Absolutely no exceptions

When we consider the differences between right and wrong we naturally go to the Commandments – and in most instances to the “social” commandments. But we are aware that they need some interpretation. For example, we understand immediately the value being protected in “Honour thy father and thy mother’. But in practice we have to consider what this requires in the precise circumstances we find ourselves. “Thou shalt not kill” is definite enough, but how about self defence, or just war? “Keep thou holy the Sabbath Day” requires interpretation. Maybe I shouldn’t be ploughing a field on a Sunday, but is it OK for me to compose a post for this Blog? (I hasten to say that I am drafting this on a Wednesday, so there is no danger of association in you reading it.)

But here is another category to consider. Let me call it “God’s law expressed in the structure of creation”. A straightforward example of this is homosexual activity. It is immediately clear that this involves a mismatch between gender and sexual expression — a simple matter of plumbing. So we instantly recognise an action which goes against our created nature. Thus it is a perversion – that is a “turning away” from proper purpose.

Similarly, of course, barrier contraception artificially removes from sexual intercourse the inherent characteristic of openness to conception. Another perversion. Here we can see the structural nature with clarity because the intention alone, as in the use of the safe period, is, by contrast, innocent and often meritorious.

The same approach applies outside the sexual sphere. For example the moral assessment of telling a lie is not confined to the harm it might do; its root morality lies in the fact that we were given by God the power of communication in order to convey the truth. A lie – however small or however motivated – is intrinsically a defiance of God’s intentions. In a situation where the truth must be concealed, we are allowed to deceive through using “discreet” language; but we may never lie. (CCC 2482-2489)

And “never” is the word. Unlike the commandments, the moral conclusion from “God’s law expressed in the structure of creation” allows of absolutely no exceptions. It is God speaking to us. The rather forbidding phrase “intrinsically evil” – which is perhaps less threateningly described as “wrong by virtue of its own nature” – is used.

Yet I can easily understand a homosexual saying “No matter what might be generally true of human nature, my own nature (God-given) is different. I find the prospect of heterosexual activity quite revolting, whereas homosexual activity is not only acceptable but supports my close relationships.” Or a married person who claims that contraceptive intercourse gives the peace of mind needed for the close bonding of marriage. Or the individual, while not given to lying, who can sometimes judge that a lie is the only practical answer in a particular case.

So perhaps an initial question to consider is why we are not permitted to recognise exceptions to “God’s law expressed in the structure of creation” in appropriate cases – as we can in the matter of the Commandments. This does not mean that we disregard such laws but that they are not absolutes which forbid us to take into account particular circumstances.

It is possible that I will return to this topic for a full column in the Catholic Herald. So I have an extra reason for valuing the views of contributors on this subject.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Moral judgment, Philosophy, Quentin queries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

128 Responses to Absolutely no exceptions

  1. Already hundreds of stores are open all night 24/7 Isnt that enough. Equally many corner shops and such like are open evenings and most of Sunday. Surely all this is quite enough for any kind of shopping. Trying to keep Sunday special seems to be a lost case sadly. Apart from shops there are endless form of sport especially far too much soccer, tennis, golf etc the need for public transport and so on. Doesn’t anyone give a thought to workers/employees who could and should be enabled to spend quality time with their families, stevensave a day off weekly preferably on Sundays.

    • Horace says:

      Missing the point slightly – “keep holy the Sabbath Day” is to have quality time with God, not necessarily “quality time with their families”.

      • milliganp says:

        The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Rest and recreation are also part of God’s plan.

    • milliganp says:

      Interestingly, the Sabbath is not a natural law construct but a combined duty and Gift given to the people of Israel by God through the commandments given to Moses.

  2. milliganp says:

    My wife and I have been watching “Call the Midwife” on catch-up. It seems to reinforce the adage “poverty begets children and children beget poverty”. The voice-over, which is the reflection of the original author of the work, looks forward to when ready availability of contraceptives would free woment from the tyrany of constant pregnancy and childbirth – and that is from a devout Anglican perspective. Not everybody believes contraception contradicts the natural law.

    • St.Joseph says:

      MilliganP
      Well they wouldn’t would they as in those days as NFP was not properly understood.! Only by the’ Catholic Church’As the Anglicans gave up on that in the 1930′
      We should not praise this new founded knowledge in those days or most of us would not have been born! I dont believe we are better off spiritually!!

  3. Vincent says:

    I see we have already started to record how we feel about different teachings. But it seems to me that Quentin’s question is not about this but to what extent (if any) we can conscientiously disagree with the Church’s teaching based on Natural Law. And perhaps, still stay a paid up Catholic.
    Going back a few decades I remember the condemnation of “situation ethics”. The law was the law, and the situation irrelevant. But my reading nowadays is more likely to put intention and understanding ahead of the letter of the law. If so, this is a big change.

  4. St.Joseph says:

    Vincent.
    We have been encouraged as catholics since Vat 2 to think.
    To think about the law whether it is man made rules or Gods intention. As long as we can follow truth that is the most important reason of our faith in the RC Church.
    To me it is not a case of opening up a can of worms,but understand our developement in the senses that God gave us.
    Obviously to comment on these things.So that others might think too.
    But we know how far to go!! There is a limit! And The Holy Spirit will guide us on that , and we will know by our mistakes as we do in all things in life.

  5. Martha says:

    I do not see any difference in morality between the 10 Commandments and the Natural Law on which I understood they are based, and I think both depend on the particular circumstances of a situation and on motive and understanding. Telling the truth, for instance, can depend on the right to know, which is spelt out in the CCC, and is covered by, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

    • Quentin says:

      Martha, the issue of lying is a bit more complex. The first edition of CCC did indeed refer to those who had the right to know. But this was amended in the current edition to clarify that a lie was wrong through its innate nature. Thus no exceptions!

      • Martha says:

        I will have to think about that, and find the latest edition. I am sure circumstances were allowed to have some influence long before the CCC was published. I thought the Jesuits had a reputation for the nuances of possible statements and prevarications?

      • Quentin says:

        Indeed the Jesuits did. They used the statements and prevarications to which you refer in order to avoid lying. For example, saying: ‘there is certainly no priest hiding in my house’ while privately saying to oneself ‘He’s not hiding he’s just resting on a chair under the stairs’ or some such.

  6. Gerry says:

    When the members of the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth 1964-66 were packing their bags, their work done, and Claude Dupuy, Archbishop of Albi in France, could write in his diary that the battle was won: ‘It will not be possible any longer to affirm the general condemnations of contraception’, they did not reckon with Cardinal Ottaviani and the small group around him, helped by the influential Cardinal Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II.
    One of this small group was Professor Jan Visser a Dutch theologian. Just before the publication of Humanae Vitae he was interviewed on German television and when asked whether “the church would tolerate desperate overpopulation in the world to defend the Church’s traditional teaching” he replied “Yes, if the Church is really convinced that that is God’s law, then I would think that. Even if the world were to perish, justice should prevail.”
    If the Church had been able to abolish the use of artificial contraception right across the world and the world’s population had been doubling every 25 years as it is in Uganda and Zambia then the population of the world would go like this: 2.5 billion in 1950; 5 billion in 1975; 10 billion in 2000; 20 billion in 2025 and 40 billion in 2050. Many are worried that even 10 billion is more than the world can manage. 40 billion would finish off our earthly home. Unlike theologians I suspect that most ordinary people would think it wrong for us to destroy God’s creation in this way.
    My hope is that the present turmoil in the Church will end with the teachings of our Lord being given more prominence than the teachings of theologians. Perhaps we should all clubbed together to provide every theologian with a plaque for his or her desk inscribed with those heartfelt words: “I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to mere babes” Mt 11.25

    • Quentin says:

      Gerry, I am sorry that no one has come back to you on this contribution. But it’s an excellent example of ‘Absolutely no exceptions’ and reality. I would just add that, in looking at population and our theoretical capacity to handle it, we also need to bear in mind that it’s not just total capacities but our success in getting provision into the places which actually need it. We haven’t been too good at this so far,

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin,
        There has always been an answer to ‘over population’,but through mans ignorance has not been used,as the Lord intended.
        Maybe one way of cutting down population has been in the hands of the Lord through natural disasters, and also mans distruction with Wars.
        I may be misunderstanding you and Gerrys posts,
        God always thinks ahead for His Creation.No man will destroy what He has planned!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Gerry,
      I am still trying to get my head around your comment, as what confused me when I read it at first when you said’ My hope is that the present turmoil in the Church will end with the teaching of our Lord being given more prominance than theologians’.
      Were you saying that Our Lord instituted the use of artificial conttraception etc and revealed it to mere babes.?
      Because if that is what you meant, I do not believe that the millions of mere babes that you say- who have been aborted through the use of artificial contraception since the 60s would think they saved the world from extinction!!
      Can you please say what you meant.!

