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 risk of oversimplification, in one corner are those perhaps best described as “MacIntyrians,” after the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and his seminal book After Virtue (1981). They suggest that modern liberalism’s advance in the academy and the wider culture (especially the media) is now so pronounced that it’s rendering any alternative shaping of the public square extremely difficult. Some even hold that aspects of the American experiment, by which they appear to mean a type of Lockean materialism, were bound to eventually marginalize alternative arguments.

In the other camp are those who might be called “Murrayites.” Named after the Jesuit philosopher John Courtney Murray and his equally important text We Hold These Truths (1960), this group readily acknowledges that American intellectual and popular culture is in very bad shape. They aren’t, however, convinced that the American experiment is either down-and-out or irredeemably flawed. Instead, they maintain that much of the American Founding continues to provide a sound general context for religious conservatives to make and advance their political, social, economic, and national security positions.

The significance of this discussion, however, goes far beyond the world of Catholic conservatives. Its wider importance—not just for Catholics but also other conservative-minded Christians, Jews, and those of a secular bent—is this big question: will natural law and appeals to right reason remain a salient element in American conservative public argument?

After After Virtue
Some of this debate was prefigured in exchanges prompted by the publication of MacIntyre’s After Virtue. Enlightenment-influenced culture, MacIntyre suggested, has rendered expressions like virtue almost unintelligible to even the most sympathetic listener. Though MacIntyre qualified this historicist and moral particularist account in later works such as Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (1988), there was no shortage of critics who argued that his approach ran the serious risk of relegating natural law to the status of “just another tradition.”

One such criticism of MacIntyre’s position was made by Robert P. George in a Review of Metaphysics article entitled, “Moral Particularism, Thomism and Traditions” (1989). He argued that natural law’s claim to be based upon “tradition-transcending, universal truth-attaining” practical reason could be inadvertently relativized by too heavily accenting cultural context.

Certainly, George acknowledged, it’s easier for people to grasp natural law if they live in a culture that affirms (1) there is truth beyond the empirical and (2) we can know it through the disciplined application of practical reason. There is also, George agreed, a recognizable tradition of natural law within which scholars have argued over the centuries as they continue clarifying its foundations and implications for politics, law, and the economy. But, George stressed, the very essence of natural law arguments is that right reason is intrinsic to who humans are. It follows that knowledge of some basic practical truths is universally available, notwithstanding the blockages caused by culture, ignorance, and rationalizations of wrongdoing that might prevent some people at particular times from grasping, for instance, that human sacrifice is always wrong.

In many respects, it’s arguable that self-identified American conservatives now face an analogous debate. Many conservatives seem to be edging towards withdrawing from what they see a hopelessly compromised American public square in which there is no God—except for a Teddy-Bear Deity whose main job is to hug me and affirm my feelings, with John Rawls as his prophet. While most such conservatives aren’t (yet) arguing for Amish-like responses to a troubled culture, they’re skeptical of the prospects of persuading people of the soundness of conservative arguments, given the prevailing context.

What’s Wrong with the “Benedict Option”
Given the state of American intellectual and popular culture, I can understand why some conservatives are tempted by such a course. The point, I presume, of what’s often called the “Benedict Option” (after St. Benedict and the monks who retreated to Norcia amidst a floundering Western Roman Empire) is that preserving islands of human flourishing amidst the surrounding chaos is how you ensure, first, that some modicum of civilization is preserved and, second, that resources are available if the broader culture ever comes to its senses.

That said, I’d argue that such a strategy isn’t open to those American conservatives—Jewish, Christian, or secular—who take natural law seriously. My reasons for maintaining this position are threefold.

First, natural law thinkers hold that public life can and should reflect a number of principles theoretically open to all, precisely because these principles are rooted in something universal to human beings: reason itself. That’s why people like Aristotle and Aquinas didn’t hesitate to apply natural law principles to the often turbulent political conditions and questions of their time. Certainly, natural law arguments, no matter how well articulated, don’t convince everyone. Engaging in this type of persuasion is likely to be frustrating at times. But, as anyone who has taught students basic principles of natural law knows, it is possible to immunize many individuals against the siren calls of contemporary liberalism.

Of course, one often hears that natural law arguments are “too complicated” for people to get their minds around. It’s true that most of us who believe in natural law can do a better job of explaining our positions. I challenge anyone, however, to identify a book as full of dense (and often turgid) prose as Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. Yet does anyone doubt this text’s (alas) immense influence upon at least three generations of American political and legal philosophy professors and, through them, their students?

Second, in the absence of natural law arguments, the only alternative to modern liberal public arguments would seem to be those derived from skepticism, tradition-for-the-sake-of-tradition, libertarianism, or some combination of all three. The skeptic plays the useful role of warning us against the folly of rationalism. The traditionalist underscores Burke’s point concerning the wisdom often contained in customs and habits that we don’t always fully grasp until the tradition disappears. The strength of libertarians is the rigor they bring to economic issues. They make the rest of us face up to the unintended consequences of various forms of government intervention.

Unfortunately, none of these positions ultimately provides a substantive account of human happiness and the good—either because they don’t believe there is such a thing beyond experiencing pleasure, or they’re worried that positing such arguments might open the door to paternalism and tyranny. Such hesitation on the normative front matters. Whatever you might say about modern liberals, they’re much better than conservatives at persuading people at a moral level. Sometimes it’s through seductive evocations of the apparent pleasures to be found in liberation from constraint. On other occasions, it involves appealing to notions of social justice grounded in very flimsy accounts of equality. In some instances, it concerns endlessly invoking hard cases to persuade people of the absolute necessity of anything ranging from enormous welfare states to legalizing euthanasia.

By contrast, natural law has the advantage of being committed to strong accounts of human flourishing that go beyond pleasure, or autonomy for autonomy’s sake. It also articulates understandings of freedom, equality, and justice rooted in a vision of human beings as rational, creative, individual, and interdependent beings with free will who can, if they pursue and freely choose the truth consistently, realize happiness. No one, we should recall, wants to be unhappy. To that extent, natural law conservatives are in a unique position to advance a coherent conception of happiness that can be cashed out politically, legally, and economically in the body politic in ways that promote liberty, respect dignity, and realize justice.

Natural Law and the American Founding
The word happiness brings me to my third point: the American Founding, something from which some conservatives seem to wish to detach themselves. There’s no question that the American experiment in ordered liberty was shaped by a range of not always compatible influences. These ranged from Locke and natural rights ideas, to Montesquieu, social contract theory, Blackstone’s Commentaries, and various expressions of Protestantism. Overshadowing the whole exercise, of course, was the burden of slavery.

At the same time, the American Founding was suffused with the language of virtue. Alongside this went a conviction on the part of many Founders that there was a natural law that all humans could know. Hence someone such as Alexander Hamilton didn’t hesitate to affirm in his Farmer Refuted that “upon this law, depend the natural rights of mankind.” To which Hamilton immediately added: “the Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beautifying that existence. He endowed him with rational faculties, by the help of which, to discern and pursue such things.”

