sábado, 21 de setembro de 2013

Michael Novak: Papa Francesco «Non si rende conto dei danni che sta facendo»

In VI 

L'intervista al filosofo cattolico americano Michael Novak

Paolo Mastrolilli
New York

«Un amico mi ha chiesto se il Papa si rende conto dei danni che fa, con questi commenti estemporanei. Di certo usare la parola ossessione nei confronti di chi lavora da sempre per la difesa della vita è una cosa che ferisce».

In oltre venti anni che lo conosciamo, non era mai capitato prima di sentire parole così dubbiose verso il Papa da Michael Novak, forse il più noto filosofo cattolico americano, molto legato a Giovanni Paolo II e Benedetto XVI.

Cosa pensa dell’intervista rilasciata da Francesco a Civiltà Cattolica?

«Ho visto due tipi di reazioni: quella del mio amico, che vi ho descritto; e quella di George Weigel, secondo cui dobbiamo abituarci ai comportamenti di un pontefice evangelico, che non si rivolge a noi come accademico, ma come predicatore. Weigel ha ragione, però, usare parole come “ossessione” ferisce fedeli che hanno rischiato anche la vita, per proteggerla».

Francesco vuole cambiare la dottrina o il tono della Chiesa?

«Il tono. Però l’effetto rischia comunque di essere dannoso».


«Mette molti cristiani sulla difensiva, proprio quando sono attaccati. Nello stesso tempo incoraggia le critiche contro la Chiesa, da parte dei suoi avversari dichiarati, che non aspettavano altro».

A cosa si riferisce?

«Le sue parole lo espongono alla strumentalizzazione da parte di chi vuole colpire la Chiesa. Basta guardare come le ha usate il New York Times».

C’è il rischio che una parte dei fedeli americani lasci la Chiesa?

«Non credo. Forse i più fragili estremisti, ma sarà un fenomeno molto limitato. La sinistra, però, si sentirà incoraggiata a spingere per modifiche della dottrina».

Non esiste anche la possibilità inversa, quella che un «Papa evangelico» riavvicini i fedeli?

«Cristo ha portato anche elementi di contraddizione, forse non è possibile farne a meno. Forse è un bene che questo Papa, riconducendo la Chiesa alle radici della sua missione, ci spinga a riflettere».

Pope Francis contrasted with Popes Benedict, JPII re: emphasis on abortion, gay marriage - by John-Henry Westen

ROME, September 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In comments rocking the Catholic world today, Pope Francis has recommended that the Church pull back from her perceived emphasis on “abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” 

The comments appear in a lengthy interview with La Civilta Catholica in partnership with America magazine, which was published just before noon today in most Jesuit publications around the world.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Pope Francis said.

“This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that,” he added. “But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” 

In the interview the Pope says that the Church’s preaching must begin first with the “proclamation of salvation.” “Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence,” he said. 
Other key lines from the Pope’s interview which pertain to this point include: 
The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all… 
The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. 
Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. 
We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. 
Most major media are reporting the statements as a direct challenge to the Church’s way of operating on the moral issues.

The comments are very different from those of his two predecessors. 

Speaking specifically to the proclamation of the Gospel, Bl. John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical on the Gospel of Life that the Church’s teaching on the respect for life should be taught “constantly and courageously.”

“To be truly a people at the service of life we must propose these truths constantly and courageously from the very first proclamation of the Gospel, and thereafter in catechesis, in the various forms of preaching, in personal dialogue and in all educational activity,” he wrote. 

Pope Benedict XVI’s take on the matter was expressed in 2006 while speaking to members of the European People’s Party.

“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable,” he said. 
Pope Benedict continued
Among these the following emerge clearly today:
- protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
- recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;
- the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
For his part, Bl. John Paul II was insistent in his encyclical on the Gospel of Life that the Church “need[s] to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of society.”

And while he said that it meant above all proclaiming the love of God, he added: “It also involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel. These can be summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable….”

And he concluded his promotion of preaching on life ‘in season and out of season’ with these words directed first and foremost to bishops: 
Faced with so many opposing points of view, and a widespread rejection of sound doctrine concerning human life, we can feel that Paul's entreaty to Timothy is also addressed to us: "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2). 
This exhortation should resound with special force in the hearts of those members of the Church who directly share, in different ways, in her mission as "teacher" of the truth. May it resound above all for us who are Bishops: we are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of life. We are also entrusted with the task of ensuring that the doctrine which is once again being set forth in this Encyclical is faithfully handed on in its integrity. 
We must use appropriate means to defend the faithful from all teaching which is contrary to it. We need to make sure that in theological faculties, seminaries and Catholic institutions sound doctrine is taught, explained and more fully investigated. 
May Paul's exhortation strike a chord in all theologians, pastors, teachers and in all those responsible for catechesis and the formation of consciences. Aware of their specific role, may they never be so grievously irresponsible as to betray the truth and their own mission by proposing personal ideas contrary to the Gospel of life as faithfully presented and interpreted by the Magisterium. 
In the proclamation of this Gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world's way of thinking (cf. Rom 12:2). We must be in the world but not of the world (cf. Jn 15:19; 17:16), drawing our strength from Christ, who by his Death and Resurrection has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16:33). 
See the full interview with Pope Francis here.

