Monthly Archives: August 2011

Why Natural Law

“It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason” (Aquinas). However, “to the natural law belongs those things to which a man is inclined naturally: and among these it is proper to man to be inclined to act according to reason” (Aquinas)

It is necessary to have an understanding of the natural law for many reasons. Certainly, if Aquinas meant by “ it is proper to man to be inclined to act according to reason” simply to mean that everyone should follow their first thought in every act, he would be misunderstood. Man’s purpose is to seek and know truth, and this is the purpose of his ability to reason. Therefore, to act according to reason must mean to seek some objective truth towards which our acts must be directed.

Understanding this and the foundation behind it helps one to a deeper understanding of the truths revealed in Scripture, showing us that the “law” of God is not some merely arbitrary and positive law of Ockham’s and Calvin’s nominalist God.

We can answer the question of Socrates towards Euthyphro, as to whether things are good because the god(s) command them or if the god(s) command them because they are good is at the heart of our study. If we take a realist metaphysic and see human nature as something that truly exists (rejecting Sartre’s existentialism, etc), we will see that not only is it not an either/or question, but that Thomas is right: “ it is proper to man to be inclined to act according to reason,” and that reason will lead us to objective truths about what is right and wrong.

We will see that, indeed, “is” implies “ought.” We can know, to a great extent therefore, what we should and should not do, completely apart from revelation. This will serve at least three great purposes:

  1. It will give us a path to deeper insight into the purpose of the revealed moral law
  2. It will help us to defend the faith (at least by removing obstacles to the faith) without having to have those we witness to accept the Scripture and Tradition a priori
  3. It can help us toward a better understanding of revealed truth, as any interpretation that conflicts with right reasoned natural law will be untenable. (see Fr. Ashley, O.P. Living the Truth in Love, pg. 31 if you think that natural law interpreting Scripture and Scripture clarifying natural law is circular reasoning)

In studying natural law, therefore, one hopes to gain greater insight into the truth of what man should do based on what man is. And one should also better see how the theory works in practice, for after all, moral philosophy, while it certainly has is theoretical basis, is a practical discipline.

Essence and Existence: continued…

We gave an introductory teaser to this issue HERE.

We now continue:

The philosopher Heidegger has stated that the problem in metaphysics is that we have constantly asked “what it is” but have neglected to ask what about “that it is.” Why should there be anything at all? We might say that we can understand the essence of a horse and the essence of a unicorn, but there are horses and there do not seem to be unicorns, so the essence and knowledge of it does not make a thing to actually exist.

Aristotle’s god (or gods) did not cause the being of all that exists, but merely are the primary and unmoved mover.  For Aristotle, the fact that things “are” seems to be a given.  Of course, it is true that things “are,” but their existence is not the explanation for their existence.  Otherwise, they would not be contingent beings.  This seems to go hand in hand with Aristotle’s (supposed) proofs of the eternity of the universe.  The universe simply is.  Bertrand Russell and the majority of modern materialists as well seem to agree.  We should not, then, look for a cause of things, but accept that “things are” as our starting point.

The doctrine of creation ex nihilo seems to be the key to the philosophical discovery of the distinction between essence and existence.  If things “began to be” then their existence is not explained by their essence.  The reason that horses “are” and that unicorns “are not” cannot be simply explained by evolution, for example.  Evolution may explain why unicorns “are not” but it only a partial explanation of why horses “are.”

Evolution, as one theory, can explain why horses “are what they are” and why they are not unicorns, but it offers no explanation as to why there are horses instead of nothing at all. An eternal world might seem at first to get rid of this problem, but even in an eternally existing world, once looked at deeper, the problem remains. As Thomas Aquinas shows, the doctrine of an eternally existing world, although contrary to revealed truth, does not deny the possibility of creation ex nihilo.  The existence of anything contingent, whether eternal or not, still requires a cause, even if not a cause prior in time.

This cause, however, being uncaused (for otherwise we have the impossible infinite regress) is of necessity the explanation of its own existence.  This is not to be confused with being the cause of its own existence, for it is not caused.  Therefore, this uncaused cause is a “something” and whatever this is is its essence.  But it is also its very existence, for that is the only way for it to be uncaused.

Without going through all the attributes of this uncaused cause as examined by Aquinas, we must say here that its simplicity, its being pure act and having no potency, all tie into its very essence being “to be.”  All else, then, besides God, is not “to be” but must receive its “to be” from outside of itself.

We can see, therefore, that in metaphysics and natural theology, the distinction between essence and existence is of utmost importance.  And it seems to be that from the very revealed truth of God Himself saying to Moses that His name is basically “He that Is” is the key to this discovery.

Aquinas’ distinction here is important for understanding that God is outside of any genus.

Aristotle certainly did not teach this, at least not in any explicit way.  The great Arabic metaphysicians like Avicenna certainly did not see this.  In fact, it is likely that, for Avicenna, God is a being, and the only being, with a “specific difference” of “necessary.”  He is, then, a universal species and the sole being of that species.

But for Aquinas this is not so.  God stands outside of genus, and being is not a genus, for it has no “specific difference.” Being is predicated of all things, of both God and all contingent beings, but analogously.