Granted, this isn’t precisely how Aristotle and Aquinas (or a contemporary Jewish natural law scholar such as David Novak) might have stated the case. But is this so far removed from more classical forms of natural law reasoning that today’s conservatives couldn’t invoke similar ideas expressed by various Founders to demonstrate how deeply at odds modern liberal philosophy and priorities are with many of the Republic’s intellectual origins?

For some Americans, this isn’t likely to matter. For various reasons, some aren’t disposed to accept natural law arguments or more generic appeals to virtue. Others have quietly written off the American Founding as the work of dead white men, slaveholders in thrall to even deader white men. Surely, however, there is enough in the Founding for conservatives with natural law inclinations to appeal to as they seek to bring the truths revealed by right reason to bear upon public discussion in ways that resonate with those Americans across the political spectrum who think well of the American experiment and who don’t self-identify as relativists or positivists.

If, moreover, one takes the notion of the common good seriously—as any serious natural law thinker must—it should be clear that, if anything, we need more conservatives publicly witnessing that humans are wired to know and freely choose truth, and that this has implications for the political order. And the very necessity of doing so publicly, I’d submit, suggests that retreat into self-imposed isolation isn’t a responsible option.

Editor’s note: This essay first appeared October 22, 2014 on Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute and is reprinted with permission. The image above titled “The Declaration of Independence” painted by John Trumbull features the Committee of Five presenting their draft of the Declaration.

Samuel Gregg


Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored many books including, most recently, For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good (2016).

  • Scott W.

    I don’t know any Catholics advocating the Benedict Option in the way described here. We know our mission is to proclaim the Truth in and out of season. Rather, I think most people aren’t voluntarily choosing the Benedict Option, they are preparing for the day it is imposed by our neo-pagan overlords.

  • Susan

    I like Samuel Gregg’s ability to express God’s Truth. He is able to transmit this Truth across the political, racial and social borders with the strength of history and reason to make sense of troublesome issues. I came across a line the other day (can’t remember author) saying that “Catholicism does not hold the answer to all of society’s problems”; I think Catholicism does and I argue that Natural Law is the foundation in understanding the Treasure and Genius of Catholicism to which this country’s aspiring founders were endorsing without them being fully or at all aware of (since only 1 or two were Catholics). Perhaps this country’s purpose of coming into being was to help the world (in their historical time line) to take God seriously in this new opportunity to markedly reverse the wrongs against true freedom (Catholicism) which our founders could have grasped with their much higher level of wholesome education (compared to generations following), had they exercised greater zeal in passing down the seed of virtuous hope to the following generations. The experiment began with a mustard seed, grew in wealth quickly yet over little time, virtue was left behind. A society without virtue is doomed to fall.

  • Susan

    PS- the depth of virtue which I refer to, is that which when practiced faithfully, becomes a gift of sancifying grace; virtue that humbles the person into realizing that all good comes from God and therefore will bring gratitude to God for His loving mercy on us, His undeserving creatures.

  • I am to the point that I doubt song lyrics that any of the works you cited are widely read enough to have any influence at all. It is increasingly clear that the Benedict option is the only option in a Protestant, free masonic nation that has rejected natural law, common morality, and common sense in favor of no civilization.

    • ForChristAlone

      I think you have a point. Our secular and anti-Catholic culture is not out there passively waiting for our evangelization by Christian example. They are in fact actively on the attack and seek to destroy what is left of Christianity in the culture.

      I think the notion of this “Benedict Option” is treated too categorically; one is either engaged or living in retreat. I think what’s called for is a combination of both. Under present conditions, yes, one engages but also has opportunities to avail oneself of safe havens of mutual support and safety away from the day to day battle. We must remember the Gospel passage where the crowds in serious pursuit of Jesus forced him to hop on a boat and cross to the other side of the sea to escape them.

      • And then they chased him, running around the lake, and his response on the other side was to give them a sermon and feed them.

        I like that. I wonder if it is where St. Benedict got the original idea?

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    I sometimes fancy that Natural Law thinking has done real harm to Christian witness and provided a cover for civic religion.

    Thus, Maurice Blondel, insisted that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”

    The Neo-Thomists had developed a theory of Natural Law, based on Suarez’s interpretation, or rather, travesty of St Thomas. They had talked of a “natural order,” governed by Natural Law, consisting of truths accessible to unaided human reason, as something that can be kept separate from the supernatural truths revealed in the Gospel. The saw the political and social order as having its own autonomy and argued that right reason can legitimately arrive at valid conclusions without recourse to supernatural revelation as their necessary source or sanction. This “two-tier” account of nature and grace was based on this view that the addition of “grace” was something super-added to a human nature that was already complete and sufficient in itself and apart from any intrinsic human need

    Jacques Maritain, too, declared that “Man is not in a state of pure nature, he is fallen and redeemed. Consequently, ethics, in the widest sense of the word, that is, in so far as it bears on all practical matters of human action, politics and economics, practical psychology, collective psychology, sociology, as well as individual morality,—ethics in so far as it takes man in his concrete state, in his existential being, is not a purely philosophic discipline” and “the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State in particular can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being . . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot therefore leave the supernatural order out of account”

    • michael susce

      Thank you Michael. There is a connection between what you are saying and Father Rutler’s recent article on “secularism”. Like secularism, natural law must have a theological/metaphysical base. Therefore, there exists Buddhist/Hindu natural law, Atheistic and evolutionary natural law, Islamic natural law and Christian natural law. This appeal to natural law divorced from Christianity was greatly undermined by the ruthlessly ridiculing Nietzsche . The appeal to natural law by Burke, Montesque and the like implicitly assumed the Christian moral philosophy but thought that the metaphysic was unnecessary. Why this was attempted is for another time.
      Based on the logic of popular evolutionary / survival of the fittest natural law (I give credit to Mortimer Adler to guiding me to perceive the inevitable logic leading to horrific conclusions based on false premises)
      1) If there is no God in Heaven, one can do whatever the hell one wants on earth.
      2) I will achieve the desires of my heart and crush anybody that gets in my way of achieving these goods.
      3) Sociopaths are the highest form of humanity because they achieve there goals ruthlessly i.e. survival of the fittest (I credit Alexander Solzhenitsyn for this insight) and are justified because they are “scientific”
      Underlying all this appeal to a foundationless natural law assumes that man can be good without God. Man is not in need of God etc.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The Neo-Thomists often overlooked St Thomas’s own teaching that “even though by his nature man is inclined to his ultimate end, he cannot reach it by nature but only by grace, and this owing to the loftiness of that end.” [In Boethius de Trinitate, q. 6, a. 4 ad 5.]

        That is why in 1910, in Blondel’s publication, L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne, the Oratorian, Lucien Laberthonnière accusing his Neo-Scholastic opponents of being influenced by “a false theological notion of some state of pure nature and therefore imagined the state could be self-sufficient, in the sense that it could be properly independent of any specifically Christian sense of justice.”

