace, etc. etc. interrupted many times by the total collapse And set backs but somehow, after long processes, things kind of stay in... that is to say, even the phenomenon like political correctness is an expression of that. There are certain things you don't say anymore And certain things you just cannot do.

0:48:41

Wright: We were talking about the direction of history And you were saying...

Lorenzo Albacete: The achievements, yes. I would say, myself, if I look at that I have to admit that there have been, in human history, achievements... ethical achievements... first of all there have certainly been achievements in our ability to decipher nature, to understand nature And then second I think ... And to control it, to guide it in a direct natural process, the direction of an improvement of life. That's there. There have been improvements in sensitivity to certain realities that before we could not see but now can see. We are horrified by certain things that before did not horrify even great saints And moral people before. I see this as a direction that's there. I cannot see how it's undeniable. I have no desire to go back to a past And expose myself to it's ethical considerations, are you kidding? If anything, I would like to move on to improve to increase this sensitivity.

Wright: You see this in The Bible, right?

Lorenzo Albacete: Oh yes.

Wright: If you look at Deuteronomy, you see things that are (()) by God, encouraged by God...

Lorenzo Albacete: Hurling babies against the way...

Wright: ...that are abhorrent to a modern sensibility.

Lorenzo Albacete: Rightly so. In fact I once read a study on the conception of adultery in the Bible And at the beginning it is forbidden because women are property. Adultery is just another form of stealing your horse or your house. It is not an offense against the person And the dignity of the person. But you could see through the prophetic words And see this moral awareness growing And this why it is said that the whole Bible can be seen as an educational process.

Wright: Whose getting educated?

Lorenzo Albacete: The human heart. The humaneness...

Wright: But it's almost as if God Himself...

Lorenzo Albacete: Well ... He's educating our ideas of God.

Wright: Right.

Lorenzo Albacete: And He has to use whatever ideas are there because, remember, what is being educated -- you asked a good question -- is our freedom. And so, therefore, if you are going to freely move from one step to the next step you know you have to work with what you have. I can just see how God, among the objects of his desire would be to purify our idea of God because there is, remember, this other aspect to it And this is the great mystery which -- for lack of a better term -- but it's out there And you just can't ignore it... Christianity doesn't make sense without it ... is the mystery of original sin. Namely, there is another direction or -- yes, original sin often would require that there be another direction, almost opposite to the one that we have just traced, towards the direction of selfishness And pride And lived out not just in theory but lived out in my relations with other people And with nature And so forth... even the idea of God, even the knowledge of God is used in that direction too. In the name of God I kill other people. In the name of God I become intolerant. And the more I know about awesomeness of God And the truth of God the more intolerant I get.

0:52:49

Wright: Let me see if I correctly understand something you were saying just now. In some parts of the Bible, presumably parts that were written earlier than others, God Himself is depicted in a way that most of us would find morally repugnant.

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes.

Wright: He says, "Go slaughter the entire city ... wipe out every living thing..." Because their beliefs would be a threat to the Israelites beliefs ...

Lorenzo Albacete: Right right.

Wright: Now, are you saying that that ... of course if a premise of Christianity is that the scriptures are divinely inspired then you have to somehow account for this. Are you saying then, In a certain sense, God is at that point speaking to people in a language they will understand. In other words He can only go so far to enlighten people at a given stage And what seems to us like a morally primitive phase is just an example of him working within the constraints of that time...

Lorenzo Albacete: I'll settle for that because I don't think it's as neat as God sitting there And saying, "Well, let me see... morality 101: the lesson today... I don't know a damn thing about tolerance. I've got to let them kill each other And maybe send someone to suggest..." I don't know that there is God And then there is us. I think that God works through us, through our reason And our hearts And our intelligence, our ability... this is how the Bible is of divine inspiration but it is not dictated in anyway... it's like a scrapbook, accounts here And there... what do they have in common? They have in common the history, the experience of particular concrete people, what we call in the Old Testament is one people And it's history. History of what? ...of it's understanding of And reaction to the mystery. At any one time, as you would have to do today, if you took a flash at a particular year in this history you will find some people more advanced, some people more behind ethically, as well as in other areas. There are many theologies of God in the Bible. If you set one against the other you can say "What's the real Biblical one?" That's why one is not a fundamentalist, to read this thing as if it were a text... You find conflict, you find contradictions. What they have in common is a history of a people And now you can look back And see if there is any direction in the sensitivity of this people as time passes And I believe you find it all the time...

Wright: And in the history of other peoples as well...

Lorenzo Albacete: Absolutely.

