Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

9/23/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Forget reason, says Pope Francis. Put up your razors. Roll up your silk thread.

One cannot argue against the irrational, anti-personal, anti-human, and unnatural aspect of the law if the other side believes only in the will to power, and not nature.  Try to argue using reason and principles of nature to a "law is will" crowd and you will suffer nothing but derision.  There is too much passion and too much pride on the other side.  Pope Francis knows this.  He knows reason--even the best reason has to offer--cannot pierce through the passion and the pride of man.  Reason cannot save. That is also why in his recent controversial interview Pope Francis said that Catholics "cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.  This is not possible."  Reason is too weak an instrument.  Some sins, especially those against the Gospel of Life, cannot be ousted by reason.  They are ousted only by the Gospel, an encounter with Jesus, whose quality, Pope Francis is always at the ready to remind us, is always to have mercy.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/23/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: abortion, homosexuality, contraception, Pope Franics, interview, reason, faith, Lumen fidei, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - "It is not the word 'philosophy,'" wrote the philosopher Etienne Gilson to his philosophical confrere Jacques Maritain in a letter, "it is the word 'nature' that separates us from our contemporaries." 

The contemporary world has plenty of philosophers: Kantians, Existentialists, Empiricists, Pragmatists, Idealists, Deconstructionists, Analytic philosophers, Phenomenologists, und so weiter.  To be sure, there is a smattering of Thomists among our contemporaries, but even these are divided up into various kinds: Classical Thomists, Neo-Thomists, Existential Thomists, River Forest Thomists, Lublin Thomists, Cracow Circle Thomists, Transcendental Thomists, et cetera. 

We might even say: Contemporary philosophy, thy name is Legion!

But there is one philosophy that the Second Vatican Council, in its Decree Optatam Totius, called "perennially valid," and those are code words for a philosophy "according to the method, doctrine, and principles" of St. Thomas Aquinas.

In the so-called "Twenty Four Thomistic Theses" issued by the Sacred Congregation of Studies in 1914, "[T]he one God, unique and simple, along subsists in absolute being.  All other things that participate in being"--and this includes man!--"have a nature whereby their being is restricted . . . ."  While it is obvious that there are individual humans, it is equally obvious these individual humans share the "same specific nature."  Humans, through a process of abstraction from the knowledge received from sensible things, can directly know the "natures of things," including the nature of man.

But modern man, as Gilson wrote to Maritain, rejects "nature," and he uses all sorts of devices to avoid the obvious, such as saying that "existence precedes essence," or man is néant, "no thing" (a clever French way of saying we have no nature), or that the concept of "nature" must be deconstructed since it really a way of one group to exercise power over another group without seeming so.  

That philosophy of man eventually finds itself in a philosophy of law.  Modern man, who rejects nature, says that law is will.  If law is will, there is no need for nature or metaphysics.  Such things as nature and metaphysics, says one of the founders of modern law, are "nonsense," and not only nonsense, but "nonsense on stilts." 

But if the "law is will" crowd is right, then there is no limit to what the law can do.  Law can even be irrational, anti-personal, anti-human, unnatural, and it is still law.

Theory translates handily into practice.  So we entertain as "enlightened" laws and judicial opinions that say such irrational, anti-personal things like the human fetus is not a human person (pace the photos of a dismembered fetus) and not subject to protection of law. 

Or we celebrate laws and judicial opinions that say that such irrational, unnatural things such as homosexual activity--copulation in vase indebito, a vice in every circumstance, and never a virtue--is a fundamental human right, envisioned by none other than our Founders! 

Or we see laws or judicial opinions, even from our Supreme Court, which say--assaulting its entire patrimony in an act of legal parricide--that those who support traditional marriage, that is to say, marriage in the strict sense, are enemies of the human race, hostes humani generis.

This stuff is crazy.  You cannot argue against the irrational, anti-personal, anti-human, and unnatural aspect of the law if the other side believes only in the will to power, and not nature.

There is no common ground for dialogue.  It's a philosophical war fought in no man's land.  It's a war of absolutes, and a war of which only one absolute wins: the other side must unconditionally surrender or be punished until they do.

The "law is will" crowd believe that laws which find their root in human nature are oppressive.  On the contrary, the "law is reason" (nature) crowd believe that laws which find their root only in human will, and not in nature, are oppressive.

So, to paraphrase Gilson, it is not the word "law" that separates us from our contemporaries, it is the word "nature."