        What Cardinal de Lubac denied in his lifelong controversy with Neo-Scholasticism was the claim that the natural and the supernatural have utterly separate ends in and of themselves. He spelled this out in two of the most important theological works of the last century, his 1946 work, « Surnaturel » , but then, more decisively, in his 1965 book, « Le Mystère du Surnaturel »

    • Shere Khan

      have you ever heard of the fallacy of appeals to authority?

  • JP

    Thinkers have been trying to square the circle for centuries. The problem isn’t necessarily with Natural Law per se, or Reason. One needs to go back to the critiques of Enlightenment, namely Rousseau to get a glimpse of what’s at stake.

    The great hope of Jefferson, a man fully immersed in Enlightenment, was that a free people would become and remain a virtuous people. His ideal was a rural yeomanry that tilled the earth by day and read Virgil by candle light at night. However, Hobbes et als only used the lowest common denominator when constructing a philosophy that would lay the groundwork for a free society. Hobbes was a firm believer in Human Nature, and he constructed the ideal of Enlightened Self Interest. As one thinker wrote, “Hobbes built on low by very firm ground.” Man would unite around shared interests in survival, and economic betterment, and not in a shared belief in God, or loyalty to the Crown. As we saw with the waves of European immigrants in the 19th Century, ancient ties, loyalties, and beliefs would be subsumed by producing and consuming. Virtue would not necessarily come out on top, if it would come out at all. Rousseau saw all of this and realized that mere producing and consuming would not necessarily lead people to a more Humane life.

    Rousseau and Hobbes were both atheists and enemies of the Church. But they set in motion the theoretical dynamics that would shape much of the world for nearly 400 years. Catholic ideas, which can be traced back to Christ were scuttled if not out right ignored. For much of Europe the Roman Catholic Church was reactionary. In many ways the Church never recovered from the Protestant Revolt. Enlightenment began with Luther and probably breathed its last breath with either Nietzsche or his acolyte Heidegger. Perhaps the Catholic Church can revitalize the ancient teachings of Augustine or Aqaunis (both men were still taken seriously through the 19th Century). But, for that to happen, Catholic philosophers have to correct centuries of muck. Most of our practical problems today began as bull-sessions in the offices of our universities. What Catholic thinkers need to do not only show the mistakes of past thinkers but offer up correctives.

  • St JD George

    Everyone needs to re-read goal no. 32 from the manifesto to remind how in part we got here. After allowing the indoctrination of our kids for a few generations now is there little surprise that we now find ourselves here? Satan relishes in our having been led to a point where we as a society accept what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right, and we have been duped by his sweet serenade through of tolerance and political correctness. So, not that it is recognized, what are we going to do about it?!

  • As long as liberal theology, liberal definitions, tenants and mantras define the ‘common good’, any imbedded wiring cannot function correctly. Hope is not a strategy. As a tactic, it has no value or virtue. The Benedict Option suggests you find those who are supportive, agree with your worldview, and thrive together. Let the rest wallow in the fruit of their delusions. The world offers that option today just as it has for thousands of years. How else did so many of the founders find themselves together in the last half the 1700’s. Believing you can blossom where planted keeps you stunted. North America may not be the place to live anymore. The American experiment initiated by the founders died in the USA long before I was born.

    • St JD George

      I’ve been blessed to travel and live overseas I expect more than most and as much as my head wants to explode with the immoral acts of this administration I still wouldn’t want to trade living in the USA for anywhere else. Having said that, I do not like the trajectory we are on as the vector is trending downward, not upward. The Benedict Option is somewhat comforting though there are clearly strong divisions even among people of great faith, witness the recent synod. Besides, we are not called to be comfortable though who among us are willing to sacrifice all our belongings or even our lives to follow our Lord. Though there are thousands of stories, I truly am still sick to my stomach after reading about the young Christian family burned alive in a kiln this past week for their faith in Pakistan . Is that an Islamic version of natural law and reason? Could any of us stand that test? We are blessed that we can still discuss in forum’s like Crisis, but I am afraid that there are dark clouds amassing in the skies and the only hope I can find is in my faith in Jesus Christ.

    • Shere Khan

      tenets I think,, perhaps not tenants (sic)

      How do you define “liberal” ? – it has no objective meaning.

      • Thank you, and I’ll accept the dictionary definition. Teachers, journalists, communists, socialists by and large are instilled and preach the tenets of liberalism. Not saying everything they suggest is wrong, just a lie.

        • St JD George

          Like the good fellow Dr. Gruber who thinks we’re all too stupid to know what’s good for us so they have to “lie” to get the bill passed because it’s so good. What an insane mind kind rationalize.

          • tom

            “The end justifies the means” for these minions of Barack.

      • That depends on whether you mean the historical definition or the contemprary one.

        Contemporary liberals have three main characteristics.

        Statism. The state is the residuary of superior intellect, if not practically omnsiscient. It is also benevolent and incorrupt, therefore it is the pimary or principal agent of social organization.

        Secularism: Religion is a mere superstition; and an atavistic relic. We should inform our actions without reference to its offerings.

        Collectivism: Wealth, and its equitable distribution can only be secured and enhanced through collection action and the state is where this collective action is expressed, defined and enforced.

        They are wrong on all three counts, with their unholy trinity.

  • GG

    We should keep making the correct arguments because at some point some people will accept some part of these arguments. But, most of the population reasons by emotion not through academic arguments. We form our consciences by television and pop culture whether we know it or not.

    Prayer is central. Fulton Sheen said faith is to reason as the telescope is to the eye. The more faithful we are the better we grasp good arguments.

  • James

    One of the biggest problem with the Natural Law argument is the term “Natural Law”. People assume it means “argument from nature” or “appeal to nature”.

    The fatal flaw of bad writers is that they assume their audience knows what they do. The fatal flaw of bad apologists is using theological and philosophical terms of art and jargon without explaining what they mean. (Even worse, when the apologist doesn’t know what they mean and is simply parrotting another source.) For example, when JPII talks about “lust”, he gives the word a different meaning (sexual objectification) than the common dictionary definition (sexual desire). If you don’t know this, he sounds absurdly prudish. This is especially true when it comes to English language writers discussing Catholicism. English is the fourth or fifth language of the Latin Church and the translations are of dubious quality, often filled with Latin cognates that are neither easily understandable nor completely accurate translations.

    Second in the United States, Catholics are a cultural minority. The majority of Americans know little about Catholicism, but simply assume that Catholics are like Southern Baptists with incense. Natural law arguments are often seen as simply window dressing for the “because the Bible says so” arguments of Protestant fundamentalism. The use of big words and fancy terms make people feel like what is being presented is sophistry, not reason.

    What is needed is both clarity and simplicity. The public is not so much anti-God or anti-morality as there are skeptical of religious frauds, of which America has no shortage.

