On God & Goodness: 8 Lessons on the Euthyphro Dilemma

Listers, does God will something because it is good or is something good because God wills it? The question lies at the heart of the dialogue Euthyphro, written by Plato c. 399-395 BC, recounting a conversation between Socrates and a man named Euthyphro on the meaning of holiness. Though the dialogue overall is seeking to define holiness (or piety), it is the Euthyphro Dilemma that has captured the attention of Catholic, protestant, Islamic, atheistic, and agnostic thinkers throughout the centuries. Socrates asks Euthyphro, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” In monotheistic terms, it may be rendered “does God will something because it is good or is something good because God wills it?” or “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” The question demands an explanation on the relationship between God and what is good (and how to be good, i.e., moral). Theologians and philosophers have disagreed over the years as supporting either horn of the dilemma imports substantial differences to the nature of God and the nature of the good.

The following list intends to simply introduce the Euthyphro Dilemma by reproducing a basic survey of the issue as presented through various texts. The majority of the list is taken verbatim from the respective cited sources and were gathered with the Catholic intellectual tradition in mind.1


1. Summary of the Narrative

"A Row of Philosophers - Busts of Greek philosophers from Socrates to Epicurus as seen in the British Museum, London." - Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.
“A Row of Philosophers – Busts of Greek philosophers from Socrates to Epicurus as seen in the British Museum, London.” – Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.

The Euthyphro dialogue occurs near the court of the Archon basileus (Magistrate–king), where Socrates and Euthyphro encounter each other; each man is present at the court for the preliminary hearings to possible trials (2a).

Euthyphro has come to present charges of manslaughter against his father, who had allowed one of his workers to die of exposure to the elements without proper care and attention. (3e–4d) The dead worker, earlier had killed a slave from the family estate on Naxos Island. As Euthyphro’s father awaited to hear from the exegetes (cf. Laws 759d) about how to proceed, the bound-and-gagged worker died in a ditch. Socrates is astonished by Euthyphro’s confidence in being able to prosecute his own father for the serious charge of manslaughter, despite the fact that Athenian Law allows only relatives of the dead man to file suit for murder. (Dem. 43 §57) Euthyphro misses the astonishment of Socrates, which confirms his overconfidence in his own critical judgement of matters religious and ethical. In an example of Socratic irony, Socrates said that Euthyphro obviously has a clear understanding of what is pious (τὸ ὅσιον to hosion) and impious (τὸ ἀνόσιον to anosion). Because he is facing a formal charge of impiety, Socrates expresses the hope to learn from Euthyphro, all the better to defend himself in the trial.

Euthyphro says that what lies behind the charge of impiety presented against Socrates, by Meletus and the others, is Socrates’ claim that he is subjected to a daimon, (divine sign) which warns him of various courses of action. (3b) From the perspective of some Athenians, Socrates expressed skepticism of the accounts about the Greek gods, which he and Euthyphro briefly discuss, before proceeding to the main argument of their dialogue: the definition of “piety”. Moreover, Socrates further expresses critical reservations about such divine accounts that emphasize the cruelty and inconsistent behavior of the Greek gods, such as the castration of the early sky-god Uranus, by his son Cronus; a story Socrates said is difficult to accept. (6a–6c) After claiming to know and be able to tell more astonishing divine stories, Euthyphro spends little time and effort defending the conventional, Greek view of the gods. Instead, he is led to the true task at hand, as Socrates forces him to confront his ignorance, by pressing Euthyphro for a definition of “piety”; yet, Socrates finds flaw with each definition of “piety” proposed by Euthyphro.(6d ff.)

At the dialogue’s conclusion, Euthyphro is compelled to admit that each of his definitions of “piety” has failed, but, rather than correct his faulty logic, he says that it is time for him to leave, and excuses himself from their dialogue. To that end, Socrates concludes the dialogue with Socratic irony: Since Euthyphro was unable to define “piety”, Euthyphro has failed to teach Socrates about piety. Therefore, from his dialogue with Euthyphro, Socrates received nothing helpful to his defense against a formal charge of impiety. (15c ff.)2


2. The Euthyphro Dilemma

The Euthyphro dilemma is found in Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro, in which Socrates asks Euthyphro, “Is the pious (τὸ ὅσιον) loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” (10a) The dilemma has had a major effect on the philosophical theism of the monotheistic religions, but in a modified form:

“Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”3

Ever since Plato’s original discussion, this question has presented a problem for some theists, though others have thought it a false dilemma, and it continues to be an object of theological and philosophical discussion today.4


Analyzing the Euthyphro Dilemma


The First Horn

3. Does God will it because it is Good?

The first horn of the dilemma (i.e. that which is right is commanded by God because it is right) goes by a variety of names, including intellectualism, rationalism, realism, naturalism, and objectivism. Roughly, it is the view that there are independent moral standards: some actions are right or wrong in themselves, independent of God’s commands. This is the view accepted by Socrates and Euthyphro in Plato’s dialogue. The Mu’tazilah school of Islamic theology also defended the view (with, for example, Nazzam maintaining that God is powerless to engage in injustice or lying), as did the Islamic philosopher Averroes (arguably, however, the majority of Islam embraces the second horn, as stated below).

St. Thomas Aquinas never explicitly addresses the Euthyphro dilemma…5 Aquinas draws a distinction between what is good or evil in itself and what is good or evil because of God’s commands,6 with unchangeable moral standards forming the bulk of natural law.7 Thus he contends that not even God can change the Ten Commandments (adding, however, that God can change what individuals deserve in particular cases, in what might look like special dispensations to murder or steal).8 For a full treatment of Aquinas’ view, see the section bearing his name below.


4. Concerns with the First Horn

Sovereignty: If there are moral standards independent of God’s will, then “[t]here is something over which God is not sovereign. God is bound by the laws of morality instead of being their establisher. Moreover, God depends for his goodness on the extent to which he conforms to an independent moral standard. Thus, God is not absolutely independent.”

Omnipotence: These moral standards would limit God’s power: not even God could oppose them by commanding what is evil and thereby making it good. This point was influential in Islamic theology: “In relation to God, objective values appeared as a limiting factor to His power to do as He wills… Ash’ari got rid of the whole embarrassing problem by denying the existence of objective values which might act as a standard for God’s action.” Similar concerns drove the medieval voluntarists Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. As contemporary philosopher Richard Swinburne puts the point, this horn “seems to place a restriction on God’s power if he cannot make any action which he chooses obligatory… [and also] it seems to limit what God can command us to do. God, if he is to be God, cannot command us to do what, independently of his will, is wrong.”

Freedom of the Will: Moreover, these moral standards would limit God’s freedom of will: God could not command anything opposed to them, and perhaps would have no choice but to command in accordance with them. As Mark Murphy puts the point, “if moral requirements existed prior to God’s willing them, requirements that an impeccable God could not violate, God’s liberty would be compromised.”

Morality without God: If there are moral standards independent of God, then morality would retain its authority even if God did not exist. This conclusion was explicitly (and notoriously) drawn by early modern political theorist Hugo Grotius: “What we have been saying [about the natural law] would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to him.” In such a view, God is no longer a “law-giver” but at most a “law-transmitter” who plays no vital role in the foundations of morality. Nontheists have capitalized on this point, largely as a way of disarming moral arguments for God’s existence: if morality does not depend on God in the first place, such arguments stumble at the starting gate.9


The Second Horn

5. Is Something Good because God wills it?

The second horn of the dilemma (i.e. that which is right is right because it is commanded by God) is sometimes known as divine command theory or voluntarism. Roughly, it is the view that there are no moral standards other than God’s will: without God’s commands, nothing would be right or wrong. This view was partially defended by Bl. Duns Scotus, who argued that not all Ten Commandments belong to the Natural Law. Scotus held that while our duties to God (found on the first tablet) are self-evident, true by definition, and unchangeable even by God, our duties to others (found on the second tablet) were arbitrarily willed by God and are within his power to revoke and replace.10 William of Ockham went further, contending that (since there is no contradiction in it) God could command us not to love God11 and even to hate God.12

Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin both stressed the absolute sovereignty of God’s will, with Luther writing that “for [God’s] will there is no cause or reason that can be laid down as a rule or measure for it”,13 and Calvin writing that “everything which [God] wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it.”14 The voluntarist emphasis on God’s absolute power was carried further by Descartes, who notoriously held that God had freely created the eternal truths of logic and mathematics, and that God was therefore capable of giving circles unequal radii, giving triangles other than 180 internal degrees, and even making contradictions true. Descartes explicitly seconded Ockham: “why should [God] not have been able to give this command [i.e., the command to hate God] to one of his creatures?”

Thomas Hobbes notoriously reduced the justice of God to “irresistible power” (drawing the complaint of Bishop Bramhall that this “overturns… all law”). And William Paley held that all moral obligations bottom out in the self-interested “urge” to avoid Hell and enter Heaven by acting in accord with God’s commands. Islam’s Ash’arite theologians, al-Ghazali foremost among them, embraced voluntarism: scholar George Hourani writes that the view “was probably more prominent and widespread in Islam than in any other civilization.”15


6. Concerns with the Second Horn

This horn of the dilemma also faces several problems:

No Reasons for Morality: If there is no moral standard other than God’s will, then God’s commands are arbitrary (i.e., based on pure whimsy or caprice). This would mean that morality is ultimately not based on reasons: “if theological voluntarism is true, then God’s commands/intentions must be arbitrary; [but] it cannot be that morality could wholly depend on something arbitrary… [for] when we say that some moral state of affairs obtains, we take it that there is a reason for that moral state of affairs obtaining rather than another.” And as Michael J. Murray and Michael Rea put it, this would also “cas[t] doubt on the notion that morality is genuinely objective.” An additional problem is that it is difficult to explain how true moral actions can exist if one acts only out of fear of God or in an attempt to be rewarded by him.

No Reasons for God: This arbitrariness would also jeopardize God’s status as a wise and rational being, one who always acts on good reasons. As Leibniz writes: “Where will be his justice and his wisdom if he has only a certain despotic power, if arbitrary will takes the place of reasonableness, and if in accord with the definition of tyrants, justice consists in that which is pleasing to the most powerful? Besides it seems that every act of willing supposes some reason for the willing and this reason, of course, must precede the act.”

Anything Goes: This arbitrariness would also mean that anything could become good, and anything could become bad, merely upon God’s command. Thus if God commanded us “to gratuitously inflict pain on each other” or to engage in “cruelty for its own sake” or to hold an “annual sacrifice of randomly selected ten-year-olds in a particularly gruesome ritual that involves excruciating and prolonged suffering for its victims”, then we would be morally obligated to do so. As 17th-century philosopher Ralph Cudworth put it: “nothing can be imagined so grossly wicked, or so foully unjust or dishonest, but if it were supposed to be commanded by this omnipotent Deity, must needs upon that hypothesis forthwith become holy, just, and righteous.”

Moral Contingency: If morality depends on the perfectly free will of God, morality would lose its necessity: “If nothing prevents God from loving things that are different from what God actually loves, then goodness can change from world to world or time to time. This is obviously objectionable to those who believe that claims about morality are, if true, necessarily true.” In other words, no action is necessarily moral: any right action could have easily been wrong, if God had so decided, and an action which is right today could easily become wrong tomorrow, if God so decides. Indeed, some have argued that divine command theory is incompatible with ordinary conceptions of moral supervenience.

Why do God’s Commands Obligate?: Mere commands do not create obligations unless the commander has some commanding authority. But this commanding authority cannot itself be based on those very commands (i.e., a command to obey commands), otherwise a vicious circle results. So, in order for God’s commands to obligate us, he must derive commanding authority from some source other than his own will. As Cudworth put it: “For it was never heard of, that any one founded all his authority of commanding others, and others [sic] obligation or duty to obey his commands, in a law of his own making, that men should be required, obliged, or bound to obey him. Wherefore since the thing willed in all laws is not that men should be bound or obliged to obey; this thing cannot be the product of the meer [sic] will of the commander, but it must proceed from something else; namely, the right or authority of the commander.” To avoid the circle, one might say our obligation comes from gratitude to God for creating us. But this presupposes some sort of independent moral standard obligating us to be grateful to our benefactors. As 18th-century philosopher Francis Hutcheson writes: “Is the Reason exciting to concur with the Deity this, ‘The Deity is our Benefactor?’ Then what Reason excites to concur with Benefactors?” Or finally, one might resort to Hobbes’s view: “The right of nature whereby God reigneth over men, and punisheth those that break his laws, is to be derived, not from his creating them (as if he required obedience, as of gratitude for his benefits), but from his irresistible power.” In other words, might makes right.

God’s Goodness: If all goodness is a matter of God’s will, then what shall become of God’s goodness? Thus William P. Alston writes, “since the standards of moral goodness are set by divine commands, to say that God is morally good is just to say that he obeys his own commands… that God practices what he preaches, whatever that might be;” Hutcheson deems such a view “an insignificant tautology, amounting to no more than this, ‘That God wills what he wills.'” Alternatively, as Leibniz puts it, divine command theorists “deprive God of the designation good: for what cause could one have to praise him for what he does, if in doing something quite different he would have done equally well?” A related point is raised by C. S. Lewis: “if good is to be defined as what God commands, then the goodness of God Himself is emptied of meaning and the commands of an omnipotent fiend would have the same claim on us as those of the ‘righteous Lord.'” Or again Leibniz: “this opinion would hardly distinguish God from the devil.” That is, since divine command theory trivializes God’s goodness, it is incapable of explaining the difference between God and an all-powerful demon.

The “Is-Ought” Problem and the Naturalistic Fallacy: According to David Hume, it is hard to see how moral propositions featuring the relation ought could ever be deduced from ordinary is propositions, such as “the being of a God.” Divine command theory is thus guilty of deducing moral oughts from ordinary ises about God’s commands. In a similar vein, G. E. Moore argued (with his open question argument) that the notion good is indefinable, and any attempts to analyze it in naturalistic or metaphysical terms are guilty of the so-called “naturalistic fallacy.” This would block any theory which analyzes morality in terms of God’s will: and indeed, in a later discussion of divine command theory, Moore concluded that “when we assert any action to be right or wrong, we are not merely making an assertion about the attitude of mind towards it of any being or set of beings whatever.”

No Morality Without God: If all morality is a matter of God’s will, then if God does not exist, there is no morality. This is the thought captured in the slogan (often attributed to Dostoevsky) “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” Divine command theorists disagree over whether this is a problem for their view or a virtue of their view. Many argue that morality does indeed require God’s existence, and that this is in fact a problem for atheism. But divine command theorist Robert Merrihew Adams contends that this idea (“that no actions would be ethically wrong if there were not a loving God”) is one that “will seem (at least initially) implausible to many”, and that his theory must “dispel [an] air of paradox.”16


Catholic Responses to the Euthyphro Dilemma

7. False Dilemma Response

Sts. Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas all wrote about the issues raised by the Euthyphro dilemma, although, like William James and Wittgenstein later, they did not mention it by name. As philosopher and Anselm scholar Katherin A. Rogers observes, many contemporary philosophers of religion suppose that there are true propositions which exist as platonic abstracta independently of God. Among these are propositions constituting a moral order, to which God must conform in order to be good. Classical Judaeo-Christian theism, however, rejects such a view as inconsistent with God’s omnipotence, which requires that God and what he has made is all that there is.

God neither conforms to nor invents the moral order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value.

“The classical tradition,” Rogers notes, “also steers clear of the other horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, divine command theory.” From a classical theistic perspective, therefore, the Euthyphro dilemma is false. As Rogers puts it, “Anselm, like Augustine before him and Aquinas later, rejects both horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. God neither conforms to nor invents the moral order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value.”17


8. St. Thomas Aquinas

"Doctor Communis Ecclesiæ, St. Thomas Aquinas - This statue of the saint is in the Catholic University of America, Washington DC." - Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.
“Doctor Communis Ecclesiæ, St. Thomas Aquinas – This statue of the saint is in the Catholic University of America, Washington DC.” – Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.

Like Aristotle, Aquinas rejected Platonism.18 In his view, to speak of abstractions not only as existent, but as more perfect exemplars than fully designated particulars, is to put a premium on generality and vagueness.19 On this analysis, the abstract “good” in the first horn of the Euthyphro dilemma is an unnecessary obfuscation. Aquinas frequently quoted with approval Aristotle’s definition, “Good is what all desire.”((Aristotle, Ethics 1.1; Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics 1, 9 and 11; Aquinas, ST I 5,1.)) As he clarified, “When we say that good is what all desire, it is not to be understood that every kind of good thing is desired by all, but that whatever is desired has the nature of good.”20 In other words, even those who desire evil desire it “only under the aspect of good,” i.e., of what is desirable.21 The difference between desiring good and desiring evil is that in the former, will and reason are in harmony, whereas in the latter, they are in discord.22

St. Thomas Aquinas’ discussion of sin provides a good point of entry to his philosophical explanation of why the nature of God is the standard for value. “Every sin,” he writes, “consists in the longing for a passing [i.e., ultimately unreal or false] good.”23 Thus, “in a certain sense it is true what Socrates says, namely that no one sins with full knowledge.”24 “No sin in the will happens without an ignorance of the understanding.”25 God, however, has full knowledge (omniscience) and therefore by definition (that of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as well as Aquinas) can never will anything other than what is good.

