Yannick Clément’s Summa Theologica

imageYannick Clément, with a bit of advice from Manny Carreira, a Spanish physicist and Jesuit priest, clarifies:

Then, he suggest[s to] me to add a footnote to explain what I mean by “dematerialization” of the body at the time of the Resurrection. Here’s what he told me : “Perhaps no single word is adequate to avoid possible misinterpretations. When I write on this subject I feel more comfortable saying that “the entire human reality -soul and body- begins to exist outside the space-time frame where physical activity takes place”, as described by science. This is the way the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses it (nos. 996-1000 especially). Since the spirit is independent -by its very nature- from space-time constraints, we can say that the body exists in a similar way as the spirit does.”

And here’s what I wrote in the footnote that I add in my paper (based mainly on what M. Carreira told me) : “This expression should be understood in the sense of a “vanishing of the body”. And it’s important to note that, on a religious level, words like “dematerialization” or “vanishing” doesn’t mean that the body of Christ would have been “destroyed” in favor of a surviving of his soul only (like the idea we can have of a ghost, for example). Effectively, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (particularly #996–1000) indicates that, at the time of Jesus’ Resurrection, his entire human reality (body, spirit and soul) begin to exist outside the space-time frame where physical activity takes place, as described by science.”

And this made me think about Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and how (in borrowing from Wikipedia):

spiritual beings that have been restored to glorified bodies will have the following basic qualities:

  • Impassibility (immortal / painless) — immunity from death and pain
  • Subtility (permeability) — freedom from restraint by matter
  • Agility — obedience to spirit with relation to movement and space (the ability to move through space and time with the speed of thought)
  • Clarity — resplendent beauty of the soul manifested in the body (as when Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor)

And as many of you know, I’m not Catholic. And this accords well with pretty much most conservative Anglican theology. As an Episcopalian (a U.S. Branch of Anglican Communion) this is close to how I look at it. However don’t forget the hullabaloo that erupted in 2002 when a survey of Church of England’s clergy revealed that a third of the of them doubted or did not believe in the physical Resurrection of Christ. Here is a story from The Telegraph.

9 thoughts on “Yannick Clément’s Summa Theologica”

  1. Christ’s body did not dematerialise at the Resurrection. He walked with disciples to Emmaus where he ate and drank with them; Doubting Thomas was able to place his hand in the wound of his side and saw the nail-holes [“Place your hand here!”]; Jesus did a fish fry-up for his disciples on the shores of Lake Galilee. The gospels report that they saw him taken up into heaven (a parallel universe?). Our present universe is contrained by the dimensions of time and space. We have yet to discover the properties of the supernatural “universe(?)”.

    1. The way I see the apparition of Christ after the Resurrection is that he could intervene in this material world anytime and anyway he wanted but that doesn’t mean there was no “dematerialization” of the body in the sense that his material body disappeared. I think the empty tomb and the empty shroud are 2 great SIGNS of this reality ! By the way, the word apparition mean just that ! If he appeared to his closest friends, in my mind, that mean that just prior to his apparitions, he wasn’t physically present in our material world. He appeared in it just to show a SIGN to his closest followers… To help their faith if you prefer. And you also have to realized that each time Jesus appeared, he wasn’t recognized easily at first ! That mean he had the power to change his normal physical appearence in some way… To me, this was done for one purpose : To respect the freedom of his closest friends !!! He never wanted to “force” them to believe. They still needed FAITH to believe that it was really Jesus in front of them. This, to me, is a great proof of the love of God ! He respect so much our liberty that he didn’t wanted to “force” his disciple to believe he was resurrected.

  2. “…his entire human reality (body, spirit and soul)”?!? This seems a very strange statement coming from a catholic, because the Catholic Church seems to reject trichotomy (=> the human being encompasses a body – soma-, a soul -psychè -, and a spirit – pneuma; (1 Tes.5:23). ), with reference to the Council of Constantinople (869)

    See: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p6.htm (article 367, and note 237)

    Of course, there are also dissident catholics, such as Michel Fromaget, who defend the trichotomic view.