    • St JD George

      Here’s an easy one for you that all moral people of multi-faiths can agree on and unfortunately is most relevant to our times … sodomy is not natural and is a sin.

      • James

        Thank you for proving my point. It seems you are making an argument from nature against sodomy (which is a logical fallacy), not an argument based on the Natural Law.

        The question is not whether sodomy is unnatural, but how do we know that sodomy is immoral? Keep in mind that disgust is not a moral argument.

        • St JD George

          Seems like a silly parlor game of parsing words when what is needed is both clarity and simplicity as you say. I realize you are not advocating it and are making an argument about the meaning of Natural Law, but “most” everyone can understand that it is not natural, is defiling God temple and is disgusting because it is counter to God’s creation. It’s really not any more complicated than that.

          • James

            Once again, disgust is not a moral argument. There may be reasons why disgust is or is not an appropriate reaction, but you’ve got to show your work here.

            • St JD George

              Defiling God’s temple is disgusting and is a moral argument, that’s as simple and as Natural as I think it needs to be understood.

        • Shere Khan

          “we”?-when humans resort to “we”I become deeply suspicious:”we” is you and who else?

          I don’t ‘know’ thatsodomy is immoral because I’m not particularly interested in the term immoral or morals in general because the terms moral or immoral can generally be translated into “I – like – it”, or “I – don’t – like – it.”I simply cannot “know” that sodomy is immoral equals contrary to my conscience, because I have never experienced it and have no intention of ever having anything to do with what is plainly the sewer of the body, as I understand sodomy not having ever witnessed it or experienced it, first hand, but as a devout sceptic I am forbidden from all hearsay, and equally as a common lawyer of some many years standing, we having an anathema of hearsay; purely subjectively I would say that all homosexualist practices are, what I would call, “wrong”, meaning I subjectively disapprove of what I understand them to be although I have no actual personal knowledge of them whatsoever; in principle – that fool word, I am against them and would have them punished by the criminal law as they were in England until the religion I call modernism displaced conventional traditional ways of living, as was the murder of the unborn, but it seems that questions have changed and modernism – that wicked (in my respectful submission) recently invented religion for which, I am bound to say, the Americans with their faulty understanding of and idiotic obsession with democracy have unwittingly brought about, and, like turkeys,voted for Christmas.

          What you Americans call political correctness and or, bizarrely, liberalism, I call religion of modernism – the absurd belief that there is a democracy of truth and that the recently invented is somehow or other virtuous, the prime function of modernism is to shout down in sense and what I would call, truth; you don’t become an heresyto suggest that homosexualism is anti-natural and that women are not equal to men and moreover that all beings are not equal, and that there is no such thing as global warming, and before you know where you are heretics will be burnt at the stake, or, in any event, simply shouted down.

          In my respectful submission the most pernicious aspect of contemporary life is known as the Western world is the dominance of that particular religion which turned human beings into fools and credulous nitwits, so much so that when anyone wonders what is true some modernist psychopath invites everyone – whoever that may be, to take a vote on it, the suction presumably being that if most people think that two and two make 19 they to do,but it does not take a child of 2 to point out the absurdity of such a proposition.

          Those that sense the smell of what I call modernism should perhaps reflect that the word liberal derives from the Latin Liber,meaning free – an internal state as opposed to an external one. In England Liberal mean simply generous or in favour of free trade, and quite how the Americans attached such a negative connotation to such an ordinary simple word is quite beyond me.

          I respectfully suggest that you abandon using liberal as a synonym for bad rather as modernists adopt racist or homophobic as synonyms for bad and go to look at the root belief system which lies behind it and the assumptions that go with it as when it rains the pavements get wet . Modernist is a far better term and does not abuse and denigrate a perfectly harmless and reasonable English word meaning generous or free. Only those that wish to constrain others by force have any particular objection to freedom. It would be ridiculous those who would gainsay modernism become as bullying and fascist in the ordinary sense of the word as modernists are rapidly becoming; those who are sure of their right angularity – if I may put it that way, and very little to fear for those you are twisted and bent out of shape will stop

          I advocate the term modernism because it reflects the fundamental essence of the religion, specifically its devotion to fashion or what is currently popular irrespective of its virtue. Its idolatry of the fancy that there is such a thing as a democracy of truth compounds malificence.

          change your word and you change the automatic/mechanical reactions to it,unless you wish to annoy particular types of being;personally it pleases my egoism to annoy modernists by clearly identifying their assumptions and/or beliefs, which they assume to be catholic in the strict sense of the term.

          It seems to your servant here present that it is their predisposition to believe or I assume that makes monkeys out of human beings, all the threebrained beings of the planet Earth as I would call them, and it is notable that they will believe anything you like so long as all of Tom Dick and Harry assertsuch and such to be the case and will vigorously themselves assert, purely on that basis, that it is so and could not possibly be otherwise, or, in short, human automatic/mechanical credulity or suggestibility,all the while with some tiny almost and heard part of them saying: “but the Emperor is not wearing any clothes”. – Which part of human beings can say that? – Is it not that most fundamental of all his is just as several senses, namely his sense of truth, sometimes referred to as Conscience?– which is just as much a sense as taste and smell and touch is it not?– do try not to confuse that sixth sense with your automatic/mechanical ideas which were implanted in new from without or what you call right, wrong, good, or bad, with his with which it has no relationship whatsoever.

          You didn’t much like that, did you? – But why? – Perhaps because it does not accord with that which was implanted in you from without, without your knowledge and acquiescence? – Or urely automatically, or mechanically.

          If you disagree, do try to deal with each point seriatim, that’s one after the other or those of you not familiar with legal Latin.

          • James


            • jonnybeeski

              I would expect a tiger to have been more concise.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Unfortunately, it does not really get to grips with the issue raised by Miss Anscombe in he r1958 paper, Modern Moral Philosophy: “In present-day philosophy an explanation is required how an unjust man is a bad man, or an unjust action a bad one; to give such an explanation belongs to ethics; but it cannot even be begun until we are equipped with a sound philosophy of psychology. For the proof that an unjust man is a bad man would require a positive account of justice as a “virtue.” This part of the subject-matter of ethics, is however, completely closed to us until we have an account of what type of characteristic a virtue is – a problem, not of ethics, but of conceptual analysis – and how it relates to the actions in which it is instanced: a matter which I think Aristotle did not succeed in really making clear. For this we certainly need an account at least of what a human action is at all, and how its description as “doing such-and-such” is affected by its motive and by the intention or intentions in it; and for this an account of such concepts is required.”

        • St JD George

          What’s your point Michael? I’m not familiar with Ms. Anscombe Modern Moral Philosophy and not sure that I care to. It’s fascinating to read the great ancient Greek philosopher’s, but what does that have to do with point I raised that is still as relevant today as it was then. Even putting Christ aside in the argument, our human bodies are not designed for sodomy. To me that could not be more of a defiance of natural law (or unnatural if you prefer), and it requires no philosophy, or ethics to understand. I’d put in the same category as accepting a mother’s right to kill her child because it’s her choice if it’s not convenient.

      • Shere Khan

        natural or not, it plainly pointless and therefore ant-natural,however beloved of the religion I call modernism; it is plainly a perversion of or diversion from the purpose of human sex energy designed by great nature for the continuation of the genus;to my mind the beings of the planet earth are a genus,about the origin of which, as opposed to species, our friend Darwin was utterly confounded,or, more simply, had no real idea,but he was ace on my beloved my mind the idea of some chap somewhere-an human analogue, designing creatures beings and all else is utterly absurd;it seems obvious to your servant here present that the cause of all was perfectly capable, being as it must, by definition be, a part-an essential part of all of what adjustments are necessary in order to achieve its fundamental aim,namely to will the universe,because it had to. it is idolatry to anthropomorphise the Cause and Source of make an idol, albeit not graven when you have an image of it as being “somewhere-else-not an essential and vital part of oneself, an awareness of which is one of the definitions of reason.

      • Shere Khan

        “moral” people?- who he?-if IT likes it and it does not disturb its sleep it’s moral.

        you can always tell when humans are lying because they use the term ‘moral’, and inevitably subjectively. as often as not it’s just another synonym for their famous ‘good’. what IS does not admit of their fanciful and wholly arbitrary, good and/or bad.if you aim is to pen to what IS, then, in those premises what ever obstructs or dilutes your aim is, by definition, bad.
        quaere can a being with such an aim go against what IS(nature?(perhaps what MUST be))?-it may well be that if he does he defeats his own aim.

        • St JD George

          It is a torture to read your writing, sorry.

          • Shere Khan

            were that truly the case I would respectfully invite you not to read it; with what in particular do you take issue?– I cannot be responsible for the vagaries of the American attention span, nor is particular prejudices. I would respectfully conjure you against masochism,, and to, extremely politely,, ask a man holding a gun to your head and forcing you to read what I write to cease and desist; it is not altogether uncommon for human beings to be reluctant to admit, or read, that with which they do not, or are not predisposed to, agree; for some reason or other, the precise reason for which I cannot fathom beings seem further read only that with which they are already disposed agree; why do you think that is the case, if you agree that that is the case?

            Perhaps you would be better employed in wondering why exactly you made that wholly unreasoned remark, which you were perfectly entitled to make Notwithstanding that it leaves your present interlocutor a trifle confused. Was your essential point that you did not like other about I write? – How can I possibly anticipate your particular subjective lights and dislikes? – How exactly did you anticipate that I would respond to what, on any view, can hardly be regarded as an intelligent question or rather mark?– perhaps you hoped that I would say: “oh my dear fellow I am utterly devastated as I did not have to your son of happiness by what I happened to write”; short of asking “our world tell the what would please each and every one of them I am constrained to say absolutely nothing, notwithstanding that they could possibly learn thing to their advantage my reading what I have to say; is your point was, far from is agreeing with everything that I had to say, merely did not like I know what I said or how I say it, I am at something of a loss as to how to respond to your remark, other than to say: “so what?” – Do you make a habit of addressing your interlocutor or any particular interlocutor, by saying that you do not like the colour of his socks,, or of his tie?– and, were you to do so, how exactly would you anticipate that you would respond? – Think my respectful advice and do not torture yourself unless it gives you some particular kind of pleasure, standing that voluntary suffering is one of the routes to reason; put extremely briefly, do try not to whine.

            • St JD George

              Brevity and clarity – I read and reread but am still not entirely certain of the points you are trying to make. Your words are torture to read. Your logic is another matter, you are entitled to your opinions of course, though it would be better to be at peace with Christ.

          • ForChristAlone

            I for one have chosen just to ignore him, her, whatever. I read a few of his posts – insufferable is the word I’d use for them.

    • Shere Khan

      please remind me who it was that said: “you cannot derive and ought from and is”?-iin my respectful submission that is quite evident; it is extremely difficult to consider any particular word sensibly without a clear understanding of the strings attached to it; what I call “flea words” and is quite clear that the words law and reason had very many fleas on their body, for example nonsensical terms such as justice, good, bad, right, wrong,just/unjust,fair//unfair all of which are evoked purely mechanically, just as they were acquired,, and gave rise to the innumerable fantasies such as assumptions and beliefs – a term to be contrasted with faith which has nothing whatsoever to do with belief.

      • James

        David Hume said “you cannot derive an ought from an is”

        I like the idea of “flea words”. I think Vatican translators neither hear nor understand the “flea words” of English.

        • Shere Khan

          ah, ta, he didn’t get the wrong did he?

          I cannot pretend to do anything about Vatican translators or whether they understand that all words are fleas and that all fleas have lesser fleas that deliver upon and bite ’em,and lesser fleas have lesser fleas and so ad infinitum.

          Perhaps they do not understand that the function of churches of whatever colour or flavour is to be signposts and not weathervanes, but not being a Catholic, it is no skin off my nose; all human beings fall into error when they adopt the insane idea as an assumption or belief that there is a democracy of truth known as argumentum ad populum characterised by the whining assertion: “oh but most people think XY or Z; even if every being – an infinite number of them, in the whole universe think that two and two make 19 then, in my respectful submission,, they are all wrong,, although how one would know what most people actually think is beyond me, but a belief or assumption that that is the case is plainly a religious belief, the relevant contemporary religion now the dominant religion in the world, also newly baked, is what I call modernism,, or a belief that the recently invented is somehow or other virtuous because it stems directly from the human predisposition mechanically to follow fashion, or the root word thereof “mode– the French for fashion,, or is it merely herd instinct which allows for such absurdities as the establishment of the religion known as global warming, which is a sub- religion of modernism, the dominant contemporary religion, a definition of which I will happily provide if asked; certainly in England it brooks no heresy,, and its dictionary or calendar of synonyms for bad or good is extensive,but contains no actual definitions; that one way to annoy an adherent of the religion that I call modernism is to ask him or her to define their terms, something which the religion of modernism seems to forbade as part of its catechism.quite how one can be both a Christian and a modernist defeats me, but then so does trying to be what little I understand of being a Christianwhich I assume rightly or wrongly,, means more than merely asserting that one is a Christian without necessarily following Christ’s precepts to the letter,, which is broadly speaking impossible, but rather contingent on the accuracy of the various translations which is moot.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Miss Anscombe made the point that Hume defines “truth” in such a way as to exclude ethical judgments from it, and professes that he has proved that they are so excluded. He also implicitly defines “passion” in such a way that aiming at anything is having a passion. His objection to passing from “is” to “ought” would apply equally to passing from “is” to “owes” or from “is” to “needs.”

        • Shere Khan

          Truth is what IS and the idea that one can define=limit it in some way, is absurd-it can only be experienced,or sensed.

          “humankind cannot bear very much reality.”-so the attempt must necessarily involve voluntary suffering.

