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, January 29, 2011

Freedom and Law: Pope Leo XIII's Libertas praestantissimum, Part 2

CONTINUING WITH OUR REVIEW OF LEO XIII'S encyclical Libertas praestantissimum, we recall briefly our last post which ended with the thought that our natural human liberty has a defect because our reason may adjudge as good and the will may seek as good things that are not good, but are merely evils masquerading as good, seeming goods. Our natural liberty must be therefore be enlightened and strengthened by law so as to provide guidance to our reason about what is a real good. "[T]here must be law, that is, a fixed rule of teaching what is to be done and what is to be left undone." LP, 7. Since, as we have seen, judgment precedes choice, and reason is what guides judgment, "reason prescribes to the will what it should seek after or shun, in order to the eventual attainment of man's last end, for the sake of which his actions ought to be performed." LP, 7. "This ordination of reason is called law." Iamvero haec ordinatio rationis lex nominatur. Law is, then, this ordinatio rationis, the ordinance of reason, which guides reasoned judgment and determines the good which is to be sought. It follows that law is essential for the right ordering of reason, the right formulation of judgment, and hence for the right direction of the will.
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.

Nihilque tam perversum praeposterumque dici cogitarive posset quam illud, hominem, quia natura liber est, idcirco esse oportere legis expertem: quod si ita esset, hoc profecto consequeretur, necesse ad liber tatem esse non cohaerere cum ratione: cum contra longe verissimum sit, idcirco legi oportere subesse, quia est natura liber. Isto modo dux homini in agendo lex est, eumdemque praemiis poenisque propositis ad recte faciendum allicit, a peccando deterret.
LP, 7.

For man, the supreme law is the natural law:
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.

Talis est princeps omnium lex naturalis, quae scripta est et insculpta in hominum animis singulorum, quia ipsa est humana ratio recte facere iubens et peccare vetans.
LP, 8. Law, however, implies authority, as "authority is the one and only foundation of all law," tota [lex] in auctoritate nititur: all law rests upon authority. Law must be promulgated. Law requires sanction for its breach. Law therefore requires a "voice," a vox, an authoritative voice, a vox auctoritatis. LP, 8. Where is the vox auctoritatis legis naturalis to be found?

We know where it is not to be found. It is not to be found in man. When it comes to the natural law, man is not autonomous. Man does not make his own fundamental law. He is not the rule of his own actions. If he were, then he would not be bound by his own law. Selflaw is not law. As the jurist Ulpian noted long ago, a prince is not bound by his laws: princeps legibus solutus est. If man were the source of his own standards, his own prince, then he would be governed by whim: for what pleases the prince has the force of law, quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem. But man is not the prince of the natural law. There must be an authority, a voice outside of man to account for the binding nature of the natural law. If it were not binding, if it were self-prescribed, it would not be law. All, therefore, points to God as the vox auctoritatis the vox legis naturalis. The princeps is not man, but is the summus princeps, the summus rex, the summus Deus, God who is the Eternal Reason and Eternal Law.
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.

Ergo consequitur, ut naturae lex sit ipsa lex aeterna, insita in iis qui ratione utuntur, eosque inclinans ad debitum actum et finem, eaque est ipsa aeterna ratio creatoris universumque mundum gubernantis Dei.
LP, 8. The natural law, which is nothing but the eternal law writ in a voice man can understand, is therefore the fundamental rule, the ratio ordinis, which man should follow in forming his reasoned judgments which direct his will to the seeking of good. The natural law, however, is not the only aid given man. "To this rule of action and restraint of evil," agendi regulam peccandique frenos, which the natural law is, "God has vouchsafed to give special and most suitable aids for strengthening and ordering the human will." "The first and most excellent of these is the power of His divine grace whereby the mind can be enlightened and the will wholesomely invigorated and moved to the constant pursuit of the good." LP, 8.

Pope John Paul II in Camden Park, Baltimore, Maryland

Here, the natural law and grace work hand-in-glove, "for grace works inwardly in man and in harmony with his natural inclinations." The author of grace is the author of the natural law. The Redeemer is the Creator. "As the Angelic Doctor [Thomas Aquinas] points out, it is because divine grace comes from the Author of nature that it is so admirably adapted to be the safeguard of all natures, and to maintain the character, efficiency, and operations of each." LP, 8.

What a marvel! That God who makes law is God who gives grace! What human legislator is so solicitous that he both gives the law and the means to fulfill it?

Every single man and woman is therefore bound by the natural law. The natural law is the voice of the eternal law in us, a voice which guides each of our individual actions, a voice which guides our natural or human liberty, which orders it to the good, and which leads us from mere natural or human freedom to moral liberty, which is liberty pure and simple.

We might briefly turn from the Pope to the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard's Almanack:
Would you live with ease, do what you ought, and not what you please.*
If "ease" is defined as freedom, then Ol' Ben is on point.

What is true for the individual liberty or freedom is true for a people, true for a civil society. In his Homily at Oriole's Park at the Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland on October 8, 1995, John Paul II had the following to say to America:
Surely it is important for America that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation. Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.**
So it is from the individual to society to which Pope Leo XIII next turns in his encyclical Libertas praestantissimum.

*Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack: Selections from the Apothegms and Proverbs (USC Publishing, 1914), No. 658
**Pope John Paul II, Homily at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, Sunday, October 8, 1995, 7. Available at

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