gaudium in veritate
March 9, 2017
March 7, 2017
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Canon in honour of St. Thomas Aquinas: Ode I
by John Plousiadenos (1429 – 1500)
Longing to praise the famous teacher of theology,
I approach You, O Christ, as one of infirm utterance.
Inspire me with wise speech so that I may worthily adorn him
by songs and harmonious melodies.
As a star from the West he illumined the Church of Christ:
The musical swan and subtle teacher,
Thomas, the wholly blessed, called Aquinas the sagacious.
Coming before him let us cry: Hail, teacher of the universe!
Sweet-smelling and pleasant myrrh gushed forth
from the precious coffin in which your all-holy
and lawgiving body reposes, most reverend father,
teacher of piety and the opponent of impiety.
March 5, 2017
I confess that all men from Adam, even to the consummation of the world, having been born and having died with Adam himself and his wife, who were not born of other parents, but were created, the one from the earth, the other, however, from the rib of the man [cf. Gen 2:7], will then rise again and stand before the Judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he has done, whether it be good or bad [Rom 14:10, 2Cor 5:10]; and indeed by the very bountiful grace of God he will present the just, as vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory [Rom 9:23], with the rewards of eternal life; namely, they will live without end in the society of the angels without any fear now of their own fall; the wicked, however, remaining by choice of their own with vessels of wrath fit for destruction [Rom 9:22], who either did not know the way of the Lord, or knowing it left it when seized by various transgressions, He will give over by a very just judgment to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire, that they may burn without end. This, then, is my faith and hope, which is in me by the gift of the mercy of God, in defence of which blessed Peter taught [cf. 1 Peter 3:15] that we ought to be especially ready to answer everyone who asks us for an accounting.
– Pope Pelagius I, Humani Generis, 557 [D228a/DH443]
October 30, 2016
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The Triumph of the Cross (1497)
BOOK III, CHAPTER IX.: THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN IS NEITHER UNREASONABLE NOR INCREDIBLE.
In order the better to understand both what has been said, and what still remains to be said, we must touch on the subject of that original sin, whereby the whole human race has been defiled. We have already shown, that God, in His own good time, created the world, placing over it, as the head of all things, man, endowed with an intellectual, immortal and most noble soul; and that to this soul was fitted an immortal body, obedient in all things and proportioned to the soul, which, as form, governs its matter, the body. But, since intellectual knowledge depends upon the senses, and senses cannot have any being save in a body composed of fleshly elements warring against reason, the only body that befits the soul is the human body.
Nevertheless, we believe, with good reason, that Divine Providence, which never fails His creatures, mercifully delivered man at his creation, from corruption, and from that repugnance to reason inherent in the flesh; and that He so proportioned the matter of the body to its form, the soul, that the inferior powers were subject to reason. Hence, we say that man was, at his creation, endowed with original justice, i.e., with impassibility, and subjection of body to soul, and of the sensitive part of his nature to reason. We further hold that this original justice would, had not Adam deliberately disobeyed God, have descended to all his posterity. But it is most reasonable, that, if man wilfully chose to turn aside from God, he should be deprived of original justice, of the natural subjection of his senses to reason, and of the immortality of his body. This was the just punishment of his sin. This deprivation of original justice, inflicted on Adam, and transmitted by him to the whole human race, is what we mean by original sin.
We see in man such evident proofs of the truth of this doctrine, that it appeals strongly to our reason. The Providence of God rewards good deeds, and punishes evil ones. When we see a penalty inflicted, we know that some fault has preceded it. Now, we behold the human body subject to many sufferings—to cold and heat, to hunger and thirst, to sickness and to death. We see, moreover, that the intellectual soul is weak in reason and in will; that it is harassed by the flesh; and, that, by reason of these infirmities, man falls, daily, into many errors. These sufferings are the sign of some antecedent fault. But, although the deficiencies of man seem proper to his nature, God could have supplied them all, had not man, by his own fault, placed an obstacle in the way. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to say, that the defects in human nature, are the outcome of the sin of our first parent, the representative of our whole race.
