Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Theologia Corporis-1-Ab Initio

TO ENGAGE US INTO CONVERSATION WITH CHRIST is what John Paul II asks us to do in approaching matters of marriage and family life. In sort of an Ignatian mediation, we are asked to imagine ourselves among the crowd in Judea. We have seen this God-Man heal persons of various ills, and he fascinates us. A small group of Pharisees approach Christ with questions of marriage, and, more specifically, its dissolution--divorce, but in a spirit of challenge, rather than as disciples open to his teaching. "Is it lawful," they ask him, "for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?" Matt. 19:3.

In response, Christ refers them to fundamentals, from the beginning, ab initio. Christ refers them to Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Scriptures. He refers them to the creation of man. He refers them to the creation of woman. He refers them to the first marriage. Ab initio. Christ does not refer to the Law of Moses to answer a question about the Law of Moses, of which the Pharisees are the greatest representatives. He does not refer his questioners to any divinely promulgated law, but to the First Law, the Law of Nature, the Law that inheres in the created order and reflects in a primordial manner, the Eternal Law, the law in the mind of God. His teaching is thus to all men, for all times, and not only to the Jews in Judea in the 1st century A.D. Were we to ask the Lord, "the laws of the State allow for divorce . . . ," or "Science has given us birth control . . . ," or "Advocates of human rights claim that two persons of the same sex may marry . . . " In arriving at answers, Christ would say, "Turn ab initio." Go back to the beginning, to the Natural Law in created nature.

To John Paul II, Christ's invocation of the beginning, his focus on the ab initio, is fundamental; it is the operative and normative basis for the entirety of Christ's teaching, and so John Paul II seeks to "try to penetrate into the 'beginning'" to which Christ appealed. [1.5, 133]

There are two narratives regarding creation in Genesis (Gen. 1:1-2:4, the so-called Priestly or Elohist version because it uses the word Elohim to refer to God; and Gen. 2:5-25, the so-called Yahwist version, because it uses the word Yahweh to refer to God). In his answer, Christ refers to them both. [As an aside, Christ's reference to both versions of the creation story may be something that biblical scholars of the critical school may keep in mind when they try to pit one version of scripture to another, as if putting truth against truth, seeking to separate and divide, instead of accepting both as God's word and finding the truth in a fruitful synthesis or harmony of truths.]

What does Christ teach by referencing the Elohist creation story? It is a reference to the objective order. He wishes to teach us that Man is in the world, part of created nature; yet he is also above the world, made in the image of God. He shares in the brute creation (that which is "separated" "called" "put" from chaos), and in the living creation (that which is "created" or "blessed"). [2.3 & n.1, 135] Yet when it comes to man, there is, as it were, a divine pause. "[T]he Creator seems to halt before calling [man] to existence, as if he entered back into himself to make a decision, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.' (Gen. 1:27)." [2.3, 135] Christ's reference to the ab initio in Genesis is therefore a reference to the rich ensemble that is man, who, at the instruction of the Lord, must answer questions about his end and the good by reference to cosmology, but also to theology; he must refer both to the natural and to the supernatural; he must refer to the physical and the metaphysical; he must refer to body and the soul; to the contingent here, and to the absolute beyond. He must also recall that he is both man, and woman.

Christ's invocation of the Yahwist creation narrative, on the other hand, is more a reference to the subjective order, the areas of psychology, of conscience. "One could say that Genesis 2 presents the creation of man especially in the aspect of subjectivity." [3.1, 138-39] But it is not as if the objective order is opposed to the subjective order. "When we compare the two accounts [of creation], we reach the conviction that this subjectivity corresponds to the objective reality of man created in the 'image of God.'" [3.1, 139]

In referring back to the Yahwist creation narrative, Christ also places us within the context of man's own history, specifically, the creation of man and woman, and the narrative of the Fall. It is significant that the "beginning" to which Christ refers, the ab initio, is the reality of man before the fall. In answering the question the Pharisees posed to him regarding divorce, Christ refers to man in the state of paradise. There is sufficiently left of this order for us to be able to refer to it even now. Theologians distinguish the state of man before the fall, in his state of original innocence, his status naturae integrae, from his state after the fall, in his state of sinfulness, his status naturae lapsae. [3.3, 141] The following is key:
When Christ, appealing to the 'beginning,' directs the attention of his interlocutors to the words written in Genesis 2:24, he orders them in some sense to pass beyond the boundary that runs, in the Yahwist text of Genesis, between man's first and second situation. He . . . appeals to the words of the first divine order, expressly linked in this text with man's state of original innocence. This means that this order has not lost its force, although man has lost his primeval innocence. Christ's answer is decisive and clear. For this reason, we must draw the normative conclusions from it, which have an essential significance not only for ethics, but above all for the theology of man and the theology of the body . . . .
[3.4, 141-42]

One may note, that on this insight of John Paul II alone, the entirety of Calvin's (and to a slightly lesser extent Luther's) notion of man's "total depravity" is blown to smithereens and shown to be manifestly unscriptural. Similarly, the Lutheran theologian Karl Barth's vehement, even vituperative rejection of natural theology and natural law is found wanting. If you want better to follow Christ, throw away your copy of Christian Institutes Presbyterians, and your Church Dogmatics Lutherans! Instead, follow Christ's lead and
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
By her just standard, which is still the same:
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,
One clear, unchang'd, and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of art.
Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744), An Essay on Criticism, Part 1.

This includes the art of being human, which is what morality and the theology of the body is all about.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Theologia Corporis--Introduction

The next series of blog entries will consist of reflections upon John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" (theologia corporis), as this was advanced in 129 reflections given by John Paul II in his Wednesday audiences at the Pope Paul VI Hall between September 1979 and November 1984. These reflections will rely upon the new translation of these talks by Dr. Michael Waldstein , Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline Books, 2006).

It is fitting, nay, it is mandatory, for a Theology of the Body to be the subject matter of a blog devoted to the Natural Law because a Theology of the Body is really nothing else other than a theological view of the Natural Law, and one with papal imprimatur. Pope John Paul II's theology of the body has a deep affinity with the Thomist doctrine of natural law, but one refined with modern psychological and philosophical insights. John Paul II's theology of the body avoids the Scylla of a mechanistic, materialistic view of the body and Charybdis of a Platonic idealismor Gnostic spiritualism. Based upon an incarnational view of the human, it seeks to learn of both man and God through a proper understanding of the body and the soul/body union.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sichselbstnichtsogesetzthaben and the Natural Law

IN HIS THE CHRISTIAN FAITH (Der Christliche Glaube nach den Grundsäzen der Evangelsichen Kirchen im Zusammenhange Dargestellt, Vol. 1, p. 17 (§ 4) (2nd ed. 1830), the great German classicist and Romantic philosopher Friederich Ernst David Schleiermacher (1768-1834) refers to the awareness that one has not brought existence upon himself as Sichselbstnichtsogesetzthaben, "not-having-posited oneself," or a feeling of Irgendwiegewordensein, a "somehow-having-come-to-be." While Schleiermacher sees this as a subjective sentiment, a feeling, and it surely is, it seems that this is also an objective, self-evident reality, a truth of the objective order which cannot be denied without absurdity.

