Christus...hominem ipsi homini plene manifestat.... (GS 22)

(Christ reveals Man to himself)

The Moral Life as Participatory Theonomy





Handout Notes for

Moral Theology, Christian Marriage, and Catholic Social Thought





Prof. Mark Lowery

Copyright 2007






















With many thanks to Matthew McBride for his editorial help.

(Pagination is inaccurate in this copy—it should serve as a useful outline nonetheless.)

Explanatory Introduction to the Three Sections of Handouts 6

Section One: Fundamental Moral Theology 7

Introduction 7

I: Freedom and Conscience (VS 31-34, 54-64, 84-89) 7
1. The Meaning of Christian Freedom (anthropology) 7
a. Secular vs. Christian Meanings of "Freedom" 7
b. Critique of the Secular View of Freedom 9
2: The Meaning of Conscience (anthropology, spirituality) 10
a. The "Subjective Norm" of the Moral Life 10
b. Conscience and Synderesis 12
c. A Sacramental Basis for the Christian Conscience 13
d. True and False Conscience, Vincible and Invincible Ignorance 13
e. Good and Bad Conscience 15
f. Choosing Evil “Under the Aspect of the Good” 17
3: The Revisionist Understanding of Conscience 21

II. Participated Theonomy (VS 1-30) 21
4. Autonomy, Heteronomy, and Participated Theonomy (spirituality) 21
5. Some Pastoral Advantages of the Schema (spirituality) 22
6. Historical Overview 22
7. Participated Theonomy in the Text of Veritatis Splendor 24
a. Outline of PT Themes 24
8. Outline of VS 25

III: The Natural Law (VS 35-46) 26
9: St. Paul and the Natural Law 26
10. Four Types of Law 27
b. The Natural Law 27
c. The Divine Law 29
d. The Human Law 29
e. An Application 31
g. “You Can’t Legislate Morality” 32
11. Law as Something Natural--Participatory Theonomy, not Autonomy or Heteronomy 33
12: Man's Nature and the Fall (Anthropological Interlude) 34
13. A Further Examination of Thomistic Natural Law 34
a. Self-Evident Truth in the Order of Practical Reason: Level I 34
b. "Level 2" Self-Evident Truths 35
c. Rational Inclinations 36
14. ST I-II 90-97 Treatise on Law Study Guide 37

IV: The Body and Natural Law (VS 47-53) (bioethics, anthropology) 37
15. The Accusation of Physicalism/Biologism 37
a. God's Will Written in Nature 37
b. Reply to the Accusation of Physicalism 38
16. An Example of “Anticipatory Signs”: The Sacred Interplay of Sexuality and Procreation 39
17. A Defense of St. Thomas Against the Accusation of Physicalism 43
18. A Return to Gnosticism 44
19. Continued Analysis of Thomistic Natural Law 45
a. Detailed Conclusions: Level III 45
20: Revisionist Natural Law Theory 47

V. Partaking in the Divine Law (VS 84-88, 95-97, 102-120) 47
21. Revelation as a Source of Truth 47
22: Moral Norms and the Magisterium (an ecclesiological component) 48
a. Infallibility in the Context of Contemporary Developments 48
b. The Various "Voices" of the Magisterium 48
c. The Infallibility of the Ordinary Universal Episcopal Magisterium 50
d. Examples from
Evangelium Vitae 51
e. The Most Popular Opposing Argument 52
f. Mary as Coredemptrix--extra section for those interested. 52
g. Some Lingering Difficulties 53
h. Conclusion: the Need for Authority 55

VI: Sin (VS 65-70) (spirituality) 55
23. Mortal and Venial Sin 55
a. Luther and Trent on Certainty 55
b. The Paradox of Risk and Certainty 56
c. The Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin 56
d. Transcendental and Categorical Levels of the Self
(anthropology) 58
e. Mortal Sin and Responsibility 59
f. The Boundary of Mortal Sin 61
24: Radical Fundamental Option Theory 62
a. The Radical Theory: Separation of Action and Will 62
b. The Radical Theory, the Reformation, and Trent 64
25: The Role of Psychology in Moral Theology 65
a. Radical Fundamental Option and Psychologism

VII. The Moral Act and Proportionalism (VS 71-82, 90-94) (bioethics) 66
26: Traditional Catholic Moral Theology and Proportionalism 66
a. The Basic Distinction 66
b. The Three Fonts of the Moral Act 67
c. The Idea of Teleology 67
d. Intrinsic Evil 68
e. Connection to the 3 Conditions for Sin 69
27: The Proportionalist Challenge 69
a. Pre-Moral Evil 69
b. Continuity with the Tradition? 70
c. Synthetic Terms 71
d. An Answer to the Proportionalist Request 73
e. Traditionalist vs. Proportionalist Ways of "Circumscribing" Moral Objects 75
28: Further Critiques of Proportionalist Thinking 75
a. The Danger of Relativism 76
b. A Self-Contradictory Method? 77
c. A Response from the Left to "Premoral Evil" 77
d. The Problem with "Weighing" 78
29. St. Thomas and Proportionalism 78
a. Might St. Thomas Have Been Sympathetic with Proportionalism? 78
b. Practice Cases 80
c. Texts from ST I-II, 18 and 20 81
30. The "New" Natural Law Theory (under construction, may be some weak spots) 84

VIII. Complex Situations--the Tough Cases 88
31. The Role of Virtue, Above and Beyond Specific Norms (virtues) 88
a. The Role of Prudence 88
b. Conflict or Complex Situations? 89
32. Principles for Conflict Situations (bioethics) 91
a. Circumstances Entering the Object 91
b. Principle of Totality 91
c. Lesser of Two Evils 92
d. Principle of Double Effect (PDE) 92
e. Material versus Formal Cooperation with Evil 96

IX: The Virtues (directly pertinent to the virtues) 97
33: The Life of Virtue (spirituality) 98
a. What is Virtue? 98
b. The Division of the Virtues 98
c. The Moral Virtues 99
d. The Theological Virtues 100
34: The Specific Virtues 101

X. Conclusion to First Section: The Question of a Distinctively Christian Ethics 101
35. Natural Ethics and Christian Ethics? (spirituality) 101
36: The Role of the Magisterium in Christian Ethics 10
37: Scripture and Christian Ethics (in Supplement) 102

XI. An Overview of Natural and Sacramental Marriage 102
38. Overview of Terminology: Essence, Properties (Goods), and Ends 102
39. Maleness and Femaleness as Ontological Realities (anthropology) 103
a. Ontological versus Functional 103
b. Male/Female as Source/Receptor
(anthropology 105
40. Natural Marriage--an Objective Reality 105
a. Step 1: the Dignity of the Human Person 105
b. Step 2: the Nature of the Conjugal Act 106
c. Step 3: Permanence 107
d. Step 4: Nonsubstitutability of the Spouse 108
e. Step 5: Heterosexuality 108
f. Addendum: Selections from
Familiaris Consortio 109
g. Addendum:
Casti Connubii (Pius XI, 1930) on the Natural Marital Bond 109
41. The Marital Covenant 110
a. The Covenant and Marriage 110
b. Sacramental Marriage as Image and Efficacious Model in
Familiaris Consorito 111
c. Ordering Our Maleness/Femaleness Covenantally 112
d. Fragmentations of the Four Characteristics 113
e. A Pastoral Application 114
f. The Judeo-Christian Covenantal Understanding: Revolutionary in its Historical Context 115
42. The Marital Nature of the Eucharistic Covenant (The Male Priesthood) 116
43. The Cycle of Giving and Receiving--under construction 116

XII. Issues Particular to Sacramental Marriage 116
44. Baptism and Marriage 117
a. Introduction 117
b. Protestant Marriage 117
c. The Baptized Non-Believer 117
d. Marriages with non-Baptized Persons 118
45. The Ends of Marriage 119
46. Application to the Annulment Explosion 119
47. The Ontological Bond and Its Cause: the Vow, and Consummation 119
a. The Marital Vow 119
b. The Embodiment of the Vow 120
c. St. Thomas on the Marriage of Mary and Joseph
120

XIII. Marriage and Celibacy 120
48. The Marriage and Celibacy of Mary and Joseph--under construction. 120
49. Celibacy (spirituality) 120
50. The Virtues of Purity and Chastity (virtues, spirituality) 124

XIV. The Nature of the Conjugal Act 124
51. The Embodiment of the Marital Vow: the Conjugal Act 124
a. Gift of Self 124
b. Connecting the gift of self to human sexuality 125
c. “Procreativity”: a Broader Meaning 125
d. Criteria for the Trajectory of Self-Donation 126
e. A Different Kind of Act 127
f. The consequences of turning it into a different kind of act 127
g. What About Subjective Intent? 128
h. NFP allows the couple to meet criterion #2 128
i. NFP does not automatically include criteria 3 and 4. 128
j. Several Further Criteria 129
k. Contraceptive Mentality vs.. Selfish Mentality 130
l. Connection to Building an Argument for “Natural Marriage” 131
m. Infallibility and HV. 131
n. Arguments for NFP and Against Contraception from Consequences 131
o. Appendix:
Natural Law Arguments against Contraception 131
52. The Homosexual Person 132
a. “You Can’t Legislate Morality?” 132
b. A Pastoral Context: Participatory Theonomy 133
c. The Natural Law I: No Imposition of Religion 136
d. The Natural Law II: the Transcendent Meaning Placed in Our Sexual Biology 137
e. The Natural Law III: The Linkage of the Unitive and Procreative 138
f. Data from Divine Revelation 139
g. The Societal/Legal Dimension 139
53. Miscellaneous Historical Material 141

Section Three: Catholic Social Thought 141

XV: Foundational Principles 141
54. Secular vs. Christian Views of Man and Society (anthropology) 141
a. The Secular View of Man/ Society/God 141
b. The Common Good 141
c. The State and Subsidiarity 143
d. The Priority of the Family 144
e. The Data of Revelation and Man's Communal Nature 144
55. The Common Good: An End, and a Means to the End 144
a. The Common Good as an End 144
b. The Means Toward Achieving the Common Good 145
56. Justice: Rights and Duties (virtues) 146
57. Solidarity and the Three Types of Justice: Commutative, Distributive, Communal 148
58. The City of God and the City of Man 149
a. Our Citizenship in Two Kingdoms 150
b. The Autonomy of the Temporal Order 154
c. The Church as an Expert in Humanity 155

XVI: The Church and Culture 156
59. The Role of the Laity 156
60. The Witness of the Gospels (in Supplement) 157
61. Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the Nature of a Catholic University 157
62. Science and Religion (in Supplement) (anthropology) 160

XVII: The Church and Political Life 160
63. The Church's Role in Politics 160
a. Two Manifestations of the Secular View--Secular Liberalism and Secular Conservativism 160
b. The Errors of Liberalism 162
c. The Errors of Secular Conservativism 163
d. Another Option in the American Political Spectrum 164
e. Liberal or Conservative Catholics? 165
64. Liberation Theology 165
a. Historicist Immanentism 166
b. The Meaning and Role of the Church 167
c. The Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
(virtues) 167
d. Two Views of Freedom 168
e. Preferential Option for the Poor 169
f. Other Forms of Liberationism 170
65. Religious Liberty and the Role of the State 170
a. Civic Authority as Guardian of the Common Good 170
b. Which Political System Best Guards the Common Good? 170
c. Understanding the Church's Shift Regarding Religious Freedom 171
66. Leo XIII: the Received Position 173
a. Error has no Rights 173
b. A Rejection of Liberalism? 174
c. Tensions in Leo XIII's Perspective 175
67. Dignitatis Humanae--the Truth Imposes Itself Only by Virtue of its Own Truth 176
68. Personalist Democracy vs. the Neutral State 178
69. The Catholic Moment Theory 180
70. Catholicism and the American Experiment: Compatibility or Incompatibility? 181
a. Neoconservatives and Cultural Radicals 181
b. The Argument for Incompatibility 181
c. A Middle Position: the Vulnerability of the American Experiment 182
71. Civil Disobedience and Strategies of the Pro-Life Movement 184
72. The Vulnerability of the American Experiment 185
73. Just War 188
a. The Contemporary Setting 188
b. The Just War Theory 188
c. Applying the Theory in a Nuclear Age
(in Supplement) 192
74. The Death Penalty 192

XVIII: The Church and Economic Life 195
75. Ownership/Private Property 195
a. The Right to Private Property 195
b. The Right to Work and the Right to a Just Wage 196
c. The Universal Destination of Property and Fortin's Argument 196
76. The Free Market System 198
a. The Sub-ordering of the Economic Sphere 198
b. The Economy as an Organism 199
c. Principles for Enacting Social Justice and Social Charity 200

XIX. Practical Issues 200
77. The Myth of Overpopulation 200
78 through 95 Additional Practical Issues, under construction 201

XX. Review Questions 201
96. Review Questions for Fundamental Moral Theology 201
97. Review Questions for Christian Marriage 207
98. Review Questions for Catholic Social Thought 208




Methodological Introduction to the Three Sections of Handouts

The contemporary study of Catholic moral theology includes four key areas: fundamental moral theology, which treats the underlying principles of morality; marriage and sexuality; Catholic social thought; and bioethics. Since there are anthropological underpinnings at every step of the way, a study of theological anthropology is an integral part of moral theology. That makes five courses. A study of the virtues is sometimes added to a moral theology curriculum, which yields still another course--a sixth--though it is often placed within anthropology or fundamental moral theology. Finally, there is a close interconnection between moral theology and spirituality, yielding a seventh course.
All of these areas can be taught as independent courses, but with a central difficulty: the areas interpenetrate, and it becomes difficult to keep the areas distinct. If kept too distinct, key elements are left out of the respective courses. For example: throughout the study of fundamental moral theology, concrete examples from sexual ethics, social thought, and bioethics are necessary to illustrate the otherwise abstract materials being studied. For instance, in studying the concept of intrinsic evil, one must look to specific instances in the other areas: are contraception (from sexual ethics), embryonic stem cell research (from bioethics), and the death penalty (from social thought) intrinsically evil? And the reverse holds just as true. In studying any of these three issues in their respective courses, one needs to understand the fundamental principles involved in analyzing the category of “intrinsic evil.”
A related problem is that students often have an opportunity to take one or two courses, and wish they could have an opportunity to get the “whole picture” as it were. Within a particular course, they often become aware of the importance of the other materials and topics, which unfortunately they may not have a chance to pursue. (At the University of Dallas, theology majors are required to take moral theology. Some students have room in their schedule for one or two more courses, but virtually no students take all the courses in moral theology. The same is true for graduate students. Graduate students working on the M.A. degree are in a particularly difficult situation, as their comprehensive exams cover all the areas.)
There is no easy pedagogical solution, but it is possible to integrate the whole into two semesters of work. The present set of handouts provides the backbone of this pedagogy.

1. The course in Fundamental Moral Theology, offered every Fall, treats key issues of sexual ethics right within unit IV on the body/person relation, unit VI on sin, and Unit VII on the nature of the moral object and proportionalism. The relationship between natural marriage and sacramental marriage is treated alongside unit III on the natural law. A full treatment of sacramental marriage is included at the end of the course. In a word, students taking fundamental moral theology also imbibe much of what would be covered in a full course on marriage. The handouts for moral theology (section one) and marriage (section two) are kept distinct, but students make use of both sections during the first semester. The syllabus guides the student’s reading.
2. The course in Catholic Social Thought is offered every Spring. Ideally it is taken in sequence with the fundamental moral theology course, but can be taken independently as well. It uses section three of the handouts, and the syllabus guides the student to pertinent sections of sections one and two as well.
3. Key features of theological anthropology, bioethics, the virtues, and spirituality are woven into both of the above courses. In the table of contents of the handouts, those four areas are noted in italics next to various handouts that are especially pertinent.
4. It is advantageous if a student can take a full course on anthropology prior to the two main courses, or after those two courses. On the one hand, anthropology provides the underpinnings for the rest of moral inquiry, since our view of moral action is contingent upon the view of the human person taken. On the other hand, anthropology can be particularly abstract and hence quite difficult when taken prior to the other courses. While prior in the order of reality, it may be posterior in the order of understanding. At UD, students in fact take philosophical anthropology (philosophy of man) as their second philosophy course,
after philosophical ethics.
5. Full courses in sexuality and marriage, the virtues, and bioethics, are likewise highly advantageous. At UD, the bioethics course has generally been taught in the philosophy department.
There are a number of chapters in the handouts marked as “in the Supplement.” These are secondary materials that many students would not have the time to pursue. The supplement is available upon request. Also, these handouts are revised every year. Your comments and suggestions are most welcome.




Section One: Fundamental Moral Theology

Introduction to Section One

Originally there was to have been a document on moral theology at the Second Vatican Council. However, the early drafts tended to use the same methodology found in the traditional “manuals” of moral theology. They failed to situate the moral life Christocentrically. And so, the project was put off for the future, with only this simple directive:

Special attention needs to be given to the development of moral theology. Its scientific exposition should be more thoroughly nourished by scriptural teaching. It should show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful, and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world (Decree on Priestly Formation, art. 16).

The encyclical
Veritatis Splendor is the long-awaited document that never came to fruition at Vatican II. The present notes attempts to offer the reader an opportunity to meditate on and to understand this invaluable encyclical. Ideally, one should read the entire encyclical before starting this text. Then, at numerous junctures the present text connects to key features of Veritatis Splendor, at which points the reader can turn to it again. These junctures are marked with the abbreviation VS.

In addition to being cross-referenced to
Veritatis Splendor, the text is cross-referenced to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, abbreviated CCC throughout. Contrary to VS, which has certain theologically dense sections requiring some exegesis, the CCC is relatively easy to follow. The present text expressly avoids lengthy quotations from the CCC; the reader is encouraged to pursue the appropriate texts as noted.

A final methodological feature is the explicit attention given to St. Thomas Aquinas. At many points, the reader is directed to read sections of his
Summa Theologiae. Such points are usually indicated by ST (which can stand for either St. Thomas or Summa Theologiae). A triple asterisk indicates conclusion of such sections. While it is possible to read the present book without Thomas' work at your side, it is well worth the extra time and effort to study the original texts of St. Thomas. The Summa is available on the web at newadvent.org.

Note: Some sections of these handouts have appeared in article form: "A New Proposal for the Traditionalist/Proportionalist Discussion,"
Irish Theological Quarterly vol 61, no. 2 (1995), 115-24; "Tradition: the Presence of Christ Echoing Across Time,” The Catholic Faith (Nov.-Dec. 1995); "The Fundamental Option: a New Spin on an Old Error," Envoy (March-April 1997); "Infallibility in the Context of Three Contemporary Developments,” Faith and Reason (1998-99); some entries of the forthcoming Dictionary of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization (San Francisco: Ignatius Press). Living the Good Life (Servant Publications, 2003) is a shorter and somewhat popularized form of these notes. Under my name on the UD website, you’ll find a variety of additional aids to that book and these notes, such as a glossary and a set of important VS texts.


I: Freedom and Conscience (VS 31-34, 54-64, 84-89)


1. The Meaning of Christian Freedom (also relevant to anthropology)

a. Secular vs. Christian Meanings of "Freedom"

Consider the oft-heard phrase "I am free to follow my conscience." Such a statement is eminently true, provided one has a proper understanding of the two key terms of the statement, "freedom" and "conscience." If one has a faulty view of those realities, then the statement "I am free to follow my conscience" is seriously erroneous. Let us first consider the concept of freedom, then conscience.

Freedom can be a confusing term, for it can mean a variety of different things. 1) Natural or psychological freedom means that men have
free will. We are not solely conditioned by external forces (the environment) and internal forces (brain chemistry). We are not merely highly complex biochemical mechanisms, highly evolved animals. The opposite of such freedom is determinism. 2) Political freedom is something available in a political regime that allows a certain freedom of movement. For instance, in our political order we have a wide variety of choices regarding numerous aspects of our lives. The opposite of political freedom is tyranny.

But both of these "freedoms" are really only capacities or potentialities; unless they are properly used, in alignment with the truth, there is no freedom in the most real sense of the word. Rather, the individual is cut loose from the moorings of truth and is autonomous: freedom means, then, doing as one chooses with one's natural and political freedom. We can label this view, which absolutizes free will and political freedom, "secular freedom." Of course there are boundaries around such freedom: you can do as you like
so long as you do not hurt anyone else. Politically speaking, the community forms a "social contract" whereby each citizen agrees not to engage in activities that would hinder someone else's freedom .

Such activities, according to this view, are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves; rather, they are unworkable. Murder and theft are not morally wrong and sinful in some metaphysical sense; rather, we just cannot live in community if people commit murder and theft. If you enjoy those activities, you must restrain yourself--otherwise you prohibit others from the very thing you wish to do, namely, do as you choose.

Glenn Olsen aptly summarizes the secular view, and then compares it to the Christian view of freedom:

...for most moderns "freedom" is synonymous with individual autonomy. This again can be related to the Lockean model, for implicit in the idea of an atomistic society is the idea that society begins with a number of individuals, in whom inheres one by one complete freedom of choice. Government is obtained by partially restricting this freedom, but the basic idea of what freedom is remains. This is far removed from the Christian notion of freedom, developed at many points in St. Paul's writings, and then in classical theological form by St. Augustine. According to this Christian notion, every m an possesses free will (liberum arbitrium) just as he possesses such other human abilities as thinking or tasting. Free will is the ability to choose between alternatives. But in a sense it is merely a capacity, like eyesight, the moral valuation of which is to be determined by use. Freedom is given, not so that a man can do whatever he please--this is the mere aimlessness of Kierkegaard's aesthetic man--but so that he can choose the good (libertas). Thus the man with free will, while retaining his free will, passes into the free or liberated man, by consistently (and this by the grace of God) choosing the good. By definition, the man who consistently chooses the good is constantly being limited, for in terms of his mere free will the more he clings to the good the fewer alternatives are open to him. Hence the paradox that the truly free man is he who com pletely binds himself to truth and goodness: "Love God and do what you please," for what one pleases is now in agreem ent with what God w ills. Christian freedom is therefore at almost every point opposed to the modern notion of the autonomous man. Christianity does not stand for an atomistic society in which each individual does his own thing, but for an organic society in which the function of law is, as far as is humanly possible, to liberate each individual, that is, to bring his will into consonance with those things which are objectively good and true.


Another outstanding presentation of the Christian view of freedom , in contrast to a secular view, is found in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical
Libertas (1888). Liberty (true freedom), says Leo, "belongs only to those who have the gift of reason or intelligence" (art. 5). It is the means by which we choose the good proposed to us by the intellect. However, a flaw in either the intellect or the will causes a loss of true liberty:

...it is possible, as is often seen, that the reason should propose something which is not really good, but which has the appearance of good, and that the will should choose accordingly. For, as the possibility of error, and actual error, are defects of the mind and attest its imperfection, so the pursuit of what has a false appearance of good, though a proof of our freedom, just as a disease is a proof of our vitality, implies defect in human liberty. The will also, simply because of its dependence on the reason, no sooner desires anything contrary thereto than it abuses its freedom of choice and corrupts its very essence (art. 6).


True freedom, then, is a freedom
for the good. It is in this true freedom, or liberty, that we find our real dignity. We do not lose our uniqueness in aligning ourselves with the truth. We allow the fullness of our unique selves to flourish, resulting in true individuality. Individuality must be distinguished from individualism, which results from the autonomous, or secular, view of freedom.
Individuality allows the true self to flourish in harmony with a higher arbiter; individualism makes the self the arbiter.

Authentic freedom--alignment with the will of God--opens the person to a more profound happiness than he would ever have imagined. It is true that the numerous options that come from secular freedom are no longer available, but those options, while carrying a surface kind of excitement, never yield this profound happiness and inner freedom. One gives up “optionality” but is rewarded abundantly with the genuine happiness that proceeds from a virtuous life.

For the Christian, this happiness is immeasurably increased by grace--an ever deepening participation in the divine Trinitarian life. This gift of grace creates moral beauty in a person.


An analogy: Imagine someone fascinated by a sport, such as golf, or a musical instrument like the saxophone. Experts make these skills look easy, and one’s first instinct is to think “I bet I can do that, give me a try at it.” A person quickly discovers that, although free to give it a try, such freedom must be properly--and arduously--ordered; otherwise, one lives with the frustration of horrid shots and dissonant notes. Once the person wisely recognizes the need to discover the objective and transcendent truth about the nature of a golf swing or the way music is played, true happiness and enjoyment ensues. Interestingly, it is only after aligning oneself with that truth that one can even begin to think about uniqueness and individuality. Every professional golfer will tell you the same truth about what makes a proper swing, yet each of them has a unique style. Every musician will tell you what the right notes are for playing a particular piece, yet each will play the piece with a distinct flavor. Likewise with the moral life. Each person practicing the virtue of patience practices it uniquely; each couple who align themselves with the nature of marriage practices the characteristics of marriage, like fidelity and procreativity, uniquely.

V.S.--The proper understanding of freedom is the predominant theme in Veritatis Splendor, making its appearance in nearly every article. The pope, relying on Gaudium et Spes, terms the proper view of freedom "genuine freedom" (#34). Consider just several select quotations from the encyclical: ...Freedom of conscience is never freedom "from" the truth but always and only freedom "in" the truth...(64); and, [According to certain erroneous opinions] Human freedom would thus be able to "create values" and would enjoy a primacy over truth, to the point that truth itself would be considered a creation of freedom. Freedom would thus lay claim to a moral autonomy which would actually amount to an absolute sovereignty. (35)

CCC--read 1730-1748. 1733 concisely sums up the Christian view of freedom

b. Critique of the Secular View of Freedom

The secular claim is not a
viewpoint at all but the lack (privation) of a viewpoint. For the moment a person voices it, he or she is caught in a contradiction. The claim begins by noting that “I can do whatever I want,” and then quickly qualifies that: “I cannot harm anyone else.” So, I can’t do anything I want! I am bound by something true, namely, that which would hurt another. (Note that you can’t get away from being bound to some version of the truth; the only remaining question is, where can you find the fullest understanding of the truth?) Or, start with the second half of the secular position-- “don’t hurt another.” If I can do whatever I want, then it logically follows that I can decide what is harmful or not to someone else, and therefore the criterion “don’t hurt another” self-destructs. What if I think that it would be of great benefit to another person to surrender his or her freedom to my needs?
Hence, if it is true that I can do as I want, then it must also be true that I can treat other people as I want. I may choose to stay within the bounds of civil law, but beyond that I can do as I please--“I’ll do it my way.”

Second, even if we do admit that there are certain actions that would harm others, how do we know the extent of such actions? Murder obviously harms someone else. But do all so-called "private acts" harm no one? Where does one draw the supposed clear line between public and private acts? The word "harm", it would seem, needs much clearer definition. In the Christian view of freedom, although one can distinguish public and private acts in the temporal order, ultimately everything that we do affects the Body of Christ. As Pope Paul VI noted: Every sin brings with it a disturbance of the universal order, which God arranged in His inexpressible wisdom and infinite love.



In sum, it is an illusion to think there is some large cross-section of action that "doesn't hurt anybody else."

The secular view of freedom, then, is found wanting. The Christian view of freedom suggests that the human person is most free when knowing and living in accord with a higher truth. To attain such freedom, one must "die to oneself," that is to say, not be a slave to his passions and desires.

Of course the Christian view cannot be "proven" true in any empirical sense. Rather,
other views contain inconsistencies and do not provide an adequate account of the whole human experience of freedom . One is left with the Christian view of freedom. For this view, freedom remains a mystery; its fullness is beyond the grasp of deductive reasoning and certainly of empirical demonstration. But while it remains a mystery, our intellects are adequate to understanding it, though never in its fullness. Were we to grasp it in its fullness, it would be reduced to one object alongside others in the field of our experience, thereby losing its infinite value.
Interestingly, if there are two concepts of freedom (secular freedom and authentic freedom), humans are free to choose between them. And yet only one type allows real freedom. One can choose to be free, or one can choose to be unfree. In the latter case, one is actually
misusing his freedom.

One might object that such an understanding of freedom seems unfair. God gives us freedom, but there is only one proper way to be free! This is the pagan objection to the Christian view of freedom. Unless one stands
inside the Christian view of freedom, that view does not make sense, that is, it does not appear to be freedom at all but rather a devious form of coercion. From a pagan point of view, this is the damnable part of Christianity. From a Christian point of view, the true view of freedom is sheer beauty. St. Augustine's Confessions is one of the most splendid accounts of these two points of view. Augustine himself struggled, as a pagan, against the Christian view of freedom. But he writes his account of the struggle from within his new-found faith. Hence, the reader enters into both perspectives.



2: The Meaning of Conscience (also relevant to anthropology, spirituality)

a. The "Subjective Norm" of the Moral Life

Conscience is the medium between objective truth and our individual lives. Transcendent truth, existing independently from human persons, connects to our own individual subjective lives vis-à-vis the medium of conscience; hence, conscience can be called the "subjective norm" of the moral life. That which is objectively true is also true for us, and that which transcends all individuals is simultaneously a highly personal truth. That which is essentially true is also existentially true.


Consider the words of Pope Pius XII:

The conscience is as it were the most secret and intimate cell man has. It is there that he takes refuge with spiritual faculties in absolute solitude: alone with himself, or better, alone with God--whose voice makes itself heard in the conscience--and with himself....The conscience, therefore...is a sanctuary, at whose threshold all must stop....a jealously guarded shrine, whose secret God himself wishes to be preserved under the seal of the most sacred silence.


Likewise, in Gaudium et Spes the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council note that

Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. (art. 16).

Conscience is that locus in moral theology wherein a solution is available to one of the perennial philosophical and theological concerns of mankind: the problem of "the one and the many." Given the sheer diversity of individuals and cultures, the diversity of all being itself, is there some principle of oneness that unifies the "many"? Is there some fundamental principle under which all things are ordered, and is there some primary goal or end to which all things tend?

If there is some such principle of unity, of which all partake, then how can the radical uniqueness and freedom of every individual remain? Given the magnitude of humanity, how can it be that each individual person really matters in the ultimate scheme of things? Is there a true and reliable answer to the question of the one and the many? Christianity holds such an answer. There is one truth, from which all reality flows and to which all reality returns. We are simultaneously unique human persons who share a common human nature.


Veritatis Splendor (VS)
--This is the central theme of Veritatis Splendor--that our uniqueness and freedom as individual persons is not only compatible with our having a comm on, universal human nature; but that real or genuine freedom is only found when we align ourselves with this nature. Read article 51, with special attention to the final paragraph, from which this short quotation is taken: "...universality does not ignore the individuality of human beings, nor is it opposed to the absolute uniqueness of each person. On the contrary, it embraces at its root each of the person’s free acts, which are meant to bear witness to the universality of the true good.”

Referring back to our analogies of the sportsman or the musician, their embrace of the right way to perform their skill is analogous to universality, while their ability to arrive at a unique golf swing or a unique rendering of a piece of music is analogous to conscience and individuality. To introduce another analogy, consider the navigator and pilot of an airplane. You would never step foot on a plane unless you were confident that they were fully aligned with the truth about how to properly fly an airplane, and you relax knowing they have flown your route numerous times. At the same time, no two flights, even to the same destination, are exactly alike, as the navigator and pilot must apply their expertise in the nature of flying to an ensemble of particular conditions.

Also study article 41, and its use of the terms "heteronomy" and "theonomy." The word "heteronomy" is from two Greek words meaning "other" and "law." A heteronomy would be an order in which the moral law was extrinsically and arbitrarily placed on man; put simply, if God had built a heteronomous universe, he would be saying to us "obey the m oral law because I said so." As the encyclical notes, this is a misperception of the Catholic moral life. Our very being participates in the very wisdom and love of God--what VS calls a "participated theonomy"--such that the moral law is not an alien force imposed on us but rather is the starting point of our own moral fulfillment and the ground of our own individuality and unique personhood.

b. Conscience and Synderesis

"Conscience" is used in the New Testament 25 times. In Greek, it is syneidesis, in the Latin, conscientia. Another closely related term is synderesis , first found in St. Jerome's Commentary on Ezekiel. Some scholars think that Jerome wrote syneidesis and that a copyist erred with synderesis, but however the matter might be resolved, the Catholic scholastic tradition inherited both terms. (ST Read Thom as, S.T. I, q. 79, a. 12 and 13.)

Thomas distinguishes between two aspects of conscience.

1)
Synderesis is a "habit" of conscience whereby man has a natural proclivity to first principles of the ethical life--principles such as "do good and avoid evil."

2) Conscience is an
act itself whereby an individual applies a moral truth to his own particular case.

Given these two delineations, it is possible to distinguish "habitual conscience" and "actual conscience." Are these two separate
faculties of the person?
Thomas answers that they are not. They are rather indicative of the intellect and will engaging in moral activity. Msgr. William Smith provides a definition in harmony with Thom as: it is "that act of passing or making a personal judgment on the moral quality of a proposed and particular action--a judgment of mind on a particular m oral issue....”


Other theologians consider this understanding too narrow or too intellectualistic.

But there is no reason to think that Thomas would disagree that "conscience" is more than the intellect at work in particular moral situations--though it is that. Especially given that Thomas seems to have no difficulty speaking of synderesis as conscience, and given that synderesis is a habit involving more than discursive reason, it would seem that Thomas' understanding is in harmony with one that would see conscience as our whole being's habits and actions, which exist in covenantal relationship with God.


It is also important to note the relationship between conscience and the virtue of prudence. As treated in the unit on the virtues, conscience in the more specific sense is really one of the three “acts” of prudence, which are counsel, judgment and command. Conscience would be the act of judgment, and synderesis would be part of counsel. Conscience in the broader sense could, it would seem, be almost interchangeable with prudence in its three acts.

c. A Sacramental Basis for the Christian Conscience


Having considered the phenomenon of conscience as the medium between the Transcendent dimension and our own unique individuality in the immanent realm, we can take special notice of three distinct presuppositions at work: that there exists such a thing as objective truth (a metaphysical claim), that we can know it (an epistemological claim), and that we can live it out (an anthropological claim).

These claims are all ultimately rooted in a sacramental view of reality, a view which affirms a genuine correspondence or mutuality between the human realm and the transcendent realm, between human persons and metaphysical truth. We are beings of a particular sort--sacramental beings--that have the capacity to be taken up into the objective truth, without in the process losing our distinctiveness and individuality. A sacramental view of reality implies a sacramental anthropology and is lived out in the sacramental life wherein each individual is unique
and embraced by the one horizon of objective truth. Hence, the Christian can at one and the same time claim "I possess the truth" and "the truth possesses me." If the Christian is accused--as often happens these days--of being so arrogant as to think he possesses the truth, a good response is "no, I don't have the truth; the truth has me."

The idea that the truth "has us" is perhaps the quintessential feature of the sacramental view of reality. A sacramental view of reality is not some vague philosophical idea only. First and foremost it is a relationship with a particular person, Jesus Christ. And this relationship is lived out and
instantiated in particular, historical ways, viz., through the seven sacraments (and indirectly, through w hat the Church calls "sacramentals", that is, custom s, as opposed to dogmatic truths, which are "echoes" of the sacraments themselves).

VS--read article 21.

There is a particular feature of the sacraments that continually reinforces in the believer the conviction that the truth
has us. It is the idea that the sacraments are efficacious, which is to say that they cause grace and truth so long as the believer puts no impediment in the way. The sacraments allow us to become "caught up" in grace and truth. This surrender is entirely contrary to the popular notion that we ourselves arbitrate over the "truth."

Since the Eucharist is the most central of the sacraments, it is not surprising that this surrender occurs most fully, or at least most centrally, in that sacrament. Kneeling before the real presence--that miracle whereby Christ is present in the ordinary elements of bread and wine, so present that the bread and wine
are Christ--one cannot help but recognize that the Truth is something that exerts itself over us, that "has us."

This sacramental or Eucharistic "sense" or recognition then carries over into the moral life in a dramatic way, as we try not to "discover moral truth," but try rather to live out the moral truth that has "discovered" us.

d. True and False Conscience, Vincible and Invincible Ignorance


CCC 1790-94


In the analogy introduced earlier, the navigator and the pilot represent two aspects of the conscience at work--the intellect and the will. The intellect is like the navigator who gets the lay of the land (or air), figures out what ought to be done, and tells the pilot what to do. The will is like the pilot who, it is hoped, aligns himself with the navigator and makes the airplane go where it is supposed to go. Either or both of them can err, and the analogy helps us to map out the complexitities of the conscience.

Let’s unravel a few distinctions: true and false conscience, good and bad conscience, vincible and invincible ignorance, malum (evil) and culpa (an evil for which one is culpable) (see VS 81).

If an individual listens properly to the sources of truth, he has informed his conscience and is said to have a true conscience--this is like a well-informed navigator. A false or erroneous conscience is one that has not been properly formed--the navigator errs. Sometimes this is not the individual's fault, and then the false conscience is due to invincible ignorance (ignorance one is unable to conquer or overcome). For instance, someone who grows up in a heavily secularized atmosphere might not be fully responsible for certain immoral actions. The invincible ignorance could also be due to laziness or stubbornness, in which case the individual has actually
chosen not to properly inform his conscience. Then, the ignorance is vincible (“conquerable”), and the person is culpable.

ST
On this matter, see St. Thomas, S.T. I-II, q. 6, a. 8, "Does Ignorance Cause Involuntariness?" That is to ask, if a person is ignorant of the evil of a particular act, would that imply that they did not will the evil, that the evil was done involuntarily? Thomas' answer is somewhat complex but most illuminating. It is important because so often we are tempted to claim innocence on the basis that "we didn't really know an act was wrong." Thomas shows that we cannot make such a claim too easily.

Thomas notes that ignorance is related in three possible ways to an act of the will: Concomitantly, consequently and antecedently.
Concomitant ignorance is of least importance for our purposes. Thomas explains it with an example: a man shoots his enemy, who he wants to kill, even though he thinks he is shooting a deer. The man is ignorant of what he is really doing, but had knowledge been present he still would have shot the enemy. The act is not involuntary, since it did not cause anything contrary to the will, but non-voluntary.

Ignorance is
antecedent to (prior to) the will when that ignorance is not voluntary and causes something that one would not will. Thomas gives the example of a man taking proper precaution and, not knowing someone is within range, shoots an arrow and kills him. Here, the ignorance caused involuntariness absolutely--it was invincible ignorance. This is quite commonplace in the moral life. A person just does not know the full truth about, say, the nature of the conjugal act, and cannot discern the difference between contraception and natural family planning. The contraceptive activity is then evil but not sinful. Of course, there may be degrees of ignorance (yielding what is called an uncertain conscience) and hence degrees of culpability--but this is not for us to meddle in. It will be between the individual and God.

We are most concerned at this juncture with ignorance
consequent to the will. Here, one might will not to know in order to have an excuse for sin. For instance, one might avoid investigating the difference between contraception and natural family planning so as to continue contracepting.

Ignorance that is consequent to the will is of two kinds. Ignorance is
directly voluntary if a person has genuine access to the truth but simply chooses not to think carefully about it. To give a mundane exam ple, a person may have passed a driver's test that included specifications about weight limits on certain roads. He might simply choose not to think about the information that he knows. Then, the will has no real truth upon which to act. Or, ignorance is indirectly voluntary when a person wills not to know at all that which he ought to know. Continuing the example, the man has no idea what the weight limits are, knows that they are specified in his driving handbook, and deliberately chooses not to look them up.

We might think that in a majority of cases the ignorance that causes the will to do an evil act is involuntary. But in a different article, Thomas again addresses this same issue in a way that suggests otherwise:

If then reason or conscience err with an error that is voluntary, either directly or through negligence, so that one errs about what one ought to know, then such an error of reason or conscience does not excuse the will that abides by that erring reason or conscience from being evil. But if the error arises from ignorance of some circumstance and without any negligence, so that it causes the act to be involuntary, then that error of reason or conscience excuses the will that abides by that erring reason from being evil. (I-II, q. 19, a. 6)

Consider adultery, for instance. Many today might claim that due to the complexity of hum an life in our society, a man committing adultery m ay very well be ignorant of the truth involuntarily. This is because so m any in our society do not agree that adultery is evil to begin with! But Thomas looks upon such a situation in a very different way that does not excuse:

For instance, if erring reason tells a man that he should have intercourse with another man's wife, the will that abides by that erring reason is evil, since this error arises from ignorance of the divine law, which he is bound to know. But if a man's reason errs in mistaking another for his wife, and if he wishes to give her her right when she asks for it, his will is excused from being evil because this error arises from ignorance of a circumstance, which ignorance excuses and causes the act to be involuntary. (ibid.)

Of course, Thomas' strict position here assumes that everyone is "bound to know" the divine law. While this is true, many factors today might prevent us from clearly knowing that law. Still, we should never just presume that ignorance is involuntary. We are not privy to the secret core of conscience wherein a person's ignorance would be discovered to be voluntary or involuntary.

Often an individual will have difficulty discerning whether
his own past ignorance was antecedent or consequent to the will. In other words, one becomes quite concerned about the possible sinfulness of his past life, and wonders whether he was more responsible for that sinfulness than he might wish to admit. Should he confess past sinfulness? Given that at least some proportion of their ignorance, however small, was consequent to the will, it is best to confess sinful actions from the past. As we will review carefully in the chapter on sin, a sin is formally sinful insofar as the person knew the act was sinful and freely did it. A sin is materially sinful if the act itself is evil, without the person knowing so. A very immature Christian might commit many sins materially but not formally.

e. Good and Bad Conscience

So long as one follows his conscience, be it true or erroneous, he is said to have a good conscience. A bad conscience is when a person does not follow his conscience regardless of whether it is true or erroneous. Hence, if a person has an erroneous conscience, out of invincible ignorance or not, and acts
contrary to it (which may well produce a good act!), that person has acted with a bad conscience and is guilty.

Usually, of course, a bad conscience occurs not when one knows falsehood and acts contrary to it (thus doing something objectively good), but when one knows the truth and freely chooses to act contrary to it. Likewise, a good conscience usually occurs not when one has an erroneous conscience and acts according to it (thus doing something objectively evil), but rather when one has a true conscience and acts according to it. But still, note that four different possibilities exist:

Now, we can combine the work of the navigator and the pilot and look at a full range of possibilities:
1. A true and good conscience--the navigator gets it right, and the pilot follows through. A good act results--the plane lands safely at its destination--and when the conscience is
habituated to such good acts, truly virtuous acts ensue.

2. A true and bad conscience--the navigator gets it right, but the pilot fails to properly execute. The flights encounters unnecessary turbulence. This is one way that sin occurs; the individual
knows something to be evil (malum), and acts contrary to that knowledge. Because the person knew better, he or she is culpable or blameworthy for having done the evil, and we speak of the act not only as a malum (an evil act) but a culpa (an evil act for which one is culpable).

3. A false and good conscience--the navigator gets it wrong and the pilot follows through on the wrong information. A failed flight. Is the individual with a false and good conscience
culpable for the evil that has occurred? Let’s reapply the distinction made just above, between invincible and vincible ignorance.

3.a. If there is no possible way that the intellect could have been properly informed, then we speak of the ignorance as
invincible--unconquerable--and then the evil is one for which the agent is not culpable. Malum, yes; culpa, no (see VS 62.1 and 63.1).

3.b. On the other hand, the navigator might have actually chosen the bad information given to the pilot. This could happens in two ways: He might know the truth and choose to repress it--bury it--because acknowledging it would be highly inconvenient (the flight might last an extra couple hours if a wise detour is taken), or he might have access to the truth and simply choose not to pursue it, knowing full well what the probable result of his inquiry would be. Either way, he has willed his ignorance. Our common word for this is rationalization. The person who does this in his conscience is culpable for the ensuing evil act.
Malum, yes; culpa, yes.

We have discovered that not every evil (
malum) involves guilt or a sin (culpa).
This insight is of incredible practical value. There are numerous people today who have come back to the Church after a damaging sojourn into subjectivism. They often return with an enormous amount of guilt. While some of that guilt may be very good, some might be false guilt due to the fact that there may be a fair amount of invincible ignorance. Not uncommonly people were given bad advice about important moral matters, like contraception or abortion. The ensuing ignorance may well be at least partially invincible, and while one should regret the evil done, the full weight of culpability is lifted. And where culpability remains, total forgiveness is readily available.

4. One last category--the false and bad conscience. The navigator, whether through vincible or invincible ignorance, gives false information to the pilot, and then the pilot, assuming this to be accurate information, nonetheless does not follow through on it. The irony of such a situation, rare as it may be, is that a good act may well ensue--imagine the committed atheist (a malformed conscience) who thinks prayer rather silly, nonetheless saying his evening prayers (just to play it safe). As Thomas explains clearly, the will (pilot) is rejecting that which is assumed to be true, and so the will is evil despite the goodness of the act.

Malum, no; culpa, yes.

These distinctions have plenty of practical ramifications. The
malum/culpa distinction helps us deal with the accusation that we’re “ being judgmental.” We are understandably afraid of being called “judgmental”--especially when Christ’s saying “judge not, lest you be judged,” is invoked--and we end up with what might be called the “can’t impose syndrome”: “I would never be able to justify having an abortion, but I can’t impose my views on someone else.” We might know how absurd such a claim is--fill in slave-holding for abortion and it’s pretty obvious--yet we don’t want to be labeled as rigid and judgmental.

The solution is clear: steadfastly maintain the distinction between an act that is evil, and an evil act for which one is culpable. Christ demands that we make the former judgment, and prohibits us from making the latter judgment. To judge that an act is right or wrong is precisely what conscience is supposed to do--in fact, the technical definition of conscience is that it is an “act of judgment” that applies the universal truth to a particular case (see VS 32.2 and 59.2). Judging that a particular individual is culpable for having committed an evil act is strictly forbidden--that’s God’s business. Of course, I can accuse
myself of culpability, which is precisely what would motivate me to seek reconciliation with God and neighbor. By the way, once people properly understand conscience, the classic difficulty with the existence of hell (how could a good God send anyone to eternal damnation) vanishes: though in this life people can conveniently ignore the accusation of conscience, in the final end they must listen, and then their own consciences make the ultimate accusation.

A proper understanding of conscience has another dramatic pastoral ramification. Today we often use the term "sincerity" for a good conscience, and we often reduce conscience to mere sincerity, ignoring the existence of the true versus the erroneous conscience.

As a celebrity once said, "how can I be wrong when I'm so sincere?”
To which we can respond, we appreciate your sincerity, but a sincere or good conscience does not make up for the fact that you have a falsely informed conscience. It would be better to say, “It’s very easy to be wrong, and sincerity doesn’t excuse. I must strive for a true conscience, and then act sincerely on that basis.”

ST--
Here, read two articles in which St. Thomas deals with this point: "Is the will evil when it is at variance with erring reason?", which is to ask whether an erring conscience binds (I-II, q. 19, a. 5) and "Is the will good when it abides by erring reason?", which is to ask whether an erring conscience excuses (Ibid., a. 6).

VS--
In article 32, the pope criticizes the tendency to reduce the true conscience to the sincere (good)
conscience: "To the affirmation that one has a duty to follow one's conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one's moral judgment is true merely by the fact that it has its origin in the conscience. But in this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity, and 'Being at peace with oneself,' so much so that some have com e to adopt a radically subjectivistic conception of m oral judgment."

Earlier we defined conscience as a judgment. The pope notes how important this word is, because it connotes that we are placing our actions against the backdrop of objective truth. In article 55, he notes how some contemporary authors err in using the term "decision" rather than judgment.

Read the whole section in VS on conscience, 54-64, in light of what has been discussed here.

CCC 1776-1802

Is it really possible to have a true but bad conscience (#3 above)? That is, is it really possible to know the truth and freely act contrary to it? Or rather, is it not the case that when a person acts contrary to the truth, he simply could not have known it, or known it fully (as discussed above), hence making the act involuntary? In fact, the latter is what we might term the classical pagan view of intellect and will. For Aristotle, if one truly knows the good, he will do it; likewise, if the good is not done, it must be because the individual did not fully know the good. This analysis seems to correspond with our experience. We do something that we later reflect upon as wrong, and tend to say "I didn't really know it was wrong." Had we fully understood the wrongness of the act, of course we would not have done it. But we did not fully understand.

The Christian view of freedom involves a radical departure from such a view. It recognizes the dilemma St. Paul felt so profoundly: "I cannot even understand my own actions. I do not do what I want to do but what I hate" (Romans 7:15). It claims that we can fully know the truth, and then our will can act against it.

f. Text of St. Thomas on Conscience

Whether synderesis is a special power of the soul distinct from the others?
Objection 1. It would seem that "synderesis" is a special power, distinct from the others. For those things which fall under one division, seem to be of the same genus. But in the gloss of Jerome on Ezech. 1:6, "synderesis" is divided against the irascible, the concupiscible, and the rational, which are powers. Therefore "synderesis" is a power.
Objection 2. Further, opposite things are of the same genus. But "synderesis" and sensuality seem to be opposed to one another because "synderesis" always incites to good; while sensuality always incites to evil: whence it is signified by the serpent, as is clear from Augustine (De Trin. xii, 12,13). It seems, therefore, that 'synderesis' is a power just as sensuality is.
Objection 3. Further, Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. ii, 10) that in the natural power of judgment there are certain "rules and seeds of virtue, both true and unchangeable." And this is what we call synderesis. Since, therefore, the unchangeable rules which guide our judgment belong to the reason as to its higher part, as Augustine says (De Trin. xii, 2), it seems that "synderesis" is the same as reason: and thus it is a power.
On the contrary, According to the Philosopher (Metaph. viii, 2), "rational powers regard opposite things." But "synderesis" does not regard opposites, but inclines to good only. Therefore "synderesis" is not a power. For if it were a power it would be a rational power, since it is not found in brute animals.
I answer that, "Synderesis" is not a power but a habit; though some held that it is a power higher than reason; while others [Cf. Alexander of Hales, Sum. Theol. II, 73] said that it is reason itself, not as reason, but as a nature. In order to make this clear we must observe that, as we have said above (8), man's act of reasoning, since it is a kind of movement, proceeds from the understanding of certain things--namely, those which are naturally known without any investigation on the part of reason, as from an immovable principle--and ends also at the understanding, inasmuch as by means of those principles naturally known, we judge of those things which we have discovered by reasoning. Now it is clear that, as the speculative reason argues about speculative things, so that practical reason argues about practical things. Therefore we must have, bestowed on us by nature, not only speculative principles, but also practical principles. Now the first speculative principles bestowed on us by nature do not belong to a special power, but to a special habit, which is called "the understanding of principles," as the Philosopher explains (Ethic. vi, 6). Wherefore the first practical principles, bestowed on us by nature, do not belong to a special power, but to a special natural habit, which we call "synderesis." Whence "synderesis" is said to incite to good, and to murmur at evil, inasmuch as through first principles we proceed to discover, and judge of what we have discovered. It is therefore clear that "synderesis" is not a power, but a natural habit.
Reply to Objection 1. The division given by Jerome is taken from the variety of acts, and not from the variety of powers; and various acts can belong to one power.
Reply to Objection 2. In like manner, the opposition of sensuality to "syneresis" is an opposition of acts, and not of the different species of one genus.
Reply to Objection 3. Those unchangeable notions are the first practical principles, concerning which no one errs; and they are attributed to reason as to a power, and to "synderesis" as to a habit. Wherefore we judge naturally both by our reason and by "synderesis."
Whether conscience be a power?
Objection 1.
It would seem that conscience is a power; for Origen says [Commentary on Rm. 2:15 that "conscience is a correcting and guiding spirit accompanying the soul, by which it is led away from evil and made to cling to good." But in the soul, spirit designates a power--either the mind itself, according to the text (Eph. 4:13), "Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind"--or the imagination, whence imaginary vision is called spiritual, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xii, 7,24). Therefore conscience is a power.
Objection 2. Further, nothing is a subject of sin, except a power of the soul. But conscience is a subject of sin; for it is said of some that "their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15). Therefore it seems that conscience is a power.
Objection 3. Further, conscience must of necessity be either an act, a habit, or a power. But it is not an act; for thus it would not always exist in man. Nor is it a habit; for conscience is not one thing but many, since we are directed in our actions by many habits of knowledge. Therefore conscience is a power.
On the contrary, Conscience can be laid aside. But a power cannot be laid aside. Therefore conscience is not a power.
I answer that, Properly speaking, conscience is not a power, but an act. This is evident both from the very name and from those things which in the common way of speaking are attributed to conscience. For conscience, according to the very nature of the word, implies the relation of knowledge to something: for conscience may be resolved into "cum alio scientia," i.e. knowledge applied to an individual case. But the application of knowledge to something is done by some act. Wherefore from this explanation of the name it is clear that conscience is an act.
The same is manifest from those things which are attributed to conscience. For conscience is said to witness, to bind, or incite, and also to accuse, torment, or rebuke. And all these follow the application of knowledge or science to what we do: which application is made in three ways. One way in so far as we recognize that we have done or not done something; "Thy conscience knoweth that thou hast often spoken evil of others" (Eccles. 7:23), and according to this, conscience is said to witness. In another way, so far as through the conscience we judge that something should be done or not done; and in this sense, conscience is said to incite or to bind. In the third way, so far as by conscience we judge that something done is well done or ill done, and in this sense conscience is said to excuse, accuse, or torment. Now, it is clear that all these things follow the actual application of knowledge to what we do. Wherefore, properly speaking, conscience denominates an act. But since habit is a principle of act, sometimes the name conscience is given to the first natural habit--namely, 'synderesis': thus Jerome calls 'synderesis' conscience (Gloss. Ezech. 1:6); Basil [Hom. in princ. Proverb.], the "natural power of judgment," and Damascene [De Fide Orth. iv. 22 says that it is the "law of our intellect." For it is customary for causes and effects to be called after one another.
Reply to Objection 1. Conscience is called a spirit, so far as spirit is the same as mind; because conscience is a certain pronouncement of the mind.
Reply to Objection 2. The conscience is said to be defiled, not as a subject, but as the thing known is in knowledge; so far as someone knows he is defiled.
Reply to Objection 3. Although an act does not always remain in itself, yet it always remains in its cause, which is power and habit. Now all the habits by which conscience is formed, although many, nevertheless have their efficacy from one first habit, the habit of first principles, which is called "synderesis." And for this special reason, this habit is sometimes called conscience, as we have said above.
Whether the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason?
Objection 1.
It would seem that the will is not evil when it is at variance with erring reason. Because the reason is the rule of the human will, in so far as it is derived from the eternal law, as stated above (04). But erring reason is not derived from the eternal law. Therefore erring reason is not the rule of the human will. Therefore the will is not evil, if it be at variance with erring reason.
Objection 2. Further, according to Augustine, the command of a lower authority does not bind if it be contrary to the command of a higher authority: for instance, if a provincial governor command something that is forbidden by the emperor. But erring reason sometimes proposes what is against the command of a higher power, namely, God Whose power is supreme. Therefore the decision of an erring reason does not bind. Consequently the will is not evil if it be at variance with erring reason.
Objection 3. Further, every evil will is reducible to some species of malice. But the will that is at variance with erring reason is not reducible to some species of malice. For instance, if a man's reason err in telling him to commit fornication, his will in not willing to do so, cannot be reduced to any species of malice. Therefore the will is not evil when it is at variance with erring reason.
On the contrary, As stated in the I, 79, 13, conscience is nothing else than the application of knowledge to some action. Now knowledge is in the reason. Therefore when the will is at variance with erring reason, it is against conscience. But every such will is evil; for it is written (Rm. 14:23): "All that is not of faith"--i.e. all that is against conscience--"is sin." Therefore the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason.
I answer that, Since conscience is a kind of dictate of the reason (for it is an application of knowledge to action, as was stated in the I, 19, 13), to inquire whether the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason, is the same as to inquire "whether an erring conscience binds." On this matter, some distinguished three kinds of actions: for some are good generically; some are indifferent; some are evil generically. And they say that if reason or conscience tell us to do something which is good generically, there is no error: and in like manner if it tell us not to do something which is evil generically; since it is the same reason that prescribes what is good and forbids what is evil. On the other hand if a man's reason or conscience tells him that he is bound by precept to do what is evil in itself; or that what is good in itself, is forbidden, then his reason or conscience errs. In like manner if a man's reason or conscience tell him, that what is indifferent in itself, for instance to raise a straw from the ground, is forbidden or commanded, his reason or conscience errs. They say, therefore, that reason or conscience when erring in matters of indifference, either by commanding or by forbidding them, binds: so that the will which is at variance with that erring reason is evil and sinful. But they say that when reason or conscience errs in commanding what is evil in itself, or in forbidding what is good in itself and necessary for salvation, it does not bind; wherefore in such cases the will which is at variance with erring reason or conscience is not evil.
But this is unreasonable. For in matters of indifference, the will that is at variance with erring reason or conscience, is evil in some way on account of the object, on which the goodness or malice of the will depends; not indeed on account of the object according as it is in its own nature; but according as it is accidentally apprehended by reason as something evil to do or to avoid. And since the object of the will is that which is proposed by the reason, as stated above (3), from the very fact that a thing is proposed by the reason as being evil, the will by tending thereto becomes evil. And this is the case not only in indifferent matters, but also in those that are good or evil in themselves. For not only indifferent matters can received the character of goodness or malice accidentally; but also that which is good, can receive the character of evil, or that which is evil, can receive the character of goodness, on account of the reason apprehending it as such. For instance, to refrain from fornication is good: yet the will does not tend to this good except in so far as it is proposed by the reason. If, therefore, the erring reason propose it as an evil, the will tends to it as to something evil. Consequently the will is evil, because it wills evil, not indeed that which is evil in itself, but that which is evil accidentally, through being apprehended as such by the reason. In like manner, to believe in Christ is good in itself, and necessary for salvation: but the will does not tend thereto, except inasmuch as it is proposed by the reason. Consequently if it be proposed by the reason as something evil, the will tends to it as to something evil: not as if it were evil in itself, but because it is evil accidentally, through the apprehension of the reason. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 9) that "properly speaking the incontinent man is one who does not follow right reason; but accidentally, he is also one who does not follow false reason." We must therefore conclude that, absolutely speaking, every will at variance with reason, whether right or erring, is always evil.
Reply to Objection 1. Although the judgment of an erring reason is not derived from God, yet the erring reason puts forward its judgment as being true, and consequently as being derived from God, from Whom is all truth.
Reply to Objection 2. The saying of Agustine holds good when it is known that the inferior authority prescribes something contrary to the command of the higher authority. But if a man were to believe the command of the proconsul to be the command of the emperor, in scorning the command of the proconsul he would scorn the command of the emperor. In like manner if a man were to know that human reason was dictating something contrary to God's commandment, he would not be bound to abide by reason: but then reason would not be entirely erroneous. But when erring reason proposes something as being commanded by God, then to scorn the dictate of reason is to scorn the commandment of God.
Reply to Objection 3. Whenever reason apprehends something as evil, it apprehends it under some species of evil; for instance, as being something contrary to a divine precept, or as giving scandal, or for some such like reason. And then that evil is reduced to that species of malice.


Whether the will is good when it abides by erring reason?

Objection 1. It would seem that the will is good when it abides by erring reason. For just as the will, when at variance with the reason, tends to that which reason judges to be evil; so, when in accord with reason, it tends to what reason judges to be good. But the will is evil when it is at variance with reason, even when erring. Therefore even when it abides by erring reason, the will is good.
Objection 2. Further, the will is always good, when it abides by the commandment of God and the eternal law. But the eternal law and God's commandment are proposed to us by the apprehension of the reason, even when it errs. Therefore the will is good, even when it abides by erring reason.
Objection 3. Further, the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason. If, therefore, the will is evil also when it abides by erring reason, it seems that the will is always evil when in conjunction with erring reason: so that in such a case a man would be in a dilemma, and, of necessity, would sin: which is unreasonable. Therefore the will is good when it abides by erring reason.
On the contrary, The will of those who slew the apostles was evil. And yet it was in accord with the erring reason, according to Jn. 16:2: "The hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God." Therefore the will can be evil, when it abides by erring reason.
I answer that, Whereas the previous question is the same as inquiring "whether an erring conscience binds"; so this question is the same as inquiring "whether an erring conscience excuses." Now this question depends on what has been said above about ignorance. For it was said (6, 8) that ignorance sometimes causes an act to be involuntary, and sometimes not. And since moral good and evil consist in action in so far as it is voluntary, as was stated above (2); it is evident that when ignorance causes an act to be involuntary, it takes away the character of moral good and evil; but not, when it does not cause the act to be involuntary. Again, it has been stated above (6, 8) that when ignorance is in any way willed, either directly or indirectly, it does not cause the act to be involuntary. And I call that ignorance "directly" voluntary, to which the act of the will tends: and that, "indirectly" voluntary, which is due to negligence, by reason of a man not wishing to know what he ought to know, as stated above (6, 8).
If then reason or conscience err with an error that is involuntary, either directly, or through negligence, so that one errs about what one ought to know; then such an error of reason or conscience does not excuse the will, that abides by that erring reason or conscience, from being evil. But if the error arise from ignorance of some circumstance, and without any negligence, so that it cause the act to be involuntary, then that error of reason or conscience excuses the will, that abides by that erring reason, from being evil. For instance, if erring reason tell a man that he should go to another man's wife, the will that abides by that erring reason is evil; since this error arises from ignorance of the Divine Law, which he is bound to know. But if a man's reason, errs in mistaking another for his wife, and if he wish to give her her right when she asks for it, his will is excused from being evil: because this error arises from ignorance of a circumstance, which ignorance excuses, and causes the act to be involuntary.
Reply to Objection 1. As Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv), "good results from the entire cause, evil from each particular defect." Consequently in order that the thing to which the will tends be called evil, it suffices, either that it be evil in itself, or that it be apprehended as evil. But in order for it to be good, it must be good in both ways.
Reply to Objection 2. The eternal law cannot err, but human reason can. Consequently the will that abides by human reason, is not always right, nor is it always in accord with the eternal law.
Reply to Objection 3. Just as in syllogistic arguments, granted one absurdity, others must needs follow; so in moral matters, given one absurdity, others must follow too. Thus suppose a man to seek vainglory, he will sin, whether he does his duty for vainglory or whether he omit to do it. Nor is he in a dilemma about the matter: because he can put aside his evil intention. In like manner, suppose a man's reason or conscience to err through inexcusable ignorance, then evil must needs result in the will. Nor is this man in a dilemma: because he can lay aside his error, since his ignorance is vincible and voluntary.

g. Conscience Exercise
Writing component, or material for a full paper on conscience: Using our chart on conscience (good/bad, true/false), be ready to explain what has happened in one of the following items, using the correct terminology from the chart, being sure to have references to the text.

Item #1 is Lady Macbeth, thinking about a plot, with Macbeth, to kill King Duncan
Act 1, Scene 5 of Macbeth.

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe topfull
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry 'Hold, hold!'



An imperfect paraphrase of the above, in part from
No Fear Shakespeare: The messenger is short of breath, like a hoarse raven, as he announces Duncan’s entrance into my fortress, where he will die. Come, you spirits that assist murderous thoughts, make me less like a woman (take away my nurturing instinct) and fill me from head to toe with cruelty. Thicken my blood and clog up my veins so I won’t feel remorse, so that no human compassion can stop my evil plan or prevent me from accomplishing it. Come to my nurturing breasts and turn my mother’s milk into poisonous acid, you evil demons, wherever you hide, invisible and waiting to do evil. Come thick night and cover the world in the darkest smoke of hell, so that my sharp knife can’t see the wound it cuts open, and so God can’t peep through the darkness and cry “No!, Stop!”

Item #2 is in the Bible--read the story of how David, after his double crime of adultery (with Bathsheba) and murder (of her husband), is confronted by Nathan’s parable. Pay careful attention to David’s reaction to the parable, and the fact that Nathan has to explain the real point of the parable to him. Read II Samuel 12 to 13:15.

