26 Quotes from Pope Francis’ Visit to Washington D.C. and New York City

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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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Great Books: 31 Political Works Recommended by Faithful Catholic Colleges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Great Books
Politics

 

The Ancients

1. The Holy Bible8

2. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War.9

3. Plato, The Republic.10

4. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.11

5. Aristotle, Politics.12

6. Plutarch, Parallel Lives.13

7. Augustine, Confessions.14

8. Augustine, City of God.15

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

10. Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship.17

 

The Moderns

11. Machiavelli, The Prince.18

12. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.19

13. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government20

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

15. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract.22

16. Articles of Confederation.23

17. Declaration of Independence.24

18. United States Constitution of 1787.25

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

20. Northwest Ordinance of 178727

21. The Federalist Papers28

22. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason.29

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

24. Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals31

25. Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto32

26. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America33

27. Abraham Lincoln, Various Texts.34

28. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates35

29. John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action36

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

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

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

The 6 Step Guide to Aquinas’ Natural Law in a Modern World

Aquinas teaches the three precepts of Natural Law are (1) self-preservation (2) procreation & education of offspring, and (3) natural inclination toward the good, God.

Brief Outline of the Four Laws

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. 

 

Sunset over New York City 1932. - Wikipedia
Sunset over New York City 1932. – Wikipedia

 

1. What is Natural Law?

“It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.”1 Eternal Law is the type of Divine Wisdom that moves all things toward their end. Similar to how the carpenter’s idea of a chair is then imprinted onto the wood, so too is Eternal law imprinted upon all things. The imprint of Eternal Law on man is Natural Law. It is the general moral precepts imprinted on the hearts of humanity; however, individual persons participate in Natural Law via their reasoning. Aquinas believes all persons may know Natural Law through their reason, but not all persons reason equally. Aquinas does not posit an egalitarian view of reason. Some persons will understand more and some less. Notice too this is a very concrete notion of participation that is available to all humanity. While participation is an abused word in philosophical and theological circles, Aquinas presents a brilliant notion of participation in the Eternal through the Natural Law.2

 

2. What is the first indemonstrable principle?

What is meant by the term “first indemonstrable principle”? It is called indemonstrable because it is not deduced from any other truth. If I say Socrates is a man. All men are mortal. Socrates is mortal. The last statement is a deduction from the first two. An indemonstrable principle is not deduced. It is simply known. Aquinas gives the following examples:

Hence it is that, as Boethius says… certain axioms or propositions are universally self-evident to all; and such are those propositions whose terms are known to all, as, “Every whole is greater than its part,” and, “Things equal to one and the same are equal to one another.” But some propositions are self-evident only to the wise, who understand the meaning of the terms of such propositions: thus to one who understands that an angel is not a body, it is self-evident that an angel is not circumscriptively in a place: but this is not evident to the unlearned, for they cannot grasp it.

What is the first indemonstrable principle? Aquinas calls this particular indemonstrable principle first because it is the basis for all other principles. The Angelic Doctor states:

Wherefore the first indemonstrable principle is that “the same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time,” which is based on the notion of “being” and “not-being”: and on this principle all others are based, as is stated in Metaph. iv, text. 9.

The first indemonstrable principle of our apprehension is being. This exists. This does not exist. It is in a person’s apprehension, simply; however, since man is a rational animal, what is the first thing a person apprehends via reason? Following Aristotle, Aquinas teaches:

Now as “being” is the first thing that falls under the apprehension simply, so “good” is the first thing that falls under the apprehension of the practical reason, which is directed to action: since every agent acts for an end under the aspect of good. Consequently the first principle of practical reason is one founded on the notion of good, viz. that “good is that which all things seek after.”

The first principle of practical reason is “the aspect of good.” All men seek what is good. The concept can seem lofty, but a more mundane example is happiness. Aquinas posits that all men seek happiness as well. While most do not associate happiness with the law, the concept of happiness is an excellent starting point for discussing natural law. In general, there is a logical movement from understanding that all men seek happiness, to the fuller understanding that all men seek what is good, to a discussion of what is the good that all men seek. Starting the conversation with all men seek happiness is generally more palatable to modern man than all men seek the good, God.

 

3. What is the first precept of law?

In short, the first indemonstrable principle of apprehension, simply, is being. The first indemonstrable principle of practical reason is good. And if all men are rational animals then all men seek what is good. Aquinas applies this rationale to the law:

Hence this is the first precept of law, that “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.” All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this: so that whatever the practical reason naturally apprehends as man’s good (or evil) belongs to the precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided.

Aquinas arrives at the first precept of law: “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.” It is upon this precept all other precepts flow. Keep in mind Aquinas’ definition of law as well. A law is “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.”3

 

4. Is there an order to the moral precepts?

The first precept of law – that good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided – is the foundation to the general moral precepts of natural law. Before going into detail about these precepts, Aquinas explains how the precepts will be ordered. He teaches that precepts of natural law will be ordered according to the natural inclinations in man.

Since, however, good has the nature of an end, and evil, the nature of a contrary, hence it is that all those things to which man has a natural inclination, are naturally apprehended by reason as being good, and consequently as objects of pursuit, and their contraries as evil, and objects of avoidance. Wherefore according to the order of natural inclinations, is the order of the precepts of the natural law.

Discussed further below, Aquinas will order the precepts of natural law according to man’s inclinations – with the lower inclinations being ordered by the higher inclinations, i.e., that inclination man shares with all things that live will be the lowest, while the inclination that is unique to man as the only rational animal will be highest.

Note, however, that Aquinas speaks of inclinations and not instinct. Typically, an instinct is determined toward an end, while an inclination tends towards an end – but is ultimately indeterminate. Humanity is not born participating in Natural Law, but persons are born with the inclinations toward the precepts of Natural Law. Man participates in those inclinations by reason; thus, the wicked, for example, do not participate in Natural Law for they are recalcitrant to their inclinations toward the precepts of Natural Law.

It should be noted that this discussion is paramount to understanding Aquinas’ treatment of virtue and vice. For a man who acts repeatedly on those inclinations toward the good forms a habit. Habits that create a disposition toward the good are called virtues. Habits that reject those inclinations and dispose persons toward evil are called vices. It also rests on the neglected truth that sin is always and forever irrational.

 

5. What are the precepts of Natural Law?

According to Aquinas, there are three precepts that should be considered when discussing Natural Law. The Angelic Doctor states:

Because in man there is first of all an inclination to good in accordance with the nature which he has in common with all substances: inasmuch as every substance seeks the preservation of its own being, according to its nature: and by reason of this inclination, whatever is a means of preserving human life, and of warding off its obstacles, belongs to the natural law.

Secondly, there is in man an inclination to things that pertain to him more specially, according to that nature which he has in common with other animals: and in virtue of this inclination, those things are said to belong to the natural law, “which nature has taught to all animals” [Pandect. Just. I, tit. i], such as sexual intercourse, education of offspring and so forth.

Thirdly, there is in man an inclination to good, according to the nature of his reason, which nature is proper to him: thus man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society: and in this respect, whatever pertains to this inclination belongs to the natural law; for instance, to shun ignorance, to avoid offending those among whom one has to live, and other such things regarding the above inclination.

To wit, the three precepts are (1) self-preservation (2) procreation & education of offspring and (3) natural inclination toward the good, God; however, how do these precepts relate to one another? Are they all equal? Do they compete against one another? To the contrary, Aquinas holds to the general truth that a higher principle orders the lower. For example, the first and second precepts are those we share with both plants and animals. All things seek self-preservation. The second precept is shared with animals, because irrational animals procreate and educate their offspring; however, it is the third precept, the highest precept, that is predicated upon man as man, i.e., the rational animal. It is specifically man’s inclination toward the good, the truth, God, that should order the other two precepts.

For example, among the irrational animals, it appears the first precept of self-preservation is not always true. Nature is full of examples of mothers who would die to protect their young or males that die in order to procreate. In these examples, the lower precept of self-preservation is ordered and governed by the higher precept of procreating and educating offspring. In the rational animal, man, the third precept of seeking God should order self-preservation and the manner in which humanity procreates and educates. The operative word is should, because man is not forced to hold to the precepts of Natural Law – but only chooses to via reason. The wicked, for example, will not hold to these precepts nor will they order them correctly.

