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.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Universal Ethic-Perception of Moral Values 4-Precepts of the Natural Law

2.4. The precepts of the natural law

48. We identified in the human person a first inclination that is shared with every being: the inclination to preserve and to develop one’s existence. In the living, there is usually a spontaneous reaction when confronting an imminent threat of death: one flees from it, one defends the integrity of one’s existence, one struggles to survive. Physical life appears naturally like a fundamental, essential, and primordial good: hence the precept of defending one’s own life. Inclinations of all kinds may be listed as part of the inclination to preserve one’s life, all of which contribute, in a manner proper to man, towards the maintenance and the quality of the biological life: integrity of the body, use of external goods to ensure the sustenance and integrity of life, like food, clothing, shelter, work, and quality of the biological environment . . . In addition to these inclinations, the human being proposes to himself ends to realize, ends which contribute to the harmonious and responsible development of his very being, and which, appear to him as moral goods, values to pursue, obligations to meet, and also rights worth valuing. In fact, the duty of preserving one’s own life has as its correlative the right to demand that which is necessary for its preservation in a favorable environment.(52)

49. The second inclination, common to all living beings, pertains to the survival of the species that it is realized in procreation. Generation may be described as an extension of the tendency to preserve one’s being. While the perpetuation of biological existence is impossible for an individual alone, it is possible for the species, and, so, in a certain measure, it surpasses the inherent limit of every physical being. The good of the species appears thus as one of the fundamental aspirations present in persons. The conscience acknowledges this, particularly in our time, when certain prospective events, like global warming, revive our sense of responsibility with regard to the planet as well as the human species in particular. This openness to a certain common good of the species declares already some actual aspirations proper of man. The dynamism towards procreation is intrinsically tied to the natural inclination that leads man towards woman, and woman towards man, a universal fact recognized in all societies. The same may be said to occur in the inclination to concern oneself over the care of one’s children and in educating them. Such inclinations imply that the permanence of the union of a man and woman, as well their reciprocal faithfulness, are already values to pursue, even if these are able to manifest themselves fully only in the spiritual order of interpersonal communion.(53)

50. The third of these inclinations is specific to the human being as a spiritual being, one provided with reason and capable of knowing the truth, of entering into conversation with another and forming ties with others in connections of friendship. Therefore, it is necessary to recognize these as having a special importance. The inclination to live in society derives above all from the fact that a human being has need of others to surpass his own individual and intrinsic limits and to reach maturity in the various areas of his existence. More, to manifest fully his spiritual nature, he needs to form ties with others similar to him in relations of generous friendship to develop an intense cooperation to search for truth. His integral good is thus intimately bound to common life, which organizes itself in political society, by force of a natural inclination and not of simple convention.(54) The relational character of the person expresses itself also through the tendency to live in community with God or the Absolute. This shows itself in the religious sentiment, and in the desire to know God. Certainly, it can be denied by those who refuse to admit the existence of a personal God, but it remains implicitly present in the search for the truth and the sense present in every human being.

51. To these specific tendencies of man there corresponds a requirement adverted to by reason. That requirement is one of realizing concretely this relational life, and constructing life in society on just bases that correspond with natural right. That implies the recognition of the equal dignity of every individual of the human species, regardless of the differences of race and of culture, and the according of great respect for humanity where be it is found, whether in the smallest or the most despised of its members. "Do not do unto others what you would not want done to you.” We recall here that the golden rule, that today is recognized as the same principle as a morality of reciprocity. In the first chapter it was observed how this rule is found in the greater part of wisdom traditions as well as the Gospel. St. Jerome demonstrated the universality of several moral precepts referring to a negative formulation of the golden rule. "The judgment written in the heart of humankind is just: ‘What you do not want done to you, do not do to another.’ Who does not know that murder, adultery, theft, and all kind of cupidity are evil, since we would not want that these things would be done to us? If we did not know that these things are bad, we would not ever complain if they were inflicted upon us."(55) To the golden rule are appended the various commandments of the Decalogue, just as there are many Buddhist precepts, and also many Confucian rules, or even many rights of persons that are contained in most of the provisions of the great Constitutions.

52. At the conclusion of this summary exposition of the moral principles that are derived by reason’s consideration of the fundamental inclinations of the human person, we are presented with an ensemble of precepts and of values that, at least in their general formulation, may be considered universal, since apply themselves to all of humanity. These, besides, possess a character of immutability in the measure in which they are derived from human nature, whose essential components have remained identical throughout the course of history. Nevertheless, on occasion, these are obscured, or even canceled, from the human heart on account of the motive of sin and of cultural and historical conditioning which has the potential of influencing in a negative way the personal moral life: ideology and insidious propaganda, a generalized relativism, structures of sin(56) . . . . It is necessary therefore to be modest and prudent when the “obviousness” of the precepts of the natural law is invoked. But one ought similarly recognize in these precepts the common fount from which one can base a dialogue with the view of a universal ethic. The protagonists of this dialogue, however, should learn not to focus on their particular special interests. They must learn to open themselves to the needs of others and to let themselves be questioned with regard to common moral values. In a pluralist society, in which it is difficult to base understanding on philosophical foundations, this dialogue is absolutely necessary. The doctrine of natural law can render its own contributions to such a dialogue.

(52) Cf. Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, art.

(53) Cf. ibid, art. 16.

(54) Cf. Aristotle, Politics, I, 2 (1253a 2-3); Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 12, § 4.

(55) St. Jerome, Epistle 121, 8 [PL 22, col. 1024].

(56) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 94, ad. 6: " But as to the other, i.e. the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Rm 1:24) were not esteemed sinful. (Quantum vero ad alia praecepta secundaria, potest lex naturalis deleri de cordibus hominum, vel propter malas persuasiones, eo modo quo etiam in speculativis errores contingunt circa conclusiones necessarias; vel etiam propter pravas consuetudines et habitus corruptos; sicut apud quosdam non reputabantur latrocinia peccata, vel etiam vitia contra naturam, ut etiam apostolus dicit, ad Rom. 1,24)".

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