Although not written by Thomas himself, we must list here the first 4 of the 24 Theses of Thomism, which make explicit the basic point we have been reviewing:

1. Potency and Act divide being in such a way that whatever is, is either pure act, or of necessity it is composed of potency and act as primary and intrinsic principles.

2. Since act is perfection, it is not limited except through a potency which itself is a capacity for perfection. Hence in any order in which an act is pure act, it will only exist, in that order, as a unique and unlimited act. But whenever it is finite and manifold, it has entered into a true composition with potency.

3. Consequently, the one God, unique and simple, alone subsists in absolute being. All other things that participate in being have a nature whereby their being is restricted; they are constituted of essence and being, as really distinct principles.

4. A thing is called a being because of being (“esse”). God and creature are not called beings univocally, nor wholly equivocally, but analogically, by an analogy both of attribution and of proportionality.

A rejection of this analogous use of being and a rejection of the real distinction between existence and essence is seen in thinkers after Aquinas as well, even among Christian thinkers such as Scotus.  It has in no way been simply accepted after Aquinas, even by those who may agree with him on much else.

Nevertheless, although not explicitly endorsed by the church, for “The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others,” (FR 49) the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas is considered the “perennial philosophy.”  Pope Leo XIII promulgated the encyclical Aeterni Patris and this document provided for the revival of Thomism as practically the official philosophical and theological system of the Church. It was to be normative not only in the training at seminaries but also in the education at Catholic universities.

Although the Angelic doctors contributions the philosophy and theology are almost endless, it is hard to deny that his exposition of the distinction between essence and existence and the fact that these two differ in all but God is arguably the single most important key doctrine that he has left us.

Evangelium vitae: The Gospel of Life

Evangelium vitae: The Gospel of Life

“Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh, is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church.” (EV 3)

For this reason, John Paul II saw it to be of great importance and a primary concern of the flock he oversaw as the vicar of Christ to “look with renewed confidence to every household and… pray that at every level a general commitment to support the family will reappear and be strengthened, so that today too-even amid so many difficulties and serious threats-the family will always remain, in accordance with God’s plan, the ’sanctuary of life.’”(EV 6) and as he says later in the encyclical, “In procreation therefore, through the communication of life from parents to child, God’s own image and likeness is transmitted, thanks to the creation of the immortal soul.”(EV 43)

The letter, in its very introduction, makes claim to teach dogmatic truths of the Church: “The Cardinals unanimously asked me to reaffirm with the authority of the Successor of Peter the value of human life and its inviolability, in the light of present circumstances and attacks threatening it today.”(EV 5)  The pontiff does just that on several specific issues in the body of the encyclical as well. In EV 57 he in no uncertain terms condemns the killing of an innocent human being as always gravely immoral with the authority of the successor of Peter, and in EV 65 he does likewise with regards to euthanasia specifically.  In EV 62, he reaffirms the penalty of excommunication by Canon law regarding abortion, and in the same section also invokes the Chair of Peter when he states that abortion as a means or and end is always gravely immoral.

It is sad that such things must be declared with such authority at this time, for they should be known to all through natural law and through revelation.  Yet, in the current state of our world, as John Paul II so well recognized, “conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.”(EV 4) In fact, in the secularized world we live in today, “It is not only that in generalized opinion these attacks tend no longer to be considered as ‘crimes’; paradoxically they assume the nature of ‘rights.’(EV 11)

The affirmation of these things in depth was certainly nothing new for John Paul the Great.  Early works of his, such as Love and Responsibility, certainly looked at such issues in depth.  In that work, he spent many pages just looking into what it means “to use” when speaking of human beings.  A utilitarian philosophy pervades our culture to great detriment, and the Gospel of Life presents the truth of this throughout.

Pope John Paul II’s series of talks he gave at his Wednesday Audiences, that have come to be known as the Theology of the Body, are often labeled a “theological time bomb” waiting to go off.  There, among other things, he explores in great depth the meaning of the human body, which is so distorted in our modern world. Much of the problem is that of our materialism, which knows no evil but the physical evils. “All this is aggravated by a cultural climate which fails to perceive any meaning or value in suffering, but rather considers suffering the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all costs.”(EV 15)

“Every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree.” (EV 2) Unfortunately, it seems that our world has lost its desire to seek the truth, or has at least turned away from it to seek the instant but fleeting pleasures of this world instead of the eternal one’s for which we were created.

The pope, therefore, knowing that the Gospel of Life is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, wrote the encyclical Evangelium vitae to speak boldly of the truth of the dignity of every human person that, because of the Incarnation of our Lord, is somehow united to God.  “The present Encyclical, the fruit of the cooperation of the Episcopate of every country of the world, is therefore meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability, and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life!” (EV 5)

Does God Exist

A new category and a very important one.  After all, everything this blog is about falls to ashes if God does not exist, and although I believe that it is provable from reason alone that God exists:

1. I think it is important to address objections against

  • God’s existence and
  • against proofs of his existence

2. It is important to understand what constitutes a proof and what does not, because our understanding of

  • “how we come to truth” and also
  • “what God is”

will be misunderstood if our “proofs” are faulty.

Thus, the importance of having a “Does God Exist” section even in a blog that is most likely viewed almost exclusively by “believers.”