 

6. How does Aquinas differ from Modernist views?

Broadly speaking, nature may be spoken of in three ways: a Thomistic nature, a reductionist nature, and a mechanistic nature. The Thomistic nature is characterized by the belief that (1) the general moral precepts of Natural Law are available to all men in some degree, (2) man participates in these general moral precepts via his reason, and (3) the moral precepts exist in a hierarchical order.

Arguably, a reductionist theory reverses the teachings of Aquinas. In Aquinas, the higher orders the lower, while a reductionist view advocates that the lower orders the higher. If humanity has a moral question, it should look to the animals or the environment. For example, man’s sexuality is understood by looking at the sexual life of animals. Is homosexual activity permissible for man? Well, homosexuality does periodically occur among animals species; thus, it is permissible and not contrary to natural law. To wit, the rational animals uses his rationality to conclude that which is permissible for the irrational animals is permissible for man.

The reductionist view is often times associated with a Hobbesian view of nature. Thomas Hobbes taught that nature is a constant state of war. Nature is a violent chaos. Nature is the red tooth and claw. In more evolutionary terms, natural law is simply the survival of the fittest. The first precept of self-preservation dominates all others. Here man looks to nature and discards it as a moral standard. Instead of viewing reason as the principle by which the lower precepts of nature are ordered, man sees his reason as the instrument that overcomes nature. Nature becomes something to vex and dominate, not follow. Man views himself as something liberated from nature and free to create social and moral constructs free from any natural external standard.

Mechanistic theories are based off strict necessity. Mechanistic views hold that man is governed under a biological illusion, i.e., free will is actually determined by nature. While the Thomistic approach holds that nature is not governed by a strict necessity, it does not exclude biology playing a role in the decision making of human beings. For example, a full moon’s gravitational pull affects both the oceans and the human body. While the Thomistic view acknowledges influences, it does not believe man is forced or biologically determined to certain ends. Reason and free will remain. One key issue with the mechanistic view of nature is that it flattens nature into equal parts, i.e., both rational and irrational animals are equitable under the force of nature. In contrast, the Thomistic view holds a certain gradation or hierarchy to nature, with man, the rational animal, being the higher creature – the creature that has the natural precept to seek the good, God.


 

SPL on Aquinas’ Treatment of Law – Summa Theologica Reference

  1. Law and the Common Good: 9 Introductory Catholic Questions – I-II.90
  2. Think Like a Catholic: 7 Questions on the Four Laws – I-II.91
  3. 4 Reasons God Gave Us Scripture (Divine Law) by Aquinas – I-II.91.4
  4. Does the Law Exist to Make Men Virtuous? 6 Thoughts from Aquinas – I-II.92.1
  5. 4 Other Questions on Virtue and Law – I-II.92.1
  6. Divine Government: 6 Questions by Aquinas on the Eternal Law – I-II.93
  7. 3 Steps to Understand How Humanity Participates in Natural Law – I-II.94.1
  1. Natural Law, cf. I-II.91.2. []
  2. Natural Law: All quotes unless otherwise specified are taken from the Summa Theologica I-II.94.2. []
  3. Definition of a Law: ST I-II.90.4. []

3 Steps to Understand How Humanity Participates in 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.

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.

 

Leonardo da Vinci, sketches of the brain.
Leonardo da Vinci, sketches of the brain.

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.”2 In 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

  1. Law and the Common Good: 9 Introductory Catholic Questions – I-II.90
  2. Think Like a Catholic: 7 Questions on the Four Laws – I-II.91
  3. 4 Reasons God Gave Us Scripture (Divine Law) by Aquinas – I-II.91.4
  4. Does the Law Exist to Make Men Virtuous? 6 Thoughts from Aquinas – I-II.92.1
  5. 4 Other Questions on Virtue and Law – I-II.92.1
  6. Divine Government: 6 Questions by Aquinas on the Eternal Law – I-II.93
  1. Natural Law: This list is a summary of I-II.94.1 []
  2. 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. []
  3. Habits: For more on habits and the source for the given quotes, see ST I-II.49.1-2. []

Divine Government: 6 Questions by Aquinas on the Eternal 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.

SPL on Aquinas’ Treatment of Law – Summa Theologica Reference
  1. Law and the Common Good: 9 Introductory Catholic Questions – I-II.90
  2. Think Like a Catholic: 7 Questions on the Four Laws – I-II.91
  3. 4 Reasons God Gave Us Scripture (Divine Law) by Aquinas – I-II.91.4
  4. Does the Law Exist to Make Men Virtuous? 6 Thoughts from Aquinas – I-II.92.1
  5. 4 Other Questions on Virtue and Law – I-II.92.1

 

The Weaver, AD 1524.
The Weaver, AD 1524.

Brief Outline of the Four Laws

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.

 

The carpenter is the efficient cause of change in the wood.
The carpenter is the efficient cause of change in the wood.

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.

 

Sunrise at the Ruins of Knowlton Church, England via Wikicommons, Simon Barnes
Sunrise at the Ruins of Knowlton Church, England via Wikicommons, Simon Barnes

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

 

Lady Justice (Latin: Justitia, the Roman goddess of Justice, who is equivalent to the Greek goddess Dike) is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. - Wikipedia, Lady Justice
Lady Justice (Latin: Justitia, the Roman goddess of Justice, who is equivalent to the Greek goddess Dike) is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. – Wikipedia, Lady Justice

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.  

 

The Beatific Vision in Dante's Paradisio by Gustave Dore.
The Beatific Vision in Dante’s Paradiso by Gustave Dore.

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

 

"Cannibal Tree" - A tree grown around a sawed off stump Wikicommons Jan Tik
“Cannibal Tree” – A tree grown around a sawed off stump, Wikicommons Jan Tik

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.”

 

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin.
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin.

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.

  1. 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. []
  2. 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. []
  3. 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. []
  4. 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. []
  5. 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. []

6 Reasons Euthanasia is Incompatible with Modernity’s Own Philosophy

Drunk off its political and scientific successes, modern thought and practice have abandoned the modest and moderate beginnings of political modernity.

Listers, this is Part II of an ongoing in depth discussion on euthanasia – “the right to become dead.” The list relies on the wisdom of Leon Kass and his discussion of how the right to become dead isn’t even compatible with the modernity’s own philosophy. It should be noted that the article presupposes the right to become dead is not a right in the classic sense and certainly not in the Catholic sense.

The point of the discussion is to show the modernists that the “right to become dead” isn’t even a proper right within their own philosophy. Read Part I here: The Right to Become Dead: 6 Introductory Thoughts on Assisted Suicide.

 

7. A Brief Diatribe On Rights Language

Are the ‘right to die’ arguments compatible with the Hobbesian notion of a blameless liberty?  Before addressing this question, Kass has a brief section on why people seek a right to die. However, tucked among the commentary of fearful patients and societal concerns is a brief but telling diatribe against the dangers of thinking in terms of individual rights. He states, “truth to tell, public discourse about moral matters in the United States is much impoverished by our eagerness to transform questions of the right and the good into questions about individual rights.” [1] These individual rights are marked with a “non-negotiable and absolutized character,” which serves as a “most durable battering ram against the status quo.” [2] Kass’ vitriolic view continues: “never mind that it fuels resentments and breeds hatreds, that it ignores the consequences to society, or that it short circuits a political process that is more amenable to working out a balanced view of the common good.” [3] The battering ram wielding citizen simply goes “to court and demands [his] rights.” [4]

Truth to tell, public discourse about moral matters in the United States is much impoverished by our eagerness to transform questions of the right and the good into questions about individual rights.

However, as soon the critique of rights per se began, it appears to subside. Oddly enough, Kass then returns to the original question and begins to critique the right to die by the traditional modern system of rights. The shift in focus leaves the reader with several questions. If the canon of individual rights impoverishes the question of what is good, then what is the canon? Moreover, if the isolated system of individual rights is deficient, why does Kass continue to critique the right to die by an impotent system? Setting these questions aside, Kass continues to question whether a right to die is justified within a modern natural rights context.

