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, June 29, 2009

Universal Ethic-Introduction 1

As related in an earlier post, the International Theological Commission recently published its report, Searching for a Universal Ethic: A New Look at the Natural Law. The report may be found in French and Italian on the Holy See's web cite. Unfortunately, as far as I know, no plans exist to translate it into English. From time to time, I thought I would post translations of the Italian text into English. Be forewarned that the translation is not official, and my Italian translation skills are far from perfect.

International Theological Commission




Chapter 1: Convergences

1.1 The wisdom of the religions of the world
1.2 The Graeco-Roman sources of the natural law
1.3 The teaching of Sacred Scripture
1.4 The development of the Christian tradition
1.5 Further evolution
1.6 The teaching of the Church and the natural law

Chapter 2: The Perception of Moral Values

2.1 The role of society and of culture
2.2 The moral experience: "It is necessary to do good."
2.3 The discovery of the precepts of the natural law: universality of the natural law
2.4 The precepts of the natural law
2.5 The application of the common precepts: history of the natural law
2.6 The moral dispositions of the person and his concrete acts

Chapter 3: The Foundation of the Natural Law

3.1 From experience to theory
3.2 Nature, person, and freedom
3.3 Nature, man, and God: from harmony to conflict
3.4 Ways toward a reconciliation

Chapter 4: The Natural Law and the State

4.1 The person and the common good
4.2 The natural law, measure of the political order
4.3 From natural law to natural right
4.4 Natural right and positive right
4.5 The political order and the eschatological order
4.6 The political order is a temporal and rational order

Chapter 5: Jesus Christ, the Completion of the Natural Law

5.1 The "Logos" Incarnate, The Living Law
5.2 The Holy Spirit and the New Law of Freedom



1. Do moral objective values exist which unite mankind and offer it peace and happiness? What are they? How do we recognize them? How are they realized in the life of persons and in their life in common? These ever-present questions about right and wrong are more urgent than ever today in light of the fact that man has become more aware that he is part of a global community. Today, the great problems confronting human beings have international and global dimensions that arise from the development of the technologies of communication which allow for an increasing interaction between the persons, societies, and cultures. A local event can have a global repercussion almost immediately. For that reason, there has emerged an awareness of a global solidarity that finds its basic foundation in the unity of the mankind. This awareness translates itself to a sense of global responsibility. So the problems of the ecological balance, of the protection of the environment, of resources, and of climate present urgent concerns that raise questions that impact all of humanity, and whose solutions reach across national interests. Additionally, the threats presented by terrorism, organized crime, and other new forms of violence and of oppression weigh heavily on society and bring with them a global dimension. The rapid development of biotechnology, that at times threaten the very identity of the human being (e.g., genetic manipulation, cloning), urgently demands an ethical and political reflection of universal breadth. It is in such contexts that the search for common ethical values is actually being raised.

2. In their wisdom, through their generosity and sometimes by their heroism, men and women are living witnesses of such common ethical values. The deep admiration these persons engender in us is a first spontaneous sign of the existence of moral values. The reflection of academics and of scientists on the cultural, political, economical, moral, and religious dimensions of our social existence nourishes such belief in the common good of humanity. There are also artists that, in their presentation of beauty, react against the loss of this sense and renew the hope of human beings. Additionally, politicians work with both energy and creativity to carry out programs to eradicate poverty and to protect fundamental freedoms. In addition to these, one must add the very important and constant testimony of the representatives of religious and spiritual traditions which seek to live in the light of the ultimate truth and of the absolute good. All these contribute, each in its manner and in a reciprocal exchange, to promote peace, a more just political order, the sense of common responsibility, a fair distribution of wealth, respect for the environment, and the dignity of the human person and his or her fundamental rights. Nevertheless, these forces can only be successful as long their good intentions are based on a valid fundamental understanding regarding the goods and values that represent the deeper aspirations of the human being, both individual and public. Only the recognition and the promotion of these ethical values can contribute to the construction of a more human world.

3. The search for this common ethical language is a task for all men and women. For Christians, this task accords mysteriously with the work of the Word of God, "the true light, that illuminates every man" (John 1:9), and with the work of the Holy Spirit which causes to be born in human hearts "love, delight, calm, magnanimity, benevolence, goodness, faithfulness, mildness, self-dominion" (Gal 5:22-23). The Christian community, which shares "the joy and hope, the sorrow and anguish of the contemporary man" and "so feels itself really and intimately in solidarity with all mankind and with its history,"(1) is not able to support such common responsibility alone. Enlightened by the Gospel, pledged to engage in patient and respectful dialogue with all men of good will, Christians participate in the common search and promotion of human values: "What it is true, noble, just, pure, lovable, honored, what is virtuous, and what deserves praise, this should be the object of your thoughts." (Phil 4:8). They know that Jesus Christ, "our peace" (Eph. 2:14), who reconciled all men to God by means of the cross, is the deepest principal of unity toward which mankind is called to converge.

4. The search for a common ethical language is inseparable from an experience of conversion, wherein persons and communities must remove themselves from the forces that want to imprison human beings in indifference or push to raise walls between them or against the foreigner. The hard heart—cold, inert, and indifferent to one's neighbor and to mankind—must transform itself, under the action of the Spirit, to a heart of flesh,(2) sensitive to the call of wisdom, to empathy, to a desire for peace and hope for all. This conversion is the condition of a true dialogue.