Essence and Existence: the difference

Probably the single most famous “proof” in all of philosophy is refuted if the topic of our discussion is legitimate.  In his Proslogion, St. Anselm lays out the following argument for the existence of God:

“And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be imagined is in the understanding alone, that very thing than which a greater cannot be imagined is something than which a greater can be imagined. But certainly this cannot be. There exists, therefore, beyond doubt something than which a greater cannot be imagined, both in the understanding and in reality.”1

St. Thomas, of course, rejects this “proof” of St. Anselm in his Summa Theologica:

“Granted that everyone understands that by this word “God” is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. Nor can it be argued that it actually exists, unless it be admitted that there actually exists something than which nothing greater can be thought; and this precisely is not admitted by those who hold that God does not exist.”2

The problem is basically this: is to ask the question “is it?” the same as to ask the question “what is it?” Or is one a question of concept and the other a question of judgment?  For to say what something is, according to Aristotelian logic, is the understand an essence, but this is not the same thing as to affirm the existence of that essence.

The ontological proof offered by Anselm was certainly defended by Descartes, and his rationalist proof for the existence of God is very similar in its construction and assumptions. Even to say “I think, therefore I am” implies a somewhat related premise, but this is not the place to go further into that.

Of course, a refutation was made to Anselm, “on behalf of the fool,” where one simply asked about “imagining a perfect island” and then seeking to see how this would prove the existence of this island, and Anselm responded accordingly.  This is, of course, not the place to enter into that particular dispute, but we see here that even the great thinkers of our Christian heritage differed vastly on this question, and it is one that ultimately comes down to the difference between essence and existence, or “being” in the “verb sense.”

According to St. Thomas, God is Ipsum esse subsistens (Subsistent Act of Existing Itself).  If he is correct, God and God only is his existence.  This means that in every other existing thing, essence and existence are different.  And this will lead us to know that all other things are contingent, as they do not explain their own existence in their very essence.  These said, it should be clear that the difference between essence and existence is of primary importance in metaphysics and in all contemplation of reality.

(to be continued…)

Object, End, and Circumstance: the Determinants of Moral Action

The three moral determinates of the human act are the object, the end (or intention), and the circumstances. For an action to be morally good, all three determinates must be good.  A lack in any of them will, at least in a qualified way, make the morality of the act to be bad.


The object of the human act is that which is actually done.  From this, we get the character of the objective morality.  There are actions that are objectively in conformity or not in conformity with the created human person, and thus, actions in conformity with them or against them are objectively good or evil as such.


For example, the object of murder is the taking of an innocent life.  Murder is objectively wrong, and thus the taking of an innocent life is never morally good. No intention or circumstances can make it to be otherwise, and this is because of its basis in reality itself.  It is the eternal law, which we are created under, that establishes this objective moral order, and we and our actions are, by our very creation, subject to this eternal law.


However, the subjective nature of us as human may reduce the culpability of our action if we do not know that the object of our action is morally evil.  While this cannot change the objective nature of the act, one may be more or less morally responsible for the good or evil of the action based on one’s knowledge of the objective character of the act.


The second moral determinate is the intention, and this is the purpose or motive for which the agent acts.  While a wrong intention can make a morally good act subjectively wrong and cause culpability in the agent, a good intention can never make an objectively evil act to be good.  The end does not justify the means.


All intentions should be in conformity to the objective truth, and again this is to be found in the eternal law.  Humans first of all find this “written in their hearts” and this participation of the rational creature in the eternal law is called the natural law. Conscience is closely related to this, as it is a judgment of reason. Our intentions, then, must be in conformity with our conscience.  Besides the natural law, we also have the revealed truths from God, and we are obligated to form our conscience in accordance with both.  Our culpability in this is only known perfectly by God.


The circumstances of an action are individual conditions of specific acts in time and place that are not of themselves part of the nature of the action.  They do, however, modify the moral quality of the action.  The who, what, when, and where of actions are bearing on the goodness or otherwise of specific actions.  These circumstances cannot, of course, make an objectively evil action to be good, but they can increase or decrease both moral culpability and the degree of goodness or evil in the act.


Prudence is important here, and this virtue helps us to take correct actions in particular circumstances. Conscience as well includes an act of judgment, and thus it applies not only to the morality of the object and intentions of the act, but is closely tied with the particulars of the acts in a given situation or circumstance.


Briefly, it may be said that law, which all law has its foundation in the eternal law, is the norm by which all objective truth is measured.  Likewise, conscience is closely related to our participation in the eternal law, first by way of the natural law and also by our understanding of revealed truth.  Conscience then, while its purpose is to lead man to perform actions in accordance with objective truth, can be said to be on the side of his subjective culpability.


God knows the hearts of men, and men may be said to be judged by their intentions.  This, however, has a qualifier.  Among the intentions of men must be included the intention to form their consciences with objective truth.  We will thus be culpable for seeking the truth, and a willful neglect of seeking the objective morals is itself an evil, for man, being rational, must seek the truth.  A being must act in accordance with its nature, and this means that a rational being must act with reason.


We are always obliged to follow our conscience, but we are also responsible to form it according to the law.  “Conscience has rights because it has obligations.”