It has been claimed — for instance, by Nicolai Hartmann, who wrote: “There is no freedom for the good that would not be at the same time freedom for evil” — that this would limit God’s freedom, and therefore his omnipotence. Josef Pieper, however, replies that such arguments rest upon an impermissibly anthropomorphic conception of God. In the case of humans, as Aquinas says, to be able to sin is indeed a consequence, or even a sign, of freedom (quodam libertatis signum). Humans, in other words, are not puppets manipulated by God so that they always do what is right. However, “it does not belong to the essence of the free will to be able to decide for evil.” “To will evil is neither freedom nor a part of freedom.” It is precisely humans’ creatureliness — that is, their not being God and therefore omniscient — that makes them capable of sinning. Consequently, writes Pieper, “the inability to sin should be looked on as the very signature of a higher freedom — contrary to the usual way of conceiving the issue.” Pieper concludes: “Only the will [i.e., God’s] can be the right standard of its own willing and must will what is right necessarily, from within itself, and always. A deviation from the norm would not even be thinkable. And obviously only the absolute divine will is the right standard of its own act” — and consequently of all human acts. Thus the second horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, divine command theory, is also disposed of.26

  1. With few revisions, most of the article is gleaned from Wikipedia or the sources cited in Wikipedia. Catholic online sources and commentaries on this issue seemed, surprisingly, scarce. Consequently, the point of this article is just to have an introduction to the Euthyphro Dilemma. []
  2. Euthyphro, Background – Section is taken verbatim. []
  3. SPL Note: Another modern monotheistic version – “does God will something because it is good or is something good because God wills it?” []
  4. Euthyphro Dilemma, Introduction – Section is taken verbatim. []
  5. Citing, Haldane, John (1989). “Realism and voluntarism in medieval ethics”. Journal of Medical Ethics 15 (1): 39–44. doi:10.1136/jme.15.1.39; Irwin, Terence (2007). The Development of Ethics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199693856. []
  6. Aquinas, Thomas (1265–1274). Summa Theologica, 2a2ae 57.2. []
  7. ST, 2a1ae 94.5. []
  8. ST, 1a2ae 100.8; this section is adapted from Euthyphro Dilemma. []
  9. Id. []
  10. See Williams, Thomas (2013). “John Duns Scotus”. In Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 ed.); Williams, Thomas, ed. (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus. pp. 312–316. ISBN 978-0521635639; Cross, Richard (1999). Duns Scotus. p. 92 for the view that our duties to others “hold automatically [i.e., without God’s commands] unless God commands otherwise.” ISBN 978-0195125535. []
  11. William of Ockham. Quodlibeta 3.13. []
  12. William of Ockham. Reportata 4.16. []
  13. Luther, Martin (1525). On the Bondage of the Will. §88. []
  14. Calvin, John (1536). Institutes of the Christian Religion. 3.23.2. []
  15. Adapted from Euthyphro Dilemma, Second Horn. []
  16. Id., verbatim. []
  17. Euthyphro Dilemma, False Dilemma Response, taken verbatim. []
  18. Aquinas. Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Bk. 1, lectio 10, n. 158. []
  19. McInerny, Ralph (1982). St. Thomas Aquinas. University of Notre Dame Press. pp. 122–123. ISBN 0-268-01707-7. []
  20. ST, I 6,2 ad 2. []
  21. Aquinas. Commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics 1,10. []
  22. ST, I/II q24, a2. []
  23. ST, I/II 72,2. []
  24. ST, I/II 58,2 and I/II 77,2. []
  25. Aquinas. Summa contra Gentiles 4,92. []
  26. Euthyphro Dilemma, St. Thomas Aquinas, taken verbatim; further Catholic thoughts on it being a false dilemma – Euthyphro’s (False) Dilemma, First Things, citing Fides et Ratio Blog. []

Great Books: 31 Political Works Recommended by Faithful Catholic Colleges

Listers, certain “Great Books” have shaped the course of the Western world. Mortimer J. Adler, a Roman Catholic philosopher and professor, presented three criterion for a book to be considered “great,” he stated:

  1. The book has contemporary significance: that is, it has relevance to the problems and issues of our times.
  2. The book is inexhaustible: it can be read again and again with benefit.
  3. The book is relevant to a large number of the great ideas and great issues that have occupied the minds of thinking individuals for the last 25 centuries.1

While over one hundred universities and colleges in the United States and Canada have some form of a Great Books program, SPL has relied on three to compile this list: Thomas Aquinas College, the University of Dallas, and Ave Maria University. Thomas Aquinas College (“TAC”) – whose entire four year liberal arts program is a Great Books only program – explains the purpose of the Great Books tradition:

Yet the great books are not the objects of study at the College. Students here do not read these works — Homer, Shakespeare, Plato, Euclid, St. Augustine, Descartes, Newton, and so many others — as outstanding examples of the creativity of the human spirit (though that they certainly are). Nor do they read them to become more familiar with Western culture and civilization (valuable though that is). Rather, Thomas Aquinas College students read the great books because, more than any other works, when studied under the light of the teaching Church, they can open up the truth about reality.2

Reading the Great Books of the Western tradition imports an insight into our modern culture that is completely unparalleled. Advocacy of the great books, however, suffers from a fatal flaw. For example, a Roman Catholic and a secular humanist may both agree Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes should be included as a great work; however, they would differ significantly on why that book is great. Was it a great contribution to the West? – or was it a great mistake? Notice in their statement on the Great Books, TAC states, “when studied under the light of Church teaching.” Many of the “great” books are incredibly anti-Catholic. Some times they are explicitly anti-Catholic, like Hobbes mocking the scholastics and transubstantiation. Often times they present a theory and praxis that has led to today’s crisis of modernity.3 In fact, the entirety of modernity may be said to have started as a rejection. Consequently, a Catholic institution that recommends the Great Books, but does not present them through the lens of Truth, Jesus Christ, may in fact be undercutting its own commitment to the Church.4 The what to study is just as important as how to study it.

The following list is drawn from faithful Catholic institutions that present the Great Books under the Truth of the Church. TAC is a four year liberal arts college that centers its entire eduction on a Great Books program.5 The University of Dallas (“UD”) offers a very unique Great Books Program. The University offers doctoral degrees in Literature, Philosophy, and Politics, but places all of these students together for the beginning of their studies; thus, they have a Great Books core curriculum for when their students are together, and then they have a Great Books program tailored for each individual program.6 The graduate theology department of Ave Maria University (“AMU”) has found a unique way to present the Great Books. Instead of having a flat list, AMU presents them within the “Dialogue of the Ancients & Moderns,” which orders the books to show the interrelation. For example, the dialogue approach will list several works that build off each other, and then offer a “clarification by contrast” by listing the works that took a different path.  In other words, the dialogue of Ancients & Moderns method attempts to adopt a pedagogical prudence into the very listing of the works themselves.

The following is a synthesis of the lists from all three Catholic institutions. The footnotes indicate not only the source of each recommended reading, but also which institution recommended the linked translation. Following the example of AMU, the list is divided into “ancients” and “moderns,” but is otherwise simply presented as a flat list. The list is geared toward Catholic thinkers in the United States, since it recommends certain core U.S. political documents. Finally, only the UD Politics Phd program is tailored specifically to politics. The political contributions of TAC & AMU are pulled from their general Great Books lists. For those seeking Catholic commentary on how to understand these Great Works, please note the footnotes for suggested works that could serve as primers not only to the individual suggested works but also to Catholic political thought overall.7


The Great Books


The Ancients

1. The Holy Bible8

2. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War.9

3. Plato, The Republic.10

4. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.11

5. Aristotle, Politics.12

6. Plutarch, Parallel Lives.13

7. Augustine, Confessions.14

8. Augustine, City of God.15

9. Thomas Aquinas, Selections of the Summa Theologica.16

10. Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship.17


The Moderns

11. Machiavelli, The Prince.18

12. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.19

13. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government20

14. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, First and Second Discourses.21

15. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract.22

16. Articles of Confederation.23

17. Declaration of Independence.24

18. United States Constitution of 1787.25

19. Virginia (1776) and Massachusetts (1780) Declarations of Rights.26

20. Northwest Ordinance of 178727

21. The Federalist Papers28

22. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason.29

23. Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics.30

24. Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals31

25. Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto32

26. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America33

27. Abraham Lincoln, Various Texts.34

28. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates35

29. John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action36

30. Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology”37

31. Leo Strauss, Selections indicating his approach to political philosophy.38

  1. Mortimer List taken from Wikipedia, citing Adler, Mortimer J. “Selecting Works for the 1990 Edition of the Great Books of the Western World,” page 142. []
  2. TAC Website, The Great Books. []
  3. See 4 Steps to Understand the Crisis of Modernity. []
  4. See, Against Great Books by Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen on First Things. []
  5. TAC Great Books List. []
  6. UD Great Books: Core Curriculum & Other Curriculums. []
  7. Catholic Political Thought: For those seeking an introduction to Catholic political thought, see 6 Books for Proper Introduction to Catholic Political Thought. []
  8. The Bible is not a “political” text per se, but it arguably colors almost all thought in the West. Whether a Great Books list focuses on politics or literature, the Bible remains a must-read text. AMU suggests an emphasis on Genesis, Exodus 1-15, 19-14, Deut. 5-11, 28-30, Hosea, Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah, Job; in the New Testament, Matthew, John, Galations, Ephesians. UD PhD core curriculum recommends a focus on the following biblical texts: Genesis, Exodus, Job, Psalms (1, 2, 22, 23, 29, 37, 47, 51, 53, 73, 95, 110, 130, 146-150), Isaiah, Matthew, John, Romans, Corinthians I and II, Revelation; TAC lists the entire Bible on their syllabus. []
  9. The linked edition is recommended by TAC; Recommended by UD Phd Politics. []
  10. The linked Allan Bloom edition is recommended by TAC and also the preferred edition of AMU; Recommended by UD Phd Core Curriculum. []
  11. Recommended by TAC, AMU, and the UD PhD Core Curriculum. TAC recommends the Oxford edition of Nicomachean Ethics. A common edition at AMU is the linked Irwin translation. []
  12. Recommended by TAC, AMU, and UD Phd Politics; the Lord’s translation is widely regarded as the best English translation (explicitly recommended by TAC & AMU. SPL has a list of Aristotelian definitions – taken from the Lord trans. – that may be helpful, along with numerous lists tagged under Aristotle. []
  13. TAC recommends the edition linked and an emphasis on the following: Lycurgus, Pericles, Aristides, Alcibiades, Marcellus, Caius Marius, Sylla, Tiberius Gracchus, Caius Gracchus, Caesar, Cato the Younger, Marcus Brutus, Comparison of Dion and Brutus; UD Phd Politics recommends: Theseus, Romulus; Lycurgus, Numa; Alcibiades, Coriolanus; Alexander, Caesar. []
  14. Recommended TAC, AMU, and UD Phd Core Curriculum. AMU heavily recommended the linked Frank Sheed translation. []
  15. The linked Cambridged edition recommended by TAC; UD Phd Politics; AMU suggestions Book XIX. []
  16. UD Phd Core Curriculum recommends Summa Theologiae I, 1-5 (Questions on Theology and God) II.1, 90-110, 112-113 (Questions on Law and Grace); the UD Phd Politics Curriculum recommends St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Treatise on Law,” (Summa Theologiae, I-II, Questions 90-101, 104-108); TAC recommends similar corresponding Summa selections; SPL has written extensively on St. Thomas Aquinas, especially on his Treatise on Law and virtue, see Aquinas’ Catechesis on the Virtues and Aquinas’ Guide to Natural Law. []
  17. Recommended by both the UD PhD Politics and TAC. []
  18. The Mansfield translation recommended by TAC; Recommended by the UD Phd Core Curriculum & AMU. SPL offers: 7 Introductory Catholic Thoughts on Machiavelli. []
  19. The Hackett Classic edition recommended by TAC; Recommended by the UD Phd Politics & AMU. SPL offers: A Catholic Guide to Thomas Hobbes: 12 Things You Should Know. []
  20. University of Dallas Phd Politics curriculum recommends: all of the Second Treatise, plus the following selections from the First Treatise: ch. 1, sec. 1-3; ch. 2, sec. 6, 7, 9, 14; ch. 4, sec. 21-27, 33, 39, 42, 43; ch. 5, sec. 44-45, 47; ch. 6, sec. 53-54, 56-59, 61; ch. 9, sec. 86-100; ch. 11, sec. 106; TAC recommends the Hackett Classic edition of the Second Treatise on Government; recommended by AMU. []
  21. Recommended by the UD Phd Core Curriculum & AMU. []
  22. Recommended by the UD Phd Core Curriculum & AMU; the linked Hackett Classics anthology edition recommended by TAC. []
  23. Recommended by TAC. []
  24. Recommended by the UD Phd Politics and TAC. []
  25. Recommended by the UD Phd Politics and TAC. []
  26. Recommended by the UD PhD Politics. []
  27. Recommended by the UD Phd Politics. []
  28. TAC recommends the linked Modern Classics Library edition, and the UD Phd Politics curriculum recommends, No. 6, 9, 10, 15, 48, 49, 51, 57, 62, 70, 78. []
  29. Linked edition recommended by TAC. []
  30. Recommended by the UD PhD Core Curriculum. []
  31. Linked Hackett Classics edition recommended by TAC; recommended by the UD Phd Politics. []
  32. TAC recommends the linked text; The UD PhD Politics also emphasizes: (The Marx-Engels Reader, 469-500); Engels’ Eulogy (681-82); Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (683-717); “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction” (53-65); Theses on Feuerbach (143-45); “On the Jewish Question” (26-52); “1844 Manuscripts” (70-93); German Ideology (146-200); Address of the Central Committee (501-511); on non-violent revolution and “Critique of the Gotha Program” (522-541); AMU recommends the Manifesto and Theses on FeuerbachGerman Ideology. []
  33. TAC and UD recommend Mansfield edition, linked; UD PhD Politics emphasizes “appropriate selections showing his approach to the topic.” For example: Introduction (pp. 3-15), vol 1, pt 1, ch 2-5 (27-93), vol 1, pt 2, ch 5-6 (187-235), vol 1, pt 2, ch 9 (264-302), vol 2, pt 2, ch 1-8 (479-503), vol 2, pt 3, ch 8-12 (558-576), vol 2, pt 4, ch 1-3 and 6-8 (639-645, 661-676) (page numbers are from the Mansfield translation. []
  34. The UD PhD Politics recommends: Speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), Speech on Dred Scott (1857), First and Second Inaugural Addresses, Address to Congress on July 4, 1861, Gettysburg Address. []
  35. TAC recommends the linked Douglas edition; The UD PhD Politics recommends the Robert W. Johannsen edition, (New York: Oxford, 1965); UD particularly recommends the selections showing the views of both Lincoln and Douglas. For example, 14-36, 78-79, 86-92, 145-49, 162-63, 195-200, 206-226, 229-39, 242-44. []
  36. Recommended by the UD PhD Politics. []
  37. Recommended by the UD PhD Politics, while the Core Curriculum recommends the entirety of Being and Time. []
  38. The UD PhD Politics recommends, for example, What is Political Philosophy, Chapter 1, 2, 3, and 9; or, Natural Right and History: Introduction, chapters 1 and 4, and one of the modern subchapters. Along with AMU, SPL highly recommends the essay The Three Waves of Modernity in his Introduction to Political Philosophy. SPL has written a summary list entitled 4 Steps to Understanding the Crisis of Modernity. []

Early Church: 12 Quotes on Homosexuality and Other Sexual Sins

“[H]aving forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men…”

1. The Didache

“You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one that has been born” (Didache 2:2 [A.D. 70]).1


2. Justin Martyr

“[W]e have been taught that to expose newly-born children is the part of wicked men; and this we have been taught lest we should do anyone harm and lest we should sin against God, first, because we see that almost all so exposed (not only the girls, but also the males) are brought up to prostitution. And for this pollution a multitude of females and hermaphrodites, and those who commit unmentionable iniquities, are found in every nation. And you receive the hire of these, and duty and taxes from them, whom you ought to exterminate from your realm. And anyone who uses such persons, besides the godless and infamous and impure intercourse, may possibly be having intercourse with his own child, or relative, or brother. And there are some who prostitute even their own children and wives, and some are openly mutilated for the purpose of sodomy; and they refer these mysteries to the mother of the gods” (First Apology 27 [A.D. 151]).


3. Clement of Alexandria

“All honor to that king of the Scythians, whoever Anacharsis was, who shot with an arrow one of his subjects who imitated among the Scythians the mystery of the mother of the gods . . . condemning him as having become effeminate among the Greeks, and a teacher of the disease of effeminacy to the rest of the Scythians” (Exhortation to the Greeks 2 [A.D. 190]).

“[According to Greek myth] Baubo [a female native of Eleusis] having received [the goddess] Demeter hospitably, reached to her a refreshing draught; and on her refusing it, not having any inclination to drink (for she was very sad), and Baubo having become annoyed, thinking herself slighted, uncovered her shame, and exhibited her nudity to the goddess. Demeter is delighted with the sight—pleased, I repeat, at the spectacle. These are the secret mysteries of the Athenians; these Orpheus records” (ibid.).

“It is not, then, without reason that the poets call him [Hercules] a cruel wretch and a nefarious scoundrel. It were tedious to recount his adulteries of all sorts, and debauching of boys. For your gods did not even abstain from boys, one having loved Hylas, another Hyacinthus, another Pelops, another Chrysippus, another Ganymede. Let such gods as these be worshipped by your wives, and let them pray that their husbands be such as these—so temperate; that, emulating them in the same practices, they may be like the gods. Such gods let your boys be trained to worship, that they may grow up to be men with the accursed likeness of fornication on them received from the gods” (ibid.).

“In accordance with these remarks, conversation about deeds of wickedness is appropriately termed filthy [shameful] speaking, as talk about adultery and pederasty and the like” (The Instructor6, ca. A.D. 193).

“The fate of the Sodomites was judgment to those who had done wrong, instruction to those who hear. The Sodomites having, through much luxury, fallen into uncleanness, practicing adultery shamelessly, and burning with insane love for boys; the All-seeing Word, whose notice those who commit impieties cannot escape, cast his eye on them. Nor did the sleepless guard of humanity observe their licentiousness in silence; but dissuading us from the imitation of them, and training us up to his own temperance, and falling on some sinners, lest lust being unavenged, should break loose from all the restraints of fear, ordered Sodom to be burned, pouring forth a little of the sagacious fire on licentiousness; lest lust, through want of punishment, should throw wide the gates to those that were rushing into voluptuousness. Accordingly, the just punishment of the Sodomites became to men an image of the salvation which is well calculated for men. For those who have not committed like sins with those who are punished, will never receive a like punishment” (ibid., 8).


