Listers, Pope Francis’ visit to the United States is one marked with historic firsts. His Holiness Pope Francis was the first Roman Pontiff to address a full joint session of the U.S. Congress. Second, Pope Francis was the first Vicar of Christ to address the United Nations at the opening of a General Assembly. As expected, Pope Francis’ remarks were difficult to predict and the reactions to his words ranged from unrestrained praise to unadulterated criticism. The following graphics display how different sources highlighted different aspects of the pontiff’s speeches.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 (WASHINGTON, DC) 9:15 a.m. Welcome ceremony and meeting with President Obama at the White House 11:00 a.m. Papal Parade along the Ellipse and the National Mall (time approximate) 11:30 a.m. Midday Prayer with the bishops of the United States, St. Matthew’s Cathedral 4:15 p.m. Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24 (WASHINGTON, DC, NEW YORK CITY) 9:20 a.m. Address to Joint Meeting of the United States Congress 11:15 a.m. Visit to St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington 4:00 p.m. Depart from Joint Base Andrews 5:00 p.m. Arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport 6:45 p.m. Evening Prayer (Vespers) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 (NEW YORK CITY) 8:30 a.m. Visit to the United Nations and Address to the United Nations General Assembly 11:30 a.m. Multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center 4:00 p.m. Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem 5:00 p.m. Procession through Central Park (time approximate) 6:00 p.m. Mass at Madison Square Garden
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:
The book has contemporary significance: that is, it has relevance to the problems and issues of our times.
The book is inexhaustible: it can be read again and again with benefit.
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 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. [↩]
The linked edition is recommended by TAC; Recommended by UD Phd Politics. [↩]
The linked Allan Bloom edition is recommended by TAC and also the preferred edition of AMU; Recommended by UD Phd Core Curriculum. [↩]
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. [↩]
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. [↩]
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. [↩]
Recommended TAC, AMU, and UD Phd Core Curriculum. AMU heavily recommended the linked Frank Sheed translation. [↩]
The linked Cambridged edition recommended by TAC; UD Phd Politics; AMU suggestions Book XIX. [↩]
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. [↩]
Recommended by both the UD PhD Politics and TAC. [↩]
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. [↩]
Recommended by the UD Phd Core Curriculum & AMU. [↩]
Recommended by the UD Phd Core Curriculum & AMU; the linked Hackett Classics anthology edition recommended by TAC. [↩]
Linked Hackett Classics edition recommended by TAC; recommended by the UD Phd Politics. [↩]
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 Feuerbach & German Ideology. [↩]
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. [↩]
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. [↩]
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. [↩]
Listers, may Catholics overthrow or even kill a tyrant? The answer to this question is one St. Thomas Aquinas pondered over his lifetime. In contemplating the assassination of Julius Caesar, a young Aquinas seemed to state that not only can a Catholic kill a tyrant, there are times he should be praised for it. Later in life, when writing at the request of the King of Cyprus, Aquinas takes a very different view. He praises the Early Church martyrs who were slaughtered like sheep before the Roman Emperors, and notes how their witness gave birth to the Church. Assassinations, it seems, are contrary to apostolic teaching. In the twilight of his short life, the Angelic Doctor once again addressed the issue in his Summa Theologica. In this reflection, he appears to present a more mature version of his earliest answer. He jettisons the blanket prohibition against it, but he also does not directly state anyone should be praised for it. While possibly a moral act, it is an incredibly complicated one requiring great considerations of prudence and justice.
Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard
1. Do Christians have to obey secular authorities at all?
In his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, St. Thomas Aquinas takes up the question “Whether Christians are bound to obey secular powers, especially tyrants?” The young Aquinas’ commentary “was written between 1252 and 1256 when he was in his late twenties and a ‘bachelor,’ or apprentice professor, at the University of Paris.”1 Regarding whether or not Christians must obey secular authorities, St. Thomas Aquinas is very clear the answer is yes. The Angelic Doctor lists several scriptures for consideration:
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing.2
Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.3
Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.4
In general, the Angelic Doctor says the following, “Obedience, by keeping a commandment, has for its [formal] object the obligation, involved in the commandment, that it be kept. Now this obligation originates in that the commanding authority has the power to impose an obligation binding not only to external but also to internal and spiritual obedience—“for conscience sake”, as the Apostle says (Rom. xiii, 5.) For power (authority) comes from God, as the Apostle implies in the same place. Hence, Christians are bound to obey the authorities inasmuch as they are from God; and they are not bound to obey inasmuch as the authority is not from God.”5
2. May Christians rebel against Authority gained by Violence?
Having established that Holy Scripture does in fact posit that Christians should be obedient to secular authorities, Aquinas moves on to discussing what happens if these authorities are evil. As always, the good Doctor makes several key distinctions. First, what about “defects” in the way in which a secular authority came to power? First, Aquinas states that those who are unworthy of power, but become a secular power regardless should still be obeyed. Second, however, are those who acquire power through violence or any illegitimate means. Aquinas teaches, “we say that in such a case there is no lawful authority at all. He who seizes power by violence does not become a true holder of power.”6 Consequently, since there is no legitimate authority, “anybody may repel this domination.”7 Aquinas allows the caveat here that even those secular powers gained by illegitimate means may become legitimate if there is “consent of the subjects or by a recognition being extended to him by a higher authority.”8 In this case, the illegitimate ruler would become a legitimate true ruler and would merit obedience.
3. May Christians disobey a Tyrant’s abuse of authority?
What if a secular authority gains his office by legitimate means but then abuses his power? Aquinas differentiates between two kinds of abuse. First, Aquinas states what has echoed in Christendom since the time of St. Augustine: an unjust law is no law. The Angelic Doctor teaches:
First, a commandment emanating from the authority might be contrary to the very end in view of which authority is instituted, i.e., to be an educator to, and a preserver of, virtue. Should therefore the authority command an act of sin contrary to virtue, we not only are not obliged to obey but we are also obliged not to obey, according to the example of the holy martyrs who preferred death to obeying those ungodly tyrants.9
The second abuse is where a secular authority issues a demand outside the scope of his power. Under this circumstances, the Christian would not be obliged to obey the command.10 Note the distinction between these two abuses. If the tyrant commands the Christian to sin, he must not obey the tyrant, while in the second case of abuse, the Christian is just not obliged to obey – but presumably may obey if prudent to do so.
4. Should those who Kill a Tyrant be Praised?
The scholastic method is characterized by a dialectic approach. As seen in the Sentences and in the Summa Theologica, the author will first list several “objections” or rather thoughts that are either wrong or need to be clarified. Second, there will be the “sed contra” or the body of the author’s answer on the question presented. Third, the author will then write out the necessary “replies” to the listed objections.
In his question from the Sentences, St. Thomas Aquinas lists the following objection:
If it is a legitimate and even a praiseworthy deed to kill a person, then no obligation of obedience exists toward that person. Now in the Book on Duties [De Officiis I, 8, 26] Cicero justifies Julius Caesar’s assassins. Although Caesar was a close friend of his, yet by usurping the empire he proved himself to be a tyrant. Therefore toward such powers there is no obligation of obedience.
In addressing this objection, St. Thomas Aquinas gives what is probably the most notable line of his entire answer. He replies as follows:
To the fifth argument the answer is that Cicero speaks of domination obtained by violence and ruse, the subjects being unwilling or even forced to accept it and there being no recourse open to a superior who might pronounce judgment upon the usurper. In this case he that kills the tyrant for the liberation of the country, is praised and rewarded.
The last line of the objection is noteworthy and should be compared to his later thoughts in On Kingship and the Summa Theologica. First, its the only part of the question in which he explicitly speaks of assassinating the tyrant. Second, the scholar Paul E. Sigmund observes Aquinas “seems to endorse killing a tyrant who has usurped his office (as distinct from one who has abused his power).” St. Thomas Aquinas On Politics and Ethics, Translated & Edited by Paul E. Sigmund, 24.))
5. Is Killing a Tyrant Against Apostolic Teaching?
In 1265, the King of Cyprus asked Thomas Aquinas to write a treatise on kingship. The work, however, was never completed – presumably due to the death of the king in 1267.11 Writing approximately a decade after his Commentary, Aquinas’ view on tyrants undergoes a shift. In Chapter Six, the Angelic Doctor takes up the question of how to limit the possibility of tyranny. According to Aquinas, a monarchy represents a better regime than a aristocracy or a polity; however, monarchies are susceptible to becoming the worst form of a regime – a tyranny. After discussing certain safeguards to place upon the power of the monarch, Aquinas addresses the issue of what to do if you already have a tyrant. The Angelic Doctor states:
If the tyranny is so extreme that it is unbearable, some have argued that it is a virtuous act for brave men to run the risk of death in order to kill a tyrant and liberate the community. We have an example of this in the Old Testament where a certain Ehud killed Eglon, the king of Moab, with the dagger on his thigh because he was oppressing the people of God – and was made a judge of the people.12
But this is not in accordance with Apostolic teaching. Peter teaches us to be subejct not only to good and temperate rulers but also to the ill-tempered. “If anyone bears undeserved suffering out of reverence for God, this is (the work of) grace.”13
In On Kingship, the Common Doctor appears to clearly state acting against a tyrant is contrary to apostolic teaching. He gives as his example the Early Church suffering under the Roman Emperors. Specifically, he notes how their peaceful witness of Christ in the face of a tyrannical Roman Emperor helped convert the world to Christ.14 Regarding Ehud, Aquinas posits that Ehud must have understood himself as acting against an “enemy king” rather than a “ruler who was a tyrant.”15 Aquinas contrasts the story of Ehud with the story of the assignation of Joas, the King of Judah. Though Joas was arguably a tyrant, those who killed the rightful king were put to death.16
6. Under whose Judgment is a King a Tyrant?
Another issue Aquinas has with an individual assassinating a tyrant is private judgement. Aquinas states, “it would be very dangerous for the community and for its rulers if any individual, using his private judgment could attempt to kill those in government, even when they are tyrants.”17 In other words, who determines the king is a tyrant and that tyrant deserves death? Aquinas is particularly concerned with evil men. He warns, “evil men find the rule of kings no less oppressive than that of tyrants since [King] Solomon says, ‘A wise king scatters the impious.'”18 If a king may be determined to be a tyrant worthy of assassination under private judgement, the community risks evil men killing a good king. Aquinas observes, “the more likely consequence of such presumption would therefore be to threaten the community with the loss of its king, rather than to benefit it by getting rid of a tyrant.”19 Aquinas comments in On Kingship stand in contrast to his words in the Sentences that appear to even allow the praise of one who kills a tyrant.
7. Do Catholics living under a Tyrant have any Recourse?
Is there an option between martyrdom and assassination? Aquinas give three possible solutions. First, though kings may not be determined to be tyrants under private judgment, they may be subject to public judgment. The Angelic Doctor notes, “if a given community has the right to appoint a ruler it is not unjust for the community to depose the king or restrict his power if he abuses it by becoming a tyrant.”20 Second, the people may appeal to a higher political authority – “if on the other hand, it is the right of a higher authority to appoint a king over certain community, then the remedy for the wickedness of the tyrant is to be sought from that authority.”21 Aquinas gives the example of how the Roman Emperor would appoint or at least allow a Jewish king, and if the Jewish king became a tyrant the Jews could appeal to Rome for aid. Third, “if no human aid is possible against the tyrant, recourse is to be made to God, the king of all, who is the help of those in tribulation.”22 In general, Aquinas holds that the people should repent and abstain from sin and hope in God.23
8. What is the Sin of Sedition?
The Angelic Doctor composed the Summa between 1265 and 1274. In this unfinished work, the Angelic Doctor once again addresses this issue of tyranny by speaking of sedition, a vice contrary to peace.24 First, Aquinas observes that sedition is a special type of sin. Sedition is analogous to war and strife insofar as it deals with aggression.25 Sedition is distinct from war and strife insofar as war most properly deals with an external foe, while sedition deals internal foes. Aquinas states, sedition is “between mutually dissentient parts of one people, as when one part of the state rises in tumult against another part.”26 Second, Aquinas asks “whether sedition is always a mortal sin?” Relying on St. Paul’s epistle to Corinth, Aquinas holds that sedition is a moral sin.27 He teaches:
Wherefore it is evident that the unity to which sedition is opposed is the unity of law and common good: whence it follows manifestly that sedition is opposed to justice and the common good. Therefore by reason of its genus it is a mortal sin, and its gravity will be all the greater according as the common good which it assails surpasses the private good which is assailed by strife.28
According to Aquinas, the sin of sedition is first and foremost in “its authors,” and secondarily, “it is in those who are led by them to disturb the common good.”29
9. Should those who Kill a Tyrant be Praised (Revisited)?
Pursuant to the dialectic method of the scholastics, Aquinas puts forward an objection to the idea that sedition is always a mortal sin. What is most interesting about this objection is that is sounds quite familiar – it sounds like his own comments in his Sentences. He presents the objection:
Further, it is praiseworthy to deliver a multitude from a tyrannical rule. Yet this cannot easily be done without some dissension in the multitude, if one part of the multitude seeks to retain the tyrant, while the rest strive to dethrone him. Therefore there can be sedition without mortal sin.
The objection’s use of the term praiseworthy is notable, since it calls to mind Aquinas’ comment on Cicero’s justification of Julius Caesar’s assassins: “In this case he that kills the tyrant for the liberation of the country, is praised and rewarded.” In response to this objection – an objection that is limned in his own previous thinking – Aquinas gives the following answer:
A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, as the Philosopher states (Polit. iii, 5; Ethic. viii, 10). Consequently there is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind, unless indeed the tyrant’s rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant’s government. Indeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he encourages discord and sedition among his subjects, that he may lord over them more securely; for this is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the injury of the multitude.30
It is interesting to read this passage in light of Aquinas’ previous answers. First, note that the blanket statement of On Kingship that rebellion against a tyrant is contrary to apostolic teaching is not present here. The answer in the Summa is more akin to the answer a young Aquinas gave in his Sentences. It might also be noted that the work in which Aquinas does not give an avenue for rebelling against a tyrannical king was also the only work written for a king. Second, similarly to certain distinction he made in his Sentences, Aquinas stresses the virtue of prudence. The relationship between prudence and justice is that of means to an end. Justice is the what, and prudence is the how. Note in his answer in the Summa he teaches that though a virtuous man may be just in rebelling against a tyrant, it may not be prudent to do so. For example, especially in the Middle East or Africa, how many times has a tyrant been deposed only to be replaced by belligerent warlords? – a tentative peace with marginal respect for human dignity replaced by full blown war and chaos? Third, it is interesting that in his Summa answer he shifts the sin of sedition from the “rebels” to the tyrant. In other words, it is the tyrant who bears the responsibility for how is actions sow strife and war among his people. Fourth, while the Summa answer is more analogous to Aquinas answer is the Sentences, it does appear more muted. In the Summa, he does not mention whether or not men who assassinate a tyrant should be praised. He leaves that qualifier in the objection but does not necessarily contradict it in his reply.31
Sentences: See Aquinas Commentary for historical background. In part, “The Sentences of Peter Lombard—composed in the mid-twelfth century—was largely a collection of patristic sayings covering the whole body of Christian doctrine. The Sentences was the standard theological textbook until the sixteenth century and writing a commentary on it was a rite of passage of sorts, normally completed during a professor’s first few years of teaching, during which time he lectured on the text. Aquinas’ first major theological work was such a commentary. Aquinas’ Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard (Scriptum super libros Sententiarum), was written between 1252 and 1256 when he was in his late twenties and a “bachelor,” or apprentice professor, at the University of Paris. [↩]
Sentences: All quotes from the Sentences are taken from the translation posted by the Dominican House of Studies. SPL thanks them for their effort to bring the Common Doctor’s texts to the internet. [↩]
Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, II, D.44 q. 2. [↩]
On Kingship: It probably cannot be emphasized enough that out of the three works, the one work that does not allow for virtuous persons to rightfully rebel against a tyrant king was the work written for a king; second, Aquinas’ solutions appear to be a bit impractical. True, if the public elected the ruler the public has the authority to depose a ruler, but the ruler is now a tyrant – he is not going to leave because the populace tells him to do so. [↩]
Summa Answer: There is also a consideration of how to handle the critique he set forth in On Kingship regarding private judgment not having authority to judge the king a tyrant. The Summa answer does not necessarily directly address the issue; What Does the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach? – obviously, the Catechism is not going to take up the question of whether the assassin of a tyrant should be praised, but the general framework of understanding the Church’s political philosophy is present. Most pertinent to this discussion, it clearly shows that (1) man is a political animal by nature (2) all authority is given by God (3) Christians have a duty to obey secular authority, however (4) an unjust law is no law. The Catechism does not necessarily go into detail about what a Christian should actually do when faced with an unjust law – not obey it, yes, but nothing necessarily in the proactive sense. §§ 1897-1927. [↩]
Not all of us are able to be present at this year’s March for Life, so we have collected some of the best social media posts to share with you here. We’ll continue to update this list as the march progresses, and official attendance numbers are released. If you are present at the march, mention us on Twitter (@StPetersList) and we’ll try to include you here too.
Listers, since not all of us are able to be present at this year’s March for Life, we have collected some of the best social media posts to share with you here. We’ll continue to update this list as the march progresses, and official attendance numbers are released.
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Listers, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta has a long and rich history. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta or “SMOM” for short, traces its origins to a crusade-era hospital in the Holy Lands charged with caring for not only Catholics but for Jews and Muslims as well. The Order was further charged with the military defense of those hospitals – especially for the poor and suffering inside – and for Catholic pilgrims. While other military orders faded as their military purpose was no longer needed, the Order of Malta marched on by carrying out their hospitaller mission – to build hospitals (and defenses) wherever they go. Under this auspice, the Order not only survives but thrives as an Order of the Church showing Christ’s merciful love to the poor and suffering.
The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilization. Present in Palestine in around 1050, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. Its 13,500 members include Professed Friars and others who have made the promise of obedience. The other Knights and Dames are lay members, devoted to the exercise of Christian virtue and charity. What distinguishes the Knights of Malta is their commitment to reaching their spiritual perfection within the Church and to expending their energies serving the poor and the sick.
The Order of Malta remains true to its inspiring principles, summarised in the motto “Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum”, nurturing, witnessing and protecting the faith and serving the poor and the sick representing the Lord, which become reality through the voluntary work carried out by Dames and Knights in humanitarian assistance and medical and social activities. Today the Order carries out these activities in over 120 countries.
The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law, with its own constitution, passports, stamps, and public institutions. The 79th Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, was elected Head of the Order for life on March 11th 2008. The Order has diplomatic relations with 104 countries – many of which non-Catholic – and missions to major European countries, as well as to European and international organisations. The Order of Malta is neutral, impartial and non-political, which is why it can successfully act as a mediator between States.
