For the Church amongst you, unopposed by the Constitution and government of your nation, fettered by no hostile legislation, protected against violence by the common laws and the impartiality of the tribunals, is free to live and act without hindrance. Yet, though all this is true, it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced.
November 13, 2015
November 8, 2015
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.
October 28, 2015
For the Captain [Jesus Christ] suffered Himself to be tried, only that He might teach His soldier to fight. That our Lord Jesus Christ might do this He became the Son of man by being born of a woman. But now, would He have been any less a man, if He had not been born of the Virgin Mary” one may say. “He willed to be a man; well and good; He might have so been, and yet not be born of a woman; for neither did He make the first man whom He made, of a woman.” Now see what answer I make to this. You say, Why did He choose to be born of a woman? I answer, Why should He avoid being born of a woman? Granted that I could not show that He chose to be born of a woman; do you show why He need have avoided it. But I have already said at other times, that if He had avoided the womb of a woman, it might have betokened, as it were, that He could have contracted defilement from her; but by how much He was in His own substance more incapable of defilement, by so much less had He cause to fear the woman’s womb, as though He could contract defilement from it. But by being born of a woman, He purposed to show to us some high mystery. For of a truth, brethren, we grant too, that if the Lord had willed to become man without being born of a woman, it were easy to His sovereign Majesty. For as He could be born of a woman without a man, so could He also have been born without the woman. But this hath He shown us, that mankind of neither sex might despair of its salvation, for the human sexes are male and female. If therefore being a man, which it behoved Him assuredly to be, He had not been born of a woman, women might have despaired of themselves, as mindful of their first sin, because by a woman was the first man deceived, and would have thought that they had no hope at all in Christ. He came therefore as a man to make special choice of that sex, and was born of a woman to console the female sex, as though He would address them and say; “That ye may know that no creature of God is bad, but that unregulated pleasure perverteth it, when in the beginning I made man, I made them male and female. I do not condemn the creature which I made. See I have been born a Man, and born of a woman; it is not then the creature which I made that I condemn, but the sins which I made not.” Let each sex then at once see its honour, and confess its iniquity, and let them both hope for salvation. The poison to deceive man was presented him by woman, through woman let salvation for man’s recovery be presented; so let the woman make amends for the sin by which she deceived the man, by giving birth to Christ. For the same reason a again, women were the first who announced to the Apostles the Resurrection of God. The woman in Paradise announced death to her husband, and the women in the Church announced salvation to the men; the Apostles were to announce to the nations the Resurrection of Christ, the women announced it to the Apostles. Let no one then reproach Christ with His birth of a woman, by which sex the Deliverer could not be defiled, and to which it was in the purpose of the Creator to do honour.
October 27, 2015
The original purpose of the House of Lords was to assemble all those who actually rule the various parts of the kingdom in order that they might give counsel to the crown and their consent be obtained for proposed taxes and statutory legislation. They are the complement of the House of Commons which is an assembly of the elected representatives of those who are ruled. The reform of the House of Lords, so vital and delicate a matter, should be true re-form. It is is important that the functions of the House of Commons are not replicated. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has often expressed his enthusiasm for an elected executive and greater fiscal autonomy in local government. The counties and cities of the United Kingdom should once more be given unitary local government. They should each have an elected council and an elected Lord Sheriff or Lord Mayor. A proper cursus honorum should be observed to ensure competence and local knowledge and avoid demagoguery. Only individuals who have served on the city or county council and then in the House of Commons should be eligible to stand for election as Mayor or Sheriff. The House of Lords should then be composed of all the Lord Mayors and Sheriffs of the United Kingdom. Proper dignity would be restored to local government and the House of Lords would be restored to its original purpose of gathering the actual rulers of the localities and introducing their knowledge and power into the highest counsels of the realm.
October 26, 2015
Today is the feast of St Alfred the Great the first King of the English, a fitting occasion methinks to celebrate having won first prize in the lottery of life. One of the most splendid things about Mary’s Dowry is the fact that, thanks to the exploits of Simon de Montfort, England’s constitution is fashioned in the image of the constitutions of the Order of Preachers. A few weeks back Cordatus wrote a post arguing against women’s suffrage on the principle that the family and not the individual is the basic unit of society. “The family is the cell of the State; that is, it is the only natural society that exists beneath the level of the State. So it is a disorder to give some authority over the State to a private citizen while denying any authority over the State, in principle, to the family.” Giving the vote to women, he argued, atomizes society into hermaphrodite slaves of Leviathan (my expression not his). I responded that this would mean we should have household suffrage not male suffrage, because male suffrage still atomizes society into slaves of Leviathan but also implicitly dehumanizes women. Under male suffrage all male individuals vote but female individuals do not. This implies woman are inferior to men while still granting no recognition to the family per se. Of course, this was not a disagreement of principle because household suffrage was precisely what Cordatus was arguing for. I was simply rejecting the idea that male suffrage would genuinely achieve this. However, I also squirmed because the number of widows who would be exercising household suffrage would still be very few and …
…man is fallen and he abuses every form of power he enjoys. One of the most fundamental forms of power enjoyed by men in human society is that of a husband over his wife. With grim inevitability this has therefore been one of the most abused forms of power. This power has been greatly weakened in the recent past as much I think by technology (which has eliminated the vital role of brute strength in providing for a family) as by ideological shifts. Women quite reasonably do not want to expose themselves to the kind of servitude too often imposed upon them by bad or morally weak men in past eras. Any new social/political form proposed on the basis of Catholic doctrine and sound philosophy needs to take account of this or (whatever the reality of the situation) it will be perceived to be a mere disingenuous apologia for oppression.