Contraception: Sex as a Disease - by Randall Smith


There is no question I am asked about more than Church teaching on contraception. It is the thing that either bemuses or confuses my questioners most about Catholicism:  “Catholics and contraception, it’s just so weird. What’s the deal with you people?”  

The “deal” has to do with the Church having a certain view of how sex fits into a healthy, flourishing human life. The Catholic Church teaches that sexual intercourse is best reserved for a long-term committed relationship open to the procreation of new life. Why?  Because, as I’ve suggested before, sexual intercourse involves the planting of seed in potentially fertile soil. 

If the partners in this act are not ready for the potential consequences of the act – that is, if they’re not prepared to accept the child that is the fruit of their union – then they’re courting some serious unhappiness. Sex, the Church believes, should involve a selfless gift of oneself to another in a relationship of mutual self-giving, love, and concern. 

Now, to be quite honest, this positive vision seems utterly unrealistic to many of my interlocutors: “That sounds nice, but it’s not doable.” So let’s be clear: The Catholic teaching on sex requires not only the virtues of prudence and temperance, above all it calls for hope.
I’ve found over the years that the problem isn’t that people want too much, it’s that they settle for too little. What God and the Church envision for couples is a relationship of mutual love and concern. Too often they settle on so much less. 

Our first task, then, is to convince young women in particular that they’re worth more, and should demand more, than the kind of cheap sexual using of them that society currently encourages. 

The Church’s message to women is basically this: Don’t let anyone convince you to treat your fertility as a kind of disease, as a pathology that needs to be “treated” with drugs or “cured” by surgery. What sort of odd mentality causes us to consider a perfectly healthy function of the human being as something that needs to be dis-abled? We don’t consider cutting off someone’s legs, do we, except in the direst circumstances?  

The “problem” in the case of contraception isn’t some dysfunction. The “problem” is precisely that the human organism is functioning perfectly. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be any need for drugs or surgery! 

When spouses insist on this particular “intervention,” they are saying (with their actions, if not with their words) something like this: “I accept you totally and completely in this sexual act, except for that troublesome fertility thing. So, before we have sex, could you please take care of that? 

To my mind, this is like saying: I accept you totally and completely in this sexual act, except could you first please put on this blond wig for me, or could you first lose thirty pounds?  If you accept a person for who they are, then you accept them. You don’t force them to agree to an operation to “fix” themselves first. This is why John Paul II repeatedly taught that to insist on the disabling of fertility as a precondition for having sex is to destroy not only the procreative dimension of the sexual act, but the unitive dimension as well.

Granted, one needn’t always be intending to have a child (why insist on that?), but what do you want honestly to be able to tell your child?

            (1) “Well, Billy, we did everything humanly, medically possible to prevent your existence, but somehow, you squirmed through anyway. So, when we found you existed, we cried a bit but decided in the end not to terminate you. So here you are!”  Or:
            (2) “Granted, son, we were not intending you when you were conceived, but we were always open to new life. Thus, when we found out about you, we were filled with joy, because we never intended to prevent you.”

The sexual act is not meant to involve fear – specifically, fear of the natural consequences of the act actually occurring, which is a bit like being frightened that the nail might actually go in the wood when you hammer it. The notion of “safe sex” implies that sex itself (apart from the drugs and prophylactics they sell you) is somehow “dangerous,” which is like allowing people to convince you that eating is dangerous – perhaps even deadly – unless you take an expensive drug first. 

We all know that under the current regime of sexual “liberation,” one of the most fear-inducing, toxic substances on the face of the earth is unwanted male sperm. You can’t spill a drop. One drop could kill you or destroy your entire life: “Oh God, my contraception failed last night”?  The sad irony is the conviction that one’s life might be over if a new life has been created. 

It is important to note that a couple can adopt a “conceptive mentality” even when they are not using contraception. If the sexual act is done in fear of a child, then the couple is in the wrong place mentally and spiritually. There are few things more tragic than two human beings doing that most miraculous thing two humans can do with one another – creating a new human life together – and then having one partner say to the other:  “O dear God, no. Anything but that!”  

That tragic reaction is possible whether or not a couple has been using contraception if they’re not open to the natural consequences of the act in which they are engaged: thus the importance of always remaining “open” to God’s creative act, even when not intending to have a child.

Is the Church’s teaching really so foolish, then?  Or are we? Have women in particular allowed themselves to set their standards too low? Aim higher, declares the Church.

sexta-feira, 20 de setembro de 2013

Pope condemns abortion in strongest pro-life comments to date, day after controversial interview - by John-Henry Westen

ROME, September 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a meeting with Catholic gynaecologists this morning Pope Francis strongly condemned abortion as a manifestation of a “throwaway culture.”

"Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord, who even before his birth, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world," the pope said. 

The comments come one day after the release of an in-depth interview in which the Pope had explained that despite criticism he has avoided speaking about moral issues like abortion and gay “marriage” in his papacy, instead focusing on preaching about the love of Christ. 

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Pope Francis had said in remarks that were widely interpreted as a call for Church leaders to downplay the Church’s moral teachings on controversial issues. 
"I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that," the Pope had explained. "But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

In response to that interview the United State’s largest abortion advocacy organization, NARAL Pro-Choice America, even posted an image thanking the pope for his comments on their Facebook and Twiter pages. But NARAL’s celebrations were cut short by today’s blunt remarks by the Pope, in which he urged doctors to respect life "from the first instant of conception." 

Speaking to the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, Pope Francis spoke of a paradox in medicine today. “On the one hand we see progress in the field of medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who passionately and unreservedly dedicate themselves to the search for new cures,” he said. “On the other hand, however, we also encounter the risk that doctors lose sight of their identity in the service of life.” 

“While new rights are attributed to or indeed almost presumed by the individual, life is not always protected as the primary value and the primordial right of every human being,” said the Pope. “The ultimate aim of medicine remains the defence and promotion of life.” 

The pope told the doctors, "Your being Catholic entails greater responsibility: first of all to yourself, in the effort to be consistent with the Christian vocation, and then to contemporary culture, to help recognize the transcendent dimension in human life, the imprint of the creative work of God, from the very first moment of conception. This is a commitment to the new evangelization that often requires going against the tide, paying a personal price. The Lord counts on you to spread the 'Gospel of life.'"

As he has in the past, Francis condemned a “throwaway culture” that would eliminate the weak and vulnerable in society. “Our response to this mentality is a 'yes' to life, decisive and without hesitation. 'The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are precious, but this one is fundamental – the condition for all the others'”.

Concluding, the Pope said, “bear witness to and disseminate this 'culture of life' … remind all, through actions and words, that in all its phases and at any age, life is always sacred and always of quality. And not as a matter of faith, but of reason and science! There is no human life more sacred than another, just as there exists no human life qualitatively more meaningful than another”. 

See the full text in Italian here.

Papa Francisco: «Cada niño injustamente condenado a ser abortado tiene el rostro de Jesucristo»

In InfoCatólica 

Asimismo el Santo PAdre ha recordado la encíclica «Caritas in Veritate» para explicar un reflejo de esa paradoja es que «mientras se dan nuevos derechos a la persona, a veces incluso presuntos, no siempre se protege la vida como valor primario y derecho básico de todos los hombres. El objetivo final del médico siempre es la defensa y la promoción de la vida».

Ante esta situación contradictoria, el Papa ha reivindicado el llamamiento que la Iglesia hace a las conciencias de todos los profesionales y voluntarios de la sanidad, sobre todo a los ginecólogos, «La vuestra -ha dicho- es una singular vocación y misión, que necesita estudio, conciencia y humanidad».

De nuevo Francisco ha hablado de la «cultura del descarte» que pretende eliminar seres humanos, sobre todo a los más débiles física o socialmente. «Nuestra respuesta ante esta mentalidad es un a la vida, decidido y sin vacilar. El primer derecho de la persona humana es su vida. Ella tiene otros bienes y algunos de ellos son más preciosos, pero es este el bien fundamental, la condición para todos los demás».

Reiterando que en los últimos tiempos la vida humana en su totalidad es una prioridad del Magisterio de la Iglesia el Pontífice ha subrayado que «las cosas tienen un precio y se pueden vender, pero las personas tienen dignidad, valen más que las cosas y no tienen precio».

Francisco ha pedido a los presentes que fueran «testigos y difusores de esta cultura de la vida» y recordasen a todos, «con los hechos y las palabras, que ésta es siempre, en todas las fases y a cualquier edad, sagrada y siempre de cualidad. Y no por un discurso de fe sino de razón y ciencia. No existe una vida humana más valiosa que otra, igual que no existe una vida humana cualitativamente más significativa que otra».

Contra el aborto y la eutanasia

«Cada niño que no ha nacido, pero injustamente condenado a ser abortado, tiene el rostro de Jesucristo, el rostro del Señor, que antes de que él naciera, y luego recién nacido tiene el rechazo experimentado en el mundo. Y cada persona mayor ... incluso si está enfermo, o al final de sus días, lleva el rostro de Cristo. No se puede descartar, ya que se propone la cultura del derroche. !No se puede descartar!».

On Pope Francis's interview: The Christ-Centered Pope - by George Weigel


Perhaps the most revealing detail in Pope Francis’s lengthy interview, conducted by the Italian Jesuit Antonio Spadaro and published yesterday in English translation in the Jesuit journal America, is the pontiff’s reflection on one of his favorite Roman walks, prior to his election:
When I had to come to to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of the] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio. That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. . . . This is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.
The Calling of St. Matthew is an extraordinary painting in many ways, including Caravaggio’s signature use of light and darkness to heighten the spiritual tension of a scene. In this case, though, the chiaroscuro setting is further intensified by a profoundly theological artistic device: The finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew, seems deliberately to invoke the finger of God as rendered by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Thus Caravaggio, in depicting the summons of the tax collector, unites creation and redemption, God the Father and the incarnate Son, personal call and apostolic mission.

