THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fulton Sheen Suspended . . . Again?, III: Faith v. Reason . . . Again?

Yesterday we reviewed very briefly Fulton Sheen’s stand on the natural law, justice, charity, and all that sort of thing.  We believe that he is fully consistent with the principles of the Just Third Way . . . or that the principles of the Just Third Way are fully consistent with him; whichever way you want to take it.

Many people in the Catholic Church, however, take a different position.  As far as they are concerned, law is will, lex voluntas.  They believe that faith and reason, and often faith alone, are essential to come to knowledge of God’s existence and of the natural law.  This is a belief specifically refuted by Aquinas, many of the popes, and the Canons of the First Vatican Council.

Within the framework dictated by faith instead of reason, as Knox pointed out, legal rights become something restricted to the godly, i.e., those who are deemed righteous or otherwise worthy of having rights.  The ungodly or the unworthy have no legal rights.  The natural law changes from being something built into human nature by God at the moment of creation and analogous to His Nature (“the image and likeness of God”), to a revocable grant or gift that must be justified in some fashion, a shift from the Intellect to the Will, or from reason to faith.  This is an example of that “species of moral, legal, and social modernism” (positivism) Pius XI condemned in his first encyclical (Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, § 61).

Sheen’s adherence to the Aristotelian-Thomist understanding of the natural law, and many Catholics’ and others’ rejection of it, would account for the hostility CESJ’s edition of Freedom Under God has encountered.  This might also explain why the Justice University concept by means of which we want to restore sound understanding of justice to academia has not met with any degree of (if you’ll pardon the term) enthusiasm.

The unquestionable fact is that Sheen insisted on the immutability and the consistency of truth (and Truth) discernible by reason.  The modernist/positivist Catholic of today, however, insists on that “Manichean mutability” of which Chesterton spoke with such disdain, and is found in “New Age” (i.e., theosophy or “Esoteric Buddhism”) thought.

Consequently, the modernist/positivist enthusiast tries to base the natural law (inevitably merged into and subsumed by the supernatural law) in part or wholly on faith, and often ends up a socialist or capitalist.  Sometimes he or she even slides into theosophy before becoming a complete moral relativist.  (Pascendi Dominici Gregis, § 6; cf. Heinrich Rommen in The Natural Law, and Mortimer Adler’s discussion on the modern(ist) confusion between knowledge and opinion in his book, Ten Philosophical Mistakes.)

Thus, many people implicitly demand that Sheen (and Chesterton) support their faith-based position, when an objective assessment of Sheen’s position bases it squarely on reason, to say nothing of Beaconsfield’s Apostle of Common Sense.  They prefer the “nice” spiritual Sheen and the witty and clever Chesterton.  Knox they pretty much ignore — he’s clever and witty, too, but they have trouble misunderstanding him or twisting what he said into the desired pattern or paradigm.

The clear emphasis on reason and rejection of modernism/positivism in orthodox Catholic thought is, evidently, causing a certain amount (or a lot) of acrimony among both liberal and conservative modernists/positivists within and without the Catholic Church, and pitting them against the orthodox when they are not going after each other hammer and tongs.  This issue has divided the Church, and set Catholic against Catholic, for over a century.  (Cf. Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, § 24.)  Cardinal Dolan may be motivated by nothing more than prudence, not wanting to pour gasoline on the fire by seeming to support either liberal or conservative modernist/positivist error against orthodoxy before the truth is made manifest within an increasingly divided Church.