The Order has recently returned to Malta, after signing an agreement with the Maltese Government which granted the Order the exclusive use of Fort St. Angelo for a term of 99 years. Located in the town of Birgu, the Fort belonged to the Knights from 1530 until the island was occupied by Napoleon in 1798. Today, after restoration, the Fort hosts historical and cultural activities related to the Order of Malta.1
2. Being a Hospitaller in the Third Millennium
The Order of Malta has been a religious Order since 1113, the year it was recognised by Pope Paschal II. As a religious Order, it is linked to the Holy See, but at the same time it is independent as a sovereign subject of international law. In this respect the religious character of the Order coexists with its full sovereignty. The Grand Master is at the same time head of a sovereign State and head of a religious Order. In this second capacity the Holy Roman Church gives him the rank of Cardinal.
The Order of Malta is a lay religious Order according to Canon Law, where some of its members are religious – they have professed the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – and others have taken a special vow of obedience, while the great majority of the knights and dames are lay members. The Grand Master of the Order is elected from among the Professed Knights of Perpetual Vows.
The eight-pointed Cross which symbolises the Order represents the eight Beatitudes and is thus a visual memento of its spirituality.
According to the Constitution, members of the Order of Malta are required to maintain exemplary Christian behaviour in their private and public life, contributing to the maintenance of the Order’s traditions.
The Pope appoints a Cardinal as his representative to the Order, the Cardinalis Patronus, whose duty it is to promote the spiritual interests of the Order and of its members and to maintain relations with the Holy See.
The Pope also appoints the Prelate of the Order from the three candidates proposed by the Grand Master. The Prelate is the ecclesiastic superior of the Order’s clergy.
The Order remains true to its inspiring principles: defence of the Faith and service to the suffering. Its members share the same vocation and strive together for solidarity, justice and peace, based on the teaching of the Gospels and in the closest communion with the Holy See. They are involved in active and dynamic charity supported by prayer. No Knight or Dame is such by privilege of birth or merits acquired, but for having answered to the call to be where there is a material or moral need, where there is suffering.
Wherever they settled, the Knights Hospitallers always established first a Hospital and Hospice and then, if they needed to, built defence fortifications. What does being a Hospitaller mean in the Third Millennium? It means dedicating oneself to easing suffering and to bringing the balm of Christian charity to the sick, anywhere in the world, not only in hospitals but also in private homes and nursing homes in the shantytowns of destitute populations. The Order does not only dedicate itself to the sick, but also to the socially isolated, the victims of persecution and the refugees of any race and religious faith.2
3. The Founding of the Order – 1048 AD
The birth of the Order of St. John dates back to around 1048. Merchants from the ancient Marine Republic of Amalfi obtained from the Caliph of Egypt the authorisation to build a church, convent and hospital in Jerusalem, to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. The Order of St. John of Jerusalem – the monastic community which ran the hospital – became independent under the guidance of its founder, Blessed Gérard. Pope Paschal II approved the foundation of the Hospital with the Bull of 15th February 1113, and placed it under the aegis of the Church, granting it the right to freely elect its superiors without interference from other lay or religious authorities. By virtue of the Papal Bull, the Hospital became a lay-religious order. All the knights were religious, bound by the three monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The constitution of the Kingdom of Jerusalem obliged the Order to take on the military defence of the sick and the pilgrims, as well as guarding its medical centres and main roads. The Order thus added the task of defending the faith to that of its hospitaller mission. As time went on, the Order adopted the white eight-pointed cross that is still its symbol today.3
4. Loss of the Holy Land – 1291 AD
After the fall of Saint John of Acre and the loss of the Holy Land in 1291, the Hospitaller Order of St John transferred its seat and hospital to Limassol on the island of Cyprus, where it had been present since 1210 thanks to the concession of important properties, privileges and commercial rights. It continued to build new hospitals faithful to its hospitaller mission, and benefitted from the strategic position of the Island to constitute a naval fleet to protect pilgrims on the sea route to the Holy Land. The number of members coming from all over Europe continued to grow and contributed to the strengthening of the Order’s structure, acquiring new possessions on the Mediterranean shore. Amongst these were the important port of Famagusta, the city of Nicosia and numerous Commanderies.
Due to the consequences of increasing instability in Cyprus, which resulted in restricting their expansion on the island, the Hospitallers sought to consider a more suitable base for the seat of the Order of St John on the Island of Rhodes. Nevertheless, Magistral Lieutenants remained present in Cyprus to govern the Priories and Commanderies (said to have been over sixty by 1374) for another century until the middle of the fifteen century, when the Knights were recalled to the Conventual Seat in Rhodes.
5. The Naval Defense at Rhodes – 1307 AD
Under the leadership of Grand Master Fra’ Foulques de Villaret, in 1307, the Knights of the Order of St. John landed with their fleet in Rhodes, completing the acquisition of the island by 1310 when it transferred its seat there. Besides offering natural ports for its fleets, the island was a strategic location that linked the eastern and western worlds. From then, the defence of the Christian world required the organisation of a naval force. Thus the Order built a powerful fleet and sailed the Eastern Mediterranean, fighting many famous battles.
The Order’s independence from other nations granted by Pontifical deed, and its universally recognised right to maintain and deploy armed forces and to appoint ambassadors, has constituted the grounds for its international sovereignty. In the early 14th century the institutions of the Order and the knights who came to Rhodes from every corner of Europe were grouped according to the languages they spoke. There were initially seven groups of Langues (Tongues): Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon (Navarre), England (with Scotland and Ireland) and Germany, and later on an eighth: Castille and Portugal. Each Langue included Priories or Grand Priories, Bailiwicks and Commanderies.
The Order was governed by its Grand Master (Prince of Rhodes) together with the Council, it minted its own money and maintained diplomatic relations with other states. The senior positions of the Order were given to representatives of different Langues. The seat of the Order, the Convent, was composed of religious members of various nationalities. After six months of siege and fierce combat against the fleet and army of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the knights were forced to surrender in 1523 and left Rhodes with military honours.
6. The Island of Malta – 1530 AD
The Order remained without a territory of its own until 1530, when Grand Master Fra’ Philippe de Villiers de l’Isle Adam took possession of the island of Malta, granted to the Order by Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII. It was decided that the Order should remain neutral in any war between Christian nations.
In 1565 the knights, led by Grand Master Fra’ Jean de la Vallette defended the island for more than three months during the Great Siege of the Ottomans.
Following this victory the city and port of La Valletta was built and named after the Grand Master, its founder. The knights transformed Malta, undertaking urban construction projects: palaces and churches were built, as well as formidable new defence bastions and gardens. Architecture flourished as well as artistic patronage. The island was given a large new hospital, considered to be one of the best organised and most effective in the world. A school of anatomy was also founded and the faculty of medicine followed. In particular, the Order contributed to the development of ophthalmology and pharmacology.
As well as these activities, for centuries the Order of Malta’s fleet took part in the most important manoeuvres in the Mediterranean against the Ottoman fleet and against North African pirates. In 1571 the fleet of the Order of Malta took part in the Battle of Lepanto, contributing to the victory of the Christian fleet against the Ottoman Empire’s expansion into Europe.
7. From Malta to Rome – 1798 AD
Two hundred years later, during his Egyptian campaign in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte occupied Malta for its strategic value. Because of the Order’s code prohibiting them from raising weapons against other Christians, the knights were forced to leave their island. The Treaty of Amiens, signed in 1802, which established the sovereign rights of the Order over the island of Malta, was never applied. After having temporarily resided in Messina, Catania and Ferrara, in 1834 the Order settled definitively in Rome, where it owns, with extraterritorial status, the Magistral Palace and the Magistral Villa on the Aventine Hill.
8. The 20th and 21st Centuries
In the second part of the 19th century, the original hospitaller mission became once again the main focus of the Order, growing ever stronger during the last century, most especially because of the contribution of the activities carried out by its Grand Priories and National Associations in so many countries around the world. Large-scale hospitaller and charitable activities were carried out during World War I, and World War II under Grand Master Fra’ Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere (1931-1951).
Under the Grand Masters Fra’ Angelo de Mojana di Cologna (1962-1988) and Fra’ Andrew Bertie (1988-2008), the projects expanded until they reached the furthermost regions of the world.
Modern Mission & Membership
9. Modern Mission to Help the Sick & Needy
Following its historic mission to help the sick, the needy and the most disadvantaged in society, the Order of Malta continues its work today, operating in more than 120 countries. Its programmes include medical and social assistance, disaster relief in the case of armed conflicts and natural catastrophes, emergency services and first aid corps, help for the elderly, the handicapped and children in need and the provision of first aid training, and support for refugees and internally displaced persons regardless of race, origin or religion. The Order of Malta has been operating with this impartial perspective for over 900 years, caring for people of all beliefs – muslim, orthodox, catholic, protestant, jewish.
The Order relies on the involvement of its 13,500 members, as well as approximately 80,000 trained volunteers and 25,000 employees, the majority of whom are medical personnel. The Order’s organisations worldwide (Grand Priories, National Associations, relief organisations and foundations) are responsible for carrying out its activities, both in its the permanent institutions – such as hospitals, outpatient medical centres and old peoples’ homes – and with its socio-medical and humanitarian programmes.4
10. The Cardinal
The Supreme Pontiff appoints a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church as His representative to the Order of Malta, the “Cardinalis Patronus” (Cardinal Patronus), vested with special authority. The Cardinal Patronus is in charge of promoting the spiritual interests of the Order and of its members, as well as the relationships between the Holy See and the Order of Malta.5
11. Modern Membership
According to the Constitution, the members of the Order of Malta are divided into three Classes. The members are to conduct their lives in an exemplary manner in conformity with the teachings and precepts of the Catholic Church and to devote themselves to the humanitarian assistance activities of the Order.
Members of the First Class are Knights of Justice, or Professed Knights, and the Professed Conventual Chaplains, who have made vows of “poverty, chastity and obedience aspiring to perfection according to the Gospel”. They are religious for all purposes of Canon Law but are not obliged to live in community.
The members of the Second Class, by virtue of the Promise of Obedience, are committed to living according to Christian principles and the inspiring principles of the Order. They are subdivided into three categories:
Knights and Dames of Honour and Devotion in Obedience
Knights and Dames of Grace and Devotion in Obedience
Knights and Dames of Magistral Grace in Obedience
The Third Class consists of lay members who do not profess religious vows or the Promise, but who live according to the principles of the Church and the Order. They are divided into six categories:
Knights and Dames of Honour and Devotion
Conventual Chaplains ad honorem
Knights and Dames of Grace and Devotion
Knights and Dames of Magistral Grace
Donats (male and female) of Devotion
In researching the Order of Malta, SPL stumbled across the Flickr page of Giorgio Minguzzi. Mr. Minguzzi’s page displays many impressive photographs with the Order as their subject. The following are a few that caught our attention and that we found worth sharing. Please support Mr. Minguzzi by visiting his Flickr page. Thank you.
Cardinal Patronus. This list was researched and compiled amongst rumors, and then published the day after His Eminence Cardinal Burke was officially removed from the Apostolic Signatura and appointed the Cardinal Patronus of the SMOM. [↩]
“I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I emphasize the word: ‘stop’. I’m not saying to drop bombs, to make war, but to stop the aggressor.” – H.H. Pope Francis
1. Christians are Peace-Loving Citizens
“Excellency, we Christians are peace-loving citizens caught up in the middle of a clash between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as attacks from Military groups. Our community has suffered a disproportionate share of hardship caused by sectarian conflicts, terrorist attacks, migration and now even ethnic cleansing: the militants want to wipe out the Christian community… We urge the United Nations to develop a plan or strategy to protect and preserve our heritage, looted and burned by the militants. They continue to burn churches and ancient monasteries. The old churches and monasteries will be difficult to rebuild.”
– Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church Louis Raphael Sako, Letter to Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, Vatican Radio. 7-24-14.
2. International Action Must Stop the Violence
“In the same spirit, I write to you, Mr Secretary-General, and place before you the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq. In renewing my urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, I encourage all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter.”
The pope’s ambassador to Baghdad, told Vatican radio that the American strikes are “something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State forces] could not be stopped… you can see these kids sleeping on the streets… [there is so much] suffering.”
“It is a humanitarian disaster. I have witnessed a hard time and a bitter history of my country and especially my beloved Church. The monster of our time (ISIS) maims all without mercy. When I see Christians persecuted in my country, humiliated and driven from their homes, it really hurt my heart. In addition, before the genocide of Christians in Iraq, there is a total silence from the international community. The fate of Christians rests between humiliation and departure, what misery!”
6. Vatican: Islamic Leaders Must Denounce the Jihadists
“The whole world has witnessed with incredulity what is now called the “Restoration of the Caliphate,” which had been abolished on October 29,1923 by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Opposition to this “restoration” by the majority of religious institutions and Muslim politicians has not prevented the “Islamic State” jihadists from committing and continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts.
This Pontifical Council, together with all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, followers of all religions, and all men and women of good will, can only unambiguously denounce and condemn these practices which bring shame on humanity:
the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation;
the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places;
the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile;
the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick;
the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya);
the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;
the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places;
the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;
the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other religious communities;
the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage;
indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee.
No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity. This constitutes an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often reminded us… All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility can the interreligious dialogue that we have patiently pursued over recent years have?”
– The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Declaration, working English translation of original French. 8-12-14.
7. Pope Francis on Just War
During the press conference of His Holiness Pope Francis’ in-flight return from Korea to Rome, His Holiness was asked “As you know, United States military forces have just begun to bomb terrorists in Iraq in order to prevent a genocide, to protect the future of minorities — I’m also thinking of the Catholics in your care. Do you approve of this American bombing?”1
His Holiness Pope Francis answered:
“Thank you for your very clear question. In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I emphasize the word: “stop”. I’m not saying to drop bombs, to make war, but to stop the aggressor. The means used to stop him would have to be evaluated. Stopping an unjust aggressor is licit. But we also need to remember! How many times, with this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powers have taken over peoples and carried on an actual war of conquest! One nation alone cannot determine how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there was the idea of the United Nations: that is where discussion is to take place, to say: Is this an unjust aggressor? It would seem so. How do we stop him?” This alone, nothing else.”
“Second, minorities. Thanks for using that word. Because people say to me: “the Christians, the poor Christians…”. And it is true, they are suffering, and martyrs, yes, there are many martyrs. But there are also men and women, religious minorities, not all Christians, and all are equal before God. To stop an unjust aggressor is a right of humanity, but it is also a right that the aggressor be stopped in order not to do evil.”
“The international community, principally the United States and European Union, due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, cannot be indifferent… What has happened is terrible and horrific, therefore, we need an urgent and effective international support from all the people of good will to save the Christians and Yezidis, genuine components of the Iraqi society, from extinction, knowing that silence and passivity will encourage ISIS fundamentalists to commit more tragedies! The question is who will be the next.”
“The Church must help those most in need, because their rights are being trampled upon… The Church is for the poor and the voiceless. We must be present and never tire of saying these things in homilies and speeches; and to influence, if possible, the political situation.” He recalled the words of Pope Francis when he returned from Korea, and said “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.” Pope Francis also emphasized the means to do this “must be evaluated.”
“The situation of your sheep is miserable. They die and they are hungry. Your little ones are scared and cannot do it anymore. We, priests, religious, are few and fear not being able to meet the physical and mental needs of your and our children… Your Holiness, I’m afraid of losing your children, especially infants who every day struggle and weaken more. I’m afraid that death will snatch some away. Send us your blessing so that we may have the strength to go on and maybe we can still resist.”
“Even when killing an innocent, they scream, ‘Allahu Akbar.’ These Islamists are going back to the seventh century, especially in a radical way and with war… The majority of Muslims are shocked by the actions of these terrorists, but many see them as authentic Muslims, and so few speak clearly against them…The astonishing thing, as you said at the very beginning, is that they are fighting the immorality of the West and Western hedonism. But they are doing many more immoral things in the name of Islam.”
“What these peaceful Christians and loyal citizens experienced is a real genocide, a sad ending, and a proof of the privation of the religious, human, moral, and national values.Therefore, it is a shameful stain in history. Everybody should know is a threat for all!”
13. If Muslims won’t denounce Islamic brutality, move back to Islamdom
“Rather we are asking the Muslims who live among us to show that they are honourable men, and publicly condemn these persecutions and acts of cruelty. Otherwise they ought to have the courage to leave our country, because nobody wants to have enemies in their own home.”
“As part of the humanitarian community, we are confronted with the greatest crisis the world has faced since the Second World War. And in a terrible echo of that war, in Mosul in Iraq, the Arabic letter for “n,” the first letter in the word “Nazarene”, was painted on doors to identify the homes of Christians who were then beaten or executed… In a message to Arabic speaking pilgrims at the General Audience last Wednesday, Pope Francis said, “The Church faces hatred with love, defeats violence with forgiveness; responds to weapons with prayer.” For the Caritas confederation our first task is a humanitarian one. The challenge is staggering.”
“They preferred Christ to their homes or properties… Iraq is… the country of wars,” Bishop Warduni sighs. “We were living with Muslims and others but we were not prepared – never, never – for this situation. And Caritas must do something for them. Because our Lord said: whatever you are doing for any small one of my brothers, you are doing for Me. And He also told us to love one another…how did He love us? He loved us on the Cross. So, He asks from every Christian to do like Him: to love the others as ourselves. To sacrifice for them also, even in our life.”
Employees of a Catholic health care institution must respect and uphold the religious mission of the institution and adhere to these Directives. They should maintain professional standards and promote the institution’s commitment to human dignity and the common good.
Listers, the following are official guidelines given to Catholic healthcare systems by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (“USCCB”). These are the first nine directives out of a total of seventy-two guiding everything from employment opportunities to contraception. The first nine coupled with their introduction form broad considerations of how a Catholic hospital should function in modern society. Almost every subject articulated below is further unpacked in later directives, but these promulgations offer a quick map to the social responsibilities of Catholic healthcare institutions.1
Everything below is verbatim as issued by the USCCB save the individual titles of each directive, which have been added by SPL.
The Social Responsibility of Catholic Health Care Services
Their embrace of Christ’s healing mission has led institutionally based Catholic health care services in the United States to become an integral part of the nation’s health care system. Today, this complex health care system confronts a range of economic, technological, social, and moral challenges. The response of Catholic health care institutions and services to these challenges is guided by normative principles that inform the Church’s healing ministry.
First, Catholic health care ministry is rooted in a commitment to promote and defend human dignity; this is the foundation of its concern to respect the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception until death. The first right of the human person, the right to life, entails a right to the means for the proper development of life, such as adequate health care.7
Second, the biblical mandate to care for the poor requires us to express this in concrete action at all levels of Catholic health care. This mandate prompts us to work to ensure that our country’s health care delivery system provides adequate health care for the poor. In Catholic institutions, particular attention should be given to the health care needs of the poor, the uninsured, and the underinsured.8
Third, Catholic health care ministry seeks to contribute to the common good. The common good is realized when economic, political, and social conditions ensure protection for the fundamental rights of all individuals and enable all to fulfill their common purpose and reach their common goals.9
Fourth, Catholic health care ministry exercises responsible stewardship of available health care resources. A just health care system will be concerned both with promoting equity of care—to assure that the right of each person to basic health care is respected—and with promoting the good health of all in the community. The responsible stewardship of health care resources can be accomplished best in dialogue with people from all levels of society, in
accordance with the principle of subsidiarity and with respect for the moral principles that guide institutions and persons.