That is who Jorge Mario Bergoglio is: a radically converted Christian disciple who has felt the mercy of God in his own life and who describes himself, without intending any dramatic effect, as “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Having heard the call to conversion and responded to it, Bergoglio wants to facilitate others’ hearing of that call, which never ceases to come from God through Christ and the Church.

And that, Bergoglio insists, is what the Church is for: The Church is for evangelization and conversion. Those who have found the new pope’s criticism of a “self-referential Church” puzzling, and those who will find something shockingly new in his critical comments, in his recent interview, about a Church reduced “to a nest protecting our mediocrity,” haven’t been paying sufficient attention. Six years ago, when the Catholic bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean met at the Brazilian shrine of Aparecida to consider the future, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio, was one of the principal intellectual architects of the bishops’ call to put evangelization at the center of Catholic life, and to put Jesus Christ at the center of evangelization. The Latin American Church, long used to being “kept,” once by legal establishment and then by cultural tradition, had to rediscover missionary zeal by rediscovering the Lord Jesus Christ. And so the Latin American bishops, led by Bergoglio, made in their final report a dramatic proposal that amounted to a stinging challenge to decades, if not centuries, of ecclesiastical complacency:
The Church is called to a deep and profound rethinking of its mission. . . . It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats. . . . What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel . . . out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries. . . .
A Catholic faith reduced to mere baggage, to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices, to selective and partial adherence to the truths of faith, to occasional participation in some sacraments, to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing, that does not convert the life of the baptized would not withstand the trials of time. . . . We must all start again from Christ, recognizing [with Pope Benedict XVI] that “being Christian is . . . the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
The 21st-century proclamation of Christ must take place in a deeply wounded and not infrequently hostile world. In another revealing personal note, Francis spoke of his fondness for Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion, one of the most striking religious paintings of the 20th century. Chagall’s Jesus is unmistakably Jewish, the traditional blue and white tallis or prayer-shawl replacing the loincloth on the Crucified One. But Chagall’s Christ is also a very contemporary figure, for around the Cross swirl the death-dealing political madnesses and hatreds of the 20th century. And so the pope’s regard for Chagall’s work is of a piece with his description of the Catholic Church of the 21st century as a kind of field hospital on a battlefield strewn with the human wreckage caused by false ideas of the human person and false claims of what makes for happiness. Thus Francis in his interview on the nature of the Church:
I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.
And how are the wounds of late-modern and postmodern humanity to be healed? Through an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. “The most important thing, “ Francis insisted in his interview, “is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.” The Church of the 21st century must offer Jesus Christ as the answer to the question that is every human life (as John Paul II liked to put it). The moral law is important, and there should be no doubt that Francis believes and professes all that the Catholic Church believes and professes to be true about the moral life, the life that leads to happiness and beatitude. But he also understands that men and women are far more likely to embrace those moral truths — about the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death; about human sexuality and how it should be lived — when they have first embraced Jesus Christ as Lord. That, it seems to me, is what the pope was saying when he told Antonio Spadaro that “proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things.” These are what make “the heart burn: as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. . . . The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

Francis underscores that “the teaching of the Church is clear” on issues like abortion, euthanasia, the nature of marriage, and chastity and that he is “a son of the Church” who accepts those teachings as true. But he also knows that “when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.” That “context” is Jesus Christ and his revelation of the truth about the human person. For as the Second Vatican Council taught inGaudium et Spes, its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly comes clear. For Adam, the first man, was the type of him who was to come. Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.”

Thus Pope Francis, the pastor who is urging a new pastoral style on his fellow bishops and fellow priests, insists that every time the Church says “no,” it does so on the basis of a higher and more compelling “yes”: yes to the dignity and value of every human life, which the Church affirms because it has embraced Jesus as Lord and proclaims him to a world increasingly tempted to measure human beings by their utility rather than their dignity.

Francis’s radical Christocentricity — his insistence that everything in the Church begins with Jesus Christ and must lead men and women to Jesus Christ — also sheds light on his statement that there is a hierarchy of truths in Catholicism or, as he put it, that “the dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent.” That does not mean, of course, that some of those those teachings are not really, well, true; but it does mean that some truths help us make sense of other truths. The Second Vatican Council reclaimed this notion of a “hierarchy of truths” in Unitatis Redintegratio, its Decree on Ecumenism, and it’s an important idea, the pope understands, for the Church’s evangelical mission.