  7. St.Joseph says:

    Martha.
    I agree with you, but the CCC is not read as much as it ought,also it would need sometimes to e
    To ‘read’ is always not to learn, to study is to have it explained
    Pope Benedict introduced the Compendium to the large CCC.Easier for young people,
    When the CCC came out it was suggested that it be studied in each parish with a parish priest.
    My family and I were fortunate to have meetings with a very well informed priest Fr Edwin Gordon RIP.(who was unsighted) once a week in the Presbytery, )He wrote ,a few books including The Catechism of the Holy Rosary and Upon this Rock, Also and lots of articles for the Homolitic a Pastoral Magazine..His homolies were explicit and excellent.
    The Morality of Man by Fr Peter Bristow is very enlightening towards our faith,
    .

  8. G.D. says:

    Is there not a case for saying we no longer know the ‘Law of God’ – due to our fallen nature all we can know by our own judgements is a ‘perversion’. Even if we study and interpret scripture, philosophy theology till we are blue in the face. (All needed by us now, as they are!). The realisation of ‘God’s Law’ is something other than our own ‘perverted’ conclusions, no matter how close they are to the truth.
    We seek because of being made in the image and likeness of God to return to the ‘Law of God’, and assume it is of a quality the same as the laws that we endeavour to use to regain our lost innocence. And much needed that is. But could it be that the ‘law’ of God (love?) placed in us by God is altogether of a different quality.
    To judge (not as in discern) and condemn or exonerate is, unfortunately a human need – to live as Jesus lived is to know the law of God. To know as Jesus did we turn to the mind of Christ. For this do we not need to let go of our own criteria, and seek the still small voice of the Spirit within and without?

    To know in the sense of Matthew 12:1-8 today’s gospel reading.
    Many of our laws of god would – did – condemn Jesus’ actions, as they continue to do in his followers.
    The sacrifice of our own judgements, opens us to ‘know the law’ of God.

  9. Nektarios says:

    Listen – you have tried to keep the Law of God, and failed, and failed and failed, without exception.
    When will you ever learn, the Gospel is not about Law – for the law condemns us. The Gospel is about God’s grace and Salvation for everyman – without exception.
    Christ fulfilled the Law for us – for poor mankind was hopeless and helpless and could not fulfill the Law of God perfectly – without exception.

  10. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarios.
    I understand what you say.but Jesus said there are only two , how would you define that in an easy understandable ‘not too long’ a definition ,but a little longer than Jesus did?
    ‘Love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your whole mind and your neighbour as yourself!.

    • Nektarios says:

      St Joseph
      The natural man does not love God or his neighbour – history bears that out, does it not?

      Jesus was speaking to the Jews who had the Law of God, and now to the whole of humanity.
      It was in response to a question about what was the greatest commandment. They were not really looking for an answer, but trying to trip the Lord up in His words.
      Jesus gave them a summery of the Law of God, first, towards God, and then towards their fellowman. In doing so, they all stood condemned, for none of them could keep it, nor anyone today. The Law still stands, therefore the whole of humanity stands condemned.

      The Law of God exists and has been revealed to us, firstly, because God is holy and totally righteous. Secondly that if we are to live we have to keep the Law – something none of us can perfectly since Adam and Eve till the Fall.

      Read the first six verses of Ephesians chapter 1.
      Here in that sublime book of the NT we have God’s plan. Not a plan because man deserved it or could ever deserve it, simply because God loved man, and to fufill the Law
      the Father sent His Son, One who would fufill the Law on our behalf, standing in our stead, paying the price for us all who would come to believe.
      He gives us a new nature that does not sin, while our old nature continues too. That is why it says, ` the believer in Christ does not sin’ and in the Epistle of John, He who says he has no sin is a liar and the truth is not in him.’
      One need this new nature to fufill the Law for it is Christ’s nature in us.God will make us holy who are His. If we rebel as man is want to do, God will chastise him.
      I will sto there for now.

  11. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarios.. when you speak , to whom do you refer to when you say man?.
    We know sin is in the world, however with Christ there is Redemption.
    Do you speak in general or on one particular sin as in Mortal.
    Mankind lives in a fallen state without knowledge of God, we all know that.!
    As Christians we are saved, as others who live a life as christians but not know it.But then I am no judge of a singular persons soul! When they die.

    • Nektarios says:

      St. Joseph
      I refer to the whole of mankind from Adam till the last person that will be born prior to Judgement Day.
      Concerning sin, while the RC and Orthodox have a special category for Mortal sins, realize, all sin before God is mortal.
      I cannot understand the gospel you are talking about latterly in your posting? Where is your biblical basis for what you are saying.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios, Jesus said to the rich young man, when he asked ‘what do I have to do to gain eternal life.
        Jesus said’ Love the Lord your God etc. when the young man said he did all that Jesus said to him give your money to the poor and follow me.
        Thats what I learned at school. You will find in in the Bible. It has to be understood as to read it!!
        ,

  12. Vincent says:

    St Joseph, I think it’s easy to get carried away here with mystical confusion. I stick with the old catechism. “Why did God make you?” “He made me to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world, and be happy with him forever in the next.” That is God’s request of everyone he has made, and so he offers his grace to everyone. Of course we all sin, and so we all receive the grace of repentance. Among us are a huge number of unknown Christians — people who know nothing of Christ — and do not know that the neighbour they love is in fact Christ. Like a sacrament, our neighbour is the outward sign of the inward Christ. Christ did not go through his passion in order to lose even one single person. And he will only lose a person who, of his own freewill, chooses not to love. This the Law and the Prophets. Most of the rest is codswallop.

    • Nektarios says:

      St Joseph
      Our Lord loved the rich young man. Jesus answered the rich man’s question, but Jesus could see their was something he loved more than God – his riches. Hence Jesus prescribed He should give his riches away to the poor and so on.
      He walked away from Jesus, as he could not give up his riches.
      Did he give them up later? Well we are not told that he did, but for the sake of his own soul
      I hope that he did.

    • marywip says:

      Vincent: “Christ did not go through his passion in order to lose even one single person. And he will only lose a person who, of his own freewill, chooses not to love.”
      The first sentence here does not make sense. Are you trying to say: “Christ went through his passion in order to lose not even one single person”?

      “Those whom thou gavest me have I kept; and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition, that the scripture may be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)
      Perhaps one of the reasons for Jesus’ agony in the garden—why He said “Father take this cup from me”—was because He knew that by taking the cup, Judas would have to do what he was about to do, and that by doing so Judas would condemn and kill himself?

  13. St.Joseph says:

    Vincent is that not what I said.
    I think Nektarios should read that and take that in!
    Nothing mystical there.

  14. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarios.
    I was drawing attention your comment when I said Mortal.
    I believe in purgatory.
    It is living in hope.
    You seemed to be condemning ‘all’ mankind’

    • Nektarios says:

      As I am not `The Judge’, I am condemning anyone. But there is One who in Holiness and Righteousness does judge and will say to some, `depart from me, I never knew you’.
      Faith in Christ is the only grounds for hope of forgiveness of all our sins, hope of life eternal’ and, hope that we will be with Him, and like Him forever, God has willed it from before the foundation of the world, for everyone He calls and who follows Christ.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    Nektarious.
    Well I understand your belief,however we must then pray for poor sinners including we who believe in Christ.
    I think Hitler was a catholic,and believed in Christ. I hope he obtained Eternal Life as a reformed soul.
    The shame he will suffer is seeing all those who he sent to ‘hell ‘in this life. maybe that will be his purgatory. That goes for us all.Then receive the redemption that Jesus died for.

    • milliganp says:

      We need to understand that Nektarios has a Protestant understanding of salvation; the dead hand of predestination and the utter purposelessness of personal action. In the Catholic Church this heresy was called Jansenism. It is contrary to everything we believe.

      • Nektarios says:

        Milliganp
        Again, you would speak for me, when you ought to ask a question or two. I have a biblical/exegetical understanding of Salvation.
        Secondly let me quote you from the RCC New Jerusalem Bible: Ephesian 1:5 ` marking us out for Himself beforehand, to be adopted sons, through Jesus Christ……..’