Wright: All this together raises for me the question of particular revelations being uniquely privileged, that is the revelation to Abraham, as opposed to the idea that history itself is a kind of revelation And you see this among Buddhists And Hindus And so on... It seems to me, right now in the modern world, this is a very important question because the idea of privileged revelation is the source of a certain amount of intolerance as you were saying...

Lorenzo Albacete: ... do we have another two hours? This, in my opinion, is one of the questions of today. I do not treat it in the book really And require another book And I may be working on it... because this is what is really interesting. We see as contradictory the particular revelation to one particular person or people or whatever And openness to all manifestations of the human search And, in my opinion, that I find an understandable concern, a valid one And one that one should be present there... in so much that I would say in concrete cases to the degree that in the name of a privileged revelation certain actions are proposed, recommended, or approved or for that matter rejected that are not actions that open us rather than narrow our consciousness And our sensitivity then I think that privileged revelation should be rejected as intolerant. On the other hand, I can see -- again, the principle we talked about before -- God works through what's there, I can see that in normal life the way human beings progress or are educated is always very concrete... a teacher... a Martin Luther King comes. He does not have a privileged revelation but this is very personalized. This guy is there ahead of the people And he teaches a people. That is to say, this seems to be -- to me -- the way human beings are educated And live together by means of these leaders that appear here And there... that is so, in a non-religious way. And in sense it has to be this way because there are so many things to learn that science, economics, ethics, politics... noone is an expert on all of these things. It has to be this way. I can see that. That one would use this method -- the method of preference election or particularity in order to convey whatever it is he wants to convey to us doesn't worry me. I don't think it is necessarily conflicting with what we want which is humanity.

0:59:56

Wright: But is it a problem for you if we put Jesus in that category?

Lorenzo Albacete: No, I believe Jesus to be the teacher...

Wright: To be that teacher....

Lorenzo Albacete: To be that teacher of humanity, to be the savior of humanity. All of humanity.

Wright: ...the savior?

Lorenzo Albacete: THE savior.

Wright: Martin Luther King or Gandhi ... you would be willing to say maybe, tell me if I'm wrong, is a particularly exemplary And kind of enlightened manifestation of the process of history as revelation. In other words, some particular people embody history as revelation because they're kind of ahead of the curve And they carry things further ... but you can't be willing as a matter of doctrine to put Jesus in that category.

Lorenzo Albacete: No.

Wright: ... And that's where it seems to me...

Lorenzo Albacete: Because ... I am assuming that this is somehow originating in the reality I am calling the mystery. This is the reality that is behind the human heart wherever it is. All human beings search this mystery, the human heart.. what unites us is that. No matter religious beliefs... even if you are a criminal, you are responding to needs of the human heart. This is what we have in common. The religious proposal says, at the heart of it all, at the origin of this is the mystery which you can call God, the Creator, (()) the great lizard... whatever you want to call it, okay? Now, the question is, this reality I believe educates us, educates our freedom just as you ... what does revelation mean? What does God reveal? He reveals Himself. That is to say, it is as if you let another person, someone you love, you reveal yourself to that person And you have to work with what's there, through a person's interests, etc. Now, my point is, this God follows this educational method of selecting all of these people. But, as a Christian -- And this is what makes me a Christian -- I come to believe that the concretization of all of this... that at one point the manifestation of the mystery, not just of any other teacher of the mystery as authentic as they may be, but of the mystery itself is the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This is what I hold as a Christian. I don't think this closes me ... I say, "that's it, those who do not accept Jesus are done." No. "Those that do not accept Jesus should be excluded." Of course not. To me, the purpose of Jesus is precisely to move us to the next stage which is all embracing.

Wright: But didn't Paul say in the Bible that you do have to believe that Jesus is the son of God to be saved?

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes... but then I don't read the Bible that way. I read Paul in it's context in whatever he was dealing with in his own because ... "You're right Paul, no problem. Look I'll sign on to anything but you now explain to me, what do you mean by believe that Jesus is the son of God? Recite the creed? What if you've never heard of Jesus?

Wright: To me it would mean believing that he has completely unique status among people who have appeared on the planet And is not just like the Buddha in being particularly enlightened but has a completely unique connection to the divine.

Lorenzo Albacete: If you have heard of him, he has a completely unique connection, as much as this claim has been made of him. It may have been a misunderstanding but it's pretty unique because Christianity is the only one that makes this claim of any man.

Wright: So you believe that a Buddhist can be saved, can have salvation, the afterlife that a Christian has...

Lorenzo Albacete: Probably faster than I would.

Wright: And what about an atheist?