Item #3: The character Iago, in Shakespeare’s Othello, shows a remarkable phenomenon. On the one hand, he is the epitome of pure evil in his plot against Othello and Desdemona. On the other hand, he shows astonishing insight into truth and morality. Try to analyze Iago’s conscience. Here are examples of his insights:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

In his advice to Rodrigo, he gives profound insight into rational control of the passions--but all to an evil end:

Virtue! a fig! 'tis in ourselves that we are thus
or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to the which
our wills are gardeners: so that if we will plant
nettles, or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up
thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs, or
distract it with many, either to have it sterile
with idleness, or manured with industry, why, the
power and corrigible authority of this lies in our
wills. If the balance of our lives had not one
scale of reason to poise another of sensuality, the
blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us [our passions would take over our lives]
to most preposterous conclusions: but we have
reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal
stings, our unbitted lusts, whereof I take this that
you call love to be a sect or scion. [what you call love is really just lust]


Item #4 From Cathleen White, UD ‘04
In a favorite childhood book,
The Little Colonel’s House Party by Anne Fellows Johnston, there occurs a scene in which two girls, Joyce and Eugenia, go to get their fortunes told by a traveling gypsy and end up coming down with scarlet fever. Eugenia was told earlier in the day by her aunt, in authority over both girls, that they are to stay away from the gypsy camp, but she and Joyce are intrigued and drawn to the camp. When they get bored, Eugenia suggests they go get their fortunes told and Joyce readily agrees not knowing they were forbidden to go.
Analyze the two girls’ consciences.


Item #5 In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the villain Claudius, who murdered Hamlet’s father and married his mother Gertrude, has a positive moment, as illustrated in the following text. Analyze Claudius’ conscience.

O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't, [reference to Cain]
A brother's murder. Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will: [though I wish desperately to pray]
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound, [like a man with two opposite things to do at once
I stand in pause where I shall first begin, And does neither of them]
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence? [Isn’t that what God’s mercy is for?]
And what's in prayer but this twofold force, [prayer has two purposes--to help us avoid
To be forestalled ere we come to fall, Evil, and to help us when we fail]
Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murder'?
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd [I’m still reaping the rewards of my murder]
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world [in this world criminals take the money they stole
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice, and use it to buy off the law]
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above; [but that won’t work in heaven]
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults, [we have to confront our faults in heaven]
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free, [the more I struggle to be free, the more
Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay! Enslaved I become to my sin]
Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well.

Item #6 From Huck Finn, contributed by Tom Pruit
  Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he'd got to be a slave, and so I'd better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was. But I soon give up that notion for two things: she'd be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her, and so she'd sell him straight down the river again; and if she didn't, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they'd make Jim feel it all the time, and so he'd feel ornery and disgraced. And then think of me! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That's just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don't want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide, it ain't no disgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's always on the lookout, and ain't a-going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn't so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, "There was the Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you'd a done it they'd a learnt you there that people that acts as I'd been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire."
   It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger's owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie -- I found that out.
   So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I'll go and write the letter -- and
then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:
    Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. HUCK FINN.
   I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking -- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.
   It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
   "All right, then, I'll
go to hell" -- and tore it up.
   It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.
From Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (chapter 31)
Item #7 From Don Quixote, with analysis, contributed by C. Todd Meredith, though I have added “fill-in-the-blanks” for you to practice.
In Part I, chapter 8 of Don Quixote, the title character and his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza come across a pair of mule-mounted men in black robes riding in front of a coach with an escort of horse and footmen. Assuming that the figures in black are evil enchanters abducting a princess (in the coach), and ignoring Sancho’s insistence that the mule-riders are in fact Benedictine friars, Don Quixote charges the religious with leveled lance.  When one of them leaps from his mule to escape being skewered, Sancho descends on him and begins to strip him of his belongings while Don Quixote gallops on toward the coach.  When the grounded friar’s servants challenge Sancho’s stripping of their master, he replies that the friar’s clothes are rightly his, the spoils of a battle his master has won.  In this incident, both characters commit objective evil--Don Quixote perpetrates an assault and Sancho an attempted theft--but with differing degrees of culpability.  Don Quixote himself is clearly portrayed as insane.  He acts in ________ conscience, using the minimum of violence necessary to save a princess from abduction as he believes, but his conscience is _______.  No abduction is really occurring. Don Quixote’s ignorance is ____________, given his diminished mental capacity, and so he is not ___________ for his actions.  Sancho’s case is much different.  He knows the “enchanters” are really Benedictines and suspects that the coach merely contains travelers and on some level must know that Don Quixote’s battle with the downed friar is unjust.  He is therefore culpable.  While it is tempting to label Sancho’s act as a clear case of _______ but _______ conscience, I think that in following Don Quixote’s lead, Sancho is willfully suppressing his moral knowledge.  Anytime that Don Quixote breaches morality in the name of the code of knight-errantry (always making false assumptions about the situation), Sancho acts in the name of the same code in an attempt to be a proper squire.  I therefore prefer to label Sancho’s case as one of _______ but ______ conscience as well. Nevertheless, since the reader is led to believe that Sancho has agreed to be Don Quixote’s squire because he covets the spoils of Don Quixote’s adventures (he especially hopes Don Quixote will conquer an island so that he--Sancho--will be named governor), and since he himself is entirely sane, his ignorance is vincible.  As Thomas Aquinas would put it, his ignorance is consequent to his will and therefore voluntary, so it does not diminish his culpability.



Final Item: an item of your choosing, which can come from one of two places: 1) Some source your have read (for example, a literary source or an historical source); 2) From your own experience or an experience told to you.



h. Choosing Evil “Under the Aspect of the Good”

Consider a dilemma discussed by two important historical figures. St. Paul felt the dilemma profoundly: "I cannot even understand my own actions. I do not do what I want to do but what I hate" (Romans 7:15). He was aware that sin exists, but also aware that sin doesn’t quite make sense given that we really want to do good. St. Augustine likewise struggled with this dilemma as he reflected upon his adolescent experience of stealing pears with a group of friends.
He tries to discern why he did this. The pears were not particularly tasty; he was not hungry; there was no profit to be made from them. He seems to be unable to ascertain any purpose toward which he acted. How could his intellect know the good, and his will freely choose to act against it? After all, human beings for the most part don’t go about intentionally seeking evil.

On the other hand, we do catch ourselves sinning. Since we are decent people who want to do good, we often have a ready excuse at hand, usually something like “I didn’t really mean to do it.” In other words, I think I sinned, but no, it’s not really a sin because I wasn’t planning on doing something evil. In fact, we are repulsed by the very word “evil”--that’s just something we don’t do! Maybe Hitler or bin Laden did evil, but me? No way. W hat happened to Augustine is that he “caught himself” doing an evil (however minor) for which he just could not find any excuse--and it shocked him. Augustine asks, terrified, "Can one unravel this twisted tangle of knots? I shudder to look at it or think of such abomination" (II, 10).

Perhaps St. Thomas’ understanding of human action can help us straighten all this out--though Thomas never discusses Augustine’s episode with the pears, it is profitable to make the application ourselves. Augustine did not choose to steal the pears because it was evil. He did it because he wanted some good. As St. Thomas teaches, all actions are done under the aspect of the good, that is, because the act appears to us as good. For Augustine, perhaps this was the good of exercising his own will--very much a part of life for most adolescents (And plenty of adults too!) His intellect simultaneously knew that it was evil to steal the pears, just as adolescents know that it’s wrong to be unkind to their parents and siblings. But Augustine, like most adolescents, was engaged in a battle. Exercising his will, in and of itself, is of course a great good. Exercising his will in a way contrary to the moral law (stealing) is pursuing a good in a disordered way. He allowed his desire for that good--exercising his will-- to “win out” over the true good his intellect knew.
19
We might call this the battle of the goods. The true, the good and the beautiful are so powerful that people cannot rid themselves of them--they sneak in from behind, as it were, even in our attempt to dismiss them. All our actions are done under the aspect of the good. St. Thomas calls this the “first principle in the practical reason.” Now, once we realize that we inevitably seek good, we want to be sure that we pursue the true good, the properly ordered good, and avoid evil (disordered goods, or privations of rightly ordered goods). We naturally say to ourselves “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.” In short, “do good and avoid evil.” That we seek the true good is of course no guarantee that we will find the true good--it’s all too easy to seek disordered goods--there’s the “battle of the goods.” But we all seek the good--even the most hardened criminals. There is even a technical name--synderesis--that the Catholic moral tradition gives to this habit by which we are wedded to the good. Synderesis is what makes us aim at the good and avoid evil, “incite to good and murmur at evil.”


The item a person steals might help him accomplish something worthwhile; the pleasure someone takes in an impure thought or impure act is a good in and of itself, but in these instances is taken illicitly; the student enjoys watching a great basketball game on TV, but at a time when studying for an exam should be top priority; someone enjoys a fine piece of chocolate cake, but at a time when dieting is of critical importance. If all those things weren’t goods, people doing such acts wouldn’t act in the first place! In each of these examples, although a good is being pursued, it is not a properly ordered good. W hen placed in context of our ultimate destiny (union with God, salvation) we see that these goods were pursued at the wrong time (sex before marriage), or in the wrong way (theft to get money for something truly good), or with the wrong person (adultery), or in the wrong place (people-watching during Mass), or in the wrong manner (plagiarism). In each instance the good pursued was out of order. We use the expression, when someone does something shabby, “that was low.” The person ought to order the good properly--obtain the item fairly, not through theft, and take pleasure in good acts, not sinful ones. Not to do so is a disordered, or inordinate act, an act incommensurate with, not “measured” under, the highest good.
It wasn’t headed the right direction. The “end of the act” (finis operis) was thwarted.

When a good is chosen that is not in proper alignment with the highest good, with God’s will, then the ordering that ought to be present isn’t present--put another way, a privation takes place. Imagine atomic power not directed toward fueling a city, but toward blowing up a city. The power is a good thing, but it is not ordered properly. Talk about a privation! Or think about the water running out of a spigot, properly directed. When some part in the spigot wears out or is missing, the water sprays every which way--you experience in no small way the lack, the privation, of due order.

So too with our moral actions. Actions not ordered under the highest good, inordinate actions, prevent the good that ought to be present. A part of the universe that could have come into existence is kept from coming into existence. As Thomas noted, "good and being are convertible."
When we do the good, we create more order (good) and hence more being in the universe. W hen we sin, when we choose disorder, we prevent that being. The evil we choose is a privation. Our capacity to effect being itself, by our actions, is at once frightening--due to the responsibility it entails--and awesome--due to the dignity it allows man. We can place this insight into the even richer context of Christ’s grace. Christ himself appears in our moral acts--each act is an expression of Christ’s grace and a participation in God’s creative power. There is a sacramental structure to human action, such that grace appears in history through our moral acts, just as the sacraments are both signs and causes of grace.


We end up with a good answer to the common query “how can it be wrong when it feels so good?” Wrong acts have some good in them, and their wrongness comes from the lack of due order. That lack of due order wrecks other goods too. Sin is the choice of a good, not integrated properly in light of the highest good. It’s a “spoiled” good
--since it has “fallen out” of order, we could call it a lesser good, a disjointed good, or better, a “lower-than-it-ought-to-be” good. There may be some good in the act of theft (the enjoyment of the item stolen), but that good of enjoyment has been gained in a disordered way--it has fallen out of its due order. To be properly aligned under the highest good, it must position itself in harmony with another good, respect for another's property. Now that great good is lost! Sexual pleasure is a good that is an expression of marital commitment. When that pleasure, good in and of itself, is sought outside marriage, the good it ought to be expressing--permanent commitment--is missing. The pursuit of a “lower-than-it-ought-to-be good,” or a “good out of proper order,” wrecks those other goods with which it should be in proper alignment. Respect for property, marital commitment, is now absent. Sin, then, is an act lacking order that a person has freely chosen. And that lack of order causes the absence of the higher good that ought to be there but isn't. Sin is the privation of a due good.


One more step. Remember that the ultimate ordering principle is our final end, God Himself. What happens when we throw goods out of order? Well, we can’t get rid of God, the ultimate ordering principle. Rather, we refuse to acknowledge Him as the ultimate ordering principle.
We should be participating in the order He provides, and we decide not to. It is in this sense that sin involves idolatry: placing some created good in the place of God.
And here’s the rub: a created good that is finite cannot possibly take the place of an ultimate good, God, who is infinite. “Stuffing” a created good into that place is the ultimate frustration--that spot is infinite and one has to stuff more and more of the finite good in, in a vain attempt to fill in the empty void. A moderate amount of that created good leaves the space still empty, so one stuffs more of that good--now immoderate, disordered--into the empty place, trying to fill what cannot be filled by a finite good. The spot for the ultimate good is now partially filled with repeated forays with a disordered good, and usually more than one disordered good. One very quickly becomes miserable, stuffing the finite into a space only filled by the infinite. Not only are the disordered goods no fun anymore, one is caught by habit trying to make them do what they can never do.

A final point: Since we are the ones placing something else in the place of the highest good, in sinful acts we are loving ourselves more than God.
Back to Augustine’s experience: he was loving the exercise of his own will, out of order, and hence loving himself more than God. The self makes for a very poor god. The misery can be excruciating, but as Augustine’s experience shows so well, there is a tremendous way out.

This overall picture of “the goods” provides a freeing understanding of the moral life. With this understanding of conscience, sin and human acts, it is clear that the moral life does not involve sifting through a set of external regulations, finding what is absolutely forbidden and what one can get away with--a crude, arbitrary game set up by a god whose main goal is to take most of the fun out of life. The moral life is rather about living the good life, reaping the incredible benefits of participating in the goods ordered under the highest good (theonomy). Only goods thus ordered can truly satisfy.

***

The first chapter of Veritatis Splendor is an interpretation of the parable of the rich young man, and the interpretation is cast in terms of God, who is our origin and destiny, calling each of us. Note that each unique individual com es from a common source--the Creator--and is called to a common final end, an end which will not destroy our uniqueness but which will be the perfection of it.

VS--Read articles 6 through 12. Note especially the beginning of art. 12: "Only God can answer the question about the good, because he is the Good. But God has already given an answer to this question; he did so by creating man and ordering him with wisdom and love to his final end, through the law which is inscribed on his heart (cf. Rom 2:15), the 'natural law.'

ST In pursuing the question of the universal and the particular, law and freedom, the one and the many, see the beginning of St. Thomas' Treatise on Happiness in S.T. I-II, q. 1-5, which discusses the single end toward which all men act. As background, see Book I of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, especially chapter 7. There, Aristotle explains how all men naturally seek after happiness. But when he asks what this ultimate happiness is, toward which all other activity is ordered, the result is tragic. It is "the activity of the soul according to virtue," a kind of intellectual contemplation, which only a few men will be able to possess in part, and no one in full.

Against this backdrop, Thomas' Treatise on Happiness is a shining light. For he agrees with Aristotle that happiness is what all men strive for, but shows that this happiness ultimately consists in something all men can possess: a genuine unity with the unifying principle of all reality, while savoring our uniqueness. Put otherwise, union with God. The overall perspective of the treatise is that man is capable of reaching out beyond the limits of space and time to the infinite, ageless and timeless Horizons of the vision of God. Each human act, if properly ordered, can thus participate in pure Being, Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

In question 1 of the treatise, Thomas prepares the reader for that climactic moment by showing that, with Aristotle, all men act toward an end and that end is happiness.

Question 2 asks in what that happiness ultimately consists. He shows that wealth, honor, fame, glory, power, bodily goods, pleasure, or indeed any other created good, ultimately cannot fulfill man. At the end of this question, in article 8, he puts the matter eloquently:

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man's happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e., of man's appetite, is the universal good [or "the good without reserve"]; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true [or "the true without reserve"]. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man's will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man....

Questions 3, 4 and 5 explore more specific items, with a central theme often emerging: that the
many dimensions of our lives, with their many ends and goals, participate in the one ultimate end. That one end can be anticipated in this life but is only found fully in the afterlife.

The first and final cause of reality is the Trinitarian God, who has
entered humanity in the Incarnation and continues to be sacramentally present in history. According to the Christian tradition, this happens in such a way that the One is not subsumed into the "many," nor is the "many" subsumed into the "one".

Hence, two inveterate errors of mankind are avoided: a pantheism, whereby God becomes reduced to the vital forces, the
elan vital, of creation, and a gnosticism or idealism w hereby the creation is but a dim reflection of the divine and has as its goal total absorption into the divine. For the former, the reality of a transcendent God is lost, and for the latter, the uniqueness and dignity of each individual is lost.


These two errors have enormous ramifications for the moral life. Pantheism

destroys the objective existence of a creator God. If moral truth exists, it is due to our creator. If we can know that truth, it is because He has allowed it to be known through reason or Revelation. Pantheism , in ridding ourselves of an objectively existing Creator, destroys absolute moral truth. Just as for Pantheism God can be found anywhere, so too moral truth can be found anywhere. Gnosticism or idealism , on the other hand, destroys the uniqueness of each individual, and in so doing destroys the possibility of each individual's ultimate responsibility for his actions in the afterlife.

Christianity asserts that
both an objective creator God and radical human uniqueness exist, and furthermore, they exist in a relationship of mutuality or friendliness, a relationship that is properly speaking covenantal. The Hebrew word for covenant, berith, actually means a "marriage." In the Biblical tradition, two spouses become "one flesh" yet still retain their radical uniqueness and individuality. This marital "one flesh" is a mirror image of God's covenant. The Trinitarian God is in intimate union with his spouse, mankind--and yet mankind remains radically unique and distinctive. And not just mankind as a massive entity, but mankind as each individual person.

Thus, the Judeo-Christian vision of reality is a covenantal or marital one. It is rooted in the Incarnation, and thus can be called an Incarnational view of reality. The particular way in which this unique dynamism made possible by the Incarnation continues throughout history is through the sacraments. At the outset of our inquiry into moral theology, then, we behold an Incarnational/sacramental view of reality.

The sheer beauty and mystery of this dynamism touches every aspect of the Christian life. Not surprisingly every aspect is interrelated like an intricate mosaic; while some pieces of the mosaic are more central and foundational, every piece matters.

As we look to those pieces of the mosaic which deal with the Christian moral life, we find ourselves in the midst of an Incarnational or sacramental morality--a morality which allows absolute truth to exist and which allows for the radical uniqueness and freedom of each individual. Where is this unity of the one and the many found in the moral life?


3: The Revisionist Understanding of Conscience

There are many theologians, pastors, and laity today who hesitate in the face of the traditional Catholic moral tradition. For one reason or another, they believe the Church ought to revise certain of her stances on morality--hence, the term "revisionist." Throughout this text we examine their positions. There are at least two good reasons for so doing: first, an educated Catholic must be able to both understand and refute revisionist theology; second, the Church's position often comes into sharper focus against the backdrop of opposing positions.

Regarding the central question of
conscience, revisionism questions all three of the presuppositions of the traditionalists.

a. Revisionist Metaphysics and Epistemology

Revisionists acknowledge the existence of objective moral truth. To claim that they are pure subjectivists or relativists is a caricature of their project, even if one could demonstrate that their methodology has certain loopholes that lead to the relativist extreme. Revisionists claim, however, that the objective truth is something of which we can only gain approximations. We are allowed only approximate glimpses of the truth, much like different paths up a mountain only see the goal dimly and one-sidedly. As one revisionist author notes, norms have "a provisory character.”


The reasons revisionists have for such a view lie in their epistemology. They believe that traditionalists have too confident (and perhaps arrogant) a view of our capacity to grasp objective truth. They wish to take seriously the various claims of modern philosophy which put strictures on that capacity.

This is not the place to consider such claims systematically. But one claim is of particular interest. Modern philosophy emphasizes the notion of historical relativity, the historically conditioned nature of all propositional truths (such as dogmas). By historically conditioned is meant that various formulations of truth are bound to, and hence controlled by and conditioned by, various historical factors that put strictures on our vision. Social, political, economic, and other cultural realities all impinge on one's grasp of truth.

Hence, a historically-conscious worldview, it is argued, must replace what can be termed a classicist worldview. The classicist view supposed that man could arrive at a stable body of immutable and absolute truths, correct for all time, applicable to any circum stance. The historically-minded worldview suggests that truth is relative to the cultural-historical setting within which it arose. Hence, it is not applicable in some iron-clad way to later cultural situations.

The most extreme examples of historical consciousness are found in feminist and liberationist theologies. These twin projects suggest that history is the record of victors--that is to say, the most powerful groups got to define the doctrines of the Church, not necessarily the groups that saw the truth most clearly. For radical feminism, a patriarchal hierarchy controlled the "deposit of faith." For liberation theologians, the Church too easily aligned itself with the powerful and wealthy, with the status quo. For both groups, it is seen as necessary to engage in a hermeneutics of suspicion and of recovery. We suspect the one-sidedness of past doctrinal claim s. And we recover from the past whatever is still valid.

Hence, the traditional sources of truth are cast into doubt. Reason does not work in an essentialist way, as Plato and Aristotle thought. Reason rather works in ways bound by culture and history, and must work very carefully with an awareness of such limitation. Any time reason arrives at an immutable truth, it should be immediately suspicious. Tradition and Scripture likewise are historically conditioned expressions of truth, and hence are open to revision. Hence, the two sources of moral truth--reason and Revelation--are both cast in a suspicious light.

b. Revisionist Anthropology

History not only affects our grasp of the truth, it affects our capacity to live it out. We live not in some paradise, but within the contingencies and complexities of history. While we might perceive some true ideals of behavior, we may have to compromise these ideals in our particular circumstances. Hence, Charles Curran called his methodology an "ethics of compromise.”


Is this identical to the Protestant Reformers' anthropology? The two are both similar and different. As noted, the Reformers didn't question absolute moral truths. They still presupposed a "classicist" or "essentialist" notion of truth. But they did claim that the living of this truth did not contribute to one's salvation. The revisionists go a step further, questioning the very status of traditional moral truths.

In this light, we can see how revisionists would question plausibility of the notion of a "true" conscience. Truth is something that is only approximated. Hence, as long as an individual uses all available resources to grasp the truth, and decides accordingly, he has both a true and good conscience simultaneously. As Gula notes,

In the moral education of adults, the pastoral priority is to enable people to make their own moral decision in light of the guidance of scripture and the teaching of the church. This means not so much providing answers to moral questions as encouraging the process of arriving at a moral decision.


Not surprisingly, the distinction between a true and false conscience, in comparison to the distinction between a good and bad conscience, does not figure in the work of revisionist theologians such as Gula. Part of their intention is to be more caring and personal in their moral theology, which involves being non-judgmental. But note that a very powerful judgment has been made, a judgment about the existence of moral truth. The traditional understanding was to always place the individual's conscience under that objective truth. The Church has the duty to present this truth clearly. Then, having made a very definite judgment about moral truth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church demands that we never judge other people. Another person may have committed an act that is judged as immoral, but it is not our place to assess that individual's blameworthiness before God. To do so is to be judgmental in the worst sort of way, to commit a sin of pride.

Earlier we noted that the notion of an informed conscience combines that which is objectively and essentially true with each person's individuality. That which is objectively true is also true for us, and that which transcends all individuals is simultaneously a highly personal truth. That which is essentially true is also existentially true. Absolute truth and our own historical existence are twin pillars of reality that are compatible with one another. Gula has made the mistake of separating them into the "classical" versus the "historically conscious" worldviews. He tries to argue that there is truth to be found in both views, but finally, quoting Richard McBrien, notes that

...there is perhaps one irreconcilable difference between the two worldviews: "The classicist assumes that one can know and express absolute truth in ways that are essentially unaffected by the normal limitations of our human condition." Because the classicist rejects in principle the assertion that the perception and expression of truth is historically conditioned, moral theology cannot follow classicism alone in formulating its moral positions.


Gula tries to claim that the classicist view is still helpful "to counter tendencies toward subjectivism and relativism in moral matters." It is no doubt good to recognize the danger of relativism. But the problem is that all expressions of the classicist view are historically conditioned; how then can it really counter relativism? Gula cannot have it both ways. The following claim defies logic: "Catholic theology today respects the continuity of tradition and the discontinuities of human experience.”
Rather than admitting fallacious reasoning, it is often claimed that tradition and experience are in "tension" with one another:

The ongoing revision of Catholic moral theology today is an effort to incorporate in a coherent way the insights and advantages of the historically conscious worldview while not ignoring the perduring values of the classicist worldview. Contemporary moral theology wants to preserve the clarity, consistency and precision of the classicist worldview while at the same time respecting human freedom, the uniqueness of the historical moral situation, and the unfinished character of the moral life so valued by the historically conscious world view.... As Richard P. McBrien points out, the relationship of classicism to historical consciousness is one of dialectical tension.


"Tension" is a thought category that can easily be used as a foil for compromise.



c. A Response to the Challenge of Historical Consciousness

A sacramental morality posits that some absolute moral truths really have been given to the Church in the midst of her historical existence. Truth exists in history.
Such a claim is rooted in a sacramental view of history, viz., that history is capable of bearing the truth. It is in the face of this Incarnational and sacramental view of history that revisionism hesitates. If truth exists in history, one need not struggle to blend the truth content existing "in tension" within both the classical and modern world views.
There is but one truth; it allows the perfect union of immutable truth and history.

The concern of the modern worldview is that history be taken seriously. The usual result, though, is that all truth claim s existing in history (such as those coming from the apostolic succession) are historically conditioned and therefore relative. But one can take history seriously and draw quite a different conclusion. One can recognize that history is the very medium through which God's Revelation takes place. Hence, the central
insight of the Old Testament, in preparing for the ultimate Revelation in history of God's Son: that God works in, through, and by means of history. History is then a theological category, not a purely secular category.

This does not mean that every truth claim throughout history is absolute. Rather, history has the capacity to bear absolute truth. With this sacramental presupposition, one ought look precisely at the human elements of history in order to discover those places where absolute truth is to be found. The Catholic insight is that a historical person, Christ, is the ultimate place wherein absolute truth is found, and that the backbone of his Church, the apostolic succession, is the continuation of Christ's truth in history, carrying tradition and Scripture throughout history.

Thus far, we have provided a positive defense of the Catholic and sacramental view of history. It is also possible to take the revisionist understanding of history on its own terms and show it to be deficient. Note that the revisionist insists on the historically conditioned nature of all truth claims. However, if all truth claims are historically conditioned, so is that particular truth claim. Why should we take the claim of the revisionists with an absolute trust that they themselves claim ought be given to no truth claims? Note that their position therefore defeats itself by its own first premise.

Another approach is to note a certain cruelty in the revisionist view of history. If all truth claims are historically conditioned, they are but approximations of the truth. We are left without any certainty, a rather cruel burden to place on humanity.

II. Participated Theonomy (VS 1-30)

4. Autonomy, Heteronomy, and Participated Theonomy (also relevant to spirituality)

Imagine a person immersed in moral autonomy. He has become his own God, arbitrating over moral good and evil. Eventually he hits rock bottom--he becomes a slave to his passions--and begins to see the emptiness of moral autonomy. What is his natural tendency? He wants to get as far away from it as possible, and so reverts to what VS calls heteronomy--a system in which moral truth is solid as can be, but is surrounded by a cult-like harshness and rigidity. That looks attractive because there is no room for the individual self--that which lead the person into moral autonomy in the first place.

If
autonomous means “self-law,” heteronomy means a “alien-law,” a truth that is alien to the individual person. For a heteronomous system, the truth is true because God said it was true. “Do it because I told you to do it.” The truth is extrinsically imposed on the individual, violating the dignity of the person. What is our reaction to truth that is extrinsically imposed, ignoring our individuality? We want to keep our distance from it--and the tendency is to revert right back toward moral autonomy or relativism (individualism).

The Church’s moral vision avoids the extremes of both autonomy and heteronomy. It avoids the individual
ism of moral autonomy, but retains the proper individuality that heteronomy tends to deny. There really is a moral truth that we can know and live, but it is a truth that resonates with the core of our being, a truth that genuinely “sets us free.” (Freedom for the truth, not freedom from the truth, which is not true freedom but license.) Instead of the truth being true “because God said commanded it,” it’s just the reverse: God commanded it because it is true. We might say that the truth is friendly to our being--it affirms our unique individuality while helping us to avoid that enslaving focus on the individual called individualism. We accept it because it is true, it is built for us. And we respect the authority behind the truth--God, the Church, Scripture, the Magisterium--because that authority is in the service of the truth.: The truth can impose itself on us only by virtue of its own truth” (DH 2).

The name of the morality that avoids by autonomy and heteronomy is
participatory theonomy. That’s a fancy way of saying that God’s truth is built for us--his moral law (theonomy) is something we really participate or partake in. The notion of “participation” is easier to understand if we consider another aspect of the Christian life, God’s grace dwelling in us. Sanctifying grace is not a thing we have in our souls, but is the very life of the Triune God dwelling--pulsating if you will--within our very being. Grace is God’s love poured into our hearts (Gal 5:6). Looked at from our angle, when God pours himself into us, we participate in Him.

Part of God’s being is his law--not a set of rules only, as a heteronomy would have it, but the whole set of principles that puts our moral lives in order. When He pours himself into us, he pours that “order” into us (later we’ll see that this is precisely what the “natural law” is), or, from our angle, we partake in that order. It is there
for our happiness. That’s what participatory theonomy is.

5. Some Pastoral Advantages of the Schema (spirituality)

This schema--participatory theonomy as the m id-point between the extremes of autonomy and heteronomy--is extremely helpful for understanding all sorts of things about the moral life. We’ve already seen one benefit: it helps us understand why people mired in autonomy so easily can fly straight into the (unloving) arms of heteronomy, and how those who grow up squelched by heteronomy fly straight into the supposedly “freeing” arms of autonomy (which doesn’t free a person at all). Lots of insight there for parents raising children, by the way.

Another “pastoral aid” that this schema yields:. When you embrace the Church’s moral stance of participatory theonomy, expect to be misunderstood by people on both of the opposite extremes. Those who are positioned within autonomy will look at participatory theonomy and see it as heteronomous. Because you claim, with the Church, to have access to truths that are absolute in nature, you’ll be caricatured as an intolerant rigid fundamentalist who wants to impose one opinion on everyone. Those who are positioned heteronomously with look at participatory theonomy as far too autonomous for their tastes. Because you claim, with the Church, that the solution to our current moral crisis is not a return to the pre-Vatican II past, you’ll be caricatured as a loose, wimpy Catholic without any real moral fiber.

Often we think of heteronomous types as tyrannical—they tend to be imposing kinds of people, and often they favor political arrangements in which their religion is mandated by the State. Autonomous types of people, however, can often be just a tyrannical— the “tyranny of the left,” or to borrow from a book title, the “coercive utopians.” They demand that everyone carry the same brand of “tolerance” as themselves: every viewpoint and every lifestyle is as good as every other. With one exception: those who don’t hold the same relativistic viewpoint. Such people must be told in no uncertain terms what the politically and religiously correct party line is. One sees such leftist tyrants using the rise of radical Islamism in a devious way: they identify all people who hold firm religious beliefs as fundamentalists, of one mind with radical Islamism.

6. Historical Overview

“Participated theonomy” is by no means a brand new concept. Since it essentially means that the moral life is following Christ, it is as old as Christianity, and in fact as old as creation as we shall soon see. But in another sense it looks new to us because for the last four hundred years or so Catholic moral theology, in noble attempts to respond to new historical situations like the Reformation and the Enlightenment, lost sight of some of its best insights. The Enlightenment focused upon the importance of human reason, and much of moral theology responded in kind, showing that the Christian moral life could be understood using purely rational and philosophic categories. The result is often called the “manualist” tradition, named after the highly systematic manuals used in seminary formation. Using the categories noted above, we might say that the Church responded to the dangers of moral autonomy (part of the heritage of the Enlightenment) with a firm, rational approach that today appears as somewhat heteronomous. That approach may well have been appropriate in its own context; when we try to retrieve that approach in a new historical setting, it appears as stultified and heteronomous.

A new methodology was needed for a new cultural milieu, and participated theonomy is a fitting name for that methodology. “The council urged ‘a more appropriate way of communicating" doctrine to the people of their time; since there is a difference between the deposit or the truths of faith and the manner in which they are expressed’”(29.2)

...[T]he present time is instead marked by a formidable challenge to undertake a "new evangelization", a proclamation of the Gospel which is always new and always the bearer of new things, an evangelization which must be "new in its ardour, methods and expression". (106.2)

Instead of neatly dividing dogmatic theology, ethics, spirituality (and the list could go on) the approach of PT allows all these elements to be integral to one another--we
distinguish the various parts of theology but do not separate them. We distinguish precisely toward the end of seeing a fuller unity. Distinguish in order to unite. The manualist tradition erred precisely in failing to integrate ethics into the other great mysteries of the Christian faith. Many priests and theologians who fell into an autonomous view of the moral life, and dissented from Catholic moral teaching, were trained under the heteronomous manualist methods, and it’s no surprise that they reacted as they did. When the Catholic faithful and they themselves were besieged by the moral relativism of postmodernity, the tried and true moral rules cracked under the pressure--for those rules were not integrated properly into the full texture of the Trinitarian Christian life.

Originally there was to have been a document on moral theology at the Second Vatican Council. The early drafts, however, tended to use the same methodology found in the traditional “manuals” of moral theology. They failed to situate the moral life Christocentrically.

And so, the project was put off for the future, with only a simple directive that attention should be given to a more scripturally based moral theology.
The encyclical Veritatis Splendor, with over 300 biblical references, is the long-awaited document that never cam e to fruition at Vatican II.

VS, however, had
twin tasks. Not only did it have to articulate a new moral methodology, it had to respond to the revisionist tendencies that had arisen in the years since the council. The council had retrieved many riches from the tradition that had been obscured, and applied those riches in a new historical setting. “The work of many theologians who found support in the Council's encouragement has already borne fruit in interesting and helpful reflections about the truths of faith to be believed and applied in life, reflections offered in a form better suited to the sensitivities and questions of our contemporaries” (29.3). The implementation of the Council, however, was not always quite so brilliant--the documents were misused by many who saw an opportunity to advance a more autonomous view of reality. VS notes unequivocally that certain revisionist perspectives are incompatible with the truth.

Certainly the Church's Magisterium does not intend to impose upon the faithful any particular theological system, still less a philosophical one. Nevertheless...the Magisterium has the duty to state that some trends of theological thinking and certain philosophical affirmations are incompatible with revealed truth” (29.4).

To its credit, VS does not fall into a heteronomous polemicism; this is a powerful antidote to the understandable reaction of many Catholics: a heteronomous swing to one or another form of traditionalism While unequivocally condemning certain revisionist tendencies, VS remains a positive document:

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, we must not be content merely to warn the faithful about the errors and dangers of certain ethical theories. We must first of all show the inviting splendour of that truth which is Jesus Christ himself. In him, who is the Truth (cf. Jn 14:6), man can understand fully and live perfectly, through his good actions, his vocation to freedom in obedience to the divine law summarized in the commandment of love of God and neighbour. And this is what takes place through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, of freedom and of love: in him we are enabled to interiorize the law, to receive it and to live it as the motivating force of true personal freedom: "the perfect law, the law of liberty" (Jas 1:25). (83.2)

A purely polemical approach would have returned to the very heteronomy that revisionist autonomy was reacting against in the first place. Revisionist theories such as proportionalism “...seek to provide liberation from the constraints of a voluntaristic and arbitrary morality of obligation which would ultimately be dehumanizing” (76.1). The truth cannot be arbitrarily imposed.

The discernment which the Church carries out with regard to these ethical theories is not simply limited to denouncing and refuting them. In a positive way, the Church seeks, with great love, to help all the faithful to form a moral conscience which will make judgments and lead to decisions in accordance with the truth... (85.1)

The approach of participated theonomy will take into account the sheer difficulties of living the moral life in a secular age. Truth must be boldly and charitably proclaimed.

Still, a clear and forceful presentation of moral truth can never be separated from a profound and heartfelt respect, born of that patient and trusting love which man always needs along his moral journey, a journey frequently wearisome on account of difficulties, weakness and painful situations. The Church can never renounce "the principle of truth and consistency, whereby she does not agree to call good evil and evil good"; she must always be careful not to break the bruised reed or to quench the dimly burning wick (cf. Is 42:3). As Paul VI wrote [in Humanae Vitae]: "While it is an outstanding manifestation of charity towards souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ, this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ himself showed by his conversations and dealings with men. Having come not to judge the world but to save it, he was uncompromisingly stern towards sin, but patient and rich in mercy towards sinners.” (95.3)

7. Participated Theonomy in the Text of Veritatis Splendor

Veritatis Splendor literally pulsates with participated theonomy in nearly each of its 120 articles. There would be numerous ways to adumbrate and organize the primary themes of participated theonomy; I have found it most helpful to focus on four themes, with a number of sub themes annexed to each.




a. Outline of PT Themes

1. Authentic Freedom
1.a. Focus on the Individual Subject
1.b. The Importance of an Individual’s Actions
1.c. The Link Between Norms and the Dignity of the Person

2. Teleology
2.a. The Call to Holiness
2.b. The Universal Appeal of M oral Truth
2.c. Transcending Rules
3. Christocentricity
3.a. The Ecclesial Dimension
3.b. Christocentric Answer to Our Deepest Questions

4. The Centrality of Grace
4.a. Culpability
4.b. Forgiveness

b. Brief Description of the Themes

1. See chapter 1 on authentic freedom, the proper use of free will and political freedom.

2. PT places all the individual elements of the moral life--sin, virtue, dilemmas, hard cases--in the much broader spectrum of each person’s
journey toward the ultimate end, complete happiness with God, the beatific vision. St. Thomas often speaks of man as a viator--a wayfarer--to connote this point. This larger vision prevent s the nitty-gritty elements of the moral life--for example, figuring our whether a sin is mortal or venial--from becoming ends in themselves. Those elements are important but only insofar as they contribute to the larger picture: living one’s whole life in a way compatible with one’s final end. Placing the moral life on this trajectory is called a teleological ethics (from the Greek word for “end” or “goal,” telos). When our whole life is on the trajectory, we are pursuing the call to holiness, a call central to every Christian’s life. Because the call to holiness includes a call to virtuous living, our focus on our final end simultaneously allows us to contribute to the “earthly city”--one of the central tenets of Catholic social teaching.

3. PT emphasizes that the moral journey toward the ultimate end is accomplished by walking with a person, the person of Jesus Christ--hence, PT is thoroughly
Christocentric. VS begins with the parable of the rich young man who walked away sadly when Christ asked him to abandon himself completely. The young man had part of the moral life down cold--he never broke any of the absolute norms found in the ten commandments. But the moral life is so much more than following the rules. Important as they are, an exclusive focus upon them leads to a heteronomous view (just as relativization of them leads to an autonomous view). The moral norms are but one component of living with Christ--a set of absolute ground rules that set the stage for something spectacular--a personal relationship with Christ.

4. The personal relationship with Christ so central to PT is unlike any other personal relationship we experience, no matter how intimate. For by means of our relationship with Christ, God pours his very being into our being--this is the gift of the Holy Spirit, also called sanctifying grace. Looked at from our side, we become partakers or sharers in the divine life. This, by the way, is one of the central ways that the PT of VS meets the request of Vatican II for a more scripturally based morality. Consider the following texts, searching for the key vocabulary used to describe grace, our participation in the divine life: 1 John 3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Galatians 4:5-7 and 6:15; Ephesians 2:18-19; 2 Peter 1:3-5; Philemon 10; John 6; Genesis 2:8-9. The indwelling of the Spirit, then, assists us in living the moral life. The gifts of the Holy Spirit assist us in developing a life of
virtue as an integral part of our call to holiness. (In our later discussion of the virtues, we will speak of the infused-by-grace moral virtues).

If you look back over the last three points, what central Christian dogma comes to mind? PT is structured according to the “logic” of the Trinity. We are created by the Father and are headed toward him (“in our end is our beginning,” as T.S. Elliott put it; this theme of “going forth and returning” is often referred to as
exitus et reditus). We are not on our own--Christ is beside us all the way. And, the Spirit dwells in our very being. The Trinity, far from being an abstract dogma in the realm of unintelligible mystery, is rather a transcendent mystery that is right in our midst, and highly pertinent to our moral and spiritual lives.

At times VS is very explicit about such themes:

Our meditation on the dialogue between Jesus and the rich young man has enabled us to bring together the essential elements of revelation in the Old and New Testament with regard to moral action. These are: the subordination of man and his activity to God, the One who "alone is good"; the "relationship between the moral good" of human acts and eternal life; Christian discipleship, which opens up before man the perspective of perfect love; and finally the "gift of the Holy Spirit," source and means of the moral life of the "new creation" (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). (28.1)

There are two ways one might trace these themes in VS. One could take the foundational topics, around which the encyclical is organized, one by one--freedom, conscience, natural law, the body, sin and fundamental option, the moral act, morality and society, morality and ecclesiology--and show how the various themes of participated theonomy appear in each. The second approach is to start with the central themes of participated theonomy as organized above and show how they penetrate the respective foundational topics of the encyclical. In a sense, the task here is a kind of temporary reorganization of the encyclical in such a way that the themes of participated theonomy emerge. We look at the same textual
matter but under the formality of participated theonomy.

Then, the student of VS will be better equipped to read through the encyclical, carefully organized as it is around foundational topics of moral theology, in such a way that the themes of participated theonomy surface regularly.

On the website you will find two groups of texts. First, all the best PT texts, in the order under which they appear in VS. Second, those same texts of VS, but categorized according to the above outline.


8. Outline of VS

Reproduced here is an enlarged outline of the encyclical. In regular type is the official structure of the encyclical; in italics are additional sub-headings or notations I myself would add.
84-120 Chapter Three
84-89
Freedom, revisited
88-89 Faith and Morality
90-94 The Role of Martyrdom
95-101 Social and Political Life
102-108 Grace and the New Evangelization
109-117 Morality and Ecclesiology
118-120 Morality and Mariology



III: The Natural Law (VS 35-46)

We have seen the proper meaning of the phrase "I am free to follow my conscience." Freedom means being aligned with the truth. And conscience must be informed by that truth. The next logical question, then, is "how do I inform myself of the truth?"

The moment one opens himself to the metaphysical claim that truth exists, he immediately comes upon the epistemological question, how does one know this objective truth? The answer to this question, more important today than ever before since many think there is no such answer, provides the underpinnings for moral theology (and any area of theology). The answer to this question is of the essence in our task of forming our consciences. Our conscience is the proximate norm of the moral life--it is close to us, and ultimately we must heed it. But it must be properly formed by something outside of our own subjectivity, something objective, and this source is called the universal and objective norm of the conscience (see VS 60).

The two objective sources of truth are right reason and Revelation. Reason can come to know certain truths when rightly used. Reason can grasp, for example, God's existence, and certain moral truths such as the intrinsic sanctity of all life. These are the truths of the natural law. Earlier we considered man's common origin and end. The natural law is, in simplest form, the knowledge of our origin and destiny written into our very being.

9: St. Paul and the Natural Law

To understand the concept of natural law, let us start with St. Paul, who in his letter to the Romans speaks of those who have not come in contact with God's specific Revelation in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Are they responsible for their irreligiosity and moral perversity?

In fact, whatever can be known about God is clear to them; he himself made it so. Since the creation of the world, invisible realities, God's eternal power and divinity, have become visible, recognized through the things he has made. Therefore, these men are inexcusable. They certainly had knowledge of God, yet they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks; they stultified themselves through speculating to no purpose, and their senseless hearts were darkened. (Rom 1:19-20)

Paul goes on to note how their failure to recognize God led to a wide range of moral perversities.

In the second chapter, Paul says the same thing from a positive angle:

When Gentiles who do not have the law keep it as by instinct, these men although without the law serve as a law for themselves. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts. Their conscience bears witness together with that law, and their thoughts will accuse or defend them on the day when...God will pass judgment on the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Rom 2: 14-16).

This law "written in our hearts", accessible without Revelation, is called natural law. Just as there are certain physical laws of the universe discernible through reason, so too with moral truths. These are truths that we cannot not know.
Natural law is that portion of the eternal law planted in us by nature, or put otherwise, it is our participation in the eternal law.



10. Four Types of Law

When Paul focuses on the natural law, he is not intending to separate it from the full truth that includes the data of God's divine Revelation (the "divine law"). There is but one truth; however, there are different modes of knowing that truth.

The one truth can be termed the "eternal law." This would be the fullness of truth that exists in God's mind. A portion of that truth has been revealed to mankind, and this portion is called the divine law. Still another portion is knowable by human reason alone--the part St. Paul seizes upon in his letter to the Romans--and this is the natural law. Finally, human law (civil or ecclesiastical law) should be based on the natural law, but cannot include the entirety of the natural law.

ST At this point, one can read Thomas' Treatise on Law (I-II, q. 90-97).

VS--Also, one should read the pertinent section in the encyclical, articles 35-46 (47-53 are also appropriate but are best read later as directed). John Paul II refers to and footnotes the Treatise on Law in a number of places: notes 19, 69, 76, 80, 81, 82 and 93. Look up these references, and then note in your copy of St. Thomas those precise places on which VS relies. Footnotes 69, 76 and 82, all concern the idea developed in the previous chapter that the natural law is a participation in divine wisdom.

Let us now consider each of the four types of law in more detail.

a. The Eternal Law

The oneness of truth is represented by the concept of "eternal law." Everyone
participates in this total truth to some extent or other. And no one has exhaustive knowledge of this truth.

So then no one can know the eternal law, except the blessed who see God in His Essence. 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....Now all men know the truth to some 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 (93, 2).

In what sense is this eternal truth a
law? Eternal truth ultimately governs everything, and we normally use the concept "divine providence " in this regard:

Now it is evident, granted that the world is ruled by divine providence...that the whole community of the universe is governed by divine reason. Wherefore the very Idea of the government of things in God the ruler of the universe, has the nature of a law. And since the divine reason's conception of things is not subject to time but is eternal...therefore it is that this kind of law must be called eternal (91, 1).

b. The Natural Law

There are a variety of ways in which we participate in the eternal law. The most common way is by means of natural law itself, the discussion of which we have already begun. As Thomas says in one of the more splendid texts of the Treatise:

Wherefore, since all things subject to Divine providence are ruled and measured by the eternal law...it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends. Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to divine providence in the most excellent way, in so fat as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and others. Wherefore it 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 (91, 2).

Now the natural law has its own proper dynamism within it; Thomas describes four different levels of appropriating the natural law, and subsequent chapters are devoted to exploring these levels in depth. For now, however, we can briefly note these 4 levels:

1. Recall that at the most foundational level, by the habit technically named
synderesis, we know that good should be done and pursued and evil should be avoided. So, the very fact that you are discussing the issue with someone means that the two of you are aware of what is “good” and “evil.” That’s the natural law working inside the two of you, in a very basic way.. Now, your conversation partner may claim to be a relativist--someone who claims what is good and bad amounts to mere opinion. But the relativist actually makes an absolute claim in stating that "everything is relative." Again, if someone ever says that everything is relative, just ask, "do you insist on that absolutely?" In a word, there is something called “the good” out there, like it or not. A great starting point (see VS 51.2, 59.2, 67.2, and CCC 1780).

2. Next, there are a number of very specific examples of what “the good” is, and about which you can get your discussion partner to agree. Let’s focus on one in particular: it is good to uphold the dignity of the human person. Many documents of the Magisterium put the point philosophically: a person should always be treated as an end, not as a means. In simpler terms, no one should be "used" or turned into a mere object for someone else's utilitarian ends. We should love people and use things, not use people and love things.
Gaudium et Spes says, in a text often used by John Paul II, that man is the only creature God willed “for its own sake”--that is, not as an instrumental means to some other good.
This truth can be term ed the "personalist principle."

Many today wish to apply relativism to the value of human life, arguing that personhood is not absolutely, but only relatively, applicable to all human beings. But the lines drawn in such application, based on convenience, are highly arbitrary; and if someone insists that the complexity of human life demands such arbitrariness, then they should be asked: "you yourselves, I take it, will not take offense if and when someone else (a murderer or thief, for instance), up against the complexity of his own existence, sees the need to draw some arbitrary lines and treat
you as a non-person?"

In a word, no one in his or her right mind stands for a relativistic view human dignity. As Peter Kreeft notes: “The relativist lets the cat out of the bag when you practice what he preaches, when you
act toward him as if his own philosophy of relativism were true. He may preach relativism, but he expects you to practice absolutism.”
Kreeft gives the example of telling his relativist-leaning students that all women in the class will flunk. Given their own relativistic premises, they have no argument to make against such a blatantly unfair practice.

Hence, we have established a fundamental principle, the personalist principle (or the principle of
subjectivity), on which to build additional arguments about everything from just wages to slavery to the nature of marriage. We have done this with simple rational argumentation that cuts across divergent religious beliefs. That all humans are persons--this is a truth you “can’t not know.” There are a variety of additional basic principles grafted to the dignity of the human person: to live peaceably with one another in society, to seek the truth, to nurture our children.


3) The next step is to move to specific moral norms, such as “don’t intentionally kill innocent people,” and “don’t commit adultery.” Often these norms come across as heteronomous--a big list of things you don’t do because God told you not to. But in fact all these norm s, as noted in VS 13.2 and 52.1, are concrete reflections of the dignity of the human person. When we follow these norms, we are respecting people’s dignity, treating them as persons rather than as objects. The “second tablet” of the 10 Commandments fits here--it contains moral norms of the natural law, and the Israelites, a stubborn people (like us!) need a reminder from God Himself--a divine Revelation--of what was already written on their hearts, the natural law. The natural virtues--prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and the numerous other virtues that organize under these four--help to perfect and fulfill the natural law.


4) Finally, conscience (recall chapter 1) is that judgment whereby a person applies the natural law and the natural virtues to his or her very particular situation.
Often this is a relatively easy application, though following it out can be demanding (be patient with m y neighbor; don’t seek revenge). At other times it takes some “conscientious” scrutiny (what is the most magnanimous way to confront my neighbor about a problem?)

c. The Divine Law

Thomas says:

...on account of the uncertainty of human judgment, especially on contingent and particular matters, different people form different judgments on human acts; whence also different and contrary laws result. In order, therefore, that man may know without any doubt what he ought to do and what he ought to avoid, it was necessary for man to be directed in his proper acts by a law given by God, for it is certain that such a law cannot err (91, 4).

In addition to confirming and directing natural knowledge (circle #2) divine law also provides unique guidance about those things that are beyond the natural order. For instance, the idea of our final end is known through Revelation, and the divine law informs us in this regard:

...it is by law that man is directed how to perform his proper acts in view of his last end. And if man were ordained to no other end than that which is proportionate to his natural faculty, there would be no need for man to have any further direction on the part of his reason, besides the natural law....But since man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man's natural faculty...it was necessary that, besides the natural and the hum an law, man should be directed to his end by a law given by God (91, 4).

Thomas notes how important divine law is for the moral life:

...man is not competent to judge of interior movements, that are hidden, but only of exterior acts, which appear: and yet for the perfection of virtue it is necessary for man to conduct himself aright in both kinds of acts. Consequently human law could not sufficiently curb and direct interior acts; and it was necessary for this purpose that a Divine law should supervene (91, 4).

In sum, the divine law is "the additional law given by God, whereby man shares more perfectly in the eternal law" (91, 4).

d. The Human Law

There is one other type of law treated in the
Treatise, namely human law, or the laws governing a particular comm unity. Thomas emphasizes that human law should never contradict natural law. However, not everything contained in natural law, much less everything in the divine law, should be legislated by human law.

...human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds: since while aiming at doing away with all evils, it would do away with many good things, and would hinder the advance of the common good (91, 4).

Thomas devotes all of question 96 article 2 to this precise point, asking "Whether it Belongs to Human Law to Repress All Vices?" Thomas' initial response:

Now possibility or faculty of action is due to an interior habit or disposition: since the same thing is not possible to one who has not a virtuous habit, as is possible to one who has. Thus the same is not possible to a child as to a full-grown man: for which reason the law for children is not the same as for adults, since many things are permitted to children, which in an adult are punished by law or at any rate are open to blame. In like manner many things are permissible to men not perfect in virtue, which would be intolerable in a virtuous man (96, 2).

Because of this difference in men, human law need not repress all vices but "only the most grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain." Further, among grievous vices, the human law should concern itself chiefly with "those that are to the hurt of others."

Thomas, in a word, is quite conscious of the phenomenon of concupiscence throughout the
Treatise. Due to it, the natural law written in man's heart often is not followed. We find here the answer to one of the central secular objections to natural law: if everyone has a natural inclination toward certain goods and truths, then why do people in fact act so differently? From this point, ethical systems containing various degrees of relativism are built. The reason people act differently is not because truth is relative, or because people are incapable of knowing the truth. Rather, concupiscence draws people away from the truth.


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.


Hence, the wicked are those drawn downward, by the concupiscent tendency, to the level of fallen nature. However, those who do good are not only living in harmony with their healed nature, but also on a higher stage yet, that of super-nature:

...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 interior motive of grace and virtue (93, 6).

An understanding of the limitations of human law might seem somewhat dim and pessimistic, but it is in fact the realistic aspect of a very noble view of human law. Law’s nobility lies in its goal--to help make people virtuous. It is true that law cannot manufacture virtuous habits in people’s hearts, but it can lead them to do the
kinds of acts virtuous people do.
(Think here of training wheels on a bicycle.) Then, as people become accustomed to such acts, and find that they are actually happier now that they are acting in accord with their nature, they may gradually develop the actual habits that produce such acts. Now, they do the good because they are habituated to it, not because the law forced them to do it. If everyone were virtuous, we wouldn’t need human law at all! But since that is far from the case, law provides a good impetus for people that might lead them to virtue. And since we cannot push people beyond their limits too hastily, we are back to the realism that prevents us from over-legislating morality.

This is a good opportunity to explain a bit more what a
virtuous person is. Usually through arduous practice, individuals can arrive at a point where following the natural law actually does “come naturally.” That is what a habit is--something that comes naturally due to practice. It can be a good habit--a virtue, or a bad habit--a vice. (See CCC 1803-4.)

Imagine two people, maybe two coaches or two music instructors, both engaging in an act of patience. Though their actions look pretty much identical, one has struggled enormously to produce a few acts of patience, while the other has developed the actual good habit, or virtue, of patience, out of which her patient acts naturally flow. Which of the two do you admire more?

Many of us are quick to point to the one who struggles--after all, that one has succeeded in doing the right thing after intense struggle, while the other had it pretty easy. But it’s the truly virtuous person we should admire most (and if we admire people struggling, we can be assured that that person struggled a lot to become patient, and still struggles a good deal with some other areas of life). Our goal as moral agents is to not just do the kind of acts virtuous people do, but to truly become virtuous people.

It is the full life of virtue that the rich young man (VS 6) shied away from. Virtue is where the real action is in the moral life, and the arena where real growth in holiness occurs. VS 52 notes that there is no upper limit here, and this is what allows for the incredible diversity and uniqueness of each person striving to live the Catholic moral life. We all should share a common foundation, avoiding all the evils that Christ, through the Church, prohibits. Above that, the sky is the limit. This is the open-ended life of virtue where uniqueness truly flourishes. No one practices the virtues in exactly the same way--we each bring our uniqueness to them.

...the fact that only the negative commandments oblige always and under all circumstances does not mean that in the moral life prohibitions are more important than the obligation to do good indicated by the positive commandments. The reason is this: the commandment of love of God and love of neighbor does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, but it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken [there is no upper limit to the life of virtue, but the moral bedrock provides a lower limit under which we must not fall if we are to stay in right relation to God, neighbor and self] (52).

Some examples: the virtue of purity requires a great deal of effort and prayer. While one can be expected not to break the absolute norms regarding sexuality, the development of a pure mind is an ongoing project in virtue. Likewise, acting charitably is a lifelong project that cannot be summed up in a few absolute norms. There are many actions contrary to charity that are forbidden (the “silver rule”--
don’t do unto others as you wouldn’t have them do unto you
), but the full life of charity is a unique, personal lifelong journey (the “golden rule”--do unto others what you would have them do unto you).

Imagine building your dream house. The builder can give you absolute answers about your foundation, and about its absolute importance. And, foundations aren’t very unique or aesthetically pleasing. But the house itself, that one-of-a-kind log chalet in the mountains, is unique beyond measure. The architect and builder cannot tell you exactly how to design it. They can point you in many right directions, but the plan for your dream home is yours. Likewise with the relationship between absolute moral norms and the full life of virtue.

e. An Application

Today, when explaining the natural law to someone, it is best to start with two issues that everyone already agrees upon: slavery and sexism. The reason why everyone agrees that slavery and sexism are wrong is that it so clearly violates the personalist principle as just outlined--they draw arbitrary lines based on race or gender, and then treat a whole class of people as objects to be used rather than as persons.

Note that in our two examples there is a biological basis for our natural law claim. That is, in both instances, we recognize that the biological category “human” is operative, and we recognize that all those who bear the biological mark “human” ought to be treated as persons. We might say that the biological category “human” speaks a language: "I am human, I ought to be treated as a person." Imagine a fireman bravely ascending a ladder--through the flames and smoke he sees a blur of objects. As he gets closer, he sees that three such objects are in fact human beings--of varied races and genders. Other objects include a violin, a case of photo albums, a fish tank, and the like. What does he do? He would like to save everything--if time allows. But first he saves the human beings, and without discriminating on the basis of race or gender.

Note two things that have occurred. First, a biological category, “human,” was a signal to him of something that was of absolute value. The other objects in the burning room were of relative value. They were instrumental goods, things to be used. The biological phenomenon “human” sent a signal, contained a profound meaning. The body speaks a language, a philosophical and theological language, and in fact this is precisely what the “theology of the body” is all about. As we’ll develop later, the biological categories “male” and “female” also speak a profound language about marital love and procreation.

Second, note that the fireman didn’t need to first make a philosophical or theological investigation before figuring out what to do. The natural law, planted right in the body, sent him a signal and he picked it up spontaneously, almost intuitively.

If someone asked him why he risked his life to save other human beings, he would think that a strange question--it is just the right thing to do. There is a natural inclination within us to respond properly to the natural law.


Also apply the natural law to marriage. In the dispute over “homosexual marriage” it is commonly argued that everyone’s religious beliefs have to be allowed, and some people believe different forms of marriage. Here the category “natural marriage” is essential. It is true that we cannot force a particular
religious view of marriage on everyone. But we should all agree on some basic standards for marriage, based on our natural inclinations, particularly our natural inclination to treat others as persons, not objects. Should we legalize polygamy? Why not? Because human persons, women especially, tend to be treated as disposable objects, rather than as nonsubstitutable persons--which is what a spouse should be. So, natural marriage is permanent and exclusive. Then, consider the dignity of the children that arrive upon the scene--do they not deserve, as persons, the stability that comes from a committed couple? Here we only trace the beginnings of an argument for “natural marriage”--see that later chapter on natural marriage for more.

f. Some Further Objections

If you master the four steps taken thus far, you will find that no one can defeat your natural law argumentation. To anyone who objects, continue to point out that they are contradicting themselves--they would never wish to be treated as objects themselves. In a word, they cannot help but agree with the basic principles of the natural law that they “can’t not know.” They already desire to be treated as persons, not objects; in so desiring, they cannot then deny that right to others. They already hold that slavery and sexism are wrong. They cannot, then, suddenly claim that other arbitrary lines can be drawn around, say, the unborn or the aged or handicapped. All people are
naturally inclined toward these truths of the natural law, and all you are doing is articulating that toward which they are naturally inclined.

The difficulties begin to arise as soon as we apply the same set of principles to additional concrete cases, especially cases which are highly controversial like abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, new birth technologies, and contraception (more on all these later). In every instance, some people will disagree with the natural law for one simple reason: it is not always convenient to follow the natural law. Our concupiscent tendency sets to work, and we take the easy and convenient path.

Notice the battle going on within us: on the one hand, we are
naturally inclined to follow the natural law (recall the example of the fireman). On the other hand, because we have inherited original sin, we have a concupiscent tendency within us--it is part of our fallen nature and it can feel very natural to us. We might say that the natural law doesn’t come naturally. That’s why, even though the natural law is “written on our hearts,” many people don’t follow it or even acknowledge it.
And as we’ll see in a bit, that’s also one good reason why it is imprudent to legislate the whole of the natural law.

Let’s connect the battle just described-- between our natural inclinations and concupiscence--to the earlier “battle of the goods” discussed earlier. There, we noted that people tend to seek what they think is good; they generally don’t go around trying to do evil--and this corresponds to what we have just labeled our “natural inclinations.” Yet, people do sin, and sin
means doing evil--this corresponds to the concupiscent tendency just discussed. We solved this problem by showing that when people sin, they are in fact choosing a good, but a good that is disordered, not aligned under the highest good. They are naturally inclined to the good, but concupiscence easily gets in the way of seeking the properly ordered good to which we are naturally inclined.

g. “You Can’t Legislate Morality”

Half of the truth is there. It is true that you can’t legislate religious truths. It’s true that you can’t legislate virtues--imagine laws enforcing gratitude or patience! And it’s true that legislation itself should be limited to those matters that clearly affect other people. If that’s what it means to “not legislate morality,” fine. But all of that doesn’t add up to mean that no morality can be legislated--just the opposite is the case. You can’t help but legislate morality; the only question is, which morality will you legislate?

To clarify this point, imagine the “values clarification” in some of our public schools. The teacher leads discussions and helps students articulate their feelings and thoughts about hot-button moral issues. Students are taught to sincerely “own” their own “values,” and any mention that some values might be better than others is considered intolerant. Such a method epitomizes the danger of focusing on the good or sincere conscience to the exclusion of the true conscience, as discussed earlier. This method is not neutral at all; it is a thinly disguised relativism, and insofar as it is forced upon students the pedagogical method is a thinly disguised coerciveness.

Similarly, the idea that we can’t legislate morality is a thin disguise for legalizing relativistic morality, and with the force of the State this become s a “thinly disguised totalitarianism,” as John Paul II notes in CA 41
. To be "neutral" about, say, the absolute dignity of each individual, or the definition of marriage, or the priority of the family, is to take a relativistic stance toward those realities. In VS 101 the pope warns against “...an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level make the acknowledgment of truth im possible.”

The best proof that we often legislate morality is the law against slavery. If anyone ever claims “you can’t legislate morality,” ask if
that law should be changed, especially for those who would find slave-holding convenient. Make the same point to those sporting the bumper sticker “get your laws off m y body,” noting that numerous people are free today precisely because we built laws, based on the natural law, disallowing unjust treatment on the basis of a bodily characteristic--race. In fact, legislation based on the body is essential for treating all humans as persons. Hum an-ness is a biological characteristic, easy to recognize. A just society treats all humans as persons--no exceptions, old or young, in the womb or born, male or female, black white or red.

CCC 1954-60
g. Objections form the Reformed Perspective—Peter Leithart

Challenging Selections from Peter Leithart,
ANatural Law: a Reformed Critique.@
See syllabus for full article URL

Text 1 Scripture makes clear, then, that knowledge of God and His law is corrupted by sin, and that without [help]
provided by grace and special revelation, man
=s reasonings are foolishness. It is simply not true, as Murray
asserts, that man knows himself his own nature and end apart from the knowledge of God in Christ. Calvin
was, rather, correct to emphasize that an accurate knowledge of self was integrally related to an accurate
knowledge of God, and God is known accurately only in Christ (Institutes 1.15).


Text 2 Maritain compares errors in the application of natural law to errors in arithmetic: The fact that one makes a
mathematical error does not prove that the laws of arithmetic are invalid. Maritain
=s analogy does not hold,
and for a simple reason. The rules of arithmetic are independent of the actual practice of arithmetic. We do
not derive the rules of arithmetic from the reflection on the dispositions and inclinations of those doing
arithmetic, however much students may wish it were so. There is an objective, public standard beyond the
actual practice of arithmetic by which that practice may be judged. But the rules of natural law are
supposedly derived from rational reflection on human experience and inclinations, from reflection on the
nature of man as man, nothing else taken into consideration. Even if it were possible not to take anything
else into consideration, how could one identify errors? How does one distinguish between human
inclinations that are natural and therefore virtuous from human inclinations (such as sadomasochism) that
are erroneous and base?

Natural law theory answers these questions by an appeal to the eternal law of Divine Reason. This is the
objective and external standard by which human reason and inclinations are judged. But where does one
find this unwritten law? Typically, natural law theory has claimed that it is accessible by rational reflection on
human experience. This answer, of course, begs the above series of questions. Another possible response
is that the magisterium of the church provides the correct interpretation of the natural law, but this answer is
hardly consistent with the claim that the natural law may be discovered by unaided reason. [52] The other
answer is that of Thomas Aquinas, who realized, because of the reality of sin and the weakness of human
reason, that an accessible standard beyond the merely natural is required; special revelation, Aquinas
concluded, is necessary to correct erroneous and sinful reasoning.[53] Once this is conceded, the hope that
natural law provides a universal moral grammar that transcends confessional particularities and eliminates
the need to appeal to special revelation has been undermined.