Fifth, within a pluralistic society, Catholic health care services will encounter requests for medical procedures contrary to the moral teachings of the Church. Catholic health care does not offend the rights of individual conscience by refusing to provide or permit medical procedures that are judged morally wrong by the teaching authority of the Church.
Guided by Christ & Tradition
1. A Catholic institutional health care service is a community that provides health care to those in need of it. This service must be animated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and guided by the moral tradition of the Church.
Spirit of Mutual Respect
2. Catholic health care should be marked by a spirit of mutual respect among caregivers that disposes them to deal with those it serves and their families with the compassion of Christ, sensitive to their vulnerability at a time of special need.
All are Treated as Unique Persons with Incompatible Worth
3. In accord with its mission, Catholic health care should distinguish itself by service to and advocacy for those people whose social condition puts them at the margins of our society and makes them particularly vulnerable to discrimination: the poor; the uninsured and the underinsured; children and the unborn; single parents; the elderly; those with incurable diseases and chemical dependencies; racial minorities; immigrants and refugees. In particular, the person with mental or physical disabilities, regardless of the cause or severity, must be treated as a unique person of incomparable worth, with the same right to life and to adequate health care as all other persons.
Moral Medical Research
4. A Catholic health care institution, especially a teaching hospital, will promote medical research consistent with its mission of providing health care and with concern for the responsible stewardship of health care resources. Such medical research must adhere to Catholic moral principles.
Directives Must be Made Policy
5. Catholic health care services must adopt these Directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition for medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives for administration, medical and nursing staff, and other personnel.
6. A Catholic health care organization should be a responsible steward of the health care resources available to it. Collaboration with other health care providers, in ways that do not compromise Catholic social and moral teaching, can be an effective means of such stewardship.2
Equal Employment Opportunities
7. A Catholic health care institution must treat its employees respectfully and justly. This responsibility includes: equal employment opportunities for anyone qualified for the task, irrespective of a person’s race, sex, age, national origin, or disability; a workplace that promotes employee participation; a work environment that ensures employee safety and well being; just compensation and benefits; and recognition of the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively without prejudice to the common good.
Obedience to Canon Law
8. Catholic health care institutions have a unique relationship to both the Church and the wider community they serve. Because of the ecclesial nature of this relationship, the relevant requirements of canon law will be observed with regard to the foundation of a new Catholic health care institution; the substantial revision of the mission of an institution; and the sale, sponsorship transfer, or closure of an existing institution.
Employees Must Adhere to Religious Mission
9. Employees of a Catholic health care institution must respect and uphold the religious mission of the institution and adhere to these Directives. They should maintain professional standards and promote the institution’s commitment to human dignity and the common good.
Official Note 10: “10. The duty of responsible stewardship demands responsible collaboration. But in collaborative efforts, Catholic institutionally based health care services must be attentive to occasions when the policies and practices of other institutions are not compatible with the Church’s authoritative moral teaching. At such times, Catholic health care institutions should determine whether or to what degree collaboration would be morally permissible. To make that judgment, the governing boards of Catholic institutions should adhere to the moral principles on cooperation. See Part Six.” [↩]
The vehicle by which man knows Natural Law is reason and understanding. Here, Aquinas makes a second important distinction – some men will understand more, some less. Aquinas is not promoting an egalitarian view of reason. All men may know, but all men will not know equally.
The Four Laws
Eternal Law – A type of Divine Wisdom of God that moves all things to their 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.
1. Do all men know Natural Law?
Eternal Law is the type of Divine Wisdom that moves all things to their end. In his treatment on Eternal Law, Aquinas teaches that man does not know Eternal Law directly, but can know the law by its effects. Just as one may know the sun by its sunlight. Eternal Law is imprinted on all things and all things partake in Eternal Law; and, it is from this imprint that all things “derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends.”1
How may one describe the “respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends” in humanity? 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.”2In his treatment on Eternal Law, Aquinas differs from some ancient philosophers by stating all men may know Natural Law. The vehicle by which man knows Natural Law is reason and understanding. Here, Aquinas makes a second important distinction – some men will understand more, some less. Aquinas is not promoting an egalitarian view of reason. All men may know, but all men will not know equally.
In clarification by contrast, the rational animal of Creation, i.e., the human, participates in Natural Law by reason, but the irrational animals participate in Natural Law by an “inward motive principle.” Note the important implication that humanity participates in Natural Law by choice.
2. What is a habit?
Aquinas’ first question is whether or not Natural Law may be spoken of as a habit. What is a habit? A habit is a series of acts that constitute a practice. The Philosopher, Aristotle, defines a habit as “a disposition whereby someone is disposed, well or ill.” Those habits which habituate the person toward the good, we call virtues. Those habits that dispose the person to evil are call vices. A person’s habits define who they are. Following Aristotle, Aquinas notes that habits are a species of quality. In this light, the Philosopher states, “a habit is a quality which it is difficult to change.”3
There are naturally good habits, which are called the Natural Virtues or the Cardinal Virtues, i.e., prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. Prudence is the “elective habit” the habit of right reasoning. Justice is the habit of proper order and the highest virtue of the State. Temperance is the habit that holds a person to reason in the face of something pleasurable. Fortitude is the habit that holds a person to reason when something would push it away in fear. These are called the Natural Virtues because they are available to all men. Is Natural Law, then, like a natural virtue?
3. Is Natural Law a habit?
Is Natural Law a habit? Aquinas makes the distinction between that which is a habit and that which persons hold as a habit. Natural Law is a habit in the second sense. In in first notion, Natural Law cannot be an essential habit of humanity, because Natural Law is “something appointed by reason.” Natural Law is the Eternal Law of God imprinted onto man, but man’s participation in Natural Law comes through understanding. Here, Aquinas highlights infants and the wicked as those who do not participate in Natural Law. Consequently, it is not an essential habit of mankind.
Natural Law is a habit in the second sense. Aquinas makes the distinction that indemonstrable principles themselves are not habits, but they are the principles of the habits. Consequently, Natural Law insofar as it is indemonstrable is not a habit, but it is the principle behind many habits. For example, St. Basil speaks of synderesis as a “law of the mind.” Synderesis may be summarized as a habit by which a man knows what is good and what is evil. In Aquinas’ understanding, synderesis would be the habit that has as its principle Natural Law, but Natural Law itself would not properly be a habit, but a law. It follows, that Natural Law would also be the principle behind all the Natural Virtues discussed above.
The next question Aquinas takes up in his discussion on law is what are the precepts of Natural Law? Or rather, if Natural Law is the principle of good habits, what is it that Natural Law imports to those who reflect on it? What are its general moral precepts?
SPL on Aquinas’ Treatment of Law – Summa Theologica Reference
Natural Law: This list is a summary of I-II.94.1 [↩]
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. [↩]
Habits: For more on habits and the source for the given quotes, see ST I-II.49.1-2. [↩]
The following list is taken from the Summa Theologica Prima Secundae question 93, entitled, The Eternal Law. A proper understanding of the Eternal Law of God, the Divine Government, serves as an excellent foundation to issues such as politics, natural law, divine providence, hell, and nature.
SPL on Aquinas’ Treatment of Law – Summa Theologica Reference
Eternal Law – A type of the Divine Wisdom of God that moves all things to their 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.
The following list is taken from the Summa Theologica Prima Secundae question 93, entitled, The Eternal Law. A proper understanding of the Eternal Law of God, the Divine Government, serves as an excellent foundation to issues such as politics, natural law, divine providence, hell, and nature.
1. Does Eternal law exist? – If so, what is it?
Think of a craftsman and his art. Before the craftsman or artificer creates his art, there exists in the craftsmen a type of that art. If the artificer is going to craft a boat, there exists in him the rationale and order of a boat. He then takes that idea of the boat and imprints it on the wood. Aquinas takes up this example to answer whether or not the eternal law is a sovereign type existing in God? He states:
Just as in every artificer there pre-exists a type of the things that are made by his art, so too in every governor there must pre-exist the type of the order of those things that are to be done by those who are subject to his government. And just as the type of the things yet to be made by an art is called the art or exemplar of the products of that art, so too the type in him who governs the acts of his subjects, bears the character of a law, provided the other conditions be present which we have mentioned above (Article 90).
Following Aquinas, as the art pre-exists in the artificer, so does the law pre-exist in the governor. In both cases, there is a preexistent order that moves from the mind to the thing being ordered. With law, it moves from order of law in the governor, to his subjects being ordered. How is this principle applied to God? The Universal Doctor states:
Now God, by His wisdom, is the Creator of all things in relation to which He stands as the artificer to the products of his art, as stated in the I, 14, 8. Moreover He governs all the acts and movements that are to be found in each single creature, as was also stated in the I, 103, 5. Wherefore as the type of the Divine Wisdom, inasmuch as by It all things are created, has the character of art, exemplar or idea; so the type of Divine Wisdom, as moving all things to their due end, bears the character of law. Accordingly the eternal law is nothing else than the type of Divine Wisdom, as directing all actions and movements.
Returning to the original question, does Eternal Law exist? Yes, it is a type of Divine Wisdom. What is it? It is “nothing else than the type of Divine Wisdom, as directing all actions and movements.” As the artificer imposes the order in his mind onto his art and orders it accordingly, so too has God, the Artificer, created existence; however, note that it is not a single act – God created the world, but he continues to move all things to their end.
2. Can humanity know the Eternal Law of God?
If Eternal Law is a type of Divine Wisdom that moves all things toward their end, can humanity know and understand this law? One key to understanding Aquinas is that he retains in his mind at all times the distinction between Creator and Creature; thus, in this context, we are asking whether or not creatures may know the Divine Wisdom of the Creator? Anytime you speak of how a creature may know the Creator, God, you must make distinctions, because the creature is finite but the Creator infinite. And since Aquinas excels at making distinctions, he states:
A thing may be known in two ways: first, in itself; secondly, in its effect, wherein some likeness of that thing is found: thus someone not seeing the sun in its substance, may know it by its rays. So then no one can know the eternal law, as it is in itself, except the blessed who see God in His Essence.1 But every rational creature knows it in its reflection, greater or less. For every knowledge of truth is a kind of reflection and participation of the eternal law, which is the unchangeable truth, as Augustine says (De Vera Relig. xxxi). Now all men know the truth to a certain extent, at least as to the common principles of the natural law: and as to the others, they partake of the knowledge of truth, some more, some less; and in this respect are more or less cognizant of the eternal law.
Humanity understands the Eternal Law through its effects. Using Aquinas’ example, one may know the sun by seeing its light without having to see the sun itself. Note that Aquinas’ states “every rational creature knowns it in its reflection, greater or less.” The term every means that Aquinas is not limiting knowledge of the Eternal Law to the philosophers; however, his phrase greater or less also lets us know this is not an egalitarian view of reason either. The vehicle by which all men – “some more, some less” – know the Eternal Law of God is Natural Law. In other words, as Aquinas quotes St. Augustine in his sed contra, “knowledge of the eternal law is imprinted on us.”2
3. Is every law a derivative of the Eternal Law?
The short answer is yes. Aquinas states, “all laws proceed from the eternal law.” Eternal Law is the type of Divine Wisdom that moves all things toward their end. It is no wonder, that in explaining how all laws are derivative of the Eternal Law, Aquinas speaks of a primary mover and a secondary mover:
Now wherever there are movers ordained to one another, the power of the second mover must needs be derived from the power of the first mover; since the second mover does not move except in so far as it is moved by the first.
As in question one discussing the artificer, Aquinas takes this principle of movement and places it in the governor/artificer relationship:
Wherefore we observe the same in all those who govern, so that the plan of government is derived by secondary governors from the governor in chief; thus the plan of what is to be done in a state flows from the king’s command to his inferior administrators: and again in things of art the plan of whatever is to be done by art flows from the chief craftsman to the under-crafts-men, who work with their hands.
Following Aristotle, Aquinas understands that the human mind moves from what is simple to what is complex. Here, Aquinas speaks of movement, then of movement within the mundane roles of a governor and an artificer, and finally in the context of Eternal Law. The Angelic Doctor explains:
Since then the eternal law is the plan of government in the Chief Governor, all the plans of government in the inferior governors must be derived from the eternal law. But these plans of inferior governors are all other laws besides the eternal law. Therefore all laws, in so far as they partake of right reason, are derived from the eternal law. Hence Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 6) that “in temporal law there is nothing just and lawful, but what man has drawn from the eternal law.”
All laws are drawn from Eternal Law. Humanity understands – some more, some less – the Eternal Law through the Natural Law that is imprinted on all Creation, i.e., on both the creatures and the creation around them. In knowing the Eternal Law through Natural Law, humanity can create just and rational Human Laws. What about evil human laws? Aquinas answers:
Human law has the nature of law in so far as it partakes of right reason; and it is clear that, in this respect, it is derived from the eternal law. But in so far as it deviates from reason, it is called an unjust law, and has the nature, not of law but of violence. Nevertheless even an unjust law, in so far as it retains some appearance of law, though being framed by one who is in power, is derived from the eternal law; since all power is from the Lord God, according to Romans 13:1.3
Aquinas’ answer raises two preliminary issues on Human Law. First, if Human Law draws from Natural Law, it will be rational. Remember that the state or polis is a natural institution governed by the natural virtues. The highest of these virtues being justice. Consequently, it loses its character of a law if it is unjust and subsequently takes on a character of violence; hence, an unjust law is no law. However, Aquinas does note that even an unjust law retains the appearance of a law if made by the proper power. How then, a Catholic should engage with a state that has promulgated an unjust law is not only a question of great interest, but one that is of increasing importance in our modernist age.
4. Is there anything not governed by Eternal Law?
Yes, actually. Aquinas’ original question is Whether necessary and eternal things are subject to the eternal law? The answer is arguably yes and no. It depends on what necessary means. Read how Aquinas speaks of the Eternal Law as Divine Government:
As stated above (Article 1), the eternal law is the type of the Divine government. Consequently whatever is subject to the Divine government, is subject to the eternal law: while if anything is not subject to the Divine government, neither is it subject to the eternal law. The application of this distinction may be gathered by looking around us. For those things are subject to human government, which can be done by man; but what pertains to the nature of man is not subject to human government; for instance, that he should have a soul, hands, or feet.
Human Government governs all things which “can be done by man,” but not those things which cannot. Similarly, the Divine Government governs all things created by God. What then, is not governed by Eternal Law?
Accordingly all that is in things created by God, whether it be contingent or necessary, is subject to the eternal law: while things pertaining to the Divine Nature or Essence are not subject to the eternal law, but are the eternal law itself.
It is God, the uncreated, that is not governed by Eternal Law. Eternal Law is a type of Divine Wisdom, and God himself is Wisdom and Truth. Read Aquinas again, “the Divine nature or Essence are not subject to eternal law, but are the eternal law itself.” One interesting example is Christ. As the Second Person of the Trinity, he is certainly not created and consequently not subject to Eternal Law; however, Christ’s created human nature is subject to the Eternal Law.4
5. Is nature subject to Eternal Law or Human Law?
Thus far, Natural Law has been spoken of as the Eternal Law imprinted upon the hearts of humanity. Man is a rational animal and may come to know the Eternal Law – more or less – through his own reason. The question here is what of irrational animals? In Human Law, the governor orders the acts and moves his subject according to the law. Is it also proper to speak of Human Law ordering and moving the irrational animals, e.g., the ox or the horse? Aquinas states:
We must speak otherwise of the law of man, than of the eternal law which is the law of God. For the law of man extends only to rational creatures subject to man. The reason of this is because law directs the actions of those that are subject to the government of someone: wherefore, properly speaking, none imposes a law on his own actions. Now whatever is done regarding the use of irrational things subject to man, is done by the act of man himself moving those things, for these irrational creatures do not move themselves, but are moved by others, as stated above (Question 1, Article 2). Consequently man cannot impose laws on irrational beings, however much they may be subject to him. But he can impose laws on rational beings subject to him, in so far as by his command or pronouncement of any kind, he imprints on their minds a rule which is a principle of action.
The answer then is no. While irrational animals are subject to man, he does not impose laws on them. Man does, however, order humanity according to Human law as he can imprint a law on their mind. How then should we speak of irrational animals and nature?
Now just as man, by such pronouncement, impresses a kind of inward principle of action on the man that is subject to him, so God imprints on the whole of nature the principles of its proper actions. And so, in this way, God is said to command the whole of nature, according to Psalm 148:6: “He hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away.” And thus all actions and movements of the whole of nature are subject to the eternal law. Consequently irrational creatures are subject to the eternal law, through being moved by Divine providence; but not, as rational creatures are, through understanding the Divine commandment.
Two things of note. First, God alone has ordered nature and moves all things to their end. Second, man’s participation in the Eternal Law differs from that of the rest of nature. Man is a rational animal and participates by “understanding the Divine commandment.”5 The irrational creatures and the whole of nature a subject to Eternal Law “through being moved by Divine providence.”
6. Are all actions, even sin, subject to Eternal Law?
Aquinas begins in his sed contra by quoting St. Augustine, “Nothing evades the laws of the most high Creator and Governor, for by Him the peace of the universe is administered.” As seen in the above question on nature, there are two ways in which creation participates in the Eternal Law: first, the rational animal, the human, “by way of knowledge,” while the irrational animals “by way of an inward motive principle.” However, what of wicked rational animals?
Both ways, however, are imperfect, and to a certain extent destroyed, in the wicked; because in them the natural inclination to virtue is corrupted by vicious habits, and, moreover, the natural knowledge of good is darkened by passions and habits of sin. But in the good both ways are found more perfect: because in them, besides the natural knowledge of good, there is the added knowledge of faith and wisdom; and again, besides the natural inclination to good, there is the added motive of grace and virtue.
A few things of note. First, the imprint of Eternal Law on the human heart gives humanity a natural inclination to virtue. Both the national inclination and the virtues – good habits – are part of Natural Law. Sin, however, is in a true sense unnatural and consequently irrational. It darkens humanity’s “natural knowledge of the good.” So, how does this fit with the Eternal Law?
Accordingly, the good are perfectly subject to the eternal law, as always acting according to it: whereas the wicked are subject to the eternal law, imperfectly as to their actions, indeed, since both their knowledge of good, and their inclination thereto, are imperfect; but this imperfection on the part of action is supplied on the part of passion, in so far as they suffer what the eternal law decrees concerning them, according as they fail to act in harmony with that law. Hence Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 15): “I esteem that the righteous act according to the eternal law; and (De Catech. Rud. xviii): Out of the just misery of the souls which deserted Him, God knew how to furnish the inferior parts of His creation with most suitable laws.”