        In the AV of the Bible we have it translated thus: `Having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to Himself……..’

        Now what is the difference between ` marking us out for Himself beforehand and the word used in the AV as predestinated? Well it means the same thing. doesn’t it.

        Let me remind you, Cornelis Jansen was a Dutch Roman Catholic theologian that gave rise to the error or heresy of Jansenism.
        In the Protestant Church it is generally called hyper-calvinism or Jansenism and like all doctrines one pushes to far, it descends into error. The Protestant Church also see it is as an error or heresy.

    • milliganp says:

      Hitler developed a perverse interest in the occult, he most certainly rejected his Catholic faith but we cannot know his last thoughts before his suicide.

  16. Alan says:

    Outside of the harm it might do, what is it about the structure of our creation that suggests we should never lie?

    • milliganp says:

      In nature there are definite examples of animals using deception as part of their survival strategy. This is not the same as a verbal lie but in humans the concept of honesty is not restricted to speech.

    • Quentin says:

      The reasoning behind this is a clear example of the Natural Law in action. God created us with a social nature. A social nature requires communication. To use our power of communication to communicate a lie is to misuse our social nature by separating us from our neighbour, rather than relating us to him. Thus we are going against the nature which God gave us.

      You might say that there could be higher reasons which would justify using a lie. And this is exactly the issue I have proposed for debate. Is every instance of the Natural Law to be obeyed under all circumstances? This is a hard question for Catholics to face because we have traditionally been taught that the Natural Law is absolute.

      • milliganp says:

        So let’s do the obvious example, it is 1940 and I am a Dutch citizen with a Jew hiding in my attic and my “neighbour” the local SS commander arrives and asks if I know the whereabouts of any Jews. Most of us would create a moral argument to justify lying but St. Paul recognised the moral authority of the Roman Empire despite it being brutal in dealing with lawbreakers and perceived enemies.

      • RAHNER says:

        “Thus we are going against the nature which God gave us.”

        What argument justifies the claim that it is wrong/unreasonable to go against nature?

      • Quentin says:

        There have been a number of comments overnight concerning Natural Law, but I am looking here at your question: “What argument justifies the claim that it is wrong/unreasonable to go against nature?” since it probes the heart of the issue. You will forgive me from keeping to brief principles rather than a comprehensive analysis.

        Every entity has its own nature, so take two very different examples: my cat and my dishwasher. If I want my cat to thrive I must treat it according to its cat nature. This might concern questions like diet and opportunity to wander etc. Similarly I must treat my dishwasher according to its nature if I want it to do its job — electrical voltage, cleaning filters, type of detergent etc.Here I am helped by the instructions from the manufacturer. This is roughly Aristotle’s approach, though he omitted dishwashers.

        But I believe that I, and therefore my nature, was created by God. There are some broad based maker’s instructions, e.g., the Commandments — but these do not tell us everything. So I have to examine my nature and try to deduce what its requirements are. I have given examples of this below (Jul 18 @ 5.08).

        The final distinction is that the dishwasher is my property. If I neglect its nature the consequences are practical and not moral. If I believe (a matter of faith and so not provable) that my nature belongs to God then I am morally obliged to respect my nature, which I hold in trust for God, as best as I discern it. The nearest, if somewhat thin, analogy would be that you had lent me your dishwasher. I would then have a moral duty to you to respect its nature.

      • RAHNER says:

        Quentin, Do you think an atheist/agnostic would find your argument convincing?

      • Quentin says:

        Not as such – because it includes faith. But a document such as the UN Human Rights uses similar natural law concepts. That was acceptable across the world.

      • Alan says:

        “To use our power of communication to communicate a lie is to misuse our social nature by separating us from our neighbour, rather than relating us to him.”

        This sounds like something that might well overlap with the issue of harm to me.

        But I have another concern. The step from “doesn’t seem to suit our created nature” to “is a behaviour to be avoided” doesn’t seem well established. If you weren’t looking at lying specifically – but were just applying the idea more generally – what else might we find that (harmfulness aside of course) seems at odds with our created nature? If we asked people to make a list of such, without telling them why, I suspect that swimming and flying would appear higher up and more often than lying ever would.

      • Quentin says:

        It would depend on the phrasing of the question. If this was: what general rules need to be observed so that human beings can thrive in society?, I think they might well come up with such things as: telling the truth, keeping your word, respecting the life and property of others, being faithful to your spouse etc. Not dissimilar to the Commandments. I doubt if swimming or flying would come into it!

  17. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    Natural Law, is supposed to be a law of conduct or morality, supposed to be inherent in human nature and ascertainable by reason.
    Well there is a big problem with this. Mankind is, until regenerated by God, not only fallen but a rebel. His reason is also limited and often wrong. It too will not have God, but places himself in the place of God. He knows he is lying to himself, but continues. Not only lying, even though God has place His law in their hearts, they will ignore it and go their own way.
    There are elements of Natural Law that is deductable from what little reason he thinks he has, and will only really pay attention to it when it serves his purposes.

    It cannot be absolute, for it is limited and not eternal in its nature.
    This is a far cry from law based upon divine revelation, for that is the law of God. That stands unlike Natural Law, and that law based upon divine revelation will judge us at the end.
    It is not Natural Law that says ,` thou shall not lie’, but divine law based on divine revelation.

    As I have read much concerning Natural Law on the SS blog, it strikes me one may be mixing up
    Natural Law and law based upon divine revelation, or see them as inter-changable, which they are clearly not.

    • Quentin says:

      Good, at least we are talking about Natural Law.

      Certainly Natural Law is deduced in a different way from the Commandments, but it is nevertheless sourced in God’s will. That is, we read God’s will by applying our reason to nature. Thus, to take a simple example, we recognise that God created us as social beings and deduce from that how social beings must live in order to flourish. A subsection of this is the deduction of law by God’s creation of structure. Thus, for example, we see that the sexual organs are structured for heterosexual activity and not for homosexual activity. This is the same God who speaks through created nature as the God who speaks through the commandments.

      In some instances we may deduce wrongly, but the role and authority of the Church guides us towards the right conclusions. Very occasionally a new understanding of nature modifies this teaching. For example, we see kidney donation inter vivos as a good and loving act, but only a few decades ago removing an organ from a healthy person for the good of another person was judged to be mutilation – and thus wrong.

      It is certainly true that we suffer the corruption of the Fall. Yet we are subject to the same Natural Law as Adam and Eve. Because of this the Natural Law for us is, so to speak, adapted to our fallen condition. Yet we are by no means entirely corrupt for we retain our use of reason, our sense of right and wrong, and our free will. Those characteristics by themselves get us nowhere, but by accepting (explicitly or implicitly) Christ’s redemptive grace we become genuinely holy. Slightly modifying St Paul, we live – now not us – but Christ lives in us. We are a holy people.

      • marywip says:

        Quentin, “It is certainly true that we suffer the corruption of the Fall. Yet we are subject to the same Natural Law as Adam and Eve. Because of this the Natural Law for us is, so to speak, adapted to our fallen condition.”

        I think rather the natural law has not been adapted but we are adapted (and desensitised) to our fallen condition. However (Nektarios talks about distinguishing between natural law and law based upon divine revelation) we have been given by God a series of new laws to accommodate circumstances, and for the fulfilling of God’s purposes. A prominent example of this is that Noah after the flood was permitted by God to kill animals for food, depending upon the living recognition that the life/soul of the animal is sacred; not to be consumed—to be returned to God. Noah and Moses were given a formal method of practicing this which we Christians are not bound by, however that does not mean that this law is irrelevant to us now if we consider what is ‘natural’ and ‘reasonable’ behind it—in awareness and attitude of mind & spirit.

        We are told “thou shalt not kill” and yet indeed this is what we indirectly-directly do every time we purchase some meat (or even a carrot) from the supermarket. Disciples of the Buddha understood this natural law in the strict sense; and apparently—so I believe—they understood it’s application (and threshold), pragmatically, in the bigger picture of the ‘noble eightfold Path’ they walked.

      • Nektarios says:

        Now we get to the heart of Natural Law. It is philosophical not theological.
        It is a Philosophy based upon Reason. This reason which the RCC adopted in the dark ages somewhere, must not be understood as rational reasoning, but solely as a philosophical concept.
        Being rational as a natural man is a bit different in the spiritual man, operating out of a different source. So, I would have to disagree with you that Natural Law is sourced in God’s will, when clearly it is sourced in the limited mind and will of fallen man.

        It is natural to suppose that one who is `in Christ’, having a new nature, but also still possessing his old nature, that that they will oppose one another, for they are not the same but both are in us.

        Natural Law cannot bring one to holiness or eternal life at all, but like I said before, it is clear we often mix it up or see Natural Law and the revealed will of God as interchangeable.
        Push this too far and one’s theology becomes little more than applied Natural Law, based on the will of man with religious overtones. Essentially, and I repeat it, Natural Law is just a philosophy of the natural man with a fallen mind and will.
        Lastly Natural Law philosophy, for that is soley what it is, cannot discover or find God at all, it is still in the dark, like the dark ages it proceeded from.

      • milliganp says:

        Apart from the fact that “the dark ages” are now known to be a myth the principal of natural law was admitted by Christ when he said “do not the heathens do as much”.

  18. St.Joseph says:

    Is it not’ necessary to earn ones living on a Sunday’, if one has no choice! We can sometimes mix up what is moral and what is essential. and what is sinful by’ law’.
    When it come to shopping, are we really ‘frugal’ when we shop. Are we spending uneccesary for the sake of it just because we have the money to do so.
    I see being frugal as more of a moral law attached to the natural law.
    During war time we had to make do and mend, eat up or starve, wash teeth in soot and salt, no excuse about food ‘I don’t like it’!!. Fruit for our Christmas stocking and make our own decorations.
    When times changed and the war was over , food was plentiful (after a few years when rationing stopped). It went on from there. One could call it a materalistic explosion.
    Throw away food, throw away clothes etc.
    Man going beyond himself as the saying goes.Our children want for nothing only the new technology instrument that came one the market.
    We do have charities for the poor abroad, catholic and other christians. etc, however food banks in the UK.
    Be Holy as your Heavenly Father is Holy.
    Would one do with less now to help others. Do we really help our neighbour?
    As catholics we do support our parishs. However when we spend money on something new that we do not need ,is it in our mind to think of the poor.Then can we be sure our money goes to them?
    Are we living in the dark through selfishness, I can consider myself in this comment too as I have more shoes that I can wear. As my mother would say we can only wear one at time. Then I would reply, but we are keeping people in work. It goes around.
    Perhaps we ought to do as the apostles did, when they went out and preached, with only one pair of sandles, etc.
    Is it against the Natural Law to spend so much money on Space Travel when countries could help hospital equipment on earth and research for illness’s.

    We are in a sorry state now with the news that aborted babies body parts are being sold for experiements , and throwing away the’ brains’ Their own it seems like- with their souls!.

    • milliganp says:

      The challenge of a potential “natural law of frugality” or “take no more than you need” is that the boundaries become immediately challenging. We don’t “need” summer holidays in Spain, personal transport and many other things; should we all live like the Amish?
      My mother tells of her childhood when Sunday lunch was prepared on Saturday, the grate cleared and a fire set so that the only “work” of Sunday was lighting a match.

      • St.Joseph says:

        My mother would not wash clothes on a Sunday, Iron on a Sunday, or cut her finger nails on a Sunday or Good Friday.
        But she would have a drink of whisky!!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Being frugal to my mind would mean not being too extravent and wasteful, .
        Perhaps it would not be too much of a scare for the Western world if we had to live like the Amish, what ever you mean by that,
        HOW do they LIVE?

      • marywip says:

        Regarding Sunday, why do we (or why did we ever) treat Sunday as if it is the Sabbath? The gospel (Paul) made it clear there is no obligation in respect of the Sabbath, or any other day for that matter (unless a matter of personal conscience). Furthermore, the ‘7th day rest’ failed; the 8th&1st ‘Day of the Lord’—the New Creation—is not comparable such as to be restrained and contained into one day of the week. Every day is holy and every day is the Lord’s Day. Designating the 1st day of the week to congregate once a week to celebrate the Eucharist does not make it the Sabbath nor a day of obligation (unless the Catholic Church wants to override Scripture and at the same time reinforce her own exclusivity).

  19. Quentin says:

    It may be helpful here to consider a concrete example which relates to natural law. Forgive me for using an all too familiar topic. In my original post I wrote “Similarly, of course, barrier contraception artificially removes from sexual intercourse the inherent characteristic of openness to conception. Another perversion.”

    Consider a man who is about to commit an act of fornication. He realises that there is a danger of making his partner pregnant and he suspects that he may be carrying a sexually transmitted disease. His first thought is that he should avoid inflicting these risks by using a condom. A second thought is that, in so doing, he would be committing a further sin, that is — using a perverted act to achieve his ends. He wants to know which is worse: unprotected sex involving great danger, or protected sex involving the further sin of sexual perversion — an intrinsic evil.

    What would you tell him?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quentin.
      I would tell him to go and see a doctor and be checked out!
      And do nothing until he was disgonised He only suspects he has a disease.!.

    • Nektarios says:

      Apart from this being an unrealistic set of scenarios for someone to talk about with another, but say, they were so guilt ridden they felt the had to talk to someone. The fact they were talking to someone was a hopeful sign and perhaps could be convinced to take a different course of action or healthy activity.

      If he is still intent on committing fornication, the nuances of your scenario before us would be useless to stop him. What ever side of this thinking he may have towards committing fornication, he would be sinning.
      But lets take up for the moment the nuances you sight: You lose sight of the act of fornication – even in thought, it is sin, but you concentrate of this loaded nuance of using or not using a condom – a perversion you call it. It may be an RCC hangup, but it is not a sexual perversion using a condom as such, at least not in the English usage of the word.

      Another point if he was so concerned about each point you raised, I doubt very much if he would be able to raise anything else.

      One would first have to see just how intent he really is to commit fornication. Can that be changed, looked at differently, sap the energy from it and transfer it to a more healthy
      and sinless activity in his thinking.
      Failing that, if the intent is rigid and determined, I would certainly warn him of not only the sexual dangers but the danger to his own soul.
      Failing that, with tears, and prayers, I would have to let him go his own way.

      • St.Joseph says:

        .Nektarios.
        Would you not tell him that a condom is not 100% safe from spreading the disease.a sin against his neighbour! Did you mean that to be the sexual dangers!
        When he worried about getting her pregnant, also a baby involved, who most probably woul be infected, even with a condom..
        Does the Orthodox Church accept condoms as a contraception? what do you mean by a ‘hang up’ for the RCC?

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        Of course I would discuss the issues you raise with him.
        On your second question, Does the Orthodox accept the use of condoms. It is a question that has never been raised, but a suspect Orthodox as well as Catholics and other Christian couples use condoms.
        In my answer to Quentin, he used the term of using condoms as `sexual perversion’. This is a highly loaded term, one I personally cannot subscribe to .If RCC insists on using such loaded terms then it is obvious they, desiring the most pure way, I am sure, have got an erroneous hang-up on the use of condoms.

      • Quentin says:

        If you re-read my post you will see the reason why I used perversion in the matter of contraception.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios
        Thank you for your reply. Just to clarify. the choice of words,
        I would think that the RCC doesn’t.’ have a hang’ up but teaches the truth on contraception in the Natural Law.

      • milliganp says:

        St. Joseph, I looked up the Orthodox attitude to contraception on Wikipedia and it quotes “An official document of the Russian Orthodox Church states that while abortifacient methods of contraception are completely unacceptable, other methods can be used with spiritual counsel, taking into account “the concrete living conditions of the couple, their age, health, degree of spiritual maturity and many other circumstances”. However, if a couple does not want to have a child (on a side note, only “non-egoistic” grounds are a valid reason for it), abstaining from sexual relation is to be preferred.”
        It is interesting the qualifier “with spiritual counsel”, this is not “do whatever you think best” liberalism.

    • Quentin says:

      The question I was asking was: “He wants to know which is worse: unprotected sex involving great danger, or protected sex involving the further sin of sexual perversion — an intrinsic evil.”

      Your ‘counseling’ replies do not address this unfortunately, so I am no further in my quest to see whether people think this might be an example in which the natural law conclusion doesn’t seem to work.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        Then what you are really asking is ‘do we have a duty to be responsible in our actions, even if it means going against the natural law’
        I would say if that is what you mean, ‘that endangering someone elses life is going aginst the natural law’ So he will have to make the choice himself!
        I stand to be corrected..