4. Tertullian

“[A]ll other frenzies of the lusts which exceed the laws of nature, and are impious toward both [human] bodies and the sexes, we banish, not only from the threshold but also from all shelter of the Church, for they are not sins so much as monstrosities” (Modesty 4 [A.D. 220]).2


5. Novatian

“[God forbade the Jews to eat certain foods for symbolic reasons:] For that in fishes the roughness of scales is regarded as constituting their cleanness; rough, and rugged, and unpolished, and substantial, and grave manners are approved in men; while those that are without scales are unclean, because trifling, and fickle, and faithless, and effeminate manners are disapproved. Moreover, what does the law mean when it . . . forbids the swine to be taken for food? It assuredly reproves a life filthy and dirty, and delighting in the garbage of vice. . . . Or when it forbids the hare? It rebukes men deformed into women” (The Jewish Foods 3 [A.D. 250]).3


6. Cyprian of Carthage

“[T]urn your looks to the abominations, not less to be deplored, of another kind of spectacle. . . . Men are emasculated, and all the pride and vigor of their sex is effeminated in the disgrace of their enervated body; and he is more pleasing there who has most completely broken down the man into the woman. He grows into praise by virtue of his crime; and the more he is degraded, the more skillful he is considered to be. Such a one is looked upon—oh shame!—and looked upon with pleasure. . . . Nor is there wanting authority for the enticing abomination . . . that Jupiter of theirs [is] not more supreme in dominion than in vice, inflamed with earthly love in the midst of his own thunders . . . now breaking forth by the help of birds to violate the purity of boys. And now put the question: Can he who looks upon such things be healthy-minded or modest? Men imitate the gods whom they adore, and to such miserable beings their crimes become their religion” (Letters 1:8 [A.D. 253]).

“Oh, if placed on that lofty watchtower, you could gaze into the secret places—if you could open the closed doors of sleeping chambers and recall their dark recesses to the perception of sight—you would behold things done by immodest persons which no chaste eye could look upon; you would see what even to see is a crime; you would see what people embruted with the madness of vice deny that they have done, and yet hasten to do—men with frenzied lusts rushing upon men, doing things which afford no gratification even to those who do them” (ibid., 1:9).


7. Arnobius

“[T]he mother of the gods loved [the boy Attis] exceedingly, because he was of most surpassing beauty; and Acdestis [the son of Jupiter] who was his companion, as he grew up fondling him, and bound to him by wicked compliance with his lust. . . . Afterwards, under the influence of wine, he [Attis] admits that he is . . . loved by Acdestis. . . . Then Midas, king of Pessinus, wishing to withdraw the youth from so disgraceful an intimacy, resolves to give him his own daughter in marriage. . . . Acdestis, bursting with rage because of the boy’s being torn from himself and brought to seek a wife, fills all the guests with frenzied madness; the Phrygians shriek, panic-stricken at the appearance of the gods. . . . [Attis] too, now filled with furious passion, raving frantically and tossed about, throws himself down at last, and under a pine tree mutilates himself, saying, ‘Take these, Acdestis, for which you have stirred up so great and terribly perilous commotions’” (Against the Pagans 5:6–7 [A.D. 305]).


8. Eusebius of Caesarea

“[H]aving forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men, he [God] adds: ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for in all these things the nations were defiled, which I will drive out before you. And the land was polluted, and I have recompensed [their] iniquity upon it, and the land is grieved with them that dwell upon it’ [Lev. 18:24–25]” (Proof of the Gospel 4:10 [A.D. 319]).


9. Basil the Great

“He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers” (Letters 217:62 [A.D. 367]).

“If you [O, monk] are young in either body or mind, shun the companionship of other young men and avoid them as you would a flame. For through them the enemy has kindled the desires of many and then handed them over to eternal fire, hurling them into the vile pit of the five cities under the pretense of spiritual love. . . . At meals take a seat far from other young men. In lying down to sleep let not their clothes be near yours, but rather have an old man between you. When a young man converses with you, or sings psalms facing you, answer him with eyes cast down, lest perhaps by gazing at his face you receive a seed of desire sown by the enemy and reap sheaves of corruption and ruin. Whether in the house or in a place where there is no one to see your actions, be not found in his company under the pretense either of studying the divine oracles or of any other business whatsoever, however necessary” (The Renunciation of the World [A.D. 373]).


10. John Chrysostom

“[The pagans] were addicted to the love of boys, and one of their wise men made a law that pederasty . . . should not be allowed to slaves, as if it was an honorable thing; and they had houses for this purpose, in which it was openly practiced. And if all that was done among them was related, it would be seen that they openly outraged nature, and there was none to restrain them. . . . As for their passion for boys, whom they called their paedica, it is not fit to be named” (Homilies on Titus 5 [A.D. 390]).

“[Certain men in church] come in gazing about at the beauty of women; others curious about the blooming youth of boys. After this, do you not marvel that [lightning] bolts are not launched [from heaven], and all these things are not plucked up from their foundations? For worthy both of thunderbolts and hell are the things that are done; but God, who is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forbears awhile his wrath, calling you to repentance and amendment” (Homilies on Matthew 3:3 [A.D. 391]).

“All of these affections [in Rom. 1:26–27] . . . were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored than the body in diseases” (Homilies on Romans 4 [A.D. 391]).

“[The men] have done an insult to nature itself. And a yet more disgraceful thing than these is it, when even the women seek after these intercourses, who ought to have more shame than men” (ibid.).

“And sundry other books of the philosophers one may see full of this disease. But we do not therefore say that the thing was made lawful, but that they who received this law were pitiable, and objects for many tears. For these are treated in the same way as women that play the whore. Or rather their plight is more miserable. For in the case of the one the intercourse, even if lawless, is yet according to nature; but this is contrary both to law and nature. For even if there were no hell, and no punishment had been threatened, this would be worse than any punishment” (ibid.).


11. Augustine

“[T]hose shameful acts against nature, such as were committed in Sodom, ought everywhere and always to be detested and punished. If all nations were to do such things, they would be held guilty of the same crime by the law of God, which has not made men so that they should use one another in this way” (Confessions 3:8:15 [A.D. 400]).


12. The Apostolic Constitutions

“[Christians] abhor all unlawful mixtures, and that which is practiced by some contrary to nature, as wicked and impious” (Apostolic Constitutions 6:11 [A.D. 400]).

  1. Quotes Original Source: SPL did not compile this list of quote, it was sent into us. The original source is most probably Catholic Answers. []
  2. Tertullian Schism: In middle life (about 207), he was attracted to the “New Prophecy” of Montanism, and seems to have split from the mainstream church. In the time of Augustine, a group of “Tertullianists” still had a basilica in Carthage which, within that same period, passed to the orthodox Church. It is unclear whether the name was merely another for the Montanists[15] or that this means Tertullian later split with the Montanists and founded his own group. Jerome[16] says that Tertullian lived to a great age, but there is no reliable source attesting to his survival beyond the estimated year 225 AD. In spite of his schism from the Church, he continued to write against heresy, especially Gnosticism. Thus, by the doctrinal works he published, Tertullian became the teacher of Cyprian and the predecessor of Augustine, who, in turn, became the chief founder of Latin theology. SOURCE []
  3. Novatian, Schismatic and Antipope: Novatian (circa 200–258) was a scholar, priest, theologian and antipope who held the title between 251 and 258.[1] According to Greek authors, Pope Damasus I and Prudentius gave his name as Novatus. He was a noted theologian and writer, the first Roman theologian who used the Latin language, at a time when there was much debate about how to deal with Christians who had lapsed and wished to return, and the issue of penance. Consecrated as pope by three bishops in 251, he adopted a more rigorous position than the established Pope Cornelius. Novatian was shortly afterwards excommunicated: the schismatic church which he established persisted for several centuries (see Novatianism). Novatian fled during a period of persecutions, and may have been a martyr. SOURCE []

The 2 Books by Cardinal Ratzinger that Will Change Your Life

“Politics is the realm of reason – not of a merely technological, calculating reason, but of moral reason, since the goal of the state, and hence the ultimate goal of all politics, has a moral nature, namely, peace and justice.”

Listers, if Catholics are to live a life of virtue then there are two primary sciences – bodies of knowledge – all Catholics should study: the “Noble Science” and the “Queen of the Sciences.” The corpus of writings from Cardinal Ratzinger is as vast and as it is impressive. An excellent survey of his writings can by found in Abram’s The 6 Books of Pope Benedict XVI Every Catholic Should Read. The list at hand takes a different approach.

A Unique Review: Why were these works chosen?
It is typical of a positive book review to go into great detail lauding the message and delivery of the particular author. For the review at hand, we take a different approach and presuppose that Cardinal Ratzinger’s works are brimming with solid Catholic erudition and strike with a clear and orthodox Catholic tone. The purpose of the review is to step back from the works and truly understand the overall sciences in which they are written. It is to move the reader from thinking of works as well written on this or that subject, to understanding that different bodies of knowledge are not isolated from each other. In fact, the word we use for understanding the proper ordering of knowledge is wisdom. The higher bodies of knowledge – higher sciences – order the lower ones; thus, if one truly grasps the importance of a higher science and can study an excellent work on that science, it will have “trickle down” effect on all the other areas in their life. It is in this focus that we must first explain the science and then suggest a work by Cardinal Ratzinger.

The Noble Science

According to Aristotle’s Politics, man is by nature a political animal. It is by nature that humans gather together and form political bodies. Human political order begins with the household and the natural relationship between a husband and a wife. Built upon the natural order of the family, society grows from the village and then to the self-sufficient city. This concept of the”city” is known as the polis, which is a philosophical term referring to any political body under a single government, i.e., a socially and economically differentiated political community. For Aristotle, the polis is as natural to humanity as the forest is to the earth. Man, his household, his communities, are all natural sub-political parts of the polis. Aristotle posited that any person who could live without the polis must be either a beast or a god. The polis is natural to man and man needs the polis. He needs community and order. The order that the polis gives man allows man to live and live well.

Aristotle, The Louvre – via Wikicommons Sting aka Eric Gaba

How then should the polis be ordered? Since the polis is a natural institution populated by political animals, man, as the rational animal, must reflect upon nature and act according to reason. When man acts according to his reason, according to what is most properly natural to him as the rational animal, then these acts become habits and good habits are referred to as virtues. Aristotle claims that the virtue that belongs to the polis is justice, because justice is the virtue of proper order. As Aristotle says, “just as man is the best of animals when completed, when separated from law and adjudication he is the worst of all.” It is in the polis that man is able to live well, because it gives an architectonic order to all the areas of man’s life. It is the polis man finds a natural completion, which is in practicality the “greatest of goods.” This is why politics is referred to as the “Noble Science.”1

In his introduction to the Politics, St. Thomas Aquinas lays out a brief explanation of why politics is the Noble Science. There are two primary categories of sciences: the speculative and the practical. The speculative sciences are ordered toward the “knowledge of truth,” the contemplation of “natural things,” while the practical sciences are ordered toward a work – things made by man -that imitate nature. Within the practical sciences, there are things man will make that are ordered according to a specific use, e.g., a ship or a house, and a things specific use is ordered toward a specific good, e.g., ships for sailing; however, man can also make things which have as their specific end the ordering man himself, e.g., laws. The things that have their end in the proper ordering of man come together as a whole in the polis and since the end is always greater than the means the polis is “therefore necessarily superior to all the other wholes that may be known and constituted by human reason.” Aquinas’ statement has two parts: the polis is superior to all other wholes and is the greatest whole constitute by human reason. Following Aristotle, we see that the first claim is because the polis gives order to all other areas of man’s life and the second claim is become the order of the polis is derived by human reason contemplating nature, i.e., natural law and the virtues.2

Within practical science there are the mechanical sciences that deal with an agent acting upon an external matter, e.g., a smith or a shipwright. In distinction to the mechanical sciences there are the moral sciences. The moral sciences deal with the actions that remain with the agent, e.g., deliberating, willing, choosing, etc. The political science is therefore a moral science, because it is concerned with the ordering of men and their actions. Aquinas concludes, “If the most important science, then, is the one that deals with what is most noble and perfect, of all the practical sciences political science must necessarily be the most important and must play the role of architectonic science with reference to all the others, inasmuch as it is concerned with the highest and perfect good in human affairs.” The order of the polis – its laws, et al. – is derived from nature or natural law, man’s habitual obedience to these natural and rational laws is virtue, and the natural virtues are prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

Yet, how does one apply the timeless truths of natural law and virtue to a modernist world that was born out of an explicit rejection of Catholicism? It is one thing to speak of the polis and another to apply it to a liberal democracy. One of the defining attributes of St. Thomas Aquinas was his ability to engage his era and all its ills and imperfections. As Catholics living within modernity, how do we work for a proper polis? Cue Cardinal Ratzinger. Values in a Time of Upheaval is a short and often overlooked work of political brilliance. St. Peter’s List has previously called attention to this work by including it in our 6 Books for a Proper Introduction to Catholic Political Thought. For a student of Catholic political thought, a collection of politically orientated essays by the ironclad mind of Cardinal Ratzinger – now Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome – is a godsend. The text is a compilation of essays and speeches given by the illustrious Cardinal over the span of several decades. It is a short work that lends itself to a brief but fruitful reading. The reason it will “change your life” is it comments on the Catholic understanding of the Noble Science couched in a world given over to modernist theory and praxis. To what degree Cardinal Ratzinger did or did not adhere to St. Thomas Aquinas is not the question put forth here. The genius of the work is that it is a bridge between the principles of Catholic political thought and the world around us. It challenges the reader to engage the polis by going into great detail on the role of a Catholic citizen within an Enlightenment based democracy. In his own words:

“The state is not itself the source of truth and morality […] Nor can it produce truth via the majority.”


“In place of utopian dreams and ideals, today we find a pragmatism that is determined to extract from the world the maximum satisfaction possible. This, however, does not make it pointless to consider once again the characteristics of the secular messianism that appeared on the world stage in Marxism, because it still leads a ghostly existence deep in the souls of many people, and it has the potential to emerge again and again in new forms.”


“Politics is the realm of reason – not of a merely technological, calculating reason, but of moral reason, since the goal of the state, and hence the ultimate goal of all politics, has a moral nature, namely, peace and justice.”


“The totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century promised us that they would set up a liberated, just world – and they demanded hecatombs of victims in this cause.”

One dichotomy that exemplifies the problem Catholicism has with modern political thought is the notion of individual rights. As the good Cardinal mentions several times in his work, the rights of an individual are seen in the modern West as autonomous moral universes that often clash with one another. Rights have become little more than desires and products of the unadulterated human will. In contradistinction, the Catholic tradition never focused on rights at all – it focused on someone external to the individual citizen, natural law. Just skimming this particular dialogue – individual rights v. natural law – pours forth a host of explanations and answers on why Catholicism is at such odds with the world around it. Those more interested in Cardinal Ratzinger’s work can reference SPL’s collection of political quotes from the work: 29 Quotes on Political and Religion by Cardinal Ratzinger. One of the best treatises on a Catholic’s response to living in a modernist democratic regime was a document composed by the CDF under the good Cardinal entitled: Doctrinal Note: The Participation of Catholics in Politica Life. Moreover, proper Catholic political thought has been a mainstay topic at SPL and a catalogue of our lists on the subject can be found at The Educated Catholic Voter: 10 Lists on the Catholic Citizen. As Catholics may we study the highest whole of human reason, the Noble Science, so that we may live well ordered lives and work toward a society where all may live well.


Theology, Stanza della Segnature by Raphael

The Queen of the Sciences

If politics is the noble and architectonic science of human affairs, how does a Catholic approach politics and theology? In the time of Augustine until the thirteenth century nature and natural law sat in a jarring juxtaposition with the revealed truth of God. In fact, many theologians proposed that there were two truths: one of nature and one of divine revelation – a traditional Islamic answer. The Church was then given a gift: the Common Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas proposed that faith and reason were and must always remain in harmony with one another. Grace is not isolated from nature, is it not a replacement of nature, and it is not contradictory to nature. In essence, grace perfects nature; thus, if you have a science based on nature, say politics, and a science based on grace, say theology, then the science of theology should perfect and elevate the natural science of politics. In this light, theology – more truly the unerring Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church – is the “Queen of the Sciences” that perfects all other sciences by properly ordering them according to the virtues.

However, what does it mean when we say a higher science orders the lower?

The official “Sede Vacante” stamp following Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.

Imagine the construction of a house. There is a plumber to handle the plumbing and a carpenter for the carpentry. And though these two arts are distinct, the two artisans must work together. Even if both workers excel within their own field, the overall order of the home will suffer if they are not in harmony.

However, neither plumbing nor carpentry can speak to how the home must be built as a whole. What is needed is a higher principle that can order both plumbing and carpentry to the proper goal of building a home. The principle is architecture; therefore, while the plumber and the carpenter may be wise concerning the principles of their respective arts, it is the architect who is wise concerning the order of the house. He is the wisest concerning the house, because his wisdom orders the lower principles according to the higher. In his own words, St. Thomas Aquinas states, “For since it is the part of a wise man to arrange and to judge, and since lesser matters should be judged in the light of some higher principle, he is said to be wise in any one order who considers the highest principle in that order.” According to St. Augustine, “order is the appropriate disposition of things equal and unequal, by giving each its proper place.” As seen with the architect, wisdom is knowledge properly ordered, and the wise must have the prudence to do it.

The highest cause, the Uncaused Cause, the cause the universe and its order, is God. Theology – more specifically the Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church – is the architectonic study that is most properly wisdom, because the “knowledge of divine things” sheds light on the appropriate order of all other things. Now, let us be clear. God is not only known through his self-revelation in Jesus Christ and in Scripture, but also in the imprint of the Creator upon Creation. Hence, the Catholic Church finds herself guarding and elucidating both Sacred Scripture and Nature. Certain truths, like the Trinity or the Incarnation of Jesus Christ had to be revealed to us, because they are above human wisdom. Other truths, such as the natural virtues, were discernible by human reason. These revealed and discerned truths are guaranteed by Christ and His Church and compose the Sacred Doctrine that orders all things and is rightly called the Queen of the Sciences.