 

8. The Right to Die is Nonsensical, Even to the Modern Philosophers

According to the “great philosophical teachers of natural rights, the very notion of a right to die is nonsensical.” [5] The philosophical foundation for natural rights is self-preservation. “As we learn from Hobbes and from John Locke,” observes Kass, “all the rights of man, given by nature, presuppose our self-interested attachment to our own lives.” [6] Immediately the contradiction of trying to predicate a right to self-negation upon a foundation of self-preservation is clear. This distinction is not only clear to those who argue against a right to die, but even to those who argue for it. The German-born philosopher Hans Jonas (d. 1993) – an advocate for the right to die – comments, “every other right ever argued, claimed, granted, or denied can be viewed as an extension of this primary right [to life].” [7]

 

9. Locke’s View on Suicide and Self-Ownership

While arguably the right to die via the aid of medical technologies may be a new phenomenon, certainly the question of a right to commit suicide was not lost to the modern thinkers. Locke states that man “has not [the] liberty to destroy himself,” because nature “teaches all mankind… no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” [8] However, one could see Lockean thought backing a right to die: “yet every man has a property in his own person; thus nobody has a right to but himself.” [9] Is it the case then that Locke’s apparent belief in self-ownership could support the right to die? Returning to the notion of a classical right, Kass sees that these rights were asserted against something or someone; thus, Locke’s self-ownership “is less a metaphysical statement declaring self-ownership than a political statement denying ownership by another.” [10] Lockean self-ownership could be rendered: “my body and my life are my property only in the limited sense that they are not yours.” [11] In the classical sense of natural rights, there appears no foundation for a right to die; moreover, there is certainly no “right to the assistance of others,” as the so-called obliged suicide-assistant “has neither a natural duty nor a natural right to become an actual assistant-in-death.” [12]

What of the government, can it be held in obligation to assist in death? “The liberal state,” notes Kass, “instituted above all to protect life, can never countenance such a right to kill, even on request.” [13]

 

10. Rousseau & Kant Yield No Room for a “Right to Die”

However, how can the late modern thinkers be seen to address a right to die, especially those who set nature aside? Neither Jean-Jacque Rousseau nor Immanuel Kant can be seen as advocates of a right to die. Regarding Rousseau, Kass notes Rousseau’s “complaints about the ills of civil society” demonstrated in the fact it threatens “life and limb” instead of its “main purpose” in protecting them.[14] Rousseau calls upon men like himself – those who lack the simplicity to simply return to the woods and eat “grass and acorns” – to “respect the sacred bonds” of the society, to love and serve “their fellow-men,” and to support the “good and wise princes who will know how to prevent, cure, or palliate that pack of abuses and evils always ready to overpower” the citizens. [15]

As Kass observes, the state supports life and the citizen cultivates that support. Again, a life-centered political base does not make room for a right to die. Turning to Kant, Kass sees that “the self-willed act of self-destruction is simply self-contradictory.” [16] Kant states, “to dispose of oneself as a mere means to some end of one’s own liking is to degrade the humanity in one’s person, which, after all, was entrusted to man to preserve.” [17] Kass comments on the “heavy irony that it should be autonomy, the moral notion the world owes mainly to Kant, that is now invoked as the justifying ground of a right to die.” [18] Through a Kantian lens, autonomy is the “self-legislation” of the “rational maxim” – an adherence to one’s “true self,” i.e., “with one’s rational will determined by a universalizable” moral maxim. [19] Neither the early moderns nor the late moderns yield any space for a right to die ethic. Whether it be a principle of self-preservation, a life-centered polis, or a notion of the dignity of humanity, neither a classical right nor a welfare right of assisted-death can be supported.

 

11. The Right to Die and Nietzschean Autonomy

However, the present modern notion of autonomy has come to mean “doing as you please,” which as Kass explains, is “compatible no less with self-indulgence than with self-control.” [20] Leaving behind the nature of the early moderns and the rationality of the later moderns, the new “Nietzschean self” holds only to “his true ‘self’ rather in unconditioned acts of pure creative will.” [21] The autonomy of the individual is rooted in the will. Without a normative nature or any rational maxims, it seems the right to die is unhindered and viable. However, Kass still observes several problems for the right to die argument. “First, one cannot establish on this basis a right to have someone else’s assistance in committing suicide,” because the patient’s autonomy would then have to violate the unwilling assistant’s autonomy. [22] Second, what if the assistant-to-death is willing? The autonomy of the patient could justify his or her own suicide, but it cannot justify or “ground” the assistant’s right to kill the patient. [23] Third, the patient – granted the right could even be grounded – in question would have to be “mentally competent and alert” in order to request assisted suicide. [24] Kass notes this would rule out the euthanasia of the comatose, vegetable, or mentally incompetent patient.

Drunk off its political and scientific successes, modern thought and practice have abandoned the modest and moderate beginnings of political modernity.

What if they had left in their will to be euthanatized? The question is philosophically problematic, as Kass states, because “the person who gave them long ago may no longer be ‘the same person’ when they become relevant,” e.g., “can my 63-year-old self truly prescribe today the best interests for my 75-year-old and senile self?” [25] Further complicating the scenario, Kass posits: “it is self-contradictory to assert that a proxy not chosen by the patient can exercise the patient’s rights of autonomy.” [26] A right to die intrinsically places an obligation on some other third-party assistant; however, setting aside the fact that the individual lacks the ground to claim such a right, it appears that neither the medical community nor the government can assist the individual in suicide.

However, Kass’ critiques and the Nietzschean based “new rights” have a major point of contention: the critiques rest on logic, while the new rights do not. Following Nietzsche, the new rights – in distinction to the classical or the welfare rights – rest upon the will and are therefore formed by a notion of self-becoming and creativity. These “creative beings are open-ended” and the “society of new rights is characterized by a loss of predictability and normality.” [27] The bearer of the new rights “does not even flinch before self-contradictions; indeed, he can display the triumph of his will most especially in self-negation.” [28] Without nature as a standard or any other externality hindering the human will, can there now be a right to die? “Here at last is the only possible philosophical ground for a right to die: arbitrary will,” state Kass, a will “backed by moral relativism” – “which is to say, no ground at all.” [29]

 

12. Where Suicide is Now the Glorious Act of the Will

“Drunk off its political and scientific successes,” states Kass, “modern thought and practice have abandoned the modest and moderate beginnings of political modernity.” [30] The theory of natural rights predicated upon self-preservation and life has given way to the “non-natural rights of self-creation and self-expression.” [31] These “new rights” impose upon the natural self an artificial product of the human will. Instead of being formed by nature, history, or God this new self-creation finds its authenticity in being able to assert its will against those very externalities. As Kass notes, the will of the self-created individual – protected by the new rights – can assert itself against its own body, the “rules of society,” and even the “dictates of reason.” [32] The will can strike out against those things which form it and give it life. It is no surprise then that for the individual of self-creation “self-negation through suicide and the right to die can be the ultimate form of self-assertion.” [33] The right to die is now not only an act of compassionate charity and the correction of a cosmic injustice, but the final and glorious act of man’s own radically autonomous will.

Kass sees three dangers arise as this new right to die permeates the modern ethos. First, the affirmation of an individual’s right to die “will translate into an obligation on the part of others to kill or help kill.” [34] What if the assistance was not obligatory, but only those who wanted to aid in death would do so? Kass still believes “society would be drastically altered.” [35] The alteration would be particularly tragic if the state was reluctant to take up the role as “euthanizer,” because “it would surrender its monopoly on the legal use of lethal force.” [36] Moreover, it should be noted the power of lethal force lies within the government in order that it would “protect innocent life, its first responsibility” – a stark contrast to the utilization of that lethal power upon the willing innocent. [37] Second, the practice will inevitably spread beyond those who “knowingly and freely request death.” [38] Kass notes that many who would be thought to be candidates for euthanasia either are in a doubted rational state or simply lack rationality altogether. The pressure to euthanize the incoherent and even the irrational unwilling will steadily increases and the practice itself will be seen to be more and more legitimate. The third danger of accepting the right to die is the impact it will have on the medical community. “The medical profession’s devotion to heal and refusal to kill – its ethical center,” according to Kass, “will be permanently destroyed, and with it, patient trust and physicianly self-restraint.” [39] Regardless of the fact that the right to die has no “defensible grounding,” these dangers are a real reality within the present modern polis.