The Summa Contra Gentiles on the Incarnation (a look at some early heresies)

In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Thomas begins his treatment of the Incarnation after his treatment of the Triune nature of God.  In that previous part, he had already said a good deal about the second Person of the Trinity, and likewise, we began his treatment with heresies and their refutations.  This approach is obviously different than the more strictly systematic approach of the Summa Theologica, but it is a very effective at demonstrating the truths of the faith.

We will, of course, see much overlap in the teachings as presented in the two great “summas” of the Angelic Doctor.  The order of teaching is different, to be sure, but much of the content is certainly the same; that of the truth of the Incarnation, which is and its proper understanding, at least insofar as it is understandable by the limited human intellect, for “it follows that toward faith in this particular marvel all other miracles are ordered, since ‘that which is greatest in any genus seems to be the cause of the others.’”1

We will first examine the error of Photinus, first treated in Question 28.  Thomas tells us that “according to this position, God would not have assumed flesh to become man; rather, an earthly man would have become God. Thus, the saying of John (1:14) would not be true: ‘The Word was made flesh’; on the contrary, flesh would have been made the Word.”2

Thomas treats this in a different way in Question 16 of the third part of the Summa Theologica. “Properly understood, this participle “made” attaches making to man with relation to God, as the term of the making… this proposition is false, because, when it is said, “Man was made God,” “man” has a personal suppositum: because, to be God is not verified of the Man in His human nature, but in His suppositum.”3

Why can we not say that man became God? A wall that has always existed can be made white, but white cannot be “made a wall,” for white must exist in something.  Now, we do not predicate Christ’s humanity as a metaphysical accident, but we do affirm that its existence is in the Person of Christ.  For man to be made God, we would have to adhere to the heresy of Nestorius, for a man cannot exist without a person existing, and so either this person would have to have been annihilated when He became Christ, or else there would be two persons in Christ.

“Let one consider the matter earnestly and he sees that this Nestorian opinion on the Incarnation differs very little from that of Photinus…Of course, on the eternal generation of the Word they differed greatly: Nestorius confessed it, but Photinus denied it completely.”4 We see how extreme and opposite errors tend to meet in some of their conclusions.

We now turn to this heresy, also addressed by St. Thomas. Thomas’ treatment against the error of Nestorius is among the longest of his refutations of error in Book IV of the Summa Contra Gentiles. The position of this error is described as follows: “They said that the human soul and the true human body came together in Christ by a natural union to constitute one man of the same species and nature with other men, and that in this man God dwelt as in His temple, namely, by grace, just as in other holy men.”5

This, however, must result in a complete denial of the Incarnation: Christ was made man cannot be true if understood in this way.  For God has dwelled in many men in the way spoken of by Nestorius, and even if a difference in “degree” of this indwelling is claimed, it cannot be a true difference in kind.

Understood in this way, Christ would merely be the most favored of all humans.  He would be similar to Mary in this way, only greater.  This is obviously not in keeping with the faith. “For, in that position, the Word of God was united to that man only through an indwelling by grace, on which a union of wills follows. But the indwelling of God’s Word in a man is not for God’s Word to be made flesh.”6

Likewise, in this way of understanding the Incarnation, if “our understanding of the Incarnation of the Word is this alone—the Word of God dwelt most fully in that man—we will have to say that the Holy Spirit was incarnate also.”7 Obviously, this position is untenable.

Thomas, in book IV of the Summa Contra Gentiles, will often use the authority of the Church and her Councils.  This is perfectly in line with the purpose of Book IV, which, unlike the first three books, makes no claim to be of things demonstrable from human reason alone apart from revelation.  “Now, it was proved that the body of that man is the body of the natural Son of God, that is, of the Word of God. So it becomes us to say that the Blessed Virgin is ‘the Mother of the Word of God,’ and even ‘of God’.”8

Objection to the title “Mother of God” arose in the fifth century, due to confusion concerning the mystery of the incarnation. Nestorius, stated that Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, a regular human person. As such, Mary is not “Mother of God,” but simply the “Mother of Christ” or even the “Mother of Christ’s humanity.”  Our protestant brethren would do well to contemplate the wisdom of the ancient Church councils and of Thomas Aquinas’ masterful expositions of such topics, as presented in the work this short essay presents.

We now turn a position, also heretical and indeed contrary to even reason alone, that was taken in opposition to the previous heresy of Nestorius. “Eutyches…says there is one nature, also. He says that, although before the union there were two distinct natures, the divine and human, they came together, nevertheless, in the union into one nature.”9 Thomas demonstrates that this is both repugnant to Scripture and to reason.

“If…the human nature and the divine were two before the union, but from those in the union one nature was breathed together, this should take place in one of the ways in which it is natural that one comes to be from many.”10 In the next few articles, Thomas goes through the various ways this can be said to take place in nature, and demonstrates that all are untenable. The most important of these is the idea of a “mixture,” which can result in a single nature only through the destruction of both of the joined natures. Robert Sokolowski demonstrates why the pagans could never understand this idea of an Incarnate God:

“The reason pagans could not conceive of anything like the incarnation is that their gods are part of this world, and the union of any two natures in this world is bound to be unnatural, because of the otherness that lets one thing be itself only by not being the other…The Christological heresies are a reflection of tendencies to make pagan the Christian sense of the divine.”11

Thomas, of course, understood that God cannot even be understood to be in a genus.  He is not differentiated, therefore, even within the genus of being.  It is this infinite difference that makes possible the relation between man and God when God takes on a human nature.  Part of the definition and essence of a rock is that it is not a tree, not Socrates, etc. There is no mixture, and no destruction, for there is no relatedness between God and anything created that would cause one to be defined by “not being the other.” Only in this way, rejecting our common understanding of how things combine within contingent being, can a true understanding of the Incarnation ever take place.