Text 3 Thomas, of course, knew the reality of sin. He acknowledged, therefore, that men will seek things that are
objectively evil. Still, Thomas says, what they seek will seem good to them. An adulterer does not intend
evil; he intends to receive the pleasure of his adultery, which appears to him good. Still, his adultery is
objectively evil.

This simply won
=t do. First, it is contradicted by Scripture. Paul states in Romans 1 that sinners, knowing
that what they do is evil, continue to practice it. In fact, as I have argued everyone has a consciousness of
God
=s law, and therefore at some level everyone has some knowledge that the evil he does is evil. Sinners
do directly intend evil.


Text 4 Even if natural law theory were free of these theological difficulties, it would still be incapable of doing what
Weigel and others hope it will do. While denying that natural law requires Roman Catholic presuppositions,
Murray argues that natural law is in a germinal fashion, scriptural. [67] In fact, Murray
=s theory is much
more dependent on Christian doctrine that he admits. Natural law, Murray says, asks what I as a man
should do in such and such a set of circumstances. But this assumes that we know what man is. Murray
knows that man is a creature before God ; I agree, but this is surely not a claim that will be acceptable to
modern relativists, evolutionists, or secularists. In fact, I daresay it is an exclusively biblical claim. Only
religions based on the Bible genuinely teach a doctrine of creation, and the world
=s religions have very
different conceptions of what is meant by God. [68] Even more clearly, Murray grounds his argument for
the obligatory character of natural reason on the fact that man is by nature the image of God, and therefore
participates in the divine Reason.[69] Can one discern from rational reflection on experience that man is
imago Dei? Will he not perhaps conclude that man is instead imago diaboli?


Text 5 Your choice of one the three paragraphs from the full article--please paste (or type out) the section you wish to comment on.


11. Law as Something Natural--Participatory Theonomy, not Autonomy or Heteronomy

The very notion of law or authority tends to imply something from the outside imposed on the individual. But one of Thomas' accomplishments in the
Treatise is to show that the one truth is not something alien that is imposed on us, but something that we naturally gravitate toward or are inclined toward. There is a connaturality between the unique, inner core of our individual being and the one truth. As VS 41 notes, the moral life is not imprisonment within a "heteronomy," but within a "participated theonomy."

...to the natural law belongs everything to which a m an is inclined according to his nature. Now each thing is inclined naturally to an operation that is suitable to it according to its form: thus fire is inclined to give heat. Wherefore, since the rational soul is the proper form of man, there is in every man a natural inclination to act according to reason: and this is to act according to virtue (94, 3).

As Josef Fuchs has noted in this regard,

The fundamental human ability to acquire a natural knowledge of morality, of which man was not deprived even by sin, is ours precisely because we are men. It must therefore be considered as genuine
intellectual knowledge. By this is meant a knowledge that results from a true insight into the intelligible object. It does not mean a blind feeling of a moral order; neither is it a blind decision of good will. Natural knowledge is not lived out in the dark sphere of the irrational. One may, without reflection or without a deep analysis of the procedure, look at man's common moral knowledge and be inclined to take this for an emotional intuition or, more or less, as a decision of the will. A deeper investigation will recognize moral 'valuation' as an extremely complex act, the deepest root of which is genuine rational knowledge. The 'reasons' of knowledge are, of course, not always brought into light in the reflex consciousness but they are in fact understood. Knowledge of the truth is brought about in its reasons. We might justifiably call such moral knowledge an intuition, as opposed to that knowledge which is brought about in our reflex grasp of the foundation of truth.


For Thomas, the element within us that is inclined to the Truth is simply called
reason, which separates us from the animals. From the very start of the Treatise, Thomas notes that law--something usually seen as an imposition from without--comes from within:

Law is a rule and measure of acts, whereby man is induced to act or is restrained from acting....Now the rule and measure of human acts is the reason, which is the first principle of human acts...(90, 1).

VS--John Paul II emphasizes this point: "He cares for man not 'from without,' through the laws of physical nature, but 'from within,' through reason, which, by its natural knowledge of God's eternal law, is consequently able to show man the right direction to take in his free actions" (#43). The encyclical footnotes St. Thomas, q. 90, a. 4.

12: Man's Nature and the Fall (Anthropological Interlude)

a. Introduction

Having distinguished natural law and Revelation (and having mentioned the distinction between the natural virtues and the supernatural virtues) we have seen some concrete instances of the classic Catholic distinction between nature and grace. We must now make a careful and challenging inquiry into Catholic anthropology, following parts of St. Thomas's
Treatise on Grace (S.T. I-II, questions 109-114) and St. Paul, as juxtaposed to classical Protestant anthropology. This inquiry will in turn be the groundwork upon which we can ask the question of the following section as to the distinctiveness of Christian ethics.

b. Nature: Pure, Elevated, and Corrupt

In q. 109 a. 2 Thomas distinguishes between the states of pure nature and corrupt nature:

Man's nature may be considered in two ways, either in its purity, as it was in our first parent before sin, or as corrupt, as it is in ourselves after the sin of our first parent. In either state, human nature needs divine help in order to do or will any good, since it needs a first mover, as we said in the preceding article.

Hence, any act of the intellect and the will, any act of man's nature, ultimately depends upon God. There is never any such thing as a man "working" just on his own. We are creatures, dependent on our creator, in whom we "live, move, and have our being." But this natural kind of dependence is still not grace; we must ask further, what role does grace play before and after the Fall?

In asking this question, we enter into one of the more enigmatic features of Thomas' anthropology, for he speaks quite differently about the role of grace in different texts. Let us begin with a text that seems to assume the existence of what Thomas calls "pure nature" before the Fall.

In regard to the sufficiency of his operative power, man in the state of pure nature could will and do, by his own natural power, the good proportionate to his nature, such as the good of acquired virtue, though not surpassing good such as the good of infused virtue. In the state of corrupt nature he falls short of what nature makes possible, so that he cannot by his own power fulfill the whole good that pertains to his nature.

In a state of pre-fallen nature, then, man could indeed act virtuously
by his own nature (though properly understood as ultimately dependent on God). Put simply, man could properly use his freedom, toward God as his higher arbiter. As Thomas says an article later, "To love God above all things is natural to man" (a. 3). Hence, "In the state of pure nature, accordingly, man subordinated his love of himself, and of other things also, to love God as its end" (a. 3). Above and beyond this, however, there was a higher level of life, supernatural life, wherein man was to share close communion with God. Man could not have achieved this by his own pure nature, but would have needed some supernatural help or grace.
This configuration allows for that set of categories so quintessentially Catholic: that our natures, though wounded by the Fall, remain integral; and that grace presupposes and builds on nature.

In other texts, however, Thomas is quite clear that this state of pure nature never existed. He states quite unequivocally in II-II, q. 5, a. 1, that "the gift of grace was given to man and to angels when they were created." Hence, the state of pure nature exists only as a possibility, never actualized, into which man could have been created. A central reason for positing this hypothetical state is that the gratuity of grace is made evident. If God had to create man in a state of elevated nature, grace would be owed, and hence it would not be grace at all. But as G od did not have to create man in the elevated state, that state rem ains a gift.

According to this second configuration (in which there is no existential state of pure nature), there is really no such thing as pure natural (or acquired) virtues in an unqualified sense. Although Thomas analyzes natural virtue in his treatise on the virtues (see I-II, questions 55-61) he goes right on to say that all the natural virtues have their infused counterparts and that the latter alone are really virtues "unqualifiedly" (q. 65, a. 2). In the final analysis, charity--our participation in the divine essence, the love of God poured into our hearts--is the form of all the virtues (II-II, q. 23, a. 8). As Thomas says, "Absolutely true virtue, therefore, is impossible without charity" (II-II, q. 23, a. 7).

c. Solving the Enigma

How to solve the enigma of these two configurations? The Christian knows that there is but one truth, as there is one cause and one end of our being. This one truth is supernatural through and through, a point to which Protestants have often been more alert than Catholics. As Cornelius Ernst has noted, "In God's plan, in the order of finality, grace may be said to be prior to nature."

We were created as integral beings with the supernatural gift of grace inhering in us. The Fall radically destroyed our integrity, but with the redemption the gift is again available--whether one understands this in the Catholic mode of the gift inhering in us, the gift of sanctifying grace, or the classical Protestant mode of the gift imputed, covering but leaving intact our corrupt nature.

The idea of pure nature, then, is purely hypothetical. God could have, but did not, create us in a state of pure but unelevated nature.

Note that we can, therefore, conceive of something and speak of something that does not really exist existentially in its own right, but as a portion of something greater. We can distinguish the states of pure and elevated nature, but only to finally unite them. The mental construct by which we distinguish pure nature from elevated nature will be of immense importance as we now proceed to inquire about man's fallen nature; for it allows us to speak of two moments in our redemption, ultimately unified but still distinguishable. One can extract the concept "nature" out from its real setting in the grace of redemption which has healed that nature; and there are numerous advantages in being able to so extract--it is part of the splendour of Catholic anthropology. Once extracted, "nature" still has its ultimate home within the compass of grace: healed nature exists simultaneously with elevated nature. These two moments--the healing and elevating of nature--allow us to work toward solutions to a variety of difficult problems.

d. Fallen, Healed and Elevated Nature

If for pre-lapsarian m an there exists, properly understood, both pure and elevated nature, then man’s nature wounded by the Fall is in dire need of healing
as well as in need of the supernatural help that would have been needed prior to the Fall.

Thus in the state of pure nature man needs a power added to his natural power by grace, for one reason, namely, in order to do and to will supernatural good. But in the state of corrupt nature he needs this for two reasons, in order to be healed, and in order to achieve the meritorious state of supernatural virtue. In both states, moreover, he needs the divine help by which he is moved to act well [viz., the power to act at all] (a. 2) (emphasis added).

If Christ's redeeming grace heals our corrupt nature, then every man has the capacity to act as he would have been able to act prior to the Fall--that is, virtuously, though now, of course, it would no longer be accurate to speak of
natural virtue precisely because Christ's healing grace is what animates such virtue. This redeeming grace simultaneously heals our fallen nature and gives us the state of sanctifying grace that we would have needed even had we not fallen. The simultaneity is critical: we do not have two natures, one healed (corresponding to "pure nature") and one elevated; we have one nature radically affected by grace, and we can distinguish two aspects of that one nature, just as before the Fall we can distinguish two aspects of the one nature with which man was created. The great advantage of the distinction is that we can momentarily isolate that part of our nature (now affected by grace), that formality, by which we engage in moral activity.

Protestants might react against this anthropology because, for one, it seems to leave little room for man's sinfulness: though man's nature is radically affected by the Fall, the redemption heals and elevates that nature (with man's cooperation). In point of fact, it leaves much room for sinfulness, but locates it not as a constitutive part of man's being (depraved nature) but as a tendency that accompanies healed nature--the concupiscent tendency. Both traditions look at the same phenomenon, but one sees a concupiscent tendency, the other a concupiscence constitutive of our very being. There will continue to be, in all likelihood, continued disagreement among Catholics and Protestants on this point.

But the point on which we desperately need some convergence--the legitimacy of "nature" and such realities as natural law and natural virtue--can now be seen in a fresh light. In the Catholic tradition, knowing and living in accord with the natural law is possible because of that very element rejected by Protestantism: healed nature. The idea of healed nature is the post-lapsarian equivalent to pure nature. But note well that nature is healed because of Christ, as is clear from the above analysis of St. Thomas. So as there was no "pure" nature prior to the Fall, however helpful that construct is in understanding man's nature, there is no "pure nature" after the Fall, some aspect of man's essential being that is not affected by grace. The construct "nature" remains helpful in understanding man but it is a nature thoroughly within the compass of grace:
healed (by the redemption) nature. Any possibility of what has been termed a Catholic "works righteousness" is out of the question. As one commentator so adroitly put it in commenting on Thomas' questions on grace: "The whole treatise causes one to wonder what would have happened at the time of the Reformation if Aquinas had been universally understood in the Catholic Church, and if all parties had used the same terms with the same meanings. The Reformation would still have been inevitable, but it might have taken a different course.”


No doubt the Catholic tradition holds, with St. Thom as, that there is a dimension of our nature that was not affected by the Fall, and hence is not in need of Redemption. Some thinkers have placed our knowledge of the natural law, and the capacity to act in accord with it, within this unaffected part of our nature. But when Thomas speaks of that part of nature, he seems not to have in mind our properly moral capacities, which are in need of healing by the redemptive grace of Christ. Rather, he has in mind certain practical arts.

Human nature is not so entirely corrupted by sin, however, as to be deprived of natural good altogether. Consequently, even in the state of corrupt nature a man can do some particular good by the power of his own nature, such as build houses, plant vineyards, and things of this kind. (q. 109, a. 2)

Man's moral capacities after the Fall are in a different arena than those capacities that were unaffected by the Fall. Hence, disagreement about the extent to which the Fall corrupted man can continue without touching upon the moral realm, which, it can be agreed, was corrupted and stands in need of healing. As we shall see, both parts of the soul. intellect and will, require such healing.

VS In Veritatis Splendor 102-103, John Paul II emphasizes that we have the capacity to follow the moral law. To deny such a capacity is to deny the efficacy of the Redemption.

Only in the mystery of Christ's Redemption do we discover the "concrete" possibilities of man. [the rest is a quote from a 1984 papal address on responsible parenthood] It would be a very serious error to conclude...that the Church's teaching is essentially only an 'ideal' which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a 'balancing of the goods in question.' But what are the 'concrete possibilities of man?' And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ's redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christs redemptive act, but to man's will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act....the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit. (103)

At the conclusion of the encyclical, the Pope makes this same point through the eyes of Mary: "Nor does she permit sinful man to be deceived by those who claim to love him by justifying his sin, for she knows that the sacrifice of Christ her Son would thus be emptied of its power."

e. Concupiscence

Although the wound of sin is healed by the Redemption, there remains the wound of concupiscence, a propensity to act as Adam did, to misuse freedom. It is much as if a rock-climber were wounded on the arm, rendering any further climbing impossible. If his arm is healed, there is still a propensity for the wound to open again. In other words, he can now climb again, but he is under a certain disadvantage and must be most cautious not to make a similar error as when he first injured himself. (See I-II, 85.)

f. Classical Protestant Anthropology

The full impact of this theology of grace and sin for moral theology is seen when we imagine an entirely different way to configure the redemption. Imagine our nature
not being healed, but God's redemptive grace still elevating us to a state of supernatural grace. To use the earlier analogy, it would be as if the climber's arm never healed; rather, the wound was covered over and the climber lifted by ropes to his destination.

This is the view of Martin Luther and other of the Protestant reformers. He held that our nature remains corrupt, and that therefore we are incapable of those good acts that, prior to the Fall, would have com e naturally. Our corrupt nature, however, is covered over with Christ's redemptive love and grace--so long as we
believe that. (See, for example, the Augsburg Confession part IV; the Westminster Confession, Chapter VI, section V; the Thirty-Nine Articles, article IX.) Hence, we are justified before God while remaining corrupt in our nature. Our very being is simultaneously sinful (corrupt) and justified (saved), simul iustus et peccator.

While Luther did not encourage people to act immorally, he claimed that our moral acts could do nothing to effect our salvation. For our nature remains corrupt and we are ultimately incapable of acting integrally. Hence, Luther's famous dictum: "sin boldly--but believe even more boldly."

With this, contrast the teaching of the Council of Orange:

The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him.

According to the Catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul.

We can best label this view, affirmed throughout the tradition, a
sacramental anthropology. For it presumes that we have the capacity to not only know the truth but to embrace it and live it in our ordinary lives. This marvelous capacity is at the heart of the sacramental vision, which suggests that the human really can be attuned to transcendent truth. An ordinary human life can be extraordinary; we can be saints.

g. Scriptural Roots: St. Paul

Catholic anthropology is well rooted in Scripture. Let us consider St. Paul's understanding, especially since Paul was invoked by history's most severe reaction against a sacramental anthropology, the Protestant Reformation. We can summarize Paul's view in 4 steps, and then consider Luther's misinterpretation of it.

1) Read Romans 4 and Galatians 2:15 through 3 for Paul's basic teaching.
Justification means being set in right relation to God. It presupposes that we are not naturally set right, but rather are born into the state of original sin.

2) Is Justification something we do by our own initiative (by our own nature) or is it something God does for us (gratuitously, unowed)? Justification is first and foremost something God does for us through the Redemption by Christ. The Church came to see how this redemptive work was sacramentally mediated to us through the Eucharist and the other sacraments. The Apostolic Succession, guided by the Spirit, has the authority to teach the truth about the sacramental presence of Christ in history. The Church's primary role is to safeguard this presence so that men can orient their lives around it and so transform and sanctify the world, and arrive at their final transcendent end.

3) Our Redemption is integrally connected to what we freely choose to do with our lives. We have been sanctified--
made holy--by the Redemption, and we are thus capable of cooperating with Christ by living the sacramental life and striving to live virtuously. The process of becoming sanctified presupposes that our natures have been healed and we have the capacity to act integrally. If a Catholic is asked whether he is "saved," a proper response would be "I am redeemed (Christ's redemptive work is efficacious and does not depend on me) and I am working out my salvation (I am cooperating, through the sacramental life and a life of virtue)."

4) Salvation then occurs for a justified person who is thus infused with grace (sanctified), and it means that after death one has "well-being"--the beatific vision--rather than condemnation. Read Philippians 2:12-13. Also, our work only has meaning in reference to Christ, not in its own right, like Christ himself--read John 8:42, 14:31, 16:15, 5:19.



h. Luther's Understanding of Justification

Contrary to the Catholic view, Luther claimed we are justified "by grace through faith", hence
sola gratia and sola fide, and found this in Scripture (hence, sola scriptura). He argued that the Tradition had distorted these truths by focusing on human works as essential to salvation. "Works" simply means something we do for salvation (as opposed to "faith" in what God does), and can refer to our moral acts or to the sacraments, understood in Catholicism as actions the Church does, through which Christ guarantees that grace will be present (efficaciousness) so long as no hum an impediment is put in the way.

As already discussed in more depth above, Luther believed that we are totally corrupted or depraved due to the Fall. To review: Our nature, contrary to the Catholic understanding, was not left intact in any respect, nor did Christ's redemption heal our nature. Instead, Luther claimed that our nature remains depraved, which means that nothing we do can contribute to our salvation. Christ's redemptive work "covers over" our inherent sinfulness, however, and justifies us before God. Hence, Luther claimed that the Christian is simultaneously depraved and justified (
simul justus et peccator).

We already considered the impact of such a view on the moral life. Luther did not wish to deny the existence of moral truth, but he did deny the importance of sanctification for our salvation. We are
not able to do as w e ought. This led to a kind of moral anarchy in the wake of Luther's challenge in the early 16th century. Calvin saw the need to retrieve the idea of sanctification, but he did so not by returning to the Catholic concept; rather, he claimed that we are all predestined to heaven or hell and that one way we can tell which direction we are bound is by the moral quality of our lives. This led to a strong desire for upright living, for obvious reasons.

i. St. Paul's Historical Context

Both Catholic and Protestants rely on St. Paul. There appear to be a variety of passages in his letters that betray the notion that justification is
sola fide. In order to properly understand such passages, one must understand the historical context within which Paul wrote.

Paul was speaking in the context of the Jewish-Gentile Controversy, and his reaction against "works" was not a reaction against the sacraments or sanctification, but against Jewish practices that, he argued, were in the realm of custom rather than doctrinal truth, specifically the dietary laws and circumcision.



Hence, when Paul speaks out against "works" he is specifically referring to various Jewish customs. For he clearly speaks in numerous places about the necessity of moral "works" for salvation Along with Philippians 2:12-15, consider Galatians 5:5-6:

It is in the spirit that we eagerly await the justification we hope for, and only faith can yield it. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor the lack of it counts for anything; only faith working through love.

Justification only comes through faith, but integral to this faith is that it "works through love." By love, or "charity," is meant the love of God that God Himself pours into our hearts (see Romans 5:5), enabling us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Within this love all of the particularities of the Christian moral life are encapsulated. If faith does not work through love, it is dead. Some translations of the above passage give "faith, which expresses itself through love." Such a translation easily allows a wrong interpretation, namely, that although faith may manifest itself through love, it
need not in the last analysis.

j. Conclusion

Let us conclude with several texts from
Gaudium et Spes which would seem to affirm nature as a category within the com pass of redemptive grace. On the one hand, the document notes that "In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience.”
On the other hand, we are taught that "Christ...fully reveals man to himself...."
For man to know himself is for man to know his nature. But as there is no "pure nature" to know, the only way to uncover his nature is to be aware that Christ has both healed his nature, making him capable of that virtue which he would have had access to in the hypothetical state of pure nature, and elevated his nature, granting him a participation in the divine life. This twofold aspect of grace is only known and realized in Christ--hence, Christ reveals man to himself. Christocentricity is in harmony with the fundamental thrust of the natural law tradition, properly understood. The integrity of nature at the heart of that tradition is an integrity found within the compass of grace.

13. A Further Examination of Thomistic Natural Law

a. Self-Evident Truth in the Order of Practical Reason: Level I

Having distinguished speculative reason and practical reason, and having explained the notion of self-evident truths, Thomas focuses exclusively on natural law in the order of
practical reason. The central self-evident principle in practical reason is that good should be pursued and evil avoided.

Now at first sight, this may seem to be a rather innocuous principle. As one critic has noted,

Aquinas and his contemporary followers insist that all the other natural laws are based on this vacuous first principle of natural moral law. This, of course, is a very weak base. For unless we assign some denotation to the word "good"...this first principle of the natural moral law we cannot determine what the denota or criteria of application of "good" will be. All we can conclude from this primary principle is that if something is good we have to seek it. It does not tell us what to seek.



Of course the principle by itself does not specify what particular acts are good and evil. But it does make several claims that are the very basis upon which more specific claims can be made.

First, it suggests that there
is such a thing as good and evil. This means that the world is ultimately an ordered world, even if by sin we allow disorder into it. This is the very claim made in the first chapter of Genesis. Written as a polemic against pagan religions that saw chaos as the prevailing principle of the universe, the Hebraic mind penetrated to the fundamental order amidst the apparent chaos of the world, an order designed by a loving creator. Genesis outlines the beginnings of a sacramental view of history.

Second, the principle suggests that the mind has the capacity to make definite judgments about what is true and good. The starting points of such judgments are the self-evident principles considered above. Note that any effort to defeat those principles involves a confession that one need not respect the canons of logic, which is tantamount to saying that the world is of such a nature--a chaotic nature--that we cannot apply logic to it. A creation that allows for truth is a sacramental creation--it has the
capacity for truth.

Third, the principle suggests that not only do humans have the free capacity to
know the difference between good and evil, but they have the capacity to live accordingly. This claim runs counter to the Eastern notion, quite popular today in the West, that all actions contain a mixture of good and evil, that we can never pure and simply "do good and avoid evil." There may be all sorts of phenomena accruing from a good act that we don't necessarily like, just as there may be all sorts of phenomena accruing from an evil act that we find most enjoyable. But such phenomena are on the surface level of passion, emotion, and experience, not on the deeper and truly real level of being where one finds incommensurable goods. On that level--to which the Gospel summons us--we can do good and avoid evil. This is a sacramental anthropology, one which allows the human person the capacity to order his life to the truth. The fundamental principle of natural law in no way contains a dynamism away from moral norms toward an ethics of character.


Having established the critical importance of this first principle, it is likewise critical to discover why it is self-evident.

You cannot even begin to engage in
any activity without this principle implicitly at work. You only act purposively, toward an end, toward something considered good--otherwise you don't act. Hence, getting out of bed in the morning assumes this principle. No one "just does" things, even if at times they claim to be doing so. As Thomas says elsewhere, "When someone uses his intellect to act, he always chooses an end that he thinks is good because the object of his intellect only moves him when it appears to be good--and good is the object of the will" (S.C.G., III, 3).

Of course, the good you choose may well be an apparent good rather than a real good. If so, it is in fact evil, which is none other than a privation of a good that ought to have occurred. Hence, the self-evident principle has another side to it. The "do good" side we have just discussed; the "avoid evil" side means that we ought always strive for real goods rather than lesser or only apparent goods.

So far, then, reason alone tells us that life is purposeful, not capricious (even when we think otherwise) and that some goods are only apparent goods. If one does not agree with such premises, the remainder of Thomas' analysis of natural law will be nonsensical.

b. "Level 2" Self-Evident Truths

So far Thomas has posited a fundamental self-evident truth in the order of practical reason, on which all other truths rest: do good and avoid evil.

Next, Thomas suggests what he calls commonly known general principles, which represent concrete (though general) instantiations of the principle "do good and avoid evil." We shall label these principles "level 2" principles. These general principles represent what might be called the "basic goods" of human existence. We are always to act
toward such goods. It is important to note that Thomas considers them to be, like the first principle, self-evident. VS--see article 51, paragraph 2 for a direct reference to the self-evident principles.

I) preserve life (hence, life itself is a fundamental good).

ii) the conjugal act and the education of offspring (hence, sexual intercourse is a particular aspect of the basic good of hum an sexuality, and children are a basic good).

iii) Certain inclinations due to our rational nature, which make us distinct from animals. Thomas gives several examples and implies that there are many other such inclinations.
a. to know the truth about God
b. to live in society
c. shun ignorance
d. avoid being offensive
e. ...and "other such things"

A self-evident truth is one, as explored earlier, that an individual simply cannot help but affirm--whether explicitly or implicitly--
if he is going to live in the world in such a way that affirms the world as an ordered, as opposed to essentially chaotic, type of reality. Of course, there are people who would consider the first principle, "do good and avoid evil," as void of meaning. Why must I do good, they ask? And further, who is to say what the good is? But by such claims they are making a broad metaphysical claim about the meaning of reality, namely, that there is no objective good to be done and objective evil to be avoided. Such relativism does not get rid of truth; it simply substitutes a nihilistic (and maybe more convenient) kind of truth for Christian truth.

If one accepts the fundamentally ordered nature of reality, one not only confesses the first principle but the secondary ones listed here as well.
I) If life is essentially ordered, one preserves his life and that of others. This is not always an easy task, since life may well appear disordered and chaotic in complex situations--we might be tempted to end our own life through suicide, the life of another through euthanasia, or the life of a pre-born child through abortion. But the sacramental structure of existence invites us to look beneath the surface phenomena to discover the often hidden but very real truth and meaning therein.

Likewise,
ii) one continues the species through procreating and then by caring for and educating one's offspring. This principle too is "self-evident" only if one first affirms the ordered nature of reality--again, not always an easy task. It is not uncommon to find couples whose reason for not having children, or for having a smaller number of children than they might be able to reasonably handle, is that they cannot envision bringing more people into so horrible a world, fraught as it is with grave threats such as nuclear destruction.

c. Rational Inclinations

We can now consider the third category of self-evident principles which involves that which is unique to rational beings and is not shared with animals. To repeat from before:

iii) Certain inclinations due to our rational nature, which make us distinct from animals. Thomas gives several examples and implies that there are many other such inclinations.
a. to know the truth about God
b. to live in society
c. shun ignorance
d. avoid being offensive
e. ...and "other such things"

Why are these called "inclinations"? Because we are "naturally" inclined toward them by virtue of being human (though due to the blinding force of concupiscence following these natural inclinations does not always "come naturally"). Someone claiming not to be so inclined is denying their own humanity, or at least denying that humanity is ordered and is part of an ordered universe. Many people would be hard put to explain exactly why they are naturally inclined in such ways. The reason is because they know such things not through discursive reasoning but through
connaturality.
It simply goes along with their nature as humans to know such things, and they ought not have the burden of having to raise them to a discursive level as done by philosophers (however important that level is).

Once a person accepts the fundamentally ordered nature of the world, these "rational inclinations" are self-evident just as the other truths of the natural law thus far examined. If reality is ordered, one naturally would want to know the truth about the orderer Himself--hence Thomas' first example (a) is "to know the truth about God." This includes realizing that we were created for the purpose of seeking our creator: union with Him is our final end. The tradition speaks of the principle
exitus et reditus: we come from God and return to God.

The other principles are likewise self-evident. Since we live in community with others (b), we should order our moral lives toward the common good. There is a fundamental ordering to human existence, the discovery of which involves the "shunning of ignorance" (c). When the community is properly seeking the common good, the natural result is harmony in society, rather than offensiveness (d).

Hence, Thomas' small sampling of the inclinations due to our rational nature refer back to the vision he outlined in the
Treatise on Happiness.


Very soon we will turn to levels 3 and 4 (concrete moral norms, and application to particular circum stances). But at this juncture, it is opportune to discuss the relationship between biology and moral norms.


14. ST I-II 90-97 Treatise on Law, shortened version, plus a Study Guide --for those pursuing Thomas’ seminal work on NL

QUESTION 90
ARTICLE 1: Whether law is something pertaining to reason?

I answer that, Law is a rule and measure of acts, whereby man is induced to act or is restrained from acting: for "lex" [law] is derived from "ligare" [to bind], because it binds one to act. Now the rule and measure of human acts is the reason, which is the first principle of human acts, as is evident from what has been stated above (Q[1], A[1], ad 3); since it belongs to the reason to direct to the end, which is the first principle in all matters of action, according to the Philosopher (Phys. ii). Now that which is the principle in any genus, is the rule and measure of that genus: for instance, unity in the genus of numbers, and the first movement in the genus of movements. Consequently it follows that law is something pertaining to reason.

ARTICLE 2: Whether the law is always something directed to the common good?

I answer that, As stated above (A[1]), the law belongs to that which is a principle of human acts, because it is their rule and measure. Now as reason is a principle of human acts, so in reason itself there is something which is the principle in respect of all the rest: wherefore to this principle chiefly and mainly law must needs be referred. Now the first principle in practical matters, which are the object of the practical reason, is the last end: and the last end of human life is bliss or happiness, as stated above (Q[2], A[7]; Q[3], A[1]). Consequently the law must needs regard principally the relationship to happiness. Moreover, since every part is ordained to the whole, as imperfect to perfect; and since one man is a part of the perfect community, the law must needs regard properly the relationship to universal happiness. Wherefore the Philosopher, in the above definition of legal matters mentions both happiness and the body politic: for he says (Ethic. v, 1) that we call those legal matters "just, which are adapted to produce and preserve happiness and its parts for the body politic": since the state is a perfect community, as he says in Polit. i, 1.
Now in every genus, that which belongs to it chiefly is the principle of the others, and the others belong to that genus in subordination to that thing: thus fire, which is chief among hot things, is the cause of heat in mixed bodies, and these are said to be hot in so far as they have a share of fire. Consequently, since the law is chiefly ordained to the common good, any other precept in regard to some individual work, must needs be devoid of the nature of a law, save in so far as it regards the common good. Therefore every law is ordained to the common good.

ARTICLE 3: Whether the reason of any man is competent to make laws?

I answer that, A law, properly speaking, regards first and foremost the order to the common good. Now to order anything to the common good, belongs either to the whole people, or to someone who is the viceregent of the whole people. And therefore the making of a law belongs either to the whole people or to a public personage who has care of the whole people: since in all other matters the directing of anything to the end concerns him to whom the end belongs.


ARTICLE 4: Whether promulgation is essential to a law?

I answer that, As stated above (A[1]), a law is imposed on others by way of a rule and measure. Now a rule or measure is imposed by being applied to those who are to be ruled and measured by it. Wherefore, in order that a law obtain the binding force which is proper to a law, it must needs be applied to the men who have to be ruled by it. Such application is made by its being notified to them by promulgation. Wherefore promulgation is necessary for the law to obtain its force.
Thus from the four preceding articles, the definition of law may be gathered; and it is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.

QUESTION 91 OF THE VARIOUS KINDS OF LAW (SIX ARTICLES)
ARTICLE 1: Whether there is an eternal law?

I answer that, As stated above (Q[90], A[1], ad 2; AA[3],4), a law is nothing else but a dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler who governs a perfect community. Now it is evident, granted that the world is ruled by Divine Providence, as was stated in the First Part, Q[22], AA[1],2, that the whole community of the universe is governed by Divine Reason. Wherefore the very Idea of the government of things in God the Ruler of the universe, has the nature of a law. And since the Divine Reason's conception of things is not subject to time but is eternal, according to Prov. 8:23, therefore it is that this kind of law must be called eternal.


ARTICLE 2: Whether there is in us a natural law?

OBJ. 3: Further, the more a man is free, the less is he under the law. But man is freer than all the animals, on account of his freewill, with which he is endowed above all other animals. Since therefore other animals are not subject to a natural law, neither is man subject to a natural law.
I answer that, As stated above (Q[90], A[1], ad 1), law, being a rule and measure, can be in a person in two ways: in one way, as in him that rules and measures; in another way, as in that which is ruled and measured, since a thing is ruled and measured, in so far as it partakes of the rule or measure. Wherefore, since all things subject to Divine providence are ruled and measured by the eternal law, as was stated above (A[1]); it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective
inclinations to their proper acts and ends. Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to Divine providence in the most excellent way, in so far as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and for others. Wherefore it 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. Hence the Psalmist after saying (Ps. 4:6): "Offer up the sacrifice of justice," as though someone asked what the works of justice are, adds: "Many say, Who showeth us good things?" in answer to which question he says: "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.
Reply OBJ. 3: Even irrational animals partake in their own way of the Eternal Reason, just as the rational creature does. But because the rational creature partakes thereof in an intellectual and rational manner, therefore the participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is properly called a law, since a law is something pertaining to reason, as stated above (Q[90], A[1]). Irrational creatures, however, do not partake thereof in a rational manner, wherefore there is no participation of the eternal law in them, except by way of similitude.

ARTICLE 3: Whether there is a human law?

ARTICLE 4: Whether there was any need for a Divine law?

I answer that, Besides the natural and the human law it was necessary for the directing of human conduct to have a Divine law. And this for four reasons. First, because it is by law that man is directed how to perform his proper acts in view of his last end. And indeed if man were ordained to no other end than that which is proportionate to his natural faculty, there would be no need for man to have any further direction of the part of his reason, besides the natural law and human law which is derived from it. But since man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man's natural faculty, as stated above (Q[5], A[5]), therefore it was necessary that, besides the natural and the human law, man should be directed to his end by a law given by God.
Secondly, because, on account of the uncertainty of human judgment, especially on contingent and particular matters, different people form different judgments on human acts; whence also different and contrary laws result. In order, therefore, that man may know without any doubt what he ought to do and what he ought to avoid, it was necessary for man to be directed in his proper acts by a law given by God, for it is certain that such a law cannot err.
Thirdly, because man can make laws in those matters of which he is competent to judge. But man is not competent to judge of interior movements, that are hidden, but only of exterior acts which appear: and yet for the perfection of virtue it is necessary for man to conduct himself aright in both kinds of acts. Consequently human law could not sufficiently curb and direct interior acts; and it was necessary for this purpose that a Divine law should supervene.
Fourthly, because, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5,6), human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds: since while aiming at doing away with all evils, it would do away with many good things, and would hinder the advance of the common good, which is necessary for human intercourse. In order, therefore, that no evil might remain unforbidden and unpunished, it was necessary for the Divine law to supervene, whereby all sins are forbidden.
And these four causes are touched upon in Ps. 118:8, where it is said: "The law of the Lord is unspotted," i.e. allowing no foulness of sin; "converting souls," because it directs not only exterior, but also interior acts; "the testimony of the Lord is faithful," because of the certainty of what is true and right; "giving wisdom to little ones," by directing man to an end supernatural and Divine.

ARTICLE 5: Whether there is but one Divine law?

I answer that, As stated in the First Part, Q[30], A[3], distinction is the cause of number. Now things may be distinguished in two ways. First, as those things that are altogether specifically different, e.g. a horse and an ox. Secondly, as perfect and imperfect in the same species, e.g. a boy and a man: and in this way the Divine law is divided into Old and New. Hence the Apostle (Gal. 3:24,25) compares the state of man under the Old Law to that of a child "under a pedagogue"; but the state under the New Law, to that of a full grown man, who is "no longer under a pedagogue."
Now the perfection and imperfection of these two laws is to be taken in connection with the three conditions pertaining to law, as stated above. For, in the first place, it belongs to law to be directed to the common good as to its end, as stated above (Q[90], A[2]). This good may be twofold. It may be a sensible and earthly good; and to this, man was directly ordained by the Old Law: wherefore, at the very outset of the law, the people were invited to the earthly kingdom of the Chananaeans (Ex. 3:8,17). Again it may be an intelligible and heavenly good: and to this, man is ordained by the New Law. Wherefore, at the very beginning of His preaching, Christ invited men to the kingdom of heaven, saying (Mt. 4:17): "Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. iv) that "promises of temporal goods are contained in the Old Testament, for which reason it is called old; but the promise of eternal life belongs to the New Testament."
Secondly, it belongs to the law to direct human acts according to the order of righteousness (A[4]): wherein also the New Law surpasses the Old Law, since it directs our internal acts, according to Mt. 5:20: "Unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Hence the saying that "the Old Law restrains the hand, but the New Law controls the mind" (Sentent. iii, D, xl).
Thirdly, it belongs to the law to induce men to observe its commandments. This the Old Law did by the fear of punishment: but the New Law, by love, which is poured into our hearts by the grace of Christ, bestowed in the New Law, but foreshadowed in the Old. Hence Augustine says (Contra Adimant. Manich. discip. xvii) that "there is little difference [*The 'little difference' refers to the Latin words 'timor' and 'amor'-'fear' and 'love.'] between the Law and the Gospel-fear and love."

ARTICLE 6: Whether there is a law in the fomes of sin?

I answer that, As stated above (A[2]; Q[90], A[1], ad 1), the law, as to its essence, resides in him that rules and measures; but, by way of participation, in that which is ruled and measured; so that every inclination or ordination which may be found in things subject to the law, is called a law by participation, as stated above (A[2]; Q[90], A[1] , ad 1). Now those who are subject to a law may receive a twofold inclination from the lawgiver. First, in so far as he directly inclines his subjects to something; sometimes indeed different subjects to different acts; in this way we may say that there is a military law and a mercantile law. Secondly, indirectly; thus by the very fact that a lawgiver deprives a subject of some dignity, the latter passes into another order, so as to be under another law, as it were: thus if a soldier be turned out of the army, he becomes a subject of rural or of mercantile legislation.
Accordingly under the Divine Lawgiver various creatures have various natural inclinations, so that what is, as it were, a law for one, is against the law for another: thus I might say that fierceness is, in a way, the law of a dog, but against the law of a sheep or another meek animal. And so the law of man, which, by the Divine ordinance, is allotted to him, according to his proper natural condition, is that he should act in accordance with reason: and this law was so effective in the primitive state, that nothing either beside or against reason could take man unawares. But when man turned his back on God, he fell under the influence of his sensual impulses: in fact this happens to each one individually, the more he deviates from the path of reason, so that, after a fashion, he is likened to the beasts that are led by the impulse of sensuality, according to Ps. 48:21: "Man, when he was in honor, did not understand: he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them."
So, then, this very inclination of sensuality which is called the "fomes," in other animals has simply the nature of a law (yet only in so far as a law may be said to be in such things), by reason of a direct inclination. But in man, it has not the nature of law in this way, rather is it a deviation from the law of reason. But since, by the just sentence of God, man is destitute of original justice, and his reason bereft of its vigor, this impulse of sensuality,whereby he is led, in so far as it is a penalty following from the Divine law depriving man of his proper dignity, has the nature of a law.


QUESTION 92
OF THE EFFECTS OF LAW (TWO ARTICLES)


ARTICLE 1: Whether an effect of law is to make men good?

OBJECTION 1: It seems that it is not an effect of law to make men good. For men are good through virtue, since virtue, as stated in Ethic. ii, 6 is "that which makes its subject good." But virtue is in man from God alone, because He it is Who "works it in us without us," as we stated above (Q[55], A[4]) in giving the definition of virtue. Therefore the law does not make men good.
OBJ. 2: Further, Law does not profit a man unless he obeys it. But the very fact that a man obeys a law is due to his being good. Therefore in man goodness is presupposed to the law. Therefore the law does not make men good.
OBJ. 3: Further, Law is ordained to the common good, as stated above (Q[90], A[2]). But some behave well in things regarding the community, who behave ill in things regarding themselves. Therefore it is not the business of the law to make men good.
OBJ. 4: Further, some laws are tyrannical, as the Philosopher says (Polit. iii, 6). But a tyrant does not intend the good of his subjects, but considers only his own profit. Therefore law does not make men good.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 1) that the "intention of every lawgiver is to make good citizens."
I answer that, as stated above (Q[90], A[1], ad 2; AA[3],4), a law is nothing else than a dictate of reason in the ruler by whom his subjects are governed. Now the virtue of any subordinate thing consists in its being well subordinated to that by which it is regulated: thus we see that the virtue of the irascible and concupiscible faculties consists in their being obedient to reason; and accordingly "the virtue of every subject consists in his being well subjected to his ruler," as the Philosopher says (Polit. i). But every law aims at being obeyed by those who are subject to it. Consequently it is evident that the proper effect of law is to lead its subjects to their proper virtue: and since virtue is "that which makes its subject good," it follows that the proper effect of law is to make those to whom it is given, good, either simply or in some particular respect. For if the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on true good, which is the common good regulated according to Divine justice, it follows that the effect of the law is to make men good simply. If, however, the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on that which is not simply good, but useful or pleasurable to himself, or in opposition to Divine justice; then the law does not make men good simply, but in respect to that particular government. In this way good is found even in things that are bad of themselves: thus a man is called a good robber, because he works in a way that is adapted to his end.

Reply OBJ. 1: Virtue is twofold, as explained above (Q[63], A[2]), viz. acquired and infused. Now the fact of being accustomed to an action contributes to both, but in different ways; for it causes the acquired virtue; while it disposes to infused virtue, and preserves and fosters it when it already exists. And since law is given for the purpose of directing human acts; as far as human acts conduce to virtue, so far does law make men good. Wherefore the Philosopher says in the second book of the Politics (Ethic. ii) that "lawgivers make men good by habituating them to good works."
Reply OBJ. 2: It is not always through perfect goodness of virtue that one obeys the law, but sometimes it is through fear of punishment, and sometimes from the mere dictates of reason, which is a beginning of virtue, as stated above (Q[63], A[1]).
Reply OBJ. 3: The goodness of any part is considered in comparison with the whole; hence Augustine says (Confess. iii) that "unseemly is the part that harmonizes not with the whole." Since then every man is a part of the state, it is impossible that a man be good, unless he be well proportionate to the common good: nor can the whole be well consistent unless its parts be proportionate to it. Consequently the common good of the state cannot flourish, unless the citizens be virtuous, at least those whose business it is to govern. But it is enough for the good of the community, that the other citizens be so far virtuous that they obey the commands of their rulers. Hence the Philosopher says (Polit. ii, 2) that "the virtue of a sovereign is the same as that of a good man, but the virtue of any common citizen is not the same as that of a good man."
Reply OBJ. 4: A tyrannical law, through not being according to reason, is not a law, absolutely speaking, but rather a perversion of law; and yet in so far as it is something in the nature of a law, it aims at the citizens' being good. For all it has in the nature of a law consists in its being an ordinance made by a superior to his subjects, and aims at being obeyed by them, which is to make them good, not simply, but with respect to that particular government.


ARTICLE 2: Whether the acts of law are suitably assigned?

OBJ. 4: Further, the intention of a lawgiver is to make men good, as stated above (A[1]). But he that obeys the law, merely through fear of being punished, is not good: because "although a good deed may be done through servile fear, i.e. fear of punishment, it is not done well," as Augustine says (Contra duas Epist. Pelag. ii). Therefore punishment is not a proper effect of law.

I answer that, Just as an assertion is a dictate of reason asserting something, so is a law a dictate of reason, commanding something. Now it is proper to reason to lead from one thing to another. Wherefore just as, in demonstrative sciences, the reason leads us from certain principles to assent to the conclusion, so it induces us by some means to assent to the precept of the law.
Now the precepts of law are concerned with human acts, in which the law directs, as stated above (Q[90], AA[1],2; Q[91], A[4]). Again there are three kinds of human acts: for, as stated above (Q[18], A[8]), some acts are good generically, viz. acts of virtue; and in respect of these the act of the law is a precept or command, for "the law commands all acts of virtue" (Ethic. v, 1). Some acts are evil generically, viz. acts of vice, and in respect of these the law forbids. Some acts are generically indifferent, and in respect of these the law permits; and all acts that are either not distinctly good or not distinctly bad may be called indifferent. And it is the fear of punishment that law makes use of in order to ensure obedience: in which respect punishment is an effect of law.
Reply OBJ. 4: From becoming accustomed to avoid evil and fulfill what is good, through fear of punishment, one is sometimes led on to do so likewise, with delight and of one's own accord. Accordingly, law, even by punishing, leads men on to being good.

QUESTION 93 OF THE ETERNAL LAW (SIX ARTICLES)


ARTICLE 1: Whether the eternal law is a sovereign type [*Ratio] existing in God?

I answer that, Just as in every artificer there preexists a type of the things that are made by his art, so too in every governor there must preexist 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 (Q[90]). 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 First Part, Q[14], A[8]. Moreover He governs all the acts and movements that are to be found in each single creature, as was also stated in the First Part, Q[103], A[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.


ARTICLE 2: Whether the eternal law is known to all?

OBJECTION 1: It would seem that the eternal law is not known to all. Because, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. 2:11), "the things that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God." But the eternal law is a type existing in the Divine mind. Therefore it is unknown to all save God alone.
OBJ. 2: Further, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 6) "the eternal law is that by which it is right that all things should be most orderly." But all do not know how all things are most orderly. Therefore all do not know the eternal law.
OBJ. 3: Further, Augustine says (De Vera Relig. xxxi) that "the eternal law is not subject to the judgment of man." But according to Ethic. i, "any man can judge well of what he knows." Therefore the eternal law is not known to us.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 6) that "knowledge of the eternal law is imprinted on us."
I answer that, 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. 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.
Reply OBJ. 1: We cannot know the things that are of God, as they are in themselves; but they are made known to us in their effects, according to Rm. 1:20: "The invisible things of God...are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made."
Reply OBJ. 2: Although each one knows the eternal law according to his own capacity, in the way explained above, yet none can comprehend it: for it cannot be made perfectly known by its effects. Therefore it does not follow that anyone who knows the eternal law in the way aforesaid, knows also the whole order of things, whereby they are most orderly.
Reply OBJ. 3: To judge a thing may be understood in two ways. First, as when a cognitive power judges of its proper object, according to Job 12:11: "Doth not the ear discern words, and the palate of him that eateth, the taste?" It is to this kind of judgment that the Philosopher alludes when he says that "anyone can judge well of what he knows," by judging, namely, whether what is put forward is true. In another way we speak of a superior judging of a subordinate by a kind of practical judgment, as to whether he should be such and such or not. And thus none can judge of the eternal law.

ARTICLE 3: Whether every law is derived from the eternal law?

OBJ. 2: Further, nothing unjust can be derived from the eternal law, because, as stated above (A[2], OBJ[2]), "the eternal law is that, according to which it is right that all things should be most orderly." But some laws are unjust, according to Is. 10:1: "Woe to them that make wicked laws." Therefore not every law is derived from the eternal law.
OBJ. 3: Further, Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5) that "the law which is framed for ruling the people, rightly permits many things which are punished by Divine providence." But the type of Divine providence is the eternal law, as stated above (A[1]). Therefore not even every good law is derived from the eternal law.
On the contrary, Divine Wisdom says (Prov. 8:15): "By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things." But the type of Divine Wisdom is the eternal law, as stated above (A[1]). Therefore all laws proceed from the eternal law.
I answer that, As stated above (Q[90], AA[1],2), the law denotes a kind of plan directing acts towards an end. 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. 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 undercraftsmen, who work with their hands. 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."

Reply OBJ
. 2: 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 Rm. 13:1.
Reply OBJ. 3: Human law is said to permit certain things, not as approving them, but as being unable to direct them. And many things are directed by the Divine law, which human law is unable to direct, because more things are subject to a higher than to a lower cause. Hence the very fact that human law does not meddle with matters it cannot direct, comes under the ordination of the eternal law. It would be different, were human law to sanction what the eternal law condemns. Consequently it does not follow that human law is not derived from the eternal law, but that it is not on a perfect equality with it.

ARTICLE 4: Whether necessary and eternal things are subject to the eternal law?


ARTICLE 5: Whether natural contingents are subject to the eternal law?


OBJECTION 1: It would seem that natural contingents are not subject to the eternal law. Because promulgation is essential to law, as stated above (Q[90], A[4]). But a law cannot be promulgated except to rational creatures, to whom it is possible to make an announcement. Therefore none but rational creatures are subject to the eternal law; and consequently natural contingents are not.
OBJ. 2: Further, "Whatever obeys reason partakes somewhat of reason," as stated in Ethic. i. But the eternal law, is the supreme type, as stated above (A[1]). Since then natural contingents do not partake of reason in any way, but are altogether void of reason, it seems that they are not subject to the eternal law.
I answer that, 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 (Q[1], A[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.
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 Ps. 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.

Reply OBJ. 1: The impression of an inward active principle is to natural things, what the promulgation of law is to men: because law, by being promulgated, imprints on man a directive principle of human actions, as stated above.
Reply OBJ. 2: Irrational creatures neither partake of nor are obedient to human reason: whereas they do partake of the Divine Reason by obeying it; because the power of Divine Reason extends over more things than human reason does. And as the members of the human body are moved at the command of reason, and yet do not partake of reason, since they have no apprehension subordinate to reason; so too irrational creatures are moved by God, without, on that account, being rational.

ARTICLE 6: Whether all human affairs are subject to the eternal law?

OBJECTION 1: It would seem that not all human affairs are subject to the eternal law. For the Apostle says (Gal. 5:18): "If you are led by the spirit you are not under the law." But the righteous who are the sons of God by adoption, are led by the spirit of God, according to Rm. 8:14: "Whosoever are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Therefore not all men are under the eternal law.
OBJ. 2: Further, the Apostle says (Rm. 8:7): "The prudence [Vulg.: 'wisdom'] of the flesh is an enemy to God: for it is not subject to the law of God." But many are those in whom the prudence of the flesh dominates. Therefore all men are not subject to the eternal law which is the law of God.
OBJ. 3: Further, Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 6) that "the eternal law is that by which the wicked deserve misery, the good, a life of blessedness." But those who are already blessed, and those who are already lost, are not in the state of merit. Therefore they are not under the eternal law.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix, 12): "Nothing evades the laws of the most high Creator and Governor, for by Him the peace of the universe is administered."
I answer that, There are two ways in which a thing is subject to the eternal law, as explained above (A[5]): first, by partaking of the eternal law by way of knowledge; secondly, by way of action and passion, i.e. by partaking of the eternal law by way of an inward motive principle: and in this second way, irrational creatures are subject to the eternal law, as stated above (A[5]). But since the rational nature, together with that which it has in common with all creatures, has something proper to itself inasmuch as it is rational, consequently it is subject to the eternal law in
both ways; because while each rational creature has some knowledge of the eternal law, as stated above (A[2]), it also has a natural inclination to that which is in harmony with the eternal law; for "we are naturally adapted to the recipients of virtue" (Ethic. ii, 1).
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.
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."

Reply OBJ. 1: This saying of the Apostle may be understood in two ways. First, so that a man is said to be under the law, through being pinned down thereby, against his will, as by a load. Hence, on the same passage a gloss says that "he is under the law, who refrains from evil deeds, through fear of punishment threatened by the law, and not from love of virtue." In this way the spiritual man is not under the law, because he fulfils the law willingly, through charity which is poured into his heart by the Holy Ghost. Secondly, it can be understood as meaning that the works of a man, who is led by the Holy Ghost, are the works of the Holy Ghost rather than his own. Therefore, since the Holy Ghost is not under the law, as neither is the Son, as stated above (A[4], ad 2); it follows that such works, in so far as they are of the Holy Ghost, are not under the law. The Apostle witnesses to this when he says (2 Cor. 3:17): "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Reply OBJ. 2: The prudence of the flesh cannot be subject to the law of God as regards action; since it inclines to actions contrary to the Divine law: yet it is subject to the law of God, as regards passion; since it deserves to suffer punishment according to the law of Divine justice. Nevertheless in no man does the prudence of the flesh dominate so far as to destroy the whole good of his nature: and consequently there remains in man the inclination to act in accordance with the eternal law. For we have seen above (Q[85], A[2]) that sin does not destroy entirely the good of nature.
Reply OBJ. 3: A thing is maintained in the end and moved towards the end by one and the same cause: thus gravity which makes a heavy body rest in the lower place is also the cause of its being moved thither. We therefore reply that as it is according to the eternal law that some deserve happiness, others unhappiness, so is it by the eternal law that some are maintained in a happy state, others in an unhappy state. Accordingly both the blessed and the damned
are under the eternal law.

QUESTION 94 OF THE NATURAL LAW (SIX ARTICLES)


ARTICLE 1: Whether the natural law is a habit?

ARTICLE 2: Whether the natural law contains several precepts, or only one?

I answer that, As stated above (Q[91], A[3]), the precepts of the natural law are to the practical reason, what the first principles of demonstrations are to the speculative reason; because both are selfevident principles. Now a thing is said to be selfevident in two ways: first, in itself; secondly, in relation to us. Any proposition is said to be selfevident in itself, if its predicate is contained in the notion of the subject: although, to one who knows not the definition of the subject, it happens that such a proposition is not selfevident. For instance, this proposition, "Man is a rational being," is, in its very nature, selfevident, since who says "man," says "a rational being": and yet to one who knows not what a man is, this proposition is not selfevident. Hence it is that, as Boethius says (De Hebdom.), certain axioms or propositions are universally selfevident 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 selfevident 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 selfevident that an angel is not circumscriptively in a place: but this is not evident to the unlearned, for they cannot grasp it.
Now a certain order is to be found in those things that are apprehended universally. For that which, before aught else, falls under apprehension, is "being," the notion of which is included in all things whatsoever a man apprehends. 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 "notbeing": and on this principle all others are based, as is stated in Metaph. iv, text. 9. 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." 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.
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. 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.


ARTICLE 3: Whether all acts of virtue are prescribed by the natural law?


ARTICLE 4: Whether the natural law is the same in all men?

I answer that, As stated above (AA[2],3), to the natural law belongs those things to which a man is inclined naturally: and among these it is proper to man to be inclined to act according to reason. Now the process of reason is from the common to the proper, as stated in Phys. i. The speculative reason, however, is differently situated in this matter, from the practical reason. For, since the speculative reason is busied chiefly with the necessary things, which cannot be otherwise than they are, its proper conclusions, like the universal principles, contain the truth without fail. The practical reason, on the other hand, is busied with contingent matters, about which human actions are concerned: and consequently, although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects. Accordingly then in speculative matters truth is the same in all men, both as to principles and as to conclusions: although the truth is not known to all as regards the conclusions, but only as regards the principles which are called common notions. But in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles: and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all.
It is therefore evident that, as regards the general principles whether of speculative or of practical reason, truth or rectitude is the same for all, and is equally known by all. As to the proper conclusions of the speculative reason, the truth is the same for all, but is not equally known to all: thus it is true for all that the three angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles, although it is not known to all. But as to the proper conclusions of the practical reason, neither is the truth or rectitude the same for all, nor, where it is the same, is it equally known by all. Thus it is right and true for all to act according to reason: and from this principle it follows as a proper conclusion, that goods entrusted to another should be restored to their owner. Now this is true for the majority of cases: but it may happen in a particular case that it would be injurious, and therefore unreasonable, to restore goods held in trust; for instance, if they are claimed for the purpose of fighting against one's country. And this principle will be found to fail the more, according as we descend further into detail, e.g. if one were to say that goods held in trust should be restored with such and such a guarantee, or in such and such a way; because the greater the number of conditions added, the greater the number of ways in which the principle may fail, so that it be not right to restore or not to restore.
Consequently we must say that the natural law, as to general principles, is the same for all, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge. But as to certain matters of detail, which are conclusions, as it were, of those general principles, it is the same for all in the majority of cases, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge; and yet in some few cases it may fail, both as to rectitude, by reason of certain obstacles (just as natures subject to generation and corruption fail in some few cases on account of some obstacle), and as to knowledge, since in some the reason is perverted by passion, or evil habit, or an evil disposition of nature; thus formerly, theft, although it is expressly contrary to the natural law, was not considered wrong among the Germans, as Julius Caesar relates (De Bello Gall. vi).


ARTICLE 5: Whether the natural law can be changed?

OBJ. 2: Further, the slaying of the innocent, adultery, and theft are against the natural law. But we find these things changed by God: as when God commanded Abraham to slay his innocent son (Gn. 22:2); and when he ordered the Jews to borrow and purloin the vessels of the Egyptians (Ex. 12:35); and when He commanded Osee to take to himself "a wife of fornications" (Osee 1:2). Therefore the natural law can be changed.
I answer that, A change in the natural law may be understood in two ways. First, by way of addition. In this sense nothing hinders the natural law from being changed: since many things for the benefit of human life have been added over and above the natural law, both by the Divine law and by human laws.
Secondly, a change in the natural law may be understood by way of subtraction, so that what previously was according to the natural law, ceases to be so. In this sense, the natural law is altogether unchangeable in its first principles: but in its secondary principles, which, as we have said (A[4]), are certain detailed proximate conclusions drawn from the first principles, the natural law is not changed so that what it prescribes be not right in most cases. But it may be changed in some particular cases of rare occurrence, through some special causes hindering the observance of such precepts, as stated above (A[4]).
Reply OBJ. 2: All men alike, both guilty and innocent, die the death of nature: which death of nature is inflicted by the power of God on account of original sin, according to 1 Kgs. 2:6: "The Lord killeth and maketh alive." Consequently, by the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever. In like manner adultery is intercourse with another's wife; who is allotted to him by the law emanating from God. Consequently intercourse with any woman, by the command of God, is neither adultery nor fornication. The same applies to theft, which is the taking of another's property. For whatever is taken by the command of God, to Whom all things belong, is not taken against the will of its owner, whereas it is in this that theft consists. Nor is it only in human things, that whatever is commanded by God is right; but also in natural things, whatever is done by God, is, in some way, natural, as stated in the First Part, Q[105], A[6], ad 1.


ARTICLE 6: Whether the law of nature can be abolished from the heart of man?

I answer that, As stated above (AA[4],5), there belong to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men's hearts. But it is blotted out in the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Q[77], A[2]). But as to the other, i.e. the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Rm. i), were not esteemed sinful.

QUESTION 95 OF HUMAN LAW (FOUR ARTICLES)

ARTICLE 1: Whether it was useful for laws to be framed by men?

I answer that, As stated above (Q[63], A[1]; Q[94], A[3]), man has a natural aptitude for virtue; but the perfection of virtue must be acquired by man by means of some kind of training. Thus we observe that man is helped by industry in his necessities, for instance, in food and clothing. Certain beginnings of these he has from nature, viz. his reason and his hands; but he has not the full complement, as other animals have, to whom nature has given sufficiency of clothing and food. Now it is difficult to see how man could suffice for himself in the matter of this training: since the perfection of virtue consists chiefly in withdrawing man from undue pleasures, to which above all man is inclined, and especially the young, who are more capable of being trained. Consequently a man needs to receive this training from another, whereby to arrive at the perfection of virtue. And as to those young people who are inclined to acts of virtue, by their good natural disposition, or by custom, or rather by the gift of God, paternal training suffices, which is by admonitions. But since some are found to be depraved, and prone to vice, and not easily amenable to words, it was necessary for such to be restrained from evil by force and fear, in order that, at least, they might desist from evil doing, and leave others in peace, and that they themselves, by being habituated in this way, might be brought to do willingly what hitherto they did from fear, and thus become virtuous. Now this kind of training, which compels through fear of punishment, is the discipline of laws. Therefore in order that man might have peace and virtue, it was necessary for laws to be framed: for, as the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 2), "as man is the most noble of animals if he be perfect in virtue, so is he the lowest of all, if he be severed from law and righteousness"; because man can use his reason to devise means of satisfying his lusts and evil passions, which other animals are unable to do.

ARTICLE 2: Whether every human law is derived from the natural law?

I answer that, As Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5) "that which is not just seems to be no law at all": wherefore the force of a law depends on the extent of its justice. Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just, from being right, according to the rule of reason. But the first rule of reason is the law of nature, as is clear from what has been stated above (Q[91], A[2], ad 2). Consequently every human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law.
But it must be noted that something may be derived from the natural law in two ways: first, as a conclusion from premises, secondly, by way of determination of certain generalities. The first way is like to that by which, in sciences, demonstrated conclusions are drawn from the principles: while the second mode is likened to that whereby, in the arts, general forms are particularized as to details: thus the craftsman needs to determine the general form of a house to some particular shape. Some things are therefore derived from the general principles of the natural law, by way of conclusions; e.g. that "one must not kill" may be derived as a conclusion from the principle that "one should do harm to no man": while some are derived therefrom by way of determination; e.g. the law of nature has it that the evildoer should be punished; but that he be punished in this or that way, is a determination of the law of nature.

Accordingly both modes of derivation are found in the human law. But those things which are derived in the first way, are contained in human law not as emanating therefrom exclusively, but have some force from the natural law also. But those things which are derived in the second way, have no other force than that of human law.


ARTICLE 3: Whether Isidore's description of the quality of positive law is appropriate?

ARTICLE 4: Whether Isidore's division of human laws is appropriate?

QUESTION 96
OF THE POWER OF HUMAN LAW (SIX ARTICLES)
ARTICLE 1: Whether human law should be framed for the community rather than for the individual?

ARTICLE 2: Whether it belongs to the human law to repress all vices?

OBJECTION 1: It would seem that it belongs to human law to repress all vices. For Isidore says (Etym. v, 20) that "laws were made in order that, in fear thereof, man's audacity might be held in check." But it would not be held in check sufficiently, unless all evils were repressed by law. Therefore human laws should repress all evils.
OBJ. 2: Further, the intention of the lawgiver is to make the citizens virtuous. But a man cannot be virtuous unless he forbear from all kinds of vice. Therefore it belongs to human law to repress all vices.
OBJ. 3: Further, human law is derived from the natural law, as stated above (Q[95], A[2]). But all vices are contrary to the law of nature. Therefore human law should repress all vices.

On the contrary, We read in De Lib. Arb. i, 5: "It seems to me that the law which is written for the governing of the people rightly permits these things, and that Divine providence punishes them." But Divine providence punishes nothing but vices. Therefore human law rightly allows some vices, by not repressing them.
I answer that, As stated above (Q[90], AA[1],2), law is framed as a rule or measure of human acts. Now a measure should be homogeneous with that which it measures, as stated in Metaph. x, text. 3,4, since different things are measured by different measures. Wherefore laws imposed on men should also be in keeping with their condition, for, as Isidore says (Etym. v, 21), law should be "possible both according to nature, and according to the customs of the country." Now possibility or faculty of action is due to an interior habit or disposition: since the same thing is not possible to one who has not a virtuous habit, as is possible to one who has. Thus the same is not possible to a child as to a fullgrown man: for which reason the law for children is not the same as for adults, since many things are permitted to children, which in an adult are punished by law or at any rate are open to blame. In like manner many things are permissible to men not perfect in virtue, which would be intolerable in a virtuous man.
Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.

Reply OBJ. 1: Audacity seems to refer to the assailing of others. Consequently it belongs to those sins chiefly whereby one's neighbor is injured: and these sins are forbidden by human law, as stated.
Reply OBJ. 2: The purpose of human law is to lead men to virtue, not suddenly, but gradually. Wherefore it does not lay upon the multitude of imperfect men the burdens of those who are already virtuous, viz. that they should abstain from all evil. Otherwise these imperfect ones, being unable to bear such precepts, would break out into yet greater evils: thus it is written (Ps. 30:33): "He that violently bloweth his nose, bringeth out blood"; and (Mt. 9:17) that if "new wine," i.e. precepts of a perfect life, "is put into old bottles," i.e. into imperfect men, "the bottles break, and the wine runneth out," i.e. the precepts are despised, and those men, from contempt, break into evils worse still.
Reply OBJ. 3: The natural law is a participation in us of the eternal law: while human law falls short of the eternal law. Now Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5): "The law which is framed for the government of states, allows and leaves unpunished many things that are punished by Divine providence. Nor, if this law does not attempt to do everything, is this a reason why it should be blamed for what it does." Wherefore, too, human law does not prohibit everything that is forbidden by the natural law.