If you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as Lord — if you’ve never heard the Gospel — then you aren’t going to be very interested in what the Catholic Church has to say in Jesus’s name about what makes for human happiness and what makes for decadence and unhappiness; indeed, you’re quite likely to be hostile to what the Church says about how we ought to live. By redirecting the Church’s attention and pastoral action to the Church’s most basic responsibility — the proclamation of the Gospel and the invitation to friendship with Jesus Christ — Pope Francis is underscoring that a very badly disoriented 21st century will be more likely to pay attention to evangelists than to scolds: “We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. . . . The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.” The Church says “yes” before the Church says “no,” and there isn’t any “no” the Church pronounces that isn’t ultimately a reflection of the Church’s “yes” to Jesus Christ, to the Gospel, and to what Christ and the Gospel affirm about human dignity.

It’s going to take some time for both the Church and the world to grow accustomed to an evangelical papacy with distinctive priorities. Those who imagine the Catholic Church as an essentially political agency in which “policy” can change the way it changes when a new governor moves into an American statehouse will continue — as they did within minutes of the release of the America interview — to misrepresent Pope Francis as an advocate of doctrinal and moral change, of the sort that would be approved by the editorial board of the New York Times. This is nonsense. Perhaps more urgently, it is a distraction.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is determined to redirect the Church’s attention, and the world’s attention, to Jesus Christ. In this, his papacy will be in continuity with those of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Francis is going to be radically Christ-centered in his own way, though, and some may find that way jarring. Those willing to take him in full, however, rather than excising 17 words from a 12,000-word interview, will find the context in which those 17 words make classic Catholic sense. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods,” the pope told his interviewer. Why? Because it is by insisting on conversion to Jesus Christ, on lifelong deepening of the believer’s friendship with him, and on the Church’s ministry as an instrument of the divine mercy that the Church will help others make sense of its teaching on those matters — with which the New York Times, not the Catholic Church, is obsessed — and will begin to transform a deeply wounded culture.

domingo, 15 de setembro de 2013

A Defense of Thomistic Natural Law - by Howard P. Kainz, Ph.D.


Natural law theory has a long and distinguished pedigree in the Western world, beginning in ancient Greece, where major philosophers refer to a certain law or laws superseding human laws. Anaximander, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and Anaxagoras propounded theories of cosmic harmony and the way that humans should, or do, participate in it; and Hippias (ca. 460-390 B.C.) spoke about a divine law that can never and nowhere be superseded. Plato in his Republic and Laws speaks of an ideal “divine” law existing prior to all human affairs; and Aristotle, in offering advice to defense lawyers in his Rhetoric gives examples of civil and criminal cases where the lawyer could cite generally recognized but unwritten “universal” laws which have priority over the state-sanctioned laws which their clients are accused of breaking.

Natural law attained a certain preeminence in Christianity due to St. Paul’s invocation (Romans 2:14-16, 21-24) of a “law engraved on the hearts” of pagans who had never heard of Jewish laws, and Paul’s favorable contrast of such unbelievers with Jews who disobey the laws laid down in the Ten Commandments – Jews who “preach against stealing, yet steal; forbid adultery, yet commit adultery,” etc.

St. Paul may have been influenced by Stoic philosophers who held sway in his time, and extolled a supreme law of nature for all peoples. Among the Stoics, Cicero offered the first and strongest explicit defense of a law which:
cannot be contradicted by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation. Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome, and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow, but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. God himself is its author, its promulgator, its enforcer.
Cicero’s concept of natural law was connected, of course, with his ideal of human participation in a harmonious and finely-tuned universe, presenting individuals and societies with an exemplar for ideal moral decision-making and conduct. In our own era of the “Big Bang” theory of cosmic explosion, and Darwinian theories about the evolution of the earth and living species, notions about human coordination with the “rhythms of nature” may seem overly idealistic or even poetic – although for some nature-lovers this idea still has appeal.

During the Middle Ages, Roman jurists like Ulpian and Gaius distinguished natural law from civil law and the “law of nations.”  Canonists of the Church, like Gratian and Rufinus, developed the theory of natural law even further, including incipient concepts of natural rights, as Brian Tierney shows in his excellent book, The Idea of Natural Rights.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), and other Scholastics, brought these efforts to final fruition. Aquinas, in his Summa theologiae 1a2ae, Q. 94, discusses the general self-evident principle of ethics, “good is to be done, and evil avoided. In article 94:2, he shows how this general principle takes on flesh, so to speak, in three concrete precepts of the natural law:
The order of precepts of the natural law exists according to the order of natural inclinations … (1) Every substance seeks the preservation of its own being, according to its nature: and by reason of this inclination, whatever is a means of preserving human life, and of warding off its obstacles, belongs to the natural law … (2) Those things are said to belong to the natural law, which nature has taught to all animals, such as sexual intercourse, education of offspring and so forth … (3) Man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society: and in this respect, whatever pertains to this inclination belongs to the natural law; for instance, to shun ignorance, to avoid offending those among whom one has to live, and other such things regarding the above inclination.
These three precepts are not original with Aquinas, but were also held by predecessors, such as William of Auxerre and Roland of Cremona, and cited by subsequent scholastics, such as Francisco Suarez, S.J. (1548-1617), who writes, along the same lines, but with a slightly different emphasis:
Man is (as it were) an individual entity, and as such has an inclination to preserve his own being, and to safeguard his own welfare; he is also a being corruptible – that is to say, mortal – and as such is inclined towards the preservation of the species, and towards the actions necessary to that end; and finally, he is a rational being, and as such is suited for immortality, for spiritual perfection, and for communication with God, and social intercourse with rational creatures. Hence, the natural law brings man to perfection, with regard to every one of his tendencies and, in this capacity, it contains various precepts – for example, precepts of temperance and of fortitude, relating to the first tendency mentioned above; those of chastity and prudence, relating to the second tendency; and those of religion, justice and so forth, relating to the third tendency.
During the French Enlightenment, Montesquieu (1689-1775), in The Spirit of the Laws, describes the basic inclinations of the “law of nature” along the same lines as Aquinas:  “the preservation of one’s being” and “seeking for nourishment”; “the attraction arising from the difference of sexes”; and the “advantage of acquired knowledge” and the “desire of living in society.”

