Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Scholasticism, Theology, Thomism, Traditionalism

The Sacred Monster of Strict-Observance Thomism

RGL PhotoStrict-Observance Thomism

The first chapter of Helen James John’s The Thomist Spectrum is entitled “Garrigou-Lagrange and Strict-Observance Thomism.” She notes that the qualifier “strict-observance” was coined in “a half-joking fashion many years ago, but has now become a standard way of speaking about the Thomism taught in the Roman universities up to the Second Vatican Council”; it is a double-entendre – playing on the strict-observance faction present in many religious orders. In her judgment, St. Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism in Pascendi was the single-most important factor to highlight for the explanation of this type of Thomism because, in its wake, “the reaction against Modernism became the leit-motif for a total interpretation of the thought of St. Thomas.” Garrigou-Lagrange would become the leading proponent of Strict-Observance Thomism; and with the Sacred Congregation for Studies’ publication of its “Decree of Approval of Some Theses Contained in the Doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas and Proposed to the Teachers of Philosophy” on 27 July 1914, this version of Thomism “found a quasi-official formulation.”

To simply a host of issues, Strict-Observance Thomism is at great pains to protect the metaphysical foundations of Catholic theology; part and parcel of this ‘protection’ is a demonstration that the Aristotelian heritage in metaphysics has neither been transcended nor shown to be seriously wanting. In this section, we will examine the philosophical underpinnings of Strict-Observance Thomism; we will see that many of the issues that we explored in reference to Garrigou’s disputes with the philosophes of Henri Bergson and Maurice Blondel will come into clearer focus. Since Strict-Observance Thomism is most interested in combatting Modernism, the following insight is helpful in setting the stage for understanding Garrigou’s passionate engagement with the question:

“The philosophical aspect of Modernism lay in the position that the doctrines of faith must be regarded not as stable truths of the speculative order, but as ‘symbolic’ expressions of man’s religious needs, whose content required radical reformulation to adapt it to the changed circumstances of successive eras of Christianity. The import of this position, which retained the traditional expressions of faith while denying their truth, has been aptly, if flippantly, summed up in the proposition that ‘There is no God and the Blessed Virgin is His Mother.’”

Of utmost importance is that Strict-Observance Thomism holds that the truths of Christian faith are expressions of realities that transcend the religious longings of the human person. These truths are held to have been revealed by God: they are not accounted for by a mere inspection of the workings of the human heart. This point must be insisted upon: Strict-Observance Thomism, while employing what might today strike many as obscure philosophical concepts, places its priority squarely on revelation. There is no equivocation in its doctrine that God has revealed certain truths and that these truths cannot be known apart from the gratuity of divine revelation. While it is true that these truths can be rationally analyzed and can be shown to be ‘reasonable’ and can even be shown to respond to the deepest needs of the human person, they cannot be accounted for without reference to the God who has deigned to reveal them.”

 

– Lucas G. Westman


*Taken from The Sacred Monster of Thomism, Pg. 119 – 121

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Apologetics, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Theology, Thomism

Pope Leo XIII on Saint Thomas Aquinas – Aeterni Patris

Taken From the Encyclical – Aeterni Patris:

St Thomas Aquinas Framed and Labeled TSC17. Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because “he most venerated the ancient Doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all.”[34] The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.

18. Moreover, the Angelic Doctor pushed his philosophic inquiry into the reasons and principles of things, which because they are most comprehensive and contain in their bosom, so to say, the seeds of almost infinite truths, were to be unfolded in good time by later masters and with a goodly yield. And as he also used this philosophic method in the refutation of error, he won this title to distinction for himself: that, single-handed, he victoriously combated the errors of former times, and supplied invincible arms to put those to rout which might in after-times spring up. Again, clearly distinguishing, as is fitting, reason from faith, while happily associating the one with the other, he both preserved the rights and had regard for the dignity of each; so much so, indeed, that 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 which she has already obtained through Thomas.

19. For these reasons most learned men, in former ages especially, of the highest repute in theology and philosophy, after mastering with infinite pains the immortal works of Thomas, gave themselves up not so much to be instructed in his angelic wisdom as to be nourished upon it. It is known that nearly all the founders and lawgivers of the religious orders commanded their members to study and religiously adhere to the teachings of St. Thomas, fearful least any of them should swerve even in the slightest degree from the footsteps of so great a man. To say nothing of the family of St. Dominic, which rightly claims this great teacher for its own glory, the statutes of the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Augustinians, the Society of Jesus, and many others all testify that they are bound by this law.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

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Culture, Philosophy, Traditionalism

The Beauty of Tradition & An Important Lesson in Humility

Jesus & the ApostlesMy diocese recently endorsed the idea that local parish communities should form teams of street evangelists. I was very excited when I heard this news because street evangelization is something I have been very interested in ever since becoming Catholic. Without hesitation I volunteered to go and receive training to be a fisher of men. During the training session, God showed me something that humbled me to the core. While I was listening the speaker give his lecture on the importance of street evangelization, and how badly people need the healing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God showed me patterns of sinful pride in my intellectual habits. Then it dawned on me in a powerful way that God doesn’t need me to come up with great ideas or devise a grand vision for my life, and he definitely doesn’t need my personality, which can be annoying even for myself at times.