ARTICLE 3: Whether human law prescribes acts of all the virtues?

OBJ. 2: Further, a virtuous act proceeds from a virtue. But virtue is the end of law; so that whatever is from a virtue, cannot come under a precept of law. Therefore human law does not prescribe all acts of virtue.
I answer that, The species of virtues are distinguished by their objects, as explained above (Q[54], A[2]; Q[60], A[1]; Q[62], A[2]). Now all the objects of virtues can be referred either to the private good of an individual, or to the common good of the multitude: thus matters of fortitude may be achieved either for the safety of the state, or for upholding the rights of a friend, and in like manner with the other virtues. But law, as stated above (Q[90], A[2]) is ordained to the common good. Wherefore there is no virtue whose acts cannot be prescribed by the law. Nevertheless human law does not prescribe concerning all the acts of every virtue: but only in regard to those that are ordainable to the common good-either immediately, as when certain things are done directly for the common good-or mediately, as when a lawgiver prescribes certain things pertaining to good order, whereby the citizens are directed in the upholding of the common good of justice and peace.
Reply OBJ. 2: An act is said to be an act of virtue in two ways. First, from the fact that a man does something virtuous; thus the act of justice is to do what is right, and an act of fortitude is to do brave things: and in this way law prescribes certain acts of virtue. Secondly an act of virtue is when a man does a virtuous thing in a way in which a virtuous man does it. Such an act always proceeds from virtue: and it does not come under a precept of law, but is the end at which every lawgiver aims.

ARTICLE 4: Whether human law binds a man in conscience?

I answer that, Laws framed by man are either just or unjust. If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived, according to Prov. 8:15: "By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things."….

ARTICLE 5: Whether all are subject to the law?

ARTICLE 6: Whether he who is under a law may act beside the letter of the law?


QUESTION 97 OF CHANGE IN LAWS (FOUR ARTICLES)
ARTICLE 1: Whether human law should be changed in any way?
ARTICLE 2: Whether human law should always be changed, whenever something better occurs?
ARTICLE 3: Whether custom can obtain force of law?
ARTICLE 4: Whether the rulers of the people can dispense from human laws?




Study Guide (in process of revision)

90 1. If law pertains to reason, in what way is there a "law" in the members? Then, the main thing to understand is simply what Thomas means by "pertains to reason," that the rule and measure of human acts is reason.

2. What is the common good for St. Thomas? How does it differ from other notions of the common good?

3. Why is law an "efficacious inducement to virtue"? What is the difference between law doing this and an individual inducing another to virtue?

4. Contains key definition.

91 1. Know what eternal law is.

2. Know what natural law is in relation to it. Can skip obj. 2.

3. What is the nature and origin of human law? Can skip obj. 2.

4. Essential, and easy to grasp. Why is there a divine law? Due to man's supernatural end. Be able to comment on the phrase "if m an were ordained to no other end than that which is proportionate to his natural faculty."

5. Distinguish the O.T. law from the N.T. law in three ways. Is Thomas accurate on all counts here?

6. Similar to the very first question under 90,1. Also, note the fine analogy in reply to obj. 1.

92 1. Crucial. Law is to make us good. Can it cause virtue? Also, study obj. 3 carefully.

2. (can skip obj. 1 and 2) This shows the educative function of law. It helps us understand the question "can virtue be taught."

93 1. God IS the eternal law. This is especially important when realizing that NL is a participation in the eternal law, for then it is a participation in God Himself--NOT a weak, contingent approximation of the truth.

2. Repeats this very point, namely, that all participate in the eternal law through the natural law. No one knows the eternal law perfectly--but this does not mean that our knowledge is approximate. Our knowledge is accurate as far as it goes.

3. Key is obj. 3-- Human law permits things that are contrary to eternal and divine law. Why? So as to approve of them?

4. skip, but the reply to obj. 2 makes the key point already covered that God IS the eternal law, and the Word also IS the eternal law.

5. (can skip obj. 3) ALL nature is "imprinted" by God's eternal law. Reply to 2 shows how animals are like the members of the body: moved at the command of reason, but not partaking themselves of reason.

6. How are the blessed still under eternal law? Why is the spiritual man not under the law? Note the Catholic versus Protestant interpretations of this. Also, end of reply to obj. 2 is crucial.

94

1. (can skip obj. 1)

2. What is the first principle of practical reason, and then what is the first
precept of the natural law?


Next, Thom as suggests what he calls commonly known general principles, which represent concrete (though general) instantiations of the principle "do good and avoid evil." We shall label these principles "level 2" principles. These general principles represent what might be called the "basic goods" of human existence. We are always to act
toward such goods. They are, like the first principle, self-evident.

I) preserve life (hence, life itself is a fundamental good).

ii) the conjugal act and the education of offspring (hence, sexual intercourse is a particular aspect of the basic good of hum an sexuality, and children are a basic good).

iii) Certain inclinations due to our rational nature, which make us distinct from animals. Thomas gives several examples and implies that there are many other such inclinations.
a. to know the truth about God
b. to live in society
c. shun ignorance
d. avoid being offensive
e. ...and "other such things"

3. very confusing--may skip or challenge yourself.

4, 5, and 6--all focus on the "descent into detail"--very delicate material to interpret. (4, can skip obj. 2; 5, can skip obj. 1; 6, can skip obj. 3)

95 1. Many think inducement, not coercive law, ought be the only valid means of guiding people. Thomas shows this to be fallacious--a splendid argument. obj. 2 deals with the need for law AND judges, and 3 extends on this.

2. (can skip obj. 2 and 4) Note the distinction between derivation by conclusion verses determination.

3. and 4. can skip

96 1. can skip

2. Important. Shows why human law cannot repress all vices. And don't miss the reply to Obj. 2, the motto of all good rulers.

3. Critical. Al virtues affect both the private and the common good. But law can only deal with the
acts of the virtues, and then only those concerning the temporal common good. Distinguish doing something virtuous and an act of virtue. Reply to 2 is very clear.

4. Shows how human power is from God, and shows why unjust laws aren't so derived and are not laws. Basis for civil disobedience.

5. Can skip. Explains why Thom as is not legalistic--there are exceptions to laws.

6. note the analogy of the besieged city.

97 1. Why and how should human laws change?

2. Shows how laws in the realm of mere custom ought not be changed except for good reason. Why?

3. can skip

4. Shows why an exception can be made for an individual--for serious reasons, for the common good.

End of study guide for Treatise on Law.


IV: The Body and Natural Law (VS 47-53) (also relevant to bioethics, anthropology)


15. The Accusation of Physicalism/Biologism

a. God's Will Written in Nature

The first two of the "level II" principles considered in this chapter have to do with features of humanity shared in common with animals. This presents a difficulty which must be discussed in some detail, and so we return to those two principles.

According to traditional natural law theory, moral norms regarding the two areas of preserving life and procreating are "written into nature" and God speaks through nature as his instrument or secondary cause.

i) We all have a natural life span. At some time or other, nature's "clock" runs down and we die. Until that time, there is a thread--however slender at times--of health, of life, in us. According to traditional natural law theory, we ought never interfere with that thread of health. We ought never decide to end life at a time we determine on our own, regardless of how good our intentions might be in so doing. God is the arbiter of life and death, and through the secondary cause of nature he alone appoints the time of death. To interfere is a misuse of our intellect and will, playing God rather than assenting to His will. We may, of course, use our intellects in the discovery and the application of scientific/medical means for enhancing or healing the body, though even this can be misused in situations where life is "forced" on a terminally ill person with disproportionate treatment.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky's classic
Crime and Punishment provides an illuminating example. Raskolnikov is considering murdering a particularly despicable pawnbroker. As he "weighs" the pros and cons, it appears that nothing but good consequences could come from the murder; for this lady badly mistreats her assistant, and plans to leave her no inheritance. Raskolnikov plans to use the stolen money toward a noble end. However, he overhears the conversation of a student and an officer who, coincidentally, are discussing a very similar matter:

'...I swear I could kill that damned old woman without a single twinge of conscience,' exclaimed the student hotly....'Kill her, take her money, on condition that you dedicate yourself with its help to the service of humanity and the common good: don't you think that thousands of good deeds will wipe out one little, insignificant transgression....What is the life of that stupid, spiteful, consumptive old woman weighed against the common good?....'
'She doesn't deserve to live, certainly,' remarked the officer, 'but there you are, that's nature.’


The fact is, however despicable the pawnbroker's life, another individual ought not arbitrate over it. If we were allowed, say, to kill individuals who in our judgment were not worthy of life, as Raskolnikov wishes to do, we would be introducing a rather arbitrary standard by which to judge personal worth. "Nature" is a prevention for such arbitrariness. Anyone possessing a human nature ought to be respected as a person with a right to life.

ii) Males and females are fertile by nature. This fertility--the fertility cycle in females--is a natural phenomenon and according to traditional natural law theory ought never be artificially manipulated. We ought never intentionally render a particular act of sexual intercourse void of procreative potential. God is the arbiter of human life and through the secondary causes of male and female fertility he alone creates new life through the couple. To interfere is to misuse our intellect and will, playing God rather than assenting to his will. We may control birth, of course, by avoiding intercourse or by working within the natural parameters of the female fertility cycle. But we must respect the natural potentialities of the act of intercourse by not manipulating the natural fertility of the male or female. We may also use our intellects in the discovery and application of scientific/medical means for enhancing or healing the body in its dimension of fertility.

It is commonplace among revisionists to argue that this traditional natural law theory succumbs to a base physicalism or biologism at the expense of a more personalistic ethics. The traditional approach, it is claimed, is a sort of "natural fundamentalism.”

Revisionists claim that this adherence to nature violates our rational capacities as human beings. W e must, as Daniel Maguire notes, use reason to decide when and when not to "follow nature." Such an attitude, it is claimed, prevents "slavery" to nature--biologism or physicalism--and allows instead a personalist approach to ethics, one that takes seriously our creative uniqueness as human persons. As Maguire notes,

Birth control was, for a very long time, impeded by the physicalistic ethics that left moral man at the mercy of his biology. He had no choice but to conform to the rhythm s of his physical nature and to accept its determinations obediently. Only gradually did technological man discover that he was morally free to intervene creatively and to achieve birth control by choice.


Maguire makes a similar argument in regard to active euthanasia.

b. Reply to the Accusation of Physicalism

In fact the above quote represents a rather deterministic view of the human person at the mercy of biology. Man is free--unlike animals--to control his passions and thus control birth. Allowing man this freedom is the most ennobling view of the human person; this is true personalism. Situations wherein man must struggle to control his passions, or situations where there is great pain before death, are complex situations. But to use technological means--be it contraception, sterilization, abortion, or euthanasia--to meet such complex demands robs man of his dignity and his personhood. It reduces man to a mere animal, following that which is instinctual. Hence, it is actually the revisionist request which is "physicalist" and the traditional natural law method that is truly personalist.

It is tempting to follow the revisionist understanding of personalism. For in complex situations we have a natural tendency to wish to "ease the burden of life" for ourselves and others. Allowing the moral bedrock to "give" in complex situations--when there is "proportionate reason"--sometimes appears to be in the deepest interest of the individual person who is struggling; hence "personalism."

But finally this understanding of personalism is illusory. For the natural tendency to "ease the burden" is in many cases nothing other than our concupiscent tendency which we ought to resist, acting instead in accord with our healed natures. As Christ gives us the grace to resist the downward pull of the concupiscent tendency, in the final analysis "his yoke is easy and his burden light." This is due to His grace, not to our skill in using our intellect to judge when there is a proportionate reason for doing evil (which proportionalists of course reduce to "premoral" evil.

In sum, the traditional natural law does not reduce to an anti-personalist brute physicalism/biologism. If the traditional natural law emphasis really succumbed to a brute physicalism that reduced man to the animal level, then why did it not allow man to simply follow his "instinctive" passions? A physicalistic natural law theory, for example, would allow man to mate with whomsoever he felt so inclined. The genuine natural law tradition embraced by Catholicism always places the physical dimension within the broader context of man's personhood,
viz., his intellect and will.

VS--One of the most dense portions of Veritatis Splendor deals with the accusation of biologism. Read articles 47 through 53. "The spiritual and immortal soul is the principle of unity of the hum an being, whereby it exists as a whole--corpore et anima unus--as a person. These definitions not only point out that the body, which has been promised the resurrection, will also share in glory. They also remind us that reason and free will are linked with all the bodily and sense faculties. The person, including the body, is completely entrusted to himself, and it is in the unity of body and soul that the person is the subject of his own moral acts. The person...discovers in the body the anticipatory signs, the expression and the promise of the gift of self, in conformity with the wise plan of the creator" (#48).

The concept of "anticipatory signs" stressed in VS indicates the unity between person and body that is at the heart of Catholic anthropology. The body does not provide a perfect moral code for us. But it does provide a starting point, a context, within which parameters we discover the personal meaning of the body and discern moral norms about bodily actions.

16. An Example of “Anticipatory Signs”: The Sacred Interplay of Sexuality and Procreation

Practitioners of Natural Family Planning (NFP), while adept at setting the stage for conception, also plot assiduously to avoid it, and in this they appear quite similar in their intent to practitioners of contraception. It’s the point that adherents of
Humanae Vitae don’t want to admit, and the trump card of those who think that letter mistaken: it is really difficult to explain in a clear and cogent manner why contraception and the use of NFP to avoid conception are so fundamentally different--grounded in radically distinct anthropologies, according to Familiaris Consorito--given that their ends are often identical. As Gilbert Meilaender and Phillip Turner have written: “The encyclical seems mistaken...in holding that intentional use of infertile periods and use of contraceptives are essentially different in that the one ‘uses a faculty that is given by nature’ and the other ‘impedes the order of generation from completing its own natural processes.’ If a husband and wife want, as they ought, to hold together within their marriage the love-giving and life-giving purposes of sex, they must ‘make love’ not as the other animals mate but in ways that will fittingly and appropriately realize and sustain each of these purposes within a union of one flesh. Hence, the use of technique to assure the spacing of children and to enhance the shared love of spouses should be understood not as a violation of the natural law but as a right use of reason in support of the divinely intended purposes of marriage.”

In response, supporters of
Humanae Vitae often turn quickly (or even begin) with other types of arguments: the excellent effects that the practice of NFP has on a marriage, or the negative marital and societal effects of a “contraceptive mentality.” While these are powerful arguments, they are inconclusive: if contraception is wrong, it cannot be because it has bad consequences. Rather, bad consequences will manifest themselves because it is intrinsically wrong. Consequentialism doesn’t suddenly become legitimate when it supports your side of the argument. And, many supporters of contraception claim beneficial consequences. As Sarah Hinlicky notes: “It is difficult to see that nonabortafacient forms of birth control are intrinsically evil, for if they were, surely they would produce evil results in the couples that use them; and yet there are very many couples who employ contraception with only beneficial results.”

The texts cited above are from the symposium on
Humanae Vitae which appeared in First Things (December 1998). The best defenders of Humanae Vitae were there, but so were loyal Jews and Christians of varied traditions who opposed its central claims. The opposition did not have an agenda, as is so often the case with dissenting Catholics who wish to use the “obviously ludicrous mistakes” of Humanae Vitae to undermine a host of other teachings, the demolition of which is the pet project of the Catholic left. For someone coming to the debate undecided, it was difficult to see a clear winner. If anything, a follow-up editorial by James Neuchterlein almost underscored the merits of the position that distanced itself from Humanae Vitae. “Contraception did not, contrary to the warnings of Humanae Vitae on this point, lead me to lose respect for m y wife, nor lead her to feel used....We intended both the unitive and procreative goods of marriage, but not necessarily both in every act of love.”

Supporters of
Humanae Vitae find it tempting to just dismiss the opposition as victims of an implacable animosity toward Catholic sexual ethics, inexplicably mired in a relativistic autonomy on this particular issue. In turn many Protestants, as Neuchterlein noted, simply don’t see what the fuss is about--it’s one of those Catholic “in-house” problems, a heteronomous leftover from a somewhat Manichaean past (“If someone had told us...that we were ‘withholding our fertility from one another,’ he would have met with blank incomprehension”). Maybe both reactions are partly accurate--some autonomy in the one and some heteronomy in the other. In a heteronomous morality, the truth is extrinsically and legalistically imposed on the individual, usurping the discovery of the truth and disallowing its inner intelligibility to shine forth, hence denying the dignity of the person. The truth reduces to a rule and remains alien--that’s just what heteronomy means, an “alien law.” Heteronomous moralism is the natural reaction to an autonomous subjectivism in which truth is relativized. In turn autonomy is the natural reaction against heteronomy. Ironically, though not surprisingly, both positions share a fundamental arbitrariness. They are flip sides of the arbitrary, voluntaristic coin: for autonomy, truth is what I say it is, while for heteronomy, something is true because God, or the pope or the Bible, said so. Both ultimately negate the dignity of the human person, and contain a distorted understanding of truth that is unfriendly to human personhood. Heteronomy steals from us the joy of discovery and tramples our freedom, while autonomy leaves us nothing to discover and makes freedom its own end (it’s true because I chose it--voluntarism). Both approaches are wide of the m ark but are almost like automatic default settings on an issue like human sexuality. Insofar as Christians, across denominational lines, succumb to one or the other they hinder the serious inquiry that should perdure among fellow Christian travelers for so important an issue.

John Paul II speaks in
Veritatis Splendor of a “participated theonomy” that transcends both types of arbitrariness. The human person genuinely participates in God’s order. As opposed to moral autonomy, there is an ordered reality outside the individual; as opposed to heteronomy people can discover and understand that reality and order their lives according to it. For a participated theonomy, God’s plan involves and is friendly to our being, and our human dignity is affirmed and enriched in that participation. Veritatis Splendor shows how a participated theonomy would inform the central areas of fundamental moral theology, such as sin, conscience and natural law. My plan here is to explore how a participated theonomy would inform the unitive and procreative meanings of human sexuality. God’s creative plan is exclusive of both an autonomy wherein we ourselves are the arbiters over new lives, and a heteronomy wherein we become passive instruments through which God, almost by divine fiat, extrinsically imposes new lives onto the world.

i. God’s Method

We partake in God’s creativity. God creates new human lives in, through and by means of married couples--a vulnerable method, easily usurped, but one commensurate with our freedom and dignity. God has given couples, through nature, a set of instruments to use in their special mission to help him in the creation (pro-creation) of children. These instruments are the fertility cycle and the generative faculties, and it is when these two
intersect that something more than just biological occurs: if God wills to create new life, it is at this intersection that he will do so--call it the “sacred interplay of fertility and sexual intercourse,” or “sacred interplay” for short. Biological these instruments are, but if they were just biological, then any suggestion that we must align ourselves with them would be a heteronomous imposition. We would be reduced to animals, procreating in a mechanical way: here is what these biological organs do, now use them and have as many children as physically possible. The natural reaction to that heteronomous biologism is a quick flight to moral autonomy, desperately salvaging our freedom and dignity, reclaiming procreativity as our own territory. But the instruments of the sacred interplay are not merely biological--they are infused with a profound meaning, they speak a language, that deserves profound respect. They say: “You, the couple, will only discover your dignity and true freedom in the unreserved gift of self (cf. Gaudium et Spes 24), essential to which is the opening outward to that space where a new life may appear.” When people consider the use of the generative faculties, they ought to do so within the parameters of the great mystery of God’s creative space in which they are participating.

ii. Two Ways to Respect God’s Sacred Space

The respect due to this “sacred interplay” can manifest itself two ways--in both an engagement with that interplay and with a certain reserve toward it. It is analogous to the way we treat some parts of the natural world that are particularly magnificent. Consider a fine mountain toward which you are headed in order to hike or backpack. A sense of awe overtakes you as you approach the region and the mountains gradually come into sight. When you actually arrive at the base of the mountains, you will either climb or not climb, depending on numerous contingencies such as weather conditions (very sporadic) and your own condition (will that bad knee flare up?). If prudence dictates that you climb, off you go, but with caution and with a profound sense of reverence. If prudence dictates that you not climb--at least not right now--you are still filled with a genuine awe at the power the mountain holds. Disappointed though you may be, you are not resentful, for you see the mountain as a gift, the journey to its peak not as something owed. You spend your time hiking the numerous other splendid paths that this special region holds for you.

Either way, you have shown respect for this phenomenon of nature. Likewise with the instruments of fertility. Whether the couple engages that sacred space or not, there is a reverence for it as God’s special territory--if he is to create a child, a
“third,” it will be in and through the two, the two spouses causing sexual intercourse and fertility to intersect (the sacred interplay). That God uses this interplay to create new life is itself a gift from God. The two spouses, in their self-gift to each other, always have on their horizon the possibility of a child, a gift that might be given through the sacred interplay. Their respect for the space where that gift is made is an intrinsic part of their self-gift to each other--two types of surrender, unitive and procreative, occurring simultaneously. They give to each other in a modality that opens outward to another (a third), and they do this insofar as they tread on, or around, the sacred space respectfully.

iii. Procreativity/ “making babies”

The two people giving is the unitive meaning of sexuality, and opening outward to the third is the procreative meaning. Note the fresh new meaning of procreativity, now integrally linked to the sacred interplay. Although the procreative meaning is connected with the having of a child, it is not to be identified with the having of a child, or even necessarily with the intention of having a child. Rather, let us assign the word “procreativity” to the notion of uniting in such a way that there is “an opening outward beyond the two.”
Constitutive of this opening outward is the deep respect for the sacred interplay. Hence, we can distinguish “procreative kinds of acts” from “child-creating kinds of acts,” or, if you will, “baby-making kinds of acts.” M any procreative kinds of acts will not result in a baby. And, sadly, many baby-making kinds of acts will not be procreative kinds of acts--a woman can conceive even as she and her spouse are turned in on themselves.

The
unitive and procreative language of the body, while distinct, are inextricably linked. One cannot give the full gift of self to one’s spouse (the unitive meaning) without opening outward to the third (the procreative meaning), any more than one can fully open outward to the third apart from mutual self-donation. The unitive without the procreative is not properly unitive, and the procreative without the unitive is not properly procreative. Many a critic has erred in claiming that all acts of coition may be unitive, but that only some, by nature and human choice, will be procreative. Then, it supposedly follows, since nature makes many such acts non-procreative (“conception is statistical”), for us to so choose is just an extension of nature. But all sexual acts can and should be both unitive and procreative. When the couple respects the sacred interplay, the two, while distinguished, are never separated. Having traveled to the mountain, it looms everywhere, always remaining on the horizon of the adventure to which the couple gladly surrenders.

The broader notion of procreativity, with the distinction between procreative kinds of acts and “baby-making” kinds of acts, has liberating effects. Think of the infertile couple, or the post-menopausal couple. Upon hearing that sexuality has unitive and procreative meaning, they feel only half-way included--they can unite, but they can’t procreate. It won’t do to tell them: “At least you have the unitive meaning, and you’re not culpable for the missing procreative meaning since you yourselves didn’t intend that loss.” Rather, they really can have the procreative meaning, as much as and sometimes more than a couple having children. They don’t have that meaning only negatively, in the sense that they aren’t intentionally denying it. Instead, they positively possess the procreative meaning. In their respect for the sacred interplay their unitive acts open outward beyond the two. Spouses can learn from these couples that genuine self-gift embraces a due respect for the sacred interplay.

Our sexual energy is indicative of a longing, a thirst, within us, a desire for fulfillment. If this appetite is forged correctly, it will head toward self-gift, which will begin with a decision to tread the sacred interplay respectfully. But this is one of the most arduous things to do in human life due to concupiscence. The natural law doesn’t “come naturally.” It is immensely easy, for people who are very mature in other areas and who are highly competent individuals, to pursue this longing in a way that recoils back upon the self. This recoiling is often thought of as happening outside of marriage, as indeed it does, but it also happens easily right within a marriage. Then, our sexual energy involves not a giving but a taking, even if the taking occurs mutually (a "mutual accommodation of two independent egos," to use George Sims Johnston’s turn of phrase, or "mere simultaneous taking" rather than true mutual giving, to use Fr. Cormac Burke's). This recoiling happens many ways, not least of which is the decision to arbitrate over the sacred interplay.
An essential component of truly giving the self to another is to, with that other, respect that interplay. Since such respect is so much a part of the gift of self, destroying that interplay also damages the mutual gift of self. The couple marries for a variety of reasons, included within which should be the commitment to tread that sacred space together, and to tread it respectfully--that commitment is a great mutual gift, one to the other, and ultimately to God. To damage the sacred space is to withhold a substantial portion of that mutual gift of self.

iv. Can wreck the sacred Space

Again our analogy can serve us: it is possible to wreck a mountain. One can actually turn a beautiful mountain into a
different kind of place, one that will yield various goods (condominiums, a strip mine, a logging camp) but goods that don’t belong there. They are out-of-due-order goods and usurp the precious gift of the mountain itself. Certain mountains, unquestionably, should be largely left as they are. As it is possible to destroy the environment, it is possible--and convenient-- to claim the sacred interplay as a place of our own, letting God in to that space on our own terms. It is no longer his space, into which we are invited, but our space into which he is invited (which, always respecting our freedom, he allows). The autonomous use of the generative faculties, because it involve goods like pleasure and togetherness, can easily deceive us into thinking we pursue something truly good--just like the autonomous use of the mountain. In fact, we pursue a good that now lacks its due order to the highest good, thereby rendering that pursuit a privation of a due good. That is why many claim that contraception has not created any difficulties in their marriages. Like the blissful owners of the luxury condos blotting the mountain’s pristine beauty, they are unaware of or unconcerned about the damage they are causing. They are stealing these other goods from their proper place within a larger context (of higher goods) that is respectful of the God’s sacred space, the sacred interplay. They are using the body to speak some of the body’s truth, but not all of it--some theologians thus speak of lying with the body, or sexual lies.

The surrender by which we let that space remain God’s does not negate our full freedom and involvement. It is a surrender to a
participated theonomy, after all, not a heteronomy that suppresses our freedom or an autonomy that absolutizes it. It is not our sexual freedom (seized by a moral autonomy) versus God’s freedom to create new life (seized in a heteronomy); it is, rather, our sexuality always freely used to reverently acknowledge God’s creative power, a power he has placed right in our midst in which we partake. As this participatory cooperation involves the couple’s own conscientious decisions about family size, it is expected that they will at times avoid the conjugal act during the fertile period, just as people heading to the mountains won’t necessarily take the climb to the top. W hen the spouses abstain in good conscience, they are respecting the profound role that God plays when it comes to the sacred interplay of fertility and coition. They never deny this sacred interplay, any more than the hikers who keep their distance from the mountain show disrespect for the mountain--call this a “prudent reserve.” Rather the spouses affirm the sacred interplay, either in trying to conceive or deciding that conception would be imprudent here and now. We might say that they affirm the sacred interplay by commission or omission. They avoid treating the conjugal act as a different kind of act, a contraceptive kind of act, one that denies this sacred interplay.

v. Technology

When technology is used to damage something, it is not the technology itself that is the problem. Think of the fine and fancy equipment--cell phones, electronic satellite maps, weather radios--that “naturalists” use in their expeditions to get closer to nature than ever imaginable by most people. Or consider the use of technology to make improvements that respect the basic nature of the mountain--the well-blazed trail, erosion protection, even the ski lift. These improvements do not change the nature of the mountain but work to protect it even while allowing us to partake in it. They are “natural” improvements. Likewise, when couples turn the sacred interplay into a place of their own, it is not the technology
per se that is the problem. “Natural” family planning doesn’t mean “natural” as opposed to “artificial”--in fact, there are all sorts of technologies available for helping women to accurately chart their cycles (laden with transcendent meaning). “Natural” family planning means family planning in accord with the nature of the body, or more precisely, the natural truth planted by the Creator within the sacred interplay. As Veritatis Splendor 50 notes, technology is good, except when used to deny the meaning inherent in the body--in this case, God’s sacred space.

vi. An NFP Error

In the proper use of natural family planning, the couple is like the people in our analogy who are headed toward the sacred mountain, watching for it to appear on the horizon. They are watching for the time of fertility to appear, aware that this will be a time to either engage the sacred interplay between the impending fertility and their sexual energies, or not to so engage. They are not so much watching for the “danger zone” or the “unsafe time”--common but misleading terminology used by teachers of NFP--as they are watching for something sacred to appear on the horizon, precisely so that they can treat it as the gift that it is. Intention makes all the difference here. As St. Thomas reminds,
bad intent can turn a good act bad (while good intent won’t render a bad act good). You may have met the arrogant (always exquisitely equipped!) adventurers, quick with their one-upmanship, who think they own the mountain. To them we wish to say, you have no right to this peak and your peremptory attitude wrecks the great good you have achieved. Practitioners of NFP must assiduously avoid such an attitude, whereby they would lord their accomplishment over others. Conversely, think of the adventurers turned lethargic complacently relaxing at the cabin in the foothills. To them we wish to say, you should be out and about with an eye toward the mountain peak. The good of the peaceful cabin and lovely scenic strolls is dimmed--there is a great gift at hand that they are refusing. Practitioners of NFP are not immune from letting selfishness get the best of them. Neither adventurer has wrecked the mountain, but their varied bad intentions have turned good acts bad.

Besides the properly intended use of NFP there are other cases in which the sacred space is respected precisely by that “prudent reserve” by which spouses remain at the foothills, at a respectful distance. Not everyone must be a mountain climber and there are other beautiful terrains to explore. With NFP, those foothills involve fertility without intercourse, and for others it means intercourse without fertility. Those couples struggling with infertility wish desperately to ascend and enter the sacred space, but know that, barring a miracle, they may be called to an extended stay at the foothills, perhaps as a profound witness to the incommensurate value of that which is held in reserve. Eventually, all couples settle in for that stay due to menopause, a fact that can come with sadness. The omission can be a profoundly positive phenomenon of deep homage to the sacred interplay. For infertile couples, it is directly proportionate to the pain experienced. In such light, the prohibitions regarding new birth technologies, contraception and sterilization are not legalistic heteronomous impositions but invitations to a positive participation in a great good--participated theonomy.

Couples who have gone through some or much of their marriages without a correct sense of the interplay to which they have been entrusted, may sense the deepest regret for having damaged it, at least in part. It is at this realization that couples must remember Christ’s all-encompassing forgiveness for all sin, and in our age, many couples may have been invincibly ignorant: many were taught virtually the opposite of Catholic doctrine (“Here’s the official teaching, but the Church also tells us to follow our consciences, so....”) and those taught the doctrine often caught a heteronomous rendition of it (“It’s true because the pope said so”--true in this case but hardly sufficient). The truth about this great mystery must always be accompanied by the truth about forgiveness.

The mystery of the sacred interplay is an ideal entry, clear and practical, into the “theology of the body” so important in the thought of John Paul II. Biology is not merely raw data on which we autonomously exert our free personal choices, nor to which we heteronomously submit in an instinctual, animalistic way. It is a carrier of the great mystery of the sacred interplay, it speaks the language of this mystery, and we partake in it by discovering that language and freely aligning ourselves with it. Contraception is not wrong because it is artificial; it is wrong because it interferes with and subverts our participation in the language of the body, our embrace of the inherent meaning of the sacred interplay. In marriage two persons give themselves to each other, and together are open outward to God (very concretely, by respecting his creative space), and in their union to a child. A three-part giving is bespoken in the language of the body, a language that echoes in the space of the sacred interplay.

17. A Defense of St. Thomas Against the Accusation of Physicalism

Revisionist theology, in support of its accusation against traditional natural law theory, argues that Thomas Aquinas was himself ambiguous, oscillating between an "order of nature" and an "order of reason" approach. The "order of nature" approach is supposedly overly dependent on the jurist Ulpian's view that natural law is intelligible as that which we have in common with animals (so-called physicalism); the "order of reason" approach supposedly allows humans to find their dignity in arbitrating over nature.
Such claims misrepresent St. Thom as, who properly understands and carefully integrates the orders of nature and reason in man.

As William May has demonstrated in a careful study, Thomas is not ambiguous about the two orders in the least.

The jurist Ulpian, to be sure, reduced natural law to "what we have in common with the animals." And to be sure, Thomas quotes Ulpian in several places. But to say that Thomas depends too heavily on Ulpian, or that he "oscillates" between an "order of nature" and an "order of reason" approach, is a non-sequitur fallacy. For when we look at the three self-evident principles of concern to us in this chapter, it just so happens that the first two we have in common with the animals. Animals naturally respect their life-span. They do this by instinct, and we do this by choice. But we both do--or should do--the same thing, namely, affirm life and preserve life. Likewise, animals do not manipulate their fertility. They act on it by instinct, while we act on it by free choice, but we both respect its natural integrity.

Hence, it is quite accidental that by virtue of these first two self-evident principles we share something in common with the animals. But even here we bring our reason to bear on the subject matter, first by affirming it as important for natural law, and second by freely choosing to live in accord with nature. So even here, where we have something in common with animals, there exists a highly personalistic dimension of which animals do not partake. And beyond this matter, all of the rest of Thomas' natural law theory is absolutely distinctive to man as a rational being. In sum, natural law theory, properly understood, represents the very heights of personalist ethics.

A truly personalist ethics
must accept a close interrelationship between man's rational faculty and his physical dimension. Otherwise it falls prey to a dualism that separates our personhood from our bodies. According to the Christian tradition, we are not souls imprisoned in a body; we are em bodied spirits. Hence, the "order of reason" must respect the natural ordering of that biology in order not to succumb to a sheer dualism that disallows the participation of the biological in one’s personhood.


VS--As the encyclical notes in article 48, already quoted earlier: "The spiritual and immortal soul is the principle of unity of the human being, whereby it exists as a whole--corpore et anima unus--as a person. These definitions not only point out that the body, which has been promised the resurrection, will also share in glory. They also remind us that reason and free will are linked with all the bodily and sense faculties. The person, including the body, is completely entrusted to himself, and it is in the unity of body and soul that the person is the subject of his own moral acts. The person...discovers in the body the anticipatory signs, the expression and the promise of the gift of self, in conform ity with the wise plan of the creator."

In a word, at least a basic portion of God's will for us is revealed in and through the dynamism of the body. To stay with the two examples already used: 1) Our natural life span is integral to our own personal mission in life which we gradually discern. We know that each moment of biological life has meaning and purpose, even if at times hard to see and understand. We know for sure that we are not to end our own life, but rather that our personal, unique mission extends to the whole of our biologically given lifespan. That life span is a primary instrument God uses in revealing his plan to us.

2) The fertility cycle is likewise the instrument God gives us, through which married couples are invited to
procreate, to create with and for God. Just as we ought not violate our biological life span, so too we ought not violate the inherent dynamics of this procreative instrument.

To dissociate God's plan from our biology, as in these examples and others, is to posit a dualism of person and body.

18. A Return to Gnosticism

It is precisely such a dualism, a separation of person and body, to which revisionism succumbs in their denial of the traditional approach as physicalist and their affirmation of a so-called personalism. This dualism resonates with that inveterate error of mankind already noted, gnosticism. When revisionism falls into such a dualism with respect to our maleness and femaleness, it finds itself in harmony with certain strains of radical feminism which likewise wish to separate personhood from the body. Peter Kreeft has expertly analyzed how some feminist theology falls into this dualistic gnosticism, and is worth quoting at some length:

Gnosticism was the philosophy in the ancient world that taught that the human body was an evil and alien container of the spirit, which was essentially good, even divine....For Gnosticism, sex differences are not part of your real self, not innate, not God-designed.

We may think this philosophy is dead, but it is not. It is the view of most Oriental religions, which are now very popular in the West. And it is also the view of some (though not all) radical feminists. This is the view which opposes a woman's "true self" to her female, womb-equipped body....when it come to sex, radical feminism is an attack on nature and God for making bodies "sexually stereotyped....This view claims that sexual stereotypes are social, not natural, that there is no such thing as the "masculine mind" or the "feminine mind."



The Catholic natural law tradition maintains that there exists an intimate unity between the physical and the spiritual; this is the hallmark of a sacramental view of reality. Male and female bodies are real symbols of an inner maleness and femaleness that is constitutive of our very being. Our fertility, as perhaps the most pronounced aspect of our maleness and femaleness, is then not so much a function we possess but something that we
are, something that constitutes our very being.


William May terms such a view an
integralist, as opposed to separatist, view of the human person.
It is grounded first and foremost in Revelation, specifically in the revealed sacramental nature of the body, explored further in part VI. But as part of natural law, it is not surprising that one can make a rational defense (if not an ironclad proof) of the integralist view. Let us again follow Peter Kreeft's line of analysis:

..."the masculine mind" and the "feminine mind" are not social stereotypes but natural archetypes. That conclusion follows logically from two premises which no one denies.

The first premise is the psychological principle, accepted by just about every school of psychology, that is called "the psychosomatic unity." It states that soul and body (
psyche and soma) are not two isolated, insulated substances or entities but two interdependent aspects of a single person. Thus any important inherent feature of either aspect will have immediate consequences in the other, as a dent on one side of a coin will be a bump on the other side....Body and mind are like the matter and form of a single work of art. They are not two independent entities....

The second premise is that sex is natural and innate in the body; that heredity, not environment, makes you male or female. Nature, not society, gave wombs to women and not to men.

No one with any knowledge of psychology denies the first premise. And no one with any knowledge of biology denies the second. But put the two together and you get the very conclusion radical feminists hiss at: Masculine and feminine minds, masculine and feminine souls. For if body and soul are one, and if bodies are naturally sexed, souls are too.



Such analysis goes a long way in helping us come to an understanding of Church doctrines that are unpopular in today's culture, ranging from homosexuality to abortion to the male priesthood to contraception and sterilization. None of the doctrines on such matters make much sense unless one first understands and embraces an integralist view of the human person that allows maleness and femaleness to have sacramental significance. This text does not treat such doctrines in individual detail--but the grounding for the traditional doctrine on such matters lies right here within fundamental moral theology. Note the particular spoke from the diagram of sacramentality that is at play here--the idea of maleness and femaleness as sacramental realities.


19. Continued Analysis of Thomistic Natural Law

a. Detailed Conclusions: Level III

Now we begin the descent into detail. Several chapter ago, the general principles were outlined (levels 1 and 2), but no concrete ways by which these general principles are lived out. With level 3 we find concrete moral norms. Examples of such concrete conclusions involve areas such as suicide, mercy killing, duelling, divorce, polygamy, slavery, racism. Each of these areas is considered in other places outside the
Treatise on Law.
This level gives us the specifics in the moral bedrock of the Catholic life--a set of absolute negative norms.

With level 3 principles, we are still looking at this bedrock in the abstract, in the sense that particular cases of individual agents are not taken into consideration. But this level of abstraction is quite definite insofar as it contains specific moral norms (aside from the "rare cases" of which Thomas speaks). To say it is abstract simply means it has not yet been applied to any particular case of a particular person. Thomas also calls these conclusions "remote"; he simply means that they exist beyond the commonly known general principles, those of levels 1 and 2.

It is on level 4 that Thomas speaks of norms as applied to individual situations. Given the contemporary crisis in moral theology, the relationship between level 3 and 4 is of the essence. Most everyone agrees with--or thinks they agree with--the levels (1 and 2) already dealt with; disagreements come in the concrete principles (level 3) and their application (level 4). Not surprisingly, revisionist thinkers try to find support from Thomas at these latter two levels.

On the one hand, Thomas says in 94, 4, that "the more we descend into detail, the more frequently we encounter defects." So one might expect a lot of fluidity for concrete cases, and Thomas' comment that "actions are right or wrong according to their circumstances" (not in the treatise, but in question 18 article 3) might seem to support that fluidity or relativity. Such passages are commonly quoted by revisionist theologians.



b. Analysis of 94,4

But let us continue in 94, 4 to discover exactly what Thomas means by "defects." He first makes an important distinction between "rectitude" and "knowledge." By rectitude, Thomas means a principle concerning right action independent of the individual. Hence, when it comes to, say, killing an innocent person, there is the same rectitude for all in this matter. By knowledge, Thomas simply indicates that not everyone might
know about such rectitude. With this background, consider a key text:

But in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles: and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known by all.

As an example, Thomas gives the norm: "goods entrusted to another should be restored to their owner." As a general principle, the practical rectitude is the same for all. But when we descend to a particular case involving this principle, a "matter of action," the practical rectitude will
not necessarily be the same for all:

Now this [the principle just quoted about goods] is true for the majority of cases: but it may happen in a particular case that it would be injurious, and therefore unreasonable, to restore goods held in trust; for instance if they are claimed for the purpose of fighting against one's country.

Thomas is saying, very simply, that general level 3 principles are specified principles that generally apply with ease, but because they are specified, in rare instances a circumstance will enter into the moral object itself--in this example, a circum stance suddenly makes the purported owner not a rightful owner, and not returning the goods is, instead of stealing, an act of service toward the com mon good. In a word, Thomas is far from proportionalistic thinking in these matters.

Thomas continues his analysis by considering what happens when we descend
further into detail. One initially thinks Thomas is speaking of the detailed complexity of our lives, and that the further one takes account of that complexity, the more flexible should be the moral norms. But Thomas means nothing of the sort:

And this principle will be found to fail the more, according as we descend further into detail, e.g., if one were to say that goods held in trust should be restored with such and such a guarantee, or in such and such a way; because the greater number of conditions added, the greater the number of ways in which the principle may fail, so that it be not right to restore or not to restore.

Thomas very simply means that if we were to take a principle, such as the specified moral object "restore goods to rightful owners," and if we were to add details to the
principle, then the principle would fail--that is, be inappropriate--in m ore and more instances. A practical example may help. If an instructor has as a general principle that students should be attentive in the classroom, this principle would hold for the majority of cases. In rare instances--the student who feels ill during class--it would fail. But the instructor could add more and m ore details to his principle. He could make demands on students' posture, on their dress, on their means of greeting one another--all items that might be quite important (if imprudent to legislate). But the more detail added to the principle "be attentive," the more the principle would legitimately fail in specific circumstances. Of course this is all quite obvious; the point is that Thomas is not speaking about the proportionalist method of allowing proportionate reason in the midst of complex human situations to render legitimate the committing of a premoral evil.

So far, the "failure" of a general level 3 principle is due to the principle's
rectitude failing in specific circumstances of detail. When Thomas speaks of defects in principles, he also refers simply to the agent's failure to know about the principle:

...we must say that the natural law, as to general principles [level 3], is the same for all, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge. But as to certain matters of detail, which are conclusions, it is the same for all in the majority of cases, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge; and yet in some few cases it may fail, both as to rectitude [we have just finished analyzing this]...and as to knowledge, since in some the reason is perverted by passion, or evil habit, or an evil disposition of nature; thus formerly, theft, although it is expressly contrary to natural law, was not considered wrong among the Germans, as Julius Caesar relates.

When natural law "fails," in other words, this often simply means that an
individual fails to recognize it, due to ignorance or to concupiscence.

In a word, there is nothing in Thomas' analysis of natural law that indicates flexibility for moral norms themselves; nothing that indicates a rejection of the moral bedrock. There is simply the recognition, first, that there are some legitimate conflict situations where the norms will fail (as analyzed earlier) and second, that human beings often fail to recognize the moral bedrock.

If we move one article further, in 94, 5 we find an extremely important rule of thumb for level 3, the level of "proper conclusions" or "detailed proximate conclusions," and Thomas's comments in the previous article on "defects" is even further clarified. Thomas further emphasizes that these detailed conclusions are true
for the majority of cases. In this article, he notes there are but rare exceptions.

In light of our analysis thus far, we can turn to Thomas' claim in 18, 3 that "actions are right or wrong according to their circumstances," perhaps the most oft-quoted support-phrase used by proportionalists. A careful look at this article suggests that Thom as is quite far from proportionalist analysis.

First, the context of the phrase under investigation must be noted. Article 3 is titled "Whether Man's Action Is Good or Evil from a Circumstance?" Three objections claim a negative answer. For instance, objection 1:

It would seem that an action is not good or evil from a circumstance. For circumstances stand around (circumstant) an action, as being outside it....But good and evil are in things themselves....

Then, in the
sed contra, not the respondeo, the phrase under investigation is found:

On the contrary, the Philosopher says (Ethic. ii. 3) that a virtuous man acts as he should, and when he should, and so on in respect of the other circumstances. Therefore, on the other hand, the vicious m an, in the matter of each vice, acts when he should not, or where he should not, and so on with the other circumstances. Therefore human actions are good or evil according to the circumstances.

In the
respondeo, Thomas carefully contextualizes Aristotle's claim about cicumstances.

For the plentitude [of an action's] goodness does not consist wholly in its species, but also in certain additions which accrue to it by reason of certain accidents: and such are its due circumstances. Wherefore if something be wanting that is requisite as a due circumstance the action will be evil.

There are three things Thomas could have in mind:

I) As noted earlier, a good act can be made more praiseworthy due to circumstance and intent, and likewise can turn into an evil act due to circumstance and intent.

ii) Since "moral objects" are always specified objects and not mere abstractions, a circumstance can enter into the object itself.

iii) The circumstance and intention of the
agent determine the moral goodness or badness of an act.

The last option is, of course, the proportionalist interpretation. There is no reason, from the context of Thomas' work as a whole, to believe that Thom as intended such. But there is every reason to think that he intended one or both of the first two interpretations, since he makes those observations elsewhere (as we have seen).


20: Revisionist Natural Law Theory

Revisionism claims that the traditional natural law theory fell short of a true "personalism" in ethical methodology. In this chapter we will take a closer look at how revisionism reads the tradition, and then we will consider revisionism's explication of a new or "revised" natural law theory.

a. A Supposed Inconsistency in the Tradition

We already have had occasion to examine critically one supposed inconsistency in the tradition upon which proportionalism builds: a failure to consistently allow circumstance and intention to make an incursion into the moral object. Now we arrive at another supposed inconsistency.

In a previous chapter we noted how revisionism criticizes certain moral norms as relying on too physicalistic an understanding of natural law. Revisionists commonly claim that the very personalism (rooted in the "order of reason" approach) that is lacking in those norms is found in another realm of Catholic moral teaching--that of Catholic social thought. They then request that the moral tradition be consistent, allowing the same personalism of Catholic social thought to penetrate to other moral areas such as sexual ethics and bioethics.

Consider Fr. Gula's critique:

Even though the great social encyclicals
Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, and Pacem in Terris reflect something of a static social order, they do move away from the order of nature interpretation of natural law evident in decrees on sexual and medical moral matters to an interpretation of natural law which is based on the prudential use of reason.


Gula then quotes
Pacem in Terris to show an instance of a rejection of physicalist criteria. However, what he thinks is a reference to physicalism is actually nothing of the sort--it is a critical reference to a very different kind of "law." Consider first the quotation:

But the creator of the world has imprinted in man's heart an order which his conscience reveals to him and enjoins him to obey: This shows that the obligations of the law are written in their hearts: their conscience utters its own testimony....But fickleness of opinion often produces this error, that many think the relationships between men and states can be governed by the same laws as the forces and irrational elements of the universe, whereas the laws governing them are of quite a different kind and are to be sought elsewhere, namely, where the Father of all things wrote them, that is, in the nature of man (art. 6).

The key phrase, obviously, is "the forces and irrational elements of the universe." Gula thinks this refers to level 2 of Thomas' natural law, wherein humans are to follow "forces" also found in animal, namely the natural cycle of life and the natural cycle of fertility. But John XXIII has nothing of the sort in mind. He is referring to certain economic and political theories that ignore the dignity of the human person and hold that a society's economic or political policy must submit to invisible "forces."

There are two poignant examples of such "forces." One is the "iron law of wages" which holds that competitive employers must offer their workers the lowest possible wage. As Pius XI put it in
Quadragesimo Anno (1931):

Capital, however, was long able to appropriate to itself excessive advantages; it claimed all the products and profits, and left to the laborer the barest minimum necessary to repair his strength and to ensure the continuation of his class. For by an inexorable economic law, it was held, all accumulation of riches must fall to the share of the wealthy, while the workingman must remain perpetually in indigence or reduced to the minimum needed for existence (II, 2, par. 4).

If this means offering workers a sub-human subsistence level wage, or setting up a situation where women and children must enter the industrial workplace to make ends meet, so be it. A pure, free-market capitalism subscribes to such an "iron law", and Catholic social thought has consistently rejected this type of capitalism.

Another example of an "iron law" is that developed by Karl Marx, namely, that there is an inexorable force in history whereby societies are "driven" toward a classless utopia. Marx urged that we speed up this inevitable trend and stir the classes into conflict, urging the proletariat to rise up against the bourgeoisie. This is Marxist socialism, which under Lenin and Stalin reached unparalleled heights of terror. For Lenin and Stalin saw that individual hum an lives were of secondary importance to the promotion of the classless society. If lives had to be trampled (and over 12 million were by Stalin) toward the end of the socialist utopia, so be it. Catholic social thought has consistently rejected Marxist socialism as an agenda beneath the dignity of the human person.

Still a third example of an irrational law may be taken from outside the area of economics. Charles Darwin held that species developed according to the blind law of natural selection, commonly known as the "survival of the fittest." Species--including man--did not come about due to the plan of an intelligent creator; they came about by accident, the laws of natural selection made their inexorable mark. Man, then, is a biological accident. He is not the purpose for which the universe w as created, as the creation story in Genesis teaches. Further, he is not a spiritual being, in the image and likeness of God. Rather, he is merely a highly complex biochemical mechanism. Catholic thought has consistently rejected the "laws" of Darwinian evolution (while remaining open to the possibility that creation took billions of years to develop or "evolve" in a non-Darwinian sense).

Happily, the Catholic position on all three of the "iron-clad laws" just examined has been proven correct by history itself. 1) A pure Capitalism unconcerned about the dignity of the individual doesn't work; it may produce short term profits but in the end only a genuine concern for the worker's welfare and dignity guarantees long-range profit. 2) Marxist socialism is likewise an utter failure, as the events of 1989 made and continue to make so clear. Only one country--Castro's Cuba--holds out as of this writing. 3) Scientists know well that the fossil evidence that Darwin thought would come in to support his theory is simply non-existent. There are no fossils filling in the "missing links" between species that supposedly evolved form one another by the gradualistic laws of natural selection. The general public is still largely in the dark about this, unfortunately. Paleontologists call it their "trade-secret."

In sum, the "laws" rejected in
Pacem in Terris have absolutely nothing to do with the laws that are affirmed by the Magisterium in the realm of sexual ethics and bioethics. The only similarity between the two is a linguistic one: they can both, one supposes, be spoken of with language of "forces of the universe." Any similarity ends right there.

In fact, the very so-called "physicalist" laws that are affirmed in sexual ethics and bioethics turn out to be
just as integral for social ethics. Why is this so?

As examined, one of the "physicalist" laws of the natural law tradition is that life must be preserved. No one can make themselves arbiters over life. In a word,
by nature all human life is sacred. In the realm of bioethics, this means that abortion and euthanasia are absolutely forbidden. And in the realm of social ethics, this means that racism, sexism, other forms of discrimination, unjust wages, unjust working conditions--and the list could go on--are likewise absolutely forbidden. Why? Because human life is to be unconditionally respected just because it is hum an life. It does not matter what the so-called quality of that life is. A senile person cannot be killed--even if the patient should request death. A poor peasant cannot be exploited by an employer--even if he is willing to work for sub-standard wages. It is immoral for a woman or man to prostitute the body--even if there are willing customers. It is immoral to push drugs or pornography--even if the clientele is vast.

What is behind all of these claims? Nature. All that is human--regardless of size, quality, race, or any other accidental characteristic--has personal dignity. One never may draw arbitrary lines for who is and who is not a person (with rights, paramount of which is the right to life). If an individual does draw such arbitrary lines, be it in the area of abortion, racism, sexism, and the list goes on, he invariably denies his own personhood. For he admits the legitimacy of drawing an arbitrary line, which allows someone else to use arbitrary standards to deny
his personhood (through some form, say, of mistreatment).

Natural law is, then, formative for ethics across the board--social, sexual, and medical. Given this absolute harmony between different branches of practical ethics, in that they are rooted in the same fundamental natural law principles, it is erroneous to make a claim such as the following:

A comparison of documents representing the order of nature approach to natural law with those representing the order of reason approach shows the two different methods that have been operating in Catholic moral theology side by side to yield moral norms and moral judgments. The clear distinctions and line drawing that were possible by using the physicalist criteria of the order of nature approach in sexual and medical moral matters are not present in the area of social ethics. On the basis of physicalist criteria, Catholic sexual and medical morality has achieved a precision and consistency of moral judgment that is not found in its social ethical documents.


The last statement is a sad indictment of the Catholic social tradition. For there is a great deal of precision and consistency throughout the Catholic social tradition, and certainly in the numerous social encyclicals of the past hundred years from Leo XIII's
Rerum Novarum in 1891 to John Paul II's Centesimus Annus in 1991. This precision and consistency is rooted in an absolute truth in the moral bedrock rooted in our very spiritual/corporeal nature as human beings who find their true personhood as they participate in the eternal law.

Once one has recognized such precision and consistency, running through the entire ethical tradition,
then it is proper to recognize some differences between sexual/medical morality and social morality. In brief, Catholic social thought allows a good deal of prudence to be used as to exactly how to instantiate, in the political order, the precise and consistent truth about man. For instance, there are a variety of legitimate political arrangements, ranging from monarchies to democracies, that are compatible with the Catholic truth about man. There are a variety of legitimate economic models likewise compatible. It is the role of the Catholic layman, using prudence, to determine which arrangements are the best in a given historical setting, and certainly to avoid those arrangements inimical to the Catholic truth about man.

By contrast, there simply is not the same role for prudence in making decisions in sexual and medical moral matters. Adultery is simply wrong. Killing the innocent is simply wrong. Prudence still has an enormous role to play in the realm of the moral life above and beyond the bedrock, but it is simply unnecessary when it comes to the status of the bedrock itself. In a word, choices about political/economic arrangements are of a different sort than choices about whether to kill or violate one's sexual integrity.

b. Revised Natural Law Theory

So far in this chapter we have considered the criticism leveled by revisionist thought at traditional natural law theory. Now it is time to consider the revisionist's "revision" of natural law theory.

In a word, the revision they propose ought not really be called "natural law" at all. We can capsulize this argument in three steps:

I) They capitalize on the centrality of the use of
reason in traditional natural law theory.

ii) Then, they interpret "reason" along the revisionist understanding of "proportionate reasoning"--that is, our so-called responsibility to weigh the values and disvalues accruing from a possible action that is premorally evil so as to decide whether there is proportionate reason to so act.

iii) Then, they claim continuity with the natural law tradition and label their proportionalistic method "revised natural law." Since their theory has nothing to do with the traditional meaning of "law" but rather reduces law to a guideline to be taken into consideration, and since their theory rejects the traditional meaning of "natural" and rather substitutes an imperfect version of "personalism," it should not be called natural law theory at all. "Proportionalism" does just fine. Consider:

The trend in Roman Catholic moral theology today is to develop more and more the rational aspect of the natural law tradition. in this use, reason, and not the physical structure of human faculties or actions taken by themselves, becomes the standard of natural law. Building on Thomistic foundations, this approach understands reason (recta ratio) in the broad sense of the dynamic tendency in the human person to come to truth, to grasp the whole of reality as it is. A morality that has reason as its basic standard, then, is a morality based on reality. The work of reason is to discover moral value in the experience of the reality of being human.


The problem here is that Thomas, as we have had occasion to notice, does not understand reason in this way. Reason is not a reflection on experience, but a participation in the truth (which very often transcends experience).

Fr. Gula, following the lead of Timothy O’Connell, outlines six central thrusts of the revised theory.

It is based on Reality
. By "realism," Gula means a middle path between legalism and relativism. We have already had occasion to notice (part IV) the flaw in a methodology that sets up two extremes with a moderate center, for it conveniently caricatures Catholic orthodoxy along legalistic lines.

The middle path, for Gula, means doing the good. But "the good" without the moral bedrock lacks content and reduces to a psychologized reflection on experience using the categories of humanistic existentialism:

The moral person and the moral community must discover what is morally good by critically reflecting on the total complexity of human reality in all its relationships. The more we discover what it means to be human the more we may have to revise our previously accepted conclusions in morality. Our views of what is moral may change as our knowledge of what it means to be authentically human develops.


How does one know whether a particular change or development is authentically human?

2. It is Experiential
. It is ultimately our own experience that gives us the criteria for authenticity. "The experience of what helps or hinders human well-being precedes and directs the course of a moral argument."
* But this is a circular argument. To find criteria for authenticity, one cannot look to one's own experience of authenticity. There is no check in revised natural law theory on whether an individual, in following experience, might be following the concupiscent tendency (which as previously shown Gula fails to recognize in his treatment of sin).

3. It is Consequential; 4. It is Historical; 5. It is Proportional
. We have already paid sufficient attention to these categories. But it may be helpful to consider one comment:

...we ought to do what is genuinely good, what is most loving, what truly contributes to the well-being of persons and community. Yet we know that we are limited in so many ways....The good we do comes mixed with some bad. Our moral efforts are directed toward trying to achieve the greatest proportion of good to evil....This, in fact, gets to the heart of the Christian virtue of prudence as it comes to us through St. Thomas (I-II, q. 61, a. 2). It tells us that moral persons must be able to guide us in our prudential judgments, i.e., in our judgments of proportionality.


But by prudence, Thomas means nothing of this sort. Identifying the Thomistic understanding of prudence with proportionate weighing is erroneous. In 61, 2, Thomas asks "Whether There Are Four Cardinal Virtues?" The article is primarily interested in determining the
number of cardinal virtues, not in describing prudence. Still, a short definition of prudence appears:

For the formal principle of the virtue of which we speak is good as defined by reason; which good can be considered in two ways. First, as existing in the very act of reason: and thus we have one principle virtue, called Prudence.

Prudence here is closely identified with reason, and as noted, Thomas' understanding of "reason" is not that of the proportionalists. In II-II Thomas dedicates an entire question, question 47 (in 16 articles) to the virtue of prudence. There is nothing in this question to indicate a proclivity on Thomas' part to the inner workings of proportionalist method. For instance, in the third article, he asks "Whether Prudence Takes Cognizance of Singulars?" One waits for Thomas to speak here of singular things--circumstances--as rendering universal principles somewhat flexible, but to no avail:

...to prudence belongs not only the consideration of the reason, but also the application to action, which is the end of practical reason. But no man can conveniently apply one thing to another, unless he knows both the thing to be applied, and the thing to which it has to be applied. Now actions are singular matters: and so it is necessary for the prudent man to know both the universal principles of reason, and the singulars about which actions are concerned.

Prudence involves, as discussed here, the ability to apply a universal principle to a particular case, not the ability to render negotiable the universal principle.

6. It is Personal
. We have likewise already paid sufficient attention to the true meaning of personal. True personhood, in the Catholic tradition, is a participation in the sacramentality of human existence. The fullness of such participation is found in the sacraments, and in the doctrinal implications emanating there from (as summarized in the master diagram).

Gula summarizes the revisionist view of personalism by quoting Louis Janssen's criteria of "the human person adequately considered." The criteria are good in and of themselves--but they do not go far enough, and thus hesitate in the face of a fully sacramental ethics. Let us conclude by noting these criteria and supplying the missing sacramental content for each (given after the hyphen in each case):



1. To be a moral subject, i.e., to act with knowledge and freedom--but a knowledge and freedom ordered in a particular way ordered within the sacramental structure of existence.

2. To be an embodied subject--which allows a unity between body and spirit, an integral unity that allows for the sacramentality of the body, that does not dissociate God's will from the body.

3. To be a historical subject with continuing new possibilities--but always called to fidelity to Christ and to his moral bedrock.

4. To be an embodied subject who is part of the material word--and due to its fallenness, we must be ever vigilant over our concupiscent tendency.

5. To be related to others--but always in an ordered fashion, not fragmenting our relationships by violating the moral bedrock.

6. To be in a social group with structures and institutions worthy of persons--and faithful to Catholic social doctrine which demands respect for the dignity of all humans as persons.

7. To be called to know and worship God--and to do so sacramentally.

8. To be unique yet fundamentally equal--recognizing that our uniqueness is not lost when we order our lives, sacramentally, to our common final end.



V. Partaking in the Divine Law (VS 84-88, 95-97, 102-120)

21. Revelation as a Source of Truth


Revelation guides and confirms the use of reason, and adds truths that could not be known, or could not be known for sure, by reason alone. The Trinity, the Incarnation, and the sacraments are examples of such truths of faith. These mysteries of the faith need to be integrated into moral theology, for in the past several centuries there was a tendency to treat moral theology in such a way that it seemed removed from the faith. This tendency manifested itself in the "manuals" of moral theology (hence the term the "manual tradition") written for seminary education. While these manuals were ultimately rooted in the faith life of the Church, they certainly gave the opposite impression to many.

For Jesus Christ himself was rarely mentioned, which omission neglected the fact that the moral life first and foremost is an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ. Hence, it is imperative to speak about Revelation at the center of any inquiry in moral theology

a. Christ as the Full Revelation of God

When we speak of "Revelation," we tend to think of a set of data given to us by God, a set of truths that will guide us to our final destiny. Revelation does consist of such data, but it is important to remember that God's Revelation is first and foremost a
person, the person of Jesus Christ, a person who loves us and wishes to enter into a covenantal relationship with us. Through Him we participate in the divine life of the triune God, a participation that sanctifies our very being.

It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature (Dei Verbum 2, hereafter DV; CCC 51).

The person of Jesus Christ is not a vague entity that we can reconstruct according to our own imagination. We cannot place Christ into a mold of our own desires, gradually turning Him into nothing but a mirror image of our own self. Instead, His person and truth are concretely available to us through what are termed the "twin sources" of revelation, Tradition and Scripture.

b. Tradition: the Impact of Jesus on His Apostles

We all know what Scripture is, but Tradition is a difficult concept to understand. We can begin by asking what Jesus left behind for his followers. He did not leave anything written (however much we might wish he had), but rather left behind, simply put, a massive impact on his followers. Since this impact was not summarized in writing by Christ, it was oral, and w as handed down orally.

As explained in
Dei Verbum

Therefore, Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20; 3:16-4, 6), commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline. This was faithfully done: it was done by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received--whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.... (DV 7; CCC 76).

In a word, the Tradition is none other than Christ Himself as handed on throughout history (the Latin root of the word "tradition" means to "carry across"). We believe that this oral Tradition continues to be handed down today through the apostolic succession--the Pope and college of bishops who guard the deposit of faith from generation to generation:

In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them "their own position of teaching authority" (DV 7, CCC 77).

The quotation in the above text is from Irenaeus, a Church father of the second century whose famous work is
Against Heresies.

While the Tradition is Christ Himself, the particular event of His life that rises to a certain preeminence in the Tradition is the Resurrection:

The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross.... (CCC 638).

It is most fitting that the Tradition, as a living phenomenon, has at its foundation that event by which Christ is alive to all believers throughout history. Tradition is the presence of the resurrected Christ echoing throughout time.

c. Tradition Crystallized into Scripture

Early in Christian history, various aspects of Tradition were crystallized in written form by eyewitnesses of Christ and close friends of eyewitnesses. In the second century the Magisterium of the Church chose certain of these writings as inspired by God in a unique way, and these became the canon of the New Testament. Hence, Scripture is the first crystallization of tradition. It flows out of Tradition and its canon is chosen within the flow of Tradition. Hence it is logically impossible to claim that Scripture alone is the source of Revelation, since Scripture flows from Tradition. Scripture is a prized
portion of Tradition. "By means of the same Tradition the full canon of the sacred books is known to the Church and the holy Scriptures them selves are more thoroughly understood and constantly actualized in the Church" (DV 8).

Because Scripture is the earliest crystallization, because it is linked to eyewitnesses or close associates of eyewitnesses, and because its inspiration is uniquely under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (DV 11), it is given a certain pride of place in Tradition, so much so that it is given a place next to Tradition as a twin source of Revelation. Furthermore, so important is Scripture that no truth of Tradition can ever contradict it, and all truths of Tradition are latent within it.