[I]n every self-consciousness there are two elements, which we might call respectively a self-caused element (ein Sichselbstsetzen) and a non-self caused element (ein Sichselbstnichtsogesetzthaben); or a Being and a Having-by-some-means-come-to-be (ein Sein und ein Irgendwiegewordensein). the latter of these presupposes for every self-consciousness another factor besides the Ego [dem Ich], a factor which is the source of the particular determination, and without which the self-consciousness would not be precisely what it is.
(Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, H. R. Mackintosh, trans. (New York: Continuum Publishing, 2000), 13)

As Louis Dupré summarizes this aspect of Scheiermacher's thought: "However powerful a person may be, he remains aware of the fact that he is not responsible for his being-there: he has not brought himself into existence." (Religion and the Rise of Modern Culture (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 2008), 102.) It is self-evident that none of us had any role in bringing ourselves to be, and that we owe both our existence and our essence to Someone other than ourselves, and so, at best, are only relatively autonomous, and not absolutely so. Because both our essence and existence rely on an Other, the question arises as to whether that Other has a claim of right upon us: whether there is a Law promulgated by this Other which we must acknowledge at the risk of absurdity by contradicting something that is self-evident: that, in a fundamental way, we have not made ourselves to be. Naturally, the awareness of Sichselbstnichtsogesetzthaben ought to lead us to ask that question with which the Baltimore Catechism begins:

1. Who made us?

And we ought to at least acknowledge that a possible answer may be: God made us.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the Protestant (Pietist) Schleiermacher is to be regarded as reliable in all things, and from the little I know of his thought I would not give him a ringing endorsement. There are problems with his theology which relies excessively on "feeling" (Gefühl) at the expense of reason, and his theism is at best ambiguous, as he tends toward pantheistic or panentheistic expressions. Similarly, his notions of dogma are deficient, at least from an orthodox Catholic perspective. (Dupré, 100-01, 104). His biblical exegesis and hermeneutics are also to be wary of. But in his notion of Sichselbstnichtsogesetzthaben, Schleiermacher seems to have hit on a great truth, even if obliquely. Both in our subjective awareness of Sichselbstnichtsogesetzthaben, and, more importantly, as a self-evident datum of speculative reason, we can predicate a reasoned argument for the existence of an Eternal Lawgiver and his Eternal Law in which we participate, a law in our hearts and in our conscience, and this participation is the Natural Law.

Universal Ethic-Conclusion


113. The Catholic Church, aware of the necessity for men to search in common the rules of a life together in justice and in the peace, desires to share with the religions, wisdoms and philosophies of our time the resources of the concept of natural law. We call natural law the foundation of a universal ethics that we try to extract from the observation of and reflection upon our common human nature. It is the moral law written in the heart of men and of which humanity always takes greater and greater conscience the more history advances. This natural law has not nothing static in its expression; it does not consist in a list of definitive and unchanging precepts. It is a source of inspiration that gushes forth always in the search for an objective foundation for a universal ethic.

114. Our conviction of faith is that Christ reveals the fullness of man, realizing it in His person. But such revelation, however specific, reaches and confirms elements that are already resident in the rational thought of the wisdom of humanity. Therefore, the concept of natural law is first of all philosophical and, as such, it allows for a dialogue which, in respect of the religious convictions of each, is able to appeal to that which is universally human in all human beings. An exchange on the level of reason is possible when one tries to test and to state what is common to guide all men who have been given reason and to establish the requirements of life in society.

115. The discovery of the natural law answers the search for a humanity that always strives to give itself rules for the moral life and for life in society. This life in society concerns an arc of connections that range from the family cell to international relations, passing through the economic life, civil society, and the political community. To be able to to be recognized by all men and in all the cultures, the rules of behavior in society should have their source in the same human person, in his needs, in his inclinations. Such norms, elaborated with the reflection and supported by right, are to be thus internalized by all. After World War II, the nations of all the world knew enough to give themselves a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, which suggests implicitly that the source of inalienable human rights is found in the dignity of every human person. The present contribution has no other end than to help to ponder on this source of personal and collective morality.

116. Offering our contribution to the search for a universal ethic, and proposing a rationally justifiable foundation, we want to invite experts and spokespersons of the great religious, wisdom, and philosophical traditions of humanity to proceed to an analogous work derived from their own sources to arrive to a common recognition of universal moral norms that are based on a rational approach on reality. This work is necessary and urgent. We should be able to tell each other, beyond our religious convictions and the variety of our cultural premises, what are the fundamental values of our common human nature, so as to work together to promote understanding, reciprocal recognition, and peaceful cooperation between all the members of the human family.

(The subject "Toward the Search for a Universal Ethic: A New Look at the Natural Law" was submitted to the study of the International Theological Commission. In preparation for this study, a subcomssion was formed composed of the Most Excellent Monsignor Roland Minnerath, of the Most Reverend Professors: p. Serge-Thomas Bonino, O.P. (President of the Subcomission), Geraldo Louis Borges Hackmann, Pierre Gaudette, Tony Kelly CssR, Jean Liesen, John Michael McDermott, SJ, of professors, Dr. Johannes Reiter and Dr. Barbara Hallensleben, with the collaboration of s.e. mons. Luis Ladaria, SJ, secretary general, with the contributions of the other members as well. The general discussion was itself carried out on the occasion of the full sessions of the same CTI, had in Rome, in October 2006 and 2007 and in December 2008. The document was unanimously approved by the Commission in the session of December 1-6, 2008, and was then submitted to its president, William J. Cardinal Levada, who has given his approval for the publication.)

Universal Ethic-Jesus Christ, the End of the Natural Law 3-The Holy Spirit and New Law of Freedom

5.2. The Holy Spirit and the New Law of Freedom

110. Jesus Christ is not only an ethical model to imitate, but with His mystery and in His paschal mystery, He is the Savior that gives to men the real possibility of carrying out the law of love. In fact, the paschal mystery culminates in the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love common to the Father and to the Son, that unites the disciples amongst themselves, to Christ, and finally to the Father. "Since the love of God was poured in our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5), the Holy Spirit becomes the inner principle and the supreme rule of the acts of the believer. They fulfill spontaneously and in just manner all the requirements of love. "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). Thus is completed the promise: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit with you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My commandments" (Ez. 36:26-27).(101)

111. The grace of the Holy Spirit constitutes the main element of the new Law or the Law of the Gospel.(102) The preaching of the Church, the celebration of the sacraments, the dispositions taken from the Church to favor among her members the development of the life in the Spirit: all are directed to the personal growth of every believer in the sanctity of love. With the new Law, which it is essentially an internal law, "the perfect law, the law of the freedom" (James 1:25), the desire of autonomy and of freedom in truth that is present in the heart of man reaches here the most perfect realization. From the most intimate of the person, where Christ is present and where the Spirit transforms, is born one’s moral acts.(103). But this freedom is at the service of love: "For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Gal 5:13).

