Natural Law

If Charles Martel Were Alive Today

Sunday was the 1,276-year anniversary of the death of Charles, King of the Franks. Charles, who won the decisive victory at the Battle of Tours against the Umayyad Caliphate (an Islamic state), gained the nickname “Martel,” meaning “the Hammer.” This battle was the beginning of the expulsion of Islam from, and victory of Christendom over, [...]

Myth and the Desire for the Transcendent

There is within our present society a profound and pervasive sensitivity that something is amiss, a deep and desperate yearning for things higher than our modern materialistic society has within its power to offer. Burrowed in the innermost secret place of every man and woman there is a sense, an inherent knowledge, that much of [...]

Free Will, Fulfillment and Excommunication

Recently, Bishop Paprocki released a decree on "same-sex 'marriage' and related pastoral issues." Some Catholics interpreted it as an unjust singling-out (and rejection) of a specific group of persons. In terms of sin itself they do have a point—we are all sinners. However, some went as far as to interpret it as a form of excommunication. What seemed absent in the grievances I [...]

Procreation: Still the Primary End of Marriage

“The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; its secondary end is mutual help and the allaying of concupiscence.” (Canon 1013, 1917 Code of Canon Law) Anyone familiar with the history of contraception and the Church in the 1960s will know the name of John T. Noonan. His singular 1965 work [...]

Why Homosexuality is a Natural Law Issue

Melinda Selmys, familiar to the readers of Crisis as a leading voice among the gay Christian movement, recently wrote an essay she called “10 Reasons Why Homosexuality is Not a Natural Law Issue.” Her basic premise is “that trying to argue against homosexuality from a natural law point of view in contemporary discourse is about [...]

Tradition: A Guide for Better Living

Last month I suggested that the most effective argument for taking human nature, natural law, and natural human goods seriously is that doing so leads to a better way of life. It's not hard to see why it should. People do not in fact invent their own ways of life. They're too social, and the world is [...]

What to Look for in a Supreme Court Justice

As we brace ourselves for the political firestorm that is already beginning around filling the vacancy on our highest court, it would be useful to engage in a little “cultural catechesis” on the nature and purpose of the office in question. Though some will decry the “politicization” of the selection process, an honest review of [...]

The Advantages of Natural Law Over Ideological Fantasies

Last month I noted that Catholics, along with presenting the Faith, should try vigorously to make natural law more visible in public discussion. But how? The very idea of natural law provokes incomprehension today. It favors principles that aren't engineered or controlled, so they don't fit into a technological understanding of rationality. Even worse, it means [...]

Why Natural Law is a Superior Guide to Life

Catholics talk about natural law, but what’s it all about? Basically, it’s a system of principles that guides human life in accordance with our nature and our good, insofar as those can be known by natural reason. It thereby promotes life the way it evidently ought to be, based on what we are and how [...]

The Requirements of the Law

As a full-time parish priest and an armchair theologian, it gives me great pleasure to rub shoulders—from time to time—with real theologians, and to plagiarize some of their ideas. One of them observed, “The Church teaches doctrine, not theology.” The thought was provocative enough to open many intellectual doors for me as I began to [...]

How Choice Replaced Human Nature

The age of Jenner, Obergefell, and #BlackLivesMatter puts issues of identity at the center of public life. As Catholics and citizens we need to understand what that means. Personal identity orients us in the world. As such, it has both individual and social functions. It enables us to order our lives by telling us what we [...]

Laudato Si’ and the Selling of Body Parts

The recent revelations surrounding the selling of fetal body parts by Planned Parenthood highlight a crisis in contemporary society depicted in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. With uncanny insight, Pope Francis had written, “the culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects…. Is [...]

What’s New in the New Evangelization … And Why?

In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, with his exhortation, Ubicumque et Semper (“Everywhere and Always”). He was explicitly responding to his predecessor Pope St. John Paul II’s call (Christifideles Laici) to re-evangelize the once-Christian countries of the tired old West, now lapsed from the faith. There has [...]

Kennedy Replaces the “Laws of Nature” with His Own

Same-sex "marriage" advocates will heartily celebrate July 4 this year, thrilled with the possibilities in the New America they’re creating in their own image. They will be especially grateful to Anthony Kennedy and the four liberal justices who gave them gay "marriage" by assuming unto themselves what Thomas Jefferson two-and-a-half centuries ago called “the Laws [...]

Unnatural is the New Normal

In 1968, Pope Paul VI predicted that the widespread adoption of contraception would effectively sever the procreative and unitive purposes of sex in the popular mind and consequently lead to profound moral and sociological changes (see Humanae Vitae 17). British philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe likewise argued that accepting the liceity of contraception would leave no principled [...]

Is Homosexual Marriage Even Possible?

The homilist, a priest of impeccable orthodoxy, was enumerating the challenges facing the Church today. But I quickly found myself being greatly annoyed at his mention of the attacks being made on “traditional marriage” which were threatening our cherished tradition of “religious liberty.” Now, to be sure, what annoyed was not that he chose to [...]

Why Atheists Don’t Really Exist

Confirmation bias is the tendency to ascribe greater significance to information that supports our pre-existing theories and lesser significance to information that contradicts those theories. We often do this subconsciously. For example you get a new car, and now you notice that same type of car on the road with a much greater frequency than [...]

The Unsubtle Mind of Hugh Hewitt

The week after the Islamic murder of twelve Charlie Hebdo employees and several French police officers, the popular American discourse as to what qualifies as "relevant" to the event is becoming increasingly narrow. Notwithstanding the popular insistence upon a singular moral in the sad event, indeed it should be seen as a manifold, or at least [...]

Are Appeals to Natural Law and Right Reason Still Effective?

Recent months have witnessed an emerging debate among some American conservatives, especially religiously informed conservatives and, even more specifically, Catholic conservatives. This debate concerns how they can (and, in some cases, whether they should even attempt to) engage in a public square that seems ever more rooted in modern liberal presuppositions and preoccupations. At the [...]

How to Accentuate the Positive

In recent decades the Church has tried more than ever to accentuate the positive. As a result, she talks less about rules and prohibitions than in the past. Those things are important, the thought seems to be, but they exist for a purpose, and the positive teachings tell us what the purpose is. After all, [...]

Escape Egalitarian Tyranny with Socratic Questioning

Last month I discussed how the assumptions and language of public life today, which are based on commercial and bureaucratic concerns, are biased against Catholics. To make matters worse, the all-pervasive electronic media, increasing reliance on commerce and bureaucracy in everyday affairs, and changes in the purposes of formal education, along with its radical expansion, [...]

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