As noted in
Dei Verbum,

Sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. Thus it comes about that the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence (DV 9).

d. The Loci of Tradition

After Scripture, where is Tradition to be found?
Dei Verbum says that "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes" (DV 8, CCC 78). Hence, we can single out three special loci or places where Tradition is seen in its living vitality, three places where the living Christ is present. First, it is found in doctrines dealing with faith or morals. Doctrines are like clear windows opening upon the vast expanse of eternal truth. They give us a clear picture of the truth while not exhausting that truth. Second, Tradition is found in the actual life of the Church that is in alignment with doctrine. This certainly includes what is referred to as the sensus fidei whereby the people of God themselves, in union with the Magisterium, are the receptors of divine truth and thereby share in the gift of infallibility. As the Catechism states,

In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a "supernatural sense of faith" the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, "unfailingly adheres to this faith" (CCC 889, also cf. 92).

Third, the most vibrant and living way in which Tradition seeps into the life of the Church is through her divine liturgy, the source and summit of the Christian life. "The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition" (CCC 1124, DV 8).

e. Tradition and traditions

Tradition, understood as this rich mystery of Christ Himself carried across the centuries through the apostolic succession, can now easily be distinguished from traditions with a small "t". Spontaneous and unofficial liturgical acts, methods of personal prayer, various customs, Church art and architecture, all these can be valuable reflectors of Tradition, while not being the actual
loci of Tradition. Such traditions may be important, and often have profound nostalgic value, but they are not in and of themselves instances of absolute truth. They often reflect that truth, but sometimes traditions can be wrongheaded or become outdated and people can cling to them for the wrong reasons. There is a real danger of elevating custom s, in the minds of the faithful, to a quasi-dogmatic level.

This had happened to some extent in the late Middle Ages. Customs such as the sale of indulgences and certain devotional practices sparked Luther's reaction. Part of Luther's response was to claim that only Scripture (
sola scriptura) was a source of Revelation, not Tradition--his reaction against certain traditions led him to reject a substantial portion of Tradition. But his solution only points to another related difficulty: how do we interpret Scripture? The existence throughout history of literally thousands of different Christian denominations and sects point to this difficulty. The only solution is that there be some interpreter of both Tradition and Scripture.


f. The Magisterium as the Interpreter of Revelation

The bearer or carrier of Tradition and Scripture, the apostolic succession, also
interprets those sources of Revelation at numerous junctures throughout history. The Holy Spirit acts within the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium) throughout the ages to guarantee proper interpretation of both Tradition and Scripture.

But the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ (DV 10, CCC 85).

What is the relationship between Tradition and the Magisterium? Are they the same? Why do some people speak of Revelation as coming to us through "the Bible and the Magisterium," or the inaccurate tag "the Bible and the pope"? Tradition, as that aspect of the word of God that is oral rather than written, is carried by the apostolic succession. At particular moments in history--ecumenical councils, for example--the apostolic succession takes on the role of interpreter or teacher, and hence can be termed the Magisterium from the Latin word for teacher,
magister.

g. A Case Study: the Immaculate Conception

Let us consider the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to illustrate some of the points made thus far (cf. CCC 490-93). Protestants often claim that since the Immaculate Conception is not in Scripture, it is not true, forgetting the importance of Tradition. Catholics often rightly appeal to Tradition, but forget the close tie of this dogma to Scripture.

In the "Protoevangelium," Genesis 3:15, it is predicted that mankind will be in constant contestation with evil. The "fuller meaning" of this text is that Jesus, through Mary (the mediatrix of grace), will crush the power of evil. If Mary is to be the "new Eve" through which mankind embarks on a new creation, she will have to be in the same situation as Eve was, that is, free from that tendency to sin that is part and parcel of the inheritance of original sin. Effected by Christ's redemption in an anticipatory way, she will have to be "full of grace" (Lk 1:30). While Mary is still tempted to deny her call to be the Mother of God (as Eve was tempted), she is fully free to use her free will properly--she is immaculately conceived--and she does exactly that in saying to the angel Gabriel's invitation "let it be done" (Lk 1:38).

This is but a quick sketch of a very rich dogmatic teaching, but it illustrates how Tradition mines the deeper meaning of a Scriptural text. The Immaculate Conception is latent within the Protoevangelium and several other texts, and the fuller meaning is carried in Tradition, manifesting itself through pronouncements of the Magisterium at various moments in Christian history that interpret that Tradition. These pronouncements culminate in the dogmatic definition in 1854.

We might say that while Scripture is the supreme written crystallization of Tradition, other writings, such as dogmatic concilear documents, or documents such as
Ineffabilis Deus which contains the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception, are likewise written crystallization of Tradition. Dei Verbum also gives a pride of place, second to Scripture, to the writings of the Patristic era: "The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer" (DV 8, CCC 78).

h. A History of Tradition

Think of Tradition, therefore, as a massive reality--Christ Himself--seeping into the liturgy, the life of the Church, and the doctrinal pronouncements of the Magisterium. Tradition seeps into but is not exhausted by such loci. That is why there can be such a thing as development, doctrinal and liturgical, occurring throughout the history of the Church. The Immaculate Conception is a case in point; the liturgical renewal is another (though unfortunately encumbered by various traditions that do not always faithfully reflect Tradition). We can speak of a history of Tradition itself, the story of how Tradition seeps into the life of the Church over time.

Some people might be vexed by the fact that Tradition unravels over time. Fundamentalism is in part such a reaction, focusing on a nugget of Christian truth that always existed and never changes or develops. But it is most fitting that Tradition has a history of development. Anything human beings take seriously happens gradually. The student of mathematics does not appreciate the full richness of the discipline in the college freshman year. Only at advanced stages of learning, when the student can finally ask the right
questions, will the more intricate parts of the discipline be rendered intelligible. Likewise in Christian history, the vicissitudes of time yields questions about Christ, about His Church, about the sacraments, and the like. These questions are answered gradually as they arise. The understanding of Christ as one person with two hypostatically united natures, as defined at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, is an understanding that was latent in Scripture but could not have been articulated without several centuries of careful scrutiny that raised numerous important questions about the identity of Jesus Christ.


i. The Principle of Sacramentality

The task of interpretation is not given to individual members of the faithful, but to an agent in objective relation to the individual. The truth is something we are caught up
in, not something we control. The stumbling block for many is that this objective agent is human. Humans, as we all know, are finite and make mistakes. How can something so human be a bearer of infinite truth? John Calvin voiced this objection: "the finite is not capable of the infinite." The modern Protestant theologian Paul Tillich termed this the "Protestant Principle": nothing in the human realm can be absolutized.

In sharp contrast stands the Catholic principle
par excellence, the principle of sacramentality. According to this principle, grounded in the Incarnation itself, the divine truth is mediated to us in and through that which is human--people (the apostolic succession), structures (the visible Church) and ceremonies (the sacraments). The apostles are the privileged carriers of Tradition; the Church, in its visible as well as spiritual aspects, is that human institution wherein the Church of Christ subsists (Lumen Gentium 8). The sacraments are the efficacious means through which Christ's divinizing and saving grace is mediated to humanity.

Given this preeminent principle of sacramentality, one ought not be surprised that something human, namely the Magisterium, should be the bearer of the deposit of faith. Just as the bread and wine bear Christ, and the priest acts in the person of Christ at the consecration, so too the teaching office of the Church guards the deposit of faith. The apostolic succession consists of human beings specially guided by the Holy Spirit to carry and interpret Tradition and Scripture; to confess their authority is then to embrace a
sacramental view of authority.

The scriptural grounding for this view of authority is found in Matthew 16:17-19 in Jesus' conversation with Peter:

Jesus replied, "Blest are you, Simon son of Jonah! No mere man has revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. I for my part declare to you, you are "Rock", and on this rock I will build my church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it. I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you consider loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

This sacramental view of authority is found throughout the New Testament, and is most visibly present in the earliest writings of the Apostolic Fathers in the second century such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Irenaeus.

Consider Clement of Rome, writing just before the turn of the first century:

The apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus, the Christ, was sent from God. Thus Christ is from God and the apostles from Christ. In both instances the orderly procedure depends on God's will. And so the apostles, after receiving their orders and being fully convinced by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and assured by God's word, went out in the confidence of the Holy Spirit to preach the good news that God's kingdom was about to come. They preached in country and city, and appointed their first converts, after testing them by the Holy Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of future believers. (Cyril C . Richardson, ed., Early Christian Fathers [New York: Collier/Macmillan 1970], p. 62.)

(The verb "appointed" in the last sentence is, in the Greek, in the imperfect rather than aorist tense, indicating that the appointing was a regular occurrence meant to continue into the future rather than a simple past action.)

Or consider Ignatius of Antioch:

...I hasten to urge you to harmonize your actions with God's mind. For Jesus Christ--that life from which we can't be torn--is the Father's mind, as the bishops too, appointed the world over, reflect the mind of Jesus Christ (Early Christian Fathers, p. 88)

When we turn to the Magisterium, we are turning to the apostolic succession living in our own time, through which the voice of Christ speaks. As John Paul II's encyclical
Veritatis Splendor notes:

When people ask the Church the questions raised by their consciences, when the faithful in the Church turn to their Bishops and Pastors, the Church's reply contains the voice of Jesus Christ, the voice of the truth about good and evil. In the words spoken by the Church there resounds, in people's inmost being, the voice of God who "alone is good" (cf. Mt 19:17), who alone "is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16) (#117).

Clearly a sacramental view of authority is enunciated here. That view is all the more powerfully pronounced, though in subtle form, through the scriptural texts John Paul II cites. For those who dissent from a sacramental view of authority claim precisely that God alone is good, God alone is love, and that therefore nothing in the human realm can mediate his love and goodness. The richness of a sacramental view of reality appears all the more poignantly in the midst of such texts: the God who transcends humanity simultaneously makes Himself present in and through various mediators, including the apostolic succession.

j. Checks on the Human Side of Tradition

Another stumbling block to the notion of Tradition is that those human agents who bear the Tradition make mistakes. There is nothing to hide here: the human beings which make up the Magisterium at any given point in history, to say nothing of other people in leadership positions, are by no means immune from mistakes (hence, the recent examples of John Paul II apologizing for various mistakes of the past). Rather, they are immune
when teaching dogmatically. In the midst of so grave a task, they might make imprudent judgments in other respects. They are not necessarily saints, nor are they by definition good organizers or speakers or public relations agents. Given such limitations, there are a variety of "checks" within the workings of the Magisterium to prevent abuse of authority. Not everything that is taught by the Magisterium is on the same level--much is within the realm of custom or discipline (traditions). Then, in the category of doctrine there are various levels of authority. Some of these doctrines have the status of infallible dogma and require the assent of faith, while others require assent of mind and will (see Lumen Gentium 25).

k. An Ongoing Personal Conversation

Why are some people so bothered by the key role played by the
human in the unravelling of Tradition? There is a tendency in us (call it the fundamentalist tendency) to want the truth reduced to a few simple, clear cut propositions. But in any personal relationship, there exists an ongoing conversation in which the depths of each person's inner lives are gradually revealed. It is eminently fitting that the supreme personal relationship, that between Christ and his Church, should likewise take the form of an ongoing conversation. It is not nebulous, because there are many key criteria for determining the various parts of this conversation, criteria we have considered in this article. But it is mysteriously rich and inexhaustible, as a personal friend should be. "...God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the spouse of His beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church--and through her in the world--leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness (cf. Col. 3:16)" (DV 8).






22: Moral Norms and the Magisterium
(an ecclesiological component)

a. Infallibility in the Context of Con temporary Developments


An essential feature of the Catholic faith is that the authority of Christ is mediated through the apostolic succession interpreting Scripture and Tradition throughout time. Such an understanding is rooted in a sacramental view of reality that sees the human realm as capable of mediatorship, of bearing truth and grace. The apostolic succession consists of human beings specially guided by the Holy Spirit, and when we turn to the Magisterium, we are turning to the apostolic succession living in our own time.

However, not everything said by Popes and bishops throughout the centuries is an infallible (or dogmatic) interpretation of Scripture and Tradition. How can we tell what does and does not belong in the category of infallible teaching? Two particular areas are of particular interest today. First, are matters relating to moral theology, especially absolute moral norms, infallible? And second, is the recent teaching on the ordination of women infallible? Here we pursue just the first area.

b. The Various "Voices" of the Magisterium


Vatican II was careful to point out exactly when and where the voice of the Magisterium speaks infallibly.
The varying "voices" of the Magisterium are spelled out in Lumen
Gentium 25. Let us begin with an explanatory outline of that important article, looking to those three places (indicated by asterisks) where the Magisterium speaks infallibly. This outline also serves to help understand Pope John Paul II's recent Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem, which serves as a further refinement of Lumen Gentium 25.

I.
First, the Extraordinary Magisterium, as distinguished from the ordinary Magisterium outlined below. "Extraordinary" and "ordinary" refer to the manner in which a truth is stated, whether that truth be infallible or not. An ecumenical council by its nature allows an extraordinary manner of teaching, as does an ex cathedra papal statement. Hence the extraordinary Magisterium consists of a papal and an episcopal dimension:

***A. The Extraordinary Papal Magisterium. Here, the pope acts alone, and speaks ex cathedra ("from the chair") in defining a dogma.
According to a majority theological opinion, this has occurred two times: I) The Immaculate Conception, defined in 1854 by Pius IX (Ineffabilis Deus); ii) The Assumption, defined in 1950 by Pius XII (Munificentissimus Deus).
Some further examples: I) No matter regarding morality has been defined in this manner. ii) As regards the male priesthood, there are some who hold that the centerpoint of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis represents a third instance of an ex cathedra statement, but the more comm on opinion is that the ruling stopped just short of such a statement, as discussed below. iii) A recent request was made that the pope raise the teaching of Mary as Coredemptrix to the level of a definition. This has not occurred, nor is it likely to occur soon.

B. The Extraordinary Episcopal Magisterium

***1. Bishops gathered in ecumenical councils can define dogmas. At the twenty-one ecumenical councils held throughout Christian history, certain items are infallibly defined. Consider Chalcedon's (451) definition of the two natures of Christ, or Trent's (1561) definition of the seven sacraments. One Marian dogma was defined in this manner: the Council of Ephesus, against the Nestorian position, defined Mary as Theotokos, Mother of God.
While the nature of the priesthood has been defined, nothing has been defined regarding the relationship of the priesthood and gender, or regarding morality. We owe an "assent of faith" to all matters infallibly defined. The teaching on Mary as Coredemptrix remains undefined.

2. Proclaiming the Gospel and giving pastoral directions.
Many non-infallible items are also dealt with at councils.
Some deal with matters of faith and morals, while others are of a disciplinary or prudential nature. While these might be related to infallible doctrines, they are not in themselves infallible. For instance, the majority of documents from Vatican II are of this nature. Dignitatis Humanae (The Decree on Religious Freedom), for example, rests upon the dogma that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, but goes on to speak of political matters, an area on which the Church's infallible authority does not come to bear.
We owe a "religious submission” or a "reverent obedience" (obsequium religiosum) of mind and will to such matters.

II. The Ordinary Magisterium

A. The ordinary papal Magisterium consists in Popes teaching "authentically," usually in documents such as encyclicals or apostolic exhortations. These documents may contain truths that are taught infallibly, but the documents as a whole are not infallible. Rather, they require the "assent of mind and will" of the faithful, an assent which is distinct in nature from the "assent of faith" required of item s infallibly taught. Humanae Vitae, for instance, is not an infallible document.
It contains ideas which require respectful assent but which, while not being erroneous, may be incomplete or partially flawed. However, in article 12 the pope touches upon a matter that, it can be argued, is infallibly taught: the inseparability of the unitive and procreative dimensions of each conjugal act.
Hence, the evil of contraception can be said to be taught infallibly. Likewise Inter Insigniores (On Reserving Priestly Orders to Men Alone) is not an infallible document. However, it may contain certain matters that, it can be argued, are infallibly taught. In sum, non-infallible documents can contain items that are infallibly taught or defined.

B. The Ordinary Episcopal Magisterium: Bishops teaching non-universally and universally.


1. Non-universally. Non-universal episcopal teaching occurs when bishops teach on items specific to their geographical location. They are not teaching on a matter which all bishops everywhere would necessarily recognize as true. This can occur either alone, such as when a single bishop appeals to a state official to not use the death penalty, or in episcopal conferences, such as when the U.S. bishops promulgated their pastoral letters on War and Peace, and on the Economy. Again, they might refer to items that are infallibly taught or defined, but their teaching as a whole is not infallible.

***2. Universally.
This is the most delicate category, which the next section of the paper treats. When the bishops gathered throughout the world have at some time agreed on a matter of divine revelation, dealing with faith or morals, to be held definitively, such agreement constitutes infallible teaching and is irreversible. Various contemporary issues, such as the three discussed here, have given theologians an opportunity to further refine the exact meaning of this category.


In sum, there are a variety of levels on which the Magisterium speaks. Three of these, asterisked in the outline above, constitute infallible teaching. Before exploring the last category in more detail, let us briefly consider the treatment of these matters in the
Catechism and in Ad Tuendam Fidem.

The
Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a short sum of these key points of Lumen Gentium 25 in sections 890-91, and regarding moral matters in 2032-40. Interestingly, the infallibility of the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium is not clearly delineated in these paragraphs, but rather is tacitly noted. 2034 states that "The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for." Then 2035 notes that the charism of infallibility (no further distinctions) extends to the realm of morals (and in 2036 to the realm of the natural law). One may conclude that since moral matters are not taught infallibly by the extraordinary episcopal or papal magisteria, they must be taught infallibly by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium.

In the recent letter
Ad Tuendam Fidem Pope John Paul II made it clear--and fixed it more firmly in Canon Law--that Catholic theologians must align themselves with the Magisterium on all matters of faith and morals. Many theologians had erroneously held that only the m ost fundamental dogmas, or only those formally defined by the extraordinary Magisterium, required assent. Ad Tuendam Fidem lends further refinement to Lumen Gentium 25, noting that of all the matters that are taught or defined infallibly, a further distinction can be made between the primary and secondary objects of infallibility. Doctrines placed under the primary object of infallibility, technically called dogmas, are those which are formally revealed, that is, part of the deposit of faith as found in the Word of God. The assent of faith given to these dogmas is based on the Word of God itself. Doctrines placed under the secondary object of infallibility are those necessary for understanding and expanding that deposit of faith. The assent of faith given to these doctrines is based on confidence in the Holy Spirit's guidance of the Magisterium.
Still another distinction is made regarding the secondary object: some such doctrines are connected to the deposit of faith by historical relationship, and others by logical relationship.

c. The Infallibility of the Ordinary Universal Episcopal Magisterium


It is on the last point of the outline that we must expound at some length, for it is on this level that some moral matters, possibly the doctrine on m ale priesthood, and the doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix, are infallibly taught. Again, when a) all bishops throughout the world, at any particular time in history, have b) concurred on some matter of faith and morals, and c) teach it definitively, then that matter is considered to be infallibly
taught. Note that it is not defined infallibly, as would be the case if there were an exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium as indicated in the above outline. Whether taught infallibly or defined infallibly, the matter is just as infallible.
Consider an analogy. In a classroom a professor might state certain instructions in an extraordinary way by using special means of emphasis. For example, he might carefully define on the course syllabus the method of grading, or the course requirements. Other items, of equal or even greater importance, may be taught in an entirely ordinary way (e.g., advice on how to study for an exam), or because they are such obvious points are not stated at all but are taught implicitly (e.g., respecting one another's contributions in class). Analogously, the Church both defines certain matters infallibly in an extraordinary way, and teaches other matters infallibly in an ordinary way.

Matters that are
defined infallibly usually were taught infallibly prior to the extraordinary definition. Often what causes a matter to be raised to the level of an infallible definition is some type of crisis requiring a more official definition. It is always a question of prudence as to whether or not to define a matter that is already infallibly taught by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium.


The recent encyclical
Evangelium Vitae could have been the context within which the pope defined infallibly the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life, on abortion, and on euthanasia. Instead, the pope (wisely in this author's opinion) used the encyclical to point out, in the midst of carefully reasoned argumentation, that these matters are already taught infallibly by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium. Likewise, the general opinion is that the pope could have used the occasion of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to formulate an ex cathedra infallible definition, but he chose not to for prudential reasons.
And finally, the pope was asked to define the dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix, but for prudential reasons to be discussed he did not pursue the matter.

If some bishops today have taught otherwise, they themselves stand in conflict with the tradition, and in a sense are standing outside the apostolic tradition at least on a particular issue. While we must not agree with them as regards their dissenting position, we still owe them our respect as members of the apostolic succession who guard the deposit of faith in many other (usually most other) respects.

d. Examples from
Evangelium Vitae

Let us consider the specific language used (and not used) in
Evangelium Vitae. The infallibility of three matters was dealt with: the sanctity of human life (article 57), the evil of abortion (article 62), and the evil of euthanasia (article 65). The same basic argument and language is used for each of the three; here consider the argument regarding the sanctity of life:

Faced with the progressive weakening in individual consciences and in society of the sense of the absolute and grace moral illicitness of the direct taking of all innocent human life, especially in its beginning and at its end, the Church's Magisterium has spoken out with increasing frequency in defense of the sacredness and inviolability of hum an life. The Papal Magisterium, particularly insistent in this regard, has always been seconded by that of the Bishops, with numerous and comprehensive doctrinal and pastoral documents issued either by Episcopal Conferences or by individual bishops. The Second Vatican Council also addressed this matter forcefully, in a brief but incisive passage [the reference is to Gaudium et Spes 27.

So far, the text has made reference to the ordinary papal Magisterium (not infallible in and of itself) and the non-universal episcopal Magisterium (also not infallible in and of itself). The point is that popes and bishops have consistently and definitively spoken out in defense of the sanctity of life.

This is the backdrop against which one can go on to determine whether this matter may be infallibly
taught by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium. In the next part of the text, the pope confirms that this is the case. He is not defining infallibly, but rather is confirming that this matter is already taught infallibly by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium:

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his successors, and in communion with the bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15) is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church, and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium [a reference is then made to Lumen Gentium 25].

Hence, we find a clear statement (a reminder) that these moral matters are taught (not defined) infallibly. Any other moral matters that have infallible status are taught, not defined, infallibly by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium. Other examples are those issues rooted in the Church's teaching on the nature of the conjugal act as unitive and procreative, such as homosexual acts, adultery and fornication, contraception and sterilization, autoeroticism, and certain new birth technologies.

e. The Most Popular Opposing Argument


This is an opportune occasion to unmask one of the most popular arguments put forth by those claiming that no matters of morality belong to the infallible Magisterium.


a) It is argued that no matters of morality have ever been defined infallibly by the Magisterium.
b) Therefore, all matters of morality are in the realm of fallible teachings that do not demand our assent of faith, but rather assent of mind and will.
c) Such teachings have changed in the past. For instance, the teaching that condemned religious liberty was not infallible, and it changed at Vatican II.
d) We are in the midst of another such change regarding the issue of contraception and other related issues. Hence, while giving due respect to the Magisterium, it is legitimate to dissent from these teachings.

Points "a" and "b" are correct in what they state, but err by omission. Matters of morality have not been defined infallibly, but they have been taught infallibly. One whole category of infallible teaching is ignored in this argument. Point "c" is erroneous because those moral matters infallibly taught have not been changed, and the fact that non-infallible matters like religious liberty have changed is not a problem precisely because such teaching belong in a different category, demanding a different type of assent. Finally, point "d" is a false conclusion because some of its premises are false, irrelevant or incomplete.

The Male Priesthood--section in Supplement, integrated into the material on Christian Marriage

f. Mary as Coredemptrix--extra section for those interested.


Professor Mark Miravalle of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, had written a careful argument regarding the dogmatic teaching of Mary as Coredemptrix of mankind, and had organized a petition drive to ask the Holy See to raise the teaching to the level of a definition; also toward this end, he has edited two scholarly books on the topic.



Much of the media treated the event as if the pope were being asked to create a new dogma; it was rather a matter of taking a dogma already taught infallibly by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium, and raising it to the level of a definition by the extraordinary papal Magisterium. Even Catholic publications failed to make this point clear.

There would be nothing inherently wrong with the pope raising the dogma to the level of a definition, and the volumes edited by Miravalle argue that many advantages would accrue. In the view of other theologians, a definition would be imprudent. In August of 1996, at the Mariological Congress held in Czestochowa, a commission was established by the request of the Holy Father to consider the prudence of a definition. "The response of the commission, deliberately brief, was unanimous and precise: It is not opportune to abandon the path marked out by the Second Vatican Council and proceed to the definition of a new dogma.”


Such theologians also argue that a definition would be imprudent in that it would unnecessarily hinder ecumenical efforts, particularly with the Orthodox. The present pontiff, as clear especially in
Ut Unum Sint, is particularly convinced that "the Church must breathe with her two lungs." Hence, it is argued that progressing toward a definition without collaboration with Eastern Orthodoxy seems pointedly unwise. And since the exercise of the extraordinary papal Magisterium is a stumbling block for Orthodoxy, it may be imprudent to define the dogma in that manner.


Several media reports, not necessarily reliable, have indicated that the pope is not planning to so define. Should those reports prove to be true, will the efforts of theologians such as Miravalle have been wasted? Rather, careful theological reflection on this matter may well contribute to an eventual definition by the extraordinary episcopal Magisterium at a future council that might even mark the reunion of East and West.

g. Some Lingering Difficulties:


i. Why Different Levels of Authority?


Some members of the faithful wonder why all the truths of the faith can't be presented with the same degree of absolute clarity. As someone once suggested to me, why not take the whole Catechism and define it infallibly?
While in one sense it would might be nice for everything to be clear cut, it would also be somewhat inappropriate. Jesus himself did not leave behind a crystal-clear guide book of infallible teachings, but rather gave the truth over to the Church to hand on (Tradition) with the promise of guidance by the Holy Spirit. In this Tradition, not all truths have the same status. Hence, certain truths of faith and morals are not infallible doctrines demanding assent of faith, but rather are in a different category of truths that demand a different kind of assent. Still other truths are not in the realm of faith and m orals at all (customs, practices, disciplines, etc.).

An analogy might show the appropriateness of such categories. Imagine putting yourself in the care of a doctor who, while a general practitioner, also happens to have unique expertise in one particular area such as respiratory problems. When you take his advice on a variety of different problems, you are aware that not each piece of advice is given with the same authority. What he says to you about your respiratory ailment might be likened to an infallible truth to which you give a whole-hearted assent, while his advice on, say, a foot problem, given with less authoritativeness, is also taken seriously but not with the same high degree of assent. Still, you have put yourself in his care, and you do w hat he says across the board.

Likewise, the Church teaches some matters infallibly and other matters with lesser degrees of certitude. Still, you put your soul in her care and follow her teachings across the board, even while the type of assent given to various teachings may vary. A Catholic ought not spend too much time worrying about these different degrees of assent--that is one reason why various documents of the Magisterium, including the
Catechism, do not dwell on these distinctions too much. We should avoid a minimalist attitude that too anxiously seeks out those items that are infallible. We ought to embrace the whole truth, as articulated in the Catechism, even though these truths are taught with differing degrees of authority.
Only rarely--the question of women's ordination is a case in point--is it necessary to delve into a careful examination of a teaching's infallibility.

ii) Why Not More Papal Definitions?

Another question on those matters that do belong to the infallible deposit of faith is, "why doesn't the pope just clearly define teachings on the male priesthood, on abortion, on contraception and the like infallibly?" In other words, why is there any need for the somewhat hazy category of the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium?

One response focuses on moral matters. It may well be that the Church is consistently hesitant to define matters of morality because she sees her teaching on such matters as a teaching that can also be known by all men through the "natural law" to which they have access by use of their reason alone, without the aid of Revelation. In other words, when the Church teaches that homosexual activity is wrong, this teaching is true for everyone. Everyone, Catholic or not, is expected to follow this truth, not because the Church taught it, but because the natural law, written on everyone's heart by the Creator (see Romans 1 and 2), teaches it. Hence, if the Church were to define such teachings in an extraordinary way, it might give the impression that these are truths especially recommended for Catholics, inaccessible without divine Revelation, as would be the case with, say, doctrine on the sacraments.

Furthermore, if the extraordinary Magisterium were to define several matters of morality, it would give the impression that the other matters of morality left undefined were not taught as decisively. For instance, if the pope had defined the truths on abortion and euthanasia in
Evangelium Vitae, he could very well have given the impression that the truths about contraception and homosexuality, not to mention a variety of other matters, were taught less decisively. In a word, it seems prudent to reserve matters of morality to the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium.

As to the teaching on the male priesthood remaining in this same category, we can consider several possibilities. First, the pope has noted that the Church has
always taught consistently on the matter of the male priesthood, as the matter goes straight back to Christ's own action in selecting apostles. To define the matter now would give the impression that its infallibility was not fully known in the past. With other matters, like the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception, the number of the sacraments, to give several examples, we find a development of doctrine throughout the history of Tradition such that these truths were not fully known about at earlier stages of the Church's history. They resided in the Tradition, without clear record in Scripture or in a recorded word or action of Christ him self, and their infallible status only gradually came to light.

Second, the pope may be reluctant to define the matter for ecumenical reasons--and this cross-applies to the dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix. As Rev. J. Michael Miller has aptly noted,

The Holy Father has his ecumenical eye focused very keenly on the Orthodox, the other "lung" of the Church which she needs to breathe freely....Since one of the principle obstacles to reunion is the authority to teach ex cathedra...it is not surprising that he decided against teaching infallibly on a matter about which the Catholic Church and her Orthodox sisters concur.


Eastern Orthodoxy's key difficulty with the bishop of Rome is the claim that he can teach infallibly apart from an ecumenical council. Hence, the pope may be on the one hand being sensitive to this difficulty by refraining from an
ex cathedra statement; on the other hand, in the wake of Anglicanism's abandonment of this teaching on the male priesthood, he is letting the Orthodox know with as much firmness as possible that Rome is not about to change too. Perhaps there will be an ecumenical council in the near future where, in union with Eastern Orthodoxy, the teaching will be defined infallibly. If so, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis will having been an important step in the right direction, containing the perfect balance of firmness and caution. Also recall what was said earlier about the dogma of Mary as Coredemptrix.

Thirdly, John Paul II clearly has used a strategy which tries to avoid schism at all costs. While there may already be a
de facto schism in the Church, there is reason to hope that in time many of those who are alienated will once again embrace the full apostolic tradition. By refraining from ex cathedra statements in all three areas discussed here, the pope may have intended to give some "breathing space" to those who have difficulty receiving the teaching, thereby giving the church as a whole more time to absorb it.


iii) Why Not Absolute Clarity on Infallibility?


Finally, many are bothered by the fact that the Church herself seems uncertain about what is and is not infallible, especially in regard to the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium. To put the matter rather bluntly, why wasn't the description of infallibility given in
Lumen Gentium 25 given to the Church much earlier? And further, why isn't that very description even more clear cut so as to avoid all dissent on the question of infallibility? Why isn't the gift of infallibility less hazy?

Again, there is a certain appropriateness to the manner in which Christ gives this gift to his Church. Imagine a person who has a great gift for, say, music. He only becomes aware of his gift gradually. He is not aware of the extent of his gift for a long time. And by no means does he know how to use his gift perfectly right from the start. Likewise with the gift of infallibility. While the gift is present from the beginning of the institution of the Church (see Matthew 16), it is not clearly defined and delineated. Only gradually does the Church become aware of the full nature of this power. Only over centuries does the Church clearly define and delineate the various parameters and aspects of this gift. In the meantime, mistakes and misunderstandings find their place, as is to be expected. Rather than looking askance at various mishaps along the way, it is better to look with a certain awe at this great gift bestowed on the apostolic succession.

h. Conclusion: the Need for Authority


Before concluding our inquiry, observe a fascinating point about authority. Many people today shirk from the very idea of authority, thinking of it as an affront to their freedom and individuality. But it is impossible to avoid authority. Those who think they are shirking authority are simply substituting one authority for another--for instance, the authority of secularism, or their own authority, for the authority of the Church. In a discussion on the ordination of women one might be told that he is too rigid and obsessed with authority figures like the pope, to which he could ask, "on whose authority do you claim that there are no ultimate authorities for humanity?" In a word, it is part and parcel of humanity to seek authority, simply because we are not gods and our own powers of insight and judgment are limited. The real question is not whether authority is good or bad, but rather, whose authority it is most reasonable and prudent to follow.

22.i. The Doctrinal Status of the Teaching on Male Priesthood

See first the handout on infallibility and moral norms, in Pt. I (Moral Section), chapter____

Then pursue this handout: The Male Priesthood: Infallibly Taught?

What about the dogmatic status of the male priesthood? Until June of 1994, the question of the dogmatic status of the male priesthood was unresolved. Since it had not been challenged before recent decades, the Church had not had an opportunity for careful theological reflection on the nature of maleness and femaleness and how that might affect the priesthood. Certainly the current crisis has born and w ill continue to bear fruit in that regard. Up until
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, it was tenable but not definitive that the doctrine was infallibly taught. Those in legitimate doubt about the infallibility of such teachings still were required to give the obsequium religiosum (reverent obedience) that Lumen Gentium asks of us for non-infallible teachings.

Before examining
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in more depth, this is an opportune moment to outline some inherent difficulties with the category "ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium." Some such difficulties are well summarized by James T. O'Connor:

By the nature of the case it will often be difficult to determine what in fact is being taught infallibly by the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. This is so because it must be determined that the bishops of the world, in union with the Bishop of Rome, are teaching a matter of faith or morals which must be held definitively. It is not, therefore, sufficient to establish that such and such a matter is being taught by the bishops and the Pope. It must be clear that they are teaching it definitively as something which must be held. Therefore, one must ascertain 1) exactly what is being taught; 2) whether the Pope and bishops are all (i.e., by a moral unanimity) teaching it; and 3) what degree of certitude they are attaching to their teaching. All of this entails a somewhat exhaustive study and one in which it can be expected that the experts (i.e., the theologians) will not always come to a meeting of minds.


There are some matters where an exhaustive study can be done by competent scholars. For instance, John T. Noonan has done a careful study on the Church's teaching on contraception, as has John Connery on the topic of abortion.

On the matter of the male priesthood, however, it is very difficult to study what and how the bishops taught because the matter simply was not controversial until recent decades. Precisely for this reason a variety of theologians held that the male priesthood w as a matter of custom and discipline, akin to the celibate priesthood. Only over the past thirty years have theologians, in the midst of a new controversy, investigated the connection between priesthood and the possible sacramental meaning of maleness and femaleness.

With the promulgation of
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis the pope affirmed the integral connection between the priesthood and the sacramental significance of maleness. But such a position was not one that was carefully articulated throughout the tradition, and so it is understandable why some theologians remain doubtful that this teaching was ever taught infallibly by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium.

Without perhaps entirely solving the difficulty, we can examine one way to approach it. It is true that the precise connection between maleness and the priesthood was not articulated explicitly thought the tradition. What recent scholarship shows, rather, is the connection between two matters that are taught infallibly, and this connection, not clearly seen until recent controversies, yields the possibility that the Church's constant practice of admitting only males to the priesthood is a matter of faith, not discipline, and a matter of faith taught infallibly.

The two matters taught infallibly are: i) The priest acts
in persona Christi at key parts of the Eucharistic celebration (as well as at the sacrament of Reconciliation). Christ, the bridegroom, is present (not just remembered or anticipated) in and through the sacramental mediation of the priest. ii) The sacramentality of marriage entails the sacramental imaging of the covenant between Christ and the Church.

The connecting point between these two teachings is that just as marriage requires a bridegroom and a bride in order for it to be efficacious as a sacrament, so too the Eucharistic "wedding ceremony" engages the bridal imagery of the covenant in an ontological, not just metaphorical fashion. A full examination of this connection is well beyond the scope of this paper; suffice it to say that a good deal of creative work has been done in this regard.

Still, such a theological argument for the male priesthood was not made explicit during the many centuries that the male priesthood was practiced, and hence it is difficult to ascertain that it was held definitively
as a matter pertaining to faith and morals. The problem is then exacerbated by the fact that the episcopacy has by no means been unanimous in supporting the teaching during the past decades of controversy. While the above argument in favor of infallible teaching satisfies the present author, one ought not too quickly dismiss those for whom some such argument remains unconvincing.

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis


With
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, we find a firm stance taken on the non-disciplinary status of the matter. Consider the final statement of the letter:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

While it is clear that the teaching is to be held definitively, the letter did not specify (as was done on the three issues noted above in
Evangelium Vitae) that the teaching was infallibly taught by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium (though the word "definitively" echoes one of the criteria by which a teaching of the ordinary Magisterium is to be considered infallible). Rather, the final statement gave the impression of being an ex cathedra statement, or just on the verge of being one.

The difficulty is that the word "define" is conspicuously absent, although the other criteria for an
ex cathedra statement seem to be present. Because of this, most theologians who support this papal document agree that it does not represent an ex cathedra statement, but is still infallible (as discussed below). Another opinion holds that it is an ex cathedra statement, and that the word "define" is by no means a required form in such a statement. We will discuss this view momentarily.

One can understand the confusion caused by the document. If the teaching had not been defined infallibly, then since it only came close to doing so it appeared as if it might not be infallible. And the document did not make clear reference to the other mode by which the teaching could be infallible--the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium--as was so clearly done in
Evangelium Vitae discussed above. The faithful were left somewhat in a state of perplexity.

Hence, the official request for clarification and the response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). The doubt (
dubium) to which Cardinal Ratzinger responded was: "Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith." It is instructive to note what the response (responsum) both said and did not say. It made clear that the teaching belonged to the deposit of faith and must be assented to de fide. It said that that teaching has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Hence, the infallibility of the teaching is made clear. It would appear as if the question of whether or not it was an ex cathedra statement is also settled, in the negative.

However, to say that the teaching has been set forth by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium is not necessarily a reference to
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis itself but to that teaching set forth in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Hence, the minority opinion that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis represents an ex cathedra statement is not explicitly ruled out by the Responsum; rather, the Responsum appears to be especially compatible with the majority opinion.

The Possibility of an Ex cathedra Definition in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis


As noted above, some scholars think that
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis contains an ex cathedra papal definition, in which case the infallibility of the teaching would not be affected but the "font" of infallibility would move from the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium to the extraordinary papal Magisterium. According to this view, the exact term "define", not found in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, is not required for an ex cathedra statement.

The reasoning begins with Vatican I's definition of papal infallibility:

...we teach and define that it is a divinely revealed dogma that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks
ex cathedra, i.e., when exercising his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians, he defines, by his supreme apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals which must be held by the universal Church, enjoys, through the divine assistance, that infallibility promised to him in blessed Peter and with which the divine Redeemer wanted His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith or morals; and therefore that the definitions of the same Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves and not from the consent of the Church.

Consider three lines of argumentation:

i) An argument from the text. While the verb "defines" is used and the noun "definition" appears, this does not mean, so it is argued, that a pope must use these terms in a papal definition.

ii) An argument from the context of Vatican I. In earlier drafts of the above statement, certain questions arose from the Council Fathers as to whether or not the text was locking future popes into the use of a specific formula in making a papal definition. Bishop Vincent Gasser clarified this matter in a
relatio given to the Council Fathers. "Defines" simply means that the characteristic of definitively passing judgment must be expressed in some way, he noted, and the pope is not bound to any particular formula.


iii) An argument from Vatican II.
Lumen Gentium 25, already referred to, when speaking of the extraordinary papal Magisterium, in fact answers again the question remaining from Vatican I about whether any particular formula is needed. It speaks of when the pope "proclaims (proclamat) by a definitive act," intentionally avoiding the word "define." It then speaks of these acts as "definitions." While it is understandable why one might misconstrue this to mean that an ex cathedra definition must use the word define, the document does not make this explicit, and in the context of Vatican I says just the opposite. In sum, according to this argumentation Ordinatio Sacerdotalis easily meets the requirements of an ex cathedra definition,
and is hence the third such definition in history alongside the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.

Why, then, have a majority of theologians affirmed that
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis only represents the pope affirming the infallibility of the teaching by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium? We can note two lines of argumentation.

i) The
Responsum ad Dubium fails to make clear that it was an ex cathedra statement. Surely Cardinal Ratzinger would have noted this if he and/or the pope intended it to so be. (It must be said, however, as noted above, that an ex cathedra statement is not ruled out by the Responsum. To repeat: To say that the teaching has been set forth by the ordinary universal episcopal Magisterium is not necessarily a reference to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis itself but to that teaching set forth in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Hence, the minority opinion that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis represents an ex cathedra statement is not explicitly ruled out by the Responsum; rather, the Responsum appears to be especially compatible with the majority opinion.)

ii) There seems to be a "quasi-tradition" of using the word "define" in an
ex cathedra definition, even if such a formula is not explicitly required. Both Ineffabilis Deus and Munificentissimus Deus used the word define. Both said "we pronounce, declare and define..." and if the pope intended Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to follow suit as a third ex cathedra statement he ought to have respected the usage found in the first two.

The purpose of these notes is not to try to resolve this dispute, but rather to set forth the parameters within which it exists. Of primary importance is the fact that either way one goes, the teaching of
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is an infallible teaching.


VI: Sin (VS 65-70) (also relevant to spirituality)

23. Mortal and Venial Sin

At the very core of our being, in the innermost recesses of our heart, we have a "fundamental option": we either chose to submit ourselves to God or to be our own arbiters. There is no possibility of remaining neutral as regards this foundational choice: to sit on the fence is to choose to be our own arbiters.

We are fundamentally oriented toward God or away from God. Human life is the ultimate adventure insofar as our fundamental status at the end of our life on earth is determinative of our fundamental status for eternity. Freedom is a dangerous gift.

a. Luther and Trent on Certainty


It is understandable, then, why some Christian denominations seek some means by which we can be guaranteed of our final salvation. Luther's anthropology grounded his conviction that faith alone justifies us; if we know we have this faith, then we know we are saved. In some fundamentalist groups today, this filters down to simply having had a single born-again experience so as to guarantee salvation.

Catholic doctrine teaches that we never have this kind of surety. As the Council of Trent taught,

Moreover, it must not be maintained, that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubt whatsoever, convince themselves that they are justified, and that no one is absolved from sins and justified except he that believes with certainty that he is absolved and justified, and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone, as if he who does not believe this, doubts the promises of God and the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ. (6th session, chapter 9)

Having criticized the Reformers' view of justification, the Council Fathers go on to describe the proper attitude about certainty:

For as no pious person ought to doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so each one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God. (Ibid.)

It is clear why Trent makes such a claim . Since sanctification is central to our salvation, if we choose its opposite we put our salvation in jeopardy. Hence, Paul admonishes us to work out our salvation "in fear and trembling."

b. The Paradox of Risk and Certainty


An interesting paradox is at work. On the one hand, the whole concept of salvation ought to give us a sense of
assurance. On the other hand, the lack of any complete guarantee of our salvation makes the process one of sheer risk. Let us examine this paradox more closely.

a)
Assurance. On the one hand, a Catholic need not be overly scrupulous or preoccupied with this dangerous risk, for several reasons. First, if one is practicing the sacraments and leading a prayerful life, one simply need not succumb to a neurotic worry about losing salvation. The sacraments are efficacious. They mysteriously "work" ex opere operato. Literally this phrase means "by the work worked." It means that so long as we do not place some impediment in the way of the sacraments, God causes grace through them. Grace does not depend on us--though we can hinder grace. Hence, if we enter into the sacramental life of the Church, we experience a certain type of safety due to the efficacy of the sacraments. Living the sacramental life is like being ontologically moored to God's grace.

Furthermore, on the moral level we do know that our fundamental orientation or option toward God is not something that easily "flip-flops" away from God. It would take a real "effort" to fundamentally orient oneself away from God. It would take what the tradition has called a mortal sin to do so. And mortal sins generally are not run-of-the-mill occurrences in the mature Christian's life.

b)
Risk. Next to such assurance there is another side to the moral life, a more frightening side. While recognizing the danger of a certain scrupulosity, nonetheless it is true that by a particular act, freely chosen, that one knows is gravely evil, one can shift the fundamental option away from God. The individual may very well not make a conscious decision to reject God, but such rejection takes place. Less gravely evil acts may not cause a rejection of God, but may well contribute to a general backsliding that paves the way for such rejection.

This is a startling and frightening truth that invariably accompanies the Christian during his life. It constantly reminds us that our lives, our moral acts, really do matter--every step we take is either a step toward our final end, or a step that hesitates in the face of that end, or a step that actually moves backward from it. If it were not for the sacrament of confession, through which we Christ's mercy and forgiveness is mediated to us, this startling truth would lead us to despair. Pastorally, it is wise never to speak of sin without simultaneously speaking of God's mercy.

c. The Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin


St. Paul speaks of "the love of God poured into our hearts" (Rom 5:5). The tradition speaks of this love of God as the infused theological virtue of
charity--not to be confused with the more recognized meaning of the word as some act of kindness to the poor. It is an infused virtue because God "pours" it into our being as a free gift. It is also called sanctifying grace. By this grace we are made partakers in the very life of God Himself. The Patristic tradition speaks of this marvelous phenomenon as our divinization or deification. It is this grace that infuses our being that is threatened by sin.

A mortal sin is an act that is contrary to the infused charity that dwells in our healed natures. Earlier we examined Thomas'
Treatise on Happiness, discovering that man has a single essential end--union with God--that alone brings him total happiness. All of our other more proximate ends or goals ought to be subordinated to this final end. It is as if you were traveling down a winding river toward the port; on the way are many adjoining rivers, and also many minor obstacles. As you chart your course, your final goal is to reach port; all of your more proximate goals are subordinated to that final goal. The proximate goals of avoiding an obstacle, or of resisting the current that might lead you down an adjoining river, are pursued because of the final goal. So too in the moral life, all proximate goals are pursued in light of the final goal of union with God.

To continue the analogy, there is a difference between venial sin--getting temporarily caught in some obstacle, while still on your basic path--and mortal sin--getting caught in a whole different river that takes you on an entirely different path. Mortal sin destroys our orientation to our final goal. Only God can repair this damage--otherwise it is permanent. Venial sin inhibits the journey to the final goal, but is not permanent. Once the sin stops, we can be on our way. Since we still possess God's grace within us, we possess that power, an intrinsic principle, by which a venial sin is pardoned. "Venial" comes from the Latin
venia, a noun meaning indulgence to faults, pardon, acquittal, or forgiveness.

It is instructive to contrast all of this with the classical Protestant view which would not distinguish the two types of sin. Since God is infinite, any offense against him is infinite; hence all sin is mortal, and it is only logical, given our sinfulness, that we are all utterly depraved. The strength of this view is that it intends to uphold God’s sovereignty. If an offense against God can be merely venial, then he is not totally sovereign. From a Catholic view, however, this is a heteronomous type of sovereignty. God is then like the angry parent who goes into a rage at his children’s slightest offense. Such a father is a tyrant who cannot distinguish between less grievous (venial) human failings of his children, and their total rejection of him.
(new handout on Nominalism, under construction, fits here)

The Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sin rests on the doctrine of sanctifying, indwelling grace. God’s sovereignty is located in his powerful and loving desire to pour his very self into us. SO powerful is this divine life that it is not easily dispelled. Our minor rebellions (venial sins) are no match for this grace. However, we are free to reject it, and mortal sin is that rejection. Notice that the classical Protestant anthropology does not allow for this indwelling sanctifying grace. God’s grace is rather imputed to us, covering our depravity. Without a doctrine of sanctifying grace, the mortal/venial distinction vanishes.

ST
On the distinction between mortal and venial sin, see St. Thomas, question 88. In article 1, using the analogy of health and disease, he explains how mortal sin is an irreparable condition whereas venial sin is a reparable disorder:

For sin, being a sickness of the soul...is said to be mortal by comparison to a disease, which is said to be mortal, through causing an irreparable defect consisting in the corruption of a principle....Now the principle of the spiritual life, which is a life in accord with virtue, is the order to the last end...and if this order be corrupted, it cannot be repaired by any intrinsic principle [as with venial sin], but by the power of God alone...because disorders in things referred to the end are repaired through the end, even as an error about conclusions can be repaired through the truth of the principles....Wherefore such sins are called mortal, as being irreparable. On the other hand, sins which imply a disorder in things referred to the end, the order to the end itself being preserved, are reparable. These sins are called venial: because a sin receives its acquittal (veniam) when the debt of punishment is taken away, and this ceases when the sin ceases....

Sins that are mortal, as noted above, are incompatible with charity. One's first inclination might be to think that such sins must be directly against God, not against our neighbor or our self. But serious acts against our neighbor or our self, as well as those against God, are incompatible with the love of God that heals our nature; hence, they cause irreparable damage to our nature, placing it "back" as it were in a depraved or fallen state. As Thomas notes in Question 88 article 2:

For, when the will is directed to a thing that is in itself contrary to charity, whereby man is directed to his last end, the sin is mortal by reason of its object. Consequently it is a mortal sin generically, whether it be contrary to the love of God, e.g. blasphemy, perjury, and the like, or against the love of one's neighbor, e.g. murder, adultery, and such like: wherefore such sins are mortal by reason of their genus.

Later in the same article Thomas notes that "The very fact that anyone chooses something that is contrary to divine charity, proves that he prefers it to the love of God, and consequently, that he loves it more than he loves God.."

Hence, our concrete acts, if they be of serious matter, can destroy our fundamental orientation toward God. We need not directly intend the rejection of God at all, but our action "betrays" us. We can still believe in God--the virtue of faith--and hope in God--the virtue of hope, and yet have the virtue of charity destroyed in us. Furthermore, we can still have and exercise what are called the natural virtues. We can still be generous and sincere people, for example.

As Thomas notes in question 71, article 4:

But if we compare the sinful act to the cause of the virtues, then it is possible for some virtues to be destroyed by one sinful act. For every mortal sin is contrary to charity, which is the root of all the infused virtues, as virtues; and consequently, charity being banished by one act of mortal sin, it follows that all the infused virtues are expelled
as virtues....On the other hand, since venial sin is neither contrary to charity, nor banishes it, as a consequence, neither does it expel the other virtues. As to the acquired virtues, they are not destroyed by one act of any kind of sin.

To some extent this is a hard truth to swallow--that certain actions, freely and knowingly chosen, destroy charity, and unless repaired, have eternal consequences. For much goodness and sincerity can (though by no means always does) surround a person who has committed mortal sin, due to his acquired virtues. We are tempted to think that
no act could turn us from God unless absolute and intentional contempt for God accompanied the act. Thomas confronts this very suspicion:

...two things occur in the nature of sin, viz. the voluntary act, and its inordinateness, which consists in departing from God's law. Of these two, one is referred essentially to the sinner, who intends such and such an act in such and such matter; while the other, viz. the inordinateness of the act, is referred accidentally to the intention of the sinner, for no one acts intending evil, as Dionesius declares. (72, 1)

The turning from God, then, "happens" to accompany certain sinful acts. Of course the individual does not intend it--in that sense it is accidental.

But there is more going on in our souls than what we sense or feel--one of the hallmarks of a sacramental view of reality. In the deep recesses of our being, that private sanctuary that is a mystery even unto ourselves, our fundamental orientation to God can be ontologically reversed despite our feelings or desires to the contrary. While we may not feel this reversal, we can know about it.

What at first sight is a staggering truth turns out to be a quite liberating knowledge because we really do know the boundaries for our moral existence. We have the moral bedrock upon which to rely. If not, then we become as gods, with the inordinate burden of arbitrating for ourselves over serious issues in the moral life.

CCC 1846-1876

c. sub 1 Scrupulosity. (
close to the same is published in This Rock, one of the 2006 issues)
(a pastoral article)

God’s grace is the most powerful thing on earth. By making His own inner-Trinitarian life available to us, God demonstrates beyond measure His sovereignty: His sovereign love, in giving us so great a gift, and His sovereign power, by which He is capable of so giving.

Try to imagine what would happen to this great gift if it were forced upon us. The answer is obvious: it would lose its value. To be a truly great gift of love, it has to not only be freely offered, it must be something we are free to accept or reject. It must have been tempting for God, if we can anthropomorphize for a moment, to build man with freedom but to prevent man from misusing that freedom in any truly serious way—such as a mortally sinful act by which grace is rejected. But that would have made the gift of freedom a kind of “toy freedom,” a nice item to give us the illusion of choice, but not the genuine article.

Hence, the gift of freedom is like a “twin” gift along with the gift of grace. We have just shown that grace without freedom is not grace; so too, freedom without grace is not real freedom. Freedom.in a vacuum, freedom as an end in itself, freedom to “do what I want,” is fake freedom. We are left profoundly empty when we use our freedom in that way—maybe some cheap thrills initially, but then a profound restlessness and despair. Authentic freedom is to freely align oneself with the Truth, and the greatest truth is the truth about the indwelling of God’s Trinitarian life, grace. Freedom shows its fullest splendor and power when it is aligned with the highest truth, the truth about participating in God’s Trinitarian life.

The Descent into Scrupulosity

Truly great things are vulnerable to misuse.
Corruptio optimi pessimi—the corruption of the best is the worst. Let’s watch how easy it is to make a deadly mistake in regard to our sovereign God’s gifts of grace and freedom. Go through the following steps, trying to discern when a mistake is made.

  • It’s one thing to offend a “normal” human person. These offenses can be forgiven.

  • Things start to get bad when you offend a person of high dignity.

  • The more sovereign the person offended, the more dangerous the offense.

  • Things get really bad when you offend the greatest person—or rather, the three greatest persons, namely, the Trinity.

  • Even if the offense seems minor, the fact is that it is an offense against an infinite being.

  • Hence, though technically there are different degrees of sin, ultimately all sin is of one kind—given the infinite nature of God, all offenses against God are equally serious business.

  • Given the inevitability of sin, there’s not much hope of salvation.

At this point, one has landed squarely into, you guessed it, scrupulosity. It’s the occupational hazard of the Catholic moral life. Take morality seriously, and you are vulnerable to this mistake. Like most mistakes, it gets half of the picture right—and that is precisely why this error has an “attractive” feature that lures people into its snare. What does it get right? The truth about the seriousness of human freedom: it is not a little game; we really do have the power to dislodge God’s grace from our hearts through sin. The problem with scrupulosity is not that it takes freedom seriously, but that it gets the other half of the grace/freedom picture wrong: it fails to see that God’s grace is so powerful that it is not so easily dislodged from the heart as the scrupulous person thinks.

Scrupulosity takes myriad forms. Here are a few descriptions that depict the errors a scrupulous person can fall into.

  • Granted the difference between venial and mortal sins, the difference is only one of degree—the misuse of freedom that offends the Trinity, of whatever degree, is serious business.

  • Faults are sins, or at least so rooted in sin that to display a fault is tantamount to sin—and remember what we just said about sin! We choose our faults, and to misuse freedom is to sin.

  • A psychological disorder is really the result of sin, and actions stemming therefrom are sins. Those who note that psychological disorders minimize or negate our freedom (in some areas of life) are just not serious about freedom. You know, always looking for excuses.

  • The very existence of impure thoughts crossing one’s mind, such as sexual thoughts, or thoughts about revenge, is sinful. We are free to control our minds, and if anything impure gets in there, it’s freely chosen—and hence sinful.

  • In a word, any imperfection puts an enormous barrier between us and God.

  • The only hope is the sacrament of reconciliation, and since sin happens constantly, one must get to the sacrament constantly—obsessively!

Note the good intentions behind this line of thinking: it is all meant to emphasize our freedom and responsibility, and to uphold God’s sovereignty--surely noble goals! The individual person might feel pretty small at the end of the day, but at least we remain responsible and God remains sovereign—it is almost as if we can crank his sovereignty up a notch or two if we find ourselves in a demeaned state of guilt! In fact, the scrupulous person often has a feigned humility. It looks like real humility but it’s not—we’ll see momentarily what it really is.

Getting the Intellect in Order—Seeing Sin Clearly

We are going to look at some
theological and philosophical solutions to the problem of scrupulosity. Let me explain why they are both helpful, and limited. They are helpful because so often we operate from a set of misconceptions, and getting things straight in our minds often is just the thing to get us on track. St. Augustine noted in his Confessions that his resistance to the Catholic faith was rooted in misconceptions he held about it, and he notes how freeing it was to find out the truth.

Still, sometimes even when your intellect is all set and accurate, your will doesn’t obey your intellect. Augustine again: he had a full conversion of intellect, but it took some doing for the conversion of will to follow (his famous prayer: “Make me chaste, but not yet”). Think of the intellect as the navigator of a plane, and the will the pilot. The navigator may have just the right information, but the pilot might choose not to listen. This article primarily provides some fresh ideas for the “navigator” part of your soul, the intellectual part. There is quite a bit of material available that focuses more on the “will,” on the “pilot” part of the soul—some recommended material is in the sidebars.

But beware: sometimes the will won’t do the right thing because it is stubborn (Augustine’s stubborn will is the quintessential example). But at other times, the will might in fact be very pliable but the
psychological makeup of the scrupulous person gets in the way. Yes, scrupulosity can be, and often is, an actual psychological disorder, of some degree or other. If this is the case, all the great theological ideas in the world won’t help much, and your wsheer will-power won’t help either. In fact, they could cause further problems: you see the solution so clearly, and you try so hard, that the frustration at not being able to rid yourself of scrupulosity is maddening.

If you have this psychological disorder (and you’re not alone if you do), depending on its degree of seriousness, and the extent to which it is hampering your daily life, you need competent professional help, and especially therapy that is compatible with the Catholic understanding of the human person. It is all too common for a therapist to blame Catholic upbringing for the problem (which may be partially correct) and then as a solution, discourage involvement in the Catholic faith!

Probably just as dangerous is the well-meaning pastor or theologian with no training in therapy. A person can be left more guilt-ridden than before. In a word, if you suspect a serious disorder, get professional help, but don’t rely on the yellow pages.

With those
caveats in order, we can turn to informing the intellect properly. Put on your seatbelt—some of this will be heady stuff!

Six Solutions for Scrupulosity

Solution #1--Distinguish material and formal sin

This might sound like fancy scholastic terminology, but the distinction is a tremendously refreshing one, particularly to the person prone to a scrupulous conscience. Material sin refers to a particular act which is objectively sinful. It could be gravely sinful (mortal sin) or might constitute light matter (venial sin). When you look at something materially you are considering it without any reference to the particular person who committed the act.

Once you plug a particular person into the act, you are speaking of the act
formally. If a particular person committed a materially sinful act (be it mortal or venial), with sufficient freedom and knowledge, then the act is formally sinful. That is, the person has some degree of culpability or blameworthiness for the act committed.

So important is this distinction that it is a good idea to do a couple more exercises with it before applying it to scrupulosity. Test yourself with the following two examples:

What is the difference between material and formal heresy?

Say that you have offended someone unintentionally. What would it mean to say “the offense was material, not formal”?

Answers:

1) A material heretic holds a particular view that is contrary to doctrine, but is either unaware of that fact, or incapable of understanding the matter properly. For instance, it is somewhat common for people to have misconceptions of the Trinity, or of the nature of Jesus Christ, without knowing it. Someone might think that the Father, Son and Spirit are three manifestations of a single God (the heresy of modalism) or someone might think that Jesus Christ is a dvine soul infused in a human body (the heresy of Apollinarianism). For the material heretic, these misunderstandings are unfortunate but innocent. It is only when one becomes aware of the heretical nature of one’s position, and obstinately refuses to change, that one is a formal heretic.

2) To say the offense was material is to acknowledge that it was a genuinely offensive thing to do or say—a very healthy acknowledgement. To add that the offense was not formal is to state that it was not intended as offensive.

Now for the chief application to scrupulosity. Consider three applications.

1) One might have committed a number of material sins—mortal or venial-- that are not formal at all. There is no culpability, and no need to confess such material sins. This is often the case in regard to a person’s past: due to invinciable ignorance and immaturity (see CCC 1860), many materially sinful actions may have occurred for which one is not culpable. Put the past behind you and walk away from it!

2) Many sins committed that are materially mortal are formally venial. While it is true that we have the capacity to be in control of our passions, the fact is that such control, even for a highly responsible person, is a gradual process, and while under the sway of our passions we are not fully free. A material mortal sin can only be formally mortal is there is sufficient freedom (see CCC 1860). Application: a person might have a past littered with material mortal sins, few of which are formally mortal. While one cannot deny the damage that such acts incur, it is a tremendous relief for the scrupulous person to know that they are not “going to hell” for the mortal sins of their past. And remember, all venial sin is forgiven not only in a good confession, but at the penitential rite of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

3) A materially venial sin cannot be formally mortal—this one is of special import for the scrupulous person. Thinking a sin is mortal does not make it so! The reason is this: for there to be mortal sin, there needs to be grave matter (see CCC 1857-59). Without grave matter, a key condition for mortal sin is missing. This is particularly freeing for the scrupulous person who mistakenly thinks all sin to be mortal, as discussed above.


Solution #2-- Distinguishing Sinful Thoughts and Neutral Thoughts

Oftentimes scrupulosity focuses on impure thoughts, of whatever kind. An essential distinction is usually missing here: the difference between an impure thought entering the mind, and the choice to dwell on that thought and take pleasure in it. The impure thought that enters the mind is neutral. Entertaining the thought is not.

The scrupulous person gets one thing right in this regard: a sin can take place in the mind, apart from an external act. St. Thomas (S.T. I-II, q. 18) speaks of the “object of the interior act of the will” and the “object of the external act,” and sin can take place in both realms. The man who robs a bank sins; the man who plans the robbery but doesn’t follow through on it (due to illness, or his accomplice not showing up) sins as well; and the man who
entertains thoughts about robbery also sins. Likewise, the actual entertainment of impure sexual thoughts constitutes a sinful “moral object.” Christ emphasized this when he taught that looking at a woman lustfully--that is, truly entertaining impure thoughts about her--is equivalent to adultery.

However, the scrupulous person often fails to distinguish sinful thoughts and neutral thoughts. The error is understandable—none of us likes the fact that impure thoughts can bombard us. But the impure thought that enters the mind may well be neutral, so long as a person does not
intentionally put himself in a situation that invites the thought. There is no reason to feel guilty about such thoughts. Again, it is the choice to dwell on the thoughts that is inordinate and sinful. As the Catechism notes, "Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices" (1768; and see the whole section on the passions from 1763-1770).

So, it is important to have the right goal: for some people perhaps many people, it is unrealistic to think that impure thoughts will or should altogether vanish. They might even increase as one tries to avoid them! Rather, the goal is to avoid
entertainment of the thoughts.

Solution #3—Avoiding an “Obsession with Confession”


The sacrament of reconciliation is a tremendous gift, but (ask any priest!) it is easily misused. While the “secularized” Catholic or the “cafeteria” Catholic ignores or psychologizes the sacrament, the scrupulous person obsesses with the sacrament. It is common to obsess about missed sins from the last confession, or sins of the distant past. It is common to run to the confessional a bit too frequently.

The most important solution: obey your confessor! He will probably tell you to stop confessing past sins, or to use the sacrament no more than every three weeks or so. Scrupulous people tend to ignore such sound advice, but this is a time to (scrupulously!) obey!

And, a piece of advice to help prevent over-use of the sacrament. If you commit a genuine sin and your next-planned time to confess is three weeks off, don’t obsess. Relax. Assuming you are sorry, God forgives you as you
anticipate the sacrament. Do you remember what it was like to really feel the excitement of Santa bringing Christmas gifts, in October as you looked at the Christmas catalogues? You were experiencing Christmas proleptically—that is, experiencing the thing itself before the thing historically happens. Likewise, the Blessed Virgin Mary was affected by his son’s redemptive work by anticipation. So too for you when you ask God’s forgiveness, and are affected by the confession you will make several weeks hence.

Solution #4-- God’s Grace is not Easily Dislodged

Perhaps the best antidote to scrupulosity is the awareness that God’s grace is not easily dislodged by our sinful actions, much less by our smaller imperfections. God’s sovereignty is located in his ability to provide so great a gift to us as grace—His own inner-Trinitarian life infused in our being. That is a substantial gift! Were it easy to “push away” it would not be too valuable.

And, if we think we can easily budge so great a gift, we are guilty of undue pride. That pride often masks itself as humility: “I am a horrible sinner and incapable of God’s love.” But in fact that is a false humility by which we make ourselves more powerful than we really are, and by which we minimize the sovereign power of God and His gift of grace. Our venial sins are no match for God’s grace. True enough, given the magnitude of the gift of freedom, we truly have the power to mortally sin and thereby dislodge God’s grace. But scrupulous people need not be reminded of that!

