Recent Posts

Monday, 10 August 2015

Intro to the Natural Law Dilemma Mini-Series I

Before looking at the aberrations of some prominent philosophers, who claim to be "conservative", and before posting some articles by a guest blogger, I am reviewing natural law philosophy by re-posting some of my past articles on this subject.

One must recall the details of natural law in order to understand the deviations now common in print.

Without this understanding, a Catholic can only say, "Because the Church teaches such and such is immoral...", a rather immature response both for convincing the skeptic and for evangelization.

But, most importantly, the confusion surrounding modern churchmen's  interpretations of natural law affect the views at the Synod.

Therefore, in this last mini-series of this blog, I shall review the main tenets of natural law philosophy and point out the dangerous, misleading concepts flowing about the Catholic world, and among Synod members.

This introduction includes some of the reasons why natural law philosophy has fallen by the wayside, not only ignored by some Catholic universities, but taught against as outdated, when this philosophy underpins the morality of the Catholic Church's teaching.

Natural law philosophy must be seen like an entire web of connected strings or dots, binding together moral decision making processes, the formation of character, the interpretation of moral issues, and even the teachings on purgatory and purgation.

A few re-posts to begin with today and tomorrow:

Sunday, 2 September 2012

To build a society where God does not exist...musings on politics and reason

After discussing the GOP convention with some Europeans, I realized that many people here have fallen into two errors. The first is a great cynicism towards all forms of governance, which is dangerous. The second error is that Catholicism cannot deal with the complex questions of politics. But, we must and shall. One of our strengths is natural law philosophy.

The lack of natural law philosophy and the relativism of ethics, as well as the emphasis on individualism have created many nations which are now created to exist as if God is not real.

This did not happen overnight. And, as I read Gramsci, who recognized that the only group which realized what was happening were the Popes from 1848 on, I realize that most people in both the East and the West now truly believe that a nation, governments can exist outside of natural law or a recognition of the existence of God.

The Church under Blessed John Paul II moved away from Thomistic Philosophy which emphasized the relationship between God and the State to a philosophy based on relationships. The only problem with this switch is that we must still realize that the power of the people is limited even in relationship. Relationship among people is not infallible.

People, leaders, governments cannot determine law. If law is determined only by people, it remains grounded on relativism and subjectivism.

Tyrannies thrive on relationships of small cabals who decide what law is or is not.

If a small group has power, this power can determine anything. This has been the movement of law in Europe and in America.

That Cardinal Dolan and Congressmen Ryan AND Governor Romney referred to natural law is significant.

The law which is written on the hearts of men and women because we are human is called natural law and this must be recognized not as an old-fashioned concept but a sacred realization of our being.

Relativism and individualism ignore God or any absolutes. Many conversations regarding politics no longer include any idea of absolutes.

I am unabashedly a Thomist. I do believe we can apply the basic ideas of Aquinas and Augustine to modern politics and the relationship to the polis, the city, the State.

If a political party or government denies natural law, we have chaos or totalitarianism.

I am all for States' Rights. I am for small government. I think that the family, the local community, the polis should deal with most of the problems of governance. I am against large government as it takes away from subsidiarity and personal responsibility. To be continued...

Think, pray, act. Read Thomas Aquinas. Read Pope Benedict XVI.

Monday, 5 May 2014

On Evil, Humans And Our Decisions

Recently, I came across the author Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits and was stunned by one phrase of his. I have been reflecting much lately on the nature of evil in the world as part of my thinking of the Goodness of God.

Berkovits noted one thing about the Holocaust which opens the door to our thoughts on evil in the world.

He wrote that we should not be asking "Where was God in the Holocaust?" but, "Where was man?"

To be truly human is to respond to the natural law which is in every human being ever created.

Natural law is the same as the Ten Commandments, that law given to us by God because we are made in His image and likeness.

That millions of people disregard natural law and become sub-human as a result of evil choices forms an anxiety for many Catholics.

Nature and nurture determine evil in a person, but in today's world of psychology and worse, pop-psychology, nurture seems to trump nature in many people's mind.

Education, good housing, and food do not make saints. In fact, many comfortable, wealthy people with loving families do not become saints and many people who are impoverished in so many ways do so.

The two most prevalent heresies are universalism, which holds that all people go to heaven, and Pelagianism, which holds that people get to heaven without grace.

Sadly, too many Catholics cannot see that the divide between those who believe and those who do not believe is growing.

Where is man? Where are the humans who respond to natural law? We need to stop making excuses for those who pass up grace and God, creating strong friendships in the Lord, so that we are not swept away by the waves of trials to come.

Prudence and wisdom dictate that Catholics join together to help each other stay strong. The early Church community was built on friendship, based on common beliefs and goals.

Without this, the Church is weak.

Friday, 12 September 2014

On Natural Law And The Predominant Fault

Most of these posts today have been by request of a friend. Now, the discussion of natural law can lead one to ask this question, "Is there a connection between natural law, written on the hearts of man, and people's predominant fault?"

Let me backtrack a bit.  Here is Garrigou-Lagrange's definition of the predominant fault.

