An interesting post on the rationality of evil

Dennis Prager , in this episode of his Prager University series of videos, takes on an ever popular heresy:  evil is irrational.  This heresy is popular for any number of reasons but doubtless it all boils down to the belief, completely unfounded in human experience, that reasonable people will agree on what is good and what is evil.  The experience of the last half century in the West should have knocked that bit of foolishness into a cocked hat.  Agreement on good and evil in practice is largely a matter of convention.   If the social norms of a people come under challenge, we quickly see apparently reasonable people disagreeing on such fundamental questions as whether an unborn child has a right to life, or whether sex outside of marriage is evil.

Concepts of good and evil are either based on revelation from God, or are matters of opinion to be argued about.  Fewer people in our society believe in revelation, hence good and evil become matters of opinion for debate.  When the debate is joined we often find that there is little agreement on goals and that therefore what is rational to each individual takes varying paths to differing goals.  Widespread disagreement on good and evil also causes the State to grow ever larger to enforce the version of good held by those in power in the State.

Text and video

An interesting article on law and justice, particularly as it applies to the Catholic Church

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Moses receiving the Ten Commandments

The Catholic understanding of law that dominated the Western world for approximately a millennium and a half differs radically from the concept of law that emerged around the time of the Enlightenment. In fact the Catholic understanding, albeit a less precise articulation of it, traces its origins to the pre-Christian ancient world.[1]

God created not only the visible, tangible universe but also created law. The eternal law which is the rational plan of God for the universe is the first created law. As one medieval commentator expressed it, “God is himself law and therefore law is dear to Him.”[2] God did not create an unruly cosmos but one permeated with this eternal law which directs all of creation to its appointed end.

The summit of visible creation is Man. He is graced with a nature that reflects the Divine Nature itself. Man is thus called to participate in the eternal law and thus participate in God’s governance of creation. Not only does God entrust Man with the task of naming visible creatures, he is called to participate in the formation and promulgation of the laws by which Man himself will be ruled and guided to his due end. Just as a name brings greater specificity to an entity, so too Man’s participation in law will involve the task of particularizing the precepts of the eternal law.

Through his intellect, the point of contact with the eternal law, Man has the ability to come to know the most general legal principles, the precepts of Natural Law. These precepts command and forbid actions which conform to and obstruct, respectively, the attainment of Man’s natural and supernatural ends. Yet, these precepts are framed in general and universal terms. As a result of the Fall, Man’s participation in this process is afflicted by the wounds of sin and thus God promulgated an additional law, the divine law, to aid Man in his acquisition of knowledge of the primary precepts of law.

The Decalogue is the prime example of the divine law which did not alter the moral status of the operations specified in its ten precepts but which merely provided revealed knowledge of these precepts. Thus revelation and reason together provide Man with a means of knowing the fundamental precepts of the law which rules the universe.

Yet, the precepts of natural and divine law remain general in their formulation. They require further specification to be useful in guiding particular human action. It is to this task that Man has received a Divine call to participate. Ecclesiastical and secular authorities are commissioned by God to determine more particular principles and precepts of the divine and natural law to guide with greater specificity human action.

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The divine institution of the natural law

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From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

II. THE VISIBLE WORLD

337 God himself created the visible world in all its richness, diversity and order. Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine “work”, concluded by the “rest” of the seventh day.204 On the subject of creation, the sacred text teaches the truths revealed by God for our salvation,205permitting us to “recognize the inner nature, the value and the ordering of the whole of creation to the praise of God.”206

338 Nothing exists that does not owe its existence to God the Creator. The world began when God’s word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history are rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun.207

339 Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the “six days” it is said: “And God saw that it was good.” “By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws.”208 Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.

353     God willed the diversity of his creatures and their own particular goodness, their interdependence and their order. He destined all material creatures for the good of the human race. Man, and through him all creation, is destined for the glory of God.

354     Respect for laws inscribed in creation and the relations which derive from the nature of things is a principle of wisdom and a foundation for morality.

V. THE PROLIFERATION OF SIN

1865 Sin creates a proclivity to sin; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts. This results in perverse inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil. Thus sin tends to reproduce itself and reinforce itself, but it cannot destroy the moral sense at its root.

1866 Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called “capital” because they engender other sins, other vices.138 They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia.

1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel,139 the sin of the Sodomites,140 the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt,141 the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan,142 injustice to the wage earner.143

1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:

– by participating directly and voluntarily in them;

– by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;

– by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;

– by protecting evil-doers.

