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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Universal Ethic-Perception of Moral Values 5-Application of Common Precepts

2.5. The application of the common precepts: historicity of the natural law

53. It is impossible to remain on the general level which is that of the first principles of the natural law. In fact, moral reflection needs to lower itself and throw its light upon the concrete level of action. But the more it confronts concrete situations, the more its conclusions are characterized by a note of variability and uncertainty. It is not unusual therefore that the concrete application of the precepts of the natural law can take on different shapes in different cultures, or even in different periods within the same culture. It suffices to remember the evolution of moral reflection on matters like slavery, interest on loans, the duel, or capital punishment. At times, such evolution leads to a better understanding of the moral requisites. Also, at times, the evolution of the political or economic situation leads to a new evaluation of particular rules that had been established previously. In fact, morality occupies itself with contingent reality which evolves in time. Although he lived in a Christian time, a theologian of the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas had a very clear perception. “The practical reason,” he wrote in his Summa Theologiae, “is occupied 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. . . . 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. . . . And this principle will be found to fail the more, according as we descend further into detail.”(57)

54. Such perspective renders an account of the historicity of the natural law, whose concrete applications can vary over time. At the same time, it opens a door to the reflection of the moralists, inviting dialogue and discussion. This is all the more necessary because, in moral matters, pure deduction by syllogism is not adequate. The more the moralist confronts concrete situations, so much the more should he run back to the wisdom of experience, an experience which integrates the contributions of other sciences and grows with contact with women and men affected by action. Only this wisdom of experience is able to consider the multiplicity of circumstances, and to arrive at an orientation regarding the way to what is good hic et nunc [here and now]. The moralist (this is the difficulty of his work) should return to the combined resources of theology, of philosophy, as well as human, economic, and biological sciences to recognize adequately the facts of a situation and to identify correctly the concrete requirements of human dignity. At the same time, he must be especially attentive to safeguard the basic facts with the precepts of natural law that remain unaffected by cultural variations.

(57) St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 94, art. 4: "Ratio practica negotiatur circa contingentia, in quibus sunt operationes humanae, et ideo, etsi in communibus sit aliqua necessitas, quanto magis ad propria descenditur, tanto magis invenitur defectus [...]. In operativis autem non est eadem veritas vel rectitudo practica apud omnes quantum al propria, sed solum quantum ad communia, et apud illos apud quod est eadem recititudo in propriis, non est aequaliter omnibus nota. [...]. Et hoc tanto magis invenitur deficere, quanto magis ad particularia descenditur.”

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