The wicked may be said to have an imperfect participation in the Eternal Law. They do not adhere to the Eternal Law imprinted on their hearts; however, the Eternal Law still moves all things to their end. The Eternal Law is just and moves the wicked to their just end, damnation.
Beatific Vision: Aquinas states that no one knows the Eternal Law in itself except the Bless’d in heaven. Phrases like this often unsettle Eastern-oriented Catholics/Orthodox who enjoy the mystery of God. The distinction here is that even the saints in heaven, though the may know God, do not comprehend him. God is the Inexhaustible Good; thus, no creature may exhaust his goodness. They know God, but they continually bathe in his endless glory and mystery. Aquinas’ is also known for saying that man cannot exhaust the essence of a fly. These caveats are good to keep in mind when speaking of how the West speaks of “knowing” God. [↩]
In Itself & In Its Effect in Scripture: The distinction Aquinas’ makes about knowing Eternal Law in itself and in itself effects in also seen in Scripture. In the first objection to ST I-II.93.2, the objector points out I Cor. 2:11, which states “the things that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God.” In Aquinas’ answer to this object, he counters with Rom. 1:20, “The invisible things of God . . . are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” The first is the Divine Law in itself, while the second is the Divine Law in its effects. [↩]
Aquinas on Human Law: The argument here is that there are wicked laws, therefore not all laws are derived from the Eternal Law. (ST I-II.93.3.obj 2) Aquinas’ answer, supra, is copied from ad. 2 of the same article. [↩]
Aquinas on Christ and Eternal Law: This object is raised in ST I-II93.4.obj 2 and answered in ad. 2 of the same article. [↩]
Rational and Irrational Animals Under Natural Law: In a post-Enlightenment world, the distinction between irrational and rational creatures has been lost. For example, when most people speak of “natural law” they think of the brutal and violent law of nature. The lion preys on the antelope. Only the strongest specimens survive. Consequently, nature is seen as something brutal – think of Hobbes, who stated the natural state of man is war and violence. They look at nature and see violence and predicate their actions upon their observations. In other words, the rational creature looks to the actions of the irrational creature to determine a moral code. In modernism, nature as a moral law, a standard, has been lost. It is arguable that the majority simply cannot view nature as a moral law due to the actions of animals and hurricanes; thus, the external standard of Natural Law – think Eternal Law imprinted human hearts, e.g., the natural virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude – is moot. In its stead, is the individual – the autonomous moral universe of the modern self. [↩]
“The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are ‘sins that cry to heaven’: the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner.”
Listers, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are sins that cry out to heaven. “The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are ‘sins that cry to heaven’: the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner.”1 Traditionally, these sins have been categorized as four distinct heinous acts: willful murder, the sin of Sodom, oppression of the poor, and defrauding laborers of their wages.
1. Willful Murder
And the Lord said to Cain: Where is thy brother Abel? And he answered, I know not: am I my brother’ s keeper? And he said to him: What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the earth. – Gen. 4:9-10
The murder of Abel stands as the paradigmatic example of “willful murder.”2 Note that Abel’s blood cried to God from the earth, hence the necessary phrasing for this sin to be included in this dire category. The boundaries of this sin are often questioned; for example, what of so-called justified killings in war? The Angelic Doctor’s catechesis on war is listed in the Summa Theologica under Charity and among those things contrary to Peace. In Article I, Whether it is always sinful to wage war?, St. Thomas Aquinas states:
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.”
Drawing from the authority of St. Augustine, the Angelic Doctor makes a distinction between murder and justified killings in both capital punishment and war. Though this “realist” tradition is certainly a subject in and of itself, the takeaway is that Sacred Tradition has always maintained a distinction between the just and unjust taking of a human life.
A second point of emphasis under “willful murder” is that it encompasses abortion. Though abortion is often spoke of in the Church, it is not always thought of as a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance. Abortion is also not a new issue. The Early Church Fathers were quite clear on the subject.
You shall not kill the child by obtaining an abortion. Nor, again, shall you destroy him after he is born. St. Barnabas (“Epistle of St. Barnabas,” c. 70-100 A.D.)
You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born. The Didache [The Teaching Of The Twelve Apostles] (c. 80-140 A.D.)
And the Lord said: The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied, and their sin is become exceedingly grievous. I will go down and see whether they have done according to the cry that is come to me: or whether it be not so, that I may know. – Gen. 18:20-21
The “Sin of Sodom” is described as “carnal sin against nature, which is a voluntary shedding of the seed of nature, out of the due use of marriage, or lust with a different sex.”3 Given modernity’s substitution of God and Nature with the will of the individual as an autonomous moral universe, sodomy – more specifically active homosexuality, not orientation – has become part of the new post-Christian norm. Neither Divine Law nor Natural Law form an external guide for the modern man; thus, the only boundary of autonomous individual is the autonomy of another. The boundary for what is and is not moral appears to be consent. Consequently, moral dialogue has been flattened to mere platitudes, e.g., this isn’t hurting anyone, it’s my body and my choice, love is love. Many often comment on the modern West’s apparent lack of morality, but few comment on the fact the West has lost the vocabulary to even discuss on morality.4
A few distinctions. First, the issue of same-sex marriage is not a religious issue, it is a rational and philosophical one. Considerations of marriage as a natural institution, the moral import of natural law, and the harmony between unity and procreation in sex are all within the purview of the natural virtues and reason; however, as geology and astronomy may both tell us the Earth is round, so too can the two sciences of theology and philosophy tell us the same thing.5 For example, no one holds that the commandment thou shall not murder was unknown before God revealed it on Mt. Sinai. It was revelation confirming reason, a demonstration of the greater truth that grace perfects nature.
The discussion for this list is less about same-sex marriage and more about a proper interpretation of Scripture. It is a conversation about those who do see Sacred Scripture as a moral authority, but attempt to harmonize their modernist views on sexuality with the Holy Bible. Typically, this leads to “new” interpretations of Scriptures on homosexuality. These interpretations are often weak and out of context, but since they serve the end that people want people follow them. A tenuous intellectual argument will always serve as long as it achieves the end people desire, especially if that end is wrapped in autonomy and sexual gratification.
On the Interpretation of Hospitality Violations
Those who argue that Sodom and Gomorrah should be understood outside any homosexual context often submit that the divine judgment of those cities was due to violations of Ancient Near East hospitality laws. In The Sin of Sodom & Gomorrah is not about Hospitality, the good Msgr. Pope offers a strong rebuttal. In part:
First there is a text from Ezekiel:
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did abominable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
Now this is the text used most often by those who deny any homosexual context in the sin of Sodom. And, to be fair, it does add a dimension to the outcry God hears. There are clearly additional sins at work in the outcry: pride, excess or greed, and indifference to the poor and needy. But there are also mentioned here unspecified “abominations.” The Hebrew word is תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה (tō·w·‘ê·ḇāh) which refers to any number of things God considers especially detestable, such as worshiping idols, immolating children, wrongful marriage and also homosexual acts. For example, Leviticus 18:22 uses the word in this context: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.6
But of itself, this text from Ezekiel does remind us that widespread homosexuality is not the only sin of Sodom. And while the abomination mentioned here may not be specified exactly, there is another Scriptural text that does specify things more clearly for us. It is from the Letter of Jude:
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. (Jude 7-8)
And thus it is specified that the central sin of Sodom involved “sexual immorality (ἐκπορνεύσασαι) and perversion (ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας – literally having departed to strange or different flesh).” And this would comport with the description of widespread homosexual practice in Sodom wherein the practitioners of this sin are described in Genesis 19 as including, “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old.”
Hence we see that, while we should avoid seeing the sin of Sodom as only widespread homosexual acts (for what city has only one sin?), we cannot avoid that the Scriptures do teach that homosexual acts are central to the sins of Sodom which cry to heaven for vengeance, and for which God saw fit to bring a fiery end.
Genesis 19 speaks plainly of the sin, Ezekiel 16 broadens the description but retains the word “abomination,” and Jude 7 clearly attests to sexual perversion as being the central sin with which Sodom and Gomorrah were connected.
One of the takeaways from the good monsignor’s commentary is that sexual perversion is not the only sin of which Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty. Many allow themselves to be confused by arguments that attempt to replace the primary sin (sexual perversion in a homosexual context) with the secondary sins.7 And while the discussion here is not necessarily why homosexuality is a sin that cries to heaven, it should serve to clarify that it is impossible to read the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative outside a homosexual context.
3. Oppression of the Poor
Now after a long time the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel groaning, cried out because of the works: and their cry went up unto God from the works. And he heard their groaning, and remembered the covenant which he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the Lord looked upon the children of Israel, and he knew them. – Ex. 2:23
“If we don’t love the poor, and do all we can to improve their lot, we’re going to go to Hell.” – Archbishop Chaput
Catholic Social Teaching holds as one of its seven themes an “Option for the Poor and the Vulnerable.” The issues encompassed by this theme are traditionally: “social programs for the poor and downtrodden, care for orphans, care for widows, and creating a well-ordered society where the least of us is protected and given the ability to improve his own lot.”8 As biblical evidence of this theme, Catholic Charities USA lists several Holy Scriptures that demonstrate the Lord’s predilection toward the poor.9 In these selected verses, note how hostile the Lord is toward those who oppress the poor.
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. Exodus 22:20-24
Happy those concerned for the lowly and poor; when misfortune strikes, the LORD delivers them. The LORD keeps and preserves them, makes them happy in the land, and does not betray them to their enemies. Psalm 41:1-3
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgment, and show kindness and compassion toward each other. Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the alien or the poor; do not plot evil against one another in your hearts. Zechariah 7:9-10
There is an undeniable connection between a Catholic’s treatment of the poor and their salvation. SPL has taken up this issue in detail in the list The Poor and our Salvation: 5 Thoughts. The following is more biblical evidence of this connection:
Injure not the poor because they are poor, nor crush the needy at the gate; For the LORD will defend their cause, and will plunder the lives of those who plunder them. Proverbs 22:22-23
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Prov 14:31
Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered. Prov 21:13
Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. Prov 28:27
Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, Amen! Deuteronomy 27:19
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Prov 19:17
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Prov 29:7
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the LORD. Jeremiah 22:16
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. Exodus 22:20-24
The issue of our salvation and the poor cannot be described as an exclusively Old Testament issue either. While there are less verses, the potency of the verses is no less acute. The Lord’s predilection for the poor remains, and our treatment of the poor has a direct effect on our relationship with God.
Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.’ Acts 10:4
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
One of the clearest indications of a direct link between the poor and our salvation is found in the Gospel of St. Matthew 25. There Christ speaks to both the redeemed and the damned, and to the damned he states, “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” The matter is one of eternal importance as the passage concludes, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” The overwhelming biblical evidence of this sin that cries to heaven for vengeance seems to also assert that the exact opposite happens as well – our proper treatment of the poor cries up to heaven in thanksgiving.
Regardless of whether they are cries for vengeance or cries of thanksgiving, the cries will be heard on our day of judgment.
4. Defrauding Laborers of their Wages
Behold the hire of the labourers, who have reaped down your fields, which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth: and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have feasted upon earth: and in riotousness you have nourished your hearts, in the day of slaughter. – James 5:4
Like oppressing the poor, this grave sin is also expressed in a positive manner as a theme of Catholic Social Teaching. Articulated as the “Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers,” the theme states, “The economy must serve the people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.”10 Furthermore, “Workers, employers, and unions should not only advance their own interests, but also work together to advance economic justice and the well-being of all.”11 Turning again to Catholic Charities USA, the following verses are taken from their explanation of the dignity of work and the rights of workers.12
My son, rob not the poor man of his livelihood; force not the eyes of the needy to turn away. A hungry man grieve not, a needy man anger not; Do not exasperate the downtrodden; delay not to give to the needy. A beggar in distress do not reject; avert not your face from the poor. From the needy turn not your eyes, give no man reason to curse you; For if in the bitterness of his soul he curse you, his Creator will hear his prayer. Endear yourself to the assembly; before a ruler bow your head. Give a hearing to the poor man, and return his greeting with courtesy; Deliver the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor; let not justice be repugnant to you. To the fatherless be as a father, and help their mother as a husband would; Thus will you be like a son to the Most High, and he will be more tender to you than a mother. Sirach 4:1-10
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you, and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good (both) for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18
Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life. 1Timothy 6:17-19
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance. Be patient, therefore, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:1-8
One of the greatest examples of Holy Mother Church standing up for a just economy is in its response to the Industrial Revolution in the West, more specifically in Pope Leo XIII’s famous Rerum Novarum. The encyclical is often touted as jump starting what is now commonly known as Catholic Social Teaching.
Douay Catholic Catechism of 1649, Q. 928 – Thank you to Taylor Marshal for posting this excerpt on his blog. Marshall makes the point that America has failed “four for four” on these sins that cry out to heaven. [↩]
Moral Vocabulary: When he was Archbishop of Denver, His Excellency Chaput gave a talk that incorporated the problem of the lost moral vocabulary. Repentance & Renewal, 2010. [↩]
SPL Note on Leviticus & Homosexuality: When Lev. 18:22 is cited as an undeniable condemnation of homosexuality in Scripture, it is often met with certain sophist rebuttals, e.g., Leviticus also outlaws shaving, tattoos, and eating pork. First note that these statements are an assertion, not an argument. The underlying argument that is needed on both sides is how one decides what is still valid law and what is not. In short, as Catholics we know that the OT is perfected in the NT and the NT is foreshadowed in the OT; thus, we see in Scripture Christ’s intent to perfect the law, not abolish it. Certain laws, however, demand a change in order to be perfected. For example, the OT law of circumcision was perfected in the Sacrament of Baptism. The Levitical laws on purity are a subject we see both St. Peter and St. Paul address. Homosexuality, on the other hand, was restated as a sin by St. Paul. In reverse, one could always ask those who use this argument against Leviticus what their hermeneutic for understanding the OT and NT is. It will, inevitably, be their own autonomous will. For more see Catholic Answers on the subject. [↩]
Listers, Archbishop Chaput once said, “If we don’t love the poor, and do all we can to improve their lot, we’re going to go to Hell.”
Listers, Archbishop Chaput once said, “If we don’t love the poor, and do all we can to improve their lot, we’re going to go to Hell.” The following verses are only a sampling of the Holy Scriptures that speak on the Lord’s predilection toward the poor and the Catholic’s mandate to serve the underserved. SPL has several lists that comment on these verses. To further understand the good archbishop’s quote, please read The Poor & Our Salvation: 5 Thoughts. In order to better understand the Scriptural foundation of Catholic Social Teaching, please visit these lists: 14 verses to Understand Catholic Social Teaching and 19 more Scriptures. Though not focused specifically on Holy Scripture, The 7 Themes of Catholic Social Teaching is an excellent primer on understanding the Church’s care for the underserved.
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him.
Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, Amen!
Happy those concerned for the lowly and poor; when misfortune strikes, the LORD delivers them. The LORD keeps and preserves them, makes them happy in the land, and does not betray them to their enemies.
The LORD does righteous deeds, brings justice to all the oppressed. His ways were revealed to Moses, mighty deeds to the people of Israel. Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in kindness. God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger, Has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our deeds deserve. As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful. As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful. For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust.
Our days are like the grass; like flowers of the field we blossom. The wind sweeps over us and we are gone; our place knows us no more. But the LORD’S kindness is forever, toward the faithful from age to age. He favors the children’s children of those who keep his covenant, who take care to fulfill its precepts.
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.
Injure not the poor because they are poor, nor crush the needy at the gate; For the LORD will defend their cause, and will plunder the lives of those who plunder them.
Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the LORD.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgment, and show kindness and compassion toward each other. Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the alien or the poor; do not plot evil against one another in your hearts.
My son, rob not the poor man of his livelihood; force not the eyes of the needy to turn away. A hungry man grieve not, a needy man anger not; Do not exasperate the downtrodden; delay not to give to the needy. A beggar in distress do not reject; avert not your face from the poor. From the needy turn not your eyes, give no man reason to curse you; For if in the bitterness of his soul he curse you, his Creator will hear his prayer. Endear yourself to the assembly; before a ruler bow your head. Give a hearing to the poor man, and return his greeting with courtesy; Deliver the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor; let not justice be repugnant to you. To the fatherless be as a father, and help their mother as a husband would; Thus will you be like a son to the Most High, and he will be more tender to you than a mother.
And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in:
Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.
And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.
Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.’
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance. Be patient, therefore, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
“It appears that Kass stepped into the modern world in order to show it wanting from the inside out.”
Listers, the concept of a “right to become dead” by the assistance of another is non-sensical. Neither in the ancient world’s focus on natural law nor in modernity’s obsession with individual rights is a right to become dead a tenable position. The following is the Part III of our discussion on Leon Kass’ treatment of euthanasia. In Part I, Kass laid out why a right to die is philosophically inconsistent with how rights have been traditionally articulated by modern philosophers. In Part II, we turned to individual modern philosophers – Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Rousseau, & Nietzsche – and demonstrated that the right to become dead stands in contradiction to these founders of modernity. In the following Part III, we examine Kass’ method of using the moderns to debunk a supposedly “modern” right and juxtapose it with Aristotle and Catholicism.
In the concluding remarks of Kass’ article, a brief paragraph is tacked on entitled A Coda: About Rights. Kass’ understanding is that “we distort our understanding of rights and weaken their respectability in their proper sphere by allowing them to be invented – without ground in nature or in reason.” The new rights or “invented rights” are then forced upon “moral questions that lie outside the limited domain of rights,” and consequently “our understanding of moral deliberation and the moral life” is reduced to and conformed to rights language. Furthermore, “we subvert the primacy and necessity of prudence by pretending that the assertion of rights will produce the best – and most moral – results.”
14. Halt the Thoughtless Use of “Rights Language”
Kass ends his piece with two exhortations: first, to “call a halt to all this dangerous thoughtlessness about rights,” and second, to “specifically, refuse to talk any longer about a ‘right to die.’” The latter exhortation sits quite comfortably with the rest of the article, but what is the reader supposed to make of the former declaration? Two immediate questions arise: what is the limited domain of rights? and What limits that domain? These considerations and even the vocabulary employed in them does not seem inline with his earlier use of Hobbes and Locke. Taking into account these brief but albeit important considerations of rights overall, how should one understand Kass’ argument against the right to die?
15. Using the Moderns Against Modernity
The beginning of Kass’ argument is marked by an invocation to Thomas Hobbes as the original father of natural rights. The question can now be asked whether Kass’ articulation of rights is even inline with the Hobbesian notion of rights he begins with? The answer appears to be no. Throughout the article Kass intimates nature as a standard or a norm, by which rights are grounded and found to be rational. However, how does Thomas Hobbes view nature? Nature is no longer exemplary but hostile. At best, nature under Hobbes – and Locke – can be seen as a negative norm. Gleaned from this view of nature is the notion of self-preservation, which serves as the basis for the early modern natural rights. While Kass uses this theory of natural rights to combat a right to die ethic, it is difficult to imagine the modern theory he utilizes is one to which he agrees. The early modern natural rights theory tends to reduce nature into rights; thus, the teleological end of nature is discarded in favor of individual rights. The natural rights of the individual become the end.