The examples are endless, because Sacred Doctrine orders everything from our souls to our finances. However, say a technological break through leads to a scientifically astonishing surgical procedure. Now say that technology is used for abortions. Just as the carpenter cannot speak to the proper order of a home as a whole, neither can science – as much as it tries – speak to the whole order of existence. We see this particularly in its inability to speak on moral order. It is not that science is necessarily deficient, but rather its judgments are limited by its empirical purview. Much like the plumber and carpenter, it begs for a higher principle to order its steps.

Our world is saturated by debates that fall directly into this dialogue. Whether it be stem cell research, gay marriage, education, or abortion, differing guiding principles are in steep competition. There is always a “highest principle” at work, but unfortunately many see that principle as the unhindered human will. How then does the Spirit of the Liturgy relate to this concept of the Queen of the Sciences? At first glance there appears a disconnect between the focus of the the Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church as the Queen of the Sciences and Cardinal Ratzinger’s work on the Liturgy; however, the acute connection between the two is that for most Catholics it is precisely in the liturgy that they are catechized. It is in the liturgy that they see and believe and have their minds ordered toward the understanding that God and his wisdom is the highest principle. Our post-Vatican II world is suffering what is arguably the most comprehensive catechetical crisis since the Reformation and Catholics will never be well catechized and never succeed at a “New Evangelization” until the liturgy is brought back into a “hermeneutic of continuity” with the overall Sacred Tradition of the Church. Attempting to evangelize before one is well catechized puts the cart before the horse. What Holy Mother Church needs is a liturgical reform – and arguably a reverent liturgy that truly reflects the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would be the greatest evangelical tool. In this belief, we turn to the work of Cardinal Ratzinger.

SPL’s John Henry writes, “Spirit of the Liturgy is in my opinion a book that all Christians of the True Faith should not only own but read often. Cardinal Ratzinger served as one of the chief theologians for the Second Vatican Council; thus, he possesses the ability to show the ‘liturgical development along the path sketched out by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.'”3 There is a famous book with the same title written by Romano Guardini that the good Cardinal uses as his inspiration:

“My purpose here is to assist this renewal of understanding of the Liturgy. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve. The only difference is that I had to translate what Guardini did at the end of the First World War, in a totally different historical situation, into the context of our present-day questions, hopes and dangers. Like Guardini, I am not attempting to involve myself with scholarly discussion and research. I am simply offering an aid to the understanding of the faith and to the right way to give faith it’s central form of expression in the Liturgy.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

John continues, “this work can be understood by all: scholars, theologians, historians, parish priests, religious, and most important of all the laity. Cardinal Ratzinger uses historical, biblical, philosophical thought in order to express what Catholic worship is was and should be.” The Cardinal’s work is considered an instant classic by those working to restore the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Arguably one of the most poignant passages is his comment on the Golden Calf pericope in the Old Testament:

“But the real liturgy implies that God responds and reveals how we can worship him. In any form, liturgy includes some kind of ‘institution’. It cannot spring from imagination, our own creativity – then it would remain just a cry in the dark or mere self-affirmation…”

“No where is this more dramatically evident than in the narrative of the golden calf… the cult conducted by the high priest Aaron is not meant to serve any of the false gods of the heathen. The apostasy is more subtle. There is no obvious turning away from God to the false gods. Outwardly, the people remain completely attached to the same God. They want to glorify the God who led Israel out of Egypt and believe that they may very properly represent his mysterious power in the image of a bull calf.”

Ratzinger’s reading of the Golden Calf episode is unique insofar as it is often read as a complete turning away from the God of Israel and modern readers condemn the Israelites as abandoning the true God; however, the Cardinal states that it is more subtle. It is not a complete abandonment, but rather the Israelites with their high priest were attempting to worship the true God of Israel as they saw fit. This reading turns the story from one modern Christianity normally  passes over in judgement of the Israelites to one capturing the very heart of modernist Christianity. It echoes the core of all protestantism and unfortunately resonates in much of today’s Catholic population. The Cardinal sums up his reading by stating, “the worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult,” and “the narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship.”

This is but a glimpse of the profound liturgical insight found within Cardinal Ratzinger’s work. Within an understanding of the Queen of the Sciences and her all encompassing order, read The Spirit of the Liturgy with an eye towards renewing the mainstay of all Catholic catechesis and evangelism: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


Why these works will change your life
We return to our original premise, that these two works by Cardinal Ratzinger will change your life. The why is now better understood. Yes, it is because the good Cardinal writes in an acute and clear manner and always bears the mark of orthodoxy, but it is also because you – as the reader – will have a greater appreciation for the sciences in which the works are written. The Cardinal’s ideas and quotes will find fertile ground within the wisdom of the reader, because the reader will know the architectonic ordering affect that both the Noble Science and the Queen of the Sciences have on their life. Understanding the order of knowledge allows one to be truly wise and order their lives in an holistic Christ-like manner.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Common Doctor of the Universal Church, pray for us.
St. Thomas More, patron of statesmen and politicians, pray for us.
Mother Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

  1. ARISTOTLE: Further comments on Aristotle’s Politics may be found at The Political Animal and the Philosopher King and Understanding Aristotle: 22 Definitions from the Politics. []
  2. AQUINAS: The Angelic Doctor’s commentary on Aristotle’s Politics may be found at Aquinas’ Introduction to the Politics. []
  3. Quote take from The Catholic Answer []

Modern Man Has Lost His Way: 13 Comments on the Western Heritage of Christ and Socrates

“The controversy as to the relations between Pope and Emperor, stripped of its non-essentials, was a controversy as to the end and purpose of life on earth.” – J.W. Allen

Listers, Father James V. Schall S.J. is one of the preeminent Catholic political thinkers of our time. Fr. Schall’s “The Point of Medieval Political Philosophy” is found within his collection of excellent essays entitled The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical & Political Essays (p. 151-161). SPL highly recommends the work and has previously recommended the erudition of Fr. Schall in the list 6 Books for a Proper Introduction to Catholic Political Thought. The essay focuses on Catholicism’s heritage and belief that Faith and Reason are harmonious – an orthodox claim not found in Judaism or Islam.1 The problem is that this heritage of faith and reason that built the West is now no longer found in modern man. Fr. Schall’s essay is an excellent and brief commentary on what modern man can learn from the medieval political mind.

SPL has selected various quotes, provided titles, and in certain cases provided footnotes with commentary and/or lists for further reading. All quotes are taken from the essay and are attributed to Fr. Schall unless otherwise cited.


1. Socrates and Christ

“We should… formally receive as European citizens every new generation, at an adequate time, and during the ceremony present to each youth a copy of a book bearing the text from Plato describing the death of Socrates, and from the Gospels, describing the death of Christ, not merely because they are the two spiritual fathers of Europe but because they both perished at the hands of the state.” – Spanish philosopher Salvador de Madariage, receiving the International Charlemagne Peace Prize


2. Political Realism

“All medieval thinkers had read their Augustine, who told them not to be surprised if such dire events as the killing of Socrates and of Christ should happen again and again in this world, in their very midst, in their very cities. Boethius, who was killed by an emperor, and Sir Thomas More, who was killed by a king, at the far ends of the middle ages, can be said to stand as proof of this possibility. The Augustinian heritage of “political realism” has prepared us for what ought not to happen but still does happen among us.”2


3. Political Animals

“Medieval men came later to read Aquinas, who told them that the state, while it could indeed be ruled by wicked men and be configured in distorted regimes, also, as Aristotle maintained, had something positive to accomplish, by and for honorable men in and about this world. Man was a political animal, even in the Fall, even before the Fall. The polity was not simply or primarily the result of original sin, even though that sin had plenty to do with how it appeared among us and why there were recurring disorders that the state could not seem effectively to remedy.”3


4. Pope and Emperor

“The controversy as to the relations between Pope and Emperor, stripped of its non-essentials, was a controversy as to the end and purpose of life on earth.” – J.W. Allen


5. Man Both Belongs to and Transcends the Politics

“Medieval political philosophy is the effort to think properly about politics when man, in his one given being, both belongs to and transcends the civitas, the civil community. […] For medieval thinkers, politics had a place within overall intellectual order. But it did not form the intellectual order itself.”


6. What is Philosophy?

“Philosophy itself is the effort to understand, by the unaided power of the human intellect, what is, in its causes and its wholeness.”


7. The Erroneous Two Truths Theory

“The famous ‘two truths theory’ in Arabic and late medieval theory sought to propose a workable solution for any problems between revelation and reason whereby the two could ‘contradict’ each other; that is, though contradictory, both could be true. This move, however, split the integrity of the human mind in two. Medieval theory, including medieval political philosophy, at its best, however, found enough reason in revelation and enough perplexing lacunae in reason to lead it to suspect that the whole includes both in some coherent order.”4


8. A Block to Islam’s Progression

“One of those blocks (that prevent the ‘Middle East from entering the mainstream of modernity’) is the orthodox tenet that the Koran and the scriptures contain all the knowledge required to deal with the problems of contemporary society.” – Arnold Beichman of Milton Viorst


9. Islam Is a Political Religion

“For Christianity, revelation is not a substitute for experience or for the books of the political thinkers about the proper rule of the city. The Koran, on the other hand, is conceived to be a description of the best city or regime. All regimes not embodying its strictures are held to be inferior. That is, revelation is a law.”


10. The Silence of the Muslim Philosopher

“For the Muslims, the law has replaced politics, so that the philosopher has to become a strictly private man in order to survive. Unlike Socrates, the philosopher is not killed by the state; rather he is simply reduced to silence or irrelevance.”


11. Catholic Mystery, Not Uncertainty

“Medieval theory did not consider the human mind every to match or comprehend the divine mind and its relationship through eternal law to the order of things. There was a certain contentment with mystery, but a mystery that was bathed in light and not confusion. All intelligence, including human intelligence, was able to know after its own manner.”5


12. The End of Medieval Thinking

“The transition from William of Occam and Marsilius of Padua to Hobbes marks the end of medieval thinking. The divine will, presupposed to nothing but itself, presupposed to no divine reason in Occam and Marsilius, becomes political will in Hobbes, again a will presupposed to nothing but itself.”


13. The Most-Telling Absence

“This book is the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, the philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages, the absence of whose presence has defined our modernity.”6

  1. Faith and Reason: An example of this claim would be that both Judaism and Islam are law based religions – both political religions – while Catholicism is a religion of dogmas (and properly understand as transpolitical). The latter requires a harmony of faith and reason to ascertain the truth of the dogma, while the former requires only obedience to the law. This observation is a classic understanding and has been expressed by both Fr. Schall and the Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss. []
  2. Further Reading: While St. Augustine gifted the idea of “political realism” to Catholicism, his own political thought had a significant gap – nature and natural law. SPL has addressed this lacuna in Augustinian political thought in the list The Enchanted Forest: 6 Political Teachings from St. Augustine. Furthermore, SPL has also catelogued many of St. Thomas More’s prayers in the list Lets Kill All the Lawyers. []
  3. Further Reading: Understanding Aristotle, his political thought, and his contribution to Western Civilization has become a main topic on SPL (An exhaustive list of articles with Aristotle here). The most pertinent list to understand Fr. Schall’s comments is Political Animals and the Philosopher King: 9 Thoughts from Book One of Aristotle’s Politics. []
  4. Two Truths Theory: Particularly with the dawn of Aristotle, both Catholicism and Islam struggled to understand the relationship of reason and faith. The struggle was epitomized with Aristotle’s rational articulation of nature as an enclosed system of laws, i.e., natural law. Before Aquinas, Averroes, the Islamic philosopher, submitted a “two truths theory” – one truth of revelation and one truth of reason. []
  5. Mystery & Uncertainty: The medieval mind’s mystery bathed in light may be seen in how the Incarnation is at its heart a mystery, but by the light of reason men have contemplated and explored the mystery – even thought there is mystery, man may know certain things with certainty   The modern mind sees the mystery within Catholicism and misuses it to bathe the entire religion in uncertainty, unraveling dogmas and sacred tradition. []
  6. Further Reading: SPL has written extensively on Aquinas (click here) and on the subject of law (click here); however, the best starting point for a thomistic understanding of law is Law and the Common Good: 9 Introductory Catholic Questions. Enjoy. []

Lust and Our Common Good: 4 Observations by St. Thomas Aquinas

The question Is lust a sin? seems absurd, but by asking these questions and answering them in thomistic fullness the Angelic Doctor is able to lead us into profound observations.

Listers, a portion of St. Thomas Aquinas’ brilliance is attributed to his ability to state that which we all already know but struggle to articulate. The question Is lust a sin? seems absurd, but by asking these questions and answering them in thomistic fullness the Angelic Doctor is able to lead us into profound observations. Similar to his treatment on the capital vice of gluttony, the beloved “Dumb Ox” echoes the seriousness in which Christ took the reality of sin and how it perverts what is good and reasonable in humanity.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, whose virtue warms the world.

1. What is the proper matter of lust?

The Common Doctor begins his treatment of lust by discerning its “matter” or what properly composes the vice of lust.

As Isidore says (Etym. x), “a lustful man is one who is debauched with pleasures.” Now venereal pleasures above all debauch a man’s mind. Therefore lust is especially concerned with such like pleasures.

The Angelic Doctor turns to the authority of St. Isidore of Seville (d. AD 560)1 and agrees the lustful man is “debauched with pleasures.” However, exactly what pleasures compose the matter of lust? Lust is contrary to the virtue of temperance, which holds us to right reason in the midst of that which would lure us away – yet how is it different than greed or gluttony?

Even as temperance chiefly and properly applies to pleasures of touch, yet consequently and by a kind of likeness is referred to other matters, so too, lust applies chiefly to venereal pleasures, which more than anything else work the greatest havoc in a man’s mind, yet secondarily it applies to any other matters pertaining to excess. Hence a gloss on Galatians 5:19 says “lust is any kind of surfeit.”

To wit, lust applies primarily to venereal pleasures and secondarily to other pleasures.

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

2. Are all sexual acts lustful?

Listers, Aquinas commonly submits questions that seem strange or even absurd. Some questions seem superfluous and others seem so obvious that they need not be asked. However, the Summa Theologica is not an encyclopedia, but a pedagogical series of questions that build upon one another. This question’s official title is Whether no venereal act can be without sin? and it lays the groundwork to understand the more complex questions and answers.

A sin, in human acts, is that which is against the order of reason. Now the order of reason consists in its ordering everything to its end in a fitting manner. Wherefore it is no sin if one, by the dictate of reason, makes use of certain things in a fitting manner and order for the end to which they are adapted, provided this end be something truly good.

Virtue is a good habit or that which disposes us to good acts through the perfection of our powers. One such power is our reason and virtue perfects the power of our reason, e.g., temperance holds us to reason when faced with pleasures that would lure us from reason.2

Vices are those habits which would disorder our reason. If temperance is the virtue that holds us to right reason even in the midsts of allurement – in distinction to fortitude which holds us to reason in the midst of fear – the the vice of lust seeks to pervert that which is good and reasonable through venereal matters.3

Now just as the preservation of the bodily nature of one individual is a true good, so, too, is the preservation of the nature of the human species a very great good. And just as the use of food is directed to the preservation of life in the individual, so is the use of venereal acts directed to the preservation of the whole human race.

Hence Augustine says (De Bono Conjug. xvi): “What food is to a man’s well being, such is sexual intercourse to the welfare of the whole human race.” Wherefore just as the use of food can be without sin, if it be taken in due manner and order, as required for the welfare of the body, so also the use of venereal acts can be without sin, provided they be performed in due manner and order, in keeping with the end of human procreation.

Sex is good and serves a mighty and noble purpose within the human race. Lust however seeks to corrupt man’s reasoning toward sex and distort its goodness.


Lust in Dante’s Inferno by Gustave Dore

3. Why is lust a sin?

In his question Whether the lust that is about venereal acts can be a sin? the Common Doctor of the Church builds upon the foundation already laid.

The more necessary a thing is, the more it behooves one to observe the order of reason in its regard; wherefore the more sinful it becomes if the order of reason be forsaken. Now the use of venereal acts, as stated in the foregoing Article, is most necessary for the common good, namely the preservation of the human race.

Wherefore there is the greatest necessity for observing the order of reason in this matter: so that if anything be done in this connection against the dictate of reason’s ordering, it will be a sin. Now lust consists essentially in exceeding the order and mode of reason in the matter of venereal acts. Wherefore without any doubt lust is a sin.

Evil is not a thing in itself, but is rather a lack or an absence of what is good. Aquinas would say evil is the privation of the good. In that line of thinking, if right reason is a good and sin is an evil then being sinful is irrational and a strike against reason. Lust then carries a particular weightiness about it due to human sexuality’s strong connection with the common good. The seriousness imported by the corruption of lust is the basis of Aquinas’ next question.


Virtue perfects our reason and the vices incline humanity to the irrational and the disorder. It is humanity’s choice. Dante’s inferno – “Dante and Virgil in hell” (1850) by William Bouguereau.

4. Is lust a capital vice?

Flowing with the logical progression of St. Thomas’ previous questions, it is no surprise that Aquinas cites the authority of Pope St. Gregory the Great in naming lust a capital or “deadly” vice.

Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) places lust among the capital vices.

As stated above, a capital vice is one that has a very desirable end, so that through desire for that end, a man proceeds to commit many sins, all of which are said to arise from that vice as from a principal vice. Now the end of lust is venereal pleasure, which is very great. Wherefore this pleasure is very desirable as regards the sensitive appetite, both on account of the intensity of the pleasure, and because such like concupiscence is connatural to man. Therefore it is evident that lust is a capital vice.

Like virtues, vices are habits and habits are a quality that define who we are. As virtues produce in us many good works so too do vices become sordid sources of many sins. Lust is a capital vice because it manifests sins within the matter of man’s strong desire for venereal pleasures and that venereal pleasure in and of itself is a good when properly ordered to reason.

