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.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Universal Ethic-Perception of Moral Values 2-Society and Experience

2.1. The role of society and of culture

38. The human person only progressively attains the moral sense and becomes capable of giving himself those precepts which ought to guide his acts. The person arrives through the measure in which, after birth, he is inserted into a net of human relationships, beginning with the family, which allows him little by little, to take stock of his own conscience and of the circumstances that surround him. This happens in particular with the learning of language—one’s mother tongue—which teaches him to name things and provides him the means of becoming aware that he is a subject aware of himself. Given guidance by the persons that surround him, impressed by the culture in which he is immersed, the person recognizes certain modes of behavior, both those of thinking and those relating to values that he ought to follow, laws to observe, examples to imitate, ways of viewing the world he ought to accept. The social and cultural context exercises, therefore, a decisive role in the education of moral values. Nevertheless, one must not oppose such conditioning to human freedom. Rather, this conditioning makes freedom possible, because through it the person is able to attain the moral experience which eventually will allow him to review some of these “evidences” which he has interiorized during the course of his moral apprenticeship. On the other hand, in the context of the present globalization, society and culture must unavoidably practice a dialogue and a sincere exchange based on on the joint responsibility of all to the common well-being of the whole earth. They should leave aside their special interest so as to enter the moral values that all are called to share in.

2.2. The moral experience: "It is necessary to do good"

39. Every human being who listens to his conscience and accepts responsibility will experience an interior calling which calls him to do good. He discovers his fundamental being is a moral being, capable of perceiving and expressing the call that, as we have seen, is found within all cultures: “It is necessary to do good, and to avoid evil.” Upon such a precept is founded all other precepts of the natural law.(45) This first precept is known naturally, immediately, with one’s practical reason, just like the principle of non-contradiction (the intelligence is unable, at the same time and under the same aspect, to both affirm and to deny something of a subject), that is at the base of all speculative reasoning, and which is grasped intuitively, naturally, with one’s theoretical reason, when the subject comprises the sense of the the term that is used. Traditionally, such knowledge of the first principle of the moral life is attributed to an innate intellectual disposition that is called synderesis.(46)

40. It is at this point that we are placed immediately in the field of morality. The good that thus prevails itself upon the person is, in fact, the moral good, that is to say, a manner of acting that, surpassing the categories of the useful, goes toward the sense of an authentic realization of his very being, together one and diversified, that is the human person. Human activity cannot be reduced to a simple question of adaptation to the "ecosystem”: to be human means to exist and place oneself inside a larger framework which includes purpose, value, and responsibility. By seeking the moral good, the person contributes to the realization of his nature, one that is on a different side from the impulses of instinct, or the search for a particular pleasure. This good bears witness to itself, and is intrinsic to itself.(47)

41. The moral good corresponds to the deep desire of the human person that—like all being—tends spontaneously, naturally, towards that in which it is realized in fullness, towards that which agrees with reaching the perfection which is proper to it: happiness. Unfortunately, the subject always can let himself be dragged by particular desires, or choose goods, or do acts which go against the moral good that he recognizes. He can refuse to overcome himself. That is the price of a limited freedom that is itself weakened by sin, a freedom that encounters only particular goods, none of which can fully satisfy the heart of the human being. It is up to the subject’s reason to examine if these particular goods are able to be integrated into an authentic realization of the person. In such a case, they will be determined to be morally good; in the contrary case, they will considered morally bad.

42. This last assertion is a cardinal one. It establishes the possibility of a dialogue between persons across cultural or religious horizons. It values the eminent dignity of every human person that underlies their natural disposition of knowing the moral good that they ought to do. Like every creature, the human person is defined by a bundle of dynamisms and ends that exist prior to the free choices of the will. In a manner different from those that are not equipped with reason, the human person is interiorly capable of knowing and acting upon such finality and, in accordance with it, evaluating as a function of it, what is good and what is evil. Thus it is that he recognizes the eternal law, that is to say, the plan of God with respect to creation, and participates in the providence of God in an especially excellent manner, guiding himself and others.(48) This insistence regarding the dignity of the moral subject and his relative autonomy is based upon the recognition of the autonomy of created reality and reaches a fundamental fact of the contemporary culture.(49)

43. The moral obligation that the subject recognizes does not come therefore from a law that would be exterior (pure heteronomy), but it is affirmed as deriving out of his very self. In fact, as the maxim which we have cited—"is necessary to do good and to avoid evil"—, the moral good determined through reason “is imposed” upon the subject. This “ought” to be done. It covers a kind of obligation and a kind of law. But the term "law" here does not relate back to scientific laws, which are limited to describing the constants of the physical or social world. Nor does it refer to an imperative imposed arbitrarily from the outside upon the moral subject. The term law designates here an orientation of practical reason which indicates to the moral subject what type of act conforms to his innate dynamism, which is necessary as a result of his being, and which tends toward its full realization. This law is normative by virtue of an internal spiritual exigence. It is born from the same heart of the same being as it were an invitation to self-realization and self-overcoming. Therefore, it is not about the need of submitting oneself to another’s law, but about welcoming the law of his very being.

(45) St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 94, a. 2: "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 (Hoc est primum praeceptum legis, quod bonum est faciendum et prosequendum, et malum vitandum. Et super hoc fundantur omnia alia praecepta legis naturae, ut scilicet omnia illa facienda vel vitanda pertineant ad praecepta legis naturae, quae ratio practica naturaliter apprehendit esse bona humana)."

(46) Cf. ivi, Ia, q. 79, a. 12; Catechism of the Catholic Church

(47) Cf. R. R. Guardini, Liberté, grâce et destinée (tr. J. Ancelet-Hustache, Paris, 1969, 46-47): “To complete good signifies to complete that which results in a fecund and rich existence. So it is that the good is that which preserves life and leads it to its fullness, but but only when is accomplished by it."

(48) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 91, a. 2: "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. (Inter cetera autem rationalis creature excellentiori quodam manner divinae providentiae subiacet, inquantum et ipsa fit providentiae particeps, sibi ipsi et aliis providens. Unde et in ipsa participatur ratio aeterna, for quam habet naturalem inclinationem to debitum actum et finem. Et talis participatio legis aeternae in rationali creature lex naturalis dicitur)." This text is cited by John Paul II in his Encyclical
Veritatis splendor, n. 43. Cf. also Vatican II, Declaration Dignitatis humanae, n. 3: "[T]he highest norm of human life is the divine law-eternal, objective and universal-whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever more fully the truth that is unchanging.”

(49) Vatican II, pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 36.

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