112. The new Law of the Gospel includes, takes on, and carries to completion the requirements of the natural law. The orientations of the natural law are not therefore norms external in respect to the new Law. They are a constituent part of it, even if secondary and ordered to the main element, that is, the grace of Christ.(104) So it is through the light of enlightened reason now illuminated by a live faith that man recognizes better the orientations of the natural law, which indicate to him the way to the full development of his humanity. Thus it is that the natural law, on the one hand, maintains "a fundamental connection with the new law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus and, on the other hand, offers an ample base for dialogue with persons of other orientations or of other formations, in view of the search for the common good."(105)

(101) Cf. also Jer. 31:33-34

(102) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas,
Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 106, art. 1: " Now that which is preponderant in the law of the New Testament, and whereon all its efficacy is based, is the grace of the Holy Ghost, which is given through faith in Christi. Consequently the New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Ghost, which is given to those who believe in Christi. (Id autem quod est potissimum in lege novi testamenti, et in quo tota virtus eius consistit, est gratia Spiritus sancti, quae datur per fidem Christi. Et ideo principaliter lex nova est ipsa gratia Spiritus sancti, quae datur Christi fidelibus)".

(103) Cf. ibid, Ia-IIae, q. 108, art. 1, ad 2: "Since then the grace of the Holy Ghost is like an interior habit bestowed on us and inclining us to act aright, it makes us do freely those things that are becoming to grace, and shun what is opposed to it. Accordingly the New Law is called the law of liberty in two respects. First, because it does not bind us to do or avoid certain things, except such as are of themselves necessary or opposed to salvation, and come under the prescription or prohibition of the law. Secondly, because it also makes us comply freely with these precepts and prohibitions, inasmuch as we do so through the promptings of grace. It is for these two reasons that the New Law is called "the law of perfect liberty" (James 1:25). (Quia igitur gratia Spiritus sancti est sicut habitus nobis infusus inclinans nos ad recte operandum, facit nos libere operari ea quae conveniunt gratiae, et vitare ea quae gratiae repugnant. Sic igitur lex nova dicitur lex libertatis dupliciter. Uno modo, quia non arctat nos ad facienda vel vitanda aliqua, nisi quae de se sunt vel necessaria vel repugnantia saluti, quae cadunt sub praecepto vel prohibitione legis. Secundo, quia huiusmodi etiam praecepta vel prohibitiones facit nos libere implere, inquantum ex interiori instinctu gratiae ea implemus. Et propter haec duo lex nova dicitur lex perfectae libertatis, Iac 1:25)

(104) Id., Quodlibeta, IV, q. 8, to. 2: "The new law, law of liberty and constitute of the moral precepts of the natural law, from the articles of belief and from the sacraments of grace (Lex nova, quae est lex libertatis [...] est contenta praeceptis moralibus naturalis legis, et articulis fidei, et sacramentis gratiae)".

(105) John Paul II,
Speech of January 18, 2002, in AAS 94 (2002) 334.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Universal Ethic-Jesus Christ, the End of the Natural Law 2-The Logos Incarnate, the Living Law

5.1. The "Logos" Incarnate, the Living Law

103. Thanks to the natural light of reason, which is a participation in the divine Light, men and women are in a position of scrutinizing the intelligible order of the universe to discover therein the expression of the wisdom, the beauty, and the goodness of the Creator. As a result of this knowledge, they can insert themselves in such order with moral acts that conform to it. Now, thanks to a deeper understanding of God’s design of which the Creator is the fitting prelude, the Scriptures teach the believer that this world was created by the Logos, from him and with him, the Word of God, the beloved Son of the Father, the uncreated Wisdom, and that the world finds in Him life and subsistence. In fact the Son is "image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation, since in him (en auto) were created all things, in the heavens and on earth, those visible and those invisible . . . . All things were created by means of Him (di’ auton), and in His sight (eis auton). He is before all things, and all exist in Him (en auto)" (Col. 1:15-17).(89) The Logos is therefore the key of creation. Man, created in the image of God, carries in himself a special imprint of this personal Logos. And so he is called to be conformed with and assimilated into the Son, "the first born among all his brothers" (Rom. 8:29).

104. But because of sin, man made a bad use of his freedom, and he has thus distanced himself from the source of wisdom. Having done so, man has distorted the knowledge that he otherwise would have been able to have of the objective order of things, even of the natural order. Men, knowing that their works are evil, hate the light and elaborate false theories to justify their sins. (90) So the image of God in man is seriously darkened. Even if men’s nature prompts them still to a realization in God (the creature cannot pervert itself to the point of being completely unable to recognize the many signs that the Creator offers of Himself in creation), at the same time the fact is that men are seriously damaged by sin so that they fail to appreciate the profound meaning of the world, and instead view it in terms of pleasure, of money, or of power.

105. With his salvific Incarnation, the Logos, taking on a human nature, restored the image of God and restored man to to that same image. So Jesus Christ, the new Adam, carries to completion the original design of the Father regarding man, and at the same time reveals man to himself. “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. . . . He Who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15),(21) is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too.”(91) Jesus Christ manifests therefore in His person an exemplary human life, in full conformity with the natural law. So he is the ultimate criterion to decipher correctly what are the authentic natural desires of man, when they are not concealed by the distortions introduced by sin and from disordered passions.

106. The incarnation of the Son was prepared by the economy of the old Law, sign of the love of God for His people Israel. According to some of the Fathers, one of the motives behind God giving to Moses a written law was to remind men of the exigencies of the natural law written in their hearts, but which was partially obscured and cancelled by sin.(92) This Law, which Judaism has identified with pre-existing Wisdom which presides over the destiny of the universe,(93) thus put forth, within the capacity of men marked by sin, the concrete practice of true wisdom, which consists in the love of God and of one’s neighbor. It contained liturgical and positive legal precepts, but also moral prescriptions, summarized in the Decalogue, which corresponded to the implications of the natural law. So the Christian tradition saw in the Decalogue a privileged and always valid expression of the natural law.(94)

107. Jesus Christ has not "come to abolish but to give full completion" to the Law (Matt 5:17).(95) As it appears in the Gospel texts, Jesus "taught like one with authority and not like the scribes" (Mark 1:22), and did not hesitate to relativize, or even to abolish, some of the particular and temporary dispositions of the Law. But He also confirmed the essential content and, in His person, carried out to perfection the practice of the Law, taking on for love the different types of precepts—moral, cultural, and legal—of the Mosaic Law, which corresponded with the three functions of prophet, priest, and king. St. Paul affirms that Christ is the end (telos) of the Law (Rom 10:4). Telos has here a double sense. Christ is the "end" of the Law, in the sense that the Law is pedagogical means which ought to lead mankind to Christ. But moreover, for all those who through faith live in Him by the Spirit of love, Christ "puts an end" to the positive obligations of the Law which were appended to the requirements of the natural law.(96)

108. In fact, Jesus expressed in different manners the ethical supremacy of Love (carità), which unites inseparably the love of God and the love of neighbor.(97) Love (carità) is the "new commandment" (John 13:34) that recapitulates all the Law and provides the key of interpretation for it: "From these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:40). It also reveals the profound meaning of the golden rule. “Do not do to anyone that which you do not want done to you” (Tobit 4:15) becomes with Christ the commandment of love (amore) without limit. The context in which Jesus cites the golden rule determines in depth its comprehension. It is found at the center of a section that begins with the commandment: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” and ends with the exhortation: “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.”(98) Going beyond the rule of commutative justice, in the shape of a challenge, it invites one to take the initiative of a love which is a gift of self. The parable of the good Samaritan is characteristic of this Christian application of the golden rule: the center of interest passes from the care of oneself to the care of the other.(99) The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount explain the manner in which one ought to live the commandment of love, in thanksgiving and in the awareness of the other, elements proper of the new perspective assumed by Christian love. So the practice of love surpasses every closure and every limit. It gains a universal dimension and an incomparable force, since it renders the person capable of doing that which would be impossible without love.