Though Kass used Hobbes and Locke to debunk the claimants of a right to die ethic, it appears that the two thinkers are then directly criticized by Kass in his concluding coda. While he does speak of inventing new rights – which is certainly a criticism of the Nietzschean creativity free of nature and reason – he also speaks of the danger of reducing all questions of morality to rights language. However, if one follows the early modern reduction of nature into natural rights, then it would be impossible to articulate many of Kass’ concerns, e.g., “moral questions that lie outside the limited domain of rights,” and the understanding and boundaries of the “proper sphere” of rights. Furthering the quest to properly understand Kass’ argument, what should one make of his use of Rousseau and Kant? If anything, these two thinkers are even more removed from understanding nature as normative. Rousseau replaces nature with theoretical historicism, and Kant replace nature with the human will and universal maxims. Regardless, even these two thinkers removed from seeing nature as a standard still hold self-preservation and human dignity to such a degree that the right to die is non-sensible.
16. Nature: The Ancient View v. The Modern View
In a search of a fuller understanding of Kass’ argument, it may be fruitful to not only focus on what is said but also on what is not said. Those familiar with the writings of Kass would have noticed two prime characteristics missing from this treatise on the right to die: any mention of the soul and pre-modern philosophy. A treatment on the manner in which Kass invokes the soul, Greek philosophy, and the Jewish Wisdom literature would be exhaustive endeavor. Rather, a brief look at how Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity is bookended by these concepts could illuminate much of Kass’ argument. In the first chapter of the book, Kass lays several heavy criticisms on the modern notion of nature. Modern science sees nature as something to vex and utilize. “Hidden truths are gained by acting on nature,” observes Kass, “through experiment, twisting her arm to make her cough up her secrets.” In contrast, “ancient science had sought knowledge of what things are, to be contemplated as an end in itself.”
Modern science sees nature as something to vex and utilize. “Hidden truths are gained by acting on nature,” observes Kass, “through experiment, twisting her arm to make her cough up her secrets.” In contrast, “ancient science had sought knowledge of what things are, to be contemplated as an end in itself.”
Nature was contemplated as a standard, something normative and exemplary. Riddled with references to ancient perceptions, Aristotle, and Plato, the first section of the book demonstrates Kass’ superb understanding of the dialogue between the ancients (pre-moderns) and the moderns. It is in the context of that dialogue that most of the book resides. However, again, there is no explicit mention of the ancients in the argument against the right to die. Moreover, while he invokes Hobbes as a seemingly good source in that argument, in the first section on the book he invokes Hobbes in a pejorative sense. How was this modern notion of nature ushered in? “It is, according to Hobbes,” states Kass, “the fear of a violent death that awakens human reason and the quest for mastery.” Within the beginning of his work and in the right to die discussion, it is clear that the arguments that Kass presents pivot on a proper understanding of nature. It is also clear that while Hobbes seemed to philosophically disagree with a right to die, his critique of nature as a hostile and negative norm is part of a larger societal problem.
17. Why Kass Stepped into the Modern World
The ending of the work is almost a direct mirroring of the beginning. Marked within the context of the ancients and modern, Kass calls upon modern man to understand the limitations of biology by a proper understanding of nature. Kass’ advice includes a movement away from a Cartesian view of the soul to the contemplation of all three types of souls according to Aristotle. Here again, Kass is seen to be employing a host of ancient and modern thinkers in an attempt to bring our modern sensibilities in discussion with a true sense of nature. Within this ancient and moderns context – which certainly bookends his work and colors the entire text between – what can be made of Kass’ argument against the right to die? It appears that Kass stepped into the modern world in order to show it wanting from the inside out. While he disagrees with Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant in many areas, these thinkers were key in the formation of the modern polis. Hence, the wisdom of Kass’ argument is to show that even by its own standards, the modern polis has no grounds to justify a right to die.
18. Suicide as an Injustice Against the State
Turning to an ancient that Kass quotes often, Aristotle speaks of suicide and the polis. According to The Philosopher, if a man commits suicide it is a “violation of correct reason” and an “injustice” has occurred. However, what suffers injustice? It cannot be the individual, because “he suffers it willingly, and no one willingly suffers injustice.” Aristotle places the injustice against the polis. St. Thomas Aquinas brings clarity to Aristotle’s claim by briefly elaborating on it in his question on suicide. St. Thomas comments, “because every part belongs to the whole,” and “every man is part of the community” and “belongs to that community.” Consequently, the man who kills himself “injures the community.” In his Politics, Aristotle clearly states, “man is by nature a political animal.” And since the polis “exists by nature,” man as a citizen is sub-political part of the polis. It is then when the part removes itself from the whole – in which it found its order – the polis suffers an injustice.
19. The Injustices of the “Right to Die”
The concept that the citizen can cause an injustice against the polis is not only visible in Kass’ critique of a right to die and euthanasia, but colors his overall criticism of the abuse of rights language. Those citizens which “go to court and demand [their] rights” – regardless of societal implications – are only “short-circuiting” the common good of the state. For clarification, Kass seems to paint two types of injustice in his argument against the right to die: first and foremost the disorder that a right to die imparts to the common good of the polis, and secondly the overall abuse of individual “new rights” – in which a right to die is a part – against the overarching common good of all citizens. To those pre-modern thinkers that held nature to be an exemplary standard and the formative principle of the polis and the citizen, a right to die claim appears ad absurdum. Hence, though Kass’ view on the modern notion of nature only makes two brief appearances, he seemingly found it a better argument to use modern philosophy against itself.
20. The Angelic Doctor on Suicide
St. Thomas submits more reasons suicide is unlawful. He states, suicide is contrary to nature “because everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being, and resists corruptions so far as it can.”  St. Thomas labels suicide as “always a mortal sin,” because it is “contrary to the natural law and to charity.” Another reason is that “whoever takes his own life sins against God,” because “life is God’s gift to man.” Moreover, as God is the Divine Ruler it “belongs to God alone to pronounce sentence of death and life.” Though in a dramatically lessened state, certain concepts St. Thomas presents are still present in the early modern thinkers. The natural inclination for a thing to survive or rather the inclination to self-preservation is the foundation for the early modern notion of rights. However, as stated, self-preservation becomes end in itself – embodied in individual rights – and thus lacks the external and guiding teleology of nature as a whole. St. Thomas’ use of self-preservation is tempered by virtue and by placing nature within a cosmological whole. Before addressing the implications of an ordered cosmos, the distinction between Locke’s concept of the individual’s self-possession and Aristotle and St. Thomas’ account of the political animal as part of the polis should be noted. In a certain manner, the Thomistic part/whole distinction between the citizen and the polis implies the individual is actually publicly possessed. Locke’s account – even if presented in the mitigated form Kass grants – provides a good example of the burgeoning autonomy of modern man as a creature self-owned.
21. Kass & Catholicism
Any mention of comparing Kass and St. Thomas Aquinas could immediately precipitate volumes. Within the context of Kass’ piece, there is however one important comparison worth making. Kass speaks earlier of the limited domain of rights and how the entire discussion of what is right and moral cannot be reduced to rights language simply. It appears to be a safe assumption that the broader context of speaking about what is good and moral is nature, in which natural rights are just a species. For Kass, it seems easy to draw out the principle that it is nature that limits the domain of individual rights. The more problematic question is as follows: for Kass, what limits nature? Kass can speak of what rights are and why they are that way by invoking a classical notion of nature. However, can Kass answer not only what is nature, but more importantly why is nature this way?
Kass can speak of what rights are and why they are that way by invoking a classical notion of nature. However, can Kass answer not only what is nature, but more importantly why is nature this way?
The knee-jerk reaction is to answer “God,” but this is unsatisfactory. While it is true the Hebrew Bible would attribute the authorship of nature to God, it is less clear whether one could actually extract a philosophy of nature from the Jewish text. Moreover, holding to nature in the details as Kass does, presupposes an articulate and clear view of nature. In contrast, St. Thomas speaks of nature as limited by placing it within an ordered and divinely authored cosmos. The natural inclinations of creatures are simply the creature’s participation in the Eternal Law, i.e., the Divine Wisdom that permeates all things and moves all things toward their end. Furthermore, there is Human Law and Divine Law. Human Law specifies the broader Natural Law into ordinances of reason for the the polis, and Divine Law clarifies Natural Law and reveals those things which are not demonstrable from nature. In the ordered cosmos of St. Thomas, wisdom is found in understanding the higher causes as revealed by God and the causality of nature as observed by man. Consequently, St. Thomas can speak of nature as a part of a whole; thus, he can detail its limitations and precepts. The question is not whether Kass needs the ordered cosmos of Catholicism to be able to speak of nature, but rather whether Kass needs the ordered cosmos of Catholicism in order to speak of nature in the detail that he does. Regarding the latter question, it seems difficult to know what Kass’ answers to the why question of nature would be without being able to articulate it as a part of a whole.
22. The Indefensible Right to Die
The right to die is neither a classical right claimed against something nor a welfare right demanding a good. Stepping into the early modern context, Kass shows modernity wanting in regards to any defensible position on the right to die. The right to die is a Nietzschean “new right.” It is severed from nature, self-preservation, and even rationality. As stated by Kass, this only possible grounding for the right to die is really no grounding at all. The two brief marks on his argument that address the language of rights per se display the pre-modern view of nature undergirding many of his comments. Nature is to be seen as a standard. Nature is the correct foundation and limitation to proper rights language and provides an overall norm by which to judge issues of goodness and morality. Whether or not Kass can then answer the question of what limits and guides nature is not known. What is known, is that Catholicism can.
This concludes the three part SPL study of Leon Kass on the so-called Right to Die.
Opus Dei Father C.J. McCloskey, a Church historian and research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, referred to Robert Spencer as “perhaps the foremost Catholic expert on Islam in our country.”
Listers, Opus Dei Father C.J. McCloskey, a Church historian and research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, referred to Robert Spencer as “perhaps the foremost Catholic expert on Islam in our country.”1 According to his website, Jihad Watch, “Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and the author of twelve books, including two New York Times bestsellers, The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (both Regnery). His latest books are Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry Into Islam’s Obscure Origins (ISI) and Not Peace But A Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam (Catholic Answers).”
“Spencer has led seminars on Islam and jihad for the United States Central Command, United States Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the U.S. intelligence community.”2 Jihad Watch – a site from which SPL often shares otherwise unreported accounts of Islamic terrorism – answers the question Why Jihad Watch? by stating, “Because non-Muslims in the West, as well as in India, China, Russia, and the world over, are facing a concerted effort by Islamic jihadists, the motives and goals of whom are largely ignored by the Western media, to destroy their societies and impose Islamic law upon them — and to commit violence to that end even while their overall goal remains out of reach. That effort goes under the general rubric of jihad.”3 Robert Spencer is also available on Twitter at the handle @JihadWatchRS.4
Islam…Is it a religion of peace?…Are Muslims an easy ally in the fight against global secularization and the culture of death?…Are their beliefs really so different than our own? Some Christians view Islam as a sister religion, a branch of the same Abrahamic tree—lacking the fullness of revelation but nonetheless a religion of peace. Others are more critical of Islamic teachings but still see Muslims as valuable partners in the global fight against secularization and the Culture of Death.
In Not Peace but a Sword, Robert Spencer argues they’re both wrong—and warns Christians against the danger of thinking that Islam is an easy ally. Many Christian groups, including the Catholic Church, do recognize whatever is good and true in Islam, and their leaders rightly pursue peaceful accord and common ground with all religions. Spencer argues, however, that real peace can come only from truth. Where there is falsehood in Islamic doctrine, morals, and practice, papering over the truth actually hurts the cause of peace.
And so Spencer, the New York Times best-selling author of more than a dozen books dealing with Islam and the West, shines the light of truth on areas where Christians and Muslims don’t just quibble over small details but fundamentally disagree, including:
The character of God, Jesus, and divine revelation
The nature of truth and the source of moral law
Religious freedom and other basic human rights
Life issues, marriage, and sexual morality
The rights and dignity of women
He demonstrates how these differences are not academic but real-world. They are critical and drive Muslim behavior toward Christians and others. If we fail to open our eyes to these differences, we do so at our peril. He demonstrates how these differences are not academic but real-world. They are critical and drive Muslim behavior toward Christians and others. If we fail to open our eyes to these differences, we do so at our peril.
“Robert Spencer is a careful observer of Islam and a courageous voice on behalf of Christians. In Not Peace But a Sword he shows us how to take Islam seriously without falling into alarmism, hatred, or bigotry, and provides a needed corrective to media disinformation.”
– Scott Hahn, Fr. Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville
“A great many Catholics know only a Disney-fied version of Islam, and still cling to the dangerous illusion that Muslims and Christians share much in common. But as Robert Spencer ably demonstrates, beneath the surface similarities lies a deep and possibly unbridgeable gulf. This is must reading not only for Catholics but for all Christians.”
– William Kilpatrick, author of Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West
Robert Spencer carefully examines the challenge posed to Christianity by an increasingly militant Islam. His case is calm, lucid, accurate, and uncompromising in its presentation of the facts of history. He provides an honest and unflinching account of the roots of Christian/Muslim tensions, a robust defense of Jesus Christ and Christianity in response to Muslim claims, and a sobering wake-up call to all Christians.
– Patrick Madrid, author of Envoy for Christ: 25 Years as a Catholic Apologist and host of the Right Here, Right Now radio show
Are jihadists dying for a fiction? Everything you thought you knew about Islam is about to change. Did Muhammad exist? It is a question that few have thought—or dared—to ask. Virtually everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, takes for granted that the prophet of Islam lived and led in seventh-century Arabia.
But this widely accepted story begins to crumble on close examination, as Robert Spencer shows in his eye-opening new book.
In his blockbuster bestseller The Truth about Muhammad, Spencer revealed the shocking contents of the earliest Islamic biographical material about the prophet of Islam. Now, in Did Muhammad Exist?, he uncovers that material’s surprisingly shaky historical foundations. Spencer meticulously examines historical records, archaeological findings, and pioneering new scholarship to reconstruct what we can know about Muhammad, the Qur’an, and the early days of Islam. The evidence he presents challenges the most fundamental assumptions about Islam’s origins.
How the earliest biographical material about Muhammad dates from at least 125 years after his reported death
How six decades passed before the Arabian conquerors—or the people they conquered—even mentioned Muhammad, the Qur’an, or Islam
The startling evidence that the Qur’an was constructed from existing materials—including pre-Islamic Christian texts
How even Muslim scholars acknowledge that countless reports of Muhammad’s deeds were fabricated
Why a famous mosque inscription may refer not to Muhammad but, astonishingly, to Jesus
How the oldest records referring to a man named Muhammad bear little resemblance to the now-standard Islamic account of the life of the prophet
The many indications that Arabian leaders fashioned Islam for political reasons
Far from an anti-Islamic polemic, Did Muhammad Exist? is a sober but unflinching look at the origins of one of the world’s major religions. While Judaism and Christianity have been subjected to searching historical criticism for more than two centuries, Islam has never received the same treatment on any significant scale. The real story of Muhammad and early Islam has long remained in the shadows. Robert Spencer brings it into the light at long last.
“[Spencer] has engaged in concerted detective work of a scholarly nature. His book is no polemic. It is a serious quest for facts. . . . Well-written and moves right along.”
— Washington Times
“Robert Spencer has displayed brilliant scholarship and fierce courage in his previous books. In this one he perseveres and confronts with deep erudition the most topical problem of our century.”
— Bat Ye’or, author of The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam
Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics utilizes a popular question-and-answer format so that all Catholics – both the theological novice and the well-catechized – can learn the basics of Islam. Co-authors Robert Spencer and Daniel Ali, a convert from Islam, give you a solid understanding of Islam’s unique teachings including:
The Islamic view of God
The role of Jesus in Islamic theology
Islam’s controversial theology of jihad, or “holy war”
Why Islam’s strong beliefs are so attractive to secularized Western societies
The role of women in Islam
Inside Islam is an essential resource for anyone who wants to know more about this historic religion from the Middle East. After reading this book, you will have a better understanding of the issues discussed every day in the news.5
The Koran: It may be the most controversial book in the world. Some see it as a paean to peace, others call it a violent mandate for worldwide Islamic supremacy. How can one book lead to such dramatically different conclusions? New York Times bestselling author Robert Spencer reveals the truth in The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran: not many Westerners know what’s in the Koran, since so few have actually read it — even among the legions of politicians, diplomats, analysts, and editorial writers who vehemently insist that the Koran preaches tolerance.
Now, Spencer unveils the mysteries lying behind this powerful book, guiding readers through the controversies surrounding the Koran’s origins and its most contentious passages. Stripping out the obsolete debates, Spencer focuses on the Koran’s decrees toward Jews, Christians, and other Infidels, explaining how they were viewed in Muhammad’s time, what they’ve supposedly done wrong, and most important, what the Koran has in store for them.
“Meticulous, comprehensive, indispensable. `I read the Koran so you don’t have to,’ Spencer writes–but even for those of us who have read the Koran, this is a richly illuminating work.”
– Bruce Bawer, author of Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom and While Europe Slept
“Governing officials and media spokesmen may ignore Spencer’s warnings, but they do so at their own risk, because Islamic jihadists are not ignoring what’s in the Koran, and are working to destroy our freedoms in obedience to Koranic dictates. In illuminating for Westerners exactly what the Koran teaches, Spencer has performed a valuable service in the defense of Western civilization against the Islamic jihad.”
– Geert Wilders, Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Party for Freedom (PVV), the Netherlands
“Unlike most of today’s self-styled experts, Robert Spencer won’t tell you that `slay the idolaters wherever you find them’ really means `love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ In The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, Spencer shows once again that he is America’s most informed, fearless, and compelling voice on modern jihadism, insisting that we come to grips with the words behind the ideology that fuels international terror.”
– Andrew C. McCarthy, senior fellow at the National Review Institute and author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad
Does America face a jihadist threat that’s even bigger than terrorism?
While our homeland security efforts are focused on preventing terrorist attacks, another jihadist threat is growing right here in America–in plain sight.
In Stealth Jihad, Islam expert and New York Times bestselling author Robert Spencer blows the whistle on a long-term plot by Islamic jihadists to undermine the United States. This effort aims not to bring America to its knees through attacks with guns or bombs, but to subvert the country from within–by gradually Islamizing America. The ultimate goal, the stealth jihadists themselves declare, is nothing less than the adoption of Islamic law in the United States.