I am of the opinion that Thomas’ understanding of the difference between essence and existence, as well as his understanding of God’s essence as “to exist,” is the most outstanding breakthrough in understanding of the mysteries of God in the last 2000 years.


  1. SCG Bk IV, 27,1
  2. Ibid, 28, 4
  3. ST. III, 16, art. 7
  4. SCG Bk IV, 34, 31
  5. Ibid, 34, 2
  6. Ibid, 34, 3
  7. Ibid, 34, 23
  8. Ibid, 34, 15
  9. Ibid, 35, 2
  10. Ibid, 35, 6
  11. Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason, p. 36

Summa II, Q. 25 and 26

Question 25. The adoration of Christ

Article 1. Whether Christ’s humanity and Godhead are to be adored with the same adoration?

We read in the chapters of the Fifth Council [coll. viii, can. 9]: “If anyone say that Christ is adored in two natures, so as to introduce two distinct adorations, and does not adore God the Word made flesh with the one and the same adoration as His flesh, as the Church has handed down from the beginning; let such a one be anathema.”

The objection that, because there are two wills and two natures, we should adore the Divinity of Christ with a greater adoration that that of the humanity is thus heretical.  Christ is one Person, and it is this person we worship and adore.

“We may consider two things in a person to whom honor is given: the person himself, and the cause of his being honored.” The honor is given to the person primarily, and only secondarily to the “action.”  Therefore, the separate wills, separate operations, of Christ are not the determinants of differing adoration, but the one Person.

Article 2. Whether Christ’s humanity should be adored with the adoration of “latria”?

For this reason were the Gentiles reproved, that they “worshiped and served the creature,” as it is written (Romans 1:25).

But we see already in the first article that this is not the basis of our adoration, nor the primary object.  The object is the Person of Christ, and He is worshipped in His Divinity and Humanity as one Person, a Divine Person who should be given the adoration of “latria.”

As Damascene says, “On account of the incarnation of the Divine Word, we adore the flesh of Christ not for its own sake, but because the Word of God is united thereto in person.”  The adoration of “latria” is not given to Christ’s humanity in respect of itself; but in respect of the Godhead to which it is united, by reason of which Christ is not less than the Father.

Article 3. Whether the image of Christ should be adored with the adoration of “latria”?

It might be objected that: “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything” and the Gentiles are reproached principally for that “they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man.” And also, Scripture does not lay down anything concerning the adoration of images.

However, “The honor given to an image reaches to the prototype,” i.e. the exemplar. But the exemplar itself–namely, Christ–is to be adored with the adoration of “latria”; therefore also His image.

Aristotle tells us that there is a twofold movement of the mind towards an image: one indeed towards the image itself as a certain thing; another, towards the image in so far as it is the image of something else. We do not worship the image as an image. Reverence should be shown to it, in so far only as it is an image. In fact, Christ is the “image of the invisible God.”  We, in a way, already worship an “image of God.” And as we saw above, it is the Person of Christ that we worship when we adore His image, and not the material body as such.

Article 4. Whether Christ’s cross should be worshipped with the adoration of “latria”?

We see then that Christ’s humanity is worshiped with the adoration of “latria,” inasmuch as it is united to the Son of God in Person. But this cannot be said of the cross. Therefore, it might be objected that Christ’s cross should not be worshiped with the adoration of “latria.”

St. Thomas illustrates his answer with a hymn of the Church:

“Dear Cross, best hope o’er all beside,
That cheers the solemn passion-tide:
Give to the just increase of grace,
Give to each contrite sinner peace.”

We show the worship of “latria” to that in which we place our hope of salvation, and we place our hope in Christ’s cross. Therefore Christ’s cross should be worshiped with the adoration of “latria.”

Article 5. Whether the Mother of God should be worshipped with the adoration of “latria”?

The Mother of God is a mere creature. Therefore the worship of “latria” is not due to her. This is, of course, dogmatic Catholic teaching.  It is often, either out of ignorance or malice, not correctly portrayed by the protestant Christians.  If out of malice, it is dishonest and not Christlike.  If out of ignorance, there is no excuse, for the official teaching of the Church is easily available to all in documents and especially the Catechism.  Nevertheless, there are even Catholics who fail to underdstand this difference. They, more than any, are especially culpable for this error.

Since the Blessed Virgin is a mere rational creature, the worship of “latria” is not due to her, but only that of “dulia”: but in a higher degree than to other creatures, inasmuch as she is the Mother of God. For this reason we say that not any kind of “dulia” is due to her, but “hyperdulia.”

Article 6. Whether any kind of worship is due to the relics of the saints?

St. Thomas’ own words (sometimes quoting others, of course) are sufficient here:

“We believe that the bodies of the saints, above all the relics of the blessed martyrs, as being the members of Christ, should be worshiped in all sincerity”: and further on: “If anyone holds a contrary opinion, he is not accounted a Christian, but a follower of Eunomius and Vigilantius.”