John Paul II, in
Veritatis Splendor 60-65, discusses the idea of the “fundamental option”—it is one of the trickier parts of the encyclical because he oscillates between the proper use of the idea and its misuse. Its proper use is helpful in combating scrupulosity. Deep in the core of our being we make a fundamental choice to love God and order our lives according to His will. By that choice we receive God’s grace into our being, and God’s life is so foundational that venial sin cannot destroy it. Venial sin is a manifestation—and a helpful one at that—of something that threatens but does not destroy our fundamental choice toward God. Venial sin does not dislodge the Trinitarian life within us, and hence the very source of forgiveness is right in our midst (see CCC 1863).

Solution #5—“Shock Therapy” (in a manner of speaking)

If the previous solution sounds right but is still hard to fully embrace, here is an additional solution that is a bit like shock therapy. Ask yourself this: as a scrupulous person, what is your perspective on the Protestant understanding of grace and good works, as compared to the Catholic understanding?

Most scrupulous people, while aware that their scrupulosity involves a preoccupation with good works, nonetheless abhor the classical Protestant position that tends to bifurcate faith and works. Most would say, “I’d rather be a scrupulous Catholic than a faith-is-all Protestant.”

Well, guess what? Recall the point just above, that the scrupulous person thinks God’s grace is too easily dislodged. Put another way, this person’s heart is not quite capable of the great “weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17) that is grace. What other Christian viewpoint is likewise guilty of thinking God’s grace has no steadfast home in the human heart?

You guessed it: the classical Protestant position (which many contemporary Protestants no longer hold, by the way). For Luther and Calvin, the damage wrought by the Fall of man is such that the human heart is not capable of being infused with the life of the Trinity, with God’s grace.
That grace has been dislodged. And so, in a somewhat startling way, the Protestant view of grace is the flip-side of Catholic scrupulosity.

For Luther, Zwingli and Calvin, and other Reformers, God’s grace does not
heal and elevate our fallen human natures. God’s grace saves us in spite of our depraved natures. God, in his great mercy, declares us to be in right relation with him—a “forensic” righteousness rather than an infused righteousness. While this view admirably recognizes the power of human sinfulness, it fails to recognize the super-power of God’s grace. That grace is capable of taking the most sinful human nature and healing it.

The Council of Trent, in its
Decree on Justification, speaks of our new natures as the—here’s that great philosophic term again—formal cause of our justification. Let’s unravel that term. So that we might arrive safely in heaven (our final goal is the “final cause” of our justification), it is God who justifies us (He is the efficient cause of our justification), Christ who gets the credit due to His redemptive work (He is the meritorious cause of our justification), and the sacraments the means through which Christ’s accomplishment is ordinarily mediated to us (hence, baptism is the instrumental cause of our justification). The material cause is simply that which is being justified, namely ourselves. (Trent does not mention this cause—it is too obvious.) That leaves one more cause—the formal cause. One might initially think that the formal cause must have to do with our good works, but that’s not quite on balance. The formal cause is the new nature that God has placed in us—His grace--by which we are rendered capable of doing good works. So, it is not as if God does His share and we do our share—half grace, half works. God does it all, but He goes so far as to infuse Himself into our nature, such that the resulting sanctity is a cause of our justification. And this sanctity is what Trent calls the “formal cause” of our justification. Now you have still another instance of the philosophical notion of “the formal” as distinct from the material.

For the classical Protestant reformers, there is no formal cause of justification. Ultimately the Protestant viewpoint—and it is shared by the scrupulous Catholic—does not recognize the
full power of Christ’s redemption. It is certainly a wonderful thing that the redemptive work of Christ would allow grace to cover over our depraved natures, but it is still more wondrous that that redemptive grace might heal and elevate our fallen nature.

That’s the end of the (first) shock therapy session. These ideas have the power to jolt a scrupulous Catholic back to a more balanced outlook, and as well they have the power to bring a Protestant into fuller incorporation into the Catholic faith.

Solution #6—Shock Therapy Again

Call this shock therapy version two—in the odd event that version one didn’t quite work, this might do the trick, and even if version one worked, this will reinforce your new perspective.

Let us start with a few terms that John Paul II uses in his brilliant encyclical on moral theology,
Veritatis Splendor (article 41). Throughout the encyclical, our late great pope was at pains to show that the Catholic moral life was not an alien imposition on the human person, something extrinsically forced on us by authority figures (God, the pope). To use a technical term, the moral life is not heteronomous—not a set of laws that are alien to us. And, the quintessential instance of viewing the moral life heteronomously is—you guessed it—scrupulosity. God is like a tyrant intent on making your life miserable and ready to pounce at the least mistake or any sign of weakness.

What happens to people who are raised in a heteronomous environment? All too often they recoil, and want to distance themselves as much as possible from that oppressive system. (I recall one such person referring to herself as a “recovering Catholic.”) Such people head straight to the opposite extreme—what John Paul II called an
autonomous view of the moral life: “I’m free and can do whatever I want, and it’s up to me to follow my own conscience.” Never mind that freedom means being aligned with the truth, and that the conscience one follows must be a conscience informed by that truth.

Even though heteronomy and autonomy look like polar opposites, they have something fundamental in common: both are arbitrary systems of morality. Heteronomy posits an arbitrary authority figure who tells us: do it because I said so and look out if you disobey. Autonomy looks like it escapes that arbitrariness, but in fact falls straight into another version of the same: whatever I choose, is right for me. Sounds absolutely arbitrary!

What do heteronomy and autonomy have to do with shock treatment for scrupulosoity? Since they are flip sides of the same coin, a person caught in the heteronomus snares of scrupulosity is poised for two possibilities: escaping into the opposite extreme of autonomy, or giving others so heteronomous a snapshot of Catholicism that
they flee toward autonomy. Now, the scrupulous person may have some things wrong, but one thing he doesn’t have wrong is a distaste for autonomy! And yet, his own heteronomous scrupulosity actually places him (or others) precisely on a trajectory toward autonomy.

You can see why this material was labeled “shock treatment”!

Conclusion: The Glory of Participated Theonomy

As noted, John Paul II was at pains to steer wide and clear of both heteronomy and autonomy. Most people find themselves caught in one or the other, or sometimes oscillating between one or the other. For perhaps the quintessential example playing itself out in our day, think of the autonomous dimensions of Western culture, and the heteronomous use of Islam combating the West. Within the Catholic Church, think of the autonomous perversions of Vatican II, and the some of the heteronomous reversions to the past.

One might initially think that John Paul II tried to find some kind of “middle ground” between autonomy and heteronomy, but no, he transcended those sad options and placed the Catholic moral life on an entirely different plane. He showed how moral truth resonates profoundly in the heart of the human person: the truth is friendly to our being. We are built for the truth, and the truth is built within us. God’s law is made for our happiness and our authentic freedom—our very being participates in God’s law. John Paul referred to this perspective as
participated theonomy.

Ultimately it is just such a perspective that frees the scrupulous person. This perspective is written into virtually every article of
Vertitatis Splendor, as John Paul sketches every aspect of the moral life through the lens of participated theonomy. A slow, careful reading of Veitatis Splendor may be the best antidote to scrupulosity available.


For an article from a psychological standpoint that is respectful of religion, see:

Scrupulosity: Religious Obsessions and Compulsions Carol E. Watkins, MD
http://www.ncpamd.com/scrup.htm

The
Catholic Encyclopedia has a good article on scrupulosity:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13640a.htm

Liguori Publications has a nice document,
Ten Commandments for the Scrupulous, by Rev. Thomas M. Santa, C.SS.R. See http://mission.liguori.org/newsletters/scrupulosity.htm
Father Thomas Santa has spent the last twenty-five years of his life answering questions in a monthly newsletter as head of the organization Scrupulous Anonymous.
His book
Understanding Scrupulosity brings together many of these answers—call 1-888-291-8000 to order or for more info.

(End of material on scrupulosity)

d. Transcendental and Categorical Levels of the Self
(also relevant to anthropology)

The inner core is a most mysterious part of our selves; it is not something one can "take a good look at" as one would other more external parts of the self. Karl Rahner speaks of this inner level as the
transcendental level of our being, whereas the more external parts, such as our concrete actions, are on the categorical level. These external aspects can be seen and visualized clearly, placed along side each other or categorized. The deeper inner level of our being evades such categorization.


A fascinating exercise reveals the nature of this inner mystery. First, realize that in every act of knowing or willing, there is a subjective and an objective component, that is, a subject who does the knowing and the object that is known. Hence, if I know about a tree, the subjective and objective components of that act of knowledge are obvious. Likewise I can know things about myself and my actions--I can be the subject who looks upon a particular act that I have engaged in. But what happens when I wish to know about the inner core of my being itself? At this point, that inner core becomes the
object of knowledge--but what then is the subject of that act of knowing? The subject has to be the very inner core of my being that I am trying to objectify. This is, needless to say, impossible; if I try to look at my inner self, it is my own inner self that is doing the looking. Otherwise put, if I wish to consider my self as object, the self automatically escapes objectivization and remains the subject.


Hence, the self always evades full objectification and full knowledge; it remains a mystery.

It is that which does the objectifying, but which itself can never by objectified. Something that can never be objectified remains a full mystery.

Note that God, as pure absolute mystery, can similarly never be objectified. He is rather the horizon of being and truth within which all other objects exist. When I know other objects, I invariably know the horizon against which they exist, but I can never know that horizon
as horizon. Like the horizon on the ocean, if I approach it and try to get to it, it evades me--it "walks with m e" as it were.

Interestingly, through sanctifying grace, this absolute mystery of God can be fully present in the mystery of the self. These two mysteries can converge, even though they remain distinct. The life of sanctifying grace within the self is just this convergence. Hence, St. Paul can say "...the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me" (Gal 2:20).

It is tempting, however, to conclude from the above analysis that the mystery of the self and the mystery of God, since they evade objectification, become vague entities about which nothing can be said. This is a mistake. Rather, very definite things can be said--from knowledge by both reason and Revelation--about the mystery of the self and the mystery of God. But these definite truths never
exhaust the mystery of the self and the mystery of God. They never turn God or the self into objects.

The dogmatic statements of the Church's heritage are, then, accurate windows to the transcendent mysteries of the self and God. Of concern in moral theology is that we can know that certain acts destroy the life of grace in us. We cannot somehow "get inside" the mystery of the self to
see this happen--for as we have shown, the self cannot be looked at as an object--any more than we can get inside the mystery of God or the mystery of grace dwelling in us. But we can have objectively valid knowledge that is non-exhaustive about the inner workings of grace in the soul. Dogma gives us this valid knowledge. When a person commits a sin he sees a manifestation of his inner life.

A corrollary of this truth is that we cannot rely on an analysis of our own experience for the deepest and most important self-knowledge. Hence, the distinction between psychology and spirituality. Psychology is most helpful in analyzing our experience of reality, whether it be conscious or sub-conscious. Spirituality concerns the deepest, ontological level of the self.

e. Mortal Sin and Responsibility

In order for a person to commit mortal sin, three conditions must be met. First, the act itself must be grave, or of "serious matter." Second, the person must know that the act is seriously wrong. Thirdly, the person must freely consent to the act. If these conditions are not met, the act is not a mortal sin. The tradition distinguishes between a "formal" and a "material" mortal sin. If a person commits the act in freedom and knowledge, then it is a formal mortal sin. If not, it remains a mortal sin only materially--that is, it is objectively a sinful act but is not sinful
for that person,

There is something enigmatic about this distinction. Why even say "this act is mortally sinful" if the sinfulness depends on the freedom and knowledge of the agent? Why not say it is evil, and when done knowingly and in freedom, it becomes a sin?

Some modern moral theologians hesitate about calling certain acts "mortal sins" for just this reason--that personal responsibility, rooted in knowledge and freedom, appears to be left out in such claim s.

While prominent moralists of our tradition took all three conditions for mortal sin seriously, the popular mind gradually came to identify serious matter alone as enough for mortal sin. By focusing on matter alone, ready catalogues of sin could easily be devised to aid an examination of conscience. With these examination aides, the personal factors of knowledge and freedom often got lost. By contrast, contemporary moral thinking focuses on personal responsibility and so tries to retrieve the personal factors of knowledge and freedom in order to appreciate the moral significance of an action.
*

But what at first seems to be an enigma--namely, calling an act mortally sinful prior to including the agent's knowledge and freedom--turns out to be an insightful pedagogical help to the m oral agent.

For when we look at a list of "mortal sins," two things happen.

First, by that very act we gain the
knowledge that these acts put our salvation in serious jeopardy. We m ay not have full understanding why certain acts do so. And of course it would be good to learn why. But one can have genuine and sufficient knowledge without possessing the full line of reasoning that could flow from that knowledge.
Jacques Maritain calls this knowledge by
connaturality as opposed to discursive knowledge.
This means that our nature gravitates toward certain truths even though we are not able to explain them discursively. Knowing a “list” of mortal sins reminds us of what our nature is.

So often our experience--
our sense of what is good--runs contrary to the true good of our nature. We replace an apparent good with the real good. Hence, it is most helpful to have some objective arbiter outside of ourselves guiding us--in this case, Christ himself, sacramentally present in the teaching authority of the Church. C.S. Lewis' remarks in this regard are apropos:

There is a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was "the sort of person who is always snooping around to see if someone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it." And I am afraid that is the sort of idea that the word Morality raises in a good many people's minds: something that interferes, something that stops you having a good time. In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine. That is why these rules at first seem to be constantly interfering with our natural inclinations. When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, "N o, don't do it like that," because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.


In a word, there is more than meets the eye to making the human machine, human nature, work correctly. The truth lies deeper than our inclinations.

There is a second occurrence when we are taught that certain acts are mortal sins. Alongside increased knowledge, which occurs in the intellect, we increase our freedom, which occurs in the will. For we are reminded that we are
responsible as human beings. When taught that certain acts are mortally sinful, we gain a heightened sense of responsibility insofar as we are reminded that such acts are not peripheral to our existence but absolutely central.

This does not mean that our freedom, should we commit such acts, is total and complete. Just as we never have total and complete knowledge, we never have total and complete freedom. Two things prevent our total freedom (though never destroy our freedom).

First, ignorance itself prevents full freedom. If we do not have clear knowledge of, say, the evilness of an act, we do not fully will that evil. In our study of conscience, we discussed ignorance that is "antecedent to the will," and it is just such ignorance that comes into play in limiting our full freedom. Thomas discusses this very same idea in the midst of his treatment on sin (read the four articles of question 77).

Second, our sensible appetites preclude full freedom. (
ST See Thomas, question 77, in eight articles, on the role played by the passions.)

Accordingly if we take passion as preceding the sinful act, it must needs diminish the sin: because the act is a sin in so far as it is voluntary, and under our control. Now a thing is said to be under our control, through the reason and will: and therefore the more the reason and will do anything of their own accord, and not through the impulse of a passion, the more it is voluntary and under our control. In this respect passion diminishes sin, in so far as it diminishes its voluntariness. (q. 77, a. 6)

Notice the terminology Thomas uses. Responsibility is relative to the
degree of voluntariness. It is not a matter of deciding whether the act was simply voluntary or simply involuntary. Voluntariness, and hence responsibility and sinfulness, exist on a "sliding scale." It is crucial to note that except in rare instances, there is some degree of responsibility. Seldom do we loose our freedom. The temptation is to think that ignorance and passion make it all but impossible to commit a mortal sin. But note what Thomas says in q. 77 a.8, asking "Whether a Sin Committed through Passion Can Be Mortal?"

Mortal sin...consists of turning away from our last end which is God, which aversion pertains to the deliberating reason, whose function it is also to direct towards the end. Therefore that which is contrary to the last end can happen not to be a mortal sin, only when the deliberating reason is unable to come to the rescue, which is the case in sudden movements. Now when anyone proceeds from passion to a sinful act, or to a deliberate consent, this does not happen suddenly: and so the reason can come to the rescue here, since it can drive the passion away, or at least prevent it from having its effect, as stated above: wherefore if it does not come to the rescue, there is a mortal sin; and it is thus, as we see, that m any murders and adulteries are committed through passion.

Our freedom can be diminished. In certain sudden situations it can be lost. But our essential freedom remains. Since, due to ignorance and sensitive appetite, we generally do not commit evil with
full freedom, our responsibility is generally somewhat mitigated. To do evil with full freedom would be an act of pure malice (which Thomas treats in question 78). But we can commit mortal sin without this kind of full freedom.

f. The Boundary of Mortal Sin


One might be tempted, given the analysis above, to say there are
degrees of mortal sin. Rather, there are degrees of sin, and at a certain point the boundary "mortal" is crossed. Certainly there may be degrees after that boundary, but they would be of academic interest only. Once that boundary is crossed, we are no longer oriented to our final end. To recall the earlier analogy, we are no longer on that river on which we were meant to sail toward our final destination. We are on some other stream, flowing in some other direction.

How do we know when we have crossed the boundary into mortal sin? Note how this question brings us full circle to the opening part of this section. We know that certain
acts are tantamount to crossing this boundary. Once thus taught, our knowledge and freedom is enhanced, and if we commit such an act (barring those rare situations where suddenness--see the last quote from Thomas--might negate any knowledge and freedom) we have sinned mortally.

Hence, the claim of some contemporary moral theology is quite misleading:

Contemporary theology emphasizes the reality of sin in its proper sense as expressing the involvement of the person in actions, and argues against using the term "sin” to describe mere external acts condsidered apart from the degree of personal involvement. For this reason, the only possible answer to the straightforward question, "Is it a sin to do x?" ...is to say "It depends.”

*

Far better to say that "act x" is a mortal sin. Then of course one would want to add that not everyone committing act x has committed mortal sin. That is a matter not ours to judge. But unless we are clear about certain acts being objectively mortally sinful, the teaching function of the Church is diminished. The end result is an unnecessary haziness cast over the moral life, a haziness that is pastorally unfair to the individual. For it leaves the individual with a criterion-less approach to the moral life. The moral bedrock is collapsed leaving the individual to arbitrate over an area where we ought not tread. Some contemporary theology is not cautious enough in this pastoral concern:

In this light, we should be very careful with the way we respond to the straight-on question, "Is this a mortal sin?" In answering, remember what it takes to make a sin mortal. Mortal sin says that this action in itself, or as the summation of a series of actions, is hopelessly destructive. A mortal sin truly belongs to the person as his own or her own, and it expresses the sort of person one has become and wants to be. Through mortal sin, the sinner closes the self off from a commitment to life and love. So when we are asked "Is this a mortal sin?" we need to be cautious. We begin to explore questions such as these: "In this action, and as a result of this action, is your relationship with God and neighbor still alive? Are you in fact still trying to love and to serve?”
*

The invitation to ask such questions actually begs the very question at stake. As noted above, one can be in a state of mortal sin and still think favorably of God, love, and service.

No question, this is a startling truth. But finally it is a profoundly comforting one.

We are not left to create our own moral universe. We have the grace of Christ to assist us in leading sanctified lives. And through the sacraments we not only find strength, but healing when we fail.


24: Radical Fundamental Option Theory

a. The Radical Theory: Separation of Action and Will

Some revisionist theologians have taken the notion of fundamental stance or option, explored in the last section, to a radical extreme. They suggest that no concrete act by itself, regardless of its gravity, has the capacity to shift our fundamental option away from God.
* The only way such a shift could occur would be for the individual to have a conscious and culpable contempt for God.
* We can label this the "radical" fundamental option theory, noting that some theologians mean exactly this when referring to the term "fundamental option.”
A moderate or orthodox fundamental option theory, upon which this whole unit is premised, is perfectly within the bounds of Catholic doctrine on sin and grace.


The moderate fundamental option theory retains the traditional idea that there is an intricate link between our actions and our character (the kind of people we are), or put differently, between our external acts and the interior disposition of our will. The radical theory bifurcates the two:

...fundamental option is useful for several reasons. it gives the person who sincerely seeks to give God everything but does not know exactly what this involves in the concrete the assurance that God is not as much interested in our actions as he is in the direction of our wills....


Of course it goes without saying that if a person genuinely does not know what God requires "in the concrete," and ends up doing wrong, he is invincibly ignorant and not culpable. But especially when one's choice involves something specified in the moral bedrock--and most radical fundamental option theorists point to examples in this realm when articulating their ideas--we do have very concrete access to the truth.

Furthermore, this concrete truth about specific
acts ought not be severed from "the direction of our wills." Thomas shows how the direction of our will is directly affected by the kind of acts we perform. Thieves develop "thieving wills," adulterers develop "adulterous wills." Such people might still retain other good habits, and might even convince themselves that their actions are compatible with the love of God. But their wills are malicious.

ST St. Thomas discusses the relationship between the interior will and external acts in questions 18 (11 articles), 19 (10 articles), and 20 (6 articles). For now it should be noted that throughout these sections Thomas posits an intricate connection between will and act. For instance, read question 20, article 2 where Thomas asks "Whether the whole goodness and malice of the external action depends on the goodness of the will?" That is, so long as my will is good, does it really matter what my external acts are? Thomas answers that "if the will be good from its intention of the end, this is not enough to make the external action good." We do not control goodness by our intentions.

In question 20, article 4 Thomas asks specifically "Whether the external action adds any goodness or malice to that of the interior act?" He answers that the external action and the interior action (disposition) is
one act: "...these two goodnesses or malices, of the internal and external acts, are ordained to one another." And, after making some subtle distinctions, "...the goodness of the end [intended by the will] passes into the external action, and the goodness of the matter and circumstances [the external act] passes into the act of the will." Hence, an evil act causes an evil will.

Finally, in question 20, article 4, Thomas asks "Whether the external action adds any goodness or malice to that of the interior act?" In accord with his previous analysis, he answers that

...if we speak of the goodness which the external action derives from its matter and due circumstances, thus it stands in relation to the will as its term and end. And in this way it adds to the goodness or malice of the will; because every inclination or movement is perfected by attaining its end or reaching its term.

Put otherwise, our interior disposition "betrays itself" in the acts we freely and knowingly perform. Having done an evil act, we might easily rationalize and claim that we "meant well," but our real inner inclination finds its perfection, or manifests itself, when it "attains its [real] end," that is, when we
act.

In sum, it is dangerous for theologians to claim, as Hart does, that "God is not as much interested in our actions as he is in the direction of our wills...."

V.S.--In Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II deals explicitly with the radical fundamental option theory and notes explicitly that it is incompatible with Catholic moral tradition. Re-read chapter 2, section III, entitled "Fundamental Choice and Specific Kinds of Behaviour" (articles 65-70). John Paul stresses the importance of the link between our fundamental freedom and particular actions. In article 65, he notes that certain fundamental option theorists bifurcate the two, and then in article 66 shows how such a separation is contrary to Scripture itself. It is by obeying the commandment of God that we make our fundamental choice for and toward Him. As noted in article 67:

By his fundamental choice, man is capable of giving his life direction and of progressing, with the help of grace, toward his end, following God's call. But this capacity is actually exercised in the particular choices of specific actions, through which man deliberately conforms himself to God' will, wisdom and law. It thus needs to be stated that the so-called fundamental option, to the extent that it is distinct from a generic intention and hence one not yet determined in such a w ay that freedom is obligated, is always brought into play through conscious and free decisions. Precisely for this reason, it is revoked when man engages his freedom in conscious decisions to the contrary, with regard to morally grave matter.

In the same article, it is noted that there exist certain negative precepts which prohibit acts which are intrinsically evil (to be studied later). When a person deliberately and knowingly violates one of these precepts, he thereby shifts his fundamental option away from God.

In article 68, the pope makes a pastoral application. He notes that according to the radical theory, an individual could remain faithful to God "even if certain of his specific kinds of behavior were deliberately and gravely contrary to God's commandments as set forth by the Church. In articles 69 and 70, the pope applies the fundamental option theory to the categories of mortal and venial sin, noting that the radical theory as much as denies the possibility of there being such a thing as a mortal sin. It is true of course that often a lack of awareness and consent render a particular act not mortally sinful. But, recalling the Council of Trent's teaching, as re-emphasized in the recent Apostolic Exhortation
Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (December 2, 1984), the pope emphasizes that mortal sin is possible: "the fundamental orientation can be radically changed by particular acts" (#70).

b. The Radical Theory, the Reformation, and Trent

The radical fundamental option theory moves toward--and then beyond--the anthropology and soteriology of some of the Protestant Reformers. For them, our actions--in the realm of "works"--could not affect our status before God. As essentially depraved, we cannot do anything that might merit salvation. God, through the redemptive work of Christ, covers over our inherent sinfulness and justifies us. After justification, we ought to strive to lead virtuous lives, but our salvation is not dependent on that. Note that, just as in the radical fundamental option theory, none of our concrete moral acts, then, can touch or affect our fundamental status before God, our fundamental option for or against Him.

Instead of talking about man's depravity, radical theorists use the psychologized secular equivalent, complexity. And instead of faith alone, substitute sincerity (which includes tolerance). Either way, the path to salvation is disconnected with moral endeavor.

But there remains a basic anthropological difference between the Reformers' view and the radical fundamental option. For the former, our fundamental status is ontologically depraved and corrupt, and simultaneously covered by God's justifying grace through Christ. For the latter, our fundamental status is essentially good. While this fundamental goodness is at first sight compatible with Catholic anthropology, it is flawed by a psychologized view of goodness that fails to recognize properly our concupiscence--our capacity to ruin our natures which have been healed by God's grace. The Reformers at least recognized sin, though going to the extreme position that we are sin (depravity) even after Christ's redemption. The radical fundamental option theorists ignore the concupiscence that remains with our healed natures (substituting the complexity of human life) and our capacity to follow the concupiscent tendency in a mortal way.

The Church's clear teaching as regards the fundamental option theory appears in
Persona Humana (Declaration on Sexual Ethics):

There are those who go as far as to affirm that mortal sin, which causes separation from God, only exists in the formal refusal directly opposed to God's call, or in that selfishness which com pletely and deliberately closes itself to the love of neighbor....
According to the Church's teaching, mortal sin, which is opposed to God, does not consist only in formal and direct resistance to the commandment of charity. It is equally to be found in this opposition to authentic love which is included in every deliberate transgression, in serious matter, of each of the moral laws....
A person therefore sins mortally not only when his action comes from direct contempt for love of God and neighbor, but also when he consciously and freely, for whatever reason, chooses something which is seriously disordered. For in this choice, as has been said above, there is already included contempt for the divine commandment: the person turns himself away from God and loses charity. (#10)

Some radical fundamental option theorists have used the aforementioned teaching from Trent,
viz. that we have no certainty of salvation, to argue in favor of their radical theory that we can never really know whether an act has shifted our fundamental stance.
* But this is a misuse of the Council's teaching. While we can never be so presumptuous as to claim infallibly salvation for ourselves, we certainly can know that certain grave acts, done freely and knowingly, cause us to fall from a state of grace.


ST Thomas is clear on this point. In question 112, article 5, he raises the following objection to question "Whether a Man Can Know That He Has Grace?":

Obj. 3 Further, light is more knowable than darkness, since, according to the Apostle (Eph 5:13), all that is made manifest is light. Now sin, which is spiritual darkness, may be known with certainty by one that is in sin. Much more, therefore, may grace, which is spiritual light, be known.

In response, Thomas argues:

Sin has for its principle object commutable good, which is known to us. But the object or end of grace is unknown to us on account of the greatness of its light, according to 1 Tim 6:16: Who...inhabiteth light inaccessible.
Just as in many instances we can know what is not true, while the truth itself remains an inexhaustible mystery, so here too a negative method is employed. We can certainly know when we are not saved, but to know that we are saved would be to have knowledge in that realm where absolute mystery resides, that realm that cannot be categorized. Instead of worrying about our status in that realm, we are to focus on doing well what we know to be true and what we know to be the means to salvation: living the sacramental life.


25: The Role of Psychology in Moral Theology

a. Radical Fundamental Option and Psychologism

The radical fundamental option theory easily falls prey to a contemporary error that we might label "psychologism " (which should not be in the least confused with psychology itself, which when properly used is fully compatible with Christian faith). Psychologism is closely linked to what Phillip Reif called the "therapeutic mentality"

and what Robert Bellah has called "expressivist individualism.”
As long as we try hard and are sincere, we are "O K." W e ought not feel guilt about one or another act as long as our intentions were sincere. This brand of psychologism suggests that the ultimate goal of personal health and wholeness is a good sense of "self-esteem." Too often guilt gets in the way of such esteem, and we would be better off shedding such feelings of guilt.


Guilt usually results from the suspicion that God does not approve of some action. Note how the radical fundamental option theory alleviates such guilt. So long as a person does not hold God in contempt, and sincerely tries to do what seems best in a given situation, God will not disapprove. To put it in the technical terms from our study of conscience, the good/bad conscience is emphasized to the near exclusion of the true/false conscience.

Guilt, however, can be a friend to the conscience.

When understood and used properly, it reminds us that our m oral life is amiss. Such guilt can be called real or objective guilt. It lets us know that our moral life is not in tune with the objective moral truth. The important task then is not to diminish guilt, toward the illusory goal of improving self-esteem, but to distinguish true guilt from neurotic guilt or false guilt.

Karl Stern suggests four ways of distinguishing true and false guilt:



I) In neurotic guilt, the intensity of the feeling of guilt is disproportionate to the seriousness of the wrongdoing.

ii) Neurotic guilt is insatiable, while true guilt can be expiated.

iii) Neurotic guilt is highly emotional. True guilt can be confronted with calmness.

iv) Neurotic guilt arises from repressed drives as much as realized acts, while real guilt is related only to realized acts.

The distinction between neurotic and real guilt is a good context for examining the proper versus improper use of psychology within Christianity. In its improper use, psychology tends to see all guilt as neurotic guilt, and urges the individual to become "comfortable" with himself. So long as an individual examines his "values" and "owns them," he has psychological health. The notion of "value free" psychology was pioneered by Karl Rogers. By the end of his life, though, he recognized that there was no such things as "value free" psychology. In trying to be value free, one simply substitutes ones set of truths, say those of the Catholic tradition, for another set--those of secularity w ith its "faith" that truth can only be approximated if it can be know n at all. The radical fundamental option theory feeds on value free psychology, for it allows the individual freedom from mortal sin so long as he is still trying to love God and serve others. A true conscience does not matter; only the good (sincere) conscience.

In its proper use, however, psychology can help an individual deal with neuroses that preclude the full living of the Christian life. C. S. Lewis articulates this well:

When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved. One is the act of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses and so on which his psychological outfit presents him with, and which are the raw material of his choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds. Either it may be what we would call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings that are common to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have gone wrong in the subconscious. The fear of things that are really dangerous would be an example of the first kind; an irrational fear of cats or spiders would be an example of the second kind. The desire of a man for a woman would be of the first kind; the perverted desire of a man for a man would be of the second. Now what psychoanalysis undertakes to do is to remove the abnormal feelings, that is, to give the man better raw material for his acts of choice; morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves.


A person's psychological "raw material" is part of the circumstances within which he performs moral acts. And if he commits evil but his "raw material" contains a proclivity toward that evil, he may well be less blameworthy or not blameworthy at all. A good example here is the moral evil of auto-eroticism. Due to difficulties in adolescence, an individual may emerge into adulthood habituated to this evil. Such a person m ay be trying very hard to lead a moral life, and making regular use of the sacrament of reconciliation. Does such an individual fall into mortal sin every time he succumbs to his habit, assuming he has full knowledge of that act's moral gravity? Most likely not, since his psychological "raw material" is such that he does not engage in auto-eroticism with full freedom. He may need the help of a skilled psychologist or counselor to repair his psychological condition (and herein lies the proper role of psychology, fully compatible with Christianity).

Assuming such a process is moving along positively, at what point does the individual start truly committing mortal sin if he should lapse into the old habit? This is probably impossible to determine.

Hence, it is pastorally prudent to err on the side of objectivity: assume that the act is mortally sinful early on, and use the sacrament of reconciliation as often as necessary.

The problem with the radical fundamental option theory is that it errs dangerously in exactly the opposite direction,
viz., the assumption that hardly any acts are mortally sinful. In so doing, it does not provide the proper motivational framework within which the individual can truly grow out of a sinful habit.
It becomes easy to rationalize one's behavior, even claiming that it is guided by the Holy Spirit.

The same type of analysis can cross-apply to other sexual sins, such as homosexual activity. A support network called
Courage, with groups in a variety of major cities, allows those with homosexual orientation to get help in leading a chaste life and in some cases healing their orientation.

The focus on self-esteem in revisionist moral theory is not in itself bad. Rather, it tends to
omit fidelity to the moral bedrock as a pre-requisite for genuine self-esteem, the self-esteem that is rooted in living in fidelity to the truth. Consider some examples of such omission. The first focuses upon personal character and human relationships:

In the renewed moral theology, the act-centered question of the ethics of doing, "What am I doing?" is no longer enough to cover the scope of morality. We must also ask from the ethics of being, "What is my doing doing to me? W hat sort of person am I becoming?"...The renewed view of moral theology sees the moral life reflected more in the quality of our character and our relationships than in isolated actions we may do. Living morally is a matter of appropriating the values which promote positive moral character and life-giving human relationships. As such the moral life is a matter of an ongoing process of conversion so that who we are and what we do becomes more and more a response to divine love.


While all of this is true, it needs to be integrated
with the moral bedrock so that our "response to divine love" does not become a vague goal that we ourselves end up defining by our feelings and experiences.

A second example shows how easily revisionist method psychologizes our relationship to God:

The trinitarian vision sees that no one exists by oneself, but only in relationship to others. To be is to be in relationship. The individual and community co-exist. Humanity and relatedness are proportional so that the deeper one's participation in relationships is, the more human one becomes. Since community is necessary to grow in God's image, the fundamental responsibility of being the image of God and for living in community is to give oneself away as completely as possible in imitation of God's self-giving. The freedom which humans need for living morally is the freedom to give themselves more completely.



By what criteria are we to establish which
types of giving are truly responsible? Is sincerity (a good conscience) enough, or is it equally essential to give of ourselves in accord with the truth (a true conscience)? Recognizing the moral bedrock, as handed down to us through the tradition, gives us concrete criteria for forming true consciences, thereby allowing responsible self-giving. By no means do these criteria answer every difficult question in the moral life. But they offer a tried and true set of boundaries within which to act, and prevent the dangerous slide toward a psychologized subjectivism that makes the individual's intuition the basis for moral judgment.

This subjectivism tends to idolize humanity, forgetting about concupiscence. Often such a method is justified by an incorrect appeal to the Incarnational or sacramental principle:

...since the incarnational principle, or the principle of mediation, tells us that only through the human, always and everywhere graced by God, do we come to know God and respond to what God is enabling and requiring us to be and to do, moral theology also takes seriously critical reflection on human experience as a valid source for coming to know what is morally required.



As noted earlier, the human is graced by God; our natures are healed and elevated. But we have a capacity, especially when relying on our own experience, to act out of accord with our healed nature. At that point, we have fallen from grace. Granted, it is helpful to note that the reflection on experience ought to be "critical," but with what criteria? The moral bedrock offers precisely that criteria, preventing our experience from becoming our guide.

While being critical of "experience," it is of crucial importance to realize that Catholic doctrine still consistently affirms the dignity of the human person. By affirming our freedom to live and act according to the truth, we are raised to a level above animals, a level where we can control our passions rather than letting our passions control us. It is an astonishing nobility and dignity that results from an affirmation of man's freedom and responsibility.

Central to such an affirmation is the conviction that the world is a good and an ordered world, despite appearances to the contrary. We really have the capacity to see and to live the truth. This human world can bear and participate in something transcendent. It is sacramental. And an affirmation of this capacity is an affirmation of a
sacramental view of reality that provides the underpinnings for genuinely Christian ethics.

b. Psychologism and Conscience

Having considered the reductionistic understanding of sin found in psychologism, it is apropos to likewise consider how psychologism considers the phenomenon of conscience which w e dealt with earlier. Psychologism tends to bifurcate conscience and authority, suggesting that we ought to act from within the wellsprings of our being, from our conscience, rather than act because some authority told us how to act.

For moral maturity, one must be one's own person. It is not enough merely to follow what one has been told. The morally mature person must be able to perceive, choose and identify the self with what one does. On the moral level, we perceive every choice as a choice between being an authentic or inauthentic person. Or, as some would put it today, we act either in character or out of character. In short, we give our lives meaning by committing our freedom. The morally mature adult is called to commit his or her freedom, not submit it. As long as we do not direct our own activity, we are not yet free, morally mature persons.


Such an understanding of the moral agent seriously misunderstands the Christian concept of freedom. One does not simply "commit his or her freedom." One commits freedom
to something or someone. The Catholic commits one's freedom to Christ, and to the sacramental presence of Christ in history, the Church. This type of commitment involves submission, but submission understood positively as the concomitant of real freedom. We are only truly free when we submit our lives to God, through Christ and the sacramental Church. Then, one need not bifurcate freedom and authority. One can be "one's own person" precisely by "following what one has been told." Sacramental beings, understood along the lines of a sacramental anthropology, gravitate toward a sacramental view of authority. Our radical uniqueness and dignity is then in harmony with submission to the one truth.

Of course, due to the concupiscence that still accompanies our healed natures, we have a proclivity toward misuse of our freedom. Hence, we must be suspicious of our "experience." We may find ourselves having to act on the basis of authority alone when our concupiscent tendency pushes us in the opposite direction. In such instances, we still act "authentically," or "in character," because we have freely embraced a sacramental view of reality which includes a particular view of authority. Someone who says "I did this because the Church told me to do it" is not necessarily at a low stage of moral maturity at all. Such a person may be expressing, in however simplistic a way, a very mature grasp of the sacramental view of reality and its accompanying views of anthropology and authority.

Revisionist moral theology argues that conscience has been confused in the past with what we now know to be the super-ego: "the ego of another superimposed on our own to serve as an internal censor to regulate our conduct by using guilt as its powerful weapon."

There is of course a real truth to the notion of the super-ego and it ought be distinguished from the self (conscience). But revisionists tend to think of the super-ego and the conscience in either-or terms: you do something because you were trained to and feel guilty if you disobey, or you do something because you yourself have internally assented to it.

In fact, there is a much more mutual relationship between the self and the super-ego. In our childhood, the self is primarily formed vis-à-vis external authority. Gradually we learn to interiorize what we have learned as a child; for instance, we learn not to take without asking, not out of fear-induced guilt from a higher authority, but out of an inner respect for the possessions of others. In this process, we also learn to separate
truths learned in childhood from authority, such as don't steal, from customs and disciplinary aspects of our lives learned from authority, such as "be home at 5:00."

In so separating, we distinguish different
kinds of authority. Some authority is false authority, as when a parent makes an unrealistic or even evil demand on a child. Some authority is somewhat arbitrary, and must be followed or not followed prudentially, such as certain deadlines, age-limits, and the like. Usually it is wise to capture the spirit of such authority and prudentially apply it. Finally, some authority is true and ought always be followed simply because it has a higher vantage point on reality than we do. In fact, a truly mature person actually interiorizes a fidelity to such authority precisely because at times it is difficult to feel an internal commitment, at difficult times of life, to the truths themselves emanating from a true authority.

For instance, a man in a so-called "mid-life crisis" may well have lost the feeling of attraction to and commitment to his spouse. Still, he must be faithful to his marital vow, which he made knowing full well that difficult moments would arise. At such a difficult moment, the man is greatly assisted by having interiorized a commitment to a true authority, such as the Church, which calls him to remain faithful despite his "experience" and his feelings. If asked why he is remaining faithful, the man may well respond "because the Church tells me I must." Is this simply the super-ego in operation? Should the man be more "authentic" and follow his inclinations? Is this an immature reaction based on authority alone?

Another example of this inner embrace of right authority is in the classic novel
Jane Eyre. Keeping details to a minimum so as not to spoil the excitement of reading this novel, Jane is sorely tempted to yield to the very human and understandable request of her close friend Mr. Rochester. But she recognizes that that request--however much it resonates with her experience and that of Rochester--is not in accord with the truth:

I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate shall they be. If at my individual convenience I should break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth--so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane--quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.


Should Jane follow her inclinations? Is hers an immature reaction based on authority alone?

Rather, Jane Eyre's response, like that of the man in remaining faithful during a time of crisis, may well indicate a high degree of moral maturity that recognizes, to put it in technical language, the proclivity of our healed natures toward fallen nature. A true authority has been interiorized, and it is
this type of authority that exists in mutual, not antagonistic, relationship with the inner self or the conscience. The question is not whether conscience and authority are mutual or exclusive; rather, which authorities are necessary for developing a true conscience? The right authority is in mutual relationship with the true conscience. It has nothing to do with the Freudian super-ego.

Hence, it is quite misleading to bifurcate conscience (inner self) and super-ego (authority), unless one first distinguishes
true authority and links it to the conscience, not the super-ego. Consider some samples of such bifurcation (rejoinders follow each example in parentheses):


1. The super-ego commands us to act in order to gain approval, while the conscience responds to an invitation to love, becoming a certain sort of person and co-creating self-value. (The problem here is that in complex situations it is hard to know in what love consists, since our feelings so easily can distort the truth; it may be quite virtuous to act so as to "gain the approval" of God, sacramentally present in the Church of Christ.)

3. The super-ego is static, repeating a prior command, while the conscience is dynamic, allowing creative responses in new situations. (What criteria does one use to determine which new and creative responses are true? Might a true authority be of help?)

4. The super-ego is ordered toward authority rather than responding to value, obeying blindly, whereas the conscience responds to value regardless of whether authority recognized that value. (What is the criteria for value? Might a true authority recognize a value that I am blind to? And might the submission to authority result from an interiorized recognition of true authority, thereby making such submission anything but blind, despite appearances?)

5. The super-ego is concerned with individual actions, whereas the conscience gives attention to the larger pattern or process. (This is the bifurcation of an ethics of act/character, dealt with earlier.)

7. The super-ego is motivated by punishment as a means of reconciliation (say, with God). The conscience looks to creating a new future to make good the past. (Are these mutually exclusive?)

8. For the super-ego, the transition from guilt to self-renewal comes easily through confession to the authority. For conscience, self-renewal is a gradual process of growth. (First, is confession easy, or does it demand, in many cases, supreme courage? Second, granted that growth is a gradual process, might it not require specific attention to concrete areas in need of reform, which reform might take place through confession?)

9. The super-ego often finds a great disproportion between feelings of guilt and the value at stake, since the extent of guilt depends more on the significance of the authority figure disobeyed than the weight of the value at stake. Conscience finds guilt more in proper proportion to the degree of knowledge and freedom and well as the weight of the value at stake. (This is only true when the conscience is plagued by
false guilt as analyzed in the previous section. True guilt is proportionate to the "value" at stake, or better, the gravity of the sin involved.)

In each of these instances, authority and conscience are bifurcated. One must first discover what might be a true authority; having embraced and interiorized that authority, conscience and authority act in harmony. The Catholic submits (or commits) to the Church as the sacramental authority of Christ, the sacrament of God. This is not an immature attachment to the super-ego.

As noted above, submission to the authority of Christ, understood sacramentally, involves the courageous act of confessing one's sins

to the priest who acts, in the sacrament of reconciliation, in the person of Christ, in persona Christi. Here we see an example of how the sacramental view of reality embraced by Catholics occurs in a concrete and specific way--in the sacrament itself. In other words, the sacramental view of reality and the specific sacrament mutually condition one another. And in this mutual conditioning, the two imply and instantiate a sacramental view of authority.


VII. The Moral Act and Proportionalism (VS 71-8 2, 90-94) (also for bioethics)


26: Traditional Catholic Moral Theology and Proportionalism


a. The Basic Distinction


As already noted to some extent in the discussion of conscience and sin, an intense debate has been raging over the question of methodology in moral theology. Essentially, it is a debate over the status of what we have called the "moral bedrock.”



VS--
It is precisely the intensity of this debate that sparked Veritatis Splendor. See the Introduction of the encyclical, particularly articles 4-5.

Traditional moral theology, on the one hand, has tended to favor a methodology that gives special place to the moral bedrock or foundation. Well-known contemporary representatives of this position include William May, Germain Grisez, Paul Ramsey, John Finnis, and John Connery. At times theologians have referred to such a methodology as deontological (from the participle of the Greek dei,
deon, "it ought"). Traditionalists do use a deontological methodology in so far as they emphasize that there are certain acts that are always evil independent of the circumstances and intention of the agent. The term signifies a strong commitment to an immutable moral bedrock which we as human beings ought not try to change or manipulate. However, there is another side to the term "deontology" that makes it a less-than-desirable label for Catholic moral theology. Deontology emphasizes that certain acts are wrong because they are forbidden, rather than emphasizing that they are forbidden because they are wrong.
Others refer to this as a "natural Law" approach.
As we already have had opportunity to note, while the natural law as understood by many does place an emphasis on absolute moral norms, it is not the best label for Christian ethics since by definition it is a methodology done independently of Revelation. It would be better to say that traditional Christian ethics includes the natural law. Hence, our term of choice will simply be "Catholic ethics," or "traditionalist Catholic ethics" when in juxtaposition to various revisionist methodologies.

Revisionists tend to favor some type of
proportionalist (or consequentialist) method. This term shall be described shortly, but essentially it signifies a conviction that due to the complexities of history, the moral bedrock exists but is far more flexible than the tradition would have us believe. Better-known proponents include Richard McCormick, Louis Janssens, Josef Fuchs, Bruno Schüller, Peter Knauer, and writers like Charles Curran, Timothy O'Connell, and Richard Gula have made proportionalist thought accessible to a wide audience.
*

As we move into the finer points of these distinctive methodologies, a caveat is in order. Since we will be dealing with intricate aspects of moral acts, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Christian moral life, for both revisionists and traditionalists, means following a person, Jesus Christ. For traditionalists, this has very concrete ramifications in terms of moral acts, ramifications about which revisionists often disagree. But it would be an unfair caricature to say that traditionalists think Christianity is just a set of rules to follow, as much as it would be unfair to say that revisionists, in questioning the nature of the moral bedrock, intend to reject Christ.

b. The Three Fonts of the Moral Act


VS--
At this point, the reader should study the section of the encyclical that specifically deals with proportionalist method: articles 71-83.

The background for this debate is what traditionally are called the three "fonts" or aspects of a moral act:

1. The moral object, or the "act itself" without any reference to the agent.

2. The circumstances within which an agent performs the act

3. The intention with which the agent performs the act.

As we examine these three fonts in more detail, the distinction between traditional and proportionalist approaches will emerge.

1. The first font is the "moral object," that is, the act itself--for example, the act of sterilization. This means the "raw" act or "pure" act, prior to taking into account the circumstances within which an individual, with a particular intention, might perform the act; hence, it is also called the
materia circa quam--"the object in a very restricted sense." The debate is over whether or not there are any such acts that can be judged intrinsically evil, or evil in and of themselves; otherwise put, can an act be evil by virtue of its object ("evil ex objecta"). If there are, then, the prohibition of such acts is part of what we have termed the moral bedrock.

2. The second component is the
circumstances surrounding the act. In the example of sterilization, circumstances might include the attitude of the person's spouse or family, that of the doctor, the financial situation, or the person's own health. For proportionalism, the individual moral agent must weigh the values versus the disvalues accruing from a particular act in light of all these circumstances.

3. The third font is actually a subcategory of the second. It is the specific, and highly important, circumstance of the intention of the agent, or what the agent wants to achieve by the act. For exam ple, the agent might sterilize with any number of intentions--because the doctor said another child would be risky, because contraceptives are cumbersome, etc. Note that when speaking of intention, one speaks of foreseeing a future consequence, or acting in order to accomplish some desirable future consequence. For revisionist moral theology, one must weigh all the foreseeable consequences, or
proportion them, in order to determine the morality of the act--hence, the label "proportionalism.”
The label "consequentialism" can likewise be used for those moral methodologies that argue that acts are right or wrong dependent upon the consequences intended, as opposed to the acts themselves.

Revisionist moral methodology, then, is specifically labeled proportionalism or consequentialism. Due to the ambiguity of moral choices, one often must weigh or measure the foreseeable good versus evil consequences of an act. Because these moral methodologies look to the end (or goal) of particular actions, it is claimed that they fall within a classification of moral method called "teleological ethics" (from the Greek
telos, meaning end).

CCC 1750-1756
deals with the sources of the moral act. Some readers are surprised to find no mention of proportionalism and its dangers in the CCC. However, the role of a catechism is a positive explication of the Christian faith. The Magisterium deals with dangers like proportionalism in other ways, such as the encyclical VS.

c. The Idea of Teleology


As just noted, proportionalist methodologies often are said to exist within the "teleological" strain of the Catholic tradition. This is somewhat misleading, as an analysis of the notion of teleology shows.

The Greek word
telos means "end" or goal. All of morality is "teleological" in that we choose actions for a purpose or end. But we do not simply act for our own purposes; rather, life itself is already ordered in a particular direction, and so there is an objective end or purpose to our lives. In Part I, in the discussion of happiness, we noted how Thom as shows that happiness is the final end of human life and that this happiness consists specifically in union with God.

All of human action ought to be ordered in light of this final end. Put otherwise, the final end filters down into every human action so that all specific activity is itself ordered in a way compatible with the ultimate ordering of human life itself. For instance, marriage is to be ordered in a specific way that is in accord with our final end. This specific ordering includes, for example, the ends of permanence, exclusivity, and procreativity. If the individual aligns his own intentions with this objective teleology, he remains properly ordered to his
final end.

Certain human acts, then, are already objectively ordered for us, though we can misuse our freedom by acting contrary to this ordering. It is in this sense that Christian morality is teleological.

Often proportionalist or consequentialist theories are said to exist within this teleological tradition because they focus more on the end or purpose for which we act than on acts themselves. However, when we add the category "teleological" to consequentialist theories, it is best to think "subjectively teleological.”

They are "subjective" since the individual does the final weighing of values and disvalues accruing from an act.

This is quite different than traditional teleological theories that measure acts by their ends, but see those ends objectively, or, in the moral object itself. To add to the example given above, the sexual act is
ordered to the end of procreation, and hence if that objective end is intentionally thwarted the act becomes evil. At this point, traditional theories contain a strongly teleological element--located in the moral object, not the intention of the agent. The agent ought align his end with the end of the act. The technical terminology for the end of the act is the finis operis (the end of the act), while the end of the agent is the finis operantis (the end of the one who is acting).

d. Intrinsic Evil

VS--
The encyclical clearly shows why certain acts are intrinsically evil: they are actions incompatible with man's final end, and are thereby disordered, or irrational, actions:

The rational ordering of the human act to the good in its truth and the voluntary pursuit of that good, known by reason, constitute morality. Hence human activity cannot be judged as morally good because it is a means for attaining one or another of its goals, or simply because the subject's intention is good [footnote: S.T. II-II, 148, 3]. Activity is morally good when it attests to and expresses the voluntary ordering of the person to his ultimate end and the conformity of a concrete action with the human good as it is acknowledged in its truth by reason. If the object of the concrete action is not in harmony with the true good of the person, the choice of that action makes our will and ourselves morally evil, thus putting us in conflict with our ultimate end, the supreme good, God himself. (#72)

The pope further discusses the same point in 78 and 79. In article 80, he includes a list of actions that are intrinsically evil, taken from
Gaudium et Spes 27:

Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficing in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons....

In the same article, the topic of contraception is taken up briefly, and is added to the list of intrinsic evils with a reference to
Humanae Vitae 14. Many had expected the encyclical to pay much more attention to sexual morality, but the encyclical only makes occasional mention of such issues. What is at stake is the question behind those issues and others, namely, the question of whether some acts are intrinsically evil.

e. Connection to the 3 Conditions for Sin

In traditional moral theology, as noted in the previous unit, certain acts are always wrong and their prohibition constitutes part of the moral bedrock. But for an act to be sinful, that is, for an person's wrong act to be blameworthy, 3 conditions have to be met: I) The act itself has to be evil, rather than good or neutral. ii) The agent must intend the act rather than being forced to do it (explicitly or more subtly). iii) The agent must know that the act is evil.

These conditions are quite important in the debate over intrinsically evil acts, for they remind us that the claim that a particular act is evil (abortion, for example) is not a claim that the agent has sinned. Agent and act must be kept separate. When Christ tells us not to judge, he means we are not to judge the blameworthiness of the agent. On the other hand, we are obligated to judge some acts as evil. Today "being judgmental" is considered an undesirable personality trait. But note that we cannot help but make judgments. Even the oft-heard command "don't be judgmental" is a judgment; hence, one making that command contradicts himself. It is better to admit that making judgments is necessary, and then to carefully discern
which kinds of judgments are appropriate and which aren't. Judgments of individuals are never appropriate, and amount to another sin, that of pride.

It is also important to note that a) intention and circumstances may make a person less blameworthy for a particular act. The more challenging the circumstances, then perhaps the less blameworthy is the agent. (
VS covers this point in four places: articles 62, 70, 77, and 104.) On the other hand, b) intention and other circumstances can turn a neutral or good act into something less than good: I might pray so as to impress someone, or give a donation to charity to enhance my prestige. Further c) intention and circumstance can make a good act even more praiseworthy: helping someone when I myself am feeling less than cheerful, for example.

However, while circumstance and intention can turn a good or neutral act into an evil one, it is crucial to note that they cannot make an evil act good (this point will be of great importance in a later section on the principle of double effect). See
VS #81. If a person's intention is good, their act does not automatically become good: a good end does not justify an evil means. This is precisely the point made in part I in distinguishing a true/false conscience from a good/bad conscience. The person's good intention may allow them a good (or sincere) conscience, but he must develop a true conscience, whereby he would recognize the objective evil of the particular act and recognize that that act cannot be justified by good intentions.


27: The Proportionalist Challenge

a. Pre-Moral Evil


Revisionist theologians who use various types of proportionalist analysis by no means fall into what might be called "situation ethics." Pure situation ethics holds that anyone can do what they want in their own situation. No objective rules determine moral from immoral behavior. A "Christian" form of situation ethics stresses that the law of love is the only guide for moral behavior.

How does one decide what is the "loving thing to do?" It is entirely dependent on the agent's judgment in his particular circum stances. Needless to say, there is nothing at all specifically Christian about such an approach.

Proportionalists engage in a much more sophisticated meta-ethical analysis (analysis of ethical method). They claim that there are no acts that in themselves are morally evil; acts can only be described as morally evil when they are specified by intention and circumstances. Until then they are variously called pre-moral evil, non-moral evil, ontic evil, and a few other such labels. The term "pre-moral evil" is perhaps the clearest. Read
VS 74 and 75.

For example, some argue that homosexual activity is a pre-moral evil--it is not an ideal, wonderful thing, but it is not morally evil until evil intentions are added (for example, if it is engaged in for pure sensual delight). If there is commitment and friendship, then the intention is good and there is no moral evil. Charles Curran has termed this an ethics of compromise, since certain pre-moral evils are morally justifiable if there is a proportionate reason (
ratio proportionata).

Likewise, consider the earlier example of sterilization. By itself it is pre-morally evil, which is to say that it is not in and of itself the kind of activity one would seek after. But it is not intrinsically evil. If there is a proportionate reason, sterilization may be a morally good act. That is to say, if the agent has carefully weighed the values and disvalues that might accrue from the act, and if the values outweigh the disvalues, the act is moral.

One other term is of importance in the debate--material evil. An example of material evil would be amputation of a limb. The key point about "mere" material evil is that it has no
moral connotations all by itself. It could be morally evil; consider the doctor who does some operation that is really unnecessary just to collect insurance money. But in many cases to cause a material evil is entirely moral, and is justified by what the tradition has termed the "principle of totality." According to this principle, one can commit material evil if it is for the good of the whole organism. Hence, if someone were to die unless a limb was amputated, the amputation would be justified by the principle of totality.

At times theologians have confused material evil with so-called "pre-moral evil." This is a mistake. There is no question that a material evil is "pre-m oral",
viz., it is an action that exists prior to a moral evaluation, and it is morally neutral prior to being placed in a moral context. If you saw a silent film of an amputation, or of a gunshot wound, you would be seeing material evil but would not be able to assign any moral evaluation. But proportionalists include a much wider range of activity under the rubric "pre-moral"--in many cases activity that the tradition would call intrinsically evil. If you saw a silent film showing an act of euthanasia, you would be seeing a material evil that is also intrinsically evil. For the proportionalist, you would be seeing a pre-moral evil, since an act of euthanasia might be justifiable if the values outweighed the dis-values.

b. Continuity with the Tradition?

At this point, it might look as if the proportionalists have a method that is in discontinuity with the Catholic moral tradition. It looks as if the tradition held that certain acts were intrinsically evil, and that proportionalism reduces those acts to mere "pre-m oral evils." However, the proportionalists argue that they are very much in continuity with the tradition. For they claim that when the tradition speaks of intrinsically evil acts, in many cases it has already added a circumstance or intention to a material act,
after which the circumscribed acts can be said to be intrinsically evil.

For instance:

i) The tradition never claims that killing is evil. Rather, killing
in some circumstances is evil. In other circumstances it is legitimate. Killing an innocent person is evil, but killing an unjust aggressor is quite moral.

ii) The tradition never claims that taking property is evil. Rather, taking property
in some circumstances is evil, and in other circumstances it is legitimate. Taking goods from a store is evil, but it is quite clear that such taking is against the reasonable will of the owner. In other cases the reasonable will of the owner is such that property could be taken without permission (assuming such permission is inaccessible at the time). Furthermore, a person ought always return goods to their rightful owner. But if the owner is about to use his property in an evil way, the borrower may well hold the property.

iii) The tradition never claims that telling a falsehood is evil. Rather, telling a falsehood to someone who has a right to know the truth is evil, and is a lie. Telling a band of pursuers that an individual ran down a certain road, when the individual is in fact hidden away, is not necessarily evil. It is a falsehood spoken to those who have no right to know the truth.

Having noted such examples, proportionalists then go on to make an interesting accusation against the tradition. Many so- called intrinsically evil acts already have circumstance and intention included within them (murder, lying, stealing). But other so-called intrinsically evil acts do not, and are said to be evil by virtue of the moral object itself (sterilization, contraception).

In this light, they make a request to the Catholic tradition: be consistent. Since many intrinsically evil acts are really material acts further delineated by circumstance and intention, why not allow circumstance and intention to affect the evil of an act in
every case?

For instance, if killing is evil under certain circumstances, then why is sterilization always evil in and of itself? Why not say that sterilization, like killing, is pre-morally evil, or materially evil, but can become a morally good activity under certain circumstances?

Richard McCormick sums up the argument neatly:

...we can say that the tradition has defined certain actions as morally wrong ex objecto because it has included in the object not simply the materia circum quam (object in a very narrow sense) but also elements beyond it which clearly exclude any possible justification. Thus, a theft is not simply "taking another's property," but doing so "against the reasonable will of the owner." This latter addition has two characteristics in the tradition. (1) It is considered as essential to the object. (2) It excludes any possible exceptions. Fair enough. Yet, when the same tradition deals with, e.g., masturbation or sterilization, it adds little or nothing to the materia circa quam and regards such materia alone as constituting the object. If it were consistent, it would describe the object as "sterilization against the good of marriage" as the object [sic]. This all could accept.


Not all could accept this--but that in a moment.

VS--
Fr. McCormick has claimed that the encyclical sets up a straw man in its description of proportionalism, specifically because it does not take into consideration the point just noted. In McCormick's response to the encyclical, the above text is used nearly verbatim.
McCormick thus can argue that the encyclical does not apply to him or to most other proportionalists! That this is untrue is shown in the analysis to follow.

To illustrate the objection further, consider the following sentence from McCormick: "If one claims that integral intercourse is an absolute good--then you're saying something about the integrity of intercourse that the tradition won't say about life itself.”

Integral intercourse here would refer to non-contraceptive intercourse within a permanent, exclusive and heterosexual commitment, with the implication that any fragmentation therein is intrinsically evil.

The sentence is apropos because it contains in capsule form the root argument of proportionalism, namely, that the tradition has always allowed the so-called "moral object" to be proportioned by various circumstances before arriving at an "intrinsically evil act," and prior to that proportioning the object represents only a pre-m oral evil.

Fr. McCormick has bent over backwards trying to get this across to deontologists who, he believes, repeatedly set up a straw man with their slogan that "the proportionalists deny any act to be intrinsically evil." For proportionalists, once a pre-moral or non-moral evil is situated within certain circumstances and intentions, the act may well be evil, and there are some acts which are virtually, though as a matter of principle not intrinsically, evil.

In sum, in some circumstances, and with some intentions, pre-moral evils are justifiable. They can be committed if there is proportionate reason.

McCormick and others have further pointed out that the acts "immune" from teleological assessment all tend to be in the area of human sexuality.

Though McCormick has left it to others to say in so many words, it looks as if the Church is preoccupied with what Daniel Maguire has termed "pelvic issues." It may turn out to be the other way around.

c. Synthetic Terms

Before responding to the proportionalist challenge, let us consider another way of understanding this technical but important material, this time under the rubric of the notion of "synthetic terms." At the heart of McCormick's revisionism is his suggestion that many of the norms in the Catholic moral tradition are what can be termed "synthetic term s."



Stealing means I) taking property ii) against the reasonable will of the owner. This obviously leaves room for some commensuration or weighing in individual cases. Stealing is a synthetic term, involving these two components. The second component already has a moral qualifier in it--an act "against reasonable will." Hence, to say "Thou shalt not steal" is actually tautologous. The very definition of "to steal", as synthetic, already tells us it is wrong. To say "don't steal" gives us no new information that is not already contained in the term "steal." It is tautologous--not that there is anything wrong with using tautologies for the sake of emphasis.

An immediate problem arises. For in the example just noted, there is obviously room for commensuration. In other synthetic term s, there would appear to be no room for commensuration at all. Consider murder. Murder means I) the intentional and direct killing ii) of an innocent person. One simply cannot commensurate about "an innocent person" as one might have to commensurate about, in the example of stealing, what would be "against the reasonable will of the owner." For instance, an unborn child is innocent, pure and simply. A handicapped newborn is innocent, pure and simple. Likewise with an elderly person. Hence, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are wrong. Presuming the facts are known, no commensuration is needed.

Proportionalists, however, attempt to change the definition of murder to i) a killing ii) that is unjust.

This leaves a lot of room for commensurating! Of course murder is a killing that is unjust, but it is something even m ore specific than that. For the determining of what is just or unjust can easily fall prey to subjective speculation. This simply is not the way the tradition has defined murder. It has defined it in such a way that certain acts of killing are always murder, and hence we know objectively that they are unjust. Part of the moral bedrock is the absolute prohibition against killing an innocent person.

Likewise, if we take some of the moral norms in the sexual arena, we find that although synthetic terms are at work, they tend
not to allow commensuration. Take adultery. This can be defined as I) having intercourse ii) with someone other than one's spouse. It is hard to imagine commensurating here if one takes the traditional understanding of the permanence of a valid marriage into account. One's spouse is one's spouse! The same thing happens with other norms in the area of sexual morality.

As if aware that this is the case, proportionalists suggest a new definition of adultery. It becomes I) intercourse ii) with the wrong person.

This clearly leaves plenty of room for commensurating! However, it is simply not the way the tradition has defined adultery. If one wishes to so re-define, one abandons at least that part of the tradition.

Gula situates his treatment of synthetic terms within a discussion of formal and material norms. Formal norms are those which are expressed, positively, in the language of virtue, and negatively, in the language of vice. Hence, a formal norm might be "act justly, "act chastely," or "do not be avaricious." Note that a formal norm does not specify the morality of any specific material action.

A material norm is one that does specify a particular action. Material norms are always, by necessity, put in negative language: "Do not commit adultery," "Do not kill an innocent person." Material norms tell us about specific acts that we ought to avoid. Such prohibitions are part of what we have termed the moral bedrock.

Just as there ought be no separation between character and act, but only a distinction, as noted earlier, so too there ought be no separation between formal and material norms. The two are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are two integral components of the moral life. Fidelity to the moral bedrock, and the life of virtue lived above and beyond the bedrock, are both constitutive of the full moral life.

Just as Gula tends to bifurcate an ethics of character and an ethics of act, so too he bifurcates formal and material norms. A close examination of his analysis reveals that material norms are reduced into formal norms--materially norms, as understood in the tradition, virtually vanish into thin air. How does this happen?

Gula adequately describes the nature of formal norms as norms expressed in the language of virtues and vices.