 

To be continued…

 

The footnotes are continued from Part I and are mainly taken from Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity by Leon Kass. An excellent work in bioethics that SPL certainly recommends.

 


[1] Ibid., 211.

[2] Ibid., 212.

[3] Ibid., 212.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 213.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Kass, 214.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 215.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Kass, 215.

[15] Jean-Jacque Rousseau. The Basic Political Writings (Indianiapolis: Hackett, 1987), 94-95.

[16] Kass, 215.

[17] Ibid., 216.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., 216-217.

[25] Ibid., 217.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., 218.

[30] Ibid., 226.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid., 227.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

15 Catholic Quotes in Response to the SCOTUS Rulings on DOMA and Prop 8

“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

Recommended Reading

 

Quotes

Scalia More hat
Justice Scalia wearing his St. Thomas More replica hat.

“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]

 

Updated 6-27-13

“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]

Updated 7-1-13

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. 

5 Catholic Documents on Family, Sex, and Homosexuality

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…

Casti Connubii full text.

 

2. Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI, 1968.

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.

Read Humanae Vitae in full.

 

3. Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II, 1981.

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…

Read Familiaris Consortio – full text.

 

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…

Read the CDF letter in full.

 

 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-
24).

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.

Read the USCCB document in full.

Have a document you think should be added to this list? Provide it in the comment box below and we’ll add it. 

Early Church: 12 Quotes on Homosexuality and Other Sexual Sins

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

1. The Didache

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

 

2. Justin Martyr

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

 

3. Clement of Alexandria

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

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

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

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

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

 

4. Tertullian

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

 

5. Novatian

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

 

6. Cyprian of Carthage

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

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

 

7. Arnobius

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

 

8. Eusebius of Caesarea

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

 

9. Basil the Great

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

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

 

10. John Chrysostom

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

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

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

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

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

 

11. Augustine

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

 

12. The Apostolic Constitutions

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

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

The 2 Books by Cardinal Ratzinger that Will Change Your Life

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

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

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

The Noble Science

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

Aristotle, The Louvre – via Wikicommons Sting aka Eric Gaba

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Theology, Stanza della Segnature by Raphael

The Queen of the Sciences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1. Socrates and Christ

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

 

2. Political Realism

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

 

3. Political Animals

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

 

4. Pope and Emperor

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

 

5. Man Both Belongs to and Transcends the Politics

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

 

6. What is Philosophy?

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

 

7. The Erroneous Two Truths Theory

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

 

8. A Block to Islam’s Progression

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

 

9. Islam Is a Political Religion

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

 

10. The Silence of the Muslim Philosopher

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

 

11. Catholic Mystery, Not Uncertainty

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

 

12. The End of Medieval Thinking

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

 

13. The Most-Telling Absence

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

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

Think Animals and Plants Do Not Have Souls? – 3 Lists to Make You Think Again

The soul is “the first principle of life in those things which live: for we call living things animate, and those things which have no life, inanimate.”

Listers, it is my experience that two immediate thoughts occur when a Catholic reads about Sacred Tradition holding animals and plants to have souls. The first is the thought of heresy or some modernist revision of a classic teaching is being submitted. Normally the quick acknowledgment that these teachings rests in St. Thomas Aquinas assuages such fears. The second and more difficult reaction is – “Why does it matter?” To wit, I think it falls to two considerations. The first is the immediate import for how we should treat animals and plants within the order of Creation and secondly – and more telling – the fact that Catholic catechesis on the soul has diminished to such a degree that even the most basic of questions regarding what is a soul? or what has a soul? can no longer be answered. It is one thing to think it is a waste of time to discuss a matter and quite another to lack the basic knowledge to have that discussion. In this stream of thought, we present the soul and the anima of animals and plants to animate the discussion of the soul that can have spectacular import for catechesis on indulgences, grace, purgatory, the sacraments, and more.

An Introduction to the Soul – 6 Questions

Listers, today we are going to take a look into Sacred Tradition and explore the reality of the soul. The following is a basic introduction, and will serve as a foundation for further discussions. All quotes – unless otherwise specified – are taken from our beloved Angelic Doctor and his Summa Prima Pars Q75A1.

What Is the Soul?

The soul is “the first principle of life in those things which live: for we call living things animate, and those things which have no life, inanimate.” In Latin, soul is anima, from which we derive our words animate and inanimate. Things that have life are animated; thus, they have an anima or soul.

Do Plants and Animals Have Souls?

Life “is shown principally by two actions: knowledge and movement.” Plants and animals are animated beings that respectively display knowledge and movement. Where there is life, there must be a soul; thus, yes, plants and animals have souls.

More basic questions on the soul.

 

Plants via Wikicommons Roland zh

Plants Have Souls: 5 Points of Inquiry

Listers, today we continue our study of the soul by delving deeper into the Vegetative Soul or Plant Soul. The following quotes are taken from Gilson’s Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Gilson is primarily a historian and a philosopher second. He is adequate for certain Thomistic principles, but overall I would suggest Listers look into such giants as Ralph McInerny or Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.

What Are the Different Types of Souls?

Vegetative: “At the bottom we find a power of the soul whose one object is the body to which it is united,” and “the vegetative soul only acts on its own body.” The Vegetative Soul is the soul of plants.

Sensitive: “There is another genus of powers of the soul corresponding to a more universal object, namely, to all sensible bodies, and not merely to the one sensible body with which the soul is united.” The Sensitive Soul is the soul of animals. They possess many powers that plants do not, e.g., the five senses and a type of memory.

Rational: “Above these, there is a power of the soul with a still more universal object; that is, not merely sensible bodies in general, but all being taken in its universality.” The Ration Soul is the soul of man. It alone is made in the Imago Dei, and has immortality and rationality.

More information on vegetative souls.

 

A Leopard in Ngala Game Reserve, Limpopo, South Africa. via Wikicommons Raphael Melnick

Animals Have Souls: 6 Inquiries Into Their Powers

Listers, we continue in our study of the soul. Today we focus on the Sensitive Soul or Animal Soul. The following quotes are taken from Gilson’s Christian Philosophy. I will once again voice my concern over Gilson, and state he is good for certain elementary concepts; however, students of our Angelic Doctor should turn to Ralph McInerny or Fr. Garrigou-Langrange.

Again to escape an accusation of Catholic-Druidism, I’d like to state that the belief that animals have souls dates back to Aristotle, and was maintained with the Scholastic tradition. Moreover, the Vegetative and Sensitive Souls are mortal, they will return to dust, and only the Rational Soul of man is made in the Imago Dei.

What is the Sensitive Soul?

The Sensitive Power “is the lowest degree of the knowledge to be encountered in the universe.” The Sensitive Soul – characterized by the Sensitive Power – brings with it that which is necessary for animal existence.

And we must state that the listed powers are those which the Sensitive Soul adds in conjunction with the powers listed in the Vegetative Soul. Animals, like Plants, have the ability to come into existence, move from a nascent creature to a mature one, and receive nourishment. Likewise, the Rational Soul takes up the powers of both the Sensitive and the Vegetative.

What is a Particular Sense?

The term Particular Sense denotes an individual power that corresponds with a particular object, and is able to inform the soul of various sensible realities. The Particular Sense most commonly has five powers, which we know as the five senses. For example, hearing is the power that corresponds with the object of sound, and it informs the soul of that particular sensible reality.