Without doubt, the third precept, which has to do with the special exigencies of rational beings, is the most important natural law mandate. It is this third precept that was reiterated by Protestant natural-law theorists, such as Grotius (1583-1645), Cumberland (1631-1718), and Pufendorf (1632-1694), who emphasized the natural altruism of humans and, like Aquinas, the necessity of developing rational and harmonious social structures.
It is often asserted that David Hume (1711-1776) “upset the apple cart” for natural law with the following pithy statement, widely taken out of context, in his Treatise of Human Nature, about not deriving an “ought” from an “is”:
{Morality} consists not in any matter of fact which can be discovered by the understanding … Can there be any difficulty in proving that vice and virtue are not matters of fact, whose existence we can infer by reason? … {However,} in every system of morality which I have hitherto met with … the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find that, instead of … Is, and Is not, I meet with … ought, or an ought not… This ought, or ought not … should be observ’d and explain’d… A reason should be given … how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.
This prohibition (popularly called “Hume’s Guillotine”) is interpreted by many contemporary philosophers as interdicting any further attempts to make moral judgements based on essential aspects of human nature. As an example of this interpretation, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) would stand out as one of the first practitioners of Hume’s caveat. Kant, in his moral philosophy, proposed his “Categorical Imperative” (CI) as the general format for proper ethical reasoning: Employing the CI, the ethical decision-maker must dismiss all human inclinations, and, purely on the basis of the cerebral deliberations of practical reason, formulate only those “maxims” which one would be willing to stand as a universal norm for all humans. This formula has been widely criticized by modern philosophers. For example, R.M. Hare shows that, with a little tweaking, a hypothetical Nazi could devise a CI which would justify him in exterminating Jews.

Nevertheless, Darwin’s theory of natural selection of the species, coupled with various theories of the evolution of homo sapiens from the hunter-gatherer stage, have led to a conception of human nature as almost infinitely variable. This assumed variability seems to stand in the way of any attempts by moralists to derive some reasonably stable moral norms based on human nature.

Thus many contemporary ethicists try, like Kant, to adhere religiously to Hume’s “Guillotine,” focusing only on moral conclusions that can be derived from pure practical reason alone, without any distracting attention to the “facts” of human nature or the welter of human inclinations.

Philosophers are an ornery bunch, however, and many of them have tried to beat Hume at his game, by showing ways in which “oughts” can be, and are indeed, derived from “is.” But probably the best refutation of the supposed is-ought Guillotine comes from Hume himself, who, if one reads a little further in the Treatise, shows how he thinks the task of deriving “oughts” should take place:
See if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In which-ever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions, and thoughts. There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You never can find it, till you turn your reflection into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, towards this action. Here is a matter of fact; but `tis the object of feeling, not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object. The fact that we feel a strong repugnance against murder leads us to conclude that murder is wrong.
In other words, there are facts … and there are facts. Hume was against deriving moral principles from certain “external” facts. Alasdair MacIntyre points to a tract read by Hume as a young man in a Presbyterian household, The Whole Duty of Man, which tried to deduce moral duties from Christian “facts” about creation of the world and man. I have suggested in my 2004 book, Natural Law: an Introduction and Reexamination, that Hume’s reaction was triggered by Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688) and Samuel Clarke (1675-1729), proponents of “rational morality” deducing moral truths from metaphysical and religious “facts.”

But Hume was not against derivation from “internal” facts. Quite the contrary, his moral theory is based on internal facts; and, because of that, he is frequently categorized as a “moral-sense” theorist. Moral-sense theory, insofar as it is concerned with basic human tendencies, has some affinity with natural law theory. As Frederick Copleston, S.J., concludes in Volume 5 of his History of Philosophy:
{Hume’s} insistence on the original constitution or fabric of human nature suggests that this nature is in some sense the foundation of morality or, in other words, that there is a natural law which is promulgated by reason apprehending human nature in its teleological and dynamic aspect.
In the 20th century, some unsettling developments led to a re-consideration of the existence of a natural law. In 1945-46, the Nuremberg trials, in which the victors in WWII condemned and executed Nazi officials who arguably were following the laws of their country, raised the question, “on the basis of what law are we judging them?” Is there some superior law, or are there superior laws, to which even the properly legislated laws of the nations have to be subject? For infractions of these higher laws can “law-abiding” citizens of those nations be condemned?

Proponents of such an overarching law began to speak out. Lon Fuller, Jerome Frank, and others voiced renewed support of natural law, and skepticism about the prevailing hegemony of “legal realism.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the U.N. in 1948 may be seen as an additional movement for clarifying laws and rights that stand above all national and civil enactments.

In the Catholic Church during the 60s, new cultural strains added to the quest for information about eternal and universal laws which might trump the positive laws enacted by regimes, and even democratic polities. The emergence and popularity of the contraceptive pill, combined with the invocation of natural law against contraception by Pope Paul VI, led to renewed debates by theologians and philosophers concerning the validity of natural law. The widespread opposition of theologians, priests and prelates, as well as lay Catholics, to Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical against contraception, Humanae vitae, is still fresh in the memory of many older Catholics. Dissident theologians published a full page ad in the New York Times advising Catholics to just follow their conscience, and not be concerned about the overly negative restrictions in the encyclical.

But then, in an attempt to dispel the confusion and defend Catholic tradition, a “New Natural Law” theory arrived on the scene, championed by Catholic “analytic” philosophers – John Finnis, Germain Grisez, and others. Depending on reason and logical analysis alone, and purporting to avoid any dependence on the facts connected with human nature, they devised a set of seven basic, self-evident values from which moral norms could be safely derived: (1) knowledge; (2) life; (3) play; (4) aesthetic experience; (5) sociability (friendship); (6) practical reasonableness (applying one’s intelligence to problems and situations); and (7) religion and pursuit of ultimate questions about the cosmos and life.

They came to the defense of the Pope with a robust brief for defending reproductive sexuality, against the inroads of the contraceptive mentality. Finnis, in a 1970 article, Natural Law and Unnatural Acts,” in the Heythrop Journal, argued:
What, in the last analysis, makes sense of the conditions of the marital enterprise, its stability and exclusiveness, is not the worthy and delightful sentiments of love and affection which invite one to marry, but the desire for and demands of a procreative community, a family. Some sexual acts are (as types of choice) always wrong because of an inadequate response, or direct closure, to the basic procreative value that they put in question.
This “new” natural law style of thinking is arguably connected with the second “self-evident” value – namely, life – proposed by Finnis; but Finnis, in his discussion of the value of “practical reasonableness,” presents it as a demonstration of the way that this “6th value” must be coordinated with respect for other “basic values.” He takes as one example, the position of the Catholic Church regarding contraception:
The principal bearer of an explicit theory about natural law happens, in our civilization, to have been the Roman Catholic Church … That Church has stringently elaborated the implications of the seventh requirement {of the sixth value – namely, that practical reasonableness should embody respect for every basic value in every act}, as those implications concern the basic values of life (including the procreative transmission of life), truth (including truth in communication), and religion. And it has formulated those implications in strict negative principle, such as those declaring wrongful any killing of the innocent, any anti-procreative sexual acts, and lying and blasphemy.
The New Natural Law theory offers to many an approach to moral decision-making, based on important values; but, because of its lack of interest in facts about human nature, constitutes a break with the tradition and history of natural law discussed above. Most importantly, the claim to self-evidence of the seven pivotal values (and their subdivisions) is less than persuasive. I became somewhat skeptical about this in reading the chapters concerning each of the self-evident values, in Finnis’ book, Natural Law and Natural Rights. When, for instance, one reads the relatively long chapter (20 pages), full of arguments, about the value of knowledge, one begins to wonder about the purported “self-evidence” of this value: What are we to conclude ethically from knowledge-valuation? That education is important? That knowledge is to be sought for its own sake? That we should not do anything until we have sufficient knowledge of consequences?

Similar excogitations could result regarding the interrelationships between the seven “basic values”: One could, for example, argue in favor of contraception from a reflection on Finnis’ sixth value, practical reasonableness – the desire of spacing offspring in view of economic contingencies, social frameworks, etc.

Like other critics, I have come to view New Natural Law as an interesting moral theory, which may give some guidance for people of good will in making moral decisions, but is not strictly a natural law theory.

Traditional natural law theories, beginning with an analysis of major human inclinations, lead to a philosophical examination of what it means to be a human being, a member of the animal species, and, most importantly, a rational animal. An interesting characteristic of the three precepts of natural law defined by Aquinas, and others, is that they are also, at one and the same time, natural rights. As Brian Tierney points out in The Idea of Natural Rights, self-preservation is one of the chief intuitively obvious duties discussed, over and over again, by medieval and late medieval thinkers; but it is also considered an inalienable right. The dual nature of self-preservation as a duty and a right is frequently brought up in commentaries on the ideas of William of Ockham and Jean Gerson. Thus, the medievalists defended, for example, giving a starving person the moral right to steal from the rich; and the moral right of a person whose life is threatened to kill the aggressor, if necessary.