God doesn’t need my personality, my ideas, or my vision. I know, big breakthrough, right? Well, it can be an important corrective that God reveals to us in case we start to puff ourselves up in any way, thinking we are more important than we actually are. It is very easy to start believing that the Church needs original ideas, renewed creativity, or glowing personalities. The desire for renewal with “fresh ideas” is a ruse. The Church needs none of this, but I had fallen into the trap of thinking that I could bring something important to the Church. Now, I would never explicitly believe for a moment that God needs me. I am totally dependent upon His loving grace, and it is I who needs Him above all things. And while I have never intentionally pursued these kinds of thought patterns, that God might need me, the self-important prideful mentality can quite easily become actualized if humility is not energetically pursued each and every day. To properly fight against the sin of pride we have to fight to remain humble. Pride is an unfortunate potentiality of our fallen nature expressed through the patterns of concupiscence.

Being confronted by these truths, tears began to well up in my eyes as I realized how arrogant, selfish, and prideful I can be. It is truly a foolish mentality to think that God needs anything from us when the fact is that whatever we do have is a gift received from our Creator. As I wiped away my tears, embarrassed of my immaturity, God pressed upon me what it is He desires of me. It is as beautiful as it is simple.

I am called to love God and love my neighbor.

Be faithful to God, to Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, and to the deposit of faith given to the Church. Trust in the wisdom of the Church guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. Focus on leading my family through the sacramental vocation of marriage. Work to building up my local Parish in any way that I can. This is what God desires of me; that by loving Him I might love those around me, and by loving those around me in the name of Jesus Christ, God is glorified.

And here is what all of this means for someone like me who lives quite a bit inside my own head – I am never going to come up with something better than or something that adds to the genius of the Thomistic tradition of thought. I will never be smarter, more creative, or more original than the Sacred Tradition I have inherited from those who came before me. I am blessed to have the opportunity to participate in these traditions, to articulate its wisdom against the enemies of the Church, and by the grace of God to bring people into its inheritance so that they might also know Christ, His Most Holy Mother Mary, and the sacramental life of the Church. Admitting this of my prideful self exposes the futility of pursuing “new ideas” or creating “new movements” in the Church to spark emotional excitement about her teachings. If Catholics cannot get excited about what is ancient in the Church, then the new will fade away just as quickly for it is the Gospel itself that is ancient, and we should never tire from hearing of its truth, its beauty, and its goodness.

The bottom line is that I, nor will anyone else, ever outsmart or outdo the wisdom of Sacred Tradition and the fiery trials of concrete historical experiences. And as a self-avowed traditionalist, a healthy amount of shame consumes me to even admit that this “renewal” mentality crept into my thinking.

Instead of renewal, the contemporary Church needs to be awakened to her traditions.

The Church, full of the Holy Spirit and by the authority of Christ the King proclaimed the New Covenant.

The Church, by her divine authority defined the Incarnation, the Blessed and Holy Trinity, and gave us the canon of the Sacred Page.

The Church broke through centuries of violent persecution to evangelize the world and develop an organic Christian society called Christendom.

The Church, in the tradition of Christian Wisdom synthesized the ancient philosophies with Patristic devotion, leaving us with the Scholastic heritage of theology and philosophy.

The Church, to guard against revolutionaries, gave us the Council of Trent and showed us the way to defend the Church with the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Universal and Angelic Doctor.

The Church, lead by many courageous Popes, provided encyclicals exposing the enemies of the faith and armed us with the spiritual weapons needed to defeat these diabolical foes.

The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has provided the soldiers of the Church Militant with an apostolic wisdom powerful enough to convert the nations.

It is our job now, as good soldiers loyal to the King of kings, to take this wisdom and baptize the nations through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church and her traditions do not need renewal, they need to be awakened so that the world may be renewed by her.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

 

 

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Culture, Political Economy

Our Land of Plenty

Our Land of PlentyWalking through those doors is always a mind-blowing experience. I’m not exaggerating when I say I believe the sight behind those glass gates is one of the most incredible our country has to offer.

I am talking, of course, about the grocery store.

“The grocery store?” you ask. “That seems a bit melodramatic, don’t you think?”

“No,” I reply. “I don’t think so at all.”

While I have perhaps exaggerated a little, I’ve only done so in the sense that my mind isn’t always blown every time I pass through the doors of the local Cub Foods or Hy-Vee. But this is only because I, like most Americans, have become so accustomed to the superabundance of food with which our nation has been blessed that I often take it for granted. When I stop and think about it though, I am truly amazed.

Walking down the breakfast aisle alone, I count over 200 kinds of cereal, 97 kinds of jelly and jam, and nearly 30 varieties of peanut butter. Then there’s the produce section, overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables, even in the middle of winter with subzero temperatures outside. There are fresh oranges from Florida and fresh bananas from Guatemala. There are sweet potatoes from Canada and berries from Mexico.

There is also the meat section, with every cut imaginable, both fresh and frozen. There’s beef and pork and poultry and seafood. If I so choose, I can purchase and consume filet mignon or lobster or ribeye or octopus.

My point is that we in the United States today have access to a greater amount and greater variety of food than the people of any other civilization in the entire history of the world. For the last several thousand years of human existence, most of mankind—or rather all of mankind—has only been able to dream about the variety of foods on the shelves in our grocery stores.

Let’s be honest, we are living like kings. Even the poorest among us can eat better than many of the wealthiest men of ages past.

A case in point is meat. It used to be that most people didn’t get to eat meat on a regular basis because it was too expensive. In many societies it was considered a luxury item to be consumed only on special occasions. Today, however, we get to eat meat, if not every day, at least multiple times a week. Even dirt-poor history teachers can pick up a Big Mac or throw some pre-pattied burgers on a $10 mini-grill from Walmart.

It’s hard to deny that we have it pretty good. While our ancestors used to have to go out and hunt and forage if they wanted to eat anything, we today can simply pick up the phone, order a pizza, and have it delivered—hot and delicious—right to our doorstep.

