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.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Relatio Publici de Nefas Moralis: Haeresis et Quasiconscientia

IN A WAY, MAN LIES TO HIMSELF if he thinks that he is completely autonomous, and can create new moralities. Man cannot "create" the moral law. At best, he can corrupt it by ignoring certain of its precepts, by misconstruing them, by overemphasizing them. In short, every kind of morality is derived from the authentic morality. Every morality that is not the natural moral law is a heresy of the natural law.*

There is no vast array of possible moralities. Natural law is not the one true star in a galaxy of false ones; it is the only star. There is only one possible source of value judgments, one possible well from which moral duties can be drawn, one tree from which they can be plucked. The so-called new moralities do not pluck from different trees. They pluck from the same tree, but selectively. . . . The foundational principles of right and wrong can neither be created nor destroyed by man; therefore, the only way to defeat the natural law is to make it cannibalize itself. Put another way, there are no new moralities, but only new perversions of the old one. This insight is crucial for understanding how the so-called new moralities are able to make us believe them. Moral error is a parasite on morality, and sucks all its plausibility from its host.

Budziszewski (2003), 186-87. Whatever public or private morality or system of morality is advance--Communism, Nazism, Liberalism, Libertarianism, Relativism, etc.--the strategy is always "to select one moral precept, exaggerate its scope and importance, and use it as a club to beat down others." In short, it is a heresy, a blend of truth and error mixed. In the past, we suffered Christological and Trinitarian heresies. Currently, we suffer from Moral heresies.

In Budziszewski's analysis, moral heretics undertake their "black magic" or "spells" against the moral law by two means: imposture and unraveling.

St. Augustine Refuting a Heretic
From 13th Century Manuscript

Imposture takes a moral principle, perverts it, and then replaces the original principle with the perverted (or impostor) principle. For example, the advocates of homosexual "marriage" take the notion of fidelity between a man and a woman (an essential principle of marriage), extricate it from the fact that its context is precisely between a man and a woman, and then pervert it to apply to fidelity between a man and a man or a woman and a woman, and that therefore the latter are marriages also. The fidelity advocated here is an impostor.

The other method is unraveling. This is defined by Budziszewski as "the perversion of one moral principle against another." Homosexual "marriage" also gives us an example of this. In this instance, the principle of "fairness" is perverted and used to attack the principle of marital purity, chastity, and conjugal relations. "Fairness" is perverted to mean the principle of treating people differently, but this is a perversion of "fairness." Fairness is in fact the principle of not treating people differently arbitrarily. There is nothing wrong, in fact there is everything right, in treating people in different circumstances differently. Thus a man who has worked 40 hours is entitled to pay from his employer, whereas the man who has refused to work is entitled to no pay from his employer. This is fair because there is a reasonable, non-arbitrary reason for treating the employees dissimilarly. In fact, it would be unfair to treat them the same. It is not unfair to treat the sterile relationship between a man and a man or a woman and a woman differently from the relationship between a man and a woman in permanent marriage. There is no arbitrarily-imposed distinction, but a clear, apparent, and natural reason for treating the relationships differently.

Obviously, in confronting the advocates of false morality, we have to be sensitive in perceiving the legitimate principle they are taking and perverting and how they are using the perverted principle illegitimately.

In addition to the heretical methodologies used by opponents to the natural law, we might also consider the seduction of what Budziszewski calls "paraconscience,"** which as far as I can tell is a neologism, but a very valuable one. Paraconscience should be distinguished from (deep) conscience proper and the "belt of conscience."*** Paraconscience is the handmaid of conscience proper, and consists of "desires and emotions," and includes such emotions such as the desire for the good, outrage, indignation, the feelings of a desire for justice or disdain for injustice, pity, compassion, the desire to render aid, modesty, shame, avoidance of the unseemly or indecent. Paraconscience is, to a certain degree, a second nature. It is one that is subject to training, to education, to formation (unlike deep conscience, which is unalterable). Virtue is what binds the paraconscience to the conscience, so that if one is virtuous, the paraconscience (those desires, emotions, etc.) support the conscience. Vice is what opposes the paraconscience to the conscience. Enemies of the natural law have wreaked havoc in the area of virtue or paraconscience, and what counted once as vice is hailed as virtue, so that the desires and emotions we are often inculcated with now act against conscience.
In our day, the seduction and redirection of the emotions and desires has achieved its greatest success with the feeling of compassion. In compassion we feel with the sufferer, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. One way relieves his suffering, the other relieves what I suffer for him; one gives him what he needs, the other merely gives him what he wants--or just puts him out of sight. . . . False compassion is a great deal less work than true. . . . False compassion has other advantages too. It sits easier with unrepented sins . . . [i]t certainly requires less moral reflection . . . . [and is] especially useful for corrupting the minds of the very young.
Budziszewski (2003),189-90.

Though compassion seems to be that part of the paraconscience that is the choice of modern liberalism and relativism, this does not mean that the other desires and emotions cannot be seduced. "It makes no difference how noble a particular desire or passion may seem to be; the noble it is in itself, the baser it will be if corrupted." The advocate of abortion--who has clear emotions that there is an injustice to the woman if such a "right" is restricted--has had her paraconscience as it relates to justice seduced. The homosexual who feels himself aggrieved by the fact that marriage laws allow marriage only between a man and a woman has had his paraconscience seduced. The manager of a Planned Parenthood or a High School nurse, who believes that children ought to be given contraceptives as a matter of public health and policy, has had his or her paraconscience seduced. One could go on and on, as in the modern world, virtue and vice have, to a large degree flipped places, and the paraconscience, for a whole host of reasons to complex to go into here, is all askew.

*The word heresy comes to us from the Greek word hairesis (αἵρεσις). Its roots suggest the notion of faction or choice, and suggest that followers have chosen one truth over another, or emphasized one truth over another, or chosen not to believe one truth so as to believe a falsehood.
**Since the word conscience is Latin in origin, it may be more appropriate to call this notion quasiconscience, or perhaps pseudosynderesis or parasynderesis. Or perhaps that's just being pendantic.
***See the prior posting on this in De Testimonio Quatuor Testibus: Conscientia Profunda.

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