The perennial philosophy has a moral philosophy, even a political philosophy and jurisprudence, built upon the metaphysical presuppositions regarding nature.  As John Courtney Murray put it in We Hold These Truths:

"Natural law supposes . . .  the possibility of intelligence reaching the real, i.e., the nature of things--in the case, the nature of man as a unitary and constant concept beneath all individual differences."

But there is more.  Since "nature" is something we obtain from God, it is something more than a mere empirical fact (a mere "is"): nature has a message (an "ought") in it.  The "bottle" of nature has a message in it which can be read.

In Murray's philosophical language, "nature is a teleological concept, that the 'form' of the thing is its 'final cause,' the goal of its becoming; in the case, that there is a natural inclination in man to become what in nature and destination he is--to achieve the fullness of his own being." 

This is just a way of saying that we must see nature as having meaning, purpose, a reason, an "end" (telos) to it.  Nature is telic.  It communicates what it is about.  In St. Thomas Aquinas's words, the nature of man participates in the nature of God, and so natural law is participation by man in God's Eternal Law.

Human life is not, as Shakespeare's Macbeth said in his despair, "but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more."  It is not "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."  In this view, the merit of deciding to become a physician has no more merit than someone who decides to become a prostitute or, in the philosopher John Rawls's words, someone who decides to "count blades of grass in . . . park squares and well-trimmed lawns." 

This sort of view of nature that nature means something is why those of us who believe in nature understood Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI when they would say things such as "Family: become what your are!" or "Man: Become what you are." 

These sorts of statements (which would have given the British empiricist Basil Hume apoplexy because his limited imagination, or perhaps his atheism, blinded him to "oughts" and condemned him to see only "ises" in nature) mean that family and man have a nature, and that nature means something because God has given it meaning, and the meaning found in that nature can be known, and finally gives the ground rules for a good life.

Now, we have to work toward a recovery of nature.  This much is clear.

But how to bell the cat? as Aesop might put it.

Try to argue using reason and principles of nature to a "law is will" crowd and you will suffer nothing but derision.  There is too much passion and too much pride on the other side.

To be sure, some--but very, very few--will give you ear.  But most will berate you and call you a bigot.  As Cardinal Newman said: "Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man."

Pope Francis knows this.  He knows reason--even the best reason has to offer--cannot pierce through the passion and the pride of man.  Reason cannot save.

That is why in his encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, he says this:

"Faith . . . by revealing the love of God the Creator, enables us to respect nature all the more, and to discern in it a grammar written by the hand of God and a dwelling place entrusted to our protection and care.  Faith also helps us to devise models of development which are based not simply on utility and profit, but consider creation as a gift for which we are all indebted; it teaches us to create just forms of government, in the realization that authority comes from God and is meant for the service of the common good."

What Pope Francis is saying is that our political enemies--the "law is will" crowd--must be brought to Christ, and if not Christ, must be brought at least to believe in God.  They will not see the natural law, they will not be able to respect human nature and discern in it the grammar written by God's hand, without a knowledge of, and faith in, God.

That is also why, I believe, in his controversial interview with Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor of La Civiltŕ Cattolica, and published in English in the review America, Pope Francis said that Catholics "cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.  This is not possible."

It is not possible because the other side, the "law is will" crowd, does not understand the reason behind the Church's moral teachings.  They don't understand it because they do not believe in such a thing as human nature.  We are speaking past each other.  Passions are too high.  Positions too entrenched.  We are quarrying the granite of ideology with razors and mooring the vessel of political passion with a thread of silk.

Forget reason, says Pope Francis.  Put up your razors.  Roll up your silk thread. 

Bring out the two-edged sword of the Gospel.  (Heb. 4:12)  Bring out the Gospel rope with which the strong man is tied up.  (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22)

"We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner," says Pope Francis, and, by implication, in every Board Room, and in every Hospital, and in every Court, and in every Legislative Chamber . . . .

It is the Gospel that can break through passion and pride, that "makes the heart burn," says Pope Francis, that "fascinates and attracts more." 

Reason does not, cannot do this.  It is impossible for it to do this. 

"If you build it, he will come," said the voice to Ray Kinsella in his cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams. Pope Francis believes that to be true of the Gospel. 

If the Gospel is spread, morality will follow.  "The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant."  "The message of the Gospel" must show "the heart of the message of Jesus Christ."  "This is pure Gospel.  God is greater than sin." 

"The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people's night, into the night with them, into the darkness, but without getting lost."  In short, the Gospel must be brought in partibus infidelium.