Particular Sense: “which is the first in the order of sensitive powers and corresponds to an immediate modification of the soul be sensible realities. But the particular sense is in turn subdivided into distinct powers according to the various kinds of sensible impressions it is equipped to receive. Sensible act upon the particular sense by the species which they impress upon it;” hence, “let us begin, then, from the principle that the senses receive sensible species denuded of matter.”

More on the discussion of animals and souls.

Political Animals: 5 Lessons from the Opening Pages of Aristotle’s Politics

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’sPolitics.

Listers, Aristotelian political thought is at the cornerstone of Western Civilization. It is especially important in its articulation of the importance of the family or household, of natural justice, and of humans as naturally political animals. 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.1 The following list serves to articulate five basic lessons from the opening pages of Aristotle’s Politics. A glossary of terms may be found at Understanding Aristotle: 22 Definitions from the Politics. The natural justice presented by Aristotle laid the foundation for St. Thomas Aquinas’ discussion of Natural Law. For an introduction to the Angelic Doctor’s teachings, see 3 Steps to Understand How Humanity Participates in Natural Law and The 6 Step Guide to Aquinas’ Natural Law in a Modern World.

 

1. Partnerships

In Chapter One of Book One of the Politics, Aristotle makes the following observation:

Since we see that every city is some sort of partnership, and that every partnership is constituted for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what is held to be good), it is clear that all partnerships aim at some good, and that the partnership that is most authoritative of all and embraces all the others does so particularly, and aims at the most authoritative good of all. This is what is called the city or the political partnership.2

As Book One continues, Aristotle observes how these natural political partnerships come together to form the state or the polis. He will speak of the household, the collection of households – the village, and finally the collection of villages – the polis. In his commentary on Aristotle’s Politics, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that for Aristotle, politics is a practical science that contains ethics or the moral sciences. The two cannot be separated. Second, Aquinas notes that Aristotle holds politics to be the “architectonic science” of the practical sciences. In other words, in the well-ordered polis, other sciences are allowed to flourish; however, if a polis is disordered, e.g., corruption, war, poor education, broken households, etc., then all the sciences will suffer.3 As stated above, for Aristotle, the political partnership – the polis – is the “partnership that is most authoritative of all… and aims at the most authoritative good of all.” For Aristotle, the science of politics is the highest practical science.

 

2. Natural Relations of the Household

Aristotle begins with humanity’s most fundamental political partnership: the household.4 He observes “there must of necessity be a conjunction of persons who cannot exist without one another.”5 He posits two such conjunctions or partnerships. First, the primary partnership of the household is the natural partnership of reproduction between male and female; and the second partnership is the relation between what Aristotle calls the “naturally ruling and ruled.”6 In his commentary on the Politics, St. Thomas Aquinas observes that both partnerships of the household are for preservation: in the partnership between husband and wife, “nature aims” at preservation through the “generation” of offspring, while in the latter parternship of ruling and ruled, nature aims “at the preservation of things generated.”7 While Aristotle uses slavery to exemplify the ruling/ruled relation, the fundamental 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.”8 Aristotle observes that “poor persons have an ox instead of a servant.”9 Thus the twofold natural association of the household exists for the “needs of daily life.”10

 

3. The Polis & the Political Animal

What is the relation between different households? Aristotle submits the village as “the first partnership arising from [the union of] several households and for the sake of nondaily needs.”11 For Aristotle, the partnership between the different households cannot be reduced to mere proximity; rather, it is an interactive relationship of commerce. The partnership of the village becomes “above all an extension of the household.”12 As suspected, the polis then is the union of several villages.13 The polis “reaches a level of full self-sufficiency, so to speak; and while coming into being for the sake of living, it exists for the sake of living well.”14 Aristotle teaches that the thing “for the sake of which [a thing exists… is what is best.”15 Thus, for the polis, it is best for the polis when it exists in a state of self-sufficiency where all persons may live well.

Aristotle observes that “the city belongs among the things that exist by nature, and that man is by nature a political animal.”16 Man, the rational animal, is also political. Persons will always naturally gather together in families and form societies for the goal of living well. Note that Aristotle is not advocating a certain regime, e.g., democracy or aristocracy. Underneath all regimes is nature, and nature states that the polis is a natural partnership entered into by naturally political animals.

 

 

4. Temporal and Ontological Primacy

Aristotle begins to reflect upon how all these political parts are related to the political whole. He teaches:

The city is thus prior by nature to the household and to each of us. For the whole must of necessity be prior to the part; for if the whole [body] is destroyed there will not be a foot or a hand…

The manner in which a part and a whole related to one another is important in philosophical inquiry. When speaking of the relation of a whole to its parts, there is an chronological ordering and there is an ontological ordering. For example, in building a house, the architect may erect certain parts of the house, like walls. The walls come first in the chronological ordering of the house; however, it is due to the idea of the house that the walls have come at all – thus, the house comes first in the ontological ordering, because it gives the walls purpose. Aristotle applies this logic to the polis. In the chronological ordering, individual persons, households, and villages come before the polis; however, in the ontological ordering, the polis comes first. He teaches, “that the city is both by nature and prior to each individual, then, is clear.”17 Just a wall finds purpose in the whole of the house; so too does the political animal find purpose in the polis. In fact, Aristotle states that if a person – who should be a part within a polis – attempts to live without the polis, that individual must be “either a beast or a god.”18

 

5. The Virtue of Justice

Aristotle praises the individual who “first constituted [a city]” as the person “responsible for the greatest of goods.”19 He states that humans “are the best of the animals when completed, when separated from law and adjudication he is the worst of all.”20 He goes on to state, “without virtue, he is the most unholy and most savage [of the animals], and the worst with regard to sex and food.”21 Note that Aristotle’s comments move further into the discussion of how the parts relate to the whole. He mentions lawadjudication, and virtue when speaking of the individual political animal’s relation to the polis. What then is the proper order between all the parts – individual, household, village – and the polis? Aristotle answers, “the virtue of justice is a thing belonging to the city. For adjudication is an arrangement of the political partnership, and adjudication is judgement as to what is just.”22 The proper ordering of the polis is the natural virtue of justice.23

  1. Guerra, Marc. Christians as Political Animals: Taking the Measure of Modernity and Modern Democracy (Wilmington: ISI Publishing, 2010), 124. []
  2. Book One, Chapter One. []
  3. Commentary on the Politics, St. Thomas Aquinas, Medieval Political Philosophy, 298-300. []
  4. Aristotle, Trans. Carnes Lord. The Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1984), 35, 6. []
  5. Id., 36. []
  6. Id., 35. – Hierarchy is Nature to Man: Aristotle does not advocate an egalitarian view of reason, as will be shown below. []
  7. St. Thomas Aquinas. Eds. Lerner, Ralph & Mushsin Mahdi. Trans. Fortin, Ernest & Peter O’Neill. Medieval Political Philosophy: A Source Book, Commentary on the Politics (New York: Cornell U. Publishing, 1972), 304. []
  8. Id. []
  9. Politics, 36. []
  10. Aristotle, 36. []
  11. Id. []
  12. Id. []
  13. Id. []
  14. Id., 36-7. []
  15. Id., 37. []
  16. Id. []
  17. Id. []
  18. Id., 37. []
  19. Id. []
  20. Id. 37-8. []
  21. Id. []
  22. Id. []
  23. Plato: The following seeks to bring Aristotle’s thought alongside his predecessor, Plato. They are not explicitly in Book One of the Politics. Moreover, they set the stage for understanding the political contributions of both St. Augustine and St. Aquinas. Turning to Aristotle’s tutor, Plato records in The Republic Socrates stating, “the question of who should rule is to some extent identical to the question of the best regime.” As the aforementioned partnership between the ruled and the ruler in Aristotle, Plato agrees that men differ in their ability and capacity to reason. Ergo, it stands that the philosopher, who “knows best what is needed for the perfection of each human being and therefore can best judge what is due to each human being,” should rule. Here Plato’s Socrates advocates the Philosopher-King. It is only the philosopher who has the wisdom and time to discover and reflect upon nature in order to correctly order the polis by the natural virtue of justice. However, there develops a certain antagonism between the philosopher and the polis, or more particular the citizens, insofar as the philosopher is isolated in his understanding of justice. Nature is not intelligible to everyone in the same capacity. In an attempt to have everyone participate in a polis whose foundations they could not fully understand, Plato’s Socrates posits the Noble Lie. He says, “Could we somehow contrive one of those lies that come into being in case of need… one noble lie to persuade, in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city?” He goes on to explain an elaborate myth that could encourage people to live by certain standards. However, it stands that the “quest for the best political order” or rather the “establishment of the best regime depends necessarily on uncontrollable, elusive fortuna or chance.” According to Platonic thought, the antagonism between the philosopher and the polis revealed the “unlikely coming together, of philosophy and political power.” Man as a natural political animal, the natural polis as ordered by justice, and fortune’s role in the best regime lays the foundation for political thought in the West. []

Patriotism Is Not Enough: 7 Comments On Being a Good Man and a Good Citizen

“Regime means simultaneously the form of the life of a society , its style of life, its moral taste, form of society, form of state, form of government, spirit of laws.”