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin another option would be if he really and truly wished to have sexual intercourse or maybe (masturbate) would be to have sexual intercourse with his partner at the infertile time.It would at least prevent a pregnancy and not endanger a babies health!
        Although if he is not married or committing adultery, all against the natural law, Providing sex and single is against the natural law.
        Hence milliganp comment at 6.57am on marriage!

      • milliganp says:

        Could one argue that, if the man uses a condom, his sin damages only himself, if he doesn’t he damages another. He can put himself right with God through repentance but the permanent harm of another is a graver outcome?
        However, for the person facing the decision the mere fact of feeling the need to use a condom indicates that they realise that they are dealing with a grave moral matter so using the condom becomes an ‘enabler’ for sin and the concious use makes their sin graver.
        I could argue that if I take a gun with me to rob a bank people will be more scared than if I take a knife and therefore I’m less likely to have to hurt somebody.

      • Quentin says:

        What would we conclude from Pope Benedict’s remarks about an infected man using a condom: “”She (the Church) of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”?

        Would this nuanced approval apply to an infected married couple?
        Would it apply to a married couple which needed to avoid pregnancy because of the wife’s health?

        If we answer is yes to these, then it would seem that natural law conclusions might be negated by higher principles. Only asking…

    • John Nolan says:

      The Church’s teaching on contraception is based on what happens in marriage. If a man wishes to fornicate it is hardly relevant whether he wears a condom or not. Should he sodomize his partner that would indeed be adding a further sin.

      • Quentin says:

        Yes, that distinction is clear., and is accepted by many, if not all, moral theologians. The Church does not rule on the question. However, approaching this only in natural law terms, we are still judging an act which of its nature comprehends openness to conception. We may regard buggery as a greater perversion but it is still of the same order.

  20. Martha says:

    Milliganp, your example of Nazis hunting Jews presents a very difficult dilemma, and I think moral theologians would disagree about the solution. The Nazis do not have a right to know, their government is immoral if not illegitimate, and the householder could perhaps be justified in straightforwardly saying, No, I have no idea. If he thinks he can play with words, like the Jesuit in Quentin’s example from penal times, and say he doesn’t know the whereabouts of the Jews because he does not know in which exact part of the hiding place they might be, for instance, isn’t this just playing mind games? Language is the meaning being conveyed, not just the literal sense of each word, so wouldn’t it be presenting dishonesty and untruth?

    • milliganp says:

      I’ve just come home from visiting a 5 year old grandson; our daughter explained he’s at the literal stage so things are either true, a joke or just pretend. I thought of this blog and the games we can play with truth.

  21. Peter Foster says:

    Quentin says: But here is another category to consider. Let me call it “God’s law expressed in the structure of creation”.

    This is a statement that God designed the world. Design is an anthropomorphic concept, in this case a wise old man at the drawing board of life. However, anthropomorphic concepts change when our knowledge of creation changes. Quentin’s version derives from a time when it was thought that God had created everything directly and in situ. We now know that man evolved through the hominids so that the idea of design, if we wish to use it, has to reside as a potential in the structure of matter.

    Quentin says: So we instantly recognise an action which goes against our created nature.

    Here again ‘created nature’ implies design and ‘recognise’ implies omniscience. Yet we know we are the outcome of countless mutations and our DNA templates are varied.

    I suggest that our task is to face the world as we find it, and seek how to effect God’s love in that context.

    • Quentin says:

      You raise some key questions. It’s certainly true that the Church hasn’t yet got around to examining natural law in the light of evolution.

      In what ways might it make a difference if God did not create on an immediate basis but through the algorithm of survival of the fittest? It is clear from the sequence of hominins, for example, that there was a dynamic pushing towards intelligence and communication. If such a sequence required a vast number of chances, we need to remember that what is chance from our limited viewpoint is clear from God’s viewpoint.

      I have however pointed out one example before. The rate of female fertility was developed through evolution to take into account infant and early adult mortality. Thus it is about three times too high for developed, and developing, countries. I would argue that this mismatch may be lawfully corrected through contraception. I have discussed this in the Catholic press and with moral theologians. No one has attempted to dispute it. Equally, no one of sufficient authority has taken it up and run with it. That may be because too many theologians have pushed aside the contraception question as no longer worth discussing.

      • milliganp says:

        Other examples where an “evolutionary” view of natural law might bear consideration is monogamy and the nuclear family. Many of the key Old Testament characters were polygamous and the tribal system from which Israel emerged had definite alpha males and people living in extended family groups. Even for marriage, with women dying in childbirth and men in battle “till death do us part” was often a lot shorter than we currently experience.
        If we allow this then lifetime monogamous marriage is not a natural law construct but very much the law of God given through scripture.

      • Quentin says:

        Polygamy, permitted under the Old Law, is a good example. Slavery is another. And the theologians also look at natural law as it would have operated when unfallen humans approached everything with ‘right reason”. Fuchs on ‘Natural Law’ is good on this. (Ironically he was later put onto the commission on contraception – being seen as a safe pair of hands. Whereupon, faced by real life evidence, he reversed his view on that question.)

      • marywip says:

        Is ‘foreknowledge’ and ‘predestination’ (ie. the ‘beforehand’) to be first understood as:
        1) Before the beginning of history and time-creation at the beginning of history?
        2) Before time-creation here-and-now; before ‘my’ ‘self’—and ‘my’ ‘freewill’—is created through this present moment?
        (I think both of these are necessary, and suggest that no.2 needs come first.)

  22. St.Joseph says:

    I often wonder about the creation of mankind, that is to say,where there would have been a time whist men were evolving, were we half human and whatever we evolved from, did man evolve in one all over the world, all at once and why are we not evolving now in countries that we dont know of?I know it will have been many years, but there must have been a time when we were not fully human.
    I suppose God spoke to Adam’s all over the world when Moses wrote Genesis. and the OT was written and spread.
    The Greeks had many Gods.
    ( I was always accused as a child for asking silly questions) so the historians please forgive me!

    • Quentin says:

      Nobody knows who the first human or humans were. They developed in Africa about 200,000 years ago, and came up from there in dribs and drabs over a very long period. Most of these groups died out, but enough survived to settle and flourish. We do apparently all have one male and one female ancestor in common. But they did not live at the same time. But we may nevertheless all be descended from one earlier couple — so far we just don’t know, and perhaps never will..

  23. John Nolan says:

    Regarding the Decalogue, the fifth commandment refers to murder, not other forms of killing which may be lawful. In respect of the eighth, the first edition of the CCC got it right. We are entitled to withhold the truth from anyone not entitled to receive it; if a thief demands my PIN I am quite entitled to lie to him.

    If, by telling him a lie, I can prevent someone committing suicide, then I am morally obliged to lie. Bearing false witness is committing perjury under oath. The sixth commandment forbids adultery; to extrapolate that to include ‘impure thoughts’ or reading sexually explicit novels is to invite ridicule.

    • Quentin says:

      “In the 1994 edition of the Catechism a lie is described as ‘to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth.’ Here the criterion is one of justice. But this was revised (by Cardinal Ratzinger, as it happens) in the 1997 edition to “to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error.’ The remedy offered in hard cases is either silence or ‘discreet language’. The latter presumably refers to mental reservation of various kinds.”

      I put this in quotes because I have lifted it from an article I wrote some years ago. There seems no doubt that Ratzinger intended to correct what he held was a wrong view. He led the CDF at that time.

      However, I agree that the 1994 version is correct. We are heretics!

      • marywip says:

        You mention the definition of a lie: “to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth.”
        What about:
        “to obstruct or maintain silence about the truth with the intention of protecting someone who has the right to know the truth but might in some way be hurt by it.”
        Is this a lie?
        And if so, is it clearly understood in the former definition?

      • Nektarios says:

        The trouble with lying is when or if we lie we know it.
        The many forms of lying have be mentioned already, but missed outbthe worst one of all –
        lying to oneself, for then one is entering the sorry state of a seared conscience.

      • marywip says:

        Nektarios, what do you mean by a “seared” conscience?

    • Martha says:

      “The sixth commandment forbids adultery; to extrapolate that to include ‘impure thoughts’ or reading sexually explicit novels is to invite ridicule.”

      Surely, including them is ‘avoiding the occasions of sin’ keeping away from temptation, possible ridicule being the price to pay?

      • marywip says:

        And furthermore did not Jesus say: if you desire your neighbour in your heart, you commit adultery with your neighbour in your heart.?