The predominant fault is the defect in us that tends to prevail over the others, and thereby over our manner of feeling, judging, sympathizing, willing, and acting. It is a defect that has in each of us an intimate relation to our individual temperament.(1) There are temperaments inclined to effeminacy, indolence, sloth, gluttony, and sensuality. Others are inclined especially to anger and pride. We do not all climb the same slope toward the summit of perfection: those who are effeminate by temperament must by prayer, grace, and virtue become strong; and those who are naturally strong, to the point of easily becoming severe, must, by working at themselves and by grace, become gentle.

Before this progressive transformation of our temperament, the predominant defect in the soul often makes itself felt. It is our domestic enemy, dwelling in our interior; for, if it develops, it may succeed in completely ruining the work of grace or the interior life. At times it is like a crack in a wall that seems to be solid but is not so; like a crevice, imperceptible at times but deep, in the beautiful facade of a building, which a vigorous jolt may shake to the foundations. For example, an antipathy, an instinctive aversion to someone, may, if it is not watched over and corrected by right reason, the spirit of faith, and charity, produce disasters in the soul and lead it to grave injustice. By yielding to such an antipathy, it does itself far more harm than it does its neighbor, for it is much more harmful to commit injustice than to be the object of it.
Now Fr. Ripperger does write about the four temperaments. He writes that "Temperament is principally hereditary or natural endowment insofar as we inherit our bodily dispositions from our parents, although environmental factors can also affect disposition or temperament." 

So, as Ripperger notes, one's temperament leads one to certain, different vices and virtues. But, a temperament is changeable, and the more holy one becomes, one may find that one changes in temperament.

But, usually, each person has a predominant temperament lending itself to a predominant fault. So, if a person is of a phlegmatic temperament, one has good and bad aspects. Here is Father Aumann quoted by Ripperger.

"The good characteristics of the phlegmatic persons are that they work slowly but assiduously; they are not easily insulted by insults, misfortunes or sickness they usually remain tranquil, discreet, sober; they have a great deal of common sense and mental balance."

Of course, the downside of these patient, hardworking and amiable people is that they "tend to be inclined toward ease and comfort and they tend to be unambitious, procrastinators and disinterested. The predominant faults of phlegmatics are dullness and sloth, " writes Ripperger.

Now, the one thing which temperaments and predominant faults have in common with natural law is that all are "natural".  But, is there a connection?

In so far as natural law is given by God to all persons by the fact that they are human, so too, temperaments can be from nature. But, dispositions to both virtue and the predominant faults are proper to the person himself and not to a group, a race or all humans. Herein is a major difference between natural law, which is the same for a persons and temperament, along with the predominant faults, which are unique to a person.

Humans develop their personalities according to their temperaments, and sadly, until purgation, according to the predominant faults.

But, natural law is common to all personalities, underlining the fact that we are all human. The only connection would be that if one is going against natural law by sinning, one is being influenced by the predominant faults in one's person. But, natural law is not affected per se. It is universal, as the Ten Commandments are universal. However, one's predominant faults may turn one against natural law, against revealed law, against grace.

As noted in the perfection series, one must attack one's predominant fault and allow God to purge it from one's temperament, one's personality. Only then can one follow natural law and supernatural law freely.

I hope this answers my friend's question on this subject.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Aquinas on The Abolition of Natural Law Part One

Some people have met others who act as though they have no natural law in their hearts, and who act contrary to reason. Let me start with Aquinas again.

Article 6. Whether the law of nature can be abolished from the heart of man?

Objection 1. It would seem that the natural law can be abolished from the heart of man. Because on Romans 2:14, "When the Gentiles who have not the law," etc. a gloss says that "the law of righteousness, which sin had blotted out, is graven on the heart of man when he is restored by grace." But the law of righteousness is the law of nature. Therefore the law of nature can be blotted out. 
Objection 2. Further, the law of grace is more efficacious than the law of nature. But the law of grace is blotted out by sin. Much more therefore can the law of nature be blotted out. 
Objection 3. Further, that which is established by law is made just. But many things are enacted by men, which are contrary to the law of nature. Therefore the law of nature can be abolished from the heart of man. 
On the contrary, Augustine says (Confess. ii): "Thy law is written in the hearts of men, which iniquity itself effaces not." But the law which is written in men's hearts is the natural law. Therefore the natural law cannot be blotted out. 
I answer that, As stated above (4,5), there belong to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men's hearts. But it is blotted out in the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Question 77, Article 2). 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 (Romans 1), were not esteemed sinful. 
Reply to Objection 1. Sin blots out the law of nature in particular cases, not universally, except perchance in regard to the secondary precepts of the natural law, in the way stated above. 
Reply to Objection 2. Although grace is more efficacious than nature, yet nature is more essential to man, and therefore more enduring. 
Reply to Objection 3. This argument is true of the secondary precepts of the natural law, against which some legislators have framed certain enactments which are unjust. 

Therefore, we see that natural law cannot be abolished in men unless a person sins. In this case, natural law is blocked, blotted out, by the consistent choosing of evil.

These sections from Aquinas as from Summa Theologica  First Part of the Second Part  Question 94 

Next, I shall return to Father Chad Ripperger on the nature of insanity...