1. Regime: The Spirit of Laws

Listers, the term “regime” is often used as a pejorative to describe dictators and oppressive governments; however, the true and historical use of the term regime reveals a longstanding inquiry into how humans – as political animals – organize politically. Unlike modernity, “classical political philosophy is guided by the question of the best regime,” because the “cause of the laws is the regime.” The regime is that which colors all political life and acts as the “guiding theme” of the polis.1

“Regime is the order, the form, which gives society its character. Regime is therefore a specific manner of life. Regime is the form of life as living together, the manner of living of society and in society, since this manner depends decisively on the predominance of human beings of a certain type, on the manifest domination of society by human beings of a certain type. Regime means the whole, which we are today in the habit of viewing primarily a fragmentized form:

Regime means simultaneously the form of the life of a society , its style of life, its moral taste, form of society, form of state, form of government, spirit of laws.”

2. Constitution of Athens

Turning to the man St. Thomas Aquinas dubbed “The Philosopher,” Aristotle approaches the subject of the regime and the citizen in his work Constitution of Athens. Aristotle is attributed by ancient sources as having written up to 170 different political constitutions and that many were either written by or written with his students.2 The constitutions are widely considered research for his Politics and thus serve to show a rough sketch of preliminary political thought.

If classical political philosophy is engaged with the question of the best regime, then what is the good citizen? In the Constitution of Athens, Aristotle “suggests that the good citizen is a man who serves his country well, without any regard to the differences of regimes.” To wit, the good citizen would be the “patriotic citizen.”

3. A Good Citizen in Hitler’s Germany

In his political magnus opus – the Politics – The Philosopher refines his study of the good citizen by suggesting “there is not the good citizen without qualification,” because “what it means to be a good citizen depends entirely on the regime.”  For a modern example:

“A good citizen in Hitler’s Germany would be a bad citizen elsewhere. But whereas good citizen is relative to the regime, good man does not have such a relativity. The meaning of good man is always and everywhere the same.”

4. Virtue and the Best Regime

“The good man is identical with the good citizen only in one case – in the case of the best regime. For only in the best regime is the good of the regime and the good of the good man identical, that goal being virtue. This amounts to saying that in his Politics Aristotle questions the proposition that patriotism is enough.”

For Aristotle, both the forest and the polis exist by nature. If men are by nature political animals then it is by their nature that they gather into political bodies. Virtue is “the goodness, excellence, or right operation of a person or thing.”3 Virtue is not an act, but a habit; it is the “right operation of a person or thing,” and that operation is determined by the thing’s nature – nature is literally the essence of a thing in operation. As political animals born in modernity, we must resist the temptation to read “virtues” as “values.” The latter being an almost meaningless statement totally dependent upon a relative reference – the individual’s will. When the regime fulfills its nature by being virtuous the individual may in virtue be a good man and a good citizen.

5. Patriot vs Partisan

“From the point of view of the patriot, the fatherland is more important than any difference of regimes. From the point of view of the patriot, he who prefers any regime to the fatherland is a partisan, if not a traitor.”

“Aristotle says in effect that the partisan sees deeper than the patriot but that only one kind of partisan is superior to the patriot; this is the partisan of virtue.”

6. Patriots As Doting Mothers

“One can express Aristotle’s thought as follows: patriotism is not enough for the same reason that the most doting mother is happier if her child is good than if he is bad.”

“A mother loves her child because he is her own; she loves what is her own. But she also loves the good. All human love is subject to the law that it be both love of one’s own and love of the good, and there is necessarily a tension between one’s own and the good, a tension which may well lead to a break, be it only the breaking of a heart.”

In essence, mothers will love their children even if they are bad, but the mother would be happier if the child were good; so too, the patriot cannot simply love his country as is, but must love it more if it is good – therefore the fatherland or nation must be seen together with the regime and the quality of the regime.

7. Matter and Form

“The relation between one’s own and the good finds its political expression in the relation between the fatherland and the regime. In the language of the classical metaphysics, the fatherland or the nation is the matter whereas the regime is the form.”

Matter is in potential to form. By this simple statement it is meant that matter does not ever exist without form. There is no woodness, but the matter of wood in the form of a tree, a chair or a table. So too is the matter of a fatherland or nation always found with the form of a regime – not matter how complex or chaotic.4

 

Final Thoughts
All quotation from the above article are taken from An Introduction to Political Philosophy: 10 Essays by Leo Strauss, 33-34, unless otherwise noted. Commentary on Strauss’ text and a critique of the Jewish – not Catholic – author can be found on SPL’s 6 Books for a Proper Introduction to Catholic Political Thought. Outside of the germane lists cited in the footnotes, my listing of the Problems with Modern Democracy is the immediate successor to this list in thought and theme. There is also a broader introduction to classical philosophy’s question of the best regime in my list: The Best Regime: 5 Thoughts on Classical Political Philosophy.

  1. Polis: Greek for “city,” the term polis has come to be used as a stand in for referring to a self-sustaining political body, e.g., the United States of America, etc. []
  2. Constitution of Athens: Text and Info []
  3. Virtue: 22 Definitions to Understand Aristotle []
  4. Matter & Form: SPL’s list discussing both the material and formal cause of things, along with the efficient and final cause. []

6 Books for a Proper Introduction to Catholic Political Thought

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

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

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

Another photograph from the Library of Congress.

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

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

1. Christians as Political Animals

Marc Guerra, PhD. Ave Maria University

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Christians as Political Animals on Amazon.

2. Roman Catholic Political Philosophy

Fr. James V. Schall

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

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

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

Read More: Roman Catholic Political Philosophy on Amazon.

3. Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ten Essays

Leo Strauss

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

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

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

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

4. Politics

Aristotle, trans. Carnes Lord

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

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

Guerra explains:4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Values in a Time of Upheaval

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI

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

A few sapiential quotes from the now Holy Father:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Guide Through Modernism: 12 Teachings from Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas

“The main reason for this appreciation is not only explained by the content of his teaching but also by the method he used, especially his new synthesis and distinction between philosophy and theology.”

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.

The Vicars of Christ beg us to study Aquinas:
Patrimony of Wisdom: St. Pius X’s Exhortation to study Aquinas
The Sun that Warms the World – St. Thomas Aquinas

 

1. Vatican II Recommends Aquinas

“Today I would like to continue the presentation of St Thomas Aquinas, a theologian of such value that the study of his thought was explicitly recommended by the Second Vatican Council in two documents, the Decree Optatam totius on the Training of Priests, and the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis, which addresses Christian Education. Indeed, already in 1880 Pope Leo XIII, who held St Thomas in high esteem as a guide and encouraged Thomistic studies, chose to declare him Patron of Catholic Schools and Universities.”

