Apostolate Strategies: On What Foundation?

How shall we spread Christ’s kingdom? There is a certain apostolic strategy that tries to derive all its directive norms from reason alone and natural law.

For instance: What should I say to those high-schoolers at the Catholic prep school if I am to talk with them about right acting? (Some, after all, are not Catholic.) Again: What should be our guiding light if we are to encourage families to live harmoniously? Again, how should we work for a better future?

Some limit these apostolates to the use of reason and natural law. If I am going to present at that high-school, they say, I should only speak of “natural law”. I should not mention the Bible, or Christ, or the Ten Commandments, etc. Only what pure reason can deduce should I mention. Don’t want to scare them.

If a family is disfunctional, mention God perhaps but only as creator of the world. Try to treat the situation simply from the perspective of natural law. Say Johnny is disobeying Dad’s instructions. Say Sally is immodest habitually. Say the situations are very, very bad and that these are only symptoms of the problem. What should be done?

If you are in a group to consider the matter, what should you discuss? Can you bring in the God question? Can you bring in the question of Consecration of the family to the Sacred Heart?

A number of good Catholics are suggesting that in such groups, you should try to identify the issues and a resolution to the problem solely by appeal to reason and natural law. If I am to suggest that the chiefest problem is spiritual and that prayer, the Eucharist, the Rosary, etc., are solid and crucial bases on which to build, the response would be that  while the suggestions are very welcome of course personally and privately, they are not invited and perhaps even discouraged as public suggestions.

This is a reason for my last post. Why the restrictions? Has not God spoken? Revealed his will? Left us his Church?

True, the human mind is not so dull as not to be able to learn from natural law. However, the human mind is darkened and on its own it stammers and fails. Its conceptions of God will in the end be mixed with errors, unless it turns to the One True Revelation. (This, by the way, is pretty much De Fide at Vatican I.)  All the more, then, when man is to consider the laws by which he should practically act, – all the more is he likely to be mixed up and confused, at least in the details. Earthly pleasures lie close at hand and turn the mind towards them. Sin knocks, beseeches, and begs us: Return to me, you unfortunately thoughtful fellow!

There is another consideration: If a group of predominantly Catholic persons again and again discusses a matter and does so with a mighty effort to avoid appeal to Catholic faith, how could it not very easily, down the road, begin to forget that all foundations that are not set on Christ are doomed to miserable failure?

What good is being “orderly” if it is not directed to Christ? A banker can be upright morally (as it were), good to his kids, Stoically resigned that he may well disappear after death, yet be committed to defending the destitute as well, living decently but not luxuriantly, etc. Should we praise this man? Not if he seeks not the True God with every fiber of his being.

Shall we be glad that Jack is no longer smoking pot and messy, but now orderly and decent? Yes, in limited fashion, we should be glad. But on the other hand, his pot-smoking spelled a deeper hunger that he had. If he has carved out a way of decency shorn of Christ, I’d venture to say that in an eternal respect he is infinitely worse off as a decent man than he was as a pot smoker.

O Sad State of Affairs, when the best of Catholics, who perhaps have the most (human things) to teach, and the most resources, are riding the tide of an 18th century view of “pure reason” and “natural law” that, in the end, I would argue, is at bottom not Catholic.

O that the King of France would have consecrated his nation! O that we would not forgot that religion, special religion, revealed religion, the True Religion!, is also obligatory. O that we would not premise our strategies on the world’s determinations, especially when those determinations were anti-Catholic to begin with and are of course reversible. O that we would drink from wells of Tradition that run back the gamut of Tradition and not merely from the albeit informative and important but in the end, when isolated from the Tradition, quite limited cisterns left us these last 53 years.

4 thoughts on “Apostolate Strategies: On What Foundation?

  1. I agree. So, the solution is not either-or but both-and. We neither proclaim the natural law and ignore Christ nor proclaim Christ and ignore the natural law. The key, I think, in avoiding both errors is in recognizing that Christ and the natural law are related: since the natural law is determined by the natures of things, and since “all things were made through Him,” Christ is ultimately the Author of the natural law.

    1. Agreed that the solution is both-and. However, the guiding light is not an equal “both-and”. The guiding light is divine grace, which is in the order of excellence of greater power. In the order of material foundation, without a mind of what use is the light of faith for me? Thus, in the order of inalienable material foundation, yes, nature is first. However, a nature wounded and darkened. Not so dark as not to be able to see the signs … of Christ’s divine truth. Yes, also the signs of natural law. But chiefly, the signs of ultimate hope. (I know we agree on this; I am not trying to convert you… because I know you already agree. I am articulating.)

      That Christ is author of the law does not make natural law “Christo-centric” in the proper sense. Why? Because he is Christ as man, not as God. “Christ” means anointed, and it is David’s son that is anointed. In some important sense, then, the natural law is anterior to Christ.

      On the other hand, let us examine the prayer of thanksgiving at mealtime: “Through Christ our Lord.” A good and holy friend of mine gets on his knees when he gets a deer. He thanks not “The Creator” but Jesus Christ. Amen, my good friend; Amen. For all this world would to me be so much rubbish, if I were to have it and not have Christ. It would be my road to damnation. Now that it is my way to heaven, if it has a cruciform form for me, therefore, all its blessings are through Christ our God!

  2. The key is JesusChrist not the Natural Law. The ultimate authority to set forth justice and peace among nations comes from Christ the King. The modernistic attempt of catholic liberals (aka non catholics)to find common ground with non catholics (aka non Christians) on the Natural Law is an utopia that always ends on ultimately worshipping man. By the way that is the reason why masonic forces love and praise this effort. By focusing on men, society as a whole forgets about the social kingship of Chris the king on earth and the need of Christ for Salvation after death.

    But we should now give most special consideration to the declarations made by Jesus Christ, not through the Apostles or the Prophets but by His own words. To the Roman Governor who asked Him, “Art thou a king then?” He answered unhesitatingly, “Thou sayest that I am a king” John xviii. 37).And the greatness of this power and the boundlessness of His kingdom is still more clearly declared in these words to the Apostles: “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew xxviii., 18). If then all power has been given to Christ it follows of necessity that His empire must be supreme, absolute and independent of the will of any other, so that none is either equal or like unto it: and since it has been given in heaven and on earth it ought to have heaven and earth obedient to it. And verily he has acted on this extraordinary and peculiar right when He commanded His Apostles to preach His doctrine over the earth, to gather all men together into the one body of the Church by the baptism of salvation, and to bind them by laws, which no one could reject without risking his eternal salvation.

    5.

    But this is not all. Christ reigns not only by natural right as the Son of God, but also by a right that He has acquired. For He it was who snatched us “from the power of darkness” (Colossians i., 13), and “gave Himself for the redemption of all” (I Timothy ii., 6). Therefore not only Catholics, and those who have duly received Christian baptism, but also all men, individually and collectively, have become to Him “a purchased people” (I Peter ii., 9). St. Augustine’s words are therefore to the point when he says: “You ask what price He paid? See what He gave and you will understand how much He paid. The price was the blood of Christ. What could cost so much but the whole world, and all its people? The great price He paid was paid for all” (T. 120 on St. John).

    6.

    How it comes about that infidels themselves are subject to the power and dominion of Jesus Christ is clearly shown by St. Thomas, who gives us the reason and its explanation. For having put the question whether His judicial power extends to all men, and having stated that judicial authority flows naturally from royal authority, he concludes decisively as follows: “All things are subject to Christ as far as His power is concerned, although they are not all subject to Him in the exercise of that power” (3a., p., q. 59, a. 4). This sovereign power of Christ over men is exercised by truth, justice, and above all, by charity.

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    “Hence that abundance of evils which have now for a long time settled upon the world, and which pressingly call upon us to seek for help from Him by whose strength alone they can be driven away. Who can He be but Jesus Christ the Only-begotten Son of God? “For there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved” (Acts iv., 12). We must have recourse to Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We have gone astray and we must return to the right path: darkness has overshadowed our minds, and the gloom must be dispelled by the light of truth: death has seized upon us, and we must lay hold of life. It will at length be possible that our many wounds be healed and all justice spring forth again with the hope of restored authority; that the splendors of peace be renewed, and swords and arms drop from the hand when all men shall acknowledge the empire of Christ and willingly obey His word, and “Every tongue shall confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Philippians ii, II). “Annum Sacrum” Pope Leo XIII, 1899.

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