Describing the disturbing ease with which stealth jihadists have already become ensconced in the American political and media landscapes, Spencer exposes the full modus operandi of the movement as revealed in a stunning document unveiled in a recent terrorism funding trial. In this unsettling book, he explains:
Which Islamic fundamentalist organization is behind the stealth jihad
How stealth jihadists have reinvented themselves as mainstream civil rights activists–despite their many past declarations of Islamic supremacism
How stealth jihadists played a key role in formulating U.S. government guidelines for the War on Terror
How insistence on “accommodating” Islamic cultural and religious practices in America is part of a calculated strategy to achieve a dangerous larger agenda
The effort by stealth jihadists to whitewash the teaching of Islam in schools
What can be done to defeat the stealth jihad and preserve America’s liberty
America, Spencer demonstrates, is all but oblivious to a new kind of threat presented by a loosely organized movement whose activists are well funded, highly motivated, and relentless in pursuit of their agenda. This book is a wake-up call for a country so focused on foreign threats that it has left itself vulnerable to a growing danger much closer to home.
Back Cover: Everything (well, almost everything) you know about Islam and the Crusades is wrong because most textbooks and popular history books are written by left-wing academics and Islamic apologists who justify their contemporary political agendas with contrived historical “facts.” But fear not: Robert Spencer (author of the bestseller Islam Unveiled) refutes the popular myths in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Spencer reveals facts that you won’t be taught in school and will never hear on the evening news, supplies a revealing list of “Books You Must Not Read” (as far as the PC left is concerned), and takes you on a fast-paced politically incorrect tour of Islamic teaching and Crusades history that will give you all the information you need to understand the true nature of the global conflict America faces today.
“A clarion call for the defense of the West before it is too late.” – Ibn Warraq, author
“A much-needed antidote to the poisonous propaganda that compromises our current battle against jihadist murder.” – Bruce Thornton, historian
“An enormous amount of well-researched material. Throws the ball back into the camp of Arabist historians.” – Walid Phares, terror analyst
“Assails, with much erudition, the taboos imposed by the Politically Correct League.” – Bat Ye’or, historian
“The courageous Robert Spencer busts myths and tells truths about jihadists that no one else will tell.” – Michelle Malkin, bestselling author and columnist
A complete list of Robert’s Spencers work is available on the Amazon Author’s Page. Please take the time to visit Jihad Watch and to follow @JihadWatchRS on Twitter. Unless otherwise noted, all book descriptions and reviews were taken from Amazon.
Robert Spencer: Read his full bio and an interview on Jihad Watch [↩]
Jihad Watch: Read more about why you should read Jihad Watch [↩]
A Caution: On his Twitter account, Robert Spencer tends to retweet some of the vulgarities Muslims tweet at him and retweet many of their threats. While the purpose is most probably to reveal what is being said to him, it can make for a very brutal or vulgar statement appearing in your Twitter feed. [↩]
“But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual.”
“All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence— indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.” – Justice Scalia, U.S. v. Windsor, dissent. [Source]
“Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it…”– Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. [Source]
“Today’s decisions will also undoubtedly contribute to concerted efforts not just to redefine marriage but to dismantle it, efforts which represent a serious threat to religious liberty and conscience rights for countless people of faith. This threat to religious freedom is one of many, locally and nationally, that has prompted our current Fortnight for Freedom, which we hope will inspire people throughout the country to prayer, education, and action to preserve religious liberty.”– Archbishop William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore [Source]
“While today’s decision voids federal law it opens the doors to others: it allows the citizens of each state the opportunity to uphold the true definition of marriage by voting for representatives and legislation that defend the true definition of marriage. I call on all people of good will to make their voices heard through the democratic process by upholding marriage in their home states… This archdiocese remains resolved in the belief that no Catholic priest will ever be compelled to condone- even silently – same-sex “marriages.” – The Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA. [Source]
“The response of the Catholic Church is universal and unchanged. Marriage is not a societal construct, but is rather an institution given by God and written in the laws of nature, established at the creation of the world. With this in mind, no government power has the authority or ability to redefine the essence of marriage. Their redefinition only causes them to officially speak incorrectly about marriage.” – From the Office of the Bishop, the Diocese of Tulsa [Source]
“At this time, we as Catholics reaffirm that no court decision can recreate reality or change the truth about marriage, and we mourn for what will likely be lost for many as a result of this decision – the conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman and the freedom that comes from living in that conviction. We will continue to pray for a renewed respect for the complementarity of the sexes and the authentic goods of marriage.” – Archbishop Coakley of the Diocese of Oklahoma City [Source]
“Anthony McLeod Kennedy, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, authored today’s majority opinion striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. This was his third sodomy case at the Supreme Court where he authored the pro-sodomy opinion. He also authored a 1996 opinion overriding Colorado’s constitution, where Kennedy invented a federal right for practicing homosexuals to have special discrimination claim rights. And he authored the infamous 2003 decision inventing a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, overriding state laws… The bishop, the Most Reverend Paul Stephen Loverde, has stood firm in a position of Communion-on-Demand, no matter who presents himself at the altar rail (or missing rail, as the bishop has also banned the construction of altar rails). We shall see if Bishop Loverde is content with a three-time author of pro-sodomy decisions receiving Communion in his diocese this Sunday, or if the time is finally now to exert some nominal discipline. Sodomy is a sin that cries to Heaven for vengeance, even in the Diocese of Arlington, right?” –Adfero, Justice Anthony Kennedy: “full communion,” Rorate Caeli. [Source]
“Justice Kennedy wrote, ‘The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.’ This is only slightly less outrageously self-contradictory than his famous ‘mystery” utterance: ‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.'”That statement was written by Justice Kennedy (along with Justices Souter and O’Connor) in his opinion on the 1992 case, “Planned Parenthood v. Casey.” –Father Fessio, S.J. [Source]
“Catholic teaching protects the dignity of every human person, all deserving love and respect, including those who experience same-sex attraction. This is a reality that calls for compassion, sensitivity, and pastoral care. But no one –especially a child, is served by marriage redefinition.” – Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta [Source]
“While civil law establishes societal standards of conduct, we must also consider the natural law, moral law and divine revelation,” Bishop Wester said. “It is from these fonts of wisdom and grace that we Catholics understand that marriage between one man and one woman is a gift to humanity. The blessings of such a marriage cannot be legislated, litigated or changed by civil authorities.” – The Most Reverend John C. Wester, Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City[Source]
“The well-being of our society, our nation, and our families is intimately linked to the institution of marriage. These decisions by the United States Supreme Court will make significantly more difficult our work of upholding the truth that marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Such decisions, made by any civic authority, do not serve the common good.” – Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron [Source]
“The truth is that marriage is between a man and a woman… Court decisions may change, but the truth does not… The Catholic Church will be faithful to this truth whether it is convenient or not.” – Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Mobile [Source]
“As in the case of Roe v. Wade striking down abortion laws forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court has again usurped its legitimate prerogative through a raw exercise of judicial power by giving legal protection to an intrinsic evil… These hollow decisions are absolutely devoid of moral authority. It is becoming increasingly and abundantly clear that what secular law now calls “marriage” has no semblance to the sacred institution of Holy Matrimony. People of faith are called to reject the redefinition of marriage and bear witness to the truth of Holy Matrimony as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between one man and one woman.” – Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois [Source]
“The Bishops of Massachusetts are extremely disappointed that the Court has struck down DOMA. The Church continues to stand for the traditional definition of marriage, an institution which unites one man and one woman with any children who may come from that union. Marriage, as a natural institution, predates both religion and government and is grounded in the nature of the human person. Protecting the traditional definition of marriage affirms the basic rights and dignity of women and men while safeguarding the basic rights of children.” – Massachusetts Catholic Conference Statement on DOMA Ruling [Source]
How serious a threat to marriage and society is the Supreme Court decision on DOMA?
Without being able to go into the actual text of the decision, what the decision represents, sadly, for our society, is a loss of the sense of nature, and specifically human nature, and the continuation in the highest judicial decisions of the pretence to define, for instance, the meaning of human life, define marriage in a way other than nature herself defines marriage. So this is one more step down a path which is destructive. So it’s a very serious matter, and we have to, as citizens of the United States, reawaken and insist on the respect for human life and also for the integrity of the marital union.
Do you see it being reversed in any way?
I certainly hope so — I hope people of good will fight for the sake of saving marriage, because marriage and the family are the first cell of the whole life of society. This is not a particularly Catholic issue, and that should be made clear. Surely, the Catholic Church teaches the moral law, but this has to do with the moral law written on every human heart, and you can’t tell me the founders of the United States of America didn’t have a respect for nature and a profound sense of it. In any case, we must have it.
How should the Church best respond to this?
The Church should teach very effectively and also encourage her members to be active in politics, in education and every aspect of society to promote a sound understanding of marriage and the family.
– Interview with His Eminence Cardinal Burke, National Catholic Register[Source]
Listers, if you have a recommended quote share it in the comment box. We’ll be updating this list as this historical event unfolds. Keep Calm and Catholic On.
If we all die, why fight to secure it as a right? The matter at hand is not death, simply speaking, but rather assisted suicide – “in short, a right to become dead, by assistance if necessary.”
Listers, is there a right to assisted suicide – what type of right do people claim it is? To address this question, we turn to the mind of Leon Kass. Though not a Catholic, Kass’ understanding of natural law and ills of modernity is better than most. His treatment of assisted suicide is particularly interesting because he uses the modern philosophers against modernity to show that even by this modern world’s own philosophies, there is no right to die. The first part of the discussion will address what is a right and what type of right could assisted suicide be.
1. A Right to Die: An Introduction
Is there a right to die? Rather, if an individual finds his or herself in a state in which the individual no longer wants to live, do they have the right to oblige another into assisting their suicide? In his book entitled Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity, Leon Kass takes up the connection between assisted suicide and individual rights.
In his chapter Is There A Right To Die?, Kass carefully submits an argument presenting that even by several of the philosophies that shaped modernity there is only one conclusion: there is no defensible philosophic foundation for the right to die. However, the lack of philosophical framework has not stopped the modern polis from giving into the demands of right to die claimants. Kass not only brings to light several of the dangers of allowing a right to die position to find legitimacy in the polis, but also calls into question the proper limitation of rights overall.
2. Free to or a Right to Act?
If there is a “right to die,” then it is a new right unlike any other. Leon Kass observes the right to die is “grounded neither in nature nor in reason.” In order to properly understand this critique it must be asked: what is a right? Examining their origin, Kass refers to Thomas Hobbes as the “first teacher of rights.” According to Kass, Hobbes submits a right to be “a blameless liberty,” which means, “not everything we are free to do, morally or legally, we have a right to do.” A “true right,” as seen by Kass, “would be at least a blameless or permitted liberty, at best a praiseworthy or even a rightful liberty, to do or not to do, without anyone else’s interference or opposition.” There is a distinction between what one is free to do, and what one has a naturalright to do. For a mundane example, one may be at liberty to wear “offensive perfumes,” but that does not mean one has a natural right to do so.
3. Classical Rights and Welfare Rights
Kass parses out two general types of rights traditionally seen in the modern polis: the first are the “more negative classical rights,” and the second are the more entitlement based “welfare rights.” The former were “asserted to protect” individuals from external authorities or peers by declaring certain liberties “blameless or rightful.” The latter are a later modern addition in which “certain opportunities or goods” must be provided – “usually by the government” – due to the individual’s right to them. Welfare rights are seemingly best read with the following distinction in mind: there is a difference between stating an individual has a right to possess a good, and submitting that an individual has a right for that good to be given to them.
What is the canon by which a right should be judged? Kass intimates that the answer is justice. He avers, “having a right means having a justified claim against others that they act in a fitting manner: either that they refrain from interfering or they deliver what is justly owed.” Obligation undergirds this view of a right. As Kass states, “whether to noninterference or to some entitled good or service” a right “necessarily implies another person’s obligation.”
4. The Right to Become Dead
Given the adumbrated language of rights, how then could a right to die be articulated? Like many political mantras, the phrase right to die is a misnomer. “Taken literally,” says Kass, “a right to die would denote merely a right to the inevitable.” If we all die, why fight to secure it as a right? The matter at hand is not death, simply speaking, but rather assisted suicide – “in short, a right to become dead, by assistance if necessary.”
How then is this assistance practically performed within the medical community? Kass delivers two notions of such a right: “the well-established common-law right” to refuse various forms of treatment and the “newly alleged ‘right to die.’” The latter is as already stated, the assisted suicide via the refusal of therapy “so that death will occur,” while the former “permits the refusal of therapy, even a respirator, even if it means accepting an increased risk of death.” Furthermore, the former “would seem to be more about choosing how to live while dying, the latter mainly about a choice for death.” For Kass, the former is not a misnomer, while the latter is.
5. A Right to Deadly Assistance
And what of the notion of obligation that accompanies the concept of a right? Here is term assistance is key. The right to die does not include suicide, because suicide simply speaking does not involve the medical community. However, if that individual cannot perform the suicidal act, then – in respect of their right to die – the medical community and/or government must assist them. “They claim is not only a right to attempt suicide,” observes Kass, “but a right to succeed, and this means, in practice, a right to the deadly assistance of others.”
6. The Claim of Cosmic Injustice
How should one categorize the right to die? Is it a classical right defending the individual from an injustice or is it a welfare right claiming the possession of some good? If it is classical then it seems it must be asserted against the medical community that sustains the patient’s life or against the legal community that has criminalized assisted suicide. If it is a welfare right then it must claim the good of assistance in suicide must be provided if demanded. Moreover, could the right to die not be asserted “against nature, which has dealt [the individual] a bad hand by keeping [him] alive” in an undesirable condition? Here Kass notes the “most radical formulations” of a right to die argument: “the complaint of human pride against what our tyrannical tendencies lead us to experience as ‘cosmic injustice, directed against me.’” Placed within this context, the individual’s right to die is not only marked with a “compassionate charity,” but now carries the trait of “compensatory justice.”
Listers, though not an exhaustive list, we want to bring several Catholic documents to the forefront 0f the discussion of family and marriage. One of the many reasons our society cannot have a thoughtful conversation on homosexuality is because we’ve lost our vocabulary to even discuss the family. Too often a conversation on family, sex, or homosexuality devolves to one side blindly tossing out Bible verses and the other presenting shallow hackneyed slogans, e.g., “love is love.” A direct problem with supporting the natural family on the flat basis of “the Bible says so” is it communicates to the pro-homosexuality camp that the sole argument against same-sex marriage is religious; therefore, if one simply interprets the Bible differently or does not care what the Bible says, there is no argument against same-sex marriage. Moreover, this common mistake of Christians of using the Bible alone paints their camp as a religiously tyrannical – attempting to use their religion to suppress those who are not in it.
What needs to be brought to the conversation is twofold. First, we do need a proper religious understanding of marriage. Protestants and Catholic communities are plagued with divorce and contraceptive use and this immediately undercuts any proper argument on sexuality or marriage. Second, we need a proper philosophical understanding of marriage’s role within the state as articulated by natural law. Reason and nature are common to all men. While Catholicism has assumed these principles into its theological understanding of marriage – for grace perfects nature and the sacramental marriage of the Church perfects the natural institution – we must have the philosophical understanding to explain the natural institution to non-Catholics. Marriage has always been viewed a the primary and foundational sub-political part of the state – with both marriage and the political body of the state being viewed as natural institutions of the rational and political animal, man; however, today marriage has been reduced to a shallow romance that is solely about feeling loved and has been divorced from procreation or really any civic responsibility. The conversation needs to be rebooted and Catholics need to lead the way.
The following documents are a sampling of the Church’s teachings and are presented in chronological order without commentary. What documents do you think should be added to this list? Tell us and we’ll add them on.
1. Casti Connubii by Pope Pius XI, 1930.
How great is the dignity of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, may be judged best from this that Christ Our Lord, Son of the Eternal Father, having assumed the nature of fallen man, not only, with His loving desire of compassing the redemption of our race, ordained it in an especial manner as the principle and foundation of domestic society and therefore of all human intercourse, but also raised it to the rank of a truly and great sacrament of the New Law, restored it to the original purity of its divine institution, and accordingly entrusted all its discipline and care to His spouse the Church…
The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.
The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.
The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture. Many families are living this situation in fidelity to those values that constitute the foundation of the institution of the family. Others have become uncertain and bewildered over their role or even doubtful and almost unaware of the ultimate meaning and truth of conjugal and family life. Finally, there are others who are hindered by various situations of injustice in the realization of their fundamental rights.
Knowing that marriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values, the Church wishes to speak and offer her help to those who are already aware of the value of marriage and the family and seek to live it faithfully, to those who are uncertain and anxious and searching for the truth, and to those who are unjustly impeded from living freely their family lives. Supporting the first, illuminating the second and assisting the others, the Church offers her services to every person who wonders about the destiny of marriage and the family.(1)
In a particular way the Church addresses the young, who are beginning their journey towards marriage and family life, for the purpose of presenting them with new horizons, helping them to discover the beauty and grandeur of the vocation to love and the service of life…
4. CDF: On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986
The issue of homosexuality and the moral evaluation of homosexual acts have increasingly become a matter of public debate, even in Catholic circles. Since this debate often advances arguments and makes assertions inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church, it is quite rightly a cause for concern to all engaged in the pastoral ministry, and this Congregation has judged it to be of sufficiently grave and widespread importance to address to the Bishops of the Catholic Church this Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons…
5. Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, USCCB, 2009.
Among the many blessings that God has showered upon us in Christ is the blessing of
marriage, a gift bestowed by the Creator from the creation of the human race. His hand has
inscribed the vocation to marriage in the very nature of man and woman (see Gn 1:27-28, 2:21-
Father, by your plan man and woman are united, and married life has been established as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin or washed away by the flood.
Original Sin introduced evil and disorder into the world. As a consequence of the break
with God, this first sin ruptured the original communion between man and woman. Nonetheless,
the original blessing of marriage was never revoked.
“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’sThe 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.
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.
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?
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.
The last year was a great one for SPL and the community of listers. From must-know Latin hymns to short stories all Catholics should read, SPL catalogued the best in Catholic thought.
Listers, in little over a year St. Peter’s List has become a rapidly growing community of faithful Catholics. Our I Stand with the Catholic Church graphics have been used in religious liberty rallies around the nation and listers have sent fantastic photos of themselves and their loved ones standing for Holy Mother Church. SPL cannot thank you enough for your support and we invite you to continue to check our website daily for news, lists, and updates to the SPL Store. Cheers and Keep Calm and Catholic On.
20. The Idiot’s Guide to Fasting and Abstinence: 5 Things to Know
Drawing from Canon Law, Sacred Tradition, the Early Church Fathers, and Papal teaching SPL writer John Henry gives an excellent introduction to fasting and abstinence.