5. There are no lack of contemporary efforts to define a universal ethic. After the end of World War II, the community of the nations, witnessing the results of the closely-bound relationship between totalitarianism and pure legal positivism, declared in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man (1948) some inalienable rights of the human person that transcend the positive laws of the States and should serve as their reference and norm. Such rights are not simply legislative grants conceded by the law-making authority: these rights, that is to say their objective existence, were declared to exist prior to any legislative authority, and were therefore manifest. They are derived in fact precisely from the "recognition of the inherent dignity of every member of the human family." (Preamble).

The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man constitutes one of the more happy successes in modern history. It "remains one of the highest expressions of the human conscience",(3) and offers a solid base for the promotion of a more just world. Nevertheless, the results have not always reached hopes’ height. Some countries have disputed the universality of such rights, have judged them too Western, and these push for a more inclusive formulation. Others nations have exhibited a certain inclination to multiply the rights of the man, more as a function of the disorderly desires of the individual consumer or claims of a certain group, and not the objective requirements of the common good of humanity, and have therefore served to devalue them. Separated from the moral sense of values that transcend special interests, the multiplication of procedural and substantive juridical regulations leads only to a hollowing out of those rights, and in effect only serves the interest of the stronger. Above all, it reflects itself in a tendency to reinterpret the rights of the man by separating them from dimension of ethics and of reason, which constitutes both their foundation and their end, and so results in the benefit of a pure legal utilitarianism.(4)

(1) Vatican II, Pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, intro. n. 1
(2) Cf. Ezechiel 36:26
(3) John Paul II, Speech of October 5, 1995, to the General Meeting of the United Nations on the Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of its Foundation, in Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XVIII/2, 1995, Città del Vaticano, 1998, 732.
(4) Cf. Benedict XVI, Speech of April 18, 2008, Before the General Meeting of the United Nations, AAS 100 (2008) 335: "The merit of the Universal Declaration is that it has enabled different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and hence of rights. Today, though, efforts need to be redoubled in the face of pressure to reinterpret the foundations of the Declaration and to compromise its inner unity so as to facilitate a move away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests. . . . Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or normative decisions taken by the various agencies of those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal. The Universal Declaration, rather, has reinforced the conviction that respect for human rights is principally rooted in unchanging justice, on which the binding force of international proclamations is also based. This aspect is often overlooked when the attempt is made to deprive rights of their true function in the name of a narrowly utilitarian perspective."

1 comment:

  1. "4. The search for a common ethical language is inseparable from an experience of conversion...This conversion is the condition of a true dialogue."

    My advice to our Bishops, if there is a way it can be heard in Conference, is that the "ought to's" here are missing the "how".

    Even our Lord reveals, prayer without substantive action is insufficient. The Lord helps those who help themselves, but on condition they do it His way. There are certain Precepts which must be followed if we are to help renew ourselves.

    Conversion is supported strongly by appeals to the mind, but even more strongly by appeals to the heart. Most people don't read. They hear. So things that appeal to the ear are ontologically how the most people will respond. That is intrinsically how we are made, an innate trait (sorry John Locke).

    This Ontological dimension goes up to the level of Natural Law. Hence, we must conform our man-made (Canon and customary) laws to closer harmony with God's Law on how our ears and minds were designed. We do in fact, flee from sounds which offend our ear, from "degrees, untuned" leading to Chaos (reference to the Violence unleashed in Shakespeare's 'Troilus and Cressida', when Pandarus sows envy and discord.)

    That is why Divine Revelation specifically asserts that the very highest standards in Liturgy Music, for instance, is directly related to Conversion and Attendance. The Teleological fact, as to why this was specifically spelled out for us, is to orient us towards an end: to build up God's Church, using all that we know about the ear's phenomenally sensitive response. Sadly, this is the area apparently neglected since some mysterious period well after Christ.

    Persecuting authentic Beauty in higher Liturgy Music and Devotional Arts is one of the great historic scandals still extant in our Church.

    God Himself reveals in Nehemiah 12, 13, Ezra, Parable of the Talents and others obligating us to Tithe specifically for the highest standards in devotional music and arts, since those artists are in a real Ontological sense, closest to mirroring the Creator in aspects of doing the "act" of creation (Christ himself, and Joseph, were carpenters).

    Today, we only buy mass produced "crafts" and music, not hand-made or highly crafted. So out of that blandness, we ourselves become bland, shallow. Others observing our shallowness, see no reason to convert. Why should anyone come to a church where the volunteer-led choirs are singing like a disordered tune-less throng? Where is the discipline?

    Hidden are the behind-the-scenes injustices committed against the true Artists, who are envied, slandered, mal-treated, driven away, left to fend for themselves, their Talents unemployed. Where's the Beauty? Where's the heart? Where's the love? Does this really "save money"?

    The reality is, aesthetic Beauty in sounds is revealed as a primary condition of conversion, prerequisite to true dialogue, with each other, and with God. Those highly gifted in it must be re-employed, via your tithes and parish committees elevating it high on their agenda.

    Let us pray for an atonement, to restore the Law of Nehemiah, who together with Parable of the Talents, defends the love of heavenly Beauty in Liturgical and Devotional arts.