As Augustine says in The City of God,  “If a father’s coat or ring, or anything else of that kind, is so much more cherished by his children, as love for one’s parents is greater, in no way are the bodies themselves to be despised, which are much more intimately and closely united to us than any garment; for they belong to man’s very nature.”

“Now it is manifest that we should show honor to the saints of God, as being members of Christ, the children and friends of God, and our intercessors. Wherefore in memory of them we ought to honor any relics of theirs in a fitting manner: principally their bodies, which were temples, and organs of the Holy Ghost dwelling and operating in them, and are destined to be likened to the body of Christ by the glory of the Resurrection. Hence God Himself fittingly honors such relics by working miracles at their presence.”

Question 26. Christ as called the mediator of God and man

Article 1. Whether it is proper to Christ to be the Mediator of God and man?

“There is . . . one Mediator of God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

The proper office of a mediator is to join those between whom the mediator mediates.  Only Christ perfectly fulfills this office (“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19). “However, nothing hinders certain others from being called mediators, in some respect, between God and man, forasmuch as they cooperate in uniting men to God, dispositively or ministerially.” This includes both angels and men, either as messengers of God or as priests who participate in His office.

Article 2. Whether Christ, as man, is the Mediator of God and men?

Although it belongs to Christ as God to take away sin authoritatively, yet it belongs to Him, as man, to satisfy for the sin of the human race. And in this sense He is called the Mediator of God and men.”

It is priests who offer sacrifice, who make reparation for us to God.  It is God who forgives sin and reconciles us to be sure, but Christ as man offers the sacrifice and thus can rightly be called the mediator as man.

This completes our summary of the Summa’s treatment of the Incarnation in Questions 1-26 of Part III.

Summa III, Q. 23 and 24

Question 23. Adoption as befitting to Christ

Article 1. Whether it is fitting that God should adopt sons?

“He hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children of God.” Ephesians 1:5

The objections given to this question seem to be those of taking the analogy too far.  To be an adopted son is of God is similar in one way and not in another to that of worldly adopted sonship.

Men, then, are adopted by God as sons as far as they, in their created nature, can participate in the goodness of God.  We become, as St. Peter says, partakers of the divine nature, and in as much as this is possible for a created being, it is the inheritance of sonship.  Just as, by creation, there are more “beings” than before but no more “being,” likewise, by our sharing this inheritance, nothing is lost to God.  Unlike material goods, its giving causes no loss in the giver.

Likewise, as we discussed in the doctrine of predilection,God, by bestowing His grace, makes man whom He adopts worthy to receive the heavenly inheritance; whereas man does not make him worthy whom he adopts; but rather in adopting him he chooses one who is already worthy.”

Article 2. Whether it is fitting that the whole Trinity should adopt?

It may be objected that the Father alone can adopt, as it is “He who begets that may call someone his son,” but Thomas takes the position that references to God in ragards to our sonship must refer primarily to God as one, and thus, the whole Trinity is said to adopt us. So St. Thomas tells us thatalthough, in God, to beget belongs to the Person of the Father, yet to produce any effect in creatures is common to the whole Trinity, by reason of the oneness of their Nature: since, where there is one nature, there must needs be one power and one operation.”

It is pointed out that Christ call the Father “My Father,” and “Your Father” (John 20:17).  In fact, He never calls God “our” Father in relation to us and Himself, for the Fatherhood of God is different for the Son than it is for the sons.  The only place Jesus says the words “our Father,” is when He tells us what to say. We are adopted sons, and this is nothing small; but never are we exactly the same as Christ in relation to the Father.

Article 3. Whether it is proper to the rational nature to be adopted?

It is not said of all rational creatures, such as the angels, that they are adopted by God in the way we are. “Angels are called sons of God by adoptive sonship, not that it belongs to them first; but because they were the first to receive the adoption of sons.” Of course, a non-rational creature could not be adopted to the beatific vision. Nevertheless, we are adopted by God, made to conform to His Word, and to a certain oneness with God in as much as is possible in our created nature. We are always reminded that “grace perfects nature” (rather than destroying it).

Article 4. Whether Christ as man is the adopted Son of God?

Here we return to the all important question that, if properly understood, Thomas has answer back in Question 2.  For sonship belongs to a person, and not to a nature.  It is the person of Christ who is the natural, not adopted, Son of the Father, and therefore, it is not proper to call Him, even in His human nature, the adopted son of God.  The Second Person is the Son, and no new person exists in the Incarnate Word than the eternal Person, the unadopted but begotten second Person of the Trinity.

Question 24. The predestination of Christ

Article 1. Whether it is befitting that Christ should be predestinated?

The Apostle says, speaking of Christ (Romans 1:4): “Who was predestinated the Son of God in power.”

The problem here is that it is hard to see how either the divine person or the human nature (“we do not speak of a person’s nature, but of his person, as being predestinated: because to be predestinated is to be directed towards salvation, which belongs to a suppositum acting for the end of beatitude”) can be the subject of predestination, for predestination is a Divine preordination of what is to be done by God’s grace within time, and this is done to a person.