  1. Isidore: Born at Cartagena, Spain, about 560; died 4 April, 636. Isidore was the son of Severianus and Theodora. His elder brother Leander was his immediate predecessor in the Metropolitan See of Seville; whilst a younger brother St. Fulgentius presided over the Bishopric of Astigi. His sister Florentina was a nun, and is said to have ruled over forty convents and one thousand religious. Source []
  2. What is a habit? –  The Philosopher (Aristotle) “defines habit, a ‘disposition whereby someone is disposed, well or ill;’ and he says that by ‘habits we are directed well or ill in reference to the passions.’ For when a the mode is suitable to the thing’s nature, it has the aspect of good: and when it is unsuitable, it has the aspect of evil.” (I-II.49)

    A Habit or Act? –  Virtue “denotes a certain perfection of a power. Now a thing’s perfection is considered chiefly in regard to its end. But the end of power is act. Wherefore power is said to be perfect, according as it is determinate to its act.” Power (potential) finds its end in an act. Virtue perfects the power; thus, the act is perfected. Justice is not an act, but by the habit of justice one may act justly. – More on Virtue from Aquinas []

  3. Temperance v. Fortitude: In clarification by contrast, temperance would be the virtue that keeps us from adultery, masturbation, and any disordered sexual pleasure, while fortitude holds us to reason in the midst of fear, e.g., on the battlefield, when scared to do what is right and good, etc. []

8 Thoughts on Whether Gluttony Is a Sin

Listers, the following is taken in full from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica II-II.148.1 On Gluttony. The Summa Theologica is widely considered the magnum opus of the Angelic Doctor’s short life. The work is broken down into a question and answer format and its importance is best summed up by the fact it was laid on the altar at the Council of Trent.

Listers, the following is taken in full from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica II-II.148.1 On Gluttony. The Summa Theologica is widely considered the magnum opus of the Angelic Doctor’s short life. The work is broken down into a question and answer format and its importance is best summed up by the fact it was laid on the altar at the Council of Trent. Aquinas writes under the true belief that theology – more specifically the Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church – is the Divine Science and the Queen of the Sciences. In that proper understanding of theology the Angelic Doctor writes with a scientific accuracy marked by defined terms and an unwavering attention to detail. The fruits of understanding his writings are worth the labors.

“He (Thomas Aquinas) enlightened the Church more than all the other Doctors together; a man can derive more profit from his books in one year than from a lifetime spent in pondering the philosophy of others.”
Pope John XXII, Consistorial address of 1318

Pope Benedict XVI has recently highlighted the importance of Aquinas’ writings in his three part catechesis on the Common Doctor: Eucharistic Soul: 9 Statements by Pope Benedict XVI on St. Thomas AquinasOur Guide Through Modernism: 12 Teachings from Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas, and Pope Benedict XVI’s 11 Introductory Steps to Understanding the Writings of Aquinas.


Article One
Whether gluttony is a sin?


How to Read the Summa Theologica
Aquinas’ structure of the Summa Theologica is unique to our modern customs. The Common Doctor proposes a question and in this case it is Whether gluttony is a sin? He then provides a few – in this case three – arguments that he believes to be false answers. He will then present a sed contra or a “On the contrary” statement which is a summary or the principal point of answering the question correctly. Immediately following the sed contra, the saint will give the main body of his answer and then handle each of the following incorrect answers individually.

Below the entirety of St. Thomas’ first article on gluttony is presented.
SPL has added the titles and their numbers.

1. Food cannot defile a man

Objection 1. It would seem that gluttony is not a sin. For our Lord said (Matthew 15:11): “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man.” Now gluttony regards food which goes into a man. Therefore, since every sin defiles a man, it seems that gluttony is not a sin.

2. Pleasure and necessity cannot be distinguished

Objection 2. Further, “No man sins in what he cannot avoid” [Ep. lxxi, ad Lucin.]. Now gluttony is immoderation in food; and man cannot avoid this, for Gregory says (Moral. xxx, 18): “Since in eating pleasure and necessity go together, we fail to discern between the call of necessity and the seduction of pleasure.” And Augustine says (Confess. x, 31): “Who is it, Lord, that does not eat a little more than necessary?” Therefore gluttony is not a sin.

3. The first movement of sin

Objection 3. Further, in every kind of sin the first movement is a sin. But the first movement in taking food is not a sin, else hunger and thirst would be sinful. Therefore gluttony is not a sin.


The guardian of the Third Circle of Hell, Cerberus and beyond him the gluttons.

St. Thomas responds

4. Sed Contra: The inward enemy

On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xxx, 18) that “unless we first tame the enemy dwelling within us, namely our gluttonous appetite, we have not even stood up to engage in the spiritual combat.” But man’s inward enemy is sin. Therefore gluttony is a sin.

5. An irrational inordinate desire

I answer that, Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire. Now desire is said to be inordinate through leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists: and a thing is said to be a sin through being contrary to virtue. Wherefore it is evident that gluttony is a sin.

6. The desire defiles, not the food

Reply to Objection 1. That which goes into man by way of food, by reason of its substance and nature, does not defile a man spiritually. But the Jews, against whom our Lord is speaking, and the Manichees deemed certain foods to make a man unclean, not on account of their signification, but by reason of their nature [Cf. I-II, 102, 6, ad 1]. It is the inordinate desire of food that defiles a man spiritually.

7. Knowledge of the excess

Reply to Objection 2. As stated above, the vice of gluttony does not regard the substance of food, but in the desire thereof not being regulated by reason. Wherefore if a man exceed in quantity of food, not from desire of food, but through deeming it necessary to him, this pertains, not to gluttony, but to some kind of inexperience. It is a case of gluttony only when a man knowingly exceeds the measure in eating, from a desire for the pleasures of the palate.

8. Sin rests in the sensation, not the necessity

Reply to Objection 3. The appetite is twofold. There is the natural appetite, which belongs to the powers of the vegetal soul.1 On these powers virtue and vice are impossible, since they cannot be subject to reason; wherefore the appetitive power is differentiated from the powers of secretion, digestion, and excretion, and to it hunger and thirst are to be referred. Besides this there is another, the sensitive appetite, and it is in the concupiscence of this appetite that the vice of gluttony consists. Hence the first movement of gluttony denotes inordinateness in the sensitive appetite, and this is not without sin.

  1. SOUL: Read SPL’s list on the Vegetal Soul []

5 Questions on the Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom

Understanding the distinction between “knowledge” and “wisdom,” and how it affects our lives, our education, and our Catholic faith.

Listers, the distinction between knowledge and wisdom is a simple one, but one that can have a profound effect upon those who practice it. It is the principle that should govern Catholic education, and the foundation upon which the Liberal Arts were composed. Whether it is the ancient tomes of the great St. Thomas Aquinas or in how we live our daily lives, the subtle distinction makes all the difference.

1. What is the Difference Between Knowledge & Wisdom?

The answer is simple: order. According to St. Augustine, “order is the appropriate disposition of things equal and unequal, by giving each its proper place.”1 Wisdom is knowledge that has been properly ordered.

2. What Does it Mean to Have “Ordered Knowledge”?

Imagine the construction of a house. There is a plumber to handle the plumbing and a carpenter for the carpentry. And though these two arts are distinct, the two artisans must work together. Even if both workers excel within their own field, the overall order of the home will suffer if they are not in harmony.2

However, neither plumbing nor carpentry can speak to how the home must be built as a whole. What is needed is a higher principle that can order both plumbing and carpentry to the proper goal of building a home. The principle is architecture; therefore, while the plumber and the carpenter may be wise concerning the principles of their respective arts, it is the architect who is wise concerning the order of the house. He is the wisest concerning the house, because his wisdom orders the lower principles according to the higher. In his own words, St. Thomas Aquinas states, “For since it is the part of a wise man to arrange and to judge, and since lesser matters should be judged in the light of some higher principle, he is said to be wise in any one order who considers the highest principle in that order.”3

3. How Do the Wise Order Knowledge?

The knowledge of the wise man is assimilated and ordered according to highest principles or rather to the highest causes. The wise man focuses on the whole, and does not over-inflate or isolate any one subject or principle. True, no man can grasp the “whole of knowledge;” thus, the wise man begins to understand the whole by its parts. Like a mechanic on an engine who studies the individual components to gain knowledge of the whole, and in grasping the whole concept of the engine, understands the higher principle that governs all the individual parts.

The office seeks to understand how the lower things are related to the highest things. Understanding the highest principle of a subject does not automatically import knowledge of the lower principles; thus, the wise man studies the lower and higher causes, and orders them accordingly. The ability to order knowledge correctly is the work of the ability of “right reason,” i.e., the virtue of prudence.

4. What is Wisdom within Education?

Let us consider the common ground of architecture and music. Their commonality is found in mathematical principles. Yet, how should we articulate this relationship? St. Thomas teaches “there are some [sciences (ordered bodies of knowledge)] which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of the intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry, and the like.” However, other sciences are not known in this manner, but “proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science.” Mathematics would then be the higher science from which both architecture and music draw their principles. Simply speaking, arithmetic is the study of number. Geometry would be the study of number in place. Music would then be the study of number in time, while the science of astronomy would be the study of number in place and time. In this hierarchal understanding, a natural order of education takes a definitive shape.4

The wise do not place order upon knowledge, they discern the order that is naturally within knowledge. Knowledge contains a natural hierarchy. To train and raise children in wisdom, education cannot be a system of isolated subjects; rather, education should be the installation of wisdom within the student by having them move through an ordered collection of sciences that correspond in principle. As stated, the student would first study basic arithmetic and then takes those principles into geometry, and so forth. Similar principled movements of education – Latin, Music, Philosophy, Theology, etc. – compose what was originally entitled the “Liberal Arts.”

In our current modern and post-Baconian world, we generally see the value of something in its function. Why? Modernity has trained individuals to place value on what is most useful or practical, and to devalue that which is not immediately practical. Education has ceased to be a movement of individuals through a sapiential liberal arts, and has become an industry aimed at training individuals for practical and economic purposes. Modern man values a thing very little past its immediate functionality. In this, the true highest principles within the sapiential order – theology then philosophy – have been replaced by economic training. The character and wisdom of individuals is left unformed; thus, we produce students to function in an economy who have only segmented and broken theories on how to live and live well. It becomes even more dire when considering these students – who have no virtue training (ordered actions) – are asked to be citizens, to vote, and to sit on juries.

5. What is Wisdom within Theology?

Theology – more properly the Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church – is not a power-based system valuing function over all else. Sacred Doctrine is the Queen of the Sciences, she is the highest principled science that governs all others.

The highest cause, the Uncaused Cause, the cause the universe and its order, is God. Theology is the architectonic study that is most properly wisdom, because the “knowledge of divine things” sheds light on the appropriate order of all other things. Now, let us be clear. God is not only known through his self-revelation in Jesus Christ and in Scripture, but also in the imprint of the Creator upon Creation. Hence, the Catholic Church finds herself guarding and elucidating both Sacred Scripture and Nature. Certain truths, like the Trinity or the Incarnation of Jesus Christ had to be revealed to us, because they are above human wisdom. Other truths, such as the natural virtues, were discernable by human reason. These revealed and discerned truths are guaranteed by Christ and His Church and compose the Sacred Doctrine that orders all things and is rightly called the Queen of the Sciences.5

Read More:
Queen of the Sciences – Part One
Queen of the Sciences – Part Two

  1. Order Quote: City of God XIX.13 []
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas Quotes: ST Prima Pars, Question One []
  3. Queen of the Sciences: Part One by HHAmbrose []
  4. Adapted from: Queen of the Sciences Part II by HHAmbrose []
  5. Adapted from: Queen of the Sciences Part 1 by HHAmbrose []

6 Books for a Proper Introduction to Catholic Political Thought

The following works have been selected because they share the common theme of addressing Catholic political thought within the longstanding tradition of the Catholic Church. The works address what Spinoza entitled the theologico-political problem.

Listers, the following texts provide an in depth introduction to Catholic political thought. The works are arranged in a sapiential order, i.e., the prescribed order has an intentional didactic development, which should help the reader be introduced to the great depth of the Catholic political tradition without feeling overwhelmed and being drowned in alien jargon or concepts. Nothing is worse than being interested in a subject and either feeling lost on where to begin or wasting time on the wrong book.

The Order of the Works:
Wisdom is knowledge properly ordered, and wise men must demonstrate the virtue of prudence to properly order that knowledge. Since many men wiser than myself would organize these works differently, let me explain the prudence behind the order. The books are arranged for those who have little to no knowledge of Catholic political thought. Academicians may point to starting with St. Thomas first for his architectonic treatment or turn to reading the primary works of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. While both are legitimate introductory methods, I have catered this list to the non-academicians; thus, I found it best to start with broad and cogent primers and then move into the primary works.

Another photograph from the Library of Congress.

Why These Works Were Selected:
The following works have been selected because they share the common theme of addressing Catholic political thought within the longstanding tradition of the Catholic Church. The works – especially those within Straussian influence – address what Spinoza entitled the theologico-political problem. The aforesaid problem has three primary areas of dialogue: between philosophy and political life, between theology and moral/political life, and between the theological and the philosophical life. The depth of this dialogue presents an arduous undertaking and the following authors – save the primary texts – have the assiduous minds necessary to the task.

Another and inseparable theme of these works is the dialogue of the ancients and moderns. In gist, modernity is seen as a willful break from ancient wisdom, and as such there is a necessity and fruitfulness in comparing the ancient and modern political thinkers. The view lends itself to a proper holistic view of political philosophy, and tends to avoid many neoconservative pitfalls.1 Listers, please enjoy these works and may they guide you deeper into living the well-ordered virtuous life of Christ. As SPL’s motto goes, The Catholic Life is the Good Life.

1. Christians as Political Animals

Marc Guerra, PhD. Ave Maria University

SPL highly recommends the Catholic political primer of Marc Guerra. The work systematically introduces the political thought of such greats as Aristotle, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas, and presents excellent insights into several modern thinkers: the Jewish thinker Leo Strauss, the astute Catholic political pundit Fr. James Schall, and Guerra’s mentor Fr. Ernest Fortin. Overall, the text presents in depth Catholic political thought in such a manner as anyone who is interested in proper politics can glean timeless principles and modern concerns.

A few quotes from the pages of Guerra’s work:

Aristotle’s Politics offered a coherent account of political life to which Christians could appeal in grappling with the thorny problems that plague that life, especially when one introduces a sovereign transpolitical community such as the Church.

Although the supernatural order of grace perfects the order of nature, it does so in a way that respects the integrity and hierarchical structure of the natural order.

What the Christian faith requires of the political order, according to Aquinas, is for the city to move men prudentially toward the common good and to the life of virtue that corresponds to their naturally given end.

Read more: Christians as Political Animals on Amazon.

2. Roman Catholic Political Philosophy

Fr. James V. Schall

Fr. Schall represents an excellent representation of Catholic political thought outside the direct influence of Leo Strauss. Fr. Schall’s political primer is an excellent and well-respected introduction to Catholic political thought that takes into account modernity and the longstanding tradition of Catholic thought.

James Schall is one of the giants of contemporary Catholic thought. This volume is essential reading not just for Catholics but for anyone interested in the nature of political philosophy as a tradition of inquiry and the vitally important question of the relationship of faith and reason.
Grasso, Kenneth

Roman Catholic Political Philosophy will provide rewarding reading to any student, professor, or lay reader who is interested in the relationship between religion and philosophy, especially as this has developed within the Catholic tradition.
Review Of Metaphysics

Read More: Roman Catholic Political Philosophy on Amazon.

3. Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ten Essays

Leo Strauss

The Jewish political philosopher Leo Strauss is a brilliant and controversial figure. Arguably one of the most prominent and influential political philosophers of the 20th century, Strauss helped to introduce the political field to the dialogue of the ancients and moderns. With an unparalleled understanding of classical political philosophy, Strauss critiqued modernity and posited that proper fecundity within political philosophy will only occur when classical philosophy and modernity are juxtaposed.2

It is important to stress a few details about Strauss from a Catholic perspective. First, he is obviously not Catholic, and therefore many of his solutions lack the illuminating truth of Christ and his Church. More specifically, Strauss does not hold to a harmony of faith and reason; thus, Athens and Jerusalem (moreover, Rome) are held in a tension with one another, despite their similar problems with modernity.

Strauss’ influence is undeniable and from the Catholic perspective his critique of modernity in light of a unique acumen of classical political philosophy is pathbreaking and incredibly harmonious with much of Catholic thought – because both Strauss and Catholics are drawing from classical political philosophy. Again, Strauss’ weakness is his lack of Catholic belief, which leads to an absence of Medieval wisdom in his texts. More specifically than the ancient and modern’s dialogue, Strauss resurrected the aforementioned theologico-political problem, and that rebirth is still influencing the shape of modern political thought. If anything of Strauss’ is to be read, I highly recommend the essay: The Three Waves of Modernity; it is unparalleled in its historical critique of modernity, because it offers the reader a succinct infrastructure in understanding the formation of the modern world.3

Read More: Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ten Essays on Amazon.

4. Politics

Aristotle, trans. Carnes Lord

It would be difficult to overestimate the impact Aristotle’s Politics has had on Western political thought and Catholic political thought in particular. It should suffice to say that since St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron of all Catholic education, a special attention should be paid to the pagan philosopher’s contemplation of nature from which the Angelic Doctor drew his foundational view of nature.

In his work, Christians as Political Animals, Dr. Marc Guerra explains Aristotle’s influence. The Church, coming off St. Augustine’s political thought – which lacked a sufficient account of nature – was searching for a way to articulate the order of nature and the divine order.

Guerra explains:4

This sheds light on the reason why Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics came to play such an important role in Christian medieval intellectual life and Aristotle’s Politics such an important role in the social and political life of the Christian West.

Aristotle’s Politics offered a coherent account of political life to which Christians could appeal in grappling with the thorny problems that plague life, especially when one introduces a sovereign transpolitical community such as the Church. By emphasizing the natural, as opposed to the divine, origins of the city, the Politics, at least in principle, allowed the transpolitical religion to draw sharp distinctions between political and ecclesiastical authorities.