"It is from this proposition," the preaching of the Gospel with the zeal of the Apostles, with parresia, within the very bosom of the sinner, "that the moral consequences then flow." 

Reason is too weak an instrument.  Some devils are ousted by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29), and some sins, especially those against the Gospel of Life, cannot be ousted by reason.  They are ousted only by the Gospel, an encounter with Jesus, whose quality, Pope Francis is always at the ready to remind us, is always to have mercy. 

Jesus burns with desire to forgive the couple who uses contraception, the active homosexual, the mother who has aborted her child: this is Pope Francis's message.  This--not reason--is what will change the world.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

Learning from Elijah: Shipwreck, Struggle and the Broom Tree

Image of Elijah under the broom tree

By Deacon Keith Fournier

There are lessons that can only be learned under the broom tree. The lesson St Paul gave to the early Christians in Greece about the reality of being shipwrecked and experiencing daily struggles in life is critical in our age. God is searching for men and ... continue reading


Head of Russian Orthodox Church to meet with Pope Francis to repair rift between branches Watch

Image of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow is a Russian Orthodox bishop. He became Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church in February of 2009.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It is definitely going to happen -- but where and when has yet to be decided. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Pope Francis have agreed to meet in an attempt to repair the major rift between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. LOS ... continue reading


Pope Francis explains the nature of faith - the whole Gospel is written in its light Watch

Image of Francis lamented that

By CNA/EWTN News

The Pope focused on the virtue of faith during his Sunday Angelus address, saying the whole gospel is written in its light. VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - "Faith is this: to touch Jesus and to draw from him the grace which saves," Pope Francis explained June 28 at ... continue reading


Pope Francis admonishes archbishops to be convinced by what themselves teach Watch

Image of The Pope added that, in being witnesses to the faith, archbishops should practice what they preach.

By CNA/EWTN News

During his Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on Monday, Pope Francis called on the Church's new archbishops to be courageous witnesses who are not ashamed of Christ, and who are convinced by what they themselves teach. VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading


Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux to be canonized by Pope Francis later this year Watch

Image of The canonizations of the married couple will coincide with the Synod on the Family, to be held on Oct. 4-25.

By CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis formally approved on Saturday the decrees necessary for Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin - known for being the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux - to be declared saints later this year. VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - The two blesseds will be the first ... continue reading


Itinerary of the Pope's trip to Cuba and the U.S.A. and his visit to the United Nations

Image of Pope Francis boarding airline.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican on Tuesday released the comprehensive itinerary for Pope Francis' journey to the United States and Cuba, including his schedule for Philadelphia for Sept. 26-27.Here is the Holy Father's complete schedule for his September visit to Cuba and ... continue reading


The Ultimate Bucket List: 20 things to do before joining God in Heaven Watch

Image of Add your own bucket list goals.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Bucket listing has become a popular trend within social media sites and all over the world, ranging from reading best-selling books, to traveling to exotic places on holiday, favorite places to eat, enchanting tourist destinations and so forth. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES ... continue reading


Religious lawyer calls out to people of faith warning what will happen if they don't 'STAND UP' following gay marriage ruling Watch

Image of Photo credit: Dave Crenshaw - Eastern Oklahoma Catholic

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Supreme Court gave in to LGBT rights advocates on June 26 and legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Now the entire United States court system must recognize the union of two same-sex individuals as legal, creating a social media frenzy around ... continue reading


'Holy Grail' recovered after stolen by burglars Watch

Image of One depiction of the Holy Grail.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A year after it was stolen, the police finally recovered a wooden relic believed by some to be the Holy Grail. In July 2014, the invaluable medieval relic was stolen during a raid in Weston Under Penyard near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. The Nanteos Cup has now been ... continue reading


Medjugorje Marian apparitions ruled FALSE? Watch

Image of According to the reports, the congregation did acknowledge Medjugorje as a place of prayer and devotion that can be visited by pilgrims for prayer, though without contacting the supposed visionaries or participating in their

By CNA/EWTN News

If reports in Italian media outlets are to be believed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met June 24 to discuss the alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, reaching the conclusion that they are inauthentic, but recognizing the site as a place of ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 21:5, 8-20
5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 34:7-8, 10-11, 12-13
7 The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 8:28-34
28 When he reached the territory of the Gadarenes on ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 1st, 2015 Image

Bl. Junipero Serra
July 1: Miguel Jose Serra was born on the island of Majorca on November ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter