Monthly Archives: February 2016

Steven Long and the Moral Object – 3

Another interesting outcome of this New Morality approach to the natural law. Criminal legislation!

All Catholics ought to be pro-life. But the pro-life stance involves the will and the effort to achieve legislation protecting the unborn.

Now, on the New Natural Law approach, we supposedly don’t know if an act of in-utero-child-killing really is abortion until we ask the agent what her / his intention is. Only if the agent proposes to himself / herself “I seek the death of the child,” then – on this execrable account of the moral object – the act constitutes abortion.

But if the agent proposes to himself / herself “I seek only the removal of the child,” then – on this execrable account of the moral object – the act does not constitute abortion but simply “removal of the fetus.”

In the latter case, the New Natural Law analysis has one further question: Is there “proportionate reason” to remove the fetus? If not, the act is not justified. If so, the act is justified. The NNL analysis then submits that if the mother were to die unless the fetus is removed, there is proportionate reason. A fortiori, the argument goes, if both mother and fetus were to die unless the fetus is removed.

What is the upshot? The upshot is that on the New Natural Law account, pro-life legislation requires examination of the intention of the agent. Now, it is notoriously difficult for a human tribunal to discover with moral certitude the intentions of an agent. Sometimes these intentions are shown in evidence. Example: Someone plotting a death in writing leaves evidence of First Degree culpability. But just what would be the way in which one might reliably, for the most part, determine the intention of the agent seeking or providing abortion?

In fact, the New Natural Law approach seems on this score very ill suited to practical application. And practical application is one of the leading reasons why those who eschew the theory tolerate it – or donate to its richly endowed foundations. But here, that practical political application seems doomed to a bad fate.

Is this defect not definitional to the NNL approach? For that approach denies the basic point that some actions have per se effects and that for any agent intelligently to propose to commit the action just is to propose to bring about these per se effects. Let the money go to the Traditional Natural Law.

Official Lutheran Document vs. Trent, Part 1

Sigrid Undset is said to have defended her conversion from Lutheranism to Catholicism simply by translating Luther for her fellow citizens. By reading what Luther actually had to say, some were amply convinced that she made the right move.

I have been bringing forward words from Luther. Not isolated ones. Key ones. Pivotal ones. Ones that exhibit the very structure of his view.

But someone will object: Luther is not ‘the authority’. Rather, insofar as there is any authority outside of Scripture, the ‘reference point’ for a Lutheran is the Book of Concord. Some Lutherans demand adherence to all the Book of Concord. Some not. With regard to the former, I will present some very clear teachings from the Solid Declaration. These are in contrast to Trent.

I begin today:

Lutheran Solid Declaration COUNCIL OF TRENT
“It is correct to say that in this life believers who have become righteous through faith in Christ have first of all the righteousness of faith that is reckoned to them and then thereafter the righteousness of new obedience or good works that are begun in them. But these two kinds of righteousness dare not be mixed with each other or simultaneously introduced into the article on justification by faith before God. For because this righteousness that is begun in us­—this renewal—is imperfect and impure in this life because of our flesh, a person cannot use it in any way to stand before God’s judgment throne. Instead, only the righteousness of the obedience, suffering, and death of Christ, which is reckoned to faith, can stand before God’s tribunal.” III:32


“The only function or characteristic of faith remains that it alone and absolutely nothing else is the means or instrument by and through which God’s grace and the merit of Christ promised in the gospel are received, laid hold of, accepted, applied to us, and appropriated. Love and all other virtues or works must be excluded from the functions and characteristics of this application and appropriation of the promise.” III:38


“Neither renewal, sanctification, virtues, nor good works are to be viewed or presented either as the form or as a part or as a cause of justification.” III:39


If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only brushed over or not imputed; let him be anathema. For, in those who are born again, there is nothing that God hates; because, There is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism into death; who walk not according to the flesh, but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new who is created according to God, are made innocent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ; so that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into heaven. TRENT, SESSION V, CANON 5.

Thus, not only are we considered just, but we are truly called just and are just, each one receiving within himself his own justice…. Trent Session VI, chap. 7.


Therefore, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified for them to be regarded as having entirely fulfilled the divine law in their present condition by the works they have done in the sight of God. Trent VI, chap. 16.


If anyone says that men are justified without the justice of Christ, by which he merited [justification] for us, or that they are formally just by that very justice: let him be anathema. Trent VI, canon 10


If anyone says that men are justified either by the imputation of the justice of Christ alone or by the remission of sins alone, to the exclusion of grace and charity which are poured forth through the Holy Spirit into their hearts and which inhere in them, or even that the grace by which we are justified is only the favor of God, let him be anathema. Trent VI, canon 11.




Steve Long and the Moral Object – 2

Let’s follow up on Steve Long’s critique of recent moral thinkers on the moral object.

Basically, some recent thinkers will contend that the object of the act is what I find attractive about my action. Example. What I find attractive in the golf course when I wield a club is the swing, the hitting of the ball by swinging. I don’t do this so as to ruin the turf. But it sometimes (often?) happens I do ruin the turf. That would be a side effect. But I only choose / intend the swing qua hitting the ball.

So far, fine.

Problems come, however, when this notion runs rough-shod over the intrinsic order of cause-effect discernible in nature. Say it is evident that such-and-such a dose of pain killers will kill anyone to whom it is administered. Then, intelligently to administer that dose to anyone must be to kill them. There is no other intelligent description of the act. There is no other intelligent way of committing that act. Granted, some people are out of their minds. They might be sick with horror over their loved one’s pain. Say he is screaming constantly. So, they stick the needle and administer the deadly dose of pain killer. But that person is acting from sick emotion. Out of his mind. Not acting intelligently.

I am focussing and saying: Let’s look at the act intelligently done. My contention – following Long – is that precisely because the act is known to all to be the lethal administration of pain-killer that the one moral object that this act can constitute, the one direct action that this constitutes, is killing. The doctor of course does not will death for death’s sake. But this is the means he chooses, directly, to obtain the further goal, the cessation of pain.

Craniotomy is another one. What mother would possibly disagree that the crushing of the skull is simply the “reshaping of the skull to fit the child through the canal”? To crush the baby’s skull immediately causes death. This is the immediate, per se effect of the physical act. Hence, intelligently to commit the act just is intentionally to kill. One might be out of one’s mind. But that is a different story.

New scenario. Say my son is lodged in a narrow cave. On the far side of him is a nuclear bomb that will totally annihilate the planet. All I have to do is push the ‘off’ button. All I have is a sharp knife. The only possible way to get to the button is to dismember my son. How should I look at this situation?

Well, the new morality says: I can propose to myself “the reshaping of these limbs such that space is opened up for me to get to the bomb and save the planet.”

But the old morality – which is ever ancient and ever new – says that to do so is in fact hideously to murder my son so as to achieve the good end of saving the planet. The old morality says: In this awful case, you can’t do anything harmful to your son. Never harm. The old physician’s adage. So, you must suffer. You must take up your cross and suffer.

But back to the new morality. I suppose they would go further. I suppose they would say: SINCE the ‘object’ is what you find attractive about the act, then the ‘murdering act’ in fact becomes simply the reshaping of the parts and removal of physical matter. And for what end? To save a planet with 10 billion people. Then they would say, “But it is unfortunate your son dies. Is it ‘proportionate’? Heck yes: Because 999,999,999,999 others are saved.”

But the old morality just looks at the act straight in the eye and asks its perp: “You know, don’t you, that you have just committed an evil deed, so that good may come. Can you seriously say that you did not? Is the order in nature so far beneath your intelligence that you can run rough shod over it, shaping as you will, under the narrative description you choose? And where will this stop?”

In fact, how can it stop at the conclusion: “This act is permissible”? It cannot. For the proportion of lives is so drastic that the new morality has to go on and say that dismembering the child is what one ought to do.

Trent vs. Luther

Sin is really sin, regardless of whether you commit it before or after you have come to know Christ. And God hates the sin; in fact, so far as the substance of the deed is concerned, every sin is mortal. It is not mortal for the believer; but this is on account of Christ the Propitiator, who expiated it by His death. As for the person who does not believe in Christ, not only are all his sins mortal, but even his good works are sins, in accordance with the statement (Rom 14:23): ‘Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.’ Therefore it is a pernicious error when the sophists distinguish among sins on the basis of the substance of the deed rather than on the basis of the persons. A believer’s sin is the same sin and sin just as great as that of the unbeliever. To the believer, however, it is forgiven and not imputed, while to the unbeliever it is retained and imputed. To the former it is venial; to the latter mortal. This is not because of a difference between the sins, as though the believer’s sin were smaller and the unbeliever’s larger, but because of a difference between the persons. For the believer knows that his sin is forgiven him on account of Christ, who expiated it by His death. Even though he has sin and commits sin, he remains godly. On the other hand, when the unbeliever commits sin, he remains ungodly. This is the wisdom and the comfort of those who are truly godly, that even if they have sins and commit sins, they know that because of their faith in Christ these are not imputed to them.[1]

Thus we abide in a humility that is not fictitious or monastic but authentic, because of the filth and the faults that cling to our flesh; if God wanted to judge severely, we would deserve eternal punishment on account of these.[2]

If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema. For, in those who are born again, there is nothing that God hates; because, There is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism into death; who walk not according to the flesh, but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new who is created according to God, are made innocent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ; so that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into heaven. But this holy synod confesses and is sensible, that in the baptized there remains concupiscence, or an incentive (to sin); which, whereas it is left for our exercise, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; yea, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned. This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin. TRENT, SESSION V, CANON 5.

