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.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Disfigured Face: Pope Leo XIII to the Rescue

TO RESTORE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY was the aim of Pope Leo XIII, and the Magna Charta of his efforts was the Encyclical Aeterni Patris, presented to the world on August 4, 1879. We have reviewed in the last three blog postings, the errors of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and G. W. F. Hegel. These three (and many others) spouted "false conclusions concerning divine and human things," which were nothing other than "intellectual sins." And since, "if [one's] intellect sins at all his will soon follows," these errors had been institutionalized in modern government and law, promoted by the academe, and swallowed whole, albeit in various levels of understanding, by the masses of men. AP, 2. Even the institution of the family--the domestic society--was among its victims. Among the "intellectual sins" and "false conclusions" was the rejection of ontologically-based ethics, ethics based upon being, upon man as he existed, upon his nature, a nature supplied him by God. The cure for these social and domestic evils, as Leo XIII saw it, was revival of Christian philosophy, and the place to find it in its most distilled, reliable form was in the philosophical work of St. Thomas Aquinas. For it was he who, in the words of Cajetan repeated by Leo XIII in his Encyclical, "in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all" the "ancient doctors of the Church." AP, 17. St. Thomas in persona sua was a summa philosophiae. A return to the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas was what Leo XIII viewed as necessary to bring society into proper order.
For the teachings of Thomas on the true meaning of liberty, which at this time is running into license, on the divine origin of all authority, on laws and their force, on the paternal and just rule of princes, on obedience to the higher powers, on mutual charity one toward another--on all these and kindred subjects--have very great and invincible force to overcome those principles of the new order which are well known to be dangerous to the peaceful order of things and to public safety.
The new world order, the novus ordo seclorum ushered in by Locke, by Kant, by Hegel, and countless others who had separated Faith from Reason, could only be overcome by Thomistic philosophical principles. What this meant in the discipline of moral philosophy is that we had to return to the ontologically-based eudaemonistic ethics of St. Thomas Aquinas, if there was ever to be any hope for the restoration of any peaceful, any sane order. Reason had to be first restored, so that Faith would follow.

Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical had tremendous influence, one that "would be difficult to overestimate." Cortest, 69. But there had been grass-roots efforts, so to speak, at Thomistic revival and in the efforts to apply natural law principles to the social problems that were confronting society. In some ways, the encyclical was confirming something that was already happening. However, the encyclical bore more fruit than most.
In a way difficult to understand in terms of today's indifferent reactions to encyclicals, Aeterni Patris bestowed a decisive impetus upon the budding Thomistic revival.
John F. X. Knasas, Being and Some Twentieth-Century Thomists (Fordham 2003), 2. The Italian Jesuit Luigi Taparelli D'Azeglio (1793-1862), for example, the man perhaps responsible for coining the term "social justice," co-founder of what was to become the influential journal Civiltà Cattolica, inventor of the violicembolo (symphonium), first rector of the restored Roman College, and author of numerous works on political and social philosophy, including the two-volume work on natural law and natural right, Saggio teoretico di diritto naturale appogiato sul fatto (A Theoretical Treatise on Natural Right Based on Fact), had experienced a "conversion" to Thomism, and had made it his life's work from that time to promote this philosophy and to instill it in a number of disciples. As Thomas Behr describes this work in his article on Taparelli:
Taparelli’s major work, the Saggio teoretico di diritto naturale appoggiato sul fatto, that is, the Theoretical Treatise on Natural Right Based on Fact, resulted from his responsibilities at the Collegio Massimo in Palermo where he had been assigned—indeed demoted—and had been given a course in natural law to teach. He could find no textbook that was not filled with misguided and often dangerous doctrines from thinkers such as Burlamaqui, for example, and other popularizers of Pufendorf and Grotius, not to mention those who divulgated the thought of Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau. After spending his first year refuting those works, he felt compelled to put together his own treatise, between 1840 and 1843. Taparelli embarked on his project, braced with the conviction that German idealism and French eclecticism had succeeded in undermining Lockean empiricism and had made possible the rebuilding of metaphysics, and natural law from the ground up.
Behr,* 101. But there were those before and after Taparelli, among whom we can include Canon Vincenzo Buzzetti (1777-1824), a maestro at the Vincentian Collegio Alberoni in Piacenza, "who began his intellectual life as a disciple of John Locke, learned his Thomism and became convinced of its value . . . [coming] to recognize that the modern period had not produced the kind of philosophical guidance for Catholic theologians that would keep Catholic theology from tumbling into eclecticism." Romanus Cessario, O.P., A Short History of Thomism (Catholic University of America, 2005). Canon Buzzetti's pupils, the Jesuits Serafino Sordi (1793-1865) and his brother Domenico, would later become the teachers of, and along with Taparelli, influence the thought of the Pecci brothers, Giuseppe Pecci (1807-1890) and Vincenzo Pecci, the latter better known as Pope Leo XIII. Another that may be named is the German Jesuit Josef Kleutgen (1811-1883), who had a hand in preparing the first draft of Aeterni Patris, and whose role in advancing Thomistic philosophy earned him the name Thomas redivivus, Thomas reborn, and the praise of Pope Leo XIII, who eulogized him with the words, "erat princeps philosophorum," he was a prince of philosophers. Similarly, one can mention the Italian Jesuit Matteo Liberatore (1810-1892), editor of the Civiltà Cattolica beginning in 1850, and author of more than forty published works. The Dominican Tommaso Zigliara (1833-1893), a close friend of Leo XIII, author of numerous works on St. Thomas, and superintendent of the Leonine edition of the works of St. Thomas is another light of the early Thomistic revival.