109. But above all, Jesus carries to completion the law of love in the mystery of His holy Passion. Here, like Love incarnate, it reveals in a plenary human way what love is and what things it implies: to give life for those which one loves.(100) "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (John 13:1). Through the obedience of love to the Father and through desire for His glory which consists in the salvation of men, Jesus accepts the suffering and the death of the cross for the benefit of sinners. The same person of Christ, Logos and incarnate Wisdom, so becomes the living law, the supreme rule for every Christian ethic. The sequela Christi [following of Christ], the imitatio Christi [imitation of Christ] are the concrete ways to realize the Law in all of its dimensions.

(89) Cf. also John 1:3-4; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb. 1:2-3.

(90) Cf. John 3:19-20; Rom. 1:24-25.

(91) Vatican II, pastoral Constitution
Gaudium et spes, n. 22. Cf. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the heresies, V, 16.2 [Sources chrétiennes, 153, 216-217] : "For in times long past, it was said that man was created after the image of God, but it was not [actually] shown; for the Word was as yet invisible, after whose image man was created, Wherefore also he did easily lose the similitude. When, however, the Word of God became flesh, He confirmed both these: for He both showed forth the image truly, since He became Himself what was His image; and He re-established the similitude after a sure manner, by assimilating man to the invisible Father through means of the visible Word.”

(92) Cf. St. Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, LVII, 1 [Corpus christianorum, series latina, 39, 708] : " Inasmuch as the hand of our Maker in our very hearts hath written this truth, ‘That which to thyself thou wouldest not have done, do not thou to another.’ Of this truth, even before that the Law was given, no one was suffered to be ignorant, in order that there might be some rule whereby might be judged even those to whom Law had not been given. But lest men should complain that something had been wanting for them, there hath been written also in tables that which in their hearts they read not. For it was not that they had it not written, but read it they would not. There hath been set before their eyes that which in their conscience to see they would be compelled; and as if from without the voice of God were brought to them, to his own inward parts hath man been thus driven. (Quandoquidem manu formatoris nostri in ipsis cordibus nostris scripsit: “Quod tibi non vis fieri, ne facias alteri”. Hoc et antequam lex daretur nemo ignorare permissus est, ut esset unde iudicarentur et quibus lex non esset data. Sed ne sibi homines aliquid defuisse quaererentur, scriptum est et in tabulis quod in cordibus non legebant. Non enim scriptum non habebant, sed legere nolebant. Oppositum est oculis eorum quod in conscientia videre cogerentur; et quasi forinsecus admota voce Dei, ad interiora sua homo compulsus est)". Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In III Sent., d. 37, q. 1, to. 1: In III Sent., d. 37, q. 1, a. 1: "Necessarium fuit ea quae naturalis ratio dictat, quae dicuntur ad legem naturae pertinere, populo in praeceptum dari, et in scriptum redigi [...] quia per contrariam consuetudinem, qua multi in peccato praecipitabantur, iam apud multos ratio naturalis, in qua scripta erant, obtenebrata erat"; Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 98, art. 6.

(93) Cf. Sir 24:23 (Vulgate: 24:32-33).

(94) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 100.

(95) The Byzantine liturgy of St. John Chrysostom expresses well the Christian conviction when it places on the mouth of the priest that blesses the deacon in the thanksgiving after communion: "Christ our God, You Who are the completion of the Law and of the Prophets, and You Who have completed the whole mission received from the Father, replenish our hearts with delight and joy, in every time, now and always, for ever and ever. Amen."

(96) Cf. Gal 3:24-26: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christi Jesus." On the theological notion of completion, cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Hebrew People and Their Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible, especially n. 21.

(97) Cf. Matt. 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27.

(98) Cf. Luke 6:27-36.

(99) Cf. Luke 10:25-37.

(100) Cf. John 15:13.

Universal Ethic-Jesus Christ, End of the Natural Law 1-Introduction

Chapter V:

Jesus Christ, End of the Natural Law

101. Grace does not destroy nature but heals it, comforts it, and leads it to its full realization. Therefore, even if the natural law is an expression of reason common to all men and can be presented in a consistent and true manner on the philosophical level, it is not outside the order of grace. Its requirements are present and operative in the different theological states that reach through to a humanity affected by the history of the salvation.

102. The design of salvation, of which the eternal Father has the initiative, was realized with the mission of the Son Who gave to men a new Law, the law of the Gospel. This Law of the Gospel consists principally in the grace of the Holy Spirit operating in the hearts of the faithful to sanctify them. The new Law aims above all to induct men into participating in the Trinitarian community of the divine persons, but, at the same time, it assumes and realizes in an eminent manner the natural law. In a certain way, it clearly recalls the requirements which can be obscured by sin or ignorance. In another way, freeing him from the law of sin--on account of which “there is in me the desire of the good, but not the capacity to carry it out" (Rom 7:18)—it gives to men the real capacity of surpassing their selfishness so as to carry out fully the humanizing requirements of the natural law.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Universal Ethic-The Natural Law and the State 6-Political Order is Temporal and Rational

4.6. The political order is a temporal and rational order

96. If the political order is not the place of ultimate truth, yet it must be open to the continuous search for God, for truth, and for justice. The "legitimate and healthy laicism of the State”(87) consists in the distinction between the supernatural order of theological faith and the political order. The latter can never be confused with the order of grace to which men are called to adhere to freely. It is bound rather to the universal human ethic inscribed in human nature. The State must therefore promote that which is necessary for the full realization of that human life for the people that compose it, and that includes some spiritual and religious values, such as freedom of its citizens to decide in their relationship with the Absolute and of the supreme good. But the State, in which the common good is of a temporal nature, cannot procure supernatural goods which are of an entirely different order.

97. If God and every transcendence were to be excluded from the political horizon, there would be no staying the power of man over man. In fact, the political order often presents itself as an ultimate horizon of mankind’s reason for being. Ideological and totalitarian regimes have demonstrated that such a political order, without a transcendent horizon, is not humanly acceptable. This transcendence is bound to that which we call the natural law.

98. The political-religious mixtures of the past, like the experiences of the totalitarian governments of the 20th century, have led, thanks to a healthy reaction, to reevaluate today the role of reason in politics, conferring thus a new relevance to the Aristotelian-Thomistic discourse over the natural law. Politics, that is the organization of the State and the elaboration of its collective projects, derives out of the natural order, and should carry out a rational discussion that is open to transcendence.

99. The natural law that is the foundation of the social and political order demands an adherence not of faith but of reason. Certainly, the same reason is often darkened by passion, by contradictory interests, by prejudices. But the constant reference to the natural law pushes toward a continuous purification of reason. Only in this manner can the political order avoid the insidiousness of the arbitrary, of particular interests, of the organized lie, of the manipulation of the spirit. The reference to the natural law detains the State from yielding to the temptation of absorbing civil society and of subjecting men to an ideology. It also keeps the State from becoming a Welfare State (uno Stato provvidenza) which deprives persons and community of every initiative and relieves them of all responsibilities. The natural law contains the idea of a State of right that is structured according to the principle of subsidiarity, respecting the interactions between persons and intermediate and moderating institutions.(88)

100. The great political myths were unmasked with the introduction of the rule of reason and the recognition of the transcendence of the God of love who forbids the adoration of the political order established over the earth. The God of the Bible wanted the order of creation so that all men, conforming themselves to the law which is inherent in them, may seek Him freely and, after having found Him, project over the world the light of grace which is its end.