1983 Code of Canon Law:
Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Christians have always set aside Wednesdays and Fridays as penitential days. Wednesday was the day Our Lord was betrayed and Friday was the day Our Lord was crucified. In most Eastern Catholic churches and Orthodox churches Wednesdays and Fridays are still days of penance. In the Latin Church, only Fridays remain as weekly penitential days on which abstinence from meat and other forms of penance are performed. [Read More]
19. 5 English Hymns Every Catholic Should Know
SPL writer CL Davis lists all five hymns with a brief introduction. For the hymn Hail, Holy Queen, Enthroned Above, he writes: This classic English hymn is really a poetic translation of the ancient “Salve Regina Coelitum” of the Roman Missal. Thanks to Whoopi Goldberg’s rousing interpretation of this hymn in her movie “Sister Act,” it is even recognized amongst many non-Catholics.” [Read More]
18. Regina Sanctissimi Rosarii: 6 Things All Catholics Should Know About the Rosary
Another heavily commented list, John Henry explains the ancient origins of the Holy Rosary and its purpose. “Why pray the Most Holy Rosary? The answer is actually quite simple: It is the request of the all Power Virgin Queen and Mother, Mary. However, one cannot truly call themselves a Roman Catholic if one does not write an entire volume explaining why.” [Read More]
17. 6 Things to Know about the Miracle of the Holy Fire
Our list on Holy Fire has proved to be one of our most controversial and commented on article. While the comments devolve into Catholic vs. Orthodox apologetics/polemics, the list itself serves as an introduction to the reoccurring Orthodox event. The “miracle” itself may be describe as such: The Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday – according to the Orthodox calendar. He proceeds into the Tomb of Christ and begins to pray. A fire is then miraculously enkindled by the Holy Spirit – supposedly the power of the resurrection – and is shared rapidly throughout the Church and all those who are waiting outside. To be clear, it is said that Pope Gregory the IX declared “Holy Fire” a fraud in AD 1238, but a primary source is needed to confirm this papal statement. Today, the miracle is not recognized by the Catholic Church, but is considered a pious tradition of certain Orthodox Churches. [Read More]
16. 5 More Short Stories Every Catholic Should Read
One of many popular literary lists by Catherine, the “5 More” list sequel to her original short stories list – found below – continues to offer entertaining and engaging short stories for the Catholic mind. Catherine opens the list with the following question, “Listers, fiction has a savage appeal to authors and readers because they get entertainment out of some character’s suffering or unhappiness. However, to the credit of all fans of the written word, they also derive entertainment in a resolution, but that always means that something must first be resolved. Why are we, members of humanity, so obsessed with this tension between conflict and resolution?” [Read More]
15. Know Thyself: 10 Reflections from St. Teresa of Avila on the Spiritual Life
Listers, St. Teresa of Avila, one of the great doctors of the Church, wrote some of the most beautiful and animated descriptions of the intricacies of the spiritual life. Although some of her ideas and descriptions appear to be strange to the modern mind, her words still have something to give to this present age, an age of narcissism and selfishness. For example, I attended an evangelical school and always snarkily spoke of such-and-such girl who was “married to Jesus.” Little did I know that such an accusation was really a compliment. [Read More]
14. 8 Quotes from Golden Mouth on Raising Children
Listers, one of the most important basis for children’s spiritual formation is a strong foundation of faith made by their parents. This task is a massive long-term undertaking, which requires the parents to approach their vocation with fear and trembling. [Read More]
“Let us pass to the despotic part of the soul, spirit. We must not eliminate it utterly from the youth nor yet allow him to use it all the time. Let us train boys from earliest childhood to be patient when they suffer wrongs themselves, but, if they see another being wronged, to sally forth courageously and aid the sufferer in fitting measure.” –An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children, 66.
Listers, there are many kinds of Catholic Churches, and each kind has further subclasses which make for a rather confusing classification system. Here is a quick list comprised of highlights from the Catholic Encyclopedia pages on various kinds of Churches. [Read More]
12. 8 Prayers Every Catholic Should know in Latin
Listers in 1978 Bl. Pope John Paul II said, “We exhort you all to lift up high the torch of Latin which is even today a bond of unity among peoples of all nations.” Even Vatican II and Pope John XXIII lauded Latin and asked that it remain the universal language of the Church; however, today the Roman Church has turned its back on Latin and blamed it on the ever-shifting spectre or “spirit” of Vatican II. SPL collected 14 quotes on the importance of Latin in the Church and drew many from the actual Vatican II documents and from post-Vatican II popes. Continuing in this proper understanding of Sacred Tradition, it is only fitting that the listers have a list to help them develop their use of Latin. The following prayers are all the prayers one would need to pray the Holy Rosary in Latin. Enjoy. [Read More]
11. 5 Quotes from St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s “The Story of a Soul”
Listers, many people often say that writings by many saints who were monks and nuns are hard to apply outside of the consecrated life. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, monks and nuns perhaps have more time to sit in active prayer than those who are called to the married life, but that does not mean that the spiritual advice they give is inapplicable to the outside world. For a while, I brushed those works off. I thought that those works had little to no bearing on my life. I thought that even if I were to read those works there was no possible way I could pass muster. However, an opportunity arose to read St. Thérèse of Lisieux when some of my friends decided to form a reading group. [Read More]
10. The 7 Authentic Trappist Ales
In 1997, eight Trappist abbeys—six from Belgium (Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Westmalle and Achel), one from the Netherlands (Koningshoeven) and one from Germany (Mariawald) – founded the International Trappist Association (ITA) to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from abusing the Trappist name. This private association created a logo that is assigned to goods (cheese, beer, wine, etc.) that respect precise production criteria. For the beers, these criteria are the following:
The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks.
The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must obviously depend on the monastic community.
The economic purpose of the brewery must be directed toward assistance and not toward financial profit.
This association has a legal standing, and its logo gives to the consumer some information and guarantees about the produce. [Read More]
9. Glory of Rome: 5 Latin Hymns Every Catholic Should Know
Listers, our study of the best hymns within the treasury of the Church continues with a look at the Latin hymns all Catholics should know. [Read More]
8. 25 Reader Recommended Blogs of 2012
Listers, SPL’s list of 12 Catholic Blogs Worth Your Time garnered a large lister response of other notable Catholics blogs. As promised, we’ve composed a list of the 25 lister recommended blogs. SPL has also articulated a list of the Top 10 Catholic News Sites, which includes popular sites such as New Advent and the National Catholic Register. [Read More]
7. 12 Catholic Blogs Worth you time of 2012
Listers, the following collection of blogs represents the best Catholic voices online. The list is not necessarily in a strict order. If you think there is a blog(s) that should be featured on St. Peter’s List please do not hesitate to name and link the blog in the comment box and we’ll see what we can do. Also, please note this is a list of blogs – and even though SPL has included some that stretch the limits of a blog, other excellent news sites like New Advent and Life Site News will be featured elsewhere. SPL did not list itself, but you can find more lists from us on Twitter and Facebook. [Read More]
6. Top 10 Catholic News Sites of 2012
Listers, it almost goes without question that the mainstream media does not understand religion, much less the one true faith of Holy Mother Church. Catholicism cannot be boiled down to a list of doctrines, but demands a formation of the intellect and way of thinking. To properly report on Catholicism a Catholic news source is a necessity. The following sites represent the best Catholic news outlets available to the laity, and have been distinguished from SPL’s list of the Best in Catholic Blogging. [Read More]
5. Catholics, Obama, and the HHS Mandate: 16 Political Cartoons of 2012
Listers despite the enormous amount of protests and the arduous work of many Catholics and Catholic media companies to spread awareness about the HHS Mandate, President Obama still stands strong in the polls less than 40 days out from the election. The following collection is taken from various sources and composes only a fraction of the material available. Additionally, SPL has provided our introductory paragraph to our gallery of graphics addressing Holy Mother Church and the HHS Mandate. [Read More]
4. The Domestic Church: 7 Steps to a Proper Catholic Home
It has been said that the Catholic home should be seen as “The Domestic Church”. With this being said, the Father is the head, the Mother is the beloved spouse, and the children are brought up learning to love and serve the Blessed Trinity. The true head of the Catholic home is Christ, just as the Head of the Church is the Supreme Pontiff, His Holiness. Christ should be known and recognized in each Catholic home as King; the family’s week should be centered around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and prayer is a must. [Read More]
3. 5 Short Stories that Every Catholic should Read
Listers, The genre of the short story is a particularly extraordinary human invention. In a matter of two hours or less, the short story can illustrate some complexities of life without taxing the mind with deep philosophical terms or concepts. As some of us don’t have the proclivity to have intense philosophical and theological discussions on the various nuances of life and faith, the short story provides us with a brief vision on the robust nature of the Christian existence. Many people would suggest that short stories are just for children. However, I would argue that adults need short stories as well. It is one of the few welcome outlets in which adults can hold up a mirror to themselves and observe what they see, warts and all. [Read More]
2. Pope and Beer: 9 Photos to Brighten Your Day
Listers, praise be to Jesus Christ Our Lord that we are not Puritans. Christ did not change wine into water, he change water into wine; and ever since then our Church has had a long and proud history of brewing and refining alcoholic beverages. The following are several photos featuring Cardinal Ratzinger, German beer memorabilia from Pope Benedict XVI’s journey to Germany, and other papal products for your enjoyment. [Read More]
1. I Stand with the Catholic Church: 10 Graphics in Defense of the Church
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. [Read More]
“Rights are often confused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, who becomes self-referential, no longer open to encounter with God and with others, and absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs.”
Listers, the following quotes are taken from what has come to be known as the “State of the World” address. Right on the heels of his excellent Christmas Eve homily, His Holiness’ address to the Diplomatic Corps touched on Syria, Iraq, North Africa, and many other nations and their turmoils. Below are the seven most thematic statements and the address in full may be found at Vatican News. SPL offers several lists tracking the acute thoughts of Pope Benedict XVI and also recently published a list from Fr. James V. Schall echoing a similar critique of the Western man’s error in understanding human rights entitled Modern Man Has Lost His Way. A summary of the address may be found as a Vatican video.
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI TO THE MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS
7 January 2013
1. Forgetfulness of God gives rise to violence
Yet from the Christian point of view, the glorification of God and human peace on earth are closely linked, with the result that peace is not simply the fruit of human effort, but a participation in the very love of God. It is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence.
2. Baneful Religious Fanaticism
The consequences of forgetfulness of God cannot be separated from those resulting from ignorance of his true countenance, the root of a baneful religious fanaticism which, again in 2012, reaped victims in some countries represented here.
At the same time, I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion. Direct abortion, that is to say willed as an end or as a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. In affirming this, the Catholic Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy, also towards the mother involved. Rather, it is a question of being vigilant lest the law unjustly alter the balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both.
4. The Western error on human rights
Sadly, especially in the West, one frequently encounters ambiguities about the meaning of human rights and their corresponding duties. Rights are often confused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, who becomes self-referential, no longer open to encounter with God and with others, and absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs. To be authentic, the defence of rights must instead consider human beings integrally, in their personal and communitarian dimensions.
5. Profit to the detriment of humanity
The crisis developed because profit was all too often made absolute, to the detriment of labour, and because of unrestrained ventures in the financial areas of the economy, rather than attending to the real economy. There is a need, then, to rediscover the meaning of work and proportionate profit. To that end, it would be well to teach people how to resist the temptations of particular and short-term interests, and to look instead to the common good.
6. Religious Liberty
It even happens that believers, and Christians in particular, are prevented from contributing to the common good by their educational and charitable institutions. In order effectively to safeguard the exercise of religious liberty it is essential to respect the right of conscientious objection. This “frontier” of liberty touches upon principles of great importance of an ethical and religious character, rooted in the very dignity of the human person. They are, as it were, the “bearing walls” of any society that wishes to be truly free and democratic. Thus, outlawing individual and institutional conscientious objection in the name of liberty and pluralism paradoxically opens by contrast the door to intolerance and forced uniformity.
7. There is no peace without charity
At the end of the Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, whose fiftieth anniversary will be celebrated this year, my predecessor Blessed John XXIII remarked that peace remains “an empty word” if it is not nourished and completed by charity (AAS 55 , 303). Indeed, it is at the heart of the diplomatic activity of the Holy See and, above all, of the concern of the Successor of Peter and of the whole Catholic Church. Charity cannot take the place of justice that has been denied; nor can justice, on the other hand, replace charity that has been refused. The Church daily practises charity in works of social assistance such as hospitals and clinics, her educational institutions such as orphanages, schools, colleges and universities, and through help given to peoples in distress, especially during and after conflicts.
“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
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. [↩]
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. [↩]
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. [↩]
“A kind of cultural relativism exists today, evident in the conceptualization and defence of an ethical pluralism, which sanctions the decadence and disintegration of reason and the principles of the natural moral law.” – CDF under Cardinal Ratzinger
Listers in lieu of some comparison of fleeting political platforms and promises, SPL presents a collection of lists that articulates the Church’s timeless political principles. The following lists pull from USCCB documents that address particular American politics, Vatican documents that address being a Catholic citizen in a democracy, and lists that resurrect our long-neglected political tradition as taught by St. Thomas Aquinas. We invite the listers to begin their catechesis wherever they may be within their understanding of Catholic (read: proper, virtuous, and correct) politics. Whether the starting point is the brevity of the USCCB or the intellectual depths of Aquinas, just start.
What we plead with the listers to avoid is the same hackneyed American political platforms that volley the same shallow and vitriolic points back and forth that reveals nothing but the warring parties’ tribal-political affiliations. America – and arguably the entire West – is not decaying to modernist froth and flotsam because it has the wrong answers, but because it is asking the wrong questions. To wit, Western culture has become to weak to support the Gospel and almost too weak to even support reason and natural law.
SPL has reproduced the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s section on political authority in its entirety and supplemented the teachings with context and definitions from Sacred Tradition.
Does Human Society Need Political Authority?
1897. “Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.”
By “authority” one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them.
Can a Catholic Break an Unjust Law?
1903. Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, “authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse.”
Listers, the USCCB released their Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholics Bishops of the United States and SPL has reproduced the primary points with commentary.
What If a Catholic Votes for a Candidate/Law that Furthers an Intrinsic Evil?
A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if they voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would by guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other importnat moral issues involving human life and dignity.
Do Catholic Politicians Have Any Special Duty?
In Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 83, Pope Benedict XVI states the follow:
Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, bu virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defense form conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms.
Listers, paragraphs 40-62 of the USCCB’s document on Faithful Citizenship address the supporting role of Catholic Social Teaching in Catholic political action. Catholic Social Teaching grants Catholics a philosophical and moral platform upon which they may have well-ordered political engagement:
The consistent ethic of life provides a moral framework for principled Catholic engagement in political life and, rightly understood, neither treats all issues as morally equivalent nor reduces Catholic teaching to one or two issues.
Option for the Poor and the Vulnerable
While the common good embraces all, those who are weak, vulnerable, and most in need deserve preferential concern. A basic moral test for our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst.
We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are brothers; and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be.
Solidarity includes the Scriptural call to welcome the stranger among us – including immigrants seeking work, a safe hom, education for their children, and a decent life for their families.
As Pope Paul VI taught, “If you want peace, work for justice.” (World Day of Peace Message, Jan 1, 1972)
4. 20 Statements by the Vatican on Democratic Societies
Listers, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (2002) – now Pope Benedict XVI – released a doctrinal note responding to “some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life.” If you are not familiar, it is common for bishops to write to the CDF for clarification on certain issues. In return, the CDF answers by explaining the doctrinal position of the Church. The following is considered a note, because it seeks to articulate selected issues, not the whole of Catholic political thought.
Among these, Saint Thomas More, who was proclaimed Patron of Statesmen and Politicians, gave witness by his martyrdom to the inalienable dignity of the human conscience.Though subjected to various forms of psychological pressure, Saint Thomas More refused to compromise, never forsaking the «constant fidelity to legitimate authority and institutions which distinguished him; he taught by his life and his death that «man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality.
A Catholic Critique of Modern Democracy: Cultural Relativism
The following is an exemplary snapshot of the ills of modern democracy by the CDF.
A kind of cultural relativism exists today, evident in the conceptualization and defence of an ethical pluralism, which sanctions the decadence and disintegration of reason and the principles of the natural moral law. Furthermore, it is not unusual to hear the opinion expressed in the public sphere that such ethical pluralism is the very condition for democracy. As a result, citizens claim complete autonomy with regard to their moral choices, and lawmakers maintain that they are respecting this freedom of choice by enacting laws which ignore the principles of natural ethics and yield to ephemeral cultural and moral trends, as if every possible outlook on life were of equal value.
Those who, on the basis of respect for individual conscience, would view the moral duty of Christians to act according to their conscience as something that disqualifies them from political life, denying the legitimacy of their political involvement following from their convictions about the common good, would be guilty of a form of intolerant secularism. Such a position would seek to deny not only any engagement of Christianity in public or political life, but even the possibility of natural ethics itself. Were this the case, the road would be open to moral anarchy, which would be anything but legitimate pluralism.
Religious Freedom Does Not Translate to All Religions Are Equal
Reflecting on this question, Paul VI taught that «in no way does the Council base this right to religious freedom on the fact that all religions and all teachings, including those that are erroneous, would have more or less equal value; it is based rather on the dignity of the human person, which demands that he not be subjected to external limitations which tend to constrain the conscience in its search for the true religion or in adhering to it». The teaching on freedom of conscience and on religious freedom does not therefore contradict the condemnation of indifferentism and religious relativism by Catholic doctrine; on the contrary, it is fully in accord with it.
Listers, the current modern regimes of the West tout democracy as an end all to tyranny and political strife. While democracy is arguably one of the most practical and successful regimes, it is not a magical balm that automatically assuages injustice. Democracy must be understood according to its internal guiding principles – principles that have been observed and questioned since the ancient Greeks.
Freedom Is an Ambiguous Goal
Classical political philosophy – as demonstrated by such thinkers as Aristotle – held virtue to be the guiding goal of the state. Men are political animals, the state or polis is a natural institution, and they are both guided by “good habits” or the natural virtues. While perfecting natural law by the light of the Incarnate God, the Catholic Church still holds to natural law as the basis of human societies.
Regardless of what the Church or the ancients advocate, modern democracy’s obsession with freedom is fragile in its own right. The most obvious critique is that unlike virtue or any other objective goal, freedom is a means, not an end.
Freedom as a goal is ambiguous, because it is freedom for evil as well as for good.
Due to the focus on freedom, democratic regimes are inherently concerned with the quality of their citizens.
The Link: Education, Leisure, & Wealth
The virtues are nothing more than “good habits,” but those acts that habituate individuals to the good are not subjective nor are they completely innate. Consequently, the formation of a citizen’s character requires education, and education requires leisure. If survival requires children to work the land or tend the animals, the lack of leisure equates to a lack of time for proper education.
If education is tied to leisure, then leisure is tied to one’s standard of living or general wealth. Philosophy was not born of humanity until the race had reached an age where society’s survival had become sufficient enough to allow for some leisure. However, for the children not to be able to work the land or tend the animals – and thus have the leisure to study – a certain amount of wealth is required.
Listers, the following commentary address St. Thomas’ introduction to law and lays the groundwork to understand the Angelic Doctor’s teaching of an ordered Creation. It is hard to overestimate the impact Aquinas had on the Catholic approach to law and politics, especially when considering his use of Aristotle. Aristotle’s Politics is easily in the running for one of the most influential political works in the Western world. Moreover, Aquinas’ use of Aristotle’s observations of nature – man is a political animals, the city is a natural institution, laws are discerned from nature, etc. – coupled with the grace and clarity of divine revelation enabled the Angelic Doctor to articulate law in both a natural and divine sense. To wit, Aquinas places Aristotle’s political views into a divinely ordered Creation and shows the harmony and order of the entire cosmos.