The Incarnation, of course, is “in time,” and it is reflection on this that will help us comprehend the mystery. “The union itself of natures in the Person of Christ falls under the eternal predestination of God. For this reason do we say that Christ was predestinated.”

Article 2. Whether this proposition is false: “Christ as man was predestinated to be the Son of God”?

It would seem that, “Christ, as the Son of God, was predestinated to be man,” is truer than, “Christ, as Man, was predestinated to be the Son of God.”But Thomas pays close attention to the words of St. Augustine: “Forasmuch as God the Son was made Man, we say that the Lord of Glory was predestinated.”

In answering the objections, St. Thomas pays close attention to the manner of speaking and the types of cause that are referred to, be it the “material” or “efficient” most especially, but also the cause and effect considered antecedently and consequentially. We see again the importance of specificity in our speech, reminding us of the trouble Thomas Aquinas took in Question 16 in a similar regard.

In the end, it seems most fitting to say that “Christ, as Man, was predestinated the Son of God.”

Article 3. Whether Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours?

First, as we see in analogous terms as well, “the exemplate need not be conformed to the exemplar in all respects: it is sufficient that it imitate it in some.” Indeed, Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours.

I will expand on this in summary to article 4, as the concept behind understanding it applies there as well, but to quote Thomas briefly:

Predestination may be considered in two ways. First, on the part of the act of predestination: and thus Christ’s predestination cannot be said to be the exemplar of ours: for in the same way and by the same eternal act God predestinated us and Christ.”

“Secondly, predestination may be considered on the part of that to which anyone is predestinated, and this is the term and effect of predestination. In this sense Christ’s predestination is the exemplar of ours.”

Article 4. Whether Christ’s predestination is the cause of ours?

Predestination, as an eternal decision of God’s, cannot be said to precede another act of predestination.  However, in the order of first and second causes, God may predestine one to be the cause of another.  In this regard, Christ’s predestination precedes ours, not in time, but in order of causality by the will of God.

“For eternal predestination covers not only that which is to be accomplished in time, but also the mode and order in which it is to be accomplished in time.”

As an aside, we may note here how, in soteriology, we are saved by grace alone, and yet, our faith and our works are required. God’s wills not only the ends but the means, and these means must be accomplished for the ends to do so.  Thus, we “work out our salvation” for “it is God who wills in us” to work and merit this just as “it is by grace” that we are saved and “not of ourselves.” So it is in one eternal act that all is decreed, yet in decreeing the means, the means are necessary for God’s end to be reached, because He wills that they be necessary, just as He willed that Christ’s predestination be necessary for our predestination.

The Manliness of St. Thomas Aquinas

“On The Manliness of St. Thomas Aquinas”

an article by Dr. Donald DeMarco

     Karl Marx could not have missed the mark by a wider margin than when he said, “It is easy to become a saint if one does not want to become a man.”  Apart from the fact that it is decidedly not easy to become a saint, is Marx’s failure to recognize that sanctity is man’s crowning achievement precisely as a human being, or, in the words of St. Irenaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

The virtue of manliness, therefore, is a natural element in the development of the saint.  We are drawing our attention here to manliness as a quality that represents the fullness of the male, as opposed to womanliness that is perfective of the female.

There are no wimps in the catalogue of male saints.  Timidity, conformity, and credulity are not the marks of a holy person, male or female.  An illuminating and instructive example of the coincidence of manliness and sanctity is in the person of St. Thomas Aquinas.  We may look at the manliness of Aquinas from the standpoint of: 1) his pedigree;  2) his mentor;  3) his character;  4) his mission.

His Pedigree:

St. Thomas’ great uncle was the bearded terror, Barbarossa.  His second cousin was the brutal Emperor Frederick II of Germany, the infamous “Wonder of the World”.  His family was related to Emperor Henry VI and to the Kings of Aragon, Castile, and France, as well as to a good half of the ruling houses of Europe.  His father rode in armour behind imperial banners and stormed the Benedictine monastery at Monte Casino because the Emperor regarded it as a fortress of his enemy, the Pope.  At his birth, therefore, this seventh and last son born of Count Landulf and the Countess Theodora of Teano, inherited the solemn obligation to take his place in the world and bring added lustre to his family’s already glorious name.  Yet, Aquinas proved not to be so malleable.  Despite his illustrious pedigree, whose manliness was never questioned, Aquinas gave his own manliness a different direction.

His Mentor:

Aquinas left his homeland in 1245 when he was twenty years of age and journeyed to Paris where he studied under Albert of Böllstadt who, even in his own lifetime, was known as Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great.  Like his celebrated pupil, Albert’s decision to become a Dominican was strongly opposed by his family, who had hoped that their intellectual prodigy would pursue a more worldly vocation.

St. Albert traveled throughout Europe on foot as a penniless friar.  The Continent aptly dubbed him, “the Bishop of the Boots”.  The good saint was, according to one commentator, “indefatigable, of immense strength and vitality, and totally dedicated to his work”.

Albert was a man of great learning whose academic interests were broad and deep.  His literary output was vast, ranging from theology to botany.  He was, in his own manliness, the ideal mentor for his young student.  In 1248, when Albert went to Cologne, Thomas, now 23 years of age, went with him, and there finished his studies.