Lorenzo Albacete: Oh yes, faster than I would in all probability...

Wright: What would an atheist have to do to get into Heaven?

Lorenzo Albacete: Even St. Thomas Aquinas would say "Follow his or her conscience." Be honest to your heart.

Wright: But clear moral...

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes but it's not the morality that gains you heaven. It's not because an atheist does good things. It is the heart that gets you there. This is very important. Even for the Christian, a Christian can fulfill every damn moral law there is And end up in hell. This is a doctrine of the church. It's not what you do, it is your stand in respect to otherness. It is your conscience. I don't know a more beautiful expression in this than the work of Levinas, who is not a Christian. He talks about the moral challenge to you by the face of an other. It's your ability to see And respond to this otherness of the other in a way that gives yourself to them...

Wright: It isn't just being nice to people, it's being nice to people out of conviction And understanding ...

Lorenzo Albacete: Which doesn't even have to be formulated in the mind.

Wright: But at some level, either conscious or unconscious, there has to an apprehension that love is moral truth...

Lorenzo Albacete: Love is truth. Being is love which is the reason why for the mystery of the trinity... that's what it means anyway... And between truth And love they are two names of the same reality. Truth that inspires you to do violence to the dignity of another person, including their religious consciousness or vices, etc. that is not truth. You are being guided by something horrible, a monstrous distortion of the truth which is the other energy... whether you want to call it Satanic, original sin... this is the distortion, it's the very negative of the truth.

1:06:31

Wright: As a matter of fact, you've just expressed a very liberal salvation doctrine... inclusive And modern...

Lorenzo Albacete: I think you could look it up And read in Pope John Paul II, the redeemer of man, Second Vatican Council ... I can give you many references... the cataclysm of the church...

Wright: Is that the Catholic position that a Buddhist or an atheist can go to Heaven?

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes. Sure.

Wright: There are a lot of Protestant denominations that aren't saying that...

Lorenzo Albacete: That's right.. I respect that. We do not say that. In the mass in the fourth Eucharistic prayer of the mass, we pray for those who seek you -- we are praying to God -- for those who seek you with a sincere heart. We are praying as much for them as we are for the Pope, the bishop, the church, etc.

Wright: So ultimately yours is ...

Lorenzo Albacete: I don't think I'm being a liberal Catholic. That is the doctrine of the church.

Wright: Ok but it's more liberal than some Christians.

Lorenzo Albacete: I know ... to use that word, I suppose I accept it.

Wright: And it's not a particularist doctrine of salvation... would you agree with me that ... maybe somewhat particularist in terms of revelation, depending on...

Lorenzo Albacete: It is not particularist in the sense that you mean particulars. It is universal... the word Catholic means universal... but I don't think that there is a conflict between the particular And the universal.

Wright: And do you agree that, for the purposes of the salvation of the world in the mundane sense of salvation that is the world's survival in good shape, there needs to be a movement towards universalism on the part of those people that remain intensely particularistic.

Lorenzo Albacete: I think that particularism itself will move in that direction.

Wright: And that would be part of the progress of history that you talked about...

Lorenzo Albacete: It is the dynamics of love. In the marriage rite, at the end of the wedding, you chose among final blessings, there is a blessing that I like to chose because it is very awesome And it says to the couple, "Now that you have" --- more or less this way --- "particularized your love to such an extent, one person forever, etc. mutually, follow the dynamics of this love as it opens you up to other people especially the poor And the needy in the world because some day they will be your judges. That is to say, the openness to the responsibility for the poor, justice And charity is seen in this prayer as inherent in the very particularity of the love between the husband And the wife... I don't want to open another can of worms but this is part of the concern about contraception, about the refusal to have children because as the first opening up of that exclusive love... please, let's not discuss this but I'm trying to say, look, don't not talk about methods or means just look at the dynamics of a thing. Love has a certain dynamics to it. It's very particularization broadens it... it's always all embracing...

1:10:23

Wright: We shouldn't get off on this tangent but the puzzle to me has always been if the problem of contraception is refusing to share your life with the people who would be born of sex, well there are all kinds of ways to avoid having children ...

Lorenzo Albacete: But the church, when it talks about method, approves natural family planning methods but warns that they may be used sinfully. That part is not... what I want to see is we are all involved in trying to figure something out. All of us... Buddhists, atheists, un-believes, Catholics, Protestants... all of us. We're trying to figure out what it means to be alive, to deal with the circumstances of our lives, with reality in, I hope, two ways: a satisfactory way And fulfilling way... the pursuit of happiness it is called... And in a responsible way because even St. Augustine ... even the thief And the crook has honesty. We're all trying to do that. In so doing, certain questions keep coming back And I believe that the question of the need for universality is the direction to go. It's all embracing And more. In fact we want more And more And more... more justice, more inclusivity, bring more people in, the direction of more is the human direction...

