Monday, September 15, 2014

Fulton Sheen Suspended . . . Again?, II: Not to Worry


Last week we started discussing the recent suspension of the “cause” of Fulton Sheen.  Naturally, we covered why on earth it was even newsworthy for the Just Third Way: he was a champion of reason and justice.  That should be enough. We also mentioned why the suspension of his “cause” is a matter of concern even to a non-religious organization.

That being said, we don’t think the suspension of Fulton Sheen’s cause for canonization is anything to worry about.  In some respects (and in our opinion) it could actually be a very good thing, although that should not stop anyone from praying that the matter be cleared up soon, if you are so inclined.

The suspension, in fact, could be the trigger that brings certain things to a head and forces discussion of some key issues that Catholic academia and the American hierarchy have very carefully avoided dealing with for over a century.  We refer specifically to certain distortions of the virtue of justice in general, and of distributive justice and social justice in particular.

In any event, as the press release clearly states, these things can take centuries.  In the book we’re working on now, What Happened to Distributive Justice?, we explain why (in our opinion) the cause of canonization of St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, for example, was delayed for three hundred years: a small error in political theory (non-infallible teaching) that, misunderstood, caused a lot of damage.  (Cf. Aquinas “On Being and Essence”, § 1.)

The trouble was not really with what Bellarmine said, but with what people did with it — or (perhaps more accurately) failed to do with it.  Then, after Pope Pius XI corrected Bellarmine’s error with his completed doctrine of social justice, he beatified Bellarmine, canonized him, and named him a “Doctor of the Church” in the space of a few years.

Also in the book, we address why, in our opinion, G.K. Chesterton’s cause for canonization is going to hit a brick wall for similar reasons: what today’s Professional Chestertonians and neo-distributists have done to Chesterton’s thoughts, words, and deeds.  Specifically, Chesterton’s latter day followers have in many cases modified essential natural law doctrines and, ironically, principles of reason and common sense.  Not to put too fine a point on it, many of them appear to be classic cases of infection with what Msgr. Ronald Knox labeled “enthusiasm,” which he defined as an excess of charity that threatens unity, and that also happens to wreak havoc with the natural law.

In our opinion, while there is talk of disagreements over exhuming Sheen's body, where it is to remain, and who has jurisdiction over the process, these all sound kind of trivial.  There may, then, be wheels within wheels, so to speak, and the reason for suspending Sheen’s cause could be something like this, and we stress this is strictly personal opinion and pure speculation.

Sheen’s position on the natural law is pure Aristotelian-Thomism, as is demonstrated in God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy (1925) and a number of his other works.  Law is reason, lex ratio, and we can come to knowledge of God’s existence and of the natural law through the force and light of human reason alone.

This is what we put into our Just Third Way Edition of Freedom Under God, particularly with respect to the natural right of private property.  In Aristotelian-Thomism, the right to be an owner (as well as to be free and to be alive) is necessarily understood as being inherent or absolute in every human being.  That is, every human being has the natural right to be an owner, while the socially determined and limited rights of property define what an owner may do with what is owned.

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