With the help of the Politics, the Christian West was able to chart a principled middle course between the extremes of theocracy and caesaropapism.

SPL would also like to stress that not all translations are equal, and students looking to start reading Aristotle’s Politics are strongly advised to read the erudite translation of Carnes Lord.

Read More: Aristotle’s Politics, trans. Lord, on Amazon.

5. Summa Theologica, I.II.90-108

St. Thomas Aquinas, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province

In many ways, St. Thomas’ text on Law should be read first, because he lays out the architectonic landscape for Catholic political thought. The Angelic Doctor articulates political philosophy – or Human Law – in light of the entire divinely ordered cosmos. The so-called “Dumb Ox,” explains the Four Laws: Eternal Law, Divine Law, Natural Law, and Human Law. It is characteristic of ancient classical philosophy and medieval thought to contemplate parts in light of the whole; thus, the laws of the state, i.e., the polis, is placed within an ordered cosmos, or creation.

Though St. Thomas Aquinas laws out the architectonic Catholic view of law, the difficulty in reading it first is due to two problems: the first is that the Angelic Doctor assumes his reader has been classically trained, and secondly, despite the already arduous nature of classical training, the Church is now currently suffering from either non-catechized or ill-catechized generations of the faithful.

For these reasons SPL recommends looking into the aforesaid primer of Guerra before all else, and then possibly looking into Strauss for an in depth education in ancient thought and/or turning to Aristotle’s Politics itself.

Those unfamiliar with the importance of the unique Doctor of the Church should read SPL’s List of Papal Quotes on St. Thomas Aquinas. For example:

Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because “he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all.”

Read More:
The Fathers of the English Dominican Province’s trans.,  Summa Theologica on Amazon.
The entire Summa Theologica online.

6. Values in a Time of Upheaval

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI

For a student of Catholic political thought, a collection of politically orientated essays by the ironclad mind of Cardinal Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – is a Godsend. The text is a compilation of essays and speeches given by the illustrious Cardinal over the span of several decades. It is a short work that lends itself to a brief but fruitful reading.

A few sapiential quotes from the now Holy Father:

Freedom preserves its dignity only as long as it retain the relationship to it ethical foundations and to its ethical task.

The first elementis the absoluteness that must be affirmed with regard to human dignity and human rights. This is antecedent to every law promulgated by the state.

The true meaning of the teaching authority of the pope is that he is the advocate of Christian memory. He does not impose something from the outside but develops and defends Christian memory.

The work is an excellent sampling of the political themes and philosophies now popular in the Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI.

Read More: Values in a Time of Upheaval on Amazon.

Helpful Introductory Political Lists on SPL:
22 Definitions from Aristotle’s Politics
St. Thomas’ Introduction to Aristotle’s Politics
Political Animals: Book One of Aristotle’s Politics
Political Authority: 8 Teachings of the Catholic Church
Best Regime: 5 Thoughts from Classical Political Philosophy

  1. Neoconservative Pitfalls: while worthy of an entire post, it should be sufficient to state that neoconservative thought is generally born after mainstream conservative thought suffers a quick and radical liberal break. In the Church, we could point to the aftermath of Vatican II. Hence, in reaction to this new liberalism, conservatives reunite, but often with insufficient knowledge of what proper conservatism was before the break, e.g., a neoconservative could argue he is a conservative because he is against women priests or liturgical dancers, while a true conservative – taking in the whole of tradition – might suggest he is actually very liberal for taking the Eucharist while standing or receiving it in his hand. Political thought is no different. Those who engage in holistic thought embrace an “ancient and modern’s dialogue,” and see those neoconservatives who are busy touting liberty, rights, and freedom as still being on the liberal end of the spectrum. Keen observers can see this unfolding in modern Catholic political action, as Catholic quote the American Constitution and very recent documents on human dignity and freedom, but remain mute on such timeless political truths as nature, natural law, and virtue. To be clear, it is not that concepts such as freedom are wrong, but rather they are misguided when not addressed holistically. []
  2. A History of Erudition: Allan Bloom – then a young student of Strauss – introduced Fr. Ernest Fortin to the writings of Strauss. Fr. Fortin then went on to become a prominent political thinker at Boston College, and instructed a young student of his, now Dr. Marc Guerra of Ave Maria University. []
  3. Strauss & the Pope: Strauss’ Three Waves of Modernity essay shares some striking similarities with Pope Benedict XVI’s famous Regensburg Lecture – which lays out three stages within modernity from a theological perspective. []
  4. Guerra, 124. []

Pope Benedict XVI’s 11 Introductory Steps to Understanding the Writings of Aquinas

“In Aquino moreover, on that same day, again with reference to St Thomas, Paul VI said, “all of us who are faithful sons and daughters of the Church can and must be his disciples, at least to some extent!”

Listers, Pope Benedict XVI closes his three-part catechesis over St. Thomas Aquinas by discussing the Angelic Doctor’s Summa Theologiae and catechetical sermons. The following is the entire homily given by His Holiness during the Wednesday General Audience of the 23th of June 2010. SPL has added the titles and subtitles.


Pope Benedict XVI’s Three Part Catechesis on St. Thomas Aquinas
Eucharistic Soul: 9 Statements by Pope Benedict XVI on St. Thomas Aquinas
Our Guide Through Modernism: 12 Teachings from Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas


1. We Are All His Disciples to Some Extent

“Today I would like to complete, with a third instalment, my Catecheses on St Thomas Aquinas. Even more than 700 years after his death we can learn much from him. My Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, also said this, in a Discourse he gave at Fossanova on 14 September 1974 on the occasion of the seventh centenary of St Thomas’ death. He asked himself: “Thomas, our Teacher, what lesson can you give us?”. And he answered with these words: “trust in the truth of Catholic religious thought, as defended, expounded and offered by him to the capacities of the human mind.”1 In Aquino moreover, on that same day, again with reference to St Thomas, Paul VI said, “all of us who are faithful sons and daughters of the Church can and must be his disciples, at least to some extent!”2

2. Importance of the Summa Theologiae

His Masterpiece
“Let us too, therefore, learn from the teaching of St Thomas and from his masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae. It was left unfinished, yet it is a monumental work: it contains 512 questions and 2,669 articles. It consists of concentrated reasoning in which the human mind is applied to the mysteries of faith, with clarity and depth to the mysteries of faith, alternating questions with answers in which St Thomas deepens the teaching that comes from Sacred Scripture and from the Fathers of the Church, especially St Augustine.”

Truth Shines Out
“In this reflection, in meeting the true questions of his time, that are also often our own questions, St Thomas, also by employing the method and thought of the ancient philosophers, and of Aristotle in particular, thus arrives at precise, lucid and pertinent formulations of the truths of faith in which truth is a gift of faith, shines out and becomes accessible to us, for our reflection. However, this effort of the human mind Aquinas reminds us with his own life is always illumined by prayer, by the light that comes from on high. Only those who live with God and with his mysteries can also understand what they say to us.”

3. Teaching the Knowledge of God

God’s Existence
“In the Summa of theology, St Thomas starts from the fact that God has three different ways of being and existing: God exists in himself, he is the beginning and end of all things, which is why all creatures proceed from him and depend on him: then God is present through his Grace in the life and activity of the Christian, of the saints; lastly, God is present in an altogether special way in the Person of Christ, here truly united to the man Jesus, and active in the Sacraments that derive from his work of redemption.”

Structure of Summa
“Therefore, the structure of this monumental work3, a quest with “a theological vision” for the fullness of God4, is divided into three parts and is illustrated by the Doctor Communis himself St Thomas with these words:

“Because the chief aim of sacred doctrine is to teach the knowledge of God, not only as he is in himself, but also as he is the beginning of things and their last end, and especially of rational creatures, as is clear from what has already been said, therefore, we shall treat: (1) Of God; (2) Of the rational creature’s advance towards God; (3) Of Christ, Who as man, is our way to God.”5

“It is a circle: God in himself, who comes out of himself and takes us by the hand, in such a way that with Christ we return to God, we are united to God, and God will be all things to all people.”

4. The 3 Parts of the Summa Theologica

First Part
“The First Part of the Summa Theologiae thus investigates God in himself, the mystery of the Trinity and of the creative activity of God. In this part we also find a profound reflection on the authentic reality of the human being, inasmuch as he has emerged from the creative hands of God as the fruit of his love. On the one hand we are dependent created beings, we do not come from ourselves; yet, on the other, we have a true autonomy so that we are not only something apparent as certain Platonic philosophers say but a reality desired by God as such and possessing an inherent value.”

Second Part
“In the Second Part St Thomas considers man, impelled by Grace, in his aspiration to know and love God in order to be happy in time and in eternity. First of all the Author presents the theological principles of moral action, studying how, in the free choice of the human being to do good acts, reason, will and passions are integrated, to which is added the power given by God’s Grace through the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as the help offered by moral law. Hence the human being is a dynamic being who seeks himself, seeks to become himself, and, in this regard, seeks to do actions that build him up, that make him truly man; and here the moral law comes into it. Grace and reason itself, the will and the passions enter too. On this basis St Thomas describes the profile of the man who lives in accordance with the Spirit and thus becomes an image of God.”

“Here Aquinas pauses to study the three theological virtues faith, hope and charity followed by a critical examination of more than 50 moral virtues, organized around the four cardinal virtues prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. He then ends with a reflection on the different vocations in the Church.”

Third Part
“In the Third Part of the Summa, St Thomas studies the Mystery of Christ the way and the truth through which we can reach God the Father. In this section he writes almost unparalleled pages on the Mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation and Passion, adding a broad treatise on the seven sacraments, for it is in them that the Divine Word Incarnate extends the benefits of the Incarnation for our salvation, for our journey of faith towards God and eternal life. He is, as it were, materially present with the realities of creation, and thus touches us in our inmost depths.”

5. Mystery of the Eucharist

His Eucharistic Soul
“In speaking of the sacraments, St Thomas reflects in a special way on the Mystery of the Eucharist, for which he had such great devotion, the early biographers claim, that he would lean his head against the Tabernacle, as if to feel the throbbing of Jesus’ divine and human heart. In one of his works, commenting on Scripture, St Thomas helps us to understand the excellence of the sacrament of the Eucharist, when he writes:

“Since this [the Eucharist] is the sacrament of Our Lord’s Passion, it contains in itself the Jesus Christ who suffered for us. Thus, whatever is an effect of Our Lord’s Passion is also an effect of this sacrament. For this sacrament is nothing other than the application of Our Lord’s Passion to us.”6

Fall in Love with the Sacrament
“We clearly understand why St Thomas and other Saints celebrated Holy Mass shedding tears of compassion for the Lord who gave himself as a sacrifice for us, tears of joy and gratitude. Dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the Saints, let us fall in love with this sacrament! Let us participate in Holy Mass with recollection, to obtain its spiritual fruits, let us nourish ourselves with this Body and Blood of Our Lord, to be ceaselessly fed by divine Grace! Let us willingly and frequently linger in the company of the Blessed Sacrament in heart-to-heart conversation!”

6. Aquinas’ Preaching

“All that St Thomas described with scientific rigour in his major theological works, such as, precisely, the Summa Theologiae, and the Summa contra gentiles, was also explained in his preaching, both to his students and to the faithful. In 1273, a year before he died, he preached throughout Lent in the Church of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples. The content of those sermons was gathered and preserved: they are the Opuscoli in which he explains the Apostles’ Creed, interprets the Prayer of the Our Father, explains the Ten Commandments and comments on the Hail Mary.”

Virtually the Whole Structure of the Catechism
“The content of the Doctor Angelicus’ preaching corresponds with virtually the whole structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Actually, in catechesis and preaching, in a time like ours of renewed commitment to evangelization, these fundamental subjects should never be lacking: what we believe, and here is the Creed of the faith; what we pray, and here is the Our Father and the Hail Mary; and what we live, as we are taught by biblical Revelation, and here is the law of the love of God and neighbour and the Ten Commandments, as an explanation of this mandate of love.”

7. Aquinas on Faith

“I would like to propose some simple, essential and convincing examples of the content of St Thomas’ teaching. In his booklet on The Apostles’ Creed he explains the value of faith. Through it, he says, the soul is united to God and produces, as it were, a shot of eternal life; life receives a reliable orientation and we overcome temptations with ease. To those who object that faith is foolishness because it leads to belief in something that does not come within the experience of the senses, St Thomas gives a very articulate answer and recalls that this is an inconsistent doubt, for human intelligence is limited and cannot know everything. Only if we were able to know all visible and invisible things perfectly would it be genuinely foolish to accept truths out of pure faith. Moreover, it is impossible to live, St Thomas observes, without trusting in the experience of others, wherever one’s own knowledge falls short. It is thus reasonable to believe in God, who reveals himself, and to the testimony of the Apostles: they were few, simple and poor, grief-stricken by the Crucifixion of their Teacher. Yet many wise, noble and rich people converted very soon after hearing their preaching. In fact this is a miraculous phenomenon of history, to which it is far from easy to give a convincing answer other than that of the Apostle’s encounter with the Risen Lord.”

8. Aquinas on the Incarnation

“In commenting on the article of the Creed on the Incarnation of the divine Word St Thomas makes a few reflections. He says that the Christian faith is strengthened in considering the mystery of the Incarnation; hope is strengthened at the thought that the Son of God came among us, as one of us, to communicate his own divinity to human beings; charity is revived because there is no more obvious sign of God’s love for us than the sight of the Creator of the universe making himself a creature, one of us. Finally, in contemplating the mystery of God’s Incarnation, we feel kindled within us our desire to reach Christ in glory. Using a simple and effective comparison, St Thomas remarks: “If the brother of a king were to be far away, he would certainly long to live beside him. Well, Christ is a brother to us; we must therefore long for his company and become of one heart with him.”7

9. Aquinas on the Pater Noster

“In presenting the prayer of the Our Father, St Thomas shows that it is perfect in itself, since it has all five of the characteristics that a well-made prayer must possess: trusting, calm abandonment; a fitting content because, St Thomas observes, “it is quite difficult to know exactly what it is appropriate and inappropriate to ask for, since choosing among our wishes puts us in difficulty” (ibid., p. 120); and then an appropriate order of requests, the fervour of love and the sincerity of humility.”

10. Aquinas on the Triclinium totius Trinitatis

“Like all the Saints, St Thomas had a great devotion to Our Lady. He described her with a wonderful title: Triclinium totius Trinitatis; triclinium, that is, a place where the Trinity finds rest since, because of the Incarnation, in no creature as in her do the three divine Persons dwell and feel delight and joy at dwelling in her soul full of Grace. Through her intercession we may obtain every help.”

11. Final Benediction

“With a prayer that is traditionally attributed to St Thomas and that in any case reflects the elements of his profound Marian devotion we too say:

“O most Blessed and sweet Virgin Mary, Mother of God… I entrust to your merciful heart… my entire life…. Obtain for me as well, O most sweet Lady, true charity with which from the depths of my heart I may love your most Holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and, after him, love you above all other things… and my neighbour, in God and for God.”

  1. Address in honour of St Thomas Aquinas in the Basilica, 14 September 1974; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, [ore], 26 September 1974, p. 4 []
  2. Address to people in the Square at Aquino, 14 September 1974; ORE, p. 5 []
  3. cf. Jean-Pierre Torrell, La “Summa” di San Tommaso, Milan 2003, pp. 29-75 []
  4. cf. Summa Theologiae, Ia q. 1, a. 7 []
  5. ibid.,I, q. 2 []
  6. cf. Commentary on John, chapter 6, lecture 6, n. 963 []
  7. Opuscoli teologico-spirituali, Rome 1976, p. 64 []

Queen of the Sciences: 4 Questions to Understand the Throne of Theology

Modernity has attempted – with great anthropic success – to dethrone the Divine Science as Queen of all other bodies of knowledge.

Queen of the Sciences:
Understanding the Throne of Theology [Part 1]

Listers, before we begin, let me say what this post is and is not. It is not necessarily apologetic in nature, because I have left out many of the arguments that would be necessary for a typical Catholic vs Atheist debate. What I hope to accomplish is what I believe St. Thomas Aquinas hoped to achieve in the very first question of his Summa Theologica. That is, I want to reiterate and supply the vocabulary and principles Holy Mother Church has given us to both live and understand our faith.

Often we spend so much time trying to prove our Faith correct, we forget to actually contemplate the Faith itself. I propose we step back and reflect upon the basic fundamentals of Catholic Theology. In doing so, I believe our lives will be enriched with God’s truth, and yes, consequently we will gain greater clarity and insight into our apologetics. With that said, we begin.

1. What does it mean to be wise?

Imagine the construction of a house. There is a plumber to handle the plumbing and a carpenter for the carpentry. And though these two arts are distinct, the two artisans must work together. Even if both workers excel within their own field, the overall order of the home will suffer if they are not in harmony.

However, neither plumbing nor carpentry can speak to how the home must be built as a whole. What is needed is a higher principle that can order both plumbing and carpentry to the proper goal of building a home. The principle is architecture; therefore, while the plumber and the carpenter may be wise concerning the principles of their respective arts, it is the architect who is wise concerning the order of the house. He is the wisest concerning the house, because his wisdom orders the lower principles according to the higher. In his own words, St. Thomas Aquinas states, “For since it is the part of a wise man to arrange and to judge, and since lesser matters should be judged in the light of some higher principle, he is said to be wise in any one order who considers the highest principle in that order.”

2. What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?

According to St. Augustine, “order is the appropriate disposition of things equal and unequal, by giving each its proper place.” As seen with the architect, wisdom is knowledge properly ordered, and the wise must have the prudence to do it.

The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas, GOZZOLI, Benozzo, a section.