His Character:

The distinguished scholar, Etienne Gilson, has remarked that Aquinas possessed two intellectual virtues to a high degree that are rarely found in the same person.  There was intellectual modesty which disposed St. Thomas to be open and respectful to all other thinkers, from the Latin Averroists, to Jewish theologians, to pagan philosophers.  This modesty also meant that he was happy to allow things to be entirely themselves.  Thus, he stated that, “The human intellect is measured by things so that man’s thought is not true on its own account but is called true in virtue of its conformity with things.”

Aquinas’ modesty was combined with his intellectual audacity.  By virtue of his modesty, he saw things as they are;  by virtue of his audacity he had the strength of mind to hold fast to the truth he grasped.  Some thinkers have a great deal of intellectual modesty though they buckle under the pressure of public or personal opposition.  Others see things in a distorted way, but foolishly cling to their errors despite reasonable evidence brought to their attention about their untenability.

Aquinas was manly enough to remain faithful, despite strong opposition to what he knew, in all humility, was right.  One interesting instance were Aquinas expressed his manliness occurred while he was teaching at the University of Paris.  Angered by the way the Averoists were corrupting the youth there with their sly, sophistical teaching, he challenged them to put their doctrine in writing and defend it in the open before men and not hand it out in the classroom to boys who were not able to defend themselves.

His Mission:

     Thomas’ pedigree, his mentor, and his character well prepared him for the colossal mission he was destined to undertake.  There were many battles he had to fight, though he always fought them with calmness, fairness, and sobriety.  His first battle was against his family’s insistence that the young Thomas abandon all interest in becoming a Dominican friar and take his place in the world that was reserved for him.  He was held prisoner for more than a year in the family’s castle.  He rejected, sometimes heroically, all enticements and, true to his resolve, joined the Order of Preachers.

At Paris, he battled Guillaume de Saint-Amour, who denied the right of friars to teach.  There would be fiercer battles to come.  The greatest was his victorious battle in harmonizing reason with faith, philosophy with theology, and contemplation with action.  His copious writings fill thirty-four volumes of double-column print (in the Vivès edition).

The manliness of St. Thomas Aquinas is amply demonstrated by his series of dramatic and enduring victories for the God, Church, and humanity.  In summing up the accomplishments of Aquinas, Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical, Aeterni Patris, wrote:  “Reason, borne on the wings of Thomas to its human height, can scarcely rise higher, while faith could scarcely expect more or stronger aids from reason than those she obtained from Thomas.”

Among all the syntheses Aquinas was able to achieve, perhaps the most ironic is that of his manliness with his celebrated appellation as the “Angelic Doctor”.

Aquinas Today:

Today’s greatest moral battle involves abortion, which is at the very epicentre of the struggle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death.  Many people recognize the humanity of the unborn, but are unwilling to come to their defence.  On the other hand, many who are willing to stand up for any number of causes, refuse to see abortion as anything more than a choice.  Both the modesty and audacity personified by St. Thomas are critically needed today so that the humanity of the unborn can be both recognized and defended.

Is it at all surprising then, astonishing as the story is, reported in the Spanish daily, La Razon and in magazines and newspapers throughout Eastern Europe, that none other than St. Thomas Aquinas himself would appear in a dream  to change the mind and heart of a leading abortionist?

Stojan Adasevic is a Serbian doctor who has performed, over a period of twenty-six years, an estimated 48,000 abortions, sometimes as many as thirty-five in a single day.  According to Adasevic’s written testimony, he “dreamed about a beautiful field full of children and young people who were playing and laughing, from 4 to 24 years of age, but who ran away from him in fear.”  At this point in the dream, a man dressed in a black and white habit stared at him in silence.  This dream was repeated night after night, and caused Adasvic to wake up each night in a cold sweat.  One night, he asked this strange man dressed in what Catholics would recognize as a Dominican habit, to identify himself.  “My name is Thomas Aquinas,” came the cryptic response.  Naturally, since Adasevic’s entire education was in communist schools, he had never heard of him.  Moreover, the medical textbooks of the Communist regime maintained that abortion is merely the removal of a “blob of tissue”.  Although ultrasound images of the fetus arrived in the 80s, they had not changed Adasevic’s mind about the reality of the unborn.

Then it was Thomas’s turn to ask a question of his own:  “Why don’t you ask me who these children are?”  Aquinas quickly answered his own query:  “They are the ones you killed with your abortions.”  Adasevic awoke in amazement and vowed not to perform any more abortions.

When Adasevic informed his hospital that he would no longer do abortions, reprisals came swiftly and were quite severe.  The hospital cut his salary in half, fired his daughter from her post, and took steps to prevent his son from entering the university.

After years of pressure and frustration that brought him to the brink of despair, he had another dream in which St. Thomas appeared to him.  “You are my good friend, keep going,” said the Angelic Doctor.  And, indeed, Adasevic has kept going.  In addition to studying the works of Aquinas and returning to the Orthodox faith of his childhood, he has become Serbia’s most important and effective pro-life leader.  Among his accomplishments is getting Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s film, “The Silent Scream,” aired on Yugoslav television.

Manliness is not machismo.  Nor is it ostentation or braggadocio.  The recognition of the humanity of the unborn and a willingness to come to their defense is an excellent illustration of this important virtue, and one that St. Thomas Aquinas continues to exemplify.