More on Vatican II & Aquinas: What Vatican II Actually Said About Aquinas

2. The Philosophy of the Church Fathers

“The main reason for this appreciation is not only explained by the content of his teaching but also by the method he used, especially his new synthesis and distinction between philosophy and theology. The Fathers of the Church were confronted by different philosophies of a Platonic type in which a complete vision of the world and of life was presented, including the subject of God and of religion. In comparison with these philosophies they themselves had worked out a complete vision of reality, starting with faith and using elements of Platonism to respond to the essential questions of men and women. They called this vision, based on biblical revelation and formulated with a correct Platonism in the light of faith: “our philosophy”. The word “philosophy” was not, therefore, an expression of a purely rational system and, as such, distinct from faith but rather indicated a comprehensive vision of reality, constructed in the light of faith but used and conceived of by reason; a vision that naturally exceeded the capacities proper to reason but as such also fulfilled it.”

3. The Father’s Philosophy Needed to be Rethought

“For St Thomas the encounter with the pre-Christian philosophy of Aristotle (who died in about 322 b.c.) opened up a new perspective. Aristotelian philosophy was obviously a philosophy worked out without the knowledge of the Old and New Testaments, an explanation of the world without revelation through reason alone. And this consequent rationality was convincing. Thus the old form of the Fathers’ “our philosophy” no longer worked. The relationship between philosophy and theology, between faith and reason, needed to be rethought. A “philosophy” existed that was complete and convincing in itself, a rationality that preceded the faith, followed by “theology”, a form of thinking with the faith and in the faith. The pressing question was this: are the world of rationality, philosophy conceived of without Christ, and the world of faith compatible? Or are they mutually exclusive?”

4. The “Surprise” of Aquinas

“Elements that affirmed the incompatibility of these two worlds were not lacking, but St Thomas was firmly convinced of their compatibility indeed that philosophy worked out without the knowledge of Christ was awaiting, as it were, the light of Jesus to be complete. This was the great “surprise” of St Thomas that determined the path he took as a thinker. Showing this independence of philosophy and theology and, at the same time, their reciprocal relationality was the historic mission of the great teacher.”

5. Aquinas the Guide Through Modernism

“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.”

6. Faith & Reason 101

“Together with the agreement between reason and faith, we must recognize on the other hand that they avail themselves of different cognitive procedures. Reason receives a truth by virtue of its intrinsic evidence, mediated or unmediated; faith, on the contrary, accepts a truth on the basis of the authority of the Word of God that is revealed. St Thomas writes at the beginning of his Summa Theologiae:

We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of the intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic. So it is that sacred doctrine is a science, because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed (ia, q. 1, a.2).

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

7. Faith Protects Reason

“This distinction guarantees the autonomy of both the human and the theological sciences. However, it is not equivalent to separation but, rather, implies a reciprocal and advantageous collaboration. Faith, in fact, protects reason from any temptation to distrust its own abilities, stimulates it to be open to ever broader horizons, keeps alive in it the search for foundations and, when reason itself is applied to the supernatural sphere of the relationship between God and man, faith enriches his work. According to St Thomas, for example, human reason can certainly reach the affirmation of the existence of one God, but only faith, which receives the divine Revelation, is able to draw from the mystery of the Love of the Triune God.”

8. Threefold Service of Reason to Faith

“Moreover, it is not only faith that helps reason. Reason too, with its own means can do something important for faith, making it a threefold service which St Thomas sums up in the preface to his commentary on the De Trinitate of Boethius:

“Demonstrating those truths that are preambles of the faith; giving a clearer notion, by certain similitudes, of the truths of the faith; resisting those who speak against the faith, either by showing that their statements are false, or by showing that they are not necessarily true” (q. 2, a.3).

The entire history of theology is basically the exercise of this task of the mind which shows the intelligibility of faith, its articulation and inner harmony, its reasonableness and its ability to further human good. The correctness of theological reasoning and its real cognitive meaning is based on the value of theological language which, in St Thomas’ opinion, is principally an analogical language. The distance between God, the Creator, and the being of his creatures is infinite; dissimilitude is ever greater than similitude (cf. DS 806). Nevertheless in the whole difference between Creator and creatures an analogy exists between the created being and the being of the Creator, which enables us to speak about God with human words.”

9. Grace Perfects Nature

“This fundamental agreement between human reason and Christian faith is recognized in another basic principle of Aquinas’ thought. Divine Grace does not annihilate but presupposes and perfects human nature. The latter, in fact, even after sin, is not completely corrupt but wounded and weakened. Grace, lavished upon us by God and communicated through the Mystery of the Incarnate Word, is an absolutely free gift with which nature is healed, strengthened and assisted in pursuing the innate desire for happiness in the heart of every man and of every woman. All the faculties of the human being are purified, transformed and uplifted by divine Grace.”

10. The Role of the Holy Spirit

“An important application of this relationship between nature and Grace is recognized in the moral theology of St Thomas Aquinas, which proves to be of great timeliness. At the centre of his teaching in this field, he places the new law which is the law of the Holy Spirit. With a profoundly evangelical gaze he insists on the fact that this law is the Grace of the Holy Spirit given to all who believe in Christ. The written and oral teaching of the doctrinal and moral truths transmitted by the Church is united to this Grace. St Thomas, emphasizing the fundamental role in moral life of the action of the Holy Spirit, of Grace, from which flow the theological and moral virtues, makes us understand that all Christians can attain the lofty perspectives of the “Sermon on the Mount”, if they live an authentic relationship of faith in Christ, if they are open to the action of his Holy Spirit.”

11. All Men May Perceive Natural Law

“However, Aquinas adds, “Although Grace is more efficacious than nature, yet nature is more essential to man, and therefore more enduring” (Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 94, a. 6, ad 2), which is why, in the Christian moral perspective, there is a place for reason which is capable of discerning natural moral law. Reason can recognize this by considering what it is good to do and what it is good to avoid in order to achieve that felicity which everyone has at heart, which also implies a responsibility towards others and, therefore, the search for the common good. In other words, the human, theological and moral virtues are rooted in human nature. Divine Grace accompanies, sustains and impels ethical commitment but, according to St Thomas, all human beings, believers and non-believers alike, are called to recognize the needs of human nature expressed in natural law and to draw inspiration from it in the formulation of positive laws, namely those issued by the civil and political authorities to regulate human coexistence.”

12. The True Concept of Human Reason

“To conclude, Thomas presents to us a broad and confident concept of human reason: broad because it is not limited to the spaces of the so-called “empirical-scientific” reason, but open to the whole being and thus also to the fundamental and inalienable questions of human life; and confident because human reason, especially if it accepts the inspirations of Christian faith, is a promoter of a civilization that recognizes the dignity of the person, the intangibility of his rights and the cogency of his or her duties. It is not surprising that the doctrine on the dignity of the person, fundamental for the recognition of the inviolability of human rights, developed in schools of thought that accepted the legacy of St Thomas Aquinas, who had a very lofty conception of the human creature. He defined it, with his rigorously philosophical language, as “what is most perfect to be found in all nature – that is, a subsistent individual of a rational nature” (Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 29, a. 3).”

Should a Parent Turn In a Criminal Child and 4 Other Questions on Virtue and Law

Listers, this list is an exercise in thought addressing certain practical and theoretical questions concerning law and virtue.

Listers, this list is an exercise in thought addressing certain practical and theoretical questions concerning law and virtue. It roughly handles certain topical elements in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica 92.1 and without question uses the Angelic Doctor’s overall philosophy of law as its guiding light and standard. The questions drudge up various concerns, but could be taken to all share in the theme of understanding if law leads men to virtue, how those laws can practically function in a complex society with different levels of leadership and authority.

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

A Thomistic Catechesis on Law
Law & the Common Good: 9 Introductory Questions
Think Like a Catholic: 7 Questions on the Four Laws
Divine Law: 4 Reasons God Gave Us Scripture

1. Should a family turn in a criminal family member?

If a family discovers a fellow family member has committed a crime, should the family report the individual?
Considering crimes such as the murder or rape, it would seem so, because the crime deals with another household. The parents have authority over the household, but the crime extends past their domestic jurisdiction. Since the family is the core sub-political part of the polis,1 concealing a crime that crosses the sub-political barrier between the families seem to again violate that barrier; hence, the two sub-political parts, the families, would appear to the greater municipal jurisdiction within the polis.