I’ll say it again: we in the United States today have access to a greater amount and greater variety of food than the people of any other civilization in the entire history of the world.

And how do we celebrate this superabundance of food?

Well, by wasting a lot of it, unfortunately.

It’s estimated that Americans throw away 6 billion pounds of food every month. That’s about 20 pounds of food per month for every man, woman, and child in the country. Of course not all of this waste happens at the consumer level. Plenty of food gets discarded at the source or at the retail level as well.

Still, that’s a pretty astonishing amount of waste.

I think a big part of the problem is the need for Tort reform. Many caterers, for example, won’t even let their own customers take home leftovers for fear of being sued if they happen to become ill after eating them.

Even more important though, I think, is a change in attitude. We need to stop taking this abundant food supply for granted. Most people in history haven’t had nearly this level of prosperity, and we might not always have it either. We need to be more grateful for it. And more amazed by it.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Our Lady of Fatima, Traditionalism

What YOU Can Do To Bring About Our Lady’s Triumph

Our Lady Crushing the SnakeIn asking for the Holy Father and all of the world’s Catholic bishops to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, Our Lady put the burden for bringing about her triumph squarely on the leaders of her Son’s Church. However, she gave the rest of us a crucially important role to play as well. If we fulfill the mission she has entrusted to us, we will share in her victory of bringing peace and order to the world, as well as the grace of conversion for many souls.

In order to hasten the day of Our Lady’s triumph and the promised period of peace, YOU can do the following seven things:

I. Increase your love of God and of Our Lady
Many people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, do not love Our Lady enough. Many, especially Protestants, are nervous about giving her too much honor. Those in this situation should remember that we can never love her as much as Jesus loves her. She is, after all, His mother. We should ask Him to help us love her in a way that is pleasing to Him.

II. Pray the Rosary every day
At Fatima, Our Lady specifically requested the daily praying of the Rosary. She promised, “You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.” It is not enough to simply say the words of the Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes, however. We need to do our best to pray the Rosary well. We must strive to really meditate upon the mysteries of our salvation. It probably will not be easy at first, but with time and practice we can improve greatly. Spiritual reading on the Rosary and the great mysteries of our Faith will also help in this regard.

III. Wear the Brown Scapular
The Brown Scapular is Our Lady’s emblem. It is our symbol of devotion to her, our mother and queen. Additionally, the wearing of it makes us partakers of her promise to St. Simon Stock, “Whoseover dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” The Scapular, along with the Rosary, has long been set aside as a crucial weapon for the final victory over Satan. As Our Lady told St. Dominic, “One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, I will save the world.”

IV. Stop offending God
As Our Lady said at Fatima, the world must stop offending God, who is already so much offended. This was in 1917. The sins of the world have increased a hundredfold since then. When we are tempted to sin, we should remember that if we do so, we are only adding to the problem. Every avoided sin is that much less cause for God to punish our world. Additionally, it is a good way to show God that we love Him, and that we appreciate all He has done for us.

V. Do penance
We should do penance to make reparation to God for the sins of our world. Our penitential acts do not need to be major undertakings. The best thing we can do is to offer up the daily sufferings associated with our states in life. When you must do something unpleasant, simply say, “Dear Lord, I offer this up in reparation for my sins and the sins of the whole world.”

VI. Make the First Saturday devotions requested by Our Lady
At Fatima, Our Lady said, “I promise to help at the hour of death, with the graces needed for salvation, whoever on the First Saturday of five consecutive months shall: 1) Confess and receive Holy Communion. 2) Recite five decades of the Holy Rosary. 3) Keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”

VII. Petition the leaders of the Church
Respectfully ask the bishops, cardinals, and Holy Father to properly fulfill Our Lady’s request without any more delay. You might also consider asking your civil leaders to use their influence to make these requests as well. It is in everyone’s best interest to see the Consecration accomplished. Spread the word. Save the world.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Culture, Politics

The Dreher Option Roundup

The Dreher Option RoundupI have spent some time criticizing Rod Dreher’s book, The Benedict Option, because it is a seriously flawed “manifesto.” It is as confused as it is shallow, and will accomplish nothing other than ceding more of the culture to our progressive rivals. Throughout the series of articles I renamed The Benedict Option to the Dreher option because there is nothing Benedictine about the suggested quasi-minimalist Christian movement constructed by Dreher. It would be unfair to the legacy of St. Benedict to associate a movement predicated on surrender to his rule of life, which is why I thought it fitting to associate the weak-kneed treatise with the author of the document giving up on the culture war.

Almost as troubling as the Dreher option itself, is the amount of praise the capitulating manifesto has received from notable Catholics in the priestly hierarchy. This demonstrates that many in the Church have been persuaded into the false notion that the Great Commission is about getting along with liberally pluralistic societies rather than converting them. If the apostles had followed the advice of Dreher they would have never left the room they were gathered when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Instead of preaching at pentecost, St. Peter would have encouraged everyone to band together in small familial enclaves until the time was right to assert the Church’s political influence on society. If there were ever a politically and religiously marginalized group of people it was the early apostolic Church, and yet they emerged from their seclusion full of the Holy Spirit prepared to take on an ungodly empire with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It should shame us that the apostles had more fire and courage to move on behalf of God in their dire situation than the 1 billion Catholics alive in the world today. How is it that a handful of apostles could initiate the conversion of the worlds greatest empire and we can’t even secure the basic right to life for the unborn? Instead of shrinking into tiny ghettos the Church, the true Church, must remember her identity as the Church Militant. In order to reclaim the characteristics of spiritual warriors, the identity of the liberally infused Church ecumenical committed to a faceless global Christianity must be cast aside. The first step toward accomplishing this would be rejecting the Dreher option, or anything else suggesting an ecumenism that instills the errors of religious indifferentism.

