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.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Natural Law as First Grace, Gratia Prima

RELATIVE TO THE CHURCH'S RELIANCE on the natural law modernly, it would appear true, that "the early Church rarely referred to the natural law," and certainly in any institutional magisterial sense, the early Church appears to have presupposed the natural law rather than having it be part and parcel of its evangelical message. Fuchs, 3.* There is, of course, beyond the Pauline reference to the natural law in his Epistle to the Romans, ample evidence within the writings of the Church Fathers that display an incorporation, with proper adjustments, of the philosophical doctrine of the natural law, particularly as it had been developed by the Stoics. There is no evidence of which I am aware that would suggest that some Churchmen were critical of this effort by the Church Fathers which saw the Stoic philosophical doctrine as compatible with, and explanatory of, the revealed truth that all men shared one law, and that this law could be found, in ready if somewhat obscure form, in the heart of every human person. It was one of those teachings that everyone seems to have accepted.

Modernly, however, the Church's reliance on the natural law is apparent. There has been a real development in the Church's notion of natural law relative to the earlier ages. Part of the reason is historical. The teaching of the Church adapts itself to address issues of the day, and the increasing rejection of the philosophy natural law as a result of the rise of legal positivism, theories of moral autonomy, and moral relativism, has required increased emphasis by the Church of the reality of the natural law.

Church of St. Trophime, former Cathedral of Arles

One of the first ecclesiastical documents that references the natural law comes out of the Synod of Arles (ca. 475 A.D.), held in Gaul (modern France). The natural law arises obiter dicta, as the Synod was not concerned with a heresy that rejected the natural law, but with the heresy of Predestinarianism, a heresy then-espoused and propagated by some, including a Gallican priest whose name was Lucidus or Lucius. "Unfortunately," says Hefele,* "we know very little of him . . . and this little only from Faustus [Bishop] of Riez, who himself was not orthodox on the doctrine of grace, and in opposition to Lucidus, was entangled in Semipelagian error." Hefele, 20.**

It appears that this certain Faustus, Bishop of Riez, opposed himself to the priest Lucidus's teachings, and threatened to raise the issue of Lucidus's Predestinarianistic teachings with the Synod of Arles, a synod convoked by the Metropolitan of Arles, Leontius, and which was attended by thirty bishops. The Synod was considering a condemnation of those same Predestinarian teachings. Faustus hoped that Lucidus would voluntarily repudiate his teachings so as to avoid what appeared to be his certain condemnation by the Synod.

The Predestinarians promoted a view of predestination that misconstrued Augustine's writings on the subject. Essentially, the Predestinarians overemphasized grace to the point of denying human liberty. In the letter to Lucidus which sought Lucidus's reconciliation and hoped to avert his condemnation by the Synod of Arles, Faustus insisted that Lucidus had to negotiate between the errors of his Predestinarianism (which overemphasized grace, at the expense of human freedom) and the errors of Pelagianism (which denied original sin and overemphasized human freedom, at the expense of grace). He gave Lucidus a set of doctrines that had to be subscribed to so as to avoid condemnation, and urged Lucidus to "express himself on these points as soon as possible, and that if he did not send back a subscription to the contents of his letter, he should have to appear publicly before the Synod as his accuser," something he desired to avoid. Hefele, 22.

Lucidus obeyed his bishop, and, writing a letter to the Synod of Arles, he publicly recanted his Predestinarian views and accepted the anticipated teaching of the Synod of Arles. The letter of Lucidus references the natural law, and refers to it as the "first grace" or "gratia prima" of God. The contents of the letter may be found in Denziger 160a-b [330-42]. The understanding of the natural law accords with the teachings of the Church Fathers, and so is evidentiary of its wide acceptance by the Church, both the hierarchy and the faithful.
[From the letter of submission of Lucidus, the priest]***

Grace and Predestination

160a Your public reproof is public salvation, and your opinion is medicine. From this I also draw the highest remedy, that by blaming past errors I excuse [them], and by healing confession I wash myself. just so in consequence of the recent statutes of the Council about to be published, I condemn with you that view which states that the work of human obedience does not have to be united with divine grace; which says that after the fall of the first man the free choice of the will was totally destroyed; which states that Christ our Lord and Savior did not incur death for the salvation of all; which states that the foreknowledge of God violently impels man to death, or that they who perish, perish by the will of God; which affirms that whoever sins after baptism which has been legitimately received dies in Adam; which states that some have been condemned to death, others have been predestined to life; which states that from Adam even to Christ none of the nations has been saved unto the coming of Christ through the first grace of God, that is, by the law of nature [per primam Dei gratiam, id est per legem naturae], and that they lost free will in the first parent; which states that the patriarchs and prophets or every one of the highest saints, even before the times of the redemption, entered into paradise. All these I condemn as impious and replete with sacrileges.

But I declare that the grace of God is such that I always unite the striving and efforts of man with grace, and I proclaim that the liberty of the human will was not destroyed but enfeebled and weakened, and that he who is saved, was tried; and he who perished, could have been saved.

