ius naturale


 (Mr. William Clissold regards Birth-Control as the test of liberality: those against it are reactionary; those in favour are for the progressive revolution.)

Where you have laid it, let the sword divide;
And your unmotherly Medea be
Here sundered from our human trinity,
The Mother and the Virgin and the Bride.

Why should we falter? Ours shall be the mirth
And yours the amaze when you have thinned away
Your starving serfs to fit their starveling pay
And seen the meek inheriting the earth.

That Christ from this creative purity
Came forth your sterile appetites to scorn
Lo; in her house Life without Lust was born,
So in your house Lust without Life shall die.

(This is from Chesterton’s lateish collection of poems, ‘The Queen of the Seven Sword’. Wiliam Clissold was a character which H.G. Wells used to expound his own opinions about life.)
Happy feast of St Joachim – and of St Anna too, if you are observing hers today. St John Damascene rather charmingly calls them a chaste pair of rational turtle doves.

…for, even as Christ, in whose throne I sit in this part of the earth, is the husband to the church and the church his spouse, so I likewise desire to be your husband, and you should be my spouse; and, therefore, as it is the husband’s part to cherish his wife, to entreat her kindly, to reconcile himself towards her, and procure her love by all means, so it is my part to do the like to my people.

James I, Address to Parliament on 19th February 1623

When Ian McEwan writes in today’s Guardian:

The inheritance of the XY chromosome is inalienably connected to maleness. However, biology is not always destiny. That the transgender community should want or need to abandon their birth gender or radically redefine it is their right, which should be respected and celebrated

what on earth does he mean by the word ‘gender’? I suspect that he means nothing by it, and that the true intelligible content of this passage is: “While facts are facts, hurrah for freedom!”




Human beings and other animals have a sex. In certain languages, nouns and sometimes also adjectives have a gender.



If someone says, “I am biologically male, but I identify as a female/feminine/a woman”, there are various things he might mean (identify is a transitive verb, but let that pass.)

He might mean “I am male but I want others to think that I am a woman”. But this is to wish evil to others, for a male human being is necessarily a man, and to be wrong about a necessary truth is an evil for the intellect.

Or he might mean, “I am male, but I should like to be a woman.” But this is a vain and foolish wish, since if someone is a male human being he is necessarily a man, and being a man is incompatible with being a woman.

Or he might mean: “I am male, but I ought to have been a woman.” But this is a confusion of mind, since one’s identity is established by the infusion of a soul into matter which is so disposed that either a male or a female will result. So there is not, and never has been, any ‘I’, independent of the male human being which he is, that could have had some requirement or fitness to exist as a woman.

Or he might mean: “I am male, but I intend by drugs and knives to become a woman.” But this is a vain and vicious plan, since he cannot in this way cease to be a male human being, and therefore a man, but can only mutilate and deform himself unlawfully.

Or he might mean: “I am male, but I wish to pursue the activities characteristic of women”, then he may refer to activities which are necessarily proper to women, such as giving birth, in which case his wish is vain; or he may refer to activities which in his time and place are considered suitable for women and not for men, for example (it may be) cooking or sewing, in which case his wish is not necessarily vicious of itself, but may easily become so in act, by neglect of duty or dignity or needless offence given to others. Thus where men’s and women’s clothes are clearly distinct, a man who wears a woman’s clothes offends his proper dignity and shocks others.



The word ‘gender’, used of men and women, is either a synonym for ‘sex’, in which case it is superfluous; or else it is used to foster vain and vicious desires, or mental confusion, in which case it is pernicious.

Today it is not used as a synonym for sex; and so it should not be used.

St John Paul II:

When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral (Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons, June 3rd, 2003)

Pope Francis:

Franca Giansoldati, Il Messaggero (Italy): Holiness, good evening. I return back to the topic of the law that is being voted on in the Italian parliament. It is a law that in some ways is about other countries, because other countries have laws about unions among people of the same sex. There is a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith from 2003 that dedicates a lot of attention to this, and even more, dedicates a chapter to the position of Catholic parliamentarians in parliament before this question. It says expressly that Catholic parliamentarians must not vote for these laws. Considering that there is much confusion on this, I wanted to ask, first of all, is this document of 2003 still in effect? And what is the position a Catholic parliamentarian must take?

Pope Francis: I do not remember that 2003 document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith well but every Catholic parliamentarian must vote according their well-formed conscience. I would say just this. I believe it is sufficient because – I say well-formed because it is not the conscience of ‘what seems to me’ (press conference, 18th February, 2016).

St Leo II:

… and also Honorius, who did not purify this apostolic Church by the doctrine of the apostolic tradition, but rather attempted to subvert the immaculate faith by profane treason {Greek version: He allowed the immaculate one to be stained by profane treason} (Letter ‘Regi Regum’ to Constantine IV, c. August 682).

I recently heard some lectures on religious liberty aimed at showing that there was no contradiction between the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae and earlier magisterial documents. They were learned and plausible. But they seemed to me to have a defect. They appeared to assume that it would be enough to demonstrate the absence of any such formal contradiction, in order to affirm that Dignitatis Humanae, taken to be declaring a right not previously taught by the Church, was a legitimate “development of doctrine”.

But such absence of contradiction is not enough. If I were to say, for example, that it is more virtuous to sit on the epistle side of church than on the gospel side, or more important for an island nation to have a good army than a good navy, then neither of these statements would contradict earlier magisterial teaching, as far as I know. Yet neither of them could therefore become objects of later magisterial teaching. Why not? Because they are not part of the revealed deposit that was complete with the death of the last apostle.