* But then he speaks of a more "puzzling" kind of formal norm: synthetic terms (treated above). Examples of such "puzzling" formal norms are norms referring to such actions as: murder, lying, stealing, adultery, blasphemy, genocide, euthanasia, slavery, torture, and rape.


However, the entire treatment of the nature of a synthetic term, as noted above, yields norms that are extraordinarily flexible. That is precisely why Gula categorizes them under "formal" rather than "material" norms, whereas the tradition would definitely place the above examples under "material" norms. The analysis to follow in the next section demonstrates why, contrary to Gula and McCormick, "synthetic terms" are in fact material, not formal norms.

Given that Gula places synthetic terms under the "formal" category, what is placed under the category "material norms"? Gula has a section on material norms, but there he simply explains another time why it is that all traditional material norms actually represent "pre-moral evils." That is, traditional material norms are extremely limited:

...material norms are limited expressions of moral truth--of who we ought to be and what we ought to do in this instance as a faithful response to God's call to be loving. They do not provide a complete moral evaluation of actions because they do not take into account all aspects of the action in their proper relationship. This means that material norms do not treat the act-in-itself as equivalent to the objective moral order....Material norms are limited descriptions of the features of premoral/ontic good. When stated positively...or pre-moral/ontic evil when stated negatively....They implicitly demand a proportionate reason to cause or to tolerate pre-moral evils. Material norms, then, ought to be interpreted as containing the implied qualifiers "if there were no further intervening factors," or, "unless there is a proportionate reason," or "all things being equal.”


Gula goes on to note that material norms simply represent ideals for which to strive.



In essence, for Gula there
are no material norms as understood in the tradition. They reduce to formal norms. It would be more accurate on his part to simply admit this.

d. An Answer to the Proportionalist Request

One response to the proportionalist argument--that many material norms already bear within them the incursion of circumstance and intention--has been the attempt to force them to admit that there is such a thing as a "pure" moral object that is intrinsically evil. For once this is admitted, then the way is paved for deciding which acts are intrinsically evil.

While this approach has merit, it may not be the most comprehensive response.

It seems much better to simply admit that when the tradition labels something as intrinsically evil, it often does so by specifying a moral object with certain circumstances. This is certainly the case in the examples given above regarding murder, theft, and lying. But note well that these circumstances have nothing to do with
a particular agent. It is crucial not to confuse such circumstances, which help describe the moral object, with the other two fonts of the moral act, namely the circumstances and intention of the agent. In order to avoid confusion, let us call the circumstances which help describe the moral object specifications.

With such a method, one can speak of the three fonts in a fresh light. A moral object that is intrinsically evil will always bear some specifications. Murder is killing
of the innocent. Lying is a falsehood to one who has the right to know the truth. Then, the circumstances/intention of the agent performing such acts can be kept separate from the moral object. For example:

i) A killing of an innocent person (the moral object) can be done by someone in dire circumstances or by a person with a noble intent. Someone who is in dire poverty might abort a child with the intent of helping her existing family survive.

ii) A falsehood told to someone who has the right to know the truth (the moral object) can be told be someone in dire circumstances with noble intent. A student might not admit plagiarism for fear that his future admittance to a professional school might be thwarted.

When we look to the arena of sexual conduct, the same type of analysis applies. For example:

i) The nature of the conjugal act as unitive and procreative should never be violated. Here the conjugal act is
specified in a particular way that clearly rules out contraception and sterilization on the one hand, and rape, extra-marital and non-marital intercourse on the other hand.. If someone contracepts, they engage in a moral act that is intrinsically evil--the moral object is “the use of the conjugal act in such a way that denies its unitive and/or procreative meanings.” (Obviously if, say, the Pill is used for non-contraceptive purposes it is not intrinsically evil, and the same for sterilization). This method allows the circumstances and the intention of the agent to be kept separate from the object. Someone might contracept in dire circumstances (a demanding spouse) with good intentions (to keep a marriage together), which may affect blameworthiness, but not the intrinsic evil of the act itself.

In light of this example, we can return to McCormick's request to describe "sterilization
against the good of the marriage as the object." Such sterilization is already by definition (or by specification) against the good of marriage.

ii) The nature of male and female as ordered toward each other ought never be violated. Here maleness and femaleness are specified in a particular way that clearly rules out homosexual activity (which says nothing about homosexual orientation, over which some people have little control). If someone orders maleness or femaleness homosexually, they engage in a moral act that is intrinsically evil by virtue of its object.
The specified object is: “The use of the generative faculties in such a way that denies their unitive and/or procreative meanings.” This method allows the circumstances and intention of the agent to be kept separate from the object. Someone might engage in homosexual activity due to pressure (say, in a prison situation) or with noble intent (genuine care for the other person). Such circumstances and intentions might affect the blameworthiness of the agent but never penetrate to the act itself.

iii) The nature of m ale and female sexuality is that it should be expressed with another; auto-eroticism, therefore, is ruled out, due to the way in which the very idea of sexuality is specified. If someone sexually expresses their maleness or femaleness alone, this act is intrinsically evil by virtue of its object, which would be described the same as the previous example:
“The use of the generative faculties in such a way that denies their unitive and/or procreative meanings.” Circum stance and intent only affects the culpability of the agent.

iv) Some of the new birth technologies could be similarly analyzed. The specified moral object would be “procreation” or “bringing a child into the world”
in such a way that denies the inherent link between the sacred act of coition and procreation. The circumstances and intentions of the couple are another matter, and affect culpability: compare a couple desperate for a baby, to a woman making $10,000 as a surrogate mother.

This new method, in full accord with the tradition, is very close to John Connery's response to McCormick. It is worth quoting Connery at length, with several qualifications placed in brackets:

I have no problem admitting that not all immoral acts are immoral ex objecto. So I can admit that in some cases one cannot even make a moral judgment if one looks at an object apart from circumstances or end. Thus in the example...of killing. One could say the same thing about sexual relations as such; without further knowledge one cannot make a moral judgment about such relations. So I am not saying that one can make a moral judgment about every abstraction. What I am saying is that one can have a morally definable action [in this text's language, a specified action] apart from the kind of calculus the proportionalists would demand. Thus, one can make a moral judgment in some cases merely by a consideration of the object of the act, e.g. solitary sexual acts. Or one may make a judgment after a consideration of object and circumstance (or intention) [here Connery should use some such word as specified object, so that circumstance and intention remain on the side of the agent]. Or one can make a moral judgment about sexual intercourse when one knows that the two parties are not married to each other. Finally one can make a moral judgment about killing when one knows that the victim is innocent. These are morally definable acts, and no further calculus is needed.


Connery, it would seem, is voicing precisely the point I am articulating, even if with slightly different language. William May too has articulated the same basic perspective.



e. Traditionalist vs. Proportionalist Ways of "Circumscribing" Moral Objects

The central difference between McCormick's request and this response is that for McCormick, the specifying of the moral object is ultimately left up to the individual. An individual would be left to decide whether sterilization were for the good of the marriage or whether homosexual activity were for the good of the individuals involved. With the solution presented here, the specifying remains outside the domain of an individual person's arbitership.

For the traditionalist response, since it is granted that moral objects are specified objects, who does the specifying? Not the individual moral agent, but, to put it most simply, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, guiding tradition and scripture, and guiding the apostolic succession in the proper interpretation thereof, has clearly told the Christian community, through its history, that there are some activities that must be avoided at all costs, acts that are intrinsically evil.

McCormick himself comes quite close to the traditionalist response in a remarkable passage (note that in the first sentence, McCormick's "conflict situations" are what should be called "complex situations"):

...even when we get embroiled in conflict situations, there is often no calculus to be made for the simple reason that it has already been made by the community. Being a Christian means being a member of a body, a communio, a people with experience, reflection, and memory. Just as our knowledge of the magnalia Dei is shared knowledge, so is our grasp of its implications for behavior. In other words, we form our consciences in a community. And not infrequently this community has made over its history certain value judgments that ought to instruct the individual, even though they are capable of being nuanced or even changed. For instance, Stanley Hauerwas has noted of abortion that it is meaningful to say that "Christians just...do not do that kind of thing." I think something similar can be said about other conduct (e.g., premarital intercourse). In a sense, the very values one desires to achieve in such conduct have been judged disproportionate by the community to the disvalues inhering in it.


McCormick should add that the
communio is one that embraces a sacramental view of authority. Then, it is not the community weighing values and disvalues, but the community embracing the moral bedrock made available by the Holy Spirit through the exclusive interpreter of Scripture and Tradition. The weighing of values and disvalues of certain acts that constitute the moral bedrock has already been accomplished for us (not by us, not by the community, but in and through the community).


28: Further Critiques of Proportionalist Thinking

The most central critique of proportionalist thinking has been made: the erroneousness of their conclusion that since moral objects that are intrinsically evil are specified acts, therefore circumstance and intent on the side of the agent must be weighed prior to judging an act evil. Now it is apropos to move to several other critiques of proportionalist thought.

a. The Danger of Relativism

Given the flexibility of moral norms, we can see a real difficulty that the proportionalists must come to terms with. The way they set up moral decision-making, there is no solid bedrock of certain acts that are simply forbidden as intrinsically evil. They feel that such a bedrock lacks the "personalism" they wish to promote, a personalism that is sensitive to complex individual situations. But where do they draw any lines at all? How do they avoid a creeping relativism? Previously w e labeled this the "problem of concreteness."

They certainly
want to avoid a pure relativism. It is very dangerous to accuse proportionalists of being relativists. Rather, the critique here is that proportionalism is a method that, aside from its intended use, paves the way for a relativized and psychologized moral theology.

Sensing a creeping relativism that would result from allowing exceptions for any norm given a proportionate reason, proportionalists posit “
virtually exceptionless moral principles”:

What is the force of saying "virtually" exceptionless? For McCormick, "virtually" indicates that we cannot prove with the sharpness of syllogistic logic that no exception could ever occur. Yet these norms light up values which human experience tells us, in the general course of events and for all practical purposes, ought to take precedence even though their preference in every instance cannot be demonstrated absolutely.


Proportionalists resort to the "virtually exceptionless" clause when answering deontologists who ask about such acts as torture or bestiality. Different proportionalists would put different principles in the "virtually exceptionless" category. But
virtually exceptionless means there can be an exception. And given that life is very complex, who doesn't see their situation as the one rare case where an exception to absolute principle ought to be made? An multitude of cases can slide through the "virtually exceptionless" clause. Note that the argument here is not a naive appeal to some domino effect that exists only in the minds of apocalyptic Catholic fundamentalists. It is a domino effect that genuinely has occurred in the lives of many Catholics.

This critique does
not accuse Catholic proportionalists of causing cultural permissiveness, as McCormick thinks:

There is no evidence that the rethinking of norms that Connery calls "proportionalism" has led to the permissiveness of our time. Such permissiveness is due to a whole host of cultural factors and would have occurred had all Catholic moral theologians been on vacation throughout.


It is obvious that the permissiveness of our time is caused by a myriad of factors. The real question is, how has the Catholic Church, and particularly the theological academy, responded to such permissiveness? How has proportionalism in fact helped Catholics to resist the moral individualism that pervades our culture?

The kind of meta-ethical reflection carried on by proportionalists is a legitimate kind of reflection, no doubt. The nature of moral norms is a perplexing issue, and much has been learned from the debate. The academy must allow the free flow of ideas--within the academy. The problem is when such meta-ethical reflection is turned into pastoral guidance, flowing from proportionalist theologians, to priests, seminarians and religious educators, to the Catholic faithful--particularly adults, college students, high schools students.



This transference from meta-ethical investigation, taking place in learned journals and scholarly conferences, to the pastoral life of the Church, is precisely what the Curran case was all about. Fr. Curran wrote not only for the academy, but for the Catholic faithful at large. His method allowed Catholics to reassess parts of the moral bedrock, particularly in the area of sexual morality.

One might well ask why, if so many members of the academy are in essential agreement with the central lines of proportionalist thought, those members too are not silenced as was Fr. Curran. No one knows the exact reason, but in all likelihood it is a prudential kind of decision on the part of the Magisterium. One person being silenced defeats the popular argument that "since Rom e is silent on this matter, then even though the matter contradicts official teaching, Rome must be willing to tolerate it.”

It may be that if many theologians were silenced, a greater evil might be caused than that accruing from allowing them to teach. For in the Western world, the use of authority in moral matters is quickly assessed as tyrannical and totalitarian. Fr. Richard McBrien has compared Pope John Paul II's pontificate to the failed 1991 coup attempt against reforms in the Soviet Union.

b. A Self-Contradictory Method?

Another key criticism of proportionalism has been spearheaded by the deontologist Germain Grisez, who argues that the method is self-contradictory.

He argues that it is impossible to have a truly moral choice given the proportionalist system. To have a truly moral choice, one would have to be able to do the wrong thing, that is, to sin. But in proportionalism, there is no objective "wrong thing" to do since the individual ultimately decides whether a particular act has a great enough proportion of good/value to render it licit. No one in their right mind would do all the weighing, come up with what is the proportionately greater good, and then act against it--yet that is exactly what would be the requisite of an immoral choice under the proportionalist system.

As Grisez himself summarizes:

...nothing is chosen except insofar as it seems good. If one alternative is seen to promise definitely greater good or lesser evil, the other hardly could be deliberately chosen. What reason or motive could there be to choose the lesser good or the greater evil? In a consequentialist's view of things: None. For in this view, the premoral goodness of the outcome determines the m oral rightness of the choice that is a means to it, and the method excludes any other intelligible factor that might tempt a rational agent to choose wrongly.


One immediate reply to Grisez is that the moral dimension comes in as one is in the
process of weighing--the individual might improperly weigh some value/disvalue. But it seems that even in this weighing it is the individual who ultimately arbitrates over how to weigh. So Grisez's objection appears to stand. Perhaps the only truly immoral thing a person could do is to decide not to weigh some particular data, or not enough data.

c. A Response from the Left to "Premoral Evil"

The above critiques are leveled at proportionalists from a traditionalist ut another critique is leveled at them from a position further to the left. Taking the example of homosexual activity, the proportionalists wish to claim that it is a pre-moral evil, as noted above, and that it can be done morally in certain situations. But why even call it a premoral
evil? Why not just say that it is an activity which, when conscientiously engaged in, is entirely morally licit? The same could be said of, say contraception or euthanasia. Consider the argument of Daniel Maguire:

The Report [Human Sexuality] even goes on to say that a particular homosexual relationship may be counseled "not simply as a lesser of two evils but as a positive good" (p. 215). And it concludes "that where there is sincere affection, responsibility, and the germ of authentic human relationship--in other words, where there is love--God is surely present" (p. 218). I find this better ethical theory than is represented by those who say, even while justifying homosexual sex, that it is always ontically evil, not human expression at full term, falling short of the full meaning of human sexuality, the result of the infecting power of sin, etc. This puts the homosexual couple into the position of having to say of their relationship--which may be an ideal and heroic realization of Christian love--that it is ontically evil but morally sound.


Of course, the reason why proportionalists within the Catholic tradition
must call such acts premorally [ontically] evil is so that they can remain in some alignment with the Catholic tradition which claimed such acts were intrinsically evil. The proportionalists can claim that the tradition was on target, but that exceptions need to be made. From Maguire's perspective, it would be better to simply say the tradition was wrong on such points. It seems better to simply admit discontinuity with the tradition.

One motive for rejecting "intrinsic evil" and replacing it with "premoral evil" is to have a moral theology that is more personalist and more pastorally sensitive to those who might otherwise be alienated by the Church. If that is the motive, then why call, say, homosexual activity a premoral evil? The homosexual community to a large extent sees such activity as essentially
good. The Church, if it wants to appeal to the homosexual community, ought then call such activity neutral and request only that it be used with good intent.

This, of course, would mean admitting to a substantial change in Catholic moral teaching.

d. The Problem with "Weighing"


The best critique of proportionalism, underlying all the others and already alluded to throughout the text, is that as human agents we are incapable of the kind of weighing required by proportionalist Methodology. We can easily assess what we think we want for ourselves, but are often blinded to what our deepest needs are. Concupiscence gets in the way; not taking full cognizance of this fact is perhaps the deepest flaw in proportionalist method.

Even apart from the wound of concupiscence in the will, our intellects are simply incapable of the kind of calculation required by proportionalism.
Veritatis Splendor makes precisely this point:

Moreover, everyone recognizes the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of evaluating all the good and evil consequences and effects--defined as pre-moral--of one's own acts: an exhaustive rational calculation is not possible. How then can one go about establishing proportions which depend on a measuring, the criteria of which remain obscure? How could an absolute obligation be justified on the basis of such debatable calculations? (#78)

The best that proportionalism can do for a person, it would seem, is give a good estimate of what might be a moral or immoral act. While at first sight this may look like humility in the face of human complexity, it is finally unfair to the human agent to have the burden of living in so vague a moral world.


29. St. Thomas and Proportionalisma. Might St. Thomas Have Been Sympathetic with Proportionalism?

Proportionalists claim that St. Thomas himself would be sympathetic to their theory--granted he is difficult to understand at times, but a careful analysis of his work showsthe opposite. Thomas says that in an act, there is a twofold activity taking place: the external act itself, and the interior act of the will. Consider a person giving alms during the Sunday collection. The external act of placing a twenty into the basket has an object, and the object is almsgiving. This is a specific instance of a certain kind of act, an “almsgiving-kind-of-act.” That is an intrinsically good act, one that is highly compatible with the agent’s ultimate beatific end. We could break this object down even more, noting that the object in the most raw, material sense is giving money, and that a specifying circumstance enters the object, namely giving money
that will go to the poor. That specifying circumstance is what makes this act of giving money into an act called almsgiving. And it is the ordered nature of almsgiving--its objectively good end or consequences--that makes it a good kind of act (a good finis operis or “end of the act”).

Now let’s look inside the agent. It would be nice to make the assumption that the agent is highly virtuous, and that what he intends is nothing other than generous almsgiving that is ordered toward helping the poor. A twenty is a lot for this person, but he easily gives it, knowing the dire need of the poor to whom the money will go. What is happening inside the agent’s mind (the ends of the agent, or
fines operantis), in relation to the external object? This interior act has its object, and in this case the object of the interior will matches the object of the external act--the agent intends the act of almsgiving to aid the poor. In this happy case, both objects are good.

Now change the scenario so that the object of the external act remains identical, but the object of the interior act of the will is drastically different. The individual would normally give a token pittance, maybe a dollar. But in this instance, he knows that his boss is sitting behind him, in a position to easily see what he is preparing to put in the basket. Wanting to impress his boss (the possibility of a raise looms) he pulls a twenty out of his wallet and holds it in a rather conspicuous position while waiting for the basket to arrive. The object of the interior act of the will would be called vainglory. (In most such cases, that object would in fact be mixed, and one is left wondering if the agent is more a seeker of vainglory or more an almsgiver.)

The object of the interior act is technically called the “end.” This is at first confusing, because the three fonts of the moral act are object, intent (read “the end I seek”), and circumstances, and it seems we have just “blended” object and intent (end). But in point of fact, the term object is broader than normally thought, and covers both the object of the external act and the object of the interior act of the will. One more point--the man who is almsgiving for vainglory still is deliberately performing an “almsgiving kind of act.” In our diagram, that deliberate choice is indicated at the man’s hand, but it could just as well be pictured up inside the agent’s intent, not as his ultimate end (vainglory) but as his proximate end (putting a twenty in the basket, a twenty that will in fact help the poor).

The second font, intent, is also broader than commonly thought. As just noted, it covers the interior act of the will which has its object. But it also covers something else. Notice that in the above two scenarios, we spoke abstractly about “an agent.” The acts described could apply to any number of different agents. We didn’t consider the various things going on inside
a particular agent, namely, the circumstances and intent on the side of the particular agent, for assessing a particular act is different from assessing a kind of act.

For instance, name the agent “Joe,” and imagine that Joe has just found out that his daughter’s medical bills will soon be astronomical--hence, the circumstances of this particular agent (as opposed to objective circumstances that specify an object). He is still seeking something for himself more than for the poor in his act of giving $20, but his desire for a raise has nothing to do with the new boat he longs for and everything to do with the well-being of his family--hence, the intent of this particular agent, or what might better be termed Joe’s
motive. Recall that these circumstances and intentions on the side of the agent cannot make an evil act good, but they can greatly affect the culpability, or lack thereof, that the agent will bear.

Now shift the case: Joe engages in an act of theft in order to pay his daughter’s bills. The external object--taking property against the reasonable will of the owner--is intrinsically evil (note that it is a specified object). The object of the interior act of the will is good--aiding someone in need--but will not turn an intrinsically evil act into a good act. It will affect culpability, as will the particular circumstances--the particular person in need, the daughter, is in great pain.

In sum, the three fonts of the moral act each respectively have dual meanings. 1) The object can refer to a) the object of the external act, or b) the object of the interior act, also called the “end.” 2) Intent can refer to a) the end just mentioned, also called the object of the interior act of the will, which can be outlined without reference to any particular agent, or b) the motive of the particular agent. 3) Circumstances can refer to a) those objective circumstances or specifications that can enter the object of the external act and which can be outlined without any reference to a particular agent, or b) the unique circumstances of a particular agent.

Another example: What about a thief who carefully plans a robbery, but due to illness, or because his partner doesn’t show up, never follows through. Has he sinned? Put otherwise, is there a moral object he has engaged in that is incompatible with his ultimate end? If a policeman suspects him, he can easily note that he has done nothing, and in the eyes of the civil law he’s guiltless. But in the eyes of the natural, divine and eternal law he is guilty, due to the object of the interior act of the will. The fact that he never got around to the external act is a happy fact for society, but he has materially sinned (though the sin is less grave for not having an external object). Then, his circumstances and especially his motives may well affect his culpability (formal sin). While he might be out for pure personal gain, perhaps he lives in a very unjust social setting, and is robbing a bakery in order to provide food for his family. (At a certain point, circumstances could enter--or specify--the object, making it something other than theft. Recall that theft is taking property against the reasonable will of the owner. Perhaps the baker has refused to give the man bread that will be thrown out anyway, and there is no other way for the man to reasonably obtain food. At that point, the man no longer commits theft.)

This philosophic analysis explains Christ’s challenge regarding the virtue of purity: that a man who looks lustfully at a woman commits adultery. The sinful object is in the interior act of the will. Should the man actually carry out adultery as an external object, the gravity of his sin would be weightier.

Again, his own circumstances and motives affect his culpability. (For instance, he may have been seduced by someone who convinced him that this act would be a compassionate way to relieve her loneliness.)

Could there be a case in which an individual commits an evil external act, and the interior act of the will is completely good? This happens often. Whenever there is complete invincible ignorance this would be the simple case of the false and good conscience. Imagine a girl having an abortion, but under the illusion that she is just having some tissue removed. She’s been totally duped by Planned Parenthood and has never heard a good pro-life presentation showing what the fetus really is--a human being, not an object. As to her subjective motive, let’s say that her mother is pressuring her to have the abortion, and she sincerely wants to please her mother. When she has the abortion, she engages in the kind of act that, in and of itself, is intrinsically evil. But if you asked her, “what are you doing,” her honest response would be “I am having tissue removed.” That’s the object of her interior act of the will. There is no formal sin involved. Material sin, yes.

Now let us add the following scenario: between the time of her initial decision and the actual abortion, she hears a good (non-heteronomous) pro-life presentation at her high school. Suddenly she realizes that her interior act of the will is mistaken. Education has assisted her in getting the interior act of the will to
match the external act--that’s a nice description of what happens when we convince someone not to do something that’s wrong. For the girl, what previously was an upcoming material sin, now is an upcoming formal sin. If she proceeds with the abortion, she is sinning, though her culpability may be mitigated given the continued pressure from her mother.

In both cases, we have been assuming that the girl was about to
freely chose, or will, the act of abortion. Without such choice
there could be no sin (recall the three conditions for sin). Now imagine her mother (who knows perfectly well what a fetus is) pressuring her to have the abortion. At this point, she does an intrinsically evil kind of act (the object of the external act), and she knows very well what she is doing (the object of the interior act of the will, or the end), but because of the pressure (as opposed to the earlier lack of knowledge) her culpability is lessened. Now travel quickly to China--there, a woman is literally forced by the authorities to have an abortion. Due to the coercion the culpability for the sin is greatly lessened. The authorities in this case are the ones sinning.

b. Practice Cases

Let’s start with some scenarios involving contraception and NFP. Consider these couples:

Contracepting couple #1 understands perfectly well what contraception does, maintaining that the more “rational control” we exert the more human we are acting. They plan on a childless marriage. In the event of contraceptive failure they would use abortion as a back-up method.

Contracepting couple #2 is Catholic, and very open to life--abortion is out of the question. They have serious reasons, at least for the time being, limiting their family to the three children they already have (one child has a serious handicap). They see contraception as a mere extension of the infertile part of the cycle--doing a bit more of what nature does already (if nature does it we can do it).

Contracepting couple #3 lives under the cruel Chinese population control regime. The woman is told she must use a contraceptive device (which will be monitored by the officials), unless she wants to lose all her family’s housing, health and education benefits, forever.

The female spouse in Couple #4 is taking the Pill for medicinal purposes (though her doctor inappropriately “jokes” about the nice side-benefit of conception-free sex). The spouses wonder whether they should abstain from conjugal relations all together, or at least to a degree that would mimic the abstention of an average user-of-NFP. They decide on the latter alternative. Happily, it looks like the Pill won’t be needed in the future, at which time they plan to have as many children as God sends them.

NFP couple “A” have six children and are open to more, though presently they have serious reason for spacing the next child. Afraid that they might miscalculate (it’s happened before!), they use a contraceptive device on the days near the fertile period to play it extra safe--but never during the fertile period itself, during which they abstain.

NFP couple “B” are “back-to-nature folks, alienated from the Catholic faith (which they perceive heteronomously) but appreciative of what they see as its anti-technology stance--they think the Church condemns contraception because it is artificial. They like the idea of a large family.

NFP couple “C” are identical to couple “B” but plan on having no more than two children--they are convinced it would be immoral to go beyond that, having imbibed lots of population control rhetoric.

NFP couple “D” are young and in college (a year left), just married, and have decided to avoid children, using NFP, until they have decent jobs and a good start on paying back loans--maybe a three year wait before they welcome the children they are anxious to receive.

The Challenge

In analyzing these cases, you should feel free to fill in all sorts of additional circumstances and motives
on the part of the agents. The information provided should allow you to fill in the object of the external act and the object of the interior act of the will.

Answers

Couple #1 does intrinsic evil and sins, though the culpability could be mitigated by subjective circumstances
Couple #2 does intrinsic evil, but to the extent that their ignorance is invincible, does not sin.
Couple #3 engages in the kind of act that, if deliberately chosen, would be sinful (hence, an intrinsically evil act). Since the choice is not deliberate, there is no sin.
Couple #4 are doing nothing evil whatsoever. If they were to embrace the attitude of the doctor, their bad intent would make their conjugal acts evil. Abstention, in any degree, is a question of prudence, not necessity.
Couple A does intrinsic evil and sins, though the subjective motive may well mitigate culpability.
Couple B does the right thing for the wrong reasons. There is no sin involved, but they need to radically adjust the object of the interior act of the will (the end).
Couple C likewise does the right thing for the wrong reasons, but may have a selfish motive, the culpability for which might be mitigated due to the circumstance of a biased education regarding population issues.
Couple D do nothing morally wrong, but it may be prudent (lots of subjective circumstances come into play here) to wait with marriage.

And now, another set of cases, but no answers.

1. George steals (a synthetic term) a tabernacle from the chapel, because he hates Catholicism (he was raised by atheist parents), and hence he also takes out hosts and throws them about, in spite. Or, he is a pickpocket, and does this
in a church a) because plenty of vulnerable victims are available (here, place remains an accidental circumstance) or b) precisely because this is a sacred place (here, place is a circumstance that enters the object, making this a new species of act).

2. Joe watches a bad movie. He really despises pornography, but wants to be “one of the guys.” This all happens at a YMCA camp where he works, and several minors are corrupted.

3. A thief’s well-planned act is cancelled by an illness. (Challenge: is this a mortal sin based on intent? If so, why not #4 below? And, be careful with #5) (hint: take each of the three conditions for mortal sin and apply them to the object of the interior act of the will)

4. . Mary steals a paper clip, or, never quite gets around to paying for her class handout materials, though she intends to. In her scrupulosity she thinks it grave matter. (An unbalanced spiritual director lead her into scrupulosity). Does she sin mortally? Or only venially? (hint: take each of the three conditions for mortal sin and apply them to the object of the interior act of the will)

5. Susan steals a penny (or, purchases it from a close friend for a nickel). She is under the false impression that it is highly valuable--but it turns out to be the wrong year. (Her dad was a wheeling-dealing numismatic [coin-collector], and she admired all he did for her). Is her moral object one of grave matter? (hint: take each of the three conditions for mortal sin and apply them to the object of the interior act of the will)

6. St. Thomas, referring to Aristotle, refers obliquely to a case in which someone “steals in order to commit adultery.” For example, he steals money to pay a prostitute.

7. A man looks lustfully at a woman--consider this in light of Jesus’ challenge, namely, that this constitutes adultery.
7a. First, distinguish this from
uninvited impure thoughts, that are not entertained. There is no consent of the will.
7b. If there is consent, one must distinguish parvity/gravity of matter--numerous considerations based on accidental circumstances.
7c. If grave matter, then the mortal sin of adultery occurs.
7d. Add to this the actual external act of adultery--now what happens morally?
7e. Accidental circumstance enters the object: a feigned lustful act to get back at one’s spouse.
7f. Accidental circumstance of place enters--external act might change to exhibitionism.

8. Anticipating the next unit on New Natural Law theory
a) A tyrant places a contraceptive agent in the water supply.
b) Couples inadvertently ingest the agent—do they contracept?
c) Couples find out about the tyrant’s devious plan. Must they abstain? Or not?
d) What is the moral object of the tyrant? Is he a contraceptor?
e) Compare the couples, once they are aware, to an infertile couple—they too are oppressed by a force beyond themselves. Must they abstain?

9. Distinguish the moderate use of wine and the use of marijuana or similar drugs. (This distinction is needed as a basis for understanding the issue of legalization of marijuana.)

10. Distinguish the use of cocaine for medicinal reasons from its use for other reasons.

11. A decision is made not to return a borrowed gun to an owner who is judged to be homicidal.

The following examples will require additional material on consequences not yet covered.

12. A person hums or whistles a sad tune. Unbeknownst to him, this triggers tragic memories in someone who just happens to hear it. Now, change the case so that the person whistles the tune in the proximity of that person precisely because he knows it will trigger sad memories.

13. a) A morally mature viewer considers a piece of nude art. Distinguish this from viewing pornography. b) While looking at nude art, a person inadvertently has some impure thoughts, which are chased away. c) Same, but the impure thoughts are entertained. d) Same, and a day later the person takes steps to view that same art exhibit again.


c. Texts from ST I-II, 18 and 20

Summa Theologica III, 18, 2: Is the good or evil of a human action derived from its object?

I answer that, as stated above (1) the good or evil of an action, as of other things, depends on its fulness of being or its lack of that fulness. Now the first thing that belongs to the fulness of being seems to be that which gives a thing its species. And just as a natural thing has its species from its form, so an action has its species from its object, as movement from its term. And therefore just as the primary goodness of a natural thing is derived from its form, which gives it its species, so the primary goodness of a moral action is derived from its suitable object: hence some call such an action "good in its genus"; for instance, "to make use of what is one's own." And just as, in natural things, the primary evil is when a generated thing does not realize its specific form (for instance, if instead of a man, something else be generated); so the primary evil in moral actions is that which is from the object, for instance, "to take what belongs to another." And this action is said to be "evil in its genus," genus here standing for species, just as we apply the term "mankind" to the whole human species.

18, 3: Whether man's action is good or evil from a circumstance?

I answer that, In natural things, it is to be noted that the whole fulness of perfection due to a thing, is not from the mere substantial form, that gives it its species; since a thing derives much from supervening accidents, as man does from shape, color, and the like; and if any one of these accidents be out of due proportion, evil is the result. So it is with action. For the plenitude of its goodness does not consist wholly in its species, but also in certain additions which accrue to it by reason of certain accidents: and such are
its due circumstances. Wherefore if something be wanting that is requisite as a due circumstance the action will be evil.

Reply to Objection 1 Circumstances are outside an action, inasmuch as they are not part of its essence; but they are in an action as accidents thereof. Thus, too, accidents in natural substances are outside the essence.
Reply to Objection 2.
Every accident is not accidentally in its subject; for some are proper accidents; and of these every art takes notice. And thus it is that the circumstances of actions are considered in the doctrine of morals.

18, 4: Is the good or evil derived from the end?

I answer that, The disposition of things as to goodness is the same as their disposition as to being. Now in some things the being does not depend on another, and in these it suffices to consider their being absolutely. But there are things the being of which depends on something else, and hence in their regard we must consider their being in its relation to the cause on which it depends. Now just as the being of a thing depends on the agent, and the form, so the goodness of a thing
depends on its end. Hence in the Divine Persons, Whose goodness does not depend on another, the measure of goodness is not taken from the end. Whereas human actions, and other things, the goodness of which depends on something else, have a measure of goodness from the end on which they depend, besides that goodness which is in them absolutely. Accordingly a fourfold goodness may be considered in a human action. First, that which, as an action, it derives from its genus; because as much as it has of action and being so much has it of goodness, as stated above (1). Secondly, it has goodness according to its species; which is derived from its suitable object. Thirdly, it has goodness from its circumstances, in respect, as it were, of its accidents. Fourthly, it has goodness from its end, to which it is compared as to the cause of its goodness.

Reply to Objection 1. The good in view of which one acts is not always a true good; but sometimes it is a true good, sometimes an apparent good. And in the latter event, an evil action results from the end in view.
Reply to Objection 2. Although the end is an extrinsic cause, nevertheless due proportion to the end, and relation to the end, are inherent to the action.
Reply to Objection 3. Nothing hinders an action that is good in one of the ways mentioned above, from lacking goodness in another way. And thus it may happen that an action which is good in its species or in its circumstances is ordained to an evil end, or vice versa. However, an action is not good simply, unless it is good in all those ways: since "evil results from any single defect, but good from the complete cause," as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv).

18, 5: Is a human action good or evil in its species?

I answer that, Every action derives its species from its object, as stated above (2). Hence it follows that a difference of object causes a difference of species in actions. Now, it must be observed that a difference of objects causes a difference of species in actions, according as the latter are referred to one active principle, which does not cause a difference in actions, according as they are referred to another active principle. Because nothing accidental constitutes a species, but only that which is essential; and a difference of object may be essential in reference to one active principle, and accidental in reference to another. Thus to know color and to know sound, differ essentially in reference to sense, but not in reference to the intellect.

Now in human actions, good and evil are predicated in reference to the reason; because as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv), "the good of man is to be
in accordance with reason," and evil is "to be against reason." For that is good for a thing which suits it in regard to its form; and evil, that which is against the order of its form. It is therefore evident that the difference of good and evil considered in reference to the object is an essential difference in relation to reason; that is to say, according as the object is suitable or unsuitable to reason. Now certain actions are called human or moral, inasmuch as they proceed from the reason. Consequently it is evident that good and evil diversify the species in human actions; since essential differences cause a difference of species.

Reply to Objection 4.
A circumstance is sometimes taken as the essential difference of the object, as compared to reason; and then it can specify a moral act. And it must needs be so whenever a circumstance transforms an action from good to evil; for a circumstance would not make an action evil, except through being repugnant to reason.

18, 6: Does an action have the species of good or evil from its end? (Perhaps the most important text)

Objection 1. It would seem that the good and evil which are from the end do not diversify the species of actions. For actions derive their species from the object. But the end is altogether apart from the object. Therefore the good and evil which are from the end do not diversify the species of an action.
Objection 2. Further, that which is accidental does not constitute the species, as stated above (05). But it is accidental to an action to be ordained to some particular end; for instance, to give alms from vainglory. Therefore actions are not diversified as to species, according to the good and evil which are from the end.
Objection 3. Further, acts that differ in species, can be ordained to the same end: thus to the end of vainglory, actions of various virtues and vices can be ordained. Therefore the good and evil which are taken from the end, do not diversify the species of action.
On the contrary, It has been shown above (1, 3) that human actions derive their species from the end. Therefore good and evil in respect of the end diversify the species of actions.

Key: I answer that, Certain actions are called human, inasmuch as they are voluntary, as stated above (1, 1). Now, in a voluntary action, there is a twofold action, viz. the interior action of the will, and the external action: and each of these actions has its object. The end is properly the object of the interior act of the will: while the object of the external action, is that on which the action is brought to bear. Therefore just as the external action takes its species from the object on which it bears; so the interior act of the will takes its species from the end, as from its own proper object.

Also key: Now that which is on the part of the will is formal in regard to that which is on the part of the external action: because the will uses the limbs to act as instruments; nor have external actions any measure of morality, save in so far as they are voluntary. Consequently the species of a human act is considered formally with regard to the end, but materially with regard to the object of the external action. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 2) that "he who steals that he may commit adultery, is strictly speaking, more adulterer than thief."

Reply to Objection 1. The end also has the character of an object, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 2. Although it is accidental to the external action to be ordained to some particular end, it is not accidental to the interior act of the will, which act is compared to the external act, as form to matter.
Reply to Objection 3. When many actions, differing in species, are ordained to the same end, there is indeed a diversity of species on the part of the external actions; but unity of species on the part of the internal action.


18, 10: Does a circumstance place a moral action in the species of good or evil?

I answer that, Just as the species of natural things are constituted by their natural forms, so the species of moral actions are constituted by forms as conceived by the reason, as is evident from what was said above (05). But since nature is determinate to one thing, nor can a process of nature go on to infinity, there must needs be some ultimate form, giving a specific difference, after which no further specific difference is possible. Hence it is that in natural things, that which
is accidental to a thing, cannot be taken as a difference constituting the species. But the process of reason is not fixed to one particular term, for at any point it can still proceed further. And consequently that which, in one action, is taken as a circumstance added to the object that specifies the action, can again be taken by the directing reason, as the principal condition of the object that determines the action's species. Thus to appropriate another's property is specified by reason of the property being "another's," and in this respect it is placed in the species of theft; and if we consider that action also in its bearing on place or time, then this will be an additional circumstance. But since the reason can direct as to place, time, and the like, it may happen that the condition as to place, in relation to the object, is considered as being in disaccord with reason: for instance, reason forbids damage to be done to a holy place. Consequently to steal from a holy place has an additional repugnance to the order of reason. And thus place, which was first of all considered as a circumstance, is considered here as the principal condition of the object, and as itself repugnant to reason. And in this way, whenever a circumstance has a special relation to reason, either for or against, it must needs specify the moral action whether good or bad.

Reply to Objection 1. A circumstance, in so far as it specifies an action, is considered as
a condition of the object, as stated above, and as being, as it were, a specific difference thereof.
Reply to Objection 2. A circumstance, so long as it is but a circumstance, does not specify an action, since thus it is a
mere accident: but when it becomes a principal condition of the object, then it does specify the action.


20, 1: Is goodness and malice first in the act of the will, or in the external action?
AWESOME for NNL/TNL

I answer that, External actions may be said to be good or bad in two ways. First, in regard to their genus, and the
circumstances connected with them: thus the giving of alms, if the required conditions be observed, is said to be good. Secondly, a thing is said to be good or evil, from its relation to the end: thus the giving of alms for vainglory is said to be evil. Now, since the end is the will's proper object, it is evident that this aspect of good or evil, which the external action derives from its relation to the end, is to be found first of all in the act of the will, whence it passes to the external action. On the other hand, the goodness or malice which the external action has of itself, on account of its being about due matter and its being attended by due circumstances, is not derived from the will, but rather from the reason. Consequently, if we consider the goodness of the external action, in so far as it comes from reason's ordination and apprehension, it is prior to the goodness of the act of the will: but if we consider it in so far as it is in the execution of the action done, it is subsequent to the goodness of the will, which is its principle.

Reply to Objection 1. The exterior action is the object of the will, inasmuch as it is proposed to the will by the reason, as good apprehended and ordained by the reason: and thus it is prior to the good in the act of the will. But inasmuch as it is found in the execution of the action, it is an effect of the will, and is subsequent to the will.
Reply to Objection 2.
The end precedes in the order of intention, but follows in the order of execution.
Reply to Objection 3. A form as received into matter, is subsequent to matter in the order of generation, although it precedes it in the order of nature: but inasmuch as it is in the active cause, it precedes in every way. Now the will is compared to the exterior action, as its efficient cause. Wherefore the goodness of the act of the will, as existing in the active cause, is the form of the exterior action.



20, 2: Does the whole goodness or malice of the external action depend on the goodness of the will? GREAT REVIEW

I answer that, As stated above (1), we may consider a twofold goodness or malice in the external action [whole moral action]: one in respect of due matter and circumstances; the other in respect of the order to the end. And that which is in respect of the order to the end, depends entirely on the will: while that which is in respect of due matter or circumstances, depends on the reason: and on this goodness depends the goodness of the will, in so far as the will tends towards it [NNL sees this].

Now it must be observed, as was noted above (19, 6, ad 1), that for a thing to be evil, one single defect suffices, whereas, for it to be good simply, it is not enough for it to be good in one point only, it must be good in every respect. If therefore the will be good, both from its proper object and from its end [might this prove that “will” is distinct from bother the objects?], if follows that the external action [whole action] is good. But if the will be good from its intention of the end, this is not enough to make the external action good: and if the will be evil either by reason of its intention of the end, or by reason of the act willed, it follows that the external action [whole act]is evil.

Objection 2. Further, Augustine says (Retract. i, 9) that there is no sin without the will. If therefore there is no sin in the will, there will be none in the external action. And so the whole goodness or malice of the external action depends on the will. [looks like NNL]

Reply to Objection 2.
A man sins by his will, not only when he wills an evil end; but also when he wills an evil act.
[Thomas seems not to fully answer; but great for locating “will” in relation to the two objects]
a. 3 Whether the goodness and malice of the external action are the same as those of the interior act?
Objection 1.
It would seem that the goodness and malice of the interior act of the will are not the same as those of the external action. For the principle of the interior act is the interior apprehensive or appetitive power of the soul; whereas the principle of the external action is the power that accomplishes the movement. Now where the principles of action are different, the actions themselves are different. Moreover, it is the action which is the subject of goodness or malice: and the same accident cannot be in different subjects. Therefore the goodness of the interior act cannot be the same as that of the external action.

I answer that, As stated above (17, 4), the interior act of the will, and the external action, considered morally, are one act. Now it happens sometimes that one and the same individual act has several aspects of goodness or malice, and sometimes that it has but one. Hence we must say that sometimes the goodness or malice of the interior act is the same as that of the external action, and sometimes not. For as we have already said (1,2), these two goodnesses or malices, of the internal and external acts, are ordained to one another. Now it may happen, in things that are subordinate to something else, that a thing is good merely from being subordinate; thus a bitter draught is good merely because it procures health. Wherefore there are not two goodnesses, one the goodness of health, and the other the goodness of the draught; but one and the same. On the other hand it happens sometimes that that which is subordinate to something else, has some aspect of goodness in itself, besides the fact of its being subordinate to some other good: thus a palatable medicine can be considered in the light of a pleasurable good, besides being conducive to health.

Key
We must therefore say that when the external action derives goodness or malice from its relation to the end only, then there is but one and the same goodness of the act of the will which of itself regards the end, and of the external action, which regards the end through the medium of the act of the will. But when the external action has goodness or malice of itself, i.e. in regard to its matter and circumstances, then the goodness of the external action is distinct from the goodness of the will in regarding the end; yet so that the goodness of the end passes into the external action, and the goodness of the matter and circumstances passes into the act of the will, as stated above (1,2).
Reply to Objection 1. This argument proves that the internal and external actions are different in the physical order: yet distinct as they are in that respect, they combine to form one thing in the moral order, as stated above (17, 4).


A. 4 Whether the external action adds any goodness or malice to that of the interior act?

Objection 2. Further, the goodness and malice of the interior and external acts are one and the same, as stated above (3). But increase is the addition of one thing to another. Therefore the external action does not add to the goodness or malice of the interior act.
Objection 3. Further, the entire goodness of created things does not add to the Divine Goodness, because it is entirely derived therefrom. But sometimes the entire goodness of the external action is derived from the goodness of the interior act, and sometimes conversely, as stated above (1,2). Therefore neither of them adds to the goodness or malice of the other.
On the contrary, Every agent intends to attain good and avoid evil. If therefore by the external action no further goodness or malice be added, it is to no purpose that he who has a good or an evil will, does a good deed or refrains from an evil deed. Which is unreasonable.
[ Thomas in his answer assumes the two objects are identical]
I answer that, If we speak of the goodness which the external action derives from the will tending to the end, then the external action adds nothing to this goodness, unless it happens that the will in itself is made better in good things, or worse in evil things. This, seemingly, may happen in three ways. First in point of number; if, for instance, a man wishes to do something with a good or an evil end in view, and does not do it then, but afterwards wills and does it, the act of his will is doubled and a double good, or a double evil is the result. Secondly, in point of extension: when, for instance, a man wishes to do something for a good or an evil end, and is hindered by some obstacle, whereas another man perseveres in the movement of the will until he accomplish it in deed; it is evident that the will of the latter is more lasting in good or evil, and in this respect, is better or worse. Thirdly, in point of intensity: for these are certain external actions, which, in so far as they are pleasurable, or painful, are such as naturally to make the will more intense or more remiss; and it is evident that the more intensely the will tends to good or evil, the better or worse it is. [the dedicated evildoer vs. half-hearted or-unwilling evildoer who got roped in]
On the other hand, if we speak of the goodness which the external action derives from its matter and due circumstances, thus it stands in relation to the will as its term and end. And in this way it adds to the goodness or malice of the will; because every inclination or movement is perfected by attaining its end or reaching its term. Wherefore the will is not perfect, unless it be such that, given the opportunity, it realizes the operation. But if this prove impossible, as long as the will is perfect, so as to realize the operation if it could; the lack of perfection derived from the external action, is simply involuntary. Now just as the involuntary deserves neither punishment nor reward in the accomplishment of good or evil deeds, so neither does it lessen reward or punishment, if a man through simple involuntariness fail to do good or evil.
Reply to Objection 2. This argument applies to that goodness which the external action derives from the will as tending to the end. But the goodness which the external action takes from its matter and circumstances, is distinct from that which it derives from the end; but it is not distinct from that which it has from the very act willed, to which it stands in the relation of measure and cause, as stated above (1,2). From this the reply to the Third Objection is evident.
A. 5 Whether the consequences of the external action increase its goodness or malice?

[good to diagram this section for yourself ] I answer that, The consequences of an action are either foreseen or not. If they are foreseen, it is evident that they increase the goodness or malice. For when a man foresees that many evils may follow from his action, and yet does not therefore desist therefrom, this shows his will to be all the more inordinate.
But if the consequences are not foreseen, we must make a distinction. Because if they follow from the nature of the action and in the majority of cases, in this respect, the consequences increase the goodness or malice of that action: for it is evident that an action is specifically better, if better results can follow from it; and specifically worse, if it is of a nature to produce worse results. On the other hand, if the consequences follow by accident and seldom, then they do not increase the goodness or malice of the action: because we do not judge of a thing according to that which belongs to it by accident, but only according to that which belongs to it of itself.



A. 6 Whether one and the same external action can be both good and evil?

Objection 1. It would seem that one and the same external action can be both good and evil. For "movement, if continuous, is one and the same" (Phys. v, 4). But one continuous movement can be both good and bad: for instance, a man may go to church continuously, intending at first vainglory, and afterwards the service of God. Therefore one and the same action can be both good and bad. [great example]

Objection 3. Further, since a servant is an instrument, as it were, of his master, the servant's action is his master's, just as the action of a tool is the workman's action. But it may happen that the servant's action result from his master's good will, and is therefore good: and from the evil will of the servant, and is therefore evil. Therefore the same action can be both good and evil.
On the contrary, The same thing cannot be the subject of contraries. But good and evil are contraries. Therefore the same action cannot be both good and evil.
On the contrary, The same thing cannot be the subject of contraries. But good and evil are contraries. Therefore the same action cannot be both good and evil.
I answer that, Nothing hinders a thing from being one, in so far as it is in one genus, and manifold, in so far as it is referred to another genus. Thus a continuous surface is one, considered as in the genus of quantity; and yet it is manifold, considered as to the genus of color, if it be partly white, and partly black. And accordingly, nothing hinders an action from being one, considered in the natural order; whereas it is not one, considered in the moral order; and vice versa, as we have stated above (3, ad 1; 18, 7, ad 1). For continuous walking is one action, considered in the natural order: but it may resolve itself into many actions, considered in the moral order, if a change take place in the walker's will, for the will is the principle of moral actions. If therefore we consider one action in the moral order, it is impossible for it to be morally both good and evil. Whereas if it be one as to natural and not moral unity, it can be both good and evil. [walking to rob the bank]
Reply to Objection 1. This continual movement which proceeds from various intentions, although it is one in the natural order, is not one in the point of moral unity.

Reply to Objection 3. The action of the servant, in so far as it proceeds from the will of the servant, is not the master's action: but only in so far as it proceeds from the master's command. Wherefore the evil will of the servant does not make the action evil in this respect.


30. The "New" Natural Law Theory (under construction, may be some weak spots)

Recall what VS emphasizes in relation to the person/body relation: in the body we find anticipatory signs, indications, reference points, which reason (and revealed data) "mines out" or works upon, discovering a truly personal meaning--not just raw biological data. Also recall that the revisionist/proportionalist theologians misunderstand this point--they see the Tradition as "biologistic." They err in both their own perception of the tradition (their misunderstanding of Thomas included), and in their solution, which succombs to dualism, a split between person and body.

Germain Grisez, while completely supportive of VS and highly critical of the revisionists, nonetheless criticizes the traditional understanding of natural law in a way
somewhat similar to the revisionists, though his solution to the problem will be vastly different. Consider Grisez's analysis of the traditional schoastic natural law theory:

But scholastic natural-law theory must be rejected. It moves by a logically illicit step--from human nature as a given reality, to what ought and ought not be chosen. Its proponents attempt to reinforce this move, from what is to what ought to be, by appealing to God’s command. But for two reasons this fails to help matters. First, unless there is a logically prior moral norm indicating that God’s commands are to be obeyed, any command of God considered by itself would merely be another fact which tells us nothing about how we ought to respond. Second, even leaving this problem aside, the difficulty remains that human persons are unlike other natural entities; it is not human nature as a given, but possible human fulfillment which must provide the intelligible norms for free choices.
By such choices, human persons are of themselves. Human existence is more than conforming to a built-in pattern, as monkeys do when they eat bananas and otherwise do what comes naturally.Scholastic natural-law theory tells human persons: “Here you are--here is your nature--now be what you are.” Such advice can have a true sense, but unless human persons have possibilities which are not yet defined, there is no room for them to unfold themselves through intelligent creativity and freedom.
It is a sign of the flaw in scholastic natural-law theory that it provided only question-begging arguments for specific norms of Christian morality. Against contraception, for instance, it argued that this practice perverts the generative faculty by using it while frustrating its natural power to initiate new life. In reply, people reasonably note that perverting faculties in this sense cannot always be wrong--no one objects to the use of earplugs or chewing sugarless gum. As people chew sugarless gum for the pleasure of chewing, apart from nutrition, why should they not also engage in sexual activity for some human purpose such as celebrating marital unity, while excluding other purposes which at the moment cannot appropriately be pursued?

Grisez's solution is far different from that of the revisionists. It is termed the "New Natural Law" theory (NNL), and its main proponents are figures like Grisez himself, Joseph Boyle, John Finnis, William May, Patrick Lee, Robbie George. Since so many eminent theologians/philosophers have taken up this theory, it is important to come to terms with it. On the other side of the debate are such figures as Ralph McInerny, Russel Hittinger, and Janet Smith, upholding the traditional natural law theory (TNL).

The primary purpose of this handout is exposure to the debate between NNL and TNL theorists. It it emphasized that both theories are compatible with Catholic moral doctrine, and that the debate among these theorists is a healthy one. At a clear juncture in the following discussion the present author will ask some critical questions of the NNL.

Let us start with a key feature of Grisez's critique of traditional natural law theory. He takes seriously what is called the naturalistic fallacy, namely, that it is improper logically to move from an "is" to an "ought" ("you can't get an ought from an is), to move from a metaphysical conclusion drawn from speculative reason, to a moral norm drawn from practical reason.

In this light, we can discern why NNL would disagree with the traditional understanding of the "nature of the whole moral act" as delineated especially in St. Thomas, I-II, 18. Recall that the intention of the agent is taken seriously when considering the whole moral act, but that the object can be understood materially apart from the agent, and some such objects are intrinsically evil. NNL would see the arrival at such "intrinsic evils" (entirely apart from the agent) as succumbing to the naturalistic fallacy, and hence he would try to locate intrinsic evil
not in the object (as known to be evil by speculative reason) but in the will.

NNL will draw on two texts of VS as support (italics added at key junctures):

Activity is morally good when it attests to and expresses the voluntary ordering of the person to his ultimate end and the conformity of a concrete action with the human good as it is acknowledged in its truth by reason. If the object of the concrete action is not in harmony with the true good of the person, the choice of that action makes our will and ourselves morally evil, thus putting us in conflict with our ultimate end, the supreme good, God himself (72.2)

The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behavior is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbor (52.1)

Note that the proportionalists would reject such texts (unless very carefully contextualized with their view of the object); Grisez's thorough agreement with these texts shows the distance between him and proportionalism.

These texts also show the distance between NNL and the TNL. From the perspective of TNL, the reason why the pope uses such language is precisely to avoid the revisionist accusation of biologism/physicalism. That is, he wishes to emphasize that "only in reference to the human person in his 'unified totality'...can the specifically human meaning of the body be grasped" (50.1). That is, when analyzing the moral object materially, one includes "truths about human personhood" in arriving at certain good or intrinsically evil acts--e.g., giving up one's life can be a great good, while killing an unjust aggressor is not intrinsically evil. Article 50 quotes
Donum Vitae:

The natural moral law expresses and lays down the purposes, rights and duties which are based upon the bodily and spiritual nature of the human person. Therefore this law cannot be thought of as simply a set of norms on the biological level; rather it must be defined as the rational order whereby man is called by the creator to direct and regulate his life and actions and in particular to make use of his own body.

For an example of how NNL impacts a concrete issue, consider the issue of contraception. For NNL, the evil of contraception cannot lie in the objective
act of contraception, but rather in what they call a contra-life will. When someone contracepts, they will evil, they will contrary to inherent nature of the conjugal act's procreative capacity. They judge: it is not good that a new human person exist--and hence they violate the 5th commandment against homicide (whereas traditionally contraception is a sin against the 6th commandment, which includes sins against against purity).

TNL, to the contrary, sees the contraceptive act as wrong because it turns the conjugal act into a different
kind of act (one that is now rendered anti-procreative). However, one's will is not necessary contra-life--that would depend on one's understanding/intention of what one was doing. Many contraceptors have no clue that they are changing the conjugal act into one of a different kind, much less the consequences of so doing. They do evil, but are not fully culpable. They do not have "contra-life wills." In sum, while both the TNL and NNL agree on the evil of contraception, the theories allow quite varied ways of articulating the nature of that evil. For TNL, the NNL mode of articulation is not only inaccurate, it is unnecessarily offensive to many confused people of good will.


[This is a good place to discuss the famous tyrant example: the tyrant puts a contraceptive agent into the water supply--according to NNL, he is the one sinning, and he contracepts, as contraception means having a contra-life will. For TNL, he is an evil deceiver but not a contraceptor. The couples in his kingdom inadvertently and with zero culpability become contraceptors. Challenge: For TNL, what should a couple do if they find out about this--and let’s assume the contraceptive agent remains efficacious for, say, 6 months. How would NNL answer?]

The NNL theorists, in denying that evil is in the act, deny an inherent linkage between speculative and practical reason. Again, this is due to their taking seriously the naturalistic fallacy--no oughts from ises. But--and at this juncture the present author offers some critical questions about NNL-- they may be unnecessarily separating these two modes of reasoning: speculative and practical knowledge are the
same knowledge rooted in the same intellect but ordered toward two different ends (knowing and doing).

In this light, consider a text already studied, 94, 2. Note that Thomas says that the first principle
OF practical reason is "good is that which all men seek." This is a principle not established by practical reason, but a principle OF practical reason, that is, necessary for and used by practical reason. It is established by speculative reason--it is grounded metaphysically. Note next that right after establishing that principle, Thomas goes on to indicate the first precept of the natural law: good is to be done and pursued, evil is to be avoided. Here, practical reason is at work, based on a truth of speculative reason.

To review: 1) First we have a principle of speculative reason, “good is what all men seek.” 2) This will be used by practical reason, and hence it is called by Thomas the first principle OF practical reason. 3) Based on this foundation is the first precept of the natural law, about doing good and avoiding evil.

Having carefully seen these points in 94, 2, read the following assessment from Grisez and Finnis, defending against McInerny [with my commentary in brackets]:

But if McInerny wishes to justify a conclusion such as "Joe ought to go on a diet" he had better not be content with premises such as "Joe weights 250 pounds" and "It is not healthy to be overweight." One must assume a more basic practical premise "Health is a good to be pursued and protected" which itself is a specification of the very first principle of practical reason. This very first principle is not the truth of metaphysics or psychology, "Good is that which all men seek," as McInerny seems to think [yes it is!], but "Good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided," as Thomas unequivocally says when he treats this matter..[no, that is the first precept of natural law!].


The additional premise about health--that it should be pursued-- is from speculative reason, and is rooted in a premise even more foundational, “health is something that men seek.” Then, “pursue health” would be on the level of practical reason, like “do the good, avoid evil.” “Pursue health” would be analogous to the first precept of the natural law., that we should “pursue good.” Then, when we turn to “Joe,” we can look at the facts of his case (speculative reason) such as “Joe weighs 250 pounds” and we can look at the scientific fact “It is not good to be that much overweight.” Finally, when we say “Joe, go on a diet,” we are in the realm of practical reason.

To summarize:

--Speculative reason: health is something that men seek.
--Speculative reason: health is a good to be pursued--this premise of speculative reason will be used by Joe in arriving at a decision in the realm of practical reason.
--Speculative reason: It is not healthy to be overweight, and, Joe is overweight.
--Practical reason: Joe ought to go on a diet.

NNL wants practical reason freed entirely from being, from metaphysics—again, because they correctly perceive the danger of speaking of actions in a way divorced from an agent.. Nature is abandoned, "natural inclinations" are abandoned, and it would also seem that the "language of the body" is inadvertently abandoned. Rather than anticipatory signs in nature (in the body) the truth is
intuited. Hence, the whole range of what they call "basic goods" are rooted not in nature but in a kind of intuition.

Continuing the line of reasoning from earlier, "good is that which all men seek" is a speculative principle, about a natural inclination, that actually contains
within it an "ought"--hence, in 94,2 Thomas goes right on to establish the first law or "ought" of practical reason, "good is to be done and pursued, evil is to be avoided." Since there is already an inherent "ought" in the speculative principle, one is not introducing something new in moving to practical reason--magically creating an ought from an is. (Hume was right in noting that there should be nothing in one's conclusion that is not already present in one's premises. But that is not what one is doing in getting an ought from an is.)

The foundational complaint about scholastic natural law theory seems to have been answered now. The rather interesting superstructure of the NNL simply is not necessary--though it will have within it many legitimate points.

The NNL theorists thought they needed to defend Catholic moral doctrine in light of the naturalistic fallacy--which turns out not to be a problem upon a careful investigation of the inner relationship of speculative and practical reason, is and ought. They also very legitimately wished to assure a moral theology that was not heteronomous, but rather emphasized human freedom, and self-fulfillment--the natural law is friendly to us, not super-imposed on us. But this concern is met perfectly well with the more personalistic approach to articulating TNL, represented in VS repeatedly, and complemented by the "theology of the body"/"language of the body" emphasis in many recent writings. It is to the credit of the NNL theorists, and to a lesser extent to the revisionists, that they have alerted moral theology to the incompleteness in the traditional scholastic natural law method.

There is still another motivation behind the NNL--it has to do with the nature/grace relationship. Grisez and others seem to think that with the scholastic theory, rooted in nature, there is no way that one can then get to the distinctively supernatural aspects of Christian ethics. For, they think, the TNL keeps us within the boundaries of nature. Consider:

Only by virtue of this transcendence is it possible that the end proposed by Christian faith, heavenly beatitude, which is supernatural to man, should become an objective of genuine human action--that is, of action under the guidance of practical reason. If the first principle of practical reason restricted human good to the goods proportionate to nature [note: it need not do this], then a supernatural end for human action would be excluded. The relation of man to such an end could be established only by a leap into the transrational where human action would be impossible and where faith would replace natural law rather than supplement it.


Finnis and Grisez go on to say: "...Thomas' theory of the natural end of man remains incoherent just to the extent that he was more Aristotelian than the reality of divine nature, open to divine life, allows.."

The stance of NNL here is understandable inasmuch as the scholastic tradition often gave the impression that Thomas posited a natural end of man (onto which he extrinsically layered a supernatural end). If Thomas did posit such an Aristotelian natural end, then the NNL critique is legitimate. But a careful reading of Thomas' questions on grace show that he intended no such thing. He fully realizes that "nature" exists only as a hypothetical construct: before the fall, as a state in which God could have, but did not, placed man; and after the fall, for redeemed man, as a state which would describe man only prescinding from both grace's healing of nature and the residual effect of concupiscence after the fall. Thomas certainly sounds at times like he has a self-enclosed Aristotelian nature at work, but this is always hypothetical: in order to dialogue with Aristotle, he extracts that part of the larger picture of redeemed man--with a healed and elevated nature--that can be known by reason, and uses it to show the compatability (not identity) of Aristotle with Catholic faith. In his larger project, he places this extracted paradigm back into the fuller context of a Christian anthropology: nature is enveloped (though not extinguished) by grace.

This understandable misinterpretation of St. Thomas fits well with the NNL misinterpretation of TNL as biologistic--in both cases, NNL sees the tradition as closing nature in upon itself. Two vulnerable parts of the scholastic tradition are being seized upon by NNL. But while they are vulnerable, they are not in themselves in need of correction--only clarification. And such clarification can and has been done, and is still in process.



VIII. Complex Situations--the Tough Cases


31. The Role of Virtue, Above and Beyond Specific Norms (also relevant to virtues and spirituality)

a. The Role of Prudence

As noted, revisionist thinkers reject the existence of "intrinsically evil" actions, arguing that intentions/circumstances must be added in before an act can be said to be wrong.

Often, then, they invoke the need for the virtue of
prudence. Prudence, they say, allows us to judge proportionality: we must predict, wisely it is hoped, the proportion of good and evil that a certain act will yield, and on the basis of that judgement decide whether or not that act is moral.


Traditionalists would argue that this is a misapplication of the virtue of prudence. Let us examine why by recalling our study of prudence and the "mean" of virtue from Part II. As one moralist put it:

...virtue is a habit of choosing the mean between the extremes of excess and defect in action, and this mean is decided by the intellectual virtue of prudence....Courage is a mean between cowardice and rashness, temperance between gluttony and abstinence, generosity between stinginess and prodigality, friendliness between surliness and flattery.


Hence, prudence allows us to strike just the right balance in very specific (historical) situations.

However, the virtue of prudence is not meant to take acts that are intrinsically evil, and tell us that we can weigh or balance the good and bad consequences of the act, and then sometimes go ahead and perform the act. No, in acts that are bad
in themselves (intrinsically) there is no virtuous mean. "It is not good to be moderately murderous or adulterous; we must simply not be so at all."
In fact, courage means "refusing to do anything morally dishonorable no matter what the consequences."


Hence, avoiding intrinsically evil acts is part of the moral bedrock on which to build the moral life. We know for sure that we are to avoid such acts. The person who is committed to such avoidance is
not guilty of legalism.
A legalist rather is one who follows the negative moral norms, and leaves it at that, thinking he has done what is required.

In fact, much more is required: on the bedrock of moral norms, one is asked to develop a virtuous life. For example, after deciding not to abort, one is on the right track--but there's a lot left to do: one must try not to be resentful; one must exhibit fortitude at the discovery that one's life is threatened, or when testing reveals an abnormality, etc. Or, after rejecting surrogate motherhood or some other new birth technologies, one must exhibit patience in waiting to adopt.