Below is a commentary that strives to break down some of the more dense thomistic jargon and present the reader with a simple preface to Aquinas’ questions over law.
How does Aquinas differ from Aristotle on law?
The notion that St. Thomas simply baptized Aristotle into the Christian faith is nothing more than a blunt caviled statement meant to sow distrust among those unfamiliar with the nuances. In book one of Aristotle’s Politics, the Philosopher describes the following political order: man as a political animal, the relationships of the household and family, the gathering of households together called villages, and the collection of villages called the city or polis. St. Thomas accepts this natural political structure, but also acknowledges a Cosmo-Polis. The notion of a cosmo-polis is only to say that man inhabits an ordered cosmos wherein God governs all of humanity and Creation. St. Thomas uses God’s self-revelation to place Aristotle’s observations of man’s natural political organization into an organized and ordered creation. In Catholic thought, the principle that grace perfects nature unfolds powerfully in thomistic teaching. Here the scope, ambiguities, and even errors based off the incredibly astute observations of nature by Aristotle are perfected according God’s revelation. Nature is not replaced, but its teachings are clarified and held in supreme confidence.
Why does St. Thomas speak of happiness and law?
In the Thomistic sense, laws are orientated toward happiness. However, like most concepts, modernity has hijacked “happiness” and beaten it into a type of self-seeking pleasure or fleeting tenuous joy. Happiness for ancients like Aristotle and scholastics like St. Thomas denotes an obedience to one’s nature, because one is most fulfilled when one embraces that which is natural and denies those things contrary to nature. In the thomistic light, happiness is an effect of right living or living the virtuous life. The connection between laws and happiness is virtue, because the natural virtues – prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude – ungird laws of reason and nature. To wit, laws exist to guide men to virtue.
What is law’s relationship to the common good?
Law deals with the Common Good not with private goods. Every Law must be orientated toward the common good of whatever particular scope for which it is legislated, e.g., Divine law pertains to the common good of the People of God, the Church, while Human laws pertain to the secular political laws of the state as ascertained through nature and reason.
Communities naturally asks the individual to lay their personal good for the Common Good. The individual citizen is part of the whole. To wit, the individual is a sub-political part of the overall state. In contrast, modernity has begin to place the individual over the common good, by making the common good bend to the supposed rights of individuals. The modern standard of justice is the individual and their rights, not the overarching good of the state.
God is the Common Good of all things – even the polis – but he may not be the proper or immediate common good of the political community. The political community is innately incapable – due to its capacity – of incorporating certain virtues, perfections, or ordering laws based off the Trinity, etc., as discussed above.
Law must only speak generally to the overall public and cannot speak particularly. For a mundane example, it would be absurd to set speed limitations on individual citizens and not simply place a overarching speed limit on the road or interstate.
Listers, SPL continues its Thomistic Catechesis on Law with presenting Summa Theologica I-II.92.1 – Whether an effect of law is to make men good? Save the one SPL Commentary section and the added title, the following quotes the Angelic Doctor’s article in full. SPL has also rearranged the article to ease the format for those not used to reading the Summa Theologica.
Are laws supposed to make men good?
To Lead Its Subjects to Virtue
And accordingly “the virtue of every subject consists in his being well subjected to his ruler,” as the Philosopher says (Polit. i). But every law aims at being obeyed by those who are subject to it. Consequently it is evident that the proper effect of law is to lead its subjects to their proper virtue: and since virtue is “that which makes its subject good,” it follows that the proper effect of law is to make those to whom it is given, good, either simply or in some particular respect.
It is a modern notion that laws make us good; however, law cannot make one good, but it is an extrinsic principle that inclines or leads citizens to the good. The Natural Virtues – Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude – are available to all men and can be acquired by all men; however, virtue is not an act but a habit. The laws of a State obedient to Natural Law exists to lead men in virtue, but cannot force men to be virtuous. Social engineering and utopian hopes are modern inventions. Moreover, the Angelic Doctor will later on in his treatise on law discuss that the State should not always legislate all virtues, because if the citizens are not themselves virtuous or educated in virtue, it will only create greater evils.
Listers, we turn now to the third part of the USCCB’s document on Faithful Citizenship. The following goals will be quoted verbatim, but the titles are added. For further reading, please check out our threads on poverty, politics, and Catholic Social Teaching.
Protect the Weakest Amongst Us: The Unborn
Address the preeminent requirement to protect the weakest in our midst—innocent unborn children—by restricting and bringing to an end the destruction of unborn children through abortion.
Ethical & Comprehensive Health Care Reform
Provide health care for the growing number of people without it, while respecting human life, human dignity, and religious freedom in our health care system.
Protect Religion’s Pursuit of the Common Good
Encourage families, community groups, economic structures, and government to work together to overcome poverty, pursue the common good, and care for creation, with full respect for religious groups and their right to address social needs in accord with their basic moral convictions.
Application of the Just War Theory
Establish and comply with moral limits on the use of military force—examining for what purposes it may be used, under what authority, and at what human cost—and work for a “responsible transition” to end the war in Iraq.
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.
Christians as Political Animals Marc Guerra, PhD.
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.
Listers, the following is an original SPL composition by HH Ambrose summarizing the first chapter of Aristotle’s Politics and briefly tying it into Plato’s Philosopher King. Aristotelian political thought is the cornerstone of Western Civilization, especially in its articulation of natural law and man’s political nature.
In the development of political philosophy, few works have played “such an important role in the social and political life of the Christian West” as Aristotle’s Politics.
Aristotle begins with humanity’s natural political development: the two partnerships of the household. The first being the natural partnership of reproduction between male and female and the second being the relationship between the “naturally ruling and ruled.” St. Thomas Aquinas observes in his commentary on the Politics, both associations are for preservation: the former “nature aims” at “generation” and in the latter nature has aimed “at the preservation of things generated.” While Aristotle uses slavery to exemplify the latter association, the principle at work is a reciprocal relationship of survival. Aquinas comments that the master (the ruler) “by reason of his wisdom can foresee mentally” what must be done to survive, and the slave or subject (the ruled) “who abounds in bodily strength” would not be able “to survive if he were not ruled by the prudence of another.” Thus the twofold natural association of the household exists for the “needs of daily life.”
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Listers, this hackneyed quote is taken from a minor character in Shakespeare’s Henry VI. Often quoted in glee and with a smirk, it raises the question of why society enjoys a “good” lawyer joke.
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Listers, this hackneyed quote is taken from a minor character in Shakespeare’s Henry VI. Often quoted in glee and with a smirk, it raises the question of why society enjoys a “good” lawyer joke. “The answer is simple,” states Strickland and Read in The Lawyer Myth, “in a nation so law-focused and with such pervasive economic and social regulation, lawyers have immense power. This kind of lawyer power, access, and control is deeply resented.”1 How should a Catholic lawyer wield this power and rise above the stereotypes? While there are many excellent examples of Catholic lawyers and law societies defending the virtues of the Church, the saint Sir Thomas More stands as the exemplar and patron of all lawyers and statesmen. Turning to his soul and genius, let law students, lawyers, and all those engaged in the Common Good of society meditate on his life and prayers.
Sir Thomas More, ora pro nobis.
Sir Thomas More (/ˈmɔr/; 7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), known to Catholics as Saint Thomas More since 1935, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and was Lord Chancellor from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935. He is commemorated by the Church of England as a “Reformation martyr”. He was an opponent of the Protestant Reformation and in particular of Martin Luther and William Tyndale.
Intellectuals and statesmen across Europe were stunned by More’s execution. Erasmus saluted him as one “whose soul was more pure than any snow, whose genius was such that England never had and never again will have its like”. Two centuries later Jonathan Swift said he was “the person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced,” a sentiment with which Samuel Johnson agreed. Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper said in 1977 that More was “the first great Englishman whom we feel that we know, the most saintly of humanists, the most human of saints, the universal man of our cool northern renaissance.”2
1. A Prayer by an Imprisoned Sir Thomas More
The following is reported to have been written while St. Thomas was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Give me the grace, Good Lord to set the world at naught.
To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men’s mouths.
To be content to be solitary.
Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.
Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me. Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.
To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity. Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.
To have the last thing in remembrance.
To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand.
To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell.
To pray for pardon before the judge comes.
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me.
For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.
To buy the time again that I have lost.
To abstain from vain conversations.
To shun foolish mirth and gladness.
To cut off unnecessary recreations.
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.
To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred. These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap. Amen3
2. Litany of Sir Thomas More
The martyr and patron of statesmen, politicians, and lawyers.4
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ, have mercy
R. Christ have mercy
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ hear us
R. Christ, graciously hear us
V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr, R. Pray for us (Repeat after each invocation)
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates
St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity
V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Spare us O Lord
V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Graciously hear us O Lord
V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Have mercy on us
Let us pray:
O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of
prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life — the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Thomas More , counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints:
Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients’ tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul.
Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God’s first. Amen.6
SPL on Law and Politics
The politics of a well-ordered society is a constant and deep theme throughout SPL. Those interested in the Catholic (read: virtuous and proper) perspective on society should consult our lists on LAW, POLITICS, and the COMMON GOOD. Cheers.
The Lawyer Myth – The book is not one written from a Catholic perspective, but does promote the overall theme of lawyers as agents of justice and healing with our society. [↩]
Introductory paragraph for Sir Thomas More – Source [↩]
Extended Patronage of Sir Thomas More: KCYM (Kerala Catholic Youth Movement); Adopted children; Ateneo de Manila Law School; civil servants; Diocese of Arlington; Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee; University of Malta; University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters; court clerks; lawyers, politicians, and statesmen; stepparents; widowers; difficult marriages; large families – Source [↩]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 [↩]
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 [↩]
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. [↩]
“Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Theotókos, I invoke God’s abundant gifts upon all of you with great affection! God grant that all the peoples of the Middle East may live in peace, fraternity and religious freedom! لِيُبَارِك الربُّ جميعَكُم [May God bless all of you!]”
Apostolic Journey to Lebanon
(14-16 September 2012)
On the occasion of the signing and publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.
All quotes are by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI unless otherwise cited.
1. Meeting of His Holiness Benedict XVI with journalists during the flight to Lebanon
“I can tell you that no one advised me to cancel this journey, and for my part I never considered doing so, because I know that as the situation becomes more complex, it is all the more necessary to offer this sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity. That is the aim of my visit: to issue an invitation to dialogue, to peace and against violence, to go forward together to find solutions to the problems.”
2. Welcoming ceremony at the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport
“The links between Lebanon and the Successor of Peter are ancient and deep. Mr President, dear friends, I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men. Christ says, سَلامي أُعطيكُم, “My peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). And looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs. To them too Christ says: سَلامي أُعطيكُم.”
3. Visit to St. Paul’s Basilica in Harissa and the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
“Fear not, little flock” (Lk 12:32) and remember the promise made to Constantine: “In this sign you will conquer!” Churches of the Middle East, fear not, for the Lord is truly with you, to the close of the age! Fear not, because the universal Church walks at your side and is humanly and spiritually close to you! It is with this hope and this word of encouragement to be active heralds of the faith by your communion and witness, that on Sunday I will entrust the Post-Synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to my venerable brother Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops, and to all priests, deacons, men and women religious, the seminarians and all the lay faithful. “Be of good cheer” (Jn 16:33)! Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Theotókos, I invoke God’s abundant gifts upon all of you with great affection! God grant that all the peoples of the Middle East may live in peace, fraternity and religious freedom! لِيُبَارِك الربُّ جميعَكُم [May God bless all of you!]”
4. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente: Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness
“It is in this restrictive, unstable and lately violence-prone context that God has permitted his Church to grow. She lives there in a remarkable variety of forms. Along with the Catholic Church, a great number of venerable Churches and Ecclesial Communities of more recent date are present in the Middle East. This mosaic demands a significant and continued effort to build unity in respect for the riches of each, and thus to reaffirm the credibility of the proclamation of the Gospel and Christian witness.”
“The Pastors of the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris realize with regret and concern that the numbers of their faithful are dwindling in the traditional Patriarchal territories, and for some time now they have had to develop a plan of pastoral care for emigrants… I also exhort the Church’s Pastors in those places where Eastern Catholics have settled to welcome them with charity and fraternal esteem, to facilitate the bonds of communion between emigrants and their Churches of origin, and to enable them to celebrate in accordance with their own traditions and, wherever possible, to develop pastoral and parish activities.”
5. Meeting with members of the government, institutions of the Republic, the diplomatic corps, religious leaders and representatives of the world of culture
May 25th Hall of the Baabda Presidential Palace, 15 September 2012[Full Text]
“We need to be very conscious that evil is not some nameless, impersonal and deterministic force at work in the world. Evil, the devil, works in and through human freedom, through the use of our freedom. It seeks an ally in man. Evil needs man in order to act. Having broken the first commandment, love of God, it then goes on to distort the second, love of neighbour. Love of neighbour disappears, yielding to falsehood, envy, hatred and death. But it is possible for us not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21). It is to this conversion of heart that we are called. Without it, all our coveted human “liberations” prove disappointing, for they are curtailed by our human narrowness, harshness, intolerance, favouritism and desire for revenge. A profound transformation of mind and heart is needed to recover a degree of clarity of vision and impartiality, and the profound meaning of the concepts of justice and the common good.”
6. Luncheon with the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon, members of the Special Council for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops and the papal entourage
Refectory of the Armenian Catholic Patriachate of Bzommar, 15 September 2012[Full Text]
“Dear friends, through the intercession of the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus, and of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, let us ask the Lord to bless the Armenian community, so sorely tried down through the ages, and to send to its harvest numerous saintly workers who, because of Christ, are enabled to change the face of our societies, to heal hearts that are broken and to offer courage, strength and hope to those who despair. Thank you!”
7. Meeting with the youth in the square across from the Maronite Patriarchate of Bkerké
“You have a special place in my heart and in the whole Church, because the Church is always young! The Church trusts you. She counts on you! Be young in the Church! Be young with the Church! The Church needs your enthusiasm and your creativity! Youth is the time when we aspire to great ideals, when we study and train for our future work. All this is important and it takes time. Seek beauty and strive for goodness! Bear witness to the grandeur and the dignity of your body which “is for the Lord” (1 Cor 6:13b). Be thoughtful, upright and pure of heart! In the words of Blessed John Paul II, I say to you: “Do not be afraid! Open the doors of your minds and hearts to Christ!”
8. Holy Mass and the presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East
Beirut City Center Waterfront, 16 September 2012[Full Text]
“Dear brothers and sisters who are suffering physically or spiritually, your sufferings are not in vain! Christ the Servant wished to be close to the suffering. He is always close to you. Along your own path, may you always find brothers and sisters who are concrete signs of his loving presence which will never forsake you! Remain ever hopeful because of Christ!”
9. Presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East
Beirut City Center Waterfront, 16 September 2012[Full Text]
“Dear Church in the Middle East, draw from the source of salvation which became a reality in this unique and beloved land! Follow in the footsteps of your fathers in faith, who by tenacity and fidelity opened up the way for humanity to respond to the revelation of God! Among the wonderful diversity of saints who flourished in your land, look for examples and intercessors who will inspire your response to the Lord’s call to walk towards the heavenly Jerusalem, where God will wipe away every one of our tears (cf. Rev 21:4)! May fraternal communion be a support for you in your daily life and the sign of the universal brotherhood which Jesus, the firstborn of many, came to bring! Thus, in this region which saw his actions and heard his words, may the Gospel continue to resonate as it did 2,000 years ago, and may it be lived today and for ever! Thank you.”
“Sadly, the din of weapons continues to make itself heard, along with the cry of the widow and the orphan. Violence and hatred invade people’s lives, and the first victims are women and children. Why so much horror? Why so many dead? I appeal to the international community! I appeal to the Arab countries that, as brothers, they might propose workable solutions respecting the dignity, the rights and the religion of every human person! […] May God grant to your country, to Syria and to the Middle East the gift of peaceful hearts, the silencing of weapons and the cessation of all violence! May men understand that they are all brothers! Mary, our Mother, understands our concern and our needs.”
11. Ecumenical Meeting in the Hall of Honor of the Syro-Catholic Patriarchate of Charfet
“Allow me to acknowledge here the testimony of faith shown by the Syrian Antiochene Church in the course of its glorious history, a testimony to an ardent love for Christ, which has caused it to write some heroic pages of this history, right up to the present, by remaining committed to the faith even to the point of martyrdom. I encourage this Church to be for the peoples of the region a sign of the peace that comes from God as well as a light that keeps their hope alive. I extend this encouragement to all the Churches and ecclesial communities present in the region.”
12. Departure ceremony at the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport
“I pray to God for Lebanon, that she may live in peace and courageously resist all that could destroy or undermine that peace. I hope that Lebanon will continue to permit the plurality of religious traditions and not listen to the voices of those who wish to prevent it. I hope that Lebanon will fortify the communion among all her inhabitants, whatever their community or religion, that she will resolutely reject all that could lead to disunity, and with determination choose brotherhood. These are blossoms pleasing to God, virtues that are possible and that merit consolidation by becoming more deeply rooted. The Virgin Mary, venerated with devotion and tenderness by the faithful of the religious confessions here present, is a sure model for going forward in hope along the path of a lived and authentic brotherhood.”
“And thus it can be understood that in the 19th century, when the incompatibility of modern reason and faith was strongly declared, Pope Leo XIII pointed to St Thomas as a guide in the dialogue between them.”
Listers, Pope Benedict XVI describes St. Thomas Aquinas as having an “exquisitely Eucharistic soul.” The following is taken from a talk delivered by the Holy Father on June 2nd, 2010 and he also delivered a follow up on June 16th of the same year. The former is focused more as a basic introduction to the life and virtue of the Angelic Doctor and the second is more theological in nature.
Pope Urban IV, who held him in high esteem, commissioned him to compose liturgical texts for the Feast of Corpus Christi, which we are celebrating tomorrow, established subsequent to the Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena. Thomas had an exquisitely Eucharistic soul. The most beautiful hymns that the Liturgy of the Church sings to celebrate the mystery of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Eucharist are attributed to his faith and his theological wisdom.
Listers in his second lesson on the Angelic Doctor, Pope Benedict XVI moves past the basic biography of Aquinas and into the more fundamental theological and philosophical changes the saint brought to Holy Mother Church.
And thus it can be understood that in the 19th century, when the incompatibility of modern reason and faith was strongly declared, Pope Leo XIII pointed to St Thomas as a guide in the dialogue between them. In his theological work, St Thomas supposes and concretizes this relationality. Faith consolidates, integrates and illumines the heritage of truth that human reason acquires. The trust with which St Thomas endows these two instruments of knowledge faith and reason may be traced back to the conviction that both stem from the one source of all truth, the divine Logos, which is active in both contexts, that of Creation and that of redemption.
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.
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!