  • Desmond

    The American Catholic laity is unfortunately unversed in the teachings of the faith. That needs to become rectified on a wide scale before a cogent and defensible public argument can be credibly put forward. If the laity is in disarray, then the Catholic leaders attempting to articulate sound arguments will have the poor example of their flock thrown back in their face. The discussion will not get off the ground, let alone ascend to the heights of natural law. I do not advocate a retreat from the public sphere, but the emphasis must rest on catechizing the flock. Catholics become a political force when our faith is known, understood, and lived.

    • ColdStanding

      Natural society is a good. The supernatural society of the Kingdom of God is a superior good. Living the Catholic life is not withdrawing from society. It is choosing a superior good in preference to an inferior good. It is, however, withdrawing from the sin and the World.

      For example, St. Luke records, in the Parable of the Sower, “bringing forth 100, 60, or 30 fold.” This refers to virgins, chaste, and married. Virginity is a higher good than chastity which is a higher good than marriage. Virginity is held in highest esteem because this is how the angels in heaven live, so says Our Lord.

      Similarly, Jesus Christ has given us commands, precepts, and counsels. Commands are the minimum standard, whereas the precepts and counsels constitute the Evangelical counsels of perfection (completion) in Christian virtue. It is good to live by the commands, it a higher good to live by the Evangelical counsels.

      see here:

      You are correct in saying that we need to open again our ears to what Holy Mother Church has taught, is teaching and will always teach. However, we do indeed need to set aside our involvement in the “public sphere.” for it, the “public sphere”, is an aping of and is in competition with the Christian pulpits of the Kingdom. The participation in the public sphere is, if not evil, then certainly an occasion of sin. It needs to be dismantled for it is anti-Christ.

      • Desmond

        If the aim is to dismantle the current public sphere, then craftsmen who know how to deconstruct and build anew are required. That will only occur with a flock inculcated with the teachings of the Church. That must be a weighted concern. However, we cannot retreat (even if we want to) from this world. The Kingdom of God is our ultimate victory, but we must do all that we can while we are here until He comes to us a second time. Living other than as Christ instructed us (and doing so without sincere remorse and the plea for the grace to will oneself over a particular moral hurdle or hurdles) is a failure; but refraining from preaching his Word through speech and deed is also a failure. The latter means loving others less than He taught us to love them.

        • ColdStanding

          Well, what do you think I am doing if not presenting the catechism? Have I not presented to you the teaching of the Church on the differentiation between natural notion of abandoning society and the Catholic conception of the perfect supernatural society of the Kingdom?

          Now I shall do it again: The Kingdom of God is at hand! We do not run away from the World. We run towards our heavenly home. There is no error or omission in fleeing an occasion of sin. It is heaven all the way to heaven. etc.

          Once more: We can do nothing. All our gifts, goods and graces come from God. The body is made for the soul, and the soul is made for God as God made both body and soul. What man makes something without a purpose in mind? How much more so God? Our souls are the sheep that Christ came for. Our Lord tells us not to be concerned about the body (which is the dishonest steward).

          Or again: I did not send prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. (Jeremiah 23:21) Therefore, not all actions of the Word among His people show up as preaching. The office of preacher is given to some, but not to others. The basic duty is to be ready to give a defense of the Faith and to not be ashamed of Jesus Christ. Not all are given the gift of preaching the Word of God, but all are given the gift of prayer. Never doubt the value of praying for someone or something. Our Lord never tires of hearing our prayers because He has made us to be with Him and when we pray we are with Him.

    • “The American Catholic laity is unfortunately unversed in the teachings of the faith.”
      Because their teachers have been named Weakland. Hunthausen, Bernardin, Dolan, Blaire, Kupich and the rest of the gang that insists on making the Church “just another NGO”.
      They should all be required to read “Tea Party Catholic”.

      • tom

        The leadership of the American Catholic Church is a gaggle of weaklings.

        The best, Raymond Cardinal Burke, just got demoted for supporting the Deposit of Faith so the future remains bleak for Catholics as Obama slaps us around with the help of the likes of Sebelius, Gillibrand and Pelosi.

  • Vinny

    “Of course, one often hears that natural law arguments are “too complicated” for people to get their minds around. It’s true that most of us who believe in natural law can do a better job of explaining our positions.” For those of us average, faithful, Joe or Jane Catholics who don’t write for a foundation or institute, whether you cloister yourself or not, we have to witness to our beliefs. Simply day-in, day-out life is lived that way, with that being the beacon of natural law and truth to others.

    • Shere Khan

      how exactly does one “believe in” what you call but do not even attempt to define “natural law”?– what does your famous “bbelieving in” actually entail?

      Before you advert to what you call” natural law”, might it not be wiser to define your terms in advance; is jurisprudence/the philosophy of law your pet subject?

      There are many kinds of law to be found in various jurisdictions but what you call “natural law” is not exactly prominent amongst them. before you consider what you call “natural” law it might be wise to consider the nature of law itself. – What do you mean by “law”,, natural or otherwise? – If you have not studied law as a degree subject and jurisprudence as a sub-subject thereof might best advised not to embark upon such a question; the central question which arises in jurisprudence is: what exactly do users of the term mean by “law”? – Natural or otherwise.– unless one is disposed to embark upon a study of law in general might be best to avoid jurisprudence.

  • slainte

    The Benedict Option reminds one of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and the withdrawal from society by John Galt and other supermen of industry in response to an imperious and repressive state.

    While Rand’s solution might constitute a secular response to a troubled society, Catholics are charged with evangelizing the culture in good times and bad,; a mission which does not allow us the luxury of withdrawing from the world.

    Tough times demand a proactive engagement by Catholics with a world In need of Christ”s message. Onward Christian soldiers.

    • St JD George

      Well said. It’s human nature to withdraw to the comfort of friends in faith (as we mostly do here) with some antipathy towards egregious sinners and lost souls – some because we aren’t comfortable sacrificing much and a lot because we don’t know how to go about this business of effectively evangelizing in an increasingly hostile world. I know I struggle with the guilt of being sickened by what I see going on around me yet feeling helpless in knowing how to bring about meaningful change. The church is a community of course and we need to realize that our strength comes through God in that community of faith. It is an absolute imperative that we not withdraw but find a way to be better examples and welcome others into relationships with Christ.

      • tom

        Catholics need to literally occupy the public square. Say the rosary in Times Square at dawn on a feast day. Parade from one parish to a nearby one for a joint CATHOLIC service. Expand youth groups to include more intermural and intramural participation. Have movie arrangements when a Christian message is at the theater, not smut. Parades in support of moral crusades by thousands of Catholics are needed, too. Of course, cleansing our colleges of heresy is likely the most important step so Catholic kids aren’t sent to these institutions to learn Islam or atheism.

        The Conference of Bishops would likely try to scuttle any and all of these suggestions. That’s a real conundrum.

        • ForChristAlone

          Excellent ideas, Tom. But I might add that they should not wait for the Bishops’ approval to implement. We just need Catholics to get out of their comfort zone and enter into a more mature practice of the faith.