(87) Cf. Pius XII, Speech of March 23, 1958, in AAS 25 (1958) 220.

(88) Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical
Quadragesimo anno, nn. 79-80.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"One God, one Law, one Element . . . ."

In his poem "In Memoriam," an elegy written in memory of his friend Arthur Hallam, Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) ends with a peroration that vividly evokes the notion of the Eternal Law, its providential role in history, and the telos to which it strains, as it seeks to instaurare omnia in Christo. Cf. Eph. 1:10.
"One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves."
(It may be noted that Tennyson's vision was not necessarily an orthodox recapitulation of the world in the Incarnate Word, but was based upon Hegel's rather vague, pantheistic vision to be found in Hegel's Philosophy of History, a book that Tennyson's friend, Benjamin Jowett, described as one of his most favorite in a letter.)

That excerpt of the poem was chosen by Charles William Eliot, the President of Harvard University, to grace the gallery of the Rotunda of the Library of Congress, where, above the figure of History modeled by Daniel C. French, Tennyson's gilt words may be found.

Above the figure of Law, modeled by Paul W. Bartlett, are the words of the judicious Hooker, which state:
"Of law there can be no less acknowledged
than that her voice is the harmony of the world."
These tablets are held by two winged geniuses, and are framed above by palm branches which (according to the Handbook of the New Library of Congress by Herbert Small, et al.) mean peace, and framed below by a lamp and open book, symbolic of learning, surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves, which typifies strength. Thus they are part of a "whole group thus signifying the power and beneficience of wisdom."

Universal Ethic-The Natural Law and the State 5-Political Order is Not Eschatological Order

4.5. The political order is not the eschatological order

93. In the history of human society, the political order was often understood as a reflection of a transcendent and divine order. So the ancient cosmologies were based on and justified political theologies in which the sovereign ensured the ligature between the cosmos and the human universe. What was sought to be done was to introduce the universe of men into the preestablished harmony of the world. With the apparition of biblical monotheism, the universe was understood as being obedient to the laws that the Creator had provided it. The order of the State was obtained when the laws of God were respected, besides those inscribed in hearts. Over a long period of time, forms of theocracies prevailed in societies which organized themselves according to the principles and values received from their holy books. No distinction was made between the sphere of revealed religion and the sphere of the organization of the State. But the Bible desacralized human power, even though through a sort of theocratic difusion over various centuries, the essential distinction between the political order and religious order was obscured, even in Christian environments. On this subject, it is necessary to distinguish the situation of the Old Testament, in which the divine law given by God was also the law of the people of Israel, from that of the New Testament, which introduces the distinction and relative autonomy of the religious and political orders.

94. The biblical revelation invites humanity to consider that the order of creation is a universal order in which all of humanity participates, and that such order is accessible to reason. When one talks about natural law, one is making reference to that certain order willed by God and included in human nature. The Bible places a distinction between the order of creation and the order of grace which gives access to faith in Christ. Now, the order of the State is not this definitive and eschatological order. The political field is not that of the Heavenly City, a free gift of God. It derives from the imperfect and transitory order in which men live, advancing in history independently from their fulfillment in the afterlife. According to St. Augustine, those within the earthly city are mixed: placed side by side are the just and the unjust, the believers and the non-believers.(86) They should live together in time according to the rules of their nature and the capacity of their reason.

95. The State is not able to claim for itself an ultimate purpose. It cannot impose either a global ideology, or a religion (even if secular), or a unified system of thought. The ambit of the final purpose is not civil society, it is a matter of religious organizations, of philosophy, and of spirituality; these ought to contribute to the common good, reinforcing the social bonds and promoting universal values upon which the very political order is founded. This is not the task of bringing to earth the reign of God to come. It can anticipate it with progress in the field of the justice, of solidarity, and of the peace. It cannot want to establish it with compulsion.

(86) Cf. St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, I, 35 [Corpus christianorum, series latina, 47, 34-35].

Universal Ethic-The Natural Law and the State 4-Natural Right and Positive Right

4.4. Natural right and positive right

91. Positive right should make an effort of carrying out the requirements of natural right. It does this in the form of conclusions (natural right prohibits murder, positive right prohibits abortion), or through determinations (the natural right prescribes that the guilty ought to be punished, criminal positive law determines the punishment to be applied to all classes of crimes).(82) Inasmuch as they derive truly from natural rights and therefore from the eternal law, human positive laws obligate in conscience. In the contrary case, they do not so obligate. “If the law is not just, it is not even a law.”(83) The positive law is able, or rather ought to, change to remain faithful to its proper calling. In fact, in a certain way, there exists a progress of human reason which, little by little, grasps a better consciousness of what is more suitable for the good of the community. On the other hand, the historical conditions of the life of society change themselves (for good or evil), and the law must adapt to itself to those.(84) So the legislator should determine what is just in concrete historical situations.(85)

92. Natural rights are measures of human relations prior to the will of the legislator. They are given because men live in society. Natural right is what is naturally just before any legal formulation. It is expressed particularly in the subjective rights of the person, like the right with respect to one’s life, to the integrity of the person, to religious freedom, to freedom of thought; the right to form a family and to educate children according to one’s own convictions; the right to associate with others, and to participate the life of the community. . . . These rights, to which contemporary thought attaches great importance, have their source, not in the fluctuating desires of individuals, but in the very structure of human beings and in their humanizing relations. The rights of the human person emerge, therefore, from the just order that should reign in the connections between the men. To recognize these natural rights of man means to recognize the objective order of human relations founded upon the natural law.

(82) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 95, art. 2.

(83) St. Augustine. De libero arbitrio, I, V, 11 [Corpus christianorum, series latina, 29, 217]: "In fact, it seems to me not to be a law, that which is not right"; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 93, art 3, ad 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. (Lex humana intantum habet rationem legis, inquantum est secundum rationem rectam, et secundum hoc manifestum est quod a lege aeterna derivatur. Inquantum vero a ratione recedit, sic dicitur lex iniqua, et sic non habet rationem legis, sed magis violentiae cuiusdam)”; Ia-IIae, q. 95, art. 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. (Unde omnis lex humanitus posita intantum habet de ratione legis, inquantum a lege naturae derivatur. Si vero in aliquo a lege naturali discordet, iam non erit lex sed legis corruptio).”

(84) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 97, art. 1.

(85) According to St. Augustine, the legislator, to do a good work, should consult the eternal law; cf. St. Augustine, De vera religione, XXXI, 58 [Corpus christianorum, series latina, 32, 225] : "The temporal lawgiver, if he is wise and good, consults the eternal law, that no man can judge, so that according to its unchanging norms he is able to recognize what at that moment it is fitting to command or to prohibit. (Conditor tamen legum temporalium, si vir bonus est et sapiens, illam ipsam consulit aeternam, de qua nulli animae iudicare datum est; ut secundum eius immutabiles regulas, quid sit pro tempore iubendum vetandumque discernat)". In a seculariezed society, in which not all recognize the signs of this eternal law, the search, the defense, and the expression of the natural right by means of the positive law guarantees its legitimacy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Codex Sinaiticus on the Natural Law

The oldest copy of the Bible, known as the Codex Sinaiticus and dating back to the mid-fourth century, is online. You can look at the original text, along with a Greek transcription and an English translation at Below is the locus classicus for the Scriptural reference to the natural moral law, specifically, St. Paul's letter to the Romans, 2:14-15.