What if the murderer and victim are within the same family?
Is the domestic authority of the household leader(s) sufficient? The polis can only be as virtuous as its citizens; thus, the common good of the state rests upon the virtuous nature of its citizens. In this understanding, such a heinous and vicious (Literally: of vice in opposition to virtue) act strikes at the common good of the whole polis. The domestic jurisdiction seems inadequate and disproportionate to the problem, and consequently it is left to the political authority of the polis to properly judge and punish the citizen.

Where is the line?
The relationship between households and their relationship to the overall polis demands a proper and natural order. The virtue of proper order is justice, and as Aristotle states in Book One of his Politics, justice is the highest virtue of the polis or the virtue that belongs to the polis.2 If a thing is just it is right and well-ordered, because justice places all things in proper order according to reason; however, in order to properly place things in order one needs the elective habit or rather the virtue of prudence.3 Considering crimes within the household, the prudence of the leaders of the household must take into consideration the category of the action (non-violent, violent, etc.) and judge the action as either household problem or a political problem. If prudence is to play this role, then the virtue of the family leaders must be well-formed.

2. How does one be both parent and citizen?

If the parent only acts like a parent, then he will cover up actions that should be turned over to the political authorities; however, if the parent only acts as a citizen, then it will collapse the political into the household. Again, Catholicism is not a leviathan of moral laws, but rather a religion that focuses on cultivating virtue – which includes the virtue of prudence in order to address complex moral problems.4

Overall, the prudential judgments of parents is legitimate and defensible but is not always optimal.

3. Can charity be a virtue of the State?

Much ink has been spilled on this question, but the traditional answer is no. There are the Cardinal or Natural Virtues – prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude – and these are available to all humanity. The natural virtues are acquired virtues, because these virtues are developed through habit. There are also the Theological Virtues: faith, hope and charity. These virtues are not available to all men, because these are infused into the individual by the grace of God. The relationship between the two groups is that the theological virtues perfect the natural virtues. The faith, hope, and charity Catholics are given by knowing Christ and his sacraments perfects the natural good in us and raises us by grace. In fact, the relationship of the two groups of virtues reflects the overriding principles that grace perfects nature.

Why can the State not have charity?
The Catholic Church is a supernatural institution, the Church, founded on the Rock – St. Peter – and given the promise that not even the gates of hell could prevail against her. The polis or State is a natural institution – as man is naturally a political animal his political bodies are natural and guided by the natural virtues – and thus limited to the natural virtues. More specifically, the polis is characterized by the virtue of justice, which is made possible by the virtue of prudence. To ask the State to assume charity is to ask something that is natural to extend past its natural capacity.

The tension is that the individuals of the State (Catholics) have a supernatural end, but the State does not.

4. How does one be both Catholic and a Citizen?

The Church Fathers spoke of Christians as having dual citizenship: the ecclesial sphere and the political sphere. The Catholic family must cultivate and educate children to be citizens in both; thus, both Church & State look to the household as a fundamental part of the respective whole.5

5. How do men know Natural Law?

St. Thomas will argue that all men by nature can know the first principles of morality, the moral quality of their actions and natural justice. To wit, the general moral precepts of nature grant man a natural inclination to what is moral and good. Man must then – as the rational animal – reflect upon these natural laws in order to further understand them and use them to form laws of the state. However, each human differs in their intelligence and differs in family life, culture and governments. All these factors can either aid or obscure and individual’s sensitivity and understanding of natural law.6

In contrast, Aristotle says that only upon reflection of the natural law are the moral precepts understood – what is just and true by nature is a task for the wisdom of the philosopher alone. St. Thomas’ claim is that all men can know the claims of natural justice – through the natural law – which is their participation in the eternal law or the Divine Wisdom.7. Still, Aquinas is not advocating an egalitarian view of reason or that natural is holistically known in the hearts of men.8

  1. City (polis): a political community characterized by social and economic differentiation, the rule of law, and republican government; the chief urban center of community – used in political philosophy to denote the political and governmental whole []
  2. Justice – the ordering of reason in operations; places all things in proper order according to reason []
  3. Prudence – the “very act of reason,” the “principal virtue,” which orders things and directs the virtues through right reasoning. []
  4. Virtue is Objective: to wit, on one end of the spectrum one could place a sort of Kantian system of moral legislation that has strict moral rule for all situations, and on the other end place a relativist moral approach where each does what is right in his own eyes. The virtues are objective habits that cultivate what is good and natural in man; thus, while prudence could lead different people to different ends, it still operates within an objective structure and must be held accountable to that structure. []
  5. The Order of the Part and Whole: Do not conflate the temporal priority and the ontological priority – in the former, the family is prior to the State/Church, however, in the latter ontological category, as Aristotle states, the whole is prior to the part, thus the Church/State is prior to the family. In the 10 Commandments, we see the education of the citizens in the positive (1) honor the Sabbath and (2) honor thy mother and father. []
  6. A few notes on Aquinas’ view on how men know natural law: According to St. Thomas, his view relieves the tension between not only the philosopher and the polis, but of humans and the polis. It is no longer the philosopher by himself attempting to understand order, but all the citizens of the polis as a whole, i.e., a Cosmo-Polis. St. Thomas’ view is predicated upon Scripture, hinging upon a doctrine of Creation – thus St. Thomas’ view of law and virtue is theological in nature. In principle, all men may know natural law, but as Vatican I states, it is exceedingly difficult to understand via original sin. Christianity claims that all men transcend the city, not just the philosopher. It is here that Christianity imports the transpolitical character of the Church and her citizens. []
  7. For more on how men know natural law: ST 93.2 []
  8. Knowledge of Natural Law: one distinction is that it takes intelligence and reason to reflect upon natural law and since those qualities differ in men, the depth at which men understand natural law will differ as well – hence, the Church has clarified much of natural law – through the help of infallible Scripture (Divine Law) – so that we, unlike the Protestants, do not have to rediscover truth each generation. Secondly, one’s family and culture plays a strong role insofar as our conscience is formed by habit and principle; thus, a child’s sensitivity to the natural law can be diminished and corrupted through external influence, e.g., seeing suicide bombing and the taking of innocent life as an honorable act. []

7 Observations on Church and State by Cardinal Ratzinger

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

Listers, the following quotes are taken from Values in a Time of Upheaval by Cardinal Ratzinger.1

1. The Majority and the Truth

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

2.The Good and the Truth

“The goal of the state cannot consists in a freedom without defined contents. In order to establish a meaningful and viable ordering of life in society, the state requires a minimum of truth, of knowledge of the good, that cannot be manipulated.”

3. The State Is Not the Source

“Accordingly, the state must receive from outside itself the essential measure of knowledge and truth with regard to that which is good.”

4. Law Is A Dictate of Reason

“This ‘outside’ might, in the best possible scenario, be the pure insight of reason. It would be the task of an independent philosophy to cultivate this insight and keep watch over it. In practice, however, such a pure rational evidential quality independent of history does not exist […] In fact, all states have recognized and applied moral reason on the basis of antecedent religious traditions, which also provided moral education.”

5. Rational Moral Faith

“Christian faith has proved to be the most universal and rational religious culture. Even today, it offers reason the basic structure of moral insight which, if it does not actually lead to some kind of evidential quality, at least furnishes the basis of a rational moral faith without which no society can endure.”

6. The Church Informs But Cannot Become

“Accordingly, as I have already observed, the state receives its basic support from outside: not from a mere reason that is inadequate in the moral realm, but from a reason that has come to maturity in the historical form of faith […] By merging with the state, the Church would destroy both the essence of the state and its own essence.”

7. Church & State

“The Church remains something “outside” the state, for only thus can both Church and state be what they are meant to be. Like the state, the Church too must remain in its own proper place and within its boundaries. It must respect its own being and its own freedom, precisely in order to be able to perform for the state the serve that the latter requires. The Church must exert itself with all its vigor so that in it there may shine forth the moral truth that it offers to the state and that ought to become evident to the citizens of the state. This truth must be vigorous within the Church, and it must form men, for only then it will have the power to convince others and to be a force working like a leaven for all of society.”

  1. Pages: 67-69 []