1869 Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a “social sin.”144

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The commencement speech President Obama should have delivered at Notre Dame

By Laurie Higgins, DSA Director –Illinois Family Institute

I can think of no more fitting way to conclude the school year than with excerpts from the retirement speech delivered by retiring Glenbrook North High School social studies teacher, James McPherrin, who is retiring after 33 years of teaching.

The words he expressed put to shame countless commencement speeches by celebrities who have little to offer students other than pedestrian cliches. It would behoove administrators, faculty, and students to hear Mr. McPherrin’s speech at the start and end of every school year.

Mr. McPherrin offers wisdom and erudition through eloquent prose that points those who have ears to hear toward truth:

St. Thomas More, the intrepid 16th century chancellor to King Henry VIII of England, once said, “When statesmen forsake their own private consciences for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.” Now, I would suggest that the very same quotation might be tailored so as to apply directly to teachers. It would read, “When teachers forsake their own private consciences for the sake of their public school duties, they lead their students by a short route to chaos.”

Thomas More was among the sterling individuals in the western intellectual tradition who understood well the necessary relationship between the natural law and the human law, and that circumstances often challenge us to acknowledge the rational demands the former places upon the latter. More, as we know, would later sacrifice his very life in defense of that compelling idea. In essence, dear colleagues, please consider that our cardinal duty as instructors of the young is to shepherd them in their journey towards truth.

Whether it be European History, English Lit, Calc, Phys Ed, or Music, our task is to foster in students a love for and desire to acknowledge what is true. If such a premise does not inspire our efforts, then I’m afraid they might well be for naught. Make it your purpose to ignite the element of intellectual longing that exists in all young people; that desire to know, that desire to bring order out of chaos. Give them that education to which the English writer, G.K. Chesterton, alluded, when he said, “Many are schooled, but few are educated.” There is a difference, and it would behoove us all to acknowledge it openly.

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While the general outlines of natural law are clear to the honest thinker, original sin tends to make us fuzzy about the details

Natural law is the moral code any rational person can deduce purely from reason. It is the “law written upon the human heart,” to which we can hold anyone, Christian or pagan. Consequently, in a state without an official church — in a place like America — natural law arguments are the appropriate ones to make to our fellow citizens. . . . It’s ironic that natural law is meant to be the language we use when speaking to non-believers, since it seems that nowadays only Catholics really believe in natural law — or that those who accept the latter end up becoming the former.

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Submitted by Doria2

Father John Trigilio: Civil law is not the supreme law.

The pope is the head of an independent and sovereign nation as well as head of the Roman Catholic Church. As the ruler of the Vatican City, he is subject to no other national laws anymore than the President of the United States would be subject to laws outside America. Even if there were no Vatican City or former Papal States, the pope is supreme head of the Church and his spiritual authority to teach and his supreme authority to govern the Church all over the world has no equal and no superior, save God Himself.

Democracies and republics work well for the common good and are much, much better than socialist, fascist or communist forms of government. Yet the world has seen both good and bad examples of monarchy throughout history, so we cannot infallibly say democratic republics are the only moral way to govern. If democracy was the perfect form, Jesus would have founded His Church with such a structure. He chose, rather, a hierarchical system, with the pope as head and the bishops to assist him. That is why we cannot fall into the trap of thinking all democratic-republic governments are impeccable. Slavery, segregation and abortion all took place within a democratic republic. In comparison, our current form of government works well and better than the alternatives.

Read more at Matt C. Abbott’s Column

Seen on the web: The U.S. Constitution and the political philosophy it implies is essentially a Catholic document, even though Protestants put it to paper.

Comments by conservative commentator
George Kocan (slightly edited):

    ‘As a former libertarian, I offer some comments. The Constitution and the political philosophy it implies is not a libertarian document. It is a Catholic document, even though, ironically, Protestants put it to paper. This assumes certain truths about the human condition. It assumes the active existence of original sin, a Catholic doctrine. It assumes that man was created in the image and likeness of God, a condition requiring respect from other men. It assumes the relevance of the moral law, which means the moral law exists and cannot be ignored by any government. (For example, the libertarian assumption that all economic activity is morally based on free exchange rather than fraud or violence is part of the moral law.)

    ‘One of the implications of the moral law is that homosexuality is immoral and that institutionalizing it in a legal union is absurd. That is to say, the government has no right to re-define marriage as it has no right to re-define a dog as an elephant. It means also that society, acting through the government, has an obligation to suppress blatant immorality, especially when it takes on the dimensions of a mass political movement.’

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