160b Also that Christ, God and Redeemer, as far as it pertained to the riches of His goodness, offered the price of death for all, and because He, who is the Savior of all, especially of the faithful, does not wish anyone to perish, rich unto all who call upon him [Rom. 10:12] . . . . Now by the authority of the sacred witnesses, which are found in (Treat profusion through the extent of the Divine Scriptures, in accordance with the doctrine of our elders made clear by reason, I freely confess that Christ came also for the lost, because they perished although He did not will [it]. For it is not right that the riches of His boundless goodness and His divine benefits be confined to those only who seem to have been saved. For if we say that Christ extended assistance only to those who have been redeemed, we shall seem to absolve the unredeemed, who, it is established, had to be punished for having despised redemption. I declare further that by reason and through the regular succession of the centuries some have been saved by the law of grace, others by the law of Moses, others by the law of nature, which God has written in the hearts of all, in the expectation of the coming of Christ [lege naturae, quam Deus in omnium cordibus scripsit in spe adventus Christi]; nevertheless from the beginning of the world, they were not set free from the original slavery except by the intercession of the sacred blood. I acknowledge, too, that the eternal fires and the infernal flames have been prepared in advance for capital deeds, because divine judgment, which they deservedly incur, who have not believed these I truths] with their whole heart, justly follows those who persist in human sins. Pray for me, holy lords and apostolic fathers.

*Fuchs refers to Josef Fuchs, S.J., Natural Law: A Theological Investigation (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1965) (Helmut Reckter, S.J. and John A. Dowling, trans.), 4.
**Hefele refers to Karl Joseph von Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburg: T & T Clark, 1895), Vol. 4.
***The source for the English text of Denz. 160a-b is found on The full Latin text obtained from is provided below:
330 160a Correptio vestra salus publica, et sententia vestra medicina est. Unde et ego summum remedium duco, ut praeteritos errores accusando excusem, et salutifera confessione me diluam. Proinde iuxta praedicandi recentia statuta concilii, damno vobiscum sensum illum qui dicit humanae oboedientiae laborem divinae gratiae non esse iungendum;

331 160a qui dicit post primi hominis lapsum ex toto arbitrium voluntatis exstinctum;
332 160a qui dicit quod Christus Dominus et Salvator noster mortem non pro omnium salute susceperit;
333 160a qui dicit quod praescientia Dei hominem violenter compellat (impellat) ad mortem, vel quod Dei pereant voluntate qui pereunt;
334 160a qui dicit quod post acceptum legitime baptismum in Adam moriatur quicumque deliquerit;
335 160a qui dicit alios deputatos ad mortem, alios ad vitam praedestinatos;
336 160a qui dicit ab Adam usque ad Christum nullos ex gentibus per primam Dei gratiam, id est per legem naturae, in adventum Christi esse salvatos eo quod liberum arbitrium ex omnibus (= ex toto; al.: eis omnibus) in primo parente perdiderint;
337 160a qui dicit patriarchas ac prophetas vel summos quosque sanctorum, etiam ante redemptionis tempora in paradisi habitatione (intra paradisum) deguisse;
338 160a qui dicit ignes et inferna non esse.
339 160a Haec omnia quasi impia et sacrilegiis repleta condemno. Ita autem assero gratiam Dei, ut adnisum hominis et conatum gratiae semper adiungam, et libertatem voluntatis humanae non exstinctam, sed adtenuatam et infirmatam esse pronuntiem, et periclitari eum, qui salvus est, et eum qui periit, potuisse salvari.

340 160b Christum etiam, Deum et Salvatorem nostrum, quantum pertinet ad divitias bonitatis suae, pretium mortis pro omnibus obtulisse, et quia nullum perire velit,
qui est Salvator omnium hominum, maxime fidelium, dives in omnibus qui invocant illum (Rom 10, 12). Et quia in tantis rebus conscientiae satisfaciendum, memini me ante dixisse, quod Christus pro his tantum, quos credituros praescivit, advenisset (provocando ad Mt 20,28; 26,28; Hebr 9,27). Nunc vero sacrorum testimoniorum auctoritate, quae abunde per spatia divinarum inveniuntur Scripturarum, ex seniorum doctrinae ratione patefacta, libens fateor Christum etiam pro perditis advenisse, quia eodem nolente perierunt. Neque enim fas est circa eos solum, qui videntur esse salvati, immensae divitias bonitatis ac beneficia divina concludi. Nam si Christum his tantum remedia adtulisse dicimus, qui redempti sunt, videbimur absolvere non redemptos, quos pro redemptione contempta constat esse puniendos.

341 160b Assero etiam per rationem et ordinem saeculorum alios lege gratiae, alios lege Moysi, alios lege naturae, quam Deus in omnium cordibus scripsit (cf. 141
Rom 2,15), in spe adventus Christi fuisse salvatos; nullos (-! ) tamen ex initio mundi, ab originali nexu nisi intercessione sacri sanguinis (non) absolutos.
342 160b Profiteor etiam aeternos ignes et infernales flammas factis capitalibus praeparatas, quia perseverantes in finem humanas culpas merito sequitur divina sententia, quam iuste incurrunt, qui haec non toto corde crediderint. Orate pro me, domini sancti et apostolici Patres! - Lucidus presbyter hanc epistolam manu propria subscripsi et, quae in ea adstruuntur, assero, et quae sunt damnata, damno.

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