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, March 7, 2011

Avoiding Secularist Minimalism: Jacques Maritain, Part 2

IT IS A MISTAKE in Steven A. Long's view for one committed to the natural law to advocate in the manner of Jacques Maritain a merely practical agreement based upon human rights in the political realm. It may, Long concedes, be a "quasi-starting point provided by providence," but it can hardly be an adequate foundation for civil society, political discussion, and law as a whole. Contrary to modern human rights theory which is unintelligible to itself, the natural law in its totality can provide the foundation requisite to provide an intelligible and reasonable moral and political discourse. The notion of natural law is accessible to Christians of confessions other than Catholic, non-Christians, even, in a significant though incomplete way, to non-theists. But it remains to be said that the natural law of necessity must have a metaphysical basis, a theoretical or speculative basis, and one which, at end, includes the notion of the God of philosophy, "God as First Cause, Final End and extrinsic Common Good of the universe of finite beings." Long, 260 n. 4. Since the natural law is, by definition participation in the eternal law, to remove the reference of the eternal law spells the eventual death knell to the natural law. One cannot lop the head off the theory and expect the body to survive.

The real starting point for any discussion must be God as he is known in nature. God, as First Cause, Final End, and Provident Creator of our human nature. These are truths that are known by reason, they are naturally-known verities, graspable by reason unaided by faith.*

[I]t is the natural philosophy and metaphysics of theism--or at least the judgments upon which these are based--that play the role that Maritain erroneously gave to purely practical cooperation over lists of unordered rights. Such natural philosophy and metaphysics, condition the exercise of practical reason and essential to St. Thomas's doctrine of natural law, provide a basis for common understanding and cooperation. By contrast atheism and agnosticism, which are simple and demonstrable errors, by their nature provide nothing to the common good.

Long, 151. Common life, then, is predicated upon the praeambula fidei, the preambles of faith. In law, those preambles are the natural law. Without it, common life is a mockery. The secularist, who wishes to ostracize God from the chambers of the legislature, the courts of justice, and the public schools, has an odium theologicum or perhaps an odium antitheologicum against the believer. This explains the fervor with which public displays of faith, even the most innocent, are rabidly excised with the force and power of law.
[T]he secularist wishes that religious believers did not exist, and wishes to order public life as though they did not--sometimes by achieving such nonexistence as an effect of policy. The secularist will not be polluted by any mere practical tolerance or effort to reach de facto peaceful accord with his religious neighbors.
Long, 153. The secularist, we should not forget, is a mini-Nero, ready at once, should he have the power, to consign us to the lions or to the flames. He is always pollice verso, with a thumb turned down. At the extreme, we see the believer in a state of servitude or the victim of injustice or even genocide. Normally, however, we see a softer but equally virulent strain, one which has the goal of excluding, by rule, custom, or ridicule, any expression of Christian value. If it were up to the secularist, Christ would no longer be welcome in the Halls of Congress, and he is very close to having accomplished his goal.

Long concludes his analysis of the Maritanian program with the following:
  • Purely practical agreement based upon some list of human rights is an unworkable proposition since rights alone, which are derivative concepts, do not provide for any ordering or definitional schema. These schema must come from whence human rights derive, which is the natural law. It is the natural law, therefore, and not human rights detached from the natural law that is the common language of believers and unbelievers alike in civil society, politics, and law. It allows a point of "analogical reference and convergence" between them.
  • This requires an acceptance of the "speculative foundation, principles, and content of the natural law," which, naturally, spill over into moral and political life and ultimately into law. These are accessible and intelligible to unassisted natural reason. There must be a civil recovery of the natural law, in particular the recovery of those speculative truths upon which it is founded, namely "the praeambula fidei regarding the existence and nature of God as First Cause and Provident Creator," and also "moral teachings rooted in natural teleology." These are philosophical truths, not truths of the Faith or of any confession.
  • To accommodate for man as he is in the concrete, there must be some advertence to, if not outright acceptance of, the revealed realities of original and actual sin and man's calling to a life of grace and the beatific vision of God.
This sort of program avoids the secularist minimalism which is an unfortunate by-product of the Maritainian modus vivendi. Natural law, and the natura pura upon which it is based, is not a recipe for secularism, but an antidote to it.

For from secularism, the ontological density of nature and its proximate teleology is essential to the overcoming of secularism; essential to the very capacity of the Christian to engage with, and in, the world, and to articulate the intelligibility of revelation to a world in which revelation is often taken to be the fruit of irrational arbitrium decisively alienating man from his own nature.

Long, 155.

How is this to be done? How do we bell the cat? It requires a philosophical conversion, an "epistemological re-turn," one that will require "setting aside the antirealist premises of modernity and postmodernity."

The foundations of Christendom have been destroyed. Now the preambles to that foundation are in shambles. More than the Church has been razed. The very earthen foundations have been disemboweled. What is left is something akin to a bomb crater. The preambles must be filled in with a realist philosophy, a metaphysics that is open to realities beyond the material, namely one that is open to God as First Cause, as Last End, and as Provident Creator of the universe in which we have our home, a universe which includes us, beings with a particular, specific nature, whose end is this First Cause, Last End, and Provident Creator, et hoc dicimus Deum.
*Indeed such a view is de fide: "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason." Vatican Council I, Dei Filius No. 2: DS 3004; cf. 3026; Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum No. 6. See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 36.

No comments:

Post a Comment