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.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Magisterial Invocation of Natural Law: Pius II and Innocent XI

THE NATURAL LAW only slowly wends its way into Magisterial documents, and so express references to this doctrine in official organs of Church teaching "are rare." Fuchs, 4. In an earlier posting we looked at notion of natural law as the "first grace," prima natura, a felicitous concept adopted by the Synod of Arles in the formula that the priest Lucidus was required by to assent to so as to establish his rejection of his heretical Predestinationist views and conformity with the soteriological* doctrine of the Church.

Another such instance for the need to refer to the natural law arose as a result of the errors of one Zanini de Solcia, among which bizarre notions he advanced were notions that there were worlds other than this one where men lived, that Jesus Christ suffered and died not for the redemption because of His love of the human race, but "by the law of the stars," and that Jesus Christ, Moses, and Muhammad "ruled the world by the pleasure of their wills." Zanini de Solcia also suggested that premarital sex was not evil by natural law, or intrinsically evil, but was considered evil only because it was prohibited by positive law or custom.

Bust of Pope Pius II

Pope Pius II condemned some of Zanini of Solcia's more outlandish notions. Relevant to our interests, however, Pope Pius II condemned the proposition that premarital sex was evil only on account of positive ecclesiastical legislation, and, in the absence of such, could not be considered evil. In his letter of November 13, 1459,* Cum sicut accepimus (DS 1367; D 717g),** Pope Pius II condemned the following proposition:
That wantonness outside of matrimony is not a sin, unless by the prohibition of positive laws, and that these have not disposed of the matter well, and are checked by ecclesiastical prohibition only from following the opinion of Epicurus as true.

Extra matrimonium luxuriam non esse peccatum, nisi legum positivarum prohibitione, easque propterea minus bene disposuisse, et sola prohibitione ecclesiastica se fraenari, quominus Epicuri opinionem ut veram sectaretur.
Implicit in this judgment, of course, is that premarital sex is evil as a result of a law other than positive ecclesiastical or even divine positive law, which is a direct reference to the natural moral law. In other words, premarital sex is malum per se, an intrinsic evil, not a malum prohibitum, an evil by virtue of statute.

The Body (with Face Masked) of Blessed Innocent XI at St. Peter's Basilica

In similar circumstances, Blessed Pope Innocent XI (1679), acting through the Holy Office, issued a condemnation of extramarital sexual intercourse and masturbation, both of which he found to be in violation of the natural law, and not prohibited merely because positive ecclesiastical law proscribed them. The following propositions were condemned:
1198 48. Thus it seems clear that fornication by its nature involves no malice, and that it is evil only because it is forbidden, so that the contrary seems entirely in disagreement with reason.

1199 49. Voluptuousness [mollities****] is not prohibited by the law of nature. Therefore, if God had not forbidden it, it would be good, and sometimes obligatory under pain of mortal sin.

2148 1198 48. Tam clarum videtur, fornicationem secundum se nullam involvere malitiam, et solum esse malam, quia interdicta, ut contrarium omnino rationi dissonum videatur.

2149 1199 49. Mollities iure naturae prohibita non est. Unde, si Deus eam non interdixisset, saepe esset bona et aliquando obligatoria sub mortali.
It seems, therefore, that historically the natural law was invoked expressly by the Church in addressing sexual sins. Since some of these, such as masturbation, homosexuality, and artificial contraception, are both against reason and against nature, they would seem to violate the natural moral law (which regards both nature, defined more broadly than--as often wrongly suggested--biologism, and reason as normative).