3. What is the highest principle?

The highest cause, the Uncaused Cause, the cause the universe and its order, is God. Theology – more specifically the Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church – is the architectonic study that is most properly wisdom, because the “knowledge of divine things” sheds light on the appropriate order of all other things. Now, let us be clear. God is not only known through his self-revelation in Jesus Christ and in Scripture, but also in the imprint of the Creator upon Creation. Hence, the Catholic Church finds herself guarding and elucidating both Sacred Scripture and Nature. Certain truths, like the Trinity or the Incarnation of Jesus Christ had to be revealed to us, because they are above human wisdom. Other truths, such as the natural virtues, were discernable by human reason. These revealed and discerned truths are guaranteed by Christ and His Church and compose the Sacred Doctrine that orders all things and is rightly called the Queen of the Sciences.

4. What is a practical example of this teaching?

The examples are endless, because Sacred Doctrine orders everything from our souls to our finances. However, say a technological break through leads to a scientifically astonishing surgical procedure. Now say that technology is used for abortions. Just as the carpenter cannot speak to the proper order of a home as a whole, neither can science – as much as it tries – speak to the whole order of existence. We see this particularly in its inability to speak on moral order. It is not that science is necessarily deficient, but rather its judgments are limited by its empirical purview. Much like the plumber and carpenter, it begs for a higher principle to order its steps.

Our world is saturated by debates that fall directly into this dialogue. Whether it be stem cell research, gay marriage, education, or abortion, differing guiding principles are in steep competition. There is always a “highest principle” at work, but unfortunately many see that principle as the unhindered human will.

In the second part, we will look at why sacred doctrine is a science.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelic Doctor, pray for us.

SPL Lists by HHAmbrose

The Elephant and the Lamb: 7 Catholic Quotes on Scripture

“Holy Scripture is a stream in which the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade.”
Pope St. Gregory

Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.
St. Jerome


If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.
St. Augustine


The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind’s eye. In it we see our inner face. From the Scriptures we can learn our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection.
Pope St. Gregory


Learn the heart of God from the word of God.
Pope St. Gregory


Holy Scripture is a stream in which the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade.
Pope St. Gregory 1


Holy Scripture by the manner of its language transcends every science, because in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery.
Pope St. Gregory


The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
G.K. Chesterton


More Quotes: SPL has many quote lists, including many over Our Lady of the Rosary in particular, Mother Mary and GK Chesterton.2

  1. Elephant River Variations: “Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.” Source. []
  2. Scripture Quotes: Source []

Think Like a Catholic: 7 Questions on the Four Laws

“Catholics should not judge nor live their Catholic lives according to modernity, but should judge and live within modernity according to Catholicism.”

Listers, if we are to be Catholic we must think like Catholics. Too often Catholics – both sides of the American political aisle – try to be Catholic according to the precepts and philosophies of modernity and its intellectual trends. We push our Catholicism into the contraints of something alien to it and then wonder why our faith seems tenuous and conflated. The Catholic tradition has long rested on Aquinas’ treatment of the divinely ordered cosmos to answer questions of providence, Scripture, nature and politics. Catholics cannot thrive within philosophies and theologies marked by isolated stomping grounds and modern blinders. Catholics believe in one divinely ordered Creation. Catholics should not judge nor live their Catholic lives according to modernity, but should judge and live within modernity according to Catholicism. To accomplish this feat, one must understand the how existence is ordered and how harmony of these laws promotes the common good.1

A law is “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II.90.4

1. What are the four laws?

The following summary maps the four laws of the divinely ordered cosmos.2

Eternal Law – The Divine Wisdom of God that moves all things to their end; it has the common good of all things as its focus; thus God, as “Being-itself” is the only One capacious enough to promulgate such a law and move all things in existence toward their proper end.

Divine Law – The historical laws of Scripture given to man through God’s self-revelation.

The Old Law – Extrinsic focus, fear and earthly rewards – foreshadows the NT
The New Law – Intrinsic focus, love and heavenly rewards – Perfects the OT

Natural Law – The Eternal Law of God imprinted on all things, from which “they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends.”

Human Law – Laws of governments that are dictates of practical reason from the general precepts of Natural Law.

Whether These Four Laws Exist

2. Is there Eternal law?

Any law can be summarized as “nothing else but a dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler who governs a perfect community.” If therefore this definition of law is applied to all existence or being, then, the Angelic Doctor explains, “granted that the world is ruled by Divine Providence” the “the whole community of the universe is governed by Divine Reason.” He continues, “wherefore the very idea of the government of things in God the Ruler of the universe, has the nature of a law.”

God’s Reason and God’s Wisdom
Eternal Law is God’s Wisdom that governs over all existence. St. Thomas speaks of both “Divine Reason” and “Divine Wisdom,” but unlike created man in whom reason can differ from wisdom due to imperfection, God the Creator’s reason is also perfect wisdom.

3. Is there in us a Natural law?

If Eternal Law governs Creation, how does the creature participate?
“Wherefore, since all things subject to Divine providence are ruled and measured by the eternal law, as was stated above; it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends.”

Further articulating the “respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends,” the Angelic Doctor states, “wherefore [the rational creature, i.e., man] has a share of the Eternal Reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law.”3

What all Catholics should know about Natural Law:
Aquinas will go on to address Natural Law in greater detail in both his question on the subject and in treating Human Law; however, the incredible importance of Natural Law should be summarized:

Natural Law is the imprint of God’s Eternal Law upon creatures, and that means that Natural Law serves as the universal and common general moral language of all rational creations – humans. Moreover, it also means – as touched on below – that all Human Law, all political laws of the State, should be specifications of Natural Law’s general precepts. Under no circumstances can the laws of the State be dictates of the arbitrary will of a ruler or the people. Laws are just or unjust according to nature not the human will.

4. Is there Human law?

Human Law is at the same time incredibly simple in its premise and incredibly arduous in its practicality. Human Law is nothing more than the general laws of nature specified via human reason into particular laws of the State.

The precepts of Natural Law are “general and indemonstrable principles,” and upon these general inclinations “human reason needs to proceeed to the more particular determination of certain matter.”

What all Catholics should know about Human Law:
Nota bene: human law is not just an extension of the ruler’s will nor is Human Law a simple gemoetric deduction from Natural Law. All Human Law – all laws of the State (polis) – must be rooted in nature and nature’s general moral precepts. A law is just according to the standard of nature not the desire of the people or the command of a ruler. The rulers of the State must work to take the general moral precepts of nature and specify them into particular laws of the State, e.g., the natural repugnance of murder and its unlawfulness is legislated into several various degrees and corresponding punishments. Human Law seeks through nature and reason to clarify and determine the gray areas of Natural Law.4

5. Is there a need for Divine law?

Divine Law is the revealed law of God to man, while Natural Law is the imprint of Eternal Law on the hearts of men. Natural Law is then demonstrable and intelligible in its principles and thus discernable by human reason. Divine Law, while accessible to human reason, is revealed to man and not necessarily demonstrable from nature.

An Example of Divine vs Natural Law:
Divine Law was necessary to reveal to man such truths that were not able to be discerned from nature, e.g., the proper worship of God, God’s specific will for Israel, the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc. However, certain precepts are shared by Divine and Natural Law, such as “do not murder.” Certainly God did not have to reveal to man that murder was wrong for man knew this from the imprinted inclinations of Natural Law, but God did clarify many natural precepts in Scripture.

What is the purpose of the Divine Law?
Therefore, Divine Law can be said to be given for many reasons, but in general it was given because Natural Law allows man to participate according to the capacity of his human nature with the Eternal Law – however, man was in need of something to lift him above his own nature so that he may fulfill his supernatural end. Moreover, Divine Law clarifies many particulars of Natural Law and reveals many truths man would have otherwise never known.

6. How many Divine laws are there?

There is one Divine Law manifested in two parts – the Old Testament and New Testament – and the latter perfects the former. The operative word is perfect – sometimes the terms “old” and “new” give the false impression restart. The New Law perfects the Old and both can be seen as a progression of the Divine Pedagogy.

Fear and Love:
St. Thomas Aquinas gives several observations of the relationship between the two parts of the Divine Law. He states, “it belongs to the law to induce men to observe its commandments. This the Old Law did by the fear of punishment: but the New Law, by love, which is poured into our hearts by the grace of Christ, bestowed in the New Law, but foreshadowed in the Old. Hence Augustine says (Contra Adimant. Manich. discip. xvii) that “there is little difference [The ‘little difference’ refers to the Latin words ‘timor’ and ‘amor’–‘fear’ and ‘love.’] between the Law and the Gospel–fear and love.”

7. What of Sin?

Aquinas is addressing a confusing juxtaposition. One one hand, a law is “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated;” and under this definition, sin cannot be considered a law because sin is not rational nor is to for the common good. However, St. Paul states, “I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind.” What then is sin?

There is in man the Natural Law that prompts him to the good and his proper acts and end; however, sin is also like a law insofar as it has a “reason of a direct inclination” to lead men away from the good. Yet, “in man, it has not the nature of law in this way, rather it is a deviation from the law of reason.” Sin appears to be a law insofar as it inclines men to a certain action, but since it is irrational and to the detriment of the good of man, it is not a law – in essence, sin is a corruption.5

  1. LIST: This list is based on Aquinas’ ST I-II.91 – Various Kinds of Law []
  2. The Four Laws: Notice that in the questions, Aquinas does not immediate go into the details of each law or rather “what is this law,” but rather “is there such a law?” He realizes that the case for the existence of such laws must be made. Another key characteristic to take note of is that the laws can and do overlap; thus, if the laws seem to be unclear at times because it seems an issue cannot be deduced to simply one sphere of law, it is because the laws handle the same subject but often in different ways. Just as a geologist and an astronomer can both speak to the earth being a sphere, but address the subject through different methods – this most often seen in how the Divine Law and the Natural Law speak to the same morals, but one is revealed and the other instinctual. []
  3. Natural Law & Scripture: While there are many examples, Aquinas uses the following as an example of an innate moral compass in man: “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us”: thus implying that the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light. It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law. []
  4. The State: technically the term implied here is polis, which means means city. When Aristotle used the term he was referring to City-States or holistic political communities. Political philosophy has appropriated the term to signify the complete and sovereign political body. For “The Philosopher” the term contained several sub-political parts – man the political animal, the relationships of the family, collections of families or villages and finally the superior political body the polis as a collection of villages. Modernity works off a more grandiose system, but the premise remains the same. []
  5. Sin & Evil: To better understand why sin is not a law, evil must be understood. Evil is not a thing but is rather the privation of good. It is a negation, a lack and a corruption. There is no pure evil, because pure evil would mean something was wholly corrupt without out any good and that would mean the thing would simply cease to exist. To wit, God created and sustains all being, therefore, even the demons have some good left in them insofar as they exist. []

I STAND WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: 10 Graphics In Defense of the Church

An unjust law is no law at all – we will not and cannot not comply.

Listers, the HHS mandate has jolted the soporific Catholic Church in America into action. We are at war. We are in a multi-front conflict that cannot be reduced to violations of religious liberty. The Church is calling the faithful to stand against the scourge of abortion, the unnatural and artificial recreation of marriage and family, and the inalienable right for Catholics to worship God in the mass and serve him in the poor according to the truth of the Gospels. As our world abandons God and natural law for the dictatorship of relativism, Holy Mother Church is calling us to defend the faith and to promote that which is natural and rational in man.

Spread the faith. Spread the truth. Let people know where you stand. Do not be afraid.

Permission and Use: Permission is given, indeed, it is encouraged that you use these images for any personal means especially on your blog, facebook or twitter. All we ask is that you kindly credit us with a link back to this page (when possible) and that you don’t modify the images. To download them, you can simply right-click on any image and choose your browsers “save as” or “download as” option. If you’re on an iOS device you can simply tap and hold on an image and a dialog will appear allowing you to save the image. Finally, if you’d like to you can download all 10 images in a .zip file.

The SPL Store is Open


1. I Stand with the Catholic Church

I Stand with the Catholic Church

2. Catholicam Sto cum Ecclesiam

Here is a Latin version of the same.

UPDATE 02/10/12: Mea culpa. Thanks to Josh McManaway in the comments and @JWY80 on Twitter for the reminder that “‘cum’ semper requirit casum ablativum.”

3. We Cannot – We Will Not – Comply

Echoing the words of our Bishops and the leaders of many Catholic institutions.

We Cannon - We Will Not - Comply

4. An Unjust Law is No Law

One of St. Augustine’s most famous quotes seems more applicable now than ever before in the history of the United States.

An Unjust Law is No Law

5. The Church Has Outlived Every Major Empire. Think Twice.

This isn’t the first time we have stood up and had to pay for it. We’re not going anywhere.

The Church has outlived every major Empire. Think Twice. HHS Mandate

6. The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail – Matthew 16:18

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail - HHS logo

7. If “What Goes On” In The Bedroom Doesn’t Affect Me, Why Make Me Pay For It?

If what

8. Pregnancy Is Not A Disease

Pregnancy Is Not A Disease

9. “Give me an army praying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” – Blessed Pope Pius IX

10. BONUS: Keep Calm and Catholic On

Keep Calm and Catholic On

Facebook Timeline Cover Images

Here are three images sized specifically for Facebook Timeline Cover Images. (You can thank Lister Tammy who made this suggestion in the comments.  Be sure to click the image and then save the full-sized version!




Listers, we’ve recreated our popular Keep Calm and Catholic On graphic. The papal tiara is an original SPL design and red will be the new theme color.  We will soon begin production of this graphic on various SPL merchandise.

In the midst of all the troubles and anxieties we as Catholics now face in this modernist world, please remember to faithfully attend mass, pray the rosary and most of all – Keep Calm and Catholic On.

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Tactics: 6 Thoughts on Whether It Is Lawful to Lay Ambushes in War

“Now we are not always bound to do this, since even in the Sacred Doctrine many things have to be concealed, especially from unbelievers, lest they deride it, according to Matthew 7:6: ‘Give not that which is holy, to dogs.’

Listers, in his third article discussing war, St. Thomas Aquinas raises a question of “just tactics” or rather whether or not ambushes and other “deceptive” maneuvers are permissible in a just war. The Angelic Doctor speaks of war under the heading of those things which are contrary to peace, and peace is listed as a species of charity, the mother of all virtues.1

SPL and WAR:
Can a priest lawfully wage war?
What exactly is a just war?

Whether it is lawful to lay ambushes in war?


The following three objections are opinions NOT held by ST. Thomas, but raised by him in order to better understand the position of others. The entire Summa Theologica is in a question and answer format – which is the most natural form of education. The titles have been added.

Roman Catholic Mass at Iwo Jima, 1945, US forces.

1. If it is deceptive, is it not unjust?

Objection 1. It would seem that it is unlawful to lay ambushes in war. For it is written (Deuteronomy 16:20): “Thou shalt follow justly after that which is just.” But ambushes, since they are a kind of deception, seem to pertain to injustice. Therefore it is unlawful to lay ambushes even in a just war.

2. If it is a form of lying, is it not unjust?

Objection 2. Further, ambushes and deception seem to be opposed to faithfulness even as lies are. But since we are bound to keep faith with all men, it is wrong to lie to anyone, as Augustine states (Contra Mend. xv). Therefore, as one is bound to keep faith with one’s enemy, as Augustine states (Ep. ad Bonif. clxxxix), it seems that it is unlawful to lay ambushes for one’s enemies.

3. If we love our enemies, how can we deceive?

Objection 3. Further, it is written (Matthew 7:12): “Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them”: and we ought to observe this in all our dealings with our neighbor. Now our enemy is our neighbor. Therefore, since no man wishes ambushes or deceptions to be prepared for himself, it seems that no one ought to carry on war by laying ambushes.

Soldiers kneel during a wartime mass.

St. Thomas’ Response

4. On the Authority of Scripture

On the contrary, Augustine says (QQ. in Hept. qu. x super Jos): “Provided the war be just, it is no concern of justice whether it be carried on openly or by ambushes”: and he proves this by the authority of the Lord, Who commanded Joshua to lay ambushes for the city of Hai (Joshua 8:2).

5. Rights and Covenants of War

I answer that, The object of laying ambushes is in order to deceive the enemy. Now a man may be deceived by another’s word or deed in two ways. First, through being told something false, or through the breaking of a promise, and this is always unlawful. No one ought to deceive the enemy in this way, for there are certain “rights of war and covenants, which ought to be observed even among enemies,” as Ambrose states (De Officiis i).

6. The Lawful Art of Concealment

Secondly, a man may be deceived by what we say or do, because we do not declare our purpose or meaning to him. Now we are not always bound to do this, since even in the Sacred Doctrine many things have to be concealed, especially from unbelievers, lest they deride it, according to Matthew 7:6: “Give not that which is holy, to dogs.” Wherefore much more ought the plan of campaign to be hidden from the enemy. For this reason among other things that a soldier has to learn is the art of concealing his purpose lest it come to the enemy’s knowledge, as stated in the Book on Strategy [Stratagematum i, 1 by Frontinus]. Such like concealment is what is meant by an ambush which may be lawfully employed in a just war.

Nor can these ambushes be properly called deceptions, nor are they contrary to justice or to a well-ordered will. For a man would have an inordinate will if he were unwilling that others should hide anything from him

This suffices for the Replies to the Objections.

  1. WAR: ST II-II.40 []

Catholics and War: 7 Thoughts from St. Thomas Aquinas

“True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” – St. Augustine

Listers, the following section is taken in its entirety from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica: II-II.40.1. The Angelic Doctor discusses War under those things contrary to Peace, which is itself listed under the “Mother of All Virtues,” Charity. For the sake of clarity – especially for those not familiar with the structure of the Summa Theologica – SPL has taken the liberty of including headings and rearranging the question – body, then the questions with their corresponding answer (St. Thomas poses questions/statements contrary to the truth and the responds). As the reader will note, St. Thomas’ theory of a “just war” – which is primarily pulled from St. Augustine – differs considerably from what modernity has touted as the “Just War Theory.”


On the contrary, Augustine says in a sermon on the son of the centurion [Ep. ad Marcel. cxxxviii]: “If the Christian Religion forbade war altogether, those who sought salutary advice in the Gospel would rather have been counselled to cast aside their arms, and to give up soldiering altogether. On the contrary, they were told: ‘Do violence to no man . . . and be content with your pay’ [Luke 3:14. If he commanded them to be content with their pay, he did not forbid soldiering.”