14 οταν γαρ εθνη τα μη νομον εχοντα φυϲει τα του νομου ποιωϲιν ουτοι νομον μη εχοντεϲ εαυτοιϲ ειϲιν νομοϲ 15 οιτινεϲ ενδικνυνται το εργον του νομου γραπτο εν ταιϲ καρδιεϲ αυτων ϲυνμαρτυρουϲηϲ αυτων τηϲ ϲυνειδηϲεωϲ και μεταξυ αλληλω των λογιϲμων κατηγορουντων η και απολογουμενων.

(14 For whenever Gentiles, that have no law, do by nature the things of the law, these, not having law, are a law to themselves:

15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing testimony, and their reasonings between one another bringing accusation, or also making excuse.)

Louis Dupré on Metanoia

Louis Dupré, a Catholic phenomenologist philosopher, who is currently T. Lawrason Riggs Professor Emeritus in Religious Studies at Yale University, gave the Erasmus Lectures at Notre Dame University in 2005. Subsequently, these lectures were published under the name Religion and the Rise of Modern Culture (Notredame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008).

The lectures and the book are a good synopsis of the critical analysis contained in his earlier books on the pre-Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment developments in Western Thought that have contributed to modernity, specifically, his Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture and his The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture.

He observes that a subjective theology alone--along the Kierkegaardian lines of turning from the aesthetic to ethical life--is insufficient to overcome the problems confronting modernity. What is needed is both a philosophical and theological conversion, one that encompasses visions of both the body and the soul, and not the soul or mind alone.

No program of theological renewal can by itself achieve a religious restoration. To be effective a theological vision requires a recognition of the sacred. Is the modern mind still capable of such a recognition? Its fundamental attitude directly conflicts with the conditions necessary for it. First, some kind of moral conversion has become indispensable. The immediate question is not whether we can confess a religious faith, or whether we live in conformity with certain religious norms, but whether we are of a disposition to accept any kind of theoretical or practical direction coming from a source other than the mind itself. Such a disposition demands that we be prepared to abandon the conquering, self-sufficient state of mind characteristic of late modernity. I still believe in the necessity of what I wrote an an earlier occasion [Transcendent Selfhood]: "What is needed is a conversion to an attitude in which existing is more than taking, acting more than making, meaning more than function--an attitude in which there is enough leisure for wonder and enough detachment for transcendence. What is needed most of all is an attitude in which transcendence can be recognized again."

Conversion (in the Biblical sense of Metanoia), Leisure (in Josef Pieper's sense), Detachment (in the best traditions of Catholic asceticism, perhaps St. John of the Cross). Sounds like a good plan.

Now how to bell the cat?

Universal Ethic-The Natural Law and the State 3-Natural Law to Natural Right

4.3. From the natural law to the natural right

88. The natural law (lex naturalis) expresses itself as natural right (ius naturale) when the relation of justice between men is considered: relations between physical and moral persons, between persons and public power, and relations of all men with the positive law. One passes from the anthropological category of natural law to the legal and political category of the organization of the State. Natural right is the measure inherent in the agreement between members of the society. It is the immanent rule and measure of human interpersonal and social relationships.

89. Right is not arbitrary: the requirement of justice, which derives from the natural law, is previous to the formulation and to the issuance of right. It is not right that decides what is just. Not even politics is arbitrary: the norms of justice do not arise out of a contract established between men, but their provenance is prior, from the very nature of the human being. Natural right is the anchorage of human law to the natural law. It is the horizon the function of which is to regulate the human legislator when he issues rules as part of his mission in service of the common good. In such a sense, he honors the natural law inherent in the humanity of man. To the contrary, when natural right is negated, only the will of the legislator makes law. In such circumstance, the legislator is no longer the interpreter of what is just and good, but he attributes to himself the prerogative of being the ultimate criterion of what is just.

90. Natural right is not ever a measure fixed once and for all. It is the result of an evaluation of the changeable situations in which men live. It formulates a judgment of practical reason which considers what is just. Natural right, the legal expression of the natural law in the political order, appears as it were the measure of just relations between the members of the community.

Universal Ethic-The Natural Law and the State 2-Measure of the Political Order

4.2. The Natural Law, Measure of the Political Order

86. Society organized in view of the common good of its members responds to the requirements of the social nature of the person. The natural law appears then like the normative horizon towards which the political order is called to move. It is defined as the ensemble of values that appear as humanizing for a society. When placed in the social and political ambit, values cannot be those of a private, ideological, or confessional nature, but refer back to all citizens. These express not a vague concensus between citizens, but are founded upon the requirements of the citizens' common humanity. So that society correctly meets its proper mission of service to persons, it should promote the realization of their natural inclinations. The person is therefore prior to society, and society is humanizing only if answers to the expectations written in the person insofar as he is a social being.

87. Such natural ordering of society to the service of the person is distinguished, according to the social doctrine of the Church, by four values that are derived from the natural inclinations of the human being, and that design the contours of the common good that society should promote; namely, freedom, truth, justice, and solidarity.(81) These four values correspond to the requirements of an ethical order that conforms to the natural law. If any of these is found to be lacking, the State tends toward anarchy or the reign of the stronger. Freedom is the first condition of the political order that is humanly acceptable. Without the freedom of following one’s conscience, of expressing one’s opinions, and of following one’s projects there is not a human State, since the search for the private good always should articulate itself to the promotion of the common good of the State. Without the search for and the respect of truth, there is no society, but the dictatorship of the strongest. The truth, which is not anyone's property, allows human beings to converge towards a common objective. If the truth does not prevail of itself, the most clever will impose “his own” truth. Without justice, there is not society, but the reign of violence. Justice is the most high good that the State is able to promote. It supposes that one always strain toward what is just, and that right (diritto) is applied with attention to particular cases, because equity (l’equità) is the greatest expression of justice. Finally, it is necessary that society regulate itself in the way of solidarity, assuring mutual help and responsibility for the fortunes of others, and arranging things so that the goods which society disposes may answer to the needs of all.

(81) Cf ibid., n. 37; Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nn. 192-203.

Universal Ethic-The Natural Law and the State 1-The Common Good

Chapter IV: The Natural Law and the State

4.1. The Person and the Common Good

83. Approaching the political order of society, we enter into the space regulated by right (It. diritto, Fr. droit). In fact, right appears when multiple persons enter into relations. The entry of the person into society illuminates the essential distinction between the natural law and natural right.

84. The person is at the center of the political and social order because he is an end and not a means. The person is a being that is social by nature, not by choice or in virtue of pure contractual convention. To realize himself, a person has need of an interlacing of relations that he establishes with other persons. He finds himself in the center of a network formed by concentric circles: the family, the environment in which which he lives and works, communities of neighborhoods, the nation, and finally the humanity.(78) The person gets from each of these circles the necessary elements for his proper growth, and at the same time himself contributes to their improvement.