The Church Militant has been commissioned by the King of kings to baptize the nations. It is time to reclaim our apostolic heritage and get to work.

Here are the articles in the series:

Part I – A Schismatic Teaches Stability

Part II – Misunderstanding the Ambitions of Our Enemy

Part III – Misunderstanding the Trump Phenomenon

Part IV – What is Called the Church?

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

 

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Culture, Politics

The Hoax of White Nationalism

The Hoax of White NationalismThe alt-right political narrative is largely a reaction to the racialist politics of the atheistic progressive left. The emphasis on racial diversity, multiculturalism, the demonization of the mythic entity of “white privilege”, and the invented pseudo-Platonic metaphysical form of “whiteness” has naturally created a dialectical counterpart in the “White Nationalist” movement. The reactionary alt-right markets themselves as awakened Europeans who have discovered their true heritage, culture, and identity. This identity is linked to being a member of the white race. On this view, European heritage is reduced to the accidental feature of skin pigmentation. And this is supposed to be a motivating and powerful narrative against the progressive antifa enthusiasts. One might notice, however, that when the alt-right and antifa cultures clash there are a lot of white people fighting in the battle.

The fact that white identity is ignored when the alt-right and antifa collide exposes the transparently futile suggestion that racial ideology is enough to unite a community and culture. It suggests that being white has a prepackaged cultural distinctiveness and philosophical worldview embedded in the genes of the individual. This is entirely incorrect and introduces a kind of materialistic determinism in the development of culture, which is then expressed through some variant relativistic moral praxis.

The most significant error of the alt-right narrative is the idea that European heritage can be reduced to a collectivized genotype. The predominant European tradition isn’t the discovery of racial categories imbued with various cultural characteristics; it is the religious inheritance of the Catholic faith.

Christendom is the true European identity.

This historic truth demonstrates something important for a culture that is trapped in a dialectical hall of mirrors – unity can only be established under the Catholic banner of Christ.

Let’s say the alt-right were successful in carving out a section of society for whites only. Does it follow that this racial accord would entail a unified culture which share in the same values and beliefs expressed through common civil and religious actions? Not even close. The pluralism would be just as extensive as it was prior to the collectivization of white people into a single community. White people can be atheist, religious, or pagan; they can be moral degenerates or have a deep commitment to the virtues of chivalry; they can be sexual revolutionaries or puritans; they can be backstabbing schemers or hyper-loyal stoics. The bottom line is that “white” isn’t a worldview. Ask 10 white people what their worldview is and you might get 10 different answers.

The flimsiness of a racially constructed worldview falls apart when it is realized that true unity is deeper than skin-color.

Consider for a moment the inheritance of a truly Catholic identity united in common cause for the reestablishment of Christendom. The Catholic worldview brings with it an organic unity that transcends the racial categorizations of modern society. Under Christ the King there is, “One body and one Spirit; as you are called in the hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”[1]

The depth and richness this biblical truth brings to the human communal experience surpasses everything the secular world has attempted to create in order to replace the majestic throne of Christ. Among the endless parasitical ideologies masquerading as political anecdotes for the sacred tradition of the true Church lays the idol of secular autonomy. Replacing the revelation of the imago Christi is an endless array of theories posing as scientific solutions for the rejection of the Triune Creator. Instead of finding harmony in the Mystical Body of Christ, our godless materialistic culture has molded society into an organism conditioned to search for solidarity in economic, gender, sexual, or racial classifications. When these classifications fail to impart a meaningful realization of the human desire for transcendent meaning nihilistic relativism is often the next path taken.

“White Nationalism” is just another idolatrous political creed pursued by those who would rather bend their knee to the golden calf than to Christ the King. It isn’t race that divides a nation; it is sin. It isn’t race that can heal a nation; only the Gospel can do that. The emptiness of this movement, or any movement for that matter, which denies the Social Kingship of Christ inexorably leads to an endless abyss of dialectical identity crises.

Our identity, men and women made in the imago Christi, is only fulfilled when the grace of God prompts us toward the realization of our cruciform theosis.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Ephesians 4:4-6 (Douay-Rheims)

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Ethics, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics

The Catholic Church & Capital Punishment

The Catholic Church & Capital Punishment“Between 1796 and 1865, Giovanni Battista Bugatti executed 516 condemned criminals, more than four-fifths for murder. Some of them were hanged, some guillotined, and some decapitated with an ax. In the case of especially heinous crimes, the methods of execution were harsher. Some criminals had their heads crushed with a mallet, after which their throats were cut. Some were drawn and quartered.

Who is Bugatti? He was the official executioner of the Papal States, a devout Catholic who carried out his work as a loyal servant of the Holy Father. Indeed, the popes and the Church were active participants in the process of execution, which was highly ritualized and freighted with spiritual significance. On the morning of the execution the pope would say a special prayer for the condemned. A priest would hear Bugatti’s confession and administer Holy Communion to him in advance of the event. In the hours before the execution, a special order of monks would cater to the spiritual needs of the criminal, urging confession and repentance while there was still time and offering the sacraments. They would then lead him to the site of execution in solemn procession. Notices in local churches would request that the faithful pray for his soul. As the sentence was carried out, the monks would hold the crucifix up to the condemned, so that it would be the last thing he saw. Everything was done to ensure both that the criminal received his just deserts and that the salvation of his soul might be secured. When asked in 1868 to stay an execution, Blessed Pope Pius IX, though he certainly had legal power to do so, apparently thought he morally ought not to, replying, ‘I cannot and I do not want to.’”[1]


There are many in the Catholic Church today working to abolish capital punishment. Those participating in this progressive social justice campaign would recoil at the above description of capital punishment being legislated by the Papal States. Confronted with these descriptions of historic realities the aforementioned social justice warriors would most likely react with banal modernist slogans and emotionally triggered outrage. Underneath the reactionary platitudes the typical claims being made against capital punishment is that it is intrinsically unjust, immoral, and undermines a culture of life.