I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary.

1. The Authority Whose Care Is the Common Weal

First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Romans 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Psalm 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

2. A Just War

Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. Wherefore Augustine says (QQ. in Hept., qu. x, super Jos.): “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”1

3. Peace, Punishment, & the Good

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.”


4. Are Not All Wars Sinful?

Objection 1. It would seem that it is always sinful to wage war. Because punishment is not inflicted except for sin. Now those who wage war are threatened by Our Lord with punishment, according to Matthew 26:52: “All that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Therefore all wars are unlawful.

Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 70): “To take the sword is to arm oneself in order to take the life of anyone, without the command or permission of superior or lawful authority.” On the other hand, to have recourse to the sword (as a private person) by the authority of the sovereign or judge, or (as a public person) through zeal for justice, and by the authority, so to speak, of God, is not to “take the sword,” but to use it as commissioned by another, wherefore it does not deserve punishment. And yet even those who make sinful use of the sword are not always slain with the sword, yet they always perish with their own sword, because, unless they repent, they are punished eternally for their sinful use of the sword.

5. Does Not Scripture Advocate Pacifism?

Objection 2. Further, whatever is contrary to a Divine precept is a sin. But war is contrary to a Divine precept, for it is written (Matthew 5:39): “But I say to you not to resist evil”; and (Romans 12:19): “Not revenging yourselves, my dearly beloved, but give place unto wrath.” Therefore war is always sinful.

Reply to Objection 2. Such like precepts, as Augustine observes (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 19), should always be borne in readiness of mind, so that we be ready to obey them, and, if necessary, to refrain from resistance or self-defense. Nevertheless it is necessary sometimes for a man to act otherwise for the common good, or for the good of those with whom he is fighting. Hence Augustine says (Ep. ad Marcellin. cxxxviii): “Those whom we have to punish with a kindly severity, it is necessary to handle in many ways against their will. For when we are stripping a man of the lawlessness of sin, it is good for him to be vanquished, since nothing is more hopeless than the happiness of sinners, whence arises a guilty impunity, and an evil will, like an internal enemy.”

6. Since War Is Contrary to Peace, Is It Not a Sin?

Objection 3. Further, nothing, except sin, is contrary to an act of virtue. But war is contrary to peace. Therefore war is always a sin.

Reply to Objection 3. Those who wage war justly aim at peace, and so they are not opposed to peace, except to the evil peace, which Our Lord “came not to send upon earth” (Matthew 10:34). Hence Augustine says (Ep. ad Bonif. clxxxix): “We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.”

7. If Wargames Are a Sin, Is Not War?

Objection 4. Further, the exercise of a lawful thing is itself lawful, as is evident in scientific exercises. But warlike exercises which take place in tournaments are forbidden by the Church, since those who are slain in these trials are deprived of ecclesiastical burial. Therefore it seems that war is a sin in itself.

Reply to Objection 4. Manly exercises in warlike feats of arms are not all forbidden, but those which are inordinate and perilous, and end in slaying or plundering. On olden times warlike exercises presented no such danger, and hence they were called “exercises of arms” or “bloodless wars,” as Jerome states in an epistle [Reference incorrect: cf. Veget., De Re Milit. i].

  1. “Just War Theory” – nota bene, typically when moderns articulate a “just war” they explain a war that is defensive and only in response to an aggression toward the home country; this definition is too narrow when compared to the actual just war theory of Sts. Augustine and Aquinas, which includes concepts like just punishment. The third point on intention demonstrates this distinction as well: the “defensive war” and the traditional “Just War” are not synonymous []

5 Ways the Incarnation Pulled Humanity From Evil

Aquinas comments on the Incarnation and the five ways it draws humanity from evil.

Listers, during Christmastime Catholics are often struck by the humility of God to wrap himself in human nature. It is normally reserved for Lent and Easter to reflect upon the mission of Christ, and the effects of his death upon the Cross. However, the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection are three mysteries that holistically articulate the entirety of Christ’s mission. In furthering the understanding of Christology, St. Thomas Aquinas speak to the effects of the Incarnation.

An SPL Introduction
Often times, the salvific effects of the Cross and Resurrection overshadow the more nuanced effects of the Incarnation. However in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, the Angelic Doctor catalogues five reasons the Incarnation moved humanity toward the Goodness of God, and five reasons the Incarnation drew us from Evil. Each point is supported by a quote by St. Augustine, if not entirely articulated by him.1

Leonardo da Vinci sketch - The Christ Child, St. Anne, Mother Mary, and a Young John the Baptist

1. Drawn From the Bodiless Demons

First, because man is taught by it not to prefer the devil to himself, nor to honor him who is the author of sin; hence Augustine says (De Trin. xiii, 17): “Since human nature is so united to God as to become one person, let not these proud spirits dare to prefer themselves to man, because they have no bodies.”

2. Drawn From Sin to Great Dignity

Secondly, because we are thereby taught how great is man’s dignity, lest we should sully it with sin; hence Augustine says (De Vera Relig. xvi): “God has proved to us how high a place human nature holds amongst creatures, inasmuch as He appeared to men as a true man.” And Pope Leo says in a sermon on the Nativity (xxi): “Learn, O Christian, thy worth; and being made a partner of the Divine nature, refuse to return by evil deeds to your former worthlessness.”

3. Drawn From the Presumption of Man

Thirdly, because, “in order to do away with man’s presumption, the grace of God is commended in Jesus Christ, though no merits of ours went before,” as Augustine says (De Trin. xiii, 17).

4. Drawn From Pride to Humility

Fourthly, because “man’s pride, which is the greatest stumbling-block to our clinging to God, can be convinced and cured by humility so great,” as Augustine says in the same place.

5. Drawn From the Thralldom of Sin

Fifthly, in order to free man from the thralldom of sin, which, as Augustine says (De Trin. xiii, 13), “ought to be done in such a way that the devil should be overcome by the justice of the man Jesus Christ,” and this was done by Christ satisfying for us. Now a mere man could not have satisfied for the whole human race, and God was not bound to satisfy; hence it behooved Jesus Christ to be both God and man.

Hence Pope Leo says in the same sermon: “Weakness is assumed by strength, lowliness by majesty, mortality by eternity, in order that one and the same Mediator of God and men might die in one and rise in the other–for this was our fitting remedy. Unless He was God, He would not have brought a remedy; and unless He was man, He would not have set an example.”

  1. Sources: The list is found in St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica III.I.II (Third Part – First Question – Second Article) and is also articulated and commented upon by the astute Dominican, Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P. in his wonderful work The Godly Image: Christ and Salvation in Catholic Thought from Anselm to Aquinas, pp. 126-127. []

5 Ways the Incarnation Moved Us Toward the Goodness of God

St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, the Angelic Doctor catalogues five reasons the Incarnation moved humanity toward the Goodness of God.

Listers, the tender infant that comes to us through the sinless womb of the Ever-Virgin Mary is the Incarnate God. The union of the second person of the Trinity with human nature is a central mystery of the Christian faith. To properly understand the mission of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, his Death, and his Resurrection must be viewed as three parts of the whole of human salvation.

An SPL Introduction
Often times, the salvific effects of the Cross and Resurrection overshadow the more nuanced effects of the Incarnation. However in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, the Angelic Doctor catalogues five reasons the Incarnation moved humanity toward the Goodness of God, and five reasons the Incarnation drew us from Evil. Each point is supported by a quote by St. Augustine, if not entirely articulated by him.1

Child Jesus (left) with John the Baptist, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

What did the Incarnation do?
Moved Humanity Toward the Good

1. Faith: A Great Assurance

First, with regard to faith, which is made more certain by believing God Himself Who speaks; hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xi, 2): “In order that man might journey more trustfully toward the truth, the Truth itself, the Son of God, having assumed human nature, established and founded faith.”

The Incarnation of God moves the People of God past the age of prophets. No longer are God’s Children dependent on prophets to relay the Will of God, but God himself came in the flesh and spoke directly. Christ was the fullness of God’s revelation, and as such the role of the apostles and consequently the Church was to pass on and protect the self-revelation of Jesus Christ.

2. Hope: The Depth of Divine Love

Secondly, with regard to hope, which is thereby greatly strengthened; hence Augustine says (De Trin. xiii): “Nothing was so necessary for raising our hope as to show us how deeply God loved us. And what could afford us a stronger proof of this than that the Son of God should become a partner with us of human nature?”

Amongst the agony of the Cross of Christ, we are struck by the depth of God’s love. However, the Incarnation speaks the same truth, but in a more gentle manner. The humility demonstrated by the Omnipotent God to come not only in human form, but as a helpless babe in an animal trough grants humanity everlasting hope in God’s love for mankind.

3. Charity: Let Us Be Quick To “Love in Return”

Thirdly, with regard to charity, which is greatly enkindled by this; hence Augustine says (De Catech. Rudib. iv): “What greater cause is there of the Lord’s coming than to show God’s love for us?” And he afterwards adds: “If we have been slow to love, at least let us hasten to love in return.”

4. So That God May Be Seen & Followed

Fourthly, with regard to well-doing, in which He set us an example; hence Augustine says in a sermon (xxii de Temp.): “Man who might be seen was not to be followed; but God was to be followed, Who could not be seen. And therefore God was made man, that He Who might be seen by man, and Whom man might follow, might be shown to man.”

Humanity needed an exemplar who could be seen and followed. Christ the Lord fulfilled that role by simultaneously granting humanity a God who could be seen and living an exemplary life.

5. A Full Participation with the Divine

Fifthly, with regard to the full participation of the Divinity, which is the true bliss of man and end of human life; and this is bestowed upon us by Christ’s humanity; for Augustine says in a sermon (xiii de Temp.): “God was made man, that man might be made God.”

Christ Jesus came as the New Adam and recapitulated the body of humanity. With the old sinful head of Adam replaced, mankind is now able to directly participate with Divinity of God. Christ, as the New Adam, is in a real way humanity itself, and he has drawn up mankind into the Divine Life, the Trinity.

St. Peter, the first Pope articulates this truth as follows:2

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence… that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.

If a now famous phrase, St. Athanasius’ quip on theosis:

God became man so that men might become gods.

May the mystery of the Incarnation, a central pillar of the Christian faith, be a centerpiece of our thought during Christmastime and throughout the entire year.

  1. Sources: The list is found in St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica III.I.II (Third Part – First Question – Second Article) and is also articulated and commented upon by the astute Dominican, Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P. in his wonderful work The Godly Image: Christ and Salvation in Catholic Thought from Anselm to Aquinas, pp. 126-127. []
  2. II Peter 1:3-4 []

St. Augustine on Caring for the Dead: 6 Exhortations

“The duty of such prayers is taught us by the Church, which hath undertaken, as an obligation, to offer them for all the departed of the Christian and Catholic fellowship in a general commemoration without mention of names.” – St. Augustine

Holy Mother Church teaches us the following:

  1. To Pray for the Living and the Dead – One of the Spiritual Acts of Mercy
  2. To Bury the Dead – One of the Corporal Works of Mercy

Listers, these two principles of Catholicism are articulated in the following Early Church passage by St. Augustine. The following text is presented in full, with SPL title and footnotes. The end-note contains the basic rules of praying for the dead during this Octave of All Saints. The following is taken from Breviarium Romanum (1960), Nocturn II: the Lesson is taken from the Treatise on Caring for the Dead by St. Augustine, Cap. 2 et 3.


The Body as a Vessel of All Good Works

All such things as embalming the body, selecting a fitting place for burial, and bearing the corpse thereto with due dignity, are comfort for the living, rather than help for the dead.  Nevertheless, it doth not follow that the bodies of the departed are to be despised, or treated as naught, and specially in the case of just men and faithful ; for the bodies of such men were used by their spirits in this life for godly purposes, that is, as organs and vessels of all good works.


Funeral Rites: A Matter of Dutiful Piety

Hence, if a father’s garment or ring, or any like thing, is dear to his bereaved family because of their natural affection, in no wise ought the dead body of the deceased to be held in dishonour.  For man doth wear his body in more familiar and intimate wise than anything he putteth thereon. Furthermore, the body doth not belong to anything which is applied outwardly for its adornment or welfare.  Rather the body belongeth to the very nature of man.  Wherefore, as we know from the records of just men of old, funeral rites have been wont to be fulfilled as a matter of dutiful piety, and have been reverently celebrated, and decent graves provided.  Yea, such men of old, whilst still alive, often charged their children, as a matter of filial duty, with directions concerning their burial, and even concerning the future translation of their bodies.


Profit After Death

Hence, remembrance of the departed, and prayers for them, are tokens of true affection.  And since the faithful are moved thereto by filial piety, doubt not that this same remembrance and prayer is profitable unto everyone that so lived in this world, as to attain profit from such things after death.  But even if some necessity permitteth not the body to be buried, or from lack of proper facilities giveth no opportunity for burial in a sacred place, yet should not prayers for the soul of the departed be omitted.


Church Triumphant – Church Militant – Church Suffering

The Church Teaches Christians to Pray for the Dead

The duty of such prayers is taught us by the Church, which hath undertaken, as an obligation, to offer them for all the departed of the Christian and Catholic fellowship in a general commemoration without mention of names.  By this observance, such departed souls as lack the assistance of parents or sons, or any kindred or friends whatsoever, may have such assistance afforded unto them by the one loving mother which is common to us all.1  And I give it as my opinion that, if there be lacking prayers of right faith and piety to any of the dead, the mere burial of their lifeless bodies, even if it be done in a most sacred spot, doth not one whit benefit their souls.


Sacrifices for the Dead

If these things be so, then let us not think that anything reacheth unto the dead, unto whom we would extend our care, save such things as we solemnly supplicate for them by means of sacrifices, either of the altar, or of prayers, or of alms given to God in their name.  And even so, such sacrifices be not profitable unto all for whom they are offered, but to them only who so lived their lives on earth as to merit that such things should be profitable after death.2  But forasmuch as we know not who these be, it is meet to offer them for all regenerate persons, lest anyone be passed over whom these benefits may and ought to reach.


Caring for the Dead: Prayer & Action

Far better it is that these things be needlessly done on behalf of them whom they neither hinder nor help, than that they be lacking unto them whom they aid.  And it is natural that one should do these things right diligently on behalf of his own kin, in the hope that by his kinsfolk the same likewise will some day be done on his behalf.  But so far as the burying of the body is concerned, whatsoever is bestowed on that, is no aid to salvation, but a mere duty to humanity; for it cometh naturally from that affection by which it is said that no one ever hateth his own flesh.  Wherefore it is fitting that man should take whatever care he can for the flesh of his neighbour when he that once tabernacled therein is departed thence.  And if they, that believe not in the resurrection of the flesh, do these things, how much more ought we, that believe, so to do?  For are not such offices, bestowed upon a dead body, which yet shall rise again and remain unto eternity, a kind of a testimony to our faith in the resurrection?


SPL Recommendation – Octave of All Saints:
The month of November is dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory. On all the days from
November 1 through November 8 inclusive, a plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Poor Souls, is granted to those who visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed, subject to the usual conditions.


Last revised All Souls Day, November 2, 2013.

  1. Holy Mother Church: Notice that praying for a departed soul is primarily a “filial duty,” but the Church prays for the faithful departed in common – without names – so as to pray for those who do not have loved ones to pray for them. In a real sense, the Church is acting as the “one loving mother which is common to us all.” []
  2. Sacrifices for the Dead: The merit of these sacrifices are only available to those who earned them on earth, i.e., the faithful departed. The souls in purgatory are categorically different than the souls in hell. []

PRAY FOR US: 10 Other Marian Quotes

“She is more Mother than Queen.”
Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church

Listers, below is the wisdom of saints, martyrs, doctors of the Church, and Church Fathers, which exhorts you to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and to pray the Rosary. October is the month of the Rosary, and SPL will continue to honor Our Lady.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.
St. Augustine, pray for us.
St. Bonaventure, pray for us.
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, pray for us.

“Prayer is powerful beyond limits when we turn to the Immaculata who is queen even of God’s heart.”
Saint Maximilian Kolbe

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

“She is more Mother than Queen.”
Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church

“In that first ‘fusion’ with Jesus (holy communion), it was my Heavenly Mother again who accompanied me to the altar for it was she herself who placed her Jesus into my soul.”
Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church

“In trial or difficulty I have recourse to Mother Mary, whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear.”
Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church

“What a joy to remember that she is our Mother! Since she loves us and knows our weakness, what have we to fear?”
Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church

St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.

“Mary seeks for those who approach her devoutly and with reverence, for such she loves, nourishes, and adopts as her children.”
Saint Bonaventure

“Think of what the Saints have done for their neighbor because they loved God. But what Saint’s love for God can match Mary’s? She loved Him more in the first moment of her existence than all the Saints and angels ever loved Him or will love Him. Our Lady herself revealed to Sister Mary Crucified that the fire of her love was most extreme. If Heaven and earth were placed in it, they would be instantly consumed. And the ardors of the seraphim, compared with it, are like cool breezes. Just as there is not one among all the Blessed who loves God as Mary does, so there is no one, after God, who loves us as much as this most loving Mother does. Furthermore, if we heaped together all the love that mothers have for their children, all the love of husbands and wives, all the love of all the angels and Saints for their clients, it could never equal Mary’s love for even a single soul.”
Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, Bishop of Saint Agatha of the Goths and Doctor of the Church

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.

“Do not marvel at the novelty of the thing, if a Virgin gives birth to God”
Saint Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

“Even while living in the world, the heart of Mary was so filled with motherly tenderness and compassion for men that no-one ever suffered so much for their own pains, as Mary suffered for the pains of her children.”
Saint Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

“The world being unworthy to receive the Son of God directly from the hands of the Father, he gave his Son to Mary for the world to receive him from her.”
Saint Augustine – Bishop of Hippo, Father, and Doctor of the Church

She loves you.