85. Since human beings have the vocation of living in society with others, they have in common a ensemble of goods to pursue and values to defend. This is what is called the “common good.” If the person is an end in himself, society has the end of promoting, consolidating and developing its own common good. The search for the common good agrees with the State’s mobilization of the energies of all of its members. At the first level, the common good can be understood as the ensemble of conditions which must be granted to persons in order to be always more of a human person.(79) To articulate these in their exterior aspects—economy, security, social justice, education, access to the work, the spiritual search, and others—, the common good is always a human good.(80) At a second level, the common good is that which directs the political order and the State itself. The good of all, and of each in particular, this expresses the public dimension of the human good. Society can define itself through the type of common good that it intends to promote. In fact, if one deals with the essential requirements of the common good of any society, the vision of common good evolves within the same society as a function of the conceptions of the person, of justice, and of the role of public power.

(78) Cf. Vatican II, pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, nn. 73-74. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1882, states that "Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man.”

(79) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, n. 65; Vatican II, pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 26 § 1; Declaration Dignitatis humanae
, n. 6.

(80) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Pacem in terris, n. 55.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Universal Ethic-Perception of Moral Values 4-Roads Towards a Reconciliation

3.4. Roads Towards a Reconciliation

76. To give the notion of natural law all its meaning and all its force as a foundation of a universal ethic, it is necessary to turn, with a view of wisdom, to an ordering properly metaphysical, capable of embracing simultaneously God, the cosmos, and the human person so as to reconcile them in a unity of analogy of being, thanks to the idea of creation as participation.

77. It is above all essential to develop a non-competitive ideal of the articulation between the divine causality and the free activity of the human subject. The human subject realizes himself by freely becoming part the providential action of God, and not in opposition to it. He should discover with reason and then assume and be lead freely toward the realization and deep dynamisms that define nature. In fact, human nature is defined by all the ensembles of dynamisms, of tendencies, of internal orientations in which freedom is born. In fact, freedom supposes that the human will is “put under tension” by the natural desire of good and the last end. Free will exercises itself then in the choice of the finite objects which agrees with the reaching of such end. In the relationship with these goods, which exercise an attraction that is not determining, the person preserves his mastery of his very choice on account of his innate openness to the absolute Good. Freedom is not therefore an absolute self-creator of itself, but an eminent property of every human subject.

78. A philosophy of nature that considers the intelligible depth of the sensed world and, above all, a metaphysics of creation serves then to overcome the dualist and Gnostic temptation of abandoning nature’s moral significance. From such point of view, it is necessary to overcome the limiting vision that the dominant technical culture leads one to have against nature, so as to rediscover the moral message of which nature is the bearer as a work of the Logos.

79. Nevertheless, the rehabilitation of nature and of bodiliness (corporeity) in ethics should not be equated to a “physicalism” of any kind. In fact, some presentations of the natural law seriously negate the necessary integration of the natural inclinations in the unity of the person. In neglecting to consider the unity of the human person, these absolutize the natural inclinations of the different "parts" of the human nature, approaching them without hierarchization and failing to integrate them in the unity of the global plans of the subject. Now, as John Paul II explains it, “natural inclinations take on moral relevance only insofar as they refer to the human person and his authentic fulfillment.”(73) Today, therefore, it is necessary to keep in mind together two truths. On the one hand, the human subject is not a union or juxtapositions of natural diverse and autonomous inclinations, but is a whole substance and person called to respond to the love of God and to unify himself through a recognized orientation toward an ultimate end which hierarchizes the partial goods manifested in the various natural tendencies. Such a unification of natural tendencies as a function of the superior spiritual end, that is to say, such humanization of the dynamisms written in human nature, does not constitute at all a violence done to them. To the contrary, it is the fulfillment of a promise already inscribed in them.(74). For example, the high spiritual value that is shown in the gift of oneself in the reciprocal love of the spouse is already inscribed in the very nature of the sexual body, which discovers in this spiritual realization its ultimate reason for being. On the other hand, in this organic whole, all parts preserve a proper and irreducible meaning, of which reason must take account of in the development of the global plan of the person. The doctrine of the natural moral law has to therefore affirm the central role of reason in the actualization of a properly human plan of life, together with the consistency and the proper meaning of the pre-rational natural dynamisms.(75)

80. The moral meaning of the pre-rational natural dynamisms appears in full light in the teaching on the sins against nature. Certainly, every sin is against nature insofar as it opposes itself to right reason and obstructs the authentic development of the human person. Nevertheless, some behaviors are judged in a special manner to be sins against nature in the measure in which they contradict more directly the objective sense of the natural dynamisms that the person should assume in the unity of his moral life.(76) So deliberate and willed suicide goes against the natural inclination to preserve one’s actual existence and make it bear fruit. So also some sexual practices oppose themselves directly to the end inscribed in the sexual body of man. Therefor, they contradict also the interpersonal value which should promote a responsible and fully human sexual life.

81. The risk of absolutizing nature reduced to pure physical or biological component, and of neglecting the proper intrinsic vocation of being integrated in a spiritual project, menaces today some radical tendencies of the ecological movement. The irresponsible exploitation of nature on the part of human agents that seek only economic profit, and the dangers that weigh against the biosphere justly raise questions of conscience. Nevertheless, the “deep ecology” constitutes an excessive reaction. This advances a supposed equality of all living species, without recognizing any longer any particular role of the human being, and that, paradoxically, weakens the responsibility of man towards the biosphere of which he is part. In even more radical manner, some are united in considering the human being as a destroying virus which would harass the integrity of nature, and refuse him any meaning and any value in the biosphere. It arrives then at a sort of totalitarianism which excludes human existence in its specificity, and condemns legitimate human progress.

82. One is not able to make an adequate reply to the complex question of ecology except within a framework of a more profound understanding of the natural law, which gives value to the connection between the human person, society, culture and the equilibrium of the bio-physical sphere in which the human person is embodied. An integral ecology should promote that which is specifically human, valuing together the world of nature in its physical and biological integrity. In fact, even if man, as a moral being which seeks the truth and ultimate goods, transcends his actual immediate environment, he does so accepting the special mission of keeping watch over the natural world and of living in harmony with it, of defending its vital worth without which he is unable to maintain human life in the biosphere of this planet.

(73) John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis splendor, n. 50.

(74) The duty of to humanize the nature in man is inseparable from the duty to humanize external nature. This justifies the immense efforts by men to emancipate themselves from the forces of physical nature in the measure in which they obstruct the development of the properly human values. The struggle against illness, the prevention of hostile natural phenomena, the enhancement of the standards of living, are works that of themselves attest of the greatness of man called to replenish the earth and to subject it. (cf. Gen. 1:28). Cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 57.

(75) Reacting to the danger of physicalism, and fairly insisting on the decisive role of reason in the elaboration of the natural law, some contemporaneous theories of the natural law neglect, or rather refute, the moral meaning of the pre-rational natural dynamisms. The natural law is called "natural" only in reference to the reason, which defines the entirety of the nature of man. To obey the natural law is therefore reduced to acting in reasonable manner, that is to say, to apply to all behaviors a univocal ideal of rationality obtained only through practical reason. This means identifying wrongly the rationalilty of the natural law with the sole rationality of human reason without taking into account the rationality immanent in nature.