This view is in error to say the least, but unfortunately many in the Church are impressed with mantras coming from liberally compromised clergy rather than looking to the official teachings of Mother Church concerning the execution of justice against evil and violent criminals.

There is, however, a corrective remedy for this problematic position gaining momentum in the ranks of the Mystical Body of Christ.

I recently received my copy of Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette’s book, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, and it is devastating to opponents of the death penalty. This book contains a systematic proclamation of the truth taught by the magisterial authority of the Church, as well as a complete refutation of the modernist position seeking to abolish capital punishment.

Feser is typical in his brilliant exposition of Thomistic natural law theory, and in my view, thoroughly dismantles the New Natural Law Theorist (NNLT) position, which considers capital punishment to be intrinsically immoral in every instance of its application. The NNLT movement is comprised of many prominent Catholic intellectuals, so it is important that Feser interacts with their arguments. Not every moral position articulated by NNLT advocates is problematic. Indeed, their stated positions on marriage, abortion, euthanasia, and many others are often exemplary. Ultimately, however, the philosophical foundations are where the problems initially arise, which lead to negative unintended consequences despite the good intentions of NNLT advocates. Feser makes this point clear and shows that without the proper philosophical foundation, that is, a perennially grounded metaphysics of the Aristotelian-Thomistic sort, NNLT collapses into itself and can no longer justify their extreme positions on the death penalty. Traditional natural law theory and NNLT differ on key foundational issues,

“The NNLT differs from traditional natural law theory in several crucial respects. As we have seen, for the traditional natural law theorist, what is good for us is grounded in human nature, where ‘nature’ is understood in terms of the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics of formal and final causes. Given formal and final causality, ‘value’ is built into the very structure of the ‘facts,’ and there is no metaphysical space between them by which David Hume and his positivist followers might pry them apart. NNLT proponents, by contrast, tend to endorse the Humean fact-value dichotomy. Like Hume, they insist that an ‘ought’ cannot be derived from an ‘is.’ Thus, like Hume, they deny that morality can be grounded in a metaphysical analysis of human nature.”[2]

Referencing David Oderberg, Feser highlights another key difference,

“Traditional natural law theory is ‘world-centered’, whereas the NNLT is ‘agent-centered’. For the traditional natural law theorist, an agent knows the good by taking an objective, or ‘third-person’, view of himself. He asks what sorts of ends human beings have, given the kind of creatures they are, and thereby knows what is good for him qua human since he is one instance of that kind among others. According to the NNLT, the agent knows the good from the subjective, or ‘first-person’, point of view. Considering what reasons he has for acting this way or that, he asks what sorts of good are self-evidently desirable and for whose sake he might pursue other goods. That is by no means to say that his judgments are, according to NNLT, ‘subjective’ in the sense of being arbitrary or idiosyncratic. They are taken by the NNLT to reflect human practical reason as such, not merely the practical reason of this or that agent, and are thus in that sense ‘objective.’ But they are ‘subjective’ in the sense that it is from the agent’s introspection of his own practical reason in operation, rather than from mind-independent facts of a philosophically informed anthropology, that he finds a guide to action.”[3]

Finally, there are five main divergences between traditional natural law theory and NNLT (these are the words of the author and not my summary of the positioned differences),

  1. First, it is essentially an attempt to reformulate natural law without either nature or law and is therefore not really a ‘natural law’ theory at all. For since it denies that the good can be grounded in the natures of things in general or human nature in particular, there is nothing ‘natural’ about it; and since it denies that our obligation to pursue the good has anything essentially to do with conforming ourselves to the will of the divine lawgiver, its imperatives lack the character of true ‘law’. [4]
  2. Second, the endorsement of Hume’s fact-value dichotomy is a dangerously radical concession to the philosophical naturalism, positivism, and scientism that are fundamentally at odds not only with the systems of philosophy historically favored by the Church, but with Catholicism itself. This concession is also completely unnecessary, since the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysical foundations of traditional natural law theory’s account of the good are entirely defensible, and since the fact-value dichotomy has in contemporary philosophy been severely criticized, not only by writers sympathetic to the natural law tradition but by others as well.[5]
  3. Third, the approach to political philosophy taken by some NNLT writers also involves dangerous concessions to modern philosophy, owing more to the liberalism and individualism of Hobbes, Locke, and Kant than to the natural law political tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas.[6]
  4. Fourth, the NNLT account of intention is excessively subjectivist and has implications that are simply bizarre from the point of view of traditional Catholic moral theology. As the craniotomy example shows, what would historically have been regarded as an absolutely forbidden direct abortion becomes, on the NNLT, a kind of indirect abortion that is permissible in principle. Meanwhile, because any war appears obviously to involve intentional killing, the very idea of a just war becomes highly problematic. The problem can be dealt with only via implausible and convoluted reasoning to the effect that the deaths of enemy soldiers are not intended but rather a foreseen but unintended side effect of combat.[7]
  5. Fifth, the NNLT list of basic goods (which varies somewhat from writer to writer) is arbitrary and ad hoc, formulated precisely so as to guarantee that certain desired conclusions will be reached and certain undesirable conclusions will be ruled out. The NNLT’s eschewal of philosophical anthropology deprives it of a way of providing an objective criterion by which to determine which goods are really basic, and its appeal instead to the ‘self-evidence’ of some goods and not others seems merely dogmatic.[8]

Following this comparative analysis, Feser demonstrates that by NNLT’s own principles capital punishment does not necessarily need to be considered intrinsically immoral, that the NNLT approach to capital punishment is incoherent, and finally, that the NNLT position on capital punishment cannot be squared with official Catholic teaching on the issue.