It would seem that the increasing acceptance of sexual sins, particularly those against nature, would result in a blindness to the natural law and its veracity. In confronting one's evil behavior, whether on an individual basis or on a social basis, an individual or society can: (i) either repent, confess, and resolve not do commit the sin, or (ii) use the blinders of psychological defense mechanisms (which are nothing less than pitiful efforts self-justifications or self-salvation) which lead to an individual or social neurosis or psychosis. In this regard, the defense mechanisms of denial, displacement, rationalization, projection, dissociation, and delusion seem to be particularly well-suited in modern man's efforts to avoid its rejection the guidance of both nature and reason in the area of sexual behavior. Our society has refused the first option, and has opted to travel down the second road guided by liberal-relativistic thought in the area of sexual mores, and yet it wonders at all of the intractable social problems, including those relating to family life (divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse), teenage pregnancies, sexual violence, and sexually-transmitted disease.
*Soteriology (a word which comes from the Greek σωτηρία, sōtēria meaning "salvation," which is derived from σωτήρ, sōtēr, a word meaning "savior, preserver" and λόγος, logos, which means "study" or "word") is the study of religious doctrines of salvation. The popular symbol for Christianity, the fish, is, in Greek Ichthys (more commonly spelled Ichthus) ἰχθύς (in capital letters: ΙΧΘΥΣ). ΙΧΘΥΣ is an acrostic formed from the first Greek letters (Iota, Chi, Theta, Upsilon, and Sigma) of the five Greek words: Jesus (ησοῦς ), Christ (Χριστός), God's (Θεοῦ), Son (Υἱός), Savior(Σωτήρ).
**In his
Natural Law, Josef Fuchs, both in the original German and English translation, mistakenly has the date as 1359. It should be 1459. Pope Pius II was Pope between 1405 and 1464.
***This papal teaching was referenced by the Holy See as recently as 1975, when the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith issued its Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (
Persona humana), VII, n. 17, stating that "sexual union therefore is only legitimate if a definitive community of life [marriage] has been established between the man and the woman. This is what the Church has always understood and taught."
****Mollietes is a Latin word which literally means softness, effeminacy. However, it is also used to refer to the sin of self-abuse or masturbation, and it is in this sense that Innocent XI was employing it. Accordingly, it should properly not be defined by "voluptuousness," but by "masturbation" or "self-abuse." As an example of the employment of "mollietes" in this manner, we might turn to St. Thomas Aquinas, who distinguishes between the various sexual sins with regard to whether they preclude procreation, the proper end of sexual acts, or do not. Those that preclude procreation by their nature are considered sins against nature (peccata contra naturam) in addition to being against reason, and they are more grievous than the sins that do not preclude reproduction, but which also are grievous, such as fornication or adultery, since the latter accord with nature (peccata secundum naturam) at least according to the fact that they are not preclusive of reproduction and so are violative of reason alone. He distinguishes four unnatural vices, which are, in an ascending order of culpability: 1. masturbation (mollieties); 2. heterosexual relations where the reproductive organs are improperly employed; 3. the sodomitical vice (vitium sodomiticum), committed with someone of the same sex; and 4. bestiality, committed with a member of a different species. Within this category of violations of nature, sodomy signifies carnal relations between men or between women, though St. Thomas puts greater emphasis on the former, which he refers to as coitus masculorum, anal intercourse between men. For example, we might cite to the following:
I answer that, as stated above wherever there occurs a special kind of deformity whereby the venereal act is rendered unbecoming, there is a determinate species of lust [luxuriae]. This may occur in two ways: First, through being contrary to right reason [repugnat rationi rectae], and this is common to all lustful vices; secondly, because, in addition, it is contrary to the natural order [contra naturam] of the venereal act as becoming to the human race: and this is called "the unnatural vice" [vitium contra naturam]. This may happen in several ways. First, by procuring pollution, without any copulation, for the sake of venereal pleasure: this pertains to the sin of "uncleanness" [immunditiae] which some call "effeminacy" [mollitiem] Secondly, by copulation with a thing of undue species, and this is called "bestiality." Thirdly, by copulation with an undue sex, male with male, or female with female, as the Apostle states (Romans 1:27): and this is called the "vice of sodomy." Fourthly, by not observing the natural manner of copulation, either as to undue means, or as to other monstrous and bestial manners of copulation.

Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut supra dictum est, ibi est determinata luxuriae species ubi specialis ratio deformitatis occurrit quae facit indecentem actum venereum. Quod quidem potest esse dupliciter. Uno quidem modo, quia repugnat rationi rectae, quod est commune in omni vitio luxuriae. Alio modo, quia etiam, super hoc, repugnat ipsi ordini naturali venerei actus qui convenit humanae speciei, quod dicitur vitium contra naturam. Quod quidem potest pluribus modis contingere. Uno quidem modo, si absque omni concubitu, causa delectationis venereae, pollutio procuretur, quod pertinet ad peccatum immunditiae, quam quidam mollitiem vocant. Alio modo, si fiat per concubitum ad rem non eiusdem speciei, quod vocatur bestialitas. Tertio modo, si fiat per concubitum ad non debitum sexum, puta masculi ad masculum vel feminae ad feminam, ut apostolus dicit, ad Rom. I, quod dicitur sodomiticum vitium. Quarto, si non servetur naturalis modus concumbendi, aut quantum ad instrumentum non debitum; aut quantum ad alios monstruosos et bestiales concumbendi modos.

Summa Theologiae, IIª-IIae, q. 154, a. 11 co.

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