(76) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, IIa-IIae, q. 154, art. 11. The moral evaluation of the sins against nature must take into account not only their objective seriousness, but also of the subjective dispositions, often extenuating, of those who commit them.
(77) Such an integral ecology puts forth questions to every human being and every community in view of a new responsibility. It is inseparable from an global orientation respectful of the requirements of the natural law.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Universal Ethic-Theoretical Foundations 3-Nature, Man, God

3.3. Nature, Man, and God: From Harmony to Conflict

69. The concept of natural law proposes the idea that nature is the bearer of an ethical message for man, and constitutes an implicit moral norm which human reason actualizes. The vision of the world, within which the doctrine of natural law has developed and finds still today its sense, implies the reasoned conviction that there exists a harmony between the three essences which are God, man, and nature. Within such a perspective, the world is perceived as an intelligible whole, unified, by common reference from the beings which compose it, to a founding divine principle, a Logos. Beyond the impersonal and immanent Logos proposed by Stoicism and presupposed by modern natural science, Christianity affirms that the Logos is personal, transcendent, and creative. "It is not the elements of the cosmos, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person.”(68) The divine personal Logos—the Wisdom and the Word of God—is not only the intelligible transcendent Origin and Model of the universe, but also the one than maintains it in a harmonious unity and which conducts it towards its end.(69) With the dynamism that the He has inscribed within being, the Creative Word orients it toward its full realization. This dynamic orientation is none other than the divine government which carries out in time the plan of Providence, that is to say, of the Eternal Law.

70. Every creature participates in its manner in the Logos. Man, since he is defined by reason or logos, participates in the Logos in an eminent manner. In fact, through reason, he is in a position of internalizing freely the divine intention manifested in the nature of things. He expresses it for himself in the shape of a moral law that inspires him and orients him to proper acts. In such a perspective, man is not “the other” of nature. To the contrary, he establishes with the cosmos a bond of familiarity founded upon a common participation in the divine Logos.

71. For different historical and cultural reasons, that are in particular associated with the evolution of ideas during the late Middle Ages, such view of the world has lost its cultural preeminence. The nature of things is no longer law for modern man and is no longer a reference for ethics. In the metaphysical level, the substitution of the concept of the univocity of being to the concept of the analogy of being and then nominalism has undermined the foundation of the doctrine of creation as a participation in the Logos which provided the reason for a certain unity between man and nature. The nominalist universe of William of Ockham reduces itself to a juxtaposition of individual realities without profundity, because every real universe, that is, all the principles of communion between beings, is denounced as a linguistic illusion. On the anthropological level, the developments of voluntarism and the correlative exaltation of subjectivity, defined as the freedom of indifference in front of every natural inclination, dug a chasm between the human subject and nature. Presently, some think that human freedom is essentially the belief that what man is by nature does not count for anything. Therefore, the subject ought to refuse whatever meaning he did not personally select, and that to decide for oneself is that which defines man. Man, therefore, has more and more understood himself as a "denatured animal," an anti-natural being that, the more he opposes himself to nature, the more he affirms himself. Culture, proper to man, is then defined not as a humanization or transfiguration of nature with spirit, but as a negation, pure and simple, of nature. The principle result of such evolution is the schism of the real into three separate, or rather opposed, spheres: nature, human subjectivity, and God.

72. With the eclipse of metaphysics of being, the only metaphysics capable of founding upon reason the differentiated unity of the spirit and material reality, and with the growth of voluntarism, the realm of the spirit was placed in radical position to the realm of nature. Nature was not considered any longer as an epiphany of the Logos, but rather “the other” of the spirit. It was reduced to the field of bodiliness (corporeity) and strict necessity, a bodiliness (corporeity) without depth, because the world of the body was identified with extension, certainly regulated by intelligible mathematical laws, lacking any teleology or immanent end or finality. Cartesian physics, and then Newtonian physics, spread the image of inert matter that obeys passively the laws of universal determinism which the divine Spirit imposed on it and which human reason can recognize and master perfectly.(70) Only man can infuse a sense and a direction to this amorphous and insignificant mass that he manipulates with technology toward its proper end. Nature ceased to be patroness of life and of wisdom, and became the place in which man affirmed his Promethean powers. This vision seemed to give value to human freedom, but in fact, opposing both freedom and nature, robbed human freedom of any objective norms for its conduct. This led to the idea of a human creation of total arbitrariness, or rather, to nihilism pure and simple.

73. In such a context, where nature does not contain any longer any immanent teological rationality, and seems to have lost all affinity or relations with the world of the spirit, the logical passage from knowledge of the structures of being to moral obligations appears to be effectively impossible, and falls under the criticism of “natural sophism or paralogism (naturalist fallacy)” as denounced by David Hume, and later, George Edward Moore in his Principia Ethica (1903). In fact, the good is divided from being and from truth. Ethics is separated from metaphysics.

74. The evolution of the understanding of the relation of man with nature has also translated itself in the revival of a radical anthropological dualism which opposes the spirit and the body, since the body is in whatever way the “nature” of every one of us.(71) Such a dualism manifests itself in the refusal to recognize any human and ethical significance in the natural inclinations that precede the decisions of individual reason. The body, a reality adjudged extraneous to the subjectivity, becomes a pure "to have," an object manipulated by technology as a function of the interests of the individual subjectivity.(72)

75. Besides, through the emergence of a metaphysical conception in which human acts and divine acts enter into competition, because they are understood in a univocal way, and are placed, wrongly, on the same level, the legitimate affirmation of the autonomy of the human subject implies that God has excluded himself from the sphere of human subjectivity. Every reference to a norm coming from God or from nature as an expression of the wisdom of God, that is, “heteronomy,” is perceived as a threat to the autonomy of the subject. The notion of natural law appears then incompatible with the authentic dignity of the subject.

(69) Cf. also Athanasius of Alexandria, Traité contre les païens, [Against the Pagans] 42 ["Sources chrétiennes", 18, 195]) : "Like a musician who accords the lyre in unison with the the art of sharp notes with flat notes, middle notes with other notes, in order to perform one melody, such is the Wisdom of God, the Word, who tends to the universe as if it were a lyre, uniting beings of the air with those of the earth, and the beings of the sky with those of the air, combining together the parts; leads all things with by its command and with its will; produces so all beauty and harmony, one world and one order of the world.”

(70) The physis of the ancients, taking action upon the existence of a certain non-being (matter), preserved the contingency of earthly reality and resisted the pretensions of human reason to impose upon reality a purely rational deterministic order. So it left open the possibility of a real action of human freedom in the world.

(71) Cf. John Paul II,
Letter to Families to , n. 19: The philosopher who formulated the principle of "Cogito, ergo sum,” "I think, therefore I am," also gave the modern concept of man its distinctive dualistic character. It is typical of rationalism to make a radical contrast in man between spirit and body, between body and spirit. But man is a person in the unity of his body and his spirit. The body can never be reduced to mere matter: it is a spiritualized body, as man's spirit is so closely united to the body that he can be described as an embodied spirit.

(72) The ideology of gender, that denies any anthropological or moral meaning to the natural difference of the sexes, is based upon this dualist perspective. Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Man and of Woman in the Church and in the World, n. 2: “In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. . . . While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women's roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one's biological conditioning. According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.”