    • ColdStanding

      That isn’t a correct reading of the evangelical counsels nor does it correspond to what has happened in some of the most important periods of Christians heeding Jesus Christ’s call to “Follow Me.” We are not withdrawing from society when we live according to the commands, precepts and counsels of Our Lord and Savior for He has laid before us a perfect society in which to live. So we are not leaving what you have called “society” to live in isolation from it. No, we are joining and living out here and now on earth (in the Church Militant) the foretaste of the heavenly society which is the Kingdom of God, the Supper of the Lamb, the Wedding Feast, etc. The Catholic life is intensely social.

      We are, in fact, counselled to detach ourselves from the World (which is what I assume you mean by society). I very much doubt anyone can make much progress in Christian perfection without a serious effort to effect this detachment. The Christian monastic communities, especially in the earliest days in the deserts of Egypt unambiguously withdrew from the World. As did St. Benedict and his spiritual sons. The same can be said for St. Bruno and St. Bernard and many, many others. Their lasting influence comes from telling the World to get stuffed.

      Nobody can seriously accuse them of living in luxury.

      I’d also recommend, free advice and all, that you read Msg. Pope’s recent posting that discusses the meaning of the word evangelize. It gives a rather different perspective than the Protestant-borrowed “onward Christian soldiers” model.

      My point then is that building up the Kingdom does very much mean developing institutions (parishes, monasteries, seminaries, universities, schools etc) that are not organized according to the aims and standards of the World. They need to be organized according to the logic of the Kingdom. The worldly would accuse Catholics of “withdrawing”, but what do they know?

      This is what we had before the disastrous policy of “proactive engagement by Catholics with (the) world.”

      • slainte

        Thanks for your insight Coldstanding. My reference to “onward Christian soldiers” and “proactive engagement by Catholics” favors a zealous and robust witness to the world of a Catholic faith lived joyfully in every aspect of our daily lives.

        Through our words and by our actions, we plant the seeds of conversion for those seeking joy and happiness in lieu of the empty promises of a decadent culture.

        Grass roots evangelisation and the development of Catholic institutions are important ways to build the Kingdom.

        Thank you for your reference to Monsignor Pope’s post.

        • tom

          You mean we can’t maintain the Faith while slouched in a lounge chair in front of the TV, while gobbling pizza and beer?!

          Are you suggesting Catholic ACTION?

          • slainte

            Strangely enough, YES Tom. 🙂

            How about blessing oneself while partaking dinner, lunch, or breakfast in a public restaurant? or saying the rosary silently while walking for exercise but permitting one’s rosary beads to dangle visibly from one’s hands? or reading the bible on the train while travelling to work? or wearing a cross, miraculous medal, or brown scapular around one’s neck while wearing one’s business attire?

            Small things which keep the faith present in the public sphere….or in other words Catholic ACTION. : )

            Little things matter.

            • tom

              Darn right. Boycotting the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a positive action, too.

              • slainte

                As a descendant of the provinces of Connacht and Munster whose ancestors survived Oliver Cromwell and the successive famines, including An Gorta Mor, while adhering to the faith, I will not relinquish my duty to pay tribute to Saint Patrick on his special day by attending mass and then marching in a parade that has occurred in Manhattan continuously since 1762.

                No single issue will redefine this day that is so important to faithful Irish American Catholics.

  • Shere Khan

    it might be wise to study jurisprudence, or the philosophy of law to try find some sensible meaning in the term ‘natural law’, which is a rather vague/fuzzy concept.

    I don’t have a clue how “right reason” is defined – or any kind of reason for that matter save the definition of reason as being a measure of relative self-awareness; unfortunate that the term reason always carries with it conversations of logic or some sort of thinking – whatever that is;; as often as not talking to oneself.

    It seems to me that in order to approach the idea of “natural law” the student should have some concept or understanding of what he means by the word “law” which tends to be a portmanteau term carrying with it any number of unrealistic and purely promotional concepts.

    One particular also of articles an learned analysis of la is a chap called Lelsen.

    A critical approach to law is frequently confused by the idea – a purely human invention of what is called justice, which is purely a matter for the highest , and it it is quite clear,, not to say screamingly obvious that the lower cannot understand the higher

    • St JD George

      Here’s an easy one for you that all moral people of multi-faiths can agree on and unfortunately is most relevant to our times … sodomy is not natural and is a sin.

      • Maria

        …and your obsession is rather annoying. You have already written this.

        • St JD George

          I understand, and it was a little divergent to Sam’s piece so should have left well enough alone even though irked no reply answered the fundamentals. Rambling on about philosophers, ethics and morality I felt was a distraction to the point that there is no debate about the act violating natural law with relevancy of course in that we are being coerced to accept it by society.

  • Harry

    Hearts always change before there is a lasting political change. After hearts change the political change is easy to accomplish. All political change that is not based upon changed hearts in transient.

    Nothing has the power to change hearts like Christianity. As infant Christianity transformed hearts and converted the known world, fundamental changes were brought about. Monotheism replaced polytheism. Things like infanticide, abortion and pederasty became taboos. Gladiatorial games (murder being acceptable public entertainment) fell by the wayside; the status of women in society was raised immensely; eventually outright slavery disappeared from Western Civilization and didn’t return for roughly a thousand years.

    There was a new understanding and appreciation of human dignity and it applied to all human beings universally. If even the most lowly and insignificant people were important enough to God to draw Him down from heaven and up onto a cross, and if the One Who would decide where and how we would spend eternity insisted that His decision would depend on how we treated others, especially the very least in the eyes of the world (Mt 25), then every human being’s dignity was raised to new and lofty heights.

    This new understanding of human dignity also defined its limits: it made the deification of Caesar an impossibility; even Caesar was accountable to a higher authority and everybody knew that. It became possible to meaningfully discuss the inalienable human rights of any and every human being, and the state’s obligation to protect those rights.

    What made all that happen? Changed hearts, yet most people never got to hear one of the Apostles preach. I am convinced that most were not persuaded by logical arguments. Hearts were changed by people seeing how the Christians loved one another and the very least of the brethren of Christ, and how they were faithful to Him, unto martyrdom if necessary.

    The potential for lived-out Christianity to change hearts and eventually transform the world is just as potent today as it was in the Early Church. We just need to become a truly counter-cultural “people set apart,” who the world sees loving one another, and loving the very least among those disregarded by the world (the unborn child being the most disregarded), and being faithful to Christ unto death if necessary.

    It worked before. The Holy Spirit is not worn out from transforming the world the first time. He is ready and willing to do it again. He is waiting for the Church to believe in His presence within it and to become docile to His promptings — even if doing so draws down upon us the misunderstanding, scorn and condemnation of the world. Christ promised us that would happen, and that we should rejoice when it did.

    • Facile1

      Thank you.

      This is what I am looking for when I read postings. Something to allay my fears, not feed them.

      Thank you.