The sin of Adam was at the same time both personal and common to all nature. It was personal, in so far as it deprived Adam of original justice. It was common, in so far as the deprivation extended to all his posterity. From the point of view of the will of the human race, this privation does not imply sin; but from the point of view of the malice of Adam, this subtraction of original justice is the direct consequence of his sin. And, as he is our head and we are his members, he has implicated us in his guilt. The actual taking of a thing unjustly with the hand is thieving, and is called sin: yet the sin is not in the hand, but in the malice of him that moves the hand to steal. In like manner our privation of original justice would not be accounted unto us for sin, nor should we be born in sin, had we not been, by our first parent, implicated in his sin. His malice has affected all the members of his body, and therefore we, who are his members, are all born in original sin. But if Adam had never been endowed with original justice, and consequently had never lost it, we, had we been born with the irregularity now existent in our nature, should not have been born in sin. Ours would have been a purely natural state. For, where there is no malice in the will, there cannot be sin. It is, therefore, the malice of our first parent which causes the privation of original justice, transmitted by him to the human race, to be accounted as original sin.
There is nothing unjust in the fact that all men have to suffer the penalty due to one. Man had no natural right to original justice, in the sense in which he has a right to the use of his limbs. Justice was a free gift of God; and the giver has power to choose the time, and manner, of his gift. If God gave to Adam original justice, with the understanding that if he did not sin, both he and all his posterity should keep this gift; but that if he did sin, both he and his descendants should be deprived of their privilege, what ground have we for complaint? Human nature, in its entirety, was included in Adam. Since, then, original justice is, in no sense, our due, we could not murmur had Adam never been graced with it. How therefore can we complain that, in consequence of Adam’s violation of the conditions imposed upon him by God, our nature has been deprived of this privilege? Original sin does not, as is often thought, mean simply a wound inflicted on human nature, which has injured it by depriving it of some good proper to it. It means, rather, the deprivation of that state of original justice, to which human nature has no claim. It is as unreasonable to murmur at being born in our purely natural state, as it would be to complain that we were not sanctified in the womb, or were not created in the enjoyment of happiness.
Man cannot attain to beatitude without the gift of supernatural grace. Therefore, he who dies in original sin is deprived of eternal life; but he is not, therefore and thereby, subjected to any sorrow or suffering. Not being proportioned to beatitude, he is incapable of enjoying it. He does not, however, suffer from the loss; because God rectifies his will, conforming it to His own, and taking from it the desire of that which is impossible to it. A man who has no claim to an imperial crown, does not grieve because he is not an Emperor. Neither does such a soul suffer any sensible pain. On the contrary, it is endowed with all perfection proper to human nature—such as the knowledge of all natural things, and even the contemplation, by means of creatures, of such as are Divine. It enjoys all the happiness which human nature can enjoy. Furthermore, God confers upon these souls certain supernatural gifts—such as immortality, and impassibility of body—so that they are not subject to human infirmity; nor will they ever suffer sensible pain. And, although we believe that the abode of these souls is Limbo, the place of their habitation signifies but little. My private opinion, (subject to any future pronouncement of the Holy Roman Church), is, that after the resurrection, they will dwell on the purified and glorified earth. My reason for thus thinking is, that if the place of habitation be proportioned to the inhabitant, souls informing immortal and impassible bodies, and enjoying all the happiness natural to man, ought not to be deprived of the light of the sun and of other natural advantages and delights, in which they could have no share were they detained in a subterranean Limbo. We may go further, and say, that such a deprivation would not only be a diminution of happiness, but a sensible pain. Original sin, however, although it involves, as its consequence, the loss of the Beatific Vision, does not imply the endurance of sensible pain.
Thus, we see, that God, in His dealings with souls that pass from life in original sin, manifests, in a peculiar manner, His justice and His wisdom. We see also that the Christian teaching concerning original sin is neither incredible nor unreasonable.
September 25, 2016
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Given recent events and fittingly given Cordatus’s last three posts I have rather succumbed to the allure of Fra Girolamo Savonarola. I have always found the great Dominican intriguing but a healthy dose of old English ultramontanism held me back from too doting an admiration. Ultramontanism is not what it was. One sobering thought is the fact that Savonarola himself repudiated his revelations (albeit under the most appalling torture). Still, St Joan had to retract her own recantation so this failing is not irreconcilable with sanctity. It is startling how many saints had a devotion to Fra Girolamo and also what an influence he had on artists and composers. This is William Byrd’s setting of Savonarola’s meditation on Psalm 50 expressing his sorrow about the false confession exracted from him under torture.