If anyone says that in every good work the just man sins at least venially,[126] or, what is more intolerable, mortally, and hence merits eternal punishment, and that he is not damned for this reason only, because God does not impute these works into damnation, let him be anathema. TRENT SESSION 6, CANON 25


[1] LW 27:76.

[2] LW 27:86.

The Real Sensus Fidelium Speaks in ITALY

Theologians have stressed the “sense of the faithful” (sensus fidelium) since the Second Vatican Council.

Often, they use this concept to wear away at Tradition, to alter dogmas and venerable liturgical traditions. They use the concept as though it were sociological. “What are the people saying? That’s the ‘sense of the faithful.'” So, surveys are conducted, views examined.

This very approach – taking surveys – handled in this sociological way can be very disturbing. If handled in some other way, it can be wonderful. The Marian definitions in the past two centuries were preceded by a test of the ‘sensus fidelium’ conducted in such a way as not to subject the faith to the opinions of the masses but in such a way as to determine whether it was opportune to define or not. That was wonderful. But the sociologists among ecclesiologists nowadays often use this survey approach to subject the faith to the individual believers, taken collectively. “Should we do away with the perpetual virginity? Should we do away with the ‘prohibition’ on condoms? Should we stop insisting the Holy Spirit proceeds filioque?”

This is disastrous.

But you can’t prevent the true stones of truth from speaking out. You cannot prevent – not forever – the truth of nature from crying out to heaven.

The faithful, and even nature herself in her rational agents, have spoken their voice. The sociologists themselves cannot ignore it. Italy has spoken. The people know that the True Family is the real family. That other forms of family are not “participations” of the family but deviations from it, perversions. It is false to analogize the perversion of the very essence of something with a refracted share in it. As Pius XI taught, false unions are not diminished participations; they are not like red and yellow of the rainbow. They are erasures of color, black spots, blindnesses.

This voice of nature and the voice of the ‘sensus fidelium’ is in harmony with the ancient wisdom – which is Ever New – of the Church. Truth is ever new. Because truth is not an artifact. Truth is Now. It is Being. It is Reality. Make it go away, and you will find yourself aging, on the way to corruption, fading, averse, perverse, in the dark, cast in shadows – miserable! Come to the Truth, all you labor and are weary, blundering in perversions and lies; deceiving and deceived; He shall set your soul to peace, gathering the pieces of shard your moral ruin has caused you.

Italy has spoken; Truth has spoken in Italy; and no one, No One, can hide it under a Bushel:

Luther and the Saints

What Luther Says What Saints Say
“We would perhaps have disregarded corruption [i.e., our own sin] and been pleased with our evil unless this other evil, which is wrath [i.e., the punishment threatened by divine anger], had refused to indulge our foolishness and had resisted it with terror and the danger of hell and death, so that we have but little peace in our wickedness. Plainly wrath is a greater evil for us than corruption, for we hate punishment more than guilt.”[1] “It is characteristic of the virtuous to flee from moral wrong because of its very nature and not because of threatened punishment. But it is characteristic of the wicked to flee from moral wrong because of threatened punishment.” Thomas Aquinas, On Evil, 1.5, ad 11
“Hence, just as wrath is a greater evil than the corruption of sin, so grace is a greater good than that health of righteousness which we have said comes from faith. Everyone would prefer – if that were possible – to be without the health of righteousness [internal holiness, truly loving God] rather than [without] the grace of God [i.e., the favor whereby he does not punish the guilty], for peace and the remission of sins are properly attributed to the grace of God, while healing from corruption is ascribed to faith.”[2]


“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn 4:18).

[1] Martin Luther, Against Latomus (LW 32:224 [WA 8.104.17–21]). See the whole discussion (LW 32:223–27 [WA 8.103.35–106.28]).

[2] Martin Luther, Against Latomus (LW 32:227 [WA 8.106.4–20]).

Some Men are Not Saved

Classical logic holds that the negation of a universal affirmative immediately implies the affirmation of a particular negative.

If “not all will go to the game,” then “some will not go to the game.”

Now, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 7:21). Jesus is negating the universal affirmative. Thus, he is immediately implying the affirmation of the particular negative.

Thus, a logically equivalent expression is: “Some are not saved.”

And Jesus is speaking of men.

For classical logicians, we gather from knowledge outside the statements that “humans exist.” The statement, that is, is simply about existing human beings. Thus, the ultimate yield is: “There are some men who are such that they will not be saved.”

Symbolic logicians contend that the affirmation of a particular (negative or affirmative) constitutes an existential claim.

So, it seems on the count of either logic, that Jesus affirms that some men are damned.