This dual duty/right aspect is common to all three precepts of natural law: The duty of self-preservation is likewise the right of self-preservation; the duty of conscientious reproduction is also the right of reproducing (now restricted or prohibited for millions by totalitarian governments); and the duty of seeking the truth and building up rational societies is also the right of knowing the truth and contributing to the development of a rightly organized society. Other inclinations do not have this characteristic. The tendency to have power over others is not the right to do so; the tendency to be promiscuous is not the right to be so; the tendencies to lie or steal are not rights to do so.

Jeremy Bentham, the 18th century champion of utilitarian moral theory, criticized natural law as a theory which was so vague and indeterminate that almost anything could be justified by an appeal to “nature.” Stephen Buckle, in his article on “Natural Law” in the Cambridge Companion to Ethics, complains that natural law cannot go beyond a few generalities concerned with being “rational.” However, in Aquinas’ theory, each of the three precepts intuitively generates very specific duties.

No extensive ratiocination is necessary to realize that self-preservation obligates individuals to take care of their health, not overeat, avoid drunkenness, refrain from unnecessary risks, work to earn subsistence, not overwork, and avoid greed – just to mention a few of the obvious implications. The precept about procreation and nurturance of offspring should lead the thoughtful person, without too much hair-splitting, to take sex seriously, avoiding casual liaisons, avoiding a contraceptive mentality, caring for physical and spiritual well being of offspring, even into adulthood, cooperating with even difficult spouses in raising offspring, except where violence, etc. infringes on one’s rights or the rights of one’s children, and possibly even working to overcome anti-reproductive policies of oppressive governments. Finally, as mentioned above, the precept to pursue the truth, both in the theoretic and practical realms, is the most important for humans, and indicates that everyone, according to their capacities, should educate themselves on all important issues, especially regarding God and religion, examining both sides to avoid bias; that voters should inform themselves on issues and candidates in democratic societies; that all should contribute according to their talents and opportunities to their neighborhood or community; and so forth.

Some contemporary values seem to contradict each of the three natural law precepts, and need to be considered:(1) Suicidal tendencies can be understood as desires to escape what appear to be intolerable suffering, either physical or mental or emotional; and seem to contradict the self-preservation instinct, and sometimes require heroic resistance. But with these tendencies the desire for self-preservation is still there, but thought to be no longer possible because of the loss of a sense of health or well-being. And there is, of course, no mandate to use extraordinary measures to stay alive when natural death is imminent. (2) The problem of “overpopulation” is a mythical problem, as I have argued elsewhere, along with many others (see e.g. www.pop.org), and a very strange myth in a world where numerous countries are now facing a demographic winter. In any case, one does nothing for the world by contraception, although personal increases in wealth and lifestyle may result from childless marriages. (3) Most importantly, contradictory theories and relativism in morals may discourage many from even trying to pursue the truth. How can we ever know the truth when there are so many contradictory theories about the cosmos and the world? How can we be sure about right and wrong when there are such rampant disagreements about basic life choices? But this is the wrong question. The important thing is to seek the truth, both in theoretical and practical matters; this is a lifelong pursuit, and ordinarily will result in some successes.

Christianity, with the Decalogue and the Golden Rule, receives welcome support from natural law theory, but of course, goes seriously beyond it with its commandment of love even of enemies, of going the “extra mile,” of forgiveness, of lending without asking for repayment, etc. So natural law has built-in limitations. If there is any other moral theory besides natural law that provides even better guidance for major and common life decisions, then this theory should be proposed, and natural law should take the proverbial back seat.

The chief alternate choices of moral theories at present seem to be reduced to two: Kantian moral theory, depending on moral “universalizability” is taught in most courses on ethics now in our colleges and universities. But I am not the only one who has found it almost impossible, after ignoring (according to Kant’s requirement), my inclinations, to come to good, solid ethical decisions in the crossroads of life by deliberating whether I could, without self-contradiction, will everyone in the world to make the decision I am contemplating.

Probably the most popular ethical theory today, for public officials as well as for private citizens who have never heard of the theory, is utilitarianism, which instructs us to always do what will procure the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. If we were clear on what the greatest “happiness” consists of, and what sort of happiness the greatest number of people are looking for, it would be easier to apply the theory. But, as it stands, noted utilitarian theorists like Peter Singer, and ordinary practicing utilitarians like Barak Obama, strangely find even things like infanticide to be moral. We may react to such things like the observers of the Nuremberg Trials, wondering whether there might be some basic, maybe unwritten, universal laws that trump some of the strange avatars of moral laws that come on the scene and seem to be considered authoritative by masses of “experts.”