  • ColdStanding

    I don’t see how the wrong of rebellion can be effaced from the foundation of the United States (or England 1534, or France 1789, Italy 1861 or Germany 1871, or Russia 1917, or China 1949) not withstanding whatever fragments of restored human society happened to be employed in cobbling together a workable arrangement. Whatever good is found is tainted by the anti-principle of revolt. Revolution can not bring about order within society. It can only affect a mockery of order and justice because those that employ it reduce the scope of competence they claim for the human being. Indeed, here is the history of government in the United States (and all other “liberal” democracies listed): an ever shrinking conception of the worth of the human person forcing an ever increasing complex of legislation over all aspects of life leading not to citizenship, but to the assumption of criminality. No longer citizens. Now Criminals.

    Here is your future: you shall be put down, not because you rebel, but because you could rebel. After all, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Americans (all humanity) are genetic descendants of rebels.

  • Ruth Rocker

    One of the big problems with this theory is that there are just too many uneducated people in this country. I don’t mean the kind that never went to school. I mean the kind that have been indoctrinated by the 11th Commandment – If it feels good do it, and if it doesn’t feel good, you’re not doing it right.

    Most people in this country not only are ignorant of our history but supremely uninterested as well. This is why idiots like the current occupant of the White House get elected and re-elected and some in Congress make life-time careers out of it. Until and unless the population gets involved with the process, no real progress will be made. I know that I received a much different outlook from my education than my children received and that my grandchildren are getting now. I know that history is written by the victors, but come on!!

    • ForChristAlone

      nailed it, Ruth

    • GG


    • Shere Khan

      “One of the big problems with this theory is that there are just too many uneducated people in this country.

      What exactly do you mean by the term “educated”?

      • Ruth Rocker

        I mean people who have at least a basic understanding of the history of this country at a minimum. People who don’t know and don’t care about the way the government is supposed to work. People who are more interested in their iPhone than in the state of the country.

        It would be nice if there was a smattering of philosophy and religious training in there, but that’s really apparently asking too much.

        • ForChristAlone

          There will be a small group of elite who will carry on in the tradition of the truly educated. Meanwhile, we will pay billions in taxes to colleges and universities that do not truly educate. It’s just a good thing that universities do not require exit exams or we’d be paying forever for these dolts to have their “education” completed.

  • St JD George

    Sam, I wasn’t familiar with your books before now but I look forward to reading in the near future.

  • tom

    The first paragraph of the Declaration is often overlooked:

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

  • tom

    The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. – Dante

    • Shere Khan

      in which case Dante was both a liar and a fraud,neither being entirely unknown amongst Italians; humans have a nasty habit of making up morals as they go along.

      • ForChristAlone

        Hardly. There are eternal truths that exist independently of man’s acknowledgement.

  • crakpot

    The liberals of today are the dove sellers of 2000 years ago. If you want to ease that conscience that’s bothering you, you gotta go through us, and it’ll cost you. Never ending sacrifice.

    We should deal with them the same way Jesus did.

  • I_M_Forman

    Natural Law is Natural Law. It doesn’t go away because many people do not understand it or wish to understand it. It is a Truth. All these secular self-indulgences will lead to misery and the fraying at the edges had started already. It wouldn’t hurt to excommunicate a few of these phonies either.

    • Shere Khan

      “Natural Law is Natural Law.” presumably, were that to be the case,you would be perfectly capable of defining what – you – all “natural law”, but, for some reason best known only to yourself you do not even attempt to do so; if you yourself do not have the faintest idea what you mean by “natural law”, how can anyone else faintest idea of what you mean by it?

    • ForChristAlone

      The natural law is ignored by today’s poorly educated masses at their own peril.

      Western “civilization” has perhaps the highest number of people attending university but an equally highest number of those poorly educated in the liberal arts. We have technocrats but no truly educated enough to consider even what the natural law is.

  • James

    After reading some of the comments, appeals to reason will fail because most people, liberal and conservative, are far more persuaded by indignant outrage than cool reason.

    People are far more interested in being affirmed in their current beliefs than to think about them.

    • Shere Khan

      have you ever met “most people”?– which question admits of an answer that is either yes or no; too be perfectly candid with you I do not have, and could not possibly have any idea of what most people,whatever that means, are like.

  • Shere Khan

    re Appeals to Natural Law and Right Reason Still Effective?

    effective in what respect? – You might as well ask are Wednesdays green?

    Appeals to so-called “nnatural law” are invariably subjective and reflect what the appellantsubjectively believes to be tthe law, or what he or she thinks the law “ought” to be; realistic analysis of law characterises it as a system of norms underpinned by a particular so-called “griund norm”, and appeals to the existing law as being worthy of obedience were questioned fundamentally at the Nuremberg trials when the court rejected the proposition: “oh but I was only obeying orders/the law”;; many systems of law/jurisdictions have varying grundnorms.

    heaven only knows what so-called “right” reason is, but the inference is irresistible that the appeal to it is entirely subjective; in other words ‘right’ reason is my reason and natural law is my idea of natural law, quite how either of them could be effective, whatever effective is supposed to mean, is a matter of pure subjective conjecture.

    For my money Wednesdays are green.. they most certainly cannot be either good, bad, right, or wrong,and the endless mechanical division by humans of everything into good and evil right and wrong lie at the root of the degeneration of the reason(self-awareness) of human beings.

  • Jdonnell

    “Conservative”? Defending natural law? How quaint. Conservatives seem less and less interested in conserving and more and more with acquisition–or foolishly protecting the greedy. Conservatives ought to start by being interested in conserving the planet, though today’s news says that they oppose the President’s agreement on controlling emissions just made with the Chinese because it might be bad for US business. That’s neither conservative nor Christian.
    Natural law is about applying reason to ethics, based on the absolute fact that all people in all places and at all times have made a distinction between things that are good to do and things not good to do–between good and bad. That is quite different from the “laws” of nature, which might seem to preclude using artificial contraception because it’s unnatural. That is not an application of natural law. Natural law would examine the exigencies of conditions in a reasoned way and then draw a conclusion about birth control.
    MacIntyre and Murray have more in common that otherwise. We need another St. Benedict, as the former said in the conclusion to his popular book, but we don’t need to retreat to a monastery or another Rule. Murray was a champion of democracy and the right of Catholics to participate in it, free from charges of a foreign loyalty. It wasn’t all that long ago the Church hierarchy opposed democracy as against natural law. Many of the things mistakenly regarded as irrevocable or unchangeable turn out to

    • Jdonnell

      Interrupted: turn out to be quite subject to change. Crisis Magazine too often echoes the mentality of those rigid figures that Jesus pitted himself against.

  • bender

    Sorry, I couldn’t get through this piece — no, more precisely, I didn’t bother to — with all of the tedious name-dropping. I’m not going to read all these guys (so much for your silly challenge about Rawls), much less try to figure out the disctinctions between this “school” and that “school” represented by their writings.

    Enough with the pointy-head insider baseball. If you have something to say, just say it.