As important as the philosophical treatment of capital punishment is, I contend that the essential issue needing to be settled is Scriptural authority. What does the Sacred Page have to say about capital punishment? Feser clearly demonstrates that the abolitionist position cannot be associated with Biblical authority. The most explicit endorsement of capital punishment is found in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” This is an explicit command in favor of the death penalty, and it is based on the moral implication that man is made in the image of God. In addition to this, God reveals in the Mosaic Law specific scenarios calling for the death penalty, and God Himself utilizes the death penalty in some of the most significant events in the Old Testament. The Flood is an obvious instance, and the Egyptians dying while attempting to cross the Red Sea is another. And since I brought up Exodus, I cannot overlook the slaying of 3,000 at the command of Moses for worshiping the golden calf.

Instances like these take place in the New Testament as well. Consider for a moment the situation in the Book of Acts concerning Ananias and Sapphira. St. Peter, presumably by the power of God, basically strikes these two dead for lying to the Holy Spirit; as soon as St. Peter speaks their condemnation they drop dead. This is not exactly the same as capital punishment, but it is evident that taking their lives was used to enact justice of a specific sort.

Philosophically combatting against errors of reason is vitally important, but even more important is to remind those who are in the Church where the ultimate authority can be found – Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium. If newly invented philosophical systems amount to revoking the authority of Scripture, then the philosophy is in error and must be corrected. As every major Saint and Doctor has taught, including St. Thomas, revelation and theology guides and corrects human reason in the philosophical arena. Philosophy is the handmaiden to theology not its judge.

In my view, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, settles the issue in systematic fashion. There is no way around the arguments being presented and the only reaction against its necessarily corrective teaching is to remain in the state of modernistic incredulity.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, Feser & Bessette, Pg. 9, 10

[2] Ibid, Pg. 81

[3] Ibid, Pg. 81, 82

[4] Ibid, Pg. 86

[5] Ibid, Pg. 86

[6] Ibid, Pg. 86

[7] Ibid, Pg. 86, 87

[8] Ibid, Pg. 87

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Politics

The Politics of Pontius Pilate

Pontius PilateThe political climate surrounding the decision to free Christ or succumb to the pressures of the mob seeking his death reached a fevered pitch. Pontius Pilate had to worry about another uprising within the territory he governed, and he also had to figure out a way to satisfy a mob seeking blood at all costs. In order to satisfy the mob, Pilate would knowingly have to condemn an innocent man to death, which would potentially save his political career. But is this moral? Should an innocent man have to die for political expedience and career ambitions? Pilate attempted to maneuver the situation with a bit of pragmatism. First, he offered an exchange, a chance to pardon the convicted murderer Barabbas or the self proclaimed God-Man innocent of any crime. The crowd chose the murderer. The first attempt of pragmatic governing was crafty, but a mob inebriated with madness is not interested in adroit practical compromise, they have demands that must be met. Bloodlust and democracy don’t usually yield positive, rational results. The second attempt at compromise was to chastise, or scourge the captured Christ. Surely the crowd would see a beaten man and have mercy. Instead, they shouted with a fanatical zeal, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Mercy was not to be had on that fateful day. Pilate was now faced, once again, with the task of identifying justice associated with truth, or choosing to condemn a blameless man to save his career. Political pragmatism had completely failed, and to ensure that Pilate knew exactly what was at stake, the beaten and bloodied carpenter from Nazareth reminded the Governor from where his authority truly came, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above…”[1] This proclamation gripped Pilate for only a moment until the Jewish leaders of the mob reminded him of Caesar.

Pilate washed his hands and released Christ to the mob, where Jesus was then crucified like a common criminal. Pilate chose political expediency over truth; he chose to be “neutral,” or he deluded himself into believing he was neutral. Political pragmatism and moral compromise betrayed the truth of justice, falsely deified the state against the God-man Christ, and for all time revealed the true nature of pragmatism in pursuit of “results” as the ultimate form of political and moral cowardice.

Pilate’s weakness is the spirit saturating the soul of the Republican Party. The G.O.P. is feckless when it comes to fulfilling the promises of their campaign rhetoric. So called conservatives are washing their hands clean on every major issue they were voted into office to fix; and therefore, deceiving themselves into the belief that they will not be held accountable for denying the Truth on judgment day.

The G.O.P. claims to be the party of prudence, tradition, objective morality, cultural preservation, limited government, and sound fiscal policy. Campaign rhetoric and grandiose speeches at Congress do not comport with the results of their governing. The last time the Republican Party held as much power at the federal level as they do now, the outcome was two lost wars, a foreign policy in total shambles, the construction of a massive security state apparatus, increased size and scope of federal involvement in health care, further centralization of the education system, a continued increase in the national debt, the collapse of the housing bubble, and a financial crisis so vast that it almost destroyed the world economy. In addition to this, they totally failed to end the destructive practice of abortion, which is a promise made during every election cycle – vote for the Republican and the end of abortion will be just around the corner – or so we are told. This issue seems to keep getting kicked down the road no matter how much power the “pro-life” party has.