The influence of St. Thomas on the thought of Leo XIII is clearly seen in his later encyclical, Libertas. Published on June 20, 1888, this encyclical's discussion of human law and its source in both the natural law and eternal law is nothing other than distilled Thomism.
Nothing more foolish can be uttered or conceived than the notion that, because man is free by nature, he is therefore exempt from law. Were this the case, it would follow that to become free we must be deprived of reason; whereas the truth is that we are bound to submit to law precisely because we are free by our very nature. For, law is the guide of man's actions; it turns him toward good by its rewards, and deters him from evil by its punishments.

Foremost in this office comes the natural law, which is written and engraved in the mind of every man; and this is nothing but our reason, commanding us to do right and forbidding sin. Nevertheless, all prescriptions of human reason can have force of law only inasmuch as they are the voice and the interpreters of some higher power on which our reason and liberty necessarily depend. For, since the force of law consists in the imposing of obligations and the granting of rights, authority is the one and only foundation of all law - the power, that is, of fixing duties and defining rights, as also of assigning the necessary sanctions of reward and chastisement to each and all of its commands. But all this, clearly, cannot be found in man, if, as his own supreme legislator, he is to be the rule of his own actions. It follows, therefore, that the law of nature is the same thing as the eternal law, implanted in rational creatures, and inclining them to their right action and end; and can be nothing else but the eternal reason of God, the Creator and Ruler of all the world.
L, 7, 8. Liberalism, nothing other than a false view of liberty, was in Leo XIII's eyes vicious and spiritually deadly because it constituted a treasonable abuse of man's liberty; indeed, it was not liberty at all, but it was the act of a man who was already enslaved in his rebellion.
Hence, these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality, and which, under the guise of liberty, exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God, and substitutes a boundless license.
L, 15. It was the eternal law, that in man is denominated the natural law, that was the ultimate standard of all individual morality and communal life, of civil society, of its political institutions, of its laws:
From this it is manifest that the eternal law of God is the sole standard and rule of human liberty, not only in each individual man, but also in the community and civil society which men constitute when united. Therefore, the true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, for this would simply end in turmoil and confusion, and bring on the overthrow of the State; but rather in this, that through the injunctions of the civil law all may more easily conform to the prescriptions of the eternal law. Likewise, the liberty of those who are in authority does not consist in the power to lay unreasonable and capricious commands upon their subjects, which would equally be criminal and would lead to the ruin of the commonwealth; but the binding force of human laws is in this, that they are to be regarded as applications of the eternal law, and incapable of sanctioning anything which is not contained in the eternal law, as in the principle of all law.
L, 10. Pope Leo XIII's Thomism exercised itself in addressing the social concerns of the day. It was the ultimate foundation of his encyclical Rerum novarum, an encyclical dealing with the issue of capital and labor and the condition of workers, and which ushered in the whole series of Papal encyclicals dealing with social and economic issues. Beginning with Rerum novarum, these papal encyclicals--Quadragesimo anno by Pius XI, Mater et magistra by John XXIII, Octagesima adveniens and Populorum progressio of Paul VI, and John Paul II's Laborem exercens, Sollicitudo rei socialis, and Centesimus annus, and, most recently, Caritas in veritate by Benedict XVI. It is unfortunate that there is no government that has the goal to implement the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, which is nothing other than prudential application of the natural moral law to matters of civil society and economic life.

The legacy of Leo XIII's Aeterni Patris is great, too great to be summarized here. It will have to be a topic, perhaps, for another day. What is important is the commitment it shows to the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, and to the notion of ontological ethics which the unholy trinity of Locke, Kant, and Hegel, in various ways, rejected. An ontological ethic will reject the liberalism of Locke, the perverse autonomy of Kant, and the bizarre deification of the State of Hegel.

In our next posting we will review the conclusions of Cortest in the final chapter of his book The Disfigured Face, one entitled "The Survival of Tradition."

*Thomas C. Behr, "Luigi Taparelli D'Azeglio, S.J. (1793-1862) and the Development of Scholastic Natural-Law Thought as a Science of Society and Politics," Journal of Markets & Morality (Vol. 6, No. 1) (Spring 2003), 99-115.

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