      • Nektarios says:

        Marywip
        Conscience as some have put it is, `God’s monitor on the soul, warning it of moral danger
        A seared conscience is a conscience that ceased to operate. It chooses to sin rather than listen to his conscience. Overtime it is totally deaf towards hearing his conscience.
        It takes a great deal of reptitive sinning to silence one conscience. such is a seared conscience

      • marywip says:

        Nektarios,

        I don’t see that a seared conscience is a dead conscience. I think what you mean is that a seared conscience leads on the other hand towards a deadening of conscience whilst being on the one hand in an inflamed state in which it cannot function with right reason…?

        1 Timothy 4:2 prophesies about people whose “consciences have been seared as with a hot iron”, and they forbid both marriage and certain foods. Why would one care about what is eaten (at least in the first instance) if one has a dead conscience?

        A personal note… the Holy Spirit pointed out this passage from Timothy to me a few years back, giving me a sharp call to repentance, which, along with other forms of instruction and correction, rescued me from false religion. I was unmanageably lost under the burden of sin and found myself pursing a seemingly manageable dimension to sin and natural law fixated with not murdering animal life. This was, in the reality of circumstances, a hypocritical compensation for what I knew not how to come to terms with about the desperate state of my being and the world. I was not consciously seeking this ‘scape-goat’, rather I was led down a windy path by numerous half-truth teachings and demonic ideas about food I stumbled upon on the internet. And as a result my conscience was seared, or demonically inflamed, experientially, in respect of food and eating.

      • marywip says:

        Nektarios,
        Would you say that the RCC has a dead and/or seared conscience?

        The only passage in the NT I am aware of which explicitly talks about an Apostle under condemnation (after Pentecost) is when Paul said to Peter:
        “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
        This is followed by discussion of how by believing in Jesus we are justified by faith—we cannot be justified by measuring and living according to the Mosaic law (thus also for us, natural law). This does not mean the natural law does not exist or has no meaning, yet we no longer measure ourselves according to it, and our consciences are in some fundamental sense clean and free in the face of the law and the accusation/reality of sinfulness (I do and I don’t understand this, in reality).
        “…But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.”

    • marywip says:

      “the fifth commandment refers to murder, not other forms of killing which may be lawful.”

      Murder in turn does not necessitate killing but includes hatred (“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer”, 1 John 3:15)

      Some vegetarians believe that to kill animals for food or economic reasons is murder, per se (I have exposed myself to this issue of conscience). Others believe that to rear and/or kill animals in an inhumane way is murder—this I agree with. I also believe that much of the economic activity in the world is murdering fellow man, with malice, with laziness/neglect, for power, for economic gain, by oppression and inhumane treatment. (However I believe as a Christian that generally these issues need not leave me with complicated dilemmas and a weak conscience in respect of using money, buying/eating every day foods, and basic socialisation in the world.)

      • milliganp says:

        In the temple in Jerusalem vast numbers of animals were slaughtered. Modern animal rights activists object to the Jewish method of slaughter – which is directly sanctioned by God. However human excess is deeply questionable; do I need to eat so much meat or fish that I participate in the human destuction of nature? However this is not absolute law but relative law – how many burgers make a mortal sin?

    • milliganp says:

      There is a problem the Catholic Church has created in trying to relate so many sins to the Decalogue (which, frankly Christ repaced with the two commandments). Thus, under the old catechism part of the 4th commandment was ‘obedience to lawful superiors’ which has nothing to do with Father and Mother and the obligation to put money in the plate on Sunday (the lawful support of our pastors).

  24. Gerry says:

    No St Joseph I did not mean what you thought I meant. I meant that we should take more note of the words of our Lord and take less note of the teachings of theologians whose teachings do not come from the gospels. Mind you I must not be too hard on theologians and the elders of the people. Our Lord seems to go fairly easy on them and the penalty they have to put up with seems so little. In the olden days they had to see tax collectors and prostitutes going into heaven before them and nowadays I suppose they will have to put up with seeing capitalists and family planners way way ahead of them on the road to salvation.
    (When they see the rapidly spreading prosperity in the Far East where capitalists and family planners are in charge and compare it with the poverty and hunger in Africa where the ideas of theologians – claiming to be expressing the natural law – are in charge, many non-Catholics find the power of theologians very upsetting)
    By the way there is little evidence that family planning aborts babies. Sterilisation doesn’t and condom use doesn’t and arguments go on interminably as to whether or not the pill does. I suspect it doesn’t.
    Gerry

    • St.Joseph says:

      Gerry.
      I live my life by my own conscience , and scientific facts.
      You obviously dont read or understand the Truth as I read and understand it.
      Even if what you believe were true, contraception in what ever way it is applied is the cause of billions of unecessary killings of unborn children,and those who even associate with it in any way will be answerable to God . The sin of thought word and deed.
      The least you do to these my little ones you do unto Me!

      But thank you for your reply.

    • milliganp says:

      Ferry, you seem to imply that material wealth is some sort of Divine reward – even to over a billion people who are not Christian. It’s hardly Bible Christianity vs Theologians.

  25. Gerry says:

    Thanks Milliganp, It is just that I myself prefer not to be hungry and thirsty – and most people in the Far East are not hungry and thirsty, and I think Africans also prefer not to be hungry and thirsty and, quite certainly very many of them will be hungry and thirsty if the teachings of theologians are victorious in Africa, and after reading Laudato si paragraph 50 I think they will be victorious.

    Thanks St Joseph, One of the many differences between theologians and children is that children can easily detect differences between an acorn and an oak tree whilst theologians can’t – no fundamental differences anyway. I believe there is a lot to be said for the children’s view point.
    Gerry

    • milliganp says:

      Gerry, why don’t you try making a meaningful point rather than naked bias and criticism. Less than 16% of the population of Africa is Catholic so the continet’s challenges can not all be placed at the door of theologians. You criticise theologians for not following Christ, so where do you get your population control agenda from in the Gospels?

  26. St.Joseph says:

    Gerry.
    I understand your concern for the poor and hungry,whilst we have plenty. We have been giving to the poor and hungry ,and no doubt will continue to do so until peace and strife continue in the world’ as long as I can remember in my 74 yrs.Jesus said ‘there will always be poor in the world,but you wont always have me’!
    Empty stomachs may well find eternal happiness with Him before many of those that are full.

    On a theological note and I am not one, but I believe that we are all in the mind of God before we are born ‘as Jesus said ‘before Abram I am’ We do not have the right to choose for God whose destiny is not allowed by the use of abortion and contraception against His natural Law. Especially when God gave us from the beginning the knowledge of how we can plan our families without going against His Will.
    It has taken us some time to invent the wheel, now we are learning amazing things especially in Space.
    Surely it is not too difficult to plan our family size as to how many children we can choose to have with the limits that we can afford..by concentrating on our Heavenly Home via our earthly home where God thought it important to send His only Son.
    That is the challenge I see for the future as well as travel into Space!

  27. Nektarios says:

    Milliganp
    “We need to understand that Nektarios has a Protestant understanding of salvation; the dead hand of predestination and the utter purposelessness of personal action. In the Catholic Church this heresy was called Jansenism. It is contrary to everything we believe.”

    To explain as I did, that the Protestant Church sees Jansenism or hyper -calinism as a heresy or error too, I have to qualify that a bit more: Predestination, or the predetermining by God of the lost, the damned, the hopleless and the helpless, sinners all walking in the dark, God, predestinating them, from before the world was made, in Chirst, to the Adoption of sons of God.
    I wonder if you have no interest in what God has predestinated or predetermined for us and adopted us as son of God. Perhaps it is all pie in the sky to you.
    If this is all as dry as dust to you, then I doubt if you know you are a child of God yet?
    It is quite clear from your statement above, you really do not know the meaning of God’s predestination or predetermining, or what it really means to be adopted as a child of God yet.
    Is is nothing to you?

    • milliganp says:

      Nektarios, did it upset you I didn’t respond to your first reply? However I need to do you some justice and have read up on the Calvinist theology sometimes abbreviated to TULIP:-
      – Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
      – Unconditional Election
      – Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
      – Irresistible Grace
      – Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

      Each of these concepts exist, in some way, in both Catholic and Protestant theology but with different nuances. Catholics don’t accept the theology of reprobation associated with unconditional election nor do we limit atonement solely to particular Christians (my Baptist uncle is quite happy for his mother and brothers to be in hell since they died as Catholics). As a particular rebuttal to your theory that human knowledge is irredeemably wounded one could quote Romans 1:20 which implies that the reason of a heathen is subject to judgement because they could have known better.
      Apart from that, once one is subject to the economy of grace one is not banned for using ones reason. The particular brand of faith which you promote indicates reason is purposeless but one needs to exercise reason to select and interpret scripture.