Accordingly, I have been worrying about how to have household suffrage and yet avoid these perils. I have now arrived at a proposed solution. St Paul tells us that the authority of a man over his wife is like the power of the head over the body. Not the power of the soul over the body but the power of the head over the body. The head and the rest of the body are of the same nature it is just that the head is seat of the senses and the imagination. The rest of the body does not always blindly obey the head. In some respects it does (the hand or the foot), but in other respects (the irascible and concupicable appetites) the head must persuade the rest of the body to do its will. Sometimes it cannot and the body recoils from what the head rightly commands. Sometimes the head is wrong and the body rightly recoils from what the head commands. Unity is this regard comes through the ordering of both head and body to reason (a principle which surpasses them both). In the individual this ordering is embodied in the Cardinal Virtues of Temperance and Fortitude. In the household it is embodied in domestic prudence. Reason, revelation and living faith animate the Christian household as the soul animates the body. Giving life to the family as the soul gives life to the composite and preserves the unity of head and body. St Thomas considers the question of the soul’s government of the body in Ia, 81, 3 “Do the irascible and concupiscible powers obey reason?”. St Thomas teaches that they do. The second objection is that “what obeys a certain thing does not resist it. But the irascible and concupiscible appetites resist reason: according to the Apostle (Romans 7:23): ‘I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind.’ Therefore the irascible and concupiscible appetites do not obey reason.”. St Thomas answers:
As the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 2): “We observe in an animal a despotic and a politic principle: for the soul dominates the body by a despotic power; but the intellect dominates the appetite by a politic and royal power.” For a power is called despotic whereby a man rules his slaves, who have not the right to resist in any way the orders of the one that commands them, since they have nothing of their own. But that power is called politic and royal by which a man rules over free subjects, who, though subject to the government of the ruler, have nevertheless something of their own, by reason of which they can resist the orders of him who commands. And so, the soul is said to rule the body by a despotic power, because the members of the body cannot in any way resist the sway of the soul, but at the soul’s command both hand and foot, and whatever member is naturally moved by voluntary movement, are moved at once. But the intellect or reason is said to rule the irascible and concupiscible by a politic power: because the sensitive appetite has something of its own, by virtue whereof it can resist the commands of reason. For the sensitive appetite is naturally moved, not only by the estimative power in other animals, and in man by the cogitative power which the universal reason guides, but also by the imagination and sense. Whence it is that we experience that the irascible and concupiscible powers do resist reason, inasmuch as we sense or imagine something pleasant, which reason forbids, or unpleasant, which reason commands. And so from the fact that the irascible and concupiscible resist reason in something, we must not conclude that they do not obey.
The imagination and sense reside in the head (where the brain is located and all five of the senses). Reason operates through imagination because the human mind cannot operate in the composite without recourse to phantasms. Reason commands the body through the head but is not to be identified with it. Applied to marriage this means that the husband governs the household as the viceroy of eternal reason not as eternal reason. The same terms as St Thomas uses to explain his anthropological point are used by the great Thomist Lord Chief Justice of England, Sir John Fortescue (1394 – 1480) in his defence of the English Constitution as the realization of Thomistic political theory: In Praise of the Laws of England. The King of France, Fortescue explains, rules his unfortunate people with dominium tantum regale able to tax and legislate without their consent. The King of England in contrast as Rex Thomisticus rules his people with dominium politicum et regale and can neither enact statutes nor raise taxes without their consent manifested through their elected representatives in parliament. This is in accord with St Thomas’s description of the perfect polity in IaIIae, 105, 1. Given St Paul’s doctrine concerning the relations of spouses it would seem therefore that the husband should rule his wife as the just man rules his own body and as the successors of Alfred rule England. Executive power is his but no settled norm or major financial decision should be made without her consent and counsel.
It would seem therefore that the most appropriate form of household suffrage would be one in which the vote cast by the pater familias would have to be countersigned by his wife. The easiest way to ensure this would seem to be that only a ballot signed by husband would be admitted but the polling station will only accept the ballot paper when cast by the wife. This would ensure agreement and prevent coercion. Thus the principle of household suffrage would be preserved but the dignity of woman vindicated. Furthermore the subjection of both head and body to reason would be facilitated because unanimity requires discussion and discussion requires consideration and ratiocination strengthening the acquired political prudence of both husband and wife.
October 26, 2015
My old history teacher says he is her favourite journalist so I thought I ought to check out his oeuvre in more detail. He seems to be on the right track here (albeit in a fideist Peter Hitchensy sort of way). Its amazing the way we let Atheists get away with murdering 100,000,000 people in one century and then claiming religion is the source of all evil. Besides, anyone who annoys the insufferable Simon Schama that much has to have something going for him.
October 25, 2015