That was then. What about now? Have they learned anything from their past mistakes?

Well, the record is pretty much the same thing. The federal government is still fully involved in destabilizing America’s health care. The bill passed in the House of Representatives intending to fix the problems of the ACA will actually do more to bolster the progressives in the Democratic Party, which will inevitably lead to a shift in majority power resulting in single payer system. Securing the border and solving the immigration issues our country is facing has been placed on the shelf. The federal budget is as bloated as ever with no end in sight to the destructive end of our national debt. Tax cuts to the middle class are nowhere to be found. The implementation of a reasonably sane foreign policy is being abrogated in order to perpetuate the neocon madness of the Bush administration following 9/11. Planned Parenthood remains subsidized while abortion remains a legal medical practice. And finally, nothing has been done to counteract the Obergefell decision, which is basically accepted as law by judicial fiat.

There is literally no reason whatsoever to vote for a Republican candidate at this point. They are a totally worthless opposition party when they are the minority in Congress, they accomplish nothing when they are the majority power, and whatever it is they do accomplish is likely to end up in complete disaster for the country generally, and middle America specifically. Winning elections by duping Christians is about the extent of their political talents.

But isn’t politics a game of pragmatics? Is it naïve to expect governing to take place within the parameters of truth, beauty, and goodness?

If truth, beauty, and goodness are found within the parameters of political naiveté, then this is an indication of how corrupt American politics has become.

Should we compromise on truth? Should we compromise on policies regarding the budget, foreign policy implementation, regulatory practices of the economy, and on issues concerning the preservation of life and marriage? How can we justify comprising moral principles in politics when doing so at the individual level is a violation of integrity and conscience?

This too is a modernist error, that the private and public realm of the moral order can be strictly demarcated where duty binds the individual, but pragmatic abandonment of truth in the public realm is a sign of moral prudence ensuring the “right results.”

Contemporary politics is guided by a diabolically deceptive principle that subordinates truth to results. Both political parties have internalized this deception and falsely proclaim its merits. Republicans concentrate their efforts toward the “result” of winning elections and holding office so that backroom favors might be fulfilled to the donor class pulling the legislative strings. The lust for power and prestige are the false idols sought after in the endless parade of election cycles. Far from the personal character of the modern statesman is the desire to wield the sword of justice according to God’s law, the natural law, and the common good.

The G.O.P. has chosen political pragmatism over truth. They have allowed the spirit of Pilate’s spinelessness to prevail within their chambers.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] John 19:11

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Our Lady of Fatima, Traditionalism

Peace Elusive After the 1984 Consecration

Our Lady of Fatima Sacred HeartIn 1984, Pope St. John Paul II consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. While he undoubtedly gave great honor to Our Lady by doing so, his consecration did not follow the specific guidelines she laid down. The Holy Father did not even mention Russia—the country whose consecration Our Lady had specifically requested—nor did he include all of the world’s Catholic bishops. As a result, while important blessings have flowed from the 1984 consecration, the period of peace promised to the world by Our Lady has proven elusive.

As evidence for this statement, consider the following list of conflicts and accompanying fatalities that have occurred since the time of the 1984 consecration:

  1. Syrian Civil War (2011-2017) – 400,000 killed
  2. Donbass War (2014–2014)  – 4,000 killed
  3. Libyan Government v. Insurgents (2014–2014) – 2,500 killed
  4. Sectarian Conflict in the Central African Republic (2012–2014) – 2,099 killed
  5. South Sudan Civil War (2011–2014) – 1,755 killed
  6. Syrian Civil War (2011–2014) – 43,195 killed
  7. Nigerian Government v. Boko Haram (2009–2014) – 4,627 killed
  8. Waziristan Conflict (2007–2014) – 23,494 killed
  9. Mexican Drug War (2006–2014) – 92,880 killed
  10. Iraqi Insurgency (2004-2014) – 28,863 killed
  11. Afghanistan War (2001-2014) – 53,925 killed
  12. Somalia Civil War (1982–2014) – 39,549 killed
  13. Israel vs Palestine (1949–2014) – 15,216 killed
  14. Yemen vs Al-Qaeda (2009–2013) – 4,270 killed
  15. Kivu Conflict (2006–2013) – 10,105 killed
  16. Al-Qaeda vs USA and allies (2001–2013) – 7,649 killed
  17. Russia vs Chechnyan Secessionists – (1994-2013) – 23,217 killed
  18. Algeria Govt vs Islamic Rebels (1991-2013) – 20,533 killed
  19. Indian Govt vs Maoist Guerillas (1990-2013) – 6,854 killed
  20. India vs Pakistan, Kashmir Dispute (1984-2013) – 24,376 killed
  21. Turkey Gov vs Kurdistan Guerilla – (1984-2013) – 28,655 killed
  22. Sudan Government vs Militias – (1983-2013) – 97,099 killed
  23. Uganda Civil War – (1980-2013) — 127,529 killed
  24. Mozambique Govt vs RENAMO and FRELIMO – (1977-2013) – 115,889 killed
  25. Ethiopia vs Oromia rebels (OLF) – (1977-2013) – 2,735 killed
  26. Ethiopian Govt vs Ogadeni Rebels – (1976-2013) – 23,265 killed
  27. Philippines Govt vs Mindanao Guerillas – (1970-2013) – 17,393 killed
  28. Philippine Government vs CPP Guerrilla – (1969-2013) – 24,626 killed
  29. Colombia Govt vs Guerillas Farc and ELN – (1964-2013) – 26,875 killed
  30. Burmese Government vs Separatist Guerillas – (1949-2013) – 49,862 killed
  31. Libyan Civil War – (2011-2011) – 2,082 killed
  32. Tajikistan Govt vs Opposition – (1992-2011) – 9,145 killed
  33. Senegal Civil War – (1990-2011) – 1,657 killed
  34. Iran vs Rebel Groups – (1979-2011) – 5,035 killed
  35. Chad Civil War – (1966-2010) – 36,077 killed
  36. Peruvian Gvt vs Sendero Luminoso and MRTA – (1965-2010) – 17,250 killed
  37. Sri Lankan Govt vs Tamil Militants – (1984-2009) – 73,818 killed
  38. Burundi Civil War – (1991-2008) – 15,651 killed
  39. Nepal Civil War  – (1996-2006) – 12,274 killed
  40. Southern Lebanon War – (1990-2006) – 1,712 killed
  41. Indonesia Gvt vs Aceh Liberation Movement – (1990-2005) – 2,841 killed
  42. Civil War in Côte d Ivoire – (2002-2004) – 1,370 killed
  43. Ituri Conflict – (1999-2004) – 12,664 killed
  44. Iraq vs US led coalition – (2003-2003) – 8,202 killed
  45. First and Second Congo Wars – (1996-2003) – 79,858 killed
  46. Liberia Civil War – (1989-2003) – 15,970 killed
  47. Congo Brazzaville Civil War – (1993-2002) – 15,541 killed
  48. Angolan Gvt vs UNITA Guerilla – (1975-2002) – 114,898 killed
  49. Sierra Leone Civil War – (1991-2001) – 18,119 killed
  50. Eritrea vs Ethiopia – (2000-2000) – 98,192 killed
  51. Afghanistan Civil War – (1978-2000) — 536,297 killed
  52. Yugoslavia vs NATO Forces and UCK Guerilla – (1998-1999) – 3,613 killed
  53. Indonesian Govt vs Fretilin – East Timor – (1975-1999) – 76,550 killed
  54. Cambodian Govt vs Khmer Rouge – (1979-1998) – 87,520 killed
  55. Northern Ireland, The Troubles – (1971-1998) – 3,010 killed
  56. Iraq vs Kurdistan (KDP/PUK) – (1982-1996) – 20,620 killed
  57. Iraq Government vs SCIRI – (1982-1996) – 1,165 killed
  58. Iranian Govt vs KDPI – (1966-1996) – 2,618 killed
  59. Bosnian Govt vs Serbian and Croatian Insurgents – (1992-1995) – 29,103 killed
  60. Croatia vs Serbian Irregulars, Rep. Krajina – (1992-1995) – 1,442 killed
  61. Guatemalan Civil War – (1965-1995) – 45,392 killed
  62. North Yemen vs Secessionists – (1994-1994) – 1,489 killed
  63. Nagorno-Karabakh War – (1990-1994) – 5,065 killed
  64. Rwanda Civil War (Hutus vs Tutsis) – (1990-1994) – 520,718 killed
  65. Burmese Govt vs Communist Guerillas – (1948-1994) – 17,700 killed
  66. Georgian Civil War – (1992-1993) – 2,752 killed
  67. Indian Govt vs Sikh insurgents – (1983-1993) – 11,160 killed
  68. Serbian Govt. vs Croatian irregulars – (1991-1991) – 3,933 killed
  69. First Gulf War – (1990-1991) – 22,848 killed
  70. El Salvador Gvt vs FMLN Guerrillas – (1979-1991) – 51,663 killed
  71. Ethiopian Government vs EPRDF – (1976-1991) – 56,003 killed
  72. Ethiopia vs Eritrean Separatists – (1964-1991) – 168,510 killed
  73. Nicaragua Govt vs Contras – (1981-1990) – 29,964 killed
  74. Lebanese Civil War – (1975-1990) – 131,104 killed
  75. Sri Lanka Govt vs JVP – (1971-1990) – 2,018 killed
  76. Panama Coup and US Invasion – (1989-1989) — 920 killed
  77. Romanian Revolution – (1989-1989) — 909 killed
  78. Western Sahara War – (1975-1989) – 12,687 killed
  79. Iran vs Iraq – (1985-1988) — 644,500 killed
  80. South Africa vs ANC – (1981-1988) – 4,087 killed
  81. Sino-Vietnamese War – (1978-1988) – 47,046 killed
  82. Namibia vs South Africa – (1966-1988) – 10,000 killed
  83. Chadian-Lybian War (Aouzou Strip) – (1987-1987) – 8,500 killed
  84. South Yemen Coup – (1986-1986) –  10,000 killed

These numbers represent over 4 million people killed in wars throughout the world since the 1984 consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart.

Is this really the peace promised by Our Lady at Fatima? Does it not seem more likely that the consecration has not been properly accomplished, and that as a result, we are still waiting for the period of peace Our Lady promised us?

There are of course those who argue that the 1984 consecration was acceptable, and that we simply cannot expect the period of peace promised by Our Lady to arrive overnight. However, it’s been nearly 35 years since the 1984 consecration. That’s 35 years of violence, bloodshed, and terror, resulting in the loss of millions of lives. Did Our Lady really perform the astonishing Miracle of the Sun in front of 75,000 people back in October, 1917 in order to announce that things will eventually, someday get better? Or could it be that she really meant what she requested, the consecration of Russia by the Holy Father, in union with all the bishops of the world.

God can do all things, including bringing about the “overnight” conversion of nations. But first he requires us to perform the part he has appointed for us.

 

– Nicholas Kaminsky


* Source: The Polynational War Memorial

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