June 25, 2016
The European project and the catastrophic prudential judgements of the Second Vatican Council are derived from the same fundamental error: the Integral Humanism of Jacques Maritain. They are derived from Maritain’s theory not just logically but concretely and historically. Paul VI and Robert Schuman were directly inspired by Maritain and, in their key decisions and initiatives, were guided by his thought.
Dazzled by the success of the neo-pagan theologies of Teilhard de Chardin, Balthasar and Rahner in the conciliar and post-conciliar period and misled by the simultaneous eclipse of Thomism we often underestimate the degree to which Vatican II was Maritain’s Council. Unlike these pantheist theologies Maritain’s theory (as with all really dangerous errors) contains a great deal of truth. The foundation of Maritain’s theory is a basically sound observation about moral philosophy which Maritain called ‘moral philosophy adequately considered’.
Maritain’s point was that the first principle in moral reasoning is the last end but we cannot know our last end by reason alone. This is true in this order of providence because man has a supernatural end but it would be true in any order of providence because, if God can appoint an end to man other than that merely proportioned to his nature, then man is inherently incapable of knowing his end without revelation in any order of providence. Consequently, moral philosophy cannot attain the nature of a true science unless it is subalterned to divine revelation. This principle applies not just to ethics but also to politics.
Maritain’s second key claim (derived from the first) is that the knowledge that ‘every man is my neighbour’ is dependant upon this subalternation of moral reasoning to divine revelation. Maritain claims that essential elements in modern political life (specifically the ideas of inalienable human rights and universal franchise) are unjustifiable apart from this adequately considered moral philosophy and so apart from the Gospel.
All of this is (in my view) completely sound. The strange move is what Maritain says next. Maritain accepts that there is an obligation not just upon individuals but also upon the whole of society to accept the true religion and the one Church of Christ but he claims that because democracy and human rights imply the Gospel they implicitly fulfil the requirement for the state to recognise the Kingship of Christ. Nature alone generates individual states, super-nature creates a supranational order. A supra-national order committed to universal franchise and inalienable human rights would therefore constitute an anonymous Christendom.
The oft heard objection to the European project that ‘there is no European demos’ is precisely the point. The European Federation was not supposed to have a demos. The demos was supposed to be supplied (unofficially) by the Church. However, Maritain’s reasoning is inherently unsound. It is the straightforward fallacy of affirming the consequent (if x then y, y therefore x). Just because the affirmation of the Gospel entails that everyman is my neighbour does not mean that the assertion that everyman is my neighbour entails the Gospel. In fact the creation of “a European federation under the banner of liberty” did not create a new Christendom.
Making assertions unjustified without revelation but refusing to cite revelation as one’s source implies that the assertion is justified by reason. It implies that something which is the gift of grace is the property of nature. This is not the Gospel but the central claim of Lucifer in his rebellion against God. Accordingly the New Europe is not an anonymous Christendom but is rather Babylon. The ideas of the anonymous Christian and of an anonymous Christendom, though never asserted by the Council documents, were possibilities the supposed reality of which was assumed by many many council fathers and this assumption lay behind the catastrophic ecclesiastical policy initiated by the council which has now laid waste to the human element in the Church and to its creation Western Civilisation. St Gildas the Wise said that Britain is “poised in the divine balance which supports the whole world.” Britain has rejected the European project and may have mortally wounded it. May this mighty blow against the secular universalism of the post war period echo in the precincts of the Church and begin the task of reversing the imminent apostasy that has dragged so many souls to ruin in the post-conciliar wasteland.
March 31, 2016
It is impossible for venial sin to be in anyone with original sin alone, and without mortal sin. The reason for this is because before a man comes to the age of discretion, the lack of years hinders the use of reason and excuses him from mortal sin, wherefore, much more does it excuse him from venial sin, if he does anything which is such generically. But when he begins to have the use of reason, he is not entirely excused from the guilt of venial or mortal sin. Now the first thing that occurs to a man to think about then, is to deliberate about himself. And if he then direct himself to the due end, he will, by means of grace, receive the remission of original sin: whereas if he does not then direct himself to the due end, and as far as he is capable of discretion at that particular age, he will sin mortally, for through not doing that which is in his power to do. Accordingly thenceforward there cannot be venial sin in him without mortal, until afterwards all sin shall have been remitted to him through grace.