      • Nektarios says:

        Milliganp
        I was not upset by you not replying earler to my posting.
        The idea of TULIP, a summery you outlined, is arguments I used to go into in the 1960s.
        It was well noted by everyone, the danger of falling into hyper-Calvinism was very real and we saw some of it in among Christian hardliners.
        So le me qualify what is meant by hyper -Calvinism. It takes TULIP as you summerize, and push it too far, and it becomes error, as it does with any doctrine.
        Doctrine exists to steady the Christian in lifes storms and temptations.

        Total depravity, did not mean what depravity means today (if it means very much), But it did mean the loss of the perfection Adam and Eve had pre- Fall. It was catastrophic where he was alientated from God, epelled from the Garden of Eden, His mind was darkened so he could not return to that perfection. He became subject to nature hot and cold, and to his passions.
        Unconditional Election is simply this: There is nothing in us that compels God to elect anyone, It is a matter of his predetermination from before the foundation of the world,
        out of a lost humanity out of His love that we, that lost, wicked, hopeless and helpless humanity should in Christ be elected unto the adoption of sons of God.
        Put it another way, On what grounds could fallen man give for God to elect him?

        Limited Atonement is not to be understood as something man decides on. After-all, the Gospel is to be preached to all, but not all will respond to it. That is God’s business, not ours, but it is clear, that God’s people (as far as our perception goes) is seen as limited, a little flock. many little flocks among others that do not belong to Him.

        Due to limitation of words allowed I will rush forward with Irresitable Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints until another time, but they are both, biblical and of God’ action in Christ concerning His people.
        Lastly, concerning your Baptist uncle. If that is what he truly thought, it is indeed sad, but it was some of the Anti- Catholic thinking of the sixties and earlier.
        While the RCC is not without severe censure for some of its past deeds, nor is anyone else of theirs, but it was very much the hyper-Calvinist views going about in my young day. It is true to say, that has nothing to do with TULIP or Calvin or indeed what the whole Reformation was all about.

      • marywip says:

        I don’t think Nektarios has mentioned this Scripture passage which reinforces his basic point(?):
        “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined… and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29)

        Milliganp, “Each of these concepts exist, in some way, in both Catholic and Protestant theology but with different nuances.”
        What does pre-destination (et al) mean to you in your faith, personally, I wonder? (And in this vein, I wonder what you would say to an unbeliever who asked you about your faith in light of this topic and freewill?)

      • marywip says:

        Can anyone here say what predestination (re. foreknowledge, predestination, justification and glorification, in the image of Christ) means in their personal faith? And if so how would you explain predestination in Christ (and therefor also damnation, the other side of the coin) to an unbeliever; and do so in relation to the concepts of chance/freewill?

        I am trying to answer these two questions for myself as simply and truly/fully as possible. Hope it does not have to be a can of worms—unless the Lord wants it so.

      • Quentin says:

        No can of worms here. I think – but plenty of room for confusion. Naturally we think of predestination in terms of our own perspective of time. For God, as God, everything is immediately present to him. So your salvation and mine – as well as whether I get a bottle of milk from Sainsbury’s this pm are known to him. None of this interferes in any way with our freedom of choice – and so responsibility for our action. We are no more obliged in advance to make one choice or another, than the fact that you see me at the Sainsbury’s checkout obliges me to be there.

      • marywip says:

        Milliganp/Nektarios,
        Regarding the responsibility/capacity of man to reason before Christ came; along with Milliganp’s mention of Romans 1:20, we are told that Christ has always been in the world, been the light of the world, but the world knew Him not (John 1)—so presumably this fact always left some room for knowing Him (or rather for-knowing Him, indirectly) before He came as man and went to the cross. And one must also consider Enoch, Melchizedek, and Mary, perhaps amongst others, as those who were apparently not effected by ‘Total’ Depravity.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Marywip.
        I am not a theologian, but I have thought about pre-destination as being God’s Will in His mind for us all. What we do to gain Eternal Life- In His mind from the Beginning.
        He would do anything even send His only Son to suffer and die on the Cross for us.
        If we dont it means we have used our own free-will against what He pre-destined for us.
        But He did not leave us wanting and will still call us to Himself, when we somtimes fail.
        we have oportunity after opertunity to come back to Him as He loves us all.
        It must be our will in the end !

      • Alan says:

        “We are no more obliged in advance to make one choice or another, than the fact that you see me at the Sainsbury’s checkout obliges me to be there.”

        I tap you on the shoulder and greet you in the checkout line. “You don’t normally shop here. What made you choose Sainsbury’s today?”. God then taps me on the shoulder and says “You don’t normally shop in Waitrose. What made you choose to go there tomorrow?”
        Seeing you somewhere doesn’t oblige you to make a choice. Telling you about seeing you there doesn’t either. Is my hearing about where I will certainly be tomorrow any different? I’m still not obliged to choose Waitrose?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Alan.
        I think that what you say is all ‘material and earthly thinking’.
        Whether we go to Sainsbury or Waitrose is neither here or there.
        It is what we do in Sainsbury or Waitrose or anwhere that affects our soul by which we are destined by our own free-will to keep us from getting g to Heaven!.

      • Alan says:

        St Joseph,

        “I think that what you say is all ‘material and earthly thinking’.”

        It is very material and earthly. I think Quentin’s original point is in that vein though.

      • milliganp says:

        I think it is important not to make predestination merely God’s ability to see the future. God is sovereign and chooses particular individuals to receive specific graces. Paul tells us of the graces singular to those who become part of Christ’s body, the church. God works through human means and so, for me, faith came from my parents but I have to assume that is part of God’s plan. The parable of final judgement in Matthew’s Gospel (25:31-46) is open to the interpretation that those who do not know Christ but live good lives can also be saved.

  28. Nektarios says:

    Sorry a few mistakes:
    1st line should read….. hyper- Calvinism…..
    5th line should read ……Christ…..
    7th Line should read…..sons of God….
    Final line should read….. Is it nothing to you?

  29. Gerry says:

    Thanks Milliganp, its jolly hard to be both brief and accurate. Here it is at greater length.
    (1) In 1974 President Nixon requested an investigation into world population growth. This resulted in National Security Study Memorandum 200. Amongst its conclusions: “World population growth is widely recognized within the Government as a current danger of the highest magnitude calling for urgent measures…There is a major risk of severe damage (from continued rapid population growth) to world economic, political, and ecological systems and, as these systems begin to fail, to our humanitarian values.” The US then determined on a population/family planning policy. This unfortunately got nowhere as it was blocked by the Vatican. (See Stephen D Mumford The Life and Death of NSSM 200 How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy Very detailed but worth a read.) Most of the world saw the danger for themselves and acted. Africa and the Middle East, a very religious region, lost the help and encouragement and financial support of USA and so religious views prevailed.
    (2) The Vatican helped by Catholic countries such as Argentina and the Philippines worked at World Population Conferences to block any provision of family planning.
    (3) Chris Bain, Director of CAFOD, who gave the 2009 London Newman Lecture, wrote “it is estimated that nearly half of sub-Saharan Africa’s health care, education and social services … are provided by the Catholic Church, through dioceses, religious orders, and lay organisations.” These cannot provide artificial contraception.
    (4) According to the World Factbook Uganda is about 40% Catholic. It’s population goes, 5 million in 1950, 10 million in 1975, 20 million in 2000, an estimated 40 million in 2025 and an estimated 80 million in 2050.( (The United Nations estimates of the 2045 population are: low 84 million, medium 93 million, high 102 million) There is already much poverty and hunger.

    Thanks St Joseph, I agree with almost everything you write this time excluding the bit on natural law. Wordsworth would agree with much – see his Intimations of Immortality
    Gerry

    • milliganp says:

      Gerry, I decided to read Laudato Si paragraph 50 plus the cross reference to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church which in turn references John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis. The point the church is making is far more nuanced that merely “all contraception is wrong”. It makes the point that we can’t blame the developing world’s population growth for poverty and force an external solution on them; we need to respect their faiths and culture. It particularly criticizes linking development aid to birth control programmes. It also advocates that a more balanced share of the wealth of the planet and criticizes the level of waste in the developed world.
      The documents also point out the demographic crisis in the developed world with actual decline in population. Strangely no-one is talking up the problem Europe may face in 30-50 years with insufficient young people to support our economic development.