    1. Effectively. Thanks for the comment. It was my error. Father Carreira just told me : body and soul.

  3. I am a Catholic and don’t believe in a physical bodily resurrection. I believe in the resurrection of the “Spiritual body”

    1. Exactly like me my friend ! And I truly believe we can see a SIGN of it in the undisturbed aspect of the bloodstains on the Shroud… But to see this, it takes the eyes of FAITH !

  4. The problem is that we are discussing the issue with our minds wrapped snugly in a Middle Age straight jacket. There are exciting, challenging and puzzling discoveries at the quantum level. It’s clear for example that some processes involve minute time travel backward. It is at the quantum level that we glimpse existence not fettered by normal considerations of space and time.

    What does this mean for the Resurrection? Maybe, it’s not such a big deal. Once you accept, as ultimately, I believe science will eventually, that there is a level of consciousness that existed before the creation of our universe, mystery begins to vanish. If you believe that Christ had a consciousness that was a reflection of the primordial consciousness, than, as I said, what’s the big deal with the Resurrection?


  5. The concept of “soul” is obviously a construct to explain certain abstract properties of the person. Its origins are very ancient indeed, as most primal peoples believe in some kind of a spirit world, and “soul” would seem to be a derivative of this idea. There is hardly a single philosopher or theologian who has not had his own unique ideas of the concept, few of them identical. There is an excellent Wikipedia article on “soul” demonstrating these diverse ideas from very many civilisations, religions and philosophies.

    Extracts from Encyclopedia Britannica:
    [Both the Chinese and ancient Egyptians seem to have favoured types of trichotomy:] “The Egyptian ka (breath) survived death but remained near the body, while the spiritual ba proceeded to the region of the dead. The Chinese distinguished between a lower, sensitive soul, which disappears with death, and a rational principle, the hun, which survives the grave and is the object of ancestor worship.”

    “The early Hebrews apparently had a concept of the soul but did not separate it from the body, although later Jewish writers developed the idea of the soul further. Old Testament references to the soul are related to the concept of breath and establish no distinction between the ethereal soul and the corporeal body. Christian concepts of a body-soul dichotomy originated with the ancient Greeks and were introduced into Christian theology at an early date by St. Gregory of Nyssa and by St. Augustine.”

    “In Christian theology, St. Augustine spoke of the soul as a “rider” on the body, making clear the split between the material and the immaterial, with the soul representing the “true” person. However, although body and soul were separate, it was not possible to conceive of a soul without its body. In the European Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas returned to the Greek philosophers’ concept of the soul as a motivating principle of the body, independent but requiring the substance of the body to make an individual.” [End of Encyc Brit extracts]

    John Klotz’s assertion that the idea that it is a concept “wrapped snugly in a Middle Age straight jacket” is a tempting one, but the concept is still very current and continues to be debated, if not so much by modern philosophers, then certainly by theologians. However I tend to concur with his assertion that: “It is at the quantum level that we glimpse existence not fettered by normal [Newtonian?] considerations of space and time.” It seems to be a hint that there are certainly other realms. But the concept of Christ’s Resurrection only makes sense in terms of primordial consciousness, if He is identified with this primordial consciousness.

    I think that the concept of “parallel universes” is a useful mental stepping stone to our understanding of these other realms, and a “supernatural universe”.

  6. The most important things to keep in mind from what Father Carreira said to me is this : At the moment of the Resurrection of Christ, all his entire human reality (body, spirit and soul) begin to exist outside the space-time frame. Of course, he could still interact with the material world, as we see in the apparition scenes in the Gospels, but he (body and soul) is not restrict to this material world no more and suffering and death as no power over him no more (just like everyone of us will experiment one day). I truly believe that at the time of the Resurrection, Jesus material body disappeared to enter a new reality (spiritual). In the Gospels, we can see that, after the event, his apparitions to his closest friends in the material world were done in a way that show clearly what I just said : his body could disappear anytime he wanted and he could pass through the doors or walls. Like I said, his human reality was not restrict no more by the material world…

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