Wright: It seems to me ... if you want to look at aspects of history that are arguably manifestations of some larger purpose, one interesting thing is history seems to have been moving to this point where either humanity makes a moral breakthrough or ...

Lorenzo Albacete: ... it destroy itself.... because of the other direction, exactly. In that context, as a follower of Christ And believing he And only he is the center of history And the universe, I do not find this particularity not only not conflicting with my desire to open to every manifestation of the human but it even animates it... it is the source of it for me.

Wright: It follows that you would say that there are Hindus who are worshiping their gods in a manner that you respect in the sense that the values that inform their worship are the values that you respect as a Christian And you would say that in a sense when they're worshiping their gods, their worshiping your God?

Lorenzo Albacete: Yes they are.

Wright: The term used sometimes here is the "godhead."

Lorenzo Albacete: I don't think they're just worshiping a god, I think they are following Jesus Christ, a man.

Wright: Even though they don't ...

Lorenzo Albacete: ... don't know who he is And what they may know is what they know...

Wright: And you don't feel it necessary to inform them that that's ...

Lorenzo Albacete: I would love to in the context of a discussion with mutual respect... I would propose it... I have no problem with it. Why would it be wrong? If I come with any threat or suggestion of a powerfully imposing this on them or it's consequences on it's culture or something like that, then I am against it... but proposing it? You take the woman you love to meet everyone at the office...

Wright: But if you were say Buddhist And you said "Wait a second, I think the Buddha is the genuine article" And you compare what the Buddha did to what Christ did...

Lorenzo Albacete: Well that's fine we disagree but you like coffee... we disagree...

Wright: That's a superficial disagreement in a sense.

Lorenzo Albacete: It's a disagreement that comes from the fact that this person does not have Christian faith And I don't control that And to me the purpose of Christ is universal. I don't have to design how to live that I just rejoice And follow what I have discovered... I offer it to the people... if they accept it, fine; if not, they are not my enemy... It's going to be like this because even in Christ's own life, even among those circles that he attracted, he attracted hostility, he attracted curiosity, he attracted admiration And he attracted folly. I don't see why we have to expect anything different... I leave that to the mystery... I would like all to believe in Christ...

Wright: The salvation of the world doesn't depend on that, the salvation of the world depends on an imbibing the spirit...

Lorenzo Albacete: Exactly. Salvation comes from their open... I think the person of Christ is (()) for them... that is to say, even without their knowing it... it creates a certain energy ... what I wanted to say is that what it requires is not moral achievement but ... what is the beatitude? Blessed are the pure of heart because they shall see God... Words of Jesus himself. So what it requires is purity of heart... you figure that out... and in the end one must go to the movies. We do not live for thinking about these things all the time. We have to... but we live for the movies, to build, to have a good time, to get to know other people... you understand what I mean? That is life. The man I follow said here in New York 1986 came back from a press conference -- he was walking out and then he came back -- and said "I have one more thing to say, maybe this will explain... I do not love humanity because I love Christ. I love Christ because I love humanity." I hold that.

Wright: In other words his fundamental insight he had to some extent derived from experience...

Lorenzo Albacete: For that passion for the human, for the excitement of human life present in spite of it's horrors and negative challenges and everything... He turns to Christ because he makes sense of this. He doesn't turn to Christ and then imposed a sense of what he does...

Wright: And it's not just in the divine revelation imposed on him...

Lorenzo Albacete: No exactly.... he finds it rather figure it out. The word he uses is it corresponds with the desires of your heart so you say yes to it. If it didn't, you are out of your mind to continue... you are crazy, that's like self-hatred of some kind... And in our movement that I am responsible for in the United States, we follow that method... we are people who are not believers... one young woman came to see me just last month, she's Jewish... but then she said, "You people have this thing that fulfills you, it is Christ. Who is my Christ?" And I said, "You go and be the best Jew you can. Don't even worry about Christ. That's us, we travel his path..." And I have given that advice to non-believers. Be faithful to your atheist. See where it leads you. I have total confidence that it will lead them to the mystery because I think we are structured that way.

Wright: Thanks a lot. This has been great.

  • jaundice in newborns
  • data backup mysql backup android themes laser liposuction cost empire beauty school online fax service seronegative rheumatoid arthritis cosmetology scholarships online auto insurance quotes