The bedrock of absolute norms is not, then, a sign that Catholic moral thought sees everything in black and white--a caricature of the tradition along fundamentalist lines. Above and beyond the bedrock is the whole life of virtue that each person must develop. And it must be noted that a wide range of moral activity does not touch the bedrock at all, even though it rests on the bedrock.

VS The relationship of the moral foundation or bedrock to the life of virtue is spelled out in one of the most splendid texts of VS: "...the fact that only the negative commandments oblige always and under all cicumstances does not mean that in the moral life prohibitions are more important than the obligation to do good indicated by the positive commandments. The reason is this: the commandment of love of God and love of neighbor does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, but it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken [there is no upper limit to the life of virtue, but the moral bedrock provides a lower limit under which we must not fall if we are to stay in right relation to God, neighbor and self]. Furthermore, what must be done in any given situation depends on the circumstances, not all of which can be forseen [what it means to act justly, for instance, cannot be decided in advance for each case]; on the other hand there are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response--a response which is in conformity with the dignity of the person [this is the moral bedrock]. Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certin actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil" (#52) (The theme of martyrdom with which the pope ends this text is amplified in the third part of VS, 90-93.)





b. Conflict or Complex Situations?


It is commonly argued that due to the complexity of human life, a complexity that becomes especially poignant in our lives as sexual beings, moral decision-making is not as clear cut as the Catholic tradition would have us believe.

Proportionalists would agree that

...human situations which call for a response on our part as moral agents are so often situations in which moral values are intertwined and conflicted. The simple, clear-cut choice between doing what is good and doing what is evil is an option encountered often enough in the textbook moral cases. It is rarely met with in real-life situations.

The traditionalist response to this
is that many of our daily moral decisions, including nearly all decisions regarding our maleness/femaleness, involve perfectly clear-cut answers--the precise point Connery makes when he argues that "one can have a morally definable action apart from the kind of calculus the proportionalists would demand."

ST St. Thomas' Treatise on Law supports this exact point. In dealing with "proximate conclusions" or "detailed proximate conclusions" of the natural law (I-II, 94, 5), he notes that the more one descends in detail the more defects are found. Hence, one might expect a great deal of fluidity for concrete cases,
but instead Thomas simply states that these conclusions are true "for the majority of cases" and that exceptions (defects) are extremely rare.
(Had Thomas been involved in the contemporary debate, he certainly would have been more careful with his wording at every turn.) Likewise, these rare exceptions are known "not to just anyone" but only to "the wise" (I-II, 100, 1)--hardly an acknowledgment that each individual has the constant burden of proportionate weighing of values and disvalues in the moral life.

That this position in no way denies complexity, as proportionalists will argue, is easy to show. It properly interprets the role of the undeniable complexity in human life, and traditionalistss would say that it is the proportionalist position that misunderstands that complexity. Any person with the slightest amount of common sense and experience admits that human life is complex, that one does not travel far without encountering in varying degrees the hazards of human existence. But such hazards are simply the context within which the living of the truth can truly mean something. Complexity does not make moral norms less normative, it makes them challenging. We do not live out a disembodied truth; we live out the truth in history.

Of course, the complex circumstances surrounding an act may well affect the culpability of the agent, but this is not for us to decide but for God. The right thing to do remains quite clear, and for us to deny this is to make ourselves arbiters over the moral life, to be as gods. Individuals may have a clouded vision of the right thing to do, which would be all the more reason to have a Church that can clearly and consistently proclaim the moral truth we are asked to live out in history.



It is customary among revisionists to dichotomize an "ethics of act" and an "ethics of virtue or character." It is argued that in a complex world, in which the morality of specific acts remains clouded with ambiguity, it is better to focus on "the kind of person we ought to become."

But for traditionalists the two types of ethical analysis are both integral to the Catholic understanding of the moral life. There exists a certain bedrock of moral norms (an ethics of act) upon which we can build our moral life. Given this, we do not have the overwhelming burden of having to arbitrate over moral truth each step of the way. We ought not abort, cheat, contracept, and so on. But it is obviously no easy task, given the complexities of life, to live out the moral truth we are given. Only with a life of virtue can this be done. Hence, the couple who wishes to contracept or abort, or the businessman who would find it most convenient to cheat, need do no proportional weighing as Catholics. They simply don't abort, contracept, cheat, or what have you. But the challenge of living out such decisions demands much virtue as one confronts obstacles at each step of the way. The life of virtue is vast, but it at least involves the living out of those moral norms which provide a moral bedrock, immune from any calculus, for the moral agent.

There are certain cases--Thomas says a very few--which in addition to being complex are also "conflict situations." In these cases, few and far between, there is a genuine conflict and an absolute norm may not be applicable. Some commensurating must be done. Proportionalists wish to argue that all cases are somewhat like this, at least in principle. All cases are potentially conflict cases. The traditionalist would say that they confuse complex situations (which are common) with conflict situations (which are not, according to Thomas). It is to genuine conflict situations that the next section turns.



32. Principles for Conflict Situations
(also relevant to bioethics)

For genuine conflict cases, as opposed to "complex" cases, several methods of reasoning have been used in Catholic Moral Theology. The bulk of this section will be spent on the third method, the principle of double effect. Again, these methods are to be used rarely--for rare conflict situations. Proportionalists, seeing all situations ars potential conflict situations, will allow various parts of these principles to cover a much wider array of cases.

a. Circumstances Entering the Object

Sometimes, circumstances actually change the moral object, making it good, not evil. An earlier section already covered such cases. It was shown that the moral object is always a
specified object. " One should never kill an innocent person" is a specified prohibition against killing. Should a circumstance render it just to kill, then a circumstance has "entered the object" and the person killing is doing nothing morally evil at all.

In Thomas' Treatise on Law it is precisely this method he has in mind when he says things that make him sound as if he thinks proportionalistically. For instance, regarding property, Thomas says you should always return property to the rightful owner (stated negatively, never steal). But what if a person whose gun you have asks for it back, and you know he is going to use it against the common good? Here a circumstance enters into the very moral object. Your not giving him the gun is not an act of theft, or a failure to return property.

Proportionalists say circumstances
always enter into the moral object--they can't really be separated. It may well be that they are mainly upset that in sexual matters the tradition never allows circumstances to change the moral object--they claim that this is inconsistent, since in so many other cases they do. All moral objects, they say, are in principle open to exception, and the individual must decide by reason (hence, the claim to be within the natural law tradition) whether the good consequences of an act outweigh the evil ones. We have already adequately dealt with this claim.

b. Principle of Totality

The principle of totality is most often invoked in medical situations when a part of the body must intentionally be mutilated. The one part can be sacrificed for the sake of the health of the whole body. This is due to the fact that each bodily organ is not an end in itself, but exists for the sake of the whole body. Furthermore, since it is not an end in itself, its removal does not contitute a moral evil but only a physical evil.

The principle is often misused in religious discussion groups or classes wherein the ulterior motive is to pave the way for some brand of situational ethics (which tries to justify a
moral evil for the sake of some larger good). Students are asked whether they would kill an individual if by so doing they could save a large number of people. Some try to justify the killing in light of the principle of totality, forgetting that each human life is an end in itself, and that therefore intentional killing constitutes a moral evil. Although we all exist for the common good, and as Christians exist as members of the totality of the body of Christ, our participation in the common good and the body of Christ is as beings who have our own unique dignity. (The same example is used, also wrongly, in discussing the principle of the lesser of two evils described below.)

Another misuse of the principle is outlined in the encyclical
Humanae Vitae:

...by extending to this field the application of the so-called "principle of totality," could it not be admitted that the intention of a less abundant but more rationalized fecundity might transform a materially sterilizing intervention into a licit and wise control of birth? Could it not be admitted, that is, that the finality of procreation pertains to the ensemble of conjugal life, rather than to its single acts? (art. 3)

Put simply, can a couple not contracept, recognizing that the procreative dimension of certain conjugal acts is sacrificed for the sake of the whole marriage, so long as a procreative dimension exists
somewhere during the marriage? This would only be licit, however, if the conjugal act did not have its own inherent dignity--if it only existed for the sake of the whole marriage. In fact, although each act does exist for the sake of the whole marriage, each act also has its own inherent dignity (as Paul VI goes on the argue in the encyclical). The conjugal act is not analogous to a bodily organ that exists only for the health of the whole body. Hence, the principle of totality does not apply. (imagine a thief justifying his act by saying “ I only steal for my income some of the time.)

c. Lesser of Two Evils

In certain conflict cases the moral object may be evil, but avoiding it brings about another evil. Hence, you must choose the lesser of the two evils. For example, a person is driving a train and sees a split in the tracks. Some devious person has tied a person to the tracks on your left, and an even more devious person has tied ten people to the tracks on your right. You cannot stop the train, so you choose to kill the one rather than ten.

Another possible example is one given in the novel
Sophie's Choice. Sophie has two children, and in the death camp where normally both would be killed, she is allowed to keep one (because of the German's admiration for her father). She must choose. Some moralists would say that choosing either one would be the lesser evil. Others reject such reasoning. She ought not arbitrate over life, and she must tell the guards the same. She must communicate this and either say she'll take both or that she refuses to choose. This puts the burden of killing not on her but on the guard or on the Nazi regime.

There are many instances like this in which the principle would seem to apply but finally does not, since the individual
need not choose either of the evils involved. The recent controversy over prevention of AIDS is such an instance. On the one hand, there is the evil of sexual activity outside of a monogamous relationship. Even worse, it is argued, is the evil of such activity when it is "unprotected," since disease may result. Hence, some suggest that the Church ought to promote educational efforts about AIDS prevention, and that such involvement would be justified by the principle of the lesser of two evils. However, the Church need not have anything to do with promoting either of the evils involved, and so the principle simply does not apply in this case. She ought only to constantly teach the truths necessary to avoid such evils in the first place (truths about chastity), and promote the corporal works of mercy among the faithful toward all those who have the disease.


Still another example: Michael Novak has argued that a nuclear arsenal for deterrent purposes with intent to use if necessary, thereby endangering civilians, is legitimated under the principle of the lesser of two evils. One evil is destruction on a massive scale, the other is loss of liberty. Hence, it is argued, one can reasonably claim "give me liberty or give me death" and build up an arsenal with the intent to use if necessary.


d. Principle of Double Effect (PDE)

In a fallen world, there are times when an action causes both a good effect (a per se consequence) and an evil effect (an accidental foreseen consequence).. How does one know when it is legitimate to perform such an act? It must pass four criteria:

1. The moral object must be good or neutral, not intrinsically evil. The PDE presupposes that there is such a thing as an intrinsically evil act.

2. The evil result is tolerated, not intended; the good effect is what the agent intends. Then, the evil effect stems
indirectly from the act, while the good effect stem directly from it. The PDE presupposes that there is a morally significant difference between direct and indirect actions.

3. The good effect doesn't occur as a result of the evil effect (you can't do evil to achieve good); put another way, the evil effect can be an unavoidable concomitant of a good act. If put this way, this third criteria really is like a double check on the first two critieria--the evil effect is not intended directly as a means toward the good effect.

4. There must be a proportionate reason for doing the act. This implies that there can also not be any other alternatives.

If these conditions are met, one only indirectly causes the evil, hence the act is moral. Let us consider some examples where the principle
allows for the act to be performed, and then some examples where the principle would disallow the act. Note also that another important set of principles involving “formal versus material cooperation with evil” fit in with the PDE, and a chart is included to ehlp illustrate these principles.

Examples that Allow the Act

a) In the famous Karen Anne Quinlan case, the parents argued that Karen, who was in a coma, be removed from the respirator. Previously, attempts to wean her from the respirator had not worked, and so there was a good chance that she would die should the treatment be removed. Here, the good effect is the placing of a life into "nature's" or God's hands, so to speak. The extraordinary means of keeping the person breathing are burdensome and may well be preventing the person's natural time of death. The bad effect is the death itself. This case passes through all four criteria. The act of removing extraordinary treatment is neutral. The parents intend the good effect and tolerate or allow the death. The death is not caused by the removal of treatment, but by the body's natural inability to breathe. And finally, given the burdensome-ness of "forcing" life into someone whose time to die may well have come, the means are proportionate. Interestingly, when the respirator was removed Karen surprisingly started to breathe on her own. Had the intent been to kill her, the logical thing to do would have been to take further steps, such as removing the IV (If the parents secretly wished they could do this, or even have a lethal injection administered, then their intent
would have been to kill and the act of removing the respirator would have been wrong). But the parents cared for her in a comatose state for a number of years, until she did die of natural causes. This case "proved" the validity of the principle, especially the second point--the moral distinction between direct and indirect.

b) Removing the fallopian tube in an ectopic pregnancy. The intent is to save the mother's life. The death of the child in the fallopian tube is tolerated. In this example, like the next, one can allow the organ its per se consequence, although a very bad accidental consequence will accrue. The fallopian tube is ordered toward the process of ovulation, and a foreign-to-the-fallopian-tube “object” needs to be removed.

c) Removing a cancerous uterus from a pregnant woman. Again, the intent is to save the mother's life, with the death of the fetus tolerated. Note that in such cases the mother may chose the heroic act of sacrificing her life for that of the child. In one such case the mother felt she had been blessed with a wonderful life, and wanted the child to have the same chance. A grandmother was willing to care for the child, and the husband agreed to the mother's choice.

The point is, though, that such a heroic act is not required. It is not immoral for the mother to save her own life.

d) When a doctor treats a patient with a contagious disease, he risks catching the disease himself. This is not intended, but tolerated.

e) The same is true of the policeman who risks his life to capture a criminal.

f) Men dive off a raft so that those remaining will have enough food to last until possible rescue. Note that they do not head for certain death; a rescue plane might arrive any time. They swim as long as they are able. Should they die, their deaths are tolerated, not intended. No one killed them, nor did they commit suicide.

Examples Wherein the Act is Disallowed

a) A sheriff frames a man to calm a raging mob. Here the act itself is evil since the man is innocent, the man is directly and intentionally killed, and the good comes as a direct result of the bad effect.

b) Pilots drop bombs indiscriminately on a city as a scare tactic. This happened during the "carpet bombing" of World War II. Some tried to justify it, claiming that the act itself was neutral--dropping a bomb-- and that they were only "allowing" innocent civilians to die. In fact, the act itself is the killing of innocent people. Their deaths are intended, and the good effect comes about directly as a result of the evil effect. It would seem that the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was immoral on the same grounds. One certainly cannot argue that it was moral due to the lives it saved or the quick end it brought to the war--those are sheer proportionalist arguments. Either the bombing was wrong, or
other reasons would have to be found to justify the act.

c) A fetus is killed so as to get at a life-threatening aneurism. Here, the killing is direct and the good effect comes about as a result of the evil effect.

d) A druggist sells poisons to a person whom he knows will use them indiscriminately. The druggist cannot say that he is "allowing" the evil of indiscriminate use to occur. Here, the circumstance enters into the act itself (note that PDE combines here with the first casuistic method discussed), and the druggist is guilty by association of the indiscriminate use--say, the suicide. This is an important principle for business ethics. One cannot sell pornography and claim that the resulting evil is allowed and not intended.

Proportionalism's Critique of PDE

Proportionalists often use PDE as a stepping stone to justify their own method. Proportionalist theory originally grew out of a critical analysis of the PDE.

On the first three points, they question the presuppositions involved in the traditional theory.

1. There are no intrinsically evil acts. Any act that is intrinsically evil already has circumstances and intentions involved in the very description of the act.

2. There is no moral distinction between direct/indirect, allowing/permitted. Every act involves concomitant good and evil, or rather, values and disvalues. One
does both the good and the bad. But one acts morally so long as one had weighed carefully and does the act that produces the greater values.

3. Likewise, it is not a question of doing evil to achieve good. Every act involves some of both. The question is, is the evil (or the disvalue) outweighed by the good (or the value).

4. On the fourth criterion, they note their exact principle of proportionality at work. The same principle, they claim, invariably is involved in each of the other three criteria as well. Hence, one does not need the PDE, but only the principle of proportionality. PDE reserves proportionate weighing to rare conflict situations, while proportionalism sees it as part and parcel of every person's moral life in a wide variety of moral activity.

On point 1 of the proportionalist "revision" of PDE we have already commented at length. Hence, we can move immediately to careful analysis of their critique of points 2 and 3 which are closely interconnected.

The Direct/Indirect Distinction

As William May has noted, the proportionalists may have confused the direct/indirect distinction with another distinction, that of omission/commission.



In the latter, we are aware that sin can be committed by both committing an act and by failing to act. There is no substantial difference between the two, only an accidental difference. An example would be active and passive euthanasia. If I kill an elderly patient, or a new-born with a birth defect, by simply ignoring him for a week, I in essence have done the same thing as if I were to kill him with a gun or lethal injection. Or to take another example, if I ignore the needs of the poor around me, I do the same essential act as if I were to intentionally harm a poverty-stricken person.

The direct/indirect distinction is of a different kind, and there is a substantial difference between directly intending an act, and indirectly allowing an act. When I stop using extraordinary means on a terminally ill person, there is a remote sense in which my act kills him--my act is
connected to his death. Yet, we would never say that I directly killed him. My direct act was removing or withholding disproportionate treatment so as to respect his dignity and allow life to take its natural course. I do not will his death, rather I allow it. The same kind of analysis could be fairly applied to a variety of other examples that "pass" the PDE.

In sum, the proportionalists often confuse the commission/omission distinction, wherein the difference is but accidental, with the direct/indirect distinction, wherein the difference is substantial. They conclude that the direct/indirect distinction--an essential component of the traditional PDE--should be abandoned.

It is well worth the effort to consider two further examples to which the direct/indirect distinction applies.

Example #1: Killing and Allowing to Die

1) First, let us take a closer look at the case given above regarding the tubal pregnancy. The doctor directly intends to remove the fallopian tube, and does not intend to take the life of the embryo. Hence his action is moral, granted the direct/indirect distinction. The proportionalist, on the other hand, would claim that a single act has been done that includes the value of saving the mother's life and the disvalue of killing the embryo. Killing the embryo is a pre-moral evil which is justified by proportionate reason. Both the traditionalist and the proportionalist would justify the removal of the fallopian tube, but for different reasons.

But consider the case given above in which the doctor, in order to remove an aneurysm, must first abort the embryo. Here, the traditionalist would recognize that the death of the embryo is the result of a direct act--an intrinsically evil act--which then allows another direct act, the removal of the aneurysm, which is of course a good act. Since one ought not commit an intrinsically evil act, even though it may result in a good end, the doctor ought not do anything. The proportionalist would analyze this situation exactly as he would the tubal pregnancy. The single overall act, just as before, includes the saving of the mother's life and the disvalue of killing the fetus. Killing the fetus is a pre-moral evil that is justified in this instance by proportionate reason.
In this example, contrary to the tubal pregnancy example, the traditionalist and the proportionalist would act very differently.

One can certainly be sympathetic to the
motive behind the proportionalist analysis of these two cases. It is very difficult to demand that in the aneurysm case the doctor must watch two people die when he knows he could save one. It is especially difficult when compared with the tubal pregnancy case, in which one person's life is saved.

But in the last analysis we cannot accept the proportionalist analysis on the basis of its apparently humane motive. Firstly: if we do, then we completely alter the Catholic understanding of the nature of the moral object. Intrinsic evil turns into premoral evil that can be justified with proportionate reason. Once that move is made, in however complex and difficult a case, it can be made in regard to
any intrinsically evil act, as the proportionalists acknowledge. One can try to shore up the domino effect by positing certain acts as virtually intrinsically evil, but as discussed earlier, such an attempt logically fails.

Secondly: Extremely delicate cases like this certainly fall into a unique category wherein the culpability of the agent who fails is in all likelihood greatly diminished. But the challenge to act nobly is still there. And ultimately, the challenge is to recognize that an
incommensurable good is at stake, namely, the good of not making ourselves the arbiters over human life. Life itself--in this case the life of the mother--is not the highest good. As Donald DeMarco has noted,

...the Christian solution is to accept the conflict, the passionate love of life and the furious indifference to death. The Christian, as Chesterton once said, "must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine"....we preserve our passion for life only by maintaining our willingness to accept death.


Example 2: Contraception and Natural Family Planning

A second case worth considering here is the distinction between contraception and natural family planning (NFP). Just as one can violate the precept "never kill an innocent person" either by euthanasia (be it active or passive)
or by removing extraordinary means with the intent to kill, so too one can violate the marital promise to be open to procreation either by using artificial contraceptives or by using NFP with selfish intent. Either way, there exists a direct assault on the promised good of openness to procreation.

However, NFP can be used with a different, and good, intent. A couple can recognize the good of procreation yet prudentially recognize that this good ought not be pursued here and now. When they use NFP with this intent, they are not engaging in a
direct act of violating the nature of the conjugal act. That act always remains open to new life, but as the couple knows that at certain times of the fertility cycle a new life will not in all likelihood result, they indirectly prevent a child from being conceived. Their direct intent is to pursue the good of the conjugal act. They indirectly preclude the conception of a child. They recognize that the conception of a child would be a good, but they allow that good to be not actively pursued here and now. Contraception, on the other hand, directly violates the procreative meaning of the conjugal act.
Proportionalists see this as hairsplitting casuistry, just as in the tubal pregnancy/aneurysm cases. They would argue that regardless of the means used, an act takes place in which the couple choose not to conceive. One act may be more direct than the other, but the same essential end is accomplished. Contraception and NFP amount to the same thing, and if the Church allows NFP, she must allow contraception.

Once again, one can be sympathetic to the
motive behind the proportionalistic analysis of this case. But while it looks as if the two acts--contraception and NFP used with proper intent--amount to the same thing, there is a radical difference. The conjugal act bears two incommensurable goods--a unitive good and a procreative good. Contraception directly violates the procreative good. NFP used with proper intent always appreciates the incommensurable procreative good of the conjugal act, whether or not that procreative good actually manifests itself in the conception of a child.

An Objection

Taking a bird's-eye view of the two cases just analyzed, it
looks as though the traditionalist analysis actually caters to one of the central claims of proportionalist method: that intent is, in part, determinative of the moral object. For in case #1, removal of extraordinary means is only justified if the intent is legitimate, that is, if the intent is not to kill (which is only indirectly allowed) but rather to let nature take its course. Likewise in case #2, NFP is only justified if the intent is legitimate, that is, if the intent is not to violate the marital vow by precluding children (which is only indirectly allowed) but to respect the natural parameters of the fertility cycle which allows the good of conception to not be actively pursued in every instance.

In a word, it looks as if intent is of the essence. But this objection is met easily by the traditionalist method. For a standard principle of this method, as noted at the outset of this unit, is that an act that is good or neutral can be rendered evil by bad intent. For example, the good act of giving money to the poor can be rendered evil if the sole purpose is the prestige that might be gained by a large donation. Likewise, the neutral act of removing extraordinary treatment can be rendered evil if the intent is to kill, and the conjugal act engaged in during a non-fertile time can be rendered evil if the intent is to violate the procreative nature of the conjugal act that embodies the marital promise of openness to procreation.

However, another standard principle of the traditional method, also noted at the outset of this unit, is that good intent can never render an intrinsically evil act good. For example, a student may threaten a professor with death so as get a passing grade, allowing the good of being accepted into a professional school. This is immoral--the good end does not justify an evil means. Likewise, euthanasia (active or passive) cannot be justified even though the motive may be that of compassion for someone in a complex and painful situation. And contraception cannot be justified even though the intent may be good.

In sum, bad intent can render a good act evil, but good intent can never render an evil act good. Proportionalism rids itself of this distinction since "evil acts" (intrinsically) do not exist.

e. Material versus Formal Cooperation with Evil

There are many times in our lives when we realize that alongside the good we try to do--a college student works hard at a summer job at a video store--we find ourselves complicit in some evil--the store rents some x-rated movies. The complicity in evil amounts to involvement in an act that does not reach its per se consequences. Assuming there is no simple alternative (an equally good job down the street that’s squeaky clean), what does one do? How does one inform the conscience in such situations? An important distinction is needed: material versus formal cooperation in evil.

#1 The cooperation must be material, not formal. Let’s use an easy example to get us started. Robbers come out of a bank as you are parking nearby, and force you to drive them to the airport in their getaway car. You give material cooperation, not formal. Compare this with volunteering to take a friend to an abortion clinic, in which the cooperation is formal.

In 1540 London, medical students wanted to dissect corpses, which was strictly forbidden. Rampant street crime provided a source of corpses, and students used them. Are they formal cooperators of the murderers? No, because they do not share the murderers’ intentions.

#2The cooperation must be mediate, not immediate (same analysis os PDE #3). Just because the cooperation is material rather than formal (#1 above) does not automatically make the action morally licit--we must look at a number of additional moral distinctions, and the first is that material cooperation can be immediate/direct, or mediate/indirect. In the former, one’s cooperative act directly produces the evil effect. Hence, in the above example if the robbers had forced you to rob the bank, such an act would be illicit. Similarly, if the terrorists force the pilot to steer the plane into the building, that would be immediate cooperation, and illicit. In both examples, the proper response of the individual would be “over my dead body.”

#3 We are obligated to keep our material cooperation with evil as remote as possible, and if we fail to do so we commit evil. Let’s add to the above medical student example: An eccentric murderer, also interested in improving medical science, robbed people but then killed them precisely so medical students could pick them up. If the students do so, are they formally cooperating with the murderer? Here we become a bit more uneasy, because while there still is no formal cooperation, the material cooperation is more proximate than we might like.

The criteria for determining proximity and remoteness are complicated. Much of the analysis belongs with the individual conscience, and one can expect legitimate disagreement among people serious about living morally. If this looks like relativism, it is not—reconsider the distinction between complex and conflict situations provided above.

#4 Even remote cooperation could be evil, contingent upon evil foreseeable consequences—the good foreseeable consequences go without saying.
If an abortionist donated all his profits to a pro-life organization, should they turn it down? One could use the money to help put the abortionist out of business. Or, if a known mafia don were to offer us a large sum of money to build a hospital, should we accept it? One might say no, it’s blood money. But, according to Janet Smith, “The permissibility of cooperation with evil is often difficult to gage if only because much of the evaluation is based on likely consequences.” Though one cannot profit from blood money, one can benefit others from it. “If the act would fortify the mafia don in his behavior” one should not use the money, but “if the act would serve to help the victims (or others) of the mafia’s behavior, one would.”


#5 Finally, even if the cooperation is remote, it is important that it not cause scandal.

Examples:
1)
Attendance at an invalid marriage
2) Voting for a candidate with a particularly weak spot in his platform, alongside other strengths.
3) Funding for stem cell research, treated here:

These principles are applicable to the debate regarding funding for stem-cell research on existing stem-cell lines. Any direct support for creating embyos (through cloning, for example) soley for the putpose of using their stem cells would be formal cooperation with evil, never morally licit.. All humans are persons, as grounded in the natural law, and never may such human persons be treated as means to an end. So, human persons may not be destroyed for the sake of others. The embryo is human by virtue of biological fact, and is therefore a person. Embryonic stem-cell research involves destroying embryos, which destruction is intrinsically evil. The Clinton /Gore administration funded the destruction of embryos, asnd hence concurred with the researchers’ evil will/intention

In that political context, President Bush allowed non-embryonic research to continue (there has been no final judgement on the capabilities of either embryonic or non-embryonic stem cells). While he insisted on no future killing of embryos (resisting enormous political pressure), he allowed funding of research on existing stem cells. Did he do evil?

The funding involves material cooperation in evil. (One could argue that Bush is funding the labs that created the stem cell lines in the first place, and that this makes his cooperation formal. But to cooperate with certain of someone’s actions materially, is not to cooperate in the least in his entire ensemble of actions.) Politically, this is the “gradualist approach.” It is similar to the Hyde Amendment, which allowed abortion funding for rape and incest cases, but otherwise restricted existing funding for abortions.
Archbishop Chaput of Denver noted that Bush’s decision was a step toward recovery of an honest moral vocabulary.

Of course, even though the funding is material, not formal, cooperation, other criteria need to be met before one can licitly materially cooperate. Many argued that the material cooperation was far too proximate, scandalously habituating members of society to think of embryos as things to be used, and foreseen to lead to the killing of more embryos for more stem cell lines. To the contrary, it might demonstrate that such research is not useful, leading to putting an end to the killing of embryos for their stem cells. It is on such finer points, that conscience must decide; there can be legitimate disagreement on such questions
.





IX: The Virtues (directly pertinent to the virtues)



33: The Life of Virtue (spirituality)

From the previous chapters, we can say that to be free is to be virtuous. It now remains to cover the specific virtues, and the all-important distinction between the natural and the infused virtues.

ST
St. Thomas' material on the virtues is vast, far too much for the student to cover within an introductory course. The serious student will, however, be interested in working through at least certain sections of the questions on virtue in general, found in I-II, 49-70. The following questions are suggested: 55-58, 61-67. Then, it is suggested that the serious student work through certain parts of the questions on the theological virtues, found in II-II, 1-46. The following questions are suggested: On faith, 1-7; on hope, 17-21; on charity, 23, 24, and 27.

a. What is Virtue?


A virtue is a good operative habit. Let us examine the three words in this definition in reverse order. A habit is something that comes naturally, and usually only after much practice. The hands of the pianist naturally, or habitually, read the notes of music rapidly and flawlessly. The professional golfer swings perfectly by habit. And the virtuous individual lives an ordered life, with the proper use of freedom, by habit. These habits are called operative because they are related to free human action, as opposed to "entitative" habits such as health or beauty which animals also have. They are called "good" because they are habits that order us to our final end, as opposed to bad habits, or vices, which turn us away from that end.

The concert pianist and professional athlete are the ones truly
free to pursue their tasks well. The fumbling musician or golfer is not free at all, but is enslaved by lack of expertise or bad habits. Note well that freedom comes only after one has submitted to a good deal of practice--putting the ego out of the way and doing things the way they ought to be done. Likewise, the virtuous individual is the only one truly free to pursue life itself in an optimal way. Those lacking virtue are enslaved and slow ed dow n by their bad habits, or vices. To be virtuous is to be free.

We can distinguish virtuous acts from acts of virtue. The truly virtuous person is one from whom virtuous actions emmanate naturally and with ease, just as fine shots flow regularly from the professional golfer. A person who is not necessarily virtuous can still produce individual acts that are morally good and properly ordered, but these acts do not flow from the habit itself of virtue. It is like the poor golfer who still can produce a number of superb shots throughout a round of gold; such shots, though, occur not because of but in spite of his rather awkward swing. As Thomas notes in his
Treatise on Law (95, 1 and 96, 3), the law can cause a person to perform acts of virtue, but cannot make him virtuous. After repeated acts of virtue, however, a person may well develop the virtue itself, and in this way the law can be an inducement to virtue.

b. The Division of the Virtues

Traditionally, the virtues are divided as follows:

I.
The Intellectual Virtues
1. Understanding
2. Science
3. Wisdom
4. Art
5. Prudence

II. The Moral Virtues (or, Cardinal Virtues)
1. Prudence
2. Justice
3. Temperance
4. Fortitude

III. The Theological Virtues
1. Faith
2. Hope
3. Charity

The first three of the intellectual virtues are the habits by which we pursue knowledge for its own sake. Understanding is the knowledge of first principles, which we have already considered under the discussion of synderisis. Science is the intellectual habit of knowing a particular class of reality. And wisdom is the habit by which we see reality
whole. The wise man is the one who can put all the pieces of reality together into an integral vision. The Church's vision of reality, as the sacramental bearer of the person of Christ, is a whole vision of reality.
The last two of the intellectual virtues have to do with concrete application. Art is the habit of using right reason in order to make things, while prudence is the habit of using right reason when acting.

Of more interest in a course on moral theology are the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. They are called "cardinal" from the Latin word for "hinge," (cardo, cardinis) since the whole life of natural virtue pivots on these four key virtues. These are also called the
moral virtues, as opposed to the theological virtues, and the natural virtues because all men have access to them, not just Christians. Earlier we made an initial distinction between truths of the natural law known through reason and truths known through Revelation, assented to in faith. The natural virtues are in the same category as the natural law; tradition holds that they can be known by natural knowledge apart from Revelation and that they are accessible without grace.

The theological virtues are habits infused in us by God. We usually think of a habit as something we ourselves develop, but a habit, seen as a modification of our being, can also be bestowed on us. The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are given to us at baptism.

With this brief introduction, let us consider the moral and theological virtues more carefully.

c. The Moral Virtues

Note from the above outline that prudence is both an intellectual and a moral virtue. It is an intellectual virtue in that it perfects the intellect in knowing the right kind of action in particular circumstances, and it is a moral virtue precisely because it is exclusively concerned with moral action, as opposed to other actions (such as building or painting) which in themselves do not have a moral character. In our study of conscience, we distinguished the true or false conscience on the side of the intellect from the good or bad conscience on the side of the will. It is in the development of the true conscience that prudence plays its role. As noted earlier, when it comes to negative moral norms in the moral bedrock, one does not need prudence so much as just an accurate knowledge of the norms, which then apply quite easily to the moral life. it is easy to know when one is killing an innocent person or committing adultery. But above and beyond the moral bedrock, the virtue of prudence is of the essence. W hat does it mean in this or that particular case to act justly, or charitably? Prudence is needed for the practice of each of the three remaining moral virtues.

The virtue of justice is the habit by which the will easily chooses to give others their due. Some examples of particular virtues which fall under the cardinal virtue of justice are trustworthiness, respect, honesty, loyalty. friendliness, obedience, courtesy, and the like. Prudence attaches itself to justice so as to practice such virtues in "just the right way." For instance, friendliness to others is part of justice. But the person who smiles all the time is excessively friendly, which can turn out to harm relations with others who never know when that individual is in fact unhappy and in need of some type of help. On the other hand, the person who barely forces out a weak smile or kind work is defective in his friendliness. The right balance must be struck, and prudence is the ability to know that middle point. This middle point is technically called the "mean" of virtue; the mean lies between excess and defect.

To strike the perfect mean between excess and defect does not mean, however, that we can be
moderately virtuous. We cannot be chaste some of the time, or courageous some of the time. Rather, we must be chaste and courageous all of the time but in the right way.

The moral virtue of temperance (or moderation) perfects our appetites toward things pleasurable. Specific related virtues are chastity, sobriety and modesty. There is a technical term for the appetite in us toward that which is pleasurable: the concuciscible appetite, not to be confused with concupiscence though they are related. By the wound of concupiscence we find it difficult to control our concupiscible appetite, as well as other appetites.

It is important to note that the pleasurable is not evil; rather, it is the pleasuarable when misused that is evil. Temperance allows us to use the pleasurable goods of the world in a proper and ordered way. Prudence assists temperance in helping find the proper mean between excess and defect. For instance, getting drunk on wine is clearly excess, while disdaining wine, claiming that it is evil in itself, is defect. The proper use of wine involves moderation. Or to give a broader example, someone who disdains material goods practices temperence on the side of defect, since the creation is good and meant to be used and enjoyed. But someone who takes various goods of creation and misuses them, or makes them into a final end, is on the side of excess.

Finally, the moral virtue of fortitude perfects that appetite which makes us shun things that are difficult. The technical name of this appetite is the irascible appetite. For instance, if you see the importance of studying Latin, but feel so overwhelmed by its difficulty for you, you are affected by the irascible appetite. Fortitude is the virtue allowing you to overcome this barrier and bravely set out to do that which is difficult. It also allows us to pursue that which is dangerous. Specific virtues connected with fortitude are magnanimity, perseverance, patience, and bravery.

Prudence assists fortitude in knowing the proper mean. For instance, jumping in the water to save a drowning swimmer requires fortitude. If I jump in but don't swim well myself, I have erred in the direction of excess. People might say I was brave, but in fact I was rash. Or, if I am afraid to jump in, and instead just throw a useless object to the victim, I err by defect, and am called a coward.

As noted above, these cardinal moral virtues are accessible to all men, Christian or not, and hence are called
natural moral virtues. The "virtue tradition" in Western civilization reaches back to antiquity; Plato and Aristotle and others contributed a good deal to our understanding of virtue.

d. The Theological Virtues

We have already had opportunity to discuss the "queen" of the virtues, charity. Charity is the love of God poured into our hearts by which our fallen natures are healed and elevated into the very participation in the divine life also known as sanctifying grace. Faith is the intellectual assent to the truths revealed by God, while hope is the confidence that we will be able to reach our final goal. We will prescind from a full treatment of the theological virtues; instead, having already understood charity to a good extent, we are interested in the relationship between charity and the moral virtues.

When I perform a virtuous act, I might have any number ends in mind such as fulfilling my own self, or helping a member of the community. But the
ultimate end for which I perform a virtuous act is my final end, union with God for eternity. If I am ordered toward that end, it is due to the gift of God's grace inhering in me, called charity. When the natural moral virtues are directed toward the ultimate end, they are then infused with that very charity, and without losing their natural dimension they are lifted up to a higher, transcendent or supernatural dimension.

Since this final end is the most real and most ultimate dimension of human life, the moral virtues are only full virtues when they are so directed, and hence charity is called the
form of the virtues. Because the natural virtues can be infused with charity, and since charity itself is an infused gift, we can posit such a thing as the infused moral virtues (alongside the infused theological virtues). The infused moral virtues are given to us right with charity and the other theological virtues--but they are only actualized when they "connect" with the natural moral virtues which we must develop through practice. As grace builds on nature, charity builds on the moral virtues, or put otherwise, the infused moral virtues build on the natural moral virtues.
The above explanation demonstrates why a person who becomes a Christian does not instantaneously become a virtuous person. He has the indwelling of charity, and has the infused moral virtues, but those moral virtues are only potentialities until they are actualized by the natural moral virtues themselves.

With the virtue of charity, I am ordered toward my final end. And now, I can love other people with the love of God that has been poured into my heart. Loving other people with this love means caring for them with their final end in view--as God cares for them. With this love, I will always want my neighbor to follow the moral law no matter how difficult, and I will not assist him in breaking it.

In this light, the famous biblical saying "love thy neighbor as thyself" takes on its true meaning. If I genuinely love myself, I am concerned ultimately with my final end and I orient my whole life toward it. Note that I can only thus love myself if I have the gift of charity. To love my neighbor as myself means to be likewise concerned for them--not just with their temporal comfort and well-being, but with their eternal destiny.

Does a non-Christian, or pagan, have just the natural virtues? According to the two-tiered schema used here, it would appear that they could practice the natural virtues but that they do not possess charity and so do not reach their final end. However, a more sophisticated understanding shows that anyone practicing the natural virtues is implicitly participating in charity. Unless they are fully aware of the Christian sacramental worldview and culpably reject it, they are ordered toward the final end and have a participation in the divine life. Hence, the distinction between natural and infused moral virtues is just that, a helpful distinction; in the end, the two unite, and virtue is one.



34: The Specific Virtues (with numerous footnoted examples from Fall 06 students)

The previous chapter introduced the four cardinal virtues. Numerous other virtues are connected to these four "hinge" virtues. In this chapter, we explore the four cardinal virtues in more depth and briefly outline the many virtues annexed to each.


a. Prudence


One of the best ways to grasp the deeper, classical meaning of the virtue of prudence is to compare it to the more modern, truncated understanding. No one says it better than Josef Piepr, whom we shall quote at some length:

Certainly the common mind regards prudence and fortitude as virtually contradictory ideas. A "prudent" man is thought to be the one who avoids the embarrassing situation of having to be brave. The "prudent" man is the "clever tactician" who contrives to escape personal commitment. Those who shun danger are wont to account for their attitude by appealing to the necessity for "prudence."

To the modern way of thinking, there seems to be a more obvious connection between prudence and the fourth cardinal virtue, that of temperance. But here too we will discover, if we dig deeper, that both these virtues are being beheld in quite a different light from the original great conception of them. For temperance, the disciplining of the instinctive craving for pleasure, was never meant to be exercised to induce a quietistic, philistine dullness. Yet this is what is implied in common phrases about "prudent moderation." That implication comes to the surface when people sneer at the noble daring of a celibate life, or the rigors of real fasting. They will speak scornfully of such practices as "imprudent exaggerations." In similar wise, they will condemn the forthright wrath of fortitude as aggressiveness.

To the contemporary mind, then, the concept of the good rather excludes than includes prudence. Modern man cannot conceive of a good act which might not be imprudent, nor of a bad act which might not be prudent. He will often call lies and cowardice prudent, truthfulness and courageous sacrifice imprudent.


This last point is especially important: prudence is what allows us to see the world as it truly is, to
see reality. In order to do this, we must abandon self-centredness--seeing the world through the prism of our own desires--and turn to reality itself. Piepr, relying on St. Thomas, notes that the vice of covetousness is therefore the primary enemy of prudence.


"Covetousness" here means more than the disorderly love of money and property. Covetousness here means (as Thomas says in a phrase of Gregory the Great's) immoderate straining for all the possessions which man thinks are needed to assure his own importance and status (altitudo, sublimitas). Covetousness means an anxious senility, desperate self-preservation, overriding concern for confirmation and security. Need we say how utterly contrary such an attitude is to the fundamental bent of prudence; how impossible the informed and receptive silence of the subject before the truth of real things, how impossible just estimate and decision is, without a youthful spirit of brave trust and, as it were, a reckless tossing away of anxious self-preservation, a relinquishment of all egoistic bias toward mere confirmation of the self; how utterly, therefore, the virtue of prudence is dependent upon the constant readiness to ignore the self, the limberness of real humility and objectivity?

...Whoever looks only at himself and therefore does not permit the truth of real things to have its way can be neither just nor brave nor temperate- but above all he cannot be just. For the foremost requirement for the realization of justice is that man turn his eyes away from himself. It is not by chance that in everyday talk the ideas of partiality and injustice come to almost the same thing.


The fulness of reality includes, of course, the supernatural as well as the natural. As noted earlier in regard to the "infused moral virtues," the person living in grace allows charity to infuse all the moral virtues, such that they are now directed toward the fullest imaginable expanse of reality. Pieper summarizes this point well:

Prudence is the mold of the moral virtues; but charity molds even prudence itself. How this molding of prudence by charity takes place in practice can scarcely be stated, for charity, being participation by grace in the life of the Trinitarian God, is in essence a gift ultimately beyond the power of man's will or reason to bestow. It is an event unfathomable in any natural way, which takes place when the three theological virtues are "infused" into our being. This, however, is certain: that all our works and being are elevated by charity to a plane which is otherwise unattainable and utterly inaccessible. For that reason, too, supernatural divine love which molds the decisions of the Christian indubitably means something far more than and far different from a mere additional "higher motivation" in the psychological sense. The divine love conferred by grace shapes from the ground up and throughout the innermost core of the most commonplace moral action of a Christian, even though that action may be "outwardly" without special distinguishing characteristics. It does so, however, in a manner that lies outside the range of ordinary psychological experience-possibilities.


b. The Three Acts of Prudence

Prudence "manifests" itself in three ways, or in what St. Thomas calls three "acts." Counsel means the careful gathering of information from the right sources.
This is especially necessary for the young who have little experience behind them (reading literature helps immensely as it allows one to work through many things vicariously). Counsel is shaped by virtue of eubolia, which is the disposition to take good counsel, allowing one to solicit right information.


Judgement is about what a person does concretly in applying the truth to a particular situation. This is precisely what conscience is, as treated much earlier. But conscience can act incorrectly, without the influence of prudence, and hence the two are not identical. Synesis ensures sound judgement in ordinary matters, while gnome helps with exceptional cases.
Inconsideration is the result of disordered appetite (concupiscence) diverting attention of the intellect from the truth.
It focuses the person back onto the self rather than on to reality.

Third, command is that act whereby the intellect commands the will to carry out the judgment that has been made by the conscience.
This aspect is prudence in essence, but always includes the prior two aspects.

When these three acts of prudence are not in proper balance, or when one is missing, the vices of imprudence and false prudence arise.
Imprudence is the "excess" side of the mean of prudence, and can occur in three ways. Precipitousness is rushing into action by impulse of will or passion, due to a defect in counsel (command without counsel).
Thoughtlessness, carelessness or inconsideration is the opposite of energetic promptness--command without counsel or judgement.
Irresoluteness, inconstancy, or negligence (52, 2, ad 3) allow counsel and judgment to tumble uselessly into futility instead of usefully into command, into a decision--counsel without judgment or command.


False Prudence is the "defect" side of the mean of prudence, and like imprudence can occur in three ways. Prudence of the flesh, or caving in to the flesh, allows a carnal good to become one's ultimate end.
Craftiness is using a bad means to attain an end, and refers specifically to the thinking out of these bad means. (The actual execution of the bad means decided upon by craftiness is guile.) Astutia (expressed in guile and deceit) involves an over-solicitude of temporal things.

A number of other virtues exist as pre-requisites to prudence. Memory is needed for containing events as they really are, true-to-being. Memory's worst foe is the falsification of recollection. Understanding is the right estimate of a self-evident principle (it is one of the intellectual virtues). Docility is a willingness to be taught, showing honor and obedience to those who excel you in learning. Studiousness, on the other hand, is willingness to learn. Many have docility w/o studiousness, and vice-versa. Credulity is the accepting of instruction uncritically--a quick road to a false conscience. Shrewdness is an astuteness, keen-wittedness, or sagacity in practical affairs, rather than being sly or malicious. The shrewd person can quickly find the mean of virtue in varying situations. Reason simply means stopping to think and figure things out, using logic and dialectic. Foresight sees everything in light of the final goal, and suborders everything under the ultimate end. Circumspection lets you see that which is near at hand, and especially keeps you from behaviors offensive to the community to which you want to belong. Caution allows one to see unforseen dangers which would interfere with realizing a goal. It does not discourage action but rather properly informs action.


c. Justice


Justice is "giving the other his due," that which is just or right. "The right", then, is what the virtue of justice is ordered toward (the "object" of justice), and the act of justice is the giving of "the right."

Behind the whole concept of "the right" lie several anthropological presuppositions. First, the personalist principle: "the right" presupposes a person of inalienable worth. A being without such worth does not have any "rights" strictly speaking. For instance, say I am in the habit of giving my dog a bone each day. My dog does not have a right to that bone! If I don't give one, I haven't violated his rights.

This personhood, in turn, presupposes creatureliness,
viz., a God who created me a certain way. Because God has graciously made man in his image, man's nature is that of a person, not an object; an end, not a means.
And so, the only reason a person can claim any "rights" is because that person is a being of a particular sort, of a particular
nature. Rights are grounded in nature. As a result of this, one can never claim any particular right that is not in accord with nature, that is, with the way God built reality, with the natural law. Rights can never conflict with the natural law. If one claims a right that is out of accord with the natural moral law, one makes a false claim. Rights only exist in the compass of nature.

That is why the notion of "homosexual rights" or "animal rights" or certain understandings of "women's rights" are all false and illusory claims. No one has a right to do what is wrong. Rights must always harmonize with nature. Rights cannot be torn outside the context of nature.
Put another way, rights must be subordinated to duties, for a person's duties or obligations come from nature or the natural law. The common good requires that the rights and duties of each member of society by upheld. As Pope John XXIII noted in the encyclical
Pacem in Terris:

One of the fundamental
duties of civil authorities, therefore, is to coordinate social relations in such fashion that the exercise of one man's rights does not threaten others in the exercise of their own rights nor hinder them in the fulfillment of their duties. Finally, the rights of all should be effectively safeguarded and, if they have been violated, completely restored (#62, emphasis added).

It is agreed that in our time the common good is chiefly guaranteed when personal rights and duties are maintained. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are acknowledged, respected, coordinated with other rights, defended and promoted, so that in this way each one may more easily carry out his duties. For to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the fulfillment of his duties, should be the chief duty of every public authority (#60, emphasis added).

This means that, if any government does not acknowledge the rights of man or violates them, it not only fails in its duty, but its orders completely lack judicial force (#61, emphasis added).

In our day, many have torn rights out of the context of duty, as in the examples given above: rights are manufactured from any which desire or passion. When this happens, we return to a false view of man and of society. Society becomes a collectivity of autonomous centers of rights. There is a certain utopian ring to this idea: if everyone can just pursue his own desires, and not bother anyone else, everyone will be happy. "Do what you want so long as you don't hurt anyone else," as the modern slogan goes. But since we are essentially communal beings, whatever we do has ripple effects across the community. For instance, one man's selfish behavior has a deleterious effect on his family, affecting each family member's ability to work in society, and leaving others to pick up the broken pieces. And furthermore, all so-called "rights" invariably conflict. To give a recent example, the so-called "rights" of the homosexual to be treated exactly like everyone else conflicts with the rights of the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade to determine which groups are compatible with its traditional message. Whenever such a conflict occurs, one party will seek power so as to force itself on others.

When rights are placed within the context of duty and nature, such conflicts do not occur. Everyone agrees with the basic dictates of the natural law and everyone respects each other's natural rights harmoniously. But when rights are torn out of the context of nature and duty, it is not as if they sail on nicely on their own. Rather, they are placed within a new context: the quest for power. Whatever I
will to be right is right, a view termed voluntarism, with a philosophical heritage going back to medieval nominalism. And if I can get a hold of enough power, whatever I will to be right will be made right for all.

Some moderns object to keeping rights in the context of nature because the laws of nature are, it is said, too rigid and authoritarian. In fact, those laws create authentic freedom and harmony. When those natural laws are replaced with the quest for power, it is the law of the jungle that is rigid and authoritarian. As John Paul II notes in the encyclical
Centesimus Annus,

If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to make full use of the means at his disposal in order to impose his own interests or his own opinion, with no regard for the rights of others. People are then respected only to the extent that they can be exploited for selfish ends. Thus the root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by his very nature the subject of rights which no one may violate--no individual, group, class, nation or State. (# 44)

The next statement of John Paul II is noteworthy for a proper understanding of authentic democracy:

Not even the majority of a social body may violate these rights, by going against the minority, by isolating, oppressing, or exploiting it, or by attempting to annihilate it.

Given the horrors that have occurred with so many power-hungry individuals groups claiming new-found "rights" for themselves, some commentators have suggested that we abandon altogether the language itself of "rights" and instead speak only of duty, nature, and gift. For instance, rather than spreading the "right to life" movement we should speak of life as a gift and encourage people to act dutifully toward that gift.

While such a strategy need not be rejected outright (and can exist alongside other strategies), it should be noted that it is quite compatible with right-based language
properly understood. The notion of "the right" and "rights" is a solid mainstay in the Catholic tradition, and there is no need to yield the category to those who would misuse it. Rather, why not rescue the category and shore up its proper use? This would appear to be the strategy so often used by Pope John Paul II in his evangelical work. He constantly refers to various rights, because always places them in the context of "the truth about man."

d. Three Types of Justice: Commutative, Distributive, Communal

It is the social virtue of
solidarity that allows for a proper understanding of rights, for solidarity means a recognition that I am not an autonomous center of rights, but rather have a communal nature and am bound to the truths of the natural law. Put otherwise, rights only make sense in the context of the virtue of solidarity.

Having established a proper understanding of rights, we can note that in a society rooted in the common good there is a triple-directionality of these rights; the Catholic moral tradition refers to these three as Commutative Justice, Distributive Justice, and Communal Justice. Imagine a triangle with the individual person at the two bases and society at the top.

Commutative Justice works along the bottom line, individual to individual; Distributive Justice works from the top down to one of the corners, society to individual; and Communal Justice works from the other corner up to the top, from the individual to society. Put together, these three types flesh out the virtue of solidarity. See CCC 1939-42, and 2411.

Commutative Justice involves relations between individuals. In the innumerable transactions and relations between individuals, there are innumerable claims that we justly make upon one another. These range from paying back a debt, to rendering a service paid for, to honoring a contract; the examples are endless (perhaps the most profound example especially today is the right of the unborn child which the mother is due to recognize). It is precisely because the individuals concerned are persons with dignity, that just treatment is due. "A thing cries out for its owner" (res clamat domino).
Whenever there is a deprivation of justice, restitution returns what is due (such as property) to the one deprived.

There are innumerable examples of actions opposed to commutative justice: not honoring a contract, unjust killing, suicide, dueling, calumny, mutilation, medical experimentation, theft, robbery (theft+violence).

Distributive Justice involves the relations between society as a whole to each member of society. It is precisely this type of justice that we focused on when noting that the State must arrange society in such a way that each individual can best seek virtue.

A prime example of distributive justice is the imposing of fair laws, something a society owes its people. Law cannot make a person virtuous; but it can make him do at a very basic level the kind of acts that a virtuous person would do, and so can invite him to become virtuous. Hence, the goal of law is virtue, but law cannot coerce virtue. For example, the law seeks to prevent public drunkenness. When it works effectively, individuals obeying it are moderating their desire for the consumption of alcohol largely out of fear--they don't wish to get caught DWI and have to pay the consequences. A particular individual may gradually develop the actual habit within himself of refraining from immoderate consumption in public, and then even in private. He has then developed the virtue itself of temperance in regard to drink.

Other examples of distributive justice include: the State giving recompense to a person whose house is damaged during wartime; the State isolating a person with a contagious disease; the State requiring some of a person's property if needed during wartime.

The individual here is not an independent party to the other, as in commutative justice. Rather, he is faced with a partner of a higher rank, of which paradoxically he himself is a part!

What belongs to the individual is something that belongs to everyone: "Distributive justice...distributes common goods proportionately" (S.T., II-II, 61 ,2).

The ruler is the "executor" of distributive justice. If you get a tyrant, this is the worst mishap imaginable.

Hence, monarchy might be the best form of government if the ruler is virtuous, but if not it is the worst--hence, our democratic divisions of powers.

Communal justice (also termed legal or general justice) involves relations between individuals and society at large. Examples include voting, military service, payment of taxes. See CCC 1880.

While secularism idolizes what is useful (pleasurable) to the individual, totalitarianism idolizes what is useful to the State. For secularism, the State exists to help organize the pursuit of individual self-interest. For totalitarianism, the individual exists only to further the goals of the State. The two are flip sides of the same coin, a coin that denies the true dignity of the human person and denies the transcendent dimension of the human person and society. These two views are bereft of any notion of the "common good."
Read CCC 1913-1915.

Likewise, they exemplify perversions of the three types of justice found within the common good. Commutative justice is absolutized in secularism, and non-existent in totalitarianism because individuals have no rights--only the State has "rights." Distributive justice is non-existent because it presupposes that the State exists for the sake of helping individual persons pursue virtue; for secularism, there is no such thing as virtue, and for totalitarianism the individual does not matter; Communal justice is absolutized in totalitarianism because the individual owes the State everything; it is ignored in secularism because the individual is the center of existence, with the State only in existence to further that individual's quest for self-fulfillment.

What both hold in common, ultimately, is a denial of the transcendent. They both reduce man to the inner-worldly, or immanent, sphere of existence. This runs entirely contrary to the Christian view of man and society, which claims that we are citizens of the world but also, and more importantly, citizens of a transcendent kingdom. Human history is only meaningful in the context of a transcendent dimension.



e. Vices Contrary to Justice

Reviling, backbiting, tale-bearing, derision, cursing all violate commutative justice. Reviling, also called contumely or insult, is unjustly depriving a person, in his presence, of honor, by word or deed (e.g., a contemptuous gesture).
Intent is all important--if one intends to dishonor, that is sinful, but one could also intend only to correct the fault of his neighbor, in which case the deprivation could be just.. Backbiting or detraction does the same but behind someone's back. It might involve facts, such as the person's sins, in which case it is simple detraction. If it involves lies, it is calumny. Tale-bearing or whispering, is speech made to break up a friendship--turning friends into enemies.


Respect of persons
or favoritism violates distributive justice. Derision or mockery attributes some evil to another as a joke so as to embarrass him. The gravity depends on the degree of contempt intended. Cursing is asking evil to befall another (as distinct from vulgarity or obscenity). This can be just, as desiring a criminal's death for the protection of the community, or unjust, whereby evil is intended just because it is evil.

Virtues Connected to Justice

Religion
inclines man to give to God the worship due him, through prayer, devotion, adoration, sacrifice, tithes, vows, sacraments.
Pieper notes that man recognizes a disparity between him and God that cannot be overcome. This is the origin of sacrifice.
All men implicitly know the meaning of sacrifice; it is an obligation of the natural law (86, 4 ad 2). This is the key to the phenomenon of extravagance in religious acts (and architecture). One strives to pay back whatever is in his power to remit.


Vices against religion can be by excess--superstition, undue worship, idolotry, divination, magic, and by defect--temptation, perjury, sacrilege, simony.

f. The Social Virtues

Observance is reverence, obedience and submission to those in authority. Thomas says that the office and the community as a whole are honored in the person holding the office (103, 2, ad 2). Piety is the sense of duty toward higher powers of parents and country, aware of what you owe them. Such debts we cannot strictly repay. Meekness removes impediments to acts of piety. Filial piety is toward parents, while familial piety is toward the family, community or nation (patriotism). Equity is justice between society and God.

Gratitude is not strictly part of justice because there is no strict indebtedness. Since the various transfers involving justice are done because of the virtue of justice, they are best acknowledged by a virtue having to do with an attitude of mind, gratitude. It inclines you to pay back a bit more than what was received, so it has no limit (106,6). Vices against gratitude are excessive gratitude and ingratitude.

Truthfulness is manifesting in speech the convictions of one's mind. An excess is all indiscreet manifestations of the truth (telling secrets) and a defect is a falsehood (by word, lying, or by action, simulation or hypocrisy)

Affability
is conducting oneself agreeably and properly in ordinary social dealings--a friendliness. Flattery tends to excess--wanting to please in an excessive or inordinate manner to gain some favor. Surliness tends to defect--the desire to be unpleasant, disagreeable.

Liberality is also a social virtue, but treated under fortitude. Avarice and prodigality (wastefulness) are its contraries.

g. Fortitude

Fortitude is not a passive kind of firmness--this misunderstanding lets those like Nietzsche and Marx condemn Christianity as a religion for weaklings who would rather suffer than fight evil. Rather, it is boldly fighting evil--grabbing what is right and actively hanging on to it. At a certain point, one might have to die, and then fortitude allows one to surrender to death.

Prudence informs fortitude through justice. The risk, the endurance, must be in accord with reason, not arbitrary. Prudence recognizes this reality, and justice is based on this recognition--transforming the good found by reason into actual existence.

Then fortitude acts accordingly. I bravely do what is just as determined by prudence.

Acting bravely does not involve a blind fearlessness based on a naive appropriation of a situation. Rather, a genuine fear exists based on the recognition of evil. But having recognized evil as evil, and experiencing a proper fear in its regard, one goes the next step and does not allow himself to be forced into evil by fear, or to be kept by fear from the realization of good."

You "walk straight up to the cause of fear" and do what is good.
In a word, don't be blackmailed by fear.

It is precisely this fearlessness which will keep you from getting trapped into saying "I had better not say anything, I'm
afraid I'll hurt his/her/their feelings, I'm afraid our relationship will become even more uneven." It is very tempting for religious people to actually use their very religion to justify such cowardice; how easy it is to say to ourselves that "enduring suffering patiently is part of our faith, so just quietly and patiently endure."

Of course there is a place in nearly all religions, an enormously important place, for the endurance of suffering. In fact, endurance is the second key act of fortitude. But it only comes
after the first chief part of fortitude, aggression or attack.

h. The Two Chief Acts of Fortitude: Endurance and Aggression (123,6)

Too often we see the words "aggression" and "attack," and the anger behind them, as inimical to Christianity. But one only has to take a cursory glance at the lives of many religious leaders, such as Moses or Jesus, to realize how much "righteous anger" they display, and how they channel that anger into action.

They attack evil! St. Thomas Aquinas says that the brave man uses wrath to pounce upon evil. Thus fortitude and wrath work directly upon each other. (II-II, 123, 10, ad 3).

But we also know that at times our best and most prudent efforts at attacking evil must come to a halt: there is literally nothing left that can be done.

Then, the virtue of fortitude displays itself in a second mode, the mode of endurance, whereby we put up with various hardships and show patience with wrongdoers (such patience is one of the spiritual works of mercy).

At this point we discover one of the more fascinating, and comforting, dynamics within the virtue of fortitude: it is a "win-win" situation. That is, whether you are in the mode of attack or in the mode of endurance, you're a "winner"! This seems impossible, for it would appear that you take on the mode of endurance only after you have lost the battle. For instance, after you have failed to convince your child to stay with the faith, or to marry in your church, then it seems like you move to the second-rate part of fortitude and endure the long time of difficulty. Or, having failed to convince your friend to fix parts of his disordered life, you move into the less-desirable mode of tolerating him. So, how can one be a winner either way?

The answer is simple. Successful attack has its own built in rewards; but endurance is higher, more virtuous, than aggression or attack. To quote Pieper again: "...[when] to suffer and endure is objectively the only remaining possibility of resistance...it is in this situation that fortitude ultimately proves its genuine character."

To attack is good, and it is the first thing required, but it is not the highest mode of fortitude: "...in the world as it is constituted, it is only in the supreme test, which leaves no other possibility of resistance than endurance, that the inmost and deepest strength of man reveals itself." Note that if there is possibility for resisting evil through attack, it must be seized; but if not, the utmost purity of fortitude gets its chance to shine: there is "...nothing else than to love and realize that which is good, in the face of injury or death, and undeterred by any spirit of compromise."



So with the virtue of fortitude you are victorious either way. If the attack upon evil is successful, the victory is readily apparent; if endurance is called for, the victory is within the individual. For Christians, that victory is now closely bound to the fortitude of Christ himself.

If endurance is better, why ever attack? Why not just settle in to the mode of patient endurance? If endurance is the supreme test, is not attack excluded for the Christian? And then, doesn't Christianity fit the critique of Nietzsche and Marx who condemned Christianity as a religion for weaklings who would rather suffer than fight evil?

Once more we turn to the wisdom of Josef Pieper: "The readiness to meet the supreme test by dying in patient endurance so that the good may be realized does not exclude the willingness to fight and to attack. Indeed, it is from this readiness that the springs of action...receive that detachment which, in the last analysis, are denied to every sort of tense and strained activism."



In a word, only the person ready and willing to endure will be able to attack in the right way. The reason is simple: you are detached from the results. Only when you are detached from the results of your activism will your activism be balanced and prudent. Someone too set on "getting results and getting them now" will tend to be impatient, haughty, and overly polemical. The detached person can attack with a certain equanimity.

Usually when we think of fortitude, we think of the varied occasions in this life that require attack and endurance. And then we tack on to these the final moment of death, which likewise involves attack (we should resist death) and endurance (finally we must embrace death). But in fact, every act of fortitude during our lives has death as its reference point or horizon. For whenever injury is done to you, it is ordered toward, or on a projectory toward, your death. Now those who injure you surely do not as a matter of course seek your death. But they do seek your passivity--they are killing you in a small way. They are in an ultimate sense seeking your death.

That is why Josef Pieper can say that "Every injury to the natural being is fatal in its intention." And the converse is then likewise true: "Thus every courageous action has as its deepest root the readiness to die, even though, viewed from without, it may appear entirely free from any thought of death." Fortitude "reaches down into the depths of the willingness to die." And that is where its "effective power" comes from (Pieper, 117).


i. Virtues Connected to Endurance

Forbearance keeps a person from expressing unreasonable irritation with hardship---giving way to vicious anger, for example.


Patience
serves fortitude as regards its chief act of endurance (124,2,ad3). It is calm determination in the face of annoying details.
For the infused virtue of patience, one does this for the love of God. Patience safeguards the good of reason against sorrow (136,1);
it is not a joyless spineless submission to evil, not the "tear-veiled mirror of a broken life" but that "radiant embodiment of ultimate integrity."


Perseverance allows one to persist firmly in the good ("keeps you going") despite the difficulties in the good one is trying to accomplish, but specifically regarding the very continuance of the pursuit of the good. It allows one to endure delays in the good sought from other virtuous deeds (137,1).


Constancy (137,3) helps you withstand obstacles coming from outside the process, like temptations or evil people preventing you from your end. Constancy involves the toil man endures in persistently accomplishing a good work.

Longanimity in turn helps you with the delay of this hoped for good.

There are two vices opposed to perseverance.
Pertinacity is an inordinate persistence. One makes a show of his own "excellence" by being too persistent about his own opinion (or error) (138,2). As Cicero noted, pertinacity is to perseverance as superstition is to religion. Softness