Since the revealed deposit cannot grow, development of doctrine can only mean expressing more clearly something which was found really, but less clearly, in the earlier tradition of the Church. One has to imagine someone at an earlier stage in the Church hearing the later formulation, for example St Ignatius of Antioch reading the Tome of Leo. If the earlier person would have said, “Yes, that’s just what I meant, only I never put it so well”, then we have a legitimate development. But if the earlier person would have said, “Well, I never heard anything like that before”, or “what on earth are you talking about?”, then it is no legitimate development, even if it is not in contradiction with what came before, and even if it is true.

Those who want to want to maintain that the earlier and later teachings on Church and State are both true and both authentic magisterial teachings, but that the later teaching is nevertheless importantly new, are faced with a problem. If it is new, how can it be the object of a magisterium whose sole duty is to expound the revealed deposit given once for all to the saints? They sometimes seek to resolve this problem by appealing to the notion of human dignity. The thought seems to be this. “Human dignity is part of the revealed deposit, and has always been upheld by the Church. In more recent times, the Church has become more conscious of the demands of human dignity. So at Vatican II she was able for the first time to teach the right to religious liberty. So the teaching is new, but we do not thereby fall into the error of continuing revelation, since the notion of human dignity, from which the teaching comes, was there from the beginning.”

There are two problems with this. First, there is the rule-of-thumb already mentioned. If the Fathers of the Church would have said “I never heard anything like that before”, then it is not a legitimate development. But if Vatican II was saying, as many people think, that pagans and heretics have a God-given right to be allowed to meet together for their worship and to be allowed to encourage others to join them, albeit a right that in some cases may be trumped by other rights, then I think the Fathers of the Church might well have said “where on earth do you get that idea from?” At least I know of nothing in them to think that they would have said, “yes, that’s just what I think, but I had never expressed it so clearly.”

Secondly, how, precisely, are we supposed to go from the notion of “human dignity” to the notion of religious liberty just outlined? Human beings have three modi sciendi, as far as I know: that is, three ways of going from less clear to more clear knowledge. These are traditionally called definition, division (e.g. triangles are isosceles, scalene or equilateral) and inference. Which one of these three is employed in going from “human dignity” to “right to religious liberty”? Is this right a part of the definition of human dignity? But people have had a concept of human dignity for centuries without grasping it by means of this right; and people today can still have the concept without accepting the right; so it does not look like part of the definition of an idea that was already generally accepted as belonging the revealed deposit. Again, “division” seems to have no place here. In what sense would one divide the notion of “human dignity” into “the right to religious liberty”, and what would the other members of the division be?

That leaves only the last modus sciendi, inference. Inference is either induction or deduction. But induction belongs to the world of experimental, empirical science, which is out of place here. So it must be deduction. But in that case, what are the two premises, certainly contained in the deposit of faith, from which the right to religious liberty is deduced?

It seems in reality as if the proponents of this kind of development of doctrine are imagining a kind of angelic intuition, whereby one would contemplate an essence (“human dignity”) and behold in it a property (“right to religious liberty”). But that is not given to mortals to do.

Is the United Kingdom a legitimate state? I should argue that it is not, since 17th July 2013. This was the day when the queen gave royal assent to the ‘Same-Sex Marriage Bill’. This act of parliament is in fact, even if not in the explicit intention of all the legislators, a rejection of the very notion of marriage and therefore of the family. They have denied not just a property of marriage, as happened with the introduction of divorce, but the very essence of marriage. They have replaced marriage by something else which is not marriage – since it can be entered into by two people of the same sex – while keeping the name of marriage. It is exactly as if the local council were to send round a man with a bull-dozer to knock down your house and replace it with a full-size cardboard model of a house, and then tell you that it was the same thing.

They have rejected marriage. In rejecting marriage they have also rejected the family, since the family is marriage with its fruitfulness.

But “the family is the original cell (cellula) of social life” (CCC 2207). I take this to mean that according to natural law, the family is both anterior in its rights to society and the place in which a child is trained to live in society.

So those who claim power over the land mass of Great Britain and northern Ireland have rejected the very institution in which the State is rooted and by which it endures. It is as if a bishop were to deny the existence of baptism; or as if a doctor were to deny that nature and art have any power to heal; or as if a professor were to deny that the young can learn or remember truth. Or since by ancient metaphor we speak of the ship of State, it as if a pilot were to deny that men can build a craft able to carry them over the waves.

What should we naturally say in such cases? I think we should say, not that the bishop was necessarily deposed from his see, the professor from his chair, or the doctor or pilot from their guild; this would seem to be the task of some higher authority to accomplish; but rather, that they no longer had the right actually to govern those hitherto subject to their authority. The bishop who denied baptism would have no right to move his presbyters from place to place; the doctor who denied that sickness can be healed would have no right to order his apprentices to serve him; the professor would have no right to be listened to with attention while he lectured; the pilot could no longer legitimately command his crew. For after the depositions had duly taken place, no one would blame the priests, apprentices, students and sailors for ignoring the bidding of their former superiors.

Likewise those who deny the family, and enforce this denial by the policeman and the gaol, have no right to govern any men and women among whom they live. Elizabeth II may still be the queen, David Cameron her prime minister, and members of parliament still members of parliament (for the pope has not deposed them) but they have no right to legislate or govern. That is what I mean by saying that the United Kingdom has not been a legitimate state for two years, one month and six days.

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