      • Gerry says:

        Thanks again Milliganp, I hadn’t realised that we can go on arguing even after the week is over. I think we had better agree to differ. I’ll stay with the Royal Society’s view (People and the Planet Report April 2012) and you stay with Pope Francis’s view. (Laudato si)
        To me Laudato si paragraph 50 is a disaster. Africa and the wider Middle East isn’t really coping already after only two doublings. (300 million in 1950, 1,200 million in 2010) When another 1000 million – one billion – is added to the region in the next 25 years I fear that we will see terrible events and I don’t think Europe will remain immune.
        About the low fertility rates in Europe and Japan. I think Quentin first pointed out the trouble in the 1960s (I’m nearly 90 now, and my memory is not so good, so I might have got this wrong) Quite a lot of Catholics talk about it nowadays. I know I have replied more than once to letters in the press about this. (See – somewhere! – in http://www.gerrydanaher.com) My view is that the troubles of low fertility rates are small compared with the troubles of high fertility rates.

  30. St.Joseph says:

    Gerry thank you.I am not too sure what you mean when you say the natural law.There is a lot of different opin ions on natural and me in my ignorance dont understand them all.
    Thank you for Wordsworth’s poetry.I had not heard of him!!Again showing my ignorance.
    You say above that CAFOD can not provide artificial contraception, and it seems to me to be a lack of necessity on CAFOD’s part, not to teach natural family planning, especially when Mother Teresa taught it to the poor and those who were not well educated, with colour chalk on the pavements.
    Also Dr John Kelly OBE RIP (Birmingham University Hospital) a catholic did so much wonderful work in Ethiopa and Africa for the poor and ill health in the NFP field’and womens problems.etc and research. and opening hospital. A wonderful example for Natural Family Planning.
    So I believe there is no excuse as it is catholic teaching we ought to be teaching it to solve problems.CAFOD ought to be involved! an important issue for the Heirarchy.They have the answers in their hands. I could go on about this but it is useless in the end if people dont believe or understand it!
    .

  31. Gerry says:

    Thanks against St Joseph, Do you think we are the only ones left reading this?! You’re not the only one who doesn’t understand the natural law. As far as I can tell the Chinese and the Japanese don’t even bother to try to understand it. It seems to be the Greeks who thought it up and then somehow some Christians used the concept to get a stranglehold on the Catholic Church. My hope is that the present turmoil in the Church will break that stranglehold. But, we’d better call it a day for now.
    Yes, it puzzles me that the Church has not pushed NFP more effectively in Africa. There was quite an effective effort in Mauritius and something of an effort in Cameroon and that’s about it. NFP is no good enough, but it is quite good. I know that you are like John and Lyn Billings in thinking that it is good enough, but you know that I differ.

    By the way, the Wordsworth quote from Intimations of Immortality goes like this:

    Not in entire forgetfulness
    And not in utter nakedness
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God who is our home

    Gerry

    • St.Joseph says:

      Gerry thank you again.
      I will have to read more of Wordsworth’s poetry.

      I did not teach the Billings Method, but the Sympton Termal Method of NFP. I had more confidence in the extra indices.

  32. marywip says:

    Re. my comment July 23, 2015 at 6:52 pm about a seared conscience and murdering and eating animals…

    I just wanted to say that I do not judge vegetarians per se as having a seared conscience or practicing false religion. For me personally however it was hyper-vegetarianism / religious vegetarianism—not merely a matter of personal conscience / choice / preference. It was dangerously spilling over in my whole person, preoccupation and outlook such that I was moved towards imposing on and influencing others in direct and indirect ways.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Marywip.
      I do not eat meat, I have not eaten meat for years, maybe a slice of well cooked rasher of bacon for breakfast, or maybe slice of ham. I dont by it unless my family visit.
      I didn’t take offence with what you said. I just dont have the stomach to eat meat or some fish, nothing religious, just the thought of it. My son of 52 just suddenly has stopped eating meat and says he feels better health wise for it My late husband would eat any meat and any fish, snails etc! Eeels and elvers anything put in front of him..
      I wouln’t eat tripe when I found out what it was. My mother used to say I would eat anything if I was starving.I have now gone off eggs!

      • marywip says:

        St Joseph

        If you are in tune with your body and know what your body needs then maybe you don’t need much or any meat. But we can be ruled by physical/mental/emotional—spiritual—confusion, so can be difficult to eat without defiling ones (spiritual) body, inadvertently worshiping idols and being ruled by compulsions/lust/greed and sexual immorality, or on the other side, by aversion (and compulsive aversions) of various kinds.

        First comes the faith (which needs be not blind faith) that I can eat (or not eat) anything I want/choose to (or happen to end up eating/not eating). In this respect it can be very difficult to maintain constant prayer and thanksgiving in Spirit—and difficult in the formal sense of spoken prayer as well.

        After freedom, I think we should (if we can) seek to be constructive in respect of ones own body / natural law—and this might also have social/political/ethical dimensions—however, important not to prescribe or over emphasise. For instance, all things in moderation, is generally a constructive outlook. Experience suggests to me that some people, especially those who are not grounded (such as myself), may find it very problematic, and even unhealthy, to abstain from meat entirely. However, unless recovering from an illness which would benefit from whatever medicinal qualities meat can provide (I personally found beef and venison in particular to be medicinal, and pork good for substantiality), I would for various reasons rather not eat meat/fish all the time, and (considering eggs) same goes for cake.

        I am very much still working on all this (first strong faith and then constructive mentality, behaviour and balance) in my own daily life! Experience says all this can be—and regarding strong faith, is— important to consider in respect of making space for prayer, healing, quietness/stillness, concentration, and prayerful living. To fulfil the commandment.

  33. St.Joseph says:

    Marywip by
    Thank you for your reply
    I don’t see how food has anything to do with my spiritual life.
    The Food I eat and drink in the Eucharist satisfy my soul.It is enough for me without making the food I don’t eat a problem.
    I think of those who have none.I believe we in the West put. too much emphasis on filling our bellies.And not enough emphasis on the Food for our souls!

  34. marywip says:

    St. J, yes fundamentally I agree with what you say about food. However I think sometimes we cannot avoid the politics of living/surviving (materially & spiritually) and co-existing. With weak faith it can be difficult to differentiate/separate/untangle worldly and spiritual matters.

    St J: “I think Hitler was a catholic,and believed in Christ”.
    I don’t think Hitler believed in Jesus because if he truly believed then I think he would love his neighbour. However, perhaps it is possible for him to have believed (and loved), but it is not visible to us? And, despite the evidence to the contrary, we cannot know/say—except in the Spirit—that it was ‘him’ who did it, the evil…?

    Regarding the Law / Natural Law / Commandment(s)…

    St.J, July 17, 2015 at 1:54 pm: “Jesus said there are only two [commandments]… Love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your whole mind and your neighbour as yourself”

    Actually, Scripture says:
    (Deuteronomy 30:6) The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
    (Deuteronomy 6:5) …and with all your strength
    (Matthew 22:37) …and with all your mind
    (Mark 12:30) …and with all your mind and with all your strength
    (Luke 10:27) …and with all your strength and with all your mind
    ????
    (Leviticus 9:18) Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people [what about other people?], but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

    Furthermore with respect to the commandment(s), is there are only 2, or only 1, or ‘only’ lots and lots which are oversimplified as 1 or 2?…

    1 John 3:23
    This is His commandment [singular]: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and [now plural?] love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments [plural] abides in Him, and He in him.

    John 13:34
    A new command [singular] I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

    John 15
    If you keep my commands [plural], you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. …
    My command [singular] is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends [what about enemies? Or in our enemies do we look for our missing friend?]. …
    This is my command [singular]: Love each other.

    Romans 13
    Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command [singular]: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    So how how do we understand the Law/Commandment(s), and how do we obey?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Marywip
      I think what Jesus may have meant and that is ‘if we keep those two we will be keeping them all. Do unto others what you would have done to you..Only two are necessary
      I dont know where in the Bible it says that.
      People who kill for reasons like Hitler and other maybe believe that’s what God wants them to do.however the are not listening to Jesus.!

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